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Saturday, December 25, 2010

To Mitzi, from your big brother!

It has been a joy giving service this year to my little sister and East Coast buddy!

My season of service for Mitzi went through three phases. After we received our assignments, I went out of my way to do a couple of items with Mitzi in mind. In November and early December, I got really busy with work, traveling, and illness, and I slacked in my service for Mitzi. But in mid-December I re-energized my efforts, prayed about opportunities to serve Mitzi, and got to work on some inspired thoughts.

1) Let's go fly a kite:

As I first thought about ideas for serving on behalf of Mitzi, I thought of some dear friends of ours that have three kids (a boy then 2 girls), just like Mitzi. I thought it might be nice to do something to give the mom a break one day.

One Saturday, our family finished some morning errands and while Ashley went home to give Charly a nap, I decided to take Lucy and Leland to go fly our kites. But first, I called to see if the father of the family wanted to join us in order to give the mother a couple of hours to herself. But the father was out with his son, volunteering at an Eagle Scout project (cool huh?), so I asked if I could take her two girls (identical ages with Leland and Lucy).

We spent 2 1/2 hours flying kites, chasing the ice cream man down the street, making a HUGE mess of ice cream, and watching a girls soccer game at the park. The mother was very grateful for the time alone to clean her house because her mother-in-law was coming to visit that next week.

2) Visit to NC:

The second thing I did in Mitzi's name isn't really a "service" per se, but rather something I did for myself and Mitzi. A few women in our ward were planning a trip from Richmond to go to the Raleigh temple and back on one Saturday. Ashley asked if I could watch the girls so she could go. After thinking about it for a day, I decided I would rather go along and see my sister!

You see, I have begun to feel poorly about how often I go out of my way to spend time with my East Coast sister. I feel like I need to make the effort to go see her for no other reason than just to visit (instead of as my hotel to stay in before I fly out of RDU to some other destination). She has done it a few times for us, and used to do it all the time for our other sisters when she lived out west.

So, I used some of my saved time to take a half day off of work and we drove down on Friday afternoon. We spent two nights together and had lots of fun. I love spending time with you Mitzi!

During the visit, Mitzi made some observations about my behavior, including a habit I had developed for complaining and my tone of voice when talking to my wife (among other things). At first, I was inclined to allow myself to be put off by her comments, but on the way home, I talked to my wife and said, "I want to try to work on these things, because I know that Mitzi is mentioning these things out of love for me and for you (Ashley)." So, over the past month, I have made it a priority to be more positive and try to talk more kindly to my wife. I still have a LONG way to go, but I know of a few instances where it has really helped.

3) Scarves to homeless:

This past week, as I thought and prayed about serving on behalf of Mitzi, I became inspired to do something small to help homeless people stay warm in the cold weather. I have no idea how this relates to Mitzi, but whenever I would try to think about serving Mitzi, I felt this was something I should do. Maybe it is because we were California-raised, so the cold hits us hard.

As I was packing up our car to drive to North Carolina, I felt the inspiration again and decided I could not ignore it anymore. So, even though we were supposed to be getting on the road soon, I went in and asked Ashley to help me go through our huge container of scarves, hats, and gloves that we have accumulated over the years. (You have no idea how often warm-weather friends and family love to give scarves and hats to their cold weather family and friends).

We split the huge stash in half, put it in a bag, and took a half hour out of our trip to go into downtown Richmond to visit the "warming shelter" the city had set up. I took Leland and Lucy in with me and we delivered a bunch of scarves, two pairs of gloves, and a few hats. This was a great chance to talk to the girls about helping those who are much less fortunate then ourselves.

4) Garden boxes:

Two years ago (I think?), Mitzi started gardening and has done a great job with her raised, square-foot garden. Her successes inspired Ashley and I to try our hand at growing some herbs and vegetables.

I was inspired by a sub-irrigated garden container we saw at the farmer's market, but determined that I could create my own with some enhancements. I built three large containers and we had a very prosperous harvest this year of basil (3 types), bell peppers (2 types), chives and oregano. (Our tomatoes and zucchini were not so successful.)

I will post more specifics on my container gardens later with pictures, but they are quite similar to these (Example 1 | Example 2 | Example 3) and here is a quick peek:

Mitzi suggested that her secret service Santa plant a garden (or make the goal to do so in the spring) as part of this season of service. Well that wouldn't be anything new for us because Mitzi already inspired us last year.

However, last week, when I was at Lowe's for a Build and Grow, I saw a bunch of sturdy containers on a great sale, so I bought 10 of them to develop into sub-irrigated garden containers and give to our friends who might enjoy gardening, but can't go full out planting in their yards. I will keep you updated on my progress as I make them and give them out to friends in the next two months.

CONTEST FOR RICHMONDERS: If you have read this far you deserve a reward! So, if you live in the Richmond area, post a comment saying you want one, and you have won yourself a free sub-irrigated garden container perfect for planting herbs or a couple tomato or pepper plants!

SEMI-CONTEST FOR RALEIGH(IANS?): If you are a friend of Mitzi's living in Raleigh, post a comment and we will see what we can do to make some for y'all (but you may have to cover the cost of materials).

5) Visit on Christmas Day:

My final thing is another that is not really a "service" for Mitzi, but rather following-up on my goal to spend more time with my East Coast sister.

Ashley and I had planned on heading back to Richmond on Christmas night (Saturday night), but at the last minute decided we would stay an extra night at Ashley's father's house. When we told him, he said that he regrettably had made plans to go out of town to visit friends since his youngest daughter would be staying with her mother for Christmas night.

Ashley turned and said, "We could go ahead and go home like we planned originally, or we could go see Mitzi." I was grateful for another perfect non-reason to go see my sister.


  1. Chuck, these are great! I'm sure those two little girls LOVED kite and ice cream time! I know we enjoyed our kite day with you. My only problem with your service is that I might start to be tempted by the East Coast-dark side. Whenever you talk about joining the family on the East Coast I think, "how much do you REALLY see each other"! I don't know what I'll do if you start saying "often!" That is fun for you guys! Great post

  2. We see each other ALL the time! We are actually together right now!

  3. I love the continuous updating of this post. I also love how there is more than one service... is one project good enough for Chuck...No Sir! So great Chuck! Also, I don't live on the East Coast but I do love me a cute garden.

  4. So fun! I'm glad you were able to also do service directly to and for your person! Good job Chuckles! And how cute are you giving away stuff on our blog! I love it!

  5. Flying a kite... ooooooh, chasing after the ice cream... ahhhh. That sounds like great service. It's a good thing you are going out of your way to visit your only sibling living on the east coast. You are going to need to keep that up if you want "Chucks relocation program" to be more appealing. Great service all around.

  6. Chuck, Ashley told us about your service last week and I just remembered about it today! I am all in for a contest, especially if someone else is making a garden for me! :-) You're awesome!