welcome lenten season

lent has been an important season for me since my childhood. although i was not raised in one particular religion, the notion of spirituality, especially in terms of the idea of a shared humanity and mutual love and respect for all beings, has always resonated with me.  

and, as such, the lenten tradition of sacrifice as a way towards greater understanding of the needs and challenges of other humans has always appealed to the highly sensitive person in me. 

in our household lent was a time (as was ramazan actually), in which we were encouraged to recognize and celebrate our basic comforts and privileges.  the sacrifices that came along with these seasons were meant to encourage us to be grateful for our own lives and empathetic towards those of others. 

over the years, i have given up many things for lent- candy, chocolate, junk food, fizzy drinks, hard liquor, wine, negative thoughts… each abstention has had its own challenges and benefits but none as important as the way in which each season has reminded me of the role that habit, and habitual thoughts and actions, play in our lives. 

how often have i popped a piece of candy in my mouth without thinking twice, munched on chocolate without really even tasting it, poured another glass of wine without considering if i had already had enough? 

we live so much of our lives without really noticing what’s actually happening. mindfulness takes practice and the pace of our days can sometimes border on ridiculous; there have even been days when i find myself running from one task to another in my own home! 

in this way, the lenten season asks us to take a moment to pause and consider our comforts and to appreciate them more fully.

normally i start talking about lent and what we are going to give up two or three weeks before the season begins.  we often have a small mardi gras celebration amongst ourselves and i always enjoy pancakes on ash wednesday. 

this year alegra made us traditional italian carnival cookies as part of our mardi gras fun!

but this year the whole season snuck up on me. it wasn’t until we pulled out alegra’s academic planner to start scheduling things for her second semester that i realized lent was just days away.

my first reaction was to rack my brain frantically to see what i should give up this year- last year was coffee- should this year be wine? sweets? booze? 

but as my mind raced through the options i suddenly stopped and realized that this year I AM NOT GIVING UP ANTHING.

this year, this pandemic year, we have given up enough.

we have given up hugs.  we have given up social interaction.  we have given up in-person school.  we have given up countless plans and dozens of dreams.  we have given up travel. we have given up seeing relatives who live abroad. we have already given up so much.

so, this year instead of giving something up, i am taking something up.

rather than mindfully abstain, i am going to mindfully make an addition. i am going to add something to my life; something meaningful and important for me; something that makes me feel good.  it is unlikely that any one thing can possibly make up for all that we, as humans, have had to give up this year.  but one nice thing for myself will certainly bring me joy, and a little bit of hope, and that is something that we all need right now.

therefore, in this lenten season of 2021 i am adding to my life one hour of creativity.  for one hour every day i will allow myself to create; to move away from all the daily necessities and practical concerns and just spend time creating.  there is no goal in this.  i don’t need to have a specific purpose to do what i do, i just need to like doing it and enjoy that time.  mindfully and with great appreciation of my ability to do this for myself.

what about you? do you traditionally give something up for lent? if so, what will you give up this year? or would you too, rather add something this season? 

let me know, i would love to hear! 

camp mode…

we are now smack dap in the middle of our fifth full week at home and something fascinating has happened… the girls have switched into what i can only describe as “camp mode”.

the first week was hard, for the girls there was a lot of uncertainty; what was e-learning going to entail, how will i see and talk to my friends, which activities will i be able to continue, how will i pass ALL this time at home?

for me it meant a lot of preparing; who knew what markets would remain open, would fresh meat and fish be readily available, what about medicines, how would i manage to keep the girls busy as the days went by?

the second and third weeks were really a process of settling in. the teachers and school “figured out” e-learning, and so did we; we stocked up on really important supplies- both foodwise and funwise; and we got ourselves organized into some sort of routine (this seems to be ever shifting, but for now it works).

through the blur of all this change and adjustment though an extraordinary thing occurred. 

one day, as we sat around the dinner table, i realized that all three girls had arrived at the table with their water bottles- just like at camp!

asya’s was from her summer session at georgetown, alara’s was a coveted glow in the dark rockbrook water bottle, and alegra had a mason jar from earth fare filled to the brim and ready to go.

from a practical standpoint i wasn’t surprised, the water bottles are just so easy, and require us to do less dishes. 

but what did surprise me is what the appearance of these bottles meant; i had been so worried about how the girls would handle this new reality of staying at home. how would they manage when their lives suddenly slowed down; especially after being so busy all year. 

but i shouldn’t have worried. 

thanks to summers spent at camp, they already knew how!

summer camp may not be the best fit for all children; i was frequently homesick as a child and probably would not have enjoyed sleepaway camp.  but my girls love it. and i believe that they have learned a range of skills that they would not have been able to develop with their parents around all the time.

specifically, camp has taught my children to be more independent; more resilient; to make decisions based on what they need, even in the face of peer pressure; how to fill unstructured time in a way that makes them happy; and also how to deal with strong emotions- something we have plenty of right now.

ever since i noticed that we had entered “camp mode” more things have started to catch my attention…

asya and alara are reading through books at a breakneck pace- i can barely keep them in books- and alegra has read more in the past three weeks than she has since school started. 

we have done countless art projects; daily yoga classes have become a key part of our routine; alegra has played tons of games- and learned some new ones-like hopscotch; and for the first time in a long time, there is SO MUCH conversation going on. (we aren’t singing at the dinner table yet but give us a couple more weeks at home- i’ll keep you posted!)

obviously, the lazy, lovely days of summer camp cannot compare to the somewhat stressful, uncertain times of the coronavirus pandemic. but there isn’t a single person with whom I’ve spoken who hasn’t said that they aren’t so sad to be slowing down. 

harder for some to do, and easier for others; but “camp mode” seems to be working for us right now.