The King's Ring*

"Suspended Tulips" in Dena Mountain's outskirts, Kohkiluyeh & Bouyer Ahmad Province, March 31, 2008.
Heeh! I'm taking it easy, so no elaborate posts today! I will tell you an old Persian tale, which I have shortened and edited.
A king received a beautiful ring with a large precious stone on it. He asked the wisemen around him to come up with a sentence which could be engraved on the stone. His requirement for the sentence, however, was a tough one. He said "I want a sentence which I can read both when I am happy and when I am sad, and for the sentence to have meaning and relevancy for me during both times." One of the wisemen finally came up with the winning sentence: "This, too, shall pass." In his moments of sadness, by looking at the ring the King was filled with hope, and in his moments of joy, by looking at the ring the King would remember not to get too full of himself and to keep his perspective on life.
*This story is for Ahmad, my friend in Texas.


But Happened Difficulties*

Spoilt by my friends' visits and phone calls and messages for the second day in a row! I replied to all my blog messages today and took it easy.
I pour two cups of tea, and bring out the cookies my sister brought me from Iran. My friend says, "You know, everything in this world is upside down and out of order! I love someone and she doesn't care for me. Why can't it be that I love someone who loves me, too? I'm so sick of feeling rejected all the time. I know she doesn't want to be with me, that she doesn't care for me, but I keep pushing forward, trying harder and harder, and feeling more and more unwanted every time. I know I need to stop, because I'm falling only nominally short of stalking her, waiting for her to tell me off at every new attempt, which of course she hasn't yet, but I just can't stop myself! I feel so disgusted. I don't want to be like this. I want her to love me and let me show her how much I love her and how good things could be when two people love each other. To make things worse, this other person in my life does exactly the same things for me as I am doing for the woman I love. She calls and writes and comes and stays and lingers and follows me with her eyes, but I'm not stirred, I'm not moved, and so I push her away, all the time knowing exactly how she must be feeling. I am disgusted, desperate, and really lonely. Can you tell me what to do?" I say to him: "No." He says: "That's it?!! 'No?' You need to help me. You need to tell me what women think! You need to show me how to win her heart! You have to tell me what to do to make her love me!" I say: "I can help you love a woman who loves you. But I can't help you win the love of someone who doesn't want you. I don't know how to play games, so I can't teach you any. Sorry, I wished I did, but I don't. I can teach you how to see and hang on to what you have. I don't know how to go looking for what you don't and can’t have."
My friend picks up his car keys and his cell phone and starts for the door. His shoulders are tense and his eyebrows are knotted into a frown and his lips are pushed together into a thin line. As he heads for the door, he turns toward me and says: "I love her and want her to love me, did you get that?" And as I start to tell him: "Yes, Einstein! I did and I already told you that I can't help you," I see the flash of tears in his pained eyes. I say: "Come sit down, you! Tell me again why you love someone who doesn't love you?" He comes back reluctantly, pulls out a chair and sits down to first cry the tears of hurt and pain that have been building up inside him for months. We cry together.
*From Hafez's first ghazal...That love seemed easy at first, but happened difficulties



My reader and now friend, Nasim, on the first day we met in February. Nasim and her wonderful husband, Jay, are celebrating her birthday and other important things in life this weekend. Two young scientists, with a life full of promises and joy ahead of them. Happy Birthday Beautiful Nasim!
Heeh! Did I scare you guys?! I hope not! Baba, I'm fine, really! I didn't even know I was injured until someone pointed out the blood on the headrest of my seat on the passenger side! It was just a scratch, really, and my family are already teasing me about it! My friend is a bit worse off with a broken arm, but I have instructions not to make a big deal out of this! My body aches a little and that's it! I have received kind emails and visits and flowers and phone calls and a card already, not to mention the very kind comments left on my earlier post! How lucky can a person get, I ask you?! To continue to live and to receive messages of love on top of that--this is too fabulous for words, and this was my unexpected surprise of this weekend!
In reply to my post of this morning, Nasim says: "I got the message my friend. We all learn from each other and have messages for each other." Yes, indeed! I was thinking about this same subject recently. I find that since I have started writing daily, I have developed a sharper sense of observation about the things I see, read, and hear. Everything is a lot more meaningful and poignant all of a sudden for me, as though everything I experience gets filed neatly in my mind, to be retrieved and retold to myself and to others some day soon. I find that even in the simplest, most mundane events, I have become capable of seeing a story, a message. Much of what I write is in reaction to those messages. Today, Nasim got my message and I got hers. Hers and Jay's are messages of hope, of new beginnings, and of opportunities yet to be seized.
I was going to go to a Nowrooz Parade in San Jose with my friends tomorrow. I think I will stay home and recuperate, answering your kind comments and emails instead. Be good you all, and watch out for those messages. Start right here! I received several today and left you some just now!


I met 11 month-old Kiana at my friend, Monir's shop on Thursday, while waiting for her to get off work. A little bored, I decided to teach Kiana how to snap her fingers. She learned in just a few minutes! Here's her final exam results!
It's Saturday, and in lieu of my Friday post, I would like to tell you the story of my disappearance on Friday. My friend and I were driving somewhere together when we had an accident last night. We are both fine with some minor bruises and cuts, but we are alive and off to the business of life. Spending time in the hospital emergency room and coming home on high heels and a bloody party dress with disheveled hair and an aching body may not have been my idea of a good way to spend a Friday night, but it's nothing compared to what could have happened! Thank God.
You know, life is amusing and a lot more fragile than we tend to think. All the seriousness with which we treat life becomes a comedy when you think that in a matter of just a few seconds, lives can be altered, and sometimes ended, abruptly. Makes me think about taking the joyous moments more seriously and the more serious moments, well, not so seriously! As I crawled into bed last night, foregoing my Friday post and putting my achy body under my familiar blanket, I was thinking that a simple routine act, such as going to bed in your own bed could be a comfort which could so easily be taken away if you have to spend a night in the hospital. Life is too short and too fragile to spend it worrying and thinking bad thoughts and becoming angry and stressed out. Each moment must be enjoyed and celebrated as if it's our last. That's what I think. Look at that baby, Kiana, learning how to snap her fingers for the first time in her young life. I hope she learns to live life happily, enjoying herself and doing the dance of life with all the requisite beshkans! I am well, I am alive, my friend is well, all the others in the other car are fine, and I have cause to celebrate, to do a dance of my own. Life is good.



One of Shahireh Sharif's Nowrooz pictures in loving memory of her father. See all seven here.
Khayam, if you are intoxicated with wine, enjoy!
If you are seated with a lover of thine, enjoy!
In the end, the Void the whole world employ
Imagine thou art not, while waiting in line, enjoy!
خیام اگر ز باده مستی خوش باش

با ماهرخی اگر نشستی خوش باش

چون عاقبت کار جهان نیستی است

انگار که نیستی چو هستی خوش باش

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, translated by Shahriar Shahriari.


Insomnia, Aash, And A Cat Named Asghar

Blossoms in Hamadan, Iran, March 26, 2008.
I have been working myself ragged again this week, working hard during the day at work while I concentrate on some exciting projects, and unable to sleep well at night. I am also volunteering to help out with an event in April, and so much work has to be done on that project between now and then. It's a good thing this is a short week for me as Friday is a State holiday.
I went to visit my younger sister on my way home tonight. She gave me a bowl of aash to bring home with me. It was a relief not to have to make dinner tonight! I want to go to bed early tonight (we will see about that!). I will tell you another story about Asghar and then I go.
So, I should have known better after the incident which had landed him in the third floor neighbor's balcony, but it hadn't occurred to me that this might happen again. The week following that incident, when my kids and I arrived our apartment complex, we thought we heard Asghar in the parking lot. This was surreal, because Asghar had been left inside a locked apartment on the fourth floor and there was no way he could be in the parking five floors below! Right? Wrong! My older son followed the cat's meowing and soon found him and brought him to us. Asghar's entire face was covered in congealed blood and his claws were injured as he had lost all his nails, taking a flight from the fourth floor into the parking lot! Oh My God! He was subdued and quiet and didn't respond very well to our calling his name. We rushed him to his vet in Amanieh, and he instructed us to take him to a pet hospital emergency room in Vanak for X-rays. As it turned out, he must have tried to fetch one of the birds on the tree branches just outside the balcony, and had taken a free fall five floors below, declawing himself while trying to hang on to the tree and the walls around, breaking his nose and fracturing his skull! Can you believe that?! He was heavily medicated to stay calm and we were told he had a 50-50 chance of survival. My kids were beside themselves with grief. The next day I had screen walls installed on the balcony (toori), and while he recuperated, we stood vigil by his side for a few days. He recovered soon enough, getting back to his "no good" state, but his tiny nose bore a very small crook where he had broken it! I miss Asghar, the cat with the crooked nose! He now lives in Karaj with a man who loves cats. Be good and have a good Wednesday you all.

(No) Spring Chicken!

Colored chicks in Isfahan. Photo from Associated Press; I found it here.
This has been a long and tiring, but exciting day. I am going to bed really late, dreading having to wake up early to attend an early morning meeting. As I get ready to go to bed, I hear Iden and my younger son listening to Modern Talking's Brother Louie in the other room. Oh My God! Talk about a blast from the past! I'm filled with memories of good times past. I think it's sweet that the young people in my house are building their own memories of the song. Who knows? Maybe one night when they are much, much older, as they get ready to go to their beds, passing by their children's rooms, they might hear the song and become suspended in motion with the flood of sweet memories! I smile thinking that thought. Goodnight ya'll.


Nostalgic About A Cat

A Ghorabieh Bakeshop in Tabriz. This is probably one of my most favorite Iranian confections! I remember Haj Jalil Tavazo offering me Ghorabieh in his shop one time, telling me in his sweet Azari accent: "een shirini kheili ghashangeh!" Too bad it can't endure time and travel very well!

Heeh! I saw this videoclip of Makhmal the Cat, eating the samanoo on her family's haft seen table! So cute! It reminded me so much of our cat, Asghar (Oscar, Oskie), today. I remember the day when he was still a kitten and had jumped from the fourth floor into the third floor apartment's balcony, and kept begging us to go get him, which of course we couldn't, because the neighbor was away for the weekend. I remember that in my desperation and with my children's growing anguish, I called the Tehran Fire Department, asking them whether they did animal rescue, as might be expected in these parts of the world. I explained that we might need a tall ladder to get the rescuer to the third floor balcony. Well, you might already know their answer to that question! They laughed at me and hung up! Later, I called again and tried to appeal to the dispatcher's heart. After I talked to him and begged him to help me, he and I reached an "understanding," whereby he said he or one of his colleagues might come to see about the cat after their shift was over that night, but that wasn't going to happen for a few more hours yet. So, while my kids and I waited for the firefighter, we had an idea. We had one of those plastic picnic baskets with a lid, which we sent down to third floor balcony through a rope, leaving a piece of meat inside the basket for good measure. Once the basket landed, Asghar jumped inside and got busy eating his little treat, we pulled the rope, closing the lid and started pulling him up! Mission accomplished, I called the dispatcher and thanked him, telling him that the cat was already rescued! Asghar went on to do many more naughty things in the coming years, the stories of which I might tell at another time.

Shifting Clouds

My friend Mehdi who lives in Berkeley sent me this Nowrooz card. How cool is that? And how lucky can a person get?!
And so, I can already feel the effect of a new beginning with the new year, I am not kidding you! It's as though the clouds are shifting and clearing up around me, some rapidly and some more slowly. It might be because of some interactions I had this week. I talked to some older people this week, those who always help me keep my perspective on life. I have talked about them before, my 70-80+ year-old friends. They really are my friends, I'm not exaggerating! One of them loves the ballet and symphony and politics, and our discussions are exquisite, even if just on the phone all these thousands of miles away, because he is such an extraordinary man. One of them is a beautiful woman who raised her children by herself and is so wise and loving, never bitter, and always applaudes me and my decision to relocate to US to be near my children, validating some really tough decisions I had to make a couple of years ago. One of them is my former mother-in-law, who reminded me of the mementoes and memories of our long-standing friendship this week. They each gave me joy and love in their own ways. There is someone in that group with whom I have a real bond. She is suffering from Alzheimer's Disease and struggles with remembering many people and things. Isn't it just amazing, though, that when they tell her I'm on the phone, she smiles and takes the phone? How could I ever take those friendships for granted?
And then there are my young friends some of whom I saw today. They are an amazing bunch in their own ways, too. They give me joy and hope and keep me grounded in here and now, forcing me to focus on all the life happening around me. One of my friends spent a good bit of time updating my profile on an unnamed friendship site today, because that's what is "in" these days and he knows I'm just too lazy to do it myself, never mind the fact that I am probably the oldest person on that site! One of them sent me this card today, and another called me long distance "just to say hi." Life is good and it becomes even better in the circle of friends new and old and old and young. My clouds are shifting because I have true friends and even when I fall, even when my clouds pour rain on me, there are always loving hands which reach out for me and pull me up and put me back on my way again. I know you keep hearing me say this, but I am a very lucky woman, indeed.
P.S. I should take this opportunity to thank those of you who have kindly sent me Nowrooz greetings through email. I will reply to them separately to the best of my limited ability, as there are so many of them. My readers are the other group of my friends who created so much joy for me in the past year. Blogging continues to be one of the most rewarding parts of my life, thanks to all the wonderful people who have found me and who have let me find them. Thank you for the umbrella and the sunshine, you all.


Passing Through

My friend sings a sweet folk melody of Lorestan in a circle of my other friends, March 14, 2008.

My Saturday was spent doing some satisfying publishing work and cleaning the house with my younger son. In preparation for Nowrooz, I have gorgeous tulips, hyacinths, and narcissi around my house and every corner I turned smelled so good today! My cell phone battery died intermittently today, and I had very few phone calls to distract me from my work, so I kept at it until it was finished. A clean house and dead tired bones--very satisfying indeed!

I asked my younger son to change a toilette seat cover for me today. He mulled over the never-heard-before assignment and instead of telling me off, like he is prone to do, he took the car keys and the credit card and left for the hardware store! He came back 30 minutes later with the wrong toilette seat cover (too big) and had to go back and get another one and install it. He didn't complain, he didn't drag his feet, and in the end he did a very good job of it. You know, raising boys by myself has its pitfalls in that I can usually only teach them what I know. I don't know how to be a handyman around the house, so my kids haven't learned it, either. When things like this happen, even if the task is really simple, I become so grateful for the initiative.
My kids have gone to the City to celebrate their youth. I hope they are safe and that they enjoy themselves. As for me, I'm spending a quiet evening by myself, celebrating my not-so-youthful life! Life is so beautiful, I thought to myself again today. I mustn't waste a moment of it on negative thoughts which drain my energies. I have to accept things I cannot change and move on, even if this means suffering through temporary losses, because with high energy and a positive outlook, gains are awaiting me right around the corner, and loads of them, I know! I might write some more about this later in the week. Have a happy Sunday you all.


A Very Good Friday

Folk dance of Azerbaijan (Lezgi). These dancers might be from Georgia (Gorjestan).

It's Good Friday, the Friday before Easter, spring has begun, and Nowrooz is here. It can't get any better than this. I sat out a Nowrooz celebration in San Francisco, as I recover from too much celebration this week! I decided instead to come home, cook for my family, write my Friday post, and tend to some activities I must finish before Sunday.
The boys and their friends have just returned from a basketball game and work and will probably be getting ready to go out a little later. I hear them laughing and talking in the other room. There is something very soothing in hearing the young men have such a good time together in this house. Come September, my older son will probably move to another college town to attend university, and things won't be the same again in this house. I intend to enjoy every moment of the remaining months around them. Some day I might tell you the story of me and my children and houses, houses, and houses. Telling that story requires some courage which I have yet to find. Some day I might tell it.
And so, of all times of the year, this is the easiest and hardest time to dispense advice to you all about relationships and love for those who are important in your lives. It is easy, because for most of you those you love are right next to you during the celebrations, or you would be visiting them. It is hard, because some of you don't have your loved ones near you. Holidays and traditional celebrations are really hard for those who live away from their families, and I say that from peronal experience. So, I think we should all reach out to those near us right now, whoever they are and however they are important and related to us. Friends, relatives, lovers, and neighbors, there are people around us who could really appreciate a hug, a handshake, a smile, a kiss, or a hug. Whatever you do, mean it. Do it from the bottom of your heart with optimism and peace in mind. Call those who are away and in addition to wishing them a happy Nowrooz, also tell them that you love them and mean it. Do it with the conviction of someone who has started a New Day, a Now Rooz. Have a good weekend y'all.


Eid-e Shoma Mobarak!

My Nowrooz spread in progress...it's still missing a few things, but I needed this picture!
I am getting ready to go to my sister's house for dinner and tahvil-e-sal, where my other sisters and their families are gathering, too. And so, this is my last post for 1386. What a year this has been! A year of new beginnings, unexpected gifts, surprises, and new lessons. I consider myself one of the most blessed people in this world, for I have learned some very valuable lessons this year, feeling all the richer for the experience. I have and hold all that matters in this world, the love of friends and family, a lifestyle that offers me joy and excitement and motion, good health, a heart that beats for the love of life and a mind that can get over sadnesses quickly and hold happinesses forever. I have two wonderful friends in my adult children, family I am proud to love, and friends who are behtar az barg-e derakht...
I want nothing new for the new year, except for peace on earth, and peace and joy in everyone's hearts all over the world. My biggest wish this year is to keep what I already have, to be able to maintain and deepen my relationships and if I should meet new people anywhere, to have the strength and time to get to know them and to welcome them into my life. I wish for all of you joy, happiness, love, propsperiy, success and health. I pray that all your wishes come true and that your hearts are filled with kindness and forgiveness all year round. Now I pray the following prayer for you and for all of Iran and Iranians everywhere (Ya Moghallebolgholoob):
“Oh, you transformer of hearts and emotions, you master of day and the night, you provider of health and better times. Turn our lives into the possible best!” *
* From Zohreh Khazai Ghahremani's article last year.

Nowrooz on My Desktop

My very first Nowrooz card this year, received from a very dear, special, and gifted friend. It sits on my computer's desktop at home and at work, reminding me of the occasion and of how fortunate I have been in 1386 to have found good friends through my blogs and my writings. The way I see it, life can't get any better than this. I thank you all for being my friends. The only thing I have to offer in return is my reciprocal friendship. Come and get it in 1387! I'll be waiting for you.

Over The Flames

Charshanbeh Soori in Tehran, March 18, 2008. Photo by Universal Farshad (thank you!).
I went to Berkeley Persian Center's annual Charshanbeh Soori celebration tonight. I was accompanied by friends and family, and had a truly wonderful time. Each time I participate in traditional celebrations and rituals, my soul finds such peace and elemental joy. It is so important and rewarding for me to feel a part of a large and growing community of Iranians in this part of the world. It isn't Iran and it isn't Tehran, and I am deeply aware of all the effort it takes to make it look and feel "right" for all of us who have seen the splendid Charshanbeh Soori's of times past, and Nowrooz in full swing all over Iran right now. But it's an effort made by many loving minds, hearts, and hands. I was so proud to be a part of this community tonight. It's late and I have to be up very early tomorrow morning, so I cut this post short. Happy Wednesday everyone! This is a very important Wednesday on my calendar--the most important in some ways. This Wednesday needs its very own post, and I will write it soon.


Color of Love

My younger son and his friend, Pouria, colored our haft sin eggs tonight.
When my children were growing up, we would have Nowrooz Egg Coloring Parties. Their many friends would come, with or without their hard-boiled eggs, and we would set out to create "art" on eggs, spending a few hours of laughter, joy, and friendship together right after their exams were done. I am among many people now who have beautiful memories of those parties.
Tonight I set out to color the eggs by myself, not even bothering to ask my grown-up kids to be a part of the little ceremony. I was surprised to see my younger son come into the kitchen with his friend Pouria and seeing the little project in progress, taking over! So, they did the job in the manner of disorganized and sloppy young men, as expected. But the gesture was so sweet, I couldn't help being touched. So, I let them do as they pleased. Imperfectly colored and showing white spots, they are among the most beautiful eggs I have ever had for my haft sin, because this year I am sure my eggs are painted with the color of love. Have a good Tuesday everybody.
P.S. I'm going to Berkeley Persian Center's annual Charshanbeh Soori celebrations tomorrow. If you live in this area, don't miss the biggest event of the year for Iranian community in the San Francisco Bay Area. Come early to find parking. Though you can't possibly miss it, it is at the 2000 block of Durant in Berkeley, between Shattuck and Milvia. Zardi-e man az to, Sorkhi-e- to az man!


Making Do Without Tajrish

You will have to forgive the way my pictures are layed out on this post. I struggled with it for an hour, having to redo the photo uploads tens of times, and finally gave up. If you like to see any of these pictures in detail, just click on it.
Absent the possibility of going to Tajrish for my Nowrooz shopping today, I went to Target to buy some items for my Nowrooz spread. I bought an egg coloring kit. Continuing on my "solo" weekend theme, I stopped to have lunch by myself.
I then went to Albany to visit with one of my oldest and dearest friends in this area. Her name is Monir Zand and she runs a very successful deli/store, specializing in Middle-Eastern foods. Around Nowrooz in this area, Zand Market is the place to visit! She has a good selection of all things Nowrooz, which she has lovingly put together in anticipation of her friends. Monir is one of the nicest, most generous, and bravest women I have ever known. Her beautiful daughter, Arezoo, helps her out these days and Monir can't stop talking about how grateful she is for all that help.
After I finished shopping for my rather extensive shopping list, and as I waited for Monir to come have a cup of tea with me, I sat at a table watching all the Iranians who came through to do their shopping. It was really relaxing and joyful to be observing people, I am glad to report.
These are three generations of Shirazi's. The grandmother spoke Farsi with the sweetest Shirazi accent. Her daughter is married to an American, and that is half-Iranian-half-American Kian in the stroller, a very good baby, indeed.
There was a large assortment of Nowrooz sweets and candy. My personal favorites are the ones Monir and Arezoo made. When I got home, I had to tell the boys to stay away from the box containing the goodies, for without a warning, they would leave nothing until Wednesday night!
So, these four guys are college students who live in the area. I knew Mojan, who is Ala Hazrat's friend at San Francisco State University. The other three go to Vista College, De Anza College, and UC Berkeley. Yes, you guessed right, I was fozool and asked them a lot of questions. A wonderful bunch of smart young people. Mojan is an artist who plays the Ney beautifully.
These three lovely women were a highly educated and professional grandmother, Tahereh, her lovely daughter, Haydeh, and the sweetest little grandchild, Sheida, who is named after her great grandmother! Sheida danced for us in the middle of the shop, too!
This man and his baby, Kian (yes, two Kians in one place), were doing some "manly" shopping for Nowrooz! Kian so wanted to have my camera!
Zand Market's gorgeous Haft Sin spread.
And so, I have everything I need, except for the goldfish. I end my weekend feeling accomplished in some areas, and mentally refreshed. I apologize again for the format of this post. I know it's a mess, but I couldn't forego the pictures. Have a good week ahead y'all.


Tajrish On My Mind

Preparing for Nowrooz, Tehran, March 15, 2008. Photo by Hadi Tabrizi, IRNA.

With some small deviations, I am keeping to my promise of taking it easy this weekend. I went for a long solitary walk earlier this afternoon, but I was caught in an isolated rain and hail storm, the type that happens around this time of the year. Moosh-e-abkeshieh had to return home quickly, completely soaked!
I walked through the trail that must be one of the most beautiful places I have ever walked, looking at fruit tree branches covered in gorgeous multi-colored blossoms, the new season green of the grass, the brimming creek running in twists and turns, and the flowerbeds covered in sweet daisies and California's famous mustard flowers. As I walked, though, I was thinking about somewhere else. I was thinking about Tajrish Bazaar, with its hustle and bustle of this time of the year. I was thinking of stacks of gorgeous miniature radishes and fresh basil and mint, its huge pots of wheat germ soup, samanoo, the rows after rows of goldfish in tiny jars, and the fish markets where an assortment of fish from Caspian to Persian Gulf are presented beautifully. I was thinking of all those crowds of people who make Tajrish even more crowded at this time of the year, each carrying an armload of Nowrooz necessities and niceties. I was thinking how much I miss Tehran and how I wished I had a short videoclip of all that activity to watch and to join in the contagious joy of the season. Emamzadeh Saleh must be so busy at this time, with all the people making their year-end visits, whispering their wishes and hopes in that quaint little building. I walked and walked and it was as though my body was not walking on this patch of earth, but on the crooked backstreets of Tajrish, smelling the scents of Nowrooz and drowning in the noise and air of my beloved city, Tehran.
Coming back to reality, I issued my three house residents an ultimatum about their very last chance to clean their respective rooms and bathrooms, this being the last weekend before Nowrooz. I managed to get a commitment for tomorrow, which is pretty good, considering how little they think of sweeping, dusting, cleaning, and tidying up! Their girl friend (the space in between the words is intentional to signify her just being a friend) volunteered to oversee their progress, which is a great relief to me, as supervising lazy young men doing something they hate to do would not be consistent with my efforts to "take it easy," and will no doubt bring my colitis attack right back!
Though my soaked plate of lentils, sabzeh, is showing potential, it doesn't seem enough to assure me that I will have it ready by Wednesday night. This happens to me every single year! I will have to wait until the last day and if I still have a sparse (kachal) sabzeh, I will have to run to my friend, Monir Zand for help! She runs a deli and Middle East market in Albany, and is usually doing good business this time of the year. I hope your Nowrooz preparations are coming along nicely. With or without a successful sabzeh, I am going to have my home ready for Nowrooz by the end of this weekend. I love a home that understands the seasons, occasions, and traditions and observes them. I try to run just such a house now in preparation for Nowrooz. I love my house, I love my house residents, I love my life. I love all those who will come through it to celebrate with me shortly. I really do. Have a good weekend everybody.


Love Yourselves

Toos Foundation reviews Persian dance history in London, March 2008, BBC Persian.
And so, it's Friday. I am trying to take it easy, really trying. This was another eventful and exhausting week. I decided not to go to a musical event in Oakland tonight, and instead go visit my friend, Rojan, at her house for a couple of hours. She is a talented singer and a very kind and loving woman. I will take it easy with a small circle of friends and some great Kurdish music, instead. Before I leave, though, I thought I would put up my Friday post.
My younger son is getting a hang of this driving business and the independence it offers him. An hour ago, he went to look at the by now empty refrigerator, and announced that if I gave him a shopping list, he would go grocery shopping! I gave him the list, some money, and the car keys quickly without blinking an eye! Hee Hee, that was a sweet gesture, a first, and it made me so happy!
My photo essay on the Simin Behbahani event was published today. You can see it here if you live outside Iran. Unfortunately, Iranian.com is filtered in Iran. I am working on a story that is making me smile as I write it! It is the story of a friend of mine in which I write about his learning about love and respect from his teenage daughter. The story is a good one, a very funny one, and I hope to be able to pull it off and tell a good tale. Soon.
So, O.K. I thought long and hard about what I would write in the last paragraph of my Friday post today. I usually talk about love and affection for those we love. The funny thing is that I actually mean all that advice I write about! These days, as I hurt a little bit and get hit with bouts of sadness at other people's selfishness, carelessness and wreckless behavior, it is a bit hard for me to write things I don't feel one hundred percent. So, instead, I urge you to do as I am about to do this weekend. Spend some time with yourselves! Lick any wounds you may have, and prop yourselves up! Love yourselves and reflect on all the wonderful things you do have, not on what you are missing. Disregard your worries and pains, throwing them into an imaginary big river passing right through your mind, one by one. Clean your hearts of feelings of helplessness and weakness. Remember that though we are no bigger than a small particle in relation to the magnificient universe in which we live, when we think our world has come to an end, in fact it hasn't! Build yourselves up to feel good and strong, in charge of your environment, your decisions, and your life. That's what I'm going to be doing this weekend. Well, O.K., truth be told, I will work on loving myself a little bit, while at the same time still loving everybody else around me, I know of no other way! I will just be doing a lot of reflection, that's all. Have a good weekend you all. Here's a little eid-e-shoma mobarak song from the legendary Haydeh for you.


Santuri in Berkeley

My friends and I went to see Dariush Mehrjui's Santuri in Berkeley tonight. I hope I don't offend anyone if I say that I was very disappointed. What is so special about another movie that depicts Iran's social ills? We have seen so much of that over the recent years both in real life and in the movies. I thought the lead actress's performance was not very good, though I thought Radan pulled off his part quite successfully. The role of the father was done very well, too, and of course the homeless drug addicts also delivered a believable account.
Perhaps I am not a fair critic of movies. I believe that cinema is about entertainment. It must be an escape from painful realities of life, which should leave you recreated and entertained in the end. I really dislike movies which make me sad, feeling cheated when the movie is over. In Tehran I once saw a movie, most of which followed some painful experiences I had had in my life. I didn't feel entertained, because I couldn't escape from the realities of my life for the duration of the movie, so I sat there and cried for two hours and the memory of that awful movie continues to haunt me to this day. Even in the genre of "real" and "social consciousness" movies, I enjoyed Offside a lot more than this one. Remember Makhmalbaf's Salam Cinema? It talked about social realities of Iran, but without inflicting pain on the viewer. Those are my kinds of movies. I even liked Bachehaye Aseman and Rang-e-Khoda better than this one.
The music was nice. Ardavan Kamkar, the youngest of the Kamkars Ensemble, had done a good job of bringing excitement to the film through music. Sorry if I am really off the mark here, but I like Kiarostami and Makhmalbaf and Tabrizi movies a lot more, because they provoke thought without too much pain, bringing a much softer approach to real life, occasionally making us laugh.
Have a good evening you all.

Slowing Down, Maybe

Interviewing Loris Tjeknavorian, Sunday March 9, 2008 in Berkeley. Photo by Jahanshah Javid.
My body has decided to put the emergency breaks on me! I woke up in the middle of night with a colitis attack and will now have to slow down my breakneck speed. I'm O.K., but will have to keep a slower pace for a while. This would be somewhat hard to accomplish, because of several writing pieces I have in different stages of development, Nowrooz just around the corner, my dear guests arriving soon, and getting ready for hosting my friends for a dinner party soon. We'll see.
I will write excerpts from Simin Behbahani's beautiful speech here. The woman is so wise and so brave, and of course a priceless poet. Let me know if you want to see more, and I will write more of her moving speech here.
"I am but a poet, one among the many; undoubtedly, a small fish, in the ocean that is the world. By profession, I have been a teacher; and I well know there are teachers and philosophers in this world much, much worthier than I in their wisdom and knowledge to offer any advice.
But my heart tells me, you, too, must say something. Let them laugh at you, let them call you mad, or even try to kill you. Nothing is left wanting your life to wory about it so much. So, I declare: the world is a wreck; the Middle East the greatest wreck; and religion the excuse for creating this wreck."

From Simin Behbahani's acceptance speech at Stanford's Bita Award Ceremony, March 11, 2008.

If I feel better tomorrow, I will go to see Mehrjui's Santuri in Berkeley and will tell you about it (Thursday, March 13th at 5, 7, & 9 p.m. at Oaks Theater, 1875 Solano Ave, Berkeley). Have a good Thursday you all.


Simin Behbahani's Night

My friend and I went to Stanford tonight to attend an award ceremony, honoring Iranian poet, Simin Behbahani. The event was co-hosted by Dr. Abbas Milani of Stanford's Iranian Studies and Bita Daryabari (formerly Kordestani), whose "Bita Prize for Literature and Freedom" went to Ms. Behbahani. I hope you don't think I'm showing off! But I thought you might appreciate seeing the pictures of very interesting and famous people in attendance. I am exhausted now, so I'll write a better post tomorrow. Goodnight.
Hadi Khorsandi, poet, satirist, and comedian. Shahrnush Parsipoor, author. Dr. Abbas Milani, scholar and author. Simin Behbahani, poet. Simin Behbahani with Ostad Zolfonoon, master Tar player and composer.
Maestro Loris Tjeknavorian, composer and wold music conductor.


Getting Ready For Love

Preparing for Nowrooz in Tehran flower market, photo by Marzieh Moussavi, IRNA, March 10, 2008.
I worked like a madwoman today, trying to catch up with my outstanding commitments, paperwork, and such. My progress has been somewhat impressive, I'm glad to report! All through the day, though, as I was trying to escape the thoughts of some evil behavior I have been witnessing of late, I was thinking about how I need to do a spring cleaning of my heart, too, a real internal khooneh takooni!
I am expecting dear guests in my home soon, and I have to prepare for their arrival. As I add even more things to my to-do-list for Nowrooz, I am filled with joy and excitement. I am reminded yet again, that the most valuable things in life aren't material at all. They are of a texture and substance that cannot be traded, bought, or sold. Their true embodiment and emergence can only happen in a good, open, and generous heart. I must open my heart to be able to have those valuable things. I am getting ready to throw away some ill feelings and broken pieces in my heart and soul, forgetting fleeting betrayals and human shortcomings, making room in the brightest, most loving spot of it to receive something fabulous, priceless, and uncomparable to anything else. I am getting ready for Nowrooz. I am getting ready for love.

An Eventful Sunday

Dinner and interview with Maestro Loris Tjeknavorian, Berkeley, Sunday, March 9, 2008.
I can't believe how late I got home tonight. I went to traffic school all day, and ended up going to see Darvag group's excellent new play, In Memory of Kazem Ashtari, in Berkeley. I was delighted to meet Maestro Loris Tjeknavorian at the play. He graciously agreed to be interviewed for a piece I will be writing soon. In search of a good time where his busy schedule would allow the meeting, we ended up agreeing to do the interview after the play. So he and I and a group of good friends went to my favorite restaurant in Berkeley and got it done. He is such a charming man, a true Iranian, and is full of life and kindness and love and humor. The man is really really funny, I'm not kidding you! I will start working on my story tomorrow and will let you see it as soon as it's ready.
So, it was a really long, exhausting, and exciting day. This will have to do for now. I didn't manage to reply to my emails or to your kind comments this weekend. There simply aren't enough hours in a day, it seems. I'll have to work on my time management this week. Have a good Monday y'all.


Affection in Downtown Berkeley

A young pantomime artist performs in downtown Berkeley, Friday, March 7, 2008.
I ran to the bank to get some cash for the weekend late yesterday afternoon. It is no surprise to see artists perform in this area of Berkeley. This was a bit unusual, though, hence my photo opportunity! I stood right in front of the young woman who was artfully staying completely motionless, and clicked some photographs. As I was taking the pictures, a man approached her from behind and said: "BOOOOO!" She didn't react and didn't move. I told the man "Stop harassing her!" The man came towards me and said: "What?" I said: "You can't harass her. She is an artist and she is doing this for all of us. It is very rude and extremely poor form to harass an artist like this." Though I was ready for it, the man didn't say anything and moved on. I went to drop a dollar bill in the young woman's vase, where she was collecting contributions. When I stood up from having bent to drop the money in, I saw someting sweet! The young woman had turned towards me, and had assumed the pose of someone blowing a kiss at someone from the palm of her hand! Hee Hee, I got my own pose dedicated to me from the artist! And I don't think it was because of the dollar bill I dropped in the vase! You know, we really must speak up when we see people doing something which isn't right. Who knows? We might get a surprise kiss in return!
My sons are getting ready to go out. I hear them talking and listening to the Beatles in the other room. They are laughing while listening to "With a Little Help From My Friends." Do you need anybody? I need somebody to love... Could it be anybody? I need somebody to love...
I had to miss sweet Leva's birthday party, as I have to attend traffic school all day tomorrow. I have to be in class very early in the morning. Can you think of a worse torture on a Sunday? Well, I was the one who jumped that yellow-turned-red-in-the-middle-of-the-cross-section. If I want the moving violation removed from my impeccable driving record (save for that car I rear-ended last May), I will have to go learn the driving rules all over again. I doubt it very much, but if anything exciting happens in class I'll be sure to report back.
So, it was a week of surprise news and learnings and kisses for me. I hope everyone is enjoying their weekend, receiving more kisses and fewer lessons than I did! Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends... I get high with a little help from my friends... Mmm gonna try with a little help from my friends...

Friday Surprise

Maestro Anoushirvan Rohani plays an impromptu performance, appearing as a "surprise guest" at SFSU's Nowrooz Party, San Francisco, March 7, 2008.
I missed my Friday post! To make up for it, I share with you about three minutes of a poorly-lit, but sufficiently audible videoclip I took of Maestro Anoushirvan Rohani, playing some of his much beloved melodies. It was an awesome event, thanks to Mehran and his friends. I will come back a little later to write my Saturday post. In the meantime, enjoy the music, forgiving me for my very elementary equipment and video technique!
Love like there's no tomorrow. That would have been my Friday message. Like there is no tomorrow.


Memories of Stores

Taleghan Dam, last Friday, February 29, 2008. Photo by Universal Farshad. Take a look at the breathtaking reflection of those mountains in the half-frozen water. Thank you, Uni-Far.
I ended an exhausting day at the office and rushed to have dinner with two of my sisters. It was a really wonderful time, spent chit chatting and catching up on each other's doings. My sister will leave again on Saturday, and this was my last chance to see her on this trip. The three of us walked into Macy's after dinner and I was reminded of all the years we were poor and broke as students, when our favorite pastime was walking around in shopping malls, never being able to afford buying anything! Perhaps now I can afford to buy things, but I find that I like shopping less and less, only succumbing to the activity when I absolutely need something. Just the same, it was sweet to walk down the empty giant store, talking and laughing. I said goodbye to my lovely sister who is getting ready to go hold the twins in Paris for Nowrooz.
I am going to SFSU Iranian Culture Club's Nowrooz party tomorrow night, organized and managed by His Majesty, Ala Hazrat Haj Agha, and then on to celebrate his birthday with our other friends. Something rare and fabulous is also happening tomorrow night: my kids and their friends are also going to the event with me! Well, they aren't really going with me, but they'll be at the same place as me! I gave up trying to go anywhere with them a long time ago, realizing that as they age, it is less acceptable for them to be hanging out with their mother in public! Hee Hee, I just remembered a memory!
When my older son was 15 or 16, one afternoon he and I went to Super Jordan to shop. I had a small cart which was filling up quickly with the things I was throwing in it, and my son was pushing the cart down the narrow isle. At one point I went to get some milk and when I came back, there was a bottle of Delester, the popular non-alcoholic Iranian beer, in my cart. I thought someone had put it in there by mistake. So, I picked it up and looked around to see who was shopping in my vicinity. At this time, my son said to me: "That's mine!" I looked at him with surprise and asked him: "Really? You like Delester? That's interesting! Why did you take just one? Get some more!" In the time it took me to say those words with joy, I noticed that my son had disappeared! I looked around and he was nowhere to be found. I paid and took the things to the car, scanning the street, but I couldn't see my son. What happened to him? When I got home he was there, but looking sullen and quiet. I asked him what had happened to him and he said that I had embarrassed him by getting so excited over the Delester business, and he had decided to leave! I guess I might have gotten a bit loud with the joy of discovering something about his changing taste, and this had embarrassed him! I decided then that whenever in public with my children, I will act "cool" and "detached," because it will be a number of years before hanging out with the older woman who loves them and oooh's and aaaah's over them becomes something welcome and acceptable. These are the years I must be keeping my public distance from them, and I do it willingly. They know and I know, that the unfazed demeanor and the quiet lips of their mother have left all the work of loving and expressing affection for them to her eyes which scan the room to see them and guide her heart to get filled with pride and love, while all the time looking oh-so-cool and indifferent.
Happy Friday everybody. I'll write my Friday post late tomorrow night and reply to your kind comments then. Be good y'all.


Waiting For A New Day

A slideshow about the Bakhtiari Tribe in Iran. I don't like a couple of the slides with the Shah and Soraya Bakhtiari in them, but the rest of them are authentic and spectacular and the music is really sweet; talks about end of winter and the coming of Eid.
I took the day off to attend some errands and to take care of some Nowrooz chores. I took my younger son for his driving test at the DMV. He passed. I am delighted for his achievement which means something special to people who are 18. I am worried for what will be in store for me over the coming months, judging from his older brother's car wrecks and ensued worries right after he got his driver's license! I am glad my son is on his way to independent living, the way all young people should be. I should learn to worry less.
Some major clean-up projects are taking place in my head and in my physical surroundings. My mind and my heart are full of Nowrooz, a new day. I can't wait. I can't wait.


Boy Meets Girl (III)

View from the 29th floor Boardroom, 44 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, today at 3:00 p.m.
One day Mehrdad called to see if I wanted to have lunch the next day after school. Things were a bit easier for me now with my mother, so she gave me permission to go out for 2 hours after school. The next day, when he picked me up 45 minutes late in his banged up Jian, I was shocked to see Mehrdad! His left eye was shut, swollen, and black; his lips had a gash in them and his clothes were crumpled and soiled. “Oh My God! What happened to you?” I asked! He wouldn't say, as he started the car, driving fast and recklessly. I decided to play it cool and wait. Taking a deep breath, I asked where we were going. He said: "Somewhere where nobody knows us." So we went to Baghcheh Evin, an old-fashioned tea house in Northwestern Tehran, where the only food served was deezy. I ordered food and tea, and got Mehrdad a wet Kleenex and handed it to him with a mirror, telling him to check out the blood on his upper lip. He did and returned the mirror to me, saying "If my lip didn't hurt so much, I would laugh right about now!" So, that was a good sign for me to ask him what had happened.
He said it had all started with Vahid's telling him yesterday morning that he had had a brainstorm and had come up with a brilliant idea to finally "meet" that girl and start talking to her, except that his plan needed Mehrdad's help. Mehrdad had listened intently when Vahid explained his scenario to him. "Mehrdad, I think girls like heroes. How about if something happens and I come to her rescue? She's got to start talking to me then! I have a brilliant plan. How about if as she gets close to the bus station tomorrow, you approach her very quickly, run into her, and make her lose her balance and drop her books? I can then arrive on the scene, push you around a bit, then bend to collect her books and hand them to her, and then I will introduce myself and we can start our friendship together."
Mehrdad told Vahid it didn't sound like a very good idea, and there was no way he was going to be "pushed around!" Vahid kept begging Mehrdad and Mehrdad eventually agreed, in return for 20 toomans and Vahid's promise that he wouldn't be too rough to him when "pushing him around."
Mehrdad and Vahid waited by the school that day. The minute the tall girl appeared, Vahid gave Mehrdad the orders to start walking toward her, with Vahid following him a few steps behind. Mehrdad was heading straight for the girl at a fast pace, gaining speed and force as he approached her. He aimed and hit his shoulder against the girl's opposite shoulder, startling her, and causing her to lose her balance, her books and bag flying out of her hands and falling strewn all over the sidewalk. Several bystanders saw this and stood frozen with the shock of the event. At this time Vahid descended on Mehrdad, grabbed him by the collar, and slapped him hard across the face twice, punching him in the stomach. Dizzy with the shock and pain of the strike, Mehrdad looked at Vahid perplexed and confused for a minute, doubling over with pain. He looked at Vahid and yelled: "Vahid, namard, to keh gofti yavash mizanam!" (Vahid, you S.O.B., I thought you told me you won't hit me hard!).
The crowd gathered around the spectacle hissed with surprise and dismay at hearing this. Vahid who had bent over to pick up the girl's books looked up and saw the girl's anguished and angry face. When he stood up to hand her her books, he was faced with a slap across the face from her. Some other people bent over and picked up the girl's remaining books, handing them to her, and she took off toward the bus station, shaken up and pale, without a word. Vahid turned around and looked at Mehrdad who was in pain and anguished, too. But Vahid had no sympathy for his friend at this time; he saw him as the cause of his loss of that girl forever, so he got busy, beating poor Mehrdad up! That's how Mehrdad got the black eye and the bruised and cut lip. Add to that his bruised ego and his disappointment in the way his best friend had treated him, the young man was a sight, above and beyond consolation.
Our food and tea arrived, but it was quite evident that Mehrdad was in no shape to eat and drink anything. So, I encouraged him to drive us home and go have someone take a look at that lip. As he started looking and feeling better several weeks later, and for years to come, every time I saw him, our inside joke was for me to whisper to him: "Vahid, namard, to keh gofti yavash mizanam!"
The End


Boy Meets Girl (II)

My sister's Narges (narcissi) bouquet, March 1, 2008, Sacramento.
In his school, Mehrdad had many boy and girl classmates, and he told me about them all the time. His best friend at school was Vahid, whom he really adored. He was forever telling me stories about the games he and Vahid played and how much fun they had. One winter, for several weeks Mehrdad was telling me how Vahid had fallen in love with a girl. Though they had many girl classmates at school, Vahid had fallen in love with a beautiful tall girl from another all-girls school nearby, who would walk to the bus station just outside their school everyday to get on the bus home. Vahid had noticed this girl and was desperate to somehow start talking with her, but could never find the opportunity. The girl would hardly ever look at her surroundings, would walk alone and fast to the bus station and disppear everyday. Mehrdad told me about Vahid's waiting by his school everyday to watch the girl come and go without a word. He told me Vahid had become quiet and very sad with the love of this mysterious girl who wouldn't even look at him, let alone talk to him. Mehrdad thought Vahid was seriously obsessed with the idea of finding a way to talk to this girl and winning her heart. He was sad for his friend, but didn't know what to do. I was no help, either, of course! I wouldn't know how to begin giving boys older than myself advice about winning a girl's heart.
To Be continued.... (Sorry, I'm exhausted and will need to come finish this story some other time, and answer your wonderful comments then, too.)


Boy Meets Girl (I)

My sister prepares for Nowrooz at her house, March 1, 2008, Sacramento.
In the neighborhood where I grew up, everybody knew everybody. I don't mean the next door neighbors or the neighbors down the street. Everybody knew everybody in the entire suburban neighborhood! To be exact, my father knew everybody and everybody knew my father and our family. This made a lot of things easier for us as children of that household, as people always greeted us by name and local merchants were always attentive to us. But it was also a hassle, as we couldn't really get too naughty and do things because we would be immediately recognized and reported to my parents! Going out with boys and being rowdy on the street, and engaging in mischievous behavior, therefore, was a bit awkward because my mother would soon get wind of it and I'd have hell to pay! Around the age of 15, then, I decided to tell my mother everything I did and everywhere I went. I knew half the time she wouldn't give me permission to go, but when she did for the other half, I was home Scott free!
Among the many boys in our neighborhood, there was a skinny boy named Mehrdad. At 16, one year older than me when I first met him, he was funny and brave, and drove a beat-up old Jian, even though he didn't have a driver's license yet. My mother was friends with Mehrdad's mother, so when I started talking to her about Mehrdad and occasionally hanging out with him on our street, she seemed unfazed by the friendship. Perhaps in her wiser state, she could see that this friendship was not a boy-girl type of relationship, the type that was seriously supervised and disdained by families at the time, but that it was a friendship without emotional (read physical!) attraction. So she allowed it to go on.
Mehrdad and I were basically up to no good, but in a good way! We would get together and smoke and talk about boys, girls, our friends, our incomplete and ignored homework, and about anything and everything under the sun. Mehrdad taught me how good it is to have a friend from the opposite sex, who doesn't want to hold you and kiss you and date you, and instead, just wants to talk to you to find out what you think. He taught me about how boys thought, what they felt and what made them do the things they did without any inhibitions or reservations, I guess because we had no stakes in each other. I learned then how important it is to have male friends who are just friends. I could ask Mehrdad anything and he would try to answer me, albeit in his limited wisdom and experience!
As years went by, our lives and experiences would change shape, also. Mehrdad was attending a co-ed high school in Tehran. His stories about his high school life were becoming a lot more interesting than mine, attending a comparatively boring all-girls high school! Sometimes we would meet up after school and go have lunch before going home together, talking about life all the time.
To Be Continued... (Sorry, this was all background. I'll tell you one of my Mehrdad stories tomorrow.)


Tulips, Ducks, Piano, and Love

My niece, Nikou, 14, plays the music of my heart, March 1, 2008.

I let my family take me, drive me, feed me, hug and hold me today. You know, on a par with giving and generosity, receiving and accepting kindness can also be an art form. When people go out of their way to be nice to us, we need to know how to receive that attention and simply say "thank you," instead of resisting and voicing pleasantries, taarof. I am so grateful for my family's putting up with me! I show up occasionally, have a jolly good time with them, and then I disappear for long periods of time, where they don't hear much from me. I have so much going on in my life, it becomes really easy to ignore the one group of people who do love me the most and continually put up with me. On days like today, when I reach out to them and let them take care of me, I think to myself how crazy it has been to have let this time go by where there was such a wonderful source of energy and love waiting for me all along. I'll do better, I promise myself.
My sweet niece, Yasi, drove me, bought me coffee, and let me talk nonstop about some things on my mind. She listened and her words helped me. A lot! My sister's home was all ready for Nowrooz. She had flowers, tulips and hyacinths everywhere, and had candles and sweets in every corner of her sweet little house in Sacramento. Her children were so good to me, I guess happy to see their missing Khaleh after a few weeks!
I was surprised to see that my sister had two ducks in her swimming pool. She said this is the second year those two have shown up in her backyard! Last year they came and roosted and had 12 ducklings right in her backyard, which one of the neighbors adopted later. This year it was just the two of them and no others. I told her she should keep an eye on them, lest they are there to deliver another 12 ducklings to the world! She was telling me how the ducklings would automatically follow their mother into the swimming pool, but were unable to leave it after their swim, quacking and crying until she would go to their rescue and pull them out of the water! Having stepped out to have a smoke, I stood there watching them be so loving to each other for a long time. I even watched them go to sleep next to one another when it got dark! Amazing.
I hope your Saturday was filled with as much tenderness as mine was. I am so peaceful tonight. I am so lucky.