Tuesday, June 19, 2018

It's Not All Bad

Jacob checks out the Phoenix office of Progrexion, where he'll
now be working after being at the Salt Lake City office for a year.

Most of the information I've shared about the Mesa house, with the costs and hassles of eviction, clean-up, repairs, replacements, and improvements needed, has been pretty much of a "downer." In this post, I'd like to focus on the positive aspects of the week I spent in Mesa dealing with this whole issue (two weeks ago).

First and foremost, as I've already shared, I'm thrilled to have Jacob back in Arizona. It's also great that we are able to provide an affordable place for him to live while he helps us fix the house up and make it the nice home it has the potential to be again, as it was when his great-grandma Helen was alive. Furthermore, I'm excited that he wants to buy the house himself and keep it in the family. We made a lot of memories there when the kids were younger.

The Progrexion office building is located in Deer Valley (north Phoenix).

On Saturday morning, the day after the rest of our family returned to Lakeside, Jacob and his aunt and cousin worked hard in the heat to load more rubbish into the moving van, and then they drove out to Salt River Landfill to dump it. While they were gone, I went shopping with Wilma's thirteen-year-old grandson, Thomas, before returning to the house to await the security company, who was supposed to install Jacob's security system (but couldn't, due to the powerless transformer). I also spent time cleaning out the pantry and lining the shelves with contact paper.

I must pause here to share a story. I'd offered Thomas ten dollars to help carry bags of trash out to the truck. Wilma offered him an additional three dollars, and he was quite excited at the prospect of spending his earnings when we went to Walmart. He went on at length about video games and other electronic toys. I warned him that the game system he wanted was hundreds of dollars more expensive than the thirteen dollars he had to spend, but he was undaunted.

Once we were at Walmart, Thomas dragged me right over to the electronics section and told me he wanted this particular gaming system, which cost in the neighborhood of $500. I explained that he didn't have enough to buy it, but he was beaming with confidence when he pointed out that, after he paid them his thirteen dollars, it wouldn't be as expensive for me to buy. That's when I realized that Thomas, who has autism, didn't fully comprehend the value of money. It was so sweet and funny at the same time. I did end up spending almost twenty dollars on a toy rifle with soft darts, but I felt he was worth it.

The main entrance to Progrexion, an affiliate of Lexington Law Firm.

By the time Saturday afternoon rolled around, Jacob and I were both beat. We were exhausted after two days of excessive heat and hard labor. It was time for a break. Around 3:00, he hopped into the now-empty truck  and I followed him in my car to the heart of Phoenix, where he returned the truck to Penske. 

From there, we headed north to Deer Valley so we could check out the offices of Progrexion, where Jacob would be working from then on, starting the following Monday. As you can see from the photos above, it's a beautiful building. Although the place was mostly deserted, we were able to get inside and look around. Jacob was impressed, telling me it was much larger and fancier than even their corporate office in Salt Lake City, where he's been working since November.

For those who wonder what Jacob does at Progrexion... It all began fourteen months ago, when Jacob decided he was tired of battling petty administrative problems at Walmart, where he'd been a customer service manager for more than three years. In May 2017, he was hired by Lexington Law, a consumer advocacy law firm located in Salt Lake City, with branches scattered around the country. After Jacob was trained and certified as a paralegal, he spent his days taking calls from people who were interested in the credit repair services offered by Lexington's team of lawyers. It was his job to explain the program to them, helping the callers understand what the company could do to help them repair their poor credit. He enjoyed the relaxed nature of the job and the good pay, but it still wasn't quite his dream career.

During his six months at Lexington, he began to hear about the sales division that provided the law firm with potential clients: Progrexion. Jacob loves sales jobs (I'll never understand it, myself; I even failed at selling Avon in the 1970s). Every year he won the award for most popcorn sales in cub scouts. He was a top seller for every school fundraiser. He had no fear of approaching total strangers and asking them to buy something they didn't really need, costing more than it was worth. And, the crazy thing is, they bought it! I don't know if it was his thoughtful, quiet manner or those big, sincere green eyes, but most everyone bought from him. After his mission, he worked in a series of retail jobs, including a car dealership, but he was in a wandering mood at that time and didn't stay with any job too long over a period of a year and a half.

The opportunities offered at Progrexion, though, fired up his old interests. The high commission rates and the chance to be involved in sales again persuaded him to apply at Lexington's sister company. With the blessing of his former supervisor at Lexington, Jacob was hired at Progrexion in November, seven months ago. And he's loving it. He doesn't do "cold calls," where telemarketers call random numbers trying to sell something to people who haven't asked for it. Instead, he takes calls from people with low credit scores, high debt, and bankruptcies who are already looking for someone to help them repair their credit. His six months at Lexington created a great foundation for the current job, because he truly understands the processes required to force creditors to correct inaccurate credit information.

And, if you're good at sales, it pays well. Jacob says, "I'll never again work a job that doesn't pay commissions!" (I feel the exact opposite...) He told me one day last week that he'd made eleven sales, earning himself $400 for that one day. That was at least the second time, that I know of. To Jacob, a bad day is when he only makes four sales...even though that still works out to about $18.50 per hour! On top of that, Progrexion provides the same relaxed, supportive work environment he'd enjoyed at Lexington, so it's a win-win.

We went to dinner at this Scottsdale restaurant, Chart House.

Eventually, we left Progrexion and continued southeast to Scottsdale, where we arrived ten minutes ahead of our 5:30 dinner reservation at Chart House. This is one of those fancy establishments frequented by the financially well-off, since the average cost for one meal was about $42.00. Some went as high as $85.00.

I know this may come as a surprise, but I am not rich. Not even close. I know, I know, after a dazzling, twenty-seven year career as a teacher, I should be rolling in the dough, but alas...no.

We were given a table by the window, overlooking the water.

The only reason we were able to afford dinner at this restaurant was a perk of my stay at the WorldMark Scottsdale resort earlier in the week. In order to persuade club owners to attend an "informational presentation" (actually a thinly-veiled sales pitch), WorldMark by Wyndham offers incentives, which I usually take. In this case, they gave me a $25.00 voucher for Chart House and an American Express card loaded with $75.00. I never say no to free food!

Our table had a "VIP" card. The salad bar was well-stocked. 

I generally feel out of place at these high-class establishments, even though it's also fun to pretend you have enough money in the bank to legitimately be there. I feel like a rube and a clod, as if everyone in the place is watching to see if I drool or eat with the wrong fork. Nonetheless, the maitre d' greeted us as if we were royalty and led us to our table, one of the best in the house, overlooking the blue lake on the golf course where the restaurant is located. There was even a VIP card on our table. At first I thought they must do that to make all their customers feel important, but then I looked around and didn't see any others on the tables around us. 

Jacob had prime rib, I had filet mignon, and Yukon Gold garlic mashed potatoes.
The meat was so tender it practically melted in our mouths.

I finally realized what it was when our waiter took our order. He mentioned that "our special hot chocolate lava cake has already been ordered for you, courtesy of your concierge." Concierge? What concierge? Then I remembered the man in the lobby of WorldMark who had actually called Chart House and made our reservation for us. I remembered he said something about us being valued guests or something. Now it made sense. WorldMark must send a lot of patrons their way, and Chart House responds by treating those guest as truly honored VIPs. In my solidly middle-class mind, it's kind of silly, but it was also kind of nice for one hour of my life.

The hot chocolate lava cake was the best I've ever eaten!

The waiter was young and handsome, and he hovered attentively over us the entire time we were there. In fact, he seemed so interested in us, you'd have almost thought we were Mary and Jacob Kardashian. However, he was pretty down-to-earth. He told us how he'd moved to Arizona from northern California recently, because the cost of living there was out of control. His girlfriend's parents were also preparing to make the leap, as more and more people are following suit. We told him how Jacob lived in that area during his mission and how we vacationed there just last October.

Jacob's eye-rolling expression says it all: "To die for!"

At the end of our meal, we soon learned that they hadn't exaggerated the excellence of their lava cake. We were brought one lava cake to share (price, paid by WorldMark: $11.50), and it was unbelievably decadently delectable. Indescribable. From the Heath Bar crumbles scattered over the top, to the hot chocolate sauce that oozed thickly from inside, it was total perfection.

In the end, even with the $100 worth of voucher and American Express card, we still had a bill for $13. Add to that a $20 tip and our $33 charges were roughly the size of a two-person bill at restaurants we normally patronize. Not too shabby.

Jacob at least had his living room in place when I left to come home.
That's Jacob's dog, Razz (Razzmatazz), with his squeaky toy, Foxy.

While Jacob was at his first day of work in Deer Valley on Monday, I worked hard on getting his living room up to snuff. The house was definitely becoming more livable (or so we thought until he discovered the cockroaches two days later), but I wanted him to have at least one room that was all his for now. Since his bedroom was where we'd stacked all his boxes, that left the living room.

Even though the flooring in the living room is going to be hauled off soon, I moved the furniture around and swept and mopped the floor well. Again, it took multiple Swiffer cloths before they stopped coming up black. All Jacob had were his two love-seat-size couches, his wolf artwork, and the faux-fireplace entertainment center for his TV. So I drove over to Deseret Industries while he was at work and bought him a small table for $12.00. I placed it between the two couches so there'd be a place for his very cool wolf-lamp. I thought it looked quite nice when it was all done.

If you think Jacob is all about wolves, you're correct!
He claims that his spirit animal is the wolf. (That stuff 
stacked on the left is mine. It came back home with me.)

One last thing. I mentioned that I'd cleaned out the pantry. That included the floor inside the pantry, still covered with the ancient, original linoleum that was the kitchen floor back in Helen's day. It was sticky and stained with some mysterious black gunk, and it took a long time to scrub it off, but once it was clean, seeing that old pattern brought back so many memories.

Later in the day, I went to the pantry to get something I'd placed inside. As I opened the door, the scent that wafted out smelled exactly like the pantry of Helen's time. The memories it triggered almost knocked me off my feet, as I was transported back in time to when my kids were small and we came to spend a weekend every month or two, because Helen was my children's favorite person in the entire world. She did our laundry and fed us and spent every moment possible with the grandchildren she adored. Those were the days when my children would start chanting as soon as we reached the freeway exit near her house: "Grand-ma's house! Grand-ma's house!"

A while later, Jacob went to the pantry to grab something. As soon as he opened the door, he stopped and looked at me in wonder. "That's Grandma's house!" he exclaimed. He told me the other day that he still gets that sensation every time he opens that door. It reminds him what all our work is for.

Mark and I will be heading back to Mesa tomorrow, partly to take care of some business for Mark, and partly to spend two days doing more work on the house. I can't wait to have Mark stand in front of the pantry and open up that magical door...

Monday, June 18, 2018

Happy Father's/Birth/Day

June 17, 2018: Mark celebrates Father's Day and his 50th birthday.

Fifty years ago this coming Thursday, June 21st, Mark was born in Davenport, Iowa. He is more stunned than anyone that he's been alive for a whole half-century, given the myriad bad choices he's made throughout most of his life. Quite frankly, he never believed he'd make it to his 40th birthday, let alone ten years beyond. Nonetheless, here he is now, more than six years clean and sober, finding that he's really enjoying the life he knows today.

We were also a little shocked when Sarah commented, "I can't believe my dad is only ten years older than my husband." What?? But she's right. Mark turns 50 this week, and Chris turned 40 in March. (Sarah is 28.) So odd to think that Chris is closer in age to Mark than I am, with me being almost 14 years older than Mark. 

Mark requested Sarah's Mexican chicken casserole for his special dinner.

The last time Mark had a family birthday party in our home that wasn't combined with a Father's Day celebration was way back in June 1989, four months before Sarah was born. Since he became a father, we've always combined the two, since Father's Day always falls between June 15th and Mark's actual birthdate, June 21st. This year was no different.

I asked Mark what he'd like for his celebration dinner and dessert. He chose Sarah's most famous dish, Mexican chicken casserole. I was down with that, since it's a family favorite, plus it meant I didn't have to do the cooking! The 9 x 13 pan of deliciousness disappeared in no time flat. Scraped clean.

For dessert, he asked for an ice cream cake. Specifically, he chose a banana-split flavored ice cream cake, since he's a connoisseur of fine banana splits.

Most of Mark's gifts and cards.

After dinner, it was time to open gifts. This time, instead of taking a picture of Mark alone with all of his gifts, I decided to take pictures of Mark with his gifts and each of the givers, so at some future time we can have fun seeing who gave him what.

Mark wrestles through the tape on one of my gifts.

Jacob lives closer now, but still not close enough to drop in for our party. He did call his dad today to wish him a happy Father's Day. After they were done, I took the phone, and Jacob told me what he's thinking of buying for his dad. Jacob plans to drive up and join us this Thursday night, to spend Friday and Saturday here with us (those are his days off). He'll bring Mark's gift with him then.

Mark loves his chocolate. This was from Sarah and Chris.

Dylan presents his dad with his gift: a new fishing license.

Sarah and Chris with Mark and their gifts to him: the Mr. Goodbar candy,
a $30 Walmart gift card, and a monkey card that Mark thought was hilarious.

It's so hard to buy gifts for adults! I decided on the Jenga game because our kids love playing games together, but Mark rarely joins in. He enjoys card games and dice games of chance, but if it requires reading or solving clues or designing strategies, he's not interested. I figured Jenga was more about action, with opportunities for laughter that we could all share. When he opened it, I was surprised to find out that Mark has never played Jenga before. It just might turn out to be a good game for some family hilarity!

Mary with Mark and her gifts to him: a "Punisher" tee-shirt,
a 1-lb bag of mini-Snickers bars, and a Jenga game.

Our weekly Sunday dinners are always fun, but it's even more special when there's someone to celebrate. Despite the long-time addictions that haunted our seventeen-year marriage, I can honestly say that Mark was a good dad. He was very hands-on with our kids, getting down on the floor to work and play with them, changing diapers, sharing his food with them, cleaning up their messes, taking them to the park or fishing or shopping, and overall enjoying being together. He rarely had the heart to even discipline them, so Daddy was always their favorite (making me the "mean" parent, lol). He was so proud of our kids, and they loved to be with him.

Happy Father's Day, and happy birthday, Mark!

This was a random picture by Dylan, but I'm adding it because it seems to 
capture one of those typical at-home moments. Mark is taking his gifts to
his room, Chris is eating a slice of ice cream cake, and I am...not sure what!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Scavengers and Hoarders

Emptying the moving van at Jacob's new home in Mesa on May 31, 2018.

Despite the many challenges we've faced both prior to and since Jacob's return to Arizona, May 31st was one of the best days ever for me. After two and a half years in Utah, my son was back in Arizona to live and work. I love that all three of my children are once again in the same state, within easy visiting distance.

Jake grabs another box while Jacob works inside the truck.

May was an exciting month. We got to see Sarah and Chris purchase a home of their own, their first, and get settled in. And we got to see Jacob get moved into his late great-grandmother's house, which he hopes to buy soon and settle into for the long-term. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my children work hard, find success, and create good lives.

Jacob readies more boxes for transfer from truck to house.

Not that Jacob wasn't taken aback by his first view of the house that was to become his home. I had sent him pictures of the destruction and the rubbish-strewn state of the house, but the reality is rather more jarring than photos can convey. He waited until the second day before confiding that his initial reaction was, "I don't want to live in this house!" Fortunately, by then we'd made enough progress to see the positive possibilities, and he'd decided this was doable.

The living room was the only room that seemed to have the furniture
removed, but this was the mess they left behind for us to clear out.
Notice the holey damage to the walls, on nearly every wall in the house.

I was aghast myself (though not exactly surprised) at all the junk left behind. It filled every room of the house, as well as the garage and yard. Clearly the former occupants are scavengers. Most of us know someone like that: folks who see a broken bike or couch left by a dumpster and stop to put it in their truck and haul it home. They intend to fix it up and make use of it, but usually it just lands on an ever-growing heap of collected garbage that takes over their space. They're also hoarders, because they can't let go of anything, even as it crowds them out and creates unsafe living conditions.

The condition of the master bedroom when we walked in.

Now that the eviction process had been completed and we were able to get into the house, the next big obstacle was clearing everything out before we could move Jacob's stuff in. Not only was the house cluttered and filthy, but we'd also been informed that one of the tenants had an active case of the difficult-to-treat infection, MRSA, in his knee while still living in the house. Thus, everyone wore rubber gloves as they worked, and I applied liberal quantities of Lysol and Clorox as I cleaned.

Another view of the master bedroom, now Jacob's new room.
The guys rolled up that carpet and hauled it to the dump.

Originally, Dylan and Jake weren't going to be able to join us, but then they got Thursday and Friday off at the last moment, and they brought along their friend, Justice. Thank goodness they did! I truly don't know what we'd have done without their hard work. So much more heavy lifting was needed than just the four of us (Jacob, Sarah, Mark, and I) could have done in only two days.

Dylan and Justice carry out broken remnants of a chair.
Jacob is in the doorway of what is now his new bedroom.

Sarah did an awesome job of sorting through the landscape of unpleasant litter left on the floors of nearly every room, a job no one else wanted, while the guys carried furniture, boxes, and bags of trash back and forth in the 103-degree heat. I swept, mopped, and scrubbed the stove, fridge, and counters. On Thursday I treated our moving-team to Taco Bell tacos for lunch and KFC's $5 box meals (which now cost $5.75, by the way) for dinner. On Friday, I took our little crew to dinner at Golden Corral buffet before everyone else drove home to Lakeside (they all had jobs to return to), leaving Jacob and me to tackle the remaining tasks on our own until I, too, returned home four days later.

The middle bedroom. This was Mark's old room, from age 12 to 21.
It never looked like this when he lived there, though!

It's important to note that, although our gang carried out everything that had been left inside the house by the former residents, we were limited on what we could do with it. By law, after a forcible eviction, the tenants have twenty-one days to reclaim anything they left behind. The tenants had told us they had no room to store the furniture, since they hadn't found a new place to live, so we should just get rid of it. Without getting that in writing, though, I'll play it safe and wait until the twenty-one days are over, on June 21st (Mark's 50th birthday, coincidentally).

Another look at the middle bedroom, Mark's former room (1980-1989).

On the other hand, I'm not compelled to hold onto their actual garbage. While some pieces of furniture and other items in the house were in relatively decent shape, many were falling apart. Literally, they broke into pieces when they were picked up. After Jacob's furniture and boxes were unloaded from the moving van, we loaded it back up with crappy rugs, partial furniture pieces, broken dishes and cookware, and bags of trash. It cost $36.25 to dump it at the landfill on Saturday morning, the first of many such loads we'll have to dump over the coming months.

A peek inside the scary garage.

Any of their furniture and other items deemed to still be serviceable are stacked on the driveway, in front of the garage. I would have happily stored their things inside the garage or even the backyard, except for two problems. One, the garage door and garage door opener are both broken and cannot be operated or opened. Two, there's no room in either the garage or the backyard, due to the immense amount of rubbish with which they've filled both. Check out the garage in the picture above. It's almost impossible to walk through it. I tripped and almost fell twice.

Thus, the driveway is filled with furniture and other clutter that we hope they'll come back for. Meanwhile, I haven't yet received a Notice of Ordinance Violation from city officials for the unsightly mess. Hopefully, we can hang in there for five more days, until we can legally haul it all away.

Jacob's pup, Razz (Razzmatazz), watches all the coming and going.

As our six days of working on the house unfolded, I was continually reminded of that old movie from 1985, The Money Pit, starring Tom Hanks and Shelley Long. Everywhere we turned, we found something else neglected or damaged, while I watched my costs to restore the house mounting. I suppose the timing is right. I couldn't have afforded to do anything about the house a little over a year ago. Now, thanks to the generous retirement benefits I received when I retired last June, I do have money put aside. However, this is not how I'd planned to use it!

Our first two doors and door trim, on a cart at Home Depot.

The first costly task we faced was replacing all the outside doors. There was no point in putting the new doorknobs and deadbolts on the scavenged doors the tenants had installed. They were bashed-in and crumbling, one with broken glass. They wouldn't even close properly. So while others in our group continued working on clearing out the house, Dylan and Jake went to Walmart to purchase an electric drill (Mark couldn't find the charger for his), while Jacob and I went to buy four exterior doors, a security door, door trim, and other supplies.

By the time I left Mesa, the total cost for doors, doorknobs, and related supplies was: $1,143.88 And we aren't done yet. We still have at least four more doors to replace, as well as the trim. Three are interior doors, which are less expensive, thankfully.

Dylan carries a box through the nice, newly-installed front door.
Jacob will pull up the broken and mismatched living room flooring.

Not that any of us are expert do-it-yourself-ers. Jacob had watched some YouTube videos on how to install doors, and I had watched my second ex-husband put in our new front door seven years ago, so we had a rudimentary understanding of the concept. Still, we felt it would be wise to call upon my niece Celesta's husband, Riley, for assistance. He had some experience in installing doors, although not the kind we were installing, which were already pre-hung and set into their casings. Thus, it was a learning experience for all of us, but they got it done! It's a great improvement.

The entire, broken, living room window, frame and all, must be replaced.

The most costly single repair will be the front window in the living room. When I walked through the house in April, the tenants did tell me someone had thrown a rock at the window, breaking the glass. They'd replaced it with a too-small pane of glass and blocked it in on top with some wood, as shown in the photo above.

I called out a glass company, expecting to pay a few hundred dollars for a large pane of glass. What the tenants hadn't told me is that the window's frame was mutilated, with some portions even missing. I actually gasped before murmuring faintly, "Oh my," when the lady at the glass company quoted the price to replace and install the entire window, including new vinyl frames: $1,041.54. It has been ordered, but the window won't be delivered until about a month from now.

Again, there's more. At least one bedroom window needs repair or replacement, and both bathrooms have missing frosted-glass panes, which the tenants replaced with plywood. I will tackle those problems later... Right now, the total window expenses stand at $1,113.35.

The front bedroom, occupied by the young man who refused to move out,
claiming it was still his house. Filled with broken furniture, but somewhat tidy.

Next up, while Jacob was at the landfill on Saturday, the security company arrived to install Jacob's system of cameras, alarms, and sensors. The installer seemed unduly concerned that the doorbell didn't work and told me I'd have to replace the "transformer" before they could put in the security system. Almost sixty-four years on this planet, and I'd never heard of a transformer in anyone's house.

What the heck is a transformer? Turns out it's a tiny, 120-volt box in the garage (usually, but ours was hidden in the water heater room) that has one job, and one job only: to power the doorbell! Without it, apparently, there could be no security system, since everything is wired through the doorbell. Go figure.

The transformer itself only cost $16.18 at Home Depot, but Jacob and I soon realized we were out of our depth. If we'd tried to install it ourselves, our charred remains would eventually have been found lying near the water heater. Riley suggested we call his brother in-law, Scott, who's married to my niece Genevieve. Scott is an engineer, so he had the broken doorbell "donging" in no time at all. Yes, I said "donging." Like everything else in this house, the doorbell was busted. Instead of "ding-dong," we got "...dong."

Another view of the front bedroom. I made sure we saved most of
his furniture, since it seemed clear that he valued his possessions.

We made another frightening discovery while dealing with the transformer. When we had to turn off the electricity to the old transformer so Scott could install the new one, we found the fuse box cover lying in the dirt, having been broken off and mangled so badly that it was no longer usable, leaving all the switches open to the elements. The fuse box is located at the side of the house, toward the front yard, in full view of the sidewalk and within easy access to anyone who happens to walk by. Meaning, anyone could flip the main switch off at any time, leaving the house with no electricity at all.

Jacob has taken the fuse box lid to three different places so far, hoping to find a replacement, but they all shake their heads because it's so antiquated (the house was built almost forty years ago, in 1979). We may have to bring in an electrician to rewire everything into a new fuse box, but I'm afraid to think about what that will cost me.

I also to had to buy a new fire/smoke alarm, since the one in the house was disconnected, with hanging wires (not battery-operated). Not to mention all the bare wires protruding from outlets with no covers and ceiling holes with missing light fixtures and more dangling wires. Scott kindly offered to teach Jacob how to fix those items sometime in the future, saying it was fairly easy to do as long as safety precautions are observed.

On the plus side, Mark's aunt's roommate works on air conditioners, and he offered to service ours for just $100. It was a relief when he pronounced it to be in "great condition," other than needing a new filter (naturally, the former tenants had put in a much-too-small filter and then never changed it). We had a momentary scare when the a/c quit cooling the house and instead started blowing out warm air, but when I reminded Jacob that his security company had installed a new thermostat (so he can control it from his phone), he gave them a call. It turned out that the setting was wrong, and they helped Jacob rectify it. Now it's working fine. Whew!

So far, total electrical costs have been just $222.00. That includes the $100 service fee on the air conditioner.

This was the nightmare that greeted us in the guest bathroom.
Jacob scrubbed this disgusting toilet so well that he made it shine like new.

Both bathrooms were so awful, I should have known they would become our next crisis. The toilets and their seats were covered with such unpleasant stains and crusty mysteries that we immediately bought new toilet seats. Meanwhile, during our first two days in the house, no one used those bathrooms. We held our bladders until we were at Walmart or Home Depot or a fast food restaurant. Yes, even those bathrooms were preferable!

On Saturday night, when it was just the two of us left, Jacob scrubbed both toilets really well and then set to work putting on the new toilet seats. The bolts on both toilets were incredibly corroded and he couldn't break them loose. He finally had to resort to a crowbar and a hammer, and eventually was able to get the new seat installed in the front guest bathroom.

Leftover tenant stuff on the sill of another busted window, guest bathroom.

Then he went after the toilet in the master bathroom. Those bolts were even more corroded. He wrestled with it for a long time before he finally worked one bolt loose. Later, I heard him muttering Jacob-style obscenities ("Oh, snap!"), followed by the crash of shattered porcelain. The force of the hammered crowbar had fractured the side of the toilet bowl.

I wasn't too sorry to have to buy a replacement toilet. I upgraded it to a nicer one, like I have in my own home, and told Jacob that from now on I will have full access to the master bathroom when I visit! Meanwhile, the front bathroom was usable, so it was all good...or so I told myself.

The toilet in the master bathroom was slightly less vile.

I was content until Sunday night, when I flushed the toilet in the front bathroom and something snapped. No more flush. I called to Jacob and told him the chain in the tank must have come off. He checked, but he found it rigged with some odd material that couldn't be reattached. Struck by inspiration, I suggested, "The toilet in your bathroom isn't any good now. Maybe you can scavenge parts from it to fix this one."

Jacob thought that was a good idea, so we trooped back to the master bathroom. I stood in the doorway while he opened the tank, only to find the same weirdly rigged system. Giving up on my idea, he flushed the broken toilet...and a strong spray of water gushed from the open tank and hit me in the face, soaking my nightgown and Jacob's sheet and pillow on the bed behind me!

To top it off, water poured out of the toilet for a minute before Jacob was able to turn off the water valve, and then the wave poured through the wall into the guest bathroom on the other side. This revealed a large hole torn through the wall near the floor between the two toilets. Another repair to add to the list. It was all so horrible that all we could do was laugh.

How the sink in the master bathroom was left for us.

Suffice it to say, we were again reduced to no toilet at home, this time for almost twenty-four hours. On Monday, Jacob reported for his first day of work at the Phoenix office, leaving me on my own for the day. I shopped for odds and ends, like curtains for the living room window and a new flapper for the front toilet. A flapper with a chain, at Jacob's insistence. After he got home from work on Monday evening, he repaired the flush and life was good again.

Total costs related to the bathrooms so far: $272.32.

Both panes of window glass are missing from the master bathroom.

When I woke up early on Monday morning, I was suddenly seized with a desire to attack the layers of grime on the large tiles in the hall, dining area, kitchen, and part of the laundry room. I would say this was the one legitimate improvement made to the house by the tenants in their almost-six years there. It isn't perfect. There are places where the tiles are of uneven height or missing pieces or badly cut or chipped or stained with grout. The pattern of mismatched colors and textures is beyond random. My guess is that they installed the tiles in the order in which they were able to scavenge them. Some have no match at all, such as the dark-red tile behind Jacob's foot in the picture below.

Nonetheless, overall it's a solid job, and I'm grateful to at least have a few areas for which I won't have to provide new flooring.

Jacob finishes up the mopping in the dining area for me.

However, the layers of filth were almost indescribable. By the time Jacob woke up and found me mopping away, I'd already used up one large-size tub of Swiffer wet cloths and started on the next. No exaggeration, I had to use three or four Swiffer cloths for each six-tile area before they stopped coming up black with grime. It looked pretty nice when it was done, though.

The tenants also installed smaller tiles in the bathrooms, but I wasn't able to stomach going in to take a closer look at them yet. They may be fine, although I did notice some large tile-less gaps.

Flooring is one expense I'll make a decision on later, when I see how much everything else costs in the end. All three bedrooms are down to bare cement, since we pulled up all the carpets. Soon, the living room will also be down to cement, once Jacob pulls up the old, scavenged wood planks and broken tiles. I have yet to find any type of flooring that will cost less than about $1,000 per room. (Groan.)

Cost for cleaning supplies: $84.81.

The kitchen was grotesque. All this stuff was in the upper cupboards, 
and more was in the bottom cupboards and drawers we never got to.
The hood and fan over the crusty stove had been ripped out.

I ended up staying in Mesa two days longer than planned. Originally, my plan was to return home on Sunday, the day Jacob thought would be his first day at his new job site. When he found out he didn't report until Monday, I stayed an extra day to help him get more done. Then I extended my stay until Tuesday so I could be there when Scott came to install the transformer on Monday afternoon, while Jacob was at work.

I finally left the house after 10:00 on Tuesday morning. My next stop was at the Mesa Police Department, where I turned in the bullets we'd found in the master bedroom, including some incendiary rounds. That was an interesting experience! Then I drove on to Lakeside, arriving just in time to pick up Mark from work around 2:30. I was happily dreaming of two relaxing weeks at home, free from Mesa-house drama, before our next trip to Mesa on June 20th. Little did I know...

The very next morning, I got a call from Jacob. "You might want to call pest control," he said. I gulped. "Why?" I asked weakly. "Cockroaches. Running through the fridge this morning," he told me. I was devastated. We'd spent six days in that house and never saw a single bug. I'd spent hours scouring that refrigerator so we could stock it with enough food to get Jacob through until his next payday, and I never saw signs of any cockroaches. (I've never dealt with cockroaches in my adult life, but I remember them from my childhood, when we lived in rentals until I was nine and my parents bought their first house.)

The scrubbing of the foul, sticky refrigerator took quite a long time.

I told Jacob to go ahead and find a reasonably priced exterminator. He did. Defense Pest Control offered me a one-year contract to come in and spray every other month for $65 per treatment. I agreed, but Jacob called me later. "Bad news. These are German roaches." That meant nothing to me, so he explained that meant a different treatment. German roaches are smaller and multiply much faster than the other types. It requires locating and treating their nests, which is more costly and time-consuming. It would only take two treatments, but the cost is $225 per treatment, or $450 total.

It went downhill from there. I jokingly told Jacob to stop calling me, because every time he did, it cost me more money! The exterminator did an impressive job, according to Jacob. He crawled around the house's cupboards and appliances for almost three hours, spraying nests and setting traps. Jacob called to report, "He found nests under the oven and the dishwasher. It's so bad, he said we should get rid of them because it's hard to get at the roaches in there."

I couldn't disagree. After all, I'm sure that's where the infestation began. German roaches (I googled them) like to nest in appliances because they're attracted by the electrical warmth, so bringing in used appliances (even something as simple as a hand-mixer) is a common cause of bringing roaches into the home. All of these scavenged appliances were no doubt picked up from junkyards, so the tenants probably unwittingly infested the house without realizing it. Jacob told me he found a huge stash of roach sprays and other cockroach traps as he cleared out the bottom kitchen cupboards.

The exterminator helped Jacob take the oven and dishwasher out to join the stacks in the driveway.  Jacob called me again an hour later. "Wow, we just hit the mother lode! You should see the huge nest under the fridge!" Aargh! So, out went the refrigerator, too. Jacob said there was a nasty, thick, black pile of roach droppings on the tiles under the fridge.

The morning after pest control's visit, Jacob walked into the front bedroom and found a different kind of cockroach, "as big as a June bug!" he said in a horrified tone. Jacob has never lived in the Valley, so he'd never seen a sewer roach. This required a different treatment, which usually costs $100, but the exterminator offered to do it for only $65 when he came out to do the second German roach treatment. I accepted.

There is good news. Since he saw the sewer roach nine days ago, Jacob hasn't seen any more bugs in the house. The exterminator returned yesterday and did another thorough search and spray, but he too saw no live roaches anywhere. In fact, there were no roaches in the traps he'd set, which means the chemicals killed the roaches before they even got that far. He also treated the house and yard for sewer roaches, including the piles of debris left out in the yard by the tenants. That's where they're most likely to be living, he said. I can't wait to haul that rubbish away!

Total pest control expenses (so far): $515.00.

Prior to the discovery of the cockroaches, I made sure that
Jacob's scrubbed-clean fridge was stocked before I returned home.

Meanwhile, Jacob needed a refrigerator. Big thanks to my sister, Karla, who pointed him to Spencer's Appliances, where he found a good fridge on sale. Jacob plugged in the new fridge across the kitchen from where the old one stood so it wouldn't tempt any possible surviving roaches. He had to leave his refrigerated stuff out on the counter for a while, giving the new fridge time to chill, but he took his freezer items to Karla's house to stay safely frozen for the next twenty-four hours.

I told Jacob I would buy a new oven/stove (as a chef, he needs something to cook on) and a new disposal (the old one sounds like it's grinding large rocks) this coming week, but he could live without a dishwasher and a washer and dryer until he could afford to buy his own. So, naturally, he went back down to Spencer's Appliances today to purchase a stove, a dishwasher, and a washer and dryer set, and then informed me that I could pay for the stove when I return to Mesa this coming Wednesday. So much for patiently planning and preparing...

Total cost for all the new appliances (except the disposal, for now): $2,641.85

I knew fixing up this house was going to be a big job. Overall, though, the house is structurally sound. It has simply been neglected and abused for so many years that there are a lot of surface issues to correct. And it obviously won't be cheap.

The end tally of house-related costs over the past sixteen days since Jacob moved in, not including travel expenses (food, fuel, lodging) or eviction expenses, is a whopping $6,232.21...with more to come. All I can do is handle it one crisis at a time. Stay tuned...

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Trespass

Posted on the door after the so-called "tenants" were evicted.
May 31, 2018

It has been exactly two weeks since Jacob moved into his great-grandma's house in Mesa. It's been nine days since I returned home from spending eight days there, six of those days helping Jacob get settled in after clearing out the former tenants' rubbish that filled every room of the house. After so much time, you might think that all the drama has died down, but you'd be wrong.

When it became clear that the five people living in the house had not vacated it by May 28th, as ordered by the judge twenty days earlier, I drove to Mesa on the 29th to file for a Writ of Restitution, in which the constable is engaged to forcibly evict the tenants. Nonetheless, I'd hoped it wouldn't come to that.

In fact, we were almost able to avoid the forced eviction. Four of the five tenants appear to have moved out by the evening of the 29th, two days before Jacob's arrival. However, one of the tenants--the twenty-something son of the woman who was originally invited by Mark's aunt to move into the house, almost six years ago--refused to get out. His mom talked him into leaving with her on the 30th, but during the night he returned and slept in his bed. Mark's Aunt Wilma found him there the next morning, in a room filled with his furniture, none of which had been moved out.

This was May 31st, the day Jacob was to move in, and the boy was still refusing to leave. I sat in my car for a while that morning, waiting for Jacob's moving van to turn onto the street, and watching this young man wander around the yard, calmly picking up trash from what used to be a nice lawn. He insisted to everyone that it was his house.

By 1:00 that afternoon, my whole family had gathered together, parked in front of Wilma's house next-door, ready to help Jacob move in his things. When the constable arrived just before 1:30, he told us he had come by the house about forty-five minutes earlier and found the young man there. He said he explained to him why he had to leave and what would happen if he stayed. He also told him that he'd be arrested for trespassing if he returned. The young man seemed to accept what he said and left peaceably.

Once the constable had walked through the house to make sure it was secure, he gave me the legal paperwork and a Warning Notice to post on the door, to remind the former tenants that their presence on the property without our permission would result in an arrest for trespassing. It was also a requirement that we change all exterior locks on the house, so I showed him my box filled with $97 worth of new doorknobs and deadbolts. After that, the constable's job was done.

We all hoped that would be the end of it.

During the first two days, while our entire family was together and we were busily hauling the abandoned garbage out of the house and bringing in Jacob's belongings, some of the tenants watched us from Wilma's front yard, but none approached. After Sarah, Dylan, Jake, Mark, and the kids' friend Justice returned to Pinetop-Lakeside, Jacob and I were untroubled for the four days I stayed on, so we were hopeful that the hassle was over.

There was one day when the woman's boyfriend, who'd also been living there, did come to the front door to ask me about their mail and whether the utilities had been taken out of his name. He said they hoped to get into their own place the following week so they could take away the furniture that we'd stacked in the driveway, in front of the garage. I had no issue with that. He'd approached us directly and we had a polite conversation.

The day after I left Mesa to return home, Jacob's security company came to install his system of cameras and sensors and alarms. He quickly discovered that the house was receiving more visitors than we knew.

A screenshot of one mysterious night visitor, just before 4:00 a.m.
You can even see the Warning Notice is still on the door. It states:
"You have no legal rights to be in or about this premises."

The very first night after the security system was installed, Jacob was awakened around midnight by his phone announcing that there was movement at the front and side of the house. He watched on camera as a man, who appeared to possibly be one of the former tenants, rifled through a pile of stuff they'd left under a tarp at the side of the house. He even watched as the police pulled up and questioned the man before leaving him to continue trespassing undisturbed. Since Jacob hadn't called the police, they probably believed whatever explanation the man gave them. We have no idea why the officers were even there.

The same man returned on another night, going into the backyard and throwing things over the fence to the side of the house, adding to the piles of rubbish already heaped there. He left, and then he returned later, predawn. Jacob called the police, who arrived within minutes, but the man was already gone.

On another day, Jacob came home from dinner at Smashburger to find a black book called Evil Designs (taken from a stack of the tenants' books) standing on-end on the doorstep, and the screen on the kitchen window half-removed. At the time, that same tenant was visiting next-door, so Jacob thought it might have been him playing mind-games. So Jacob asked his aunt to remind these people that they can't be on the property without permission or they could be arrested.

A few days went by without further disturbance, and then the mystery man in the photo above came into the yard and started going through things. No one recognizes him as one of the tenants. There is a homeless shelter not far from the neighborhood, and I suppose all the garbage stacked outside the house would be tempting to people in reduced circumstances.. While I was there, I saw a man and woman on bikes going through trash bins just a few blocks away, tossing stuff into a baby trailer attached to the woman's bike.

Thankfully, we're only required to keep the tenants' things for twenty-one days. If they haven't retrieved it by June 21st, we will dispose of it and start taking back the whole property. Once all the trash is cleared from the yard, there shouldn't be any further incentive for anyone to trespass.

After that, Jacob had a couple more nights of peace. Then, at 8:12 yesterday morning (Wednesday), he was alerted to more movement outside. This time it was clearly the young man who had refused to vacate the house until the constable spoke to him. Jacob said he appeared to be looking for a way to get in the front door, and then he went around to enter the garage through a side door. He was also behaving strangely, repeatedly removing his shirt and putting it back on.

Feeling reluctant to confront the young man alone, Jacob asked what he should do. I told him he had two basic choices: call the police or call his aunt to see if she could deal with the boy, since she'd known him for years. We do feel some sympathy for him. From what we've been told, his nearly-six years in this house were the only real stability he's ever known, having been homeless during portions of his youth. Although the entire house has been trashed, his bedroom was the only one that was remotely clean and showed some pride of "ownership." It must be hard to be uprooted again. However, he's an adult now and must roll with the punches, as we all must.

Jacob chose to call Wilma. She came right over and confronted the young man, telling him he was trespassing and needed to leave or he'd be arrested. He responded, "Why should I? It's my house." Wilma waved her arms toward the piles of furniture in the driveway, including those that came from his bedroom. "See that? You don't live here anymore." Eventually, she was able to get him to leave.

Half an hour later, Jacob left for work. He was on the freeway when his phone alerted him to movement at the side of the house again. It was the same kid, so Jacob finally called the police. Enough is enough. They apprehended the boy while trespassing and then questioned him. Despite the Warning Notice posted plainly on the front door; despite the warnings from Wilma less than an hour earlier; despite the talk with the constable to explain clearly that he no longer has the right to be on the property and would be arrested if he returned, the young man told the officers he didn't know he wasn't legally allowed to be there.

He also told the officers that his family had only been given twenty-one days to vacate the house. In actuality, they had exactly nine weeks from the date they received the first eviction notice to the date the constable made the stubborn young man leave, as well as an additional twenty-one days to reclaim their furniture. Twelve weeks in total.

I think we've been patient beyond any reasonable expectation, since normally a thirty-day notice is all that's required to evict someone. All we ask is that Jacob be freed from this continual harassment and that they get our permission before coming onto the property. We have no desire to keep them from their belongings. They just need to contact us to arrange a time during daylight hours and we'll be happy to accommodate them.

When the police asked if Jacob wanted to have the boy prosecuted, he called to get my opinion. I told him it was his decision, since he's the one who lives there and has to deal with it. Jacob chose to press charges because, as he said, he was "getting sick of this." He's right, there needs to be an end to it. As for the young man, he was not immediately arrested since Jacob was at work and unable to provide his paperwork until today, but the officer said they will start processing the case to send on to the courts.

I hope this works out to everyone's benefit, including the young man's. Some lessons are hard-won, but refusing to move on after life's disappointments is not a healthy way to live. I hope he's able to learn from this unhappy experience and go on to a better life. We truly do wish him well.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Back to Mesa...Again

What I miss least about Mesa: the summer temperatures!
Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Going to Mesa was not in my plans for yesterday, but here I am. The tenants in the house we inherited had not vacated the premises by Monday morning, as ordered by the judge, so that meant going back to the Valley to address the issue. Thankfully, that same evening I  was able to book three nights in the only available unit at the WorldMark resort in nearby Scottsdale (twenty minutes from the Mesa house), and I quickly packed for a six-day stay, hoping in the rush that I didn't forget anything I'd need.

The original plan for our entire family was to drive to Mesa tomorrow (Thursday), the day of Jacob's arrival. The kids and Mark had arranged to take Thursday and Friday off so we can all be there to greet Jacob and help him move in. Unfortunately, since they were all scheduled to work Tuesday and Wednesday, this early start of the trip was going to have to be made on my own, alone.

I left Lakeside at 6:00 Tuesday morning and arrived in Mesa at 8:45. My first stop was at the glass company I hired a week ago to fix the broken front window of the Mesa house by this Friday, but they still hadn't taken the measurements or ordered the glass for the job. I'm quite frustrated, since I hired them early enough to complete the job on time, but now that isn't going to happen. They're finally coming to take the measurements tomorrow afternoon, which means the window won't be replaced until sometime next week.

Next, I cruised by the Mesa house to see if it was still occupied. There were two vehicles parked in front and piles of stuff in the yard yet to be moved. From there, I drove straight to West Mesa Justice Court and filed for a Writ of Restitution. This eviction has been costly, about $300 so far. Today, the constable called and arranged to meet me at the house tomorrow afternoon, to force the eviction and return possession to me. I hope all the tenants will finally be gone by then so no "force" will be needed.

May 29, 2018: Signs of occupancy still there on Tuesday morning.

Once court was taken care of, I went to Bass Pro Shop to find an adapter for my electric ice chest. Instead, I left the store with two new shirts I really liked. Then I went to lunch at Carl's Jr. for my beloved Super Star lettuce wrap. It was 11:00 by that time, five hours since I'd eaten breakfast before leaving home.

Right about that time, Mark's aunt called me, in a tizzy, exclaiming, "You need to do something!" Oh no, more drama. It seems that the twenty-something son of one of the tenants had decided he was not going to move out of the house with the others, and no one could make him. In his mind, it was his house, not ours, so he was refusing to leave. I told Wilma not to worry. I had no intention of engaging this young man. If he was still there when the constable showed up, he would be removed.

Somehow, the facts got distorted and the young man's mother (the original tenant) was told that I'd threatened to "call the cops on him," which upset her. Angrily, she told Wilma she was coming to get him and make him leave. I hope she was successful. My fondest wish is that the house will be empty tomorrow and this will all be over. While I have no problem with standing up for myself, I do try to remain rational and avoid the drama whenever possible. It stresses me out too much!

However, the young man's behavior does explain why the front window didn't get measured and ordered last week. The glass techs showed up on Thursday, but they were turned away by a young man who assured them, "There's no broken window here." Guess who? Even last week he was doing his best to sabotage us! (Nonetheless, once the plot was discovered, the glass company should have made an extra effort to get this matter taken care of on time.) 

The rest of the tenants (five adults altogether) claim to be moved out, although no one has turned over the house keys yet. They legally return possession to me, as the court ordered, when the keys are in my hands. I hope the transition goes smoothly tomorrow.

My parents' Mesa home from March 1980 to May 1990.
The little trees my dad planted 38 years ago are now huge!

Check-in time at the Scottsdale resort is 3:00, so after handling the court matter yesterday, I still had a few hours to fill and nowhere to just hang out. Yesterday's temperature hit 103 degrees before 1:00, limiting my options, since I had food in my ice-less ice chest that I didn't want baking in the back of my car too long with the engine turned off. The chest keeps food cool by using the car's battery.

Then it occurred to me that it had been many years since I revisited the places in Mesa that were once meaningful to me. So I started out with a drive-by "shooting" (via camera) of the house my parents, siblings, and I once lived in. LeRoy, Karla, Jeff, Darryl, and I were all still single when our family relocated from Yorba Linda, California, to Mesa, Arizona, in early March 1980. I lived in that house for nine years, until June 1989, when Mark and I got married. My parents sold the house and temporarily moved to Utah almost a year later.

The church in Mesa where our family attended 39th Ward.

From there, I moved on to other personal points of interest throughout the town, such as the LDS stake building where our family attended church and served in various callings.

Westwood High School, where I taught for nine years.

And the high school where I worked as an instructional aide from August 1980 to January 1989, and then returned to do my student teaching during the spring 1990 semester. Some may wonder why I sometimes say I was a teacher for 27 years and other times that I've been an educator for 37 years. This is why. I was a certificated teacher at Blue Ridge High School in Lakeside for 27 years; however, prior to my graduation from ASU I was part of the educational team at Westwood High in Mesa, delivering direct instruction to students on a daily basis. In fact, it was those experiences that inspired me to return to college in 1985 and earn my teaching degree.

The credit union where I cashed my paychecks.

The credit union on the corner near our house was well-known to me, back in the days before I discovered direct deposit. I remember waiting in a long line after school every other Friday.

The LDS temple in Mesa, where I served as an ordinance worker.

One of my most precious memories was serving as an ordinance worker in the Mesa temple, from November 1983 to December 1985. After my first college semester, I reluctantly had to ask for a release. Working full time and taking a full load of classes was overwhelming, but I can truly say: Best two years of my life!

Now, sadly, the temple is surrounded by opaque green fencing, closed to both the public and members while it undergoes a major renovation project until 2020. It was built in 1927, 91 years ago, so I guess it's time for an overhaul.

Mesa General Hospital, where Sarah was born, is now abandoned.

I was stunned when I drove up to Mesa General Hospital, where Sarah was born in October 1989, to find only an empty shell. I had no idea the hospital had closed, exactly ten years ago this month, in May 2008. Due to difficulties during her birth, Sarah spent her first seven days in the hospital, and I spent six days there. The only thing that made it bearable to leave one day early, without my new baby in my arms, was the fact that our little apartment was, literally, right across a side street from the obstetrics wing! I walked back later that night to feed her.

I did cruise past that old, one-bedroom apartment at 444 N. LeSueur, where the living room was Sarah's nursery, but I came away without a photo. It was once a cute little place, but yesterday there were so many trashy cars parked on the road and so much piled garbage (like broken furniture) around all the buildings, that I couldn't even get a clear shot. And I was not getting out of the car! As I drove around the corner and passed the parking area, two men dressed in totally stereotypical drug-dealer/gangster-style clothes and blingy jewelry, lounging in the doors of their very expensive black cars, gave me a suspicious stare as I rolled by. I had the distinct impression I'd just interrupted something shady, so I didn't dare to show my camera! I wonder if losing the hospital precipitated the once-nice neighborhood's decline into slum-ness.

The light rail dissects Mesa's Main Street.

In some ways, Mesa has changed very little. It still has more of a small-town feel than the larger metro areas like Phoenix. It continues to be unusually well-kept for a town of its size. Yet, in other ways, there have been major changes. For instance, the Valley Metro Light Rail has taken over most of Main Street, and the downtown area surrounding it has largely been renovated. Most of it is quite nice these days.

The entrance to WorldMark Scottsdale.

When I completed my little tour, which lasted for more than an hour, I went over to visit with Mark's Aunt Wilma and her daughter, Mark's cousin Maryhelen. I spent about an hour with them yesterday before giving up on hearing from the glass company or the constable. Then it was time to check in at the resort.

The one-bedroom "suite" has just a small kitchenette.

I left the Mesa house at 2:15, and twenty minutes later I was in the lobby of the resort, getting myself checked in. The Scottsdale property is one of WorldMark's newer resorts, so I'd never been there before. It's quite nice. At this time, they only offer studios and one-bedroom units, although they are gearing up to add buildings offering larger units.

I never did use this little cook-top.

I was lucky to get into the resort at all. There are usually no units left to reserve when you try to get one the night before check-in. So I was blessed that they had just one one-bedroom "suite" left in their inventory. The suites are smaller and do not have a full  kitchen. The website stated that there would be only a mini-fridge and microwave, but I found that there was much more. Not only was there a two-burner cook-top, but the cupboards were filled with the spices and plates and cups and other amenities we enjoy in our usual WorldMark accommodations. Really, the biggest bummer was no dishwasher and no disposal, but hardly "roughing it."

The bedroom was full-size with the usual king-size bed.

Once I got everything hauled up the stairs to the suite, I got my stuff unloaded and put away before going to dinner at a nearby Chipotle's Mexican Grill, where I enjoyed a very large steak burrito. Then, exhausted from my early start (I'd been up since 3:50 a.m.) and the drama-induced emotional fatigue, I fell into the cushy bed and slept like a log until 6:45 this morning.

The bathroom was huge, with a shower...

I didn't request the "special needs" version of the suite, but that's what I got. You can see how spacious this bathroom is. I love it when that happens. These units have so much more space for wheelchairs and other equipment, it makes it very comfortable and roomy for everyone.

...and with a tub, too!

Today was much less busy than yesterday. In fact, I barely left the condo. In the morning, I attended an "informational presentation," which they always say isn't going to include a sales pitch, but always does. Although I will say that this time they didn't apply the pressure they have in the past, so it lasted thirty minutes instead of the usual two hours. (Really, how long does it take to say "No!") In return, they gave me a $100 American Express card. That was worth thirty minutes of my day!

A little balcony opens off the bedroom.

I made myself some deviled eggs for breakfast, using the boiled eggs and a jar of mayonnaise I brought from home yesterday. For lunch I had the leftover chips con queso from Chipotle's, plus a juicy, cold pickle and a bunch of strawberries. Fruit always sounds great when the weather is hot.

The view from my balcony.

The only other time I left today was to take myself out to dinner at Sweet Tomatoes, a buffet that serves mostly salads and soups. It was good, but probably won't make my top twenty list.

My door at the top of the stairs.

The highlights of my day were the phone calls. Jacob called to tell me he'd arrived safely in Flagstaff. Mark called to see how things were going. I spoke to Wilma, who has been such a great help and is working on getting those house keys for me. And it was a thrill to hear from both the constable and the glass company today. It finally feels like things are moving forward.

Looking down the stairs from my front door.

Fortunately, I've never minded being alone or doing things by myself. I learned to be self-reliant during all those years as a single woman, before I finally got married at age thirty-four. I love being with my family and try to savor every moment when we're together, but I'm also able to cherish my alone time. However, I really did miss them desperately when I was hauling my suitcase and bags and ice chest up the stairs to my suite in the afternoon heat yesterday!

I brought fruit from home, because fruit is always good in hot weather!

So now I'm enjoying my last quiet night alone before my family rejoins me tomorrow. Jacob is safe in his Flagstaff hotel and will resume the final leg of his journey in the morning. Sarah, Dylan, Jake, and Mark will drive down from Lakeside in the morning. I expect we'll all be reunited by around noon.

Hopefully everything else will go smoothly, from the constable's arrival at the house to the glass company finally getting our window glass ordered. After that, life will get real busy as we roll up our sleeves and start taking back the house we love, filled with so many family memories!

The back side of Camelback Mountain, as seen from the resort tonight.
May 30, 2018