The first serve was a dandy. Last week’s initial public conversation about a private/public partnership to build a new tennis court facility in Aurora sent a very positive signal that this concept is well on its way to reality. There is work to be done and money to be raised -- lots of it -- but the project looks to be off to a tremendous start. Tennis enthusiasts have been silent for the past two years, though there had to be some frustration with the fact that there is literally no place to go play the game here in Aurora. When construction began on the new aquatic center, the first step in the process was to take out the two tennis courts that had been in Streeter Park for years. Game over, at least for a while.
The betterhalf had a birthday the other day. Out of courtesy and fear of payback I won’t reveal her age. Let’s just say birthdays in the family have become routine and that’s good. I say routine because for the past few years the betterhalf has chosen to pick out her own gifts. Regularly she came home and proudly held up an item an announced, “You just bought me my birthday gift.” Now I haven’t decided if she thought I was going to forget her birthday or she didn’t appreciate my choices of previous birthday gifts. In my earlier years of gifting and before we were married my gifts ranged from a Black Hills sandstone necklace, a heart locket, to a nice sweater. She never complained and my confidence grew. When it was evident this looked like a long-term relationship along came the popular cedar chest and because she rose early to go to her job in Omaha, a new item called, “Mr. Coffee” with an automatic timer.
Fresh faces all around. The new year brings with it new people in positions of authority in our local sphere, more than the normal transition of power we’re accustomed to every two to four years. At the city, school, county, state and national level we welcome newcomers to the table, thanking them in advance for their willingness to serve. Challenges await our newly elected representatives, especially in Washington, and you have to give credit to the folks who have thrown themselves into the mix. At City Hall, there will soon be three new faces at the city council table, and Mayor Dave Long, though a two-year veteran on the council, is adjusting to a new role. Dan Bartling and Dottie Anderson join the council as newcomers and within a month or so we can expect to see a new city administrator. That’s a significant level of change in leadership at all one time!
The recent improvement of Cuban and U.S. relations has not only brought up discussions between the two countries about tourism and trade topics, but also what to do with the Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba. It appears the United States plans to keep the base that houses the world’s most expensive prison with 127 war-on-terror captives and run by 2000 or more temporary troops and contractors. Now a $65 million school building with classroom space for 275 kindergarten through high school students is planned. That cost figures about $236,000 per student to put under one roof all the school-age children of American sailors stationed there.
The new year begins with a new challenge. Fresh off a holiday season overflowing with goodwill, good memories and way too much good food, the News-Register and Memorial Community Health Inc. are teaming up once again to provide some healthy motivation. The seventh annual Hamilton County Health Challenge is a go, kicking off in March and wrapping up 100 days later with an awards ceremony during A’ROR’N Days. Each year since this program began, coordinators have considered whether to carry on for another season, and each year the answer has been yes. It’s rewarding to hear life-changing stories from participants who have gone all in with the challenge, and then posted amazing results just 100 days later. There have been many of those feel-good testimonials since this competition began in 2009.
Many of us looked back on 2014 and cited accomplishments and others took a viewpoint of regrets we had about 2014. I catch myself regretting things that I did, or didn’t do. New Year resolutions are one of those lists I fail to follow too closely. In fact, I don’t even make serious resolutions anymore. However, there’s a good piece of advice I am going to try to follow, or at least consider in 2015. It came from a man named “Ben Holden.” Now I don’t know Ben, but his advice I feel is worth repeating. His advice was made several years ago when Ben said: “I’ve decided I’m not going to focus on regrets I might have while looking back to the past year. While I could have been smarter about some things, used better judgment when making certain decisions or maybe even taken advantage of opportunities that would have taken my life in a different direction, I refuse to let those issues have a negative impact on my life.
County commissioners sent a strong message last week with a unanimous vote in favor of designating Hamilton County as a “livestock friendly” home for agribusiness. The promotional tag makes sense for Hamilton County, and much of rural Nebraska for that matter. Agriculture is king in the Husker state, after all, driving our economy with what has become more and more of a highly sophisticated, technical, diversified, multi-billion dollar industry. Anything we can do to distinguish ourselves as ag-friendly, both as a county and as a state, is well worth the time and effort.
The end is near! Yes, I know the end is near. The year 2014 is about to end and if we can last a few more days, we’ll be able to greet 2015. But, yesterday’s mail cast a doubt on my hopes to make it to 2015, or through the upcoming year. As usual a letter will get your interest when it is stamped, “Attention: Ronald Furse.” My attention was drawn a step further when I’m told that I may qualify for the Funeral Advantage Program. Wait a minute! I’m feeling fine and really not interested in a program that will pay me up to $20,000 tax free as well as pay for my funeral expenses when putting me in the ground. I was feeling fine and looking forward to the year 2015 and quite satisfied because I had survived 2014 with only a few nicks and scratches. Worst of all was the statement from the company that I already had been accepted by the program.
Our hearts are full this holiday season as we pause and reflect during a most sacred season of the year. It’s Christmas, a time to celebrate the greatest gift of all, the one we received so very long ago with the birth of the Christ child. We celebrate that gift of life and hope with a heartfelt prayer. Amidst all the holiday cheer, gift exchanges and special gatherings, we hope there is time in all of our busy lives to focus on the true Christmas message. There is time, of course, if we choose to make it. Christmas is such a remarkable day, when you stop to think about it. No longer just a Christian day of celebration, Christmas and its themes of peace and goodwill toward men have crossed all religious boundaries. Those who profess a wide variety of religious beliefs, and even those who do not believe in a higher power, have come to celebrate Christmas in some form or fashion.
Another Christmas is about to be wrapped up. The betterhalf will amble through the house this weekend (if not before) and will put the Baby Jesus scene with its figurines back in the box until next Christmas. Down will come the Christmas lighting strung across the fire place mantle. The gumdrop Santa house that’s devoid of most of the gumdrops that were gobbled up on Christmas Eve will be packed away. The long playing records featuring Christmas songs by Bing Crosby, Jo Stafford, Jim Nabors, The Christy Minstrels and Guy Lombardo have been silenced and the record player switched back to CDs and Country Western tunes will again echo throughout our household. And finally the last twinkle of lights on our tree will fade as the artificial tree is boxed up and sent to the basement until next Christmas.