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Thank you for visiting our Christmas Service Blog. We welcome comments from visitors.
We would love to hear if you decide to implement this idea in your family.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Mom and Dad safe after attempted coup

This morning, we were concerned to hear about the attempted coup in Kinshasa, but we have confirmed that Ed and Kriss are safely in their apartment.

We are relieved to let you know that Mitzi has been in contact with our parents, who briefly related some of the morning's difficulties.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Shoes for Wayne

(Posted by Kriss on behalf of Ed.)

It is another year and I find myself writing my report of the service, and not making the dead line. May I ask for a little slack this time (1) because I am another year older and (2) because I am in Africa and they never do anything on time. It takes forever to get things done, so I guess I am now part Congolese.

I think Mom and I could have given this project to our whole family because of the support you have given us to be here on our mission.  However… this year it is Wayne's great pleasure to receive my service.

Sometimes I find it difficult to find something that can truly relate to the person to whom you give the service, but not this year. I am very lucky to have Wayne… or I could say it was a great blessing to the orphanage to have our Christmas service be for Wayne. I can remember as a very young boy the many times during the Christmas season some one would come by and ask each of us what we wanted for Christmas. With that memory in mind, it was an easy decision to take Christmas to the orphans that are looked after by a wonderful sister in the church… who reminders me of my mom.

Now, why is my project for Wayne? Most of us have been to the Dittbrenner home and know how much Wayne likes you to come in … and make your self yourself right at home… take your shoes off, put your feet up and relax. Big No! At Wayne’s house… we all wear shoes! So, don't worry Wayne. When any of our orphan children come to visit you, they will have shoes on… and you may find they will not let those shoes out of their sight.

We went to see the orphans about 10 days before Christmas. When we were leaving, one fun little nine year old boy walked out to the car with us. He said... in French… “Please shoes-no food” and showed Mom his scarred up feet. It was then that I decided on my service project.  At first we thought we may find some at the market that has second hand shoes. That proved a bad idea, because there weren’t many used tennis shoes… just dress shoes.

We had a wonderful experience taking the oldest 6 boys shopping  We wanted to make sure that the shoes would fit.  We decided to go to the best store that sells food, and some clothes and some shoes. When we got there and we gave them the price range to look at, there were not many great choices. These boys, ages 9 to 17, had never had a new pair of shoes. The younger ones had never had anything but flip flops. They saw these great basketball shoes, with many bright colors. Their eyes lit up when they saw them. I could feel them thinking “Wow, we wish we could get these” but they could see that they were out of the price range we had given them. They continued to look to see what they could find in the right price.

About this time my mind went back to when I was very young and we would get to go to Deseret Industries and get new shoes. Don't get me wrong, I really appreciated what we got, but there was not much choice. I decided that we would give these 6 boys the shoes they wanted. You would have thought we gave them the world. Such joy, and oh, the excitement… jumping up and down and hugging each other. They were truly happy for each other and so appreciative to us. It was truly worth it to see and feel the excitement in their lives.

Each boy wanted to carry their own box out to the truck. We had told them that they couldn’t take the shoes home with them, and they would get them back in 4 days for Christmas. It was like they were saying goodbye to their best friends.

On Christmas day, when we got to the orphanage, my heart sank to see the condition that these kids live in and what they go through just to survive. Many times during the afternoon while we ate and gave out the presents, I would look over at our mission present and our eyes would meet as the tears rolled down our cheeks.

When the gifts were given out and we came to handing out the boxes of shoes, tied with yellow bows… these boys jumped had yelled with such joy, that I don't think there was a dry eye amongst the Missionary couples. I know that it was very hard for me then, as it is now as I write this to keep it under control.

So to my wonderful son Wayne, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to do this service in behalf of you, because I know that you would want them to have shoes when they come to visit!?!?!

Thanks to all and please, cherish all that you have.

Love Elder (Dad) Gates

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Our Christmas at the Orphanage - Part 2

This morning, Christmas, two of the other couple missionaries, the Smiths and the Moons, came and helped us wrap and get ready to go to the orphanage. They were a great help! Then we loaded up the cars and left for the orphanage with President and Sister Cook, the Smiths and the Sneddons.

It rained very hard last night. We were concerned about how we would get into the orphanage on the muddy roads. They live on the side of a creek which swells with the rain and floods their home and school. When we arrived, we were bewildered to see that their “home” was full of filthy water and their yard was full of water that was even filthier, as it was partial rain water and partial septic water. Our hearts were full of love for these special children of God. We watched them bucket the water from their home. They finally gave up and spent about an hour cleaning out the school, where we held our Christmas party.

The oldest boy, 17 year old Israel, is completely blind. However, he was chosen to welcome the missionaries and told us all how excited they were to have Christmas. They were amazed at the dinner that we thought was very simple. Israel said that they had never had anything like this in their lives, and they were thrilled.

After we ate we brought out the gifts. We started with the clothes. We had worked hard to find the right sizes for the right sexes. We did a great job of it, and the kids were thrilled with their new clothes.

I had the kids play a choosing game for each age group, where we spread out all the clothes for that age, and then they would take turns picking their favorite item. It was a big success. For reasons to be explained in Dad's blog, the big boys only got socks and one or two T shirts.
The twelve year old girls each got a pair of pants and four cute shirts. The little boys each got three outfits and flip flops. The three little six year old girls got the most. Each little girl got two dresses, a pair of long pants, a pair of shorts, and about five shirts. The final fun thing was that I found three little outfits with net Tutus… and everyone screamed and cheered at how cute they were.

Next we got out the Toys!

We started with 5 little pairs of sunglasses. Jimae this one is for you!

We gave the boys their special gift (more details in Dad's blog) and then we gave the girls their pieces of fabric plus a $10 bill to pay to have the dresses made. (At this point we ran out of space on our camera disk for photos. I will try to get some from the other couples. For now… let me just say… it was “magic” and wonderful. We wept many tears. Philomene cried and cried with gratitude.)

Then we started with the real toys… the coloring books, the crayons, the little cars and then the quads. The three nine year old boys were so excited that they literally wept when they opened up the toy quads.

The 5 girls opened up their dolls. I was concerned that the 12 year olds might think they were too big for dolls, but they ran up and hugged all of us and kept saying “Merci, Merci, Merci.” We found out they had never had dolls. Actually, they have never had toys. We ended with a good sized box being opened by the 6 boys… ages 3 to 14. When they saw it was filled with soccer balls they went crazy. (The balls they have used for years are made with paper, tape and sometimes wire. ) We gave them each a gallon size bag with a sleeve of cookies, a bag of cheese puffs, 3 little candy bars, 2 suckers and of course… an orange.

Elder and Sister Sneddon presented the school with some school supplies and some benches and desks for one of the classrooms. (They have previously just sat on the ground all day, every day.) President and Sister Cook presented Hygeine kits and School kits from Salt Lake to each of the children. Everyone was happily exhausted when we cleaned up and said goodbye.

This has been a Christmas we will remember the rest of our lives. Thank you Ashley for being our inspiration. I honestly don’t think we ever would have thought to do it, if it hadn’t been for you and the story about the oranges.

We miss all of you, and we wish you could be here with us and see what we are seeing. Thank you for your encouragement to serve. You are amazing kids.

Merry Christmas… Darlings. From Mom and Dad

Our Christmas at the Orphanage - Part 1

About 3 weeks ago, I started to focus on what I should do for my Season of Service Family Christmas project. This year I get to do my service to honor our Ashley. I realized I had many facets of her life that could focus on to serve others. I thought about the fact that she is such a great mother and about the fact that she is very active in working at the school and at church with other children. Then I thought about her job and how great she is with fresh fruits and vegetables. I wondered if I might be able to go work in a garden here in the Congo, but I don’t know anyone with a garden. Then I thought about one of my favorite Christmas stories. It is written as if the author was an orphan, and it is about how much she loved Christmas as a child. Her favorite part of Christmas day was always the fresh orange that each child was given every year on Christmas. The story is very sweet, but for now the important thing is that it inspired me for my Christmas service project. We have our own orphanage… and I decided I wanted to buy an orange for each of the orphans.

I decided to expand our horizons and take them in Christmas dinner. Then I decided I might as well go buy them each a little toy, and of course every child needs something fun to wear on Christmas.

A Mormon woman by the name of Philomene started the orphanage 14 years ago. The number fluctuates, but there are now 17 “orphans” in residence. They range in ages from 6 months old to 22 years old. The oldest 5 were some of the original kids and they were raised in the orphanage family. The two boys , who are originals, are both blind. The three original girls now help take care of the younger kids. They are like a big wonderful family.

Two weeks ago we visited the orphanage to get an idea of sizes for the children. We arranged to pick up the oldest 11 “children” on Saturday, December 21st at 9:00 am. They live about 45 minutes away from us. Most of them had never been into the city, some had never ridden in a car. We loaded them up for a big adventure!  It was a great day!

We decided we that these kids have always worn hand-me-downs. We wanted them to get something new. The Congolese women who can afford the fabric, always wear beautiful dresses to church. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of fabrics to choose from. It is a special “waxed” fabric that holds the bright colors, even after many washings. The women buy the fabric and then have the dress made specifically for them. We decided to take the girls to choose their own fabric and then pay someone to make their dresses. The labor is only $5.00 to $10.00 depending upon the style they choose.

We bought for the boys first… see Dad’s writeup. Then we took them all to buy ice cream cones (for many another first) ...

... and then we took the girls to the area of town that is specifically about 50 small stalls filled with fun bright fabrics. They were mesmerized. They each ended up buying their favorite piece, and then give them back to us to keep until Christmas day. 

We were very impressed with how polite these kids were, and how cute they were to take care of one another… especially our 2 blind boys. We really bonded with these kids. It is probably a good thing that we are leaving Kinshasa, because I am getting way too attached to them. The shopping day was a great success!

In the meantime we had to go shopping for the food, clothes and gifts. The food and gifts were fairly easy, purchased from regular stores. However, the shopping for used clothes was an event in itself! If you think the malls at home are crowded on Christmas eve… try shopping the “mall” here the day before Christmas.  Not only are there no stores, there are no tables.  People sometimes have a rack to hang things on... but mostly they just have big piles on the ground for you to look through.

Dad deserves a hero badge for putting up with the heat, the crowds, the French language and the digging through piles and piles of used clothes that miraculously appear from thrift shops around the world. We felt great yesterday when all the shopping was done!

Merry Christmas Hoser!

When I learned in May that I had the fortune of serving Mike McBride for 2013, I felt a bit anxious, but encouraged, similar to Frodo contemplating the epic journey Gandalf assigned to him in The Fellowship of the Ring. (OK, full disclosure: I’ve never read any of The Lord of the Rings books or seen the movies, but I’m trying to write this for Mike, so I relied on Wikipedia to help me set up this analogy.)

I’ve always loved Mike because he’s so great for Mitzi, but our relationship is not easy to describe. It’s never been negative, but it has been lightly strained in rare times for whatever reason, the biggest of which was probably rooted in Mitzi’s transition from being my best friend to being Mike’s wife and best friend. Even though it was never bad, things have gotten much better over the years.

But this year, I determined to show love for Mike by getting to know him better. My goal was to identify his strengths and seek to adopt them in my life.

Jeff Immelt’s finest

Jeffrey R. Immelt, Chairman and CEO of
General Electric is grateful for Mike McBride

We joke that Mike’s job involves a lot of conferences at beach resorts and “training sessions” on the golf course, with an occasional meeting with doctors in North Carolina. But, we all know that Mike works hard and works smart to excel as one of GE’s best sales representatives.

Last year, while seeking to further my career, I identified a handful of business contacts that I deeply respected from whom I wanted to learn. Through that process, I realized that I was blessed to be the brother-in-law of the top salesman in his division of GE, but I had never taken the time to ask what it was that made him the best. So I asked him late last year, but circumstances that day prevented us from discussing the answer.

This year, we’ve discussed it more in depth, and not only did I learn a lot more about Mike’s work and his successful attributes, but I realized something I needed to adopt within myself. Mike works hard, but he admits that with his priorities to family and God, it was likely there would always be others who worked harder then he chose to. Where he really excels, is in working especially effectively by building relationships and listening to his customers.

Mike is the rare combination of a great leader and salesperson who doesn’t feel the need to dominate the room. By spending more time listening, he earns the respect of others because he learns how to work with them individually. His ability to let others dominate a conversation enables him to lead and sell more effectively.

This year, I’ve tried to do better at listening at work. I’ve realized to embrace those somewhat awkward pauses in conversation as moments for all to reflect on what has been said, whereas my natural tendency is to fill the pauses with the sound of my own voice. By following Mike’s example, I’ve become a better listener, and therefore, a better worker, friend, and husband.

Embrace discomfort

Speaking of embracing difficult situations… Mike does really well at embracing the chaos of being married to a Gates. I doubt it is in Mike’s natural character to surround himself with loud crowds and or raucous gaggles of children playing.

The McBride house is a hub of activity and Mike’s office is located right inside the front door. Somehow, he has developed a way to prohibit this from distracting him. But this characteristic goes beyond ignoring distractions.

Mike loves spending quality time alone or with his kids in the quiet comfort of the home he built for his family to enjoy. But he also knows that because his wife is a natural hostess, activities director, and super-involved mom, the house is likely to be filled with neighbors, church members, Kids Are Music friends, or the extended Gates family. Because he finds joy in seeing her enjoy her friends and family, he frequently sets aside his discomfort to see her shine. I’ve always felt welcome to come visit the McBride house, no matter how much chaos is already there.

This welcoming attitude can result in difficult situations for a man that relishes a clean and well-taken care-of-abode. I learned a lot from Mike on one particular night when Charise, Lani, and I were there with our entire families.

Amidst the fun, one of the visiting parents had forgotten to check the diaper of their child, which was beyond capacity when it exploded leaving a mess of absorbent gel and “other” stuff on the floor. After the parent cleaned up the mess, they explained the situation to Mike and Mitzi with the rest of us watching. As the details emerged, I was befuddled how calmly Mike handled the news. He chose love over frustration by calmly discussing the situation and how it was resolved.

Since that night, I’ve thought of Mike a number of times as I’ve tried not to jump down people’s throats when they break bad news to me.

Support your queen

Kids everywhere!

Mike often shows love for his wife through small acts of service. For instance, when bedtime falls upon the McBride house, Mike takes the lead in directing the children through their nightly routine. This year I’ve tried to do better at making bedtime a quality time for me to spend with my kids.

Mike and Mitzi always welcome the neighborhood kids or cousins into their home. On December 23, Ashley and I decided to serve in their honor by inviting our friends to drop their kids off at our house for a few hours so they could run their Christmas errands. Admittedly, Ashley did most of the work, but it was a way for us to serve others as Mitzi and Mike serve their friends.

Enjoy the Competition

Mike and our Dad have a terrific relationship based on respect mixed with a significant amount of teasing through competitive sports and games. In the past, I haven’t always behaved well when playing alongside Mike and Dad. Their desire to care for me may have caused them to limit their competitive opportunities around me, even though it is a valued part of their relationship. This year, I set a goal of encouraging their competition and changing the way I behave when playing with them.

Dad and Mike especially enjoy playing golf together, where they satisfy their competitive needs with small wagers and not-so-small amounts of trash talk. To be honest, I’ve always struggled with their golfing relationship. I don’t play golf much anymore and due to my weaknesses, I’ve abandoned all forms of wagers. Plus, only two can ride together in a cart and I was jealous of their ability to laugh about themselves no matter how poorly they were playing.

When we went to Lake Gaston in October, I was excited to find out we would all get to go golfing together. I prayed that I would grow by finding happiness in seeing them enjoy each other. I chose to ride in a golf cart with another brother, Michael Hock, so that I could spend quality time with him and also watch Dad and Mike from afar. This new attitude helped me find great joy in watching them laugh and tease one another. It also turned out to be a great bonding opportunity for me and Hock (apparently, his golf swing responds much better to my more aloof attitude to golf). It is the best memories I have of golfing with my Dad and brothers.

Socks vs. blue jeans
During the Thanksgiving weekend, a few of us played basketball at the McBride’s house. It was Mike, Hock, and Mitzi against myself, Ashley, and Lani. As we played, it became clear that my team was much worse at shooting the ball. While losing the first two games, I chose to find joy in just playing alongside my brothers and sisters and didn’t worry very much about the score. Although we were clearly overmatched, we competed well and Lani and Hock wanted to keep playing. I said that was fine, but I was too fat and too stiff to keep guarding Hock, so I switched with Lani, so that I could guard Mike, who was playing quite casually although he was draining long-distance shots with ease.

In the third game, we found success by getting me the ball down low, then throwing it back out to Ashley or Lani who started hitting shots. My height kept Mike from shooting as often from outside, and as the score got more competitive, so did Mike and I. Luckily, just as I started to get frustrated, I caught myself. I smiled and realized Mike was goading me like he would Dad. Shortly thereafter we won the third game.

During our water break, Ashley and Lani separately checked on me to make sure I wasn’t frustrated and about to get too physical. I ensured them I was fine and enjoying myself. As our team won the fourth game, Mike’s teasing and creative rules (à la Ed) got stronger, but for the first time, I saw it as a positive quality that he shared with Dad.

The fifth game ended as it should have, with them draining outside shots to humble us. But, afterwards I realized how much I enjoyed the experience. Mike’s characteristics brought out the best in all of us to have a good, competitive game.

Love your brother

We miss you Ryan.
The way that Mike shows his love for the Gates family amazingly fills a much-needed role in our family. His calm, collected nature and willingness to quietly serve was especially evident on September 9, the most difficult day of our lives. Mike’s actions on the day we learned of our brother Ryan’s death was nothing short of an angelic ministry of God’s love.

I’m constrained not to share the details of all that he did, but his handling of the phone call, telling Dad, and administering a blessing to Mom and Dad all exemplify the way he lives close to the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. I’ve talked with him multiple times about those experiences in order to identify ways that I can learn to live to be able to perform the small miracles he did that day.

But the greatest way he touched my heart that day occurred after Dad, Mom, and the sisters were all in the air on their way to hold Tiffany. I picked up the phone and called my brother. Only a short time had passed since we heard the bad news, but we shared a calm and sacred conversation about the future of our family which the Spirit of the Lord had placed in our hearts.

Mike – I’m so glad you were there for me on that day. I’m grateful to have spent this past year focusing on your strengths and trying to adopt them in myself. I’ve always thanked you for being so great to my sister. Today, I want to thank you for being my brother.

Smarty Pants...

I have often said that Chuck is the smartest person I know in real life, but I am still AMAZED at how smart his children are. Leland understanding concepts far beyond her grade level.
 Lucy reading before many kids are potty trained! I love these pictures of her...

Charley writing her name before others her age can even recognize their letters. These are some really smart kids!
 And you KNOW Eddie is gonna be a genius~

To be honest, I am pretty sure Chuck's inspired choice in a spouse is a big part of the credit for his children's brilliance.... Ashley (whoo hoo!!!) is patient and works with her children daily on learning and understanding new concepts. Although I really try to be patient during the Johnson family homework hours, I often find myself being less than a perfect example. I am trying though!

So for my gift of service this year, I coordinated with both of my boys teachers. Once a week, every Monday morning, I go in to each of their classrooms and work with a group of kids on literacy. I never work with my own sons. This isn't about them. This is a chance I have to read with 5 children in each of their classes who don't have anyone to read with them at home. We work on understanding concepts that are totally new to these children. I have loved getting to be a teacher, in a small way. I have really learned how huge a difference it makes when a parent reads with a child at home. I am so thankful that Bill made this a priority early on for our kids.

Chuck, I know this isn't huge. It isn't life changing, but it is a small and simple thing that I have enjoyed so much. Thank you for being a true example of raising smart, intelligent children. I love you so much, and I am so proud of the fantastic father you are.

By the way, if you want to see a hilarious video clip, this is Chuck's oldest two daughters on the last day of school, sobbing because summer vacation had arrived and it meant no more school or homework! I love it!!! click here!

Bringing Comfort and Peace

The immense pressure and overwhelming feelings that I have been feeling to know that I was going to have to write this is why I have put it off. I sat down a few times over the last week to write, but just couldn't do it, but here goes.

Ever since Ryan passed away in September it has changed our family. It has changed me. I now try to focus on my relationships with others especially my family members, both immediate and extended, to strengthen them so there is never any question the love I have for them. As one of the “in-laws” I feel like the last few months and some of the experiences we had in those first days and weeks after Ryan’s death have brought me closer to the siblings than ever before. I am grateful for the bond that we now have and will continue to develop.

Another thing I have focused on in the last few months is the importance of pictures, especially of my family. At Ryan’s funeral, I loved the gorgeous family pictures that there were of Tiffany, Ryan, and the girls. It brought so much peace to look at those pictures and see their eternal family.

In October, for the first time in years, I got nice professional pictures taken of my kids (I had to take down 4 year old pictures to hang my new ones in my living room). I am so grateful for those pictures every day that I look at them and see the “Families are Forever” underneath them.

I still need to get the picture with Chuck, me, and the kids printed to add to the wall.

As I have thought about Ryan and how I can serve him, I think of Brooklyn and Zelda, his sweet daughters. As they grow and learn about their dad I think of how they will continue to grieve and also feel comfort.

I found an organization that was founded here in Richmond called Comfort Zone Camp. Their mission is - Comfort Zone provides grieving children with a voice, a place and a community in which to heal, grow and lead more fulfilling lives.

I was so excited to find them and be able to volunteer with them. They provide weekend long camps free of charge to grieving children. Comfort Zone Camp is a nonprofit 501(c)3 bereavement camp that transforms the lives of children who have experienced the death of a parent, sibling, or primary caregiver. The free camps include confidence building programs and age-based support groups that break the emotional isolation grief often brings. Comfort Zone Camps are offered to children 7-17, and are held year-round across the Country. We have offices in California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Virginia. Read here about how camp helps the grieving children.

I contacted them and met with their volunteer coordinator to find a way for me to help them. There happened to be a camp coming up in Richmond a few weeks after I first contacted them. There is a lot of prep work that goes into each camp, so I decided that I could help with camp prep. I went twice for a few hours each time to prepare camp materials.

The first day I went I helped organize and inventory their camp t-shirts that are for each camper and big buddy (an adult volunteer that is assigned to each camper so that there is a 1:1 ratio to insure each child has a good experience).

I also organized other tubs of materials that they take to camp for craft time and campfire programs to make sure there are enough of each item for the campers.

The second week that I went I helped prepare the name tags, camp schedule, and camp map for each person.

As I prepared the packets, I was using the list of campers that included their names, the individual they lost (mom, dad, brother, sister), the cause of the loss, and the age they were at the time of loss. All of this information is very important to be able to make sure the child is paired with the most compatible big buddy. I became a bit overwhelmed looking at that list and those children who have felt so much heartache so early in their lives.

I feel so fortunate that organizations such as these are out there to help our Brooklyn and Zelda as they learn and grow through the grieving process. I hope that I will be able to volunteer with them again. They have camps in Virginia and California, as well as a few other states. When I first did the research, there were tentative events located in North Carolina, but do not see them on the website now. There are so many ways that you can raise money to help provide an opportunity for a camper to attend camp. If you know someone that you think might benefit from attending Comfort Zone Camp (or another similar one in your area), please consider sending them information. Word of mouth is how this program can benefit more children. 

I am so grateful for Ryan. I am so grateful for his example of love and patience. I enjoyed the opportunity to serve in honor of him, especially this year as we also celebrated his life. Every time I have heard the song O Holy Night this Christmas season, I have reflected on the day of Ryan’s funeral, when that song was sung, and the wonderful feelings of peace that I felt. That has always been my favorite Christmas song and now it has even more meaning. 

From the end of the song:

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.

Thank you Ryan for reminding me to always love one another and for the reminder that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is what can bring us peace.

To Lani...OPPS! I'm going to blame Primary President Brain!

So I messed up this year!  Now I know why there was the rule that there can not be any specific requests.  Back in January I requested dad.  I had something I was going to do for him that didn't work out.  But in my mind I still had him. Carrie sent me an email in May asking if I had requested someone because she had a name next to mine in her spread sheet.  She said she didn't normally take requests so she thought it was a glich.  I replied back to her that I had requested him.  Once I saw today that two of us posted for Dad, I did a search in my gmail for Carrie Collins Christmas and saw that I have an unread email from Carrie saying that my service recipient was Lani.  Blast!  Somehow I missed that. But if someone is mistakenly going to get 2 people to do service in his name, what a great recipient.

I panicked but then I realized that of all people, if I missed Lani, it was a great miss for many reasons. I know Lani is one that gets much more joy out of doing the service then reading what someone did for her.  But the main reason this one isn't too hard for me to improvise is because I have been thinking a lot about Lani lately while doing service.  When I was called to be Primary President a month ago, I panicked!  But one thing that kept me calm is thinking that I knew I could go to Lani if I needed any council and advice.  There have been a few times in this short period that I have been frustrated wondering what to do.  Then I thought to myself, WWLD?  What would Lani Do?  What would the Lord Do?  I have a whole new respect for the service Lani did as Young Women's president.  And doing it with 3 very young children all at home!  I really don't know how she does it all.  Now she has a job and her boss RAVES about her to me daily.  He says "if only I could have a staff full of Lani's.  If only I could clone her." Somehow she gets everything done. She truly is Wonder Woman! 

We can all be a fan of our fellow Brothers and Sisters

When I received my name, at first I didn't know what to do. It took me quite a while to ponder and get some good ideas. Then like most of us, I put it on the back burner and would get back to it later. Throughout the year I kept thinking about what to do. I didn't want to do something that someone else could do. I also wanted it to be over the top. Like most family members, there was a demographics challenge as well. Well, toward the end of summer I started to get some really good ideas. Yes!!!!!! This is it. This is perfect.Why did I not think of this before.
Then, three months, two weeks, two days, and fourteen hours ago........I was back to square one. Our family encountered a spiritual event and I was baffled once more. What could I possibly do for Tiffany now? So with everyone trying to keep their routine on track and going to go support our baby sister, I kept watching to see what it was that I could do. I then realized that she was ok. She had uncles and aunts, friends, brothers and sisters, mom and dad all around her taking care of everything. There were errands, chores, packing, shopping, painting, babysitting, plus a multitude of other services that I was not even aware of. So that is it. I found my service. I want to give just a tiny fraction of what we gave our beautiful sister to another sister that hasn't been as fortunate.
I contacted my Bishop and explained to him what our family does and what I was looking for. After a week of research, he came back and gave me three names of sisters that were single or had husbands deployed. I picked one of the names and sent her a link to our blog. I explained how our service worked and told her I wanted to include her in our family in honor of our loving sister Tiffany. She was so excited and gave me my service. She has been wanting a ceiling fan in her youngest daughters room for quite a while. She asked if this was something that I do.......Let me think......uh.............YEAH!!!! So this was a couple of weeks ago. She didn't want anything done until after the holidays, but was very thankful for the love of her fellow brother in Christ.
Tiffany....I love you soooooo much. You have two darling girls that are adorable. I have great memories with your family when I first started dating Charise. I remember when you got your license. I had a blast DJ'g your 16th birthday party. I was also there to hug you when you got into the car accident after the movie on Christmas day. It seems like yesterday when I looked into your innocent face. Today I see your face in the same light. But I see an innocence of Heavenly Fathers love. He is with you. We are sent to Earth to be tested and tried. We are given the strength to handle anything crossing our path. With our testimony and our family, we can get through anything. It may not seem like it, but when we are least expecting it.......there is always someone that can put up our ceiling fan.  

To Bill From Ryan via Darcy

     Hey everyone Darcy here. so in September the week after Ryan's passing Carrie Collins  texted me and asked if I would do Ryan's for him, and he had Bill. So the first thing I did was call Tiff and see if he had done anything and if so what and if he had anything in mind. He did not but he usually does his the week before Christmas. So I did my research and looked at what people had done for bill in the past and then I also looked at what Ryan had done for people in the past. Bills were all very different. I was very concerned when I got bill because all of his big attributes (construction and roller skating) had all ready been done so I thought to myself what is something special about bill?

     One thing that popped into my mind that I didn't know before this summer was that Bill was a convert to the Church and he wasn't able to serve a mission because he was just barely too old. So how do you serve missionaries? They serve others, and asking them what they need/want for Christmas is not how you do it because all you get for an answer is "haha I don't know". Or "what do you mean?" Those were not the answers you want so when I went to Africa and brought packages for the missionaries they consisted of gum, toothpaste, and shoes or socks. So I made announcements during seminary, young women's, mutual, and any other opportunity (Facebook). Asking for LDS games, socks and gum.

     I made little packages to send to the missionaries in Ryan's ward, Bill's ward, and my ward. Or stockings :)

Sorry it is upside down but there is socks (or stockings ) with a few of their treaties in them.

I love you Bill! And so does our Ryan up above! You two are amazing uncles!

P.S. The cousins my age have a blog that you might of read about in my mom's post! Read that one to if you have time.

To Char, From Wayne

This year I had Char.

Charise loves Christmas time.  Her favorite thing is "halabloo." 

We have some friends, The Schotts.  They love Christmas but Dan (the Dad) is not too hip on heights.  This year we were visiting during Thanksgiving.  I hung Christmas Lights for them.  I also fixed their lawn mower. 

The photo is still to come, as I had it on my phone but then accidently fell in the ocean last week in Laguna Beach. 

I know Char thinks I am funny, but I can't think of a funny right now...maybe I will think of one and post later.

Merry Christmas Char...Love, Wayne

To Dad, Love Amy

Dear Dad,

I really tried this year to not put this off.  When thinking about what I wanted to do to honor you, I kept going back to what a wonderful example you have been in my life.  I decided in June that I wanted to take Grandpa Bodell to the temple once a month.  Here is us from July.  In Aug, Grandpa got sick and then in Sept, we lost Ryan and things didn't happen as I had hoped, so I needed to change my service.
I need to change my service, so I went back to the example you have always set.  You are a forever teacher with your example.  I decided to help others with service.  I volunteered to do a bulletin board for Dillon's school class.  I went in a talked to them about service.  I had them all write down a service that they wanted to do and then we put them up on the board.  It had just snowed a few days before, and more than half of them said they were going to shovel driveways.  It didn't snow again for about a week.  A few of Dillon's classmates live on our street.  When it snowed and Dillon went out of shovel, our drive way had already been done :>  Here is a photo of the board.  When they finished their service they would put a bow on their "Gift of Service."
I thought that I was done and all was good.  Last week, Dixie needed help for her service for Ricky (a new cousins service blog).  She wanted to help spread the Christmas Spirit.  She asked if I could bake cookies.  I had just made 50 sugar cookies (Mom's recipe).  I didn't feel like jumping to it, but I thought of my Dad, if I asked him for help with a service project, he would be there in a heartbeat! I then proceeded to make 136 cookies to help my daughter with her service project.
Dad, Thank you for always being a wonderful example off continuous service.  Love you tons, Amy

Michael Hock. AKA Hock. Not H..a..w..k. Hawk would be cool. H..o..c..k. Guess that could be cool too because HOCKEY starts with H..o..c..k. Not as cool but still pretty good. Have to get into his head. Need to be Hock. Need to channel my inner metrosexual. “How does my hair look? I am speed. “

Ok, first idea to channel my inner Hock. Play video games. Seriously? For those that don’t know, Hock’s first introduction to the Gates clan by Lani went something like this, “This is my new boyfriend, we almost broke up because he slept through church because he was up too late playing video games.” So I thought, what can I do with video games. This actually turned out great and I want to thank Hock for the inspiration. I started playing Clash of Clans with Connor so that I could understand his love for the game. I have enjoyed talking to my son about different levels, characters, defenses and tactics. So it wasn’t really service, that’s ok. I have 40000 gold coins that I can spend on upgrading my defenses. Good job Mike.


Back into Hock’s head. “Do these jeans look tight on me? I am the sexiest man alive.” Some of you don’t know it but Hock is a Vet. Yep, served in the Gulf War. Just ask Lani. She tells people at the DMV that her husband was in the Airforce. Ok, don’t go thanking him next Veterans Day. He didn’t really serve. But that didn’t stop Lani from talking about her 3 star general to random strangers. True story. You will need to ask her about it. So I thought, how can I serve a veteran? Lo and behold, we have a real veteran living with us. I decided to serve him by taking him out for a meal on Veterans Day. My wife and I confirmed that Grandpa would like to go to Olive Garden. Not 5 minutes later, out of nowhere, we get a message from Bill that says Olive Garden is offering free meals to veterans on Veterans Day. It was a Christmas miracle. I still count it as service even though I didn’t pay for his meal.

Back into Hock’s head. “Man, I feel old. Must be because I am a vet. Hey hold on, I am still sexy.” Not sure how many of you know but Hock has an extremely rare genetic disease called progeria. Go ahead, look it up. People with this disorder age quicker than normal. This has hit Hock hard, a 30 year old man in a 75 year old body. It really registered with him how bad it was when he lost to Ed Gates and myself, back to back, in one on one basketball. And he hasn’t beat us since. He suffers from a bad back, aching muscles and arthritis of everything. So, getting in Hock’s head, I thought, I can help a senior citizen. Kids are Music recently performed at a senior center. I volunteered to help with set up and take down. Although I was somewhat late on the front and back end, Bill graciously said he would count it as service.

Back into Hock’s head. “What did I say in that last paragraph? I can’t remember things anymore. Am I still sexy? Lani?” Everyone knows that the one advantage to growing old is that age brings wisdom. Behold, another Christmas miracle. A volunteer opportunity came up for parts in the local LDS Nativity pageant.  With few parts left, they were still looking for a rather tall, rugged, handsome man to play a Wiseman. I channeled Hock. I did my best “blue steel” look and jumped at the opportunity to show off my acting chops. “I feel old, I can be wise.” Unfortunately, a couple of missionaries volunteered as well and they couldn’t have a missionary hanging out with Mary so they made me Joseph instead. Oh well, I was still inspired by Hock.

And he is an inspiration. He is a great father. He is a loving, caring husband and I have learned to be a better man through watching his example. He has a strong work ethic and will do great things in his new role. Thanks Hock.

On another note.  I wanted to thank someone else for their service. I spoke about this person recently in a church meeting because she is a shining example of Christ-like love. She helps organize this service gift exchange every year so I figured this would be a good opportunity to say thank you. Ever since I married into the Gates family, I have seen her give and give again. She is selfless and is always looking for ways to assist others.  I know she has been an angel to those in need many times in the last several months. I wanted to thank Carrie Collins for her example to me.

Merry Christmas 'Ol Man

For Christmas this year I was given Dad's name.  Ok, Channeling Ed................

Dad...I decided to take a look into dad's past.  I can't think about his past w/o thinking about his mother.  Ione was such an amazing woman.  Raising 12 kids on her own!  There are so many things that would be hard; washing clothes for 12 kids, cleaning up after 12 kids, supporting 12 kids, homework with 12 kids but I can't even imagine feeding 12 kids every day and night!  I decided to take a walk down dad's memory lane and also try to better myself by learning a new skill.  I decided to attempt making grandma's rolls for my neighbors.  OH MY ROLLS!  This recipe made enough to feed the entire ward!!  I just kept on rolling.  The dough just kept on going!  I seriously can't imagine feeding that many people each day!  I also am not very good at making rolls.  They were not light and fluffy.   They were more like hockey pucks.  but they looked pretty.  She is my hero!

Dad is a master carpenter!  He is so talented at what he does.  He does his job with such skill and perfection.  He is very detailed oriented.  (Except when putting up the crown molding in the kitchen.)  This year for Christmas, I decided to do something that would hopefully bring more meaning of Christmas to people as well as channel my inner dad by using my woodworking talents.  We painted wooden nativity sets for my neighbors.  I made little cards to go with each piece and gave one each night for the 12 days of Christmas.  I really liked this because I felt like it gave me a chance to think about each person's (or animal's) role in the nativity. I even enlisted one of dad's biggest fan's to help me!  It was a fun little project to work on with Grandpa while thinking of Dad.

Dad to me is a spiritual giant.  He is such a great example of faith even thru endurance and trials.  Growing up my parents went to the temple once a month.  For a while dad even worked in the temple.  This year I decided to focus on making sure I did my temple service once a month.  This was easy back when we worked in the temple laundry last year.  But this time I had to make sure it happened on my own with out some one else requiring me to make it. I not only went, but I tried to really focus on what I could learn each time.  I wanted to "get" something that I didn't get before.  It also helped me stay awake!  Iv'e tried to make my prayers more meaningful and I've tried to really listen back after saying prayers.  I had no idea how important this would be in my life until the week of Ryan's funeral.  I am so glad I had been channeling my inner Dad for months.  It helped me keep a good hold on the gospel when I needed it most. 

I love you so much Daddy!  Thanks for being such an amazing example to me and my children.  We love you and we are so proud of you.  Merry Christmas!

PS Dad, I sent you an email as well, check your email. :)