Author: Karen

A Lease to Decorate

Over eight years ago, we found ourselves in Lawton, Oklahoma. During our brief 18-month tenure in the Sooner State, we called three separate places home – an apartment, a rental house, and the home we bought a handful of months before receiving surprise orders. Oops (read about how we became accidental landlords). It was during 6 months or so we lived in the rental house that I created a blog called A Lease to Decorate. I chronicled my attempt to turn a rental house into our home and shared the struggles that often accompany such a task. Such as – white walls (or worse – walls with color that doesn’t match your design aesthetic), layouts that don’t accommodate your furniture, and the list goes on. After a feature on Apartment Therapy and some other fun exposure, the blog fizzled quickly once we purchased a house. I wrote one post when we moved into our rental townhome last time we were stationed here but I ultimately decided to tell A Lease to Decorate that I was heading out to the grocery store – only to never return.

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Not that I’ve stopped sharing about home-related topics all together. One of my most popular posts from the old And Then We Laughed is the tour of our on-post Infantry Barracks ‘apartment’ we lived in during our 11 months at Fort Leavenworth. And earlier this year I wrote about What Living in 10 Homes Has Taught Us About How We Want to Live. While I don’t claim to be an interior designer nor a particularly skilled decorator, I do enjoy decorating each and every one of our houses and appreciate the challenge of doing so without breaking the bank and not sacrificing comfort and that warm feeling of being home.

military family house

I am not a design or decor blogger but I do hope to highlight the somewhat unique struggles many military face when trying to turn a rental house into a home. We’re rarely in a place longer than a few years and we often do not have the luxury of taking our time to find the perfect home. In my last post, I wrote about how our time here will end up being longer than we originally planned. In the past few weeks, we’ve started to make changes to our rental home in order to make it work for us better because we no longer have the attitude of eh – it’ll work for a year. Therefore, on this blog, I hope to chronicle our adventures of decorating this 1966 northern Virginia house and making it meet the needs for our family – after all, it will be our home for the next couple of years.

When One Year Turns Into (Likely) Three

With anything military-related, especially anything having to do with potential assignments or relocations, I don’t publicly post anything until it’s official because about 286,305 things can change between receiving initial word and having actual paper orders in hand. And even then – things can still change. Back in April, we were made aware that we could possibly relocate this past summer. We spent the following few months in limbo but moved forward as if we were staying because life doesn’t stop even if you have no idea where you may call home at the beginning of the school year.

Seeing as we’re still here in the national capital region it’s obvious that we didn’t relocate. Our son is attending the same elementary school two years in a row for the first time and I didn’t have to memorize a new zip code in order to pump gas. Both are wins in my book. When we received orders here last summer from San Antonio, we knew it would likely be a year-long assignment. It was a short-notice move so we scrambled to find a house – eventually finding one in our desired neighborhood and elementary school zone. And for the first time every in my husband’s 14+ year career, we experienced a true door-to-door move. Our attitude was simple; we reminded each other of the following phrase whenever a situation felt difficult – we can make anything work for a year.

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But what happens when one year turns into two? And then when two years turns into three? Back in 1950 Dwight Eisenhower wrote “plans are nothing; planning is everything” in a letter to a US diplomat. He referenced the sentiment during a handful of speeches in the following years, ensuring that the quote be attributed to him in the age of internet memes. We arrived here with the plan that we would be staying for one year – possibly two. We dreamed of the exotic locations we could go next. Then a few things happened as the year progressed and it became obvious that we would stay for two years. And then a few more things happened and now it looks like that our tenure in Washington DC this time around will likely clock in at three years.

Because of this development, my attitude toward our time here has changed. I’m no longer looking at our house and thinking, “Eh – it’ll do for a year” or balking at long-term volunteer commitments because I don’t know if we’ll be around or not. Last year, I was a little tepid when introducing myself to new people because our time was so temporary. Apparently multiple year-long assignments will do that to a woman in her mid-30s looking for fellow mom friends.

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Our original plan to be here for one year now means nothing. But our years of planning – teaching ourselves to be flexible and learning from past experiences that curve balls from left field can yield opportunities we could never dream of ourselves – means everything. I am putting myself out there – immersing myself in the community more so than last year. It helps that we really do enjoy living in this area and because it is the longest we’ve ever been stationed somewhere (when counting our time here previously), it does sort of feel like home. I am more than a little bummed that we won’t have an adventurous assignment in a far off land before my husband competes for battalion command but that is the way the Army cookie crumbles sometimes.

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Besides – I’d follow this guy anywhere the Army sends him. Even if it means staying put for a couple more years.