Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Happy Birthday to my friend Jan...

   Today is my friend's birthday. I've thought of her off and on all day and wondered if she was having a good day. Jan is one of those friends that even as far away as I am from her today, I know that if I called her up we could talk for an hour and still not cover every thing we needed to talk about. Every time I see this quote, I think of Jan. "True friends are the ones who never leave your heart, even if they leave your life for a while. Even after years apart, you pick up with them right where you left off."
I met my friend Jan years ago, when Jim and I moved to Illinois. She lived down the street from me and offered her friendship to my lonely, homesick, and out of place self. She had two little girls that my kids played with; hours of playing strawberry shortcakes, running through sprinklers, tea parties and super hero's. Those wonderful Illinois summer days gave my children great friends, but they gave their mother a gift beyond measure. A big person to talk to!!!!  Over the years and over the miles we continued our friendship. Often not talking for months at a time, and then one or the other would call out of the blue and would spend an hour or so catching up. She would always ask what was the latest thing Isaac had done and then laugh uproariously when I would report that he was jumping off the roof onto the trampoline or that he had filled BOTH the neighbors window wells with water. She would always let me brag a little about how smart this kid or that kid was, or which kid had broken what bone or who was recuperating from the chicken pox. I got to hear how fast Missy and Sarah were growing up , or hear about the neighbors that we both knew. I always loved to hear how her mother and her sisters were doing and how her husband was doing at work.

     I moved from Illinois, back to Utah and really the six years that we spent in the same neighborhood pales in time compared to how many years we have spent NOT living in the same place. But she's still my friend.
     We eventually both ended up in Las Vegas living not too far from each other. Her two daughters had decided to call Las Vegas home. Jan and Ken followed them to the desert and so once again her family filled a void in my life when I was away from my own family. They just gathered Jim and I into their family gatherings like we were really apart of the Stottler clan.
       As I think of this friendship that has spanned about 30 years, hundred of miles and has endured sickness, (she is a breast cancer survivor), raising children, changing jobs, marriages of our children, divorce and just life in general...I realize how blessed I have been to know this extraordinary woman. Her sense of humor and the love that she so freely gives to everyone she comes in contact with makes her a unique and wonderful friend.
       I remember when I was about 16 years old, as is a norm for our religion, I was given a patriarchal blessing by our Stake Patriarch. In this blessing, he told be that I would always have good friends. I don't think I really appreciated that blessing, or even understood what a great gift friends would be in my life. But today, when I remember my friend, Jan, I know that I have been blessed by our Heavenly Father. I have always been surrounded by good friends. Everywhere I go, when life takes me down this road or that road, The Lord has always put good friends on my path to help, to uplift, to laugh with me, or to cry with me. I am so grateful for this wonderful gift in my life.
     As I prepare to leave this amazing part of the world, with all it's beautiful wooded forests and red tiled roofs, the one thing I will miss the most is the friends that I have made along the way. I will miss the sometimes less than perfect English. I will miss the great hugs and smiles on the street as I pass. I will miss all those who have given this old, worn out, American lady who can't wrap her head around the language a chance.  Even if the only way we communicate is by sign language and a strange game of charades, I will miss the warmth and love of my Croatian/Bosnian friends.
      I am truly grateful for all my friends and I'm looking forward to "Catching Up" when we get home. But for today, I'd like to say, "Happy Birthay, Jan, I love you" Debby

Sunday, May 20, 2012

We caught a weasel.....

Continuing the attic saga from my last post, I believe the squirrels have been killed by Jim's rat poison. It really kind of saddens me, but at the same time, I wasn't really thrilled to be sharing my living quarters with a bunch of squirrels! Jim also bought a large trap, just to see if he could really identify what kind of squirrel was in the attic. To our surprise we caught a weasel! What other kind of species we might eventually identify living with us, I'm afraid to speculate! The trap is baited and set, the elders have taken over the quest and we were delighted to let them be the defenders of the home! Now if we can only get the land lord to take us seriously when we tell him it's a land lord problem, not ours. This might go on for a while, it took 3 months for us to get a new refrigerator when ours went out. Fortunately it was winter and we used the back balcony to keep things cold. Hopefully the roof will be fixed and holes plugged up before we leave so the new couple taking over our house will not have to deal with unwanted guests!

Our furry friend. Our translator said she thought it was a ferret, but Jim thought it looked more like a weasel or a Croatian Kuna, (mink) . The Tadic girls and Maja, our translator,  took it far, far, away and let it go.

    We have been busy the last couple of weeks, getting projects closed and starting to pack up a few things. June will be a full month with our Humanitarian replacements going into the MTC next week and arriving in country on the 9th of June. Then we start a whirlwind of training and travelling to introduce them to all our ongoing projects and partners. We are sooooooo excited for them! I remember how excited and nervous we were, then exhaustion set in as we finished two weeks at the MTC and the long flight over here, The Winters come in on a Saturday, and of course we are in Bosnia for the week-end,  so we are making arrangements for the assistants to take them to our apartment in Varazdin and let them sleep for a couple of days until we return on the 11th. By then, it won't really be OUR apartment, it will be theirs, we will be staying in a hotel in Croatia until we train them in Bosnia and then they will be in a hotel and we of course will be here at our house, along with our creatures.

They met us at the cars jumping up and down, so excited to see us! The beds had already been delivered and set up, but they pitched right in helping us unload the cars!

Each house got a computer, monitor, new keyboard and mouse. The computers were donated to us from church head quarters in Frankfort. They changed out all of their desk top computers and sent them to the various country humanitarian missionaries to give out. I guarantee they will be put to good use here! Predrag, one of our translators will help them with the set up if they need it. The computers also have real, true live, LEGAL, software. Something pretty rare over here.

All the children got a new pillow and a new pillow case. Pretty cute, isn't she?

Each house got four new bunk beds with new mattresses. These cuties demonstrated how much they LOVE their new beds. This donation will increase the capacity of the orphanage, while also replacing 10year old, broken down beds and mattresses. This will be one of the last area project we do in Bosnia, so it was especially meaningful to us to have it be one that involved children. They just melted our hearts!

We are in the process of setting up another Neo Natal Resuscitation training here in Bosnia for November. This involved having Dr. Bennett and his wife Marcia come over from Utah to talk to the various doctors that will be hosting the NRT training. We met our Serbian counterparts half way between here and Sarajevo so we could have a hand off the good doctor and his wife that had spent time in that area of Bosnia as well. We saw some spectacular scenery on the way. This is just one of the little villages with a fortress on top of the hill, probably hundreds of years old.
We had to stop and get a picture of this beautiful river, This horse shoe bend reminds me of the Mississippi turn in Nauvoo.  Dr. and Marcia Bennett were so fun to be with for a few days, we enjoyed every minute of their stay!

This is out side on a balcony with Banja Luka in the back ground. The gentleman on the left is a doctor but also an administrator for the hospital, Dr. Bennett, The head neo-natologist for the hospital, Sister Bennett, Jim and I.

This week we went to a zone conference in Slovenia, it was a great day and we realized how much we will miss being able to associate with this great army of young men and women. What an honor it is to be a missionary! It was a long day and stretching was in order!
 The Member, Leadership, Support couple that are taking our place in Bosnia will not be in country until the middle of July so we will not have any over lap with them. They will do fine with out our input, all we do here is love our members and our missionaries, that's a pretty easy gig. They will do an awesome job, I'm sure. We are a tad attached to these people here, and at this point I can't even think of leaving them. No one will ever love them the way we do, Jim was asked to bear his testimony at our zone conference this last week about how our mission had changed us, among other things he said, "when we came here we were grandparents to 20 grandchildren, we leave with 26 grandchildren.......those being the children here in our little branch" They have changed us, made us better, enlarged our hearts and enriched our lives.  Grandma and Grandpa Erickson will always remember with great love the very first family to be baptized in Bosnia!

About three weeks ago we were just hanging out in our apartment in Croatia and the door bell rang. Surprised us because no one but the Jehovah Witnesses ever come to our door. Guess What??? It was a package from home! We could have cried! It just symbolizes how much love and support we have gotten from our friends and family our whole mission! Right up until the bitter end we are still being thought of and loved! Thanks Isaac and Sara, you made our day! We sent the Tadic girls off to girls camp in Serbia this Friday with three bags full of Monster Cookies to enjoy with the girls at camp. (The first EVER girls camp in these Balkan countries) They are making history!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Thanksgiving Squirrel...


 The fall of 1999 found us in the middle of building a new house. It had been a hugh project and we were tired and a little discouraged with the progress. Although we had great aspirations of being in the house by soon became apparent that our goal was not to be met. We were in a rental home, squished and not excited about the prospects of having Thanksgiving dinner there at that house. So it comes down to plan B. I sometimes don't know where I come up with these things, but I decided it would be great to rent a cabin up in the Unitas and have a little get away far from the issues that plagued us with building a house. You know one of those "Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmothers house we go" experiences.
   On the Weds. before Thanksgiving we packed up all the kids, grand kids, and  food and drove up to the mountains. The weather was cold, a little snowy and absolutely perfect for our Thanksgiving weekend.
   The cabin had a steep staircase up to a loft room where we determined to put the younger kids. One of our grandchildren, was it Mason or Chase? I think it was Mason fell down the stairs and ended up in not so near by Evanston getting stitches. That should have been our first clue. Then we found out that the oven didn't work. Really? It was Thanksgiving after all, but we adapted and decided rolls could be done in dutch ovens and the turkey in the electric roaster oven that we brought up. I'm sure Thanksgiving that year was wonderful, I really can't remember how the food turned out, this week my old brain has tried as hard a I could to dredge up memories of that weekend. But only one memory really stands out.
    Crystal is our youngest daughter. She was in the sixth grade, so that would make her what? About eleven? She was relegated to the loft bedroom with the kids. Every morning we were there she said to me, "Mommy, I don't like that bed, it stinks and I can't sleep good". Several times I went up, looked around and pronounced no good reason for her not to sleep and shrugged it off. We stayed four nights in the cabin. On the last day there we had been asked to strip the beds and leave the bedding for someone to come take care of it. We loaded everything up, cleaned the kitchen, bathrooms and I went upstairs with Crystal to address the beds. Systematically we went from one bed to the other, taking off sheets, blankets and pillow cases. Again while we were doing our tasks, she complained about not sleeping well because of the stink. I couldn't smell a thing. She even said that she tried to get away from the smell by taking her pillow and going to the other end of the bed to sleep, but it did no good. She could still smell the smell. We were finally at the last bed, Crystal took one pillow and took off the case, I took the one she had been sleeping on and started to peel the case off the pillow, filling something hard, I thought she had put a hairbrush or a book, something in the case to keep it safe. But noooooo, out onto the bed it came, A VERY DEAD, FLAT AS A BOARD, DRIED UP, STINKY SQUIRREL! We both started screaming and I don't think I can ever remember Jim moving that fast before or since that fateful Thanksgiving holiday to save his hysterical women!
    Now why might you ask, do I dredge up this wonderful tale of dead squirrel, thanksgiving and husband heroics this many years after the fact?
    This week we have added another squirrel episode to our book, I think I hate the things! Can't they just stay where they belong? Out in the forests or better yet, up in a tree, out in the forest where I don't have to see them? Certainly not living in our attic, certainly not pooping in my bathtub and most certainly not interrupting my peace and security during the middle of the night!
   The week started with us seeing droppings, we thought at first that it might be bats, but no, Jim determined that it wasn't bat droppings. So we got on the Internet, what did we ever do with out it, and matched up the scat with the pictures, (I will spare you the link) and that coupled with Vanja telling us she had seen those furry little things that eat nuts, (she couldn't quite find the vocabulary word in English) on our third story balcony. We have decided we have an infestation of what is called Attic Squirrels. Yesterday my hero, bought about a dozen little packets of rat poison and distributed them on the balcony, rain gutters, and in the attic. This morning they were all gone. Not nibbled at like a rodent would do, but GONE!  I just hope they don't die in one of my pillow cases!  Life in Bosnia....gotta love it!