Life as Amber knows it

"An adventure in the making…"

Re-Post: Why I’m celebrating the anniversary of my hysterectomy

It’s been four years since I made the hard decision to remove my uterus at age 33. November 5 will always be a day I celebrate because I took control of what was hurting me and removed it from my life.

Why I’m celebrating the anniversary of my hysterectomy

Once upon a time, there was a little auburn haired girl with big green eyes. When people would ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up, her answer was always the same, “A mother.”

Okay, so that may be cheesy, but it’s the truth. The only thing I have ever wanted desperately was to become a mother. I always figured my life would go something like this: Go to college, get degree, meet guy, marry guy, buy a house, start feeling a big sick to my stomach, go to the doctor and be told, “Congratulations! You’re pregnant!”

Of course, in my life, nothing EVER goes according to plan.

To being with, I pulled out of college at the last minute. For me, it was a necessary decision: I had no idea what I wanted to do other than be a mother. Wasting four years and my college fund, not to mention the scholarships I earned for my writing, would have been a gigantic waste. So, I continued with my job in the retail market, and the truth is, I really liked it. I was damn good at it, and got promoted to management, which I loathed. I liked being a grunt and getting down and dirty with putting stock up on the shelves.

At nineteen, I made the mistake of marrying a man who I knew was the worst thing for me. But I wasn’t strong enough to break free. What followed was four and a half years of being humiliated, treated like shit, and spending most of my time alone and depressed. What finally opened my eyes was him breaking my ribs throwing me against the wall after I became angry to find out he had, once again, cheated on me. But that final time, not only had he cheated on me, he had gotten the other woman pregnant. I left for good, filed for divorce, and watched from a distance as he lost his job, sunk even deeper into alcohol abuse, and got arrested for a DUI.

I had been diagnosed with Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome at age 20, and right before my 25th birthday, was literally bitch-slapped with shock when a pap smear turned up abnormal results. After further testing, I found out I had the beginning stages of a very aggressive cervical cancer. Fortunately, it was caught very early, and I underwent the LEEP procedure, which in layman’s terms means the OB numbed my cervix, shot it with a laser, and then removed the cancerous tissue. Three days later, I was back in the doctor’s office, suffering from pelvic inflammation. All I’ll say about PI is that any time I’ve read about it being a risk for a procedure, my first response has always been, “Oh shit… not again!” While I’ve thankfully never had a recurrence, every pap-smear has sent me into a tail spin of anxiety.

In early December of 2002, I finally agreed to have laparoscopic surgery to see if we could narrow down what had been causing me such horrifically painful periods. Just six weeks shy of my 26th birthday, I went under the knife and camera. Coming out of anesthesia, Dr. Fong was there, and he said the words that would shatter my heart: “I found Endometriosis.” I had began dating a close friend after my divorce, and we had fallen in love and just gotten engaged.

No one knows what causes Endometriosis, which is a condition in which the lining of the uterus is found outside the uterus in places such as actually on the outside of the uterus, on your ovaries, on your fallopian tubes, other internal organs, and in one horrific case I read about, they actually found it on a woman’s brain. The endometrial tissue acts just like it does within the uterus: once a month, it swells up and then sheds, but unlike in the uterus where the shredded tissue is removed by nature’s monthly gift of all around psychotic behavior, cramps, and gorging yourself on chocolate, the tissue outside has no where to go. Endometriosis is an illness where there are no outward signs: You can have the illness, and no one would know unless you told them. The only way to diagnose it 100% is through laparoscopic surgery, which also has the added benefit of treatment by lesions being removed via laser. It is one of the leading causes of infertility in women. A woman with endometriosis can undergo laparoscopic surgery to “up” her fertility (and boy, can it ever, but that’s for later). For me, having Endometriosis, before and after my diagnosis, was horrifically painful, and most months, it was debilitating.

But the worst part for me wasn’t the physical pain: it was the emotional pain. The idea I might never have a baby broke my heart. The idea I might not be able to give Brian a baby ripped me into pieces. I wanted one thing in the entire world, to be a mother, and I didn’t know if I was going to get that chance.

So I began taking a high-level birth control pill to keep my cycle under control and hopefully contain the endometriosis. Which for the most part, it did accomplish; but the further out from my surgery I got, the worse each month got. I gained 30 pounds from the birth control, not to mention the loopy and sluggish effect the pain medication I was prescribed had on my body. And somehow, strangely, knowing what the actual issue was made the physical pain that much worse. It should have been the happiest time in my life: I was engaged to a wonderful man, but I was heartbroken I might not be able to give him biological children.

Flash forward about a year: Brian and I got married in Las Vegas. I’d stopped taking birth control six months before our wedding in the hopes that by the time we got married, I’d be ovulating again. No such luck. Two weeks after our honeymoon, my period came to visit. When my next ovulation time came up, both Brian and I were horribly busy with work. I can remember that night so vividly: It was the last night of my ovulation cycle. I looked at Brian and said, “I most likely won’t get pregnant, but let’s have sex just to have sex!”

Three weeks later, feeling nauseated, needing to pee every two minutes, missing my period, and feeling like my boobs were about to explode, I took a pregnancy test. I didn’t even have time to set it down before the second line showed up. “Oh. My. GOD!” I called Brian at work: “Brian, you’re going to be a father! I’m pregnant!” To which he replied, in the most loving manner you can say the following words, “Holy shit!”

Amethyst was born on December 18, 2004 exactly on her due date. She was perfect. My younger brother, upon seeing his brand new niece, said in a reverent whisper, “My god, she’s beautiful!” We were totally, completely and deeply in love with this little angel, this miracle, this dream we were blessed with. We still are, even moreso to this day, almost seven years later.

We wanted another child. Not to have another child, but because we were so crazy about Amethyst and just loving our little family, we couldn’t imagine not having any more children. So after Amethyst turned 1, we started trying. And we tried, then tried again. I could go on, but I won’t. A year after we began trying, I started on Clomid, and went through the hell of every single possible side effect you can get. On cycle three, my period was late. But every single pregnancy test I took came back negative. Finally, fifty-eight days into what was a usual twenty-four-day menstral cycle, I went into see my OBGYN. The news was bad: Not only was I not pregnant, I had hyper-stimulated my ovaries, and had a total of eight ovarian cysts split between the two.

I went home with orders to take my prescriptions, to couch it, and to come back in two weeks. I also was resolved. I could no longer take it. Month after month of not getting pregnant was ripping me apart. I couldn’t stand what it was doing to me. I had a wonderful husband and a beautiful, healthy and happy daughter, and both were a blessing. When I got home and told Brian, he was his usual supportive self. We decided that while we weren’t going to prevent pregnancy, we were no longer going to try to achieve it.

I spent the next several months just taking it easy and healing from the cysts. My heart began to heal as well, and Brian and I began talking about the possibility of adoption. I myself am an adoptee, so I know first hand that families are made by love, not by DNA.

In July of 2007, I was cleaning out our bathroom when I came across a pregnancy test. I noticed it would expire in one month, so I figured, “Hey, why not? No one else is using it and it’s going to go to waste anyways!”

It was positive.

I was in shock. We had tried and tried to conceive with no results. I took fertility drugs, with no results. I go out and buy a new wardrobe and BAM, I’m pregnant. I was ecstatic! We called everyone, and everyone cheered with us. After 20 months, we were finally going to have a second baby.

A few weeks later, I went to the bathroom, only to discover I was bleeding heavily. I called my OBGYN but he was out of town on vacation. I spoke to the on-call doctor, and what he had to say was grim: If I were losing the baby, there really wasn’t anything they could do for me except ease my physical pain. I spent that night in denial, tears streaming down my face, and the next day, I went in to have a sonogram. I felt ten feet outside of my body, as if I were watching myself. I was dazed. I was in shock, so much so that I did not realize I had been slowly plucking the hair out of my arm.

The sonogram room at my OBGYN’s office is a dream come true if you have a pregnancy that’s progressing correctly: leather reclining seats, DVD burner for the sonograms, big scream television so you can see Little Bit so much more clearly than if you’re craning your neck repeatedly to look at the doctor’s computer screen. But when things have gone wrong? Staring at your empty uterus makes you want to scream at how unfair the whole fucking thing is. How you’ve worked and prayed and begged and practically sold your soul for the greatest gift you could ever receive, and you finally get it, only to have it ripped away from you almost immediately.

The doctor and the nurses all told me they were sorry, as well as the rest of the office staff. Irrational as it may seem, I wanted to shout at them, “Fuck your apology! Do you think you telling me you’re sorry is going to bring my baby back? Do you think it’s going to ease my pain?” But I didn’t. I held it together until I got home, but once I saw Brian’s blue eyes raised to mine like a question, I lost it. I sobbed until my throat was a raw, scratchy mess. Brian made the telephone calls I couldn’t bring myself to make, and I emailed other people that knew, telling them I had lost the baby, and that I’d appreciate it if they’d give me some time to myself and to never bring it up.

I closed myself off from everyone except for Amethyst and Brian. I felt angry. I felt empty. I felt like a complete and total failure. I knew that everyone was there for me, that they loved me and that they supported me, but I wanted to be left alone.

A few weeks later, my brother and his wife told me they were pregnant. They were very sensitive and kind, taking into consideration what Brian and I had just gone through. I had an odd mixture of emotions: I was happy and excited that I was going to be an Aunt again. But I was sad that I wasn’t going to be a mother for a second time. Not once did I feel anger towards my younger brother and his wife; how could I? They did not get pregnant to cause me pain; they did it for their own growing family. Throughout the pregnancy, though, it was a reminder of what I had lost. Every time my sister in law hit a milestone, I’d think to myself, “I would have just done that….”

By February of 2008, it was very obvious I needed to repeat the laparoscopic surgery. My periods were once again quite painful, and had become extremely erratic. I needed some relief, even if it was only for a small space of time. The surgery went fine, and my recovery was much easier than the first time I went under the knife and laser. Towards the end of March, I was talking to my sister-in-law on the phone and mentioned that I was late for my cycle, but fine for the medical community’s cycle. “Go buy a test then call me back and take it while I’m on the phone with you!” My sister-in-law was nine huge months pregnant at the time, and in total honesty, I really wanted to be in the delivery room when my new nephew was born. You simply do not piss off a pregnant woman, so I ran to the store, bought a test, got home, went into the bathroom followed by Brian while dialing, and yes, I peed while I was on the phone with my sister-in-law. Within three seconds, the test was positive.

We were all ecstatic. But I was certain something would go wrong. I spent my entire pregnancy on edge, filled with worry, wondering when the bombs were going to start dropping from the sky. To lose another baby would have shattered me completely.

On November 25, 2008, Autumn came into the world: bright eyed, gorgeous, and perfect in every single way. She looked so much like Amethyst I couldn’t stop myself from saying it over and over again. “You’re sure she’s fine? You’re sure she’s healthy?” I kept pestering the pediatrician. Now almost three years later, Autumn is the comedian of the family, full of life, and determined to find trouble if there’s none laying around waiting for her.

About six months after Autumn was born, the endometriosis came back, and it came back with a vengeance. I was furious. I had two beautiful daughters, both of which were gloriously healthy, and I wanted to spend my time with them, not spend it curled up in pain on the couch from a god-awful period. In July of 2009, I made an appointment to see my OBGYN. I told him I had thought very hard about it, and that I wanted a hysterectomy. I was tired of the horrific pain, the random periods, and exhaustion that came with it all. My doctor listened, which is why I’ve been with him for twelve years. He explained to me that while it might become a reality some day, having a hysterectomy was a huge shock to the body, and if we could hold off on it, just for a bit longer, it would be best for my health. We agreed to repeat the laparoscopic surgery, again, and that I’d continue with my super-strength birth control pills.

Surgery in August 2009 went as it should. My recovery was about the same as it had been in 2008, and I was just grateful to have a period that was what most people would consider normal. My life was going fantastic: Brian and I had been happily married for five years, and we had two beautiful, healthy daughters. One night, we were sitting in Brian’s home office, I looked at him and asked, “Would you ever want a third baby?” He looked at me and said, “If it’s that important to you, then I could get on board with it. But I’d want us to be more financially stable.” Which made perfect sense to me, but I did not even know if I wanted a third child. It seemed like we were asking for a kick in the ass to have a third when we had already been so blessed with our two girls, never mind the fact that I shouldn’t have been able to have children.

One night in early October 2009, I was trying to go to sleep when out of nowhere, my heart started racing and I broke out in a sweat. My stomach started churning, so I ran to the bathroom and vomited. “What the hell?” I said. The next day, I was horribly nauseated, and threw up three or four times. On day three, I decided enough was enough and was going to the doctor. But my GP wasn’t in the office that day, and I was miserable, so I went to a walk-in clinic. Three hours later, they took blood and had me give a urine sample. I had my head between my legs and was trying not to vomit yet again when the doctor came in.

“Did you know you’re pregnant?” She asked.

“That can’t be. I’m on the pill.”

“Well, you tested positive for pregnancy, and the pill is only 97% effective.”

“Yes, but I’m considered infertile.” And so on and so forth. I couldn’t believe it. I wouldn’t believe it. I mean, come on! Three rounds of Clomid has just hyper-stimulated my ovaries. It took me ages to get pregnant with Autumn, and that took surgery to accomplish. I stayed in denial all the way to the check-out counter while I paid my co-pay, all the way out the door, and all the way to the closest drug store where I bought a pregnancy test. They had to be wrong. There was no way I could be pregnant.

I arrived home, got Brian, and stomped into the bathroom. I don’t even know what I wanted the test to come out as. Brian had always said two kids were fine with him, that we had a perfect little family. If I could choose exactly how many kids I could have, it would have been three, but not without my husband being 100% on board with it. I sat on the lid of the toilet, waiting for the test to complete.

It was positive.

I burst into tears. Not because I didn’t want to be pregnant; but because I was pregnant and that meant nine months living in fear of having my heart broken if I lost this baby, and because I honestly was not sure how Brian would react. We hadn’t planned on this, and we’d figured with my fertility history and birth control, we were free to get down to business whenever we wanted.

I took a deep breath and looked up. There stood my husband of almost six years, grinning like a kid in a candy store, which calmed me down. I made a phone call to my OBGYN’s office and left the doctor this message, “The next surgery you perform on me is to make sure I’m sterile. Every time you operate, I get pregnant.”

The next nine months were a bit of a haze. I was worried about us making ends meet. I was worried about our vehicle situation. I was terrified of what went into two under two, both in diapers, because I’d seen it first hand with my brother and his wife’s second and third children. I was worried that having back to back pregnancies would be bad for the new baby. I felt horribly guilty and bad for Autumn, because unlike Amethyst who had one on one time with me for almost four years before she got a younger sibling, Autumn would only be eighteen months old when the new baby would arrive. Would she feel neglected? Would she hate us? Would she try to eat her new brother or sister?

Delivery day arrived, and I was a bundle of nerves. I was induced, and four contractions in, the anesthesiologist arrived to give me my lovely epidural. Before the sixth contraction started, I was totally numb from the waist down. The day passed by slowly with periodic visits from my doctor. I passed the time taking advantage of the hospital’s WIFI and played games while we waited. When I finally reached 7 centimeters dilated, my sister-in-law came up to the hospital to be a second support person. Finally it was time.

My son, the greatest surprise I’ve ever been gifted with, was determined to make a huge entrance.

Right as I was starting to push, I began to feel my toes. The next thing I knew, a contraction was ripping through me, and I screamed, grabbing hold of the bed rail. The nurse looked at me in a panic and asked, “Is the epidural not working?” I shook my head no, and she ran over to the dispenser, gasped and exclaimed, “Shit!” and ran to page the anesthesiologist. Pain was ripping through me every minute, over and over again, and getting stronger with each contraction as my body un-numbed. I pushed as hard as I could with each contraction, knowing that the only way to stop the horrific pain was to get the baby out. I thought of my grandmother and how she had only two out of nine deliveries in a hospital, no benefit of even Demerol to get her through. I thought of how only I could get me through this, and reminded myself that the calmer I remained, the easier it would be. I fought against tensing up, and just concentrated on pushing the baby out. At one point, Brian was holding my right leg, and the labor and delivery nurse was holding my left leg up, and my OBGYN was telling me, “You need to push harder, Amber. Harder!” I was so exhausted and loopy from the pain that I could actually see myself pulling my leg away from Brian and kicking the doctor in the head and asking him if that was hard enough. Finally, forty minutes after I started pushing, I felt a horrific ripping pain, and my son slid into the world.

He then proceeded to piss all over everyone and everything.

Benjamin had quite literally ripped me a new one: I had a third-degree-tear and it took the doctor quite awhile to finish stitching me up. The nurse brought Benjamin back to me, told me he was beautiful, and I held him and got a very good look at my son, my surprise, my miracle. He was perfect, and he looked so much like his two big sisters that I was overcome with nostalgia. He was so tiny, but yet the biggest of all my children. He had the chubbiest cheeks that just begged to be kissed.

For whatever reason, against every single odd that was stacked against me, I was given three amazing, beautiful, gloriously healthy miracles.

Life as a family of five was rough at first. Eventually we adjusted, and things went back to normal. My uterus on the other hand, had plans for making my life a living hell. Barely healed from giving birth, my periods started up again and would come every two or three weeks with horrific cramping. And every time, I’d phone my doctor and he’d either have me come in so he could take a look, or he’d write me a prescription for pain medicine. But that was just a band-aid for the problem, and it was a band-aid that didn’t really stick. I was so very tired of it. I’d been through so much physical pain and had my heart broken so many times on the way to motherhood. How good of a mother was I, really? How present could I be if I was in massive pain, or taking a pain medication that made me loopy? Brian had been taking care of me for ten years. Ten years of doctors appointments and huge medical bills and surgeries and watching me struggle.

It wasn’t a hard decision to make. Three children was exactly how many I wanted, and I was very blessed to have the three I was given. We were done having children. It did not in any way make me sad to think I would no longer be able to have children. So appointments were made, blood tests were drawn, deep discussions with my doctor were had. He laid everything out on the table, the good and the bad, the easy and the hard, and gave me every possible option to choose from. I went with the DaVinci partial hysterectomy. I’d still have my tubes and ovaries,  but I’d no longer have a uterus, so no periods, and no longer have my cervix, so I could finally stop worrying about a recurrence of the cervical cancer. Brian took two weeks off of work to care for me and to take care of the kids since I wouldn’t be able to pick them up for two weeks.

The morning of, both Autumn and Benjamin woke up with Brian, Amethyst and I. I cuddled and hugged and held my two babies, trying to get my fill (I didn’t succeed) before we left. My in-laws were going to watch the younger two and pick Amethyst up from school that afternoon if my surgery ran late and Brian wasn’t able to. I had let Amethyst’s Kindergarten teacher know what was going on, and she promised me that Amethyst was in good hands and they’d keep her mind off of it. I didn’t doubt it one bit. I hugged my littlest ones good bye, and we took Amethyst to school. I made sure to tell her how much I loved her and to remind her that if I wasn’t able to come home that evening, Daddy would bring her up to visit me that evening.

We drove to the hospital, the same hospital I had had surgeries #2 and #3, and well as gave birth to Autumn and Benjamin. If I could have ran from the car into the operating room, I probably would have. While we were waiting for the nurse to take me back to pre-op, I sent a text to my nearest and dearest, letting them know I was about to go back, and that I loved them all.

We sat in the waiting room, holding hands, and while we were sitting there, I thought about everything I had been through. It was almost over. I’d never again have a period. I’d never again be stuck in bed for two or three days because I was having a debilitating endometriosis flare up. And bonus: I’d never again have sex with either the fear or the hope of pregnancy in mind. Sex with my husband would just be sex.

I was taken back to pre-op, and I noticed that everyone seemed to be walking on eggshells around me. They were overly kind, and it hit me that it was because of what I was having surgery for. I was thirty-three years old, and not many women that age opt to have a hysterectomy, even just a partial.

My doctor came in, and I gave him a huge smile in greeting. He asked me if I was sure I was ready to go through with it since it would be permanent. “Let’s get this party started!” I told him, and I meant it. I’d been through so much pain, cried so many tears, been heartbroken time and time again. I’d spent years in fear: fear of infertility, of not having a baby, of losing a pregnancy, of wondering how bad each period was going to be in terms of pain.

I kissed Brian goodbye, and the anesthesiologist rolled me down the hall. He injected me with something lovely to relax me, and I thought of my three beautiful children, who I’d see later that day. I thought about how lucky I was Brian had always taken such good care of me without ever complaining once.

The next thing I knew, my OBGYN was leaning over me, and I said, “Oh good. You didn’t kill me this time!” He laughed and told me everything went great, and that it was finally over. He told me he’d come back later to check on me, and I closed my eyes and rested a bit. The nurse came over to me, and I asked her for some ice, which they didn’t have. She let me have some cold water as long as I took little sips.

I was rolled into my room, and Brian was there waiting. My new nurse smiled and told me that he understood I planned on leaving as soon as I could rather than staying the night. I said, “Yep.” He then told me I had to go to the bathroom, walk across the room, and hold down some food before he’d let me go. I did all three, and after waiting for the doctor’s official okay, I was allowed to change into my pajamas, and they rolled me down the hall.

It was very peaceful on the ride home. I wasn’t worried about the pain that would set in when the drugs they gave me at the hospital wore off. All I knew was that once I recovered, I would never again suffer from the debilitating pain that had been my constant companion for years. That I’d finally be able to run, and play, and be the type of mother I was meant to be for my kids. We arrived home, and there they were, Benjamin flapping around in his grandmother’s arms, Autumn yelling out, “Mama!” and Amethyst giving me a hug and showing me what she did in art class that day.

November 5, 2010 was the day I had my uterus removed. My only regret is the doctor wouldn’t let me take it to the firing range and practice shooting at it, kind of an active therapy. But they wanted to study my uterus, see what mysteries about Endometriosis it might reveal. I hope that it helps at least one person.

I’ve never looked back and thought, “I wish I wouldn’t have done the surgery.” Not when friends told me they were pregnant again, not when my brother and his wife announced they were having their fourth, and definitely not when my youngest nephew came into the world, and I was there, so proud to be a part of watching this little miracle take his very first breath. I’m thankful I was able to make the decision before it was made for me, and that I was financially able to choose the method I wanted.

I’m celebrating the anniversary of my hysterectomy because I can. Because for years, I had to go along with what my body was putting me through, and all I could do at times was grit my teeth and bear it. I took one of the most heartbreaking and painful experiences in my life, and I turned it into a positive.

And seriously, ladies, wouldn’t you celebrate no longer needing to use tampons and maxi pads?

Never Again, by Rosa Storm ~~~ Get Yours Today!!!

white_never_again copyNever Again, by Rosa Storm

Publication date: October 13th 2014

Genres: Horror, Psychological, Violence

 

Synopsis:

Life can get difficult, but we always have the chance to change it. Jen decided she had enough and chose to do something to change her situation. Relationships can be hard to keep if you don’t take care of the other person. Never Again is a short story that explores the human mind and actions when we feel desperate, and the chilling consequences that some behaviours can provoke.

Add to Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21773427-never-again

Buy the Book!

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Never-Again-Rosa-Storm-ebook/dp/B00OHZ1O5E/

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/364999

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/never-again-rosa-storm/1117193300?ean=2940045333474

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/au/book/never-again/id728112657?mt=11

AUTHOR BIO:
CintaBlogRosa Storm is a Spanish writer who has loved the written word since she discovered she was able to read books at age 5. Since then, she has become a bookworm and reads around 100 books every year. She also writes, every day, compulsively, even in the middle of the night. You cannot control when inspiration hits you, can you? She writes in English because she is convinced that in a previous life she was British, so writing in English feels more natural to her than writing in her native language. Yes, she is crazy like that. She now spends her time with her amazing husband, author Mark Stone, between Spain and Phoenix, Arizona, which is great because the long flights let her catch up with her long list of books to read.

Rosa Storm is the author of “Never Again”, a chilling short story included in the anthology of scary tales titled “Satan’s Holiday”, and “Deadly Company”, a horrifying short story included in the anthology of urban legends “Don’t Look Back”. She also writes award-winning collections of short stories for children under her real name, Cinta Garcia de la Rosa.

Where to find Cinta:

Website
Blog
Twitter
Goodreads
Smashwords

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!

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