#65 THE FRUITS OF MY LABOR

ILLUSTRATING MY LIFE

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

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

Pomegranate Tree 8 x 10

My photo reference

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

My painting in progress

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

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LET LOVE SHINE A LIGHT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I said my last goodbye.

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

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

But now she was with Jillian, at last.

Photo by Tetyana Kovyrina at Pexels.com.

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

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SPRING THAWED MY PAIN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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AUTUMN HOPE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was good enough for me!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My finished painting – before adding details with colored pencils.

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

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

ILLUSTRATING MY LIFE

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

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

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

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

 CHICKEN SOUP WITH MATZO BALL

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

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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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