Hard Times Helped Us Appreciate the Holidays: Triumphing Over Adversity

Read these inspiring stories of women who faced—and overcame—challenges during the holiday season

Elise Photini Adams with daughters (from left) Michaela and Nina

For most people, the holidays are a joyous opportunity to spend time with family and friends. But what if you are separated from the ones you love or don’t have a home in which to celebrate? When life throws you a curveball, the holiday season can become the most difficult time of the year. That's why these women are so inspiring. Despite grappling with the biggest challenges of their lives, they managed to gain a greater sense of peace, generosity and gratitude. Although their stories are unique, each one reveals what the season is really all about. 

"I made Thanksgiving dinner from food bank donations."  —Elise Photini Adams, 36, Walla Walla, Wash. 

During the fall of 2007, I broke away from an abusive relationship. I’d spent three years vagabonding between motels with my two little girls—then ages 2 months and 17 months—in tow. I knew I had to make a better life for them. By November I was receiving assistance and got an apartment. It was just two rooms, but we finally had a home! Nearly everything we started out with—cooking utensils, blankets, you name it—came from charity. At Thanksgiving, the local food bank put together a box for me filled with onions, potatoes, yams, a can of cranberry sauce, a stick of butter and a loaf of bread. Nope, no turkey, but as I served my girls homemade veggie stuffing and baked yams I felt so grateful for all that we had been given. That holiday taught me that hard times don’t have to make a hard heart, and the way my life has turned around is proof. I have since married a wonderful man, and we now have a son. Every Thanksgiving we banish regrets and worries and simply appreciate all that we have.