Father’s Day…

Saw this on Twitter today with two of my favourite movie dads, Gregory Peck and James Stewart…

… and remembering my own favourite dad…

Happy Father’s Day!

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A wonderful daughter

A quick little tribute to my 14 year old daughter…

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She did an incredible thing for her best friend last night. I don’t want to go into what exactly, that’s private, but I just have to express how incredibly proud we are of her and how she handled a very difficult situation. It’s all I can think about since last night and as this blog is also a little bit of an outlet for me, I just had to say something here. My daughter is home from school today, still exhausted, I hope she’ll be OK. I’m extremely grateful for such a wonderful daughter and am hoping for a positive outcome for all of this for all concerned. ❤️

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My fave wedding ever!

So, my previous post was about Prince Harry’s & Meghan Markle’s wedding and of course it made me think a lot about my favourite wedding ever: my own wedding in July of 1999! Of course, ours was not nearly as grand as the royal wedding, but we had really made a celebration of it, with our families and our friends and for me it really was one of the very best days of my life.

I was looking at pictures of our wedding but by far most of them aren’t digital. The digital pictures we do have are only a handful of images we have scanned and pictures taken with my father in law’s digital camera (digital photography was just getting started at the time). The pictures taken with the digital camera were of low quality and the camera also failed at times, giving us pictures that were overexposed, blurry or too dark. No matter, I have collected some of my fave digital images that we have and just can’t resist posting my wedding day story here!

Mr Esther and I had already been living together for 3 years before we got married. Why bother getting married, you ask? In my heart I just knew I had found the man I wanted to be with forever (that still holds true today!) and yes, we were already totally committed to each other. Getting married was just something we eventually wanted to do as well. We wanted a celebration of our love for ourselves and for everyone around us, to cement and clearly state to the world that yes, we were in this together forever. We celebrated our wedding on our 7.5 year anniversary of getting together; I was 29, Mr Esther was 28.

The morning of our wedding we got dressed in separate rooms (we didn’t spend the night before separately, that would have felt weird). We had invited our immediate families and my best friend at the time to come over to our house for a brunch to start off the festivities. When everyone was there, Mr Esther came into our bedroom and saw me in my dress for the first time (that was a very special moment!) and then I walked down our little hallway to the living room where I was greeted by our guests. Another very special moment!

We left everyone in our house to enjoy a brunch while Mr Esther & I and our two best friends came with us and the photographer (not a professional, but someone who did it as a hobby) to help with our wedding pictures being taken. Our pictures were taken in Delft, which is where we were also getting married (we lived very close to Delft at the time). Here are a few that have been scanned over the years…

1 before 41 before 61 Before 31 before 5 Delft city hall

We got back to our apartment and there we picked up all our guests for the short drive to the old city hall of Delft (the building pictured above). As parking was tricky for the center of Delft, we had rented this old bus for the whole family to travel in, while we travelled in a vintage Rolls Royce.

In The Netherlands you can’t get married with only a religious wedding, you always have to have a civil ceremony. In addition to our families, other friends had also come to city hall to witness the event. We had met with the woman who was performing our ceremony a few days before our wedding. She gave a little speech about us, spoke about marriage and then we said our “I do’s” and signed the registry.

Afterwards we were led to a reception room, where we received out first congratulations, before we went on to another venue.

When we exited city hall, the church bells of the old church opposite city hall (where Dutch royals are buried!), started ringing for us, which was pretty cool.

My father was a theologian and minister and I have been baptized and grew up going to church. However, over time I have come to see myself more as a humanist and Mr Esther is an atheist who has only ever attended a church service in my presence. So, we didn’t want an official church wedding. We did want an extra blessing on our marriage and I really wanted my father to perform that ceremony. We went from city hall to a nearby wedding venue where the ceremony as well as our dinner & party would be held.

My father had discussed the ceremony at length with us and, although the structure was based on a church ceremony, we were also able to reform it in such a way that suited us. Mr Esther and I, for instance, never used the word ‘God’ or ‘Jesus’, we had bible readings but also poems, we had classical and ‘secular’ music, my father gave us a blessing (Aaron’s blessing to be precise) after we had exchanged our vows and put on wedding rings, but there was also the presentation of a special wedding gift for us by my in-laws. It really was a very special and deeply personal service and, like Harry’s and Meghan’s service, it had the theme of love and the Song of Songs (Song of Solomon) at the heart of it. “My beloved is mine and I am his” was the theme. The fact that my father was able to perform this blessing for us remains one of my most cherished memories.

After the service there was a cutting of the cake (just one overexposed digital picture)…

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…and as the weather was great we all went out in the sunshine for coffee and eating of the cake and just relaxing a bit after all the excitement (while inside the staff revamped the room from a ‘church’ to a dinner room with round tables).

This was also the venue where lots of group pictures were taken, including one with my brothers and sisters (and lots of other fun pictures, that I don’t have digitally).

We had a buffet dinner afterwards (with yummy Indonesian food). Dinner also included some speeches and presentations of a few gifts.

And then from 8 pm onwards, we had big party (where even more people joined in the festivities). We had a DJ and seriously, from the start, everyone participated in the dancing and fun. We had our first dance to U2’s “All I want is you” (more of a shuffle) and after that everyone joined us on the dance floor.

Some people had also put on acts for us. We had asked people not to give us any wedding gifts separately but if they wanted to give us something, to give money so we could spend it on a honeymoon. One of my brothers had coordinated it all. Friends had thought up a quiz and with every correct answer that Mr Esther and I gave, a letter was turned and together the letters would from a word. We got 2 or so questions wrong but in the end we had enough correct answers to figure out that the winning word was ‘Portugal’. Our families and friends had booked us a honeymoon to Portugal as a wedding gift!

My family had also organized an ABBA act: family members in the background wore masks and were the backing singers and dancers, my mother was in a blonde wig as Agnetha, another family member was in a red wig as Annafrid, my dad was guitarplayer Björn (or Benny) using  an ancient bed pan and Mr Esther’s uncle was Benny (or Björn) on an ironing board as a keyboard. They sang and danced (choreographed!) along to ABBA’s “Gimme gimme gimme” and screamed “Mr Esther after midnight” to follow that line. It was a helluva lot of fun to watch.

Mr Esther and I were also lifted on chairs and carried around…

At midnight the party ended. We thanked everyone and right after that we were surprised with an emotional ending: everyone was given a candle and stood around us in a circle while the song “You’ll never walk alone” was played (and everyone joined in singing). This was something my mother had organized (just like the ABBA act had been her doing) and it was a perfect ending to a perfect day.

Harry and Meghan’s wedding may have been great but ours was better! I am still so happy that we celebrated our love like that and the love we received back was overwhelming. My wedding is a memory I will cherish in my heart forever.

So, dear readers, what about you? Did you have a wedding? How big or how small? If you’ve never been married, would you ever want a wedding? Or are weddings just not important to you? An inquiring mind would love to know.  🙂

It’s serious

In all my 48 years on this earth I have not felt so scared for the future as I have felt in the past year and a half after Brexit was voted for and after the US elected an idiot president. In my lifetime I never liked any Republican US president, not Reagan, not the older George Bush and I thought it could not be worse than George W. Bush but I was wrong. I was not a fan of their politics, just like I’m not a big fan of our current Dutch prime minister, but with them I never quite felt like the world was going to end. I do sometimes feel that now with the man who has got to be the most idiotic and dangerous Western leader since Adolf Hitler: Donald Trump! News of the idiot reneging the Iran nuclear deal and telling lies about it as justification is the latest example of his idiocy.

It’s not just Donald Trump and his “me me me” nationalist right-wing racist and misogynist philosophy that scares me. It’s also this whole right-wing nationalist trend, dipped in racism, which is so prevalent in Europe right now that is so damned scary. Donald Trump is alienating the world and when Europe needs unity more than ever to face it, we have Brexit happening and elections in Austria last year and recently in Hungary where nationalist right-wing leaders win (yet again and seem to get more extreme). In the past 70 odd years there never was any danger of war for our small nation alone. We are part of a bigger European Union and the big USA was our friend. Together we could handle it all, but USA doesn’t feel so friendly anymore and the EU is showing cracks. Is it the beginning of the end? There’s a move towards ‘everyone for himself’ and excluding others and for me the end of that move is only darkness, devastation and possibly war…

In 1997 mandatory military service was abolished in The Netherlands. Even before that, it was easy to avoid conscription for even minor health, psychological or conscientious reasons, because there really was no need for a big Dutch army in a unified Europe standing together. Mr Esther never had to serve because of his asthma, my older brother never had to serve because of a minor foot problem he had, my younger brother never had to serve because of a back ailment… I think my other two brothers weren’t even called because they were living abroad and still are. If they were called, there certainly was no difficulty in not having to go into the Dutch military.

My son is turning 17 in two months time and the other week a letter for him arrived from the Dutch Ministry of Defence…

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What the letter says is that, as he is turning 17 this year, he is automatically registered for military service. He doesn’t have to serve, as there is no conscription anymore, but he is registered.  Every Dutch man between the ages of 17 and 35 is registered and should there be a need in the future, he can possibly be conscripted and called upon to serve in the military after all. He could possibly have to serve up until the age of 45.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in defending yourself when faced with evil and I do commend military people who put themselves in harm’s way for peacekeeping missions, as the Dutch military does now. The idea is noble, although I feel that war and violence never is the real answer.

I always hoped we had learned from the second World War and that at least within Europe and the US we would never have to fear such evil self-serving idiot racist leaders anymore. Democracy would put a stop to the most extreme ideas and extreme leaders, I thought. Isolationism and “me me me” power struggles were over, now that there is cooperation in Europe and with the US, I thought. Racism after Auschwitz is only a fringe idea now, I thought. I guess I was wrong. Even when ‘justified’, in my heart I do not believe in war. In the end there is only death and destruction and lives torn apart.

If my son had received this letter from the Ministry of Defence 10 years ago, or maybe even two years ago, I would just have acknowledged it and laid it aside. But when I see what the Western world I live in is becoming now, for the first time I really am worried. A lot has happened in two years and even more can happen in the next 18 – 28 years! Yes, my son won’t have to go into the army now, but what will the state of our world be in 5 or 10 years time? What if we are slowly sliding into a World War III? What if my son does have to go to war one day? I don’t even dare think of that scenario… I don’t want my son or anyone else in the generations after him to have to experience war… I always hope that mankind will learn its lesson but with all the wars and devastation already in the world now and with these scary trends now in Europe and the US, I feel that any lessons that may have been ‘learned’ are so easily forgotten. I want my son to live in peace, I want all of us to live in peace!

My son is not in the least bit worried, not yet in any case…

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… but I am…

A conversation with Gregory Peck

I was watching the documentary A Conversation with Gregory Peck on Netflix earlier this evening (I was very pleasantly surprised to find it there!). It was made in 1999 (4 years before Peck died) during a speaking tour he did throughout the US, where he spoke about his life and his career.

As I watched it, I realized I must have seen at least some of it before although there were also bits I didn’t remember. As an old-time Gregory Peck fan, hearing the stories he had to tell about his career (even though I already knew many) was an absolute joy! At one special moment in the documentary the actress who played his daughter, Scout, in To Kill a Mockingbird was in the audience. Apparently she still called him Atticus and he still called her Scout. 🙂  He also invited his wife Veronique up on stage for a little bit…

The documentary also touched on Gregory Peck’s political convictions. He was famous for being a democrat and liberal and in the video speaks of opposing the Vietnam war while at the same time being proud of his son Stephen who had served in the army during that war. He is also shown giving a speech in Philadelphia in 1999 about gun control…

He says,“Is it the culture or the guns that led to the massacre at Columbine High School? And it is of course both. What is wrong with keeping guns out of the hands of the wrong people?” Today, 19 years on, I could still give him a standing ovation for that. Gregory and I would certainly have agreed with each other politically…

What I loved even more in this documentary was the behind the scenes glimpses of him, with his wife and his family. His daughter Cecilia co-produced this documentary and was in it a lot…

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… but there are also glimpses of his other kids (two sons, Stephen and Carey, from his first marriage and a son, Anthony, from his marriage to Veronique). I loved the images of a family get-together, where they all sat around and watched basketball. Look at the anticipation on the faces of Gregory and his son Stephen here!

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I had to blink away a few tears when Gregory spoke of his son Jonathan who had committed suicide at the age of 30, with Gregory wondering whether he could have done more to prevent that. And I blinked away major tears when the film featured Gregory waiting at the hospital for his daughter Cecilia to give birth and then meeting his 10 minute old grandson! Most parts of the documentary are also up on YouTube, I’ll just share this part about the birth here (from 5.20 minutes onwards in this video)…

The fascination with his new grandson and the concern he shows over his daughter just after giving birth so very much reminds me of my own father (and my mother) after my son was first born. Yet again, here is Gregory reminding me of my dad, even in the way he was a dad to his daughter! My parents showed that same love to my baby and the same concern for me…

2001 A. born papa mama Esther

… and their love and concern was repeated two and a half years later when my daughter was born..

The look of being in love with a new baby grandchild is very similar… It made me miss Gregory Peck and it made me miss my dad.

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Oh, how I still love Gregory Peck! If you like him too, I recommend you check out this documentary on Netflix a.s.a.p…