Tag Archives: life

Reunited with My Home


The Pennington House a.k.a. Home

For three years, the home I longed for was fixed in my mind. Images of every room that I lovingly painted, upgraded, designed, and loved was etched into my third eye. Whenever I needed home, I would close my eyes and roam from room to room, visiting memories long held dear. This is not just any house. This is our first home. We purchased it ourselves, and we labored with love over every square inch. She is ours. She shelters us from the elements of the sky and of man. She envelops us with her quirky doors and bumpy walls. She’s not perfect, but she reflects us. We left the essence our joys and sorrows with her when we left. We fretted over her. We ached for her.


Arriving in the States after living for three years in Germany, we were experiencing a sudden case of dementia. What should be familiar felt foreign. We felt foreign–or at least I did. Being married to a United States Soldier, dependents (the family), have developed an amazing ability to set up camp and make the temporary familiar. We are used to being a foreigner every time we move to a new Post. When we bought this house, we put down roots. Our first sets of real roots. You know, not the kind that runs shallow and uproots easily. These were the beginnings of tap roots. The kind that runs deep and refuses to be blown away in the hurricane.

We became the caretakers of a home that would live on with our memories forever part her. She will be witness to the joys and sorrows of those that come to her long after I am dead. She holds the memories of those that came before us. We painted over those memories. We altered her. We made her ours, not theirs. Because we loved her and we tapped our roots in, we left her in the care of others with the intention and hope to come back to her.

Before we left, we prepped her for a new family. We gave her kitchen and family room a major makeover. We covered the evidence of family photographs hanging on the walls. We prepped her yard for a major overhaul that would occur five months after we left. We trimmed her strawberry plants. We trimmed the rosemary bush and the tree. She was freshly manicured and ready to go. A blank slate for a new military family to transform a temporary residence into a home. I left with the images of my home.

Because of the care and respect that I gave to all of my temporary homes, I never expected my home to be abused. I least of all expected such mistreatment from a military family! They left the essence of disdain. They left the odor of rotten meat, dog piss, and puke. They left behind the evidence of every family photo that had hung on those walls. They left behind the evidence of animal abuse. The stench of anger hung thick in the air. Evidence of a toddler let loose in every room with a crayon, pencil, or pen is stamped into the walls. The color of a tan cave has spread onto every wall in every room except the children’s rooms and the office. The paint eats the sun and reflects the hopelessness of a couple who appear to have reached the edge of the cliff.

As I sit among my possessions that create the stage of home no matter where we reside, I feel like a foreigner. I am a temporary visitor in my own home. Throughout our twenty years together, my husband and I have always moved forward–from one new dwelling to another. Always forward, never backward. Until now. Is it me or is it the house that has changed? We both have changed. I brought new possessions into her arms that she has never known. She was abused and broken. All she had to offer was her strength, and even that was damaged in the wind. She looks to us to make her shine again. She looks to us to make her a real home. A forever home.

We came together as strangers for a second time. We were both a little worse for wear. We were both three years older. We both had new scars. We met in my office. We came together as equals and as friends who have been living apart for a while. We can both be comfortable here, where a child’s writing on the wall is the only mark of the former residents. She likes the new desk and shelves and eagerly awaits a fresh coat of paint, boasting my art on the walls, and a cup of tea with me and my Muse. We are combining the old and the new while planning for the future. We are both home now.

Parenting American Teens in Germany

Or the Worst Mother’s Day Ever

Sunday was Mother’s Day. Happy belated Mother’s Day by the way. On Friday, my daughter called me from the grocery store to ask if we had certain items in stock. I wasn’t sure what she was up to, but I suspected that it had something to do with Mother’s Day. My daughter loves to cook and bake, so I assumed that a treat was forthcoming for Mother’s Day.

On Saturday evening my daughter decided at the last-minute that she wanted to see a movie with her friend and her friend’s mother. I said Okay. My daughter then calls me while she is at the movies to ask if she could stay the night at her friends house. I said sure, but don’t forget that tomorrow is Mother’s Day and have her mom call me after the movie is over. I fell asleep before I received the phone call from her friend’s mother.

I had been working hard all week on my final essays and projects for my British Lit and Shakespeare courses, so when Sunday finally arrived, I decided to sleep in until 10. I had already discovered that my daughter planned to make brunch after I heard her tell her father not to make reservations at our favorite gasthaus. I woke up, excited at the idea of omelettes, pastries, yogurt, and fresh fruit.

I checked my phone. The mother had never called. I tried calling her, but received no answer. I figured that she was probably bringing my daughter home.

At 1130 we got THE call. The one that every parent fears. The MPs called to tell us that our daughter was in the Nurnberg hospital. WHAT?!?!

She had been picked up by the Polizei at the bahnhof. She was unresponsive for two minutes as the Polizei tried to wake her up.

We rushed to the hospital (just over an hour away). When we arrived, she was sleeping in the waiting room.

The Doctor gave us her blood test. Her blood alcohol level was 1.4 when she arrived at 930 am and 1.2 two hours later. Her last drink was at 4am.

In case you are wondering how a 16-year-old can go clubbing, I should probably tell you that the legal drinking age in Germany is 16. Crazy right?

She had no idea where her coat, purse, and cell phone went. She assumed that her “friends”–who left her at the bahnhof–were in possession of her stuff, but she could not remember. She remembers getting separated from them at the Nurnberg station and then finding a Polizei for help. The Polizei gave her a train ticket to get home. She got on the wrong train. So then she gets off a few stations later and sits on a bench to wait for the next train going back to Nurnberg. This is where she passed out. A Polizei found her and called the paramedics.

Nurnberg is a known party spot for Americans and Germans. There are numerous clubs, fights, and deaths. THis is where most young soldiers (and apparently dependent teens) find trouble.

We have warned her numerous times to stay away. We have told her how dangerous it is and that the consequences for my husband are severe. Like most teens, she ignored us.

We spent the next 2 hours trying to locate her belongings. After a hopeless search, we headed off to find food and take our errant teenager home.

Long lectures, yelling, crying, and more lectures and yelling ensued. It was a long ride home.

At 530pm, her friends finally decided to bring her belongings–which contained her Passport Visa, military ID, and SS card–to the MP station so that someone would know that she was missing. Her “friends” waited almost 12 hours before notifying ANYONE that my daughter had gone missing!

I sat on my patio and watched a young mother play with her little girl. My heart ached for myself and for that mom who has no idea that in just 12 years that sweet little girl will break her heart.

Parenting is hard. Parenting teenagers is torture. Parenting teenagers in Germany is a nightmare.

So here I am, remembering the sweetest little girl that was once my daughter and every  time I think about it, my eyes begin to fill with tears.

I am so very grateful that my daughter was not raped or murdered.

She will rue the day she lied to us and went to clubbing. How do you punish a modern teen? Take away ALL social media, electronics, and friends. If I had it my way, I’d lock her in her room until she turns 18.

Do you have any teen parenting related horror stories to share? Please feel free to comment below!

Time Is Not Fair!

It’s the time of year when I start to reminisce about the days when my kids were little. Their birthdays are coming up soon and they will be 17 and 15 years old. My daughter will be off to college in a year and a half! It seems unfair that time drags when you are young, but seems to speed up once you have children.

The Job Interview

Yesterday afternoon, I received a call from the local DOD Elementary school, requesting an interview for the substitute teacher position.  I had applied for this job last fall.  I was certainly not expecting a phone call from them.  I had applied to over 20 job postings between last fall and January, and had not received one interview.  I know that it is primarily because I have not had a job in over 10 years. But, I have been a chauffeur, a chef, a nurse, a Chief Financial Officer, a secretary, a lawyer, a sales person (I have to work my sales magic on my husband to get things that I don’t need), and a maid for the past eighteen years.  Unfortunately, my experience at the Stevens Homestead LLC (Live Love Create) does not transfer into the “real” world. So, I had just about given hope of getting a job until I finish my BA and obtain my teaching credentials.

Regardless of the lack of interest in my mad skills and great personality, I bought a Power Suit–just in case someone decided that I was worthy enough to to talk to them. Funny how as it hung in my closet with the tags still on it, I had the urge to throw it out every time I needed something in far reaches of my wardrobe.  I kept meaning to get the pants hemmed, but after a while it seemed pointless.

My last job Interview was in 2003.  That’s right–it’s been 12 years! I was over the moon with joy when I was asked to come in for an interview–and terrified at the same time.  So, yesterday I Googled “Job Interview Question” and started practicing. I practiced in front of the mirror for two hours. I practiced sitting, standing, waiting, talking, and smiling. Seems lame, but as I became more comfortable being on “trial,” my confidence grew.  I printed out three copies of my Resume and references, put each one into a clear report cover, and then continued to memorize and practice my answers for another 2 hours.

After a rough night of tossing and turning as I tried to sleep, I got up early and started to prepare for my 1030am interview. by 0900 my hair was done and face was painted. It was time to put on the Power Suit. The pants were way too long! I realized then that I forgot to have the pants hemmed. I changed, ran down the stairs, grabbed the keys, and ran outside to the storage.  After about 2 minutes of rummaging I found my stash of New-Sew hem tape. I keep it around for quick fixes and projects like curtains (I used the tape on the brown drapes seen this post).  Thank God, I had just enough to hem my pants this morning!  I had the pants hemmed in less than 30 minutes! Once I was done hemming the pants, I got dressed and headed out the door.

Last Minute Hem Using Sew-Sew Hem Tape
Last Minute Hem Using Sew-Sew Hem Tape

I arrived 30 minutes early. I sat in the car and played Backgammon on my phone for 15 minutes.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know it’s an old lady game–but in my defense, it was an old lady (my dad’s mother) who taught me how to play!

I walked in at 1015 and waited for my interview. I waited until 1050.

I’m not going to bore you with the details, but I will tell you that I ROCKED that interview!

He said “If I could hire you, I would, but I have to send my choices to HR and they will make the final decisions.”

Great–back to waiting for HR to decide if I am worthy.

It’s okay though, he said they are hiring 5 people, so my chances are good.

I am hoping to be one of the five new substitute teachers at the local elementary school. Stay tuned, I will let you all know in a couple of weeks whether or not I got the job.

A Christmas Lesson and a New Family Tradition

This year we had a very tight budget for Christmas spending.  The Department of Defence lowered our overseas cost of living by 50%, I have yet to secure employment, and we are recuperating losses from repairs on our rental property in Colorado.  I did my best to get at least a few things that each child wanted as well ensuring that we had all of our usual Christmas goodies.

When you live on a military base overseas, the prices at the Commissary (DeCa grocery store) are rather high.  Our tiny little ham was $32–and it was the only one that was not already expired. Things like baker’s chocolate, sugar, and flour that we would normally get a tt a great price were also inflated.

I could have spent more on Christmas gifts if we hadn’t gone to the Christkindlesmarkt in Nurnberg, but I felt that it would be fun to experience one of the world-famous Christmas Markets.  Too often we live in an area that has amazing things to see, but we end up never doing them because there’s always that little voice that says “we can do it next year.”  It is my experience that the next year comes, and we still haven’t gone and then before we realize it–we are moving again.  I have been looking forward to the Christkindlesmarkt ever since we found out that we had orders to Germany, so I was not about to let this opportunity pass.  I’m glad that we spent the money on such a special trip!

This year, my son was greatly disappointed with his gifts.  He wanted Fifa 14, but it was not available at the Post Exchange (PX). He also wanted Minecraft online, but I didn’t know about it.  The other item that my son really wanted was a pair of $80 Euro shoes (after exchange & bank fees that comes out to about $105). The kids asked for sweaters as well. So I gave my son Fifa 13, two very nice sweaters, a nice Timex watch with an alarm and two time zones, and my husband’s old smart phone with minutes and some data. From my parents he received a $50 gift card to Amazon.  Personally, I would love to have that gift card!

Off and on through the day he asked for Minecraft after finding out that he couldn’t buy the online game through Amazon.  After telling him nicely that he could ask his sister to cash out some of his amazon gift card when she gets paid on the 5th of January, he got upset and said he shouldn’t have to wait that long.

My children are blessed, and they don’t even realize it.  I grew up with very little.  I remember eating lots of ground beef, tuna casserole, and soups.  We were not dirt poor, but we certainly were not middle class. We lived in Santa Ana, California–a known gang zone.  I had to take the bus or walk just about everywhere. We had junk cars that were often breaking down. I never asked for much because I grew up with these 6 words: “we don’t have money for that.”  If I had a pair of L.A. Gear shoes–they were the previous years’ model and we purchased them at the swap meet. I don’t think my mother would have ever purchased a $30 pair of shoes for us girls.  Our shoes came from Payless. Our clothes were purchased at K-Mart. I didn’t complain. I was grateful for every gift that I received, and if I didn’t like it, I pretended to love it. I still remember the year that I received the Prince “1999” album and the Cyndi Lauper “She’s So Unusual” album. I cherished those records for years!

I was so angry and hurt by my son’s attitude that I went up to my room to be alone with memories of him as a little boy.  An idea sparked.

I came downstairs about two hours before dinner with two large storage boxes full of family photos.  I called the kids to the dining table and had them sit down with me.  We went through the photos together.  We visited Christmases, birthdays, family gatherings, and impromptu snap shots.  The kids had a great time looking through all of the wonderful memories.  I did too. Thomas said to me later that night, “mom, I’m sorry. Thanks for all of the awesome gifts you gave me when I was a kid. I really do like the Fifa 13 game, and my sweaters. How did you know that I needed a watch?” I just smiled. Told him you are welcome and that it was a tradition in my family to get your first “grown-up” watch for Christmas when you are a freshman in high school. He asked me to help him set up the second time zone for Colorado. It was a good lesson for him, and a reminder to me–I have done well in providing a better life for my kids.

I also discovered a new Christmas tradition–looking through old photos before dinner on Christmas Day.

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas!

~~Angelique Stevens