Quick Links

Find Authors

Books

Non-fiction
Diabetes type 2? Weight problems? Find your answers!
Fiction
Nonfiction
Water is the stuff of life - warm inside, cold outside. Did you know?
Nonfiction
Best and cheapest little book about how to live a healthy and long life!

Blog: On Health. On Writing. On Life. On Everything.

Comfort, Closure, Redemption

March 27, 2012

Tags: order, water, food, herbs, airing the room, chamomile, closure, coconut oil, cook, comfort, Comfort - Closure - Redemption, contraindication, crying, death, declutter, dying alone, faith – articles of, finances, forgiving, fruit, herbal tea, history, hogging, holding hands, holy basil, home, hospice, hospital, listening, nosiness, past hurt, peppermint, photo, possessiveness, praying, reading aloud, redemption, relationship, resilience, singing, sitting still, skin, snooping, stinging nettle, stress, talking, touch, time constraints, washing feet, working out problems

Nobody should die alone. The most important part is that you are with the dying person – the dying person should not be left alone, if possible. Not always is it possible to accompany a loved one on the last way – both my parents died far away from me. My father suddenly, when I was eighteen and away in boarding school – his heart gave out. My mother in Germany, of lung cancer, when I went through the rigors of medical internship in Boston. I remember sitting at night at the bed of a dying patient, and thinking that I should be sitting with my mother.

Many people feel uncomfortable in the face of sickness and dying. Not everybody finds wonderful last words and gestures. Here is what you still can do – naturally – for a dying loved one.

First, however, what you should not do:

• Discuss the ways the person hurt you in the past: It is too late now. Try to grow up before the person dies – work out your own problems
• Go through their things and snoop around. Even if you were the lone heir: Wait until afterward
• Keep friends and relatives away from the dying person to hog her/him for yourself
• Don’t press your personal afterlife believing and articles of faith onto the dying person

What you can do – naturally:

• Sit still at the bedside
• Hold hands: Touch can still be taken in when all the other senses are long gone
• Give a cold sponge bath – lying unwashed in bed is a horrible burden for many sick people
• Sing. I sang for my first, beloved mother-in-law when she was already unconscious. I think she heard me
• Keep the room warm, aired and uncluttered – at home, in the hospital, at the hospice
• Bring pictures from the past that the person might still enjoy – but only a few selected ones – don’t lug into the sickroom whole photo albums
• Forgive if the person was not what you expected from her/him in the past. He/she had her own history – and you might not know all the essential parts – for instance, how this person was hurt when he/she was young
• Remember the past - as long as the person can still talk. This might be your last chance. But don’t push it – take the cue from the dying person, not from your own urgency
• Zip up a light, delicious meal – or just serve fruit. This is not the time to restrict a person to a diet – this is now pure enjoyment
• Read aloud – if he or she can hear it or not: Share what you like to share
• Tell the person what he/she means to you. Sum up your relationship with the dying person – but not financial problems and time constraints the dying puts on you. Your own stresses (and they might be great and overwhelming) you have to work up alone or with other people in your life. Your own life is on hold while this person moves toward death
• Wash the dying person’s feet. Then rub coconut oil into the skin
• Talk about positive things from the past
• Listen to whatever the dying person has to say – if you like it or not
• Pray if the person wants to pray. Shut up if the person does not want to pray
• Declutter the nightstand without getting nosy or possessive
• Brew an herbal tea: Chamomile, holy basil, peppermint, stinging nettle. – or whatever you have at hand Ask the doctor if there are contraindications
• Endure the impending loss – you can – and will - cry later But you will take satisfaction if you stayed strong when you were needed to be strong.

The Thermometer Arrived – Finally!

November 9, 2011

Tags: water, movement, food, air temperature, arm exercise, back exercise, blog, boring, bragging, California, cello, Chinese, cold shower, cooking, eating right, editing, exercising, faucet water, fresh produce, friend, functioning body, history, house work, husband, James – Henry (1843–1916), knee bend, La Jolla, language skills, life, music, novel, ocean temperature, perfect health, piano, pool lap, pool temperature, Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897), shopping, swimming, temperature, thermometer, The Thermometer Arrived – Finally!, “The Wings of the Dove”, traveling

My mail order thermometer arrived today. Now I can put numbers on my Californian shivering: The outside temperature today was 21C (70F), and the water temperature 16 (61F). When I take a cold shower, the water comes out of the faucet at 20C (68F) - much warmer than the pool. My guess had been that the pool temperature was at 60F – not too far off. Reportedly, the ocean temperature in La Jolla is just like my pool’s: 61F. I wish I had the ocean in front of my door …

It is getting harder and harder to go into the cold pool. Not so much because of the cold water but because the house is unheated, and taking a cold shower, toweling off, rubbing myself with coconut oil and then getting dressed takes up nearly half an hour - and all the time I am standing in the cold, shivering. Today I lit a candle in the small bathroom - not sure it raised the temperature, but it gave me the IMPRESSION of being a tad warmer.

Unfortunately, I will leave for nearly two weeks – traveling again. I wonder if I will be able to resume my good habit. Might be very hard – unless I buy a portable heater.

By the way! You hear me talking here mainly about healthy things like swimming, eating right, and so on, and I sound like a real bore, I know. But I do spend my days with far more interesting things than pursuing perfect health. In fact, I try to do AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE because, I too, find exercising boring – and stupid. But, there is no life unless you have a functioning body.

Today I made music with a friend all morning, she at the piano, I at the cello – that was heaven. I am re-editing my Sebastian Kneipp novel. I talked with my husband, family and friends. I read up on history. Also, I am reading Henry James’ “The Wings of the Dove”. And I am still making my way through the Chinese novel word by word (it will take a long time to finish that!), to improve my language skills. I cooked, shopped for fresh produce and did the usual house work.

I did my twenty-one laps in the pool, and twenty-one knee bends, twenty-one back exercises and twenty-one arm exercises. And then I sat down to brag about those little things on my blog. But those little things are not my life – they only make my life possible!

The Roots Of Philosophy

September 9, 2011

Tags: order, Adorno – Theodor W. (1903-1969), air conditioner, animal, animal rights defender, Arizona, biography, botany, California, Chinese history, collapse, common good, Critical Theory, deep gaze, Earth, famine, genius, Germany, hatred, heat, herbs, history, Holocaust, humans, manager, medicine, music, Nature, Nevada, New Mexico, novels, non-fiction, official, orphans, philosophy, plants, pollution, power outage, power station, public - general, responsibility, San Diego, summer reading extravaganza, system, The Root Of Philosophy, war, warning sign, World Wars

After the summer reading extravaganza of novels, I am back at my usual non-fiction fare – medicine, Chinese history, general history, philosophy, herbs and botany, music – whatever catches my interest.

Last night, in a biography about the German philosopher Theodor Adorno I came across a sentence of his that took my breath away. Took my breath away because the “Critical Theory” is more known for its political stance than for soft-hearted fuzziness. Took my breath away also because it expressed a sentiment that I thought belonged more to my private musings than in a philosophy context.

“Philosophy actually exists in order to redeem what is to be found in the gaze of an animal.” (p. 255, Detlev Claussen, Theodor W. Adorno – One Last Genius).

The book is uneven: It suffers from the contradiction that Adorno (and Claussen) think that biography is impossible after two World Wars and the Holocaust – and then Claussen wrote a biography after all. Topped by calling it “One Last Genius.” Adorno must be a-squirming in his grave; he definitely did not believe in the concept of “genius.”

“Philosophy actually exists in order to redeem what is to be found in the gaze of an animal.”

This says we are not different, not apart from Nature – and that one day we will be asked what our responsibility was in the destruction of the Earth with all her plants, animals and humans. - Last night my nephew called from San Diego to tell about the huge power outage of southern California and parts of Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico. It had been sweltering hot there for days, and the “system” collapsed.

As a citizen, I ask myself if there were not warning signs and if this collapse could have been prevented by astute officials running the Californian power grid - and I would fire the higher ranks at the power stations. As a person I think that not everybody who had the air conditioner running on “high” really needed it for medical reasons. Neither the power station managers nor the general public had the common good in mind, it seems.

Animals have already what we have lost: The deep gaze on what is important, and what is not. I am not a died-in-the-wool animal rights defender because I still maintain that people are more important. But one can push that argument only so far before we land at the fact that we, too, are animals, and not so highly developed ones in many cases. We produce wars, famines, orphans, pollution, hatred – to name a few human accomplishments.

We need to be taught by philosophy what matters; animals know it. And in their eyes you can read it – if you want to see it.

Back To School

September 6, 2011

Tags: order, food, acoustic bass, addiction, adult education catalog, alcohol, archeology, art, Back To School, birds, blueberries, calendar year, cello, Chinese, cleaning out the attic, cooking from scratch, Daoism, drawing from the nude, flowers, French, German, glass blowing, Gone With The Wind, herbalist, herbs, history, homeless shelter, Kneipp - Sebastian (1821-1897), knitting, learning something new, Maine, math teacher, mushrooms, music, New Year, novel, physician, posture, quilting, reading, resolution, rock climbing, school year, September, square dance, stars, tai chi, tax law, Trager bodywork, translating, trees, voice lessons, volunteering, writer

Even after so many years, September is my favorite time of the year – going back to school, that is. The magic of sitting there with a sharpened pencil, eager to learn new stuff, has never abated. In my life, I have done this and that – from math teacher to physician to writer – and I have come to appreciate that my best feature is my joy in learning something new. My father planted it in his children. A physician, too, he knew all the trees and the flowers and the birds and the stars, he loved history and art and music and archeology, and above all reading.

Sadly, alcohol destroyed his brilliant brain. These days, I am mulling how much I myself am prone to addiction: We just came home from Maine, and I wanted to get my daily fix of blueberries – and my grocer has run out of blueberries. Run out of blueberries! I am appalled. And I am mulling if this is my form of addiction – blueberries?

Well, it could be worse. My resolution for this fall and winter – yes: resolution, because the New Year really begins with the new school year, not with the new calendar year, if you ask me – is learning more Chinese, more cello and more translating my Sebastian Kneipp novel into German. And to find a grocer who still carries some blueberries …

What's your September resolution? Cleaning out the attic? Taking lessons on acoustic bass? Doing a course in tax law? Learning to cook from scratch? Joining a quilting bee? Tackling drawing from the nude? Find an herbalist to introduce you to local herbs and mushrooms? Trying rock climbing? Investing in voice lessons? Brushing up on your French? Exploring daoism? Volunteer at a homeless shelter? Retraining your square dance steps? Rereading "Gone With The Wind"? Working on your posture with Trager bodywork and tai chi? Blowing glass? Knitting a sweater?

Tell us! Only you can know what you are dreaming of doing. Go for it! The adult education catalogs are out.

Geronimo!

August 1, 2011

Tags: order, Afghanistan, Apache, battle, code word, Earth, Geronimo (1809-1929), Geronimo!, Golden Rule, health, history, idealism, minorities, Native American tribes, Osama bin Laden, race - “superior”, White Man, war

This morning, I woke up to a report on the radio of the capturing of Osama bin Laden.

After the enemy had been killed (without a trial), allegedly the attacker shouted three times the code word: Geronimo! Geronimo! Geronimo! I was lying in bed, asking myself if I had heard what I just had heard.

Geronimo (1809-1929) was the Apache leader who was at the forefront of the battle against the invading White Man – in a lost battle, as history showed. The “superior race” pursued the Native American tribes, expelled them from their lands, waged a war and broke uncountable promises and treaties.

To invoke Geronimo’s name as a code word was bad taste, to say the least. More likely, it describes the true spirit behind our war in Afghanistan and elsewhere. I protest the insensitivity. Perhaps I am hopelessly idealistic but there will be no health on this Earth, as long as we are not respecting minorities and still wage conquering wars. If for no other reason than for the Golden Rule (Don’t do unto others …), we should understand that we are all One and in the same boat.

A Hodgepodge Letter From Jerusalem

May 31, 2011

Tags: food, order, America, appetite, archaeology, architecture, Armenian Christian, Berlin, books, Catholic - Italian and French, cauliflower, chopped liver, Christian faith, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, community, Copts, David – King, detoxifying organ, Dinner Plate, Eastern Church, family, Florence, Food Pyramid, Greek Orthodox, history, Holy Land, hope, individualism, Israel, Jerusalem, Jewish life, Letter From Jerusalem, liver, Muslims, New York, peace, Peace for the World, portion size, religion, Russian Orthodox, salad - fresh, Sidney, stones, synagogue, Western Church

If you think that America is a melting pot – Israel is the most colorfully mixed country, the loudest and the most silent, the most hilarious and the saddest.

Jerusalem is the most beautiful city in the world. I know you might fight me over this – and I have indeed seen beauty all over the world. The bustling daring of New York, the lovely harbor of Sidney, the classical stones of Florence, the young energy of the new Berlin – you get it.

Jerusalem has something else: An ordinance in place for many thousand years – precisely since King David, I was told – that every house in the city has to be built of the local stone, at least the façade. The house might be an old synagogue or a modern high-rise - they all are clad in the same white-golden sandstone; even most pavements use this stone. When one approaches the city from afar, it looks like a dream dwelling: a white city shimmering on the hills.

That this thousands-of-years-old ordinance is still in place shows a will to community: The individual burgher might have preferred a modern glass building or a brick castle; nevertheless, he abides by the rules. Compare an American town with billboards and every-which style of architecture: There the individual will wins out, under all circumstances. I can’t make up my mind, which one I find the more useful guide pole – individualism or communal thinking - but I know that Jerusalem is singular, and beautiful.

Another thing I like about Jewish life: They cherish family, books, history. We all should live thus (I am saying this knowing full well that family life can be stifling, even in the best of cases).

Certainly, you want to hear about the food here: A meal starts with several fresh salads. The other night, with little appetite, I ordered only two appetizers: cauliflower and chopped liver. The cauliflower was delicious but so gigantic that I shared it with the whole table, ate until I was bursting – and then there was some left over. The chopped liver was a mountain into which I could only bore a little hole – and nobody wanted to share; I have a thing going for liver since childhood, but mostly avoid it now as liver is the main detoxifying organ in the body – even of a cow. Nobody at the table seemed to share my liver thing …

Our Government plans to abandon the Food Pyramid (about time!!), and replace it with the Dinner Plate. So, my Israel proportion shock comes just in time: For healthy nutrition you need to know really only two basics:

1. Freshness – everything you eat should have grown somewhere.
2. Portion size – your meal should fit on a small dinner plate. If you have to lose weight, make it a breakfast plate; they are smaller. No snacks – that goes without saying.

And a last observation from Jerusalem: The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is owned communally by several branches of the Christian faith: Western Church (Italian and French Catholic) and Eastern Church (Copts, Armenians, Greek and Russian Orthodox). And if I believe the tour guide, it is a mess: Those Churches are in constant fight over every inch of the church – so much so that the key is kept in the hands of a neutral third, the Muslims. It says something about religions if the message of Peace for the World is not heeded in the very church building it once started (or presumably started – history and archaeology are messy in the Holy Land).

In the Knesset, I heard the President of Israel, Shimon Peres, give a speech in Hebrew. I did only understand two words: Tikwa and Shalom – hope and peace. Good enough for me.

Osama bin Laden Is Dead – And The World Is Not A Safer Place. Nor Healthier

May 2, 2011

Tags: order, water, air, almsgiving, America, animals, Baha’i, blessing – threefold, books, Buddhism, burial at sea, Christianity, Christian Scientists, compassion, desperado, disaster - threefold, Earth, East – West, energy, family, fanaticism, fire, history, homeland security, humans, humility, Hussein - Saddam, Islam, jihad, Judaism, killing, minerals, mixing 'n matching, moderation, murderer, Muslim, Nazi, Nuremberg Trial, neighbor, Osama bin Laden, Osama bin Laden Is Dead – And The World Is Not A Safer Place - Nor Healthier, Pantheism, plants, politics, poverty, religion, responsibility, revenge, sacred, self-respect, soil, spirit, stones, Taoism, Three Jewels, Wicca, world, Zakat

Before, I was determined to keep out of politics on my blog. Which is not easy when events are global and terribly important.

Yes, Osama bin Laden masterminded horrible things – among others, he killed more Muslims than Americans. For that he should have gone to trial and be sentenced. Because killing a man who has killed does not make anything right. The Nazis got their Nuremberg Trial. Saddam Hussein in Iraq got a trial and an execution, and he is mostly gone; in him, we did not create a martyr. But in bin Laden we did – even if we buried his corpse in the ocean to prevent a new Mecca.

In a way, I am like many Americans today: relieved. In another way, this is not a good day for America - I know this will not be the end of the story. Revenge will finally get to our homeland again.

It is easy to blame religions on the endless wars between East and West. I happen to think that better economic and political systems will give desperado Muslims better goals in life, and will make jihad obsolete.

My friends are of all colors, and of many religions. We can learn from different religious teachings. Here are a few I like - and excuse my mixing 'n matching:

1. Christianity: Love your neighbor like yourself. Means: Do good, so that you can respect yourself. Means also: Muslims are our neighbors, too. Even murderers are our neighbors.
2. Buddhism: Before we are born, we choose our parents – to learn something important. Means: Don’t blame your parents if your life is not what you thought it should be.
3. Judaism: Revere your family, books, history.
4. Wicca: What you do good, will come back to you as threefold blessing. Same with what you do bad: threefold disaster.
5. Pantheism: The World is alive and filled with spirit. Humans, animals, plants, stones and minerals, the water, soil, air, fire – they all are sacred energy. With even a single one of these missing, Earth will perish.
6. Taoism: Hold up the Three Jewels: Compassion, Moderation, Humility.
7. Islam: Zakat (Almsgiving): A fixed portion of your income should go to the poor.
8. Baha’i: Fanaticism is forbidden.
9. Christian Scientists: One should take responsibility for one's health.

You can probably provide more ideas – we don’t have to engage in religious wars. Let me know what believes are important for you!

The Persian Bridge

September 15, 2010

Tags: order, water, food, herbs, abbaya, Afghanistan, Anglican Church, Arabia, Armenian, bread baking, Bridge - The Thirty Three Arches Bridge, burka, chador, dairy, doogh, Dubai, family, flowers, Hafez, head scarf, history, homogenization, Iran, Isfahan, Islam, Jews, moderation, Morocco, mosque, parenting, pasteurization, Persepolis, poetry, purity, Saudi Arabia, Shiite, Shiraz, Sunni, Tehran, terrorists, The Persian Bridge, Turkey, U.S.A, veil, yogurt

Greetings from Tehran! We have been traveling in this wonderful country, full of roses and laughter, and one of the cradles of civilization. Iran, as every country that I ever have visited, is teaching me something.

In the ancient city of Isfahan, we saw an old bridge, called The Thirty Three Arches Bridge. The city still sizzles with brutal heat in September, and people go to the bridge to sit in the shade and enjoy the cool breeze that is generated by a two-storied construction with narrow passages for the wind, and look over the water. It actually looks more a long building over the river than a bridge. We returned in the evening when the lights reflected on the dark waters, and people sat in groups, and walked and talked. A man sang a song about lovers. I could not imagine anything more beautiful or more peaceful.

The river is broad here in Isfahan; in this arid country with very little rain, the waters are melted snow of a nearby mountain range. A few hundred kilometers downriver though, the river vanishes from the surface of the Earth, petering out in the desert sand, and feeding underground aquifers (making oases possible in the desert). Imagine: A river that never reaches the ocean – the people always have thought of it as a gift from Heaven to this special place, and they are careful building irrigation systems and avoid wasting the life-giving liquid.

What took me by surprise: The Thirty Three Arches Bridge has no railings – the stone just ends, and there is the abyss! I kept a respectful distance. But what about those many families and children? Children who run around late in the night! I could barely look at the people that ambled too close to the edge for my taste, or at the little girl that sat a foot away from the void, enjoying a picnic with her family!

Our guide was astonished that I worried. “Oh, they learn!” he said. “Nobody ever falls down.”

Imagine the situation at home: Someone surely would dare leaning over too far – and than sue somebody for missing rails!

It seems that we teach our children that somebody is always caring for them (until it suddenly ends with college or some real-life experience); Iranians teach their children that they better watch out because life is dangerous.

Children and family are very important to Iranians. And so are flowers, poetry and history. They revere their poets like saints. We visited Hafez’ tomb in Shiraz, and our guide declaimed one of Hafez’ poems, in Farsi. Not so much for us, the tourists, but because he loved it with all his heart. At a dinner in a restaurant, the bandleader, in between music, recited a long poem.

The reason for our travel is that my scientist husband is invited for a scientific presentation, and I accompany him, privileged to see the beauty of this country. We walked the ancient ruins of Persepolis. On a frieze there one man holds the hand of another – together they faced the Great King to whom they had to bring their yearly taxes. I saw much caring for one another here: Two young men carrying a sick old man between them - perhaps their father; we would call an ambulance and have professionals do the work. Older children tend their younger siblings in a loving way. Men are holding hands as a sign of friendship. Only once did I hear yelling between two taxi drivers.

Scientists are an international community – and they respect the rules that constitute science: You can come up with any weird idea – but you have to deliver proof and reasonable argument, and submit it to the scrutiny of your peers. Wish that everything in the world would work like that!

Tehran is a city of between fifteen and twenty-five million: loud, polluted, with uncontrollable traffic. It is near impossible to cross a street – cars have priority. But at night, a thousand lights are spreading up the hills – where the air is better.

The pungency of herbs and spices hovers over the bazaars. Iranians use herbs in their yogurt drinks and in bread, and spices in their food. Their fragrant rice dishes with saffron or aromatic green herbs are famous. - At the restaurant, along the wall, there were niches decorated with life-sized clay figures performing old crafts: a miller, a toolmaker, a potter. The last niche was occupied by a merchant in herbal medicines.

Not that you think everything is perfect in Iran. They must have wife-beaters here, same as we have them at home. I suspect the one or other government agent is keeping an eye on us. Very occasionally we have seen hostile looks and heard remarks about the stupidity of infidels. But the vast majority of the people are very kind, and curious. Nobody flinches when we mention that we are from the U.S.A. One woman came up to me and asked: “Do you think we are terrorists?” She was anxious for the answer. Parents nudged their children to practice their English with us, and whole families wanted to be photographed with us (making the government agent seethe with anger).

Iran is a Shiite country and has a long history of – and that might surprise you as much as it surprised me – religious tolerance: Jews live untroubled in Isfahan for nine hundred years, and Armenians and other Christians have churches (among them an Anglican). We were proudly shown the Jewish quarters and the four-hundred-year-old Armenian Church – our guide explained its murals with the same zest and knowledge as the mosaics in the beautiful mosques.

In one of the mosques a man prayed, and our guide excitedly explained that he was a Sunni – he didn’t use the little clay disc Shiites put between them and their foreheads when they bend to the ground. And he held his arms crossed in front, instead of letting them hang by his side. The guide was proud that he spied the Sunni – but there was no hostility, he was allowed to pray in the Shiite mosque without problems. That in spite of difficulties between the two Islamic branches in other countries.

Every hotel room has a prayer rug and the little clay disc, and an arrow on the ceiling pointing to Mecca.

The food is fresh and good – and definitely for us guests – plentiful. But I did not see a single obese person. A bit of a potbelly, yes. But no gross obesity. They eat not much fast food – a boon they derive from being at odds politically with the Americans; everything is freshly cooked. What would happen if we were at total peace with each other, and MacDonald and Burger King would invade the country? (Though I saw Iranians drink Coca-Cola lustily – I could not know if it was the real thing or an Iranian fake – I can’t read their letters). But Iranians clearly have a philosophy of temperance: One eats and drinks in moderation (and no alcohol ever; at least none that I saw). The moderation philosophy - I couldn’t agree more with it.

In one restaurant they allowed me observe how they bake an ancient kind of flat bread in a brick oven on hot little pebbles – an art. - They have a yogurt drink – doogh – which is perfect in this heat. Their yogurt is delicious, and doesn’t give me the troubles it always does at home – an observation I already made in Saudi Arabia. I suspect it is the process of pasteurization and homogenization that renders our products inedible. Or they have very, very special cows …

By now, I have visited several Islamic countries: Turkey, Morocco, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Iran. They are all different. Women in Iran wear long-sleeved coats or kaftans that have to cover the behind and should not emphasize the waist, and trousers, often blue jeans. To hide the wrists seems important – the Iranians must know something about erotic wrists that eludes us. And they wear a head scarf. It loosely covers the hair – more a token than a real hiding. Some women wear a chador that covers all hair. Very few wear a veil – which had been the norm in Saudi-Arabia.

We never, ever saw a single beggar or a drunk on the streets. It seems to be the specialty of autocratic states that they can “clean up” because individual rights don’t count much. A teahouse also served opium; a mild kind, judging by the reaction of the customers.

From Saudi Arabia I still own an abbaya - a black cassock-like thing that reaches the floor (in Saudi-Arabia, the desert sand) and a head scarf. The women here appreciate my effort to abide by their laws, and I like the abbaya because: No thinking in the morning about what to wear. Of course, I don’t like the abbaya as a political statement. Alas, I am an un-political person. At least, I have not seen a single burka, the tent-like garment that is frequent in Saudi-Arabia, and the law in Afghanistan. - In one mosque, as I was about to wrap myself into an additional chador because our guide had recommended it, a woman took it out of my hand, pointing at my outfit. She felt I was already perfectly dressed. - My head scarf had always been sliding down. Now I fix it with two barrettes, with fake gaudy glitter – and so far nobody has berated me for it.

In some quarters of affluent Tehran women wear more make-up and Western-style clothing. They wear their scarves, but as a fashion statement, elegantly. Then again, Tehran is also the place where politics clash very hard, as I was told. Surprisingly, many Iranians voice their political views very openly to us, wanting to assure us that they have no Anti-American feelings.

In Iran, women are educated – before the religious revolution that got rid of the Shah, this was a very westernized country. Not to mention that Iran has a history of thousands of years of culture – we have little over four hundred. Universities don’t have the division between genders that Saudi-Arabia has: Men and women learn and work together (but in the airport, as a woman you go through a special security gate). - When I talk to women here, they have little envy for our freedom in the West; they worry that we loose our hearts, our middles.

Of course, many women here have no choices; I don’t want to belittle their struggle. Women always ask if I have children, and how many. They do look down on countries that produce too many children. Because they know the burden is on the women.

If history teaches us something, then it is this: That no one government ever lasts forever. I fear about how they will be able to solve this conflict – these wonderfully hospitable people. Iran is a country of beauty and incredible friendliness. People know what counts: family, poetry, flowers, history. And food.

Of course, I have no saying in the matter, but I wish religions would keep their beautiful thoughts to themselves instead of waging holy wars. Trying to keep “pure” and going to Heaven afterward are two unreachable goals, if you ask me. We should put the same effort and religious zeal into being friendly to our children, bringing fresh food on the table and making Earth a happy place to live for everyone.

When was the last time you read poetry aloud to someone you love?

Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

Alexa Fleckenstein M.D. 2012, by Lolita Parker jr.

Tags - see also the non-captalized entries below!