PASSION IS ALL YOU NEED

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My song can be heard here:

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

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

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

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

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

Sweet smile

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

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

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

My final painting.

My final painting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cow Layouts

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

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

It was simply being his mom.

With my youngest son

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

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

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YOU FOUND A WAY

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

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

Workspace

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

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

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

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

Karen's Naturals Organic 2

Another art director wrote me the following sweet message:

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

http://www.graphis.com/entry/fda1782c-8bef-421b-a74c-8fabdf3ce823/

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

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

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

Raspberry Fig Layout Yogurts Tillamook 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

California Peach copy

“You found a way to ease my pain”

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

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

Mom and daughter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Judy and Jenny 1 revised

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

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

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

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

My kefir

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

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I WILL SHINE

Judy playing with make up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Judy & Joni 1

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

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

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

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

It was definitely a roller coaster week!

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

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

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

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

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

Hannah: Go!

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

Hannah: I experience that on a regular basis.

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

Hannah: I know . . .

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

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

Hannah: That’s great!

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

I had to be like a little actress!

Hannah: How awesome!

Judy: It was so awesome.

Hannah: Was it fun?

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

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

Hannah: I love it!

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

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

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

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

She said, “GO! Do it!!”

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

Judy: Really?

Hannah: Yes!

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

Hannah: Yeah!

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

Hannah: I’m so glad!

Judy: Thank you!

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

Judy: In a month.

Hannah: Okay, that’s not long.

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

Hannah: Absolutely!

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

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

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

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

Hannah: Good! Yay!

Judy: Yay!

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

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

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THE KEY – PART 2

The key and butterflies

THE KEY

Copyright 2016 by Judy Unger

After you left I was locked away

In a prison of grief; I cried every day

I couldn’t escape and years went by

I accepted my prison and stopped asking why

When I saw the key, I couldn’t believe

The prison doors opened; I could leave

I lost what I loved; grief swallowed me

Until the day I found the key

I let myself out, life wasn’t the same

I slowly adjusted and whispered your name

I tried to forget all I went through

But I never let go of my love for you

When I saw the key, I couldn’t believe

The prison doors opened; I could leave

It was love that set me free

On the day I found the key

When I saw the key, I couldn’t believe

The prison doors opened; I could leave

What I loved most was taken from me

But you came back to give me the key

Jason & Guitar

The story about my song “The Key” was actually written before I composed my song. It was the first time I’d ever done this and was such a refreshing change.

Link to Part 1 of this story:

#518 IMPRISONED BY GRIEF AND MY KEY

Click the link below to hear my song:

The Key Acoustic 6/8/16 Copyright 2016 by Judy Unger

I hadn’t written a new song for six months and “The Key” was especially healing for me. It represented an opportunity for me to sing with simplicity; something I’ve really gained from working with my wonderful vocal coach, Hannah Anders.

Over the last month, I’ve continued to refine my lyrics. There were a few minor changes and each one held great meaning for me.

Originally, I had a line about “my sentence was over.” I decided to change it to: “the prison doors opened.” This signified freedom without implying punishment and felt much better to me.

Locked away

In the first verse, I originally sang, “I died every day.” Even though I felt that way, my replacement of “I cried every day” felt better and was also true.

The last change was replacing the line of “I lost all my hope” with “I accepted my prison.” During deep grief, I was certain I would never “get over my child’s death.” Even though I gave up hope, I still silently prayed that someday I would feel better. Accepting my prison represented the ability to cope with life despite my pain. I plodded onward.

Strawberries

I have been busy working on a huge illustration project. I’ve taken breaks to continue singing and recording my music. At the end of this post, I share a live performance of my song at an open mic two weeks ago. I did hesitate on one line because I couldn’t remember my lyric change!

I couldn't escape

When I shared a preliminary recording of “The Key” a month ago, I received lovely comment from my blogging friend, Allyson Ragonese.  Sadly, Allyson understood all too well about my song because 20 years ago, she lost her beloved sister. I share a link to her beautiful poem that tore at my heart: https://singlemomstand.wordpress.com/2016/05/30/tell-carolann/

Comment on the key

In my personal life, I am very excited about the dry eye inspirational video that will be filmed at my apartment in a few days. The film crew consists of three and they are flying from Virginia to Los Angeles where I live.

My childhood friend, Joni, will be included in the video and that is precious. We’ve known each other since we were toddlers. Last week, we went shopping to buy some new outfits for the filming.

I received a breakdown of the shooting schedule and questions to answer related to how I’ve coped with dry eyes. The crew is supposed to arrive at 7 a.m. and the filming will go until mid-afternoon. It will pick up again later in the evening when I perform at an open mic. I’m prepared to accept that it will definitely be a long day.

I am exhilarated to have this amazing opportunity to express myself. I plan to open my heart.

Opening my heart has led to many wonderful things. If I had chosen to withhold writing about my eye condition, this latest opportunity would never have come about.

In ordered to be prepared for my video interview – I decided to write a few notes about ways I’ve coped with my dry eye problems and resulting depression. Without thinking, I titled my paper “Key Points.”

All of those points are ones that I have learned from my prior experience of living in a prison of grief.

Key Points I avoid looking back My path

I share this picture taken a year ago when my eyes were much worse. I can feel my pain with this image.

I share this picture taken a year ago when my eyes were much worse. I can feel my pain with this image.

Grief continues to be part of my life’s journey. On my video performance below, I choked up on the line of “I’ve never let go of my love for you.” Although I’ve tried to forget about my traumatic life experiences, I’ve accepted that they shaped me into the person I am today. 

I tried to forget

My daughter is a “rainbow baby.” She was born 11 months after my son died. I cherish my three children deeply, and never forget about my angel in the sky.

My daughter is a “rainbow baby.” She was born 11 months after my son died. I cherish my three children deeply, and never forget about my angel in the sky.

I am thankful I found a key that allowed me to live without suffering as I did for decades after the death of my son. Music was certainly one of the most magnificent keys that helped me to heal.

I also rejoice in how I’ve found a few keys that have greatly helped me with my eye discomfort since last year. I continue to search for more of them.

He brought me the key

My Angel in the Sky

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

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LIFE IS ALL ABOUT DEPARTURES AND ARRIVALS

My life has been filled with departures and arrivals. I have mourned many departures, but I don’t see an arrival as a replacement – it represents change. Sometimes, the emptiness from a departure is a catalyst to look for something new.

There was a time when I had so few watercolor painting assignments that I assumed my career was over. I mourned being a painter but gradually I became a self-taught digital artist. Not long after that, my career was revived.

This past week I received a huge project from one of my favorite clients: Tillamook Dairy Company. I have 22 illustrations to work on. The examples above are ones that needed digital adjustments in order to fit a new label design. My artwork will now be more prominent on Tillamook’s labels!

This past week I received a huge project from one of my favorite clients: Tillamook Dairy Company. I have 22 illustrations to work on. The examples above are ones that needed digital adjustments in order to fit a new label design. My artwork will now be more prominent on Tillamook’s labels!

Another example that comes into my mind is when my daughter was born 11 months after my son died. She was not a replacement for him. I began a different path and my life went in a direction that it wouldn’t have if my son had lived.

There was no going back, though I carried tremendous sorrow. Letting go of sorrow was much easier when I imagined him accompanying me on my journey. And he would be with me when I reached my final destination.

I miss my parents who both passed away in the last few years. Nothing could replace them, but I’ve found ways to fill my time and empty spaces.  I have far more freedom than when they were alive and ill. 

When I felt the need to work with a vocal coach again, I discovered Hannah and she’s made a huge difference for me. Singing has become easier and a lot more fun.

When I stopped working with the arranger I depended on for four years, I discovered that I was fully capable of playing my songs and singing with only my guitar. Many people have told me that they prefer my acoustic recordings to my arranged versions.

So with his departure, I arrived as a solo artist.

I wrote this when I was 20. My music departed for 30 years, but arrived to save me when I needed it.

I wrote this when I was 20. My music departed for 30 years, but arrived to save me when I needed it.

When a friend recommended a new assistant to help me with music promotion, I was ready. Her name was Loren and we started working together last month.

Loren was a lovely woman and wonderful guitarist. I had a list of things for her to help me with and the first one was for her to help me market my audiobook. She sent me specifications for Audible and it was then that I found out my recordings weren’t up to their standards. Loren suggested the idea of sharing it on free sites and that sounded fine to me.

But she had another idea and said, “I have someone I’d like you to contact. His name is Alex.” She explained that Alex owned an audiobook company and she had met him while working at a radio station.

A few days later, I called Alex and he was very nice on the phone. He said to me, “You’re the author? Most authors do not narrate and produce their own audio book. That’s a big mistake. We use professionals and record it correctly as we go along. We don’t want anyone doing any editing and messing things up!”

I listened and wondered what I was thinking when I put in all those hundreds of hours. I had no idea what I was doing, but I did learn a lot about computer music programs.

Before we hung up, Alex sent me an audiobook he had produced so I could hear an example of what his company did. The book was an inspirational one; he and another woman narrator alternated each chapter. I listened to the book for a week in the early mornings while lying in my bed. When I finished, I contacted Alex and we set up an appointment. His office was in the city, but he happened to be working that week at a recording studio that wasn’t far from my house.

I packaged up a few CD’s and headed over to meet him. When I arrived, someone guided me through a maze of hallways that led to a sound room. I could see Alex was involved with directing an audiobook recording. He made me feel comfortable and was friendly when he said, “Do you have time? You’re welcome to watch this for a while and then we’ll talk when I’m on my break.”

I enjoyed being there – it was stimulating. There were two men speaking their parts and Alex kept stopping them. He was a stickler for clear pronunciation and inflection; it looked like hard work; one of the narrators kept apologizing because he stumbled several times.

I grinned thinking how I had recorded myself with little direction. I repeated every paragraph so I had an alternative in case there were any mistakes. Listening and editing that took a significant amount of time and his process seemed a lot better.

When there was a break, Alex turned to me. I told him he had a wonderful voice and I’d enjoyed the inspirational book he’d sent me. Sitting to his side was the other narrator of that book; her name was Susan. I smiled and told her she was so convincing that I thought she was the author.

For a few minutes, I told Alex a little bit about myself and handed him an envelope that held CD’s with my music and audio book stories. He said he would call me after listening to discuss options for my book.

As I was leaving, I passed Susan in the hallway. We ended up talking for a while and really hit it off. There were so many things we had in common and she seemed to be very touched by my story. She gave me her card and that night I wrote to her and shared one of my songs.

A few days later, Alex called me. I was eager to hear his thoughts.

He said, “Judy, your story is lost because your voice is robotic.” Alex mimicked my voice by speaking in a slow monotone. I wasn’t offended – my son had already told me the same thing.“

Judy, why don’t you let Susan or someone else read your material? We can do a test to be sure if you like it. For sure, this way your book will have more commercial value.” When I asked him how much it would cost, his price was far less than what I had paid to record my book on my own, without even considering the hours I spent editing.

I mulled over the idea. How would it be to have someone else telling my story in first person?

It actually sounded like a relief!

Pear Final Art

Even though I really wanted to tell my own story from the beginning, this was a much easier direction. A professional speaker would know how to engage listeners. And it wasn’t like I couldn’t tell my story either. I always liked to speak when I performed and looked forward to doing more of that someday.

I received another message from Susan, which just reinforced my new direction.

Hi Judy,

So good to hear from you! I really enjoyed meeting you last week and hearing some of your story. You are a brave woman and it was encouraging to hear of your journey, and the steps that you have taken to live your life as fully as you can.  Your song, The Unknown, is really beautiful, very moving and it so touched my heart. Thank you for sending it!

Please don’t be discouraged by Alex’s feedback on your performance. Still hold on to those compliments as to the quality of your voice but it’s important to realize that with an audiobook it’s not just about how nice our voice sounds.:) Recording an audiobook is often compared to as running a marathon and I do believe this is true. You have to keep the listener engaged throughout the entire course of the book. For me, I know that having a background in theatre and being trained as an actor helps me tremendously to bring variation, timing and pace to a book while still sharing the author’s story. Also, sometimes if a story is too close to us, it’s very difficult for us to tell. So it’s no surprise that sometimes you would get reduced to tears.

I’m sure you will come to the right decision for your book. I would be happy to record it for you if that’s something you decide you would like to do.

One last story that I want to share: I recently recorded a book for Christian audio and I had prayed prior to recording it that I would speak the author’s words how she would have wanted them heard. After the book came out I received the most beautiful note (and answer to my prayer); the author had emailed me and said she had cried when she heard the book. She said, “Susan thank you for carrying the words as I had meant them to be read.” That note was such a beautiful gift as it showed me that not only had God heard my prayer, but that had guided me to record the book as it had been prayerfully designed to be heard.:)

It was wonderful to share some of our stories together last week! You are on a wonderful path.

All my best, Susan

Yogurt Samples

I have meandered through many challenges in my life. I am confident that today I am on a path going somewhere beautiful. I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

Pathways cannot lead to dead ends when there is willingness to see forks in the road.

Instead of looking behind me with regret – I am looking forward!

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

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EVERYTHING HAS LED ME TO THIS PLACE

This photo was taken at a recent performance of mine. I play two songs every other Tuesday at Kulak’s Woodshed where I am very comfortable.

This photo was taken at a recent performance of mine. I play two songs every other Tuesday at Kulak’s Woodshed where I am very comfortable.

My title is a lyric line from my song “Somewhere I Can’t See.” Below is a recent acoustic recording of my song:

Somewhere I Can’t See Acoustic-6/1/16 Copyright 2015 by Judy Unger

Introduction of my song at a recent performance

This is a link to where an arranged version of my song can be heard:

Story behind SOMEWHERE I CAN’T SEE

I am always trying to shift my thoughts into ones that are more positive. I can easily admit that sometimes I struggle.

Regret is something I avoid as much as I can. The first thought that comes into my mind with that word is “wasted time” and that definitely stabs at my heart. Perhaps it is because I suffered terribly from grief and lost many years because of it.

I was also unhappy in my marriage for a long time; I have never doubted my decision to divorce and do not regret that I stayed in it for so many years. I was an advocate/caregiver to my parents and children and can’t imagine how I would have coped with a divorce during those difficult years. My children are still “my everything” and I simply marvel at their beautiful growth toward becoming independent people. I have much to be grateful for.

My life completely changed after my parents’ deaths and my divorce two years ago. Regret does hit me when I acknowledge that I’ve invested enormous time and energy working on projects that I’ve discarded in the last few years. But it is balanced by knowing I’ve gained great skill and experience from that process. I also remind myself to focus on  things I “have done” rather than things I “haven’t done.”

I am able to transform any negative feelings with the statement of “Everything that I have gone through, led me to this place.”

This “place” is where I am today. I embrace all of my painful life experiences and have channeled them into my music. I am proud of the fifty songs I’ve composed and words I’ve written from my heart to share with the world.

Wearing headphones and recording my guitar, was exciting and new for me when my musical journey began in 2010.

Wearing headphones and recording my guitar, was exciting and new for me when my musical journey began in 2010.

I do miss the giddy excitement I felt for music and writing when I began this blog six years ago.

My path was uncharted and I made confident decisions that diverted all of my energy. One of them was my desire to tell my story about healing through my music as an audiobook. I hired an editor to go over my material and thought it would be easy to speak and record my own story.

I didn’t know anything about recording, but taught myself how to mix my stories with music. It was hard to admit, but after three years and several re-recordings – my first audio book came in at 10 hours and was a mess!

So after hundreds of hours of experimenting and working on it, I decided not to release it.

Last year, I had an assistant who suggested I try again. She recommended that I speak without becoming overly emotional – on my first book; there were many moments where I was clearly choked up while speaking. So I created a revised two-hour book, and carefully kept my emotions in check.

Everything ended up going wrong with it. There was too much background noise, even though the engineer assured me it was just fine. I  hired a professional to do the audio edits. She edited a few chapters; then delayed the project for 6 months before she disappeared. By then, I had parted ways with my assistant, too.

I was very frustrated. I finished the remaining audio edits and re-recorded two stories that were recorded to low. I paid for mastering only to be told, “Your recordings aren’t up to the quality standards required by Audible.”

I was so proud of my oldest son at his graduation from college three years ago. He attended the same state college I did.

I was so proud of my oldest son at his graduation from college three years ago. He attended the same state college I did.

For weeks, I languished with disappointment and wondered about where I wanted to go with my journey. One evening, I was feeling very down and my oldest son and I began talking. I shared with him my disappointment about feeling I had wasted a lot of energy working on my failed audiobook project for five years.

As a backdrop, I want to mention that after my divorce, my son told me he suspected I was going to profit with my book and that was part of my motive to end my marriage. Writing and admitting that is embarrassing, but I really was a bit over-the-top with the excitement that I was going to become famous with my music and stories.

I think all of my children have seen that before and after my divorce, I’ve devoted so much of my energy to writing and music without any kind of monetary compensation. It was really my passion and therapy that helped to heal me.

My voice choked up and I became teary when I shared my recent frustration with my son.

He told me that he wondered why I had recorded an audio book in the first place. Even if it had been recorded properly, he had an issue with my speaking voice and told me I sounded unnatural. I knew what he meant, but had hoped I’d improved with experience.

Then he said, “Mom, I think it also applies to your singing. You have a nice singing voice, but with another singer, your songs might sound better. I wish I could be your manager. There are successful singers on YouTube – if one of them sang one of your songs, that could open doors for you.”

I listened to his ideas, but was still very down. Where had all my passion and enthusiasm gone? I had no energy to pursue the things he mentioned.

But then he really touched my heart and said, “Mom, there’s one thing about you that is your true talent. You are an amazing writer. Your stories and lyrics are what you do best. If you stop doing all the recordings and let someone else do that – it will free you up to write more.”

My eyes filled with tears because I realized how wise he was; it made sense.

After our conversation, I felt my energy return. It was time for me to look for a new path to follow!

In this photo, I am playing my classical guitar at the age of twenty.

In this photo, I am playing my classical guitar at the age of twenty.

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

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I STOPPED ASKING WHY

My eye pastel flipped

My blog title is a line of lyrics from my newest song “The Key,” which I will share soon.

When I was in deep grief, acceptance seemed unreachable. Today, I sometimes feel that way with my eye condition. It’s hard to accept that my eyes bother me all the time.

What definitely brought me down in grief (and similarly with my eyes), is the question of why it happened to me.

Because there was no comforting answer when I was grieving the loss of my child, it was a question I eventually let go of. With my eye condition, I am trying to do that, too.

Lately, I’ve found it difficult to write for my blog; I didn’t want to write anything mundane. With all seriousness, I simply added pressure with the thought that I won’t write unless it’s something profound. All that led me to was a blank page.

I’m glad I’ve decided to write again without worrying whether it’s moving or not.

I made the decision this week, to participate in a video interview related to living with dry eyes. My condition is something that I’m acutely aware of every moment of my day. It has also partially contributed to my inability to write much here because I hate complaining about my eyes.

What’s so interesting is that I started a separate blog so I could write about dealing with my dry eyes. It was that blog, which led me to this venture.

Before agreeing to this project, I first needed to find out if it was legitimate. It was, and I will be paid for my time and involvement.

I was asked to select someone close to join me during the filming. That way, I could engage with my friend about the challenges I’ve faced with my eyes. I chose my childhood friend, Joni.

Judy & Joni younger and older

The filming will happen in approximately two weeks and the crew is going to come to Kulak’s Woodshed where I perform every other Tuesday evening. I’m both nervous and excited.

To be honest, I was very uncomfortable thinking about my appearance and how my tiny apartment would look. I decided I am an ordinary middle-aged woman (to put it lightly), and that is fine since most of the people watching are not expecting me to be young and glamorous.

Also, early on when I was debating about doing this, a friend told me, “Oh, you can’t do it because you’re having such a hard time with it still.”

That is true. I do wish I could be in a better place with my eyes so that I could offer more hope to others. But on the other hand, I hardly think I am a spokesperson for dry eyes since I suffer far less than many other people with this awful disease.

I don’t know what my future is with this condition, but I’ve decided (a recent realization), that I’d rather focus on what I can do versus what I can’t.

In many ways, I am discouraged by how my eyes “hold me back.” I am reluctant to travel or socialize because of my discomfort. But I am also encouraged at how much I can still do despite living with the irritation and discomfort. The fact that my eye pain doesn’t show is both a blessing and a curse. I’m not really looking for sympathy, but since my pain is invisible to others – most people are completely unaware of my discomfort.

The completed video will be shown on a health-related website and I’ll share a link to it once it’s available. I’m glad that I’ve broken the barrier to start writing again!

Click this link to hear a conversation with my vocal coach, Hannah Anders, as I shared my concerns about doing the dry eye video.

Blog excerpt discussing dry eye video with Hannah, my vocal coach

In the transcription below, Hannah’s words are in blue.

I was contacted by a documentary filmmaker. They want to use me on a segment for dry eyes, an inspirational story. I said, “But I’m not cured.” I mean how can I inspire when I’m going through this and I’m still searching?

Because you’re going through it and still searching!

Yeah.

You know how many people throw in the towel and get ailed and cranky and bitter and awful because they’re ailed?

Or they kill themselves . . .

They kill themselves – absolutely. Chronic issues are really unbearable for a lot of the population and they do just kill themselves.

Well, I feel like it’s chronic at this point, but I don’t want to think that. I want to still think that one day I can get beyond it.

You’re going to get beyond it because we’re not limited by what’s in front of us as an answer.

The other side is – I live with it. And I just keep moving forward. I don’t know what my future holds. It doesn’t matter. I’m going to keep doing the things I love. I’m going to keep watching my children grow. I’m going to keep singing.

That’s why you’re inspiring in a video. Because you’re not cured yet!

But I’m not going to stop living – that’s it.

But many do – for them to come and follow you and for you to say, “I am always in search of the answer, but I have to live in this body right now – I have to live with these eyes right now. And, I’ve made the best of that!”

That’s right!

It’s one thing for somebody to say, “I’ve cured it! Look how inspirational I am!” Well no shit! You don’t feel anything. Of course, you’re inspirational – you’re happy as a clam. But you know you’re in the space of having to just hunker down with this thing and live with it!

Thank you. Maybe that’s why I can be a good songwriter because I can tell the story of how to heal myself and I’m still going through it!

Absolutely, so – I think you should do it. I think that would be great. And I think that there’s an answer. I think it’s going to lie in the functional side of your body and it’s going to lie in the trauma and I think it’s going to lie in getting whatever that is, back in balance. Our bodies want to heal!

These are my lyrics to “The Key” in progress. I decided to change the part about losing hope into a line about accepting my prison.

These are my lyrics to “The Key” in progress. I decided to change the part about losing hope into a line about accepting my prison.

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

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