Life as Amber knows it

"An adventure in the making…"

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.



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.


“I Could Never Do That”

“Well, I could never do that!”

Apply the above phrase to any hot button issue, and you’ve got a conversation I’ve unfortunately been subjected to too many times to count.

It doesn’t matter if it’s related to parenting issues, choice of profession, sex, friendships, tattoos, choice of underwear (sadly, I’m not joking about this one), politics, gun control issues, religion, body art, piercings, education, art, food choices… Name it, everyone has an opinion on what choices you make in your life.

Unless you’ve asked for their opinion, the true mistake everyone makes is thinking they have a right to weigh in on any one given issue. And this is a mistake I myself make, the most recent of which was me stating angrily, “I could never be with a person who’d tell me to give up a life long friend.”

But the reality is, unless these decisions are impacting other people in a negative manner, they need to shut the fuck up (and truly, the above example? It impacted me, because the person I made the comment to was guilty of letting his significant other control his friendships, and my friend chose to remove several long standing friendships in his life to please someone he’d been dating for a short few months).

But the reality is that at thirty~nine years old I’m tired of the peanut gallery weighing in on choices I make in my life that don’t affect them in any way, shape or form. The truth is, there are only three people that get a say in my life outside of myself, and those are my children, and they only get a say when it affects their life in a manner that’s harmful to them. And my children are my top priority. Every major decision I make in my life is related to what’s best for them: choice of profession, place to live, the car I drive, the food I prepare for dinner.

“I could never vote _______.”  “I could never give my child formula!” “I could never date someone who ____.” “I could never give up meat, that’s just stupid.” “I would never get a tattoo.” “I would never publish erotica under my real name.” “I’d never dye my hair those colors, I’m a mother for god’s sake!” “How can you own a gun? You’re a terrorist!” “How can you believe in God?” “How can you work when you’ve got small children at home, think of what that’s going to do to them!”

Good for you. You don’t have to.

The fact is this: My life is my own. The decisions I make are my decisions, and I am the one that will have to face any consequences, good or bad, that result from the decisions I make.

I recently was the target of ire from a size two surgically altered blonde with orange spray tan skin who made the mistake of commenting on the fact that at my size, I should be more careful about how much I eat. To which I responded by congratulating her on buying in to a bullshit ideal about what real beauty is. Later that evening I recounted the story to a friend and when I asked them why on earth I was the target of her bitch gun, they responded that it wasn’t that I was eating, it was that I caused them to question their own choices of giving up their comfort and happiness to be what society says is correct.

And I no longer care. I no longer care if you have a problem with the decisions I make in my life, because they’re not related to you. Our ego driven society has caused a damn shock wave of people believing their opinions hold any weight, when they do not. And I have to wonder about those who feel the need to weigh in on things that they have no business weighing in on: Do they really think their opinion on religion, politics, tattoos, hair color, career, parenting, food, gun control has any weight on the choices I make for myself? Does the group of size 2 women who all look the same in the bar I’m at with friends think I’m going to stop eating real food because they shoot me dirty looks and call me fat in a just loud enough to hear whisper when I walk by to the bathroom? Does someone I only know through Facebook think I’m going to stop carrying a gun because they don’t believe in gun ownership? Does a Stay At Home Mom think that telling me I’m wrong for returning to work (despite my reasons) is going to be reason enough for me to stop working and return to only being at home with my children? Does my friend telling me they really don’t like tattoos really think that’s going to sway my mind on decorating my body as I see fit, the body that’s mine? And does my ultra religious and ultra conservative family member truly believe that attempting to shame me for writing a genre of fiction that has sex in it is going to make me yank those books off the shelf and never again write about the carnal arts?

Give me a fucking break.

I am who I am. Whether or not the decisions I make for my life are ones that you yourself would make in yours makes no difference. I can guarantee that I won’t always agree with you on the choices you make in yours. If you’re at risk of hurting yourself badly, whether emotionally or physically, I’ll speak up, and I’d expect the same from you. But until then? Keep your fucking mouth shut about the choices I’ve made in mine unless I’ve asked you to weigh in.

“I could never do that.”

Good. Don’t do that.

But don’t judge me if I do.

~Amber Jerome~Norrgard

My Painful Reality

I’m fairly open about most parts of my life. To date, I’ve written about surviving a physically and emotionally abusive adoptive mother, a first marriage that was an exercise is abuse and shame and having my self worth stripped away daily. I’ve written about my struggles with infertility, post partum depression and anxiety, the decision to have a hysterectomy at the young age of thirty-three. I’ve written about being adopted and my search for my biological mother. I’ve written about losing my father, about my loss of faith and finding it again. I’ve written about body image issues and the struggle to lose weight (I even went as far as to post before and after photos of me in a bikini). And while I’ve hinted at other things going on in my life, I haven’t been open about them.

I have Fibromyalgia and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Every single day of my life is spent in physical pain.

If you’re not familiar, the symptoms of Fibromyalgia include the following (I’m quoting the fabulous WebMd for these):

“Chronic muscle pain, muscle spasms, or tightness. Moderate or severe fatigue and decreased energy. Insomnia or waking up feeling just as tired as when you went to sleep.

Stiffness upon waking or after staying in one position for too long. Difficulty remembering, concentrating, and performing simple mental tasks (“fibro fog”). Abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, and constipation alternating with diarrhea (irritable bowel syndrome). Tension or migraine headaches. Jaw and facial tenderness

Sensitivity to one or more of the following: odors, noise, bright lights, medications, certain foods, and cold. Feeling anxious or depressed. Numbness or tingling in the face, arms, hands, legs, or feet. Increase in urinary urgency or frequency (irritable bladder).

Reduced tolerance for exercise and muscle pain after exercise. A feeling of swelling (without actual swelling) in the hands and feet. Fibromyalgia symptoms may intensify depending on the time of day — morning, late afternoon, and evening tend to be the worst times. Symptoms may also get worse with fatigue, tension, inactivity, changes in the weather, cold or drafty conditions, overexertion, hormonal fluctuations (such as just before your period or during menopause), stress, depression, or other emotional factors.”

And if you’re not familiar, here’s a break down of Rheumatoid Arthritis (again, quoting WebMD):

“Rheumatoid arthritis is the second most common type of arthritis.

RA often affects the wrists, hands, knees, ankles, and feet. Usually, it’s the same joint on both sides of the body. It can also cause problems with other organs like the eyes, skin, heart, lungs, kidneys, nervous system, and digestive tract.

When you have RA, your immune system attacks your body, especially your joints, by mistake. It’s called an auto-immune disorder.

Here’s how it happens. The white blood cells of the immune system move into the joint. They release chemicals called cytokines, which attack the lining of the joint, called the synovial membrane. Thick tissue called pannus growsinside the joint.

Over time, that tissue invades and destroys cartilage and bone inside the joint. Inflammation causes fluid buildup in the joint, making it swell. Eventually, the damage makes it hard to move the joint.

RA is a lifelong disease. But there are many treatments that relieve pain and stiffness, and also slow down or stop the damage to your joints.”

I haven’t said much about it publicly. For the simple reason that I don’t want to be thought of as sick. And people mean well, but having been through multiple illnesses in my life, once you say it, once you’re open about it, you have a label placed on you.

I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia six years ago after I fell on the stairs and cracked three ribs. The ribs healed. But four months after the injury, I was still feeling pain, and it wasn’t pain related to the injury itself. It was pain that radiated throughout my body, or would be in one area of my body with no reason for it to be there. After several doctors and several out of pocket payments, I finally got a diagnosis. I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis four years ago when I began having trouble closing my hands around various objects. I was unable to make a fist without having pain throb through my hands for hours after.

The first medical treatment for Fibromyalgia is a prescription of Lyrica, which is basically an anti depressant. At the time of my diagnosis, I was taking Zoloft to treat post partum depression, and the Zoloft had the same effect Lyrica would on a person: it seemed to help the pain I was feeling from the Fibromyalgia.

Six months after the first diagnosis, I found out I was pregnant with my son. It was never a question: I stopped taking the Zoloft, no way was I going to have medication coursing through my body and into that of my unborn child’s. And I suffered for it greatly. Daily, I was more exhausted than I’d been when pregnant with either of my daughters. Daily, my body ached. Do you know that feeling you get when your foot falls asleep and starts waking back up? Those pins and needles that stab into your waking muscles and make it almost impossible to take a step? On my worst days, I’d feel that all over my body, so much so clothing hurt my skin.

I resumed taking an anti depressant after my son was born, and added a second one into the mix after my hysterectomy brought on a similar type of anxiety and depression that I suffered through post partum. I stopped taking the medications when they began doing more harm than good: I gained one hundred pounds and my hair began falling out. And I was fine, for the most part, in terms of emotional health. And the weight loss I had after ditching the pills helped with the depression. I’d also began a healthier diet, and that plus exercise helped alleviate the pain I felt from both illnesses.

But life seems to like to kick me in the crotch. Due to personal issues (which I will not for various reasons talk about here), I began taking Zoloft again in August 2013. I made it eight days before being rushed to the emergency room and being treated for seratonin syndrome, a possible side effect of taking any type of anti depressant.

My life became a cycle of depression, trying a new anti depressant, and around the one week mark, a trip to the ER because my body was no longer reacting to anti depressants and I’d start going into seratonin syndrome.

Name an anti-depressant, I’ve tried it: Prozac, Wellbutrin, Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa, Lexapro, Lyrica. With exception to Prozac (with my second dose I became suicidal), every other medication? Say hello seratonin syndrome and brushing up against death.

The reality is, I’m limited in treatment options, both for my depression and my Fibromyalgia and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

And my body is declining. Unfortunately, 10% of that is my own dumbass fault. You see, the past two years? It’s been rough. I lost my father. I lost family members. Several people I love dearly are fighting to live due to various health issues (and out of respect for them, I’m not naming names). I’ve had other emotional upheavals. And sadly, I went the route of eating shit that’s not too good for me.

But that other 90%? That’s on my body, and I can’t change it. I can go the homeopathic path, and that helps somewhat. But there are still days where it’s all I can do to get up out of bed and throw together peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for my kiddos for lunch before I’m so wiped out I have to sit down and not move for a couple of hours to recover.

Having these two illnesses is very isolating. Because I have a hard time asking for help. And I loathe repeating myself. And they don’t get the focus that Cancer or Heart Disease or even Diabetes gets, primarily because they aren’t deadly. I won’t die from either of these illnesses. But that doesn’t mean I’m not ill. That doesn’t mean that I don’t hurt, both physically and emotionally, that doesn’t mean I’m not frustrated, that doesn’t mean that I’m not angry and devastated and heartbroken and feeling betrayed by my body. Because autoimmune disorders can be summarized into a simple statement: it’s your body attacking you.

For me, something that’s hurtful is that the people who know I have these illnesses forget that I’m sick. I can’t remember the last time someone asked me how I was feeling, or what my latest test results were. And there’s the hurt that accompanies having asked someone to help me with something physical and for whatever reason, whether its understandable or not, they don’t follow through, and as a result, it takes me a week (and sadly, sometimes longer) to recover physically from what I was told I’d have help with. There’s irritation at having people crack jokes about my dietary preferences like I’m being some ironic hipster in avoiding meat and asking me if I need help getting over it by grabbing a bacon cheeseburger. There’s people who argue with me that I’m an idiot for choosing to not eat bacon. There’s the frustration of having to explain yet again that no, I do not want to try your entree, yes I know it’s delicious, yes, I’m aware that I need to live a little, no, I don’t want it because for me to have a bite of your cheeseburger, steak, or orange beef? That one bite can result in exhaustion, full body aches, what feels like swollen joints, numbness in my hands and feet, or insomnia. Or in extreme cases, all of the above. There’s the extreme anger when someone suggests eating fast food and I decline and they suggest (usually jokingly) that I think I’m too good for fast food. That’s not the case. But grabbing a burger from Burger King, or Whataburger or Jack in the Box? I’m going to be spending the next several days in severe pain. Junk food, red meat, too much sugar, processed foods? They’re toxic to me.

Would you give a diabetic a triple chocolate fudge cake? Would you ask someone who has heart trouble to race a marathon? I’m guessing no.

And I’m guessing that your friend with Diabetes, Cancer, or Heart Disease gets the benefit of you asking them how they’re doing, an offer of “Whatever you need…” and time spent with the person to remind them they’re still valid.

That’s the thing: I’ve felt invalid for quite some time. Because I don’t look sick. Because people forget that I am sick, even when they know better. And I don’t begrudge my loved ones who are fighting for their lives against various deadly illnesses the offers of help and quality time that they get, because I want them to have whatever comfort they need while they fight for their lives.

But I’m human. And I’m sick. And I could use a little comfort. I could use offers of help that actually are help. I could use friends calling me and asking me to grab coffee or dinner or a drink and just listening to me. I could use a hug, someone’s hand to hold, kind and compassionate words to be reminded that I do matter, that I am valid, that they understand that I’m hurting and I’m struggling and I’m doing the best I can with what’s a shit situation. That they know I’m trying, even if it looks like I’m not. To be told that it’s okay that I’m afraid of what my future will be like with these two illnesses, and they don’t think less of me, they don’t think I’m weak for feeling scared. To be told that I’m loved.

I wake up every day, and I wonder how bad it’s going to be. Am I going to be able to take care of my children fully? Am I going to be able to get work done? Am I going to have to spend the day in bed because it’s too hard to walk around? And the worst fear: is it going to hurt to hug my children?

This is my painful reality. And it sucks. And I’m angry. And it’s isolating, being in this. And I try to remember the serenity prayer, because I can’t change this, I can just pray for the strength to manage it and live with it.

~Amber Jerome~Norrgard

Dear World:

Dear World:

Hello, it’s me. The person you ignored. The person who you placed on the back burner until it was convenient for you to be my friend. The person you made a face at because I look different than you. I’m the classmate you made fun of because she wore long sleeve shirts on warm days to hide the welt marks on her body from her mother’s beatings. I’m the woman who overheard you say in Spanish what you’d like to do to me, with you unaware I understand the language very well. I’m the woman you and your size-two friends made fun of for being “fat”, the woman you said was a slut because I actually have curves. I’m the friend who overheard you talk repeatedly about which of my friends you’d like to fuck and which you’d like to see naked, and it minimized me and made me feel unseen. I’m the person who’s generosity you took advantage of. I’m the former employee who you passed over for a much deserved promotion because a lazy employee put out when I wouldn’t. I’m the person you made fun of for having an anxiety disorder. I’m the friend who’s birthday you forgot. I’m the friend who you blew off for the opportunity to get laid or to spend time with someone who was “cooler.”

Dear World, please start treating one another with compassion. Please stop placing those that you say matter to you on the back burner. Start making time for those you care about, and be aware of the weight your words and your actions carry.


~Amber Jerome~Norrgard

Dear Other Dude at the Playground…

Daddy Coping in Style

Dear Other Dude at the Playground on Saturday –

Remember me? I was the dad with the son wearing a pink dress.

Before he burst onto the playground, and as I parked the car, he was positively vibrating. I asked, “Now…you’re sure you want to wear your dress?”

He shouted in response, “Yes! Because I want to show everyone how beautiful I am in this beautiful dress!”

It was a big deal for him; and for me.

He hasn’t asked to wear a dress “out,” before. I didn’t fight it. Who cares, right?

Or so we’d like to think.

As you noticed, he couldn’t contain his excitement showing off the dress to the only two kids playing…your daughter and her friend. He skipped and twirled and chased them for ten minutes shouting, “Do you like my dress? I’m wearing a dress! Can I play with you? Will you play with…

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Thirty~Nine Things I’ve Learned in Thirty~Nine Years of Living

So with my birthday looming on the horizon, it’s time for my yearly spouting off of things I’ve learned. So here you go, Dear Reader: my take on life, what’s important, and everything in between.

1.) “All you need is love.” This statement is beyond true. But it has to be real love, not Hey-I-love-you-when-you’ve-put-on-makeup-and-are-a-size-two” love. Unconditional love goes miles towards healing and miles towards joy. Try it out sometime.

2.) And if you’re experiencing the opposite of #1 with someone in your life? Show them to the nearest exit.

3.) Actions speak louder than words. If someone says they’re one thing and shows you they’re another, they’re liars.

4.) Surround yourself with people who will hold your hair back when you vomit and their only concern is you, not the fact you just puked in front of them.

5.) Don’t start fights, finish them. Being a non~asshole does not equate with being a doormat.

6.) Find your voice and use it.

7.) Avoid people who use the phrase “We’re going to do Europe this summer.” These people are idiots. You don’t do a continent, you visit it, ass~munch.

8.) Your children will only be little once, and then they’ll be off to live their own lives, as they should. So take the time to answer the play phone, watch Bubble Guppies for the umpteeth time, and rock them back to sleep. Because you never know if it’s the last time they’re going to want that from you. When those days are gone, you’re going to miss them (and you’re going to miss them even when you paid very close attention to them).

9.) Quit counting calories. Quit wondering how many extra minutes you’ll have to run on the treadmill if you get the chocolate souffle. Eat the fucking souffle and enjoy every last bite without trading the experience in later for some stupid ideal about perfect bodies.

10.) Don’t value a person based upon what’s in their bank account. Value them instead on how they treat people they have no reason to be nice to.

11.) Treat yourself how you’d want people treating the person you love most in the world.

12.) If you don’t like something about yourself, stop complaining about it and do something about it.

13.) If you’re old enough to rent a car and mom and dad are still paying your way, you’re not an adult. You’re a child with one bad ass allowance. Cut the cord and take care of your own bills you spoiled brat.

14.) Blood does not equate with the right to treat people like shit. I don’t care if they’re your brother or sister, your mom or your dad: if they’re abusive, boot them out of your life.

15.) Never be too chicken shit to say “I love you.” You might never again get the chance.

16.) Sometimes you just gotta say “fuck it” and food porn out.

17.) Contribute something positive to the world.

18.) “K” is probably one of the most annoying things I can read in response to a message. It comes across as I’m not worth the time and effort it takes to put one letter before it. I have no problem ending a conversation after I read “k.” And maybe I’m bitchy for taking that stance. Or maybe I just know what I like and don’t like after almost four decades on this planet.

19.) Life’s too short and too hard to spend with people who bring nothing but negative to your life.

20.) If you’re late for meeting someone, you’ve lost the right to be butt~hurt if they find something else to occupy their time.

21.) Stop basing your self worth on ridiculous ideals about beauty.

22.) If you find someone who accepts you as is and loves you unconditionally, treat them like gold and celebrate them for what they are: a gift.

23.) Put your damn cell phone down and be present for those in your life you love.

24.) Tell those you love how you feel before the end.

25.) No one is who they seem to be in a bar. That’s the same as someone thinking what they saw on an acid trip was actually real.

26.) Listen to what people say. If someone says they don’t want children, to change occupations, to have a serious relationship, they mean it. Arguing with them or trying to change their mind is a waste of time. Don’t waste yours on someone who isn’t willing or able to give you what you need in your life.

27.) Find your passion. Find an occupation that you’re adept at that allows you to pursue your passion. Do not allow your passion to become your occupation, because you’ll lose your love of it.

28.) Never underestimate the power of a bottle of wine and excellent conversation.

29.) Laugh loudly.

30.) Find joy in the little things.

31.) Figure out how you want the world to remember you after you’re gone. Life your life accordingly.

32.) Never underestimate the power of coloring.

33.) Learn the difference between need and want.

34.) Ladies, if your shorts are wider than their length, get rid of them. Learn to dress for your body type.

35.) There’s a reason why blue eye shadow and huge bangs went out of style folks.

36.) Don’t be afraid to employ your middle finger. For added effect, use both.

37.) Life’s hard. Best to enjoy the moments that get us through the rough times.

38.) If you’re afraid of people seeing you without your makeup, you’re wearing too much.

39.) I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.


~Amber Jerome~Norrgard

Re~Post: “A Good~Bye To My Father.”

It’s been one year since we lost my father. On the anniversary of his death, I’ve chosen to repost the eulogy I gave at his funeral to honor him. 

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, 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

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 forty black balloons from work.

My father hated balloons.

And when I say hate, that’s an understatement. The screech they made when you ran your finger over them. The squeak they emitted when they moved against one another. How if you expanded them too much with your breath (or helium), you risked the chance of them exploding. And the annoyance that if you barely let your grip go at the wrong moment, all the expelled breath you had put into them would be wasted as they zerberted their way into the sky, only to fall to the ground deflated.

But on that day, my father’s coworkers threw an over the hill party for my father.

The fact that he came home with all forty balloons rather than letting them go or leaving them in his office at Fleming Corporation in Oklahoma City until they deflated and could be tossed out spoke volumes about who he was as a person. What he did after he parked his car in our drive way and stepped out, his gait hitched from an artificial hip, said even more.

I greeted my father with open arms and excitement, because it was his birthday, and I’d decorated a cake to celebrate and I was excited. And after he hugged me and asked about my day, he stepped to the trunk of his car and inserted his key (remember cars that actually needed a key inserted into the lock???). And like magic, forty black balloons popped out. A friend from down the street had been up to play, and she and I watched with wide eyes in pure amazement as balloon after balloon appeared.

Dad closed the trunk of his car, and counted twenty balloons out carefully, which he handed to my friend. The other twenty, he handed to me and warned us both with a wink about being carried off by the helium.

Dad hated balloons, yet he brought them home to his five year old daughter. And upon seeing her friend, he divided them in half so she wouldn’t feel left out.

It was just one of many times he put himself on the back burner for the sake of others. It was just one of many examples of which I have to draw on what it means to give to others.

I’ve felt a strong absence since my father’s passing last July. And certainly, his birthday is a date I’ll always remember, most especially his last birthday, the day he took the fall that ultimately led to the end of his life on this earth.

A few months ago, a new friend and I got into a conversation about my father, and he asked how old I was when he passed. When I said thirty-seven, my friend told me he was only twenty-two when he lost his father, and thank God I got the time I had with my father. And like many other people, he warned me the loss would crop up when I expected it and when I least expected it. And he was right: there’s an ache when my children do something I’d normally call my father to tell him about, there’s an ache when I achieve something I’d share with him, there’s an ache I can no longer call him to annoy him about how he’s feeling or drop into his room to sit with him. There’s an ache that the house I hated is no longer a house I can go into. There’s an ache he won’t get a seventy-third birthday. That there won’t be seventy-three black balloons, a bacon cheese burger from sonic to share, a mock cupcake made out of meatloaf and mashed potatoes I’ll trick him into eating thinking its cake and he’ll bitch about it. There’s no more expired food to tease him about, no more debates about the philosophy of life, no more eye rolling about my latest tattoo and my newest hair color. I’ll never again watch him pull my oldest into his arms while he asks her to tell him about life.

There’s an ache instead.

And I don’t want the ache gone. Because if the ache were gone? That would mean that the parent I had who fought tooth and nail for my life, who put me first, who loved me unconditionally, who taught me right from wrong, who taught me that the true gift is in the giving, who taught me to go after what I want balls to the wall didn’t exist. If it didn’t hurt, it would mean I had been less loved, less cared for in my formative years. It would mean I hadn’t had the experience of a father who had no problem telling my softball coach he was full of shit and hadn’t had the gift of a father who would well up with tears when I would play “Memories” on the piano. It would mean I never would have had the experience of being told repeatedly that someone always had it worse. It would mean I wouldn’t have had the blessing of a father who worked late into the night and went in before the sun rose to work to sit with me in the hospital at age fifteen to keep me from feeling less isolated. It would mean I wouldn’t have had the knowledge that money doesn’t matter but your heart does.

And as much as this ache hurts, as much as I wish it were a year ago when my father still drew breath enough to ride my ass about getting back into college, I’m grateful for it. And as much as I would give my own life to avoid my own childrens’ pain in any way shape or form, I hope one day my children experience this type of loss and this type of ache.

Because I’ll have been the right type of parent.

Happy Birthday Daddy. I love you.

Amber Maria.

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