Monday, June 2, 2014

Nausea, Smelly Hands, and Wooden Rollercoasters: The Best and Worst of Adventureland

Going to the Adventureland theme park in Altoona, Iowa is an annual tradition for my siblings and I.  Visiting the park became a habit for our family when my sister and brother were in high school, the Super Screamer still existed, and the singing, guitar-playing band of dogs was still a thing.  It was once a pretty cool place...the roller coasters were terrifying, the Underground seemed pretty awesome and cutting-edge, and it cost a quarter to pick up a rubber duck and win a prize.

Remember these dogs?  I miss them :(

Today, Adventureland is actually quite sad.  That duck-picking-up game costs something like 4 bucks, and the ticket prices rival the prices of Valley Fair (which, ride-wise, is a far superior park).  The buildings are rather run-down; the paint is peeling and the wood is warping.  The rides that were once "cool" now don't work as well, and is it just me, or does the Outlaw seem about three rides away from falling apart?  We love it, though, simply because of the nostalgia element - everything (besides some new additions) stays the same from year to year.  It's kitschy, it's campy...we laugh at the creaking rides that haven't changed since our childhood and the misspelled graffiti that is poorly hidden on every wooden surface...but we love it and would probably be quite crushed if it changed too drastically.

If this doesn't get you pumped...then maybe nothing will.  (link)

As the years have gone by, our group seems to get larger every time, adding my sister-in-law, Jared, and my niece into the mix.  (This year, there will be a new baby to one day add to the trip!)  Each of us has our favorite (and least favorite) parts of the park, and all of its elements are discussed in great detail by way of a group email - which, in itself, is something to look forward to each year just because of the funny commentary my family gives!  Adventureland has a lot of good stuff (awesome people-watching opportunities, many rides for kids, and that carnival music as you walk down Main Street that hits me with a huge wave of nostalgia every time)...and quite a bit of not-so-good stuff (the train, the eating set-up, and of course the prices).

Me and Brother on the good old Scrambler

The Good:  Classic rides
The way I see it, there are three categories of rides at Adventureland - Classic, meh, and nausea-inducing.  (You will find that there is one ride in a category all its own.)  The following list is of the best rides - in my opinion - in the park.
*Teacups - particularly when you try to squeeze four grown adults into one cup
*Ladybugs (and basically every kiddie ride in the park) - my niece Audrey is a huge fan!
*Lady Luck - Although it is in danger of becoming nausea-inducing, I still enjoy it.  Though I do hate the no-single-rider rule, which often forces me to be squished into the seat beside my brother.  Which is awkward.
*All the water rides - It is true that I hate walking around all day in drenched clothing...but it is often worth it for the Raging River, the Log Ride, and the Sawmill Splash.  The Sawmill Splash is my favorite - if only I could manage to avoid touching the black seatbelts, which are always warm and moist and make your hands smell like dirty lunch trays and snow pants for the rest of the day.  For real.  Smell them next time if you don't believe me.  Also, it's always rather awkward for whoever has to sit in the back on the Log Ride and straddle the front person.
*The Outlaw - though it may not be operable for much longer, I'm afraid
*Sky Ride - I am probably the only one in my family who loves the ski-lift.  I especially like looking for stuffed animals that people accidentally dropped in trees and on roofs.

Little Chelsea on the airplanes...
Slightly bigger Chelsea on the carousel...
And Miss Audrey drivin' the boats!

Rides that are "Meh":
*Sky Wheel - rather boring, slow, and too windy for my taste.  But the views can be nice.
*Himalayas (aka "Fast Cars") - This is just jerky and awkward for whoever has to sit on the inside.  But I like the ride's choices in music.
*The Tornado
*Bumper cars - These would probably be on my "classic rides" list, if not for the fact that my siblings all make it their goal to trap me in a corner and laugh.  Not so fun.

The Bad:  Rides in Which I Worry About Vomit
*Train - The train doesn't make me want to vomit.  However, the train's path winds mainly through trees and maybe one ride.  There is literally nothing to see, and it always takes a good half hour to get them to start up the ride.  My sister insists that it gets her "excited for the day", but unless you, too, get excited by trees and chain-link fence...I'd skip this one.
*Galleon - I liked this ride until I watched someone puke off the side of it.  I have a vomit phobia...and this kind of ruined the ride for me.
*Der Flinger - Ditto.  (Thanks a lot, Brent :) )
*Falling Star - Again, ditto.
*Balloon Races - Sigh.  I have gotten so old that even this ride - which is meant mostly for kids - makes me feel nauseous.  The last time I rode it, I watched my sister break out in a pukey-sweat mustache, and I wanted to laugh at her but my stomach was too queasy.
*Tilt-A-Whirl - Ditto.  :(
*Lighthouse - Worst ride in the park.  So loud.  So sick-making.
*Dragon - After riding the Dragon, I'm always tempted to get one of those cushion-y neck braces for the pain my neck and head are in.
*Silly Silo - It always smelled like puke in there.  May it rest in peace.

(You might notice there are some rides I didn't mention - the Inverter, Space Shot, Splash-Over, etc.  I left these out only because I choose not to ride them, so I cannot fairly judge.  I'm a wuss.)

All looking at the approaching wave in fear!

The Good:  The Underground
When I went to Adventureland with my friends one year, I hyped this ride up so much that my friends were actually pissed at me when we got off.  So let's just admit this to ourselves right away:  The Underground is a horrible ride.  It's terrible.  The robots used are cheesy, half of the ride no longer works, and when you're inside the building, it's like being in a very warm, humid basement.  But to me, The Underground is so bad that it's really kind of amazing.  When the ride first came out in the 90s, it was awesome.  But now...the robot at the beginning ("Y'ain't afraid of the dark, now, are ye'?") is missing his beard and his ability to move his arms, eyes, and mouth.  The "rocks" don't "fall" anymore.  And the jerk "uphill" near the end is so rough that my sister lost her sunglasses one year.  It's pretty sad.  But every year, the worse it gets, the more I love it.  I hope they never shut it down.  (Also, the graffiti outside the ride is usually pretty great.  One example:  "For some flippity floppity, call 888-8888."  I guess all the cool kids call it flippity floppity now.)

A super-exciting 1999 ride-through of The Underground in its about 3:00, the woman says what we all feel about most amusement park rides..."I wish they designed these things for tall, fat people."  LOL!

The Bad:  Eating Outdoors
I hate eating outside.  I hate it when flies get in my food (and at Adventureland, they always do).  I hate smelling gross things while eating my food (and at Adventureland, it always smells like vomit and funnel cake).  I hate wind blowing away your napkin (and at Adventureland, just trust me...the wind will always blow away your goddamn napkin).  I also don't particularly enjoy sweat running down my back while I try to enjoy a nice hamburger.  I hate eating outside.  And it's very hard to avoid at this theme park.

The Good:  People-Watching
I get a little bored watching my siblings ride the Galleon.  I lean against the fence, hold bags, and sweat.  So it's always fun to see what kind of people are walking around Adventureland today.  Some of my favorites:  The Poor Planners (usually wearing jeans and looking miserable - denim is the worst theme-park fashion choice EVER), the Young Couples who Love PDA (usually one is carrying a huge stuffed animal and the other has his hand in her back pocket), the Weak Stomachs (although I try to avoid looking at those guys), and the Ones who Really Should Not be Wearing That (you know who you are).  It's super entertaining.  (Just so I don't seem too judgmental here, I can definitely say that to onlookers watching me, I am That Girl with a White Ring Around her Mouth who Could Pass Out Any Second.)

A newish addition to the park:  Holding baby kangaroos!

The Bad:  A General Feeling of Nausea
The idea of going to a theme park always seems really fun to me.  I picture myself playing games, riding roller coasters, having a blast.  And then I go on my first ride, and I smell that fried food in the air...and I feel a little bit...bleh.  I'm not sure if it's just me, but parks like this in general make me have a vaguely nauseous feeling for the entire rest of the day.  I think it's a mixture of spinning rides, smelly environment, and heat.  Does anyone else have this problem?

Despite being much too old for this, apparently I was just so overcome with fatigue that I had to be carried to the car.  Adventureland'll do that to ya!

(A side note:  The number of rides I can go on without feeling ill is growing smaller and smaller each year.  Because of this, I decided to save my forty bucks - plus ten bucks parking! - and skip the tradition this year.  I am sad about it, but...check out where Jared and I went instead!)

So...are you an Adventureland hater or an Adventureland lover??

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Cyber Saturday

I came across Merry Thought's pallet swing bed this week and immediately bookmarked it!  Pallets can be used for so many different things, and I love the hammock-y vibe of this bed.  A pallet project is definitely in store for my front porch this summer!

I have been subscribed to Birchbox for a while now, and I love it.  Monthly subscription boxes seem to be extremely popular right now - Jared has even given in and subscribed to Nerd Block and Loot Crate.  And of course you can't deny the huge success of BarkBox!  While scouring the Internet for more unique monthly boxes, I found Hammock Pack - it's a surprise pack designed to let you take a vacation without leaving your home.  Each month brings a new destination, and Hammock Pack sends you different products from that particular place.  I've never heard of any other subscription like this; it's definitely a cool idea!

The Our Humble Abode blog put up a post about their latest easy project - this souvenir shelf.  Using a cheap, vintage printer's tray, they made a simple shelf to hold trinkets from past vacations, including small shells, rocks, and sticks.  I think this is a great idea, and I'd love to fill a shelf like this with traveling souvenirs!

If you're gluten-free like me, it can be tough to find sweets that don't taste like cardboard.  But this recipe for gluten-free snickerdoodle cookies didn't fail me!  They were super easy to make, and even Jared loved them!

Huffington Post featured a video this week of a group of college seniors recreating the intro to Friends, and it's pretty great.  I am obsessed with this show, so I appreciated the spot-on moves that mirrored the iconic opening.

I like to have a seasonal "bucket list" of sorts, things I'd like to do before each season is over.  I almost never follow through with every activity, but it's fun to make a list of goals, especially for summer.  HelloGiggles posted a great list of 101 things to do before summer's end, including fun ideas like camping in your backyard, going to the drive-in movies, and planning a 90s-themed party!

Have a wonderful long weekend!  Thanks for reading, and don't forget to check out my other blog! :)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Desperate for Inspiration

I had a dream.  I had lots of them.

I was going to be somebody.  Somebody that others could look up to, maybe even admire if I was lucky.  I thought I could do it all:  Write a book.  Learn a particularly difficult piece on the piano.  Save animals and inspire others to do the same.  Make a difference.

I haven't done any of those things.

I find it so very difficult to ignore that inner voice that keeps whispering, It's fine, we'll just do it tomorrow!  The laundry needs to be done, Riley wants a walk, and let's face it:  That Netflix queue ain't gonna watch itself.  That voice is so damn enticing.  How do I drown it out?  How do I do these things today rather than putting them off until tomorrow...or the next day, or the next?

I still want to do all those things.  But the gap between myself and those goals being met seems to keep growing - every day, the gap gets bigger and bigger and I feel a little bit more hopeless.  The voice turns ugly:  You can't do those things, anyway.  Why even try?  You'll just let yourself down.  That voice is also hard to ignore...though it is temporarily quieted by a couple spoonfuls of cookie dough.

Dorothy Parker said, "I hate writing.  I love having written."  This is the problem, in a nutshell.  I dread writing, put it off for as long as I can.  Even these blog posts (hence my weeks-long hiatus).  But once I'm done writing, and I read over what I have written...there is no better feeling.  The same is true of other things:  I cannot stand exercising; my body hates me with every step on the treadmill and every drop of sweat that runs down my back.  But when I'm done and showered, I feel great.  Likewise, going out and meeting new people often seems extremely daunting, and I'd often rather stay in with a book than socialize.  But when all is said and done, and I'm at home after a refreshing night out, I wonder why I don't do it more often.

My question is:  How do you make the end result seem more enticing?  How do you force yourself to find motivation?  How do you inspire yourself?  Online articles tell me to take a walk and enjoy nature, but that's never worked for me.  Here's a couple things that do:

Cut out the distractions.  For me, it's Netflix and the Internet.  The two biggest time-suckers out there.  I choose not to consider books a distraction because they can often be helpful tools when I write :)

Look through old notebooks/journals.  Some of my favorite writing has happened after looking through my old work.  Even if it's a hilarious 8th-grade diary entry about how afraid you are that you'll never find a boyfriend, or can often turn into inspiration for something bigger and better.

Try something new.  I never thought I would like going to movies by myself.  Or Pilates classes.  But after trying both of those things, I felt happier and much more energized.  Taking a random ballroom-dancing lesson was one of the coolest things I've ever done, and it definitely inspired me to try more new things.  (College students have the advantage here:  there are always awesome things going on around campus.)

Change your environment.  I often try to write in my bed.  It's comfortable, there's a lamp, and I have the TV and a book right there.  This is not good.  My bed = laziness.  My bed = bad writing.  When I switch to sitting at my desk, I always get more done.  When I go to the public library, I get LOADS done and am more inspired to write.  It's kind of amazing what a change in location can do for your writing.

Force yourself.  Just do it.  Even if you're dreading it.  Even if it seems like you'd rather do anything else.  Do it anyway.  You'll feel better afterward.  (This is the one I need to enforce the most.)

I so badly want to pull myself out of this slump.  I want to feel better about myself and be more productive.  I want to be a more inspiring, inspired person.  I want, I want, I want...


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Rain, Rain, Go Away

The weather these days is driving me a bit nuts.  It's ten times better than snow, of course, and generally, I love rainy, gloomy days.  Sitting by the window and reading/writing is very relaxing when raindrops are tapping on your roof.  One or two days like this is just fine.  When it becomes a week, it gets a little old.  But until the sun comes out and the puddles dry up, I'll have to deal with make the weather more bearable, I've rounded up some pretty things that make the rain look stylish.  Check it out below!

(left to right):
Singing in the Rain Umbrella (from ShopBop) - a cute way to protect your hair from the drops
Rainy Day Bureau (from Humblesticks) - an easily customizable DIY
"Clouds" wallpaper (from Aimee Wilder) - adorable in a child's playroom
Umbrella necklace with glass raindrop (from Etsy) - delicate and whimsical
"Rainy Day" throw pillow cover (from Etsy) - handmade and in my favorite colors!
Rainy Day nail art (from LacqLustre) - actually inspired by Morton's salt!
"Write like a motherf*cker" coffee mug (from The Rumpus) - my favorite thing to do on a rainy day
"Splish Flash" rain boot (from Modcloth) - pink polka dots with a sweet bow on the back


Friday, May 2, 2014

Cyber Saturday

How was everyone's week?  I spent mine mostly staring at my phone, having little adventures with Jared, and playing a video game called Rain - if you're a PS3 owner, definitely check it out; it's more like a piece of interactive art than a game!  The weather has been gloomy and wet, and it's making me feel pretty gloomy too.  I am more than ready for flip-flops and sun!  Here are some links worth noting from around the Internet this week!

The Barnes and Noble blog did an awesome list about problems that only book nerds have.  Almost all of these applied to me, especially number 56 (mispronouncing words because you've never actually heard them out loud, only in books) and number 83 ("I just want to look really quick" - famous last words, spoken just before you enter the bookstore).  Too true!

Buzzfeed posted an amazing collection of terrible MS Paint drawings that summarize entire Harry Potter movies.  This one - summarizing the last movie - was my favorite.  LOLs for dayyyyys!  (Except RIP Snape, love you forever.)

I think it was HGTV Magazine that featured this Etsy seller, who sells geometric throw pillow covers that you can color yourself!  All you need to create your masterpiece is a fabric marker or some paint and a brush.  It also comes in a heart design.

Buzzfeed recently posted a checklist of the most iconic kids' movies of the 90s, including movies like Home Alone, Casper, and Hocus Pocus.  Unfortunately, I have only seen about 75 percent of them; I will definitely be coming back to this list to catch up on my movie-watching!

Gorgeous Shiny Things, one of my favorite home decor blogs, posted a makeover she did on a beat-up old table she found on the side of the road.  She gave it some TLC and a whole lot of paint (click on the link for the DIY!), and turned it into this gorgeous bamboo-inspired side table!

I only just discovered Bows and Sequins - a fashion blog that offers reasonable and affordable outfits, for a change - and I am loving it!  I have been curious about overalls for a while now; I did, after all, used to work them pretty hard when I was in third grade.  She shows you how to wear them over here, and instead of looking silly and ill-fitting, they look very comfy and flattering (as flattering as overalls can be, anyway).  These are from American Eagle and are surprisingly affordable!

Also, head over to check out my other blog, where I posted all sorts of things!  An interview with a puppy mill dog rescuer, a sweet Jack Russell terrier searching for a home, and a feature about National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day!

Have a good weekend!


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Books to Give You Goosebumps!

I am not a huge fan of scary movies.  The ones about mass murderers, the gory ones - those, I can handle.  But show me a ghost, a demon, a possessed human...and I'll probably pee in my pants a little bit.  There's something about a movie that just makes it all seem too real; plus, whoever adds the eerie music and jump scene sound effects is an a-hole.  After watching Paranormal Activity or The Exorcist, I need to watch a cartoon immediately afterward and will probably still end up sleeping with the lights on.

Give me a scary book, however, and I can totally handle it.  When I'm in the right mood, I love reading a book that gives me the chills and makes me listen for spooky sounds around the house.  And, like Joey from Friends, if I get too scared, I can just close the book and hide it in the freezer.  Here are a few of my favorites (all images from Goodreads):

Gerald's Game - Stephen King
Stephen King is, I think, not given enough credit.  Literary snobs scoff at his work, thinking him long-winded, cliched, and unoriginal.  But I think he is really great at what he does.  I love most of his novels:  Needful Things, Misery, The Green Mile.  But while most people think that It or The Shining are his most terrifying, I was much more terrified by the psychological twistedness of Gerald's Game.  In this thriller, Jessie and her husband Gerald have gone to their lake house for a getaway of sorts; Gerald handcuffs his wife (with real, legitimate handcuffs) to the bed to enjoy a little BDSM fun...and then proceeds to have a heart attack and die on top of her.  It all sounds like very dark, slapstick comedy at this point, right?  But Jessie's struggle to find some means of escape is pretty brutal, especially when there is literally no one around this time of year except for a very hungry stray dog.  Her helplessness and fear is described in painful detail, and the anxiety I felt while reading it was pretty intense.  This is just great storytelling from King.

If you like King's books, you should also try The Girl who Loved Tom Gordon.  It is in the same vein of psychological thriller as Gerald's game, only it's directed more towards a YA audience.  It's about a young girl who, during a hike with her family, becomes lost in the woods for days on end, and she doesn't seem to be alone...  Gave me the chills!

Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn
I know, I know, I know.  This book is overrated and everywhere.  But I have to write about it because it was the book of 2012, and it was also pretty damn good.  Again, this is definitely more of a psychological thriller about how much one can actually trust their spouse.  It is the day of Amy and Nick's 5th wedding anniversary, and Amy has disappeared.  All evidence points to Nick being involved somehow, but we have no idea what is going on.  The narrators (Nick and Amy, in diary entries) are unreliable, evasive, and secretive, making the reader trust them only to throw it back in their faces.  I can't talk about the plot too much without giving it away, but the main characters were pretty sick, and there were some crazy twists going on in this novel.  It was definitely a fun (if vaguely disturbing) ride, and I hope the movie does the book justice.

What Comes Next - John Katzenbach
This book was disturbing, I'll just say that right of the bat.  It is not a book that I enjoyed, necessarily, but it is definitely one that stuck with me.  The main character is a retired professor who has just been told by a doctor that he is slowly losing himself to a degenerative disease.  On his way back from the doctor's office, he witnesses what he thinks is a girl being abducted.  The police believe she has run away, but the professor takes it on himself to investigate the girl's disappearance.  Meanwhile, there's "What Comes Next," which is a website run by a perverted, money-hungry couple - a live site on which viewers can watch videos of young girls being tortured in various, often pornographic, ways.  Though the premise is definitely disturbing and vile, there were no explicit, graphic sex scenes or scenes with violence.  It was well-written and had very strong characters.  Expect to be disgusted by this book, though it was a good read.

The Woman in Black - Susan Hill
The Woman in Black is a traditional ghost story, written in an old-fashioned way that threw me at first but I got used to it very quickly.  Old-fashioned and spooky, this story relies more on the environment to scare you, and when it's combined with the anticipation and dread you feel while reading it, it is without a doubt the scariest book I have ever read.  I'm not sure why, as there was no out-and-out horror was the quiet, understated chilling-ness of it that got me.  Arthur Kipps, the narrator and main character, is a lawyer assigned to tie up loose ends at the estate of a recently deceased woman.  The estate is, of course, located on an English moor, and though Arthur is not a man to be drawn in by ghost stories, he soon finds himself curious about the mystery of the "woman in black."  Ugh.  This was just terrifying.  I enjoyed the movie as well, but it didn't scare me halfway as much as the book did...though I do love me some Daniel Radcliffe.

Escape From Camp 14 - Blaine Harden
This book was terrifying in a much different way than the others - it was terrifying because it's true.  Escape From Camp 14 is a true account of one man's escape from a political prison camp in North Korea.  These camps are basically like Nazi concentration camps, in which Shin's family was executed and he was forced to compete with his own parents for food.  I had no idea there were such places in the world - does this make me naive?  Probably.  These prison camps have existed twelve times as long as the Nazi concentration camps, and it is rare for someone to escape.  But Shin did, and this is his story of bravery and survival, as well as his struggle to adjust to life outside the camp.  This was horrifying, shocking, and incredibly sobering.

NOS4A2 - Joe Hill
On a lighter note, NOS4A2 is a fun ride of a horror novel, written by Stephen King's son!  This novel could rival some of King's best works, in my opinion.  While riding her bike, Victoria (our young main character) can magically "find" things that have been lost by going through a supernatural tunnel of sorts.  She has found a missing bracelet, a photograph, and answers to questions that have been on her mind.  But what she finds one Charles Manx and his town of "Christmasland".  Charles Manx is a super-villain who takes children and steals away their innocence, and he will never forget Victoria after she manages to escape his clutches...  Really scary and impossible to put down!

Blood Harvest - S. J. Bolton
This novel has the creepy, something's-not-right-here feel of stories like The Lottery or Children of the Corn.  The small town in which it's set has some odd traditions, and the people like to stick to them.  Even after a new family and a new pastor come to town and shake things up.  Weird things keep happening:  voices in the graveyard, a feeling of being watched, a young boy having an invisible playmate, little girls going missing...  It's all very chilling and eerie.  Just the right amount of horror and goosebumps in this thrilling novel!  I loved it.

It's supposed to thunderstorm tonight...why not grab one of these books to keep you company?  :)

Friday, April 25, 2014

Small Town Living

"I wish I could show you the little village where I was born.  It's so lovely there...I used to think it too small to spend a life in, but now I'm not so sure." - Mary Kelly

"Who you lookin' for
What is his name
you can prob'ly find him
at the football game
it's a small town
you know what I mean
it's a small town, son
and we all support the team."
- James McMurtry

The streets are quieter here.  There are no stoplights, only a handful of stop signs.  You can walk two blocks and be at the public library, one more and you're at the bank.  You can leave your house unlocked, garage door wide open, and not have to worry.  Your landlord is your brother's best friend from high school, and the guy cashing your check at the bank also taught you how to use a computer when you were in middle school.  The town revolves mostly around farming, basketball, and the annual Christmas get-together at the fire station uptown - nothing too exciting really happens here.  But you wouldn't live anywhere else.

Sometimes, when it's winter and it's snowing, you go outside to grab something from your car and are struck by the silence of the street - you think you can almost hear the snow falling, it's that quiet.  You go back inside feeling a little bit luckier than you had when you left the house.  The same is true during nights in the summer, when the only sound you can hear is the sizzle of your own grill and some faint voices from the neighbors' screened-in porch.

You can walk down the middle of Main Street, and...

even bust a move...

if that's something you're into.

Everyone knows your name, and though your husband is new to the area, they know his name, too.  You go into the bank, the post office, the gas station, the library - everyone personally greets you, asks after your family, your dog.  Maybe you wish sometimes you didn't know absolutely everyone (you're usually wearing sweats and your hair is always a mess), but you're always thankful.

When someone dies, the entire town (and probably the next town over, too) shows up for the funeral, armed with casseroles and pies.  If a storm is on its way, neighbors warn each other, offering extra flashlights or batteries; your heater broke last winter, and your neighbors invited you and your husband over to their place, where it was warm and they had hot chocolate.  Kids here grow up running a little wild, coming and going as they please.  Everyone eats at a diner called the Chit Chat Cafe every Sunday after church, where the Double Burger Platter has tasted exactly the same since the early 90s.  You graduated from a class of 40; you knew everyone's first and last name, and you even remember most of their birthdays.

I <3 my backyard!

The cost of living is dirt-cheap, even when compared to cities only 30 minutes away.   A neighbor across the street has an old, beat-up Eames chair sitting in his driveway - you've thought about asking for it several times; he probably doesn't even know what it is he's got.  You see a gorgeous antique bureau being loaded onto a Goodwill truck, and when you stop to ask about it, it's your best friend's sister's old boyfriend that's moving it - not only does he let you have it for free, but he drives it over to your dad's house for you and unloads it.

Main Street is always empty, or nearly so; you can walk right down the middle of the road most days and never see anyone driving.  Many of the businesses have closed, but when the hardware store was still thriving, you and your friends would go in and pick out candy, putting it on your dad's "tab", which he'd have to pay off later.  The librarian tells you not to worry about the fee for checking out movies; you'd get it next time.  There are no cops here, and when the cop from the next town makes a weekly visit, he knows your name and waves at you when you drive by.  The closest movie theater shows new movies every night for two bucks; you go every week.

You didn't used to love it here.  You curled your lip at the sleepiness of the town, dreamed of days when you'd leave for somewhere bigger and better.  But you've grown up, and you've decided that a small town suits you so much better than a big city.  You couldn't trade the silent streets and friendly people for big buildings and busy traffic.  This is where you belong.

Beautiful weather on a walk with Riley!