Redefining in 2018

2 01 2018

Have you ever felt like you lost your identity? It happened to me in 2011 when my husband, best friend and life partner passed away. I went from being Eddie the Baker’s wife to being a widow. Yuck, I still hate that title. The one thing that held me together through the grief process is my faith in God. I read the Word and I prayed even when it felt like my prayers were not getting past my ceiling. That is the thing about faith though. It didn’t really matter what I felt. I was leaning on what I knew. The one thing that became clear to me time after time in my crying out was this; God has said, Never will I leave you or forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5) I knew I was going to be alright. Nothing was going to tear me away from God.

It was time to redefine who I am. Yes, I am a widow and that means my life is different. I make all the decisions concerning life and finances now. Well, me and God. I pray about everything but sometimes I ask myself,” What would Eddie do?”.  After 28 years of leaning on his wisdom, I have a pretty good idea what his answers would be.

In the summer of 2016 my identity changed again when I retired from a 22 year career as a hairstylist in the film industry. It was a strange transition. I was no longer so and so’s hairstylist or working on such and such show. I had to leave my profession in the middle of a tv series because of an Interstitial Lung disease. That made it a little more difficult to accept because I didn’t want to admit that I couldn’t get the job done. As I look back to my first months of “retirement” I have to concede that I slipped into a bit of depression. I felt like I had just slinked off into obscurity.

The good thing is, I am way to much of an attention junky to hide myself away for too long. So, what’s a girl to do? Why, try out for America’s Got Talent, of course. The auditions were happening right down in Charleston, SC. and I had sent in the forms and got an audition date right after I retired. Actually, the actors I had been working with that summer convinced me to do it. Fawn flew into Wilmington, we picked up my friend Becky and headed off for a night in Charleston. The audition itself was really the anti-climax of the whole excursion. As I was herded from one area to the next and finally, after 6 hours, got to sing for my audition, the producer never even looked up from her paperwork except to grimace at  high note I sang.

I had also started lessons with a vocal coach as a way to keep my lungs as strong as possible. I auditioned for Opera Wilmington and was accepted in their production of Carmen. I met a new group of lovely and talented artists. I rose to the challenge of learning 52 pages of music with the lyrics in French!! Okay, I mumbled my way through some of the lyrics but I did it on tune!

My fun with singing did not stop there. My vocal coach invited me to sing at Opera Wilmington’s fundraising event. It was a Night of Italian music and delicious Italian food at Osteria Cichetti 11 in Wilmington! Can you say, right up my alley? I was planning to attend as a guest and supporter of Opera anyway, so when she asked me if I would like to sing the song we had been working on, I answered YES without hesitation. We worked the song into a duet, so I got to sing with my buddy Rusty. That was a full circle moment but i will tell that story another time.

I can safely say that I am still redefining my identity. I am leaving some things behind in 2017. I am creating some new titles for myself in 2018. I am now CEO of my own skin care business! One of the things about my Eddie that always inspired me was his entrepreneurial spirit! I watched him embrace working on merchant ships as a ship steward, try his hand at selling cars, create bread recipes for sandwich shops and start his own janitorial business with a bucket and a mop. I learned from Eddie that sometimes, you just have to jump off the cliff and take a chance.

So, this year, I am jumping off the cliff! I need to stay involved and connected to people! I still love the beauty industry. I still love helping people to look their best. I joined Rodan and Fields as a consultant over a year ago but I had no intention of running it as a business. I just wanted to get my own products at the deepest discount and maybe make enough money to pay for my own skin care. Over a few months, I saw some undeniable results in my fine lines and wrinkles and on my dark spots and uneven skin tone. I had an opportunity to help an amazing young lady who was dealing with acne. She started on the Unblemish Regimen and had wonderful results! I am thrilled that I got to be a part of that! The fact that I want to do more of that is what is giving me the courage to reach out and tell people about my business.  I have confidence in the Drs. who created this skin care and I am happy to have a vision and have goals again.

Life goes on and I am trying to keep up with it. I am looking forward to what 2018 holds for me. I am still Coni. I am still quirky, awkward in crowds, tell goofy jokes and sometimes laugh too loud. I am still a Mom, a Noni and a G. Noni. I am a friend. A good friend actually. I still love to sing and to tell people about Jesus! Wether I like it or not, my life is being redefined. I am a widow. I am a singer of Opera (in French and Italian so far). I am learning to live with a lung disease. I do not work in the film industry any longer. I am CEO of my own skin care company. And my skin looks pretty fantastic! Just saying.





It’s not over until…

21 10 2016

DSCN0353 In the beginning of this Widow’s journey I spent a lot of time on the couch, crying and thinking mostly. Did I do everything right? Did I miss something medically? Was I a comfort to Ed by continuing to work and bring in an income or should I have come home earlier?

Today, more than five years later, I know that I did the best I knew to do. I am still doing the best I know how to do as I continue my journey. I still feel the empty ache in my heart but I also experience something like joy when friends share a good Ed story with me. It is a comfort to remember how honestly funny he was and what a compassionate man he was. He was terrible at telling a joke and yet he made us laugh so hard at his attempt to tell it. Sometimes he would laugh so hard at his own awful jokes that we couldn’t help but laugh with him. God, I loved that man so much. Still do. And I know he loved me as deeply as anyone could.

I have had to learn how to manage my life without my biggest fan and best friend. I will honestly tell you that I do not like it one single bit. However, I am secure in the knowledge that God has more for me.

Ed genuinely loved to hear me sing. He would ask me to sing to him often. After he passed, my song changed. I went through a period of time when I thought I had lost my ear and my voice. Nothing I sang sounded right to me and I finally decided that I just would not sing anymore. I lost my song. I left my beloved praise team and hardly sang out loud in the congregation for quite some time. A couple of people really tried to convince me that I needed to be singing but I thought they were just being kind.

During this time, I was invited to sing in a choir that a dear couple was leading but first I made them promise that they would not let me be the old lady warbling out of tune in the soprano section. They assured me I could trust them to have my back. Every time the choir or praise teams sang worship my heart ached and I cried. I attributed those many tears to grief but I also think that God was cleansing my heart during that time. Music has always spoken to that deepest place in my heart. One step at a time, I began to feel my song again.    I am singing again. From my heart. I am a member of the choir now and sometimes I am asked to lead a song or to sing a special solo. I am honored to worship my Lord and Savior with Psalms and spiritual songs. My heart is healing.

I am blazing a new trail in this Widow’s journey. I am stretching myself beyond the boundaries of only gospel music. I have successfully auditioned for Opera Wilmington out of UNC Wilmington. I also have registered to audition for America’s Got Talent on February 1, 2017, in Charleston, SC. I am ready for new adventures and I want to grow in the journey. Here we go.

 

 

 





How sweet it is

15 08 2016

 

August 15 is a special day. It has been since 1982 when I married my soul mate. Ed has not been here to celebrate with me since April of 2011. This makes me sad and every August 15th I feel the ache in my heart and I cry a little, usually a couple of times throughout the day. I have come to accept that it is normal to miss someone so much that it can cause tears. What was surprising to me is the actually ache in my heart. I used to think the term “heartache” was a metaphor but my heart physically hurts when I think of how much I miss him and still love him. This all sounds a bit morbid but if you can stick with me, you will see I am going in another direction with this. I believe all the actions I just described are normal parts of grief. Grief is not a dirty word. I have had to give myself permission to express my sorrow. It only means I have loved deeply.
I have loved deeply. What an honor that is. What a gift to be able to grow and mature in that love and learn to trust another human being. I had that one person that I could count on through all of life’s winding roads. One person who knew I was filled with insecurities, imperfection and inconsistency and he loved me anyway. He couldn’t help himself any more than I could turn my love for him off. We were both far from perfect and we accepted that in each other. If I was mad at him, yes, it happened, he learned to leave me alone for a while until my hot Italian temper had time to cool off. Before the day was through he would put his arms around me and remind me that I couldn’t stay mad at him. He was so stinking cute, and he was right. We practiced the Biblical principal of not letting the sun go down on our anger. There is a free wisdom tidbit for you. it is important to the life of a relationship. Do not leave things unresolved.

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Today is a special day. I have felt the familiar ache in my heart and I have shed some tears because I miss my Eddie. But sorrow and grief will not define this special day. I have washed my face, brushed my teeth and put a little mascara on. I have called the florist and ordered flowers to be sent to the house. I will celebrate that fact that I have loved so deeply that I am still in love with one man. I am celebrating the fact that I have been fortunate enough to be loved and understood by a soul mate. I honor my husband today and I feel a touch of pride that I was Eddie the baker’s wife until death parted us. This is a joyous day.





This widow’s walk

9 01 2016

2016 might just be the year of the big breakthrough for this widow. There, I said it. Widow. I still don’t like to say it but I am gradually giving in to the  concept. I am not in denial of Ed’s passing. I know in the depth of my being that Ed is with his Savior in Heaven and he is not coming back!  I  wouldn’t  want him to.

I have been in denial of the fact that I am no longer married. It doesn’t seem quite fair that I have no say in the matter. I did not fall out of love. I was not cheated on or angry with or in any way mistreated by my husband. I was in love with Ed right up until his last breath. I am still in love with him.

We talked about some things pertaining to his imminent  passing away but none of our talking or thinking was about the fact that I would no longer be his wife. When Ed died, I became his widow. I hate that part. I could not reconcile it in my heart or in my mind. It has not been a graceful transition, to say the least. It felt all wrong to take my wedding band off and yet it felt like a lie to keep it on. Although, I did keep it on for a long time. I finally found a way that felt “okay” not to wear my wedding band on my hand. I found a necklace that allowed me to wear both our rings around my neck.

This has been my 5th birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year without my Ed. I am coming to terms with the fact that I am not married anymore. On New Years day, I did not put my necklace on. I have looked at it every day since and made a decision not to wear it today. I have tried this before and after a day or two have experienced such anxiety that I had to put it back on. It has been 9 days today without my commitment being worn around my neck. It is okay. I did not break my commitment. I fulfilled it.

I have said it before, grief is different in everyone. We each have to find our own path through the process. Sometimes we can follow a portion of the path that someone else has traveled. Most of the time we have to blaze our own trail. I can still weep with the thought of how much I miss my man. I am on the journey. One step, one day, and sometimes one hour at a time.

Last night, I had a small dinner party with 4 of my close friends. I cooked a pot of marinara sauce and meatballs like I used to do. As we sat around the table in my modest kitchen with full bellies, I took a moment to look around the table. Everyone was at peace and looked contented. Everyone there knew my Ed and were not self conscious to speak his name in a conversation. What really struck me was that we were all laughing, sharing food, stories and talk of movies. Fellowship. My home was alive with fellowship. Ah, but that is for another post.

 





Hello, I am Addiction

3 02 2014

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Maybe it would make a difference if addiction would just come right up to our face and introduce itself. Maybe if it should come right up and dope slap us in the head we would realize the imminent danger. Probably not though. Addiction is insidious. I had to look that word up when I first heard it. The definition is;  • treacherous; crafty , proceeding in a gradual, subtle way, but with harmful effects. 

The brain of an addict has no logic when it comes to getting high. Our brain says things like, you can do it just this once!; everyone else is carefree and having fun, why not you?; this time you will stop after two beers.; this time you will not chase the high, one hit will be enough to take the edge off; you have a high tolerance, you need more than the normal person. 

And, sadly, we end up thinking; how did I let this happen again?; it was not supposed to be this way.; it is always going to be like this, I don’t know why I even try.; I may as well have the ‘hair of the dog that bit me’.; I am always going to be a worthless loser.

We always have to keep our thinking in check. Always. We don’t ever get a vacation from doing an inventory of our thoughts. One slogan that I learned in AA has been a healthy reminder. It says, Stinkin thinkin leads to drinkin. Yeah, I like to misspell those words. It gets my attention every time. This slogan reminds me to take an inventory of myself daily. Once my spiritual and emotional conditions begin to decline, my sobriety is in danger. If I catch it early, it is easier to come to the God of my understanding and confess my ill thoughts and ask His help in getting back on track. Unfortunately, the longer stinkin thinkin goes unchecked the more difficult it is to recognize and it doesn’t take much more before I could be off and running in the wrong direction.

I went through a season after my husband died where I found my thoughts wishing I could enjoy a nice glass of red wine. Many of the people who were important in my life were able to drink in relative safety and enjoy themselves. I would see the pictures they posted on FaceBook about the fun they were having and the lovely get-togethers they were having that included wine or beer. They were thoughtful enough not to invite me because they knew I was clean and sober. While I appreciated their consideration, it also made me feel left out and a little sad that I could not unwind with a glass of wine too. I let that thinking go on for more than a little while. Mix those kind of thoughts with the fact that I had been grieving the loss of my soul-mate and that I have not been able to bring myself back to AA meetings and I had a lethal combo going on. Self pity began to creep in along with a desire to isolate. I reached out in a couple of ways to a select few but, honestly I did not have the energy to chase anyone down for help. Tears flowed for days. I tried to go to meetings and I saw my Eddie everywhere. It was destroying me! I would be sobbing all the way home. I finally decided to stop torturing myself and withdrew all together from meetings. To this day, I have not been back. But, I remember what I was when I came into AA and I remember the principles that saved my life thirty seven years ago.

Sometimes, it is God and God alone who can save. That has been the case for me. I have not shut Him out or withdrawn from Him. And he shined a spotlight on my thinking. He brought me back to sanity and He gave me the strength to walk away (in love) from the people who could not comprehend the danger I was in. I literally heard the Voice of my God say to me, You are not safe here anymore. You must walk away NOW. I will not keep you safe if you do not heed my warning. Those are probably not the exact words but that was the message that He spoke loud and clear into my innermost being. I was ruined. It was heartbreak upon heartbreak. As I write this, I can still feel the ache in my heart. And, somewhere under all the commotion in my soul, I heard the voice of my first AA sponsor say to me, “Constant vigilance is the price we pay for our sobriety.” My God gave me the strength to walk away. He gives me the strength every day to make the right decision regarding my sobriety. Without sobriety I have nothing.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman, I will not let your death be in vain. I admire the fact that you had 23 years of a clean and sober life. You have reminded me today how fragile and how precious is the gift of sobriety that we have been given. It is the unmerited favor of God that gives us this gift. Addiction is an insidious thief. Your fate could very easily have been mine, and it could yet be. Somehow, I think you would like us all to be mindful of that today. Your spirit will be missed.





A widow’s journey. Year 2.

15 09 2013

Photo 97yep< i am still wearing the rings. I just don’t see any point in removing them. I am not interested in a relationship because, well, I am still in love with my husband. I tried taking them off once and it felt weird. Plus, it didn’t make me think of Ed any less. So… they are a piece of me and they remain.

I am learning to trust my decisions more. This last year has been filled with some pretty tough ones.

I fired my family physician of twenty years! I have been uncomfortable with him and his office staff for a few years but I thought it was just me being particular. It wasn’t. Got a new doctor and I am much happier.

I left my church of 10 years. They have been an amazing family to me and it was one of the toughest decisions I have ever had to make. I still love the Rock church and it’s members. This whole seeker friendly thing has become a thorn in my side. I just can not reconcile myself to it. The best thing for me to do is get out of the way. I have prayed HARD about all of this and God has given me some clarity on my situation. My choice is not right for everyone. It is right for me. I am patiently waiting for God to put me where He wants to use me for His glory again. In the meanwhile, I am quite busy praying for those precious people God puts in my path in my marketplace. So many folks need prayer and encouragement right now. It is my honor to touch Heaven with requests on their behalf.

God is teaching me hard lessons. He has stripped away most of the people that I thought would be with me through thick and thin. Some of that stripping has been excruciatingly painful. I have mourned the losses that I do not comprehend. Sometimes, I ask myself if I have done something to offend or if I am being judged… but, through it all He has spoken to my heart over and over again. “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

He is teaching me that He alone is my source and He is well able to handle my every need. As I depend on Him for my support and even the breath I take some days, He puts people in my life. Not to depend on but to lean on. I am reminded that even Moses needed help from people. Life can be demanding and hard. It is okay to lean on people some times but… they better be the people that God has placed in my life for this purpose.  God knows exactly what I need.

God knows who needs me too. It is a challenge to stay alert and aware of who God is putting in my life and what I can do for them. Sometimes it is as simple as a smile. Amazing how many people need to be smiled at. Sometimes I am called upon to just listen. It is amazing how many people feel unheard. I have become very good at keeping things told me in confidence too. My secret is simple. I bring the matter to God right away, before it has time to take up residence in my mind and make me think it is MY problem to solve. Then, I walk away and most of the time, forget. I am not sure if that last step is a gift or just a very bad memory. LOL. Either way, it seems right.

I still weep when I stop to feel the longing in my heart for my Eddie. I am not generally a weepy person, so I fight this a lot. Wet face, runny nose, puffy eyes. These are not pretty things and I like things to be pretty. But, alas, these are some of the things that make up life. So, I dry, blow and apply make up, pull up my big girl panties and march on.

 





Trying to sort it all out.

16 04 2013

Last week an idea for a post came to me. I wrote a couple of sentences before I had to go out. Promising myself that I would get back to it the next day and that it would be brilliant and witty and fun to write. A few days later than planned, today, I tried to get back to it. It seems to be over shadowed by yesterday’s events as the Boston Marathon was bombed.

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My first thought was to make sure my Cousin Patricia was alright. She had just posted a picture of the marathon on her Face Book page. She has been a faithful spectator for years. Thankfully, she answered my text right away that she was a couple of miles away from the finish line when the bombs went off.

Although no one I know was injured yesterday, there is still a horrible sadness in my gut today. I grieve for the three families and their friends who lost a loved one at would should have been a happy celebration. It is incomprehensible that runners from all over the world started off the day with high hopes and all their extremities in tact only to end the day in surgery to amputate mutilated arms or legs. I can’t even believe that I typed those very words.

What kind of a mind can come up with such a diabolical and heinous idea? There is no pity in my heart for such a one. Just an honest passion to see them caught and brought to justice. What justice is there for this?

I have prayed for the victims of the bombing to become victors, some how. I am asking God to comfort people and to help us all recover from this horrid violation. I thank Him for the helpers who ran into the danger zone and held tourniquets and pushed wheel chairs and did any number of other mind numbing things that were necessary in order to rescue people. I ask God to help us focus on the fact that more people ran in to help their fellow human beings than the cowards who perpetrated this crime.

God help us to overcome evil with good. Thank you for the talented doctors and medical staff at some of the finest medical facilities in the world being located in Boston. Thank You for the miracles of medicine and the unexplainable miracles that came out of yesterday’s sorrow. Please heal broken hearts and shattered dreams as You continue to heal broken bodies.

I love Boston. My Mother was born in Brookline and I was raised in Massachusetts. I love the people of Boston. I still have family in Boston and surrounding towns. I have worked and lived in the Back Bay of Boston, walked the very streets on and around where the bombs went off. Bostonians don’t mince words and they don’t pretend to like you. You are either liked or not and you know it at the end of the day. In my Boston vernacular, I am pissed that some moron would think that he can get away with this. You obviously under rate the Boston PD and the citizens of Bean town.

Yes, I can pray and be pissed off at the same time. It is that kind of day!