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Guest opinion submitted by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

It is hard to believe that weâ??ve come to the close of yet another year. For many of us, the days, weeks and months have fairly flown by and now we find ourselves in the midst of December, perhaps wondering how weâ??ll be ready in time for our holiday celebrations, or for the really organized, thrilled to be done with most of the preparations. December provides an opportunity to think back on the yearâ??s events and look ahead to what 2006 will bring. Idahoans have seen both the departure and the safe return of military men and women from deployment overseas, and wait with hope and pray fervently for those still deployed. We also mourn those brave Idahoans who have given their lives for our freedom and pray for their families as they learn to live with this terrible loss and cherish the memory of their son, daughter, husband, wife or child. Fires and drought have revealed ongoing vulnerabilities in our forests and fields. Critical improvements to many of our stateâ??s major roads is happening. Economic development and growth have been the hallmark in many communities this year. President Bush made an historic visit. Tamarack, Idahoâ??s newest ski resort, opened for business last month. Two new domestic violence prevention and advocacy centers opened in the Treasure Valley that will provide much-needed legal and education assistance to victims of domestic violence. The Idaho National Lab saw Department of Energy site contracts awarded. The first commercial scale wind farm came on line at Fossil Gulch. The Lewis and Clark Bicentennial brought visitors (and even plants from two hundred years ago!) to Idaho. These are just a few of the things that have affected Idahoans in 2005. All in all, it has been a busy, full year for Idaho and for our country. Still, throughout the busy-ness, itâ??s important to remember and nourish those things that will not fade into the annals of the history of 2005: family ties and friendship. One of the nicest things about Christmastime is that for most of us, itâ??s a time to get together with those we love and cherish. Whether itâ??s a worship service, working together on community service projects, sharing a meal, giving gifts or visiting friends or co-workers for a holiday party, the spreading of â??Christmas cheerâ?? enriches our relationships that are more important in the long run than many things that seem so throughout the year but are quickly yesterdayâ??s news. 2005 has been a busy one for the Crapo family as well. My youngest headed off to college. My other children are exploring new horizons with regard to work as well as finishing school. Looking ahead to the future is certainly exciting! We eagerly anticipate 2006, and what great things are in store. As you and your family and friends celebrate the blessings of this festive season, take a moment and simply enjoy the company of loved ones. My family and I wish you a merry Christmas and a blessed and happy New Year!WORD COUNT: 502