Twenty-four years ago, my 5-year-old son, Jason died. I am so grateful that on this sad “anniversary of the heart,” I am peaceful.

I don’t believe there’s such a thing as “getting over” a tragic loss. Heartbreak changed me into a different person. I believe I cried so many tears after my son’s death that there just weren’t any left for this later time in my life.

When I wrote Jason’s story in 2010, I began to heal. I didn’t have to remember every painful detail of his life and death anymore. Eventually, I was released from the prison of grief that confined me for almost two decades.

All these years later, Jason lives on in my music and our love continues to inspire me. He also lives on in the memories of people he touched during his brief life.


A few weeks ago, I received a phone call from a very special woman I knew a long time ago. Like a shining star, Jason shined his light upon my life again in such a beautiful way.

Some of my memories are hazy, but I’m summoning them up so I can tell a very touching story.

This is a page from Jason’s Baby Book. Sadly, my entries were quite different than what I imagined when I bought the album.

This is a page from Jason’s Baby Book. Sadly, my entries were quite different from what I imagined when I bought the album.

Jason was a “cardiac baby.” He was born with a severe congenital heart defect. After having an emergency C-section, I was still in a lot of pain when Jason was released from the hospital ten days after his birth.

I brought home a new baby that was too weak to nurse or suck a bottle; he cried continuously. I was a very inexperienced mother and it was beyond anything I was ever prepared to deal with.

My mother and husband tried to help, but it was futile. At doctor appointments and emergency room visits we were told Jason would require surgery in a few months. He would become bluer and bluer until then.

My mother came over several days a week and I found out later that she gave up graduating from college in order to help me. But it was a grueling schedule for both of us and we couldn’t keep going. I wanted to hire someone who could take care of Jason at night so I could sleep.

Hiring a nanny through an agency was far more expensive than I anticipated. A friend suggested I put an ad in a Spanish newspaper to find someone more affordable. The only problem with that was that I didn’t speak any Spanish.

I followed through and immediately began receiving non-stop phone calls in Spanish. It was overwhelming since I couldn’t communicate with anyone!

One woman called who spoke English. She said her sister had just come to the United States and needed a job; unfortunately her sister didn’t speak any English.

My heart sank and I wondered how this could possibly work. Then the woman on the phone said, “Look – why don’t you just meet her. We can come over right now.”

I felt so desperate that I was willing to give this young girl a chance. Within ten minutes my doorbell rang. Lupe stood there next to her older sister.

Her eyes were large and she was clearly nervous. She was nineteen or twenty years old.

It was slightly awkward as I spoke with her sister because Lupe didn’t know what we were saying; she stood there quietly. I looked over at her and smiled. Then she reached her hands out to take Jason who began wailing and was slightly blue.

I noticed how she held him with confidence. She swaddled him tightly in a receiving blanket and miraculously Jason became quiet. I asked her, “How did you do that?”

She carefully showed me step-by-step how to fold the blanket and fit him in it. The blanket was then wound tightly around him and tucked in.

With great relief, I hired Lupe that day and she began working for our family immediately.

Lupe joined our family on a trip to Lake Tahoe.

Lupe joined our family on a trip to Lake Tahoe.

Having this young Mexican girl living in our household was an adjustment. We had a small town home and Lupe’s bed was in Jason’s nursery. Those first few nights, I got up to check on her and Jason. I felt badly about her being kept up all night.

Gradually I relaxed. Lupe grew to love Jason and was able to even feed him better than I did. She was wonderful.

My life improved greatly after hiring Lupe. I was even able to work and take illustration jobs again.


I spoke to Lupe using a few Spanish words from a dictionary and we were able to communicate in our own way. Eventually, she learned English and was able to speak it fairly well.

Lupe worked for me for two years. During that time, Jason had his first open-heart surgery. I don’t know how I would have gotten through that time if it weren’t for Lupe’s help.

sad-babybook-1 sad-babybook

I can’t remember exactly why Lupe left. I was sad, but Jason was doing better and I had just signed him up for preschool. She helped me find a replacement but I really missed her. Later on, I heard from her sister that she moved to Texas.

Four years later, Lupe called to say hello. I became choked up when I softly told her that Jason had died.

She cried on the other end of the phone and I’d never forget her words. She was a mother now and had two sons. She said, “Jason was my first baby.”

Although Lupe lived in Texas, I told her that if she ever visited her sister and came to Los Angeles, she should definitely let me know. We could go together to visit Jason’s grave.

Jason's gravestone

Twenty years later, in 2014, I heard from Lupe again. She had done an Internet search and found my blog. I was so moved by her phone call that I wrote this story: YOU’LL TOUCH SO MANY OTHERS


When Lupe called me last month, I was so happy to hear from her again.

I didn’t feel like she was a stranger because we were Facebook friends. I shared stories about my life on a regular basis.

Even if I didn’t understand her posts in Spanish, I always loved seeing her. Many of her pictures were taken in other countries and I was very happy for her.

It hadn’t occurred to me that she was solo in most of her pictures.


Lupe’s first words were, “How are you, Judy?”

I had so much to tell her and started out by saying I was fine. And then Lupe dropped a bomb.

She told me that two months earlier her husband had died. He was only 56 – the same age I was.

Lupe was anguished telling me how hard she worked to get him medical insurance. But he refused to see to a doctor.

More than anything, Lupe loved to travel. She begged him to go with her on trips, but he didn’t want to go anywhere. He hated leaving the house. So Lupe told me she began to go places alone. When her sister’s family went to China, Lupe joined them. After that, she signed up for a tour of Europe. She said, “Judy, everyone was with someone and I was alone. But I’m still glad I went.”

Now I understood her pictures.

She was very emotional as she shared how he had had a heart attack while she was on a trip to Mexico. She immediately she flew home, but unfortunately he died before she got there.

I hoped she didn’t feel guilty about her husband’s death and the choice he made to stay at home while she traveled.


We talked a little longer and I told her how I admired how she traveled alone. I wished I had the courage to do that. My eye problems held me back. I was vulnerable and depressed for almost four years. But now my eyes were better.

I had thought about traveling but wasn’t sure where I wanted to go. The truth was that going alone wasn’t very exciting for me.

Lupe reminded me that she flew on an airplane for the first time on a trip with me. She said, “Judy, when I went to Lake Tahoe with your family, I was so scared!”


With genuine affection I said, “Lupe, I would love to see you again. Maybe you could come visit me or I could come to Texas to see you.”

She paused and said, “Judy, instead why don’t we meet somewhere – take a trip together. It would be so good for me. My house is empty. I feel sad and need to get out.”

My heart jumped as I quickly answered, “Lupe, that sounds wonderful! Where would we go and when is good for you?”

Lupe replied that she wanted to go as soon as possible. We chose mid-October, which was when my birthday was. I mentioned ideas of places we could go. I had always wanted to see the autumn leaves changing on the east coast. Or perhaps we could visit some National Parks I hadn’t seen.

Lupe laughed and said, “Judy, do you remember when you took me hiking?”

I did. There were many pictures of those outings.

She said, “Well, I have to tell you. In Mexico, people just don’t go hiking. I never did it before. When you took me on my first hike – I hated it!”

So that explained why she was so serious in some of our outdoor photos.

Then she laughed heartily and added, “But now I love it. It’s the best!”

I can’t wait to see live butterflies. Perhaps I’ll have photographs that will inspire new illustrations!

I can’t wait to see live butterflies. Perhaps I’ll have photographs that will inspire new illustrations!

I hung up the phone and couldn’t believe it. This was truly a door opening in my life. I hadn’t imagined that it would appear like it did – just at a perfect time.

In only one more week, I am meeting Lupe. We haven’t seen each other in twenty-six years!

Our trip will have us flying on an airplane together again and we’ll be doing lots of hiking (which is good, now that I know she actually likes it!)

I will be leaving on my birthday (October 14) and flying to Mexico City; there I’ll connect up with Lupe. Together, we will board a flight together to Costa Rica where we’ll be staying for nine days.

The young girl I remember is now an adult woman with many life stories to share with me. But I know she is deeply grieving and I’m hoping this trip will be a respite for her.

How do I feel about this adventure?

I am filled with awe and amazement.

My angel son, Jason, brought Lupe into my life and his light continues to shine brightly.

I never imagined when I wrote “Mother’s Message” what was ahead for me.

I never imagined when I wrote “Mother’s Message” what was ahead for me.




© Judy Unger and 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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In order to stoke my motivation to lose weight, I looked for some old pictures that stir wonderful memories.

For this post, I am sharing my feelings about something so personal that I’m amazed I’m able to do it. It isn’t easy to talk about being overweight and dieting.

I went through some old picture albums to add thinner pictures of me to this story. Remembering the time in my life when I embraced hiking and the outdoors was poignant.

Turning my life around is a lyric line from my song named “Clear.” My song speaks about letting go of fear. Trying to lose weight definitely confronts my fears of failure.


“I’m a loser!”

”It was morning and I stretched leisurely in my bed. My body felt very strange; I began imagining ways I could describe it.

I was in a submarine. In the ocean depths I could feel the water pressure squeezing my head. The submarine’s engine hummed and my body was propelled through dark depths.

I was standing at the North Pole. My body couldn’t stop shivering. The strangest part was that I was warm and not shaking at all. My mind was just imagining those shivers.

I was a participant in a drug orgy. Yet I wasn’t euphoric or sick. I noticed that every movement was an effort; I was gliding in slow motion. My thoughts kept bumping into each other as a freight train ran through my mind. There wasn’t any sound; just a “chug chug” that made it impossible for me to think clearly.

All of this was related to the intense diet detox I was going through. I was on Day #5 of a medically supervised weight-loss program. (I’m not sharing which one because I don’t want to advertise anything at this time.)


In 2012, my father died. My mother was in a nursing home and had dementia. I made the decision to end my marriage of 31 years.

Before I moved out, I had three cataract surgeries (I had what was called a “cortical chip” and the doctor had to go back for a third surgery). I had other complications and developed dry eye syndrome. My mother died the following year, two days before my birthday in 2013.

I carried grief over ending my marriage and losing my parents whom I was so close to. But it was my dry eye condition that overwhelmed me the most. I was frustrated, depressed and discouraged because I was living with chronic pain in my eyes.

Over those past 4 years, I devoted myself to my healing. Fortunately, I had music to soothe me but unfortunately, I also soothed myself with food. As a result, I gained a lot of weight. I wondered whether my weight problem caused my eyes to hurt more, but I didn’t have the strength to change my eating habits.

Not a day went by that I didn’t feel terrible about it. I let my problem mushroom even more out of control as I gave up.


But deep down, I knew I was capable of turning my life around. I had done it in a huge way already by finding the courage to end my marriage. When would I be ready to do it again?

My readiness came after I had an endoscopy last month. While I was on a gurney recovering, the gastroenterologist told me that a 30-pound weight loss might completely resolve my condition.

My “condition” was a persistent cough that was related to gastric reflux. Being on acid blockers alleviated some of my cough, but I didn’t want to take them forever.

My motivation was because I still had a cough whenever I sang. Singing was my expression of feelings and my passion. I had to do something and couldn’t be complacent any longer.

In this picture, I’m with my brother, Norm, and sister-in-law, Jo. They are doing great at maintaining their weight loss.

This picture was taken a few days ago. I’m with my brother, Norm and sister-in-law, Jo. They lost a lot of weight last year and have done well maintaining it.

This is a “before” picture of my brother, Norm, with our father.

This is a “before” picture of my brother, Norm, with our father.

Two weeks ago when I had lunch with my brother, Norm and sister-in-law, Jo, I asked them a lot of questions about the diet program they had been so successful with. They both looked amazing and were maintaining a 40 and 25 pound weight loss respectively. I was so happy that Norm didn’t need to take blood pressure medication anymore. Clearly, he had really improved his health.

I’ve been on many diet programs in my life and have lost large amounts of weight before. But since having four children, I’ve struggled. 

He told me, “Jude, the first two weeks are tough – but then it’s great. You’ll be so glad you did it!”

This is a good opportunity to share my artwork. My father saved so much and that’s how I found this adorable old note.

When my father died I found a lot of my old artwork, as well as this adorable old note.

The next day, I made an appointment to sign up for the same weight loss program Norm and Jo were on. I liked structure and it was a program that I was certain could work for me.

I entered the clinic and was very subdued. For my appointment, I was instructed to fast so labs could be taken that morning. A nurse took some of my blood, then I was weighed and a lot of my body parts were measured.

I kept thinking about how hungry I already was.

When the counselor explained the program to me, I told her I hated feeling hungry. She assured me that the low-carb program was designed to put my body in a state of ketosis, which meant I was burning fat. I would be eating protein every two hours and I wouldn’t feel hungry, but would possibly have a headache the first two days.

She shared with me that she had lost 130 pounds on the program. Losing that much weight seemed unbelievable. I didn’t have to lose even half that much, so it would be a piece of cake for me. (Okay, I’d better watch my metaphors!)

Red Velvet Final Art Colored Pencil

I chose a ten-week weight-loss plan and signed a bunch of papers. Even though I was seldom negative, I confessed to her, “I feel like I’m signing up for prison today!” She smiled and reminded me that a positive attitude was much more helpful to ensure weight-loss success. Of course, I knew she was right.

I decided it was more like boot camp.

And as far as being in a prison, I was miserable with how my body felt in its current state. So that was my prison. This program was going to see me free!

I’m sharing a bunch of my food illustrations for fun. Okay, this was not my protein bar.

I’m sharing a bunch of my food illustrations for fun. Okay, my diet protein bar did not taste like the one above.

I left that day and was fascinated how the protein bar sample they gave me kept me full for several hours past lunch. It was a good sign.

I was set to begin the program five days later.

I met with a nurse the day before starting. She checked me and went over the lab results. I was relieved to know that on most of the tests I was in the normal range, but there certainly was room for improvement.

I was very interested in a test that was a marker for inflammation. I thought it might explain my allergies and even my eye problem.

I asked the nurse what my result for that test was. She called it my “CRP.” The words “highly sensitive” were next to my number. I had 11.80. And under that was a paragraph stating that anything over 3 led to a high risk of cardiovascular disease.

Normal was supposed to be less than 1. Yikes!

Lots and lots of eggs, but no bacon!

Lots and lots of eggs, but no bacon!

I wish my shake looked like this.

I wish my shake looked like this.

The first three days I ate every two hours; mostly the program’s packaged foods – a shake, a protein bar, pudding, chili, as well as a low-carb yogurt and a scrambled egg. My counselor was right; I wasn’t hungry.

But by the end of the day a fog rolled in, also known as “the diet flu.” I also had a real flu shot the day before to compound things.

At every bi-weekly clinic visit I was given a Vitamin B-12 shot, a standard thing that was supposed to perk me up. Each time I was there I was offered an appetite suppressant, but I didn’t want it. I wasn’t hungry – just spacey.

I learned that on the fourth day, I would be able to have fruits and vegetables again. My counselor told me I’d definitely feel better after that. I was pretty excited about it.


No croutons – too many carbs. I guess “olive.”

No croutons – too many carbs. I guess “olive.”

Doing this intense weight loss program was something I had dreaded and yet, I’m so glad I followed through and signed up. I’m being reborn again!

My experience so far has been different from what I expected. I’m floating instead of hungry. The weird sensations have been fascinating, but slightly disturbing.

I do need my brain, as it was difficult to even write this story.


The night before my fourth day, I was dreaming about which fruits and vegetables I’d eat. I had to admit that I was getting hungry. But it was okay because I could feel my progress and everything tasted so much better.

There was a knock on my door and it was my son. He said, “Mom, I feel terrible. I ate your container of chicken without thinking. I know that’s the only thing you eat – so I’ll go buy you more tomorrow.”

This looks awfully good to me right now.

This looks awfully good to me right now.

I looked forward to that chicken every night. I noticed my voice was shrill as I said, “Don’t tell me that!”

I was very crabby and took a deep breath. I didn’t want to be angry with him. Our refrigerator was pretty empty and my son loved eating.

Lately, I had gotten tired of shopping for food so often for both my large sons. Since I wasn’t eating much, this was a great time to make a change. I told my son I would appreciate him going food shopping the following morning.

I wrote out a detailed list with two columns: “food for mom” and “your food.” I wanted chicken, a few low-carb yogurts, lots of salad, vegetables and some assorted fruits. Then I jotted down a few items I knew my son needed.

I debated once more about letting him have a wad of cash to buy food, but reminded myself that this was an important step in his development. For God-sakes, he was almost 20 years old!

I never thought I’d be craving something like this!

I never thought I’d be craving something like this!

“I’m glad I can laugh about this now”

I was gone all morning and dreaming of my lunch. Soon I would have some warm chicken and a big salad. Which fruit would I choose?

I could feel my energy draining out of me. I needed fuel and soon I’d have some real food.

Because bananas are loaded with carbs, the portion size is 1/3. Not enough for me!

Because bananas are loaded with carbs, the portion size is 1/3. Not enough for me!

I drove into my coop’s parking space. I practically danced through the front door and asked my son how it went at the market. He smiled and said it went fine.

I was really pleased; it was apparent that he had even put everything away.

But I didn’t smell my rotisserie chicken.

I opened the fridge. My face was probably slightly contorted as I looked at an entire shelf filled with a cinnamon roll flavored low-carb yogurt. I said, “Didn’t I tell you to buy only 2 containers of yogurt? I know it was clearly written on my list!”

My son grinned and said, “But mom – it was on sale! You have to buy 10 to get the sale price.”

I began to launch into an explanation with him about sale prices and quantity. But then I decided it would be better to do that later. I really needed to eat!

Where’s my chicken?” I asked.

His face looked bewildered. He stammered. “I didn’t see any that was ready when I was there. And I forgot to check before I left. Oh, Mom, I’m soooo sorry!”

My brain began to pound. I couldn’t believe it. I was dreaming of it being right there on a plate ready for me to eat.

I was shrieking as I reminded him that only the night before, he had promised to get me some chicken. That was why he went to the market in the first place – to make it up to me!

He said quickly, “I’ll cook you some right now, mom! Is there any in the freezer?”

I glared at him, “I need to eat now, not wait for you to cook it. And it won’t be garlic-flavored like the container you finished off last night.”

“Okay, I’ll just run and buy some right now,” he exclaimed. He was halfway out the door, running away and trying to escape my wrath.

I yelled at him to come back. With every ounce of calmness I could muster, I said, “Let’s just eat lunch together and then you can get it later. I’m just going to make myself a nice salad. I can just make do with some packaged turkey.”

My son smiled and said, “I bought you mushrooms, carrots and bell peppers.”

I stopped in my tracks. “What about lettuce?”

He squirmed and said slowly, “Oops. I forgot that, too.”

judy-at-the-beach-hawaii-close-up judy-at-the-beach-2 judy-at-the-beach

© 2016 by Judy Unger and Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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This is a picture of me with Hannah, my wonderful vocal coach I’ve been working with since December of 2015.

This is a picture of me with Hannah Anders, my wonderful vocal coach whom I’ve been working with since December of 2015.

I love the concept of “take the best and leave the rest.” It can be applied to so many parts of my life.

I’ve had three wonderful voice teachers and have learned from all of them. Sometimes I’ve been confused when concepts collide and contradict what I’ve learned before.

This just reminds me to “take the best and leave the rest.” I trust that I can decide what is best for me personally. For certain, working with a vocal coach is not just about refining techniques and gaining confidence. It has also been great therapy for me.

I’ve been struggling and last week I saw Hannah even though I wasn’t feeling that great. Below is a short clip of us talking from my most recent lesson.


I ordered new glasses, to improve my eyesight. I’m still adjusting to my new progressive lenses!

I ordered new glasses to improve my eyesight. I’m still adjusting to my new progressive lenses!

My eyes were so much more manageable since I went to an outside ophthalmologist earlier this year. But I wasn’t satisfied – I kept searching for something that would make them feel even better.

Because there weren’t any remedies left for me to try with my corneal specialist through my HMO, I decided to see a Naturopathic (NT) doctor. She came highly recommended.

Since working with her, my eyes are significantly better. I bathe them in coconut oil before going to bed every night. In the morning, they aren’t uncomfortable like they used to be.

Last week, I had an appointment for a follow-up with my NT doctor. Before my appointment, I visited with a good friend who lived close by.

My friend enjoyed camping and hiking with her husband. I listened to her share her recent adventures and felt a slight pang inside. It reminded me of what I had once wished for in my failed marriage. My latest news revolved around my health issues and the rat that plagued my apartment, so my sad feelings were understandable.

I shared with her how a few nights earlier I had heard a rat again in my closet. I jumped from my bed, threw open the closet door and hissed, “Shoo!”

My heart was pounding as I crawled back into bed. Suddenly, I heard a scuttle across the floor and thought I felt my covers moving. It was like I was in a horror movie; I shrieked and ran into my oldest son’s bedroom at 5 a.m.

He took a flashlight and checked under my bed and didn’t see anything. When he shined the light into my closet we could both see rat poops all over. He reached in and gingerly picked up a shredded, half-eaten chocolate bar.

I said, “Oh, my God, I probably hid that somewhere a long time ago and that animal found it!”

It was hard not to laugh while telling my story; humor always helped me. I appreciated my friend’s sympathy.

I switched from humor to being serious. I said, “I love how you go camping. I wish I knew what to do. I feel like I need to run away from where I’m living, but I have no idea where to go.”

She was thoughtful and helped me reframe my statement.

She pointed out that running away was a negative thought. Instead she suggested I run toward something positive and nourishing for my soul.

I wasn’t leaving my apartment because I was miserable. I was leaving to find some joy!


My appointment with my naturopathic doctor was enlightening. She felt the two rounds of antibiotics I was prescribed a month earlier had harmed my gut and worsened my condition. Also, my gastroenterologist had given me powerful acid blockers and she hoped I could get off of them as soon as possible.

This was definitely a case of “take the best and leave the rest.” I had to decide what was best for me. It was her idea to request an endoscopy, which was a very good thing indeed. And I was elated that my eyes were so much better – it seemed like the coconut oil remedy she had given me was working. But she also instructed me to give up swimming, because she felt chlorine was toxic.

I was struggling with depression and really missed swimming laps because it always cleared my mind.

With my new air purifier running 24/7 and my coop’s air ducts cleaned I felt some relief. I had my closet thoroughly cleaned and called for an exterminator to come out. A young man set plenty of rattraps in my apartment and was also assigned to place poison bait all around the coop complex.

I hadn’t heard the rat in my closet for two weeks. It was still hard to relax because I kept imagining the moment when a trap would snap shut with a squealing rat in it. I kept wondering how I’d dispose of the rat if it was still alive and I was home alone.

Because of my persistent cough, I gave up singing and recording my songs. Although I had my “healing song,” I found myself weepy and depressed. I wasn’t sure whether to take a voice lesson with Hannah, but last week I went. Being with her definitely lifted me up. This week I had a barium test scheduled instead of a lesson. Thankfully, I was told I did not have a hiatal hernia.

My ears were still bothering me after I finished antibiotics so I had them checked by a traditional doctor. The doctor said they were inflamed and thought it looked like I had an allergy.

I told her I had been tested for allergies – everything came up negative. She recommended I take allergy medication and set up an appointment with an audiologist to have my hearing checked in two weeks.

The allergy medication she recommended knocked me out. I could barely function after taking one pill; it just added to my feeling disoriented and depressed. Confusion drove me crazy; my mind was spinning every moment. I kept trying to figure out what to do next.

Which doctor was I supposed to listen to?

This was a great opportunity for me to “take the best and leave the rest.”

This is a picture of me from long ago. I’m so glad I've had the courage to dive into things!

This is a picture of me from long ago. I’m so glad I’ve had the courage to dive into things!

It turned out that my low point wasn’t destined to last; somehow everything improved this past week. Here were a few of the things that I did:

I started to go swimming again and that alone helped me feel much better.

I gave contact lenses a try for the fourth time and I was able to see again the way I used to. I was elated!

I signed up for an intense diet program.

I planned an amazing trip. In two weeks, I’m going to see autumn foliage in New England for the first time in my life.

I’m so glad I was able to turn my life around when I needed to most. I have so much more to share and plan to soon.


© 2016 by Judy Unger and Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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This is a marker rendering that I used for the cover of my meditation album named “Set You Free.” Sometimes life can feel gray and foggy, but despite that – beauty can be found!

This is a marker rendering that I used for the cover of my meditation album named “Set You Free.” Sometimes life can feel gray and foggy, but despite that – beauty can be found!

Click the blue link to play audio:

Healing Song Acoustic Guitar Recording – Copyright 2016 by Judy Unger

The nurse was close to my ear. She whispered, “It’s over! You can wake up now.”

I felt overwhelmed with relief. I could hardly believe it hadn’t hurt at all. For that, I was so thankful.

As the nurse wheeled me back to the recovery area she said, “They saw your problem. The doctor will talk with you about it soon.”

Once again I was waiting. But it was a lot different from earlier that morning.

I had been prepped for my endoscopy procedure. The gurney wasn’t too uncomfortable; I was glad my IV stopped stinging. I had a sheet covering me but was still a little cold.

I stared at the clock on the wall. It was 8:45 and my procedure was scheduled for 8:30.

The hands swept around the clock. I noticed that time was so interesting while I was watching a clock. Soon it was 9:00 a.m.; then it was 9:15.

The nurse said, “You’ll be next. The patient before you must have had some complications because it’s taking a little longer.”

I would hear doors swing open and my heart would pound because I thought it was my turn. But as the hands on the clock kept sweeping around and around, I ran out of adrenaline.

It wasn’t until 10:15 when several people surrounded my bed to push me to the room where the procedure would be done.

I had waited ninety minutes with nothing to do but look at a clock.

But the truth was that I was doing something the whole time. I was composing in my head!

My new instrumental song was so soothing. I tried to imagine lyrics for it, but nothing formed. The music alone was so beautiful and expressed exactly how I felt.


The doctor was making very quick rounds. I heard him talking to patients in the beds near me. Now it was my turn. He said quickly, “I’m sending you home with medicine and want you to repeat this test in 6 months. Your esophagus was extremely irritated; you have esophagitis. I did a biopsy and you’ll hear back within 10 days.”

I went home and looked up esophagitis. It had many causes; allergy was listed as a suspect and even candida yeast. The gastroenterologist determined that my condition was caused by acid reflux.

I started taking the medicines I was given, which were acid blockers. My heartburn went away and my cough lessened, but I still couldn’t sing very well. I had a lot of questions, but decided I would wait until the biopsy came back.

Unfortunately, I just wasn’t feeling well and the day after my procedure, I went to Urgent Care. I was told I had an ear infection and was given another round of antibiotics (my doctor had treated me with them for my cough a month earlier.)

For another week my ears continued to bother me; I had strange sensations inside of them.

The biopsy came back and I was told there was no sign of any cancer. I was relieved, yet I felt guilty that I wasn’t completely overjoyed. Instead, I was depressed and felt like crying all the time.

I missed singing more than I realized; it was going on three months now.

Even though I wasn’t my usual upbeat self, I decided I could still perform without singing. My new “healing song” played through my life and kept me inspired.

I showed up at Kulak Woodshed’s Open Mic and introduced new song by saying it was my “Healing Song.”

It was exactly what I needed during a challenging time.

© 2016 by Judy Unger and Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Writing from my heart has led me to so many wonderful connections. Two months ago, I had the amazing opportunity to share my story. I was “discovered” by Remedy Health Media because of my inspirational writing about dealing with my dry eye syndrome.

I shared the experience of being filmed on the first part of this story:


To see the video at Remedy Health Media’s site, click the link below:

I think the most beautiful part of this video was sharing the experience with my childhood friend, Joni Lautman. We’ve known each other since childhood. I am currently living in the coop where I grew up – my parents are gone and I chose to live in my childhood apartment, rather than sell it.

Joni lived in the same coop and we played together from the time we were toddlers. In fact, there is a photo that was used in the video where we are sitting in front of the same apartment where Joni grew up.

This was taken in 1978

This was taken in 1968

This was taken for the video in 2016

This was taken for the video in 2016

The video film-shoot involved approximately 5 hours of film footage and 75 minutes of audio; all of that was used to create a 3½-minute video!

I wondered how the video would be edited and I thought they did a wonderful job. It was very touching and when I shared it with friends, I received many beautiful responses.

Music has helped me cope with many challenges since I began playing my guitar again in 2010, which was actually two years before I developed dry eye syndrome in 2012. The video tended to slant much more toward my rediscovery of music than to how I’ve dealt with dry eyes.

I was able to obtain the audio out-takes from Remedy Health Media. I have separated them into 6-8 minute segments, in case anyone has the time and interest to hear more about my story.

On this post, I share them as MP3 audio that can be downloaded. On Youtube, I’ve created a channel with them in a video format. That channel can be accessed with the link below:


Judy & Joni Dialogs: (Click the blue links to play audio)

Judy & Joni Dialog #1

Joni and I talk about how we’ve known each other all our lives. I share how my dry eye problems began in 2012 shortly after cataract surgeries.

Judy & Joni Dialog #2

I talk about how I started to find hope of healing through my dry eye support group. The remedies were sometimes very discouraging when they failed, but eventually some of them did help.

Judy & Joni Dialog #3

I talk about how I’ve cope with guilt over managing better than other people with this condition. Joni mentions how she had never heard about dry eye syndrome before and I talk about the difficulties of finding relief while pretending I was okay.

Judy & Joni Dialog #4

I talk about how dry eye syndrome changed my thinking and made me more compassionate. My eye condition improved when I discovered my eyelids were irritated due to a possible allergy and I discontinued my regimen. Writing songs helped me express so many feelings and help me to cope.

Judy & Joni Dialog #5

I talk about how I coped with being a caregiver. When I began to write about my life on this blog, I released so much of my pain and sadness. I became a new person. Joni was “instrumental” in my rediscovering my music. Her encouragement was the reason I began to play my guitar again after 30 years.

Judy & Joni Dialog #6

I talk about how my music turned my life around. All of the songs I began writing were songs that helped me change my life. When I touch people with my music, I am fueled and completely inspired.

Judy & Joni Dialog #7

I talk about how I’ve coped with the depression from dry eye syndrome. I talk about how I maintain hopefulness. I believe in using the power of my thought to feel better.

Judy & Joni Dialog #8

I talk about healing from grief and how my music fuels my life. I am still struggling with dry eyes, but I am able to manage with it. Sharing my feelings through my music helps me to cope in a beautiful way. I am compelled to be honest.

Judy & Joni Dialog #9

For this video, I talk about my gratefulness over how my condition improved. I share hypnotherapy concepts that have helped me deal with my discomfort.

Judy & Joni Dialog #10

I talk about how support and understanding makes a difference when dealing with dry eye syndrome. I feel inspired if I can help others cope with their condition in a positive way. Words hold a lot of power and by re-framing my thoughts I am better able to deal with my eye condition and life in general.

Judy & Joni Dialog #11

I talk about how music saved me and made me joyful. Joni and I became close again and I became a different person. My eye problem is simply part of my journey. Learning to deal with it is something I do because every day is precious to me. I can’t wait to live any longer and plan to make the most of every day.

judy-joni-1 judy-joni-2 judy-joni-3 judy-joni-4 judy-joni-5 judy-joni-6 judy-joni-7 judy-joni-8 judy-joni-9 judy-joni-10 judy-joni-11

© 2016 by Judy Unger and Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Pictures from my foray to the mountains last week remind me of the fresh air I long for.

Pictures from my foray to the mountains last week remind me of the fresh air I long for.

It was an ordinary Wednesday. But then something extraordinary happened – I heard beautiful chords on my guitar. For days, weeks and months I was searching for a new song, but hadn’t heard anything that moved me.

What would my new song be about? I didn’t feel ready to write lyrics, so I decided to just allow the music to form. I recorded my song in progress and it can be heard with the blue link below:

Guitar Instrumental New Song in Progress – 9/1/16

Composing my new song was very uplifting and came at a perfect time. I was down because I wasn’t feeling well. That evening when my daughter visited, I coughed with almost every sentence I spoke and my coughs caused me to have a headache.

At night, I had trouble sleeping and tried to quiet my racing thoughts. Not only couldn’t I sing, now I had a funny feeling in my ears.

A week earlier, I emailed my doctor and told him my cough was still bothering me even though I had finished the antibiotics he prescribed weeks earlier.

He replied saying it would be best to wait for my endoscopy results, but my procedure wasn’t scheduled for another two weeks. He told me I also might consider contacting the allergy clinic.

I wanted to be patient. I had ordered an air purifier, but it hadn’t arrived yet. And my air ducts that possibly had rats in them were due to be inspected the following week.

I decided to see if I could get a sooner appointment for the endoscopy. Joni planned to drive me in two weeks and she was out-of-town. I didn’t want to ask anyone so I planned to use Uber to get to and from the hospital if I was able to get in.

I called and I was lucky; someone had cancelled so there was an opening!

The following morning I would have the endoscopy and it would be a relief to get it over with. I hung up the phone to answer my doorbell.

This is a picture of Miriam and I in 2011.

This is a picture of Miriam and I in 2011.

Miriam had come to take me out to breakfast.

When she called me the day before to see if I was free on Thursday – it was a lovely surprise. I told her I’d be delighted to spend time with her. It had been a few months since I’d seen her.

How would I describe Miriam? She was a dear friend, but she also was a connection to my parents; she had been a caregiver to both of them.

Mostly, she was a companion to my mother in a nursing home. As my mother declined with dementia, Miriam comforted her and alleviated my worries.

When my mother died, Miriam gave such a moving eulogy at the funeral. I could never find enough words to describe her love, attention and kindness to my parents.

I answered the door and Miriam and I hugged. I drove us to a nearby coffee shop where we would have breakfast together. It was lovely catching up about our lives. Talking about our children was always a high priority.

Miriam was worried about my cough. I suddenly made a connection as to another reason why my respiratory condition was upsetting me. It was a trigger.

My mother had respiratory issues and remembering her deathbed where she struggled to breathe was a horror for me.

Big Bear Forest 1

When Miriam talked about her different caregiving jobs, it was obvious how stressful her line of work was. Being a caregiver was challenging enough, but when the person being cared for died there was an immediate void – not just with feelings, but also with employment.

Miriam explained that working with the elderly person wasn’t as stressful as dealing with family members. The last time I saw her; there was a family member who was especially mean to Miriam. This woman ended up being given a restraining order to stay out of her elderly father-in-law’s life.

It upset me when I heard these stories. How could anyone not appreciate her care and devotion?

Miriam said she was tired because yesterday she had held the hand of a dementia patient all night long in the hospital. The woman kept trying to tear off her tubes and I.V. and Miriam had to physically prevent her from standing up the entire night.

In the morning when her daughter briefly stopped by, Miriam was shocked when her daughter asked her, “Have you ever gone through my mother’s purse?”

Miriam was very offended. She told me she defended herself and said, “I won’t quit taking care of her mother because of this. She can fire me if she doesn’t trust me.” I listened and was amazed that someone as gentle and kind could be treated so poorly.

But Miriam also shared beautiful things – such as the elderly man who called her to say how much he missed her in between their scheduled days together.

That reminded me of how much my father loved her. Even though she was mostly a companion to my mother, she also looked after my father. For four years, she helped me with both my parents in any way she could.

My father wasn’t like the elderly gentlemen she was currently working with. He was cantankerous and grouchy – not at all easy to be around. He was in constant pain and not  demonstrative or complimentary.

But Miriam didn’t judge him. She said, “Mr. Lee, was so smart and he would often say he didn’t like people.” But then she added, “Of course, he would say that he loved his family, including me.”

I smiled remembering how I had argued with my father about hiring a companion for my mother. He was absolutely against it. Despite that, I found my strength to move forward to hire someone and that was when I found Miriam.

Shirley & Miriam

As I ate my scrambled eggs, Miriam said softly, “I’ll never forget when I gave Mr. Lee his first shower. He had never had someone help him in the shower before.” I noticed her eyes were glistening with tears and she was very emotional.

The memories from those years began to flood back into my mind.

I remembered how hard it was to see my father struggling. He desperately wanted to continue living independently but was getting weaker. When he asked me if Miriam could take some time to help him once a week with a few things, she was very agreeable and happy to do it.

I didn’t realize what that meant until Miriam told me what happened when she helped him with that first shower.

She said, “Judy, your dad began crying when I went to wash him; he was sobbing.”

I cried picturing it. My father was a proud man and had never needed help to wash himself before. But he had painful urinary tract issues and was unable to reach down to clean himself.

Miriam said, “I told him it was my honor to help him – that I cared about him and wanted him to feel my love. I hugged him and I was soaking wet. He finally stopped crying and thanked me.”

She added, “It’s so special to really feel a person’s thank you. He didn’t have to say it because I knew he’d taken my words to heart. After that, he never cried again when I helped him in the shower.”

Her recounting of that memory moved me deeply. We held hands across the table and both of us had tears rolling down our cheeks.

We finished our breakfast and although I protested, Miriam insisted on treating me.

Judy in the Forest

She said, “I’ll see you early tomorrow morning to drive you to your procedure. I’ll wait for you until you’re done and then I’ll take you home.”

I choked back a few tears and thanked her profusely.

She hugged me and said, “It is my pleasure to be there for you, Judy. Nothing is more important to me. I am off tomorrow, so it is fine!”

My tears kept falling and I imagined my parents shining down on both of us from above.

Judy, Shirley & Miriam

This picture of me with my mom was taken five years ago. I miss her very much.

This picture of me with my mom was taken five years ago. I miss her very much.

Link to Part 1 of this Story: #192 DON’T KNOW HOW I LIVED WITHOUT YOU-PART 1

© 2016 by Judy Unger and Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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My daughter took this picture of me last week. My “remedy” was to take a trip to Big Bear Lake for a few days.

My daughter took this picture of me last week. My “remedy” was to take a trip to Big Bear Lake for a few days.

In June, I was filmed and recorded by Remedy Health Media for a 3 ½ minute inspirational video related to how I’ve coped with dry eyes. I really enjoyed the experience.

I received a copy of the video, but was told not to share it publicly. The video will be posted on Remedy’s website very soon – in early September.

When I watched the video for the first time, I thought that some of my words sounded cut. Even though I was slightly self-conscious about my appearance, I had to admit that wearing makeup really was kind of stylish for me.

With further viewings, I definitely appreciated how inspirational the video was. The story told in those few minutes was more about how music saved me, not so much about my struggle with dry eyes.

My interview for that video lasted well over an hour so a lot of information wasn’t shared. I actually requested and received the entire audio interview. Next month, I plan to create a YouTube channel where more of the recordings can be heard along with a link to see the video once it’s officially published.

In this picture, Joni and I are sitting in front of the apartment she grew up in. It is in the same complex where I’m currently living.

In this picture, Joni and I are sitting in front of the apartment she grew up in. It is in the same complex where I’m currently living.

I think one of the most beautiful parts of the filming was sharing that day with my childhood friend, Joni. We’ve known each other all our lives and her participation really enhanced my story.

Joni & I hugging

It’s been over a month since I’ve written for my blog. I can admit that I’ve been struggling a bit. Since 2010, I’ve intimately shared my life’s journey and it’s been hard for me to feel so removed from expressing my honest feelings.

I’ve had some frustrating health issues. When I received the audio from Remedy, I listened to my own words about how I’ve dealt with life’s challenges. I found them very inspirational and applicable to my current situation.

I share below a summary of some of my favorite concepts. They are the remedies that help me cope.

1. Words and thoughts affect how I feel.

2. “Temporary” is a great word to get me through tough times. It reminds me that it won’t always be this way.

3. “The more you look for something, the more chance that you will find it.” That line reminds me to look for good things, instead of painful things.

4. I have experienced healing from terrible things in my past. That reminds me that I can get through any current challenges. If I’ve done it before, I can do it again.

5. I can choose to focus on what I “can do,” rather than what I “can’t do.”

6. I search for ways to turn awful things into something beautiful (or humorous).

7. Love is my key. I remind myself to extend oodles of love and compassion towards myself. I miss my parents and even though they are gone, I remember their love and imagine them cheering me on.

Playing Guitar on my bed

To further facilitate my sharing and update everyone, I am using a “good list/bad list” format.


I had a cold two months ago. A lingering cough from it has not gone away.

My youngest son screamed when he stepped on a dead rat in our kitchen 4 months ago. Not long after that, I found out there was a rodent problem in our entire coop complex. A company was hired to come out and set traps.

My oldest son is a vegetarian and killed a rat to end it’s suffering (it was caught by a trap in our kitchen). He was traumatized by the experience and has had trouble sleeping because of it.

A month ago, our house developed a horrible stench. I called the exterminator to help us locate the dead rat. It was behind the refrigerator and covered with maggots. I have never been so revolted in my life.


I think my cleaning lady is ready to quit. Cleaning rodent poop from kitchen drawers wasn’t part of her job description.

When a friend of mine said, “Rats!” during a conversation – I redirected her.

I no longer think Mickey Mouse is cute.

When I hear the line, “Smells like a rat!” my nose automatically wrinkles.

Rat trap

In July, I began working with a naturopathic doctor. She was concerned about the fact that I was taking so many Tums for heartburn. I am scheduled for an endoscopy in a few weeks to assess if I have any damage to my esophagus. I believe this problem is contributing to my cough.

I’ve met with this doctor twice and have been adopting a long list of interesting remedies. She recommended an air purifier, which I ordered yesterday. She told me to give up swimming in chlorinated pools and I’ve missed swimming very much.

This past week, I went away for two nights to the mountains to escape. My youngest son came along with me and my daughter visited for one night. While on my get-away, my oldest son sent me the following text message:

Rat Message

The night I returned, I heard noises in my closet. I felt like I was living inside a horror movie. I threw open the closet door, heard a scamper and then went back to bed with my heart pounding. Thoughts of bubonic plague crossed my mind and weren’t helpful for me.

I’ve been making a lot of calls the last few days related to fixing this problem.

I am still unable to sing without coughing and that has been very hard for me.

Discovering my guitar


Since working with the ND (naturopathic doctor), my eyes have improved. They are not cured, but are significantly better. I bathe them in coconut oil for two minutes before I go to bed at night.

Since working with the ND, I haven’t had any further outbreaks of hives. I’m not experiencing the painful leg cramps that I was getting almost every day.

I have discovered online Scrabble and am enjoying it.

I’ve released two acoustic CD’s on CD Baby and will have a release party when I feel better.

On my recent get-away to the mountains, I was elated that my youngest son and daughter were so nice to each other. When they were growing up, it would be an understatement to say they didn’t get along. This trip reminded me how even that was temporary!

I cried when the Coop President told me that the building would cover the cost of repairing my air ducts, which very likely are contaminated with rat feces. I pictured my father (who was very involved with the Coop when he was alive) crying with me.

I’m grateful for my wonderful vocal coach, Hannah. I’ve cancelled several voice lessons because of my condition. I cried a lot with her last week when I took a lesson in spite of my cough.

Even though it’s hard for me to sing, I have performed anyway. I’ve coughed during some performances, although one time I managed to hold my cough back. To alleviate stress about singing, I’ve performed guitar instrumentals on two occasions. I share them at the end of this post.

I am determined to stay positive even though I am stumbling through my days and depressed a lot of the time. I will sing again. I will.

Judy on the Boat 3

© 2016 by Judy Unger and Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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My illustration assignment for Tillamook was “moooving” along when I painted this cow. It was an “udderly” delightful project, to say the least. I know I should “cud” out telling cow puns already!

My illustration assignment for Tillamook was “moooving” along when I painted this cow. It was an “udderly” delightful project, to say the least. I know I should “cud” out telling cow puns already!

My illustration of a Holstein dairy cow was the last one I had to complete for my Tillamook assignment. I had already finished 21 fruit labels.

Initially, I was a little apprehensive about illustrating a cow. After all, my specialty was painting food. I was busy working on the fruit labels, so I decided to hire a good friend and talented artist to research and find me good cow reference. She did a great job and made it easy for me.

This is how my illustration will be used. No sky was needed.

This is how my illustration will be used. No sky was needed.

Passion is such a beautiful thing; it is fuel for the soul. My post title is from my song named “Someone to Love You.” The full lyric line is: “Passion is all you need, you will succeed.”

My song can be heard here:

Someone To Love You 4/18/16 Copyright 2016 by Unger

Just like my last story, I’m going to weave my current artwork (and music) in with a story about one of my children. Last time I wrote about my daughter. This time, I’m sharing about my youngest son who is 19.

I cannot believe what a large man my son is now!

I cannot believe what a large man my son is now!

Only one year ago, my youngest son graduated from high school. So much has happened in his life since then. I could write a lot but I’ve decided instead to just describe an evening with him last week.

Sweet smile

I did not expect to catch a cold. It started with a sore throat and soon my nose was stuffed. The worst part was that my eyes were even more irritated.

It was hard for me to focus on my painting. I had tissues nearby to wipe my brushes and there were also tissues I used to blow my nose. I tried hard to keep them separated.

I wasn’t as careful as I could have been; I ended up with a green nose! Somehow, the green dye was there on one of the tissues I sneezed into. It wasn’t pretty.

My final painting.

My final painting.

It had been over a week since my cold started and I was so much better. But I couldn’t sing. I tried and I tried, but after less than a minute, I would sputter and choke on my lyrics.

I had hoped I could sing at the Tuesday night Kulak’s open mic and texted my wonderful voice teacher, Hannah to ask her for advice. She sent me back a recipe for a very soothing tea. I sipped tea all afternoon and got dressed to perform.

I warmed up and started coughing. I couldn’t sing but decided instead that I would just play my guitar. It was almost impossible for me to play flawlessly without a little practice ahead of time. But even though I hadn’t really prepared any kind of routine, I didn’t care. I’d just have fun.

Playing my guitar freely was relaxing and enjoyable. I came home and was so glad I had gotten out! It had been a long day; filled with art and music. Life was enjoyable, despite having pain in my eyes and an annoying cough.

I was in my bathrobe when I heard the front door opening. My 19-year-old son’s voice was unmistakable as he boomed loudly, “MOM!!!! I have some friends coming in and they’d like to meet you – can you come out and say hello?”

The clock on my nightstand said it was almost midnight. These days with my son working on a movie set, he was actually home earlier than usual.

I was happy he had gotten a ride home. He had lost his wallet a week earlier and instead of driving he took the subway to the movie shoot location in the city. For over a week, he had slept at a loft provided for the production crew. But then he decided he slept a lot better in his own bed.

He was excited for me to meet his friends. How could I refuse?

I quickly threw off my robe and slipped on my jeans. When I came out, my son was already showing off my artwork to his two friends. I smiled and noticed his friends were several years older than him. Unlike my son, they were from other states. They told me they moved to California to work on films; I thought how convenient it was that our house was very close to where the industry was.

I was amazed how my son found his passion six months ago. Prior to that, he was a first-year college student and busy with his classes. In the evenings, he enjoyed volunteering at the venue where I often performed named Kulak’s Woodshed. The Shed had six cameras and he was in charge of shooting the videos.

People complimented him on his camera abilities and then it clicked for him. His dream was to direct and film movies. He persuaded me into going with him to an open house at a film school and told me he was certain he’d be able to get a scholarship.

Almost daily, he printed out wish lists of the camera equipment he wanted to buy. It was amazing how he accumulated many items that were simply given to him by wonderful friends, family and even one of his teachers. I did buy him his first camera.

He began shooting videos for people and accepted little money because he was learning. When he volunteered at a camera rental shop, he quickly made even more connections. Within two weeks, he landed an opportunity to be an assistant director intern for the filming of a low-budget feature film.

His passion and drive were beyond words. It was hard for me to believe that this was the same guy who whined when I told him he had to get a summer job two years ago. Now, 16-hour days were his routine and when he came home exhausted he would chatter enthusiastically about all the amazing things he was learning. He told me, “Mom, today I learned more than I ever would have learned in film school. The assistant director is recommending me for another project after this one and I’ll get paid!”

In the six years since this picture was taken, my son has grown from an amazing boy into an amazing man!

In the six years since this picture was taken, my son has grown from an amazing boy into an amazing man!

Soon it became apparent that he was not planning to go back to Community College. He barely finished his spring semester and his grades took a dive. For his career path, he felt he was farther ahead than most people his age already and a degree wasn’t required. He didn’t want to waste any time other than working at his passion.

I accepted that it was his choice and his life. I truly believe that passion leads to success.

Sometimes he would ask me, “Do you believe in me, mom? Do you think I’ll make it?” Without missing a beat, I always told him he would. His passion and enthusiasm for life was infectious. From the time he was a little boy, other people noticed that about him, too.

This picture with my two sons is from two years ago.

This picture with my two sons is from two years ago.

I asked his friends if they’d like anything to eat; my son had already given them cups of water. I looked in my fridge and pulled out some juicy summer fruit for all of us.

I joined them at the table and enjoyed hearing stories about the day’s filming. I noticed they were all sunburned from filming outdoors. His friends talked a little about their backgrounds and ambitions. I could tell that they were very impressed with my son.

During our conversations, my son and his friends were flipping through a binder with printed examples of my illustrations. My son kept bragging about me while I talked about some of my more interesting jobs. It was fun.

Soon it was time for them to leave; it was well past midnight. My son waved them out the door and said he’d see them early the next morning.

He wouldn’t be getting much sleep again, but he had far more energy than he’d ever had now that he’d found his passion and joy.

I was clearing the table and he walked over to give me a huge hug. He was so appreciative that I had warmly welcomed his friends and impressed them with my artwork.

Cow Layouts

My son was so determined to succeed in his field; he told me once he wanted to be as successful as I was.

I looked at his shining face and he had no idea. My greatest achievement wasn’t being a top illustrator.

It was simply being his mom.

With my youngest son

2016-07-22_15-51-24FB messages about Instrumental

© 2016 by Judy Unger and Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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I’m working on an illustration that will go on a yogurt label for Tillamook. I had to “fig”ure out how to paint a sliced fig since I’d never illustrated one. I found a way!

I’m working on an illustration that will go on a yogurt label for Tillamook. I had to “fig”ure out how to paint a sliced fig since I’d never illustrated one. I found a way!


I am now well into my fifth year on my “journey of insight” that began in 2012 with this blog. I love sharing about my journey. Even the most challenging pathways have held beautiful surprises for me.

Music is my passion, but being an artist has been my identity for all of my life. There was a time when I had given up on my art career; I blamed computers for making my paintings obsolete. Thankfully, I taught myself how to utilize a computer for illustrating and that changed everything.

I don’t actively advertise my illustration services. Years ago, I used to have several art agents in major cities contacting me with projects on a regular basis. I learned recently that staying in touch with former clients has a lot of benefits.

When I hadn’t gotten a job for two months, I decided to email a few art directors to “say hello” and remind them I was available for work. All of them wrote back such nice messages to me. One art director shared printed examples of the packages I had created for Karen’s Naturals.

Karen's Naturals Organic 2

Another art director wrote me the following sweet message:

“Did I ever tell you that we won a package design award for Wallaby Kefir (with your illustrations on vanilla, strawberry and blueberry) in the prestigious Graphis Design Annual 2016?”

But the message that really got me excited was this one:

Hi Judy, I was forwarded your recent email and want to introduce myself. I am working as the account and project manager for Tillamook these days and your note comes at a good time. We are working on a refresh of the yogurt line and need your help on updating your existing illustrations and creating some new ones. Hopefully you will have some availability in the coming summer months and will be able to work with us.

Of course, I had availability for my favorite client, Tillamook! Two days ago, the last of my group of 21 new and revised illustrations were approved.

Raspberry Fig Layout Yogurts Tillamook 2016

Now I’m going to write about my personal life; I share a story about a recent outing with my 22-year-old daughter.

Normally we saw each other once a week, but she had been gone on a trip with her boyfriend the week before. Her work schedule was very busy, so I told her I’d come out her way to save her time.

From the moment she got into my car, she was very loving. I was grateful to spend that time with her. I thought that perhaps working on my artwork had isolated me too much because  I found myself teary a lot of the time.

I know that some of my tears were related to how much I missed my own mother who died over two years ago. The outings and interactions were a complete role reversal – but the love and adoration were the same. It was very beautiful for me.

My daughter suggested we visit a new organic market that had opened near her apartment. She said a friend had told her the food was really good at an adjoining café.

We walked together through the market and I became excited when we passed the refrigerated section and I saw a row of Wallaby Yogurt containers. I told her that those labels with my illustrations had won an award and she took a picture of me holding one.

Wallaby Kefir Tearsheet To this day, I’m very grateful for the flexible schedule I’ve had as an illustrator. Having a career at home allowed me to stay very close with my children and still does.

My children required a lot of my energy growing up. My first-born son, Jason had medical issues and my other children had learning issues. I was their advocate on an almost full-time basis for many years; that was in addition to being an illustrator.

I worked on art projects a week after Jason died. I had to cover my paintings because tears would fall on them. And when my daughter was born 11 months after his death, there were even times when I used to nurse her while Illustrating.

California Peach copy

“You found a way to ease my pain”

My post title is taken from my song “No Words.” You found a way to ease my pain relates to how the birth of my daughter helped to ease my grief.

Last week during our outing, she found another way to ease my pain.

Mom and daughter

We both enjoyed our healthy dinner at the vegan café that was next to the health food market. She asked me what I wanted to do next and I thought a walk would be lovely.

She agreed and directed me to a nearby park. The sun was a blinding as it edged closer to setting. As we got out of my car, she said, “Mommy, you need to wear some sunglasses.” I noticed the role reversal immediately; since that was something I would usually tell her.

I didn’t have my prescription ones with me, but found another pair. Because I couldn’t see as well, she held onto my arm to guide me around possible hazards. I used to do that with my own mother.

The sun was slowly setting now and the air temperature was soothing – it was a perfect summer evening. The park was crowded with families and children playing sports. I blinked my eyes and it didn’t seem that long ago when my daughter was playing ball and I was on the bleachers cheering her on.

Sometimes, I’ve felt like a huge chunk of my life has gone blank. My former “married life” seemed like it happened to someone else. The man who slept next to me for 31 years was a mystery; how was that possible? My heart was numb just thinking about him being the father to our children because he was quite distant from them now.

As dusk became twilight, my daughter and I strolled and talked about plans she had for the future. Her life was going well and I was so proud of her. She had a wonderful boyfriend and I was pleased that she was committed to keeping their communication open and honest.

I told her how different it had been for me. In my long marriage there was very little communication. Her father and I never had a fight or shared any of our true feelings.

It was now four years since I had left my husband after 31 years of marriage. After I announced my separation, my daughter was furious with me. Even though she knew I planned to leave, she was not prepared and felt I should have told her beforehand. My son knew and she didn’t; I didn’t think she’d ever forgive me for what I had done.

I moved out and it was a month before she joined me. For over a year, she hardly ever came out of her bedroom. She dropped out of community college and didn’t really have any prospects for a job. It was a terrible time for us – we were constantly fighting.

But somehow things turned around. It took love, patience and time. Now she was my superstar; independent, brave and smart.

Judy and Jenny 1 revised

She began to talk about how her life expanded after the divorce. Four years later, she had a very different perspective. She explained that although she was upset about our house being sold, moving out ended up becoming a pathway in life she was grateful for. I never expected to hear her say that.

Then she squeezed my hand and said, “Mommy, I’m glad you left. It took courage and I’m sorry for what you went through for so many years. I didn’t feel that way back then, but now I understand.”

I hugged her and together we walked back to my car. Tears were streaming down my face and I was glad she couldn’t see them in the darkness.

I had gone through a lot of stress and conflict with her when she was growing up. I was thankful so much was behind us now as her words echoed in my mind.

My kefir

© 2016 by Judy Unger and Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Judy playing with make up

When I made the decision to participate in a short video documentary about dry eyes, life became very exciting. Initially, I wasn’t sure I was up to doing it and had to get over feeling self-conscious about my appearance. Thankfully, I overcame my fears because I was very motivated to share my inspirational story.

I was paid for my time and that was important to me because it made the project legitimate. I had no idea a film crew of three people would be flying in from Virginia. I was glad that I would meet the producer, Jackie, whom I’d spoken with several times on the phone.

In this picture, I’m with Jackie, the producer

In this picture I’m with Jackie, the producer.

I was asked to choose someone to interact with who knew me well and my childhood friend, Joni, agreed to participate. A week before the filming, we went out shopping together. It was “girlfriend” time!

I’ve known Joni all my life. She lived in the same building where I grew up and am now living.

I’ve known Joni all my life. She lived in the same building where I grew up and am now living.

In order to wrap myself around the idea of being filmed, buying something new was really important. I worked hard at letting go of being self-conscious about my appearance. When we tried on clothes, my sizes were much larger than I wanted to think about. The sales lady and Joni were kind and encouraging.

After shopping, we had dinner and then I dragged Joni with me to an open mic I’d never gone to before.

Judy & Joni 1

This picture was taken after the crew finished the filming at my home.

The big day arrived and it was such a magical experience; I felt so important! Of course, it passed really quickly and was very much like being Cinderella. Sharing it with my friend, Joni was such a special memory.

I had lunch with both my brothers the day after the filming. They hadn’t spoken to each other for four years and with gentle coaxing and time, I had encouraged this reunion. I could write an entire story about it.

The day after our lunch, I broke out in hives. Before and after the film shoot, I had an argument with each one of my sons, and that also left me emotionally overwrought.

It was definitely a roller coaster week!

I was able to get a picture of the film crew just before they left.

I was able to get a picture of the film crew just before they left.

I love my vocal coach, Hannah Anders. I am able to share my feelings with her before I start singing!

Click the blue link below to hear audio: (A transcription is below)

Blog excerpt 6-30-16 – Judy discussing film shoot with Hannah

Hannah: Go!

Judy: Well I’m back to earth, I’m Cinderella – Now I’m back to being my usual!

Hannah: I experience that on a regular basis.

Judy: Do you? That must be part of what it is – especially with the whole make up thing and the audience sees you as somebody you’re not, somebody else. I had a hive outbreak this morning so I’m itching, damn. That part is hard.

Hannah: I know . . .

Judy: It was wonderful and exhausting. They showed up to start the whole thing at 7 a.m. It was very interesting because I knew it was about dry eyes but they were really focused on my music. To me that’s the best thing in the world!

I went in my closet and dug out all my old artwork and I put it all on a table. I thought I’d make it look like I’m working on something. I took out my paints and made this whole display. And they said, “We’re not interested in your artwork. We just want the story to be how music helped to heal you!”

Hannah: That’s great!

Judy: It was great. They started off with saying, “Where’s your guitar case – the dusty old one? We want to reenact how you started playing guitar again. Let’s put it back in the closet and have you walk over, pull it out and look like you’re playing again – and it hurts.”

I had to be like a little actress!

Hannah: How awesome!

Judy: It was so awesome.

Hannah: Was it fun?

Judy: It was fun! It was fun watching them take interesting angles of my guitar. It was like having your baby photographed. We want more of this guitar and I’m like, “Okay!”

And then my friend, Joni, came over and they had us talk and walk across the street, while following us. People were jogging by and looking at this camera crew following my friend and I thought, “Oh, my God – who am I?”

Hannah: I love it!

Judy: I did love it! I mean the harder part was that it was hot and when I got back it was time for the interview using my brainpower. There were lots of questions – they didn’t really guide me; they gave me a list.

I’d be talking away and think, Oh, I’d better look down at my list and then try to make it sound natural. My friend would say, “Judy, when did your eye problems begin?” She was going from her list. And I’d say, “My eye problems began . . .”

So I talked a lot. I think after a while I started to repeat myself. What gets me is that all this footage and recordings are going to be reduced to 10 minutes and they took 90 minutes of speaking and 6 hours of video.

It was nice when they left that I was able to rest. I got up and wrote to a friend and said, “I’m in a show tonight and I know I could have my hair and makeup done professionally, but I don’t know . . .”

She said, “GO! Do it!!”

Hannah: Yeah! I’m so glad you did; you looked so pretty!

Judy: Really?

Hannah: Yes!

Judy: It was so strange – my hair was all poufy and when I got there, I could see the mascara was all over. I was weepy and my eyes water a lot, so I kept wiping and worrying. But it was great to be somebody else for a day.

Hannah: Yeah!

Judy: And you know what? Now I’ve got to share; it was my best performance. I know there’s no perfection and I had one stumble with my lyrics. But honestly, my voice – what a change! I can’t say enough about how that conversational approach worked. I got all the high notes and I got all the low notes, so what more could I want? It was probably one of my best performances ever.

Hannah: I’m so glad!

Judy: Thank you!

Hannah: Yay! That’s very exciting! Good, so when will they have all that edited and put together for you?

Judy: In a month.

Hannah: Okay, that’s not long.

Judy: That’s what they told me; I don’t know. They want me to send them some of my instrumental stuff and things they might put in the background. I mean that would be really cool if they can use my music in it.

Hannah: Absolutely!

Judy: Yeah. I don’t want to be let down by things they might omit or put in that could be misconstrued; when things are edited, you don’t know. But I’ll hope for the best.

There were a lot of close-ups. Especially after my performance when my makeup was all smeared and I was hot.

But you know what’s interesting? All that dialog was about what I struggle with, but I don’t know that I had any scenes of what I go through – rubbing my eyes. I wore dark sunglasses outside, but they kept saying, “Now we want you to look serious.” (Judy laughing) I’m trying!

But when they said I could smile, I felt like a light bulb. So I think it will be very inspirational to see my smile.

Hannah: Good! Yay!

Judy: Yay!

Judy & Joni outside Kulak's 2 pictures Judy made up

© 2016 by Judy Unger and Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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