I’ve recently started making my own stickers for the kids I see at work. Many people have told me that I should make an etsy shop and start selling them too. Would anyone be interested in buying stickers from me if I started doing this? I’d even be willing to make custom designs. I’m always looking for new drawing ideas. Here’s a little sample of some of the ones I’ve done so far:
Where Do I Belong
They say that connection is an essential component of human happiness buried deep within our DNA we know we were not made to stand apart This obvious fact haunts me and hovers above my timid heart like a phobia of food and water what I fear is other people prickling skin and sweaty palms is this what happiness feels like? What a cruel, ridiculous irony to be afraid of what you need encountering so much pain alongside the brief pleasure of each pathetic attempt to belong self defeating, sinful nature I feel mostly bitterness towards my own kind I've forsaken them long ago to find refuge somewhere else I've learned to quench my thirst for connection among the dirt and dust of forest floors saying hello to passing birds the innocent caresses of angelic animals that offer me far more love than I could ever hope to have from humanity I was never proud to be a person like every one else seems to be I'd much rather place myself with those I trust and admire resting in the peace and simplicity of my true brethren in nature
Shake It Off: Autistic Traits
As some of you may already know, despite no formal diagnosis, I fully believe that I have “high-functioning” autism. Although this self-diagnosis has given me great comfort, I’m very careful about who I talk about it with. A lot of people don’t believe me and respond with a surprised look. I don’t blame them, before I looked into it, I wouldn’t have believed me either. The way autism is portrayed in the media isn’t the way mine looks. I am able to blend into society quite well. I’m like a duck, gracefully gliding along the water. No one can see how hard I’m actually working just below the surface.
I don’t necessarily want to talk about my autism today. I want to talk about the way I view autism in general. I’m not quite sure how the autistic spectrum was determined. The two ends of it appear as totally different disorders in my opinion. How not being able to speak or live on your own and having trouble understanding social cues can be classified as the same disorder never ceases to amaze me. It made more sense to me when high-function autism was called Asperger’s. Anyway, when I refer to “autism” from here on out, know that I am speaking mainly about high-functioning autism.
I guess I’m biased, but to me, a lot of the symptoms of autism seem to be more natural than “normal” behavior. For instance, I’ve always thought it strange that human beings are expected to make eye contact with one another. In the rest of the animal kingdom, direct eye contact is a threat, a sign of aggression. I don’t blame myself for getting anxious and having to make a concerted effort to look someone in the eye when talking to them. The rest of the natural world seems to agree with me that this is not a great idea.
Another common trait of autism is not quite understanding or falling in line with social customs. However, most of these things have been arbitrarily created throughout the centuries. It seems more bizarre to me that most people appear to have inherent knowledge about these rules of etiquette. How should one be expected to know, understand, and accept things that continue to change throughout history and geography? Perhaps autism wasn’t discovered until recent times because in the past there actually were things like cotillion and other ways in which people were formally educated on how to properly behave in society.
The final autistic trait I’d like to comment on is often referred to as “stimming.” This is when a person does some form of repetitive motion in response to strong emotion, either positive or negative. One of the more common forms of stimming is hand flapping. This is one of the key factors that causes me to believe I am on the spectrum. I have had the urge to do this for as long as I can remember. I remember my mother advising me not to do it and my sister teasing me about it as a young child. Since then, I’ve learned to control this behavior in front of others. However, I still have the strong urge to move or flap my hands after a stressful or exciting event. As a teenager, while sitting on the classroom floor, my friends asked me why I was always rocking side to side while we did so. This was another form of stimming that I hadn’t even realized I was doing!
Even more so than the other things I’ve mentioned, I think stimming is actually a natural, beneficial behavior. I hadn’t realized it until hearing it discussed on a podcast the other day, but animals will often be seen doing something similar. It’s quite normal to see a dog shake their whole body after something stressful or exciting happens. I have seen many different species of animals doing something like this. It is a way to discharge excess energy or stress, a way to quite literally “shake it off.” It even makes me wonder where that expression originally came from. Perhaps I wouldn’t be such a tightly wound, anxious individual if I hadn’t been discouraged from doing this self-soothing behavior by society.
I’ve started to see my autism as something to be embraced, rather than just something that sets me apart from most of the people around me. It makes me feel more in tune with the natural world and other animals. To me, society is what’s strange, not my behavior. I’m simply doing my best to assimilate into this painfully artificial world human beings have created. From now on I am not going to stifle myself. When I have that overwhelming urge to shake, I’m going to shake without shame. I’d much rather fit in with the rest of the animals than humans anyway.
Hypocrisy for the Holidays
In memory of the 56 billion each year, 153.4 million each day, 6.4 million each hour, 106,546 each minute.Carol Adams
When I started this blog, I intended to focus on veganism. I wanted to make a change in the world and help vegans in small areas of the country like me be successful. As you can see from the majority of my posts, I’ve all but abandoned that goal. I quickly grew weary of fighting what seems like a hopeless battle.
Yet I still have a small ember of that fire in my heart. I feel guilty about giving up on the billions of farmed animals that are alive and suffering at this very moment. I know that I should be fighting every day, every moment, with every breath I have. Even if it is hopeless. Even if I burn myself up in the process. Even if I lose my voice from screaming. Because who else will help them? What right do I have to live happily, to turn my head away, when they are still suffering?
When the holidays come around each year it gets more difficult to avoid these painful truths. There is a seemingly never ending stream of curious questions about what I’ll eat for Thanksgiving. Looks of mild disgust when I happily explain how yummy my tofurky always is. Looks of pity when they think about my holidays as a vegan.
I try to be a good example, give a good sales pitch. I try not to get annoyed when I have to answer the same questions for the 9th year in a row. That deep well of rage still simmers in my soul. Bitter outrage at the insanity, the inhumanity of it all. But after all these years a heavy sadness overwhelms that anger. A cold damp rain in my heart, threatening to extinguish that ember. A sadness about the ways things are, my inability to change this fucked up world, about all the lovely, innocent babies crying out somewhere in the dark.
There are very few things that can bring me to tears. Imagining the grand scale, the sheer magnitude of unimaginable suffering the human race inflicts upon these gentle beings is one of them. I spent my meditation today silently weeping for them. Saying I’m sorry, desperately wishing them some sense of peace, an end to their pain.
Maybe if I could shed these tears at the dinner table on December 25th I could finally get through to my family. Maybe I could show them the anguish I feel. The anguish they contribute to, are complacent with. The sickening absurdity of praying for peace on earth before carving up a corpse.
I know even that would not move them though. They would just think that I’m insane. Or trying to get attention. Because that’s how all vegans are seen. We are dramatic, attention seekers. We are arrogant, know-it-alls. We are despised and mocked. No one wants to confront their own hypocrisy, their own atrocities. And I can’t really blame them. It isn’t easy to live with this immense weight. This horrible knowing.
And so I prepare to share my table with death, with violence, with cruelty, with ignorance this holiday season, as I do every year. And I will swallow that pain with my red wine. I will pretend it’s all okay. I will close my heart to the bodies of my brethren laid before me with shame. Because I simply cannot bear to feel what I truly feel. I cannot bear to scream and fight anymore. And I am so ashamed. I am so sorry that I am not strong enough to save them.
Learning to Love Humans
I have this strange inability to relate to most other people. I am mesmerized by the complete reversal of priorities and perspectives shared by those around me. For instance, I dearly love animals. All animals, I always have. I hold them in such high regard. I marvel at their loving, precious nature, their boundless innocence. Humans on the other hand have always been held closer to contempt in my mind. And not just other humans, myself included.
While I believe animals naturally share and display all the good qualities attributed to the human race, they lack the greed, the malice, the cruel ignorance and selfishness of humanity. I see humans as being capable or both tremendous good and tremendous evil. However, I more often see the latter being manifested. Animals seem to only be capable of good. At least in my eyes anyway.
Until I became older I never really gave much though to how other people viewed these things. I thought it was obvious that human being were awful monsters for the most part. But I was surprised to discover that not many other people share this opinion. I’ve learned that the human race absolutely loves themselves. To the majority of people we are the best, the pinnacle of excellence, the highest achievement of evolution, or the image of God himself. They see the evil created by humans, yet still insist that humans are mostly good, wonderful beings, the shepherds of the earth.
This seems so silly to me. The laughable bias of these ideas. No one seems to consider that maybe they are only inclined to see things this way because they themselves are human. I think an assessment of the bare facts would say otherwise. The sheer arrogance and conceded air of humanity is one of the things that I find so distasteful. I suppose I’ll never be able to know, but I never have gotten the impression that an animal values the lives of others of their own species more than any other life.
It’s hard for me to believe that I’m not even taken seriously when I suggest that the other species of animals we share this planet with are equal if not better than homo sapiens. That is a very unpopular and uncommon opinion. Yet it seems so very obvious to me.
I’ve said in the past (rather dramatically, I admit) that I were given the choice of saving this planet and the other animals living on it by surrendering my own life and the life of all other humans, I would do it. That is how much I love animals and this precious earth we inhabit together.
A lot of the ideas and opinions that seems like common sense to me, are absolutely appalling and unimaginable to those around me. It is weird to know how differently I perceive the world.
In the past I violently defended my negative view of humanity. The word contempt comes to mind once again. However, as I get older and learn more and more about good and evil and this existence, I don’t want to defend such a bleak, hateful outlook anymore. While I doubt I’ll ever see things the way other people do, I would like to at least learn to love my fellow humans as much as I love other species.
I know deep down that we are all just flawed beings doing the best we can with what we’re given. I don’t believe true evil really exists. I don’t believe that anyone wants to cause destruction and pain. We are all just a product of our circumstances. Everyone is the hero of their own story.
Even when an animal does something “bad”, I don’t hold it against them. I don’t blame them like I blame humans. I guess I think humans should know better. But if I’m honest with myself “knowing better” hasn’t stopped me from making mistakes. At our cores we are all just innocent animals that want to be loved as well.
I want to start reminding myself of this more often when I start feeling fed up with my human brethren. Most people have to start looking at animals as if they were similar to humans to have empathy and understanding for them. But for me it’s the reverse. Usually looking at other people like they are animals would mean lowering them in your mind. But for me remembering that we are all just animals is how I am able to open my heart to them. No matter what, we are all children of this magnificent earth. We are all one. We are all deserving of compassion, understanding, and love.
Free Vegan Resources
Even after six years of veganism I am still finding new and exciting additions to my bountiful collection of resources. This past week I have stumbled upon two that I just can’t help but share with everyone I can. The first one I found accidentally as I was looking into details of The China Study by T. Colin Campbell for a co-worker of mine. This individual despite being certified in nutrition and fitness training for some reason believes that cholesterol does not make someone any more likely to get heart disease!
This continues to astound me so I suggested he read The China Study because despite not having read it myself, I knew that it was the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted and strongly advocated for a whole foods, plant-based diet. After only a few simple searches I was able to discover that there is a PDF of the entire book available for free online! Click the link to check it out. While I doubt my coworker will take the time to read it, I have been reading it myself, and have learned a lot so far. Although years of arguments with non-vegans has taught me that solid evidence and facts and peer reviewed research is still never enough to convince someone of something they are determined to deny, it is still a helpful tool to have if you do happen to find someone who is interested. It makes it even more accessible when you can find this type of information for free from such a credible source.
The next incredible resource that I came across this week is perfect for those that hold the mistaken perception that veganism is expensive and difficult to manage. I was looking for a free plant-based meal and workout plan in order to help me get out of the plateau I have reached in my fitness journey. While I have yet to find exactly what I was looking for, I did find an incredible vegan meal plan that could greatly benefit others. I hadn’t ever even heard of the website Plant-Based on a Budget before. It would be a wonderful resource for anyone dipping their toes into a vegan diet. This site gives you a full month of meals including recipes and shopping lists all for free! (There are some you can pay for, but the link is to the free version.) You are even able to choose a plan based on how many people you need to feed. I could hardly believe something so helpful had been right under my nose this whole time.
I have shared both of these websites on my Facebook page in the hopes that those too timid to attempt a vegan diet before will be emboldened by this new information. I have certainly grown a lot since I first transitioned to this lifestyle. Instead of flaring up arguments with aggressive, impassioned proclamations, I’ve learned to just live by example and share information in an open and compassionate way in the hopes that those who are ready will find it helpful. I’ve learned that there is always more to learn and discover even six years in.
I am continuously inspired by the ever-progressing availability and amount of information there is about veganism. Things have changes so much since I began this journey. Each day the choice becomes easier and easier for others to make. I truly believe that the only possible future for humanity is a vegan one. I hope we all get to see it.
Atheist Easter & Vegan Deviled Eggs
Even though I’ve been an atheist for over a decade now, I still love, love, LOVE “Christian” holidays. (They are actually kinda Pagan holidays, but I digress.) I view them as an excellent time to enjoy delicious fattening foods without guilt and spread lots of love to my friends and family. In addition to the unorthodox way I already celebrate, my past six years of veganism have made my holidays even more controversial and strange. And I wouldn’t have it any other way!
This year my grandmother that usually makes deviled eggs for my family’s Easter dinner was no longer with us. She passed away a few weeks after the new year began. In loving memory of her and her delicious addition, I decided to make my own version of these delights. I used to absolutely adore deviled eggs and eggs in general. Until now, I was under the assumption that a lot of egg dishes were simply impossible to recreate realistically in a vegan way. However, I recently went to a vegan restaurant in Pittsburgh, PA called The Onion Maiden where they serve vegan deviled eggs! I was overjoyed when I ordered them and discovered they were almost identical to the real deal.
After a quick Google search, I found that the secret ingredients to make a firm egg-like substance were Agar Powder and Black Salt. I was easily able to order both of these on Amazon for less than $10. Once I received these ingredients I was eager to taste the black salt because I had never heard of it before and I was very skeptical that these few ingredients that were called for would be able to produce something as egg-y as what I had sampled at The Onion Maiden. To my surprise, black salt is basically egg as a seasoning. Even by itself, it tastes exactly like a salted boiled egg!!! I am so blown away by this and the fact that I hadn’t known this as a vegan for all these years that I may make a separate post just about this incredible find. All vegans need to be aware of this!
I used the recipe from BakedIn.com that was simple and took less than an hour. I have included the link to the recipe and a photo of everything I used above. (I didn’t want to buy more almond milk, so I just used what I had even though it was vanilla instead of plain. It didn’t seem to make a huge difference, but I’ll definitely use plain in my next batch.) I was quite pleased with the result. Even my non-vegan family members and friends were surprised at how similar my vegan version was to actual deviled eggs. These are definitely going to be a staple holiday food for me from now on. Let me know if you try them yourselves and what you think. Also THANK THE VEGAN GODS FOR BLACK SALT.
Hope you all had a lovely, cruelty-free holiday. ♥
Promoting Loving-Kindness & Mindfulness Instead of Veganism
When I first became vegan I was extremely motivated to push others to become vegan as well. I did this by sharing the unbelievable information that I had been exposing myself to. I shared videos, scholarly articles, statistics, quotes, and powerful personal statements about my transformation and new perspectives regarding animal agriculture and carnism. It is even the reason I began this blog. I was certain that if others only knew about the things I had learned that they would have no choice but to eliminate meat and dairy from their diets in order to alleviate their cognitive dissonance between being a good person and participating in the ending of innocent lives.
I quickly became disheartened and emotionally exhausted in this fight. I couldn’t believe the backlash I received. So many people felt attacked and angered by what I thought were straight forward facts. I got into argument after argument with people online desperately trying to change their minds or at least the minds of those reading the exchange. Yet, I never really felt as though I was getting anywhere even though some of my more open minded friends did contact me and tell me that they were inspired to transition to veganism because of me. I was continuously being eaten up inside by my own resentments and disgust with humanity for all the atrocities it refused to acknowledge.
As this strenuous and emotional effort began to overwhelm me, I had to reevaluate my actions in order to preserve my sanity and emotional wellbeing. I felt immense guilt about not putting enough energy into fighting for the animals of this earth that I dearly loved. I just didn’t know how I could make a difference on their behalf. I turned to working on myself through mindfulness and meditation. These practices have recently led me to a powerful realization.
Instead of directly encouraging others to accept that their current lifestyle includes cruelty and that they need to change, I’ve decided to take a different approach. I remember watching a video by Gary Yourofsky where he explained that it didn’t matter how aggressive or gentle you were with your activism. People would listen to you when they were ready. So how can we get others ready to listen?
I think that by promoting the practice of loving-kindness and meditation that inevitably veganism will follow. This approach now seems much more logical to me. No one wants to be told that the way they are currently living and have been living for their whole lives is wrong. It is a natural reaction to become defensive and try to justify ourselves in some way. I can still remember not long ago being on this side of the argument myself. If someone is ready to change they may listen. Otherwise you are only creating a wider division and more tension between these opposing perspectives.
I used to believe that the facts were all that were needed. But after so many conflicts I realized that you can find studies to backup whatever you wish to believe. It can be incredibly difficult to decipher which studies are funded by those with vested interests and which have flawed methodology, etc. So rather than trying to force change, I want to try something different.
I want to give people the tools they need to be strong enough and loving enough to make changes on their own. Unlike directly promoting veganism, encouraging others to practice loving kindness and mindfulness does not create the same violent reaction and need for defensive tactics. People can easily become interested in these practices for their innate ability to improve all of our lives. More and more people are discovering the benefits of mindfulness, yoga, and loving-kindness meditation. I believe that veganism is the natural response to the shift in consciousness these practices cultivate. It, at the very least, creates the right awareness to allow others to become ready to receive the message of veganism.
By promoting these ancient and beautiful heart opening exercises, I am able to contribute to the movement without destroying myself in the process. I hope that more vegans will begin to adopt this peaceful approach and accept that most people cannot be swayed by hard facts and aggression. Rather they are swayed by the example we all can set by living lives of tranquility and compassion. The energy you emit is the energy that you will receive back from the world around you. Let’s let go of our anger and anguish at the injustices others are perpetrating and instead embrace all that is with an attitude of acceptance and loving awareness. Let’s show others what our world can be if we all just open our hearts to the possibilities.
It is still hard for me at times when I begin to dwell on the immense amount of suffering our fellow earthlings are experiencing every day. But I don’t want to add more anger, despair, and aggression into our world. I want to fill the space around me with love and light, encouraging others to do the same.
The task before us to save our earth is daunting. But we cannot allow ourselves to dwell on the negative. We must continue to fill ourselves with hope, contentment, and gratitude. Others will reach this realization when they are ready. Let us help them prepare. Let us teach the world through example. We can only truly try to improve ourselves. And in this way we can change the world.
Sending you all my abundant love and encouragement. ♥
My Vegan Dog: Food & Treats Review
When I adopted my sweet daughter Sybil in December of 2016, she was basically a sphere. Her plump little body was unstably supported on her short little legs. She could hardly fit in my lap when I first picked her up in the shelter. The shelter workers even seemed concerned about her weight and informed me that her previous owner told them “she loves table scraps.”
Upon her arrival at my home, I assumed it would be no problem getting her to eat. However, Sybil seemed to be totally uninterested in any type of dog food that I offered her. I began to wonder if her previous owner only gave her human food. I knew that dogs were omnivorous and could live and thrive on a plant-based diet. It had been my intention since deciding to adopt a dog to feed it vegan dog food. So I ordered the most affordable brand I could find online.
I could not have been more excited when the Natural Balance Vegetarian Formula canned and dry food I ordered her from Amazon arrived. At first I was skeptical of whether or not she would be accepting of this new food. But since she already wasn’t eating normal dog food I figured it was worth a try. To my surprise and delight, Sybil seemed to love her new food!
After only a few months on her new diet I began to notice miraculous changes in Sybil’s health. She rapidly began to shed her excess weight and is now a lean, energetic, and extremely mobile pup. Sybil also had terrible dandruff when I got her from the shelter. Now her coat is sleek, shiny, and free of that pesky dry skin. It’s hard for me to say, but I can’t help but think she even smells better now.
It is a bit pricier than average dog food, but I would definitely recommend switching your pets onto a vegan formula. There aren’t many studies out there yet surrounding this approach, but from my experience I truly believe it can drastically improve your dog’s health and longevity. Knowing that even the best, prime cuts of meat are detrimental to human health, it makes me shudder to think what the meat byproducts and random garbage ingredients in normal dog food is doing to our pets.
Sadly Sybil’s sister is an obligate carnivore, which means she must eat meat to survive. I try to give her the highest quality cat food I can. However, it can be difficult due to her picky pallet. I hope to one day feed her a natural raw diet, but it will always weigh heavy on my heart that cats require their owners to purchase meat products. Maybe eventually there will be a compassionate alternative. Until then I will do my best to keep both of my babies healthy and happy.
An Entire Year of Love
Last Thursday marked the anniversary of the day I adopted my sweet, sweet Sybil. I can hardly believe that a little over a year ago this perfect soul was surrendered to the animal shelter to face the possibility of her death. My heart aches to imagine what would have happened to Sybil if I had not decided to adopt her on that freezing, snowy night. Bringing Sybil home with me was one of the best decisions I have ever made in this life. I have never known such buoyant and blissful love as the love I share with my two fur-children.
Even though this post is a bit late, I still thought it was important to add my voice to the chorus of others advocating for shelter animals. Please, please, PLEASE do not purchase a dog or cat from a store or breeder when you could save the life of an equally worthy animal instead. It never ceases to amaze me that some people will spend hundreds of dollars to buy a puppy just for it’s breed (especially given that purebred dogs are destined to suffer from medical complications in old age due to the egregious level of inbreeding it took to produce them.)
I also wanted to bring up the seriousness of the commitment you are making when you decide to welcome an animal into your home whether purchased or adopted. When I got Sybil, I had no idea what type of personality she would have. Even though I got to spend time with her at the shelter, it’s hard to get to know a dog when they are in such a strange environment. Not to mention the descriptions of the dogs’ dispositions the shelter provides are often far from accurate. She was frozen in fear the entire meeting and was even too scared to sniff my hand when I offered it to her. After that, I knew that I couldn’t bear to leave her in that place. When I put that sweet, plump angel in my car that evening I made the commitment to love her and provide a good life for her no matter what the future had in store.
After having Sybil for a few weeks, I became even more certain that we were destined for one another. Sybil suffers from severe anxiety just like I do. She is always fearful towards new people, other dogs, and new places/situations. Due to her immense fear, Sybil can become rather aggressive. She will easily get into a fight with another dog if not watched closely until they are comfortable with one another. Yet even then, she is too afraid to play with other dogs, mistaking their playfulness for aggression. Thankfully she has never bitten a person, but her loud barks don’t make her very popular with the kiddos (or anyone for that matter). Whenever I take Sybil for a car ride or take her to a friend’s house, she can never seem to relax. She will shiver and whimper nearly the entire time. After experiencing these quirks first hand, I became even more glad that I was the one that saved Sybil from the pound that day. I knew that many people would simply return a dog who was so difficult. Most people find her utterly annoying. But I adore her for even her flaws and no matter what happened once Sybil came home with me, there was nothing that could have made me abandon her.
An adopted pet is no different than a child in my eyes. Regardless of disposition of your child (adopted or not) in no way determines your duty to care and provide for them. It would be inconceivable for someone to give up their child because they misbehave. The same standard should be applied to other sentient dependents as well.
One day I hope that humanity realizes that other animals are just as worthy of love, freedom, and happiness as human beings are. I love my babies as much as any other mother loves hers. What a beautiful world we would live in if everyone shared such unconditional love for the most innocent among us. I look forward to many more years of boundless love with my most cherished companions. Thank you, Sybil, for being a part of my life and for all the love you give.
Adopt Don’t Shop ♥