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Friday, December 25, 2015

Have A Holly Jolly Christmas.....
I have Mom this year!!! Many of my earliest memories are of us singing together. Much of my confidence and love for life has come from Mom taking the time to Build Each Of Our Self Worth. I feel like one of the biggest continuing influences of positive self worth came from performing with Kids Are Music.

As the director today, I often get wonderful emails, texts, facebook posts... from long ago friends who remain touched by the true years of service mom displayed through Kids Are Music. I, myself, have Kids Are Music to thank for my closest friendships. And yet, somehow, life got busy and Kids are Music got put to the side. This past two years, I haven't had the time to do Kids Are Music full time, so we have done a couple of "short seasons". Mom mentioned a few times early in the Spring how she would absolutley love to go with her grandchildren to Washington DC for the 4th of July and have them perform for the crowds. Honestly... she hasn't asked for much from me in the past 20 years.... so I told my husband I wanted to do whatever I could to make that wish happen. (I know.... poor Chari... has to go on vacation.) We put together a patriotic show with lots of the grandchildren and headed off to DC. It. Was. AWESOME!!!!

Here was a short blurb from my journal this summer:
We had an awesome weekend performing all over DC for the crowds on the 4th. We even had people recognize the kids the next day at Arlington National Cemetery and ask for a repeat show! Our kids were all so fun and happy this weekend. Their favorite part was being by their cousins. I am so thankful all 6 of my brothers and sisters made such an effort for their families to be here with us... What a great holiday! Mom, their outfits looked fantastic!

When we got back, I had every intention of doing a big holiday season. But once again, life got in the way. My nieces Hadley, Tara Mei and Zetta continually asked if we could please do a holiday show. They are such darling little performers, and as they continued to ask, I realized that my mom's life, with her 6 children was certainly as busy as, if not much more so than, my life. So... a Kids Are Music holiday season went to the top of my priority list. 

It was a wonderful experience. The kids sparkled and shined, and they were fantastic!!! 

Mom... you have changed hundreds of lives with the joy of performing, service and patriotism you instilled in us all. I wish you knew how amazing what you have accomplished really is.

We love you!!! Thanks for the memories... and Merry Christmas Everybody!!!

Manly Man

As we have done this through the years, there are some projects and images that have stuck in my mind. One of those images is of a guy smiling, as if saying, have a nice day, while holding up a prophylactic on a stick. Wayne Dittbrenner, that incredibly unique character, whose motto seems to be, we weren’t born to follow, is my service recipient this year.  I call Wayne occasionally to catch up. I always enjoy our conversations. When I last spoke to him, I felt like I was talking to a true frontiersman, like he was speaking from a wanted dead or alive poster. He told me about going into rivers, chest high, with nets to catch salmon. He talked about life and death encounters with moose. Ask him to tell you the seriously funny story about a moose chasing him into a garage. Talk about livin on a prayer. He barely made it out of that one. Living in Alaska is no bed of roses.  I believe I am not the only one who thinks Wayne is Bear Grylls. Raise your hands if you agree. Can I get an amen?

So, I am thinking, what can I do that is rugged and individualistic. My first thought was something in the wilderness. But then I realized, I am not a wilderness guy. I don’t even really enjoy camping. I would rather run away from that. Recently I got called into deacons, yea!, campouts once a month. But that starts next year. So that will not work.

What else is awesome about Wayne? He could easily be the lead singer of a hairband. If not the lead singer, at least a roadie, with his fist in the air, screaming, “Let it Rock”. What do roadies do? They set up for the band and they take down.  So for my service project, I volunteered to take down for our annual nativity project. I mean, its my life, I can choose any service project I want, right? So, after rockin the Handel’s Messiah sing along, I joined the take down crew. I tackled the first project that came along with bounce and vigor, still cheerily humming Christmas tunes. I was tasked with de-lighting a 4 foot tree. But this tree seemed to say, don’t you dare lay your hands on me. I was soon muttering swear words under my breath. Whoever had lit this tree had to be a light Nazi. Sure enough, I found out later that there is a light Nazi. One particular lady literally spends 2-3 hours on these 4 foot trees wrapping and rewrapping the lights around branches. Bless her soul. But this was some bad medicine. I mean, lights are supposed to convey love. I wanted to tell this lady, you give love a bad name. But I decided, I must keep the faith and press forward with my service project because, Wayne, I’ll be there for you. And so I persevered. I mean, you want to make a memory, right? Over a couple hours, the whole nativity exhibit came down in a blaze of glory.

I really appreciate my friend and brother Wayne. I truly admire his take on life. He has a unique perspective on things. I really appreciate that. And I believe that he may appreciate this post more than most. There are 22 song titles from one of his favorite bands, Bon Jovi, sprinkled throughout the post. The first one to email me with the correct 22 song titles wins $25. Except for Darcy, who doesn’t believe I pay up on my bets. Just kidding Darcy, this time you have it in writing….but my money is on Dixie. Thanks for all you do Wayne, love you brother. I’d die for you. Ok, that one is a gimme.

For Bill

Well here we go again, wow this yr. went by fast! Maybe not fast enough for some but too fast for others. I'm the latter.

I wish to be clever and funny so in order to do that I should write  mine out and then give to Chuck to spice it up a bit and also  have Mike McBride put in the funny clever stuff! No offense to either of you, I hope?

As I think of where we were at, one year ago to where we are now l can say, we have been and are a very very blessed as a family!

When we first got our names in August I knew that was going to have to work hard and give it a great deal of thought!. Well if thought counts for anything then I'm in for that prize.

I think part of this idea of service is  not only to do some type service for that person but maybe to spend some time thinking and getting into the persons karma. I have really spent these months really thinking of my person. You see I feel I really don't know my person ins and out, even thought I have spent a considerable amount of time with this person.

   What is this persons passions? what does this this person really like to do if there is free time in the life of this person? What our the hobbies that he or she might have?

  Well I can't answer any of these very well and that is why I have been spending a lot of time just thinking of this person.

Now I am sure either of my two shadow writers could have shorten that intro and spiced it up a bit, but sorry you all just have put up with me and Remember I am very OLD.

  So off we go, in behalf of Bill Johnson, I will now report my service and truly my time I have given to thinking of this many many times these past months. Bill  Johnson,  l want you to know that I Love and respect you very much. The hand you have been dealt has not been one that is easy! Yes you chose to join this family by choosing one of my special children! Little did you know that you would end up with, putting it mildly, a very challenging posterity. I have really taken the time to even try to put myself in your shoes. They are pretty big shoes to try and fill.

You met your future bride at the YSA ward, so my first service I had dedicated to you was
that I would do all that I could to fulfill my service mission to the YSA institute and ward as best as I could. This entailed every Wed and Thurs going to the institute and preparing a light meal for anywhere between 35-40 YSAs.

Kriss and I did this together but there were times when I had the opportunity to take it by myself. And that's when I thought more about how you, Bill, would be able to do what I did. And just take over and put the meal on by myself.

One of the biggies was helping out with the Christmas Party Dinner and we were given the assignment of bringing two vegetable dishes and a fruit jello. Kriss was spending a lot of time going to the physical therapist so I decided that I would fix the food by myself.

It was decided that we would do the famous "Amy Corn Casserole" x2 and a fruit Jello.  The pressure is on because Amy received great reviews with this casserole.  Like 10's (with 10 being high not low).  So I looked up the ingredients for the casserole and off to the store to purchase the items. 

Have you ever stopped to think how many different kinds of muffin mixes there are in the store today?  There are MANY!  I was informed that I must make this casserole using the exact ingredients.  So the Jiffy muffin mix was a little tough to find.  I thought at this time, I think I better go back to Africa because I am more used to going to the store there.  There would only be one choice of muffin mix.  But probably not Jiffy. 
 I am putting on the finishing touches on the Jello dish and this is the second helping after my wife, Sister Gates, looked at my first attempt and made a comment like "are you trying to save some whipped cream for yourself?  Looks like you are being a bit skimpy with that stuff."  Good thing I brought the mixer with me to the church.  So back to the mixer I went to thicken up the topping and hide all the Jello. 
When the party was over, the bishop was asking who made different dishes.  He asked who made the corn dish.  I said I did.  He said Yea Sure!  You mean your wife made it.  I said No, I made it!  I don't think he believed me but he raved about it.  I had no less then 7 people ask me for the recipe.  So I count that as a 10.  Not because of me but because of the good recipe that was provided by Amy.  Thanks Amy. 

Last Saturday when Utah was playing Duke, I got a call that no decorations had been put up at the Johnsons yet.  So I decided this was a good time to do a direct service for my recipient Bill.  He has been so busy doing all the jobs he had to complete before Christmas.  So I sacrificed the basketball game and headed over to the Johnsons.  And to my surprise, when I arrived there, Char was getting ready to have a dress party.  And her house was completely full with dresses and they were not presents.  So I asked Char where the Christmas decorations were so we went out to the garage and started looking.  She had no idea where they were.  Up pops that name again, BILL! 

I found a fake Christmas tree in a box, in the garage of which Char knew nothing about.  She didn't even know she had one.  So I said should I put it up?  She said "Sure! Why not?"  And now looking back, and her having that party going on, I think she was just a little bit overwhelmed and probably didn't really want it set up but was just being Char...sure yea! 

So I came in and found a clear spot which was in the kitchen and put that sucker up.  Then I asked Char where should I put it (another stupid question in that situation)?  Oh, just put it on the landing of the stairs.  That was really the only open spot there was because of all the racks of dresses.  During this time, she had people showing up early going thru the dresses.  As I left, thinking man I did a great service project there, I started to think I bet Char was very glad that I left.  Not because of my generosity but because she really needed to be serious about the dress party. 

Leland asked Grammy and I if we would come up to her school and speak to her class that was studying Africa and tell them all we knew of Africa.  Now I thought this was one thing I could do, that Bill is so great to serve at his kids school.  This was something Bill could not talk about but I sure could.  So we said sure, we would love to come.  We were thinking they meant for about 10-15 minutes. 

In a later conversation, they asked if the whole 5th grade who were all studying Africa could all come in and watch.  They gave us the whole Social Studies class period to talk.  Well, all of you know that Grammy can't be giving a talk or a speech with out a slide show.  So she started to put together a slide show that ended up great.  When we first were talking about it, Grammy said we would take our African outfits with us and we would do it in our outfits.  So when we packed up to go, I brought my outfit.  But Grammy thought that I was not going to wear mine so it ended up that I was the only one with my outfit.  And it was a great hit!  Sorry Grandma.  Thank you Leland for inviting us up and giving us this opportunity to serve. 

This past Monday, I found out that Lani really needed a babysitter so she could go help someone who really needed help in her ward. I jumped at the opportunity, thinking "Well Bill does that all the time! With his 3 plus more sometimes. I can do that! I LOVE MY GRANDKIDS. What's the big deal? What could go wrong?"

8 am. It was time. Here they come. I got this. Remember, this is the day that it decided to turn COLD! Flip of the switch it was COLD in North Carolina this day. In walk 4 kids and 0 jackets. Hunter is still in his pajamas and doesn't have any shoes.
"Where are is his shoes?"
"Ooooh, I didn't bring them."
"Where's his coat?"
"Ummmmmm, I didn't bring one. Just wrap him up in a blanket".
Now I had planned on going to the playground as I explained to Lani. She didn't believe me.
"Just have them play in the play room or turn on a movie for them. Thanks so much Dad." she says. I was very specific that I DO NOT DO STINKIES! But I don't think she believed me again. I don't think she believed me again because all she left was diaper changing stuff. No coats. No shoes. JUST "put on a movie for them" and how she went.
"Ok kids, what do you want to do?"
AJ: "Put on a movie. Put on a movie"
Houston: "Can you play catch. Please?"
Hadley Bear: "Let's play in the play room"
Back and forth back and forth all shouting which thing they wanted to do.
Dad: "Ok, let's go guys." Turn on the light
AJ: "Just plug it in Papa! I'll show you!" Still no lights.
Yes folks... No power. They did not understand this.
What could go wrong.

So, Off to the park. Grab the blanket (aka Hunter's jacket)!
20 minutes later....
I look at AJ. He gives me the sign that I should be asking "AJ, Do you need to go to the bathroom?"
"Nope! I'm ok!"
Ok... again 5 minutes later, the sign came again... holding that certain thing "AJ you sure you don't gotta go to the bathroom?"
"Nope! I'm ok!"
By this time you are probably thinking I'm pretty stupid and I should just be taking him. I actually had that thought, but I didn't want to leave the others that were having so much fun. Short time later, not even five minutes, "Papa, I need some clean shorts" while pointing to his shorts.
"Why AJ, did you go Toto in your pants?"
"Nope! I'm just wet"
"Aj, your mother did not send any change of pants!"
He doesn't understand. "AJ you'll just have to tough it out"
This is my big time to be a grandpa to be a grandpa to teach him to tough it out.

But there are no pants. So he goes off crying. We stayed for a while then said, "kids, it is time to go". Both Hadley and Houston almost in unison "NO! NO! We want to stay. Five more minutes papa!"
AJ is still off to the side crying over his wet pants. Hunter is almost falling asleep in the swing. I say, "Ok, time to go!" Lunch time.

What do you want for lunch? We have no bread. We have no Mac And Cheese. How about cereal!? :)
All three in unison say "Yeah!" Which kind do you want as I pull all four different kinds of cereal.
Hadley: I'll have some of all of them.
Me: In the same bowl?
Hadley: No, one at a time.
The other two: Yeah, that's what we want too.
I was surprised even AJ wanted all 4.

Hey! Great news! Power is back on!
Houston: NO! Let's go pass the ball!
So we go out in the front driveway and start passing the ball.

About this time Grammy comes home. And boy were they all excited... made me feel real good. Hunter went right over and wanted to jump up and drive the car. Didn't even let grammy get out.

Now at this time, it had felt like it had been 5 hours. Come to find out it had only been 2 1/2.

Lani pulls up. The kids all run to the car. Mom opens the door and what's the first thing AJ shouts? "Mommy, I'm all dry!" :)

Hunter is a little upset that he doesn't get to eat with his siblings. This is new to me with Hunter. So we have to correct the problem. 
Hunter eating with his siblings AT THE ISLAND. Happy now! Didn't want the baby chair! 

The crowning moment... only 2 of the 4 want the ice cream! NOTHING WENT WRONG!!!

Like Star Wars,
To be continued...
Here is a sneak peak...

Sharing Time

I am very excited for my service this year. My family always has a blast when we are with this person. We have similar practices when it comes to organizing or executing. I feel that our families like the same things as well. So I started the task (before summer was over), to search out that one event that defines this person............and I searched..............and searched............and prayed.............and prayed...................then I asked Char. She suggested that I give a little extra love to one of my managers.

Like every work atmosphere, I have a few managers that are less than simplistic to work with. LUS had three shift managers and one station manager. LAA had I don't know how many. The new AA has six shift managers and one station manager. Two of those managers are on their own agenda. I could tell you all the exciting aspects of each one. However, I will just focus on one. My person has shared a few stories involving their managers that have "created" a SOP for their own agenda.

So one of my managers Chris, is a LAA employee. With the completion of any merger, there is going to be some adjustments on both sides. Whether the employee on either side likes those adjustments, it does not matter. There is going to be some compromises to create a "better" company. So with US Airways purchasing American Airlines, we have seen A LOT of compromises.

By the way, because of the nature of this article, I am unable to publish any pictures.........Meaning.............I didn't take any.

First, I need to give you some background. LAA never had a union. So it was like a regular company that made the regulations and procedures for  their employees. Now that AA is unionized, it is the union that regulates the procedures of the employees.

So back to Chris. He is still old school in that his mind thinks of finding a solution when he sees a situation that needs attention. Whether it be a back up at the counter or someone needing a break at the gate, he just tries to get it done. That may all sound well and good. However, some procedures are not allowed per the Contract. So a grievance can be filed and the Union basically slaps the companies hand. It is a HUGE thing with some people. Chris may also from time to time create his own procedures for some reason. For example, there was one time when I was assigned to work the gates but was sent to the counter for an hour to help out. When a person works at the ticket counter they have a key core assigned to them that they install in the drawer to keep all the cash and audit coupons. Because my base was the gates, I did not bring my key core. All I was supposed to be doing was slinging bags. That means tagging bags that are being checked to the passengers final destination. When a passenger came to me to pay cash for their bags, I told them I could not take cash and they would have to wait in the main line. After a while, Chris overheard me saying this and told me that I had to take cash. I explained to him that I was going to the gates and was just helping out for a while at the counter. He told me that didn't matter and I was to take cash. I told him I would rather not take cash when I didn't have a place to hold it. He told me to put it in my pocket!.....Hello. Does anyone else see anything wrong with this? So it basically went back and forth as my coworkers joined in to inform him of the Contract. So it was different occurrences like that that made him seem like a an outsider that didn't know what he was talking about. This has caused a lot of people not to like him.

So what Charise suggested to me was to pick a manager and be nice to them. This would be an act of kindness to those managers that may not be the best of attitudes in the work environment. There could be a reason for their actions. When we are not familiar with the other side, we should not judge. Usually when a person is treated kindly, they naturally return in the same manner. So this was the plan. Hopefully someone out there would treat my recipients managers nice and they would be nice to them. So this is what I started out doing. It was a little hard because I would not always work with Chris. I was getting frustrated and wanting to do a lot more interaction with Chris. Then it happened. Information that would fulfill my need for my service. A golden ticket if you will.

Now, let me shift gears. As we all know, sometimes we are not able to fulfill our church callings at times. There have been numerous times that I am at church and Mitzi comes to me and says that she has a class with no teacher or she needs someone to be two deep. I naturally rise to the occasion and fill that vacancy. This has happened numerous times with the same outcome. It is tough for a primary president to do everything. That is why they have counselors. I know that Mitzi is not the only one out there that needs help.

In honor of Amy's new calling. I am glad that I could take just a little of the stress off of Mitzi's responsibilities. I am pretty sure that Amy will be having these same issues. Hopefully there will be someone in Anchorage that will take care of her. Amy, I am excited about your new calling. You are fantastic with little kids. They can sense your love for them. Heavenly Father has put you in this calling for a reason. We don't know why or how. All we know is that we will be blessed. Merry Christmas to you and your family. I love you.

OK. I threw these pictures in here just because.

Welcome to the Club!

I have had the privilege of welcoming Darcy to the Gates Season of Service Club!  It was so fun to have "new blood" to think about.  Well, in thinking about Darcy, I decided this post would not be complete with out a shout out to the missionaries in the world both because she is preparing to go and because she just lost many, but one specific "budy ol' pal" to the missionary force.

Bill's little sister Michelle and her husband Michael lived in Taiwan for a year.  Michael went on his mission to Taiwan.  Well, we have a cute new Taiwanese missionary serving in our ward.  So Char and I decided we should have this darling sister over and help Michael and Michelle make a Taiwanese dinner for her.
 Well, not so much!  But the cute sister missionary was so excited!
 I also decided I wanted to make them feel extra loved at Christmas time so I signed up for a second time in a week to have them over for Christmas Eve.  We did the Nativity then went to IHOP!  Good times!  Dad, the sisters and I thank you for picking up their tab!  ;)

My post would also not be complete w/o addressing the gimp!

I have a friend who broke both her ankles.  The first one when she was with me exercising and the second one b/c her boot was so large she broke her other foot trying to walk.  She needed lots of help and hated it!  She is a very active girl (the one who started our whole cul-de-sac workouts.)  But simple tasks such as grocery shopping became a pain and even simpler tasks like driving became impossible.  I tried to help where I could.  One day I picked her up and drove her and her daughter to the dentist office then went and picked up her other daughter from school and dropped her off at home then drove back to pick them up from the dentist and back to their home.  

Well, it is going to sound horrible, but when Hock got hurt, a bit of me was glad to be able to help another gimp for my secret service!  I heard Hock was having a tough time keeping things down.  So I made a batch of my White Chicken Chili that I think he loves and took it over.

The last thing I want to touch on is how Proud I am of Darcy. When she came out here to visit, we had such a good time.  She was happy and pleasant and we had a good time being with her.  While she was here, we went to a fireside put on by 2 of Joseph Smith's decedents.  It was a very informal thing and we got there and everyone was chatting and it was getting kind of loud.  Char came to me and said would one of your children be able to play a hymn to maybe quiet people down a bit?  Darcy stood up and said "I'll do it."  She got up and went and played prelude music.  I had no idea she could play the piano that well!  Well, when it was time to start...

This is a photo of the bishopric member asking her to play.  Sorry if this photo in the Chapel is contraband.  

The piano player that had been asked to play was no where to be found... I panicked when our bishopric member walked over to Darcy...and yep!  He asked her to accompany the opening song!  ACK!!!  She did it like a pro!!  It was such a inspiration to me!  I thought I really wish I could do that if I was needed to!  A lady in our ward sent out an email asking if anyone would be interested in taking adult lessons.  YEA!!  Perfect!  So I started taking lessons!  Well, last night I was able to accompany the family during our Nativity singing...kind of.  I did well on most of it.  But messed a tad bit up.  But I did it!  Now, I know this is really for myself but my desire is to be able to serve the way Darcy did when she was here when it is needed!  Love you Darcy!  Welcome to the Club!  It's good to have you!
Love you,

The Medical Marvel

Merry Christmas Dad

My service recipient this year is a man whom I greatly admire.  If I were to build a Mt. Rushmore of men whom I love and respect this guy would be on the mountain.  It has been a great privilege to live by this man for the last couple of years and I have enjoyed every minute we have spent together.  My favorite things to do with Ed are play sports and listen to him tell stories about his life. 
I call Ed the “Medical Marvel”, because of how much he is able to do at his age.  Despite turning 70 this year he still comes out and plays basketball.  Mike and I often talk about how incredible he is to still be out there playing at his age.  One of the highlights of playing with Ed this year is when he walked into the gym eating an ice cream cone.  There is a Dairy Queen on the way to the church and he couldn’t resist stopping for one of his favorite treats.  We were shooting for teams, and he quickly finished his snack in time to play.  He is still a great athlete, but I wish I could have played with him while we were both in our athletic prime.  It would have been a lot of fun to play together while both at our best. (Queue the wise cracks from McBride about me being past my prime).
In addition to being a medical marvel, he has got some great stories.  There have been many times when I’ve come home from hanging out with Ed and told Lani about some of the stories he shared with me.  She often responds that she has never heard that one before. 

A few years ago Kriss and Ed came to visit Lani and me in Spokane.  We drove to Coeur D’Alene, ID to see the golf course and the lake.  While we were driving we started asking them questions about their life.  It was awesome to learn so much about them.  Hearing their stories provided me with a new perspective of who they are and how they became that way.  I felt like I understood them both a lot better and my respect for both of them grew a lot.   The time spent on that drive talking has always been one of my fondest memories with Ed and Kriss.

Another fond memory with Ed occurred last year when Ed joined me and Houston on the drive from Cary down to Jacksonville to pick up AJ from his last day of radiation treatment.   During the nine hour drive we had a lot of time to talk and Ed shared some more great stories about his life.
In order to capture our mutual love of sports and my love of Ed stories my service this year involves two parts. 

As most of you know Ed did not have a lot of money growing up.  He and his brothers started working very young to help their mom support such a large family.  I think growing up in these circumstances helped him develop his legendary work ethic. I imagine that his mother did not have the money to sign him up to play organized sports. With this in mind, I decided this year to sponsor a child in playing a season of Upward Sports this year. The child will be able to choose from a variety of sports in the league including basketball, football, soccer, and even cheerleading.

Part two of my service was to document some of the great stories that Ed has told me about his life. My hope is that this will give him a head start in writing his personal history, so that his posterity can have access to MANY MORE of his great stories, not just the ones I’ve been privileged to hear. I, my wife, and my kids admire this man so much, I want to make sure they have access to these stories.  I will work with Ed to have him fill in the parts I couldn’t remember.
Merry Christmas Ya Ol’ Medical Marvel. Thank you for all you do for us.  I’m grateful for the 2nd father you are to me, the father you are to my wife and the grandfather you are to my children.  You are one of the greats!  Love Hock.

Here is a preview of one of my favorite stories of the Medical Marvel. 

LDS Church’s “Mr. Buckets”
Years ago, before the church grew to the size it is today there used to be a Church wide basketball tournament. Each ward that won their stake basketball tournament would then play in a regional tournament and the regional champion would move on until finally reaching the final teams of the LDS Church basketball tournament. 

When Eddie lived in Bountiful, UT his ward team was one of the final teams in the church wide basketball tournament.  One of his teammates was a former University of Utah basketball player named, (**get details from Ed).  The Utah player and Ed were a good combination.  Ed was really quick and moved well without the ball.  The former Utah player would command a lot of attention from the other team’s defense and Eddie would cut to the basket and get open.  When he did the Utah player would pass him the ball and Eddie would score.   Their team ended up winning the tournament to become church-wide basketball champions.

After the game they handed out tournament awards.  The former Utah basketball player was named the Tournament MVP and “Fast” Eddie Gates was awarded a trophy for being the tournament's Leading Scorer.  When Eddie told me the story, he kept telling me how surprised he was to win the award.  He wasn’t trying to win a trophy, he was just playing hard and doing what he was supposed to do and he won the award.

This story is a great illustration of Ed.  He isn’t someone that seeks individual acclaim. But he is someone that always works/plays hard and strives to do his best.  With effort comes success and acclaim.  Eddie has worked hard all his life and been blessed for it.

To Garrett From Wayne

Merry Christmas  from the top of the world. When I think of you I think of someone who is taking care of a single mother. So in that spirit I tried to do the same this year. I have shoveled the driveway of a single mom of two. She leaves about 5am. and I have it done when she comes home, I think she has an ideal who it is but not sure. As recent as last night I played Santa clause for all my nursery kids giving up 80 % of my Christmas eve with my family. I think they are ok with it knowing someone else is really excited. I tried to make a visit to the single moms but none were at home so I was happy they had some place to go. My snow removal will go on this winter and I will be thinking of you while doing so happy trails and stay warm. Wayne

Love of Aunts and Uncles

I love watching the love that my children's aunts and uncles have for them. The excitement that my children have when they play with and cuddle them is just adorable.

Fun with Aunts and Uncles
Back before the kids outnumbered the adults. (2009)
I love the opportunity to have my nieces and nephews to our home when we have the chance. When I heard that the McBrides were going to Europe for about 2 weeks and were looking for someone to care for Cora, I was excited about the possibility for having Cora to our home at least for part of the time. Then it worked out for Cora to come stay with us for 10 days.

The relationship and memories that my kids (and Chuck and I) were able to make with just Cora was so fun. It's nice to have one on one time every once in a while cause it's hard to come by when you have a big family like we do. I loved having Cora during their trip. I hoped that it would ease Mitzi's nerves of having to leave her baby for so long and that she would be able to relax knowing that she was in one home and not switching from house to house with friends.

We had such a blast with that cute girl.

Fun with cousins playing dress up.

Lunch dates, hot chocolate dates, and play dates.

I even tried to make sure she had pretty hair dos like her mom does for her. This is as fancy as I get. 
I am so grateful that I get to be an aunt to so many (to 28 actually) and that my kids have so many aunts and uncles (16 total). I loved the opportunity to have one on one time and I hope that it did help Mitzi have a more eased mind while on vacation. Our whole family enjoyed having Cora in our home. I am so grateful that God gave us families and for her sweet voice.

Speaking of God giving us families... Here is Eddie unwrapping his gift on Christmas morning:

I thought what better Christmas present to give to Mitzi then another niece or nephew for her to love and kiss on? But she has to wait until July 2016 to get those kisses. Love you Mitzi!

My To Do List

All my life I have looked up my older sister and the rock star that she is.
For years I was called her shadow from sticking so close to her. She has always looked out for, welcomed me, and been there for me. For years, I've tried to become like her. I realized this year I am getting closer. 

This year I was blessed to receive Mitzi's name. I wanted to do something different than what I had done in 2012 (I'm still having nightmares of raw chicken:). Trying to think of something new and creative to do for Mitzi was harder than I thought. I tried to dig into what SHE likes, enjoys, aspires to, etc but with no luck. Every time I tried to dig in, she would be off to helping a child, a niece/nephew, sister, mother with some other task. Mitzi is a compulsive helper. It is an extreme disease which often prevents her from doing ANY of her own tasks. It is what makes her one of the most unselfish people I have ever known. 

I invited her to come hang out one day to get away from her house/responsibilities and work on something she had been working on for a long time and wanted to get finished before a deadline. Well good news, she did it! She came over and... brought ANOTHER task not at all associated with the task she really wanted to finish. She couldn't even come to work on what she wanted to work on for once! Instead she brought over another project to give to others, separating nativities for each of her primary kids.

Since I was not doing so hot at digging into the deeper what SHE really loves (I'm starting to wonder if SHE EVEN KNOWS!?). I figured I better just serve her until I could think of something!!!

I needed help. I couldn't think of anything. 

I prayed to know how I could best channel my inner Mitzi to help spread Christmas cheer. I explained to my Father in Heaven that Mitzi is so good at saying yes before she checks her own schedule or worries about herself. I wanted to have that automatic response to serve like the Savior and Mitzi. 

WARNING: think twice before you ask Heavenly Father for such a task. I found things popping up left and right that I could help with. 

When a new mother of twins needed dinner, I signed up, even though I am not in her ward. It wasn't out of duty, it was out of love for this friend in need. 

When a single lady and a grandmother helping her kids and grandkids in the hospital couldn't make it to the Relief Society Ornament Exchange, I drove them each an ornament to tell them we missed them. 

When young parents of a 1 yr old ended up at the hospital for 5 days with her in and out of ICU, I took them dinner, organized dinners for a week, and scrubbed their carpets to disinfect them to get rid of germs before they returned home. Not after checking my calendar, but instead as soon as I heard their situation.

When Mitzi received disturbing news of her husband's Melanoma skin cancer and was unsure of the future (and unsure of her husband's response since she wasn't supposed to tell anyone- which she had only told dad, and dad told me:) I hope we were able to help ease her stress. (So glad that the cancer in treatable and is looking extremely mild). 

When a mother of 4 had to return to the hospital for yet ANOTHER with her 1 year old for surgery, I called to see if I could kidnap the other siblings for a play date to give them some attention. The oldest sister was so sweet and excited to have a play date all about her. She smiled the entire time!

After weeks of praying for an idea of how to serve Mitzi and serve like our Savior and Mitzi, I found myself frustrated wondering why I hadn't received a great epiphany of how I could serve Mitzi while at the same time why I was NOT being at ALL productive! 

I was on my knees pleading and expressing my concerns when I had the clear impression, "Look at what you have done the last 2 weeks. There is a reason why you have not gotten anything done on your to do list for two weeks, it's because you were working on mine." 

Tears filled my eyes as I reflected on the great opportunity I was given this year to "Feed his sheep" (John 21:15-17), to "mourn with those that mourn" (Mosiah 18:9), to remind others to "Be of good cheer" (Matt 14:27), and to "Behold His little ones"(3 Nephi 17:23).

I was blessed that after years of trying to emulate her, I found myself without even thinking of my schedule, my needs/wants, my plans for the day, or even about this Christmas service... that I was saying yes. It is a weakness of mine that I have worked on for years and I strongly believe that after praying to know how to serve like our Savior, and selflessly like my sister Mitzi... I did. And I really enjoyed it! 

I hope that I will be able to keep that throughout my life, no matter the storms that come to my life, no matter how tight our time or money may be, and not just at this season of service. 

It reminds me of Irving Berlin's words on sisters:

All kinds of weather
We stick together
The same in the rain or sun
Two diff'rent faces
But in tight places
We think and we act as one

And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. (Mosiah 2:17)

The gift of time...

Ashley, I love you.  You are so amazing.  Sometimes when I am having a weak moment I think of you and your wonderful spirit, patience and organization and it strengthens me to be better, like you.  For my gift of service this year, you gave me time.  When a service opportunity presented it's self, I thought for a minute that no, I can't do this, it isn't directly Ashley related and I don't have time to do it anyway.  That's when it hit me, Ashley would make the time. 

One Saturday a few months ago I was at work and was called out to the ticket counter to help.  I was told a gentleman was buying a ticket and smelled to much to be allowed to fly in his current condition and he had no ID.  When I first saw this man, my heart was warmed and yet fell at the same time.  Here was a man I could tell has had some hard times and not a lot of love, his name is Richard.  His clothes were very dirty and his hair and beard were unkempt.  He even had some tomato juice in his beard, which my agents first thought was blood.  His mind I could tell was fading from this earth and not all with him.

I talked to this sweet man and learned that he served in the Air Force and was currently living in a home that is offered as an alternative to living on the streets called, The Anchor House.  He wanted to buy a ticket to California because he didn't like where he was living.  He said he had family in California and Las Vegas.  He had $600 in cash.  I asked if he had a phone number for his family so I could call and make sure they were able to pick him up.  He didn't have a number for them so I used Google to see if I could find one and I did.  I called his son who lives out side of San Diego.  His son said he couldn't fly there because there was no place for him to live and he couldn't take care of him.  He gave me the number of Richard's brother in Las Vegas.  I called his brother and again the answer was the same.  Richard had to stay in Anchorage because none of his family would take him.

The Anchor House was already on their way to come pick Richard up from the airport.  I talked with this man who had no family member that would take him and my heart broke.  When I told him that his family said he had to stay here, he said well if they don't take me I will go and just live in a shelter by them.  I told him that wasn't an option as the Anchor House was in charge of him.  When the representative from the Anchor House arrived, I asked what kind of place was it and I was told it was an option for people who have had issues in the past and instead of living on the streets they lived there.  After doing more research I found out it focused on people with mental issues.  I asked if I could visit and they said yes.

I told Richard that I would come and check on him and his eye light up as if...someone cares about me.  Oh, great, now I committed myself.  This was about a week before I was going on our family cruise before Darcy went off to BYU Hawaii.  I was thinking I don't have time to do this, but yet, I hadn't done my gift of service and I would make time.

Two days before we left for our cruise, I stopped at the Anchor House and a whole new level of compassion flooded my heart.  I have thought hard how to explain this place and I am still at a loss.  It is a building full of people that either have mental issues or past addiction issues.  It is a permanent shelter for them.  They do have a staff that provides meals and passes out medication but that seems to be the end of the job requirements.  The residents must clean themselves and their clothes on their own and they don't seem to be able to do that. 

On my first visit Darcy was with me and it was very sweet.  Darcy felt inclined to bring along a Book of Mormon that she gave to him.  Before I visited with him I thought this was going to be my one visit and that I would be done, check that off my list.  But after seeing his place I knew I would need to come back. 

I have visited with Richard three times.  This past time I decorated his room (with the help from my kids).  Wayne and Darcy came that time and as we were driving away we saw him in his room just staring at the decorations.  I know what you are thinking, Amy, why didn't you clean up a bit while you were there?  Agreed, I thought about it but being as I am not sure of his mental state, I didn't want to upset him.

Ashley, thank you for giving me the time to do this service to a man that needed just a little love and attention.  Love you so much Ash, and I am so glad Heavenly Father sent you to our house to live.

His Room Before and After