Finding Strength in Our Kitchens, Our Families & Ourselves


“The happiest moments of my life have been the few which I have spent at home in the bosom of my family.” –Thomas Jefferson

September 14, 2008. It’s a Sunday afternoon and we are strolling through a kitchen design store, excited to finally embark on the renovation of our 30-year-ancient kitchen. The next day, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy and the economic health of the entire world began to unravel. Two weeks and one mammogram later, my personal health began to unravel as well.

Financial panic and cancer have a way of stopping everything in its tracks. Needless to say, the kitchen renovation was put on the back burner. The cracked Formica countertops, sagging cabinets, and decades old appliances would just have to wait. My attention was turned to demolition and reconstruction of a much more intimate space – my body.

April 15, 2009, mastectomy and TRAM flap reconstruction day. In September I underwent my second reconstructive surgery. A full year had rolled around and I was slowly realizing that surgery was just the tip of the reconstruction iceberg.

I joined a rehabilitative exercise class, took up yoga and focused on a healthy diet. I spent a year in oncology therapy. Another full year later, it was September, 2010, and time to turn my attention back to other life issues, including my kitchen.

Or was it? I was tired of making decisions and afraid I didn’t have the strength to face yet another dismantling and reconstruction. My husband was excited to get started, but I knew better. I knew ripping out a kitchen completely upturns your world. Isn’t that what we had just been through?

1af2cd4c-4739-4daa-b014-9858359d14fbYes, and that’s why I trusted myself to handle it. In came the contractors and down came the walls. The Jefferson quote above, which I had stenciled on the wall, was one of the last fragments of the kitchen to go. Four months later, squeaking in just a few days before Christmas, it was complete. Laundry room cooking and living with contractors and constant construction dust were behind us. The kitchen was now a bright, open, and comforting family space.

As of December 2010, I’ve survived cancer, a kitchen renovation, miscarriages and infertility, and much, much more. The strength it takes to survive all of life’s upheavals is usually found in our kitchens, “in the bosom” of our families sharing good food, togetherness, love and support.

Survival > Existence,


Originally published on The Kicking  Kitchen.

5/22/2012 10:57 AM Luci Weston wrote:

Debbie, you are so right, renovating a kitchen represents so much more of what is going on in our lives. The upheaval, inconvenience, construction issues, and stressful decisions mimic those of the demands of daily life, and especially if one is experiencing a major event. Hopefully, the outcome outweighs the hardship, making us stronger for having lived through it all. Thanks for sharing!
5/22/2012 2:52 PM DebbieWWGN wrote:

When I first started the project, I felt so overwhelmed by it all. Slowly, creativity, collaboration and the vision brought me along and it was an amazing experience. The outcome truly outweighed the hardship. I’m glad I was brave enough to take that first step.

Survival > Existence,

5/22/2012 11:20 AM Catherine wrote:
Excellent renovation – how wonderful that you’ve been able to return to the project and knock it outta the park. The kitchen really is the heart of a home, and yours is truly beautiful.

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