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 ‘seasons’ Category

December 19th, 2017 by Dani

Taking a Breath

There’s a whoosh and a whistle in the air today, pushing out the warmth of last few days and bringing whispers of coming snow. There’s a dark wall of clouds hovering near like a conquering army, looking down at us as they ready themselves for a swift invasion.

This year I find myself taking deep breaths, like the clouds who are going to start snowing on us in a couple of hours but aren’t quite ready just yet. Adelay is thrilled by Christmas this year, wants to drink in everything with her usual exuberance. Isaiah is impossible to buy for and dazzled by the simplest things. We like to joke that he is our model baby Jesus, and since he seems mostly impressed by the smiles of those who love him, there’s probably a lot of truth there.

I find myself longing for a moment to myself and then missing my children the moment they aren’t with me, like a crazy person. I want to go shopping but I also want to purge my house of junk. I want to love people and also drink a cup of coffee by myself. This two kids thing feels like it might be overwhelming me sometimes, like the coming snowstorm, but then I recall that snowstorms are usually only beautiful and rarely scary. I just have to scrape my windshield and remember to wear thick socks, those are do-able things. Sometimes it’s necessary to give myself grace, to remember that I don’t have to be good at everything, that parenthood is a refining fire.

I find that people talk about parenthood in two ways – there are the grandparent types who have (perhaps willfully) lost recollection of late nights and toddler spills and tantrums, and smile beatifically at me with misty eyes. “Treasure these angels,” they say and pat me on the arm with kindness. Then there are the frustrated moms who are, by their telling of it, raising tiny demon-possessed mess-makers who do nothing but disobey and vomit in the car and wipe their noses on the tablecloth.

Neither of these is true.

I know this but I have to remind myself of it. Love is messy and so are children, even the forgetful grandparents know that. God’s love is perfect but our human variety is not, and we are often forgetful or judgmental or overly simplified. We yearn for snow and then spring and then snow again. We want love but offer harshness to others, we need hope but don’t know how to find it.

As I write this I see the wall of clouds advancing, making their move. My longing cannot make them move faster or slower, they will come and they will do whatever they are supposed to do, regardless of how I feel about it.

So today I am embracing snowstorms and taking a breath. Christmas sometimes feels like a sprint, and while I love all the hustle-bustle, there is wisdom is letting storms come and go, watching the trees sway from the window, treasuring the perfection of God’s artwork, the frost on the trees and the crunch of frozen gravel under my feet.

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.

January 10th, 2017 by Dani

Top Five Moments of 2016

I was going to write a New Year post that I’ve written before (inspired by the ever-lovely Valerie) about my top three movies, books and moments. But I feel like 2016 has been full of moments more than anything else, so I’m eschewing the regular protocol for something more apt.


Chandelier Mamas Seattle Trip

Within a few minutes of reuniting at Pike Place Market, we were snorting with laughter and eating too much seafood. This group of girls are fun, honest, thoughtful, adventurous and opinionated and I love them ever so much. Baller alert: we rented a minivan and went thrift store shopping. WE ARE SUCH COOL MOMS. (Side note: It feels indulgent to go on a girls’ trip – heck, it feels indulgent to read a book some days – but it is SUCH a good thing. Nobody wants a burnt-out exasperated version of you and we all need a break whether we have kiddos or not.)

Trips to Texas

These two trips get to be together in one moment because it’s my blog and I say so. In September, we went to Fort Worth to meet Addy’s cousin, precious Stella! We also experienced an incredibly hot TCU football game (there’s a famous quote that goes: “Fight ’em until hell freezes over, then fight ’em on the ice!” from legendary TCU coach Dutch Meyer. I do not understand this. Why is TCU football talking about ice when most of the time they play ball ON THE SURFACE OF THE SUN.) Anyway. It was hot. But being in Texas was fun, as always and we love our family so it’s worth it.

Then, in December, we went for Christmas, which was full of warm weather, delicious food, fun gifts, lots of laughter, enjoying family and, OH YEAH – a DALLAS COWBOYS FOOTBALL GAME! Adam and I got to have the experience of a lifetime in a Ring of Honor suite thanks to my lovely in-laws and it was just as epic as you imagine. No, more epic. I mean, Dez Bryant threw a touchdown pass to Jason Witten in the endzone RIGHT BELOW US and wow! My brain couldn’t handle all the awesomeness. It was also amazing to get to share this experience with Adam – babysitters and date nights have been scarce around these parts and this was a date night to eclipse all date nights.

Jacksonville, Oregon

We rented an adorable AirBnB in downtown Jacksonville and had a lovely weekend together as a family. We tasted wine, we went on walks, we exclaimed over the cuteness of the historic downtown (OK maybe that was just me). It was a perfect getaway and a good start to the new reality of Kid Weekends, which are delightfully different than anything we’ve done before.

my baby

Addy’s First Birthday

My baby is one year old. Actually, at this writing she is 18 months old, which is blowing my mind. We had a little BBQ for her (and America, let’s be honest) on the 4th of July, and she ate cake and got a sand toy set and a new truck to ride on and was generally adorable. A few weeks later, the Do family came to visit and SHE WALKED for the first time! I wish that hundreds of people had told me that my life was going to change forever. Oh wait, they did. And it did. But it’s great and I am grateful for it.

New Endeavors

I joined a Creative Non-Fiction writer’s group in 2016 and it is the quirkiest, loveliest group of opinionated scribblers you’ll ever meet. I love them so much. We meet at a home and talk writing and critique each others’ work and drink tea and laugh kindly at our foibles. We range in age from 30-80 and we probably don’t agree on anything except this: good stories well-told matter deeply. That’s enough.

I also became the freelance food writer for our local newspaper’s special projects department, as well as did some more magazine work and communication coaching. I also spoke in public about adoption (Camp Morrow!) and it went really well. God has been pushing and pulling me into uncomfortable places, and with a trembling heart and quivering voice I’m striving to say yes to Him.


Speaking of new endeavors, I went to Business Boutique in Nashville with my dear friend Kate and then-copywriter Hannah. We were inspired and educated, uplifted and given focus. The conference was worth every penny and was truly life-changing – but being in Nashville was extra fun. We ate so much great Southern food, we laughed ourselves silly, we honky-tonked and blues-clubbed, we Ubered and walked down charming sidewalks to little cafes. Kate heroically drove us home through the night after a cancelled flight got us in to Portland at an ungodly hour, and even that was bearable with camaraderie and the reality that everything really is funnier at 3 a.m.

Honorable mentions:

SoCal baby shower for Adelay, a trip to the coast with the Nichols, hosting Thanksgiving for the first time, a lovely pampering spa weekend at Brasada Ranch for my 33rd birthday, getting to have my parents visit for several days/weekends, Labor Day weekend with the always-wonderful Annie P, a new practice of getting regular massages from my dear Kate, an entire weekend with horses at Camp Morrow, teaching at Healing Reins, reading (and comprehending!) books with Addy and getting to have Major here (even though I had to say goodbye, I loved that wonderful old fella).

All in all, 2016 was a heck of a good year. I know that’s not a popular idea these days, but from my corner of the world, it’s very, very true.

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.

February 19th, 2015 by Dani

Spring Manifesto

It feels like Spring around here. Instead of the usual snowstorms and cold flurries of February, we are enjoying bright, sunshiney mornings and warm afternoons. My bulbs are popping up in the flowerbeds and the grass is trying to grow despite the fact that we won’t have irrigation water until April! Since Spring is springing, I thought I would also get a jump on my manifesto for this season, especially since that’s probably a surefire way to get some snow.

Bandit and I, last Spring, right after he came into our family.

Bandit and I, last Spring, right after he came into our family.

So, this Spring I want to:

  • build our outdoor cooking area. We have a Big Green Egg smoker, a grill and a deep-fryer and they all need a home on our deck. We have material and ideas for a nice little cooking area, and this is the time to make it a functional, pretty place.
  • work in the yard, and maybe even plant a little veggie garden. I am no great gardener, but I have a compost tub and a lot of enthusiasm. That has to count for something, right?
  • go camping. We decided to move to Bend while sitting in our camp chairs on the edge of the river, drinking Deschutes beer and realizing that our lives were going to change in a big way. Whenever big life stuff seems imminent, I want to camp, to remind myself that I’m really not in charge and to reconnect with Adam as we forge forward in this adventure together. So this Spring, as soon as the nights quit being so chilly, we are loading a cooler with hot dogs and we are headed for the boonies, at least for a night.
  • enjoy my office. Adam has worked so hard to help me get my little barn office in order, and it’s so much fun to have my own space out there.
  • move forward with therapeutic horseback riding. I interviewed with a local therapeutic horseback riding center and have been helping out there once a week. It’s such fun to be with kids and horses again, and I want to continue getting involved, even in small ways.
  • pursue girl time. Whether it’s a glass of wine on the deck, a weekend trip or just the occasional email or phone call, I want to spend time with the great girlfriends God has given me, and tell them how much they matter to me – even when we’re far apart or when time together is hard to find.

What’s your Spring Manifesto?

February 18th, 2015 by Dani

The Needy Friend

I’m the girl who cries at Bible Study, who sends super-depressing texts in response to thoughtful “how are yous”. I hear a critical observation about adoption or foster care and I obsess over it for 24 hours, unable to clear my head of that doubt or criticism until I’ve worked out all my own answers to those tough questions.

This is embarrassing to admit, and it makes me really fun to live with, as you can imagine. I’m officially the Needy Friend, and I hate it. I want to have something to offer, to be the laugher and the truth-teller that I usually am. But this is my tough season, and I realize that real relationship and community means I have to be OK with my own neediness.

The bane of human relationship is that we are not filled by ourselves. Even the most introverted among us needs a friend or companion, someone to tell us we aren’t crazy or maybe help us realize that we are, but it will be OK. We all want to be the helper and not just an insatiable well of need, to be the hero and not the guy getting dragged out of a warzone by the back of his shirt.

But I’m realizing that sometimes I just have to sit in this vulnerability, to admit my own need and swallow my pride. I have to be OK with admitting that I am a sap and that I’m tired of feeling this way. When the Ugly Cry comes my way, what do I do with it? Do I let people in or do I turn away and hide? If I let others in, I find that I can dry my eyes and chuckle about it much sooner – it’s a tough season, yes, but not tough in a soul-crushing, heart-eating way. I am still choosing joy, even as I recognize my humbling position as needy friend and frequent crier. (Like frequent flier, but with less perks. Actually, no perks except for very clear sinuses – which I suppose is indeed a good thing.)

I may be the needy friend, but I know this won’t last forever. I know that someday these loving friends who step into my mess will need me too, and maybe God will have even taught me something in this season that will offer hope or comfort. Even though I feel needy and overwhelmed, it’s still a beautiful season. I’m decorating my office, hanging up pictures of Adam and I on our wedding day and the countless adventures we’ve had since. I’m unpacking books and putting them on the new shelf Adam made me, an endless inspiration for my own creative endeavors. We go on walks with our dog and snuggle on the couch after long days.

Adoption inherently opens us up to a lot of brokenness, but the broken doesn’t scare me anymore. I can see all around me and in my life, how God turns broken things into beautiful things. He uses our needy brokenness to make us whole, and so I am humbled and maybe even thankful to be the Needy Friend.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-11: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?”

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.

November 6th, 2014 by Dani

Gratitude Project: Beer and Hot Wings

My diet has changed quite a bit in the last month. The hardest thing for me to give up has been beer, since Adam and I both love breweries and good-old-fashioned football food. Set us up with beer, hot wings and/or a pizza and we’re going to be happy there for a very long time.

There is gluten-free beer available at most grocery stores, but drinking a bottle of GF beer at home wasn’t even my main concern; what really broke my heart was the thought of our casual date-nights going away, and also keeping Adam from something he loves because of my dumb disease.

Last week, we had an appointment downtown late in the afternoon. “Want to head to Deschutes?” Adam asked carefully when we finished, knowing that eating out tends to make me either panicky or tearful as I’m navigating this new diet. I was feeling courageous, so I said yes and we walked to the Deschutes Brewery Pub. Outside it was drizzling, so once inside we went into the bar and found a sweet little table right by the fireplace. SportsCenter was rolling, the fire was crackling and I felt almost like a normal person. Deschutes has a GF beer on tap, so I ordered it and couldn’t believe my tastebuds. Delicious! We asked for gluten-free food options and were brought an entire GF menu, and folks, this is where it gets good. We ordered hot wings and fries, all gluten-free and all amazing. I cried as soon as the hot wings came out, because I just couldn’t believe it. Here we were, enjoying the kind of low-key evening that epitomizes “us” and almost nothing had changed. Adam started to worry that my tears were the upset kind, but I assured him that no, I can’t believe what grace we have – I can’t believe how good this is – I can’t believe how blessed we are.

So today, I’m grateful that not everything has to change, that sometimes love is shown most poignantly through the simplest things. I’m grateful for beer and hot wings.