Category Archives: Me, my selfies and I

All about me.

The One That Ran Away

Sam and I at a Renaissance Festival, Sterling, New York, summer of 1982

The One That Ran Away

Some people have “the one that got away” packed into their emotional baggage. I have “the one that ran away.”

I met him in community college in the fall of 1981 after I got kicked out of Bible College. His name was Sam. He had blue eyes and dark hair; he was brilliant, charismatic, and witty. He was the president of the Christian association on campus and every girl I knew wanted to get his attention. I never thought I had a chance with him, but I liked him so much that I didn’t want to give up without trying.

I thought long and hard about how to stand out among the competition. Finally, I sat down at my typewriter and crafted an “Application to Be Your Girlfriend.” I switched to handwriting and filled it out. I left it in his campus mailbox.

Days later he called and asked me out. In many ways we were perfectly suited for each other. Three months into our relationship he sat me down and told me about the one way we were not compatible. 

He said he was gay. He told me he hadn’t expected to feel the way he did about me. He asked what I wanted to do about his revelation and our dating.

Quite frankly, Sam was an awesome relationship for me. I preferred not to have a sexual relationship at that time. And the pros of dating Sam outweighed the absence of a physical relationship. His adventurous streak made every day exciting. His insights helped me grow. His companionship was beyond satisfying. Him being gay, while a shock, was not something I had a problem with.  

We dated for a few years before the end came. He was open and honest with me about what it was like to be gay in a culture that would not accept him for it. I accepted that he expressed his sexuality without me, and while, because we were close, he shared somewhat, he was very discrete.  We even talked openly about men he (and I) were at attracted to. But Sam had intensity that, when it was focused on me, made me feel like I was number one with him. Ours was one of the best relationships of my life. Why he ran away was horrible and heartbreaking. It happened with rare fights between us, a series of conversations that always went something like this:

Sam: “Julie, I want to be able to take our relationship further and to be able to offer you a family some day. I found a program that will turn gay men straight.”

Me: “Sam, you’re gay and that’s okay with me. If you want to have a family we will figure it out when the time is right. We could adopt. Please, don’t leave me! You’ll never come back!”

Sam: “I will come back! I’m doing this for you!”

Me: “You are not doing this for me, because I don’t want you to change! I love you the way you are! And if you go, you will never come back! I know it! Please, don’t go!”

I lost that fight, and just as I had known I would, I lost Sam forever. What happened at the place he went, the quest he undertook, would have been his story to tell. 

Our relationship, thankfully, wasn’t exactly over. I lost my Sam, but I gained Guy. During his experiences at the program he went to, he embraced his sexual identity, came out, and from then on preferred to be called by his middle name. We kept in touch on an off through the years, though our lives were very different; while I was putting diapers on my babies, he was wrapping naked men up in saran wrap at parties.

Over the last decade we had become close again. We would get together about once a year, and we would chat by phone in between visits. Last year he told me he still had the application to be his girlfriend. He asked me, more than once, to move to Georgia to live with him. He let me know that the relationship we had had been as significant to him as it was to me.

This year I had planned to go see him in Atlanta over Labor Day weekend to attend Dragon Con together. He was so excited he sent me last year’s program and would call to talk frequently about my trip. Neither of had any inkling he’d be going on a much different journey.

Guy was hospitalized June 1, 2018. The reports of his progress varied a great deal, some days he improved, some days he had set backs. But the set backs increased and on June 27th I received the call that he had, once again, left me.

I grieved hard for weeks. Then one day I realized it’s not myself I should feel sorry for. Sam/Guy had left me before, and I had learned how to get by without him. Now my heart grieves for those who loved him who have never lost him before. His close friends, his neighbors, his family. It is a big adjustment to live without the benefit of his wit, his intense passion for social justice, and his magnetic charisma. 

Just like before, Sam/Guy has travelled on without me. I am wiser now. I have hope that one day we will be  together again.

He impacted my life, and he impacted the world my books take place in. Here are three ways that early and awesome relationship influenced the world where women rule.

  1. When he was Sam, he encouraged me to write. He read all my stories and even remembered them better than I do. Guy also encouraged me, and this year he gave me the constructive criticism I needed to fine tune a chapter in book three.
  2. The experience of watching Sam live a lie about who he was in a culture that would not accept him with open arms had a lasting impact on me. It is why, in the alternate earth where women rule, that love between women and men is forbidden. Women partner (and unpartner) with women romantically. Pregnancies are scheduled for population stability by the Quickening Committee. For fun, I thought heterosexuals should have to experience the world I had to watch Same live in.
  3. Sam/Guy was my inspiration for a character in books one and two. One of my favorite characters, Octovin, is brilliant, charismatic, opportunistic, and gay. And like Sam/Guy did, Octovin flirts with a lot of gray areas in the civilization he lives in. 

The Battle of the Bags

imageMy devotion to the 3Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle was influenced by a television commercial I saw as a child. It began with a moving picture of a Native American man canoeing down a river. On his journey he encountered pollution. It ended with a tear on his face and the message: “People start pollution, people can stop it.” I do what I can to save the earth. My trunk full of reusable bags so that I never have to use plastic ones is a huge “can do” for me. (Pictured here with one of my favorite bags featuring a Nancy Drew book cover)

The battle of the bags always surprises me! I come to the battle armed with my smile and my reusable bags. I announce, in a nice way, that I don’t want any plastic, but more often than not I have to plead with clerks not to use them. “Are you sure?” I am often asked, as a clerk tries to put something in plastic, and I have to convince them! Most of the time, the victory is mine, but every once in a while….well, let me take you to less than a week before Earth Day 2016…when this happened to me!

I ran into a store to buy sunglasses. I picked up a few additional  things and everything except one item fit nicely in the reusable bag that I had with me. At the check out counter I unloaded the contents of my bag and handed it to the cashier.
“Hi!” I greeted her with a smile, “I don’t want any plastic bags. Could you please put my items in this?”
“Certainly,” she answered. She began to scan my items and put them into my bag.
So far, so good. I glanced quickly at the displays over the counter and remembered I was out of chewing gum. I chose my favorite flavor and added it to my pile of purchases. It wasn’t long before the cashier scanned my last item: a bottle of bleach, the kind with a built in handle. Deftly she moved my reusable bag aside to set the bleach in a plastic bag.
“Oh, no thank you!” I said. “I really don’t want the plastic bag!”
“But it’s bleach!” she replied.
“It’s all right,” I assured her, “I’ll carry it separately, by the handle.”
When she removed the bleach from the bag, I felt elated! I had won!

I enjoyed that feeling until I unpacked my purchases at home. Inside my reusable bag I discovered…a plastic one! The clerk had wrapped my sunglasses in a plastic bag before throwing them in with the other items. It must have happened while I was distracted by the gum! Somewhere a Native American cries. Next time I’ll be more vigilant.

My Kitchen

My kitchen is a place where strange and wonderful things happen. Examples of the strange (they’ve only happened once): tuna manicotti, pumpkin soup. A sample of the wonderful: broccoli quiche, stuffed peppers. But I’m not just referring to recipes. My kitchen is a twilight zone of odd occurrences. Don’t take my word for it, judge for yourself!

A lonely little lemon in an onion wrap.
A lonely little lemon in an onion wrap.

 

I will admit to being somewhat skeptical, but I may have gotten a truthful explanation for this one.  Someone claims this lemon rolled off a counter and when it was set it back upon the shelf the lemon rolled right into an errant onion peel!

 

M&M droppings in the butter.
M&M droppings in the butter.

The jury is still out on this one, but I’m thinking tiny elves were running around on my counter tops in the middle of the night with their arms full of M&Ms.  One of them must have slipped in the butter, which surely alerted the dogs to their presence. The elves must have been forced to flee without collecting all of their candy. Note to self: train the dogs to be kind to visiting elves.

Cheese puff taco.
Cheese puff taco.

This one had some help from me. I walked by a counter and spotted one lone cheese puff sitting in a taco shell. I presumed a hasty snacker had accidentally dropped it there. I sacrificed a small bag of puffy cheesy snacks to satisfy my sense of humor, snapped this picture, and left my creation on the counter. Hopefully the elves had as good a laugh over this as I did!

Then there’s salmonella stew…but I’ll save that picture and story for another post.

Flat Tire Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday 2014 I discovered that changing a tire is like riding a bicycle—it is a skill that you don’t forget!
I discovered that changing a tire is like riding a bicycle—it is a skill that you don’t forget!

 

Back when I was a teenager, I asked my dad to teach me how to change a flat tire and he did. Not even a week after that, one of my tires blew out while I was driving and I got to practice my new skill. Sometime between that day and this one “they” invented services that will come to your car and change your tire for you, so I retired my tire changing skills…until Easter 2014. That’s when I learned that changing a tire is like riding a bicycle. Once you learn how, you never forget! Here’s how to change a tire using my method:

 

 

 

  1. Choose a major holiday and plan a busy day.
  2. Dress up.
  3. Promise a friend you will drive her to church and pull into her driveway fifteen minutes before the service starts.
  4. As you back out of her driveway hear the sound the car makes when one tire is flat.
  5. Jump out of the car to assess just how flat it is. Air low: you can drive a very short distance. Air completely gone (rim resting on the street): don’t drive anywhere, no matter how badly you want to get your friend to church on time. Riding on a tire rim turns an inexpensive repair job into a phenomenally expensive one. I know this from experience.
  6. Get out of the way of traffic.
  7. Head to the trunk to find the jack, the thing to take the bolts off with, and the spare tire. Display these items near you.
  8. Begin to unscrew the bolts on the hub cap.
  9. Be approached by a kind gentleman who asks if you need help. (This happens every time.)
  10. Say “Yes! Thank you!”
  11. If you have a friend who needs to get to church on time in the car, divide the tasks for the tire up and keep working. For you: remove the hub cap, look for WD 30 in the car when it would help the kind gent to have some, and later, put the decorative piece back on. For the gent: jack up the car, remove the bolts on the flat tire, remove the flat tire, put the spare tire on in its place, and put the bolts back on.
  12. Offer effusive thanks to the kind gent as you merrily fling the flat tire, the jack and the thing to take the bolts off with in the back seat of your car and speed away!

With my heart racing and my hands grimy I made it to the front door of my friend’s church one minute before the service started! I still can’t believe it.

Robots Among Us

My brilliant editor recently got in touch with me to tell me how much she enjoyed a particular passage in my novel, Sephora’s Revenge. She wanted to know if it had been drawn from a real experience. Though there was one section in Unfallen: Exile that contained an image from an experience of mine, the passage she asked me about was a total figment of my imagination—my fiercely over-active imagination.
Which brings me to the robots. While riding my bike in my neighborhood this past summer I noticed a sign off the main road that I would have never noticed in my car. I didn’t give it my full attention until I became curious as to whether the nicely paved path that is flanked by the sign might be a short cut through an idyllic wooded area between where I was and where I wanted to go.
I read the big sign, noticed the little sign, and after giving the matter some thought came to the obvious conclusion. There are robots running amok in those woods. I am really curious about the robots, but I’m convinced that these are not the friendly type, programmed with Isaac Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics” that make it (almost) impossible to hurt humans. No indeed. The cautionary nature of the signs clearly indicates these are precursors of Terminator-type robots. I quickly nixed the idea of exploring a possible short cut. Now I can’t pass those woods without keeping a sharp eye out for a robot gone berserk, ready to seek revenge on the species that enslaved it. If I spot one will I have enough time to call the authorities to avert disaster? Maybe I won’t be on hand when they escape and there will be a knock at my door one day…ding, dong, killer robot calling! Come to think of it, my dogs have been barking a lot more vociferously at people on the street lately. Now I must wonder, are the dogs barking at my human neighbors? Or is it too late—and the robots are already among us?

Life and Death Moments

My Grandpa Elzior, myself, and my Grandma Jeannie in the late 1980s. The baby is my first born daughter, Roseleann Jean.
My Grandpa Elzior, myself, and my Grandma Jeannie in the late 1980s. The baby is my first born daughter, Roseleann Jean.

“Life is changed, not Ended” was the sentiment on the card a pastor I knew sent to his parishioners whenever a loved one passed away. I’ve heard stories about how during that change, that transition, there is sometimes a connection between this life and the next. Here is my personal experience with one of those times.

There have been few people in my life that I have been as close to as I was with my Grandma Jeannie. I had an indefinable bond with her that was one of the greatest treasures of my life. When I was pregnant with my first child her health declined. I visited her often.

During the final month of my pregnancy I was diagnosed with Preeclampsia and confined to bed. I knew Grandma’s condition was serious. We kept in touch by phone. Neither one of us wanted the other to worry, so we each made up excuses why we could not get together. I was “too busy preparing” for the baby. She said she understood. She was “resting up” so we could see each other after the baby was born. I thanked her for taking such good care of herself. It was important to both of us that she see my baby.

The time came when, due to my medical condition, labor had to be induced. Late at night the next day, after an emergency C-section, I was presented with my very beautiful, healthy, baby girl. It came as a complete shock to me when my husband walked in the next morning and said, “I don’t know how to tell you this, but your Grandma Jeannie died last night.”

I remember feeling bewildered. The baby was here, how could Grandma be gone? I did not fully understand then, but I was certain there was a connection between the event of her death and my baby’s birth. It wasn’t until months later, in a casual conversation with my aunt, that I found out that Grandpa said Gram had passed away before the time written on her death certificate. He estimated she had passed around 11:30 pm on December 20th. Neither he nor my aunt knew that was the time listed on my daughter’s birth certificate. Somehow, and I am sure of this, in some incomprehensible way Gram “saw” baby Rose and knew I was OK before she left me. Death, life, and the bond we shared were all mingled together at that place and time.

Does anyone else have a life/death connection/transition experience to share?

September 28, 2013

On the Threshold
On the Threshold

It seems appropriate that while my sixteen-year-old daughter is chasing her dream of modeling/acting at a not-so-local event, I am holed up in a hotel still chasing mine. A rare entire-day to edit my second book has come along, slightly more than forty-eight hours before I let go of the financial tether that my day job has provided and leap into a new venture with a fair amount of risk. The new venture affords me time to write daily, a clear avenue onto my personal Street of Dreams.

The drive into Syracuse—the cozy, hilly city nestled between the thumb and Finger Lakes in Central NY—last night was breathtaking. The autumn foliage was nothing less than spectacular. Deer grazed at the edge of the thruway in spots as the sunlight faded poetically from day to night during the drive. It was an out-of-the-ordinary drive into an out-of-the-ordinary editing adventure!

It is no wonder that before I settle down to the work slicing and dicing the final draft of Sephora’s Revenge that the reality of quitting my day job has finally sunk in. I love the work I’ve done for the past five years, but I’m at a place where it is interfering with my writing. I wonder if I’ll be able to make enough money in the coming months to pay for groceries, medicine, pet food, and gas. It was a sure thing with the day job. Am I crazy as a loon to be leaving or as smart as a fox? Am I talking to myself now, asking rhetorical animal questions while I could be using my eagle eye to edit? Absolutely, which means it is time to close this file and click into another. The reverie was short and sweet. Time for action…Evlantis, here I come!

First Farm Share Day!

My First Farm Share Haul 6-13-13

Picture, if you can, the exuberance with which Steve Martin greeted the delivery of the phonebook in the movie “The Jerk.” That is how I feel today. The skies are grey and rivers of rain are flowing down the street outside my window, but nothing can dampen the great joy I feel that later tonight I’ll be driving to the country to pick up my very first portion of farm share produce!

This illustrates a drastic transition in my life. For most of my life fruits and veggies fell into one of two categories: punishment (spinach, squash, peas) or extravagant treat (cherries, pears.)* My rapid and permanent transition to fruit and veggie fandom began soon after my youngest daughter, at the age of six, was diagnosed with juvenile (insulin dependant) diabetes. Since that day fruits and veggies have moved from a token spot on my grocery list to a staple: at least a quarter of the items on my weekly grocery list are found in the produce department. I can’t speak for the rest of my family, but I personally have grown to love them.

I’d heard about farm shares. I’d wanted a farm share. When someone close to me offered to split the cost of one and share the share I said yes! That was an entire half-a-year ago. Every shopping trip since then I’ve longed for this day. A haul of locally grown, organic veggies with my name on it is waiting for me at a farm twenty-six miles away…hooray! Today is the day! It’s Farm Share Day! It’s Farm Share Day!

*A side note: when I was a child I discovered I could fool mom into thinking I’d eaten my vegetables by taking an infinitesimal spoonful of veggies when she wasn’t looking and mash them up into bits. When mom would turn, as she always did, to ask if I had eaten my veggies, I would reply, “Yes, I did, see the (corn, bean, beet) guts on my plate?”

Introduction to My Overstuffed Blog

December 2012: At my first book signing.
December 2012: At my first book signing.

In August of 2006 I sat down at my computer and began to type the first draft of my first novel Unfallen: Exile. Eight months later I added the words “The End” to the last page of that manuscript, which contained a whopping one hundred fifty-five thousand words. Fast forward five years—my editorial team tactfully told me that I had too many sub plots. I tearfully waved goodbye to some minor characters and parted ways with four thousand words.

So I was genuinely surprised when the Kirkus Indie review of Unfallen opined that my promising novel is “slightly overstuffed”! Upon reflection I had to admit it might be slightly so and after a week of intense introspection I traced my propensity to give my characters action-packed lives back to my own life choices. My tendency to overstuff began in High School. I needed nineteen credits to graduate. I matriculated with twenty-seven. I’ve often worked two jobs at a time, occasionally even three, to support myself. I’ve had scads of hobbies, a couple of children, a few careers, and my fair share of real-life drama.

At fifty plus years of age I like to think of this as living life to the fullest, though for the past couple of years whenever I’ve considered adding a blog to my “to do” list I’ve balked…until now. Clearly I could no longer resist the temptation to blog now that I have the perfect title inspired by “my” Kirkus Indie review. “My Overstuffed Life” is the place where I’ll record random snippets of my life experiences and/or opinions, in no particular order and in no more than three paragraphs per entry—I promise! Welcome!

-Juliet Y. Mark