THERE ARE NO WORDS

I’m still working on creating a new vocal to go with an updated guitar recording for my song “No Words.” Below is a mix of two guitars that I recorded last week:

 

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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HEALING SONG – PART 3

I haven’t had the desire to write. I’m certain it has something to do with our current situation of shelter in place.

My daughter was very sick in early March. I believe she had the virus and I haven’t seen her in almost two months. It was a huge worry with her fever, horrible cough and lung congestion. My good friend, Dr. Sam Fink saved the day once again by giving us advice and prescribing her an antibiotic. Sam actually sent me a message on March 2nd warning me about the virus. He has been interviewed many times on the news and I’m so proud of him!

I am immensely grateful to be healthy. I had a terrible respiratory virus back in December that left me with a residual cough. I am still not singing much and the thought of becoming infected with the corona virus is concerning. I’ve worked hard to dispel my worry and continue to focus on my other endeavors.

One enormous project I’ve been working on is recording my second Insight Timer Course, which I’ve named “Songs of Healing and Hope.” There are ten lessons and I have almost finished recorded all of them. I have piano meditations associated with my course, which I’m still working on. Under the “Recent Music” drop down, I share some of those clips.

I have also released guitar and piano/guitar tracks associated with this course on Insight Timer. The links for those are:

SONGS OF HEALING AND HOPE GUITAR MEDLEY

SONGS OF HEALING AND HOPE GUITAR/PIANO MEDLEY

In some ways, my life feels like a continuum of my broken ankle recovery. My schedule revolves around meals, naps and computer time. But my current situation is so much better because I am able to walk. I go outside every day for a stroll and am adjusting to wearing a mask now.

I wrote my last story about “Healing Song” (HEALING SONG-PART 2) in December of 2018. On that blog post, I had shared about my oldest son. Since then, he has continued his amazing trajectory that culminated with him purchasing a home in Las Vegas. Back in February, we had fun looking at homes – I had no idea it would actually turn into a purchase so quickly. He had hoped I would come during his move, but unfortunately it wasn’t the best timing. I’ll look forward to seeing his new house when this is over.

I was having issues with my guitar back then, and I’m happy to say that I picked up my guitar after a two-week repair only days before the isolation began. It sounds wonderful and my new luthier did an incredible job. I was excited to record my guitar on my patio for this post.

My music continues to heal me.

It was a big deal for me to play out on my patio and share my performance. I even put on a little makeup and wore nicer clothes. My hair is already pretty shaggy and it’s all part of the experience.

Of greater concern is all the weight I am gaining from this fairly sedentary and food-focused life style. But I know I’m not alone and for now – I’m going to take each day as it comes.

So glad I could open up to share!

Link to other stories and recordings: HEALING SONG

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#55 REUNITED WITH MY BEECH-NUT ORIGINALS – A JOYOUS AND JARRING EXPERIENCE

Excited to share a new post that is on my illustration blog. It’s my first new post in three years!

ILLUSTRATING MY LIFE

Link to Part 1 about my Beech-Nut illustrations:

#40 WHEN I WORKED FOR BEECH-NUT, I COULDN’T PUT A LID ON IT

Twenty years ago, I painted over 80 illustrations that adorned Beech-Nut Baby Food labels. Since then, the company has redesigned their jars and my illustrations aren’t there anymore.

My client paid extra to own the original art and there wasn’t any time for me to get copies (transparencies) of my artwork. I was an assembly line artist, painting quickly while simultaneously creating layouts for subsequent labels.

When I wrote my Beech-Nut story for this blog in 2011, I lamented the lack of images to share. I only had color copies and a few slides an art director had given me. (I have since updated that post with better images!)A month ago, I was joyfully jarred when I received an email with this heading:

BEECH NUT ARTWORK MASTERS: Judy…

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SOMEONE TO LOVE YOU – PART 3

This link goes to a song story page with lyrics, performances, stories and other recordings for my song: SOMEONE TO LOVE YOU

I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit that I’ve been struggling since breaking my ankle this past summer.

Although it might have seemed ideal to write a song while I was recovering, my creative energy wasn’t there. I understand that better now since joining an ankle support group online. Many people wrote about their brain fog and exhaustion while healing; it was very common and expecting more was unrealistic.

The ordeal of being totally sedentary and home bound for three months is over, yet the feelings around it continue to cloud over me. I have many things to celebrate, but sometimes I feel depressed.

I last wrote after visiting my oldest son for the Thanksgiving holiday. Since then, I caught a chest cold twice and it left me with an annoying cough. This definitely had me dragging.

Recently, someone asked me how I was – outside of my “maladies.” Initially, that was actually a tough question for me to answer. I wasn’t feeling too great. But then the answer came: I was doing great because my children were doing so well. They were all growing in wonderful ways.

Almost everything I do besides music, relates to them. Even though they are adults, they are deeply integral to my life. I believe that losing my first-born child has given me an even deeper appreciation for my living children. I consider all three of them to be miracles.

My youngest son lives with me and we are very close (I respect his privacy and can’t share anything about him).

My oldest son lives in Las Vegas and is a first grade teacher. We speak almost every day. I am leaving tomorrow to visit him again. The first night I’m there, he told me he is thrilled that I can keep him company while he finishes getting grading done. I’m glad I can be supportive and look forward to making him his favorite egg salad.

Currently, my 26-year-old daughter lives about 30 minutes away from where I am. She always calls me when she finishes work and is walking to her car at night. We usually see each other once a week.

This post is about my song “Someone to Love You,” which expresses the deep love I have for my children.

I composed my song five years ago. Recently, when I was listening to an older recording, the beautiful chords felt very rushed. I decided my song would benefit from a slower tempo so the guitar finger picking could be appreciated. It was time for me to pull out my guitar mics.

Even though I was hacking with my cough while playing, the slower pace was lovely. After a coughing fit, I just continued recording. The important part was to stay in the same position when I started up again.

When I finished editing the lower guitar tracks, I recorded another, higher guitar part. Then I asked my piano arranger to add something, although my older piano version was also sweet. I loved them both and had two versions for my new arrangement.

Now it was time for me to sing again, despite my cough. I recorded vocals and it was healing for me. Below, I share some other instrumental versions of my song that I will eventually share on Insight Timer.

Finding the blessings in my life isn’t hard when I look for them. My children are my treasures and I celebrate how they are all thriving. I went through so many struggles with them while they were growing up. Now I am reaping amazing rewards.

In only a few months, my daughter is moving away to another state. Our visits now have a sense of poignancy that signal change is coming. Although I will certainly visit her, we won’t be hanging out weekly as we have been doing.

Both of us are feeling sadness about it, although I am very excited for her courage. She is willing to face the unknown, to travel out of state to Colorado and start a new life there with her boyfriend. Her joy at having a loving partner is beautiful to behold and exactly what my song wishes for.

Our relationship has changed so much in the past two years. I am better able to express myself to her and we have discussed our past conflicts to gain understanding. She is very loving and kind.

When I broke my ankle, she was traumatized by the experience and recently was able to overcome her own fear about hiking in the same area where I fell. When I have another surgery this summer, I will miss having her there with me.

Recently, we had an especially lovely visit – we had taken a nice walk, gone to a nearby café and watched a movie at her apartment. It was late and after hugging goodbye, I got into my car to drive home.

“Someone To Love You” began playing and tears filled my eyes. It was the perfect song for me to hear at that moment.

Life becomes a fairy tale when I allow my music to penetrate. I shared the picture of myself as a young girl for that reason. My eyes are shining with excitement for life and innocence. There is so much for me to discover.

My song reminds me that I am still that child inside. The melody embodies my wonderment and passion. My parents in heaven are speaking to me and I can feel their love.

Perhaps it wasn’t about finding someone to love me, after all. I could be sad because enduring love wasn’t in the cards for me romantically. However, I found love in many other ways.

Beyond the love I have for my children, I am practicing self-love. My devotion to following my passion is a gift I have given myself.

My insights help me overcome sadness over the physical issues I’ve been dealing with. Once my daughter is settled in Colorado, I can’t wait to visit her and explore the gorgeous outdoors. Just like my song lyrics, I look forward to traveling to places I’ve never been.

Despite some tough setbacks, I am overjoyed that my songs and words have comforted and touched so many people.

I have found my way home because of music.

The love in my heart takes me there.

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CLOSE TO MY HEART

Last week, I recorded lovely guitar accompaniment to a solo piano track for my newest meditation version of “Farewell.” It took many hours (I recorded 20 takes of ten minutes each), but my song gives me incredible joy.

My oldest son helped me create a new YouTube channel for my meditation music. Below is a segment from my new version of “Farewell Meditation Song.”

I felt nervous about traveling alone since breaking my ankle. But I went ahead and cautiously planned a trip during the week of Thanksgiving to visit my oldest son. Because I had two suitcases and a guitar, I decided it would probably be safest to ask the airline for help. Once again, I sat in a wheelchair with thankfulness that this was temporary.

I closed my eyes during take off. As the plane roared into the sky, I could feel tears squeezing my eyeballs. They pushed through my shuttered eyelids.

For the three months that I was “non-weight-bearing” (a term used during recovery from a broken ankle), traveling seemed very far away. But here I was, leaving the comforts of home and seeing my son after four months apart. I felt like a prisoner released from jail and couldn’t believe I was free. As tears continued rolling down my neck, I acknowledged that they were happy tears. This Thanksgiving definitely held more thankfulness than I’d ever had in a long time.

I looked forward to seeing my son. This was his second year teaching first grade. His achievement was huge and my heart swelled with so much pride that I felt like I would burst. My emotion overflowed – I was definitely very close to my heart now. “Close To My Heart” sounded like a nice title for a new song.

Shortly before this trip, I had sought out another opinion for my ankle. I wanted to have my hardware removed and my surgeon told me I needed to wait a year. In my support group, many people had theirs out sooner.

A new friend from an online ankle fracture support group was having hers out today, in fact. Her accident was two weeks after mine. I was eager to see how it would go for Missie, who was an avid tennis player like me. Too bad she lived in Virginia because it would have been wonderful to play with her.

I brought to my appointment several x-rays taken by the hospital. The doctor was very nice and answered a lot of my questions.

I received his report a few days later. He referred to me as a “well-nourished female.” Oh, well. At least he didn’t write fat. Certainly, the ordeal of being sedentary and depressed did nothing to help my weight.

This doctor recommended I wait a year or more to remove the hardware. But what stuck out for me was something that my other doctor had never mentioned. I had an avulsion fracture on the other side of my ankle. It was exactly where my pain was located. I looked it up and this is what I found:

Avulsion fractures happen when a small piece of bone breaks off the site of the main fracture, sometimes affecting the ligament located near the break. They can be very painful, and can cause a lot of pain and discomfort years after the initial injury.

I contacted my surgeon and he confirmed that I indeed had one, but said it was “very small and unlikely to be a source of my pain.”

Yet I had gone through so much pain since being allowed to walk again. I was angry that it was never mentioned to me, despite showing up on every x-ray. Thankfully, I was able to put this ordeal behind me, because since having a cortisone shot my pain had ebbed away.

My former high school boyfriend, Dr. Sam Fink, has been such a wonderful friend. We both reconnected through my blogging in 2010. He helped me with this referral.

It was wonderful seeing my son. We both hugged each other tightly and his apartment felt cozy. He had decorated it since I was there last and was excited for me to try out his new couch.

I really enjoyed our time together. He had so much more confidence in his teaching abilities. He enthusiastically regaled me with classroom anecdotes. I was deeply relieved because I had been so worried about him.

His grandfather was a consummate teacher and would have been so proud. I wondered if my father had known this would happen, when he took his challenging grandson under his wing and guided him. My father died before he could know what a difference he had made, especially influencing his grandson’s career choice. Sometimes, I heard my father speaking to me, praising me for supporting my son the way I did. I felt so close to my heart at those times and would whisper sweet words back to him.

Our week together flew by. On Thanksgiving Day, we ordered Indian Food delivered. My son is vegetarian and it was fun tasting so many interesting dishes. This was a Thanksgiving I’d always remember.

Every day, I pulled out my guitar to work on my newest meditation idea. I practiced a guitar counterpoint with a lovely piano track. Trying to find the best chords and fingerings kept me busy. But I loved the music and it really touched my heart. I usually recorded guitar first and then added piano notes later on. This approach for my meditation song “Farewell” was reverse.

On my last day, my son shared with me a beautiful message he just received. The mother of one of his students wrote that she was so thankful my son was her daughter’s teacher. She explained that the year before her daughter hated going to school, but now she was excited to go to his class every day. I was overjoyed for him to hear this. He wrote back a thoughtful message and I could tell he appreciated her words.

Throughout my week, the biggest standout was that I could walk again without pain and for much longer distances. On my day of departure, I decided I didn’t need airport assistance. I checked in my bags and walked through the airport with my guitar on my back.

These lyrics from my song “Watching You Grow” really resonate with me at the moment.

It was three days after I came home, when I pulled my tennis bag out of my closet. There was an evening beginner’s workshop at a nearby tennis center. I felt ready.

The biggest irony was that I wore the same old tennis shoes I had fallen in while hiking. Unfortunately, my new court shoes didn’t fit. I had bought them a week before my accident and now they were too tight.

I took a deep breath while standing on the court in the cold night air. It felt amazing, though I did have trouble seeing. I needed a new prescription for my contact lenses and made a mental note to take care of that soon, as well as buy new court shoes.

Despite my vision, I was able to hit a few good shots. Sprinting was scary, and I let short balls bounce without running to them. I wasn’t used to being on my feet for two hours and sunk into my car with total exhaustion afterwards. I missed the energy I used to have. The word patience continued to echo through me. I looked forward to eventually joining my doubles group again that I’ve played with regularly for over 15 years.

My blessings overwhelm me. I find myself whispering this: Thank you, God, for my wonderful children – for my beautiful music and songs – for my continued healing. Despite having an avulsion fracture on top of my broken fibula – I am going to be okay.

This is my song cover for “Farewell Piano & Guitar Duet,” soon to be released on Insight Timer.

I’ve have struggled with depression since July.

But now I am re-framing my experience into something that led to growth, expanded my heart, and deepened appreciation for my freedom.

I’m going to share some other attachments below related to what has been going on in my life.

Receiving positive messages continue to inspire me as I follow my dream.

Last month, I released a vocal track on Insight Timer. It took courage because I knew people far preferred my instrumentals for meditation. When I received a critical message, I replied in an honest way.

When I received the message below about the same vocal track, it confirmed exactly why I wrote my response to Bob.

Lucia is now a new friend of mine in Ireland!

Moving on from Insight Timer messages, I want to share more about my Ankle Fracture Support Group on Facebook. The sharing of information, support and understanding has been amazing to behold. Below are message from that group.

It seems that Mary’s x-ray also deserved a closer look when she found out later that she had an avulsion. I wrote a response that recommended she try a cortisone shot before having surgery – or at least to get a second opinion.

This message is sad. But so many people wrote to Lisa to reassure her that she would be okay (and to find a new surgeon). I understand what she wrote, especially about putting on weight.

My new friend, Missie, had her hardware out today! She is doing very well and I share her posts.

My x-ray.

I end my post by sharing a picture taken with my beautiful daughter earlier this year.

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WINGS TO FLY

My post title is a lyric line from my song “In The Past.”

The full line is: “Pain that made me cry, gave me wings to fly”

Link to other recordings and stories about this song: IN THE PAST

I recently recorded a new vocal:

I will forever treasure this picture from my 60th birthday party last month.

I couldn’t believe it was already fall. After spending the entire summer in a wheelchair, (three months of NWB, an acronym for non-weight bearing), I was finally able to walk again.

Over a month’s time, I slowly improved. I could handle longer distances and my balance was better. But pain continued to plague me. It seeped into my heart and forced tears from my eyes with every stabbing sensation. I was clearly struggling because I could hardly carry on a simple conversation without crying. And I had a lot of trouble singing, too.

My physical therapy appointments were excruciating and the exercises wore me out. I made progress with more flexibility, which was encouraging. I had one appointment every week for two months.

I had one last appointment with the orthopedic department. I was told that I was graduating because my fracture had healed on the x-ray. When I mentioned my intense pain, I was told it was “normal.” The doctor gave me a referral to a podiatrist; perhaps I had another foot issue unrelated to my ankle surgery. He also said I could have developed a pain disorder due to my extreme sensitivity. “Like Paula Abdul,” he said, “It happens with injuries sometimes.”

Occasionally, I listened to my own grief course. It was strange – even though it was my own voice speaking, it sounded like someone else. I let my own advice drill into me, and amazingly one of my suggestions set off a light bulb. I had recommended finding support groups with other people going through the same thing.

I looked online and discovered there were ankle fracture recovery groups! I signed up for one and it was mind blowing. People were all sharing their fracture experiences with pictures, information and questions. When a woman wrote about taking her first shower on her own, the supportive messages made me want to cry. I remembered when I did that!

There were plenty of posts where people wondered how long the pain would last. I scrolled down and there was a post that really knocked me over. Under a photo of a tennis court, a woman wrote: “Played tennis for the first time since my accident in July.”

My accident was on July 1st. I was so happy for her!

We began corresponding and her name was Missie. She lived across the country from me, but we wrote back and forth about the trauma we had gone through, as well as our love for tennis. Missie had fallen down the stairs backwards. She was scheduled to have her hardware removed in a month because her doctor told her, “Missie, let’s go in and take the hardware out so you can get on with your life and not have to pay another big deductible next year.”

I had already begun deciding to plan ahead for the surgery to remove my hardware. The metal plate and screws were not welcome in my body anymore and I could feel them all the time. From what I read, the removal alleviated pain for many people. It improved mobility and also prevented possible arthritis later on.

Missie was my new friend and I was eager to hear how it would go for her. All of this new support was definitely helping me. I was so isolated all summer and I wished I had found this site sooner.

There was a bright spot during all of this. I had an amazing 60th birthday party.

I had dreaded turning 60; with no idea how I could celebrate the way I was feeling. One day, my close friend Janis came to visit and bring lunch. I mentioned my upcoming milestone birthday and how sad I was thinking about it. When she offered to host a party for me at her home, it seemed like such a lovely idea.

I decided to invite only my closest girlfriends – this way it would be very intimate. As the party day came closer, I wished I felt better. My eyes were still faucets and I was easily exhausted.

My party was unforgettable. The love in the room swirled around and inside of me as I savored every moment. I’m going to share an extremely heartfelt and vulnerable video clip at the end of this post.

I’m so thankful for my dear friend, Janis, who hosted my party.

Last week, my appointment with the podiatrist arrived. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was sure I would be crying. The doctor was a lovely young woman and sure enough my tears began falling when she asked me how I was.

She gently explained to me that it was only five weeks since I had started walking. It was still very early in my healing and recovery. She said that it would definitely get better, but it was a very slow process and pain was to be expected.

We discussed whether a cortisone shot might help me. I had benefited from one once before when I had tennis elbow. She said it was certainly worth trying.

She gently injected the large needle into my ankle in two places. I couldn’t stifle crying out from the pain. She said, “I feel a lot of scar tissue in there and hopefully this will loosen it up. You’ll be sore for a day or two, but might see some benefit after that.”

I promised her I’d let her know.

The following day, I was very sore, but gradually my pain began to lift.

It was unbelievable! Suddenly, I could walk normally. I went for a walk and my tears were happy ones.

I couldn’t wait to tell Missie and share my good news with my new support group. And of course, send a message to the podiatrist to let her know what a difference our appointment had made.

As I walked, there were no words to describe my elation. I kept imagining all the things I would be able to do again without pain.

It was miraculous and I felt like I could fly!

Life held magic once again.

 

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IT’S OKAY TO CRY AWHILE

These are chorus lyrics to my song “In Every Smile,” which I composed four years ago in 2015.

Over the summer, I recorded several of my acoustic songs despite being in a wheelchair. I’m ready to start sharing them. The title of this post is from my song “In Every Smile.”

Below are vocal and guitar mixes:

More about this song can be found at this link: IN EVERY SMILE

I sure hope to play tennis again someday. This picture with my father is from a long ago family vacation.

I plan to hike again someday, but I’ll wear boots next time.

It had been almost 3 months since breaking my ankle while hiking. The day finally arrived for my orthopedic appointment where I hoped I could start walking again.

Unlike a month earlier, I wasn’t upbeat. Instead, I was numb.

My daughter seemed far more excited than I. She kept coaching me to lift my spirits and said we would celebrate afterwards.

A physician assistant tapped on the door and came into our room. She glanced at my leg quickly and then at her computer screen. Without any fanfare, she said, “You’re cleared – you can start putting weight on your ankle.”

I asked about getting physical therapy and she said they’d contact me. Her parting words were, “Go slow.”

My daughter beamed and asked me if I wanted to try walking to the car. I told her I wasn’t ready. I was emotionally exhausted and her excitement made me sad because I didn’t feel the same way.

We came home and I rested a little. Before she left, I decided we could go outside and I’d give it a try. I held onto a walker and shuffled slowly as she clapped her hands. It felt strange to stand tall again after three months of sitting all day long.

I managed a slight smile as I concentrated on every step. She took a video for me.

I looked forward to ditching the wheelchair. And then came my revelation. I had thought I’d reached the finish line with clearance to walk again. But instead, I was just beginning a new marathon.

I walked gingerly to the bathroom that first night and was fairly confident I would be fine. But I wasn’t prepared for sore muscles. Everything hurt on both sides and each step was painful.

The following morning as I stood in the kitchen, I felt sweat beading up on my face. I couldn’t stand for more than five minutes. I went to get the wheelchair and sat down resigned.

Thoughts crossed my mind like “why wasn’t physical therapy scheduled sooner?” I wasn’t very good at advocating for myself while in pain.

Talking about pain inevitably led to my children suggesting pain pills. I explained that my pain was easily remedied by sitting down. I used packages of frozen peas while elevating  my swollen ankle whenever I could.

The following day I went on my first outing in my car alone. I wanted to attempt swimming at the YMCA where I had a membership.

As I walked slowly inside, I was slightly self-conscious about my limp. It was more than a limp. It was a drunken looking shuffle and I tried not to moan out loud. I headed toward the childrens’ locker room because then I wouldn’t have to go upstairs.

I carefully lowered myself into the water and the sensation of sinking was amazing. I began to kick and paddle and was elated that I could swim just fine.

I swam lap after lap and on that first day back swimming and was reminded of who I was before my accident. My happy tears dripped into my goggles as I effortlessly moved through the water. This was my first exercise since my fall and I was thrilled that I could still do 30 lengths like I used to.

Showering after and getting home was very challenging. I was so sore I could barely stand at all.

I kept hoping the pain would lift. Unfortunately, it became familiar. Like a hot iron, it drilled right through my anklebone and out the opposite side. Was I supposed to endure this so I could strengthen it?

A few days later, I managed to get to the Y again so I could once again feel like my old self. This time I also tried walking back and forth in the shallow part of a lap lane. I had a normal stride this way. I prayed this would happen out of the pool and reminded myself to be patient.

A woman in the pool was watching me and asked what I was working on. I told her I had broken my ankle. Because my voice sounded shaky, she said, “You can cry, it’s okay.” So I did.

After I swam my laps, I shuffled to the locker room. The familiar pain tried to knock me out of my joy. I gritted my teeth and dealt with it. It was still worth it for me to swim.

I got dressed and an older woman began chatting with me. I noticed I wasn’t tearful this time when I mentioned I had broken my ankle.

She said, “At least you’re alive. My husband broke his ankle and one week later he was dead. We had good insurance, too. He developed a blood clot that stopped his heart.”

I told her I was so sorry to hear that. I didn’t know what else to say.

Two weeks passed and I was still fighting depression. It was so much like grief. I was very irritable from the pain and had little patience for anyone telling me, “I should be grateful that it could have been worse.”

When a dear friend regaled me with all of her broken bone experiences, my filters were down. I blurted out, “Is this a competition?” After that, I spent days worrying about whether I had hurt her feelings.

I finally had my first physical therapy appointment. The PT took measurements and I was given stretching exercises. When he offered me a cane, I refused.

Later on, it dawned on me that my mother was the same way. She only began using a walker after a few falls. The following week, I accepted the cane.

I used everything I could to pull myself out of my depression. I kept reminding myself that this was temporary.

I did some Internet searching and discovered I certainly wasn’t alone because an ankle fracture was extremely common. However, the articles I read were depressing. After reading the list of “impacts of an ankle fracture after two years,” I began to wonder how temporary this pain really was.

I searched to see whether removing the screws and plate could alleviate ankle pain. This surgery was something I could have in eight months. Would I suffer this much until then?

I had little guidance about whether to endure the pain while walking or stop. My last physical therapist recommended a compression sock to help my swelling. I ordered some, but my foot became so unbearably painful that I had to remove it.

I was willing to try anything. A dear friend suggested a holistic remedy involving cut onions; I tied a plastic bag filled with sliced onions around my foot. After an hour, I pulled my smelly foot out. She lovingly texted me to ask if my ankle felt better, and I sadly wrote back that it was the same.

I decided to send a message to my surgeon.

A day after hearing back from my surgeon, I decided I wasn’t going to surrender to pain. I wanted to practice with my cane and go for a walk outside.

“I am Forrest Gump!” I repeated as I limped out of my apartment. I put on my iPod and the sunshine felt soothing.

Could I make it across the street with the green light while limping? I did, and I continued my trek to the path where I used to walk regularly.

As the pain drilled through me, I let my music and the sunshine distract me. I planned to make it to a picnic bench near the end of the block.

I sat down when I reached it. I was proud of my determination. I sent a text to my daughter and she wrote back, “Mommy, do you realize you walked a mile?”

After resting for a good amount of time, I was ready to go back. I went very slowly.

I looked up at the beautiful branches swaying in the breeze. The sky was clear and the weather cooler. I had missed the entire summer by being indoors and I decided that wasn’t a bad thing. I thought I’d run out of tears, but they were still streaming down my face.I was listening to my song “In Every Smile.” Even though I sang those words to my children, I could hear my parents saying those words to me.

Despite the hot pain throbbing on both sides of my ankle, I kept going. I thought about my mother and father and I heard their comforting voices. I could picture them on either side, holding me up.

I was going to be fine.

MY COPING METHODS

I have a course on Insight Timer called “Healing Grief Through Music.”

A lot of the concepts I used for my course came not only from my grief experiences, but also with suffering from dry eyes. I am following all of my own suggestions to help me with my broken ankle recovery.

Here are some of those really helpful concepts I’m trying to follow:

UP AND OUT

I chose my post title of “It’s Okay to Cry Awhile” because it is a great example of UP AND OUT. After living for decades in Zombieland, I try hard not to suppress or judge my emotions. I allow for anger, frustration, tears and general complaining in order to release those feelings. This gives me space to open myself up to more positive and healing thoughts.

THE MORE YOU LOOK FOR SOMETHING, THE MORE LIKELY YOU WILL FIND IT

If I notice only my pain, it becomes my focus. Instead, I look for signs of healing. Just like with grief, there have been many “firsts.” Certainly, this was my first broken bone, as well as confinement to a wheelchair. But looking at “healing firsts” has been very uplifting. Some examples would be my excitement taking my first steps, my first outing driving on my own, my first time standing in the shower, and my first trip to buy food at a market.

I am still looking forward to the first time walking without a limp. And dare I dream of the first time I will be able to play tennis again!

After over a year of relapse with biting my nails, I found a way to stop again about a month ago. To me, this is another sign of healing. I look at my hands and tell myself: You are worth it! You can do it!

I’ve told people grieving that sometimes healing is so slight it is hardly noticeable. I am realizing that with my ankle, too. A week ago I couldn’t stand in the kitchen without having to sit down after ten minutes. Now that it’s been two weeks, I can stand up longer.

STAYING HOPEFUL

This is something I remind myself of, even in my darkest moments. I am not alone and I have angels that are rooting for me.

Of course, my grief and ankle recovery are different. But even though I really didn’t have expectations of healing after losing my child, I stayed hopeful. With my ankle, I do anticipate healing.

There were two new things that I learned in the past few months. One was patience. The other was to be open to asking for help. My wonderful friends truly made a difference for me. When I was in deep grief, I was withdrawn. This time I was open to accepting all the support I was blessed with.

I end my post with some notes that I had taken when I was filmed for an inspirational video on how I coped with my dry eyes.

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IN THE PAST – PART 2

Performing my song at Kulak’s Woodshed last week was very uplifting during this vulnerable time. Somehow . . . I’ve kept my smile!

Link to other recordings and stories about this song: IN THE PAST

Since breaking my ankle on July 1st, I have been spending a lot of time by myself sitting at home. I am eager for this episode to be in the past already. I have been concentrating on being patient as I continue to heal.

My song “In The Past” is very inspiring for me. There are nuggets of wisdom within my lyrics and I will sprinkle them in this post using italics. I actually chose this song to be my concluding story lesson for a new course I’m creating on the meditation app, Insight Timer.

Tomorrow, I’m going to the doctor. Since being disappointed last month, I am trying hard not to have any expectations.

Although I pray I can start standing and walking again, I want to focus on baby steps and appreciation. If I think about this differently, I get very choked up. So thoughts of playing tennis again have been pushed aside for a while.

How do I treasure my life when I do not have the freedom to walk out of my apartment?

First of all, I have enjoyed doing things I love on my computer. I have been recording songs with multiple guitar tracks and I’ve even been experimenting by adding lead guitar riffs to song intros. I also work on piano editing and singing vocals for almost every song. There is no end to projects for me.

Below are some instrumental examples for this song from last year:

My journey

I have tweaked these lyrics slightly

I also allow myself to feel. This translates to me weeping at the drop of a hat.

It’s embarrassing to cry so easily, but I have learned what wonderful friends and children I have through this situation. I started to write “ordeal,” but the ordeal is in the past. The surgery and accident is farther and farther behind me now.

Crying might imply that I’m complaining about my situation. Comparisons are natural, but they shut me down with guilt for not being more appreciative. Of course, I am very lucky that I didn’t break something else – like my hands or my head. I am also very lucky that my ankle can be repaired. But still, my tears erupt and I allow them to. In order to be compassionate to others, I start by being my own best friend.

Things that made me cry, gave me wings to fly. This line helps me to make sense of how I can turn my struggles into life lessons that leads me to greater heights.

Not everything makes sense at the time. I bruised my ribs and cried profusely from the pain after slipping while getting up from a movie theatre seat three weeks ago. Having pain in my ribs has made sleeping and moving around in my wheelchair much more difficult. I am still coping with this, but it’s a lot better.

Twice now, I’ve gone to be checked because of concerns about a possible blood clot – due to sitting so much. My son took me to the ER late at night last week and thankfully, I was okay.

Going to Urgent Care six weeks ago was extremely difficult. This was because my kids were unavailable and I had to find someone to take me at the last minute.

I trusted my doctor friend who advised me to go, despite my reservations that it was “too much trouble to get there.” This was one of my hardest moments. I had to care about myself enough to trust him and do what was best for my recovery.

After a lot of angst, I pushed myself to text a tennis friend who lived nearby.  It was late at night and I didn’t expect to hear from her. When I saw her response, I started bawling.

She said she would take me the next morning. Believe it or not, I was still resistant because I hated to impose upon her. She gently coaxed me.

The next morning I called to make an appointment and instead I was told to send a picture. My surgeon’s response was that everything looked fine. This made my situation even harder, because without an appointment there would be a long wait. I called my friend and her voice was chipper when she said she was looking forward to taking me regardless.

Her kindness is something I’ll never forget. She spent six hours waiting with me. It turned out I had an infection and it was a good thing that I had gone. Unfortunately, over the next week the antibiotics caused me develop itchy hives, which added to my misery.

I think now I know why I’ve been crying so easily!

Even though I’ve felt like I’ve been imprisoned, I know it is temporary. I’m certain I’ll find my strength again once freedom is returned to me. I might not forget my suffering, but I will continue to treasure my life and the ability to walk again.

My journey is not about where I will go. My past is behind me and my dreams are right in front of me.

This silhouette image was taken in 1981, when I was 21. Definitely, in the past!

IN THE PAST

I look back, amazed at where I am today

There were times I almost gave up

Painful memories are in my past

I just didn’t know then

I’d live with joy again

I look ahead, my dreams are right in front of me

What threw me down gave me my strength

I’ve kept my smile through it all

I allowed myself to feel

and learned that I could heal

In the past are things I could regret

What I suffered through I can’t forget

Pain that made me cry

Gave me wings to fly

My journey is not about where I will go

Each day, I treasure my life

I’ve left behind the pain and chains

Every tragedy didn’t imprison me

In the past are things I could regret

I know how love once felt

I can’t forget

The strength to say goodbye

Gave me wings to fly

Once I felt hopeless and so alone

Now I’m soaring – I have flown

In the past are things I could regret

I know how love once felt

I can’t forget

Pain that made me cry

gave me wings to fly

Gave me wings to fly

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I LONG TO ESCAPE

One of my neighbors gave this to me after I shared a meditation CD with her. Such a lovely new friendship and wall hanging to brighten my dining room!

My post title is a lyric line from my song “Take Me Away.” Recently, my piano guy created a lovely addition for this song. It will be part of an upcoming Insight Timer medley. Link to lyrics and other stories: TAKE ME AWAY

I definitely “long to escape” from my house – I’ve been housebound since breaking my ankle on July 1st. At the top of my long list of lessons from this experience is patience. I’m clearly still working on it.

I thought I was patient while navigating a wheelchair for almost two months. Every day, I made a mental note of how many days were left until my next orthopedic appointment.

But when the big day grew closer, I found myself becoming very emotional.

I was stressed because I wasn’t sure how I was going to get to there. My daughter was conflicted because the appointment was in the late afternoon and she worked that evening; my son could only take me if he didn’t work that day and that was uncertain.

I didn’t want to inconvenience either of them.

I found myself grief stricken – how I missed my mother! She had always been my cheerleader. She would have been counting down those days with me, eager to celebrate my healing.

After a lot of angst, I acknowledged my grief. I decided I could be my own cheerleader. This was still a big moment for me and it wasn’t dependent upon anyone else.

I’m incredulous that I never broke a bone until age 59. I was so lucky!

The day before my appointment, I could tell my ankle was healing well. My leg felt sturdy while getting dressed. I could balance with my heel and other foot; there wasn’t any pain. I tried a tiny step and it felt fine.

My daughter ended up taking me to my appointment. We went earlier than the scheduled time so we could beat the traffic coming back. I was giddy with excitement.

A new x-ray was taken, and while in the waiting room there was plenty of conversation going on between all the people wearing casts and splints. It was actually quite funny. In that short time, I learned the difference between “golfer and tennis elbow.”

I wasn’t scheduled to see the surgeon; I would see his assistant instead. When he came into the exam room, I beamed and said, “My big day has finally arrived!”

I didn’t notice his fainthearted smile, but I was pleased to hear him say that everything looked good. He pointed to the x-ray on a screen. “Your bone alignment is excellent and the fracture is hardly visible.”

Then with great seriousness he said, “You mentioned it’s your big day, so I’m really sorry to tell you this – If you’re planning to start walking, it’s far too soon. Any weight on your ankle opens up the possibility of the bones shifting or breaking again. You’ll need to wait another month.”

I felt a whoosh – all the air went out of me.

At that moment, I became a deflated balloon. I gulped to keep myself from crying. I was clearly begging when I stammered, “Are you sure? Could I at least do a little physical therapy?”

He shook his head, no. After he left the room, my daughter looked at me with big eyes.

I was still choking on my tears. I wondered how I had misunderstood. I was sure at my last appointment I was told I could start using my walking boot when I returned.

I sniffled all the way home while my daughter drove. She wheeled me into my apartment and left to go to work.

That night, black clouds were raining on me. I couldn’t believe that I had ended up in this situation all because of slipping while hiking.

I had planned to throw my broken wheelchair in the trash. I had planned to be independent enough to hobble to my car and go places. My calendar was ready to be filled. And now?

Another month to fight depression . . .

I cried myself to sleep.

I love mornings. A new day brings the promise of hope for me. I was still down from my appointment, but I had things to do.

I busied myself working on an art job and began pulling out my paints and brushes. At least now I could paint without having my leg up.

I can’t share my art job because of a confidentiality agreement. But I am also creating a cat portrait for a good friend.

As I painted, I thought about how other people coped with broken bones. I wasn’t able to use crutches because the surgeon said they were too unstable.

He did recommend a scooter. I tried one out that a good friend loaned me. Unfortunately, my ankle hurt resting on it and I couldn’t maneuver it in my small apartment. It was also too bulky to transport and I still had to contend with the ramp or stairs.

Then I thought about a walker. I was given one in the emergency room the day I fell. What if I used my walker to stand up and move a little? I kept it in the bathtub near the shower. I pushed my wheelchair over to it and carried it into my dining room.

I carefully stood up, and held onto the walker, I hopped down the hallway to the kitchen. It was very tiring, but exhilarating. It felt great to be tall again.

When I became tired, I shuffled slowly. This was freedom! My mind began spinning. If I could get to my car, I could drive places and take the walker with me. This would expand my world and I became very excited.

I opened the front door and momentarily hesitated. I had a choice; it was either three steps or a steep ramp near my patio gate. I decided I would go down those three steps.

I positioned the walker below me and held onto the rail. I gingerly stepped down and it was easy. I did it!

It was absolutely glorious to be outside. I continued forward with my walker. I could see my patio from the back. I went down the pathway of my apartment complex.

I looked up at the sky and tears of joy began streaming down my face. I WAS FREE!

Ahead of me was the steep, plywood ramp that led to my patio. I decided to go up it with the walker and a moment later I passed through my back gate. I went through the sliding glass door and entered my apartment.

What I had done was only a short loop, but it represented a journey of liberation for me.

A moment after my excursion, doubt and conflict started setting in. Even though it was joyous, what I had done was risky and impulsive. 

I made the decision to write to my doctor. Maybe his assistant had made a mistake? Surely he would understand what an active person I had been, and maybe I could continue to do more of this.

I typed out a message asking him if I could use a walker. I also wondered if I could possibly walk sooner than a month.

His answer the following morning was clear. I was not allowed to put any weight on my broken ankle. If my bones shifted, I would have to go through another surgery.

Going down those steps, shuffling down the walkway, and going up the steep ramp – all of this was not allowed. I had taken a big chance.

A friend I played Scrabble with had also gone through ankle surgery. She knew I was a risk-taker. That night she wrote me an honest message. I prayed that I hadn’t caused my foot any harm.

Nothing was worth the risk of hurting myself. I would be careful. I was going to get through another month somehow.

But at least now I knew what was ahead for me.

My glorious dream of walking again in the sunshine would just have to wait a little longer.

During this time, I’ve moved all of my stock images to Getty Stock. This was definitely a big project (uploading over 500 images) and a productive move for me.

I really enjoyed creating this portrait of Roger the cat. Despite loving music passionately, I’m still an artist.

Close Up Rodger 3Close Up Roger 2Close Up Roger 1

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HANG ON – PART 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I had to ask for certain things . . .

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

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

I had become my mother!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am blessed with incredible friends.

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

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

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

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

It’s all about those baby steps . . .

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

HANG ON

Kulak's Message 4

Stacey and Judy

Stacey outside of Kulak’s Woodshed with me two weeks later again.

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