Florida, places

Bok Tower Gardens

bok tower gardens

The only purpose of this post is plugging Bok Tower Gardens.

bok tower gardens

I forget where I heard of them, but after doing so, drove out to Lake Wales on a whim.

bok tower gardens

I also spent my actual birthday at Bok Tower Gardens last year. Alone. I was feeling like I didn’t really want to be around people, but I still wanted to do something. I sat on a bench, meditated, wrote in a notebook, and then walked around and looked at flowers. It was lovely.

bok tower gardens

Bok Tower itself is a sight to behold. The pond around it has koi fish that you can feed, too. I like feeding them, but I also worry if they can self-regulate, or if it’s possible for them to be overfed.

bok tower gardens

The tower itself houses an instrument called a carillon, which is made up a bells. You can read more about it here. It produces a lovely sound.

bok tower gardens

I overheard someone say that Bok Tower Gardens contain the most elevated spot in Florida, which I believe is the spot pictured above, where you can overlook orange orchards. Until I stood in that spot, I hadn’t realized that I hadn’t been able to “overlook” anything since moving to Florida. It is really, really flat.

bok tower gardens

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food, vegan

Introducing Bare Bones Baker!

bare bones baker

Last summer, my lovely friend Annalise threw a barbecue and made a bunch of vegan food. I was so excited, I took photos and planned to blog about it. Well, it might actually be a good thing that I procrastinated on posting about her food for months, because now she’s launched a cooking blog called Bare Bones Baker, which makes this the perfect time to hype her up!

bare bones baker

In addition to the vegan bruschetta shown in the first photo, she made a delicious vegan mac ‘n’ cheese for her barbecue last summer. I was suspicious because I hadn’t eaten much vegan “cheese” before that, but it was delicious!

bare bones baker

Finally, she made a very rich chocolate dessert that I ate too much of because I was blown away by how good it tasted. I’m really looking forward to trying out the gluten-free and dairy-free recipes Annalise comes up with for Bare Bones Baker and I hope you check it out. :)

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Florida, places, political action, society

2017 A Day Without a Woman

I participated in A Day Without A Woman earlier this year on March 8th, International Women’s Day. I initially learned about it from the Women’s March group, then read a Facebook post arguing they were co-opting it, and the International Women’s Strike organization was the real originator of the event.

As with the Women’s March itself, there were criticisms that A Day Without A Woman was an action only women with privilege could take. The concept behind the event was to show how much women do through our absence. This excludes women without jobs, and women with jobs that would fire them if they took the day off.

Although I agreed with some of the criticisms, I decided to still participate. I believe imperfect action is usually better than no action at all. I believe it’s better to try to live in line with my beliefs and attempt to change things than to accept the status quo simply because I’m too afraid to make mistakes or be criticized.

I was on an email list from the St. Petersburg, Florida Women’s March, and from that, found out about an A Day Without A Woman event on the beach. I drove out to St. Pete and stopped at a raw vegan restaurant to have dinner alone before continuing on to the beach.

day without a woman crowd

The day felt very peaceful. I switched my hours around at work that week, which means I didn’t technically “strike,” so I know my participation in A Day Without A Woman was more for me than for any external effect. Still, I’m glad I took part in it. Like other political activities I’ve participated in, it was rejuvenating and helped me feel more optimistic that the world isn’t as dire as it can feel when I’m viewing the news from behind a screen.

The crowd was joyful. I learned that a Quaker activist group organized the event. A large group of mostly women gathered in groups to spell out “RESIST” with our bodies. It surprised me that, near my letter, at least (“T”), men were organizing by telling women where to sit or stand. I’m sure they are kind, wonderful people, but isn’t that a little ironic?

day without a woman beach

I chatted with a couple people, and everyone was so happy. As with other events, it seemed different people were there for different reasons–some to protest Trump, some because of the threat to healthcare, some for immigrants’ rights, etc. I think the common thread was a desire to feel community, kindness, goodness, and caring.

If you want to read more about this event, here’s an article in Creative Loafing that I found while writing this blog post.

As I reflect on 2017 and look to 2018, I hope to participate in more events. I realize that I often feel disconnected, like I’m not part of a community. It’s time to change that.

(All photos by me except for the drone photo, which I found on the Quaker Huddle Facebook page.)

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art, Florida, places

I met Peter Max

peter max One of my highlights of 2017 was meeting pop artist Peter Max. I went on twitter one Friday night and saw that he was going to be at a gallery in Sarasota the next day, so I went for it and drove out there.

peter max

The gallery was small, and there was no cost to get in. Peter sat in a chair and had a line of about five people waiting to speak to him.

I have a large Peter Max tattoo on my upper arm, and was equal parts excited to show him and nervous that he wouldn’t like it. He’s in his 80s and a super famous artist, so I didn’t know if he’d consider a tattoo of his work a compliment or distortion.

I walked around the gallery admiring the art for a while. I couldn’t afford any of it. A guy gave out free champagne in the back of the room. I had a couple glasses.

peter max artThe other people walking around browsing the art were very friendly. A few of them noticed my tattoo and stopped me to talk about it. I was the youngest person there, save the guy giving out champagne. There were definitely hippies in the crowd, including a man with a braided beard. I overheard another person say, “He taught my yoga class this morning.” A woman came up to me, took her backpack off, then took her sweatshirt off to reveal another sweatshirt with Peter Max art on it. “This was made in the 80s!” she said.

It was a fun scene.

Before I got up my courage to stand in line to talk to Peter Max, his assistant spotted my tattoo and called me over. She was also the one who took the photos of us–I was nervous about being rude and hadn’t planned on asking for photos.

Peter said he loved my tattoo. He couldn’t stop staring at it. He asked who the tattoo artist was, and marveled at what a good job the artist had done. (Note: the tattoo artist was my high school friend Chris, who works at Maximum Tattoo in Wheeling, Illinois.)

I stuck around while Peter Max talked to a few other people. It was clear he has memory problems, but he maintained a happy, kind attitude the entire time. I kept thinking I’d like to age that way. Each new person who approached him had some sort of story of how they’d met him years ago, or how his art affected their life. My favorite was the couple celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary. They brought in a gigantic painting, asking if he could write a note on the back. The husband teared up when he explained the painting was a wedding gift they’d bought for themselves with money they’d received at the wedding.

 

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Florida, non-profit organizations, places, political action, Public Policy, society

Volunteering for Planned Parenthood

planned parenthood

Like many people, I was motivated to get more politically involved by Trump’s election and the Women’s March. In early 2017, I decided to begin volunteering for the ACLU and Planned Parenthood.

One of the first events I volunteered for involved contributing to a physical presence on the day of an anti-Planned Parenthood protest. We weren’t supposed to think of ourselves as counter-protesters since we weren’t protesting anything. Our goal was to overshadow the protesters so anyone coming to the clinic felt welcomed and not bombarded, and so people driving past noticed us more than them.

planned parenthood

Standing in the line on the street was fun. I felt some of that same Women’s March excitement in the air. People talked more about Trump than about the protesters. It was clear that his inauguration had spurred people into action. Like me, many of the people there were volunteering for Planned Parenthood for the first time.

The event was eye-opening for me. Our show of support for Planned Parenthood in the face of the protesters was dramatic. We arrived before they did, stayed later, and outnumbered them by at least 3-to-1. Also, they were more pathetic than I had expected them to be. I figured I’d feel anger when facing the protesters, but I felt sad. There were some elderly men, and also families with children whose faces showed they had been forced to attend. Their signs were full of fear-inducing phrases in ugly colors and fonts, while ours were bright pink. The protesters looked miserable; the Planned Parenthood side was joyful.

planned parenthood

This event was meaningful for me in more ways than one–it was the first time I publicly showed support for the pro-choice movement. I’ve been pro-choice for over a decade, but it’s the one political issue I’ve shied away from posting on social media about, or discussing with family. I was raised in a fairly conservative Christian household. Abortion is a major issue for most of my family members. When they vote Democrat, they do so with a heavy heart because of this one issue. I know that they are not ignorant or insensitive zealots–they are caring and compassionate. They genuinely view abortion as murder, and want it to be illegal in order to save lives.

I began calling and thinking of myself as a liberal when I was around 17 years old, but for the first couple years, I’d mention abortion as the one issue I disagreed with–I thought it should only be allowed in special circumstances, such as rape or incest. At some point in my early twenties I began considering myself pro-choice, but if anyone asked about my beliefs, I’d say, “I’d never get an abortion, but I think other people should be able to if they want.”

planned parenthood

Now, at 36, over two decades after I first began developing my political beliefs, I feel comfortable standing in the street wearing hot pink and holding a Planned Parenthood sign. I can say I’m pro-choice without wanting to add a preface or any qualifications to the statement. The evolution of my beliefs helps me feel kindness and compassion toward people who believe differently, at least on this issue. It also shows me that political stances are fluid, not static, which gives me hope for our country overall.

Talking about politics is important. My beliefs on abortion wouldn’t have shifted if I hadn’t encountered so many people who were pro-choice, if I hadn’t been forced to evaluate my beliefs and why I held them, over and over. This is why I want to make an effort to speak up more. I’m still figuring out how to do so in a way that is kind and open rather than judgmental or forceful. Blogging posts like this is one of those ways.

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society

The St. Petersburg Women’s March 2017

womens march january 2017Reading “The Trump Effect, One Year Later: Thousands of Women Running for Office” in yes! magazine prompted me to think about the Women’s March that took place around the country and world last January. I’m posting the photos I took at the St. Petersburg Women’s March for posterity.

I had a lot of fun painting my sign. I procrastinated until the night before, and both Walgreens and Target were all out of white poster board, so I bought black instead. I didn’t finish painting my sign until the morning, and it was still a little wet when I met up with my friends.

womens march january 21st 2017

On one side, I put “Let’s grow like weeds.” This was my favorite side, although I don’t think many people understood it because people kept stopping me and asking what it meant. Maybe because they think of weeds as inherently bad? I liked the analogy. My focus was on growth. You try to get rid of weeds, but they just keep coming back. I dunno, it seems straightforward to me. The weed angle also gave me an excuse to paint flowers and leaves. I viewed it as a positive way of approaching resistance.

women's march january 21st 2017

On the other sign, I painted the word “LOVE” in pink, with the symbol for woman taking place of the “O.” I chose this because I like the vintage aesthetics of the woman symbol (which, I recently found out, is a symbol of Venus and the male symbol is a symbol of Mars). It’s not a secret that I’m somewhat enamored with the spirit, culture, and style of the civil rights era. I felt like I did a good job of channeling that with the “LOVE” sign.

womens march january 21st 2017

I spent a lot of time thinking about what to put on my sign, and purposely chose things that felt happy and encouraging. Even though the Women’s March was a protest, I wanted my experience at it to feel like a celebration, a moment of community and encouragement in the midst of a dark time. It felt exactly like that, which was exciting and fulfilling.

I hesitated about using the woman symbol, and about wearing pink, after reading advanced criticism of the “pussy hats” people were planning on wearing. I didn’t want a pussy hat, but only because I didn’t like how they looked. I can’t find the exact article now, but the general criticism was that the pink pussy hats and any other sort of resistance gear focused on female anatomy were excluding trans women who do not technically have “pussies.”

womens march january 21st 2017

This was a surprising argument to me, mostly because I hadn’t heard anything like it before. Being a woman and being feminist are both fairly large parts of my identity. I don’t feel like embracing my body, sex, and gender is negative in any way, and initially, even though I had no desire to wear a pussy hat, I felt a little defensive on behalf of those who were planning on it. I fell down a rabbit hole of articles and came across a term I’d never seen before–TERF. It stands for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminism.

womens march january 21st 2017

Learning about TERFs sort of blew my mind, and was the reason I began questioning whether or not I should wear pink and paint the woman symbol. I suddenly wasn’t sure if I was making offensive mistakes I hadn’t yet realized. I definitely don’t want to be a TERF! I hope to be as inclusive as possible. I really had to sit down and reflect on the differences between sex and gender in light of this new information. The argument against pussy hats was that not all women have pussies. I was forced to confront that, prior to that moment,  I had been thinking that all women do have female genitalia, which meant I had not been thinking of trans women as “real” women.

I read quite a few other criticisms of the Women’s March. Most of them were similar to the criticisms of feminists in the civil rights era, saying those who participated were really only marching for the equality of middle- and upper-class white women. Where had they been for Black Lives Matter? Etc.

womens march january 21st 2017

Later, the Washington Post asked, “Was the Women’s March just another display of white privilege?” Marchers across the country were allowed to march without a permit (the march I took part in, in St. Petersburg, Florida was supposed to happen on the sidewalks, but of course it didn’t). The marches were peaceful, and many critics said that’s because marchers were white, so the police didn’t do anything to instigate conflict.

womens march january 21st 2017

Even though the Women’s March wasn’t perfect, and even though many of the criticisms were likely true, I am still grateful I took part. I still think it had a major impact. I think it will be taught in history books one day, and I’m glad to say I was involved. As white woman who thinks of herself as an intersectional feminist, all I can do is receive the criticism openly and try to do my best to be fair, consistent, and open-minded moving forward. I have a lot of learning to do, and so does everyone.

The energy at the Women’s March was contagious, as they say. And the people marching weren’t all women, and they weren’t all white. The crowd spanned all ages, as well. I teared up, multiple times. It was wonderful to see the sheer numbers in the crowd, to know that the narrow-mindedness, the hate, the prejudice being so openly espoused from the highest office in our country was not shared. That many Americans–people who do not consider themselves “political”–were willing to get out in the streets to show their support for a more loving, fair, and kind society. I hadn’t marched in a protest for a few years, since moving out of Chicago, and I’d forgotten what a magical experience it can be.

 

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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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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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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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