Why did you become an innkeeper?

I am not a native to this Western North Carolina Mountain Region, but my husband, Larry is six generations of Asheville, Buncombe County. I was born in Lawrence, Kansas; from the age of five to ten lived in Lima, Peru; Junior High School and High School Graduation from Wellesley, Massachusetts. I married my University of Kansas sweet heart and he passed away of cancer in 1990, when our son was only 14. When my son went to University of San Francisco for his undergrad; I went back to college in Manhattan, NY, attended Beth Israel School of Nursing becoming a RN. I moved to High Point, NC, because my widowed mother moved there. Being widowed also and a RN, it seemed a natural diagonal move. I met this remarkable man and fell in love again. Larry and I married in 2001. He introduced me to Asheville and I immediately felt at home and wanted to eventually live in this intriguing city.

We began a new life together in our 50′s as husband and wife. You know…. it is difficult to bond with another, when you are so established in your own ways of doing things and have more than a few years of life’s experiences under your belt. It takes a tremendous amount of love to not ruin a new relationship; reacting to a situation that your partner did not cause, but triggered a reaction due to your past. So after a few years of marriage we decided to go to work together in Asheville. I gave up Nursing and Larry gave up being a Contractor/ Developer, and we embarked on our joint adventure back in his home town. It was a perfect decision and our marriage has benefited from this intense and demanding joint project.

Why do we do this? We are having so much fun (unless we are having a meeting of minds). We are learning about each others strengths and weaknesses. We have to delegate jobs as one person cannot do it all. We have discovered many of our differences and are always in the process of learning to accept them. We are making a past together and forming ideas about our future. Larry’s old friends from grade school on….a luxury I never had due to moving so much; I am self entertaining and have been accused of being able to talk to grass….did have a bet going, on how long it would be before we murdered each other…when months went by without such an action they finally had to tell us about it. No one won the bet and they were itching to see our reaction.

The reward of our hard work is a stronger marriage and meeting so many fascinating people from all walks of life. It is a 24/7 job, but if you honestly love people, you get to make a difference in your guest’s lives as well as your own. We’ve had guests who touched our hearts, others who return (gluttons for punishment) and are like family to us.

One example of innkeeping joy, for me, begins when I greet a certain new couple. One partner is bursting with excitement, having made all the plans, and successfully convinced their significant other to come stay at a B&B. You can almost see the invisible collar and chain around their companion’s neck. A slight reluctance after being dragged inside this pending nightmare. Tiered eyes scanning desperately, their brain warning, “If you see a doily you are in for an Arsenic And Old Lace scene….WAIT! I just saw a doily under that art glass lamp… this is going to be a REALLY bad weekend!’ By the time of check-out, they are giving us hugs, thanking us for such a comfortable stay, will miss the breakfasts and laughter, are making plans of when to come back for rest and relaxation, or going to the Biltmore Estate again in a different season. Now that is a darn good reason for me to have become an Innkeeper!

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Mr. Monty you are deeply missed

I could see that Mr. Monty was growing slower…. I was administering 5 medications twice a day to keep his Congestive Heart Failure under control…..but none of that prepared me for the inevitable….my heart still beats with a hollow pain.

Five years ago we purchased this beautiful New England styled Bed and Breakfast on a quiet street in the Montford Historic District of Asheville, NC, sitting on an acre and a half. It was a bit overwhelming to keep in focus what this unique 100 year old home could be transformed back to, it’s early days of grandeur with a bit here and a bit there, accomplished with an a bottomless purse.

One member of our family was beside himself with JOY…Mr. Monty! From day one, once he hit the ground it was open territory for frolic, squirrel chasing and just plain full force running, circling the exterior of the house. Guests remarked that we must have those electrical hidden fences because our dogs never left the yard; even if they chased off an intruder with four legs. They never ran any further than the boundaries. I remarked that, ” No, we did not have a hidden electrical fence. We did have an alpha member (Larry) of our little pack who would murder them if they went too far and that Miss Maggie and Mr. Monty were actually fraidy-cats.”

Inside, Mr. Monty decided that he was Applewood Manor Inn’s Official Guest Embassador. He loved greeting guests at the front door and leading the tour around the house. In the morning he rushed up stairs. Listened at each door and the room that had the most sounds of movement, he would lay across the threshold, napping until their door opened. He would jump up to wait for a petting, then escort the guest downstairs to the dining room. Repeating this process until everyone was eating in the dining room and scout out who was most likely a sucker to sneak tidbits to him. He had his dignified standard of never jumping up to harass, but lay quietly at the foot of the selected guest and stare intently, sending silent messages praying for shared morsels.

One of the most memorable stories of Monty and his gentle infectious personality concerns a Priest from London, who stayed with us. Father E stayed 6 days with us (our only guest at the time) and when he arrived he informed us that, “He was not too fond of doggies.” I made a mental note to keep Mr. Monty and Miss Maggie under wraps and away from Father E. Upon the morning of his departure, he presented us with a pillow (which now holds a place of honor in our parlor) which had embroidered- What Part of Woof Do You Not Understand? As explained to us, I had failed. Mr. Monty at least twice a day would meander upstairs after Father E’s return. Push open the bedroom door, sniff the perimeter of the Granny Smith room, jump up onto the bed where Father E. sat and nudge his hand to be petted. When sufficiently acknowledged, he would jump down, pausing at the threshold of the room, turn back looking at Father E as if to say, quoting the Father, “Everything is secure, I will return later. Good day.”

It seems that Father E had a frightening experience as a child, with a vicious dog. He had a fear of all dogs, as I suspected. Mr. Monty cured that fear. Father E left with the name of Mr. Monty’s breed (Australian Silky Terrier) on one of our business cards.

So besides being my little champion since he was 6 weeks old, he would bark (this became a game) as if to defend me, if Larry even pinched my butt! He was vigorous and still chasing squirrels up until he was almost 14 years old…….my tender Veterinarian presented us with a photo of Mr. Monty and this laminated story I want to share…..

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Ridge. When an animal dies that has been close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Ridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor.. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together,but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart. Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together……

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My life as an Innkeeper in Asheville, North Carolina

Okay, here goes my first blog post. I have run out of excuses, procrastinations, going to the restroom, praying the telephone would ring and continual checking for new emails. I have not yet tried the ploy of peppering our guests with questions such as, “So just what do you think of President Obama? What religion do you believe he really is? Do you think he will ever cheat on Michele?” I would probably end up with lengthy discussions that would delay me typing this; but the consequence of a mass desertion of guests due to a crazed person (me) coming out with such preposterous questions would not be worth it. Also my sweet husband, Lar, would most likely hide his face in shock and wonder what in heaven’s name I had been sniffing.

So instead I begin my blog about my life as an innkeeper/shared owner at Applewood Manor Inn Bed and Breakfast. I will cover many topics from my candid views of innkeeping, my life before innkeeping, experiences with guests, recipes and anything having to do with cooking, pets and innkeeping, a personal life and private time while innkeeping, so on and so forth. The constant theme is innkeeping but it will always be liberally fused with humor. Be prepared for a laugh filled slightly altered but honest commentary of life as an innkeeper here in the Blue Ridge Mountains and home of the acclaimed Biltmore Estate (which I personally call the Disney of Asheville).

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