By the time you read this, I'll be another year older.

As I compose this column, I'm looking forward to my birthday. Once this is published, it will have already come and gone. (I'm a firm believer in extending such celebrations out for a week if at all possible, but I digress.)

If you're in a hurry and only want to read the latest, most up-to-the-minute news, then by all means, feel free to skip ahead. That's the beauty of printed media.

For those of you still reading, I'll share that this particular birthday is considered by many to be a milestone of life. I've experienced all of the usual emotional states — denial, anger, bargaining, depression and, finally, acceptance that I'm not dead yet.

And now I'm humming "Not Dead Yet" from "Spamalot." I don't think I'll ever outgrow being a musical theater nerd.

Well, growing older doesn't mean I have to grow up, right? That's what birthday cards (especially those intended for people of a certain age) tell us, anyway. Of course, they also speculate about how people will wreak havoc in the nursing facilities they'll inhabit, and I don't think that's realistic, either. You may be able to sneak in one wheelchair race, but then you'd have an extra sleeping pill in your applesauce at dinner.

This is why I could never be a nurse.

Getting back on track; I think I'll share my birthday list — not of things I wanted to have gift-wrapped and given to me after blowing out the candles on my cake, but of things I'd love to see happen in Harvey County.

 

1. More live theater.

Moving here from Wichita, I knew it'd mean limited opportunities to be involved in plays, but I'd love to see that change. True, there are not many traditional theatrical venues around the area, but any thespian will tell you lights, set pieces and a stage are not strictly necessary for a performance.

I applaud the work of schools who keep their theater programs alive. I just wish adults — and kids, too, for that matter — had more chances to be on stage. Whether it's a one-act play or a full-length musical, there should be a way for amateurs to hone their acting and technical theater skills and entertain their communities at the same time.

2. Roll out the welcome mat.

The answer to "what is there to do for fun around here?" does not need to be "go to Wichita." I think we have a lot of pride in our towns, but tend to hide our light under a bushel when it comes to inviting tourists to the area.

Quantity doesn't equate to quality. Bigger cities may have more options, but there is plenty to fill out a day — or even a weekend — right here in Harvey County.

Take Newton's wealth of locally-owned restaurants, for example. Who cares if we don't have your favorite fast food chain? We need to talk up the great things that are already in place, not lament what is supposedly lacking.

You can get started now. Taste of Newton is Oct. 4; that's a good one to invite your friends to see a glimpse of how much fun (and good food) can be found here.

3. A Harvey County theme song.

Submissions can be emailed to pmiddleton@thekansan.com. Parodies are highly encouraged.

 

That's enough for now, I think. Each of those is a tall order that will require lots of time and effort from many people.

I've never been a fan of the question "where do you see yourself in five years?" People tend to respond with whatever they think the questioner wants to hear. Often, an ambitious, if not downright implausible answer pops out. "Completing my doctorate." "Being promoted to upper management." "Accepting a Nobel Prize." No one answers "living quietly in a small town."

Five years ago, that wouldn't have been my answer, either, but I'm glad it's where life has taken me.

Five years from now — who knows? I'm going to take it one day at a time.