ONLY A DREAM

November 24, 2014

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Playing Kulak's open mic

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I am a passionate singer/songwriter following my dream.

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My post title is a lyric line from my song “Watching You Grow.” Although that song was inspired by the thrill of seeing my childrens’ growth, so many lyric lines are applicable to my own growth, as a result of embracing music later in my life.

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In 2010, I began to seriously play my guitar again after 30 years. It happened just after I turned 50 and it was during a very difficult time; music came to uplift me when both my parents were declining. And music guided me to end my marriage after I wrote my true feelings with my song “The Unknown.”

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Perhaps the reason I love songwriting so much is because it represents a way for me to honestly express myself. For decades I “sleepwalked” through my life and denied most of my true feelings.

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My music has given me great comfort and I’ve decided that music and God are interchangeable. That’s an amazing thing for me to say because and I’m not a religious person by any means!

Only a dream

“Bring me to tears”

“Oh my God! That’s it – you just gave me chills!”

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“I’m not sure where the spot is – but I know it’s supposed to move me in this area. Something needs to be put in there.”

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“There’s nothing wrong with what you’re doing, but when you find those special notes – I’m soaring.”

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Working with my arranger, George sometimes sounds like an erotic encounter!

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Our sessions usually last for about 3-4 hours; time flies by as we collaborate and create beautiful music together. George is very private and wouldn’t want me to share anything about him. I can say that I always sit in a chair about ten feet away from him.

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Recently, I’ve begun to be very demanding about every song arrangement we create together. It isn’t enough for me to have a song arrangement that sounds musically pretty. I’ve decided that an arrangement isn’t finished unless it grabs my heart.

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From the time I began working with George four years ago, I have grown and developed musically in many ways. In the beginning of our working relationship, I let George arrange everything the way he heard it. He is definitely a musical genius and I treasure every one of his arrangements. Unlike earlier songs that were arranged in one session, most of our recent song arrangements develop over many sessions and I am far more involved.

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George is eager to please me, but he gets frustrated when I send him in circles with vague directions. Sometimes it’s very challenging to explain what I want when I’m not even sure - but I know it when I hear it because I feel something special.

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Yes, it does sound erotic, doesn’t it? And when I tell George that his arrangement has sent me to heaven, he beams and tells me that it gives him a lot of pleasure to do that for me.

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These are lyrics in progress that I scrawled out while writing my song “Watching You Grow.”

These are lyrics in progress that I scrawled out while writing my song “Watching You Grow.”

To anyone who wonders what I do on a daily basis with my passion – I share with you now.

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I record vocals three times a week. After so many sessions of recording, there are things I know about my voice.

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1. I can sing well for about thirty minutes. After that, it all goes downhill.

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2. I’ll sing a song about 5-7 times.The first take is usually a “warm up” because my pitch is off. But my low notes are great on the first two takes. After that, they disappear and then the high notes are better. The best take is usually the third one.

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3. I use a lot of mouthwash before I sing. Another musician told me that it helps to eliminate those funny clicking noises that happen when I’m singing certain words.

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4. I try hard to think about the meaning of the words I’m singing instead of thinking about how to sing better.

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Writing a new song is an amazing gift from above. I never actively try to compose because it involves lyric writing. I find the process of hunting for words deep within my subconscious to be exhausting and quite difficult. But of course, it leads to bliss when I come through with words that express my true feelings.

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Most of my time is spent editing vocal recordings. I do try to play my guitar every day because I want to maintain memorization for over forty songs. Performing is another arena that requires even more singing and guitar practice time for me.

That handsome guy, who is setting up my mic, is a volunteer at Kulak’s Woodshed where I perform regularly. Matt has helped me out by editing some of my recordings and he’s also a terrific singer/songwriter.

That handsome guy, who is setting up my mic, is a volunteer at Kulak’s Woodshed where I perform regularly. Matt has helped me out by editing some of my recordings and he’s also a terrific singer/songwriter.

During the years when I did not have any music in my life, it was only a dream.

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I am eternally grateful that I am able to create the music that I love. For so many years, I was overwhelmed with caregiving and this is my renaissance now.

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All of what I do musically fills me with energy, excitement and pleasure. It helps me cope with almost anything that is stressful in my life and keeps me smiling.

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When I receive a paid illustration assignment, my musical endeavors don’t stop. I manage to do both at the same time. I have been blessed to receive a lot of income this past year as an artist.

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It is a message for me from above that I can continue following my dream. No guilt. No shame. Just joy and lightness of being.

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When I become overly critical about my singing abilities or when I analyze technical elements of music – it blocks me. My goal is to get out of my own way. It is a process and I am constantly learning ways to free myself from the inner critic.

That’s me playing my old classical guitar at the age of 17! Below is that same guitar in my daughter’s hands.

That’s me playing my old classical guitar at the age of 17! Below is that same guitar in my daughter’s hands.

Daughter playing

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“You’re My Superstar”

I chuckled. This was truly a songwriting moment. My 21-year-old daughter was visiting and she sat on my bed strumming my fairly new Cordoba classical guitar.

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She said, “I have a song I’ve been working on, Mommy. It only has one verse though. Can I play it for you?”

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I listened as she strummed and sang. It was delightful watching her.

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My daughter worked full-time now since she’d been promoted to a manager at the restaurant where she worked. For the past month, she told me she had zero time and energy for music. The idea of performing again like she had a year ago was remote.

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Her words were, “I am so tired from working that when I get home I go to bed early. On my days off, I have so many other things to do – music is the last thing I have time for.

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That made it even more beautiful for me to see her enjoyment while playing guitar in my bedroom.

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For another hour, she continued to practice her guitar playing and ended up writing another verse for her song. I sat at my computer nearby and did some other things. But listening to her play gave me a big smile.

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And I let her know that her song was really lovely and how much I enjoyed seeing her compose a song in my company.

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Then she said, “Mommy, by the way, I need to bring you my guitar. It has two broken strings and I’d love it if you could fix them for me.”

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daughter performing

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Her old guitar was my old guitar. I played it from the time I was about 17 years old. It was dented, scratched and not really a great guitar. I had thought about getting her a new guitar as a gift someday. She even mentioned that she was thinking of buying one for herself.

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I watched her playing my Cordoba. A year ago, I went shopping for this classical guitar and must have played over 100 guitars before I found this one. It had a nice bright sound, but I far preferred my steel-string Lowden guitar to it. So I hardly played my Cordoba classical guitar and it was dusty.

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Cordoba reflected

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Perhaps it was impulsive but I said, “Honey, you can take my Cordoba home. Enjoy it.”

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Her eyes widened. “Mom, are you sure?”

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Her excitement was obvious when she chirped, “I promise I’ll be very careful because I know you paid a lot of money for it. Wow!!! I can’t wait to play it in my apartment. My roommates are going to be so impressed!”

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Now, whenever I look at the empty spot where my Cordoba hung on my wall, I am reminded of her excited face. It felt so good to see her musically inspired; it was well worth it.

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That night, I told her that I hoped she’d never put music aside like I had for over 30 years. It was God’s gift, a magical elixir for life.

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Daugher singing

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Below is a link to hear my daughter’s music (I’m hoping she won’t be upset with me for sharing so much!):

https://www.youtube.com/user/vballer1993

© 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.

ONE DAY, YOUR PAIN WILL GO AWAY – PART 3

November 20, 2014

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This flower grows on a fence where I play tennis. I stopped to take a picture when my game was over because I found it so beautiful.

These flowers were growing on a fence where I play tennis. I stopped to take a picture when my game was over because I found them to be so beautiful.

The checker in the market looked very concerned. “You look like you are in pain. Do you need to sit down?” she asked me.

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I realized that my eyes were closed. I was grimacing while holding onto the checkout stand as I replied. “Thank you for caring. My leg hurts but I’ll be fine – we’re almost done.”

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Waves of pain were shooting through my thigh and my brain was burning from the agony. I gritted my teeth and accepted help with the groceries. I quickly sat down in my car while a young girl put the bags in my trunk. My leg continued to ache, but gradually the pain ebbed away.

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This was crazy! How in the world had this happened? I was just celebrating that my eyes had gotten better and now I had a sore leg.

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I had gone to my doctor on the afternoon of Halloween. A physical therapist told me I had an “inflamed femoral nerve” in my thigh. A few days later I was relieved when the pain seemed to have gone away.

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I was hesitant about playing tennis, but had been pain-free since Sunday. So on a lovely Tuesday morning, I was swatting a tennis ball. I was very grateful to be outdoors and actually played better than I expected.

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After two hours of tennis, I stopped at a nearby superstore before driving home. I was exhausted when I finished shopping and that afternoon my leg started aching again. I took Motrin and held an ice pack to my thigh for hours.

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This time, the pain didn’t go away. I became very irritable because it was definitely hard to deal with. It looked like I had made a mistake playing tennis. Now I could barely get to the mailbox.

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I remembered how the pain had gone away when I rested a lot the first time. No more tennis for me for a while. I gave myself permission to be lazy.

This was a recent album cover idea. The title of my song definitely fits for how I’ve been feeling lately!

This was a recent album cover idea. The title of my song definitely fits for how I’ve been feeling lately!

vul·ner·a·ble (adjective)

physically or psychologically weak, extremely susceptible

For three days, I pretty much sat at home.

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This was such a twist for me – usually I had to push myself to be active at least once a day. Now I couldn’t do that and I sure missed what I had taken for granted!

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I told a good friend about my predicament and she recommended a chiropractor. She said he had worked a miracle for a friend of hers. I was enthused because he wasn’t too expensive and his office was very close to my house.

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This was going to be my very first experience seeing a chiropractor. I was pleased to get a same day appointment and anticipated I’d get some relief.

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When I arrived, the office looked comfy and the receptionist was very friendly.

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This chiropractor practically danced around me with his abundant energy. His large, magnified eyes bulged behind his glasses and he announced with enthusiasm that I was his “number one project.”

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He recommended an x-ray, which I decided to have at the cost of $125 additional dollars. I did not want to wait a week to see if my insurance would pay for one. I just prayed I would receive some remarkable results from this man.

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A few moments later, he was pointing to my x-ray. (On a side note – I wasn’t too thrilled seeing my belly shadow behind the lit up bones.) He deftly connected a few dots to create lines and get measurements.

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Then he announced, “No wonder you are a mess, my dear. Your hip is twisted and a nerve is squeezed; that is why your leg is hurting. It was most likely from an injury that happened years ago – I’m amazed you haven’t had any problems before this!”

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I was impressed how he was absolutely certain he could help me by putting things back into position. With his precise adjustments, my vertebrae needed to move by almost ¾ of an inch. It was a non-surgical approach that he was very experienced with and he reassured me that he had helped many other patients.

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I was slightly nervous and asked him if it was going to hurt. But if this would help me, that seemed like such a silly question.

This baby picture of mine works perfectly to describe how my face must have looked before my adjustment.

This baby picture of mine works perfectly to describe how my face must have looked before my adjustment.

He said, “Honestly, what I’m going to do is a temporary thing – but you will be so happy afterwards because it is going to make your problem go away.

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I looked at him with glazed eyes and blinked back my tears. It seemed that my leg pain had affected my dry eyes; they were foggy and painful again. I was at a very low point.

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I was completely vulnerable and surrendered to his confidence.

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He told me to lie on my side. I was to straighten out my bottom leg and cross the other over it. His voice was chipper when he called out to his receptionist. He said, “I need a leg holder.” I wasn’t sure what that meant.

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He asked me to scoot on my side closer to him. He said, “Don’t worry, I won’t let you fall off. I just want you to lean towards me.”

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I followed his instructions and closed my eyes. He held me in a hug-like position with one finger from his other hand poking my back.

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And then . . .

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WHAM!!!

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I was stunned. Horrific pain screamed through me with his powerful impact. I almost passed out from shock. My body was slammed while twisted in a strange position.

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His voice was still chipper when he said, “Now turn over for the other side.” I was queasy and sweat dripped from my face co-mingled with my tears.

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I took a deep breath and my body was slammed a second time. I hadn’t experienced such horrific trauma since childbirth. But I had to give him credit – it happened so fast.

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A moment later, he pulled me into a sitting position. I was softly crying and praying this was my miracle cure.

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He said, “Tomorrow I want you to come back two more times. We made a lot of progress today but it’s still going to take more adjusting to move those vertebrae.”

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All three of my children were laughing around the dining room table when I walked in the door. “Hey mom, how’s your leg?” they all asked.

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I heard their voices hushed with worry when I ran past them into my bedroom. I threw the covers over my head and cried.

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“Mom, is there something we can do for you?” They all stood in the doorway and were quite worried about me. I reassured them that I would be fine – I needed to rest after my traumatic experience.

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Gradually, my sweat dried and my shaking stopped. It was nice hearing my children happily banter and fix their own dinners.

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Now there was a knock on my bedroom door. It was my former housekeeper, Rosa. She came in with her boyfriend, Orlando. They had driven to see me because they were very concerned.

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Rosa had brought with her a special supplement that she insisted I take. I swallowed two capsules of super vitamins. Then Orlando wanted to give me a leg massage. Rosa said, “Judy, he did this for me when my leg hurt and the next day my pain was gone!”

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Orlando firmed gripped my thigh and started to press and squeeze it. I let out a few loud moans as he kneaded my flesh. My large teenage son came running down the hallway.

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“Mom! Why don’t you tell him to stop if it hurts? You sound awful!”

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Through my clenched teeth I muttered, “Don’t worry – I’ll be fine.” I let out a few more yelps as Orlando massaged my aching thigh.

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Rosa hugged me goodbye. She told me to let her know how my leg was the following day. I promised her I would.

Of course, I’d like to be that skinny again. But that picture reminds me of the courage it took to jump.

Of course, I’d like to be that skinny again. But this picture reminds me of the courage it took for me to jump.

The next day, I was nervous about going back to the chiropractor. My friend, Joni sent me a text message offering to take me to my appointment. It was so thoughtful of her to want to help me and I decided to take her up on it.

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Joni was still recovering from open-heart surgery only a few months before. She had been going through a lot of ups and downs with her recovery.

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I gingerly got into her car and she said, “I am so glad I could do this! It feels wonderful to be able to help you.” Joni had one of my CD’s playing in her car as she drove. I felt so lucky to have her at that moment.

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Once again, I was lying on the adjustment table. The chiropractor showed Joni my x-ray and explained to her what he was doing. I could hardly concentrate because my eyes were so painful at that moment. I closed them and tried to escape in my mind.

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I let out a loud scream with the first slamming adjustment. I turned over for the second one and Joni tenderly grabbed my hand, “Jude, take deep breaths!”

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When the chiropractor crushed me the second time, I yelled. Tears dripped down my cheeks.

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I heard him announce, “Congratulations! Did you hear that loud cracking noise? That is a sign of movement, which means we made even more progress today!”

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I felt queasy when Joni dropped me off back at home. I walked slowly into my apartment and collapsed upon my bed.

This picture was taken in July on Joni’s birthday. Only two weeks after that, she had problems with a heart valve and required major surgery to repair it.

This picture was taken in July on Joni’s birthday. Only two weeks after that, she had problems with a heart valve and required major surgery to repair it.

An hour later, I sat up and began practicing my singing. I wanted to record vocals later in the day.

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Nothing was going to stop the music for me. Nothing.

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Only two days earlier, I had sung vocals for my song “Hang On.” I easily became emotional with my lyric line of “one day your pain will go away!” Pain didn’t matter to me as long as I could make it to my car and into the place where I sang.

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I drove to Darrin’s studio; it was only a few minutes away. My leg was still numb from the ice pack I carried with me. I casually mentioned to Darrin that I was having some problems with my leg and he was very sympathetic.

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I quickly sat down and was excited to sing vocals for my newest song arrangement. I put on headphones and anyone who saw me would have noticed how one leg was awkwardly stretched to the side.

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But for 30 minutes I sang my heart out. I went to place far away from my own body. It was magical and very healing.

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When I was finished singing, I drove from the recording studio to the chiropractor for my second day’s round of adjustments. Because I knew what to expect, it wasn’t as shocking now. But it certainly wasn’t pleasant.

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When I came home, I wrote a message to my doctor requesting an MRI.

I recently recorded an improved vocal for “My Shining Star.”

I recently recorded an improved vocal for one of my favorite songs named “My Shining Star.”

Below is a link to a recent performance from two weeks ago that I am sharing on YouTube. I was sitting down for obvious reasons!

MY SHINING STAR – Performance on 10/28/14 my Judy Unger at Kulak’s Woodshed

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CORRESPONDENCE WITH MY GOOD FRIEND, DR. SAM (his words are in brown):

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On Nov 17, 2014, Dr. Sam wrote:

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Hope that you feel better…just remember that chiropractors are notorious for sucking people into extended treatment plans with multiple “sessions.”

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How many chiropractors does it take to change a light bulb?

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Just one, but it will take him eight visits!

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Well, Sam, I won’t mind if it helps. Unfortunately, I wish it were a light bulb that my doctor could take care of instead.

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I am telling you that every day I am more and more grateful for good health! I want so badly to have everything in decent working order – not perfect by any means. But I need to be able to walk without screaming in pain.

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Hope all is well with you.

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Judy

ps. All of this has become the biggest pain in the ass!

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Agree that walking without screaming in pain is a good thing…just make sure that you watch your budget and don’t get taken advantage of.

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Thanks, Sam. It would be nice if my HMO helped “foot” the bill. I am trying to “stand up” for myself.

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I wish I knew what I’m supposed to do – rest or move! The chiropractor said he’d have me fixed up in no time and I would love to believe that! I hope he’s not just “pulling my leg.”

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Judy

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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.

WATCHING YOU GROW

November 9, 2014

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Watching You Grow 

Clicking the blue links plays audio:

WATCHING YOU GROW-11/22/14 Copyright 2014 by Judy Unger

WATCHING YOU GROW-Performance by Judy Unger on 9/23/14

Boy did those years go by quickly!

Boy did those years go by quickly!

 

 

WATCHING YOU GROW

Copyright 2014 by Judy Unger

 

My heart overflows

All my joy just grows and grows

Only a dream when you began

First baby steps and then you ran

I’m watching you grow, bursting with pride

I’m all aglow

One day you arrived, tiny and new

My miracle was you

All through the years seeing you bloom

brings me to tears

You just don’t know how much I’ve loved

watching you grow

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You’ve come so far

You’re my superstar

Holding your hand, seeing you through

Then one day you just flew

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I’m watching you grow, bursting with pride

I’m all aglow

One day you arrived, tiny and new

My miracle was you

As years go by seeing you bloom

can make me cry

You just don’t know how much I’ve loved

watching you grow

I’ve loved . . .

watching you grow

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Below are the many pages of lyrics I scrawled when my song was “in progress.” There were a lot of pages for a song that says the same thing over and over!

Below are the many pages of lyrics I scrawled when my song was “in progress.” There were a lot of pages for a song that says the same thing over and over!

I am a passionate songwriter. In my world, music plays every moment of my day. Lyric lines shout out to me in almost every situation.

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I find the process of writing a song to be miraculous. When a song is “born,” it is so beautiful that I am uplifted to a very joyful place. I hear it playing over and over and walk around singing the new melody all through my day.

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At first, I sing a melody without any words. But eventually the lyrics emerge and then it’s as if the song has always been there.

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I'm watching

Many times I’ve referred to my songs as “babies.” Just like a child with a gestation period, my song develops from feelings within my subconscious. When it is ready, it “arrives” and seems to have a unique personality right from the start.

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Of course, I cannot truly compare my songs to my children. Music certainly changed my life – but not nearly the way having my children did. And of course, my love for them goes far beyond music.

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“Watching You Grow” was most certainly inspired by my kids.

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I’m glad I could write a new song about them. I wrote one other song about them named “No Words. But “No Words” was haunted by the child of mine who died at the age of five and would never grow up. And I have already written many songs dedicated to Jason.

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Perhaps my joy over seeing my children grow is even more pronounced because I understand how fragile life can be.

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Rose pastel

My song began when I heard a bouncy chord progression. I was very excited and saw it as a sign of healing for me. I could only write a joyful song if I were in a happier place.

I shared the new chord progression with my arranger, George. We began to arrange the song before I wrote lyrics or named it. I told George that I wondered what it would be about and shared some ideas with him.

I explained that there were so many reasons why this happy melody fit into my life at the moment. My children were really growing and I was thrilled with their progress. They were definitely blossoming.

He said, “Well, that’s your song!”

I smiled and decided I would name my song “Watching You Grow.”

I am constantly reminding my 17-year-old son to take out the trash (in addition to other chores.) Because he sometimes forgets, I asked him to make a note to remind himself (I’m so tired of being a nag). I love the picture he drew complete with flies!

I am constantly reminding my 17-year-old son to take out the trash (in addition to other chores.) Because he sometimes forgets, I asked him to make a note to remind himself (I’m so tired of being a nag). I love the picture he drew complete with flies!

I am very close to all three of my children, which means I definitely feel their joy and their pain. Currently, my sons are 17 and 24; my daughter is 21.

It was interesting how not long after writing “Watching You Grow,” I lost my connection and feeling for it. The joy I had performing it at open mic venues completely disappeared.

Perhaps it was because I had no privacy where I was. I began to feel irritable in my apartment where I lived with my two sons; I found myself wishing they were “flying independently” and considered renaming my song “Grow Up Already!”

From the time they were born, my life has been intertwined with my children. Without sharing any more details about their lives, I can say that I have endured moments of deep despair while they were growing up.

The miles of growth that all three of them have traveled were sometimes so painful that I sure wish at those times I knew where they would be today.

Teaching my children to fly has been the greatest challenge of my life. But what is also important to acknowledge is that I have never really flown. I was married when I was 21 and still have not experienced living on my own.

I’m 55 years old, divorced and all of my children depend on me. Their father has not been very involved in their lives these past two years. He plans to move far away to another country in seven months.

Now I understand why my song wasn’t touching me – I was lying when I sang it!

That was because my song’s main emphasis was about how much I’ve loved watching my children grow. Well that wasn’t true because watching my children grow was often an ordeal.

But my song is true, because they are all miracles.

I see my children as gifts from God; each one is special and more important than anything else in my life.

I might dislike the process of growth, but I sure treasure the result. What lies beyond is magnificent and definitely worth celebrating.

Changing my thought process about this helped greatly and not long after that I watched my oldest son go over a big hurdle in his life. That led to celebrating and simply confirmed my feelings about how much I love the result of growth.

So now I do feel “all aglow” when I sing “Watching You Grow!”

The words above are my lyrics in progress. I always write my feelings first to help me come up with song lyrics.

The words above are my lyrics in progress. I always write my feelings first to help me come up with song lyrics.

I tried to relate my song to my own life because most of the lyrics touched me that way. I continue to grow in so many ways, too.

One word in my song did not fit for that. It was “tiny.” Perhaps I have “arrived,” but I was never tiny. I tried replacing the word “tiny” with “pure, fresh, and innocent.” That way my song could be about how I felt when I rediscovered my music.

None of the other words moved me like “tiny” did. The feelings that brought me to tears were not about me.

It moved me deeply remembering my children when they were born. They were “tiny” and new!

So the absolute truth is that nothing in my life is more amazing for me than the miracle of seeing them grow into the beautiful humans they are today.

Judy & Jenny- Danny, Greg and Judy

Loving my sons

© 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.

MY JOURNEY IN SIGHT – PART 10

November 7, 2014

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This photo was taken when I attended a dry eye support group meeting. It wasn’t in my area, but I’m glad I went. I met and thanked a wonderful woman named Judi, who really helped my eyes improve with her advice.

This photo was taken when I attended a dry eye support group meeting. It wasn’t in my area, but I’m glad I went. I met and thanked a wonderful woman named Judi, who really helped my eyes improve with her advice.

Over the past two years, I’ve struggled with some challenging eye problems. Most of my energy was spent trying to cope with pain and at the same time search for anything that might help me.

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When I began to write with more detail about my eye issues, I grouped those stories under the title of “My Journey in Sight.” I was hoping that perhaps through my experience I could help other people suffering with similar problems.

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I found that title so ironic because my blog “My Journeys Insight” began as a blog of self-discovery and had nothing to do with eyesight. But my eye problems have brought me insight and the additional pun just enhances my blog title.

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I’m hoping this will be the last part of my “eyesight series” for a while. My eyesight journey has been challenging, but thankfully I have reached a better place and want to share where I currently am.

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Here is a brief summary of my eye issues:

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1. In 2012, my eye prescription changed dramatically within two months. I had poor vision in one eye and a lot of fogginess at night. I realize now that some of this might have been due to dry eyes. The eye doctors told me I had mild/moderate cataracts so I went ahead and had cataract surgery on both eyes.

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2. Six months later, I had Posterior Vitreous Detachment (PVD) in both eyes. This is considered a common age-related occurrence, but it was shocking for me. Cataract surgery often leads to PVD and I was very near-sighted, which increased my risk for complications.

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3. I had a lot of trouble adjusting to the blurs and dark floaters from PVD. I was able to work on my computer and perhaps because of PVD and intense staring, I experienced unbearable pain in my eyes. I went to Urgent Care and was told I simply had mild Blepharitis and dry eyes.

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4. My dry eye journey was lonely and torturous. The first cornea doctor told me that nothing else could be done. (Other than my current regimen, which was wiping my eyelids, using a hot compress and Restasis eye drops).

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5. For two years I lived with constant pain and fogginess in both my eyes. I could see well enough to work, drive and function outwardly. But my condition led me to become deeply depressed and withdrawn.

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I did change doctors; I found another corneal specialist who was willing to go through a long list of dry eye remedies. It was very discouraging when nothing brought relief.

I share a picture from my younger days. There’s no going back! I can honestly say that now that my eyes are better, my life is wonderful again.

I share a picture from my younger days. There’s no going back! I can honestly say that now that my eyes are better, my life is wonderful again.

I see my eye problems as a metaphor for many other human conditions – so I’m hoping that anyone reading this could relate it to other ailments and struggles. Because hope was something I held onto during grief, I found many of the exchanges on the dry eye forum I subscribe to very touching. I share excerpts of posts from different people over the last few months that paint a picture of what people with dry eyes deal with.

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Is dry eye considered a disease or a syndrome??

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I would call it a condition that is chronic, which means there is no cure but with regular maintenance the symptoms are bearable in most cases….

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The technical term for dry eye is PITA. Pain In The Ass!

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I don’t think recovery is possible anymore. All I read everywhere is pain, pain and pain for years with and NOTHING helping. I don’t think life is worth it with this. I’m losing hope.

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Don’t lose hope! Maybe we cannot recover completely, but I have hope we all can find a way to live with it, or at least have some good days without as much pain or redness.

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I also don’t know anyone personally who has this disease. Before I was in this group I felt very alone. I think it helps “talking” and reading how others cope with it.

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Hey, the last thing you can do is lose hope. Just try to live your life one day at a time. Every day new discoveries are made, I know recovery may be slow and painful, but I am sure it will happen.

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This group has already taught me so much. My improvement isn’t great but it is better, don’t lose hope! We must never lose hope!

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Sometimes I feel like I’m missing something. You have all these eye doctors saying dry eye is very treatable and then all of us patients who suffer on a daily basis. What’s the deal? It’s a constant struggle for some of us.

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Dry eye isn’t so much a curable condition, as one we have to manage – at least that is how I feel
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I’d just like to put this out there. I’ve done a lot of research and I’ve come to one conclusion. The treatment of dry eye takes a long time. Certain medical abstracts talk a lot about patients getting discouraged with their current treatment and quit and go on to the next thing. My point is find a doctor that can give you the best diagnosis and don’t get discouraged when you don’t feel better with treatment after a month or two. I’ve definitely improved although not close to 100% but I’m much better than I was when I first started.

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I have had dry eyes for 26 years now and I did give up. I felt like no matter what I did nothing was helping, so I did nothing for years. Oh, how I wish I could take those years back and have a redo! I just had surgery for recurrent cornea erosions on Friday because of this.

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The problem I have with different treatments is that it seems like any treatment I try seems to irritate my eyes more. My corneal specialist has said to not continue a treatment if it hurts my eyes.

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I think I’m gonna explode. Sorry to vent, but I miss my old life terribly. I’m so sad. I’m 26 and can’t do anything except sleeping, staying home. 
I just want to be free, to live normally, to be happy again…

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This disease is so much more psychological than anyone WITHOUT the disease realizes. It’s a major hit to self perception/confidence, as everyone thinks we either cry all the time, are hung-over, stoners, or don’t take care of ourselves. Be strong, tell people about your disease! Tell them when it hurts, when you know it looks bad. Be who you are, unapologetically. Come to us for support and let’s solve this dilemma together!

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I am afraid I will have to live with this painful condition for the rest of my life. Either I can give up or stay strong and see what tomorrow holds…

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Believe me, after almost 40 years with this condition I should have thrown the towel in long ago. I just keep searching and searching until I find the right doctor and/or the right medication. Promise me you won’t give up. We are all here to support one another. Feel free to drop me a line anytime when you are feeling down and hopeless. There is hope!!!

I share another picture from my younger days. Many of the people in my dry eye forum dream about feeling “normal” again. I’ve accepted that my “new normal” is okay for now. I am not cured but it’s certainly livable.

I share another picture from my younger days. Many of the people in my dry eye forum dream about feeling “normal” again. I’ve accepted that my “new normal” is okay for now. I am not cured but it’s certainly livable.

Until I joined this dry eye forum, I felt very alone with my eye pain. I learned so much from other people who were going through similar challenges. Two important lessons that I learned while searching to help myself were:

1. A remedy that cured someone else’s eye problem didn’t necessarily cure mine.

2. There were remedies that were so simple, I didn’t pay attention to following them.

Despite my dry eyes, I’ve continued to illustrate and have had an excellent year.

Despite my dry eyes, I’ve continued to illustrate and have had an excellent year.

I was extremely nearsighted for most of my life and comfortably wore hard contact lenses from the time I was 11 years old. I painted detailed illustrations without any problem.

As a 55-year-old woman, I could spend a lot of energy wishing my eyes were the same as they were even five years ago. Around the time shortly before my father died and my separation after a long marriage, I began having trouble seeing. I’ve often wondered if the symptoms I had at that time were related to dry eyes.

My cataract surgery became an ordeal when I had to go back for yet a third surgery – a cortical chip was left behind. Then there was a capsulotomy, which was a laser treatment for the edge of the cataract that intruded a few months later.

But it was the PVD that was very upsetting for me. Every moment of my day was challenging because of the all the fog and junk in my vision.

My own son told me, “Mom, I can see why you say things are foggy. Your eyes look clouded!” I often wished I could pop out my cataract lens implants and clean them.

Living with fog and floaters was one thing, but when I had constant pain it was torture. How does a person live with pain every moment of their day? I know many people who do and I am heartsick imagining it.

Within the last month, I’ve experienced improvement with my dry eye condition. I still have dense floaters and fog, but the pain has lifted and my attitude has changed. All I can say is that I am so relieved.

I accept now that my vision is adequate to live my life and is something I will continue to adjust to. Being free from pain is a gift that leaves me crying with gratefulness.

I can open my eyes again – somewhat.

I can open my eyes again – somewhat.

My improvement began when I was at a very low point. The remedy I thought would help me the most was serum tears (made from my own blood). Unfortunately, I had a bad reaction and thought that the tears were made incorrectly or compromised.

After writing about how discouraged I was, a friend from the on-line forum reached out to me. Her name was Susan and we corresponded a great deal to support each other. Susan introduced me to Judi who was the leader of a dry eye support group in another county.

Judi had asked Susan if she could contact me because she was very concerned about my serum tear reaction. Judi sent me a lot of information, spoke to me on the phone and we emailed each other.

Two months ago, I traveled to meet Judi and attend one of the dry eye support group meetings where she was a leader. It entailed about five hours of driving and luckily Susan’s husband drove us to the meeting. The time went by easily with them and I didn’t mind the outing.

The meeting was informative. But my reason for being there was to meet and personally thank Judi for helping me. After the meeting was over, Susan took a picture of Judi with me.

Susan and her husband, Bill, were so lovely to spend the day with.

Susan and her husband, Bill, were so lovely to spend the day with.

Because Judi had found a lot of success with serum tears, I decided to try again. Two weeks ago, I had new serum tears made from another batch of my blood. This time the tears were 100% serum, instead of 20% like I had the first time.

After putting only one drop in each eye, a few hours later I experienced weird sensations and my eyes felt much worse. It took about five days before my eyes felt better and I did not use any more serum after that.

I was disappointed that the remedy I was certain would be my “cure,” was not the case. It was so frustrating; instead of serum helping, it was hurting me!

Blood Draw 2

My improvement began because of Judi and her willingness to guide me. Such simple things made a difference and weren’t very difficult for me to implement.

Drinking a lot of water (at least 10-12 glasses a day) seemed to make the biggest difference. And then there was a certain technique of using an eye gel at night.

Judi had explained to me on the phone that her “gel remedy” was something she discovered on her own and was very proud of; it helped to combat a condition with a very long name that made dry eyes worse.

The condition was known as Lagophthalmos, which in simple words means that eyelids aren’t fully closed when a person is asleep. Judi asked me if someone could look at me when I was sleeping so I’d know whether my eyelids were closed. The thought of asking one of my sons to do that seemed kind of strange. Then she asked me if my eyes hurt when I woke up in the morning; I told her that they most certainly did.

Her remedy involved using Genteal Gel (I tried another brand without results). I always wondered why anyone used gel eye lubricants. They blurred my vision and didn’t bring any kind of relief.

The trick was to get my eyelids to stick together so they would remain closed when I was asleep.

Judi said, “Be absolutely sure not use any other eye drops for at least half an hour before going to bed. You want this gel to be very sticky. Put it in and close your eyes tightly. After five minutes, your eyelids should stay stuck together.”

I followed what she said, and woke up in the morning without pain. This lady was a miracle worker!

Bright eyed

I wrote to her and said:

On Sep 13, 2014, Judy wrote:

I was so excited to share with you that I had some better days with my eyes recently. The Genteal gel at night is helping and especially all the water I’ve been drinking. I couldn’t believe that yesterday there was a moment when my eyes actually felt almost normal!

I’m so glad I was able to meet you. I know I’ll be writing about that day. Thank you again so much, Judi!

Hi Judy,

I am so glad that you are finally seeing some improvement in how your eyes are feeling. One of my greatest joys in life is knowing that God has chosen me as the vehicle to share His blessings given to me with others in need and in pain. I pray that this gift never ceases and He continues to find ways to use me to make a difference in others’ lives in whatever way that might be.

I am thrilled that the Genteal Gel is working for you. I am surprised how many people are never diagnosed by highly-trained eye specialists about this condition. When I was first diagnosed with Lagophthalmos my reaction was, “Oh, no! I had another incurable disease.”

I was told I could have weights sewn into my lids. Then I was told to tape my eyes shut with an X over my eyes at night, which tore the tissue at my eye because it is so delicate. I was told to cover my eyes with saran-wrap at night, which was horrible.

I sat and prayed one night and in the morning my friend suggested I try Genteal Gel. She didn’t mention the way I was to use it, by not putting other drops in beforehand – or holding lids closed till it dry. But somehow God showed me the way.

HE SEEMS TO ALWAYS MAKE A WAY WHEN THERE SEEMS TO BE NONE.”  AND SO BETWEEN THE GENTEAL GEL AND THE AUTOLOGUS SERUM, HE HAS GIVEN ME THIS GIFT OF FREEDOM FROM PAIN AND I AM DOWN TO 4 DROPS A DAY.

I can’t tell you how grateful I am that I can share this. I pray that you can get serum that helps you.

Thanks again for the great news and I feel your condition will continue to improve and pray God also uses you to share His blessings going forward.

Judi, just for fun, I’m sharing what was doing on my computer tonight; it’s one of my songs. I’m a passionate songwriter. I don’t market or sell anything yet but one day I will. :)

Ps. When my eyes are better, it will be much easier for me to reach out to find a larger audience. I see God wanting me to have this healing time and it has enabled me to stay close with my children and focus on creating music every day. I have over 60 song arrangements now.

Wow, what a voice you have – it sounds angelic!!! I look forward to listening to it all… Such a gift and blessings!

Thank you so much for helping to lift me up. The depression that resulted from my eye pain has been overwhelming. For this past year, I’ve just stayed inside a lot and have been reclusive.

I didn’t sing for 30 years and after my 5-year-old son died in 1992, I never thought I’d sing again. I picked up my guitar four years ago and it healed me and changed my life. I believe God gave me music to share, to heal others and myself.

I don’t consider myself to be a great singer. I’ve worked hard to improve so I can share my songs with the world. Two years ago, I could hardly keep my pitch. It’s a process. Singing for me is all about opening my heart and allowing my emotions to be free. Your compliments mean a lot to me.

I’ve found a lot of joy with my writing and music. I am peaceful and try to help others who suffer with grief and never imagine feeling better. I’ll look forward to seeing you again in January when Susan and I drive out to the support group meeting again.

Few can understand the debilitation the loss of a child causes. We lost our son at 42 with two young children to lung cancer, another unexplainable debilitating tragedy.

Oh Judi, I am so, so sorry about your son! Now we are not only joined because of our eyes, but also as bereaved mothers. 

I could tell when I met you that we would be friends – You are so beautiful and your smile is so kind and loving. Once again God, in His wisdom has brought another special person into my life – there are no mistakes.

Love and blessings, Judi

Judi & Judy

Judi and Judy

© 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.

WHEN LIFE HOLDS PAIN

November 1, 2014

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Yartzeit Candle for mom

Click the blue link below to hear my newest arrangement in progress:

ANGEL IN THE SKY #2 In Progress – Copyright 2014 by Judy Unger

Tonight is the one-year anniversary of my mother’s death on the Jewish calendar. She was very observant and lighting a Yarzeit (memorial) candle was something she faithfully followed for her deceased loved ones. Even though I am not religious, I’ve decided that I will do this for my mother.

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I lit a candle and remembered how much she loved me.

These are lyrics from my song "You Were There," which I wrote for my mother. I just finished a new vocal for it last week.

These are lyrics from my song “You Were There,” which I wrote for my mother. I recently finished a new vocal for it.

Last week, I had lunch with my friend, Janis. It wasn’t until the next morning that I realized how we hadn’t mentioned anything at all about our mothers; her mother died only five weeks after mine.

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That was so different from our last lunch six months before, where we both talked a lot about our sadness. The fact that we talked about ordinary life instead of our grief seemed like a beautiful sign of healing to me.

Memory of love

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My post title of “When Life Holds Pain” is a lyric line from my song “Rainbow Through My Tears.” I composed that song a year ago and recently decided to sing a new vocal for it.

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When I wrote that song, I was still waiting to see a rainbow representing healing. I feel like I can relate to my song even more now. I am elated that my eyes have been less painful. Even though they are not “normal” like they used to be, I can cope far better with less pain.

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Pain can be intolerable. I’ve learned that maintaining hope of healing has helped me greatly in every discouraging situation I’ve faced in my life.

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I have been watching my close friend, Joni; go through the process of healing. Only two weeks after celebrating her fifty-fifth birthday in July, Joni was in the ER with difficulty breathing. What initially seemed to be pneumonia turned out to be a heart condition. She was told she needed surgery to repair one of her heart valves.

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This certainly upended my dear friend’s life. Before having her surgery, she came out to see me at Kulak’s one night when I performed. That night, her husband took a picture of us hugging.

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Judy & Joni

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Joni has gone through a lot since her surgery. For weeks, she has dealt with constant pain and fatigue – her recovery has been slow and not as swift as she had hoped for.

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Her health crisis came at a time when she was elated to have found a job she loved as a masseuse. She had to quit her job and hoped she could work again. A lot of healing was needed for her to reach that place.

Autumn Day

Last week, I was elated to see that she felt a little better. She had gone on an easy hike and sent me a text message with pictures.

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She wrote, “Outdoors, Yeah! It smells like pinecones melting in autumn sun! Yum.”

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I could tell from her smiling face in the sun that she was healing.

-Joni healing

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About two weeks ago, I started to notice that my left leg was aching. I tried to ignore it, but found myself grimacing whenever I stood in my kitchen. I was on one of my “exercise walks” in the late afternoon, when the pain in my leg began to increase. Soon I was gasping and looking for a place to sit down.

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The last thing I wanted to do was go to a doctor. Finally, I realized that since it hadn’t gone away – I couldn’t ignore it anymore.

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I sent a very hesitant email message to my doctor. It was Friday morning and I wrote, “I might come see you on Monday if this pain continues.”

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I was in shock when I received a message back from him only five minutes later. He wrote, “You don’t have to wait; I have some openings this afternoon.”

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His response reminded me what a great doctor he was.

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I took the last appointment available, which was at 4:30. It meant a lot of traffic to contend with, but allowed me to keep my earlier appointment with George, my musical arranger.

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All morning, George and I continued working on a gorgeous new arrangement for my song “Angel in the Sky.” I was fine while working because my leg never bothered me when I was sitting.

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But when I stood up to leave, my leg began throbbing. I was glad I had made that appointment with Dr. Wong.

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Autumn leaves watercolor

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The waiting room was deserted. In a few hours it was Halloween night; this was such an eerie time to be at a doctor’s office. I was sure my doctor wanted to get home to trick or treat with his young children.

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I didn’t wait long. Dr. Wong came into the exam room; he was caring and concerned like always. But before I could talk about my leg, I told him I had to share something with him.

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My eyes glistened as I spoke.

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“Dr. Wong, do you remember when I came to you two months ago? I wondered if there was something wrong with me that was causing my dry eyes. I was very overweight and discouraged; I was almost certain one of the blood tests would come back with a result indicating a problem – but everything was normal.”

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I added, “Well you know what really helped me?”

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He asked me what he had done that was so helpful.

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“When you told me that you saw me as a strong person – when I made up my mind, I would be able to lose weight. Your faith in me made a difference. It inspired me to change my habits and I’ve lost about ten pounds since then!”

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Dr. Wong grinned and said, “That’s great! Yes, I did notice your weight loss.”

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I also shared with him how my eyes had improved since I had started drinking a lot of water on a daily basis – it made a huge difference.

Because my eyes are better, I’ve been playing more often at open mics.

Because my eyes are better, I’ve been playing more often at open mics.

After asking me a few questions about my leg, Dr. Wong told me he wanted a physical therapist to examine me. I was very impressed when only five minutes later a physical therapist came into the exam room.

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She was very thorough and treated me respectfully. After her exam, she said that I had an inflamed femoral nerve in my thigh. How that happened was a mystery, but getting older certainly has led to aches and pains. She recommended using ice and gave me a few exercises and other suggestions to help me deal with my pain.

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I limped back to my car filled with relief that my pain wasn’t anything serious.

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It was now almost dark and I was glad to be going home. I put on the song that George and I had created earlier in the day. It was a perfect opportunity for me to practice my singing. My car swelled with the beautiful notes of the new arrangement for “Angel in the Sky.” I was in heaven with my angel as I sang aloud.

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When life holds pain 2

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There was a lot of stop and go traffic on the freeway. It was starting to drizzle and very gloomy; I continued singing.

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Suddenly, I saw a large SUV ahead swerve out of control. It spun into my lane and the car in front of mine smashed into it. I instinctively hit my brakes and thankfully, I wasn’t going very fast.

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My car screeched to a halt only a few inches from the accident. As I was braking, I prayed the car behind me would not rear-end mine. But there was no impact and I had luckily avoided crashing.

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My heart was pounding and the poignant music was still playing as I signaled and carefully moved around the accident.

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I drove home and decided my “angel in the sky” was my “angel on the freeway” at that moment.

ANGEL IN THE SKY

© 2014 by Judy Unger and 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.

WITH ME WHEN I WAS BORN

October 14, 2014

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My mother’s first anniversary of death was two days ago and I visited the cemetery where she and my father are buried together. It was no coincidence that my last post title was named “My Lovely Light.” I feel my mother and father lighting the way for me.

My mother’s first anniversary of death was two days ago. It was no coincidence that my last post title was named “My Lovely Light.” I feel my mother and father lighting the way for me.

The toes at the top are my niece and nephew who joined brother, my sister-in-law, and me when we visited my parents’ grave over the weekend. Unfortunately, my two brothers are estranged and my middle brother was not there (even though his children were.)

The toes at the top are my niece and nephew who joined my brother, sister-in-law and me when we visited my parents’ grave over the weekend. Unfortunately, my two brothers are estranged and my middle brother was not there (even though his children were.)

WITH ME Performance by Judy at Kulak’s Woodshed on 10/13/14

I have had a lot of construction going on in my apartment. My bathroom has been completely torn apart – I’ve had to go outside to use a storeroom toilet in the coop complex where I live for five days. It’s been stressful and unfortunately, the dust has irritated my eyes. But I still celebrate that they aren’t torturing me like they were before.

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I was working on a new song arrangement for my latest composition named “Watching You Grow.” I even joyfully performed my new song several times at open mics.

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But for some reason I lost my feeling for it.

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I realize that it might be because the past few weeks I’ve had some struggles with my children. I’ve thought about renaming my song, “Grow Up Already!”

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I’ve continued to push myself to perform. It takes a lot of courage and energy for me to put myself in front of an audience. But I love opening my heart and there is nothing more healing for me than that.

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Judy sleeping in her basket

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I picked “With Me when I Was Born” as my post title because today is my birthday.

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My title is also a lyric line from my song named “With Me.”

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Even though I was initially absorbed with my newest song composition, my heart took a complete turn when George and I finished a new song arrangement for “With Me.” It had been partially started a month earlier. I asked George to rework it several times until it grabbed me.

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When I have a song that “grabs” me, it is so uplifting that I feel like every day is my birthday!

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This new arrangement is very inspiring and ethereal. Although I wrote “With Me” while my father was dying, it is applicable to both my parents. I get teary remembering how much they both loved me.

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But sometimes I imagine that God is speaking to me with my song. I’m sharing a preliminary version here.

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Click the blue link below to play audio: 

WITH ME #2-10/25/14 Copyright 2014 by Judy Unger

My other links below share the lyrics and tell the story about this song in more depth:

#289 YOU’RE WITH ME – PART 1

#347 WITH ME – PART 2

I treasure my old pictures. I remember my mother’s touch; she was so tender and loving.

I remember my mother’s touch; she was so tender and loving.

Today I am 55 years old.

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Recently, I have been making many major repairs on the coop where I’m living. This place is almost the same age I am because my parents moved into it when I was a year old. I moved back two years ago after leaving my marriage of 31 years. My father had recently died and my mother was in a nursing home.

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I’ve wondered what my father would think about my home improvements and the fact that I am living in his former “castle.”

I prefer not to remember my parents this way; it’s painful. Yet I am grateful that I had them for as many years as I did.

I prefer not to remember my parents this way; it’s painful. Yet I am grateful that I had them for as many years as I did.

When my father was alive, he refused to let anyone “touch” his stuff. He was a serious hoarder and could never throw anything away.

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It took ten dumpsters to fully empty the coop of all his “stuff.” It’s possible that some of what was discarded could have actually been valuable. I wish he would have allowed me to clean this place before he died because I had so many questions for him.

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There were many boxes of pictures that hold mysteries, since I have no idea who the people are in them. The thousands of cards he saved have stirred many memories. I share one that is very painful at the end of this post.

-When I'm discouraged

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I had a disagreement with my father not long before he died. His eyes were clouded by constant pain because he was sick from persistent urinary tract infections. I have a stabbing sensation in my heart when I remember his misery.

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For two years, his granddaughter lived in the coop (my parents were in a nursing home.) Although the price was right, it wasn’t very comfortable because of my father’s refusal to allow anything to be touched. My niece’s clothes were laid out on the floor because there was no room in the closet and the dresser drawers were packed with old clothes.

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My niece was in a serious relationship and asked my father if her boyfriend could move in with her. My father was more than adamantly opposed. He became furious during discussions and could not be swayed.

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His granddaughter moved out six months later and got married.

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Not long after that, I had what I thought was a brilliant idea. I told my father that it would be great if my mother’s companion, Miriam, could live in that vacant coop.

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In return for living there, we would reduce her pay. And Miriam was desperately looking for a place to move to at that time. She wanted to leave her marriage and had no financial means to get an apartment on her own.

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Although my father loved Miriam, he bristled and once again firmly told me “no.”

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I wondered why he preferred the apartment to be vacant and wouldn’t consider this temporarily. It seemed like a “win-win situation.” His long-term care checks that provided the money to pay Miriam were ending in two months. There wouldn’t be any money left to pay her and it would be up to my brothers and I.

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His favorite cap

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Our disagreement fills me with regret because I’d never seen him so angry. His eyes flashed and with all the energy he could muster he snarled, “No one is living in that coop except FAMILY! Do you get that? I don’t want you to mention this again!”

-#15 OUR LOVE REMAINS WITH EACH TEAR

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A month later he was on his deathbed and tired of his painful existence. The thought of going on state assistance when his long-term care ended filled him with dread and he died one month before that would have happened.

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I will never forget the experience of watching his die. Even though it was the end of his suffering and his wish, I saw him in unbearable agony up until the moment he took his last breath. It was the same way for my mother, too.

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Mom's Hand at death 2

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How could my father have known that only a month after his death I would ask my husband for a divorce?

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I ended up moving into the apartment where I grew up. The place that he had wanted “only for family” was for me. Perhaps he knew that I would do this, since I told him I planned to end my marriage sometime in the future. He gave me his blessing.

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At night I talk to my dad and thank him for his foresight.

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He and my mother continue to be with me every step of the way.

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Couldn't have had a better dad

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Dad kissing me

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© 2014 by Judy Unger and 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.

MY LOVELY LIGHT

October 6, 2014

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Autumn leaves always remind me of my son’s death.

Autumn leaves always remind me of my son’s death.

I share below a link to see a video of my open mic performance last week. I played my song “Angel in the Sky” to honor my deceased son, Jason. With heartfelt lyrics, music and my voice – my song tells this story in another way.

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ANGEL IN THE SKY #2-11/22/14 Copyright 2014 by Judy Unger

AUDIO of PERFORMANCE OF ANGEL IN THE SKY 9/29/14

Angel in the Sky at Kulak’s Woodshed by Judy Unger on YouTube

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The post title of “My Lovely Light” is from my song “Angel in the Sky.” Today is the twenty-second anniversary of Jason’s death. He died at the age of five on October 6, 1992.

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A decade after his death, I was very busy raising my other children. It was definitely a diversion from grief and I became very adept at burying my feelings. Although I seldom mentioned him to anyone, not a moment went by without the feeling of deep sadness in my soul.

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When I began this blog in 2010, it was the beginning of my healing. I wrote about Jason’s life and death six months later; it unburdened me in many ways. Since then, I am amazed at how much my grief has transformed.

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It is very inspiring to share my feelings after suffering for so many years. How I arrived at such a beautiful place is miraculous for me.

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I often feel as though God blessed me with music to guide me. Music has definitely brought me tremendous healing and inner peace.

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Music heals me

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My life is “filled with song” (that is actually a lyric line of mine). Every single day I sing, listen to, compose and record songs that relate directly to my life with almost every word.

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This past month, I was working on several songs with an important theme that clearly explains my healing.

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I have often mentioned growing up with “black and white” thinking. This probably ties into my using metaphors of darkness and light for my songs.

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For me, darkness represents grief and horror. Light counters this with brilliance, enlightenment and spirituality.

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These are my original lyrics for my song “Beside Me Always.”

These are the original lyrics for my song “Beside Me Always.”

My journey of songwriting began when I was very young. I wrote “Beside Me Always” when I was 17, but revised the lyrics after Jason died so I could read them at his funeral.

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My revised lyrics were:

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“I’ll search the shrouded darkness, wanting you and nothing less. Seems my whole life I’ve waited, in darkness that was fated.”

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Jason's grave and shadow 3

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Losing my child was quite different from losing my parents. He was ripped from my soul and my life was forever altered.

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I have countered how much I miss him physically with the image of light.

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He is not visible, yet he comforts and sustains me. He conquers my fear of darkness and with the fairly recent deaths of both my parents, I also feel that way about them, too.

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An obvious rhyme with light is sight. My lyrics of being “out of sight” explain the absence of body, but not love.

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I share some lyric lines below:

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From my song “Angel in the Sky.”

From my song “Angel in the Sky.”

From my song “Somewhere I Can’t See.”

From my song “Somewhere I Can’t See.”

From my song “With Me”

From my song “With Me”

From my song "My Shining Star."

From my song “My Shining Star”

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With these feelings, I want to share my response to a newly bereaved mother. I say, “Newly bereaved” because it has been almost two years since my friend, Sammi lost her beloved son. Her grief is almost as raw as the day he died because that is the nature of losing a child. Moving on is incomprehensible after two years.

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I don’t see moving on as leaving grief behind. For me personally, I’ve just moved with it to another place and after that it changed completely from the way it used to be. Healing simply means that I have scars from a horrific amputation that I never thought would stop bleeding.

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Jason as my light

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Dear Sammi,

I was thinking of you and wanted to share a link to another mother’s words about grief. Even though her son died by suicide, I thought that what she wrote might be something you could relate to.

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The fall always reminds me of my son’s death. It will be 22 years this coming Monday since he died. My mother was dying around this time last year and her first anniversary is coming up, as well.

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I keep creating music that helps me.

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Thinking of you,

Judy

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Thanks for sharing Judy.  I absolutely can relate to this Mother. It angered me when I read the line that said she has been accused of wallowing in her grief. I know that we, as a group, scare most people because of what we represent.

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Hope all is well with you. I don’t care if its 22 years or 22 minutes…. for those of us in this club it will always feel like…. now. My thoughts will be with you on Monday, Judy. I know your beautiful boy will be with you as well.

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I like to think that they miss us as much as we miss them.

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autumn-leaves-larger.jpg

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Sammi, I know what you mean about that line of wallowing in grief. Even though I share a hopeful message of healing, I often feel like I’m viewed as someone who overly dwells upon grief.

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Thank you for caring about me and thinking of my death anniversary on Monday. The truth be told, I do not suffer like I used to anymore.

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A long time ago, I had feelings similar to ones you have expressed. Back then; I never imagined reaching this place, so I am sensitive to how this might be for you to hear.

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I have been on my grief journey for a long time. For years and years I suffered and very little changed after the first decade.

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When things shifted for me, it was miraculous and something I consider to be one of the greatest blessings in my life. Your message inspired me to write.

I have so many memories where I live now. I remember my childhood and of bringing Jason to visit my parents.

I have so many memories where I live now. I remember my childhood and of bringing Jason to visit my parents.

I thank you very much for that because your words led me to gratefulness for my healing. Your last line below is what touched me.

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I like to think that they miss us as much as we miss them.

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I truly understand what you meant with those words.

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The day after Jason was buried, I was tortured because I worried about how much he missed me. I knew my feelings were irrational; I felt he couldn’t survive without me and he was dead. It made me crazy!

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It was because I had been his caregiver. I was his universe and he was mine. 

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Jason Book 5

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Jason Book 2

Jason was a sickly child with a severe congenital heart defect. Over the five years that he lived, there were many health crises. I was always very stressed over his poor health.

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He was breathless and weak. Because he was very small, I carried him most of the time because he became too tired when he walked. He had great difficulty eating and vomited every single day. I can still remember him sleeping across my chest up until the time he died – he was often very cold.

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Yet in spite of his illness, he was a happy child. I knew it was because I catered to his every wish.

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With his death, I was anguished because I felt that he still needed me to comfort him. I awoke at night hearing him crying for a blanket. I couldn’t imagine how he could be without his mommy. I kept imagining that he was freezing in his coffin.

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Even though I knew intellectually he couldn’t feel these things, sometimes I projected him being jealous of his siblings’ good health and ability to grow up. I saw Jason as being very angry for not having that opportunity.

Jason was very jealous of his younger brother and received most of my attention.

Jason was very jealous of his younger brother and received most of my attention.

These feelings spun through me for years and years – until I reached the place where I am now. Jason died and left my life initially. But with my healing, he returned

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I don’t believe that Jason misses me anymore because I feel like he’s with me all the time. Sometimes at night I feel him whispering in my ear and lying upon me again.

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I consider him to be my angel. He is with me in a different way as a beautiful light in my life.

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I know that when I die someday, he will be right there waiting to guide me.

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I will always miss the life he never had, but I treasure what I learned from him. He was a special gift. He has inspired me to do many things that I would never have done if he hadn’t shined his light upon me.

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I sense that he cries when I cry. He wants me to heal and find joy in life. In fact, the encouragement I feel from his loving presence has healed me more than anything else.

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I pray that one day, you will feel AJ again close by in this way.

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Every moment of my life, I am grateful for my healing. I never take for granted how far I have traveled from the hell where my grief began.

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And Jason has been with me every step of the way shining his light.

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Will this pain ever stop

Jason so pale

© 2014 by Judy Unger and 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.

I CAN’T TELL YOU

September 28, 2014

BLOG TABLE OF CONTENTS

This past week I had a new floor installed and said goodbye to the black and white dining room floor that was one year younger than me. (I am visible in the mirror at the end of the hallway)

This past week I had a new floor installed and said goodbye to the black and white dining room floor that was one year younger than me. (I am visible in the mirror at the end of the hallway)

My post title is a lyric line from my song “Memory of Love.” That song fits perfectly into my life right now and I recently completed a brand new arrangement for it. I plan to write more about it soon but am excited to share it now because it goes so well with this story.

Click the blue link to play audio: 

MEMORY OF LOVE #2-9/27/14 Copyright 2014 by Judy Unger

My mother’s fade into dementia was the catalyst for my “rebirth.” She was my best friend and support system. When she became sick, everything shifted and suddenly I was the “adult.” This transition was initially shocking, but eventually I needed to take control of my own life.

I dedicated myself completely to keeping my mother comfortable while she declined mentally and physically. Yet even though I was a devoted daughter, I still carry a lot of guilt. The line of “I Can’t Tell You” is part of a longer phrase of:

I can’t tell you so instead I just pretend, it’s easier that way . . .

That line was written when I was filled with disbelief that my mother was more and more frequently making nonsensical statements due to the rapid onset of dementia. But this story is not about that. It is related to how until my mother passed away at the age of 88, I was unable to share with her that I did not faithfully observe any of the religious rules that were sacred to her. I often felt compelled to lie about it because it was so uncomfortable for me.

The coop where I’m now living was built in 1960; I was one year old when my parents moved there.

The coop where I’m now living was built in 1960; I was one year old when my parents moved there.

I love what I have gained through hypnotherapy and appreciate the tremendous progress I’ve made. Every “baby step” is something I celebrate.

For most of my life, I wasn’t able to separate my own beliefs from my parents. I’ve had great difficulty speaking up for myself. In some ways, that sounds ironic because I was an excellent advocate for my children and parents (while they were alive.) I can express myself through singing songs with heartfelt lyrics, but in many other situations I’ve held back my true thoughts and deemed my own feelings to be less important. Wanting to be “loved” by doing the “right” thing came with a very high price for me.

When I moved back to my childhood home two years ago, I never could decide what colors to use with the black and white floor.

When I moved back to my childhood home two years ago, I never could decide what colors would go well with the black and white floor.

At my last hypnotherapy session, I opened up to talk about the guilt I’ve carried for many years over disappointing my mother because I wasn’t an observant Jew like she was.

I told my hypnotherapist, Connie, that it would be very uncomfortable for me to even write about this subject on my blog. I felt ashamed and didn’t want any of my religious friends or family members to be disappointed in me.

Our wonderful session actually led to a lot of inner exploration that I found to be very helpful. Connie pointed out to me that I wasn’t alone with my feelings; people from other religions carried guilt, too.

I even have a picture of my childhood dog, Teddy, enjoying that floor.

I even have a picture of my childhood dog, Teddy, enjoying that floor.

I was tempted to write a Princess story using metaphors. My last Princess parable ended with her triumphing over the Dark Witch of guilt.

I don’t want the “Dark Witch” to torture me anymore and could write a great story that way. But instead I left our session and decided I could write my honest feelings without metaphors.

The installation of the new floor ended up taking two days because the kitchen needed a new sub-floor.

The installation of the new floor ended up taking two days because the kitchen needed a new sub-floor.

It has been exactly two years since I moved from a large home that I lived in for 18 years. I left my husband after a long marriage; all three of my children lived with me in my 2 bedroom coop for some of that time. Currently, my two sons are still with me.

I stepped into the unknown and made the decision to live in this place where I grew up. My father had just died and my mother was in a nursing home. It belonged to my two brothers and I; instead of selling it, I paid my brothers their share and moved in. It certainly was an affordable option and was only two blocks from my youngest son’s school.

I have plenty of memories of growing up in this coop where I now live.

I can look out at my overgrown patio and see myself engaged in a lively Ping-Pong game with my brother. I easily remember how my heart would pound when I hid in the bushes during a serious game of hide-and-seek. I pass those bushes every time I walk to my car. Whenever I look at my old bedroom, I can picture the tents I used to invent by using bed sheets and clothespins. Sweet memories happen when I allow them.

Lately I feel very disconnected from my past, almost like a person with amnesia. I’ve tried to discard any past memories that are painful and my new existence is quite different from what I ever imagined.

The memories that surround me and I avoid, involve my mother preparing for the many Jewish holidays she was passionate about. It isn’t because those memories aren’t beautiful – but they trigger my guilty feelings.

This is such a change because I used to hold tightly onto memories. Memories of love sustained me but unfortunately, guilt has become a barrier to this. And guilt is a companion to resentment.

For most of my life, I have spent a lot of energy worrying about disappointing other people. This left me with a lot of subconscious resentment and confusion. My ultimate guilty act was when I shocked my husband and ended our marriage after 30 years.

Freedom to express myself is terrifying but at the same time a necessary basis for my new life.

Beliefs are not concrete and everyone has their own. Here’s one of my beliefs: In order to make way for something new, sometimes it is necessary to experience some discomfort first.

Beliefs are not concrete and everyone has their own. Here’s one of my beliefs: In order to make way for something new, sometimes it is necessary to experience some discomfort first.

If ever there was anything symbolic in my life, it was my decision this past week to replace the 54-year-old floor in my coop. When I was an infant, I crawled upon that floor. So did all four of my children whenever they visited their grandparents.

That floor always reminded me of a 60’s diner – I never liked the black and white linoleum. More than anything, I’ve often felt that black and white represented the extreme thinking I was raised with.

Black & White linoleum

I loved my mother and considered her my best friend. I was her universe and she lived to hear about everything going on in my life. But I was careful about what I shared with her.

As a young girl, one day I discovered that I was not exactly like my mother. It was such a painful realization.

My mother was a very observant Jew and ruled our household. My father followed her and my brothers and I were raised with strict adherence to Conservative Judaism. We were not Orthodox – yet, my mother was unwavering in the laws she chose to follow. There was a “right way” to do things and anything else was bad and “wrong.”

I want to share an example of a moment that represented my awareness that something didn’t quite work for me. I had never even realized it until then.

I was about 14 and a counselor-in-training for a day camp at our temple. The table was set for a special meal, but first a blessing needed to be said. A young camper was sneaking bites when he wasn’t supposed to. I tapped him gently and told him something I had heard many times before from my mother. I said, “God is going to punish you for that.”

A little while later, I was taken aside by the head counselor. She said, “What did you say to David? He is hysterical and says that you said God is going to punish him!”

At that moment, I began to think about what simply had sprouted from my mouth. It was very unpleasant and I was ashamed at myself for what I had said.

I do not dislike my religion. I shared as much as I could with my children while they were growing up; they even complained to me about it. But the rituals and observance, which brought my mother so much comfort hasn’t been something I’ve wanted to deeply embrace.

Many years ago, there was a time when my middle brother confessed that he had gone to work on the second day of an important Jewish holiday.

My mother screamed and screamed at him, until my brother broke down crying. He was in his 20’s at that time and he promised her he would never do it again. It was a very traumatic thing for me to have witnessed. My brother did not keep his promise, but unfortunately that memory is imprinted in my mind.

After seeing how my mother screamed at my brother, I was terrified of disappointing her – understandably. So I lied to her about what I was doing on important Jewish holidays. It was easier than telling her the truth.

But there was a time when I found incredible courage.

When I was in my mid-twenties, I sought out therapy to help me deal with my depression and confusion. My parents attended a session with me and I expressed my feelings about many things. I told them that moving forward I was going to do things differently. I would no longer attend the same temple services with them every year and didn’t want my mother to buy me kosher meat anymore.

I Can't Tell You

Many years later, my mother was very angry that I scheduled my 5-year-old son, Jason’s heart surgery the day before Yom Kippur, a major Jewish holiday. I had very few options besides that date and went ahead with it. Jason died following that surgery, which was a horrible outcome.

I wish I had covered things because there was a lot of dust everywhere.

I wish I had covered things because there was a lot of dust everywhere.

I hate feeling guilty about anything. Intellectually, I know that I am entitled to make choices about how I want to live my life.

That was why it was so interesting how I planned to put in a new floor last week. The day that the installer gave me was Thursday. It wasn’t until the day before that I learned it fell on the Jewish New Year.

It was very dusty as the workmen demolished concrete in my kitchen. My eyes didn’t like the dust, even though I was in my bedroom with the door closed. I heard my mother telling me that what I was doing was wrong, wrong, wrong. I didn’t feel well at all.

This was a perfect opportunity for me to leave black and white behind. I’m a 54 (soon to be 55) year-old woman who has begun a new life. I don’t want to dwell on sadness from my past anymore, nor am I planning for a future of fame and fortune.

I am very pleased with my new floor. It has many subtle variations of grays and browns. It is neutral and soothing for me.

I did brighten up this photo a bit. I noticed that the lighting affects the color. In the kitchen with fluorescent lighting, the floor appears to be a different color!

I did brighten up this photo a bit. I noticed that the lighting affects the color. In the kitchen with fluorescent lighting, the floor appears to be a different color!

When I moved in, I was very excited to refinish the hardwood floors in the other areas of this coop. For 50 years those floors were hiding under carpeting and it was beautiful to see them revealed. My parents preferred carpet to hardwood, but I am enjoying this alternate floor. It’s my preference.

That old black and white dining room floor worked well for my parents but now I get to choose what I want and that includes religion, too.

I’ve noticed that when I acknowledge guilty feelings – it becomes easier to let them go. With that release, suddenly the beautiful memories filled with love reappear.

But most of all, I want to move forward to create new memories.

In this picture, I am celebrating with my daughter who turned 21 two weeks ago. I am so proud of her and my two sons. I’ve had the pleasure of watching all three of my children grow and develop into beautiful humans right in front of my eyes. My children mean everything to me.

In this picture, I am celebrating with my daughter who turned 21 two weeks ago. I am so proud of her and my two sons. I’ve had the pleasure of watching all three of my children grow and develop into beautiful humans right in front of my eyes. My children mean everything to me.

In two weeks, it will be the first anniversary of my mother’s death. Even though I don’t want to remember her dying moments, my subconscious continues to play them for me.

The seasonal change from summer to fall has begun and that always reminds me of Jason’s death. It has been many years now and I have healed from the agony I used to suffer with.

I have a 7-inch scar from when Jason was born by emergency C-section in 1987.

The strangest thing happens for me with that scar. I never notice it except that sometimes it itches like crazy. It happened today and I don’t think it’s just a random thing. It strangely happens whenever an anniversary of the heart is approaching.

That is my grief.

It is an itch – I can mindlessly scratch it, but it doesn’t bring relief – it just bothers me more. I can’t ignore it.

If I concentrate hard, it stops itching. I think about how much I will always love him.

I’ll never forget Jason; he is my angel.

Jason on black and white floor

© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2010. 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 9

September 21, 2014

BLOG TABLE OF CONTENTS

This painting was a watercolor exercise I did over 30 years ago that became a terrific addition to my portfolio. Unfortunately, I never like illustrating beverages.

This painting was a watercolor exercise I did over 30 years ago that became a terrific addition to my portfolio. Unfortunately, I never liked illustrating beverages.

It happened during an ordinary day. I was driving somewhere and suddenly I realized that my eyes didn’t hurt.

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I blinked a few times and was so grateful that my eyes felt “normal.” Then I noticed how much better my vision was without the fog related to having dry eyes.

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I was so happy that I began to cry. I whispered a thank you to God for this blessing.

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Although I had some foggy and irritated sensations in my eyes later that day, whatever discomfort I experienced was manageable. Now I knew that my condition wasn’t going to be something that would torture me forever. My faith in healing was confirmed!

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Healthy Food 2

This gives me an opportunity to share some very old illustrations done for a hospital nutrition brochure.

This gives me an opportunity to share some very old illustrations I painted for a hospital nutrition brochure back in 1984.

A few weeks ago I made a major commitment to follow a healthier path. I stopped eating whatever I felt like; I was so tired of beating myself up about it.

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I made healthier food choices and suddenly, everything started tasting better. Even an apple was more enjoyable than the chocolate I used to snack on.

Which one would you rather have? Seriously, I am choosing the apple because I have made a commitment to get healthy!

Which one would you rather have? Seriously, I am choosing the apple because I have made a commitment to get healthy!

I joined a YMCA and began swimming laps a few times a week. On the other days, I fit in a half-hour walk. I continued to play tennis and went from once to twice a week.

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All of this certainly helped my mood but I wasn’t sure if it was going to help my eyes.

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But then my eyes began to improve. Because I always hear my lyric lines running through my life, I share with humor one that came to mind with my first huge change. The words in my head were: “My life became clear.”

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It was because I started drinking a lot of water!

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B&W Glass close up

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I’m not sure how many glasses I gulped down exactly, but it definitely totaled over the recommended 8-10 glasses a day. I gave up the iced tea with a lot of artificial sweetener, which was certainly not very good for my body either.

Tea Leaves

Only the week before, I had gone to my hypnotherapy appointment with a stack of pages related to dry eyes. I told Connie (my hypnotherapist) they were sent to me by a wonderful woman who had reached out to me. Her name was Judi, and she was the leader of a dry eye support group. I wished her group meetings were closer because unfortunately the group met about 2 hours away from where I lived.

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Connie glanced at the many pages I stuck in front of her. She pointed to one of them and said, “It says right here that drinking water is very helpful for dry eyes.” She paused and then said emphatically, “You know, drinking water might not only help your eyes; it’s beneficial for weight loss and your overall health.”

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Connie pointed to a metal bottle filled with water right there next to her. She shared how she worked hard to drink a lot of water every day.

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I listened and my mind was open to it. Why not? I left that appointment and made a commitment to Connie that I’d try to drink a lot more water.

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During that next week, drinking water became my new habit.

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I was running to the bathroom a lot and it made me think of a poem I had written with a new title. Instead of “My Tears Filled an Ocean,” my new poem was “My Pee Filled an Ocean!”

Okay, so my illustration might not be water exactly.

Okay, so my illustration might not be water exactly.

It was a beautiful summer morning. A week had passed and I was so excited to see Connie for our appointment. I couldn’t wait to share with her how much my eyes had improved. In addition to drinking a lot of water, I had done another remedy at night that Judi had recommended. I will share more about that on my next post.

I’m not really missing the iced tea I just to drink all day long.

I’m not really missing the iced tea I just to drink all day long.

I sat down and was beaming. I smiled and began our session by lifting my guitar out of its case.

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A wonderful blessing had come to me. A few days earlier, shortly before I had begun to feel better, I had started hearing a new song. The joyful melody danced in my mind and the chords were very sweet. This song sounded so different from the last few songs I had written.

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It seemed like my music was a reflection of my healing.

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In the quiet of Connie’s guesthouse I fingerpicked the sweet chords swiftly and sang la la’s with joyful exuberance.

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When I finished and said to her, “I can’t believe since last week how this song appeared. It’s amazing!”

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Connie nodded and agreed that indeed it was amazing. She was always very impressed how I remembered the fingerings for so many songs, especially new ones. Remembering lyrics and chords for all my songs definitely takes up a lot of space in my mind; there is considerable memorization involved.

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Our session was uplifting and I felt like I was glowing as I drove home. Things were definitely on the up and up for me; I was so grateful once again for the blessing of music in my life.

I have begun writing the lyrics for my new song.

I have begun writing the lyrics for my new song.

I began arranging my new song with George, before I even had words for it.

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This song was all about joy. I felt inspired because of the many wonderful things that were happening for all three of my children.

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I decided to name my song, “Watching You Grow.”

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Below is my arrangement in progress:

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WATCHING YOU GROW – Arrangement in Progress

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The miracle

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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.

MY JOURNEY IN SIGHT – PART 8

September 12, 2014

BLOG TABLE OF CONTENTS

A month ago, I met a good friend at Descanso Gardens. I didn’t take too many photos because the sunlight bothered my eyes. Seeing the beautiful images I did capture that day remind me of how blessed I am to have my eyesight and my wonderful friend, Carol.

A month ago, I met a good friend at Descanso Gardens. I didn’t take too many photos that day because the sunlight bothered my eyes. This image reminds me of how blessed I am to have my eyesight and my wonderful friend, Carol.

For a week after using the serum tears, I was deeply depressed. My eyes hurt and my vision was foggy even though my eye doctor said my eyes looked “fine.” I began to lose hope of ever conquering my dry eye condition and reclaiming the “normal” eyes I once had.

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I had definitely lowered the bar a while ago. This wasn’t about acuity (vision); it was about living with discomfort and constant pain. I could accept poor vision, but not pain.

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My online dry eye support group knew exactly how I felt. I plan to write more stories about this group. It is comprised of men and women, young and old. One woman has lived with her condition over 25 years already. Many of the new members want to pull their eyeballs out!

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What I continue to find so beautiful, is how this group is filled with hopefulness. When someone is overwhelmed, another member suggests things that might help him or her.

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After my serum tear fiasco, I poured out my heart and received many caring and concerned messages.

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My new friend from this group named Susan was very appreciative of my story. She had just gotten a prescription for serum tears because I had encouraged her to push her doctor for it. Now she wasn’t sure whether to try them after hearing about what I had experienced.

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Susan and I began writing daily and I was touched by how caring she was. It turned out that she didn’t live too far from me. That was amazing since the online group was international. Susan had suffered with dry eyes for about ten years. She had attended several meetings of a dry eye support group in Orange County, which was about two hours from where we lived. The leader of that group was a very knowledgeable person and quite willing to help others. Her name was Judi.

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Susan had recently spoken with her and shared my story; now Judi wanted to get in touch with me.

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I was open to it.

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Judi began by emailing me a ton of literature and eventually we spoke for an hour on the phone.

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Her messages resonated with wisdom, knowledge and incredible compassion. If I allowed an image to form, it would be of seeing myself lying on the ground. Suddenly gentle hands caressed me and sweet messages of hope were whispered in my ears. With the help of those hands, I managed to pull myself back up.

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What stood out to me in Judi’s messages were several things. Certainly she had an incredible amount of knowledge. But what really helped me was when she acknowledged the psychological impact of my condition and reassured me that I wasn’t going crazy.

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You are not crazy or a hypochondriac; they just don’t have the answer or know how to treat you. God can make a way when it seems there is none. Don’t give up.

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And her mentioning God really touched me.

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No one can understand how bad the pain of dry eyes can be unless they have experienced it. We have more nerves in our eyes than anywhere else in our bodies. I can remember a young man, many years ago that wanted to have his eyes removed because the pain was so bad; he was in his 30’s. That was so very sad and I wonder whatever happened to him.

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I have also struggled with anxiety and depression my whole life, especially after the age of thirty. I have recently learned that anxiety and depression makes the pain of dry eyes worse – and the pain of the dry eyes makes the depression worse. It is a vicious cycle.

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I can say that my struggle started 14 years ago and my eyes are better now than when I started but also I have learned to be much more proactive in treating them. It always drives me closer to God, to depend and trust Him – to spend time with Him – to be grateful for His grace and faithfulness in all areas of my life.

Judi

After about two weeks, my eyes recovered. They weren’t “normal,” but perfectly adequate for all the things I do. The pain subsided and helped me appreciate how much better I was. I was relieved that I was able to perform at my niece’s wedding above.

After about two weeks, my eyes recovered. They weren’t “normal,” but perfectly adequate for all the things I do. The pain subsided and helped me appreciate how much better I was. I was relieved that I was able to perform at my niece’s wedding above.

Twenty years ago, I helped bereaved parents, siblings and grandparents as a support group leader for an organization named Compassionate Friends.

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Whenever I have written about the things that helped me to survive my grief, I usually mention how I benefitted from support groups. “Hold hands with other people who are also suffering. Take baby steps together,” is often how I frame it.

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It seems like I followed my own advice when my dry eye condition began to overwhelm my life.

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Coral Rose close up

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One of the hardest things for me as a leader at Compassionate Friends was helping the newly bereaved.

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They were in shock, bewildered at how their “normal” life had suddenly disintegrated. The grief journey they were beginning seemed like a horror they could never survive and dying to join their loved one seemed far easier.

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Part of reason it was so difficult for me (back then), was because I was on the same journey and I couldn’t really say that it would get “better” with honesty. The journey from where the hell began was arduous and excruciatingly slow. The best that could be hoped for was to hold hands with others and hang on.

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What I gained from helping other people with grief was a sense of purpose. It made me feel that all of the suffering I went through strengthened me. Now I could do something useful, my son was an “angel on my shoulder,” hugging and holding me as I comforted other people.

These are lyrics from my song “Wonder Why.” I recently finished the vocal and guitar additions for my song.

These are lyrics from my song “Wonder Why.” I recently finished the vocal and guitar additions for my song.

It was when Judi reached out to help me that I realized how I was getting something back for all that I had given.

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The experience was quite spiritual for me.

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As horrible as bereavement was, I have looked at it as a pathway toward enlightenment. Grief took me away from God and eventually I found a way back. I try not to imagine that God orchestrates all the misery in this world. Because of my eye pain, I know I have gained far more compassion and depth.

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I know that things could be worse and things could be better. The number of painful diseases that exist in this world are endless and I cry for anyone who suffers. Even with dry eye disease, there are people whose eyes are disfigured and scarred, who cannot drive or face daylight at all.

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So many things happen in life that I do not understand. For myself personally, I strive to stay positive as I follow my dream.

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I keep smiling and there’s a reason for that. It’s because my eye pain has not stopped me from arranging songs, recording vocals and writing new music. I even began composing a new song last week.

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I am currently working on a large illustration assignment that is going very well. Somehow, I always manage to find time to write for my blog.

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I am very close to all three of my children. I have two sons who live with me (17 and 23) and they keep me busy shopping to fill our refrigerator. I play tennis and I swim several days a week.

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How is that possible?

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My explanation is that there are angels are all around me.

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Coral Rose

© 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 7

September 9, 2014

BLOG TABLE OF CONTENTS

This picture was taken on the day my blood was drawn.

This picture was taken on the day my blood was drawn.

My serum drops arrived on a Monday morning. My son burst into my bedroom to announce, “Mom, there’s a big package at the door for you!”

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Only a week before, I had driven for two hours to a distant facility to have 21 vials of blood drawn that would be used to make these revolutionary eye drops.

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Of course, the dry ice was far more interesting for my son as I removed the seven precious bottles of serum. I put six in the freezer and one in the fridge. I wondered how long it would be before I could start squeezing the bottle and putting the tears in my eyes.

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Serum Tears and box

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I looked to see if there were any papers in the box but there were none. There were a few instructions on the bottle telling me to discard it after a week and to keep it refrigerated at all times.

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By late afternoon, I checked the bottle in the refrigerator and it wasn’t frozen anymore. It was time to use them! The drops that went into my eyes were cold, slimy and kind of shocking. They were definitely refreshing. I imagined my eyes were soothed every time I blinked.

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The instructions on the bottle said to put one drop in each eye every two hours. I didn’t follow a tight schedule, but used them whenever I saw the time had gone by. By bedtime, I had used them at least 4 times.

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I could hardly believe that bottle contained my own body fluid!

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Serum bottle

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That first night held a momentous event for me. I performed for the first time in eight months.

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Before my dry eye condition overwhelmed my life, I used to perform weekly at the Open Mic at Kulak’s Woodshed. From the moment I walked in, everyone there welcomed me back with open arms.

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Singing in front of an audience was still difficult with my eye discomfort. But I could tell that I was able to handle my pain much better since I had been on a “healthier track.” I wasn’t looking at my eating as a diet, even though I had started to lose a few pounds. Certainly, I had gained a lot of weight in the months I hadn’t gone to Kulak’s and it took courage for me to put myself out there.

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Playing at Kulak's 12

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Before I began performing, I mentioned to the host that I had “eye issues” and it was difficult for me to open my eyes.

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I am sharing my performance on YouTube for the first time in years. Below is a link to it:

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEPFa7foQUs

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Butterfly of death

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Unfortunately, everything changed the next day.

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Just after I woke up I noticed my vision was cloudy. It was rare for me to go back to sleep, but I did so because I thought perhaps I was just tired.

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By evening, I finally acknowledged that something was wrong as the fog in my eyes became more and more dense.

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Now I was far less excited to continue putting the serum drops into my eyes. I wondered if perhaps this was something I needed to stick with. Maybe my eyes were healing this way?

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This post on my Internet Dry Eye forum really gave me a lot of hope.

This post on my Internet Dry Eye forum really gave me a lot of hope.

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I posed my question to the people on the dry eye forum I belonged to. One woman responded and said she had experienced a little discomfort at the beginning but after that she was vastly improved. I continued using the drops.

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The next day, my pain was even more intense. Clearly this was not normal. I tried calling the pharmacy that made them. Their phones were not working.

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I felt so discouraged and disappointed. (Eventually, I did reach them and they took down information from me to look into whether my drops had a problem. I never received a call back.)

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It was very hard for me to concentrate and do my illustration work. All I wanted was to be in the place I was before I began using the drops. About a year ago, I was dealing with this level of severity almost every day. Now I appreciated my progress.

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By Friday, I had already stopped using the tears and prayed things would get better. A friend told me that my eyelids and face looked swollen. I decided that I should to be checked by an eye doctor.

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But when I called, I was told there were no appointments available.

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I continued to insist that I needed to be seen and was given a lengthy evaluation over the phone. I listed my symptoms and the receptionist seemed unconcerned. She still would not give me an appointment so I told her I wanted my doctor to call me back.

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Two hours later, the receptionist called me back and said; “Your doctor said she doesn’t need to see you today.”

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I was livid! I felt smoke coming out of my ears and eyes. At that moment, I hated my doctor.

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I took a deep breath and continued to insist upon an appointment. My heart was pounding while I was put on hold. The receptionist finally came back on and said coldly, “Okay, you can come but you’re going to have to wait a very long time.”

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I hung up and began crying. I decided to call a good friend before leaving in order to calm myself.

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My friend used to work in a doctor’s office. She said, “Don’t take it personal. You were being screened out and that’s done regularly. Your doctor probably wasn’t even told about your situation.”

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Scared Eye

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An hour later, I was in the waiting room. I was prepared to wait a long time and certain I had done the right thing by coming in to get checked. I was the last patient before lunchtime and the examining room area was deserted. Finally my eye doctor came to get me.

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I told her how much I appreciated her fitting me in during lunchtime; I didn’t want to appear angry.

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I described the pain and fog that began only a day after using the serum tears. My eye doctor said, “I told you serum tears weren’t a cure.”

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But I had many questions for her because in the last few days I had learned a lot. It turned out that my bottle was only a 20% solution and I had heard that wasn’t nearly as effective as 100% serum. A reaction was unheard of.

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She replied, “Well, if they bothered you with 20%, then it would be even worse if they were 100%.”

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I asked her if the saline could have bothered me. She said it definitely wasn’t the saline. But it did look like I might have contaminated the bottle. I had touched it to my eyelid whenever I put the drops in. It sure would have been helpful to me if there had been clearer instructions.

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Did I have an infection? This cornea doctor would soon find out.

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As she put the yellow dye into my eyes, I gasped because it burned so much. Only a moment after looking with a magnifier, she announced in a chipper voice, “I don’t see any problem at all; your eyes look very good actually.”

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Now I felt embarrassed for insisting upon this appointment.

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I walked out of the building and didn’t know what I was feeling. I was glad I didn’t have anything wrong, but at the same time I began to doubt myself. I was such a demanding patient.

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And my butterfly of hope was smashed to the ground.

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dead butterfly

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Facebook Post on Blog

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The support I received from my Internet group helped me so much.

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Only the week before my tears had arrived I had rallied to encourage another woman to get them prescribed by her doctor. After my ordeal, this woman was very concerned about whether to move forward to get them.

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She and I began corresponding privately. I had made a new friend and her name was Susan.

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Susan and I

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To be continued . . .

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Playing at Kulak's 11

© 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.

WON’T STAY EMPTY

August 30, 2014

BLOG TABLE OF CONTENTS

Being a food illustrator certainly has me thinking about food.

Being a food illustrator certainly has me thinking about food.

A month ago, I asked a friend on Facebook if I could use a photo she had posted of a garden castle.

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When she “liked” my last blog post, I wrote: “What did you think of my artsy images created from your vacation photo?”

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That was when my friend admitted that she had “liked” my post but hadn’t yet had a chance to read it. I wrote her back with:

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No worries! I write a lot and understand how it takes time to read my stuff, especially if you’re busy. But I love how you are always so supportive.

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Also I know some people don’t like metaphorical writing. So here’s a summary of my last Princess story: SHE FINALLY WENT ON A DIET LOL!

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The Door and Butterflies

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My last story ended with the Princess receiving a key and her mission was to find a door for it. That is why this post title is a line of lyrics from my song “The Door.”

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Below is the third verse from that song: 

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As you look upon

the empty spaces when I’m gone

You will see – someday

I know you’ll fill them

They won’t stay empty

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I originally wrote those words with the hope that my “ex” would one day feel better – long after I had gone through the door.

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But whenever I sing those words, instead I imagine my mother is speaking to me. She was a very optimistic woman and I know she would want me to feel better. When my child died, my mother grieved for me and for her grandchild. No parent wants their child to suffer.

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Grief is like a door – I’ve often spoken about going through it, rather than around it. I know from my own experience after losing my child that going through the “door of grief” led to my healing. I’ve met people who never went through that door until many years after their loss. Despite the passage of time it was as if their loved one had just died. And there are people who never imagine they could heal. Everyone handles grief differently.

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The key and butterflies

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I no longer suffer from intense grief over the loss of my child. But in the last few years I’ve experienced many other kinds of losses. Sometimes I’ve noticed that a recent loss can trigger painful feelings from my past.

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I’ve used the term “empty spaces” to describe an aching void inside of me; it represents a longing for something missing in my life. Perhaps that is another way to look at grief.

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I’ve acknowledged many times how much I miss my mom, but I haven’t really cried much to release those feelings – I’ve suppressed my tears. Pushing down feelings and stuffing them inside is not healthy.

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I can express myself through singing and songwriting, but it hasn’t been enough. It’s been far easier for me to find other ways to deny my empty spaces. Food has been something that I’ve often used to numb myself. No matter how much I eat, the emptiness remains when I’ve eaten for the wrong reasons. And after that, I’ve beaten myself up for my weakness.

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I realize I’ve written a lot of “heavy” stories lately. Now I feel ready for a “lighter” approach.

In this baby picture I’m thinking, “Mommy, keep feeding me!”

In this baby picture I’m thinking, “Mommy, keep feeding me!”

A few weeks ago, I had a wonderful turning point. I became tired of waiting for motivation to get into shape and eat healthier. I was ready!

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I thought of another way to look at this and it is rather funny. I’ve decided to “divorce” food! My relationship was very unhealthy and below are some parallels to my former marriage:

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1. I was miserable, but figured I’d deal with it when I was ready.

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2. I preferred to be safe and comfortable; making any changes seemed monumental.

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3. It was a relationship that was more fun when I was with other people. (Lest I be misunderstood, this was not about cheating on my spouse. It represents how socializing took away some of my emptiness because my ex-spouse seemed far more jovial and less negative in company. With food, certainly it was more fun to eat out.)

I'm swimming to Cancun!

I’m swimming to Cancun!

All of a sudden, a light bulb went off and I realized it would be great if I could start swimming laps again. It was a really hot day and the idea seemed refreshing. I hadn’t swum laps in over two years.

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I looked online and found out where there the nearest YMCA facility was. I was amazed that I was able to squeeze my large body into my old bathing suit.

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The first time I went to swim was on a Sunday. The YMCA pool was at capacity and I had to sit on a bench until the lifeguard gave me a sign that I could go in. Even though it wasn’t a great lap swimming experience, I did feel very relaxed afterwards.

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I was so pleased with myself for doing this!

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The next few times I swam during the week. The pool was practically empty and it was great.

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The only hitch was when I had a panic attack because I thought my towel and bag were stolen in the shower room. I was dripping and certain where I had left it hanging. But it was gone!

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Next I went into the locker area to discover my clothes were also missing.

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Suddenly, I realized that this was all because I was in the MEN’S locker room. I made a beeline out of there quickly – WHEW! I was semi-relieved that I hadn’t run into any naked men.

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Once again, I was reminded how I really need to look where I am going.

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That leads me to the topic of my eyes. A lot has been happening for me and I plan to write an eye update very soon.

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Blood Draw 2

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Thankfully, my blood has replenished and I’m not as empty as I was after my serum blood draw from two weeks ago.

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The technician told me she had never drawn blood for serum tears before. I was explaining to her about it and enjoying our conversation when she said, “Okay, we’re all done!”

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I hadn’t even noticed all the vials being drawn!

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I took some pictures and sent a text message to my friends.

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One friend wrote:

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“Yikes. Glad you are finally able to get started on it. Hope they gave you lots of cookies after.”

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No cookies for me now that I’m on track!

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And I’ll end this post with my favorite text response:

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“Whoa! Vampire party favors!”

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Blood Draw

© 2014 Judy Unger and 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.


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