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 ‘parenthood’ Category

September 20th, 2017 by Dani

Grace

October is practically here, which means my baby boy is almost here, too. I know he’s not mine yet and it is so hard to not feel overwhelmingly attached, especially as we make plans and rent houses and cars and wash onesies. But he still is someone else’s baby boy, at least for now.

Adoption is beautiful

Addy with her “baby brother” doll, an incredibly realistic baby doll gifted to her by my dear friend Claire. She can’t wait to be a big sister.

Speaking of, I have about 20 newborn onesies (all given to us, what grace) and I regularly look at them and wonder if I should get more or pack more or prepare better. The last time we did this we didn’t have time for something like counting onesies, we were lucky we thought to buy any before we boarded a midnight flight.

This time we are packing bottles and blankets, onesies and toddler toys. I have a well-loved diaper bag that I pulled out of the closet and got very teary-eyed about the other day. Sometimes this upcoming month-long adventure to Florida feels like a grand holiday, an exciting vacation that we would never take otherwise, a chance to show love in a tangible way. Sometimes it feels like a foolish gamble, an expensive, time-consuming exercise in unwarranted hope.

Grace lives in the middle, doesn’t it? Grace knows I’m nervous and scared. Grace gives me precious (perfectly unstained, how is this possible?) hand-me-down newborn clothes anyway, folded neatly in brown bags and ready to be packed in suitcases with longing hopefulness. Grace lets me believe that it’s OK to be excited, to think about kissing tiny baby cheeks in a few weeks and get all fluttery inside about it. Grace believes the best, sets worry aside, gives wisdom for when hard times inevitably come.

We are saying yes to grace and goodness, knowing that just because something is scary doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful or worth doing. Baby boy is already ever so loved and cherished, infinitely valuable in the eyes of the God who made him and the family who loves him, both birth and adoptive. This is a good thing. This is grace.

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.

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!

January 17th, 2017 by Dani

Writing What I Need to Hear

I usually write what I need to hear. I write about gratitude because I am so often whiny, redemption because I need it, creativity because I feel stuck, family because I know it’s important. As I write about these things, they usually come around as an encouragement to my own heart.

So I was asked to write a couple of stories this month for our local paper’s Special Projects – one on girls night out places and one on casserole/freezer meals. I’m writing about hospitality and care and friendship, warmth and long conversations and shared experience. This, friends, is what I need.

I love being a mom more than I have loved any other role I’ve ever had, but it is lonely. The hours I used to spend with a friend on a hiking trail or with my husband at a restaurant are now spent at home, chasing a toddler. We’ve had nearly six weeks of snow which means it’s hard to even get out the driveway, adding to my cabin fever. Addy won’t go to childcare and is really clinging to me – it’s the most profound feeling of love and dependence and yet I’d really like to work out or talk to a friend or get work done sometimes.

I am not complaining. This is just real life. Real life is messy and sometimes boring and sometimes lonely. Real life means that I have to put myself aside. It’s a precious burden God has given to moms, and one that we too often complain about or diminish. But here’s the kicker – we can’t do hard things alone.

A few weeks ago when we were flying back home from Texas, we were headed through TSA. They’d inexplicably changed the stroller regulations from the other bazillion times we’ve flown, and wouldn’t let us bring our stroller with us. So we were carrying two carry-ons each and a fussy toddler through a very crowded security check. I was snapped at for leaving my purse open on the belt and then the agent angrily grabbed Addy’s snack out of her hand. “She can’t have that!” As we stood at the end of the conveyor belt in our stocking feet, an agent start rifling through Addy’s backpack. “I have to check all of her toys,” she said, as Addy cried for her bottle and her baby doll and everything else that the agent was feeling up and placing on the counter. I lost it. By the time we were allowed to leave, I was sobbing and so was Addy. I was hungry, humiliated, frustrated and felt completely vulnerable. I stood outside the security checkpoint, struggling to get all of our things back into carry-ons and get Addy her snack, flustered, crying, as Adam tried to help. I saw a woman out of the corner of my eye, and, surprisingly, she came right up to me and gave me a hug. “It’s OK mama,” she said. “You’re doing good. You’ve got this.” I wasn’t even able to process that I was being hugged by a complete stranger in an international airport – at that moment, she was the angel I needed, and I just sobbed.

She hugged me for a moment, then patted me on the shoulder and went to reunite with her husband and kids, as I sniffled and gathered up my things. I was embarrassed that a stranger had noticed my emotion (who wants to be the teary mom in the TSA line?) but more than anything, I wanted to be her. I don’t know if she is always that forward with strangers in need, or if God just moved her heart at that moment, but I want to be like that.

Friends this is a hard season. I bet you are tired, no matter where you are right now – motherhood, wifehood, singleness, dating, working – life is tiring. I am tired. I don’t know how to get my baby to nap without laying on me. I am trying to figure out how to balance life and work and dreams and finances and motherhood and friendship and marriage. I need you, and maybe you need me, just as I needed that beautiful fellow mom in the Dallas airport.

Today I just want to tell you that you are doing good. You’ve got this. Even when you feel like you have screwed up for the last time or like you might get lost in your own mind (what Elizabeth Gilbert calls the “bad neighborhood” of your consciousness) I want to be there for you.

As always I am writing about the thing I need. I need friendship. I need intimacy and courage. I need to be in your corner, cheering you on, and I need you in mine. Maybe together we can change how this season feels. Maybe the harsh agent at the TSA line would change her tune if she saw us holding each other’s babies and carry-ons and giving hugs to strangers. Maybe this is how we change the world.

November 16th, 2016 by Dani

Honesty and Love

I am a mother and a wife. I am created to love my child, my family, my friends. But that is not all I am.

I am also a writer. I’m a business owner. I’m passionate about adoption and hospitality.

Did you cringe when you read that? Does it seem self-serving for me to assert my talents here, as though I’m asking for validation?

It felt awkward to write it. I want to delete it, to tell you a cute story about how Addy is carrying around a baby doll everywhere she goes or how I need advice on what to do with my hair.

But the truth is, I am better at love when I am honest about who I am. A friend of mine and I were texting the other day and she said “there’s no time for chit-chat” and I wanted to run across town and hug her. Because there’s not, is there? We have only a few precious years on this earth and we dare to waste them on long conversations about the weather and the price of milk? No, heavens no.

Let’s be honest about who we are – who we were before we got married, or without our kids, or in spite of our job. Who are you and why are you here?

Only when we rip off the false humility and say the words “I am __________” can we give others the love we’re called to offer. You might be a warrior for the underdog, a hospitable helper, a creative soul, a joy-bringer, a thoughtful observer, a passionate pursuer of justice, a caretaker of the small and the weak. But you are not just an employee or a mother, only given worth by the people around you. You were not created to work 9-5 and collapse on the couch every evening. You are not just a wife or a girlfriend or a professional person. Don’t misunderstand – those are good things! But you are more than that. You are a mentor. You are an honest friend that we desperately need. You are created by an infinitely creative God to serve a purpose that no one else could possibly serve.

I’m mostly writing to myself and other moms, because we so often get lost in the massive needs of our family, but I think most women can relate. We are so relational that we lose ourselves without a outside sun to guide us – a job, a relationship, a family – and while that makes us hospitable, loving and nurturing, it can also leave us worn out, shallow and yearning.

Let’s quit the chit-chat. There just isn’t time for it, and frankly, it was never that fun anyway. Let’s embrace the creative, passionate, unique, hilarious and profound gifts God has given us – as we do, I think we’ll learn a new, deeper way to love.

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.

August 19th, 2016 by Dani

Being Needed

Yesterday morning, Adelay and I went to Costco. This is a regular occurrence for us, and Addy knows the drill: eat graham crackers, smile at passers-by, kick feet out of cart-holes and chillax. She has the best life. Anyway, we were checking out and this elderly lady decided to make friends with Addy. She finally coaxed her into a rousing game of peek-a-boo and Addy really turned on the charm, laughing and covering her nose with her short little fingers (she doesn’t quite realize that the point of the game is to cover one’s eyes). It was super cute and it made everyone in the check-out a little happier, to see this little friendship blooming between a lady in her 70’s and a one-year-old.

After we checked out, Addy and I waved good-bye to our new friend and she said to me, “this made my day! Thanks for letting me play with her and feel needed.”

I thought that was a strange thing to say. But my cart was filled with the stuff of a young family: milk and cereal and a fleece pajama set for my girl, while hers had a few single-serving dinners and not much else. I don’t know anything about her life (she just played with my daughter for a minute in the Costco check-out, after all). But as I drove home I found myself thinking about feeling needed, and feeling sadness for this lady I don’t know, that she doesn’t feel that way.

I like to be needed. (Doesn’t everyone?) I like it when my friends call because they want to hear what I’ll say to news or a dilemma, I like it when my husband asks my opinion, I like it when Addy stretches out her arms to me with a little “hmmmmm?”

But the dilemma of motherhood is this: it’s so lovely to be needed, and yet there’s just SO much need! Can you need me for hugs and snuggles and then happily play alone while I do dishes? Can you need me a little less before I’ve had coffee, or a little more when I’m feeling insecure and lonely?

Need is needy. It pulls and pushes at me when I feel cranky and overworked, then it drifts away and I suddenly miss it, just when I thought I really needed a break.

It’s easy to feel small and silly, to wonder if my life matters or feel bluesy about the state of the world. But then need rumbles me out of my funk and gives me hope. Because if I’m needed by this little pigtail-wearing blueberry-munching girl, or if I’m needed by friends or family or church or home or work, then that’s all that matters, isn’t it? God didn’t give us these little lives to make us crazy, he gave them to us because the daily work of life really matters – the picking up of fussy kids and the smiling in the Costco line and even the answering of emails – it matters.

I’m so grateful to be needed. When I feel tired and grouchy, I will remind myself about the lady in the checkout line, who’s day was made by a five-minute encounter with the little person who I get to share life with, who I get to be needed by. May I never forget, this endless need is an enormous gift.

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.