Loving One Another

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Our Trip to Switzerland – Part Four


Extended Family and Friends

What makes Switzerland so special? Besides the scenery, the cows, cheese, chocolate, watches and banks, Switzerland is special for the same reason ANYplace is special to me: the people! We have made many friends during these twenty-one years of traveling there every other year. Each time we go, we have the opportunity to make new friends! What a blessing it is to enjoy the country as family members … rather than simply being tourists!

Our daughter, DeAna, her husband, Andre’, and our three grandsons are the nucleus of our family there, but the relationship didn’t start with them. It began with Andre’s first cousin, Christian Zufferey, who was our AFS exchange student in 1981-82 in central California. AFS has a symbol… a heart-shaped world globe. It’s motto has something to do with changing the shape of our world, one person at a time. That’s what student exchange programs are all about. I am so glad that we were inspired to bring foreign students into our home when our kids were high-school aged. What a difference it has made in our family!


Andre’ wasn’t the first one who got the ball rolling, however. My mom’s oldest sister, Evelyn, married a Swiss way back in the early 1930s. It was Uncle Hans who caused us to want to invite a Swiss kid to come and live with us. Even though Christian was not the German-Swiss yodler that I anticipated, he captured our hearts and gave us an appreciation of the French-Swiss culture that has lasted a life-time.

100_1446Swiss Fondue – Mmmm

After his return to Sierre, we were invited to go there and spend a Christmas with his family. As an impressionable, romantic high school freshman, DeAna fell in love with their suave and humorous first cousin, Andre’. At the same time, we fell in love with Christian’s sister, Sylviane (Syli), and invited her to live with us in California for a year when she finished school. After DeAna graduated from high school, she lived for a year with the Zufferey family. Not surprising, the romance between her and Andre’ picked up where it left off. At the year’s end, Andre’ Solioz returned to California with DeDe. The rest is history. What a fairytale!

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De and Andre’

Now, when we visit the Solioz family, of course we spend time also with the Zuffereys. Christian’s mom (Marcelle) and Andre’s mother (Denise) are sisters. Denise and her husband, Marin, are wonderful friends who always welcome us to their home when we visit. Marin is suffering this year with emphezyma, so we had to limit our talking time with him. How I wish we could speak French to communicate more easily with him! I imagine that working to understand Bob’s pantomiming is exhausting.

IMG_2064Denise and Marin Solioz – De’s angelic in-laws
(Our prayers are with Marin during this difficult time in his life)

Marcelle’s husband, Antoine, died tragically of a blood clot that traveled to his heart several years ago. Marcelle is a gracious hostess – and we always enjoy seeing her in her lovely home.

IMG_2059Marcelle and me in her living room

 Christian has three children (aged 18 to 22) and Sylviane has five children ranging in age from 15 to 23. We were able to spend a Friday afternoon with Syli in her apartment in Sion and a weekend with Christian in the chalet in Arnouvaz that has been in his partner’s family for three generations. It was built by Celia’s grandfather and great-uncle in 1892.

IMG_2384Bob, Syli, and Jan in her Sion apartment

IMG_2398ZuZu and Celia’s chalet above Crans-Montana, Valais in Arnouvaz

The extended family also includes several cousins. One very special one is Chantal Fornier who lived with us as a recent high school graduate in the early 1990s. She was such a blessing in our lives at that time because she has the gift of love and compassion for the elderly. I am eternally grateful to her. My dad was not well at that time, and she was so very kind to him. And she is grateful to us – because through that experience, she found her calling. Chantal works in the Nursing Home in Sierre and continues to spread her gentle kindness to the elderly.

IMG_2395Marie and Chantal Fornier with Bob and me

Our circle of Swiss friends spread to include a couple of De’s girlfriends this year. Perky and fit, a soul-sister for sure, Kad Giromini invited us to her home for dinner one night.

IMG_2057DeDe and her Swiss soul-sister, Kad

Another Chantal (a new friend of De’s) and her husband, Pierre-Andre’, invited us to their home when we returned from a week-long trip to Spain. We had a delicious barbecue in their backyard with this phenomenal view:

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The view from Chantal’s backyard

Our two oldest grandsons, Mike and Nick, made it possible to add their girlfriends to the circle of our new Swiss friends. They treated us to lunch in Sierre on our second day there. I posted their photos on Parts One and Two of these blog stories. After lunch, Nick walked through the fountains in the street display. He is such a character!  Yes, it is the people of Switzerland that make it so special…

IMG_2040Nick – walking through the water fountains in Sierre

Stay tuned for Part Four, “A Time to Celebrate” and Part Five – “A Week in Spain”

Our Trip to Switzerland – Part Three


Family Time

The best part of being in Switzerland is the Family Time. Yes, it’s a wonderful place to “have to visit!” We have gone every other year since 1991 when our daughter, DeAna, and her Swiss-born husband, Andre’, moved back to his hometown of Sierre. They were pregnant at the time with our first grandchild. Of course, we had to go as soon as Mikey emerged! You will find a picture of Mike with his girlfriend, Sophie, in Part One of Our Trip to Switzerland. Mike and his girlfriend, Sophie, are so suited for one another! Keep him in prayer, though, he applied for an apprenticeship that he did not get. So now, his future employment is in limbo. Pray the perfect job opportunity emerges for our #1 Grandson.

Going back to 1993, two years after Mike’s birth, pregnant with our second grandchild, De prepared for a little girl. I traveled alone to be there to spend a week with “Melanie,” taking a suitcase full of pink things with me. Humph! “She” didn’t come as planned! Finally, the day before I was scheduled to leave to return to California, the doctors went in and pulled out by Caesarian section,  a squalling, red-faced boy. Nicolas Marin Solioz was a screamer! Oh my, what a set of lungs! In the nineteen years since then, he hasn’t stopped making noise! Some of it is in the form of music on his steel guitar. Oh, yes, he’s a musician, an entertainer, a clown, a brilliant life of the party! Of the three, he looks the most like De & me. He has drive, determination, and charisma coming out of every pour!

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Here is Nick with his girlfriend, Sandrine (Sorry about catching you with your eyes partly closed, Sandrine… you are a beautiful, bright, and thoughtful young lady with a bright future. Good luck as you pursue a career in the medical field!).

Two bright stars!

Two bright stars!

But, wait! Did I say three? Yes, two years later, determined to have that little girl we anticipated, Bob and I traveled back to Switzerland in time to greet Solioz child number three: Christian Robert (middle name after his Grampy Beekman). No, not a “Melanie” or “Janet,”  but we would not trade this sweet, compassionate, thoughtful young man for a gillion bucks! No way!!

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There’s he is, his 17-year-old face smiling on the left with his brothers,
having “the plate of the day” at their parents’ restaurant,
Le Rothorn, in Sierre- the Swiss state of Valais.

Chrissy sometimes has a break mid-day and comes home to eat his main meal of the day in the restaurant. He works at the Nursing Home about a half a mile from their apartment, which is above the restaurant on the main street of Sierre. At 16, disgusted with school, he quit the misery (for him) of public school and went to live for about seven weeks with a family in Germany so he could learn a little more conversational German. In their French part of Switzerland, so close to the German-Swiss section, it is imperative that people are at least bilingual. Most know at least two languages, French and German, and the younger generation almost all know English as well. Being a trilingual male interested in a job in the service profession, it didn’t take Chris long to land an apprenticeship at the local nursing home. The transition from being a sixteen year-old, care-free youth to becoming a vocational nurse has not been an easy one. But, with the help of observant supervisors and compassionate colleagues, Chris is succeeding. He works three days a week and attends relevant classes two days a week. His goal is to become a head nurse someday like his Auntie Marge in Fresno, CA. Isn’t it wonderful that Switzerland has the kind of apprenticeship programs that give young high school “drop-outs” viable alternatives? The United States could learn from the Swiss mentality!

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Stay tuned for Part Four – “Extended Family and Friends” in Switzerland

Teacher Perks


Happy Summer Time to all you teachers out there! I love teachers! More than a handful of them made a significant difference in my life. The dedicated, creative, caring ones made me want to become a teacher, too. Then the administrators who were teacher advocates made me want to become an administrator who supported her staff and students and made their school days happier, more successful, memorable times. Teaching is a profession with perks that keep on perking – forever! Dedicated teacher/educators give from the heart. They care about their students and their students’ families. They care about their colleagues. They care about the profession. Dedicated teachers are educators who never really retire; they just teach from a different platform, in a different venue, on a different stage, to a different audience. But, they can’t help themselves. They teach wherever they are.

Like millions of educators around the world destined always to teach, I discovered that the perks of teaching never stop. No, the perks are not “Summers off.” No, they do not include getting rich quick… at least not monetarily rich. But richness comes in many forms. The perks for educators come in the form of feedback – from students, from family members, from colleagues, from community, from life. The perks are in the lifetime of memories, the feeling of making a difference in the lives of others, the blessing of hearing now and then that you did, in fact, matter in the life of one of your students… or a parent … or a colleague.

I retired officially from public school education in 1999. One of my favorite “jobs” during my varied and interesting career was as a teacher/principal in the central valley of California. Last week one of my former colleagues (a teacher at the school where I served nine years as principal) came to visit me here in Montana. What a joy! What a perk!!

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Then, as if the week was not already special enough, out of the blue came a text message from the parent of a kindergarten student that I had in the 1970s! She found me on Facebook. It’s one of the perks of allowing your postings to go “public” instead of limiting the viewings to only those identified as “friends.” This former room mother from the San Francisco Bay Area wrote to compliment me on my recent weight-loss and ask me how I did it. We did the finger-tip chat for a while and then she asked if we might talk on our cell phones. “There’s something wonderful about hearing each others voices,” she commented. I agreed and we chatted on the phone – catching up on each others lives – for almost an hour. It was the best perk imaginable!

Now, you’re probably thinking that during that conversation I heard stories about things she remembered about me as a teacher, right? That would be the usual expectation. Nope! Not really… not as much as, “Do you still fry pork chops with green bell peppers using a splatter guard?” That was my trade-mark meal back in those days! And yes, I do still have that splatter guard 40+ years later. It saves hours of stove top cleanup! She said she bought one after coming to my house for dinner – and still uses hers, too. Pork chops with green peppers is her husband’s favorite meal! Do I remember inviting her and her family to dinner? No! But she does! And “little” gestures like that are some of the things that help me live on in the lives of the students I have taught. Who would’a thunk it?? See, you never know! You just never how know what you say and do will live on in others. When a parent, student or colleague takes the time to find you years later – and tells you about your impact – that’s worth more than a million bucks!Some of my former students from those days in the classroom back in the 70s are my Facebook friends and my on-line Scrabble partners! I love keeping in touch!

Feedback – – – in all kinds of forms – – – it’s the “Teacher Perks” we educators live for!

Take time to contact a teacher who was memorable in your life. Give a teacher a perk. And while you’re at it, take time this Father’s Day weekend to give a “Parent Perk” to your dad (if you are fortunate enough to have him still with you) or your son or son-in-law, or to some other “Dad” figure in your life. Tell him what makes him memorable. It might be the way he fries pork chops! And if he doesn’t have a splatter guard; that’ll make a wonderful gift! Order one today!!

Photo on 6-15-13 at 11.31 AMhttp://www.wdrake.com

P.S. No, this is not a paid advertisement; just one of the perks from a retired educator bent on being a life-long teacher!

 

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