When I was a kid, I wanted to be ... an FBI agent. And this was before it was cool on TV. I always thought that FBI agents were kind of like the best of the best in law enforcement and that anytime they were called in to a case the criminals had better be scared and think that they would end up being apprehended. I still think this.
What would you rather be doing right now? I love spending time with the grandbabies. We have a lot of fun together. Spending time with friends and family as well, or just taking off on a road trip by myself, as I am known to do.
Shhhhhh! Don't tell anyone that ... I am a high school dropout. I made it through part of the ninth grade and had to quit and get a job. I was 15. My mother was very ill, and I spent my time between working and sitting with her while she received dialysis. I would not trade that time with my mother for anything in the world. When I was 19, I went back to school at Parkland College and earned my associate's degree in communications. Parkland called me a week before the graduation and said they did not have a diploma on file. I had to quickly pass my GED.
Other than your wedding day and/or the birth of your children, what was your proudest moment? I have had many, many wonderful moments. I have been a lifelong learner and at 45 years old graduated from Eastern Illinois University with my bachelor's degree. This fall I am hoping to earn my master's in community and economic development from Western Illinois University.
It really stinks when ... people are not honest or when people do not think of other people.
What word in the dictionary would your face be next to? Fancy. (My nickname and also the name of my resale shop in Douglas County.)
I always laugh when ... people try to fix me up on blind dates. Ahhh, no thanks. I will leave that to Fate.
Invite any three people, living or dead, to dinner. Who are they? My mom, my sister Winona (both gone and very missed) and my older sister Mercena. I would love for us to be able to sit and talk and laugh.
At the end of a really long day at work, I like to ... take an exceptionally long bath, drink a great glass of wine, eat an incredibly good dinner, watch the sunset, listen to good music and just unwind and reset.
People who knew me in high school thought I was ... crazy and hardheaded and a whole lot of fun. But very smart.
My most unforgettable brush with greatness was ... I was standing in line for autographs with my family after a Zac Brown Band concert and just as we came up in line, it turned to midnight and my birthday. My family told me happy birthday, and so did the whole band. It was cool.
I would drop all my plans tonight if I had the chance to ... watch a beautiful sunset on the beach with special friends, or just by myself.
If someone gave me a million dollars, there is STILL no way I would ... spend it on expensive homes, cars, lifestyle. I have learned about living within my means, living simply and giving back to the world around me. There are so many people who work extremely hard and never have been able to enjoy the beautiful things and places and experiences I am blessed with in my life. I would help to make life a little easier for some of them. Not as a handout. But as a helping hand to rise and better their circumstances.
America should be more concerned about ... smart growth and sustainable development. As you look around at communities, there is a huge concern to always attract that latest industry, build that new building and put in that new highway. These projects are all great if they fit in with a bigger and longer-range vision for your community, and if they are affordable and sustainable.
I'm OK if there's ever a national shortage of ... shoes. I have about 200 pair and am always adding to my collection. Very pretty, and awfully expensive, shoes are my weakness.
When I'm on the internet, I always go to ... Facebook, email and YouTube. Facebook just to stay caught up with family, friends and things going on in the world. Email is a must. I always try to keep current and at least respond back with a quick "thank you" and let the sender know I received the email and will be in touch. YouTube because I love music and just feel better when I am listening to something while I am working or browsing other pages.
What is the most useful piece of advice you have ever received? "Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em. Know when to walk away, and know when to run" from Kenny Rogers' "The Gambler." When I was 12, my mom bought me the album, and I wore it out.
When I'm cruising down the road, I'm likely listening to ... classic country music. I am a huge fan of Merle Haggard, Keith Whitley, George Strait, Chris LeDoux. I also like classic rock such as the Eagles.
I always get sentimental when ... looking at old family pictures and little things I have saved from when my children were young.
The older I get, the more I realize ... that money cannot buy you happiness and true peace and love are worth way more than diamonds and gold. You must love yourself and be confident in yourself before you can really and truly appreciate anyone else.
If I had one "do-over," I would ... spend more time with my mother as she grew older and needed me. I would have slowed down and enjoyed more easy, breezy quality time with my children when they were younger. Put a higher priority on the people and relationships in my life that truly valued me.
My favorite item of clothing is ... I have a dress that is simply amazing! I wore it last year to Springfield for Illinois State Treasurer Mike Frerichs' inauguration and felt like a queen. I may never wear it again, but will never part with it.
If I've learned anything at all ... That can be answered by a Rodney Atkins tune. "If you're going through hell, keep on going, don't slow down. If you're scared, don't show it. You might get out before the devil even knows you're there." My biggest lesson in life is not to quit, even when things get tough. There is always a silver lining, a tomorrow and a new day.
Belynda F. Allen, 54, is executive director of Hancock County Economic Development and grandma of four beautiful children, one boy and three girls between the ages of 2 and 9. Allen enjoys restyling and upcycling vintage and midcentury furniture and household items and owns a resale and thrift store in Villa Grove, Ill. She enjoys spending time with her sister exploring other small shops and thrift stores.