AS YOU TRAVEL-PART 2

When I visited my friend Cathy in Utah, she took pictures of me for my Insight Timer profile picture

In the last five years, my desire to write for my blog has diminished. I do keep “idea folders,” which I hope will motivate me. Those folders are brimming with pictures and inspiration for future stories.

There is great irony with the title of this post, since I don’t consider myself to be much of a traveler. But I re-frame negatives surrounding that – with the knowledge that I my current life is like a perpetual vacation and I love right where I am!

I left my marriage ten years ago and have devoted myself to embracing my creativity. Whether it is art or music, I explore any avenue that inspires me. Although these pursuits are somewhat solitary, I have formed many connections with people through my art and music.

I perform regularly on the app Insight Timer. I have a “tribe” of supportive friends from all over the world who are there to listen and support me. While I am playing, they write to each other. My heart swells to see their loving messages.

There are even friends from my past who tune in to hear me play. I grow teary remembering that some of them knew me when my songs were babies – back when I was a teenager!

I have a pen pal in Greece, whom I’ve written to daily for over six years. I feel confident that one day I will meet her. But I’d like to share about two special women that I actually had the chance to meet after corresponding with them virtually.

My friend Jan experienced tremendous loss in a short time. Her appreciation for my songs, led to my mailing her numerous CD’s. We had many heartfelt conversations over the phone. Jan lived in Chicago and when she relocated to California last year we were both thrilled. I made a trip out to her new home and the excitement of meeting her can best be seen with our pictures.

My sweet friend, Cathy, has attended almost every single one of my lives on Insight Timer. No one could ask for a more devoted friend. Cathy lives in St. George, Utah and generously invited me to stay with her anytime. I took her up on her offer, since that isn’t far from Las Vegas where my son lives.

It was an adventure when I drove out to meet her. What fun we had! We explored a gorgeous state park and took many pictures. Most amazing, was the gift that Cathy surprised me with. She is an avid quilter and put love into every square of the custom quilt she made me. I will treasure her gift forever.

My song “Someone to Love You,” is infused with love for my children. My travels took me to visit my oldest son and daughter (I live with my youngest son.) I missed seeing them due to the pandemic, and it was a big deal for me to make those trips.

My oldest son lives in Las Vegas and is currently a Kindergarten teacher. I am so proud of him! I know he truly makes a difference with the children he works with. Whenever I visit, his big beautiful home is my second home. In January of this year we went to the mountains above Las Vegas. I loved our pictures with the pine trees in the background!

My daughter is getting married in the fall of 2023. I am so happy for her! I share some of her engagement photos below.

This past summer, I traveled to Minnesota to see where she lives. I was excited to experience finding fireflies. We also went bicycle riding, floated on rafts in a lake, and took long walks. There are no words to describe how much I love her!

“As You Travel” is a lyric line from my song “Someone to Love You.”

My song ends with these words:

When you’re older, the child inside you remains

you will discover wherever you roam

love will be in your heart, and carry you home

That is where I am living now. Every day, I nurture and rediscover more of my inner child. And even though I infrequently travel, love guides every interaction.

My heart is my home!

More about: SOMEONE TO LOVE YOU

A recent picture of my birthday celebration with dear tennis friends this past October. Turning 63 was a privilege!

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Guitar Tides

So excited to share my newest musical creation! Tides are a great metaphor for “going with the flow.”

Judy Unger Music

The 4-chord melody for Guitar Tides was composed last year. I put it aside when I couldn’t seem to expand it beyond those chords. Instead, I found myself energized to work on “Autumn Hope” so I discarded those 4 chords in the key of A.

Once “Autumn Hope” was finished, I wondered whether I had another guitar instrumental in me. I went back to play those 4 chords and felt inspired to add a few more bars. As more and more passages were revealed, the song expanded beautifully. I didn’t have any idea what to name it, so for 6 months, I called it my “new piece in the key of A.”

It took patience for me to decide when my song was truly finished. Eventually, it felt complete and I recorded the main guitar part in August. But it still wasn’t done. I wanted to explore guitar additions. In…

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BESIDE ME ALWAYS – PART 5

On October 6th, 2022, it will be 30 years since my 5-year-old son Jason died. For this looming “30 year anniversary of the heart,” I read from my book on Insight Timer’s Live platform. It was very emotional.

Even though it’s been three decades, I kept my promise to Jason. At his funeral I tearfully announced, “I will keep his memory alive!” Jason is very much a part of my music and songs. When I sing, I feel spiritually connected to him.

I have a box in my closet that is filled with memorabilia about Jason. I plan to pull it out again this week. In 2010, I carefully sifted through that box before writing a gut-wrenching story describing how it felt to lose my child. In 2018, I self-published a book with that story and named it “Beside Me Always.” (I am much more attached to the audio version, which I recorded myself several times before hiring a professional reader.)

I believe that writing released so much of my pain. Not long afterwards. I started healing. Then I picked up my guitar, which I hadn’t played for decades, and began to sing again. The first song I played was my song “Beside Me Always.”

Clicking on this image leads to where it can be purchased on Amazon.

A few months ago, I attended a funeral at the cemetery where Jason is buried. I went to visit his grave and was in awe when I thought about how much has happened since he died. But I felt like Jason wasn’t really gone.

For these three decades, he has surrounded me with his love.

Jason’s artwork. He emphasized his heart and looks like an angel.

 

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THE DOOR TO MY HEART

When I began this blog in 2010, I hadn’t written much for thirty years. It was such a joy to “open the door to my heart.” Since that time, I have shared intimately about my life. I started out by writing about my past and continued to share personal details and deep emotions about my present life.

Something definitely has shifted in the past few years. Perhaps it began in 2019, when I broke my ankle while hiking. I experienced numbness and withdrawal. Not long after I could walk again (I was in a wheelchair for 4 months) – the pandemic arrived.

Even with the isolation from Covid 19, I have kept myself on a peaceful path. I can admit that I definitely ate too much and it’s been very hard for me to deal with that, especially after my sedentary experience with a broken ankle. But every day I focus upon my amazing recovery. I still play a decent tennis game and enjoy slugging it out with my friends twice a week. Tennis has helped pull me through and continues to be my therapy.

2020 and 2021 gave me the opportunity to create a create a third course for my favorite app, Insight Timer. It is named “Door to My Heart.” Most people would assume a course is academic. For me, I have chosen to share wisdom and insight I’ve discovered through my song lyrics. I already have two other courses on Insight Timer and there was more for me to share with the songs for this third one.

One of my song lessons is named “The Door.” I have come a long way since I went through the door, which is a metaphor for ending my marriage of 31 years. I moved out 10 years ago on my birthday, which is in two weeks. I can’t believe an entire decade has gone by, although it’s hard for me to imagine my former life anymore. It really seems so long ago.

Below is a link to a page about my course, that includes many musical tracks associated with it.

Insight Timer Course – DOOR TO MY HEART

I’ve decided to catch my blog up to speed with my life again. It is fun to “put myself out there!” I have a lot of pictures to share and will let those tell my story. So much more will be posted here soon.

I will start off with my most recent paintings.

I’m hanging out with my BFF, Joni. We were in Malibu Creek State Park that day, where Joni is a docent.

In March, my daughter visited from Minnesota where she now lives. We took a lovely walk around her former area in Altadena.

It was a lovely Mother’s Day this year, when I had all my children together with me!

In June, I visited my former high school choir teacher, Frankie. As a result of visiting her, 3 years ago I become good friends with David (who is on my left.) This was my second time seeing Jim (on my right) after 40 years!

David is my buddy. He also lives in his childhood home only a mile away from me. We enjoy hanging out together. He’s also a great singer!

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#67 CAMELLIAS IN THE RAIN

ILLUSTRATING MY LIFE

I was truly able to indulge my fascination with water droplets by painting “Camellias in the Rain.”

I had already dealt with patiently masking flower petals on my earlier painting of Camellias. However, now I found myself masking hundreds of tiny water droplets upon both the petals and leaves. Sometimes the droplets were sharply defined, and at other times they were blurry. When I finished my painting, I felt very accomplished!

As with all of my recent paintings, my process began by combining many digital photos into a layout. This project was especially unique because my images came from a friend’s garden across the world. Blossom (a perfect name for her) lived in Australia and from the moment I saw her beautiful images on social media, I was inspired.

My first big layout decision was whether to use one flower or two. It was a really tough choice, but I…

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#65 THE FRUITS OF MY LABOR

ILLUSTRATING MY LIFE

For this post, I’m simply sharing recent fruit paintings of mine. These are all available on iStock.

My “Pomegranate Tree” painting was significantly more complicated than the other isolated fruit against a white background. For this one, I’m sharing my photo reference, close-ups, and an “in progress look.”

Pomegranate Tree 8 x 10

My photo reference

One notable change that I made for this scene was the addition of pomegranate blossoms. Normally, they wouldn’t exist once the fruit was this large.

My painting in progress

My painting “in progress” depicts how I painted the darker background areas first. The “hero” pomegranate still has plastic frisket film over it. Below are close-ups of my painting.

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LET LOVE SHINE A LIGHT

I share my most recent solo piano rendition of “Hang On.” The beautiful melody is suffused with love. My post title “Let Love Shine a Light” is a lyric line from that song.

I waited four hours for the ventilator to be disconnected. But when the time came, it was an efficient process that took less than ten minutes. I nervously stood in the back of the room and watched. My friend, Jeanne, who had never wanted that kind of intervention, would soon be free. Her nurse motioned that I could come closer again.

Jeanne looked so much more comfortable without the tubes and tape around her mouth. I texted a picture to her family so they could see how relaxed she was.

I kept telling her how much her family loved her. And most importantly, I was certain Jillian was waiting for her. The fact that this was Jillian’s day was such an eerie coincidence.

“Anniversaries of the Heart” are important days for many bereaved people. I still have two special people that reach out to me on the date Jason died. My sister-in-law always sends a card and another friend calls me every year. My mother and Jeanne also remembered Jason’s birth and death days until they were no longer able to.

I try hard to acknowledge those days for certain friends of mine. One that really stood out for me was Jillian’s. Since she was stillborn, the date of March 17th was the day Jeanne considered both her birth and death day.

I reconnected with Jeanne in 2013, after losing touch for almost 20 years. We had drifted apart when she and her husband moved away. But one day, she called me out of the blue and our friendship was reignited. She told me she had gotten divorced and was living nearby. I shared that I had also gotten divorced. (Playing my guitar at her wedding was another story and a sweet memory.)

Even after decades, Jeanne would still cry over her baby girl. When she told me that daffodils were comforting, I made it a point to bring her a bouquet every year around that difficult day.

Over the past nine years, Jeanne struggled with health issues. A few years after we reconnected, she was diagnosed with a horrible disease named Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus or NPH. After many falls, she became bedridden. She started with board and care homes and after several hospitalizations ended up in a nursing home. In one of those board and care places, she had such serious bedsores that I had to call 911.

Her facility wasn’t close by and my dedication to visiting never seemed like enough, because she had few visitors. It was definitely a big deal for the nursing home to put her in a wheelchair so we could sit outside in the sunshine. I was glad I could bring over her favorite foods each time I came. Cracking pistachios for us helped to pass the time. On her birthday, I would bring her favorite meal – lobster. I would never forget her joy when I arrived with that delicacy. Her family always reimbursed me and visited from out of state whenever they could.

After losing my mother, being in a nursing home triggered many emotions for me. But making a difference was far more important. When I was in deep grief, Jeanne had been there and I would never forget that. When my son died, no one else seemed to understand my grief the way she did. When Jeanne described her memories of him, sometimes she became teary. The connection she had with my little boy was something I very much appreciated.

With the Covid pandemic, things became much worse for Jeanne. The isolation took a toll. Dementia set it. She was hospitalized with Covid. Although she recovered, she continued to require supplemental oxygen.

I was nervous visiting her after that. It had been over a year and I wondered if she would recognize me. She certainly did, but couldn’t hear me with a mask and face shield on. Once we were outside, I pulled my mask down to better connect with her. For those next few months, I brought her special lunches and could see her enjoyment. Through these difficult years she never complained. At the beginning, she would demand that I stay longer when I was ready to leave. But toward the end, she would fall asleep as soon as she finished eating.

My last visit to the nursing home was noticeably different. I had driven an hour to visit her, and after 20 minutes she asked if she could go back to her room. As I kissed her goodbye, I wondered if I would see her again. Covid surged that fall and winter, and I was not allowed to visit for another six months.

I saw on my calendar that Jillian’s day was approaching. Thankfully, the virus case numbers were down and things were opening up again. I was glad I would be allowed to visit and bring her daffodils.

But on Sunday evening of the week I planned to visit, I received a call that Jeanne had sepsis and was on life support. Because she wasn’t expected to live very long, I drove to the hospital that night to see her. I held her hand until midnight and then went home. Her daughter came out to say goodbye on Tuesday and traveled back the same day. She had a toddler at home and was completely overwhelmed by the situation.

Jeanne had expressly said she never wanted to be on a ventilator. On Thursday, her daughter told the hospital that life support could be discontinued.

All week I wondered whether I was up to being there at the end. Despite my doubts and lack of commitment, I cancelled all my plans when I heard that the ventilator would be turned off on Thursday before noon.

When I arrived at her bedside, Jeanne’s eyes were open and she tracked my movements with a worried look. Her agitation over having a tube in her mouth was clear. I felt strangely calm and detached, despite knowing I would soon watch my friend die.

I sat close and said, “Jeanne, I am so sorry. I don’t know what to say. Today is the day I was going to bring you daffodils! This is Jillian’s day! And now instead of longing for her, you are going to see her!”

The hospice nurse arrived and quickly announced Jeanne needed more sedation. A Chaplain followed. He recited beautiful prayers and emphatically announced that God was in the room with us.

The Ativan worked and Jeanne’s eyes finally closed. I had brought a speaker with me and propped it next to her ear. I played aloud my favorite meditation songs. “Angel in the Sky” and “Beside Me Always” were absolutely ethereal.

Although I had rushed to get there in time, it turned out that disconnecting the ventilator would not actually happen before noon.

The nurse told me there was a lot of preparation to be done first. He said firmly, “We need to get all our ducks in a row.” I wouldn’t forget his words as the hours dragged on. I continually texted her family with updates about the situation. I realized that I wasn’t only helping to comfort Jeanne. They were very grateful I was there.

Time is definitely warped in a hospital. I lost track of it. As I sat there listening to the beeping machines, I wondered how my own life would end. My mortality felt real and raw. I wasn’t sure whether I would want my children to watch me die. It was tough seeing both my parents suffer at the end of their lives.

I thanked God for my music; it was such sweet comfort and soothed my aching heart. I was in absolute awe that those meditation recordings filling that ICU room were my own creations. I grinned when one of the doctors commented. He said, “All of the staff are in a Zen-like state listening to your music.”

Once the ventilator was disconnected, all the alarms were turned off and it was quiet. Now it was just the two of us in that sterile ICU room. The doctor said she could die quickly or it might take hours.

I watched my friend breathe. At first, I thought, “She can breathe on her own, she’s still alive!” But after a few minutes I could see her breathing wasn’t normal. Her breaths were incredibly rapid – one every second. How was that possible? I imitated it briefly and felt myself hyperventilating.

I patiently waited. It seemed like soon it would be over. When the hospice nurse told me it might be midnight before Jeanne passed, I decided I would leave. It was getting dark and I had a long drive home. I hadn’t had lunch or drank any water. I had kept my mask on tightly since Jeanne had MRSA and a doctor warned me to be careful.

I tried to counter my sadness by re-framing my thoughts. This wasn’t a marathon where I had to prove something by getting to the finish line. I was there to comfort her before she began her journey. Now I could see Jeanne was deeply in a tunnel, exiting life. Her breathing was raspy and sharp. It was the same as my father’s – a death rattle.

I said my last goodbye.

I gave my phone number to the staff and they promised to let me know when she passed. The hospice nurse said, “Jeanne might even be waiting for you to leave.”

She died a few hours later. I was still numb from the long day, but grateful I was able to be there for her. It was all so unreal.

But now she was with Jillian, at last.

Photo by Tetyana Kovyrina at Pexels.com.

(An earlier post I wrote when I first reconnected with Jeanne: YOUR HAND WAS THE ONE HOLDING MINE)

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SPRING THAWED MY PAIN

Seasonal change has inspired many songs and paintings for me. Last spring, I illustrated several varieties of fruit blossoms. Many of those same trees have already begun blooming again.

In January, I completed a complicated painting that I named “Pomegranate Tree.” Technically, pomegranate blossoms are long gone by the time the fruit appears. However, I used artistic license to add them back in.

On the topic of seasonal change, my newest meditation track “Autumn Hope” is now live.

The various guitar parts for this instrumental really spoke to me. Each one was composed during the course of a year. The sections that were created months apart had different rhythms, but I was amazed how everything flowed together once it was finished.

Clicking on this image plays my track on the meditation app, Insight Timer.

Utilizing my Autumn Hope painting as my instrumental’s song cover was especially satisfying.

This past fall held many challenges for me; I honestly felt like my last blog post was a downer. But my instrumental “Autumn Hope” perfectly embodies my beautiful catharsis back to positivity. On the Insight Timer description, I wrote “I found a way to conquer my sadness,” and that line alone was very empowering.

I recorded the solo guitar part over a period of two days. Editing those guitar recordings took weeks. When I finished, I wasn’t satisfied with simply one guitar. My song felt like a recipe – there were many flavors within the passages that called for another guitar part.

So I went back to recording again and transposed all the chords into another key. That way, I could play a higher version using a capo. I created many choices of sounds – light finger-picking, strums, and oodles of delicate harmonics. Just learning the harmonic part alone required a lot of notation and practice.

The actual composition of Autumn Hope is about 16 minutes. I repeated it and added more guitar additions to the second half. I especially loved the ending.

My recent painting of passion fruit shows that passion is definitely part of my life!

On my last post, I wrote about my struggles after a painful eyebrow lift procedure. I have put it behind me and am relieved I was not left with a worse result from plastic surgery. I can even acknowledge some imperceptible improvement. I will gladly take any kind of improvement!

I continue to work on piano songs for a new medley. In keeping with the theme of seasonal change, last week I completed a new solo piano clip for my song “Every Season.” The title of this post is taken from a line of lyrics for that song.

When my son Jason died in 1992, grief was exquisite torture that ebbed and flowed with the seasons. I remember the pain, but do not experience it anymore the way I used to.

Because Jason died in the fall, “Autumn Hope” has even more significance. Hope is a driving force in my life and my energy is devoted to uplifting anyone struggling with grief. Never let go of your hope!

As the smell of blossoms surround me this spring, I’m grateful for so much in my life.

More about my song can be found with this link: EVERY SEASON

 

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AUTUMN HOPE

My newest painting, which I’ve named “Autumn Hope.”

Always looking for a positive spin can sometimes be exhausting. There, I said it! With honesty, I confess that occasionally the urge to wallow in self-pity can be overwhelming. I try to channel self-compassion, because I know I can easily be triggered to feel pain from my past without even realizing it. I am fortunate to have dodged any recent major tragedies, so I feel guilty when I get depressed over smaller things.

In November, I decided to undergo an elective brow-lift procedure. It would allow me to open my eyes more and was not for cosmetic reasons. I’ve dealt with severe dry eyes for ten years now and the heaviness from my sagging brows added more discomfort.

I didn’t want a scar above my eyebrow, so the plastic surgeon recommended another approach named “Brow Pexy.” The eyelid is cut in the fold and peeled back. Then a dissolvable stitch is put underneath that anchors the eyebrow to the eye socket higher up. Eventually, scar tissue replaces the stitch over time. Given the choice to undergo a local anesthetic or general anesthesia, I chose to go through it awake.

I would describe the entire experience as pretty brutal. I definitely felt sharp pain as he worked on me. It involved 90 minutes of lying still while the surgeon and his assistant tugged, cauterized (nasty smell) and re-injected me with oodles of local anesthetic. His growling stomach noise went on the whole time and was very unsettling.

I tried not to squirm when he complained that I was a “bleeder” and said, “Did you know you are resistant to local anesthesia? Most people don’t require so many injections.”

After an interminable 90 minutes, I was bandaged and trudged slowly toward the parking lot where my son waited to pick me up. I held an ice pack on my forehead and moaned from a horrible headache. Over the next few days, I openly wept and struggled to think clearly.

I took this picture the day I came home after having “Brow Pexy.” The tape is holding the stitches. I tried to crack a smile!

For another two weeks, my weeping over little things continued. After one week the stitches came out, which helped. I had to avoid exercise and the isolation aggravated my depression. I slept a lot. I waited to experience any kind of benefit, but was far too swollen to notice anything. My respite came with visits from special friends, which kept my tears flowing.

I had a follow-up appointment with the plastic surgeon three weeks later. I wondered what he would say, because in my gut I didn’t see much difference. Unfortunately, he agreed that my brows were about the same as before.

I asked him if I could have broken the delicate inside stitch by sneezing, (that was so painful it almost knocked me out.) He replied that he wasn’t sure and reiterated that Brow Pexy was a very subtle approach and not really a significant lift for eyebrows. He mentioned some other ideas we could try later on – like a temporal facelift. As he talked about it, my mind drifted off – I had zero interest in considering any further surgery.

I left that appointment and had a good cry in my car.

Thankfully, my positive spin filters finally kicked in. I decided “less was more.” As the swelling went down, I decided that perhaps this was exactly what I needed, something subtle. He had also taken off a little bit of eyelid, which was a slight difference and I noticed that my eyes were slightly more open.

That was good enough for me!

The area where I gathered all types of leaves for my painting.

The day before my eyebrow procedure, I went for a walk at a beautiful park with a good friend. I brought a plastic bag so I could collect autumn leaves and left with a lovely assortment that day. For several months, I hadn’t felt like painting, but I was ready to create something that appealed to me – even though I had done autumn leaves the year before. It would give me something to do while I was healing.

An example of one of the photos I used to create my painting. I eliminated white spaces and excessive brown spots.

It took about five days for me to photograph the leaf collection after my surgery. Even though my eyes were swollen, somehow I could still light and arrange them. Not all of them retained their color and shape, but most were good enough. I sorted out the best photos and created a composite using Photoshop.

I painted with watercolor dyes and carefully followed my layout. I was satisfied if I could paint a leaf or two every other day. My painting slowly unfolded into a beautiful tapestry of color and texture. Like a jigsaw puzzle, the more leaves I painted – the more exciting it was to see everything filling in and coming together.

After almost a month of annoying brain fog and depression, I began to pop out of it.

I started performing again on the meditation app, Insight Timer. It felt good to be back, singing the inspiring songs that helped heal and uplift me.

And then came another whisper in the darkness – I heard a new song forming! Exquisite guitar passages enveloped me and my heart swelled with joy. Just when I needed something to pull me through, this new music appeared!

It was three years since I last composed anything new. I planned to record my new song, but was still exploring the multitude of passages and combinations. With excitement, I played my new guitar instrumental live on Insight Timer. Tentatively, I named it “My Hopeful Heart,” which spoke to my steadfast wish to heal. But my subconscious held onto the title “Autumn Hope.” I am working on releasing it on Insight Timer soon and share an except of it at the beginning of this post.

This is me, before playing my newest instrumental live on Insight Timer. I’ll be doing it often until I’ve decided my song’s format.

My oldest son came to visit over the holidays. Having my two sons together was simply wonderful. As I painted autumn leaves, I enjoyed listening to their laughter while gaming.

This was definitely a holiday I would never forget. My daughter became officially engaged, and that was something else to celebrate.

But it was the joy of creating new music that lifted me right out of my funk. I am ready to begin the New Year with optimism and hope.

My hopeful heart continues to beat with love. I love my children, my creativity, and my life.

My finished painting – before adding details with colored pencils.

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#64 TAKING STOCK OF MY LIFE AND ART – PART 3

I am sharing about 8 months worth of artwork. I haven’t painted much over the last month, but I will get back to it once I finish my course on Insight Timer.

ILLUSTRATING MY LIFE

I continue to take stock of my life and my art. In the summer of 2020, I began to prolifically create art for my own purposes. Since then, I have added 120 new images to my stock site: Judy Unger iStock. I explain more about this new direction on these posts:

#57 TAKING STOCK OF ART AND MY LIFE – PART 1

#61 TAKING STOCK OF ART AND MY LIFE – PART 2

For this post, I am sharing my latest illustrations. I have included examples of my photo reference, as well as shots of my paintings in progress. More information about my working process can be found on Part 1 and Part 2.

 CHICKEN SOUP WITH MATZO BALL

It might be interesting to know that I originally planned to illustration this bowl of soup as a down shot. I made two pots of soup and took over a…

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