There isn’t much to do after work when you live in Iraq. So Beth entertained herself by shopping for houses online. Not that many weeks ago Taylor and Beth skyped me to say they found something in Goodyear, Arizona—a house they both loved. Each had a dream list and this particular house met each one (illustrated at the end, if you make it that far). It had just come back on the market because a previous sale fell through. Sad for those buyers but happy happy happy for the future mister and missus Carlson. An SOS went out to sister Quinn: Can you drive the hour from Gilbert to Goodyear to look at it and send us pictures? And oh can we use your Realtor? (yes/yes) A verbal offer waited for Q’s assessment. Her job was to point out pros and cons and to not let her hope that they might choose to settle close to them after the wedding spin it positively.

There wasn’t much rest for the next few days while the purchase process got underway. One consideration was Beth’s family, who would naturally feel the distance between Arizona and Virginia in the years ahead. That would go both ways, of course, seeing’s how attached she is to them. Living in Iraq has given Beth some practice in separation, which also goes both ways.

If you’ve never purchased a home before, you rely a lot on the counsel of others. Thankfully, the greater family—real estate expert Linsey and banking/loans expert Tim (Beth’s dad)—along with a host of other professionals moved the paperwork through at breakneck speed. A quarterly R&R was coming up for the nearly newlyweds, so maybe, just maybe, they could close on the house while they’re stateside.

Only one of the two invited mothers was able to join the fun in Arizona this weekend—and that would be me! I booked flights to match T&B’s, arriving only an hour before they did on Thursday evening.

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I was greeted with hugs and one sentence: We’re going to see the house! Someone had advised them that maybe it would be good to actually walk through it before they signed on the dotted line at 8 a.m. the next morning.

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You’re right—not a single appliance. This was not a surprise, of course, but still a big Why? Even eight-year-old houses have a history, and this one came with a lot of unknowns. That adds intrigue but also a little angst. So we stood in each room, drinking it all in, visualizing, evaluating. There was no doubt—this was the right move!

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Signing on the dotted line—many times over!

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I heard “This is our house!” frequently throughout the first of two days. They had appointments set up—

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—first the pool guy (first things first, right?)

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Where does every new home owner go?

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What does every new Arizona homeowner need to buy?

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You aren’t really a homeowner until you purchase a 10-foot ladder.

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Every single lightbulb had faded away.

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So they bought the first ladder and power tools, but I will forever be remembered as the one who bought their first home’s first furniture. You’ll remember that, won’t you?

We spent the rest of the day pointing out needed repairs to a handyman for a quote. The house has sat vacant for several years, so it needs a little TLC. It was built well to begin with, but its funky history slowly unfolded to us as various gentlemen stopped in to share their knowledge. The selling Realtor and next-door neighbor (one and the same) explained why the house has no appliances (which were all high end and will require a lottery win to replace).

You remember that Arizona was especially hard hit six or so years ago. First the housing market was booming, then it was crashing. The builder bought this and the adjacent lot from an Iraqi (just a little irony) and built the house to live in. He then sold it for nearly a million dollars to a woman who then went bankrupt. In foreclosure, she cleaned out the place, taking all of the appliances, some ceiling fans, the kitchen island—even the water feature from the front drivearound. The next buyer (an elderly couple who were still in invest mode) swooped in for a steal, regardless of its applianceless state. They never really lived in it, though they’d come twice a year or so. Sadly, the husband died, leaving the widow to liquidate their investments. Then along came the unfortunate buyer whose loan was declined because of a job change.

The house’s future looks much brighter than its past.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…


But I’m writing about the weekend, and this remarkable weekend included a birthday party for ten-year-old Cassidy Laine.


Nostalgia break!

Appointment timing prevented the three of us from joining the dinner and the secret shopping stop and even this:

photo 3

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The party invitation suggested gifts of diapers and formula for Babies of Juarez. Gotta love that!



But we sat on the Andersons’ patio to watch the girls plus Paul enjoy the pool and the “cool” Arizona evening.

The next morning at the other ranch…


Our second day included several more appointments, some that required decisions.


This is the builder, Pedro. He shared much more history, and we very quickly grew fond of this dear man. His daughter’s hand prints decorate the patio concrete. Most surprising—he thinks “the woman” might still have the appliances! I watched the wheels start turning in the young homeowners’ heads. That particular piece of the story will remain a mystery until Pedro successfully contacts her.

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Beth’s bleary-eyed expression can be easily explained: She had just picked colors for all of the rooms (which are many!) Two of the 5 bedrooms are designated nursery, the prospects of which bring joy to this Gus’s heart!


Of course I had to photograph this phenom. Oh, never mind—that was just a flashback to his childhood. He’s all grown up now and a homeowner just cleaning up for company.


The “company” was the Anderson family, and Dusty was the shutter snapper for this.

photo 1

I didn’t get a post-worthy pic during their short visit, so I’ll include this one taken in their own backyard.

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The house will need some furnishings, yes.

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And a place to sleep.

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And keys! My first try at “making* my own.” (*the machine does it all)

I can hear you wondering what role I played in this adventure. Going in, I ran the risk of feeling like a tag-along, but those “kids” just made me part of the party. I listened more than I talked, but when my opinion was requested I spoke freely. I helped Beth narrow her color choices; I did some cleaning; I took pictures (surprised?); made friends with whoever showed up; asked questions—and just entered into the joy of this blessing.

And then it was time to close things up until December, when they’ll be stateside again. But first:


a bit of ceremony.




Warning: PDA coming.

Taylor: “I’m deliriously happy.”



Home sweet home!


One with me for the record.

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The weekend finale proved exciting. Grandson Bailey played starting quarterback for the Gilbert Christian High School football team, and we got to witness them pull out a healthy 40-20 win. I’ve never understood football, so Beth kept coaching me on the plays. My ignorance, however, did not prevent me from understanding Bailey’s sweet sweep touchdown.


Dusty caught the winner smile.

You can probably guess I’ve been smiling a lot myself.

– • – • – • – • – • – • – • – • – • – • – • – • – • – • – •

PS: Here are a few more house picture, if you’re interested.


On T’s dream list: a place for a massive TV.


And a man cave. Well, he might not have wished for one, but this house just happens to have an office they don’t anticipate needing.



Beth wanted a kitchen that was part of their living space.


T wanted a big lot, and he got 1.3 acres where cows and goats and chickens once roamed (we learned from the builder). It backs up to a developed community.


They didn’t dream of being guarded by a den of fierce lions.



But each of the five bedrooms has a full bath.



The hallways are brightly lit.


Front entry.


A few weeds to whack in the days ahead! An RV garage to store their toys.


More history also revealed that this “street” is actually on their property.


A fairytale dream come true. I pray God’s blessing on this dear couple as they make this house their home.

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3 Responses to homeowners!

  1. Dana Anderson says:

    Thank you for sharing Beth and Taylor’s story, I was hanging on your every word. I worked with Beth and Taylor during my contract with CHS. I meet Beth in Florida during training and was deployed with Taylor and five other fellows September 2011.

    You must be Taylor’s mom…I did have the chance to hear a recording of you and your husband singing happy birthday to Taylor. You obviously have a talented family! I just wanted to thank you for sharing this story. I don’t normally spend much time reading about other people’s lives, but they are such a beautiful couple I couldn’t help being taken by your story.

    When I saw the FB picture of Taylor carrying Beth over the threshold I thought, I wish i could see more of their new home and life. I went to Beth’s page to see if there were additional photos and there was your story! Sounds like you were not the fifth wheel at all, but a loving mom sharing just the beginning of many wonderful memories!

    Your story and photos were well done and much appreciated. Wishing the kids and both families a life time of health, happiness and love!

    With Warmest Regards,

    Dana Anderson

  2. Pingback: update from the other side of the world | Mauri and Sherry

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