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Immigrant Day

Apparently it’s “Immigrant Day” today.  

Interesting.  

My great-grandparents immigrated to the US aboard a sailing ship from Sweden, Norway, and The Isle of Man.  They came to the USA for many of the same reasons folks immigrate here today, work, freedom, a better way of life.  Times were tough for them.  More difficult than anything most of us know or experience today.  When they landed here, there was no government assistance.  You were expected to learn English, to assimilate, to find a way of supporting yourself and your family.  They succeeded in doing that against some incredible odds.  There was little in the way of medical care – antibiotics had not yet been discovered, so I lost relatives to the Black Dyptheria plague of 1917.  Settling in the UP of Michigan, there were long, cold winters, with only rudimentary insulation in the home they had built, relying on wood they had cut the summer before for heat.  No electricity, no indoor plumbing, and food preserved from the summer before to take them until the next harvest.  

Service in the First World War was met with pride and patriotism. The heyday of the roaring 20’s offered a brief respite from the decades of struggle and war, only to welcome  The Great Depression.  Wood lots and potato fields sustained them.  Patriotism and pride of the American Way maintained faith that they would see better days ahead.  Both of my parents grew up during this time, and told me stories of how difficult this time really was. I have photos that show my mom, as a teenager, weighing no more that 80 lbs, and looking on the brink of starvation.  She told stories of having potato soup one night, and the next night having only potato peeling soup.  They survived. They didn’t ask or expect the government to come to their rescue.  They found work, made do, mended socks, wore hand-me-down clothes and shoes two sizes too big because that’s all they had.  Very few alive today lived through this, but any one of them will tell you that nothing since has been so devastating as these times.

So, today is “Immigrant Day”, huh?  My “celebration” is to reflect on the struggles of my immigrant ancestors and thank them for their morals, perseverance, assimilation, patriotism, hard work, and strength.

Time

Technologist, electrical engineer, carpenter, machinist, draftsman, welder, mechanic, photographer, genealogist, chauffer, chef, husband, dad, and grandpa.  How many hats do I wear?  What would life be like if I had no interest in most of these things?  Would I feel better, knowing that I didn’t have all these projects to do, or would I just get bored?  

I have family photos to catalog, tag, scan, and archive.  My nature and outdoor photography is setup on  http://www.thedigitaledge.net/Nature/Favorite-Scenery/n-vt3x6w, and  a collection of genealogical and historical photos at http://www.thedigitaledge.net/History.  I also have three large totes full of additional photos that need to be scanned, tagged, and cataloged to my site. I also have a collection of roughly 5000 negatives from the early 1900’s through roughly 1950 taken by a close family friend from my home town.  I am doing archival scans on these – creating high-resolution TIFF and JPG images and one lower-resolution JPG of each image, then burning the TIFFs onto high density archives quality Blu-ray disc.  I’ve completed 2100 of these so far, and just need to find the time…

To finish cleaning and setting up my shop.  I’ve got a 2500 square foot shop, with space dedicated as an auto/machine/welding shop, woodworking shop, an electronics/office/drafting area, and a finishing room. I’ve spent four years thing to get the shop setup in a way that would allow me to start or complete countless woodworking projects.  The entire place needs to be organized, cleaned, and rearranged.  The woodshops need cleaning, dust collection setup, new electrical and lighting run, and tool and supplies storage built. All I really need to get this place fully functional is to find the time…

To remodel the house…  I’d like to  gut the kitchens, family room, dining room, living room, hall bath, and in-law suite.  The in-law needs a complete remodel, and I’ve drawn up plans to add a new entrance.  The existing footprint is laid out poorly, and it could be so much nicer than what it currently is.  The same goes for the main house – the center of the house has been carved up into four rooms.  I’d like to open that space up, and create a huge open floor plane for family entertaining, using a rustic, lodge-like decor to compliment the ranch layout.  I have the tools and talent to do this, all I need is time…

To help my son restore his 1942 Willis MB jeep.

Yes, the list goes on, and on…  this is just a few.

Can I just prioritize this list?  Not likely.  Can I just pick “the important things”?  Um, what would those be?  Overwhelmed?  You bet.

Sigh.

Plan for the future

As we move through life, we plan.  We plan on how things are going to be, what to do, where to go, how much we save, what to buy.  Decisions are made based on our plans, and we do our  best to make those decisions with regard to how we have everything planned out.  

Then….  chaos!  

Life tosses you a curve ball, and those decisions you’ve made don’t look so great now.  Depending on the depth of that curve, these could be some devastating change-the-course-of-your-life events.  Your well-laid plans are now out the window.  Even the contingencies you put in place are gone, and all you have left are the scraps left behind, to pick up those pieces and try to move on. To try to make some new plans that take you to a better place.

I’ve always thrived on challenges.  Every time I’ve been knocked down, I come back swinging – I meet the challenge head on, with an optimistic belief that I can and will rise above, making new plans to put myself in a better place.  We say we learn from our mistakes, but all that learning doesn’t make the crystal ball work any better.  There are always surprises. Always unexpected events that keep us on our toes.  That’s life.  Anyone that tries to tell you all their plans have worked out exactly as they’ve planned are lying, or have very poor memory.  The best we can hope for is attaining success in the long term.  Keep trying, keep planning, and keep your sights set high.

Destiny versus chance

As I was growing up, mechanics and building things seemed very natural and made sense.  Bolts and nuts, screws, nails, glue and twine were my friends.  Drafting, designing, and building seemed to be my direction in life.  By the 6th grade, I knew I was going to be an architect.

Plans change, and my career didn’t involve designing or drawing buildings, but I still love to do floorplan design, and my drafting work put food on our table for many years.  It also provided a path to what turned out to be a lifetime career doing Unix system administration.
While in pursuit of a degree in Electronics Engineering, I answered a help wanted ad for a position of typist.  I had learned touch typing in junior high, and I thought this might be a good part time job to hold as I was going to school.  Answering the ad, they had me come in to take a typing test.  As I was chatting with the receptionist in the front office, a doorway to the back room opened, and inside the room I spotted rows and rows of drafting tables!  I mentioned to the receptionist that I knew drafting, and the person that had come out of the back room heard my remark.  As it turns out, this was the contract drafting supervisor, and the typing job I was looking for turned into a contract drafting position that eventually sent me onsite to AT&T Bell Laboratories, my future employer, and the introduction to my career.

Never take for granted the possibility that a chance encounter can change your life.

Spreading it too thin

Every day I think about how many projects and tasks I have to do, and a long time ago I came to the sad realization that I will never have the time to complete them all before I’m gone.  This is the first time I’ve actually written that down, and reading it makes me realize that had I not spread my self so thin, I might have completed some extraordinary accomplishments.  It’s the guy spinning plates on the top of sticks.  He can keep only so many of them spinning before one crashes to the floor.  He has a stack of them that he never even is able to get to – like those projects of mine that are numbers 97 through 120…

Prioritize!  Yes, that’s the ticket!  All I need to do is sift through the stack, and decide which item is on the top of the queue.  I think, for now, that would be some sleep.