DESIGN

Bringing Kashmiri Back

Resistance through fashion.

 

I’m bringing  Kashmiri back.

Remember when we last talked about pherans ? That is still one of the most read posts on Mamanushka. As I write this I’ve just returned from Los Angeles, the location of  this year’s KGNA (annual gathering of people identifying their roots from Indian Occupied Kashmir)  and after that pheranominal blog post I was asked to help source pherans from new and upcoming Kashmir based designers for a fashion show, (which you can catch a peek of here).

In return for the loan of her gorgeous pherans, designer Iqra Ahmed of Tul palav fame asked me to photograph them for her. Apart from the fact that the mere thought of photographing pherans fills me with more excitement than I ought to admit, I  knew you guys would love to see them too! So of course I agreed.

Look at this show stopper of a red velvet pheran with gold tilla embroidery.  

I already had my friend Sabra down as the perfect model and we gathered a couple more fellow pheran affectionados who would be up for taking a few photos.

Despite all of us being on a super-tight schedule, taking a few photos turned into a full on outdoor photoshoot  in Long Beach Los Angeles! (Another friend Rahat, lent us this distinctively lovely necklace from her personal collection – isn’t that woollen link so unique?!) 

Having thrown the kids at hubby earlier, with a promise to be back in time to get ready for that evening’s black tie dinner, we quickly donned pherans on top of what we were already wearing.

This is actually one of the best things about a pheran – the fact that they are supposed to go over your comfy outfit and are a one size fits all.

I styled each pheran with traditional Kashmiri jewelry ( with a couple of bohemian add ons), here I wrapped this shawl on Faiqa’s head in what is nowadays considered a very old fashioned style – mostly seen on more ‘mature’ women in Kashmir and even then mostly in villages. I actually think it’s such a lovely and unique way of tying the hijab.

This amazing pure silver headpiece is actually a necklace! It was sourced by a jeweler from Sopore from amongst the Gujjar craftspeople. This nomadic tribe of Kashmir are the only ones who mostly make these now. The necklace is part of a set with the the bunches of hooped earrings worn here by Zairah (in green) underneath her skull-cap type hat ( also designed by Tul Palav -after a traditional topi worn by women in Kashmir called kasaabe’ ).

The earrings are so heavy that they are suspended on some string and not actually in the ear lobes, although I’ve seen many a low hanging ear lobe on elderly women in my childhood!

Here’s a better view of that kasaabe’ and suspended earrings.

I can’t get enough of how cool this looked. On top of the cap, I draped a Kashmir shawl fully embroidered with Sozni stitch work. It’s actually my wedding shawl!  

My vision was  Pherans and the Sea. Kashmir has no beaches of it’s own, since it is a Valley surrounded by the Himalayan mountains so I was looking forward to the incongruity of the ‘look’.  Don’t you think the  photos ended up coming through as wonderfuly  freeing in spirit?   

Sabra, Faiqa, Zairah and Maysa looked so stunning, confident and regal  that, not surprisingly, they turned a few heads. We were spotted by someone who introduced himself as a photographer working with models and makeup artists (probably in Hollywood – who knows? After all this was LA)  he went on to give the pheran clad ladies a few tips and direction in striking just that right pose! Thanks Angel Ramirez – your tips were on point!

It felt like an episode of America’s Next Top Model!  Amongst smiles and waves and many well meaning compliments we were described as ‘Persian Princesses’.

Kashmiri actually, replied Sabra assertive yet polite as ever.

‘Ah Kashmerian’ (came one reply)

We all looked at each other – how many times have we heard that? And I just knew. This is it. We want to take Kashmiri back.

Back from the cultural appropriation by Bollywood, back from the Orientalist narrative of the ‘exotic’ back from the Persian Princess trope …  I want people to look at this dress and know the word Pheran (pronounced fe-ran).  To look at this embroidery and know the word ‘tilla’.  

For someone in LA or London or Lahore to look at this ensemble and say ‘Kashmiri’ (not kashmirian or Cashmere? ‘like the wool?’)  I want Kashmiris who have dismissed the pheran as old fashioned, to see themselves in this and recognise the precious garment they have folded away in their mother’s and grandmother’s trunks (because grandmothers in Kashmir don’t store clothes in closets and wardrobes – they still using their old school galvanized  steel trunks!)

I love the fun twist Iqra Ahmed, the name behind Tul-Palav, has put on the sleeves of this pheran. Traditionally the Quraab daar (or Koraab) sleeve, features an embroidered slit at the inner elbow, through which the wearer can extend their hand. The rest of the sleeve is then pinned back – so it doesn’t flap around. Normally quite a formal look and ALWAYS pinned back – on this pheran the Quraab sleeve is lighter and the gold tassels add an element of surprise and modernity.

Pursuing a career in fashion design is not easy for many women in the Asian subcontinent. More so in  a place like Indian Occupied Kashmir where unemployment in its younger generation is at a critical level and parents still have a heavy hand in directing the career paths of their offspring, usually pushing them to pursue vocations such as Medicine or Engineering. The concept of Fashion Design is totally misunderstood. As Iqra says herself – ‘at first people thought I was trying to go for modelling’.  

There are a number of savvy influencers  from Kashmir that I have loved seeing emerge these past few years through social media platforms. One thing that stands out is the passion for Kashmiriat and the preservation and representation of it to the world. Iqra Ahmed is one of them. There are others like Amir Wani (Kashmir Through My Lens), Rumaan Hamdani (The Other Rumii), Bisma Parvez (painter and Artist) and Muheet Mehraj (Kashmir Box) to name a few.

What is it about Kashmir that inspires and fuels this creativity? Decades of political and practical oppression, de facto martial law and military impunity have had a huge impact on health and educational infrastructures and employment opportunities.

It’s an environment in which people are forced to survive – not thrive. Perhaps it’s the paradox of beauty in pain, of  oppression itself, nestled, no, that is too gentle a word to describe the way oppression has torn into some of the most naturally breathtakingly beautiful topography in the world and into the psyche of its people. Maybe paradoxically,  that has given oxygen to creativity. With its language, culture and national integrity under threat, it  is heartening to see the next generation of Kashmiris step up and take on the challenge in ways they know how.

These young people have worked through financial losses caused by frequent internet bans across the region due to political unrest. They keep working through physically and emotionally draining situations to bring Kashmir to the world. Not every warrior carries a sword. Some carry a pen, a needle, a paintbrush, a camera, an idea.

 

This is my ode to kickass Kashmiris, especially the kool kashur kooris – the women of Kashmir – from the saints and poetesses of past, the multi-faceted- talented creatives of today and to all the women of Kashmir, who on enduring pain and loss still emerge graceful, strong and true torch bearers for their cause. We are a force to be reckoned with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are a couple final pics. Fun times and Maz balai’ x

 

Thank you to Iqra Ahmed of Tul Palav ~ your pherans are beautiful. Tul Palav is Kashmir’s first online store for designer Kashmiri clothes follow her on instagram and facebook.

Thank you also to – Sabra Bhat, Faiqa Anbreen, Zairah Sahaf and Maysa Bhat. Sabra is a fitness enthusiast who also happens to be a Managment consultant & Digital health strategist. Maysa is a third year Dental student.  Faiqa is an Aerospace Engineer  (she says, yes, it really is ‘rocket science’)  and Zairah is a Data Scientist currently working on cutting edge AI technology.  Of course you are all so much more than your day jobs, which absolutey rock by the way! I loved working with you!

 

Also ~ What I wore when I wore ‘Me’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FAITH, FOOD

Ramadan Thirst Remedy

Tiny Tips For Ramadan

 

What’s your Ramadan remedy for keeping thirst at bay?

Last year while bemoaning cranky babies and drying up milk supplies (and therefore days missed of fasting) my friend Vanessa said ‘just drink coconut water’.

She didn’t even have to say anything else. It’s like one of those things you wonder why you’d never thought of before! Coconut water. OF COURSE! No matter how much plain water you drink – unless you sip it all day (or nights in Ramadan ) large bolus amounts of H2O just pass through your body a couple hours later. The natural electrolyte properties of coconut water mean that this fluid sticks around.

The first time hubby topped up with coconut water at iftiaar and sahoor – he was pretty amazed that the next day of fasting he experienced little to zero thirst. Now it’s the first thing he puts in the preparation for Ramadan groceries list.

I know I keep coming back to nursing – but this is a game changer in increasing your milk supply. Fasting or not, drinking coconut water will increase a nursing mother’s milk supply. You might already know that the amount of food you eat doesn’t really affect milk supply – but surprisingly enough – the quality of food you eat doesn’t affect milk production either! It’s all about the amount of fluids and the frequency with which your baby nurses. 

 

This tiny tip has big benefits! Try it. You’re welcome. 

 

Check out more Really Tiny Tips For A Really Real Ramadan 

 

Photo Credit : Aiysha Malik

DESIGN, FAITH

Three Favorite Ramadan Things

Flowers, Moons and an Adorable Book. Three lovely and simple ideas  to incorporate into your Ramadan / Eid Vibe.

 

Book

Ramadan Celebrate The World Book

This cute little board book is officially my favourite Ramadan children’s book of this year. If I could live in children’s book land this is where you’ll find me wearing colorful babushka inspired prints and living in a lollipop domed house. Look through the book right here  

 

Flowers

 

We’ve been seeing Ramadan wreaths everywhere. They are officially a thing. And since Ramadan this year is hosted by the blossom filled month of May – wait – do you really need reasons to embrace more flowers into your life?

Love walking past this little corner of the kids’ room – makes me so happy. Felt flowers wreath from Target – mosque sillouette art  put together myself with black card stock and some pretty leftover wrapping paper.

Another way to do it – with this  Moon & Star wall decor light.

 

Moon

Ok so I might have saved the best for last. This gorgeous moon mobile is alas not hanging in my home but in lovely Aiysha’s walls because get this – she MADE it.

All I want to know is – when can I order mine?!

 

Also Really Tiny Tips for a Really Real Ramadan

RELATIONSHIPS

Hey Shortie It’s Your Birthday

It was my birthday yesterday and despite best efforts to the contrary, this tune was in my head all day! I’m probably dating myself here but I still remember when it was in the charts and the way it made me chuckle on opening a card from one of my sisters to read this apt ode  ‘hey shortie it’s your birthday!’

Since then its been a Teli sister joke. You see, among the four sisters, I am the eldest but also shortest sister. Go figure.

Its been a while since my birthday has come round in Ramadan. I told the hubby and kids not to buy a cake as I’d bake one myself. There was an old pear that needed rescuing and some dark chocolate that needed to be used up so mama (thats me!) decided to make a chocolate and almond flour, pear cake that ended up being more artisan brownie than cake (definitely a good thing). Somehow it’s so much more painful to waste food in Ramadan isn’t it? It was the perfect little post iftiar treat, made all the more amazing with a steaming cup of Somali shaa

This weekend is a long one for both the UK and USA. I am really looking forward to my little Ramadan gig at the Boston Children’s Museum on Sunday. I’ve so much been meaning to tell you guys more about this and if you’ve been following our instagram stories you will have heard about it already. Promise to write more on it soon!

Wishing you all a lovely weekend wherever you are.

FAITH

Really Tiny Tips For A Really Real Ramadan

MAMANUSHKA.com || Ramadan Decor || Ramadan Tips || Ramadan Banner || Welcome Ramadan

 

Ramadan has arrived, splendid and smiling and we could not be happier! What a true blessing it is to welcome this month once again into our homes and into our hearts.

We are about a week into the Ramadan vibe and some of the initial adrenaline of this spiritual month is beginning to fade. The realities of 16+ hour fasts, very little sleep and those young children, who have decided Ramadan is a party each and every day, is beginning to set in. This shift has had us mining our previous Ramadan experiences for all those little things that make these few weeks just a bit simpler, just a bit easier and just a bit more manageable.

These are tips for a really real Ramadan – one that happens alongside a life full of work, home and responsibilities. And as tiny as they are, these tips have been super amazing at helping us maintain our fasts, calm our homes and keep the joy!  We are so looking forward to sharing the love with you over the remainder of Ramadan with series of “tiny tip” posts and hope you will share your best ones with us as well.

I will begin with the decorations in this picture above. It may seem obvious but this year I was about to give up on Ramadan decorating until I realised that I could hand it over to my eight year old! She enlisted the help of her younger brother and they spent a weekend cutting and pasting and going through all the craft supplies to come up with this arrangement. It’s so charming and full of love and they were so proud of themselves. I admit, it was slightly difficult to let go of my pinterest inspired decor ideas but in the end, it was so much better to do so. Definitely a #winwin.

 

 

Also Things To Listen To In Ramadan & Beyond

FAITH, MOTHERHOOD, READS

Five Great Ways To Share Al-Isra wal-Mi’raj With Children

Of all the events in the Islamic Calendar, is there any more captivating to a young audience than that of our beloved Prophet’s miraculous night journey?

Al-’Isra’ wal-Mi‘raj – quite literally, the ‘journey’ (isra) and the ‘ascension’ (mi’raj) – is an event that has everything you could possibly want in a story for children. And we do mean everything. A prophet, angels, time travel of sorts, a historical congregation, a flying horse, a glorious ascent through the heavens, a place no one else can go, the bestowal of a great gift and then… back the way we came, right to where we started, it could be science fiction, but of course the best part of this utterly thrilling tale is that there is no fiction about it, it is all true.

As we approach the 27th of Rajab, the date of Al-’Isra’ wal-Mi‘raj, we’ve collected some inspiring resources and tips which have helped us learn more about this amazing journey, it’s significance and ways to best share it with our families. The honouring of this event has become a firm favourite in our homes and a small fulfillment of our intentions to better celebrate the lunar Islamic Calendar with our children.

Once you share this incredible story with your children, be prepared for some interesting questions and much conversation. The hope is that with each year, as they grow and mature, they will come to encounter deeper meanings  and experience greater connections with this miraculous event.

 

For Adults and Teens

MAMANUSHKA.com || Five Great Ways to Share Al-Isra Wal-Mir'aj With Children || Translated by Gibril Fouad Haddad || Best for Adults & Older Teens

The Prophet’s Night Journey & Heavenly Ascent
By: Sayyid Muhammad ibn ‘Alawi al-Maliki
Translation and Notes by: Gibril Fouad Haddad

A few years ago, when we first started sharing the details of Al-’Isra’ wal-Mi‘raj with our children, we realised we needed to refresh our own knowledge of it and then decide how best to frame it for our very young audience. So, with that purpose in mind, we came across this truly extraordinary book which collates all confirmed hadiths of Al-Isra wal Mi’raj into a single narrative structure. Even though it is a deeply scholarly book, the fact that Al-’Isra’ wal-Mi‘raj is presented in chronological order, almost as a story itself, makes it an easy, accessible and enjoyable read, with significant notes at the back for further commentary and explanation. Short and succinct, this is a great place to start for yourself or with your older (teenage) children. You could even read it aloud with them, which we imagine would be lovely.

Available to purchase here.

 

For Younger Children & Tweens  (9-13 Years Old)

Marvellous Stories From The Life of Muhammad
By: Mardijah Aldrich Tarantino

We both read this book when we were children, and not just the Al-’Isra’ wal-Mi‘raj chapter but the whole book made such an impression that over the years it’s one we have come back to over and over again.. Written in the loveliest narrative style, it makes you feel like you are right there in olden day Arabia where oratory storytelling was the norm. The illustrations are sparse but beautiful and the Al-’Isra’ wal-Mi‘raj story is told with much exciting detail.

Available to purchase here.

 

For Very Young Children (6 Years and Younger)

MAMANUSHKA.com || Five Great Ways to Share Al-Isra Wal-Mir'aj With Children || Book By Elizabeth Bootman, Sirajunmunira|| Best for Young Children || Islamic Calendar || Muslim Festivals

Sharing the story of Al-’Isra’ wal-Mi‘raj with this age group is a true joy, as they give themselves over completely to the telling of it. However, given their attention spans and understanding, we struggled a bit with which aspects of the events to focus on.

Enter the lovely Elizabeth Bootman of Sirajunmunira, who inspired us first with her gift giving ritual and then with her spiritual and thoughtful play of Al-’Isra’ wal-Mi‘raj. She wisely chose to emphasise the magnificent Buraq and then the form and gift of the five daily prayers (salat), in her telling for the very young. We followed her lead and did the same with our own children and it has been marvellous. They love connecting the actions of the prayer with the angelic realm.

Resources available on Sirajunmunira or purchase the book here.

 

For All Ages

This year we discovered Kitabkids on Instagram. The mom behind this account is a wealth of exciting ideas as she shares various Islamic themed crafts she has done with her own children. Her ideas are always adorable and clever and most importantly doable!

For Al-’Isra’ wal-Mi‘raj we love her ‘Prophet’s Ladder’ of 7 rungs. Each rung corresponds to one of the seven heavens and shows the corresponding name of the prophet who greeted Prophet Muhammad at each level.

MAMANUSHKA.com || Five Great Ways to Share Al-Isra Wal-Mir'aj With Children || Craft By Kitabkids || Best for Young Children || Islamic Calendar || Muslim Festivals

 

And isn’t this cute flying horse she made such a great visual aid for this story? Find the instructions she used for making one here and have a go at creating your own.

MAMANUSHKA.com || Five Great Ways to Share Al-Isra Wal-Mir'aj With Children || Craft By Kitabkids || Best for Young Children || Islamic Calendar || Muslim Festivals || Buraq

 

Bonus!

MAMANUSHKA.com || Mamanushka Storytime || Isra wal-Mir'aj || Miraculous Night Journey || Islamic Audio Stories for Children || Kids Muslim Audio Stories || Life of the Prophet Muhammad

 

Al-’Isra’ wal-Mi‘raj Audio Story
By: Mamanushka Storytime (that’s us!)
Narrated by: Sumaya Teli

Yes, you read right.  Using all the above resources as inspiration, we put together our first audio story and we are so excited to share it with you! Experience the story of the Prophet’s miraculous night journey with your little ones by simply hitting the play button on this accessible and captivating narration. Suitable for children aged four and above, it has the perfect amount of description for the youngest audience without losing any of the detail for the older ones.

Find out more and listen here.

 

Do you do something special for Al-’Isra’ wal-Mi‘raj? Or do you have any other resources which we can all benefit from? Let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear how you celebrate this date in the Islamic calendar.

 

FAITH

Listen Now: Mamanushka Storytime!

Every time I have shared my personal retellings of prophetic stories or a snippet of one that I narrated to my own children, you have all been so lovely and encouraging in asking for more!

So finally with a little push from Aiysha, inspiration from our favorite Al-’Isra’ wal-Mi‘raj resources and the stealing of quiet moments here and there I was able to write and record for you guys, in true Mamanushka style, a full narration of one of the most exciting stories from the life of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (pbbuh).

I told the story this way to my own four and seven  year old and it has the perfect amount of description for the youngest audience without losing any of the captivating detail for the older ones. This is the ideal time to share this story as the date of Al-’Isra’ wal-Mi‘raj is fast approaching and with it the end of the sacred month of Rajab – bringing us ever closer to Ramadan.

Listen to this story with your children in the car, huddled up together in your favourite chair, at bedtime or anywhere really. Let us know if you and your kids like what you hear and also if you think it would be beneficial to make this a regular feature. Enjoy and may it bring you joy.

 

FOOD

Somali Shaa

A Heady Ginger and Mint Tea with Aromatic Spices 

Mamanushka, it turns out has a penchant for fragrant drinks. We’ve had Saffron  Kahwa from Kashmir, Orange Blossom Date Cooler from Fez, age old Ayurvedic Turmeric Milk , the ever so English Elderflower Cordial, and Home-made Strawberry Syrup shake.  So when my friend Hafsa served us some Somali Shaa at a  get-together, I knew at first sip that I had to share this magic with you.

Nowadays, no girlfriends gathering is complete without a kettle each of Saffron Kehwa and Somali Shaa. Seriously it’s so cute. If teas could be people  these two would be sisters for sure.

Whereas the Saffron Kehwa is a light refreshing tea – The Somali Shaa is darker, with a subtle kick to it.  I like to think of it as Somali Shaa being Kashmiri Kehwa’s older, wiser, more experienced confidante. 

The ginger and mint and cloves, cardamom and cinnamon  combo should be a perfume.  I’ve made this tea countless times and each time I savour the fragrance trying to figure out how I could describe it to you guys because it is a totally delicious blend of warm sugary ginger and aromatic spices.

Evocative of old school tea-houses – you can sit back and imagine you’re right in the middle of a vintage tea house in a bustling souk. It’s just got those vibes which makes it  a perfect festive offering. So go ahead and put this straight on your list of celebratory drinks. Whether you are celebrating Eid or Ramadan or whether you are celebrating a quiet hour while the kids are (finally!) asleep and everything in between!

I’ve been told you can add milk but make sure to try it without first. This is how my friend Hafsa’s mom makes it and trust me, you will love it.

Ingredients

4 and Half Cups of water

4 Cardamom pods (lightly pounded)

2 Cloves
1 Cinnamon stick

1-2 tsp Ginger (fresh or powdered)

Mint leaves – a generous bunch

Honey/Sugar/ for sweetness

Optional ~ Black tea (leaves or one tea bag)

 

Method

This method is for aproximately 4 servings

Tea should always be brewed with fresh cold water so start by pouring the water into a pot

Add the cloves, cinnamon stick and the green cardimom pods. Bring to a boil on high heat and let it boil for five minutes. After five minutes steep the ginger and mint leaves into the bubbling water and keep on a high/medium heat for approximately eight minutes.

After eight minutes, add your choice of tea, turn the heat up high and continue to let it boil for two more minutes. I have used Earl grey and Assam tea in the past but you can use any tea you like or none at all.

Now is the time to add the sweetness. I know we like to keep the sugar to a minimum but let’s all agree to not skimp on it this time! If you want to avoid white sugar try a natural alternative like honey, agave nectar or coconut sugar. Don’t add less than 4 teaspoons and then test for taste. You might even add a couple more! Oh and if you’re going with honey, turn the heat off and add honey to the tea just before serving. Inhale the aroma. Relax. Enjoy your Somali Shaa.

Thank you so much Hafsa for sharing your mom’s recipe and method. In Love.

Will you be trying this? Let us know !

MOTHERHOOD

Guns N’ Kids

Ever have a moment that stops you? You sort of stumble a second or go mute, as your brain attempts to assimilate the intensity of all the various thoughts and feelings which have come, suddenly, crashing together? Well, unrolling this screenprint a few hours ago was one of those moments.

MAMANUSHKA.com || Kids and Guns || School Shootings || Screenprint || Art by Adot Ellison

We bought this nearly a decade ago and put it in storage until we could frame it. We were lucky to buy it direct from the artist and even then, we were drawn to the poignant political message it gave.

At the time, it reminded us of child soldiers – kids who should be drawing and creating instead of warring and killing. Today, I look at this image and see school shootings –  kids who should be learning and connecting instead of raging and dying. Either way, the kids are not alright.

There is nothing I can say here that hasn’t already been said better and by those whom this sadness has touched more directly. But know, for those of us whose children are practising lock down drills in school, for those of us whose children are practising how to talk to a police officer and remain alive, for those us who are fleeing to find a safe haven and for those of us organising for a better way forward – we see your struggle, we feel your panic and we embrace your hope. To raise a child is to change the world and we will do it together.

 

 

Original Screenprint by Adam Ellison

RELATIONSHIPS

The Three Most Romantic Words

MAMANUSHKA.com || The Three Most Romantic Words || Marriage || Love Is Spoken Here

The first time I heard them was as a newlywed. We were meant to be stepping out for a small gathering in our honour and as a new bride, I was more than thrilled to dress up in  a carefully chosen outfit and shimmery make-up. But, despite my best intentions and planning, we were running late… no, I was making us late.

The slippery hijab kept escaping from my fingers, the eyeliner kept smudging and each glance at the clock increased my agitation. My husband, completely ready to leave, would check in – find me still fighting with that hijab and say nothing, eventually taking a seat to wait and in the process making me more anxious still. Finally, I heard his voice from the armchair in the corner,

Don’t stress, it’s okay. Take your time.

In hindsight, it seems like a ridiculous thing for me to have stressed over anyways but in that moment those words were transformative. Take your time. I immediately relaxed. The hijab pins fell into place, my cat eyes flicked upwards at just the right angle and in a matter of moments, I was done. I didn’t know it then, but these three words were destined to be amongst the most romantic I would ever hear. A permanent fixture in our own personal love lexicon.

You see, I was a slow child.

Not academically, nor even athletically but in the everyday rhythm of life, I’ve always functioned at a more ‘relaxed’ pace. Growing up, I was consistently running behind the family schedule – the last to get ready, the last to finish eating, the last to leave, the last to come inside.

My Mama, fastidious in her punctuality, was constantly reminding me of the time. An hour till we have to leave Aiysha. Thirty minutes. Fifteen. Five. We’re leaving!  

And despite my best attempts at starting extra early or organising myself better, I was still always rushing at the end. And I hated it. The countdown. The inner panic. That knowledge that I was holding others back. It was an ever present low level stress. And of course, the more I rushed, the more clumsy and forgetful I became, and the longer I took. It was a sad, seemingly never-ending cycle destined to be repeated in every circumstance of my life, from home to school to work to social engagements and beyond.

Eventually I met my future husband and, since ours was a transatlantic romance, he was, thankfully, saved from my leisurely everyday nature as our courtship avoided having to weave in and out of a daily schedule – being instead a more dramatic, jetsetting type of thing.

That is, until we actually were married and, needed to do things according to schedules and plans. Oh no. As the proverbial weakest link, I knew what this meant for me. I would need to finally overcome my slowness. Which brings us to my  initial frantic getting ready and Husband’s calming words.

In that moment, those words felt supportive, thoughtful and kind. I had rarely, if ever, been encouraged to be slower than I was by taking even more time. But the effect was immediate and I thrived in all they conferred upon me.

It’s a funny thing, romance. We expect it to be big and obvious and you know, sometimes it is! Just like in a novel or a movie. But other times? Well… if you’d asked me, a decade ago, what romance ‘sounded’ like, it definitely wouldn’t be take your time and yet, as the years pass, those magical words reappear and each time, their meaning deepens.

A few years after our wedding would see us busy setting up house as working professionals. Our days felt impossibly full and hurried and I was often scrambling through one prayer and then another – constantly overestimating the time between them during the dark UK winters. Then, one evening, with a hand on my shoulder:

Take your time.

And it meant I love you more than this world and our life in it. In an instant, I was centered. Reminded of first principles – that nothing was more important than remembering the One who created time and that giving this moment it’s due would make the rest of our tasks easy. It was an encouragement without judgement, a suggestion without censure and ultimately a reflection of a love that is Sacred.

Some years later still, we became parents and in addition to all the usual changes, I was dismayed to realise that my new role as a mother had little value in the society in which I became one. And so, as I struggled to feed this new tiny being while still trying to entertain visitors and seem “normal” and “recovered”, I heard it again:

Take your time.

Tears pricked my eyes. Sitting for an impossibly long time, with a wailing infant while guests waited in the other room, it meant  I will hold this space for you. We are in this together. Your efforts are worthy.  You are enough. The time I was taking was the time I needed to take to nurture this baby. No apologies would ever be necessary.

And these days? Well, as we snuggle up onto our sofa, Husband looks at me over the cups of tea he’s made. Just one minute I say, attempting to speed read my way through the latest book, I’m almost at the end of this chapter.  He always smiles at this explanation,

Take your time.

With those words a deep warmth emanates from my soul – like a hug from within. I hear them and know that they mean everything they have before and also this: That exactly as I am, in this precise space and at this precise moment, there is no place more important and no person more cherished. And truthfully, could anything be more romantic than that?

MAMANUSHKA.com || The Three Most Romantic Words || Marriage || Love || Perspex Art