Thursday, January 31, 2008

Adopt a Manatee for Valentine's Day

Keeping with the theme of Animal Week (and thinking ahead), Save the Manatee suggests, “Adopt a manatee for Valentine’s day and win a few hearts!” A $25 contribution garners a photo of your manatee, the manatee’s biography, an adoption certificate, a membership handbook, and quarterly newsletter for a year with updated reports on your adoptee. For $35, they’ll throw in the above and a manatee stuffed animal that looks very cute. (Not as cute as Jazzy, of course, but then who is?) This is a gift that keeps giving, as contributions fund efforts to protect this endangered species in Florida.

Today’s mitzvah:
Consider giving your Valentine a
manatee adoptee. Looking for something faster and cheaper to help our friends in the sea? Click on Care2’s Race for the Oceans for a sponsor-generated contribution to the nonprofit group Oceana’s ocean protection programs.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Say Hello to Jazzy

As promised, heeeeere’s Jazzy! This adorable young lady, who inspired Daily Mitzvah’s Animal Week, lives with two of my favorite family members. But Jazzy was not always so happy. As one of her humans told me, shelter workers found Jazzy and her brother hiding under a bush one winter day. When we brought her home, she had a severe case of worms, and Parvo, and had to be quarantined until she got better.” While Jazzy is happy and healthy now, she still has to follow a special diet.

It’s easy to help people who help animals like Jazzy, even in the midst of our very busy lives. Shopping online this week? By using a portal like Nonprofit Shopping Mall to visit favorite stores (Amazon, Target, Macy's, Office Depot, and many more), a portion of your purchase is donated to a nonprofit you designate, with choices including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Humane Society of the United States. Or try the shops that link through iGive, which allows you to keep track of donations and even provides receipts for taxes. Pressed for time (or cash)? For every click on the Animal Rescue Site, sponsors will make a small donation to Cleveland Amory’s Fund for Animals, (a group that works with pets during natural disasters), and the North Shore Animal League.

Today’s mitzvah: Wave hi to Jazzy, and pop over to the Animal Rescue Site for a free click-to-give.

Monday, January 28, 2008


OK, technically that should be “primates” or chimpanzees. But it was just too much fun typing Monkeys!

As part of the ongoing Animal Week here on the blog, today I want to give a shout out to the Jane Goodall Institute, which since 1977 has focused on education, conservation and development, and wildlife research, as well as its best-known projects, the Chimpanzee Sanctuaries in various parts of Africa. As our friends at Care2 note, “from fostering micro-businesses in Tanzania to educating young people about conservation, the Institute’s programs make the world a better place for people, animals, and the environment.” Even in the midst of a manic Monday (I know, I’m having one, too), you can support the Goodall Institute with a free click on Care2’s Race to Save the Primates. Free to you, the site sponsors make a donation for the Goodall Institute’s chimp protection programs for each click.

Today’s mitzvah:
Try a free click to aid in primate protection — and get a pick-me-up with some very cute chimp photos!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Simple Sunday: Polar Bear SOS

I am declaring this Animal Week in honor of our friend Jazzy, who we’ll meet later on. Stay tuned!

Last Sunday, I wrote about an opportunity to “chill the drills” to help save polar bear habitat in Alaska. Unfortunately the current administration has fast-tracked the approval for gas and oil drilling leases in Alaska, yet postponed the decision that was due January 9 on whether or not to place polar bears on the Endangered Species List. (If the bears are declared an endangered species, drilling in their habitat would be restricted.)

Simple Sunday mitzvah: Click here to send a message (via the Natural Resource Defense Council’s web site) urging Congress to pass the Markey bill (H.R. 5058), which will reverse the go-ahead for the oil and gas lease sales until the Bush Administration makes its final decision about protecting polar bears under the Endangered Species Act.

Friday, January 25, 2008

"Good" Friday: Thank-Yous

Today one of my students thanked me for coming to campus to teach on a bitterly cold Friday. Yep, someone actually thanked me just for doing my job. This unexpected kindness reminded me how easy it is to get busy and distracted and to forget the simplest mitzvah of all: saying “Thanks.”

This also reminded me I’m overdue in thanking several fellow bloggers for their kind mentions of Daily Mitzvah. Last month Upgrade: Travel Better and inFlightOut both referenced my December 14 post about donating frequent miles to charity. More recently, on Monday The Lost Albatross gave us a very nice hat-tip mentioning the January 19 Keep Wisconsin Warm post, which our local collaborative blog Dane101 also kindly included in their January 19 Breakfast Links. I really enjoy reading each of these blogs: thank-you to all!

Today’ mitzvah: Thank someone who isn’t expecting it, either in person or with a surprise eCard.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Thursday 13 Things: Inspirational Web Sites

I had this post in reserve in case my hospital recovery was longer than anticipated. Happily I was back blogging fairly soon, so here’s a gift from me to you: a Thursday Thirteen Things with 13 web sites I like for a quick inspirational or motivational boost:
  1. Be Hospitable: No Good Deed Goes Unmapped (a commercial site, but I like the premise)
  2. Beliefnet’s Daily Dalai Lama
  3. Cheryl Richardson. com (click on Touch of Grace, and thank you to for the link!)
  4. Chopra Center Daily Devotion
  5. Daily Motivator
  6. Daily Tao
  7. Daryn Show the World What’s Possible
  8. Dr. Wayne Dyer Daily Inspiration
  9. Good News Network
  10.’s Light A Candle
  11. I Live Inspired (daily inspiration via text messaging)
  12. Soular Energy
  13. Whack on the Side of the Head from Creative Think
Today’s mitzvah: Be kind to yourself!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Wind and Solar on the Electric Bill

For the past few years our local power company has offered customers the option of paying extra for wind power to balance the coal, oil, and natural gas nonrenewable fossil fuels that provide most of our electricity. But it was a pricey proposition.

Yesterday’s mail brought news of several new wind farms and a new solar energy producer in our community, which have greatly reduced the cost of this renewable energy program for consumers. Just $6/month is supposed to offset the carbon dioxide emissions in an average households electricity use. Since these are offsets — basically just contributions toward the utility’s acquistion of renewable energy — and not direct purchases of solar and wind power for one’s own home, I want to investigate this further before signing up. But it’s certainly encouraging to see solar and wind power playing a larger role in this very traditional utility’s offerings.

Today’s mitzvah: Visit your electric utility’s web site and investigate their renewable energy options.

Monday, January 21, 2008

What's Your Dream?

I’ve been wondering what to post for Martin Luther King Jr Day that wouldn’t be trite or clichéd. The more I thought about it, the more it seems like one needs to be in touch with what the Quakers call that “still, small voice” within to discover one’s purpose in the midst of the busyness and mind clutter of most of our daily lives.

What is your dream? offers a quiet space to stop, contemplate, and light a cyber (but still quite lovely) candle. There’s also space to post a few words. Each candle burns for 48 hours.

Today’s mitzvah: Visit the the Gratefulness site’s grottoes to light your own candle and contemplate the dream that will propel you this year.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Simple Sunday (in Brazil!)

OK, this is an imaginary trip to Brazil. (It’s still really cold here.) But if we were lucky enough to be in Rio de Janeiro today we would be celebrating Foundation Day. And having a delightful day at the beach, no doubt.

Today’s fast, easy, and simple Sunday mitzvah: Celerate Rio’s Foundation Day holiday with a free-to-you click donation to Pró Menor, a children’s charity that takes advantage of Brazil’s under-utilized military bases and their facilities, as well as volunteer military personnel, to provide homeless street children with meals, education, organized sporting activities, counseling, and vocational training. Just click on the left-hand link marked Doçao Grátis (you’ll know it worked when the resulting page returns an image of stacked coins). The site’s sponsors make a contribution to Pró Menor to for every click (up to one per person per day).

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Yep, It’s Cold

Good morning, it’s a balmy -7° here, with a wind chill of -22°. We’re predicted to hit a low of -15° by evening, with who-knows-what as a wind chill at that level. The extreme cold is the primary topic of conversation today here in the region, so I gave a little extra contribution to Keep Wisconsin Warm this morning. With this kind of weather, it’s hard not to. A local group estimates 50,000 Wisconsinites are living without adequate electricity and/or heat, and that’s before the crazy weather. The need for assistance is even more pressing than when I last wrote about this in November.

Today’s mitzvah: If you have some extra cash rattling around, consider a donation to a heating assistance program in your area. For no cost, drop off used coats and warm sweaters at Goodwill — or see if a local group is sponsoring a blanket drive in your area.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Happy Winnie-the-Pooh Day!

You can’t stay in your corner of the forest, waiting for others to come to you; you have to go to them sometimes.

Today is Winnie-the-Pooh Day, to commemorate A.A. Milne’s birthday. So a hats-off to Edward Bear, more fondly known as Winnie the Pooh. Allegedly a “Bear of very little brain,” we know better and can spot a Taoist Master when we see one :-)

Today’s mitzvah: Help enhance a child’s sense of wonder through books, with a free click-to-donate at The Literacy Site. And reward yourself with some Poo-ish wisdom from the Thousand Acre Wood.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Thursday Thirteen: The Gifters

A few months ago Family Circle magazine began arriving in my mailbox. First I thought it was from my friend Enterprising Author, who happened to be profiled in that issue. Now I’ve given up speculating on the source and am just enjoying the recipes and articles. The February 2008 issue includes an article called “The Gifters,” a short profile of three women — Asha Bandele, Ginnny Graves, and Lori Erickson — who spent two weeks performing random acts of kindness. Some acts had unintended results, at least one was rained out, but overall the process helped the women to learn more about themselves and their communities. Since it’s Thursday, here’s a Thursday 13 from the article:
  1. Hid a prepaid phonecard in the babysitter’s purse
  2. Mopped the hall of my apartment building
  3. Slipped $10 into a friend’s coat pocket
  4. Sent candy to a relative who is a “male role model for my daughter”
  5. Dropped off dog treats for a friend’s new puppy
  6. Weeded a neighbor’s garden
  7. Left a message thanking firefighters for making us safe
  8. Sent magazines to the troops
  9. Left money in a vending machine for the next person to find
  10. Placed a thank-you note on a local gardener’s truck
  11. Shoveled snow for a neighbor early one morning
  12. Donated a bag of art supplies to a local school
  13. Wrote the manager of the supermarket naming a clerk who had been especially helpful
Today’s mitzvah: Take Family Circle’s Kindness Challenge with a random act of kindness (or “sneaky niceness”) of your own!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Being the Mitzvah

I missed posting for Tuesday (unless still being up after midnight counts!), but it was an interesting day. At least three stressful issues loomed, but uncharacteristically I took a breath each time and decided things would work out exactly as they were supposed to and I would be fine. The surprising part: it was easy to let go of trying to control everything, and the extra energy freed up space for a call from a dear friend, a freelance check that arrived early, and a productive research day. When I stopped worrying about trying to control the uncontrollable in my own life, I realized I felt much lighter and had more energy for others.

The Chopra Center’s web site posts daily devotions culled from Deepak Chopra
s Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. Today made me think of one of my favorites:
I will make a commitment to keep wealth circulating in my life by giving and receiving life’s most precious gifts: the gifts of caring, affection, appreciation and love. Each time I meet someone, I will silently wish them happiness, joy and laughter.

Today’s mitzvah:
See above!

Monday, January 14, 2008

No Good Deed Goes Unmapped

I don’t usually plug commercial sites, but this initiative by Hilton Hotels caught my eye. “Be Hospitable: No Good Deed Goes Unmapped” features an interactive map where people can post details (and city / state) when they witness a random act of kindness. The site map currently lists 2,893 acts of kindness — and counting!

Today’s mitzvah: Be on the lookout for an act of kindness to add to the Be Hospitable map!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Simple Sundays: Chill the Drills

Alaska’s polar bears are in danger due to global warming. The Sierra Club is concerned that their fate is made even more precarious by opening up the Chukchi Sea, the bears’ habitat, to drilling as early as next month. The Sierra Club has more information on their Polar Bear and Arctic Seas page.

Today’s mitzvah: Sign the Sierra Club’s petition to Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne asking him to “chill the drills” and take a time-out to find ways to protect the polar bears.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

National Pharmacist Day

In honor of National Pharmacist Day, I thought I’d draw attention to an e-petition launched by our Wisconsin governor, Jim Doyle, to ease Americans’ access to more affordable prescription drugs from Canada. It’s not a long-term solution to the lack of universal prescription drug coverage here in the U.S., but it does draw attention to the problem of higher drug prices here than in other industrialized countries.

Today’s mitzvah:
Consider signing Gov. Doyle’s e-petition to make affordable Canadian drugs available in the U.S. Or as a longer-term solution, urge your representatives to work to improve prescription drug coverage so more people can afford to buy their medicines here at home and take advantage of the advice and counsel of local pharmacists.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Pen Pals

Home recovering from a hospital stay, the daily mail becomes a big high point in the day (one can only watch so much TV!). When today’s mail brought just another pile of bills and credit card offers, I started thinking of the old-fashioned hobby of pen pal letters. These were so popular when I was a kid — I wondered if this hobby had survived heightened concerns about privacy and wariness about strangers that are part of present day life.

I found a neat site, Friendship by Mail: Snail Mail Friends, that seems to be comprised of women who like to write to each other and really enjoy making envelopes, thinking of imaginative tiny “tuck-ins” for the letters, and just generally chatting with others. The group also publishes a snail mail newsletter called Inky Trail News, to match pen pals with similar interests or birthdays; and a Pen Pal blog with ideas for making one’s own stationery, tips on how to write a good pen pal letter, etc. As with anything online, certainly be cautious, but this sounds like a fun group for those who would like to write and receive more letters.

Today’s mitzvah: Drop a postcard or a real letter to a friend or relative. For those who are more ambitious, consider joining a targeted group like Chemo Angels, or find a “birthday twin” or other writing pal at Friendship by Mail.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Change Just One Lightbulb

One of my New Year’s blog-o-lutions: balance “armchair activism” and fun stuff on the web with actions that actually move one away from the computer! Here’s an easy one: replace one (just one) traditional light bulb with a compact flourescent bulb (CFL).

The U.S government’s Energy Star division states: “If every American home replaced just one light bulb with an ENERGY STAR qualified bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year, more than $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars.” If that’s not impressive enough, you’ll also save about $30 in energy costs over the life of each bulb.

Environment Defense’s How to Pick a Better Bulb page recommends starting with just one bulb, to make sure the quality of the light works for you. If you have been disappointed with CFLs in the past, they also suggest choosing a bulb listed between 2650 and 2850 degrees Kelvin or labeled “warm white.” And you don’t have to use the crazy swirly bulbs that look like a Mr. Softee cone (although I kinda like them): the bulb pictured at right is a CFL too.

Still need more incentive? The shopping site SpringLight is currently offering free shipping on all their energy saving bulbs; look for the promo on their front page, or just enter the code FSWS1207 at checkout. Your local utility may offer rebates for the bulb purchases. Check out their home page, or check up the Million Car Carbon Campaign’s rebate map to locate a program (most listed are in the Midwest). CFLs are now also available at many grocery, discount, and home improvement stores.

Today’s mitzvah: Take the plunge: Change one light bulb to a compact fluorescent.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Middle East Peace Trip

Here’s a way to turn a negative into a positive. I received an email message from Sojourners, the liberal Christian activist group, indicating that “religious right” organizations have been inundating the White House with mail opposing President Bush’s upcoming trip to the Middle East. Apparently these groups oppose any “two-state” peace settlement that includes negations with the Palestinians.

Sojourners asks that those who identify themselves as Christians write to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to express their support for peace in the Middle East, and to emphasize that most Christians do NOT oppose a peace settlement in the region. Since pray for peace in the Middle East was my Christmas Day blog post, I’m participating in Sojourners email campaign, even though this will be the first time I have sent anything supportive to this particular White House. (Still wrapping my head around that one.)

Today’ mitzvah: Consider joining Sojourners’ email campaign to tell Condoleezza Rice that most Christians do support a two-state solution in the Middle East. If this action isn’t right for you, this also would be an excellent time to pray for peace in the Middle East via an email prayer request in the Western Wall.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Kiva Funds Every Loan on Its Site

Here’s something one doesn’t see every day. This morning I visited Kiva, the microloan site, to check on my loan partners — and saw the happy message that every loan request on the site has been funded! Kiva encounters this situation periodically, when their good press results in so many donors, they simply can’t find new applicants fast enough. Imagine a bank that had more money to loan than applicants — it’s a happy confluence of events.

Kiva is adamant that every dollar we give goes directly to fund the entrepreneurs’ loans. They do not deduct anything for overhead or processing (even PayPal donates its services for free). This does, though, mean that Kiva processes millions of dollars for microloans but often struggles to meet its own overhead including rent and staff salaries.

Today’s mitzvah: While we wait for more loan applications to appear on the site, consider contributing $5 to Kiva for their operating expenses. A PayPal link on the front page makes it easy. (You can also contribute to Kiva operating expenses here.)

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Simple Sundays: Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night, or the 12th Day of Christmas, was technically yesterday on Epiphany Eve, if I have my liturgical calendar straight. But since I didn’t receive (or send) twelve drummers drumming — and I think today is Christmas Day in Armenia — I thought I’d close out the Christmas season today instead with my favorite Christmastide video from YouTube. This makes today perhaps not a Simple Sunday, but certainly a sweet one. The video starts to get fun after the second verse, which is also when the videographer begins laughing in the background.

Today’s mitzvah: Say thank-you for good health, and enjoy some light hearted singing and dancing from me to you!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Thank-You, Nurses!

I’m back from a short hospital stay, where I was blessed with truly amazing nursing care. In a large and hectic facility I was blown away by the personal attention and so much compassion — no empathy fatigue here — from the very busy day nurses, to the OR staff (including the sainted nurse who gave up her lunch break and shooed away a replacement, to stay with me through a long procedure), to the overnight shift nurses who did their work without ever turning on a light.

These women made a rough stay easier — I would buy each of them a car and some flowers and a puppy if I could. More in keeping with the blog, I found an interesting grassroots campaign urging creation of an Office of the National Nurse. The National Nurse would complement the Surgeon General, including promoting involvement in the Medical Reserve Corps and incorporating “proven evidence-based public health education when promoting prevention.” A bill to create a National Nurse (H.R. 4903) was introduced in the House in 2006, and has been revised and is still pending.

Today’s mitzvah: Say thank-you to a hard-working nurse, and consider signing the Office of the National Nurse petition.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Be Irrepressible

I’m going to be away from the blog for a day or three and was trying to figure out how to keep the content fresh. Amnesty International gave me an idea with their “” campaign. As a response to internet censorship in many countries, A.I. is urging each of us to publish fragments of censored information on our own web sites and blogs. They’ve facilitated this process by creating buttons that auto-update with new fragments each time the host page is accessed or refreshed. You’ll see one of these buttons in the right-hand margin here on Daily Mitzvah. The fragments come from many sources, but my favorite in the rotation is the greater London weather forecast — included as a reminder that several countries currently block their citizens’ access to the BBC’s web site.

Today’s mitzvah: Consider adding censored fragments to your own web site or blog. The widgets are available by clicking here. And everyone can click the censored button for a link to a pledge to oppose internet censorship and more information on the campaign. See you in a few days!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Juice and a Cookie If You’re Good . . .

January is National Blood Donor Month, coinciding with a time of year when blood supplies are typically low due to the holidays, travel, and inclement weather. (I know this because I have a hospital visit coming up, and our local medical center has posters everywhere!) This is also a time of year when many Red Cross chapters host community blood drives, so it’s easy to find a way to donate. To search for a blood drive this month near you, the Red Cross offers a handy search feature at or call 1-800-GIVE LIFE.

Today’s mitzvah: Check for a local blook drive near you.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Good News for the New Year

Looking for a New Year’s resolution that’s easy to keep? How about injecting more good news into the day? Since 1997 the indefatigable Geri Weis-Corbley has compiled and published the Good News Network web site. As the title suggests, Good News Network (GNN) is a compilation of positive, inspiring, and noteworthy news from around the world. Geri digs beyond the headlines to find good news from familiar sources including Reuters, AP Wire, USA Today, NPR, the New York Times, and more. GNN is divided into seven sections: Latest News, Family Life, Business, Civics, Recreation, Health, and “Inspired!” I’ve posted an RSS feed link to GNN here on Daily Mitzvah (see right-hand column), to remind myself there’s more to the day’s news than the grim and the gory.

Today’s mitzvah:
Resolve to visit the Good News Network to bring positive energy into your day, and the lives of those around us.