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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

ASU Graduation

Rene joined her classmates at the 2006 ASU Graduation Ceremonies in May. Her degree is in Political Science--no jokes please. She was happy to finally be done... the six year plan means the student picks up the tab for the last two years! Now she's actively pursuing that elusive first career step up the ladder. But, things look promising with interviews with two different government agencies this week. No more bartending or elitist retail customers to bother with, now she'll be learning the finer art of haggling with politicos and policy making. Sounds scary.

We had a small backyard barbeque and celebration for her (she had the flu, so it was hard for her to completely enjoy the moment), then soon afterward she was off to Germany to finish the last of her studies in a German cultural immersion course. What a step! We're proud of all Rene's accomplishments, but this is by far her biggest.

Congratulations to you, Rene Marie, we love you!

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

Bei-Tottino-Bei Picnic was a Blast

There's something about family reunions: you're not sure that you'll know folks anymore, or that they'll remember you very well, but then it always turns out to be more fun than you expected. All the names and faces come back in a flood, you can pick up right where you left off before, and everyone is genuinely interested in what you're doing in your own life. Must be that common gene thing.

The Bei-Tottino-Bei Family Picnic on August 5th was a huge success! Held at both Norman's and Esther's adjacent homesteads in Soquel, the day was gorgeous, with that special kind of feel in the air that only the Santa Cruz coastal hills can provide. I am always slammed with memories whenever I visit that place: long past days of dinners with home made bottles of wine on every table, men standing watch at huge outdoor barbeques emitting the most wonderful aromas of grilling chicken, or pork or beef. The eucalyptus trees on the hillside, the warm sun bouncing off the white linen table clothes, the women carrying large plates and bowls of made-from-scratch raviolis, pastas, ginormous salads, vegetable platters filled with the harvests from backyard gardens and family-owned fields, desserts to die for, wonderful loaves of bread, formaggio, wine, wine and more wine. The music has a decidedly Italian flavor, whether it's Dino, Frankie, or a Tarantula played especially to draw out the dancers.

This picnic was no different, and as always the eldest and youngest alike were there, playing, swimming, talking, laughing, getting reacquainted after months or years of not seeing each other. Something in the deepest part of me is rekindled when I go back home and meet up with my cousins, aunts, uncles, and long-time family friends. I ask, "why do we live so far apart? What is it about America that draws family members away from each other?" Well, there are lots of reasons and answers to those questions, but as long as we can find our way back to that place we all have in common, there is no way to get really lost.

Thanks and Grazie to our hosts, Norman and Esther, and to all the Tottino girls, too, for putting together better and better get-togethers all the time. We always have a great time, and my memory banks just keep getting richer and richer!

"Pics from a Fun Day in Soquel"

Norman's special "kitchen" behind the pizza oven/barbeque is perfect for food lines and cleanup. Claudi, Marci, Mark and Jon line up for chow. What a set-up!

It's good to see Hugo back on his feet after hip surgery last year. Doesn't he look great? I have huge respect for this man and the great family he and his wife, Delores, preside over.

Stacy did indeed have her hands full with four year old cousin Seth Bessiere. But he's still a charmer, and gets along with everyone he meets. He also has no fear of water and "jumping houses", as his Dad can attest.

Norman's hillside home includes quite a menagerie of rare animals and a wonderland of little scenes and garden sculptures that can only be likened to a cross between Disneyland, a natural history museum, and a zoo--with a bocci ball court, swimming pool, antiques barns, and rare car garages to boot. Here, cousin Donna (all the way from Pennsylvania) communes with the camel.

Gene and Marie look great! They live real close to Dad in Castroville. Been family friends for a gazillion years.

There are lot's more photos of this wonderful event, but I'll have to stop here. I wish our visit could've been longer, wish I could've talked to everyone longer. Your comments are welcome, I'd love to hear from you.