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

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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

IMG_3285

Puppets to go with the homemade puppet theater one Christmas

IMG_3286

Brownie doll

IMG_3297

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!

My new business venture: VRAssist

Logo Design JPG

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!

 

A [[Not-So-Funny]] Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum

Photo credit to http://www.baystreet.org

Today’s Daily Prompt “Isn’t Your Face Red” encourages us to write about the last time we were embarrassed and how we reacted.  Instantaneously my memory zoomed back to an event that was not the last time I was embarrassed but was one of the most mortifying experiences of my life.   I think it qualifies for this exercise.

Almost the worst part of this experience (and probably why it was so personally embarrassing) is the fact that I was the one who instigated the outing.  I happened to see a commercial for a show coming to the Denver Performance Art Center – “A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum”.  In the commercial people were gushing about how funny the show was, how much they laughed, etc, etc, etc.  I thought to myself “Hey, that sounds like fun, let’s do it!”

Living in the Denver metro area, I’ve often chided myself for not taking  advantage more often of the world-class performance art and museums that are available.  Every time we venture to a show or an outing to a restaurant or event downtown we find ourselves wondering “Why don’t we don’t do this more often?” Since we have a group of friends who enjoy a good time as much as we do, we soon found ourselves on our way to dinner and the show with Dave & Lynn and their two young adult sons as well as Steve & Jeanie.

We could only get two blocks of tickets for four, so Redgie, Steve & Jeanie and I sat on one side of the theater and Dave & Lynn and their boys sat on the other.  And the show began…..

Shall I just say the humor was quite….um….”bawdy”?  You know, the kind that is filled with adultish innuendo and complete with courtesans sporting tassel-tipped nipples???  That’s pretty much all I can remember.

You have to understand….Dave & Lynn by this time were good friends of ours, but they were also my employers.  And Steve was on staff at our church.  I could feel the waves of embarrassment wash over me as the first half of the show plodded on.

To effectively complete this exercise I need to confide that my reaction to this embarrassing situation was to dash to the women’s restroom as soon as the lights came up at intermission! I hid in the farthest stall the whole entire intermission period.  I just knew that as soon as I could muster the courage to exit the restroom I would find the rest of the group waiting in the lobby so that we could leave without watching the second half of the show.  Imagine my surprise when I found them all still in their seats.  Redgie just asked “Where did you go for so long?”

Maybe I mis-judged everyone’s reaction to the show.  I figured Lynn would want to whisk her boys out of there as soon as possible, but every now and then I could hear Dave’s booming laugh across the theater. And Steve just kids me now and then about it, joking that I should not be allowed to orchestrate any more of our group outings.

That is just fine with me.

Photo credit to http://www.baystreet.org

January Photo Dump

IMG_3165 IMG_3167

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 2014:

  • Bone chilling temperatures in Dillon!
  • Redgie joins the Red Hat Society! (not really!)
  • Gorgeous photo of a sunset sky taken by my son
  • Photo tribute to Jenn Van Briesen, gone too soon….
  • Redgie’s sister Tammy & her husband Mark (love them!)
  • A freshly-bathed Bebe (none too happy….)
  • Brady’s new Mazda 3Speed
  • Sparkling winter scene in Summit County

Thoughts on “Time”

time

Today I’ve been pondering different names for my new business. The product I am selling is an opportunity for owners of vacation rental properties to get back some of their precious time by allowing me to handle the time-consuming tasks of managing listings and reservations for their property.

I’m a “Vacation Rental Reservation Management” expert, pro, guru, specialist, etc.

So I’ve been thinking about time.

I found some great quotes about time on the Internet:

This one is my favorite!
“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” 
― Henry David Thoreau

“Time is what we want most,but what we use worst.”
― William Penn

“You will never find time for anything. If you want time, you must make it.”
― Charles Buxton

“Free time isn’t free. Free time is the most expensive time you have, because nobody pays for it but you.”
― Jarod Kintz, I Should Have Renamed This

“Time is a gift, given to you, given to give you the time you need, the time you need to have the time of your life. ”
― Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth

“Time is the most valuable thing that a man can spend.”
― Diogenes Laertius

“Lost time is never found again”
― Benjamin Franklin

“Time is more precious than gold, more precious than diamonds, more precious than oil or any valuable treasures. It is time that we do not have enough of; it is time that causes the war within our hearts, and so we must spend it wisely.”
― Cecelia Ahern, The Gift

“It’s such a shame to waste time. We always think we have so much of it.”
― Mitch Albom, For One More Day

“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.”
― Carl Sandburg

“How you spend your time is more important than how you spend your money. Money mistakes can be corrected, but time is gone forever.”
― David Norris

What I find so interesting in thinking about time is the tenses:  Past, Present & Future

Is the past really past if you can only think about it in the present? How much of your present are you willing to spend on the past?

Is the future really future if it only exists in your thoughts at this moment? How much of your present are you willing to spend on the future?

Is “now” the only time that we can really do anything about? If it is, are you doing exactly the right thing with your present?

I think a better description of time would be: Memories, Now & Dreams.

(Photo credit: dujs.dartmouth.edu)