Happy Ash Wednesday!


Like the title says, happy Ash Wednesday! It’s the beginning of my favorite, favorite time of the year. I love Lent, and always have, even when I used to try and give up chocolate as a kid every year and failed miserably. I love the fasting, the abstaining from meat on Fridays*, the Lenten sacrifice, the masses, the crafts (I remember doing the best projects as a kid in school), the period of reflection on your life leading up to Ash Wednesday, the warming up of the weather and the brightening of the days, and the spirit of community that develops. Really. In my experience, Lent is a time where Catholics, ex-Catholics, non-Catholics, agnostics, and atheists participate in this period of sacrifice/reflection/personal challenge.** They may not assign the same–or any–spiritual meaning to the 40 days, but they’re there with me, and it’s great.

Even Mikey and Nico are excited. This morning, as they inhaled cereal and periodically checked the window looking for their ride to school, they entered into a deep debate on the fish menu at McDonald’s. Nico is a devoted Filet o’ Fish fan (so am I), while Mikey took a liking to last year’s Fish McBites. Poor Mikey; I think he’s the only one on the planet who liked those things because they’re not on the menu this year. They spent the final moments of the morning planning their first McDonald’s run.

I have to admit, even I’m a bit excited. We can’t really eat fast food, let alone McDonald’s, because greasy junk food will make Nico throw up. I’m not kidding. He will throw it up if he has it too often or if he has too much. It’s one of the reasons we don’t eat out a lot, because even non fast food is full of fat, sugar, and salt. McDonald’s is especially bad for Nico. The last time we had it was in autumn, and the Mister was out of town for most of the month. I was frazzled, running straight from swim practice to choir practice and decided to drive through McDonald’s. Guess who spent choir practice on her hands and knees cleaning the mess on the church’s marble aisle while my good friend Soraya cleaned Nico up in the bathroom. He was fine, by the way. As soon as he throws up, it’s like nothing ever happened.

Paper Airplane costume

Nico hasn’t mentioned what he gave up for Lent, but Mikey and his best friend decided they aren’t going to fold paper airplanes. This is huge for them. They like paper airplanes so much that his best friend was one for Halloween! (Best costume ever, and my picture fails to capture its awesomeness.) “But mom, that doesn’t mean we’re not going to fold paper into other shapes. Let’s not get crazy.”

I’m going to resume my daily walks, eliminate coffee (yep, started that again), do some daily Bible reading, and try to recapture some of the peace I had at the beginning of 2014, before Buster got sick and I let people embroil me in their drama and disputes. I’ve lost 4 pounds since we got the news about Buster, so it’s safe to say I’m back to skipping meals and poor self care.

Which brings me to what I love most about Lent: there is always hope.

* Many people, including some Catholics, believe we are supposed to eat fish on Fridays. In fact, Catholics are supposed to abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent, but are allowed to eat fish. Abstention from meat on Fridays used to be year round, but this post explains why that is no longer the case in the U.S.

** Many of my friends are either not Catholic or ex-Catholic. I also have several atheist friends, one of whom I consider to be one of my best friends. Now that the boys attend a Catholic school, I have more friends who are Catholic, but for a long time it was me and a bunch of protestants who always managed to add the words “grace,” “blessed,” and “convicted” to every conversation. (Kidding! ish!) So when I say “in my experience,” I really mean in my limited experience. I’m not out there taking Lenten polls.

Jules Kendall writes about books, family, and easygoing simplicity.


  1. Phaedra says

    Was JUST having this discussion with a non-Catholic friend this morning as she was saying that she really likes the idea of observing Lent and reflecting on where her life is and where it could go.
    Love this time of year, too! (and I love McDonald’s filet-o-fish. LOVE. I don’t eat them but once a year now – I might not actually throw up, but most fast food gives me the queasy stomach, too. I feel for Nico)

    • says

      Filet-o-fish! Love that damn greasy, toxic, fish parts sandwich. I’ve found that it’s a love/hate thing. People are either horrified or absurdly excited about it.

      Really, if you think about it, you and Nico have awesome built-in crap filters. Your bodies don’t let you eat too much junk!

      • Phaedra says

        fabulous way to look at it! ha ha ha. crap filters. now if only I could filter all the other BS that comes at me everyday! 😉

  2. says

    What a lovely post — I’m a very relaxed Catholic (though my husband is much more serious about Catholicism). Lent has never been a favorite of mine, I was always more about Advent. This is the first year that one of our children is in Catholic school so we’re taking our Lenten duties much more seriously this year. We’re emphasizing sacrifice to our children. I’m giving up on Starbucks lattes this year (a very true sacrifice on my part). My son has declared that his first sacrifice is he is going to try and be really nice to me. (So far, a few hours in, failure litters his path.) I find that the best part of the sacrifices and observations we make is that they can become habits that become ingrained and enrich our lives.

    Thank you for the post. I think it helped me get more excited about Lent!

  3. karyn says

    HI there,
    I don’t know if its a problem with your blog or what but every picture you post comes up as a shirtless Seth Rogen saying “Uh-huh Honey.” I thought it was funny for a few days but I am pretty sure you aren’t posting it intentionally so I thought I would tell you.

  4. says

    Fish-o-filet every Friday, baby! I grew up Catholic (my whole family is now atheist) and still can’t resist that deep fried nugget for nostalgia’s sake.

  5. Susan G says

    I can remember every Friday in public school having those big fishsticks (except it was really a fish-square not sticks) on Friday. It was so much better then most of the stuff we got in the cafeteria! Passover is my favorite Jewish holiday, and although it has no fasting involved, we do sacrifice leavening and it is very much about hope and renewal. Also, it’s in the spring – and we always have asparagus and strawberries on the menu. That’s how I know it’s spring. (Really good local strawberries make even the spongiest of Passover sponge cakes edible.)

  6. Alicia says

    3 things your post made me think of:

    You reminded me of a funny story about fish/lent. Back in the day (not really sure how far back), Catholics declared capybara (a rodent) to be a fish because they swim, so that they could eat them during lent!

    Also, reading some of the comments about how greasy filet o’ fish is reminds me of the Simpsons. In an episode where Homer is trying to gain weight, Bart offers him Krustyburger’s version of that. Homer thinks it’s too healthy, so Bart smears it on the wall and the grease makes it translucent (like grease does to a paper bag). That is now what I always think of when I see/hear about filet o’ fish, although I’ve never actually had one.

    I think you’re pretty spot on for non-Catholics participating in Lent. I was not raised Catholic but a lot of my friends and cousins were so I always gave up something for lent. In college my roommate and I both did, and she’s Buddhist! Maybe it’s a California thing, but I definitely know many non-Catholics/non-practicing Catholics giving up things for lent.

    • HeatherL says

      I believe an old edition of The Joy of Cooking that my in-laws have also mentions that beaver tail is approved for Lent and how you might go about preparing that particular feast.

  7. Jeanne says

    I like Lent too–it is full of hope–even if my main hope right now is to eventually end the polar vortex gripping northeast Ohio for the last few months. It is a nice time to reflect and try to be a better whoever you are. And then wonderful Spring is approaching full of promise and the anticipation of summer.

  8. says

    I find this fascinating. Sometimes, I miss out on (or don’t understand) a lot of religious traditions because I’m agnostic. So I love that you say you have non-practicing friends who lent too! I want to give it a go!

  9. HeatherL says

    Outside of the internet, I have never met anyone who wasn’t Catholic & participated in Lenten sacrifices. Even my Protestant friends at the Jesuit University I went to would point out that they didn’t have to give anything up.
    Lent (and church in general) wasn’t big in my family, so I participated the most in college. (Catholic school peer pressure!) My favorite Lenten Sacrifice was when I decided to not be mean. It really made me question my intentions and make an effort to not get caught up in the gossiping and criticizing that was so prevalent on a small college campus. I think it made me a better Christian than giving up brownies ever did.

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