I STILL REMEMBER

April 16, 2014

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A long ago picture from when I was in love with my husband.

A long ago picture from when I was in love with my husband.

My post title is a line of lyrics from my song named “Laughter and Tears.” I am finalizing a new arrangement for it, which will include some significant lyric changes from my first version. My song is very poignant and fitting for this time in my life.

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Below I share the arrangement in progress. There are musical interludes in it that easily touch my heart and make me cry. I plan to record my guitar and vocal for it soon.


Click the blue link to hear my arrangement in progress:

LAUGHTER & TEARS #2 KARAOKE Copyright 2014 by Judy Unger

This picture was taken on the day I was “secretly married.” It happened six months before my formal wedding and was something I did to please my mother. I’m not in this picture because I was lying in the bedroom sick with an upset stomach.

This picture was taken on the day I was “secretly married.” It happened six months before my formal wedding and was something I did to please my mother. I’m not in this picture because I was lying in the bedroom sick with an upset stomach.

It was warm in my car; I could feel sweat beading up on my forehead. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.

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My lawyer had left me a message to call her. I already knew what she was going to tell me. Since December, it was just a matter of paperwork that would simply state I was officially divorced. I knew she wanted to tell me personally.

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My lawyer was a lovely woman who had a divorce story of her own. She shared it with me at our first appointment and I knew then that she was the lawyer for me. She became a lawyer in her 40’s after going through a divorce from a husband who didn’t believe in her career change.

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I was going to actually miss her. Not her fees, but her support. I always felt secure with her, even when I didn’t follow her advice.

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Sometimes I grinned when I imagined her listening to my music while she was driving to some big court case. Over a year ago, I had mailed her a CD because she seemed interesting in hearing my music. But then I thought about it. Would I be charged for her time to listen? I was embarrassed by the thought, but then decided to just send her a message to be sure. I wrote:

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I’m smiling as I write this – I mailed you a CD today. But I want to be sure you’re not going to charge me to listen. I realize time is precious, so you have no obligation to me whatsoever to listen! Thanks!

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Her reply was:

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Judy, I only charge you for legal work…not for my enjoyment. Looking forward to listening.

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I was relieved. Then a few days later she sent me another message. She had received the CD and I was in heaven because she wrote:

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Listening to your music soothes me. Thank you so much.

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Tear & butterflies

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Her secretary put my call through. Immediately I knew I was right when I heard my lawyer’s chipper voice. She said, “Congratulations – you are now a free woman! I’m mailing you the final judgment today.”

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After I hung up, I sat there and wondered what I was supposed to feel. I felt so numb. Celebrating didn’t really feel appropriate, even though this day was a long time coming.

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I thought about the fact that the person I had shared over half my life with was also experiencing finality on this day. Vestiges of painful memories swirled around me. The end of my marriage was definitely a grief process and it was complicated.

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Every moment of my new life, I celebrated my freedom. But unfortunately, I was still haunted by habits of thought that I had a lot of trouble overcoming.

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I was very close with my three children. Many emotions surfaced on a constant basis. I was forced to contain my emotions because whenever I shared them with my children, it left me filled with regret and remorse.

Watercolor Azalea & Camelia

The heat began to get to me and I needed to get out of my car to shop for groceries. But I felt like I had to share my news. I sent out a text message that read:

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 I received a call from my lawyer. My divorce is final. It’s a big moment.

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The replies began to pour in. My favorite response was:

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Not a pang of guilt, I hope. Happy for your freedom from the dragon.

Watercolor Azaleas

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THE PRINCESS AND THE ASHES

The Princess had no regrets. As difficult as it had been to leave the Dragon, there was not a single moment where she missed him.

Sometimes, it was unreal for her to remember her “former life.” She had spent so many years with him and now it was as if he never existed.

Most of time, she tried not to think about him. She had hated their life together and did not want to feel guilty for hurting him. She did not want to imagine how much hatred he felt toward her for leaving him.

The dagger of guilt would often stab her when she wasn’t aware of it. It was understandable because she had spent so many years trying to please him.

Despite not thinking about him, there was so much she could still remember . . .

Old picture in gray

Some memories of her former life were difficult to push aside. There were many food items she could not look at in the market because it reminded her of the dragon. She did not miss preparing his food.

And she couldn’t really dismiss him because of their “little Dragons.” She was involved in their lives in countless ways. They weren’t little, and sometimes she was overwhelmed by how much they all depended on her.

From the beginning, the Princess accepted that all of the years with Dragon were not wasted. Their offspring might remind her of the Dragon, but they were sweet blossoming buds that filled her life with fragrance and joy.

When the Princess first left the Dragon, she was determined and filled with strength. Every step she took was a celebration of getting farther and farther away from him.

But his fire still burned in her mind and her little Dragons also breathed fire.

The Princess woke up one morning and could hardly open her eyes. Wherever she looked there was smoke and ashes raining down from the sky.

Despite many medicines and potions, she found little relief. Her affliction was confusing and disturbing.

Her eyes were foggy and aching. Sometimes, she wanted to cry so badly to moisten them but could not find a single tear. Other times, tears poured from her eyes without any feelings behind them at all.

Old picture croped

Once upon a time, the Princess was so excited about her amazing journey.

But when the ashes began to rain down on her, it became hard for to move forward because she could not see ahead. The constant cloud of gray clouded her eyes, mind and spirit.

Although she still felt inspired and valuable, now she was weak and vulnerable. It was hard for the Princess to imagine how she had been so strong once. She was always so proud of the courage and strength it took for her to leave the Dragon.

Because of her pain, she preferred seclusion. In the dim light of her castle, Princess spent most of her time polishing the enormous collection of song jewels she had amassed. The sparkling jewels always comforted her.

Watercolor Camelias

There was one day where her eyes felt so painful; she could not do anything but crawl into bed. She was very discouraged and angry.

The Princess prayed for healing.

It was then when she had a realization and profound insight.

She had to let go of the Dragon.

The Dragon represented hatred, disappointment, anger and unfairness.

Those were all feelings she was an expert at suppressing.

From the time she was a child, she never felt safe to express her true feelings. They simply simmered within her.

Letting go of the Dragon would allow love to return . . .

Love would heal her.

She knew she had gems of value far beyond her song jewels.

She was a Princess and her “little Dragons” were also royalty. They were priceless and more valuable than any jewels on earth.

I still remember Family montage

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© 2014 by Judy Unger http://www.myjourneysinsight.com.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

THE DOOR – PART 3

April 14, 2014

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The Door and my guitar

Clicking the blue link plays audio:-

THE DOOR #2-4/22/14 Copyright 2014 by Judy Unger

My song garden has become a lovely arboretum; I now have over fifty songs with arrangements. That translates into a lot of singing, composing and guitar playing over the last few years. I especially love my recent song arrangements and have learned so many things from working with my arranger, George.

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Although I have occasional angst over key and tempo decisions, overall I am satisfied with my singing voice. This is huge for me since I seldom take a voice lesson anymore.

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I’ve discovered how from one session to another my singing ability varies. Occasionally, I’ll hold my voice back and none of the vocal lines have conviction. Other times, I’ll over-sing and many words come out too harsh. Because I am so adept at vocal editing, I know how to make my recordings work. I’ll go back to sing parts if my song needs it. I always fill in my song “puzzle” so that all the pieces fit well together.

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There are also those times, especially with a new song – where I feel a magical connection with my music and lyrics. It is such a joy to edit those recordings!

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All of my recent singing is definitely better than anything I did a year ago. I am far more relaxed and have integrated concepts from my past lessons with Kimberly Haynes. I also remember so many things from the time when I worked with Peaches Chrenko.

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A large percentage of my fifty songs have vocals that are “good enough.” I am getting closer and closer to releasing my music but having my songs and audio book professionally mastered has taken far more time and energy than I ever anticipated. I could write an entire story related to what I’ve learned about mixing and mastering music!

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Every week, I work on a song that I’m certain will benefit from my improved voice. I never want to abandon any of my songs – many of them have alternate arrangements that are also beautiful. I can’t choose which version I like better, so I enjoy both of them.

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Judy and the door

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It was late in the afternoon when I arrived to record vocals. Darrin’s studio was only a mile from my house and I appreciated how convenient it was. I began recording with Darrin over a year ago; sometimes I wondered how long I would continue recording with him. For certain, there was never a shortage of songs that I wanted to improve!

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When I came into the recording area, Darrin asked me what song I’d be singing. I smiled and said, “I think I’ll do my first version of The Door. I really love my newer version, but the very first one I composed in 2012 is also special.”

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Then I added, “And since I found out this morning that my divorce is final – it’s a perfect song for me to sing today!”

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Before I went over to the microphone, I took off my shoes so they wouldn’t squeak while I was recording. Sometimes I swing my arms while singing and hit the microphone stand (it sure adds a loud clunk). I always try not to do that but it is easy for me to get carried away while singing!

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When I composed “The Door” in 2012, my song felt like it was a huge secret. The fact that I was miserable in my marriage was not a secret to people whom I was close with. But finding the courage to divorce was overwhelming and my song helped to guide me. My husband never expected I would leave and my secret ate away at my insides.

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My first arrangement of “The Door” was very orchestral and filled with tension. I couldn’t sing it well because my voice was weak and breathy in 2012.

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But now it was 2014 and my marriage was officially over. I positioned the headphones and my song began to play. I couldn’t believe that I had actually gone through the door.

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As I heard the piano notes, I easily disappeared into my song. I pictured my old house and recalled the terror over ending my marriage and changing the course of my life.

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I saw myself looking out the front door and imagining what it was going to take for me to leave. It wasn’t until after I separated that I added the line of “I knew I was worth more.”

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I sang “The Door” six times. I left Darrin’s studio and was certain that on this day the magical connection was there.

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Links to part one and two of this story:

#398 THE DOOR – PART 1

#399 THE DOOR – PART 2

The door lyrics

© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

TAKE ME AWAY – PART 2

April 8, 2014

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Mom & I

Link to the first part of my story about Take Me Away (and to hear audio):

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#422 TAKE ME AWAY – PART 1

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My arranger, George told me immediately that he did like the word “pain” in my song. But I wanted to escape my pain, so I wondered how could I change that lyric line. My preliminary lyrics are below:


Far from pain

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I ended up changing a “peaceful place” into a lovely day; I was elated because it was such a beautiful change!

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How I arrived at finding those new lyrics was very touching for me.

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Holding you again

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My parents bed

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“I’m crying while I’m dreaming”

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My dream was so real! I actually thought I was shopping with my mother again. It was such a wonderful feeling to be with her. I was safe and loved. She listened to every little detail I shared with her about her grandchildren.

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But when my dream began to change, I was in a state of panic. Instead of shopping, we were walking in a very cold place. I was confused – how was it that we were in a snowy place where it was so dark?

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I held her hand and suddenly the ground seemed to open up and she screamed. I heard her splash into dark water right in front of me. I was afraid to jump in because I knew it was hopeless – I could not reach her and I would die if I followed her. Her eyes were huge and bulging and I gasped with the horror of it. I thought I even saw Jason below her in the icy depths. This was too much for me handle.

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I prayed for it to end.

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My eyes were wet with tears with the realization that it was only a dream. I covered my face with my pillow and cried.

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In my dreams

Notice that my bed is the same one my parents slept in for decades. (Of course with a different mattress!)

Notice that my bed is the same one my parents slept in for decades. (Of course with a different mattress!)

“Holding you again”

A few days later, I had a similar dream. This time I woke up quickly to escape the horror of losing my mother in my dream.

As I lay there, I thought about how so many times I had woken my mother up when I had nightmares as a young child. I remembered how she would help me fall back to sleep. Now I was an adult and she was gone forever.

A tear trickled down my cheek in the darkness.

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And then I heard a voice that was reminiscent of what I used to say to my mother. The voice said, “Mommy, can I stay with you until I fall asleep?”

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I said, “Of course! I love holding you.”

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I felt a gentle squeeze of warmth across my chest and shoulder. It was so sweet and lovely.

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It took me away . . .

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I was peaceful and fell back to sleep dreaming that I’d see him again someday.

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Jason & Judy on recliner

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“A lovely day”

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My new song “Take Me Away” life was like a soft blanket over my entire day. It surrounded me with sweet notes and a melody that took away all of my sadness.

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I could feel myself coping better. On top of everything else, I was working on an illustration assignment. My artwork came out very well and I was pleased about it.

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Illustrating

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I seldom write about my children anymore, although they are a huge part of my life. All three of them are very close to me. Going through my separation and divorce impacted them greatly even though they weren’t young children. My oldest son is 23, my daughter is 20 and my youngest son is 17.

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I easily get teary with the memory of the shock on my youngest son’s face when he found out I was separating from his father. He begged me over and over to reconsider. At one point he was on his knees crying – it was a horrible moment in my life – and his.

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Moving to a new home and adjusting was a slow process for him. He attended a new school where he began to thrive and bloom. Gradually, his discouragement and anger toward me began to subside.-

I was beaming as I watched my lovely son perform and sing in his school play this past weekend.

I was beaming as I watched my lovely son perform and sing in his school play this past weekend.

Over the last few months, some amazing and wonderful things have happened for my son. His eyes constantly twinkle with excitement about life.

This past weekend he performed in a musical at his school. We bonded a lot as he practiced singing his solo so I could give him tips.

I was really touched when he asked me a favor. He wanted me to write him a handwritten note that he could read before each performance to help him stay calm. I couldn’t imagine being asked to do anything more beautiful.

His first performance was for his fellow classmates at school. When I picked him up he had so many wonderful things to share with me about his day.

We were almost home when he even asked me about my day. I hardly expect that from my teenager!

I told him I was thankful my illustration assignment had gone so well. My client liked my work and it was approved and accepted. I was definitely in a good place.

So it was on this particular day that I received the inspiration for my new song’s lyrics.

As I pulled into the driveway of our coop, I said “Honey, before you get out could you please help me with a lyric change for my new song?

He said, “Sure, mom! How can I help you?”

I said softly, “Can you think of a replacement for being taken to a peaceful place? It sounds too much like death. What other words could convey comfort?”

My son’s eyes were bright and his face was shining. Without hesitation he exclaimed, “How about a lovely day? Take me away to a lovely day – it even rhymes!”

I listened and mouthed the words; at first I wasn’t sure. But then I realized it was perfect.

Being taken to a peaceful place – away from pain represented an escape.

Lovely was different. Lovely was a word that invoked so many things.

It even had love in it.

My new lyrics were now about a lovely memory and that definitely took me to a place of healing.

And it happened on such a lovely day! 

Note to my son

© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

TAKE ME AWAY – PART 1

April 7, 2014

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TAKE ME AWAY with my guitar
TAKE ME AWAY

Copyright 2014 by Judy Unger

 

I’m on a road; I’ve traveled so far

not sure where I am or where you are

I long to escape when I go to sleep

but my dreams are so vivid; they make me weep

I know you are gone; I just can’t move on

 

Take me away to a lovely day

where I’m holding you again

it’s hard to face; I’m crying while I’m dreaming

of seeing you someday, but in my dreams

you take me away

 

for the first time I’m on my own

everything’s changed; all that I’ve known

I wanted to leave my sadness behind

but memories of us fill up my mind

I know you are gone

I just can’t move on

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Take me away to a lovely day

where I’m holding you again

it’s hard to face; I’m crying while I’m dreaming

of seeing you someday, but in my dreams

you take me away

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Take me away to a lovely day

where I’m holding you again

it’s hard to face

that you’re gone forever

every night and day

in my dreams

you take me away

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FLOWER GARDEN

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Click the blue link below to hear audio of my newest song:-

TAKE ME AWAY-4/7/14 Copyright 2014 by Judy Unger

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I work with an arranger named George once a week. He is very private and prefers that I don’t share any pictures or use his last name.

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George has been a musician his entire life and we have been working together since 2010. We often joke about how it went the first day I came to him. It was only a few months after I started playing my guitar and singing again; I had not done music for over thirty years. I saw his ad on Craiglist and it caught my eye with the words of: “If you’re a songwriter, let me help you sound great!”

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At our first session, I sat down next to George and asked him how many songs I could work on during our three hours (his minimum); I wanted to get my money’s worth. So on that first day, we didn’t arrange anything at all and George recorded me warbling a few songs.

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If I ever want to be reminded of how far I’ve progressed, I simply listen to 10 seconds of any of those recordings! At that time, I hardly imagined that I would passionately embrace arranging my music with him on a regular basis. It was after I separated from my husband that I felt free to do that.

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After our first session, I returned to George to arrange one song at a time during a single session (I usually spend 3-4 sessions now on one song). I would come to him about once every two months.

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For two years, I worked with George to rediscover every song I had written as a young girl. George always told me: “Jude, one day I know you’ll write something new. All this old stuff is just about purging.”

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This is an example of an old song where all I had was this sheet. “No Words” didn’t have any verses and I couldn’t remember the melody.

This is an example of an old song where all I had was this sheet. “No Words” didn’t have any verses and I couldn’t remember the melody.

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He was right; eventually, I began writing brand new songs.

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It was thrilling to rediscover the magic of songwriting after three decades of silence. It began slowly with the expansion of old unfinished songs. In some cases, I wrote new lyrics for songs that had chords written for them long ago. In other cases, it was the opposite; I used lyrics from the past and composed new chords for them.

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I can’t believe that I wrote this page 33 years ago for one of my song compositions. I no longer write out music anymore.

I can’t believe that I wrote this page 33 years ago for one of my song compositions. I no longer write out music anymore.

All of my song compositions as a mature woman have helped me to heal. Many of my rediscovered songs addressed my grief over the loss of my son who died in 1992. I was amazed how my sadness and grief from almost two decades before began to ease once music re-entered my life.

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I was far more prepared to cope with the death of my father in 2012, because my song “Set You Free” was truly a gift to guide me. And only a year later, I sang “Set You Free” to my mother as she took her last breath on earth.

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The song that truly changed my life was “The Unknown.” It led me to divorce my husband after 31 years of marriage.

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THE UNKNOWN

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“It all starts with a magical moment”

After four years of working with George, our working relationship is sweet. George teases me and calls me “sis.” I call him “bro.” We both feel that we were destined to work together.

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There is never a shortage of music for me to create with George. Even when I’m not arranging a brand new song, I enjoy working with him to create new arrangements for older songs. We experiment to find ways of making every song arrangement unique, while at the same time we often go back to certain sounds I love.

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I have sometimes wondered whether there are other singer/songwriters who have as many multiple versions of songs as I do! I love every version and plan to release them all someday.

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There is nothing like the excitement of creating an arrangement for a brand new song. A new song lifts my spirits, but it takes a lot of energy away from other things I want to work on. At every session, George tells me, “C’mon sis, your new stuff is great – just bring me a few chords and we’ll start working on arranging something new!”

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It’s hard for me to understand how I am such a passionate songwriter when I seldom consciously choose to write a song. I cannot compose a new song by simply playing my guitar and wishing for it to appear.

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A song unfolds for me, and it usually happens at a time when I’m very discouraged.

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It all starts with a magical moment.

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Blue river

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Like magic, suddenly I will hear an exquisite melody and beautiful chords appear on my guitar. My life transforms as my new song’s melody envelops me with energy and joy. Despite the beauty of this process, I would not have created my recent songs if it weren’t for George continuing to prod me.

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Last December, I was dealing with eyesight pain and depression as I sat across from him with my eyes half closed. I told him I was definitely not in the mood to write any new music.

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But then, I remembered an old instrumental from 1980 named “Waterfalls.” Because I had studied classical guitar, I had a few instrumentals in my repertoire and had even turned one of them into a song with lyrics before. My instrumental, “Farewell” became the basis for my song, “You Were There.” “Every Season” was also an instrumental song before I wrote lyrics for it.

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I always envisioned how one day the piece “Waterfalls” could become a cool song. It had great chord changes, but how in the world would I compose a melody for such dissonant chords? There certainly wasn’t a chorus with a hook either.

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George’s eyes twinkled. He said, “Okay, let me hear those chords.”

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As part of the process, I share below my instrumental “Waterfalls,” which I recorded in 2011. Click the blue link to play audio:

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WATERFALLS GUITAR INSTRUMENTAL-Copyright 2010 by J. Unger

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Cool waterfall

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I pulled out my guitar and demonstrated each chord for him, note by note. He quickly translated them into piano chords for his keyboard.

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I came home from that session with a single track of keyboard guitar. It was reminiscent of “Waterfalls” but clearly different. It was the first time we had arranged something that was so unfinished. I had an assignment; I needed to write lyrics and compose a melody for it.

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George found ways to shorten and streamline “Waterfalls.” I could feel the verses, but not the chorus.

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A month went by and I was still stumped; I told George I was having trouble developing the song. He added a few instruments to the verses in hopes of inspiring me. Now I really loved those verses. They sounded spooky and cool – and had me imagining that I was travelling somewhere. As I listened with George, I hummed a makeshift melody for fun. I sang, “Take me away!”

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George looked at me and said emphatically, “That’s your song, Jude. Take Me Away!”

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For fun, George added the sound of a tropical rainforest at the beginning. I laughed and thought it was a silly title. I didn’t take him seriously because I felt it wasn’t very original.-

TAKE ME AWAY IN PROGRESS-Copyright 2014 by Unger


Waterfall and Rainbow

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Another month went by and I still wasn’t able to finish “Take Me Away.”

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Finally, with honesty I told George I didn’t really like the chorus chords that he had helped me write. Some of his chords were taken from my old instrumental; I didn’t care for anything except the verses.

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George tried again and wrote some new chorus chords for me. I liked them more than the prior ones, but no magic melody came to me.

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Then one night, I decided I’d pull out my guitar and see if I could figure out my own beautiful chorus for “Take Me Away.” I started with some of the chords George had written and then I went somewhere else . . .

-Colorful Guitar

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It was then when I had a magic moment!

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Within an hour, the chorus chords were formed and the melody began to play. My heart was dancing with joy. This was exactly what I needed to be doing. I was transported somewhere else and taken away from all the stress in my life.

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With anticipation, I couldn’t wait to share what I had composed with George. I came into our session with a big grin and handed him a paper with the new chorus chords on it.

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As we added other instruments, the magic continued. I was hooked and my beautiful new song was born. The song arrangement was gorgeous, but the only problem was I hadn’t written any lyrics for it yet!

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I wanted to finish my song, but I still was not sure what it was going to be about. I searched deep within my heart for words that would move me. It was no surprise that my lyrics were sad and painful. The sentence of “Take me away to a peaceful place, far from pain of losing you,” was exactly what I was feeling as I missed my mother and father.

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I also knew that I was channeling the intense grief of other people. I could feel myself writing and dedicating my song to them. This song was for Tersia, Sammi, Relinda, Julie, Len and Brenda.

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At my next session with George, I was almost reluctant to share my lyrics. He listened and told me he did not like how I mentioned pain. He said, “I thought you were going to write about being taken to a tropical place on a vacation!”

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I let him know how I wished I had been able to. The truth was that I wasn’t feeling like going anywhere and I couldn’t invent words that weren’t honest.

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Still, there definitely was a place that I wanted to go.

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I wanted to go to a place that would heal me.

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Mom & I on the waves

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© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

SEEING YOU SOMEDAY

April 5, 2014

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    It's been months since I've seen my brother, Howard. My nephew, Sean (his son) is on my right. Since my mother died, our weekly routine of seeing each other is gone. But I remembered his birthday!

It’s been months since I’ve seen my brother, Howard. My nephew, Sean (his son) is on my right. Since my mother died, our weekly lunches are over. For this picture, I saw him a week before his birthday at the same restaurant where we used to take my mother.

A perfect opportunity to share a photo of Sean as a baby. What a hunk he is! And he's also a lawyer who loves music.

This is a perfect opportunity for me to share a photo of Sean as a baby. What a hunk he is! Plus, he’s also a lawyer who loves music. This picture shows how I wasn’t that adept at handling babies before I had my own children. My mother’s hand is there to help me!

This is an old picture of Howard and I. My childhood friend, Joni, is on the left and I often sit near that same window.

This is an old picture of Howard and I and my childhood friend, Joni is on the left. It’s amazing how I live in the same place I grew up in and I often sit near that same window.

My post title is a lyric line from my most recent song “Take Me Away.” I will share a version of my song here that is only karaoke, guitar and harmony. I find it fun to listen to. I’ll be sharing my song soon with the complete vocal and lyrics.

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Click the blue link to play audio:

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TAKE ME AWAY–KARAOKE WITH HARMONY

Copyright 2014 by Judy Unger

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If my song comforts another person, I always feel blessed. When I sing my song, I think of many special friends in my blogging world. I would like to dedicate my song to all of them.

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The process of composing and recording “Take Me Away” happened over a period of four months. Once I discovered lyrics for it, I loved singing them with the new arrangement. It was unbelievably beautiful for me.

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I couldn’t wait to share my song with a good friend, Sonia.

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She was a very honest friend and I was pleased when she said my song really touched her. But then she said, “Judy, when someone mentions going to a peaceful place – I think of death. Being out of pain is great – but I’m not sure about this. Could you find an alternate word like tranquil instead?”

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Take Me Away lyrics

I heard what she said and understood. The problem was that I liked “peaceful place.” But her words made sense and I started to chuckle whenever I sang my song. It was funny in a way. Even though I had channeled grief, I didn’t want to be dead to see my loved ones. I also realized I wasn’t praying to be taken away. Being far from pain was true, but I knew there was another way to express that. Those were all lines I planned to change.

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The inspiration for me to change those words is a beautiful story that I plan to share soon.

This picture is from a teary story on Relinda’s blog called “The Promise.” By graduating, she kept her promise that she made to her husband, Doyle shortly before he died. Notice the inscription on the right side of the photo.

This picture is from a teary story on Relinda’s blog called “The Promise.” By graduating, she kept the promise she made to her husband, Doyle shortly before he died. Notice the inscription on the right side of the photo.

It was because of this subject that I wanted to share an exchange of comments with a beautiful writer. Her name is Relinda and she is a heartbroken widow. Her blog can be found with this link:

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http://doyleswidow.wordpress.com

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Here is a link for another post where I wrote to Relinda: YOU HAVE NO HOPE

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Lime green fantasy Butterfly

A YEAR AGO:-

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Judy says: Beautiful writing, Relinda. Moving forward is never about letting go of memories. I see it as letting go of pain. Grief is all about love. The loss of your husband is far too much to bear. It is of little consolation to imagine that one day you will experience your exquisite memories without feeling the pain. I look forward to when that day happens for you. And it will happen.

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Relinda gravatar

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Relinda says: Thanks, Judy. Too often, people forget that they should examine their past and learn from it (and the memories are a source of comfort, although some are painful). It will happen when I see him again. My life is a lonely life.

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Judy says: I do believe you will see him again. Grieving is hard, hard work. It feels endless and hopeless; I remember it well from experience. I buried my son and am thankful not to be in agonizing pain from grief anymore. Hang in there, Relinda. Even though you believe things will never change, I see you looking back some day remembering my words.

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Relinda says: 
I appreciate your optimism, but when I lost him, I lost myself. Sometimes, we just wait for the game to be over. I am glad that you have found some peace and in so doing, have found some healing. I still hope that you find the type of love that Doyle and I shared.

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Judy says: And I still hope that you’ll discover “the game to be over” before your own death. That might just happen for you, too. You lost a piece of your soul when Doyle died. It won’t regenerate and no one sees it. You’re bleeding from it daily. I am counting the days for your bleeding to stop – I am certain it will, even though you are not. Scars are scars, but they don’t bleed anymore or throb. You’ll carry the memory of pain instead of the raw wound. That is what I am hoping for you.

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Relinda says: For some, the wounds’ pain lessons, for some, it never lessens or ceases. Thank you for hoping though.

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Judy says: You wrote, “For some the pain never lessens or ceases.” That is a belief (not a fact), which you envision for your future. At this very moment you are in terrible pain and I am so sorry. But for everyone, the future is unknown. I maintain hope that you might let go of that belief, because it actually adds to your misery. I am always thinking of you, Relinda.

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Relinda says: Hi, Judy. I appreciate your thinking of me. I tend to view my statement as fact. It is indisputable that for some, the pain never lessens or ceases. I know he is gone. I also know that I will see him again, but not during this life. Thank you for your concern, Judy. I know that you mean well, but sometimes wounds do not heal.

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Judy says: Relinda, the human body is a testament to the miracle of healing. I hope I am not upsetting you. It takes faith to believe in an afterlife. Use that faith to imagine another possibility: that he will return to you in your lifetime in another form. I’m not saying another lover – but in some way that will allow you to heal. The subconscious is powerful and telling yourself that wounds cannot heal is very damaging for you. I didn’t know Doyle, but I know he loved you deeply. I actually can imagine him telling you right now with every ounce of love in his soul – that he does not want for you to lead this tortured existence.

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Feel Doyle’s love and listen for his wisdom about this. He’s holding you in the darkness. He is reason you are writing. He is the reason you still are alive because you still carry that love in your heart. Death has not separated you from him. You are dying inside to be closer to him.

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One day, he will carry you into the sunlight. I just know it. What an awful experience you have lived through and continue to suffer with. I am sorry, Relinda – I feel tears reading your words.

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Turquoise Fantasy Butterfly

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SIX MONTHS AGO:

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Relinda says: Hi Judy, 

I just wanted to tell you how much I loved your music on the CD you mailed to me. It is beautiful. Some of the songs made me feel as though they were written for me. Thank you so much for sharing your music with me. You are a very special lady to not only read my writing and share it the way you have, but also in the kind way you shared your heart. 
 Again, thank you so much for allowing me to hear your talent firsthand.



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Judy says: Relinda, your message is so sweet! You are more than welcome. I am touched that you listened and felt that personal touch. I really thought of you this past week as I worked on my newest one called “Angel in the Sky.” I totally feel it would applicable to you. I know how you long to see your husband when you die someday and that is a very universal feeling with grief. It does take away the fear of death, doesn’t it?

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Thank you for appreciating me. I feel like I push a little too much; I don’t want to appear preachy with a message like “time can heal.” Even though grief slaughtered your hope (it did for me, too), it’s amazing how hope can reappear. I remember clearly wishing I were dead. I am glad my music offered you comfort and thank you for sharing that with me. Please stay in touch.

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Lavendar Blue Fantasy Butterfly

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A MONTH AGO:

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I received a thank you message from Relinda after posting a link to her blog post about solitude.

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Judy says: I had to put a link to your post because I cannot imagine anyone writing something more heartfelt than what you did. Solitude – isolation – it is all part of the horror of losing someone we loved deeply. It’s hard moving forward in life knowing we’ll never have what we once did. I am fortunate that I have music and other things to fill my own personal void. But there are still many empty spaces, which I acknowledge!

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Relinda says: In sharing my post and recognizing my grief, you’ve really touched my heart, Judy. Thank you so much for your continued thoughts of me, and for ultimately understanding my writing.

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Judy says: I hope I do. I’ve decided that inspiring hope of healing is a bit preachy and offering comfort is more tangible.

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Relinda says: Sometimes, it is just nice to know that someone cares and that is comfort enough.

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Judy says: Thank you again, Relinda. Today you made my heart sing.

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My parents with me long ago

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Jason thinking 2

-Empty bed

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© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

FAR FROM PAIN

March 27, 2014

BLOG TABLE OF CONTENTS

For this story, I wanted pictures that conveyed peacefulness and water. I played around with Photoshop and some old photos taken while on vacation.

For this story, I wanted pictures that conveyed peacefulness and water. I played around with Photoshop and some old photos taken while on vacation.

I arrived at the tennis court.

As I opened the car door, I stepped out and groaned. I held the top of the car and gingerly pulled myself up. It was a good thing I’d taken a bunch of Ibuprofen tablets at home because I was so sore. How in the world was I going to play tennis?

Yesterday, I had fallen down onto the pavement while on a walk. Other than skinned knees and feeling sore, I was fine.

I walked onto the court and moved very slowly. I smiled at the other three women and was glad I hadn’t let them down. If I had cancelled, it would have been hard to find a replacement at the last minute.

After a few minutes of hitting the ball, my creakiness subsided. But my eyes were bothering me a lot; I could barely open them. My supposedly “dry eye” condition now caused my eyes to constantly water and burn. I tried to ignore it, but tears were dripping down my cheeks. I told my friends that my tears were from my condition, not emotion.

Despite my discomfort, I was very grateful to be outside and getting exercise. I decided my better eating track was paying off, because it lifted my mood. And I certainly had more energy.

One of the women asked me, “Oh, how was that movie screening you were so excited to go to last week? Did you enjoy it?”

That was when I mentioned my daughter was in a car accident two hours before, so I had canceled going.

Now all three women really looked at me with pity. I imagined they were thinking, “How much more can Judy Unger deal with?” I myself was wondering how much more my daughter could deal with, since the week before she had cut herself at work by accident. Yet nothing really caused me to get down this past week.

It was because I had a new song going through my head!

Mountain Stream 1

Last week, on the day when I planned to finish my song, there was a hitch that morning.

I almost cancelled my appointment with my arranger, George because of some problems with getting my daughter’s car repaired.

I called George and was anxious about whether or not we should skip our session. He was willing to wait for me if it didn’t take too long.

My daughter’s car had a flat tire from the accident the day before. My friend, Orlando was helping with the repair. He was my former housekeeper’s husband and doing me quite a favor. Orlando could not get the tire off in order to put on a spare. It seemed the tool that came with her old Honda Civic did not fit that particular tire.

Orlando decided to go to a mechanic he knew; I let him use my car. He drove off and came back an hour later with a bunch to tools.

Thankfully, one of the tools worked. As Orlando drove off to repair my daughter’s car, I danced with relief. I called George and was on my way. Although I was an hour late, I was brimming with energy.

Stress could have interfered with the creation of my music, but I didn’t allow it to. So on that day, we finished the arrangement for my newest song “Take Me Away.”

A few days later, I added harmony to my song with George’s talented instructions.

Recently, a good friend noticed there were backup vocals on many of my more recent songs. I laughed after I hung up because she told me that it sounded so “professional.” She had no idea!

George would tell me what I needed to sing. He would hum it and then I would attempt over and over to replicate his falsetto. It could take a long time because I usually keeled over laughing at how bad I sounded trying to sing something other than the melody. Those days of being in a choir were long gone!

This picture is from my high school choir days. I recently visited my beloved teacher, Frankie.

This picture is from my high school choir days. I recently visited my beloved teacher, Frankie.

All of what I’ve written reminds me how at a recent solo show a woman asked me, “How do you create music with all the interference going on in your life?”

That “interference” she was referring to was probably the illness and deaths of my parents. Not sure if she was also including my separation, divorce and challenges that came with three children.

My answer was: Creating music has been my medicine!

Turning my pain into a song really is miraculous. It even inspired me to find faith in God.

Therefore, with that thought yesterday I went to the recording place near my house to sing a few vocal lines for my new song. I had fallen only a few hours earlier and limped over to the microphone.

Later that night, I edited the vocals and put them together with the harmony, creating a rough mix.

In a few days, I will record the guitar. A finalized vocal will take awhile because I am still playing around with my lyrics.

Rocky Stream

I started this post describing my achy tennis match where I was completely soothed because of listening to “Take Me Away” while driving there. It definitely was my remedy for pain.

Of course, I didn’t play a very good tennis game, but I was really glad I pushed myself to get out there.

I tried not to imagine how awful it would have been if I had broken my wrist and couldn’t use my computer for music, art or blogging.

My friends all told me how lucky I was. One woman said, “It sure could have been worse!”

I let her know that was true but not comforting. I said, “Sure, it could have been worse but I wish I were luckier and hadn’t fallen.”

Then I added my latest line of, “But it is what it is!”

Tropical Stream 1

The stumble that landed me on the pavement happened so quickly! I had run an errand with my son because I decided to enlist his support after my frustration returning a modem the week before. There was a long line at the cable store, so I told him to run another errand while I waited in line.

The line went quickly and I had about twenty minutes until he would return. I decided to go for a walk because it was a beautiful day.

I sent my son a text message and gave him an intersection where he would find me. I was almost there and decided to go into a gas station on the corner to use the bathroom.

Just as I was walking toward that gas station, suddenly I fell. I landed with a hard thump onto the ground and my knees and wrists absorbed most of the impact. There was a step and I hadn’t seen it at all.

I silently cursed my foggy eyesight and lack of attention.

I lay on the cement for a moment in shock. I looked around to see if anyone had seen me fall. Nobody had. It was humiliating to be on the ground like that – I felt so helpless.

I groaned and sat up. My body really hurt. My pants weren’t torn, but I could feel my knees were bleeding. I could not stand up, so I just sat there.

Eventually, a woman came over to me from a gas pump and offered me a hand. It was a struggle, because my knees really hurt. As she pulled, I yelped and could not stand up. I told her to stop; I didn’t want her to hurt her back.

She refused to stop trying. Firmly she said with a smile, “Come on! One more time.” She clutched my hand and I stood up shakily.

I gave her a warm hug and thanked her. Just then, my son’s car rolled up to where I was standing.

He put down the window and said, “I saw you walking a moment ago while I was waiting for the light, but then you disappeared. Where did you go?”

I got into his car and my tears were gushing all over the place.

Sunset

I came home and collapsed onto my bed. My daughter sent me a very loving text message. She oozed with appreciation that I had taken care of her car repairs.

It seemed that since my outburst the other day, things were better between us. I decided that my new mantra of not suppressing everything might have some benefits, after all!

I’m on the other side of the glass when I sing.

I’m on the other side of the glass when I sing.

I rested for an hour and wondered about whether I was up for recording vocals in the afternoon as I had planned. I didn’t wonder for very long.

I came into the recording studio moving very slowly. I told Darrin (the man who records me) that I had fallen down a few hours earlier, but I wasn’t going to let it keep me from singing.

This was going to be another challenging day searching for my vibe!

Only a week ago, I had sung with Darrin just twenty minutes after my daughter had called me from the scene of her minor car accident.

And by the way, she was not too thrilled with me for doing that.

I told her that my singing only took about half an hour. I had already cancelled my evening plans and knew I’d be home by the time she arrived with her wrecked car on the tow truck. But it wasn’t easy singing with the image of her dented car in my head!

A picture my daughter sent me.

A picture my daughter sent me.

I have sung several times a week at this studio with Darrin for over a year. I am quite used to singing while under tremendous stress.

It’s hard to explain how I manage to sing when awful things are happening in my life. Of course, my voice is affected by how I feel.

I work with it and find emotion that I might not have otherwise.

I continue to sing because singing takes me away to another place that is far away from my pain.

I was so excited to sing a vocal for my new song; it was easy to ignore my sore body.

I closed my eyes and positioned the earphones. The exquisite arrangement transported me somewhere else.

Mom with me as a girl

My eyes were still closed as I waited for the music to begin. That’s when the vision happened.

I was lying on the ground where I had just fallen. A woman was reaching out a hand to help me up. My heart skipped a beat.

In my vision, the woman who pulled me up was my mother.

She gently hugged me and disappeared. I marveled that I hadn’t broken anything.

I began to sing and I could still feel my mother’s hug. She may have died five months ago, but she hadn’t left me.

Judy & her mom 

© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A PEACEFUL PLACE

March 24, 2014

BLOG TABLE OF CONTENTS

Cool waterfall

holding you again

My newest song arrangement is done and I’ve interspersed my post with a lot of my lyric lines. This song definitely moves me from the moment the first chords of the introduction start playing. My blog has really documented the stages involved with the birth of “Take Me Away,” which hatched from an old guitar instrumental named “Waterfalls.”

 

Click the blue link below to hear a karaoke. I am still working on recording my guitar, vocal and harmony for it:

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TAKE ME AWAY KARAOKE-Copyright 2014 by Judy Unger

 

This past week, I went on a lovely hike and had a picnic with my good friend, Carol. Being with her lifted my spirits so much. In this picture, she is assembling a fantastic salad for our picnic lunch.

This past week, I went on a lovely hike and had a picnic with my good friend, Carol. Being with her lifted my spirits so much. In this picture, she is assembling a fantastic salad for our picnic lunch.

I see my hand shadow there. It looks like I wanted to just scoop this up with my fingers and eat it ASAP!

I see my hand shadow there. It looks like I wanted to just scoop this up with my fingers and eat it ASAP!

This salad was utterly amazing. Take me away for a picnic with Carol anytime!

This salad was utterly amazing, especially with Carol’s homemade salad dressing. Take me away for a picnic with Carol anytime!

I am currently illustrating this flavor for a yogurt label. No wonder I’m craving this!

I am currently illustrating this flavor for a yogurt label. No wonder I’m craving chai lattes! 

“It is what it is”

 

I began my hypnotherapy session by saying tearfully, “I feel like a shell of a person!”

 

It was because the past two weeks had held many challenges for me.

 

It felt like every day was far too complicated and I burst into tears easily. Recently I had written about how acknowledgement was a very helpful word – but applying it was harder than I thought.

 

Only the day before, a simple task of returning a modem to an Internet provider turned into a 3-hour ordeal. My eyes were foggy and I had trouble seeing street addresses. It turned out that the first location on my list was no longer in business. But I had another location to try. When I arrived there and went inside, I was told I needed to go to a third location and another after that. After I found out at the sixth location that I needed a label (which I had left at home), I began sobbing in my car. I drove home and decided I was very angry with my 23-year-old son, whom I wished had taken care of this. I had waited a week for him to handle the return; he told me he was too busy with work and school to help. Now I regretted that I hadn’t waited longer even though I was being charged for it. I had ordered that extra modem for him (his game system didn’t work well with our current provider), but it turned out that it didn’t work in our apartment.

 

I realized that my situation above wasn’t anything to cry about. But clearly it was a buildup from other things going on.

 

Two weeks ago, my 20-year-old daughter had a minor accident in the restaurant where she worked. It was 11:00 p.m. and Urgent Care was closed. She was shaking and I insisted she come over so I could drive her to the ER. We arrived and found out the wait was five hours. The nurse that did the checking in kindly said off-the-record that it didn’t look like my daughter needed stitches, so we decided to go home. The cut was very close to her eye and she was lucky.

 

My daughter’s run of close calls continued with a minor car accident last week. It happened on a day when I had plans to go to a special movie screening. Being invited out by a friend was a rarity in my life and I was really looking forward to it. But only two hours before getting ready to leave, I received a panicked call from my daughter.

 

She had been working at a far away location as a movie extra. It was her first day and she had slept over at my house. She had to leave at 4:30 a.m. that morning and was very tired when the shoot was over. Because she was so exhausted, she drove home in the wrong direction and had to turn around. She lost control of her car on the dirt shoulder and plowed into a fence. Of course, I was relieved my daughter was okay – but her car was not drivable. It was difficult for the tow truck to extricate it from under a fence and tree. 

I cancelled my show plans. The tow truck was bringing her and the damaged car to my house. I took it upon myself to help solve her problem by calling a friend who had a car she could temporarily borrow. In the meantime, I would pay my friend to help repair her car. My daughter had been struggling financially to live on her own, working at a restaurant and barely making ends meet. We were getting along much better since she’d moved out. But not on this day. After she snapped at me, I regretted mentioning that I had cancelled my plans to be there for her. She was furious at me for not appearing more sympathetic to her situation. I was completely frustrated trying to soothe her and myself at the same time.

I like this photo/illustrations better with the blue tones.

I like this photo/illustrations better with the blue tones. This is actually the color of the photo from a long ago hike.

Two days later, we drove to the scene of her accident. My daughter didn’t have any information about how to reach the owner of the fence she had hit, but she had shared her insurance information with someone on the property. Our drive was a 3-hour excursion where I hoped to find the owner and request that the repair not go through our insurance company because if reported, it would cause my insurance to go sky high. As we grew closer to the area, my daughter was agitated and upset. I got out of the car alone and knocked on the door of a large sprawling ranch home. No one answered the door, but as I walked back to my car I heard a voice. A woman got off her horse and came over to me with a smile. She was friendly and told me she’d let me know what the repair cost. I was so relieved and glad I had made that trip.

 

But as I drove home, my daughter said things that upset me. I felt my throat tightening and unleashed a torrent of angry words that I couldn’t stop. After that, the rest of our drive was in silence. A few hours later, we hugged before she went home and I wished I hadn’t had such an outburst. I was so glad when the day was over!

 

There was something else that had saddened me the past week. I had called an old friend whom I hadn’t spoken with for a long time. She confided to me that I had written something on my blog a year ago, which had deeply hurt her. I felt awful because my intention was never to hurt such a good friend; I thought that what I had written was kind. But she was right; I had mentioned something hurtful without realizing it. Even though I told her I was sorry, I felt terrible that I could not erase her pain. I hoped she would forgive me for being so thoughtless.

 

And lastly, the day before my session, I had received two written reports about my 17-year-old son that depressed me. The reports were filled with pages listing all his challenges. The truth was that my son was very happy and lately he was doing much better in school. He was truly the sunshine in my life. I decided to put the reports in a drawer and not read them.

I try to escape

So when I came to my hypnotherapy session, acknowledging my stress hardly comforted me. I was back to that place of feeling like a failure because I wasn’t grateful enough – things could definitely be worse!

 

My hypnotherapist, Connie, patiently listened as I recounted all the travails from my past week. Then she gently asked me what stories I was telling myself surrounding my recent challenges. I loved how she was able to have a more detached perspective of my situation.

 

She was right because with me, there was always a story behind everythingIt was the stories that I told myself, which caused me the most pain.

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It all started with when I came in announcing I was a “shell of a person.”

 

Did I really believe that? I said it because I was teary and felt empty inside. But the on the other hand, over the past week I celebrated how much pleasure my new song gave me. And I had very much enjoyed seeing my friend, Carol.

 

Yet my new song was definitely about my grief. There was no escaping that fact.

 

I talked a lot to Connie about the difficulty I had with my daughter. Being there for her was important. But I was confused – was I doing too much for her? I hadn’t felt appreciated, but had my own mother caused me to ever feel that way? The story that came into my mind was that I couldn’t measure up to my own mother.

 

I also had a car accident when I was 20 years old that left my chin scarred. At that time, my parents took care of everything for me and I didn’t think anything about it.

 

But now, I was spending a lot of energy focusing on how I bore the financial burden for my daughter alone. It felt unfair. But the last thing I wanted to do was approach my soon-to-be-ex-husband to pitch in (for many reasons I can’t mention). My daughter was already down about her life; taking on the extra job was her own initiative to earn extra money. I wanted to be supportive by fixing her car so she could get to work, but at the same time was I rescuing her from the consequences?

 

There was an underlying current going on and I wasn’t sure what it was. I was miserable and didn’t want to go to the place of using my eyesight discomfort as the reason either.

My trip to Yosemite last December was definitely peaceful.

My trip to Yosemite last December was definitely peaceful.

I settled into the comfortable recliner for hypnosis. Tears were oozing out from under my closed eyelids. I was ready to go to a peaceful place, for sure.

 

Usually going under hypnosis was simply like taking a nap for me. I closed my eyes and drifted. This day was slightly different. I felt a sensation as if I was really floating and tingling. It was such a relief and my tears finally stopped pouring down my cheeks.

 

In the distance I heard Connie’s voice. She said, “I’m going to say three words for you to listen carefully to.”

 

She said, ”It isn’t fair.”

 

I felt myself tighten up inside. This was a trap – another trigger for me.

 

With my eyes closed, my voice was sharp as I said, “Whoever said life was fair? There is no fairness in life! I never expected fairness. Okay – at times I can honestly admit being envious of people who haven’t experienced the losses I have. But then there are people who have gone through far more tragedies in life, too!”

 

I wondered why she had used those words – it wasn’t comforting for me at all!

 

Instead, those words felt critical. Had I not appeared grateful that my child was okay? Or that my two sons had achieved more than I ever imagined with challenges that made life hard for them?

 

I remembered my parents and how loving they were to me. I tried so hard to be a loving mother to my three children – taking care of their needs, while at the same time missing having someone who cared about my own.

 

It was hard to face and I was crying again.

 

Now Connie steered the hypnosis somewhere else and suggested I go to a peaceful place. I did. I was in a forest near a cool waterfall. My mother was holding me. I began to feel calm again.

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Watercolor trees

 

I said, “It’s hard to face that my parents are gone forever. Sometimes I’m so overwhelmed and unsure of what I’m doing with my own children because I’m still a child inside!”

 

Connie said softly, “Every person needs love and understanding.”

 

I said, “There’s no one on earth who could love me like my mom and dad did. Where would I find love like that now?

 

The obvious answer was self-love. Compassion and understanding from me to me. This was something I was working toward and excited because something had shifted for me after my last trip. Despite all the recent stressors in my life, I had not gone back to using food for comfort. I had lost a few pounds and felt better. On top of that, I had committed myself once again to stop biting my nails and had succeeded.

 

Now my new goal was to silence the inner critic that only spun stories causing me misery. An example was when I fought with my daughter because I felt she wasn’t grateful enough for all I had done. Then I felt guilty because she was so angry that I wasn’t more grateful she wasn’t injured. On top of that, was I an enabler for rescuing her?

 

I had so much “black and white” thinking going on. It was always those extremes that led me to pain. There could definitely be alternative ways to see this.

 

Before I woke up from hypnosis, Connie gently asked me if there was some other statement that would help me deal with those things that burdened me. The first words that popped out of my mouth were, “It is what it is.”

 

She repeated back my words to me. “It is what it is.” Even with my eyes closed, I could tell by the tone in her voice that Connie was smiling.

 

I liked those words a lot. I said them over and over. For some reason, I wasn’t spinning any stories with those words. They really allowed me to find the acknowledgment I was looking for.

 

The anguish and chatter that cluttered my mind faded. So often I would go back to what I wished I had done differently. I was hard on myself and frustrated for feeling weak and crying easily.

 

Those words were all about moving on and not being stuck.

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Take Me Away lyrics

A few days later I realized that I wasn’t dwelling on feeling guilty for not being grateful anymore or complaining about unfairness in life. It turned out that the concept of “It’s so unfair” actually was an ongoing theme for me that I wasn’t even aware of.

 

I am always amazed at how adept I am at suppressing my own feelings. I just pushed those feelings down that were “wrong” and for decades I never allowed myself to feel.

 

So now I’ve decided to allow myself to feel that it certainly isn’t fair when crap happens in my life.

 

After that, it is simple for me to switch gears by announcing, “But it is what it is!”

Everything's changed

A picture of my mother from a long time ago

A picture of my mother from a long time ago

I received this note over 20 years ago. Clicking on it makes it easier to read.

I received this note over 20 years ago. I told my friend that if something happened to my mom, I couldn’t go on without her. My mother died 5 months ago and I was very lucky she lived to be 88. Clicking on it makes it easier to read.

© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2014Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT

March 16, 2014

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Russian River & Ocean 3

I love to share music. Below are some recent arrangements where I’ve added my guitar playing in. The vocals are still in progress.

 

SET YOU FREE #2 – KARAOKE WITH GUITAR Copyright 2014 by Unger

THE UNKNOWN #4 – KARAOKE WITH GUITAR Copyright 2014 by Unger

 

Acknowledgment (noun) ac·knowl·edg·ment – acceptance of facts, thanks

 

In order to better deal with PSTD (post traumatic stress disorder), I have begun to acknowledge many things that I previously have shoved back down.

 

The fact that acknowledgment also means “thanks” is very inspiring. I am very grateful that God blessed me with many wonderful talents. Writing, singing, composing and illustrating have allowed me to cope.

 

In the last two years, both of my parents have died. I can acknowledge that fact.

 

In addition, I acknowledge that I am also dealing with the end of my marriage of 31 years. A week ago, I recorded a love song I wrote when I was twenty. I sang with emotion, while at the same time pushing down the heartache that I am 54 and it has been over 30 years since I’ve experienced romantic love.

 

Links to stories with recent new vocals to love songs I’ve recorded:

 

IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN

MEANT TO ME – PART 2

 

As I have started to acknowledge more of my feelings, I’ve found insight into that special time when I began writing my blog with joy and abandon.

I always knew that writing helped alleviate my loneliness from missing my mother when she began to decline. But when I opened up my heart and shared intimate feelings on my blog, it was because I desperately needed understanding I found nowhere else in my life.

 

It was after my friend Susan died that this revelation came to me. With her death, I lost a friend who offered me tremendous understanding and compassion. Susan acknowledged my traumas even though she hadn’t experienced the things I had (such as the loss of a child).

 

Currently, I am dealing with many different kinds of losses. Whenever a friend has acknowledged my grief and/or challenges, I have been greatly comforted.

 

Recently, a good friend did just that. Her message is below:

 

Judy, it really is amazing how you’ve kept going as well as you have. You may find this interesting–it’s a well-known life events stress test. Based on what I know about you, you top the charts! 

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http://www.cliving.org/lifestresstestscore.htm

 

Her link was to a website where numbers were tallied for any life-changing events. I checked a lot of boxes. Here was my list:

 

Marital separation, divorce, death of close family members (my parents and a child), personal injury or illness (my eyes), change in financial state, death of close friends, change of career, daughter leaving home, change in living conditions, revision of personal habits, change in residence, change in social activities, change in family get-togethers, change in eating habits.

 

My score was 533. The site only listed above 300.

 

Here was what was stated about any score higher than 300.

 

Score     Comment

300+      You have a high or very high risk of becoming ill in the near future. This scale shows the kind of life pressure that you are facing. Depending on your coping skills or the lack thereof, this scale can predict the likelihood that you will fall victim to a stress related illness. The illness could be mild – frequent tension headaches, acid indigestion, and loss of sleep to very serious illness like ulcers, cancer, migraines and the like.

 

My guess is that “and the like” (at the end of the above paragraph) could include dry eyes.

My friend Marge took this picture while we were walking through a park together. It matched my blouse in color. I noticed a heart shaped shadow before I saw the sign. It held great meaning for me because I believe self-love is very important when coping with challenges in life.

My friend Marge took this picture while we were walking through a park together. It matched my blouse in color. I noticed a heart-shaped shadow before I saw the sign. It held great meaning for me because I believe self-love is very important when coping with challenges in life.

Originally, I had thought about naming this post “Grief 101 – Part 3.”

 

But I decided that acknowledgment was far more important for me to emphasize. It applies to how acknowledgment leads to comfort and understanding during any difficult time in life.

 

 The three parts of that word that touch me are:

 

1. How important it is to allow myself to cry and grieve. I acknowledge what huge changes I’ve gone through (without going to a place of judgment that I’m wallowing in self-pity.)

 

2. Expressing honestly how when a friend acknowledges my challenges rather than judges my sadness, I am truly comforted.

 

3. Being thankful for all the goodness in my life, despite my challenges.

 

For more on this subject related to grief I share two links, which are incredibly moving and educational. Because these women are grieving deeply, they get the point across with far more intensity.

 

DOYLE’S WIDOW – SOLITUDE

GRIEF: ONE WOMAN’S PERSPECTIVE – ANOTHER VOICE

 

Grief is appropriate when a person experiences loss.

 

I strongly believe that healing is possible, but grief is still a monster that must be dealt with.

 

The isolation from grief is a horror that is truly indescribable. It is a feeling of being completely alone from any other human on this planet with unbearable pain.

 

It is beautiful to comfort someone by acknowledging his or her challenges, pain and grief. It helps them feel less isolated and cared about.

 

It is far better than encouraging a friend to “move on,” “get over it” and “be happy.” This minimizes their loss. Instead of bestowing comfort, it causes even more anguish.

 

When my son died, I knew that most people could not imagine the agony of my grief. I believed that I was coping in an amazing way – working and parenting my living children took every ounce of my energy.

 

On rare occasions, I felt judged by someone for grieving too much. When that happened I was simply incensed, especially if it came from a family member or friend – it was a huge betrayal that caused me to withdraw from them. All I could think of was how he or she might be more understanding if they had experienced the death of their own child.

 

I still maintain that I have healed from the death of my son, but now I carry new wounds.

 

I only want encouragement from friends and am extremely sensitive. I realize that was why I became very upset when a friend sent me a well-intentioned message last month.

 

My friend expressed worry that I was drawn to grief, and as an example pointed out my recent trips: attending a memorial in Northern California and going to Yosemite to meet a terminally ill blogger. My friend’s message ended with a statement that there was no end to sad stories and that I needed to actively pursue happiness.

 

This message was a trigger.

 

Triggers, triggers, triggers!

 

Triggers are things that cause me enormous pain because all of my suppressed pain from the past explodes with a trigger.

 

Criticism is always a huge trigger for me because I lived with constant criticism for years in my marriage.

 

I wasn’t sure how to respond to the message. I certainly appreciated what on the surface appeared to be very caring and concerned. But I felt very misunderstood and criticized.

 

I wrote a response to express my feelings:

 

I appreciate that you are concerned about me and your message is caring. But I must explain because you cannot understand what I’ve lived through. The loss of a child is something I’ve healed from, but it did change me forever. I’m never going to be the person I was before that. A wound may heal, but there is still a scar. I’ve also chosen to view my scar as something that represents a profound effect upon me.

 

Helping others with grief doesn’t make me sad – It is meaningful and very rewarding.

 

I’ve gone through a lot of loss in the past two years: my marriage, my eyesight, my parents and the life I knew for over 30 years.

 

I actively chose to pursue happiness by making huge changes in my life!

 

With all those changes, it is understandable that I have a lot of emotion. These days, I cry with joy easily, as much as with sadness.

 

I’m certain that I’d feel better if my eyes didn’t hurt all the time. But I continue smiling and doing what I love to do. I love to sing, compose, write and help other people. I also hope to touch people in many ways beyond grief.

 

For example, I had no idea that the lady who cleans my house shared a CD I gave her with her church. I’ve been invited to sing there because many people feel that my songs are about God and I’ve inspired them! I’m fine with that and plan to perform there soon.

 

I’ll let other people balance out their life by partying! They have no idea how grief can strike anyone at anytime – and are fortunate to be unscathed. If I can make a difference as I have to someone feeling hopeless, I’ll die with a smile at the end of my life.

 

Judy

In this picture, I’m with my childhood friend, Joni

In this picture, I’m with my childhood friend, Joni

My friend had no clue about how much I enjoyed my recent trip to Yosemite where I met a fellow blogger, Sandra Callahan who is terminally ill. It was certainly not about grief.

 

That trip was a wonderful time reconnecting with my childhood friend, Joni. Meeting Sandra motivated me to go in the wintertime, which was something I found courageous and quite beautiful. Joni and I did spa treatments and hiked; I played my guitar and composed music on the porch. It was a very relaxing and healing trip, not at all sad.

 

All the posts I’ve written about the death of my friend, Susan helped me to understand my journey and how far I’ve come from when it began. My trip to her memorial was a wonderful opportunity to see my deceased mother’s two good friends, whom I’ll probably never see again. To me, that was a beautiful way of processing my mother’s death. It meant so much to Susan’s mother and brother that I was there. I made a difference and was uplifted as I sang my heart out.

This picture reminds me how my mother was a miracle, because after she broke her hip and didn’t have surgery, she lived three years and was able to walk again.

This picture reminds me how my mother was a miracle. After she broke her hip and didn’t have surgery, she lived three more years and was able to walk again. 

I am grateful for the friends in my world who offer understanding. Only yesterday, I was struggling with my eye pain while shopping in a supermarket. Everything was foggy around me and I barely could smile.

 

I came home, put away the groceries and retreated into a darkened room. It was then that I noticed there was a missed call and a message on my cell phone from my friend, Joni.

 

I listened to it and cried a lot of tears for a woman with dry eyes.

 

 

Click the blue link to play audio:

 

AUDIO OF JONI’S MESSAGE ON MARCH 13, 2014

-

Transcription:

 

Hey Jude, It’s Joni! No need to call me back – I’m in traffic. But I just want to say thank you so much. Your music just brightens up my day and makes me feel at home, comfortable and safe. God bless you – your songwriting is amazing. I feel so blessed to be a part of it and that you do that. It’s just so amazing. Have a wonderful day and let me know how you’re doing.

Joni is my friend who encouraged me to play my guitar again at the age of 50. Music changed the course of my life.

Joni is my friend who encouraged me to play my guitar again at the age of 50. Music changed the course of my life.

Heart Shadow

© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2014Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

I’M CRYING WHILE I’M DREAMING

March 15, 2014

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This picture was taken during my recent trip to Northern California.

This picture was taken during my recent trip to Northern California.

My post title is a lyric line from my latest song composition that is “in progress.” It stood out for me as a perfect description of what I’ve been going through.

Originally, the music for my song was inspired by a classical guitar instrumental named “Waterfalls.” I composed it when I was 19 years old. I’m not sure what my new song with lyrics will be named yet, but so far “Take Me Away” stands out as most likely, though I’d prefer a title that hasn’t been used so many times before.

 

Click the blue link to play audio of my arrangement in progress:

 

TAKE ME AWAY Midi in progress – Copyright 2014 by Judy Unger

These are the lyrics for the first verse of my newest song that is slowly being born.

This is the first verse of my newest song that is slowly being born.

Beautiful scene of the ocean

I begin my post by sharing some photos of the beautiful coastal scenery I saw in Northern California two weeks ago.

I stayed with a family friend, Liz after attending a memorial for my friend Susan Rasky. I haven’t travelled much, so it was very special when Liz drove me through some beautiful places the following day. Liz and her husband lived in Sebastopol, Northern California and both she and her husband were geologists.

 

After having lunch with Liz’s mother at a senior center, Liz took me for a long drive back to her house. It turned into a three-hour looping trip through redwood forests and coastline and the scenery was quite spectacular.

 

Every so often we stopped so I could take a picture. I appreciated Liz’s knowledge about the area’s history, geography and climate. But most of all, I was fascinated and simply loved the fact that I was with a geologist.

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Cool Rock

-

That’s because I collected rocks as a child and have always loved nature. After my father died, it was touching for me to see my old rock collections when my oldest son cleaned out the coop where I moved into. I wasn’t surprised that my dad had saved them because he never threw anything away. I guess I’m still attracted to cool rocks because I even brought one home with me from my recent trip to Tucson.

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Cool Rock 1

 

Within short distances, a rolling meadow would suddenly become a rainforest. The road followed a river that I occasionally caught a glimpse of. It was called the Russian River and its water level was very low, due to drought.

 

While on our excursion, I was inspired by one incredible moment that happened when we pulled off shortly before hitting the coastline.

 

Russian River & Ocean 2

 

We had followed the Russian River through a redwood forest and were at an estuary where it met the ocean. The view was quite breathtaking; this was definitely a place to stop. Liz parked and I got out to use the bathroom. As I walked back to the car, instead of marveling at the incredible ocean vista in front of me, I turned around toward the hills and said to Liz, “Wow, those are interesting rock formations over there on the other side of the highway.”

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Jenner by the sea

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Liz smiled. Suddenly, I received a fantastic geology lesson. As I listened to her, I grinned because if I hadn’t noticed those rocks, I might have missed out on this.

 

Well, it turned out those rocks were more than special.

 

I had just noticed rocks that were found nowhere else in the world!

-

Jenner close up

 

In this town of Jenner where we had parked, those outcroppings represented the Earth’s mantle. For rock to be thrust up to the Earth’s surface from so deep near the core – it was truly an incredible force of nature.

 

And this was the spot where geologists came from all over the world to see.

 

Right near our car, there was an interesting boulder. I pointed it out to Liz. For over five minutes she examined it and described all the minerals to me in that rock.

 

I took her picture, which she gave me permission to share.

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Liz examining rock

Prior to our excursion, I appreciated this fortune I received in a cookie during the luncheon I attended with Liz and her mother.

Prior to our excursion, I appreciated this fortune I received in a cookie during the luncheon I attended with Liz and her mother. 

I have to admit that I have not felt like writing and sharing much these days.

 

I like to write with complete honesty. When my blog and journey began, I never held back. The excitement and joy I felt in 2010 is something I will always remember and hold onto. I certainly hope I’ll discover those feelings again someday.

 

Unfortunately, I suffer constantly from debilitating eye pain because of dry eye syndrome. The pain and fog resulting from this condition has cast a cloud over my life. My emotional pain (as a result) has me crying a lot of the time.

 

Is that not ironic? I have so many tears for a woman with dry eyes!

 

Even as I plod through my days I continue doing the music that I love, though everything is more difficult for me. When I walk outdoors, I usually close my eyes. This habit of closing my eyes has made it tough to be with other people. Closing my eyes does not even alleviate my discomfort either.

 

It hasn’t been easy driving because my eyes must be open for that. My acuity (results from viewing an eye chart) is adequate – so I don’t worry that it’s a safety issue. But my eyes hurt more when I concentrate hard.

 

But I am honest when I admit that I have reached a low point. I saw another eye specialist for dry eyes two weeks ago and was given a steroid cream to use on my eyelids at night. I have not felt much improvement since then. In a month, I’m scheduled to have a minor procedure that will insert tiny tubes into my tear ducts permanently, which I’m not sure I’ll do yet.

 

I have decided that my motto of “nothing stops me” is not serving me anymore – especially in regards to overeating. My own body has been screaming at me to stop. I have no choice now except to listen.

 

I had to finally face the fact that what I’ve been doing in order to cope has resulted in a lot of extra weight. Eating is simply like taking a drug; it is a numbing mechanism for the pain resulting from shoving feelings back down inside.

 

Although I’ve avoided dieting by preferring to soothe myself with food, thankfully something has shifted since I’ve returned from my last trip. I’m back to a healthier eating track and am hoping my eyes might improve if I lost weight.

 

I continue to utilize hypnotherapy to harness my mind and help myself. As I suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I realize how adept I am at pushing down painful memories.

 

Recently, I had a pivotal hypnotherapy session where something really clicked for me. I came home with a new word and a new approach for my challenges. That word was ACKNOWLEDGE.

 

I carry a lot of old habits and coping mechanisms – grief has unfortunately been a familiar part of my life. I have no doubt that my dry eye syndrome has worsened because of suppressed grief. I’ve felt pressured to uphold an image of a “poster child for grief.”

 

Also, I dislike feeling as if I’m a “complainer” because of my eye problems. I don’t want pity from anyone and certainly avoid self-pity as much as possible.

 

Unfortunately, thinking that way has blocked my ability to acknowledge a lot of painful parts of my life.

 

Like a victim of amnesia, my former life is remote because I’ve forced myself to separate from any pain I start experiencing. Therefore, when I’ve thought about my parents, it’s as if they’re strangers even though their deaths were fairly recent. My mother died in my arms only a few months ago – but my heart has been numb and blocked.

 

As I acknowledge the truth about how much I miss them, my grief is surfacing like a tidal wave. Crying over losing them is understandable because they inhabited such a large portion of my life.

 

I found it very disturbing to realize that what I couldn’t acknowledge during the day surfaced while I was sleeping.

 

In many dreams my mother appeared to me. We were holding hands and laughing, and then suddenly she died. Each time it happened in a different way.

 

One of my worst dreams was when I saw her fall through some ice we were walking on. I tried to grab her as she reached for my hand in the icy dark water. I silently screamed as she descended; then I saw Jason looking up at me from the dark depths below her.

 

Mom's Hand at death

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For certain, losing my parents has not been comparable to the loss of my young son.

 

I shoveled dirt onto my mother’s coffin during her funeral, I was calm and marveled how accepting I was of her death at that moment.

 

When my son died, I wanted to jump into the very hole where I was shoveling the dirt. I wished I were dead and inside the coffin with him.

It has been hard to remember my parents this happy because they suffered so much at the end of their lives.

It has been hard to remember my parents this happy because they suffered so much at the end of their lives.

Writing lyrics is something that happens for me when I’m not trying so hard. As I listened to the haunting chords in a completely weird guitar key of Eb minor – I wanted to envision going somewhere peaceful in nature. That still might happen for the second verse, which is not done yet. I wrote the first verse a month ago and couldn’t decide where to go with it.

I did know that I wanted to be taken away. I wasn’t sure by whom or where, either. A few days ago, I wrote new chords that I hoped would inspire me to finally write a chorus.

But it was really tough when some words spilled out of me as I searched to find those lyrics.

It was the line of, “I’m crying while I’m dreaming” that hit me hard. It was natural and understandable.

My recent dreams were the basis for my song. I wrote a few more lines and decided my song was being born. It was so healing and amazing for me.

Perhaps, God was taking me away from my pain after all.

Take Me Away lyrics© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2014Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

YOU COMFORT ME

March 9, 2014

BLOG TABLE OF CONTENTS

In this picture, I’m in the back and my parents are on the right. Sophia (Liz’s mom) is in the middle and Evelyn (Susan’s mom) is on the left.

In this picture, I’m in the back and my parents are on the right. Sophia (Liz’s mom) is in the middle and Evelyn (Susan’s mom) is on the left. My parents are gone now. Stan is alive (Sophia’s partner) but they are separated by distance.

A few weeks ago, I traveled to Northern California in order to attend a memorial for my good friend, Susan Rasky. I have already written a lot about Susan and will miss her terribly. Although the memorial was the reason for my trip, it was also an opportunity for me to see two of my mother’s very close friends, Sophia and Evelyn. And since my mother died only a few months ago, I was her “representative.”

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I have a lot of pictures to share here, old ones and new ones. I love how pictures can tell a story just like words can, and that’s probably because I’ve been an illustrator for decades.

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My post title is a line of lyrics from my song “My Shining Star.” It relates to my story because seeing them comforted me, and at the same time I was able to bestow comfort.

Three dear friends: my mother, Shirley, with Evelyn and Sophia

Three dear friends: my mother, Shirley with Evelyn and Sophia

Sophia and Evelyn were 92 and 96 respectively. I shared a common bond with these two older women. It was something that only those who have experienced the loss of a child are well aware of - all three of us were bereaved mothers.

 

Sophia’s daughter, Liz, picked me up from the airport and together we attended the memorial. After it was over, we headed over to where she lived in Sebastopol. The drive was over an hour and I took in the beautiful scenery while she drove. I tried to forget about the pain in my eyes.

I enjoyed filtering and playing around with my photos. I definitely can use this photo as reference for a future agricultural illustration. In the past, I have done many like this one.

I enjoyed filtering and playing around with my photos. I definitely can use this photo as reference for a future agricultural illustration. In the past, I have done many like this one.

I felt comfortable with Liz. Her devotion to her mother’s care was familiar and she was very open about her life. Liz loved cooking. She was an artist creating unique recipes in her kitchen and eating at her home was a gourmet treat.  While she made dinner that first night, I played my guitar in her kitchen as she did her thing. Her husband was also friendly and easy to talk to.

 

Their son and daughter were in college, so I had a choice of two rooms to choose from to spend my nights. I chose their son’s room because it had a firmer bed. The view from my window was beautiful. I especially loved the solitude and spaciousness that I didn’t have back home in my cramped apartment. As I collapsed onto the bed and drifted off to sleep, once again I was so glad I had made this trip.

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Window View

 

At the memorial I felt so awful for Susan’s 96-year-old mother, Evelyn. She was in a stupor and I didn’t say much. On the third and last day of my trip, I would be spending more time with her and her son.

These three couples (my parents on the right) shared many wonderful memories together and I have boxes of pictures from their trips and holiday gatherings.

These three couples (my parents on the right) shared many wonderful memories together. I have boxes of pictures from their trips and holiday gatherings.

Evelyn, Sophia and spouses 2

The day after the memorial, I was going to a senior luncheon where I would spend time with Liz and her mother, Sophia. Before our visit, Liz tried to prepare me. It was very important not to upset her mother.

 

It turned out that Sophia had challenging behaviors that dementia had made much worse. Liz told me she had hoped her mother would mellow out with age, but it hadn’t happened. Growing up, she hated to be told she was like her mother. It was embarrassing for her.

 

Early on, I told her she didn’t resemble her mother – I realized that was a good thing now.

 

The day before, I had also shared with Liz that my father had great difficulty being around Sophia because she was an incessant talker. Growing up, I saw Sophia more as a dynamic and fun-loving woman.

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Liz said, “My mother has a short fuse. Be careful not to mention her age – she gets angry to hear anything related to that.” Then she added, “She probably won’t remember you because I mentioned that you were coming and your name didn’t ring a bell for her.

 

I listened carefully and reassured Liz – the last thing I wanted to do would be to add to her stress.

Liz took me to this wonderful bakery right down the street from her house.

Liz took me to this wonderful bakery right down the street from her house. 

Sophia lived in a board and care facility not far away from Liz. Liz shared with me how difficult it had been to bring her mother to live there. She practically had to kidnap her from horrific living conditions where her mother was living in Los Angeles. Sophia was furious, but Liz had definitely saved her mother’s life. The level of trash where her mother lived was unbelievable. Liz said that simply picking up sheets and pillowcases caused them to disintegrate into clouds of dust.

 

It was clear that Liz carried tremendous stress due to her mother’s difficult behaviors and frequent angry outbursts.

 

Our outing was to attend a luncheon at a nearby senior event. Liz meticulously planned every detail and oversaw the transport. Her mother would go in a van while sitting in her wheelchair; Liz and I would follow in her car. Seeing her mother onto the van was important because it would alleviate her mother’s confusion about where she was going.

 

I followed Liz into a large, brightly lit home. It was definitely a cheerful facility, without the odor I usually associated with my parents’ former nursing home. 

 

Sophia had her back to me and was sitting near a window. As I came closer, she was very recognizable to me. She had the same face I remembered only with white hair.

 

She squinted and studied my face as I gently sat down next to her. Then she said, “Do I know you?”

 

I told her; I was Shirley’s daughter.

 

For a moment she looked puzzled, but then she broke into a huge smile. Her eyes sparkled with recognition.

 

She announced enthusiastically, “You’re Shirley’s daughter, but you look just like your mother! Wow! I loved your mother so much and seeing you is like seeing her again!”

 

I grinned. Sophia was obviously delighted to see me. I could feel my mother hugging me at that moment.

 

The transport arrived and it was time to leave for our luncheon. As Liz pushed her mother’s wheelchair, Sophia continued to chatter about my mother. “Your mother was all about love – she was the most loving person,” Sophia said. “And you are just like her!” 

Liz and Sophia

Liz and Sophia

At the luncheon, Sophia introduced me and continued to talk about how much she loved my mother. Her words caressed me over and over. For two hours we sat together and Liz was clearly delighted that her mother was having a good day. I understood about dementia; there were good days and difficult ones.

 

For certain, this lovely lunch with Sophia and Liz warmed my heart. 

My mother might have died, but for a short while she came back to life again in my memories and heart.

Sophia, Shirley & Judy Sophia with Liz & Judy

The luncheon was held at a Synagogue and carried an Asian theme. I did like the fortune in my cookie, for sure.

 My audience is waiting for me to release a CD of music. It will happen someday when I’m ready!


My audience is waiting for me to release a CD of music. It will happen someday when I’m ready!

Harp Lady

But what was really impressive was the entertainment.

 

An elderly woman performed several pieces on a Chinese harp. Her name was Mary Parker. How did this woman become an expert at this unique instrument? Mary’s story touched me instantly. It turned out that she was living in China and was a professional cellist. But one day she fell and damaged her hand. Doctors tried to fix her injury, but her career as a cellist was over. Mary searched for another instrument to play and discovered she could somehow play the Chinese Harp, also called a “Gu-Zheng.” She fell in love with it and began a new career.

 

This was truly an inspirational story about how this woman turned a disaster into a beautiful new direction for her life. Mary studied with masters for many years, and eventually earned several prestigious awards throughout China and became a master teacher herself. 

The music from this lovely instrument transported me somewhere else.

The music from this lovely instrument transported me somewhere else. 

On the last day of my trip, Liz and I went with Sophia to a nice restaurant where Susan’s brother would be meeting us and bringing his mother Evelyn.

 

Susan’s brother, Louis, (I didn’t take his picture) had visited Liz and Sophia before. It had been probably a year since they had visited last. As they came into the restaurant, I was absolutely amazed that Evelyn was still walking with little assistance at the age of 96!

This picture was taken probably 40 years ago.

This picture was taken probably 40 years ago.

Evelyn is 96 and Sophia is 92. They have been friends for so many years that I cannot count them!

Evelyn is 96 and Sophia is 92. They have been friends for so many years that I cannot count them!

I didn’t hesitate to talk about Susan during our luncheon. Evelyn shared many memories about her daughter, and I loved hearing about Susan’s passion for journalism.

 

I was curious if Susan had ever been in a relationship and decided to ask her mother about it. Evelyn said plainly, “Susan was married to her career.”

 

Little was spoken about Susan’s death during our time together. The grief that was apparent was when Evelyn talked about Susan’s poodle, Lucy. It was very sad to hear.

 

Liz had hoped that Louis would bring Lucy; we would have eaten outside. But Louis explained that Lucy was not cooperative and he was already dealing with his elderly mother for this outing. He said, “Susan is gone and I can’t do the things she would have expected. Lucy will have to get used to it!”

Sophia, Evelyn & Judy

This lunch was all about friendship.

-

Seeing Evelyn and Sophia reconnect without speaking much was very touching. Despite dementia, their affection and love was something to behold.

 

I missed my mother so much, but in a way I felt like I was standing in for her. Inside, I knew it was unlikely that I would see these two women again.

 

When Evelyn and Sophia said goodbye to each other, I felt a tear roll down my cheek. Both of them had experienced the loss of a child. Despite their circumstances, love shined brightly as they comforted each other.

 

I was thankful that these women had special children who made the effort to bring them together. Hopefully, they will see each other again.

Saying Goodbye© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

SUSAN’S MEMORIAL – PART 2

March 3, 2014

BLOG TABLE OF CONTENTS

Performing for Susan

This link is to an obituary for Susan:

http://www.dailycal.org/2014/01/12/remembering-susan-rasky/

 

My trip to attend my good friend Susan’s memorial was three days. Even though my eyes bothered me a lot, I felt very inspired that I made this trip.

 

On my return flight to Los Angeles, I sat next to a woman whom I had conversed with earlier while waiting to board the airplane. The plane ride was only an hour and ten minutes, but the two of us shared a lot in that time. This woman was a nurse who travelled frequently. She showed me her paintings and we talked about music. I told her why I was on my trip and about my amazing journey.

 

Shortly before the plane landed, I asked her if she wanted to hear one of my songs on my iPod – it was the one I played for Susan’s memorial.

 

I closed my eyes and imagined I could hear my song while it played for her. When it was over, she reached over and squeezed my hand. Her eyes were moist as she said, “That was beautiful!”

This picture is the backyard of Liz’s house where I stayed for two nights.

This picture is the backyard of Liz’s house where I stayed for two nights. It was such a beautiful town – Sebastopol.

Up until a short time before my performance, I still wasn’t sure which song I would play. I had a few ideas and all of them required some minor lyric adjustments in order to work for Susan’s memorial service.

 

I had a time slot of five minutes. That meant I would play one song. I decided not to prepare a speech – I’d just say a few words and then allow my feelings to be expressed by singing.

 

So many times Susan had watched me perform on a live Webcast. Monday night was the night I would send her a text message letting her know my time slot so she could see my live performance of one song at Kulak’s Woodshed’s Open Mic night. It was fantastic that I could sing in Los Angeles and she would watch me where she lived in Northern California 400 miles away!

 

I remembered how much I looked forward to her messages after my performances. At the end of this post, I share a few from her.

 

As I prepared myself to sing at the memorial, I hoped Susan could hear me.

This very old photo is probably one where I last saw Liz at a family event.

This very old photo is probably one where I last saw Liz at a family event.

It was heavy carrying my guitar through the airport. As I waited for Liz to pick me up, I was glad she had sent me a recent photo because I had no recollection of what she looked like. She was right on schedule, waiting for my phone call in a nearby lot. I told her she would be able to find me if she looked for a lady holding a huge guitar case.

 

Liz was lovely and warm and I felt comfortable right away as I got into her car. I noticed we had something in common; we both disliked using a GPS for navigation. Liz handed me a stack of papers she printed out with a map of the campus where we were heading. Our challenge was to find parking close to the building where the memorial was being held.

 

Once we were parked and were situated we had several hours to hang out together. The weather was beautiful as we walked around the UC Berkeley campus. I imagined how much Susan must have loved being a faculty member there.

 

Lunch was perfect at an outdoor café a few blocks away. My eyes were sensitive to the bright sunlight, but the pain was not intense and I was grateful for that.

Judy & Liz and Susan's Memorial

It was nice getting to know Liz. Together we shared memories about our mothers. One thing that I remembered well was when Liz’s brother died about ten years ago.

 

It was a horrible thing that I only understood too well. Her mother and I shared many things related to grief and I mentioned it to Liz. She was surprised that I was aware of the details. Her brother had died of a drug overdose and it bothered her terribly that her mother often lied about it.

 

It hadn’t been easy for Liz. Her brother had many problems throughout his life, so she was relegated to the back burner. She left home and moved far away as soon as she was able to. And ironically, she took it upon herself to bring her mother, Sophia to where she lived in order to care for her. Sophia was reluctant and angry, but Liz was actually saving her life.

 

Sophia lived in squalor and with the onset of dementia she could not be reasoned with. After being moved to Liz’s area, Sophia was permanently separated from her partner, Stan, a man whom she did not live with. They had been together for decades and had never married. It would have been different if they had, because now both of them lived far apart and were immobile. Occasionally there were phone calls, but it was very sad situation indeed.

 

Despite her anguish and bitter feelings toward her mother, Liz was a devoted caregiver. She placed her mother in a nearby board and care home; and clearly her life deeply revolved around her mother.

 

I would be seeing Sophia the following day. Liz prepared me for many things; mostly, her mother had a short fuse and could easily become angry. I was impressed at how much Liz worried about her and dealt with the dementia so matter-of-factly.

 

It wasn’t too long ago when that was my life. I made a mental note to appreciate the fact that I had exited my former existence, which revolved around unending stressful phone calls from my parents and their nursing facility.

A picture of the campus where we walked around.

A picture of the campus where we walked around.

It was time to get my guitar from her car and go back to the journalism building where the memorial would be held.

 

But first, I wanted to warm my voice up in Liz’s car. I had a CD with karaoke recordings of several songs. Now was the time to decide on the exact one I would play for Susan.

 

I said to Liz, “Okay, I’m going to sing a few songs. Please tell me which one you think is the most touching.

 

Liz popped my CD into her car’s CD player. The arrangement filled the car with sweet notes and I sang very softly, just enough to warm up without pushing it.

 

I closed my eyes.

 

Whenever I sang, I felt so elevated; it was such a beautiful feeling. I was finished and looked over.

 

Liz was crying.

 

She said, “I wasn’t prepared – my walls weren’t up. Your song just hit me so hard. I thought about my mother when you were singing; I imagined how it would be when she was gone.”

 

I decided that I would perform that particular song, which had moved Liz so much. It was called “Never Gone Away.

This photo has a lot of meaning for me. My mother and her good friend, Sophia (Liz's mom) are in the same apartment where I live now. I see my wedding picture on the wall behind my mother.

This photo has a lot of meaning for me. My mother and her good friend, Sophia (Liz’s mom) are in the same apartment where I live now. I see my wedding picture on the wall behind my mother.

At the memorial, I was the second person scheduled to speak and sing. I felt relaxed and buoyed to be in a room with people who all felt what I was feeling. Susan was such a powerful woman – a tornado. She was honest; she was out-spoken – she was so many things to so many people. Susan had helped many of her students become important journalists. They were there.

 

Lydia, the organizer of the event began with these words:

-

“I want to welcome everyone – it’s such a great turnout, but I’m not at all surprised. We all just have wonderful, wonderful memories of Susan, her incredible intelligence – her no bullshit intelligence, her honesty and really just her kindness, too. She was very special.”

 

I thought the description of “no bullshit intelligence” was a perfect one for Susan. But now It was my turn.

-

I introduced myself and expressed how grateful I was that Susan had been my friend during what was one of the most challenging periods of my life.

 

The room was quiet as I began playing my guitar. I concentrated on singing the words clearly; it was difficult to detach but I needed to somewhat. If I became emotional (something that I often do while singing), I wouldn’t have been able to sing at all.

 

A lot of people heard me play my song for Susan. But the fact that Liz cried and was touched by my song was something I would always remember.

 

Whenever a person is moved by my music, I am ecstatic. 

The exquisite view outside my bedroom window while staying with Liz in Sebastopol.

The exquisite view outside my bedroom window while staying with Liz in Sebastopol.

Click the blue link to hear audio:

 

NEVER GONE AWAY–Dedicated to Susan Rasky

Performance by Judy Unger

 -

Link to story and audio of this recorded song:

 

Story behind NEVER GONE AWAY

 

NEVER GONE AWAY

(Lyrics revised to past tense to honor of Susan Rasky)

-

I know that you had to leave me

How can I ever say goodbye?

There’s so much you’ve left me

I’ve tried hard not to cry

And though you’re gone you’re still with me

In all the songs I long to play

Every time I see a smile

You have never gone away

 

It always seems to me, that whenever I was down

Your hand was the one holding mine

But your fingers I let go of; how I longed to hold on

You’ve touched so many others, though you’re gone

 

Sometimes I will stop and wonder

You know what I am feeling

I hear your laughter in my mind

I remember all our special moments

They run by with a tear

You’re gone, but in my heart you’re still here

 

I know that you had to leave me

How can I ever say goodbye?

There’s so much you’ve left me

I’ve tried hard not to cry

And though you’re gone you’re still with me

In all the songs I long to play

Every time I see a smile

You have never gone away

You have never gone away

-

Hang On 9-23 snap 10

 

I share a few old messages below from Susan after seeing me perform online at Kulak’s Woodshed’s open mic night:

 

June 7, 2010

Hi Judy,

I could tell nerves got you a bit at the beginning, but you shook them and were much stronger. Your voice just keeps getting better and better!

 

August 16, 2010

Kudos for doing a song that you are still actually learning. Now I want louder, a bit more guitar without voice for a piece of it. Also want: 1) Eye shadow and mascara 2) just a bit of rouge. You look wonderful, but wan (webcast not exactly perfect lighting, etc.) Skinny jeans very impressive! Your legs looked super long and skin looked lovely.

 

November 3, 2010

I think it’s great about your weekend performances. Pretty soon you’re gonna have roadies!

Love, Susan

 

January 16, 2011

Judy, the arranging and the voice lessons have definitely made you a much better singer and musician. The song you sent on the latest video is my favorite of all so far. It was a really beautiful melody and wonderful performance. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever heard “a smile” in your voice as you sang. It’s great!

Love, Susan

-

Performing for Susan's Memorial

© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

MY JOURNEY IN SIGHT – PART 4

March 1, 2014

BLOG TABLE OF CONTENTS

Eye regimen close up

I’m working on arranging a new song, which has no lyrics. It began as a classical guitar piece that I composed 35 years ago. 

 

Because I lead a musical life, I find this dissonant and spooky song speaks to me. I named it “Waterfalls” back in 1979. For this new arrangement, I plan to write lyrics and record my guitar into the song later on (my arranger, George, plays a keyboard guitar for most of my arrangements).

 

What will my song be about? The music says, “Help me get through this painful time trying to deal with my eyesight!”

 

Clicking the blue link plays my new arrangement in progress:

 

WATERFALLS ARRANGEMENT IN PROGRESS-Copyright 2014 by Unger

 

This blue link is to hear my guitar instrumental that was recorded three years ago:

 

WATERFALLS GUITAR INSTRUMENTAL-Copyright 2010 by J. Unger

 This image was for my song “Retreat.” But it feels perfect to go with my upcoming arrangement for now. I don’t think I’ll name my song “Waterfalls,” once I’ve written lyrics for it.


This image was for my song “Retreat.” But it feels perfect to go with my recent song in progress. I don’t think I’ll name my song “Waterfalls” once I’ve written lyrics for it.

“There was always hope . . .”

When I think about how many eye specialists I’ve seen, my head spins.

 

I have two conditions: Dirty vision due to posterior vitreous detachment and dry eye syndrome.

 

Unfortunately, my dry eye condition is the one that has really made me miserable.

 

I keep hoping I’ll find a way to alleviate my pain. According to the last cornea specialist I saw, it worsened and became a chronic problem because of hormonal changes related to my age (I’m 54). But primarily, it was brought on by cataract surgery.

 

Still, I can’t help but wonder about an emotional component. I know the body can exhibit things that our mind does not allow.

 

When my son had violent meltdowns, I developed severe rashes on my elbows that were constantly bleeding. During one of my mother’s early hospitalizations, I was afflicted with severe stomach pain. I even remember when it began – it was triggered by the smells in the rehab facility where she was. I ran to the bathroom and my horrible nightmare turned into microscopic colitis.

 

Those awful ailments only added to my misery because they lasted for several years and made everything I did harder.

 

I am extremely grateful that those conditions eventually faded away.

 

My eyesight problems remind me of my true weakness. I survived my empty marriage by ignoring the things that upset me – I looked the other way.

 

But where do I look now? Not only can’t I escape fog and dirty vision, I’m in pain and it’s too much. 

I was disappointed after paying $500 for an opinion from a doctor at the world-famous Jules Stein Eye Institute. He spent 10 minutes with me and an associate examined my eyes. I still have not received a report from him and it’s been a month. He called me the next day to ask me why I wanted it, and I found his attitude annoying. He said he would not put anything in his report that indicated I deserved reimbursement because it caused problems for him in the past.

This is a filtered photo from my recent trip up north. It does represent how I feel with the glare and fog. Nature and the outdoors are healing, but my eyes still hurt.

This is a filtered photo from my recent trip up north. It does represent how I feel with the glare and fog. Nature and the outdoors are healing, but my eyes still hurt. 

My bedtime ritual has become fairly time-consuming. Despite doing all the things I’ve listed below, my eyes still burn and have sensations. I have difficulty concentrating and often close my eyes when I walk outdoors. I bump into things a lot!

 

Judy’s Bedtime Eye Ritual:

Wipe eyelids with special eyelid cloth and cleaner

Put in Restasis eye drops

Start humidifier – do not slip on the wet floor

Put in eye gel drops

Warm up hot compress in the microwave

Put on iPod and relax with compress over my eyes

 

(The last step is the one I like best)

Eye regimen close up

Twice now, I’ve seen an ophthalmologist who is a cornea specialist through my HMO.

 

At our last appointment, I let him know that I was following a regimen of all his suggestions. This doctor said sweetly, “I’m sorry, but there’s nothing else left that could help your condition. It’s incurable.”

 

So I reminded him about something I knew about – plugs in my tear ducts. Twenty years ago when I wore hard contact lenses, I had two inserted. They stimulated more tear production and helped. Only one of them remained.

 

He said, “Sure, I’ll put more in for you.” That was when I learned that there were four, not two places for those plugs.

 

I would have two more inserted that would give me three plugs. However, the upper lid tear ducts were much more difficult to have the plugs put into.

-

It was very painful as he pulled on my upper eyelid and pressed down. I tried to remain steady as I felt the sting of his tweezers. It took almost fifteen minutes and my eyes were dripping. There was no numbing for this procedure and I used every technique I could think of to stay calm and still.

 

When he was done he said, “It’s likely that they will fall out, but if you think they helped then I’ll cauterize the surrounding tissue to make them stay in permanently. Let me know.”

 

As I left, I wondered when I would get relief since he told me to return in six months.

This is a sculpture that was on the property of a vineyard that I visited last week. It is actually a memorial and all those white dangling items are ripped sheets with a prayer/message to someone who died. There are many stories to be told with those words.

This is a sculpture that was on the property of a vineyard I visited last week. It is actually a memorial and all those white dangling items are ripped sheets with a prayer/message to someone who died. There are many stories to be told with those messages.

Soon I have to decide what kind of medical insurance to buy when my divorce is final (still waiting on paperwork).

 

I’ve had the same HMO since I was born. Although I’m ready to leave it, I do love my primary doctor. Even though I was not given “permission” to see an outside specialist for another opinion (meaning my HMO would reimburse me), my doctor really did try to advocate for me.

 

His last message to me was, “I have another patient who was given the run-around. I sent her to a colleague of mine that I went to med school with. She’s a retina specialist and might be able to help you also.”

 

I told him I was willing, and a referral was sent. It helped when he mentioned another patient was given “the run-around.” I wasn’t alone with my problems!

 

I sure didn’t hold out much hope for this eye specialist. I was so tired of having my eyes dilated.

 

The appointment came up quickly and I prepared myself to hear the same speech of, “Sorry, but there’s little that can be done for dry eyes and PVD (posterior vitreous detachment).”

 

As I sat in the waiting room, I heard my cataract surgeon’s voice nearby. I put my head down and hoped he wouldn’t recognize me. He was the last person I wanted to see even though many doctors have told me he did an excellent job with my implants.

 

The artist's eye

-

My name was called and I went into the examining room. Immediately, I liked this doctor. She was energetic, young and sharp.

 

I mentioned my primary doctor’s name. Suddenly she became bubbly and used his first name while recounting memories from when they were both in medical school.

-

I noticed she was confident, but not arrogant. She seemed to really want to help as she sat down next to me. When she asked me to describe my problems, I didn’t know where to start.

 

My voice did not reveal my emotional turmoil at first. But because she was so compassionate, I felt as though I could allow myself to vent all the frustration I had over my condition.

 

Tears began to spill onto my shirt, which was such an irony for someone like me suffering from dry eye syndrome.

 

She handed me a tissue and said, “You know, I consider dry eye syndrome to be a disease. It is chronic and affects your ability to function. It’s not only hormonal. The fact that you wore hard contact lenses for many years is another factor – that created scar tissue. But even though I can’t treat your dry eye condition, I have another cornea doctor that I want you to see. There are still things you haven’t tried. Have you heard of serum eye drops that are made from your own blood? It can be a miracle. Another idea would be to create a moisture chamber for your eyes by wearing goggles at night.”

 

I listened to her rattle off more ideas to add to my other rituals. I didn’t expect much from this appointment, but suddenly I had a doctor who really seemed to care.

 

Then she said, “Okay, let’s take a look. I’m going to examine you now.”

-

The artist's eye 2

-

In the darkness, I drifted off in my mind to avoid the pain. If my retinas were still intact, I was always grateful. Thankfully, they were this time, too.

 

She said softly, “I cannot imagine how you can see with the dense amount of junk in your gel. I can see it! There are ghost blood cells and enormous floaters. It’s like a curtain of spider webs.”

 

I was amazed to hear her words. That was exactly the way I had described my vision.

 

She was enthused when she said, “I can clean it all out for you. It would take just ten minutes. It’s up to you whenever you’re ready!”

 

“Is that considered a Vitrectomy?” I asked.

 

She nodded, indicating it was. The way she described it, it didn’t seem nearly as radical and dangerous as I thought it was. Suddenly it sounded tantalizing.

 

For another half an hour, she explained more about the procedure to me. She said she didn’t want to appear overconfident, but had never experienced a bad result. “If a doctor experiences a bad result, it can leave them fearful. I’m not on the opposite side telling you there aren’t risks. The reason for my success is that I choose my patients carefully. You are actually a perfect candidate. Yes, there are risks and with this procedure, and your risk of a detachment is slightly increased. But you are at risk for a retinal detachment even without doing anything at all!”

 

She mentioned that she did not do the surgery on anyone who did not have lens implants. One risk of the procedure was developing cataracts.


“You already have had cataracts, and that is another reason I could do this.”

 

Then she added, “I attended a workshop recently and the same doctor you just saw from the Jules Stein Eye Institute was there!”

Filtered trees

 

She shared more about that workshop.

 

“The purpose of that workshop was how people who suffer with your problem have their life deeply affected. You are an artist and I can see how much you are aware of detail. This is all about your quality of life and this procedure could make a huge difference for someone like you.”

 

I left that appointment with a surgical packet and was given an appointment with a new cornea doctor to help me with my dry eye syndrome.

 

I drove home with my eyes half-closed. The pain was unbearable. But my heart was filled with hope. I wasn’t going to jump into having a Vitrectomy, for sure.

 

Before I would consider surgery, I first needed to get my dry eye condition under control.

 

I had a lot to think about. The specialist I had paid $500 to see made me promise not to touch my eyes. He said that he had many patients who had lost their eyesight and wished they had known that ahead of time.

 

This new doctor seemed terrific. But I needed to really think through everything. That wasn’t easy to do when I felt desperate about my condition.

 

But now I had some hope.

 

And hope was everything for me.

Retina Surgery Consent

© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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