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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My message to "Sick of Scraps," the woman who wrote you to complain about receiving letters from her longtime friend, "Ellen," on odd pieces of paper is: Guess what! Your friend Ellen has become a "green senior" -– an older environmentalist. By recycling odd pieces of paper, she's doing her part to conserve forests and her own resources. Go through your junk mail, select a letter with a clean side, and write her back! -- ANOTHER GREEN SENIOR, HELENA, MONT.

DEAR GREEN SENIOR: The responses to "Sick of Scraps'" letter have been varied and interesting. Some readers thought she was petty and mean-spirited. Others read more into it. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: "Sick of Scraps" said she and her friend were both in their 70s, and it really struck a chord with me, as I, too, am in my 70s.

I can identify with "Ellen." We were Depression babies, and if she was raised as I was, we were taught to "waste not, want not." I, too, use odds and ends of paper to write notes –- even though I have pretty stationery. I recycle wrapping paper, pressing it with an iron to use it again. (My children and grandchildren tease me about it.) I also drape paper towels on a rack to reuse if they've been used only to wipe up water.

Like so many people, we were very poor during those years, and the lessons learned then I shall take to my grave. One of the things that really bothers me today is the waste, not only of materials, but of food.

I'm always delighted to hear from a friend, regardless of what the message is written on. "Sick of Scraps" is fortunate to have had such a cherished friendship for 36 years. -– "NANNY" FROM NEWPORT NEWS, VA.

DEAR NANNY: I applaud your sense of priorities, not only about the value of friendship but also the importance of preserving your assets. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: As the publisher of a frugality newsletter, I see a lot of scrap-paper correspondence. For most who do this, it's a harmless little penny-pinching habit, but for others, it is a signal that all is not well either mentally or financially. I'd recommend that your reader gently comment on her friend's scrap-paper letters and see what kind of response she receives.

Intense frugality at this stage of life may signal several distressing possibilities: The woman may have real financial problems or imagined fears of outliving her money. Either situation could cause an obsessive type of scrimping. Or, if this is an abrupt change in personality -– apparently she has enjoyed nice stationery in the past -– it may be a warning sign of a mental deterioration that should be investigated.

Thrift is certainly commendable and we encourage it, but its sudden appearance in an extreme form in someone of this age needs further looking into. –- EDITH FLOWERS KILGO, "CREATIVE DOWNSCALING," JONESBORO, GA.

DEAR EDITH: Thank you for pointing this out, and also for the suggestion that Ellen's friend "gently comment" about the scrap-paper letters to see how her friend responds. It certainly couldn't hurt. You have added some valuable insight.

READERS: Stay tuned; more on this subject tomorrow.

Abby shares her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "Abby's More Favorite Recipes." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 per booklet ($4.50 each in Canada) to: Dear Abby Booklets, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)

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