“This year, I’m giving up potatoes.”
I’m not sure exactly how old I was when I uttered this brilliant declaration from my spot at the dinner table, but I’m guessing eight or nine. I can say with certainty that it was a Tuesday because the next day was Ash Wednesday. The Tuesday before Lent was a BIG day in our house. Of course, this day is more formally known as Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday, although we never called it that, it was just the “Tuesday before Lent.” But it was a family tradition for our dad to discuss with us five kids what we’d be sacrificing for the Lenten Season.
Breath held, I awaited my dad’s reaction. Would he buy it? How well did my dad know my palate? Not well, I’d decided, since my mom did most of the childrearing essentials, namely the cooking. Could this work? The genius in this devious ploy was two-fold. First, I wouldn’t really be giving up much. Potatoes were a staple of our family diet, present in one form or another nearly every evening on the dinner table. I could take them or leave them. But the second important point was it would be noticed if I didn’t eat potatoes. I’d have to pass on them often, which would really make me look good. And, “St. Carol” could continue to indulge in her true love – candy.
My dad, being the unflappable, clever, and religiously devoted man that he was, just peered at me carefully, and said, “That sounds fine, Carol. If you feel like it will truly be a challenge and a sacrifice to give up potatoes, then that’s the right decision for you.” He went on to wax eloquently about how the thing you choose to forgo for a mere forty days should be one of the most difficult for you to do without, etcetera.
My conscience awoke somewhere around the word “truly.” I gave up sugar for Lent that year. I gave up sugar most years of my childhood because it was without a doubt the thing that hurt the most. But I was always so proud at the end of the journey. And ecstatic to finally dive into that candy-laden Easter basket.
As I got older, I grew to enjoy the challenge of forgoing something during these forty-days of sacrifice and reflection. I never minded skipping meat on Fridays. As an adult, I find it more difficult to do something meaningful during this time rather than give something up. Because as we all know time is our most precious commodity.
This year, I’m making more time for family and friends. Now, I know that sounds vague and oblique. I promise, it’s not. I have daily/weekly strategies and goals in place to better connect with the people I care about. In meaningful ways, not in a “giving up potatoes” kind of way. Hopefully, for them and for me.
Anyone else have a story about trying, and failing, to take the easy way out? Or maybe, now that we're one week into it, you're feeling the challenge of the Lenten Season, too?
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Hi Carol! You're post made me laugh because like you, potatoes were a staple item in my house, but unlike you, they were my favorite part of the meal. I love potatoes in all forms. My granny made the BEST fried potatoes with just a light dusting of flour to give them a crispiness. Giving them up would truly have been difficult for me. Growing up, my Protestant-only-religious-on-major-holidays family never observed Lent so I never understood the importance of it until I was grown. I really love your analogy of giving more time in meaningful ways.ReplyDelete
Hi LeAnne! I like them better as an adult but I'm still not a huge potato fan. (Although, Granny's fried potatoes sound delicious.) I think about this story often though because potatoes are one of my husband's favorite foods so now they're kind of a staple in my house too.Delete
I enjoyed your childhood anecdote, Carol! Potatoes were a staple in my family too and I loved them in any form....unfortunately, I still do. We never followed Lent, but some of my friends did and I do remember trying to give up candy with them ...once! But I love your current goal of making more time with family by giving up the sometimes petty and less meaningful activities we get involved in. Something we should probably all do, and not just at Lent.ReplyDelete
Janice, you are a true friend indeed to give up candy with your friends! As a kid, it was so difficult. Well, it still is. LOL. But Lent always felt sooo much longer than it really was. And yes, that's exactly what I'm trying to do! Give up the less meaningful time for more the important stuff.Delete
I've given up potato CHIPS three years, because it truly was a sacrifice (although it didn't take--they're still an addiction that I give in to frequently.) This year, for the second time, I gave up anger. Expressed anger, in particular.ReplyDelete
Oh, Liz, what a great idea! I'm writing that down for next year. It would be good for me to work on letting some old anger go too...Delete
Like some of the others I love potatoes. We grew them when I was young and I even liked them raw. I never had to give up anything as we didn't observe Lent. But I had friends who had to struggle every year with those decisions.ReplyDelete
You would have loved my mom's dinners, Roz. So many potatoes - cooked in every possible way. We grew them, too, and I will say that new potatoes and peas in cream sauce were one of my favorites. It was always a struggle for me to give up those sweets! It still is.Delete
As mashed potatoes were my favorite food as a kid, giving them up would have been torture for me! (I tried and failed one year when I was a kid, lol). As an adult, I tend to add something for Lent. One year, instead of giving up sweets as usual, I chose to write and mail a handwritten note to friends or family for 40 days. I thought it would be a real challenge for me, and I was right. It was harder than giving up sweets!ReplyDelete
How funny! My sister loves potatoes like this, too, and when I wrote this post I was thinking that if she'd made the "giving up potatoes" declaration Dad would have bought it. LOL. Your letter writing is similar to what I'm doing and it's already challenging.Delete
Loved your story! I'm also a fan of doing something positive instead of giving something up these days, but I used to really torture myself by giving up red meat and french fries every year. My husband (a non-smoker) tells me every year that he's giving up cigarettes and cantaloupe. I don't think he really embraces the sacrificial element...ReplyDelete
Thanks, Amie! I also like the mindfulness involved with doing something positive, like a positive sacrifice. (Is that a thing?) And Lol about your husband's declaration. Sounds like something my husband would come up with.Delete
I could never give up potatoes—in any form! Well, and mac and cheese. Great post, Carol! Your dad’s wisdom made me smile. He was onto you 😉.ReplyDelete
He was totally onto me, Leigh! As the youngest of five, it was difficult to get away with anything or come up with a devious ploy one of my siblings hadn't tried.Delete
I would say you dad knew his daughter far better than she gave him credit for at the time.....lucky girl to have a dad who gave you the grace to make the right choice on your own!ReplyDelete
Exactly! On both points. Dad was definitely paying attention more than I realized. He was also a master at quietly teaching us kids how to do the right thing, leading us into making the right decisions on our own. (It didn't always work, of course, but he gets all the credit for trying :)Delete
Your dad sounds like a very wise man, Carol. This Lent, I'm giving fifteen minutes a day attacking clutter. So far I've made some progress, and once or twice even kept working long past my fifteen minutes. I just hope the paper shredder holds out.ReplyDelete
He really was, Beth! De-cluttering sounds like a great idea, too. Good luck :)Delete
Lovely post, Carol. I love the idea that instead of giving up something, you've chosen to spend time with family and friends. I think we should focus on the positive because it has such a wonderful impact on those around us. Enjoy your special time!ReplyDelete
Thank you, Tara! I'm trying very hard to focus on the positive. So far, it's been pretty successful.Delete
I grew up in a Christian home, but we didn't celebrate Lent, so as an adult this concept is new to me. I only really discovered it on the internet, truthfully! I like the idea, though. Is it Lent NOW? I should Google that. Maybe I'll do it this year. :)ReplyDelete
Giving up potatoes would be tough for me. I love them, and ever since I read (probably in an obscure internet article I could never find again) that they have some virus fighting qualities, I actually feel a little virtuous eating them in cold and flu season. I enjoyed your story about your dad, it's nice when parents let kids make their own decisions...with a bit of wise guidance thrown in to help!ReplyDelete
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