A photo taken with Char at my oldest son’s Bar Mitzvah six years ago. Wow, do I look different with make-up!

Lifelong adj

Lasting the whole of a lifetime. Enduring.

“Friendship with an open heart”

This past weekend, my husband and older son were away on a short trip together. I appreciated how I could play my guitar at odd hours, and not have to fix as many meals in the kitchen. It was nice seeing them both again when they returned!

While they were gone, I had a wonderful visit with my friend, Charlotte. I was eager to share with Char my newfound passions. I shared a lot with her about my blogging process, and then I played my guitar. I felt so happy and savored the joy I felt as I shared my transformation with her. She marveled at the changes in me, and her adoration was palpable.

In the past, I never shared much with her about myself. I was much more focused on trying to extract her knowledge as an advocate for my children. It was almost as if she were “the teacher” and I were “the student.” This visit was very different.

I shared with her how much happier I am with what I am doing; I told her I never enjoyed being an artist that much. Charlotte couldn’t grasp that I was leaving illustration and painting behind. She didn’t want to see me let go of a talent that I had honed for thirty years.

I launched into a detailed explanation. I have hardly painted at all in the last five years. I was always a “problem solver” illustrator; except for painting demanding portfolio paintings occasionally – I never painted anything for myself.

Charlotte’s voice was serious, “I love your artwork – you must continue it! It is so beautiful and you could do wonderful things outside of confinement. With your ability you could create beautiful paintings expressing yourself.”

I gave her an example: my painting of perfume bottles. I spent a hundred hours painting it. Now anyone could take a photo (myself included), go on Photoshop, and create imagery similar to what I used to do by hand on a white piece of watercolor paper.”

The computer killed my business, but at the same time made my work so much easier. I take digital photos; efficiently and quickly make them into paintings. My old process used to take me oodles of hours. I don’t want to go back there! I am not planning to turn down assignments; of course, I do get one occasionally. The process of using my computer has been very helpful, efficient, and much quicker.

Although I’ve had technical ability, my heart was never expressed through painting and art. Artwork was always about perfection! Writing is a creative process that allows for a full expression of emotion. Music is about simply conveying what I feel and hear inside of me. In music and writing, I express myself and there is no perfection there; only my attempt to share as best I can.

After Charlotte left, I marveled how much more connected I felt to her. My heart was open and I celebrated my humanity during this magical time in my life.

Steve and I playing “Chaseaway” (a game I invented to torment him) when we were little.

“Little Girl Found”

I find it amazing how I have reconnected with my childhood friends.

Steve was the little boy I used to boss around when I was eight years old. He was my slave, and I wasn’t always very nice to him. Steve and I played practically every day together until he moved away when I was ten. I hadn’t seen him or spoken to him until earlier this year. By my count, that would be about forty years!

In my memorabilia box, I found a letter that I had written to Steve when I was very young. I have a lot of curiosity as to why it was never mailed.

The letter that was never mailed to Steve. It’s so yellow, it’s hard to read.

With Photoshop I made it more readable. I played with crystals instead of a crystal ball!

I love the last line: “I keep writing letters because I have nothing else to do, so you are going to get a lot of letters!”

Steve and I are both holding plastic fish.

When I first began practicing, Steve offered to take some cassettes and convert them into digital files. I had a few cassettes with my original songs recorded. I also shared with him the cassette tape where I spoke at Jason’s funeral. I still have not listened to it since the funeral.

Now Steve is very involved in my music. He has come to several recording sessions at George’s studio. He often spends his time creating improved mixes of my songs, and has shared many tools to help me on the computer. Recently he even lent me an excellent microphone and interface for recording at home.

When I’ve gone back to listen to my earlier recordings, I do cringe. However, my heart has been warmed by Steve’s encouragement and support. He liked my music even when it was “cringe-worthy!” The few times when Steve has heard me sing, I’ve felt so human because I’ve struggled with keeping pitch. One time, I asked Steve if he thought I would be able to carry my songs with my “vocal limitations.” I knew he would be honest.

I was elated that he thought I most certainly could! Sharing my improvement with him has been tremendous fun.

Seeing Steve for the first time after forty years, this past April.

I have often struggled with disappointment in my relationships. Disappointment was about my perfectionism that inevitably led to friends “letting me down.”

When I was very young, I searched for a “best friend.” I never had a sister, and often wondered what it would be like. I desperately wanted to be close to my neighbor/friend Joni. She often disappointed me because she was very moody at times. There were good reasons, since she had a very difficult childhood. Mostly, I was frustrated that she was never available to play with me. Because she was required to work in her parents’ dry cleaning store every day, we attended different schools.

We’ve known each other since we were three years old.

Joni always went with my family on vacations and here we’re at the snow.

By high school we finally attended the same school. It was an opportunity to become closer. I was not a very good friend. I was jealous of my beautiful friend, Joni; she was very popular with guys. When we went to a dance together and she left with a new boyfriend, I was very angry with her. I detached myself, and created a lot of distance.

I remember one day playing my guitar on a bench in high school. Joni sat down to listen to me play. I was able to play about 200 songs from the 1970’s by heart. That day I sang the Gordon Lightfoot song, “If You Could Read My Mind.” Joni enjoyed sitting with me and I remember it was a sunny and beautiful moment.

An honest card I received from her before I got married.

Perhaps it was a few months after that, when I noticed she was very depressed. I hadn’t heard from her in a while, and knocked on her door. She answered and looked like she hadn’t changed her clothes in a week. Her hair was stringy and I was concerned. She had broken up with a boyfriend, but this was more than that. I was worried about her, but I don’t remember much about what happened after that. Earlier this year she shared with me how difficult that time was for her; how she was depressed and unsure about her life.

I distanced myself from all of my friends when I got married. My career was very isolating. Then, when I had a sick child, I was far too consumed with that for friendship. With my son’s death, I was only able to be with fellow, bereaved parents for a very long time. I stayed in touch with most of my friends, but my heart was very closed. I hardly saw Joni for many, many years even though she didn’t live that far away.

Earlier this year, I felt so appreciative while spending time with her when she introduced me to a music producer. Monday night was the second time since then that she came to watch me perform at Kulak’s Woodshed.

This past Monday, I was picked as the twenty-seventh performer. I estimated that I had at least an hour and a half to wait, which was plenty of time to get nervous! I enjoyed watching the other performers, but decided to take a stretch outside to banish my jitters. I called Joni, and she invited me to visit since she only lived a few blocks away.

She hugged me warmly. Since I’ve been writing and I’m a different person, I’ve felt very much appreciated by all my friends.

I had a few minutes and told Joni I could play some songs to warm up my voice.

I remembered she had sent me such a nice email message the day before. She had mentioned Gordon Lightfoot. I started to warble, “If You Could Read My Mind” and I was transported back to that day on our high school quad.

Joni said, “I remember one time hearing you play.You were so good, and I felt sad that we weren’t close. I just wanted to sit there for hours and listen to you play.”

I played in Joni’s living room for about twenty minutes and then headed back to Kulak’s.

When I performed, I could feel the warmth seeing Joni in the audience with her husband. I came home to another beautiful message from her. She wrote:

“You were amazing at Kulak’s. Thanks for keeping us in the loop; Ben and I enjoyed our night out. I love you, I feel so special with you. It is great being somebody who knows you.”

An earlier message from Joni yesterday, after I shared with her my recording of So Real:

Thank you so much for this song. The peace your song brought me helped me. It was like an onionskin or an overlay for me to rest on. Your song connected me to the love I have for my daughter in a calm way. I needed the extra comfort that your downy, soft heartfelt song for Jason provided. I can’t believe how his life has touched you so deeply. Jason did have an amazing spirit matched by an incredible smile. Beautiful beyond words, I am so sorry that you have had to go through this pain, but you have managed amazing feats because of the situation you were/are in. Your song, your friends, your poetry, your depth of emotion mesmerizes me. I remember the day you called me and let me know what had happened, and I was and am so glad that you include me in your life. You’re my sister and I love you very much. You have turned a mother’s worst nightmare into other avenues that express the emotions of the soul in such a deep, loving, sharing, thoughtful way that no one else can do. You are my hero, and I am proud of how you have been able to deal with the death of your firstborn, and so many other difficult situations. I wish you continued strength creating and soothing yourself and the woes of others.

I love you, Joni

The “writer inside” returned to me today in the early morning hours. I had to write about my shame that I allowed disappointment to close my heart so many times in my life. I was remembering those feelings, and how this year so many things about my friend were revealed to me. She struggled so much in high school and I hadn’t understood. I remembered how desperately I had wanted to be closer with her when we were very young.

I used to wish I had a crystal ball. If I had, how amazed I might have been to think of these future moments.

Message from Joni this morning:


It is amazing how similar your voice is to Peaches. I like your rendition the best. You have more feeling in your singing and she has more perfection, whatever that means.

Do you ever feel like letting go when you sing and just belt it out????  Or do you?

Last night, I wasn’t feeling well, all headachy, so I sat in the dark and listened to your 5 or 6 songs and basically cried through many of them. I liked thinking that some of the thoughts behind the words were about me. I guess I like thinking that I am important, vanity I guess. It is fun growing older and coming to understand myself better.

Well, I always knew you were talented and bright, and it comes out in your work. You are so talented and gifted in putting your words together. I can’t believe I was so lucky to have you as my childhood friend

Lots of continued growth and success to you,

Love always, Joni

Dearest Joni,

You have well been on my mind; in fact, I actually spent hours writing a beautiful post about the story of our friendship. I was so moved while visiting you on Monday, and having you come a second time to see me play at Kulak’s!

The story of our friendship is very heartfelt. My gift to you is to let you know how special you are in my life.

Knowing that my songs have moved you means so very much to me. On top of that, what can I say when you prefer my singing ability to my teacher’s? I have always thought my voice was inferior. It has been very exciting at my age, to discover that I could improve to reach this point. WOW!!!!

I would say that you are definitely a part of the songs I’ve written. I could start with the song, “How We Don’t Care.” The theme of closing my heart has been very familiar for me. I’m certain I was that way with you when I was younger.

However, I was thinking of you today when I was singing “Another You.”

My songs are about my life. The fact that I wrote them when I was twenty doesn’t mean they don’t apply to what I’ve experienced later on. In fact, I connect with every one of my songs – they transport me each and every time.

I am so lucky to share my life with someone I’ve grown up with – you. We always carry the memories of our childhood and inside we are the same even though are bodies have changed.

I love you, Jude

An excerpt from my song, Another You:

“And here I am singing to you,

When I know that you’ve heard most of my songs

But this one is lifelong; the music is forever.

And I know if I search my whole life through,

I’ll never find another you,

I could search and search my memories, too,

And I’ll never find, I’ll never find another you.”

© Judy Unger and 2010. 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.

About Judy

I'm an illustrator by profession. At this juncture in my life, I am pursuing my dream of writing and composing music. Every day of my life is precious!
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