Sunday, December 30, 2012

Goodbye 2012, it's been a wonderful year.

As another year comes to an end, I have spent the last few days looking back and remembering all the wonderful things that have happened for my family. So many "firsts" and some milestones for Dylan - not to mention the wonderful new friends we have made through our love of photography and the new friends I have made through twitter.

At times I question writing this blog, and think I should just stop. The computer and social media can consume so much of your time ... but today I am thankful for writing the blog.

This blog allows me to walk down memory lane with just a click of the mouse. Better than any photo album I could imagine.

Life with Dylan is a combination of thoughts, reflections, and pictures that tell a story - our story.

Dylan wins the Cub Scout Pine Derby and takes Grandpa to the winners circle with him.
The photo bug bit me when I got a new camera and spent the day at the San Diego Zoo.

My obsession with jellyfish continues ...

Reminding myself that some days you just need to have fun and my no holding back open letter for all the single moms out there. I believe March was the turning point for me - where my life took on a new direction.

The turning point in Dylan's life when he met Zookeeper Rick and I realized that my job was to inspire, support, and love my child. And the day when I finally saw the picture in what we call the blogosphere.

Thanks to Pinterest and the San Diego Zoo I found a new love for tigers.
A very special Mother's Day and more wonderful memories were made at the San Diego Zoo.
Oh, and my most favorite post of May ... Dylan's Birthday Wish for the Tigers.

We pinned it for tigers and we won a behind the scenes tour at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. I learned that one person can make a difference and that I was that one person. I celebrated a birthday, wrote a thank you letter to the ocean and was reminded why it is so important to keep taking pictures.

Started daydreaming more and turned our dreams into a family bucket list. Dylan turned 9 and his birthday wish came true!

This was a pretty big month for us. Dylan's love for photography grows and he takes a few tips from mom. We celebrated Yun Zi's 3rd birthday and dreamed of a world without habitat destruction. We said goodbye to a legacy, published our family bucket list, and realized how great the power of one can be

Along with going back to school, September was time to slow down and make some lifestyle changes. It was the start of Sunset Sundays and Endangered Species Mondays.

After a long hot summer, rain finally fell in Southern California and we saw the first signs of the seasons changing. Want to change the world? Start by educating the children ... and then watch as they beam with pride when recognized for their efforts by the White House.

This was another big month for us. I am sure it won't be the last time, but Dylan amazed me with his thinking and how the mind of a child wonders why ... After months of saving, we sent our second box of packaging to Terra Cycle instead of throwing it in the trash. Not knowing it at the time, but we wrote what would quickly become our most popular post on saving the orangutans. I also learned how to stay positive in a world filled with negativity.

Time to slow down and recharge. We didn't do much writing in December, but instead took some time off to relax and be a family.

Wow, looking back I can see that my family has really grown and changed as individuals too. We saw the big picture and realized what the important things were in life. I foresee some big changes coming in 2013, but I will save that for a new post in the new year.

Monday, December 17, 2012

We're taking a little vacation

With Christmas only a week away and a two week break from school and work starting this Friday, we have decided to take a vacation of sorts. Not your typical vacation - no planes or hotels involved. Rather, we are taking a vacation from writing and blogging and posting and tweeting and ... well, you get the idea.

The tree is up and the stocking are hung. We've decorated the house with some cherished memories and now it's time to sit back and enjoy the time together as a family.

Maybe do some baking and start a new book.

Who knows, I might even get crafty and start a new project - the type with needle and thread.

We'll for sure take some day trips to see our friends at the Zoo and Safari Park - oh, and the lovely school project of making a California relief map out of salt and flour dough. That should be fun.

I may get the desire to write every now and then, but until the new year there won't be any postings for the regular features like Endangered Species Monday or Sunset Sunday. They aren't going away, just taking some time off. Who knows, I may even come up with a new weekly feature or some special posts that have been whirling around in my head for some time now.

Enjoy the holidays and we will see you in 2013

Michelle and Dylan

Friday, December 14, 2012

Pinniped friends at the Aquarium of the Pacific

On a recent visit to the Aquarium of the Pacific, we spent some time with the seals and sea lions in hopes of getting a glimpse of Bixby, the baby harbor seal.

We were all smiles and even had some giggles with these silly pinnipeds.

The sea lions put on a great show from the underwater viewing area. I could spend hours just sitting here watching them swim around - so big, yet so graceful under water.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Lions and Tigers and more - Nat Geo WILD Big Cat Week Giveaway

Are you watching Big Cat Week on Nat Geo WILD? So far we have seen two wonderful episodes - Snow Leopard of Afghanistan filled with hope and inspiration from a country that is often filled with death and sadness, and Attack of Big Cats filled with action-packed intrigue about the daily life of the elusive big cats.
If you missed either of these Big Cat Week episodes be sure to check your local listings because they will air again later in the week.

One of the main reasons I write this blog is to share information about endangered species with the hope of creating awareness and inspiring others to make a difference. So when I have the opportunity to give something away to my readers that not only educates, but also inspires them to "Cause an Uproar" ... well, I just can't say no.

In honor of my favorite big cat, the tiger, and tonight's Big Cat Week episode Tiger Dynasty, I am giving away a Nat Geo WILD Big Cat Week prize pack valued at $80 that will include: Plush Lion, Tiger or Lion hat scarf, Big Cats 2013 calendar, Cause an Uproar hat, and Just Lion Around onesie.

Nat Geo WILD Big Cat Week Prize Pack
Enter to win this Big Cat Week prize pack sponsored by Nat Geo WILD using the Rafflecopter entry form below. There are many ways to enter and you can use the tweet entry once a day. Winners will be selected on Sunday, December 16 at 11:59 p.m. PST and announced within 24 hours.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Winners will be selected using Rafflecopter. I reserve the right to draw another winner if I am unable to get a mailing address in a timely manner. Giveaway is only open to residents of the contiguous US. Please make sure I can contact you to notify you if you have won (leaving a valid email address in your comment is a great way). Winners will first be announced on Life with Dylan's Facebook page, so if you're not a fan of us on Facebook, you may not know if you win.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Endangered Species Monday - Saving rhinos one letter at a time

I am a firm believer that the fate of our planet is in the hands of our children. My generation is trying to right the wrongs of my parents generation, but there isn't enough time to do it all. Today's children have the power and the desire to save this world and change things for the better. The more issues about conservation, wildlife poaching, and global warming that make the news and social media outlets, the more children become aware of what must be done.

Since my son decided to raise money for the tigers, in lieu of his birthday a few months ago, I have become more aware of other children making a difference too. Children are fearless and believe that they can take on anyone - even the President.

I came across an article today while reading Mother Nature Network that touched me and I was shocked that I hadn't heard about this before. After doing some further reading, I realized that the campaign started shortly after my son was raising money for the tigers. Maybe I was so caught up in tigers at the time that I didn't notice the work Carter and Olivia Ries of One More Generation (OMG) were doing for the rhinos.

This brother and sister duo have teamed up with SPOTS (Strategic Protection of Threatened Species) and set a goal to collect 1,000 letters and or drawings addressed to South African President Jacob Zuma. How inspirational is that? And what a great way to get people of all ages from all over the world involved in saving the rhinos from extinction. Carter and Olivia plan on personally delivering the letters to President Zuma when they visit South Africa in 2013. The idea is to show him and his staff how much we in America (and all over the world) care for these animals.

Your letter can be as long or as short as you like. Maybe you want to draw a picture or send a photograph showing how beautiful rhinos are. If you can't think of what to say, you can use one of the form letters on the One More Generation website.
Instructions on where to send your letters are detailed in the post Dear President Zuma, or you can even email your letter to

Dylan and I will be writing two letters this week to help Carter and Olivia reach their goal of 1,000 letters and I ask you to do the same.

Make it a Christmas gift to the rhinos - the gift of your time to write a letter could save hundreds if not thousands of rhinos. Everyone can make a difference.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sunset Sunday - Island Style

"All I want for Christmas is a real good tan. Take me to the islands put my feet in the sand."
I adore fall and winter in Southern California, but I can't help longing to be on Maui to see more of these beautiful island sunsets.

Have a fantastic week and don't forget to take time to watch the sunsets.

Do you have a favorite sunset picture that you would like me to feature here? If so, send me your picture and the location it was taken. After all, what good is a beautiful sunset if you can't share it with others?

*Please only submit pictures you have personally taken and own the rights to.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Giving makes Christmas the most wonderful time of the year

Christmas is probably my favorite time of the year. As a child, Christmas was a time filled with excitement and hopes of getting everything I asked Santa for. As a parent, Christmas became a time of making memories and hoping that my child's wishes came true.

Christmas is about more than just Santa Claus, but Santa does remind us about giving from the heart.

Aside from all the marketing, Black Friday sales, Cyber Monday sales, and what seems like the never-ending slew of commercials for this years hottest toy, Christmas remains a special time of the year for me. A time that I can sit on the couch at night and gaze at the Christmas tree. A time when I feel more relaxed. I take the time to reflect on all the good things that have happened over the year.

I even find myself getting lost in the memories of Christmases past - especially when I see ornaments that my son made when he was just a toddler. 

I can remember the look of pride on his face when he gave me that ornament, wrapped up in green tissue paper and tied with a red piece of yarn. It didn't cost a lot of money, but it was made with love and given with love. The giving is what Christmas is all about to me. 

So the other day when my son came to me in tears because he didn't have money to buy me a special Christmas present, I reminded him of the snowman ornament he gave me when he was just 3 years old. The same popsicle stick ornament that hangs front and center every year on our tree. This is what brings a smile to my face. I told him to make me something special - a card, a drawing, anything that he made would be the best present I could ever ask for. 

The gift of giving is what makes Christmas the most wonderful time of the year. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Clouded Leopard cubs are the "purrfect" addition to the San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo received a special delivery this week all the way from the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere - two adorable 14-week-old clouded leopard cubs! The cubs made their debut in the Children's Zoo Neonatal Assisted Care Unit and can be seen here daily for the next 30 days while in quarantine. The clouded leopard brothers are part of a very successful breeding program, which is helping to increase the population of this critically endangered animal.

Clouded leopard cub Riki-san
Photo taken on December 6, 2012, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo, ZSSD 2012 ©

According to San Diego Zoo zookeepers, Thirteen-pound Riki-san is the larger of the two cats but also the more timed one. His coat pattern is darker and his rosettes are more pronounced.
Haui-san weighs 11.5 pounds, is feisty and quite playful, enticing is bigger brother to wrestle and play a game of chase.

Clouded leopard cub Haui-san
Photo taken on December 6, 2012, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo, ZSSD 2012 ©

Although we have not seen the clouded leopard cubs yet, I can guarantee that our first stop next week will be at the Children's Zoo Neonatal Assisted Care Unit to welcome Riki-san and Haui-san. To find out more about the critically endangered clouded leopard, visit the zoos website.

After the quarantine period, the two cubs will join the San Diego Zoo's Backstage Pass animal ambassador program, but until then you can see them in the nursery. As you will see in this video provided by the San Diego Zoo, Riki-san and Haui-san seem very happy in their new home.

Watch as they pounce, climb, and play with each other in the nursery. If this video doesn't make you smile, then I don't know what will.

The San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy is dedicated to bringing endangered species back from the brink of extinction. The work of the Conservancy includes onsite wildlife conservation efforts at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, and international field programs in more than 35 countries. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Lions, Tigers & Leopards Oh my! Big Cat Week is coming on Nat Geo Wild

It is no surprise that I love big cats - I think it is obvious that tigers are my favorite, but I love lions, leopards, jaguars and cheetahs too. They are all such beautiful animals. My son and I spend much of our television viewing hours watching Nat Geo Wild and I am constantly amazed at the cinematography.

One of the items on our family bucket list is to travel to Africa and go on a real safari to see these animals up close in their natural habitat, so you can imagine how excited we were to see a segment on 60 minutes featuring award-winning filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert. The Jouberts have been photographing and filming Africa's lions for 30 years now and living what some may call they perfect life. Their home sits in the middle of the Okavango Delta in Botswana and has the most amazing view. If you missed the segment you can see it here.

This Sunday, December 9, kicks off the start of Big Cat Week on Nat Geo Wild - five nights of incredible big cat films, including some of the Joubert's. These are stories told in a way that only National Geographic can tell them. Learn how these animals survive in a world that at times seems to be completely against them. Watch in amazement as you see human-like emotions on the faces of these big cats. If you love big cats like we do then I know you will be watching ... and if you are new to Big Cat Week, I know you will not be disappointed.

Be sure to read about National Geographic's Big Cats Initiative and help Cause an Uproar!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Enadangered Species Monday - Giving the gift of hope

One of my favorite ways to help save endangered species is to symbolically adopt and animal and give it as a gift. This holiday season, why not take a look through the World Wildlife Fund virtual Gift Catalog and give someone more than just a present - give them the gift of hope and inspiration to save endangered species.

You can choose from 100 different animals and they offer six levels of adoption ranging from $25 - $250 so there really is something for everyone. World Wildlife Fund makes it easy to search through the different animals too. You can sort your searches by most popular, by threat level, and by region.

Selecting an animal might be difficult for some people, but World Wildlife Fund has made this easy too - you can purchase a Gift Adoption Card and let the recipient choose their own animal to symbolically adopt.

The San Diego Zoo also offers animal adoptions at various levels from $35 - $1,000 and a few limited edition holiday adoptions. The San Diego Zoo monthly Wish List is another place I like to shop for gifts. Although these gifts can't be wrapped up, it sure is nice to give two gifts at once. This year I purchased several gifts for the animals in honor of family members. Their gifts will be the gift of giving and I think that is the best kind of gift.

If you are an ocean lover, check out the Aquarium of the Pacific's Adopt and Animal program where you can symbolically adopt penguins, sharks, otters, sea turtles, seals, and more starting at only $10.

Most zoos, aquariums and other non-profit organizations offer animal adoptions. Contact your local zoo or support an organization that you like and give the gift of hope this holiday season. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sunset Sunday - Through the storm clouds

Southern California has had a few days of rain this week, but that didn't stop the sun from shining through the storm clouds. Don't let the big dark rain clouds fool you when a storm is passing through because no matter what, the sun always finds a way to brighten up the end of your day.

Have a fantastic week and don't forget to take time to watch the sunsets.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

We all need time to recharge

So I've been away from the blog for a few days, taking some time to catch my breath and gather my thoughts. I know that life is going to get hectic over the next month with Christmas and the various holiday events. I felt the need to declutter and reorganize my life.

Not just the physical aspects of my life, but the mental too. I needed to recharge. So many changes occurred this year, for me and for Dylan. We started a journey that was only a dream for so long and now it is becoming a reality. I needed to slow down a little and get my focus back. Focus on what was important.

I started by tackling that shelf in the closet. You know the one where everything that doesn't have a home gets put ... we all have one. Then I spent about an hour cleaning up the files in my computer. Did I really need that word document from 2005? No, I didn't think so either. To the recycle bin it went. Next it was on to social media. My twitter feed was so out of control, filled with hashtags and sponsored posts that I really have no desire to see. Away they went and I created lists - oh, how I love twitter lists.

I spent time going through the past 4 months of photographs - organizing, editing, and uploading favorites to Flickr. And of course the whole time I was doing this I was watching Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel. Well, when I started looking at pictures and had Christmas movies in the background, I had a brilliant idea to design our Christmas card. I spent more time than I had planned doing this, but I am so happy with the results.

Although these things may seem like nothing to you, they were everything to me. Sometimes those little things that we don't think are important really are. Why? Because those little things that we keep putting off begin to cloud what really is important. So now that I am recharged, it is time to start decorating the house for Christmas and get back to writing about what I love.

Life can get hectic during the holidays, so make sure you take time to slow down, recharge, and enjoy the little things life has to offer.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Symbiotic harmony

A conversation between a tree frog and a bromeliad plant. See, humans aren't the only ones who talk to their plants.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunset Sunday - Classic SoCal

Nothing says Southern California quite like the silhouette of a lifeguard tower on a beach at sunset.

Thank you Rebecca for sharing you beautiful sunset picture from Hermosa Beach, CA.

Do you have a favorite sunset picture that you would like me to feature here? If so, send me your picture and the location it was taken. After all, what good is a beautiful sunset if you can't share it with others?

Have a fantastic week and don't forget to take time to watch the sunsets.

*Please only submit pictures you have personally taken and own the rights to.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Trying to stay positive in a world of negativity

I learned something yesterday. Well, actually I realized something, because I believe I have always known that my way of living is different from that of others. I had difficulty keeping myself engaged in conversations because my thoughts and opinions were different than those around me. At times I felt like banging my head against the wall because nobody seemed to understand what I was saying.

I believe that everyone has the right to their own opinions about politics, the environment, and what type of job is best for them. I don’t believe that someone should be put down or made to feel inferior because their opinions may not be the norm. I live an eco-friendly lifestyle, love wildlife, love photography, and believe that in some small way I am doing something to make this world a better place.

I do my best to minimize waste and recycle everything I can. Seeing so many things go into a trash can that can be recycled hits a nerve that I can’t seem to get over. Yet it seems I have to walk on eggshells when voicing this opinion. Seeing plastic bags everywhere drives me crazy – people reusable bags are not that expensive and they won’t sit in landfills or pollute the oceans. In fact, most stores sell them for under a dollar. The food waste during the holidays is unbelievable. I won’t even get started on this one.

I don’t believe in giving a lot of materialistic gifts. We don’t need them and sadly, most will end up in a landfill at some point. Sure, I purchased a camera for my son as a gift this year, but he is passionate about photography and needs a camera that actually works to pursue this passion. For the third year in a row, I will be giving friends and family gifts that cannot be bought in a store. I will be purchasing wish list items from the San Diego Zoo and adopting animals to help save wildlife. These gifts come from the heart and I would be honored to receive such a gift. What difference does it make if my family spends $50 on a gift that I can probably do without or if they adopt an animal in my name for $50?

If a rhino is murdered in Africa, most people don't give it a second thought. Me on the other hand - I sit here and cry as I'm reading the news story wondering what I can do to make it all stop. I believe in making a change for the better and that the results of my actions will last longer than my life here on earth.

Last night I was talking with a friend and she reminded me to keep following my passions. She said that the older generations dislike change and that the best we can do is keep voicing our beliefs and teach the younger generations. I already knew what she said was true, but it never hurts to be reminded that it is ok to be different – to march to the beat of your own drum.

I will …
Never give up.
Stay strong.
Be positive.

Why? Because …
One person can make a difference.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The art of doing nothing

Everyone needs to do this. The art of doing nothing can do wonders for your mind and body. Take time to relax, take a walk through nature or just hang out and enjoy the beauty that surrounds us.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Endangered Species Monday - There is always hope

Sometimes reading about endangered species can be difficult. Doing research to write about them is even more difficult. Oh, who am I kidding, it can be down right depressing. The word endangered "seriously at risk of extinction" alone breaks my heart. However, part of making a difference in this world is creating awareness; so I keep reading, I keep researching, and I keep writing.

Every now and then I come across a success story or read about how a species, like the mountain gorilla is showing an upward climb in population. This my friends makes all the difference. Then there are the stories that bring me so much joy and hope that I can't help but smile for hours.

This is one of those stories.


According to the Albuquerque BioPark Zoo, the rhino was born at Florida's White Oak Conservation Center on October 30 and weighed 132 pounds. Born on an unusually cold night, the calf struggled - he was slow to start nursing and did not establish a strong bond with his mother. When White Oak staff saw he wasn't thriving, they decided to hand rear him. BioPark animal care staff traveled with the rhino from Florida and moved the now 169-pound baby into a behind-the-scenes area at the Zoo on the evening of Nov. 14.

The Southern White Rhino almost went extinct in the early 1900's with numbers dwindling down to 100, but thanks to conservation efforts, captive breeding programs at accredited zoos and conservation centers, and reserves, the Southern White Rhino population has climbed to over 20,000 individuals today.

The fight to end rhino poaching isn't over and there are still five other rhino species who need saving (seven if you count the Borneo and Northern White), but seeing this little guy walk out of a crate reminds me that there is always hope when dealing with endangered species.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunset Sunday - Sharing the beauty

One of my favorite things about taking pictures of the sunsets is sharing them with others. I also love seeing pictures that my friends take of the sunsets from other places. Don't get me wrong, Orange County, California has some pretty amazing sunsets, but why not share the beauty of sunsets from all over the world?

This week's Sunset Sunday picture is from my friend Katie who also lives in Southern California, but she lives in an area surrounded by mountains and wide open spaces. Katie has the most amazing view of an open field from her kitchen window and captured this beautiful sunset with her phone. What did we ever do before Instagram?

Do you have a favorite sunset picture that you would like me to feature here? If so, send me your picture and the location it was taken. After all, what good is a beautiful sunset if you can't share it with others?

Have a fantastic week and don't forget to take time to watch the sunsets.

*Please only submit pictures you have personally taken and own the rights to.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

I'm thankful for what Mother Earth has given me

As the Thanksgiving holiday quickly approaches I sit her thinking about what I am thankful for this year. I've watched friends post numerous things they are thankful for on Facebook and twitter; some of which I am thankful for too.

Yes, I am thankful for my health, my home, my job, my friends and family, and the ability to put food on the table - but looking at the big picture there is so much more. It can be easy to get caught up in the materialistic things in life and we sometimes take the most important things in this world for granted.

The very things that make this world a world – the gifts from Mother Nature.

I am thankful for the trees that give me shelter from the sun and create homes for Mother Nature’s creatures.

I am thankful for the beautiful sunrises and sunsets that give me serenity each day.

I am thankful for the men and women who are fighting every day against wildlife trafficking so that my children and grandchildren will have the opportunity to see all the beautiful animals of this world. Not pictured in a book, but in real life.

I am thankful for the many parks and nature reserves that allow me and my son to connect with nature whenever we feel disconnected.

I am thankful for this blog so that I can share my love of nature, animals, photography, and conservation with others.

I am thankful for the countless zoos and aquariums that give people the chance to see so many different animals and that teach us about conservation.

I am thankful for friends who inspire me to keep exploring and learning more about the world around me.

I am thankful for the mountains, the deserts, the oceans, and the rainforests. All of which provide infinite beauty.

What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The San Diego Zoo now has a "little gift" Xiao Liwu

After much anticipation and almost 35,000 votes the San Diego Zoo announced the name of the newest panda cub in a public ceremony this morning. Following the Chinese cultural tradition, the panda cub was not named until it was 100 days old. After receiving more than 7,000 submissions for a name, the possible names were narrowed down to six and the public voted in an online poll.

Today this "little one" turned 107 days old and was given the name Xiao Liwu.

For those that have been following along, watching the panda cam and squealing with excitement each time the zoo posted a video of the cubs weekly check-ups, today was another milestone.
Xiao Liwu is the sixth giant panda cub born to Bai Yun at the zoo and he certainly is a little gift to the world and the San Diego Zoo family. Finally, we can put a name to that precious little face.

Photo taken on November 13, 2012, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Endangered Species Monday - Orangutan

When I see an orangutan I can’t help but smile. These animals are so animated and they definitely have individual personalities. 

Orangutans are also very much like humans – from their mannerisms to their emotional expressions. In fact, orangutans are closer to humans than you may think. They share 96.4% of our genetic makeup, which makes orangutans genetically closer to humans than any other animal. The female orangutan is considered to be one of the most caring and gentle mothers in the animal kingdom. 

Some young orangutans will stay with their mother up to eight years; nursing for the first three years and then learning how to fend for themselves. 

Although orangutans live a mostly solitary life, they create bonds that last a lifetime. It has been said that these bonds are renewed during forest encounters later in life. Aside from the nurturing and bonding, orangutans are highly intelligent animals that learn many things from copying. On several occasions, I have watched the orangutans at the San Diego Zoo cover up with large leaves or a burlap sack when it is raining. That is a pretty smart orangutan!

Orangutans once lived all over Southeast Asia, but now only inhabit the warm tropical jungles of Borneo and Sumatra. Orangutans are the largest tree-dwelling mammal and are 100% dependent on the rainforest for survival. This being said, you can see why habitat conservation is so important. 

From 1980-1990 heavy logging and land development reduced the orangutan population by 50%. Large forest fires destroyed more habitats in 1997. Today, the harvesting of palm fruit for the palm oil is one of the main causes of habitat loss for the orangutan. Palm oil is in everything from cookies, chocolate and cosmetics to biodiesel and unfortunately is not always labeled as palm oil. 

A sign at the San Diego Zoo educates people about palm oil
Recently there has been a lot of talk about the health benefits of palm oil and people are now actively looking for products with palm oil. This is not good for the survival of orangutans. If you must buy palm oil, then please support the companies who are members of the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) You can find a printable shopping guide here. 

Educating people and making them aware that our actions have a direct impact on the rainforest is imperative to saving endangered species. To save the orangutan we must first save their home. All attempts that we make to save the orangutans will ultimately fail unless we can assure that their quickly disappearing rainforest home will be there for many years to come.

For more inofrmation on the palm oil crisis and what you can do to help visit the Cheyenne Mountian Zoo website.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunset Sunday - Catalina Island

One thing I love about the Santa Ana winds is they blow away all the smog. On a clear day like this, Catalina Island appears to be close enough that you can reach out and touch it.

Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera with me, but I did have my iPhone.

Have a fantastic week and don't forget to take time to watch the sunsets.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Wait, don't throw that away - Recycle it with TerraCycle!

When you think of recycling, what comes to mind? Probably cans, water bottles, and newspapers. Some of you may also take it a step further and recycle/reuse your glass jars or sort your plastic and aluminum food packaging for recycling. If so, wonderful – you are proficient at kitchen recycling.

However, what about the other room in your home that is filled with tubes, jars, and various bottles?

Yes, I am talking about the bathroom. For years my bathroom trash can was home to empty moisturizer jars and dried up tubes of mascara. I never thought about recycling these containers because I didn't know that I could. (I call this my pre-TerraCycle period.) I recently sent a box filled with all sorts of personal care and cosmetic product packaging to TerraCycle that included compacts, lipstick tubes, shampoo bottles, foundation tubes, hair pomade jars, and so much more. Yes, all of these containers can be recycled.

You can recycle packaging like this too by simply joining the TerraCycle Personal Care and Beauty Brigade. Participating in TerraCycle brigades is free and is another great way that you can help keep waste out of the landfills. For a full listing of the personal care and beauty product accepted waste visit the TerraCycle website.

While you are there, be sure to look at the other brigades available to join. I am sure you will be just as surprised as I was to learn how many types of product packaging can be recycled.

Points earned from sending in qualified shipments can be redeemed for TerraCycle product bundles, charitable gifts or cash donations made to a charity of your choice. It’s like getting two for one – you keep waste out of the landfills and you are rewarded with making a charitable gift.

So the next time you think about throwing something in the trash can, stop. Don’t throw it away because you can probably recycle it.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The mind of a child wonders ... Why?

The other day my son began asking me questions. Questions that I could not answer.
Good questions. In fact, amazing questions!

WHY do people have to kill rhinos for their horns?

WHY do people have to kill tigers for their fur?

WHY do people have to harvest palm oil fruit from the rain forest?

WHY do people have to kill elephants for their tusks?

WHY do people have to be cruel to the animals?

WHY do people have to litter at the zoo?

WHY don't more people recycle?

WHY do people not take conservation seriously?

WHY do people have to cut down the rain forest?

WHY don't people care about these things like I do?

I decided to use his questions for a blog post because I began to wonder ...

WHY does a 9-year-old child question these global issues, when so many adults do not?

Photo courtesy of Dylan Fryer.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The day we explored Home Depot

I am now convinced that Home Depot is the guys equivalent to Target for girls. He wanted to walk up and down every aisle at Home Depot just to see what they had. No intention of buying anything - just wandering. Exploring the power tools, hammers, rugs, plants, paint ... nothing was left unseen. It was a wonderful way to spend an hour with my son.

How do you spend time with your child?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Endangered Species Monday - Cans for Critters

One of the great things about helping save endangered species is that everyone can do something - even children. In fact, I believe children can and will create more awareness about the problems facing endangered species than most adults will. When I offered to be in charge of the conservation service project for my son’s Cub Scout den, I was thrilled to suggest we take part in San Diego Zoo Global’s Cans for Critters.

Cans for Critters is one of the many programs available for the general public to do their part and help protect wildlife all over the world. By recycling cans and bottles, and then donating the money, both individuals and groups can help save endangered species.

There are three levels for individuals (starting at $20) and three levels for groups (starting at $100). We chose the group level of Cheetah, which has a goal of raising $200 for wildlife. Each boy collects cans and bottles and I take them to the recycling center each month. All the money we get goes into a jar so the boys can see how much money they have raised. Even though we started a month late, I am confident that boys will reach their goal by the end of the recycling drive. Cans for Critters officially began on Septemeber 12, 2012 and will end on May 17, 2013 – the day before Endangered Species Awareness Day.

Everyone who registers for Cans for Critters and meets their goal will have an opportunity to receive a special certificate, animal photo, conservation patch, and choice of zoo tickets or eco gifts. There will also be an official Cans for Critters Appreciation Day on June 1, 2013.

The boys are so excited to be part of this conservation project and I am honored to have the opportunity to teach them more about how they can help save endangered species. 

So what do you think? Would you like to help save endangered species by registering for Cans for Critters? It’s quite simple and a wonderful way for people of all ages to help protect wildlife while keeping the planet clean. 
Reduce – Reuse - Recycle

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sunset Sunday - Going Home

Sometimes it is good to look down instead of up when watching a sunset.

As the sun sets on another beautiful day in Orange County, a family of ducks swims home to the banks of the bay for the night. 

Have a fantastic week and don't forget to take time to watch the sunsets.

Friday, November 2, 2012

School fundraiser does more harm than good

Anyone who has children is familiar with the annual school fundraisers. Almost all schools have at least one fundraiser and I understand the reasoning. Budget cuts and minimal funding for programs like art and music have forced the schools to be creative in how they ask parents for money.

Over the years my son has brought home packets with everything from cookie dough, wrapping paper, See’s candy, and the infamous magazine subscriptions. So you can imagine how happy I was to see that this year’s fundraiser was for reusable shopping bags and totes that were made from recycled products. Wonderful!

I was ready to buy all my Christmas gifts and share the fundraiser with my coworkers, but then the little voice in my head told me to look deeper. I went to the company’s website and searched for the about page.

I was shocked when I began to read what it said. - Shocked at the ignorance more than anything else.

Made from woven polypropylene - one of the most popular plastics for making food containers like yogurt cups. 10-40% of the polypropylene used in our bags is recycled from post consumer use. Most of our bags hold up to 50 lbs, which is due to the plastic fibers woven into the bags. Made in China.

Wait, was I reading this correctly? Made in China?

Why on earth would I or anyone buy a product that is supposed to be eco-friendly from a California company that has the product made in China? The thousands of miles on diesel burning cargo ships and the trees that are destroyed to make the shipping crates are not eco-friendly. The size of the carbon footprint left to have a recycled product made in China, only to be sold in the United States is enormous in comparison to making the recycled product here. We strive to cut carbon emissions on our local streets, but pretend that the emissions made on the ocean don’t exist.

My son’s school fundraiser ends today and I sent the envelope back as instructed. Not with an order form or payment, but rather a note to the school.

Please consider another fundraiser next year. Although the bags are nice, there is no point in buying a recycled product that is manufactured in China. The pollution and environmental impact of transporting goods from overseas defeats the purpose of making and buying eco-friendly products. Thank you.

So I’m curious, do you ever look to see where the eco-friendly products you buy are made?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Giraffe lashes are the best

The best Halloween costumes are those with false lashes, but this girl doesn't need any.

Who needs false lashes when you are born with these?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Halloween has come full circle in our house

Reminiscing of Halloweens gone by ... from cute and cuddly to the dark side. Wow, have things changed. When he was little his world revolved around animals and all he wanted to be for Halloween was something cute and furry. The giraffe was my all time favorite.

Then he started to grow up and wanted to carry a weapon of some sort. I really disliked this phase because I was the one who ended up carrying the weapon while he collected the candy. Next it was the Star Wars phase ... ah yes, I remember it well.

This year he is going back to his first love and has decided to be a San Diego Zoo zookeeper. No longer does he want to be the animal, now he wants to take care of the animals. I may not be able to turn back time, but at least I have the pictures to make me smile.  

Monday, October 29, 2012

Endangered Species Monday - Amur Leopard

Photo by Penny Hyde
Most people associate leopards with Africa or the snow leopard with Asia, but there is another leopard that deserves some attention – the Amur leopard.

The Amur leopard does not live in Africa. This rare subspecies lives in the Russian Far East. They are one of the most stunning cats I have ever seen. Sadly, the Amur leopard is critically endangered with only around 30 left in the wild. 

While habitat destruction is partially to blame, it is not the main reason for the decline in the species. The bigger problem is poaching and over hunting of the Amur leopards prey. As with other animals that have beautiful fur, the Amur leopard is hunted for its spotted fur and there is an insufficient amount of prey to sustain a large population in the wild.

Once an animal reaches critically endangered status, strong measures need to be taken to ensure the survival of the species. In this case, an international conservation program was established. Although some people have mixed feelings on keeping wild animals in captivity, the conservation efforts made by several well-known zoos in the United States have helped increase the captive population to hundreds. In my opinion, this is conservation at its finest. Job well done.

Photo by Deric Wagner
In April 2012, the San Diego Zoo was fortunate to have three Amur leopards join their family. Koshka, Primoyre, and Zeya are siblings who arrived as part of the international conservation program designed to help save the Amur leopard. When they arrived they were playful 11 month old babies - running and jumping all over the place. I have been lucky enough to see these siblings on several occasions and they are so much fun to watch. However, when I watch them play I have mixed emotions. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to see such an amazing animal, yet I can’t help but feel sad knowing how critically endangered they are in the wild.

Yes, there are other species of leopards ... but there is only one Amur leopard. 

Photo by Penny Hyde

Special thanks to my friends Deric and Penny for allowing me to share your beautiful pictures of the Amur leopards from the San Diego Zoo. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sunset Sunday - Looking Back

This week I decided to reflect on the beauty that was captured through the lens of my camera over the past 4 months of sunset pictures. One of the items on our family bucket list is to take a picture of the sunset every month for 1 year. So far, we are one-third of the way there.

Have a fantastic week and don't forget to take time to watch the sunsets.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Taking time to be myself and loving it

Lately I have been taking some time to look within myself. Looking at the path I have chosen to follow and at those that have allowed me to lead them down the same path.

I have people that I admire and look to for guidance. They have taught me how to be a leader myself and to inspire others.

Some may not agree with the path I have chosen, but that doesn't mean I should pretend to be something I am not.

I see enough fake people in this world to know that this is not something I want to be. Call me an environmentalist, call me a tree hugger, call me crazy if you like. It really doesn't bother me anymore.

Why? Because I believe in what I am doing. I believe that I am making a difference and inspiring others. Unlike some people I know, I actually practice the very things I write about and talk about. There was a time when I cared more about what other people thought and believed than what I myself believed. I was afraid to let people see the real me. However, when I quit hiding behind the facade I learned that more people respected me. Those that continued to pretend to be someone else, the followers of this world, started to stand out like a sore thumb to me. They would say one thing and live their life in the complete opposite.

I don't understand this way of thinking. If you believe strongly in something than you should live your life following that path. In other words, don't preach about something if you don't practice it yourself.

Why can't people just follow the path they choose and be proud of it?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Recognition from the White House for helping the tigers

There are many times that I have been proud of my son. What parent hasn't been proud of their child? Getting a good grade on a test, learning to ride a bike, receiving an award from school, the list can go on forever with the many accomplishments we witness as parents. However, there is a certain kind of feeling you get as a parent, one that is filled with pride and happiness, when you watch your child beam with pride as his peers applaud him. These are the rare moments that bring tears to the eyes of mothers.

Last week my son received The President's Volunteer Service Award. He did not know that he was getting it and when he was called up during a Cub Scout pack meeting I was suddenly overcome with pride.

As you may remember, Dylan had a special birthday wish in July. A wish not for presents or a party, but a wish for the tigers at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. His wish was to raise $1,000 and help build them a new home. He surpassed his goal and raised over $1,300.

In doing so, he volunteered much of his time - 50 hours to be exact. Unbeknownst to me, a child of his age that completes 50 hours of community service is eligible to receive a special award from the President of the United States. A good friend of the family completed all the paperwork, sent me the awards last month, and asked that Dylan be honored at a Cub Scout meeting.

Along with the President's Volunteer Service Award, Dylan received a letter from the White House, a letter from Nograf Network, and a lapel pin of the Presidential Seal.

I am still in awe of this. I have never known anyone who received an award from the White House, let alone a family member - and as excited as he is now, I can only imagine the stories he will tell his children and grandchildren one day.

Knowing how much Dylan loves saving animals, I thought it was only right to dedicate an area of our home for him to display his efforts and accomplishments. So after a little reorganizing, this is now known as Dylan's shelf of conservation. Each animal represents one that he has adopted from San Diego Zoo Global and I will be framing pictures of them as well to hang along with his letters.

Sometimes the best rewards are those that you don't expect to get.

Dylan may have inspired many people, some total strangers, with his birthday wish for the tigers, but the 30 young boys who applauded him at his Cub Scout meeting are the ones who he inspired to make a difference of their own. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Endangered Species Monday - Komodo Dragon

Did you know that dragons really do exist? Don't believe me? Well, one of our best friends at the San Diego Zoo is a dragon. His name is Sonny and he is a Komodo dragon.

Komodo dragons are the world's largest lizard and grow to be up to 10 feet long. That's one ginormous lizard or should I say dragon? Komodo dragons move very slowly, but their keen sense of smell (they can smell prey up to a mile away) allows these animals to hunt with precise skill. Unlike most lizards, the Komodo dragon is a carnivore. The bigger the better - feasting on prey like wild pigs, water buffalo and deer. You might wonder how this is possible for a lizard. Well, the Komodo dragon has a secret weapon - besides razor sharp claws and teeth, theses guys carry over 50 strains of bacteria in their saliva. All they need is one bite. Once bitten, the prey will usually die within 24 hours of blood poisoning. So even if the prey happens to get away, the Komodo dragon will follow at a leisurely pace and wait for the animal to die.

Sonny is 12 years old and came from the Honolulu Zoo when he was only 6 years old. Some people may think he lives a lonely life, but Komodo dragons are solitary animals, so he is quite happy to have that big exhibit all to himself. Ever since Dylan was a toddler, Sonny has been a favorite. We actually consider him to be part of the family. Strange I know, but some things just can't be explained. Sonny is always one of the first friends we say hello to at the zoo - and yes, we talk to him.

Even though the Komodo dragon appears to be unstoppable, they are listed as an endangered species. Komodo dragons are only found on four islands in Indonesia: Komodo, Rinca, Gili Motang, and Flores. The species is fairly stable with a wild population of about 3,000, but several factors are hurting the Komodo's survival rate. There are very few female dragons laying eggs, human poaching, habitat loss, and humans hunting their prey are leaving a scarce amount of food for the Komodo dragon to eat.

In their natural habitat, Komodo dragons are top predator. They have no natural enemies - except for humans. With a lifespan of about 50 years, these dragons deserve to remain on this planet holding the title of most feared lizard.

Sonny and Dylan - friends for life.