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.

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.

Oh that sound…that sound.

A cacophonic symphony of frogs, birds, and forest rises from the green lush view outside my window at early dawn.

My mind drifts upon the fog back to a distant rainforest, the sounds carrying upon the light breeze of memory. The cool damp night air grips my lungs, my shoulders, my skin. It reluctantly gives weigh (sic) as its foggy embrace lets go slowly from the deep green blanket unfurling from a long winter’s sleep, released in a tsunami of sound and fragrant damp spring. I sigh.

That sound…that sound…

It fills my ears with nature’s symphony, as I dream of another place and time.

The cool moistness of the air fills my lungs and I breath it in deeply, grateful for the damp balm as it coats my airways, and soothes my soul.

The cool damp music of the early morn will soon give way to an incessant red heat, of this I am certain.

But for now, I travel back to that other place as I pull the blanket to my shoulders, made heavier by the damp night air, an embrace from beyond the veil, a fog whose feathery tendrils drift across the lush green landscape.

That sound…that sound…

Oh don’t leave me…

that sound…



Written Wednesday, May 16, 2018


Bedroom in new home

“Are you done grieving?” It wasn’t a question for me. It was asked of my father by a recent friend. She asked my dad as they shared lunch and talked about the new house we’ve been building and what she’d seen.

Later, Dad shared the question with me and it got me thinking about it. I answered him quickly at first: “Does anyone ever stop grieving?”

He mentioned his reaction to hearing the song: “You’ll never walk alone” from Carousel. It had been a favorite of my mother’s. And just a week before she died, the last time we heard her say anything, she sang some of it when a visitor – a complete stranger to my mother – asked her in her slumber if she had ever heard the song. As the visitor began to sing the first few words, my mother began to sing with her.

When it came on the radio, out of the blue, as he got to an intersection he began to cry. Just like that. No warning. It just hit him, now 18 months later. Does anyone ever stop grieving? No, I said to dad. We just begin to change the way we respond to the memories, the triggers. We get to the point where we can smile and sigh, rather than cry. It can take awhile.

We just begin to change the way we respond to the memories, the triggers. We get to the point where we can smile and sigh, rather than cry. It can take awhile.

Even now, for me, five and a half years after Keith passed, there are times when that inevitable moment stops my breath. A song, a number, a phrase, a space, a memory… and I have to pause for a moment, take it in, reflect, and consider the possibility – is this a message?Pay attention, I tell myself. He’s still there, just on the other side of the veil. He’s still with you as real as the bearded little man laying beside me now. There are times when I still feel his touch, a gentle one on the shoulder, a soft caress to the cheek as if a kiss made of air.

Sunset over snowy field and woodsThe triggers still come, a song I hadn’t heard in awhile played recently and I had to stop and listen and nod. “I will wait, I will wait for you…” sang Mumford & Sons. The song had just been released the last summer Keith was alive. I had put it on the playlist that became the soundtrack of the summer. “You can’t let me down now” sang Bonnie Raitt in another soulful tune that filled me with guilt and sadness for not having saved Keith from the pain he endured. Then there was “Owner of a Lonely Heart” by Yes, a song that came out the year Keith and I were able to see them play live in concert.

These tunes and several others cause the air to slip out from my lungs momentarily, my heart to tighten in my chest. The difference now is that they don’t make me cry like they once did. The tightness lets go quicker and a soft smile slowly curves the corners of my mouth and I breath again, lovingly touched by the soul of my deepest connection in the spirit world.

There are times when I may also feel a bit irrational, where anxiety steps up and clenches my nerves tightly. Last fall I had been asked about going to a conference this winter. It was one that I had attended in March 2012 and co-presented with Ferris doctoral students along with the then president of the college where I work. It was in Philadelphia and I’d wanted Keith to join me but he couldn’t. He hadn’t been feeling all that well and felt the pressure of some work he needed to do. I wasn’t happy about his not feeling well, this uncured bronchitis or whatever it was. But he clearly didn’t have the energy to travel so I backed off. The conference, however, has somehow been cast in my mind as the “beginning of the end” for Keith.

So it was with a sudden attack of anxiety that I couldn’t immediately bring myself to register for this event when asked last October. Steven had had a health scare around the same time and I had a sudden feeling of deja vu, a path I didn’t want to travel twice in six years. Fortunately for Steven, the potential for liver problems was caught early enough and has led to him cutting way back on his alcohol intake and it has made a noticeable difference.

I had a sudden feeling of deja vu, a path I didn’t want to travel twice in six years.

Still, though the moment had passed, the anxiety over the association between this conference and losing a husband remained. Irrational, yes. But real enough that I put it off while still watching the deadline for the early bird registration. So when the moment came this week in a meeting with the VP to discuss conference travel, I was relieved when she supported my attending a different conference, one that would take place in Austin, Texas at the end of May. I would plan to take Steven so he could visit with his son, and I’d lead a contingent of faculty to the conference. It looked like something I could sincerely enjoy doing. The anxiety slipped away and replaced by a sense of giddy relief.

But then Dad mentioned the question asked by his lady friend: “Are you done grieving?” and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

The answer is: No. But life still moves forward and we must go with it, or risk losing the opportunity to live the life we’ve been blessed with to the fullest.


When a terrible disease ravages someone you love, the mourning process begins long before they finally pass on. Kübler-Ross (1969), in her study on death and dying, described five stages of grief including denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. But Kübler-Ross was initially focusing on those who were dying, and not so much on those who were dealing with personal loss of any great significance, which she later came to recognize.

These stages are not linear, either, and can occur in any order, if at all. Women tend to experience all five stages more than men. They can be cyclical, too, with two or more occurring in an almost extreme emotional roller coaster. For both the dying and the loved one, getting to the point of acceptance does not always happen at the same time. The dying often reaches the stage of acceptance before their loved ones. But if and when both reach the point of acceptance, where communication and reflection can be experienced, a more dignified death can be found.

I’d add a couple of additional stages, or at least notable elements, to the stages of pre (and post) grieving. That includes fighting to maintain control of the details in their lives. The opposite is the disruptive feeling of vulnerability when control is lost which can lead to related stages of despair and anger.

Another related stage involves trying to make order in one’s life. Especially when the world around you seems to be in chaos, small efforts to create order can take on an outsized importance. Cleaning out cupboards, putting away old records, sorting through old photos, are just a few example of how the person facing loss may attempt to build a sense of order in a life that seems otherwise out of control.

Recently, I heard this statement made by someone who is facing the inevitable loss of his longtime spouse who is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease. I’ve paraphrased it per my own cloudy memory.

I feel like I’m in a carnival outhouse sitting out in a field, and the circus is packing up to leave without me.

While he didn’t elaborate, he was trying to express his feelings regarding the situation he found himself in now. I’ve been thinking about this and cannot help but connect it to my own experiences and ruminations.

First and foremost, there is the overwhelming feeling of vulnerability, of literally having your pants down in a crisis, or a formidable change that is going on around you. You’re stuck. It is hard to move forward without first finishing the primary business at hand. Panic sets in and it is hard to make decisions. Yet you’re also worried about being left behind, and by the act of moving to a new location – mentally, emotionally, and physically – and the unknown that comes with that. But even more so, it is a fear of being left behind by the ominously fast progression of a disease that robs you of the one you love, again mentally, emotionally, and physically.

The carnival/circus represents fetes of apparent magic, gravity-defying acts, seemingly impossible, often nonsensical, frightening in their dangerous distortions of human entertainment, and the funhouse mirrors that twist and distort our vision of reality.

The world around you no longer makes sense and you feel vulnerable, scared, afraid of being left behind, fearing for your loved one and a future you cannot envision without them. It literally scares the shit out of you… And yet you know you have to keep moving to survive. Because that’s your role here.

Of course, the circus could also represent your loved one, the person who was the highlight of your life, with which you shared the literal stage of life, it’s bright lights, music, the comedy and drama of a life fully shared. Either way, it all seems so unfair.

Anger rushes forward. Anger at what fate has thrown you, your loved one, the cruelty of the disease. There is no preferred or better way to die of a disease. Cancer kills the body slowly while eating away at the person. Alzheimers eats away the person while leaving the body to deteriorate at a slower rate, until the parts of the brain that operate the body begin to lose their synaptic connections.

Either way, these diseases are cruel – to the loved one who suffers them, and to the lover who must endure the pain of watching, of frustrating efforts to try and overcome the diseases’ manifestations, the cruel teases of normalcy and strength that suddenly appear and then, as a wisp in the winds, they disappear to the mists that hid the light in their eyes.

Whether you want to or not, you are, and will be… the survivor. The one who will carry the stories forward until they can be shared fully with a new generation. You will be needed by others who will benefit from your wisdom, humor, insights borne of long experience. The fates have determined that your place is here…in this world…where you are still needed.

The journey along side the dying of a loved one is dark and painful. But it also has its moments to be cherished. The fleeting glimpse of a smile, a flash of humor, the small gestures that show you are still connected to this loved one. You have been chosen for the honor of being beside them on this journey to the end of this life. You, however, will stay behind, their partner only until the gates of passage open to the other side. Until death do you part.

It sucks. It hurts so badly, the pain is physical, palpable. Breath… breath… You are still alive. And they will always be with you, and waiting on the other side to greet you when your turn comes, naturally, when the fates determine it to be so. In the meantime, treasure each moment with your loved one as a gift. Soon enough, there will be only memories that you will hold onto tightly, then share with others when the right time comes.