Merry Christmas!

Wishing you all the best this holiday season
as we celebrate the birth of His Son.


Thought for today (and tomorrow) . . .

It has been said that . . .

"A squirrel is actually a mouse
with an excellent PR person."

(I said it was a thought - I didn't say it would be profound :)


My 'Bucket List' - Feed a Giraffe

I have decided to start a 'Bucket List'.

This is my approach to my list. Because I am a blue personality (susceptible to guilt trips), can be random at times and enjoy spontaneity, I will do something that is 'Bucket worthy' and then I will add it to my 'Bucket List' so that I can cross it off.

That way, at the en
d of my days, I will have crossed off everything on my list! A perfectly guilt-free approach to my 'Bucket List'!

No. 1 - Feed a giraffe. I need to mention how incredibly difficult it is to hold a camera, hold a giraffe cracker, keep the giraffe from eating the cracker before you take the picture while you make sure that the giraffe eats the cracker and not your fingers.

All in all, I think this is a great picture. I might note that when I shared my accomplishment with my brother and sister-in-law
, they did not share my enthusiasm and asked if I had washed my hands (and wondered why on earth I went to the zoo instead of the spa - the spa isn't on my list, yet!).

Oh well, every one's 'Bucket List' is different.

*Random fact - I asked the giraffe keeper which one of the giraffes was the 'fat duck' - you know, the duck that is bossy and overbearing and eats all of the bread crumbs. I didn't want to feed that giraffe. He pointed out a giraffe ambling over to me and mentioned that she's pregnant. How can you not feed the pregnant giraffe? So I ended up feeding the pregnant giraffe and two baby giraffes.


A Blue, White & Red Letter Day!

Our hearts are true BLUE!


Lessons from My Garden (2008)

This spring we planted a garden. After buying some left over 'turkey dirt' from our neighbor (that's a whole other post!), tilling it in to our clay/rock soil, picking out bed springs, twine and other assorted 'stuff' (like I said, that's a whole other post!), we were ready to plant!

I discussed the idea
of grow boxes and 'square foot garden
ing' with my attorney, Mr. W. I really wanted to give this 'new-fangled' gardening a try. Mr. W was raised on a fruit farm (like me) and still thinks in terms of furrows and rows. We ended up planting rows (I haven't given up on my Garden Squared - next year).

We carefully
hoed our rows, planted our seeds, tucked in our tomato plants, put cages around the tender plants and gave the garden a big drink. We were off to a great start.

At the beginning of the summer, I tried to weed the garden at least once a week and tried to water it before it dried out (I'm working on Mr. W to adopt the soaker hose approach - in the meantime, we are watering by hand). We saw seeds sprout, vegetables start to form and all in all things were looking promising for some fresh produce throughout the summer.

Well, life got busy (busier) and the watering became a little more erratic. We meant well but we just didn't do it consistently. As the tomatoes started to ripen, I noticed that about half of them had a weird brown 'bottom' to them. Suspecting bugs, I consulted my garden expert, Bonnie. I was shocked when she told me that it wasn't a bug that had caused my garden failure, it was my inconsistent watering. My tomatoes had a case of Blossom Rot! No amount of 'catch-up' watering could repair my earlier neglect. All I could do was recommit to consistent watering, throw away the bad tomatoes and wait to harvest healthy ones.

Having grown up on a fruit farm, the lessons and parables in the scriptures that related to planting, sowing, thinning, harvesting and pruning all made perfect sense to me. Every year I witnessed the 'Law of the Harvest' as the literal fruits of the orchard were gathered in.

But this year my little garden reminded me once more -
You can't fake obedience!

No amount of regret or 'double-duty' watering could alter the condition of the tomatoes already formed. I had today and the next day and the remainder of the summer to do better but the fruits of my inconsistency hung rotten on the vines.

The power that comes from daily obedience is real.
It gives us faith not fear, hope not helplessness.
That is what my little garden taught me this year.


What's In Your Wallet?

Last night decided to close an account for a credit card we don't use and that has a zero balance. This card had a huge line of credit available and a very low interest rate. That being said, I decided to do a little plastic surgery.

First, I looked over all of the literature that came with the statement. There were all kinds of information on how to pay, ask about, increase, delay, negotiate and look at your account BUT there was NO INFORMATION listed on how to CLOSE your account!

I decided to try the 'Questions About My Account' phone number. After wading through four different voice menus (if you like purple, press 2, if you had chicken for dinner, press 4, etc., etc., etc.), I FINALLY got 'if you want to close your account' person. I explained that I wanted to close my account. He asked me WHY??? I told him that I believe in cutting up plastic. He tried to plant doubt. I persisted. He then said he would have to transfer me to the 'close the account' person. Wait, wasn't that the person I just chose on the phone menu? He put me on hold, an especially obnoxious elevator music selection played and I waited and waited and waited. After 5 minutes the 'I can't close your account' person came back on, apologized for the wait caused by a high volume of calls (funny, they answered IMMEDIATELY when they thought they could SELL me a card) and he offered me the DIRECT phone number for the 'close the account' department and even volunteered their working hours. I'm a mom and I can smell a STALL a mile away! I thanked him but asked to be left on the line and decided to wait. TWENTY MINUTES later someone answered!!!

"I want to close my account!" I said with resolve.

"What can we ADD to your card that would change your mind?" Person #2 asked.

"Nothing, I want to close my account."

"But you have such a HUGE line of credit and such a LOW interest rate."

"I believe in cutting up plastic. Please close my account."

Well, wouldn't you know - Person #2 apparently did not have the authority to close my account.

I was beginning to get a little aggravated (okay, A LOT aggravated). In this time of economic turmoil fueled by creditors lending to people unable to pay them back, wouldn't you think that canceling a card would be a little easier than this. I am fully aware that I have this huge credit line and low interest rate BECAUSE I PAY MY BILLS and I want to keep it that way.

I'm transferred to Person #3.

"How can I help you?", she asked.

"I want to close my account."

"Ms. Nancy B., I'm surprised you would do that. You have such a LOW interest rate! Why would you want to close your account?"

"I believe in living within my means. I don't need this card and I don't plan to use this card. Given the current economic climate, I think this is a great decision."

"Well, given the current economic climate, you may NEVER GET ANOTHER CREDIT CARD WITH THIS MUCH CREDIT AND WITH SUCH A LOW RATE! If I had this card, I would NEVER cancel it."

That's it - I was going to cancel that card TONIGHT!

"It's funny that you say that because I shred a pre-approved credit card with an incredible interest rate AT LEAST THREE TIMES A WEEK! I know your job is to sell credit cards and to talk me out of closing this account but nothing you say will change my mind. In a time of foreclosures, bailouts and stock market chaos, I think I'm being very responsible. You've given me the sales pitch, now please CLOSE MY ACCOUNT!"

She finally agreed and finished by reading me a 'terms of agreement' (I'm sure made mandatory as a result of dicey behavior by some lenders).

Thirty minutes after dialing the phone I hung up, wrote 'CLOSED 10/20/08' on the statement, turned to my teenage daughter and said, "This is why you don't sign up for cards 'so you can get 10% off today's purchases'.

Now that I have done my patriotic duty to the floundering economy, I have decided that next time I cancel a card and I'm asked why I'm doing it I will reply -

"Because I choose to follow the living prophet and his counsel to get out and stay out of debt." I can't wait to hear the reply!


Where's Susie? ? ?

Untapped talent

Our oldest three children were born in the space of four years. Every six months as LDS General Conference rolled around, I tried to think of ways to foster an active 'Watch, Listen and Learn' attitude in our children as we turned on the TV to receive counsel from our prophet.
My attempts include but are not exclusive to:
* bribery (in the form of candy that could only be consumed during conference),
* BYOB&P (bring your own blankie and pillow which ended up encouraging napping - not my intent),
* threats (always helpful when trying to invite a spirit of peace and calm into your home),
* Smartie Bingo (you know - put a Smartie on your card wh
en that General Authority gives a talk - which only works if everyone refrains from eating their Smarties halfway through the first session),
* turning on every TV and radio in the house s
o that even a sleeping teenager will have 'The Good Word' permeate his soul,
* putting up a card (Uno of course) table and choosing a gospel-centered puzzle (sounds odd but there are those kinds of puzzles available) to work on . . . this was an attempt to keep the hands busy so that they would not be used to torment siblings,
BUT my all-time favorite and the one I have
used every General Conference for the last 20 years is . . .

WHERE'S SUSIE? ? ? (like where's Waldo?)

When I was growing up in the little farming town of Pleasant Grove, it was BIG NEWS to KNOW someone personally who sang in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. You had your 'good' singers (and sometimes not so good) who sang in the ward choir. Then you had your 'better' singers who might solo in sacrament meeting or be asked to sing solos or duets at funerals. But then there were the 'great, practically professional' singers who auditioned and were chosen to sing in the Tabernacle Choir! Those singers were rare indeed.

About 20 years ago (sorry Susie, I don't know your 'official' starting date), my friend, Susie, auditioned for and was chosen as an alto member of the choir. It was then that every conference when the choir was singing, I asked my children "Where's Susie?" in a good faith attempt to get them to either 1) wake up and look at the TV or 2) stop fighting long enough to look for Susie.

Our search was made a little easier because, beginning in kindergarten, the universal rule was always 'Tall ones to the back'. It's easy to spot me, Susie, Jeanne and Mary Ann (all tall since birth) in our school class pictures (or any picture for that matter) because we're ALWAYS either on the BACK row or seated in chairs on the front row. It seems to me that the choir has held fast to this rule because we generally find Susie on the very back row or very close to it (refer to picture from last conference). And, for a reason unknown to me, she seems to be placed close to the women/men boundary of the choir.

I admit - I always feel a little 'reflected glory' when I spot Susie in the choir and shout out "There's Susie!" It's still a big deal to me to know someone in the choir.

After years of looking for Susie, one conference one of my children turned to me after I asked "Where's Susie?" and said, "Mom, you realize it doesn't really mean anything to us when we find Susie (or when you ask for the millioneth time where she is). You're the one that has the connection to her. We don't."

It's true. As much as we might wish to, we can't 'transplant' relationships, memories, emotions or even testimonies on others. Life's experiences are ours to have, to learn and to remember. We can share them in an attempt to pass along the experience but in the end they belong to us. My children will have their own life experiences. I can only hope that as adults they continue to watch General Conference not to look for my childhood friend, Susie, but to listen (and then follow) a prophet's voice.

By the way, I found Susie last week and she sounded GREAT!


Decision '08

(a very pregnant mayor :)

As I've watched the economic news grow dimmer every day (it seems) and the political rhetoric ramp up, I pondered . . . what other mayors might be viable candidates for the pres./v.p. slot.

I present to you the possibility of The Munchkin Mayor!

Think about it - His constituents always seemed to be happy and singing. Really, their only pressing problem seemed to be a wicked witch here and there (no financial bailouts). He seemed to handle tornado immigration with ease. He was helpful and generous with his directions to Oz. His ability to mix greens in his wardrobe was unparalleled! And, if you needed to know what time it was, you could just look at the gigantic watch strategically placed where all could see. He showed grace under extreme conditions when his airspace was compromised (wicked witch flying around with creepy monkey/bat soldiers threatening any one who crossed her path) and his city was tidy and blooming.

I'm not sure of his party affiliation (Independent I would guess) but I'll be thinking of him when I cast my vote this November.

If only the Munchkin Mayor was a US citizen . . . oh, the possibilities!


Thought for today (and tomorrow) . . .

The cure for boredom
is curiosity.
There is no cure
for curiosity.
- Ellen Parr -

(doesn't this picture make you smile?)


No Good Deed Goes Unpunished . . .

About ten years ago I was in Walmart the day before Mother's Day. As I passed the jewelry counter, a man looking at necklaces asked me if I would try a couple of necklaces on so he could see how they long they hung. Being the helpful person I am and always willing to help out a husband buying jewelery for his wife, I willingly stopped to help.

As I tried on the necklace, he looked at my neck and said,

"Oh, I know this will hang longer on my wife because SHE DOESN'T HAVE A FAT NECK LIKE YOU!"

How do you respond to that?

As you will note in the (un-Photoshopped) photo - my necklace hangs LONG and FLAT!

As my husband reminds me often - No good deed goes unpunished.

* Life Lesson (isn't that what they call this) No. 138,572 - Don't try on jewelry for strangers!
* LIfe Lesson No. 138,573 - Don't trust men who buy their wives jewelry at Walmart!


Go Home!

Dear Buck (aka Tall Rodent),

Please take your bambis and does and 'head for the hills'. Cougartown is no place for deer.

Sincerely, Nancy B.

p.s. I am planting more daffodils.



Oh, beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev'ry gain divine.

- Katherine Lee Bates -


Are You Sheri Dew?

Last December, right before Christmas, I ran into the Provo Deseret Book to check on a special order. A man rushed through the front doors of the store and walked quickly over to me.

"Sheri Dew!!!!" he exclaimed.

"Sorry, I'm not Sheri Dew." I replied.

"Are you sure?"
he asked.

"I'm sure." I answered. (trying to make him feel better I added) "But she's one of my favorite speakers/authors/former General Authorities/people in the world. Thanks for confusing me with such a great person."

"So you're not Sheri Dew.?.!"
he asked/stated one last time.

I answered.

I guess he thought the CEO of Deseret Book was making spot checks on their stores around the state. Or maybe she was getting in a little Christmas shopping done on her trip to Provo. He seemed truly disappointed that I wasn't Sheri Dew pretending to be someone else. Maybe if he asked enough times I would confess to being Sheri Dew and offer some reason for lying the first four times he asked me my identity.

Don't get me wrong. I love Sheri Dew. She's my hero. I'm honored to be confused with her but I need to explain the similarities between me and Sheri Dew. (1) we're both tall, (2) we have shoulder length hair and (3) we're both Mormons. That's about it.

As I watch my last teenager navigate her way through high school, I am reminded of how critical it is to know who you are and what God's plan is for you.

And, no, I'm not Sheri Dew.

I'm Nancy B.
No apologies needed.


Hurricane Hairdos

Yesterday as I watched live coverage of Gustav make land fall, I wondered to myself - How do you get picked for 'Hurricane Duty'? I flipped between Geraldo and Anderson Cooper both hanging on for dear life in order to get the 'live shot'. I smiled when Geraldo asked his camera guy/gal to 'tighten up the shot' so we could see the poor guy in the water trying to tie down a propane tank. In his eagerness to get the story, didn't Geraldo realize that it was probably taking all the strength and focus the camera person had to keep the camera from flying out of their hands and into the gulf? He/she could hardly keep the focus in the general direction let alone zoom in on a speck in the choppy water. All the while, Geraldo is screaming at him/her to get the shot.

Were Geraldo and Anderson winners/losers of rock/paper/scissors back at headquarters? Is standing in hurricane winds, being pelted by hurricane rain a prime assignment? Is it because they are part of the shrinking pool of journalists that still have all their own hair? No weaves or toupes to worry about. Did they draw straws and they came up short?

On one channel
Anderson is doing his best to coordinate reporters spread throughout the New Orleans region so we can get it 'live and real'. He can hardly hear himself speak, let alone everyone talking in his ear piece and he has absolutely NO IDEA what video stream they're showing. All the while he can barely stand up straight.

On the other channel Geraldo is swearing in his attempts to get the camera person to pick out a person in the water and speculating on whether he jumped, was washed off the boat, ignored hurricane warnings and went for a swim, and on and on and on.

I enjoyed watching them both stroking their hair in some crazy attempt to make it presentable for live TV! They both looked like drowned cats no matter how many times they ran their wet fingers through their hurricane hairdos. Just when it couldn't seem any worse, they cut back to the perfectly coiffed anchorman sitting in a dry studio, with full make up and John Edward's 'Breck' hair. He sat smugly in his leather anchor seat while he watched Geraldo and Anderson look like complete idiots standing out in the hurricane.

Isn't that how life goes
sometimes. For whatever reason - whether it's by choice, by chance or by assignment - we are out in life's hurricanes. We do our best to style our hair, look straight ahead and try to appear that we know what we're doing. There are sure to be those sitting smugly, watching, knowing that THEY WOULD NEVER BE CAUGHT IN A HURRICANE!

to the Geraldos and Andersons in life that are willing to go out in the storm. And a special shout out to the camera person for making it possible for me to cheer you all on from the safety of my dry couch!


Please Don't Judge My Shoes

We cannot know what life will bring. We imagine how we would respond to this challenge or that challenge but until we face it, we really never know. It is easy to be an 'arm chair' observer, quietly taking notice of a misstep or stumble, as we watch others feel their way through life. The temptation is to think to ourselves, "I wouldn't have done that, said that, thought that. Surely, I would have show strength, courage and optimism."

And then we are faced with our own unique challenge - custom made to challenge the status quo and give us opportunity to grow or grumble. Our response may not be perfect because, after all, we are not yet perfect but we will develop an empathy that is only earned by one who goes through that experience. We can learn patience as we are refined and feel strength beyond our own capacities.

Between child #3 and child #4, I experienced an eleven year lesson in infertility and miscarriages. Unfortunately, as my heart ached for another child there were people around me that assumed I had chosen to limit or delay my family in exchange for 'stuff'. A judgment was made that I had purposefully chosen the 'shoes' I was asked to wear at the time. Nothing could have been farther from the truth.

In this refining I learned that, until I know a person's heart, I cannot truly understand the shoes they wear. I really only know how I have met my own challenges. I can share what I have learned but I cannot share how I have grown. That is mine. That doesn't mean that I can't cheer others on as they wobble in their shoes and reach out in love to steady them as they walk. That in remembering my own lessons gained in my own shoes, I can show charity as others learn theirs.


Just thinking about my mom . . .

My mother-in-law told me once that 'October babies are melancholy babies'. I don't know if it's the touch of fall in the air, my approaching birthday or just plain old 'melancholy' but I do know that some days the longing for one more day with my mom is more intense than others. I had the blessing of being raised by 'a mother who knew' that her role had eternal impact and who expressed an unfailing love of the Savior.

I love this picture of my mom & nephew. It captures the love she has of family. I miss her terribly and I am grateful for the blessing it is to be her daughter.

When God thought of mother,
he must have laughed with satisfaction and framed it quickly ---
so rich, so deep, so divine,
so full of soul, power, and beauty was the conception.
- Henry Ward Beecher -


Fancy Nancy's Flock for Nie

In an effort to add to the Nie Recovery Fund, I am offering two of Fancy Nancy's Flock - Glenn & Milton - for sale. Glenn and Milton are fine rooster pincushions and I could picture either one sitting next to Stephanie's sewing machine. Their combs, waddles and feet are hand beaded and they are weighted so that they can sit securely on any surface. The fried egg fabric will make you smile every time you walk by them. Glenn and Milton are 5 inches tall and about five inches long. Each rooster is $25 plus $5 for shipping. The price includes a pair of scissors and a dozen 'flower' pins. The other wing pocket can be used to store a spool of thread. I will donate 100% of the money to the Nie Recovery Fund. If you are interested, please contact me at errandofangels@gmail.com.


Angels Don't Have Wings!

First, a sincere apology to Susie for using this picture. We were 'late bloomers' (a bit of an understatement!).

Susie was my best friend growing up. All of my important dolls were named Susie or Susan and I absolutely planned on naming my first daughter (and possibly more) Susan. *Second apology - my daughters are named Elizabeth and Vanessa - sorry Susie.*

One day Susie gave a talk in Primary o
r Junior Sunday School (I can't remember which one). Her mom, Mrs. Fugal, was highly organized (especially for a mother of 12) and so, of course, Susie had a gospel picture for a visual aid. As I looked closely at the picture I was horrified to find that someone had neatly scribbled with BLUE MAGIC MARKER (I still love the smell of Magic Markers) all over the angel's wings until they were completely covered. I couldn't believe that this had happened on Mrs. Fugal's watch! I must say, that whoever had had hold of the marker had done a really nice job of covering all of the wings and even tried to blend them into the night sky.

Surely Susie wasn't going to use this damage
d and altered picture in her talk. She even seemed proud of her picture. Finally, when I could stand it no longer I said, "Susie, you can't use that picture. It's been scribbled on."

Susie turned to me and with a very 'teacher-like' voice (and with some exasperation and 'I can't believe you don't know this') said . . .


Mrs. Fugal had colored in the angels wings so that the angel would be 'up to gospel code'. Who knew? I surely didn't at that ripe young Primary age. So there you have it . . . angels don't have wings BUT in my life's experience I have learned that they do have . . .

willing hearts to take in and love a sister's family as she heals in a hospital,
listening ears that patiently listen to a broken heart and a mother's grief,
gentle hands to hold a fussy baby so that a young mother can try to remember what it feels like to not have someone attached to them 24/7,
steady feet to rush to the aid of a neighbor as the sirens get closer and closer,
wisdom to share that gives much needed perspective when you're so close to glass you have no idea if anything is in it, let alone if it's half empty/half full,
hearty laughter that brings tears to your eyes as you share the quirks that make up this life,
advice grounded in the gospel of Jesus Christ that reminds us why we're really here,
hope that 'this too will pass',
tears as they share your burden and comfort your soul,
food when you just can't think of being responsible for 'one more thing'!,
time (the most precious and fleeting of all gifts) to spend on you,
inspiration to know just when you need that call or that hug or that note and when to speak and when to just listen
and so many other things.

You're right, Mrs. Fugal, angels don't have wings - they don't need them!


Lessons from the Raspberry Patch

I grew up on a fruit farm in Utah. Along with peaches, pears, apples and cherries, we had a raspberry patch in the middle of the orchard. While the boys picked cherries, the girls picked raspberries - my dad quickly found out that a mixed work force on any one crop accomplished a lot less picking and a lot more goofing around than a segregated group assigned to different crops. And so it was my lot to pick raspberries every other morning starting at 5 a.m.

My dad
would get up every morning, wake up very grumpy and uncooperative children, work in the orchard until about 7:30 a.m., shower, go to work at Geneva Steel for eight hours, return home and eat dinner, go back out to the orchard until dark (unless he had church meetings to attend to), get ready for bed and prepare to start all over again the next day. My dad and mom worked very hard to provide a safe and secure life for the seven children in my family. Of course, as a child all you can see is that you are 'burdened' with the task of picking raspberries.

Picking raspberries is a labor intensive job that requires you to search out only the ripe berries, carefully pick them without smushing them and then place them carefully in your bucket. Sometimes you had to flick off a stink bug or grasshopper before you placed the berry in your bucket. Your job was to search high and low for those perfectly ripe berries - not a easy task early in the morning when you would rather be in bed. Our buckets were used, empty paint cans with old men's ties attached to the handles so we could tie them around our waists. It seemed to take thousands of berries to make a case - a case that we were paid $1 for picking.

One morning
my dad stopped to see how we were doing before he headed inside to get ready for his 'second' job. He started at the bottom of my raspberry row and, as he walked, he quietly picked the berries that I had missed and placed them in MY bucket. He did not scold me for missing those berries, he did not make me re-pick the row to 'teach me a lesson', he did not put them in a separate bucket. He just quietly added them to my bucket as he asked me how I was doing. And in doing so he taught me the greatest lesson of all.

I was AMAZED that my dad put HIS berries in MY bucket. I remember thinking "I wouldn't do that if I was the dad. I would put them in MY bucket!" I was awed by his generosity and his complete lack of reprimand.

There in lies the lesson.
Often, my Heavenly Father follows quietly behind me noticing my shortcomings and mistakes but, without reprimanding, He makes up the difference. He adds to my 'bucket' blessings and second chances, repentance and renewed commitment, reminders of my covenants and earthly angels who attend to me, prayer and inspiration, a Savior who redeems me through the power of the Atonement.

My dad
did not know that early one morning in the raspberry patch he gave me an understanding of the love an earthly father and Heavenly Father have for me. He helped me feel unconditional love and acceptance. He let me know that I'm never alone in the 'patch' and that when I've done my best, a loving father will come along and make up the difference.


Angels in Disguise

I've seen and met angels wearing the disguise of ordinary people living ordinary lives.
- Tracy Chapman -