Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My Older Brother

Once when I was about 10 years old, living in Michigan, I went on a bike ride with my older brother and one of my sisters. To get to our destination we had to cross a two-lane highway that had no median. Since there was nowhere to stop halfway across the road, crossing it required careful timing. We had to watch for cars coming both ways, and dart across when there was a semi-lengthy break in the action.

This particular afternoon my brother and sister were watching the cars, and when there was a break they both yelled, "Okay! Now!" and took off across the highway. I also looked both ways, but hesitated a little because I could see cars in the distance, then finally took off after them. My hesitation cost me, though, because while they made it safely across, by the time I got to the middle of the road the cars were nearly upon me and I couldn't complete the crossing. I could only turn my bike sideways so that I was straddling the middle line, and then I sat, pretty much paralyzed with fear, while the traffic whizzed by me on both sides.

Every time there was a break in the traffic, my siblings would yell, "Cross, Lecia! Come on!" But I was too scared to move, so I just sat there, tears running down my face.

Then, like I knew he would, my brother came for me. He left his bike on the side of the road and ran out to the middle, where he took my handle bars and guided me safely to the other side.

How grateful I was that day to have an older brother to save me. I was hopelessly stuck, unable to move, afraid, crying, but my brother made it all okay again.

Today my older brother is the one hurting, and I would run head-on into ten tons of traffic to save him if I could, but I can't. I just hope he knows how much I love him, and that I'm on the lookout for our Older Brother to come and save him...I'm pretty sure He's on His way, or maybe that He's already here.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

In Defense of Saying Yes

I should be in a bubble bath commercial. I know I could pull off the look of the frazzled woman who’s been run ragged all day. The one whose life is chaos until the magic of Calgon blissfully takes her away.

Truly, I’m the poster child for all of those magazine articles you read entitled, “Feeling Overwhelmed? Learn to Take Time for Yourself.” With two jobs, four kids, and involvement with church, school, community and extended family, you could say that I’m busy. Add to that a husband with chronic health issues, which is one way of saying that not only am I chief cook and bottle washer, but also head tree trimmer, spider squasher and pinewood derby car carver - roles I’ve learned to handle, if not well.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no supermom. I know supermom, she’s my neighbor around the corner, and trust me, I’m not her. My kids pack their own lunches and accept bribes to splash in the tub with the little one so I won’t have to bathe her. Sunday dinner is pancakes and eggs, not roast and potatoes. Would supermom serve breakfast for dinner every Sunday? Not likely.

Still, I do think that putting yourself first is a little overrated. Not because I think I should be alphabetizing my cupboards instead of reading a magazine, but for reasons that are more about old-fashioned values.

You’ve heard the advice that to forget your own troubles you should help someone else? That actually works. When you’re helping others, you get the feeling that what you’re doing in that moment is exactly right. That you’re doing just what you were meant to do that day, which is a wonderful, freeing kind of feeling.

I learned this lesson again early one Saturday morning. My littlest one sometimes sleeps in, but never on Saturday. It drives me crazy! Anyway, one Saturday she’d gotten out of bed around 6:30 a.m. and come into my room. I pulled her up into bed with me and tried to get her to go back to sleep, but she wasn’t interested. I felt myself getting frustrated and upset with her, and finally I decided to quit fighting it and just get up with her.

We went out to the family room and sat together in the rocking chair. She was smiley and happy as we sang quiet songs and talked about things that are important to her, like dolls and cereal. We had the house to ourselves, and that quiet time with her turned out to be a very precious experience. Putting my daughter first turned out to be the best thing for me, way better than a bubble bath, and a tiny bit better than sleeping in.

Not to say I don’t take the occasional sanity break. In fact, I just gave my two-weeks’ notice at my second job, precisely in the name of sanity. You can’t say yes to everything, but when you do, it sometimes works out just right. Does anyone want to put up my Christmas lights for me? (say yes)