Still Happy to Be Here — and grateful too

Published 1:45 pm Thursday, November 12, 2015

This column appears monthly under the title “Happy to Be Here.” Such a public declaration leads people to question me. “You can’t be happy about everything,” they insist. “What don’t you like?” Inquiring minds want to know.

So, in the spirit of full disclosure, I’m forced to admit that there are a few things I don’t like.

For starters, there’s the habit some drivers have of crossing a road’s centerline. To be sure other places also have quirks when it comes to road manners. Where I used to live in southeast Michigan, for example, running red lights was a favored pastime. Here—at least for the most part—people stop on red and then wait for green. The wanton disregard for staying on one’s own side of the road, however, is something I haven’t encountered elsewhere, and I’m still unaccustomed to the practice. Discovering an oncoming vehicle hurtling toward me in my lane makes me gasp and sets my heart aflutter. One person with whom I discussed this phenomenon explained that he felt justified in “straightening out the curves” because he “pays taxes on both sides of the road.” Frankly, I’d prefer it if people used just one side of the road at a time. That way, we can all live to enjoy the journey back home.

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Another item on the list of things I don’t like is the practice of flicking cigarette butts out of car windows or dropping them onto the ground. I suppose the region’s tobacco heritage may give some folks the impression that cigarette butts are part of nature, but in fact they represent a huge litter problem. Cigarette butts are predominately made of cellulose acetate (not cotton, as many suppose). Cellulose acetate is a form of plastic, and it lingers in the environment for a long time. Although each individual cigarette butt is small, they add up. Admittedly, this problem isn’t unique to our area, but we live in a region with such natural beauty, it’s really noticeable when virtually every roadway, every stream, and every path includes cigarette litter.  (For more information, see the “Cigarette Butt Litter” section of the Clean Virginia Waterways website, hosted by Longwood University, at

I also don’t like the frequency with which so many people complain that there’s “nothing to do” in Farmville. It makes me feel socially awkward when I have to disagree so intensely with a popular opinion. In my experience, there’s plenty to do. In recent months, I’ve had opportunities to enjoy events featuring world-class musicians, nationally renowned entertainers, performances by university and community ensembles, notable art displays and collegiate sports. I can go for a long walk any time I want. Canoeing and kayaking are readily available (at least when it’s warm enough). There are clubs for a diverse array of interests and volunteer organizations through which I can lend my hands to causes that are important to me. Farmville even has venues for such favored American pastimes as going bowling or out to dinner and the movies. I have to scratch my head and wonder: what more do people want?

True, there are sometimes nuisances related to living in a small community. My Internet connection is slow. I can’t always find the vegetables I want in the supermarket, and if I’m hankering to try Moroccan food, I have to venture beyond the borders of our town. And, there are real social issues that need to be addressed (hence my earlier comment about volunteer organizations).  But, here’s the reality: if a person searched the entire Earth looking for a utopia where everything was absolutely perfect, that person would come up empty handed.

When I moved here, I wasn’t expecting utopia, but what I found came pretty close. I discovered warm, welcoming people who accepted me with open arms. And if I can’t shop for furniture on Sunday afternoons, the consolation is that I get to stroll down a street where passersby wave greetings and friends stop to chat.

So yes, I’m happy to be here. I’m grateful to have found a place in such an amazing community.

KAREN BELLENIR has lived in Farmville since 2009 and blogs for Pier Perspectives ( She maintains an archive of columns at and is editorial director for Wordwright LLC providing services to authors, publishers and print and electronic publications ( Her email is