My name is Valarie Bertrand Moody. I am 54 years old, and I currently live in Countryside, IL, a suburb of Chicago. I grew up in Ridgecrest, CA, a town of about 20,000 people in the middle of the Mojave desert. When I say “in the middle,” that means there’s not a lot surrounding our home town other than acres and miles of tumbleweeds, sand and red rock mountains. There are plenty of snakes, scorpions and tarantulas as well. Many in my hometown choose pick up trucks over sedans, and most have a pool in their backyard along with a toy hauler next to the house to carry motorcycles, quad runners and lately Razors (trendy dune buggies).
I graduated in 1990 from California State University Fullerton with a degree in Communications, Journalism emphasis. While in college, I worked as an administrative assistant at The Home Depot between my journalism and public relations internships. That’s probably where my love for home renovation began, but who can know for sure. So that’s enough about me for now.
Let’s hop into what I’m currently working on, and we’ll see if that has some interest for you.
I’ve been looking for a house to renovate in Florida. Yes, I still live in Illinois, but my husband, Tom, and I discovered Redington Shores, FL; in 1998, shortly before our wedding in 1999. Tom and I had been sent by our nutrition distribution company Reliv International, to Florida to identify and train new distributors in the Tampa area. I found Reliv when I was 28-years-old and worked for The Home Depot as a project manager. The products absolutely changed my life by helping level out a blood sugar issue I had dealt with since I was a teenager. Tom found Reliv in his late 20's as well, and we met on a cruise in the Bahamas, all paid for by Reliv. The life we have together as a result of building our Reliv businesses is much more than I could have imagined. You can read our story here. In fact, if you'd like to read the full story, you can download our book for free. Just enter code FREE at checkout. Without Reliv, our rehab projects wouldn't be possible.
While staying in a condo on the beach in 1998, we walked past a run-down looking beach house for sale. “Who would buy that dump?” Tom questioned as we walked past. “Let’s take a look,” I suggested. The look he gave me was way beyond, “Are you kidding?” I was not.
We bought the house for $285,000 in November of 1998. We spent most of our winter at the beach house, ultimately enclosing the back deck (who thought building a deck to overlook a street was a good idea?), and updating the bathrooms. We probably should have done more with the kitchen, but we never really cooked much anyway. That first year, we mostly went out for dinner (I almost developed a taste for seafood), then came home and spent the rest of the evening playing Yahtzee while “Law and Order” aired on our TV.
The best part of the beach house, though, was the sunsets. Every night at around 5:30 pm, we’d grab a glass of wine and sit on our deck overlooking the gulf.
View from our deck at 17610 Lee Ave in Redington Shores
A public walkway ran next to our house, and the city had placed a small bench along the walkway. Residents and snowbirds (what the locals called the visitors from northern states and Canada) flocked to the beach at the same time to watch the sunset. Our half lab/half shar pei, Libby, sat at our feet. In fact, Libby was so popular with the beachgoers that many dubbed the bench next to our deck “Libby’s bench.” It was a peaceful and tranquil way to spend an evening and end a beautiful warm day.
LIbby couldn't be with us at our wedding on Coronado Island, so this picture was at the sign-in table
Second to the sunsets was leaving the sliding glass doors on the front of the house open to hear the waves break as we went to sleep. Because our beach house was raised with the garage beneath, we never worried about break ins or feared for our safety in any way. The house was only about 1200 square feet with two bathrooms and two bedrooms, but it felt like a mansion to us back then. It was all the space we needed for the two of us.
We were married January 17, 1999, on Coronado Island, CA. Coronado Island is accessed via a long bridge over the Pacific Ocean from San Diego. The largest building on the island is Hotel del Coronado, a historic structure that was originally wired for electricity by Thomas Edison. Yep, that Thomas Edison. We were married in the courtyard, then left the next day for our honeymoon in Aruba and Bonaire. We completed our scuba certification months earlier in Crystal Springs, FL, about an hour north of Reddington Shores. Aruba was a fun-filled adventure with casinos, incredible restaurants, shopping and scuba excursions. Bonaire, on the other hand, was strictly for scuba enthusiasts. Unless you’re a fan of diving or reading a book on the beach, Bonaire would not be your ideal vacation spot. We loved it!
In April of 1999, I became pregnant with our first child. We were ecstatic, and couldn’t believe we were going to have a baby. I was 32-years-old and Tom was 40. Our son was due January 14, 2000. Tom’s parents came to stay with us for Mother’s Day weekend that May, and we informed them of our news while sitting in the living room of our beach house. So many memorable times in that house. We sent my parents in California a fun gift package to announce the news to them.
I lost track of the number of times people patted my pregnant belly during those months and asked, “Are you worried about delivering during Y2K?” Most of 1999, people speculated what might happen when all electronics switched over to the new century. Of course, worries were overblown and the world didn’t end. Nothing much happened at all that New Year’s Eve.
Tommy, our son, was born January 17, 2000. Our 1-year wedding anniversary. Tommy’s birth makes it easy to figure out how many years Tom and I have been married. What year is it? Now add 1 to the last two digits, and that’s how long we’ve been married.
Tommy and Daddy Bear, his favorite baby toy. Yes, he still has him today.
Tommy was born in Hinsdale, IL, just a few miles from our home in Burr Ridge, where we lived at the time. Tom owned a townhouse when we became engaged, and once we found out we were going to have a baby, we wanted a home with a backyard to raise our family. The beach house was our first “fixer upper,” and our home in Burr Ridge became our second. We purchased the home from the bank at a discount because it needed some cosmetic updating. We started out painting the rooms ourselves (I was cautious due to the pregnancy), and I wanted to feel like the house was ours by doing the work ourselves. We hired help, however, during my 7th month. I had been wallpapering a bathroom and sat down to reach in to finish a tight spot between the vanity cabinet and the toilet. After perfecting the last piece, I tried to stand up and found that I was stuck. I couldn’t lean forward, and I couldn’t put my hands down behind me, so I had to call for Tom to help me. That’s when we realized we needed some help.