Merry Christmas 2015

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It seems it takes a snowstorm to motivate me to get busy and write our annual Christmas letter! Today we hit a new record for snowfall on December 15: 6.5 inches (and still falling!) The old record was 2.8 inches in 1897. (Thanks to Dave Clouse for those interesting stats!)

As I look back on 2015 I find myself wondering what happened to the idea I had of what “retirement” and an empty nest would be like. I thought when I wasn’t working 40+ hours per week and taking care of a family I would have all of the time in the world to get done everything I had been putting off till retirement.  “When I retire, I’ll have more time to…..(finish my scrapbooks), (organize our photos), (go through all of that stuff in the storage room and get rid of whatever we don’t need or use), (write letters to everyone that I miss and think of so often)”……you get the picture! I haven’t done one bit of any of that since I retired two years ago!

It seems we are too busy traveling and generally enjoying life to worry about “getting things done”….at least I am! Poor Redgie is still working many more than 40 hours/week and traveling almost every week for Perdue Farms, and I won’t let him retire for at least 9 more years! 😉  But he still manages to have some fun along the way too, and he isn’t complaining.

Jan 2015

On Jan 2 of this year we packed up the old Expedition and drove down to Ft. Walton Beach to spend a couple of months in our FL condo. Redgie traveled back & forth from FL for work while I stayed in Ft. Walton Beach. I discovered that winter in the Panhandle is not as warm as I’d like! Some days it was warmer in Denver than it was in Destin and that just didn’t seem right! All of the “locals” were saying it was a colder than usual winter, so I suppose I ought to give it another chance…but not this winter!

While we were there we did some work on the condo, including having the entire interior painted with bright, beach-y colors. I was definitely going out of my comfort zone in picking such bright colors for the condo, but it seems our guests really like it; more than one guest has mentioned in their reviews how much they enjoyed the “beach-y” colors and furnishings. You can view photos here.

During my time in FL I enjoyed going to the office of Sugar Palm Rentals to work (as a reservationist) with the local staff. Since I am usually working from CO it was fun to be able to spend time with our FL staff and work with them on a daily basis.  Since January & February are the “busy” season in the vacation rental industry I worked a full-time schedule during those weeks. The rest of the year I usually work on a part-time basis for Sugar Palm Rentals.

Feb 2015

One of Redgie’s trips in February was to Myrtle Beach for his annual golf outing with his Altoona buddies. As always, he had a great time with those guys.  I’m glad he still has those connections, they are very important to Reg.

Mar 2015

In March, almost as soon as we got home from FL we turned around and flew to Lynchburg, VA to enjoy a weekend of Liberty Flames Baseball. There we met Steve Dunn (Redgie’s buddy from Altoona) and his fiancé Sue and enjoyed spending the weekend with them. We went to several baseball games and enjoyed exploring the campus of Liberty University, our alma mater. I couldn’t believe how much the campus has changed since we left in the late 70’s!

While we were in that “neck of the woods” we took a little side trip to the little white country church and cemetery where my Grandmother Louise Earl is buried. It was a bit of a hunt to find the location, but as soon as we approached the Old Alberene Church I recognized it from a long-ago trip we had taken with our grandmother to her hometown of Charlottesville, VA. I miss Grandma….she was such a large presence in our lives growing up. One of my favorite memories of her is on Christmas morning.  She almost always spent Christmas Eve night with our family and was always the first person awake on Christmas morning. By the time the rest of us got up and gathered in the living room Grandma had already opened her Christmas stocking (and usually had already sampled some of the goodies that “Santa” had left inside!)

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Grandma Louise and little baby Holly (1975)

Apr 2015

May 2015

In May we took a quick trip to the FL condo since the week of the 16th – 23rd was not booked. Brady was able to join us on that trip….it was his first time seeing the beach condo. We had a nice, relaxing week enjoying the beautiful weather, the beach and lots of delicious seafood.  We also drove over to Pensacola to visit Brooks & Christina and visited the National Naval Aviation Museum while we were there.

Jun 2015

June saw us on our way to Altoona, PA to attend Steve & Sue’s wedding. It was held at Lake Raystown Resort which was a beautiful location for the happy event. It was so much fun to see many of our “old” friends from our years in Altoona. We enjoyed getting caught up with many of them and had a great time celebrating Steve & Sue’s marriage.

Jul 2015

We stayed home in July, if you don’t count a trip up to Summit County to celebrate the 4th of July holiday at our condo in Dillon. We always save that holiday week in the condo for ourselves since that is when the annual HOA meeting is held. We absolutely love going up there and enjoying the beautiful scenery and fun activities during the summer.

We also attended a Rockies baseball game in July, as well as enjoyed a quick visit with my college roommate Gwendy, who was visiting her daughter who lives here in Denver. Gwendy hasn’t changed a bit….I wish I could say the same for me!  (I haven’t really changed that much…there is just a little bit more of me to love!)  😉

Aug 2015

Not much to write about in August, except that Redgie flew to Pensacola to help Brooks build a garage in the back yard of their new house.  They didn’t get it completely finished, but they accomplished a lot! I’m really proud of Brooks and how he takes on these new projects and figures out how to get them done even though he’s never done it before. (The deck he build in the back yard of their CA home was gorgeous! He did a great job!)

Sep 2015

In September we were really happy to have the newlyweds (Steve & Sue) come to visit us in Parker, CO.  They got to stay with us in the BBH for a couple of days. They took a day trip down to the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs and then we went up to Dillon and spent a couple of nights at the condo.  Steve rented a boat one day and we enjoyed exploring Lake Dillon for a couple of hours before Redgie & Steve went to play golf. (Sue and I went shopping in Breckenridge!) We really enjoyed getting to know Sue and can’t deny that Steve seems to be the happiest he’s ever been!

Redgie went back to Altoona the next weekend to participate in the Precious Life Golf tournament.  This is a fundraising event for a local crisis pregnancy center and Redgie has participated in the tournament for years. Besides getting to play golf (again) with is Altoona buddies, he especially enjoys the time he gets to spend with his sister Tammy and her husband Mark.  Tammy spoils Reg every time he comes to stay with them by cooking all of his favorite meals from their childhood years growing up: ham pot-pie, homemade meatballs, and of course, raisin-filled cookies!

Redgie left Altoona and went directly to Pittsburgh, where he met Brady, Brooks & Christina.  Earlier in the year Brooks happened to meet the Pittsburgh Steeler’s quarterback Ben Roethlisberger while Brooks was in Monterey, CA. Ben gave Brooks 4 tickets to the game on September 20 so he & Christina shared them with Redgie & Brady. They had great seats on the 50 yard line and enjoyed watching the Steelers defeat the San Francisco 49ers 43-18.

I took a quick trip to Destin in September to help train some new employees at Sugar Palm Rentals. The company is growing, currently managing 38 properties in the Destin/Miramar Beach/Sandestin area of Florida. SPRs owns most of the properties in our portfolio but also manage a select number of properties for other owners. Because of our collective experience in the vacation rental industry (as participants in the formation and growth of the industry during careers at VRBO and Homeaway) our principals and staff have a unique perspective both as owners and managers of vacation rental properties. (One of the managing parters at SPRs, Christine Karpinski, actually wrote the handbook in 2004 to help other owners learn how to manage and market their vacation rental properties themselves. The other managing partner, Jeff Marken, actually help build the website VRBO.com as the first developer hired by the founders of the site.) I love working with this group of people…..it reminds me of how it was in the “good old days” when I was employed at VRBO.com while the original founders still owned the company. I guess I can call these the “new good old days!”

Oct 2015

October was a busy month! On Oct 3 Shannon & I went downtown to attend a “game show” performance of The Price is Right. It was so much fun! I especially enjoyed Shannon’s excitement every time they announced random names of audience members and invited them to “Come on down!” Too bad they didn’t pick her, that would have been a hoot to see her participate in the live version of the game show.

October was also the month that we went on a 12 night Mediterranean cruise. This much-anticipated trip was unique in that we went with a group of 16 of friends and family. The original purpose of the trip was an anniversary celebration of our friends Vini & Jan, but they invited anyone else who wanted to go along and so we ended up with this large group. Besides Redgie and I, my parents and also my sister Vickie and brother-in-law Jim went as well, so it was a great experience to share with them as well as our friends.

Redgie & I have never visited any countries in the Mediterranean so this was a “bucket list” trip for me.  We visited France (Cannes, Eze, Nice, Monaco), Italy (Florence, Pisa, Rome, Ravello, Amalfi, Sorrento, Pompeii), Greece (Athens, Santorini), Turkey (Kusadasi, Ephesus) and Barcelona, Spain (where the cruise originated and ended.) It was a great trip and we had good weather except for our day in Rome when it rained cats & dogs! Now that I’ve visited these places I want to go back to some of them and spend more time exploring the area.  (Another item on my bucket list!)

After returning home from the cruise Bebe & I went to the condo in FL and spent 3 weeks there while Redgie came & went for his business trips. The weather in late Oct-early Nov was beautiful! I got to spend a day in Pensacola with Brooks where we went to see the last demonstration of the season by the Blue Angels.

Brooks & me at Blue Angels

During this visit to FL I decided to replace the living room furniture that we inherited from the previous owners with new furniture and by the time I left it looked like a whole new condo!

Living room view close up

Nov 2015

November found Redgie flying back east to attend a football game at Liberty University. He was joined by some of his Altoona buddies and also was able to visit with his high school youth group leader, Dane Emerick.

We also took a quick trip up to Dillon to decorate the Timberline condo for Christmas.

At Thanksgiving, Redgie, Brady, Bebe & I flew to San Francisco in order to share the Thanksgiving holiday with Brooks’ in-laws, the Partridges. Of course, Brooks & Christina were there as well. Christina’s parents have invited us for Thanksgiving for a few years now and we’ve never been able to make the trip, so this year we were really happy it worked out and we were able to go. The Partridges had quite a large and varied group of friends, family and guests and the menu was just as varied and enjoyable as the company! It was a quick but fun trip.

And that brings me to December!  On December 5 Redgie & I attended the “1940’s White Christmas Ball” with our friends Jan & Lanny.  The ball is an annual fundraising event that benefits the Wounded Warriors project as well as the Spirit of Flight Center Colorado and this was the first time we attended. It was enchanted evening of swing dancing and big band music amidst WWII planes, vehicles and artifacts, movie set lights & props, re-enactors, sleighs, Christmas trees, all under a canopy of lights. Part of the fun of the evening was seeing all of the guests dressed up in 1940’s fashion, including make up and hairdos! (To see a video of the venue and all of the fun, decorations, costumes and swing dancing click here.)

1940s hair and makeup

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Now we are looking forward to Christmas! This year Brooks & Christina are flying up from Pensacola and we will spend a few days (including Christmas Eve & Christmas day) up in Dillon. Shannon & Robert as well as Brady will join us there so for the first time in a while the family will be all together on Christmas. (That is the fulfillment of MY Christmas wish!) The kids will go snowboarding at least once while we are in Summit County and we’ll enjoy each other’s company, traditional Christmas foods (sticky buns on Christmas morning and Grandma Rogers’ double fudge) and of course the obligatory viewing of the movie “Christmas Vacation” (sorry, Christina!)  🙂

As I’ve mentioned a few times already, Brooks & Christina moved from San Diego, CA to Pensacola, FL this year. Brooks was transferred to the Naval Air Station Pensacola as a flight instructor. He is training new pilots who have recently graduated from the Naval Academy to fly helicopters. Christina could not transfer to Pensacola in her role as a Captain in the Marines, so she became a Reservist and found a job in the private sector. They sold their home in San Diego and purchased a new one in Pensacola and are enjoying turning it into a “home”. They are fortunate that some of their friends from the Academy are also stationed in Pensacola so they have an instant support group there. Our grand-dog Rhino has a large yard at the new house and seems to be adjusting to the move well.

Shannon and Robert live in Parker not far from the BBH. Shannon continues to invest in her career as a Personal Chef and owner of “A Healthy Appetite” and enjoys helping her clients improve their quality of life through lean and healthy menus and food. Robert expanded his career this year by taking a position at Straight Flight as an air frame mechanic. (He was actually recruited from his former company by Straight Flight for this position.) He is getting a lot of experience working on many different kinds of planes which is great for his résumé. Our grand-dogs Bruno and Roxie and our grand-cat Ruben are helping our other grand-dog Rhino hold places in our hearts not currently filled with grandchildren.

Brady is in his last year at Colorado State University. He will graduate in May with a Economics major and a Business Administration minor. We’re not sure what his plans are after that….he’s just uber-focused on finishing classes and finally graduating from college and beginning his “real” life afterwards. We are proud of the young man that he is becoming and I’m excited for him as he continues to take steps into adulthood.

Redgie and I still live in the “BBH” (Big Big House) with our friends Dave and Lynn and enjoy their company and fellowship. We’re not sure what the future holds, but we are excited about it and look forward to 2016 and new adventures!

As I close this (long!) holiday letter, I stop and say a prayer of gratitude and thankfulness for all of the many blessings we’ve received: our family, our friends, good health, good jobs, nice homes, and the blessing of living in a country that values our freedoms. But our greatest blessing is also our wish for you all this Christmas season: the love and sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ and the hope of eternal life with Him in Heaven. May you all be as blessed as we are, and may we never fail to honor the One from whom all blessings flow!

With much love & wishes for a very Merry Christmas!

Valerie & Redgie

 

Merry Christmas 2014!

December 14, 2014

Merry Christmas!

As I write this I am sitting in the airport in Savannah GA waiting for my flight home to Denver after a short (but sweet!) visit with my parents & family in GA. The occasion of this visit was to celebrate the accomplishment of my younger sister Holly in her graduation from nursing school last week! She will be taking her state board exam to qualify as an R.N. on December 23, 2014. Holly has worked so hard during the years of classes and all the while raising 4 children with the help of her husband, Trey. I am so proud of her & so happy to be able to be there to congratulate Holly and spend some time with her & her family!

My other sister Vickie joined me on this trip and she & I both stayed with our parents who live in Sylvania, GA. How wonderful it was to visit with our parents and also our brother Jeffrey and his wife Karla and their sons! The older I get the more I pine for time with family whom we don’t get to see very often.

Writing this annual letter has been on my “to do” list since Thanksgiving, so I thought I would take advantage of this time in the airport & my layover in Houston to at least get it started!

2014 was jam-packed with activity, changes, trips & fun times with friends! We are so blessed!

We started off the year as we always do with our “Annual New Year’s Eve” party, which was attended by many good friends and even some new ones! It is always a fun time of fellowship & good friends (and good food!)

In January our youngest son Brady celebrated his 21st birthday. I can hardly believe that he is now 21 years old! Brady lives in Ft. Collins, CO and is attending Colorado State University studying Economics with a Business minor. He is working hard & is relieved to see some light at the end of his academic tunnel!

In February I created my new business VRAssist – a marketing and booking service for owners of vacation rental properties. I had been enjoying my “life of leisure” since retiring from Homeaway the summer before but was ready for something productive to occupy my time. I decided to leverage my experience and expertise in the vacation rental industry to help owners of vacation rental properties by handling all of the communications with travelers, managing their advertisement listings & handling the bookings for their properties. Since then I have taken on three clients for VRAssist and thoroughly enjoy helping them maximize their investments in their vacation rental properties.

Also in February Redgie took his annual golf trip to Myrtle Beach with his buddies from Altoona. He looks forward to this trip all year long and even though it means he is usually gone on my birthday I know how much he enjoys this time with his friends and am glad that he has this opportunity to connect with them each year.

March marked the 3rd wedding anniversaries of our oldest children, Shannon & Brooks, who married their sweethearts in a double wedding on the beach in La Jolla CA in March of 2011. Shannon & Robert live not far from us in Parker with their dogs Bruno & Roxy and Ruben the cat. Shannon is still developing her Personal Chef business & has several regular customers each week/month and is happy with the growth of the business. Brooks & Christina are still living in San Diego and stationed at North Island in Coronado, but not for long! Brooks has received new orders and will be a flight instructor at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, FL beginning in January 2015. They have a dog also, whose name is Rhino. (Yes, Redgie & I are the loving grandparents of three grand-dogs and one grand-cat!)  🙂

Redgie & I took a trip to south FL (from Tampa to Marco Island) in March to research the area for another investment property and while there I was able to visit with my childhood best friend Cindy and her parents! I was so happy to be able to see them and spend a lovely afternoon with them!

We went back to FL in April & investigated the Destin/Ft. Walton Beach area and ended up making an offer on a 2-bedroom condo on Okaloosa Island in Ft. Walton Beach. Despite some ups & downs during the whole closing process we finally did close on the purchase of that condo at the end of June! After the closing we spent 4 days preparing & stocking it for use as a vacation rental property. We love it and are looking forward to spending time there in the future when we are not renting it to vacationers. (You can view our listing for that property on VRBO.)

Also in April we took a trip to Bowling Green, KY for the sad purpose of attending the memorial service of our dear college friend, Ed Norman. Ed had battled cancer for a year and a half but finally went to be with the Lord on April 6, 2014. His funeral service was a wonderful time of worship and praise, carefully planned by Ed before he left. We still miss him but are comforted by the knowledge that he is whole and healthy in Heaven doing what he has always loved best….praising his Lord!

In May I began my part-time career working as a “Receptionist” for a property management company located in Destin, FL: Sugar Palm Vacation Rentals. I worked with the partners who own SPRs during my tenure at VRBO/Homeaway so it is fun to work with them again….it reminds me of the “old days” of working at VRBO when it was owned by our friends Dave & Lynn!

Redgie & I were fortunate enough to be able to take another trip to the Calistoga Ranch resort in Napa Valley, CA in June as a result of a promotion sponsored by Perdue. What a gorgeous part of the country! We loved the scenery, the wine tasting tours and spending time with the others on the trip in the beautiful setting of Calistoga Ranch!

In August I went to PA to attend our niece Amanda’s baby shower. What fun it was to learn they were having a baby girl during the shower when they did a “Baby Reveal”! (Even Amanda & her husband Corey didn’t know they were having a girl until that moment!) Little Anistyn Faye was born in September & Redgie’s sister Tammy is “over the moon!” to be a Grandma!

Redgie climbed a “14-er” mountain in August (Mt. Quandry.) It was a “bucket list” item for him & since CO has so many “14-ers” he was happy to have a chance to experience it.

At the end of the month I went back to the FL condo with my sister and our cousin Becky and spent a week enjoying our “first” (annual?) “Cousin Retreat”! Besides some “condo improvement” projects, we enjoyed the beach, the delicious seafood and each other’s company and were sad when we all had to go home!

Redgie went back to Altoona in September and participated in the annual “Precious Life” golf tournament with the same buddies from Altoona as go to the Myrtle Beach golf trip in February. I love to hear his stories when he comes home from these trips!

In October we attended a CSU football game in Ft. Collins with Brady…..it was fun!

November was the month that we celebrated Redgie’s 56th birthday! During the month he was able to arrange his schedule to allow him to attend a football game at our Alma Mater: Liberty University in Lynchburg VA. Joining him for the trip were his friends Steve, Ken & Alan (buddies from Altoona.) In November we also hosted Thanksgiving dinner at the BBH with Shannon & Robert, Brady, Don & Jan and Tim & Jodi. (Dave & Lynn were celebrating Thanksgiving in Oklahoma City with their son Mat & his wife Kenzie and their new darling baby boy Koven!)

Whew! That brings me to the present, traveling back home from my trip to GA and looking forward to the next week and a half until Christmas!

We send wishes to you all for a blessed & joyful Christmas season as well as a happy and healthy New Year!

Love,

Valerie, Redgie & Brady (and of course Bebe!)
Calistoga Ranch Shannon & Robert

Brady

 

 

 

Brooks & Christina's 3rd anniversary  Bebe

Brooks & ChristinaReg kayaking Aug 9Ed's funeralEd Norman
Dillon sunrise Oct 29
Football game at CSU Oct 19Gaudy hat tea Oct 11 cousin reunioncondo closing

 

 

 

 

Easter

 

 

 

 

 

 

photobooth Feb 16Bebe at the beach in March

nos·tal·gia

soda fountain

noun \nä-ˈstal-jə, nə-also nȯ-, nō-; nə-ˈstäl-\

: pleasure and sadness that is caused by remembering something from the past and wishing that you could experience it again

(Definition taken from Merriam-Webster dictionary.)

Don’t you just love this word? I do, and I love the deja-vu sensation it brings when I experience nostalgia.

I don’t know if it is because I’m getting old(er) or what, but it seems I have experienced several instances of nostalgia in the past days/months.

Most recently was yesterday, when I went to the dentist for my semi-annual checkup/cleaning.  The visit ended with a clean “bill of health” for my teeth….no cavities!  When I got home, I posted this on Facebook:

FB post

(Names were obscured to protect the innocent…..)

My sister Vickie and my mother Carol will understand what this means.  And I have to admit: a little bit of gloating motivated the post.

It all goes back to a tradition that we had in our family when we were growing up.  Whenever my mother took my sister, brother and me to the dentist if any of us got a clean bill-of-health (no cavities) we were rewarded with an ice-cream sundae at the local dime-store soda fountain! This was a great treat because my parents were very frugal and so this was the only occasion when we got to enjoy this store-bought treat.  The best part was we didn’t have to wait…we went directly to the dime-store from the dentist’s office!

The admitted “gloating” comes in because at every dentist appointment during my childhood years, I never had a cavity! I don’t know if it was because I loved hot fudge sundaes so much that I did an amazing job brushing my teeth or if I was just blessed with good, strong teeth.  Whatever the reason it was always my good fortune to get to enjoy the sundae.  The sad thing was if my brother or sister happened to have a cavity, they had to sit there and watch me while I enjoyed my sundae.  (I don’t know this for a fact, but knowing me I probably teased them by flying a spoonful of luscious, gooey hot fudge and ice cream past their mouths before swooping it back into my own!)  Good times…..

Another instance of nostalgia happened a few days ago when I was digging around in our storage room looking for the scrapbook that holds the red paper cupids that I wrote about in this post. (I was writing about them as part of a writing challenge.)  While searching through some boxes I found these items:

Childhood LPs

Childhood LP Albums

Bible

Bible given to me from my Grandmother on my 5th birthday

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Puppets to go with the homemade puppet theater one Christmas

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Brownie doll

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My “Cry-baby” doll

Safety Patrol Certificate & Badge

Safety Patrol Certificate & Badge

Various pins (Scouts, Safety Patrol, Roller Skating and Choir)

Various pins (Scouts, Safety Patrol, Roller Skating and Choir)

Thank goodness my mother carefully saved these things for me so that I still have them! (Especially my Cry-Baby doll!) Each item brings sweet memories of my childhood….

The last instance of nostalgia that I’ll write about occurred last fall.  I was helping my mother by working on a surprise Christmas gift for my siblings. She had gone through a lot of their photo albums and pulled out photos of our early childhood Christmases and mailed them to me.  I then scanned each one of the 129 photos, edited them as best as I could, and used them to create a book and an online slideshow as a gift for my sisters & brother.  It was so much fun to see all of those photos again! It brought back wonderful memories of Christmases at our Grandparents’ house, or visiting with cousins during the holidays.  Here is a sampling of some of those photos:

1967 Mom - Version 2

My grandmother, who spent just about every Christmas Eve & morning with our family (1967)

1971 4 - Version 2

My dad wearing a Santa hat (1971)

1966 3 - Version 2

Cousins playing Twister at Grandma’s house (1966)

1965 6 - Version 2

Dad, Jeff, Vickie & myself (1965)

My silly little brother playing in the puppet theater we got for Christmas 1965

My silly little brother playing in the puppet theater we got for Christmas 1965

1961 - Version 2My older sister Vickie & me with Santa (1961)

My mom (1967)

My mom (1967)

I’m thankful that every now and then a little nostalgia happens to remind us of our past & our memories.  It is a good thing…..

Soda Fountain photo credit: http://whereseldo.blogspot.com

Cancer from a Christian’s Perspective

I have a good friend who was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma (cancer in his liver.)  His name is Ed Norman, and we met in while attending college at Liberty Baptist College (later known as Liberty University) in Lynchburg, VA.  Ed was a member of the musical group named “The EnPsalms” that my husband sang with during his college years.  We’ve been friends with Ed ever since.

When Ed got his diagnosis, he was 55 years old.  His is a rare form of cancer that has an annual incidence rate of 1–2 cases per 100,000 in the Western world (according to Landis S, Murray T, Bolden S, Wingo P [1998]. “Cancer statistics, 1998”.)  It is also an incurable and rapidly lethal malignancy unless both the primary tumor and any metastases can be removed surgically (according to wikipedia .)  In Ed’s case surgery was not an option because he is also diabetic.  His prognosis was poor and when Ed asked the Doctor how long he expected Ed would survive he was told 8-10 months.  That was 18 months ago.

But Ed would not want to be introduced as the man with cancer.  He is and always has been first and foremost a Christian.  His faith in Jesus Christ has always been the first thing anyone learned about Ed.  He has spent his life helping others worship and love his Savior, most effectively through his quite amazing musical talent as a pianist.

Ed is not the first Christian we know who has been diagnosed with cancer.  I can think of several members of our church who have passed away because of different forms of this dreadful disease. Upon hearing of their diagnoses we always react with shock and dread and wonder why such a terrible thing would happen to such wonderful people. As a person of faith, I believe that God has the power to heal anyone in an instant, and in fact has done so in the past.  Yet that faith is tempered by the knowledge that the majority of time people are not miraculously healed but suffer and ultimately lose their battle with cancer.

So why does God allow His children to be affected by cancer, to suffer and to die from this disease?  If He is truly their “Savior” why doesn’t He heal when He has the power to do so?

In no way do I claim to understand the mind of God, or to be able to explain the answer to this question.  I can only share the thoughts that I have about this question, and hope that some percentage of what I think is correct, and in reading this someone might begin to think about what their response would be to such a diagnosis.

Cancer is not caused by God.  All affliction of the human race is a result of our sin.  That is why people of all faiths (and those who profess no faith) are afflicted by this disease….because we are all human.  Christians do not become sin-less when they receive Christ; we are still human.  But we have the confidence of knowing that our sins have been forgiven by the grace and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

So why does God allow cancer to affect his people?

I believe the answer to that question is the same answer to the question of why God allows ANY bad thing to happen to His people.  I believe the answer is this:

God allows bad things to happen to His people to give them the opportunity to react to the situation in a way that will give witness to the grace, glory and love of God for humanity.

In my experience I’ve seen three kinds of responses when people are diagnosed with cancer (or when other terrible things happen to them):

1) The first response is from people whose lives have been a consistent witness for the Lord. Cancer shines a light on their testimony and allows them an opportunity to walk the walk, not just talk the talk through the scariest situation imaginable. 

2) The second response is from people who are Christians but who have focused on their lives here on earth. Cancer is a wake up call and forces their focus from their earthly perspective to the heavenly perspective.  

3) The third response is from people who do not have a strong faith in any kind of religion or God.  Cancer causes them to become bitter and despairing in their situation because they don’t have the comfort or hope that their ultimate destination is heaven.

I can’t imagine not having the hope of heaven! I don’t know how people without faith make their way through this hard and unforgiving world without it.

Ed is definitely a member of the first group.  And there is something inspiring and encouraging about hearing a person who knows the probable outcome of their situation is suffering & death and the end of all that they have known of life and love here on earth continue to praise the Lord and use his time left to share the saving grace of Jesus Christ with anyone who will listen.

It seems when someone is in that situation we all tend to listen a little more closely to their testimony.  We think “Wow, I don’t know if I could have such a solid testimony if that was me.” But hearing this kind of a testimony gives us comfort to know that no matter what comes our way, if we believe in God and the Lord Jesus Christ He will give us the strength and grace we will need in that situation.

The video below is long….17 minutes or so.  But I hope that if you are reading this post you will allow 17 minutes to listen to Ed’s testimony and his music.  It could have an impact on your life and even your eternity.

And I promise this:  You will never hear another pianist play the song “It Is Well With My Soul” and mean it more than my friend, Ed Norman.

Well done, Ed!

Cupid’s Arrow

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I’ll never forget Valentine’s Day of my freshman year in college.  I was a student at Liberty Baptist College (which is now Liberty University) in the town of Lynchburg, VA.  This was the private Baptist College founded by the pastor of the Thomas Road Baptist Church, Jerry Falwell.  My grandmother was a distant cousin of the Falwell family and this was the only college I considered.  (Thank goodness I was accepted!)

Little did I realize that on the very first day when I arrived on campus the fellow who would eventually become my husband spotted me.  He had just come into the lobby of our dorm building after playing basketball with his buddies and saw me with my parents checking in for the first time.  He was a sophomore, a year older than I was.

I guess he would say it was “love at first sight” because he began a campaign to win my heart right away.  He knew my roommate and persuaded her to introduce us, which she did.  I thought he was nice, but I was more focused on my classes and studies than worrying about dating.

During the fall of that year “he” cleverly found ways of putting himself in my path.  If I was at a football game, he would happen to be sitting nearby.  If I was at a concert, he would cross my path and say hello.  When I sat with my friends in chapel, he would be sitting nearby with his friends.  After a while seeing him in my peripheral vision became the norm.

Then Valentines Day arrived.  As I made my way to my classes that day I started to see little red Cupid cutouts hanging on the walls all along my route.  Some of them had little notes on them, such as “Val, be my Valentine” or “Val, be mine!”  I started to suspect that I was the target of those messages and knew “he” was the sender because he had signed some of them.  It was fun to anticipate what might be in store on my way to the next class.

At the end of the day when I arrived at my dorm building, I spied on the front desk a beautiful bouquet of flowers with my name on them.  It was quite an object of attention and as I opened the card I could feel the curious eyes of others watching me as I read it.

The message on the card identified “him” as the instigator of the Cupid messages and invited me out on a date.

Needless to say, I agreed and the rest was history!  We dated, got married, and had three children.  Last year we celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary!  And it all started with a little ingenuity, persistence, and some red Cupid cutouts.

Reg & Val

DPChallenge: My Funny Valentine

Photo credit:  www.blumchen.com

The Eye of the Beholder

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Gail never thought of herself as good-looking or pretty.  She knew she wasn’t ugly, but that isn’t the same thing as being pretty.  She actually hadn’t spent much time at all thinking about her looks, until lately.

Middle school was an eye-opening experience, to say the least!  Gone were the days when you were popular because you could play a mean game of four-square on the playground.  (That was Gail’s favorite activity during recess in elementary school.)

All of a sudden it seemed to matter what clothes she wore to school.  This was a problem, because she had exactly ten “outfits” in her wardrobe.  To make matters worse her mother had labeled the hangers “Monday”, “Tuesday”, “Wednesday”, “Thursday”, “Friday” and once again for the next week, and expected Gail to wear the outfits in that order.  (Her mother said she did this because otherwise Gail would wear only one outfit to school every day….her favorite jeans, white cotton shirt and denim jacket. This might have been true, but still!)

When Gail looked in a mirror she saw a tallish, slender girl with mousy, straight brown hair, brown eyes and a mole besides her nose.  She hated that mole.  She felt like it was all people saw when they looked at her.  Unconsciously she would turn slightly to the side so that the mole was not in plain view when she was talking to other people.  It was strange when she realized she rarely had face-to-face conversations with people because of this habit.

Gail knew that the changes her body was experiencing were because of “puberty” and were all part of growing up.  Part of her hated it, and part of her was fascinated by it.  Her best friend Mary was thirteen, a year older than Gail, and she already had a bosom.  Gail was a little jealous of Mary’s breasts because they were so obviously there and made her look a lot older than she was.  Gail was not sure if she was ever going to have the nice shape that Mary already had, but she knew there wasn’t anything she could do but wait and see.  In the meantime, her first bra that her mother had bought for her (which was softly padded and helped fill out her bust in a way that was not too obvious,) secretly excited her.

Boys were another puzzle.  Gail had always been a “tom-boy” and could run as fast as any boy in the neighborhood.  She loved to play kickball and softball and was always one of the first girls picked for teams because even though she was a girl she could out-play a lot of the boys.  She was very competitive and would not think twice about running into or knocking over a boy who was guarding a base.

But nowadays, instead of being proud of her athletic abilities she found she was shy about being included in games with boys any more.  She was embarrassed at how they looked at her when she was running and knew that her budding figure might have something to do with that.  So now when the neighborhood kids got together on warm evenings to play, she would sit on the curb and watch the game instead of participating.  Her mother would ask her why she didn’t join in the game and Gail would just mumble something about “being tired”.

It seemed to Gail that the boys who were in her class (and who had been in the same class with her all the way through elementary school) were becoming increasingly silly and stupid.  They still treated her like she was their playmate on the playground.  They didn’t understand why she no longer wanted to hang out with them and kid around.  Because they didn’t understand they were hurt and began to treat her like they didn’t like her any more.  They made fun of her, calling her “beanpole” and “snob”.  That hurt.

But the boys in ninth grade….they intrigued Gail.  They seemed to be so much more grown-up than the seventh grade boys.  She often saw the varsity boys wearing their letter jackets in the hall, and would look sideways at them as they passed.  They never paid any attention to her, though; she may as well have been invisible to them.  But that was okay with Gail.  She didn’t know what she would do if one of them ever stopped to talk to her! She was content just watching them and listening to them joke and laugh with each other or talk to the cheerleaders.

One afternoon after gym class Gail was in the locker room changing from her gym shorts to her clothes when one of the popular cheerleaders named Rachel caught sight of Gail’s plaid skirt and blouse that she was putting on.  Rachel laughed and said to the other girls around her “Hey look at that!  Gail must think this is a private school!  Look at that uniform she is wearing!”  They all broke into peals of laughter as they walked out of the locker room.  Gail was humiliated.  She was especially hurt because one of the girls in Rachel’s crowd used to be Gail’s friend before middle school.  She slowly pulled on her sweater, gathered her books and left to go to her next class.

That afternoon on the walk home from school she was passing through a wooded area.  She didn’t always go this way because sometimes the woods spooked her.  But it was a short-cut and she wanted to hurry up and get home.  As she made her way down the path she suddenly heard voices behind her.  She froze, afraid of who it might be.  She quickly made her way to the side of the pathway and knelt down to pretend to be tying her shoes.

As the group behind her came into view she saw that it was Jerry Walker, Mike Smith and someone else she didn’t recognize.  They were all in the ninth grade and were on the varsity baseball team.

She knew who Jerry was because he was a friend of Mary’s brother.  She liked the way his blonde hair fell across his eyes and was long enough in the back to skim the collar of his shirt.  She also liked his wide smile and bright-white teeth.  When she thought about him, her insides would squirm around in a way that felt good.

But this afternoon all she felt was dread, fearing they would notice her as she knelt by the side of the path.  After getting her first glimpse of the three boys as they came around the bend she ducked her head and seemed to be concentrating on getting those shoelaces tied up tight.

As the group of boys passed, she heard Jerry say to the other two:  “Boy! That girl is going to be some good-looking chick when she grows up.”  She couldn’t believe her ears, and didn’t notice what kind of response he got from Mike or the other guy.

As they walked away without looking back, she slowly sat down.  A warm feeling bloomed in her stomach and traveled all the way up her chest, her neck and her face.  Her mouth dropped open into a small “O” and she sat there without moving.  Did she really just hear Jerry Walker say that about her?  She couldn’t believe it!  She didn’t even know if he had ever noticed her before, either at Mary’s house or at school!

Finally, she slowly shook her head, gathered her books and stood up.  She felt so light and tall.  She squared her shoulders, smiling a small, secret smile, and began to walk the rest of the way home.

Photo credit:  http://www.wemfo.com/dare-to-be-yourself/

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My new business venture: VRAssist

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As the bio on this blog explains, since my youngest child went away to college and since I “retired” from my full-time corporate job last summer the topography of my life has changed; so much so that it is hard to recognize this new life of mine.  Don’t get me wrong….even though I do miss having my children at home and I miss the daily interactions with my team at my job, I am not complaining!  I just am trying to figure out “who” I am in this new place.

After six months of a “life of leisure” I decided it was time to find the next occupation or position to add to my “exhaustive resume” .  So I took stock of my skills, interests and experience and realized that my 11+ years of experience in the vacation rental industry and association with the largest and most highly trafficked vacation rental website on the Internet gave me a unique background and perspective.  Additionally I have personal experience managing vacation rental properties, having done so for the founders of VRBO.com as well as the General Manager of VRBO.com, and my own vacation rental property located in Dillon, CO.

Therefore I decided to start my own marketing & booking service for owners of vacation rental properties! My business is called “VRAssist” and was launched on February 1, 2014.

I am excited about the prospect of finding & securing clients and growing my business into something that will help me be productive and serve others.  Who knows what the future will hold?  I’m excited to see how things unfold!