Best wishes for 2022!

It’s the last day of 2021 and instead of getting nostalgic (or depressed) over what has or hasn’t been this past year, Mr Esther, mini me and I went out for the afternoon (Junior is working till 7.30 pm). Still in lockdown in this country so other than essential shops, everything else is closed. Not much we could do but we did go to the beach for a nice beach walk. This time we went to Hoek van Holland, which is just north of Rotterdam. Sun sets here at around 4.30 pm, so we were soon walking during the ‘golden hour’. It was also quite windy and fascinating to see the wind blowing sand over the sand…

We walked in the dunes and as we got back to the car we even saw the ferry from England arrive…

So, here we are, the last few hours of 2021 have come and we have just finished our sushi dinner (yumm!). Mini me is going to a friend’s house to celebrate the New Year and her friend’s 18th birthday there. Junior will have a quick bite to eat when he comes home and will celebrate the New Year with a friend as well, at his friend’s home. Due to Covid restrictions no big parties or anything possible, so it’s just Mr Esther and I here at home tonight. We are already prepared with the traditional Dutch New Years’ Eve food: oliebollen and appelflappen…

In some parts of the world 2022 has already begun, for us it will be happening in about four hours. No matter where you are in the world, I wish all of you the very best for 2022!

Also, let me use this spot to thank you all for reading here, whether you do so actively or just through lurking. I appreciate each and every one of you. All my love for the new year!

Complicated family logistics

I wish my Monday could be like this…

It’s been a very busy, socializing weekend for us, something I’ve really not been used to for a long time! The logistics were quite complicated.

On Friday evening my brother from Israel and his son, my nephew, came to our house. We went out for dinner in town, just the four of us, as mini me had to work and Junior was at a birthday party for his best friend. My brother then drove to my mother’s place where he was to stay the coming few nights and my nephew stayed with us for two nights.

On Saturday my nephew met up with his dad and visited with other siblings while (after groceries and chores) I awaited my younger brother’s girlfriend who was flying in from the south of France (my younger brother was coming in from abroad himself and was arriving late in the evening). We showed her our town, then came back to our house for a home cooked meal. I was expecting my nephew back but my brother also came and said, “Mama says I’m having dinner here?” Flashback to earlier in the day when my mother had called, asking if I knew where my brother would be staying for dinner. I said it was up to her but that I thought my brother had mentioned to me he’d have dinner with her. “Not with you then?” she asked me and I just knew from her tone that she found the challenge of getting him dinner a little much. I said he was more than welcome to stay for dinner here if he wished to but that that was up to her and him to decide together. Flash forward to D announcing, as he came in, that he was simply told he’d be eating here. No discussions, just a sort of faits-accompli for him. Mama-manipulations on full display here, but that’s fine we’re used to that and my brother was most welcome. Mr Esther had made a lovely Indonesian themed, simple dinner which could easily feed an extra mouth. Junior, my brother and nephew are Formula One racing fans so we watched that as we ate. My brother then left to spend the night at my mom’s while I dropped lovely Miss France at my sister’s apartment where she and my younger brother (who arrived later in the evening) would be staying alone. My sister had loaned them her apartment for a night while she had gone over to my mom’s to also spend a night there.

On Sunday we all met up at that museum and had that lovely afternoon I wrote about yesterday. Alas brother D2 from London and my niece had to leave again the same afternoon to fly back to London and make sure that my niece got back to her school dorm in Cambridge before the 9 pm curfew. Brother D and nephew wanted to see the Formula One race at 6 pm our time. So, they dropped my mother off at home and then drove on to drop my younger brother and Miss France off at my sister’s apartment (they had no interest in Formula One). In the meantime, we drove my sister back to her apartment as well and afterwards, just as the race started, welcomed D and nephew to our home again. We ordered pizza, watched the race, then D and nephew left, picked up younger brother and Miss France again to drop them off at a hotel in Delft before they drove on to my mom’s for a last night there. They had an early morning flight back to Israel today.

Is anyone still following any of this? It’s your typical S-family chaos. 🙂 I didn’t even include the chaotic family logistics in getting everyone from the museum to the restaurant yesterday. At one point we had lost both our kids who had apparently gone on with other family members and we drove to the restaurant with two family stragglers. I think I can safely say we left no one behind, though. Also, I haven’t included any of the logistics my two other brothers and my younger sister, who have cars, dealt with. Handsome Mr Esther, who normally likes to be in control, says that on S-family occasions he personally steps aside, offers no advice but just lets things take their course, in the hopes it will all turn out well. It usually does.

Speaking of handsome Mr E, I took this picture of him yesterday, makes me fall in love with him all over again! Also, the picture of my mother hugging my brother from London pretty much says it all and makes all the complicated logistics more than worth it.

Suffice it to say, I’ve not been this busy socially and with family logistics in forever and I’m pooped! So yes, I wished I was our cat today and didn’t have to work.

Family

My mother turned 86 last week and to celebrate that, we had a party planned for her for months. We were especially eager to celebrate as we hadn’t been able to celebrate her 85th birthday together last year, due to the Corona crisis and lockdowns. That meant that family from abroad now also made a point to come, including all the multiple Corona tests they had to take to get here (and travel back again tonight and tomorrow). With new lockdown restrictions going into effect here yesterday, we feared we’d have to cancel today’s party but luckily that was not necessary. We are all vaccinated (my brother and nephew from Israel are even triple-vaccinated!), we all have vaccination passes that we were able to show (and we were indeed requested to do so) and felt very safe doing such a large gathering together, keeping a distance to other people.

My mother likes to combine a museum with something leisurely afterwards so wanted us all to visit the “Oranjehotel” in Scheveningen/Den Haag with her, which was a Nazi prison where during WWII Dutch resistance fighters or anyone else considered criminal were held prisoner.

My grandfather (my mother’s father) was in the Dutch resistance and he often told his daughter that had he not successfully evaded the Nazis, he too would have been interred at the Oranjehotel. It was very interesting walking around there, seeing testimonies on film of those who had been imprisoned there and survived the war, seeing the cells and artefacts and also reading final goodbye letters of those people who were taken out to be shot.

The Oranjehotel is attached to the large prison in Den Haag that also houses International Criminal Court prisoners, like for instance ex-Serbian president Slobodan Milošević, who also died there.

After visiting the museum we all went to a restaurant at the beach where (again after all showing our Corona passes) we had a high tea together.

My mother, my aunt, all seven siblings and all grandkids (except for two) were present. Time, of course, to take a family picture (yeah, blurred because, well, the internet)…

I love that vaccinations have made it safe for our family to gather together and I admit to brushing away a little tear of happiness here and there. It was just absolutely beautiful to do something like this again.

A garden for living in

For the Mach’ Was challenge to do something with gardens, here I’m doing something with mine. We’ve been living in our current house for almost 15 years now, which has both a front and a back garden. Not huge but big enough and green and a bit of an oasis for us. These two gardens have given us so much joy and so many memories over the years…

The summer after we moved in, the back garden became a building ground. We wanted grass and so took out a lot of the stone tiles…

The garden was used as a playground by our children (and our cats) when they were small…

It’s been a bit of a sculpture gallery as well…

Our gardens, front and back, are a place to chill…

… and eat and celebrate birthdays and anniversaries and national holidays…

They are places to be worked on, like trimming the overgrowth or making the front garden look nice again…

… and for our cats to enjoy (I’m including my old black and white cat who died years ago as well)…

… we use it for little family photo sessions with the kids, or with some of my siblings, or for recording video messages for someone’s birthday…

… we sometimes do our actual jobs in our gardens, especially during Covid lockdowns (and our neighbour’s cat sometimes comes to visit as well)…

… we gaze at objects flying over our garden, like a police helicopter a few weeks ago, or, preferably, hot air balloons flying over on some evenings in the spring and summer months…

We enjoy the spring and summer blossoms…

… and the winter…

… and magical lights at night…

Yes, we really enjoy our gardens and the lives we get to lead in them. Mr. Esther and I are talking of moving in a few years time to another town and a nice large flat with a balcony when the kids definitely leave the house. I wonder if we really will do that, though – move to a place without a garden. I think we may miss our own outside green space too much.

As the summer ends…

… I hope I can continue to hold on to some of the positivity I have come to feel during this summer. Getting away for our summer holiday to France this year has really lifted my spirits. It has also helped put things a little bit in perspective for me. Yes, I hate my job, but I only work 32 hours (i.e. 4 days) a week and work really isn’t everything! Working from home for a year and half during lockdowns and restricted activities has started to make it feel like it is everything, probably due to lack of other distractions, but it really is not everything. Also, work allows me to pay for things I enjoy, like that holiday in France, and I have quite a good amount of days off as well. I have decided that I really shouldn’t let my work frustration colour my general mood so much. I hope I can hold on to that as I continue to search for work that will hopefully bring me more joy in the future.

I have much to be thankful for, I realize again as I sit here in our garden in what may be one of the last days of summer before it gets too chilly and wet to sit outside much…

On weekends this September I have enjoyed watching my kids play their sports. Junior tries to fit in handball whenever he can during his very busy work schedule at his hotel and also trying to finish off the last of school so that he can hopefully receive his diploma in a month or two.

And yes, he scored that goal after a breakout play. Mini me has also been loving getting back into football again after the summer, seen here (in red and black on the left) in a defensive action…

Mr Esther and I look at each other and wonder where our kids’ love of and talent for sports comes from, as neither he nor I have it. We’re both really glad they do enjoy it so much as it’s not only healthy and fun for them, it’s also great for their social lives.

I also love seeing our kids adore our cats…

…. and when I see videos like this one of Mandy Patinkin singing prayers to his dog…

… I just grin and nod in recognition as we too are always singing to our cats (well, not prayers and admittedly, it’s mostly me singing, but you get my point).

I am thankful that socializing is happening a little more now. Not too much, I love my alone time, but a little more than during lockdown is good. I am thankful my family is all still healthy (my older brother in Israel did contract Covid a few weeks ago but due to having been vaccinated he had no symptoms) and my friends are healthy too. I am also happy to be helping some refugees through the volunteer work I am able to do at a Council for Refugees office for one afternoon a week (on my ‘free’ Wednesdays). I always feel so helpless when switching on the news, most recently with all the news coming from Afghanistan, and doing this volunteer work makes me feel like I can contribute to make at least some things a little bit better. Like it says in that famous ‘serenity prayer’: Gant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. So, I try to change the things I can and I hope that at least will keep me positive.

I suffer from the winter blues and I think the last round lasted almost until the summer holidays so I really hope to not sink into that again. Extra vitamin D, making sure I get outside more during the winter months and reminding myself of this mood in this post will hopefully help me stay positive for a while. Fingers crossed.