Last summer, we went on a hike in Zion National Park. It was a pretty audacious hike for a 5 year old, but Henry wowed us by making it all the way to the top without a problem. It was on the way down however, that the whining and complaining started. Admittedly, it was very hot and he had just hiked a really long, hard way; but his shift in attitude was threatening to ruin our entire afternoon. Mid-meltdown, a fellow hiker came along; and as we tried to yield the trail so he could pass, he bent down to Henry and said “A bad attitude is like a flat tire. You can’t go anywhere until you change it.” Greg and I had never heard the phrase before, but we loved it. We have kept in our “parenting back pocket” ever since and have whipped it out on occasion with Henry in recent months. Then last week, I was (yet again) lamenting something about our brown walls or brown carpet or dead grass or crowded street. Greg put down his book and looked me square in the eyes. “We’ve got two years left in this house, babe. You gotta change the tire.” I was aghast!!! How could he use our new favorite parenting phrase on me?!? “I certainly don’t complain that much, do I?” “Yes. Yes, you do,” he said without even blinking. Although my first instinct was to smack him upside the head ;), I also knew in that moment he was exactly right. It is time to change the tire. Does anybody have a jack?It was a year ago this week that we “moved into” our current rental in Southern California. I say “moved in” because Greg, Henry and I (and Sammy in my belly!), along with suitcases and air mattresses, moved into the house; our stuff wasn’t delivered for another 12 days. This is our 7th home in 12 years. It’s the first time we “came back” to somewhere we’ve lived before. It’s the first time we majorly dropped the ball during our move, resulting in one of our hardest transitions yet. It’s the first time I don’t feel settled a full year later. And it’s the first time I’ve felt nearly paralyzed by the aesthetic constraints of a house and been unable to truly make it feel like “ours.” In fact, I think this is also the first time I don’t have a fancy, shmancy “look at everthing I’ve done in a year” post to share with you.
Psssttt – If you are curious what I have accomplished in this house so far, check out the California ’16 Slideshow HERE.Some of you might be thinking, “Give yourself a break, Megan. You’ve moved twice in three years and you had a baby you waited years for!” But you guys, this is what I do. I take the home we have and organize and decorate the heck out of it so that we love it. I solve problems, get creative, and try new things in order to create a real home for our family. It’s how I thrive. It’s how I cope. It’s how I handle this lifestyle.
But if I’m being completely honest, it feels a little bit like this house has broken me. We have brown walls we can’t paint and brown carpet we can’t pull out. We have kitchen cabinets that are falling apart and plumbing that is suspect. We have a landlord who is anxious to let us do anything, and a neighborhood we don’t fit into. Usually, I look all these things in the face and paint them, wrap them in removable wallpaper, and put them in matching baskets until they are better. This is what I do. But for some reason…this time…I can’t…or don’t know what to do…or my usual tricks aren’t working…or all of the above.
In general, I think I am growing weary of our nomadic life. Of being uprooted every few years. Of living in other people’s homes and relying on temporary solutions to make them feel and look better. Of having to hoard things because we might need them “next time.” The timing is about right. We’re 12+ years into this rodeo, and the novelty of moving trucks and new homes and new friends
has completely is starting to wear off. I didn’t feel like moving last summer, which spiraled into us not being as prepared as we should have been, which spiraled into jumping for a house that perhaps wasn’t quite right.But the fact of the matter, as Greg will remind me, is that we have a house. A good house. It’s ugly and not our’s and in a place we’d never to choose to live. But how about some perspective. We have a roof over our heads, and my boys are happy, healthy and safe. At the end of the day, that is what matters the most. Greg is absolutely right. This is our home for the next two years. But it’s going to be a long, painful two years (for all of us!) if I don’t change my attitude now.The one year anniversary of moving in seems like the best time for me reign in all the negativity and shift my perspective. Right? Right.
So here we go. Here’s how I’m gonna crank up the jack and replace that flat tire:
Focus on the Things I Can Change
No more whining about our brown walls, brown tile, brown cabinets and brown carpet. That’s a pretty tall order for me right now, but the saying “fake it until you make it” comes to mind. Hopefully, if I stop verbally whining about them, my brain will slowly start to let them go too. To fill the void of lamenting the things I can’t change, I am going to focus instead on the things I can. There are still many tools in my “renter’s toolbox” that I haven’t used. There are still many, many spaces that I haven’t touched. Just the other day, I finally took the time to organize our master bathroom cabinets and drawers with drawer liners and labels and bins…and it instantly made me love the entire space so much more (even if the window treatment is still sitting in the corner of our bedroom). There is a lot about this house I can’t change. But I can reduce clutter, organize every nook and cranny, add in temporary details and bring things into our home that I love…and little by little, those things will make a difference.
Just Do It Already
My list of project ideas and room updates is a mile long. Seriously. I have a design plan (in my head in some cases) for each and every space in our house. I’ve just been too busy whining to do any of them. If putting the vinyl stripes up on the family room wall taught me anything…is that something is better than nothing. This is not going to be my dream home. It’s not going to be perfectly design or exactly what I want. But it can be better than it is now.The projects and updates I have in my mind will make this house look and feel better, so I just need to start doing them. There’s not a lot of time these days for entire room overhauls, so my goal is to tackle one decor and one organization project each week. Like I said, I just organized the bathroom cabinets. Let’s see if I can get the window treatment up this week too!
Embrace Rental Life…Even More
For better or for worse, this is not our forever home. And because of that, we have a unique opportunity to do and try things we might never get to do again. Each and every home offers us the opportunity to experiment (like with a certain wall color, a playroom upstairs versus down, single story versus two, etc), so that when it comes time to find that forever home, we have a better idea of what we like. Thanks to this particular house, we now know what wall color I won’t be painting our forever home ( 😉 ), but we also know how much we love the open kitchen:dining:family room layout. These are things we maybe would have never realized had we not lived here. It’s time for me to remember and focus in on the opportunities that come from being a renter, and use this house to continue to experiment with renter-friendly fixes and solutions we might not get to try anywhere else!
It’s Not All About the House
It’s also important for me to remember that it’s not all about the house. We are pretty lucky to get to live in San Diego not once but twice in Greg’s career. It may not be where we see ourselves long-term (we are learning we are East Coast-ers at heart), but it’s a pretty great part of the country nevertheless. There is so much to do, the weather is great, and it has a rich and varied military presence. What we see and do outside the house can influence our time here just as much as what we do inside, so it’s time to step out of the house, make some friends, see some sights, and actually enjoy the perks of living here. Who knows if we will ever be back!Two years from right now, everything I lovingly do to this house will be taken down, packed back up and loaded onto a truck for our next destination. And despite my whining and loathing, I guarantee you I will shed a tear or two as we pull away. Because aside from the house itself, this is and will always be one of our homes. Brown walls and all (ooops…I said I was going to stop talking about them). This is where part of our life happened. It’s where we brought Sam home for the first time, and where Henry learned to ride a bike. It’s where I (finally) found peace as a stay-at-home-mom and where Greg embraced professional challenges we didn’t see coming. Although it’s a bit hard to see and believe it now, it will become a place we love. It always does. It’s just taking a little longer this time. But it does…we always look in the rearview mirror and smile. Every time. At the end of the road, wherever that may be, this house and our time here will be just another leg of our journey, and all of my whining will seem so silly. So…it’s time. Here’s to me changing my flat tire so we can continue along on our great adventure!