Ladies Day Out

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I am driving from the downtown area of Rockport when I suddenly decide to stop and sit a spell by the ocean. The day is perfect September, all blue sky and mild temperatures. It is low tide and the beach has lost the crowds of summer, leaving pristine sand and so much space. I easily find a bench to sit on and pull out my notebook and pen.

It is then that I begin to observe a group of ladies gathering at the beach. They come in a large group and they are every shape and size. They unpack beach bags and bring out books and suntan lotion. Older wrinkled bodies are revealed without embarrassment, just relaxed satisfied smiles and pure delight in their surroundings. They are short and tall with dyed hair and grey hair. They pull large caftans off of fat bodies and beach coverings off of thinner ones. Their bathing suits seem to perfectly reflect their personalities – the one with dyed hair made up to perfection with the loud Italian voice has a bright coral suit with splashes of white flowers adorning it. The one that struggles to walk has on a black suit with white piping, unremarkable in its style.

Their canvas, beach chairs face the ocean, their backs are to everything but the cool, blue sea. Because really – nothing else matters.

There are no kids. There are no husbands or boyfriends. Just a group of contented women, enjoying a perfect September day on a ladies day out. Their conversation is lost in the waves, but their laughter is loud.

“Look at us!” it says. “This is a day that asks us to leave all our troubles behind. It asks us to enter in with joy and abandon, to splash in a cold, late summer sea; to squint at a bright sun; to smell of coconut lotion and salt water.”

Not all days are like this. Many days require great patience, others require tears, still others ask for anger. But this day? This day says “Welcome! Feel the joy and sand. Feel God’s pleasure. Take it in. Let it revive you. Let it heal you. Let it sustain you!”

And then?

Then go out into this world with strength for what comes your way.

This group of women? They are seasoned and spiced with life. There are undoubtedly countless tragedies among them. Tragedies of broken relationships and marriages; tragedies of death and separation; tragedies of selfish choices and unkept promises – because this is our broken world.

But tragedies are not a part of today’s outing. No – today’s outing is suntan lotion to make them feel young again, ocean waves to cool wrinkled feet, laughter and joking over seagulls stealing sandwiches, and maybe – just maybe a little frozen rosé to sweeten a near-perfect day.

I sigh as I leave these ladies of a certain age. Unlike them, my responsibilities are calling hard today, and I have already ignored them to vicariously participate in this ladies day out. I am rapidly becoming one of these women, and one day soon I hope I too will gather at the ocean with all my friends. Our bodies will be exposed with lots of flaws and little embarrassment. Our laughter will echo across Front beach so all the neighbors will hear and envy us.

I will be the one in the coral suit.

This piece is for the two Carols, Karen, Amalia, Suzana, Leslianne, & Poppadia Paula – with so much love. 

Hospital Time


I’ve woken early today. Only the birds sing outside, alerting me that it is spring. 

I have been on hospital time since Friday. It’s a strange, twilight time where what we think of as important vanishes, in its place comes a subdued submission to all of life. 

Hospital time is well-known to many – the cancer patient going for weekly chemotherapy; the dialysis patient praying for a kidney; the family of the child in an accident, an induced coma taking the child away for a time. 

Hospital time is part of the human experience, a definite part of aging. We are seen by doctors, recommended to surgeons, and humbly, like sheep being led, go to classes and appointments, lest we be the .3% who doesn’t do well. 

On Friday last week I entered into hospital time. I had a 3-week lead time, so in a sense, hospital time came on slowly, incrementally. 

But on Friday, it was real. Friday I was stripped of my normal identity and became a woman who was being prepared for surgery. With the signing of my paperwork, hospital time began. 

Outside, the world rushed on. Social media erupted over something, the stock market rose and fell, news stations put their overly dramatic news teams onto things both menial and important. 

But none of that mattered. What mattered was hospital time. 

When I think about Eternity, I think about hospital time redeemed; a time when all creation is healed and time surrenders to the Creator. No longer are our moments filled with rage at injustice, fear of the unknown, sadness of loss, or worry about the millions of things that are out of our control. Because time is redeemed and reconciled to our creator. 

In the meantime, I am still in my other world of hospital time, taking the moments to heal and rest, realizing that life will go on without me at its center. And in this time, I am enveloped in grace. 


Readers- I would love it if you entered this book giveaway for Passages Through Pakistan at Goodreads! 

Enter here! 

“How did it get so late so soon?”

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The house is dark as I get up and make my way to the kitchen, bleary-eyed, knowing I need coffee.

It has been nonstop people, meals, dishes, talk, games, presents, more tea, more talk, more games, more presents, and more tea. Thank God for tea.

And it is wonderful and exhausting, but mostly wonderful.

I try hard to be quiet as I get ready, but the minute I put on my heeled boots, the click click click on the wooden floor sounds loud, echoes across the darkened house. I put on the Christmas tree lights, longing to sit for just a minute but I’ve been off work for a while now and I need to get back.

I pull my thick coat close to my body, a scarf wrapped tightly around my neck. The warm of the past few days has given way to the seasonal cold and I feel it. My neighborhood is still asleep and the Hanukkah lights of some neighbors radiate blue into the morning sky.

Inside our home it is still festive, full of light and Christmas with frosted cookies still on the dessert menu, their red and green slowly getting grainy. But outside it is business as usual. All around me is evidence of a society ready to close out Christmas and pull people in for end of the year sales.

Christmas has ended. It is being packed up, put into tissue paper like fragile ornaments. Wreaths and ribbons are slowly taken down, the lights rolled up, and soon we will see Christmas trees put out on sidewalks, their boughs casting sharp, green needles all over the ground.

I’m not ready. During Christmas we give ourselves the gift of time. Time to curl up and read. Time to play games. Time to have long breakfasts and dinners. Time to talk. That’s one of the gifts of Christmas — time.  I’m not ready to pack that gift away. I’m not ready to get back into a busy schedule, slave to deadlines and projects. In the words of the sage children’s author, Dr. Seuss, I wonder:

“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”

When I was a kid, time felt so slow. I would wait in anxious anticipation for everything from Christmas to a boy asking me to sit with him and exchange furtive glances. Time took forever. Now I wonder how it got so late so soon. 

So I walk, bundled up, to the subway, thinking all these thinks, pausing for a minute to speak words of gratitude for time to the One who is timeless.

Picture Credit: http://pixabay.com/en/pocket-watch-jewel-chain-stone-560937/ word art Marilyn R. Gardner

In Praise of Idle Moments

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 The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done. “Idle dreaming is often of the essence of what we do,” wrote Thomas Pynchon in his essay on sloth. Archimedes’ “Eureka” in the bath, Newton’s apple, Jekyll & Hyde and the benzene ring: history is full of stories of inspirations that come in idle moments and dreams from Tim Kreider in “The Busy Trap”

It’s a Thursday morning and I am blurry with a post World Series hangover of sorts. For the many of you who are not from the United States, the World Series is an annual event crowning the baseball season. Among sports enthusiasts in the U.S. this is a Big Deal. And this year the team who came out shining is the Boston Red Sox. This is My Team. I am not a sports enthusiast, but one of the things I’ve done in recent years is to try to understand the excitement that baseball garners in this part of the world. Call it an anthropological study if you will. This team, whose home field is walking distance from where I live, was my maternal grandma’s favorite. I needed to understand something of the magic if I was to live here, just like I needed to understand the love of soccer in Egypt, or cricket in Pakistan. And a surprising thing has happened– one that has taught me some good lessons about living cross- culturally in my passport country. It turns out I like this game they call “baseball”! I’ll write more on that in a later post because I think there are some good lessons to be explored.

But for now I’m taking a break.
It turns out that my post from Tuesday on the security blanket of busy touched an unexpected nerve. The words “I’m so busy” are deeply ingrained in our vocabulary, more so our actions. My cousin, Judi, said this “It’s more than ingrained…it’s like it is revered, prized, valued.” 

But beyond the words is how embedded this is in our psyche, in the fabric of who we are and the damage this does to our health, our creative abilities, and our friendships.

CS Lewis says “We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.

I will be honest — I have lacked inspiration for just about everything lately. I am doing mediocre work at my day job, I don’t feel I have much to share in person, and I am struggling to find inspiration in writing. I have glorified busy and I am reaping the fruits.

Perhaps you feel the same.

I think I need some idle moments. In idle moments I can step back and “see the whole” not just the fragmented parts. In idle moments I can gain wisdom and a heart for people. In idle moments I can hear God.

So I’m going to give you a bit of space from my writing, and me some necessary space from my own voice, and I am going to idle. I am going to have some idle moments and dreams!

How about you? Do you need time to be idle in the best possible way? To read and dream, to hear the voice of God? 

Word of God speak
Would You pour down like rain
Washing my eyes to see
Your majesty
To be still and know
That You’re in this place
Please let me stay and rest
In Your holiness
Word of God speak

Blogger’s Note:  Robynn’s post from Friday will be published as planned on Friday – and I will see you soon! Thank you so much for entering my world through reading and commenting. It is a gift.

The Reluctant Orthodox – Volume 3 “In Peace Let us Depart”

I wanted to sneak a look at my phone to find out the time. It had been at least a half hour since the priest had sung “In Peace Let us Depart” and the congregation had responded “In the Name of the Lord”.

If we were to depart in Peace, then why was I still standing at a service? I could smell the coffee hour downstairs, that delicious and substantial meal that follows every Divine Liturgy. Orthodox fast from midnight on Saturday until after communion and so no one has even had a cup of coffee by the end of the service. People are hungry and ready for more than a small pastry or muffin. We who are on this journey come into fasting slowly, hesitantly– especially me. I am, after all, the reluctant Orthodox.

This first happened before I had taken a bigger step inside the inner workings of the Orthodox church, before I had heard the famous Orthodox joke: “You know you’re Orthodox when you’re still at the service a half hour after the priest has said “In peace let us depart…!”

The Orthodox church in North America is a sun dial set in the Western world of the Swiss clock. Time is not important once you enter the doors of the sanctuary and venerate the icons. You settle in to the service and there are no clocks. No one is worrying that Sunday dinner will burn in the oven. No one seems to be thinking about time at all.

I live in a world where time is important, where people watch the clock. Where we talk about having ‘me’ time; ‘alone’ time; time for ‘self’; where time is money, except on the weekend and then time is recreation and rest.

And so it takes me a while to settle in to the absence of time keeping, to a place where eternity matters more than the seconds and the minutes. I should be good at this. I grew up in the East where I would sit for hours on charpais, feet curled up under me, listening to a Pakistani preacher fervently exhorting his congregation– a small band of men, women, and children living out Christian faith in a country where mosques stood on every corner. I grew up where people were far more important than time, where clocks stopped during worship, where you knew time only by the Call to Prayer ringing out over the city five times a day.

But in this journey into Orthodoxy I find it is yet another area where my heart, soul, and body are challenged. A strange new world that draws me further in, even as it confounds and sometimes annoys me. I find my annoyance slowly chiseled down to its base, its base of sin and self.

The Priest makes the sign of the cross and we are now free to leave, but no one is hurrying away, rushing for the door. Instead people slowly walk around, some to icons on walls around the room, some toward the priest who is giving a ‘traveler’s blessing’, and some to the coffee hour downstairs where they will wait still longer until the food is blessed.

And so the reluctant Orthodox slowly makes her way to the door, thinking about eternity and the eternal, when all of time will be redeemed and put into its rightful place, where there will be time for all thing good and holy, and when all things good and holy will have time.

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In Which it is Always Ten Minutes Before Two

We have a clock in our cottage in Rockport. It is a beautiful, handcrafted Provence style clock in blues and yellows;a perfect signature piece for the cottage. We purchased it a couple of years ago on a whim and a sale and have no regrets.

When on display in shops, clocks are often shown with the short hand pointed at the two and the long hand pointed at the ten. I’ve been told this is how you show a clock to its best advantage. (Who knew?) Since this was a battery operated clock, and unwilling to be stuck like a child on Christmas morning who longs to use a toy only to realize his parents have forgotten to buy batteries, we stopped and purchased a pack of AA batteries – Duracell for good measure.

When we arrived back to the cottage and I was ready to place it on that perfect spot on the wall, my husband and I looked at each other and made a decision: we would never put a battery in this clock. The time on this clock would never move. In the cottage in Rockport it would forever be ten minutes until two in the afternoon.

And so it has stayed. We have had guests come and go who have longed to put batteries in our clock, but we won’t let them. In a world filled with demands and stresses, productivity and deadlines, we have a place, a space where time stops. We will forever be at ten minutes before two.

It’s summer now, not the official summer that comes with solstice and a June 20th date, but the practical summer that begins on Memorial Day in the United States. Every day we have a little more time as it stays lighter longer. And in summer we need time to stop a bit, need life to slow down, need to take walks on beaches and stay up late on porches. I am so grateful to have a place this summer where it’s always ten minutes before two in the afternoon, where time stops and life happens; where we are given the grace of slowing down.

Do you have a place where time stops? Where you can relax so well that time no longer dictates your life? Would love to hear about it in the comment section.

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On the Brink of Eternity

“Mom, you’re not listening! Look at me!”

“Mom, you’re walking so fast! What’s the hurry?”

“Mom, why are you on your lap top? Can you get off?”

Those phrases, heard so often in the last couple of weeks, they are the mirror to my world – my children. In this case, one child. My easy-going, take things in stride, deep thinking 16-year-old. The mirror he held up was one of a rushed woman in the middle to top of her career who had forgotten how to just “be”. With the purchase of an i-phone and the signing of contracts for consulting work the reflection was too much. I wanted to hide from it.

Into that reflection came a reading from A Holy Experience. A direct challenge to the reflection, a chance to take my son’s words seriously.

“Race for more and you’ll snag on time and leak empty. Hurry always empties a soul.*”

“We stand on the brink of eternity. So there is enough time*”.

I want my reflection re-made by the Time Creator. I want to reflect a holy view of time. But right now? Right now I have to run to the store…and make a phone call…and call the doctor….and make sure I’ve checked email…and…and….and…….

On the brink of Eternity – can you, Creator of Time, redeem my view of time and change my reflection?

*Quotes from A Holy Experience post from 4.19.12

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