For the most part, I live a peaceful and positive life, but some recent events are messing with my mind and cluttering up the nooks and crannies of my spirit. I apologize in advance for this long Jeremiad; it’s certainly not required reading. But in writing this journal entry, I’m hoping to do some internal housekeeping.

I do realize that some people would consider my leaking pipes a blessing in disguise; turns out, the damage was significant enough that my kitchen needed a complete makeover. We’re lucky in the sense that we can make that happen. Let’s face it, even with insurance, not everyone would be able to afford even the most basic repairs. Witness: the still-unhabitable areas along the Gulf Coast

Having lived through an unsettled childhood, I know firsthand how it feels to be homeless and hungry. Today, I am neither. We’ve been eating out every night while our kitchen’s inoperable; for many, that’s an unimaginable luxury. I am blessed with a wonderful family, a lovely home, and plenty to eat. So I’ve tried to put a positive spin on things, even though the project’s now exiting its eight week. Still, I find myself struggling to remember that home is where the heart is — that feeling “right at home” somewhere doesn’t require a clean house or a functioning kitchen.


As I looked for images for my entry about school supplies, some long-buried memories bubbled to the surface. It was a fun show-and-tell entry, but I hid the lede, which was about having to do without. I imagine almost every child has, for curiosity’s sake, taste-tested library paste. I ate it for an entirely different reason. When writing that post, I was remembering the humiliation and hunger I felt, in equal measure, as I sneaked paddles-ful of someone else’s paste to help fill my empty tummy. Lord help me, how dare I complain when all my basic needs are being met, and really, I want for nothing?


Coincidentally, two comic strips were juxtaposed in my morning newspaper. Even though they represent oppositional perspectives, each of them depicts some important thoughts I’m mulling over today.

Caption: Kitchen Under Renovation: Week 8

Caption: Norman’s never far from Paradise

After eight weeks of living in a house of disrepair, I’m feeling very vulnerable and needy. In many ways, I’m relying on the kindness of strangers. I count on contractors to do the job they’ve been paid to perform, but in some outrageous and awful ways, one of them has let us down. In sandpapering away our trust, he’s also taken the shine off my spirit. I find myself retreating to my office and calling on my friends more than ever. Oftentimes, I log onto LiveJournal, a place where I can learn and laugh — and where I once again remember that no matter what happens on the first floor of my house, in my second-floor office, I am a writer whose world isn’t limited (thank God) to that god-awful mess downstairs. I’m grateful to all of you, my friends, for your ongoing gifts of support and understanding. Please, may I have another?


But I also realize that I alone can create the environment (home and spirit) I want to live in. At some point, our house will be put back together again, and I know it’ll be beautiful and will reflect my preferences better than before. In the meantime, I need to remember, as the second comic strip suggests, that Paradise is a world we construct and carry inside our heads and hearts. Emerson puts it so eloquently: “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” I can’t keep wishing away the days, hoping I’ll find peace and happiness at the end of the remodel. As of today, I’m on a search-and-rescue mission for Paradise; I know for sure that I won’t find it in my kitchen. 


  1. Melody, it’s amazing how certain events can unexpectedly dig up feelings and memories of our childhood. That period seems to leave an indelible mark on us, even when we think we have left it behind. Even though logically you know it is not the end of the world and all this will be behind you in a few months, it most certainly dredges up those old feelings of helplessness and no control over the situation. I’ve been through a complete kitchen gutting and I remember the frustration of being at the mercy of contractors and people who don’t keep their promises. I hope you can find sanctuary in your office–from memories and contractors–until this is over. There are so many things beyond our control, but yes, we can decide to carry Paradise with us, and no one can undecide that for us. That’s a bit of control we never lose. Great quote from Emerson.
    Paradise to you and a kick in the butt for the contractors.

    • You have it so right about the feelings of helplessness and loss of control. THANK YOU for really hearing what I was trying to say — and most of all, for your sympathetic understanding. xo

  2. You have had some really disturbing and confidence-shaking things happen to you lately, and the kitchen is really the lovely icing on the cake, isn’t it? And now, this contractor, whom you are trusting to help put at least part of your life back together, is screwing you too. Of course you feel sad and needy and freaked out. It’s normal and acceptable, and you’re allowed to feel that way no matter how much your past makes you think that these feelings are a luxury. Actually, they’re not a luxury. They’re how you feel. And with this on top of everything else, I’d say you’re more than entitled. Hugs to you. I hope your house gets back in some semblance of order soon!!

  3. {{{{{HUGS!}}}}

    is there a way that your husband can ‘supervise’ while you go out for a while and sit in the lovely quiet of a bookstore or library and immerse yourself in books?

    Or take a laptop to Panera?

    What about treating yourself to something nice outdoors — like a new chair and some plants and get some wonderful food delivered.

    Be gentle with yourself =)

    In some ways you’re grieving and grief brings up old griefs and old memories and also you feel helpless because you’re at the mercy of a contractor — but YOU do have the power to get another one :o)

    and you can write an artile about all this and when it’s published you’ll have more clips! =)

    I liked the cartoons — follow the second one and get something that brings you peace and take it with you =)


  4. It sounds like you’ve had an excruciating run with your remodel. I can’t even relate other than my house in disarray when I’m only just painting one room or another. I’ve never had to feel what it is like to trust my home, my sanctuary to a stranger. It can’t be easy.

    I am so proud of you for working so hard to get your office in shape so that you would have that much needed space to retreat – no doubt you’ve been searching for that paradise already in doing so.

    It also can’t be easy to be writing your memoir at the same time, dredging up memories that aren’t always happy, in the middle of all the chaos.

    I hope you find the paradise you seek, if only temporary, until your kitchen fiasco is complete. And allow me to join in the LJ group hug

    • Yep, and it’s run on for a long time, just like that song I posted last Friday. I like to keep my home a sanctuary, but it’s certainly felt like a commune of late — lots of comings and goings of complete strangers. Fortunately, I’ve cleaned my office clutter to the point where it can be my peaceful refuge.

      THANKS for the wonderful thoughts and warm hugs!

  5. Again, my heart aches for glue-eating little Melodye. Oh, I wish we could hold her. But I see you, grown Melodye, finding ways to comfort your young self and make sense of what was. I am happy for you that you are so well connected with the part of you that hurts. You reach out to your loved ones for help, and ultimately find answers in another part of yourself.

    What do you think it is that makes you so wise?

    • I don’t know that I’m wise, but I certainly tend to be self-aware and reflective. Maybe too much so, sometimes.

      Perhaps it was all those parables I heard in Sunday School, but I have always tried to make sense of my world through stories and metaphors. I’m certainly realizing how much that’s true while I’m writing my memoir.

      Thank you, Jen, for getting the message behind my story. I appreciate so much that you really “got” what I was trying to say, and I’m grateful that you reached out to tell me so.

  6. Oh, Melodye. I went through a very vulnerable and needy time of my own a couple of years ago, and I feel for you. I remember trying to cheer myself up, as you have done, by telling that I had a great deal to be thankful for, and that other people had to suffer much worse. But whatever the intellect and the will may say, the emotions are still there. All I can say is that I sympathize, and will pray for you, and hope along with you that this time of upheaval ends soon.

    I know I’m practically a stranger, and as a Canadian of British descent I would be too shy to do this in RL, but — *hugs*

  7. Melodye, I missed the school supply post and now my heart hurts for the paste eating memories you hold.

    You’re struggling right now but it’s a testimony to your magnificent heart and spirit that you’re stepping back and thinking about important stuff rather than drowning in despair.

    You inspire me.

    • Thank you, Tracy. One thing I know for sure is that I survived the rough patches in my life by consciously looking for a way out of Egypt, rather than complaining. It’s not my style to kvetch, but sometimes…well, sometimes it’s warranted, right? I’m trying to learn that.

      I am humbled by your kind words and your friendship.

  8. ((((Melodye))))

    So much has already been said that also reflects how I felt as I read your post: the desire to nurture the little paste-eating Melodye; the relating to the feelings of spacial displacement of the adult Melodye; and many of the other empathy’s that ring in the previous comments.

    Yet there is one thing that hasn’t been said that I would be so bold as to add:

    “Bravo, Melodye” – on (at least) three counts:

    First, bravo on your willingness to bare your soul and share ‘what you really feel’ with us – especially those of us who haven’t the privilege of being there in person to offer a shoulder or a ‘real’ hug. Giving yourself permission to be vulnerable is a laudable thing – thank you for allowing us to see beyond the Awesome Woman you ARE and glimpse the hurting child who grew through such hardship to become ‘her.’

    Secondly, bravo on the insight you’ve allowed yourself to develop: your willingness to look backward and balance the trials of today against those of the past; your compassion for those who still fight for survival from the other side of the poverty line.

    And, thirdly, bravo for recognizing there’s still a road to be traveled in the reaching of paradise.

    Another truism (I’d have to google it to learn its origin) is: “Success in not a destination, it’s a journey.” Such is also the reality of the paradise we carry within us – it is not so much about its being perfected, as it is in the course we chart in perfecting it.

    In the few short months since I discovered your LJ, Melodye you have become one of my heroes…and posts such as the one you’ve written today, are the reason.

    “Bravo, Melodye!” From the bottom of my heart.

  9. Oh, Melodye…hugs. Your post made me teary. Thinking of you or any other child eating paste because they were so hungry breaks my heart. You know, I believe that no matter what our age, we’re all children inside. And even when we think we’ve healed from our childhoods, they are still a part of us. We still need comforting now and then. We still remember…

    So today, while you’re feeling low, just know that I’m thinking of you. I’m sending hugs your way and want you to know how very, very glad I am that such a wonderous spirt as yours, so kind and sweet and insightful, has grown into the woman that you are, who graces the lives of those who know her.

    Your experiences will help someone some day as they read your memoir.

    I am here for you…I am your friend.


    • You’re so right: we remember. And I think it’s good that we do, so we also remember the lessons those experiences offered to us. Also, it’s a good time to realize how many blessings come out of those humble beginnings. For example, I may not have met you if I hadn’t decided to be a writer, which is due in some measure to what I experienced growing up. See, it all comes full circle, in a good way.

      I am here for you, too, and I am grateful to also be your friend. xo

  10. My sister has gone through something similar. She and her husband went on a trip that lasted a couple of months, and came home to house that had been flooded by a faulty ice maker.

    They like you, had to have everything torn out and redone. The damage went beyond her kitchen and extended to most of the house.

    I remember not understanding her angst over strangers packing her clothes, everything in her house going into storage, etc. She was really freaking.

    But heck, every few years strangers come in my house and box everything up, so I’m used to it.

    My point is…hmmm…my point is..this is a big thing for you..and you feel the way you feel…and you can’t feel guilty over “Well it’s not as bad as…..”

    It’s bad enough for you. And soon it will be over.

    • Yeesh, I feel so bad for your sister! When your home’s a sanctuary for you, it’s hard to open the door to complete strangers. It’s hard not to feel violated when your oasis is compromised.

      I can see your point, and that’s the point, right? 🙂

      Thank you for your comforting words.

  11. I’m sorry you are living in a house of disrepair, but at least you’re not living in a house of ill repute! Sorry! I couldn’t help myself! ;-D But seriously, I know full well how construction can uproot a peaceful life. Know it will one day end. Until then:

  12. Melodye, this post is beautiful and moving and I don’t feel like I have apt words to reply to it, but wanted to say *something*.

    I agree that there’s at least an article here. Braiding the experience of your kitchen catastrophe and upset with the catastrophic and upsetting moments of your youth.

    Go do something fun! Shopping? A movie? The ballet? an art museum?

  13. what a lovely post–that’s exactly how my in-laws feel right now being shuffled between their sons (small) homes with no ‘room of their own’ so to speak. it’s hard to be unsettled, and if nothing else raises appreciation and emphathy for those who don’t have as many blessings as we do. never apologize for your feelings.


    • I can’t know if I’m wise or not, but I certainly know enough to realize how fortunate I am in my friends. Thank you for being my friend! Thank you also for the hugs; I’m receiving them with gratitude and sending you some in return. xo

  14. Oh, Melodye, this post is so touching. I’ve been mulling over “creating my own paradise” lately too, so your words are timely for me. I’m sorry you’re going through all of this at once, and I’m sending hugs your way. This post has helped me feel a little better about things going on in my life, so thank you for sharing this wisdom.

  15. Beautiful post — very real and honest. Thank you, Melodye, for sharing your heart! I never had to eat paste to survive (or even to quench momentary hunger). We had our poor moments, but because I didn’t have that gnawing hunger to contend with, all I really remember is the beauty of the western slope of CO, the cold mornings (made colder because the walls of our house didn’t meet the floor in a few spots), the summer afternoons spend in the shade of the large trees…I thought it then, and I think it now: we were blessed.

    I hope your kitchen comes together very soon, and that your house is once again your comforting home. But as you say, your joy already resides in your heart — and you, of all people, know how to unleash it!

    • Thank you for listening with *your* heart. I wondered if it was even appropriate to post something so raw, but in the end, it’s how I’ve been feeling and I wanted to journal it so I could maybe understand it better. Thank you for being empathetic and for sending me such warm and affirming thoughts. I can’t tell you how much they (you!) mean to me.

    • Too perfect, right? I was amazed when I saw it, and then when I saw the other one right below it, well!

      Thanks for having faith that things will pull themselves upright again. I believe that’s true, too. 🙂

  16. I love that Emerson quote.

    Don’t feel guilty about letting off steam. I think we’re entitled to do it in our own space. People can always pass by.

    Besides, you’ve damn well earned your pretty home, and have a right to be enjoying it NOW and not in 2009, or whenever the twerp who pooped out thinks they can get around to holding up their end of a bargain.

    Civilization is built on trust, and that means not just being paid on time, but doing one’s job on time.

    • I’ve always loved that Emerson quote. When I first read it long ago, it spoke directly to my heart.

      Thank you for putting more bluntly than I did, the thoughts I’ve been carrying around in my head about the contractor. It’s sometimes hard for me to get to the point where I say “enough!” (not always a good thing) but when I do, Katie bar the door! Did I mention that I’m there? 🙂

      Thanks also for your touching tribute to Madeleine L’Engle. I loved reading everyone’s memories about her and her works.

  17. I’m so sorry about all the terrible things you’re battling through.

    If you need a funny book, try Then We Came to the End. The guy quotes Emerson a lot, too. Books always make me feel a little better.

    I hope your kitchen and your spirits are back in order soon 🙂

    • I’m going to put that book on my list — thanks! I love Emerson and, like you, I’ve always found escape in good books.

      I’m already feeling much better, thanks to everyone’s kind thoughts and words. THANK YOU!

  18. Oh, Melodye, after all the comforting, eloquent, and wise things that have been said here, all I can think of to say *and do* is (((((((((hugs))))))))).

    You know, with you writing your memoirs, it goes without saying that a lot of your memories have been stirred to the surface, but I wonder if the kitchen wasn’t simply the catalyst that made them break through?

    Hang in there, hold on to the positive thoughts, and remember that we’re all here for you!

    • Yes, I do believe what you say is true. I’m finding that unanticipated events are calling to mind some deep-seated emotions and long-forgotten stories. That’s a good thing, where my writing’s concerned, but it’s also sometimes painful.

      Thank you so much for putting a lovely butterfly band-aid where it hurts.

  19. Lots have been said so beautifully. All I can add is here are my Texas sizes shoulders anytime you need them. And remember…..those self doubts are going back in the book on the top shelf. :0)

  20. (((((HUGS)))))

    You have always been my hero, Melodye. I’ve told you that before. But even heroes can hurt. We all love you; and we’re here whenever you need to talk.


  21. Melodye, thank you for sharing all of this with us. It really takes courage to open up your heart and soul as you do. I have the utmost respect and admiration for you for having come through all that you have and be the warm, sweet, intelligent, caring, generous and thoughtful person that you are. I wish I could take away all of the icks that have come bubbling up in you. But lots of us out here, as evidenced by the comments, are here for you. I’m so sorry that you’re stuggling right now, but just know that we’re all out here, holding your hand and sending you the very best of our thoughts and wishes. I can actually very much understand the emotions you describe here and they’re not feelings I would wish on anybody. But hang in there. Try to keep your chin and spirits up and just know that there are lots of people in the cyber and real worlds that are pulling for you to overcome, that are here for you.

    I’ll be keeping many good thoughts for you, Melodye.

    • I know deep down that you really *get* what I was trying to say, and though I don’t completely understand why that is, I’m grateful. It’s a rare thing, when someone listens with their heart. I treasure that gift that you bring to me and, as I’ve seen on other’s posts, that you so willingly and consistently share with others. I’m honored to be your friend.

      • Thank you, Melodye. And it’s no less than you do for me. I really do treasure the fact that you’re so open and honest that you are even willing to give me the well deserved smack upside the head now and again. 🙂 I’m very thankful for your friendship as well.

  22. Transition and uprooting dredges up so much. Your home life is very public right now: eating out, strangers in your home, it’s an uncomfortable feeling, esp. when it’s ongoing like this.
    Take it one piece at a time, find your sanctuary in all of this, and there are no “shoulds” with this – how you feel is how you feel.

    Take care and catch your breath.

    • You are so right, Laura! Even though I’m people-oriented, it’s really hard to leave open the door to my sanctuary.

      Yes, thanks, I must remember to breathe…oxygen is my friend. 🙂

  23. You have to feel what you are feeling, even if someone else has it worse. Doesn’t mean you can’t have sympathy and empathy for them, it just means that you have stuff going on too. And memories are powerful things.


    I hope life is less chaotic for you soon!

    BTW, I think I want to hang out with Norman. Seems like he’s a sunny sort of guy :0)

    • I wanna hang out with Norman, too. If you see him, will you tell him I’m lookin’ for him?

      You said all the right things…things I need to remember and things I need to hear. Thank you; I’m listening. xo

      • Someone wiser than me once told me that it’s hard to think about yourself when others are less fortunate, or if someone tells you to quit whining because you could be worse off. But that doesn’t mean that your pain is any less. Now if I could only remember who said it. I’d send them a thank you note because they’re still helping me out with those words – especially this year.

        If I see Norman I’ll tell him to go see you. If you see him first, tell him to visit me too, ok?

  24. Actually, I’m *not* getting enough sleep, and that certainly does make a difficult situation worse.

    I’m astonished at the accuracy with which you interpreted some possible sources of my problems. Wow, I hadn’t thought about what those damaged areas of my house represent. Thank you for giving me food for thought. (Apt metaphor, eh?)

  25. I’m hanging in there. Hanging upside down, and not on the playground, but still.

    You’re so right that eating out every night gets tiresome, and wow yes, there’s that symbolism about the kitchen, too.

    Hey, I loved that letter you wrote to the school about fundraising. I think it’s great that you expressed your (valid) opinions, and I hope you send them.

  26. (((((Hugs))))

    Thank you for sharing a beautifully written, and heart wrenching post. You made me cry for that little Melodye who ate school paste to fill up her empty tummy.

    I’m sorry that you are feeling lost and bewildered, but remember I am here for you if you ever need to vent, anytime, day or night, it doesn’t matter. You have my private email address so don’t be afraid to use it. After my husband died, my critique buddies and LJ friends kept me from going completely off the deep end by listening to my nutty ramblings. It’s amazing how strangers united by a single desire – to write for children – can become such a warm, caring family. I am constantly amazed by the generosity of my LJ friends.

    I understand your pain and confusion, not only is writing your memories dredging up a lot of unresolved feelings/issues but, in a very real sense, when your kitchen was destroyed it unleashed all those pent up feeling because the kitchen is the heart of the home, and your spirit took a direct hit.

    Don’t run from those feelings but meet them head on and accept them, make them your own. It’s one of the hardest things to do – to face the ghosts of your past. I know only too well what you are going through, it took me 33 years to face my own ghosts and be able to freely admit that I am a survivor of sexual child abuse, but it can be done, and you come out the other side stronger for it.

    We are all here for you!

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