Life as Amber knows it

"An adventure in the making…"

IndieVengeance Day 2014

Originally posted on The Midnight Writer:

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting my friends in Dallas for a book signing. I hit the open road with a pocketful of dreams and enough Diet Coke to kill a rhinoceros. Stacey Roberts and I carpooled from Kentucky. We soon found ourselves in Memphis, Tennessee.

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We followed the red brick road… which isn’t really brick.

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Soon, our eyes beheld the Mighty Mississippi.

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And I saw these restrooms in Texas.

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Scott Morgan, Stacey Roberts, James Peercy, me.

Later that night we arrived in Dallas and met up at Cheddar’s.

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The next day everyone signed books at Cafe Brazil and read from their respective works. This is Stacey Roberts reading from his book: Trailer Trash, With a Girl’s Name.

Photograph courtesy of Jacqueline E. Smith

Me reading from my book, Inhale the Night.

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More books!

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Jacqueline E. Smith had one of the coolest tables. The flowers were a nice…

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Frankly, I feel like shit…

You know, I was planning on writing a post about the awesome trip I recently took to the Four Corners region to take part in the wedding of Cinta Garcia de la Rosa and Mark Stone. And I was gonna write about IndieVengeance Day 2014 and the awesome that went on while hanging with my friends for a full weekend of book signings and wine drinking and general merriment. And then I was going to write something poetic and lovely about my trip to game two of the world series.

Ain’t happening though. Frankly? I feel like shit.

We finished clearing out my dad’s house yesterday. For those of you who have lost a parent (or parents), you know where I’m coming from, especially if you were close with your parent(s). For those of you who are lucky enough to still have one or both, enjoy them, even at their most annoying. Because the past three months have taught me that grief is a process, and one that just loves to kick you in the crotch at any moment, generally at the worst possible moment.

Not long after Dad passed, a friend of mine asked me if I’d hit the point where I wanted to just crawl into the furniture. And then told me when I hit that point, I’d start feeling better. Then I’d feel like shit again. Then I’d feel better. He was right.

Helllllloooooooo bi-polarville! I’ll be moving in until further notice.

It’s the little things that are what drag me back into it: how I’ll never again give my father shit over his compulsion towards never throwing away expired food (oldest expired item? a jar of cumin from the 1970’s), never argue with him over our differing religious beliefs, never be annoyed by his opinions on how I should be living my life according to what worked for him versus what works for me.

The last dump truck full of items we threw away drove away yesterday at 3:30 p.m. And what was in there? That’s not what’s important. What’s important are the memories we built together as a father and daughter: him teaching me how to type, our weekly dinners when I was a teenager so he could get one on one time, my picking up lunch and us debating (for fun) some hot button issue, the way he loved my children, his grandchildren. On Friday evening, my Uncle Tom and my cousin Diana asked if I wanted them to stay while I went through some of the items that were piled up to be discarded or donated. And I answered honestly that no, I was just stalling. Me grabbing another nick-nack or photo was my way of fighting the inevitable: the reality that my father is no longer with us. He’s not in those things I boxed up to save and hold onto.

We close on the house tomorrow, a house I’ve always felt 50/50 about: on the one hand, it was where we lived since 1989, and I could at any moment walk in and just sit down at the kitchen table. After tomorrow, it will belong to another family. On the other hand, so much bad happened in that house: my mother’s abusive side, my parents divorce, my recovery and shelter from the end of my first marriage. Yet it was still home, as painful as certain aspects of it were. And after tomorrow, its gone.

So I feel like shit. And I’m certainly not the only person to have ever been right where I’m at right now.

But it certainly feels that way.

~Amber Jerome~Norrgard

The Reading

I recently planned and hosted “IndieVengeance Day 2014, Revenge of the Indies” and had the massive blessing and joy of several days with some of my favorite people on this planet. To call them friends would be an understatement: they truly are my family, and I’m missing them terribly now that the weekend is over. I’ll be posting a blog detailing the event more fully at a later date (my lucky self gets to go to the World Series, so I’ll be off the grid for the rest of the week), but I’d like to write about our first night’s event.

Simple idea really, IVD. Get a bunch of Indie Authors together, find a spot to host a signing, and off we go. This year, we added readings into the mix to give those attending the event as guests a preview of our work. Since my short story fiction really isn’t all-age friendly, I spent several days over the summer combing through my work to find the poems that would be age friendly for those at the event that are too young to hear my harsher work. And then I put it together in a single run print on demand book to be used at signings when I’d need to read my work out loud.

The book was printed and delivered by the end of June.

At the start of the first event, which was Friday night, I really had no idea of what to read. So I asked my friend Jackie Smith how many poems she thought I should read. She told me seven. I jokingly grumbled about it, but went with the number since it seemed like a good length of reading material. I flipped through my book of poems, found one that was good to start with, and when the time came for me to read, I nervously stood up, trying to fight down the anxiety I always get when I need to speak publicly. Leading up to the time I was scheduled to read, several of the other signing authors were ribbing me, asking me to read a poem that’s on what we’ll politely call the adult side of things. And I’ll admit, I got a kick out of having to repeatedly say no, and them laughing and urging me to read the most graphic of the few like that.

I stood up, and read two poems, and when I got to the third, I stopped, and said, “I’m not reading that…” Considering the back and forth goofing off that had taken place in the last hour, it was understandable that everyone in the room started laughing, assuming it was a more adult poem than I’d intended to read. But it wasn’t. And for some reason, I felt the need to explain. So, in the presence of my friends, and a few guests who had shown up for the event, I explained that I would go ahead and read the poem, but that for those who didn’t know, I had lost my father over the summer, and the poem was about him.

At The Window Again

I want to wait for you at the window again
Wait to see your headlights turn
And flicker against
The path to our front door
I want to spring out
And have you pretend
To be surprised I was kneeling
At the window again
I want to see your joy
At the very fact of my life
Want to see your pride
That I’m there to draw breath
I want to wait for you at the window again
When tomorrow was thirty years away
And I only bore a single name

You see, I’ve had a very hard time dealing with the death of my father. And I hadn’t remembered placing that poem within the selection of poetry I’d made for the book. Coming across it like I did was very much a gut-punch, because I’ve been missing him terribly the closer we get to finalizing his estate. And seeing that poem, those words that I wrote to my father before a particularly dangerous surgery well over a year ago hit me very hard. There I was, standing up in front of a small crowd, reading my work. And he was not there to witness his daughter doing what she had long dreamed of: becoming an author and being an author. My mind flashed back to when I was seventeen and the Plano Star Courier published an essay I wrote about my grandmother. The day the essay was printed, Dad rushed around getting as many copies of the paper as he could out of pride in his daughter’s gift of the written word. He beamed for weeks after that essay was printed, and bragged about it for years after. A copy of the clipping from the paper sat on his bookshelf in a frame until the day we took it down and boxed it up a few weeks ago.

And despite how badly it hurt to read that poem, still, I read it, to honor my father. And though I had to pause a few times to take deep breaths and fight back tears so I could continue reading, and though I stumbled over the words several times, when I finished the poem, the room erupted in applause. And it truly touched me to know that everyone in there understood how hard it was for me to do that, to read those words.

I wish my father would have had the chance to hear my read that poem aloud, that he’d of gotten the opportunity to see what I put together for IVD this year.

My father won’t get to see what I put together for IVD next year, or the year after that. He won’t get excited phone calls from me when one of my books hits the bestseller’s list. He’s gone, and nothing will change that. And while I aggravated him during his life time here on this earth, still, he was proud of me just for the simple fact I existed, that I was alive and his daughter. The best I can do from now on, and what I have been trying to do since he passed away is life my life to honor him, to experience life fully as he was unable to. He always pushed me to be courageous and put my fears on the back burner to experience life as much as possible. And when my friends and the guests at the event applauded at his poem being read, I’d done just that. I shucked my fears of crying in front of crowd of people, let myself feel everything, and read from my heart. And even though it hurt to do so, still, there was a healing in knowing that I was able to honor him with my words, that I was able to share what he meant to me.

Much Love,

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

Lessons from my Father

Several years ago (and by several, we’re talking back when I had braces, still drove the Ford Ranger, and wasn’t legal to vote yet), I’d asked my father why we never celebrated my adoption anniversary. I’d had a few classmates who were also adoptees, and their families would celebrate both their birthdays and adoption anniversaries. I’m fairly certain that’s the first time in my life I’d offended my father, because his reaction was quite vehement: “Why on earth would I celebrate that day? You were my daughter the day you were born, not the day some judge signed a sheet of paper.”

Dad wasn’t offended by the idea that I wanted to celebrate that date, more by the idea, or any idea, that got anywhere near suggesting I wasn’t his daughter. And for my father, a man who gave the middle finger to infertility and said “I’m going to be a father, no matter what”, it was important to him that my brother and I both knew absolutely that we were his children; that the lack of shared DNA didn’t mean anything to him.

Of course, me pointing out that the lack of DNA gave me a pass at sucking at math (Dad was a CPA, so you can imagine how much that stung) didn’t do much to help my cause.

But not long after my parents’ divorce, my dad came around to the idea of celebrating my adoption anniversary. It might have had something to do with what seemed to be an endless stream of news stories about biological parents fighting for custody of their children years after the adoptions were finalized and actually winning the case. But knowing dad, it had everything to do with the fact that it was something small that I wanted that wasn’t going to cost more than the gift of his time. The celebrations were never huge or over done: the year I was twenty-one, I ran by Sonic and picked us up lunch, and we sat around having one of our well-known debates about one thing or another. Other years, we’d go out to dinner. And other times, sadly, it was dad ordering a second tray for me to eat dinner with him in his hospital room.

But what I learned from my father coming around to the idea of celebrating my adoption anniversary, and what I’ve learned from my father during the thirty-seven years I was blessed to have him in my life is priceless. So today, on the thirty-seventh anniversary of my adoption, the first one I’ll spend with out him I’m asking you, Dear Reader, to please indulge me a little as I recount some of the incredible life lessons my father taught me.

 

Someone always  has it worse: I can hear my younger brother’s groan from here. Because we heard this one constantly growing up. Whether it was something small that upset us, or something large, Dad would remind us as frequently as he could during troubled times that someone always has it worse. And coming from his perspective: growing up very poor on a farm in Kansas, Dad had a point: someone always does have it worse.

The written word is power: I’ve often stated that Shel Silverstein’s poem “Too Many Kids in the Tub” is what turned me into a book-junkie. Which is true. But the pre-cursor to that is the reality that Dad was quite the book-junkie himself, and while he read everything from newspapers to magazines to fiction to non-fiction, he also read to his children and taught them to read from an early age. Those books he read to me, while their stories are still around, that’s not what impacted me: it was the small space of time my father took to spend with his daughter, reading to her. As I got older, Dad would pass on or gift me with books, always with an inscription in the front, which now, after his passing only proves the point: his words of love and what he found for himself in each book is on those pages for me to hold onto for the rest of my life. And as he once pointed out to me, “Amber, you might say something to someone, and over time, the words will change. Written words don’t do that. They’re timeless. And that’s where they hold power over spoken words.”

You have to work for what you want: Again, my brother is probably two miles up the road in his house groaning as he reads this one, not that I blame him, because the older I got, the more I’d roll my eyes when I’d hear this one. But it drove us insane to hear it because it’s true. There are people in this world who are handed everything, starting with their parents and then later on, by batting their eyelashes at some poor guy with more money than sense to get a shiny new bracelet. My brother and I were raised in an affluent household, and where as our needs were met, we didn’t live the high life, and Dad made certain we understood that a strong work ethic is an absolute must in this world. My first car was a hand me down that woke up the entire city when I started it, and I made payments to my dad for it after getting my first job at McDonald’s. And the next vehicle I drove was a Ford Ranger my father and I split payments on: Dad wanted a truck for occasional use, and I needed a vehicle that didn’t sound like WWIII had just began. I was responsible for paying my own car insurance on time, and I was expected to make deposits into a savings account with each paycheck. Dad of course covered our basic necessities, but you never saw me wearing designer clothing unless I found it at a thrift shop. In fact, Dad would give me his credit card, and give me a budget, and very quickly I learned the art (and joy) of seeing how far I could stretch each dollar. This is a habit I still keep today as a mother of my own three children, and you won’t see me breaking it ever.  And this leads me to the next lesson my father taught me:

Live below your means: My father achieved a great deal throughout his life: He put himself through college to receive his degree that eventually led to his position as vice president of finance at Fleming Corporation as well as a CPA, two children, and the unheard-of having no mortgage by the time he was 35. He also always purchased every vehicle he ever owned (outside of my truck) outright, and owned a boat by the time he was thirty. He accumulated a great deal of wealth through smart investing and watching his spending. He was frugal and rarely bought anything that didn’t serve a purpose: He’d buy new cars when repairs were more expensive than the car’s worth, he purchased nicer homes but for the purpose of being in better school districts. But one off shoot of this lesson that I learned is that while it is important to live below your means, don’t do so at the expense of not living your life, and occasionally, treat yourself. All the money in the world means nothing if all it’s doing is sitting in your bank account. Even the indulgence of a night out with a friend is worth far more than the actual monetary price tag it carries. Dad never indulged himself out of fear of being poor again. And while I can understand that, I often wished my father would have done more for himself and would have treated himself the way he treated those he helped throughout his life.

You can do anything you put your mind to: This was another one of Dad’s sayings that I heard endlessly. And it’s one I’ve taken to heart: I’ve yet to not achieved what I set out to get whether it’s been becoming an author, having children (and kicking infertility in the balls three times~ woot!!!), landing a job I wanted, starting my own publishing house. And just like my father, I’ve achieved a great deal in my life, but not without busting my ass and paying in blood, sweat, and my own tears. I’ve worked two full-time (retail) jobs to make ends meet, gone on three hours of sleep for weeks at a time, had my heart broken in pursuit of  motherhood and been through more medical treatment than most people see in three life times. I’ve earned everything I have achieved, and I’ve done it by following my Dad’s advice: I put my mind to it.

The Gift is in the Giving: Dad was huge on charity and community service, and helping those less fortunate. If you need any proof of that, it is right there, in black and white, printed nicely and notarized, in his final will and testament: There are two heirs to his estate: my brother and myself. There’s more than twice that number of charities listed, along with other community service related items listed in his will as recipients of what he left to the world financially. And it wasn’t just monetary giving that my father believed in: Dad was a Eucharistic Minister (for you non-Catholics out there, this is a  member of the Catholic faith with special dispensation to take communion to those who are unable to attend mass to receive it), and he was very proud of his position. He also served with several charitable organizations, namely Love Truck, helping those less fortunate. But Dad wasn’t one to just drop off his deliveries or give Holy Communion, Dad would give the gift of his time to those who were in the hospital or home bound, sitting and talking with them. He raised my brother and I with the very important lesson of “If you can give help, give it.” And this is something I myself practice as often as I’m able: whether it’s a ride from the airport, an offer of help for a friend to get started in the publishing industry, a small boost to help someone get ready for a author’s event, or me taking the time to sit and talk with someone who just needs a sounding board, I do so. I was extremely proud of how much my father gave to one another, whether monetarily or emotionally, and I plan to continue doing the same in his memory throughout my life. And he was right. The feeling of truly having helped someone, with nothing being returned, is amazing. To know you’ve made a positive impact on someone’s life stays with you and can warm your heart on the coldest nights. This might be one of the greatest lessons my father has ever taught me.

“We’re the Jones'”: Dad was a simple guy. And where as Dad did build a significant amount of wealth for himself, he wasn’t impressed by monetary things.  He never purchased a luxury car, and we didn’t make the rounds at five star restaurants. On the rare occasion my brother or I would slip and start a sentence with, “But _____ has one!” the response was always the same: “We’re the Jones’. We set the standard for what you want in this life, which is being rich in love, not material possessions.”

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger: If ever a person had any right to utter this sentence, it was my father.  And it’s a lesson he learned from his mother’s example. My grandfather died when dad was only 11 years old, leaving my grandmother to raise the five children (out of fifteen) that were still living at home, along with two of her grandchildren.  And Dad had his share of health issues: Osteoporosis robbed him of the ability to live a normal physical life. By my age, he’d already had a hip replacement, and by the time I was ten, received his second hip replacement surgery. There were countless other illnesses and struggles he faced, but he never gave in. Never once did I see my father falter in his faith that if God brought you to it, God would bring you through it. And when my own health battles began (I was diagnosed with Scoliosis at fourteen, Graves’s Disease at fifteen, PCOS at twenty, Cervical Cancer at age twenty-four and Endometriosis at twenty-five), Dad would remind that if I got through it, I’d only be stronger for it. And he was right. There’s a sense of pride in knowing what my body has been through in terms of my bad health that I’ve looked head-on, kicked it’s ass, and survived.

Blood doesn’t determine family, love does: This is the most important lesson I’ve learned.  It’s no secret I and my younger brother are adopted. In fact, I’m fairly loud about the fact. But for my father, the lack of shared DNA meant nothing. I was his daughter just the same as if he’d had that biological link. And from that lesson came my ability to take those who are kind, compassionate kindred spirits and make them part of my chosen family. Its given me the ability to love more fully and openly. And that right there is a priceless gift.

You can’t take it with you: This is a lesson my father never set out to teach, but still I learned. As hard as my father worked, as much as he saved and was frugal with his spending, he never treated himself. He never indulged anything that was just for him: Big purchases always had a purpose other than “just because.” His trip to Italy, while a long dream of his, was something he rationalized it was okay to do because it was related to his faith and he’d see his nephew and nephew’s family. Never in my life have I known a person who sacrificed so much. In his final moments, the money he was afraid to spend was in various bank accounts and stocks and bonds. And it didn’t go with him. And while I can never express how grateful I am he left behind so much for my brother and myself (and I know how very lucky we both are), still, I’d trade it all for him having had given himself the gift of experiences in the world that he longed for but was afraid to indulge himself with.

Don’t let fear hold you back: If you’ve read my short story Maelstrom, you’re aware I focus on the subject of anxiety disorders. And while I might come across as self-confident and self-assured while teaching, on-air, and at author events, the reality is I suffer from what has at times in my life been a debilitating social anxiety disorder. Unless you know me personally or read me frequently, this is not something that’s well known. And I’m able to pull off being put together and perfectly fine while I’m having a massive panic attack because my father told me from a very early age the world is not kind to people like me. He forced me to face my fears to go after what I want. And while some might think the way he went about it was at times excessive, he knew what he was doing: Despite everything, I can force myself into situations that terrify me and cause me great panic, and go after what I want. My first night teaching? Sat in the car chain smoking with my hands shaking until it was time to start class. As badly as I wanted to call the department head and back out of teaching the class, I knew that would only make the panic worse. Instead, I forced myself out of the car, found my class room, and opened my mouth and began lecturing. As bad as the fear was, I still pushed through it, didn’t let it hold me back, and I’ve been blessed with a new career that I love and the gift of meeting new writers and incredible creative minds because of it.

Sometimes, you’re going to have to do what’s best for them, not you: While Dad always put his children first, I truly learned this lesson during the last week of his life. We knew the time was coming, and yet both my brother and I held onto hope that Dad would do what he always did which was pull himself out of it and get better. But as the days of his last week went on and he began to slip away rather than bounce back, still, we held onto hope that some miracle would happen. In the end though, my brother and I were forced to make a decision that broke our hearts: While they could have done some things to help our father, it would have only prolonged his pain. And Dad was ready to go. I wasn’t ready for him to go, but he was ready to go. He’d said his last words to those he loved, he was right with God, he’d seen his son and daughter together and supporting one another. All he wanted was peace and to go home to God and those of his family members who have passed before him. And as badly as it shattered our hearts, my brother and I did what was best for our father, because to have done anything else would have been selfish. It would have been about us not letting go and it would have been cruel to keep him in the amount of pain he had been in. And when the decision was made, for the first time in the last week of his life, our father was at peace and as happiest as I’ve seen him in his life.

 

I’ll always celebrate September 29. To me, it honors the date I received my father’s last name legally. But this year will be the hardest, because its the first year without him. I’m going to celebrate with an omelet for breakfast (a birthday tradition started on my nineteenth birthday), and remembering the good times, and the years that we’ve celebrated the date before.

I love you Dad. You’re missed terribly by those who were blessed to have had you touch their lives.

 

~Amber Jerome~Norrgard

A return to healing…

I woke up way too early this morning, and I had only intended to wake up very early this morning. But considering the trip I’m taking, it’s completely understandable that when I woke up at 3:30 this morning to use the bathroom I couldn’t get back to sleep. When 4 a.m. hit and I realized if I fell back asleep I’d be a surly, pissy mess when my alarm went off at 5, if not sleeping through the alarm, I said to hell with it and made coffee and then sat down to write this post.

Today I’m heading back to Albuquerque, New Mexico. And this has been a long-waited for trip, one that ends with the honor of my officiating the wedding ceremony of two dear friends, Cinta Garcia de la Rosa and Mark Stone. I’ve watched the two of them form a friendship that has turned into a perfect match I think everyone wishes they could find. Never have I seen a couple better suited for one another, and being around Cinta and Mark in person (which isn’t an easy feat as I live in Dallas and they split their time between Phoenix and Spain), I walk away beaming with joy at having spent time with two people who are meant to be together. God bless social media and the way it makes it possible to find those who are your true soul mates.

So you can imagine how incredibly honored I was to have them ask me to officiate their wedding ceremony. And while the location of the ceremony has changed a few times, my plan for the trip has remained the same: horrifically terrified of flying, I planned on driving. And I’m a fan of road trips: the longest ones I’ve taken were to my wedding in 2004 in Las Vegas, and I’ve driven from Dallas to the Pennsylvania area twice.

But one of the biggest draws to not sucking it up and asking my doctor for an extra large dose of Xanax to board a plane is the chance to return to New Mexico, a state my father took me to in 1994 for the yearly Albuquerque balloon festival. We flew out in October, and my first glimpse through the airport windows had me breathless and I immediately fell in love. Followed quite quickly by the realization I had received my period two weeks early and getting bitch slapped with altitude sickness. Despite that? It was one of the momentous trips of my life, and I experienced a peace in New Mexico I had never before felt in my life.

My parents divorced in the spring of 1994, and our trip to Albuquerque (and the surrounding areas) was Dad’s way of bringing some healing to our now family of three. It is impossible to not let go of your hurts and worries when you stand in so much natural beauty, when you see God’s paintbrush right before your very eyes, when you walk through pueblos and see artifacts far older than anything you’ve seen before in your life. When you see the real beauty of Mother Nature and how she has shaped our world.

We returned to Texas several days later, and I was forever changed from the trip.

I’ve been back to New Mexico since: a business trip or two, driving through to and from my wedding in 2004. But yesterday afternoon, while finishing packing for the trip I’m leaving on today, I realized that its just a few short weeks shy of when my father took us to the state twenty years ago. And two months after his death, I’m still reeling. My heart’s still quite broken, and I’m aware it will remain so for some time. There’s no expiration date on grieving. But knowing that by this time tomorrow I will be in a place that was one that brought healing to my heart twenty years ago has taken some of the edge off the hurt I’ve been facing since we lost my father.

During Dad’s final week, we had talked about my up-coming trip. And having a more lucid moment, Dad looked at me and said, “Make sure you drink lots of water the higher up you get in the mountains to avoid altitude sickness. But hey at least you don’t have to worry about getting your period this time around.” And I’d laughed and made a crass joke about if I did happen to get my period, the New Mexico truly is the most healing place on the planet.

And this trip is one I most definitely need. Where I’ve taken time off and been away from my kids since beginning life as an author, that time off has been related to work in one way or another: My week long trip to the east coast two years ago was to research a book, and my week off last October was to run IndieVengeance Day. But this will be an actual vacation, one I most definitely need. And it will end with some of my favorite people on the planet around. They might not be the family I was born into, or the family I was raised in, but they’re my chosen family, and I’m grateful for them.

Lots of Love,

 

~Amber Jerome Norrgard

 

Maelstrom

Maelstrom

 

You’ll see me

Bright and shining

My cool beauty

Capturing your eyes

As I navigate the room

Like I’ve done it a million times

So calm

Collected and at ease

 

But I’ll

Shiver and shake

My interior dull

Nothing to note

And I’ll move carefully

Afraid of everyone

So timid

The definition of terror and panic

IndieVengeance Day 2014: Revenge of the Indies!

IndieVengeance Day 2014: Revenge of the Indies!

IVD Flyer

A Good~Bye To My Father.

On July 21, 2014, just one week after his seventy-second birthday, my father, Donald E. Jerome, “Paw-Paw”, “Uncle Gene” passed away peacefully in his sleep.

My brother and I spent the last few days of our father’s life with him, hoping he’d bounce back as he so easily did in the past. But after many years of physical pain, many years of his body struggling, he went home to heaven.

I met with a friend this week to talk about my father’s death. And while dad and I have had our share of arguments and disagreements over the years, still, at the end, everything was at peace between us. Any words needing to be said were said. And Dad, despite being so weak he could hardly speak, true to his nature of making sure his loved ones were taken care of made, ordered me to make sure I ate something. And I, his daughter in every way and true to my nature told him I’d eat when he’d finally rest and get much needed sleep. Naturally, Dad countered that he’d sleep when I’d go get myself something to eat.

And so, like we’d done so many times in my adult life, my final conversation with my father was a spirited debate with a twinkle in his eyes and his lips curved into that gentle smile I’ll miss terribly.

He passed away peacefully in his sleep eight hours later.

In the coming months, I’m sure I’ll recount stories of my father. For now, I’m writing this the day before his funeral, in a rare quiet moment after having put the final touches on his Eulogy. This post is being scheduled to release an hour after his funeral tomorrow. I don’t know how you write an Eulogy, all I know is how I felt about my father and what he taught me about life, and I wanted to honor him as best as I could. It’s near impossible to truly sum up such a generous and compassionate individual with mere words.

I love you Dad. Thank you for all you taught me about life, either with your words or your actions. Thank you for all the times you put what was best for me above your feelings. Thank you for teaching me how to be a parent, for teaching me how to work for what I want, for teaching me that there is no greater gift than that of unconditional love, and that what truly matters in this world has no monetary value. I was blessed on the day God saw fit to place me in your family as your daughter when I was given up for adoption.

 

I found myself struggling to write this. And that’s comical considering what I do for a living. At one point this week, it made sense to my grief stricken mind that maybe there’s someone more qualified than I to write my father’s eulogy; maybe there’s someone who can find the right words to define a man who has meant so much to so many people. So I thought of not writing the eulogy. I thought of asking someone else to do it for me. And certainly, no one would blame me, because I’ve just lost my father. I wanted to just not do it, to just give up.

And then my mind drifted to when I was a child, particularly to Saturday mornings. I’d get up, get a bowl of cereal, and if Dad was going to his office, he’d ask me if I wanted to go with him. And of course I did. They had a break room with cookies in it, and I could always sneak down and get a few. And Dad’s office had this photo cube that was a radio as well. And even better, devoid of people as it was on Saturday mornings, it echoed. To a child, making noise, especially echoey noise, was almost as awesome as being told breakfast was going to be cake and lunch was going to be ice cream.

And in my father’s office there was a plaque. And on that plaque there was a very famous quote: “Never, never, never give up” by Sir Winston Churchill, a distant relative.

Dad lived his life by those words. Dad taught his daughter the very meaning of those words by his every action in his life. And so, I sent an email to my editor whining about  not being able to do it, took a deep breath, and began to just write.

I could stand here today and tell you when Dad was born and when he died. I can tell you where he went to college, and what he did as a career. But those few little facts? They in no way encompass who he was as a person. They in no way tell the story of a man who defined himself not by the amount of his bank account but by the wealth of his soul.

Dad always helped those in need: he was a big supporter of several charities, he gave his time as a Eucharistic minister visiting those unable to receive the Eucharist as well as helping those less fortunate through his work through Love Truck and the Samaritan Inn, or the gift of his kind and thoughtful words for those who needed them.

Dad was also stubborn, and while that word sometimes comes with a negative association, for Donald Eugene Jerome, his headstrong and determined personality is what led him to achieve more than most people. He always believed you could achieve whatever it was you wanted to achieve, and what mattered was not where you came from or what you have done before, but where you would go and what you would do. And he never gave up. Rather than let obstacles in his way stop him from what he wanted, he simply found a way to work through them. He grew up in poverty, yet put himself through college to receive his degree. Rather than let infertility rob him of fatherhood, he adopted two children. He refused to allow health issues and physical disabilities prevent him from living a full life. By my age, he had lived in South America, all throughout the United States, and traveled to Mexico and Canada. In his retirement years, he fulfilled a long lived dream of seeing Rome and the Vatican.

Dad was happiest when he was with his family, and his greatest joys in his life were his seven grandchildren: Amethyst, Luke, Tyler, Autumn, Cody, Benjamin and Sawyer.

But if I had to choose one word to define my father, it would be faith. Not once, despite losing siblings and both his parents, despite having physical handicaps and declining health, did my father ever ask God “why?”  He simply would take a deep breath and ask God for the strength to make it through whatever he was faced with. When I would face my own struggles, Dad would remind me of the Serenity Prayer and tell me that if God brings us to it, He’ll bring us through it.

People often say how they wish they’ll pass on. Dad got his wish: his two children with him during his final days. He was right with God. He had said the words he’d wished to say to those he loved. And as he’d wished for, he went home to heaven peacefully in his sleep.

My father achieved much in his time on earth: A successful career, a family, service to those less unfortunate. But above everything else, he died a man wealthy in what was the most important gift and blessing he’d ever wanted: The love of his family.

 

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

Knowing When To Step Back

I’ve been on a bit of a roller coaster ride since I first hit publish in January 2012. There were podcasts to host, podcasts to guest on, blog posts to write as a guest blogger, blog posts of my own to write. Friends needing a shoulder and a soft place to land. Twenty-two books I published myself along with three collaborations. School lunches, schedules and field trips. Promoting friends’ work. Setting up signings and other author events. Starting my own publishing house. Launching a new career of college professor. Family illnesses. My own illnesses and testing and treatments to endure. The loss of several people I love in my life either by death or their choosing to leave my life. Bills to pay, huge decisions to make. Healing.

I haven’t gotten to that last one yet.

A couple of years ago, I stood at a fork in the road, and I looked over everything, mainly the mistakes I’ve made time and time again. And I promised myself, I’d learn to put me first. I’d learn to tell people “no” rather than “yes” when I was already buckling under the weight of life. And throughout my life, there’s been a theme of me never learning to value myself enough to put myself first. This doesn’t mean I stop being there for those who need me. This doesn’t mean I start becoming a selfish asshole. It simply means that at thirty-seven, I am far past the age where I should have learned that if I don’t take care of myself first and foremost, sooner rather than later there will be no more me to take care of those I love. Certainly, my children are exempt from this: they always will have me coming at a flat-out run if they need me.

And I’m care taker at my core. Roll your eyes all you want, I’ll ask you to let me know that you’ve arrived safely. I’m going to offer to bring you juice and soup if you’re sick. If I’m able to help you, I’m going to help you. That’s just who I am.

But who I am also is a person with needs. A person who has largely neglected herself in order to help other people through their hurts and trials. A person who adds three extra things onto her already over booked schedule in an effort to help someone out. A person who more often than not puts her hurt second to someone else’s.

And with a new five week course to teach coming up, partnered with the planning of IndieVengence Day 2014 and The Quillective Project’s yearly anthology to publish, I find myself exhausted at the simple idea of day to day, simple tasks. And recently, I found myself dreading writing a short story I’d been excited about when the idea for it popped into my head.

I’ve so wrung myself out and so over-commited myself and so forgotten myself that writing, the one thing I have found more solace and healing in than anything else, has become something I just can’t do.

It’s time for me to let go of things that no longer work. It’s time for me to let go of and move on from things that won’t work. It’s time to let go of and step back from things in my life that are hurtful and toxic.

And it’s hard to write this to  you dear reader. It’s hard to admit I’ve hit such a rough patch in my road of life that I’m not sure how I got here or how to get through or around it. I’m so bogged down that I can’t see the way back from which I came.

I feel quite alone and isolated. It is a very startling realization that two and a half years past the time you promised yourself you’d do better for yourself, you’ve yet to do anything to carve out something that belongs to you, and you alone. It’s painful realizing you’ve given so much of yourself to other people and things that you no longer have any for yourself.

This is just a pause button on my life. And as painful as it is to step back and let go of things, it’s what I need to do.

Much love and huggles, and take care, my lovies:

 

~Amber Jerome~Norrgard

 

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