Make the time

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- I hear every day that winter is coming soon and think to myself, "I've only been here a few weeks. It can't possibly be coming that quickly!" But like it or not, it is coming and we have to get ready.

I still have to winterize my vehicles. I'll get to it. Then there's that mountain of boxes in the garage waiting to be moved to make space for parking. I'll get to it. I also have to find time for the high school volleyball season - it will be ending soon and I need to get to a few more games to cheer on my daughters and the Ravens. I'll get to it.

Truth is, I'm guilty of saying that a lot.

However, there are some things that must get done because we all understand the need to accomplish the mission. We all should do what is needed in order to fly, fight and win.

Personal fitness is also hot on the list of things we have to do. We're running and crunching and sweating alone, in units and twice a month as a wing.

Our mission and fitness are things we have to do, and hopefully we're doing them with excellence, but much has already been written about those subjects. I'm thinking of other things that keep getting pushed to the back burner.

A couple weeks ago, I realized how much I have been putting off for later for when I can find the time. But now, the time is gone.

Last month, I took my two oldest kids to college. It seems I just brought them home from the maternity ward, but now they're out on their own - one a sophomore and the other a freshman.

I meant to take Nathaniel fishing when we arrived here; we even bought new poles. I meant to take Mary on one more daddy-daughter date. I meant to burn some leave and take my family to Valdez and Anchorage to spend some time together before school started. But there was the job, fitness, and unpacking and winterizing.

You get the picture. I guess the fishing, the date and the road trip will have to wait until I can find time next summer, unless something gets in the way again.

What I have learned through this experience is that we seldom "find time" for the really important things in life. We make time for work, for fitness and for winterizing cars. We make time to do the things we need to do.

But there are other things we need to make time to do as well. We need to make time to care for our families and ourselves. We need to build relationships with friends, neighbors and coworkers. We need to make time to get connected with others and with ourselves.

When we take time to play and build connections, we become stronger, more creative, more resilient, more prepared to face the challenges life will bring - challenges like the approaching long, dark, cold months of winter.

Obviously, I can't turn time back to do the things I have left undone, but I can redeem the time I have left. Sunday after chapel, my family and I packed into the car and drove to Denali. We laughed and hiked and reveled in the beauty of that incredible park ablaze in the full splendor of autumn color. Making time for my family was good for them and even better for me.

Our time is limited and we suffer from tyranny of the urgent tasks demanding our time and attention.

Winter is coming. The car and garage have to be ready. But I'll send another daughter off for her freshman year of college next fall, and I'm committing right now to make time to build memories with her, not just for her benefit, but for mine.

I've realized I'm a better person, leader, and Airman when I do. How about you? What have you been trying to find time for? Instead, make time. Build memories. Get connected. We'll all be better off.