Monday, December 27, 2010

christmas in kansas

well i thought it was pretty cool that thsi service project thing was teh way we were gonna celebrate christmas. i have really come to enjoy teh feelings of love and satisfaction that you get when you do something nice fo rothers. i was assigned to do service for my main man, "big Poppa" thats my dad if you werent sure. well he is a big history buff and i thought taht naybe doing something at teh capital building here in topeka might cool, the problems i sthat i dont think it is open right now cuz its being renivated hard core and i dont exactly have teh time to invest in something intense. i also have no idea how to blog so i hope thsi works teh first time around. well i still hadnt figured out what to do and so when i talked with my dad on christmas i asked him if tehre was anything he wanted me to do. all he asked was that i continue to serve my mission here in teh midwest. so pops, my gift to you is that i am going to spend teh rest of my mission trying to be better that i have so far and really trying to do teh best i can. this is is a great oppurtunity fo rme and its one that i have really enjoyed doing. i knwo teh chruch is true and i am greatful for teh love the love that teh savior has shown me and i am greatful fo rteh family that i wa splopped into and for teh faithfulness they have shown me. i love you guys. merry christmas.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Servin in 'da town

When I first received my Christmas assignment, I replied to Tiff's email with, "Oh great, thanks for giving me the hardest one!" But within minutes I bit my tongue and realized my person actually might be the easiest person to serve because they are so laid back but at the same time really does care about so many things. Now looking back, I am SO grateful I got assigned who I did!

I learned a LOT about my person through doing my service (maybe more than he would like:) As I started to brainstorm of what I could do and what my person cares about the list kept on going. First thought... I could... ummm.... well... clean up a skate park! Noooo... that might not be the best place for a 6 month pregnant white girl to spend a few hours. How about Kids Country or something with kids? Maybe I could volunteer in his old class... nooo they have all grown up and graduated from kids country. I got it! 'Da TOWN! He loves the ghetto and is always talking about how he wants to serve there. You guessed it!... my person is Kevy!

I researched different service opportunities in Da Town (Oakland) and found some great options. I settled on a homeless transition community helping homeless families get off the streets while they saved money to get out on their own. It wasn't a shelter, but instead a community of homes and families. I called to find out what service they were in need of this season. Their response was simple enough, volunteers to serve at their community and employee Christmas Party. I was excited about the service project... But something still didn't feel complete. It needed a little more "Kevy" to it... so I recruited my secret weapon!
That's right... the rough and tough (but really a big teddy bear but he doesn't like it when people say that because it "ruins his rep"), best body guard in Oakland for this pregnant woman, Kevin lovin' guy... James.

It was obvious that the thing missing was the thing that Kevin actually cares most about- his family and friends. I have heard so many James and Jesse stories and know that Kev misses them a LOT! I was determined to get one of them to come with me for this project. This was around the time that Kev said he would want someone to sign up to be a big brother/sister. Well, since they require a minimum of one year commitment, I decided I would see if I could kind of implement my own program with starting to hang out with James every once in a while.

I reached out to James on Facebook. His first response, "I'm all for it!" without even knowing what it was! Whatever it was, as long as it was in honor of Kev, he was in! He was in Sacramento but told me he would be back in time for our service in Oakland.

We had a little mis-communication through the next week in planning. :) James' car broke down and so I decided I would change my service and not do the Christmas party, but instead go get James in Sacramento and drive him back when he needed. That would allow me to get to know him a bit better. So I told James I had canceled the homeless party thing and coordinated with him when he needed a ride.

Off I went to go pick up James in Sacramento. When I got there and said, "so when do you need to come back?" His response, "Ummm, tomorrow morning but I'll find a ride." I said, "well, why do you have to go to San Ramon? What's going on tonight?" James looked concerned and said, "Isn't our thing tonight?" DOH! I thought! "James, you do NOT need to come all the way to San Ramon just for this Christmas Party thing that could be a bust! Let's forget about it and I will just take you to lunch here in Sacramento and we will call it good." He paused for a second and then shook his head, " Kev would not want us to ditch our duties". I smiled and knew he was right.

The next hour was truly enjoyable. My cheeks hurt by the time we arrived in San Ramon. I learned all about James and his lovable spirit, heard awesome Kevy stories, and laughed harder and longer than I had in weeks learning of some of the antics of Kevin and my new buddy James! There have been many times in the last week that I wanted to add something to a conversation of something that James said but I had to hold my tongue.

I picked James back up and we headed into Oak-town. We went towards the chaos and saw the nice set up and enjoyed some...we'll call it... Vibrant gospel music. James and I headed to the kitchen and got to work. James strapped on some serving gloves and got crackin'. Noticing he was the strongest of the volunteers (and the only non-white female:) he was quickly enlisted into ice cream scooping duty. I kept busy doing this and that to keep the kitchen going and cleaned up.

I think the hardest thing of the entire project was trying to get a good picture of James! Man, that kid can be STUB-born!
I had a blast! James, thanks for helping me out! We almost had Jesse with us too but he got stuck helping his Grandpa with something. The service project was really fun and they were extremely grateful. A couple of them couldn't understand why exactly we were there because I guess most people due it for school credit or something.

Sidenote: funny story. On our way there James told me how his Aunt gave him a hard time about the beard and said, "you are going to the right place, you look like a homeless person!" Then we got there, the first organizer said to James, "We've met haven't we, you look REALLY familiar!" We laughed about it when we got back to the car how he really did look like a homeless guy I guess!

Kevin, I am so grateful to have you as a brother-in-law. I love your laid back spirit but your sincere desire to do good. It is the same things I automatically fell in love with in James. I can see why you two are so close. We hope we did you proud in our serving in the ghetto in your behalf. I know you might not feel like you are doing as much in the sticks as you could be in the streets, but I promise you you are. Heavenly Father knows you and where He needs you. As for now, just leave the streets up to James and me!

As for James, he's a good kid. He's doing well and I look forward to our future monthly cookouts. He has promised if I buy the food, he will cook and I will DEFINITELY be taking advantage of that when he comes back to SR in January for school. I'll keep an eye on him for you... promise!
I hope you know how much your family loves you. I love seeing the way they all talk about you. I've always loved you Kev, but this gave me a chance to grow closer to you without you even knowing it. I found out that we are more alike than I even knew. I think James would agree. :) Thanks for accepting me in as your adopted big sister and making me feel welcome. I knew when I was dating Michael how much he loved you and worried about stepping in without your approval or such. You always made me feel welcome and I am grateful to you for that. I love you little brother and I look forward to getting even closer in the years to come.

Merry Christmas! Love, Lan-Dawg

Merry Christmas to Meilani from Mike

Let me begin by saying this has been a great idea. I'm a quiet person by nature and I tend to stay inside my comfort zone. I'm diligent in my church callings, but I've never been really good at extending myself to others, unless I was assigned. The idea of giving service in lieu of presents has forced me to do more than I've done in the past. I've come to appreciate how easy it is to just buy presents for Christmas.

Initially, I was excited about the prospect of doing service for others, particularly in the name of someone else, but as Christmas drew closer, my workload at work didn't diminish, and I began to realize this was going to be much more difficult to do than I'd anticipated. Weeks were reduced to days and I still didn't have a good idea of what I could do for service. I thought of things I could do, but they all seemed to be an extension of things I was already doing. Towards the end, I was starting to feel desperate.

To compound the pressure, I had Meilani, whose family provided the motivation for taking this approach to Christmas. She and Michael have done this before so they already have a standard of excellence. In the end, I decided I wasn't going to be able to put the time in they did and I was just going to have to lower my expectations. I hope she's not disappointed. Lani has always been a great example of someone who extends herself to others and her list exemplified this characteristic: Be a nuisance, be a member missionary, be a quality home teacher, read to others, babysit for others. Fortunately, I have a wonderful wife who was willing to help.

Given the tight deadline, I determined it wasn't realistic to try and schedule time to visit people in the San Ramon Senior Citizens Center. I also know from serving in the Young Men that lots of people volunteer there at Christmas time. I next thought about offering to read to children at the library, but wasn't sure if they even had such a program at our local library and was sure that if they did, they were booked up as well. Finally, I decided to think of people in the ward that might need some extra attention or help.

First, I thought of the Halls. Pam has been a member of the Church for years, but her husband Ed didn't join the Church until about 15 years ago, after all their children were raised. Ed drives a flat bed semi for a living. Six or seven weeks ago he was injured when he loosened the straps on his cargo at the loading dock and the cargo fell on top of him. He's been in the hospital ever since, unconscious much of the time. Since then, Pam and the children have been at the hospital with him. I thought there might be something I could do at the house that had been neglected in their absence. After Church last Sunday, I went to their house to check things out. It turned out that their son and his wife were there, so I got an update on Ed and asked if there was something I could do to help them. They assured me they had everything under control, but thanked me for the offer.
Second, I contacted one of the single sisters I home teach and offered to help with chores around her house. She is hoping to put the house on the market next summer and there are a number of remodeling projects she wants to complete before then. She said she'd think about it, but was non-committal and when I checked back with her later in the week, she still hadn't identified something for me to do.

Next, I thought of another family I home teach. She is a member and he isn't. I'm been visiting them for many years. During this time, he hasn't expressed interest in the Church, but recently I've been thinking how guilty I'll feel when I see him in the next life, if I don't at least give him the opportunity of reading the Book of Mormon. I decided to give him a copy for Christmas with a letter expressing my love for him and a challenge to read 1 Nephi, see if he feels closer to the spirit as a result, and, if so, to continue reading, otherwise put it aside. Since she loves to read, I also ordered a book of missionary stories I read last month for her. Not only do I hope she finds it interesting, but I hope it strengthens her testimony as well. They're gone until after Christmas, so I won't be able to give it to them until next week.

Finally, I thought of a single sister in the ward that has special needs and can't drive. She has a reputation for being outspoken and has offended a number of people in the ward at times, including me. Eileen mentioned that she likes to go to the temple, so I called her and said Eileen and I were going to the temple and asked if she'd like to go with us. She indicated she hadn't gone for a while and appreciated the offer. After the session, Eileen wanted to take some pictures of the Christmas lights on the temple grounds, so the sister and I visited while Eileen was gone. While driving home, she seemed interested in going to dinner, so we took her to dinner at a local restaurant. When we dropped her off, she had leftovers from dinner along with her temple bag, so I offered to walk her to the door. She thanked me for inviting her and said she had a good time.
In addition to feeling the joy of service, it was good to get to know this sister better and it was wonderful to see how happy she was as a result of a little extra effort on my part. As a result of this experience, I've resolved to be more proactive in looking for service opportunities during the coming year. Thanks Lani and Michael for this opportunity.

Merry Christmas, Matt!

Hock Family Service Project

December 4, 2010

I have Matt; the Lone Wolf. I love Matt. I love the way he loves life and embraces the things he loves. He is an outdoor man who loves nature and bike riding, and sports, and music and family. I love his enthusiasm for the things he cares about.

I admire the way he works and the way he loves and honors his parents. I love the sly smile he gets on his face when he teases Megan. I love that he always takes my side! Very smart young man!

I’ve been thinking about what I know about him. He is one of the kindest and most thoughtful men I have ever met. He is constantly coming up with ways of serving others. Service is second nature for Matt; he does it instinctively. Megan has mentioned many times how much she appreciates his attitude of service.

I have been thinking about my service for a long time. I’ve been trying to figure out how I could do something that would be meaningful to him and all of the things he values.
I decided that I was going pick different people to serve based on the things I have seen Matt do. My inspiration for this service is the wonderful basket he put together for us for Christmas the year he asked Megan to be his wife.

Dear Hock Family,
Thanks so much for letting me visit you this Christmas-break; I have had so much fun and feel so grateful! Over the past summer, the highlight of my week was visiting your family. I particularly enjoyed the great company, food & “Movie Day”. Please enjoy the gift and have another one for me! Matt

My initial idea was to fill this basket and give it to someone else, but to be honest, I just couldn’t give it up! So I decided to call the mission office in Independence, Missouri where Kevin is serving his mission to see if there were any missionaries in his mission that needed some special attention.

The first time that I called I was given two names, one Asian Elder and a Polynesian sister. But, big surprise, I lost the paper that I wrote it on and the next time I called the mission secretary had gone home and a new one had been called so I had to start all over.

This time she talked to the mission president and he gave her the names of three missionaries who needed some extra support. Interestingly enough, they were from Logan, Provo and San Diego; not what I expected at all.

Well, today I went out with Michael to start on my project. I had decided that I was going to spend $50 on each missionary. I was told that was too much. But considering that I was doing this in Matt’s honor, I really didn’t care how much I spent; I just wanted to do something special. We ran into some missionaries at Marshall’s and asked them if they had any ideas of things that missionaries would like; they didn’t.

After we finished our shopping we decided to go to lunch. We went to one of my favorite places, Paniera Bread because I wanted to pick up a loaf of their wonderful bread. Michael and I ordered and sat down to eat. While we sat there I noticed a man sitting at the back of the restaurant. He was sitting in a comfortable chair, but not at a table. I noticed he kept staring at me and occasionally we would make eye contact. He looked homeless and hungry. He would doze off occasionally. The thought popped into my head, “random act of kindness”.

We were basically sitting face to face but with some distance between us and I could definitely feel that he was watching me eat. I kept getting the impression that I should do something for him, but I didn’t really know what to do. I started going through my purse trying to find some change from a previous purchase, but I couldn’t find the money I was looking for. The longer I looked, the more sure I was that I needed to do something for this man. I just wasn’t sure how to approach him. You can’t just walk up to a person in a restaurant and ask them if they need money. So, I prayed and asked Heavenly Father to help me know what I should do, and how I could identify if he was in need. Within about thirty seconds two women walked in and sat at the table between us and as soon as they sat down he asked them if they could give him a dollar for the bus. That was just the answer I needed. I wanted this act of service to be private and personal, I gave Michael some money and asked him to go over and order a sandwich for Mike. As soon as he left I walked over the man, down next to him and asked him if he had had any lunch, he said no. So I gave him a $20 bill and told him to go and have some lunch and added that pehaps now he would have some money for the bus as well. I went back to my table and he immediately got up and left. I felt so happy inside.

I know this is going to sound ridiculous, but I honestly felt like this was a test; and that he was sent there just for me; almost as if he were an angel. I felt such joy, I wanted to burst. I almost told Michael, but decided to keep it to myself.

For my three missionaries I finally decided on a $25 gift certificate and my friend Cyndi made some really cute Christmas pillowcases. I also included some stamps, a Testimony of the Prophets DVD, and some hot chocolate packets. I also wrote each of them a letter expressing my gratitude for their service and commitment.

I loved doing this service. I loved doing it for Matthew. I loved being able to follow his example of generosity and kindness. And I love knowing that maybe, just maybe we made a difference in someone else’s life today.

I know it made a difference in my life. I felt the joy of selfless service and knew that these small acts were not only honoring Matt, but were a tribute to my Savior, Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas, Mother-in-Law!

I remember riding in the back seat of my parent’s car, my dad driving all three of us to the stake patriarch’s house which was perched atop a scenic desert plateau just outside of Ferron.  I was only 12 years old and couldn’t wait for my future NBA career to be announced in front of my parents.  As the patriarch began his blessing, the feelings of anticipation quickly turned from intense excitement to overwhelming adrenaline.  Through the course of the blessing many things were said, but still no confirmation of my basketball fame and glory.   Finally, he began to speak of talents I possessed.  My heart raced. I knew this was it, the moment we had all been waiting for… or at least the moment I had been waiting for.  To my disappointment, general terms were used and only one specific talent actually mentioned: music.

Music? I thought.  There must be some mistake.  My three sisters have musical talent, not me, and certainly not my brother.  It felt like someone had just let the air out of my balloon. The blessing was anticlimactic, and there had to be a mistake.  Maybe the patriarch would call me back in a few days, telling me he had forgotten something, something very important.  Well, as you might guess that phone call never came.

As I have matured over the years, my testimony has grown that the Lord loves each one of his children and wants all to return to his presence.  We are all blessed with specific gifts and talents to help build His kingdom in the last days.  We are to use our talents to bless the lives of others, both in our own families and all the rest who surround us.

Eileen is a prime example of someone who touches the lives of others through her gifts and talents.  She has obviously been given numerous talents from which we have all been blessed.  I have always been so impressed with her service-oriented mind, and her willingness to share all that she has.

Mother-in-law you have inspired me!  The first idea on your list was related to music!

 I have really grown to love music ever since that disappointing Sunday afternoon 18 years ago. Music has a huge impact on my life with its power of motivation and inspiration.  I regret to say that I have neglected to develop my musical talent for quite some time now, dating clear back to my “pre-mission life”  

So, with that in mind I have recommitted to develop this so called talent of mine, and pursue a hidden love I have, the guitar.

Though I admit I should have spent more time working on this service, I have been able to learn my first two hymns!

Trust me, it has been a lonnnnnnng time since I have picked up the old six string.  I am not merely strumming the chords when I play these hymns, but have focused on the actual tablature and finger picking of the music.

I have had so much fun doing it! It has been an interesting experience playing something from a genre I have yet to explore.  I’m use to strumming some classic rock and alternative tunes, but I felt it would be a good idea to “give back” to the one who has blessed me this talent.  

Like everyone, I am full of good intentions.  The biggest part to my service has not been realized.  I have set a personal goal to play a musical number in-front of an audience, large or small, in this upcoming year.  I am most inclined to play in a sacrament meeting. So Eileen, as soon as Megan is asked to sing again, I will spare you the task of buying a plane ticket out, and fill in with the guitar.

Thank you again for your amazing example, and for always sharing everything you have!
I love you all!  Merry Christmas and thank you for this wonderful opportunity!


Merry Christmas, Michael!

When I found out I had Michael for the "Secret Service" activity, I started making a list of some of the things he likes/values:

His mission
Houston/his kids

From there I tried to come up with service related to each idea. My prevailing thought was to do something related to diet/exercise because he recently had so much success losing weight with the Body for Life program. I was intrigued by the idea of coaching a youth recreation league, but then I realized that my athletic skills were a little limiting in that area. Unless I walked into a gym and offered to coach gymnastics classes for free, I didn’t really see many opportunities to work in youth athletic programs, because my areas of expertise (dance, gymnastics, and diving) don’t have “seasons” per se or “teams” that need parent coaches. Matt has been coaching a Junior Jazz team which is very cool, but again, I just don’t feel like I have the skills to coach in basketball, football or soccer (unless it was a team for 3 year olds…). Thus, I kind of ruled out the coaching option for this project.

This led me to think more about healthy lifestyle choices. I saw something in a magazine about a website where you could buy fruit, and for any amount of fruit you purchased, they would donate an equal amount of fruit to a food bank. I liked this idea because fresh fruit is part of a healthy diet, but not usually something that is available at food banks. However, I didn’t want to be stuck with a ton of fruit that I didn’t need, just so the company would donate some fruit to a food bank. I decided that I would try and buy fresh fruits and vegetables on my own and donate them to a food bank. I started looking into food banks and was impressed with an oganization, but when I contacted them, I found that they weren’t accepting fresh foods. I still wanted to do something for the food bank, so I decided that I would use my own couponing skills to compile a stockpile of foods that I could donate.

For those who aren’t familiar, the idea behind couponing is that you collect coupons over a period of time and wait for stores to have sales. When an item that you typically use is on sale, you buy as much of it as you can with your coupons, thereby lowering the price substantially from the normal selling price. For example, I always buy my cereal with coupons. I collect coupons and then wait for a cereal sale; because of this I end up spending $1.50 or less on each box of cereal that would normally be around $4.00 a box. This results in substantial savings, and I always buy at least ten or so boxes so I have a reserve stock on hand and never have to pay full price for cereal.

I decided to use this system to get the most bang for my buck as I collected food for the food bank. I started by referencing a website called that ranks food prices at different stores every week. I used this resource to determine where I should buy what, and which coupons I should be using.

A lot of coupons can be printed from the internet, so I would seek out and select the coupons I wanted, print them, cut them, and then organize them so I was ready for the store.

Then I went to 3-4 different stores over the course of two weeks to buy my items. Ta Da!

I finally had everything accumulated, when I started talking to one of my coworkers, Tiffany, about something she and her mom were doing together. Tiffany’s last day with my company was this past Wednesday, but she had a client that was really struggling to put food on the table. Tiffany and her mom were going to go buy some food and deliver it anonymously to the client’s house. I was touched by the idea of helping a family that I was somewhat connected to, and offered to give the food I had been purchasing to her project.

Tiffany told me that her client was a single Dad and that he had two young girls. I decided that I wanted to do something nice for them as well, so I made a couple of flower clips that could be used to adorn their hair, or as an accessory of some kind.

I brought all of the items I had to Tiffany, and she and her mom compiled everything and dropped it of to the family.

I really enjoyed using a skill that I’ve developed to help someone else, and the opportunity to do this service on Michael’s behalf. Merry Christmas to Michael, I love you.  You are a great brother, and I hope we can continue to become best friends. It is wonderful to have you as an example and source of encouragement and inspiration in my life.

And a Merry Christmas to each of you! It’s been a pleasure doing this project, and I love being a part of our family!  I love you all!

Megan :)