Life as Amber knows it

"An adventure in the making…"

Repost: A Goodbye to my Father

Reposted from July 2014

“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”

Awww, F#^&!!!

I’m in an awesomely shit mood this week.

And I’m sorry to inform you, said shit mood is going to be sticking around for the next week or so.

I believe firmly we choose our state of mind. That our attitude can go a long way towards achieving results in our life. That we’re magnets in that we draw into our lives what we’re putting out there.

But there are always exceptions to rules. And this week, as well as next, I’m letting the shit mood, the depression, the hurt, and the pain have it’s way with me. It’s impossible to not do otherwise: my father’s birthday and the day he passed away are one week from each other.

This wave of grief is nothing new; in fact, most of the good people who had experienced the loss of a loved parent in my life warned me how this would be. That there would be times that missing my father would be a sweet nostalgia with smiles and a peace associated with it from having had such a great parent in my life. They also warned me there would be times that the grief would return in such a way that it would feel like the loss had just occurred.

I’ve always hated it when people told me I wouldn’t understand unless I went through something myself. I always felt like the person telling me that was patronizing. Three years after my father’s death, I’m now a person who uses that expression. I would never wish this type of grief on anyone, but until you have lost a parent, you have no concept. At age nineteen, my father’s mother passed away, and the grief was astounding. Still to this day I feel the loss of her. In my mid-twenties, my Uncle Richard passed after losing his battle to a brain tumor, and despite having known we were going to lose him, I actually lost my legs and slammed down on the tile floor of the Walgreen’s I was working at when I got the phone call he had passed. There have been other losses of people I held dear to my heart since those two, and they each affected me and hurt me.

I was not prepared for the loss of my father. I was not prepared for the loss, despite the fall he took on his birthday and having to make the tough decision with my younger brother to place our father in compassionate care. Even previous health scares with my father had done nothing to prepare me.

I received the telephone call from the hospital my father had passed at 1:03 a.m. on July 21, 2014. It was a Monday. I drove to the hospital, calling my brother on my way. And when my brother answered, his voice harsh from sleep, I told him our father had gone. “What? What?” he asked me, and my heart skipped a beat while I found the courage to repeat those words.

The grief would hit me hard at strange moments and not so strange moments over the next couple of months: when I finished writing his eulogy; when I took my oldest child’s hand to walk down the aisle at the beginning of the funeral; when the Knights of Columbus saluted him at the end of the funeral; when I came across a shoebox filled to the point of bursting with hotel soaps in it; when I tried to clean out the pantry in the kitchen and came across all the expired foods he couldn’t bear to part with. I’d get slammed with it when I achieved something, my children did something I’d call to tell him about and then have to remember he was no longer there.

Big moments, small moments, moments in between. Running my company in the black, hitting the best sellers list. Getting hired for jobs that furthered my career. Checking items off my bucket list. Seeing the 2014 World Series; seeing the 2015 MLB All Star Game. Interviewing famous people who I’d admired. Meeting in person famous people I admired. Losing my fear of public speaking, my fear of flying. Facing my fear of heights and not getting over it, but not backing away from the edge of Sandia Peak.

So many damn moments, so many damn experiences, and the most I can do is sit by his plaque in the mausoleum where he’s interred and talk to him. I can write a letter to him and save it on my computer. I can think he’s who I’m talking to when I’m praying. And sometimes, those things are enough. Sometimes I can look at the photo of us from my first wedding that sits on my desk, the photo of him, my oldest child and myself on my twenty-eigth birthday and smile and remember those moments. I can think back and remember how even in his final hours on this earth, we had a playful debate back and forth. I can remember how often he took time from work to sit with me in doctors offices or in hospitals when I was fifteen and very ill from Graves Disease. How once I became a teenager, every week without fail we’d go to dinner together and talk about what was new in my life. I can think of those things and remind myself that I was lucky: I had one good parent to guide me and be there and force me into learning how to bust my ass and work hard, and be grateful for the time I did get to spend with him (thirty-seven years).

Then there are weeks like this one, and the weeks in the lead up to this one. How just before Father’s Day, the hurt and pain of the loss creeps in. How I would give anything to have just another hour to talk to the man that raised me. How it gets closer to his birthday and closer to the day we lost him, and my throat feels tight and scratchy, my heart races, I can’t sleep that well, and I’m on the verge of tears. How I can’t seem to not count down in my mind (“It’s July 10… I had four more days with him before his fall in 2014 on his birthday…”) to the final moments of his life. How I go over everything he’s missed. How I remember how it would have been three more years I’d of had with him.

In ten days or so, I’ll pull out of this. But for now, I’m owning my emotions, I’m owning the grief that’s a part of my life. I’m opening up to people, telling them I’m hurting, telling them I’m struggling and anxious and hurting and could use a friend, because I am all those things right now. I’m letting the tears come when they come and letting them fall freely and not apologizing for this.

Because I had a father. And he wasn’t perfect. He was human, he made mistakes. But he was kind, he put his children first in all he did, he gave of his time and resources to those left fortunate. He taught me more about life by example rather than words.

And I wouldn’t be the woman I am today without having him for a father.

 

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

 

Rebirthday

It was a dark and storm night….

Okay that’s probably bullshit. I actually don’t remember what the weather was like that night. I’m guessing since it was in Texas and it was June 29, 2012, it was uncomfortably hot, sticky, humid, and generally a two-or-three-shower day.

Who I am today is so far removed from the woman I was then that most of you probably wouldn’t recognize me. I was a mother to three, a newly published author, and still battling with depression, anxiety, and the weight gain from having a partial hysterectomy eighteen months prior.

What I do remember about that night was I felt trapped and stuck. I felt lost and on edge. I’d been working on a short story, and had no idea where to go with it. Grabbing my car keys and a bottle of water, I hopped in my car and took off for a drive. Blasting music, I hit 190, which in my neck of the woods is also known as the George Bush Turnpike. I intended to drive to Lake Ray Hubbard and sit on one of the piers and meditate, hoping to snap out of the writer’s block I was experiencing.

I passed by HWY 78 and was closing in on my exit for my destination when I saw the sign announcing the exit for Texas 66.

My mind flashed to being a child and living in Oklahoma City. On a routine trip up to see my Grandmother, I had seen a Route 66 sign and had asked my father what it was. He’d explained to me it was a historic byway, and that there were all these historical sites and interesting points of interest on it going all the way from Chicago to Los Angeles. He told me that he’d driven parts of it throughout his life, but had never driven the iconic route from start to finish, and maybe one day, we could pack up and take the trip together.

I never let go of that idea. Even at the age I was on that drive on June 29, 2012 (thirty-five), I still wanted to take that trip. But the thought set off my default knee jerk reaction of telling myself why I couldn’t take the trip: I had three kids, my father’s health wasn’t the greatest, I couldn’t afford it. I told myself the reasons I couldn’t go were all valid, that I’d have time eventually, that I needed to wait.

Then I called myself out on my own bullshit.

See the thing is, those weren’t reasons. They were fucking excuses, all rooted in fear. And I got angry. And I woke the hell up to how I had been living my life.

That’s the thing: I wasn’t actually living my life. I was scared shitless of taking any chances, of trying anything new, of really putting myself out into the world. And I had been for most of my life.

I didn’t want to waste any more of my life not living my life.

The past five years have been some of the best of my life. And they’ve held some of the largest hurts of my life. But unlike the first thirty-five years of my life, I’ve seen the beauty in the balance of good and bad. I’ve failed just as often as I’ve suceeded. I’ve cried as much as I’ve laughed, and I’ve drank just as much wine to console my broken heart as I have to celebrate the amazing things. I have experienced some of the most beautiful, amazing and healing experiences of my life, and I’m just getting started.

About four years or so ago, a friend of mine and I were talking, and I was telling him about how the lead up to my birthday was always filled with something painful going on. How the lead up to it was always emotionally exhausting to the point I didn’t see the point in really celebrating. “So pick a new birthday. Pick a rebirthday and celebrate the hell out of it.” June 29 was a no-brainer: because in so many ways, I had been reborn on that day into who I had been afraid of becoming.

When I began my life as an author, I had no idea what my life would become. I never intended to become a publisher, yet still, I began a publishing house eighteen months into my life as an Indie Author. Again, it was a no brainer: 629 Publications’ name is based on the date I began to truly live my life. June 29, or 6-29 is a date that I’ll always celebrate.

And with that, when it came time to pick a release date for my latest collection? I chose today. Book number 25 releasing on the 5th anniversary of my rebirth day? Please, you knew I was going to do it.

Today for me is a day about celebrating my hope and my faith in this life I live, a life that I’ve built for myself and am grateful for daily. It’s about celebrating letting go of past hurts and the realization we are NOT what was done to us. It’s about remaining open to all things beautiful, graceful, and lovely. It’s about living, and learning how to live with an open heart and open mind.

Much love, Dear Readers,

 

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

 

ps: if you’re curious, I finally got to take the Route 66 road trip in April 2016. By far one of the best things I have ever experienced, and more fuel to the fire of my going after what I want, no matter how big or how small they are.

 

 

Forty Things I’ve Learned in Forty Years of Living

Hello from Forty my friends! It’s gorgeous over here!

So I’m forty years old today. The big 4-0. I’ve been told for years that forty is awful. That virtually overnight I’m going to go from vibrant and cute to tired and old looking. My curves are going to sag and flatten. I’m no longer going to have the energy to keep up the pace of my hectic life.

Guess which finger I’m holding up?

True beauty is on the inside, and comes from knowing you are loved and having confidence in yourself and your place in the world. I have finally, at age forty, learned to love myself. I have learned that no amount of makeup will make me more beautiful than the knowledge that I have a good heart, that I am a compassionate person. I have finally, after years and years of placing my happiness and value in the hands and minds of others learned that I myself determine my happiness and value. I have finally learned to truly love myself, parts both good and bad, and because of this, finally opened myself up to the right kind of love.

My thirty-ninth year on this planet, my final year in my thirties, was one filled with heart break, lost dreams, adventure, travel, bucket list items being fulfilled, and long over-due healing and learning of myself. There’s healing yet to be done, and there’s more of myself to learn. Yet I am so much closer to being healed and being who I should be. And some of the experiences and healing I experienced this last year would cause eyebrows to be raised. Others would be understood by anyone listening. All of it was the best thing I could have done for myself, and that is the important thing. Not only have I learned to love myself, I have finally learned a much needed lesson in healing on my terms and my own time line.

So as has been my tradition, here are forty things I’ve learned in forty years of living.

1.) Sometimes you have to step completely outside of your comfort zone in order to move forward and heal.

2.) If all a person has to offer you is what their packaging is, they have nothing to offer.

3.) You are the only person responsible for your happiness. Other people can bring you happy, but they should not be the source of your happiness. I learned the hard way to not rely on others for my happiness. That’s my responsibility. Their responsibility is to bring positive and not negative in my life.

4.) Surround yourself with people who find your crazy adorable.

5.) Find what brings you joy, embrace it, don’t ever apologize for it, and don’t ever explain it. Just enjoy it.

6.) One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is the gift of loving them just as they are. Do this, and watch how much they glow.

7.) If you want something, do what it takes to get it.

8.) Listen to what people tell you. If they say they do not want a different career, to have children, to get married, honor what they’re telling you.

9.) If you don’t take care of yourself first, you’re not going to be able to take care of those who are depending on you.

10.) Stop letting fear stop you from living your life.

11.) Time doesn’t heal all wounds. In fact, there are some hurts that are impossible to recover from. But love can make them tolerable, and can ease the hurt.

12.) We are not meant to be without flaws. Embrace yours and what they represent.

13.) It took me forty years to learn to love myself as is. Don’t make the same mistake I did.

14.) You can have as many plastic surgeries as you want. But nothing is going to change the date on your birth certificate.

15.) True beauty is on the inside.

16.) Actions speak louder than words.

17.) Going back to an old love is like rereading a book, thinking there’s going to be a different ending.

18.) You are not your past.

19.) If you’re not recognized without your makeup, you’re doing it wrong.

20.) Dress for your body type.

21.) I have no interest in people who play games with their words. At 40, I’m far too old to learn another langugage.

22.) If something or someone is taking more from you than you’re recieving, it’s time to walk away.

23.) Find work that you enjoy, and use that to persue your passion.

24.) Treat yourself as you would treat the person you love most in the world.

25.) Never settle.

26.) What you put out in the world you get back.

27.) Surround yourself with what you want more of.

28.) Anyone who’s said “Everything in moderation…” has never had Gaja Sito Moresco paired with Black Forest Cake.

29.) Celebrate the hell out of yourself. Celebrate the big and small things. Celebrate those things that fall between the two. And sometimes, just celebrate the fact that you’re alive.

30.) Never allow someone else to determine your value.

31.) You are not responsible for other people’s actions. You are however very responsible for your own reactions.

32.) The past is just that: the past. Let it go and move onto your future.

33.) I do not care how much I love someone: when my sanity is at stake, I walk away.

34.) I will love you unconditionally. I will support you in all things, even if I myself do not understand their importance to you. I will respect your beliefs, values, and dreams, even if I do not share them. I only ask that you give me the same in return.

35.) Stop measuring yourself according to other people’s yard sticks.

36.) Quit wishing for things to change, and do something to make them change.

37.) Do not ask of someone what you yourself would not do.

38.) There is a difference between forgiveness and forgetting. Forgiveness means you let go. That does not equate with forgetting what someone has done to you. Remembering can be a positive tool of protection.

39.) You are entitled to your feelings. Do not let someone tell you what you feel is wrong.

40.) And you’re going to be really surprised by this one: I still have no idea what I want to do when I grow up.

Much love my friends. Live your life.

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

Grief

Grief is a mother fucker.

My fortieth birthday is looming over me, its arms open wide, and I? I’m going from a fast walk into a jog, then a sprint into its embrace quite happily.

I’ve been warned repeatedly that forty is a bitch. That forty sucks. That your body starts losing its firm curves and gray hair starts to appear and new hair starts to appear in places on your body where it did not exist before. You start losing your vision and hearing, body parts start creaking and aching, and you can’t stay up as late any longer.

But despite how god awful everyone has informed me that forty is going to be, I’m ready for it. After thirty-nine years on this planet and getting my ass kicked repeatedly, I’m looking forward to forty with giddiness.

I’ve never been one to cry over what’s been lost in my past. The lines around my eyes and mouth are signs of a lot of laughter. I don’t miss my twenties, and I won’t miss my thirties, mainly because they were hard to live through. I spent too much time in hospitals, too many days at funerals, too much money on therapy. Forty to me is an oasis of hope and joy and new beginnings. I’ve dreamt of forty with the same romanticism I used to hold towards dreaming of Christopher Gonzales kissing me in the eighth grade.

The last two years of my life have brought about new changes, choices, and losses, the most painful of which was my father’s death in 2014. It’s been a two year long battle with grief and hurt and a loss I thought I was prepared for, but had no idea how awful it would be. I’ve spent the last two years at a loss of creativity: where as I’ve written, it has been as a writer, not as an author. Losing my father killed my own creative spirit.

Grief is a motherfucker. Where as I used to crank out poetry without even needing inspiration, I was no longer able to find any words within me.

Mother fucker though it may be, grief eventually eases up, and for the most part, is replaced with a sweet nostalgia of times when those we loved were with us. Occasionally you get hit hard with a repeat of strength when grief first struck you. But you learn to let the waves of it wash over you, and you come out stronger on the other side.

It’s been a long road to finding my creative footing again. And it’s been a hard road. But anything worth having in this world is worth the hard work associated with it.

But for what it’s worth, I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve had on my road towards creativity again. I’m grateful for the learning of who I am and what I want and need in my life. And for this new person I’ve become, because she is amazing, strong, compassionate, and more open to living than she’s been in the thirty~nine years she’s been in this world.

Much love, Dear Reader. Thank you for your continued support.

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

Eight

Do you remember the 80’s? Most specifically, at home permenants?

For the rest of my life (which should be about forty years from now, hopefully), I’m going to have a reaction to home permenants the way men react when another guy takes a hard hit in the junk: I’m going to wince and bend over a bit, hyperventilating.

If you’ve read me for any period of time, you’re aware I was without the benefit of a good mother (which is a polite way for saying “What was the state of Pennsylvania thinking giving her a child???”). And this is not so much a retelling of my heartbreaking childhood or what I learned from it, so much as its just a recounting of how I came to loathe home permanents. And how I became the parent I am.

Picture it: 1984, 1985. The world was under the impression that big ass bangs, acid wash jeans, and blue eye shadow was fabulous. I have no idea what inspired my mother to believe it was a good idea to beging giving me home permanents. Maybe it was Dallas and Victoria Principal’s tight curly locks.

But Ms Principal had a team of highly professional stylists who had years of experience under their belts. My mother had a six year old who didn’t want curly hair, and no experience with anything hair related. Yet that didn’t stop her.

There’s nothing worse than being shoved into an uncomfortable wooden kitchen chair, and being told to hold still while your mom is yanking your hair and rolling it too tightly onto curlers. And then having your head drowned in toxic smelling chemicals, with a bonus of you can’t actually wash your hair for several days because it would cause the perm to fall out (just once I wish there would have been a freak rainstorm to save my poor hair.)

Every single time, without fail, my hair turned an unnatural shade of orange. Half of it broke off. The other half that survived? It was a frizzy mess, no where near the curls I’m sure my mom had invisioned. Ever see someone who uses bleach to go blonde at home? Yep, that was me, except with orange hair that was similar to a cheeto. It was so awful that our church organist, who was a hairdresser during the week, took one look at it and told my mother to never again let which ever hairdresser had wrecked my hair to touch it. My mother’s response was to get huffy and make us start going to another church.

I swore as a small child that if ever I became a mother to daughters, I’d allow them to choose their own hair.

Flash forward to 2011: Amethyst is now seven and asks to cut her waist length hair off. I panic and tell her she can cut it when she’s eight. On the afternoon of her eighth birthday, my oldest child comes into my room with my hair scissors and reminds me of the promise I’d made her.

“Are you sure?” I asked, hoping she’d say no.

“Yes,” she said, looking at me to see how I’d respond.

“How short?” I ask her, terrified of the answer.

“To above my shoulders.”

I parted her hair down the middle, secured it in two braids, took a deep breath and reminded myself of the promise I made when I was her age. And I cut. She was so excited and happy. “Go show your father,” I said. I then went into my bedroom, shut and locked the door, buried my face in a pillow and cried.

She didn’t know I was heartbroken until today, on her sister’s eighth birthday, when Autumn reminded me of the promise I’d made to her when she was six: “You can cut your hair short on your eighth birthday.”

“You cut mine on my eighth birthday and it was fine Mom,” Amethyst reminded me this morning when I was trying to convince Autumn she wanted her hair to remain long, with little luck.

“Yeah, and I cried like a baby after,” I respond.

“Then why’d you do it?” Amethyst asked, with the implied DUH loud and clear.

“Because you wanted it. And its your hair.” And my answer reminded me of the phrase Forest for the Trees.

It’s not my hair. It’s my daughter’s hair. And sooner rather than later, life’s going to present Autumn with a choice, and she’ll have to make it, no matter what my feelings are. And I’ll support her choices, even if I myself would not make the same choice, because she’s my daughter.

We want our children to have better than we ourselves had. I had a mother who never considered my wants and more often than not tried to force me into a box that I would never fit into. I had a mother who never learned to love and appreciate me as I was and as I became, and who hated me for anything that indicated I was not hers biologically, whether it was my green eyes, porceline skin, or creative personality.

I took Autumn to my hair dresser’s salon, and Sarah wrapped my daughters waist length blonde hair into two pony tail bands, and snipped.

I wanted to throw myself on the ground and tantrum. I wanted to curl up into a ball and cry hysterically. I considered asking Sarah to put extensions in, but didn’t want to be melodramatic. Instead, I looked at my second born and asked, “Are you happy?”

“Oh yes! I love it!” That’s all I needed to hear. And all I needed to see was her bouncing around the salon, patting her hair, feeling proud at having something she wanted for herself.

I didn’t want her to get her hair cut. But it’s not my hair. And in several years, I’m not going to like her boyfriend (let’s face it, he’s probably going to be a big ol’ jerk wad), what clothing she wants to wear, how much eyeliner she’s going to put on. I’m probably not going to agree with her post high school plans. She’s going to pick a career that I myself would never pick, and she’ll raise her kids with a parenting style different from my own. She’ll paint rooms in her house pink, she’ll probably purchase a minivan, and she’ll probably own khakis and dress like a prep, or worse, like a hipster.

But that’s okay. The choices she makes, the life she makes for herself? It’s a life she’s going to be living long after I’m gone. She has to live within the life she builds for herself. My job is to guide her, to teach her compassion, kindness, how to avoid jerk guys, how to respect herself and to hold her head up high. My job is to make certain she knows that she’s loved always and unconditionally, and that I’m behind her, even if I don’t always agree with her decisions. To be a better mother than I myself had.

Happy Birthday Baby Girl. I’m so thrilled you’re in the world and can’t wait to see who you become.

~Momma

Awakening

On July 20, 2014, I did one of the hardest things in my life: I fought to enforce the DNR my father had put in place years before.

We live in a fairly litigious society: one little mistake can sometimes lead to a huge law suit. I understand the medical staff at the hospital my father had been taken to after his fall were trying to watch their own asses. But the reality is, had the DNR not been enacted, my father would have had at most a few more weeks of life, which would have been spent in immense pain.

I fought the doctor who argued that my father wasn’t in his right mind. I repeated my father’s final wishes, my back straight, my voice steady, my heart slamming in my chest. I had promised my father years before that if ever the time came, I would make certain he was not being kept alive when there was no chance of recovery. Anyone passing by the doorway of his hospital room would have made the assumption I was cold and hateful. The exact opposite was true: I was the daughter of a man who was ready and at peace with passing on.

The doctor finally agreed with me. My vision hazed over as I began sobbing hysterically, my legs went out, and if there hadn’t been a couch behind me, I would have slammed down to the ground.

My body didn’t slam down to the ground. But my heart slammed shut that day.

The natural order of things are that we bury our parents; the hopefully do not bury us. They care for us as infants and children, and then later (hopefully much later), we care for them.

But my final act of caring for my father, my final act of following his wishes and being strong like he raised me to be? It broke me in a significant way. It shattered my heart to have to fight for him, but to have held on would have been cruel and selfish. Letting him go was the compassionate act.

For the past two years, I’ve been going through the motions of my life. My children have gotten all of me, they’ve had a mother that has been fully present and there for them. But in all other areas of my life, I’ve done just enough to get through each day. I’ve written, but it’s been strictly related to work: ghost writing, lectures, client’s bios and blurbs. For myself? There’s been just enough to make one poetry collection, and a gathering of blog posts for an essay collection. I haven’t had the emotional or creative energy to publish any thing of my own since June of 2014. The first year of my life as a writer, I published eight books; the second I published twelve of my own. That’s a stark contrast, which is just a symptom of a larger problem: I’ve been impotent in my own creative writing because I’ve been closed down and broken for so long.

Over the past two years, I’ve been trying to heal, trying to find my balance. Some experiences I’ve had have done some good, others were just filler and ways to pass the time and attempts to quiet the storm of heartbreak. I’ve been looking for something, anything, to find my center and to relearn living. I’d take a trip, hit a baseball game, have a night of “doesn’t count” drinks and dining, long conversations, tattoos. I’ve invested in companies, found success with my own company, traveled to see friends and celebrate the important moments in their lives.

Grief, like the bastard it is, has no expiration date. There’s no one way to recover. And the reality is, my grief over losing my father will never leave me. But I’ve held onto it too hard. I haven’t accepted it, just wrapped myself in it and been too terrified to let go of it and move on. But in a twist of irony, I’ve been attempting to force myself to move on and let go of the loss.

All that does is make it continue on in ways that are too much to bear.

I recently spent several hours with someone I had just met, and most likely won’t ever see again. The conversation went from everything from music, to our jobs, to our families, to our experiences in our lives. There was a balls to the wall, all cards on the table level of honesty in our conversation, and at one point I was asked, “What is your endgame? What is it that you want for you?”  I answered with the usual For my children to be healthy and happy. And this person whom I had only just met looked deep in my eyes and said, “Everyone wants that. What is it you want?”

It’s so rare that I’ve been asked that question and forced to answer with all honesty.

This person completely bitch slapped me and slammed into my life with their questions and honest responses. They shook up those shattered pieces of my heart and miraculously, when those pieces settled again, they settled into place. There was a healing that took place, a shifting of myself that I had been unable to make on my own, that all the experiences in my desperate searching over the last two years had been unable to accomplish.

I woke up the next morning, and for the first time in two years, the first time since I lost my father, I was okay. Not completely healed, but farther down the road of healing than I’ve been able to reach on my own.

It was an awakening, a new look at life. And to this person who more likely than not I’ll not see again: Thank you for the hours of conversation and the learning you brought to my life. You’re an angel among us.

I speak often and glowingly about my OBGYN, a man who busted his ass to care for me, not only during my pregnancies, but during my fertility treatments, my cervical cancer scares, the hell of post partum depression and anxiety. He was able to help me in ways that no one else could. This recent experience I’ve had is the same. That person I spent several hours conversing with helped me in a way no one else was able to. And that is a priceless gift, having a night that changed me significantly, for the better. For the small safe space those hours of conversation afforded me.

There is still more work to do for myself, for healing my soul and moving forward. But I have finally awakened to hope, to finally having faith to move forward and onward into the best version of me I can become.

 

Amber Jerome~Norrgard

 

Dear Dad

Dear Dad:

I just survived my second Father’s Day without you. I’m surviving your birthday today without you. And the second anniversary of losing you is coming up.

About a month after you passed, I went in for my twenty-second tattoo. And Martin, the person who’s inked all but two of my tattoos was more than happy to take a tattoo gun to my back to memorialize your birth and death dates. And for the first time in all the tattoos I’ve ever had placed on my body, for the first time ever in that shop that saw me get inked and pierced to commemorate the map of my life on my body, I cried. Martin, a man who doesn’t put up with whining over pain in his shop said nothing, just stopped every now and then to hand me a paper towel to wipe my eyes and blow my nose with. And when I stood up and looked at the new art on my body, I thanked him, and he put his hand on my shoulder in support.

The kids are doing well, but they miss you. And I never understood so well the lesson that you put your children first in all things, because when they ask me about you, I have to put my public face on and not cry and tell them about you. Because even though it hurts that you’re no longer with us, I need to keep you alive for them.

So much has happened since we lost you. And the morning we lost you, Jason and I went to your house to look over your papers. You always thought ahead: everything that could have been divided equally between us had already been divided, you gave us detailed instructions into carrying out your funeral, you prepaid for the expenses associated with laying you to rest, you even stated who you wanted to be the final judge in any disputes we might have had in closing your estate (you’ll be proud to know that not ONCE did we argue over anything, we simply moved forward how you would have wanted us to, although the people who bought your house painted over all that gorgeous blonde wood in the living room with white paint which is just wrong), you kept everything we might have needed in one place in order to finish out your affairs.

I looked over your financial papers, and my heart broke. You always taught us to be careful and cautious in our spending, to plan for the future. But when I saw what you weren’t able to take with you, my heart broke. You were a simple man: you never needed fan fare and always found joy in the simple things in life. But in your final week, I’d visit you in the hospital and we had some deep discussions before the pain became too much and the medicine took over your mind. And you would tell me what you wished you’d of seen or what you wished you’d of done. You talked about experiences you didn’t have.

You taught me so much by being my parent. You taught me a final lesson in the days after your passing. I spent the first thirty-seven years of my life putting experiences off thinking I’d have more time, thinking it could wait, thinking I’d be wasting money. Sitting at the dining room table with my younger brother, I looked over what you left behind and realized how much of life you missed out on because you had concerns over being able to provide for your family.

We lost you two years ago. My life has not been the same since. There’s a hurt that hasn’t healed, and won’t heal. But there has been a shift into learning to experience life, into learning to embrace experiences and to not be afraid of taking chances and going after experiences I’ve wanted for as long as I can remember. I went to the World Series in 2014, I celebrated your birthday last year at the MLB All Star Game. I’ve sucked it up and stopped being such a wuss about flying with the help of vodka. I drove Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica. I went to Wrigley Field like you and I had always planned to go to. I’ve been to the Four Corners Monument and lost my breath and been moved to tears by the sheer phenomenal beauty of the Grand Canyon. I’ve pushed myself professionally and ran my company in the black for over three years now, and I’ve began doing work that I never thought I’d be capable of. I rode to the top of Sandia Peak. I almost rode a hot air balloon but a thunderstorm kept me grounded.

It took long work hours to save up to take these trips and have these experiences. And with all of those experiences, I’ve wished I could have called you to tell you about them. But I know you were there in spirit, cheering me on and telling me to not let fear keep me from going after what I wanted in this life. You always taught us hard work will get you where you want to go. And it has: hard work got me to Chicago, Albuquerque, Carlsbad, Las Vegas, Santa Monica, Baltimore, Murfreeboro. Some of those places people know of, some of the experiences are ones that many people have had. And some of those were just for me because they involved experiences or people that are dear to me.

It’s been almost two years. You’re still very present in my life, even though you’re gone. And I guess what I’m trying to say by all this rambling is that I miss you, I love you, and I wish more than anything we could have an hour to sit down and just talk. It hurts when the kids tell me how much they miss you, and I’ve learned to hide my hurt from them because I don’t want them to feel they’re doing something wrong in talking about you; I want your memory kept alive for them as long as possible.

Happy Birthday Dad. I wish there was another meatloaf/mashed potato “cupcake” to see you blow a candle out on.

~Amber

Forty Balloons

It was sunny on July 14, 1982. That I remember clearly. And what I always remember, what I’ll never forget, is that on that on that eve, my father’s fortieth birthday, he came home with…

Source: Forty Balloons

Happy Birthday Baby Girl

I prayed more during my pregnancy with Autumn than I did at any other time in my life.

Sure, I prayed during my parents divorce. I prayed during health crises in my twenties and thirties. I prayed during my dad’s last week on earth for him to finally be at peace, and I prayed for strength after he passed.

But never in my life did I pray as much as I did with my second born child.

You see, I’d suffered three miscarriages in my life, two of which were a result of the abuse I survived in my first marriage. The third? That came after twenty months of trying, of fertility drugs, of surgeries and charting and scheduled sex. And then on what would have been my due date with the baby I lost in the Summer of 2007 I found out I was pregnant. Eight days later I stood in a labor and delivery room in Plano, Texas and witnessed my nephew Tyler being born. And to this day, I say that seeing him take his first breath brought me the luck I needed to carry to full term. I got a variety of baby bathtubs for my baby shower which is fine with me! They came in use when we went on vacation or went to stay with my parents.

 

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