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 ‘Oregon’ Category

December 19th, 2017 by Dani

Taking a Breath

There’s a whoosh and a whistle in the air today, pushing out the warmth of last few days and bringing whispers of coming snow. There’s a dark wall of clouds hovering near like a conquering army, looking down at us as they ready themselves for a swift invasion.

This year I find myself taking deep breaths, like the clouds who are going to start snowing on us in a couple of hours but aren’t quite ready just yet. Adelay is thrilled by Christmas this year, wants to drink in everything with her usual exuberance. Isaiah is impossible to buy for and dazzled by the simplest things. We like to joke that he is our model baby Jesus, and since he seems mostly impressed by the smiles of those who love him, there’s probably a lot of truth there.

I find myself longing for a moment to myself and then missing my children the moment they aren’t with me, like a crazy person. I want to go shopping but I also want to purge my house of junk. I want to love people and also drink a cup of coffee by myself. This two kids thing feels like it might be overwhelming me sometimes, like the coming snowstorm, but then I recall that snowstorms are usually only beautiful and rarely scary. I just have to scrape my windshield and remember to wear thick socks, those are do-able things. Sometimes it’s necessary to give myself grace, to remember that I don’t have to be good at everything, that parenthood is a refining fire.

I find that people talk about parenthood in two ways – there are the grandparent types who have (perhaps willfully) lost recollection of late nights and toddler spills and tantrums, and smile beatifically at me with misty eyes. “Treasure these angels,” they say and pat me on the arm with kindness. Then there are the frustrated moms who are, by their telling of it, raising tiny demon-possessed mess-makers who do nothing but disobey and vomit in the car and wipe their noses on the tablecloth.

Neither of these is true.

I know this but I have to remind myself of it. Love is messy and so are children, even the forgetful grandparents know that. God’s love is perfect but our human variety is not, and we are often forgetful or judgmental or overly simplified. We yearn for snow and then spring and then snow again. We want love but offer harshness to others, we need hope but don’t know how to find it.

As I write this I see the wall of clouds advancing, making their move. My longing cannot make them move faster or slower, they will come and they will do whatever they are supposed to do, regardless of how I feel about it.

So today I am embracing snowstorms and taking a breath. Christmas sometimes feels like a sprint, and while I love all the hustle-bustle, there is wisdom is letting storms come and go, watching the trees sway from the window, treasuring the perfection of God’s artwork, the frost on the trees and the crunch of frozen gravel under my feet.

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.

October 18th, 2016 by Dani

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 11th, 2015 by Dani

Riding test

The other day, I had to perform a riding test at my new barn. Now, let me tell you right up front: I am not a sophisticated rider, y’all. I learned to ride from scruffy, fearless cowboys who told me encouraging things like, “don’t come off” and “that horse knows more cow than you do, darlin’, so let ‘im loose”. Over the years of teaching therapeutic horseback riding and watching others teach, I’ve picked up on more thorough riding techniques, but at the end of the day, I’m just a self-taught cowgirl, and I deeply feel my inadequacy in the presence of formally trained, sophisticated horse-folk.

Long story short, the test was actually really fun. My fellow instructors (intimidating though they may seem) were kind and helpful, and I felt like I actually got my very first riding lesson out of the deal. I walked into the barn feeling insecure, gangly and awkward, but I walked out hopeful and happy, excited for a new chapter in my wrangling life.

I tell you this story because I know that this will also happen with adoption and motherhood. One of these Mother’s Days I won’t find myself in tears alone in my car because I passed a florist. One of these days I will get to walk in the park with my own kids, and not just smile at everyone else’s kids as I walk my dog.

I don’t have a neat bow to wrap up here. I’m trying to see the hope and the bigger perspective, and I know it’s there. My head knows that all I have to do is sit back in my saddle and relax my elbows. My head knows that in order to move well, my horse has to bend and collect himself, and it’s my job to help him do that. My head knows that I have ridden hundreds of horses and have worked everywhere from cattle ranches to trail rides to therapeutic riding centers, that despite my lack of formal training, I know how horses work and I can do this. My heart says that I’m afraid of failure, that I feel lonely and altogether incapable of these big things. I feel small and silly and scared.

Maybe it’s OK to not have a bow to tie on this story. Maybe it’s OK to admit that maybe I am a little small, silly and scared, but that I don’t have to be anything else right now. Maybe it’s OK to just keep moving and hoping, and letting Somebody else handle the rest. Maybe I’ll just go for a ride, and let my horse remind me that I know more about all of this than I think I do.

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.

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.”

November 13th, 2014 by Dani

Gratitude Project: Snow Days

The last couple of days have been crazy cold (think 7 degrees at 7 a.m.) and then this morning we awoke to a snowy winter wonderland. A few inches fell in the night, and more is still coming, making otherworldy drifts around our deck, our steers look like snowy buffaloes and giving the trees that Christmasy, quiet winter look, as green branches are draped in white.

Guinness the puppy is amazed by the snow, and seems confused about how her toys keep getting lost in white, cold stuff. I’m amazed because every mistake is covered in perfection now – the deck that we need to refinish looks beautiful with a blanket of white on top – the stunted tree I wanted to cut down in the yard actually looks cute with a dusting of snow on its branches.

Snow slows everything to a stroll, by necessity. We hunker down with a cup of coffee, bake some muffins, shovel our front door, feed our cows. Snow reminds us to be amazed at weather, at seasons, at the beauty of our simple pleasures, our little house and our family.

“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow…” Isaiah 1:16-18

Today I’m grateful for snow days. I’m thankful for a God who speaks through word pictures and shows us his love in tangible ways. I’m grateful for a warm little house, a cup of coffee, a puppy who is filling our snowy yard with her joy, snowfall that covers all my mistakes and makes the world magical again.

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.

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.