Life as Amber knows it

"An adventure in the making…"

Monthly Archives: December 2013

Year-End Review and a ginormous thank you!

It has been one incredible year.

I began a non-profit organization, started my own publication company, published twelve books (and another two I collaborated on), scored the awesome job of adjunct professor with Collin County College, traveled, and put together IndieVengence Day, bringing seventeen Indie Authors (and several of their friends) together in Dallas, Texas for a huge-ass book signing.

There have been medical problems, bullies to contend with, and very hard decisions to be made. But there has also been a ton of laughter, love, and absolute pure joy.

And I am grateful for every moment of the past year.

And I’ve been so busy that I’m flying by the seat of my pants to get this post written and published, because it’s New Year’s Eve. The last day of 2013, a year that was impacting on my life in many ways. But it wouldn’t be right for me to not make mention of those who have made this year so wonderful, and who made the rough bits bearable with their support and love.

My readers: thank you for your continued support. I wish there was a way I could take each and every one of you out for a drink to tell you thank you in person.

Emily Bruce from Half-Price Books (and the crew at the HPB Flagship Store) as well as Alicia Auping and Jamie Laughlin from the Dallas Observer for all their help with promotions for the IndieVengence Day event.

My amazing kids for giving mommy five more minutes to finish up more work.

The Cafe Brazil Cedar Springs Crew for always brewing me my favorite blend and never once batting an eye at my odd choice in food requests: Tyler Hunt, Lauren Landreneau, Josh Lloyd, Christine Matz, Mychael King, David Tamayo, Bunnie Love, and Antonio Barrera.

My incredible friends that are still hanging around, even post-publishing psychosis: Sissie, Teak, and Ella Abarrerra, Erica Travis, Stephen Post, Marc Rainville, Thomas Licate, Ellen and Steve Bedford and Becky and Dan Loughin.

And these awesome bad asses, who make my life in the Indie Author Arena that much more hilarious and are always ready with a hug (or a threat to kick someone’s ass) on those days where I’m pulling my hair out and screaming into a pillow: Dionne Lister, Russell Blake, Barry Crowther, Derek McPhee, Charity Parkerson, Scott Morgan, Ben Ditmars, Melissa Craig, Ciara Ballintyne, Cinta Garcia de la Rosa, Julie Frayn, Sean P. Farley, Tracy James Jones, Mike Rogers, James and Claudette Peercy, Susie Clevenger, Justin Bog (oh great love of my life!!!), Michelle Franco (snort count winner of IVD), Deena Harrison, Natasha Head, Donna Cavanagh, Damien Boath,  Melissa Zaroski, and Helle Gade.

And a huge-ass thank you to Kim Stapf and Staury Papadopoulou for their continuous support and just being two incredibly awesome individuals I don’t know how I survived my life without.

If I  missed you, I apologize profusely.

Now? Now I’m going to go get ready to ring in the New Year with a dear friend.

Much love, and I’ll see you next year….

 

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

The Ten Books that Influenced or Stayed With Me.

After being tagged multiple times on a Facebook.com post Ten Books that Influenced or Stayed with Me, I figured, why not write a blog about it. Hard as it was to choose, after several days hard thinking, I came up with a list. So here they are. The ten books that have most influenced me and have stayed with me, long after I turned the last page and closed the book.

My first love...

My first love…

1.) Where the Sidewalk EndsShel Silverstein

This is the book for me, as in he is the one, the one book that brought me to the wonderful world of literature, of losing myself in the written word, of an addiction and love affair that has gone on for more than thirty years. Silverstein is also know for work such as The Giving Tree, A Light in the Attic, Falling Up, and Where the Sidewalk Ends, to name just a few of his many works. I can remember years ago, someone telling me that when they heard that Elvis had died, they sobbed, and not understanding why the person telling me the story had been so affected. When hearing in 1999 Shel Silverstein had died, I finally got it, the feeling of loss at an incredible creative in our world passing on and the knowledge that never again would there be more new work from someone so talented. But love is often eternal, and thirty years after coming across this wonderful piece of literature, I still enjoy reading it, most especially to my three children, who have been given a love of silly poetry by their dear ol’ mom.

standlead2.) The Stand, Stephen King

The book that holds the title of most copies owned by Amber goes to The Stand. Upon seeing the cutest boy in the eighth grade reading the book, I shyly asked him what he was reading. He loaned me the book and then later gave me my first kiss. The kiss lasted twenty-heart-pounding-seconds, but the love of this book has lasted much longer. To date, I’ve owned a total of eleven physical copies of the book, and of course the e-book version, which was the first book I purchased after I received my Kindle in 2011. The Stand might be a book about good versus evil, but what I took from reading it is that faced with the world falling apart and the bottom dropping out, people still came together, still fought for what was right, still worked to rebuild, despite the obstacles in their way.

fatal-exchange-cover-small3.) Fatal Exchange, Russell Blake

Say what you will about John Locke, he had a hand in bringing me to the Indie Author Arena. Back in 2011, Amazon made a suggestion based on other titles I’d bought for my Kindle. After reading Saving Rachel I emailed the author to tell him how much I enjoyed the book. Locke responded very graciously, and asked me to follow him on Twitter. Until that point, Twitter was just something I had signed up for as a way to pass the time while I was recovering from my partial hysterectomy. Sending a congratulatory tweet to Locke when he sold a million e-books resulted in Indie Author Russell Blake following me on Twitter, and having read his bio, I downloaded and devoured Fatal Exchange. Blake’s first book was so exceptional, I reviewed it and began speaking with the author on a regular basis. My friendship with Blake led to two friendships that were monumental in the final steps I took to entering the Indie Author Arena as a published author: Dionne Lister, my co-host of the TweepNation Podcast and dear friend, and Barry Crowther, the man who would read four of my poems and respond to the email with the words, “How much of this do you have? We need to get you published yesterday.” To date, Blake has published a total of twenty-five books in thirty months, as well as very kindly writing the foreword for The Quillective Project’s 2013 collaborative effort of Four Paws.

Tuesdays_with_Morrie_book_cover4.) Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom

My father has a knack of picking out excellent reads that are also life lessons. Tuesdays with Morrie was no exception. Touching, honest, powerful and relateable, this book had the effect of making me re-examine my life, how I was living it, and what is most important in the world. Ten years after reading it for the first time, I still pull it out and read through its dog-earred pages when I need a reminder of what matters most in this world. Tuesdays with Morrie is a damn good example of living while you’re still alive, and of saying what needs to be said before it’s too late. Much like The Stand, this is a book I’ve owned more than one copy of in print.

Albom’s  inspirational retelling of the last months of Morrie Schwartz’s life is a powerful lesson in what matters most and how life should be lived.

waiting for birdy cover5.) Waiting for Birdy, Catherine Newman

Back in 2004, I became pregnant with my oldest child, Amethyst. Unfortunately, due to the high-stress nature of my job, I found myself a Stay At Home Mother much sooner than I’d anticipated. And while baking a human bun in your oven is a very important job, it’s one that can take part in a multi-tasking type situation. Along came the message boards of BabyCenter.com, and with it, Catherine Newman’s most excellent parenting blog Bringing up BenNewman’s flat out honesty of what really goes on when pregnant, during and post labor (2X4 to the crotch anyone???)  and with a newborn in the house had me laughing hysterically. Two years into the blog, Newman published Waiting for Birdy, and I immediately snagged it. It has also been my automatic gift for friends expecting their first children, thus making it the book I have purchased the most in my life. When Newman ended her run on BabyCenter.com, I felt like I lost a dear friend.

evil-twin-stories-small6.) Stories my Evil Twin Made Up, Scott Morgan

You could say that Scott Morgan makes this list because he’s a sometimes-writing partner of mine. You could say that he’s made this list because he’s one of my closest friends. But then you’d be illustrating the fact that you  most likely don’t know me that well: Morgan is my partner in crime on certain projects because he’s excellent at his craft, and because he is one of my close personal friends, you know I’d never blow smoke up his ass (or anyone else’s for that matter) about their talent, most especially when it comes to the written word. The fact is, I’m a huge fan of his work, whether it’s the editing he does (and boy can he edit), his non-fiction, his teaching or his creative fiction. His style of poetry writing so impressed me that shortly after he and I met via Twitter, I emailed him to ask him to look over my own poetry. Stories My Evil Twin Made Up is  a prime example of pure awesome in that Morgan doesn’t stick with traditional story telling and instead does it in a way that is fresh, honest, and all his own. Morgan’s stories (whether penned by him or his alter ego Francois) play more like a movie in your mind than a story you’re reading on the page.

YesDay7.) Yes Day, Amy Krouse Rosenthal

I came across Yes Day thanks to the book fair at my oldest child’s elementary school. It’s a simple story really: the main character has one day a year that they’re given where everything they ask for: Ice cream for breakfast, staying up all night, you name it is a “yes.” My oldest daughter Amethyst was so charmed and enthralled by the story that when she asked me if she could have her very own yes day, I agreed, which led to several excellent memories with my first born that will live on long past the day we shared together. Never mind scoring massive points as the coolest mom ever, there was quality time with my daughter when we read the book, and memories she’ll look back on years later that I wouldn’t trade for anything, and I hope that one day, she buys this book for her own children and gives them the experience of never being told no, if only for a single day out of the year.

smallest narrowest places cover8.) The Smallest Narrowest Places, Derek McPhee

I met Derek McPhee like most of the author friends I’m blessed to have in my life: via Twitter. Derek replied to a tweet I’d posted with a hilarious comment, earning “Tweet of the Week” on the TweepNation Podcast. After I linked him to the show, I found out Derek was an aspiring author himself. I bought his book, started reading it, and liked it so much I invited him to be interviewed on the TweepNation Podcast. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until months later I’d get a chance to finish his book. When I did? I closed the book with an exhale, completely blown away by McPhee’s natural talent of pulling the reader into his story. I had to restrain myself from emailing the author to ask him about the character’s in his book, remembering I was reading fiction, not about real flesh and blood people.

I-Could-Pee-On-This-And-Other-Poems-by-Cats-19.) I Could Pee on ThisFrancesco Marcuiliano

I’m known for my laugh. Okay, that’s an understatement: my laugh is something people use to identify me. Related to that is the fact that I have a sense of humor that’s skewed and off-kilter: a friend saying a word in a certain way can have me howling for hours (and weeks after), my biggest problem as a parent is not laughing when my children do something horribly inappropriate which is none the less hilarious, and episode thirteen of the TweepNation Podcast is the episode that’s my go-to when I need to laugh like a braying jackass. A book of poetry that’s written by cats and how they’re going to terrorize their humans? So fucking funny (yes, I needed to drop that f-bomb in there to get my point across, dammit) that I pulled out my smartphone at a coffee shop and yelled at a friend to read it until he did (I’m nothing if not determined to get my way at times). The book is so frickin’ funny I actually stopped writing this blog post to go read it again.

operating instructions cover10.) Operating Instructions, Anne Lamott

Back in 2004, expecting my first child, I found myself unable to work due to high blood pressure (among other craptacular pregnancy woes). And reading has long been a means to escape for me, as well as being my favorite way to pass the time, although I’ll admit lately playing Candy Crush Saga while bullshitting with the servers at my favorite coffee shop has jumped to the top of my list. But back before I spent most of my time formatting other author’s books, teaching social media networking and giving creative development feedback to other authors (seriously, would you do your day job in your free time?), reading was numero uno for ways to spend my time. And being pregnant with my first child, I wanted a heads-up, so I began reading mom-centric writing as often as possible. More often than not, Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott was mentioned, quoted, and referenced, not to mention recommended by other mothers I’d speak with. Lamott held nothing back while writing about her son’s first year: not the pain of labor, not the exhaustion that accompanies the newborn phase, not the feeling of wanting to just chuck it all and give up. But one constant throughout her book, no matter the downsides of the newborn phase was the great and powerful love she felt for her son. And I can tell you, having had three children, the youngest of which are a short eighteen months apart in age, those simultaneous feelings of impotence and elation are the rule, not the exception.

Why are you still here? Go grab one of these excellent books and get reading!!!

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

Love at First Sight…

amahospital

Love at first sight…

At age twenty-seven, I fell quite deeply in love at first sight.

The object of my affection was short, fat, had no hair except for a dark brown mullet at the back of their head, was happiest when I’d pop out my boobs and only communicated by screaming holy hell at me.

But despite all that, my first-born Amethyst was a total keeper. I’m happy to report that today she’s tall (almost to my shoulders when we stand side by side), has beautiful brown hair, is able to make her own snacks, and loves nothing more than going out for a hot chocolate to talk with her mother in the low tones she most often employs due to her natural tendency towards shyness.

christomas04

Amethyst’s first Christmas at one week old.

Amethyst is the greatest dream I have ever had in my life, and with her birth, she gave me a name I’d longed for my whole life, “Mom.” And while the dream was one I’d wanted, the dream was hard to achieve: at age twenty I was diagnosed with Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome, and at twenty-five with Endometriosis, both fertility issues that on their own can keep a woman from achieving biological motherhood. To this day, I can still remember the way the sheets of the hospital bed I was laying on felt in the recovery room at the hospital I’d had my first laparoscopic surgery at when I came to and my doctor told me he had found Endometriosis. My own adoptive mother had suffered from the illness, and the course of treatment for her was a complete hysterectomy at age forty. What followed my diagnosis was pain, both physical and emotional, tinged with fear at the possibility I might never know what it felt like to carry a life within myself.

amaoneyear

The “Oreo Cookie Incident”

I can remember a few weeks post-surgery, thick in the middle of hormones dropping and fears over riding every waking though, praying to God: “Just give me one healthy, happy baby. Just one. Let me have this one dream.”

It turns out God was listening. Six weeks after marrying Amethyst’s father, I found myself holding a pregnancy test in the bathroom at my work, watching the second line form and staring in disbelief at it.

amayear2

Age Two

And pregnancy itself was a battle: morning sickness that lasted well into the second trimester before giving me a month’s break before starting up again in earnest in the third trimester, blood pressure issues that caused me to stop working, insomnia, low progesterone levels that required medicinical treatment that only added to the exhaustion and nausea. But still, every moment was worth it. I’d lay in bed at night, one or both cats wrapped around my belly, and I’d feel my baby shift within me.

I was certain I was pregnant with a boy. So certain that I bought several skeins of blue yarn and crocheted several blankets (there wasn’t much else to do since I was unable to work). On the day of my twenty-week ultrasound, I waited excitedly to be told I was carrying a boy. When the doctor told me I was actually carrying a girl, I felt as if I’d been told I was pregnant again for the first time. The idea I might have a baby girl had never occurred to me.

Amethyst’s birth lasted thirty-eight hours, the first twenty-five of which were unmedicated. It took me over two hours to push her out into the world, and I was so exhausted by the final push I had a mental image of her hanging on to the umbilical cord for all her worth shouting, “Hell no! I won’t go!” She was born covered in meconium, and it was ten minutes of terror while I watched the NICU team work over my daughter to ensure she suffered no ill effects from meconium inhalation.

amayear3

Third Birthday

When they finally brought her to me, despite years of having infant cousins and friend’s babies to practice on, my arms shook and my mind insanely thought, “If I don’t hold her right, are they going to take her from me?” I held her, finally, finally, after years of wanting and waiting, looked into her perfect face, and lost my heart.

About a month after her birth, I saw the movie Kill Bill. And at the end, Uma Thurman’s character lays on the bathroom floor, sobbing over and over again, “Thank you. Thank you.”  That’s what it felt like. Joy and gratitude, tears and hope, life in all its beautiful glory wrapped up in a chubby ten pound gift of a miracle I was blessed with.

 

amayearfive

The very awesome Mrs. Berkline

With a younger brother and sister I have affectionately named “Things One and Two” due to their incredible ability to work together to get into everything under the sun, Amethyst is the one I refer to as “My Well Behaved Child.” Amethyst can be somewhat shy (although not so shy that she shouted, “I’m hiding in the car because I’m SHY!” at a friend when he said goodbye to her after meeting her, a story that still has us laughing almost a year later), but is thoughtful, considerate, kind, and compassionate. She loves arts and crafts projects, loves music and reading, and has dreams of becoming a veterinarian, a clothing designer, an author, and a ballerina. Amethyst is also extremely courageous: after a summer of stating quite emphatically she was absolutely not going to Kindergarten, she squared her shoulders, walked right into her classroom, and sat down at her desk. It probably helped that her teacher, the incredible Mrs. Berkline sent her a letter before the first day of school welcoming her to Kindergarten. And since she was brave, I kept my tears in check until I had cleared the classroom door and then sunk into a puddle of She was just my baby!

As a child, I’d ask my father who he loved the most, my brother or I. And he’d respond that he loved us both the same, just in different ways. I never understood that until Amethyst became a big sister herself: you love your children differently because they are different, and you yourself are a different person with each child that comes into your life to expand your heart farther than you thought it was possible to grow.

amafinal

I think you can guess her favorite color…

In June of 2012, I reconnected with an old friend. After attending a writer’s workshop together, we went out to lunch. And he asked me what I had learned from being a parent. “That I have far more patience and love than I thought possible,” was my response to his question. And that is what the grace of motherhood has taught me: that there is no end to patience or to love when your heart has been stolen from you. I look at my daughter, at her beautiful, perfect face, and I see the miracle I was given nine years ago.

So many people take for granted the gift of parenthood. They consider it their right. But the fact is, as parents, we’re the guardians of the souls of future adults who will inhabit this planet. We are given the precious gift of the continuation of ourselves in our children, first as they grow within us, then as they enter the world and take part in it. They learn by watching us, how we act and how we react.

I look at my daughter, and with every hug she gives me, with every time she takes my hand, with every conversation we have (and you have to listen closely, because Amethyst is soft spoken, but well spoken, even at the young age of nine), I rejoice in this precious, precious gift I was given. If anything, I hope I give to her the gift of knowledge, not only of life, but that of the fact that I love her, more than I thought was possible.

She is the miracle of life, and she is the miracle of love.

Happy Birthday Amethyst. Thank you for giving me the gift of motherhood.

 

~Amber Jerome~Norrgard

 

Knowing “No” is right….

Last Friday night, after a particularly rough, emotionally-draining week, I had planned on going out with friends to blow off steam.

Instead, I found my ass planted in my desk chair, purple pen in (horrifically aching) hand, scribbling poetry in my notebook. And something I’ve never experienced before happened: I couldn’t stop. I even responded to an email to a friend saying, “Hey, eat something for me, I can’t stop writing.” I’ve been inspired to write short stories and cranked them out over two days. But never have I felt compelled to write my heart and soul out on the page like I was on Friday night. Empty stomach and exhausted body could wait, my passionate muse could not be ignored.

What resulted from that heartbreaking week was a book of poetry I wrote in under five hours. Thirty poems, all stemming from hurt, fear, loss, and the healing power of renewal and love.

And I’ll never publish it.

As authors, we find inspiration in different places: seeing a couple in a restaurant on what’s clearly a first date that’s going very well, something someone says to us, a song we hear on the radio, personal experiences, both good and bad. Ten months ago, I made the decision to not publish Searching for Ellen because it wasn’t right for me to do so for various reasons. And today, I made the decision to not publish One Night,
despite the fact it contains the most personal and powerful poetry I’ve ever written in my life.

But despite One Night being so powerful, again, it’s very personal. It means something to me due to the nature of the subject matter. It’s precious, and it’s my heart and soul being laid bare. But it’s also mine. It’s the summation of blessings and gifts and something I never thought I’d be so lucky to experience. And to share it would be to diminish what the poetry within it symbolizes to me.

It’s enough to know I wrote a book of poetry in under five hours. It’s enough to know that I had passion in those hours to write about something that has forever shaped the way I see my life, and more importantly, myself. My ego does not need to be elevated by my publishing something so beautiful for the sake of people being amazed I did something so rare.

It’s mine, and like a large chunk of my life, I’ll be holding what’s mine close to my heart without allowing it viewing for comments and criticism.

 

Much love,

 

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

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