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 ‘family’ 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.

June 6th, 2017 by Dani

We’re Fundraising for Adoption Expedition #2

I sat down to write to you about fundraising, but it’s been a very hard letter to write. The truth is that it’s hard to ask for help. We all know the people who are quite good at it (maybe too good, perennial students and travelers come to mind) or quite bad (most of us raised with stiff upper lip sensibilities do everything on our own and like it that way).

But we know that asking for help is really important. It resets our hearts and reminds us that we are not all-powerful, as well as modeling humility and kindness for our daughter. I shared about how amazing it was to get help in the form of garage sale bargains and kindness of strangers, and the love, time and prayers of so many of our friends and family is as valuable as any monetary gift we could receive.

We used to go to a pretty affluent church which insisted that all missionaries, short or long-term, ask for support, even if they could have funded their work themselves. Because even when it seems like a noble thing to bootstrap one’s own mission trip, for an executive who’s bootstrapped everything he’s ever done, it’s actually the easier route. What builds his faith is letting his neighbor donate $100 and asking his high schoolers to help him put on a car wash. Asking invites community into this endeavor; lives are changed when hundreds of people get to be part of the story, instead of one person doing it alone.

So in our family, we’ve made a choice to live with open hands and open hearts. Sometimes, when I feel hurt or vulnerable, I wonder if it’s really wise to have an open door policy to our home and our story. But we believe God has called us to love publicly, and to tell of the faithfulness of God with arms outstretched, welcoming others into it.

So, we’re asking for help, again, as we venture into Adoption #2. We ask because we know that we can’t do this alone – monetarily, emotionally or spiritually. The average domestic infant adoption costs between $20,000-$50,000. We dare to believe that these children are infinitely more valuable even than these hefty price tags, that no one can put a price on love, faithfulness or grace.

Please give if you would like to, and feel free to share the link. We’ve made a tax-deductible website here for gifts and we are so grateful for any help you can offer. We also know that we can’t do this without our tribe of encouragers, prayer warriors, mentors and friends so we covet your advice, prayers, hugs, visits and hope.

Thank you for being our people. We have long prayed for a house full of children and a community that shows extravagant love for the least of these, and we are blessed beyond measure to watch that prayer come true, year after year.

May 25th, 2017 by Dani

What Love Looks Like

For weeks, we’ve been collecting clothes, toys, furniture and other sundries from friends. They’ve come over with moving vans and pickup trucks, minivans and sensible Hondas, delivering the treasures of last year or last decade to our door. We drove around our county to pick up items, always with a grateful heart.

Once I started to feel overwhelmed by the stuff of other people’s lives, we started taking trips to our garage sale site, Josh and Kate’s new home. We filled the garage, the carport, and the living room. I apologized a lot for taking over their lives, but they are nice and didn’t seem to mind. Kate knows a professional sign maker and got printed signs donated, that said “Adoption Fundraiser Sale” in big black and red letters.

Two nights before the sale, Adam was up almost all night for work. Adelay was fussy, I was tired. We hadn’t had dinner together for a few nights and I was feeling hungry for more than food. We needed a break but one wasn’t coming – we had a sale to run. The night before, Adam made several trips with sale items in the pickup, we ate dinner at 10 pm, Josh and Kate went out late at night to hang signs. I felt overwhelmed and maybe a little defeated. I wondered if we were crazy to go through this again, if we were being unfair to our kind friends, if maybe we’d overstepped this whole “live out loud” thing once and for all.

But do you know what love looks like? I can tell you.

Love looks like undeserved favor. Love looks like friends who laugh at your apologies and cheerfully work for your cause, because they have taken it on as their own. Love looks like a beautiful summer morning sunrise that you are ready for, despite four hours of sleep. Love looks like friends who dropped off more sale items, even as the sale was in progress, who came by with baked goods for the bake sale and hugs and cheerfulness for us.

One woman made a small pile of flower pots and a sundial, and asked, “What do you want for this?”

We’d sold so many things and there was something about her that seemed hungry for kindness, so I said, “Whatever you want to pay.”

She sighed and shook her head, “You’re very generous, but I can’t do that today. Just tell me what you want.”

I quickly smiled and offered a small amount, $5 or something. She followed up by asking me what we were adopting. I laughed and told her a baby. “We’re already adoptive parents and we’re adopting again,” I explained.

Her entire face changed. She looked at the ground, and seemed to be trying to collect herself. Then she handed me a crumpled $20 bill. “Good luck,” she said, and she started to cry. I reflexively gave her a hug and she quickly turned away with her items, I could see tears coming out from behind her sunglasses.

Love looks like letting your story out into the world. Love looks like the hugs I got from strangers who are also adopting, who gave us more than we asked, who are adopted themselves. Love looks like giving people a chance to share in a beautiful life-changing story, one that is just beginning to unfold, and could not be told without them. Love looks like friends who donate, bake, and give of their company and courage. Love looks like a toddler happily playing with safe adults, secure in the knowledge that her tribe is there for her and baby brother or sister. Love looks like the countless texts and calls we got from out of town friends and family to ask us how it was going and how they can help.

Love looks like $2497.84 being raised in a single weekend, selling $1 flowerpots and baby onesies for 50 cents. This is what love looks like.

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!”

April 11th, 2017 by Dani

Adoption Expedition #2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 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)

October 18th, 2016 by Dani

Not Good, But Right. (My Goodbye to Major)

majorI’ve been thinking about doing right and feeling good. Yesterday, Adam said to me that it doesn’t feel good, but you know it’s right. He was right, too, of course. Yesterday, I had to put down my horse, Major. He’s only been here for a couple of months, but I’ve loved him for a couple of years, ever since Kathryn, the lead instructor at Healing Reins, asked me to ride him twice a week.

In the months before we had Addy, when I felt like my heart was going to be crushed under the weight of its own longing, I would go to the barn and spend time with him. He was an old Belgian, and had done everything, been everywhere, seen it all. He was slow-moving and long-legged, with large kind eyes and big ears that followed my voice. When I needed a confidante I had his big strong neck to bury my face in, and he was exactly the kind of horse I needed in a tumultuous time in my life, when all I wanted was something solid. He was solid as a rock.

majorSo when he retired, I brought him home and dreamed of giving Addy the kind of four-legged friend I’d grown up with – wise, kind horses who knew how to comfort a child, an emotional teenage girl and a grieving soon-to-be mother alike. I haven’t outgrown the need for a quiet nicker and the feeling of horsehair under my fingers to help me cope with loss or heartbreak, and now he’s gone – I had to say good-bye to my gentle therapist and he’s not here any more to make me feel alright about it.

I won’t go in to why we had to make this heart-breaking decision but I know that it was right, even though it does not feel good in any way. I asked him if he was ready, when I was agonizing over the decision, and he laid his head against my back, in a gentle gesture of understanding. He knew, and he was ready, but it doesn’t make me ready to let him go.

majoraddyIt was a beautiful day yesterday and we spent our last couple of hours soaking up the sunshine in a close-cropped fall pasture. I told him about the fields of long grass that I hoped awaited him, the endless gardens of carrots and apple trees, ripe for the taking. I told him I would miss him terribly and I would never forget him, that I would always tell Addy about her first horse, the first horse I let myself love completely since my wrangler days, more than 10 years ago.

He laid down peacefully, like the wonderful big man he was. Kathryn came and hugged me because she loved him, too – he’s been a confidante, friend and joy-bringer to a lot of people over his long life. I sat next to him in the gathering dark until they came to take him away, running my fingers over his neck as though willing myself to never forget what he felt like. I knew he was already gone, though, running through his green pasture like a colt again. I can still hear his gentle nicker in my head, and I just wish I could bury my head in his neck one more time, so he could tell me, in his horsey way, that it doesn’t feel good, but it’s right.

August 19th, 2016 by Dani

Being Needed

Yesterday morning, Adelay and I went to Costco. This is a regular occurrence for us, and Addy knows the drill: eat graham crackers, smile at passers-by, kick feet out of cart-holes and chillax. She has the best life. Anyway, we were checking out and this elderly lady decided to make friends with Addy. She finally coaxed her into a rousing game of peek-a-boo and Addy really turned on the charm, laughing and covering her nose with her short little fingers (she doesn’t quite realize that the point of the game is to cover one’s eyes). It was super cute and it made everyone in the check-out a little happier, to see this little friendship blooming between a lady in her 70’s and a one-year-old.

After we checked out, Addy and I waved good-bye to our new friend and she said to me, “this made my day! Thanks for letting me play with her and feel needed.”

I thought that was a strange thing to say. But my cart was filled with the stuff of a young family: milk and cereal and a fleece pajama set for my girl, while hers had a few single-serving dinners and not much else. I don’t know anything about her life (she just played with my daughter for a minute in the Costco check-out, after all). But as I drove home I found myself thinking about feeling needed, and feeling sadness for this lady I don’t know, that she doesn’t feel that way.

I like to be needed. (Doesn’t everyone?) I like it when my friends call because they want to hear what I’ll say to news or a dilemma, I like it when my husband asks my opinion, I like it when Addy stretches out her arms to me with a little “hmmmmm?”

But the dilemma of motherhood is this: it’s so lovely to be needed, and yet there’s just SO much need! Can you need me for hugs and snuggles and then happily play alone while I do dishes? Can you need me a little less before I’ve had coffee, or a little more when I’m feeling insecure and lonely?

Need is needy. It pulls and pushes at me when I feel cranky and overworked, then it drifts away and I suddenly miss it, just when I thought I really needed a break.

It’s easy to feel small and silly, to wonder if my life matters or feel bluesy about the state of the world. But then need rumbles me out of my funk and gives me hope. Because if I’m needed by this little pigtail-wearing blueberry-munching girl, or if I’m needed by friends or family or church or home or work, then that’s all that matters, isn’t it? God didn’t give us these little lives to make us crazy, he gave them to us because the daily work of life really matters – the picking up of fussy kids and the smiling in the Costco line and even the answering of emails – it matters.

I’m so grateful to be needed. When I feel tired and grouchy, I will remind myself about the lady in the checkout line, who’s day was made by a five-minute encounter with the little person who I get to share life with, who I get to be needed by. May I never forget, this endless need is an enormous gift.

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.