by R.L. Furse
High-tech appliances can be a challenge PDF E-mail

Chatting with a few men gathered around the coffee table the other morning, I found most of us are household appliance illiterate. Several had to admit we weren’t much help when it came to operating washing machines, dishwashers and ovens. A few did brag they were high tech enough to handle the operation of a microwave oven and even one gentleman initially impressed us with his knowledge of operating a washing machine.

He explained he had been assigned several household duties while his wife was hospitalized. He was pretty impressive when he told of breezing through his initial chores. He measured the correct amount of soap after determining the size of the laundry load. He told of setting the machine’s “dashboard” buttons for water temp, proper cycle and even fabric choice. When it came to his final task he was stymied and that’s when his impressive laundry ingenuity was questioned by his male table audience. He reluctantly acknowledged he had trouble when he pushed the “on button” and nothing happened.

After several quick pushes he called his daughter for help. She came over to his house and started the machine. It seemed our once impressive male laundry taskmaster needed to hold the “on” button in for a second or two before the machine would start.

Personally, I’ve never been too good learning the operation of household appliances. In my youth, I could turn on a gas stove burner. I could follow directions from my working mom by taking our supper casserole from the refrigerator, putting it in a pre-set oven, and pushing “bake.”

In college days, my specialty was grilled cheese sandwiches and a can of soup ... all cooked over an apartment two-burner stove.

In our early married life we were like most couples of the era, operating on a limited budget and buying only the basic, featureless appliances. Our first dryer was purchased for a whopping $98 and sported an on-off button plus a simple dial timer. The early dishwasher was a manual via the betterhalf, and  I sometimes served as the manual drying cycle. Our pink stove was four-coil electric with an in-dash clock along with a simple automatic dial timer to bake goods in the oven.

When this new technology, such as microwaves, automatic dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers came on the scene loaded with all that computerized gadgetry, my limited household skills diminished even more. In fact, the basic timer is the only thing I use on our microwave and if one minute doesn’t  heat something up, I just keep adding another minute until done. If 45 minutes can’t dry clothes, I crank up the timer again. Concerning the automatic dishwasher, my betterhalf leaves me written instructions or presets it and simply says, “Put your dirty dishes in, close the door and push ‘Start.’” The washing machine is strictly “hands off” for me.

I was feeling pretty incompetent after listening to the fellas around the coffee table until one concluded our discussion by telling about the purchase of a new stove.

He related how he and his wife replaced their old stove with a fancy new one that had all the bells and whistles. After it was installed there was trouble with some of those bells and whistles. Numerous calls to solve problems did not yield positive results. Thus, he and his wife made the big decision to retrieve their old stove from the garage and put it back in operation in the kitchen.

Now that type of tale makes me feel a lot better. When the head of the household has a problem, she would solve it exactly the way I would ... out with the new and back with the comfortable old.

I must say, I’ve been pretty fortunate married to the betterhalf. She holds my use of appliances to a minimum. When she’s not around for a meal she generally prepares a plate and puts it in the refrigerator. She leaves a note on top of that plate informing me how many minutes it should be cooked in the microwave. Sometimes the plate features leftovers and sometimes it’s a blue plate special.

Being that good to me also brings up a couple of questions about her gifts of love. Does she give me the leftovers so she doesn’t have to help eating them up, or does she do her pre-meal prepping because she’s nervous I’m around a kitchen appliance unsupervised?

I am smart enough to opt for neither alternative and continue to believe it’s her gift of love.

RL Furse  is publisher emeritus of the News-Register

Christmas gift sends hint on proper attire PDF E-mail

A few weeks ago the doorbell rang and I went to the door to find a young man standing there. He asked, “Are you the man of the house?” I told him I was, but if he wished to speak to the boss, I would go get her.

As in most households, it doesn’t take a man long to realize who is running the household as well as several other phases in a marriage.

A new phase cropped up in our marriage with the opening of Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve when the betterhalf brought two bulky bags from under the tree and presented them to me. The bags contained an insulated work jacket and a pair of insulated coveralls.

Immediately, I was somewhat leery. A supposedly retired husband shouldn’t need or wear “work clothes” and certainly shouldn’t be doing anything described as “work.” However, the betterhalf then brought out the real truth about her gift to me. She bluntly said she was tired of me looking like a bum in ragged outerwear while walking the shelter dogs. Ouch!

I must admit my winter coat and ski pants had a decade-and-a-half of wear; were maybe a little more than frayed around the cuffs; and the pockets were dotted with holes the size of baseballs. Despite my appearance the dogs had never complained about my attire or its condition as long as the coat pockets could still hold a plastic bag with a few doggy treats.

The day after Christmas I greeted my canine friends in my new clothes trying to be careful not to let the dogs jump up and soil my new garments. I certainly didn’t want to come back home and have the betterhalf again accuse me of wearing rags and looking like a bum.

Now that the betterhalf’s Christmas gift has made me presentable to the public and to the dogs, she has also created another dilemma. I am not only conscious of the neat image I must maintain, but also have relinquished my individual right to look ragged and sloppy if I wish. Even at this old age I recognize I have been reverted back to my childhood days when it was my mom who told me how to dress.

Looking at this situation in another light, I think the betterhalf is setting up a disguise of appearing to be shopping for my clothes, but has also found a new method to increase her wardrobe as well by moving from the men’s clothing department to the women’s department fashion racks.

Let’s face it. I have joined the ranks of the majority of husbands. The wife is my boss and as she would probably say, “Don’t you forget it!”***

I have no intention of being drawn into a debate on the banning of guns, but I found the comments of an individual who was complaining that some solutions are much removed from the real problem. He simply commented if guns kill people, then pencils misspell words and spoons make people fat.
An old timer remarked that a depression is a period when people do without the things their parents never had.
I wonder how many New Year Resolutions have already been tossed aside. I must admit, I’ve given up a couple thus far.

RL Furse  is publisher emeritus of the News-Register

Involvement critical to rural community survival PDF E-mail

The top 10 news stories in Hamilton County for 2013 appear in this issue of the Aurora News-Register. The ranking of the top 10 vote was determined by ballot not only from newspaper staff, but from various individuals throughout Hamilton County.
Again this year, the top stories reflect a vibrant county full of positive results from a positive-thinking population. Also, those happenings also reflect a year of some sadness for members of our community. Our small county community offers the signal we are vibrant and don’t want to take a backseat to anyone. Still, we have room for improvement and must realize vibrancy is continual challenge.
Several years ago the Heartland Center for Leadership Development laid out clues for rural community survival. These clues are true yet today:
1. Evidence of Community Pride – Successful communities are often showplaces of care, attention, history and heritage.
2. Emphasis on Quality in Business and Community Life – People believe that something worth doing is worth doing right.
3. Willingness to Investments in the Future – In addition to the brick-and-mortar investments, all decisions are made with an outlook on the future by working together with focus on positive results.
4. Realistic Approach of Future Opportunities – Successful communities have learned how to build on strengths and minimize weaknesses.
5. Awareness of Competitive Positioning – Local loyalty is emphasized, but thriving communities know who their competitors are and position themselves accordingly.
6. Active Economic Development Program – There is an organized, public/private approach to economic development.
7. Deliberate Transition of Power to a Younger Generation of Leaders – People under 40 regularly hold key positions in civic and business affairs, including women in roles as elected officials, plant managers and entrepreneurial developers.
8. Strong Belief in and Support for Education -- Good schools are the norm and centers of community activity.
9. Problem-solving Approach to Providing Health Care – It is essential.
10. Strong Presence of Traditional Institutions that are Integral to Community Life – Churches, schools and service clubs are strong influences.
11. Sound and Well-Maintained Infrastructure – Leaders work hard to improve streets, water systems and sewage facilities.
12. Careful Use of Fiscal Resources – Frugality is a way of life and expenditures are considered investments in the future.
13. Sophisticated Use of Information Resources that is beyond the knowledge base available in the community and there must be a willingness to seek outside help by competing for government grants for economic and social programs.
14. Conviction in the Long Run That YOU HAVE TO DO IT YOUSELF – Thriving rural communities believe their destiny is in their own hands and making their communities great places is a proactive assignment.
Finally get involved  . . . be active . . .  work together . . . and build for the future.
RL Furse  is publisher emeritus of the News-Register

Christmas cards getting harder and harder to write PDF E-mail

In our household things seem to come back and haunt me. That was the case the other day when the betterhalf announced she was going grocery shopping and needed the car to do the shopping as well as dart around Aurora on  other chores. I told the betterhalf, “Don’t take the Buick because I just washed the car and don’t want to get it dirty.”

As she opened the door and exited the household, the betterhalf shouted back, “Don’t use the toilet because I just cleaned it!”

Chalk up another zing for the betterhalf. Life tends to get tougher for me each year.
* * * *
Speaking of the household, we finally burned out all of our old lightbulbs. Those were the frosted-glass ones we once called “light bulbs” and now sport the new terminology “LEDs” with brightness measurements in lumens instead of watts.

If you haven’t noticed, shopping for LED lamps is like an old fella buying green bananas. You stand the chance of never seeing another light burn out. Still, I nearly wiped out a $20 bill for an 800 lumens LED that has a life of 22.8 years based on three hours daily. I recognize I’d probably not be around in 22.8 years to see if the guaranteed 22.8 years can be fulfilled. But just in case, I saved the box and receipt if that LED fails.
* * * *
One of the best sounds of these December mornings was getting out of bed; turning up the thermostat; and hearing the furnace kick in. Of course, by the end of this month my joy will be ended when the gas bill arrives. I do feel fortunate because judging by the heating repair service trucks I see at residences, it appears plenty of homeowners have had heating problems.
* * * *
Time flies during the holiday season. The betterhalf and I split duties during this time of year. She does most of Christmas gift shopping while handing me the chore of writing a Christmas letter to friends and family. As each year passes it seems that chore gets more challenging. When we reverted back to a two-person household, repetition became a byproduct. Now, I’m not talking about being hard of hearing and the two of us often repeating much of our conversation. I’m talking about years that in some ways are a repeat of the previous year. Traveling to see the kids a couple of times during the year; heading to the lake cabin for the summer; going to Nebraska football games; all occur year after year. We don’t mean our life is boring because we certainly enjoy life and feel blessed being able to do these things.

We also seem to have a lifestyle here a home that is best seen in the newspaper comic pages. Comic strips like Pickles, Shoe, The Pluggers, Blondie and Hagar the Horrible all represent the betterhalf and me pretty well. Thank goodness we haven’t become an example for Doonsbury and still can find time to laugh at ourselves!

On a serious note and week early, we extend to each of you a very Merry Christmas and hope your holidays are filled with happiness. We hope all of you recognize the true meaning of Christmas and are able to find peace and joy in your lives throughout the year.

Merry Christmas everyone!

RL Furse  is publisher emeritus of the News-Register

Cold Nebraska weather not a national event PDF E-mail

Following the subzero weather across the United States the past few weeks, I wonder if anyone found the climatologist who had been warning us of “global warming.” In all likelihood he’s tucked in the back of his warm office refusing to venture too far away from his space heater.
The old Nebraska slogan, “If you don’t like the weather now, stick around, it’ll change,” hit the months of December and the early part of January pretty much on the head. Warm days of 60 degrees-plus followed a few days later by near zero or below temps, have become commonplace. In fact, weather changes haven’t only been limited to Nebraska. At one point Huskerland had a warmer temp than Jacksonville, Fla., while in Mississippi it was reported this past week a dog managed to survive after being found frozen to the ground.
Isn’t it interesting when a cold or heat wave hits the populace Eastern United States how that situation is interpreted by the government and the news media as a national catastrophe? Power outages, businesses close, highways are shut down and everything comes to standstill. However, when adverse weather happens here in the Heartland little is said. Residents continue to “make do” facing the situation with little national notoriety. In all honesty, I think the majority of us like the lack of national fanfare. Just maybe we here in Nebraska and surrounding states might still have our forefathers’ pioneering spirit and willpower to overcome.
One of the pluses of being retired is having the time to sit down and read a good book.  I must admit I’m still one of those old-fashioned guys and not like my betterhalf. She has resorted to her Kindle to read, or listens to an audio book. As for me, I like the feel of paper and turning those book pages at my leisure. This Christmas a good book happened to come my way in the form of a Christmas gift -- a best seller titled, “George Washington’s Secret Six.”
The extensively researched book is about a spy ring set up by George Washington that saved the American Revolution. Author Brian Kilmeade stated the Culper spies represent all the patriotic Americans who give so much for their country, but because of the nature of their work, will not or cannot take a bow or even talk about their missions. As one respected retired Army general said, the book reminds us that freedom is not free, never has been, and never will be. In a nutshell, the book brought home to me the many sacrifices warriors as well as the many common citizens have made since the founding of our country.
Singing a few songs is a tradition at most Rotary Clubs throughout the world. A few songs are sung after eating and just before the formal program begins when a guest speaker takes the platform. Even though Rotarians are noted for their singing, it doesn’t necessarily mean all Rotarians are great singers. I for one can attest to that fact. I am a club member, but also manage to have the experience in my young days of basically being asked not to participate in my home church choir.
Some Rotarians must also share my lack of talent in singing. I noticed the Rotarian song book carried the page title, “Singable Songs.”  Gee, I thought all songs were supposed to be “singable.”

RL Furse  is publisher emeritus of the News-Register

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