LAST WORD: Coming-Down-With-Covid-Chicken Soup

By Melissa Knox-Raab

Freshly boiled Chicken Soup

I am reprinting a favorite recipe of mine here: Coming-Down-With-Covid-Chicken Soup

It’s probably just a cold–tested negative. But this soup is delicious, inexpensive to make (about eleven euros for at least ten servings) and filled with flavor. 

I took one important hint from Martha Stewart: start by putting the chicken in cold water. I didn’t take her other piece of advice, which is to add a tablespoon of salt. Forget that. Start very simply: a large Dutch oven–I used my trusty Le Creuset. You will need:

  • One pack of chicken wings or drumsticks–or if you want to get fancy, what Germans call a “soup hen.”
  • One pack of “Suppengrün” (800 grams) which typically comes with a big hunk of celery root, three or four carrots, a leek or two, and fresh parsley.
  • Garlic, fresh, lots
  • Ginger – to taste, fresh
  • A red onion or two
  • Turmeric – fresh or powdered
  • A strip (about eight inches) of Kelp (available in most stores selling Asian food products)
  • Olive oil
  • Dry vegetable broth

The recipe:

Remove the chicken wings from package and place them in the Dutch oven. Fill almost to top with water, cover, and set on stove to boil.

Slice the red onions, the garlic, the leeks and the ginger and sautée them in olive oil. Set aside. Rinse the celery root, carrots, parsley. Slice but do not yet add.

Check the chicken broth. After 20-30 minutes, scum will appear–take a small sieve, skim it off. Rinse the sieve and skim again. Cover chicken and let simmer around fifteen minutes more. Skim again. 

Add turmeric, leeks, ginger, red onions, garlic. Stir. Let simmer around fifteen minutes. 

Add all except the parsley. Allow to simmer till the carrots are soft. Stir. Taste. Add vegetable broth–to taste. I used two tablespoons full. 

Add parsley. Stir. Consume! The chicken will be falling off the bones. You will feel much better.

Abortion in Danger

By Laurine Viel

Picture of Laurine Viel
Picture of Laurine Viel

Donna is from Georgia. She was eight years old when her stepfather started to abuse her. After another abuse by her stepfather, Donna became pregnant. She was fifteen years old when this tragic event occured. She was scared to tell her mother that it was her stepfather’s and lied, saying it was her boyfriend’s. Donna could not fathom giving birth to a child, not only conceived by abuse but also by her mother’s husband : Donna’s stepfather. She therefore decided to abort. What else could she have done?  What should she tell her child later? “My stepfather is both your grandfather and your biological father. Yes, and he sexually abused me from the age of eight to seventeen, when I was still a little girl.” All the questions that came to her mind, but also the answers, seemed baffling, each one more than the other. It is inconceivable for a young girl and a mother-to-be to imagine having to explain this situation to her child. A mother wants the best for her child. That is, to allow her child to grow by protecting him or her as much as possible from what could hurt and distress him or her, which is in Donna’s case impossible. Indeed, even before the child could be born, the conception that Donna experienced was a shattering and traumatic event for her. All the more so, since after the abortion Donna’s stepfather did not stop abusing her. In fact, he continued until she was seventeen years old. Donna’s story echoed in me when a month ago, the media outlet Politico published a document revealing that the Supreme Court had drafted a decision that would overturn the famous Roe v. Wade decision. This Supreme Court decision gave women safe and legal access to abortion and made abortion a constitutional right in 1973. Almost 50 years after Roe v. Wade; it is now time to stop restricting and challenging women’s rights.

In theory, equal rights for men and women are simple. As the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. From this point on, there should be no doubts or questioning of these rights. However, from a physiological point of view, only women can get pregnant and therefore have an abortion. The foetus exists inside a woman’s body, not a man’s. Because men do not get pregnant and to restore equality, it is thus the woman’s decision whether or not to have an abortion. If abortion rights are denied, then the woman’s freedom is restricted.  We cannot let the Supreme Court justices, made up of a majority of men, decide for us – women. It is not one politician or government official’s decision. They act as if we, women, are heartless, irresponsible and incapable of making our own medical decisions. Our bodies will go through pregnancy and abortion as well; our voice must have more weight. Our body, our choices.

As a young woman of 20 years old, born in France, I have always known the possibility of having an abortion in complete safety. I never imagined that this fundamental right would possibly be taken away from me. Being privileged by my situation, by the country in which I grew up, I thought this right was inviolable. Innocently, it seemed impossible to me until then that countries allowing abortion could reverse their decision. I only thought possible that this right would be extended to many other countries, but not the other way around. What is even more striking and alarming is to think that it is the world’s leading power that will possibly reverse its decision and take a step backwards. A country that in the eyes of the rest of the world is a country of progress, a country that thinks big, a country of success, a country that makes people dream, a country of freedom. It is therefore very frightening because being the first world power, the USA are considered as a role model and the risk, if they decide to modify the right to abortion, is that other countries will follow example as they have always done. Only this time it will not have the same impact. This is not about the establishment of American shops or fast food chains in Europe or in any countries in the world. No, this is about a fundamental right that Simone Veil in France, in 1975, fought for too. In other countries, many women have also fought so that future generations will have more freedom. We, in 2022, do not want to go down that road again. Many women have already suffered too much and for them, we must preserve this legacy. Abortion must remain a right and as modern women, in 2022, we will fight and do everything we can to keep our abortion rights and have our voices heard.

For many women around the wolrd, abortion saved their lives at a time when pregnancy was not a viable option for them or their prospective child. As a woman, I hope to never have to undergo an abortion. However, if for whatever reasons I want to terminate the pregnancy, I hope that like Donna, I will be able to decide on my own what I want to do with my body because no one else should make that decision, but me. In this case, I am hoping that I will be allowed to make use of the fundamental right to an abortion.

Why I Write

By Beyza Yildiz

Picture of Beyza Yildiz
Picture of Beyza Yildiz

In school, my friends and I used to write each other letters where we talked about our daily lives and the things that annoyed us about teachers and other students. We would write the letters with our best pens, draw little flowers and hearts in the corners and put cute stickers on the envelopes before we sneaked the letters into each other’s bags. I cannot remember how this secret started, but I am glad it did because in those letters we could write about things that we would be too shy to say to each other in a face-to-face conversation. I recall talking about my issues at home and how I was so scared of the final Abitur exams. Talking about my parent’s disputes and how they affect me seems weird to talk about in a school break, doesn’t it? Well, in letters it doesn’t because my friend can just read it in private and my concern is still there – it is timeless.

On the Internet I once read about someone who advised reading when you feel underwhelmed or bored, and writing when you feel overwhelmed. The idea of writing whenever I felt very caught up in my own thoughts was very helpful at that time and became a habit since then. Taking advantage of one’s blurred thoughts makes a lot of sense because it helps in identifying one’s feelings and describing them in a way that depicts one’s mood. Journaling or keeping a diary is one of the ways many people cope with stress and impulses of the outside world, but to me writing is usually the most helpful when I feel really sad and bottle up all the feelings inside of me. Then, writing is my only escape and I use it to express my thoughts, feelings, ideas, worries and concerns.

In my first years of school I used to hate tests that graded our writing skills because I could not organize my thoughts and put sentences on the paper that said what I meant. This especially had to do with my bilingual upbringing because I could think of the correct Turkish word for something, but not the German one. In characterizations for example, I had trouble finding the German word for scarf, even though I knew it in Turkish. This is still a problem that haunts me to this day, and English and a little bit of Spanish added to this. There is for example a Turkish word “keyif” which roughly translates to “enjoyment” in English, however, the connotations of this word are not the same. Problems like this drive me to be a better writer because I want people to understand the feelings and nostalgia the word “keyif” conveys. A one-word translation may not transfer the feelings this word carries, but when someone pours him-/herself a cup of black tea after a long day of work and drinks the tea with a nice piece of cake on the balcony, then “keyif” has a much better illustration than the mere translation “enjoyment”.

In high school I had much more fun in writing because teachers allowed us to include our own opinions e.g., our evaluation of a historical event and its reception today. This encouraged my confidence in writing and later became one of my strengths compared to the sciences or maths. The task that I was most anxious about was getting easier with each writing task and I learned to overcome my insecurity concerning the language barrier caused by vocab-confusion.

Today I write because it is one of the most important skills that a Bachelor of Arts diploma requires, but I also write because it helps clear my mind and strengthen my confidence in observation skills. It is important to write so everyone can be included in sharing the beauties of written pieces, no matter the language. While translation may be a barrier between the understanding of a word, writings can convey the same meaning by illustrating the adequate picture of the word. Additionally, writing creates a piece that is timeless and can be passed down to other generations, so that today’s concerns, wishes and excitements can be understood by others in the future.

On Becoming an Adult

By Tina Wolf

“That horrifying moment when you are looking for an adult, but you realise you are an adult. So you look around for an older adult. An adultier adult. Someone better at adulting than you.” (Internet meme, author unknown)

When I was a child, I believed that by the time they turned 30, people had their lives sorted out. At 30, you were a proper adult. Now that I have just turned 40, I know this to be untrue. It is in fact a complete and utter lie. I still look around and think, there are “real adults” and then there is me. Real adults have all their paperwork neatly sorted in different folders marked “insurance” “taxes” or “bills”. I have a big box full of paperwork that gets sorted out just before I have to file my taxes. Real adults track their expenses. I have never done that even though deep down I know I probably should. Real adults dress their age. I most definitely do not – and believe me when I say I have tried! But even in a pinstripe suit, I constantly get asked whether I am the new intern rather than the English teacher when I encounter a new group of serious, besuited German businesspeople at a new company I am meant to teach a course of business English. So I might as well not bother. “Smart casual” is probably as close as it gets.

This is not to say that I cannot be a responsible adult when I need to be. Over ten years of being mostly self-employed have taught me how to be organised (most of the time) and have my paperwork in order – albeit only at the last minute when the Finanzamt starts sending out stern reminders regarding deadlines for tax returns. I had to learn a few painful and expensive lessons along the way though.

Being a mature, competent, functioning adult is not an inborn ability. It must be learned. I learned it by leaving home when I was 18, going to university and living in a shared flat with other students. My parents had given me a solid foundation by teaching me basic survival skills such as cooking, budgeting for life’s necessities and how to sort laundry. I was lucky in this respect; a lot of my fellow first-semester students did not come equipped with those skills. I am sure one incident involving a raw egg in its shell exploding in the microwave could have been avoided, had the person in question come to university with even rudimentary cooking skills. So, should “how to adult” be part of the school curriculum? And what exactly does this involve? Here is my own, by no means exhaustive list of things one should be able to do to survive at university and beyond. One should

  1. have learned to cook a few basic meals and know where to shop for ingredients
  2. be able to manage with the money available (a tough one, I have to admit, especially when there are all these bookshops around with their tempting displays of the latest novels!)
  3. be aware that taxes and health insurance exist and know which other insurances might be useful
  4. know how to do laundry and take care of your clothes
  5. be able to read a pay slip
  6. know how to file taxes
  7. at university: be aware of your course requirements; when entering the workforce: know the do’s and don’ts of job applications.

I am sure there are many more, but these are a few of the basics and should leave you well-equipped for life. Some of these could and should be taught at schools. If I were in charge of curriculum design, I would include life skills alongside Maths, Sciences, Modern Languages, Literature and all the other subjects, possibly as part of a “Home Economics” course.

As I said earlier, as a child I thought all the adults I was surrounded by had their lives sorted out and knew what they were doing. Now I know better. “Fake it till you make it” is definitely a brilliant tactic to employ. This is not to say that we should be stuck in some sort of Peter Pan life of never growing up. At some point, we all need to grow up and take charge of our own lives. Being a student at university is perfect for testing the waters, taking first steps towards complete independence without having full adult responsibilities. There is no-one to tell you to hand in your homework or go to bed at a sensible time and it is up to you to learn what does and does not work. But overall, the consequences are not quite as catastrophic as missing mortgage payments or not going to work. That said, there is still room for indulging your inner child even as an adult. The trick is to know when this is appropriate and when it is not. As an adult, I can still enjoy Disney movies or watch Die Sendung Mit Der Maus. I can still wear a band t-shirt, just not to the office (though I have to refer to my earlier point re: pinstripe suits here.) It is entirely possible to jump in puddles and file your taxes on the same day. As C. S. Lewis put it: “When I became a man, I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”1Lewis, C. S.. “On Three Ways of Writing for Children.” On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature. Harvest Books 2002

As an adult, you do not have to have it together all the time. Let’s be honest here: nobody does. But you should have your life together at least most of the time. Having health insurance and being in control of one’s finances are two vital skills one should have. Being able to cook and keep a reasonably clean house are a further two – being able to conduct microbiological studies in your fridge is probably not something one should aim for. Keep those in the lab where they belong. But other than that, enjoy being an adult whilst rocking that pinstripe combined with Converse, just like David Tennant in his role as the 10th Doctor! “There’s no point being grown-up if you can’t be childish sometimes,”2„Robot“. Doctor Who. Performance by Tom Baker. Season 12. Episode 12.1 BBC 1974/75 after all.

  • 1
    Lewis, C. S.. “On Three Ways of Writing for Children.” On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature. Harvest Books 2002
  • 2
    „Robot“. Doctor Who. Performance by Tom Baker. Season 12. Episode 12.1 BBC 1974/75

Prepare Kids for the Worst

By Corinna Schroll

In her article Schools should heed calls to do lockdown drills without traumatizing kids instead of abolishing them (The Conversation, 12.02.2020), Associate Professor of Criminal Justice Jaclyn Schildkraut writes about the importance of lockdown drills at schools in the US.

She mentions a report that suggests lockdown drills should not be a surprise, involve realistic details, or include kids. Some people even call for the abolishing of lockdown drills.

While Schildkraut agrees with the report that these drills shouldn’t be traumatizing to children, she argues children should still be included in lockdown drills to practice for a real school shooting. Given the deaths of four students in a November 30, 2021 shooting by a fifteen-year-old, such drills are essential. They save lives.

She makes the distinction between lockdown exercises as opposed to lockdown drills. In exercises, there may be someone pretending to be an active shooter with a toy weapon as well as a few students covered in fake blood who pretend to be wounded. These exercises seem over the top and needlessly terrifying for everyone partaking in them. The lockdown drills are a practice to prepare the children without traumatizing them. Kids don’t need to be exposed to the blood and screams of their fellow students, even as an act. Schildkraut writes that “nobody sets schools on fire during fire drills to make them seem realistic. Instead, everyone practices how to respond so that it’s easier to do the right thing in frightening situations.”

I do agree with Schildkraut: There is no need to reenact a scenario that is already traumatizing in such a realistic manner that someone may actually be injured. Teachers as well as students have been injured by fake rubber ammunition during these lockdown exercises before.

I work part-time in a primary school and have been responsible for a group of children during a fire drill before. Some kids stayed calm, but others became very anxious and struggled to keep a clear mind. While these drills prepare children for a real fire, the procedures do not need to be more anxiety-inducing by making them more realistic. I don’t want to imagine what a school shooting “reenactment” with false firearms and some students pretending to be dying might do to the psyche of children.

But abolishing the lockdown drills entirely would leave children unprepared for a real school shooting. This could potentially lead to more deaths if the children do not know how to act in this situation of crisis – they might even end up running into the shooter when they’re trying to get themselves to safety. Teachers may lose control over the situation when the students have never practiced the safety measures of a lockdown.

There once was a false lockdown when I went to secondary school, which was caused by a nearby construction worker accidentally cutting a cable. Our teacher kept calm, and so did we as we followed her instructions. But later I heard that especially the younger students had all gone into a panic and started crying instead of listening to their teachers’ instructions. School shootings may not be as frequent in Germany as they are in the US, but this false lockdown is an example of why lockdown drills themselves are so important.

As Schildkraut puts it herself, “Building confidence enhances the ability to do what’s needed during an emergency, our research indicates.” If you are prepared for an emergency, responding correctly is much easier than when you are caught off guard. This benefit outweighs the possible downsides.

Another important point Schildkraut mentions is “that only preparing teachers for lockdowns is short-sighted”. Teachers might be killed by a shooter, and in that situation, their students must be able to make decisions on their own. Preparing both teachers and students empowers both groups, enabling all to survive.

Schildkraut closes with the idea that “(…) kids should be prepared, but also that drills don’t have to be scary to be effective.” I fully endorse this conclusion, as I too believe that preparing children for the worst can only help to keep them safe. But these preparations must be age-appropriate and as little traumatizing as possible. Children deserve to have a peaceful childhood but should be prepared for the real world, especially in a country where the general population is allowed to carry firearms. If lockdown drills help children to act with a clearer mind and more confidence in a life-threatening situation, the drills are important and should not be abolished.

Showcasing the Brilliance of Taylor Swift’s Storytelling – A Snippet of “champagne problems”

By Katja Kramer

In Taylor Swift’s own words, songwriting can be a way of “preserving memories” (Swift, 2019). You can find that concept realized in numerous songs of hers that are either known or rumored to be composed of autobiographical elements, like “Dear John” or “Mr. Perfectly Fine.” However, besides her talent to preserve actual chapters in her life by transforming them into remarkable lyrics, the American singer-songwriter has exceptional storytelling skills, which may have always been obvious, but which she has never demonstrated more clearly and beautifully than in the shape of her two recent studio albums folklore and evermore that contain songs that pull the audience into mesmerizing worlds with relatable characters, telling captivating stories.

Though there are also other significant factors, like the variety of different genres explored by her in the course of her career or her vocal performance, that make Swift’s music popular, her exceptional talent in terms of songwriting is what makes her stand out for a lot of people — people who go as far as calling Taylor Swift “a queen when it comes to writing absolutely iconic bridges” (Pontes, 2020). Whenever I hear somebody swoon over her songwriting, I agree without hesitation. Even though there is a number of people who object that Swift often revisits the same motifs by frequently singing about failed relationships and heartbreak, I do not see why writing about topics that a large part of the audience relates to and enjoys hearing Swift’s powerfully verbalized perspective on should be considered an issue — it rather brings people together and shows that they are never alone when they feel a certain type of way.

Though a song traditionally consists of other essential parts as well, critics often like to accentuate the bridges written by Swift. According to the general definition, in music, a bridge is “a contrasting section that prepares for the return of the original material section” (Wikipedia, 2021). Typically, there is an obvious change in terms of the speed or other significant traits of the melody. However, in the given context, one can use one of Swift’s bridges to primarily showcase her outstanding songwriting and storytelling skills — regardless of whether the part of the song that is discussed is a bridge, a verse, an outro or else.

When people talk about her bridges, for many of Swift’s listeners those that she wrote for “All Too Well,” “Getaway Car” or “Cardigan,” to name a few, very often rank among the best. To name another brilliant example — “champagne problems,” which is a song Swift’s boyfriend Joe Alwyn co-wrote with her for her ninth studio album evermore. She herself has said that the song is about “longtime college sweethearts [that] had very different plans for the same night, one to end it and one who brought a ring” (Twersky, 2020). So basically, the lyrics tell the fictional story of a proposal rejected by the first-person speaker. But this is not all of it — many believe it is safe to say that the speaker struggles with her mental health (Andaloro, 2020), which is very likely why she feels like she cannot be with her beloved, and I fully agree that there is a lot of evidence that supports that view, especially when taking a close look at the bridge. It is the lyrics in its entirety that makes listening to the song an emotionally moving experience; nonetheless, as stated by countless people around me and on the internet, the bridge is what really makes “champagne problems” the masterpiece that people from different places all over the world consider it to be.

Beginning the bridge with “Your Midas touch on the Chevy door / November flush and your flannel cure” (ll. 1-2), Swift makes a reference to a figure in Greek mythology that turned “everything he touched into gold” (The Free Dictionary) — which can be understood as the speaker talking about the way her partner had the ability to make everything better, to make every moment they shared more precious. When she got cold (l. 2: “November flush”), he put a piece of his clothing — made of “flannel” (l. 2) — around her, warming her up. The speaker goes on recalling a joke she made in response to her partner telling her that the “dorm [they lived in at college] was once a madhouse” (l. 3), saying that it was “made for [her]” (l. 4). Swift uses this method of storytelling to give the listeners an insight into how comfortable the speaker felt around her beloved — so comfortable that she even joked about her mental health struggles.

“How evergreen, our group of friends / Don’t think we’ll say that word again” (ll. 5-6), Swift sings and the audience wonders what “word” it is that they will never say again. It could be “evergreen,” it could be “friends,” but it might as well be “our”. While there might be critics who will say that this concept is confusing, I say it is clever. Because in the end, it almost does not matter which of the words the line refers to, for the message remains the same — whatever group of friends they used to be part of, this group will no longer be what it once was.

To me, “And soon they’ll have the nerve to deck the halls / That we once walked through” (ll. 7-8)  is a particularly amazing line for one major reason — I did not notice it or the meaning behind it the first time that I listened to the song, but when I did, I was stunned by how creatively Taylor Swift put one’s lack of understanding for how the world around you keeps spinning while you are heartbroken into words. Although she does that so subtly, Swift still manages to get the speaker’s emotional state across; giving an insight into how resentful, in a way, the speaker feels inside when taking a look at other people’s lives. The couple in the song has just broken up, they are each suffering in their own way, and yet, people have the “nerve” (l. 7) to go on with their lives — which is absolutely normal of course, but in that moment when you feel broken, you simply cannot understand how everything around you just keeps going.

In the further course of the bridge, the speaker looks back on how she realized she could no longer stay with her partner (l. 10: “I never was ready”), as he, on the other hand, was begging her to stay (l. 12: “’Til someone’s on their knees”). Before expressing her assurance that everything will work out eventually for her now-ex-lover (l. 16: “But you’ll find the real thing instead”) with finality, she thinks of how she got called “fucked in her head” (l. 15) by people for not accepting the proposal. That remark leads back to her hinted mental illness, the origin of which is rather unclear. While she felt comfortable enough joking about her struggles with her former partner, remarks like these are clearly linked to hurt when commented on by somebody else. Even if that very comment was unintentional and the ones it was made by did not mean to refer to her actual mental health — perhaps being unaware of her struggles, even — it does not leave the speaker unaffected.

People who cannot or do not want to relate to Taylor Swift and do not enjoy her music can make all sorts of points. They can criticize that her music deals with a limited range of topics, — though one can easily refute that argument by listing songs like “The Best Day,” which Swift wrote for her mother, or “seven”, which is about the innocence of childhood and touches upon the topic of domestic violence — they can say that they simply prefer a genre different from the ones explored by her, or whatever else people find to pass criticism on. What cannot be denied is that Swift’s songs reach an astonishingly broad audience that does relate to her lyrics, pulling at people’s heartstrings, while time and time again leading to admiration and the wish for even more powerfully written songs, more albums, more stories. Honestly speaking, judging from the bridges she constructs — “champagne problems” being one of them — one might think Taylor Swift has a professional degree in architecture. Her songwriting is one amazing element of her music, but the aspect of storytelling that she has brought to another level in her recent albums is a whole different form of art that makes Swift’s music so popular and her one of the greatest artists of this generation.

Song “Champagne Problems” by Taylor Swift:


1          Your Midas touch on the Chevy door

            November flush and your flannel cure

            “This dorm was once a madhouse”

            I made a joke, “Well, it’s made for me”

5          How evergreen, our group of friends

            Don’t think we’ll say that word again

            And soon they’ll have the nerve to deck the halls

            That we once walked through

            One for the money, two for the show

10        I never was ready, so I watch you go

            Sometimes you just don’t know the answer

            ’Til someone’s on their knees and asks you

            “She would’ve made such a lovely bride

            What a shame she’s fucked in her head,” they said

15        But you’ll find the real thing instead

            She’ll patch up your tapestry that I shred


for full lyrics, see:


  1. “Taylor Swift’s Songwriting: How the Star’s Music Has Changed, for Better or Worse | CBC Music.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 22 Aug. 2019,
  2. Pontes, Rafaela. “Thirteen of Taylor Swift’s Best Bridges.” Hercampus.Com, 2 Nov. 2020,
  3. “Bridge (Music).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 30 Sep. 2021, 
  4. Twersky, Carolyn. “Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn Wrote ‘Champagne Problems’ Together about a Rejected Engagement.” Seventeen, Seventeen, 11 Dec. 2020,
  5. Andaloro, Angela. “What Champagne Problems Lyrics from Taylor Swift Really Mean.”, The List, 11 Dec. 2020,
  6. “Midas.” The Free Dictionary, Farlex,

Determination – The Key to Reaching Your Goal

By Evelin Edel

In Leonardo da Vinci’s own words ”Obstacles cannot stop me; determination brings down any obstacle.”, he means that every goal can be fulfilled if you put your mind to it. My interpretation of Da Vinci’s quote is that he suggests that even when people say, ’’your goal is unrealistic’’ or ’’you will just get hurt’’, you can ignore them as long as your determination remains strong. People who doubt ability cannot hinder a determined person. Although Da Vinci was a famous painter, and he was referring to difficulties in painting, his words apply to many trying situations like wanting to get a job, avoiding alcohol, or sticking to a sports plan. Da Vinci implies that to reach a goal one has set for oneself; it is not as important to be in a good physical state as it is to be determined. If you have determination, you are going to reach your goal, even if there will be obstacles or people who try to stop you.

I acknowledge Da Vinci’s view and would go as far as saying that determination begins in your mind. To reach a goal, you have to be in the right state of mind. Therefore, you need to burn your goal into your mind. If I want to swim a new personal record in the 1500 m freestyle, it is one thing to have enough muscle mass to drag myself through the water, but it is a whole other thing to have the mental strength to torture myself through almost 17 minutes of racing. I visualize every single detail of my race before I jump into the water. By doing so, I know that I am mentally prepared and strong enough to set a new personal record. I think about my start, my turns, and my stroke count for 17 minutes straight. During his time, nothing else matters. I cannot allow myself to be distracted from the cheering crowd or the girls who swim in the lanes next to me. I only focus on myself and my race. This is the only way to feel good while racing and to set a personal record. Determination is the key aspect you need to have to reach any goal.

Having just argued that determination is the only way to reach your goal, let us now turn our attention to what happens if you do not feel a strong desire to reach it. Being tired mentally and physically is normal. It is human to feel weak sometimes, and it happens to each one of us. By claiming this, I say that feeling weak is an obstacle that is going to show up in the process of chasing your goal. There are many obstacles in my process of preparing for a competition. One time, I do not feel motivated to drag myself through the water. The other time, I do not want to swim fast at a competition because I feel exhausted. Although I am in good physical shape, I unconsciously tell myself that I will not swim a personal best time. My mind is an obstacle for me at this moment. If my mind and determination are not present, I am unfocused, and I will not be swimming a personal record. My mind is blocking me. This is an obstacle that is not going to disappear because I am not determined enough to bypass it.

The upshot of all this is that Leonardo da Vinci’s quote is timeless, and the plain truth. Obstacles, mental and physical ones, will stop you on your way to reaching your goal if you do not burn for it. Your physique is not important to chase a goal. Mental stability and determination are the key aspects to reaching a goal; they bring down any obstacle. I am convinced of this because my own experience in competitive swimming has proven it to me. My physique does not matter if I want to swim a personal best time. I need to be determined and tell myself that I will swim the best.

Pandemic Journal: Essen, July 2020

By Melissa Knox-Raab

Knox-Raab in corona fashion – perfume by isopropyl alcohol

1. Five minutes of CNN Covid coverage makes me feel like running into the bathroom and following Sanjay Gupta’s method: scrubbing the backs of my hands, between fingers, grabbing and twisting soapsuddy thumbs, and pushing the tap off with my elbow. I know I’m here, where the curve’s flat as a pancake, but American statistics make me feel like the virus can vault through the TV screen and get me.

2. Right now, I’m thinking of a John Donne poem:

When my grave is broke ope again
Some second guest to entertain . . .

New York used refrigerated trucks. In Donne’s day, they just dug up a grave and dumped in another customer.

3. When Miranda Bailey, chief of surgery at Gray-Sloan Memorial Hospital on Grey’s Anatomy gives a patient a dangerous bug, the fault lies in the cheaper brand of latex gloves the hospital had ordered in a misguided effort to save money.

4. The governor of Florida now claims there’ s plenty of PPE around. Meanwhile, medical professionals end up, at best, like Miranda Bailey: with a shrink who prescribes anti-anxiety pills.

5. In a stuffy office today–windows were closed–I asked the lawyers to wear masks. I was wearing a mask. One of them pulled her mask off her chin and covered up, all the while complaining, “it’s really hard to understand you when you’re wearing a mask.” The other– hawk-nosed, shock of white hair flopping intentionally–stared right through me. Maskless, he held forth like a winner at Toastmaster’s International throwing in a few words about the new alliance with the Rotary Club. He spoke for forty-five minutes.

6. Richard Quest, his signature rasp still intact, described the symptoms he keeps asking his doctors about. The breathlessness. The weakness. The pain. Now that he’s been cured for weeks, when will these symptoms stop coming and going? “We don’t know, Richard,” say his doctors.

7. When I went to the gym yesterday, the nice bearded trainer, the one who doesn’t follow the rules, let me in a whole twelve minutes early. There were only three people in the gym, whose capacity, when we all stick to designated areas on the floor marked with yellow tape, is seven. When the two people who enforce the rules are around—“No, you can’t go in for another four and a half minutes!”—everyone’s stuck breathing on each other in a grubby foyer right in front of the (spacious, windows-wide-open) gym.

8. The form I was trying to get the lawyers to help with is, according to them, “really complicated.” This is Germany.

9. The nice lady behind me in the Edeka line inquired where I’d gotten my plastic face shield. Turning to answer, I forgot about social distancing. Good thing that thin, impregnable plastic stood between me and a friendly conversation.

Easy-Peasy Recipes for Getting Published

If you’re interested in writing essays (narrative nonfiction, for example, reporting and interpreting cultural, political or historic events) or personal essays, fiction, poems, flash fiction or experimental forms, there are a number of magazines looking for such work. I highly recommend reading some of them (many may be found free online) and then writing to fit their needs, or seeing whether what you’ve written might work for them. Here are a few of the sites listing and evaluating literary magazines:

(This ranks magazines according to a number of criteria: circulation, number of writers who appear in the “Best American Series” and other factors.

A similar site:

The Clifford Garstang site:

Information about places to submit narrative nonfiction, fiction, flash fiction, poetry, and writing that fits no particular category:

Also useful is this list:

There are various services for which one can pay, like this one:

But I think they’re not really worth it–most of what they have you can find just by Googling around. 

Most of the 4-5,000 literary magazines allow electronic submissions as well as simultaneous ones, and most submissions take place through the “submittable” platform, which tracks pieces for free:

A few places want emailed submissions and a very few (but some of the more prestigious journals) still insist on snail mail or have their own submission platforms. Very few (but some, like The Hudson Review and The Threepenny Review emphatically refuse to consider simultaneous submissions. They hold on to things for six months and then may say “no.” I prefer to send essays to five or ten journals at once and then withdraw them electronically if necessary.