Democracy…ish

We returned earlier this evening from a lovely weekend in Michigan. We spent time together, ate, watched football, playing football, watched White Collar, saw HP7, went to church, and ate.

Stevy and I, along with my cousins David and Catherine, are nominally close in age, and we all have great fun together. While my parents and sisters stay at my grandparents’ house every Thanksgiving, Stevy and I stay with the cousins, to facilitate late night and early morning (ha!) hang-out time.

When the (rare) argument arises over, say, the rules of an obscure card game, the four cousins are able to settle the dispute quickly and reasonably. This is a skill we lacked in our younger years, and are rather proud of now. When the above-mentioned rule dispute arose, I suggested we take a vote. This was a silly suggestion; Catherine and I wanted it one way, and the boys another, so the vote would have been evenly split. But in my opinion, once you have voted calmly and reasonably, you may return to your regularly scheduled dispute, because, hey, you DID take a vote.

There is a scene in Harry Potter 7 wherein the three main characters must decide what to do next. One suggests taking a vote. This instigated giggles and meaningful looks from my cousins, because the silliness of three people voting on something mirrors the silliness of four cousins voting on an issue that they already equally divided on.

I don’t think we actually took a vote on anything, but as long as everyone states what they want in a calm and concise manner, then really taking a vote is a secondary concern.

~Natalia

p.s. When I was filling out paperwork for my drivers’ license last week, I also registered to vote.

A Nap in the Main Room

It was shortly before dinner time. Not long enough to merit going outside and getting involved in a new activity, but long enough that it didn’t make sense to hang around the kitchen and sneak bites of the main dish. So I wandered into the main room.

With a huge couch on one side and wide-seated chairs forming a circle around the rest of the room, the main room was comfy and welcoming. The main room, when full, is loud and chaotic. People on the couch converse with people sitting on the floor, and people in the doorway add their opinions with gusto.

But at that moment, the room was quiet. A handful of teens lazed on the huge couch, and four were engaged in a game of Blokus on the floor in the middle of the room. I stretched my legs across the deflated couch cushions and settled in for an eyes-open-not-really-sleeping-just-resting-my-brain nap.

She was doing about the same thing, sitting across the room from me; head resting on one hand, and feet propped up on a neighboring chair. She smiled at me when my glazed eyes drifted her direction, and I smiled back, then stifled a yawned.

The peace of the room was broken every once in awhile as someone pounded down the stairs and out the back door, but the calm lull of soft conversation prevailed, for awhile.

Then the back door slammed, and three boys marched into the room, fresh from a lively game of Knockout. Two of them flopped onto the thinly carpeted floor, and the third shuffled over to the ancient piano that stood resolutely against the wall across from me.

The boy began pounding out a well-known song, which would have been great, if the piano had not been so out of tune. The notes were distorted and loud and so very out of tune. The calm that had been vanished in an instant.

The music had to be bothering her, too. We had both been enjoying the peace and quiet, and now we were both surrounded by the twangy pinging of the old instrument. I knew what she would do, I could even hear her voice in my head, “Let’s not play piano for a little while”. It could only be seconds until she spoke the words and the song died away.

But she didn’t say anything. No words of admonishment, no prohibitive shake of the head with a grave glance. She just sat there, slightly more awake than before, but with no hint of the annoyance that I was sure had to be there.

Never before had I been so motivated to emulate someone. Showing love and patience to the boy banging out show tunes on the old piano was more important to her than having a few moments of peace and quiet, and that small display of love and unselfishness shocked me.

After a few minutes, the boy tired of the ancient piano, and the trio trooped out of the main room, probably off to play a little more basketball. But by that time, I wasn’t sleepy anymore. That small glimpse of wordless sacrificial love had erased my exhaustion and motivated me to love like she had.

~Natalia

Thanksgiving Meets Good Friday

I have never felt exceptionally thankful on Thanksgiving. I mean, I have never looked at Thanksgiving as the special one day of the year that I should be thankful. All of my prayers begin with a “thank you” for something that has been a blessing to me that day, and I have been known to go through an extensive list of “thank yous” before I even get to my requests.

So, if I’m already thanking God, what’s to make Thanksgiving special? Besides the family, the food, the fellowship, what’s so thankful about Thanksgiving? Am I supposed to be thankful for specific things that I am not usually thankful for? Is there a good personal tradition that I need to begin to help me commemorate Thanksgiving?

Actually, when I think about it, Thanksgiving and Good Friday have a lot in common. Unlike the disciples, whose world basically ended when Jesus died, we know the rest of the story. He rises again. He beats death. He’s got it under control, yo. So on Good Friday, we’re not heartbroken because Jesus died, we’re awestruck that He rose again. We sit quietly and think about Him purposefully dying because He loved us, and even as we mourn over our sin that killed Him, we all know in the back of our minds that He’s stronger than sin, and even death. I usually end my Good Friday with thanking God for love that I don’t deserve anyway.

So that sounds like a good way to approach Thanksgiving- like Good Friday, but with turkey.

~Natalia

A Full Car

As many of you are well aware, I have two sisters. They are small and entertaining, although sometimes it’s this-will-be-funny-in-a-year-or-two entertaining.
Seeing as they are only five and almostfour years old, they spend a fair amount of their time playing. They play dolls, they play kitchen, they play school, they play road-trip; and they play with their Friends almost constantly.

Their Friends started showing up about six months ago. Luca was the first. He popped over every once in awhile, and stayed briefly. Then Jacob and Savis showed up. The trio- Jacob, Luca, and Savis- seemed to be here everyday. They are incredibly compliant, and are willing to do anything that the girls are up for.

A month or two ago, Sara and Hesitated joined the crew. Sara is the only girl, and tends to be here less than the three original boys. Hesitated rarely comes over, and I have yet to nail down what gender Hesitated belongs to.

Safino joined us most recently, and he seems to be fitting in well with the rest of the group.

The presence of all these Friends makes our lives both more interesting and slightly more confusing. The confusion is mostly due to the fact that at any one point, my sisters might actually BE one of the Friends. One might ask Larissa to perform some menial task (“please put your wrapper in the garbage,”) only to be informed that she’s not Larissa, she’s Luca. And Luca tends not to want to do chores.

We’re going to Indy for the weekend to watch Stevy swim, and I expect most of the Friends will be joining us. It’s going to be a full car, to say the least.

~Natalia

Trident Memories

Sometime last year, while we were in Mexico, my grammy bought me a pack of Trident Layers chewing gum. I have a small addiction to chewing gum, and always appreciate someone reaching out to feed my cravings.

I put this package of gum in my purse, and carted it around town and to church. Sunday morning service at our church in Mexico starts at 11am and ends around 1:30pm…ish. Every Sunday around 12:45pm, I was feeling hungry. Occasionally, I chewed the gum. Briefly and very subtly, I would sneak a tiny bit into my mouth, and just let it sit there and be delicious.

All the wrappers accumulated in the bottom of my purse, and I could sometimes locate the bag just by smelling the scent of Trident Layers gum emanating from it. Yum.

We received a box from my grandparents yesterday and opened it today. My gift included a pack of Trident Layers. One whiff and I was sitting on the pew in Mexico. One sniff and I was in the back seat of my car, driving to the Casa Hogar for an evening of fun and friends.

Now I’m addicted AND emotionally attached.

~Natalia

One Year Later

*The following was written a little under a year ago*

November 13, 2009.
My recent enrollment in the little Christian school had yielded an invitation to a young womens’ event, a dinner. The title of the evening was, “Hijas del Rey”, or “Daughters of the King”, and I didn’t know what to wear, what to expect, or what we would be doing. I had attended school all of three times so far, and had a handful of aquiantances and no friends.

At home, I put on my swishy purple skirt and a black top; comfort clothes. I ate three meatballs then followed my father down the red tile walkway and into the car. At the big, cream-colored church, he walked me up to the kitchen, where the event would be held, kissed my head, and abandoned me.

I was on time, also known as half an hour early. Two of my classmate, Noemi and Mariana, both well-dressed 14-year-olds, handed me a program and kindly and energetically directed me to a neatly-decorated round table close to the back of the room. I sat down at the empty table, tears of panic and loneliness building behind my eyes. My pounding heart calmed a bit when first my teacher than a small girl of 12 approached me to make small talk.

I relaxed a little more when the program finally started. I found peace and comfort in following the pre-determined order of events. One of the first thing we did was play a series of games. We were split into teams based on a number found on our programs, and soon even the older women were yelling their support.

One of the loud, fast-paced games we played involved making a dress for a member of our team, using large pieces of paper and a stapler. My team selected to clothe our smallest member, and we set about swathing the grinning child in pink paper. She had dimples and they danced across her face as our team yelled and stapled.

I had no way of knowing it was Julia.

After the games, we sat down at our tables. I took a seat with my team in the front now, and proceeded to enjoy an “especial” performed by Alejandra, followed by a talk by Hermana Karen, the pastor’s wife.

To illustrate her points, Hermana Karen had several girls come forward and either read verses or hold up papers with various virtues displayed by a Daughter of the King written on them. One girl, who I guessed to be about 16, was selected to stand on a chair, demonstrating how a Christian stands on the Word of God. She was taller than me when standing on the ground, and she towered above us on the chair. She was thin, and had pokey, swinging movements as a result of being so tall.

I didn’t know that it was Maria Grey.

While the tall girl balanced on the folding chair, my eyes fell on a younger girl sitting at the next table. She had an angular face, with a square chin and high cheek bones. Her bangs and short, even, hair framed bright eyes that contained sharp intelligence and intense awareness.

I didn’t know it was Yaneli.

At the table behind mine, two girls from my class split their attention between the ring of friends around them, and the plates of food in front of them. I recognized them- one with a round face, and the other smaller and more delicate, but I did not know their names.

I didn’t know yet that they were RubĂ­ and Perla.

Across from me at my own table sat a beautiful girl whose age I could not guess, although I supposed her to be a year or two older than myself. She made easy conversation with Hermana Karen, who seemed to be interviewing us older girls about our plans for the future. I watched her dimples flash across her face as the girl spoke animatedly about her interest in painting, and her desire to study in the university.

How could I know that it was Kenia?

But I know now.

~Natalia

Adendum

Allow me to add attending Skillet concerts to my happy list.

Thank you,

~Natalia

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