My Work, Writing

The Gift of Burden

Our parents are the first people to give us anything. This is not meant as a heartfelt platitude. Just as we say life can be taken, it is also given. The giving of life is our first gift from another human. Our parents are the first to give us many things — gifts, warm memories, love. They’re also the first to give us pain. They give us our fears, harsh memories, our traumas. They give us the flawed personalities we spend a lifetime working to improve.

This is not unique to our generation, our parents, or our society. It’s the human experience to be shaped in some way by the people around us and our parents are the first people around. We like to think we’re the arbiters of our lives and the origins of our selves, but spending decades with the same person as we grow through different life stages can mold us more deeply than our conscious efforts later can. 

I’ve found it hard to hold within me these contradicting gifts. How do you reconcile joy and suffering given side by side? With self-reflection I’ve been able to uncover the patterns in my own behavior that add empty weight to my burdens. Living with these hidden patterns is like listening to a new record, unaware it has a few scratches, and thinking the song itself is flawed. It’s not always your life, but from what mind you experience that life, that makes it harder. 

Finding and mending the scratch conjures questions. When did it happen? How did it happen? Bear with my psychoanalysis, but a lot of those scratches happen early — it’s of course, much easier to scratch something that’s still soft and moldable than rigid and guarded.

I’ve had wonderful parents. And thanks to their dutiful and near perfect parenting, one of those scratches I carry is a deep and un-resolving need to repay my parents. But that’s the point here — you’ll always be scratched when you’re soft. Even the pan you pour a cake batter into, safe and appropriate of a vessel as it is, still molds the cake.

Some of us are not so lucky to have had parents wielding a mold that is just right for us. They leave us with more scratches than are defensible, some even intentional. These children grow to suffer the deepest; it’s much harder to accept suffering when it’s given from the same hand that gave you the gift of life. 

I thought about this experience and what parallels it might have. Humans are not the only species so deeply molded in youth. Puppies are only legally allowed to be sold after 6-8 weeks of age because this is when they’re weaned off their mother’s milk. The best breeders keep their puppies longer, around 12 weeks.

While a puppy can be weaned at 6 weeks, the learning it experiences with its siblings and mother has just begun. At 5 weeks and on, they learn when a bite is deserved and when it isn’t, when to heed a growl, how to have fun without hurting their playmates — lessons that will make them better adjusted to life in dog society. From 8-11 weeks a puppy experiences the Fear Impact period — anything that frightens them can become a phobia for life. Much to Freud’s credit, even a dog’s issues can stem from youth.

Yet, some of us may never notice a suffering we experience as stemming from childhood, and maybe it doesn’t. Others of us are familiar friends with our burdens and their origins. 

It’s natural to look at our difficulties and resent their creators, but they should always be framed within the full picture of who we are. You might have anxiety, but you also have a unique sense of humor through which you see the world. You might be depressed, but your compassion and care lighten the lives of those you know. Being hyper-focused on our flaws is water on a seed, they grow and grow, only to become more overwhelming. They become the only thing visible in the frame; it’s no surprise this creates feelings of pessimism, lethargy, and self-doubt. Without a balanced view of the fight, we see ourselves as surely defeated.

I struggled to accept my own gifts of suffering as still being part of myself, not a thorn that if only removed would let my truest self come forth. I felt conflicted; how can my parents who have selflessly gifted to me also have taken from me? Yet, my parents can ask this same question of their own parents and their parents can ask their parents too. It’s knowing I was not unique in this paradox that helped me make peace with the contradictions within. We all live and have lived; whole people, individuals, lives of both beauty and pain, but lives nonetheless.

Instead of trying to surgically remove the parts of ourselves that are discolored, only substituting incisions for bruises, we can take a step back from the mirror and appreciate the body as a whole, bruises and all. Appreciate the shades of purple and blue, consider how the body heals itself as blood collects under the wound. Appreciation for even the darkest of circumstances reframes the picture beyond just the pain.

And who has never had a bruise? We are fetishists for perfection; humans have always tried to hide their flaws like a herd animal hiding its wound, fearful to be attacked or exiled. Ancient instincts do not always serve us in modern society. Now we close ourselves off to the members of our packs that can heal us. We take insult at the idea we might have hurt another or might be ourselves hurt. Instead we conceal the wound, conceal what the animalistic brain deems a weakness and struggle on, festering and risking infection. 

Certainly, living in societies means we benefit in some ways from acting as a herd, but remember that the group will never prioritize the individual’s life. It would be a danger to the group’s survival as a whole. How much are we willing to bleed silently in service of the herd? Look at your bruises, don’t hide them. You only further convince yourself that perfection is the standard from which you’ve fallen and you are uniquely flawed. Every human body can sustain a bruise. Yours are not proof of an unusually weak one. Instead, let them serve as a reminder that your body is whole, living and though some parts are bruised, others are not.

Think of all the dogs you’ve met. The majority of them will also have been burdened with needless challenges that their more pedigreed neighbors were not. Yet, are these bad dogs? Is the dog that plays a little too rough, barks a little too loud, and irrationally fears innocuous situations unlovable? There would not be 90 million dogs living in homes cross this country alone if it did. Their families make exceptions for them where needed, a walk on a route that specifically avoids a menacingly colored car or extra comforting during a thunderstorm. They go on to live happy lives within a family that loves and protects them. How many of us have not joked about switching places with a pampered family pet? 

We are given so many things by other people that never take a material form. We live through infinite generations, each one shaping the next, both for better and worse. Ugly as they might be, you are still of your bruises and they are of you. Just as we are given to, we are taken from. Just as the sculpture requires the addition of clay, it also requires the subtraction. I’ve realized our parents don’t give and take, they give a single gift with two halves; you cannot be given joy without something with which to compare it. You cannot be whole without two halves.

A dog may never be able to overcome the challenges puppyhood burdened them with. It can take years of compassion, effort, training and retraining to give them the same thing other puppies had from the start. What happens in the formative years of life becomes so entrenched in the animal that it can become indistinguishable from their very personality. The puppy can remain fed, clean, and safe from harm during puppyhood, but it can also have been burdened with a severe phobia. The puppy is given a future of both joy and suffering simultaneously. As are we. 


Put your thoughts in the comments, on Twitter, Instagram, as you like.

My Work, Writing

False Seeds Don’t Grow: Corrupted Motivation & Honest Intent

unnamed twitter user

I am an anti-social social media user. I eagerly share my thoughts while hiding away from the actual socialization. 

I dread Twitter mentions. I just go there to talk to myself, really. Therapy’s too expensive anyway. Short thoughts transcribed and collected are attractive — it’s like a journal, but one that claps for you afterwards. And while a positive exchange is like a pat on the back, the negative is more a push to the chest. Appreciated as the former is, the latter outweighs it.

The truth is I have little faith left in the possibility of quality interactions surrounding meaningful ideas, especially online. I resent social media for many things (maliciously addictive design, one), but I especially resent the thousand banal arguments I’ve been force-fed through the feed. I can’t think of another scenario where a human would be the audience of so much uninspired spite from strangers. Yet I remain, undying optimist (fool?) that I am.

I’ve seen so many of these arguments I feel like the Jane Goodall of social media. I’ve taken my observations and tried to analyze the data — what makes this strange species act so remarkably insufferable about their ideas? The point of study. Do the motivations behind why we argue degrade the argument? The hypothesis. 

Honesty is a concept that’s been present so long in human society we don’t consider it often and we rarely reconsider it. We usually approach it the way our societies always have, making tweaks for morphing cultures and shifting moral values. It’s worth much more consideration than we give it. It’s the most fundamental aspect of any worthwhile and healthy relationship, and what is a society but a giant collection of relationships?

When we think of honesty, we think about whether you are honest with me and I with you. It’s why public figures like Donald Trump are so darkly enthralling. Most of us wouldn’t think to lie to our families and partners, let alone entire countries, so when someone does, it’s jarring and we feel compelled to right their wrongs through our outrage. 

I believe in calling liars liars — we should hold each other to a high standard of honesty. But this honesty isn’t the kind we lack most in our relationships and it isn’t even the kind that’s all that important. The best time to stop dishonesty is before it leaves the origin.

There are 2 kinds of honesty — outward and inward. He who lacks the first always lacks the second. Inward honesty, honesty with the self, is the more elusive and unpopular form of honesty, yet a practiced sense of self-honesty can change your life. It cuts past all the bullshit excuses we give ourselves for why today just isn’t a good day for the gym because I didn’t sleep long enough and…; it transforms our relationships — instead of having a rough day and picking a fight with our partner only to call it an even worse day, self-honesty gives us the awareness to recognize from where our behavior stems.

Yet it’s so, so unpopular. We don’t concern ourselves with requiring this kind of honesty from others, instead we emphasize outward honesty — don’t you dare lie to me while I’m busy lying to myself about why I’m with someone who lies to me to begin with. But I completely understand inward honesty’s unpopularity. If choosing between catching you in a lie and catching myself in a lie, I would rather be right. 

We’re so fixated with catching and punishing other people in their lies we’ve neglected the second, vital half of what honesty is. Without self-honesty, everything we do stems from undefined motivations. If I can’t be honest with myself enough to see my dislike for another person might stem from my own insecurities, what chance do I have at a genuine interaction with them? Worse yet, I lose the chance to recognize and mitigate the damage my insecurity does to my relationships. I lose the chance to develop into a higher self. 

Here’s my own outward honesty; I don’t want to hear about how some public figure is lying again and how these people I don’t know are so wrong about a thing. If it’s a crime, let it be dealt with as such. If it’s a shitty person, deal with them, too, as such. I don’t need any more proof, I know everyone’s usually lying to someone else or themselves in at least some routine way. It’s not that I’m apathetic or cynical, I wouldn’t write this if I was. I believe it’s wasted effort that would be better spent catching that dishonesty before it leaves the source.

When people have reached the level of lying to others, the shame you heap on them will rarely change them; they’ve already lied to themselves about their justifications. The effort is better spent on the self. There’s little you can do to change a dish once cooked, but changing a recipe is an art in itself. 

I avoid debates now, the difference between 2 people seeking understanding and 2 people seeking to be right is the distaste left in the aftermath. Debates are debates in name alone when both sides are motivated by anything other than truth. Instead we dress up our egotistical motivations in ideology and fight to ensure they remain pristine, or in reality, unchanged.

Yet truth is never damaged by change, only the ego is. When we argue for ego, we lose the chance to find truth and instead force a perspective on the world around us. This rigidity in mind is exactly what’s missing and what creates the beauty in the way a child interacts with the world from deep curiosity or the one-ness and emotional peace with the world someone experiencing a loss of ego under psychedelics feels.

New environments are left behind by each route we take to a goal and that route differs with our reasons for the goal. If I want to lose weight for the sake of my health or to instead feel accepted by my society, the path I take to obtain the same goal can vary immensely, even dangerously. Lack of self-honesty can cause us pain. Without cultivating a sense of self-honesty, we repeat the same mistakes, needlessly prolonging our own suffering. 

But the damage is not just done to the self. Anyone that seeks to solve a problem must first understand its reality. The farther from reality we stand, the more our accuracy shrinks. Any critique or contradiction should be welcomed, examined, and considered as a chance to see more of reality. Or are we now so frail in mind as to fear being corrupted by even hearing the disagreeable?

Paper by Nora Berenstain on the inherent harm in skepticism.

Information is neither good nor bad, it’s the ego that tells us new information which might render us wrong is a danger. It’s that fear of being wrong that prevents us from seeing the world more truthfully throughout our lives. The concept of a cultivated child’s mind has been considered by those dedicated to life long learning. But the quality of the child’s mind that makes it such a freeing place from which to learn is self-honesty. The child has yet to fully form his ego and retains a fluidity of ideals that allows them to hold any idea and pose any question from a place of true curiosity.

I used to be a very argumentative person, always happy to teach someone how they were wrong. More self-honesty let me see how my arguments never had the goal of understanding, but instead of self-affirming. I wanted to be right more than I wanted to learn.

I hate to think now that I would so prize my ego and feed its love of being right over the chance of understanding, of learning. I don’t want my ego affirmed, I don’t really even want my ego at all, so there are many discussions I won’t have now. Most of them, actually, I won’t have, because most of them are an egotistical tug-of-war. Yet there are few things more uniquely human than exploring the world around you through honest discussion. Replacing one with the other is like replacing Phil Collins with Ray Wilson — offensive even in theory, disastrous in practice.

Surprisingly, I’m not some enlightened being recounting my wisdoms from on high. I struggle with not telling myself micro lies like “I deserve a second donut” and “I’ll do it tomorrow” daily. I admit my shame: I, too, have an ego, and it demands the ugliest things of me. I can’t tell you how to act from a place of inward honesty, but I can tell you it’s a good idea and how I try. 

Count the number of questions you ask every time you speak, then take that number and double it. Monitor arrogance. The moment you feel pride about the argument you’re making, stop and ask more questions. Ask questions to other people, even if you think they’re wrong, and ask questions to yourself, even if you think you’re right. For now I’ll retain my anti-social social media strategy: observe from a far and flee. Even Jane Goodall eventually left the jungle, too. 


You didn’t think I would praise the virtues of honest discourse and curiosity and then not ask for your thoughts, did you? Yell in the comments, on Twitter or even Instagram if that’s your thing.

My Work, Writing

Cerca de la Tierra

I was so honored to have this piece as my first printed work in La Yerbera by La Liga. The printed version has now long been sold out, so I wanted to share this very special work here. I wrote this for my abuela, who is a force, a life, a personality to be reckoned with. I’m so lucky to come from a line of women who spit fire and kindness all the same. What a blessing of an existence. I hope you enjoy this ode to my roots.

Cerca de la Tierra (Close to the Earth)

Mi abuela se mudó a Miami desde Cuba, an incredible and immense story all in itself, but a common enough immigrant tale. More common still, she settled in the city of Hialeah, where she’s lived for over 15 years. That house she moved into was a barren lot whose gringuito owners lamented that nothing could be grown there. For them, the soil just wasn’t fertile. 

At the intersection of common life and quiet magic stands la casita del bosque. Today, that same piece of land is a tropical forest in miniature without having changed a thing about it but its caretaker. Every square foot is hidden under cool shade from the mango y aguacate trees towering above. Potted plants line the walkways, walkways that are delicately blanketed from the gentle snow of red Poinciana flowers in late May. 

“Corre corre que te vas a caer un mango encima!” takes the place of a greeting during summer months. As a 12 year old girl who caught lagartijas and parrots like a Latina Steve Irwin, my abuela’s house was a foreign country onto itself; a place that gifted me fond memories of being from the last generation before commercials needed to encourage kids to play outside. To this day, I know there are still parts of that semi-untouched forested land that I’ve yet to walk on. Land claimed by and for the matitas rooted there.

When I wasn’t being carefully watched so as to prevent death by falling fruit (an innate abuelita power is being able to foresee your death coming from even the most innocuous situations), I was sneaking into the vine covered, seemingly 1000 year old rusting shed with a heavy, creaking door that sheltered the altares and food offerings to los santos. When one prospers, so, too, do their gods. 

Upon fleeing Cuba, mi abuela was forced to bring nothing but herself and her children. However, she did manage to sneak out her santos también. Contrary to the stereotypes, not all Cubans are Santeros — and those that aren’t have a tendency to look down on those of us that are. Previously in meager surroundings, los santos have been eating good since they moved to Hialeah.

Abuela at 1 year younger than I am (26)

My abuela would have you believe they are the reason this piece of land where nothing would grow has become the mysterious viejita’s verdant, hidden house on the block. As all abuelitas do, I believe she’s giving away too much credit. 

Now as an adult, I share my home with 13 plants and counting. My table is never without freshly cut flowers to reflect every season. Just as she grew the fruit trees that stand almost protectively around her home, my abuela grew in me a love and fascination with nature. Like an estranged family member only to be visited on occasion, nature has never been something we lock outside. My abuela taught me to bring the Earth inside in more ways than one.

Cuba
Cuba

Cerca de la Tierra

Mi abuela se mudó de Cuba a Miami, un historia increíble y inmensa, pero un historia común también. Mas común todavía, ella se estableció en la ciudad de Hialeah, donde ella ha vivido por 15 años. La casa en donde ella se mudó estaba en el medio de un pedacito de tierra completamente basio, dueños gringuito lamentandan que nada podría crecer alli. Para ellos, la tierra simplemente fue estéril.

Donde el intersección de la vida común conoce al mágica callada se sientes la casita del bosque. Hoy esa misma pedazo de tierra es un bosque en miniatura sin cambiar ni una cosa pero su curador. Cada pulgada esta escondido debajo la sombra fresca de los arboles de mango y aguacate encumbrado. Matas en macetas alinean las pasarelas, pasarelas que están cubierto con nieve delicado de los Flamboyan flores rojos in las ultimas semanas de Mayo. El saludo “Hola princesa” se convierte a “Corre corre que un mago te vas a caer encima!” durante el verano.

Como un niña de 12 años que atrapo lagartijas y loros como un Steve Irwin Latina, la casa de mi abuela fue un país extrañero; un lugar que me regalo memorias lindas de ser de la última generación antes de comerciales que tenían que incentivar a los niños a jugar afuera. Hasta esta día, yo se que hay partes de esa casi-intacto tierra boscosa que yo no he puesto un pie sobre. Tierra reclamada por y para las matitas arraigadas alli.

Cuando no estaban velando me cuidadosamente para prevenir la muerte por la caída de fruta (un capacidad innate de las abuelas es preve tu muerte incluso de los situaciones más inocuos), me estaba metiendo en el cobertizo cubierto de oxida y escondido debajo viñas, apareciendo 1000 años. Detrás de su puerta pesado y crujiente estaban los altares lleno de comida y ofrendas a los santos. Cuando uno prospera, sus dioses también prosperan.

Al huir de Cuba, mi abuela fue forzada a traer solamente ella y sus hijas. Sin embargo, ella alcanzo a escabullir su santos también. Al contrario a los esterotipos, todos los Cubanos no son santeros — y los que no son tienen la tendencia de virar la nariz a los que son. Anteriormente en un escaso entorno, los santos ya están comiendo bien desde que se mudaron a Hialeah.

Mi abuela te haría creer que los santos son la razón que este pedacito de tierra donde nada podría crecer ya se ha transformado a la casita escondida detrás de el verdor, misterioso y abundante. Pero como las abuelitas hacen, yo creo que ella estas regalando demasiado crédito.

Ahora como una adulta, yo comparto mi casa con 13 matas y contando. Mi mesa jamas esta sin flores frescas para reflejar cada temporada. En la misma forma que ella cultivo los arboles de frutas que ahora se paran casi como protectores de su casa, mi abuela cultivo en mi una fascinación y amor de la naturaleza. La naturaleza nunca fue algo que dejamos afuera, como un miembro extraño de la familia que sólo visitamos ocasionalmente. Abuelita me enseño a traer la tierra adentro en más de una forma.

This was an important piece for me to write; I wanted to give my grandma something that could put the feelings of gratitude for our shared love of la naturaleza into words, and that’s what this is.

Abuela

After it was published I brought by a copy of the magazine and we sat in her living room, surrounded by the tiny jungle she cultivated from barren sand in the middle of urban Hialeah. I read her this essay and, woman of few words as she is, all I needed to see was the pleased half-smile on her profile as she looked out the tall windows over her tiny jungle.

Salomé

*This essay get you thinking about your own abuela? You might enjoy my photos and essay from my trip to find family in Cuba. Interested in learning about one of the most significant threats to la naturaleza in Latin America today? Check out my essay on, Paying for our Own Destruction.

Personal

In Memory of My Boy

Writing this is hard. Writing has a way of making things real; even things that are pure fiction, like magic and Middle-earth, can be made so familiar through skillful writing we can find ourselves subtly jaded upon returning to reality after closing a book.

This is one case where I wish writing had no such quality, where I wish my writing would be so horrible there’s no way anyone, especially myself, could believe it. As things are, it wouldn’t matter how many misspellings and cliches I make, this reality remains.

My dog of 18 years left me behind for the first and last time. He died on March 24, 2019, in his beloved little bed, with the hands and love of his family surrounding him. I wasn’t there; I was out of the state, completely convinced he would be right there in his little bed like he’s always been for almost 2 decades upon my return.

I hate myself for not being by his side for the loneliest journey of every animal’s life. By his side the way he’s been by my side for his entire life. He wasn’t alone when he died, but I was alone when he died and that’s my burden to carry. A burden of my choice, of course, as dogs wouldn’t be dogs if they held grudges the way we do.

I’ve written something for Simba and for me. It’s messy, it’s a pile of grief and gratitude and then more grief and gratitude; it’s a bunch of words to communicate my love for a dog that never needed a single word to communicate his. Simba deserved every good thing that this earth could give but there’s nothing else I can give now except my mournful, grateful words.

I look at the ground where you sleep and I have to hold myself back from digging you out, just to hold your perfect, tiny, potato-round body one more time. You were just here and now nothing — no money, no miracle — nothing can take us back to 1 week ago. In a world with so many exceptions and caveats, death feels otherworldly. A punishment from an alternate world. It’s been 1 week since you were sleeping in that little brown bed and I still thought we had 10,000 years left together. The innocuity of an empty bed is so deceiving; an empty bed is loss — loss of sleep, loss of love, and now, loss of life. I never once thought of how painful seeing your empty bed would be.

Now I too feel empty. Worse, I feel robbed. I didn’t know the last time I saw Simba would actually be the last time I saw him. I hate the world for taking someone so pure. What kind of place lets a life so gentle end? I don’t want to spend my grievous energy contemplating the circle of life and accepting our life’s limited time. I don’t want anything except my boy. My small, irreplaceable, fat-bellied, fire-bellied boy of 18 years. I want to tell him how much I appreciate him. How massive an impact this 9 pound being had on me, on my life. How sorry I am for all the times I walked past you without taking 60 seconds to give you affection, attention, even acknowledgement — how sorry I am for how human I am.

Thank you for being my friend, a tiny but fierce blockade against that penetrating sense of loneliness we humans are so sensitive to. I am no exception; without the comfort of knowing you are somewhere in this world at the same time as me, that fearsome loneliness creeps around me. I’d never felt your presence so heavily until I lost it forever. How selfish I was, to take for granted that greatest gift of companionship you gave to me, the loneliest of species. I hope you’re not alone. I’ll try to step away from my humanness just to live a little bit more in the way you taught me; I’ll try to be a better companion to the lonely humans around me, just the way you were to me.

You taught me so much. We shared the simplest, smallest joys that all mammals understand — stepping outdoors and breathing fresh air, skin warming under a mild sun; feeling safe and trusted, the only relationship I knew to have been effortless without language. I didn’t understand how valuable those daily 4 minutes we would both step barefoot onto the damp grass were. I was so impatient. I’m told I was the epitome of patience, of care, but even 1 minute of unappreciated time is too much to forgive now that all our time is gone. I can’t believe our time is gone.

Thank you for teaching me. Thank you for tolerating me. I’m a verbose person and you were of so few words. Just a few words in this world of endless talking and languages — “walk” and your name were the only words you needed. By the end you had no words left, no way to hear those words, relying solely on the bond of trust and care to communicate. I know I gave you everything because you trusted me and felt safe and cared for til the last sigh. It was so easy to give you everything because you never wanted anything more than loving care. It’s that purity, that genuine ego-less selflessness that breaks me apart now. Another lesson you taught throughout your whole life but one in which the student is destined never to surpass the master.

All I can do now is feel the acute guilt of a less than selfless existence, a bond marred by human frailty — the times I was annoyed, the times I was busy. I would apologize, but a dog has no need for this human invention; an apology isn’t love, love is love. So once again, even gone from my side you still teach me — guilt, mourning, apologies — they have no use for those without ego. The only language you understood was love. So I’ll try, though only having a fraction of the vigor your 9 pound body coursed with til the last second, to set aside my self-indulgent grief and give to others in your name the only thing you ever asked of me, compassion and a few moments of gentle, loving care.

Sleep peacefully, little man
(2001-2019)

Modern & Holistic Pet Care

Feeding Dogs Raw Food On A Budget: How to Supplement Your Dog’s Food

Not everybody has the time or disposable income to prepare a diet of fully raw dog food, particularly if it’s a larger dog, but that doesn’t mean your dog’s health has to take a back seat. Unfortunately for dog owners, the grocery store kibble brands have had a death grip on our ideas about the type of food we should feed our dogs. Big kibble corporations (I’m talking big – did you know Science Diet is actually owned by the same company that makes soap, Colgate-Palmolive?) have even sponsored nutrition courses in veterinarian education programs, which helped to further the public’s idea of what dog food should be. 

Dogs need a varied diet made up of whole foods and mostly meat. Kibble, even the healthier grain-free formulas, lack variety, moisture and freshness. What makes kibble a not-so-great diet staple but a wonderful retail product is its shelf life. Regardless of recipe, kibble starts out as a meatball of ground up ingredients, then cooked at high temperatures so the piece of food hardens into a kibble. It’s the human equivalent of processed cereal – something we would never eat at every single meal, so why should our dogs?

Supplementing with raw dog food snacks

One of the main issues with feeding only kibble is the lack of moisture in it. Dogs historically acquired roughly 70% of their water intake from eating uncooked meals. If you check the bag of your dog’s kibble you’ll see moisture percentages as low as 10% and 12% – your dog has to make up for this difference solely through drinking water. Many dogs, especially health compromised or older dogs, simply can’t and begin to show the symptoms of perpetual, mild dehydration. Store-bought raw dog food is generally 70% moisture.

When a dog’s body doesn’t have sufficient moisture, it begins to redirect these resources to more vital functions, like digestion. Issues like a dull coat, constant and heavy shedding, dandruff, urinary tract issues and even joint health are affected by a lack of moisture. 

dog food for soft shiny coat  You might feel you just don’t have the time, money or expertise to invest in switching your dog to 100% raw dog food, but it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. So let’s get to my recipe for supplementing your dog’s diet with a raw food booster snack.

I was boarding a client’s dog and saw that for having a coat of thin, short hair, the dog was shedding tons; entire clumps of fur. I also noticed that her coat was riddled with dandruff. These are classic signs of a chronic lack of moisture – the skin and hair are not vital functions and are thus some of the first to have moisture stolen from them to facilitate more integral functions. 

dog food for soft shiny coat

I learned her diet was strictly kibble, but it wasn’t even a low-quality brand of kibble, as it was Taste of the Wild. Yet it didn’t matter whether the kibble was grain-free, organic or kosher – it was still kibble and never above 15% moisture – that leaves your dog having to make up for over half their moisture requirement strictly through drinking water. There are many problems with this but one of the most dangerous that has plagued especially larger dogs is bloat, or gastric torsion – a condition that’s been observed to occur when a dog consumes too much water too quickly; it occurs suddenly and can kill. 

So being that this wasn’t my dog, I wanted to find a cost-effective way to boost her dietary moisture without switching her food or even buying raw meat. The recipe in this post is what I came up with and it’s made almost entirely of ingredients you almost certainly have in your kitchen right now. 

Supplementing with raw dog food snacks

This is a great recipe to either feed as a snack or add to their meals of kibble. Just be aware of how this addition to your dog’s diet could alter their daily caloric intake.

Raw Healthy Skin & Coat Snack
Yields 1
A supplemental raw dog food recipe for a skin/coat health boost
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Ingredients
  1. *1 egg (plus shell, crushed).
  2. *1 tablespoon of sprouts
  3. *0.5 tablespoon of shredded spinach
  4. *0.5 tablespoon of coconut oil
  5. *1 teaspoon olive oil
  6. *1 teaspoon chia seeds
  7. *0.5 teaspoon cinnamon
Instructions
  1. 1. Crack egg into food bowl and add crushed shell.
  2. 2. Add shredded spinach and all other ingredients.
  3. 3. Mix until an even mixture is attained.
  4. 4. Add a splash of hot water if coconut oil solidifies.
  5. 5. Serve as is or with kibble.
  6. 6. Dispose of leftovers after 30 minutes.
Notes
  1. * This recipe is crafted with a health 40 pound dog in mind. Each item can be researched to confirm the proper serving size for your dog.
Luna Gemme http://lunagemme.com/

The Benefits of Each Ingredient

  • Raw Egg: No, your dog will not get salmonella. The ph of a dog’s stomach is highly acid and kills bacteria that a human’s would not. Plus, ever seen a dog eat another dog’s poo? Yeah, they can handle a raw egg. Dingos are actually known to eat raw emu eggs, so this really isn’t an unusual addition to your dog’s diet. Eggs are a great source of amino acids (what proteins are made of), vitamin A, iron and fatty acids too. 
  • Eggshell: It might seem strange to feed your dog the egg’s shell, but powdered eggshells is already a supplement available to humans because it’s rich in calcium. Letting your dog chew up the egg shell is also somewhat helpful in keeping their teeth clean, particularly great for dogs that already have trouble chewing bones.
  • Spinach: Dogs need a diet that is mainly comprised of meat, organs and bones, but even wild wolves are known to forage for berries and get a notable portion of plant matter from the stomachs of the herbivores they prey on. Plus, if our dogs can benefit, why not feed it? Spinach is packed with antioxidants, iron and vitamins A, B, C, and K that all have the same healing benefits to our dogs as they do to us.
  • Sprouts: This is something else that I already buy for my own consumption and just share with my dog. While there are definitely some foods you can’t share with your dog, a quick search can confirm any of your questions. Whether it’s pea, mung bean, alfalfa, broccoli, radish, clover or sunflower, sprouts are superfoods for both humans and dogs because most plants actually contain higher levels of all the nutrients they offer in the sprouted stage. So sprouts are basically steroids but made of vitamins and minerals, thus including them in your dog’s diet can help address issues with chronic ear infections, IBD, pancreatitis, allergies and arthritis. If your dog eats grass, they might be engaging in an instinctive behavior to consume trace minerals lacking from their diet, which sprouts can provide.
  • Olive Oil: Adds moisture and shine to dry skin and dull coats. Olive oil is also full of antioxidants that can boost the immune system. Plus it’s known to aid circulation.
  • Cinnamon: You might think cinnamon would be toxic to dogs the way nutmeg is, but it’s actually beneficial to help control or prevent diabetes and its anti-inflammatory properties help ease the severity of arthritis. It’s also antibacterial which can give you some peace of mind knowing that you’re helping to provide your dog with nutrition to keep them from succumbing to any bacterial infections. Cinnamon has even been found to prevent the growth of E.coli.
  • Chia Seeds: They have 3 times the amount of omega 3 fatty acids as salmon, making them a super potent supplement for issues with skin, coat, immune and joint health. 
  • Coconut Oil: Almost entirely made up of healthy fats, coconut oil was my go-to in restoring this dog’s shiny and soft coat. It’s known to improve digestion (an important aspect if your dog is known to have stomach sensitivity), reduce bad breath, aid with joint issues, and control or prevent diabetes. 

Supplementing with raw dog food snacksWhat do you feed your dog now? My dog eats a mixture of homemade and store-bought raw food, with the occasional canned food when we’re traveling. Does your dog have coat/skin issues too? Let me know if you try out the recipe – you should see a noticeable improvement in coat health after about 30 days.

Salomé

*Looking for more immortality potions? Here’s one for humans. Reading this when you should actually be sleeping? Check out my sleep routine (and then go to bed)!

Aesthete's Life

A Sleep Routine for Waking Up Earlier That Doesn’t Require $50 Candles

It seems like everyone’s writing about sleep routines. That’s great, sleep is very important and we live in a culture that has a pretty complicated view of rest/work balance. I just can’t help notice that most of these sleep routines are being written from light flooded luxury lofts and require $50 candles and $400 sheets.

Listen, I love sleeping as much as the next person but I don’t know anyone in a position to spend that much money on a sleep routine. That doesn’t mean a sleep routine itself is a luxury we should go without. If your goal is to wake up early and have that picturesque productive morning, a well-constructed sleep routine is vital. 

So I’m writing my own realistic sleep routine that requires minimal investment but is just as effective (I’d even argue it’s better because I tend to sleep more soundly knowing my bank account isn’t stressed).

This is my own night routine, but you should pick and choose what suits you to create your own night routine. 

Timing 

Every article that talks about waking up early says you should go to bed at the same time each night. That’s because it’s true. Yeah, I’m bad at it too but are you really trying though? Because I’m not. So let’s start together after having read it for the 50th time instead of waiting till the 100th. 

You should also start your sleep routine 1 hour before you actually want to go to sleep. I know, I always wait until 10 PM to go to sleep at 10 PM too. It doesn’t work. Just remember that your productice morning actually starts the night before. 

Strains for Sleep 

If you’re lucky enough to live in a state that’s got it together, you can purchase a strain of weed that will make your pre-bed ritual its own nightly event that you look forward to. Whether you decide to be old fashion with straight up flower or you prefer something a little less abrasive like an edible, making weed part of your night ritual takes it to a whole different level. 

I accidentally found this out after finding myself in the unusual situation of being fairly lifted right before bed. The nighttime yoga recommendation that’s next on this list? Completely conceived of during that accidental bedtime sesh. It’s 2018 and weed is legal people, use the tools you’ve been given!

My Bedtime Bud Picks:

  1. Afghan Kush
  2. Querkle
  3. Big Bud
  4. Skywalker

For sleep purposes I recommend you go the edible route as this produces a more potent effect that will last longer and ensure a deep sleep. I have a friend that swears by her pre-bed edibles and says they send her into a pleasant coma every night. Just be sure to time it so the effects occur at the start of your night ritual. 

Sleep Stretches 

I’m not a super physical person – I don’t even exercise daily. Point being, if I can incorporate a mini yoga session into my night ritual, you probably can too. Make it a super short and basic practice so it’s never too daunting to start when you’re already tired. It’s also important to set aside a special location where you do these stretches so that going over to it at the same time every night immediately triggers the habit to start stretching. 10 minutes of stretching and deep breathing will help release the tension you’ve been carrying all day while also slowing your thoughts down by getting you to focus on your body. 

This is the short version of my nightly yoga routine that I try to do even when I’m pressed for time:

Meditation 

Meditation is a great trick for getting your mind to quiet down so you’re not being harassed by thoughts while trying to sleep (if I sound bitter it’s because I’ve definitely been there). If you’re even just the slightest bit tired, a 5-minute meditation will make it hard to open your eyes afterward. I like to end my 10-minute yoga session with a 5-minute meditation; after that the day is officially over and I’m safe from worry and stress until tomorrow.

Add Lavender Lavender Essential Oil

Lavender candles, lavender lotion, lavender essential oil – whichever way you find most convenient, add lavender to your night ritual. While I personally find the smell of lavender relaxing just from of how pleasant it is, there’s plenty of actual science to back up why lavender is a useful sleep aid. 

Beverage 

If you don’t have a warm drink before bed you’re missing out on a powerful nighttime ritual. Having the same drink every night can condition your brain to disengage with the outside world and slip into night-mode every time you sip a certain flavor.

Chamomile tea is the traditional pre-bed drink of choice for its mild flavor and for proven sedative effects. You don’t have to be too preoccupied with which tea to buy as the chamomile will do its job regardless. This is a good starter option and here is a good Oh-You-Fancy option.

Want to really treat yourself? Make a cup of my Golden Moon Milk recipe before bed on those days you really need some deep restoration and detoxification. 

Read Before Bed 

There’s something really peaceful in how Amish it feels not to have technology around before bed. So reserve your pre-bed hour as a mini end-of-the-day-media-blackout: no phone, no computer, no screens. Plus, the last thing you need before bed is to raise your heart rate like social media is so good at doing.

The importance of sleep can’t be overstated, but the importance of the time we spend right before sleep warrants just as much attention. A well-planned and healthy sleep routine directly influences the type of morning routine you’ll have. Create your own night ritual to make sleep a more appreciated and purposeful event instead of something we do for 1/3 of our life but never really make a conscious effort to do well.

What night rituals do you already have? I’m always looking to improve my sleep situation so share your own ritual or what new steps you plan to add in the comments or on social media here and here

Salomé

*Did you like this post because you’re a neurotic freak about personal growth like me? Then you’ll lose it for this post. Do you care more about health and holistic living? I got you. Just need some pre-bed reading material? Here’s the perfect warm-feelings-as-I-drift-into-sleep story.*

My Work, Wanderlust, Writing

The Introvert’s Travel Guide – for Travel Latina

I wrote about the way I’ve molded my personal travel routine to better fit my introverted personality; a major change that has improved my traveling experience immeasurably. Though, if I had to measure it, I could probably measure the reduction in stress plus the physical and emotional wearing down brought on by the typical hectic travel plans.

I also shared the new method for traveling I use that cuts down the cost of accommodations to nearly zero! Reject the cookie-cutter model of travel and learn more about tailoring your trips to fit your personality from my featured piece on Travel Latina.

Have you experienced travel burn out? In my article I argue that feeling worn down stems from planning our trips using a one-trip-fits-all mentality that ignores our personal needs. What are some ways you keep travel exhaustion from interfering with your travels? Let me know in the comments or on social media here and here!

Salomé 

*Looking for a travel story to read while you procrastinate? This one might almost make you feel slightly less guilty about that procrastination. Have an interest in personal growth and travel is just one tool in your self-development kit? This thought-experiment is all you

Adorning the Flesh Prison

Kimonos to Kill People In


I snagged these two vintage kimonos recently and I have to say it was pretty difficult to list them in my shop. But if it were up to me I’d have 58 kimonos in my closet and a girls gotta draw the line somewhere.

So lucky you, this golden treasure is up for sale here. This is what I’m gonna call a Power Cloak – because really, who can tell you shit while you’re cloaked in gold silk??

This kimono is breaking my heart. I don’t need a boyfriend, I don’t need friends – this kimono listens to my problems and reassures me that I truly am That Bitch. It will be for sale in my shop for as long as I can find the discipline to go without this Power Cloak. 

If you make the amazingly wise decision (I’m not biased) to grab these from my shop before I grab them for myself, let me know what incredible accomplishments your new Power Cloak™ has helped you achieve. I don’t know about yall, but no piece of clothing makes me feel more like a mysterious heiress than a dramatic silk kimono. What’s your go-to power clothing item? Divulge your fashion-psychology in the comments or on social media here and here!

Salomé

*Looking for something a little more serious to read because you’re a masochist and like to worry? This is all you. Noticed my skin is glowing and want me to drop the skincare routine, I got you. Bonus: my top tips for curly hair care. *

Foodophiles, Recipes

My Coffee Shop Worthy Golden Moon Milk Recipe

Golden Milk

Though this drink has garnered more than it’s fair share of hipster-hatred, Golden Milk is one trend that we should all be happy to see, as it’s a beverage that’s both healthy and delicious. Haldi doodh, “turmeric milk” in Hindi, is exactly that — a drink of turmeric and milk in following with Ayurvedic medicine.
Golden MilkThis foundational recipe of milk and turmeric has been built upon to include many more ingredients so as to create an even more powerfully healthy drink. In my Golden Moon Milk version, I’ve prioritized the addition of sleep aid ingredients. 
Golden Milk

(If you hate when blogs put a bunch text before the recipe I’M SORRY just scroll way down past all my hard work and attempts at sharing knowledge because the golden milk recipe is the last part.)

Golden Milk

Here’s a breakdown of the health benefits some of these everyday golden milk ingredients offer:

  • TurmericThe active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, has been shown to possibly prevent depression, reverse liver damage, and prevent and treat Alzheimer’s. It’s also anti-inflammatory, making it beneficial for pain management and healing. Turmeric even helps your skin by controlling eczema and rosacea It’s possibly also literal magic but that requires further study.
  • Cinnamon – Rich in antioxidants that promote the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, cardiovascular diseases like heart disease AND cell mutation and tumor growth that leads to cancer. That is 3 out of the 4 most common causes of death. (Here’s an interesting podcast about health and the 4 major preventable causes of death if you were looking for some light subjects to pass the time with)
  • Coconut Milk – I switch out dairy in any recipes I adapt for my own usage because dairy is unbelievably bad for you, seriously listen, it’s lowkey ruining (and shortening) your life but it’s such a strong part of American cuisine we usually don’t question it. Using coconut milk removes the harm of dairy while also adding in a bunch of benefits like reducing your risk of stroke and heart attack through controlling cholesterol levels. Yeah it’s a little high in calories but you don’t get the goodies without some fat (yes this is a body positivity, thickness appreciation joke).
  • Ginger – This is not my favorite flavor, I’ll be honest, but I’ve added it to the recipe in a small enough amount not to offend me. I include ginger whenever and wherever I can because it’s a serious Super Root (I made this term up but you better show respect and capitalize). Ginger is anti-inflammatory, lowers cholesterol, eases nausea and pain plus it can maybe help you get your shit together since it’s been shown to improve attention and brain function. Lord knows not even intravenous turmeric applications can help me there. 
  • Cardamom – This ingredient is kind of like a guy who’s really good looking but stupid – you’re willing to have him around for a bit but not in any major capacity. If you just love cardamom I’m sorry, but it’s an offensively mild flavor. What it isn’t though, is unhealthy. Cardamon is a pretty serious cancer preventative as well as heart protectant through its ability to lower blood pressure.
  • Nutmeg – Now THIS is a damn flavor. Aw man, is my overplayed pumpkin spice obsession showing? I’d prefer to pretend I’m in it for the health benefits, some of which include a high manganese, copper and magnesium content which help in metabolizing carbohydrates (oh now you’re listening right?) and facilitating cell repair. 
  • Coconut Oil – Yall know damn well this shit is an elixir of gods I’m not even gonna bother.

Golden Milk

Golden Moon Milk
Serves 2
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
10 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 cups coconut milk (DIY Coconut Milk) (canned is for lazy champions but other shit works too)
  2. 1 1/2 cups unsweetened plain cashew milk (or almond if you’re less exciting than me)
  3. 2 cinnamon sticks (or 1 tbsp ground cinnamon – or both, you party animal)
  4. 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
  5. 1 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  6. 1 tsp of coconut oil
  7. 1/4 tsp ground ashwagandha
  8. 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  9. 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  10. 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  11. “a pinch,” which basically means, an-amount-that-translates-to your-feelings-on-this-flavor of black pepper
Optional Add Ins
  1. Saffron – 5 strands
  2. Sweetener - 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of honey or alternative for strict veganism. Adjust as needed based on your taste preference.
Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients into a small pot.
  2. Whisk to mix ingredients and warm over medium heat, without boiling (about 5 minutes). Stir frequently.
  3. Remove pot from heat and adjust flavor per your taste. You can ddd more sweetener or turmeric and ginger for more spice, or vanilla and nutmeg for a more mild but flavor boost.
  4. Serve warm out of the pot, as it's best when fresh. If using cinnamon sticks, I place them into the mug and serve them with the drink because it looks fancy.
  5. Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Just reheat using the microwave or the stovetop.
Oh You Fancy notes
  1. Garnish by serving each cup of golden moon milk with it's own cinnamon stick.
  2. I always dust cinnamon (or your preferred of the spice ingredients) on top of the served drink.
  3. If using saffron, you can drop a few strands on top as a garnish as well.
Luna Gemme http://lunagemme.com/

Golden Milk

This recipe might look complicated but seriously it’s a 10-minute effort that’s totally worth it – you just have to throw a bunch of spices in a pot! Let me know in the comments if you’ve tried golden milk before and what you thought of it. I’m also curious if you have your own recipe and how your version differs. You can also share your thoughts with me here and here.

Salomé

*If you’re into living holistically or want to be, this post is meant for you. If you’re more into cooking, here’s the perfect recipe to use if you want to show off when you’re cooking for someone.*