Friday, April 27, 2007

Sandwich Spread*

Like many of you, my wife and I are part of what's sometimes called the "sandwich" generation: at the same time that we have a child in school, our aging parents are beginning to need more of our time and attention. For the last couple of months, the demands at both ends of this spectrum have been high and our family's been spread a little thin.

At times like this, I start to wonder about the practicality of having a hobby. I have made little or no progress on the layout for weeks and the prospects for the next few weeks seem no better. The NMRA Pacific Coast Region convention is coming up and not only won't I be attending, I'm not even ready to host a few friends who wanted to come by and see my progress on their way to- or from the event -- because there's darn little progress to show.

It's easy (for me, at least) to begin thinking it's foolish to spend time on the hobby when there are so many more pressing needs that demand my attention. Family comes first, of course, and clients can't be expected to wait forever for their projects. And then there's the news of the day that screams for attention and action. Maybe the idea of a hobby is just not compatible with today's world and my current time-of-life.

… so after wallowing in those happy thoughts for a few minutes, I had the good sense to take a step back and look at things in perspective. Play and recreation has been a part of human society for thousands of years. Early humans made art and played games of various sorts. Sociologists have documented puzzle and gambling games played by adults in Native American groups and remote tribes untouched by modern culture, as well as myriad paintings, carvings, sculpture, and other art. Surely these peoples had plenty to worry about just staying alive (food, shelter, avoiding hostile clans and critters, et al), yet they made time for recreation.

In more modern settings, Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Successful People stresses the need for renewal through, among other things, activities to boost mental creativity and social interaction. Winston Churchill was an enthusiastic painter in oils throughout his life, even during periods of immense time pressure and stress. Model railroading can certainly offer the same kind of creative outlet.

Nope, I don't have a lot of time right now, and there are many other demands on that time. But maybe carving out a little of that time for some creative renewal in actually modeling would be a good investment.

* Yes, there is such a thing as sandwich spread, a mayonnaise-and-relish concoction that's a bit like slightly sweet tartar sauce. It was a favorite condiment of my late Father, who used it on everything from bologna sandwiches to leftovers.