Ash Wednesday

I was seven years old. I was eating carrots.

My dad’s white Oldsmobile Omega pulled alongside the I-10 approaching Starr Pass Boulevard.

From the back seat, I heard mumblings from the adult domain that was the front seat. Something sparked my carrot-chomping interested in the hushed voices of my dad and nana.

“What do you mean give up? Give up what?” I nosily asked.

“For Lent,” my dad said. “You have to give up something for Lent.”

“Like what?”

“A sacrifice. Something you love.”

I knew Lent. It was that time when, every Friday, the adults around me yelled at each other for forgetting the day and making chorizo for breakfast. I knew it ended in Easter and to me, that meant Cadbury Eggs.

But I had to give up something?

I wish they had told me about this sooner. It was my understanding that we were fast approaching the day where we go to church for not the whole time and they put black ash on your forehead in what was supposed to be a cross shape. So, now I had the challenge of thinking about something to give up for what would be the eternity of a child’s Lenten season?!

I took a bite of my carrots and a wash of realization hit me.

“Carrots,” said my meek voice from the back seat.

“Mija?” my dad said, clearly having moved on from our conversation.

“I will give up carrots.” My last crispy orange swallow was a hard one. Carrots were delicious.

Laughter erupted from the front seat. We were now driving on the freeway and both my humiliation and the chilly February air rushed over me. I know I was just a kid, but why did me trying to do something holy and good have to be so funny?

I later found out:

1) Carrots were hilarious because apparently my whole family thought I was a weirdo for adoring them all this time. They just never had the opportunity to laugh about it.

2) Carrots are healthy. The consensus in my family was that everyone has more than one vice that could stand a 40-day vacation, so carrots were kind of ludicrous to even consider. And kids need carrots. For their eyesight. (Nevermind I would be wearing glasses in two years).

3) When they said “you,” they didn’t mean me. They meant people. Others. The Vatican doesn’t expect children under the age of 14 to fast or abstain from anything during Lent and my family was clearly of the same school of thought. How nice of them.

Here we are. Twenty-one years later and much like my family all those years ago, I have been contemplating what to give up. By no means is this purely religious. In fact, that part of me needs some serious work. What I do welcome is the season as a springtime renewal of healthy habits that seemed to have been buried under the truffles and tinsel of the holidays. In years past, I’ve given up everything from soda (easy) to meat (not so easy). This year, my choice came like an epiphany during the microwaving of a frozen Amy’s burrito this morning.

I would give up eating out.

Besides the sacrifice (and if you know us, the obvious sacrifice), reasons for this were three-fold:

  • It’s healthier
  • It’s cheaper
  • I get to cook more (and a gospel chorus sings)

I thought I should announce it on Facebook because, I don’t know, what drives any of the decisions we make regarding announcing things on Facebook anymore? Either way, outcry much!?  Friends have weighed in differently on my goal from the extreme purists (“no, Kristl, you can’t have Starbucks”) to the loopholey (“technically, Starbucks is drinking out”). I knew by the reaction that I picked something good.

The rules are thus:

  • I cannot get drive-thru, takeout, delivery, nor can I sit down and eat at a restaurant.
  • This will include drinks as drinks have calories and cost money.
  • Water is allowed. I can be sociable and have water. I love water. Maybe not so much by the end of this, but right now, I do love water a whole lot.
  • If the situation arises where the above are not possible, I starve. Well, till I get home. Luckily, my social calendar is not as exciting as it once used to be so I don’t anticipate this turning into pseudo-anorexic behavior.
  • Home is where the food is cooked and/or assembled.

The end. I’m excited. It’ll be a challenge and I’m positive I will be crabby by the end of the week, but that just means it’s doing what it’s supposed to.

So I didn’t even realize it until now, but, today for lunch, I had Trader Joe’s Dal Makhani, some Greek plain yogurt, a V8 and, yup, some baby carrots.

The test of time just cannot mess with true love. Yay Lent.