Posts Tagged ‘optimism’

A BRIDGE CAME ALONG

December 19, 2014

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For this story, I was actually able to find a photo from a family vacation where I was on a bridge in Hawaii in 2008.

For this story, I was actually able to find a photo from a family vacation where I was on a bridge in Hawaii in 2008.

bridge (noun)

structure allowing passage across obstacle, link or means of approach, linking piece of music 

bridge (transitive verb)

build bridge across something, create understanding 

Bridge synonyms:

Connection, conduit, link, tie, association, channel, passage, join

There is a tiny bridge there on the left side. This illustration was one I did in college for a children's book assignment.

There is a tiny bridge there on the left side. This illustration was one I did in college for a children’s book assignment.

Although I am a passionate songwriter, I find the process of writing lyrics to be very draining. They erupt from me and the energy behind them is very contracted. Perhaps heartfelt words are deeply embedded because of my habit of denying my feelings for many years.

Beautiful music inspires me to write lyrics. The melody tugs at my subconscious and helps me to find lyrics that are honest.

For my last two songs, my arranger George worked with me to create bridges for songs that didn’t have one before that.

Each time, I wasn’t thrilled about it because I didn’t want to write those additional lyrics and melody. I wasn’t confident about whether I’d come up with anything good enough.

The truth was that inside my head I was literally “kicking and screaming” and even considered making those “change-up chord” areas a musical solo because that would take the heat off of me.

Every time I sang my song, I could feel the music swelling. A solo wouldn’t add meaning, so I knew I had to add words. And those passages needed words that would have an impact because I was making a final statement to sum up my song’s meaning just before the climax.

I couldn’t sing vocals for my new arrangements until I wrote those bridges, so I was very motivated.

The whole process was very meaningful and it propelled both songs into a more touching and spiritual place for me.

Those bridges only can be heard below:

Bridge for Angel in the Sky #2

Bridge for Just a Tune #2

My new arrangements and vocals can be heard by following these links to the original stories:

Story behind ANGEL IN THE SKY-PART 1

Story behind JUST A TUNE-PART 1

Bridge for Angel in Sky 2

When I wrote the new bridge for “Angel in the Sky #2” last month, I had to truly face denial of feelings with the words of “I still cry.” Those words caused inner conflict for me because I have been very positive that I have healed from grief. But with that admission I found clarity and it also added a lot more emotion to my vocal.

For certain, I know that tears are healthy. I can still cry and believe in healing.

Then last week, I finally wrote the bridge for “Just a Tune #2.” It was amazing for me how those few lines just summed it up. They were so simple!

Judy and the Bridge

Bridge for Just a Tune 2

“More about how much I care”

I came to my hypnotherapy session filled with musical joy. I was bursting and beaming because I loved my latest song, “Just a Tune.” I told my therapist, Connie that I had finally written the bridge and the day before I had recorded a vocal for it.

I celebrated with her how things were going better for me. Connie had certainly witnessed and played a part in my transformation to becoming “my own best friend.”

Initially, I felt unsure about my song’s theme of finding love again. How could I find love again if I wasn’t open to a romantic relationship?

I didn’t need to find love again because love had never left me; I always felt love for my children and parents.

Everything changed when I embraced the theme of self-love. When I became my own best friend; it changed my life. I was whole and stopped looking for approval from other people.

I wasn’t responsible for anyone else’s happiness – only my own.

I ended up not using those exact lyrics above. The concept of self-love is far more healing than looking for someone else to heal a broken heart.

I ended up not using those exact lyrics above. The concept of self-love was far more healing for me rather than looking for someone else to heal my broken heart.

I love this image of myself playing guitar when I was 21.

I love this image of myself playing guitar on a beach at sunset when I was 21.

Part of the reason I loved the new arrangement for “Just a Tune,” was because there were a few small chord changes. The whole process of being open to changing chords is another story, but Connie picked up on that.

If three new chords could make a difference to my song, wasn’t that another great analogy for my life?

Sometimes, small changes truly can make a difference.

The simplest way for me to change anything always started with changing my thoughts. It was an ongoing exercise.

A few weeks earlier, my sessions revolved around my frustration that my ex-husband was moving to another country in six months and was uninvolved with his children.

Once he moved away, I would be responsible for all of my 18-year-old son’s expenses. I helped all three of my children financially and this issue had me seething with the unfairness. Through hypnotherapy, I wanted to turn this around.

Instead of placing my energy upon what my ex-husband wasn’t doing, I congratulated myself for the being there for my children. My new motto became: “I care.”

How interesting that my latest song had a prominent lyric line of “You’ve shown me how to care!”

The word “care” had another special meaning for me; it was a wonderful replacement word for responsible. When my parents were sick and declining, feeling responsible for them filled me with pressure.

Caring takes away pressure. It allows me to see everything as an expression of my love. Love is healing and that is where I want to go!

I love this picture where I look so blissful!

I love this picture where I look so blissful!

“That moment when . . .”

Those three words above are lyrics in my song “Just a Tune.” They represent an “a-ha” moment.

I was under hypnosis now. Connie asked me if there was anything I could let go of. There were plenty of things I thought of – I had a lot of stress over small things and physical ailments. I wanted to maintain my healthier track and lose weight, but food was starting to comfort me again.

Just like chord changes – I wondered what small steps I could take to get back on track. Of ways that I could show caring to myself! 

Then I remembered my challenge to write those two recent bridges. It was something I desperately wanted but couldn’t force. I really had to let go for that.

That was when I began to think about a bridge being a metaphor for my life. As thoughts formed, I felt very inspired.

With enthusiasm I blurted out, “Connie, you know, a bridge is a transition. It takes the second chorus to the third chorus and allows the song to build in a magnificent way. It’s a brief passage, but that connection is very important because it pulls everything together.

And that moment was when it clicked and I said, “You know –  I’m in transition!”

The thoughts continued to rapidly shoot through me. Certainly my past was deeply linked to my present. My new life was filled with adjustment and all of it was a link to my future. I hadn’t reached the “last chorus.”

So, the best was yet to come for me!

I’m excited about the music I plan to release to the world next year. I’ve designed album covers for 6 CD’s of music!

I’m excited about the music I plan to release to the world next year.
I’ve designed album covers for 6 CD’s of music!

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

HOW MUCH I CARE

December 15, 2014

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Poem from Cheryl

My friend, Cheryl, wrote the poem above for me in 1980. She inspired my song “Just a Tune” and I really miss her (she died in 2008.) I share more of her touching words from another card at the end of this story.

My children mean everything to me. All of the above pictures have deep stories behind those smiles.

My children mean everything to me. All of the above pictures have deep stories behind those smiles.

When my children were young, I was immersed in creating a beautiful childhood for them. During that time, I anguished over their challenges, sibling rivalry and the occasional scary emergency room visits. I have no doubt that the loss of my first-born child clouded everything and brought with it a lot of additional anxiety. The flip side was that I was in awe of their existence and treasured them.

I am always relieved when my children tell me how much they cherish sweet memories while growing up. So often, I was exhausted and overcome by frustration that I couldn’t smooth over all the fighting that went on. My husband was usually angry overall and I felt awful that I couldn’t make him happy either. In order to function with so much unhappiness, I plodded and refused to allow myself to feel.

In a “diary of my life,” I feel like the last 30 years are emotionally blank pages. My grief was a lingering dark cloud where I carried a heavy umbrella fused to my back. The sun didn’t shine and my enjoyment in life came vicariously by living through my children.

My current life is a huge contrast to my prior existence. I no longer feel like I’m required to put on a happy face. Rather than denying emotion, I am fully immersed in feelings and memories.

I am a woman following my songwriting dream because the emotional expression of my songs soothes the emptiness I’ve carried for a long time.

This is a snapshot from an old home movie of me playing the guitar when I was 17.

This is a snapshot from an old home movie of me playing the guitar when I was 17.

Because the last 30 years were filled with so much emotional detachment (other than deep grief), I often return to the time when I had passion for life. That would be when I was a budding songwriter between the ages of 17 and 21.

It’s probably no coincidence that my memories from that youthful time are also jogged because of my close involvement in the lives of my three children who are now 18, 21 and 24.

In my past, my life revolved around emotionally fixing things for my children and I still tend to do that. But my greater energy is toward my own feelings now.

I wake up every morning knowing that I have many choices about how I want to live my life. The greatest choice is whether to feel happy. When I’m not feeling great (and especially when my eyes hurt), I know that I must search for ways to feel better.

I feel like I have gone from riding through life emotionally in the back seat to steering my own course!

I realize that steering is an illusion of control and it can add pressure if I allow it to. I try to reframe thoughts of: Where the hell am I going? Am I going to crash?

Instead, I prefer to think: “How exciting that I’m steering my life now. It hardly matters what the destination is because this trip is the best part!”

The lyrics above were revisions to my song “Just A Tune” that were made in 2012. My original lyrics from 1970 did not mention becoming my own best friend.

The lyrics above were revisions to my song “Just A Tune” that were made in 2012. My original lyrics from 1979 did not mention becoming my own best friend.

Link to hear my song in progress:

JUST A TUNE #2-12/18/14 Copyright 2014 by Judy Unger

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 Embarassing and amazing – a brief recording of my song from 34 years ago!

Just a Tune – Excerpt from a cassette recording by Judy in 1980

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More about my song is at the links below:

I CAN FEEL LOVE AGAIN

JUST A TUNE- PART 1

“The Emotional Wall”

I couldn’t wait to sing a vocal for my new arrangement of “Just a Tune.” There was only a slight problem, though – My song did not have finalized lyrics or a bridge.

I continued to experiment with new lyric ideas for a third verse. And late at night I sang line after line of scrawled words for a bridge. I hoped a sweet melody would appear.

Finally it happened!

Even though I wasn’t completely sure about the new lyrics or bridge melody, I planned to record my song anyway. It would be great practice and I might even improvise and discover something great. It had happened to me before.

I had a deep connection to my song and that was priceless; I didn’t want to wait. It was a beautiful autumn afternoon. The sky was a brilliant blue and I felt excited. I sang at every stoplight and within five minutes I was at the studio where I recorded my vocals.

It was a beautiful place to sing, a home recording studio that was built as a labor of love by an Israel singer. His son, Darrin, was my engineer; he was a busy and talented musician in his own right.

After so many sessions of listening to me sing, Darrin was quite familiar with my singing style.

I often chuckled and reminded him, “Now you know my secret! I’m not a great singer – but I am really adept at editing all those takes in order to get something that’s decent.”

I was always amazed at how often I sang off-pitch. Perhaps it was because with headphones on I had trouble hearing myself sing.

I was getting closer to releasing my music, but there were many older songs that I was still working on. Sometimes, I had trouble finding the connection I really wanted for them.

A week ago, I saw how sturdy my emotional wall was. After I sang a fourth take of “Beside Me Always,” Darrin announced over my headphones, “I’m hardly feeling any emotion from you today.”

On the next take, I concentrated on my lyrics and suddenly the wall went down. I was gasping as I opened my mouth – the painful flashbacks were too vivid for me to sing through.

I left the studio that day with 4 boring takes and one that was blank except for few weepy words trailing into tears. I wished I had something in between.

My original music transcription for my song, Just a Tune.

My original music transcription for my song, Just a Tune.

I wondered how it would be singing “Just a Tune.” I wasn’t sure what emotion I’d find.

The friend I had written it for back in 1979 had died seven years ago. And we weren’t close for many years before that.

Projecting future love felt terrifying and impossible, although so many of my songs held prophecies for me. I was certain it would choke me up if I projected my song to a future imaginary lover; I wasn’t going there.

There was only one way I could relate to my song – it was with self-love.

Finding my own worth was what actually allowed me to create the music I loved. I probably never would have found the courage to change my life if it weren’t for the lyrics from my subconscious that guided me.

My gratefulness for it knew no bounds.

I was so empty

For over a week, “Just a Tune” was the only song I was attached to and it had been tough to sing other songs.

I burst into the recording area and said to Darrin excitedly, “I’ve got a brand new song arrangement I’m going to sing today!” Darrin grinned and said he was looking forward to hearing it.

I put on my headphones and took a few deep breaths. I was ready.

From the first notes, the music lifted my heart. As the introduction played, I mentally repeated the lyric changes in my head. I hoped I could let go of that focus so my song would have emotion.

No doubt, I would be coming back to record this song on another day. But this was such a glorious start!

I began to sing . . .

As my words flowed out, I was reminded about how music had truly healed me of all pain in my life. I remembered how lonely I had been for decades in my marriage. For 31 years, nothing could have been lonelier than to live with someone whom I hid all of my feelings from. But I was never lonely since I’d found my music and writing in 2010.

After I sang my song two times, Darrin said, “Can you try to sing with more emotion on the next take?”

Judy & Cheryl at the snow

I closed my eyes, took a slight breath and gently opened my mouth to sing.

And that was when I heard Cheryl’s voice! It was unmistakable – She gently spoke my name.

“Jude – Come on, Jude.”

There was something so soothing about the way she said it. I could hear her smiling with those words. A tear began to quickly swell in the corner of my eye. Suddenly, I could remember the feelings that caused me to write “Just a Tune.”

But it was such a long time ago!

Cheryl and I at my wedding

I played it for Cheryl almost every time we were together. Initially, she would study me as I sang. Her eyes were doe-like while she mouthed the words along with me.

I treasured the sweet memories of playing my guitar and singing that song around a campfire. During some of my best times in my life, I played my song on a beach with the sun setting behind me.

Now my emotional wall crumbled and the tears gushed forth.

My brain was yelling, “Oh, my God! You are a 55-year-old woman and the last time you were excited about being with someone was when you were 19. And it was with a girlfriend! For decades you’ve lived with a void that no one else has ever filled – that is so very sad!”

That was all it took. My singing turned into tearful gasps.

My eyes were closed and I heard Cheryl’s voice again. She whispered, “Jude, it will be okay.”

Then she was gone.

The music continued playing and I sniffled as salty tears dripped onto my neck. I was desperate to get a hold of myself. Then I laughed aloud with embarrassment that Darrin was listening to my weepy warbling.

A few minutes later, I was back singing.

This time, I allowed the sweet melody to wrap around my heart and comfort me as I sang.

Cheryl and I folk dancing

Transcription of my 20th birthday card:

Judy –

I know that words cannot express what actions convey, but still I feel the need to write to you. So many times my heart literally aches with love for you, our friendship, for us. This love I feel is genuine, I know, because of the way that I feel about myself. Remember the saying “You can’t love someone until you love yourself?” Well, I’ve always believed that, but it’s meaning has really hit me hard the past few months.

You see, never have I been so happy to be me and the kind of love that I am feeling for myself makes me want to share that love with you – because I can only give you the best that I am and you’ve given me the courage and confidence to go out and search for that person in me. I feel as though you’ve helped me to understand, to come to terms with what’s important in my life (internally and externally). You’ve given me more than anyone ever has – my life wouldn’t be as special if you weren’t here to share it with me.

And just as much, I want to share your life with you. For me to thank you and to tell you how much I love you doesn’t seem like enough . . .

Love, Cheryl

Cheryl's words 2 Cheryl's words 1

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

I’M SO THANKFUL

December 5, 2014

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I think my youngest son said something very funny and was giving me a kiss just before this picture was taken.

I think my youngest son said something very funny and was giving me a kiss just before this picture was taken.

Prior to leaving to celebrate Thanksgiving, my children posed for some pictures in the carport of our coop. I am very grateful for my brother; Norm and sister-in-law, Jo who made a lovely feast and welcomed us.

Prior to leaving to celebrate Thanksgiving, my children posed for some pictures in the carport of our coop. I am very grateful for my brother, Norm and sister-in-law, Jo who made a lovely feast and welcomed us.

Click the blue link below to hear my latest song arrangement in progress. It has truly captivated me:

JUST A TUNE #2 – IN PROGRESS – Copyright 2014 by Judy Unger

I believe that humor is a wonderful coping mechanism and I look for it, especially when I’m overwhelmed. Over the past few weeks even though I faced some intense challenges, there were many moments when I was heartily laughing out loud.

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On a recent post, I wrote about my traumatic chiropractic experience. It really wasn’t funny at the time, even though I did make some puns about it. But now that a couple of weeks have passed, I think it was actually hilarious.

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I’m writing this post to update my blog audience about how I’ve been doing – my post title is a clue, for sure.

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After my two chiropractic visits, I needed to recover. I also wanted to see if the MRI that I had scheduled later in the week would give more information about my condition. I limped all the way from the parking lot to where the MRI desk was. After it was over, I was given a wheelchair ride back to my car because it was too painful for me to stand and walk.

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The procedure itself was relaxing and a great opportunity for me to compose lyrics in my head. The strange tapping sounds reminded me of one of George’s percussion keyboard patches.

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A week later, my doctor emailed me the results. There was nothing definitive. He said the MRI did show some arthritis and a few bulging discs.

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I had a huge laugh when I rapidly typed back to him and realized that auto-correct had enhanced my question of, “What do you do about bulging dicks?

My doctor, thankfully had a good sense of humor!

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In my message, I shared with him that my leg pain had gradually diminished since I’d discontinued an antibiotic I was on. Doxycycline was a fairly common remedy for dry eyes.

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I had started taking it a month ago because a dermatologist recommended it to treat a persistent rash I had on my face. I had been reluctant to try it before that because I was afraid of getting a stomach upset. But one drug that could treat two things sounded worthwhile.

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Somehow, it dawned on me that my leg pain began the same week I began taking that medicine. When I looked up side effects, muscle pain was listed so I stopped taking it. It was around the same time that I went to see the chiropractor.

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I was elated when my leg pain began to ebb away about two weeks later.

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Finally, I was able to ease back into my old routine with great joy. Yesterday I was walking though a sunny parking lot into a warehouse store. I must have looked quite emotional because tears were running down my cheeks.

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It was because I felt so grateful to not have a glimmer of pain in my leg, but I did have pain from my dry eyes. Even though they burned and were bothersome nothing was going to stop my gratitude. My heart just kept bursting with joy, while my eyes dripped.

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When I came home, I decided to call the chiropractor who had been so determined to help me to let him know how I was doing. He practically shouted with excitement to hear my voice on the phone. He even sounded like he was dancing.

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The gist was that he was so happy to hear that my pain had gone away.

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He said, “You know, when you replace a garage disposal – it works immediately. But adjustments aren’t like that; they take time to settle in. Thank you so much for calling to let me know you’re better because we just don’t call patients to find out. I want you to know you made my day!”

Those are my own words that my hypnotherapist wrote out for me. While I'm on my computer I am always reminded about the choices I make.

Those are my own words that my hypnotherapist wrote out for me. While I’m on my computer, I’m reminded about the choices I can make. My goal is always to feel free and peaceful!

I’ve decided to look at my leg pain healing as mysterious. Was it caused by the doxycycline? Did the chiropractor cure me with his wrenching adjustments? I wonder what helped it go away. For certain, this experience gave me a deep appreciation for my ability to walk and stand.

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.

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.

On the topic of being thankful, I will always be close to my former housekeeper, Rosa. Her concern and love for me is reciprocal and this week my children and I celebrated Rosa’s fiftieth birthday. I want to share a few more happy pictures and the sweet messages that my children and I wrote on her card.

This was her card and I erased my children’s names so I hope I won’t get in trouble for sharing this. Below are enlargements.

This was her card and I erased my children’s names so I hope I won’t get in trouble for sharing this. Below are enlargements.

The card to Rosa 3 The card to Rosa 2 The card to Rosa 1 The card to Rosa 4

Rosa's bday

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Usually a particular song that I am working on becomes a musical theme playing throughout my life as it develops. Last month, I couldn’t stop singing “Angel in the Sky.” And before that it was “Watching You Grow.”

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The newest song arrangement that George and I are working on is named “Just a Tune.” I am actually considering renaming my song but haven’t decided yet.

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When I was looking to name this post, I went right to this song. The line of “I’m so thankful,” was one that I added to my song just last week. Perhaps the Thanksgiving holiday and my thankful attitude was dictating from my subconscious.

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The thankfulness in my song was more about discovering the ability to love again. I wrote “Just a Tune when I was only 19. Hearing it so many years later was very touching and it grabbed my heart with a chokehold. I couldn’t sing it without blubbering.

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I never thought it was a terrific song because even though it was sweet to sing, it always felt repetitive. But with George’s expert arranging skills, the chords blossomed in a wonderful way and I fell in love with my song. It isn’t finished because I need to write more lyrics for the bridge before recording my vocal. I am patiently waiting to find them.

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Judy and Cheryl ivy background

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I wrote “Just a Tune” when I fell in love with a new friend in college. Her name was Cheryl and she was so inspiring and fun to be with. My song was about how grateful I was to find a friend like her after I had been so badly hurt by another friend in high school.

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Many times, I have conversations with Cheryl in my mind. I have so many beautiful memories of writing and singing that song for her; it was special for both of us. I can hear her voice telling me how thrilled she is to hear it again. Cheryl died in 2009 and I will always miss her.

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All these years later, am I still singing to her? Our deep friendship was such a long time ago. I remembered the feelings I had then but honestly I’m not thinking about her anymore with my song.

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Who am I singing to?

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I’ve decided I don’t need to know.

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My song possibly has elements of prophecy – it is a song about finding love again. But romantic love is something I have no desire for. Any longing is tucked in a remote place in my heart where I cannot ever imagine reaching again.

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When I sing with my new arrangement, I feel teary emotion spilling forth with every word because of those feelings.

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So instead, I prefer to sing my song to God with deep gratitude for the music that has continued to guide, comfort and heal me.

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So thankful for our love

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The laugh

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

MY JOURNEY IN SIGHT – PART 10

November 7, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Here is a brief summary of my eye issues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Is dry eye considered a disease or a syndrome??

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dry eye isn’t so much a curable condition, as one we have to manage – at least that is how I feel
.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can open my eyes again – somewhat.

I can open my eyes again – somewhat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blood Draw 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bright eyed

I wrote to her and said:

On Sep 13, 2014, Judy wrote:

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

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

Hi Judy,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love and blessings, Judi

Judi & Judy

Judi and Judy

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

WHEN LIFE HOLDS PAIN

November 1, 2014

BLOG TABLE OF CONTENTS

Yartzeit Candle for mom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Memory of love

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

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

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

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

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

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Judy & Joni

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

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

Autumn Day

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

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

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

-Joni healing

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

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

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

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

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His response reminded me what a great doctor he was.

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

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

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

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Autumn leaves watercolor

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

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

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My eyes glistened as I spoke.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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When life holds pain 2

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

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

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

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

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

ANGEL IN THE SKY

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

WITH ME WHEN I WAS BORN

October 14, 2014

BLOG TABLE OF CONTENTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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But for some reason I lost my feeling for it.

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

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

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Judy sleeping in her basket

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Click the blue link below to play audio: 

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

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

#289 YOU’RE WITH ME – PART 1

#347 WITH ME – PART 2

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

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

Today I am 55 years old.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-When I'm discouraged

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

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

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

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His granddaughter moved out six months later and got married.

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

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

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

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

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His favorite cap

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

-#15 OUR LOVE REMAINS WITH EACH TEAR

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

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

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Mom's Hand at death 2

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

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

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

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

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Couldn't have had a better dad

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Dad kissing me

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

MY LOVELY LIGHT

October 6, 2014

BLOG TABLE OF CONTENTS

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

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

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

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ANGEL IN THE SKY #2-12/19/14 Copyright 2014 by Judy Unger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Music heals me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My revised lyrics were:

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

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Jason's grave and shadow 3

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

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

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

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

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I share some lyric lines below:

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From my song “Angel in the Sky.”

From my song “Angel in the Sky.”

From my song “Somewhere I Can’t See.”

From my song “Somewhere I Can’t See.”

From my song “With Me”

From my song “With Me”

From my song "My Shining Star."

From my song “My Shining Star”

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

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

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Jason as my light

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Dear Sammi,

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

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

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I keep creating music that helps me.

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Thinking of you,

Judy

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

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

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

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autumn-leaves-larger.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I truly understand what you meant with those words.

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

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

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Jason Book 5

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Jason Book 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Will this pain ever stop

Jason so pale

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

I CAN’T TELL YOU

September 28, 2014

BLOG TABLE OF CONTENTS

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

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

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

Click the blue link to play audio: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Black & White linoleum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But there was a time when I found incredible courage.

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

I Can't Tell You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is my grief.

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

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

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

Jason on black and white floor

© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

MY JOURNEY IN SIGHT – PART 9

September 21, 2014

BLOG TABLE OF CONTENTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Healthy Food 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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It was because I started drinking a lot of water!

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B&W Glass close up

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

Tea Leaves

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay, so my illustration might not be water exactly.

Okay, so my illustration might not be water exactly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have begun writing the lyrics for my new song.

I have begun writing the lyrics for my new song.

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

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

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

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Below is my arrangement in progress:

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WATCHING YOU GROW – Arrangement in Progress

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The miracle

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

MY JOURNEY IN SIGHT – PART 8

September 12, 2014

BLOG TABLE OF CONTENTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

]

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

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

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

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

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I was open to it.

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

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

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

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

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And her mentioning God really touched me.

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

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

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

Judi

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

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

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

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

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

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Coral Rose close up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The experience was quite spiritual for me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How is that possible?

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

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Coral Rose

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

MY JOURNEY IN SIGHT – PART 7

September 9, 2014

BLOG TABLE OF CONTENTS

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

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

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

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

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

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Serum Tears and box

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

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

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

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

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Serum bottle

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

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

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

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Playing at Kulak's 12

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

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

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

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Butterfly of death

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Unfortunately, everything changed the next day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Scared Eye

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Now I felt embarrassed for insisting upon this appointment.

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

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And my butterfly of hope was smashed to the ground.

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dead butterfly

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Facebook Post on Blog

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

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

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

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Susan and I

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To be continued . . .

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Playing at Kulak's 11

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

WON’T STAY EMPTY

August 30, 2014

BLOG TABLE OF CONTENTS

Being a food illustrator certainly has me thinking about food.

Being a food illustrator certainly has me thinking about food.

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

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

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

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

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

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The Door and Butterflies

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

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Below is the third verse from that song: 

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As you look upon

the empty spaces when I’m gone

You will see – someday

I know you’ll fill them

They won’t stay empty

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

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

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

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The key and butterflies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm swimming to Cancun!

I’m swimming to Cancun!

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

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

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

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I was so pleased with myself for doing this!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Blood Draw 2

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

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

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

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

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One friend wrote:

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

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

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

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“Whoa! Vampire party favors!”

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Blood Draw

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


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