You meet the most amazing people at the AFA. And you get gossip and fashion tips! (With Tim Gunn)

Learning is hard. It’s draining. You get tired. You get cranky. (Well, I do..) But that’s how it is. You’d think just having a conversation with someone would be a pleasant experience. And it is. But at the AFA, having “just a conversation” is nearly an impossible thing to do. At an AFA conference, you don’t just sit around talking about capri pants and espadrilles while brushing each other’s hair. Nope. It’s not nearly as relaxing.

Almost all of the people at the AFA know a hell of a lot more than I do about a whole lot of stuff. And getting into a conversation with them involves listening and attempting to fully comprehend what they are trying to explain to you. The conversations do not usually begin with “I have a budgie and he does this…” At the AFA this rarely happens. Sit down with Adrianne Mock, ask a simple question and she will be informing you of these issues out in California that will blow your mind. (Which she managed to do, by the way.)

Ask Genny Wall about what’s going on with the bird industry and she will blast your hair back with some fairly convoluted issues that you’d need an attorney to explain to you. (Good thing Genny is an attorney….)

The conversations are about important issues. And some are fairly prickly. Have a conversation with one person and you will get a point of view. Ask about that same issue of another person and “Wham!” You’re going to get another opinion and another fully justified, well-thought out point of view. That’s when I’m back down that rabbit hole of confusion and exhaustion. Climbing out of that rabbit hole for me is tough. My brain hurts for days.

IMG_3022Carrie Efstathion and Rick Weigel

And then I get depressed because I feel like I’m never going to understand all of the issues and why they are the problem they are.

I suppose it’s the same with other people when they ask me about the state of the airline industry. They want to know about delays and why they happen, I begin talking about “wake vortex separation,” FAA required mechanical sign-offs, equipment specific gates and crew legalities and their eyes glaze over.

So I can understand my own feelings of complete inadequacy and confusion. And I would completely understand it from a person who’d never attended before. These are some heavy-hitting concepts and philosophies floating around combined with hard science and politics. Oh great, two of the very things I didn’t excel at while in school. Politics is something that put people off their breakfast. They say “Oh God! Politics again!” But here’s the thing: have you ever looked up the word?

pol·i·tics [pol-i-tiks] 
noun ( used with a singular or plural verb )
the science or art of political government.
the practice or profession of conducting political affairs.
political affairs: “The advocated reforms have become embroiled in politics.”
political methods or maneuvers: “We could not approve of his politics in winning passage of the bill.”
political principles or opinions: :We avoided discussion of religion and politics. His politics are his own affair.”

That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. However, real politics is far more complicated because so much of what is involved affects the lives of people, animals and their relationship and involvement with each other.

That’s when the wicket gets even stickier.

And please don’t think that everyone at the AFA is on the same page. They aren’t. I didn’t really understand this but I can see how difficult it is to try and get stuff accomplished when what you really have is this microcosmic nation of people all trying to get their agendas looked at, solved, pushed forward or acted upon. Everyone at the AFA doesn’t agree. They can’t. But then, that really isn’t what the AFA is all about either. At least it doesn’t appear that way from my seat in the stands.

What I do see is a fairly powerful organization up against a ton of issues that a encompass so many facets of the world that it would blow your mind.

The AFA appears to be an old, well respected organization that actually lobbies for issues that are of interest to the Avicultural community as a whole. Their lobbying interests include, but are not limited to conservation, the rights of pet owners and certain freedoms they want to keep. And not everyone agrees on these issues. And don’t ask ask me because I can’t even begin to understand all of the issues.


Janet Holt Hilton and Jean Pattison (Photo courtesy of JHH)

These are the times when I simply want to throw my hands up, walk away and stick to my knitting, which is parrot nutrition. I’m simply not so sure that any input I have would be of any use to them, other than promote the Chop Concept and good nutrition in general, which I am happy to do. However, attorney Jenny Wall thinks differently. I had a looong conversation with her and she explained some of the more salient points about this topic with me. I would really like to help, but I wouldn’t know where to begin or how I could be of use.

One thing I did tell her was my long-standing desire to have the AFA represent and assist adoption organizations more prominently. While I’ve had this discussion with other leaders of the AFA before, their stance being that they represented all aspects of Aviculture, I begged to differ by asking where the “Adoption” page was on their website. Naturally, there was no response because there isn’t such a page. Conservation? Yes. Education? Yes. Legislative Awareness? Of course. But adoption? Nope. However, I am in continuing discussions with AFA leaders and I am coming to a better understanding of what the AFA is and what it isn’t.

If the AFA claims they represent all aspects of Aviculture, then adoption should be highlighted because it has become a big part of it. Don’t get me wrong. I am a member of the AFA because I believe that the only way you can change something for the better is by working with them. I’m not one for pointing my finger at something and condemning it from afar. If I think something can be changed for the better, I try and come up with solutions. I’ve been doing that with my Airline for decades. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. But at least I try.

I must point out that every time I attend, I come home with my brain in a sling. Why? Because I am learning. And learning is a draining experience that takes energy. That being said, what I’m trying to point out is that the AFA is first and foremost an Educational Organization. 


With Phoenix Landing Founder Ann Brooks

This year, I was happy to see Ann Brooks, Founder of Phoenix Landing attend. She was invited to come and as far as I’m concerned, this is a step in the right direction. Not one to mince words, Ann is still very concerned about breeding because she has a current waiting list of 292 birds waiting to be plugged into the system for adoption.

On the other hand, Concetta Ferragamo told me that there is in fact a shortage of baby birds in the U.S. Naturally, with 2 relinquished African Greys in my family and a relinquished foster in residence, my first thought was, “And where is the downside to this?”


AFA Vice-President Jamie Whittaker

The interesting part of this entire equation is the fact that Jamie Whittaker, Nancy Speed, Georgia Hayes and countless other officers and members of the AFA are all involved directly with adoption.

So why are they so reticent about including this agenda with the AFA? Well, I got my answers from Concetta. She made it crystal clear to me. And you will learn more about how they do indeed represent adoption organizations in the next post.