Like most teenage girls, the last thing Lisa Edwards wanted to do was be seen with her father.
So when he suggested a trip to the Biltmore estate in Asheville, N.C., for her sister Lynn and her, the girls were, well, less than enthusiastic.
Edwards had been on similar excursions before.
Her father, Robert McAllister, loved history. When you went to New York City, you saw the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. A visit to Memphis meant going to Elvis Presley's Graceland, as well a side trip down the road to Tupelo, Miss., to see the simple home where Elvis was born.
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And if you saw a historic sign while driving down the road, be prepared: Robert McAllister would make a sudden U-turn, often sending the sugar skittering across the interior of their Winnebago as he returned to the site, pausing to read and reflect.
As they made their way to the Biltmore, Lisa knew she would not be impressed with the history. That was her dad's thing.
They walked from the parking lot to the mansion. As they came out of the trees and turned toward the mansion, Lisa was overwhelmed by the grandness and vastness of George Vanderbilt's country estate.
About a year later, Robert McAllister died of lung cancer.
Lisa went on to earn a degree from the University of South Carolina-Aiken, find romance and marry. With the birth of the first of two children, she became a stay-at-home mom. After 18 years of marriage came a divorce, and Lisa, who lives in Fort Mill, faced reality: How would she provide for her family?
A 9-to-5 job did not interest her. She wanted to be available when her children needed her. She wanted her job to be "something I loved." She would not rush into the wrong thing.
"I wanted to make the right decision for the three of us," Lisa said.
The right thing, the job she loved, came in the mail in a newsletter sent to people holding season passes to the Biltmore. There was a story about Biltmore Inspirations, a new direct-sales effort where consultants would hold home parties, selling items inspired by the estate and available only through the parties.
She slowly read the article, afraid it said the effort was a success and all the positions filled. The article, however, said Biltmore Inspirations was seeking consultants.
She discussed it with her children, Grady, 14, and Caroline, 12. They talked about how things might change if she became a consultant. Neither mom, son nor daughter anticipated what happened.
Becoming a consultant, "changed my life," said Lisa, 46.
She went from being a stay-at-home mom who was sometimes afraid to answer the telephone, to a hostess standing before home parties, as well as a trainer, discussing how to sell Biltmore Inspirations products at the company's regional meeting in Atlanta.
Biltmore Inspirations "showed me all the things I could do," Lisa said.
It also rekindled the passion for the Biltmore instilled by her father. To this day, when she revisits the mansion, she repeats the walk she made with her father.
"It's our moment to remember and to make new memories," she said.
"While it's not mine, I knew here was a home I could come to," she said. "It was a place I could come and remember the special times in my own life."
The passion now includes a love of the home's history and all its details - all 250 rooms, which includes 34 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms and 65 fireplaces. Many of the details inspired Biltmore Inspirations items.
Her passion and Biltmore trivia have become part of her sales routine. She tells guests her Biltmore memories and asks them to share theirs. She holds a trivia contest. Those with the most right answers get small items from the Biltmore Inspirations collection.
Most of the party guests are women. Yet Lisa is quick to point out that the mansion - the Grand Lady on the hill - was furnished by George Vanderbilt when he was a bachelor. The paintings, porcelains, bronzes, carpets and furniture were purchased on a grand tour of Europe and south Asia.
While sales are important - an average party nets her about $600 - she says the atmosphere is as important. She wants people to come and relax, celebrate in style, feel they are in a safe refuge and feel better when they leave - the atmosphere George Vanderbilt created for his family and guests more than 100 years ago.
"I'm proud to be part of that legacy," Lisa said.
Proud, she said, because proceeds from Biltmore Inspirations are used not only to preserve the estate, but also for donation to Habitat for Humanity.
"I need to become part of something bigger," Lisa said. The Biltmore, she said, "has become my why."