What does the word – TOLERANT – mean to you?

The other day, during a discussion over coffee, someone talked about the word – Tolerant. It all sort of started with something that hit the headlines here in The Netherlands about the fires on NYE in Scheveningen (on the North Sea coastline) near to The Hague.

Over many years, people who live on one side of the harbour entrance, live in Scheveningen, on the other side it is Duindorp. There is such rivalry when it comes to the building of the fire, which is set alight on the beach on NYE by both sides. 

Now fires on such occasions is nothing new, but this year a record number of wooden pallets/crates were used to build gi-normous constructions on either side of the harbour. Now NYE is quite something else here in The Netherlands. Over the top I think is the best way to describe it. Recently films on You Tube showed fireworks here on a typical NYE and it looked like a war zone. People have really had enough and all through the year there are endless discussions on whether or not it should be banned, completely, the stopping of illegal firewords, firework free zones marked out in major cities. And so on, all discussions and very little actual action Is actually taken.

This NYE, a sudden sea wind meant that the pile of pallets/crates was seriously on fire and sparks and flames were blowing over the entire neighborhood. Totally out of control, there was nothing anyone could do. The damage is intense, from cars, to homes, clothing, people running for shelter as’ balls of fire’ and ‘hot sparks’ literally dropped from the sky.

Even more discussions about who is responsible? The mayor for not stopping it, knowing that the height of the fire before it was even lit, was way beyond the normal sensible limitations, the Fire Brigade, the Police and as if ever so, the final say about who is responsible gets passed around. This is called: ‘passing the buck’ around until everyone literally does not know anymore who is eventually responsible. In other words, no one actually has an answer or is willing to step up and say so. So let’s literally sweep the entire mess under a huge carpet.

But coming back to my word Tolerant. I looked up its meaning, as I often do and it says:

Tolerant: The ability of willingness to tolerate the existence of opinions or behaviour that one dislikes or disagrees with…

Well there you have it then!

Or: the capacity to endure continued subjection to something such as a drug or environmental conditions without adverse reactions.

My friend remarked over his coffee that being tolerant means that we have just become scared of saying what we think. We just go along with things and as such we are tolerant. Tolerance has become fear. From a positive thought to a negative one.

Food for thought isn’t it?

So are all the people in the USA being tolerant when local governmental offices have been closed down and they have not received any salary, just because ‘tpothus’ has decided that in his narcissistic way, that damned wall is going to be built between the US/Mexican borders no matter what his senate or other governmental officials say. Majority or not, he is having the final say whatever the consequences. What about asking what his fellow citizens think? Is anyone listening to them at all? No, I think is the answer and there you have my word again: tolerant (or tolerance as it is in this sentence). 

So why are we all being so tolerant? That is my question and thought today, as life returns to normal after the Festive Season. Schools begin again and on this morning’s main news, there HE is again, carping on once more about his wall and that it is going to be built of steel! Does anyone really care? Why is the US going to such expense, surely there must be a peaceful way and the money spent on projects which are much more urgent and needy? USD 15 billion for a wall (and they expect now that the costs will be more in the region of USD 33 billion – er what?), when you think what a huge worldwide subject, which it was in 1989, when the wall built many years ago between West and East Germany was knocked down. I am sorry I just don’t get it at all. Can someone please explain? What is the point?

Is tolerance now another word for fear? Fear to speak out and say what you think? Or do we all just keep running along with public opinion? No matter what we think? Basically yes, we do!

How much longer are people all over the world going to be tolerant? This world is in a big mess. Any fool can see that and basically we all do nothing about it.

Why aren’t big influencers taking more of a stand? Speaking out more? We have become tolerant of far too much on a huge number of subjects.

Going back to the situation here in The Netherlands about the NYE fire a lot of the victims are uniting as one front. They are speaking out about the damage of their property and would you believe it, the major who has been saying nothing than: ‘I will wait to see the results of the general enquiry about the incident’ turns out to be the person sitting on the committee for said enquiry. For goodness sake! Where is her empathy for the people who have suffered? Talk about biased.

Maybe the word – Tolerant – is something we should all think about this January, the first month of a new year. Is it time maybe to speak out about the things we do not agree with? This does not have to such a trending topic, like the wall between Mexico and the USA, or even about a fire in one town in one very small country. It is so much more than that.

If there is something that you do not agree with and accept purely because you are afraid to speak out about it, maybe this is the moment to find some courage and do just that? 

Are you just being tolerant of a situation, person, of thing you basically do not agree with? Are you afraid of speaking out then? 

Isn’t it time? You remember the old trusted saying: that a ripple in the ocean is the beginning of a wave. How true is that?

Maybe it is time for people to say more about what they think and stand up more for themselves. Perhaps we have all been far too tolerant for far too long? I think so do you? 

Image: Google Images

2019 Eclipse Season starting again

Just a short post today, it is the start of Eclipse Season. We have a New Moon today and then a lunar eclipse in my sign Leo on the 21st January 2019. Have a great app on my iPhone for those of you who are interested in following lunar cycles called: Moon Plus. You can download for free from the App store. Enjoy.

A new moon in zodiac sign Capricorn has significant meanings when it comes to relationships:

It is urging you to make your needs a priority.

Take some time to set personal boundaries.

Consider getting rid of partnerships that don’t offer honest intimacy.

Have a good Sunday everyone!

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS? yes or no?


Well today is the 3rd of January and as I have mentioned earlier, 2019 is a 3 year so it seems appropriate to write something today!

It is a horrible grey January morning here in The Netherlands and pouring with rain. I saw a magnificent rainbow a few moments ago, the last bit of blue sky before the downpour.

Just as 2018 came to an end, I was working on the translation of a blog by a friend of mine called Janosh. It was all about ‘Making your own Statement in 2019’. If you want to read it for yourself, go to (www.janosh.com) and click on the blogs, there are three languages to choose from English, Dutch and Spanish.

I enjoyed doing the work because I so agreed with what he was saying.

The funny thing is that we as humans all feel that we have to join in with the masses. It is expected of us all to make New Year’s Resolutions! Why? Did we do it all so badly the year before? Or is it the idea that a New Year wipes the slate clean, you have 365 blank pages to write a new story?

Funny how the majority of resolutions begin with the word: less!

I find this interesting, why less and not more?

Of course, after the Holiday Season, where the majority of us have overindulged on all scores, maybe things like eating less or drinking less are applicable?

Before I go on, I looked up what the actual meaning is of NY Resolutions and is it apparently something common in the Western hemisphere (but also the Eastern). It literally says:

A tradition in which a person resolves to change an undesired trait or behaviour, to accomplish personal goal or growth, in other words improve their life.

And it is nothing new. Resolutions date back to Babylonian times, when ancient civilizations promised to give back goods or pay their debts. The Romans promised to the God Janus, after which the month is named. Ancient knights took a so-called ‘peacock vow’ to affirm their commitment to chivalry. In ancient beliefs too, in Judaism at ‘Rosh Hashanah” culminating at Yon Kippur (the day of atonement) and in Christianity the liturgical season of Lent. Even though the meaning behind Lent is more about sacrifice than responsibility. Basically it was all about self-improvement. There is nothing wrong with that idea, irrespective of whatever belief you have.

Even though the actual holidays (Christmas and Boxing Day) are only 2 days in an otherwise normal week, it seems to be a ‘must’ to overfill our tables and over eat and drink. Otherwise we are not keeping up with so-called tradition. And every year I do it again, over buy, have far too much food in the house, overfull fridges and freezers, just as if, I like many, think the shops are never opening again. In actual fact, here in The Netherlands a lot of supermarkets were actually open on Christmas Day in larger towns and cities. Ridiculous! Of course it is wonderful to have time with family and friends and invite them to your table, again nothing wrong with that. But somehow along the way, I think a lot of us how forgotten the real reasons.

But back to new resolutions and the blog which inspired me to write this one too.

Why do we all feel that we HAVE to start with major plans and changes in the New Year? It is such a ‘come down’ from the festive season. A lot of people feel that they have to have a swim in the freezing cold North Sea. Why? Why on the 1stJanuary, the next day would be exactly the same wouldn’t it? Janosh said, do you do it because you really want to, or merely to follow the masses? The latter is I suspect, the case.

The minute Christmas and all festivities are over we are completely subjected to advertisements about getting fit, eating more healthy foods, a membership to the local gym is a must, we have to get our holidays organized whilst the offers are on.

I agree with Janosh, why do we? No one is saying that WE HAVE TO.

What is wrong with doing things differently and as he said: ‘making your OWN Statement in 2019’. Why not indeed?

I personally think it is a complete waste of time making NY Resolutions unless you fully intend to keep them and come on let’s be honest the majority of us have given up around the second week of January. Why? Do we set the bar just a bit too high? Do we expect almost instant results? Yes we do. It is a sign of our times that we want things fast. We have to otherwise we cannot keep up with the pace of life these days. We have all become impatient on that score.

But my question is why do we allow ourselves to be so influenced? Of course it is good for us all to live our lives in a healthy way. Eat good, nutritious fresh foods, cut back on junk food, and drink more water and less alcohol. How many of you reading this agree? We need to take better care of our physical bodies, but considering the majority of us have spent our lives not doing that, we cannot expect ‘a complete turn’ around in the space of a couple of weeks. If you want to make a change on this score do it gradually. Funnily enough I opened the national newspaper this morning and the cover photo is of a man who lost 70kg in weight over a period of two years. No crash diet, not being an intense gym junkie, but just cutting down and being sensible. Now there is a word: sensible.

If you are overweight and have gained weight over a long period of time, then you cannot expect to shed it within a couple of weeks. Your body has got used to the excess and it will take just as long to reduce down as it did to build up. But what if you have been overweight all your life and you are a ‘mood or comfort eater’? Then the big question here is why? The only way to do anything about this is to make conscious change and choices for you. If you are someone who is a ‘mood’ eater then ask yourself why don’t I think about doing something else when I automatically find my solace in food? There is always a reason and may it is time to think about changing that reason? Same applies to ‘comfort’ eating. Why do you need the comfort? Isn’t it time to think about making a change in your circumstances?

Whatever the reasons and whatever you want to change in your life, there is one first important thing you have to think about and that is the reason. Do you really want to? Is the change right for you or are you just following the trend? Are you completely behind your choice? If not, why not? It is much more about having a short dialogue with yourself about the ‘how’s and why’s’ before you even set about thinking what your list is. There is a big difference in the words MUST or HAVING TO as opposed to WANTING or WISHING TO.

To be perfectly honest I have not made a single resolution this year apart from one thing and that is, to be kinder to myself. To have more respect for my body, my mind and my health. If there is one thing on this entire planet, which you cannot buy, it is good health. Of course I can cut down on food, drink more water, go to bed earlier, exercise more, but it is never going to be anything sustainable unless I really want to. That is the whole point. I have to go deep down inside me to ask these questions and then the answers are already there. If I don’t want, then believe me I will not succeed whatever the list of reasons may be. 

Going back to what Janosh talked about in his blog: If you want to make your own statement in 2019 then do just that. Dare to be a little bit different and not just run with the herd. It is our nature as humans to follow the masses, do what is expected of us, but what will happen if you dare to maybe do things differently knowing that it is something you really want. Not just on the outside but deep within too.

One of the cartoons in the newspapers this morning shows a cat stretching on a couch and asking itself, what are my resolutions for the New Year. The answer he gave was only ….. I am just puuuuurfect.

We should all think about this! 

Happy New Year

Image: Google Images

GEARING UP FOR GRANDPARENTING


I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone. It seems only like yesterday that my daughter and son-in-law came to tell me that they were expecting a baby and that their greatest adventure ever will begin in February 2019.

So I am going to be a grandparent.

It is emotional when your own child is suddenly going to be a mother too.

Now she is at the 32-week stage and only 8 weeks to go.

Yesterday was the first time for ages that we had a ‘mum and daughter’ day out.

Probably not the best choice of days, 27thDecember, the after Christmas sales have started and virtually everyone has taken the rest of the week off work.

Roads filled with cars with family, all going at snail’s pace.

Arriving at the Mega Stories in Rotterdam Alexandrium, the car park was virtually empty and we parked right beside the lift. I am still using one crutch when out and about where people are, having had my hip replaced several weeks ago. Just in case!

Strange how after Christmas, the music playing and decorations suddenly look all out of place and too crass for words. And the place was virtually empty! Hoorah, we seem to have beaten the bargain hunters after Christmas. We wandered around the shops and my daughter bought some of the last bits and pieces on her list. Then to the Prenatal Mega Store.

I had been planning to actually make a small quilt for the baby’s playpen, which we have already bought for them, but choosing the materials is quite something when she has a very definite idea about which colours, materials and such like. Not to mention if the filling is officially approved for newborns? A trip out the previous Saturday to the only haberdashery and material shop we both know on this island, revealed that they had finally closed their doors weeks ago. So is online ordering the best alternative? Unless quite by chance we find a shop here today.

My daughter wanted to buy her ‘bringing the baby home outfit’. Yes, this is special the first outfit after she is born (yes it’s a girl too) is something you have to choose for yourself. Then upstairs to buy ‘a thing’ for the Maxi Cosy and suddenly we come across the most perfect quilt for in the playpen, fluffy soft material and exactly the colour she wants. So easy, all done and bought for probably a fraction of the amount the material would have cost and not to mention actually making it, that would have been quite something else, as I have never done quilting before! So perhaps a bit of a too adventurous idea, now solved.

Another thing on the list ticked off.

On the way back and by this time it is so busy and people are so glad when someone finally vacates a parking place we talked about the next few weeks. Only 20 actual working days for my daughter and then she will officially be on ‘maternity leave’. 

We have nicknamed the baby ‘Truus’. It started as a joke but somehow its stuck; even my daughter is calling her that now. It is not going to be her name; we only know the initials so far, which of course I will reveal at a later date.

On the drive back home we were talking and it is interesting to hear that she, just like I did all those years ago, had definite ideas in her head about how the delivery will go, how she is going to deal with it and say what she does and doesn’t want. She said: “I want it all to be over with in 2 hours and then go home (from the hospital)”. Wishful thinking perhaps for a firstborn? But you never know do you?

I related the story I have told many times to people about my old school friend in the UK who was just about to have her baby and full scale panic to get to the hospital before the baby arrived and her husband went upstairs to have a quick shower and shave!  Her daughter was nearly born in the hospital entrance they cut the time so fine!

I told me daughter that I think that the best way to deal with the contractions is to learn to breathe properly. Learn to breathe the ‘yoga way’. Deep breathes from the belly and puffing and huffing, when you have to at the end. She does not want an epidural, no painkillers, just the natural way and then the only way is controlling your breathing. Agree?

For Christmas this year I had a really great book: 100 things grandparents should do with their grandchild and some really lovely amusing things too. Over dinner on Boxing Day, my daughter suddenly said Oma Kramer (which is Dutch for Granny and no I am not going to be called that). Under no circumstances! It makes me think of my own mother-in-law who was not the easiest of people and I just cannot have Truus calling me that too. So I want to keep in line with the tradition from my side of the family (the British side) and take the name Nanna. If Truus arrives on the 20thFebruary (the actual official date is the 23rd) she will be sixth generation from my side born on the 20thof the month. Just wonder if she will arrive then?

So it’s going to be Nanna and Opa! No more discussion about that. Final say so!

I must admit it is getting more exciting now. My daughter is really showing now that she is pregnant. She was so exercised and trim beforehand that you could not even see a bump at the beginning, but as I told her recently you billow out in the last 2 months. (In other words take on the form of a breached whale).

Truus is running out of space in there now, you regularly see either a knee, foot or her bottom suddenly move and sticking out. I have felt it too. My daughter is starting to get the Braxton Hicks type of pre-contractions. That is when your soft bulge goes incredibly hard and there is a lot of movement inside.

Next week we are all going for the final Echo before birth!

Tomorrow going to go for a cuppa with her as two of her old school friends are visiting and one of them is exactly at the same stage, exactly the same expected date, wonder how they managed that? 

So I have a little job to do today. When the idea of a ‘baby shower’ was mentioned, my daughter said empathically that she did not want to have one under any circumstances. It’s really something that has blown over from the USA, like Black Friday. No one ever did that here before.

I could buy lots of things for my little Truus to be, but I want to make something more special, something I have actually done myself. There is so much (too much) choice in the shops and any fool could buy them.

So closing off the first one of my countdown blogs now, to get creative. With a bit of luck it might be ready to take with me tomorrow.

I wonder how many of you out there remember this too? Not only being a parent for the first time but also on the verge of being allowed to climb a rung higher up the generation ladder to becoming a grandparent.

Please share your own story in the feed!

MERRY CHRISTMAS

Well, only 2 days to go and just wanted to add in this last post in 2018. A huge thank you to all of you out there who have read my blogs and taken the time to write such positive comments. I have done my best to reply to as many as possible. So …

Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year

Prettige Feestdagen en Gelukkig Nieuwjaar

Joyeux Noel & Bonne Annee

Felix Navidad & Properos Ano Nuevo

Augori do buon Natale en Felice Anno Neuvo

God Jul & Godt Nytar

Feliz Natal en Bom Anno Novo

Noflike Krystdagen en in profet Lok en Sine yn it Nijne Jier

Something new for 2019

Just as the year is coming to an end, wanted to share something with my readers. Next year, UHMI will be adding the extra facility of being able to add funds to your personal wallet with all known credit cards. This is a great move, as a lot of my readers are based all over the world. This morning in a phone call with UHMI we have decided to wait with the publication of The Blue House and then share this in two parts. So patience please it is coming soon, as promised.

Personally I am going to research a couple of new ideas discussed this morning and that is more e-books as opposed to text. Just being able to download one of my books as an e-book and also the idea of making an audio booklet. Starting with something perhaps a bit smaller as opposed to a full book.

The new book Art of of Confessions is coming too in January and I will now look into more possibilities.

It would be great to have some feed back or ideas from you please readers. What are your ideas, suggestions and such like? Let me know.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone. Let’s all make an effort for improvement in all walks of life next year. The world needs change and we all do too. It is time to be more loving, more tolerant, more understanding and change begins first of all with you, me and all of use. Seems like a pretty good thought to end off 2018 and step into 2019. New moments, new choices and new chances.

DECEMBER TRADITIONS PART TWO

 

FATHER CHRISTMAS/SANTA CLAUS

United Kingdom and North America

Well, this is the one for me, the one I know the most about, having been born and bred in England. I just loved Christmas as a child, and still do really, even though a little bit of the sparkle has gone since I grew up.

But we are all a child a heart and the minute I see Christmas trees, holly and decorations, I am, deep inside, that same child who loves Christmas

As I said in my blog about the Netherlands, when I came to live here, no one really bothered about Christmas, but now it is a big event.

So what is all about:

Well, each and every child is told at a very early age about Father Christmas and that he lives at the North Pole. There with his family of eleves, he spends the entire year making toys for children. Everyone sends off a letter to him to tell him if they have been ‘naughty or nice’ and you are on THE LIST. Father Christmas checks it twice, remember the famous song, and on Christmas Eve (24thDecember) he departs with an immense sack of toys, a sleigh and reindeer all over the world. Magic happens, he can go down chimneys, through fireplaces and is able to put a present by every single Christmas tree, which is all decorated with baubles, tinsel, glitter and lights. Every child leaves him a mince pie and a glass of milk and perhaps something for the reindeer and miraculously he gets around the entire world all in one night.

I remember it well as a child, the most exciting time of the year, even better than birthdays. Yes, really.

So let’s talk a bit first about the history of Father Christmas or Santa Claus.

The first records about Father Christmas date back to the 15thCentury. The figure as we know him today was developed in the Victorian period. Originally the Puritan controlled English Government tried unsuccessfully to abolish Father Christmas but the Royalist supporters, linked the tradition not only to gift-bringing and giving, but also to days of feasting, drinking and good cheer.  It was actually in Victorian times, Father Christmas was accepted as a ‘person’ who was more associated with children than adults. The myth of Santa Claus (which originated from America) came to England in 1850 and has grown a lot since that date. There is really no difference anymore about the different names, Father Christmas or Santa Claus, both are now accepted as being the same.

Father Christmas is now personified as being a jolly, slightly overweight man, in a red hooded cloak, trimmed with white fur. He has white hair and a long white beard. Always carried a large sack of presents of course! Remember?

On Christmas Eve we would usually go to the cinema for the latest Disney film. The one etched in my memory the most was Sleeping Beauty and the magical fairies. As a small child, I really believed in it all. Going home on a bright starlight clear night, stopping at the phone box (yes probably many of you will not even remember them). We would phone my grandparents up north, wish them Merry Christmas, because my grandfather would be holding services at his church. I never really understood the true meaning of him being a non-conformist minister, it sounds as if he just wanted to do things a bit different in his church, Zion in Hyde, Cheshire, UK. Good for him, it is a bit like I am I suppose, I like to do things differently too, too many rules and regulations are something that I cannot do at all.

Then we would go home, have mince pies and of course a cuppa! Then off to bed, it was later than usual and there would be no visit from Father Christmas until all children are asleep.

Then the following morning I would be awake at about 5am, rush into our lounge and marvel at the piles and piles of presents. Waking my parents up, so totally over excited. My Mum would make tea, looking as is she was half asleep (well she was). Then we would open presents and no we never managed to save some for later. After breakfast the work would start for The Christmas Dinner. Usually my other grandparents were staying with us too. So it was all fun, I thought. I would play with all the new things whilst there was a hive of activity in the kitchen.

Christmas dinner or a very late lunch was just before the Queen’s speech at 3pm. It was not done to miss that! And when you think she is 93 now and still giving our her Christmas Message, it’s quite a remarkable thing isn’t it.

Back to Father Christmas, when all the presents are delivered he and a very tired group of reindeer travel back to the North Pole, until next year.

I think that this tradition is similar in many European countries too, but I would love some feedback from you please readers. Subscribers to my RSS fed. Please share your story. One thing I remember when I had my own children was that it was a real major task each and every year, splitting the presents between Sinterklaas and Christmas. I always tried to have a theme each year, and everyone would get something relating to that theme. From socks to watches, from perfume to aftershave.

And there is one thing I just have to have each and every Christmas and that is a mince pie. My mother used to make the best ever. She was really good at shortcrust pastry. Mincemeat for those who have never heard of it, is a mixture of dried fruits, suet and sometimes nuts. You make a pie of pastry (small), fill it, place a topping on and bake. My Christmas box has arrived this morning from the British Corner Shop in the UK and I will take a photo and add to the blog, so you can see for yourselves. So heaven from now, on each and every coffee break, no one else eats them and I have 12, for the 12 Days of Christmas, like the famous song. And a Christmas Cake and Christmas Pudding. I am all sorted out this year.

So miss ‘Marks and Spencers’ here in The Hague, that was always a day out with my son, shopping and having so many bags from there, we had to always take them back to the car before carrying on. Because believe me there is absolutely no chocolate anywhere in the world, like Cadbury’s.

On Friday this week a friend is coming for the day and we will go to the Christmas Market at the garden centre, the largest in Holland.

So wherever you are in this world, which ever way you celebrate, just a final message to finish off these two blogs.

I wish you all a very ‘Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year’. Thank you to all my readers for all your support this year, the huge amount of reactions I have had from all of you. I have tried as much as possible to reply to all of them. If you want to ask me something specifically or something you do not want to share in the feed, you can. Just send me an email to wordpassion12@gmail.com. Please mark it personal though I get on average about 200-300 each and every day.

Make sure you kiss all your loved ones this year under the Mistletoe. (The blog about this is in the feed December 2017)

DECEMBER TRADITIONS PART ONE

Make December a month to remember!

Since my website seems to be trending all over the world, suddenly people get in touch with me and cross my path. Often with questions about which programme I am using for my blogs and which support engine i.e. domain. Sometimes it loads up really fast, sometimes too slow, how do I add plugin’s and so on. So before I go on: I am using WordPress supported by Hostnet PRO and Google Chrome is the best.

Other people have questions about my books and I really enjoy connecting with people across the globe. Often simple questions and chats turn into longer conversations and all of a sudden you find yourself with a new friend, in another country, another continent, another belief, different languages, different traditions and different celebrations in the month of December.

So to this special person, (yes, inspired by you Laim) the first part of my blog about December traditions is all about the Jewish celebration of Chanoeka or Hanukkah. This year, 2018 it officially begins at sunset on Sunday 2ndDecember for a period of 8 days. Inspired by the words: Honesty above Forgery. Spirituality above Materialism.

Virtually everyone knows that this Jewish tradition is all about the ancient festival of light. But when I looked up more information about it, it is incredibly interesting and this is the reason why I am sharing with you

We have all heard of the special candelabra (menorah) with nine candles, which is officially called a Chanoekia. It used to have seven candles; I am not sure why this has changed? Anyone know? Each day a candle is lit until they are all, the ninth being lit on the final day. Some traditions say all are lit at the same time, and in ancient times burned all 8 days, but I prefer to think myself that this may have been the oil used in the cleansing ritual as opposed to an actual candle. Please correct me if I am wrong in the comments.

Sometimes there are four Hebrew letters on the candelabra (see photo). These are:

Noen, Gimmel, He and Sijen. The most popular meaning of this four-letter combination is: nes gadol haja sjam– meaning a great wonder, which occurred. This relates to the wonder of the Chanoeka bottle, which was used to initiate the Temple in ancient times in Jerusalem.

Other explanations for the words are: noen= nothing, gimmel= ganz (everything), he= half and sijen= pay.

(A simple explanation is; that you should put your money back into the pot), which in itself it very similar to the collection in Christian churches to this day. And also to modern day casinos, would you believe it, when you place a bet and have a win, often it is expected that you give your original bet (amount) back to the house!

The tradition of Chanoeka dates back to very ancient times. In fact to 165 BC.

The story of Chanoeka can be found in books 1 and 2 of Maccabees. The books as such are not part officially part of the Tenach, (a Jewish holy book) but a part of the Apocrypha (a book of unknown origin). Written at the time of a Jewish rebellion against the Seleucid dynasty.

Chanoeka was initiated by Judah Maccabees and his brothers. It was a joyful celebration of the dedication of the altar in the Temple in Jerusalem. Judah gave the instruction to cleanse the Temple and to build a new altar. When the light was ignited, this was celebrated for the next 8 days. Offers were given and celebrations took place, singing songs, playing games and often with a toy called a ‘top’. This was called a Sevinon or Dreidel with a letter on each side (as above). Often filled with special cleansing oil.

Chanoeka has been celebrated for more than 21 centuries, so it is an ancient tradition. A festival of light. For 8 days. This year ending on 10th December.

Often people make latkes (potato cakes) and Soefgariot (donuts).

 

Actually when you think about this, it’s something, which is celebrated in a similar way with the Christian Advent (the coming of an event – the birth of Jesus), when a candle is lit on the first Sunday in December continuing on for the next four weeks until Christmas.

 

 

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SINTERKLAAS IN THE NETHERLANDS

When I first came to live in The Netherlands, I had never heard before of the celebration of Sinterklaas. (St. Nicholas). This is celebrated on the 5thDecember.

St Nicholas originated from Turkey but came to The Netherlands from Spain with his Moorish helpers, known as Zwarte Pieten (Black Peters) in olden times. His steam ship would arrive in one of the ports along the Dutch coastline and he would bring toys and special things for children, who have been good all year. One of the things he brought in years gone by, were oranges from Spain. In those days, many people had never ever seen an orange let alone tasted one.

In the days leading up to 5th December, Zwarte Pieten (Black Peters) bring small toys for children who put their shoes by fireplace before they go to bed, leaving a carrot for Sinterklaas’ horse Amerigo.

On the actual day, in other words: the main event: a large sack of presents arrive at the door. Children are of course by this time extremely excited. Families also make funny presents and rhymes for older family members. This is often a moment, when you can tease someone about something that has happened during the year. But all in all, a fun evening, both for young and old.

There are lots of sweets and biscuits made around this time of year, most famous are ‘pepernoten’ (small cinnamon biscuits), ’suikerbeesten’ (small animals made from sugar), ‘chocolate letters (usually with your own initial) and ‘speculaas’ (again a spicy biscuit sometimes filled with marzipan and extremely sweet chocolate ‘kikkers and muizen’ (frogs and mice).  It is interesting to see how these days, a lot of recipes and such like are now using much less sugar than before!). No one ever worried about that before! Or about long term effects!

This is an old tradition dating back over several hundreds of years and it is very sad that recently people have started to take offense to the Black Peter’s describing this racist and such like. Often in the past couple of years, angry demonstrations occurred in places, when Sinterklaas arrives in his boat. This is sad I think, because this is a celebration and old tradition for children, not adults and they do not understand for one moment what all this sudden fuss is all about. They are excited when he arrives, try to behave and be extra good in anticipation of the presents on the 5th. Sinterklaas actually celebrates his own birthday on the 6thDecember. I think it will be a real shame if this eventually disappears just because of intolerance and misunderstanding.

During the years I have lived here, Christmas, which was hardly apparent when I first came, has really overtaken Sinterklaas and is celebrated by more and more people each year. People put trees and decorations in their homes and gardens, which all looks really magical on the darker evenings. So basically they are celebrating the light too?

Father Christmas seems to be taking over slowly but surely.

 

To be continued…. and please if you feel like sharing the traditions and customs in your own country, leave a comment which I can then add to the feed.

 

Images: Google Images

IS BIG BROTHER REALLY WATCHING YOU??

It seems that Internet security is a trending topic at the moment. It certainly keeps coming up in my life. This week I found out something that is really shocking and that is why I am sharing it with you via this blog.

We have all known for a long time the way ‘Big Brother’ is watching all the time. It is purely a sign of the times, as we say, the connection across the globe. Less than twenty years ago (yes, really), the World Wide Web was just taking a hold of our lives.

Now we all are connected with our smartphones, tablets, laptops and computers and it is really a huge part of our daily lives. We just love to share and everyone does it.

My son recently said to me, they (Big Brother) could see everything you do via the camera in your equipment. I sort of shrugged it off as an almost ridiculous idea. But believe me it is NOT!

Read on please …..

 

Yesterday I watched a programme about 5 Danish students who were asked officially to design a special app. The app when downloaded would give them access to literally everything in say, someone’s smartphone. Sounds impossible, absolutely not. I will explain.

When we download apps and I was really surprised how many,  people actually have, we agree to the so-called Terms and Conditions. Do any of us really bother to read, no, we just click on ‘agree’. Hidden in masses of words are our agreement that the app accesses our microphone and camera. Really!

One of the biggest users of our data is Facebook and Google. Don’t believe me? Well, think about this. If you just happen to like something on Facebook about say a place like Bali, have you then noticed that suddenly you seem to get a lot of information about Bali. This is wonderful if you are actually planning to go, but for the majority of people around the world, this is not the case. Google look, with their gi-normous search engines and computer capacity, and by agreeing to their terms and conditions, they may use your data. By this I mean your photos, your chats, literally everything.

So going back to the Danish students. They developed and did a trial on the app, amongst themselves. They were surprised how much they could actually follow including a conversation on say an app like Whatsapp video. This is alarming. Would you want someone you did not know to be able to listen in to your private discussions, access your messages (through social media) or access all your data. What about the fact that virtually all of us have the mobile app on our phones for  Internet banking (Tikkie too)?

They then did a survey by offering the app for free (which was called Flashlight) to people on the street. Remember this was a survey, so they did tell all the people at the end why. Literally everyone handed over their phone to install the app. Amazing. Would you? Your answer is more than likely yes.

They did the same with Danish government officials too. Everyone downloaded and accepted the app.

This app was specially designed for one purpose, so show people how vulnerable they are. The results were mind blowing as you can imagine, everyone was flabbergasted how easy it was and how unprotected they were.

Now having read this, take some time today to look at the apps on your phone, tablets etc etc. Via Settings, look how many of your apps have access to your camera and your microphone. Virtually all of them. Switch it off right now!!

If you regularly use say Whatsapp for video chatting to friends, this is probably the only one you should leave open, because Whatsapp is actually encrypted from person to person. All the same, remember you are leaving a small space open for access.

I did exactly the same when the programme ended. I was shattered how many of my apps gave access to my microphone, camera and worst of all, my location. Normally I never have my location switched on, because if this is on, you can be followed all over the place. All over the place! Every single second, every single minute, every single hour, every single day!

Now I probably know that the younger readers amongst us maybe will not care. They are sharing so much through apps likes Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Whatsapp to name but a few, but isn’t is maybe our responsibility as parents to inform them?

When downloading an app, do you literally take the time to wade through all the Terms and Conditions? I almost guarantee you do not.

Although sharing is fine and we all love to be connected, maybe it is a moment to take a small step back and really think about what you are sharing. If for instance you google something like ‘removal firms’ because you are moving in say a month or two, take note that you will suddenly begin to receive all sorts of information related to this subject. From storage to removal. It is true isn’t it?

I honestly think a programme like this should be shown worldwide and definitely to kids in schools. They are so vulnerable and in their innocence they share EVERYTHING. How many stories have we all read now about risqué photos being shared with boyfriends or girlfriends that have ended up being shared with the entire school and then not to mention the shame. This can be a serious problem for young teenagers, even leading to suicide. We should not take this lightly!

The Danish government officials were absolutely shocked about how easy it was and knowing the Danes, I am sure they will do something on a more national scale. Probably a lot of people watched the programme, I am so glad it was shown here in The Netherlands too.

So take time, switch off microphone and camera access in apps where this in inapplicable. If you use Google Hangouts for example which is another really popular medium to chat, then perhaps you should shut off (camera, microphone and don’t forget location) when the chat is over. Yes, it is boring to have to do this each and every time, but if your chat is personal and you do not want to share, maybe this is the answer, only access your camera and microphone for the chat and then switch off.

I don’t have the answers, I really don’t but I think it is time for a wake up call for all of us. Share, yes please do, but be selective and you may have a phone, tablet full of apps. Do you actually use them? Do you still want to keep them? If not delete.

One of my closest friends always says this: control, alt, delete. It is a good motto.

Just one final thought, remember Google, Facebook, Instagram, all have one thing in mind and that is making profit. They do that by selling our data to people for advertising. Simple fact. You would be surprised to know the enormity of their profits.

This topic keeps cropping up in my life; make sure if you read this, you pay attention. My idea is that everything crosses our paths for a reason.

Please share this blog around your own social circles. You, like me, will be surprised how open and vulnerable we make ourselves.

Remember the old saying: Pre-warned is pre-armed.

Don’t allow yourself to become a victim. Don’t succumb by just being lazy.

Just one final thing: George Orwell wrote about ‘big brother watching you’ in his book in 1984! Yes 1984, long before some of us had even heard the words: World Wide Web!!

 

Image: Google Images

WHAT HAVE YOU BECOME?

Saturday, 17th November 2018

This morning I opened the magazine that comes with the Saturday edition of the national newspaper and started to read an article. All of a sudden these words literally jumped off the page and caught my attention. They said:

‘This is what I have become, but could I have become or been more, if I would dare’.

Pretty powerful words and of course, inspiration for a blog today.

It just so happened literally a split second later I got a message from a new friend. Someone who is literally thousands of miles away from me, on another continent, another hemisphere who told me that they had been awarded a really wonderful contract and would be leaving as soon as possible for Japan.

‘Japan???? I typed back, you did not say’!

Of course I am really thrilled for that person. Yes, I knew they were working on a special project over the past couple of weeks, night and day, but they had never mentioned Japan.

And then these words this morning. Coincidence. I don’t think so. When I said that I thought they were going to get this contract, well actually I was convinced that they were, then the question back to me ‘how did you know?’

I didn’t rationally speaking of course; but deep down inside at a much deeper level I did know. I saw in the words shared in our chats, such a huge passion for the work, the project and the opportunity. I have written many times in other blogs about if you truly believe, you can manifest your dreams. Well point proven then?

So I sat back and thought about them. Leaving the country they know so well, the family, everything familiar and taking a huge leap into something new. Now that I can seriously call: a dare!

Going to another continent, another culture, another language, which is very difficult, learning new customs, values, different type of foods, the list is endless. What an opportunity.

So my question to you dear reader this sunny November morning is:  what would your answer be to this question? My friend answered immediately with the words, ‘yes I dare! Do you?’

Now that is the question? Do I, in principle I do and like to think that during my life I have taken the right steps and sometimes leaps into the unknown, but basically I like all of you, will always want to keep hold of ‘the known’. Keep holding on to the familiar. I was reminded about myself, many years ago, leaving England and moving over to The Netherlands for my work. It was not far of course, just a leap across the North Sea. But I left my friends and family behind and plunged myself into a world at that time, where I did not understand the language, so I had to learn. That is a big criteria I think, to be with the people in another country, you have to make an effort. Oh my poor friend in Japan, that is really a daunting project, but I know they will. I actually asked them to. To be open for every single thing that crosses their path, everything, no holding back, be free to do just that.

Do I regret my choice all those years ago? No. I have grown a lot since then and continue to grow all the time. Each and every single contact with other people helps me this way. Some more than others, this particular friend a lot.

But answering the question back in the chat was not as easy as I thought. Why? I really have no answer apart from the word ‘familiarity’. Would I dare to make a similar move, I think so. Would I dare to change my world completely and do something totally different? I think so, but at the same time, what about my ‘safe and secure’. Would I, would you, dare to make a move to leave everything literally behind? If you could then become an even better version of yourself.

All through my life I know that choices we make influence our life path, how we are actually standing in life, where we live, who we are with just everything. Could you imagine making a choice, walking out of your door, closing it shut firmly and moving into something completely different? Could you?

Its food for thought isn’t it? I am really interested to hear your comment, so please add one and I will share on my feed.

So back to the question:

‘This is what I have become, but could I have become or been more, if I would dare’.

What is your answer?

For my friend: Muchas gracias J ! You are very brave and I know everything will work out perfectly.

I cannot resist adding this image, as this is one of the ‘best known phrases’ (he who dares … wins’)  to all British people who remember the great comedy : Only Fools and Horses.

Image: Google Images and of course to David Jason, a wonderful actor who has delighted us with so many really funny roles over the years.