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 ‘adoption’ Category

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.

June 6th, 2017 by Dani

We’re Fundraising for Adoption Expedition #2

I sat down to write to you about fundraising, but it’s been a very hard letter to write. The truth is that it’s hard to ask for help. We all know the people who are quite good at it (maybe too good, perennial students and travelers come to mind) or quite bad (most of us raised with stiff upper lip sensibilities do everything on our own and like it that way).

But we know that asking for help is really important. It resets our hearts and reminds us that we are not all-powerful, as well as modeling humility and kindness for our daughter. I shared about how amazing it was to get help in the form of garage sale bargains and kindness of strangers, and the love, time and prayers of so many of our friends and family is as valuable as any monetary gift we could receive.

We used to go to a pretty affluent church which insisted that all missionaries, short or long-term, ask for support, even if they could have funded their work themselves. Because even when it seems like a noble thing to bootstrap one’s own mission trip, for an executive who’s bootstrapped everything he’s ever done, it’s actually the easier route. What builds his faith is letting his neighbor donate $100 and asking his high schoolers to help him put on a car wash. Asking invites community into this endeavor; lives are changed when hundreds of people get to be part of the story, instead of one person doing it alone.

So in our family, we’ve made a choice to live with open hands and open hearts. Sometimes, when I feel hurt or vulnerable, I wonder if it’s really wise to have an open door policy to our home and our story. But we believe God has called us to love publicly, and to tell of the faithfulness of God with arms outstretched, welcoming others into it.

So, we’re asking for help, again, as we venture into Adoption #2. We ask because we know that we can’t do this alone – monetarily, emotionally or spiritually. The average domestic infant adoption costs between $20,000-$50,000. We dare to believe that these children are infinitely more valuable even than these hefty price tags, that no one can put a price on love, faithfulness or grace.

Please give if you would like to, and feel free to share the link. We’ve made a tax-deductible website here for gifts and we are so grateful for any help you can offer. We also know that we can’t do this without our tribe of encouragers, prayer warriors, mentors and friends so we covet your advice, prayers, hugs, visits and hope.

Thank you for being our people. We have long prayed for a house full of children and a community that shows extravagant love for the least of these, and we are blessed beyond measure to watch that prayer come true, year after year.

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.

May 1st, 2017 by Dani

Don’t Call Me a Saint

Do you remember the scene in Julie and Julia when Julie keeps referring to her “sainted husband”, as she goes further and further down her Julia Child-inspired rabbit hole? One night they get into a big fight and he says “And stop calling me a saint on your blog! I’m not a saint!”

I’ve thought about that scene lately because I sometimes feel that way.

You’d be surprised how often I get stopped and asked about adoption by perfect strangers. Inevitably, the conversation turns to some complimentary thought along the lines of (and yes these are real quotes),

“Wow, you are so selfless.”

“You guys are saints.”

“What a lucky little girl.”

First of all, I am not a saint, and I know this because it feels nice to have people flatter me in public. Secondly, adoption is hard and sometimes gnarly and often expensive (in more ways than one) but let me be clear: we are NOT SAINTS. We have been blessed beyond our wildest dreams by our darling girl. I fall more in love with her, with adoption, and with motherhood every day, but our family is as messy, complicated, impatient, tardy, unorganized or silly as any other family. It’s not as though because we are an adoptive family I suddenly got good at folding hoodies or making our bed or remembering how I made a given recipe. I am still a mediocre baker, a terrible runner and bad at details. I still tend to be late, tend to be emotional, tend to be quite dramatic when I feel sick. I still like clothes quite a lot, and have not lost my taste for a good glass of wine or a swanky dinner out, although with a toddler those things are more precious than they used to be.

My point is that I am not selfless. I am not a saint. If anything, I am a work in progress. I am following my heart and the call that God has put on our family the best way I can, which translates to an imperfect, outside-the-lines kind of life, because that’s the best I’ve got.

So, here’s my PSA – next time you want to tell a stranger that she is lovely or admirable, just say so. Tell her that you like her skirt or that she seems like a good mom. Tell her that her daughter is beautiful or her son is spunky. Tell her that you admire her courage, or her laughter, or her verve. But do me a favor – don’t call us selfless, or saints, or act like we’ve taken on charity cases because we love kids who may not look like us. I am ever so blessed, and I am trying to be the best mom and wife and creative I can be, but I’m not a saint and my baby isn’t lucky to have me. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s the other way around.

Addy and I at our recent LuLaRoe fundraiser sale for Adoption #2. As Addy says, “Yay Family!”

April 11th, 2017 by Dani

Adoption Expedition #2

The other night I held my friends’ beautiful baby boy, adopted in a whirlwind just as my baby was, supported and surrounded by love before we even knew his name.

I remember when I didn’t really want to be a mom, at least not enough to work for it. I remember when that changed, when the ache to be a mom hurt so badly that I thought my heart was shriveling up inside of me – little did I know it was actually growing in size and courage. I remember when holding my friends’ babies felt like working out – good but hard.

We are adopting again, and I’m often asked why. (I know it’s a funny question, but we get it a lot.) Here is my “why” – I remember the heartache of the first time through, and I remember how much faith we needed, how much support and love we got, how many miracles happened, and I know that the God who brought us here is not done with us yet.

Now my days are filled with a silly singing toddler. I buy fruit snacks and milk, goldfish crackers and red grapes. I have to find babysitters, yes, and sometimes I look back my good old days of “free time” with something like lust.

But I know what unabashed joy looks like. I have lived through mercy and I’ve seen redemption first-hand. I know that the valleys are not as endless as they seem and that the future will hold dark times, yes, but it also holds oh-so-much laughter and grace. Scary things will come, but so will beauty and chunky baby thighs and silly toddler faces and open highways and daffodils and grilled cheese sandwiches.

We are risking again, adopting again because adoption is beautiful and we believe in beautiful. We are grateful people who have walked heart-broken long enough to know that that the dark nights never last longer than dawn. We know that the dawn is always worth waiting for, that every sunrise is a gift, that our life is but a breath. So we are drawing in and breathing out with courage and hope, knowing that God loves our family too, that he is planning this second expedition with as much care and kindness as he did the first.

This week I had three people tell me that Adelay and I have the same crinkly-nosed laugh. I hope that’s true, and I hope that our family continues to leave a legacy of laughter and hope and beauty. Thank you for supporting us as we embark on Adoption Expedition #2!

September 21st, 2016 by Dani

I want my daughter to know….

When Addy was just a tiny baby, I got in an unintentional fight with some adoptive parents of non-white kids. (You can read my thoughts about that incident here.) I was a new mom and I didn’t want to be painted as a poor soul who had already failed because of my ethnic heritage, and my supposed innate, unchangeable out-of-touch-ness.

I am still wary of any racial conversation in a public space because of that incident, so what I am about to write has been written and deleted many times, thought over, considered, and rewritten.

But I want my daughter to know that I, a deeply patriotic white woman from the boonies of the Northwest, grieve the loss of dark-skinned lives and therefore I cannot be silent about them. I am not here to debate the nuances of police brutality vs. appropriate force vs. outright racism. But I am here to say that I’ve gotten the “look” from white people in public places (rare, but true) when I’m with my daughter and it makes me want to punch them in the face. I am here to say that it takes a lot of denial to assert that nothing is wrong here, that there isn’t something deeply broken in our culture.

I am sad today. I’m sad that we should be gasping with hands over our mouths, crying and praying, and instead we are posturing and debating. Life should matter, but instead we elevate talking points.

I recently read Ann Patchett’s lovely essay “The Wall”, in which she talks about her dad, a 30-year veteran of the LAPD. She sadly notes that he will be remembered for the Rodney King incident, which happened after he retired, and not for decades of service and sacrifice. A couple of months ago, Addy and I went to the public library for storytime, and as we walked in the door a white police officer was standing there. He had been silently nodding to the other moms and kids, but he walked up to us and reached out for Addy’s hand. He tried to get her to smile and he asked good questions. I didn’t know what to do with it at the time, but today I am moved by the memory. I hope he doesn’t get jaded and stop trying. I hope he knows that the memory of his simple kindness makes me teary-eyed and very grateful.

We don’t need to accept death or hatred. We don’t need to lock our doors and stay silent because we’re afraid of being berated for saying the wrong thing. It sounds trite to say that love is the answer, and so it is –  if that love is the kind of unfounded, wimpy, however-you-feel-today love that is so often peddled. No, the love that is the answer is the love that is willing to be wrong, willing to look foolish, willing to stand down, willing to go to war. Love that always hopes, trusts, perseveres and never fails.

Today I’m praying for that kind of love. The kind of love that inspired a police officer in Oregon to make friends with my 10-month-old, the kind of love that makes eternal promises, the kind of love that gives courage, the kind of love that makes hate gasp for breath.

July 11th, 2016 by Dani

A year later

Addy and I on our plane ride homeOne year ago, we were thrown from desperate hope of one kind into desperate hope of another. It’s hard to remember, now that Addy is a crawling, babbling, Cheerio-gobbling little lady, but she was tiny, helpless, with skinny little arms and legs poking out of baggy newborn clothes. I remember praying that she would eat her tiny bottles, that she would keep breathing through the night (surely I’m not the only parent ever to worriedly check on her newborn throughout the night? If I am, don’t tell me) that she would feel safe and loved in our arms.

We flew across the country with this tiny person. I have never felt so close to Heaven – not because it was blissful but because God walked with us, guided us and held us close, just as I held my baby to my chest.

A man stopped me in the airport when we landed at home and told me he could tell I was an adoptive mom. “Nothing and nobody is going to hurt that baby while you’re here,” he said kindly. I felt a little silly, thinking, “is it that obvious, am I really clinging to her?” But I folded my arms around her anyway.

A year later, I don’t have a pile of wisdom amassed. I still regularly feel out of my league and understaffed. Being a parent is equal parts whimsically ethereal, gruntingly dirty and hopelessly wonderful; being an adoptive family is equal parts redemption, power, faith and effort. I’ve struggled to know how to share this, and even as I consider what I’ve written so far I wonder if it means anything to anyone but me.

Even if I am writing for myself, I want to remember: in the days of saving for retirement and making grocery lists; as I clean my bathroom and work for my copywriting clients and try to keep Addy from pulling breakable things out of the kitchen cabinets; in the everydayness of the every day life we are so blessed to live: this is a holy calling. Parenthood and family and community is a high purpose. These are the glory days, the days that fly by, the days of summer time walks by the river and baby giggles and dirty feet and the same book 12 times. One year later – look around, look around – how lucky we are to be alive right now.

March 31st, 2016 by Dani

Don’t Let Me Forget

I’ve been writing about our adoption expedition and what I believe about adoption. I’ve been filling pages and pages with memories and dreams and beliefs – letting my passion and my stories spill out onto documents that may or may not ever have a life beyond the hard drive of my computer.

But as I write all of this, I’m reminded that the most important thing I can do is remember. Remember how it felt to be lonely, heart-broken, raw. Remember how it felt to be overwhelmed with generosity, humbled, joyful. This life is such a gift and I am grumpy and selfish when I don’t remember how we got here, what great courage and faithfulness brought us to this point.

As I’m remembering all of these big things, I also never want to forget:

  • how Addy makes a happy “hmmmmmmmmmm” when she sees food coming to the high chair, her little feet kicking with delight
  • how she crosses her feet in the car seat and looks out the window like a teenager
  • how every morning she greets us with an open-mouthed smile and chortle, as though she can’t believe her good fortune that we’re here
  • how it feels when she sighs and snuggles into my chest when she’s tired
  • how the top of her head smells
  • how she wraps her little fingers around mine, or fiddles with my necklace
  • how she leans over to see my face around the camera, or doorway and how delighted she is to find that I’m still there
  • how she talks to her toys and to herself, a quiet little “hmmmm, bah, bah, hmmmm, gah”

She won’t be little forever, and her story won’t always feel so fresh and near. But I never want to forget these little moments, how much our life has changed because of her, and how many promises God kept in order to make this incredible life possible. Big and little, he is in every detail of our lives, and I’m endlessly grateful.

November 12th, 2015 by Dani

Gratitude Project: Promises Kept

We met Adelay at 24 hours old. We didn’t get custody until 48 hours, and during that exhausting 24-hour period we were strong for each other and for her. The NICU nurses referred to us as “mom” and “dad” but we knew it could always be different, that maybe this little perfect person wouldn’t actually be ours, even though she’d captured our hearts.

When we checked out of the hospital and had official custody, we relaxed a little. We started making promises to her – in the wee hours of the morning when she was lonely or hungry or scared – we would sit in the dark and rock her back to sleep, whispering, “I’m here, baby girl. I’ve got you, you’re OK.”

We’ve continued to promise our love and protection and hope to her over the last few months. We’ve told her how beautiful she is, how loved she is, how we aren’t going anywhere.

We finalized the adoption two days ago, and suddenly those promises feel different – everything feels different. Because now we can make promises that are within our power to keep – no judge or lawyer or social worker can alter our relationship to her. Now, when we whisper, “I’m here, baby girl,” we know that we are here, and so is she, for the rest of our lives, that we get to be a family with no lingering worries and no qualifiers.

Because that’s what family is – isn’t it? We all have friends that we say we “love like family”, and all we mean by that is that we won’t give up on them. We can’t be hurt enough to make us turn our backs, we can’t be annoyed enough to not call, we can’t be repulsed enough to ever stop praying for them. Family is love, no matter what. Through any circumstance or difficulty, through any discomfort or disagreement or hurt feelings, we still love them, because they’re family. This why God uses the illustration of adoption and family (children of God) to describe us – he loves us even when we are huge disappointments, when we make epic mistakes, when we have tantrums in the middle of Target or run continuously late or forget to wipe our feet at the door. This is the promise we made to Addy – to be here, to be family, to love no matter what life does next. Now we get to keep that promise and it is such an honor.

Today I’m grateful for promises kept – for how God loves us and how we get to love each other. I’m grateful that we get to make these promises to our baby girl; what a privilege it is to promise our love, to whisper her name and sooth her cries as only mommy and daddy can.

November 10th, 2015 by Dani

Gratitude Project: Finalization Day

Today, we walked into the AAA office, where we’d gone at least a half-dozen times to get several adoption papers notarized. We’ve been having a cold snap so we were bundled up and Adelay was wrapped in a blanket, sound asleep with her head on my shoulder. The notary led us back to a corner cubicle and we dialed the judge’s chambers at the appropriate time. We had to dial back several times because no one answered, just adding to our unease. Finally, a clerk answered. The notary swore us in, they asked us to verify our desire and ability to adopt, and then asked us for a brief statement about why we want to be parents. We stumbled – how do you say what parenthood and adoption and this precious baby girl means to you in three sentences? – but got through it and I think we sounded intelligent or at least sincere.

Then it was done. “The judge is signing” said the clerk, and the judge added in, “Congratulations – you have a happy Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas together” which was the moment I came undone. Because we get to celebrate the holidays as a real family – no strings attached, no social worker looking over our shoulder and no fear of the worst happening, the horror story that unfolded for your friend’s cousin coming true.

Adelay

I just held Adelay close in that funny little very non-private cubicle and cried. I’ve wanted to be a mom for so long, and sometimes that almost makes all of this harder – how can I have yearned to do this laundry and now sigh over it, I yell at myself. Regardless, it’s easy to get caught up in the daily stuff of life and lose sight of the incredible, heart-stopping drama we’ve lived through. I didn’t even know how scared I’ve been until the judge said “Congratulations” and my fear came pouring out my eyeballs in ecstatic, relieved tears – this baby girl is ours and we are hers in the deepest way.

I think it’s important to note this: to remember that I was scared and still dared to keep loving anyway. I tend to write off my tears or anxieties as silly nuisances instead of the makings of character that runs deep and wide. I remember when we flew back from Jacksonville with our two-week-old, and we came into the Redmond airport at midnight after a 17-hour day of travel, and we were stopped by an older couple at the baggage claim. I don’t know what prompted it, but the man said to me, “When you walked through that door, I could tell you were an adoptive mom. Nobody and nothing is going to hurt that baby while you’re here – I can see it.” In the moment I thought it was a sweet thing to say to an obviously exhausted and fragile new mom, and that maybe my neuroses was showing and I needed to loosen my grip and smile a tad more. But now I realize that I was being shaped by this wild ride, and I still am. Because every challenge opens my heart wider and makes my back stronger.

Today, I am grateful for the chance to share our story with the sweet notary at AAA. I’m grateful for the kindness of a judge across the country, for the strength of my husband, for the smile of my daughter. I’m grateful for the chance to love through fear, and for the happy beginning to another incredible chapter.