Wrangler Dani

Writer, editor, marketer and communication strategist. I'm also a wife, mama, hiker, cowgirl and experimental cook living in beautiful Central Oregon.

Archive for the ‘nesting’ Category

September 20th, 2017 by Dani


October is practically here, which means my baby boy is almost here, too. I know he’s not mine yet and it is so hard to not feel overwhelmingly attached, especially as we make plans and rent houses and cars and wash onesies. But he still is someone else’s baby boy, at least for now.

Adoption is beautiful

Addy with her “baby brother” doll, an incredibly realistic baby doll gifted to her by my dear friend Claire. She can’t wait to be a big sister.

Speaking of, I have about 20 newborn onesies (all given to us, what grace) and I regularly look at them and wonder if I should get more or pack more or prepare better. The last time we did this we didn’t have time for something like counting onesies, we were lucky we thought to buy any before we boarded a midnight flight.

This time we are packing bottles and blankets, onesies and toddler toys. I have a well-loved diaper bag that I pulled out of the closet and got very teary-eyed about the other day. Sometimes this upcoming month-long adventure to Florida feels like a grand holiday, an exciting vacation that we would never take otherwise, a chance to show love in a tangible way. Sometimes it feels like a foolish gamble, an expensive, time-consuming exercise in unwarranted hope.

Grace lives in the middle, doesn’t it? Grace knows I’m nervous and scared. Grace gives me precious (perfectly unstained, how is this possible?) hand-me-down newborn clothes anyway, folded neatly in brown bags and ready to be packed in suitcases with longing hopefulness. Grace lets me believe that it’s OK to be excited, to think about kissing tiny baby cheeks in a few weeks and get all fluttery inside about it. Grace believes the best, sets worry aside, gives wisdom for when hard times inevitably come.

We are saying yes to grace and goodness, knowing that just because something is scary doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful or worth doing. Baby boy is already ever so loved and cherished, infinitely valuable in the eyes of the God who made him and the family who loves him, both birth and adoptive. This is a good thing. This is grace.

April 11th, 2017 by Dani

Adoption Expedition #2

The other night I held my friends’ beautiful baby boy, adopted in a whirlwind just as my baby was, supported and surrounded by love before we even knew his name.

I remember when I didn’t really want to be a mom, at least not enough to work for it. I remember when that changed, when the ache to be a mom hurt so badly that I thought my heart was shriveling up inside of me – little did I know it was actually growing in size and courage. I remember when holding my friends’ babies felt like working out – good but hard.

We are adopting again, and I’m often asked why. (I know it’s a funny question, but we get it a lot.) Here is my “why” – I remember the heartache of the first time through, and I remember how much faith we needed, how much support and love we got, how many miracles happened, and I know that the God who brought us here is not done with us yet.

Now my days are filled with a silly singing toddler. I buy fruit snacks and milk, goldfish crackers and red grapes. I have to find babysitters, yes, and sometimes I look back my good old days of “free time” with something like lust.

But I know what unabashed joy looks like. I have lived through mercy and I’ve seen redemption first-hand. I know that the valleys are not as endless as they seem and that the future will hold dark times, yes, but it also holds oh-so-much laughter and grace. Scary things will come, but so will beauty and chunky baby thighs and silly toddler faces and open highways and daffodils and grilled cheese sandwiches.

We are risking again, adopting again because adoption is beautiful and we believe in beautiful. We are grateful people who have walked heart-broken long enough to know that that the dark nights never last longer than dawn. We know that the dawn is always worth waiting for, that every sunrise is a gift, that our life is but a breath. So we are drawing in and breathing out with courage and hope, knowing that God loves our family too, that he is planning this second expedition with as much care and kindness as he did the first.

This week I had three people tell me that Adelay and I have the same crinkly-nosed laugh. I hope that’s true, and I hope that our family continues to leave a legacy of laughter and hope and beauty. Thank you for supporting us as we embark on Adoption Expedition #2!

December 14th, 2016 by Dani

Snow Day

family hike in the snowIf you know me, you know I love Christmas. I love the whole season – I play carols and bake cookies and pull out the candles that smell like fir trees. I love to savor Christmas – I like to pick a particularly cozy Christmassy book to read every year, and no Christmas is complete without a reading of A Christmas Carol, like a predictable conversation with an elderly friend, one that somehow manages to surprise and delight even when you know exactly what will be said.

This year, Christmas has felt less like a quiet, sanctified season of traditions and more like a flurry of activity. I haven’t even met up with Marley’s Ghost yet and Christmas is a week away! I am running, keeping up with my toddler, my growing business, my personal projects, my list of responsibilities. I am on the edge – I might burst into laughter or tears, I might make a lovely braised beef shank for dinner or I might leave it on the heat too long and make a charred doggie treat for Guinness. Adam took us out for a lovely weekend getaway for my birthday, and I let myself fall into relaxation like a giant snowbank, only to find myself back in the frenzy within moments of returning home.

And then, today, like a miracle, like a kiss – we get a snow day. Just like that, all is calm. School is canceled, the barn is closed. Meetings begin to drop off the calendar and I hear the fire calling me, asking me to slow down and sit a while. I heat up a cup of coffee and watch the snow fall. Unlike rain, which either patters drearily or beats down with fury, snow just falls. Whether heavy or light, the first or the last snow of the year, it’s all the same in its perfection. It covers up ugliness, it silences the rattle and bang of a storm. Old cars and new alike look quaint when covered in snow, wipers propped up by wise owners. Christmas lights glow cheerily, tree branches hang down, heavy with beautiful white blankets. You can’t drive fast in the snow. Stores close early, hand-written signs grace small restaurant windows: “Snow Day”. You text your friends with cheery words of wisdom: “Drive safe! Stay warm.” I’m reminded of how blessed we are to have a warm fireplace and a full pantry on a day like today.”Though our sins were as scarlet, we are washed white as snow.” Snow hearkens of Christmas, because we need grace at Christmas. I need to be reminded that as much as I love the parties and presents and traditions, grace is what matters. Grace for today – snow on my roof, on my old car, over the places in my life that I’m not proud of and the things that I’ve tried so hard to make beautiful. Snow covers it all with the same grace and peace. Thank you, God, for snow days.

July 11th, 2016 by Dani

A year later

Addy and I on our plane ride homeOne year ago, we were thrown from desperate hope of one kind into desperate hope of another. It’s hard to remember, now that Addy is a crawling, babbling, Cheerio-gobbling little lady, but she was tiny, helpless, with skinny little arms and legs poking out of baggy newborn clothes. I remember praying that she would eat her tiny bottles, that she would keep breathing through the night (surely I’m not the only parent ever to worriedly check on her newborn throughout the night? If I am, don’t tell me) that she would feel safe and loved in our arms.

We flew across the country with this tiny person. I have never felt so close to Heaven – not because it was blissful but because God walked with us, guided us and held us close, just as I held my baby to my chest.

A man stopped me in the airport when we landed at home and told me he could tell I was an adoptive mom. “Nothing and nobody is going to hurt that baby while you’re here,” he said kindly. I felt a little silly, thinking, “is it that obvious, am I really clinging to her?” But I folded my arms around her anyway.

A year later, I don’t have a pile of wisdom amassed. I still regularly feel out of my league and understaffed. Being a parent is equal parts whimsically ethereal, gruntingly dirty and hopelessly wonderful; being an adoptive family is equal parts redemption, power, faith and effort. I’ve struggled to know how to share this, and even as I consider what I’ve written so far I wonder if it means anything to anyone but me.

Even if I am writing for myself, I want to remember: in the days of saving for retirement and making grocery lists; as I clean my bathroom and work for my copywriting clients and try to keep Addy from pulling breakable things out of the kitchen cabinets; in the everydayness of the every day life we are so blessed to live: this is a holy calling. Parenthood and family and community is a high purpose. These are the glory days, the days that fly by, the days of summer time walks by the river and baby giggles and dirty feet and the same book 12 times. One year later – look around, look around – how lucky we are to be alive right now.

March 21st, 2016 by Dani

Hold Whatcha Got

When I help Adam with house projects, usually my role is of a glorified clamp or shelf – I hold something in place while he measures, caulks, nails or whatever else needs to happen. He says to me, “hold whatcha got” as I press my hands into whatever I’m holding up. It’s equal parts encouragement and reminder – I’m doing fine, what I’m doing is working, but things will change. I will need to hold something else in a minute, or even leave my post to get a tool, but for now, my focus is holding what’s before me.

I’ve been thinking about that lately, mostly because longer days mean new windows and renewed vigor for the endless home remodel; and because I think it’s poetic that in order to make something new and beautiful we have to hold what we’ve got.

We don’t think like that, do we? We ask our single friends if they’re dating anyone and our married friends when they’re having kids. People with one kid get asked if there will be more and people with a steady relationship get asked about the wedding. Older people are asked if they’re ready for retirement, kids are asked if they’re ready for summer vacation, working people are asked if they’re ready for the weekend.

What if we moved toward change by holding what we have, really and truly, with both hands firmly wrapped around the present and muscles engaged? After all, we aren’t just living with the old aluminum windows and 1970’s decor of our old farmhouse – we’re fixing it up, little by little. We’re adding new double-paned windows and beautiful trim that Adam is staining, designing and installing himself. But, throughout each change, the most essential piece of the process is usually the patient part; the “hold whatcha got” part. We have to hold the trim in place so it will be straight and level for years to come, we have to stop staining and let the wood dry, we have to sit back and make sure we like the design of the fireplace before we spend money and time on something we don’t like after all.

Speaking of things I don’t like, I’m not too fond of the patient parts. I don’t like holding what I’ve got. I like movement, action, decision. I want to know what’s happening next and how to prepare for it, despite the pesky fact that the best way to prepare for the next project is to finish doing this one well.

So today, I’m holding what I’ve got, and cheering for those who are also holding something well, with steadiness and firmness and faith. Beauty is coming, in slow waves, as straight pieces of trim frame new windows and bulbs rise from dark earth, as quiet confidence and slow growth give grace and peace for the changes ahead. Hold whatcha got, friends. Change is coming, and the new thing will be even more lovely because you had patience to hold the process well.

November 17th, 2015 by Dani

Gratitude Project: Homemade Stock

In the fall and winter months, I have homemade broth or stock simmering in the Crock-Pot at least once a week. We smoke a chicken or roast beef shanks and afterwards I plop the bones in water and let them simmer away for a day or two. The whole house smells comforting, like chicken-noodle soup, and I have stock on hand for making rice or stew or deglazing a pan.

Homemade stock takes longer than buying a can or carton of stock from the grocery store. My Crock-Pot gets dirty and I have to strain out the bones when the broth is done. Sometimes I don’t want my house to smell like chicken noodle soup, and sometimes I’m tempted to throw away the remnants of a smoked chicken rather than mess with it.

But I don’t. I tell myself that it’s worth it to make something right – that tonight’s dinner will be that much healthier and more fulfilling because I took the time on this component. I try to see the simmering and straining and cleaning up afterwards as my act of gratitude – that I don’t take the roasted chicken for granted, but instead use every piece of it, making something simple into something special.

Because making stock is living with intention – it’s time-consuming and sometimes annoying. Sometimes I’d rather just run out and buy a can of stock – no muss, no fuss. But I’m always glad when I choose intention over convenience. I’m so grateful when love trumps necessity, when I take the time to care about small things and they become big and meaningful in return. Today, I’m grateful for homemade stock, and a homemade stock kind of life – one that simmers and flavors everything with intention, time and grace. It’s not easy or clean, but the smell and taste of homemade chicken noodle soup is worth the effort.

November 5th, 2015 by Dani

Ask, Seek, Knock

The last few years have seen a lot of asking, knocking and seeking happen in our family. It sounds Christianese-y and removed from the reality of hard work and effort, but it’s true. We asked God for new direction, we sought and found a home, we knocked on every door and turned over every loose stone until we brought Adelay home. I thought, “ahhhhhh” – maybe my asking and seeking days could be over for a while.  (It’s OK, you can laugh. I’m certain God did.)

I’ll be honest, I don’t want to ask for anything more. I’m tired of requesting prayer for this or that legal paperwork or financial hurdle in this adoption expedition. I’m tired of knocking on doors looking for wisdom, for peace, for how to not cry in the middle of the grocery store when it’s just been that kind of day and someone asks where I got my baby. I always thought Jesus said, “ “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you… and you’ll never have to walk through another door or find another thing ever again. This door is magic and there’s everything you need for life and happiness behind it. Handy, right?”

But he didn’t, actually. In the same breath he uses the imagery of a child asking for lunch: “Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone… …If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

Food is the best example here, which makes sense because Jesus used it. Maybe I’ve been too hard-headed to see it, to focused on the end-goal to realize that maybe the seeking and asking and knocking is the point. I love to cook and I realize that I love to cook maybe a little more than I love to eat (which is really saying something). There’s something cleansing and centering in the stirring, seasoning and perfecting of a dish. I don’t always get it right – sometimes my chicken and rice soup is more like savory porridge or I burn the potatoes to shriveled crisps. Sometimes I am over-ambitious and try to cook a fancy dessert even though sugar cookies are more my wheelhouse.

But in the cooking I find peace. I am asking and seeking, if you will, coaxing a humble chuck roast to become a succulent wine-braised serving of warmth and family, a bowlful of security. It wouldn’t be satisfying to have cooked one delicious meal and return to my kitchen every day at 5 p.m. to a pot of the same on the stove, ready for serving. It wouldn’t feel like a warm welcome to friends and family, or like a gift to my husband or like an homage to my mother. It would simply be eating, because eating has to happen and I guess we can have the same sad dinner again and keep up our strength, like survivors instead of celebrators. Because celebrators spend all afternoon on a dish, while survivors eat what they can get, in a hurry as they run to the next shelter. Celebrators ask, seek and knock – finding the rare spice or the perfect wine or the essential cheese  – celebrators think “this will make our meal so wonderful!” with joy, enjoying the seeking almost as much as they relish the finding. Celebrators take their time, lay out the good silverware and eat with intention.

I am still seeking and knocking, asking and searching. The state of the world makes me both sad and passionate, as I think about how to protect my daughter and my family from the evil that lurks around us. But I am striving to see this as a lovely ritual, like mincing garlic or rubbing spices on a roast. Passing through the door is wonderful, just as dinner is delicious. But tomorrow morning we’ll still want a cup of coffee and something to eat, and we’ll begin the seeking all over again as we peruse a cookbook or pull chicken breasts out to thaw.

So I’m asking, seeking and knocking and I will not give up. Because I was made to ask and made to create. Just because I am tired does not mean I’ve failed – my burned biscuits do not make me a bad cook and my raggedy feelings do not make me a bad wife and mom. Today’s a new day, with a new recipe to seek again, ask again, knock again – and wait for even more doors to open.

February 4th, 2015 by Dani

It will not always be this hard

I knew when we were getting into this that it would be hard. All anyone ever tells you about adoption is that it’s hard. In fact, most people are so well-aware of the hardness of adoption that most adoption books, websites and resources read more like a manual for depression and angst than an exciting way to grow one’s family.

It is hard. I am not going to pretend that the scary stories don’t get to me, or that the long wait doesn’t feel oppressive and endless. I’m not going to tell you that I never worry about funding the adoption, about how to make these kinds of life-changing choices, about what people will say to our children, who will most likely not look like us.

But here’s what I do know – it will not always be this hard.

Just as our year of house-hunting in Bend felt endless and spare and emotional in a way that I didn’t expect, so this time of waiting feels both packed with feeling and empty of movement, kind of an emotional sensory deprivation, where you hear nothing but your own voice in your head. It is hard. I am every day looking for an easy way out and every day reminded that there is no such thing, that sometimes waiting is just waiting, that hard things are just hard.

But it will not always be this hard.

I am confident in the promises and goodness of God. I am confident that one day I will be laughing at the antics of my toddler or shocked by the wisdom of my middle-schooler, and I will recall this hard time with a smile. We have been called on an expedition that is daunting in every way, but we will sing as we walk. Our story is not a straight line, and we are not called to the easy road.

But friends, there is joy. It will not always be this hard.

You will not always be alone.

You will not always grieve.

You will not live with this ache forever.

You will not be dissatisfied, you will not live in fear, you will have joy.

I am writing this to myself, to remember joy, to search for it, to be grateful in it, to see time as a flowing river and not a stagnant pond. It will not always be this hard, and even in the hard places, I choose joy.

Psalm 30:4-5 “Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
    and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment,
    and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
    but joy comes with the morning.

Psalm 126 “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
‘the Lord has done great things for them.’
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, Lord,
like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.”

January 20th, 2015 by Dani

I believe

Last night, we found out we didn’t get chosen by a birth mom who was considering us as an adoptive family for her baby. We’d just come off a long weekend with dear friends (who we really didn’t want to leave) who have a “bouncing baby boy” – a two-year-old with an infectious grin and a penchant for reminding us expectant parents what we’re signing up for.

Before they came, I bought a little farm playset and book for E, because I wanted him to like our house and I was trying to convince myself that I’d need kid stuff soon anyway.

Then, after our friends left and we were a few hours back into the swing of work and life, we heard that we didn’t get picked. It happens all the time, it’s a normal part of adoption, it’s totally expected and not anybody’s fault. But I sat there and held that little farm playset and bawled my eyes out in my way-too-quiet house. I felt stupid for hoping, stupid for crying, stupid for letting myself love little E and dream about a baby Nichols friend for him soon.

I watched a documentary a few months ago about a convent in New York and the women who choose to live there. They describe it as being “skinned alive” that the process of living in such tight community with no relief is agonizing, an exercise in denying themselves and following God relentlessly, in community with broken people. The nuns also shined with joy even in their hardships, and despite strange clothes and soft voices, were attractive and even beautiful. I’ve thought about that documentary a lot as we trudge upward on this expedition, about the idea that something worth doing might be worth quite a lot of pain. Maybe just as these nuns felt called to a strange life, so we are called to an unorthodox family, an incredibly hard season in which I feel very close to crazy almost every day, where the wait is a drip, drip, drip of unmet expectation and almost-incessant prayer. There’s no way to make this easy, no way to make it better, no way to escape the all-encompassing ache of it.

Today I am chanting to myself: I believe. I believe God is good. I believe he’s called us on this expedition. I believe that our boots won’t fall apart and we won’t freeze to death on this mountain, that we will gain the top and come back down the other side in one piece, having seen and done something we didn’t know we could. I believe it’s worth fighting through pain for joy. I believe. Today I’m holding onto a silly farm playset with hope and faith. I believe.

November 13th, 2014 by Dani

Gratitude Project: Snow Days

The last couple of days have been crazy cold (think 7 degrees at 7 a.m.) and then this morning we awoke to a snowy winter wonderland. A few inches fell in the night, and more is still coming, making otherworldy drifts around our deck, our steers look like snowy buffaloes and giving the trees that Christmasy, quiet winter look, as green branches are draped in white.

Guinness the puppy is amazed by the snow, and seems confused about how her toys keep getting lost in white, cold stuff. I’m amazed because every mistake is covered in perfection now – the deck that we need to refinish looks beautiful with a blanket of white on top – the stunted tree I wanted to cut down in the yard actually looks cute with a dusting of snow on its branches.

Snow slows everything to a stroll, by necessity. We hunker down with a cup of coffee, bake some muffins, shovel our front door, feed our cows. Snow reminds us to be amazed at weather, at seasons, at the beauty of our simple pleasures, our little house and our family.

“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow…” Isaiah 1:16-18

Today I’m grateful for snow days. I’m thankful for a God who speaks through word pictures and shows us his love in tangible ways. I’m grateful for a warm little house, a cup of coffee, a puppy who is filling our snowy yard with her joy, snowfall that covers all my mistakes and makes the world magical again.