20 Lines A Day

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Today I turn 39.  My last year in my 30’s.  If I had my nearly 4 decades to do over, I’d stay home with my kids, which is a total contradiction because I hated staying at home when they were very young.  Now I’d do it all over again and for longer, just for more time with them.  I’d go to graduate school the first time I had the chance.  I’d go back to that first relationship in high school, and I’d say no to that boy.  Yes, it would change the course of my life, but I’d avoid the pain of losing a friend.  I’d make and keep better connections with friends of my parents and my extended family.  I had no idea how much I would wish I knew them better as I got older.   I’d demand more of myself.  The status quo and self pity would never be in my coping toolbox.  I’d learn about self care early on and make it a priority.  I’d stop myself from picking up terrible interpersonal habits that negatively affect my relationships.  My poor husband really has to deal with a lot of baggage.  I’d let people get close to me, I’d be more vulnerable.  And I’d expect it of other people too.  I’d take back every mean word I ever said to my sister.  Maybe we were just kids, but I’m sure it affected her, and she’s the only sibling I have.  I’d set better boundaries for myself, and I wouldn’t be afraid to say no.  I wouldn’t find a sick comfort in relationships that make me feel bad.  I’d talk to my mom about her illness, I’d share my fears about living a life without her.  I’d snuggle up next to her that night when she asked me to.   I’d understand that in order to feel great joy and compassion, you also, at times, have to allow yourself to feel great pain.  I’d never stop writing.  Or dancing.  Or letting the world know how smart I am.  Or crying.  I’d cry a LOT more.  And I’d pray more.  I’d figure out early what makes me passionate and pursue that.  Or not stop pursuing that.  I’d have a job that I love, that fulfills me, that I can’t wait to get up and do every morning.  I’d force my foot into that Cinderella slipper and never let it fall off my foot.

“Make the most of your regrets; never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh.”

~Henry David Thoreau

Happy 39.  It’s going to be a great year.

©SpiritLed 2014

Happy Mothers Day…

English: jkklglh

English: jkklglh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I remember back when mom seemed mean


we never knew the things she had seen


as children we always knew it all


mom was there when we would fall


we took them for granted , mom still carried on


we didn’t always call , when we were gone


mothers are loving , mothers  are strong


mom lets us down softly when we are wrong


now that I’m older , all I can say


All Moms among you have a great day



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I want to share one of my favorite songs “You Were There.” My song is for both my parents. I was very close with my parents all of my life and watching them decline has been a painful process. My father died last May. My mother has severe dementia and cannot really speak. But she still recognizes me and smiles with joy whenever I am near. Clicking the blue link plays my song:

YOU WERE THERE-5/7/13 Copyright 2011 by Judy Unger

Below are links to stories on my other blog:




I’ll let my lyrics and pictures tell my story.

 To Mom I was so loved Breakfast w. Mom Mother's Love With my parents and younger Judy & her Dad looking at her


Copyright 2011 by Judy Unger

All my life, every day

You were there when I’d need you

All the time, I just knew; you’d be there

and you’d see me through

I’ve always known, I’m not alone . . .

You were so strong

You’d pick me up when I’d fall down

So I can see all the strength you gave me

Although I try, it’s hard to say goodbye

to someone who’s loved me all of my life

And when I’m sad, because you’re not there

I’ll still see your love everywhere

Everything that I did you’d applaud

You were right there watching me

as I grew, sharing joy and my heartache, too

I always knew, that I had you . . .

Now I’m so strong

I picked you up when you fell down

I’ve learned to see just how strong I could be

Although I try, it’s hard to say goodbye

to someone who’s loved me all of my life

And when I’m sad, because you’re not there

I’ll still see your love everywhere

When you are gone I’ll say a prayer;

and I’ll remember how you were there

Mom 2  My mother had a good day

WIth mom & dad 1 Grief 3 IN THE GARDEN 2 IN THE GARDEN

© 2013 by Judy Unger, http://www.myjourneysinsight.com and 20 Lines A Day. 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.


Certain Things

A shell, a piece of bone, a tumbleweed,
some driftwood, Indian beads, a little stone…
these things hold memories, and how I need

them. Grandchildren learned names of shells with speed
from my collection. Don’t forget pinecone
to add to shell and bone and tumbleweed.

My mother cooked Thanksgiving once to feed
us in the pinewoods. Warm that year, sun shone.
These things hold memories. O, how I need

remembrance of the driftwood she would plead
with us to bring up from the beach. Windblown,
a shell, a piece of bone, a tumbleweed

arrived onshore. And then we would impede
their further travels, as our mom was prone
to loving things of nature. They, her need,

defined her as might the Apostles’ Creed.
Each lovely signature stood all alone
in her home, shell and bone and tumbleweed.
I understand the memories I need.

(a villanelle)


Finding New Places

There were her clothes, slacks in every color, warm sweaters, decorated sweatshirts, comfy shoes, even her underwear. I sat on her bed surrounded by it all. She was no longer here to wear any of it, but here I was, looking at it, feeling sad and perplexed.

What would I do with it?

Well, first is her blue and green winter coat. My mother’s favorite colors were blue and green, and this coat was so her. Perhaps I could wear it? No, it’s just a little too big. Seventeen years later, it still hangs in my closet.

I found new homes for the shoes. That wasn’t difficult.

But other things? Oh my. I wore some of her sweaters for awhile. I couldn’t wear the slacks because they had had to be large enough to wear over her left-leg prosthesis. Still, giving them away tugged at me.

You might wonder about the underwear. I thought of just throwing it out. But she had worn it, her most intimate and pretty things. I’d heard that certain little consignment shops took things like this so I washed up all her bras, panties and slips one last time. They looked like snow they were so white, as if never worn. Some were brand-new.

I sat there on her bed with its blue and green quilted spread, tears falling down at the import of my decisions. I thought, what will my children do with my things when the time comes? Oh look, her jewelry.

She had the most beautiful jewelry, chunky necklaces and dangly earrings. With her short straight dark hair those earrings looked terrific. She always wore six silver bangle bracelets on her left wrist. I have those still, and some of her other pieces. Well, I should admit that I kept quite a bit of her jewelry. She had exquisite taste.

I looked around her apartment. Pots and pans, dishes, silverware, towels, linens, bedspreads, pictures, furniture, decorations. I felt overwhelmed.

Today her round glass-topped table and matching chairs, her couch, loveseat and ottoman, and one twin bed are in our home. Some of her art and all of her poetry are here as well. I have the green pitcher with the fluted edging, which fits beautifully into my living room. She loved it, and I love it. It’s as if we have wound our love of it together to keep it important. I have some of her silverware and serving pieces.

Other than that, I have her last calendar upon which she had decorated the squares for everyone’s birthdays and anniversaries. I have the little red sparkly heart which she used to wear on sweatshirts. I kept her black baseball-type cap with the gold sparkles. My granddaughter loved it so, so I gave it to her. My mom would approve.

So far I have named things. The best I have are the feelings of love and security she gave me, the sound of her voice that resounds in my memories, the help she gave me with tenderness all through her life, and the blessings of having been her daughter.

I still am.

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My mother used to tell my brother and me that she’d played shortstop for the Brooklyn Dodgers. I never questioned that. You would have to have known her. She was so convincing. This became family lore, and eventually she told the story that she named me Maggie because “it has two Gs in it and they stand for gullible, gullible.

We had many a laugh over this throughout the years. When she was 64 and first became ill, she kept her sense of humor through the six years of her illness and dying. Her mind remained sharp.

She died at the too-young age of 70, and we carried out her wishes, to scatter her ashes at the beach. We did this on her November birthday which, that year, was Thanksgiving. I know I was putting it off. Finally our son-in-law said, “If you want to do this today we should get going because soon it will be dark.” So after our daughter, her new husband, our son and his girlfriend, my in-laws, and my husband and I had had our dinner, we headed out to the beach. I carried that black box in my mittened hands.

My stomach churned. I didn’t know what her remains would look like. Yes, I had that fear of the unknown. But when I opened it, it was all grey ash. That’s it. I was wearing a purple down jacket. I whooshed those ashes to the wind, and some of them got on my jacket. I loved that. And I felt good that we were doing as she desired.

Five months earlier, after the visitation at the funeral home, my brother, his wife, our children, and my husband and I stood in the parking lot with blue and green balloons. Blue and green were her favorite colors so there was no question as to what colors to get. Each balloon was on a long ribbon, and attached was a little white card. We decided we were going to write messages on those cards before releasing them heavenward.

Well, if you’ve read my writings you know that I often tend to be wordy, and I was trying mightily to write every possible significant thing I could think of on that little card. I was writing so small, and up the sides of the card. It was as if I couldn’t get it all said. Fortunately, my mom and I had said everything to each other while she was still alive.

Finally everyone was done. At the last minute I said, “Would anyone mind if we read what we wrote?”

And my brother said, “No. You go first.” He must have known that it would have been the longest. Of course he was right. Then the others read theirs. My brother read last. Its simplicity and poignancy touches me still:

Shortstop for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

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The Phone Call

The phone would have rung about 11:00 this morning.

“Happy Thanksgiving, honey.”

My mom. And she did it on Christmas, and Easter, and our birthdays, and our anniversary, always that call to begin the day.

It’s been 17 years since I’ve heard that phone call. It was her habit. Call the kids and wish them a happy ____________(whatever). Her voice, tuned to the emotional strings of the day, rang into the depths of me. I could depend on it. Like clockwork, as they say. No call this morning, no voice…

…except in my heart, where I will always hear it.


A Meal.

Shaking hands prepared this meal,
Shaking hands finish this meal.

Mother and Daughter
Eat in hushed silence
Mother and Daughter
A suspense, turbulent.

Too quickly,
Daughter finishes her meal.
Too quickly,
Daughter leaves to another world

Too slowly,
Mother is left behind

A table littered with rice grains.
A clang of a spoon clattering on the floor.
Mother groans
Painfully picking it up.

With an empty chair,
Forever reserved


Embroidered with Gold

Her life, embroidered all around with gold,
returns to me although she’s now been gone
for ten and seven years. I cannot hold
her arm when we go walking on the lawn

or hear the phone ring knowing it would be
her calling at 11. “Lunch? Where to?”
Although my mother was an amputee,
she told me, “Well, you know that my IQ

in Dance is low!” She made me laugh when tears
filled up my eyes. Then all that illness came.
We hid our feelings, shivered with the fears
of what we knew would too soon come and claim

her. She beat odds again and time again,
a warrior in the battle, fall’s last leaf.
Despite her efforts, her eyes closed…and then
the razor-sharp and well-aimed points of grief

sliced into me. I never knew how pain
inflicts its daggers. Captured by a thief,
and only with the smallest steps I’d gain
a distance. It was anything but brief.

I’ve integrated my mom’s death into my life.
I think on 50 years and form the clay
into the memories that bear no strife.
A lump forms in my throat on Mother’s Day.

I do not have a single small regret.
There’s nothing I would change. I hope she’d say
the same. I think she would. With that I let
the awful pain of grief fade into gray.



Can You Do This?

My sister-in-law participated in a research study today at Wake Forest. One of the tasks she had to do was to write for three minutes on each of the following topics:

1. Write about your childhood.

2. Write about your childhood home.

3. Write about your best friend.

Easy, huh?

The stipulation was that you couldn’t use the letter “a” or the letter “n.”

So, I won’t call this a challenge so it doesn’t get confused with the other challenges. But I thought it might be kind of fun to try. I’ll give it a shot:

1. My brother, I were our mother’s, our pop’s kids. They brought us up well. Oh, we felt their love. We resided there, our first house. Where? City block. It holds good memories for me. Three, just toddler, dog bit me, I remember this.

2. I grew up there, our big house with pool dug by my hubby, brother, step-pop. Lots of buddies, big old trees everywhere, my light purple bedroom. I loved the fruit trees where I climbed.

3. Sue, I, decided we would go to Europe. Her mother, from there, thought we should see fiords so we put our dimes together. She, light-complected , liked my brother. But we were buds. She wore her white dress, yes, I provided music. Her two sisters were the flower girls.

WHEW! That was hard. See what you can do. Share it here.

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Mom Memories

Her hands that served, her mouth curved in a smile,
she’d walk for you that long and extra mile–
my mother who would give her heart to you,
imbues this home with memories that do

not go away. I sit upon her chair,
and wear her winter coat of blue. So rare,
her brand of mothering, and I, blessed child
recall her voice melodious and mild.

She always whistled “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,”
took in stray dogs and cats. All girls and guys,
no matter what their age, were drawn to her,
but I’m the one who knew her love…for sure.


Homesick challenge written by (Lindy Lee)

Always & Never by Lindell Vecchio
She never refused whenever I asked,
‘Mother, pretty please, would you starch my sash?’
She washed our laundry and hung it outside
With wood pins on Daddy’s homemade clothesline.
Each piece she wrung through a hand-cranked wringer.
Daddy named it our “Wash House Humdinger.”

She never turned down requests to prepare
Menus appropriate holiday fare.
She boiled, broiled, braised, barbecued and deep-fried.
She baked, flaked, glazed, chopped, and caramelized
Sweet treats and meats from scratch with skill, year round.
Daddy said, “Mama makes cookin’ profound.”

She always said, “Yes”, whenever I asked,
‘Mother, pretty please, would you tie my sash?’
She kept a clean house without any help.
She had just a broom, a mop, and herself.
No spot on the floor, a pot, or a pan,
Daddy thanked her for our home, “spic ‘n span.”

She never had thought of a vacation.
With less than a high school education,
She balanced the checkbook and paid the bills.
She purchased supplies and she nursed our ills.
Daddy said, “Mama is good with numbers
And, she is one of the world’s great wonders.”

She always woke up whenever I screamed,
‘Mother! Mother!’, when I had a bad dream.
She was up and dressed ahead of daylight.
She labored all day and into the night.
Daddy said, “Mama does so much alone.
Besides, she also works outside the home.”

She always told me when I was refused,
“You sure don’t want them if they don’t want you.”
Nothing in writing lest the world should read;
Talk not of others or plant gossip seed.
“Mama has the gift of gab,” Daddy said,
She is self-sufficient and real well read.”

She always complied and never refused,
‘Mother, when you go, please let me go, too?’
Daddy said, “This time she cannot take you.”
© April 2006; December 2011

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Happy Fathers day ….

Pam loved  Pete they  had it made

two little boys both named Wade

traveled the country in a big R V

so many sights the family did see

never setting roots like many we know

they moved around more than an Indians toe

learning from the world and mom and dad

soaking up nature , even lily pads

living a life that can’t be surpassed

the two little wades , one day asked

do you regret the things you let  slide

to be with us on this life long ride

dad turned to them a tear in his eye

wade and wade your both my prize

I’d relive these days with out delay

two wade’s grinning said happy fathers day



Can it be this long?

At 6:20 this morning, 17 years ago, my mother died.

My mother. My best friend. My hero. My go-to person. Undiagnosed diabetes causing heart and kidney problems threw her into health challenges at age 64, and at 70 she died. Too young.

Let me tell you about her. If you were around her you were her 100%. Kathe, who is on this blog (as teadh), knew her, and I’ll bet she would agree. In fact, I have a funny story about that. When Kathe became engaged and I showed my mom the newspaper picture announcing it, she got tears in her eyes — happy tears — and said, “Kathe’s getting married? Oh my, Kathe, my little Kathe. I can’t believe it. My little Kathe is getting married.”

I knew she was thrilled for Kathe. But I also remember my reaction: Mom, what do you mean, “my little Kathe”? I’m your little Maggie, remember?

Both Kathe and I look back on this fondly and smile. It’s a memory for me that shows how invested she was in other people’s lives. If they were happy, she was happy. If they were troubled, she went out of her way to figure out how she could best help them.

You would have wanted to sit at her table for her delicioso meals. Whether it was a simple hamburger, or scrambled eggs for breakfast, her homemade soups, or a full spread at Thanksgiving, she loved people through her cooking.

She did many things in her life, from radio broadcasting, to preschool teacher, to professional cook, to writing poetry that went to the heart of a matter and stabbed you with its point of clarity, to working in migrant centers. And she was a tireless worker. Anyone could depend on her. If the hours were 9-5, she worked 8-6 or beyond. If the job called for A, she did A, B, and C.

She loved children, animals, music, her 1967 green Mustang convertible, laughter, great food, her family, her friends, entertaining. She used to come to my brother’s and my school conferences and compliment the teachers on what good jobs they were doing. She was the Cub Scout leader and president of the PTA. She once wrote, produced, and acted in a play. When I was in high school and returned to the piano teacher who had begun giving me lessons when I was seven years old, she picked me up at school every Friday afternoon to drive me to my lesson. Never mind that it was 50 miles away, one way. And I remember that we used to stop afterward at Big Boy for strawberry pie.

She loved to love. She had challenges and sadness in her life, but somehow that chin of hers was always up, her mood happy, her helping hand out.

Seventeen years, six hours, and three minutes ago (as I write this), she moved out of this world into the next. I cannot tell you how much I miss her. The pain never leaves. Oh, you know what they say, that time heals. I prefer to say that I have integrated my mother’s death into my life.

More important, I have integrated her life into my life.

Mom, you know how much I love you. I am thinking of you especially today. You would love it. It’s 70 degrees outside and I would come over to pick you up so we could have lunch on the deck. I’d make tuna salad sandwiches and we’d have fresh fruit and iced tea. Then maybe we’d drive down to the beach to sit on the decking there to watch the waves and the gulls.

I love you.


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