Monday, July 16, 2018

Almost There...

July 14, 2018: How the front of the house looked late Saturday morning!

Finally, real progress! The front of the house in Mesa looks like it used to back in its glory days--except for needing a new roof, a new garage door, a new paint job, a new lawn, a new screen door, a new front window and screens, a new gate... But the point is, the rubbish is gone! 

July 12: A reminder of how it looked when I arrived on Thursday.

Alas, that's only true when viewed from the street. There is still some work to be done beyond the back gate, but I have such a huge sense of relief to see that this battle can be won and there is an end in sight.

The roll-off container was in place when I arrived.

It began with a phone call to Mesa's solid waste division on Monday afternoon to order their largest roll-off container and have it delivered on Thursday, the day I planned to arrive. That way, it would be ready for us to begin on Friday morning. I'd debated whether to get their largest, a 40-yard dumpster, which has eight-foot walls (the walls on the other two options were six-foot and four-foot). Did we really have enough trash to fill such a large bin?

Thank goodness I did, because it held only about two-thirds of all the trash left on the property. It was pricey, at $307.50 for up to fourteen days. However, I decided it would be worse to pay less but find we needed more space. And need more we did. In fact, today I called Mesa again, this time to request that the dumpster be emptied and then returned tomorrow to be filled once more. This time the cost will "only" be $252.50.

Our team on Friday morning: Maryhelen, Thomas, Jacob,
Elyssa, and Genevieve. Julien arrived to help soon after.

We were a little nervous about how much help we'd have. Clearly, it was too big of a job for Jacob and me alone, even over a rental period of two weeks. Especially for me, with my back, hip, and knee issues, plus the fact that I'd be in town for less than three days. I'd posted our plans online, with the dates we'd be handling this project and a request for volunteers, and there were a few responses, but we didn't know for sure whether anyone at all would show up.

Then, around 8:00 on Thursday night, I got a message from two of my nieces, asking for the address and saying they'd be here the next morning. We were so happy to know we wouldn't be alone! Genevieve and Elyssa arrived about 8:30 on Friday morning, followed not long after by their younger brother, Julien, who is Jacob's roommate (and the same age as my son Dylan). Then Mark's cousin Maryhelen and her thirteen-year-old son, Thomas, came over from the house next door, where Mark's Aunt Wilma lives. Now we had a full team!

I taped a big sign on the side of the dumpster to remind us of the rules
and what isn't allowed inside, like tires and batteries and such.

We began with gathering tile, block, and other rock-like materials, since the rules stated that they must be in the bottom of the bin, and no deeper than twelve inches. I helped gather block and load it in the wheelbarrow I'd brought along. I lasted for about twenty minutes before the knee began protesting. At that point, I grabbed my camera to chronicle the event. And, of course, I supervised and made helpful suggestions (at least, I thought they were helpful), while keeping the ice-cold water bottles available.

Genevieve, Thomas, and Maryhelen start in on the backyard.

It seemed like a slow process at first, almost insurmountable, but we gradually began to see results. I was worried about our crew being largely made up of young females, lifting heavy furniture in the oppressive heat and suffocating humidity (without a rain cloud in sight). Soon, though, I was less worried and more impressed by their stamina and determination.

Genevieve, Elyssa, and Jacob start out, one block and one tile at a time.

Genevieve and Elyssa carried their share of large items, but they also worked out a system for the smaller items in piles throughout the yard. Moving furniture isn't nearly as tricky as transporting thousands of small bits of junk. After two rickety but workable carts and a slew of crates had been unearthed, they used those to systematically move each pile to the dumpster. Once they got rolling, we really saw the improvement begin.

Jacob, Maryhelen, Genevieve, and Julien hard at work.

After most of the large items were in the bin, it was time to empty the garage. Unfortunately, the garage door was too badly damaged to open. It would have been a nightmare to move everything out through the broken side door, so I looked at Maryhelen and asked, "Where's your sledgehammer?"

Her eyes lit up. "Really?" The door was going to have to be replaced anyway, so why not?

Julien and Jacob take one panel of the garage door to the dumpster.

She and Jacob took turns waling on the door segments and soon had them broken free so the door could be dismantled and removed to the container. Once that was accomplished, the mounds of trash in the garage were quickly subdued. The garage wasn't entirely emptied on Friday, but it was finally possible to walk through without getting your feet snagged by trash. And all the large pieces of furniture were gone.

The roll-off container is starting to fill up.

While the work was ongoing for both days, several people driving past the house stopped to ask if we planned to rent out the house. I guess they assumed we were loading up the dumpster because we were moving out. Each one appeared to be disappointed when they learned the house wasn't available. At least I know I wouldn't have had much trouble finding a renter (or buyer) if Jacob hadn't moved in!

Julien empties the garage while Genevieve and Elyssa employ their system.

After a full two hours of hard labor, we called it quits. The heat was getting worse, topping out at 104 degrees that day, with 52% humidity and no rain to bring relief. But the property was noticeably less cluttered and on its way to being cleared. It was a great feeling when we all went out to Subway for an early lunch together. It was great, and I owe everyone so much for all they did!

Elyssa and Genevieve show their womanly superpowers!

When we were ready to start again on Saturday morning, the dumpster was quite full, thanks to having gotten nearly all the large furniture pieces loaded up. However, there were still many spaces between the large items, which we planned to fill up with the smaller stuff.

The dumpster is pretty full by the end of the day on Friday.

Again, we weren't sure if we'd have a crew for day two, so we waited nervously. My brother Jeff had said he could come over with one or two of his burly sons, and my nephew Justin had volunteered, as well. Since I hadn't heard from them recently, though, I wan't 100% positive.

Mark's Aunt Wilma looks on while Jeff, Marcus, and Brinley clear the garage.

We were so happy to hear a knock on the door at 8:00. It was Jeff with two of his sons, Marcus and Burke, as well as his second-youngest daughter, Brinley. Before too long, Jeff's firstborn, Justin, also drove up with his own son, Aiden, a youngster just five days away from his tenth birthday. After Justin arrived, my nephew Dallin (married to my niece Mariah) pulled up on his motorcycle. Another big sigh of relief. We had another great crew!

Jacob helps his Uncle Jeff load the roll-off container.

The heat was slightly less oppressive on Saturday, due to heavy cloud cover. (But still no rain.) The temperature topped out at just 102 degrees, with 45% humidity. Still not very comfortable, but any relief is welcome. The heat is particularly hard for me--especially when it's humid--because I don't sweat, which means my body lacks the capacity to cool itself well, leaving me prone to heat exhaustion. Every person there was literally dripping sweat, their clothes drenched from their hard work, while I had a bit of dampness inside my elbows and along my hairline. Except for Brinley, who may have inherited my lack of perspiration gene!

Burke, Jeff, and Jacob clear debris from the side of the house.

I am so impressed by my nieces and nephews. These are kids who know how to work hard, and how to do it effectively. On both days, each one barreled through the mess and made it yield before them. After just two hours on Saturday, the garage and side-yard were utterly empty of garbage and the backyard was more than half cleared. It felt almost like a miracle to see the difference.

Jeff, Justin, Aiden, Jacob, and Dallin bring more loads to the dumpster.

While working, members of our crews kept asking the same question: "How could anyone live in such filth?" It does seem hard to fathom. We found so many interesting "treasures," from a toilet and a urinal, to eight tires (each a different type and size). At the end of the day, the tires were stacked out by the curb, when a man driving by in a truck stopped and took two of them. He also asked permission to look in the dumpster, from which he took a few items on top. Jeff shook his head. "I can't even imagine what he could use that stuff for."

In the garage, amidst the rubble, we also found one of Mark's old high school yearbooks and a photo album that looked familiar to me. Inside were Mark's baby pictures and childhood family photos, which I'd put in the album when we were married and gave to him after we divorced. Thrown on the garage floor and buried in the rubbish. Go figure. I'm glad I could rescue them.

Aiden and Jacob deliver more stuff while Marcus mashes down trash in the bin.

I can never express enough how grateful I am for those who stepped up and helped us out in subduing the monstrous mess left behind by the former "tenants." It's no exaggeration when I say Jacob and I couldn't have done it alone. Each and every one of our awesome helpers is a hero in my book!

Burke and Dallin hand off to Marcus while Jeff heaves his over the side.

Unfortunately, the job isn't finished yet. As I mentioned, the largest-sized roll-off container was still not large enough to hold everything that needed removing, and it will be empty and ready to fill up again, starting tomorrow. I came home to my much-cooler, much-rainier mountain home on Sunday afternoon, but I will be driving down to Mesa again on Thursday evening. Once more we plan to tackle the final piles of junk on Friday and Saturday. We hope to be joined by more helping hands to get this job done, once and for all!

Dallin climbed on the roof to remove two tires and assorted rubbish.

And now, here are some before-and-after photos to show how much our teams accomplished:

The garage, right after we removed the busted garage door.

The newly emptied garage. (The carts and crates along the wall will
also be tossed this week, after we use them to haul the last of the trash.)

The side-yard, as it appeared when I arrived on Thursday.

The side-yard now, all cleared. (The dirt area is Wilma's property.)

The backyard, facing the house and the illegally-enclosed patio, in April.

That part of the backyard as it is now. Just a little more work to do.

It may well be that we can complete the remaining cleanup in two hours or less. There are odds and ends in the backyard that still need to be removed, but really only one big pile of trash by the pool that will need to be hauled by the shovel-load (see below). And we didn't even touch the patio (seen in the photos above, closed in with sheets of plywood--what were they thinking?). However, the patio is a relatively small space with less mess than the garage, so it should go pretty quickly.

I really do see an end in sight, and that's a great feeling.

The backyard area alongside the pool, as of April.

The backyard area alongside the pool now, with one big pile remaining.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

A Fifth of July

Dylan, Jake, and Chris during a round of the game IMAGINiff.
July 5, 2018

It's been a whole week since Independence Day. I guess I've had too many other things on my mind lately to be in a blogging mood. And, as usual, we didn't celebrate the Fourth of July on the Fourth of July. Sarah worked late on that day, so we postponed our family barbecue until the next day, the Fifth. Everyone except Sarah and Chris had that day off, and Sarah got off earlier than usual, at 2:30.

Jake, Chris, Sarah (Mark in background) as the game continues.

One of the fun things about this year's get-together was that we were able to celebrate at Sarah and Chris's new house. When Chris proposed the idea, I said, "Really? You mean I can just show up, eat, and leave?" It wasn't quite like that, of course, but I had to give them a hard time. My kids are actually quite helpful about our weekly dinners (except for the dishes afterward).

Homemade ice cream was half-gone when I remembered to take a picture.

Although Chris wouldn't get home until 5:30 to start the grilling, I went on over to their place at 4:00 to help Sarah make the potato salad. I also brought the hot dogs, bratwurst, and buns to go with the chicken Chris was grilling. Later that evening, I made my famous sugar-free homemade strawberry ice cream. Mark tended to the freezer while I played a board game with the kids. We had a great time together, as we always do.

Sarah, Mark, and Dylan relax and watch Americas' Funniest Videos

That was on Thursday. When Sunday rolled around, we decided to go ahead and have our weekly family dinner. Dylan had been hankering after my fried chicken for weeks, so that's what we did. This time, Jake and Chris missed out. Jake had to work the evening shift that night, while Chris was engrossed in on-line gaming with his dad, who lives in Mesa. But we sent chicken home for both of them.

Mom and Sarah wait for the chicken to fry.

I have a pretty great life. Sure, there are always stressful events along with the overall craziness of life, but I have my home, my health, and a comfortable retirement. It isn't perfect, but it holds all the elements for happiness. Above all, I have my family. Every other blessing would seem hollow without loved ones to fill our lives up with purpose and love. And for that, I am very grateful!

Mom and Dylan still waiting for the chicken to fry.

Oh...and yes, I did leave all the dirty dishes for Sarah and Chris to clean up at the end of our Fifth of July Independence Day barbecue. But it's all good. They have a dishwasher!

Dylan did most of the prep work on the chicken, with an assist from Sarah.

Dinner is served!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Sarah's Turn

June 28, 2018: Sarah and Chris's new living room, all done up!

With all the focus on the problems of the inherited house in Mesa, where my son Jacob now lives, it's nice to take a little time now to remember that my daughter, Sarah, and her husband, Chris, also moved into a new home in May. They closed on their new house, the first they've ever owned, almost six weeks ago, and they've spent that time getting all moved in while tackling some new-home issues of their own. (Nothing too serious, though.)

Notice their new kitten, Rosie Cotton, curled up beside the wood stove. 

From their first nights in the house, they soon discovered how hot it can get inside, even in a location with summer temperatures as mild as here in the White Mountains. Although the place came with an evaporative cooler, they've chosen not to use it because it has a leak they can't address yet. Instead, they're making do with fans.

When our chilly winter arrives, they have a furnace with floor vents, but they hope to remedy and heat the house more cheaply with the nice wood stove in the above photo. Unfortunately, when they had the house inspected, they learned that the wood stove is out of code, due to exposed wires and no insulation. Both issues will be relatively easy fixes. They just need to route the wires through an exterior conduit, and then buy/install the proper bricks beneath the stove and on the surrounding walls.

Entertainment center on the wall opposite the couch and love seat.

Sarah and Chris had a great time going though boxes and boxes of things for their home that they'd nearly forgotten about since they got married almost seven years ago, because most of their things have been in storage since then. Their tiny apartment simply wasn't big enough to use or display all they wonderful gifts they received over the years.

The wall clock housewarming gift I gave pet-lovers Sarah and Chris.

It was fun to give them a wall clock as a housewarming gift, knowing they'd be able to use it immediately. I had given Jacob a wolf clock for his birthday this week, something to put on his wall when he moved into his great-grandma Helen's former home, so it seemed appropriate to do something similar for Sarah and Chris. They both love animals, especially dogs and cats, so I thought they'd enjoy these adorable puppies on their wall.

Closeup of the built-in shelves Sarah filled with fun bric-a-brac.

There were, of course, some boxes they didn't unpack yet. Someday they plan to put a shed in the backyard where they can store the types of things still boxed away. For now, those items are being stored on the enclosed porch and in the second bedroom. Also, the master bedroom is still a work in progress, so there are some rooms I didn't film during my visit to their house yesterday. For instance, Sarah is looking for a nice headboard to use with their queen bed. I'll do a reveal when she's done getting the room exactly as they'd like it.

Their cozy dining area next to the kitchen.

Chris is very happy with his new, bigger kitchen. Since he does most of the cooking--partly because he enjoys it more than Sarah does and partly because she works longer hours than he does--he's the one who waxes poetic about having more room to work, a double-basin sink, and a dishwasher. He especially likes to serve their meals buffet-style on the little island in the center of the kitchen, leaving them more room on the table while they dine.

Much more space in the new kitchen than their former tiny apartment.

Sarah thought she might prefer to use the guest bathroom for showering, due to the extra-roominess of the combined tub/shower. However, it turns out that the shower in their master bath was just right and meets with her approval.

The guest bathroom

After checking out the interior of the house, we all marched outdoors to see the changes there. Sarah has a few ideas of her own regarding how she wants the exterior to look when they're done but, again, Chris is the one who is truly excited. He's already borrowed several of my yard tools to get started.

Welcoming chairs by the front door, just inside the enclosed porch.

Their biggest project was getting a good chain-link fence around the property. They had no fenced yard at their apartment, so whenever Sarah and Chris were working, poor Diego had to stay in his 10' x 10' kennel or stay with a pet-sitter (usually Chris's mom or me). In fact, until this week, since they all moved into the new house, Diego spent most of his days with me (I do have a fenced yard) while Sarah and Chris went to work. So the kids were anxious to fence-in the yard, to give Diego his own spacious area in which to safely play whenever they had to be away from home. 

A brand-new gate on the north side of the house.

The new five-feet tall, sturdy chain-link fence was finally completed this weekend, at a cost of about $1,900. Fortunately, they didn't need to fence the north and south property lines of the yard, since their neighbors on both sides had already put up wood fences. There was also a fence of sorts on the back property line, to the west, but Sarah didn't trust it to securely keep Diego from escaping. It appeared to be homemade, with metal stakes and rabbit-wire that was already leaning drunkenly, as if it might topple in a strong wind.

A brand-new 5-foot-tall fence on the south side of the house.

Thus, they had the fence company install a wide gate at the front of the north side of the house and a short section of fence at the front of the south side of the house, and then a long segment along the back. You can see the old fencing in the picture below, still standing. Since no one was able to locate the water line--not even the water company, who claimed they didn't provide water to their area (yet sends them a monthly bill)--the fence company moved the fence inward about five feet (in essence, cutting off five feet of Sarah and Chris's yard) to be certain they didn't cut into a water pipe. They even had to remove one of the small trees.

I told Sarah to tell the water company to stop sending them bills if they aren't the ones providing their water. I was only half-joking. Imagine a water company not knowing where all their lines are!

And a brand-new fence along the back (west side) of the property.

Chris's mom, Brenda, gave them this patio table and chairs for
their back patio. She recently sold her own home and is downsizing.

Sarah gave Chris orders to move this plant to the front of the house.

Everyone comes back inside to visit for a while. Notice 11-year-old
Diego the dog and Frodo the guinea pig (in cage) in the foreground.

We spent a little over an hour visiting before we headed home for our own dinner. It was great to see the changes the kids have made and how much they're enjoying having their own place. It was also fun to see Diego and Frodo and the newest member of the family, three-month-old calico kitten, Rosie Cotton.

Sarah with her new baby, Rosie.

For those who've wondered  about the name choice, Rosie Cotton was a minor character in The Lord of the Rings. Rosie was the love interest of Frodo's devoted friend, Sam Gamgee, but Sam was too shy to even speak to her. Until he returned home from their adventure, that is. Then he realized that it's a mistake to let the good things in life pass you by, and he not only spoke to Rosie Cotton, but he married her!

Chris and I are both big fans of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien.

They did consider other names--Jacki Lantern and Candy Corn--but Rosie Cotton won out. Rosie is slightly cross-eyed, which is simply adorable. She's quickly overcoming her shyness and letting out her inner huntress. We enjoyed watching her stalk her toys and Diego's tail. She still likes to hide sometimes, too, like when strange visitors intrude, such as Mark and me. But she was fun and helped make our visit even more interesting!

Rosie Cotton enjoys a relaxing massage from Chris.