Supporting Avery’s Army

Posted by: LuAnnin Nebraska-isms

NebraskaismsIf you missed the post-game press conference following the Nebraska-Illinois mens’ basketball game Sunday evening, you missed one of the best parts.

Seven-year-old Avery Harriman, son of NU assistant basketball coach Chris Harriman, joined Shavon Shields and other Huskers to dish about the ‘W’ over the Illini.

The video went viral and featured a reporter questioning Avery about his favorite play of the game.

“Um, my favorite play of the game was players doing great. They did super awesome on the game tonight. I was so proud of them.”

Shields thanked the youngster for his words, following up with his favorite part, “When I was shooting frees at the end of the game and could hear Avery saying, ‘C’mon, Shavon.’”

“I was cheering for you.”


Also, a miracle of sorts, considering Avery’s journey since last August, when his story, and more importantly, his battle fighting Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia spread across news outlets and social media, after his dad posted a video.

The clip, which has over 477,000 views on YouTube, showed Avery’s response to being told he could go home, following a month of intensive chemotherapy treatments.

He screamed. He jumped for joy on the hospital bed. He kissed his mother and hugged his nurse.

Then, he returned home for a few days. Returned to normalcy, or as normal a routine as possible, before returning to the hospital for a bone marrow biopsy.

Avery’s fight against leukemia began in 2009, amidst March Madness, during the Final Four. He was only two years old at the time. He went into remission until the fall of 2012, when he relapsed. A bone marrow transplant took place.

Another 18 months of cancer-free living.

Then, another relapse. More hospitals. Additional treatments. Prayer after prayer sent soaring above.

Fast forward to September 25, 2014, when a donor from sunny California made a second stem cell donation, and to September 26, when Avery received the cell transplant, the import of life drifting through the 7-year-old body until regrowth sprouted.

Since then, the family has shared the ups and downs of Avery’s battle via social media. Avery’s Army, on Facebook, features a detailed glimpse into Avery’s medical journey, including doctor visits and treatments. It’s an intimate rendering of his continuing struggle to fight leukemia.

On January 9, after a string of biopsies, the Harriman family received the final biopsy result: No evidence of leukemia. An answer to parents’ prayers. A time to rejoice and scream and jump for joy, even on the bed.

It doesn’t surprise me that Husker Nation has adopted the coach’s son, taken up the cause and pushed for research in hopes of a cure. It doesn’t surprise me that a 7-year-old captured our collective heart and portrayed a personal battle in public, increasing awareness and empathy.

And, it doesn’t surprise me that this warrior bravely roughhoused a Goliath, of sorts, and reigned victorious.

That part is, well, super awesome.

When my children were young, they attended summer Bible school at a local church. Heck, every kid in town attended the week-long event because each year, kids painted a ceramic piece of a Nativity set, so by the time they reached seventh grade, each student had designed his or her own nativity set.

It didn’t matter that a four-year-old Amanda painted the camel purple with a brown blanket across its back or that six-year-old Cassie decided the cow in the barn should be a holstein – fitting, now, considering Scott’s family business. Every Christmas I would carefully unwrap the pieces and display that scene under the Christmas tree.

Something about the nativity scene – a mystical sense of awe and an abundance of hope and love – reminds us of the reason for this season, offering a chance for restored faith.

Last Thursday, a group of Catholic-associated lawyers, members of the Thomas More Society, celebrated the unveiling of the nativity scene at the Nebraska State Capitol. Per the group’s website, they work “to further the mission of defending life, family and religious liberty.”

Nebraska isn’t the first state to have Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus displayed at its statehouse. Nine other state capitols allowed nativity scenes sponsored by the same group.

According to the Pew Research Center, a recent study conducted by the non-partisan fact tank, found that 44 percent of U.S. adults say that Christian symbols should be allowed, even if other faith symbols, like a Hanukkah menorah, aren’t included. Another 28 percent responded that Christian symbols are okay, as long as other religious symbols are permitted.

When the creche was celebrated in Lincoln, a crowd of approximately 50 people  celebrated by singing Christmas carols accompanied by a children’s musical group. Several government officials attended the ceremony.

The next day, a poster that shared an atheist point of view, was on display for approximately two hours before the poster’s poster, a member of the Freedom from Religion group, removed it. The group’s primary focus is to ensure the separation between church and state is followed.

In addition to staging a parody of the Nativity at the Florida State Capitol, the group has filed lawsuits against government agencies that erect Nativity scenes or Ten Commandment displays.

State Senator Ernie Chambers sees a problem with the display in Nebraska’s capital and has shared his viewpoint with multiple media outlets, noting that the display is a breach of separation between church and state.

The situation presents an interesting dilemma because if one display is allowed, all displays must be allowed or the first amendment right to free speech is violated.

A Nativity scene sits on the south side of the Antelope County Courthouse. It’s a reminder of everything worth celebrating during this season, a reason to connect with loved ones and an expression of continued hope for humanity.

There’s nothing wrong with that.

Merry Christmas to all.

Happy Birthday Nebraska

Posted by: LuAnnin Nebraska-isms

NebraskaismsHappy 147th birthday, Nebraska!

For the most part, you look better every year. Sure, you have a few wrinkles – like the rest of us – but you seem to embrace those wrinkles, roll with the stresses of everyday life, and adapt to disruptions thrown your way.

In 2017, the Cornhusker state celebrates its sesquicentennial. Last Friday, the Nebraska 150 committee unveiled the design chosen for the celebration’s seal.

Vivid colors depict Chimney Rock, Sandhill Cranes, and the Platte River, along with native grasses. The seal will be pressed into a silver commemorative medallion, along with pendants depicting the Capitol, railroad involvement, agriculture impact and Native Americans.

Since 2012, NE150 has been planning a grand party for the 150th celebration. The committee is comprised of 19 individuals, primarily from the Metro area. (Only two members live west of Seward and no committee member resides in Northeast Nebraska.)

Throughout 2017, celebrations will be held across the state to promote Nebraska’s history, increase current economic development plans and boost Nebraska’s image across the U.S.

Nebraska First Lady Sally Ganem pushed for a virtual tour of the Capitol. NET jumped on board to bring the tour to fruition.

One of the biggest price tags associated with the sesquicentennial has been the redevelopment of Centennial Mall, which stretches seven blocks from the Capitol to UNL. Originally built in time for Nebraska’s centennial, the strip of street blocks had become run down, lacking proper lighting and a sagging infrastructure.

The updated version of Centennial Mall will include a plaza area, wider sidewalks, and public gathering areas. Each block features a specific Nebraska story, including the story of Nebraska becoming a state, stewardship and natural resources, influential people and cultures, education and art. Wi-Fi, along with an interactive history system, will be available.

Hopefully, the restored Mall will appeal to visitors and draw people to the space.


In honor of Nebraska’s birthday, here’s a bit of trivia. Do you know…

  1. What are the three USHL hockey teams in Nebraska?
  2. Hudson-Meng archaeological site and Toadstool Geologic Park are within what federal expanse?
  3. What Columbus attraction pays tribute to the resident who invented the Higgins boat of WWII?
  4. What annual event in central Nebraska consists of a 300-mile continuous yard sale?
  5. What popular canoeing destination is referred to as Divorce River due to its level of difficulty?
  6. What occupies the former Union Passenger Terminal of the Union Pacific RR in Omaha?
  7. Once a vaudeville house, what Omaha theatre is home to Broadway productions, opera and dance?
  8. What Nebraska town was the third community in the U.S. to be named an official Booktown?
  9. Where can you find the world’s largest ball of stamps?
  10. What famous outlaw began his gun slinging career at Rock Creek Station near Fairbury?

Answers, in order: Lincoln Stars, Omaha Lancers, Tri-City Storm; Oglala National Grassland; Andrew Jackson Higgins National Memorial; Junk Jaunt; Dismal River; Durham Museum; Orpheum Theatre; Brownville; Boys Town; Wild Bill Hickok.

What’s your Nebraska IQ?

NebraskaismsRecently, I read two articles in the Huffington Post, both advice pieces offering a list of seven items that Americans could learn from two spots in Europe. While the lists offered fun ideas, along with practical information, both lists defined cultural aspects of a specific region. And it got me thinking…

What can the world learn from Nebraska?

Plenty. Here’s my list of valuable lessons we, as Nebraskans, should be teaching to those who don’t live within the borders of the Missouri River and Chimney Rock.

First, appreciate the past while looking to the future. We realize the important role our ancestors played in developing this country and the land in particular. It’s probable that many of the lessons we implement in our lives are a continuation of the examples we viewed while growing up. Still, we don’t live in the past. We understand challenges facing our state, especially our local communities, and work toward finding viable solutions to problems to ensure continued growth.

Second, embrace family. Many of our families are rooted here in the middle of America. We realize that family remains an unwavering mainstay we rely on. Family keeps us grounded, strengthens our ties to community, and builds a hopeful future.

Third, work hard. Again, many of us learned this lesson while watching our parents and grandparents put in a lot of sweat equity. We know that hard work pays more than a paycheck. It’s the backbone of who we are, of the reflection we project on the rest of the world.

Fourth, value land and water. Be good stewards of both since they play an important role in our state. They provide the foundation for many livelihoods, so it’s essential to maintain them. Enjoy the rugged and varied landscape across the state, from the Loess Hills to the beautiful sand dunes. Sip purity from the Ogallala Aquifer. Most important, remember that land and water forms the groundwork that feeds the world.

Fifth, be honest and loyal. No matter where I travel across the state, I am always in awe of our deep sense of honesty and loyalty. Whether it’s a passion for Husker football or an allegiance to a certain seed company or local business, Nebraskans show their constancy. That doesn’t mean we get stuck in our ways (well, maybe a few of us do); we adapt to change and expand our circle of trust.

Sixth, take care of each other. When our neighbors need help, we pitch in. Here, where everybody knows your name, we step up when the going gets tough. We apply “do unto others” and take it to the next level because if we ever are down on our luck, we know we can depend on our neighbors to pitch in.

Finally, spend time outside. Explore your community, discover the hidden treasures here and how they share a wealth of information about who we are.

We may not be located on the French Riviera. We may not be situated against a cerulean sea. But we are located in the heart of America, where values and tradition matter.

Nebraskaisms                In 2001, I discovered a movie – Almost Famous – that quickly became a family favorite, so much so that we still randomly throw lines from the flick into everyday conversations.

Maybe what caught our attention was the music, the 70s soundtrack filled with tunes from Led Zeppelin, The Who, Simon & Garfunkel, Rod Stewart, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Fleetwood Mac and Elton John. Or maybe the storyline captured our attention, allowing us to believe for a single moment we could be like beloved character, Penny Lane, and venture anywhere the music allowed us to go.

For me, it was Philip Seymour Hoffman’s portrayal of Lester Bangs, a real-life music journalist who wrote for Creem and Rolling Stones magazines. Some of the best quotables, like “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we’re uncool” or “You wanna be a true friend to them? Be honest, and unmerciful,” come from this character.

This morning, as news of Hoffman’s death crowded cable news shows and ticker feeds and drew an enormous outpouring of responses via social media, those lines replayed in my head, redirecting my thoughts to a bigger question: why do we mourn celebrity deaths?

Do I feel bad about Hoffman losing an ongoing battle with addiction because I feel empathy, knowing the sting of an unexpected death of a loved one? Do I mourn because his four children lost their father? Or do I feel horrible because there’s a sense of shared territory, a common thread binding us together, based on lines from a movie that have an impact on my life?

Think about it: Where were you when JFK was shot? Michael Jackson died? Princess Diana was killed in a high speed chase? Elvis died? The day the music died? (My answers, in order: at home with the babysitter (I was 2 years, 4 months), returning home from a mom-daughter trip to Chicago, driving on Highway 81 south of Norfolk after a Husker football game, cleaning the living room of my parents’ house, not born yet.) Side note – how do I remember these events? A super, keen memory, inherited from my father.

It seems strange that society places so much emphasis on the loss of a celebrity when tragedy and loss can occur at any time. The deaths of ordinary citizens who have left an extraordinary impression on those who love and know them best do not receive prime-time coverage or a ticker feed across the bottom of the TV screen.

Does this fascination with fame create a disconnect from reality? Is society so enamored with an airbrushed image that we lose sight of core values and the beautiful, imperfect faces of those who surround us each day?

Yes, I feel bad for the Hoffman’s family. I understand the battle to conquer an addiction that leads to death because I experienced it a decade ago when my loved one died.

In this bankrupt world in which we live, don’t – or shouldn’t – we feel a sense of loss when “everyman” leaves this world?