writing

New fiction in Typehouse Literary Magazine

Check out my short story, “The Blue Line,” in the latest issue (vol. 4 no. 3 issue 12) of Typehouse Magazine. (Download the pdf, then scroll to page 151.) I had a lot of fun writing this one, and I’m excited it’s out in the world. It takes place in Chicago, which hasn’t been my home for a few years, but deep down inside, still feels like home.

I love writing unique and sometimes strange characters, and this one was no exception. At first her name was Wendy (a play on Windy, from the song by The Association), but then I changed it to Jessica, my birth name. She isn’t me, and the story isn’t true, but there’s part of me in her and I love her so much. She’s grappling with issues I grapple with–finding her life and career purpose, figuring out what role romantic love should play in her life, and navigating obstacles caused by health problems.

The description of migraine aura in this story is the one part that is completely true to my experience. I’ve gone totally blind while walking on the streets of Chicago and it was terrifying.

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writing

New flash fiction out in The Nottingham Review!

Check out my story: The Monster in my House. It’s in The Nottingham Review out of England, which means I can officially say I’ve been published internationally. Is that slightly misleading? Who cares, I’m still saying it!

This is a super short piece and I like it quite a bit. I read it at an event last year and received good feedback and a surprising amount of laughs. I must make it sound funny when I read out loud, because I don’t think the story itself is very humorous.

Remembering the reading I did last year has me thinking… I want to move. I want to move somewhere with a larger lit community. Somewhere I can do more readings. Does blogging that sentiment outright count as sending my intention to the universe or whatever? Get me out of Tampa, world!

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dog parks, dogs, Florida, places

Gadsden Dog Park in Tampa, FL

Gadsden Dog Park          6901 S. MacDill Ave. Tampa, FL 33611

This was a nice dog park. My parents were in town when I went there. I don’t think they’ve spent much time in dog parks before. This might’ve even been their first one. They seemed to dig it.

I took this photos months ago. I don’t go to dog parks any more because I don’t have a car any more. That means I take longer, more frequent walks, but read much less.

I don’t really want to stay in Tampa another year. But, Tampa has a good job for me, so I probably shouldn’t leave until I can land something better. Is there a word for when you know you need to make a change, but you haven’t made it yet?

Also, how to be patient and satisfied during those times, instead of longing for the change or trying to rush things along? This is an issue I’ve faced in almost every area: career, health, relationships, etc.

Do you ever feel like you’re behind? I don’t mean in a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses type of way. I mean like there’s always a gap between what you’re doing and what you want to be doing.

I guess everyone feels that way, unless they’re complacent? I guess we’re designed that way. That’s what desire and motivation are about. I guess it’s a good thing, but isn’t it frustrating?

I’ve also noticed this in creative work. The project I’m excited about is rarely the one I’m actively working on. I’m finishing the drudgery of the current project while dreaming of the next project, because I want to finish things to completion rather than start and stop, dashing around without focus, without building.

I guess that points to the importance of mindfulness. If you aren’t present, you’ll never be happy, even in your “dream job,” or with your “dream guy” (or woman). There’s always an impulse to want something else. Not necessarily something different, but something deeper, more, the next level. The tricky part is honoring instead of burying that impulse without letting it overrun you.

I think the trick is to try and do both. Be loyal, be faithful, be reliable, be trustworthy, engage in the day-to-day, the work, the tedium, but bring some of that excitement for the next thing, the other thing, into the framework of now. For example, follow through and post the months-old dog park blog post that’s on your to-do list, but between the photos and your analysis of the park (friendly dogs, friendly owners, 100% recommend), write a bunch that feels real and living, inject the stale with what’s on your mind N-O-W.

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Florida, food, places, vegan

Cafe Hey vegan brunch in Tampa

Cafe Hey is a cute lil cafe in Tampa that is known for good coffee, but they also sell food and treats. They have a vegan brunch one Sunday a month, and my friends decided we should go there for my birthday to celebrate.

(And yes, for those who know, my birthday was months ago, but I’m only getting around to posting this now.)

I turned 36, and although I’m not one to pay much attention to age, I didn’t feel very pumped about celebrating this year. It’s not that I’m afraid of or resistant to getting older, but more that I was a little bummed at the time and didn’t feel like my life was anything I wanted to put energy into making a big deal about. A low-key delicious vegan meal with six other people I like turned out to be perfect celebration for me.

cafe hey vegan brunch

I don’t know how often I’ll make it out to Cafe Hey because I no longer have a car, but the food was absolutely delicious. It was heartening to find more evidence that there are awesome vegan options available in Tampa Bay. I ordered tacos and my friends had shrimp jambalaya and some other things. A few of my friends are vegetarian, but we had a couple of meat-eaters in the group and everyone liked the meal. Apparently the shrimp tasted so real, they double-checked with the staff to make sure it was actually vegan.

cafe hey vegan brunch

Click image to view full size

Oh, Cafe Hey also has mimosas! :) I am drinking a grapefruit mimosa in the first photo and it was delicious. So, yes, bottom line, if you’re in Tampa, check out Cafe Hey, and if they have their vegan brunch going on, even better.

Also, while I was searching for vegan restaurant options in Tampa, I found this Tampa Vegan Guy blog. He hasn’t updated for a long time. What do you think–is he no longer vegan, does he no longer live in Tampa, or something else?

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fibromyalgia, health, writing

New publication in Luna Luna Magazine!

Hello lovely & faithful blog readers,

I am happy to share that I have a new publication out in Luna Luna Magazine!

It is super short. I’d be honored if you read it, and even more honored if you shared it. I wrote this three-part flash essay a couple (or more?) years ago, but recently revised it and began sending it out as part of a major submission push in May. I’m happy to say that push is paying off, and in addition to this pub, I have two more waiting in the pipeline. (I also have 15 more unpublished pieces that I’m still pushing out.)

This latest publication is meant to give insight into what it’s like to have fibromyalgia. The timing is perfect, because I’m in the middle of a flare-up. I’m going to write about that elsewhere, however.

Hope all of you are well!

Jay

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eating, fibromyalgia, Florida, food, health, migraine, places, vegan

Leafy Greens Cafe in St. Petersburg, Florida

leafy greens

One of my biggest worries about switching to a vegan diet was that I would have no meal options at restaurants. I enjoy going out to eat, and although I’m trying to make more of my own food at home, I don’t want to feel like that is my only option.

I quickly began researching local vegan restaurants and restaurants with vegan options in order to ease this worry, and was delighted to come across an app called Happy Cow.  It is excellent, and I’ve used it frequently over the past few months. It was well worth the amount I paid for it ($3.99?). They have a website, too, but I like the app because at any time I can open it and it will immediately show me restaurants with vegan options in my immediate vicinity. It also has Yelp-like features where users can upload photos and leave reviews (although so far I’ve forgotten to do this).

leafy greensA week or so after getting vegan brunch at New Leaf Elementals in Tampa, I drove out to St. Petersburg and ate dinner at the Leafy Greens Cafe. It is a raw vegan cafe I had been to once or twice before. It is on the pricier side and a bit of a trek from where I live, so I won’t be going there often, but I do it enjoy and am glad it exists. Their meals feel super healthy, and I left feeling pretty great.

I ordered carrot ginger juice, which was delicious, soup, and a bean burger that came in lettuce instead of on bread. I liked all of it and felt too full to order dessert by the end.

Leafy Greens

One thing I like about Leafy Greens Cafe is the owner’s story. I haven’t met her, but the restaurant’s website says that she has Lupus and turned to a raw vegan diet as a result, which healed her. All of the food Leafy Greens serves is non-GMO, too. Health is one of the major reasons I decided to adopt a vegan diet–I grapple with fibromyalgia, migraine, IBS-D, anxiety, and other varied symptoms that often accompany fibromyalgia. I’ve found that many people who don’t find health answers from traditional medicine turn to dietary changes, and I like supporting a business owner who has had similar struggles to my own.

From the Leafy Greens website: “After my amazing experience, I decided that I had an obligation to introduce as many people as possible to the delicious vegan food we love and, in doing so, help humanity find a way to heal itself from the life threatening diseases that effect our well being in today’s world.”

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eating, Florida, food, health, places, vegan

Vegan brunch @ New Leaf Elementals

new leaf elementals

In March, I went to a vegan brunch meetup at New Leaf Elementals in Tampa. I’d begun eating vegan on March 1st and wanted to do whatever I could to make it stick. I’d been vegetarian for over a year (vegetarian again, I should say–earlier in life I’d been vegetarian for nearly 12 years), and eating mostly vegan (vegan at home, vegetarian in restaurants) for a few months, but I was really afraid that even though I wanted to go vegan, I wouldn’t be able to do it. I’ll probably write a post about how and why I made the switch later.

new leaf elementals

Click image for full size

The setup at New Leaf surprised me. It was a small gift shop with many crystals, candles, and other items. At first I thought I was in the wrong place, but after timidly asking the cashier about the brunch, she led me through a door that revealed a second larger room set with tables and chairs. I said, “Oh, I thought this was a restaurant,” then felt kind of bad when she replied, “It is.” The homey setup gave more of a family gathering feel, but the cashier showed me the menu that is available on non-brunch days.

new leaf elementals

I was one of the first people there. I’d found out about the meetup through a vegan singles meetup.com group that has since closed. The Florida Voices for Animals group posts a lot of vegan brunches and meet-ups too, however, and most of the people I met at this event were from that group. I paid for my brunch (I forget how much it was–$12-ish?), then loitered around trying not to feel awkward while waiting for more people to arrive.

new leaf elementals

I eagerly scoped out the food, partially because I was hungry, and partially because I was looking for ideas for vegan meals to cook at home. The tofu scramble was the dish I really picked up on. It looked exactly like scrambled eggs, so I double-checked with the chef to make sure it wasn’t before taking some. I asked her how to make it and she said just mash up tofu in a frying pan, add turmeric and/or cumin to make it look yellow, and throw in whatever other vegetables and spices I’d like. Tofu scramble is something I’ve made a few times over the past few months–it’s a tasty thing to make that can use up pretty much whatever leftover veggies are hanging out in the fridge and still feel like a real meal.

new leaf elementals

The brunch was good. It was denser than what I usually eat, with potatoes, waffles, and fake meats, but it tasted good. I generally try to stay away from fake meats (they often have soy protein isolate, which can trigger migraines in me), but just this once didn’t cause a problem. I am also trying to stay away from refined flour for the most part (it upsets IBS and leads to sugar cravings, at least for me), but again, just this once wasn’t an issue. I am learning that for me, healthy veganism has a lot to do with moderation.

I enjoyed the company. There were people from many different walks of life there, and most people didn’t know each other, so I didn’t feel left out once the conversation started. We talked about veganism, as I expected, but also politics, traveling, and other things. It was pretty interesting to hear people’s stories. Most of them had come to the brunch for the same reason I did–they don’t have other vegans in their lives and wanted to feel a sense of community and support.

 

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dog parks, dogs, Florida, places

Carolyn Meeker Dog Park

Carolyn Meeker Dog Park
122 1st Avenue SW
Lutz, FL 33548

Carolyn Meeker dog park

The Carolyn Meeker Dog Park is a nice sized dog park north of Tampa in Lutz, Florida. Even though Lutz isn’t very far away, it has quite the rural, small town type of feel.

Carolyn Meeker dog park

The dog park is broken up into two sections–one for small dogs and another for large dogs, which I always appreciate. The small dog area looks a lot nicer, imo, with more of the ground being covered in grass.

Carolyn Meeker dog park

I’ve been to this dog park a few times, and while it doesn’t usually get crowded, there’s usually always at least one other dog that stops by while I’m there. The small dogs were the perfect size to play with my dog.

Carolyn Meeker dog park

When my dog was a pup, he’d play with large dogs no problem. It makes me sad that he’s so scared now. But that doesn’t really matter at parks like this, where the areas are separated and owners actually respect the rules.

Carolyn Meeker dog park

I looked up Carolyn Meeker, out of curiosity. (For some reason there’s nothing about her on the history of Carolyn Meeker Park page.) If the obituary I found is for the same Carolyn Meeker, which I’m sure it is, she was very active in Lutz civic life and also a bell ringer at the local Catholic Church.

Now I can only think about one thing: what do I have to do to get a dog park named after me?

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dog parks, dogs

Queenie’s Dog Park

Queenie’s Dog Park
1710 N. Highland Ave.
Tampa, FL 33602

Queenie’s is a nice little dog park north of downtown Tampa.

At first I thought it wouldn’t be enjoyable because of the fake ground covering much of it. It looks like blacktop, but is spongy. What is that stuff called? I know it’s good for trails because it doesn’t put as much strain on the joints of runners.

Walnut didn’t seem to mind, though. I sat at a picnic table and read a book. At first we were the only ones there, but within 30 minutes two large dogs and four small dogs arrived. All of them were well-behaved and the owners were friendly, but not too friendly. Multiple people chatted with me briefly, but no one tried to force me into a long conversation. Rejoice!

After we left the dog park, I walked around a little to check out the area. It’s pretty nice and on the river walk. There is also a water park next door that was full of kids and moms, but I didn’t photograph it.

I find myself wondering, why am I blogging about dog parks? But then I remember, I feel like it.

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weirderary, writing

New issue of weirderary!

weirderary Issue 5 dropped recently! I can’t believe that the lit mag we started has been around for two years and five issues so far. We will be making some changes to weirderary soon, as you can read about in my letter from the editor in this issue.

I’m now the editor in chief of weirderary, which is good because trying to distribute work evenly and make decisions as a team wasn’t always working. Plus, with all of us graduating and (possibly) moving away from Tampa, working collaboratively in equal capacities would become even more difficult.  The other founding editors still want to be involved, and moving forward I plan on devising a new structure for the lit mag, figuring out each person’s title and responsibilities.

I’d be grateful if you’d check out weirderary‘s latest issue, follow weirderary on twitter, and share your favorite pieces that we’ve published either on social media or privately with anyone you think might like them.

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