So, about 10 days after E was born, Neal got a phone call from his career counselor letting him know that a spot in the school at Ft. Lee (Virginia, sorry...NOT New Jersey) had opened up. Neal was registered for the school in April, but there was now an opening for the December class. Like responsible partners in an equal opportunity marriage, we talked about it...and then I demanded he take it because I'm ready for 4 seasons again (number TWO on the List of Things I Never Thought I'd Hear Myself Say). During the second week of August, moving in November seemed so far away. Now...it's less than 8 weeks and I'm trying to not come unglued about everything that still hasn't happened. On that list of unfinished tasks was finding housing. Lodging. A roof over our heads and a pot to piss in. You wouldn't think it would be that hard.
Let's take a little trip back to November, 2010. Neal had a 2 week class at Ft. Lee and I drove up for the last week to check out the post, do a little tree-hugger shopping in Richmond, and go see what all of the hub-bub was about Colonial Williamsburg (turns out, that really is a lute in his pocket, he is not happy to see you). I also stopped by the housing office to find out what our options were for on-post housing (I really do love hearing the Star Spangled Banner at 5 PM everyday, even though it is preceded by bugles that always wake the baby). I was told there is "ample space" with "tons of officer housing" and "no wait list" and "more houses being built." Excellent. We'll be back.
That, apparently, is not the case now. There is no more space, there is no officer housing, and there's a fatty little wait list. Somehow, one day we were #15 of 15 and the very next day we were #25 of 28. I don't even know how that's possible. So, that leaves us to find our own lodging in a short amount of time.
I turned to the Automated Housing Referral Network, which is a website available to military personnel. It lists property for rent (usually with pictures) by landlords that consider themselves military-friendly. There's usually some sort of discount for military personnel - a waived application fee or first month's rent free or something. In the first week of perusing rentals within our housing allowance budget of about $1300 (housing allowance is based on the region where you're stationed, not your rank. So everyone who lives in the Ft. Lee area gets the same housing allowance), I found the following train wrecks, clusterfudges, and all-out duds. Luckily, I also found a very lovely 1300 square foot, 3 bedroom apartment with a balcony and double bathroom sinks in a gated community. I think it will do just fine for 6 months. But before you can kiss the gate pass, you have to kiss some living room wood paneling...
For $800/month, you get (what I consider to be) a double-wide, one token tree, and a piece of sheet metal that's going to do a heartbreaking amount of damage to your car any time there's a gust of wind.
1. The GORGEOUS house in downtown Petersburg that rents for $1500 (think Charleston, SC 2-story with porches meets IKEA/Pottery Barn decor), but I'm pretty sure is haunted by Civil War soldiers singing. (Yes, I believe everything I read from a Google search).
2. The hot mess of a property photo taken in the living room, where they tried to cram in every Queen Anne piece they owned + a pack n' play + a plaid couch + 2 cats + 3 people. I can only assume their target market is clowns and they want to show how much will fit into just one room of the house.
3. The house where the featured selling point was a brass and glass light fixture.
4. The sweet little joint where we'll be living. Because sometimes people be crazy.
I still get on AHRN a couple times a week just to see if The Perfect House has been posted. I have a feeling it doesn't exist.