BN Channel Overcoming Adversity

It Makes Us Stronger

Overcoming Adversity Blog Nosh Magazine

{by Katy from Bird on the Street}

“Your child has brain damage” is on the list of things you never want to hear, but in June of 2007 those were the exact words I heard just one day after my son was born. A few minutes later they told me that he would probably not live, but if he did, he would be in a wheelchair and could be mentally handicapped as well.

Long before he was born, I knew that motherhood would change me. After Charlie’s traumatic birth, I was scared to death that it would be his brain damage that would alter who I was. Being the mother of a disabled child did change me, but it turns out it would make me better, would challenge me, and would help me become the person I always wanted to be.

I’ve spent my whole life wanting to do something creative. I thought about interior design; I thought about party planning. I perused web sites, tried to discover my personality type, and stacked career guides up on the bedside table. But there was always the day job, and creative ventures were restricted to painting walls or creating art work when I couldn’t afford the real thing. cooking 123

Charlie’s birth changed all that. I quit my job to stay home with him– convinced that no one could care for him like I could. Suddenly, there was time in the day. No longer consumed with the test scores and lesson plans of a full-time teacher, I needed some kind of outlet.

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

Overcoming Adversity Blog Nosh Magazine

{by Jessica from Balancing Everything}

I was certain the unbearable desert heat was actually pressing in on my little car as I drove home from work. It felt thick to drive through, too thick to breathe, heavy with the weight of impending rain and the coming monsoons. I peered at the blue sky through my windshield. Not a cloud in sight. I killed the ignition, and swung my legs out of the comfort of the air conditioned car, my green bowl positioned on my lap. I was six months pregnant and still throwing up a dozen times a day.


A wave of nausea rolled through me as the Arizona heat hit me like a brick wall. I closed my eyes, leaning my head against the still cool seat belt strap. I’d already had to pull over twice on the 202 to vomit on the side of the road; surely even my stomach couldn’t find anything else to reject. I bit back the almost automatic dry heaving and focused on getting out of the car. Hoisting two grocery sacks, I trudged up the three flights of stairs and let myself into our tiny apartment.

My husband was there, sitting on the couch, still wearing his concrete covered work clothes. I stood stupidly in the doorway, surprised to see him home so early. His eyes moved from my growing belly to my face.

“I got laid off today.”

The next month was insane. The monsoons came and rattled the windows and sent desert sand swirling away in muddy streams across sidewalks and down gutters. My husband worked when he could, begging for freelance cement jobs while he argued with his old employer about severance pay. He lined up jobs to help us pad our meager savings and I packed our little apartment, sold furniture, sorted out a replacement for the nanny job I had, and threw up every five minutes.

The Pen Is Mightier Than Almost Anything Else I’ve Ever Come Across

Overcoming Adversity Blog Nosh Magazine

{by Shannon from Mr. Lady}

I was born in the place where you only went if you had to. I lived in the life most people can only imagine in nightmares, have only seen in movies. I struggle to say those words, because for me, that life is the norm, simply because it was mine.

There was no ship waiting to carry us away from that life. There was no secret to open that would grant us exit. There was no ladder for us to climb or ticket to find in the gutter that would deliver us from the soul-crushing hopelessness of societal abandonment. There were only the armed guards standing at the gates of the hole the world tossed us in to forget about us, and that is not a theological statement.

What we did have were our dreams. In a life that was shrouded in monochromatic shades of redundancy, our dreams were our escape. We imagined ourselves spies, or kings, or poets. We fancied ourselves grand and capable of great things. In the depths of night, when blackness masked the differences between our world and yours, we dreamed ourselves extraordinary.

I scribbled on tattered paper in the middle of the night, twisting words I’d learned until they made sense, creating tapestries of language to hang inside the walls of my heart. I hid those scraps of my soul carefully, under mattresses and in the backs of school lockers, because I knew that the day they were found, they’d be taken away from me.

And one day, they were found.

And that day, my heart was laid out on the floor in front of me and torn into pieces, one poem and story at a time.

And that was the day that I knew I had to leave. I knew I had to do something, that I had to effect some change in some way I couldn’t yet comprehend. I listened to the words thrown across the room at me that night, saying that it was wrong to dream of a better life, that it was selfish to want something better, that is was sinful to aspire to be something more than was destined for me to be, and I saw the bars that held us all in that place coming down around me. I knew that I would suffocate inside them if I didn’t run.

I ran. I left everything I knew one night in January and I ran as far away as I could get. I left behind the piano I’d hammer my rage into, I left the pen that I poured my soul out of, I left my mother and my family and every single person I’d ever known and I never looked back.

Learning to Accept My Autistic Son

Overcoming Adversity Blog Nosh MagazineOriginally published on Mother of Confusion
first appeared on Blog Nosh Magazine on July 24, 2008

My son was born after midnight during the cooler days of May, before the Central Valley could blaze triple-digit temperatures.

The delivery room was packed full of people. The doctor, several nurses, my husband, my parents and my mother-in-law were in attendance. As my son emerged into the world, I expected him to gasp and then cry about the abrupt ejection.

He did not.

Instead he was quiet and blue. The umbilical cord was wrapped around his slender neck several times. Of course I didn’t know that yet, but the jubilant faces of the others gave way to peaked, pinched expressions.

When I asked what was wrong. The response was, “Nothing. Everything’s okay. It’s okay.”

The reassurances scared me. I was only 20-years-old, but already I knew people lied when things were really, really wrong.

Did I not push hard enough or fast enough? The doctor had yelled at me to stay focused, but I kept passing out. He had to assist the delivery with a vacuum device.

Before I could convince myself my baby wasn’t coming home, he cried.

Once assured my son would keep breathing, the doctor plopped him on my belly. When his skin touched mine, I panicked. My stomach felt as slippery as satin sheets on a waterbed. The baby was going to shoot right off and smack the floor. I grabbed on to him and asked for a blanket — something, anything — to give some traction.

Maternal fear knifed sharp and deep. The days of planning the nursery, rubbing my swollen belly and wishing my son would be born sooner, rather than later, felt whimsical. What the hell was I thinking?

I searched for my mom. She sat on the left side of me and appeared happy, but exhausted.

“Mom.” I felt shaky. “I can’t do this. I can’t.” I wanted her to hug me and to tell me it was going to be okay. I wanted to be reassured.

It took her a moment to process my proclamation. When she figured out what I’d meant, she chuckled. “Well, too late now kid. You already are.”

Running on hope, holding up the world

Overcoming Adversity Blog Nosh Magazine{by Erika from Be Gay About It}

The holiday season serves as a lap marker for me, that pristine line on the track where time is measured and recorded, where, at the end of the race, the ribbon snaps against the heaving torso of the runner, his arms splayed in euphoric victory, holding up the world.

We expect the race to end because that’s what races do.


Five years ago, my brother began to swell. Fluid filled him from the bottom up, an army of ounces colonizing territory after territory in

his feet, his ankles, his calves,

his thighs, his waste, his abdomen, his chest.

Before he entered the hospital the first time, he visited me at my apartment, a sort of willful last act of normalcy and wellness. I remember that we sat on the floor because that was the only place comfortable enough for the sixty pounds of fluid that had inflated his trim, athletic frame. I don’t remember what we talked about that morning, just that we spent the time together.

That was before we knew what was happening. Before I knew the starting gun had fired.

In the weeks that followed, so did the tests and the doctors and the questions until, ultimately, our family lexicon had no choice but to admit cirrhosis, terminal, and transplant into membership. He spent four days in the hospital that first time and all I could do was try to cheer him up. I wheeled around his room in his wheelchair, crashing clownishly into the vinyl visitor chairs and tray table at every pivot. When he slept, I watched him, my eyes squinted in the flannel light of the over-the-sink fluorescent, wondering why he had been drafted for this particular marathon, while I had been spared.

Brown Paper Bag of Hope

Overcoming Adversity Blog Nosh Magazine

{by Sugar Jones from Sugar in the Raw}

Sometimes, we’re so far beyond done. We run out of hope. It’s in those times that we need others to remind us that there is still good in the world. That there is a sun in the sky and that we must lift our faces to it.

The other night, my son cut me to the quick. I had been so busy that I had ignored all his pleas for some family time. He finally looked up at me with glassy eyes, trying to stoically hold back tears, and said, “Sometimes, people say they love you but they don’t really love you if they don’t show you they love you. You have to show people you love them.”

You know that within thirty seconds I was on the floor hugging him and playing the game he had set up hours earlier hoping for a little time together.

His words sat with me all night. While I was nodding off to bed, I thought of a time when I had love, not merely spoken to me, but demonstrated. It was a time in my life that I had not yet realized what you could live through. I was too young to understand that, if I held out long enough, things would indeed change. I was tired and had lost all hope that things would ever be any different.

When I was a young single mother, I had plenty of struggles. Some seasons were tougher than others, but it was during the holidays that I saw the cold, harsh reality of my circumstances. One year in particular, I wasn’t really sure we were going to have a Christmas. During that time, my oldest daughter wore a uniform to her public school. It was a uniform-optional school. It sounded like a good idea until the school year started and I realized that only the poor families had opted for a uniform. My daughter didn’t mind. She thought her dress was pretty and loved the matching bow. Every day, I would dress my younger daughter in her uniform of hand-me-downs. She didn’t mind because she saw her big sister’s clothes as new to her. And every day, I would put on my waitress uniform. I didn’t mind because I didn’t have to worry about what to wear.

She Walked Each Step with Gratitude and Hope

Overcoming Adversity Blog Nosh Magazine{by Grace Davis from State of Grace}

Before she lived in her safe and snug redwood house by the sea; before she met a man who loves her from the top of her head to her toes; before she birthed and raised and set free into the world her beautiful and bright brown eyed daughter, before 20 years of work in a series of rewarding occupations; before she labored at two sometimes three jobs in a big city as she put herself through college; before the richness, goodness and accomplishments of her life today, she was a 17 year old girl with just $200 and a backpack full of books and some clothes to her name.

She was on her own three days before she turned 18 and her high school graduation. She missed the ceremony to find work. On her birthday she found a job in the mountains, in the loving caress of nature. Though she was young, she intuitively knew that the embrace of twig, stone, river, mountain and sky would help her heal from the carnage she had known all her life in her parents’ household.

She had fled from domestic violence. She left, knowing she had to save herself. All on her own, at 17, she began her journey to recovery and wholeness.

Such a journey almost always involves hard work. In that first year on her own, this meant hard manual labor. A strong and sturdy young woman, she was part of the crew that maintained the grounds and buildings of a lodge. She moved, pushed and placed furniture and equipment around the property. She scrubbed, scoured and swept the rooms and cabins. She toiled in a restaurant, busing tables and balancing large trays of dishes and glasses on one arm over her head.

She opened a checking account in the village bank. Her savings grew. Her goal was to save money for college.

That summer, on her days off, she hiked deep into wooded canyons and ascended steep switchbacks to the tops of granite peaks and shimmering waterfalls…

hope can burn brighter than fire

Overcoming Adversity Blog Nosh Magazine{by Amy Turn Sharp from doobleh-vay}

This year is different. Each year as we turn around the sun and land smack into a new holiday everything is really relative to the places we have just come from.
My husband lost his father this summer.
Thick in the summer morning heat at the end of July I got a phone call quiet from England.
Joe’s sweet sister shaky with tears told me that dad had died.
I wrote about telling Joe this news:

You never write the narrative of yr own sadness until the moment it happens.

Joe’s father died last night.

It’s like there is a giant hole in England now
in his town
in Joe’s heart

And when I had to put my arms around him
to hold him and tell him
it was like he wasn’t all there
like he had shrunk to the size of a boy
and even my strong strong arms
wrapped right around him
couldn’t do enough

It has marked me. Like tracks we all have across our souls from the biggest imprints of our lives.
From horrible events to the most exquisite blissful times we have ever known and not the little in between.
The big things that freeze a life and spin it.

Victor Vito: Hurricane Katrina and the Impetus of Loss

Victor Vito:  Hurricane Katrina and the Impetus of Loss

Overcoming Adversity Blog Nosh Magazine

{Originally published on Velveteen Mind as Victor Vito}

Laurie Berkner’s song “Victor Vito” came on and I felt three seconds of pure happiness, and then I could not breathe. It was like the exhilaration of jumping into a wave, then realizing too late that it’s too high and too deep. Before you know it, you are going under. It felt like that wave.

No. More like a storm surge.

Two years ago this month, I was still unpacking boxes. We had been moved in for a month already, but I had been taking my time unpacking all of the decorations because I wanted everything to be just right. Although we didn’t plan to stay in this new beach apartment for long, it was going to be just the change of pace we needed while we looked for our new home. The home where we hoped to stay for years this time. In the meantime, let’s have some fun in the sun!

Pants’s room was done and it looked suitable for a Pottery Barn Kids catalog shoot, only for a really cool kid with some fantastically groovy stuff. After waiting over a year to bring in the ceramic giraffes inherited from my great-aunt (which I had admired since I was little), we had finally displayed them on the wall with the rest of his mish-mash of funky stuff and it couldn’t have looked cooler. So eclectic. So pulled together. So him.

The living room was coming together and I was so excited that I would sometimes just lie on the couch at night after Pants was in bed, turn off all the lights except for a warm lamp or two, and look around at our home. Everything was coming together. Everything just fit here, even if it was only temporary.

I don’t always tell people that the home we lost in Hurricane Katrina was an apartment we were renting. For some reason, they seem to sort of turn off when I tell them that. As though “oh, it was just a rental” means that it wasn’t a home. That our stuff wasn’t real.

Only the walls were rented. The home was ours…

It’s only life or death. It’s always only life or death.

Overcoming Adversity Blog Nosh Magazine{Originally published on John T. Unger Studio}

The best thing that ever happened to me was the night an angry, messed up cab driver pulled me into the back room of a 24 hour diner and held a huge handgun to my head for over ten minutes, all the while describing in intricately fetishistic detail exactly what would happen when he pulled the trigger.

Why? Because it changes you, staring down a nutjob holding a gun. After that, the small stuff just doesn’t get sweated. You either break, or break through to a mandatory satori of keeping things in proportion that most people never get to walk away from. It’s an ice calm I wouldn’t trade for anything.

The second best thing that ever happened to me was when the dot com crash of 2000 wiped out most of the design industry at the peak of my career as a freelance print designer. I went from turning away work every week to working exactly 7 days of the next year. I lost my girl. I lost my loft. I lost part of my thumb in an accident moving out of the loft. I pretty much lost it all.

Of course, the only reason I was working in offices was to fund the art career I wanted… materials, space, tools, etc. I worked eight hours in the office and ten in the studio, sleeping when I passed out involuntarily. I decided that if my industry had tanked, I was damned if I was gonna retrain to do something else I didn’t want to do. I chose to make the art be my sole means of support. I built some monumentally scaled commissions working out of borrowed shop space, with borrowed gear, sleeping on borrowed couches.

It worked. I’ve been making my living as an artist ever since, and these days I earn triple the income I ever did from the best corporate gigs.

The third best thing that ever happened was the day my studio building collapsed under a load of snow while I was standing on the roof shoveling. I rode that roof to the ground like a gut-shot rodeo pony. The building and some pricey tools were completely destroyed, but I was unharmed… until I spent the next three months (December, January and February) without heat, running water or a stove because the natural gas line into the house had been severed in the collapse. The gas company refused to fix the line until they could bury it in the spring. I lost a few brain cells, I’m sure, by running an unvented kerosene heater inside the house to stay alive.