HANG ON – PART 3

This is my x-ray, four weeks after surgery.

It has been six weeks since I broke my ankle and had surgery to repair it.

The decision to perform at Kulak’s Woodshed this past week while still in a wheelchair did not come easily. Over the weekend I asked a good friend to help me decide, because I’ve had a lot of trouble making decisions lately. She encouraged me to express my fears and after talking we both decided that it would be good for me to go if I were up to it.

From the moment I arrived in my wheelchair, I was warmly welcomed. One woman I didn’t even know squeezed my hand and told me she had prayed for me.

I shared with my audience that since July 1st, I hadn’t worn a pair of pants. I certainly hadn’t put in contact lenses or applied make up. I choked with tears while introducing my second song.

Below is an audio clip from Kulak’s Woodshed, prior to performing “Hang On,” which was my first song:

I couldn’t have performed if I hadn’t asked some dear friends if they could bring me. Stacey and her husband, Bill picked me up and I was grateful for them.

Asking was something new in my world. This has been my greatest lesson and by far the most difficult aspect of my journey toward healing with a broken ankle. There was a situation where I was forced to ask for help, which was far more important than going to perform. I am going to save that story for another time.

Until this experience, I had never gone through such an extended period of recuperation in my life before. Even though a C-section for my first-born son was extremely painful, I was able to walk within a few days.

The contrast was shocking for me. I was hiking, feeling fit and healthy. I planned to play tennis the next day. I was excited to lead a healing retreat the following month. And suddenly, within a few seconds – all my plans were derailed and my life was put on hold. This was a familiar stage of grief, all over again.

Since my accident, my days blurred together. Sitting at my computer and napping became my routine. Visitors were precious; as were the few times my son took me out to dinner.

Every morning, I woke up and found it unbelievable how my life could be so different. I learned to be careful when sitting up with a heavy boot. The first week, I really hurt my stomach muscles and worried that I’d gotten a hernia. I would lean sideways, stand on one foot, swivel and sit down in my wheelchair. When I forgot to check if it was locked, I was in trouble.

Then I would zoom out my bedroom down a hallway to get to my bathroom. I cursed regularly going in, because I didn’t want to scrape off any more paint. The pieces on the floor were a constant reminder.

I was glad to put the surgery behind me. It was scheduled the day after July 4th. The clinics were all closed and it seemed like I was the only person having surgery that day.

My daughter slept over the night before and we both woke up at 5:00 am. A neighbor had thankfully finished building a plywood ramp and I was relieved that my daughter was able to push me down it. It was so precarious, that we both burst into laughter – the adrenaline rush was actually uplifting.

By noon, we were on our way home and I was thrilled because I wasn’t in any pain. It was very noticeable, because the four days before surgery were awful. It turned out that the respite was due to lingering anesthesia.

That night when the deep bone-chilling ache began, I took every pill I was allowed to. It was so complicated for me to keep track that I made a chart with alarms going off every few hours on my phone. During that week, my life was all about alarms and ice packs at regular intervals.

Reminding myself that my situation was temporary is what saved me. If I thought about playing tennis, warm tears would gush from my eyes – so I soothed myself with the knowledge that it would be enough and amazing to simply walk outside and look at the sky on my own.

I was probably as independent as a “temporarily disabled” person could be!

I figured out how to order groceries online. My son put the microwave on a lower counter where I could easily reach it. But I was also able to stand on one leg to reach things that weren’t close enough.

I started cooking for myself right away and had to maneuver my wheelchair in all directions in order to open the refrigerator. I learned to avoid having things splatter in my face the hard way. Once, I burned my arm while reaching near the hot water kettle.

Sometimes, I was very upset when my sons left small messes in the kitchen. If I didn’t want to look at it, I took care of it. I reframed my irritation with the knowledge that I was quite capable of rinsing dishes – and that was a very good thing in my book.

But eventually I stopped caring; I began leaving dishes and chores for my son to help me with. I hired my cleaning lady to come for short intervals, instead of once a month like I usually did.

I found myself wondering, what would I have done if I lived in an upstairs apartment? My son told me “you’d go to a hotel” and that wasn’t acceptable. I thought, “I would have crawled up the stairs if I had to!”

But I had to ask for certain things . . .

My daughter took me to my appointments, as well as my surgery. Picking up a temporary handicap placard was another major outing for us. It bothered me knowing it wasn’t fun and it was inconvenient for her. She hated traffic and the parking situation at the medical center, but I couldn’t imagine anyone else dealing with it but her.

I remembered how exhausting it was when I took my own mother out in a wheelchair – this was a trigger.

I had become my mother!

For the first few weeks, my oldest son came to stay with me while my younger son was away for a job. I constantly called him to bring me ice. Late at night I didn’t want to wake him, so I would wheel myself to the kitchen to get it.

He wanted my help with his online classes and it was a good distraction for me. I would end up dozing as he typed, sitting next to me on my bed with his laptop.

By the third week after surgery, I decided that sitting and lying down all day wasn’t terrible, as long as I wasn’t in pain.

After four weeks, I was given a boot instead of a cast. It was definitely something to celebrate, although having my stitches pulled out made my eyes water.

It was after the fourth week when inactivity took a toll on my psyche. I had oodles of time to think about my life, to ponder, reflect and wonder what lessons I would learn from my “Lazy-land.”

I became a quivering heap of vulnerability – weeping at the drop of a hat.

I told myself I’d never again take for granted walking to the bathroom. The day where I had a bathroom accident and had to clean things up myself was definitely a very low point.

Standing up and pulling down underwear with one leg is tricky. Another lesson I learned was: when putting on underwear it’s a good idea to always put the bad leg through the hole first.

This was something I’d definitely add to my list of: “Lessons Learned From Having a Broken Ankle.” I began writing my list the first week, but didn’t have the heart to post it.

I’m glad I still had humor. On my list was: Don’t put on a bra while sitting in the wheelchair because it will get stuck in the wheels. (Asking my son to help me pull it out was out of the question.)

I had endless days to work at my computer. I placed my injured leg on a tall hamper with a pillow on top. Frozen peas became my companion.

Prior to this experience, I would have envisioned myself writing songs and insightful stories. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel creative – my mind was numb. I had no insights. I had no songs to be sung. Playing guitar hurt my leg and I wasn’t comfortable playing with my leg up.

Nothing could reach inside my heart. I was in survival mode.

Practicing my guitar before performing. I hardly played at all for over a month.

I’ve written a lot about the hard lessons from this ordeal, but I haven’t mentioned the magnificent ones.

I am blessed with incredible friends.

When a good friend would visit, I was distracted from sobbing my heart out. All the visits, meals, gifts, flowers, love and kindness were beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I saved every single get-well card and made a nice display next to me on my desk.

Even though I sometimes grumbled at my children, they worked hard to be there for me. They weren’t used to seeing their mom in a helpless position and I tried to maintain the illusion that I was fine as much as possible.

I plan to finish my list of “Lessons From a Broken Ankle” and I have more writing to share.

In a few days, I will go back to see the foot doctor. I am praying and anticipating that I’ll be allowed to take my first steps again.

It’s all about those baby steps . . .

For lyrics, recordings and other stories about Hang On, go to the link below:

HANG ON

Kulak's Message 4

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WATERFALL DREAMS – PART 2

A few days ago, I went on a lovely hike with two of my adult children. I heard the gorgeous chords to “Waterfall Dreams” in my mind. Just before leaving that morning, I uploaded my newest composition onto the Insight Timer app.

I was very tempted to name this post “Waterfall Nightmares.”

Before my accident . . .

I felt fit and strong as I hiked. I appreciated being in the shade near a bubbly stream on such a hot day. The destination was a lovely waterfall and I was bursting with joy that my two children were enjoying this day with me. I bragged aloud that it wasn’t bad that I could manage so many stream crossings with ease at the age of 59.

My kids took lovely pictures with the backdrop of a frothy waterfall. After that, we all sat down on rocks and relaxed. I took out some snacks to share with them while we discussed where we would go for lunch after we got back.

We were on our way back from the waterfall and I was looking forward to my air-conditioned car.

There were at least another 20 stream crossings to navigate, though. I teetered a little on loose rocks and logs and occasionally my foot landed in the shallow water. I wore old tennis shoes and they seemed fine for this.

I keep replaying the accident over and over because it was so sudden and shocking.

I was going up a slope and I walked around a few big boulders. My kids were in front of me. But as I was stepped to go down, the soil gave way. I lost balance and my left foot twisted. I pitched forward without any way of stopping the fall. I felt sharp pain and crunching in my ankle as I fell.

My daughter cried out and was so upset that she wasn’t closer – she believed she could have prevented it. My son called 911 and people were everywhere. I was on my back in the dirt with the hot sun beating down on me. My foot felt numb and I was in shock.

There were two wonderful women with first aid training that stayed with me for over an hour. I will never forget them. They put ice on my leg and attempted to clean off blood and dirt. I was grateful I could still wiggle my toes and I drank as much water as possible. There was no shade nearby so I put a hat over my head. My music played in my mind and helped me stay calm.

It seemed like a long time before help came. Two paramedics showed up first. They stood me up with support on either side, but I almost fainted. It was determined that the best way to get me out would be in a wheelbarrow. A whole crew would be coming. While waiting, they kept checking my vitals.

When a large group firefighters showed up – I felt like the cavalry had arrived. I was slid onto a board and secured with ropes like a mummy. It was a thrashing ride! I had six men on either side of me, they were so close that I could hear them grunting and groaning. The leader shouted commands as they bounced me over many stream crossings.

There’s not much to see, but below is a 2 second video my son took:

Eventually the team reached the trailhead. After that, I had a wild ambulance ride on a bumpy dirt road. It was another hour before we reached the hospital and I had a nice conversation about meditation music with the paramedic sitting near me.

Once the ambulance arrived at the hospital, I was told to sit in the waiting room until I could be admitted. As I sat there alone in a wheelchair, I was seized by leg cramps and moaning in agony. When my children found me, I wiped away my tears. The hospital did not offer me anything to drink, but my children brought me food and Gatorade.

Finally, I was put in a freezing room where my cramping continued. My daughter requested a blanket and my son massaged my cramping calf muscles. Finally after a few hours, x-rays were taken. Then we had to wait again to get results from a doctor.

This was an opportunity for me to spend a lot of time with my two children. Despite the tension and stress, I was proud how they were there for me.

When the doctor finally came in, he was very brusque and annoyed that my insurance was Kaiser. He said he would have taken me for surgery immediately, but couldn’t, due to my insurance. I would need to go to a Kaiser hospital as soon as possible and tell them to “schedule it.”

I wasn’t transferred. I was discharged to deal with it. I was very worried about what my insurance would determine, including the high deductible I had.

My son drove me home and there were incredible challenges. With a neighbor’s help, they both lifted me up the few steps to my apartment. It wasn’t easy for them at all.

Instead of crutches, I was given a walker. I held onto it tightly and hopped, but it was exhausting and very slow. The distance from the car into my apartment seemed like miles. Within a day, my arms were too sore to hold me up and it was extremely painful.

I was able to get an appointment the next day at Kaiser and my daughter took me. A wonderful friend met me there and loaned me a portable wheelchair. It would make things much easier because now I could roll around my house.

The Kaiser surgeon agreed that I needed surgery. He planned to insert a plate and screws on my broken fibula. There was an opening the next day, but he said my foot was far too swollen and that posed a risk. So surgery was scheduled for 3 days later.

I asked when I could play tennis again. He said it would be a long time and at the very least six months. I was told that another surgery to remove the plate and screws was likely. It was going to be over two months before I would even get a walking cast.

I was so grateful that I did not injure my wrists when I fell. During the months of my recovery, perhaps I’ll compose something new. Despite being in a cast, I hope to still get out and perform  like before, 

A recent post shared my excitement of leading a healing retreat at the end of July. I won’t be able to do it because it’s not a wheelchair accessible facility. But it has been rescheduled for later in September.

My surgery is tomorrow. I’ll be relieved to have it behind me. I don’t like taking painkillers and don’t plan to if I can help it. I hope the pain won’t be horrible and I admit I’m a bit scared.

Temporary is a great word and I am applying many healing thoughts to help myself through this. I think I’m in shock. It feels unbelievable, like a bad dream.

I’m going to let “Waterfall Dreams” be my comfort.

It was a great distraction for me to create a video excerpt for my blog this morning. I am thankful for a lovely tennis friend and traveller, who shared her incredible waterfall pictures with me.

 

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WATERFALL DREAMS – PART 1

Below is a shortened version of my soon-to-be-released track on Insight Timer. I love this description I came up with for my track: “Let yourself dream as soothing acoustic guitar chords cascade over you.”

Composing “Waterfall Dreams” was very enjoyable. For two months, I added sections and enjoyed the major and minor contrasts.

I recorded the guitar parts for my song during a period of one week. The final track of 34 minutes was created after I edited over six hours of recordings. Those recordings were hard work!

I considered that it might be fun to have water sounds splashing in the background. I hired my piano arranger to add some sounds, but after listening to his ideas, I decided the guitar sounded best without anything added.

There are three sections to this composition. The first is major, the second is minor and the third dissonant section contains chords that I composed when I was 19-years-old.

That instrumental from 1980 was named “Waterfalls” and the beginning chords inspired my later acoustic song named “Take Me Away.” More about that song is at this link: TAKE ME AWAY

I think it’s very cool that I can share a cassette recording of my instrumental “Waterfalls” that was recorded in1980. For my meditation version, I slowed it down considerably!

Below are performances of my song in progress.

 

 

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TAKE ME AWAY – PART 3

For lyrics and other stories about this song go to this link: TAKE ME AWAY

Composing after a long dry spell has been wonderful for me. It is truly an exploration, as I search to find interesting chords.

My motivation to compose again has come from the beautiful meditation audience I have on Insight Timer. The love and appreciation from that community buoys me and has become my inspiration.

I released my newest instrumental “Farewell Love Song” on Insight Timer last week. I’m excited to share that Insight Timer featured my track on their home page under the category of “Staff Picks.” This morning, I received the following message:

I’m not sure what I’ll name my newest piece. In 1980, I composed an instrumental named “Waterfalls,” and I’ve greatly slowed and expanded it to create a meditation track.

I’ve really enjoyed the many new passages I’ve discovered. I had fun performing my instrumental in progress and it was great practice for me! I share a Part 1 and Part 2, which were recorded a month apart.

I used to post regularly to my blog, but haven’t for a while. It feels great to share myself here. This year, I’ve continued to record my music steadily. It is more of a solo venture now, since I am not working in a studio with an arranger like I used to.

When a friend mentioned to me that my 52 song compositions were like a “deck of cards,” I chuckled and haven’t forgotten that.

I have arrangements for all of them, but over the last three years I’ve recorded simpler versions with two guitars and a vocal. I also create a piano guitar version that works well for a meditation medley of ten songs.

I am down to my last five songs and will hopefully finish those this year.

My song “Take Me Away” was based upon the chords for “Waterfalls” and that explains my post title. I recorded a new acoustic version of “Take Me Away” a few weeks ago.

Below is my latest vocal and piano/guitar recording:

Last week I began recording sections of my new composition late at night. The serenity of recording at 4 a.m. is amazing. It is also hard work and I get stiff after playing for a long time. Sometimes my hand becomes numb. I have to stop and shake it out for a few minutes because I can’t feel it.

I realize that the editing is going to take a long time because the track is so complicated and long. But it is my joy to do this. I spend a lot of time editing my music.

I can admit that sometimes I feel like I’m very isolated. I’ve longed to connect more with people in person. This wish has now become a reality for me.

I played my guitar for a support group a few months ago, and it was such a beautiful experience. I decided to try reaching out to many healing sites online.

Well, I landed something! At the end of July I’m going to lead a grief/healing/music workshop up in the mountains of Idyllwild for Spirit Mountain Retreats.

I can’t wait – I’m taking myself away!

(For fun, I’m sharing old pictures that were taken in Idyllwild long ago . . .)

I especially love this picture with my mother holding me. The lyrics to “Take Me Away” are about wishing I could see my mother again.

I am holding a lizard I caught in this picture!

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MY SONG UNSUNG-PART 2

MY SONG UNSUNG

I’ve played my songs on countless shores

in quiet shade of sycamores

All my pain was overcome

by heart-torn lyric and a strum

When I was young

I wrote my song unsung

 

Experience, it felt so cold

but music was my friend

I lived wearing a blindfold

Yet with lyrics I didn’t pretend

 

Through the years, when life was hard

my heart became numb and scarred

All my joy had gone away

and with sadness I couldn’t play

I was still young

I left my song unsung

 

Loneliness had left a hole

for years I made no sound

til music came to soothe my soul

and to turn my life around

 

Dreams were fuel that kept me strong

My heart was healed because of song

I learned that I could sing and then

I discovered joy again

 

I found that I had faith inside

my songs returned; they had not died

And though I was no longer young

Look what my music had brung

I sang my song unsung

I sang my song unsung

This page was from a book of lyrics created for a calligraphy class assignment in 1981.

In 1980, I composed a very simple love song. It only had two stanzas and was unfinished. I named it “This Song Unsung.” I clearly fantasized about falling in love, as evidenced from a diary entry around that time.

My simple song truly went unsung and for thirty years it was a distant memory.

When I began playing my guitar again in 2010, I eventually expanded “This Song Unsung” and it was renamed “Her Song Unsung.” This time, the lyrics were about rediscovering music and joy that translated to saving my lonely marriage. The last two lines went: “In his arms she did belong, her life became her love song.”

Unfortunately, what I projected did not fit my reality and It was very awkward for me to sing “Her Song Unsung” because it wasn’t honest. Also, writing in third person was very detached.

A few years later, I rewrote the lyrics to fit my life and the new title was “My Song Unsung.”

I am so grateful that I was finally able to do justice to this old song of mine. It’s no longer “unsung!”

More recordings, videos and stories can be found at this link: MY SONG UNSUNG

 

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MY COUSIN, DEBBIE

I am attaching audio from my spoken tribute to Debbie at her memorial:

I’m in pink and my cousin, Debbie is in the middle. My childhood buddy, Joni is on the right.

Almost every week, I would pick up my cousin, Debbie to go to dinner and occasionally a movie. I searched for movies that were wholesome and upbeat for her.

I laugh. remembering how I wasn’t always careful about researching my movie suggestions in the beginning. I thought Moonlight was going to be romantic, but when it became violent Debbie covered her eyes during most of the movie. I told her we could leave, but she wanted to stay and was a trouper. It was probably her least favorite movie even if it won the best picture Oscar!

A picture of us in a movie theatre last year.

No one was like Debbie in my life. Her first words upon getting in my car were usually, “Judy, can you please play me your latest song?” She oozed sweetness and love.

Debbie was only two months younger than I. We shared a lot of memories of growing up together. Our wonderful times included parties, beach trips, double dates and sleepovers.

This picture was taken after a wonderful day at the beach. Debbie is on the upper left side.

My cousin’s life wasn’t easy. Her biological mother died when she was a baby. Her father married my aunt and she adopted his three children. In her late teens, mental illness took hold and Debbie was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. At one of our last sleepovers, she babbled and cried out in the middle of the night and it was scary. She was in and out of treatment for many years. I did visit her at the hospital once or twice. But I was not really close to her after that.

During the time Debbie struggled with mental health challenges, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She beat it, but was left with many health issues plaguing her later in her life.

So after my carefree years of childhood, I rarely spoke or saw Debbie. I was happy that she found love and got married. She was invited to every family event, but often didn’t show up. But Debbie was vigilant about keeping in touch with my parents; she would call them on a regular basis. I was sad when her parents passed away and she was sad about mine, too.

After I left my long marriage in 2012, I moved back to the home where I grew up and Debbie lived only few miles away. One day, I spoke with Debbie and we made plans to get together. She didn’t drive and I was happy to go pick her up.

Our relationship was revitalized and we began to make plans more frequently. She became my “movie buddy.” Before that, I would go to the movies alone when I had the desire to see something. Now I had Debbie’s eager company.

I used to feel guilty that I had pulled away from her when she went through her mental health issues. Now I had the chance to turn things around, to feel good about making a difference to her life.

Her excitement to go out with me was infectious. I’d pull up to her house and call her to let her know I was there. She’d eagerly walk down the driveway and happily slide into the passenger seat of my car.

After a few years her gait became unsteady and she began using a walker. It reminded me of taking my mother out. Although it was challenging at times, it heartened me to feel my mother’s presence during our outings. I loved talking with Debbie about our parents and memories of them.

Only a month before she died, Debbie seemed to be gasping when she spoke. She shared that it was hard for her to sleep at night and she was hoping to get a prescription for an oxygen tank to help her. It took hard work and advocacy for her to get it, but she prevailed.

On our very last outing, her husband, Tom came out to my car holding a big bag next to Debbie. In it, was her oxygen tank that she now needed during the day. He explained to me that I would need to change the battery after two hours. As he showed me how to snap in another one, I watched carefully and felt a little nervous about this important task.

It was definitely tricky to get her into my car with the tank. She finally eased into the passenger seat but didn’t have the strength to put on her seatbelt. After fastening her in, I started to ask her where she’d like to go for dinner. Then I had an idea. I said, “Deb, how about coming over to my house? I’d like to fix you dinner tonight.”

She said softly with a small hint of a smile, “That would be wonderful.”

It wasn’t easy getting her to manage up the 3 stairs into my old apartment. This was where she had stayed with me when we had sleepovers as teenagers.

She was breathing hard as she sat at my dining room table while I fixed some of her favorite foods. I could see she’d lost a lot weight since the week before. I put a plate in front of her, but she hardly ate any of it. I was worried.

Despite my worry, I saw that she was happy being there with me. This was so much better than going to a restaurant. After I cleared the dishes, I had another idea.

I brought out a box of old photos from my closet. It wasn’t organized, but I knew there would be many interesting pictures inside. I found one of Debbie as a young child. She glanced at it and asked who was in the picture. “That’s you, Deb!” I made a pile for her to take home.

A picture of 4 cousins, Debbie is on the far left and cut off in this picture. My pose is so silly!

I pulled out some pictures taken at my Sweet Sixteen party. It amazed me to think that those pictures were taken right in front of my apartment building – the same place where I was now living. Debbie studied them, but then she revealed something very sad to me. Normally, everything she said was positive and perhaps with her recent struggles it was hard for her to stay that way.

“Judy, did you know that I was crying when that picture was taken at your party?”

I looked carefully again at her picture and said, “Deb, I don’t see tears. But tell me, why were you crying?”

“I was crying because I felt left out,” she said. You had so many friends and I didn’t.”

I felt tears well up in my eyes and I hugged her.

Debbie is leaning toward me in the upper left corner. Was she teary?

Now she was struggling to breathe and said, “Can you please change the battery? I’m not getting any air.”

I reached into the bag to get the replacement battery. My hands were shaking as I pulled out the dead battery and inserted the replacement. I hoped I was doing it correctly and Debbie was gasping as I fumbled. I pushed a button and we waited. Then Debbie reached over and pushed another button anxiously. It turned the unit off.

My heart was racing as I pushed the correct button again and gently held her hand away. The machine whirred and started pumping again. I was so relieved!

I still needed to drive her home, and could feel the weight of responsibility upon me. We had three steps to go down and a short distance of walking to reach my car. I gathered some extra food and pictures I wanted her to keep. I maneuvered her walker down the stairs and held onto her firmly.

As she sank into my car, she whispered, “Judy, this is pretty tough.”

I said, “I see that. I’m so sorry, Deb!”

After dropping her off, I cried. I knew she was going to have the best surgeon and hoped her heart procedure was going to “fix” this awful situation.

When she didn’t make it through, it was a reminder to me of how my son died. All the hope in the world and medical treatment didn’t change the outcome.

A picture from Debbie’s wedding.

I will miss Debbie and I share one of my last fond memories.

Two weeks before she died, we went to dinner at her favorite restaurant. We stood up to leave and I went to get her walker.

Debbie stood holding her chair. She reminded me of a willow tree swaying in the wind and asked me to help button up her sweater. She did not have the energy or dexterity to do it.

I stood very close to her and gently pushed each button through, one by one. When I finished the last one, she beamed at me. I felt like I was bathed in a glow of joy. Her face shone with a radiant smile and her eyes sparkled. “Hey Deb, what’s the big smile for?” I asked.

She said, “I’m just so happy!”

That is how I will remember Debbie.

Our last picture taken together.

 

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HEART SONG

This is an excerpt of solo guitar that will be part of a new meditation song for Insight Timer. “Heart Song” begins after a short riff of an older song named “Farewell.” I plan to add piano and the entire track will be approximately 30 minutes when completed.

I retreated into my bedroom. I had hoped our lovely family gathering would be uplifting, but unfortunately it turned into something else. There were hurt feelings, anger and lots of drama and it continued after I excused myself.

I closed my door and took a deep breath to calm the pit in my stomach. Most of the time I felt peaceful in my “post-divorce life.” Triggers like this emotional conflict threw me backwards, but thankfully they were rare.

My guitar beckoned me. I gently picked it up and wiped away my tears. For several weeks I had been working on a new instrumental composition that was definitely special. My goal was to expand an older instrumental named “Farewell” with additional passages in the same key.

Every day, I searched for ideas. I already had several bars but I hoped I could add more to them. I heard emotional discussions going on outside my door and tried to ignore it. As I played my guitar, I felt shaky and sad. When a few sweet chords appeared, I played them repeatedly and went further with it. My heart was soothed.

Eventually, I had to address the family drama. I extended my love, despite my own hurt feelings. I was unable to share my truthful emotions, which drained me. I felt turmoil for a few days afterwards, but held onto the beautiful chords that were created during such a stressful time.

It was challenging for me to decide when my new composition was finished. I had to balance my excitement of recording it, while hoping my song had reached it’s full potential.

After another week, I was ready. I planned to record it early on a Sunday morning. There would be less traffic noise that way, except after sunrise there were noisy birds chirping outside my window.

The night before my planned recording, I set up two microphones in my bedroom. I cleared a small path so I wouldn’t trip over them at night when going to the bathroom.

Guitar recording involved intense concentration, as well as sitting still for long stretches while playing. I actually had two songs to record – my older composition of “Farewell and my newer addition to it.

Because this music was for meditation, I would play slowly. I estimated it would take about two hours. The main issue was to align my body and guitar in the exact same position for those hours. I wanted to record enough material to work with and tried different variations so I would have many choices while editing.

I slid into my chair and tuned the guitar carefully. I began when it was still dark and delicately fingerpicked in my quiet bedroom. I felt the guitar notes flowing from my heart. My body actually was tingling as I played.

Eventually, I had to stop because the chirping of birds was getting louder. I unplugged the mics and labeled the tracks. My old song was named “Farewell,” but I wasn’t sure what to call the newer part. I chose “Heart Song.” The full version could be called “Farewell Heart Song.” Of course, it was possible that I’d change my mind later on.

I stretched and made breakfast. I was so glad I had decided to record that morning. Later in the day I planned to visit a dear relative who was in the hospital. I sipped my coffee and then noticed someone had left me a voicemail message while I was recording.

As I listened to his tearful voice, by heart sank. My dear cousin, whom I was very close to, had taken a terrible turn for the worse.

I thought I would be seeing many relatives, but when I entered her hospital room there was only a nurse. I asked if it would be okay to hold my cousin’s hand. The nurse pulled down the sheet and I grasped her limp fingers.

I could hear the notes to “Heart Song” playing in the background as I leaned my face next to hers. She had one eye open and there wasn’t a glimmer of awareness behind it. I cried and poured out my heart.

How could I have known that my newest meditation song truly was a farewell?

She died a few hours after I left.

I share an excerpt of a recent performance of “Heart Song” before I became more confident with it.

This is a link to the story about “Farewell.” #118 MY FAREWELL TO MUSIC

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HEALING SONG – PART 2

Link to other stories and recordings: HEALING SONG

I composed “Healing Song” in 2016. I attempted to write lyrics for it, but gave up when I decided it was meant to be an instrumental song. “Healing Song” clearly spoke to me without words.

I recorded a slower version of my song with added piano touches and released it on the Insight Timer Meditation app. Lovely people all over the world thanked me for my song and told me it didn’t need lyrics.

“Healing Song” was a perfect title because I wrote it while suffering with painful dry eyes. The melody lifted me out of my discomfort and not long after my song was written, my eye condition improved. After suffering for over four years with dry eyes, this beautiful outcome was welcomed.

Recently, I performed “Healing Song.” I shortened it slightly because of time constraints, but was pleased with how I played it that night. I took my time and allowed myself to linger over the many sweet passages. I expressed my feelings with every note.

I had some concerns about the tuning on my guitar. But thankfully, that night it was fairly in tune.

For well over a year, I had noticed on many occasions that I wasn’t satisfied with my guitar’s sound despite trying many kinds of strings. I decided to seek out a luthier (guitar repair expert) who came highly recommended. His name was John and 6 months ago he replaced the frets on my beloved Lowden. My guitar played nicely after that, but unfortunately the problem with tuning continued to bother me.

A few days before my performance, I brought my guitar back to John. I told him how the day before I had spent several hours recording 14 guitar tracks and none of them were usable; one chord sounded terribly out of tune. The calluses on my left hand had deep grooves after that session – it was such a shame.

After checking out my guitar, he said he didn’t hear a major tuning problem. He told me he could order an adjustable nut. It wouldn’t be pretty, but it could possibly make a subtle improvement for me.

I told John about that one chord and demonstrated the problem. It sounded terrible and was clearly out of tune. He reached over and pressed the exact same string and it wasn’t out of tune.

I played it and it was out of tune. I handed it back to him – he played it and it wasn’t. I scratched my head. What was going on?

It turned out that I was pressing too hard and pushing the string out of tune. Pressing hard seemed to prevent buzzing, but it wasn’t necessary.

I didn’t want to change my playing and told John to go ahead and order the part. He sent me a message a few days later that it wasn’t available, but he’d keep trying to find it.

In the meantime, I decided this was a sign for me. Pushing harder than was needed related to one of my favorite metaphors of “less is more.”

When I performed “Healing Song” at Kulak’s Woodshed’s Twofer night, it was a great opportunity for me to relax and play with less pressure. It made such a difference for my performance.

The wisdom from this was applicable to my life in many ways. “Pressing hard” was something I’m very familiar with. It was definitely time for a lighter approach!

I realize that I am happier with less pressure and most of the time it’s self-imposed. For months now, I’ve been recording an audio class for Insight Timer named “Grief Healing Through Music.” I had hoped finish everything before the Christmas holiday, but have had to accept that I can’t. This was a concept that could definitely help me with my frustration.

Healing is a very inspiring.

If I look for it, I see healing all around me. Recently, I’ve watched two of my children repair their relationship. It has filled me with amazement. When they were growing up, it was exhausting and frustrating for me to deal with their friction. I really wasn’t able to fix anything and even as adults, the tension between them upset me greatly. But my satisfaction of seeing them interact in a whole different way now fills me with pleasure.

This picture was taken by one of my children experimenting with an old film camera!

My oldest son’s growth and healing is another story I could write. This has been his first year working as an elementary school teacher. It has been exhausting for him and I’ve been very supportive of his courage to move to another state and work at a job where he had little experience. When he sent me a picture of a trophy he received, I wanted to shout out from the rooftops how happy I was.

Recently, I visited him for two weeks. A good friend of mine who is a teacher came with me for a few days. She really made a difference to his life. Before my son started his job, all three of us went shopping for school supplies for his classroom. Linnae even made him a Pinterest page and wrote out lists of suggestions to help him.

All three of us took a lovely excursion to a state park named “Valley of Fire.” It was a beautiful day!

I closed my eyes like I often do – but I know I looked happy there!

Even though stress and worry was a familiar part of my life for decades, I am learning to relax and enjoy my simple life. I used to take care of many family members and now it’s mostly just me.

Less pressure equals more joy. Less is definitely more!

The comments I receive daily on Insight Timer are definitely my fuel.

 

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CRYSTAL OCEANS – PART 3

I remember singing the melody to my song “Crystal Oceans” when I was only 17 years old. I loved the la la la’s and never imagined that decades later a music video would be filmed about my song.

Proof! A recording clip from 1980: 

The experience of filming this video was amazing. There were many hurdles and challenging moments – I could write a book about it. Now that my video has come together into a beautiful 4-minute fairytale, I am basking in joy.

I have chosen not to feel disappointed that my life didn’t follow the same script as this heartwarming video. If I thought about my song that way, I could feel sad. Instead, I am bursting with pride that I followed my dream to embrace music again after so many years of sadness.

After seeing my video, a good friend wrote this message to me. She said, “I hope you find love soon.”

This is what I wrote back to her:

“I already have found love and it’s okay for me to be without a man in my life. I’m very happy to be free to sing my heart out! But I love you and I understand your wish for me to find companionship. I do have a happy ending, even if my life didn’t end up that way. I just have a different happy ending!”

Singing my heart out

It was tremendous fun to participate in such a creative project. The director, videographer, editor, and actors all generously shared their talent, time and energy to make my dream come true. 

Director:  David Lautman

Director of Photography:  Shimmy Lautman

Video editing: Donna Ivgi Lautman

Young Judy:  Bailey Sorrel

Young Noah:  Andrew Trischitta

Older Noah:  Jonathon Wright

David and Shimmy’s mother is my childhood friend, Joni Lautman. Joni is dear to my heart and the reason I picked up my guitar again after 30 years. I can never thank her enough for that, but she continues to find ways to encourage me to share my voice! The picture above is of Joni and I as young teenagers with my mother at the beach. I was told that I look like my mother in the video.

This scene above was shot in my current bedroom. I live in the same apartment where I grew up and composed Crystal Oceans. The charcoal guitar illustration hanging on the wall is one I used to have in my old bedroom! David is filming Bailey dreaming of meeting her blue-eyed boy on the beach.

Young Judy is composing her song with my old classical guitar, the same one that I originally played all those years ago!

David and Shimmy did an amazing job setting up the shots.

I enjoyed a delicious salad at Coral Tree Café during the filming. Watching these two talented actors interact at one of my favorite cafes was a joy. 

It was very cold the day we filmed at El Matador State Beach near Point Dume. I was freezing and wearing my furry jacket. Bailey and Andrew were shivering but it didn’t show as they frolicked in the freezing ocean surf!

I’m glad I was able to borrow some sunglasses. Because they looked cool, I was encouraged to keep them on during the filming for a few shots.

I looked excited about the champagne, but in reality I don’t drink at all. But this video was definitely not about my reality – it was a fantasy!

More about the music video before filming: #556 THAT MOMENT WHEN

Link to more recordings, lyrics and stories about my song:  CRYSTAL OCEANS

Baily and AndrewJudy & Baily

 

 

 

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HOPE CAME WITH THE RAINBOW

“Music is my passion and art is my profession.”

I’ve said that line above many times. My artwork has taken a backseat while I’ve pursued creating music that I love. Unfortunately, creating music has been rather expensive but there is nothing else I’d rather spend my money on.

This year was incredibly slow for me in terms of receiving custom illustration assignments. The fact that I was beginning to think about finding income from sources other than art had me puzzled. I decided not to give up on my art career. If anything, I’ve learned that when I did that in the past during slow times – I was wrong.

After doing a little research and getting advice from several art directors I’ve worked with, I decided to advertise my work with a page on an online artists’ directory named “The Workbook.” I advertised in their print book early on in my art career.

Here is a link to my new page: https://www.workbook.com/portfolios/judy_unger/galleries

On my last post, I shared that my arranger, Robert Maule moved to New York. Before he left, he was nice enough to help me out in setting up equipment so I could record at home. Even though my apartment is far noisier than I’d like, I am certain this is a good thing in the long run. I want to have guitar and vocal recordings for each one of my songs. Last week I  recorded number 38 and only have 13 more.

It wasn’t easy to be the guitarist and engineer for my first home recording. Though it was challenging, I did it! I’m very proud of myself. I figured out all of the inputs and outputs and managed to connect my audio interface and microphones. It took a lot of time and practice to get it right. After recording my guitar takes, I was exhilarated and exhausted!

I recorded my song “Rainbow Through My Tears” because it was such a perfect song for my life. It has been much better for me to cry and release my feelings than to walk around like a zombie holding everything in.

As I was setting up my Neumann TLM 103 Mic, It tipped out of my hands and landed on the floor with a resounding thump. I cried for a few minutes on my bed. Then I bent over, picked it up and screwed it back in. Thankfully, my recordings after that were fine.

Link to more about this song: RAINBOW THROUGH MY TEARS

I’m getting recordings that I like, but my challenge is to record when it’s quiet in my apartment – not easy!

I really loved the meditation music I created while working with Robert. I released a medley of our songs and it has been very popular on Insight Timer. I also combined my acoustic guitar and piano recordings from this year into another track that is getting played a lot on that app.

I was very sad when our collaboration ended. But my journey has taken me down a new path and I’ve chosen to embrace it. I am certain that more amazing music is ahead for me.

A month ago on a whim, I decided to play tennis at a tennis center near my home in the evening. Playing at night isn’t as easy for me as daytime because I can’t see the ball well. But it definitely is one of my favorite ways to exercise.

The people at this tennis drop-in were friendly and it was really good for me. During one of the breaks between sets, I chatted with a young man who was wearing a music shirt. His name was Bobby. I told him how much I liked his shirt, because I was a music lover. Before long, we were talking animatedly about our musical passions.

A week later when I saw him again, we chatted more and I realized he could be an excellent fit to create meditation music with me. He created movie and television scores and had incredible keyboard skills. He mentioned he had the program Omnisphere, which is a fabulous sound bank for meditation music. Even though Bobby had a day job (in music, which isn’t easy to come by), he was eager to work with me in the evenings.

After our first session, I was buoyed. Bobby was incredibly talented and we could definitely create beautiful meditation tracks together. But before doing that, I had a different agenda. I wanted to create meditative snippets to add to my Insight Timer Courses that I’ve been recording and refining.

We started out working on my song “Every Season.” Bobby was very sweet when he told me how much he appreciated my unusual chord progressions. I was gasping when he easily played the melody and chords on his keyboard. In only an hour, he created a lush ambient background for my Insight Timer Lesson, as well as an exquisite outtro for the ending.

Even though it’s still unfinished, it gives me chills. Once we finish our work enhancing my Insight Timer Courses, we will begin creating full-length meditation songs. I am hoping I will receive illustration assignments because it will allow me to finance all the music I am eager to create!

I close my eyes, and concentrate on dispelling worry and fear. I feel peace and gratitude as waves of hopefulness wash over me. Nothing is more beautiful for me than to continue following my dream. That is it; I don’t need anything else.

I see a rainbow!

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