July 4, 2015


This image will be on the back of my upcoming vocal CD release.  I went through the door and a pine forest is a beautiful image of following my dreams.

This image will be on the back of my upcoming vocal CD release. I went through the door and a pine forest represents a beautiful image where I am going to follow my dreams.

Clicking the blue link plays audio:

THE DOOR #4-7/5/15 Copyright 2015 by Judy Unger


Copyright 2015 by Judy Unger

When I close the door and it’s no secret anymore

Then you’ll know; how sad we were together

I left you long ago

When the closet is bare, empty spaces everywhere

But you knew, the truth that I was absent

My distance only grew


When love went away, I just couldn’t stay

It was time; I knew it then

To begin my life again

 I would be ok, even though love went away

My soul I could restore, if I went through that door


When the sheets are still; silence a TV cannot fill

All those years, pretending I was happy

I cried so many tears

As you look upon the empty spaces when I’m gone

You must face, the love you took for granted

with every empty space

When love went away, I just couldn’t stay

It was time; I knew it then

To begin my life again

I would be ok, even though love went away

I left because I was worth more

I went through the door


Link to other stories about this song:

Story behind THE DOOR-PART 1

Story behind THE DOOR-PART 2

Story behind THE DOOR-PART 3

The Door with a Glow

On my new version of this song, I made a lyric change. I didn’t like singing “vanished.” The new line became, “The love you took for granted.”

On my new version of this song, I made a lyric change. I didn’t like singing “vanished.” The new line became, “The love you took for granted.”

I’ve written about the theme of letting go with many of my songs.

It was nearly impossible for me to let go when my young son died. I let go of my own life for a long time. Inside I felt like I died with him and it was a struggle to simply wake up every morning.

When both my parents died, it was terrible to see their suffering. The process of adjusting to their absence has not been easy. But I have adjusted and I know they would be proud of me.

Letting go of fear has been another theme for me. It took courage for me to leave my marriage of over three decades.

Unlike losing a child, divorce is commonplace so it surprises me that I’ve felt so isolated. Even though my marriage held little affection or companionship, I find myself mourning all of the dreams I once had. And I often bury myself with guilt over destroying my former husband’s dreams.

Now that three years have gone by since my announcement, my children seem to have adjusted to this huge change in their lives. But after many years of taking care of my former husband, I live with the knowledge that I upended his life. He never expected I would leave and I try not to think of myself as a traitor.

My ex-husband has taken full advantage of his position. Recently I have felt very angry with some of his choices that affect our children. I am not very good at dealing with anger. It is frustrating because I cannot write or talk about it as much as I wish I could.

The thought that constantly occupies my mind has been, “I don’t deserve this!” as well as, “His children don’t deserve this!”

What a huge trigger of sadness that is for me. It sends me to a place of thinking about all the things I’ve dealt with that weren’t fair in my life – and that is on top of my empty marriage.

Anger and guilt are two wrestling emotions that love to hide in my shadow. I turn around with surprise to find them still there behind me. And I desperately want to let both of them go.

Three years ago, it was a 4th of July I’d never forget. Only a few days before I had finally gotten the courage to tell my husband I wanted a divorce. We continued to sleep in the same bed and on Independence Day we had a family outing with our children to watch fireworks like we always had.

I was numb and in a fog. I carried chairs and a bag with snacks for everyone; I walked far ahead of my husband. Our children pretended they were fine. As the fireworks above exploded, I felt my head and heart flinch with every crackle. I was digesting the awareness that my life was forever changed and his was, too. I was the perpetrator of so much unhappiness!

There are many lyric lines in my song “The Door,” which give me incredible insight. The first line of my chorus is the one that sets the stage for me to leave with the words of: “When love went away, I just couldn’t stay . . .”

And the most powerful line is: “I left because I was worth more.” That line is my antidote for “I don’t deserve this.”

I see a door as a metaphor for making a choice. Leaving (or even staying) is a choice, just like letting go. And choices are empowering. For me, I had lived too many years worrying about making everyone around me happy. I wanted to pursue my dreams without constant criticism and pressure. This was all about feeling that my life was valuable enough for me to take a chance at finding happiness.

I’m not worth more than my ex-husband. He deserves to be happy, too. He was very unhappy with our relationship even if he couldn’t admit it to me. I stayed for a long time because I was afraid of changing my life. It was an abyss that seemed terrifying to jump into.

How in the world would I survive? I married when I was 21 and never lived on my own before that. I’m self-employed and an artist. Would I be able to support myself?

It seems that I’ve overcome my fears because I most certainly have survived.

In this picture, I am standing looking out the door of my former house I lived in for almost twenty years.

In this picture, I am standing looking out the door of my former house I lived in for almost twenty years.

My song “The Door” gave me the courage to change my life. This new arrangement definitely pulls at my heartstrings; I feel comforted with every word.

For the last three years, I’ve focused my life upon healing through singing my songs. I make choices that lead me to peace and inspiration. It’s no coincidence that my last song composition was named “Peaceful and Inspired.”

But I want to move forward now to go through some new doors. The best way for me to do that is to remain in a state of awe and wonder.

I am in awe that I actually had the courage to change my life.

I am in awe that my words and songs touch so many people.

I am in awe that at one of my recent performances, one of my songs caused another person to cry.

I am in awe that I have learned to accept the many painful parts of my life, and that includes living with dry eyes.

I am in awe of the beautiful music that flows from me and helps me to heal.

I am eager to share my journey again.

Anger and guilt might still linger in my shadow, but I’m not going to avoid the sunlight anymore to prevent that.

Before this year ends, I will be releasing a lot of CD's. Here's a promotion picture for my instrumental CD I released last month.

Before this year ends, I will be releasing a lot of CD’s. Here’s a promotion picture for my instrumental CD I released last month.

Below is a link to my latest arrangement for one of my favorite songs. I’ll be recording vocals and guitar next week.

THE UNKNOWN #5 Arrangement-Copyright 2015 by Judy Unger

This picture is important for mic placement. I am planning to record an album of acoustic guitar.

This picture is important for mic placement. I am planning to record an album of acoustic guitar in the near future, as well.

Recording Guitar

© Judy Unger and 2015. 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.


June 11, 2015


I recently illustrated a slice of blueberry pie and a slice of red velvet chocolate cake. I would definitely be okay if I could eat this and not worry about gaining weight!

I recently illustrated a slice of blueberry pie and a slice of red velvet chocolate cake. I would definitely be okay if I could eat this and not worry about gaining weight!

My post title is a line of lyrics from my song “The Door.” I chose this title over another possibility, which was “I cried so many tears.”

My son inspired this story. But mostly I am writing about my feelings. I no longer pretend to be happy. My challenge is to allow myself to feel – that includes joy and sadness. It has been my “habit” to suppress pain and that left me numb for many decades. I am trying to form a new habit!

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

THE DOOR #4 Arrangement – Copyright 2015 by Judy Unger

All those years

When I began my blog in 2010, I wrote to express things that I kept deep inside and didn’t speak about for years.

I wrote about Jason, my son who died in 1992. I also wrote pages and pages about my other children and their challenges. For countless years, I devoted all of my energy to fighting the school district on their behalf. I cried so many tears for all of my children.

Perhaps being a fierce advocate was a way for me to vanquish the helplessness I felt after losing a child. I also hoped by writing about my experiences, I could support and inspire other parents dealing with similar issues.

My children understood that writing about them helped me to heal the deep wounds I carried. But I respected their wishes for privacy and deleted everything about them later on. Now I ask them for permission to share pictures and words.

All these years later, I can celebrate and put the trauma of contentious meetings, court dates and endless paperwork behind me. All three of my children have bright futures and overcame huge hurdles. They are beautiful humans beings I treasure.

When I was an advocate, I learned everything I could in order to help them. I was also blessed because I met a wonderful woman who guided me.

The school district put many obstacles in my way. I watched other parents give up so many times. No roadblock stopped me because I found another path each time. If I knew something would help my child, I was determined to get it.

I never lost because I never gave up.

I pulled out my paintbrushes to illustrate a fruit I’ve never illustrated – persimmons.

Last week, I pulled out my paintbrushes for the first time in five years to illustrate persimmons.

I’ve been illustrating many fruits and vegetables for a large project. It has involved spending a lot of time on my computer and unfortunately, my eyes have been very irritated and foggy. It’s difficult to open them when I go outdoors.

Social situations are tough for me. I have trouble concentrating and feel vulnerable. Staying safe at home is much easier. But recently, there were a lot of situations I couldn’t avoid and I made the best of it. Many events were due to the fact that my youngest son was graduating high school.

He attended a small private school and in the fall he was going to a nearby community college. From the time he was in first grade, he’d never been in a class with more than 10 students. He was excited and nervous about the new learning experience ahead of him.

Two weeks ago, I went to the last school meeting I would ever have to attend for a child of mine.

I showed up to that meeting in casual clothes. I wished my eyes would stop tearing; that alone had me feeling emotional. I was grateful that my painful memories of wrestling with the school district had completely faded away. I had nothing with me except my purse.

In the past, I would have brought a tape recorder to that meeting. I would have lugged a huge notebook with outside reports to build my case. I would have lawyers waiting for me to bring them a copy of my child’s education plan.

This meeting was an opportunity for me to say goodbye to the school district forever. They also were bidding him farewell. I thanked them because my son had blossomed in this wonderful school, which I had fought so hard to get him into three years earlier. 

But there was something I needed to say.

I was frustrated because my son hadn’t taken all the placement tests for the community college he’d be attending. He had missed the early registration deadline that he was entitled to. I announced aloud that I wished the school could have encouraged him to do those things earlier this year. Clearly, I was not on top of this and admitted it.

In the past, my father had mentored my oldest son. He took these things off my shoulders. Oh, how I missed him!

I noticed my voice was shaking and I wished it wasn’t. But the administrator at that meeting was kind and wasn’t at all defensive when she said, “All is not lost; there’s still time. He might not get all the classes he wants but this will be a good learning experience for him.”

Ten years later, my son is a model student and often helps other children. For my blog, I call him Reggie.

I was furious when the school district called my son “untestable.” Ten years later, he became a model student and often helped other children. For my blog, I called him Reggie.

Since my divorce (and even before then), I distanced myself from anything my son did academically. If he needed help I told him, “Ask for it at school. Ask your brother. Look on your computer. Call a friend. Don’t ask me!”

Now my son and I were arguing because I wanted him to make his own appointments for placement tests and registration counseling. He begged me to sit next to him and show him how. Each time, I smiled and said, “I know you can figure it out and if you have any questions – I’ll be here and you can ask me.”

I felt a stab in my heart when my son said, “It isn’t fair that grandpa isn’t here to help me – why can’t you do this for me, mom?”

Despite complaining, my son did figure things out and it was such a valuable learning experience for him. He announced, “Mom, you’ll be proud of me; I scheduled my test! Write this date and time down for me . . .”

I replied, “You’d better write it down, honey. Don’t rely on me. It’s your life.”

His test day arrived. I dropped him off and when I picked him up his face was shining. He exclaimed with joy, “Mom! I passed and I’m allowed to take English 101!”

I love this picture of my three children.

I love this picture of my three children.

There was the prom. Then along came grad night and other fun activities for him. He was having a great time but he confided to me, “I can’t believe I’m graduating! I love my school and soon it will all be over. I’m scared.”

I understood. Life transitions are exciting and scary.

Because I am a passionate songwriter, I live my life as a musical. My latest song that I have been working on is named “The Door.” My new version moves me and gives me a lot of insight; I’ve even rewritten some of the lyrics.

When I decided to end my marriage after 31 years, it was terrifying to “go through the door.” I wrote my song before I announced that I wanted a divorce and it helped me find my courage.

I see a door not as an exit – but as a entrance into somewhere new. And recently, I have been opening many new doors in my life. It hasn’t been easy because my eye condition inhibits me and it takes incredible energy for me to do new things.

I believe this is a time where I deserve peace and healing. I use a lot of positive thinking to help me.

The beautiful part about working on this particular song, was realizing that I was sending my youngest son through his own door by empowering him to do things for himself. And I marvel when he lectures me (like teenagers do) and tells me the very things I’ve taught him.

Two days before his graduation, there was a “surprise” awards assembly. Just as I was walking in, I saw him trying to call me. He said, ”There you are! I wanted to be sure you were coming.”

I said, “Wasn’t this supposed to be a surprise?”

He said, “Oh come on. I’ve got to be getting an award. I closed out the school year with straight ‘A’s and that’s a big thing. I know I’ll get something.”

I positioned my sunglasses so the light wouldn’t cause me more pain. I sat through the assembly with my eyes almost closed. It was a long event – almost 90 minutes. Music was playing in my mind and I was excited to discover some great lyrics that would work well for my latest arrangement.

Then I heard my son’s name. He was receiving an award and it was for best achievement in music. I was taken by surprise because he wasn’t even in a music class this past semester.

And a few moments later he received a second award. This one was for musical theatre. I grinned. My son loved to be on stage and had a beautiful tenor voice. It looked like the school had recognized his musical talent.

Two music awards and seeing my child’s face aglow – nothing could be better than that!

Music award

Graduation day was a big day for my son. For me, it meant seeing my former husband for the first time since signing divorce papers at the courthouse 18 months ago.

I tried not to anticipate or feel anxious. It helped that my brother and sister-in-law came to pick me up. My son had invited them to come and initially I had discouraged it. It was because I didn’t want to inconvenience them. I told my son it would be more intimate to celebrate with his aunt and uncle later on in a restaurant.

But my son advocated for himself and said, “Mom, I want to invite Uncle Norm and Aunt Jo. Grandma and Grandpa won’t be there and they are our family. We can let them decide.”

It was wonderful to be with my brother, Norm, and sister-in-law, Jo on that day.

It was wonderful to be with my brother, Norm, and sister-in-law, Jo on that day.

When my brother read his invitation, his voice was hoarse and emotional as he said, “We would be honored to come!”

I tried not to think too much about my oldest son’s graduation from that same school six years before. The pictures taken that day were precious ones. There was one of my dad; I used it for a poster that was displayed at his funeral.

Our former housekeeper, Rosa was there. Her grandson was my son’s best friend and his name was Jason. My oldest son also had two very close friends named Jason. That name was one I heard often, and I didn’t mind it at all.

It was strange how on a day in early June – it was raining. I didn’t even bring a jacket with me and the warm raindrops splashed on my face and hair.

I didn’t bring an umbrella, but my sister-in-law let me use hers and she shared my brother’s umbrella.

I didn’t bring an umbrella, but my sister-in-law let me use hers and she shared my brother’s umbrella.

I followed my brother and sister-in-law into an auditorium where people were waiting for the graduation to begin. I was in a fog, blinking slowly and breathing carefully to maintain peacefulness.

I heard my ex-husband’s voice; he was standing and speaking to my oldest son. Norman and Jo walked over to shake his hand and say hello. They probably hadn’t seen him for 3 years. I was behind them and when he looked away, I froze and then did the same thing. Time ticked by slowly as I made small talk and waited to move to where the graduation was. We were only ten feet apart and pretending that we didn’t see each other.

Our group found seats and my two older children sat behind me; my ex was on the other side of them. The pretending continued. The rain showers came in bursts. I decided the soft drops were like tears from above and I added my own to them.

Graduation procession

The graduation was beautiful. Despite fog and numbness, I couldn’t help but feel teary seeing my son’s shining face. He was so happy and it was definitely his day.

The ceremony was almost over. How did I want to think about this day and seeing my ex? He was soon moving far away to another country. It would be a very long time before I might ever see him again.

I didn’t feel guilty. I wasn’t sad or worried about him. I wasn’t angry with him.

I was numb and in a fog, devoid of feelings. But I did know one thing for certain.

I didn’t want this day to carry memories of painful avoidance. I decided to step through a door. 

The graduation ended and I turned around and looked right at him. I gently said, “I’m sorry I didn’t say hi earlier. Would you like to join us afterwards? We’re all going out to dinner.”

My ex looked uncomfortable and squirmed as he said, “Thank you, but I can’t. I have to get home to feed the dogs. But I do appreciate the invitation.”

Graduation dinner

This time I was in the picture with my children at our “after graduation” dinner celebration.

The dinner afterwards was exhausting for me. I had hoped my grown up children would get along like they usually do now (after years of terrible sibling rivalry.) But they squabbled on the way to the restaurant.

I was supposed to hold onto my son’s diploma, which he handed me in a nice leather folder. But I lost it and it was very upsetting. I could write another story all about that.

Joy and pain – numbness flattens them both. I felt fairly flat. I made it through and felt tremendous relief. But my feelings weren’t nearly as important as knowing my son had the most wonderful day.

Grad pics 2

The next morning my son said, “You know, mom – what meant the most to me on my graduation day?”

I smiled and waited for his answer.

He said, “You talking to dad. That was the best thing in the world. Thanks, mom! You don’t know happy that made me. In fact, I think grandma and grandpa would be very proud of you!”

Grad pics 1

I would be okay
My son and I at graduation
© Judy Unger and 2015. 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.


May 21, 2015


Peaceful Green Butterfly

I saw a lot of mossy wood and delicate ferns while hiking in Oregon last month. Perhaps because I’m an artist, I especially loved the gorgeous palette of greens that surrounded me.

I'm in a forest of green

Click the links below to hear several versions of my song in progress:

PEACEFUL & INSPIRED Arrangement – Copyright 2015 by Unger

PEACEFUL & INSPIRED-6/6/15 Copyright 2015 by Judy Unger



Copyright 2015 by Judy Unger

I’m in a forest of beautiful green

a palette of shades I’ve never seen

mossy wood, delicate ferns

a soft path beckons with twists and turns

The mountain air clears my mind

a bright sun sparkles as I unwind

cascading pools, a tumbling stream

I close my eyes so I can dream

I’m in awe

nature’s wonderland

so beautiful to see

peaceful and inspired

I’ll take you home

I’ll take you home with me


A misty beach fades into gray

my cheeks are moist from salty spray

glittering pebbles, watercolor skies

sea foam dancing before my eyes

I’m in awe

nature’s wonderland

so beautiful to see

peaceful and inspired

I’ll take you home

I’ll take you home with me

I’ll take you home with me

I definitely see glittering pebbles and a watercolor sky with this photo taken at Yaquina Beach in Oregon.

I definitely see glittering pebbles and sea foam dancing in this photo taken at Yaquina Beach in Oregon.

I find the entire process of creating a song very inspirational. One day, a song appears and as it unfolds it completely blankets my existence.

“Peaceful and Inspired” began with some very unique verse chords that I discovered on my guitar shortly before my trip to Oregon last month. While I was on my trip, I wrote some poetry that I wasn’t sure could be used as lyrics. When I returned I collaborated with my arranger, George to compose the chorus chords. I was amazed how my poetic lyrics easily fit into the music.

Despite being very busy working as an illustrator, I made time to record a vocal, guitar tracks and harmony. It was all a pleasure.

This song came to me at a time when I desperately needed peace and inspiration.

I was very depressed because my eyes were constantly hurting due to dry eye syndrome. I mourned the normal eyes I once had and cried easily, which was ironic for someone with poor tear film. I began to consider taking an anti-depressant to help me.

But it turned out that my song was my medicine. Listening to my song left me feeling peaceful and inspired. It took the “focus” off my eyes and the soothing music helped me to appreciate my beautiful journey and gifts. 

After my lyrics were written, I saw a brief article on Facebook entitled: “Science has found the emotion you need to stay healthy.” (Link to that article:  “The Goosebumps Test – Science has Found the Emotion You Need to Stay Healthy”)

I was floored to read that out of many positive emotions, one stood out as having a pronounced impact on markers related to inflammation. It was awe.

I went to the dictionary to look up awe. The first definition listed was: wonder. I love that word!

I use it quite often. The opposite of wonder was listed as: fear. Letting go of fear has also been a huge theme for me. Here is an example of how the word wonder can reframe my negative thoughts in a wonderful way:

How can I function when my eyes hurt?

This question leads me to think about my pain and prevents me from being productive.

I wonder how I can function when my eyes hurt?

This question leads me to search instead for ways to cope. Then I am far more productive!

Awesome desserts

This display of desserts at a very fancy bakery filled me with awe. I was hunting for a beautiful slice of pie and cake for an illustration assignment! I wonder how I can stay on a diet?

So it does seem that I’ve achieved great healing in my life from awe. After decades of feeling stressed and discouraged, my world was filled with awe when I started creating music again.

So happy when it started

Lately, there have been so many blessings in my life that continue to lift my spirits. Those joyful opportunities are the reason I’ve been able to overcome the physical pain and annoyance that I live with due to my eye condition.

Before I mention more about the many touching parts of my current life, I want to share more about my song’s title.

Like the last song that I composed named “In Every Smile,” I had many title ideas but nothing seemed to really hit me. My arranger, George liked the simple word “Peaceful.” 

“Peaceful and Inspiring” was my very first idea, but then I also like “Nature’s Wonderland.” Any title with the word peaceful had me thinking of the Eagles song named, “Peaceful, Easy Feeling.” Weeks went by and I was still very indecisive.

My good friend, Amélie, was a stellar and accomplished poet. She and I were walking together for exercise and after one of our walks I played my song for her. I was a little intimidated to share lyrics that I definitely did not spend a lot of time crafting. I had hardly revised them at all since scrawling them out while feeling inspired by scenery during my trip.

Amélie was very thoughtful and encouraging. She told me she loved my song and said, “When I hear your song, I’m transported to the Pacific Northwest. I can even picture the time of day and weather you experienced when you wrote your lyrics. Why don’t you use a song title from a location you actually visited in Oregon? That would make your song unique and memorable.”

I liked her idea! So I looked at a map of the areas I had visited. Since my lyrics were about a mountain and beach experience, I looked for beaches with forests nearby.

I sent Amélie a list to see if anything sounded pleasing.

Judy: Amélie, here are a few beach names that might work: Cascade Head, Yaquina, Salem or Munsen.

Amélie: I like Cascade. Work with that word; it seems like the best one. Cascade Morning. Cascade Trail. Cascade Inspiration. Not Head, though. That suggests something else.

Judy: Ha Ha!!! I’m rolling off my chair with laughter! Let’s see: Cascade Memories, Cascade Escape, Cascade Wonderland, Cascade Dreams . . . “Cascade Dreams” sounds like the one!

Amélie: Well there we go, then! Good choice!

As much as I liked the title “Cascade Dreams,” I really treasured the words peaceful and inspired. I suddenly realized that my song had lifted my depression and a title with those emotions touched me more than one that was unique and pretty.

My uncertainty lifted and I was able to copyright my song as “Peaceful and Inspired.”

When I hear my song, I definitely see the path ahead of me as soft; the twists and turns are beautiful – instead of stressful.

Mossy wood

Today is my father’s birthday; he died in 2012.

On his birthday three years ago I received a call from the nursing home telling me they could not wake him up for breakfast. The week that followed was such a horror, filled with many traumatic memories that have plagued me over the last three years. My father suffered terribly until he took his last breath five days later.

But I am amazed that I feel peaceful thinking of him today.

“Anniversaries of the Heart” and holidays can certainly trigger painful memories. Next weekend is Memorial Day.

That weekend carries poignant memories because my deceased son, Jason, was born on May 28th. I can hardly believe that Jason would have been 28 years old if he had lived. In my dreams, he is always a sweet 5-year-old angel.

When I remember Jason, I am peaceful and am not anguished like I once was.

Another example of peacefulness and inspiration happened for me on Mother’s Day two weeks ago. It has been two years since my mother died and that holiday could have been sad because I miss her so much.

But this past Mother’s Day filled me with awe! I treated my three children to dinner and a movie. My heart danced as I watched them laughing and conversing happily over dinner. When they were growing up, family outings were like torture for me. I suffered terribly trying to make them all “get along.”

How I wish I could have imagined this spectacular moment back then. My children were beaming at me. I felt their love and appreciation and marveled at how fortunate I was to have them all so close to me.

I asked a stranger to take a picture of us. It was such a beautiful day and when it was over I decided to share that picture on Facebook. The sweet comments I received just added to my joy. 

Judy's post M Day My kids

On Mother’s Day, I didn’t forget my child, Jason who never had the chance to grow up.

So many emotions overwhelmed me when I received a phone call from Lupe who lives in Texas. Lupe helped me when Jason was terribly sick. I was inexperienced as a new mother and had no idea how to stop him from crying (due to his illness). From the first moment I met her, Lupe knew how to make him smile.

Here is a link to a beautiful story about how I reconnected with Lupe:


Lupe commented on my Facebook post. She wrote:

Lupita 1

Lupe & Jason

Lupita 2

Rosa with 2 babies

This is a picture of Rosa who came to me shortly before Jason died. After Jason died, his surviving brother had non-stop tantrums. My son calls Rosa “his other mother” to this day.

I cannot write enough about the special friends in my life whom I consider much more than “caregivers.”

Rosa also commented on my Facebook post. After Jason died, I became pregnant with my daughter and my surviving son needed more than I could give. Rosa is close to all of my children. She has worked for me for over 25 years and still comes over weekly to cook dinner and visit with my children and me.

Rosa's Message

Rosa has seldom eaten in a restaurant – it was a big treat for six of us and this picture was taken at Sharkey’s. My three children and her grandson, Jason were there.

Another beautiful story is about Miriam, she was the former caregiver for my mother.

Miriam came to me at a time when my mother suffered with dementia and I was exhausted from caring for both my parents, as well as dealing with challenges from my teenagers at home. She comforted my mother and suddenly I was able to actually have my life back again. My ability to rediscover music and write this blog was possible because of her.

I feel like she is part of my family now.

Miriam, Shirley & Judy

Since my mother’s death two years ago, Miriam has struggled waiting for paperwork to be processed that would enable her to become a legal resident. (Saying she struggled is an understatement.)

Miriam was finally given permission to travel to her country, Guatemala. She did not even know if she’d ever be able to return to the United States. She took a huge chance and said goodbye to her husband and two teenage daughters. What she did was very courageous, as she followed her dream of becoming an American citizen.

I practically shouted aloud when I received this message from her in February:

Miriam's message

When Miriam returned last month, it was time for a celebration. We had a wonderful lunch with my oldest brother, Norm and sister-in-law, Jo. Unfortunately, my two brothers are estranged. Lately, I’ve noticed that I’m far more accepting and peaceful about this, too.  I love them both and see them separately.

Below is a picture from our lunch. The whole experience of sharing in Miriam’s joy was very inspirational!

Miriam's PostCelebrating with MiriamMy response to Miriam's postI always share music with Miriam (so that’s the reason for the CD on the table next to her). The comment made by my good friend, Steve, was very touching for me. Steve has helped me a lot with music over the last five years. He and I played together as young children and we reconnected in 2010 when my mother was declining. 

Steve's comment

My treasured “caregiver/friends” certainly helped me emotionally during some of the most challenging parts of my life.

But I relied on them because otherwise I could not have been able to work as an illustrator, which is my profession. I might not be as passionate about art as I am about music, but I do love my career.

My eye discomfort has been very tough for me to deal with, but it hasn’t interfered with my ability to work. I’m always amazed that I can see my computer well enough to do the many things I do even when my eyes are foggy and tired. It’s much easier now than in the past when family issues caused me so much stress that I could hardly concentrate.

Strawberry Comps Round 1

I’ve decided to look at my eye problem as a “limp.” Sometimes, I limp with terrible pain and other times it’s just a limp.

But with amazement, I realize that lately I’ve been running with my “limp.” Instead of a slow and painful gait, I just hop along and have stopped wishing things were like they used to be when I felt “normal.” This seems to be my new “normal” now.

I continue to arrange songs, record vocals, play guitar, write stories, exercise (swim, walk or tennis) and create illustrations for the several projects I’ve been working on.

Hugging my beautiful daughter

I also being savor being close and involved in my three childrens’ lives. I share a picture above with my daughter taken on a walk near my house.

Last month, my youngest son was in a play at his school. He asked me to write him a note to help him with his nervousness beforehand. (I hope he won’t mind my sharing it.)

Play note

I end my upbeat post with an image from one of my recent art assignments. It was definitely a piece of cake!

NES Texting Campaign Print Layout for Judy

Red Velvet Final Art Colored Pencil

Red Velvet Cake closeup 1

© Judy Unger and 2015. 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.


May 2, 2015


I’m really glad I took my trip to Oregon. It was so beautiful to be outdoors! I’m enjoying the photos that I took of “nature’s wonderland.”

I’m really glad I took a vacation to Oregon last month. It was so beautiful to be outdoors! I’m enjoying the photos that I took of “nature’s wonderland.”

Below is a link to my newest song arrangement in progress:

PEACEFUL – Arrangement in progress-Copyright 2015 by Unger

Because I’m busy illustrating, I might not be able to write for a while. I’m grabbing this opportunity to update my blog since I’m briefly in-between projects.

I’m so glad I could share that I’ve been feeling stronger and more upbeat despite my dry eye pain. Turning around my depression, which felt like a downward spiral has been amazing for me. I took very small “baby steps,” yet in many ways I moved with leaps and bounds. It was all because I changed my attitude.

Pallette of greens

On my last post about my eye condition, I had gone to see a private eye specialist who was outside of my HMO network. He was expensive and his opinion was that I most likely had glaucoma and there was already some damage.

I shared his report with my HMO and saw a glaucoma specialist two weeks later. After reviewing many tests, her opinion was that she saw no evidence of glaucoma. She only recommended that I come back in a year to have my eye pressures checked.

I let the outside specialist know what my HMO eye doctor said.

His response was: “I am pleased your pressure was lower and symmetric on that day. Often there is a delay in diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma due to fluctuations in pressure, just as hypertension may not be diagnosed on a day when the blood pressure is normal. I would recommend that you be evaluated at least every 4 months, not just with pressure checks, but also with quantitative perimetry and ocular coherence tomography for measurement of retinal nerve fiber layer thickness. Ultimately, if you do have glaucoma, one will see a progressive deterioration in those studies.”

I advocated for myself and made sure that my HMO would follow this outside specialist’s recommendation. As I result, I have an appointment scheduled in July.

Delicate ferns

I love puns, so I’ll start with one here.

All of this was a real “eye opener.” I was so down when I went to see the outside specialist. I wasn’t expecting worse news about my eyes and couldn’t handle hearing I had another eye disease. Neither doctor had any suggestions for treating my dry eyes, either.

But then I realized that worry and anxiety didn’t serve me in any way.

I went from total panic, to complete gratefulness. I do so many things with my eyes. I rely on them and they are working well enough for me to drive, illustrate, play tennis and edit music. I’ve decided that I can accept my eye pain somehow and find a way to live with it.

Having new glasses that help me see better is also helping me feel better.


I’ve continued to forge ahead with my music recording, composing and editing. Even when I’m illustrating, I still record vocals and work with my arranger once a week. My newest song might not be “catchy,” but it’s very mellow and beautiful. I haven’t decided what to name it, but the words “peaceful and inspiring” stand out to me. So does “nature’s wonderland.”

I try to perform ever week or so at Kulak’s Woodshed, which is close to my house. I really do have to force myself to go out at night. I’d prefer not to be singing in front of people and lights, but sharing my music is meaningful and I want to keep up my confidence.

I’ve thought of playing at other venues, but I’m comfortable at Kulak’s. It is a songwriter’s venue, not a restaurant – that translates to a more attentive audience. Kulak’s also provides a video recording and I’m always hoping to get a strong performance I could share on YouTube.

I treasure a warm audience with lots of clapping. Less pleasant noises would be sirens, squeaking doors and people whispering. I’ve had loud coughing on some recordings and one time, a man let out a loud snore while I was singing. Kulak’s is “animal friendly” and now I can say I’ve performed with a dog barking!

When that happened this past week, I now see it as hilarious, even though I didn’t feel that way at the time. Perhaps there’s some hidden message because the dog barked after I sang the words of “set you free.” 

When I finished, I said, “We can forgive the dog; looks like he was having a ruff day!”

But as I packed up my guitar, I felt like I was the one who had a ruff day. It took me considerable energy to perform and I was disappointed by what had happened. I lost my concentration after the dog barked during both of the songs I performed.

When I walked outside to leave, a couple came over to me and begged me to take their spot so I could replay my songs. Of course, I told them I wouldn’t do that. They kept telling me how sorry they were for the dog’s interruption. I believed them and told them I wasn’t upset.

I just let it go – like any other disappointment, I moved on knowing I’d have other opportunities in my future to perform again.

Just for fun, here are those ruff performance excerpts:

Performance of Set You Free 4-28-15 with a bark

Performance of Every Season 4-28-15 with a bark

Marion Berry Oat Final Art

I am currently working on two illustration projects and another large one (21 illustrations) is likely. I am humming along to music as I work. I find it wonderful to have a brand new song, which is peaceful and inspiring.

Lately, that is how I’m feeling. It is such a blessing after struggling with depression and feeling hopeless.

I’ll share my new song with a vocal when it’s finished.

Both Coconut versions

Below is a link to another new post on my art blog. I wrote six new posts for “Illustrating My Life” before my recent onslaught of assignments. There’s more to come.


My life is still transforming! I am so blessed.

Columbia River

I end this post by sharing correspondence with Nancy Ohanian, my former college art teacher:

On Apr 27, 2015, Judy wrote:

Hi Nanc!

I’ve been thinking of you a lot. I hope you are well.

I’m still busy with my music and having fun gathering final masters. I have so many done now! I did publish my first CD of Instrumentals. Committing to a vocal CD is a lot harder for me. Right now I have about 5 albums of songs and I can’t decide which one will go first.

I had a big scare with my eyes. I saw an outside specialist who said I had glaucoma and damage from it. Since then – I saw another doctor who disagreed. It’s been tough, but I’m managing somehow.

Out of the blue, I decided to write again for my art blog. I didn’t realize I hadn’t done that for 4 years – where did the time go? (Taking care of parents and divorcing LOL).

I definitely think there’s a lot of information there that your students might appreciate. Love you lots and hope you’re well!

Love, Jude

Dear amazing sweet, Judy!

Your email reminded me to have another look at your blog… OMG!

It is off-the-charts comprehensive, incredible, beautiful, HONEST, funny (with Judy-puns) and should be required reading for art students everywhere. Ha ha!!

It’s easy to forget some of the insanely remarkable things you did. Do you ever look back at an image and say, “I can’t believe I did that…?”

It is satisfying to read your happy voice talking about your music. I love what you’re doing. It’s so brave and so you and so right.

It is also concerning to read about your eyes. It’s truly important and wise that you got another opinion regarding what’s going on. No doubt it is difficult. It’s one day at a time.

I love you Judy!! Thanks for being such a beautiful friend.


Thanks for your sweet message, Nan!!!

Thank you for considering me to be brave with my music. I’m in no rush to go anywhere and have really enjoyed my renaissance. I’m not going to let my eye issues destroy that.

I really don’t think my art is that amazing – but I consider myself to be resourceful and practical. My motto of “whatever works” is truly the key. (That works for music, too!)

I’ll tell you what was insanely remarkable for me – something you could truly appreciate. I was looking for emails with the art director’s feedback and saw messages about my mother and how sick she was. When I illustrated those bars – my mom died while I was working on that project.

I cannot imagine how I was able to work and honestly wonder how I did it.

I hope you know how much I treasure you and your words.

Love, Jude

peaceful and inspiring

© Judy Unger and 2015. 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.


April 27, 2015


Yogurt 1

I appreciate having such a wonderful blog audience. That is why I want to share about a post on my “other blog” that is listed on the right side (under the blogroll) named “Illustrating My Life.”

It has been FOUR years since I’ve added a post to that blog. Where did the time go?

I could answer that quickly with the realization that both my parents died and I ended a long marriage to begin a new life. And add one more year to giving myself time to heal and recover.

Tillamookies All

I’m still healing and recovering but excited to write about my insight that my art career never really ended. I had pretty much written it off because I had quite a few slow years.

Last year, it was such a blessing that I received significant income as an illustrator. And the main reason was due to one fantastic client: Tillamook. I am very excited to share these new stories!






Tillabars All

Tillabar Salted Caramel front art

© Judy Unger and 2015. 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.


April 11, 2015


Lighthouse Eye

Two weeks ago, I visited the state of Oregon. While driving along the beautiful coast, my son and I stopped at Yaquina Head Park and toured a remarkable lighthouse.

At the end of an educational lecture, we were able to climb a tight stairway inside that led to the top of the lighthouse. On our way down, my son stopped to take a picture of the spiral staircase. I thought his picture eerily resembled an eyeball! (You can see his shoes at the top.)

It was fascinating to learn about the lighthouse lens. It was built in Paris during the 1800’s and consisted of many complex glass prisms. That lens enabled a small oil lamp’s flame to be projected 20 miles out to sea.

I snapped this while I was waiting.

I snapped this while I was waiting to get an opinion from a new eye specialist.

The day after I returned from my vacation, I had an appointment with a top eye specialist. Before seeing the doctor, I was given a few tests. A technician manually checked my field of vision; it was tiring for me to concentrate and look for tiny flashing lights. Afterwards, she drew pictures from her results to map my “blind spots.”

My appointment did not yield any new information to treat my dry eyes, unfortunately.

The specialist recommended that I try plugs in my tear ducts again. Plugs never helped, and I still had two that were inserted years ago.

This ophthalmologist then told me that my dry eyes were a result of poor tear film. I asked him if I also had Blepharitis (eyelid irritation), and he said that was secondary, a result of not having enough lubrication.

My first big surprise was to find out that I needed new glasses! I was never informed after cataract surgery that my vision could change again three years later.

At first, I was embarrassed to think that perhaps some of my fogginess was because my glasses needed to be changed. But I paid a lot of money for this appointment, so I was glad that I was given such a thorough eye exam.

garden bridge in green

But I wasn’t expecting to hear the more shocking news that followed.

He told me that the pressure in my right eye was very high and there were visible indications of glaucoma damage. He gently told me to get an appointment at my HMO with a glaucoma specialist – not just a regular ophthalmologist. And he told me not to wait.

I left his office and sat in my car crying. I waited until I felt well enough to drive. When I came home, I crawled into bed. I was devastated.

I didn’t really want to share my upsetting news with anyone, but then I received a call from my friend who had recommended this specialist.

I told her tearfully, “You know, you probably saved my vision – I don’t know how to thank you!”

My friend was very comforting. She acknowledged that I’ve had a lot of challenges to go through since my divorce and my parents’ deaths. I was very grateful for her.

beach rocks 2

It was almost 4:00 pm and I decided to call my HMO to schedule an appointment. The sooner I got that appointment, the better. It was a Friday afternoon before Easter weekend, so I didn’t expect much.

The lady on the phone said, “There aren’t any ophthalmologists working next week; they are all gone for Spring break.” I thought she was kidding when she said Pediatrics would be covering that department.

I told her I was very concerned about my eye pressure and wanted an appointment with a Glaucoma specialist. She said, “You will not be allowed to see a Glaucoma specialist. Only patients who are not responding to conventional treatments are allowed to see one. Any of our eye doctors can treat you.”

I said, “Well, what if this gets worse before I see a doctor? I don’t want to have my eyes permanently damaged!”

Then she asked me, “Are you in pain?”

I answered, “I’m always in pain. I have dry eyes.”

Her reply was laughable. She retorted, “Well, honey, just put in artificial tears until your appointment.”

I took a deep breath. There wasn’t enough fire in me for steam to come out of my ears when I heard that one.

But sometimes, God can appear in moments that seem like coincidences.

Suddenly she said, “Oh! I see that there is an appointment available and it’s only in a week and a half. It just so happens that it is with our only Glaucoma specialist – so you are very lucky.”

I marked down the appointment for April 16th. After I hung up the phone, I decided to go for a walk.

Japanese garden bridge

My eyes were still dilated and the light outside was painful even with my dark glasses on.

I was overwhelmed trying to grasp the things the eye specialist told me. My head was spinning with a zillion questions: Did he say I had Glaucoma for sure? Was the damage he saw permanent? If my next appointment was in 13 days, could my eyes get worse? Was I was going blind? How would I adapt and manage that?

I was spiraling down into depression. It was too much!

I didn’t feel like listening to music, but I had my iPod on my ears. I decided to listen instead to one of my audio stories from the audio book I never released. The last time I’d listened to a recording from that book was probably two years ago.

The story that I chose was “Clear” because I had sung a new vocal for it only the week before.

My recording began with my own voice reciting the lyrics to my song. The line of “life became clear” upset me.

Yes, my life became clear and then it became cloudy. I lost my clarity and my joy. What happened to me? Could I ever recapture joy and find my way back to clarity?


The questions screamed through my mind as I walked and listened to my recording. I felt tears welling up inside. My speaking voice on the recording was very firm and self-assured.

I heard myself spelling out ways of overcoming fear. How could I preach those words to others when I wasn’t even able to consistently follow them personally? Of course, it made sense why I didn’t want to share my book for that reason.

But then, I began to really listen.

I realized that I needed to hear those words, even if it was weird that I was lecturing my “future self.” They were important and helpful.

I cringed listening to my voice state how I wasn’t going to “wait any longer” because of fear. That sure fit right into my refusal to release my book.

I never released my book because of fear of judgment – I worried that I was preachy and not joyful like when I wrote those stories.

My own audio story rescued me.

I was almost finished with my walk and I felt much better. I thought, “Even though I’m not in a place of clarity – how would it be if I published my book and it helped other people in that way?”

In my head, I heard the answer:

It would be awesome! Foggy, or even blind – was I going to let that stop me from following my dream?


I share here a portion of my audio story for “Clear” that was recorded four years ago. It really turned my thoughts around on a very bad day.

Click the blue link to play audio:

Audio Excerpt from “My Life Became Clear” Copyright 2015 by Judy Unger

My song vocal and a transcription of that excerpt are at this link below:

Story behind CLEAR-PART 1

Eerie beach

For this story, I’ve shared a few more pictures from my recent vacation. I was especially eager to share the image of the lighthouse staircase because it resembled an eye.

And then, it became a profound metaphor for me. “EYE” am that lighthouse!

Nothing makes my life more meaningful than “projecting” insight from life’s challenges to inspire others who are out there in the distance.

It just isn’t possible for me to always be a shining example of positive thinking. I’m human and often filled with frailty and fear. But I’ve also been courageous and celebrate that.

After that appointment, I wallowed in my fear and depression for a few days. But then I began to really listen to my song “Clear” and that turned it all around for me.

My eye issues are not going to sink me. Listening to my audio story that encouraged me to “let go of fear” helped me to feel a lot better.

That’s why my lighthouse metaphor is so profound. There will always be an inner light to guide me if I look for it. It is a tiny light that can be magnified and it will keep me safe. Light conquers my fear of darkness.

My light is there for me to follow as I move forward to new horizons.

Lighthouse filtered

Message from a woman in Italy from my dry eye support group forum:


I am always in pain with my eyes….where do you find the force?

I am honored that you wrote me, thank you! I wonder what force I have! I have been going through a lot with my eye pain recently. It has worn me down.

I think understanding is what helps us the most. So my “force” is that I feel so much compassion after going through suffering in my life. And I try hardest to apply it to myself.

Many times I feel like “there could be worse things” and I don’t allow myself to be sad. That is not helpful for me.

I am thankful for the blessing of music and songs that soothe me. I just finished singing a song of mine last week named “Clear.” It’s so ironic because I cannot see clearly.

But it is “fear” that depresses me the most:  fear that I can’t do this anymore, fear that my pain won’t end and fear that I will be blind. So much fear!

At this moment, I can see. And my eye pain is more manageable when I am not depressed.

I am trying to let my beautiful music speak to me and make the most of every day – for now.

No reason to wait
© Judy Unger and 2015. 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.


April 3, 2015


I am excited share many beautiful photos on my blog from my trip last week to Oregon.

I am excited share many beautiful photos on my blog from my trip last week to Oregon.

I was determined to overcome my eye condition. Planning a trip seemed like a way to prove to myself that I was still able to enjoy life. I decided to go to Oregon, which was only a two-hour plane ride away. I planned to visit my friend, Sonia, who had moved to an assisted living facility in Portland seven months earlier.

It would also be an opportunity for me to meet the wonderful art directors I worked with. For the last three years I had received many terrific assignments from the Tillamook Cheese Company and their art agencies were located in Portland.

My 18-year-old son asked if he could join me. It sounded like a great idea; plus he knew Sonia well because she was a former teacher of his.

This picture was taken at a party for Sonia before she moved away.

This picture was taken at a party for Sonia before she moved away.

My post title is the first line from my song “You Are My Wings.” I recently sang a vocal for the new arrangement of that song, so those words came into my mind. Yes, I was glad I wasn’t flying alone!

Our flight left late at night. My son took the window seat and was excitedly snapping pictures after take off. Both of us agreed the city looked like glitter below us.

As I continue this post, I am going to intersperse comments from people from a dry eye support group I belong to on Facebook. Their words will be in different colors and represent many different people. My own words to the forum will be in black bold. The post began with one member voicing her worries about taking a trip with dry eye disease.

Sparkling City

Since I don’t know anyone personally who has dry eye like I do, I’ll cry to you guys about it! I’m going on a trip with friends later this month. Normally it would be a fun trip and I’d be excited about it, but now that I have this dry eye thing I’m dreading it. This condition, which sounds like a mild inconvenience to people who don’t have it, is really having a big negative impact on my life. I know there are much worse things. I guess this is how it’s going to be from now on and I’ll have to adjust, but right now I’m still shocked at how debilitating it can be!

I completely understand. I’ve felt reluctant to take any trips away from home because of my dry eye condition. I like to “feel safe” and be home when the pain overwhelms me. It is one of the sadder realizations I’ve come to by having this horrible condition.

Sparkling City 2

Our flight would arrive in Portland near midnight. My eyes were constantly bothering me in the airport; once my son and I were on the plane I closed them. My son was so excited and I was very happy he was with me.

I decided to listen to my music for a little while, but then I became very emotional and tears spilled from my eyes. It was embarrassing and I wasn’t sure if I was crying from joy or sadness. But I did notice that my eyes felt better after releasing those tears.

Ocean sunset gray

It’s a stunner, isn’t it? People have no conception of the life impact unless they’ve experienced it. The adjustment process is not easy but you will get there! Sometimes the mental challenge is as big as the physical one… that gradual shift from feeling defeated and limited to grappling and taking control, embracing the tools and strategies to make it through.

Your words echo mine exactly…the part about others not getting it really rings true.

The worst part is other people’s complete lack of understanding! If someone asks what’s wrong and I answer that I have dry eyes, they look at me like I’m stupid and say, “Why don’t you just put drops in?” I SO feel your pain

Mossy Stream

Our plane landed and my eyes hurt; I poured eye drops into them, hoping they would calm down. The fogginess and irritation were driving me crazy. I followed my son through the airport and prepared myself to drive a rental car.

During the plane ride, I kept digging through my purse, hoping I’d find an important piece of paper. It contained the gate code and room number where we would be staying.

Before we boarded the plane, I called my older son. He looked in my desk drawer and didn’t find it there either. I wondered how it had disappeared.

My youngest son squeezed my hand and said, “Mom, stop worrying about finding that paper. We’ll figure out a way in. Why don’t you just look at this as an adventure?”

With those words, I grinned. My son probably learned that from me!

Waterfall and log

I had an airport TSA guy question me as to why I had so many eye drops. After all, I was “just going to New York”. I fear running out of drops in the middle of a trip, so I carry a lot. But other than being prepared, don’t let it change your life too much. The people close to me understand now that I am capable of conversations with my eyes closed. Keep getting out there and enjoying life.

That’s why I love this group, full of people who understand exactly how crappy this condition is.

You must know that there are others like me who share your pain, I seldom go anywhere and don’t want to think about traveling for vacation.

Japanese garden bridge

We safely reached the facility where we would be staying. Someone let us in when we pushed a night buzzer. It wasn’t easy to determine the room where we were assigned to, but an elderly gentleman figured it out.

By 1:00 a.m., I was collapsed in bed and amazed that everything had gone smoothly. My son was right; it was an adventure.

I also realized that taking this trip with my son was joyful and that was the reason I had cried earlier.

Brilliant sun

I completely understand what you are going through. After dealing with eye problems for a year I finally went to the doctor; Severe Chronic Dry Eye was the diagnosis. So far, I haven’t found much relief, but being in this group has helped. You don’t really understand what it is until you have it, and then you can sympathize with anyone else who has it.

It might take a long time to feel better but it will happen. Don’t get frustrated. I know we have all thought that we’ll feel like this forever but things do change. And lately there have been a handful of new drugs in clinical trials that will hopefully be put on the market.


There were other challenges for me by staying at an assisted living facility. Everywhere I looked there were triggers of intense memories; only a few years ago I was very involved with my parents’ care. Now both were gone and that was still something I was adjusting to.

The next morning we looked forward to seeing Sonia. She gave us a tour and proudly introduced us to all the residents.

Meals were lavish and communal – at every meal there were different people at our table. So many stories could be written just from those mealtime conversations. I was especially moved when Sonia whispered to me, “That man across from you is the best son-in-law in the world. Every weekend, he travels quite a distance to visit his mother-in-law sitting there next to him.”

Then I found out the rest of the story. His wife had died of cancer a short time ago. He had promised her before she died that he would look after her mother. I felt tears welling up inside as I sat with them.

He was very friendly and told us places we could visit while staying with Sonia in Portland. On our first day, we drove to see a famous waterfall named Multnomah near the Columbia River Gorge. We were told over and over how lucky we were that it was such a clear day. Normally it rained almost every day in the springtime.

Judy, Sonia and waterfall

I used to not go anywhere, but then I started to face my fears about socializing with others. I think it’s because you never know how your eyes will behave and stress doesn’t help. Usually, I just say to myself nobody’s perfect. I just tell people straight out that I have eye problems. It has taken me ages to get to this point and I have a lot of anxiety.

I understand completely. This condition has completely changed my life. I’ve had to quit my job. I am doing some volunteer work now, but some days I feel so lost and alone. I miss the capable person I used to be.

A great view

I was very inspired by the beautiful scenery. Only a week ago, I discovered a few beautiful chords that I wanted to add lyrics to. Perhaps this was what I would write about.

Best of all, was seeing my son’s face as we hiked along the misty trail. He noticed I was taking a lot of close up pictures. He reached down to pick a leaf that had tiny droplets on it and asked me to take a picture.

Jewel leaf

Just get out; don’t let it stop you – don’t let it win. I am doing my best to travel and enjoy life with my husband at my side. He’ll hold my hand when I have to close my eyes because of the pain.

I’ve struggled a lot with the horrible dry eye cycle of sinking into hopeless depression – and having my eyes feel even worse when I’ve been discouraged. But I can say with complete honesty that I have good days where I accept this condition when it’s not torturing me. I miss the feeling of “normal” and probably always will. I guess this is the “new normal” and I’m grateful when it’s not like it was at the beginning! I cannot let go of hope and will continue to search for anything that brings relief.

Garden Waterfall

Even though I couldn’t escape from my foggy vision or eye pain, I thoroughly enjoyed our drive and hike near Multnomah Falls.

We stayed with Sonia for three days. My son and I went exploring on our own the next day. I especially loved taking pictures at a beautiful Japanese garden. The koi were magnificent.


One of my son’s favorite outings in Portland was to a huge bookstore named Powell’s. While he looked at his favorite books I actually found one that I was excited to buy. The paintings of apples in watercolor were gorgeous.

Apple Book

On every outing my son kept asking me, “Mom, how are your eyes?” I appreciated his caring but felt sad because I knew he was constantly worrying about me.

After three days we bid farewell to Sonia. We decided to head out and explore the Oregon coast. The scenery from Portland toward the ocean was pastoral and I saw landscapes that reminded me of one of my first watercolor paintings. Then I remembered that my reference had come from a book about the Pacific Northwest.

This was one of my first watercolor paintings in college. It hung in my parents’ house for many years and is a bit damaged (not really visible here).

This was one of my first watercolor paintings in college. It hung in my parents’ house for many years and is a bit damaged (not really visible here).

Unfortunately, the drive was very tiring for my eyes. We were almost at the coast when we were diverted by construction and I became confused. Even with GPS, it was hard to find our way back and it added another hour to our travel time.

After looking at a few hotels, we found a comfortable one across from the beach. I was so grateful to collapse and rest my eyes.

Beach scene

I think what’s hardest is not being able to depend on your eyes. I am a visual person. The discomfort of the dry eyes changed my life so drastically. I used to be a fairly social person. Now I feel like a hermit. It takes such an effort to get myself out the door many days. I feel so lonely. And it seems that my friends and family have moved on without me. I’m so grateful for this support group. It keeps me going.

Your words made me cry – so true. I am also very isolated and get sad when I see pictures of myself with bright open eyes. I can see my eye pain in pictures now. But other people don’t really see or understand that pain. My eyes are foggy and uncomfortable – but I’m not impaired like other people are with this disease because I can drive and work. Still, the isolation comes from not feeling great about being out and about – traveling, going shopping etc. When my eyes hurt, all I want to do is retreat.

Eerie beach 2

My son wanted to stay in the room. It wasn’t dark yet and I decided to walk alone to the beach. I sat on a driftwood log and watched young children dancing in the surf. Couples strolled by and dogs frolicked in the onshore waves. Soon the light became dim and it was time to leave.

After walking under the coast highway, I passed a grassy area. I sat down at a picnic table and texted my daughter. In the middle of our texting, she called me. I began crying when I heard her voice. We talked for half an hour and it was almost dark when I hung up. I pulled myself together and went back to the hotel room where my son was. He wasn’t at all worried about me, which was a good thing.

Grassy view

We all know this disease is horrible to the point that quality of life is adversely affected, even the ability to work. But worst of all, is the chronic pain, aching, stinging, burning that no one can understand. And the depression and anxiety that ensues because of the isolation and wearing down from constant pain.

Watercolor sky

The next two days, my son and I explored different beaches. He especially enjoyed a tour of the Yaquina Head lighthouse. Before heading back to Portland, we drove to Tillamook Cheese Factory. We were given royal treatment there and it was a most wonderful day. I plan to write more about Tillamook on my Art blog soon.


Your stories have made me speechless. This is my life as well. I have to pick and choose why I leave the house because I know it could very likely trigger a flare up. It has greatly impacted my income and social life but, most of all, the uncertainty of the next “flare up” and the isolation has caused me anxiety and depression. It’s priceless to connect with others who understand this.

I think you summed it. Our eye issues cause detachment from life – and I miss the connections I once had. But ironically, I have learned so much from this condition about myself. I use this word a lot – insight. I’ve searched deep within to discover empathy and focus on small blessings to keep myself going. This is a precious connection for me to know that others understand the pain that I deal with every moment of my day!


After touring the Tillamook Cheese Factory, I drove back to Portland through the Tillamook Forest. It was raining and my eyes were very concentrated on the road. After four hours we found a hotel near the airport that worked out well for us.

On the following day I planned to visit two different art agencies that I worked with on the Tillamook account. My son told me to go on my own because he wanted to relax in the hotel all day. I was slightly disappointed at first. But I didn’t say anything; the last thing I wanted to do was drag him along.

Being alone made me anxious because the streets of Portland were very complicated. It was going to rain and even though I had GPS, with my eye condition it was tough. But then I realized that I wouldn’t have my son barking commands at me. I could even sing in the car if I wanted to.

I took a deep breath and left myself plenty of time to get there. Everything worked out fine; I found the two agencies and even managed to stay dry somehow!

Portland Street

Rainy City

Meeting the people I had only spoken with was wonderful. I was so glad I had planned to do this.

When I returned to the hotel in the late afternoon, I was tired but energized. It was our last night and I surprised myself. I decided I had the courage to perform at an open mic in Portland. I grabbed my guitar and my son and I headed off.

The location was at a restaurant/bar and that particular open mic had been there for a long time. We ordered dinner and I signed up to play; I was going to be the second performer.

When my turn came I realized it was very different playing at a restaurant compared to Kulak’s Woodshed where I normally performed. It was so noisy that I couldn’t hear myself while singing. I was told I could play three songs and my son took one picture of me before I started.

The audience was warm and very nice. Later on, a woman came over to me and said, “You remind me of Joni Mitchell.” I was very touched and considered that a huge compliment.

Flight home

We went home the next day and my son took a “selfie” picture of us on the plane. I was glad to be home and proud that I was able to travel despite my eye condition. The day after my return, I had an appointment with a top eye specialist and was hopeful that he might be able to help me.

It has been very hard living this way. I have definitely lowered my expectations about being “joyful.” I only want to live my life without constant pain.

During this trip, I ate far too much. I knew it was to numb myself and that it was not good for me. My awareness of that made it even worse.

But celebrating my courage is important to me. I continue to hold onto hope even though sometimes it feels like I’m losing my grip.

Seeing the beautiful pictures brings my smile back. And of course, knowing that my son will always have wonderful memories of our time together is the best part of all.

Judy against beach rocks
Together with ocean view
in a forest
Mossy Forest
A misty beach
Beach Rocks 3
I'm in awe
Open Mic night in Portland
© Judy Unger and 2015. 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.


March 24, 2015


The crystal swan above was one of my mother’s favorites. It is in the painting of mine above called “Perfume Medley.” I used that image for my song “You Are My Wings.” Last month, George and I created a new arrangement for it.

The crystal swan above was one of my mother’s favorites. It is in the painting of mine above called “Perfume Medley.” I used that image for my song “You Are My Wings.” Last month, George and I created a new arrangement for it.

I love to envision my life as a musical. No matter what I am going through, my songs uplift and guide me.

For the past few weeks, I have been feeling down. I continued to sing at a nearby recording studio vocals for songs that I was working on despite that. When I sang vocals for my song “Music Saved Me” I was very inspired. The noise in my brain melted with the lovely chords and lyrics of that song. It really saved me!

Links to stories where my newest song vocals can be heard:

Story behind MUSIC SAVED ME

Story behind WONDER WHY

My emotions are very raw and singing soothes me. I find deep meaning from every song that I am working on. My lyrics can be interpreted in many different ways and that’s what I especially love about them.

Another song I just finished a new vocal for was “Wonder Why.” I was able to relate to my song about suffering because my eyes hurt me so much while I was singing it.

Away from sadness

The words of “I wish somehow I could fly – away from sadness, torture and madness” were exactly how I felt and fitting for this post title.

It’s also ironic for me that my newest song arrangement was for “You Are My Wings.” My song was an old love song I composed in 1980; it was a very challenging song for me to sing in my current state. I sang several takes and had zero feeling for my song – even though the arrangement was gorgeous. I wondered if there was a way I could “fly” with it!

My new arrangement can be heard below:

YOU ARE MY WINGS #7 Karaoke-Copyright 2015 by Unger


I want to write about something that comes up a lot for me. It is about my reluctance to finalize and sell my music.

There are probably many reasons for this. It starts with the premise that for decades during the time I was married, my self-worth was completely tied to how much money I made as an artist. When I began exploring music, my family “couldn’t wait” to see if I could sell my music and “make it big.” I fell into that mindset, but then decided to let it go because my music was far more healing when I didn’t worry whether it was “commercially acceptable.”

I love sharing and do share freely on my blog. But I would love to have a larger audience, so I am motivated to sell something in order to do that. I’m just not sure when I’m ready to let go of my songs – where I can’t improve upon them anymore.

It’s hard when I tell myself the story that I’m a huge perfectionist and nothing will ever be good enough to finalize. That thought isn’t helpful for me at all.

How can I possibly explain how much I have savored my amazing progress since I started to play my guitar again in 2010? I know perfection is unreachable. I’m very human and embrace that with my songs. But perhaps feeling “I want to be my best” for my songs is unreachable since I plan to keep improving.

The word is that I am close to selling something. My first album will be of 12 instrumentals and it’s a few days away from being available for downloads in over 30 on-line stores including iTunes. I’ve also had 20 songs mastered; I’ve designed several album covers and enjoy figuring out which songs will go with the many albums I have planned. However, I’m not rushing!

Song vocals

Everything I do is almost exclusively self-taught. After 30 years of not doing any kind of music, I had to learn so many things about my voice, guitar, arranging music, performing, as well as recording and computer music programs.

The screenshot above is for a song vocal. It shows two tracks of cross-fades in Garage Band. The yellow pieces come from about ten vocal takes of a song. Every piece represents a word; line or syllable and the blue line/dots are for volume control. I create a sculpted vocal line by fading in breaths and removing sibilance, clicks and harsh consonants. It requires as much skill as any illustration does.

For two years I have worked this way. My first attempts were not very good, but now I can do pretty much anything I want to with my voice. Of course, singing something in a nice way makes all the difference to start with!

What I do is not conventional by any means. But it works for me. It even helps me figure out how I want to sing my song when I perform. Lately, my voice and guitar playing have really connected with my heart. I’ve started to share videos of my performances again on You Tube after taking down all the old ones a few months ago.

Lugging my guitar to an open mic and singing in front of an audience (and cameras) isn’t easy when my eyes hurt. I have let go of worrying whether I am a good enough singer. It’s good enough for me!

I am noticing pink clouds in the sky because those words are in my song “You Are My Wings.” My daughter took this photo.

I am noticing pink clouds in the sky because those words are in my song “You Are My Wings.” My daughter took this photo.

A few weeks ago when I was performing, a friend handed me a flier. It was for classes to help musicians promote their music. I went to the website that was listed. There were many interesting workshops but I was especially interested in the idea that I could book a consultation with a music promoter.

Link to that wonderful website for musicians:

I left a message asking to set up an appointment and received a reply from Chris Fletcher. The message was: “Let’s meet so I can answer your questions and you can find out more about the services I offer.” We set up an afternoon appointment later that week at a nearby Starbucks.

I was very excited about my appointment with Chris. I prepared two CD’s of my songs to share.

On the day of our appointment, it was very hot. I wiped the sweat from my forehead as I entered Starbucks. Suddenly, it occurred to me that I didn’t know what Chris looked like. How would I recognize him?

I glanced around and made eye contact with a man sitting nearby. He smiled at me as he looked up from his laptop. I walked over to him and said, “Are you Chris Fletcher?”

He laughed and said, “This happens to me all the time! All over the world this happens!”

I was confused and said, “What are you talking about? Are you Chris?”

He said, “No. But people always come up to me!”

Now I was really sweating. I sat down and wasn’t sure what to do next as a few minutes went by.

All of this was very funny because a moment later a short middle-aged woman burst through the door and walked right over to me. She smiled warmly and said, “Hi! I’m Chris and you must be Judy. I recognized you from the Kulak’s video you sent me.”

It never occurred to me that Chris was a woman! I was chuckling inside for a long time after that.

She and I hit it off and I was very impressed with all the information she shared with me. In my dreams, I wanted her to “take me on” so I boldly asked her if she would consider helping me promote my music. But I quickly realized that agents for musicians were similar to agents I worked with in my art career. They only handled people who were already established.

Chris gently said, “I cannot take anyone else on at this time. I’m stretched too thin already.”

I felt sheepish for even suggesting it. I was a nobody! But of course, I hoped it wouldn’t always be that way.

I told Chris my story and she was very kind.

She said, “Judy, there’s so many things you can do to promote yourself. There are lots of places in this town where you can perform. You can even travel anywhere in this country and find places to play. If you want to do inspirational music – there are churches where you can perform in front of hundreds of people. But first you must have CDs to sell and share.”

She told me she would email me a list of places. I was most comfortable playing at Kulak’s, but now I could explore other venues. I was also interested in her recommendation for a CD duplicator who could do small runs of CDs for me.

I left our meeting and squinted in the sunlight. Chris was a lovely woman and I hoped she’d contact me after listening to my music. It was exciting to imagine being “out there.”

But then, the pain in my eyes overwhelmed me and I realized I was not up to anything that added pressure to my life.

I long for belief

Depression feels like a whirlpool that is hard to swim out of. I will not drown as long as I can breathe. It’s just very tiring.

When I have been at some very low points over the last few years, it was music that truly saved me. I see it as a magical essence that feeds my soul.

But nothing shuts down magic as quickly as pressure does. I am fragile, emotional and vulnerable with my eye condition. Stress causes pain in my eyes and pain in my eyes causes stress.

what you have planned

The idea of singing to large audiences and promoting myself feels scary. I once looked forward to speaking publicly and singing, but now it seems almost impossible. Although I loved some of the ideas that Chris shared with me, I want to “stay safe.”

Pink clouds in the sky 2


I am stuck on the letter “P.” It makes sense because pee is a big part of my life (I drink a lot of water to combat my dry eyes.) My sense of humor has returned! 

But this actually relates to the word that started it all – pressure. Because pressure overwhelms me with negative feelings, I started to look for alternate words to combat pressure. And they were all words that began with “P” also.

I want to expand on all those “P” words because they are flying through my mind. I’ll start with the negative ones that go with pressure.

Pressure leads to paralysis and panic. Perfectionism is another word that causes me pain and is a problem for me.

searching for answers

The very first “P” word that came into my mind to combat pressure was the word passion.

My passion for music continues to save me. My emotions are powerful and my heart feels pure when I sing.

Sometimes, I see myself as a Princess. That is such a beautiful image. And so are pink clouds.

I am also a positive thinker.

I can easily hear the progress I’ve made with my music and there are so many possibilities for my life that I never imagined when my journey began. The whole process has been amazing because I never realized my potential. I am so proud!

Because I am very passionate, I spend a lot of energy creating music. It can be exhausting sometimes so I must remember to pace myself. The time that I have spent learning to use a computer has most certainly taught me a lot about patience.

What I treasure most about my current life is peacefulness. Pressure takes that away. It also takes away pleasure, too.

I promise I will share by performing and promoting my music with the world when I’m ready. I pray to God that I will feel better soon because that would make all of this a lot easier!

Music Saved Me 1 God help me try
© Judy Unger and 2015. 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.


March 21, 2015


Those needles do prick and sting a little. I thought I’d give acupuncture a try but I’m not sure I’m going to “stick with it.”

Those needles do prick and sting a little. I thought I’d give acupuncture a try but I’m not sure I’m going to “stick with it.”

I was so touched when my good friend, Marge, sent me an email wondering if I was okay because I hadn’t posted to my blog for almost a month. I was teary as I typed her a message back:

It’s so sweet of you to think of me. I’m very, very touched. Perhaps when I had deep stresses like my parents’ deaths and my divorce – it helped to express my sadness through writing.

But now I feel disconnected from my blog, which you as my dear friend picked up on. It’s because I’ve been quite depressed. I’m wrestling with the dark witch and trying to figure out what to do next. I feel like I can’t allow myself to be sad since I am free now and have so many blessings in my life.

It’s because of my eye problem.

I continue to do music, which definitely comforts me but most of the time I’m struggling with pain in my eyes. I am irritable and distracted by pain, so upset that I can’t seem to overcome this. I feel like my journey was about rediscovering joy and I feel like it’s hard to share my honest feelings.

Love you, my dear friend. I think of you often.

My good friend, Carol, shared this beautiful photo with me. Springtime is here and I can really feel the seasonal change in my heart. Sometimes it leads to sadness.

My good friend, Carol shared this beautiful photo with me. Springtime is here and I can feel the seasonal change. That also can lead to sadness.

On the last part of this series, I was very hopeful about improvement in my condition because of drinking a lot of water and using eye gel at night.

I decided to give serum tears a third try. I had a batch in my freezer and this time I would do something different. My friend, Judi was a leader of a dry eye support group and told me there was another method I could try where the serum tears wouldn’t be as irritating.

She said, “There’s a doctor who recommends using a steroid eye drop for a week before using the serum. The steroid calms down your eye and without inflammation, the serum can have a healing effect.”

I had my doctor look into this and she was willing to prescribe a steroid eye drop for me. Unfortunately, after one day my eyes began feeling foggy and painful. It felt like I was putting poison in my eyes – so I stopped.

I was disappointed, but not like I was the first time because I didn’t have high expectations. Unfortunately, it took weeks before my eyes felt better and that was very tough.

I try hard not to be affected by my struggles with eye pain. I want to keep looking for something that might help me. I decided to try an acupuncturist who was highly recommended by a good friend – at least that wouldn’t set me back like the steroid eye drops did.

Her name was Veronica and she came to my house. I enjoyed talking with her as she worked on me. I asked her to take pictures and she did.

After our first session, I went for a walk and marveled – it felt like my vision was clearer and I could open my eyes wider than usual. I was thrilled and planned to write about it. But then I caught a cold from my son and my eyes worsened. But I still was very hopeful that my eyes were improving.

Veronica came for our second and third session with determination to help me. At our first appointment, she recommended that I try at least four sessions to give her a chance to make a difference. Each time she tried out different things and asked other instructors at the acupuncture institute where she worked for advice.

After our fourth session, my eyes were still very irritated. I was beginning to lose hope and didn’t know what to do next.

I am so photogenic. I smile for pictures even with needles in me!

I am so photogenic. I smile for pictures even with needles in me!

Last week, a good friend sent me a text message encouraging me to see an eye specialist. I have had many people recommending ophthalmologists to me. I don’t think they realize how daunting it is to see a specialist without insurance. I have an HMO and can only use their doctors; they have continually denied my requests for opinions outside of their network.

My friend was persistent. She wrote me a second time:

If you read this doctor’s list of achievements, he appears to be an excellent scientist and diagnostician.

I thanked her. I reminded her that a year ago, I spent a lot of money to go to a well-known eye specialist who spent 10 minutes with me. He told me two things:

1. There was nothing that I should ever do to my eyes again (surgically).

2. When I mentioned my dry eye pain he said, “Oh, I don’t treat dry eyes – you need to see another specialist for that.”

This feels daunting, at times – hopeless and expensive. I understand your wariness. Those of us who have tested the medical world know that true Health Care does not come easily. Keep the faith! The alternative is unthinkable!

I’d gladly spend money for relief but it’s all unknown. But I value your recommendation and promise to look into it. I’ve dealt with the unthinkable more times than I ever wanted to, sadly.

If you see this doctor, be candid about your plight. Besides compassion, you might raise his scientific curiosity. You must carry the same tenacious torch for YOU, as you’ve carried for your kids!! Sorry for being so forceful. This all hits a passionate chord with me.

I love your chord. I’m blessed to have a friend like you. I’m crying.

carry the same torch

I wrote down the doctor’s number and it was next to my computer. My eyes were just awful and I began to think that perhaps I might consider this. But first, I had to overcome defensive and negative thoughts. Did my friend think I wasn’t taking care of myself? Was I not tenacious with this problem that had tortured me for three years now?

I understood why I felt angry. Why would I trust any doctor? The very doctors that I trusted had literally dumped me with my eye problems. And I could go back further to the surgeon that operated on my son, who subsequently died. At the moment, I had a cornea doctor who was willing to prescribe the remedies I researched and requested, but so far nothing had helped me.

That was a lot better than the first specialist who told me, “Your eye condition is considered a disease. There’s nothing else I can do.”

Then I thought about the fact that my friend was so caring. How could I be angry with her for that? I went ahead and called the clinic and never even looked up this doctor on the Internet. But I made sure to ask if he treated dry eyes. The woman on the phone put me on hold and came back to say, “Yes.”

I scheduled an appointment; it was two weeks away and I had ten pages of forms to fill out.

I shared my plan with my friends. I was surprised when I received a message from my good friend, Dr. Sam telling me he knew this doctor. He wrote:

He is brilliant. I’ve worked closely with him at Los Angeles County Medical Association…he is a former President like me…I can recommend him highly!…Sam


I want to add some perspective to my feelings about hope so I’m sharing correspondence from the wonderful dry eye support group that I belong to on Facebook. These exchanges happened several months ago. My words are in black bold.

A woman named Mary posted:

My eye pain was horrible today at work. I could hardly open my eyes. I can’t cope anymore – I want to rip my eyes out.

Mary, I wish I could hold a crystal ball for you and tell you this is temporary. I know you are in Hell. Please hang in there because one day you will be so glad you did. You will heal. It takes patience and a lot of self-love. Dig deep because you are worthy and have a lot to offer this world. Don’t let this disease win.

Thank you, Judy. Now for the past three days, I’m feeling better. I am unable to figure out why. I don’t see any pattern, any change in my routine . . . This is really frustrating!

Mary, I suggest trying to focus more on gratitude and appreciation rather than frustration.

Mary, that’s wonderful news! So much of how I’m feeling surrounds the way I talk to myself. Enjoying it is great. My motto is – the more you look for something, the more chance you’re going to find it. That’s how I feel about my eyes. I keep looking when they hurt and know better days are always possible. That’s why I told you not to think about hurting yourself – TEMPORARY is something I tell myself a lot when I’m discouraged!

Oh, and I also see you as very grateful. When I’m told to “feel grateful” that hurts. I know you are!

Thank you, Judy, because I was hurt to be honest.

I get so sick of dealing with this day after day after day!! I just want to be a normal person with everyday problems.

Unfortunately, eye pain is impossible to overlook. I can push many types of pain aside, but when it’s in the sensitive part of my eyes – there’s no escape. I can say that my eyes have improved to a point where I can think about other things now. I cry tears of gratefulness for that but it’s far from what used to be normal for me. I pray it gets easier for you.

Went to the emergency room. I don’t have an infection. The doc told me he couldn’t do anything for my eye pain. I just want to end my life.

Mary, please don’t let this disease cause you to hurt yourself. Your life is very valuable. Pain can make us crazy, for sure. I’m a bereaved mom and I know if you ended your life – there would be a lot of pain for those who love you. It will get better. I promise.

Judy, your message is so kind – I’m crying right now. Thank you. It is a relief to talk with people who understand what I am going through, thank you so much!

Tears are good, Mary. You are not alone with your pain. You will find relief and until then – please do not despair. It is in this valley of sorrow where you will discover things that you will carry for the rest of your life. It is an opportunity to let go of what we expect from life. I think this is a turning point for you. It’s okay to express your anguish. You are going to beat this. I know you will. 

I'm crying

Closed eye
© Judy Unger and 2015. 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.


February 20, 2015


In Every Smile

Here is a link to a recent live performance of my song on YouTube:


YouTube Performance by Judy Unger at Kulak’s Woodshed

Below is my vocal for my latest song, “In Every Smile.” The arrangement is so beautiful, that I am sharing it also.

IN EVERY SMILE-3/19/15 Copyright 2015 by Judy Unger

IN EVERY SMILE Arrangement-Copyright 2015 by Judy Unger

From the time I was young, I have always loved to smile.

From the time I was young, I have always loved to smile.


Copyright 2015 by Judy Unger

One day I’ll be gone, but love cannot leave

I’ll be right there beside you, can you believe?

if you’re crying ‘cause you miss me

and feel you’ve lost your way

You know what I’d say . . .

See me in every smile; it’s okay to cry awhile

But smiling can lift you up

Feel me with love you share; in your heart I’m there

I’m not really gone when my love lives on

Remember the warmth, your heart next to mine

I’ll still be hugging you in warm sunshine

When storm clouds overtake you

and everything seems gray

You know what I’d say . . .

See me in every smile; it’s okay to cry awhile

But laughter can lift you up

Feel me with every touch; I loved you so much

I’m not really gone when my love lives on

You might be scared and think you’re alone

Let my light surround you, the love you’ve known

From the moment I first held you until I had to go,

I hope you know

See me in every smile; it’s okay to cry awhile

But my love can lift you up

Feel me with love you share; in your heart I’m there

I’m not really gone when my love lives on

When my love lives on

Butterfly Fantasy 1

Music captivates me. Except for times of great emotional upheaval – I usually don’t feel like writing lyrics. But when music and melodies grab my heart, I become inspired to find the words that will express my feelings and bring a song to life. 

Finding those words can be very challenging. Yet when it comes together for me, the experience is glorious and unlike anything else in my life. I’m actually dancing with joy at those times.

These are lyrics in progress – not ones that I actually used.

These are lyrics in progress – not ones that I actually used.

When I am not composing a new song, I continue to arrange older songs. “I’ve Always Cared” was my last song arrangement and for that song story I shared how my old boyfriend, Sam and I reconnected because of my blog. I had written that particular song long ago when we were dating.

But there was also another story of reconnecting related to him. Sam helped me find an old friend of mine named Carol. They were once engaged to each other (they did not marry) and I lost touch with both of them after that.

Below are links to those stories:




Well, after I wrote about “I’ve Always Cared,” each of them left comments on that post. It gave me goose bumps!

For fun, I’m sharing some big smiles with Carol – when we were 19 and after we reconnected four years ago.

Judy & Carol b&w 2


Just last week, Carol and I walked around a beautiful park near her house. I brought my guitar along and was excited to share my newest song with her. I also knew it was a great opportunity for me to ask her some lyric questions.

Every single word makes a difference when I sing one of my songs. I have a lot of choices and usually my lyrics evolve slowly over time.

When I took lessons with Peaches Chrenko several years ago, she had wonderful lyric advice for me. She always told me, “It’s very cool when you’re able to get rid of those unnecessary words – like ands and buts.” I’ve never forgotten that.

Carol was especially brilliant. A few years ago she helped me with my song “Alabaster Seashell” and I continue to thank her for her input. I originally wrote a lyric line of: “That seashell once was a living thing.”

Carol suggested instead that I say: “That seashell once held a living thing.”

Her suggestion definitely made a lot more sense since the creature inside was more of a living thing than the hard shell exterior.

It's okay

Carol and I enjoyed our lovely picnic lunch and afterwards I sang my new song for her. I was hoping she’d help me find a name for it.

I was certain I wanted to use the word “smile” in the song title. I had two choices but neither one grabbed me. They were “See Me in Every Smile” or “Every Smile.”

In a heartbeat Carol said, “IN Every Smile.”

That was it! I was exploding with excitement. How could a single word like “in” make such a difference? But it did!

I let her know I’d think of her every time I sang “In Every Smile.”

Can you believe?

I had many choices for my first verse and ended up going with the version above. But the last line wasn’t set. I couldn’t decide between “If you believe” or “When you believe.”

“If you believe” sounded very judgmental, like I’d only be there if there was faith. And so was “when you believe.”

But with the question of “can you believe?” the words suddenly became magical because I wasn’t imposing. Now the line was more of a suggestion, which I found far more touching to sing.

With these words, I imagine myself holding one of my babies against my chest.

With these words, I imagine myself holding one of my babies against my chest.


I didn’t feel well and barely ventured out of my house for over a week. My eyes were the worst part. I could barely open them and everything looked foggy and gray. My “mild flu” was definitely no picnic.

But it wasn’t really that terrible because my heart was exploding with the birth of a new song. The music was absolutely gorgeous and I allowed it to softly wrap around me.

I hummed the evolving melody and strummed the chords whenever I could. I wished I knew what to name my beautiful new song. I did write some lyrics for it but my first ones did not really express what I wanted to say. My song was incomplete.

I knew eventually I’d find the special words that would make my song soar. From experience, I’ve discovered that touching lyrics cannot be forced; they often happen when I least expect it. Nothing inspired me; I was sick and couldn’t even type with a pounding headache. I decided to just give in and lay down on my bed.

My bed

It was the same bed my parents once slept on and was of a very good quality; it comforted me and I felt their love close to my heart. When I first moved in, I was sure I’d replace it. I slept at the edge and didn’t need such a large bed in my small bedroom.

Then it occurred to me that I actually loved this bed. It was a perfect place for each one of my large children to hang out with me when I was sitting at my computer nearby. They would come into my bedroom, lie on it and spread out. And if I were on my bed, sometimes they would lay down next to me just like when they were little.

This past year, I was blessed with wonderful income as an illustrator. I decided to splurge on my children and a month ago I purchased new queen-sized beds for all three of them. Each child said to me, “Mom, we hope it’s just like yours.” I ended up getting my sons firmer beds – they were large men and it made more sense. I was relieved when they told me, “It’s pretty firm, but we’ll get used to it. Thanks, Mom!”

I hoped my cold would let up so I could sing again soon. I smiled picturing my kids in their new beds; I felt better just thinking about them. Then I closed my eyes and could hear my new song’s melody playing in my mind. The music was so sweet that I found myself crying.

After a few moments, I sniffled and realized I felt better. My tears had softened my sadness. And then the words came into my mind!

“It’s okay to cry awhile . . .”

I was so excited! The first line of my chorus was: “See me in every smile.” I liked that line a lot but hadn’t been able to rhyme anything with smile in a comfortable way. I couldn’t commit to that first line unless I had a second line that worked.

“It’s okay to cry awhile” conveyed exactly what I wanted. At that moment, I was elated because my song was almost finished!

Youngest Son

I believe that crying is not only okay – it’s very healthy. I learned the hard way because for years I suppressed all of my feelings – I was emotionally deadened and considered my life to be “Zombieland.”

The most amazing part about my song was that I wrote it for my children – but when I sang it, I could feel my parents and even Jason hugging me with every word!

Jason w my mom

My parents were completely devoted to my children and me. I treasure every picture with them and sometimes find it hard to believe they are gone.

My parents were completely devoted to my children and me. I treasure every picture with them and sometimes find it hard to believe they are gone.

These are my first lyrics where I hadn’t found “It’s okay to cry awhile” yet. I did not like rhyming “smile” with “trial”.

These are my first lyrics where I hadn’t found “It’s okay to cry awhile” yet. I did not like rhyming “smile” with “trial”.

Creating a will and outlining medical directives was a way for me to make things easier for my children if anything drastic happened to me. Even though my kids are adults now, I am still very involved in their lives.

I live with my two sons (ages 18 and 24) and my 21-year-old daughter moved out a year ago. For a brief time in 2013, I had all three of them living with me in my two bedroom apartment. I had just separated from a long marriage at that time and both my sons slept in the living room. Our former home was huge and had four bathrooms. It was quite an adjustment for them to deal with having a single bathroom.

But I love my cottage/castle!

My daughter lives with roommates in an apartment nearby and we see each other frequently. Two weeks ago, she called me in the middle of the night.

When I’m jerked awake, memories come flooding back. It would be an understatement to mention that I was frequently woken up at night all through the years when my children were growing up.

My heart pounded with fear when I heard her quivering voice; she was chattering from a high fever. The first thing I did, was ask her if she had a pain reliever in her apartment. She wasn’t sure but promised she’d find one. Then I gave her instructions to take a bath.

The next morning, she came over to my house. I made her tea and she shivered under the covers in my bed. I had an illustration assignment to work on and it was one of those times where I was glad I worked in my bedroom.

you might be scared

In the evening, her fever came back. I drove her to the doctor to check for strep throat and thankfully, it was negative. We came home and my daughter told me she was able to drive home.

The next morning, I sent her a text to see how she was feeling. She replied: “Mom, I’m doing much better. I started feeling a fever coming on – but I took a bath and some Tylenol. So now I’m fine!”

That gave me a big smile. Even though she’s 21, she understood now about the benefits of taking a pain reliever and a bath whenever she had fever.

I love these big smiles of my daughter and I in this picture that was taken 6 months ago. My daughter took a selfie of us!

I love these big smiles of my daughter and I in this picture that was taken 6 months ago. My daughter took a selfie of us!

I wished I could have smiled a little longer. The very next day, my 18-year-old son also became ill. He woke me up from a sound sleep to tell me, “Mom, my temperature is almost 105!”

He went into the bathtub quickly and took a pain reliever while I spoke to a nurse on an advice line. So once again, I was back at the same hospital with my son. He looked so miserable and the doctor told me he was almost certain that both my son and daughter had influenza.

The doctor prescribed Tamiflu for my son but wanted to wait for the results of a swab test he did before prescribing it for me as a preventative.

On the way home, my son threw up in my car. He had just taken his first capsule of Tamiflu. I held my breath as I drove. He peeled off his clothes and threw them in the backyard when we came home.

Feel me with love you share

Now my supermom veneer was starting to crack. My heart was pounding – it was a little hard to swallow. Could I be getting influenza?

That evening the doctor called. My son had tested positive for the flu; He recommended I start taking my son’s Tamiflu until I picked up my own prescription.

I began taking the medicine – my stomach was queasy and my body was in the throes of resisting the virus. I cancelled all of my plans and did very little for an entire week. I ended up with a terrible cold, but the classic flu symptoms such as an extremely high fever never materialized. I had dodged a bullet.

My son was still very sick the rest of that week. I told him, “Now that I’m sick, I can’t really take care of you the way I did before that.”

He replied, “Mom, I’m so sorry I gave this to you! But don’t worry – I can take Tylenol and a bath whenever I feel feverish. So you don’t need to do anything. Can I make you some tea?”

If you're crying

So this past week two of my children learned the same lesson, even though they aren’t young children.

Whenever I can make a difference in their lives – it is like “living on.”

And that comes from a place of deep love.

Those lessons will always be there to remind them of my love, even when I’m not.

This picture definitely conveys warm sunshine for me.

This picture definitely conveys warm sunshine for me.

Remember the warmth 2

These pictures were taken at the Kulak’s Woodshed Open Mic about two months ago. Lately, I have not been up to performing, but hope I’ll be able to soon.

These pictures were taken at the Kulak’s Woodshed Open Mic about two months ago. Lately, I have not been up to performing, but hope I’ll be able to soon.

© Judy Unger and 2015. 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.


February 8, 2015


I take this opportunity to share pictures of my three children whom I adore.

I take this opportunity to share pictures of my three children whom I adore.

Just for fun, below I share an acoustic guitar and vocal recording that I made in my bedroom:

SEE ME IN EVERY SMILE Acoustic-Copyright 2015 by J. Unger

I love the song arrangement, which is finished. The very first chords that inspired this song were played by George on his keyboard without any other instrumentation. Click the blue link below to hear them:

SEE ME IN EVERY SMILE – piano in progress

This is a fairly recent photo of all three of my children together.

This is a fairly recent photo of all three of my children together.

A month ago, I was chatting with a friend and she said to me earnestly, “Judy, you must put all of your affairs in order. It’s so important! I just worked with a family where the father died and nothing was in place. It was such a nightmare for everyone.”

I knew my friend was right. For months, there was a note on my desk with the scribbled words of: set up a living trust. I certainly didn’t want my children to be burdened if anything happened to me unexpectedly. But I still hadn’t followed through – it was so much easier to put it off.

Now my friend had put the fire under me. I made an appointment to create a living trust with someone recommended by my brother.

Before my meeting I had a flash of insight and decided to ask my good friend, Janis if she could make medical decisions for me. It would be a lot easier than expecting my children to know what to do. Janis said she would be honored to help me, which made me very teary. A week later, we met for lunch to discuss my wishes.

The initial meeting to begin this process was quite overwhelming. My head was spinning from all the questions the lawyer asked me. I had so many decisions to make, but in general I was glad to be doing something that I knew was very important.

The subconscious is so powerful and takes up far more of the mind than the conscious part.

That week, I began writing a new song. I heard beautiful chords that were dissonant and very haunting. And the lyrics seemed to follow exactly what my mind was dwelling on.

My first line went: “One day I’ll be gone . . .”

If you're crying

It was thrilling for me to watch my new song unfold. The first thing I did was share my newly composed chords with my arranger, George so he could play them on his piano. I wasn’t sure if my chords were for a verse or chorus; George experimented with a few chord progressions to help me link sections together.

I brought home his piano recording and it was so beautiful! This new song touched me deeply and I knew immediately what I wanted to convey. I began writing lyrics but a song title didn’t grab me.

My first idea was “I’m Not Really Gone.”

The following week when I met with George, I excitedly told him that his piano chords were great. I handed him a paper with my preliminary lyrics on it. He scanned my words quickly and then he handed the paper back to me.

“Kind of dark,” he muttered.

“Really? I mention love and laughter – so how is that dark?” I replied.

He said, “What’s the first line again?”

I laughed and answered, “One day I’ll be gone.”

I had to admit that it was kind of gloomy with a line like that.

But I loved what another friend of mine said. It was: “I think it’s great how you can write about something that many people think about, but are afraid to say.”

These are lyrics that I originally wrote for my first verse, but decided not to use.

These are lyrics for the first verse that I ended up replacing.

Even though I wasn’t set on my lyrics, the theme of my song felt perfect for my life. I sang my song as if I were speaking to each one of my children.

My emphasis was upon how much I loved them and that remembering my love would uplift them.

The last thing I wanted was for my children to be tormented by grief when I pass on someday.

Telling them to smile and laugh was a reminder that I hoped they would continue to live their life with joy.

you might be scared

I believe greatly in healing from grief.

My dialog with a woman named Sammi continues to shed more light upon this. Her words are in blue.

Sammi, I am always trying to be more compassionate. Sometimes I feel guilty because I “preach” hope for survival so much. Even offering understanding isn’t always comforting sometimes because grief is so unique to every person. The best thing to offer someone grieving is to just listen and care.

Judy, your years of surviving “the worst loss” give you a unique view of those of us who are in the first stages of this journey. To give hope to a dying soul will never be a bad thing, so you are guilty of nothing.

Thank you, Sammi. I really can only speak for my own life. Originally, I thought it was a miracle that I survived grief. Now it is about finding joy again and THAT is a miracle! I think mindset does make a difference. Yes, the ache remains – but that doesn’t mean we have to suffer until our last breath.

blue gold butterfly pair

Sometimes I think we survive because there is no choice – unless we kill ourselves (which happens by suicide or total disregard for safety). I have seen that happen. I remember feeling hopeless for a long time. It didn’t even register when someone would tell me I’d feel better someday – I found it annoying.

I will admit to having thoughts of suicide in the first days. I couldn’t stand the thought of living without my son. I would cry constantly and say, “I can’t do this” over and over. My saving grace was my husband. I never would have made it this far without him.

Red purple butterfly pair

When you lose a child you develop layers, layers that cover and protect you. At first it feels dishonest to friends and family hide beneath these layers, but as time goes on you realize that you are protecting yourself.

The first layer covers your core, the screaming torn soul and protects your exposed damaged heart.

The second layer is the face you show to those close to you, your closest friends and your family. It calms them to think you are going to be OK. It allows some semblance of life to continue for you that they are comfortable with so they can focus on their lives without worrying about you.

The third layer is the layer that you present to the world. That layer lets you laugh and interact with others at work and those who know nothing about you. It allows you to do certain things and numbs you to most of what is said to you.

I don’t want to hear from people about how this is what my purpose is or how wonderfully I write about what is going on. I am still the same person I always was, but hate where I am right now.

That is because I live with a constant ache since my son died.

I think you have eloquently explained what “survival” is. Living with layers is very numbing and kind of like being a dead person emotionally. That’s why I probably called my survival of grief “Zombieland.” I am sorry for the ache in your core, Sammi.

Keep unwrapping it because I think that is the key to living again someday. The adage of “time heals” isn’t necessarily true even though it is a process that happens over time. It came for me when the thought of, “I can’t believe he’s dead” became “He’s dead and I can’t live without him.”

Later on it became, “He’s dead and somehow I’m still alive without him.” The biggest shift was, “He’s dead and I am able to live again with joy.” That was my miracle and still is.

I don’t think time heals this kind of pain. I am still at the “I can’t believe he’s dead” point. I will be taking a shower and suddenly it hits me…. again…I will never see him again, I will never hear his voice or feels his arms hugging me…ever. The finality of it all takes my breath away at times. I want those layers…. I NEED those layers. Joy is something I will never have again. I don’t have that many years left in my life to reach that place.

Layers are survival and were for me, too. And like you – I was certain I’d never find joy again. No one can know what is ahead. Perhaps it did take me years. I know many people who have never gotten there and others that did much sooner than I. It doesn’t mean that the ache is gone. It only means that your heart lifts again. I guarantee you, Sammi, one day you will feel that.

Can you believe

Judy & her parents

to my amazing mother

Jason in the pool

Feel me with love you share

© Judy Unger and 2015. 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.


February 5, 2015


This is my current image for my song “I’ve Always Cared.” The bed with my guitar is sailing across a faraway ocean to somewhere unknown.

This is my current image for my song “I’ve Always Cared.” The bed with my guitar is sailing across a faraway ocean to somewhere unknown.

My journey began with sharing about my life, and I especially enjoy sharing recent music. Developing and “growing” a song in my garden can take me months (sometimes years). So with eagerness, below is a preliminary recording of “I’ve Always Cared #2″ where my vocal is unfinished. Just yesterday I recorded acoustic guitar and George added electric guitar into the arrangement. Soon, I plan to add some harmony.

Below are pieces of older recordings that are part of my journey. I have improved greatly as a singer from when I started back in 2010. And long ago as a young girl, I sang in higher keys with abandon. I appreciate how free-spirited I was with my voice, but in general I don’t find those recordings easy to listen to. It’s kind of embarrassing, but I do love how they add to my story.

Click the blue link below to hear my song in progress.

I’VE ALWAYS CARED-3/11/15 Copyright 2015 by Judy Unger

Link to hear a snippet of the “medieval” first arrangement of this song from 2010:


Link to the first part of this story:




Original Song by Judy Unger, Copyright 2015

It’s unbelievable

Has it really been that long?

For years we were strangers

But I knew all along

I’ve always cared and I always will

Never felt that way until

I passed through my life without you

I’ve always felt and I’ll always feel

Now I know it is for real

And this time, and this time

I want to be with you, with you

We’re back together

I wonder what lies ahead

The past is behind us

There’s so much left unsaid


I dreamed of you and the life we once shared

You weren’t gone, ’cause I still cared

Now I want to be with you, with you

I loved you still, though we were apart

No one else could know, the way you touched my heart


Now I want to be with you, with you . . . with you

I composed my song “I’ve Always Cared” when I was 19 years old. I was able to easily remember it because I had a cassette recording from 1980.

I never considered “I’ve Always Cared” to be one of my best songs, but I did like the catchy chorus. This song was one of a few faster songs of mine, which involved strumming instead of my usual fingerpicking. It was similar to “Meant to Me” and “Saying Goodbye;” those were two of my other songs I wrote around that time.

George arranged “I’ve Always Cared” back in 2010 and the arrangement had an interesting medieval sound. Unfortunately, I couldn’t along with it very well. Some of that might have had to do with how difficult it was for me to relate to this song back then.

Now that five years have gone by, I decided to let George arrange “I’ve Always Cared” again and together we’d improve upon it. George envisioned it as a slower piano ballad. He composed new chords for a bridge and I revised the lyrics and wrote new ones for the bridge.

There certainly is a story surrounding what prompted me to write this song, which I will share farther along in this post. But today in 2015, my song tells me a completely different story than how I wrote it originally and is nothing that I ever expected it to be.

I crafted my revised lyrics to express feelings for my new take on this song. And the new lyrics can still work for the older story, too.

Who am I singing to? Well, here’s a hint – I’m not singing to a person!

The reunion after many years was with my music!

Perhaps that could be a sad revelation since I’ve gotten divorced. But it was honestly the easiest way for me to relate to my song. And many times, I see music as another metaphor for God in my life.

I like to add artwork of mine to every story. And because I love puns,  I’ll add some of those, too. I don’t want to be blue or berry my sadness.

I like to add artwork of mine to every story. And because I love puns, I’ll add some of those, too. I don’t want to be blue or berry my sadness.

I prefer not to dwell upon thoughts that lead to sadness. Yes, I could be envious of people with loving partners. I could be very discouraged about my failed marriage. I felt alone for a long time and might have remained in that place if I hadn’t had the courage to change my life.

I smile and know that whatever the future holds; I will always have beautiful music to bring me joy.

And another irony was that even though it appeared that I didn’t care about my music for 30 years, it certainly cared about me.

When I was discouraged about life, it returned to rescue my soul.

It was strange seeing this old high school ID card again. Who is that girl?

It was strange seeing this old high school ID card again. Who is that girl?

It has been fun to revisit my older songs. With remakes, they come to life again.

My last song arrangement was for an old love song named “It Might Have Been. ” That song expressed how “love was something new” and shortly after I wrote it, I became engaged to be married.

But before “It Might Have Been” I wrote several songs alluding to my confusion about enduring love.

Even though I dated a lot, I was quite naïve and innocent. My dating was about looking for “the one” and I certainly didn’t imagine there were other options besides getting married.

I wonder what I was thinking in this picture.

I wonder what I was thinking in this picture.

When I was 19, I was torn between two men.

For a few months I managed to see both of them. But when they both wanted to see me for New Year’s Eve, I was stuck and realized I needed to make a choice.

I had an on and off again relationship with both of them. And I was the one who initiated the break ups because I usually felt pressured to “go steady” and I liked to feel free to date whomever seemed interesting to me.

The “other guy” was one of my first boyfriends from high school. Sam and I dated on and off for over four years, starting from the time I was 15 1/2. My parents reluctantly allowed me to date him, even though originally I was brought up with the statement of, “No dating until you’re 16!” But Sam was such a smart and nice guy, my parents caved in.

I really felt so bad breaking up with him that he inspired the first song I ever wrote aptly named, “You’re Not the One.”

I met my future husband in college at a time when I wasn’t seeing Sam. We were together awhile, but then we separated – I felt pressured by him also. After that breakup, I had second thoughts and wrote my song “Saying Goodbye.”

We reunited eight months later, and I wrote a song called “Meant to Me,” which definitely expressed how I had a feeling that something might go wrong. That sure was prophetic.

Not long after I reunited with my future husband, suddenly Sam came back into my life. In the past, I had alternated seeing these two men, but now I was involved with both of them at the same time. It was terribly guilt provoking. 

And my confusion extends to “I’ve Always Cared” because I cannot remember which man I wrote it for!

  In this picture, I’m graduating from Middle School and am about fifteen years old.

In this picture, I’m graduating from Middle School.

Hypnotherapy has really given me a lot of insight into the “black and white” thinking I grew up with. When I was young, it never occurred to me that there were other possibilities other than those extremes.

I felt I had to choose between those two men rather than consider that perhaps I was too young to get married. So I picked my future husband and he became the one.

At the young age of 21 I married and my black and white thinking led me into a very gray existence.

I was not happily married from the beginning. No one around me knew, lest of all me. I assumed that I had unrealistic expectations for intimacy and felt flawed. I was determined to make the best of it because divorce seemed terrifying. I ended up filling my empty spaces by relentlessly pursuing my career as an illustrator. My parents and children met my emotional needs.

I guess I could consider myself a teas. (Hint – those are tea leaves above)

I guess I could consider myself a teas. (Hint – those are tea leaves above)

I’ll never understand how it happened, but after thirty years of musical silence – I began to play my guitar again.

I was fifty years old and at a very low point. But then I discovered that music was like magic. My heart began to explode with feelings and it changed my life.

My emotional floodgates opened up and all of the feelings I suppressed for decades began to pour out. I started this blog and excitedly shared how I started taking voice lessons. I found my arranger, George through an ad on Craigslist. One by one, I had George arrange all of the songs I wrote as a young girl.

After two years I was ready to write new songs as an adult woman. I had waited to release them until I had recorded all of my older songs. The experience of writing those new songs turned my life upside down.

My lyrics guided me to end my marriage.

This feels so wrong

One of the most interesting stories that happened from my blogging was when Sam discovered the story I had written about him with my song story for “You’re Not the One.”

I was shocked when he left a sweet comment on my blog where there was a picture of us from our high school prom.

After thirty years we reconnected. He never even knew I had written a song about our breakup.

Links to those stories:



Milk Thistle

It is not uncommon to hear stories of high school sweethearts falling in love and marrying later in life.

This is not one of those stories.

Sam is happily married with four children. I met his lovely wife at the time we began corresponding. When I decided to divorce my husband, Sam tried very hard to discourage me.

I have seen Sam on only a few occasions – he came to the hospital when my mother broke her hip. When I buried my father and later on my mother, he was at both funerals.

This story gives me a big smile because I never expected I’d know him later in my life. He has truly been such a wonderful friend.

Sam is a doctor and always ready to answer any questions I have and offer medical advice. He does this from the kindness of his heart and has helped several of my friends, too.

So there is additional irony about my song “I’ve Always Cared.” Both of us still care about each other even though he wasn’t “the one” I married!


I’ve been through a lot lately, because the last two weeks the flu bug roared through my household. I can honestly say that Sam and his caring made a huge difference.

Below is my email exchange with Sam. (My words are in brown and his words are in blue)

Hi Sam, I was at Urgent Care a few days ago with my daughter – she had a high fever and came over shaking with chills. They checked her for strep throat, but it was negative.

She’s slowly improving, but now my youngest son is sick. I’m healthy and plan to stay that way! Hope you are, too. I imagine you’re exposed to everything. Have a great day!

If your daughter has influenza, she should have been placed on Tamiflu…Sam

Now I’m really concerned about my son – this afternoon his fever was almost 105, it sure spiked quickly. He was pouring sweat all evening, and I’m hoping the night goes okay.

Your son might have influenza…in spite of receiving the flu shot, which has poor effectiveness this year. Tamiflu might be of some benefit, but I don’t know if your HMO is giving it…hope that he feels better!…Sam

I don’t know if they are giving it. But suddenly I’m not feeling 100%. I’ve noticed my throat is scratchy and my eyes are very annoying. The last time I had a low fever I had trouble handling it. I am praying I’ll be fine tomorrow.

If you have been exposed to someone with the flu, you should be on Tamiflu. If you take your son to his doctor, make sure that you ask for it, if they think he has the flu. Feel better!…Sam

This illustration was for a vitamin label. Echinacea is cold remedy – but I didn’t take it this time.

This illustration was for a vitamin label. Echinacea is cold remedy – but I didn’t take it this time.

Wow, Sam. I emailed my doctor and he agreed with you. He said it also could prevent illness if you’ve been exposed to someone with documented influenza. I didn’t realize this existed as a preventative. Don’t want to take up your time, but any side effects to be considered?

Allergic reactions, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and such…But in reality I haven’t had much trouble with it in my patients. Did you get your flu shot this year?…Sam

I did get my shot two months ago.

I just got home from taking my son to the doctor. He prescribed Tamiflu for my son and I gave him the first dose when we left. But on the way home he threw up in my car. I’ll give him the second dose tonight and hope it goes better. I’ll keep you posted on things.

His doctor did a swab of his nasal passage for an influenza test; the result is within 24 hours. His reasoning was that if my son tests positive for the flu, then he’d prescribe Tamiflu for me. Thanks so much for caring.

No…You don’t have the flu, but Tamiflu can help you avoid getting it altogether…as you said, it IS important to get the medication before showing symptoms like high fever…see if you can get him to prescribe it for you!

I would have prescribed Tamiflu for you as well, and then considered stopping it if his nasal culture was negative…but their accuracy is only around 70% or so anyway…hope he feels better!…Sam

Hi Sam, I’m a bit fuzzy and had a slight fever this afternoon. I received a message that my son did indeed test positive for influenza. The doctor said I could start taking one of my son’s Tamiflu capsules until I can fill my prescription.

I’m going to take my first dose now! Sorry to have bothered you so much with all of this – but thank you again for your advice. :)

How are you feeling?….Sam

I’m feeling better psychologically since I started taking the Tamiflu. I have never seen my son or daughter this sick in awhile. If I ended up with influenza, who would take care of me? Thanks again, Sam!


Ps. By the way, am I contagious?

I think that you are contagious…you may have the flu…not everyone that has the flu will have a full-blown case. I think that five days should be fine…if you are feeling better once you are done with the Tamiflu, you should be way less contagious…hope that all of you feel better!!!…Sam

For the last two nights, I was sweating a lot and my heart was pounding. But I didn’t get the flu! Now I have what feels like a common cold – I’m sneezing a lot. I can deal with it, except my eyes are terrible. I’ll be done with Tamiflu in two more days and am very grateful. I sure feel glad to have you in my corner!


Judy & Sam in front of apt

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