Knives

It just seemed like a good day to share

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Stevy juggling butcher knives

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in Mancelona

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in June, 2011.

~Natalia

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Bullet Point Post: Hump Day

• The mother was out late last night, collecting the little girl who will be living with them for the next couple weeks. I’m generally lured home by food, but spending time with our little family visitors has proven to be a strongly effective motivator to bring me home.

• So I spent some time at the house today, after work. Due to the Bible study that the parents lead, and the large amount of Northwestern students who gather in our living room on Wednesday nights, I entered through the back door and mostly camped out in the kitchen. I had time to eat the leftover meatballs that the little ones had neglected to consume before the newest little heart had warmed up to me enough to let me hold her, and then I was sitting on the floor eating scones and chatting with a 2-year-old sweetheart while the 6 and 8 year olds watched The Tigger Movie on the iPad in my father’s office, two feet away.

• Our tiniest house guests call the mother “Aunty” and my father “Papi” and this little one had latched onto those titles within hours of arriving at our home. She calls for Aunty, asks Papi questions, and generally relishes her time with both of them. In her less than 24 hours of membership in our household, she has not quite yet mastered the pronunciation of “Glendy,” “Larissa,” and “Natalie.” So she taps my arm for attention (“Say ‘Natalie!’ My name is Natalie!”) and improvises with the other two.

• Minutes before I kissed the family goodbye and left home on my way back to school, I overheard the little one refer to Larissa as Cinderella, which I suppose should receive an A for effort, if not accuracy.

• Speaking of the mother, we spent a brief time discussing family trees and titles in French class on Monday; took turns reading a dialogue between une fille (a girl), her tante (aunt) and her soeur (sister). Part of our homework for today was to sketch out a portion of our own family tree and present it to the class. I did so, making the most of the opportunity to use my Crayola markers in a school assignment, and then stood in front of class this morning and introduced my fellow learners to the various members of my family. When I got to the mother, pointing to the line labeled “Ma mere, Tammy,” Di could contain herself no longer and shouted out, “Tamdizzle!”

• My neighbors, closest friends, are big fans of the mother, and refer to her with a vast collection of endearments such as Tamdog, Tamtam, Tambam, and the above-mentioned Tamdizzle.

• But, of course, they would all rather be caught dead before they called her anything other than Mama Shull, or Mrs. Shull, in person.

• You may be familiar with a certain Geico commercial featuring a loud, obnoxious camel wandering through the rather solemn cubicles of an office building, asking the stoic employees what day it is, shouting exuberantly when they finally concede that it is, in fact, Hump Day. The commercial closes with a statement that Geico’s customers are happier than a camel on Hump Day. If you have not seen said commercial, I advise you to search “Hump Day” on Youtube and enrich yourself pop culturally in this way. It’s a hilarious commercial that people across the nation have made something of a ritual of quoting to each other each Wednesday, a tradition which I very happily participate in.

• However, in the interest of total honesty, I have not always been struck by the comic genius of this commercial.

• In June, the WOW Camp college leaders and several other college-aged friends gathered at Chris and Michelle’s apartment to watch the Blackhawk’s final game of the season. We sat on the floor, on their dining table chairs, on the carpet; gathered for snacks, fun, and the Blackhawks. During one of the many commercial breaks, John shouted out, interrupting the conversation that had bubbled up, and calling our attention back to the screen, where this very Geico commercial was playing. “This commercial is hilarious,” he said, eyes intent on the screen. We watched, obligingly. Giggled a little, probably. Then moved on, camel commercial mostly forgotten.

• Forgotten until it came up, later in the summer. People began talking about it, quoting it, posting it on Facebook on Wednesdays. It was popular, and with the familiarity and depth of weeks of repetition, quoting, the commercial became funnier and funnier. John was right.

• And today, Wednesday, I posted this status on Facebook:

Dear middle aged facilities worker who asked Diana and I what day it was, only to yell “HUMP DAYYY” as we walked past,

You made our morning. :)

• And now Hump Day is almost over, and Cinderella and the other littles are asleep at home, and Tamster the Hamster is on Facebook because I just got three notifications from her, and Papi has probably fallen asleep on the couch, waiting for her to go to bed, too. And I’m at school and it’s raining outside and this day called Wednesday, it was a long one, busy one, and a good one at that.

~Natalia

The Penguins Play

I listened to Christmas music yesterday. I’m not yet at the stage of impending winter wherein all non-Christmas music is banned from the room, but I did spend most of my afternoon homework hours writing, reading, to the sound of The Grinch, Silent Night, and four different renditions of Baby, It’s Cold Outside. The weeks (and major assignments) between right now and that magical time called Christmas Break are simultaneously lessening and increasing in intensity, and I’ve been thinking about last Christmas, last winter.

I thought today, earlier, about sledding with the little ones. The end of December 2012, a whole new year was fast approaching, and one of those afternoons, Kat came over, joined Stevy and me, the girls, and we went sledding. Snow pants purple, one child, newly six, in blue coat handed down from children now in high school. Kat pulls one sled, I pull the other, the girls sway and bounce, clinging to the slides of the plastic sleds with every miniature snow bank that we bump over.

We pull them through a Christmas Break deserted Northwestern, across black paved roads, through leaf-less trees heavy with snow. Norris is built on a hill; treacherous in the front, gently sloping in the back. We hike up the small hill, balance their tandem sleds at the top, give them a gentle push down the safer side. Then we stand, talking, at the top, while they disentangle themselves from the ropes and the sleds and the snow, make their way, shrieking with excitement, back up the hill.

They climb, sit. We push, watch them slide, talk. Repeat, over and again.

Then, later, Glendy slides down the hill, in the sled-worn groove of snow, on her belly. Kat and I are at the bottom of the hill now, hands a little chilled, stuffed in pockets, our cheeks taking on a pink tinge as the wind blows, bringing early evening chill. Our supervision is general, conversation involved, when she does it the first time, but her penguin antics catch our eye and the little one has our full attention for her next tummy slide down the hill. We laugh, amused.

Larissa, old jacket riding up around her snow pants, mittens long untucked from her sleeves, rushes to the top of the hill; it’s her turn. She throws herself on her stomach, slides 12 inches, then skids to a stop. Pushing with her arms, she moves herself another foot and a half down the hill. Stops. Starts. Again, again.

It’s funny. We can’t deny it. Kat and I stand there at the bottom of the hill watching (and me recording on my phone) and laugh. Almost to the bottom, after pushing and wriggling her painful way down the slope, Larissa lets her face fall into the snow, throws her arms dramatically to her sides. Dramatic, defeated. Kat and I shook with laughter.

Later, the sun setting now, the campus lights sending dim yellow glow across the snow in soft round patches, we walk back. Stevy, having briefly left earlier, is back with us, and we stop amongst the trees while he makes a snowball, another. Hurls them high, hard, tries to hit the trees. The girls clamber out of their sleds, run to collect the snow balls, packed tightly and holding together strong. He throws, they gather. Collecting armfuls of the little frozen balls, Kat and I, Stevy, laugh again as we watch their joy, their fun, their antics. Seven snowballs tucked into her crossed arms, one of them leans over to collect another one, only to drop four. The other is rolling the snowballs together, sweeping up a pile of Stevy’s ammunition, dutifully scooting them back so that he can throw them once more.

He throws, they find, retrieve, he throws again. Sometimes, he hits a tree, leaving a white circle on the dark trunk. Sometimes, his shots bounce lightly off one of the girls, rolling away only to be collected, brought back to their big brother, to further facilitate his one-sided snowball war. And Kat and I, we watch and we laugh.

Later, it’s darker yet, the little ones need the bathroom. Under their outer wear their tights, mittens, shirts are soaked. It’s time to head home. And we pull then, running, across the field, dipping down where the grass slopes. And they tip, fall, slide off, and they lie there on the snow, tired, wet, cold, and laughing, laughing so very much. And there is hot chocolate and sweats at home, and other snow play, snow games, sledding, on other days.

But I thought about Christmas recently, and I remembered that hilarious, cold, wet, wonderful December afternoon.

~Natalia

Filling This Space

12:40am and another evening where the things and the thoughts and the movements and the moments are many, but the words on the screen are few, right now.

I thought, yesterday, that maybe this funny kind of writer’s block is because there are so many small happenings that it seems overwhelming, too much, to capture, sift, encapsulate for you; these moments of Fall 2013.

But maybe that reasoning rather flatters myself unnecessarily. I’ve had many days, many weeks, months, even, of a life pace that far exceeds my current tempo, and still managed to tell you, relate for you, write for you.

Maybe, though, this non-writing has some connection to non-thinking. Not in a zombie, zoned-out kind of way, of course. But in a way that skips over the thinking and the considering and the pondering and the wondering. A way that is consumed with what’s next and what must be done and where I’m going later, tomorrow, next week.

Maybe I’ve fought to write because I’m not fighting to process, to think, to dig deeper into what’s around me. And without a thinking, wondering heart, I’ve got no thinking, wondering, to do here for you.

Maybe that’s why filling this writing space has been hard lately.

~Natalia

Leaf Parts

Part One:
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Part Two:
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Part Three:
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Part Four:
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Pictures taken November, 2008.

~Natalia

Keep Me Being

I have quiet time now, friends. I’m at home, the halls of these family rooms all to myself. I got here yesterday afternoon, and have kept the radio playing constantly since. Read for class, wrote thank you cards, ate dinner, talked on the phone to the soundtrack of country music interspersed with irritating commercials. Turned it off to sleep, of course. But it’s night again now, and the radio’s on again.

I worked this morning. The coaching, pool deck, tiny athletes kind of work. I am paid, but the value of that job reaches far beyond a monthly pay check. I have six years of afternoons of leaving cares, worries, stresses at the door, stepping through that grey-tiled locker room, and interacting with the living, breathing, laughing, learning little people who are the swimmers. It’s not escapism. Or maybe it is. But really, when I’m teaching drills and reminding about technique, and when I’m leaning to eye level and listening to young voices share stories about lives that are so very important, I don’t want to think about anything else. I just want to be there.

They say that a lot. Wherever you are, be all there. That’s a quote attributed to Jim Elliot. It’s good advice, too, really.

But I’m caught in the between, because the now and the here is so much doing and going and moving and living, but there’s thinking and understanding and quiet to experience, too.

But the days and the moments and the people and the stories are so many and so fast and sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever be still and be quiet and let my own thoughts finish. And let God’s thoughts become my own, a little more. Because the being where I am is so very vital, but there must be quiet and rest and faith to keep me living, keep me being…

~Natalia

Let it Be

Leadmewhere is three today.

Three years of writing,

of moments

and lessons

and my life

contained on this internet space.

I’ve written sitting at the dining table at home,

life and sisters and noise unfolding all around me.

I’ve written with my legs propped on the leather couch

in the living room

while the rest of the house sleeps.

I’ve written in France,

at the window overlooking those iconic slanting roofs.

In Mexico, late nights at the table,

while the dogs barked up the street.

In Kenya,

in Michigan,

in California,

in Guatemala.

But this is really not all about me,

my writing.

These pages, these stories,

all these beautiful memories,

are here because there’s a God

whose sovereignty

and love

and mercy

and grace

and joy

are written in ink under, at the heart of,

every moment I’ve shared here.

So read, if you like. I love having you here.

And when you do read,

be it what happened before,

what’s happening now,

or what’s yet to happen,

see the ways that I’ve fallen,

failed,

mis-stepped,

and then see how He’s been faithful

been strong,

been amazing

to bring peace in my chaos

joy in my fight

understanding in my confusion.

And in all that you do,

and in all that I say,

let it be Him that you remember.

~Natalia

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