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 ‘awkward girl’ Category

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.

November 8th, 2015 by Dani

Gratitude Project: Better Late than Never

For the last few years, I’ve tried to post a blog about gratitude every day in the month of November. This year, November came dashing around the corner like a new driver on Red Bull and so I am just now catching my breath and considering what gratitude looks like this time around. This is a weird season of life – I think that my heart is so full that every emotion lies in waiting to bounce out; like my heart is so close to bursting that sorrow and joy and love and shame and fear and hope just all clang together in a tight space as one or another bubbles to the top.

But I am finding gratitude even as I figure out how to navigate what my pesky little heart means by all of this overflow. Because it is far better to be fully warm, alive and at risk for tears than cold but safely navigating both joy and pain. I guess I don’t want to watch life play out from the bleachers rather than duking it out on the field, despite the reality that skinned knees and bruised egos will surely follow.

Today I’m grateful for the experience of this season. I’ve been surprisingly sad lately about being gluten-free even though it’s been more than a year since that became the new normal. I’ve been laughing with my baby and thrilled to see her laugh back. I’ve been relishing hikes as a family, Adam’s hand in mine, the little jokes and silly asides that make us us. Good and bad mingle just like that, don’t they? Because I crave a decent cheeseburger and a beer and find myself irrationally sad when that is not possible on a gluten-free diet, and then Adam builds a fire in our new fireplace and we snuggle up together as the wind howls outside and I am reminded that this is what matters – this is home and love and family and who cares if gluten-free hamburger buns are less-than-magical. So today I’m going to be grateful for these emotions, if that makes sense. Because life is hard, and I want to be real and honest and comfortable with some tears now and then. But I am not going to live only in the hard stuff either – because every hard thing has created a good thing – like going gluten-free reminding me of the kindness of strangers and the care of my husband, or the pain of a long adoption wait revealing the most gorgeous and unequaled daughter in the world – our very own, meant-to-be baby girl.

Today I’m grateful for the emotional jostling that gives depth and meaning, and for the hope that we can only feel if we’ve lived through a tough season or two. Today I am cheering for my family, drinking deeply of beauty and letting the hard stuff roll through without clinging to it or fearing it. Because we all have hard stuff in life – what makes us different is what we do with it.

May 11th, 2015 by Dani

Riding test

The other day, I had to perform a riding test at my new barn. Now, let me tell you right up front: I am not a sophisticated rider, y’all. I learned to ride from scruffy, fearless cowboys who told me encouraging things like, “don’t come off” and “that horse knows more cow than you do, darlin’, so let ‘im loose”. Over the years of teaching therapeutic horseback riding and watching others teach, I’ve picked up on more thorough riding techniques, but at the end of the day, I’m just a self-taught cowgirl, and I deeply feel my inadequacy in the presence of formally trained, sophisticated horse-folk.

Long story short, the test was actually really fun. My fellow instructors (intimidating though they may seem) were kind and helpful, and I felt like I actually got my very first riding lesson out of the deal. I walked into the barn feeling insecure, gangly and awkward, but I walked out hopeful and happy, excited for a new chapter in my wrangling life.

I tell you this story because I know that this will also happen with adoption and motherhood. One of these Mother’s Days I won’t find myself in tears alone in my car because I passed a florist. One of these days I will get to walk in the park with my own kids, and not just smile at everyone else’s kids as I walk my dog.

I don’t have a neat bow to wrap up here. I’m trying to see the hope and the bigger perspective, and I know it’s there. My head knows that all I have to do is sit back in my saddle and relax my elbows. My head knows that in order to move well, my horse has to bend and collect himself, and it’s my job to help him do that. My head knows that I have ridden hundreds of horses and have worked everywhere from cattle ranches to trail rides to therapeutic riding centers, that despite my lack of formal training, I know how horses work and I can do this. My heart says that I’m afraid of failure, that I feel lonely and altogether incapable of these big things. I feel small and silly and scared.

Maybe it’s OK to not have a bow to tie on this story. Maybe it’s OK to admit that maybe I am a little small, silly and scared, but that I don’t have to be anything else right now. Maybe it’s OK to just keep moving and hoping, and letting Somebody else handle the rest. Maybe I’ll just go for a ride, and let my horse remind me that I know more about all of this than I think I do.

February 26th, 2015 by Dani

Why Hospitality Matters: Reach and Belong

When Adam was in leadership with FUEL (the church singles ministry where we met) he was one of the “Belong” leaders – basically, his job was to make people feel welcome and build teams that would continue to make people feel welcome. In a practical sense for a church-based weekly event, this meant he had greeters at the entrances and tablecloths on the tables – in a broader sense, he was always looking out for the loner, the awkward girl (me – that worked out well!) or the opportunity to make a table more than a table, but a place to become real-life friends. For my part, I was drawn to the “reach” side of ministry – the inviters and fearless welcomers who brought others into the place to belong.

But this is ministry stuff, not real-life stuff, right?

I will never forget, maybe a month or two after we got married, Adam and I met at the sink during a party, at our cracked and tiny countertop in our little beach house apartment. He was opening a beer for a friend (and one for himself, probably), I was putting an appetizer together. It was loud in there – we might have had 20 or 30 people crammed into 800 square feet, and every one of them had something to say. Standing at our sink, we looked at each other and laughed – we were thrilled that people were getting to know one another, that they felt comfortable in our home, that we had “reached” and that now we all “belonged”, right here, right now, as newlyweds and oldyweds and single people and serial daters. We realized that we are “belong” people, hospitality people, that the lessons we learned in ministry actually meant something, here, in the nitty-gritty of real life, when our counter is small and our budget is tiny and our house is nowhere near clean enough or big enough for all these people.

I guess I’m writing this because, even though we value hospitality (reach and belong) highly and we see it as a core value, it’s still hard to do sometimes. Sometimes I don’t want my guests to see me crying in the kitchen because my life is emotional and hard in all kinds of ways. Sometimes I think, is this hospitality a thing of generosity or foolishness?

Hospitality is foolishness, in the end. We all want to be hospitable in the bed and breakfast kind of way, but we seldom want the drop-in or the abrupt change in plans. Hospitality is vulnerability, a willingness to let someone else into your mess and your gloopy, teary-eyed mascara and your saggy couches. Hospitality is sharing everything you have and then some. Hospitality is generosity you don’t expect, with people who surprise you. Hospitality matters because we have a big God who opens his arms wide to screw-ups like us, who adopts us as his children and who gives us a place to belong.

I’ve seen a lot of think pieces lately about how watching Jimmy Fallon on the tonight show is a spiritual discipline/high art/the best thing ever. OK, I get it, everybody loves Jimmy. But do you know why? Hospitality. He makes everyone on his show and his audience, by default, feel included. We’re all in on the joke, and he’s happy to grab us a beer from the fridge while we laugh. It’s not a cool kids club, and he’s not stingy with his affection or regard. We all love Jimmy, but how many of us are willing to be Jimmy? It’s easy to watch and laugh anonymously from our couches, feeling connected to people who will never know or judge us. It’s even easy to write criticisms of those who aren’t in on the joke and lambast others for not acknowledging the greatness of our choice to watch Jimmy Fallon every night, because (oh the irony!) he’s so inclusive and nice.

We all want to be the included, but how many of us want to include? We all know what it feels like to be put down or locked out, and that is the antithesis of the God we serve. So, I’m going to keep having parties and planning dinners and offering hugs. We believe in a God who loved while we were yet screw-ups (my translation) and who tells us to give cheerfully, for much has been given to us.

Hospitality matters, and it matters deeply. We all needed to be reached at some point, we all want a place to belong.

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?”

November 3rd, 2014 by Dani

Gratitude Project: A Bum Shoulder

Apparently I have reached the age at which sleeping in the wrong position can lead to eye-popping pain levels. On Saturday night, I had some minor discomfort in my shoulder, which by Sunday morning was at full-blown ice-pack-Advil-make-it-stop levels.

Of course I was tempted to feel sorry for myself, and The Gratitude Project, as it always does, slapped me in the middle of my wallowing. Nobody likes a bum shoulder, but I have to admit that there’s much to be grateful for here.

I’m grateful for Adam, who has selflessly helped me get my arms through sleeves (harder then you’d think) and take care of myself. I’m grateful that we live in the country, but that we’re also 10 minutes away from a pharmacy for surprise gimpiness. I’m grateful for the ease of modern medicine, that Advil and ice packs and kinesiology tape are relatively easy and cheap to purchase when you need them (also, how amazing is it that our bodies heal themselves? Wow).

Of course, this makes me really grateful, most of all, that I don’t have pain like this most of the time. An uncomfortable shoulder makes a comfortable one seem like a diamond-crusted luxury, and it really is. Today I’m going to be grateful for all the joints and muscles that aren’t sore – and I hope to continue that even after my bum shoulder heals up.

August 29th, 2013 by Dani

Up next, in the inexplicable emotion chronicles…

Last night, I realized that this weekend is Labor Day and we don’t have any awesome plans. To be fair, our lives have been a little insane lately, so it’s not like I’ve been missing oodles of opportunities, but this long weekend just snuck up on me. (We thought we would be closing on a house, this weekend, but instead we just have more hiccups).

So, in a surprising turn that surprises no one – I abruptly and suddenly sobbed about our lack of plans last night. Not because I need some awesome vacation every time we have a day off, but because somehow I’ve told myself that not having kids is OK as long as we’re out enjoying our freedom. Going for a long paddle with a baby might be a problem, so big adventures make me feel settled in our kid-less state. I’m trying to fix an ache that can’t be fixed with external soothing devices – which, of course, always backfire. So I cried, because, if we’re going to simply hang out for a weekend, we could do that with a kid in tow, and this realization breaks my heart all over again.

Before anyone says anything to me about going to the doctor or “not giving up” or how crying into my pasta is silly or anything else – don’t worry, I’m not always an illogical, emotional disaster. (“Always” being the operative term, ha!) I’m taking care of myself and we’re working toward kid-dom and I can’t wait for this whole thing to be an odd, funny chapter about the time that I cried at the dinner-table because Labor Day weekend was here. For right now, however, I’m walking through a season of sad, frustrated impatience – perhaps this Labor Day should be a time to recharge, reconnect and dig deep – because this journey isn’t over yet, and three-day weekends should be a time for hope and joy, no matter what we find ourselves doing.

June 28th, 2013 by Dani

These days

So, we put in an offer on a cute little old house on 13 acres. It got accepted. We had an inspection and quickly realized that wood rot, asbestos and countless unknowns do not a happy home make. We withdrew.

It all sounds so simple and sensible, doesn’t it? Life comes barreling through in the form of fast decisions and stacks of paperwork and tax returns, and we make the measured, mature choices that make sense. We put one foot in front of the other and we pray hard when the path is dark and lonely.

I keep thinking about these days – about how I’ll tell our kids these stories someday – about the old house we loved and lost, and the better one that came along. (Still crossing my fingers for that outcome!) About how I cried for two months because I realized that moving didn’t erase the ache, and now I had no girlfriends close by to distract me from it. About how God was faithful even when I felt like uncertainty and loneliness would last forever, how I questioned and yearned and hoped and wrote pages of thoughts which will never go anywhere but my hard drive.

Yesterday, I walked into Adam’s office. He was playing some kind of terrible pop music, and I was immediately overwhelmed with the need to imitate Beyonce’s amazingly awkward Pepsi dance. (You know the one.) It was terrible and awesome, as you can imagine. I was laughing, he was laughing.

I have to remember, when I tell my kids about this someday: that I want the goofy dances and the laughter and the mid-morning kisses to be part of the story too.

June 7th, 2013 by Dani


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.

March 12th, 2013 by Dani


My friends are all telling me: “how can you not like change? You’re so adventurous!”

To which I retort that they’ve clearly never seen me on a balance beam or going downhill quickly. (Both scare me. A lot.)

You know what else scares me? Well, I’ll tell you. The hubs and I are going to be embarking on a new adventure soon (more details to come) and I’m digging in with my fingernails, clawing at the people I love, trying to get them to promise me that they’ll care about my upheaval.

High school was a weird time for me – I was sharing one room with my entire family and basically had one day a week to see or make friends, so when I went to college I wasn’t very well-versed in how to do so. So I was awkward and homely and quiet and blunt and easily overwhelmed and very behind on pop culture and wearing Wranglers and a flannel shirt – but, for some reason, I still made friends. They were (are) the best. Since then, I’ve made more awesome friends, and been overwhelmed to realize that my heart could actually hold more amazing people.

As I’ve moved and, more importantly, as life has moved and caused relationships to change and morph, I find myself in minor panic attacks every time I think a friendship might alter in any way.

About a week after Adam and I got engaged, I actually cried about how my life with my single ladies would change – I totally wish I was lying. I still find myself trying to hang on to people, because I think that I believe that I’m the convenient friend. I’m the friend who makes a good Crock-Pot meal and is easygoing. I’m the do-anything, go-anywhere friend. So I fear that’s my only trait – that I’m only loved because I say yes. “Yes” is part of my personality, and not something I want to change – it’s a gift and a joy to be free and easy with my yesses – but there is a fear lurking there. What happens if the time comes that I can’t say yes? When a change rolls in that affects my ability to pick up and come over, to make a meal for a friend, to spend the afternoon running errands or gabbing about chick lit or snatching a latte with someone I care about – what then? I fear being forgotten, or, worse, realizing that I was worth forgetting, and never all that crucial in the first place.

I’m the inviter, the “yes” friend, the one with the stocked fridge and the man food and easy opportunities to hang out. I know that’s not the only reason I have friends – but there’s part of me that wonders – what will happen when I can’t fill that role anymore? Will anyone invite or say yes to me?