Do you like to choose your own ending?

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Remember those choose-your-own-adventure books?

I used to read those all the time in elementary school, and into junior high. In MARK MY WORDS, Lennie talks about how much she loved those books as a child too. In order to make her happy, Colin searches through his boxes of old books and finds his choose-your-own-ending books. Then he brings them to her. After that, these books become a huge part of the theme in MARK MY WORDS. When I originally released the book, it was a straight thriller, complete with one ending. But after releasing it, I wished I’d done something different, something that I’d toyed with but ultimately didn’t do. So when I unpublished the book, I decided to pull the trigger on that idea.

That’s why when MARK MY WORDS re-released this week, it included an alternate ending. You can choose to read it or not. That’s your call. And if you do read it, you can decided which one of the endings is the truth.

Good luck!

Amber

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Re-release sale! Only $0.99 for a limited time on kindle!

There are two sides to every story.
And not every narrator is reliable.
Sometimes things aren’t as they seem.
Even in a novel.
Lennie (Lennox) and Colin have two very different versions of their story.
I could’ve only shared one.
But where is the fun in that?
In this twisty thriller, two endings are presented. It’s up to you, the reader, to decide which one them you believe.

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Confessions of a Hypochondriac

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It was a little over three years ago on a Tuesday morning. I took the kids to school, ran a few errands, and then went home to write. One of my errands was to Trader Joe’s where I picked up my favorite salad for lunch. I remember being in good spirits. I ran into a friend and we chatted for a bit.

When I returned home, I ate my salad slowly while writing on my laptop. I recall that the words were flowing that day. The characters were talking, the plot was moving forward. I was so immersed in work, I didn’t realize how quickly time had passed. At one point, I glanced up at the clock and was shocked to see that it was almost time to pick up the kids. After saving the document, I closed out of it and prepared to stand up. I had no idea that once I did, my life would be irrevocably changed.

Looking back, I realize that moment was the last truly carefree moment of my life. Weird, huh? If I had known that, I would have savored it more. In fact, I would’ve savored all the moments. But we don’t really do that. Our good moments. Our healthy moments. Our happy moments. These are things we usually take for granted.

Until we lose them, that is.

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When I stood up the world tilted around me. I know I’ve used this figuratively in many books of mine, but I mean this literally. The room literally spun around me. And there was nothing I could do to make it stop spinning.

I spun like this for days. By the first evening, I got a slight fever. Oddly enough, this gave me some peace of mind. I assumed I had some type of virus. Some type of spinning, fever inducing virus. But after a few days, I worried it might be an infection so I made a doctor’s appointment.

Unfortunately, this began my year-long journey of multiple doctor’s appointments, and countless medical tests. Words were thrown around like “brain tumor”, “MS”, “cancer”, and things less dire like “inner ear infection”, or “vertigo”. But it turned out to be none of these things, and my final diagnosis was “I’m sorry. You have us baffled.”

Prior to this, all of my encounters with doctors had been positive. I got a virus or infection, so I went to the doctor. They told me what it was and how to get rid of it. End of story.

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In my mind, this is how it goes. Being told you have a condition, but no one can tell you what it is, is very frightening. Especially to someone like me who lives ninety percent of her time in her imagination. When the doctors didn’t have answers, I made them up. I conjured up all sorts of reasons why I was dizzy for nine months without relief. And, let me tell you, they were all dire and all very scary.

A friend of mine once told me that a hypochondriac isn’t a person who makes up symptoms. It’s a person who has symptoms that can’t be explained; can’t be diagnosed.

I can vouch for this.

When I finally stopped being dizzy I had hoped my health crisis was over, but I was wrong. Within weeks of the resolution of my spinning, another unrelated symptom occured. At first this was also misdiagnosed. To the point where by the time it was diagnosed, I had to have emergency surgery. As grateful as I am that my life was spared, this did not help me to become less of a hypochondriac. If anything it made me more skeptical of medical professionals.

On the heels of my surgery, I contracted a serious infection. However, when I finally beat that I continued to feel ill. Fast forward several months and I was diagnosed with a chronic stomach condition. That was two years ago, and I still have that condition. There are days, sometimes months, where I feel well (with the aid of my medication). And then there are days, sometimes months where I feel terrible. But this isn’t the worst thing that’s happened to me. No, the worst thing that has happened has been my anxiety, my worry, my fear.

Quite frankly, it sucks to be a hypochondriac.

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I’ve turned into a person who googles every symptom, who continues to think something is terribly wrong even when doctors tell me I’m fine. A person who calls the pharmacist on almost a daily basis because I’m afraid of mixing up the wrong medications. I’m someone who is afraid of germs. Simply touching a raw chicken breast and accidentally wiping my hands on my pants can send me into a panic of exponential proportions. While I don’t go so far as to burn my clothes afterward, I certainly want to. I walk around the house clutching Lysol spray. I wash my hands so much they are raw and red most of the time. I never open public doors with my hands, only my elbows and even then I worry. To me, using a public restroom is the equivalent of being a participant on FEAR FACTOR. Every time I run across an article on the internet about a disease I’m sure I have it. I inspect every new dot and freckle on my body religiously to the point where sometimes I panic over an indentation or scab, thinking it’s a new mole. Every time I eat something, I pray it’s not going to give me ecoli or salmonella.

About two years ago I saw a therapist for awhile. In one of the sessions he asked me what I get out of this. He said that I wouldn’t worry about my health so much if it wasn’t doing something for me. I vehemently told him it’s doing nothing for me. In fact, I want it gone. I don’t want to be like this. I hate it. And that’s true.

But now two years later, I know what he meant. By obsessing about my health, I feel that I’m controlling it. There was a time when I figured my doctors had it covered. That if I got sick, I’d go to the doctor and be good to go. Now I don’t believe that. So in my mind, I have to be my advocate. I have to essentially be my own doctor. Even more so than that, I also have this belief now that I can’t overlook anything. So every ache and pain causes me to run to google, to call the doctor, to obsess, to panic.

In my last post I declared 2016 to be my year of peace. After that little declaration, I have had health problem after health problem. I’ve been to the doctor 3 times already this year. I’m currently on multiple medications and am not feeling great. But you know what? It hasn’t thrown me as much as it has in prior years. I don’t think I’d go so far as to say I’ve been at peace. But I haven’t had a panic attack.

Progress is progress, right?

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If you can relate to this post, I wish I could give you some magic formula to beat this crazy, psychological problem. But I don’t have that. However, I do have compassion for you. I can sympathize with you. I understand you. And I don’t judge you.

Neither does God.

So even though I don’t have a magic formula, I do have a God who sees. A God who knows. A God who is merciful and loving. So that’s who I’ve been running to this week. I know I’m not strong in this area. So I’m leaning on Him. I’m worshiping, I’m declaring truth, I’m thanking Him for the healing that I know is coming.

And I don’t just mean physical.

Let’s throw hypochondria to the curb this year. What do you say? Are you with me?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The struggle is real – getting back into it

We’ve all been there. We go on vacation and then come home to reality and it’s just tough. Tough to find our routine again. Tough to get back to the daily grind. Tough to stop longing for the lazy days of vacation and focus on reality.

That’s where I find myself today.

Normally I look forward to my kids returning to school, but that wasn’t the case this year. And there are many reasons for this. One is that they are older now. My son is 16, and my daughter is 13. It really hit me this summer that I don’t have a lot of time left with them. In fact, next summer I’m fairly certain I’ll hardly see my son. I can already feel him slipping away… drifting toward adulthood. And I’m not certain I’m ready to let go. Two is that my health is still precarious, and having an empty house is often my worst enemy. Silence breeds anxious thoughts. Being alone is the perfect environment for my imagination to run rampant. And if it’s running with a story line that’s great, but if it’s running with fear and worry about my health, then it’s not as great.

So it’s no surprise that I was dreading the first day of school this year. I dropped my kids off last Tuesday and then came home feeling a little down. To my credit, I kept my chin up and immediately started work on my new series. And the truth is that it’s exciting. I am really looking forward to this new series. And as I started writing, I found myself falling quickly for the characters.

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But there were also setbacks. I suffered a flare up the last week of summer, and last week I was put on new meds. Apparently my body didn’t like the new meds that much because I had an allergic reaction to them, and had to stop taking them. And I found myself longing for summer. Longing to go back to days of hanging with my kids instead of sitting at home in an empty house while not feeling well.

But time moves forward, and I have to find my way back to a healthy routine. Today has started out rough. I thought I would get a lot of writing done, but my characters are pretty tight-lipped. However, I know they’ll start chattering at some point. Most likely it will happen tonight when I’m trying to sleep, so I’ll do my best to coax them out before that.

I’ll keep chugging along. I’ll keep surrendering to God, and trusting Him for healing. And I’ll keep cherishing every moment I have with my kids. I have no doubt that before I know it, this book will be written, my body will cooperate and I will find my routine.

Until that happens I appreciate your prayers, and kind words. I love knowing that you, my sweet readers, are pulling for me. I am doing my best to deliver your next book boyfriend to you soon.

Drowning….

When the year started I had all these grandiose plans for 2015. I was going to keep up with my blog by posting weekly. All the while keeping up with my release schedule, marketing and promotion and working on my secret project on the side. It’s three months in and I realize that I’ve already failed at all of the above. You would think I would know better than to plan for my life by now.

I’ve always been a planner. Back in Junior High I used to make lists for myself during the summer months that detailed out my entire day from eating my breakfast to showering to watching my favorite television shows. I would then check off every item as I completed it throughout the day. There has always been something so satisfying about checking things off a list, about completing tasks and reaching goals. And throughout my life, I’ve been good at these things.

But not the last few years. Sure on the surface it seems that I still am. And if you go by my release schedule and the fact that I release a book almost every other month like clock work it would certainly appear so. But inside I feel like I’m always one step behind. Like I’m clawing my way back to where I want to be. Like I’m drowning in a sea of overdue manuscripts and failed expectations.

And I know the culprit is my health.

I shared a health update a few months ago and it was all positive and cheery and hopeful. The truth about having a chronic illness is that there are days, weeks, and sometimes even months that seem hopeful. But then there are days, weeks and sometimes months where hope is hard to find. I’m in one such period right now. I had a flare up of pain and stomach issues about a month ago and this flare up doesn’t seem to want to let up. Oh sure, it’s given me the occasional day here and there. In fact, I had almost a whole week that seemed promising, but then the flare up returned with a vengeance. And I’m struggling. Struggling to keep up, struggling to manage my family, struggling to be the wife and mom I want to be, struggling to be happy, struggling to make my goals, struggling to finish my latest story. Which is beyond frustrating because I love Holden and Chloe. I love writing about them. Both of them are awesome characters and they are speaking so loudly. If I was healthy I could finish this book in a matter of days. I could sit at this computer and let the words pour out of me, flowing without any effort at all. It’s seriously that kind of story. One I adore. But sitting and typing all day is difficult for me right now. So I have to take it minute by minute. And that’s hard.

I share this because I always want to be transparent with you. But mostly because I felt like maybe some of you needed to hear this. Maybe you’re in a season that is tough. Maybe you feel like no one understands. I do. Really, I do. I know how hard it is to live with pain and uncertainty. To live with anxiety and doubt. I know what it feels like when no one can offer definitive answers or a cure.

But I also know that there is hope. There is grace. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. And that is the truth I cling to when I feel dark and sad and hopeless, like today.

There is a song I’ve been in love with lately and some of the lyrics go like this:

Comforter You are to me
Shelter from the cold
Constant how You carry me
Never letting go
You are with me

Your voice holds me together
When I feel like I’m falling apart
I place my world in Your hands
You come and steady my heart

I feel you in the stillness
I know that You are good
I feel you in the stillness
I know that You are good

(Nearness – Jenn Johnson from the We Will Not Be Shaken album by Bethel Music)

I cling to the truth in this song. And in the moments when I feel Him near, I know that He is good. I know that there is hope. I know that I will be all right.

And I know you will be too.

 

Birthday thoughts

When I woke up this morning I had two thoughts:

1. I can’t believe I’m turning 37 today.

2. I’m so glad it’s not my 36th birthday.

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Aging is not something I enjoy. I can honestly say that every birthday since 30 has been tough for me. For years, I had irrationally believed that I could cling to my twenties indefinitely and when they were cruelly ripped away I was devastated. Also, my birthday falls right after Christmas, two days before New Year’s, and three days before my anniversary, so it’s not an ideal time. Therefore, my birthday isn’t something I generally look forward to. But that’s not the case this year. This year I woke up excited. I sang joyously while making breakfast, to the point where my daughter actually thought I was hitting the wine bottle a little early. But I hadn’t been drinking. I was just happy…and grateful. Grateful that it isn’t last year.

You see last year I woke up feeling much different on my birthday. I was sick. I was depressed. I was hopeless.

Many of you have followed my journey over the past two years and you know all about my health issues, so I won’t rehash everything. If you aren’t familiar with it, you can read both posts about it here: What I learned in 2013 and Be Still.

Last year my birthday was dismal. I was recovering from surgery, I had contracted C Diff infection and I was still undergoing tests for the mysterious pains in the upper right quadrant of my abdomen.

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On a little side note: if you are reading this because you have C Diff infection, I want to offer you some encouragement and advice. My first tip is, stop googling it! Seriously. Reading about the infection online is so damn scary. I honestly thought the infection would kill me after reading about it on the internet. But it didn’t. I took the antibiotics along with a lot of probiotics (always be sure to take the antibiotics and probiotics at least 2 hours apart). I cut out sugar, caffeine, alcohol and all foods that feed bacteria, and for awhile even followed the Gaps diet. I ate a lot of fermented foods, drank kefir, took vitamin C and D, got plenty of rest, and once I felt well enough, I worked out. Anything to boost my immune system and strengthen my body. And I did pull through. It took only 2 months for me to kick the infection and I consider myself very fortunate. I won’t use the word “lucky” because I don’t believe in luck. I know that God pulled me through and that ultimately he healed me. But I do believe that the choices I made helped too, so that’s why I’m outlining them for you here.

After kicking the infection, I was still sick though. I knew my stomach wasn’t right, and the pain in my side was worsening. So I had more tests over the summer and was diagnosed with gastritis. I’ve been on medication for that ever since, and my body is healing more and more everyday. Some days I even feel 100% better.

When I woke up this morning I realized how blessed I am. I realized what a gift my health is. One I took for granted for 34 years. Much of the past year I have battled fear. Even on the days I feel good, I am fearful. Fearful that the infection will come back, fearful that the mysterious pain in my side really is something bad even though I’ve had every test known to man, and doctors assure me I’m fine.

But God has been so faithful to me in my challenges. He gently reminds me that I have nothing to fear. That he’s in control. That I can rest in him.

And today I feel nothing but gratitude. I have no idea what tomorrow holds, but today I am healthy.Today I feel great. I have a husband who loves me, two beautiful children, a supportive family and loving friends.

Today is worth celebrating.

Later we will go out to dinner and I will eat more than I should and indulge in my favorite red wine. And I will be happy and carefree. I won’t think about the challenges of the past two years. I will think about how blessed I have been in the midst of it all. But mostly I will revel in the moment, savor every second and be grateful for every breath.