How to be Happier and More Effective In Life

Another journal transcription, this one I’m putting up to share with family.

*When crisis or events truly beyond our control happen, this perspective refers to how we react to what we can control.

An internal locus of control refers to feeling that you yourself are in charge of your life, the choices you make lead to success or failure, rather than external forces exerting pressure on you to bend you to their will. Those with an external locus of control are more likely to feel victimized, blame others, be pessimistic, focus on “what if” scenarios, have less resilience, and greater apathy. They sometimes become manipulative, reasoning that others are manipulating them, in an attempt to gain control of the external world that provides them with validation.

Internal locus of control shows higher rates of happiness, less stress, and more feelings of being empowered. The opposite perspective is sometimes framed as being faith in that a higher power will controls one’s life, but the two can be merged when seeing that God gave us free will and wants us to use it, to learn and grow, and affect the world in a positive way. We feel better when we attend schoolhouse Earth, rather than being used as God’s pawn, a built in reward system for using our free will.

Internal locus is associated with higher need for achievement, and self motivation. A fixed mindset believes they have natural talents that just occur, an internal locus of control leads to a growth mindset, where you are always looking to improve your talents by working hard, making a plan, and getting input from others. Those with an internal locus have a higher sense that they can impact the world around them, leading to greater satisfaction.

To Nurture an Internal Locus of Control:
1) Define your values and beliefs. When we have regret, that is because we were not acting in our true nature. We can regret missed chances as much as we might regret our own actions, both should be evaluated to help define who we are, and we should act accordingly.
2) Become aware of your choices and accept them. Systematically evaluate your choices. Be aware of what you truly can’t control, and where you may have made better decisions. Ask for help when needed, an outside perspective aids evaluation.
3) Embrace failure, that is how we learn. Those with an external locus of control will avoid situations that may involve failure, those with an internal locus of control will go out and do something they know could result in failure and use the experience to refine their future outcomes. Go ahead and take calculated risks, using your experience as a guide.
4) Accepting the choices we made and failure as a result also leads to accepting when we are responsible for negative outcomes that impact others, apologizing, and striving to do better or rectify the situation however we can.
5) Focus on solutions when you encounter problems. When something bad happens, don’t let it be all you think about. Focus on what you’ve learned from the experience, come up with an actionable plan. Distract yourself if needed, but see what plans you can form when you calm down.
6) Spend time in introspection. Try to truly understand yourself, and your limitations as well as your strengths, what you can rely on and build upon. Build the skills you need. Base your decisions on actionable goals, broken down into achievable steps.

Are the Democrats Enslaving Black People?

Apropos of nothing but my own meandering thoughts, I remembered an old blog post from a blog before this one where most of the posts were deleted, and I realized I wanted to have it on hand. I dug it out to transcribe to my journal, and decided I needed to make it public again.

A discussion online, regarding whether or not assistance to Black people is a form of racism that holds them down, has me thinking about my personal experience using government assistance to fund my education. In particular, about the systemic racism I saw within that experience.

Now, what I’m going to be talking about doesn’t have to do with the Democratic party. This is my personal experience, as a white woman who had a suburban childhood (while in elementary school I went to private schools and had maids) followed by two decades of poverty, even multiple times of homelessness. It seems to me that programs for assistance do not pass through government without being revised in order to receive support from the opposing party. Changes to proposals always happen, adjustments are always made to accommodate the other side. This one of the ways racism gets worked into the system, this is why we are talking about the system itself.

This was about a decade ago and there have been changes to the program. I’m not up on the current situation. In fact, I hear that the program I am about to mention lost funding completely, though I’m sure something similar took its place. Similar issues plague all forms of assistance.

First of all, you couldn’t get assistance getting into school unless you proved you couldn’t get a job any other way. You had to turn in proof that you were meeting job hunting requirements, and if offered a job, you had to take it. Even if you had a family to feed, and it was only minimum wage. This is under the assumption that a minimum wage job was preferable to the strain on taxpayers of sending someone to school so they could afford to feed their children.

Minimum wage was designed for teenagers who live with their parents, it is not designed to help support a family. You can’t work hard at a minimum wage job and raise the money to send yourself to school if you have rent to pay and mouths to feed. And it might not be saving taxpayers money to keep you in this situation. You will likely be receiving food stamps, utility, and other assistance the rest of your life without that education.

So, once you prove to the people handing out the school funding that you are looking for a job and can’t find one without an education, then you are sent to a program that will pay your tuition at a community college so you can get a two year degree or certificate, as long as it’s one of the approved programs. These programs were limited to mostly the health care field and social work.

To be in this program, you were required to stay on campus every week day. If you were not in class, you were required to go into a supervised study hall, where you were monitored to make sure you weren’t goofing off on the internet, instead of doing your homework. I was in my 30s, supervised under the assumption that my poverty meant I had the responsibility of a child, rather than an abusive family that kicked me out over religion, leading to homelessness (I was 19, but that takes years to recover from). Even if your work was done and you were making straight As, you were still required to study quietly in this study hall during business hours. There was massive implication that if you needed this assistance, it was because you were lazy and untrustworthy. Your poverty was obviously your fault, regardless of circumstances.

Once you were accepted, the program paid your tuition for you, and helped you get the supplies you needed to get started. It was made known to you that the way the program was paid back for their generosity was if you remained on the program the entire two years. Sometimes, students started getting financial aid based on their grades and left the program. When that happened, the program did not get funding and that put them at risk for not being able to help as many people. As dirty as the program made me feel, it provided an opportunity I didn’t want to deny to others.

Circumstances made it to where I couldn’t fulfill my obligation, I also left the program and used financial aid instead, but I had intended to stay out of the feeling of obligation the program instilled. However, I had a social worker at one point tell me incorrect information, that I was allowed to switch majors after school started. He had told a lot of students this, and had been moved to different department because of it. Turns out, it was a federal offense to change majors. I was told I could continue with the program if I wished, but I was afraid at some point someone would come along and say I was told I had committed a felony, and I chose to keep committing it. I left, but felt bad that the program would not receive funding for me.

However, leaving the program freed me up to take psychology instead of social work, previously not allowed because you could only take two year programs. You were not allowed to pursue a four year degree. I understand the theory that you can then use your two year degree to work your way through a four year degree, but it means your options were more limited. You couldn’t choose to do what I did, remain on the program until you could pay for schooling with financial aid, allowing you to get started on a four year degree right away and not waste your time with extra schooling.

There is no reason to limit that option unless you just want to add additional control on the people using the assistance out of spite. If they had the option to leave the program once financial aid came in, if they weren’t told that would ruin the chances of the program getting funding and therefore other people would not be helped, the program would only have to help you for a semester or two, less investment in you overall. You could get in the program, and if it helped you get good grades and scholarships, that’s how they get their approval for funding. That would have taken me one semester to no longer be a drain on the taxpayers. Instead, you were pressured to stay for two years, with people controlling your lives to a large degree, seemingly just to enjoy insulting you with their red hoops and the implications they hold.

It was, as they say, problematic. But it does not hold for me the lesson that assistance is a form of slavery by not letting people empower themselves. Rather, it speaks to me about how more funding for higher education, with less hoops to jump through, is a thing that needs to happen.

P.S. – This really should be opening with something discussing how classism and racism are related, but that came up more in the original discussion this was a thought process of, I kind of jumped on the opportunity back then to sneak attack someone after the context of “racism hurts all lower classes” had been brought up, I really wanted to hit him in the “this shit affects you and those who look like you whether or not you choose to have empathy” spot.

You Have Done Good – Yes, You – I Mean It

We leave fingerprints on people’s lives. I didn’t come up with that. I would say Sierra did, but when I really think about it, she probably didn’t either. Someone said it to her. It affected her. It left a mark. She shared it. The mark stuck on me, as well.

Then there was Chris, the disenchanted waiter. He affected me in the strangest way, completely accidentally. This must have been… 1994? I was a teen. I remember him very clearly, every toss of his hair embodied drama in action. If he didn’t have a fantastic story full of adventures to complain about, he would he sit in our booth (this was Denny’s), light up a cigarette, and loudly complain about his customers at the table nearby, within earshot. He once brought my friend the wrong order, and when he spoke up, Chris said, “Well, the sign does say Denny’s” and walked away. He did not fix the order, ever.

We loved him so much. He got all of our allowances in tips. He lived in the office, and the manager wouldn’t fire him because customers drove across the city to see him, and we would riot if he couldn’t get to work due to a lack of ability to get to work or like, not having a bed and stuff.

Anyway, once upon a dark and dreary long night of the soul, I was feeling fairly forgotten in a city far away from my friends and home, and Chris popped into my head and I laughed. My heart warmed with joy at the antics of that asshat, and I knew I would never forget him until the day I died. Then I realized I had no way to tell him that. Then I realized how shitty his life was at that time. It likely means he took a while to recover, and he probably at times became so close to broken or, well… probably even might have broken and maybe he needed to hear something like some random person far away would never forget him, he would always bring them joy, no matter how many mistakes he made. I was sad I couldn’t tell him.

Then, the weirdest thing happened. I wondered if anyone ever thought that way about me. Grocery cart races popped into my head. And the thing with the prom dresses, the prank with the foaming candy, that time they didn’t tell me a crowd was gathering to hear my spontaneous song. I could go on, and have actually been invited to a few parties because of my ability to do so. I’m just saying, that dark period of my life wasn’t the only period of life that I’ve had, and that night I realized a few things may have happened that probably make me actually a bit rather hard to forget. In the way of good things, with laughter, and song. I’ve probably left fingerprints.

It happens digitally, too. It’s easy to dismiss internet culture as not “real”, even telling people to “touch grass” indicating we need to focus on “what’s real” over “what’s not”, but that’s not really what’s happening, is it? Yes, the internet is manipulating us heavily, in ways that exaggerate or completely misrepresent reality, if we aren’t careful. But also, passing conversations from the days when forums were still popular are still with me. People who were just a picture with a user name of nonsense next to them really were people, they really did give me advice, comfort, laughter, a feeling of community.

We leave fingerprints. We can use that. We might even be able to smudge the world into the shape we want it to be.

I am at a phase of my life where my role is changing. My life was rough, but I had guidance. Yes, therapists. Yes, a few key people who were kind enough to step in and fill a role other adults in my life wouldn’t. Not just them, though. Some people weren’t even talking directly to me. Sometimes I was confused, or lost, and I overheard a conversation somewhere. The journal I started keeping, I got the idea when I realized a couple of those people had a journal on them that they would pull out, something they could rely on when they needed to present a logical argument. News clippings often backed up passages where they wrote down their thoughts, and then they shared those thoughts with people in their community.

Only a handful of those people have come into my life, and I remember them still. I think of them when I see activists online, getting weary. I remember I sent one a personal message letting her know that even though my interactions with her were nothing but likes, her words were being remembered. I’m glad I did that, because soon after she became targeted by unfair harassment, I hope I helped. As I mentioned, I feel my role is changing, like instead of maybe sucking up all that healing they were throwing my way, maybe now I can start doing what I can to turn some of that support outward, because I see a lot of tired people, and when I say things like “I want to show people how to see the world a better way”, I get replies saying it’s just not worth the effort.

I think maybe we as a species need feedback. We are social creatures. But the work of trying to reach out to others, you can’t always see the results right away. You might not personally see the results of what you have done at all. Those results might be kept secret, locked in the memories of people who will carry you with them forever, sometimes without knowing your name. I know this, because I have those secrets. I’ve spoken to people who have those secrets. It happens. It’s a part of human life. Don’t give up. We all leave fingerprints.

A Secular Devotional Journal

I have a tool for navigating today’s turbulent world. I have what I think of as my secular devotional journal, and I know that’s a thing that is out there, but I don’t know what others look like, or how they go about it. But, I did something with mine recently that was really cool, and I wanted to share it, because it made me feel good, and we all need a little hedonism in our lives. I got through to someone (face to face, in the real world), and it felt excellent.

No scandalous details provided, sorry. Not of the event, nor of the trauma involved. Just the method I used to calm down, and explain my position more clearly. I will, however, admit to being the emotional person. I’ve been in years of therapy, starting with childhood, and have a (dusty and relatively unused) BA in psych. I was talking to someone I know is intelligent and compassionate, but not about the same issues as I am. Nor do they have the same approach to conflict.

The journal is the evolution of an attempt to review my skills. I’ve been sitting at home comfortably, and my ability to maintain my chill during difficult conversations has grown slack. My degree is looking like so many wasted dollars, my ability to explain my opinions based on my education has grown fumbly and weak.

The journal starts with a guided meditation (a prayer or calming motivational passage will do, maybe a soothing poem about nature), followed with topics organized like a bullet journal. The topics are notes on subjects such as de-escalation, differing perspectives, logical fallacies, and (most recently) notes on a webinar I attended for standing up to street harassment (of any type). When I am angry and frustrated at the world, I pick up my journal and read the meditation to get my chill, and then review my notes. That way, I know I am more prepared for discussions that make me angry, frustrated, and likely to panic.

I highly recommend this practice. Those notes are what helped me be more confident and calm during a critical discussion recently (combined with breathing and soothing skills). The discussion itself reminded me of things I wanted to make sure I kept in mind. To give you an idea of what goes in my journal, below is my reaction to that discussion, something that I typed up on the computer and revised, and am now about to transcribe into my journal.

Sometimes what we focus on the most makes it seem as if we are speaking different languages, and we may have different approaches to conflict resolution. Some people come from an environment where feelings were respected, and the phrase, “Stop, that hurts my feelings” is met with acknowledgment, and the behavior stops. This is done out of respect for how people have different comfort zones on different issues, this can be difficult to navigate, therefore the rules of acknowledgment remain consistent, giving the encounter predictability.

Sometimes, the request is met with an attempt to calm the feelings by discussing the problem logically. This strategy tries to cool the waters of conflict with logic, to decide the most productive way to look at the situation. The logical person tries to respectfully explain their perspective to aid balance. When they respond to claims of hurt feelings by trying to discuss their perspective and are told to stop the behavior, this is seen as a selfish attempt to control them.

When the rules of acknowledgment are not met, the emotional person might see it as disrespect, and the attempt at explaining their perspective as telling them that they did not have the right to have their emotion. When they try to explain why their comfort zone has been violated, this is met with being told they are not being logical, even if the emotion stems from a traumatic experience. They feel they feel they are being shamed for having a normal human reaction to events beyond their control. They can become even more hurt and flustered by this, and when their arguments devolve, it is interpreted as an attempt at emotional manipulation. In the environment the emotional person comes from, a mutual immediate respect for emotion allows them to back off and calm down, before discussing things in a more respectful way. If there is lingering trauma, these rules give a person a safe space to react, and regain control, and this becomes valued highly.

To the person from a background that respects logic over emotion, this can represent a power struggle, and emotional immaturity. After all, a breath of fresh air can clear the mind. Many have been through trauma themselves, and their coping skills work just fine. When they tell the emotional person that they need to just let the bad feelings go, or try to offer their motivations to give perspective, those from an emotionally respectful background can become enraged, as the rules of engagement have been broken, their stability is threatened. Those taught to respect emotion are also taught logic, but they are taught to navigate stress and biases differently, and the rules that provide them with stability are ignored, while the other person insults their approach.

It becomes worse when both are compassionate people. The emotional person might become frustrated with what they see as part of a cycle of abuse, feeling they are being told they don’t have a right to feel an emotion or react to stress, and this is part of how manipulative people in their lives have gained control over them. They want to reach out to the logical people and explain what they feel is basic empathy. They want to teach them about how to maintain safe emotional space, and how good it can feel, and they are met with criticism.

The logical person with compassion might want the emotional person to learn how to control their emotions, and feel if they tried harder, they would not need to try to control others around them. They might see discussion of chemical imbalances or psychological distress as signs of a weakness that needs to be combated with better emotional regulation and control. It’s very possible, though, that the person from a supportive emotional environment came to that environment as part of their experience with therapy and their attempts to heal, they might not be at a part of their journey where they are ready to easily dismiss the stress, or there could be a real physiological reason for their emotions, and criticism of their emotional control is seen as an attempt to shame them into feeling worse, until they behave to try to meet approval of someone whose ideals they don’t agree with. They feel giving in would be weakness or a lack of self respect, and they end up in a true power struggle, thus confirming the logical person’s belief that the request for emotional space was an attempt at control all along.

A Pond Water Video For My Baby Girl

Teaching my daughter about the natural world frustrates me, because I am mad passionate about it, and have to resist the greatest urge to infodump. She is six, and while I can answer her questions, she gets bored as I try to simplify complex things. She also doesn’t have much patience for looking through the microscope waiting for something interesting to happen. When I promised her a video of the most interesting bits, stuff naturally fell into place. Hopefully the fact that I made it especially for her, on her very own channel just for things I made for her, will mean she wants to watch it many times, and it can help with reading practice that way.

Venus Flytrap Digestive Glands

And with that, the last of the designs and recolors I posted about last time is officially up, the previous gallery of potential requests has come to an end. Since it did indeed seem to help my visibility and sales to post every Friday, I’ll keep that up.

Meanwhile, something cool happened. I got a microscope. Now, not only can I improve the art I have planned for a few pages, but I can also treat the bladderwort food I culture like a pondwater life safari. I’ve had it about a week, and it’s been a blast. So, this round of weekly designs and recolors to feed the algorithm gods features a repeatable tile I drew by hand using little paper squares in an old school analog style offset filter. They make nice desktop wallpapers, so I put them up on the goodies page for download.

Anyway, you can now buy a throw blankie adorned with Venus flytrap digestive glands, so you can wrap yourself up and pretend you’re a fly being digested. Yay! Click –> here to see all of the products available in this design.

A Few Offerings

I am very much enjoying the path my project is going down. It looks like it will be three parts, and I’ve finished the research and most of the writing for the first two thirds of the coloring book. I’m mostly alternating between that and layout planning, but recently decided to stop and sort out a few things about techniques I’ll use when drawing the pages.

This meant I ended up with a few drawings to play around with, and I thought I’d seize the chance to pay a little quiet heed to the Redbubble algorithm gods in the hopes that my art supplies can start to pay for themselves. Supposedly, releasing designs on a weekly basis can help increase their visibility, so I figure I’ll give it a shot. Every Friday I’ll post a new design or a recolor for a bit, see how it goes. That would be this store: –> the one right here.

Rather than posting an announcement every time something goes up, I thought it would be less spammy to have a little gallery to pin. Since I can’t really think of a good reason to keep the upcoming designs a secret, and in fact it might benefit me to provide people with a chance to request something now, here’s a little preview of the designs and recolors I’ll be occasionally posting over the next few weeks. If you see something you would like on a shirt or book or whatnot, certainly let me know and I will definitely put it up right away, I have fancy paper and inks to buy. All recolors of the skull over the pitcher plant have both a tall version and square version that removes the dome and stems.

Anyway, it’s time to stop playing around and get back to this project, toodles!

Page One

I like how my swamp ecology coloring book project has evolved. I’ve been frustrated with how slowly I’ve been moving forward, but I’m glad I allowed myself time to experiment with various media and work on my skills before I committed myself, because I’m excited about the changes I decided to make.

Originally, I wanted something simple for young fingers, something that educated, presenting the information in a storybook way. Now I’m leaning toward graphic novel, but still a coloring book. I’m far too excited about illustrating hydrochloric acid digesting a fly to keep thinking I want to target a younger audience. Thinking of it as something for young readers means I kind of hold myself back, while this perspective means I’ll feel more like I’m expressing myself.

Plus, thinking of it as a coloring book means I spent too much time trying to make my lines perfect and clear, I ended up overworking everything and becoming unhappy with my results. I always get so sad when the last of the sketchy lines are gone, I think it’s time I lived up to the fact that I like things a little messy, a little imperfect. So many graphic novels I have loved because there were often sketchy lines left behind here and there, it’s like peeking into the artist’s process, life, soul. Whatever it is, it means too much to me, I might like the challenge of refining my art to look better, but if I’m never happy with my art because I tried too hard to make it perfect and it became empty to me, I will never release it.

Anyway, here’s a draft/sketch of probably page one. I finished up the last bit of research for chapter one (How a Venus Flytrap Digests Its Prey), and I only have a draft, but it’s a chapter and this is page one, and I finally feel like I have begun. To commemorate the occasion, I’ll add a coloring page to my meager gallery of early offerings.

This project will cover a lot of info, and some of it (maybe all) will be animated as well. I’m still experimenting with my process, but it feels a lot less like fumbling around with a vague idea and zero confidence, and more like I’m moving forward on a project that will expresses what I want it to in a way that feels like me.

International Dandelion Appreciation Day – Belated.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. In my defense I was without a computer for a few months. While I was away, I missed International Dandelion Appreciation Day (April 5th), and it was sad because not only was I working on a journal entry for my favorite flower, but I had the perfect poem to share, and no way to get to it behind my broken screen. But, today I saw that the two awesome dandelion varieties I bought were germinating, so I feel like celebrating all over again. [Edit – It turns out the world decided to celebrate with me, as today is International Day of the Dandelion, this is the most timely thing, ever. Also, please don’t tell people they have two days. They need this.]

Two seed packets, one for pink dandelions, and the other for Italiko Rosso, a variety with a red midrib.

Dandelions are more than simply tasty and nutritious. It’s considered invasive, but that’s because of how it behaves as a pioneer plant – a plant that fills a particular niche. In poor quality soils, plants that have adaptations to cope with such conditions come in first, a wave of “pioneers”. They have features such as deep taproots that break up compact soils (like dandelions) or the ability to pull nitrogen from the air. Then when they grow and leaves and roots die off, they release those nutrients back into the soil, along with organic matter. The soil quality improves, and other plants begin to move in and take over, the pioneer plants get crowded out.

The reason they are difficult to combat in lawns is due to the poor soil quality of lawns. When we use strong fertilizers, it kills off the microbial colonies that help keep the soil fertile by retaining the nutrients at the soil’s surface. Rain washes the nutrients to a lower level, where the dandelions can reach and the grass can’t. The grass suffers, so we add more fertilizer, just like the labels written by people who sell fertilizer tell us to do. We set up the environment for our grass to die off without chemical intervention, and for the dandelions to thrive. Thus, the inspiration for a poem I once wrote, and will share again today.

Suburban Sunshine

Across the lawn, a man of gold did flow
His grace spoke soft, his strength gave truth
He sang his hope, his pride of glories grown.
But lo, behold, the putrid waves of smoke
Tendrils of bitter lion’s teeth entwined
He fell to monsters beneath soft blue grass
His cries lost to the raw eldritch madness
Into the soft embrace of well-fed soil.

A Dinner Date With Your Dog

This is a recipe designed to be shared with your pets (I have checked safety for cats, though I focus on dogs here). It’s adaptable to whatever meat you wish. It is not meant to be your pet’s complete diet, just a meal you can share to add variety while still paying attention to their health.

Skip to the recipe.

This time of year, with hearts decorating half the isles in the grocery store, we love to shower our loved ones with treats. It’s widely recognized that gifts of candy and a fancy dinner can demonstrate your love to a partner, but often the desire goes beyond romance. We include the children in our lives, both giving treats to them and encourage them to share treats with their friends. Naturally, many of us want to include our pets. I can see the evidence of that in how quickly the Valentine’s day doggie treats vanish at Target.

There’s reason for this strong connection between love and food. The bond over sharing food is recognized beyond this holiday. Festivals and celebrations across the world feature food, and sharing it to celebrate each other. The reason for the season might be lost on our pets, but the significance of bonding through shared enjoyment of treats certainly isn’t.

It’s disappointing when a vet tells you to stop, that your doggie’s health might suffer otherwise, especially when you know the treats communicate so much to your dog. One of our Pomeranians is a senior who struggles with joint pain, heart disease, failing eyesight, and alopecia (he went almost entirely bald after a groomer inexperienced with Poms clipped him too close, it took a couple of years to start growing back). All of these are problems I can ease somewhat by paying attention to his nutrition.

I bought an excellent book by the Dog Food Dude, did a bunch of internet browsing, even doodled bullet journal pages. Then, I spent the last couple of years doing what I could to help him within the constraints of time, energy, and budget. What I can do varies, as our situation varies throughout the year. But, we’ve learned to make it a priority to do what we can for Baby Bear nutrition-wise. He has more vitality, and I’ve gotten most of his hair to grow back.

Sometimes, money is tight, but time is plenty, so I cook the food for all three dogs from scratch. I learned the hard way to not make a large amount of a recipe, a sample large enough to last a few days will show if they are willing to eat the same thing long term. Switching things up every now and then is definitely appreciated, and leftovers can be divided into portion sizes and frozen, making it easy to maintain a variety while still cooking in batches.

However, I usually don’t have money for a fully balanced diet when I resort to this. I tend to see it as a healthier substitute for low quality dog food, and not something I do long term. In theory, home cooked food is more nutritious. In practice, if I can’t afford vitamins to add, then it’s better to get the highest quality kibble I can and enhance it with a couple of tricks. Gluten-free and hypoallergenic kibble is preferred with Bear’s joint pain, to keep down inflammation as much as possible.

Then I pour bone broth over it to help his joints, and top it with a few sardines or squirts of fish oil. I might add a few roasted carrots or sweet potatoes to help his eyes. Other things I might add, if I can get them, would include coconut oil, seaweed, and organ meats like heart, kidney, or liver. You can find other things to add online, but also pay attention of lists of foods to avoid for both dogs and cats, they are different.

It isn’t that difficult to do, and the results are worth it. The problem comes when the family wants to eat something fried, or with heavy spices, and the dogs think that looks much better than some roasted sweet potato sprinkled with seaweed. It’s a struggle to say no to good doggies, especially when the bond through food obviously means so much to them.

This can be solved by setting aside a few dog safe foods during cooking and putting them on the edge of your plate, and also by making something designed for everyone to share. This recipe is a guide for the latter.

This can be done with a pound of any meat, but naturally the goth in me couldn’t resist the darker side of the season. Heart is a source of vitamins B2, B6, and B12. It also has iron, zinc, and selenium. Using organ meats as a source of protein can help add variety to the diet, and at a fraction of the cost of the choice cuts.

As it turns out, beef heart is wicked delicious. It tastes like steak, but the texture is different. The muscle fibers don’t get stuck in your teeth. It’s a texture that might be described as a little bouncy. It almost reminds me of agar jelly, but more firm.

As the family’s resident weirdo, I was the only one delighted at the thought of cooking organ meat for my dogs, and sampling it. There are still certain organs that the humans in my family aren’t anxious to try, but as soon as the scent of beef heart rose in the air, it was like a magnet drawing curious tasters who came back for seconds and thirds.

You have a choice of one of two ways to cook it. The civilized method would be to slice the heart into even strips, and saute them as such. For those who love chaos and darkness, I suggest throwing the whole thing on a cast iron skillet, sear it, and then lower the heat to prevent too much char. The center will take a while to heat up, and it will bleed, bleed, bleed. Sip some red wine out of something with a skull on it, and hum your favorite horror movie theme. Turn frequently to prevent burning. It can be sliced into strips or chunks to serve. The result will be something that will delight those who love a range of textures and flavor on their meat.

In selecting ingredients, avoid onions, garlic, chives, leeks or anything in the onion family. Go easy on seasoning as much as possible in general, especially salt and hot spices. If you don’t like the result, remove some of the food for your pets, then season your own remaining portion how you wish.
Go easy on seasonings, especially peppers and curries, but a little bit is okay. Cats might avoid foods with pepper added, and may be more sensitive to digestive upset from it.

Use bone broth for the liquid, to give as many beneficial nutrients as possible. If you want to cook chicken or pork, you might want to substitute half the broth with apple juice. Do not try grape juice as a wine substitute in a sauce (or wine itself). If I don’t mention an ingredient specifically, always check if it’s toxic to your pet. Avoid oily foods and supplements for cats, though they might like a sardine as a garnish.

The basic meal format I use for sharing is a starch topped with vegetables, then a meat, then a sauce. If you like, you can simply make a plate and toss bits to the floor if they are good doggies (they are). Or you can serve them in their own dish, mixing in some kibble with the starch. This also gives you a chance to add things that some people might not want on their plate, such as ground flax seed, or coconut oil. If mixing in something for omega 3 fatty acids, stir it after cooking to prevent nutrient loss. Aim to serve dogs up to 40% protein in puppies, 30% in adults, and 25% in seniors. Just cook the meat separately so you can eyeball this and avoid a lot of math.

If you have an ingredient you want reluctant pets (or kids sharing the meal) to eat, such as green beans or peas, you can purée them into the sauce, or serve the meat and veggies as a pâté. Put it on a bed of rice, shaped into a heart, and drizzle sauce over it. Show it off on the innerwebs. You can also sneak ingredients into meatloaf or meatballs.

Tomato sauce can be used, but only from ripe tomatoes without a hint of green on them. Add something such as carrot puree to thin out the tomatoes, and serve only a little. Dogs can benefit from a little olive oil and basil as a dressing to the starch, but cats should only have a limited amount of oil or it might upset their stomach. Avoid dairy based sauces, which leaves mostly gravies.

For a starch, I usually use brown rice, gluten-free egg noodles, or barley. Brown rice and barley can be prepared before you start cooking the meat, egg noodles can be dropped in boiling water as the sauce is being made.

If using brown rice, I cook it in my rice pot, with vegetables in the steamer insert, rather than sautéing them like I do in the recipe. You can cook the meal however you like, thinking of it as a stir fry, stew, pasta with meat sauce, or a one pot meal. Eggs are also an excellent protein source, sometimes I include a few sliced hardboiled eggs as a “garnish”.

If not using heart, use lean meat, no more than 10% fat. I usually cook the meat in a stainless steel skillet, deglazing with a drop of bone broth to start the sauce. To thicken sauces, I use corn starch or rice flour, as a lot of pets have a wheat allergy.

No grapes or raisins, avoid anything in the onion family, curries, cumin. Go easy on spicy peppers, if feeding a cat you might want to keep them out entirely. Go easy on sugar, it can mess with their digestion.

Things to use
There is more, this is just what has occurred to me to check for safety in my cooking, therefore made it into my notes. Use enough rice and veggies to serve all who are eating, leftover sauce and meat can be frozen in individual servings, to be warmed up and served over freshly cooked starches.

Starches and Grains:
Black Beans
Brown rice
Gluten free noodles
Red Beans

Green Beans
Sweet potatoes


Sauce thickeners:
Rice flour

Heart over Noodles
This is a make as much as you like, and season to taste kind of recipe.

You need:
1 beef heart
Gluten-free egg noodles
Beef broth
Zucchini, cut into chunks thick enough to not cook too quickly.
Sweet potato or carrots, cut into thin pieces to make sautéing easier.
Just a pinch of salt and pepper

Start warming water to boil. Slice beef heart into even strips. Sauté in a skillet on medium high heat, letting the juices blacken and stick to the pan. Move the meat to the side. Sauté vegetables, and move them to the side.
Throw the noodles into the boiling water. Use the beef broth to deglaze the pan and make the sauce. Season the sauce lightly, whisk in about a tablespoon of cornstarch, and stir as it simmers until it is the desired consistency. Drain the noodles, top with the veggies and meat, then the sauce, and serve.