Loving One Another

Posts tagged ‘cousins’

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”

Life is Like a Teeter-Totter


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Back in 1991 I wrote a poem for my mom to wish her a Happy Birthday. With the framed poem, I gave her a ceramic teeter-totter. The piece is a wind-up music box that plays “Playmates” as the little mice go up and down. She always had the poem and music box with her the next fourteen years as she was in and out of hospitals, rehab facilities, and nursing homes. When she died, I inherited them – and I treasure the memories they bring to mind.

My mom had a cousin close to her age, Madge, who lived with mom’s family when she was a child. Eventually Madge married and moved into a home of her own. She and her husband had two sons, Ronnie & Donnie. Mom married and moved to California where my sister and I were born. I loved meeting and spending time with my cousins when we would go to spend Christmas vacation back in Washington with Mom’s family. Through the years I have stayed in touch with Ronnie. He is near my age. However, I had lost touch with Ronnie’s little brother, Donnie, until last Saturday.

Donnie, whom I had not seen in 60 years, and his wife, Patti, came to spend this Labor Day weekend with Bob and me. What a treat! We reminisced and told stories and went through family photos and various family “artifacts.” One of my inherited treasures is a letter written on the occasion of our mutual great-grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. They were married September 1, 1875. The letter is “A Saga of the Valley” – the valley in and around North Bend and Fall City, Washington where my mother and Donnie’s mom were born and raised. The letter was typed on onion skin, is brittle and faded, and hard to read – but is is legible. I will retype it and send it to my newly reacquainted cousin, Donnie. He will share it with his daughter who is into the study of genealogies.

As I was headed into the office to my computer, I spotted this ceramic teeter-totter music box. I realized I had forgotten to share that with Donnie. His mom, like mine, was a devoted mother who was wonderfully supportive of her two sons. I think he will appreciate this poem – and he certainly will concur – Life is Like a Teeter-Totter!

Life is like a teeter-totter –
Full of ups and downs.
Kids learn to roll and toss with it,
To shake away the frowns,
If they have a loving home
To lean back and reminisce on when they roam.

Life is like a teeter-totter –
Full of bounces and of bumps.
Kids learn to rock with a jolly jump
And shake away the lumps
If they have a loving mother
To hug them tight and with kisses smother.

Life is like a teeter-totter –
It works better in pairs,
They keep each ther balanced
And handle love in shares
If they have had their mother’s arms
To guard against abuse and harms.

Life is like a teeter-totter –
Full of laugh and silly giggle.
Full of noise and wonderment –
Girls to squeeze and boys that wiggle –
If they have been secure in love
Both from home’s hearth and God above.

Thank you, Mom, for filling my life
With love… more ups than downs, for sure.
You seemed to know my every need;
For every hurt you had a cure.
Happy Birthday, Mother dear –
I thank God each day that you are near!

God Bless our Moms!!
JanBeek ;o)

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