Saturday, August 29, 2009

Working on the Lay-Away Plan

I have proudly achieved an age at which many of my contemporaries are either considering retirement or have already retired. Invariably, at any gathering of those in my peer group -- high school class, Army buddies -- I am asked "So, when do you plan to retire?" or "When did you retire?" People appear shocked to learn that I remain employed full time, and even more shocked to learn that I actually enjoy my work! You see, I am working on the lay-away plan -- I plan to work until they lay me away. Maybe, it's the vision of the wolf at the door. Maybe, enforced idleness for more than a day or two at a time doesn't fit me. Maybe, I'm just too old to know better. Or maybe (and I suspect this is the real reason) I have yet to decide what I really want to be when I grow up. Whatever the reason, God has given me the grace to do what I like, and to like what I am doing. During the past half century, I've been a farm hand, a machinist, a student, a soldier, a pilot, a parent and an engineer. I've grown things and made things and blown things up. I've designed new things and fitted things together to work in new ways. It's all been good, and I remain convinced that somewhere there is a really neat job that requires exactly my blend of knowledge, skill, ability, and personality. Finding that position gives life a lot of flavour. I may not always be doing what I do now, but I will always be doing something. Given my interests and past experiences, it will be a great adventure. Let the adventure continue!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

First Things First

Growing up on a farm, I am acquainted with the laws of the farm. The first law states that there is a proper season for every activity whether it be planting, cultivating, harvesting or bringing to market; the second states that whatever you plant is exactly what you're going to harvest. I also became acquainted with the law of priority. Securing the necessities of life -- food, clothing, shelter and the means of earning them is the top priority. Comforts are the second priority. Once the necessities are secure, we can devote resources to obtaining some comforts in the form of better food, nicer clothing, more comfortable housing and maybe some entertainment. Luxuries come dead last, only after needs are met, and basic comforts provided. First, the necessities. Then the comforts. Finally the luxuries. These priorities have served me very well in providing for my family. For me, they are as invariant as seed time and harvest. Or are they? Lately, I see growing numbers of people securing comforts and luxuries before they have the necessities. And a great many of them seem to be making it work. Need shelter? Some agency will subsidise it for you. Need clothing? You will not be allowed to go naked. Someone will provide it. Need food? Food stamps! Run out of stamps? Creative dumpster diving or an emergency delivery by the local food bank. Apparently, one can eat quite well and even thrive on the dole. Priorities are for other people. Forget about the necessities and go for the large screen high definition TV! After all, life is all about the toys and priorities only apply to those who either voluntarily or involuntarily provide the resources to subsidise the lives of those whose first priority is to play. I'm disgusted. We're sowing irresponsibility. What do we hope to reap?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Just Do It!

I'm a Newton's second law kind of guy. I tend to remain at rest unless acted on by an unbalanced external force. No amount of training in Getting Things Done or other time and task management techniques will get me out of my chair until I am acted on by some force or impulse. This afternoon was a case in point. I needed to mow the lawn. I intended to mow the lawn. Mowing the lawn was on my weekend projects list. My next actions -- Get out of chair; Put on shoes -- were duly identified and recorded. Yet I spent over four hours planted in front of my computer making excuses and manfully resisting all urges to get up and simply mow the lawn. It looked like it might rain and I probably wouldn't have time to finish. It was hot. I needed to wait until it was cooler. And so forth. And so forth. It's not like mowing my lawn is a really big and onerous job requiring lots of time and physical stamina. It's not. My house sits on a 1/5 acre lot along with six trees and three flower beds. Mowing the lawn is generally a 40 to 50 minute job. Neither is my lawn thick and lush enough to require great physical effort to push the mower through a dense carpet of grass. In fact, were it not for broad-leaf weeds, I'd have no lawn at all. Indeed, some portions only need mowing to chop off seed pods that the weeds insist on growing taller than the surrounding area. And some portions didn't need mowing at all. Rather, it was a matter of Newtons' second law. My resting body wanted nothing more than to remain at rest. However, there is a limit to the amount of indolence that a person can endure and late this afternoon I reached that limit. It was either get up and move or perpetually assume the shape of the chair. So, I got up and moved, and it felt good. I put my shoes on, and that felt better. I opened the front door and the air was soft and sweet, and that was the best of all. Then, since I hate exercise without a purpose, and having a neat lawn is at least a purpose of sorts, I opened up the shed, got out the lawn mower, gassed it up, and pulled the rope. I was answered by a pop that grew into a satisfying purr, and before I realized what was happening, I was happily pushing the mower up and down the front and then the side and back yards, humming as I went. In 35 minutes, the lawn was mowed. As I knew in the back of my mind while I was putting it off, I did a great job and thoroughly enjoyed doing it. Sometimes the only way to overcome Newton's second law is to just do it. You'll be glad you did.