Peace, when?

My heart breaks over the news coming out of Israel & the Palestinian territories right now. The Sheikh Jarrah situation was the spark that ignited the current violence, an unrest that is always simmering beneath the surface, and current Israeli extremist leadership (i.e. Netanyahu) only exacerbates an already volatile situation. My whole life, when I lived there and after, I have been wishing for peace and it still feels as far away as ever.

(Picture I took while visiting Israel and the West Bank in November of 2008).

More than 70 years of this conflict and no end in sight. When will it be enough?

Professional and competent

Let me lead with some personal good news before I write what I actually wanted to post about: both my kids have tested negative for Covid 19. Yay! They can go back to school again this week and pick up their outdoor sports again next week. It is all socially distanced and careful but it is something to do other than stay at home and that is a great relief for them.

In other news: is it just me, or is the White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki just awesome? The way she rebutts and shuts down lies and conspiracy theories in such a clear, well informed and quick thinking way is just amazing to me.

Today I saw this…

I know nothing about this Major League Baseball thing but the way she rebuked the lie that Georgia voting law is the same as in Colorado is just awesome. She has been very clear about the new Georgia voting law before. That idiotic new law even made the news over here.

Even before all that I have been admiring the way she handles these kinds of conspiracy theories questions, like recently about some ‘secret report’…

I mean seriously, if there is valid criticism about the budget for certain policies, why do they need to be hidden in secret reports and can’t they be reported, questioned and discussed openly? I admire how she shut that one down.

Back in January during her first press briefing I already sighed a sigh of relief. The tone alone is such a change from the previous administration…

I like how she politely rejects Trump era policies and she comments on the new administration not really thinking about Trump that much. They are focussed on policy rather than personal attacks.

And if there is agreement with a former Trump policy, she will admit it…

These rebuttals even have their own hashtag on Twitter, they are called a #PsakiBomb.

Other than these snippets I see of her I don’t know anything about her and maybe I only see the good bits but those good bits really are very good. I like how she calmly listens to all questions and asks for clarifications of unclear questions even if they are wacko and you just know that they try her patience. She takes every question seriously, answers to the best of her ability and won’t give credence to wild theories and ‘secret reports’. It really feels like competency is back at the White House again. Yes, it is always necessary to remain critical and no one will ever be perfect but it still feels like with this new administration I can worry a little bit less.

It’s done

Mr Esther and mini me were busy with the votes counting till close to 1 a.m. in their respective counting locations last night.

Most of the election results are now in. Alas, the right wing (from center right to far right) does get the biggest slice of votes. Luckily the far right votes are splintered between several parties so none of them will, I think, have a chance to make it into government and they will remain in opposition. At least, I hope so and that the center right VVD party (the largest party) will adhere to its promise to not go into coalition with these chaotic far right parties. Still, 29 seats going to far-right parties is a very concerning thing! It’s really depressing that I live in country where these extreme and xenophobic viewpoints have such a large following.

The encouraging news is that the center-left D66 party made some big gains and is now the second largest party! They are part of the current coaltion government, together with our prime-minister’s party (VVD) and two other Christian conservative parties, but as they have gained quite a lot of seats (possibly their greatest election result ever) they willl hopefully be able to gain a stronger voice in a new government. I’m not going to go into a whole analysis here, if you are interested in reading more, you can read this article. Suffice it to say that it looks like Mark Rutte will stay PM and, while I hate his flirting with right wing speech on occaison and I’m not too fond of some of his more right-wing policies, he is a stable leader especially during this Corona crisis. I just hope that with a stronger D66 some policies can also be liberalized in a new government. Go, Sigrid Kaag (she danced on a table last night when news of the big gains for her party came in)!

I also hope a government can be formed quickly (and it doesn’t take a record 225 days like last time around).

Esther family for democracy

It’s election day in The Netherlands today and the whole Esther household is involved. Mr. Esther volunteered to work the polling station. Before he left the house he looked like this…

He hasn’t looked this dressed up and well-groomed since we went to a funeral last year early in May and the kids and I did a double take. I like that I still fancy my man after 29 years together. 🙂

Today is also the first time that Junior (he’s 19) is allowed to vote and he did so while Mr Esther and I could look proudly on (Mr Esther was already at work at the polling station).

As for mini-me: her school in the town next to ours had asked for volunteers for vote counting and she and her friend will do that this evening from 9 pm when the polling stations close. They will get paid a small compensation, so that did help with the will to volunteer. They also had to write a motivation letter on why they wanted to help with vote counting and based on that she and her friend were selected for the job (30 kids out of 60 applicants made it in). It is a little weird to me that she may help with the counting but, at 17, isn’t allowed to vote yet. We’ve all been discussing some politics at home and reading up on party manifestoes and, like Junior, she’d picked her preferred party and candidate. Alas, she’ll still have to wait to vote (but not too long, next year she can vote in the municipal elections).

As for the election itself, we have a center right government now (not extreme right, thank goodness!), I’d prefer center left, but I don’t think there will be a huge shift in government after this vote. As long as any winner refuses to govern with any of the two extreme right wing parties (one of them is the second largest party here right now – eek!) I will be able to live with the results. Just keep your fingers crossed that the extreme right doesn’t win any more than it already has.

I’ve got to say that I’m really proud to be able to pass on this basic ideal of free democratic elections to my children. Free elections are not a given for everyone and we are very lucky to have them.

A castle & brown eyes

First off, my vertigo is subsiding, woohoo!! Not all gone yet, but definitely improving. This means that on Sunday, after visiting my mother, I was well enough to take a day trip with my daughter and we visited my old boarding school which used to be situated in a castle near Utrecht. In my day (35-33 years ago… that sounds so old and long ago!) it all looked a bit different – in the second picture with the red arrow is the ‘Blokhut’ where I used to board with the school nurse and 4 other girls.

Mini me was curious about my boarding school years and as the grounds were open, we were able to walk around and look around. I always loved the driveway up to the castle and it still looks lovely…

The old coach house was still looking good from the outside, it used to be the girls dorm, where most of the girls lived…

There used to be a little wooden building to the left of the coach house that we used to call “The Chambre”. There we could buy evening snacks, play some pool (although I rarely did that) and socialize; it is completely in ruins now…

To the right of the coach house, the “Blokhut” was situated where I used to live. I first thought it was not there anymore as it is now almost obscured from view by shrubbery overgrowing it. I remember it like this (red arrow is pointing to my room)…

On Sunday the Blokhut looked like this… Only when we came up close could we see the entrance, the side of the building where I’d lived was only partially accessible around the back. Through the door I could look into the hall but my old bedroom window was boarded up.

The castle itself was still very pretty (although I don’t like the white plaster as much, it used to be all red brick)…

It was a lovely trip down memory lane and now my daughter wants to go to boarding school as well (even though I told her that boarding school also had its downsides).

The kids have spring break this week and I am off for the most part as well. Today Mr Esther and I decided to go for a walk somewhere further east and Junior was the one to join us for a change. He’s pretty busy normally with school or his girlfriend, but today, while mini me decided to spend the day with a friend, he had no plans. He decided to join us for our walk and it was lovely to have him alone with us for a whole afternoon for a change.

Besides vertigo, work and socially distanced outings here and there, I’ve been keeping busy with the Sue Thomas obsession, making two fan videos (now also up on the Sue Thomas video page that I set up).

I’ve also been re-watching bits and pieces of Suits again as Yannick Bisson’s brown eyes made me long for Gabriel Macht’s brown eyes again. I still love how the character of Harvey Specter developed and changed in the nine seasons that the show had.

Bisson’s Murdoch Mysteries season 14 is now airing, so I’m also watching the new episodes of that show as they come out. Nothing too challenging but a lot of fun, especially last night’s episode with the return of the whacko Newsome family.

I swear, I’d watch a spinoff sitcom with just Ruth Newsome-Higgins (Siobhan Murphy, a character that was introduced in season 10 and appears occasionally), she’s brilliant.

Another thing that has me fascinated is the Mars landing and the images coming from there…

Following NASA Perseverance on Twitter is cool.

Speaking of space, I know, I know that I should watch Richard Armitage’s new movie Space Sweepers over on Netflix, but I can’t quite make myself do so yet. While I enjoy some scifi, it’s not my go to genre and Richard’s role isn’t that huge, is it?

I’ll watch in time, maybe someone in the comments can let me know if it’s worth it? Maybe if his eyes were brown (my current obsession is kind, brown eyes) like in My Zoe I would be more tempted? Although, I admit that seeing brown eyes on Richard instead of his blue eyes is a little weird to me.

When I’m in obsession mode, normal online activities fall by the wayside, which means I have a huge backlog of blog reading to do. I don’t think I can or will promise to catch up on all, so my sincere apologies to those readers who are used to me commenting on their blogs! I’ll probably start coming around again more but not this evening, I have some more brown eyes that I need to get lost in after I post this…