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.
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.
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.
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!)
Grandma Louise and little baby Holly (1975)
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.
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.
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!) 😉
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!)
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!”
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.
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!
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.)
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