CAN I KEEP THEM FOREVER?

My most recent painting is named “Autumn Leaf Medley.” It was definitely enjoyable to capture so many colors. I filled my palette with eyedroppers of dye from at least 20 bottles in order to create my painting.

Collecting leaves in Southern California is not comparable to other areas in the United States where autumn leaves are prized for their spectacle.

But I didn’t have to hunt too hard to find examples of the season. I ended up being very inspired by the bland ones, such as the oak leaves. Even though they weren’t initial standouts, their interesting bluish tones really enhanced my painting.

These are some examples of photos that I used as reference for my painting:

This is an image of my painting in progress:

Leaf 7

Whenever I see bright red autumn leaves, they evoke a very poignant memory about my young son, Jason. Sadly, he died in 1992 at the age of five from a congenital heart defect.

It touches me that on Jason’s memorial plaque it says: “A Child of All Seasons.”

Jason loved colorful leaves and ironically died in the fall. My subsequent grief was triggered every year with the change of seasons. I expressed this with my song “Every Season,” for which I have a link at the end of this post.

The dying leaves that fell to the ground only reminded me of Jason’s fragility. When I found healing decades later, I was able to embrace my sad memories and discover insights from them. I will now share a sweet memory of Jason and I exploring the magic of autumn together.

An audio clip excerpt from my “Healing Grief” course on Insight Timer:

“Can I Keep Them Forever?”

For many years there was a particular street that I avoided. I could not face seeing the trees. It was because I remembered an autumn day when Jason wanted to see a red leaf up close. He didn’t believe they were real, with their intense, crimson color.

We drove down a few streets near our home, searching for trees with red leaves. There were very few because it was early in the season. Then I saw some trees with crimson leaves that were dangling within reach. While Jason waited in the car, I carefully picked several.

He examined those leaves carefully. His voice chirped with delight as he said, “Mommy, I love these leaves. Can I keep them forever?”

And that was when I told him leaves could not last forever; everything becomes old and eventually crumbles into dust. There I was, feeling wise as I taught him about life.

However, my young child ended up teaching me far more.

Links to lyrics, stories, recordings and performances for this song:  EVERY SEASON

Leaf 1

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#59 LEMON TREE – BRANCHING OUT

I’ve already posted a story about memories this painting inspired. But now I am sharing a little more about the painting process.

ILLUSTRATING MY LIFE

The title for this post has me humming the delightful Peter, Paul & Mary song by the same name. But my story about the overgrown lemon tree in my backyard does not carry a song. It does, however, accompany a painting that I finished last week.

The 60-year-old fence that surrounds my lemon tree is barely holding up. In the drabness of my patio, my lemon tree is thriving. It has weathered many years of neglect and remains in its original wooden planter. The roots eventually broke through the bottom and firmly took hold. Without being watered for a decade, it somehow survived.

Gradually, I began appreciating its beauty. I snapped pictures of its blossoms, which I later added into my painting. I marveled at the change when the green fruit hinted slowly toward yellow. And it became handy to have a lemon at my disposal whenever a recipe called…

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Magical Piano – You Were There

The piano melody evokes the heart of my song and will be its own meditation track that will be released soon on Insight Timer. Seeing the slide show tribute to my mom is very touching for me every time. I’m so glad I created it! Thank you for allowing me to share my heart with you!

Judy Unger Music

I was choosing songs to write about for another course on Insight Timer and this was my first song choice. I wrote my lesson and contacted my piano arranger to create beautiful piano for “You Were There.” He did not disappoint. Above, are the melody and ambient versions of his work. I did considerable editing to bring the music into my heart.

Both the ambient clips, (which followed the chords and feeling of my song) and melody clips were so gorgeous – that I decided to release them as part of a meditation track on Insight Timer.

My course is underway and for this post I am sharing these two sweet piano clips, as well as my updated slideshow with a vocal.

To read my lesson, here is the main song link for “You Were There.” There are also many stories I wrote while composing my song, as well as…

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LEMON TREE

My Lemon Tree painting took about two weeks to complete.

The title for this post has me humming the delightful Peter, Paul & Mary song by the same name. But my story about the overgrown lemon tree in my backyard does not carry a song. It does, however, accompany a painting that I finished last week.

Before I start my story, I explain that I am living in my childhood home. I moved there after my separation and subsequent divorce eight years ago. At that time, my father had recently died and my mother was in a nursing home. My mother passed away one year later.

I am still here.

The 60-year-old fence that surrounds my lemon tree is barely holding up. In the drabness of my patio, my lemon tree is thriving. It has weathered many years of neglect and remains in its original wooden planter. The roots eventually broke through the bottom and firmly took hold. Without being watered for a decade, it somehow survived.

It was always handy to have a lemon at my disposal whenever a recipe called for one, but this past year I began appreciating its beauty. A month ago I snapped pictures of its blossoms, which I added into my painting. I marveled at the change when the green fruit hinted slowly toward yellow.

I could write endless parables about the metaphor of a lemon. But my story begins with the memory of my mother bringing home a lemon bush for my father. He always required lemons for his hot tea and there would be no shortage of lemons this way.

That was about thirty years ago. Back then it was still possible to walk through the patio. But just to reach a lemon required navigating a maze of boxes covered with tarps.

My father was a hoarder. He was unable to throw things away and gradually the back yard filled up with countless boxes and trash. As the years went on, his condition worsened.

This photo shows some of the clutter outside when I was dressed up as a little princess.

When I remember my parents having disagreements, they’re always the same ones. My mother would be furious with my father for adding to his trash collection. He would beg for forgiveness and my mother would make him sign an “agreement” where he promised he would throw away one box every day.

If he didn’t, my mother threatened she would do it. I don’t believe she ever did. Eventually, she’d realize that he was simply taking away a box and moving it somewhere else. With exasperation, she would hold it together until the next fight.

I accepted that I barely had any closet space growing up because of my father’s “stuff.” The plus side was that he saved all my report cards, schoolwork and every piece of my artwork.

Despite his frailty, my father would occasionally leave the nursing home to visit his coop with my oldest son. He wanted to give him pointers as to where coins and stamps might be buried. But he still wasn’t able to find them or discard anything.

I wasn’t able to move into the abandoned coop until it was emptied of trash. After my father died, my oldest son helped me by spending many hours emptying it. He filled up ten dumpsters.

I appreciated that my son was able to sort through and save the sentimental items I now treasure. At that time, I wasn’t well enough to do much because I was recovering from cataract surgery.

My old bedroom.

The kitchen.

My story leads now to my “former life,” when I had a huge house, a housekeeper, and three complicated teenagers.

I’ll never forget my father’s vulnerability, when he expressed that he wasn’t able to take care of my mother anymore. Her frequent hospitalizations had worn him down and he was scared.

At that point, I had my parents move in with me. The plan was that my parents would live with me until there was an opening at The Jewish Home For the Aging.

As my mother slid into dementia, my father and I became very close and he became dependent upon me. I feel emotional remembering his attachment to a steaming hot mug of Lipton tea.

It now became my job to brew his favorite drink. I tried really hard to get it right. And one day, his lips trembled as he told me, “Sweetheart, it’s wonderful! – Just the right amount of lemon this time. Be sure to remember what you did!”

He was extremely critical and rarely did I get it right. I basked in his compliment. I was happy and sad at the same time, because it wasn’t easy to replace my mother.

The memory of when he asked me if he could stay and my mother could go to The Jewish Home alone is a sad one. His voice was practically begging when he said he would quietly live in his grandson’s bedroom. His word were, “You won’t even notice me and I won’t be any trouble.” My heart breaks remembering our conversation.

Keeping him and my mother together as their health declined engulfed my life for several years. This blog helped me vent about my struggles while I was going through them.

What a contrast to my current life! I miss my parents, but now I can peacefully appreciate and gain insight from even the most painful memories. I feel their love surrounding me and I’m so grateful.

I’m also blessed that I am able to paint lovely pictures of any subject I choose. For me, painting is about seeing contrast, color and beauty.

“Lemon Tree” began with a main photo as my reference. The scene was busy and crowded with dirty leaves. But right away I was intrigued by the interesting texture of the branches. I combined other reference objects (blossoms, leaves, green lemons) into the main photo below.

My original Lemon Tree reference photo

Creating my layout was fun. Perhaps I am living my childhood again. I share something I wrote at the age of eight below:

Although I hated living with a hoarder, I am grateful that my father saved my artwork.

I treasure my emotions, because over this past year I have felt very numb. Writing this story evoked so many beautiful feelings.

My father also saved all the cards I ever gave him. This one below made me teary from the start. But then I laughed aloud when I read the part where I told him he could go through my trash anytime.

And after that, I cried again.

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#58 AN APPLE A DAY, PART 2

I’ve been having fun with apples – illustrating them and cooking them into fun concoctions afterwards. I’m also excited to share some other new paintings!

ILLUSTRATING MY LIFE

An illustration of apples that I did “just for fun.”

I began this blog in 2010. One of my early posts was #5 AN APPLE A DAY, PART 1 and it was because I had so many assignments illustrating apples.

Ten years after that post, I decided it would be fun to create a Part 2. I’m sharing three assignments that have apple subject matter, as well as a series of new apple illustrations I painted just for fun. For this second part, I will describe my transition to utilizing the digital process for my illustrations.

For more detail about my traditional and digital process combined, here are some other posts:

#47 LAYERS IN MY LIFE, PART 1

#56 IT WAS FRUITFUL BEING AN ILLUSTRATOR, PART 2

#57 TAKING STOCK OF ART AND MY LIFE

The very first assignment where I began my current technical process was a wine cooler…

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#57 TAKING STOCK OF ART AND MY LIFE

So many new paintings to share!

ILLUSTRATING MY LIFE

This past summer, I’ve had a renewed interest in painting. It has not only been fun, but also astonishingly productive. Even as I am painting something, I find myself planning for the next one.

I lovingly study all the varieties of fruits and vegetables in my home. Sometimes I look closely at food I’m cooking and consider whether it could be my next painting subject.

I keep looking at flowers outside and have ideas for those, too. Getting excited about painting again has been a huge change in my life.

My pile of new paintings continues to grow. Each subject warms my heart. I have white boards leaning against the wall in my dining room, since I am photographing there so often. Nearby, I have an eyedropper and handheld illuminating light. I am amazed at the quality of my reference photos taken simply with an iPhone. In the past, I…

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#56 IT WAS FRUITFUL BEING AN ILLUSTRATOR – PART 2

In some ways, 2020 has been a fruitful year for me painting-wise. More to come . . .

ILLUSTRATING MY LIFE

In 2016, I was busy working for Tillamook Dairy Company. I had a few other small jobs scattered here and there, but my work has been very sparse since then.

There was an exception, though. I had a steady stream of illustrations over the next four years for 1800 Margarita Mixes. Each label illustration had to be consistent and fit in with the bottle design and flavor banner. My client requested that all of the elements be rendered to completion so they could be placed on separate layers. I would scan my painting and reassemble everything with shadows for the final illustration.

Because of a non-disclosure agreement, I am only sharing flavors that are currently in stores. I have illustrated other ones that aren’t yet available.

A closer look.

On this blog, I have discussed how I combine traditional and digital techniques with this post: #47 LAYERS IN MY LIFE…

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MY ONE-YEAR ANKLEVERSARY

Ankleversary = The anniversary date for breaking an ankle.

This picture displays the seven-inch plate and screws that were given back to me – my memento from hardware removal surgery on July 17, 2020.

My greatest lesson after breaking my ankle last summer has been discovering patience. That theme continues to play in my life.

I marked my time in a wheelchair with anguish over the perception that I was given a longer “sentence” than most people. My surgeon insisted I wait three full months before taking a step and that seemed excessive. Except for a brief rebellious walker attempt, I listened.

And then there was hardware removal. My surgeon told me I’d have to wait a year. I had a lovely friend from my on-line ankle recovery support group named Missie; she was close to my age and also a tennis player. Her surgeon took her hardware out after only six months.

I waited for that year mark and counted every month. The virus isolation in March was another opportunity for me to practice patience.

During the isolation, I kept healing. It was a huge deal when I became ready to play tennis again. It came back easily and my worry about the virus was stronger than my worry about my ankle. But my tennis friends and I stayed far apart when we played. It was the one scheduled thing in my life every week. For two hours, I felt almost normal again.

My ankleversary was July 1st and as the date approached, I was slightly apprehensive. I kept replaying so many aspects of the accident and what led up to it. And then I wondered, how bad would it be to keep my hardware? Many people do, including my middle brother. I wondered if perhaps I was being a perfectionist by wanting my ankle to be closer to the way it was before.

Missie reassured me that it would be great and I believed her. But it also seemed like a risk to have elective surgery during the pandemic.

With courage, I sent a message to my surgeon and asked if I could have the hardware removed. I wasn’t even sure how I would answer if he asked me what the problem was. Instead, he replied that I’d be scheduled for July 17th.

I had a Covid test a few days before, as well as x-rays. At my last tennis game I won both sets and played better than I ever imagined. I was glad that during the time I would be recuperating, it was awfully hot to play anyway.

But was I risking fate to do this?

The support from my friend, Missie, truly made a difference.

I took some “selfies” to send Missie shortly before my surgery.

The surgery went by quickly and I didn’t even need a breathing tube. I awoke in the operating room and was very chatty. The surgeon took a picture of my scar for me.

I left the hospital an hour later. When I got home, I was able to walk into my house in sandals. I wasn’t given any kind of pain pill other than Ibuprofen and Tylenol. I had something stronger left over from my first surgery and it saved me the first day. After that, I was fine. A huge bandage covered my incision. For two weeks I took showers with a trash bag over my foot until my stitches came out.

I had saved my wheelchair, as well as a shower bench and boot. I decided I didn’t need to store those items anymore and it was cathartic to donate them a month later.

I will backtrack to share that following my accident I wasn’t very productive. I thought that with endless hours I would be creative, but I sunk into depression and it was simply challenging to get through most days.

But once I could walk, I began to emerge from the gloom. Certainly playing tennis again seven months after my accident was glorious. My friends welcomed me back and although I was significantly heavier, I could still smack that ball.

As I healed and felt better, I was able to feel creative and productive again. I recorded my second course for Insight Timer named “Songs of Healing and Hope,” which was written a year earlier.

Shortly before my hardware removal surgery, I submitted my course to Insight Timer. I do not know the release date yet, but it is available on Bandcamp.

The theme of healing and hope permeates my life. I healed from the loss of my first-born child when I rediscovered music. This has been a beacon for me over the last ten years.

Healing represents transformation – I don’t see it as being “the way it was before.” With anything devastating, hope allows for hanging in there until it is possible to accept what has happened. Eventually, we are fortunate if we can adapt and adjust to a loss or an injury. Time heals physical wounds, but not necessarily emotional ones. A scar is a reminder that the wound is no longer bleeding, but an injury still occurred.

It was understandable for me to be discouraged when I first broke my ankle. Even though I was hopeful it would heal, there was truly no way for me to know when the pain would ease and how my mobility would be affected. Sadly, many people in my on-line support group have far more devastating injuries.

But I never gave up hope.

My ankle still needs more time to heal before I can judge whether this surgery made a difference. Many areas of my foot are numb since my first surgery. With this second surgery, nerve damage might be permanent. But on a positive note, my ankle feels more flexible, even though the scar tissue is tight and tender.

My patience has been rewarded. My ankleversary has brought me closer to the finish line. I will never be where I was before, but my finish line is about being able to move on from the injury. I’ve learned so much because of it.

My doctor signed his initials on my skin.

Once my stitches came out, my recovery was in full force.

It has now been almost five weeks since surgery. I am playing my first tennis game this weekend. Just thinking about it makes my eyes water because I am so grateful.

A week before my surgery, a new creative energy erupted within me. Suddenly, I felt like painting again. This was a huge shift, as I had not painted anything for myself in over twenty years. And just as I started pulling out my paints, I received an art job. I finished the assignment and felt inspired to keep going.

In less than a month, I created fifteen new paintings. My goal was to add them to my Getty Stock Image library. I’m not sure how many more I will do, but will simply allow myself to create as I go.

Painting passes time for me without much thought. It’s actually soothing and fun. I plan to write a post for my Illustration blog soon with all the images there. And when I do, I’ll share it on this site.

Although I have a lot to celebrate, the continued isolation has kept me in survival mode. Numbness has been a familiar coping mechanism for me. I hope my emotions will break through again.

A clear sign for me is that I haven’t felt like singing or playing my guitar for months. Some of my sadness is because my daughter is moving away in a few weeks.

I wrote a story not long ago about our weekly picnics in a park. Despite being socially distant, we have grown even closer. I’m glad she could celebrate my ankle healing with me. She was traumatized witnessing my fall while we were hiking last year.

A week ago, I decided we could hug when saying goodbye. It’s a very brief squeeze while wearing our masks and holding our breaths. Reliving this makes me cry, which was unlike the actual sensation when we embraced. At the time, my emotions were blocked.

I have decided that for the next few weeks, our time is precious. I’m more open for us to create memories that will sustain us as we adjust to her moving across the country.

Last week, we went to the beach. My daughter had scouted around weeks earlier. She excitedly shared that she had found a secluded beach location. She also reassured me that a clean bathroom was nearby.

This outing was a big step because we would ride together in the car for the first time in many months. On the day of our planned outing, it was extremely hot. With masks on and the wind blowing loudly (all the windows and sunroof were open), we couldn’t carry on a conversation without shouting. Instead we enjoyed listening to loud music.

Dipping my feet in the ocean for the first time in two years was fabulous!

As I dug my toes into the wet sand, so many feelings swirled in my mind. I wanted to break through the numbness that had me in such a dull state.

I sat and watched the rolling waves. Then I closed my eyes, and pictured my younger self dancing in the surf. The images faded into ones of my children. I watched them beaming with pleasure as they dug in the sand.

Tears began to pool in my eyes. They were finally pushing their way through. As a tear began to slide down my cheek, I returned to the moment. I had countless beach memories, and now this would be the newest one. The cool ocean breeze, her sweet face, and the backdrop of rolling waves made this a perfect day.

I was truly proud of my daughter’s courage to change her life. Someday, we would make another slew of new memories. I would travel on a plane to visit her and she would take me around and show me new places.

Things would simply be different than what they used to be. Just like healing.

I had no way of knowing when it would be safe to travel again to see her. It will likely to be a long while.

Patience. I had learned it so well, and now I could practice it some more.

The miracle of healing is clearly visible in these two pictures. In only five weeks my scar is now almost invisible.

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Magical Piano – Songs of Healing & Hope

Judy Unger Music

Below are two of my most recent releases on Insight Timer. They can be accessed by clicking on the image:

My magical piano tracks are related to a new course that is not yet available on Insight Timer. It is named “Songs of Healing & Hope.” More about my course can be found on the second menu for “Courses” at the top of this site.

It is interesting for me how much I’ve enjoyed creating solo piano.  I am a guitarist and don’t even know how to play piano!

But I have found the world of editing piano to be magical. Every single midi note on the computer makes a difference – whether it’s sustained or it’s velocity is soothed.

I asked my talented piano arranger to give me two different types of piano styles for each of the 10 songs associated with my course. One was a melody clip…

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Door To My Heart – Guitar Medley

Sharing a recent music update. It’s my joy. 🙂
(And a challenge, during these difficult times)

Judy Unger Music

Door To My Heart – Insight Timer Page

Door To My Heart Guitar Instrumental Songs – Bandcamp Album

Door To My Heart – Links to stories, performances, lyrics and other recordings

For almost a year now, I’ve been working on the ten acoustic songs that comprise “Door To My Heart” Medley. The versions with vocals have been delayed, as I haven’t been singing very much. The piano guitar medley is very close to being finished.

Releasing solo guitar has been a recent venture of mine; the result is soothing and especially appreciated by my Insight Timer audience.

Some of the songs for this medley were recorded two years ago, but I have new versions of several of them. My most recent one was for “Watching You Grow,” and the tempo is considerably slower.

I’ve just completed a new course namedSongs of Healing and Hope.Several other…

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