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 ‘men/women’ Category

January 18th, 2018 by Dani

Year Nine

Today Adam and I have been married for nine years. I’m notorious for never knowing how long we’ve been together, but for some reason nine is hitting me this year. It’s not the typical landmark year, not 5 or 10 and certainly not 25 or 50.

Maybe that’s why it feels momentous, because isn’t that how the big things happen? Marriages are built and forged in year three and year seven-and-a-half and in the middle of the night in year nine, at least in my experience.

I met him when I was not particularly proud of myself. I was squatting at my Grandma’s house, eating Cheezits for every meal and working a soul-sucking desk job with some real characters (characters = 60-year-old women chasing 35-year-old men and complaining about botched boob jobs) at the LA Times. What was supposed to be an exciting “here’s the rest of your life” period instead became a “is this really the rest of my life?” period. Wait a minute, I was an honors student, a passionate journalist, what was I doing? Wasn’t I guaranteed a great job and a cute apartment and the ability to apply mascara?

Adam and IAnd then Adam. To say that my exhausting and infuriating job didn’t matter anymore is to be a forgetful old lady, but it sure mattered less. I fell hard for this Texan and even when I tried to shake him I secretly hoped he was the kind who couldn’t be shook – which is one of the truest things about him, more than 10 years later.

I often feel shaky, scared of motherhood, scared of the future, shakily reaching out and then pulling back in. But I married up, I married reliable, unshakeable, stalwart. When I met him I thought it was sweet that he held my hand in the car – now I find it essential. I thought it was cute that he never gave up, that he saw hard work and kindness as essential values, that he took responsibility for others – now I don’t know how I ever saw those qualities as anything less than world-changing. In year nine the truest things shine through – our failures and faults as well as our beautiful, glimmering pieces, the slices of true kindness or care that is so often buried under habit or ritual.

Year nine is no big deal, except that I’ve seen marriages fail now, sometime in year four, year eight, year eleven. It seems to make sense that if marriages are drowned in no-big-deal years, they’re saved, revived, or held tight in no-big-deal years too. So here’s to no-big-deal. Here’s to nine years. Here’s to growing up and growing our family and facing the future, holding hands.

June 11th, 2017 by Dani

I want to be spilling over with a good story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addy and I.

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

March 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 17th, 2015 by Dani

Gratitude Project: Homemade Stock

In the fall and winter months, I have homemade broth or stock simmering in the Crock-Pot at least once a week. We smoke a chicken or roast beef shanks and afterwards I plop the bones in water and let them simmer away for a day or two. The whole house smells comforting, like chicken-noodle soup, and I have stock on hand for making rice or stew or deglazing a pan.

Homemade stock takes longer than buying a can or carton of stock from the grocery store. My Crock-Pot gets dirty and I have to strain out the bones when the broth is done. Sometimes I don’t want my house to smell like chicken noodle soup, and sometimes I’m tempted to throw away the remnants of a smoked chicken rather than mess with it.

But I don’t. I tell myself that it’s worth it to make something right – that tonight’s dinner will be that much healthier and more fulfilling because I took the time on this component. I try to see the simmering and straining and cleaning up afterwards as my act of gratitude – that I don’t take the roasted chicken for granted, but instead use every piece of it, making something simple into something special.

Because making stock is living with intention – it’s time-consuming and sometimes annoying. Sometimes I’d rather just run out and buy a can of stock – no muss, no fuss. But I’m always glad when I choose intention over convenience. I’m so grateful when love trumps necessity, when I take the time to care about small things and they become big and meaningful in return. Today, I’m grateful for homemade stock, and a homemade stock kind of life – one that simmers and flavors everything with intention, time and grace. It’s not easy or clean, but the smell and taste of homemade chicken noodle soup is worth the effort.

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?”

February 12th, 2015 by Dani

Celebrating Adam

Adam and I are celebrators. We love birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, weddings and parties of any kind.  These are chances to reflect on what’s been and look forward to the future with hope, a time to celebrate and cheer for each other, to enjoy a good meal and relish a long laugh.

In the last nine months or so, we’ve missed our usual celebratory fervor, and as is this year’s strange way, suddenly Adam is 33 today! What happened to the streamers?

The truth is that we got busy with home-ownership and adoption stuff and work and life, and we’ve wandered from our usual kazoo-blowing celebratory selves. But we are still laughing with, at and for one another, and recognizing that celebration is not something we did when we had time, or something that we can ignore if we get busy. Celebration is essential. Celebration reminds us that our lives are not a long trudge, they are a skipping, singing, humbling, staggering work of beauty. Celebrations make us stop and take stock – did I do the thing I said I would? Have I been obedient in my long walk? They also give us chances to look forward and rejoice that we have road ahead and time to finish the mountain-climbing, wildflower-admiring hike we’re on.

At a wedding of a dear friend in December (thank you Jeanna for the picture!). Easy laugher, outrageous dancer, warm-hearted friend - this is Adam.

At a wedding of a dear friend in December (thank you Jeanna for the picture!). Easy laugher, outrageous dancer, warm-hearted friend – this is Adam. (Photo cred: Kamee June Photography)

So, today I am celebrating Adam. Because let me tell you guys, I thought I was in love with this man when he asked me to marry him seven-ish years ago – but he is even cooler now than he was then. He is the hardest worker I know, and the best puppy trainer. He gets tickled by the same things that tickle me, and his laugh makes any day better. He is a Craigslist and garage sale ninja. He is a team player and he loves people whole-heartedly. He is an adventurer, and he gets me out of my comfort zone with epic snowshoe hikes and fly-fishing excursions. He loves to eat as much as I do, and has never once grumbled about going gluten-free. He is a logical, methodical thinker, an easy friend, a patient, excellence-focused woodworker. He loves Guinness and Bandit and they love him. He’s a baby whisperer and has officially been crowned the Selfie King. He listens well and talks with intention, he does not bluster or fruitlessly complain. He makes coffee every morning and he kisses me good-night every night.

Happy Birthday Adam Nichols. I’m so thankful you’re mine.

November 12th, 2014 by Dani

Gratitude Project: Friendship and the River

My dear friend Holli and I had been planning a girls’ weekend for a while, and last week I started to wonder if it was going to work out. My shoulder was killing me, I felt woefully behind at work, my husband was out of town and my to-do lists were having babies all over the house. My personal river was running dry, but I had too many concerns to worry about a drought just now, so it had better last, just a little longer.

No matter how parched I felt, our weekend was planned. Holli was flying in, and all I had to do was get to Portland. So I shoved all of my worries out of my mind, threw my bags in the car and drove over the mountain, knowing that this was important and that I had to treat it as such. When I pulled up to the Portland airport, I almost couldn’t believe it when Holli popped into my passenger side – wait, you mean we get a whole weekend together? To-do lists? What to-do lists? Is that rain I hear?

Bridal veil falls on a rainy Sunday

Bridal veil falls on a rainy Sunday, on our way to Multnomah Falls via an old back road

We admired fall color, explored the Portland Saturday Market, bought lattes frequently and stumbled upon a decadent gluten-free bakery at 9 p.m. We felt too old (and married) for a hipster bar but happily stayed out late at Deschutes brewery. We took a food tour, went hiking in search of waterfalls, explored thrift stores and home stores and Powell’s books. We spent a long time in debate about where to eat dinner, only to find the perfect place a block away. Most of all, we talked. It might seem hard to believe that women can talk for three days, but we can. When I lived close to Holli and saw her often, we had a sort of ongoing conversation – one that would peter out after a late-night board game match and start back up next Sunday at church, a flowing, constant river of trivial ponderings, deep thoughts and family news, drifting by in the current of a faithful friendship. Now the river is dammed by distance and time, as we get busier and time gets shorter, so every now and then we have to open the gates and let it pour out. When it does, every moment with a friend is a rush of creativity, refreshment and rejuvenation – the river after a rain.

Friendship is so important, and taking the time to nurture it, relish it and rely on it is never, ever wasted. I’m so glad that we had a weekend together, and I’m taking this lesson into the coming months with me. It’s never a bad idea to pick up the phone, shoot a text, send a card or plan a trip. The river ebbs and flows, but it shouldn’t ever dry up or be forgotten – it matters far too much to be ignored.

Gosh I’m grateful for friendship – for faithful friends who board planes and make calls and change schedules. I’m grateful for the privilege of knowing and being known by women who I admire, who make me laugh and feel at home no matter where we are. I’m grateful that rainy days, long detours and new challenges are made easier when you have people in your life to share with. I’m so thankful that a weekend with a friend feels like a river after a rain – I’m full to overflowing.

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.


July 10th, 2012 by Dani

Book Review and Giveaway: MOMumental

parenting book review I got a couple of copies of MOMumental from Worthy Publishing and immediately thought, “they got the wrong blogger for this”.

I’m not a mom, I’m not really even a kid-person, and the very sight of the spilled Cheerios on the cover makes me want to go scrub my kitchen floor. But as they say, you should never judge a book by it’s cover, and MOMumental is much more than spilled milk and barf stories.

It’s the memoir of a young woman who is successful, professional, beautiful and yet seeks fulfillment in family. She wants a different life for her kids than the childhood she experienced, and she tells a candid, heartfelt version of how she is different yet similar to her own mom. It’s a story about when to hang on and when to let go, why the “experts” are probably wrong and why all the reasons that a panicked young mom buys a parenting book probably are too.

It’s about loving the life you build, with the family you create and tiny, silly, wonderful inconsistencies that make a family a family.

In short, it’s the perfect book for my generation of moms. Those of us petrified by our own imperfection and the stalwart assertion on the nightly news that everything we’ve ever eaten will give us cancer and turn our kids into serial killers. I’m not a mom yet, but I already feel too educated to be one – as though the knowledge of how terribly I’ll screw up my kids has already damned me to a grey destiny of therapist’s couches and unknown traumas.

Jennifer Grant’s telling of her family life makes me want to risk it, though, to jump in the deep end and hope against hope that maybe kids aren’t as breakable as I’ve been led to believe. This leads me to my only gripe with the book: the title and the cover. For such a nuanced, hopeful, modern, casual and redemptive look at parenting and family, the cover and the title would make anyone who’s not currently hormone-crazed and not thinking clearly run the other way. It’s not the kind of cover that draws in my style of thinking or makes me want to read – even though the prose inside had my “I’m not a kid-person” narrative running scared within 10 minutes.

So don’t be scared off by the cover. If you are thinking about motherhood, or you know someone who is, this is an encouraging primer that gives humor and hope to an admittedly terrifying junction. And if you’re already a mom, you might read this and get encouragement to drop the Baby Genius stuff and pre-pre-pre-cognitive-speech-child-prodigy-DVD and just love your kids for the amazing creations they are.

SO! If you are in either of these camps or know someone who is, you have until Friday, July 13 at 11:59 pm to enter a comment below and potentially win your very own, brand-spanking-new copy of MOMumental.

So! Comment away! What’s the best life-stage (singleness, wedding, parenting) book you’ve ever read?

I was given two copies of MOMumental by Worthy Publishing in exchange for this review, but opinions are my own.

UPDATE: Congratulations to Paula, our book winner! Thanks to everyone who entered!

February 13th, 2012 by Dani

30 Reasons why I love my Hubs, a list

My fella turned 30 yesterday, and this means that I got to spend all weekend doing what he likes to do, which is mainly eating and then proceeding to work it off in various out-of-door locales. It was pretty great.

Today, in no particular order other than the way they come to mind, I’m going to tell you 30 of the reasons my Hubs is the absolute coolest guy I know:

  1. He’s vewwwy handsome. (But you knew that.)
  2. He’s chivalrous. (In the land of women who slap you when you are nice to them, he still always gets the door).
  3. He’s adventurous.
  4. He has good taste in music and movies. (Barring perhaps the “world is ending, we obviously need to blow something huge up to save it” genre, which he unabashedly loves.)
  5. He’s always supportive and proud of me.
  6. He loves good food.
  7. He’s generous with everyone and everything.
  8. He’s a fabulous kisser. (Yep, I said it.)
  9. He loves playing with kids, particularly the widdle ones. (At dinner the other night, “Uncle Adam hide-n-seek! Uncle Adam look! Uncle Adam c’mere!” was frequently heard as he made himself the available playmate for 3-year-old Asher.)
  10. He’s passionate about sports, but not in a creepy fanatic way.
  11. He shares his drinks/food/snacks with me, even when I’m just too silly to get my own.
  12. He’s always striving to be better at everything he does.
  13. He forgives easily.
  14. He’s easy to be around and loves people.
  15. He thinks logically and can detach his decisions from his emotions, unlike his nutty wife.
  16. He likes to travel and explore new places.
  17. He is dedicated and follows through on his commitments.
  18. He has a great sense of humor and a sharp wit.
  19. He loves art, photography and beautiful things.
  20. He is always interested in something new. Last month? Learning to use a router in the woodshop. This month? Birdwatching. I’m never bored, y’all.
  21. He has strong opinions, but shares them in a non-confrontational way.
  22. Speaking of confrontation, he patiently listens to me rant and rave about politics.
  23. He’s respectful to everyone, even people who might be a little irritating or funky-smelling.
  24. He’s a good friend.
  25. He still reaches for my hand as we’re walking into church, at the movie theater, on the couch, anywhere really. It still makes me feel special.
  26. He is cautious with money and time, always trying to do the best things possible with both.
  27. He gives solid hugs.
  28. He’s strong and dependable.
  29. He takes such incredible care of me, sometimes I can’t believe what a lucky girl I am.
  30. He’s the one-armed-photo MASTER, as seen in every vacation photo of us ever, and in this gem from Saturday’s hike at Torrey Pines State Park in San Diego:

Happy 30th Birthday my Love!