Life as Amber knows it

"An adventure in the making…"

Much~Wanted

The night before Autumn blessed us with her life...

The night before Autumn blessed us with her life…

Five years ago today, I was hugely pregnant, unable to get out of my chair or roll out of bed without assistance. I no longer was able to walk, instead, I waddled like a duck to balance the fifty-pound annex on the front of my body in an effort to keep from tipping over.  Sleep was nearly impossible, because if I didn’t need to pee, I couldn’t breathe from the baby squishing my lungs, and if I could breathe and wasn’t peeing, Autumn took that opportunity to kick my internal organs in alphabetical order.

And I loved every minute of it.

Autumn was a hard-won, three-year long battle with my body. Three failed rounds of the fertility drug Clomid, one miscarriage and one surgery finally resulted in a pregnancy that had long been dreamed of. And it was a pregnancy tinged with the fear of loss due to the miscarriage of a baby that will forever in my heart be the son or daughter I did not get to meet.

autumn 007

Finally!!!

I didn’t care if the second baby I had was a boy. I didn’t care if it was twins or triplets. I didn’t care if the baby came out purple with pink polka dots and had to live under water. I wanted a second child to love, to experience more of the sheer blissed out joy I was blessed with in my first born child Amethyst.

Scheduled for a induction, I laid down the night before at 11:30 p.m., grateful I’d get sleep before my second child arrived. True irony was discovered an hour later when my labor began at 12:30 a.m. on November 25, 2008. My contractions hit every three-and-a-half minutes, and this time, rather than focusing on the fact I was in labor, I focused on my oldest daughter and what was best for her: my water hadn’t broken, the contractions were steady and not increasing in intensity, so there was no reason to wake her up and take her to my brother’s until things began to speed up.

First Birthday

First Birthday

I walked for several hours (years later I’d retell the story to a friend who laughed when I referred to that part of my labor as “walking it off”) around our apartment, made certain everything was ready to go, blogged, looked at jeans online I’d be able to wear after I got my pre-baby body back. I took a long, hot shower, and unlike my labor with Amethyst, took the time to put on make up and braid my hair back.

But like her big sister, once things started going, there were terrifying moments during my labor, the worst of which was when Autumn’s heart rate started dropping and my labor stalled out. But shortly after my sister-in-law arrived (god bless my younger brother for taking on two boys and my daughter so his wife could be there to support me), a change in position cranked everything back up, Autumn’s heart rate returned to normal, and it was time.

Unlike Amethyst’s birth, there was no released meconium to contend with, no rushing around in silence of the NICU staff trying

Love at first sight. Among the many people Autumn loves in this world, her younger brother is at the top of the list.

Love at first sight. Among the many people Autumn loves in this world, her younger brother is at the top of the list.

to protect my child from infection. With Autumn, I pushed four times, and she came into the world, perfect, pink, screaming and glorious. There was no rush to cut the cord, no taking her from me immediately to be worked on. Instead, she was placed on my belly immediately, and I held her close to me, tears coursing down my cheeks at the miracle that she, this child I so desperately wanted, was finally with us. There she was, this beautiful soul, so very much like her sister in size and features that my heart was seized with nostalgia and gratitude.  “Thank you,” I kept saying over and over to God, to the doctor who had battled just as hard as I for this life, to the nurses, to life itself for such a gift.

Autumn Morgaine came into the world loud, and she lives each day the same way: Loud, outrageous, glorious, gorgeous, amazing, and miraculous. She captivates everyone who meets her, even those who claim they can’t stand children. Taking her with you to run errands is like being the part of a movie star’s entourage: everyone wants to meet her and chat her up. Out of my three children, she is the one who is most like me: in ten years, if she were to dye her hair red, she’d be

Mini~Me

Mini~Me

just as I was at fifteen. She is kind, and generous, and loves passionately everything from family members to friends to arts and crafts and food. She tells you exactly what she’s thinking when she’s thinking it, and she makes certain you know what she wants.

She’s loud, brash, full of life, and one of the most amazing souls I’ve been blessed with in mine. I was given a miracle when I was given her. Her smile captivates, her eyes sparkle with mischief, and she encompasses everything I find wonderful about the world: generosity, kindness, unconditional love, passion in all things, joy, and a sense of humor that never fails.

Being Autumn’s mother has taught me more than I ever could have imagined. That it’s important to fight for what you want, that there is nothing more enjoyable than laughing for the sake of laughing, that the hardest won gifts are the ones we cherish the most. And that love can heal most hurts.

I believe we’re blessed with people in our lives at the times we need them the most. Autumn has been my blessing for not just the five years she’s been living in this world, but since the moment the second line on the pregnancy test showed up. Because I learned from my experience of trying to conceive a second child that it is important to cherish all the moments, good, bad, morning sickness induced, loud, exhausting, painful, beautiful and long-awaited.

Autumn, thank you so much for being one of the most precious parts of my life, of teaching me daily how to love more fully and

Best reason to get up every morning... Her amazing smile.

Best reason to get up every morning… Her amazing smile.

patiently. For gracing me so often with your smiles and hugs and your sense of humor. For being so happy when  you hear someone tell you that you look just like your Mommy. Thank you for the messes and the art work and the unplanned for pancake dinners you always ask for. Thank you for being a miracle I’ve been blessed with. I love you more than I can ever tell you, and I can’t wait to see the woman you become.

 

Much Love,

Momma.

 

Flashback: Why I’m celebrating the anniversary of my hysterectomy

Three years later, I still celebrate the day I lost my uterus. For me, it was a decision I made on my own terms, and one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made, and one I have never once regretted. Originally posted on Indie Author Barry Crowther’s website, this essay was also the first guest post and my first foray into the Indie Author Arena. It is also an essay I’m still proud of today, and one that also appeared in my book, 4 a.m., a collection. It is also the essay that has received the most feedback from readers. I hope you’ll indulge me as I repost this again this year:

 

 

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?

 

Eighteen

Me at eighteen. Yes, I actually WAS wearing pink!

Me at eighteen. Yes, I actually WAS wearing pink!

At eighteen, I graduated high school. I registered to vote. I was rejected by the Army, due to a medical condition. I spent the year healing from my parent’s divorce. I had my first adult relationship that ended and broke my heart terribly. I chose to not go to college.

Sure, graduating high school and being able to vote were positives. Other than that? To quote my producer, “Meh!”

But now, eighteen years later, I’ve come to the realization that I’ve done something few people can claim they’ve done. Back when I was a kid (thirty years ago!!!) I’d be asked, “Amber, what do you want to be when you grow up?” And I had three stock answers: A mother, an author, and a teacher.” 

I achieved number one on that list at age twenty-seven, number two in January of 2012, and number three was accomplished when I was given a job as an adjunct professor with Collin County College (okay, no one signed up for my classes, which is fine. I still qualify it as an achievement since I teach authors one-on-one about social media and formatting).

So I had three things I wanted to accomplish with my life. And the wonderful part of those three accomplishments? All three of them give something without a price tag back to me daily. I have the good fortune of being the mother to three amazing souls who are kind, considerate, hilarious, generous, and loving. Writing is my own favorite brand of therapy, and when a reader tells me that I’ve touched them with my words, that brings me more joy than I can tell you. And teaching brings me a sense of calm: there’s nothing quite like explaining a new concept to someone and seeing that light flip on when they understand what you’re trying to convey.

So year eighteen of my life wasn’t too excellent. The past eighteen years? Well, they’ve had their own ups and downs, none of which I’d change. But on Sunday  night, a new eighteen entered my life, and this is an eighteen I’m thrilled about: I finished writing my eighteenth book!!!

InterpretationsCover.jpgInterpretations is a collection of poetry and short stories based on inspiration. The ten poems I’ve selected for the book are ten poems that have received the largest and loudest response from my readers, and have been the ones most often I am asked about. And while some pieces of my work I’ll happily explain, still there are others that are too personal for me to speak about. Taking the actual story or person that inspired the poem, taking what readers have suggested might be the inspiration, and taking the idea of what the poem could have been inspired by, I’ve paired them together. And I hope you like them. This has been some of the most emotional and honest work I’ve put out to date.

And we’re not talking about just a run-of-the-mill simple collection here. Rather than stick with title pages, I one-upped myself and created bookmarks for each new poem and short story pairing. It’s something brand new, something I haven’t seen before, and something I busted my ass on, trying to design and then format the book.

Interpretations will be available through Amazon.com and Smashwords.com on Thursday, October 31, 2013. I hope you’ll enjoy it, and I hope it touches you. You won’t find answers to what inspired each poem, because I like to be contrary and leave a bit to your imagination. But I hope you find escape in the time it takes you to read it.

Much Love,

 

~Amber Jerome~Norrgard

A bit of a confession, and what I learned from IndieVengence Day

If you’ve read me (blog or book), or listened to my podcast, for any length of time, you know I’m fairly open about my life. But there are times I’m not completely open, or I remain quiet. There are things we can talk about, but we tend to shy away from them, or we tend to gloss over them. I’ve been fairly open about my experiences with depression and anxiety. But the anxiety issue is one I tend to gloss over.

If you’ve read my short story Maelstrom, first: thank you for reading it. Second: that’s what its like for me. I have suffered from severe social anxiety for years, stemming from my own DNA and a couple of very painful experiences when I was younger. There are times when I literally cannot leave the house. There have been times I have missed important events in those I love lives, despite desperately wanting to be there. There have been times I have arrived at a place, made it to the front door, and been unable to walk through the door.

And while I’ve told my friends that were arriving for IndieVengence Day I suffer from this particular disorder. But I did not explain the intensity of it for me. A new place, meeting people I’ve never met before can throw me into a panic attack so severe I can’t breathe, my mind is a constant blast of white noise, and it feels like I’m having a heart attack with my chest tightening up and pain shooting down my arms.

891570_10151963512261241_1316588768_oIt’s my knee jerk reaction to hide this from people, mainly because sadly, in the past, people have made fun of me or told me to just get over it. You can’t just get over social anxiety. I’ve been in therapy for over four years working on learning to cope with it.

In the weeks leading up to IndieVengence Day, I reminded myself that I’d be among friends, that 90% of the people coming to Dallas for the event are people who love me and know me, and vice versa. That the people I would be spending time with want nothing but for me to be okay.

But a last minute change in plans (something that can spend me into a tail spin) coupled with not enough sleep, and a sore knee and ankle, and having to walk into a building thinking we’d be meeting a book club (group of people I’ve never met before that I have to speak to? where’s the xanax????) mixed up together in my anxiety coated mind?

I’m not going to go into details. Because it wasn’t pretty. And it hurts me to remember I lost my shit and had to walk out of the bar and have a good long cry.

I am going to go into how everyone at the event taught me that I am worth it. How unlike people in my past who have said, “Just get over it… I don’t have time for your shit” (or as a dear friend puts it, “You’ve known a lot of assholes, Amber”), no one cared that I had freaked out, no one cared that I 1384267_666330550045926_352253857_nhave a severe anxiety disorder. All they cared about was if I was going to be okay. When I argued I should go, not wanting to ruin anyone’s good time, they counter argued that I needed to be there, that they wanted me to stay, and what could they do to ease what I was dealing with? People hung back with me, waited for me to take a few deep breaths before going into a new place, held my hand, put their arms around me, told me how much I meant to them.

While I might never heal completely from all I have gone through in my life, this last weekend my friends, all people from different countries and walks of life and real life jobs, healed me in a way I very much needed with their patience, their kindness and their love. Their taking five minutes to stand with me, to talk to me, to tell me about their lives away from social media and the Indie Author Arena broke through all the hurt, loss, and heartache of my life to ease my hurts and show me, not tell me, how much I mean to them. It might have been a slap on the ass (thank Melissa, I’m still sore!), holding hands with two of my favorite people on the planet as we walked around downtown Dallas, someone making a production of how good the chocolate was, someone reaching for my hand or putting their arms around me and saying, “Hey, you’re truly wonderful, you know that?”

It was supposed to just be a book signing. Instead, it became the doorway into my home, a place I’ve never felt before.

IMAG0151Two days past everyone heading out (although I get Michelle back for a quick lunch on Sunday before she flies back home), I’m aching for my family. I’m missing seeing everyone’s individual personalities come out when they talk and eat, hearing their voices, hearing their laughter.

I’ve learned so much this past week. That between Michelle Franco and Scott Morgan, it is possible to think you might die from laughing. That there’s no bad ass quite as bad ass as James Peercy in how he’s got no problem going out after a signing still dressed in costume. That NO ONE and I mean NO ONE sings “Blurred Lines” quite like Tracy James Jones. That when bar hopping, always ask Dionne Lister what she’s drinking, because its going to be so damn good you’re going to want another one. That Melissa Craig plays “chicken” just as well as I do, that Ciara Ballintyne tells hilarious stories, that Justin Bog truly is the great love of my life, that Ben Ditmars is hilarious after jello shots. That Julie Frayn can make me sob hysterically when she says goodbye, and that Charity Parkerson looks like an angel when she laughs. And so much more about these wonderful friends of mine.

But more than that, I’ve learned that I have finally found home. And it seems unfair it was only for five minutes. But I’m reminding myself that hardly anyone ever gets the honor, the joy, the blessing of being in a room of over fifteen people and knowing that each of them would do anything they could for you, that they love you just because you are you in all your twisted, damaged, scarred, anxious self. That they can see past those scars, flaws, and damages and see who you are on the inside and still open their arms and say, “I love you, just as you are.”IMAG0119

Thank you to my friends… No, thank you to my family for all you bring to my life. For being a part of my life and letting me be a part of yours.

God Bless Fucking Twitter.

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

 

 

Why Brandon Flower’s “Crossfire” is a true love letter…

I occasionally get swept away and moved completely by pieces of writing. And song lyrics are no exception to this, due to the fact they are another version of poetry, just set to music.  About a week ago, working  on something or the other at my favorite Cafe, I overheard a song playing on their music system, and it instantly grabbed my attention to the point I pulled out my phone and used my Shazam app to find out which song it was. When I got home that night, I watched the video on YouTube, and coupled with the lyrics, was pulled into the metaphors both within the lyrics, but in the actual video its self.

And I’m not the only one who’s been captured by this song. The past couple of days have included a long series of emails from a friend of mine, who like me, loves powerful musical lyrics. After email fifty (or so), his suggestion was that I write why it moves me so much. So write I shall.

Crossfire

There’s a still in the street outside your window
You’re keepin’ secrets on your pillow
Let me inside, no cause for alarm
I promise tonight not to do no harm
I promise you baby, I won’t be no harm

And we’re caught up in the crossfire
A heaven and hell
And were searching for shelter
Lay your body down
Lay your body down
Lay your body down

Watching your dress as you turn down the light
I forget all about the storm outside
Dark clouds roll their way over town
Heartache and pain came pouring down like
Chaos in the rain, yeah
They’re handing it out

And we’re caught up in the crossfire
Heaven and hell
And were searching for shelter
Lay your body down
Lay your body down
Lay your body down
Lay your body down
Lay your body down
Lay your body down

Tell the devil that he can go back from where he came
His fiery arrows drew their beat in vein.
And when the hardest part is over we’ll be here
And our dreams will break the boundaries of our fears
Boundaries of our fears

Lay your body down
Lay your body down
Lay your body down
Lay your body down
Lay your body down
Lay your body down

Next to mine

Anyone who’s ever been in a long-term relationship knows that they come with ups and downs. And any relationship, whether platonic or romantic, has its share of arguments (my recent favorite argument with a friend involved me asking him if he needed help removing his head from his ass when he ended up breaking plans last minute to pick up his FWB from the airport and made the mistake of jokingly saying to me, “Well, if you had a chance to get laid, i’d understand if you ditched me).

But when coupled with its music video, the lyrics to Crossfire tell the story of a man and woman in love in the middle of a rough patch. “There’s a still in the street outside your window/You’re keepin’ secrets on your pillow” says to me: Look, its quiet outside all of this, outside of you and I, and you’re keeping silent what you’re feeling to keep that quiet. “Let me inside, no cause for alarm/I promise tonight not to do no harm/I promise you baby, I won’t be no harm” says to me: Open up to me, tell me what is really on your mind, I’ll keep my peace and let you speak what you have to say.

“Watching your dress as you turn down the light/I forget all about the storm outside” says to me: Despite all this that we’re going through, the sight of you still takes my breath away, and I can forget whatever it is that’s been in between us. “Dark clouds roll their way over town/Heartache and pain came pouring down like/Chaos in the rain, yeah/They’re handing it out” says: Look, its about to get rough. It’s going to hurt and be confusion, I don’t care, this is what it is when you love someone.

“And we’re caught up in the crossfire/A heaven and hell/And we’re searching for shelter” Anyone who’s been in love knows that when you hit those rough patches, its a double shot of joy with pain. And despite the pain, you’re willing to ride it out until you get back to the heaven aspect of it, and look for anything to help you through.

“Tell the devil that he can go back from where he came/His fiery arrows drew their beat in vein/And when the hardest part is over we’ll be here/And our dreams will break the boundaries of our fears/Boundaries of our fears” is fairly easy to decipher: The devil is a metaphor for the day to day crap that piles up and causes those monster fights between two people. The author of the song is saying that despite the hardship, the dream of being with one another is worth all the fear and bullshit. Because the fear and bullshit? They don’t matter in the long run.

The music video features Charlize Theron kicking the ass of several ninjas to get to Flower, who is tied up, beaten up, and bloody. The moment that caught my attention and caused me to hear the song in a new way was at the end: Theron and Flower are driving away in a truck after she’s fought through bad-ass ninjas three times to get to Flower. Personally, if I’d gone sword fighting and face punching my way to get to the man I love, I’d be beaming a smile so big, my face would crack. But driving the truck, Theron looks over at Flower, bloody face and all with a wistful smile on her face and a look of relieved annoyance, just the same as anyone has after a hard fight has been fought with the person they love. They’re glad to be by the person’s side, they’re just still pissed off enough to not relax completely. Flower looks tired and sheepish, and like he’s had a hard time of it. Which is what people go through when they fight with the people they love.

And this is just my interpretation, what I saw when I watched the video and what I saw in the lyrics.

But what really grabbed me were the words, “Lay your body down next to mine” repeated multiple times throughout the song. Because at the end of the day, after the fight has ended, Flower is simply saying to the woman he loves, “Despite all this, lay down next to me. Despite the fight, I still want you next to me.”

 

~Amber Jerome Norrgard

The Count Down is ON!

About two years ago, I sent an email to Barry Crowther that can be summed up like this, “Hey, I was wondering if you’d look over a couple of poems I’ve written and tell me what you think?”

Barry’s response was to read the poems, and email me back, asking me how many more I had. What followed was two months of Barry very kindly guiding me through everything on the road to publication, and setting me on a path in my life I had no idea I was going to take.

Among the many things that have happened to me since the day I published The Color of Dawn in January of 2012, the biggest blessing has been the friendships I have made. Barry Crowther is clearly one of the most significant, but there are three others that have stood out, and will always stand out. Justin Bog has been one of my biggest cheerleaders, always there with a kind word, an offer of help, always reminding me that he loves me and is there for me, however I might need him. Scott Morgan is another, and not only is he one of my awesome editors, he’s also taught me more about writing than I’ve gotten from any classes I’ve taken, and does me the grand favor of non-bullshit responses to my work, as well as being one of my biggest supporters in my personal life. And Dionne Lister? Well, what can you say about a woman who I’ve recorded over 80 podcast episodes with, come up with some ridiculous projects together, gives me the most comical track notes on my work and been my unpaid therapist for the past two years? Nothing except she’s amazing, and I am blessed to have her in my life.

I can recount what brought me to the Indie Author Arena, but I’ve done it several times and everyone’s sick of hearing about it. What I do know is that a gift of a Kindle E-book led me to a life I had only dreamed of, one that I am very grateful for. It’s led me to the most amazing relationships of my life, and career possibilities I’d never even considered.

Back in February of 2012, there was talk between Dionne Lister, Justin Bog and myself of meeting up in Hawaii in the Spring of 2013. But life has a way of getting in the way of excellent things, and the trip was postponed and then cancelled. And then, as a way of making up for it, Dionne told us she would be in Hawaii in October of 2013, and would be heading stateside, right to Dallas, Texas to see me. And Justin said he’d join us, and then Charity said she’d make the trip. Then Ben Ditmars figured he might as well join the party, and since Tracy James Jones lives in Dallas and Scott Morgan had moved to my neck of the woods? Things started getting larger, plans were made, hotels were booked, and other people asked if they could join in.

Which led us to IndieVengence Day. Saturday October 12, 2013, from 1 until 5 p.m., we’ll have fifteen authors at the Half-Price Books on NorthWest Highway in Dallas, Texas signing their books.

So to celebrate IndieVengence Day and my excitement at finally meeting so many wonderful people who are more like family than friends, I am marking all my books at $0.99 from October 7 until October 17.

And if you’re awesome enough to attend the signing and meet in person all these amazing people? Well, I’ll be thrilled to meet you as well, Dear Reader. And if you buy one of my books, I’ll give you a coupon code for a free e~book download of the same book at Smashwords.com.

I hope to see you all there!

Buy my books at $0.99 here, starting October 7, and you can pre~register to attend the IndieVengence Day Signing here.

Lots o’ love and huggles,

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

Interpretations

InterpretationsCover.jpgOne thing I love about being an Indie Author is the fact that I can do whatever the hell I want. I want to write and publish a poetry collection followed by an erotica collection? I do it. I want to write a short story and put it out there for free? My choice, and I go for it. So I’m very thrilled to tell you I’m going to be releasing a new collection of short stories called Interpretations in the next few weeks.

If you’ve been a reader of mine for awhile, you know poetry is the genre I’m most prolific in. And if you’re new to reading me, then run on by my Amazon Author’s Page and you’ll see that more than half of what I have published is in the poetry genre.

I’ve often gotten comments and questions about my work. And where as there are some pieces that are obvious in the source of their inspiration (“To My Child” and “She” are prime examples), there are others that tend to have an air of mystery about them. And when asked, I sometimes answer directly. Other times? The source of the inspiration is private, and out of respect for the person that inspired the poem, or out of the need to not go into details about something that’s mine and mine alone, I’ll give generalized answers.

And still other poems? Those are interpreted by readers and friends in the way they perceive them. “With You” was seen as a poem based on a passionate love affair, and several people have told me that it accurately sums up how they feel about their life partner. But “With You” was written about a gay male friend, and while there was love between us, it wasn’t born out of passion, but instead out of genuine affection.

Several months ago, an idea began rattling around in my head after I was asked about the inspiration for the poem “Fuck You.” And while I’ve never answered directly, and never will answer directly about that poem, still, the question kicked off an idea in my mind.  Why not write a collection of short stories inspired by the poetry and prose that has had the most impact on either myself or my readers?

Some short stories in Interpretations will be based on the actual inspiration of the poem. Others will be based on what readers have told me their interpretation of the poem is. And still others will be based on what that inspiration could have been.

And feel free to ask me which is which. But I can tell you already that I’m going to quote Charity Parkerson when giving my answer: “I’ll never tell!”

 

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

Learning to walk…

Rejection happens. It’s a fact of life. I’ve been through it several times before: My senior year boyfriend dumping me the week before prom, going all out for a date only to find out it wasn’t a date because the person I was having dinner with was in fact gay, not being awarded a writer’s grant that I busted my ass on.

But there is nothing quite like the rejection of your eight year old daughter dropping your hand in public.

I’ll admit: I’m a huge fan of independence, most especially in my children. As a person who was raised by a mother who couldn’t handle the idea of her children growing up and their natural progression towards personal independence, I always promised myself when I was the mother, I’d keep the understandable feeling of sadness at my children shifting away from me to myself and instead put on a game face (at least to my kids) of being proud and happy for them.

And you think you know how it will be when the inevitable shift from being the coolest person in your child’s world to just “mom”. You think you’re prepared for it. I’ve been saying for the past two years that I’m stocking up all the “I love you’s” and “Mommy, you’re awesome’s” I can to look back on when Amethyst hits the dreaded teenage years. I knew this day was coming.

I just didn’t think it would come this quickly.

Back when Amethyst was a newborn, in a sleep deprived state I had emailed a friend asking her how long the newborn phase was going to last. When she said, “Three months,” I sobbed at the idea of all those weeks I’d have to get through. But time gave me perspective, as well as showing me what my father constantly told me: “It goes by too fast. Don’t wish your time away.” And for the most part, I haven’t. When my children were babies and would wake up crying in the middle of the night, I’d remind myself that before I knew it, they’d no longer want nothing but the comfort of my arms wrapped around them. I’d rock them during those two a.m. wake up calls, concentrating on their slight weight against my chest, the feel of their soft skin, and how their breath felt blushing across my arm.

I knew this day was coming. I knew. But nothing prepared me for the feeling of “Damn, so soon??!” I felt this morning when taking Amethyst to her first day of third grade. Helping her out of the car, she had taken my hand and held it as we walked to the cross walk. After crossing, she dropped my hand, and when I looked down, surprised, she looked up at me and said, “I’m not little any more Mom.”

My mind went into hyperdrive:  “Mom??! MOM?!?!! When the hell did I stop being Momma or Mommy?! When did you get big enough, responsible enough to be able to walk without holding my hand? How in the hell did I get to be thirty-six with a daughter entering third grade and my heart ripped out and thrown on the ground because you’re no longer “little”?!?!?! You were just my baby, and now you take your own showers, brush your own teeth, make your own lunch and now you’re too big to hold my hand? Please, please, PLEASE, I’m not ready… Just give me a few more weeks! Just a few more days, just ONE day where I still get to hold your hand because I love you and you’re my daughter and I want you to grow up, I just don’t want to feel like I’m losing something here!!!”

That’s what my mind was thinking. That’s what I wanted to say. Instead, I smiled at my first-born, patted her back (but not for too long lest the other third graders see it), and walked beside her to her new classroom. When we got to her desk, I asked her if I could take a photo of her on her first day, and she said, “Alright.”

Had Amethyst of told me “no” about taking her picture, I would have respected her wishes and asked to take one when she got home from school this afternoon. Because the first day of third grade is about her, not me. As a parent, you have to weigh what’s necessary and needed against wants. Seat belts, bike helmets? Those are non-debatable. My daughter walking into school on the first day of the new year without holding my hand? That’s her want.

My own mother often made me feel guilty about wanting what was natural: my own space, my own ideas. She put her need to control and to own in front of my need to find who I was in everything from holding her hand out in public, seeing friends, picking my own clothing, choosing my hair style. I vowed long ago to never put my children in that situation, and as hard as it was to let go, to not throw a tantrum over my daughter growing up and branching out on her own, I’m proud of the fact that what my daughter saw today was a mother who recognized and respected her need to be her own person, to make decisions about what’s right for her. Amethyst will be living her life long after I’m gone, she needs to live her life for her, and no one else, because she is the one who will be in that life.

Me? I’m just the woman who was blessed enough to be given her as a gift, to carry her within me for nine months, carry her in my arms until she was able to walk, and learn to let go of her hand to make her own way. She fell a great deal while learning to walk, and as hard as it was to not hold her up, I knew I had to let go of her hands so she could find her own feet.

There will be more of this to come: When she begins driving, when she moves out for the first time, when she finds her life partner and builds a life that is hers and hers alone. I’m only here to love her, not control her or make those decisions for her, because she needs to learn what is right for her.

I’m proud of myself for letting go, even though I didn’t want to. I’m proud of my daughter for knowing what was right for her and not being afraid to ask for it. And I’m proud that I’ve given her the gift of knowing its okay do go after what you want.

One day, she’ll tell me about how her own daughter dropped her hand. And I’ll laugh, and tell her about the day she dropped mine.

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

I need your help

I’m going to cut to the chase with this one: If I had one wish, it would be for the eradication of Cancer.

Cancer is a nasty fucker. Cancer has taken from me more people than I can count on my hands. It is a disease that takes: lives, time, joy.

How I feel about cancer...

How I feel about cancer…

I myself had my own little battle with it back in late 2001: Following his instincts, my OBGYN ordered a pap-smear, a test I wasn’t due to take again for another eight months. The result? A very aggressive form of cervical cancer that if I’d waited the next eight months (like I’d been scheduled to) to have to test ran, it would have been too late for me. I not only would have lost my cervix, but most likely my life as well.

I’ve watched loved ones battle the illness. I’ve seen the devastation of friends losing their six-year-old son to the illness, when his biggest worry should have been what book his Kindergarten teacher was going to read the next day. Some have won their fight, more often than not, I’ve been the recipient of a phone call from a family member or friend telling me that we had lost yet another part of our hearts and souls to the illness.

So you can imagine I didn’t react too well when I found out my dear friend Melissa Graham was diagnosed with breast cancer (in fact, I threw my mouse across the room in anger, which was only made worse by the fact the damn thing was attached to my computer by a cord and snapped back and smacked me on my own breast).

I was blessed to meet Melissa through Babycenter.com’s message boards when I was pregnant with my oldest child in 2004. Melissa was a source of information on all things newborn and baby related, and we quickly developed a friendship via the internet. Every woman has a go-to friend when they’re pregnant and going through the newborn period, Melissa became mine. She was always available for a chat, always responded to my questions as quickly as she could, and always gave me a laugh one way or another.

Melissa and her daughter, Meleah

Melissa and her daughter, Meleah

So I’m pissed off. And I wish I could do something. But Melissa lives several states away, and as much as I’d love to hop on over and help her out by being there for her by helping with dinner or housework or taking her daughter to and from school, distance makes that impossible for me to do.

I can’t take this illness from Melissa, as much as I want to. I can’t be there to hold her hand, or to support her and her family as they go through this. I won’t be able to sit in the waiting room when she has a mastectomy or while she’s undergoing radiation and chemotherapy. But I can use my voice as an author and a podcast personality. And I can ask for help. Which I need. I need your stories of your own experiences with cancer.  It can be your own battle with the illness, or what you went through when someone you loved battled the illness. You don’t have to be an author, you don’t even have to be a blogger. What you have to be is honest. I can put together a collection of essays and poetry about this fucking disease, and set it up where the proceeds go directly to Melissa and her family, which will hopefully at least lessen the financial blow from all the medical treatments she will be undergoing in the near future.

Melissa ready to kick cancer's ass!!!!

Melissa ready to kick cancer’s ass!!!!

I’ll be taking submissions until September 30, 2013. Please email me yours at AmberMNorrgard@gmail.com, with the subject line “Cancer Can Suck It”

Thank you.

~Amber Jerome~Norrgard

Happy Birthday

She wasn’t a doctor, at least not one with an M.D. behind her name. She wasn’t a leader, except to her fifteen children and their spouses and children. She wasn’t a rock star, except to those of us who were blessed to have her in our lives.

She was my grandmother.

My grandmother and I on my first birthday, January 23, 1978. If she were still alive today, she would be celebrating her 114th birthday.

My grandmother and I on my first birthday, January 23, 1978. If she were still alive today, she would be celebrating her 114th birthday.

I was her forty-first grandchild. That’s right. The number four, followed by the number one. And despite a grandson being born four years later (my younger brother Jason), bringing the count to forty-two, not to mention more great- and great-great- (and great-great-great) grandchildren than a person could count (and that are still being brought into this world), I felt like her one and only grandchild.

Grandma had a way of making you feel as if you mattered, simply because you drew breath. I can remember watching throughout my life the look on her face when she saw the newest member of our family for the first time: Her eyes would light up, her arms would stretch out, and she’d gather close to her heart the newest part of her soul. It didn’t matter how many times before she had embraced a new grandchild, what mattered to her was that she had been given a new life to love, to influence, to teach faith to.

Grandma could make chicken and dumplings like on one else. She taught me the ins and outs of King’s Row, and never once stopped cleaning the dove and quail my Dad, uncles and cousins would bring home on hunting weekends in the fall. My favorite childhood memories include sitting around her kitchen (with the requisite four feet of cigarette smoke hanging from the ceiling), and seeing her lit up with joy at having her family surrounding her, running up her back porch steps to throw open the screen door to hug her after driving from Oklahoma City and later Dallas to visit her in Chanute, Kansas, to the fact that she never once said no to my cousin Amy and myself squeezing into her full-size bed with her, long after Amy and I had grown taller than Grandma.

She never once forgot a birthday for any of her children, their spouses, or her many grandchildren. She always commemorated Christmas and birthdays and special events with a card.

While there was no blood shared between my grandmother and I (I was adopted at birth), still, Grandma gave me a rosary, the ability to hold on to faith  no matter how hard things become and the ability to love unconditionally. three things I carry with me at all times. She also gave me the gift of love and with that gift, the knowledge that I was a blessing and the ability to love my children in a way that will impact not only their lives positively, but the lives of those them come into contact with.

Every year, I write a blog post about my Grandmother. She has been one of the greatest influences in my life, so much so that as an author, the first piece of work I wrote that was ever published was about how inspirational she was. I was seventeen, and my essay, “My Inspiration” was published in the Plano Star Courier. Her impact on my life fueled my words, and today, writing from my heart with total honesty and wide open is what I’m known for.

I write about her every year on her birthday, and every year on the anniversary of the day she was called to Heaven to join those members of our family that had passed on before her, several of which were sons and daughters she lost to war, to cancer, to heart disease. I write about the most impacting person on my life, the person who kept me from straying from being a good person by her love and her example of faith and never giving up, no matter the odds. I might not always publish what I’ve written about her, but I always write in an effort to find the words to express how incredible of a person she was and how very blessed I was to have been the recipient of her love and faith.

But words are poor ways of expressing what cannot be expressed. So I’ll do it as simply as I possibly can, because I will never find the right words. Grandma, thank you for all  you have taught me. Thank you for your example of love, of faith, of hope. Thank you for showing me true strength and for never once faltering in your beliefs about God, and life, and family and love. I love you, and I miss you every day.

~Amber Jerome~Norrgard

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