WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU SAW A LARGE ANIMAL IN THE WILD that really had an impact on you? How important is it that we create and keep wild spaces for large animals? Is it just nice to have wild animals around, or necessary to our survival? Narrowing that choice down a bit more, is it necessary to our souls or spirits, or just our physical survival? This Saturday Salon question opens all kinds of discussion doors.
In doing research for my next novel, I am learning about the southern sea otter – where it went and when and if it’s coming back. It got me to thinking about the impact catching a glimpse of a magnificent wild animal thriving in its natural habitat has had on me. I remember a quiet, solitary morning hike interrupted by the thundering of hooves. Not sure what it was, I sort of froze in place and looked around for the source of the noise. A magnificent buck with an impressive spread of antlers and three does had been grazing peacefully on the downhill side of the trail. When I came around the corner, they galloped across the open path to the safety of the thicker forest uphill to my right. In an instant they were gone. They were healthy, strong creatures just doing their thing. I felt lucky to have seen them. It’s not like deer are an endangered species or anything, but still – it was cool.
It is counterintuitive to think that saving large animals means saving ourselves, but it’s important to understand it’s a pragmatic choice, not just a touchy-feely tree-hugger choice. I don’t pretend to be a zoologist or environmental scientist of any kind, but here’s a short and sweet youtube video that explains it simply, using elephants as an example.
ARE YOU AS TORN AS I AM about whether to vote for someone whose ideals you cherish, or someone you think is not only electable, but may get SOME of the things you want done, while making sure current ground gained is not eroded?
If you’re a Democrat, we’re talking about Bernie and Hillary, if you’re Republican, Donald Trump and Mark Rubio or Ted Cruz probably come to mind. If you’re an Independent, God knows what you’re thinking at this point.
What are you thinking, America? And do these tough decisions drive you to or away from the voting booth?
I USED TO BE AWESOME AT SETTING AND REACHING GOALS.
I got over a back injury, out of debt, through undergraduate and graduate school while raising my two sons. I started two new careers, finished several books, and eight years ago, met the man that would become my husband. Whatever I set my laser focus on, I seemed to be able to achieve.
But for some reason, I’ve lost steam…can’t figure out if I’m just content and wiser or lazier. I don’t think that means I’ve accomplished everything I need or want to accomplish. Not sure what it means – I’m going to have another cup of coffee and give that some thought…
Good Questions for your January Saturday Salon hat:
- Do you set goals? If so, how do you select what goals to set, and what results have you had?
- Describe a goal you reached, but wished you hadn’t.
- Describe your most successful attempt at reaching a goal, whether you achieved it or not. Did the process teach you anything about yourself?
- If your spouse (close friend or family member) sets a goal for themselves to lose weight or save money, how can you support them without nagging or being critical?
- Have you ever had someone else set a goal for you? If so, how did that turn out?
- What do you think your single most important goal should be this year?
As a Saturday Salon host, part of your job is to stimulate conversation with well-worded questions. Each guest can write their own questions to put in the hat, but you want to make sure you add a few or your own. Here’s how you do it:
Aim for 3-5 questions covering a wide range of topics. It’s always good to write a funny one such as “What is the proper way to load a dishwasher?” Then look at areas such as Religion, Politics, Health, Education, Relationships, and Family – topics people want to talk about, think about often, but rarely have a safe place to discuss.
Let’s say you are writing a question for Politics. You could focus on News – how we get information that forms our Political opinions. Make sure your questions can’t be answered with a simple Yes or N, but are designed to elicit thoughtful responses. Two part questions are fine. Here are a few samples:
- Where do you get your news, and how reliable do you think it is?
- The media has often been called the fourth branch of government – what does that mean to you, and how do you feel about the media here in America?
- How essential is a free press and which, if any news outlets are free of bias, influence, or corruption?
- With the presidential election coming up, how do you assess the value of candidates? What is your source for news about them?
- Online vs Paper – how do you get your news, and is one better than the other?
- How does the American media compare to International sources? Do you ever listen to or read Al Jazeera or the BBC or ???
Don’t wait for ten minutes before guests arrive (although I am guilty of that!). Write some now or check out the Topics page on this site.
I NEVER CRY. Well, that’s not entirely true, but I am generally not sentimental, and I almost never cry over international tragedies over which I have zero control. But this morning, the New York Times gave me the dubious opportunity to open up my tear ducts. I get most of our news online, but on Sundays, I indulge in an old-school, paper newspaper. This morning, it came, incongruously, with a small cardboard virtual reality viewing box. We downloaded the app on John’s smart phone and watched the virtual reality story The Displaced.
It is a simple story – a snapshot of 3 children’s lives across the globe who are part of the 30 million who have been displaced by war and persecution. The video puts you on the boat with the Sudanese boy, in the very swamp he ran to – choosing between death by crocodile and death by the fighters. It puts you in the cucumber field with the young girl, living in a country that doesn’t want her. You can almost sit in the desk in the bombed out classroom in Ukraine, and you are there with the grandmother and grandson as they work in the garden in which they found the grandfather’s body, which had lain for months after they escaped. I feel overwhelmed. I can’t adopt 30 million children, but I will be looking for ways to help those I can.
New York Times Article Introduction: The Displaced
ARE YOU GOING TO GIVE UP BACON?
In stronger terms than any organization has every used, on October 26th, 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially identified processed meat as a Group 1 carcinogen, which means it is strongly linked to cancer. Red meats were a close second, falling into Group 2A, meaning they probably cause cancer. Hard to believe red meat is now listed right alongside mustard gas and DDT as probably causing cancer. Yikes!
Topics like this are great for your Saturday Salon hat in and of themselves, but also because they bring up many other issues, such as vegetarianism and climate change. It also brings up questions about studies and statistics.
Who funded the study? Who funds that organization? Were the results agreed upon by everyone? (In this case, 68% confirmed the results-a unanimous vote was not required before the announcement.) What is a meta-analysis vs a single study? If cancer is a complex disease with multiple causes, how can they say a single food causes cancer? What about blood pressure, obesity, exercise and other factors? Don’t those play a role? What does ‘an 18% increased risk’ actually mean?
In everyday conversations, we usually avoid any topic we think may result in an argument. That, or we don’t have time to get into it, so why bother? But we don’t change the world by clinging to our opinions or being afraid to consider an opposite point of view.
Saturday Salons give you the opportunity to not just share your current opinions, but your whys. WHY do you think as you do? As the Talking Stick goes around the circle, we also get to hear other people’s whys – one or more of which may ring true with us. After every Saturday Salon, at least one topic sends me to Google to learn more.
So start making that guest list and pick your next free Saturday…! As the host, you can throw a few good questions in the hat to get things going, but be sure to allow your guests to write their own. The discussion will be richer if you talk about what’s on everyone’s mind, not just yours.
A Saturday Salon host gives their guests the gift of time and space to share ideas, thoughts, and feelings – and the tools to keep things civil when the topics get hot!
GLUTEN FREE? REALLY?
Who really needs to be gluten free? Can you simply eat less bread? What’s the difference between celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and being allergic to wheat? And is this all some plot to get us to buy the plethora of new, usually more expensive, gluten free products sprouting from our grocery store shelves?
One out of every three people in America say they need to eat gluten free. Be honest…don’t you roll your eyes just a little when they say that? With all the confusion swirling around this topic, it’s no wonder we get a little skeptical when someone says they’ve decided to eat gluten free, lactose free or any of the other frees out there. And what if you’re one of them? It’s so much trouble to read labels and so hard to take a pass on the aromatic french bread basket at the restaurant. Just a little won’t hurt…will it? It might…and it might not…it depends.
There are many reasons people avoid gluten, which is found in wheat, rye, barley. Often, they are looking for solutions to intestinal symptoms they’ve suffered for most of their lives: gas, bloating, urgent bowel movements, diarrhea and/or constipation. They know where every public restroom is within a 10-mile radius of their home. They’ve been inundated with confusing, conflicting possible causes: irritable bowel syndrome, Chrohn’s disease, food allergies, colitis, or just plain stress. Well-meaning friends, relatives, and often, doctors tell them to ‘just relax’. Right.
If you want to do a little quick research, the Celiac Disease Foundation is a good place to start:
CELIAC DISEASE The granddaddy of reasons for avoiding anything and everything with gluten in it. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, “When people with celiac disease eat gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley), their body mounts an immune response that attacks the small intestine. These attacks lead to damage on the villi, small fingerlike projections that line the small intestine, that promote nutrient absorption. When the villi get damaged, nutrients cannot be absorbed properly into the body.” Not only do you get cramps, diarrhea, bloating and/or constipation, but you can’t absorb nutrients your body needs. It can lead to anemia, osteoporosis, intestinal cancer, bone or joint pain, and a myriad of other life-limiting or ending diseases.
Celiac disease can be diagnosed with a blood test, followed up by an endoscopic biopsy, but it’s not that simple. Say you’ve learned by trial and error that avoiding gluten works for you. You feel better when you don’t eat it, you have flare ups when you do. But, you want to narrow it down and find out if it’s OK to eat once in a while. Are you simply allergic or do you have true celiac disease, where you must avoid gluten completely? If you get a blood test after not eating gluten for a while, it will come back negative, saying you don’t have the disease, even if you do. The blood test looks for antibodies to gluten, which won’t be there if you haven’t been eating it. You would have to eat gluten for a couple of months, sometimes, in order for it to show up in a blood test for celiac disease. Most people can’t afford to have symptoms that long. They have to work and function in their daily lives, which doesn’t include being tied to a toilet.
According to their website, “not all people who react negatively to gluten actually have celiac disease. The symptoms of gluten sensitivity are similar to those of celiac disease. People who are gluten sensitive experience symptoms in response to eating gluten, but will not have intestinal damage and will test negative for celiac disease antibodies.
What to eat? The Paleo diet looks very appealing to those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Simple. You don’t have to make any big decisions, just eat meat, vegetables, nuts and fruit – all of which are gluten free naturally.
So, next time you throw a Saturday Salon – have some compassion for those who are struggling to know what to eat. Put a little something out there for everyone. Paleo is a good way to go – as long as you have plenty of meat or fish (unbridled), veggie and fruit options, you’ll please your vegetarian and even Atkins friends, too.
For additional perspectives, check out this New York Times article, The Myth of Big, Bad, Gluten.
WANT A BREAK from the election debates? Throw in a question about Fashion into the hat at your next Saturday Salon and watch the fur fly! Defending fashion is a tough task in any audience, but even though my husband and I toss the NY Times Style Magazine onto the floor every Sunday morning with disgust, I bravely picked it up this week and thumbed through it.
Yes, the laughable excess and pre-pubescent models posed in almost pornographic poses were there; and they continue to offend me and every other thinking person on the planet, but there was more. This week, in Andrew O’Hagan’s Karl Lagerfeld interview, a thoughtful gem of truth caught my eye. First paragraph. (I must admit I stopped there – I was not interested in the whole article.)
He said, “It’s about one hundred years since fashion took its place alongside literature, painting, and music as a way to look for the social essence of one’s era.”
Hmmmm…which led me (as everything does) to Google, where I typed in …the relevance of fashion…, which led me to Katherine LaGrave’s article, which explores the topic and puts up a pretty good defense. Interesting read.
Throw a couple of fashion questions in the hat and see where it goes…
WILL CHECKS AND BALANCES PROTECT US from political collapse, or is it already too late? Does it matter who is in the White House? Whether you host a Political Saturday Salon or not, there is always room in the hat for a question or two about what effect we have in our world. And if we don’t think our vote matters….what are we going to do about it?
THINKING OF HOSTING A SATURDAY SALON in Orange County, CA? Learn about the origins of the Saturday Salon and the basics of how to host one. I will be happy to answer any questions you have about starting or managing your conversation salon. With elections coming up, you’ll have no shortage of topics!