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 ‘good question’ Category

November 14th, 2017 by Dani

Watch the Ball

We’ve been teaching Adelay to play catch. She has only middling success at it, and one reason is she watches her hands instead of the ball itself. She stands there, grinning broadly, staring expectantly at her carefully outstretched fingers as if the ball is going to magically appear there, caught perfectly in her toddler grip. Of course, when the ball does land, it’s a total surprise and bounces off her hands every time. She’s not particularly bothered by this, and still shouts with glee every time the ball bounces away, but she doesn’t have much hope of catching it unless she changes her focus.

So we keep encouraging her, “watch the ball!” She doesn’t often remember to do so, but when she does, she almost always catches it, to the excited shouts of her parents and her own amazement.

It seems like we’re all waiting for something, and we still haven’t learned the lesson of two-year-old catch – we are staring at our empty hands, examining our palms and the position of our fingers in preparation for the ball, without keeping our eyes on the ball itself.

We stare at our empty nurseries, our empty ring fingers, our unfulfilled hopes. We examine our empty hands, wondering if we’re being judged because we don’t hold our fingers right or because we haven’t washed them recently. Maybe if we tense our elbows the ball will come, maybe if we visualize a ball in our hands it will appear.

Of course this is all fine but pales in comparison to actually watching the ball itself. God is at work, like a loving parent tossing a ball to his toddler. We don’t understand the game, we are watching the wrong things, we get caught up in accomplishments that aren’t actually important. When I take my eyes off of my own hands – my pain, my fear, my insecurity – I am so much more likely to catch at least a glimpse of the ball God is tossing my way.

We’re all waiting for something – life is a constant game of catch, watching, waiting, hoping, and scrambling after the balls that inevitably bounce away. But if I keep my eye on the ball, the promises of God’s goodness and faithfulness, the truth that he sees me and loves me, despite my awkward attempts at a game that is too big for me – I can live with hope and trust, and maybe, just maybe, actually catch the ball every now and then.

August 24th, 2017 by Dani

The Wilderness

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” -J.R.R. Tolkien

Last week I went to a writer’s conference, the first one I’ve attended in years. Before going, I asked God to show up – years ago I felt silenced by the expectations of others, by my own imperfections and my need to be understood, so I wandered away from the professional communities of writers. For several years, I wrote to myself, to paying clients and to no one in particular. I wandered in a creative wilderness, sometimes even finding myself in silence, with nothing to write at all.

wilderness. But recently I’ve been working hard at this new project, which I submitted to this conference’s contest, and I was a finalist. Just like that, I booked a hotel room and bought a conference ticket, hired the incomparable Mick Silva to help me prepare. Predictably, I dove head-long into this adventure, praying all the while that God would reveal a pillar of cloud or fire to lead me out of my wilderness, or least show me a town in the desert where I could get a decent cup of coffee.

Let me tell you: it turns out the wilderness is called the wilderness for a reason. There are no lattes here, no smiling storekeepers to lighten my load or give me a rest for the night. There is a lot of beauty though – craggy rocks that show God’s handiwork, the bright galaxies taking my breath away each night. I was inspired by the tales of fellow travelers in their own wildernesses, and guides who had finally made it to a homestead somewhere out there. Inspiration was everywhere, taking my breath away. But my larger aspirations were not realized – no agent who wanted to see my book, at least not as written. I did not win the contest. The wilderness stretches on before me and my only choice seems to be to keep writing, keep walking, or quit. No one can tell me how far away my homestead is, or if I’ll ever reach it. The wilderness teaches us only lessons of endurance and persistence, not of safety and home.

I’m disappointed, because I wanted someone to tell me how to do this and where home is, which is of course an impossible expectation. I’m a little tired of walking and I am tempted to feel quite sorry for myself, as if this experience doesn’t make me better at my work, as if all artists don’t struggle with the tensions between honesty and bill-paying and good taste. But here’s what I know about creativity – it blossoms in the wilderness. The most poignant works of art are always made by someone who cares enough about the art itself to weather a little rejection, a little mockery, a little dismissal. I don’t mean to suggest that I am that kind of stalwart, self-propelled artist, but I would sure like to be.

So I’m writing. Today, every day. I am writing. I am writing what I like to read. I am reading the work I aspire to. I am writing what I can be proud of, that feels authentic and unabridged. I am going to remain teachable and humble, but I won’t bow to every suggestion or whim, or be intimidated by every well-intended piece of advice I receive. Yes, I am in the wilderness and home is a long way off, it might be over that ridge or around that bend, or it might be so far I never reach it. But I have sturdy shoes, a God who knows my name and gives me a story of hope and redemption to tell, which is why I’m writing in the first place. I didn’t get a pillar of fire or smoke, but I did get a still, small voice, a quiet encouragement, the hugs and shared experience of new friendship.

Here’s to the wilderness wanderers. May we find beauty as we search for home.

April 8th, 2016 by Dani

Stress-shopping and Plastic Breakfasts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 17th, 2014 by Dani

Very non-exhaustive and unscientific tips for talking about adoption

We’ve gotten a lot of questions about adoption since announcing that we’re on an adoption expedition. One thing I’ve realized is that many people don’t know how to talk about adoption or what questions are “OK” to ask. I want to encourage you, though, to treat adoptive parents-to-be just like any other parent-to-be. We are excited, nervous, clueless and scared, and probably don’t have many concrete answers for you. That said, here are some non-expert and non-exhaustive tips to help you talk to and encourage adoptive families you know (translation: read this, or you’re a bad friend. Heeeeeeheee.)

  • Feel free to ask questions! I certainly can’t speak for everybody who’s ever adopted, but I do not mind answering questions about the process, the many steps involved or how adoption works. This is virgin territory for many people and I’m more than happy to educate. It’s OK to admit that you don’t know what to ask, too – we’re happy to tell you the latest and let you in to the journey.
  • However, when you ask questions, remember that this is a parent-child relationship, not a business transaction or a legal document. In the same way that we don’t ask brides about their wedding costs, or bio-parents about their hospital bills, avoid using language that makes adoption sound like a business transaction. There IS a lot of paperwork and cost involved and I absolutely don’t mind sharing details if you want to know, but how you phrase those questions can either leave me feeling vulnerable or encouraged. For instance, you could say, “how much does a baby cost?” or you could ask “do you need help with fundraising? What are the costs involved with bringing your baby home?”
  • “YOUR baby” “parents-to-be” and other normal phrases associated with bio-parents are gifts to adoptive parents. This is OUR baby. We are parents-to-be. Rejoicing with us, just as you would with a pregnant friend, is a generous gift to us.
  • Please do not treat us like we are fragile around pregnancies and new baby announcements! We want to celebrate with you and we would love it if you would celebrate with us. Our baby may not have our noses or smiles, but he or she will have our laughter, our memories, our love story and our joy.
  • Remember that we are expectant parents, and, just as you wouldn’t tell your pregnant friend about another friend’s gnarly miscarriage, so we don’t need to hear about your friend’s five-year-long adoption-related legal nightmare. Trust us, we know the risks. We have done a lot of research and we have heard every horror story out there. But just as a bio-mom knows that labor and delivery can be dangerous but enters into it with joy and expectation, we also wade into deep waters with optimism and love.
  • Which leads me to a sensitive tip: please avoid saying things like “it’s different than having your own baby” or “did you try to have your own?” We are having our own baby. God has called us to parent a child who needs a family and we are honored to do so.
  • (I’m gonna preach for a minute here) Remember that adoption is a choice. For many couples, including Adam and I, we have chosen adoption, not because of infertility, but because before we even got married we felt that God was calling us to adopt. We are strongly pro-life and we believe that every abortion breaks the heart of God, but in the U.S. less than 1% of women with an unplanned pregnancy make an adoption plan. In some cultures and sectors within our country, more children are aborted than born. We believe that God has called us to stand in the gap for these children in whatever way we can, offering the option of life to birth families in crisis. We as the Church need to stand in as mothers and fathers, literally taking the call of Christ to care for orphans, for the most helpless members of our society and live out that care in our homes and neighborhoods. This is a job that no government can do, no nonprofit can do, no church can do. Those organizations can help and be part of the solution, but they are not the solution. The solution is homes and families and a new way to celebrate life, one that relishes children as a gift from God within a family unit, because those little eternal souls are worth our heartache and expense. That doesn’t mean I believe every Christian is called to adopt, because I know that some are not and that is not a bad thing. But I do believe that every Christian is called to support adoption. That might be through helping, fundraising, celebrating and rejoicing with friends who adopt or just educating your kids about friends who may look different from their parents, therefore making your neighborhood a more adoption-friendly place.

Most of all, just remember that this is a time for joy. Every life is a gift and we are blessed to be parents, whether we fly across the country to meet them or feel them kicking inside us, whether we embrace the child at the moment of the blue plus sign or years later.

Thank you for caring enough to ask questions and give hugs, to participate in our expedition with such open hearts. We are indeed blessed, and everyone who reads and comments on this blog is part of the reason why.

April 29th, 2013 by Dani

The Captain Obvious Chronicles: Moving is hard.

We’ve had some changes up in here, folks. The desk from which I used to regale you has been commandeered by my handsome Hubster, who is now working from home in our new little life. I’m hoping for a desk soon, but in the meantime I’m sitting at the dining room table, looking out the window at clear blue skies and a cute little tree filled with chirping birdies. The breeze coming in said window is a bit colder than I’m used to, but what can I expect with snow-capped mountains in the distance instead of the expansive Pacific?

Speaking of the obvious, did you know that every tiny thing you own, from paperclips to water bottles, has to be put in a box when you move? And that those items get together in mysterious ways and have large broods of insufferable, cluttery, dust-collecting children? Well, it’s true, my friends. I have learned something very valuable about myself while moving: I am a foodie and have way too many spices, tools, glasses, and serving dishes of all sizes – and I never, ever throw away a t-shirt. I’m trying to figure out how to combine these two oddities into some cohesive revelation, but there’s really nothing there. I like wearing  t-shirts from Freshman Formal 2002, and I like making fancy dishes with two different kinds of truffle oil and Hawaiian salt. (shrugs shoulders)

We’re starting to settle in though. It’s amazing what a night snuggled on the couch with your honey will do for your soul when you’ve been hauling, taping, driving, crying, saying goodbye and toting God-knows-what up and down stairs for two weeks. I’ve never been so happy to go back to work as I was this morning – it felt so healthy and normal to sit down with a full to-do list and a cup of coffee – in stark contrast to the wildness of life lately.

But do you know what I appreciate about moving? It shakes me up. I’m dreaming big dreams – ones that make me choke up and live hopefully. I’m throwing away things that I used to hold tightly to – simply because they aren’t worth carrying anymore, they can’t save me the way I thought they could. Adam and I keep joking about all of the free time we’ll have because we don’t have any friends here – it’s heartbreaking to think of (hence the jokes, we like to laugh at pain) but it’s also filled with possibility. What will pour out of me when I don’t have a girlfriend to meet for coffee? Can I share those thoughts with you, Internet? Do I dare believe that I’m the same person when alone or when surrounded by laughing, loving faces?

Moving is hard, but what does this new life look like? I’m not sure, but I know we’re here for a reason. We felt drawn, called, pulled, pushed, kicked out – to what? What is here in the rivers and mountains that we need to find?

September 1st, 2011 by Dani

Inspired by 26.2

On Sunday, Adam and a couple of his buddies ran a self-designed marathon around San Clemente. Adam had run through the trails many times and decided that rather than pay $100+ for the privilege of punishing his body, he would create his own. So, at a little after six on a foggy Sunday morning, the boys were off, running on the trail below our house and preparing themselves for 26 more miles.

It was probably the hottest day we’ve had all summer, to be honest. By the time I met the guys with a pickup full of fruit, water, fancy engineered running foods at the first pit stop 90 minutes later, they were already tired. At each subsequent aid station I kept plying them with food and water, smiles and encouragement, and after a minute or two of rest by my dinged-up truck bed, they pushed on.

At the bluffs above the ocean, at the 23-mile mark, another friend met us to run with them for the last three miles. The sun was high in the sky, beating down on us. I was passing out fresh socks and waters and smiles but all they wanted was to finish. They just wanted to run into the ocean (the “finish line”) and celebrate.

After a grueling 26.2 miles, all of the runners guzzled high-tech exercise drinks, peeled off sweaty shoes and jumped exuberantly in the ocean. The “closer” our friend who’d run the last three with them, was warmly embraced into the festivities and his wife and I laughed at their antics from the beach.

We walked up to the house and all the runners got showers (Q: what happens when four sweaty marathoners use your bathroom? A: you don’t want to know) and we grilled several pounds of seasoned tri-tip and corn on the cob and munched on watermelon. There was a lot of laughter and a feeling of celebration. Several non-running friends came by to help us eat and congratulate the marathoners, we were all caught in the joy of completing such a feat.

I’m not a runner. I don’t think I ever will be. But I was inspired by the perseverance and vision of the guys who are. Everyone who participated in our little homemade event was embraced into a great story and everyone, from the team mom (me) to the cheerleaders and celebratory partiers to the runners themselves, were part of a team, supporting their cause. I wasn’t just doling out Gatorade and orange slices, I was giving hope and encouragement.

Everybody wants to be a part of the adventure. It sounds silly, after all, it’s not as though our marathon cured cancer, and we didn’t “do it for the kids”. But it was an accomplishment that one person had dreamed of doing, and through his careful planning, motivating enthusiasm and long endurance, became a cause, an event and a celebration for everyone involved.

I’m biased, but I’m inspired by my husband’s determination and vision and his willingness to let others join his cause. What are the other adventures that only a vision or an invitation away? When adventure or opportunity calls, I tend to strike out on my own, trying to prove once and for all that “I got this” – but I have a feeling that I lose something significant every time I start a lonely trek.

Adam, Rocky and Mike taking off after the second aid station. (This isn't the best picture, but my other computer kinda blew up and I'm not sure how to get the pictures off my camera and.... oh... stop judging, you).

July 28th, 2011 by Dani

The Beach (with Gussy Sews!)

You all know I love the beach. (After all, “getting tan” is listed as one of my interests on Facebook. No shame.) Since I married my studly fella, I’ve been so blessed to live within a minute of the water! We’re some lucky duckies here!

The trouble is, lately I’ve been feeling stressed and overwhelmed and to-do listed out… and I started realizing that I don’t take time to enjoy the incredible place we live. So last night Adam and I decided that rather than spend a bunch of money and time on a big vacation this summer, we’re just going to go surf-fishing, kayaking, sun-tanning and relaxing right here in our backyard. I’m already excited – I can’t wait to give myself some days off and enjoy the warm water (for Southern California, anyways) and sand with my hardworking fella.

But… just because we’re staying home this summer doesn’t mean I can’t recall some great trips we’ve taken… mainly our HONEYMOON to Costa Rica, where this picture was taken.

costa rica

It’s so much easier to kick back and give yourself a full hour to savor your morning coffee or time to sleep in or talk or hike or frolic when you’re in a foreign country – but I’m going to strive to play as hard as I work for the rest of the summer.

Also, head over to Gussy for more beachiness!

July 13th, 2011 by Dani

What do I have to say?

A couple of weeks ago, I attended an industry meeting for social media types. There were panels filled with professional Twitterers, Yelpers, Facebookers, LinkedIners and social media freaks and geeks of every variety. The entire day was packed with testimonials about the friendliness of social media fanatics, the usefulness of new technology and marketing techniques and the ways in which the world has grown both bigger and smaller with the use of social networking.

As a professional in this field, it’s all fascinating to me. I completely understand the value of online marketing, I love the real-time abilities of Facebook and Twitter and as a media junkie, I’m enthralled with the 24/7 news cycle. But something was nagging at me the whole day, something that has taken a while to percolate and find a voice, but is starting to float to the surface.

I’ve realized that as sparkly and winning as this technology is, it’s merely another communication device. We’re all amazed at these new ventures, but I could have attended a sleepy conference about the telephone or the typewriter for all of the depth it gave me. Because it’s not about the ways you communicate… whether you blog or vlog or tweet or Google + or Facebook us every time you stop at Starbucks.

It’s about what you say. What I say.

I haven’t been blogging lately because even though life has been overwhelmingly good, I’ve been in a funk and have needed a few days to myself to listen to my muse again, recharge my batteries and remember why I write in the first place. What I say, not how I say it, has begun to come to the top of the rolling boil of my heart and I’ve realized that skimming off the fat and nasties is much more critical than merely producing a half-finished pot of lukewarm thoughts.

Despite this realization, I find myself playing to the industry norms, worrying about my rankings and popularities and online witticisms until I’ve run ragged. Because any good blogger will tell you that you have to write every day in order to win and keep a following, and that social media requires daily, hourly engagement. But if I’m not speaking truth, if I’m not saying anything of value, what’s the point? I’ve gotten so addicted to the noise of new media that I’ve forgotten that a well-written paragraph or a tasteful note is of great value – not because it was hurriedly spammed into the Social Network, but because it was written with intention, crafted with care and said with grace.

So I’m re-entering the world of online communication with intention, remembering that my words hold power. Words were spoken this weekend at Momma Nichols wedding that reminded me: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” 1 Corinthians 13:1

I’m seeking to be much more than a resounding gong, even though technology rules and new messaging techniques abound. I want to use these tools to say something that matters, not to simply clang about selfishly in my own world, concerned with my Facebook fans and social networking chops instead of the people that my words affect.

What do I have to say?

June 20th, 2011 by Dani

Dear 15-year-old Dani,

Hello dearies.

Last night, we saw Les Miserables in L.A. and it was fan-flipping-tastic. Seeing as Adam was belting “I am Jean ValJEAN!!!” out the window as he drove to work this morning, I’m guessing he liked it too.

BUT, I have something better to tell you about. (The mind reels that there could be better news than LES MIS, but contain yourself. Please.) I am blogging today at the lovely Ginger Ciminello’s website! Ginger is the beautiful sister of my dear college roommate Valerie, and her blog is fabulous and insightful and cute and wise and you will love it.

When she asked me to write about my relationship with my parents in my teenage years, that sounded a bit daunting. I mean, really? I could hardly stand myself as a teenager, and I have no idea how my parents managed me. Oddly enough, I haven’t changed that much. (Depressing, I know.) I’m glad that I’ve grown out of some petulant moments, but I am still surprised by grace, still overwhelmed easily, and still blessed with people in my life who love me anyway.

Here’s to you, Mom and Dad. (Clickity-click for my guest-post!)

April 22nd, 2011 by Dani

“Some people follow their dreams, others hunt them down and beat them mercilessly into submission.”

When I was around 11 or 12 years old, in my childhood living room, my dad taught my brother and I how to protect our faces and deliver a hefty punch, in case we ever got into a fight. (This knowledge was only to be used against meanies, of course). (Which it has, if you must know). Later, in college, I had a punching bag in my room that I frequently used to assuage my frustrated feelings and rattle the hallways of our poor old house. I’ve never been afraid of a fight, even though I consider myself a dreamy/artsy type, hence why the title quote made me smile this week.

I’ve been thinking about dreaming lately, and the fight that it takes to turn a dream into a plan. It’s said that planners marry dreamers, which is definitely true in my life. I’m the spontaneous and overly casual dreamer – I don’t measure when I cook and keeping track of my keys is my biggest daily challenge.  Adam, the planner, makes a carefully printed out and detailed spreadsheet for work-outs, vacations and Big Life Decisions, while I tend to only worry about such silly details 10 minutes before we’re about to embark upon said adventure, at which point I realize that I maybe should have thought this through.

Being with Adam reminds me that I’m not a planner. Honestly, I’m in awe of someone who is so rarely rattled. So, if I’m honest about my own short-comings, I’m completely shocked that my business is thriving. I very nearly break out in stress-related hives every tax season, I have done my fair share of blowing by opportunities and I often make dumb choices. Basically, I’m me and I never realized that I could actually be good at things. I’ve always expected much more from myself, and when I didn’t deliver, I would assume that was just how it was. Punching something, in my mind, only helped me feel better – little did I know that very fight in my heart, and that mere strong-willed determination might be enough to overcome my failures.

I know now that a bit of grit goes a long way, and a good pummeling only makes me stronger. A few tough brawls have taught me that although I’m rejoicing in my momentary success, hard times are just around the corner. That’s what boxing lessons with my dad taught me, anyway, and it hasn’t been disproven yet – don’t ever turn around on your adversary, don’t ever assume you’re safe – fight until you know you’ve won.

As much as I’ve wanted to give up sometimes, I’m glad I’ve learned the art of hunting down my dreams and giving them a stern beating. I have a new, personal goal to achieve and it will take a lot of clobbering to overcome. Luckily for me, I have a deadly right hook.