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Last night I went to a presentation about how to help backyard birds in the winter. To be honest, it sounded interesting to me, but I didn’t realize how much of a call to action is actually needed for our feathered friends.

The presentation, which was hosted by Wild Birds Unlimited, was a joint program with Connecticut Audubon Society’s Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center. The speaker, Joe Attwater, was engaging and very knowledgable. The time certainly flew by! (No bird pun intended there, lol.)

So, onto the good stuff with regards to what I learned, but more importantly, what we can do to help!

I don’t know about you, but when I hear about endangered birds, I think of the bigger, grander birds that have national efforts behind their conservation. But, it turns out that birds are on the decline here in North America, all the way down to the small songbirds (which, truth be told are my favorites anyhow):

“…a recent groundbreaking study published in Science magazine found that North America has experienced a 29 percent drop in its overall population of birds since 1970.”


“There are 3 billion fewer birds today in the United States and Canada than there were 50 years ago, according to a team of scientists from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and elsewhere.”


The reasons for this decline vary, of course, but there are three big factors that were discussed at last night’s presentation: habitat loss, outdoor cats and window collisions. And the good news is that there are things we can do about all of these issues, in addition to simply feeding the birds, which I’ll get into more in a minute.

With regards to habitat loss, we think of big developments and cutting down forests, but there are smaller changes we make to help the birds. We chatted last night about creating areas in our yards from brush that birds can protect themselves from predators — this could be your old Christmas tree, for example. Toss it in your backyard instead of onto the curb for pickup. We also talked about adding native plants to our yards, not only protection, but also as a food source. (The National Audubon Society has a native plants database.)

As for outdoor cats, well, if you know me then you’ll know my stance on this one — the best way to help the birds is to keep your cats indoors! Keep in mind that the average life expectancy for an indoor cat is 14, but for outdoor cats it’s only 5. So, really, it’s in the cat’s best interest, too! #SaveThemAll

Lastly, for window collisions, Joe recommended window decals. They even make cute seasonally-themed ones now! He also mentioned something really interesting — the distance that your bird feeder is from the window matters — it can either be close (5 feet-ish away) or far away (like 30 feet). It’s the in-between distances that put the birds at highest risk. Really good to know!

Of course, then he dug into detail about feeding our backyard birds. It turns out that you want a high fat diet in winter for them (versus a high protein diet in spring and summer). It shocked me to learn that birds can lose 10%-25% of their body weight on a single (very) cold night! So, you want high fat foods like suet and winter seed blends.

And a few other tips — keep your feeders clean and don’t forget to offer water as well!

Last night turned out to be both enjoyable and interesting, as I had hoped it would be. While I already do feed my backyard birds daily, I hadn’t grasped the importance of it with regards to the big picture and the overall decline they are going through. I may only be helping the 30 or 40 birds who visit, but if we all play our part, those numbers add up!

#HelpingBirdsInWinter #GivingBack #ConnecticutAudubonSociety #WhatsYourCause?


I’ve had a favorite quote by Margaret Mead for awhile now: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” But, last week I feel that I truly saw it in action for the first time.

In an effort to get out and support more causes I care about, I decided to attend an event hosted by the Nonhuman Rights Project. They were speaking in court, fighting for elephant rights here in Connecticut.

I’ll be honest, this event just popped up in my Facebook feed so I wasn’t very educated about the issue, but I’ve since learned that there is an elephant named Minnie, who is the sole surviving elephant in a traveling circus based in our state. For any of you who know elephants or the treatment of animals in circuses, this is a sad affair. Just the fact that she’s alone is enough to break my heart. (Her elephant friends Beulah and Karen passed last year).

So, I was drawn to helping Minnie and all that was involved was showing up to demonstrate support. I could do that! Little did I know that I was going to meet such an incredible group of people. It’s amazing how we can gain so much from giving back…

The oral arguments themselves weren’t all that exciting because it was hard to hear from the back of the room. (I will also confess that I was a few minutes late, which for those of you who know me will not come as a surprise, lol). But, I made an appearance to show my support for Minnie to be able live out the rest of her life in an elephant sanctuary instead of being exploited by the circus.

Afterwards, there was a group of people who gathered on the front steps of the courthouse and that’s where the magic happened. The lawyer started to really speak now, digging into the details on the case and comparing it to other cases he’s won in the past for other animals. This was my first introduction to the Nonhuman Rights Project. They are the “only civil rights organization in the United States working through litigation, public policy advocacy, and education to secure legally recognized fundamental rights for nonhuman animals.” (Source.) And their president, Steven M. Wise, was the lawyer arguing Minnie’s case. There was way too much to summarize here, but let me assure you that he made a strong argument. (He’s in the middle of the photo below with the sunglasses on.)

And I was a bit in awe. Here’s a man who dedicates his time to fighting for the legal rights of animals. I started to experience some hero worship right at the start. How amazing to combine his profession with his passion to save animals! Despite the rather chilly weather (noses were running all around), I could have stayed there all day just listening to him talk. Of course he needed to get back to the office to work more towards Minnie’s defense, but I certainly appreciated him taking the time to explain the details to our small group on the courthouse steps.

Also in that small group were other folks who inspired me just as much:

First, there were some people from a group called Desmond’s Army who are animal law advocates. They “seek to raise public awareness regarding laws as they relate to animals and the statistical connection between animal abuse and domestic violence (and other acts of violence).” (Source.) They were so welcoming to me, a random stranger joining in on the conversation.

And last, but certainly not least, I have to mention meeting David Michel, a State Representative from the other side of Connecticut. His passion for animal welfare spanned from Minnie’s rights all the way to the creatures in the ocean who would be affected by off-shore wind turbines if they aren’t built correctly. (That’s a drastic simplification of the argument, but you get the idea, right?) What was most fascinating about listening to Representative Michel was getting a behind-the-scenes glimpse at all of the animal-related legislature that supporters like him are trying to get passed. There are an encouraging number of proposals, but there are limited openings for them to get heard by the court. It’s a real struggle from the sounds of it, but he’s fighting for all that he can.

I know this might not have sounded like the most exciting adventure in getting out to support great causes, but looks can certainly be deceiving. My heart was full and my mind was blown as I stood on the windy court steps and watched this small group of dedicated people as they shared all of their efforts to change the world. And the good news is that they are making progress. And inspiring others to do the same. I can’t put into words how fortunate I feel for having been able to meet them. They have so much more work to do, but they are thoughtful and they are committed and, just like Margaret Mead said, that’s all you need.

#FreeMinnie #AnimalRights #GivingBack #WhatsYourCause?


As someone who is planning her own wedding, this story really struck a chord with me. I absolutely adore how this couple decided to feature older dogs available for adoption as a part of their ceremony. And it had great results! “…many of the dogs who participated in her wedding — dogs who were having trouble finding homes — have now been adopted out to loving forever families.”
Such a beautiful way to make your day more memorable and give back at the same time! Read the full article here.

The Giving Back Society | Building Compassion Through Volunteerism


It’s been a busy couple of weeks, but the highlight was a meeting at Senator Murphy’s office last week! Had a great conversation with one of his legislative assistants about volunteerism and leadership opportunities for high school students in Connecticut. Since then I’ve been connecting with Senators’ offices from all over the country. It’s really great to see how willing our representatives have been to talking with me, especially for those who are out of state since I’m not one of their constituents. Lots of great ideas exchanged and now we’re putting together a great longterm plan thanks to all of the feedback!

The Giving Back Society | Building Compassion Through Volunteerism


“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” – John F. Kennedy

This Thanksgiving Day, I am resonating with this phrase on a such a deep level. Here we are, trying to help others and causes we care about, but it’s so important to look at our own journey to how we got here and go back and thank those who helped us travel that road.

It’s such a blessing to be in a position where we can help others, even if it’s just in small ways. I’m so grateful for that ability. And I’m grateful beyond words to anyone and everyone who supported me in any small way to help me be the person I am right here, right now. And I’m grateful to you for taking time out of your busy day to read this. Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving, full of gratitude and thanks!

The Giving Back Society | Building Compassion Through Volunteerism



This correlates so much with how volunteerism can help students build their career — approaching a problem or cause and building a solution to help is a perfect stepping stone for this concept!

The Giving Back Society | Building Compassion Through Volunteerism



Spent the weekend researching how we can make it easier for students to reap the benefits of volunteerism! Such inspiring presentations and connections!

The Giving Back Society | Building Compassion Through Volunteerism



“Devote yourself to your community around you & devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose& meaning.” – Mitch Albom

The Giving Back Society | Building Compassion Through Volunteerism



I hate cleaning out the fridge. Granted, in truth I don’t know anyone who enjoys cleaning out the fridge, but still. It’s not one of my favorite chores. Putting aside the fact that it usually makes for extra dishes and there’s almost always one science experiment of questionable growth, the real reason I hate it so much is the guilt. Inevitably, there’s at least one (formerly) good meal worth of food that I end up throwing out. It reminds me very clearly that I can be so wasteful sometimes and take my ability to buy more food for granted. I don’t do it on purpose, of course. In fact, I’d love to blame it on the design of the fridge and point to the fact that it usually gets lost behind the almond milk, but truthfully, I sometimes fail to remember there were leftovers and at other times just don’t want to eat the same meal for the fourth day in a row.

Recently I have started to batch cook on weekends because I find my weekdays so busy and without any extra energy for cooking. It’s a new endeavor, but I’m worried that this is going to further exacerbate my tendencies to waste food. (There’s simply more food to waste!) So, that’s why I’m setting up this 5-Minute Friday Challenge. It’s mostly for myself, but I figured maybe this would resonate with others and perhaps together we could help each other out. The challenge is to not waste any leftovers this week. I’m extending this to include fruit and veggies, too, as those can sometimes languish in the drawer until their molecular structure qualifies them as a liquid. (Please tell me I’m not the only one here?)

It sounds like an easy challenge with a clear plan of attack — just eat more! However, we could also put a few minutes of thought and planning into our efforts for success without adding to our waistline.  🙂  Here are some thoughts and tips I’ve come up with to help us both do our best this week:

  1. Shop often for small amounts. I like to do weekly grocery shopping, but it’s really better when I go twice as then my produce is fresher and I’m less likely to wait too long to eat it.
  2. Buy frozen when possible. I do this with vegetables especially. It’s so much easier to just use what I need and put the rest of the bag back in the freezer.
  3. When batch cooking, store a couple servings in the freezer. I am finding that if you skim one serving right off the top and pop it in the freezer you don’t miss it and then you have an emergency store of frozen meals for nights when you run out of food.
  4. Make more than one dish. This might sound counter-productive, but if you’re the type that doesn’t want to eat the same thing every day, give yourself a couple of options and switch back and forth to change it up.
  5. Plan ahead. Not only what you’re going to cook this week, but also your grocery list — and be specific! Don’t just list “tomatoes”. List “4 medium sized tomatoes”. Otherwise you might buy more than you need.
  6. Think of a catch-all dish that you could make that would use up random leftovers — like a stir-fry, smoothies or veggie soup.

Perhaps you’re already good at this — if so, please share some tips with the rest of us! I for one am excited to start in with a new energy and focus to end my waste of food and with it my guilt. Plus, perhaps a cleaner fridge? It’s a win-win!

Don't Waste Your Leftovers | The Giving Back Society | Helping End Food Waste


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