Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, August 5, 2017

A Meat, Potatoes and Carrots Kind of Week



Bright and early Wednesday morning I had three guys walking around on top of my roof. The dog didn’t like it. I, on the other hand, was thrilled. They were up there to kill the mold that made the roof look old and worn out with black streaks in the valleys and other places the sun doesn’t like. It was a cheap process---$325. While they were up there they tarred down a shingle that was dislodged in a wind storm last spring and was flopping back and forth. I gave the company owner a $50 tip and told him in earshot of his young workers that I wanted him to take the guys out to lunch for fixing the shingle. Fifty dollars was a bargain compared to what it would have cost to have a roofer come out to fix it, if you could get one to come out for a single shingle. I was a happy camper.

That was the ‘potatoes’ in my week, now on to the ‘meat’---my first time mixing paint on a palette in over seventeen years. The instructor has a stand-alone, two story art studio that looks like a grown-up version of a miniature house for fairies in a forest. She’s a ten year widow and her second husband built it for her. How cool is that! Her lake side yard was private with massive trees and the weather was perfect so three of us sat out on her deck sketching for the first hour, then we changed to painting. The third person was one of my friends from the Gathering Girls. B.L. had not painted in a number of years either but she was bolder getting started and was the first to get her paints out while I was being a Nervous Nelly dragging my feet.

Did I enjoyed the class? The answer is yes and no. The ‘yes’ part was the setting was perfect for what we were doing, the company and conversation was good and I actually started thinking like an artist again. But B.L. and I both agreed afterward that the instructor is not going be a good teacher even though she has a degree from one of the most prestigious art school in the country. For example, she took the brushes out of our hands and painted on our works herself to demonstrate what she thought we should do---painted way too long, to be exact. "Show, NOT do for" was the motto I remember from the hallowed halls of good teaching. B.L. was more generous than me when she said, “Some people can do but not teach” while I thought the large display of her work hanging in the studio was all over the map---many excellent pieces but others not so much. From her online presence, I didn't expect that. And B.L. and I were both shocked when it was time to pay and we found out the price she quoted in an email was per hour, not per class. We decided we’d go back one more time---armed with questions and issues we think she can help us with---then we’ll find a nice way to back out gracefully from continuing the classes, and maybe try to get-together on our own to paint to keep us inspired. 

After the class was over I followed B.L. to a near-by small town in a farming community where we had a leisurely dinner and a serious conversation followed by ice cream sundaes. Everything is better with ice cream sundaes. A Celtic band had just started a free concert across the park from the ice cream shop, so off we went. B.L. jokes that she’s on the go so much she practically lives in her car and she produced two folding chairs from her ‘magical red box’ and we enjoyed most of the concert before I was yawning and we left. It had been a long day and Levi was glad to see me back home again. I hit the bed at 9:30 like a five year old and the next day I unpacked my car of its art supplies, discarded the painting I began in class and started another. And that fact, after all these years of not painting, made the class worthwhile. 

Friday was the carrots in my week. It was time for my monthly cleaning girl to show up. I haven’t written about her since the time I devoted an entire blog to her titled Babies and Broken Promises. She had given up a newborn baby girl to an open adoption and the adoptive parents---back then---were not holding up their end of the bargain of allowing a three hour visit every three months and she was distraught beyond comforting. According to my cleaner, it’s all been ironed out and visits are back on track, but get this: The adoptive parents are paying her to clean their house during the resumed visits. I honestly don’t know what to think about that. What I do know for sure is that I’m glad my problems are not the sort that keep my emotions spinning like pinwheels in the winds. “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” Yup, there are always people out there dealing with weighty issues worse than our own. ©

After Treatment

Before Mold Removed

40 comments:

  1. Sounds like you have everything under control. Setting sounds nice for painting class, but too bad the teacher isn't better. Yes, just as with your painting teacher, we had that in writing group, too, where we had to remind some during critiques/comments we don't rewrite for the person. Roof looks good now. Glad your group getting set up for activities. Fitting bras on others wouldn't be my first choice as a way to make a living, any more than performing those X-rays screening for cancer all day long.

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    1. Critiquing and being critiqued can be difficult (and scary) for both parties, can't it. Some people are so tactful about what they say and can be helpful, some love EVERYTHING which isn't so helpful except for building our egos and others seem to enjoy the opportunity to devalue other people's work and you wonder if it's personal, not about the work. This woman was encouraging and seems to like the phrase, "There are no mistakes, just opportunities." The best art professor I had would ask questions first before commenting/critiquing like, "Did you mean for this part to be.....?" "Why did you pick this subject matter?" "What do you think about adding...." And I never had anyone instructor touch a brush to my painting. If they wanted to show a technique it was done on a practice canvas or paper.

      Note to anyone who is reading Joared's comment about bras and wondering why she made it: She's commenting on my last blog entry, not this one. Not a job I would want either, Joared. LOL

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    2. Oh, am I laughing about my injecting bras into this post from my reading of your previous one. Didn't realize I did that -- whatever was I thinking -- obviously I wasn't! Must have left you thinking -- she's finally flipped out!

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    3. It took me a minute to figure it out. LOL

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  2. I would not take kindly to someone adding their "thoughts" to my painting either. Isn't painting a picture kind of a personal thing, with one's own emotions on the design and canvas? Pooh on her!!!
    Glad you got the mold off the roof--that green stuff can eat through shingles and then you'd have the costly job of replacement.
    The life of your cleaning lady breaks my heart!

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    1. Ya, you want to feel like when you finish any creative works---like your cross-stitch---that's it's YOURS.

      My mold wasn't the green kind but either green or black can work its way under the shingles and speed up the roof's demise.

      My cleaning girl is in her mid twenties and has been through more crap than most people go through in a life-time. She works a lot of hours and is doing classes online, trying to move into a better job. It's pretty hard to shake an abusive childhood, but she so deserves a break. I'm just not sure she'll get it. It is heart-breaking.

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  3. Good job done re roof (stick in time...).

    I don't like the sound of the painting instructor - hate that kind of misleading charge quote, and agree that definitely not touch another's painting.

    I puzzled over that paragraph: "..The adoptive parents are paying her to clean their house during the resumed visits..." I read that and thought how nice, so she visits her baby, and also gets paid as it were for the house cleaning job. From your description I understood it WASN'T nice of the adoptive parents and thought perhaps its because the baby gets to see the mother in a "maid" situation. Sorry, still puzzling around that. Apologies for my denseness. Help, please.

    Some people do have it tough from the very beginning, don't they. It gets me down when I read of stories like that. Then think of "Schindler's List" where the Jews who reached the US never went on the dole, but worked hard to set up their business, and the one guy who set up shop on the most expensive shopping street in Beverley Hills. After all the torture, etc etc - they survived. I found that uplifting. ~ Libby

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    1. I wish I could help figure out the what you are puzzling over. I have the same trouble understanding. Are the adoptive parents being nice and paying her to clean is an excuse to help her out OR are the adoptive parents trying to create an imagine in the daughter's eyes that my cleaner is just a person who comes to clean their house, nothing more? The daughter is a toddler now. I didn't want to ask her any questions because she's going to a counselor who is helping her deal with this and other things, so she has a professional to talk with that she didn't have back when I wrote that first blog entry. I guess if introducing a birth mother as a house cleaner makes the adoptive parent feel less threaten then I get it. The birth father is in the picture as well and goes, too.

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  4. That did seem like a good price for the roof cleaning and I do the same thing--pay extra if I am pleased.
    I hope you find an instructor more to your liking. Loved your friend's version of the old saying "Those that can't do, teach." Sure fit.

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    1. The same company cleaned my gutters in the spring for almost half what I've paid other companies in the past. I have found someone I will stick with this time.

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  5. Great results on the roof! We finally got a metal roof so only had to get it washed every couple of years. I don't like the sound of the "teacher" either. Especially as I consider art so personal! Sheesh.

    That poor young girl. Although you are just hearing her side of things, but still. She definitely should NOT be cleaning their house ... and she should speak up for THAT very reason ... that it portrays her in a bad light. Good for her for the counseling! And hooray for the Dad showing up!

    I just joined my Adult Center so hope to find some interesting things to do!



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    1. Good for you on joining the Center. Hope it gives you even half the choices I get here. Ours is rare, even within the same city/county.

      The birth father and mom have been together since young teens and he's more messed up than her. They've always been on the same page about the daughter being better off with other parents. Just very sad all the way around and it isn't going to get any better with time, I fear.

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  6. Not sure I could keep a civil tongue in my mouth if someone took a brush to any painting of mine, no matter how it was coming along. Examples can be painted on something else.
    Your roof does look considerably better. I hope the work extends the life of the shingles.
    Sigh ... Your poor cleaning woman. Such a sad story.

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    1. She was just demonstrating brush strokes and they could easily been done on a scrap of paper.

      That's the hope on the shingles.

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  7. I guess I just don't understand the whole situation with your cleaning woman. I think it's horrible that they will only let her see her child while she is cleaning their house. Surely a judge would see this as taking advantage of the woman. If she saw the child outside their house, she could take the child to a park or to a movie or just to her own house to have a little one-on-one with the child and would be able to be a person rather than the maid. I get it that she is desperate to have a relationship with the child, but I would have resorted to the courts before I agreed to this kind of situation. Does the biological father have to clean the house, too? Is the woman even getting paid for her work? Does she clean for an hour and a half and then get an equal amount of time to interact with the child? Will the child be told that the maid is the biological mother? I guess I feel that the woman is being taken advantage of... and it makes me mad.

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    1. The first year visits went well. The birth parents even went to her first birthday party. By the second they weren't included. The adoptive mom got pregnant and after she had her own daughter, then things started changing and the adoptive parents kept coming up with excuses not to let the B.P. come for their scheduled visits. (I wrote about it in the blog I linked to this one.) I wanted to know too didn't ask about what the B.F. does while B.M. is cleaning. I do know they have office clients they clean for as a team. The whole thing grabs your heart, doesn't it. Someone commented on that other blog who as an adoptive mother and gave some good insight into what could have been going on from that point of view.

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  8. It's great that you're painting again, even if it took a not-very-good class to kick-start the process. -Jean

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    1. Yup, I never would have done it if I hadn't for the class opportunity and I'm going to start scheduling a day a week to paint until it's a habit I can't break.

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  9. I just heard a home improvement show this morning that was delving into roofs and how to care for them, and from what they said, you made the right decision to get the cleaning done. Apparently it does extend the life of the roof. All good!

    I'm glad you "broke the ice," so to speak, with the painting. Your experience with the instructor falls into what I call priming the pump. A few fits and starts, and a little trickle, and then you're pumping real water (or real art, if you will). It'll be fun to see how things develop for you.

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    1. That's nice to hear about the what was said on the home improvement show. It was a hard decision.

      Priming the pump is an excellent way to describe this and the next class. That's just what it felt like.

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  10. I think you did good on the roofing price and getting the shingle fixed too that is a lot better than calling a roofer later on.

    I'm happy you are getting your paints out again, and agree that you and B.L. will do better by finding a different instructor, you need to have faith in the person teaching you and you will never have that with this one, no matter how much you like her.

    Yes everything is better with ice cream sundaes or just ice cream for that matter and after a long day coming home to find Levi happy to see you, you can't go wrong there.

    I hate to hear about your cleaning girls situation,the emotions there are overwhelming I know, but at least the promises are being kept now...somewhat.

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    1. I LOVE ice cream and B.L. and I are evenly matched in that department. LOL

      My cleaning girl is such a tiny thing...probably doesn't weigh a 100 pounds and it's hard seeing anyone go through situations like this, especially someone who hardly looks more than a child herself.

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  11. Your cleaning lady has a sad situation. When her child gets a bit older it will become even more complicated. Good that she's getting counseling because that kind of support rarely comes from friends and family no matter how well-intentioned they may be.

    I've always thought it rude to grab someone's brush and start mark making on their canvas, but I've seen a lot of it. Most teachers ask first though. If you can get together with your friend on a regular basis, that will go a long way to keep you painting.

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    1. That's why I didn't ask questions or make comments this time when the cleaning girl was talking about her situation...she already has people pulling on her this way or that. I've changed my opinion of open adoptions since knowing her, though.

      I think I'm going to suggest to the senior hall director that she adds an open painting time. They have time slots for wood carving and handcrafts with no instructor, I think it could work for painting as well. I will be ready next time someone wants to show me something painting wise and be able to produce something other than my canvas to do it on.

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  12. As I mentioned before, we got our roof cleaned a few years ago, and I thought it was worth the money. It looked so much better, and as others have said here, it extends the life of the roof. I hated those dark streaks.

    Even though the instructor may not be the right fit, I'm gad to hear that you've picked up the paint brushes again, and even happier that a friend joined you. Win/win.

    What a sad situation your maid must live with.

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    1. I hated those black streaks, too. They actually made me anxious worrying about my roof and who to hire to replace it. Now I can look at it with binoculars and see the shingles are not curling up the way they do when they need replacing. The whole house looks better.

      I am going to paint all afternoon today. Hey!

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  13. A very worthwhile week, especially when it got you painting again! It is lonely for me to draw and paint alone. But not lonely to write alone. That teacher's a bit of a control freak, eh? She may adore getting all your questions and be totally clueless when you thank her and bow out.
    My jaw dropped when I learned your house cleaner is cleaning her adopted child's home during her lawful visits. How utterly humiliating and cruel of the adoptive parents. Even if she offered to, and they consented for charitable reasons, it is not charitable in the least!!! I want to knock some sense into the adoptive parents heads.

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    1. Isn't that curious that painting alone is different than writing alone. I could never ever attempt to write with on-the-fly critiquing but I've had no issues with doing it with art work.

      You had the same jaw dropping reaction I did. The B.P. are kids living on very limited income and maybe the D.P. think they are helping them with gas money because they do live several counties over. But it just seems wrong. I didn't pick up any feelings dissatisfied with the arrangement so I didn't want to put that notion in her head by asking any questions. But I sure wanted to.

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    2. Some of my best experiences of community are a bunch of artists focusing on rendering what they see in front of them. If I could beam you over to draw and paint together, I would.

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  14. A wonderful way to end the week, a repaired roof free from mold and a nice generosity toward the workers indeed. Warm greetings to you.

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    1. Thank you and warm greetings back to you across the pond. Love the tone and tenor of your blog.

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  15. I love that you are painting again! Yay! And disappointing about your teacher, but you and your pal are on the right track to learn what you can and move on.

    Roof looks great!

    And the adoption story....as I said when you wrote before about this gal and her story, I am adoptive mom in an open adoption too. We've had a positive experience yet there are so many nuances to everyone's story. I don't like the sound of the parents having her clean their house...I have an immediate 'they are using her' judgment and the truth might be that they think they are helping her by hiring her. I don't think that is cruel as another reader said. Who knows what she has said to them about her financial situation and they might truly being trying to help. What I DON'T agree with is that she goes to their home for visits and that it turns into a workplace. There are appear to be ongoing boundary issues in this relationship and communication issues as well. I'd suggest meetings in a park or something where she can play with the child for a couple of hours and then they all leave separately. But everyone does things differently. They may need to find a mediator to work all this out. Hard feelings are not good for anyone -- and eventually it's the kids who are hurt.

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    1. She doesn't seem stressed about cleaning while she's there for the visitation. She seems more upset that the couple's other child wants too much attention while she's there. The child given up for adoption is around three, I think.

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  16. I just read some of the earlier comments.....boy I don't mean to sound defensive here and I don't know the real story any better than anyone else does who's commenting here, but as an adoptive mom I'm feeling a bit defensive. I understand the outpouring of support and sympathy for the birthparents expressed; I feel it too and sincerely hope all is above board here. I know how hard it is for a birth mom to grieve the loss of being a parent to her child -- I've seen it up close. But without any idea of the situation and how it was set up legally and who was involved and who might be available to them for counseling or just mediating, I strongly caution against casting all the aspersions on the adoptive parents. Whatever is going on, the truth is, the birthparents relinquished parental rights and the adoptive parents are the PARENTS now. Is the child a baby? I forget the age of the child...but it's also true that at differing ages and stages kids respond differently. I know my #1 priority was how visits might impact my child and my expectation was that all the adults just had to handle their own feelings. If it meant calling a halt for awhile, so be it. We did not allow our young children to be with their BP's alone --not because we didn't trust them but because WE ARE THE PARENTS our children knew; they counted on our presence to feel safe and comfortable. They still had fun. We encouraged them to interact together. They saw their birthparents as "extended family" and always knew they were the birthparents -- we explained it all starting when they were about 2 years old and continued to explain it as they grew in understanding. Still, at the end of the visits, no matter their ages, they just wanted to go home -- with us. That's as it should be.

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    1. The child is around three, I think. Thanks for adding your experienced opinion to the mix and, of course, you are right that these kids did give up the baby with only that one string for visitations attached. The adoptive parents do have the right to look out for their child, physically and emotionally. My cleaning girl and I had not talked about the situation in between this blog and the one I wrote earlier. I could see trust being an issue on the adoptive parent's part. I'm glad my cleaning girl is working with a counselor, who, she said, has been working with her off and on since she was an abused child and she says it's helping.

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    2. I think the key to open adoption is working through a skilled and experienced agency with counselors who will counsel everyone about the realities of this decision on both sides. Birth parents need to understand they are no longer parents and they need to let go of the fantasy that they still are..adoptive parents need to honor any commitments they make unless the child is hurt by them in any way (and not just that the adoptive parent feels sad or resentful or whatever; gotta deal with that and set it aside). I had a rough go of it at first with visits, but what really helped was the birth families constant thanks and gratitude for our role -- they had great boundaries around who the parents were and in turn we could be generous and loving toward them by encouraging time with the kids. Now all of this said, we didn't even start visits until our sons were 5 years old...prior to that it was all letters and photos. And we live 300 miles away from the birth families of our sons, so visits were by necessity sporadic. All of this was over 30 years ago...things have loosened up considerably now and I don't think that's necessarily a good thing. Too often the birth families and adoptive families are left to figure it all out on their own after the initial few months (if it's though an agency; I would NEVER try to navigate this through private adoption where the lawyers do the legal stuff but the emotional/relationship part is left untended.) When visits start early and are frequent my feeling is the birth parents never really move on in their role in the triad and adoptive families take forever to feel a sense of entitlement and security as a new parent. Believe me, adoptive parents do not forget for one minute that this child came to them through the generosity of another. I've heard of visits where the birth mom criticized and questioned everything the adoptive mom did! Anyway, I guess I have some passion around this and I hope maybe your readers will learn that open adoption is a beautiful thing...fraught with "issues" if people aren't getting the support they need. One other thing....you mention your cleaning girl had a rough past. Often the birth mom is very needy and looks to the adoptive parents as a "parent" for her as well. This happened a little bit to us and we had to draw a firm boundary there. Often the emotional demands can be overwhelming. So...yes. Complicated, but ultimately it's about the child growing up knowing their birth story, feeling secure in the knowledge that everyone loves him/her, and there are no secrets, no fantasies about who the birthparents might be "out there". My sons are grateful to know their birthmothers and have a distant but fond relationship with them. That's the ending we all wanted -- it's for THE KIDS not for the adults. I worked in foster care for many years -- if more people put kids first, my job would have been unnecessary. End of lecture -- again. :)

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    3. Gosh, that not starting visitations until the child is five years old---just letters and photos in the early years---makes so much sense to me!

      This whole thing just confirms what I've always believed...that no matter your choice, if you give a baby up or have an abortion, the rest of your life is going to be filled with what-ifs if you don't deal with the emotional side of it early on with professional help. I know a woman who should have done one or the other but she kept a child she didn't want and who she abused mentally and physically until that child ended up killing himself. It's a complicated world! I'm glad you and your sons are so close. It sounds like it was a win-win for everyone involved but not without hard work and compassion.

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  17. I love the idea of you and your Girl friend getting together and painting just for the joy of it. If you want a lesson or two now and then, find another person--did you check at a local high school? I bet an art teacher there would be happy to hire out at an hourly rate and give lessons on his/her own time. Many at our high school do.

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  18. The director of our senior hall has connections with the local high schools and has tried to find a person to teach painting at the center without luck. We have access to some good quality art classes at two colleges in town but neither of us want to drive downtown nor do I feel ready for those. But the instructor we had last week did give us an idea. She belongs to a group of people who get together just to paint...no instructor, no class. We might work on that idea.

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