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Is it Too Late?

Posted by on 7:08 pm in Education, Family, Political, Relationships, Saturday Salon Community, Topic Questions | 1 comment

Is it Too Late?

Saturday Salon Question: What can be gained by talking deeply with people who hold views vastly different from your own?

WE VISITED MY DAD THE OTHER DAY and I was surprised by how far right he’s become in his politics. Maybe he was always that way, but too polite to say. Being in your 80′s gives you a certain license to speak more freely.

He asked me what I thought of President Obama (just “Obama” to him) and if I would vote for him again if that were possible. I said it would depend on who else was running. Although I don’t agree with every decision he’s made, I think he has accomplished much good and done the best he could do, given the unprecedented obstruction he’s faced at every turn. Add a dysfunctional, polarized Congress to the mix, and it’s surprising he has been able to do anything.

My father shared his strong view that Obama has harmed America and we are not only losing ground as a world power, but are in grave danger from terrorists due to his actions as President. He also does not believe human beings have anything to do with climate change, so sees no need to protect our environment from fracking, drilling, and building pipelines-doing whatever it takes to keep oil flowing so we can be “energy independent” and return to our former glory as a world power. For him, it’s all about economics.

My dear father watches Fox news every day, almost exclusively, but doesn’t believe they have any influence on his world views. He says he also watches CNN and other shows. I listen to NPR, watch  BBC News, read the New York Times, watch a LOT of documentaries, and get a lot of my news on the internet. I admit I can’t stand more than ten seconds of Fox “news”. We live in different informational universes.

Now, my father is one of the most intelligent men I know, so it astounds me that he sincerely believes these things to be true. “After all,” he informed me, “why is it that scientists still don’t agree about climate change?”

“WHAT????” my mind screamed silently. How can he believe this? Hasn’t he seen the latest report by one of the largest scientific groups that says if anything, they were too cautious previously?

It would have done no good to tell him that there is no longer any disagreement among scientists regarding the effect humans have had on the environment, and why saving the whales matters. I’m not going to change his mind.  So, why bother talking to each other, if each of us already have our minds made up? My dad and I can talk about these things heatedly, but not argue, but most people can’t.  Most people avoid talking politics or religion with anyone but those they know agree with them.

Hmmm….what do you think? Are Saturday Salons worth having, other than the entertainment they provide? Can we have any effect? Can we influence? Can we learn or change our own views? Does talking do any good? Why bother?

What can be gained by talking deeply with people who hold views vastly different from your own?

 

Digging Out of Debt

Posted by on 2:06 am in Education, Family, Health, Saturday Salon Community, Topic Questions | 1 comment

Digging Out of Debt

ARE YOU IN DEBT AND DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO? If you’re feeling discouraged or overwhelmed, know the power is within you to change your circumstances.Anyone can do it.I’m all about visualizing and thinking positively, but sometimes, you also need to do the work. Some miracles don’t happen overnight, but we can make them happen. My life is living proof. Start simple.

The best thing my father ever did for me was to teach me how to set up a household budget.  Unfortunately, he waited until I was divorced with two children to raise before sharing this wisdom with me.  I could have used the advice a little earlier :)

Following these principles, I never had to foreclose on a house or declare bankruptcy, and my credit score is great…

  1. Set goals.  Have a reason, beyond not getting evicted, to not spend every dime you make.
  2. Before you make a budget, track your money for one month.  Every penny.  That’s the only way you’ll know where to cut and where you need to increase amounts in categories. It also helps you know what categories you need.
  3. Save for expenses that you WILL have, but rarely budget for, because they are not regular, monthly amounts like rent, food and gas. Estimate what your expenses will be for irregular purchases and bills like car repairs, clothes, car registration – all that stuff we hope will go away if we ignore it – add it all up and divide by 12, then save that amount each month in a savings account BEFORE you pay any other bills, PAY YOURSELF. That way, you won’t need to pull out that credit card. EVER.  Pad this amount a bit, because there will always be unexpected expenses like the airline ticket you need to buy because Great Aunt Sally died and you have to go back for the funeral, or you broke your leg and your insurance didn’t pick up all the bills.
  4. In fact, pad every account a little bit, so you’re not caught with your pants down. It’s so much fun to push that extra “left over” cash into your savings account at the end of the month, or better yet, your IRA.
  5. Learn to say NO. Well-meaning friends and relatives expect you to go out to eat, buy expensive presents, put on that baby shower, go wine-tasting, etc.  DEFINITELY budget for recreation, but don’t be guilted into doing things you can not afford to do.  True friends will understand.
  6. Once you have tracked your expenses for a month, create a simple budget in Excel, or just on a piece of graph paper.  Income goes on top (underestimate this) and Expenses go underneath (overestimate these). The last box tells you your bottom line – Income minus expenses tells you you either need to make more money, or spend less money. No magic formula. Just common sense. You don’t have to balance your checkbook to the penny – just keep track as you go through the month, of what you are spending. You can always move amounts between categories – as long as that bottom line doesn’t go negative!  One month you may splurge and buy a $200 jacket. Well, that’s fine, but you’re eating hot dogs and macaroni and cheese for a while, right?
  7. Don’t let your ego get in the way. If you need an extra $500 a month, get a second job. You’re not too good to flip hamburgers, babysit or drive a taxi.

You can do this!

I can personally attest to the value of keeping a budget. The simple skills my Dad taught me have seen me through several very tough times – some of my own creation, and some that hit me out of the blue. Many years ago, I spent every dime I had saved (over $40,000) and every dollar of credit I had to help some family members who were in crisis. This was before the health care act took effect. It took me a decade to do it, but I became debt free and able to achieve several of my personal dreams by taking control of my life – creating and sticking to a budget. It’s not always easy, and I am not perfect at it, but I do not feel like a victim when life throws a huge boulder in my path. I know I can climb over it, find a way around it, tunnel under it, or blast it to smithereens! I hope this little piece of personal history inspires you to do whatever you need to do to take charge of your financial situation, get out from under debt and achieve your dreams.

Happy Budgeting!

 

Why are You Here?

Posted by on 4:55 pm in Education, Family, Health, Political, Saturday Salon Community, Spirituality/Religion, Topic Questions | 0 comments

Why are You Here?

WHY ARE YOU HERE? This girl looks like she knows exactly why she’s here, and is proud of it!  She would have no trouble, I’m sure, telling you and taking whatever punishment is  meted out by the principal or her parents for fighting.

Most kids are not so honest with themselves. “Why are you here?” is a powerful question parents need to add to their repertoire. It’s a refreshing change from lecturing, yelling, ignoring or pleading with their child to “understand” what they did wrong, none of which work, by the way.

It’s very simple and works like this.

Child does something against the rules: unkind, didn’t clean their room, played with knives, climbed the rain gutter, teased the dog, ate the cake before the party…

You, in a voice surprisingly devoid of anger, frustration or panic, call them over and bench them.  Make them sit in a very specific place by themselves.  Tree stump, kitchen chair, whatever’s handy.  Then you ask them the simple, powerful question…”Why are you here?”

The child, in a voice several octaves higher than usual, wide-eyed and aghast at being falsely accused, will typically begin like this…”…Well, it’s because  SHE or HE…” or “I didn’t do anything…SHE or HE did THIS or THAT…”  or “It was late and I was really tired, and I couldn’t…”  Dissolving into tears is their next strategy, if you will not succumb to reason.

Your turn.

The moment something comes out of their mouth other than “I did ________.” cut them off with a talk-to-the-hand gesture and say, “Stay here, I’ll be back.”

Give them time to stew in their own juices, then come back.   Ask them again.

“Why are you here?”

Eventually, the kid will break and focus on what he or she did or did not do.  Discuss how to not let others influence you, or how to make better choices.  Apply natural consequences. Release child from kid jail.  Problem solved.

Works like a CHARM!  It teaches children to accept responsibility for their own actions.

Every now and then I ask myself this powerful, simple question.  Sometimes I’m happy with my answer. In fact, sometimes I’m downright pleased with myself! I completed my degree!  I have loving relationships because I give love,too. I can zip my jeans because I got my butt into the pool several times a week for a few weeks, even when it was cold out. Sometimes I’m not as happy with where I am and how I got there.

In that case, I don’t waste time looking out.  The answer to “Why am I Here?” is always answered from within.  That said, that doesn’t mean it’s always our fault if we are unjustly treated, attacked, get cancer, or squashed by a falling rock.  Bad things happen to good people, as we all know.  But most of my life is within my control, and we owe it to our children, and ourselves, to teach them this simple truth.

 

ECON 101

Posted by on 2:43 am in Political, Recipes, Reviews, Topic Questions | 0 comments

ECON 101

WHERE DOES YOUR MONEY GO? For that matter, where does it come from, and why don’t we have more of it?

Robert Reich’s 2013 documentary, Inequality for All, explains the facts clearly. We hear a lot about the 1% and the growing gap between not just the rich and the poor, but the rich and the middle class.

This one’s worth watching.

Here are the highlights:

  1. Education is important.
  2. Unions are important.
  3. It’s not easy to track where our dollars go, but we need to know – we vote with our dollars.
  4. Wealthy people can only spend a small amount to meet their own personal needs. They are not job creators, they are money makers. Their money is invested all over the world in gold, real estate, etc – money making money, NOT jobs, as is so often claimed.
  5. The middle class creates wealth – by spending money.
  6. Consumers and CEOs are loving it right now, but not for long.  Companies are making a profit, but on the backs of the people they fire.
  7. Governments need to regulate markets
  8. Middle class workers make less money and they can’t buy as much as they used to

Watch the doc and let me know what you think!

 

Blood Moon

Posted by on 2:05 pm in Education, Family, Saturday Salon Community, Spirituality/Religion, Topic Questions | 0 comments

Blood Moon

DOES THE UNIVERSE STILL AMAZE YOU? April 14th/15th (west coast/east coast), after you rush to take care of your small, temporal concerns (like paying your income tax), celebrate by staying up late to sit in awe of a larger, celestial event.  This one is close to home, actually.  You will get to enjoy the first of a series of lunar eclipses, where the moon will appear reddish due to the shadow of the earth.  Tell the kids they can stay up late (it won’t happen here until around midnight (10 PM on the 14th to 1:30 AM on the 15th).

NASA article on the lunar eclipses 2014

If you and your family want to learn more about the cosmos, watch COSMOS: a Spacetime Odyssey. It’s on Sunday nights, here.  Takes up where Carl Sagan left off.

SATURDAY SALON QUESTION: The more we learn about the cosmos, the more we experience feelings of awe. IFor you, does this inspire and reinforce  religious or spiritual beliefs, or reinforce and support atheistic views?

New Topics!

Posted by on 10:35 pm in Saturday Salon Community, Topic Questions | 0 comments

New Topics!

PEOPLE CRAVE COMMUNITY and meaningful conversation. By hosting a Saturday Salon, you are giving the gift of time and space in which people can open up and become inspired, healed and connected to others.

 

Here is a sampling from a recent Saturday Salon:

  1. What happened to immigration reform? What do you think the problem is, and how can it be fixed?
  2. How can you heal rifts in your family? When 2 members of a family have a falling out, can you help, or should you leave it to them to work it out?
  3. How much of your life is spent worrying about your weight? Why? How much time and attention does our weight deserve? Is it different for men and women?
  4. What is a healthy diet? Is each person different? Is vegetarian a better option for personal health, or only for the planet?
  5. Climate change – 99.9% of scientists claim it is real AND something we should do something about…NOW! Do you agree? Why or why not?
  6. Do individual efforts to recycle, reduce waste, walk vs drive, etc make a dent in the problem of climate change and environmental health?
  7. Will you marry again if your spouse dies before you?  Why or why not?
  8. Are people who identify as bisexual just not willing to admit they are gay, or can people fall somewhere on a spectrum between gay and straight?
  9. If you are in a blended family (as a child or a parent), how’s that going for you?  :)  What challenges do you experience and how do you deal with them?
  10. Should we try to eliminate mental illness from the lives of individuals, or is some level of mental illness necessary for creative thought processes?

We are All Fools…

Posted by on 3:00 am in Family, Relationships, Saturday Salon Community, Spirituality/Religion, Topic Questions | 0 comments

We are All Fools…

WE ARE ALL FOOLS, and we are all Divine.  Do you agree? What does that statement mean to you?

This is a great question to throw in the hat at your next Saturday Salon.  There are so many ways this discussion can go. Is being a fool a bad thing?  Are we divine, or are only the gods divine?  Are we God’s children?  If so, doesn’t that make us at least semi-divine?  What if there are no gods?  Who is divine then?

I love looking at the world this way!  We all take ourselves much too seriously – we need to realize we’re all fools at least 35 times a day! And there’s no avoiding it – we are human.  And yet, at the same time, we are also guilty of not recognizing the spark of divinity in each other.  If we really stop to consider all each of us are, we are in awe.  We humans have the capacity to keep improving, learning, changing.  In fact, you can’t stop us.  Given an infinite amount of time – and who’s to say we don’t have life after life after life – we will eventually become divine, because we seem to have that spark in us.  I know Hindus and Mormons think along these lines.

Or is this all New Agey hogwash?  What do you think?

What We Know About Climate Change

Posted by on 10:57 pm in Education, Political, Saturday Salon Community, Topic Questions | 0 comments

What We Know About Climate Change

TEN YEARS AGO, I TOOK KIDS TO SCIENCE CAMP up in the San Bernadino mountains.  Whether we went in the Fall, Winter or Spring, it was always a rich, varied environment. Our site was surrounded by deep, green pines and cedar trees. Grey squirrels were everywhere! They scampered across our paths on the way to the dining hall,  peeked around tree trunks, and scurried across deck railings.  A cold, fresh mountain stream rushed down the mountain and flowed through the camp.  Although there were seasonal fluctuations, the stream ran year round.

This week I am back again with a group of students to the very same camp, and am saddened by what I see.  It’s hard to describe how depleted the natural environment has become.  And it’s not just that we’re in a drought.  Fewer birds, fewer of many formerly common species here on the mountain.  I haven’t seen a grey squirrel yet, and the counselor said they haven’t been around for a while.  The animal scat shows how unhealthy many of the animals are, and many trees fall easily with even a minor winter storm.

The camp is still great and the kids are still having a good time.  They can’t tell the difference.  And that’s the sad part.  Because changes take place gradually, most of us don’t notice them.  But, as we’ve all learned since the 3rd grade, everything is connected. So, even if you don’t care about squirrels or owls, these changes spell trouble for homo sapiens.

Why care?  We know  the earth will renew itself and other species will rise to dominance if the current ones die out, so maybe it shouldn’t matter to any of us, but if we care about the quality of life of all living things that exist today, we must do something about climate change now. We caused it, we can do something about it-but we don’t have all the time in the world.

Dr. Mario Molina, the scientist who originally discovered the global emergency that is climate change, is joined by 121,200 fellow scientists of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in their 18-page report, called “What We Know” to attempt to educate the public and clarify the very real danger we are in. He is now over 70 years old, and here’s what he has to say:

“The evidence is overwhelming: Levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are rising,” says the report. “Temperatures are going up. Springs are arriving earlier. Ice sheets are melting. Sea level is rising. The patterns of rainfall and drought are changing. Heat waves are getting worse, as is extreme precipitation. The oceans are acidifying.” 

Read more here: March 18th article in the New York Times “Scientists Sound Alarm on Climate Change”

Here’s the report itself:  What We Know” 

Another article-Common Dreams March 23, 2014

2Cellos

Posted by on 5:27 pm in Reviews | 0 comments

2Cellos

IF YOU HAPPEN TO BE IN TOKYO, JAPAN next weekend, and the concert wasn’t already sold out, you could experience the amazing duo, 2Cellos.  You’ve never seen anyone play the cello like this!

Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser, winners of multiple international competitions, introduced to many of us through Elton John’s rave reviews, will blow your mind.

Check them out on YouTube…the costumes set the staid mood, but you don’t have to wait long until….

Here’s another:

 

From Lupines to Life

Posted by on 3:08 am in Education, Political, Saturday Salon Community, Topic Questions | 0 comments

From Lupines to Life

Watching a NOVA show on the recovery of life after Mount St Helens blew its top. No matter what happens in the second half of the show, (the volcano may win someday) I am encouraged by the ability of life to catch and hold onto the miles of lifeless, rock even after almost all life forms were blasted off the mountain.  And all of this happened in much less time than anyone expected.

It starts with the humble lupine, a plant whose unique root system creates food for itself and other small creatures such as burrowing gophers who survived the eruption-no nutritious soil needed. The gophers then create habitat for other tunneling creatures.  In Spirit Lake, what was a poisonous muck of bacteria turns into a clear-water home for amphibians and fish, begun by phytoplankton creating oxygen.  Pretty amazing stuff.

If we can just not blow ourselves up in the next few years, or completely destroy the planet we live on, our species may not only survive, but thrive.

At least, I hope so.  SATURDAY SALON Question:  Do we have time?