Archive for the ‘BN Channel Overcoming Adversity’ category

4

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.

I began painting. It wasn’t painting for a purpose—just the need to make something—to create. I began to stay up late into the night painting, and soon realized I knew nothing about painting. I started reading art magazines and blogs with a new interest—what materials were they using? Where did they get their supplies? There was a lot to learn (and still is).

The more I painted the more ideas I had—I could feel my creativity expanding.

Soon, I started dreaming really big—I would start a creative business.

It wasn’t a new dream. I’d wanted it so many times before, but this time was different.

Charlie is fighter and an odds beater—the doctors held out little hope that he’d live more than a couple of days, but at five weeks he came home. They were convinced that he wouldn’t be able to eat on his own, and insisted he have surgery to place a feeding tube—he turned out to be a champion eater. The first few months of his life were plagued with medical issues, but in the end, he thrived.

Through all this I had to learn to be a fighter too. I had to believe in my son when no one else would and pick up a whole new skill set— doing research, getting answers, and trusting my gut.

So this time, when I wanted to start my own business, I had something I’d never had before—strength, persistence, and faith in my instincts.

cooking 124It probably took eight months to get it off the ground, but I did it. I built a website and online store. I’ve even got a Facebook Fan Page!

I’m not rolling in dough, but man is it exciting. My art has appeared in a national magazine and a local gallery has offered to carry my work. My free time is spent creating things for myself and for other people. Now days I can tell people “I’m an artist.”

It couldn’t have happened without Charlie–his inspiration and all the other things that he has taught me. Fighting for him, taught me how to fight for myself. Seeing him conquer the impossible showed me that anything can be done when we put our minds to it. If a child can have that tenacity and desire, why can’t I?

Now I look forward to the future—to seeing Charlie continue to prove the   doctors wrong, and to seeing where my creativity will take me. These days I realize that it really is wide open—we aren’t restricted by what others think or say, but only by ourselves. If we let go of our fears, we can do whatever our hearts desire.

This post was written as part of the blog carnival sponsored by Blog Nosh Magazine and Pepperidge Farm.  I’m sure many special needs parents will recognize themselves in Margaret Rudkin’s story.  To see other participants please visit Blog Nosh.

Katy is a self-proclaimed “suburban princess turned public school teacher turned stay-at-home mom,” but as you can see, her layers run deep.  We proudly feature Katy’s original carnival submission as, let’s be honest, she nailed it.  Her story strikes at the heart of our theme.  When we hear the call, we step up and deliver.  The interesting part happens when we then step back and look at who that call has helped us become.  Watch the evolution of Katy on her blog, Bird on the Street, and follow her on twitter.

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Inspired? Recognize a dash of Katy’s and Margaret’s tenacity and compassion in yourself?

Our carnival of storytelling celebrates the art of
stepping up to the plate in order to answer a need and
unexpectedly discovering a fiery talent just waiting to flourish.

Please join our carnival and share your own story of stepping up to the plate and delivering a bit of spit-fire that you may never have realized you had.

To participate:

We’ll be selecting 5 additional carnival posts to feature on the front page of Blog Nosh Magazine (with your permission) during the month of May so add yours now! We can’t wait to read your story!

<a href=”http://www.pepperidgefarm.com/News.aspx”><img src=”http://www.velveteenmind.com/Carnivals/PF/PFBN400x100.jpg”></a>

Heart and Art of Motherhood carnival sponsored by Blog Nosh Magazine and Pepperidge Farm.

5

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.

pr1st

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.

pregmove

Pregnant and packing boxes; not my idea of a good time.

Finally we had our lives packed into my husband’s work trailer and truck and we set our sights for home.

Back in Utah we rented a storage unit that cost a precious $20 per month, wedged our marriage bed into the little room I grew up in in the basement of my parent’s house and tried to look on the bright side. My husband spent weeks sending out resumes boasting about his degree and the company he’d owned and tried not to let the deafening silence of the phone drive him mad.

In desperation, he took a job at a car dealership that paid him $1000 a month on top of commissions. As the summer months turned to fall months, those promised commissions grew more and more less frequent. I spent the last uncomfortable months of my pregnancy working as a nurse at an internal medicine office, waddling in and out of patient rooms, taking blood pressure readings, and administering injections to make ends meet.

Whether we were ready or not, it was time to welcome our baby boy into the world — a world we hoped we’d be able to improve, a world we hoped would soon lead us out of my childhood bedroom and into a home of our own.

We were so poor I scoured eBay and second hand shops for baby things and considered cloth diapering to save money; but we’d received a few months worth of diapers from generous friends and relatives so I put the thought out of my mind. We might need to clip coupons like mad, but there wasn’t any reason to go crazy rinsing poopy diapers out by hand, right?

Wrong. Well, kind of wrong.

My baby ended up developing a dreadful rash in each and every brand of disposable diaper we tried. Creams and ointments did nothing, the blisters looked awful. We tried a round of yeast medication but finally our pediatrician said we ought to look into cloth diapers.

I fired up my brother’s old computer and sorted out how to connect to the internet. An hour or two later, I was lost in Google. Cloth diapers had changed – they no longer required pins and crinkly, leaky plastic pants. They fastened with Velcro and plastic snaps. They were, dare I say, cute? If my calculations were correct, we could not only single handedly save the planet, but also save around $2000 by using cloth.

But I couldn’t afford the initial investment – in spite of the long term benefits, so I kept searching until I found a couple of websites with instructions for sewing my own diapers.

jppMy husband was less than enthused at the prospect, but I got to work. My mom and I cut up old blankets, utilized old dish towels, and sewed my baby some cloth diapers to try. Within a few days, my baby’s rash was better; it was amazing. But I was struggling to find affordable diaper fabric and other specialty notions I could use to make effective waterproof covers for the diapers I’d made. Local fabric shops just didn’t have what I needed and looked at me like I was crazy when I explained what I was trying to make.

More online searches led me to a smallish cloth diapering community where women shared resources for buying diaper making fabrics and supplies, but it looked like I’d have to wait weeks and weeks to get what I needed through co-ops, plus I would need to purchase the items from multiple places from multiple people – the shipping costs were adding up and wrecking my delicately balanced budget.

One night, lying in bed with our tiny, cloth diapered baby between us, I mused, “What if I opened an online shop? A place where moms like me could find hard to find cloth diaper making supplies all in one spot? No waiting, no shipping fee pile up… What do you think?”

My husband stifled a yawn and kissed our baby’s head. “Sounds like a sweet little something you might could do on the side.”

He wasn’t being discouraging, just honest. The cloth diapering community was small, and even smaller was the community within that community who chose to sew diapers themselves rather than buy ready made.

I began searching and sourcing, and making contacts, and constructing spreadsheets until I had a 3 ring binder packed to overflowing with data and plans. I presented my plan to my parents; my dad was supportive but smiled a little. I knew it sounded crazy – the percentage of parents who chose to cloth diaper was already dwarfed by the percentage of parents who chose to use paper diapers. How much smaller would the percentage of parents be who actually chose to sew those cloth diapers?

Miniscule at best. But still, I could see a need, and so I pressed on.

My parents weren’t able to help at the time, but my husband’s parents generously gave us some start up money, as no bank would approve us for any kind of loan given our current laid off / car salesman / parent’s basement situation. I planned carefully and made our initial purchases. Soon I had rolls of fabric lying around and a website and a shopping cart that could accept Paypal payments.

After months and months of planning, I held my breath and launched my little website.

fr-fab

Two days later, orders were shooting out of the printer, I was cutting fabric on the floor from a gigantic roll of microfleece, and my baby was crying for his lunch. I called my husband in tears, “You’ve got to come home and help me.”

kersh

Our first ‘shop’ in a tiny one car garage.

It didn’t take much to convince him — he wasn’t really a good car salesman anyway. He quit his job with glee, and has been working alongside me ever since. Eight years later, he’s still cutting and shipping diaper fabric all over the world.

murrsh

Our second ‘shop’ in a bit larger two car garage.

Our business grew. We were able to move out of my parent’s basement and after two more rental places, we bought some land in Idaho where we could build a big shop next to our home. When neighbors ask what the big shop is for, expecting my husband to maybe fix cars or to build furniture, he grins, points to me, and says, “I work for her.”

idsh

Shortly after our current shop was built, ahhh the space!

We are still a very small scale business. We have one part time employee, but my husband does the bulk of the work while I manage the website, customer forums, and the social media for the business. My children help daddy in the shop after our homeschool lessons are finished for the day. They play hide and seek in the big boxes our elastics come in, and run off with remnant fabric to make super hero capes with.

verybaby-c

We thank the Lord everyday that this little business, this little thing we thought I could maybe do on the side, has turned into something that supports us, feeds us, and makes it possible for us to live and work together. And even though aspects of running our own business can be hard and wearying, we’re oh so grateful to be doing what we’re doing, living the sadly fading, proverbial American Dream.

be-divider

mrThis post was inspired by Margaret Rudkin, founder of Pepperidge Farm. Margaret discovered her talent for business by stepping up to solve a problem in her own life. The stock market had crashed and her son had food allergies and asthma which required good foods that were difficult to obtain. Margaret set about creating a company that made high quality food her son could eat and in so doing, found a way to provide for her family during tough times.

I’m publishing my entrepreneurial story in honor of Margaret Rudkin and Mother’s Day. This post is sponsored by Blog Nosh Magazine as part of the Blog Nosh Magazine and Pepperidge Farm Celebrate the Heart and Art of Motherhood carnival.

Visit Pepperidge Farm to download handy coupons, and read about their generous $10,000 donation to Feeding America and how you can help this cause.

Finally, post your own story during the Month of May to participate! Visit Blog Nosh at BlogNosh.com for details about the carnival.

Pepperidge Farm News and Offers

Jessica is a business owner, homeschooling mother of four (four!), and also finds time to write about her life online. Her personal blog is aptly named, Balancing Everything, where she not only writes about life with her family, but she also talks about home improvement projects and sewing. She even has simple tutorials! Don’t miss a thing, subscribe to her blog’s feed and follow her on Twitter.

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Inspired?  Recognize a dash of Jessica’s and Margaret’s tenacity and compassion in yourself?

Our carnival of storytelling celebrates the art of
stepping up to the plate in order to answer a need and
unexpectedly discovering a fiery talent just waiting to flourish.

Please join our carnival and share your own story of stepping up to the plate and delivering a bit of spit-fire that you may never have realized you had.

To participate:

We’ll be selecting 5 additional carnival posts to feature on the front page of Blog Nosh Magazine (with your permission) during the month of May so add yours now!  We can’t wait to read your story!

<a href=”http://www.pepperidgefarm.com/News.aspx”><img src=”http://www.velveteenmind.com/Carnivals/PF/PFBN400x100.jpg”></a>

Heart and Art of Motherhood carnival sponsored by Blog Nosh Magazine and Pepperidge Farm.

9

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.

I always thought that, on that night, my mother had taken my words from me. It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I realized that she’d only forced me to find new ones.

I am not one of those people who believe that anyone can do anything. What I do believe is that everyone can do something, especially when we have to.

I spent my early years of motherhood unwittingly re-creating my own childhood, mostly, I think, because it was the only thing I knew how to do. During those years, I learned how to accept the life I’d been handed and I learned to make it better for my children. I made sure that they had a life that, however humble, was exactly the opposite of mine. I taught them that they were kings, spies and poets. I used the remnants of my own foundation to build them up, but what I didn’t realize is that I gave them too much, I left myself too hollow, and someday, I was going to need to take myself back.

The funny thing about having kids is that, even when they don’t know it, they constantly remind you how fallible you are.  I saw too many parts of my childhood becoming the norm for my own children. My kids started looking at me in the same way I remembered looking at my own mother, as if to say, “This is great, but who the hell are you?” And I realized that I had to figure that out, for them, for myself, for the sum of my life to have added up to anything at all.

I had to take myself back. I had to go back to that night, to that room when the only thing I cared about at all was shredded before my eyes and I had to deal with it. I had to pull those papers out of the trash can, tape them back together, and take back what had been stolen from me. And that’s what I did.

I imagine most everyone has this crisis-of-self moment at some point in their lives, when you realize that you have to get up and do something, even if you don’t know how to do it, even if you don’t want to do it, and even if you’re pretty sure you can’t do it…because if you don’t, everything around you will fall apart. Sometimes, a mother will have to lift a car off her child to save him, and though everything in the world tells us this is impossible, realizes she can when she tries. Sometimes, a woman like Margaret Rudkin will have to bake a loaf of bread or her child will starve, and she’ll do it. Sometimes, a woman will have to take a sledgehammer to the chains she’s allowed her past to wrap around her or she will be lost to them forever.

And sometimes, these unexpected necessities lead to unimaginable re-inventions of people.

Margaret Rudkin never knew she could bake a loaf of bread, let alone market a company that would survive and grow through generations. She never knew she could do more than bake a loaf of bread so that her child could eat, but today that one loaf of bread is called Pepperidge Farm.

I never knew I could pick my pen back up and write, but I did it anyway, because I had no choice. I wrote without fear, without mattresses and lockers to tuck my words away into, mostly because I had nothing left to lose. I wrote in the wide open public space the internet gave us, letting the whole of me hang out exposed for anyone to find, and the doors they all told me growing up would never open started to.

Today, most of the people I grew up with are still where I left them, still living the place we all came from. Today, I am so far removed from that place and that life that it feels like a movie I watched a thousand years ago. Today, I have a job that I never, not in a million years, thought I could have, a job that means I have to write every single day. Today, I am showing my children how to believe in themselves, because I am doing exactly that.

Once upon a time, one woman’s tablespoon changed the world. Today, I am reminded of her first loaf of bread, and the difference it made, and I can’t wait to see what this $0.99 Bic pen is going to do.

This post is sponsored by Blog Nosh Magazine as part of the Blog Nosh Magazine and Pepperidge Farm Celebrate the Heart and Art of Motherhood carnival.
Pepperidge Farm News and Offers

As Mr. Lady tells it, she is not a Mister and she is certainly not a lady. She is however, an amazing writer that chronicles her life on her blog, Whiskey in My Sippy Cup. In 2009, she was named as Babble’s Top 50 Mommy Bloggers. She is a mom of three, politics junkie, and an amazing writer (yes, it’s worth mentioning twice.) Go now and subscribe to her blog and follow her on Twitter.

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Inspired?  Recognize a dash of Mr Lady’s and Margaret’s tenacity and compassion in yourself?

Our carnival of storytelling celebrates the art of
stepping up to the plate in order to answer a need and
unexpectedly discovering a fiery talent just waiting to flourish.

Please join our carnival and share your own story of stepping up to the plate and delivering a bit of spit-fire that you may never have realized you had.

To participate:

We’ll be selecting 5 additional carnival posts to feature on the front page of Blog Nosh Magazine (with your permission) during the month of May so add yours now!  We can’t wait to read your story!

<a href=”http://www.pepperidgefarm.com/News.aspx”><img src=”http://www.velveteenmind.com/Carnivals/PF/PFBN400x100.jpg” ></a>

Heart and Art of Motherhood carnival sponsored by Blog Nosh Magazine and Pepperidge Farm.

0

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.”

Huh?

Before I could say anything more the nurse brought over a blanket. I wrapped it around Jay’s mottled pink and white body. Jimmy reached over and smoothed out his hair and traced his fingers across his greasy newborn skin.

As abrupt as it felt, my mom was right. I was already doing this. I was already this kid’s mom.

I sucked in a deep breath, forced my fear aside, looked down at my son and fell in love.

Comparisons

I pounded my fist on the bed. “I can’t do this. I can’t.”

Jimmy looked at me from his computer chair with surprise.

“I don’t want to be a mom anymore. It’s so freaking hard.”

Jimmy nodded. He had heard my outburst at Jay a few minutes earlier.

“Can’t I just quit? Just for one day?” Man, I’d love to have one happy-go-lucky day without the worry and stress. Maybe someone could conk me on my head so I’d forget my obligations.

I just needed to release the fear that constantly gnawed at my gut.

My baby boy, now 14-years-old, was struggling in school again. Heck, he had been marched to the Vice Principal’s office earlier in the week because of a classroom meltdown.

Luckily the VP knew that Jay was a special kid. He knew what looked like disobedience in another student wasn’t the same for my son.

Jay had autism.

They worked through it.

However, I didn’t. Jay’s shutdowns were increasing and his grades were falling. Again.

I felt like the world we had so carefully constructed for him was cracking apart.

I lamented to Jimmy. “Why can’t he just do it? We’re all working so hard for him– why can’t he pull himself together and at least try? The other kids in his autism program do it.”

This wasn’t the first time I had wondered why Jay couldn’t be like the other kids. Only, before, the other kids were neurotypical.

When Jay was a couple months old, I saw babies his age cooing and laughing at people. I wanted him to do the same.

When he started preschool and hid under the desk for weeks after the other kids adjusted – I wondered why he couldn’t go out and play like everyone else.

When he still couldn’t ride a bike at age ten, I forced the issue. I grabbed the new bike he’d gotten as a gift and made him get on it. I pushed and ran with him for part of the way and then, against his pleading request, let go.

If he had no other choice, he’d just do it. Right? It was like what other people said – I wasn’t being strong enough with him. I coddled him too much. I just needed to make him do it and he would.

“Peddle. Just peddle the bike Jay!”

He didn’t. He wouldn’t. The bike slowed down and tipped. Instead of sticking out a foot or a hand, Jay sat stiff. He landed on the curb still gripping the handle bars.

I was pissed. All he had to do was peddle. Now he was banged up and bruised up. Why didn’t he just ride the damn bike?

It wasn’t until Jay was thirteen I got my answer: Autism.

Acceptance

Just over a year ago, Jay’s diagnosis helped us find him a school with an autism program.

Nowadays, mostly, I’m shouting out about his triumphs. I share with family and friends his dreams of becoming a wildlife conservationist or that he’s crazy about Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean and Naratuo. I let them know he’s made a gaggle of friends and gets asked to sleepovers and birthday parties.

Jay’s recent progress has felt like a miracle. Everyone’s rejoiced.

So why was I freaked out? It took me a couple of days – after my rant to Jimmy – to work through it.

What I discovered? The problem wasn’t Jay. It was me.

Sometime after his diagnosis, my expectations switched back to default mode.

Now that Jay had support, he’d get right back on track. He’d graduate high school and go to college. His meltdowns and setbacks would be a thing of the past. Heck, one day he’d even get married and make me some grandbabies.

What did I forget? Oh yeah, Jay still had autism.

That’s right, the key component to all of this – I just glossed over it. Mentally I put us back on the everything-is-going-to-be-okay-forever-and-ever track.

Society’s milestones of youth and adulthood applied again. I boxed us right back into the pretty package of social norms.

When Jay didn’t behave according to that plan – when he didn’t keep up his end of the fantasy – I had my own meltdown.

The truth is I’m scared. I don’t know what life for Jay is going to be like as an adult. I don’t know that he’ll graduate high school or college with his peers — or ever. What other parents can expect, I can’t.

What I do know? Before I can ask the world to accept or have tolerance for people with autism, I have to do it first. I have to accept Jay for exactly who he is and let him set the pace.

This means no more preconceived deadlines or we’re-on-the-right-track checklists.

I have to stop and take a deep breath, shove aside my fear, look at my son and love him.

We’ll do this together.

We already are.

Editor’s Pick by Arianne from To Think Is To Create: Having autistic children myself, reading Genevieve’s post about her autistic son moved me deeply. I knew readers with special needs kids in their own family, or those who have a friend or loved one suffering, would all relate to and be inspired and comforted by this beautiful post.

Be sure to visit Mother of Confusion and subscribe to her feed so you never miss another inspiring post.


1

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.

This is my brother’s story and I respect his privacy. I can talk about the facts, like how the specialist projected a transplant five years out from diagnosis. I can talk about the typical progression of cirrhosis, that before the liver fails, the kidneys fail and the risk of heart attack and cancer balloons. I can tell you what any medical textbook will tell you and I can tell you that we wait.

We wait for him to get sick enough to be eligible for a new liver.

We wait for the ribbon to be stretched across the track, while he completes his unchosen race.

Beyond those things, I can talk only about my own feelings of helplessness, guilt, and terror. I try to be rational and optimistic. I believe in the law of attraction and that positive thinking begets health and prosperity. But still, these dark, worried feelings sneak up on me, hooding me from behind and drawing the cord tight around my neck.

This is my little brother, the one whose bunk was below mine. The one who stood on tiptoes to peek over the top-bunk railing that same morning every year whispering ’Santa came!’, and ‘Hurry up!’ and–

DAMMIT!! WHY HIM?!!

I’ve said I would take it from him in a heartbeat, that for all the years he’s protected me, now it’s my turn. I’ve asked, ‘why not me?’

The thing is, I already know.

I know why him and not me, if it had to be either of us. He’s taught me why these past five years.

*****

My little brother has endured more these past five years than I’ve endured in thirty-two. He’s endured footlong needles draining liters from his abdomen. He’s endured CT scans and endoscopies and failing diuretics. He’s endured pain that lays him out, the setting aside of plans, and uncertainty of existential proportions.

He’s endured elements that I would stand no chance of surviving and, still, he keeps running the laps, ticking the line with each pass, never stopping or crumpling to the grass, always hoping that the next line will be the ribbon.

Despite the loitering reaper with his red carpet and engraved invitations, my little brother confounds his doctors. Five years out from diagnosis and he’s not much closer to needing a transplant than he was five years ago. Somehow, its progression has slowed.

Of course the disease within him is real. Of course he struggles through it daily. Of course the slowing of the inevitable feels bittersweet at times.

But none of these things take from him the hope of savoring his first post-op beer, of returning to school, finding a whipsmart, loving wife, or hoisting his future children onto his shoulders at the zoo. My brother breathes hope and refuels on hope.

Whether he feels it’s a choice or not, my brother runs on hope.

*****

This time of year always stirs what’s magical to life. One of our traditions growing up was to set out our favorite stuffed animals so that Santa could make them come alive while he unpacked his sack of treasures under our tree. I remember how excited my brother and I felt knowing that, for one night, Bumble-lion and Basketball Jones would be alive.

It’s the same feeling that stirs in me now, when I’m able to undo the hood enough to see that what my brother embodies is not disease, but health.

The holiday season serves as a lap marker for me, that pristine line that marks not just one more year of my brother’s life, but one more year of his living.

Eventually, the race will end, as all races do. I will be there at the ribbon when the time comes, his relief runner, his cheerleader, his sister, whoever he needs me to be –

raising my arms as he raises his, together, holding up the world.

********************

This post was inspired by the Blog Nosh Magazine blog carnival honoring the Tide Loads of Hope program. When I told Jenn I wanted to write a post about hope, our conversation went like this:

Erika: So, you know the Tide Loads of Hope program?

Jenn: Of course I do.

Erika: What is it then?

Jenn: It’s when you buy the Tide with the whatever color cap and they do somebody’s laundry.

Close enough. The Tide Loads of Hope program is a a mobile laundromat offering laundry services to families affected by disasters. Read more stories of hope and, better yet, share your own story of hope over at BlogNosh.

Oh, and buy a T-shirt while you’re at it! They’re not self-cleaning, but the proceeds go to help people in survival. And because it’s about more than loads of laundry. It’s about hope.

**

Go get better acquainted with Erika from Be Gay About It.  Her blog is an articulate discussion of life, family, politics, and equality.  Erika not only uses her blog to highlight her life, but also to “demystify what it means to be gay (read: YAWN! normal).“  This beautiful essay about her brother can be read here, including the original comments.  As you get to know Erika, you’ll definitely want to subscribe to her blog and follow her on Twitter!

**

Loads of Hope for the Holidays

Share your own stories of hope, along with Blog Nosh Magazine, Velveteen Mind, and a gathering of inspiring bloggers, and enter your own post link in the blog carnival below. Explore featured bloggers as well as three featured posts selected from carnival participants listed in the linky (that could be you!).

Learn more about how you can extend hope to families affected by disasters by visiting http://tideloadsofhope.com

Blog carnival hosted by Blog Nosh Magazine, sponsored by Tide Loads of Hope.

How do the holidays fill you with loads of hope?

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3

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. Every morning, we’d pile into my old, rickety car… the car my friends lovingly referred to as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. We were a sight, the three of us. Most of the time, we were happy. The kids were too young still to know what they were missing.

Still… I knew.

I had worked so hard that year. Unfortunately, I had one emergency after another… car troubles, medical bills, school loans coming due. I tried not to think about it, but as the days drew closer, I began to fall into a deep depression about not being able to buy the kids even a few gifts for Christmas. Then, on the last Friday before winter break, I went to the school to pick up the kids. It was just under a week before the big day. If you would’ve seen me that afternoon,  you would have seen a young woman, shoulders slumped, looking beat down by life.

Up walked the school nurse.

She had a strange look on her face. One that made my paranoid mommy brain go straight to panic mode. I thought something might have happened to the kids. She got that panicked mommy response a lot, apparently, because she assured me right away that nothing was wrong. So then what was that awkward look on her face? And what was in the bag that she was holding? She stammered a bit, trying to find words…

“Every year… we try to… we choose families from the free lunch program… some items were donated…”

I looked at the bag and then the nurse and then the bag again. I must have been exhausted because I couldn’t understand what was happening. I remember thinking, Wow, this woman needs a vacation because she isn’t making any sense! Then I realized I had not said a word nor had I accepted the bag she had been trying to hand me. I was still trying to figure out what she was talking about and why she kept trying to hand me that large brown grocery bag. Then I saw a wrapped gift on top of several other wrapped gifts in the bag. The tag on the gift had some writing.

“Little Girl – 6″

That’s when I understood that we had been adopted. Us. Our family. We were now one of the families that other families helped. For a moment, I felt ashamed. Ashamed that I couldn’t provide the simplest things for my children. I looked at the nurse who was running out of things to say and seemed to be getting more uncomfortable by the second. I looked back down at the bag again and cried. This was one of God’s little miracles! . right until I started to cry. My lips were trembling as I told her, “I didn’t think we were going to have a Christmas this year.” Her face softened from worry to relief as I accepted the bag. The thought of my kids having gifts to unwrap that year was nice, but knowing that strangers helped a mom in need was simply amazing.

Christmas would have come that year whether we had gifts or not. The date would have arrived no matter what was under the tree. The year that life had beat me down turned out to be one of the best seasons of my life. It was the year that I had lost all hope AND It was the year that I got the gift of hope back through the kindness of strangers.

Like my son said…

“You have to show people you love them.”

***

Spend more time with Sugar Jones at  SugarJones.tv, where she’s creating her own virtual travel, food and lifestyle network to host her creative blog, vlog and social media loveliness.   Sugar is married to a pilot who is teaching her to fly from their homebase in San Diego, and she is a mom to four kids who range in ages from Kindergarten to college.  Follow her on Twitter to try to keep up with her if you can!

***

Loads of Hope for the Holidays

Please join us at Blog Nosh Magazine as we share stories of hope this holiday season in support of the Tide Loads of Hope program, a mobile laundromat offering laundry services to families affected by disasters.

Share your own stories of hope, along with Blog Nosh Magazine, Velveteen Mind, and a gathering of inspiring bloggers, and enter your own post link in the blog carnival below. Explore featured bloggers as well as three featured posts selected from carnival participants listed in the linky (that could be you!).

Lend your voices now, then participate live during a two day event in New Orleans, Sunday and Monday, December 13 and 14, as we tweet stories of resilience from laundry recipients and volunteers on the ground. Follow along on twitter via #loadsofhope and be sure to follow @TideLoadsofHope.

Learn more about how you can extend hope to families affected by disasters by visiting http://tideloadsofhope.com

Blog carnival hosted by Blog Nosh Magazine, sponsored by Tide Loads of Hope.

How do the holidays fill you with loads of hope?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
2

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. When the Autumn arrived and her friends began their freshman years at universities, she began running long distances along the local roads and trails.  On the first day of December, she was invited to go ice skating in a outdoor rink under the stars.

This was a December like no other. She was, for once in her life, full of hope for Christmas, and hope for herself.

This was new, if not astonishing to her because December was not a good month in her family’s house. There was a deadly tension that loomed in the house and was ready to blow out the windows by Christmas Eve. There were no Norman Rockwell scenes of a peaceful, happy family holiday. Sure, there were presents under the tree and there was a turkey dinner – but on more than one year the tree was kicked over and the lights and ornaments were yanked off the branches by her raging father. On more than one occasion, she and her brothers and sisters ran to their beds when their father and mother started screaming at each other in the middle of Christmas Dinner, threatening each other with curse words and carving knives.

Hours later, the yelling would stop but the silence was frightening. The darkness came but she and her brothers and sisters were too scared to leave their beds, too scared to turn on the lights. They fell asleep in the dark, hungry, scared and crying.

The next morning, everything seemed to be okay. Her parents made up. They were nice to each other.

Then, it started all over again on New Year’s Eve.

But, on that first Christmas morning on her own, opening her eyes, warm in her down sleeping bag in a shared room in the employee’s dorm, she woke to a silence that was not tense or ominous. When she rose, she didn’t have to tiptoe around a Christmas tree and strings of lights and ornaments strewn about the floor. She didn’t have to clear away a dining table with plates of cold, unfinished food and broken glasses. Instead, she greeted her roommate with a cheerful “Merry Christmas”, and they put on their warmest clothes and boots and strolled out into the cold morning to get breakfast.

Later that day, she took a walk by herself, in the silence that was now comforting, in the embrace of her mountain home. She survived domestic violence, she created a place for herself in the world, she was saving money for college. Her boots crunched in the snow leaving solitary footprints, each step made with gratitude and hope.

From there she went on to travel, to fall in love. She was accepted to college and found interesting and satisfying employment. She traveled and fell in love some more. She became a mother to a brown eyed girl.  She raised her child in a redwood house by the sea with a husband who loves her from top to toe.

She also had to get help. Because of the violence she knew and saw as a child, she was diagnosed with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Sometimes, scenes of her parents screaming and cursing took over her nightmares and her thoughts.  Keeping the ugly scenes of screaming and cursing at bay turned out to be hard work.  Such a journey almost always involves hard work – and hope. The journey is easier, the work is not as hard when there is hope.

—————————————————

This is my story. During my first Christmas as an 18 year old kid working on her own in Yosemite National Park, I found hope.

Please join me in helping those who are suffering and struggling to find hope by participating in the Tide Loads of Hope for the Holidays program.

Peaceful and blessed holidays to all.

***
Grace Davis is the founder of the More Women network and has published at her personal blog State of Grace since 2004. Known as both a visionary and practical leader, in response to Hurricane Katrina she created an amazing outreach network (now called Hurricane Disaster Direct Relief) which connected donors with those in need more effectively than established organizations. Join her RSS feed to learn more about Grace and her Santa Cruz life with her husband, daughter and amazing dog Malcolm.
***

Loads of Hope for the Holidays

Please join us at Blog Nosh Magazine as we share stories of hope this holiday season in support of the Tide Loads of Hope program, a mobile laundromat offering laundry services to families affected by disasters.

Share your own stories of hope, along with Blog Nosh Magazine, Velveteen Mind, and a gathering of inspiring bloggers, and enter your own post link in the blog carnival below. Explore featured bloggers as well as three featured posts selected from carnival participants listed in the linky (that could be you!).

Lend your voices now, then participate live during a two day event in New Orleans, Sunday and Monday, December 13 and 14, as we tweet stories of resilience from laundry recipients and volunteers on the ground. Follow along on twitter via #loadsofhope and be sure to follow @TideLoadsofHope.

Learn more about how you can extend hope to families affected by disasters by visiting http://tideloadsofhope.com

Blog carnival hosted by Blog Nosh Magazine, sponsored by Tide Loads of Hope.

How do the holidays fill you with loads of hope?

5

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.
It’s not like anyone can see them, but we know they are there.
We can feel them like tiny scars if we hold ourselves still.

Life is constant change and flux, but the holidays seem to stop us in our tracks and make us think harder and reflect a little longer on the life we live. We think more deliberately about family and friends and the world and peace and hope. We make lists- gentle reminders of the folks that matter to us. We reach out and become “better angels of our nature” if only for a few weeks of the year.

One of Joe’s sisters and her family will walk onto a shiny plane this weekend and fly across the ocean to land in Ohio where they will spend the first Christmas without dad. Life has not been like this before as the subtraction of love is clearly hanging in the air. They are so excited to be together but there is much work to be done to process and deal with the things that have happened since last Christmas. Joe’s baby sister lives here now too and she is hanging with desperate need to see her sister and make this time feel better. To make this time feel like home.

Hope is a belief in a positive outcome and the holidays seem to make that thought process shimmer and shine for me.
I can see it in the way my children drop their mouths open at holiday lights on dark drives or how I feel nostalgic for my childhood or for the smell of my Gran’s kitchen. Joe and I always nod our heads each December now for over a decade and tell each other everything is fine, that the new year will be better than the last. We give more than we have and just believe it will balance out.
We find eyes wet with tears from the archival memories of our childhood. We just fill ourselves up.

We are “in hope” at the holidays, much like people are “in love.”
We all want to make time stop.
We all want to stitch up the year and know it was ours and it was real.
I have hope for my family and for the world this year.
I still see a Renaissance of Lovely about to happen in this world.
I will not make empty promises to myself in forms of resolutions, but instead I will try and reach out more.
Love more. Hope more. Not turn my back. Not forget to remember. Befriend my familiar strangers. Stand up more. Let it shine.

And on this upcoming Christmas day my biggest hope is that dad can find his eyes upon us from the great beyond.
He can see the children of his body walking the earth and spreading his great kindness to others.
He will see that each life when filled with love and hope can burn brighter than fire.
And even in the dark we can find each other with our light.

***

Amy Turn Sharp is the writer behind doobleh-vay, a personal blog filled with her unique style of writing and photography. She is a true artist, a wife, a mother,and a small business owner, selling and making handcrafted wooden toys. Subscribe to her blog and experience her poetry, short stories, and personal recollections. You can also follow her on Twitter.

***

Loads of Hope for the Holidays

Please join us at Blog Nosh Magazine as we share stories of hope this holiday season in support of the Tide Loads of Hope program, a mobile laundromat offering laundry services to families affected by disasters.

Share your own stories of hope, along with Blog Nosh Magazine, Velveteen Mind, and a gathering of inspiring bloggers, and enter your own post link in the blog carnival below. Explore featured bloggers as well as three featured posts selected from carnival participants listed in the linky (that could be you!).

Lend your voices now, then participate live during a two day event in New Orleans, Sunday and Monday, December 13 and 14, as we tweet stories of resilience from laundry recipients and volunteers on the ground. Follow along on twitter via #loadsofhope and be sure to follow @TideLoadsofHope.

Learn more about how you can extend hope to families affected by disasters by visiting http://tideloadsofhope.com

Blog carnival hosted by Blog Nosh Magazine, sponsored by Tide Loads of Hope.

How do the holidays fill you with loads of hope?

3

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.

We’ve lived in some really fun and interesting places since graduating from college.  Our first apartment was a converted barn loft in Point Clear, Alabama, over horse stables, on a polo field.  One night, one of the horses birthed a colt.  It was here that I completed my Chulucanas pottery collection and received my third handmade quilt from my great-aunt.

Later, we moved into an old cottage in front of a plantation in downtown Mobile, Alabama.   The front of the house was covered in ivy, which crept into the house through the window sills.  In the morning, the sun would filter in through the windows at the front of the house and throw the most fascinating shadows across the walls.  A perfect atmosphere for a cup of coffee and a slow good morning.  The cupboards were filled with my grandmother’s china.  Franciscan Apple.  The most delicate coffee cups, but sort of funky, too.  The same china Brad Pitt and Gwyneth Paltrow used in Seven.  We’re sort of Brad and Gwyn, right?

When Maguire was accepted to law school in New Orleans, Louisiana, our next home was a sliver of an apartment in the French Quarter with our own private courtyard.  Myride_2We downsized from our ten room cottage in Mobile to this two room palace, but we had all that we needed:  good books, good coffee mugs, good pillows, and good shoes to wander the streets for hours on end or jog down St. Charles Avenue to catch the streetcar.

Then the baby bug started to bite.  Along with some unwelcome termites.  Next stop:  Magazine Street.  Right at the edge of the Garden District in Uptown New Orleans.  Another shotgun, this one purple.  We lived in the rear, behind a high-end shoe store called Magni Feet!  What torture to walk passed those slingbacks and purses every day, mocking our student-loan-dependent status.  It was here that the huge 6′x6′ painting from my college roommate seemed most at home, with its own alcove and perfect lighting to highlight her artistic brilliance.

But Magazine Street wasn’t suited for a pregnant belly late at night, let alone a baby on the way, so our final Cajun destination was Uptown, right next to Audubon Zoo and Audubon Park.  Pants was born and we could load up the stroller, grab some lunch at Whole Foods, and picnic right outside of the giraffe paddock.  All within blocks of our home.Girrafespants Here, we gathered a motley crew of stuffed animal friends to go with the zoo-themed room of Pants.  We named every last one of them, before he was even born.  Louise the duck.  Kumquat the rhino.  Larry the giraffe.  Chartreuse the frog.  Horton the elephant.

Then graduation.  A job.  A move back to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  Back home for me.  But let’s take our time finding the right home.  I’m tired of moving.  Let’s move to the beach while we decide where to lay our roots.  It will be fun.  Long Beach, Mississippi, right on the Pass Christian line.  Pants will love the water.  Right outside our door.

It was here that I brought all of my pottery.  It was here that I smoothed my great-aunt’s quilts, all made by her hand, none having ever seen a sewing machine.  It was here that I carefully placed my grandmother’s china.

Along the walls, my treasured library of well-loved books, the perfect background for my friend’s painting and my photography.  I worked hard on those photos.  Thousands of negatives painstakingly preserved in boxes in the closet, in case I built another darkroom and wanted another go at them.  Another perspective in printing style.  Digital photography was for pansies.

But I’m not the only one with talent.  Maguire’s guitars are in the bedroom.  Pantsguitar Did you know he sold his hard-earned Taylor 914C  acoustic in order to buy my engagement ring?  We bonded over Ani DiFranco and James Taylor.

All of Pants’s animal friends are at home in his room.  Such a room.  Full of love and light.

Full of hope.

At the end of July, we are unpacked.  I’m sitting at the computer, making a CD for Pants’s first birthday party.  His first word and current obsession is dogs.  Maguire and I had found an electric guitar cake design before he was born and knew we had to save it for his first birthday.  Mix it together and you got “Club Dog-Dog,” our rock-n-roll birthday party theme, with dogs dressed like Elvis for decoration.

The first song on the “Club Dog-Dog” CD is “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley.  “Let’s Get It Started” by the Black Eyed Peas is on MTV all the time and you love it.  Must add that one, too.  Mom here adds “Speed of Sound” by Coldplay.  The fifth song is Laurie Berkner’s “Victor Vito.”   Man, we watch that video on the Noggin website every day right now.  You are learning to clap along.

Almost exactly one month later, we evacuate ahead of Hurricane Katrina.  I put our photo albums on top of the couch because, hey, you never know how high the water could get in a hurricane.  Maguire puts his Paul Reed Smith guitar on the bed.  Because, really, the water could get that high.

Later, in the car on the way to Mobile, I wished I had put the photo albums on the kitchen island, just in case.  I’d hate to lose our honeymoon pictures.  I’d cry if I lost the entire album of photos of me pregnant with Pants.  I always swore that I would take tons of pictures of me pregnant, unlike our own mothers.  I was proud.  I wanted you to know that when you got older.  The cover photo is me in a red bikini at eight months on the beach.

It never occurred to me to bring one of my aunt’s quilts.  Maybe the one she made for our wedding.  Or the one she made for my graduation, with the quilt block made by my grandmother, her sister.  To grab my boxes of journals that I had been keeping since I was a pre-teen.  To grab Larry.  Or Horton.  Or Kumquat.

Three days later, we see our home on the computer of my in-law’s neighbor.  It is a slab of concrete.  Maguire made me walk him through it a million times before he would believe it was really our home.  That bare slab.

It was just stuff.  At least we weren’t killed.  It could have been worse.  At least we have each other.

But I would love to hold Louise the duck again.

Last week, Maguire had a surprise for me.  He found a copy of “Club Dog-Dog” that I had left at my parents’ house after Pants’s first birthday party.  We put it in and listen to it on our way down to the beach to check out the new fishing pier.  It’s fun.  It’s a great party CD.  I’m a good mom.  A cool mom.  Pants and Cheeks have great odds in their favor that they’ll grow up to be cool.

The fifth song comes on.  Oh my gosh, I haven’t heard Laurie Berkner in so long!  “Victor Vito” was our favorite!  Pants!  Do you remember this song?

Then I remember.  I remember what it felt like sitting there, making this CD for my baby boy that was about to turn one year old.  I remember what it felt like.  I remember the hope that filled my heart.  The excitement for starting our new life.  The thrill of things to come.

I remembered what it felt like to be full of such hope.

I’m lost under the water.  This wave is worse than usual.  It’s too high.  It’s too deep.  It’s unexpected.  This wave is worse than usual.  This feels like a storm surge.

No one knew what was coming.  How could we?  What we did know was that you don’t play with hurricanes, especially if you have a baby.  You evacuate.  You evacuate every time.  Even if that means evacuating with all of your most prized possessions five times in two years.  Even if it seems like this evacuation is a pain in the ass after loading up your car five times in a row and a couple of those times not even getting rain enough to warrant an umbrella.  Even if you have other things to do.  Even if you are in the middle of watching Good Will Hunting for the millionth time.

Just get in the car.  Get out.  Don’t bother packing so much stuff this time.  Nothing ever happens.  Just take enough clothes for three days, grab your wedding album, one guitar, the cat and the baby, and go.  It will all be fine.

It’s just stuff.

Homesweetslab

“Victor Vito and Freddie Vasco/ ate a burrito with Tabasco./ They put it on their rice./ They put it on their beans/ on their rutabagas/ and on their collard greens.”

“Hey Victor!/ Hey  Freddie!/ Let’s eat some spaghetti!”

“Hey Victor, I’m ready to eat some spaghetti with Freddie.”

Editor’s pick by Annette at Catnip and Coffee.  Every blogger has that one post in their archives that defines them, as a person and as a writer. Victor Vito is Megan’s defining post, and we are republishing it in honor of the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.  This post is truly a wave of beauty, sadness, loss, and hope, and will leave you in tears and breathless. Megan writes the way most of us only wish we can, with stunning words pouring out of her heart and soul.  If you’ve never had a chance to dig through the archives at Velveteen Mind, do it right now, then subscribe to her feed so you never miss another word.

Besides writing at Velveteen Mind, Megan is also the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Blog Nosh Magazine , the brains behind AmplifyHer.com , and the Cover Editor for Mom Writers Literary Magazine .  You can also follow Megan on twitter, and someday I know we’ll be seeing her brilliant work published in book form and we can say we knew her when!

TideLoadsOfHopeShirts


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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.

How was that good? The bank came out to assess the damage, saw my work and suggested I do a $10,000 commissioned sign as the down payment on the remaining two buildings I’d been leasing with an unlikely option to buy. Getting this place had a lot to do with making the art career fly. I had affordable space to work and a place for customers to find me. I don’t think the deal would have happened without the disaster… They didn’t want to take a loss on the property (or hold it) and I was willing to take it on at the cost of the mortgage before the building fell.

Bottom line:

The only way you can tell the difference between disaster and opportunity is to decide to make an opportunity out of every event.

Postscript:

During the second and third disasters, my friends were pretty evenly divided in their response to my choice to make the world work on my terms.

One camp said, “Dude, you’re so brave to just bail on the day job and do your own thing. You’re my hero. I wish I could do that.” The other camp said, “Look, don’t be crazy. Just take whatever work you can get until you’re on your feet, even if it’s fast food or something. You’re never gonna make it without some cash.” Really, both camps were wrong (though I love them all dearly).

I wasn’t brave. Not the least bit. I was frickin’ desperate, is what I was, but not terrified. I was back to that ice calm… you learn that it just ain’t over till it’s over, and that giving up never got anyone out of a jam. I didn’t want a life of stability if it meant I had to do digital layouts of junk mail for a living. I wanted to do what I was best at, what I loved, and get paid for that. It was worth the risk. It was the only real way I could see to better my situation.

I wasn’t crazy either. By the time I figured out that the design work wasn’t just in a slump, that it wasn’t coming back any time soon, I had about $5 in cash and $20,000 in debt. There was no way that a subsistence level job was gonna fix that… I ran full tilt towards the art career because I knew if I did it right, and worked my ass off, I could probably make enough to get out of the hole

I had to think about it again when the building crashed. That time, I almost did pack it in. It felt like my dream was a stupid idea after all, that I had just run everything into the ground betting on a long shot. But in the rural economy here, few jobs pay well enough to escape the poverty line and there are fewer and fewer jobs available anyway every year. A job wasn’t gonna save me. It would just suck all the time and energy I needed to realize my dreams, while keeping me alive enough to resent it.

I remembered other businesses I had started on a shoe string earlier in life… each of them ultimately failed the first time something major went wrong because I hadn’t had enough cash to keep them going. Or had they? Had money really been the only way to get them back on track, or was it a failure of creativity and nerve? Had they really failed because when faced with a seemingly insurmountable problem, I’d believed it to be what it seemed, bought into it, walked away because I didn’t feel able to do the so-called impossible? I decided that what I really couldn’t afford was to waste all the time and energy I had put into building an art career that was just on the edge of being sustainable. I’d come too far this time to back down.

Having weighed the pros and cons of sticking to my guns, I decided to force a positive change out of the crisis. Within a month, I unexpectedly sold a few major pieces, paying off the last of my old debts with the money and having cash left over. From that moment, the art has sold exponentially better each year. If I’d given up at the moment, none of the great things that have happened since would have come about.

Editor’s Pick by Jennifer from Playgroups are No Place for Children.   John T. Unger is an artist and designer.  This diamond of a post was nestled in his blog amidst art discussions, photography, and videos.  John has a knack for offering inspiration both spiritually and creatively. You can read the original post and all the comments on his blog.  While there, check out John’s amazing artwork, from firebowls to mosaics made mostly from recycled or re-used materials.  Give yourself an afternoon, you’re sure to spend way more time than you planned just clicking around his site.

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