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Next month we’ll be tackling our basement, which has become this big, moldy, cluttered monster lurking beneath our floorboards. No matter how perfectly clean the rest of the house may be, I enjoy those 10 minutes every 6 months, knowing that the basement is a wreck irks me.  It also irks me that I know there are good things down there that other people could be using.

I’m not a hoarder but I don’t like throwing away items that are still in good condition.  I just want them transferred into good hands.  Besides, being an environmental science student, I’d be kicked out of the club, if I were to take truckloads of stuff directly to a landfill that will take 10,000 years to decay!

Having lived in the same house since 1995, we have accumulated a lot.  Most of it is clothes that the kids have outgrown, old furniture, VHS tapes, books, old TVs, old electronics, and I’m not even sure what all until I start digging in.

Anyway there’s a good lesson here:  Don’t allow yourself to accumulate so much junk!  Also, grandparents out there, don’t buy your grandkids so many toys for Christmas and birthdays.  I think 90% of the toys in my basement were purchased by my kids’ grandparents.  90% of toys sold at garage sales were toys originally purchased by grandparents, and 90% of toys purchased at garage sales are purchased by grandparents.

This is usually the result of grandparents trying to outdo the other by spending more than the other set.  My dad always jokingly referred to my husband’s parents as our kids “generic” grandparents.  If you don’t think there’s a rivalry between grandparents…ha!  My basement is proof there is.

Anyway, now I’m faced with the task of getting rid of lots of stuff. I wanted to share some places where items in good condition can be donated for a good cause in Decatur.

Oh, and I wanted to share another thing.  If you’re going to give, give what you would like to receive.  In other words, don’t unload unusable items to a charitable organization.  It just makes more work for them and costs them money to get rid of it.

When my brother was a pastor, his family received a big box of donated food for Christmas one year but unfortunately half of what had been donated wasn’t even edible.  He received a box of Kroger brand Macaroni & Cheese that could have been taken to the Antiques Roadshow for appraisal.  He wasn’t sure what decade it was from.  He turned this form of “giving” into a sermon (pastors like doing that):  You’re not really giving anything, if you’re giving other people your garbage.  Most especially, If all you’re giving people is food poisoning, you really need to rethink your giving! 

Here’s a list of local agencies and thrift stores:  These aren’t all them in Decatur but the ones that I know of.  I’d recommend calling ahead to find out what they’ll accept and how they would like to receive the items.  These aren’t in any particular order.

LSA Resale Shop (Benefits Lutheran School Association)
421 E Cerro Gordo St
Phone:(217) 423-0122

Salvation Army Family Store – 2 Locations
229 W. Main St, Decatur, IL 62523
Phone: (217) 428-4647 and
137 S. Church St
Phone: (217) 362-3983

Catholic Charities of Decatur
https://www.cc.dio.org/area_offices/decatur/home.htm
247 W Prairie
Phone: (217) 428-3458

Blessingdale’s (Benefits God’s Shelter of Love – A homeless shelter in Decatur.)
http://www.godsshelteroflove.org/blessingdales.html
235 W. Eldorado
Phone: (217) 429-0624

Naz Thrift Store (Nazarene)
http://www.westsidenaz.net/
1290 W. Grand
Phone: (217) 423-6968

DMH Thrift Shop
http://www.dmhcares.org/services/ThriftShop/
553 W. Wood St
Phone: (217) 428-8512

Economy Shop
967 N. Water
Phone: (217) 423-3003

 

 

 

 

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I thought by now I would have stunk up more than a few rounds of miniature golf and Decatur’s new Overlook Adventure* mini-golf course, but delays have pushed its opening back to the end of June or possible July.  I visited it last Fall as construction really got underway and took some photos then, so I decided to make another visit today, June 13th 2014, to see what progress has been made.

Overland Adventure Mini-Golf Course

There has been a lot of progress but honestly I thought it would be further along but I’m beginning to see some of the more detailed work shaping up.  Yet to be installed are the escaped critters from the zoo, which will be the theme for the course.  We should see some familiar animals from Decatur’s Scovill Zoo as we become aggravated, I mean as we enjoy playing each hole.  (I’m very competitive in miniature golf, ridiculously so.)

Other obvious things that need to be completed besides the installation of plastic critters are a fence, a finished parking lot, and quite a bit of landscaping.  If it’s going to be open by the end of this month, they’re really going to have to kick up construction into a higher gear.  I’m thinking it’ll probably be July before it’s ready but I could be wrong.

If I remember correctly, a Cherry Berry frozen yogurt shop, and a potato themed restaurant will also occupy the building.  I haven’t heard when those will be ready.

*I called it Overland Adventure Park originally but that didn’t sound right, so I double-checked and yep I was wrong…it’s Overlook Adventure Park. Now the guy with the binoculars and raccoon on his back on top of the building makes more sense.

Well, I’ll just let the photos do the rest of the talking: (Click on the pics for a closer view.)

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Uhm…that flag looks familiar to me for some reason.

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The lights are in. I think this is going to be a very popular place on a summer night in Decatur.

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There's just something about that flag.  I've seen it somewhere!

There’s just something about that flag. I’ve seen it somewhere…. I think the raccoon gives us a good idea of what to expect from the other critters yet to be installed.

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The ticket booth.  I hope it’s a very busy ticket booth.

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I love the detail in the brickwork.

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The natural vegetation landscaping in the parking lot islands sure look healthy! Isn’t that the way it always is with weeds…

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My son pulled out a flyer for Beaches Resort from a Sunday newspaper, pointed to the beach, and said he wanted to go there.  My husband and I looked it over and thought it looked nice.  We were surprised it was affordable.  I never would have thought of going there, and didn’t even know where precisely it was on a map, but we had visited the Bahamas briefly the year before on a Disney cruise.

Unfortunately, during that vacation a hurricane was passing nearby and the ship couldn’t dock at Disney’s island, and that was a big disappointment.  That was a total dud of a vacation, so we wanted to go to a resort that was on a beach guaranteeing we would actually be able to step foot on a beach, and not have to float around aimlessly in the Gulf of Mexico watching movies.  We spent less going to Jamaica for a 4-night all-inclusive resort, for a family of four, than we have spent going to Florida in the past.  Of all the major vacations we have taken, our Jamaican vacation gave the most bang for our buck.

We stayed at Beaches Negril: http://www.beaches.com/main/ng/ng-home.cfm

We arrived the day after Thanksgiving and the weather was perfect.  The resort wasn’t crowded at all.  The water was crystal clear and the perfect temperature.  I thought I was going to feel like I was on another planet, but I felt right at home.  All the meals and drinks were included and every night, the dinner was a different theme.  I’ve had better food but it was fine.  It was nice to be able to grab a hamburger, snack, or drink whenever we wanted to throughout the day.

Beaches Resort is part of Sandals.  Sandals resorts cater towards couples and Beaches is for families but even if I were to go as a couple, I’d still go to Beaches, because who wants to be around a bunch of boring adults?  Not me!

There were people from all over the world at the resort and it was interesting speaking to them.  Many of them were very well off.  One family was staying for a month!  Who can afford that!  There are people who can.  The staff at the resort guessed we were from Texas.  They were in shock when we told them we were from Illinois.

We had a funny conversation with one of the resort staff members in our room, after he brought us towels, about coffee.  Neither my husband nor I drink coffee and he didn’t believe us.  “Really?”  He asked us about 10 times because I don’t think he ever met anyone who didn’t drink coffee.  We had also never heard of Blue Mountain.  Apparently it’s a mountain in Jamaica and it’s well-known for its coffee.  “You’ve never heard of Blue Mountain?”  I think he was about to slip into a state of shock.  It would be like someone visiting New York City and had never heard of the Statue of Liberty, or going to Paris and asking what the big cell phone tower was about.

I felt bad because I felt like we had insulted his culture by not knowing what Blue Mountain coffee was.  Believe me, not being a coffee drinker has excluded me from the business world in the United States.  I feel like a freak but I think coffee tastes like burnt mud.  I don’t get the appeal but whatever…

The Adventures

I enjoyed the vacation but there were some funny things that happened during our travel to and from Jamaica.  We flew out of St. Louis, had a layover in Atlanta, and then to Montego Bay on the way there.  The trip was reversed on the way back but with a much longer layover in Atlanta.  This was my second vacation by plane, and I’m proud of myself for doing so well.  At one point in my life, I could barely leave my house to go to the grocery store because of a severe anxiety disorder, so every trip I take is not only an adventure, but a battle against those old fears.  Traveling takes a lot out of me but I force myself to go.  Luckily, I didn’t have any problems with anxiety during the trip, accept the anxiety that anyone would have had!

We were told by the stewardess on the flight that we would be filling out paperwork to enter Jamaica and we had to fill it out perfectly.  There couldn’t be any erasures or words marked out, so of course, I made about 400 mistakes spelling words I have written 800,000 times, like my name.  My husband also messed up multiple times.  Our daughter screwed up.  We had to fill out papers for each one of us and it took about 40 tries to get the papers filled out mistake-free.  By the time we got to the customs desk, everyone else on the flight were already well on there way to their destination.  The lady barely looked at our papers and said that we could have crossed something out, if we made a mistake.  We wanted to kill the stewardess.

By the time we got to our luggage, it was sitting alone and looking at us, like we were dumb.  By that time, we all were tired and had pounding headaches, and just wanted to get to the resort and crash.  It was a 90 minute drive to the resort along the coastline, and it was educational.  First, I have never seen poverty like I saw in Jamaica.  Many people live in makeshift shacks, many of which looked to have been damaged by hurricanes in the past.  Few had electricity.  Sewage and garbage flowed in the streams of the small villages.  Bars were on all the windows.  The villages were scary looking and we were advised not to visit them without a guide.  I had no desire to but honestly, the scariest thing wasn’t the small towns but the drivers.  Lord have mercy, Jamaicans are the worst drivers in the world!

They drive way too fast, literally two inches away from rocky cliffs, and just honk at each other  when they are about to have a head-on collision, instead of using their brakes.  I didn’t want to go anywhere once I got to the resort.  All I wanted to do was fall to my knees and kiss the ground,  thanking God I was still alive.  The driver had played loud Jamaican music the entire way, (the same 6 songs) and I was ready for silence but it wasn’t quiet at the resort.  Instead there were hundreds of weird sounding black birds squawking…everywhere.  I thought they were going to drive me insane but I took a liking to them, and looked forward to their nightly chattering once I had settled in.

Our biggest adventure was our trip back home.  We had a seven hour layover at Atlanta and that was bad enough but then we were stuck on the plane for at least an hour, waiting to take off, and it was like the Twilight Zone.  The plane was full of the smell of jet fuel and we were all high as kites without realizing it.  It was surreal.  There was missing time.  Nobody talked to anyone on the tarmac or during the hour-long flight to St. Louis.

Once arriving at St. Louis we all felt incredibly sick.  No passengers said anything departing the plane, or while watching our luggage go around on the belt.  We were like robots.  My husband swerved back and forth across the two-lane highway back to Decatur, but I was feeling pretty good then.  While driving, he began choking on a peanut from a candy bar.  He was gasping for air and panicking, and my daughter and I were cracking up from laughter.  We couldn’t breathe we were laughing so hard.  He didn’t appreciate that.  We were laughing about everything for no reason. We laughed about the color blue.

We got back home about 3 am and got back up at 6:30. I didn’t want the kids missing any more days of school but they should have taken the day off.  I felt like I had a hatchet buried in the side of my head and an aneurysm in my brain. I made it to my daughter’s room to wake her up.  She got up and fell to the floor.  I heard her fall when I was walking away but I didn’t care.  I figured whe was too young to have broken a hip, and I felt like I needed brain surgery.  I drove her to school with one eye open and looking back, I don’t know why we did that.  Yes, I do.  We had been gassed on the plane!

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Didn’t make it on the boat tour but it will take you to a location to go snorkeling.

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On the big water tricycles.

Other than the travel mishaps, it was a wonderful vacation.  Jamaica, minus the terrible poverty, is beautiful.  The people are charming and fun to be around.  Everyone we spoke to wanted to visit the United States, and we told them we hoped that they would get the chance.  Many never will, unfortunately.  We are very lucky to be Americans.  If I learned anything from the trip, it was that.

 

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One of the many cats that roamed the resort. They kept the rodent population down and they were skilled beggars! They made me feel at home, since my house is overrun with pets.

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A tiny lizard outside of our room.

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One of the amazing sunsets we saw.

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Another beggar.

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Part of the resort near the breakfast area.

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One of the pools.

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I had read reviews warning of the sand fleas and other bugs. I wore Deep Woods Off and had no problems. Make sure to take good bug spray and sunscreen. You don’t want to buy it at the resort.

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It was decorated for Christmas!

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The resort has a Sesame Street theme for the kids but it isn’t overdone and cheesy.

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My feet, as a wave had knocked me over while taking a picture.

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A piece of coral underwater.

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That perfect water.

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My daughter getting a kick out of her brother not wanting to get his shorts wet.

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Lights over a dining area.

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A Stingray we petted at the dolphin encounter.

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A local character telling a pirate story.

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Two of the dolphins at the dolphin encounter. On my bucket list was to swim with dolphins and I did! I rode on the back of one. 🙂

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One of the resort’s boats anchored by the beach.

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Another terrific sunset.

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At the dolphin encounter.

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My son walking along the shore. I hope he remembers.

More Photos of Beaches Negril: (Nov 2011)

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We finally made our decision and we’re staying in Decatur.  We were considering moving to Kentucky.  It was a tough choice because there were many pros and cons to both moving and staying but I think we might the right choice for now.  It mostly came down to family.  Nothing can replace having family nearby, so Decatur, you’re stuck with me and I’m stuck with you – for better or worser.

In 2 or 3 years I may find myself having to consider moving again when I am completely finished with college.  I’m going for a master’s degree to teach environmental sciences at the college level, so I could wind up anywhere. If I teach online, I could stay here.  I’ll worry about that later.

Kentucky was very tempting though.  The rolling hills.  The horses!  I guess I could always just move to the country and get my own horse.  There’s an idea…

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I’ve been researching several Eastern Kentucky towns to possibly relocate to, if and when my husband begins a new job in Georgetown.  The hiring process is long so it gives me time to do a lot of research on various towns.  I enjoy looking at what other cities are doing and what their issues are.  I’ve found that the issues are pretty much the same wherever you go. I’ve also learned that some cities are much better at promoting their town via the Internet than others.

I’ve looked at Georgetown, Lexington, Frankfort, Versailles, and Richmond.  Since my research has been done entirely online, I thought I’d share and give some advice to all cities out there looking to attract residents.

I doubt I’m the only one who uses the Internet to weed out cities I’d want to stay clear of, and ones I think would be a good fit for my interests.  The online hunt is probably very common, especially for college grads looking to relocate after graduation.  So here goes my advice.

Chamber of Commerce golf outings don’t impress me, so stop putting those pictures so prominently on a city’s webpage.  I don’t golf and I’m not snooty.  Seeing pictures of the Who’s Who of Whoville doesn’t impress me.  I sure don’t want to see a photo of local city council members wooing me to their fair city.  Most of you are really goofy looking and I just want to see the city!

Show me pictures and lots of them. Show me videos of the downtown, shopping centers, neighborhoods, parks, schools, historical sites, the surrounding countryside, and other nearby attractions.  Show the town’s personality and character.  Show me what’s right because I can read the local newspapers to find out what’s wrong.

Versailles has a friendly, welcoming website.  That means a lot.  If you dig enough, Richmond has a lot of great information on their city’s website, but I’d advise Richmond to revise their home page. (If you look at it, you’ll know why.)  You have a beautiful city.  Show it!  Luckily, Richmond’s tourism site does a good job of marketing the area right from its’ home page.

Lexington’s tourism group does a very good job promoting their city.  VisitLex is a great looking website. They have a YouTube Channel with several videos about local people, and a good social media presence.

Honestly, what impressed me the most about any of the cities was a Facebook group of Richmond citizens just conversing about their city.  They seemed nice and normal.  Reading comments from everyday people just having a good sense of humor about their city, was more attracting than all the promotional marketing any city could do.

I don’t even know if we’re going to move. I’m leaning against it but we’ll see. Whatever the case, I’m learning a lot looking at so many other cities, and how good or bad of an image they present to the rest of the world.

What I have learned the most thoughevery city needs a local, independent, beloved blogger.  We’re awesome!  I haven’t found my exact, twin counterpart in any other city but I’ll keep looking.

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