Posts Tagged ‘optimism’


October 1, 2015


This illustration of mine is the cover for my song named Autumn Recollections, which was composed in 1977. The fall is significant for me because that was when my son, Jason died. And later on my mother also died in the fall.

In five days, it will be the 23rd anniversary of Jason’s death. He died in 1992 at the age of five from a congenital heart defect.

When I finish my newest song with a vocal, I plan to repost this story.

This post is my way to honor him.

Autumn Leaves larger copy
Last week I composed a new song, which I named “It’s Not Forever.” I gave my new song that title before I even composed any lyrics or melody.

I haven’t decided upon my lyrics exactly, but the arrangement is done and I plan to record my guitar into it soon. I’m excited to share here an acoustic version I recorded in my bedroom, as well as the arrangement in progress.

Click the blue link to hear audio:

It’s Not Forever Acoustic-Copyright 2015 by Judy Unger 

It’s Not Forever Arrangement 10/1/15-Copyright 2015 by Unger 

 I usually write a new song every few months. It surprised me that another song came to me so soon, since I just composed my song “In the Past.”

“It’s Not Forever” is definitely about coping in the present. I find it humorous. Now I’ve moved out of the past and perhaps I’ll name my next song “Someday” as a tribute to the future!

These lyrics to my newest song mention how “I’ve been there, too. That is similar to my older song “Hang On.”

These lyrics to my newest song mention how “I’ve been there, too. That is similar to my older song “Hang On.”

Since my music and writing journey began in 2010, a lot of things have changed for me regarding my feelings about grief.

In 2011, I wrote my song “Hang On.” My lyrics had me speaking to someone whom I imagined had given up on life. I emphatically say, “One day, your pain will go away!”

How could I know that? I’m squirming just thinking about how I had the confidence to write those lyrics. And yet, many times I’ve felt hopeless and listened to my own song. It has uplifted me, so that counters some of my conflicted feelings.

I’m not planning to revise “Hang On,” but moving forward I prefer not to tell anyone how, when or whether they might heal. I want my words to only reflect my own experience.

Recently, I sang a new vocal for “Hang On” and the story where it can be heard is at the blue link below:

Hang On – Original Story and Song

The name of this story is derived from the last line of this paragraph.

“The years that buried me”

It turned out that I was very inspired by a paragraph I wrote while composing “In the Past.” Even though I only used one word from that entire paragraph in my song (tragedy), those sentences were very profound for me.

I was extremely moved by the line of: “How could I forget you?”

I have told myself many times that my deceased son, Jason wouldn’t have wanted me to suffer with endless grief.

Despite knowing that, I couldn’t help my feelings. He was dead and I was left coping with horrific pain.

I believe that for a long time, I subconsciously felt guilty letting go of my grief and sadness. My subconscious dictated that if I wasn’t crying, perhaps I had forgotten how much I loved him.

Autumn leaves watercolor copy

A few weeks ago, I was up late at night writing an introduction for a book about grief, which I planned to record as an audiobook. It was something I had wanted to do for a long time, but wasn’t sure where to begin.

My hesitation was related to how it was going to be different from the one I thought I’d release three years ago. I no longer wanted to “ educate” anyone about grief and preach that healing was certain.

It turned out that living with my dry eye condition gave me a lot more compassion. It was hard to have hope of healing when pain in the present was overwhelming.

When I wrote my introduction, I shared a long list of words I copied from a post on an Internet grief forum. This group had thousands of members and people were asked to use a single word to describe their grief. Below is just a partial list:List for griefSome hopeful words that really stood out to me were: stages, brave, enlightening, determined, necessary and life changing. The people who wrote those words amazed me with their positive approach; I know words are powerful and can shape feelings. When I’ve described my grief – it wasn’t with such positive intentions.

Expressing raw pain was more helpful for me because it was a release. Eighteen years after my son’s death, I could easily remember and write about the horror of losing him. I called it the “amputation of my soul” and that statement described deep pain no one else could see or imagine.

So my word on that long list was “amputation.” A sudden amputation could cause a person to bleed to death; it leaves huge scars and one must learn to compensate for the missing part. That is what I’ve done.

The word on that long list that was repeated most often was “forever.” That certainly fits my belief about how the amputation of my soul changed me forever. All of this led me to write my new song.

These are the chorus lyrics to my newest song “in progress.”

This paragraph inspired chorus lyrics to my newest song “in progress.”

So what exactly am I singing about in, “It’s Not Forever?”

I am singing to someone in grief in the verses and in the chorus I am singing to myself.

I express how thankful I am that my grief did not last forever.

And my song offers me hope that my dry eye discomfort will get better someday – just like some of the awful things I’ve experienced in my past. I still become emotional remembering Jason’s death 23 years later, but it is much different now.

I realize that the last line of the chorus – of “being carried” is a cliché. However, sometimes I’ve wondered how I’ve coped as well as I have. My explanation is that I have been carried – hope, love, memories and God. Those are blessings that I am grateful for every day of my life.

The word “always” is similar to “forever” and represents extreme thinking. “Never” is also extreme, being the opposite.

The word “always” is similar to “forever” and represents extreme thinking. “Never” is also extreme, being the opposite.

On that long list, I think “forever” is the saddest word. To me, it represents complete hopelessness. Similar ones are: terminal, everlasting, always, lifeless, eternal and infinite.

It’s interesting, but all of those words not only describe grief, they also clearly revolve around death.

Yes, death certainly is forever.

Even though my song started out as a testament to my healing from grief – it ended up carrying another important meaning for me beyond that.

What is not forever is LIFE! Life is finite.

So even though I wrote my song to express how deep grief did not last forever for me, now I’m reminded that, “Life is not forever.”

I want to make the most of this precious gift I have been given. Every day, I search for ways to treasure my life. What especially gives me joy are my three children. I am fortunate that they are all very close to me.

This past month, my youngest son (18) began attending college for the first time. He has had so many wonderful experiences so far, which he has shared with me. This led me to find additional insight for my song.

“It’s not forever” also applies to what can easily be taken for granted. Watching my children grow up has been such a blessing. One day, they will be much older and things might be different. Sometimes, it’s hard to realize how precious something is until it is gone.

i want to go back

over seasons, through the years

When my child died, I buried him and part of me died, too. I wanted to crawl into his coffin to be with him. I wished I were dead because the pain was too much for me.

I kept on going. It seemed like my grief was endless and forever – but it turned out it wasn’t. Eventually, I marveled at my survival.

The years that buried me are over now because I found a way to dig myself out. And when I did, I realized that Jason had never left me.

I only left behind my grief and sadness. I rediscovered joy.

The huge hole in my heart wasn’t empty either – it was filled with our love.

Jason on bike

Jason 5 You carried me

© Judy Unger and 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


August 31, 2015



I’ve attached the silhouette image above to my song “In The Past.” This image represents a time when the future held limitless possibilities. I was 19 and my future husband was facing me on the other side. But despite some of the difficult things I’ve lived through, I look forward to my future now like I did when I was that young girl.

Click the link below to hear my newest song:

IN THE PAST-9/12/15 Copyright 2015 by Judy Unger

Never in a million years did I imagine I’d be a passionate songwriter at this time in my life. I’m definitely amazed at where I am today! And I’m even more amazed that I can still smile.

Never in a million years did I imagine I’d be a passionate songwriter at this time in my life. I’m definitely amazed at where I am today!


I look back, amazed at where I am today

There were times I almost gave up

Painful memories are in my past

I just didn’t know then

I’d live with joy again

In the past are things I don’t regret

What I suffered through

I won’t forget

The strength to say goodbye

Gave me wings to fly

My journey is not about where I will go

Each day, I treasure my life

I was blessed to rise above

Every tragedy didn’t imprison me

In the past are things I don’t regret

I know how love once felt

I won’t forget

the strength to say goodbye

gave me wings to fly

Once I felt hopeless and so alone

Now I’m soaring – I have flown

In the past are things I don’t regret

I know how love once felt

I won’t forget

the strength to say goodbye

gave me wings to fly

Gave me wings to fly

I look back

I felt like I had to correct my hypnotherapist. She was saying something to me about my latest song and called it “The Past.” I told her that my song was named “IN the Past.”

I explained that I wanted my song title to begin with the word “in.” But did the word “in” – INsinuate that I was living in the past instead of the present? I believed that my song was all about moving forward.

But even though I was sure about my song’s title – my lyrics kept changing and evolving. I still went ahead and recorded vocals. I had a great performance of my song, even though I’ve changed some of the lyrics since then.

Judy’s Performance of “In the Past” 8/11/15 at Kulak’s Woodshed

Beach day

My 21-year-old daughter decided to face the unknown. She courageously quit her job and was excited to take some time off to figure out what she planned to do with her life. She had saved her money after working hard without a break for two years.

Before her job ended, she asked me if I would go somewhere with her. We chose to go to a nearby beach town for a few days. Her excitement as the trip approached was infectious and I knew spending time with her would be good for me.

A week after her job ended, we took off on our little get-away. It was still a challenge for me to leave the safety and comfort of my apartment. My eyes hurt whenever I felt anxious – so I concentrated upon feeling relaxed.

This is a pen and ink drawing I did in Middle School. I have always loved having my guitar with me at the beach.

The beach town we were driving toward was very close to where my parents used to take me when I was a young girl. As my car approached the familiar exits and sights, I felt memories swelling in my head and heart. Such wonderful times I had!

I began to share some of my memories, but then my daughter said, “Gee, mom – it sounds like sometimes you’re living in the past! Let’s make some new memories instead – you and I!”

Her words made sense, but didn’t stop my memories. I squeezed her hand and understood that she wanted our time together to be special.

I became quieter, but the memories still whispered to me and I hoped she wasn’t aware.

Over our two days together, we definitely made some new sweet memories for both of us to keep. I rode a bicycle on the beach for the first time in many years. We took long walks and ate in lovely cafes. I enjoyed the present!

I decided that my memories from the past were tinged with sadness. They were reminders of how much I missed my parents and even my friend, Cheryl, who died eight years ago.

This is a view from the porch of the lovely bed and breakfast home we stayed in.

This is a view from the porch of the lovely bed and breakfast home where my daughter and I stayed.

When I came back from our lovely trip, I was very excited to finalize the arrangement for “In The Past” with George (my arranger). I recorded vocals and performed my song, but was certain I could improve the lyrics. I waited for inspiration and it finally came to me.

Originally my chorus went:

In the past there’s nothing I regret

What I suffered through I can’t forget

Things that made me cry

Gave me wings to fly

I wrote those words with confidence because I never regretted what I did for my children and later on, my parents. Taking care of their complicated needs consumed many years of my life. I never gave up, but there were times when I wondered how I kept on going.

After 31 years of marriage, I left my husband and have no regrets about my decision. I suffered with guilt for a long time because I regretted hurting him (and my children). My song uplifts me because it is about overcoming that.

As I wrote the words below, they rhymed, so I share them with humor:

I don’t regret starting a new life

or following my dream

but saying there’s nothing I regret

is far too extreme

Once again, my black and white thinking knocks me over. Of course, there are things I’ve regretted and I cannot sing a lyric line if it doesn’t feel true for me.

Here is my list of things I’ve regretted (and still do):

1. I’ve shared too much personal information with the wrong people.

2. I allowed myself to gain a lot of weight when I felt depressed about my eyes while separating from my husband.

3. I started biting my nails again a year ago.

4. I have admitted my parents’ imperfections on my blog too many times.

5. I’ve “lent” money to good friends and have felt confused and disappointed when no effort has been made to pay me back.

6. I haven’t been good at keeping secrets.

My best antidote to my above list is: I AM HUMAN! Compassion is absolutely necessary. I’m really good at doling out compassion to others and turning it upon myself is the key. Even though I’ve made mistakes (repeatedly), I know that I’m capable of changing and learning.

That led me to revise my lyric line about “there’s nothing I regret” to: “In the past, are things I don’t regret.”

suffered through

That line leaves room for me to still have regrets about other things!
Things that made me cry

I decided that another line needed changing. It was the one about “things that made me cry.”

Gaining my wings through tears and adversity was true. I decided I could sing those words for my first chorus. But a better line for me on the subsequent choruses was:

“The strength to say goodbye, gave me wings to fly.”

Here are some things I’ve said goodbye to:

1. I said goodbye to my beloved 5-year-old son when he died.

But I also said goodbye to the heartache that followed me for over two decades. I truly have healed from what I suffered through. The words “I won’t forget” is a choice I’ve made (instead of “I can’t forget). I choose to remember the pain because I celebrate my survival and joy after so many years of living through the torture of grief.

2. I said goodbye to a big home and married lifestyle. I said goodbye to the only man I ever have been with since I was 18 years old.

I currently live in a cramped apartment with my two sons. My office is my bedroom. The space is smaller than my closet was in my former large home. My apartment has only one bathroom and for 20 years my home had 4 bathrooms. So everyone here asks permission before taking a shower.

3. I said goodbye to both my parents as each of them took their last breath on earth.

4. I said goodbye to the eyesight I took for granted. It has been three years since I developed complications from cataract surgery. I remember how lovely it was when I could see clearly without pain and fogginess.

5. I said goodbye to my young children.

I look ahead with the knowledge that I am also saying goodbye to them as they become independent adults. When my daughter told me she’d like to go to Thailand, I just smiled. But I am not smiling thinking about my oldest son. He is going on a dangerous trip of driving through Mexico in a few months with my ex-husband. I have tried to discourage him – but to no avail.


I love butterflies and metaphors; above are some of my illustrations. I also have a song named “You Are My Wings. Therefore, it’s no surprise that once again wings and the metaphor of flying pops up in another one of my songs.

Hopeless and alone

I want to list what “gaining wings” has meant to me:

1. Wings are a metaphor for music lifting me up. I was taken away from sorrow and have “risen above” the things that could have sunk me.

2. Wings represent following my dream. It is exciting for me to imagine flying somewhere wonderful with my music.

3. I want to spread my wings and inspire others to fly. Nothing is more beautiful for me than uplifting and comforting someone in deep grief.

4. I see wings as fearlessness. Flying could be scary, but the grief and the experience of losing those I love has only reinforced the preciousness of my life. And this increases my willingness to take some chances to do what brings me joy.

My journey

5. Wings are my freedom. It was horrible for me to watch my parents suffer and die. I grieved deeply during the time they declined. I was actually relieved when death freed them from their horrific pain. And then their deaths led to my own personal freedom because I no longer had to worry about them. I had no idea how much energy that took until it was over.

6. Wings represent transformation – just like a butterfly. Although I am very passionate about my musical journey, my artistic journey has taken me to a wonderful place also that I didn’t anticipate.

I have been very busy illustrating. In the past, I thought my career as an artist was over because my paintings were time-consuming and obsolete. It turns out that by reinventing my technique (going from being a watercolorist to a digital artist), I am now very much in demand. Last week, I created a strawberry illustration that I’m sharing below.

I want to also share a recent comment on my illustration blog that touched me deeply. 

I have been very busy illustrating. In the past, I thought my career as an artist was over because my paintings were obsolete. It turns out that by reinventing my technique on a computer, I am suddenly now very much in demand. I created that strawberry illustration above recently.

Reply to Phil Phils comment art blog

strength to say goodbye

When I was 19, I wrote a song entitled “Saying Goodbye.” I feel like the line of “the strength to say goodbye” is a follow-up to that song. 36 years after writing how hard saying goodbye was – I’ve gone to celebrating where it has taken me.

I want to share some feelings about the line of “I know how love once felt.”

I like the hopefulness of that line. It sounds like a prophecy, and perhaps someday I will fall in love again. But at this moment, it is very remote since I have not gone on a date in over 35 years.

Since that concept has me squirming, instead of romantic love I want to fly again with joy!

Unfortunately, I am not flying at this moment. But that is what I love about my song. It is my ideal.

During the saddest times in my life, I was certain that the true happiness I felt when I was young would never happen again. I was wrong! (Just like when I thought my art career was over).

Five years ago in 2010, I was very joyful when I first began to write and rediscover music. Remembering that feeling makes me confident that I will feel joyful in the same way again.

I don’t want to think in extremes of happy or sad because I’m not unhappy – but I would like to laugh more and make time for friends who understand me.

I do strive to treasure each day of my life. I am so blessed that I can make choices for myself now. One of those choices is to find ways to feel better.

At this time in my life, sometimes staying peaceful can be very challenging. My children are wonderful humans and I’m very close to all three of them. I often feel like they are taking me on non-stop roller coaster rides because I am so involved in their lives. At the age of 55, I’m not up for that ride as much as when they were younger. But it is a choice I’ve honestly made because I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I achieve peacefulness through my music and songs. When I compose something new (like this particular song), I am saturated with serenity. What a blessing it is that I have such a wonderful outlet!

To end this story, I will share some of my scrawled lyrics in progress. The words I have written below are brutally honest and very personal. It is because of writing those words that I found the insight I needed for this song. I may actually compose a new song one day with some of my heartfelt words below.

I must admit that my lyrics are like my bible. I study them and find new meanings every day.

Back into a fire

dead butterflyTimes when I gave up

pastel butterfly

What I feel I deserveButterfly-Rose SwallowtailSeparate lives 2 Butterfly of grief pastelHow do I stop 2Monarch red glow Drowning that feeling

Jason 3 days old the years that buried me

Kulak's 8-18

© 2015 by Judy Unger  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.


August 7, 2015

Click the blue link below to hear my song:

RETREAT-9/11/15 Copyright 2015 by Judy Unger

RETREAT-8/22/15 Copyright 2015 by Judy Unger-



Retreat is where I go when I am sad

All my tears let me know

I long for you and miss you so


Retreat is my escape from the world

I withdraw and suddenly

I feel you surround me


At those times, I’d wish you were near

and then, you’d appear

But you were only in my mind,

only in my mind, you were only in my mind


Retreat is when a song can soothe my soul

A melody fills my heart

reminding me we’re not apart


Retreat is where I find peacefulness

My music has begun

to be my true companion


At those times, I’d wish you were near

and then, you’d appear

but you were only in my mind

only in my mind, you were only in my mind

only in my mind

This image is a way for me to depict “Melody.” She represents my musical inspiration.

This image is a way for me to depict “Melody.” She represents my musical inspiration.


verb: withdrawal, flight, give way, fall, recede, ebb, wane, retire

noun: haven, escape, sanctuary, isolation, solitude, hideaway, refuge

The word “retreat” is very profound for me. As a verb, I see negative meanings. As a noun, I see positive meanings. The “black and white” implications of those definitions relate well to my own personal struggle with extreme thinking.

I wrote my song “Retreat” when I was nineteen. But I can truly relate to my song at this time in my life. When I developed dry eye problems in 2012, social situations became tough for me. It’s been three years that I’ve lived with dry eye disease.

I see retreating as a way to escape from pain. I basically have surrendered to my condition. Stress causes my eyes to worsen, so I strive to keep my environment comfortable. Inner peace allows me to function, so every day my goal is to maintain serenity.

Recently, I tried a few new remedies for my eyes, but found it discouraging when every single one caused my eyes to worsen.

I get depressed when I long for the eyes I had in the past. Acceptance and appreciation for what I’m able to do despite this is where I’ve put my focus. It is not easy, but familiar – it reminds me of how I coped with grief. I have a strong belief that healing is possible. I tell myself on bad days that things will get better. I never want to give up hope.

This is my song sheet from 1980 that helped me remember my song. I did not remember the melody for the verses and composed new chords for them 31 years later.

This is my song sheet from 1980 that helped me remember my song. I did not remember the melody for the verses and composed new chords for them 31 years later.

Retreat is one of three songs of mine that have different rhythms between the verse and chorus (the other two are “You Were There” and “How We Don’t Care.”

My first arrangement of Retreat in 2011 didn’t fulfill my vision for my song. It was a challenging song to sing. I hoped one day I could revisit it and do my song justice.

A year later, I revised the lyrics further and my arranger George created a second version. This past month, I sang another new vocal for it. It is not for an album release because I plan to revise the arrangement again someday to improve the rhythm transitions.

But for now, I’m glad I didn’t abandon this song because it gave me a lot of insight!

Guitar Stream

To hide and withdraw seems negative; it represents surrendering and giving up. Yet, finding serenity within that escape is truly a beautiful concept.

When I wrote my song as a young girl, I was definitely discouraged. Yet when I retreated, I found inner peace through my music. That happened again for me because of music later in my life.

The chorus was originally written with words expressing disappointment. It went:

“At those times I’d wish you were there, but you never were – you were only in my mind.”

In 2012, I changed the chorus words ever so slightly – I wanted a more positive feeling for my song. The chorus change was also an improvement because I liked the perfect rhymes. My new words were:

At those times I’d wish you were near and then you’d appearbut you were only in my mind.”

I don’t see the lyric line of “only in my mind” as being negative. I believe thoughts are powerful; they lead to how I feel and can become my reality. What is in my mind often leads to a beautiful song and that helps heal me.

This old watercolor of mine is a good image for my song; lots of cascading turmoil often leads me to a beautiful place.

This old watercolor of mine is a good image for my song; lots of cascading turmoil often leads me to a beautiful place.

I see the concept of being surrounded (as in my song “Beside Me Always”) as a very spiritual one.

Even though I wrote Retreat at 19, when I revised it 30 years later I thought it was a prophecy (like many other of my early songs.) I wanted to envision my deceased son, Jason appearing to me. When that didn’t happen, I imagined it might be my mother. She always comforted me when I was sad and died a year after I revised my lyrics.

But the truth was that every time I sang Retreat, I didn’t picture anyone appearing. That made it very hard for me to connect to my song. So who was near to me in my mind?

Then last week when I sang a new vocal, I found my answer. My own lyrics unlocked the mystery for me with the words below:

Retreat, is when a song can soothe my soul. A melody fills my heart, reminding me we’re not apart.”

It was “Melody!”

When I wrote the revised lyrics to Retreat in 2012, my subconscious was acknowledging that I had a guardian angel/fairy named “Melody.” Melody could also be synonymous with God. Her presence kept me safe; she offered me a blanket of musical comfort and protection from the world outside.

Melody is a shining star in my life and whispers in my ear to heal.

Melody is a shining star in my life and whispers in my ear to heal.

With my eye condition, I feel safest when I am at home. Even though that can be isolating, I seldom feel lonely. I only need to open my heart to find “Melody” if I am discouraged.

Last week, I was at my computer working on a new vocal line for Retreat. My eyes were bothering me so I stopped what I was doing and picked up my guitar to play.

It had been several months since I’d composed a new song. It felt unlikely – I did not have any new ideas or a burning desire to write anything. But as I played, I discovered a few sweet chords and felt soothed by their progression.

A week later, I shared those chords with my arranger, George. He wrote them out quickly and played them on his piano; it sounded beautiful!  He asked me if I had any more chords. Surprisingly I did – but I didn’t think they were any good. George said, “Jude, you underestimate your abilities – your chords will work fine!”

Within two sessions an arrangement was completed and I was in awe that I had a new song so quickly. But my new song didn’t have any words or vocal melody!

George asked me what to name it and I said, “In The Past.”

That statement was such a beautiful one I had made at my last hypnotherapy session. Just thinking about overcoming dreadful things in my past inspired me.

I went to work and quickly wrote lyrics that would once again help me cope with any stress and sadness in my life.

Wings to fly

The last line of the chorus announced that I found my wings. They were the ones that allowed me to escape from pain. Ironically, I had just finished another song a few months ago named “You Are My Wings.” For that song, I also allowed Melody to be my wings. 

I could easily write another story about all the things in my life that I have cried over. And most of those things that happened to me are the reason I am flying now. Instead of retreating from pain or being imprisoned by it, I took off.

I wanted to see what I had already written about “Retreat” and it was an amazing coincidence when I saw some lyrics in progress attached to my story named “Retreat-Part 2.” They carried the same theme that my new song did. Retreat was a prophecy for “In The Past.”

It was even more moving for me because of what I was living with when I wrote that older story.

I know I'll get by

Link to Part 2 of this story:

Story about Retreat – Part 2

Three years ago, I was completely despondent. I was miserable in my marriage and couldn’t share my feelings with anyone. I was depressed watching my parents suffer and decline.

On “Retreat-Part 2,” I shared a picture of my father. In that same picture, my mother can be seen asleep at the table. She could barely communicate because of her dementia and oh, how I missed her. And that was the last picture I took of my father, because he died two weeks later.

It was one month after my father died, that I found the courage to tell my husband I wanted a divorce.

On that story, I wrote how I had heart palpitations from stress. And my eye problems were beginning; I wrote how I had gone to urgent care with strange symptoms and visual disturbances.

I almost gave up

During that awful time, I lived inside my mind. My haven and refuge was with my beloved “Melody.” She took care of me and I created many soothing songs because of her. Those melodies guided me through.

Hopeless and so alone

Now three years later, all of the stress I was living with in Part 2 is in the past.

That was why I was able to compose my new uplifting song, which helps me heal.

Thank you, “Melody.”My journey

Click the blue link to hear a rough recording of my new song. It is still very new but progressing nicely. I love it! 

IN THE PAST Freestyle recording-Copyright 2015 by Judy Unger

IN THE PAST Arrangement– Copyright 2015 by J Unger


Melody in the clouds

© Judy Unger and 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


July 27, 2015


This is where I’ve been doing some new guitar recordings, as well as stories for an audio book. My engineer sits at the mixing board near the window when I am recording. Sometimes, the birds are chirping too loudly and he goes outside to shoo them away.

This is where I’ve been doing some new guitar recordings, as well as stories for an audio book. My engineer sits at the mixing board near the window when I am recording. Sometimes, the birds are chirping too loudly and he goes outside to shoo them away.

Click the blue link below to hear one of my recent guitar recordings:

Watching You Grow Guitar Instrumental-Copyright 2015 by J Unger

For several years, I planned to eventually release an enormous audio book, which I recorded in 2012. I kept waiting, mostly because that audio book had a lot of problems for me.

I wondered whether I was overly preachy about healing from grief on some of my stories. My voice sounded artificial in many parts and the recordings were over-processed.

But I also felt that the two stories I recorded about the loss of my son, Jason were definitely worth sharing. My emotional rendition was something I couldn’t imagine recreating.

Now that I was close to finishing my first vocal CD, I decided I wanted to release a smaller audio book; it would include Jason’s story and a few other stories I was comfortable with. I planned to record a new and updated introduction.

For two years, I struggled with writing it. I was dealing with the deaths of both my parents and a divorce after a long marriage. I wanted to be upbeat and positive and knew it was best to give myself time to heal.

After hiring an assistant to help me two months ago, my progress toward releasing my music accelerated. Suddenly, I was filled with enthusiasm because my eyes had slightly improved. I wrote a new introduction that felt inspiring and honest.

I was ready to record it and did microphone tests in several places. I picked a place working with an engineer whom I knew from Kulak’s Woodshed (where I often performed at open mics). He did not have a “soundproof” studio. But he had a microphone that remarkably softened sibilance; that “s” sound drove me crazy on my older recordings.

My engineers area

It had been three years since I’d recorded spoken audio. When I began to speak my new introduction, the engineer told me I was speaking too quietly. Unfortunately, having a soft voice caused more “room noise” to enter the microphone and that included my breathing, too.

I tried to speak louder, but then I sounded like I was shouting. Eventually, I gave up worrying about it. My book was my creation and I was the vehicle. My voice would have to be good enough.

Originally, I thought I’d only record a new introduction to go along with seven older recordings. But the new introduction sounded so nice, that I decided to record five other stories. I still planned to use the two older recordings of Jason’s story.

The first story I recorded was named “I Opened The Box.” It was about how I prepared myself to write about Jason’s life and death. The last line was, “I was finally ready to write about losing my child.”

That box was in my closet and the story about opening it up after 18 years brought up many feelings.  The memories from that time in my life were vivid. I felt as if I could easily picture Jason and his preschool classmates.

Before I left, the soft-spoken man who recorded me said, “I just want you to know that I cannot imagine what it must be like to lose a child. I don’t know what to say – I am so sorry.” I let him know his words were appreciated.

I wrote this poem when I was in deep grief.

I wrote this poem when I was in deep grief.

It was after recording the story about opening the box, I made the decision to re-record the two stories about Jason. That way, all of the new recordings would match.

My new assistant was adamant that I record in a way that wasn’t overly emotional. I had received feedback like that before over the last few years. Too much emotion was a distraction for the listener.

But I also remembered how my story affected other people. Two good friends both told me, “Judy, when I was listening to your story, I had to pull over. It was so heart-rending that I had trouble driving.”

Jason and Judy

There were two stories about Jason. The first part was about his birth and first surgery when he was an infant. It ended before he was scheduled to have a second surgery at the age of five.

My stories were practically memorized because I’d listened to them so many times.

I managed to record those stories and there was still plenty of emotion. There were a few paragraphs where waves of emotion tugged at my voice, but I simply repeated them. It was far less than when my voice was teary on the older recordings, so I considered it to be an improvement.

When I was finished recording the second part, I came home and quietly ate lunch. I was exhausted and took a nap. In the afternoon, I was able to record vocals, which was uplifting for me. In the evening, I had dinner plans that I was looking forward to.

I wrote those words above two years after Jason died. The opera of his death played for me for well over a decade.

I wrote those words above two years after Jason died. The opera of his death played for me for well over a decade.

Below are the paragraphs leading up to where my voice was hijacked by emotion, despite my determination to speak smoothly. The phrases that caused my voice to shake are in italics.

1. When the elevator door opened, Jason’s voice piped out brightly, “Goodbye Gramma!” The mere mention of those words launched my mother into gut-wrenching sobs for years. They were Jason’s very last words on earth. The opera of Jason’s death now begins!

2. The surgeon came to see me – she was crying. I told her, “Go away!” I decided I didn’t have to listen to any more technical jargon about cardiac abnormalities every again.

3. It was soon time for me to go in and face seeing death. It would be the first dead person I had ever seen in my life. His eyes were open and unforgettable. They were lifeless and empty. Only the night before, those same eyes were intelligent – sparkling with joy and laughter. There was no question that he was gone and this was only a corpse.

4. Every year when it becomes fall, I remember that he is dead. The leaves that fall represent his body crumpling into a pile of dust. That first Halloween was less than a month after he died. All I could think of was his skeletal body in the cold ground. The scary monsters were nothing compared to what I conjured up in my mind.

5. The sympathy cards continued to arrive. The preschool took extra special care of my surviving son. He needed it. His mother had vacated the “mommy premises.”

6. Books have been written about the stages of grief. I have lived all of those stages. The numbness was bizarre. There was no sense of time. Eating, sleeping, living seemed outside the realm of what it once was. There was no purpose for anything anymore. The most difficult moment of every single day was to wake up and face what had happened. I did not want to wake up again, ever!

7. I looked at the sky, could he be there? I looked at a bird, at a butterfly; could his soul be visiting me? I strained to hear his voice again; was he calling for his mommy? There was no color in the world anywhere; there was nothing but shades of gray. It did not seem possible that it could get any worse. It did not seem possible that it could get any better. It was what it was: Empty. Sad. Excruciating. Endless!

8. Eventually, I cleaned out his room. For a bereaved parent, it is a difficult step to face. I spent many days crying on his bed, holding one of his shirts against my cheek. I had to face going to other children’s birthday parties with my living children. I had to walk through the market and not cry when I saw the food I used to buy for him. I had to learn how to live while seeing children his age continue to grow up. I had to accept that he would never grow up. He would never outlive me. He would never be anything but what he was.

Below is a link to the story that carries much of the material I recorded:


I wrote a song named “Every Season” in 2011 and it was the first new song I composed after over 30 years. So discovering this plaque was very touching for me. Jason was memorialized with the line of: “A child of all seasons.”

I wrote a song named “Every Season” in 2011 and it was the first new song I composed after over 30 years. So discovering this plaque was very touching for me. Jason was memorialized with the line of: “A child of all seasons.”

I showered and looked forward to seeing my friends for dinner. As I drove, I listened to my other new audio stories about music, which were very upbeat unlike the story I had recorded in the morning.

I picked up one of my friends and we met our other two friends at a restaurant nearby. We all hugged and had a lot of catching up to do. I liked listening to my friends talk about things going on with them. I was fairly quiet.

My passion for music and illustration work kept me isolated. I knew it was really good for me to be with them. I blinked back the annoying fog in my eyes and noticed that they weren’t hurting as much as they usually did. I was grateful for that.

We all finished eating and it was soon time to go home. As the other women were going over the check, I excused myself to go to the restroom.

As I left the table, I marveled that my heart felt light. Being with my friends really lifted my spirits. I was walking back from the restroom when I heard a voice call my name. It was coming from a table on the other side of the restaurant.

I walked closer and the woman at the end of the table reached out her hands to me. With an animated voice she said, “Judy, do you remember me? It’s Tamara!”

I looked at her closely and recognition began to grow. I was in shock for a moment as the realization hit me. I said, “Yes! Your daughter was in Jason’s preschool class and we were in the same “Mommy and Me” class, too.”

Tamara smiled warmly and said, “Yes, and she’s right here next to me. This is Ashley. And let me introduce you to her husband.” A beautiful couple beamed at me.

I remembered this mother and her child. Tamara was at Jason’s funeral and had brought a dinner over to my house a week later. The memory was especially clear because of the stories I’d recorded over the past week – how eerie that was!

Tamara was kind and warm. She squeezed my hand and her eyes widened as she said, “You know, I have never forgotten Jason and his adorable freckled face. Whenever I hear the song that was played at his funeral, I think of him.” That song (The Lion Sleeps Tonight) was Jason’s favorite one.

I smiled at Tamara and said, “I’m so touched that you remember him; thank you for sharing that with me.”

Yes, Jason would have been 28 years old if he had lived but he was frozen in time at the age of five. I noticed that my heart wasn’t aching as I looked at Tamara and her beautiful grown up daughter. It demonstrated to me how the overwhelming grief that had ruled my life for decades was truly gone.

I told Tamara how I had embraced music five years ago. Jason was a gift and returned to my life in a different way. I carried him in my songs and in my heart. I had healed.

Tamara said, “I always wondered what happened to you. I am so glad to see you looking this way – radiant and joyful.”

As I walked back to join my friends, I felt quite inspired. My past, present and future swirled around me such a beautiful way!

I am in the top center spotlight with Jason, The red arrow points to Tamara and her daughter, Ashley.

I am in the top center spotlight with Jason, The red arrow points to Tamara and her daughter, Ashley.

Link to Part 1 of this story: #23 BYE, BYE ZOMBIELAND – PART 1

In 2010 when I first began writing this blog, I also wrote about the experience of meeting another mother from Jason’s preschool class 18 years later in a market.

Zombieland represented the many years I plodded through life in a way that was “deadened.” Even though I was healing when I wrote the first part of this story, I really had no idea what was ahead for me. How beautiful it is for me to write a second part to that story with the insights I have five years later.

Zombieland is even farther behind me now because I completely turned my life around. I am alive!

And very grateful for every minute of my life.

Performing with joy 1

Performing with joy 2

© Judy Unger and 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


July 18, 2015


Pear Final Art

This is not an illustration of a pear – it’s a trio!

Two weeks ago, I completed a large assignment of 21 fruit and vegetable illustrations. It took me about 3 weeks, instead of the month that I estimated it would take.

I couldn’t believe that I received another new assignment the day after I finished that large project. My above illustration of pears was done a few days ago; it is one of 4 new illustrations I’m working on for Tillamook Dairy Company.

TIL_15107 Lowfat Yogurt Update_r1B

This is my layout. The final painting had smoother lighting and coloration. The leaf on the left was removed.

Now I feel compelled to share some puns about pears.

My love for pears is appearent. And I’m also a pearant. I’d love to go to Pearis. Perhaps I should write a pearable about pears.

I’d better move onto another pearagraph because I’m sounding like a pearrot.

Pears Three

Okay, those weren’t very good puns. I’m a bad girl.

This leads me into what I really want to write about – Good girl vs. bad girl syndrome.

For me, that syndrome represents an extreme or “black and white” way of thinking. Ridding my life of judgment and criticism has been my goal now for the last 3 years. Yet it’s hard to wipe out associations that are lodged in my subconscious because of what I heard so often when I was growing up.

“Good girls never accept a date at the last minute. Good girls don’t travel. Good girls don’t live on their own before marriage. Good girls are virgins.”

Seeing pictures of myself in the apartment where I’m now living is like time travel. This year, I replaced the black and white floor and love the new look. I’m wondering why I have such a scrunched up expression in this picture with my dad.

Seeing pictures of myself in the apartment where I’m now living is like time travel. This year, I replaced the black and white floor and love the new look. I’m wondering why I have such a scrunched up expression in this picture with my dad. I’m holding a ruler – perhaps I had an art project back then that I was working on!

I learned early on what I needed to do to be a “good girl.” I was unable to express myself. And I lived with denial in order to keep any angry feelings shoved down.

Lately, there are things my former husband has done that upset me greatly. But because of our children, I won’t share any details on my blog about it.

I know that I haven’t been dealing with it in a healthy way because of obvious clues. I made an emergency visit to my dentist because I was suffering with intense jaw pain. It was from clenching my teeth and that was something new. I have been biting the nails on my left hand (not on the right, because I use that hand to pluck my guitar strings). And it’s been really hard for me to stay on track with my eating; for several months I’ve been working hard to lose weight.

If I were to write a Princess and the Dragon story using metaphors, I would describe my situation as one where I could feel the dragon breathing fire and smoke in my doorway. Of course, I pretended that nothing was happening most of the time even though I was choking.

Once again, I’m wondering what my expression is about in this photo. It looks like I’m thinking about my pet lizard.

Once again, I’m wondering what my expression is about in this photo taken on my patio with my mom. It looks like I’m thinking about my pet lizard.

A few weeks ago, I hoped that I’d find some tools to help me during my hypnotherapy session.

I told my therapist, Connie, how frustrating it was to flip back and forth between being “the bad one” and “the good one.” I wanted to find another way to think about all of this but I couldn’t find any middle ground and it was frustrating.

I was being plagued by “good girl/bad girl syndrome!”

I had expended every ounce of my energy into loving and supporting all three of my children since my separation. In the last three years, I witnessed their spectacular growth and was certain that my involvement made the difference. That made me “the good one.”

As I wrote on my last post about my song “The Door,” when I ended my marriage I had a lot of guilt. I felt like I was a traitor who shocked my husband when I ended our marriage. I received a lovely comment this past week. The words from a dear blogger friend, Sandra Callahan really uplifted me:

I am at a loss for words when I read your interpretation of the events surrounding your “awakening.” You are so gifted and talented! It is sad your ex did not appreciate these gifts as well as your sharp wit and humor. It is sad that he chooses to make choices that have a negative impact on those who deserve his love and protection. If anyone was a “traitor” in this sad story it is he. It is hard for me to think someone so full of joy and laughter endured so many years of heartbreak.

Whatever heartbreak I’ve endured is in the past and my joy is because I am hopeful that it is behind me now.

Whatever heartbreak I’ve endured is in the past and my joy is because I am hopeful that it is behind me now.

I was hopeful that perhaps while I was under hypnosis I would gain some insight. I heard Connie’s voice in the distance and quickly drifted off.

After a few minutes, I spoke aloud to Connie with my eyes closed. I told her that nothing seemed to come to me that could replace the good girl/bad girl theme. I concentrated, but still I drew a blank.

Then I said aloud, “I know I’m a devoted mom so I wonder why I feel so badly. I’m not trying to make my ex look bad, but some of his actions toward our children make me so angry. I am powerless and alone with my thoughts. I cannot express my anger because it is inappropriate for my children to know about it. Sometimes when they ask me what is wrong, it seeps out and I say things I wish I hadn’t.”

I said tearfully, “I’m only human!”

At that moment, I realized that I had hit upon something. Being human . . .

That was such a beautiful alternative. I had found a way to replace “black and white!”

Being human gave me permission to feel upset and to make mistakes. Being human helped me understand that it wasn’t about being “bad;” it wasn’t an excuse either. It helped to explain my reactions when I was under tremendous pressure.

Before our session ended I blurted out, “It’s incredible to know how much my ex hates me after spending 31 years together!”

Connie wrote something down and then said sweetly, “That’s a story you could hold onto. How does it feel when you think of it that way?”

I grinned and knew the answer to that. I loved my therapist and she was waiting for me to come up with a replacement story. Out it came with the words of: “It’s in the past!”

Connie’s voice was enthused. “Yes, tell me more about that!”

I said, “Just like grief – I remember many sad and horrible things. But when it’s in the past, it reminds me of how far I’ve come – how I’m beyond the pain and living in a much better place.”

I left our session with a huge smile. I was thinking of all the things in my past that were behind me now. And then I started thinking about all the things I had to look forward to.

Perhaps there were things I still had to deal with related to “the dragon.” My plan was to vent more to friends so as not to feel overwhelmed by anger when I was around my children. Friends sure made a difference.

This picture was taken this past Mother’s Day. It was the best one I ever experienced; no doubt about that.

This picture was taken this past Mother’s Day. It was the best one I ever experienced, no doubt about that.

My children are more important than anything else in the world to me. I am always demonstrating how much I love them and revel in their accomplishments. I do try to avoid writing about them, but I am going to share a few details because I’m a proud mom.

This past week, my 18-year-old son began learning to drive. I signed him up for a few private lessons and he drove with me on a small errand yesterday. Then today, I courageously allowed him to go on the freeway. Sharing all of this with him was very nerve wracking exciting. Thankfully, he stayed cool and collected even though I was very hysterical serious.

On top of that, a few weeks ago he began working as a volunteer at Kulak’s Woodshed where I perform regularly. He is very well liked and appreciated – (On my Facebook music page, he can be seen setting up my microphone for a recent video performance.) Since summer began, I’ve nagged him to get a job. Volunteering was a backup plan that I hope he’ll continue doing. Well today he landed his first job! He will be working at a nearby movie theatre. I am bursting with pride and can hardly contain my joy.

My daughter and I are extremely close. Recently, she’s made many changes to her life. I try very hard to refrain from being critical or judgmental. I’ve been rewarded because she shares so many personal things with me. I always encourage her with the statement of, “Honey, I know you will figure things out and do what is best for you.” I am so proud of her courage. Recently, she told me she wants to travel somewhere with me. We are both thinking about where we will go.

My oldest son amazed me this week. He reached out and called his sister so they could “go bowling and hang out.” They had a great time together. The next day, he went out of his way to fix a TV someone was discarding. He wanted to give it to his sister. He spent over $100 of his own money and then drove over to her apartment with a friend to install it. Just thinking about his thoughtfulness chokes me up.

I’m glad I could update my blog. More is coming. I have been in a phase of productivity that is astonishing. On top of working as an illustrator, I’ve accomplished more in the last two months than I have in two years with my music and audio projects. It’s all because I’ve hired an assistant to help me.

I feel blessed. And I am very human!

I have several boxes of CD’s ordered that are on their way. Where will I put all those boxes in my tiny apartment?

I have several boxes of CD’s ordered that are on their way. Where will I put all those boxes in my tiny apartment?

© 2015 by Judy Unger  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


May 21, 2015


Peaceful Green Butterfly

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

I'm in a forest of green

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

PEACEFUL & INSPIRED Arrangement – Copyright 2015 by Unger

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



Copyright 2015 by Judy Unger

I’m in a forest of beautiful green

a palette of shades I’ve never seen

mossy wood, delicate ferns

a soft path beckons with twists and turns

The mountain air clears my mind

a bright sun sparkles as I unwind

cascading pools, a tumbling stream

I close my eyes so I can dream

I’m in awe

nature’s wonderland

so beautiful to see

peaceful and inspired

I’ll take you home

I’ll take you home with me


A misty beach fades into gray

my cheeks are moist from salty spray

glittering pebbles, watercolor skies

sea foam dancing before my eyes

I’m in awe

nature’s wonderland

so beautiful to see

peaceful and inspired

I’ll take you home

I’ll take you home with me

I’ll take you home with me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can I function when my eyes hurt?

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

I wonder how I can function when my eyes hurt?

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

Awesome desserts

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

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

So happy when it started

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mossy wood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Judy's post M Day My kids

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

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

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


Lupe commented on my Facebook post. She wrote:

Lupita 1

Lupe & Jason

Lupita 2

Rosa with 2 babies

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

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

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

Rosa's Message

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

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

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

I feel like she is part of my family now.

Miriam, Shirley & Judy

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

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

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

Miriam's message

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

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

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

Steve's comment

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

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

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

Strawberry Comps Round 1

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

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

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

Hugging my beautiful daughter

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

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

Play note

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

NES Texting Campaign Print Layout for Judy

Red Velvet Final Art Colored Pencil

Red Velvet Cake closeup 1

© Judy Unger and 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


May 2, 2015


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

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

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

PEACEFUL – Arrangement in progress-Copyright 2015 by Unger

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

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

Pallette of greens

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

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

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

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

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

Delicate ferns

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just for fun, here are those ruff performance excerpts:

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

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

Marion Berry Oat Final Art

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

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

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

Both Coconut versions

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


My life is still transforming! I am so blessed.

Columbia River

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

On Apr 27, 2015, Judy wrote:

Hi Nanc!

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

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

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

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

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

Love, Jude

Dear amazing sweet, Judy!

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thanks for your sweet message, Nan!!!

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

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

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

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

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

Love, Jude

peaceful and inspiring

© Judy Unger and 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


April 11, 2015


Lighthouse Eye

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

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

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

I snapped this while I was waiting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

garden bridge in green

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

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

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

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

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

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

beach rocks 2

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

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

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

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

Then she asked me, “Are you in pain?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Japanese garden bridge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

But then, I began to really listen.

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

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

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

My own audio story rescued me.

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

In my head, I heard the answer:

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


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

Click the blue link to play audio:

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

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

Story behind CLEAR-PART 1

Eerie beach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lighthouse filtered

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No reason to wait
© Judy Unger and 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


April 3, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sparkling City

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

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

Sparkling City 2

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

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

Ocean sunset gray

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

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

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

Mossy Stream

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

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

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

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

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

Waterfall and log

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

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

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

Japanese garden bridge

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

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

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

Brilliant sun

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Judy, Sonia and waterfall

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

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

A great view

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

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

Jewel leaf

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

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

Garden Waterfall

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

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


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

Apple Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beach scene

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

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

Eerie beach 2

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

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

Grassy view

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

Watercolor sky

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

Portland Street

Rainy City

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

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

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

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

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

Flight home

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

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

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

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

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

Judy against beach rocks
Together with ocean view
in a forest
Mossy Forest
A misty beach
Beach Rocks 3
I'm in awe
Open Mic night in Portland
© Judy Unger and 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


March 24, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

Story behind MUSIC SAVED ME

Story behind WONDER WHY

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

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

Away from sadness

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

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

My new arrangement can be heard below:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Song vocals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to that wonderful website for musicians:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I told Chris my story and she was very kind.

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

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

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

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

I long for belief

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

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

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

what you have planned

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

Pink clouds in the sky 2


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

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

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

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

searching for answers

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

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

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

I am also a positive thinker.

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

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

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

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

Music Saved Me 1 God help me try
© Judy Unger and 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


March 21, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

It’s because of my eye problem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

carry the same torch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

A woman named Mary posted:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm crying

Closed eye
© Judy Unger and 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


February 20, 2015


In Every Smile

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


YouTube Performance by Judy Unger at Kulak’s Woodshed

Below is my vocal for my latest song “In Every Smile.”

IN EVERY SMILE-8/22/15 Copyright 2015 by Judy Unger

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

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


Copyright 2015 by Judy Unger

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

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

if you’re crying ‘cause you miss me

and feel you’ve lost your way

You know what I’d say . . .

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

But smiling can lift you up

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

I’m not really gone when my love lives on

Remember the warmth, your heart next to mine

I’ll still be hugging you in warm sunshine

When storm clouds overtake you

and everything seems gray

You know what I’d say . . .

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

But laughter can lift you up

Feel me with every touch; I loved you so much

I’m not really gone when my love lives on

You might be scared and think you’re alone

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

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

I hope you know

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

But my love can lift you up

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

I’m not really gone when my love lives on

When my love lives on

Butterfly Fantasy 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

Below are links to those stories:




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

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

Judy & Carol b&w 2


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

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

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

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

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

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

It's okay

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

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

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

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

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

Can you believe?

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

My bed

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s okay to cry awhile . . .”

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

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

Youngest Son

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

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

Jason w my mom

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I love my cottage/castle!

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

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

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

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

you might be scared

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feel me with love you share

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

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

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

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

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

If you're crying

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

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

And that comes from a place of deep love.

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

This picture definitely conveys warm sunshine for me.

This picture definitely conveys warm sunshine for me.

Remember the warmth 2

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

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

© Judy Unger and 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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