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 ‘Puke of the Brain’ Category

August 29th, 2017 by Dani

Stammering toward Gratitude

Yesterday, as I was making plans with someone for the fall, she said to me, “You must be over the moon about your baby boy.”

I stammered a lame response. I am! Of course I am. I’m thrilled and honored and excited and full of love for this tiny person.

But lately my dominant emotion has been discouragement, not gratitude or excitement. I’ve bitten my nails about looming expenses and what-ifs. I’ve wondered if I’m tough enough for the process, if I can push through the uncertainty long enough to keep loving when I want to scream.

Adam and II was still thinking about my stuttering response to my friend when last night, about midnight, we discovered that a pack rat had eaten one of my saddles. Not just any saddle, one I was planning to sell to raise money for our adoption. I cried, shoulder-shaking, throat-opening, guttural tears. Adam wanted to comfort me, and I wanted to punch something. I wanted to scream that I’m doing my best here, give me a break! I can’t be loving and hopeful and peppy anymore, I just can’t!

I know. It’s embarrassing.

Do you know what I did next? If you think I realized I was being immature and dramatic and came to my senses, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Instead, I made a list of discouragements, all the ways I am failing. I looked at it with anger and fear and tear-filled eyes. It was helpful. Do you know what Adam did? He started listing all the ways that God has been faithful to us. The miracles we’ve seen unfold before our eyes, the gifts we’ve been given, the things we didn’t even know to ask for that dropped in our laps like so many golden eggs. Guess who’s list was longer and more helpful?

Adam helped me see that gratitude has to be worked for. Wallowing is easy and even perversely pleasant, the long woe-be-gone country song. But it’s not true. The truth is that God is ever-so-faithful and we are completely blessed. Every need we have has been met, even though I am not very tough I am married to the toughest of them all, and we have a redeeming God who is even tougher.

So today: gratitude. Disappointments are real, and fear will knock on my door again, probably before today is over. But gratitude is worth working for. It’s worth fighting for. It is the gift of clear eyes and real perspective, the thing that lets me get excited about tiny newborn outfits and new adventures and grace every morning. Without gratitude, I’m just killing time, waiting for the other shoe to drop or mourning the one that already has. I’m locked in a spinning top of frustration and angst, teaching my daughter how to see struggle instead of joy, dead-ends instead of new directions.

Anne Lamott said recently that every day she asks God for forgiveness and help, both because she’s sorry she’s such a big whiny baby and because she doesn’t want to be one any more. Of course I can’t say it any better than that.

This morning, I wipe my eyes and begin again, in gratitude.

May 1st, 2017 by Dani

Don’t Call Me a Saint

Do you remember the scene in Julie and Julia when Julie keeps referring to her “sainted husband”, as she goes further and further down her Julia Child-inspired rabbit hole? One night they get into a big fight and he says “And stop calling me a saint on your blog! I’m not a saint!”

I’ve thought about that scene lately because I sometimes feel that way.

You’d be surprised how often I get stopped and asked about adoption by perfect strangers. Inevitably, the conversation turns to some complimentary thought along the lines of (and yes these are real quotes),

“Wow, you are so selfless.”

“You guys are saints.”

“What a lucky little girl.”

First of all, I am not a saint, and I know this because it feels nice to have people flatter me in public. Secondly, adoption is hard and sometimes gnarly and often expensive (in more ways than one) but let me be clear: we are NOT SAINTS. We have been blessed beyond our wildest dreams by our darling girl. I fall more in love with her, with adoption, and with motherhood every day, but our family is as messy, complicated, impatient, tardy, unorganized or silly as any other family. It’s not as though because we are an adoptive family I suddenly got good at folding hoodies or making our bed or remembering how I made a given recipe. I am still a mediocre baker, a terrible runner and bad at details. I still tend to be late, tend to be emotional, tend to be quite dramatic when I feel sick. I still like clothes quite a lot, and have not lost my taste for a good glass of wine or a swanky dinner out, although with a toddler those things are more precious than they used to be.

My point is that I am not selfless. I am not a saint. If anything, I am a work in progress. I am following my heart and the call that God has put on our family the best way I can, which translates to an imperfect, outside-the-lines kind of life, because that’s the best I’ve got.

So, here’s my PSA – next time you want to tell a stranger that she is lovely or admirable, just say so. Tell her that you like her skirt or that she seems like a good mom. Tell her that her daughter is beautiful or her son is spunky. Tell her that you admire her courage, or her laughter, or her verve. But do me a favor – don’t call us selfless, or saints, or act like we’ve taken on charity cases because we love kids who may not look like us. I am ever so blessed, and I am trying to be the best mom and wife and creative I can be, but I’m not a saint and my baby isn’t lucky to have me. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s the other way around.

Addy and I at our recent LuLaRoe fundraiser sale for Adoption #2. As Addy says, “Yay Family!”

March 6th, 2017 by Dani

On Beauty

I’ve been complaining for a while about my weight. Ever since the double-whammy of going gluten-free and becoming a mom, I have been noticing the oh-so-subtle tightness of my jeans and then not-so-subtle glances in the mirror, which remind me that I am indeed larger than I used to be. Adam is supportive and encouraging, telling me I’m beautiful and that he is all in favor of me being healthy, which of course means exercise and staying gluten-free even though I am annoyed by the weight gain element of a healthy gut. I gave away most of my old clothes, and decided (outwardly brave, inwardly cringing) to embrace this new size, and new normal. I use the euphemism “my body is changing” to stand in for the uncomfortable fact that I couldn’t fit into my old sizes if I had all day to do it and a tub of Vaseline to help.

So on Saturday I went to PiYo and wound up in the front corner of the studio. This unfortunate placement meant I could see myself in both mirrors at all times, and this was not fun for me. I was so embarrassed that I wanted to leave the class halfway through, but forced myself to stay and tough it out. Despite my tough self-talk I was surprised to discover hot tears burning in my eyes at the end of class. I blinked them back and put on my Uggs to go out in the cold, telling myself to get a grip already.

In case you were wondering, berating myself did not work. I cried almost all the way home.

Addy and I at brunchYesterday, I put on a sweater to go to church and wanted to crawl back in bed instead of wearing it, feeling so ashamed. I helped Addy pick out a bow for her hair and told her how beautiful she is, all the while hating my own appearance. This is not OK. I can come up with a thousand reasons why I am not beautiful, and yet if you told me those same reasons for you and your daughter or sister or mother I would tell you that is a lie and it smells like smoke. I don’t have a pretty bow to tie up here, and say that because of this Bible verse or that song or this encouragement I’m all OK now. I realized today that I’ve never been OK with myself, even when I was several sizes smaller than I am now.

Why am I telling you this embarrassing admission? Because a couple of months ago I wrote a piece about friendship and hugging each other when we are weak, and I was overwhelmed by the response to it. It turns out we all need each other, and I’m not the only one who feels this way.

So I’m willing to bet that every one of us, no matter what size we are, need to be reminded that beauty is not a specific size and that our 20-year-old bodies did not have the corner on perfection. For myself, I need to understand beauty on a deep level, the kind of beauty I see in my daughter, the beauty that comes from deep down. I need to believe that beauty matters because it points me to something (or someone) greater than myself, not because I just want to be a size 4 again.

But I need your help in this. I need you to remind me how to talk and how to model confident womanhood to my daughter, to the kiddos I teach at the barn, to anyone else who is watching. I don’t want to be outwardly confident and inwardly insecure – I’ve done that for too long and I know it’s a lie. I want to show Addy a woman who is genuinely confident because she knows that she is fearfully and wonderfully made. I want Addy to believe me when I tell her that health and joy are essential, not a certain size or weight, and she won’t believe me if I don’t believe myself.

Here’s my resolution: to go to PiYo and repeat to myself, “you are fearfully and wonderfully made” when I feel the hot tears of shame and the voice that tells me I’ll never be good at this, I’ll never be beautiful, I’ll never look as good as the woodland sprite stretching next to me, who looks perfectly put together but may secretly have the same thoughts.

I’m going to be kind, because it’s likely that other women I encounter are facing this same struggle. I want to tell the girls in my life that they’re beautiful, because I so often think so and I should say it more often.

I don’t have this figured out and I am sure that I will complain about my body again, but when I do, I want to be reminded that little ears are listening, and little eyes are watching. Besides, the world wants to know if we really believe in a good Father, a Creative God who doesn’t make mistakes, and I want to be a convincing witness that yes, actually, I do.

February 10th, 2017 by Dani

Balance and Being Still

I was going to write something about my little life when I started to feel embarrassed by the every-day-ness of it. Does anyone really want to hear about my daughter’s new obsession with fort-building (yay for Daddy and snow days!) or my attempt at Coq Au Vin this weekend?

I’ve been thinking about heroism and what that means. I think it’s tempting to keep heroes and regular people apart. This is why we either self-deprecate or self-inflate on social media right? We’re either assuring the world that we’re nothing special, nothing to see here, or that we’re a caped crusader with heroism leaking from every pore. You know who I’m talking about. It might even be you, but I understand. We all do.

We are small but we want to be big. Like children insisting that we are 6 and three-quarters, that we matter because we are getting bigger every day. It’s hard I think to balance the every day of life with the yearning for more, which is why we either hide or inflate ourselves – we try to pick either invisibility or celebrity and neither satisfies.

Yesterday I read the verse, “Be still and know that I am God.” It’s a nice verse. It’s often quoted to worriers and over-achievers like myself. But do you know what leads up to it? Read the whole thing:

Psalm 46
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. 
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. 
Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

This is so war-like! I thought “Be still and know that I am God” was embroidered on nice things, like tea cosies and grandmotherly pillows. It’s often been quoted to me as a helpful verse for the overcoming of frantic energy. But I think I’ve been reading it wrong. It’s not “Be still and know” as in, “sit there, dear, and try not to bother yourself”, it’s “Be STILL and KNOW” cried with the booming voice of thunder. This is a God who is not scared of Donald Trump or ISIS. This is a God who does not share power, who melts the earth with his voice. This is a God who offers to be our fortress, to be WITH us in war and peace, in heroism and dailyness, in abundance or in fear.

When met with this kind of God, my worrying attempts to either make much or less of myself seem quite silly. This is not a being who needs my help after all, is it? So I am free to live out redemption in my daily life without worrying about my heroic status or lack thereof. This doesn’t mean I’m passive, but it does mean that I am not worried. I am not anxious. I am not insecure. The God of Jacob is my fortress, after all, so I truly can “be still and know” that I have a refuge in him, better than any I could make for myself.

December 4th, 2016 by Dani

Keep Going!

Addy has a little walker that talks. She doesn’t use it much any more, unless I start talking about putting it away, in which case it becomes The Most Favorite Toy of All Time. Anyway, it talks when it senses movement, and it’s got a jumpy trigger finger, because said movement can be any person walking around the house, no matter how far away.

The other day, I walked by it and it chirped out “Keep going!” I laughed to myself and then thought, I need this little voice all the time.

Because I need to hear, “Keep going!” Because, and I’m being honest here,… is anyone else tired?

I used to get on Facebook for cute photos of my friends’ kids and puppies, and now I get on in fear and trembling that I will see another apoplectic political post. (I brave them for the pay-off of cute baby/puppy/Christmas tree photos but I’m just saying – it’s gotten a little hot out there.) I need reminders to keep going, that relationships are important and valuable, even when I’d rather check out and protect myself.

I need to hear “Keep going!” because all too often I hear the opposite. I hear that I’ll never be good enough or cute enough in Spandex, so I should quit going to yoga. I hear that I’ll never get a book deal, so I should stop writing. I hear that adoption is only a tragic choice and not a beautiful one. I hear that my choices for my kid is questionable, that my beliefs are silly, that my life is small and foolish.

At Christmastime, I hear that my love for this sparkly season is silly. I hear that my joy at big bows and perfect presents and hot cocoa on a snowy afternoon are childish or materialistic, silly or thoughtless. But I do love Christmas, because it is the season of foolishness. It is the season of “Keep going!”, don’t you think?

It is a season when we should be awed and not calloused, when we embrace an infant Savior, an angel choir singing to dirty shepherds, a blazing star in the sky. I’m daring to believe that God sent Jesus to tell us “Keep going!” that we don’t have to do this alone, that we have Emmanuel, God with us. Every time I walk past that silly plastic talking toy, I’m going to thank my Creator for the gift of wisdom through a child’s toy, hope through tragedy, joy to the world when it feels like it’s falling apart. After all, he didn’t say “endurance to the world” or “clenched teeth to the world” or “anxiety to the world” – I’m going to believe that the God who came as a helpless baby into a wartorn, oppressed country isn’t too scared by the troubles of 2016, and that he meant for us to live in joy despite them.

The angel said, “I bring you good news of GREAT JOY for all people!” JOY TO THE WORLD. Keep going!

November 9th, 2016 by Dani

What I will tell my children (Election 2016)

We got a new president in 2016, kids, just as we had for 44 election cycles before. It’s a pretty neat thing, actually, and it happens every 4 or 8 years, depending on whether or not We the People think the President deserves another term in office. The United States of America, unlike many other countries in the world, has peaceful, free elections. We transfer power within parties peacefully, without coups, riots or civil wars. We also don’t have a king or queen, which means that this President, like him or loathe him, will be gone soon enough.

When people vote, we often get wrapped up in the candidate we support or don’t. In 2016, Daddy and I voted for neither major candidate – that’s one of the many lovely rights we have as American citizens – to protest the status quo with our vote and our voice. After the election, a lot of people were scared, confused and upset. A lot of people were very happy. Others were sad, because they had voted for what they believed was the lesser of two evils, which isn’t a very good feeling.

But do you know what the truth is, in all of this? America is a great nation because America is us. Not just our family but all of us. We the People get to decide how to move forward, and sometimes, because we’re people, we make mistakes. But we try to believe in our ideals – the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the right to speak our minds and vote our conscience and dream big.

Our job is to be kind, when others are upset. When I was a little girl I remember being very nervous about the outcome of elections, but I am not anymore. Because we are more than our leaders, and we are not defined by politics. Out job is to love God and our neighbor, to give generously and act justly, to love mercy and live in hope. In 2016 I knew that God was in control and that America was still my beautiful country, my promised land, full of fascinating, wonderful, hard-working people who I am honored to call my fellow Americans, no matter who they voted for. My dear kids – my beautiful, wonderful, unique and precious children – do not squander the life you’ve been given or the country you’ve inherited. Never forget how to love someone who disagrees with you, how to keep eternal perspective in mind, and that you get to choose – not just a President, because sometimes that doesn’t flop your way – but who you’ll be in every circumstance, how you’ll lead and how you’ll live. I pray for you, that you surprise the world with your love and your God-given gifts, no matter what happens in politics or in the world.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” -Jesus (John 13:34)

September 21st, 2016 by Dani

I want my daughter to know….

When Addy was just a tiny baby, I got in an unintentional fight with some adoptive parents of non-white kids. (You can read my thoughts about that incident here.) I was a new mom and I didn’t want to be painted as a poor soul who had already failed because of my ethnic heritage, and my supposed innate, unchangeable out-of-touch-ness.

I am still wary of any racial conversation in a public space because of that incident, so what I am about to write has been written and deleted many times, thought over, considered, and rewritten.

But I want my daughter to know that I, a deeply patriotic white woman from the boonies of the Northwest, grieve the loss of dark-skinned lives and therefore I cannot be silent about them. I am not here to debate the nuances of police brutality vs. appropriate force vs. outright racism. But I am here to say that I’ve gotten the “look” from white people in public places (rare, but true) when I’m with my daughter and it makes me want to punch them in the face. I am here to say that it takes a lot of denial to assert that nothing is wrong here, that there isn’t something deeply broken in our culture.

I am sad today. I’m sad that we should be gasping with hands over our mouths, crying and praying, and instead we are posturing and debating. Life should matter, but instead we elevate talking points.

I recently read Ann Patchett’s lovely essay “The Wall”, in which she talks about her dad, a 30-year veteran of the LAPD. She sadly notes that he will be remembered for the Rodney King incident, which happened after he retired, and not for decades of service and sacrifice. A couple of months ago, Addy and I went to the public library for storytime, and as we walked in the door a white police officer was standing there. He had been silently nodding to the other moms and kids, but he walked up to us and reached out for Addy’s hand. He tried to get her to smile and he asked good questions. I didn’t know what to do with it at the time, but today I am moved by the memory. I hope he doesn’t get jaded and stop trying. I hope he knows that the memory of his simple kindness makes me teary-eyed and very grateful.

We don’t need to accept death or hatred. We don’t need to lock our doors and stay silent because we’re afraid of being berated for saying the wrong thing. It sounds trite to say that love is the answer, and so it is –  if that love is the kind of unfounded, wimpy, however-you-feel-today love that is so often peddled. No, the love that is the answer is the love that is willing to be wrong, willing to look foolish, willing to stand down, willing to go to war. Love that always hopes, trusts, perseveres and never fails.

Today I’m praying for that kind of love. The kind of love that inspired a police officer in Oregon to make friends with my 10-month-old, the kind of love that makes eternal promises, the kind of love that gives courage, the kind of love that makes hate gasp for breath.

April 8th, 2016 by Dani

Stress-shopping and Plastic Breakfasts

Today I stress-shopped online, bouncing from swim suits to place mats in a desperate attempt to feel better. The trouble with stress-shopping online is that I rarely actually buy anything – it just makes me feel worse about my messy house and fat rolls, and I waste valuable hours that should be rejuvenating, browsing Williams-Sonoma instead. Stress-shopping is a lie, a silky seductress who beckons me with new stuff and pretty pictures, taunting me as I prop up my soul with her instead of a good talk, a good book or a good walk.

It’s not that my stress is so bad, either. I’ve had some upheaval in my professional life that is causing anxiety, but I know it’ll be OK. Addy is teething, which is a fussy process and I admit I’m tired, but we’ll get through it. She’s still wonderful, she just hates her teeth and I don’t blame her.

For many years I’ve believed the falsehood that I can fix anything. I can bootstrap that problem right up, if you just give me half a chance and some leftover baling twine. When life starts running off-kilter or when the unexpected comes, my response is to power up and FIX IT, by golly.

But now I’m a mama to a little person who needs me to power down quite often. I don’t get to set my own hours or run my own show – as every mother knows, this show is now running me. I still have plenty of time to work and play and be Mama, but I don’t get the luxury of a frantic, powered-up pace when life feels out of control. I don’t get to work until the job is done, I just work until she wakes up or we need to eat lunch.

What does this mean? Well, it shouldn’t mean anything, other than a bit of a new schedule and more flexibility in my life, but I find myself feeling stressed and desperate: desperate for control over my schedule, desperate for time and space to think this through. This is silly, I’m well aware. My life is wonderful, my free time is still there, I’m still working, my baby is easy, my husband is supportive and loving. So, why do I feel this way?

I think my identity as creator of my own destiny and maker of my own future is coming unraveled, probably for the best. The truth is, I’ve never been in control of my destiny or my future, I’ve just pretended like I am, like a child with a play kitchen making breakfast for the family. We all play along, but the plastic bread and fruit aren’t actually delicious.

Today, I can fret and freak out because I’m worried about my plastic breakfast and whether it’s good enough for my family, or I can recognize that maybe this breakfast doesn’t matter after all, that maybe the real breakfast is coming from somewhere else. Maybe all of my striving won’t make me successful, any more than worrying makes me healthier or happier.

It’s hard to learn a new way of living when the old way feels so empowering. It’s hard to remind myself that I will still have time to get stuff done after the baby is rocked to sleep or after I’ve cleaned the smushed strawberries out of the carpet. Maybe, if I can figure this out, I can be one of those awesome zen-like yoga moms who wears an adorable outfit with a matching workout headband to the kid-date in the mountains and somehow manages to squeeze in a professional life while planning imaginative educational activities, making homemade jam from handpicked blackberries and doing pilates. I’m joking, although if you are one of those moms, teach me your ways!

As nice as it sounds to be an adorably put-together yoga mom, it’s probably more important to be content to be me. I’m not in charge, sometimes I’m unsure and scared. My scary moments aren’t mitigated by the intensity and take-charginess that used to make me feel better, but hopefully I’ll learn to live with a little uncertainty and a little patience. After all, it’s just a plastic breakfast. Stress-shopping doesn’t make the plastic breakfast become real, and banging my toy saucepan on the painted burner doesn’t either.

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” -Jesus (Matthew 6:25-27)

March 14th, 2016 by Dani

New on Trochia: Does Fruitfulness = Exhaustion?

I have a confession to make: I’m tired.

I’m trying to do all the right things and volunteer in all the right places. I say “yes” when my church needs me, when friends need me, when work needs me and when my family needs me. I took stock of my heart last night and realized that I am exhausted, that all of this working isn’t making me better, it’s just wearing me out.

Read more at Trochia, here.

January 27th, 2016 by Dani

Why Loving our Post-Partum Bodies Isn’t Enough

I’ve been seeing memes on Facebook about women loving their post-partum bodies. “You’re beautiful, you made a kid!” it says cheerily (and more poetically), with a picture of a glowing mom and beautiful baby basking in soft light. Of course, I’ve gained weight this year but did not make a kid, so I haven’t earned “beautiful mom” status, right?

I want to earn my way through life, therefore unearned gifts are suspect. I can only be three sizes bigger than my early 20’s because I went through pregnancy and labor – otherwise I should hit the gym and stop eating carbs already. I can only have friendships because I am a great friend – so I panic over perceived slights or failures, feeling I’ve jettisoned my relationships. I am teetering on a blade of grass, certain that the next time I buy bigger pants or make an ill-advised remark or miss a deadline I am about to fall into an ugly, lonely, unsuccessful abyss.

I know I’m not alone, though, or else these mom memes wouldn’t be circling about, trying to earn our way back to beauty.

So I have an idea. This year, I want to focus more on being than earning.

I don’t want to write because I’m earning my way to a book deal – I want to write because I love writing and I have something to say. I don’t want to live ashamed, squeezing into old jeans because I have never been pregnant and how dare I carry weight I didn’t earn – I want to be a good mom, fully engaged in my life and healthy as I can be, no matter what size that is or how my body came to its current shape. I want to be a good friend because I want to love people well, not because I’m afraid they’ll find me inadequate if I don’t.

I want to live in grace. Beauty doesn’t come from loving your body post-partum and it doesn’t come from being a certain size or shape. Beauty comes from grace. Grace with myself, grace with others, grace for the myriad ways I am neither beautiful nor excellent nor friendly every day.

After all, it is by grace we have been saved, through faith. We don’t have to earn it or excuse our way into it.

So, moms, you are beautiful – not because you made a kid (although good job!) but because God made you beautiful – long before and long after pregnancy. Fellow 30-somethings, you are beautiful, not because you are the same size you were when you were 22 (although, again, if you are, good job!) but because you were made beautiful – created to be uniquely you. We see our flaws so clearly, so isn’t it incredible that God also sees those flaws, and yet loves us still?

This is my goal this year, to live into my purpose as a loved child of God, and celebrate those around me because they are also unique creations of an endlessly loving and creative God. I will be myself, whether I think I am beautiful or not, whether I feel special or not, whether a Facebook meme tells me I am valuable or not.

At the end of this year, I want to feel proud of what I’ve done and how I’ve been – not because of what I earned, but because of who God made me to be.