Life as Amber knows it

"An adventure in the making…"

Monthly Archives: August 2013

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, road 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

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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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