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 ‘moodiness’ Category

August 29th, 2017 by Dani

Stammering toward Gratitude

Yesterday, as I was making plans with someone for the fall, she said to me, “You must be over the moon about your baby boy.”

I stammered a lame response. I am! Of course I am. I’m thrilled and honored and excited and full of love for this tiny person.

But lately my dominant emotion has been discouragement, not gratitude or excitement. I’ve bitten my nails about looming expenses and what-ifs. I’ve wondered if I’m tough enough for the process, if I can push through the uncertainty long enough to keep loving when I want to scream.

Adam and II was still thinking about my stuttering response to my friend when last night, about midnight, we discovered that a pack rat had eaten one of my saddles. Not just any saddle, one I was planning to sell to raise money for our adoption. I cried, shoulder-shaking, throat-opening, guttural tears. Adam wanted to comfort me, and I wanted to punch something. I wanted to scream that I’m doing my best here, give me a break! I can’t be loving and hopeful and peppy anymore, I just can’t!

I know. It’s embarrassing.

Do you know what I did next? If you think I realized I was being immature and dramatic and came to my senses, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Instead, I made a list of discouragements, all the ways I am failing. I looked at it with anger and fear and tear-filled eyes. It was helpful. Do you know what Adam did? He started listing all the ways that God has been faithful to us. The miracles we’ve seen unfold before our eyes, the gifts we’ve been given, the things we didn’t even know to ask for that dropped in our laps like so many golden eggs. Guess who’s list was longer and more helpful?

Adam helped me see that gratitude has to be worked for. Wallowing is easy and even perversely pleasant, the long woe-be-gone country song. But it’s not true. The truth is that God is ever-so-faithful and we are completely blessed. Every need we have has been met, even though I am not very tough I am married to the toughest of them all, and we have a redeeming God who is even tougher.

So today: gratitude. Disappointments are real, and fear will knock on my door again, probably before today is over. But gratitude is worth working for. It’s worth fighting for. It is the gift of clear eyes and real perspective, the thing that lets me get excited about tiny newborn outfits and new adventures and grace every morning. Without gratitude, I’m just killing time, waiting for the other shoe to drop or mourning the one that already has. I’m locked in a spinning top of frustration and angst, teaching my daughter how to see struggle instead of joy, dead-ends instead of new directions.

Anne Lamott said recently that every day she asks God for forgiveness and help, both because she’s sorry she’s such a big whiny baby and because she doesn’t want to be one any more. Of course I can’t say it any better than that.

This morning, I wipe my eyes and begin again, in gratitude.

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.

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

November 8th, 2015 by Dani

Gratitude Project: Better Late than Never

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

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

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

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

February 4th, 2015 by Dani

It will not always be this hard

I knew when we were getting into this that it would be hard. All anyone ever tells you about adoption is that it’s hard. In fact, most people are so well-aware of the hardness of adoption that most adoption books, websites and resources read more like a manual for depression and angst than an exciting way to grow one’s family.

It is hard. I am not going to pretend that the scary stories don’t get to me, or that the long wait doesn’t feel oppressive and endless. I’m not going to tell you that I never worry about funding the adoption, about how to make these kinds of life-changing choices, about what people will say to our children, who will most likely not look like us.

But here’s what I do know – it will not always be this hard.

Just as our year of house-hunting in Bend felt endless and spare and emotional in a way that I didn’t expect, so this time of waiting feels both packed with feeling and empty of movement, kind of an emotional sensory deprivation, where you hear nothing but your own voice in your head. It is hard. I am every day looking for an easy way out and every day reminded that there is no such thing, that sometimes waiting is just waiting, that hard things are just hard.

But it will not always be this hard.

I am confident in the promises and goodness of God. I am confident that one day I will be laughing at the antics of my toddler or shocked by the wisdom of my middle-schooler, and I will recall this hard time with a smile. We have been called on an expedition that is daunting in every way, but we will sing as we walk. Our story is not a straight line, and we are not called to the easy road.

But friends, there is joy. It will not always be this hard.

You will not always be alone.

You will not always grieve.

You will not live with this ache forever.

You will not be dissatisfied, you will not live in fear, you will have joy.

I am writing this to myself, to remember joy, to search for it, to be grateful in it, to see time as a flowing river and not a stagnant pond. It will not always be this hard, and even in the hard places, I choose joy.

Psalm 30:4-5 “Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
    and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment,
    and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
    but joy comes with the morning.

Psalm 126 “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
‘the Lord has done great things for them.’
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, Lord,
like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.”

October 15th, 2014 by Dani

Crazy Blessed

Two weeks ago, I found out that I have Celiac disease. I’m not going to spend a bunch of time telling you what that means – you are reading this on the internet, after all. I have spent the last couple of weeks mourning gluten, and, more than that, a lifestyle that is going away. Because despite Diabetes, I’ve always been a pretty low-maintenance eater, and Adam and I have had some of our best times over pizza and beer. It made me sad to think of the place where we had our first date (an old-school Italian joint, complete with frosty Heinekens and twinkle lights) or our favorite breweries here, which lean decidedly away from “dietary restriction friendly” territory.

I’m sure I will get teary-eyed again over this. Life has hard places, after all, and my body’s unwillingness to be the casual, vivacious plaything I want is mine, and I don’t want to pretend that it’s not ridiculously frustrating and emotional sometimes. But in the midst of the sadness, as I realize that some things I thought were traditions might need to stay memories, I am so crazy blessed and grateful.

When my blood tests came back positive for Celiac, I came home, scared and shaking. Food is life and love, I cried to Adam, how do I host people, cook dinner, enjoy a night out? What does this mean for my body, and what new scary diagnoses does this carry with it? That husband of mine just folded me up and held me close. He helped me throw away pancake mixes and pastas, he went on a routine errand to the hardware store and came home with four bags of gluten-free beers, groceries and wonder of wonders! blueberry muffins. He has promised me wine and cocktails (what a spoiled girl I am!), assured me that we’ll navigate the brewery scene together, that we’ll make substitutions or avoid places that don’t work, that he’s happy to help. My beer-loving, never-read-an-ingredient-label-in-his-life husband is selflessly standing strong for me, and gosh I am grateful. Because the thing I didn’t want to lose was our easy laughter over a plate of nachos and a couple beers, our snarky people-watching at brew fests, the easy-going let-me-taste-that-try-this date nights that we’ve perfected over the years. The food and drinks may change, but the relationship has not. Actually, Adam has amazed me again with his kindness, support, love, strength and stamina, and boy howdy, y’all, I’m a lucky girl.

HIking by Sparks Lake this summer.  "Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same."

Hiking by Sparks Lake this summer. “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”

I actually didn’t intend to write this much about Celiac – I really wanted to tell you about my kitchen today but all these other thoughts got in the way. But I guess that’s OK, because life is going to be messy. One day you’re a tough wrangler with a horse and a truck and a steady diet of Cheez-Its and Diet Coke and the next you’re a professional with a desk job who’s worried about bloodsugar and a gluten-free diet. The carefree girl I want to be just doesn’t exist anymore, and I can’t get that back. But in the midst of the toughness of life, there’s a fair bit of beauty, too, isn’t there? Because we’re raising cows of our own in our little country house, and just the sight of them makes me happy. We are remodeling our kitchen because we are “adoption-pregnant” and if I was “bio-pregnant” we would most definitely be ripping out cabinets in a hurry. (Have you ever hung out with a preggo girl? Noses like wolves, I tell you, and this 1974 kitchen left much to be desired in the “clean-smell” department, even after days of scrubbing).

This truth crystallized for me last night. We’d just spent several hours removing our water heater to make room for tile. There was cat urine in the walls and dust demons (not bunnies, not cute) behind the water heater. We were cold and hungry and it started to rain, we were taking out our water heater so we couldn’t even look forward to a shower (please note that at one point in my life I lived without running water of any kind for several months, and now 24 hours without hot water seems like a true crisis. The wussification is astounding…) Anyway, after we ripped out the smelly, rotting drywall and removed the water heater and gagged multiple times and praised Jesus that we were replacing the nastiness, I went inside to heat up some soup in the microwave for dinner. Paper bowls are small and we don’t have hot water and I was trying not to step on the fresh tile and so I spilled some soup and promptly cried.

That’s when I realized – I am crying because I don’t want to get soup on our new carpet, because I’m trying not to mess up our new tile. I’m heating up gluten-free soup that I was able to buy at Costco (my favorite place) and eat with my husband in our little farm house that we are making into a home. The world is a big scary place, and I worry about the future just like any red-blooded American girl, but now is not the time to cry or fear. Challenges are sad and scary, but they aren’t nearly as big as I let them be.

Adoption is long and expensive, our old house is drafty and needs work, my health is frustrating – OR – adoption is a grand adventure, an expedition worthy only of brave souls and burning hearts, a privilege to embark on, our old house is OUR HOUSE, that we got to buy, we get to repair and remodel, that we are blessed to grow our family in, my health is not as bad as I think it is at 2 a.m., I am so blessed to live in a country with a free-market system that allows for medical technology and certified gluten-free foods, because somebody somewhere saw a need and decided to formulate insulin and gluten-free flour for people like me.

Friends we are crazy blessed. Crazy because life is crazy and seldom what we expect – blessed because God is good. Life is crazy, God is good. I’m going to need that on my bumper.

September 15th, 2014 by Dani

The Continuous Yes

We said yes to an 11-mile hike last week. Seems apt.

We said yes to an 11-mile hike last week. Seems apt.

On Friday, we had our home study visit. Honestly, despite all the nerves, it was wonderful. Our social worker was joyful, thoughtful and we liked her immediately. Our home was cleaned to perfection (can you say motivation!?) and even Guinness the Puppy behaved herself.

We have to complete a few more pieces of paperwork, and then our part is DONE! After so long of thinking and hoping and waiting and wondering, it’s a really good feeling to be so close. Now, since I’m so old and wise and experienced (haha) I want to offer some encouragement to anyone else on the cusp of a Big Life Thing. Say yes. Say yes once, and say it again.

When we started toward adopting, we had to say yes to a lot of things. I’m sure there will be more, but if we’d listened to fear and pessimism, we would never have even gotten started – that first yes would have stayed inside of us, trapped indefinitely.

I think that we, as a culture, have made commitment – the continuous yes – into a boogeyman. We want the cute girl on the beach with the handsome guy on one knee to say “yes”, but then we don’t much care if she still says yes in a year or two (The Bachelor, anyone?). Marriage conferences and books talk a lot about the difficulties of lifelong commitment and very little about the joy of being secure in a relationship with someone who knows you better then you know yourself; they extol the joy of engagement (the first yes) and shake their heads sadly over future yesses, dooming us all to seeming unhappiness. We talk about kids (biological or adopted) as little more than eating, breathing challenges, who keep us from having adult friends and a good night’s sleep. Isn’t it funny that the very things that make us fly into tizzies of Facebook joy cause us to sigh in exhaustion and annoyance in real life? We warn our friends of how tough marriage is and how tired we are from our kids, and then we’re over-the-moon thrilled when they announce engagements and pregnancies? That’s weird, right? Is it any wonder that we have a confused, dour culture that is constantly in search of the Next Big Thing instead of one that relishes the everyday joys and beauties of an imperfect but faithful life? We shriek with happiness when someone gets engaged and sigh with boredom over another night at home with our husband and some pork chops – when did we get so cynical? When did the first yes become the only yes we notice?

I struggled over writing about our adoption process because I feared the nay-sayers. I feared the boredom, the cynicism, the been-there-done-that sighs. I wanted to shout for joy and I feared that I would be shouted down by a culture that only sees joy in the big, Instagram-filtered moments and not in the countless small, quiet, faithful ones – a culture that loves yes in tropical climates when cameras are rolling and feels shackled by yes when days get shorter, nights are colder and relationship is harder. Of course, there are mountains yet to be climbed on this adoption trek. We are suited up and we are under no illusions that this is a hike for the faint of heart. But gosh if we aren’t blessed to see these views, glory in the God who made them and be grateful for the strength to keep walking.

Thanks for reading and sharing in our joy. Thank you for being a subset of culture, one that believes in continuous yes. There’s no way for me to tell you how much the encouragement of your prayers, support, calls, texts and love has meant to us over the last couple of weeks, and I am so grateful.

Today, I’m saying yes again and again. Yes to hope, to faithfulness, to obedience. Yes to waiting and dreaming. Yes to dirty clothes and chilly nights. Yes to hugs and kisses and a family that is on the brink of another, bigger yes.

April 1st, 2013 by Dani

Cure for the Blues

IMAG0369I was feeling a little down and out today. It’s Monday, which means I have a “job o’ work” ahead of me, and I’d made some interpersonal mistakes that were weighing on my heart. Combine that with a long, emotional weekend and the realization that I have three weeks to pack up everything I own, and I was just a little grouchy and overwhelmed.

I wanted to curl up with a blanket and a cup of hot cocoa and cry. I wanted to watch something terrible on TV and forget about all the stupid. I wanted to call someone and see who would listen to me be sad and tell me it was OK.

But you know what I did? I hand-wrote letters.

I prayed about my funk and it dawned on me that the best way to avoid self-absorption is to, well, focus on someone else. So I wrote thank-you notes to some friends. Thanks for being so much fun. Thanks for loving me. Thanks for your honesty. Thanks for your creativity.

Mostly it was friends here, people who I see multiple times a week and so are apt to forget to thank, or who I think should know how much they mean to me, but I’m realizing likely don’t. It’s a simple thing, the ritual of putting pen to paper and saying something heartfelt – but it started to cure my blues and I found myself grateful instead of grouchy, humbled rather than sad.

I think I’ll write letters more often… after all, I have a Sharpie collection that’s begging to be used for something more fun than labeling moving boxes.

March 12th, 2013 by Dani

Ch-ch-ch-changes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 14th, 2011 by Dani

Teacher NervousFace

Guess what, my dears?

Today, I am teaching a blogging seminar.

Yepsirree. (Butterflies ensue!)

My faithful readers may be shocked to hear that I have anything at all to say about the art of blogging since I’m not here anymore and haven’t said anything of substance in weeks – HOWEVER, I totally know stuff, you guys.

At least, I hope I do. And I hope I can answer questions. And I hope my shirt looks OK. Gahhhh NERVOUSFACE.

(Oh, and you should go see my Food Network Star recap on Food Lush.)