Tag Archives: moving

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.

Designing for a Teen Boy

When I ask my son, “how do you want your new room to look?” his reply is, “Meh, I don’t care.”

And yet, twice now he has shown me concept rooms and artwork at Ikea that he likes.  Decorating for this boy has been a challenge because he has so many interests. He loves WWII history, Science, Comics, some new weird music that I don’t get, and Formula One racing.

It doesn’t all fit together, and he seems to prefer an industrial/modern style with bright (mostly) primary colors.

So, I took his lead by creating a design using his favorite piece of art that he purchased with his own money from Ikea about 2 years ago.

IMG_20140604_100231 (1)

From this one item (and a similar print from Ikea that he likes) I came up with this room design:


The Items

1.  Inspiration Art work from Ikea.  The telephone picture is no longer available, but the Solmyra (I call it Shhh) is sold at most Ikea stores.

2.  Task Lighting. The rooms here are DARK! The ceiling lights do little more than cast a dull glow.  My son loves to read in bed, so I will mount two of these Kvart wall lights above each night stand.

3. Malm Bed. Though the photo shows the white twin bed, it is also available in gray–which is what we will buy (eventually). Malm beds come with either a high or low headboard.  We want the higher headboard so that he can lean against it comfortably.

4 and 5. Malm dresser and night stand.  Ikea has several styles of dressers available in the Malm series, but my son only needs a small one.

6.  Micke Desk.  We love the Micke series! They are durable, yet cheap inexpensive. It’s the perfect desk for a small room.  He will be getting his first computer in September, so this is a must have item.

7.  Ikea PS magnet board. This is another must-have…simply because he requested it. This PS magnet board is an inexpensive way to display pictures, memos, or doodle ideas.

8.  Snille desk chair.  These Snille chairs are very affordable, and surprisingly comfortable.  They come in several colors including  basic black or white.

9.  PS Vago chair.  My son absolutely LOVES this Vago chair.  He said that all it needs is a comfy pillow and he could sit in it for hours.  I had trouble removing him from this chair on the showroom floor and felt kinda bad that I didn’t buy it immediately. Besides, doesn’t every teen boy need a “lounge” chair of his own? The chair comes in red, blue, yellow, black, and white.

Other Items

Some other items that I want to add are a picture rail, colorful frames, and the Bygel rail series.

pizap.com14018777917281bygel series


I’d like to throw in one or two of these, but that might be pushing it a bit…

LichtensteinLichtenstein Pillow Cover

On the plus side, my son hasn’t said “no” to any of my design ideas, on the down side–he hasn’t seen my design ideas.

Crossing my fingers & toes that he likes it! And I hope you liked it too!


Turning Drab Army Housing into Our Home: Blog Series Introduction

Home vs Residence

Home isn’t simply where you sleep or live–it’s the space in which you do your living, and as such it should reflect your personality and express your lifestyle.  It should be a place that makes YOU feel welcome and comfortable.  It should function in a way that makes your life just a tad bit easier.  In all, it should be YOURS and not “theirs” (aka the manager/owner).

The Renter’s Dilemma

Because every rental comes with its own special set of rules, renters often feel that they must live with those white, off-white, or other bland colored walls.  Though we are allowed to paint our space, I am going to try my best to avoid it simply because I don’t want the hassle of repainting them when we leave in 3-4 years (which is inevitable in the Army).  We are however, allowed to mount pictures and shelves with no repercussions or special repairs before we move out.

In this blog series–which I will complete over the next year–I will share the process of making any drab rental into your home.

Drafting Ideas

I have several ideas brewing already and can’t wait to share all of the finished projects and rooms with you.

Here are some of my plans for our new space.

The Entry Nook

After entering the house, there is a longish hallway with an opening to the immediate left that leads to the sitting room/dining area followed by a strange alcove that sort of looks like it could be a closet, and then another opening to the left that leads into the kitchen.

I call this weird space the Entry Nook.  I want to use this space pragmatically, but make it stylish at the same time.  The idea is to have a dresser with four drawers (even though I drew it with three)–one for each family member.  Hats, scarves, gloves, umbrellas, purses–or whatever can be stored here. It is a dropping zone right now, and I hate it.  Here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

2014-02-20 17.33.01


 The Dining Room

This is our dining room. In this picture it is pretty empty because I took it the week after we moved in (2.5 months before our furniture arrived).  This is still the basic plan, but we are planning on buying Ikea’s Ingatorp table and Ingolf chairs in white.

The door in the picture leads into the kitchen. The bookcase corner is positioned between the dining room and living room, but the hubby wants to put a large fish tank there. It is still under debate.

2014-02-19 17.36.18


Blank “Hallway”: AKA the Family Command Center

As I mentioned before, there are two openings to the left of the entry hall. This area is almost like a small hallway. There is a good sized blank wall and an otherwise useless space.  Here, I have a temporary “command” center.  I should have all of my supplies for this space in the next week or so.  This will probably be the topic of my second or third posting in this blog series.

2014-04-27 17.40.40


The Coffee Zone

We are coffee LOVERS in this house. As soon as I saw this kitchen, I knew exactly how this space would be used.  After a recent trip to Ikea, I now have pretty much everything I need for this space and will be posting about it soon.

To help make more sense of the layout of the house, I’ll tell you what is behind this wall: It’s the Entry Nook!  And behind the wall of the command center is the guest bath.

2014-02-20 17.49.45


I am very excited about the upcoming projects and hope you will enjoy this blog series.


It’s the Polizei!

Today I drove to Czech for the first time.  I’ve been there before with my friend, but until today she always drove.  I’m one of those people who can’t remember how to get to a place unless I am the driver.  We took my big American sized minivan.

Why is it called a minivan when there is nothing “mini” about it?

Getting to Czech was no big deal.  We went to our usual little shop where she bought her smokes and coffee, and I bought a bag of coffee beans.  Next up was a kännchen Kaffee (a small pot of coffee) while we enjoyed the warm spring weather on the patio.

pot of coffee
Kanchen Kaffee

After we finished our coffee in Czech, we drove back to Germany; our next destination was the used furniture store to look for a bookshelf and small dresser for myself and a wandshrank (a kitchen wall cupboard) for her.

We had barely crossed the border–which isn’t as clearly marked as you would think–when I saw flashing blue lights in my rear-view mirror.

What the heck?!?!  I was on a narrow busy street so I pulled into the nearest parking lot, all the while thinking what did I do? I know I wasn’t speeding. I didn’t miss any stop lights or signs. I stayed in my lane. I even remembered to turn off my head lights–always drive with your headlights on in Czech, but NOT in Germany!

The Polizei said something in German. My nervous response was “English?”

Just to let you know–I am ALWAYS nervous when I get pulled over for any reason–which is very rare! Being pulled over in a land that is foreign was quite frightening–especially since I had no idea what I did wrong and have very little understanding of the language.

I fish my Visa and my special driver’s license out of my purse while my friend hands me her identification.

The irony of the whole ordeal was that not an hour before this my friend and I had a conversation about Visa’s, German Laws, and passports.  Then my husband called and asked me where his passport was.  As a military family living abroad, I have to have my Visa on me at all times.

Apparently, there was a theme for the day.

So, the Polizei is standing there and asks if we came from Czech.  Thank God I was in the car with a local (meaning a German)! I might have peed my pants otherwise! She told him that we did just come back from Czech.  He wanted to know what if we purchased cigarettes.

Here’s the low down on buying smokes from Czech if you live in Germany. Each person is allowed to bring 4 cartons across the border.  My friend bought 4 cartons. We were good. I had to open the back of the van and show the Polizei our merchandise.

There is a big problem with smuggling and black market goods in our area because we are so close to the border, so the Polizei randomly pull people over when they cross the border from Czech into Germany.  I knew NONE of this!  I was convinced that I was being pulled over because of my big American van.  My friend explained it all to me and repeatedly told me that I did not get pulled over because of my”American” vehicle, but I’m still not entirely convinced.

After I got back into the van and the Polizei left, I exhaled, put my head on the steering wheel and tried to calm my nerves.  I was not ready to drive anywhere! So my darling friend, who desperately misses having a huge American sized van offered to drive.

Needless to say–but I’ll say it anyway–I let her drive.

The rest of the day was a blast and I got to hang out with some really cool Germans and have a few laughs.  Thanks to these awesome friends that I am making,  I’m understanding more of the German language.

Overall, because of the experience, I’m not so scared of the Polizei now and I have something to laugh about in my old age.







Flying to Germany–Or One of the Most Stressful Days of My Life

Though we have been here for nearly 4 months, I have unfortunately lagged behind in sharing our fabulous (Okay it’s not all that fabulous) adventures in Germany.

We boarded the Lufthansa plane at about 3pm on January 8th at the Dallas/Fort-worth  airport.  But I’m going to back track just a tad.

We had to take our van to the shipping agency before our flight to Germany. So while the kids packed up our stuff in the hotel room, we went out in search of a car wash. They won’t ship a dirty car.

It was a gloomy day and it had rained the day before, so the car washes were all closed! Who closes a car wash just because it’s a bit damp outside? Texans that’s who!

Now we are running out of time. We have to get to our appointment.  We drive and drive and just can’t seem to find this darn place! We finally find it–and we are 30 minutes late.   They send us to a car was around the corner that is open.  In the meantime, I am worried about the kids.  The shuttle was due to pick us all up in the next hour, but the car thing will take about an hour. The hotel is 30 minutes away.

I call the shuttle company and have them change the pick-up time. Crisis averted–or so I think! I sit around and wait while hubby takes care of the car thing.

My daughter calls. She said the shuttle driver has arrived! What the #!@$&?!? I speak to the driver. He said that the afternoon schedule is booked, so it’s either take the kids (and the big dogs) to the airport, or find another mode of transportation.

My daughter is a mature 15 yr-old and my son, well he’s a typical 13 yr-old boy. Do I trust the driver? Do I trust my daughter? Do I have any options?

Okay. I take a deep breath and tell the driver that these kids are my LIFE. Please take them, help them unload the van and put all our bags and the dogs in front of the Lufthansa check-in.  My daughter will give him $20 only if he follows my instructions to the letter.

The taxi arrives to pick me and my husband up from the car shipping place.  We are 20 minutes from the airport. My kids are on their way as well.  The van is good to go and will arrive in Germany in about a month. We head off to the airport.  Hubby is having a grand conversation in front with driver while I sit in the back and chew my nails down to nubs.

We pull up to the Lufthansa departure entrance. Right behind the shuttle that brought my kids.  He had just finished helping them bring all of our stuff into the airport and was about to leave.  I handed him another $20, shook his hand, and told him was my knight in shining armor today.  He tried to give me my money back, but I wouldn’t take it. I told him to take the $40 dollar tip and take his special someone out to dinner.  He said that he was going to use it for his son’s birthday present instead.

Now it was time to check in, get the dog crates approved, and find coffee.

It is just after 12pm.  Our flight is in about 3 hours.  The dogs look miserable in their crates.  I’m a ball of tangled nerves, and my kids are arguing.  I needed a shot of Tequila at this point, but settled for Starbucks instead.

I will skip all of the waiting. You’ve probably been to the “waiting place” so I’m sure you know how mind numbing it is.

It is finally time to board. We are at the very back of the plane.  If you have to fly coach to Europe, I recommend Lufthansa. I felt like it was at least Business Class. The seats were comfy, the attendants were fantastic, and the food was delicious.

My teenagers on a 9.5 hour flight.
My teenagers on a 9.5 hour flight.

From Dallas/Fort-worth, the flight took 9.5 hours.  I don’t sleep well on planes. I’m not afraid of hijackers, snakes, or of little gremlins tearing the wings apart. I’m afraid of crashing. engine failure. small spaces. heights.  I get a bit claustrophobic and rarely use elevators.  9.5 hours in a tin can flying across hard land and even harder water (yes harder–it’s a scientific fact) going a gazillion miles an hour was not fun.

Every time I dozed off I would wake suddenly to turbulence. I would look over at my hubby–sound asleep–and my kids who were wide awake and enjoying the movie selection.  Lufthansa has great movie screens embedded in the seat directly in front of you.

I watched at 3 movies.

We finally arrived in Frankfurt on January 9th at 9am.

We lost half a day.

Picked up our luggage, found our poor freaked out puppies and finally located our Military contacts. They loaded up the van and the station wagon and drove us to our hotel.  It was a 4 hour drive on the autobahn–and I slept.

The hotel would be our home for the next 9 days.

Army Hotel
Army Hotel
Our first "Home" in Germany
Our first “Home” in Germany

The kids and dogs shared a room while hubby and I had a room to ourselves.

Once we arrived, I felt a sudden drop in blood pressure and an urge to enter a coma sleep.

More to come on our first month in Bavaria soon.