Life as Amber knows it

"An adventure in the making…"

Monthly Archives: July 2014

A Good~Bye To My Father.

On July 21, 2014, just one week after his seventy-second birthday, my father, Donald E. Jerome, “Paw-Paw”, “Uncle Gene” passed away peacefully in his sleep.

My brother and I spent the last few days of our father’s life with him, hoping he’d bounce back as he so easily did in the past. But after many years of physical pain, many years of his body struggling, he went home to heaven.

I met with a friend this week to talk about my father’s death. And while dad and I have had our share of arguments and disagreements over the years, still, at the end, everything was at peace between us. Any words needing to be said were said. And Dad, despite being so weak he could hardly speak, true to his nature of making sure his loved ones were taken care of made, ordered me to make sure I ate something. And I, his daughter in every way and true to my nature told him I’d eat when he’d finally rest and get much needed sleep. Naturally, Dad countered that he’d sleep when I’d go get myself something to eat.

And so, like we’d done so many times in my adult life, my final conversation with my father was a spirited debate with a twinkle in his eyes and his lips curved into that gentle smile I’ll miss terribly.

He passed away peacefully in his sleep eight hours later.

In the coming months, I’m sure I’ll recount stories of my father. For now, I’m writing this the day before his funeral, in a rare quiet moment after having put the final touches on his Eulogy. This post is being scheduled to release an hour after his funeral tomorrow. I don’t know how you write an Eulogy, all I know is how I felt about my father and what he taught me about life, and I wanted to honor him as best as I could. It’s near impossible to truly sum up such a generous and compassionate individual with mere words.

I love you Dad. Thank you for all you taught me about life, either with your words or your actions. Thank you for all the times you put what was best for me above your feelings. Thank you for teaching me how to be a parent, for teaching me how to work for what I want, for teaching me that there is no greater gift than that of unconditional love, and that what truly matters in this world has no monetary value. I was blessed on the day God saw fit to place me in your family as your daughter when I was given up for adoption.

 

I found myself struggling to write this. And that’s comical considering what I do for a living. At one point this week, it made sense to my grief stricken mind that maybe there’s someone more qualified than I to write my father’s eulogy; maybe there’s someone who can find the right words to define a man who has meant so much to so many people. So I thought of not writing the eulogy. I thought of asking someone else to do it for me. And certainly, no one would blame me, because I’ve just lost my father. I wanted to just not do it, to just give up.

And then my mind drifted to when I was a child, particularly to Saturday mornings. I’d get up, get a bowl of cereal, and if Dad was going to his office, he’d ask me if I wanted to go with him. And of course I did. They had a break room with cookies in it, and I could always sneak down and get a few. And Dad’s office had this photo cube that was a radio as well. And even better, devoid of people as it was on Saturday mornings, it echoed. To a child, making noise, especially echoey noise, was almost as awesome as being told breakfast was going to be cake and lunch was going to be ice cream.

And in my father’s office there was a plaque. And on that plaque there was a very famous quote: “Never, never, never give up” by Sir Winston Churchill, a distant relative.

Dad lived his life by those words. Dad taught his daughter the very meaning of those words by his every action in his life. And so, I sent an email to my editor whining about  not being able to do it, took a deep breath, and began to just write.

I could stand here today and tell you when Dad was born and when he died. I can tell you where he went to college, and what he did as a career. But those few little facts? They in no way encompass who he was as a person. They in no way tell the story of a man who defined himself not by the amount of his bank account but by the wealth of his soul.

Dad always helped those in need: he was a big supporter of several charities, he gave his time as a Eucharistic minister visiting those unable to receive the Eucharist as well as helping those less fortunate through his work through Love Truck and the Samaritan Inn, or the gift of his kind and thoughtful words for those who needed them.

Dad was also stubborn, and while that word sometimes comes with a negative association, for Donald Eugene Jerome, his headstrong and determined personality is what led him to achieve more than most people. He always believed you could achieve whatever it was you wanted to achieve, and what mattered was not where you came from or what you have done before, but where you would go and what you would do. And he never gave up. Rather than let obstacles in his way stop him from what he wanted, he simply found a way to work through them. He grew up in poverty, yet put himself through college to receive his degree. Rather than let infertility rob him of fatherhood, he adopted two children. He refused to allow health issues and physical disabilities prevent him from living a full life. By my age, he had lived in South America, all throughout the United States, and traveled to Mexico and Canada. In his retirement years, he fulfilled a long lived dream of seeing Rome and the Vatican.

Dad was happiest when he was with his family, and his greatest joys in his life were his seven grandchildren: Amethyst, Luke, Tyler, Autumn, Cody, Benjamin and Sawyer.

But if I had to choose one word to define my father, it would be faith. Not once, despite losing siblings and both his parents, despite having physical handicaps and declining health, did my father ever ask God “why?”  He simply would take a deep breath and ask God for the strength to make it through whatever he was faced with. When I would face my own struggles, Dad would remind me of the Serenity Prayer and tell me that if God brings us to it, He’ll bring us through it.

People often say how they wish they’ll pass on. Dad got his wish: his two children with him during his final days. He was right with God. He had said the words he’d wished to say to those he loved. And as he’d wished for, he went home to heaven peacefully in his sleep.

My father achieved much in his time on earth: A successful career, a family, service to those less unfortunate. But above everything else, he died a man wealthy in what was the most important gift and blessing he’d ever wanted: The love of his family.

 

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

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Knowing When To Step Back

I’ve been on a bit of a roller coaster ride since I first hit publish in January 2012. There were podcasts to host, podcasts to guest on, blog posts to write as a guest blogger, blog posts of my own to write. Friends needing a shoulder and a soft place to land. Twenty-two books I published myself along with three collaborations. School lunches, schedules and field trips. Promoting friends’ work. Setting up signings and other author events. Starting my own publishing house. Launching a new career of college professor. Family illnesses. My own illnesses and testing and treatments to endure. The loss of several people I love in my life either by death or their choosing to leave my life. Bills to pay, huge decisions to make. Healing.

I haven’t gotten to that last one yet.

A couple of years ago, I stood at a fork in the road, and I looked over everything, mainly the mistakes I’ve made time and time again. And I promised myself, I’d learn to put me first. I’d learn to tell people “no” rather than “yes” when I was already buckling under the weight of life. And throughout my life, there’s been a theme of me never learning to value myself enough to put myself first. This doesn’t mean I stop being there for those who need me. This doesn’t mean I start becoming a selfish asshole. It simply means that at thirty-seven, I am far past the age where I should have learned that if I don’t take care of myself first and foremost, sooner rather than later there will be no more me to take care of those I love. Certainly, my children are exempt from this: they always will have me coming at a flat-out run if they need me.

And I’m care taker at my core. Roll your eyes all you want, I’ll ask you to let me know that you’ve arrived safely. I’m going to offer to bring you juice and soup if you’re sick. If I’m able to help you, I’m going to help you. That’s just who I am.

But who I am also is a person with needs. A person who has largely neglected herself in order to help other people through their hurts and trials. A person who adds three extra things onto her already over booked schedule in an effort to help someone out. A person who more often than not puts her hurt second to someone else’s.

And with a new five week course to teach coming up, partnered with the planning of IndieVengence Day 2014 and The Quillective Project’s yearly anthology to publish, I find myself exhausted at the simple idea of day to day, simple tasks. And recently, I found myself dreading writing a short story I’d been excited about when the idea for it popped into my head.

I’ve so wrung myself out and so over-commited myself and so forgotten myself that writing, the one thing I have found more solace and healing in than anything else, has become something I just can’t do.

It’s time for me to let go of things that no longer work. It’s time for me to let go of and move on from things that won’t work. It’s time to let go of and step back from things in my life that are hurtful and toxic.

And it’s hard to write this to  you dear reader. It’s hard to admit I’ve hit such a rough patch in my road of life that I’m not sure how I got here or how to get through or around it. I’m so bogged down that I can’t see the way back from which I came.

I feel quite alone and isolated. It is a very startling realization that two and a half years past the time you promised yourself you’d do better for yourself, you’ve yet to do anything to carve out something that belongs to you, and you alone. It’s painful realizing you’ve given so much of yourself to other people and things that you no longer have any for yourself.

This is just a pause button on my life. And as painful as it is to step back and let go of things, it’s what I need to do.

Much love and huggles, and take care, my lovies:

 

~Amber Jerome~Norrgard

 

Raise A Glass

Let’s raise a glass to those

Who aren’t afraid to show kindness

Who aren’t afraid to say “no” when there is cruelty around

Let’s raise a glass

Let’s raise a glass to those

Unencumbered by fear

To those who reach far beyond what the nay sayers see as possible

To those who give of themselves

In thought and deed

Never forgetting those less fortunate

Let’s raise a glass

Let’s raise a glass to those

Unafraid to say the words

That are written upon their hearts and souls

Let’s raise a glass

Let’s raise a glass to those

Who never give up

Who never given in

Who hold onto truth and live it

Making it the air that they breathe.

 

~Amber Jerome~Norrgard

Everyone Has A ‘But’

Roses are my favorite flower. The configuration of their petals, the way they blossom, revealing a sun like interior, their incredible scent, how their petals feel like a baby’s skin.

Back in the nineties, I worked for Albertson’s in the Drug and General Merchandise department. Coming up on Valentine’s Day in 1996, I was placed on the overnight shift in order to assist the floral department manager in floral arrangements. I’d taken a floral design course in high school and for that reason, I found myself yawning over a ten-gallon tub of roses. The manager of the department gave me a stripper (guys, put your tongues back in your mouths, that’s the actual term for what you use to remove thorns on roses), and I set to work.

I had a total of thirty-three pricks on my fingers that day from the thorns I encountered.

Roses, for all their glory and amazing beauty still have thorns.

Which leads me to the title of this particular post: ‘Everyone has a but.

Giggle-worthiness aside, the title of this blog references how when we are talking about someone we know, we tend to state their good qualities, followed by their but, whatever it is that is their quirk that sets them aside and makes them imperfect. “She’s got a great personality and a sense of humor, but she tends to be afraid of commitment,” “He’s very sweet and thoughtful, but he tends to have a wandering eye when he’s out to dinner with his girlfriend,” and “She’s a good friend, but she’s very spoiled” are examples of buts.

But are buts really all that bad? We all have our own individual imperfections, our flaws, some form of a rose’s thorn. But if we did not have these flaws, we’d be perfect. And perfection isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be.  And ideals of perfection tend to be a form of masking of the true story, so even perfection is flawed.

But let’s say there was a perfect person: everything about them is without flaws, without thorns, without the but. Wouldn’t that feel a great deal intimidating? Could you really bring anything to perfection to add to it in any significant way?

The answer is no. Because once perfection is achieved, in any one person or any one thing, that’s the end of it. There’s nothing more to be brought to it or added to it. And having lived behind the lie of perfection for a good bit of my life, its not worth it.

Me? I have several thorns, several buts, as anyone who truly knows me can attest to: I’m anxious in situations I’m not familiar with, I have a hard time letting go of things and people long past the point when I should have. I don’t place enough necessity on what’s best for myself and instead put other people first. I’m unable to go half way, and am very much a balls-to-the-wall type personality in all areas of my life. I’m far too sensitive, far too emotional of a person in a world where people rarely value kindness and compassion.

But I am kind. I am compassionate. I will help someone if it’s within my ability to help them. I’m loyal. I fight like hell for those I love. I  make a big deal out of the little things. I say I love you without hesitation when I feel it. I forgive easily and with grace. I abhor cruelty in any form.

I have many, many buts, many, many thorns. But if you take a stripper and remove those, you’ll find someone who will always be there for you, always support you. You’ll find someone who can see your own thorns and ignore them for the larger picture: a rose, gentle in its beauty, soft in its touch, sweet in its scent.

 

~Amber Jerome~Norrgard

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