Category Archives: Positive Attitude

Weddings, Sailboats, Coconuts, and Beaches

Obviously, I’ve been a slacker as far as blogging the last month or so. But then again, the villa has been unusually busy for June and will also be busy in July which is rare. So there has not been a lot of major project work going on since I last posted. But we’ve still been having a good time and making sure we keep the villa in shape.

We spent several weeks in late May getting the villa spruced up for a BIG wedding on 10 June 15. The group arrived on the 6th and stayed the week. Prior to their arrival we did some patio wall painting, some deck pressure washing, and fixed a few broken items, replaced some screens, and replaced some light bulbs. Wasn’t a lot of work but all was needed to get the villa in “Show Ready” condition.
Apt AC Replace 02

The wedding rehearsal dinner and actual wedding and reception went off without any major issues. Although, the Sunday after they arrived, we had an A/C unit go out in the owner’s apartment that had to be addressed immediately as this was to be the “get ready” room for the bride and her brides maids. They NEEDED A/C, for sure. Luckily, we were able to get our relaible A/C guy out on Sunday and he had the new unit installed and running by Tuesday afternoon. Red Alert Over! Thanks Joe with Champion AC Service on STT.Wedding Trash

A 100+ guest wedding creates a lot of trash. And the photo to the left doesn’t show all of it. Just part of the job …. dumpster trips – LOL

Coconut Tree Tree 01One of the pleasures of living in our studio at the villa is we have a coconut tree right at the top of our stairs where we park the villa car. Since we have been here, we have made a habit of getting a young coconut and getting the sweet water out of it on a regular basis. The locals say it’s good for the ole internal plumbing system.

The landscaping crew comes every other week and I pointed out to them that the coconut tree needed a little trimming. So they took care of it. Once the trimming was done, the A/C guy asked if he could take some with him. The tree was loaded so of course we said “yes.” The photo is the landcscape guy trimming the tree. Looks great now. It really needed the trim.

With guests in the villa most of June, it has given us a chance to do a few projects in the caretaker studio. One was the replacement of screen in the sliding doors out to our porch. These are oversized screen doors so we had to order online from a screen company in Colorado as no one had it this wide on island.

Screen replace studio 06

Screen Mouse tool – Must Have!

No telling when theses screens were last replaced. They were torn and patched in places and had come loose from the edge seal in several places. Plus, they were filthy from the Sahara dust and the cruise ship smog. Not a hard project, just takes some patience and the right tool …. the Screen Mouse. The Screen Mouse makes putting the rubber seal back into the groove a breeze. A “must have” tool here at the villa.

Harts Sailboat Day

The Harts before heading off to San Blas, Panama for hurricane season.

Another cool thing we did in June was go visit some friends on their sailboat as they were about to head off to San Blas, Panama for hurricane season. They have been living-aboard since about 2003 and they spend many winters in St Thomas and hurricane season in different places south – out of hurricane routes. So, before they departed they had Sharon and I out for a short visit to say good-bye. Living aboard isn’t our cup of tea but they seem to really enjoy the life on a sailboat. If you’d like to follow their travels, they have blog and the crossing to Panama was a little hairy. Read it at http://hartsatsea.typepad.com/hartsatsea/.

A benefit of having guests in the villa is it allows us free time to explore and go “beaching” – one of the reasons we’re here in paradise …. right? And now that low tourist season is here, the beaches are almost deserted …. the way we like them. So, we’ve had a few great beach days in June. No complaints here – LOL.

It’s a tough life but as Mike Rowe says, “Somebody’s Gotta Do It.”

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To Sell or Lease

OK. One major task completed – we found a great home for Bailey. Now, what to do about our home – sell, rental program, or lease?Front view

We had done so much in the past few months to get our Blue Ridge home ready to sell regardless of getting a caretaker position or not that we almost completely forgot about the lease/rent option. We did contact a few cabin rental companies about putting our cabin in a vacation cabin rental program but initial responses were that it didn’t look like a cabin. They are right … at least from the outside. From the inside, it looks like a mountain lodge. Oh well, we don’t have time to worry about that.

Screened porchTime is slipping away and selling a home sometimes takes more than a few weeks. One morning I woke up and remembered that Sandy had told us that there was always a need in Blue Ridge for long-term home leases. I decided to make some calls to my contacts at the Chamber to see if maybe they had heard of anyone needing a long-term lease.

I guess we’re on a lucky streak because within a few hours, I received a call from a fellow who wanted to come by and see our place after I sent him a few photos. His dad lives in the area, runs a successful business, and this guy and his wife just moved to Blue Ridge from Memphis so they could be closer to the parents. She recently started work at the local hospital.

Long story short … over the next few days they decide they want to lease our home for at least a year, maybe longer. Our timing works for them so we start the background check process and before long, it’s a done deal. Both sides are happy. And they need it furnished as they still have a home to sell in Memphis. Home issue resolved for the next year. Another major task completed.

Bailey, A Good Dog, Good Friend

We got the position of Caretaker / Host at Silk Cotton Villa. The house is “Show Ready” to put on the real estate market. But do we have time? About four weeks before we have to report for duty at the Villa on July 21st. It’s crunch time.

Let’s see. We need to get the cabin on the market. Find a new forever home for Bailey (the beautiful rescue we got back in early 2013), sell the 2013 Toyota Tacoma truck, and decide what we will do with our other vehicle.

Bailey 3

Sweet Bailey

Finding a new forever home for Bailey was first priority. I created a nice flier on her and within days it was flying through cyberspace from the help of many friends and family who are extreme dog lovers. We received a lot of calls but it was the first person that I discussed our situation with that ending up helping the most. I met him at our Vet’s office. He overheard me telling the Vet what was going on with our moving and why we needed to find Bailey a new home. This guy knew of someone close by who had recently lost a beloved pet of 18 years and had been dog-less for about two years. Within a week these folks came to our home for a personal family visit and they fell in love with our Bailey. We agreed to drop off Bailey the next day at their home for a Saturday visit while we attended an all-day family affair. When we arrived to pick her up that evening, there sat Bailey on the couch with the husband watching TV – like she owned the place. They had a great time that day and asked if she could stay overnight with them. They said they really wanted her. We could tell then Bailey had found a new home. We agreed.

Photo of Bailey at her new home after about a week. New toy was a gift from a new dog friend.

Photo of Bailey at her new home after about a week. New toy was a gift from a new dog friend. Looks pretty happy!

On the way home we decided we would just bring all her things back the next morning as we had another family function to attend on Sunday. When we arrived Sunday morning, there she sat on the couch with the husband again watching TV and didn’t even get up when we came in. We knew she knew and she just looked happy. Yes, it was hard to leave her but we knew we had found the right family.

The way we look at it now is we were chosen to rescue her back in March 2013 so we could eventually find her the perfect “forever” family. We will always love you Bailey! You brought a lot of joy into our lives.

Paradise Calls

Late June 2014

Most mornings, as I’m scrolling through my emails, I see the latest updates from the couple’s job offering sites we follow. Kind of nice to sit there and share with Sharon, discuss the potential, and maybe start our research online of the place and area. We call these discussions our “Board Meetings” before we make a decision to apply or not.

In late May, a job posted for a Caretaker / Host position in the Caribbean … St. Thomas, V.I. to be exact. Positions in the Caribbean don’t come across often so this one really caught our attention. The workload was part-time and provided living quarters. The facility was absolutely gorgeous. Silk Cotton Villa – check it out. We did our research and decided to apply.

Within a week or so the owners emailed us to let us know we had made the first cut. Now they wanted some additional information. Of course we complied. Got the requested information back to them via email ASAP.

A few weeks later we received another email from the owners informing us we had made the final cut down to three finalists. You can imagine our excitement while reading that email. We had been out all day on a lake with some friends and the email was several hours old. The owners also stated they wanted to conduct a phone interview that evening. We emailed back to let them know we would be available during the assigned time.

Sharon and I both thought the phone interview went well. The owners asked a lot of good questions that would help them make a decision. As we had been through several interviews like this before, we knew not to get too excited because you never know what the other end is thinking or who is your competition. All you can do is be prepared, be honest, and put your best face forward. Then wait.

Near the end of the phone interview, the owners told us when they would make a decision and they would contact us whether it was a Yes or No. The prescribed day came and that evening, the call came. And then the message we wanted to hear, “Are you ready to start at Silk Cotton Villa?”  Guess what our answer was?

Property Caretaker Training

The real estate agent that helped us find our home in Blue Ridge is a friend I’ve know since high school, Sandy Wilbanks (if you’re thinking of moving to Blue Ridge, contact her – she’s awesome!).  At the time we started looking for a home, Sandy had been living in BR for about 8 years and knew the area very well. I mentioned to her that my marketing business had slowed down a bit. She suggested a great idea – a property care, home/cabin watch, and concierge service business for absentee owners of mountain vacation cabins. Her suggestion got my attention.

As she explained more, I learned that a large majority of these absentee owners were in need of a trustworthy, honest, professional to handle various projects and needs for them. Example:

A new owner lives in Tampa, FL. They buy a new construction cabin and are about to furnish it. They need someone to open the cabin and accept deliveries. They need someone there to let the propane gas guy in. They need landscaping. They need housekeeping services, And the list just goes on and on. And based on what Sandy was telling us, there just weren’t many service professionals in BR filling the need. After some research and developing aGV_Logo_red-black_RGB marketing plan, we decided to start a company to fill this void and we named it Getaway Valet.

I joined the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce with Getaway Valet and also signed up for the Leadership Fannin training course in early 2013 as a way to meet local leaders and build a network. And it worked. Between referrals through the Chamber and referrals through real estate agents, Getaway Valet was gaining about 1 customer per month. And it could have done much better if I had put 100% of my time into it. But as fate would have it, when 2013 rolled around, my established marketing business (Key Concept Services, Inc.) started getting busy again and I spent most of my time on it and my long-time, established customers. Getaway Valet became the fill-in business but I knew it had great potential.

By opening Getaway Valet, I learned a lot about what people want as it relates to service and it just confirmed what I already believed … people desire and expect 100% customer service – especially people with extra money to afford a vacation cabin. But as we all know, 100% customer service is vanishing from most service-oriented businesses.  I can’t tell you how many times people smiled and thanked me just for showing up on time. I heard so many stories of how some of the local service providers never showed up, never returned phone calls, and on and on the complaints went. I found out quickly that my professional training, management training, and just a basic good upbringing from good parents made a big difference in me as an adult.

Operating Getaway Valet for the past years also confirmed my belief that Sharon and I were ready to enter the professional property caretaker business and lifestyle. We know how to do it. We know how to WOW customers with extraordinary services. We know what we like in excellent customer service and would provide nothing short of our standards for anyone who might hire us. Our confidence is high and when the right position comes along, we will be ready.

The North Georgia Mountains Are Calling

It took over a year to sell our dream home in Alabama but the right couple did come along. We sold it in 2011. So, now where do we want to go and what do we want to do? We were watching the couple’s job sites and applying occasionally but only for jobs in the southeast as my mom was in a nursing home in ATL and we didn’t want to get too far away … just in case something happened to her. I’m sure this is and can be a big issue for many wishing to pursue the couple’s job lifestyle. But we kept looking at the updates and applying for positions we thought we’d like or fit us. No cigar yet.

Sharon found a job in the Apparel industry at a small firm located in Cumming, GA. Not as bad as ATL, but still too crowded for us. You do what you have to do to make ends meet. After about six months in a 4th floor condo overlooking downtown Cumming, we rented a cabin on the Toccoa River in Blue Ridge to celebrate our anniversary, April 2012. While sitting on the porch overlooking this beautiful and serene river and stargazing at the gazillion stars overhead, I said, “Why don’t we move here?” She looked at me and said, “Good idea.” That started the next journey to find a place to live in Blue Ridge.

Fast forward about five months and 70+ home visits later and we’re closing on a lodge typeScreened porch home on top of a mountain just south of Blue Ridge, GA. Gorgeous place and excellent views out to the east and southeast looking to the Aska Adventure area of Blue Ridge. And as fate would have it, only a few days after closing the home, Sharon received a call from some friends and co-workers from her Russell days and they offered her a job with their new apparel-related company. Everyone in the company works from a home office.

Perfect. For now. But I’m still scanning the couple’s job and dreaming. But mom isn’t getting any younger and is starting to have some health issues. We wouldn’t feel right going too far away and Blue Ridge is only 1.5 hours north of ATL.  So we settled into our new home in the north Georgia mountains. And dream.

Every Dark Cloud Has a Silver Lining

We escaped the hustle/bustle, crime, and corruption of big city Atlanta, GA (where I was born and raised and Sharon lived from early teens) in 2007. The door cracked open and we jumped through it. We had been wanting to depart the ATL for about 4-5 years. Sharon’s work took us to rural east Alabama where we bought 21 acres of old pastureland and built a nice Southern Living design home.

Loved it. Planned to retire there. But stuff happens.

Prior to leaving ATL, the company Sharon worked for, Russell Corp., was bought by Fruit of the Loom out of Boiling Green, KY. In 2007, they moved her division, Mossy Oak Apparel, to Russell’s founding city, Alexander City, AL. The land we bought was about a 25 mile ride south to her work. Awesome. Living the country life. Easy commute for her. I kept running my small marketing business from a home office.

Fast forward to 2009. Fruit tells Sharon’s group they have decided to shutter most of the Alabama operation and everything and everyone is moving to KY headquarters. Dreams of our country retirement were deflated. We discussed the option of moving to KY and quickly decide NO – we aren’t following another employer. And good thing we didn’t. Within 2-3 years, FOTL had shut down most divisions of the old Russell, Corp.

So, what to do once Sharon’s job was gone? We needed two incomes to support this nice home we built.  But, we’re living in a very poor, rural area of east Alabama and there weren’t many high-paying jobs in the area. Still aren’t.  We decide to sell … or TRY to sell a $500K home and 21 acres, down a 3-mile dirt road, in the middle of nowhere (exactly where we wanted to be). It would take a special family to but this home. But we have to try so we put it on the market.

Now, what to do for gainful employment and where to live (if/when we sell it) and we have no desire to go back to the ATL or any other big city. We have learned to love small town America.

Light bulb goes off. Find a couple’s job since we have worked together a lot over the years in our marketing business.

I started doing some research online and discovered two very good websites that specialize in promoting couple’s jobs: Caretaker.org and Workingcouples.com. We had NO IDEA there were so many jobs for couples available and being offered. And, there are other sites beyond these two that can help, too. Note: in spring 2014, Workingcouples.com launched a sister site called Workinginnkeepers.com specializing in only Inn Keeper jobs since that is a big segment of these type of jobs.

That’s how our couple’s Job seed was planted. The silver lining from a job loss dark cloud. Stay positive and look for the next door to open. It will.