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 ‘a room of one’s own’ Category

June 11th, 2017 by Dani

I want to be spilling over with a good story

I want to be the kind of mom who spills over with laughter when my toddler dumps out my eyeshadow on the carpet or I find teeth marks in my deodorant. (Both happened this morning before church.)

Today, instead of laughing, I felt my voice getting dangerously low. “Everyone out,” I said with the barest semblance of holding it together, as though just by controlling the volume of my voice I could also control the emotion behind it. “NOW.”

Then, I spilled over with something else: I cried. I cried on the way to church. I cried in church. I cried after church.

I want to be the mom who laughs, and today I was the mom who cried. I’m embarrassed by my anger, my frustration and my feelings. I don’t want to be angry with my toddler for being a toddler or my husband for being a man or my dog for being a dog (she dug up the yard today; I’m not ready to talk about it). I want to be the joyful mom who serves her family with a smile, not by force. I want good stories to spill out of me.

I am a force-of-will kind of girl, which is great when there’s a fight to win or a disaster to avert, but is less awesome when the fight is an hourly exercise in self-control. I’d like to scale walls, not count to 10 to keep from saying something I shouldn’t.

So today I prayed a sobby prayer: “Lord, give me grace. Give me joy. Let me spill over with goodness and not frustration. Let me serve without keeping score.”

Pastor Steve’s message today was about telling our stories, to remember what God has done for us and for past generations, which is why I am publicly telling you about my private failure. Because I am believing that it is possible for me to spill over with goodness and joy. I believe that I can laugh at the ingestion of hygiene products and the holes in my flower beds. I believe that motherhood is the greatest gift and that I can share my story of motherhood and marriage and adoption even when I feel so very unqualified to do so.

I’m writing this as a reminder to myself, a reminder to tell even the hard stories, because someday I will look back and say, “remember when I used to get so upset about our dug-up backyard/my lost earring/the dishes in the sink?” and laugh. Because the goodness of a faithful God reminds me that he granted us the backyard in the house that we prayed for, with a fence for our rowdy dog and kids, with beautiful green grass and flower beds which are not ruined because of one misplaced dog-bone. His story is one of faithfulness and redemption, as he gave us our beautiful Adelay Joy through adoption and is allowing us the privilege of adopting again. He brings joy because earrings, makeup and other items I lose are just things, after all, replaceable and not invaluable, unlike my relationships. He shows me that doing one sink-full of dishes while dancing is far better than three loads in silent frustration; that my kids, friends and husband will remember my joy and not how clean our home was.

I want to be the mom, wife and friend who laughs at silly things and holds fast to good things. I am believing that our faithful God will answer my prayer and give me strength when mine fails. He is good. My life is good. I want to spill over with that story – his good story.

Addy and I.

I also have to include this photo, taken by our friend Marco after church. Even when I am not at my best, Addy puts her arms around my neck and wants my comfort and safety. I want to be worthy of her trust, and show her how to encounter a challenging world with grace – that is another God-story in itself.

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.

February 10th, 2015 by Dani

Today is a gift

Adam and Guinness by the Deschutes River on our rainy Sabbath hike last weekend.

Adam and Guinness by the Deschutes River on our rainy Sabbath hike last weekend.

Today, our sunrise was pink, orange and yellow, like a morning mai tai. I heard a flock of Canadian geese flying and honking over brown fields, which still lie in wait for Spring, despite our unusually rainy and warm February. I’m drinking a hot cup of coffee from a John Deere mug, today I will drive toward snowy mountains on my way to meetings.

It’s easy to get caught up in the disappointments or daily inconveniences that wear us down. Did you pay the water bill? We need to do our taxes. Maybe next weekend we can build that shelf/fix that fence/clean that room.

Then I have a morning like this, in which each moment shocks me with its profundity. I am sitting at a table in a little country house we longed to buy for so long, that’s now ours in all the best ways. Geese are flying over, our puppy is playing in the yard. We are soon-to-be parents through adoption, and even though it’s unyielding and discouraging in all kinds of ways, it is not over, the story is not done, God is not through with us yet. Today, there are birds chirping in our blue spruce.

Today, there are pasta carbonaras to be made and coffee to be guzzled. Today, we have the gift of each other, of good books and long walks and a lovely candle to burn in the evenings. Today is a gift. Let’s unwrap it.

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.”

November 8th, 2014 by Dani

Gratitude Project: Gas Range and Oven

For six weeks, from mid-September until the last day of October, every meal we had at home was either from the grill or Crock-Pot. (Actually, we added a microwave about four weeks in). We washed dishes with the hose and we made our coffee in the bathroom. All of these inconveniences are tiny, however, compared to the joy of a full-size gas range and oven after six weeks without it!

When we lived in San Clemente, we had a gas stove, but it was “apartment-sized”, which was a popular size back in the 1960’s, supposedly. In case you’re wondering, “apartment-sized” really means “good luck roasting that chicken, amateur” or “HAHA a dozen muffins you MUST be kidding” or “I know I have four burners, but four pots is just too much to ask. I will now push your pots onto the floor, like so”.

When we first moved to Bend, our apartment stove was normal-sized, but electric, which meant that I either served burnt or raw food when using the range, because electric ranges are terrible (I can’t responsibility for my cooking failures, but not when I’m forced to use electric. It’s that awful.)

Now, this house had an electric stove, but I cackled with glee when we pulled that baby out. We placed a propane tank and a gas line, and glory hallelujah we are cookin’ with gas! Our range is so pretty I can hardly stand it. I’m making pastas and risottos and scrambled eggs with abandon and it’s awesome. Who knew that something so basic could bring so much joy? Come over sometime, we can stare at the blue flame together and I’ll cook something scrumptious.

Grateful doesn’t even begin to describe my feeling about the new range and oven. Ecstatic? Overjoyed? Fall-on-my-knees thankful? That sounds about right.

September 15th, 2014 by Dani

The Continuous Yes

We said yes to an 11-mile hike last week. Seems apt.

We said yes to an 11-mile hike last week. Seems apt.

On Friday, we had our home study visit. Honestly, despite all the nerves, it was wonderful. Our social worker was joyful, thoughtful and we liked her immediately. Our home was cleaned to perfection (can you say motivation!?) and even Guinness the Puppy behaved herself.

We have to complete a few more pieces of paperwork, and then our part is DONE! After so long of thinking and hoping and waiting and wondering, it’s a really good feeling to be so close. Now, since I’m so old and wise and experienced (haha) I want to offer some encouragement to anyone else on the cusp of a Big Life Thing. Say yes. Say yes once, and say it again.

When we started toward adopting, we had to say yes to a lot of things. I’m sure there will be more, but if we’d listened to fear and pessimism, we would never have even gotten started – that first yes would have stayed inside of us, trapped indefinitely.

I think that we, as a culture, have made commitment – the continuous yes – into a boogeyman. We want the cute girl on the beach with the handsome guy on one knee to say “yes”, but then we don’t much care if she still says yes in a year or two (The Bachelor, anyone?). Marriage conferences and books talk a lot about the difficulties of lifelong commitment and very little about the joy of being secure in a relationship with someone who knows you better then you know yourself; they extol the joy of engagement (the first yes) and shake their heads sadly over future yesses, dooming us all to seeming unhappiness. We talk about kids (biological or adopted) as little more than eating, breathing challenges, who keep us from having adult friends and a good night’s sleep. Isn’t it funny that the very things that make us fly into tizzies of Facebook joy cause us to sigh in exhaustion and annoyance in real life? We warn our friends of how tough marriage is and how tired we are from our kids, and then we’re over-the-moon thrilled when they announce engagements and pregnancies? That’s weird, right? Is it any wonder that we have a confused, dour culture that is constantly in search of the Next Big Thing instead of one that relishes the everyday joys and beauties of an imperfect but faithful life? We shriek with happiness when someone gets engaged and sigh with boredom over another night at home with our husband and some pork chops – when did we get so cynical? When did the first yes become the only yes we notice?

I struggled over writing about our adoption process because I feared the nay-sayers. I feared the boredom, the cynicism, the been-there-done-that sighs. I wanted to shout for joy and I feared that I would be shouted down by a culture that only sees joy in the big, Instagram-filtered moments and not in the countless small, quiet, faithful ones – a culture that loves yes in tropical climates when cameras are rolling and feels shackled by yes when days get shorter, nights are colder and relationship is harder. Of course, there are mountains yet to be climbed on this adoption trek. We are suited up and we are under no illusions that this is a hike for the faint of heart. But gosh if we aren’t blessed to see these views, glory in the God who made them and be grateful for the strength to keep walking.

Thanks for reading and sharing in our joy. Thank you for being a subset of culture, one that believes in continuous yes. There’s no way for me to tell you how much the encouragement of your prayers, support, calls, texts and love has meant to us over the last couple of weeks, and I am so grateful.

Today, I’m saying yes again and again. Yes to hope, to faithfulness, to obedience. Yes to waiting and dreaming. Yes to dirty clothes and chilly nights. Yes to hugs and kisses and a family that is on the brink of another, bigger yes.

June 10th, 2014 by Dani

I hope I never forget…

  • …what it feels like to have new carpet under my feet.
  • the giddy feeling that erupted in my chest when we bought cows for our pasture
  • the joy of sunny days on the back porch
  • the simplicity of dinner from the grill
  • how I jumped for joy over a new washer and dryer
  • how hanging pictures on OUR WALLS made me feel
  • how comforting a kitty in your lap is
  • why I love Oregon
  • how beautiful a sprinkler in the yard, a chair on the deck, a Diet Coke on my desk and a wreath on my door can be. It’s nice to be home.

 

August 21st, 2013 by Dani

The Hiccups

Our house, the one we’re trying to buy, has the hiccups. Depending on how this story turns out, it might be a hilarious, endearing sidenote about a lengthy process and How It All Worked Out in the End. It might also be a gnarly case of Killer Hiccups that turn into bloody, debilitating coughs and kill our dreams on the spot. It really could go either way.

I’m tired of the hiccups. I’m exhausted and nervous. All I want to do is lay down for a minute a week and ignore everything. But I can’t. There’s work to be done (that I’m woefully behind on, thanks, bank drama and house hiccups!) and something keeps pushing me, keeping me up at night, prodding me from YouTube scrolling stupor and urging me to pick up a pen and put this on paper. “Write it down,” the inner voice says, too gently for me to holler at it – yet I really do want to throw a pen at its head.

It’s hard to be faithful. I’m tired of being faithful. I wonder if all of this being on time and buying enough milk and saving money and writing every day will ever mean anything. The hiccups are getting tiresome, but there’s nothing to do but keep walking through them, so I guess I have to keep on. Hiccups can’t last forever, right? If they do, at least we’ll have diaphragms of steel.

August 14th, 2013 by Dani

Money in the Bank

We are in escrow on a house. (YAY!) Our bank statements got sent to some random dude by our lender by mistake (BOO!). It was our last day in Orange County, meaning that we had friends to see and meetings to attend and appointments to keep, all of which got instantly canned when we realized that our bank info was being emailed around the globe and our life savings was being trundled off in wheelbarrows by evil gnomes. (Maybe just one wheelbarrow, actually. We’re not that rich.)

Anyway, suffice it to say that I completely panicked. I sobbed on the phone with our lender and I stared vacantly at the teller at Wells Fargo, inwardly thinking “FIXITFIXITFIXITFIXIT!” and trying not to be too obvious that I was one shaky smile away from crying again.

It got fixed. Nobody died, I didn’t kill anyone or yell at anyone or get jailed for trashing the bank lobby, and our life savings is once again secure somewhere in a vault or wherever banks keep our stuff. It’s amazing to me, though, how vulnerable we really are. It felt, the moment I realized what had happened, like everything I’d ever hoped, saved and worked for was going to be gone, just like that. It felt so discouraging and frightening, and all I could do was pray and listen to Adam, who repeatedly said, “it’s going to be FINE” because he’s sensible like that.

Anyway, here’s the thing. Even if it had all disappeared, even if my worst fears had come to pass and some guy in Nigeria bought a palace with my savings account, it would have been OK. I’ve spent so long saving, hoping and yearning for a house of our own that I’ve kind of talked myself into believing that’s what actually matters. The truth is that it’s about what you do with the house, not the house itself. It’s about building a family and a community, about embracing friendships and sharing love. The house, as much as I can’t wait to buy it and fix it up and fill it with babies, isn’t the point.

Everything we have is a gift. I can’t make something mine by clinging to it or demanding that it go my way, I can’t live the future dream if my hands are too tightly clenched around today. I’m glad we still have money in the bank – but I’m also glad that’s not all we have.

June 7th, 2013 by Dani

Washing

When we were moving into our new apartment, boxes were exploding all over the house, crumpled paper littered our new carpet and questions were coming from every direction: does this item go into storage? In the house? In a cupboard? What do you want to do with this bowl/book/pan/trinket?

After a week of moving out, driving north and moving in, I didn’t want to answer those questions or think about anything. All I wanted to do was to wash dishes. It wasn’t necessary or sensible, but it sounded therapeutic and normal. I wanted to take a soapy sponge to something and see it transform from neglected and dirty to sparkling and ready for a new culinary adventure. Washing dishes and doing laundry both make me feel accomplished – the hum of the washing machine or the sight of an empty sink give me a feeling of settled-ness, like my little house is in order and my world is all right.

I was thinking about washing dishes and doing laundry this morning, because I am frustrated and ungrateful and yearning for more – and I am in need of the worship captured in a clean plate or folded underwear. I need to engage in seemingly small acts of faithfulness and kindness to keep my heart on course and my mind from wallowing.

The hard truth is that I don’t know how long it will take to accomplish the dream of a house and kidlets and everything I hope for. The harder truth is that none of those dreams are promised to me, as tough as that is to admit. So what am I doing while we wait in the desert, yearning for the Promised Land?

I think there’s more to washing dishes and doing laundry than simple cleanliness – it’s an act of hope, of worship, of steadfast faith. I believe that I should serve and clean and and work and write and enjoy because I believe that it’s going to get better. I believe that God is good. I believe that my dreams are not unfounded. I believe that the future is worth washing my good glassware for, and wearing a freshly-washed skirt to celebrate.