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August 29, 2008

What would Bena do?

It's back to school time and staying/teaching green is on our mind. Not being a Mom, I can't address the modern world, but I can hearken back to the good ol' days of pre-plastic, pre-malls, pre-hot lunches, pre-SUV drop offs... to share what worked in the 60s.

Bena, was my Mother. In those/and these penny pinching times I often ask myself, "What would Bena do"? She was the queen of getting the most out of a dollar. When it came to back to school clothes, less was more - and more was being wasteful. So what would Bena do?

#1. ONE back to school shopping trip. I remember planning ahead for weeks as to what I needed and didn't need based on the color combos in my 3 foot wide closet. Today I still use the same concept for business travel - 3 pullovers, 3 button downs and 3 bottoms. Get those 3 groups to coordinate and you have 30 outfits to get you through any kind of weather (and fit into one carryon).

The trick is, they all have to wear like iron and have coordinating attitudes. That's hard to do in today's market of mystery fabrics. Back then it was easy. Fabric came in three choices: cotton, silk or wool. All wore well and worked with one another. Today, I still do the same thing only now making sure they are 100% organic cotton, silk or wool.

Bena let us pick out our our own metal lunch boxes and we had to pack our own lunch. I suppose that sounds cruel, but I took what I wanted to eat and that meant anything in the frig was fair fame. Usually I opted for peanut butter sandwiches wrapped in wax paper. That was back when kitchen lunches cost $.35 a ticket yet packing your own lunch was still cheaper and tasted a lot better. I can still pack a mean lunch.

As for school supply boxes, nothing quite beat a recycled cigar box with a hole cut into the side, allowing the ruler to fit. If you pounded on the ruler's end just right, the box lid would pop open. Functional and fun at the same time. No one would do that today, but there are plenty of other boxes or bags that could be recycled.

And the biggy... walk yourself to school. Simple enough, and good exercise each day. Probably not a safe thing in today's world, however, even if it does save gas.

What goes around, comes around... I didn't die because I didn't have a ton of clothes, or supplies or special lunches. In fact, most of my clothes were hand me downs. Saving money was certainly a driver, but the idea of not throwing out "perfectly good clothes" was also driven home.

Bena lived through "the depression" and learning how to live frugally, was part of her personality. I lived through "the Bena" which is why I'm very pragmatic about my lifestyle. I don't need much to be happy and I thank her often for that gift of being content with what I have.

Each generation slacks alittle. I'm hoping that turning green is just the excuse we all need to tighten up the value system and live more lightly by living simply. That's a lesson I wish more schools taught.


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I love this post and I adore the sentiment what would Bena do?

You have gotten to the core of what is lacking re: 21st century thinking. Want vs need mentality.

I too carted the lunch box, made my own lunch, or when it was my turn to make lunches I made mine splendidly and spit on my siblings bread ( JUST kidding!)

We too had to often make do with what was still good enough to wear.

I personally would love to see the lunch box make a come back. I could then be cool and bring my superwoman lunchbox to my business meetings!

When I was working in an office, I always took my lunch. Many times those who were stuck with fast food would look to see what I brought that day.

I arrange lunches now to be more like airplane food, little bites in a lot of directions.

Thanks for reminding us about our mothers! My mother and yours would have gotten on famously; I'd like to think I operate in their mold. It's so rare for anyone to talk about doing something for the reason my mother always advocated: the "principle" behind it. It goes right along with, "Because I said so."

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