Category Archives: Life

Fives Years on Paper

Happy anniversary to my wonderful husband!

Hard to believe that it has been five years since we tied the legal knot at the Zivilstandsamt in Zurich! It feels like it was not that long ago and yet things are very, very different these days.I am thankful that my MIL was there for this and for our church wedding in Columbus the year after. She and my FIL were a bit taken aback that we wanted to marry so young by European standards (I was 23 and Kay was only 26), but after the civil union it was all smiles and joy and quite a few happy tears.Kay also had his own fears about the legal wedding because friends warned him that things would change for the worse, but it’s pretty clear that things have only been getting better and better between the two of us. I love him so much and want to spend as many years on this planet with him as possible.

Next year will be our five year anniversary for the “real wedding” where we finally exchanged rings and started referring to each other as husband and wife in front of family and friends (and not just in front of the government). I’m not sure we will be able to be together because of Kay’s studying, but I hope so.

Big news for Kay

…next January he is headed to business school at INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France! We kept his news under wraps, but it’s been a looong process starting back in 2012. Here’s a summary of his admissions timeline:

2012: Studying for the GMAT with practice books sporadically. Visiting MBA fairs and researching schools.

2013: Dedicated GMAT study 2-3 nights a week with practice books. Narrowing down which schools he wanted to apply to. Fell in love with INSEAD’s program and campus after a visit in December 2013.

December 2013-May 2014: More study for the GMAT with an online class and skype tutoring, including studying through our 3 week holiday in Thailand and our 3 week holiday in Puerto Rico and the US. He wished he just

March 2014: First GMAT: He scored in the 96% for vocab (so proud!!) and had a nice score, but his quant score was much below INSEAD’s recommended score, so he decided to retake the exam.

May 2014: Second GMAT: Brought his quant score up quite a lot, but verbal was much lower this time so it was a little bit lower score than previously. He decided to apply anyway without retaking the test a third time.

June-July: Preparation for the Toefl exam for non-English students

August 2014: Toefl exam: He scored 117 out of 120 possible points. I was very proud of how far his English has come! 🙂

September-October 2014: Preparing his Swiss school documents like transcripts to be translated into English for his application

December 2014: Essay questions are released by INSEAD for the January 2016 intake. Kay started brainstorming while we were on holiday in Australia.

January 2015: Beginning the application and asking for letters of recommendation

February: Pouring his blood, sweat, and even some of my tears into his essays.

March 4: The application was due

April 2: Invited to interview. He was SO excited. Happiest I have ever seen him.

April 3-19: Hardcore prepping for his interviews with daily verbal practice, one-on-one practice with me, filming and reviewing footage,

April 20-21: Two interviews with local alumni in Switzerland

May 11: Kay was waitlisted. We were crushed.  Kay’s last time speaking with his mother was telling her about the waitlist that week. I tried to cheer him up and told him this would not be the worst thing to ever happen in his life, not knowing that his mother would pass away just a week later.

May 12: Kay accepted his “spot” on the waitlist but also explained to his AO that he had a required six month resignation period at work and that he would really need to know by June 29/30 in order to have a day for his resignation to process. She promised they would review his case by then and give him a decision.

May 24: Kay’s mother passed away suddenly. This was a huge blow and between this and the waitlist, we were very, very down.

June 24: Kay was getting antsy because we still hadn’t heard from INSEAD and he wanted to send his resignation letter by registered mail (the standard Swiss method of resignation) by June 29 in order for it to arrive on June 30.

June 25-28: No reaction from the AO to the check-in email. Ahhhh!

June 29: Still no reaction from the AO and Kay wanted to be careful because R2 applicants would be receiving their final decision by the end of the week (July 3) so we knew they were in decision-making mode. I told him to call after lunchtime. He did and the AO asked for him to submit his problem via email for a third time and that maybe he would receive a decision that evening or the next day. We were pulling our hair out and Kay was really stressed because he wouldn’t be able to send his resignation letter by post anymore and his boss was gone so he couldn’t resign in person IF it would happen. So nervous!

June 30: Around lunchtime, Kay finally received the positive phone call. He asked for an email to be sent at the same time to confirm it, because he couldn’t really believe it. Finally in!!

I was SO happy to hear the news from him, but Kay’s initial reaction was pretty sad. He was sad he couldn’t tell his mother and that she wasn’t here to see him get in, because she had been praying for him every day to make it. It was one of the last things we talked about during our mother’s day visit in early May.

We have to believe that we lost her for a reason. Kay went to pay his thanks at her grave and my father said that maybe she had to go to heaven to pull some strings. Whatever the case, I am positive that she would be bursting with joy and unending pride for her son right now.

It will be an interesting year in 2016. I plan to stay in Switzerland working since my French is abominable, but I will visit him. 🙂

Temporary Graves

Being a very small country, real estate is extremely expensive in Switzerland. Still, many foreigners from the Americas are surprised when they learn just how far this constraint takes the country when it comes to burials.

I had already learned about the temporary nature of Swiss graves before my MIL’s sudden passing, but had I not, it would have made things very difficult to understand during the week that we arranged her funeral because we had some choices to make that would affect how long we have a grave to visit.In Switzerland, graves are usually “rented” for a period of 10 to 20 years. Different grave sites have different periods of rental beyond that and it is generally not possible to prolong the period of burial by buying more time.

What does this mean?

Whether people are laid to rest in an individual grave or a mass grave, after the time period is up, it is possible that a newer death and burial will bump older burials out of the memorial site as a need for space arises.

We had already visited the family grave site together with my MIL a couple years ago to see where Kay’s grandparents are laid to rest. Now they have already torn out two rows of graves next to his grandparents to make space for new burials.

In a couple years, Kay’s grandparents’ graves will also be dismantled and renewed for new arrivals. His uncle who died young at 42 is in the same row, and in a few years, my FIL won’t be able to visit his brother’s grave anymore either.

How does this affect funeral decisions?

To us, it meant that my FIL had to make the decision between burying my MIL in the family grave site where she stated that wished to be laid to rest for a period of ten years or burying her closer to his house with a grave that would be secure for twenty years.

My FIL was asking himself what happens in ten years when he is turning 70 and he cannot visit his wife’s grave anymore? It’s a sad thing to think about, but it’s a fact of life in Switzerland.  Ultimately he decided to go with the family grave site still because he wanted to lay her to rest where she said she wanted to be, in the way that she desired.

What do they do with the remains of old graves?

To my knowledge, if people are buried without cremating, they are then cremated and moved to a mass grave. If they were already cremated and in the mass grave, I think the remains stay there, but any “packaging” like the urn or anything is removed or destroyed to make way for new burials and their name is removed from the current plaque on the mass grave.

My MIL was buried in the mass grave already because she did not want to be alone in death and my FIL already stated that it is more practical to go in the mass grave because it is cheaper. My MIL is the first new name on a stone with about nine other inhabitants of the mass grave, with deaths ranging from the 90’s until now. If few or no people wish to be buried in this particular spot, it is possible that her memorial plaque will remain there for more than 10 years.

What about death records?

Just because graves are recycled does not mean that there is not a good if not better system of death records than a country like the US. Everything is entered into a record, also when graves are recycled and none of the information about genealogy is lost. It is just a practical matter of space.

What is the point of burying someone in Switzerland or Europe?

The whole point of the grave is to have a place where loved ones can physically mourn their loss. After 10, 20 or even 50 years, the government considers that people should have made peace with their loss and if they want to remember their loved one further, they need to do it in their own way and not with a physical grave.

It does make sense considering how small Switzerland and how populated the continent is in general. If we compare to the US, how many graves are set up and forgotten for years and years afterward? It is also a bit depressing to think of the mass of graves that are unattended, no longer cared for, and completely forgotten about.

At least in Switzerland when you “rent” your grave, it is meticulously cared for during the period of time meant to appreciate it and after that, we are meant to let go. After all, none of us will be here forever and eventually we will all become part of the Earth again.

Happy birthday to me.

After graduating university at 20 and emigrating to Switzerland to enter the workforce, my twenties have seemed fairly long; In my time here I have worked, saved, traveled, gotten married to Kay (twice), and bought a house together with him. He might be out of his twenties already, but I still have a couple years left to enjoy!

Sometimes, having done so much, I forget that I am still fairly young. My mother reminds me that I have always been precocious and loved doing things earlier than I “should”, but I am turning 28 and still have two solid years of my twenties left to enjoy before I reach the golden thirties.

So what would I like to accomplish before my 29th birthday next year? Well, I have some goals:

  • Health:
    • Push my fitness goals, get stronger, build endurance
    • Flexibility: Continue to stretch and push further
    • Diet: Less caffeine/sugar/alcohol, more greens
  • Travel:
    • Visit more cities and countries
    • See more of Switzerland, especially the mountains. Spend more nights in the Alps
  • Design:
    • Push to inspire myself as a designer and learn more
    • Paint and draw more. I never do it anymore!
    • Sewing: I had better have finished all our curtains a year from now!!

Do you set yourself any goals at your birthday? Or are you more of a New-Year-Resolution type person?

Celebrating Birthdays

Earlier in June, just a few weeks after the passing of my MIL, we invited my FIL over to celebrate his 60th birthday with us. We had been planning to celebrate his birthday with my MIL and a big joint retirement/birthday party, but since that’s all been cancelled and my FIL is on his own for his first birthday, we wanted to make sure he spent time with family.

Because his birthday was during the week and he insisted that we keep things simple, I stuck to our weekly plan with a Cooksmarts meal. I had seen that they had one that week with slow cooker BBQ, and that’s always really easy to put together on a weeknight, so the morning of his birthday I chucked a hunk of pork in the slow cooker with a bottle of BBQ sauce.

I’d already shredded the veggies in the food processor the night before, so when I arrived home, all I had to do was bake up the gluten free breads in the oven, mix the dressing into the slaw and shred the cooked pork. We served the sandwiches and slaw with pickles on the side like Cooksmarts suggested and the boys had some normal beer with their meal.

I had baked my first gluten free pound cake on Sunday so that I could serve strawberry shortcake for dessert. Growing up, I was always requesting strawberry shortcake with cool whip for my birthday, and I thought it would lend itself to gluten free pretty well. Even if the cake would be a little drier than normal cake, you cover it with strawberry sauce and cream, so it’s all good!

To make the sauce, I sliced the strawberries the night before and put some sugar on top to bring out the syrupy juice. Since I didn’t have a bundt pan to bake the cake in, I split half the batter in my banana bread pan and the other half in muffin cups. The muffin cups made a good individual portion size to top with strawberries, cream and a little peppermint from the garden.

The birthday boy was very pleased with the meal. We really love him a lot!

Of course I had to light a candle for him and demand to take photos, but I did not sing because neither of these boys really like birthday singing.

It was an emotional day to be celebrating the 60th milestone without a key member of the family. Little things like taking three plates instead of four or taking photos without her because it’s something she would have done really cut to the heart. It is still really hard to believe that she is really gone and we miss her every day. But still, I am happy we could celebrate together as a family anyhow!