Today is Monday, December 11, 2017 and it is actually early for me to begin writing my annual Christmas letter! This season seems so quiet and relaxed compared to Christmases past. The reason must be because our children are all grown and living on their own and so I don’t have all of the usual planning, cooking, baking, shopping, wrapping etc, etc, etc, that I used to do when they were growing up at home. I miss those days of having children at home because that is when the “magic” of Christmas seemed so near.
When I reflect back on this past year it seems as if we were away from home more than we were at home. Our year looked like this:
JANUARY: I went to Dallas right after the New Year to spend 2 weeks with my sister Vickie to help her after she had a hip-replacement surgery. Her surgery went very well and she recuperated well but I was glad I planned on staying 2 weeks instead of one.
Towards the end of the month Redgie & I went to Lynchburg VA (the home of our alma mater Liberty University) to purchase a new 3 BR/2.5 BA home (seen in the collage photo above). We spent 6 weeks furnishing & stocking the home to get it ready to put on the vacation rental market. While I was there my mother came from GA to help me with the shopping, decorating and furnishing of the property. She was only supposed to stay one week but ended up staying two. Thanks, Mom!
FEBRUARY: While I continued working on the house in Lynchburg Redgie took a short break and went to Myrtle Beach for his annual golf trip with his buddies from Altoona. As usual, they played a huge number of rounds of golf and enjoyed the fellowship of long friendships.
MARCH: Two days after returning home from Lynchburg we received a letter from the HOA of the community informing us that we could not rent the house on the short term market. What??
Long story short, the HOA prohibits rentals for less than 6 months so we were not in compliance with the HOA bylaws. Ultimately it was our fault that we missed this little clause in the poorly organized 144 page HOA document. However, before we even made the offer to buy the house we called the HOA management company office and specifically asked the question and were told that Cornerstone “follows the same rules as the City of Lynchburg.” That sounded like good news, since we had already researched and did not find any rental restrictions in Lynchburg for short term rentals. To back that up we saw listings in Cornerstone on VRBO and Airbnb so we knew that other owners in our community were renting on the short term market.
We appealed to the HOA board for an exception but were denied.
In the meantime, we learned that while the City of Lynchburg did not have any restrictions against short term rentals, neither did they have a provision to provide a business license to operators of short term rentals. In a phone conversation with the City Planner I learned that we could apply for a Special Use Permit (the process that hotels and Bed-and-Breakfasts went through to obtain a business license.) But the City Planner basically told me it was a crap-shoot if we would be approved since the City Council did not have a plan in place for short term rentals.
All of this felt like a door being shut on our dream of owning a second home in Lynchburg and sharing that home with others on a short term basis. So after owning the home exactly 2 months we decided to list the home for sale. The good news is that we got a contract on the house just 17 days later. (Stay tuned for the rest of the story!)
The last weekend of March saw us traveling to Monterey, CA to attend Brooks’ MBA Graduation ceremony. He received a Masters degree in Business Administration from The U.S. Navy Post Graduate School. We enjoyed spending the weekend with Brooks & Christina and visiting with Christina’s parents Irene & Harry and family in Palo Alto. We are very proud of both Brooks & Christina for working so hard to obtain their Masters degrees!
APRIL: We spent 2 weeks at our condos in Florida in April. For one of those weeks we had the company of our good friends Jan & Lanny. It was so much fun having them stay with us! We enjoyed beautiful beach weather, lots of good seafood and lots of laughter and fellowship. I hope they’ll consider making this an annual event! During those two weeks Redgie & I (as usual when we make the trip to one of our properties) spent time fixing, upgrading, replacing, stocking and generally making sure the condos were all ready for the busy summer season.
When we got home to CO at the end of the month we were just in time for a spring blizzard which dumped several inches of heavy, wet snow everywhere. What a shock to my system! But, we need the moisture so I didn’t complain (too much!)
MAY: We went back to Lynchburg on May 14 to pack up the rental house and put everything in storage. Since the time we started advertising the house as a vacation rental till the time we had to stop advertising we had taken 5 bookings and were able to honor all of the bookings, for which we were grateful. The good news was that it supported our hunch that Lynchburg is a good location for vacation rentals. But it was still very bittersweet to un-do everything that we had just spent 6 weeks doing. We were scheduled to sell the house to the new owner on May 19 but the closing was delayed for a couple of weeks. While we were in Lynchburg we spent some time with our local realtor and looked at lots of new properties. Eventually we found one located only 4 minutes from the Liberty campus and made an offer, which was accepted. And so for the 2nd time in 6 months we started the process of buying another home.
On May 30 Redgie and I boarded an overseas flight for a 2-week Baltic Cruise that we were sharing with 8 other couples – 18 of us in all! We were cruising on the Princess Cruise line, which was very enjoyable. We had a day and a half in Copenhagen and then on Friday we boarded our ship, the Regal Princess to begin a 12-night Baltic cruise!
Our itinerary included stops at the following ports of call:
Oslo, Norway 6/3/17
Berlin, Germany 6/5/17
Tallinn, Estonia 6/7/17
St. Petersburg, Russia 6/8/17 – 6/9/17
Helsinki, Finland 6/10/17
Stockholm, Sweden 6/11/17
Copenhagen, Denmark 6/13/17
We had such a great time visiting a part of the world we had never been to and sharing those experiences with so many of our good friends.
(Click on a photo in the collage to view its caption)
JUNE & JULY: We didn’t get home from the cruise until June 13. On June 26 we were back in Lynchburg to attend the 1st of two County Zoning Commission public meetings to address our application to operate a short-term rental in Campbell County. As soon as we got home we headed up to Dillon to spend our annual 4th of July holiday week at our condo there. We love spending this time up in Dillon! There is so much to see and do during the summer time. It is our favorite time of year in Dillon. Every time we go up to Dillon I hear Redgie say at least once “I love it here!”
It was during July that we received word that our dear friend Don Robnett passed away after a long battle with cancer. He & his wife Jan had been housemates at the BBH with us and Dave & Lynn for a while and it was during that time that we grew to love them both. Our hearts broke for Jan’s loss and we still think of and miss Don’s sweet smile all these months later.
AUGUST & SEPTEMBER: On August 1 we were back in Lynchburg to attend the final public hearing to approve our application for a special use permit. Good news, it was approved!
We went back home for a couple of weeks and then came back to close on the purchase of the new house on August 16. What a process! But FINALLY we could get the house put together and start taking bookings.
The new house (called “Candlers Mountain Retreat”) is located just 4 minutes from the Liberty University campus, which will be a great benefit to the families who rent our home while visiting their student at LU, or alumni coming for a game, or online students coming to attend some Intensive classes.
Right behind the house is a horse farm. Our favorite “neigh-bor” is William the Donkey. He’s a real friendly cutie!
(Click on a photo in the collage to view its caption)
Little did we know that it would take 7 weeks before we were finished and back home again. The rest of the month of August and all of September saw big changes at the new house: new wood floors, new paint, new appliances for the kitchen, new washer/dryer, plantation shutters for all of the windows and some new furniture & bedding since this house had one more bedroom and one more living space than the first one. My favorite project was the very large accent wall in the main living/dining/kitchen area that we covered with whitewashed shiplap. It was a true DIY projects and looks awesome (if I may say so myself!
To view all of the “after” renovation photos of the property please visit our website here.
It wasn’t all work and no play, though. Redgie & I enjoyed going to Convocation at Liberty, attending services at Thomas Road Baptist Church and a couple of football games at Liberty too! Go Flames!
Reg took a side trip to Altoona in September to participate in the annual Precious Life Golf Tournament. He enjoys playing golf in this tournament with the same buddies from Altoona that go to Myrtle Beach together every year. He got to see his sister Tammy & her husband Mark for one evening before they headed up to Clarion to celebrate their granddaughter’s 3rd birthday.
OCTOBER & NOVEMBER: We enjoyed a couple of beautiful autumn weeks at home at the beginning of October. Reg & I (and Bebe) took as many e-bike rides as we could fit in during this peaceful interlude.
Bebe turned 9 years old on Oct 8.
By Oct 21 we were on our way to FL for our annual fall trip to the beach condos. My sister Vickie and two of her best friends from high school (Ellen and Patty) joined us for the first week. They stayed in one condo and we stayed in the other. Vickie, Ellen & Patty had a wonderful week reminiscing, laughing and talking. I had fun with them whenever I joined them (which was often since Redgie had to travel a good bit that week.)
We left FL and traveled straight to Lynchburg on November 8 to spend the long weekend at the new house with a group of our friends from Altoona. Steve & Sue, Mark & Cathy and Ken joined us for a Liberty-filled weekend. (All are alumni except for Sue, who graduated from Penn State but we don’t hold that against her!) 🙂
We went to convocation on Friday, ate lunch at the student cafeteria, attended a basketball game Friday night, went to the football game on Saturday and attended church at Thomas Road Sunday morning before everyone hit the road to go home. We had SO much fun! I hope we’ll be able to plan many more weekend getaways like that in the future.
Thanksgiving dinner was at our house and we were happy to share it with Shannon & Robert and Brady & his girlfriend Colbie. After dinner Redgie and the kids played a fun game of “Ticket to Ride”. Everyone had fun!
The next day (on Redgie’s 59th birthday) we headed up to Dillon to spend two nights. We swapped all of the summer decorations & bedding for the winter decorations & bedding and decorated the condo for Christmas. That is always fun! We went to Pugs for dinner and Redgie enjoyed seeing his “local friends” there as always. (He says he feels like Norm on the TV series “Cheers” because whenever he shows up the local guys yell “Regggg!”)
DECEMBER: Since being home from Dillon I’ve been spending time decorating the house for Christmas and shopping for & wrapping all of the gifts that needed to be mailed. Now that that’s done, it’s time to get our Christmas cards ready to mail. I may be the only dinosaur left who writes long Christmas letters and sends actual mailed Christmas cards! But since I’m a terrible correspondent all of the rest of the year I’m willing to do it if you are willing to read it!
We are looking forward to a real family Christmas this year since Brooks & Christina will be here in CO with us during the holiday. They are wrapping up their time in Pensacola because Brooks has received his new assignment and will be stationed back in San Diego! They are very happy about that! Brooks’ new assignment will be as the “Mini Boss” of a new ship: the USS Portland, which will be commissioned next April. They are looking forward to the move to San Diego next February. We’ll miss being able to see them (and our granddog Rhino) when we go down to Florida; it’s been great having them so close by in Pensacola.
Shannon & Robert will be with us at Christmas, also. Shannon keeps busy working for Sugar Palm Rentals (the same property management company that also employs me part-time) as well as helping me with VRAssist. She also drives for Uber & Lyft whenever she wants to earn some quick extra money. Robert continues to work as an air-frame mechanic on a mobile response team. It means he is traveling a good bit of the time which has been an adjustment for both of them, but I think he enjoys the challenge and enjoys traveling to new places. Our granddogs Bruno & Roxie & grandcat Ruby/Ruben (long story!) are all well and happy that their mommy does not have to leave them alone every day when she goes to work.
Also joining us for Christmas is our youngest, Brady. Even though he does not live far from us we don’t get to see him very much because of his demanding work schedule at Enterprise. Brady lives in the Wash Park area of Denver, sharing a house with 3 roommates and a dog named Benji (a real cutie!) He and Colbie have been dating for more than a year and he seems very happy. I’m glad for any time we are able to spend with Brady so I am really looking forward to Christmas this year with all of our kids and their “significant others”.
If you are still reading this letter then I thank you for your dedication! We love each and every one of you and think of you often throughout the year, though you wouldn’t know it since I don’t write much. That’s why I’m telling you now!
We wish you all the very merriest of Christmases, as we celebrate the birth of our Lord.
Blessings to you,
Redgie, Valerie & Bebe