B&B Practice: Be Our Guest!


For six years we lived in a five bedroom home in the historic bay side city of Safety Harbor, Florida. Built in 1925 this was once a boarding house during the boom time of this town’s history. While living there I envisioned what it would be like when it was a boarding house.

We had more bedrooms than we could fill. Our two children, both boys, shared a room, and that left 3 bedrooms empty. We turned one into an office and that left 2 unaccounted for. We believed that we were blessed with these rooms for a reason – to provide shelter to others on a needed basis. We never advertised these rooms as available to rent, but soon they became occupied.

A local college student from our church needed a place off campus to live. We welcomed her into our home at a ridiculously low rate so that she could get on her feet. She stayed with us for more than a year.

One of my sisters, in between jobs and major life decisions, stayed with us more than once.

A colleague from work lived with us for a while – she later became my sister-in-law!

When we had more room than we needed, Chip and I knew we were being called to share it. And we did. The gift of hospitality is just that – but it is one meant to be shared with others.

I began to wonder when the next opportunity to open our home would come. I didn’t have to wait long to find out.


Our Story Begins


We are on the hunt for a place we can call home here in the Hudson Valley of New York, but we are also looking for a place that others can call their home away from home. I was asked recently why we want to live in and run a Bed & Breakfast. When my reasons tumbled out of me that day, my friend and realtor said, “That’s your story. Every B&B has a story. That’s yours.” So here goes – our story.

In 1988 I was pregnant with our first child. I was thrilled beyond words; this life inside me was the reason for my existence. What happens when your reason for existence is lost? Our daughter died in utero at 20 weeks. I went through labor and delivery, my milk came in, and life as I knew it seemed to end. Emily died on my mother’s birthday, December 31. To this day I can’t face that day without at least one tear. The memorial of that day is strong especially now that my mother has passed as well.

My husband, Chip, decided we needed a little time away from the painfully normal life that swirled around us. He booked us into the Lakeside Inn in Mount Dora, Florida two months after losing Emily. I admit to my reluctance of going away. It took too much energy to leave the house as it was. The thought of just a 2 hour drive to an inn threatened to undo me. But away we went.

We spent the whole first day in our room – lovingly furnished, a cocoon of sorts, unfamiliar yet as comfortable as an embrace. I think I slept most of the day.

Day two we ventured out into the quaint antique shop-filled town of Mount Dora – walking distance from the inn. We lingered in each shop our senses filling with lives lived long ago. I love old books, especially old school books and classic literature. I bought three titles that day which are displayed proudly next to my grandmother’s set of dictionaries and encyclopedias from the 1930’s. I fell into a dreamless sleep that night and woke the next morning feeling lighter in my soul.

Day three we went on a boat ride on Lake Dora. This is when I discovered the healing power of water for me. Sitting on the lake’s shore later I felt a shift in my very being. I smiled. I’m healing, and it was a welcome feeling instead of the betrayal I thought it would feel like.

Afraid to break the spell, I didn’t want to leave. Going back to “real life” was not at all enticing. Could we stay? I remember standing on the porch and saying “Let’s live here!” (Just like at the end of the Bill Murray film “Groundhog Day”)

Chip and I went into town on our last day to see if there was a way we could stay. Could we find jobs? Me as a teacher; him working for the city. We went to the local Lake County school board and the Mount Dora city hall. It was possible – we could live here.

Just knowing we could live there if we wanted was enough – it offered enough hope for me to go back home and pick up the life and work I already had.

We were cared for and cherished as guests at the Lakeside Inn, but at the same time given our space. We knew then that we would love to offer that same combination of care to others. So 27 years later we are ready to do just that.

Through this blog I will share our journey to finding and running a B&B in the Hudson Valley of New York. We’re learning so much and hope to share it with you.

The ornaments of your home are the people who smile upon entering time and time again.

Maralee McKee