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Sunday, December 25, 2011

To Dad, Love Wayne

To Dad Love Wayne…(written by Amy)

Wayne asked me to write this because the gift of service that Wayne gave to Dad was my idea.  Wayne also said he doesn’t feel that he is a great writer, but he wrote a couple of letters in the last couple of days that were wonderful.

At the beginning of the year we found out who we had.  He said he didn’t know what to do for Dad, I said, “Let me go to Africa, support me 100% and help me in any way you can.”  He did just that.  When I went to Africa in February, he was wonderful. He didn’t complain ever.  I spent a lot of time before the trip getting everything on the list for Mom and Dad.  He was great!  He took care of the kids and helped me with whatever I needed.

A little side note about Wayne:  When Wayne grew up with his family, Jack and Sandy never took a trip without the kids.  Jack or Sandy never went anywhere on their own.  He felt that going somewhere without everyone was just leaving others out.  After a few years of having our own children Wayne saw how important is was for him and me to get away, just with the 2 of us.  He is still learning the value of me or him going someplace without each other.  This helped a lot.

When I returned home, Wayne could tell what an awesome experience I had.  He could see the fire that was lit inside of me.  He was so cute and could tell what a great experience I had.  He started looking at the church website to see how much it would be for when we go on a mission in the future.

A few months later, I came to him with news that I had the opportunity to go again, this time to be able to take Darcy, Dixie and him too.  I could tell his first reaction was to say, “Are you kiddin’ me?” but he didn’t.  He said, “I will support you and the girls, I don’t think I can leave Dillon and Denim.”  

One entire trip to Africa later, not one word of frustration was ever uttered and with his wife gallivanting around the world without him, not one gripe about the extra responsibilities that fell on him.  He was amazing.  I know this may not seem like a huge thing to everyone, but it was enormous to me!

How this fits in to Dad?  He got to reap the benefits of me coming!  We love you Dad!

To my big sister Charise

It has been a fun year to think of how to serve in the name of my eldest sister, Charise Kehaulani Gates Johnson. During the first half of the year, I struggled to think what I could do in the spirit of Char.

One of the first things I considered was losing weight, in honor of the way that Charise has lost so much in recent years. But, when I ruptured a disc in my lower back, my exercise plan went kaput.

In the late Spring, when Bill and Char started seriously discussing whether to move to the East Coast, I felt maybe my service would be to convince her of just how great life is in Virginia and North Carolina.

Then, in the summer, it became clear how the Lord wanted me to serve others who were going through a crazy time in their life, just how Charise was going through a crazy, hectic time in her life.

[Please note, the details of this story may not be 100% correct, but they are as I learned them, often second or third hand, and usually from across the country. Regardless, those who know Charise know that she feels that accuracy in storytelling is quite overrated.]

In July, Charise went for an annual checkup and when her doctor reviewed her mammogram, he saw something that caused him concern. He had her go back from a more detailed review and they scheduled a follow-up appointment. Charise never returned for the follow-up appointment, for various reasons that make sense to a super-optimist living in Chari-land, but drove her siblings to tears on a few occasions. I did not find out about these health concerns until many days afterwards.

When I finally found out from one of my other sisters, it was only three weeks after a dear co-worker, Jodie Evans, had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Once diagnosed, Jo’s doctors moved quickly through treatment and she was about to start chemotherapy when I learned about Charise’s abnormal mammogram results and refusal to return to the doctor.

I didn’t talk to Charise a whole lot during those weeks, because I was afraid I would end up yelling at her, “Just go to the doctor, would ya!” When I talked to my other sisters, I expressed frustration and anger that Charise was not taking this more seriously. In truth, I was really just scared. Finally, I realized that if I served my friend Jodie, I could serve in honor of Charise and cope with my fears at the same time.

Jo is pulling her hair out

Like Charise, Jodie Evans is an optimist who always sees the best in people and assumes the best of every situation. As she received more details about her diagnosis and treatment plan, Jo was reliably happy. I was so pleased when she came to me and asked for my help with some graphic design as part of her plan to announce her treatment to the rest of the staff in a humorous and fun way. Jo told me she wanted to do a friendly pool where people would bet on when she would lose her hair after her first round of chemotherapy.

I told her that I would look into it and figure out an easy and great way to do it. I went online to the Susan G. Komen Foundation to find out where we would have people send donations, but I was so excited when I found an awesome feature… the ability to create a personalized website for your friends to donate online! So, after I created Jodie’s page, we set about creating the “Jo is pulling her hair out” pool.

First, we took a picture of Jo pulling on her still healthy hair. Then, I made a flyer to give to everybody on staff and a signup sheet to post on the staff refrigerator. In the end, the staff had donated $186 on behalf of Jodie!

At one time, after all of this work was nearly completed, Jodie apologized for asking me to do so much. I smiled and told her that I wish she would ask me to do more. I told her about Charise’s situation and our Gates Family Season of Service. Then, I explained how helping her have fun in the face of bad news and raise money to support breast cancer awareness was actually a wonderful way for me to deal with the uncertainty and worry I felt for Charise.

Char can update you more on her situation, but I can tell you that after lots and lots of nagging from me and our sisters, she has gone to the doctor here in North Carolina and she doesn’t have breast cancer (aka her tatas are saved)!

FYI, she forgot to tell me the good news and has left me worrying for two extra weeks about it. But I was not mad, because I chalked it up as patience in honor of the service in honor of Char!

Donating blood

The other way that I served in honor of Charise was to donate blood. We all know that Char and her family are frequent customers of hospitals. So, what better way to honor Char, than to give what her family needs so often?
Ashley and I donated blood three times in the past four months. For the past two, we called up Virginia Blood Services and scheduled our own appointments to come into their offices to give. Our last time was the morning we drove down to North Carolina on December 23.

At two of our donations, we got t-shirts. Of course, they don’t have XXL. (What is that… some kind of fat joke?) So, we will be giving Charise four t-shirts for her to remember our service.

Speak no evil

Another way I chose to honor Charise was to set the goal of not speaking negatively of her or my sisters. The first time I went to NC to visit after Charise arrived, I realized that I was awfully judgmental of decisions she was making, for which I had no business having an opinion.

At that time, I told my wife that I wanted to stop criticizing the choices of my sisters. It is egotistical to think that my limited knowledge of their lives leads me to make better decisions than they make every day. Charise is rarely critical of others, so I have tried to think of the positive aspects of my sisters, and have faith that they are always choosing the right each day.

While I have been far from perfect in this goal, I have noticed a big difference in my mindset when around them. This is a goal I hope to grow stronger in during the next year, but I know that it makes it much easier to feel the Holy Spirit when with them.

My wish as a father

With each of our children, Ashley and I have chosen not to find out the sex of the baby. One day before our first daughter was born, Ashley asked if I wanted a boy or a girl. I said, “I want a girl, because I want a spiritually strong spirit to lead our kids the way that Charise led me and my sisters.” I think of that often as Leland does things that show the growth of her testimony or when she acts as a wonderful big sister.

Two weeks ago, after we knew that our cousin David Kenney was going to return to live with our Heavenly Father, I called each of my sisters to tell them that I loved them. When I called Charise, I told her how grateful I was to have her as the oldest sibling in our family. I attribute much of my testimony to my sister. She showed us how to be a kind sibling, a righteous teenager, and a faithful missionary. I am glad Heavenly Father sent me to the house where Charise Kehaulani Gates was the big sister.

"When you are in the service of your fellow man, ye are only in the service of your God."

Wall Before
Wall after
I would like to start by asking, "Am I the only one that starts this process by hoping that I get so or so", because that person will be so much easier to find service for him or her?

This year has been very unique in that almost anything I was doing would most likely fit into the category of some kind of service for my person. The hard part was to focus on just one project that would exemplify my ONE person. What could I do that had some kind of message to the ONE, but something that all of us might learn a message out of and use in our lives?

 Please note: all 8 Elders wanted a turn running the buffer

One of the assignments my mission president gave me was to try to train the local members to take care of their building. I was to work with a department of the church called Temporal Affairs. In the church, each ward building is to be taken care of by the local members, cleaning it each week. Temporal Affairs were to hire a company to deep clean the building each quarter. This never got done to our Pointe Noire building. I found really quickly that even some who are in a leadership position, are not able to look at a project like this and see the work and detail that has to be done.

Look at that ground in DIRT!

After being in the mission for 17 months, I could see that the chapel had not been deep cleaned, since the missionaries did it as a service project when we were out just 1 month. Keep in mind that we are talking about Africa and not the USA. When it rains in the Congo we would get all kinds of muddy feet tracked all over the whole building, which was all tile, thank goodness. The members would mop regularly, but there was a dirty buildup that was never cleaned off properly.

With only 2 weeks left on our Mission and trying to get everything done, I still wanted to do a special project for my ONE. I decided to follow my promptings and the project of getting the Building deep cleaned, even if was me, alone, to do it. Then, at our last district meeting the Elders asked us to give them an idea for service. Wow, what a great opening. I gave them my idea of deep cleaning the building the last Thursday before our new couple was to arrive.

We washed walls and glass, cleaned all the fans and worked on the tile floors . Sounds easy right?? I had 4 Elders working on walls for 3 hrs. 2 Elders on fans 2 hrs. and 2 to 4 Elders with the big scrubbing machine on the floors 4 hrs. After we were finished, the entire building shined and looked much better!

Remember, that "when you are in the service of your fellow man, you are only in the service of your God." Chuck is a great example. I have seen and heard of Chuck, the ONE, help in moving many people in the Elder's quorum, and volunteering in many ways where work was needed to be done. Chuck is one of those people who can look at something, and see how to organize it, and get the job done.
Whether it is cleaning the house with his children, cleaning his yard, or organizing his entire office staff, he gets the job done. I have learned that it is a gift to be able to be a leader and organize people to work. I am proud of you Chuck, and that you have learned to use this talent to benefit others.
Ahhhhh.... Cleanliness is next to Godliness

The gift of warmth and hugs and missionary service

I was excited that we got an early start this year with the Christmas service! I really enjoyed my service of making quilts for African babies for Bill last year, so when I found out I had mom, I decided to do that again, but to a bigger extent!

As soon as we found out, I contacted our Stake Relief Society President. Long story short, we were going to do this huge countywide event with all different denominations, but it ended up getting cancelled.

I did NOT let that deter me! I then continued on to my ward Relief Society Enrichment Meeting Committee and proposed that we make blankets to send to Africa.

I prepared months in advance, making sure to do lots of advertising and send out lots of reminder and save the date emails. I even made a cute invitation (which I can't find on my comptuer right now, dang it and sorry!) which invited the sisters to join us in a night of making blankets to keep little babies warm. I had sign up sheets for sisters to bring sewing machines, sergers, rotary cutters, and rotary mats.

I was a little nervous how long it was going to take because we didn't have many people sign up for sergers. I was afraid it would take a very long time. So I prepared myself for the worst.

Well, June 16th arrived... the day of the meeting! And to my surprise, we had SO MANY PEOPLE there!!!! I had so many people there I ran out of jobs! And I had ladies in my ward who brought friends who were non-members and they wanted to come and help out because of what we were doing!

I was so touched by all of these wonderful ladies who made such a great effort! We ended up with 3 sergers and 7 sewing machines! We had over 30 women there! We were done making our blankets in about 30-35 minutes!!!

In addition to making blankets, we told people that they could donate any unwanted and extra blankets.

One of the 4 tables. The lady in the front right is a non-member who wanted
to help after hearing from her friend what we were doing.

2 cute ladies in my ward who speak barely any english, but they adore
Brooklyn. They are such sweet ladies with such sweet spirits!

Another table of hard workers.

The end result!!!!!!!

In the end, we made OVER 75 BLANKETS TO SEND TO AFRICA!!!!!! I was so happy and so thrilled everything had turned out great! Amy then picked them up and took them with her to Africa when she went the 2nd time, so we didn't have to pay for shipping or customs or anything! Thank you Amy!

To my sweet Mother ~ Thank you are always being an example to me. You have taught me all I know in this life and have taught me the things I need to know for the next life. Thank you for serving our Lord for 18 months and doing his will and teaching the Gospel. I love you so much, and I hope you enjoyed recieving and giving out all these wonderful blankets. I can't wait to see you in a week. Love you.

Love, Tiff

I want a Lot of Kids......Like Three or Four.

[Editor's note: Through a long story, Bill's wife got mixed up and told him that he was assigned Mitzi McBride, when he was actually assigned Mike McBride this year. As such, please read this with the mindset that a service to a man's wife is just as much service to the man.]

First off, it is so great to have all these cousins. As many of you know, Charise and her siblings were in Utah two weeks ago. I thought it was a great opportunity to watch Mitzi's kids in her absence.

So, the schedule was I got my two boys off to school. Then I took Savannah to someone in the ward. This cleared me up so that I could go to work. At 3:45 I picked up my boys, then picked up Connor and Tara Mei from their bus stop. Depending on the day, we either went to football, Mitzi's house, or my house. I also had Savannah with me at this time.

It was so fun seeing the cousins creating great memories during this time:

Wednesday night, we hung out at my house. After we had dinner, the kids ran around the house and watched some movies. About six o'clock, I had to take Connor and Tara Mei back home. My boys were not very happy about that.

Thursday, after I collected everyone,  I took the boys to football. While Connor and Brighton were playing football, Tara and Cole enjoyed the playground. Connor was going so fast, he was the blur. Then we went back to my house and had more great memories. I kept the kids a little longer this day because Mike was out of town.

We had a friend come pick them up about 8 to go spend the night at their house. Her kids go to the same school so she can get them all off in the morning.

We had our ward party Friday night, and I told Mike that I wanted to take his kids with me. After I picked Connor and Tara Mei up, I brought them back to their house to get them "festive". (Thanks to my wife, this is how my brain thinks now). Then we were off!!

At the party we sung, ate, ran around, and had great laughs. When Mike got back in town he swung by and picked up his kids.


I see you doing so much, for so many, so frequently. I am amazed everyday how you organize your day and take care of your family. Most of all, how well you do it. I am so glad you got to go serve in Utah. Once again, it shows how you always help others. I am honored that I could serve you by helping out with your children. I would not have changed anything except maybe to have more time with them. I am blessed that I could do a little part for your big heart (mine rhymes too Ryan).

Thank you for this great opportunity to experience "a Lot of Kids".


Guys that could stand to gain some weight:

Manute Bol

Sean Bradley

This Guy

Ryan Conley

We recently saw Ryan. Whoa! He is no longer the Ryan whose elbow would stick you like a knife playing basketball. No longer will he be tormented about slipping down the drain while showering. “Hey stick man!” Nope. If there was a game show called “Biggest Winner”, he would win hands down. This is a fuller, more robust, better vintage year Ryan Conley. He finally has put some meat on those bones and he is looking good doing it. In light of this successful weight gain, my service to Ryan is dedicated to food.

I volunteered for a food drive for the church. This is the truck I drove:

We went to various shopping centers and collected food that would have been thrown away. Trader Joes was the big winner of the day. I believe we collected 190 pounds from them which is significant because I think that is what Ryan weighs now.

This is me posing with Krispy Kreme donuts. These got lost in shipment, not sure how.

As I thought about food, I thought, “how else can I collect food for others.” And then I thought of a great place to collect additional food. I decided to clean Mitzi’s car out for her.

Those of you with no children will not understand what this has to do with food. Those with children know that there is a full Las Vegas buffet to be found between seats, on the floor, in seats, stuck to the roof, in the glove box and essentially in any nook or cranny in the car. This is me about to eat a bowl of cherios that I collected from between seats.

Ryan, Mitzi thanks you for a clean car.

Lastly, in Ryan’s name, I donated to one of my favorite charities, Heifer International. They purchase livestock to give to the needy in third world countries. They send cows, goats, chickens, etc., so that the people have an ongoing food source and a money source. Several years ago, I donated a cow’s butt in Ed’s name. You can buy the whole cow but that is kind of pricey. We can now add Ryan to the many proud owners of cow’s butts world wide.

Ryan, I admire you. I think you are a great husband and father. I am grateful I had the opportunity to do this service and congratulate you on your recent weight gain.

I just want to bite on their lips!!!

I am in love with my babies... all 18 of them. I remember when Amy first started having babies and people would often ask me if it made me sad that she was younger than me and that I did not have babies yet.... It was the dumbest question ever! I remember the amazing joy of holding each of her babies in my arms and knowing that they were mine, eternally. Families are forever... FAMILIES... FOREVER!!! These precious babies are my family, my nieces and nephews... MINE! MINE! MINE! The family unit is never ending.
(Thank you Auntie Karen Hill for years of cute matching clothes!)

(Thanks Auntie Sue Ward for years of wonderful toys, trinkets and treasures!!!)

As Bill and I have made the decision to move here, the BIGGEST part of our decision was cousins. We craved cousins for our children to play with, sisters to go walking with, Brothers for Billy to work with and enjoy. We miss our West coast family so much. California, Utah, Washington, Nevada... they all seem so far away!

This year, I got to serve Lani. My plan was to do Kids Are Music and incorporate having Houston be a part of it and help him feel confident and important. I thought it would be a fun idea to work with him to catch the true spirit of Kids Are Music. The service, the patriotism, the excitement in serving your community.

He is so wonderful, I can't seem to stop giving him everything he wants!
So I was going to focus on Houston in my service to Lani, but then I was given an opportunity to spend an entire week with her delicious baby girl. It was such a joy and a blessing to be able to snuggle her, hold her, care for her and sleep with her. My little sister Lani was called on to offer a week of service that no one else could possibly do, and there was no way that she could keep her Hadley Bear with her. I felt so blessed to be there and be able to step in to be a one week temporary mommy to our sweet Hadley Addison. Sometimes service doesn't even feel like service, it just feels like fun!

Yes, She is DELICIOUS!!