(Originally posted February 19, 2015)
When I was growing up, Lent was bleak. There were no donuts. The Girl Scouts delivered cookies that we could no longer eat. Once again, fish reared its ugly head at dinnertime. We went without things we loved (usually sweets) and were grumpy, or we cheated and felt guilty until Easter came, when Jesus rose, and there were jelly beans for all.
This time of year can be tricky as a parent. The holidays are over, winter is dragging on and on. We could all use a little infusion. A little reminder that spring will come again. Call it Lent. Call it Random Acts of Kindness. Call it Love. But if you are finding yourselves or your family in a slump, try some of these. I’m going to post the list and have the kids check one on those days we just need a little boost.
*Make your own ashes. Let go of old habits, sad stories that no longer serve you. Write them down or say them aloud. Watch those ideas go up in smoke. (Thanks, Glennon Melton, for this idea http://momastery.com/blog/2015/02/18/stardust/ )
*Get bundled up and go for a walk together. If it is daylight, look for signs of spring.
*Call someone you love.
*Exercise together. If you are snowbound, pop in a workout video. Or bundle up and go run around the house. Or have each family member pick an exercise or two and everyone else can try it. Have fun being active together.
*Call a local food bank or meal provider. Donate canned goods and non-perishables. Or volunteer to help prepare or serve a meal to those in need.
*Plan and cook a simple meal together. Let the kids pick the foods even if they don’t “go together.”
*Gather for a compliment circle. Tell one another something you value or admire.
*Bring someone flowers ‘just because.’
*Put money in a tip jar.
*Fix something around the house that has been broken for a while. (For kids, this can even mean changing light bulbs.)
*Have a FREE stand – free donuts, or cocoa, or lemonade, or poems, or art work, or songs, or toys from your house you no longer need. If anyone insists on paying, give the money to a local charity.
*Have a family game night.
*Plant – garden vegetable seeds, flowers, herbs. Enjoy seeing green during the winter.
*Try a new sport or activity – ice skating, roller skating, trampoline, kayaking, library book club, knitting, yoga, swimming, karate, piano. Dare to do something you’ve always meant to do.
*Write a letter or draw a picture and mail it to someone you haven’t seen in awhile. Let them know they are special.
*Offer to babysit for another family.
*Visit an animal shelter. Ask if they have a list of needed items. Pick something and supply it.
*Bring a box of Kleenex, markers, hand sanitizer, or glue sticks to school. Teachers often purchase these items out-of-pocket this time of year.
*Snuggle on the couch with the television and computer turned off. Instead, read books aloud or tell stories.
*Have a donation scavenger hunt. Walk around the house and fill a bag with items to give away.
*Look at old photographs. Share the stories they capture.
*At dinner tonight, tell one another three things you are grateful for.
*Bake together. Share some of your cookies or muffins, etc. with your neighbors.
*Clean today. Scrub the toilets inside the house. Pick up trash outside the house. It does not matter what, just pick something and make it shine.
*Be affectionate today. Smile at one another for no reason. Say, “I love you” for no reason. Hug.
*Share memories of favorite family recipes. Pick one to try to recreate today.
*Wash each other’s feet.
*Whether it is for church, brunch, or your next family gathering, select a nice outfit to wear. Have everyone know what they are wearing to de-stress the process of getting a well-dressed family out the door.
Revised Feb. 9, 2016 — I started Lent a day early this year. My To-Do List has been growing of late, and I noticed a trend: I notoriously skip appointments related to my own health and well-being. I am 14 months overdue at the dentist. My teeth have begun to feel furry. We have a family history of breast cancer, and I’ve still never been for a mammogram. The dermatologist, my hairdresser, the guy who does the brakes on my car…all received calls from me today. Sometimes, in our desire to care completely for our families, we forget ourselves. Feels good to be entering this season with a modicum of balance.
Also, I ate the rest of the girl scout cookies. It made sense at the time.