The Mystery Blogger Award

Herba, on her Unkraut vergeht nicht… oder doch? blog, has nominated me for The Mystery Blogger Award. Thank you for thinking of me, Herba! You can read her contribution to the award (in German) here.

So, what is The Mystery Blogger Award? I didn’t know how it works either, but here are the rules and here is the logo that goes with it:mystery-blogger-award-logo

About The Mystery Blogger Award:

This is an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates, it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging and they do it with so much love and passion.

Okoto Enigma is the creator of the award. To motivate the Blogger please do visit her blog.

The Rules of the Award:

– Put the award logo/image on your blog.
– List the rules.
– Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
– Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well.
– Tell your readers 3 things about yourself.
– You have to nominate 10 – 20 people.
– Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog.
– Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify)
– Share a link to your best post(s).

My responses to 3 things about myself:

Hmmm, 3 things about myself… I could say many things, but I have said a lot of things about myself on blog before so I had to think a bit about what I maybe haven’t said before. Not quite sure if these things are totally new, but hopefully these 3 things about me are somewhat newish…

1.  I never drink coffee, I just do not like it, not even when it’s a tiny bit of coffee with a lot of milk! For years when I went to my parents’ house my dad would always offer, “Esther, do you want a cup of coffee?” It was this little joke between us because I would always say, “Nope, I still hate it!” I do love tea, though, especially herbal teas.

2.  I come from a large family, I am number 6 of 8 children. Half of my brothers and sisters are adopted (two of Palestinian and two of Ethiopian descent). Kids just sort of happened to appear on our doorstep, due to social projects my mother was involved in when we lived in Israel in my youth, and my parents just kept the kids who were alone in the world and adopted them later. 🙂 I have always loved our large, colourful family, warts and all. When I was a pre-teen I read a book called The Family Nobody Wanted about a couple that ends up adopting 12 children of different ethnic backgrounds and I really identified with that, as it was close to my own family experience as well! I still have that book.

All of this made me want to have 8-12 children myself and I wanted to adopt most of them! That idea quickly changed, however, when I got children of my own. I love them, I love having them in my life, but I couldn’t imagine juggling 8 or, God forbid, 12 children on a daily basis! And adoption in The Netherlands? So much more complicated, so many rules, such a long waiting period (up to 5 years!) and more expensive than the way my parents were able to do it in the 1970s… So yeah, I’m just very happy with my 2 kids now and enjoy having a lot of siblings, some of whom look nothing like me.

3.  I am NOT a morning person, I prefer to not go to bed before 1 am. It’s a real struggle getting to bed at around 11 pm on work nights.

Responses to the 5 questions Herba posed:

1. Do you have a phobia?

Yep, spiders!!! I can tolerate mice and snakes and scorpions but I can not do spiders!

2. Are you working in your dream job?

There’s a huge problem with this question: I don’t know what my dream job is! What I want to do changes all the time. Sometimes I want to be a kick ass social worker or children’s psychologist, sometimes I want to be a writer, or a web designer, or I want to go back to librarianship which is what I trained for (after trying psychology and English as fields of study first). I’ve wanted to be a teacher and a translator, I have wanted to be a journalist or a stills photographer on a TV or film set, I have wanted to be an aid worker in a developing country. What I can say is that I always look for jobs in a social field and so far, to my great satisfaction, I have worked for government, education and development aid organizations. Right now I have an IT-related job for an organization that provides healthcare and educational advice for children and youngsters and I very much enjoy it. That doesn’t stop me from still envisioning other career paths, though.

3. As a child, did you have a favourite book, a favourite movie or tv series, and a favourite singer or music group? What are your current 3 favourites?

  • Favourite book, that I read when I was about 9 or so, was a simplified children’s version of Jane Eyre and the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
  • Favourite TV series was Little House on the Prairie and I loved the first movie I remember seeing in the cinema, a Cinderella movie called The Slipper and the Rose.
  • I’m not sure I had a favourite singer or group as a kid. I do remember loving ABBA songs and I liked Boney M. My absolute favourite song was Ma Baker by Boney M:

Current favourites:

  • Favourite book: Jane Eyre is still up there, along with Jane Austen’s books Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice, but I think I’d have to go with To Kill a Mockingbird as my favourite. I still remember reading it for the first time, it was almost like a religious experience, it spoke to my very being.
  • Favourite movie – I love so so many but I think my all time favourite still is Roman Holiday. Favourite TV series: I love so many, I couldn’t just pick one. Latest obsession is Suits.
  • I already once blogged about all my musical favourites throughout my life. My current fave for the last few years has been English band Muse. Just for fun, here’s a song I haven’t linked to before in other posts; it’s one of my faves and is called Hysteria. I have blogged about 2Cellos covering Hysteria but here is Muse’s original:

4. If you could walk in someone else’s shoes for 24 hours, who would it be and why would it be that person specifically? 

I had no idea what to answer here so I asked Mr Esther who he thought I’d like to be for a day. He immediately shot out a reply: Colin Firth’s wife! And, oh my goodness, he is right! The man knows me well. 🙂 Livia Firth is smart and socially very conscious, she’s an Eco warrior with her own consulting firm through which she tries to make the fashion world a more fair place and, extremely importantly, she’s married to Colin Firth! So, yes, I wouldn’t mind being Livia Firth for a day and I know exactly on which day as well: I want to be Livia with Colin Firth on Oscar night! They had a great Oscar night in 2011 when Colin won the Oscar for The King’s Speech. They got all dressed up together (click on images to enlarge)…

… and looked quite lovey-dovey and had fun on the red carpet together…

… Colin kissed Livia when his Oscar win was announced. Ah, to be on the receiving end of Colin’s kiss..

… and Livia and Colin had fun together after the win…

So, I’d like to be either Livia on Oscar night, or I wouldn’t mind being Richard Armitage’s make up artist Tami Lane on The Hobbit for a day, specifically this day when these pictures were taken…

5. McDonald’s or Burger King?

I’m not really a fan of either. I think there are more McDonald’s than Burger Kings here in The Netherlands. I never go to Burger King, I think I can count on one hand the amount of times in my life that I’ve entered a Burger King. I do go to McDonald’s and the reason for that is not the food (I rarely eat anything there) but I do love the milkshakes! So, I choose McDonald’s for the milkshakes. Mr. Esther likes the coffee there.

Mystery Blogger nominations and my 5 questions

Nominating others is always a tough one. I’ll just throw a few names out there, but feel free to ignore or jump in, whichever! And if your name isn’t here but you’re inspired to answer, please feel free to!

So, the nominations first (trying to not nominate anyone already nominated by Herba):

Violet | SueBC | Lady Butterfly | Sarah | Gratiana | Linnetmoss | Heather | Obscura | BerLinda | Richard

And my 5 questions:

  1. Your favourite genre of book or movie? Name 3 examples of each.
  2. Who would you want to play you in a movie of your life and who should play your partner? (If you don’t have a partner, you can make up a mystery one! Even if you do have a partner, you can make up a mystery one. 🙂 )
  3. Are you sunrise, daylight, twilight, or night? Please explain why.
  4. If you won the lottery what would you do?
  5. Tacos for life or sushi for life?

Tag, you’re it if you want to be!

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The Conspiracy of Silence #MeToo

This whole Harvey Weinstein scandal makes me sick, just like the Bill Cosby one has made me sick and Donald Trump’s way with women makes me sick. Why do Cosby’s and Weinstein’s careers go down the drain over this but is Trump still president? Anyway, I don’t want to write about them specifically but I do want to do my part in addressing this so that it can be stopped.

I saw the interview Emma Thompson gave, addressing how normal sexual harassment really is for all women from a young age onwards (she mentions this at around 3:10 into the video) and she calls this Weinstein scandal a ‘conspiracy of silence’ for not being exposed sooner (around 5:20)…

I found that an interesting phrase, ‘the conspiracy of silence’, and find myself trying to come to terms with the fact why we don’t speak up about this more when we encounter it. I find it’s not a malicious conspiracy, it’s more a conspiracy of shame and fear, but the fact is that it’s not normal to speak up about this. I, too, am not one to call out others when for example a comment with sexual innuendo is made that makes me feel slightly uncomfortable. I will speak up against gross misconduct but there are so many comments that are just borderline where I wonder ‘should I say something or am I just being overly sensitive?’ and then I shut up. I was in such a borderline situation not too long ago when I thought ‘ah, but it’s just a joke, I’ll let it go and change the subject quickly.’ I struggle with that and it’s something that this scandal has brought more to the foreground for me.

Yesterday the hashtag #MeToo started trending and I added my name to that…

me too tweet

… and today, on my way to work, I read Guylty’s blog post about the issue and that really struck me too. I am not pretty or an actor either and yet I too have experienced instances of sexual harassment. What I have experienced is by far not as bad as many other women’s experiences but it’s symptomatic nonetheless! I wasn’t planning on going into detail about what has happened to me, but Guylty’s post and that “conspiracy of silence” phrase made me think that maybe I should just come out and speak of my experiences.

The funny thing is that when I thought about this, one incident that really shook me came to mind and I thought, ‘well, it’s not been bad for me, I only experienced that one thing’. But then, once that memory was unlocked, other memories started coming in and I realized that apparently I had pushed them away before. I also realized that, from an early age on, I had always been warned by my mother that most men basically only want one thing so that I always had to be careful with how I act and what I wear so as not to attract any unwanted attention. I hate that. I hate that women are told to be careful and that for men it’s a “ah, boys will be boys” attitude.

The incident that really shook me most of all  happened when I was 19. My dad was general secretary of an international organization and organized a big 4 day conference every summer, with people coming in from countries all over the world. To make a little money, we brothers and sisters often helped with organizing. That summer the conference was in Southampton and one evening I went out with a group of other conference participants to a local pub. Incidentally, it’s also the first time I ever tried Guinness beer (and hated it). Anyway, I was with a group of 9 or 10 people and at one point I said I’d pick up some drinks at the bar. There was a man sitting on a bar stool next to where I stood to order my drinks. While I was waiting for my turn to order he tried to chat me up. I was 19 and really not so used to flirting, so I tried to stay friendly and smile, but said no to whatever he suggested (he wanted me to come sit with him, he wanted to buy me a drink and he said some other things I can’t recall). Then, out of the blue, he grabbed me, pulled me towards him and what I remember most were his very wet lips, smelling of beer, planted on my lips, kissing me! I struggled to get away, luckily the bartender caught this happening as well. He cried out “oy!” and a hullabaloo started where others came to my rescue, literally prying the man off me because he really was holding on fast and didn’t want to let go!  People from my group came as well to help me. Local people from the pub grabbed the man, I think one guy punched him, and literally threw him out of the pub onto the street. I was very shaken up, everyone was very concerned for me, we were offered free drinks. The bartender said the man was a known drunk and wouldn’t be allowed in the pub anymore. I quickly went back to my accommodation after that, accompanied by my older brother who had been part of the group I had been with.

Remembering that, and my brother being there, reminded me of an incident a year later when my whole family and I were in Cairo, visiting the Pyramids. Esther 20We were allowed into one of the pyramids. There was a narrow hallway leading upwards with a rope you could use to hold on to. You couldn’t stand up straight in some sections and there were these guides along the way to help anyone with trouble getting on. One of these guides actually followed behind me for a while and literally felt me up, touching my hips and my bottom to ‘help me along’. I shrugged him off, said I didn’t need help. My brother saw and took the man’s place behind me so he would leave me alone. The rest of that holiday (we were there for 3 or 4 days), I felt unsafe and tended to keep close to one of my older brothers, just so I wouldn’t get into a situation like that again.

I then for some reason also remembered an incident from when I was 15 or 16. I was already in love with old movies at that time and at some point I had gotten this hand-me-dpencil dressown 1960s turquoise pencil dress, which looked something like this picture on the right. It was a little looser than this dress but it really fit me very well. I was not one to wear dresses at all at that time but when I put that dress on, I thought I looked really good in it. I felt like Doris Day! I was wearing it one hot day and was asked to do a small errand in town for my mother, which I went to do on my bike. I figured it looked nice enough and for the first time I dared wear it out in public. And boy, did I regret that! I felt uncomfortable with the attention I got walking down the street and when at one point some workers started calling out to me, asking me to come over to them, laughing at me when I said no, and continuing their whistling after that, I felt so very unsafe! I went home and never wore that dress again.

In my early twenties I also once encountered a flasher in a trench coat while I was walking through a park close by our house. He walked by, called out to me and when I looked over at him, he opened his coat and was stark naked underneath. He didn’t linger, though, and walked on, I think he even ran away. For some reason, I never felt threatened by that, though.

So, that’s it, my #MeToo experiences. When I look back I feel that I have always been conscious of never wanting to be ‘too sexy’, due to warnings to be careful because I’m a girl and I think especially after that blue dress incident, which I had really buried away deep somewhere. It’s sad that just because ‘boys will be boys’ many women feel unsafe or feel like they have to suppress themselves. Women speaking up about how threatened they feel is just the beginning, we also need to look at this ‘boys will be boys’ culture and teach our sons to treat women with respect! I feel my brothers are respectful of women, just like my husband is and I hope my son is too (he does seem like it from what I can see). I have luckily never felt threatened by men I work with or by male aquaintances/friends I have. So, I do realize that many men are respectful! But there are also many who aren’t and it’s not only up to the women to raise boys who are respectful; men are important role models and need to take responsibility too, maybe even more so than women!

Drive-by sunflowers!

There’s a new “Mach’ was” challenge to do something with sunflowers. I had and have no inspiration whatsoever to do anything with sunflowers, but I do love sunflowers. Then, this morning on my way to work, I saw this:

Sunflowers1

What is that, you ask? Do you see a little bit of a yellow blur next to that blue truck? This morning I went to work by car, then parked at a park & ride and took a train/metro into the center of the city I work in. As I neared the p&r, I drove by a small patch of sunflowers and then a second small patch! I hadn’t noticed them before and was too late reaching for my phone to take a picture. I tried to take a picture from the train with the image above as a result… not quite successful, as you can see.

This afternoon as I went home again, I had my phone ready in the car.  I was too late to catch the first sunflower patch; it’s difficult to steer, shift gear AND take a picture at the same time, after all. However, I did get a picture of the second patch. Alas, I couldn’t stop as I needed to get home quickly to get dinner ready before my son had to head off to handball practice. So, this is the best I could do:

Sunflowers2

So, there you have it: drive-by sunflowers just in time for the challenge! I took another picture as I drove alongside that patch, but that picture in only a blur:

Sunflowers3

It’s fun how these challenges make you notice things you maybe would not normally notice when you’re in a rush. 🙂

Down time & Mr. Rochester

After a few very busy weeks since our summer holiday, I finally feel like I have a moment to breathe again, sort of like my kids in this picture from a few weeks ago in England:

IMG_5537

Here is the list of what’s been occupying me (and I didn’t even put the news or Digital Theatre on it! Still haven’t heard from them, by the way, need to send a reminder e-mail…):

  • Attention has been focussed on my kids who both started new schools. They have both made very good starts and I can’t even begin to express how relieved I am about that! The relief is especially big in my daughter’s case, as she’s had it so tough last year. She has been coming home from school happy and I haven’t seen that in her in a long, long time. My son was a bit overwhelmed with the world of his new hotel management school at first, but even he is coming home happy. Yes, a good start and when the kids seem happy it does a lot for a mama’s happiness as well.
  • The house was in disarray for a few weeks due to some projects but that’s under control now.
  • The Dutch class I teach for a very small group of foreigners will be starting up again next week but some things in the organization have changed, so there have been meetings and e-mails and such.
  • Work has been busy for us but especially so for me. Yesterday I had to train a group of colleagues (it was a pilot) with an afternoon programme that I had completely set up and prepared. It was one of the reasons why I was hired, so the pressure was really on for it to be good. Luckily, it was! It will need a few small tweaks here and there (it’s not a pilot for nothing), but overall it went really well. Another great relief!

I have been working so much this past week that I was able to take this afternoon off and do some clothes shopping. I finally found a coat for the autumn that I like and for the right price too! Back home again and right now, my daughter is upstairs in her room chatting on her phone with friends, my son is at a friend’s house, Mr Esther is preparing his delicious signature lasagna dish for dinner and I’m on the couch at my laptop. I keep on thinking I need to jump up and DO something but no, I don’t need to do anything! I can just be! It feels a little unreal…

So, I just had to use this down time to blog again, but as I don’t know what about (and no, I can’t do news right now, it’s a bit overwhelming with all the horrible floods in Texas and South East Asia), this is the post you get. 🙂 I can now more fully focus my attention on the more trivial things in life. For example, I am excited for season 5 of A Place To Call Home to begin, the first trailer is looking lovely and dramatic…

It’ll be another month before it airs but it’s really something to look forward to!

I also just stumbled on this picture of Richard Armitage again while my screen saver was running earlier and it made my heart skip a beat again…

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And finally, I hope that this weekend I will find the peace of mind to write-up my impressions of the Jane Eyre play I saw in Leeds a few weeks ago. I’m still very much in Jane Eyre world as I am reading Mr Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker right now, which tells the story from Mr. Rochester’s point of view. The largest part of the book covers the time before he meets Jane and (almost surprisingly) I am flying through this and am finding it a great read!

This fan fiction (which this or any other re-telling basically is) is, I think, the best I’ve ever read! And hey, doesn’t the profile on the cover remind you of someone? Maybe (besides Shakespeare in the theatre in London at the end of next year – yay!), having Richard Armitage cast as Mr Rochester for a film adaptation of this book would be a good idea? A girl can dream, right?

Relief… and sadness.

One piece of unrest has been taken away after my post yesterday. After a few more calls and an e-mail we have confirmation from the director himself: our daughter can indeed attend the new school! Got the relieving phone call at 4 pm at work this afternoon and this is how I felt…

Things still need to be formalized and we still need to figure out schoolbooks and such but on Monday morning at 10 am my daughter can report to the new school for her first day there.  The relief is great! Whew!

Now, if only I could start feeling this happy about the news, but alas, there has been more tragedy today… Today there was another terrorist attack, this time in Barcelona. My heart goes out to all the victims…

candles