I’m lost in my thoughts, sorting tiny pieces of metal type, cleaning the typecases, as sunlight brightens the room from the three walls of windows that filter it into it as I work.

Blessed. That’s how I’m feeling. Surrounded by antique type, printing presses and cabinets, I’m in my happy place, dreaming of the poetry, creative typography, and other items I’d print in this room. Imagining artist friends, old and new, also working in the space, as our creative spirits feed each other.

My mind drifts to conversations, recent events. Mercury and Jupiter in retrograde and I seem immune. But others in the family haven’t been so lucky. Challenges posed by one thing after another keep coming, some more serious than other. They weigh on my mind as each new issue flows through my thoughts like heavy clouds.

From one side of the family, Steve was managing an upset with one of his grown children who seemed to be having a bit of an emotional breakdown on a sad journey. An offer to come help with a project the following day led to an angry response that his help was needed “now” and a meltdown of personal attacks that were more of a cry of someone feeling like their world was out of control and the lashing out was a sign of despair.

Like the virus that has been plaguing the globe, the anger spread, inflicted on siblings. And then it continued to spread. Swirling from one family member to another, feeding on insecurities and bottled up pain.

But it didn’t end there. Like the virus that has been plaguing the globe, the anger spread, inflicted on siblings. And then it continued to spread. Swirling from one family member to another, feeding on insecurities and bottled up pain. Another who had not yet been vaccinated, flatly refusing to be, siting some Q-Anon type conspiracy misinformation, texted another to “mind his own damn business.”

The storm

All of these things were swirling through my head as I quietly sorted type and cleaned the cases in the studio. A dangerous thunderstorm had hit just last Tuesday afternoon… It came up so fast and I had an impending sense of urgency so I went out and told Steve he needed to send our teenage helper home, having just gotten his license. The helper had left barely 5 minutes and the storm came up too fast. Rain blew horizontally, swirling around corners, winds whipping the trees large and small like a forest of rag dolls. The world looked like layers of grey, accented by the whips of rain-soaked brushes between the fields and forests.

I took a short video as the rains and winds came across the fields and slammed the world around me. But I took cover when it came across the upper covered deck sideways. The time stamp on the video was 1:49 pm. And then it was over.

A video of the storm just as it started, trees whipped around violently as the rain slashed across sideways. It was over in ten minutes.

At 1:59 pm, the time stamp on the first photos I took, we saw the destruction. A huge box elder tree with a gaping yawning mouth lined in red where the smaller trunk split from the main one, had fallen across our fence on the east side, and much of it also landed alongside the house, missing a newly installed exterior lamp post by inches – and the house – by only a few feet.

On the west side, a huge maple on the neighbor’s side of the fence had lost a major limb hit by lightning with many extending branches landed across that fence. It also missed the shop windows by only inches. I’d seen the lightning flash and had immediately begun to count. But I didn’t get to “1” before the thunderous crash. Now we knew what it was based on the blackened trunk where the large limb had been severed and veins of burnt bark ran up the tree trunk.

In the backyard, several trees, already weakened from the water that formed a pond whenever it rained, had been blown over, propped up by neighboring trees. Branches and debris were all over, leaves plastered to the house, cottonwood leaves and branches from a tree in the far backyard were found in the front yard.

And yet, as I looked at it all, and as Steve and I walked through the mess, figuring out what we needed to do to keep the dogs safe until the fence could be repaired, once the trees were removed… I felt blessed.

And yet, as I looked at it all, and as Steve and I walked through the mess, figuring out what we needed to do to keep the dogs safe until the fence could be repaired, once the trees were removed… I felt blessed.

It could have been so much worse. The one tree could have hit the house, it certainly could have reached it if blown in a slightly more northerly direction. The maple could have hit the shop more directly, smashing windows and poking holes into the letterpress studio holding our precious type and printing presses. But none of that had happened. I felt like we were in a protected bubble that had kept us and our home safe.

Now we wait for the tree guys to come in the next week or two to cut and clear the downed trees. Another blessing. I told Steve that he should not have to deal with this giant mess. That we had the funds to cover it. I’d spoken to our insurance advisor who told me what the break-even point was for filing a claim, or not. Based on that information we decided to cover it ourselves. Now we wait. And it doesn’t bother me at all. The broken limbs and leaves all around my view are a real reminder of how well we’d faired. We didn’t lose power – at least not long enough for the generator to even kick on.

Meditating on anger

As I rearranged some of the funny advertising cuts, illustrations, and halftones in the cases – ones I’d like to play with in my own art vs. ones I’d likely never use – other thoughts went rolling through my hive mind. Anger and stress, depression and flaring tempers have been fed by more than divorce and is fed as much by the pain of pandemic politics and fear for the health of those we love. Yet, how could someone send a text to their grown offspring saying “your stuff is on the porch, taco dinners at 6, don’t bother showing up.” There is so much to dissect from this statement, especially within the already divisive pain caused by misinformation about the veracity and threat of COVID19.

My mind went to how one handles anger, revenge and spite. Maybe it’s because I’ve matured. Or maybe I’ve found that responding in anger or spite is a no-win game. There is nothing to be gained by it. Have I gotten angry, lost my temper? Yes. And it wasn’t something that served me. I didn’t feel better about it. Just the opposite. I felt awful. It didn’t bring me peace. It took a lot of painful work to try and heal the rifts it caused.

I’ve been wronged terribly and in very painful and even expensive ways. Yet I see no point in being spiteful, or seeking revenge. …Each person’s spirit will face their own path, their own hard lessons.

And it’s been awhile. I’ve been wronged terribly and in very painful and even expensive ways. Yet I see no point in being spiteful, or seeking revenge. I believe that each person’s spirit will face their own path, their own hard lessons. All I can do is attempt to do my part to support growth, not harm. And to separate myself from those who only offer selfish toxicity rather than love.

As I gathered the metal type borders to move to their new location in another typecase, I tried to also gather my thoughts on how someone could so intentionally hurt a person they loved. I couldn’t do that. As angry as I might be with someone who I thought had hurt me through their actions or words, if we had love between us, I couldn’t hurt them back.

I’ve since learned to try and listen – and think – about what and why they were saying and doing what they were. Was I missing something? Were they also hurt? Were they trying to help me with something? Perhaps I needed to understand more from their perspective and not just be caught up with my own hurt feelings and ego. This is how my brain works these days. I live by the Four Agreements (Don Miguel Ruiz) and it has been instrumental in how I’ve addressed conflicts for many years.

A story from before times

It wasn’t always that way. I remember a time not long after we were first married that my dear first husband Keith had done something to upset me. I don’t even remember what it was. But I was really upset as I washed a glass Pyrex lasagna pan in the sink. He kept at it, picking at the wound that I felt was being inflicted. I held the pan up as if I was going to smash it against the edge of the sink and stopped. I didn’t want the glass to hit him. I didn’t want to hurt him. I just wanted him to know how upset I was. I looked down and saw the rag rug I was standing on and, with both hands, I threw the pan down flat onto it hard.

The glass flew off in all directions and I stood there dumbfounded. I’d forgotten it was a concrete floor underneath the rug at my feet. Keith was shocked as well. But he quick regained his composure, taking me by the elbow and walking me into the living room to sit on the sofa. “I’ll clean this up,” I remember him saying. And he did, as I sat there with tears streaming down my cheeks. I’d ruined a perfectly good lasagna pan, and now there was glass everywhere, even three feet up in the pots of the hanging houseplants in front of the far window of the kitchen.

Keith knew how to push my buttons. There was a bit of a cruel streak in him. But I soon learned that I could push back. That he loved me. I just needed to not push with cruelty but with love. And sometimes he just needed space. It took many years for us to find balance. And it seemed like we were just starting to really find our groove after nearly 30 years of marriage.

He’d learned that bravado and machismo can have consequences for the one you love and I paid the price.

He cared for me when I broke my back and wrist. Guilt played a role. He’d learned that bravado and machismo can have consequences for the one you love and I paid the price.

He was so proud of me when I was accepted into the doctoral program. “My wife’s gonna be Doctor Fulmer,” he’d tell everyone.

We danced at our oldest daughter’s wedding, and I knew dancing was not something he liked to do. Yet he did it. For me. And for our daughter. I will forever treasure that moment, captured in a photo, where we were looking into each other’s eyes and saying “How did we get here?” How did we get old enough to have a married daughter? We did well!

All the heartaches of the past had been just bumps in the road on the way to our next chapter in life as true empty nesters. Just one more year to get the youngest graduated from college and we were on our own again. Blessings were upon us, for sure. And then… and then…

Worry when life’s good

Is it no wonder that I now look at Steve with worry and occasional bouts of melancholy, worried that our time together will be unexpectedly brief? I worry for his health. I worry for his strength. I hear him say such and such an activity “takes the life out of ya” and I think – “not too soon, I hope.” Sometimes I think we’re on borrowed time. Perhaps it’s the blessings I feel, their abundance and good fortune. I worry that, like those days over ten years ago, that within a year or two it’ll all be crushed and my heart will be broken once again.

And in a most prescient way, I feel it, that doom. And I try and chase it away. Thankful of the sounds of the antique riding lawnmower he drives by my studio as I continue my sorting. He smiles in a cheerful shy way as if to say “I’m just having fun with my old toys.” And I smile back at him, not wanting to ruin his fun by mentioning the exhaust that pulls into my studio from the fans I have running. So I go and open a few extra windows to help air it out.

It is also the silence that brings me a feeling of dread. A feeling that I have imagined my life with him, and that I am actually living alone in this giant house. It’s a feeling that I must be out of my mind for having imagined this whole life with this sweet man who brought me love when I needed it most. Together we healed each other and I wonder sometimes if my sanity is undermined and that I have dreamed it all up.

Sometimes I think we’re on borrowed time. … I worry that, like those days over ten years ago, that within a year or two it’ll all be crushed and my heart will be broken once again.

And then he smiles and gives me a hug. And I wonder… if this is my reality, who am I to question it. I just cannot wrap my head around inflicting pain on those you love. There’s enough pain in the world… and in life… already. Count your blessings, spread love, not pain.

I go back to my typecases and admire the mix of order and disorder. There are stories here, yet to be uncovered.


Revised from a diary entry dated July 3, 2021.

Warning: This post includes a reference to my own political views. If any criticism of the recently removed occupant of the White House, aka #45, will upset you, please go elsewhere for your reading. That is, unless you are truly interested in learning about the pain this has caused within families and would like to try and heal that rift. Thank you. – MJF

I often wonder how our conversations would have gone if my Dad were here to have seen how the past 10 months have panned out. We had come to agree not to speak politics, especially at the dinner table. I still remember the day more than four years ago when he asked me why I was screaming when he kept dismissing my concerns about then candidate tRump. I told Dad it was because he terrified me. I could feel the evil he, tRump, was projecting, the cold heartless disregard for others, the narcissistic boasting of lies that his speech pattern revealed, unable to string together a coherent thought while weaving in complete and utter nonsense soaked up by his base who somehow thought being tough meant beating up the opposition. All critical thinking having been abdicated in exchange for a toxic masculinity in what became the cult of the schoolyard bully of tRump.

Mom and Dad in happier healthier times. Summer 2010 visiting the Detroit Zoo as part of a family celebration of their 50th Anniversary.

I remember tearfully and loudly exclaiming how could Dad even consider following him after the toxic expressions of anti-semitism, the admiration of dictators and despots, the complete disregard for human decency and process. My dad dismissively waived off my concerns saying it was just his candidate being boastful, that it would never get that bad. And maybe, I hoped do, too. That the checks and balances of government, and that the fourth estate would be enough. But then came COVID19. And he became so adept at the flippant lies that the cultish base he dog-whistled to had finally been fully brainwashed. And the evil we saw spread in its rabid attack on democracy had reached its peak.

Dad passed away May 1st, 2020 after a brief and ugly battle with cancer, and full of the awful indignities that go with it. And I did my daughterly duties and cared for him, cleaning him up, feeding and bathing him when his body turned against him. As his body began to degrade around him, I remember Dad asking me “What happens after you die?” And it crushed me. Raised Jewish, there is no hell or purgatory. But there is guilt. I chose not to add to his pain. Instead, I asked him questions that were meant to help him reflect and guide him to his own conclusions. He was in a room filled with books that explored this very thing…my mother, who had passed away nearly four years earlier, was a voracious reader of all things spiritual. Yet he had never picked up a single one of these books except to place them on the shelf. So, after a few bits of back and forth that didn’t seem to satisfy him, I simply responded “You’ll be with mom once again.”

The writer of the article linked below is hoping to find his lost (to the cult of tRump) parents long before they die. I hope he is successful.

https://qr.ae/pNlwHD

Since you left us…

Photos of me and Keith, on the left by Flint Journal reporter in early 2000s;
on the right in 2011 at daughter’s wedding.

It’s been 8 years since you left us, 8 years since you departed this earth. It’s been 8 years since my heart broke so hard I never thought I could recover, and 8 years since feeling the pain of saying goodbye begin to fade, and 8 years of learning to love and grow and embrace love once again. 

Keith, it’s been 8 years since I promised to go on, to keep this dream space that sometimes brought with it nightmares of cruelty by outside forces, and 8 years that I look back and see how much it has changed due to that tenacious hold on the dream.

It’s been 8 years since the sharp pain of your departure, Keith, and of my growing recognition of the many blessings that followed. It’s been 8 years since I promised to complete my educational goals, and 8 years of learning that, with the support of loved ones, family and friends, I must believe that I will always end up where I am most needed as long as I don’t give up. 

It’s been 8 years since our small family grew even smaller, and 8 years of watching it grow exponentially, even as old ones have left us, and young ones have been born to us. It’s been 8 years since you departed only 54 years young, and 8 years older that I have become. 

It’s been 8 years of knowing that you are never far from me in spirit, because when I call out I am embraced by a feeling of deep love and support. And it’s been 8 years of wisdom I’ve gained since you left this earth, knowing that life is fleeting, and it is best to celebrate each morning as I wake to live another day, and each evening as I lay my head upon the pillow knowing I am surrounded by love in both spirit and earthly worlds. 

———————————————————————-

[Dear Reader – I know it’s been awhile since I wrote. Thank you for your patience. During this past year, I started a temporary new role at the college which has kept me very busy. This was made even more so by the pandemic which shut us down for in-person classes in March. And the year in this new role was also deeply challenged by the loss of my colleague, supervisor, mentor from cancer. • To top it off, my 81-yr-old dad who was living with me also passed away from pancreatic cancer. Although in his case it was mercifully quick, it was so very heartbreaking to see him go through it as I tried my best to support him. Family also made a difference, being there for his last week as we prepared our goodbyes. • So now, as things begin to stabilize, I find myself awakened on this 8th anniversary of another deep loss, and I count my blessings even as the world is in turmoil around me. – mjf]

Friday, 7/27/18

Woke up at 4:52 am to a blazing light shining upon me. It was a huge full moon low on the horizon so that its light reached inside my bedroom. I smiled and said Happy 60th Birthday, Keith! We miss you here on this life’s plane. Hope you’re enjoying all our shenanigans from your view on the other side. ❤️

Keith taking his solo pilot flight test, upstate NY. Instructor decided we should all go to dinner in Keene, NH.

Postscript: When I awoke later in the morning daylight, I looked out the window and saw the trees and wondered how I could have seen the moon so clearly earlier. And yet, there it had been! When he passed, it was a huge blue moon (a second full moon in the month) and I always associate the strong light of the full moon as his embrace from beyond.

Traveling has a way of creating magic and expanding our vision here and beyond.

Threads of energy and connection

On a steamy hot July 4th, we floated in the waters of Sacandaga Lake in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. Disembodied heads peeked above the waters – me, Steve, Larry, Jean, John, Patty, Brian plus other old friends. As the waters sparkled in the sunlight, my vision shifted, seeing tendrils, threads connecting each of us, our heads, 7th chakras, energy paths from one to another, and then above. It was surreal and yet very real… I shook my head several times to try and dispel the vision, yet it persisted. The vision began to fade so I sketched it quickly in order to bring it back to further enhance in art.

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My quick sketch of the vision I had looking at my friends bobbing in the waters of Sacandaga Lake, Adirondack Mountains, upstate New York, July 4, 2018. 

Conversations while in the water, heads bobbing, voices laughing, planning, life beyond work, the family by heart and blood, community of friends planning to care for each other in a life of continued adventures, but recognizing the pains of aging… Plans began for those couples without children, then those who did have children who would not be willing/able to care for aging parents… Duties were assigned: John P as our travel planner, Jean our financial/taxes person, Larry our sommelier and meal planner, me and Brian on branding development and space design, Steve our inventor and fixer-upper…should Michael join us he would be our gardener… Patty would pave the way into retirement. We could move between locations to allow time at each place and take advantage of weather… Several months in Michigan, travel to Europe, possibly a month in Fiji in April… where else?

Aging into new adventures means making the most of life with family by blood and family by heart.

Shifting to sooner plans, travel to Newfoundland, Canada, Kelly’s home country. When could we all visit, and how? Have passports, will travel.

The view from here

As we wandered the countryside, our views throughout our week were stunning… New York Adirondacks, Vermont hills, Middlebury, countryside antique shops, farmlands… peaceful, tranquil, even energizing… Saratoga, revisiting old memories.

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A roadside antique shop in the Adirondacks.

We were watching fireworks from the baseball field across from Larry and Jean’s… the same field with the same chain link fence at home base where Keith and I hung out together with Michael, Larry, Brian and others. Standing there… Steven, Larry, Brian, Jean, me… surreal… forward, back…time seemed to cross oceans, decades, and reconnect…creating new connections. It felt powerful.

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Watching fireworks in the park with friends.

Revisiting a new friend in person

I finally caught up with Nan O’Brien-Webb in New Haven, VT. Steve was filled with trepidation; it brought up feelings of a past bad encounter with a marriage counselor. Not what I intended at all. It was exploratory for me just to see what was up with Nan’s workshops. And it was very emotional for her, too, to meet her former best friend’s wife after finding his obituary.

I no longer feel the need to have an intermediary. I see/feel connections to the spirits feeling their messages when it is important, seeing signs and recognizing them for what they are most of the time. I recognize that I have become my own intuit. Still, it was interesting to discover how others with longer experience work with this…this gift.

I sent Nan a photo of Steven with the shadow of another we saw as a hint of Keith hovering over Steve after he’d gotten the great sanding machine running back in May 2013. But then, as I scrolled through the photos, I also came across another photo that I’d taken but had ignored for my aesthetic preference of another. The non-filtered photo, however, had a clear message, one that I’d completely missed before. Taken the same day as the one with the shadow of Keith… this one showed a large “K” made from the shape of the stairs leading up to the loft.

To Nan, I wrote:

… I could feel the emotion in the room, the healing that was being accomplished, even as the doors cracked open a bit to understanding of the different lives we lead in physical and spiritual form. You’ve certainly helped me to better articulate what I always felt to be true.

…Funny thing… as I went to look for [the photo I promised], I discovered a second one – taken the same day – that had a message I’d completely missed.

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Keith oversees a sewer connection we’d been trying to get at Perry Road, only about 5-6 weeks before he passed. So I’m guessing this picture was taken around mid July 2012.

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Large flat-belted gears drive a giant 4-drum oscillating sander that Keith had  fallen in love with in the large  woodworking shop on the property at Perry Road. When he tried to get it started, the belts fell off only a few seconds after it began to run. This photo was taken in May 2013 when Steven came into my life. He too fell in love with this old machine and immediately set about to get it running, which he did!

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Another view of the  old woodworking shop taken the same day Steven got the old sander running. I noticed the sun shining in the far windows, setting off a glowing light. But I used a different camera setting for the above photo. I almost missed the real message.

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This photo was take seconds before the first one just above. In looking for the picture I’d mentioned in VT, I found this one. Notice the giant “K” at the center, formed by the structure of a stairway in front of the glowing windows. SMH! I was dumbfounded when I came across this picture last night. How could I have missed it?!

Finally, this is the image I mentioned to Nan. Intellectually, I know how it was made. But it gave us all goosebumps when we first saw it. I was sitting at an old handmade table saw, working on homework for my doctorate. Steve was literally scurrying around working on making the giant sander operational (it extends from where he’s climbing to the round wheels you see in front of the windows to the right behind the posts).

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I looked up from my studies when I heard it come to life and grabbed my phone to take this photo. The message was clear to me at that moment. Keith was VERY pleased!

As I wrote to Nan, I feel that sometimes places can hold the energy of those who came before us there. Or they at least provide us a place to connect. Sometimes I feel old Maurice Reid here, as well. He was the original owner of this woodworking shop and I feel his occasional approval (or annoyance as the case may be at the time) as we try and make improvements to the old homestead.

These are just some of the most profound memories I have from the week’s travels and the memories those moments inspired me to revisit.