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Conversation vs Debate

Posted by on 7:56 pm in Recipes | 0 comments

Conversation vs Debate

SAM HARRIS puts it all out there to prove the point that conversation is more valuable than debate. Those of you who have hosted or attended one, that’s what SATURDAY SALONs are all about. The first few minutes of this clip pertain to this important point. The remainder of the clip is valuable for Sam Harris’ honest self-reflection and how difficult true conversation can be.

Check it out here:

Sam Harris’s Final Thoughts on Noam Chomsky 


Sexual Harassment

Posted by on 5:09 pm in Saturday Salon Community, Topic Questions | 0 comments

Sexual Harassment

SOMEWHERE BETWEEN RAPE and looking down someone’s blouse lies the murky waters of sexual harassment. Every man in America has to be looking back at his life, wondering if he has every done anything that could be construed as inappropriate or legally actionable. Just turn on the news. One after the other, powerful men are falling like ten pins, knocked down by whispers from their past and shouts of women they work with now.

So…what about you? If you’re a woman, have you ever been sexually harassed? If you’re a man, have you ever used your power over a woman to take advantage of her sexually- knowing she could not retaliate, or probably wouldn’t be believed if she tried?

This morning, after learning  yet another prominent man, Matt Lauer, had been toppled, my husband asked if I had ever experienced sexual harassment in the work place when I worked in the corporate world before becoming a teacher. Good question. I suppose it depends on how you define it.

When I was a twenty-year-old waitress, a couple of cooks in the back kitchen used to throw gobs of mayonnaise on the floor, laugh, and leer knowingly at me. They were always whispering to each other and watching me as I worked. To this day I’m not sure what that was supposed to mean, but I knew it was sexual, even at the time. They weren’t my boss, though, so I just ignored them and nothing ever happened. It was clear they were idiots and no response was necessary. No one followed me to my car. No one touched me inappropriately. Still, in today’s world, that behavior would probably get them fired.

As a secretary – we weren’t yet called administrative assistants in the 70′s – bosses flirted and several suggested lunches or more, but again, I let it be known I was very married and they gave up. If anyone had cornered me in their office or lunged at me, that would have been different. Maybe I was lucky, maybe I sent  ’don’t mess with me’ vibes. I don’t know. But no boss every went farther than telling me I looked nice that day or wishing he wasn’t married.

Later in life, when I was single again in my mid-thirties, I had two incidents that were a little scary. These would definitely fall into the category of not OK, to put it mildly. The father of one of my former students asked me to dinner, and when he came to my door to pick me up, I invited him in while I went to get my coat. When I came back, he was leaning against my dining room table, with his penis in his hand, smiling at me.

Ok, then!

He asked if I wanted to skip dinner and when I said no, he again offered his penis up as a present and said, “Are you sure?”

I wanted to laugh, but he was between me and the door, so I calmly repeated that I didn’t think this was going to work out and asked him to leave. He did. Again, I was probably very lucky.

The only time I felt in real danger was when a man I had gone out with once on an internet date gave me a strange vibe, so when he called for a second date, I turned him down. This did not go well. He waited for me outside my apartment and followed me to my front door. When I again told him I didn’t want to go out with him – for sure, now – this was getting creepy- his face twisted in anger and he threw a jumbo Coke in my face.

Ok then….

He had stepped inside my apartment, so I had to remain calm again and get him to go outside, after which I locked and dead bolted the door.

When he kept calling me, I told him I had reported him to the police and that my upstairs neighbor was a cop who watched my apartment. Never heard from him again. Very lucky that time.

My best advice to anyone dealing with creeps is to not engage in conversation-do not explain – simply close the door. It only encourages them.

I realize not every woman is so lucky. I can’t imagine how horrible it would be to be raped or attacked physically in any way.

But I also know that bosses flirting or men whistling at me when I walk by a construction site did not make me feel bad, and certainly didn’t traumatize me. If a boss ever grabbed my butt, I would have laughed in his face. I had no money, and less power, but I have never let that stop me. Just ask my former husband…LOL

If a man doesn’t treat me well, he’s history. I can always get another job. Maybe being on the bottom of the office totem pole already made me braver and gave men less leverage over me.

I would assume most women probably have had similar histories to mine. Should men be held accountable for their actions? Of course. Should a man lose his job or entire career for telling someone they have a great ass? No. In my opinion. Reprimanded and made to apologize? Yes. The punishment should fit the crime. I think anyone guilty of committing rape, particularly of children, should probably be castrated and never allowed out of jail. I don’t think psychologists have figured out how to fix someone who is that deeply disturbed or evil. No amount of therapy makes someone safe again.

So. That’s my two bits – we need to talk about this more. I know I don’t understand the deeper ramifications of sexual harassment in the workplace. And just because something doesn’t bother me and I can laugh it off, doesn’t mean it wouldn’t traumatize someone else. I need to hear what other people think and feel- both men and women.

Only when we listen to each other and examine our own thoughts and feelings will we figure out how to handle this in our society. Here are some sample questions on this topic to toss into the hat at your next SATURDAY SALON:

  1. Have you ever been sexually harassed?
  2. Have you ever sexually harassed anyone?
  3. How would you define sexual harassment?
  4. What is the appropriate consequence/punishment for sexual harassment?
  5. If you are a man, are you afraid of being falsely accused? Do women have inappropriate power of men now? Even if proved innocent, a man’s career, marriage and family could be taken away just by the lingering questions.
  6. Where do you draw the line? Is it OK to compliment someone’s appearance or whistle at a woman or date someone who works for you?
  7. How does the recent news affect you personally? Dating, marriage, work environment. How have you changed your behavior to protect yourself?

Feel free to add questions (or answers) you think of for this topic and I will post.

Face-to-Face is Better

Posted by on 5:10 pm in Saturday Salon Community | 0 comments

Face-to-Face is Better

INSTINCTIVELY, WE KNOW that talking to someone face-to-face is the best way to discuss difficult issues, which is one reason why I created Saturday Salons. But it’s always gratifying when science backs me up.

Juliana Schroeder of the University of California at Berkeley and faculty at the University of Chicago conducted several experiments exposing volunteers to ideas they agreed or disagreed with.  About 300 people were exposed to arguments on hot topics such as abortion, war, and even music genres people usually love or hate (country and rap). When a human being shared their reasons for thinking as they do, the participants in the experiments responded more positively than if they read or listened to a video sharing the same opinions and logic.

So, if you want people to understand you, and better yet, if you want to understand other people, do what many people are doing – try a conversation salon. There are many kinds of salons around, but the unique format of the Saturday Salon keeps things fresh and civil, versus some salons which can become snobby places of intellectual competition. Check out the pages on the site to learn more. Hosting is easy and fun – anyone can learn to host a conversation salon successfully. All the information you need to get started is within the pages of this website. And if you want to learn more, pick up a copy of SATURDAY SALON: Bringing Conversation and Community Back Into Our Lives, which has the history of salons, topic questions, step-by-step suggestions for how to invite and conduct a salon, and as a bonus, SATURDAY SALON popular potluck recipes voted as favorites over the years.

Enjoy! And whatever you do, keep talking with those who may disagree with you. Lord knows we need to start communicating better…

Should Kids Play with Robots?

Posted by on 5:21 pm in Recipes | 0 comments

Should Kids Play with Robots?

SEEMS AN INNOCUOUS ACTIVITY – kids play with other inanimate objects. They talk to their stuffed animals, rock their dolls, build forts, pretend to be moms, dads, warriors, and super heroes. How are robots any different? Toss this question into the hat at your next SATURDAY SALON and you’ll get some interesting answers.

Every other toy a child has depends on their imagination to animate it, but robots come with their own ‘personalities’ and sophisticated, programmed responses. Does that just make it a better toy, or is there any danger in children forming emotional bonds with machines? What do you and your guests think?

Hmmmm…..For more information on this topic, check out these articles on the subject:

Would You Let Your Kids Play with AI Robots? by Anna Maria Tremonti

Should Children Form Emotional Bonds With Robots? by Alexis Madrigal


Time or Money?

Posted by on 12:53 am in Saturday Salon Community, Topic Questions | 0 comments

Time or Money?

MONEY IS MORE TABOO THAN SEX when it comes to what we’re willing to talk about. Try breaking down the barriers and opening up the discussion on this tender topic at your next Saturday Salon by throwing one of these questions into the hat. Who knows? You may change the way you think about resources and how we allocate them.

  1. Do you think you spend too much money? If so, in what area?
  2. Are budgets empowering or limiting? Do you have one? Do you follow it?
  3. How much money is your time worth? Do you pay someone to help with gardening, housecleaning, child or elder care? Do you cook from scratch or eat out? Get massages or mani pedis? Do you feel one way is morally superior to the other?
  4. If you won the lottery tomorrow, what would you pay someone else to do for you that you currently do yourself? Are there certain things you would never have someone else do for you? Why or Why Not?
  5. When does saving vs spending money become small minded and miserly vs smart, empowering, and frugal?
  6. How many people know how much money you have in the bank and/or your net worth?
  7. Do you know how much you spend on groceries, eating out, recreation, clothing?
  8. What were your parents’ spending habits and how have they influenced you?


Inauguration Saturday Salons

Posted by on 2:40 am in Political, Saturday Salon Community, Topic Questions | 0 comments

Inauguration Saturday Salons

AMERICANS ARE EITHER DANCING IN THE STREETS, or marching down them. It is no secret we are deeply divided. You either think we’re losing all the ground we gained in the last 50 years:  women’s rights, immigration, trade, and beginning to protect the environment, or you think it’s about damn time someone said they were going to bring back manufacturing jobs and protect you against illegals, terrorists, and bad trade agreements.

So…is it pointless to host Saturday Salons? Is it just an exercise in futility to continue to work towards mutual understanding, a clean planet, love, and world peace? Can bringing diverse people together to share a meal and some real conversation really change anything?

Yep. Sometimes a guest or host experiences an ‘Aha!’ moment that results in a paradigm shift, but usually it’s more like seeds are planted and minds open just a crack to let some in.

In the unique setting of a Saturday Salon, we can talk about anything we want to talk about. No one controls the conversation. Everyone gets to speak. The only caveat is that everyone also has to listen. It’s such a simple, yet powerful night.

I challenge everyone to start thinking of people to invite and plan to host a special Saturday Salon to kick off 2017. We’ll call them Inauguration Saturday Salons. Our goal is just to understand each other. Let’s just start there. No plans for action or trying to convince anyone else of anything.

Send me your pics and a list of questions people threw into the hat!


The Luxury of Luxury

Posted by on 3:58 pm in Family, Friendship, Health, Political, Saturday Salon Community, Topic Questions | 0 comments

The Luxury of Luxury

MANY CHILDREN ARE HOMELESS AND HUNGRY in our nation. Knowing this, is it morally ethical for us to host big, expensive weddings for our children, go on vacation, or even go to a movie or buy new shoes? Where do we draw the line? What is our social responsibility to other human beings? Do we have the luxury of luxury?

            Throw this question into the hat at your next Saturday Salon and you’ll be surprised at the diversity of answers, many of them strident. Here are some sample responses. Each person gets a chance to answer the questions and give their opinion, then passes the Talking Stick to the next person. In a Saturday Salon, you don’t argue, but you are free to passionately disagree when it’s your turn to talk. Which answers strike a chord with you? What would you say if the Talking Stick were passed to you?

“Hi, my name is Amy. To me, it’s simple. Their parents should take care of those kids. Why aren’t they working and holding down jobs? You shouldn’t have kids if you can’t take care of them. My going to a movie or going without air conditioning isn’t going to help them anyway. Government shouldn’t do the job of parents.”

“I agree parents have the main responsibility, but not all parents are responsible. I don’t think kids should have to suffer because their parents won’t or in many cases, can’t, find or hold down a job. I have heard some Native American tribes consider wealth to be a sickness. They believe that all resources should be shared. They believe everyone should have enough to meet their needs. Beyond that, why would you want to accumulate ‘stuff’? This question is motivating me to take another look at my own life and streamline.”

“Well, we don’t live in tents anymore, Bob. I don’t think Julie would live in one, anyway. (Julie is Bob’s wife. Group laughs at the idea of her living in a tent. The woman wears makeup to the grocery store.) They weren’t better people back then, they just couldn’t lug extra stuff around. They were nomads. Here’s my answer: A lot of those poor kids come from illegal immigrant parents. Yes, I feel sorry for them, but if we keep taking care of their kids for them, and giving their kids automatic citizenship just for being born here, illegal immigrants will keep pouring across the border. Americans are pushovers! This has got to stop. It seems cruel, but we’re not doing these kids any favors by encouraging illegal immigration. If we stopped paying for health care, housing, and free school for these kids, their parents wouldn’t keep coming. It’s as simple as that.”

“It’s not the kids’ fault. Every child should be cared for. Period.”

“Hi, I’m Jared. I agree. Maybe their parents can’t find work, or lost their house like my friend’s parents did. I’m a student. I will buy a homeless guy a hamburger, but I barely have enough money to take care of myself. I think the best way to help is to work towards solving the reasons we have these issues in a country as wealthy as ours. When I graduate and get a job, I am planning on donating money towards supporting candidates and legislation that solves the underlying issues. Right now, I have to focus on getting through school. I can’t help anyone if I don’t help myself first. I also work part time.”

“My being miserable isn’t going to help the poor. They’re poor for a reason, and it’s not my fault. I’m tired of being made to feel guilty by rich liberals.”

“I hear you, Sharon, I don’t think feeling guilty solves anything. I don’t have a clear answer – for me, it’s all about balance. I give some, I also enjoy my life. Really, this question gets to the heart of this year’s election issues. I am not rich, but I’m definitely a liberal. I like the Democratic Socialism idea from Bernie Sanders’ campaign: I want the freedom to be entrepreneurial – the incentive to be creative and get ahead for my family, but I also think everyone’s basic needs for housing, shelter, health care, and education should be met before I spend a dime on luxury items for myself. I just think that’s morally the right thing to do. I try to live that way, but I am sure I fall short.”

How to Beat the Bad Guys

Posted by on 3:37 pm in Political, Saturday Salon Community, Spirituality/Religion | 0 comments

How to Beat the Bad Guys

OPENING A NEWSPAPER IS A DANGEROUS THING TO DO before I’ve had my coffee. Wars, corruption, starvation, more war, willfully ignorant idiots with a pulse and a government office. All that is weak and evil in the human species is on display on page one.

Where is the good? Where is the hope?

If you begin to despair and feel so overwhelmed you don’t  know why you bother to do the dishes or go to work (what difference will it make anyway?) STOP!  There are good people doing good things in the world. Find – or create – a good cause and you’ll find a good reason to get up in the morning. Give time or money – whatever you can, and don’t give up! (Is it any surprise my husband calls me Pollyanna?)

Einstein quote good vs evil

For inspiration, check out this group:

The Green Belt Movement

The Green Belt Movement (GBM) is an environmental organization that empowers communities, particularly women, to conserve the environment and improve livelihoods. GBM was founded by Professor Wangari Maathai in 1977 under the auspices of the National Council of Women of Kenya (NCWK) to respond to the needs of rural Kenyan women who reported that their streams were drying up, their food supply was less secure, and they had to walk further and further to get firewood for fuel and fencing. GBM encouraged the women to work together to grow seedlings and plant trees to bind the soil, store rainwater, provide food and firewood, and receive a small monetary token for their work.

Our Vision

A values-driven society of people who consciously work for continued improvement of their livelihoods and a greener, cleaner world.

Our Mission

We strive for better environmental management, community empowerment, and livelihood improvement using tree-planting as an entry point.

Our Values

1. Love for environment conservation

2. Self and community empowerment

3. Volunteerism

4. Accountability, transparency and honesty


America’s Role in the World

Posted by on 4:23 pm in Political, Topic Questions | 0 comments

America’s Role in the World

WHAT IS AMERICA’S ROLE IN THE WORLD? Many of this year’s candidates have made statements about what America’s presence and influence should be in the world. What do you think? Should we mind our own business and take care of our own here at home? It’s not like we don’t have an entire national infrastructure to rebuild and other pressing needs. Or is it our responsibility to our allies to do what we can to keep peace in the world? And is that what we’re really doing, or are we really just looking after the  selfish, financial interests of a few, large corporations? Even if we orchestrated coups and kept military bases scattered around the globe just for the best interests of the American people, is that a good enough reason? Aren’t we supposed to care about all people? Isn’t what’s good for everyone, good for us?


Summer BBQ Saturday Salon

Posted by on 4:22 pm in Hosting Tips, Saturday Salon Community, Topic Questions | 0 comments

Summer BBQ Saturday Salon

If you’re thinking of hosting a Saturday Salon, combine it with a summer BBQ, then throw these questions in the hat to get things started. Aim for a mix of serious, personal, political, and religious – explore this site to learn more about how to have deep, satisfying conversations without fighting or losing your sense of humor!

  1. Pragmatist or Idealist? Can you be both?
  2. How in the hell are we supposed to eat healthy when they keep changing the rules? Fat/No Fat…Caffeine/No Caffeine…Carbs/Paleo…
  3. Tell us about one of your favorite childhood memories.
  4. Now that we’re living longer, is marriage still a valid institution, or is serial monogamy more realistic? Can people be happily married for 60+ years? What is your opinion and how is it influenced by your religious upbringing?
  5. What is the purpose of education? To get a job, to become a well-rounded person, to create an intelligent electorate, or…?
  6. If public schools are the foundation of a healthy democracy, what went wrong? Why are so many factions fighting against public schools, teachers, etc and pushing for charter and private schools?
  7. What do you think of unions and do we need them today?
  8. What’s your biggest fear?
  9. Of all your accomplishments so far in life, tell us about one you are really proud of.