Life as Amber knows it

"An adventure in the making…"

No Expiration Date

Years ago, someone once said to me something that has long stuck with me: “There is no expiration date on grief.”

And while I thought I had a grasp on what they meant, it wasn’t until recently I truly understood the meaning behind those seven words.

You see, my life has been tumultuous. There’s been loved ones lost to cancer, heart disease, depression. I’ve lost loved ones due to changes in our lives. I’ve lost loved ones due to one of the genres I write. The always present end of relationships due to waning interest. Relationships and experiences draw to a close, either abruptly or naturally.

And despite the times when loss equated me wondering how I’d draw my next breath, the strangest thing happened: the sun rose and set each day. Friends went on with their lives. Strangers laughed over whatever had hit their tickle bone. All those things continued on, despite my shattered heart.

Grief is unlike surgery. A surgeon can perform an operation and state the range of time it should take to heal, the range of time until you feel normal. Grief? Grief is something we can’t determine the length of time on. It’s over and eased and we look back in gratitude that its over. And then something happens: you see a type of flower, you hear something, you come across a photo, and it’s back, just as fresh as it was when it first happened. There’s no way to ease it, erase it, or speed up the process. You simply have to grit your teeth and endure.

The largest mistakes of my life have been healing on other people’s time lines, of putting their ideas of when I should be healed and over something above my need to experience my own grief process. And finally, at age thirty-eight, I’ve learned an exceptionally important lesson that I should have learned a long time before: my heart break is my heart break, and the healing process is mine. However I go about it, it’s a process I need to experience for myself. Because healing on other’s timelines and for other’s comfort isn’t healing for myself.

I own my hurt and heartbreak for my losses in this life. And I demand of others the respect to do so on my terms.

Love and life,

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

Happy Birthday Man~Cub!

It was probably the most ironic moment of my life.

In October of 2009, I was thirty-two, mother to two beautiful girls ages four and nine months old, and I was sitting on the exam table of the emergency room at the local hospital, trying not to throw up. I’d been very sick to my stomach the past three days, and with no end in sight to the round the clock vomiting, I’d gone to the hospital in the hopes of getting something to calm my stomach.

The doctor came in, and said something to me that had never been said to me before: “Do you know you’re pregnant?”

Before that moment? I’d always known if it was a possibility. For a woman who’d been hit with the double diagnosis of Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome and Endometriosis in her early twenties, pregnancy was not a guarantee. What was a guarantee was months of ovulation kits, failed pregnancy tests, surgeries, doctors visits, failed fertility treatments. Pregnancy was the hardest won battle of my life, and after having been gifted with two daughters who were healthy and happy, I counted myself beyond fortunate that I’d beaten the odds.

I was on the Cadillac of all birth control pills in an effort to control my Endometriosis and PCOS symptoms. Two months before that ironic day, I’d had laporospic surgery to treat my Endometriosis for the third time. I was still battling post partum depression from having had my daughter Autumn not even a year before.

“Do you know you’re pregnant?”  No. I didn’t know. And my mind flashed to the week before, when I’d said to my therapist, “If I were to have a third baby, I’d hope for a boy. Not because I wouldn’t love a girl as much, but because I’d like to know what its like to raise a son.”

God sometimes watches us and listens to our wishes and grants them, even if we’re not aware we’re wishing for what he gives us.

28977_455751821240_4241576_nBenjamin Alexander Roland Norrgard was born after twenty hours of labor. My epidural wore off when it was time to push, and out of my three children, he was the only birth that require multiple stitches to repair tearing. The doctor handed him to me immediately after he was born, and I looked down at a pure miracle: against the odds of a body that had betrayed me with a faulty reproductive system, against medications designed to treat not just illness but prevent pregnancy, against timing and financial worries, this little boy, this perfect angel, this incredible gift I wanted desperately but was afraid to wish for, my son was in the world. Eight pounds, ten ounces and twenty inches of blessings, albeit a gift that urinated so much, the nurse took him away to be weighed in and diapered.

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he most certainly is….

Two under two with a five year old starting kindergarten wasn’t easy. I quickly fell back into post partum depression and anxiety, and every day was a battle. But when my demons got to be too much, I’d look into the face of my son and I’d remember. I’d remember all the failed pregnancy tests and fertility treatments. When I was trying to change two diapers at once and give attention and love to three children and find time to take a shower that lasted more than thirty seconds and help my oldest with homework and pack her lunch, I’d remember the baby I lost at six weeks pregnant in the summer of 2007. When I lost my uterus when Benjamin was only four months old, I’d hold him and thank God for the final gift of motherhood before I truly became infertile.

Benjamin came into this world, loud and in a manner that demanded my full attention. At five, he still grabs the attention of those around him. He’s got a wicked sense of humor (the first five 15664_10152215828301241_1722574116_nminutes of my father’s funeral were spent with me trying to not laugh at him making faces at me in an effort to cheer me up), and loves everyone he meets, most especially my friends: “Can we go to Canada Mommy? I miss my girlfriend Julie” was a recent conversation we had, along with “Hey, can we take Terri out to dinner again?” (Terri is a bit more accessible since she only lives about forty five minutes north of us, as opposed to Julie living in a whole other country).

Benjamin is thoughtful, sweet, and compassionate. He’s the first one to comfort one of his older sisters when they’re upset, and when he asks for a snack he always asks for a second for my middle child (and the second snack remains untouched until his sisters gets it). He’s loving. He’s passionate about everything from the Orioles (that’s ma boy!) to cookies to coloring to hugs and kisses.

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Future Orioles player…

With the blue eyes he inherited from his father, and the curly red hair he inherited from me, Benjamin resembles an angel, and he’s not shy about wooing members of the fairer sex, from infants to his sisters, to elderly women at the bank to my female friends (I’m still laughing over his flirting when he met my friend Julie last October on a trip to the zoo). He’s got a gigantic, golden heart, and is known for being angry if he doesn’t get to hug and kiss goodbye those he loves.

I watch my son as he makes his way through this world: he’s confident, full of joy and passionate about anything and everything that catches his eye. I brace myself when he barrels towards me for a hug and wince while laughing when he bruises me from impacting me with his small but strong body. And my stomach clenches when I remember asking my doctor to perform a hysterectomy in the summer of 2009. Had my doctor performed the surgery then, this beautiful boy who brings joy to those he encounters wouldn’t be in this world. And that’s a thought that haunts me to this day, and a reaffirmation of my belief that all things happen for a greater purpose, even if we don’t get the answer as to why for some time after asking.

He’s been in this world for five years. And yet, my mind can’t wrap around and remember a time when he wasn’t in my life, making me laugh with his opinions on baseball and pancakes and chicken nuggets. I cherish his sweet self and am daily grateful that God saw fit to laugh at my plans to only have two children. That God looked down and decided my life needed an additional blessing of a third child, one that has made my life as a mother that much fuller and joyful.

He’s had about a hundred nicknames since he was born: “little dude”, “man~cub”, “thing two”, and “bubs” among many others. The multiple nicknames are just my cheap attempt in finding another, grander way of saying “I love you”, because those three little words, those eight little letters in no way are enough to convey what he means to me.

Happy Birthday Benjamin. Thank you for completing my heart and making me whole.

Momma

The Conclusion of the Be Better Project

My body’s had its ass kicked.

To date, I’ve survived cervical cancer, Graves disease, endometriosis, infertility, PCOS, and I’ve kicked post partum depression and anxiety in the ass three times, along with a similar version of depression and anxiety that came after my hysterectomy in 2010.

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January 2012

But there was a price to be paid for beating all that: the medication that saved my life (I don’t lie, and I’m not going to start now — I was suicidal during my battle with post partum depression) combined with a hysterectomy in my early thirties caused me to gain 100 pounds. I weighed 150 pounds (a healthy weight for my body type) on the morning I had my hysterectomy. One year later, I weighed 250 pounds.

Did I always make the best dietary choices? No, not always, but mostly. But six months after my hysterectomy, my anti depressant stopped working, and my doctor added wellbutrin into the mix of xanax xr and zoloft I was already taking.

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January 2012

My weight kept climbing, and my depression just deepened. It had taken me close to a year to lose the weight after I had my oldest child. After my middle child was born, it took me six months (I was smarter in my food choices with my second daughter). After my son was born in June of 2010, I lost the baby weight within three weeks. But the exhaustion of my body recovering from such a major surgery in the fall of 2010, right on the heels of giving birth for the second time in eighteen months, combined with all those medications? I didn’t stand a chance.

I hated the way I looked. I hated the way I felt. Watching what I ate alone didn’t help, exercising did little except make me more exhausted. From Halloween 2011 until New Years Day in 2012, I struggled, and damn near gave up when despite eating nothing but a healthy diet and walking two miles a day (god bless the treadmill) yielded a two pound weight loss. I made an appointment with my doctor.

“Your body has been through a lot. Its not unusual for women to have their metabolism bottom out after they have a hysterectomy due to the huge fluctuation of hormones. You’re also on several medications that aren’t going to help your  metabolism either.”

I went home, tossed my anti depressants (they weren’t doing any good at that point, and I’d gotten the okay from my doctor to discontinue their use), and gave up the only vice I’d held onto after switching to a healthier diet: my daily trip to Starbucks.

It’s been three years. And in those three years, I’ve learned more about myself and the world at large than I ever thought possible.

When I started the Be Better Project in January of 2012, I had a goal of getting my body bikini ready.

I was very wrong to set that as my goal. What I needed to be doing is getting my soul life ready.

The world isn’t kind to those who don’t fit into some skewed ideal of beauty. If you’re not a size two, with blonde hair, tanned, and fit under the heading of “perfect”, very few people are interested. It’s a bullshit ideal. And it’s a painful ideal to be a victim of.

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April 2015

Me? I let other people’s ideals, right or wrong, impact the way I saw myself. I let myself get mind fucked into believing I wasn’t beautiful because I didn’t fit a bullshit idea. It wasn’t until I accepted that I’d never been a size two, that I’d never be perfect, that my abdomen would never be scar free (five plus abdominal surgeries in my quest for motherhood and health), that I truly began changing for the better.

I started this with the want to look physically beautiful, to fit those fucked up ideas.

I ended it embracing myself as I am, and seeing those scars as trophies from hard won battles against life, health, and my sanity.

Three years, three months and one hundred and five pounds after starting the Be Better Project, I am a different woman. Is my body perfect? Nope. Will I ever grace the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition? Nope. Do I still have abdominal scars and stretch marks and a poochy belly? Yep. Do I give a shit? Fuck NO. My body isn’t perfect. But it is MINE. With my body, I have given birth to three beautiful souls. I’ve beaten illnesses. I’ve fought for my sanity and WON.

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April 2015

I’ve posted these photos in this blog for a couple of reasons: the first is in the hopes that someone with a similar story to mine will read it and feel less alone in their own struggles with their body image. The second is because I always keep my word, and three years ago, I promised the listeners of TweepNation that I’d post photos in “the bikini” at the end of the Be Better Project. And the third? Honesty. And lack of fear of people’s opinions on my body. Anyone who will judge my imperfections in a hateful manner is not a person who is actually going to see me as ME.

And ME is pretty damn awesome. Me is a woman who after years of hating herself has finally opened up  my arms wide to hug myself and say “I love you. You’re beautiful.”

Back in January, I was scheduled for a tummy tuck to remove those abdominal scars and have my separated abdominal muscles reattached. A slight infection caused the surgery to be cancelled and rescheduled at a later date. A few days before the scheduled surgery, I’d emailed a friend a list of daily gratitudes, one of which was the following: “I’ve learned to love my body as is and I will miss its flaws…” I won’t be having the surgery until its necessary. And I don’t want it to be necessary.

“Better” started out as me losing weight. But I ended this in a truly “Better” way: I love ME. Who I am as a person is defined in those scars on my abdomen: flawed, but for good reason.

Love yourself as is folks. Embrace your flaws for what they are: markers on a life well lived.

I’d stay and chat, but my bikini is too loose… I’m off to buy a new one.

~Amber Jerome~Norrgard

Passing the Placenta

I recently heard through a friend a reaction to one of my more wilder hair color experiments that a young woman we both know stated she’d considered doing a wild shade of hair, but being a mom was a reason not to.

I felt a multitude of emotions upon hearing this, everything from annoyance (at being judged) to pity to anger to sadness. I even felt humor. Annoyance because I was judged by someone (again) based on my looks, pity that this twenty-something child was so closed minded, anger and sadness that they fell back on that ideal as a reason to not do something for themselves, and humor because I’d let a twenty year old kid I actually dislike intensely get to me.

The fact is, and those of you who know me can attest to this, I don’t give a shit what your opinion is on how I look. I’ve often been judged on my appearance: I’ve surprised people by my level of intelligence: “What? You actually have a brain?” and “Just stand there and look pretty.” are two comments I’ve received far too frequently in my thirty-eight years on this earth. I’ve heard comments that can be summed up by two words: “Fat bitch” and “Skinny bitch” have been two frequent comments, along with “Bet she stuffs” and very hilariously, someone asking me who my plastic surgeon was, because they sooooo wanted him to give her my boobs (said boobs were actually grown naturally and are credited to my biological parents’ DNA, thank you for that Ellen and Charlie).

Mainly, I felt offended.

Motherhood doesn’t erase who we are.

Sadly, I’ve seen this happen far too often: snakeskin pants are packed up, piercings removed, tattoo cover kits are purchased. Lace underwear sets are tossed in the trash for boring cotton numbers. Hair is chopped off into a standard bob, and mini-vans become the choice vehicle to have.

Back in 2005, I was shopping with a family member. When I picked up a lace thong and bra set, she freaked out and reminded me I was a mother. I reminded her that life post-placenta did not erase the fact I was still a woman.

I thrive on my life as a mother: for me, raising my three children is the reason I was put on this earth. I love spending time with my three children, whether its one-on-one with them or as a group. I love hearing their thoughts on everything from art to life to pancakes. I’d rather not hear them whine, but even that has the benefit of knowing they’re growing exactly as they should be. I don’t even mind doing their laundry. They are the very breath that I breathe, and their faces are my heart and soul. My life would not be worth living if they were not in this world.

I’ll admit my naval ring was removed during my pregnancy with Amethyst. When faced with the realization that if I grew any more the ring would rip out due to my expanding belly, I took the smart (and pain free option) of removing it. And those snakeskin pants I placed on the high shelf in my closet went there because I was no longer a size two.

But Amethyst taking her first breath in our world didn’t erase who I am at my core: a woman who is creative and slightly crazy and full of life and passion. My need to be out there in the world and create with my mind and decorate my body with piercings and art work never changed. In many ways, motherhood reaffirmed the necessity to remain true to myself: how better else is there to teach my children honesty than by being who I truly am?

In many ways, the world we live in is based on a set of ideals that only works for a small bit of the people inhabiting it: we’re told from a young age that we need to be “normal” except we’re not given a say in the matter. And women sadly add to this load of shit by giving into the idea that motherhood means you need to put yourself on the back burner and subscribe to khaki pants and bobbed hair cuts and drive mini vans and wear pearl stud earrings. If you like the khakis and pearls, by all means wear them. But don’t hide your past away from your present and future self. Don’t give up those things that so define you because you’ve passed a placenta. Lying to yourself is the worst type of lie there is, because you’re killing your spirit and letting yourself go.

And using motherhood as an excuse to hide behind as to why you’re not dying your hair a bright color or getting a tattoo or a piercing or returning to finish your education or finding a half hour every week as a space of time for yourself is a fat load of bullshit. The reality is, you’re using it as an excuse to hide behind your own cowardice at not being accepted.

Whether or not the person who made the comment that they weren’t dying their hair because they’re a mother was taking a dig at the fact that I’m a mother to three children and should know better (bite me please), or whether they were just trying to excuse away their lack of freedom, it doesn’t matter. If its the first one? Well, feel free to pass this along: Fuck you. I know myself. My children are healthy, happy, compassionate, and are going to bring some wonderful to the world we live in. If its the second: please pull your head out of your ass and do what you need to do for you and stop giving up yourself for some set ideals you’ve never questioned.

I’ve passed three placentas in my life. And I might not always do the right thing. In fact, I might fuck it up royally. But at the end of the day, I can look in the mirror and honestly state I’ve been true to myself. And that my hair is fuckin’ awesome.

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

And Now a Poetic Interview with Amber Jerome~Norrgard!

What? Things didn’t go according to the plan? Big shock for me!!!

So despite the disappointment of not having surgery today due to a slight infection and having my muscle separation fixed being placed on indefinite hold due to work and other obligations, I’m still in a good mood due to the necessary changes I made to my lifestyle pre-surgery that I’m going to hold onto. Three years ago I weighed 225 pounds after having a partial hysterectomy and having to take multiple medications to deal with the post partum-like depression and anxiety that came in due to the hormonal changes.

For those of you who are curious, I gained between 40-50 pounds with each of my children, topping out at 190 pounds on delivery day. With my oldest, I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight within a year. With my middle child, six months. With my son? Three weeks (you try having a five year old, an 18 month old, a sick father, and a newborn to contend with all at the same time and tell me how well you’ll hold onto your weight). Four months after my son was born I went under the knife for what was hopefully the final time to have a partial hysterectomy. And everything changed for me.

Certainly, I could have done a few things differently: I ate fast food once a week (if not more) and Starbucks saw me at least once a day. The medications I was on to treat the anxiety and depression I was suffering from added to the weight I was accumulating once my hormones went haywire and my metabolism disappeared.

In January of 2012, after taking a family photo, I cried when I saw myself. Despite being only 5’3″, I’d always been healthy at around 140 pounds. But there I was, almost one hundred pounds heavier than I should have been, and I looked awful.

I gave myself one last weekend of bad dietary indulgences and started removing the unhealthy stuff in stages. The medication I was on was no longer working as it was supposed to: I was still depressed, and I was gaining weight and losing hair on top of everything else. After consulting with my doctor, I stopped taking all three medicines and within two weeks began dropping weight. My next step was to break up with Starbucks and start exercising four times a week. Soda went next, followed by meat, followed very closely by cheese.

For the past three years, I struggled with my weight. But instead of crash dieting and losing weight quickly, I resolved to take the time and do things the RIGHT way, no matter how long it took.

I won’t lie: I’d backslide on my efforts to get healthy. I’d feel too tired to take a walk, and I wouldn’t walk. Or I’d give into wanting Starbucks. I’d get a cheeseburger, which was doubly bad considering I had RA and Fibromyalgia and both were affected adversely by meat.

The biggest struggle I faced though wasn’t what food I was trying to not eat. It was a struggle with mySELF that was the problem. I got lost in the idea that there’s one type of beauty. I focused too strongly on hitting a size two and identified that (very) incorrectly with the only type of real beauty. It wasn’t until a dear friend of mine looked at me one day when I was complaining about my body and said, “Amber, you’re NOT fat. Do you have a few extra pounds? Yes. But I’d never use the word “fat” to describe you. What you are is curvy and voluptuous, and very beautiful. You need to learn to see yourself in a new way.”

It was time to wake up.

Until I learned to truly love myself, no matter the number on the scale or on the clothing tag, I would never really reach what I was looking for. Until I accepted my body as is, with it’s scars from my pursuit of health and motherhood, how much weight I lost would not matter.  I could be a size 2, but no matter what size I was, I still wouldn’t be happy until I learned to love my body, no matter what shape it was. Until I learned to embrace the body God had gifted me with. The body that while it HAD caused me hurt and heartbreak with its medical issues, also gave me three children and the ability to feed them.

So I began trying to see myself through the right kind of eyes. Did I always see myself with love and compassion and kindness? No. But I learned to love myself.

Back in November when I was told that a tummy tuck was the solution to the problems I was having due to abdominal muscle separation, I did something I never thought I’d do: I cried over the thought of saying goodbye to part of my abdomen, of not seeing those scars again. And that’s not always been my mindset since I scheduled the surgery. I’ve had good days and bad days.

I began eating healthier per my surgeon’s orders to prepare for the surgery. I even went as far as to complete (and totally kick ass on) a 21 day no-junk-food-purge.

I had two goals three years ago when I began working towards a better me: To get to 156 pounds, the weight I was when I found out I was pregnant with my son, and to fit into my favorite ass-hugging jeans. I hit goal two in July 0f 2012, and surpassed it: those ass-hugging jeans were too loose. Goal one? That took a bit longer.

I stepped on the scale this morning, yelped, stepped off and then stepped back on. And damn near fainted. I waited to celebrate until I got to my surgeon’s office, knowing they’d get my exact weight pre-surgery. And the number was actually one lower than what I’d seen this morning at home: 153.6

I’d met my goal. And more than that: I love my body, as-is, despite it’s imperfections.

I’ll have bad days between now and when I fully recover from my abdominalplasty that will most likely take place in May I’m sure. And that doesn’t matter, because I’m only human. Bad days are supposed to happen. But I’ve passed my goal. I’ve done what I set out to do again, like I always do when I want something. And I’m proud of myself, because three years ago, my goal seemed impossible to achieve.

But I still kicked ass….

 

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

Thirty~Eight Things I’ve Learned in Thirty~Eight Years of Living

It’s that *dreaded* time of year again: my birthday has rolled around, and true to form, the few weeks leading up to it have been tumultuous with bad news bombs dropping one right after the other.

But the good news is, I’ll be having a much needed abdominoplasty done on January 27th to correct the muscle separation three children and multiple abdominal surgeries have caused. I’m in fairly good health. My children are happy and healthy. Work has been coming in nicely. There’s the promise of trips to San Antonio and up to the Great White North to see my dear friend Julie Frayn (not to mention IVD 2015 in September). And thanks to the awesome Dr. Rowan Buskin, I have a new smile to go along with the  new year we’ve just entered.

2014 was one of the hardest years of my life, right up there with 2007. And the end of 2014 brought with it a great deal of changes to who I am and how I am. Life’s too short to waste on things that don’t work. I’d rather spend my time and energy with the people who truly matter, truly love me, experiencing life and creating memories. And while I created a great deal of memories and had a ton of new experiences in 2014 that I’m infinitely grateful for, there will always be a cloud over 2014 for me, because it was the year we lost my father, a loss I’m still reeling from six months later.

But life goes on, no matter how excellent or how shitty our lives are. The sun’s going to rise and set each day whether or not we’re happy, in love, wealthy, and living the live we want. And with that comes lessons: no matter how bad (or good)it can get, there is always something to be learned from our experiences. So as I always do on my birthday, here’s a list of what I’ve learned in my short life.

1.) The people that truly  matter and truly love you are the ones who are still there when the shit hits the fan and starts splattering.

2.) If you wouldn’t allow a type of behavior from a stranger, why allow it from a friend?

3.) Sometimes, a girl just has to down a bottle of wine and smoke a cigar.

4.) It’s okay to engage in girly behavior.

5.) I still think people who dress their pets up in any type of clothing deserve to be shot on sight.

6.) Don’t insult anyone outside a gun range. This is beyond idiotic.

7.) Just because you don’t understand it, or it’s something that wouldn’t work for you doesn’t automatically make it wrong.

8.) Sometimes “I love you” is the only thing you need.

9.) Karma always pays assholes back.

10.) Don’t ever go back to an ex. You already know how the story’s gonna end.

11.) Baseball can teach us many things. But most importantly in terms of people in my life, after three strikes, you’re out.

12.) I’m pretty sure my best friend and I broke the Epic Meter in 2014 in awesome life experiences.

13.) You either absolutely love and adore me, or you hate my guts. If you’re one of the latter, it’s for some idiotic reason and not based on anything real.

14.) Slightly related: I’m either your greatest friend or I’m your worst enemy.

15.) I never start fights. But I damn sure finish them.

16.) ALWAYS trust your instincts.

17.) Conditional love is a load of bullshit.

18.) God bless Twitter. It brought the greatest friend of my life into my world.

19.) I must be doing something right as a parent: my childless friends all adore my children.

20.) Homeschooling my children has been the best decision, not just for my oldest, but for all three of them I’ve ever made. I’ve had true quality time teaching them, and this is something I can never express my full gratitude for.

21.) The world would be a much better place if it was necessary to apply for a license to reproduce.

22.) Some people would benefit from a punch in the face.

23.) Forgiveness is the key to your unhappiness.

24.) Sometimes, no matter how badly it hurts, you have to let go.

25.) No matter how tall he is or how old he gets, or even how many children he has, I still think of my brother as my baby brother.

26.) Until you know who you are and until you’re completely honest, you’re not going to find what you’re looking for in life.

27.) Faith is harder than you realize.

28.) Life will bring you the unexpected when you stop looking for it.

29.) No one you meet in a bar is their honest self.

30.) If you ask for someone’s honest opinion, remember, you asked for it.

31.) Who you’ve been and where you come from is nowhere near as important as who you’ll be and where you’ll go.

32.) I have no sympathy for people who complain about the trouble in their lives they caused themselves.

33.) Always keep a prepaid cell phone with important numbers logged in it, fully charged in your car in case of emergencies.

34.) I’ve been blessed in my life at having several friends I consider family.

35.) And if you hurt anyone one in #34, I’ll hunt you down.

36.) My favorite place to be is sitting with a dear friend, something yummy to drink, and having a conversation that goes until three a.m.

37.) Motherhood is the greatest miracle I’ve ever been blessed with.

38.) I still don’t know what I want to be when I grown up….

 

 

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

Out of Order

out of orderI’m exhausted.

To say 2014 has been a tumultuous year would be an understatement. And it’s been a roller coaster of a ride through life. There’s been good, bad, ugly and beautiful. There have been heartbreaks, losses, experiences that blew my mind, and memories built.

The clock rolled over into 2014, and unlike the previous year where the dear friend I spent it with and I breathed a sigh of relief that the year was finally over, we looked at one another, wished the other a happy new year, and toasted to the hope things would be better.

But for me, 2014 was a year of trade-offs. For every good thing, there would be something else to counter balance any sense of relief or joy. The largest hurt of the year was and always will remain the death of my father.

We often start talking about new years resolutions in December. What we’ll do differently in order to make our lives better. For some people, it’s simply their promise to themselves to eat healthier and lose weight. Others, it’s quitting smoking. Or getting a better job. Or finding that special someone, having a baby, buying a house. Just something new or better for ourselves to achieve during the next year.

I sometimes make my goal. This last year? Didn’t make any of them.

This years resolution is to stop putting the rest of the world first and start putting me first. If I have made one mistake continuously, and without fail, in my life it’s that I often put the rest of the world ahead of me even when I am at my breaking point.

It occurred to me last night, after a day filled with people asking me for things, people tagging me on Facebook for things, and people blast emailing me asking me for things that not one of those people who had asked for my help has ever, without an exchange of goods, money or services, actually ever helped me. Not one of those people has given me the benefit of the simple question: “Hey how are you doing?” And if they asked, the answer would be, “I’m doing horrible. My heart hurts from losing my father. I’m struggling to balance homeschooling three children, running two businesses and a non-profit, promoting my creative work, working on my own education. I’m depressed to the point that I attempted taking an anti-depressant again, except it didn’t work and landed me in the hospital. I’ve had medical struggles out the ass this last year and am scheduled for two surgeries in January.”

I’m still breathing. But I’m barely surviving. I’m pulled in several different directions, and so rarely does it seem that anyone bothers to see how I’m doing. And I don’t care how five years old this makes me sound: My father died this year. My brother and I had to make the decision to put him in compassionate care which killed us both. I miss my father terribly, and the pain isn’t easing up. I need someone, ANYONE to step back, think and say, “Hey Amber, what can I do?” Because the answer is going to be simple: just spend time with me without it being a trade for something I can do for you.

So until further notice, I’m Out of Order. I like being able to help people if and when I can. But right now? I can’t get my feet back underneath me, and I need to prioritize my life. My kids and everything related comes first. My job(s) come second because I need the income. My education comes third. Those are three full time jobs. When you’re working three full time jobs yourself, and can balance adding in helping everyone else, then feel free to ask me to lend a hand.

I’ve put me on the back burner for far too long. And me is struggling. Me is drowning. Me is actually scared of how things are going and how depressed I feel right now. So I’m shoving Me to the front of the line, right behind my children, until I can start breathing again. I’ve given to the point I’ve been drained dry, and all it’s done is left me in tears and exhausted and feeling isolated and alone.

And if you have a problem with this post? You’re clearly not a person who genuinely gives a shit or is a true friend, because if you genuinely gave a shit and was a true friend, you’d be reading this going, “Finally. It’s about time she did this for herself!” and asking me how you can help, and you’re also sitting there smug in the knowledge you’ve been there for me and haven’t been a selfish asshole. And if you have a problem with this post? Do me a favor: remove me from your friends’ list on Facebook, stop following me on Twitter, delete my phone number, lose my email address, and please go fuck yourself.

 

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

In Celebration of National Best Friends Day!

Did you know that National Best Friends Day is this weekend?

I’m sorry, what did you just say? It’s actually not until June??!!? Well shit, that means my plans for the weekend are over! Cancel every thing my best friend and I have lined up, because now we have to wait until June! I can’t believe this happened to me!!! I mean, one of us saw this meme that said it was this weekend, and we made plans dammit!

Okay that last paragraph is total bullshit. I know National Best Friends Day actually doesn’t happen until June 8. And I’m still hangin’ with my bestie this weekend, and we’re still celebrating our friendship for the same reason I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day and never will.

If you need a national holiday to celebrate those you love in your life, you’re an asshole (but by all means, please still celebrate the damn good national holidays like National Guacamole Day, National Pancake Day, Free Comic Book Day, and Eat Breakfast for Dinner Day).

I’ve never been a fan of Valentine’s Day. The idea that you only go all out on that day just chaps my ass. Why wait? I’m not saying go balls to the wall day in and day out, but why not, just for the sake of doing it, pick some random day and celebrate the hell out of someone you love, including yourself? Why do we wait until something larger happens (a national holiday, an illness, a death) to start telling those we love how we feel? Why not do it just for the hell of it? Why do we only celebrate ourselves on the day we were born?

It’s coming up on five months since I lost my father. And if his life and death taught me anything, it’s that life is far too short to worry about the small things and not enjoy the time we have on this earth, not embrace and celebrate the time we have with those who make our lives beautiful and give us the chance to be who we truly are, good or bad.

So I’m celebrating my best friend this weekend, not because we thought it was a national holiday, but because I don’t say often enough how much they mean to me.

To my best friend: Thank you for being in my life. Thank you for actually unconditionally loving me. Thank you for being the voice of reason when my mind goes on a nineteen hour road trip. Thank you for trusting me with your feelings, both good and bad. Thank you for all the laughs, the bottles of wines killed, the long-ass talks. Thank you for being a shelter in the storm of hurt my life has been. Thank you for teaching me how to love myself and teaching me to see myself through kinder eyes. Thank you for finding my love of ranch dressing adorable. Thank you for not being an asshole in a world filled with them. Thank you for trusting me with your thoughts. Thank you for ending every fight with a hug and an “I love you.”

Just thank you for every single wonderful, beautiful, crazy, colorful, loud, quiet, and miraculous moment you’ve brought to my life. I love you.

 

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

The Path to Autumn

I stopped believing in God on Friday, January 21, 1994.

I was two days shy of my seventeenth birthday.

I’d woken up that day, excited because my friends were throwing a party for me that night to celebrate (being high schoolers, everyone had to work that weekend). I’d just finished up breakfast when my mother stormed into the kitchen, upper lip curled up like a snarling dog and barked at me the words that would shatter what faith I had at that young age: “Your fucking father told me he was filing for divorce last night. I hope your happy. This is your fault!”

Initially, I was more shocked her words weren’t followed with a slap or her going for a wooden spoon. You see, we had a deep dark secret in our family: the woman who adopted me was emotionally and physically abusive. In front of others, she’d keep up the face of the perfect mother, though on occasion her temper would get the best of her in front of friends and family (there’s a story in our family of my Uncle Richard once stepping in to stop her from hitting me when she went too far), and shortly there after, who ever had witnessed her behavior would mysteriously be gone from our lives.

I knew the divorce was coming. In October of 1993, the night of the homecoming game my junior year of high school, my mother had a friend stop by the house. She told me to go try on my dress to show her friend. My date for the game was due any moment, and I was already wearing my mum, a heavy number that required four large safety pins to secure to my shirt. When I told my mother no, her response was to grab me by my face and slam my head against the wall and tell me to not talk back to her in front of her friend. At the time, I had braces, and she lacerated my mouth so badly in one spot from the brackets I still have a flap of gum that never healed properly. Knee jerk reaction to the pain and the blood filling my mouth, I had slapped her. She’d pulled back her hand to hit me across the face and I ran down the hall to my parents room. My father, who had been crippled for some time stood in between us and told her to leave me alone.

I never saw my mother’s friend who’d witnessed the event again.

Four days later, when my mother was out, my father came home from work early, something that never happened. He sat me down in the living room, and told me that he could no longer watch what our mother was doing to us, and after the holidays, he would be filing for divorce. He asked me to be as strong as he knew I was, most especially for my younger brother.

I left the house that morning, sick to my stomach. Rather than go to school, I called my father’s office and told him what mom had said to me. He told me to take the day off of school, and that he and my mother had agreed they’d wait to tell us kids together. But mom being mom had to have the last word.

That last word shattered my faith in God. What type of God would allow me to be conceived by a fifteen year old girl who couldn’t raise me and be adopted into a family where the mother was insane and would spend her life as a parent warping two innocent children into believing they were unworthy of safety, of home, of unconditional love? What type of person could do that to the child she had vowed in front of a judge to love and protect?

Through the rest of my teenage years and through my twenties, I held onto the belief that God didn’t exist. Because there was so much hurt in my world: my childhood, an abusive first marriage, health problems. Even the birth of my first daughter after a diagnosis of infertility didn’t shake my belief I was alone.

I refound faith two months shy of my 32nd birthday with the birth of my daughter, Autumn.

Autumn was over two years of fighting my body to have a second child. Autumn came after three rounds of clomid that did nothing except hyperstimulate my ovaries and cause me to spend two months in bed recovering. Autumn came after a much wanted pregnancy that I lost after twenty months of trying and having my heart broken month after month, of my brother and his wife finding out they were having their second baby two weeks after I lost mine. Autumn came after an exceedingly painful surgery that added to the abdominal muscle separation I’ll be having surgically fixed right after my thirty-eighth birthday in 2015.

What would have been my due date with the baby I lost in August of 2007 was the day I found out I was pregnant with my second daughter.

I spent my pregnancy with my second born terrified. Nightly, I’d lay on my side, my hand on my stomach and whisper, “Please, please, be born. Please, stay with us. Please let me be your mother.” The idea of a second miscarriage, especially so close to one that had thrown me into a deep depression was my worst nightmare.

As my pregnancy progressed, things went perfectly. Or at least they did with my body. My emotions? Those were a wreck, and there were many emergency trips to my OBGYN’s office, my heart pounding in my throat over the smallest twinge. I was blessed to have a doctor who was more interested in keeping me calm than being annoyed at my constant worrying.

I was scheduled to be induced on November 25, 2008. On November 24, I laid down in bed at 11:30, smug in the knowledge I’d get one last good night’s sleep before I gave birth. One hour later, at 12:30 a.m., my labor began with contractions lasting thirty seconds and coming every three minutes. I spent the time walking our apartment, concentrating on my breathing, and begging the baby on the way to please have a safe delivery.

We took our oldest daughter Amethyst to my brother and sister in law’s house at six that morning. My sister in law Catie would be joining us at the hospital later that day when my brother got home from work, and he would be watching their two boys and Amethyst if I was still in labor.

My nurse at the hospital, Paige told me when I arrived that it was a lucky day to be born: it was her son’s eleventh birthday.

Everything was going as it should until four p.m. when we began losing Autumn’s heart beat. “Take her out of me, now. Do a cesarean. Just please, please, please, make sure my baby girl is okay.” My blood pressure started climbing due to my anxiety, and at that point, I did not care what delivering the baby might do to me, even if I died, if I heard her cry and saw her before I went, I’d of died happy knowing I had brought her into the world. I’d already signed consent forms and was about to be rolled into the operating room when a change in my position brought Autumn’s heart rate back to normal and caused my labor to progress much more quickly.

At 8:06 p.m., Autumn Morgaine Norrgard came into the world, took a huge breath and screamed her head off. The doctor placed her on my stomach, and Jasmine, the nurse who had taken over when Paige’s shift had ended brought a blanket to wrap my baby girl in before placing her in my arms, still screaming about the gravity in the room and the change in her environment. Her head turned towards mine, and I saw her eyes, and immediately found my faith.

After every hurt in my life, after all the losses and the abuse and the hellish road to motherhood for a second time, I looked into a face that was perfect and understood truly for the first time that all things happen for a reason. I’d of given my life for the one in my arms without thinking of it, something my mother never would have done. And I would never, ever forget how easily that which we love and fight for can be taken away from us.

My life as a survivor of childhood abuse has brought me the knowledge of what not to do as a parent. It has taught me patience, it has taught me to love unconditionally, to see the gift, the miracle that not only Autumn, but Benjamin and Amethyst truly are. As parents we are blessed with the great honor of shaping individuals into who they will become as adults. And I protect that honor and am grateful for it every day. Even when my kids make messes. Even when they whine. Even when they tantrum and fight with one another.

I used to ask my father if he loved my brother or me more than the other. And his response was that he loved us the same, just differently. I never understood that until Autumn was born. Of course you love your children differently: they are different from one another, so the love is different. The amount of love though, that’s not. It’s infinite. There’s no end to it. It’s mind blowing how much it fills you and sweeps you away and changes you so much you’re no longer who you once were, and it’s change you are so damn grateful for it moves you to tears.

Out of my three children, Autumn is the one who is most like me, both in looks and temperment. “My God, she even has your legs!” a friend of mine had said when he met her. And it’s true: She has my legs. She had my eyes, and my smile, and my freckles. She has my balls to the wall, do or die, go after what you want and fight for it tooth and nail and do everything with a passion that can’t be matched. She loves deeply and kindly. She’s generous. She’s compassionate. She looks at the world and finds beauty in small things: the way strawberries grow from teeny tiny seeds into something wonderful to eat, how the colors of the trees change in the fall, how the progress of an inch worm is slow but still deserves cheering on.

Autumn brought me back to faith. Maybe not the faith my father raised me to believe in, but faith on my terms. That there is a higher power up there, watching over us and wanting us to find our own path. That there are gifts waiting for us. That it’s not in our hands, but in the hands of something greater than ourselves.

I look at my second daughter and I realize that she is who I would have been had I had a mother who had actually loved me. And I know I was meant to be her mother because I would kill to protect her natural growth into who’s she’s meant to be. She’ll never doubt her mother loves her. She’ll have support no matter what she has a passion for (which is currently baby dolls and the color pink). She’ll have acceptance at what’s different between us. And she’ll have birthdays where I celebrate the fuck out of the simple fact that she’s here, she’s Autumn, and she’s breathing.

Happy Birthday Mini~Me. Thank you for bringing me back to faith.

 

Mommy

(otherwise known as Amber Jerome~Norrgard)

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