AUTUMN HOPE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was good enough for me!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My finished painting – before adding details with colored pencils.

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

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

ILLUSTRATING MY LIFE

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

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

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

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

 CHICKEN SOUP WITH MATZO BALL

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

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AT THIS VERY MOMENT

Tomorrow is my 62nd birthday. Just writing that stuns me! As a young girl, I used to write to “Judy of the Future.” Perhaps now I’m that older and wiser woman, but I like to believe there is still a “future Judy” ahead of me with more stories to tell.

It has been six months since my last blog post for “My Journey’s Insight.” When I first began blogging, I remember how I couldn’t wait to write and share my heart with brutal honesty. That time of “opening up” was definitely pivotal to my healing. Eleven years later, I share less and less and write infrequently. Although that sounds negative, I want to explain my thoughts surrounding that.

First off, I am a lot more careful not to impinge upon my adult childrens’ privacy. At the beginning of my blog, I wrote about my tenacious advocacy and parenting struggles. I have so many incredibly touching stories I would love to write related to their current achievements. Perhaps I will someday. But right now, I don’t want to embarrass them. They all know how proud I am!

Secondly, I actually am able to easily open my heart with honesty when I perform live on Insight Timer. I feel vulnerable when I sing, and push through my hesitation. I do not “practice singing” and my voice is very limited for a number of reasons. But my audience is so warm and loving – this allows me to simply tell my story and not worry too much about my abilities. I am very fortunate.

Lastly, I am in a peaceful place. I have already released so much anguish, heartache and trauma. That space is now filled with calmness and gratitude. I haven’t written a new song with vocals in five years (but I have composed new instrumental music). I accept that perhaps I’ve written all of the acoustic songs I ever will. Pressuring myself to write a new one doesn’t serve me. A song is a gift from heaven that will come to me if it is supposed to.

So many of my songs appeared to guide me when I was bereft. Maintaining my song garden is also a joyous pursuit. My music continues to bloom and grow and I feel like I am the luckiest songwriter on earth.

I began creating piano solos for my courses on Insight Timer. They were a perfect ending for a song lesson. Eventually, they became a 3-year project and I have created piano solos for almost all of my songs. I have only four left and because those last ones have elaborate finger-picking, I’m not sure how they will translate to piano. I have written about my piano editing on my music blog here: “The Magic of Piano.”

Last week, I released “Healing Piano Melodies – Part 2” on Insight Timer. It carries 15 songs. “Healing Piano Melodies – Part 1,” carried 20 songs, because the clips were shorter. I am well into “Healing Piano Melodies – Part 3” and have eleven melodies already completed for it.

Clicking on the image plays my tracks on Insight Timer:

I’ve shared about my music, but what else is going on in my life besides piano editing?

I recorded a third course for Insight Timer over the past five months. It was very time intensive and that is why I haven’t painted as much. I haven’t submitted it yet and once I do, it will probably take many months before it is released.

INTRODUCTION TO MY COURSE “DOOR TO MY HEART”

I currently have recorded 3 courses that consist of 30 song lessons. The process of writing lessons for my songs has been both challenging and rewarding. Mixing in background music is very fun and creative for me. I even started recording some slow nylon guitar meanderings to add to my lessons. I wonder whether I will write lessons for the remaining 20 songs. Wondering is a good thing!

Despite my focus on music, I did squeeze in time for a few new paintings. A fig tree next to the tennis court where I play every week inspired me. The figs were actually quite tasty in my salads.

And this past summer, I had a real craving for Rainier Cherries!

In 2018, I had the glorious experience of shooting a music video for my song “Crystal Oceans.” After three years, I had never seen any of the raw footage; I was particularly interested in the reels of me playing my guitar on a sailboat. That footage wasn’t used in the final video because the actor playing my love interest didn’t show up that day. The editor wanted a more romantic story line, so my solo singing on a sailboat wasn’t included.

I was finally able to see myself performing on that boat when my son converted the files for me. I extracted a few stills and am sharing them on this post.

I don’t feel as young as I did then, even though it was only three years ago. But I remind myself that I broke my ankle a year later and it was a huge setback.

A few days ago, I spoke to a good friend across the country. She was recovering from foot surgery and giving her a pep talk reminded me what an achievement it was that I healed from a broken ankle in 2019. Then in 2020, I had the hardware surgically removed. Somehow, I have put it all behind me and am incredibly grateful that I can do so much of what I did before. The only difference is that I am extremely cautious.

I continue to play tennis once or twice a week and unfortunately, my dry eyes still bother me when I play. Some days, I shuffle out of my chair with stiffness from sitting too long, but when I’m on the tennis court – I amaze myself. I am careful not to lose balance because I know what’s at stake.

Talking to my friend, I understood how she felt as she faces several months in a wheelchair. Back then, I could only dream of playing tennis again. Running around with my girlfriends and whacking that tennis ball truly is a miracle in my life.

Last week, there was one day where I felt teary. I wasn’t sure why I felt so emotional, until I realized that the fall season holds so many anniversaries of the heart for me. Today is actually the day my mother died. I shared that with my daughter and she texted back: “Wow! Grandma would be so proud of you and the woman you’ve become.”

So tomorrow on my birthday, I celebrate many things. At the top of my list is my health. I can see well enough to drive, paint and play tennis. I can sing my heart out to a loving audience anytime I want to.

I have amazing children whom I adore. All three are close to me, despite the physical distance with two of them. My deceased son, Jason, continues to live on in my music and songs.

On October 6th, it was 29 years since Jason died. My day was filled with ordinary activities, yet my heart felt extraordinary. What came into my mind was the line I spoke at the end of one of my song lessons for my newest course:

“I am positive the absolute best time in my life is right now, at this very moment.”

I share below an excerpt from my song lesson for “More Than You Know.”

“More Than You Know” was originally about my sadness over losing a good friend, but it holds so much more wisdom for me. With the line “I thought that you were mine” I was forced to accept the harsh truth no one could ever belong to me. Instead, I held onto what I cherished with all the love in my heart as I let them go. It was letting go of being responsible and simply acknowledging love that led to my healing. 

At the beginning when my mother had dementia, I was so bereft at the loss of the sharp woman she used to be. It was awful watching my father suffer and wish for death. I was depressed receiving reports about the disabilities my children struggled with.  

Letting go in all of those situations wasn’t remotely easy. But my love carried me through. I also turned that love into compassion and forgiveness. I couldn’t continue to blame myself for not being able to save Jason. 

My story “Each Day” is about making every day my best. On what was a particularly stressful day in my former caregiving life, I was able to find beauty in small moments. Is there a way in your life, you can see beyond the stress and discover miracles? 

As relatable as “More Than You Know” is in so many ways, there is one other lyric line that is not honest. I‘ve left it there anyway, because it brings a smile for me to realize how far I’ve come. The line, “How could I have guessed our time would be my best?” just isn’t true for me anymore.

I am positive the absolute best time in my life is right now, at this very moment.”

This picture was taken a few months ago at my niece’s baby shower.

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THE MAGIC OF PIANO

I love sharing the magic music brings to my life!

Judy Unger Music

https://wp.me/aOH49-7PX

I begin this musical update with one of my recent solo piano songs named “Misunderstood.” It wasn’t on my radar to work on earlier, but it has some of the most beautiful melodic passages of any of my songs.

I recently commented to a friend that I am always in love with whatever I am currently working on (and that applies to my paintings, too). Her observation was that this was an incredibly mindful approach – of being “in the moment.” I like that!

I don’t understand how I can love a song so much, and then a week later I’ve moved on and am in love with my next song. Two weeks ago, it was “Alabaster Seashell.” Then it was “More Than You Know.”

And right at this moment, it is “Misunderstood!”

More about this song: MISUNDERSTOOD.

https://wp.me/aOH49-7PW

There was a brief period of my life when I…

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AMONG HER TREASURED MEMORIES

Treasured memories sustain me and my sweet story to follow is filled with metaphors. Camellia flowers remind me of my beautiful blossoming daughter. The life cycle of hummingbirds are touching, as I watch my three children spread their wings and fly. It is simply a joy to share my heart musings, imagery and songs.

The lyric line for my blog title came from my song “Alabaster Seashell.” I have been working steadily on creating solo piano meditations for many of my songs. Below is a recent track that will be part of a new medley on Insight Timer.

More about “Alabaster Seashell” is at this link: ALABASTER SEASHELL

This is a treasured memory from a year ago. My daughter and I braved a beach outing during the pandemic. We didn’t hug and our selfies were “distant.”

Recently, my daughter took photos of me so I’d have some new profile pictures for Insight Timer. I really love how my butterfly earrings are “ultra-visible” on the right side. I love butterflies!

As I’ve gotten older I’ve observed the passage of time has sped up. Like getting closer to finishing a roll of toilet paper, the remainder seems to unwrap faster and faster. When a week goes by it feels like only a day.

I anticipated my daughter’s visit for several months, but now it’s a blur that already happened. She left two weeks ago and here I am wondering how it flew by so quickly.

Emotionally, I am filled with hopefulness about the future. Recent hugs with vaccinated friends is a blanket of love that wraps around my heart. I was surprised that I could live without hugs for so long.

I’ve noticed that even the smallest things can infuse joy into my life. The tiny hummingbird nest on my patio has been such a gift.

Every day, I look out of my dining room window at the lovely camellia bush my mother planted when I was a baby. Because I live in the same home where I grew up, I am surrounded by childhood memories.

My mother was always so proud of her camellias. Once it was a tiny bush, but now it bordered upon being a tree. Even though it was neglected for years, somehow it managed to survive.

The pandemic threatened to crush creativity in my life, but somehow tidbits of inspiration peeked through. Last summer, I rediscovered my love for art by painting simply for the fun of it. Even my most tedious paintings were satisfying.

Each time I began something new, I was excited about what it would become. And when I finished and cut the paper off my watercolor board, I relished the feeling of completion.

I was never really sure what my next painting might be, but I always had ideas swirling in my mind. It was springtime during the Pandemic when I decided the camellias would become my next subject. Those first buds and vivid pink blooms were magnificent.

I was immersed in my painting for several weeks. It was during that time when I was finally ready to get a haircut. The isolation was wearing on me and I decided to take a chance. Lightening my heavy hair would definitely give me a lift.

My stylist and I wore masks as she trimmed my wild hair on the patio. Almost immediately, she noticed the beautiful camellias. I told her I would show her my painting in progress when she was finished.

But then, her sharp eyes noticed something. “Judy! There’s a tiny bird’s nest on that branch.”

She pointed. I stood up and we both walked closer. The nest was unmistakable and two tiny beaks were pointing skyward.

For several weeks after that I watched the birds grow. Then one day they were gone.

I love this picture of the baby bird on its last day in the nest. At that time, the camellias were still blooming and created such a beautiful backdrop.

Every so often I looked inside the empty nest. My heart jumped with joy when a week later I saw two tiny eggs inside. The cycle was beginning again!

Now a large hummingbird mom was sitting on the eggs throughout the day. Her eyes darted at me whenever I stepped into the yard. I was careful to stay away and worried whenever it was windy. I prayed the nest and eggs wouldn’t be dislodged.

Weeks later, two tiny beaks were once again visible. I saw them being fed by their mother and it was beautiful. Watching was a connection to motherhood, as well as to memories of my own mother.

I was delighted when I finally finished my camellia painting. I knew my mom would have loved it.

More about my painting can be found by clicking on this image.

I have three adult children and my youngest son lives with me. Last September, my 27-year-old daughter moved across the country, from California to Minnesota.

I missed her and tried to cope with the uncertainty of our length of separation. She was incredibly homesick, living far away from friends and family in a frozen area. It was a frigid season she’d never experienced. We spoke and texted often.

My child bemoaned that winter would never end. For her, time moved slowly. Eventually she bought a plane ticket, and we both couldn’t believe she would be visiting me. Though it was months away, time rapidly zipped toward the date for me.

I told her about the baby hummingbirds. Each day they were getting bigger and I hoped she would get to see them. The day before her arrival, one of the birds stood up and began flapping its wings. The next morning, it was gone.

Her flight was scheduled to land in the late afternoon. The traffic on the way to the airport was terrible, but listening to my newest meditation music kept me calm. I did wonder how I would find her when I finally pulled up to her terminal. But suddenly, there she was standing at the curb. She jumped into my car and we quickly hugged. I was overwhelmed with joy.

Afterwards, we dined at an outdoor restaurant near the beach; it was one of my first meals out in over a year. I was in heaven and this was definitely a treasured memory. There was so much to catch up on and yet we didn’t have to say much at all.

We came back to my place and she began to unpack. In the twilight, I pointed out the hummingbird nest through the dining room window. We both tiptoed outside, hoping for her to see the baby bird.

I was elated; it was still there! The tiny hummingbird was flapping its wings to practice. It was getting ready to start a new life of freedom. Would it still be there the next morning?

After breakfast, my daughter and I were treated to unforgettable entertainment as the baby bird practiced flying.

It squeaked as it flew to another branch. Then it rested and flew back to a branch closer to the nest. Suddenly, the mother appeared. She landed right next to her baby and inserted her elongated beak into its mouth. Learning to fly required sustenance! My daughter and I were enthralled.

A few hours later, the mother bird and her baby were gone. Once again, the nest was empty.

I realized the cycle of life was infused within that camellia bush. I wished my mother could have known how special her bush still was. I smiled as I imagined her watching from above.

My daughter’s visit flew by. One moment we were waiting for a date on our calendars, and then in an instant – she was here and gone.

There were lovely memories and emotional moments. There were tears of joy, tears of frustration, and tears of acceptance. Our weekly visits ended when she left California last fall. Our new reality was that we would be separated by distance, but not in our hearts.

She left the day after Mother’s Day. Originally, she was going to leave a few days earlier but she extended her stay to be there with me for that holiday. I was grateful.

It was still dark when I dropped her off at the airport shuttle bus station. One last hug and then it was over until our next adventure. I felt a little sad, but I was also looking forward to falling back into my familiar routine.

My apartment was quiet when I came in.  The early morning sunlight streamed through my patio window casting a golden glow. I found myself drawn to step outside.

I perched upon a step stool so I could better peek into the hummingbird nest. Slowly, a smile spread across my face and my heart danced.

There were two tiny eggs inside.

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My Podcast: Beside Me Always, Grief 2 Growth

I am excited to share my interview with Brian Smith. My beautiful healing journey continues and I hope my story will help anyone navigating grief to hang on to hope.

To hear the podcast, click on this link:

https://www.buzzsprout.com/695488/7681984

My course is free and can be accessed by clicking on the picture below:

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CAN I KEEP THEM FOREVER?

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

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

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

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

This is an image of my painting in progress:

Leaf 7

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

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

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

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

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

“Can I Keep Them Forever?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leaf 1

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LEMON TREE

My Lemon Tree painting took about two weeks to complete.

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

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

I am still here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My old bedroom.

The kitchen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My original Lemon Tree reference photo

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

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

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

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

And after that, I cried again.

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MY ONE-YEAR ANKLEVERSARY

Ankleversary = The anniversary date for breaking an ankle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But was I risking fate to do this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I never gave up hope.

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

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

My doctor signed his initials on my skin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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THERE ARE NO WORDS

I have recorded and new version of my song “No Words.” Below is both a vocal and guitar instrumental for it:

One of the many projects to occupy me during the isolation was updating my music website. This link leads to a new blog where I  share the latest music I’m working on: JudyUngerMusic.

I wrote a post there today also named “Wings to Fly.

Initially, I felt simply writing about music could relieve me of the pressure to write anything deeper. This was because I have been deeply blocked from writing creatively during this quarantine period. And only a few months earlier, I felt the same way recovering from a broken ankle.

Choosing the post title I did seemed to describe that feeling well. It turned out there were words for me to find and I’m really glad I could finally write something today for this blog.

This post feels almost trivial with everything else that is going on. Yet anything that can pierce the numbness inside of me feels worth writing about, even if it is as simple as a visit with my daughter at the park.

During our outing, we were warned about the impending curfew. I received messages from my son who was concerned about when I would be getting home. Sorrow, strife, monotony and fear simultaneously surrounded me.

My song “No Words” was conceived when I was 19 years old, but it was left unfinished. I eventually finished it and the lyrics described what it meant for me to have subsequent children after suffering the loss of my son, Jason. My daughter was a “rainbow baby” because she was conceived only a month after he died.

This photo was taken during one of our picnics weeks earlier.

My daughter sat on her light blue blanket.

She was on her blanket and I sat in a chair. It was far more comfortable than sitting on the ground. When did the ground become so hard and uncomfortable? I guess it was just another change I could chalk up after turning 60.

I had given her that old blanket, which was actually an old bedspread my own mother had given me. I could still remember seeing it on my brother’s bed when I was a young girl. Such memories it evoked – of trips to the beach when I was a teenager. Later on, I sat on it while my young children played nearby in the sand.

We were both bathed in the yellow light of golden hour. I learned from two of my children how half an hour before sunset was the best lighting for picture taking.

In just a few hours at this lovely park, I marveled at the simplicity of our visit – savoring a take-out meal, wearing our masks while taking a “distant walk,” and sharing our feelings.

We both treasured this time. It used to be pedicures and restaurants; now it was a picnic. Even though I longed for physical contact, this seemed to suffice. We were creating touching memories, but they were actually  “untouching” memories!

The first time I broached my isolation to meet her, I was overwhelmed by emotion. She had been very ill with pneumonia for several weeks and I waited until she was symptom free for another month and a half. My son was worried about us meeting and begged me to “be safe.” I promised him I would.  Staying so far apart from each other was very strange the first time. But with each weekly reunion, it became our new habit.

Gradually, golden hour began to fade. It was windy and we both began feeling the chill. It was time for us to pack up, but we lingered. As precious as this afternoon was, I still felt very detached. Everything seemed unreal and most of the time I plodded through my days without any emotion at all.

I knew that “stuffing my feelings” was a familiar coping mechanism that left me burdened by numbness. It was literally stuffing. Food was both a comfort and a torment. I preferred to deflect depression over my weight and instead focus on things I was grateful for.

I adjusted my scarf to cover my arms and looked across the soft grass to where my daughter was sitting. I was so grateful for her and that was when the wave of emotion almost knocked the wind out of me.

I gasped with an audible sob and my daughter’s eyes opened wide with compassion. I choked out my truth, and tears poured down my cheeks. “I miss our hugs!” I sobbed.

She mumbled out ideas for us (she could wrap herself up in my scarf), but we both knew there really were no safe options at that moment. I struggled to contain my emotion and eventually managed to calm myself. I stood up and folded my chair.

In the twilight, we exchanged a few items from our car trunks while standing far apart. We waved goodbye and I made contorted gestures that resembled a hug. She sweetly chirped that she was looking forward to our next picnic.

I prayed there would be many more, even though I couldn’t look that far ahead.

NO WORDS 2

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