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 day’ Category

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.

December 14th, 2016 by Dani

Snow Day

family hike in the snowIf you know me, you know I love Christmas. I love the whole season – I play carols and bake cookies and pull out the candles that smell like fir trees. I love to savor Christmas – I like to pick a particularly cozy Christmassy book to read every year, and no Christmas is complete without a reading of A Christmas Carol, like a predictable conversation with an elderly friend, one that somehow manages to surprise and delight even when you know exactly what will be said.

This year, Christmas has felt less like a quiet, sanctified season of traditions and more like a flurry of activity. I haven’t even met up with Marley’s Ghost yet and Christmas is a week away! I am running, keeping up with my toddler, my growing business, my personal projects, my list of responsibilities. I am on the edge – I might burst into laughter or tears, I might make a lovely braised beef shank for dinner or I might leave it on the heat too long and make a charred doggie treat for Guinness. Adam took us out for a lovely weekend getaway for my birthday, and I let myself fall into relaxation like a giant snowbank, only to find myself back in the frenzy within moments of returning home.

And then, today, like a miracle, like a kiss – we get a snow day. Just like that, all is calm. School is canceled, the barn is closed. Meetings begin to drop off the calendar and I hear the fire calling me, asking me to slow down and sit a while. I heat up a cup of coffee and watch the snow fall. Unlike rain, which either patters drearily or beats down with fury, snow just falls. Whether heavy or light, the first or the last snow of the year, it’s all the same in its perfection. It covers up ugliness, it silences the rattle and bang of a storm. Old cars and new alike look quaint when covered in snow, wipers propped up by wise owners. Christmas lights glow cheerily, tree branches hang down, heavy with beautiful white blankets. You can’t drive fast in the snow. Stores close early, hand-written signs grace small restaurant windows: “Snow Day”. You text your friends with cheery words of wisdom: “Drive safe! Stay warm.” I’m reminded of how blessed we are to have a warm fireplace and a full pantry on a day like today.”Though our sins were as scarlet, we are washed white as snow.” Snow hearkens of Christmas, because we need grace at Christmas. I need to be reminded that as much as I love the parties and presents and traditions, grace is what matters. Grace for today – snow on my roof, on my old car, over the places in my life that I’m not proud of and the things that I’ve tried so hard to make beautiful. Snow covers it all with the same grace and peace. Thank you, God, for snow days.

May 13th, 2016 by Dani

Learning Joy

It seems to me that we are very bad at both grief and joy. I don’t know if this is an American thing, or a Christian culture thing, or a modern too-cool-to-care thing, but I feel it in my life. When we moved to Oregon and I started to realize that adopting a child was not just a vague longing but a desperate, quaking fire within me, I got good at grief. I’d been longing for motherhood for a while, but suddenly I had to grieve the process in a new way, admit the discomfort and pain I felt and even let it out into the world sometimes. Grieving should be public, in the way that mourners of old used to dress in black for months, showing their community an outward view of inward pain. But nowadays we mask it, pretending it’s gone after the funeral is over or morning comes. We grieve quietly, privately; we “put on a brave face”.

I couldn’t do that, when I realized that our adoption expedition was really happening. I grieved every child who we didn’t get to parent. I grieved every birth mom and dad in pain and uncertainty. I grieved for my own longings. Often this came out in public displays of embarrassing emotion, but as much as I hated my weepiness then, now I’m glad for it. The careful recording of my emotion on this blog and elsewhere helps me to remember that God indeed did answer a quite desperate prayer, and that grief – strong and powerful though it was – was not bigger than the goodness of God.

Now, we’re in a season of joy – and I admit that I am very bad at this, too. I cried during the Mother’s Day service at church because I felt empathy for all the women there feeling as I used to feel. I felt for the birth moms and foster moms who know the pain of loss; women longing to be moms and moms who’ve lost a child.

I’ve been looking forward to Mother’s Day since long before Addy was born. Longing to feel like a mom has taken up much of my thoughts for years, and I dreamed of the satisfaction of that first Mother’s Day. So why did I cry? Why did I find myself chasing joy instead of letting it float over me – why was joy hard to accept and hold on to, on a day that should have been filled with it?

I think that as bad as we are at grief, we can learn to be good at it. We all know someone who’s a little TOO good at grief – life becomes a minefield of woe for such a person and a simple cup of coffee is a tumbler of bitter tears. Even though Jesus is described as a “man of sorrows; acquainted with grief” I don’t think he melted into his friends like a needy child over every slight or difficulty. I think he probably laughed a lot. He was probably much more joyful than we give him credit for, with our long-faced medieval paintings and sobbing crucifixes. After all, he was a boy once, and boys are impish and fun and infinitely joyful!

So, once we’re good at grief, we have to re-learn how to be good at joy. Honestly, I think joy is harder. It can be seen as flighty or foolish, when it’s really the deepest faith of all. Joy is humor, life, fun, sunshine. Joy makes waiting rooms bearable and long nights pleasant. Joy and celebration make us grateful, hopeful, happy people.

It’s essential to have joy and embrace celebration, especially when we’ve experienced grief, and maybe even gotten a little too good at it. Because joy reminds us that life is for the living, that prayers get answered, that the sun always rises. Think about it – God made taste buds and chunky baby thighs and laughter and the smell of summer rain and the feeling of holding hands. He made sunsets and lavender and horses and puppies. These things are all joyful gifts, worthy to be celebrated with a bubbly drink and a boisterous toast. I want to get better at joy, starting today. I’m going to chuckle with my daughter and play fetch with my dog and plant my garden. Today is a day for joy.

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

February 9th, 2016 by Dani

Little life, big life

Everyone pre-kids is annoyed by other people’s kids. They’re clogging up Facebook with endless photos of stocking feet and chocolate grins, and our friends who used to talk to us about books and adventures and movies and politics now just tell us about the latest thing their cherub said, how he is sleeping/eating/pooping these days and what it’s like to not sleep. Trust me, I know.

I have swung wildly between yearning to be included in the parent conversations of my friends and then aching to talk about anything but kids and babies. Now, as a parent myself, I wonder: how do I include my childless friends in my now very child-filled life? What can I do to think of things that inspire me and move me, other than the wild adventure of motherhood?

Addy in Target

Here’s what I decided yesterday as I strolled through Target, unbelievably tickled with myself for trusting Adelay in the shopping cart seat and rediscovering the joy of walking without 21 lbs of wiggly kid on my chest. I decided that I will be delighted and grateful for every small moment – like walking through Target with my girl in the shopping cart seat – but I will never forget that while life is made up of small victories and little joys, that is not all life is.

I think we find ourselves in an abyss of chit-chat and thoughtlessness when we let ourselves believe that life’s little things are the only things. Somewhere along the way we realize that we wasted our years in idle gossip or mindless phone games, and that we are actually very lonely, bored and unfulfilled. Because while the friendly chat with a neighbor or the innocent grin of a child is truly lovely, we can get lost in those little moments and miss the big ones – we can miss the “why am I here” conversation, or the quiet meditation in our own hearts that leads us to new things. By focusing on the daily requirements of work, groceries, diapers, sleep, we can miss the larger requirement – that we allow our hearts to be fully alive. We have to dare to be creative – to take the long way home or read a challenging book or try a new recipe or brainstorm a new project. We have to dare to dream of five years from now, and let others in on those dreams. Of course, this is not limited to parenthood – surely non-parents also can coast through their days – but for me, I feel the war of stagnation and purpose in a way I haven’t before.

I do not like writing about this. I don’t like admitting that maybe I’ve been obtuse, that perhaps I’ve let a little laziness creep in to my thought life or heart life. So today I will be renewed by every grin from my beautiful girl. I will embrace the moment, be grateful for the home we’ve made and the life we have. But I will also let my mind wander. I will consider my dreams, and how I can make them real. I will talk to my friends and family about more than parenthood, and therefore showing Adelay how to dream as well.

Today I am relishing my small victories and little joys. Today I am dreaming big dreams and daring to embrace new adventures. I don’t want to look up in a few years and wish I’d thought ahead or explored life more fully. Today is big and little, dream and mundane, hope and peace.

February 23rd, 2015 by Dani

Central Oregon Staycation – recharge edition

It’s no surprise that Adam and I are a little worn out as we walk through a tough season. Emotionally, spiritually and relationally we are burning the proverbial candle at both ends, and it started to become quite clear that we needed a Sabbath, staycation weekend to reconnect and regroup. (We like to staycation, and we have done it to great effect a few times. If you’re bored or need staycation inspiration, check here and here.)

Guinness and I in John Day.

Guinness and I in John Day.


Adam and Guinness.

So, we started with a massage Thursday night – woo! Then took Friday off and staycationed the heck out of Central Oregon. We breakfasted at a local joint (The Victorian Cafe), then took the puppy for a hike up Black Butte and went for a personalized tour and tasting of Bendistillery with our buddy Joe, who is lucky enough to work there. Came home for some mac and cheese and went out on the town with friends, even stopping at the illustrious Stihl Whisk(e)y Bar, a place Adam has long wanted to visit and which did not disappoint.

Saturday was cold and rainy, so we made brunch at home, and then spent a few hours at the Des Chutes Historical Society museum. We got coffee at Palate, even though we’re not nearly cool enough for a hipster joint like that, poked into an antique store and did a little downtown window-shopping. That evening, Adam and some dudes lit a bonfire in our pasture and I cozied up in my office with a good book, a little work and warm kitty on my lap, which was about perfect.

(null)_3Sunday we took off for the John Day Fossil Beds with Guinness and a packed lunch in tow. We hiked through the painted hills and rambled all over the awe-inspiring rangeland of Eastern Oregon, absolutely blown away by the beauty of it. Guinness loved the hikes,¬† long car ride and bits of summer sausage she wheedled out of Adam’s hand, and we loved a long day of talking, reconnecting and hiking in God’s beautiful creation. We came home and braised a London Broil and watched a movie together on the couch after dinner. It was perfect.

You know what, though? Staycation doesn’t come easy, just like Sabbath doesn’t come easy. We have to take the time to hear each other, see each other, to talk about unpleasant things like budgets and expenses (yes, these conversations are what staycations are for!), to rekindle¬†curiosity about one another and our surroundings. It takes work to get to fits of giggles at each other, when you feel like you’ve talked out the tough stuff and you’re ready for a hearty laugh. It takes work to suggest a new breakfast place, a new hike, a new topic of conversation or a even just a new inspiration. Sometimes we get stuck in either the old or the new – either an unhealthy desire for everything new, constant change and unwillingness to sit still with ourselves; or a bloated ennui and a feckless unwillingness to dive into the deep end of one another.

(null)_1But this weekend we walked the line of both old and new. We didn’t demand change but we didn’t sit stubbornly in our comfort, coldly asserting dominance over each other. We relished our long friendship and sweet romance while acknowledging that it’s not a fairy tale, that weekends like this one are what keep us pressed against each other and falling ever more in love even in the tough seasons, because we are willing to take the opportunities given.

Today I’m recharged and hopeful, thankful and happy. It’s amazing what a little staycation can do.

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.

January 22nd, 2015 by Dani

Easy or Adventure? I Choose Adventure

I can be a roommate to my husband pretty easily. We’re both easy to get along with, we pick up after ourselves, we grab a beer from the fridge for each other. What’s much harder is to invest in each other, to listen carefully to hopes, dreams and fears, to reverently hold one another’s heart in our hands.

Sometimes you have to remind yourself to take the time to go the long way and hold hands, be willing to have a fight if you need to, not brush something under the rug, and trust our spouse to love us anyway. Sometimes we need to make out on the couch or go out to dinner or stay up talking way past our bedtime, because we should never forget how wildly in love we really are, or that such a beautiful thing is worth the work of staying in it. Love should be a grand adventure, not an easy coast. But the adventure is often cold and windy or chapped and hot, and sometimes it sounds nice to drown out the call of the wild with a little reality TV instead – to skip adventurous flavor and sound and opt for frozen pizza and Diet Coke and a GEICO commercial. It’s just easier.

This is true in adoption too. Adoption is a larger-than-life roller coaster of emotion and work. There is a lot of time and effort and money spent just keep us in the adventure, let alone successful in it. Sometimes, it sounds easier to get off the ride and head to the nearest park bench. Sure, we’re young and energetic with nary a heart problem to be found, and technically we could keep riding – but we’re tired. We’d like the Lazy River, thanks, and a bag of FunYuns (oh, and an antacid pill, while we’re being¬† boring). No adventure, no fear, just a long slow coast to nowhere.

Adventure means fear. Our marriage is the most fun and romantic when we’re working together toward a common goal, but that also sets the stage for fights and eye-rolls. This adoption expedition is worth doing but it is hard. We have self-doubts and we have outsiders telling us what’s best for our not-yet-known child. Our culture is keen on racial divides and white privilege, telling us we have no business following a call to rescue a child or invest in adoption because we’re white and therefore bad, that no matter what we do our child will never be accepted because he or she is not biologically ours.

Today, I’m emotionally exhausted. I don’t feel like I can keep fighting or stay on this roller-coaster. I am aching for a soft blanket and FunYuns, but I’ve been given a tarp and an MRE instead.

But last night, Adam and I were both tired. We could have retreated to our corners and played on our phones, or given each other the Roommate Treatment. But instead we put on collared shirts and we went to the cheap movie theater in town (one with couches!). We kissed and held hands and giggled in the back row of our $4 movie. We made the effort to talk about how we felt and what we needed, and our whole day felt rescued by that foray into adventure. It wasn’t a coast, and it wasn’t as easy as our living room or our smart-phones. It was more dangerous than quietly doing our own thing, but it was also more rewarding. I’m constantly reminded of how blessed I am to have a partner like Adam, who loves me so well and is always willing to make an effort, even when coasting seems easier. It may be easier, but it’s not better. Adventure is hard but oh-so worth it in marriage, and I’m trusting that the same is true in adoption.

December 12th, 2013 by Dani


I like writing lists – ideas for new adventures, looking back on what I’m grateful for, hope as I teeter on the edge of a new year. Usually, on my birthday, I like to try to peer into the future, and list out my hopes for what’s to come and the lessons I’ve learned on the way.

But today, as I turn the big 3-0, I feel powerless to engage in my usual predictions or to pull some useful lesson from 29. Twenty-nine was a rollercoaster, a close-your-eyes-and-jump kind of year that I’m still gasping from, and I have a feeling that we’re teetering at the tippy-top of another duck and roll, so I’m not taking my seatbelt off just yet.

So, 30. What am I wishing for and grateful for as I enter a new decade, despite the hairpin turns that are sure to come?

I’m wishing for solidity, a home to call my own and a community that fills it with laughter. I’m grateful for the homes we’ve already laughed in, for the community we have (even from afar!) and the hope that keeps us searching, yearning and loving the life we have. I’m wishing for the next generation of Nicholses, and grateful for yet more adventurous outings and snug nights, as we enjoy our “just the two of us” life. I’m oh-so-grateful for a God who sees all of our desires, and who holds my thirties in the palm of his hand. If 30 is half the year 29 was, at least I won’t be bored!


January 18th, 2013 by Dani

Four years, Baby.

Four years ago today, I married the love of my life.

The last year has been strange and hard in all new ways. That may seem like a weird admission to make on an anniversary post, when the Internet says that you’re only supposed to talk about love and butterflies and feeeeeeelings, but it’s true. Honestly, it makes all that gooey stuff much more worth it, really.

Because we’re not a couple of naive star-gazers anymore, hopped up on Hollywood romanticism or fear of being left alone or whatever else might drive us into each other’s arms. We are actually running to each other, even when it’s hard to do so. Even when we’re tired or sad or pulled away or stressed out or just plain irritated. We’re more in love than ever.

I cannot believe that, in what has been one of the best and hardest seasons of my life, that I get to be with a man who is strong enough to handle my doubts, my (loud) opinions, my fears and my irrational, exuberant hopes. I’m constantly amazed at the goodness of God, that He would give me someone who can practically finish my sentences, make me laugh, care for me even when I don’t care much for myself, make me feel like a princess and still challenge me to take on new adventures.

He is steady and calm, funny and warm, easy to talk to and a sly humorist. He’s not afraid of anything except for eyedrops, which is honestly kind of endearing. I feel like I’m always learning new things about him, and yet I also know him better than I ever thought I could know anyone. He’s the hero, the crush, the love I never thought could really exist, much less be mine.

But he is, and I am so grateful.

Happy Anniversary, babe. Four years down, a lifetime still to go – I can’t wait to spend it with you.


October 11th, 2012 by Dani

Happy {31 Days}

Last weekend, we paddled across a lake on the Central Coast of California, and set up a tiny campsite under a live oak tree. We carried everything with us in the hulls of our kayaks, built a fire from branches and leaves, made meals with our trusty JetBoil and some freeze-dried soup. (It tasted better than it sounds.)

We fell asleep to the sound of foxes rustling in the bushes and crickets chirping under an open, silent sky. We awoke early to the honking of geese and gentle sunshine cresting the hilltops.

We made coffee, black and strong, and put our tents and sleeping bags back into our kayaks, packing everything away with precision and efficiency. As we slid our boats into the water, we watched the fog lift and felt the morning sun warming our backs. We paddled down the lake, and saw wild turkeys, geese, ducks, deer and even a black bear on the far shore.

Adam happily threw his line in the water, I laid back on my kayak and snoozed. The sun warmed our faces, the breeze kept us moving and the lake was still and silent, more like a lazy river than a true lake. My handsome husband reeled up his fishing line and grinned at me. “This is awesome,” he said. I couldn’t agree more.