Archive for Monday, March 7, 2011


River City Jules: A lesson for Lent

March 7, 2011


Ash Wednesday is a couple of days away, beginning the season of repentance, sacrifice and, for us Catholics, fish on Fridays as we wait for Easter to free us from our rules that often include bans on things like chocolate or caffeine but rarely on things cited in any of the Ten Commandments.

After spending a number of years denying myself M&M;’s, I have decided to give up complaining for Lent. I tried this experiment a couple of summers ago, inspired by Kansas City pastor Will Bowen, who challenged his congregation to give up complaining for 21 straight days. Participants wear a purple rubber bracelet. Each time they complain about something, they move the bracelet to the opposite wrist. Pastor Bowen has over 8 million bracelets in circulation worldwide.

I kept a diary to track my progress that summer. Here is how I did…

Day One: Bracelet on, positive attitude intact, I take the kids to the pool. Whining ensues, I stand strong. Pre-teen kid belly-flops right in front of me, I give thanks for the cooling sprinkles of water that now run the words on my magazine. Snack bar is out of frozen Snickers.

Move the bracelet.

Day Two: Bracelet on, positive attitude intact, I drive to Target. Behind a 100-year-old woman. Ten below the speed limit. With her blinker on. I say a silent prayer that no one in her path dies. Bracelet stays.

Get home from Target to find I left two gallons of milk in the bottom of the cart in the parking lot.

Move the bracelet.

Day Three: Bracelet on, positive attitude intact, I flip on the TV to find every single network is showing Michael Jackson’s funeral.

Move the bracelet. Repeatedly.

(And I can’t help but wonder if, somewhere, Pastor Bowen is doing the same.)

Day Four: Start period.

Move bracelet.

Day Five: Bracelet on, I decide to take on the challenge with a renewed state of mind. Unfortunately this is not the best day to try on swimsuits.

Move the bracelet.

And go back to Target for a box of brownie mix. And milk.

Day Six: Bracelet on, feeling balanced and rational again, I take the kids on a long hike in the woods where I ingest seven spiderwebs and spot two live snakes. I give thanks for the beauty of nature, and the bracelet stays.

We come home to a living room floor covered in Styrofoam peanuts I had yet to hide from the dog. I give thanks for the life in our home, and the bracelet stays.

I tuck our kids in that night and get ready for bed, landing on a toilet rim, as the seat has been left up. For the 254th time.

Move the bracelet. Which, in my opinion, is better than flushing it.

Day Seven: Opt for a day of rest, leave the bracelet on my nightstand and enjoy a day free of complaints.

Obviously the bracelet must be the problem. I hardly ever complained before it showed up.

— Julie Dunlap can be reached at


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