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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WATERFALL DREAMS – PART 2

A few days ago, I went on a lovely hike with two of my adult children. I heard the gorgeous chords to “Waterfall Dreams” in my mind. Just before leaving that morning, I uploaded my newest composition onto the Insight Timer app.

I was very tempted to name this post “Waterfall Nightmares.”

Before my accident . . .

I felt fit and strong as I hiked. I appreciated being in the shade near a bubbly stream on such a hot day. The destination was a lovely waterfall and I was bursting with joy that my two children were enjoying this day with me. I bragged aloud that it wasn’t bad that I could manage so many stream crossings with ease at the age of 59.

My kids took lovely pictures with the backdrop of a frothy waterfall. After that, we all sat down on rocks and relaxed. I took out some snacks to share with them while we discussed where we would go for lunch after we got back.

We were on our way back from the waterfall and I was looking forward to my air-conditioned car.

There were at least another 20 stream crossings to navigate, though. I teetered a little on loose rocks and logs and occasionally my foot landed in the shallow water. I wore old tennis shoes and they seemed fine for this.

I keep replaying the accident over and over because it was so sudden and shocking.

I was going up a slope and I walked around a few big boulders. My kids were in front of me. But as I was stepped to go down, the soil gave way. I lost balance and my left foot twisted. I pitched forward without any way of stopping the fall. I felt sharp pain and crunching in my ankle as I fell.

My daughter cried out and was so upset that she wasn’t closer – she believed she could have prevented it. My son called 911 and people were everywhere. I was on my back in the dirt with the hot sun beating down on me. My foot felt numb and I was in shock.

There were two wonderful women with first aid training that stayed with me for over an hour. I will never forget them. They put ice on my leg and attempted to clean off blood and dirt. I was grateful I could still wiggle my toes and I drank as much water as possible. There was no shade nearby so I put a hat over my head. My music played in my mind and helped me stay calm.

It seemed like a long time before help came. Two paramedics showed up first. They stood me up with support on either side, but I almost fainted. It was determined that the best way to get me out would be in a wheelbarrow. A whole crew would be coming. While waiting, they kept checking my vitals.

When a large group firefighters showed up – I felt like the cavalry had arrived. I was slid onto a board and secured with ropes like a mummy. It was a thrashing ride! I had six men on either side of me, they were so close that I could hear them grunting and groaning. The leader shouted commands as they bounced me over many stream crossings.

There’s not much to see, but below is a 2 second video my son took:

Eventually the team reached the trailhead. After that, I had a wild ambulance ride on a bumpy dirt road. It was another hour before we reached the hospital and I had a nice conversation about meditation music with the paramedic sitting near me.

Once the ambulance arrived at the hospital, I was told to sit in the waiting room until I could be admitted. As I sat there alone in a wheelchair, I was seized by leg cramps and moaning in agony. When my children found me, I wiped away my tears. The hospital did not offer me anything to drink, but my children brought me food and Gatorade.

Finally, I was put in a freezing room where my cramping continued. My daughter requested a blanket and my son massaged my cramping calf muscles. Finally after a few hours, x-rays were taken. Then we had to wait again to get results from a doctor.

This was an opportunity for me to spend a lot of time with my two children. Despite the tension and stress, I was proud how they were there for me.

When the doctor finally came in, he was very brusque and annoyed that my insurance was Kaiser. He said he would have taken me for surgery immediately, but couldn’t, due to my insurance. I would need to go to a Kaiser hospital as soon as possible and tell them to “schedule it.”

I wasn’t transferred. I was discharged to deal with it. I was very worried about what my insurance would determine, including the high deductible I had.

My son drove me home and there were incredible challenges. With a neighbor’s help, they both lifted me up the few steps to my apartment. It wasn’t easy for them at all.

Instead of crutches, I was given a walker. I held onto it tightly and hopped, but it was exhausting and very slow. The distance from the car into my apartment seemed like miles. Within a day, my arms were too sore to hold me up and it was extremely painful.

I was able to get an appointment the next day at Kaiser and my daughter took me. A wonderful friend met me there and loaned me a portable wheelchair. It would make things much easier because now I could roll around my house.

The Kaiser surgeon agreed that I needed surgery. He planned to insert a plate and screws on my broken fibula. There was an opening the next day, but he said my foot was far too swollen and that posed a risk. So surgery was scheduled for 3 days later.

I asked when I could play tennis again. He said it would be a long time and at the very least six months. I was told that another surgery to remove the plate and screws was likely. It was going to be over two months before I would even get a walking cast.

I was so grateful that I did not injure my wrists when I fell. During the months of my recovery, perhaps I’ll compose something new. Despite being in a cast, I hope to still get out and perform  like before, 

A recent post shared my excitement of leading a healing retreat at the end of July. I won’t be able to do it because it’s not a wheelchair accessible facility. But it has been rescheduled for later in September.

My surgery is tomorrow. I’ll be relieved to have it behind me. I don’t like taking painkillers and don’t plan to if I can help it. I hope the pain won’t be horrible and I admit I’m a bit scared.

Temporary is a great word and I am applying many healing thoughts to help myself through this. I think I’m in shock. It feels unbelievable, like a bad dream.

I’m going to let “Waterfall Dreams” be my comfort.

It was a great distraction for me to create a video excerpt for my blog this morning. I am thankful for a lovely tennis friend and traveller, who shared her incredible waterfall pictures with me.

 

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WATERFALL DREAMS – PART 1

Below is a shortened version of my soon-to-be-released track on Insight Timer. I love this description I came up with for my track: “Let yourself dream as soothing acoustic guitar chords cascade over you.”

Composing “Waterfall Dreams” was very enjoyable. For two months, I added sections and enjoyed the major and minor contrasts.

I recorded the guitar parts for my song during a period of one week. The final track of 34 minutes was created after I edited over six hours of recordings. Those recordings were hard work!

I considered that it might be fun to have water sounds splashing in the background. I hired my piano arranger to add some sounds, but after listening to his ideas, I decided the guitar sounded best without anything added.

There are three sections to this composition. The first is major, the second is minor and the third dissonant section contains chords that I composed when I was 19-years-old.

That instrumental from 1980 was named “Waterfalls” and the beginning chords inspired my later acoustic song named “Take Me Away.” More about that song is at this link: TAKE ME AWAY

I think it’s very cool that I can share a cassette recording of my instrumental “Waterfalls” that was recorded in1980. For my meditation version, I slowed it down considerably!

Below are performances of my song in progress.

 

 

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TAKE ME AWAY – PART 3

For lyrics and other stories about this song go to this link: TAKE ME AWAY

Composing after a long dry spell has been wonderful for me. It is truly an exploration, as I search to find interesting chords.

My motivation to compose again has come from the beautiful meditation audience I have on Insight Timer. The love and appreciation from that community buoys me and has become my inspiration.

I released my newest instrumental “Farewell Love Song” on Insight Timer last week. I’m excited to share that Insight Timer featured my track on their home page under the category of “Staff Picks.” This morning, I received the following message:

I’m not sure what I’ll name my newest piece. In 1980, I composed an instrumental named “Waterfalls,” and I’ve greatly slowed and expanded it to create a meditation track.

I’ve really enjoyed the many new passages I’ve discovered. I had fun performing my instrumental in progress and it was great practice for me! I share a Part 1 and Part 2, which were recorded a month apart.

I used to post regularly to my blog, but haven’t for a while. It feels great to share myself here. This year, I’ve continued to record my music steadily. It is more of a solo venture now, since I am not working in a studio with an arranger like I used to.

When a friend mentioned to me that my 52 song compositions were like a “deck of cards,” I chuckled and haven’t forgotten that.

I have arrangements for all of them, but over the last three years I’ve recorded simpler versions with two guitars and a vocal. I also create a piano guitar version that works well for a meditation medley of ten songs.

I am down to my last five songs and will hopefully finish those this year.

My song “Take Me Away” was based upon the chords for “Waterfalls” and that explains my post title. I recorded a new acoustic version of “Take Me Away” a few weeks ago.

Below is my latest vocal and piano/guitar recording:

Last week I began recording sections of my new composition late at night. The serenity of recording at 4 a.m. is amazing. It is also hard work and I get stiff after playing for a long time. Sometimes my hand becomes numb. I have to stop and shake it out for a few minutes because I can’t feel it.

I realize that the editing is going to take a long time because the track is so complicated and long. But it is my joy to do this. I spend a lot of time editing my music.

I can admit that sometimes I feel like I’m very isolated. I’ve longed to connect more with people in person. This wish has now become a reality for me.

I played my guitar for a support group a few months ago, and it was such a beautiful experience. I decided to try reaching out to many healing sites online.

Well, I landed something! At the end of July I’m going to lead a grief/healing/music workshop up in the mountains of Idyllwild for Spirit Mountain Retreats.

I can’t wait – I’m taking myself away!

(For fun, I’m sharing old pictures that were taken in Idyllwild long ago . . .)

I especially love this picture with my mother holding me. The lyrics to “Take Me Away” are about wishing I could see my mother again.

I am holding a lizard I caught in this picture!

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MY SONG UNSUNG-PART 2

MY SONG UNSUNG

I’ve played my songs on countless shores

in quiet shade of sycamores

All my pain was overcome

by heart-torn lyric and a strum

When I was young

I wrote my song unsung

 

Experience, it felt so cold

but music was my friend

I lived wearing a blindfold

Yet with lyrics I didn’t pretend

 

Through the years, when life was hard

my heart became numb and scarred

All my joy had gone away

and with sadness I couldn’t play

I was still young

I left my song unsung

 

Loneliness had left a hole

for years I made no sound

til music came to soothe my soul

and to turn my life around

 

Dreams were fuel that kept me strong

My heart was healed because of song

I learned that I could sing and then

I discovered joy again

 

I found that I had faith inside

my songs returned; they had not died

And though I was no longer young

Look what my music had brung

I sang my song unsung

I sang my song unsung

This page was from a book of lyrics created for a calligraphy class assignment in 1981.

In 1980, I composed a very simple love song. It only had two stanzas and was unfinished. I named it “This Song Unsung.” I clearly fantasized about falling in love, as evidenced from a diary entry around that time.

My simple song truly went unsung and for thirty years it was a distant memory.

When I began playing my guitar again in 2010, I eventually expanded “This Song Unsung” and it was renamed “Her Song Unsung.” This time, the lyrics were about rediscovering music and joy that translated to saving my lonely marriage. The last two lines went: “In his arms she did belong, her life became her love song.”

Unfortunately, what I projected did not fit my reality and It was very awkward for me to sing “Her Song Unsung” because it wasn’t honest. Also, writing in third person was very detached.

A few years later, I rewrote the lyrics to fit my life and the new title was “My Song Unsung.”

I am so grateful that I was finally able to do justice to this old song of mine. It’s no longer “unsung!”

More recordings, videos and stories can be found at this link: MY SONG UNSUNG

 

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MY COUSIN, DEBBIE

I am attaching audio from my spoken tribute to Debbie at her memorial:

I’m in pink and my cousin, Debbie is in the middle. My childhood buddy, Joni is on the right.

Almost every week, I would pick up my cousin, Debbie to go to dinner and occasionally a movie. I searched for movies that were wholesome and upbeat for her.

I laugh. remembering how I wasn’t always careful about researching my movie suggestions in the beginning. I thought Moonlight was going to be romantic, but when it became violent Debbie covered her eyes during most of the movie. I told her we could leave, but she wanted to stay and was a trouper. It was probably her least favorite movie even if it won the best picture Oscar!

A picture of us in a movie theatre last year.

No one was like Debbie in my life. Her first words upon getting in my car were usually, “Judy, can you please play me your latest song?” She oozed sweetness and love.

Debbie was only two months younger than I. We shared a lot of memories of growing up together. Our wonderful times included parties, beach trips, double dates and sleepovers.

This picture was taken after a wonderful day at the beach. Debbie is on the upper left side.

My cousin’s life wasn’t easy. Her biological mother died when she was a baby. Her father married my aunt and she adopted his three children. In her late teens, mental illness took hold and Debbie was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. At one of our last sleepovers, she babbled and cried out in the middle of the night and it was scary. She was in and out of treatment for many years. I did visit her at the hospital once or twice. But I was not really close to her after that.

During the time Debbie struggled with mental health challenges, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She beat it, but was left with many health issues plaguing her later in her life.

So after my carefree years of childhood, I rarely spoke or saw Debbie. I was happy that she found love and got married. She was invited to every family event, but often didn’t show up. But Debbie was vigilant about keeping in touch with my parents; she would call them on a regular basis. I was sad when her parents passed away and she was sad about mine, too.

After I left my long marriage in 2012, I moved back to the home where I grew up and Debbie lived only few miles away. One day, I spoke with Debbie and we made plans to get together. She didn’t drive and I was happy to go pick her up.

Our relationship was revitalized and we began to make plans more frequently. She became my “movie buddy.” Before that, I would go to the movies alone when I had the desire to see something. Now I had Debbie’s eager company.

I used to feel guilty that I had pulled away from her when she went through her mental health issues. Now I had the chance to turn things around, to feel good about making a difference to her life.

Her excitement to go out with me was infectious. I’d pull up to her house and call her to let her know I was there. She’d eagerly walk down the driveway and happily slide into the passenger seat of my car.

After a few years her gait became unsteady and she began using a walker. It reminded me of taking my mother out. Although it was challenging at times, it heartened me to feel my mother’s presence during our outings. I loved talking with Debbie about our parents and memories of them.

Only a month before she died, Debbie seemed to be gasping when she spoke. She shared that it was hard for her to sleep at night and she was hoping to get a prescription for an oxygen tank to help her. It took hard work and advocacy for her to get it, but she prevailed.

On our very last outing, her husband, Tom came out to my car holding a big bag next to Debbie. In it, was her oxygen tank that she now needed during the day. He explained to me that I would need to change the battery after two hours. As he showed me how to snap in another one, I watched carefully and felt a little nervous about this important task.

It was definitely tricky to get her into my car with the tank. She finally eased into the passenger seat but didn’t have the strength to put on her seatbelt. After fastening her in, I started to ask her where she’d like to go for dinner. Then I had an idea. I said, “Deb, how about coming over to my house? I’d like to fix you dinner tonight.”

She said softly with a small hint of a smile, “That would be wonderful.”

It wasn’t easy getting her to manage up the 3 stairs into my old apartment. This was where she had stayed with me when we had sleepovers as teenagers.

She was breathing hard as she sat at my dining room table while I fixed some of her favorite foods. I could see she’d lost a lot weight since the week before. I put a plate in front of her, but she hardly ate any of it. I was worried.

Despite my worry, I saw that she was happy being there with me. This was so much better than going to a restaurant. After I cleared the dishes, I had another idea.

I brought out a box of old photos from my closet. It wasn’t organized, but I knew there would be many interesting pictures inside. I found one of Debbie as a young child. She glanced at it and asked who was in the picture. “That’s you, Deb!” I made a pile for her to take home.

A picture of 4 cousins, Debbie is on the far left and cut off in this picture. My pose is so silly!

I pulled out some pictures taken at my Sweet Sixteen party. It amazed me to think that those pictures were taken right in front of my apartment building – the same place where I was now living. Debbie studied them, but then she revealed something very sad to me. Normally, everything she said was positive and perhaps with her recent struggles it was hard for her to stay that way.

“Judy, did you know that I was crying when that picture was taken at your party?”

I looked carefully again at her picture and said, “Deb, I don’t see tears. But tell me, why were you crying?”

“I was crying because I felt left out,” she said. You had so many friends and I didn’t.”

I felt tears well up in my eyes and I hugged her.

Debbie is leaning toward me in the upper left corner. Was she teary?

Now she was struggling to breathe and said, “Can you please change the battery? I’m not getting any air.”

I reached into the bag to get the replacement battery. My hands were shaking as I pulled out the dead battery and inserted the replacement. I hoped I was doing it correctly and Debbie was gasping as I fumbled. I pushed a button and we waited. Then Debbie reached over and pushed another button anxiously. It turned the unit off.

My heart was racing as I pushed the correct button again and gently held her hand away. The machine whirred and started pumping again. I was so relieved!

I still needed to drive her home, and could feel the weight of responsibility upon me. We had three steps to go down and a short distance of walking to reach my car. I gathered some extra food and pictures I wanted her to keep. I maneuvered her walker down the stairs and held onto her firmly.

As she sank into my car, she whispered, “Judy, this is pretty tough.”

I said, “I see that. I’m so sorry, Deb!”

After dropping her off, I cried. I knew she was going to have the best surgeon and hoped her heart procedure was going to “fix” this awful situation.

When she didn’t make it through, it was a reminder to me of how my son died. All the hope in the world and medical treatment didn’t change the outcome.

A picture from Debbie’s wedding.

I will miss Debbie and I share one of my last fond memories.

Two weeks before she died, we went to dinner at her favorite restaurant. We stood up to leave and I went to get her walker.

Debbie stood holding her chair. She reminded me of a willow tree swaying in the wind and asked me to help button up her sweater. She did not have the energy or dexterity to do it.

I stood very close to her and gently pushed each button through, one by one. When I finished the last one, she beamed at me. I felt like I was bathed in a glow of joy. Her face shone with a radiant smile and her eyes sparkled. “Hey Deb, what’s the big smile for?” I asked.

She said, “I’m just so happy!”

That is how I will remember Debbie.

Our last picture taken together.

 

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HEART SONG

This is an excerpt of solo guitar that will be part of a new meditation song for Insight Timer. “Heart Song” begins after a short riff of an older song named “Farewell.” I plan to add piano and the entire track will be approximately 30 minutes when completed.

I retreated into my bedroom. I had hoped our lovely family gathering would be uplifting, but unfortunately it turned into something else. There were hurt feelings, anger and lots of drama and it continued after I excused myself.

I closed my door and took a deep breath to calm the pit in my stomach. Most of the time I felt peaceful in my “post-divorce life.” Triggers like this emotional conflict threw me backwards, but thankfully they were rare.

My guitar beckoned me. I gently picked it up and wiped away my tears. For several weeks I had been working on a new instrumental composition that was definitely special. My goal was to expand an older instrumental named “Farewell” with additional passages in the same key.

Every day, I searched for ideas. I already had several bars but I hoped I could add more to them. I heard emotional discussions going on outside my door and tried to ignore it. As I played my guitar, I felt shaky and sad. When a few sweet chords appeared, I played them repeatedly and went further with it. My heart was soothed.

Eventually, I had to address the family drama. I extended my love, despite my own hurt feelings. I was unable to share my truthful emotions, which drained me. I felt turmoil for a few days afterwards, but held onto the beautiful chords that were created during such a stressful time.

It was challenging for me to decide when my new composition was finished. I had to balance my excitement of recording it, while hoping my song had reached it’s full potential.

After another week, I was ready. I planned to record it early on a Sunday morning. There would be less traffic noise that way, except after sunrise there were noisy birds chirping outside my window.

The night before my planned recording, I set up two microphones in my bedroom. I cleared a small path so I wouldn’t trip over them at night when going to the bathroom.

Guitar recording involved intense concentration, as well as sitting still for long stretches while playing. I actually had two songs to record – my older composition of “Farewell and my newer addition to it.

Because this music was for meditation, I would play slowly. I estimated it would take about two hours. The main issue was to align my body and guitar in the exact same position for those hours. I wanted to record enough material to work with and tried different variations so I would have many choices while editing.

I slid into my chair and tuned the guitar carefully. I began when it was still dark and delicately fingerpicked in my quiet bedroom. I felt the guitar notes flowing from my heart. My body actually was tingling as I played.

Eventually, I had to stop because the chirping of birds was getting louder. I unplugged the mics and labeled the tracks. My old song was named “Farewell,” but I wasn’t sure what to call the newer part. I chose “Heart Song.” The full version could be called “Farewell Heart Song.” Of course, it was possible that I’d change my mind later on.

I stretched and made breakfast. I was so glad I had decided to record that morning. Later in the day I planned to visit a dear relative who was in the hospital. I sipped my coffee and then noticed someone had left me a voicemail message while I was recording.

As I listened to his tearful voice, by heart sank. My dear cousin, whom I was very close to, had taken a terrible turn for the worse.

I thought I would be seeing many relatives, but when I entered her hospital room there was only a nurse. I asked if it would be okay to hold my cousin’s hand. The nurse pulled down the sheet and I grasped her limp fingers.

I could hear the notes to “Heart Song” playing in the background as I leaned my face next to hers. She had one eye open and there wasn’t a glimmer of awareness behind it. I cried and poured out my heart.

How could I have known that my newest meditation song truly was a farewell?

She died a few hours after I left.

I share an excerpt of a recent performance of “Heart Song” before I became more confident with it.

This is a link to the story about “Farewell.” #118 MY FAREWELL TO MUSIC

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