Wrangler Dani

Writer, editor, marketer and communication strategist. I'm also a wife, mama, hiker, cowgirl and experimental cook living in beautiful Central Oregon.
December 4th, 2016 by Dani

Keep Going!

Addy has a little walker that talks. She doesn’t use it much any more, unless I start talking about putting it away, in which case it becomes The Most Favorite Toy of All Time. Anyway, it talks when it senses movement, and it’s got a jumpy trigger finger, because said movement can be any person walking around the house, no matter how far away.

The other day, I walked by it and it chirped out “Keep going!” I laughed to myself and then thought, I need this little voice all the time.

Because I need to hear, “Keep going!” Because, and I’m being honest here,… is anyone else tired?

I used to get on Facebook for cute photos of my friends’ kids and puppies, and now I get on in fear and trembling that I will see another apoplectic political post. (I brave them for the pay-off of cute baby/puppy/Christmas tree photos but I’m just saying – it’s gotten a little hot out there.) I need reminders to keep going, that relationships are important and valuable, even when I’d rather check out and protect myself.

I need to hear “Keep going!” because all too often I hear the opposite. I hear that I’ll never be good enough or cute enough in Spandex, so I should quit going to yoga. I hear that I’ll never get a book deal, so I should stop writing. I hear that adoption is only a tragic choice and not a beautiful one. I hear that my choices for my kid is questionable, that my beliefs are silly, that my life is small and foolish.

At Christmastime, I hear that my love for this sparkly season is silly. I hear that my joy at big bows and perfect presents and hot cocoa on a snowy afternoon are childish or materialistic, silly or thoughtless. But I do love Christmas, because it is the season of foolishness. It is the season of “Keep going!”, don’t you think?

It is a season when we should be awed and not calloused, when we embrace an infant Savior, an angel choir singing to dirty shepherds, a blazing star in the sky. I’m daring to believe that God sent Jesus to tell us “Keep going!” that we don’t have to do this alone, that we have Emmanuel, God with us. Every time I walk past that silly plastic talking toy, I’m going to thank my Creator for the gift of wisdom through a child’s toy, hope through tragedy, joy to the world when it feels like it’s falling apart. After all, he didn’t say “endurance to the world” or “clenched teeth to the world” or “anxiety to the world” – I’m going to believe that the God who came as a helpless baby into a wartorn, oppressed country isn’t too scared by the troubles of 2016, and that he meant for us to live in joy despite them.

The angel said, “I bring you good news of GREAT JOY for all people!” JOY TO THE WORLD. Keep going!

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.

November 9th, 2016 by Dani

What I will tell my children (Election 2016)

We got a new president in 2016, kids, just as we had for 44 election cycles before. It’s a pretty neat thing, actually, and it happens every 4 or 8 years, depending on whether or not We the People think the President deserves another term in office. The United States of America, unlike many other countries in the world, has peaceful, free elections. We transfer power within parties peacefully, without coups, riots or civil wars. We also don’t have a king or queen, which means that this President, like him or loathe him, will be gone soon enough.

When people vote, we often get wrapped up in the candidate we support or don’t. In 2016, Daddy and I voted for neither major candidate – that’s one of the many lovely rights we have as American citizens – to protest the status quo with our vote and our voice. After the election, a lot of people were scared, confused and upset. A lot of people were very happy. Others were sad, because they had voted for what they believed was the lesser of two evils, which isn’t a very good feeling.

But do you know what the truth is, in all of this? America is a great nation because America is us. Not just our family but all of us. We the People get to decide how to move forward, and sometimes, because we’re people, we make mistakes. But we try to believe in our ideals – the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the right to speak our minds and vote our conscience and dream big.

Our job is to be kind, when others are upset. When I was a little girl I remember being very nervous about the outcome of elections, but I am not anymore. Because we are more than our leaders, and we are not defined by politics. Out job is to love God and our neighbor, to give generously and act justly, to love mercy and live in hope. In 2016 I knew that God was in control and that America was still my beautiful country, my promised land, full of fascinating, wonderful, hard-working people who I am honored to call my fellow Americans, no matter who they voted for. My dear kids – my beautiful, wonderful, unique and precious children – do not squander the life you’ve been given or the country you’ve inherited. Never forget how to love someone who disagrees with you, how to keep eternal perspective in mind, and that you get to choose – not just a President, because sometimes that doesn’t flop your way – but who you’ll be in every circumstance, how you’ll lead and how you’ll live. I pray for you, that you surprise the world with your love and your God-given gifts, no matter what happens in politics or in the world.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” -Jesus (John 13:34)

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.

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.

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

May 5th, 2016 by Dani

Mother’s Day for the Brokenhearted

Perhaps in preparation for Mother’s Day, I’ve been seeing a lot of videos and articles about how hard motherhood is, particularly when you have young kids. Mostly, these are shared by moms, for moms, giving each other a virtual heave-ho to get through the meltdown in Target or the second cold cup of coffee.

I get it. I have a young child and I’ve been known to cry about my loss of autonomy from time to time.

BUT. But.

I also remember how it felt to avoid Mother’s Day at all costs. I remember how it felt to heave big, heavy sighs after seeing adorable munchkins in their Sunday best, accompanying cute moms and dads to brunch. I remember crying uncontrollably because the wave of longing snuck up behind me and whacked me on the head before I knew it was there – suddenly I was sitting in my living room, in the car, on a park bench, with big ugly tears rolling down my face and absolutely no control over my heartbreak, on display for all to see.

The fact that the feeling of loneliness and longing is so close behind me makes Mother’s Day even more poignant for me this year. I can’t wait to sally into church as a bonafide mom and praise God for his faithfulness – but I am also incredibly sensitive to those who have not yet had their prayer answered. There is nothing quite like the ache of unanswered hopes.

Dear friends, I know how it feels to long for answers, for fullness, for new life. Please don’t give up.

Don’t give up – we need you. My daughter needs your example as a single woman who is confident and loving and secure. She needs you, as a childless couple who will love her like the lovely aunties and uncles you are, who will still love her even when kids of your own arrive. She needs you, as an example of a good friend who is present and loving even when life challenges your plans.

We went to a Seder dinner last weekend and ate the maror and charoset, to remember that life is not always sweet and not always bitter, but a mixture of both; that the goodness of God permeates even the pain of the present. You might be eating bitter herbs, but joy is also here. Redemption is powerful and present, even when the calendar mocks our hope or reminds us of our longing. No matter where you are this weekend, Happy Mother’s Day – you are loved and joyful redemption is here.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” -Jesus

April 8th, 2016 by Dani

Stress-shopping and Plastic Breakfasts

Today I stress-shopped online, bouncing from swim suits to place mats in a desperate attempt to feel better. The trouble with stress-shopping online is that I rarely actually buy anything – it just makes me feel worse about my messy house and fat rolls, and I waste valuable hours that should be rejuvenating, browsing Williams-Sonoma instead. Stress-shopping is a lie, a silky seductress who beckons me with new stuff and pretty pictures, taunting me as I prop up my soul with her instead of a good talk, a good book or a good walk.

It’s not that my stress is so bad, either. I’ve had some upheaval in my professional life that is causing anxiety, but I know it’ll be OK. Addy is teething, which is a fussy process and I admit I’m tired, but we’ll get through it. She’s still wonderful, she just hates her teeth and I don’t blame her.

For many years I’ve believed the falsehood that I can fix anything. I can bootstrap that problem right up, if you just give me half a chance and some leftover baling twine. When life starts running off-kilter or when the unexpected comes, my response is to power up and FIX IT, by golly.

But now I’m a mama to a little person who needs me to power down quite often. I don’t get to set my own hours or run my own show – as every mother knows, this show is now running me. I still have plenty of time to work and play and be Mama, but I don’t get the luxury of a frantic, powered-up pace when life feels out of control. I don’t get to work until the job is done, I just work until she wakes up or we need to eat lunch.

What does this mean? Well, it shouldn’t mean anything, other than a bit of a new schedule and more flexibility in my life, but I find myself feeling stressed and desperate: desperate for control over my schedule, desperate for time and space to think this through. This is silly, I’m well aware. My life is wonderful, my free time is still there, I’m still working, my baby is easy, my husband is supportive and loving. So, why do I feel this way?

I think my identity as creator of my own destiny and maker of my own future is coming unraveled, probably for the best. The truth is, I’ve never been in control of my destiny or my future, I’ve just pretended like I am, like a child with a play kitchen making breakfast for the family. We all play along, but the plastic bread and fruit aren’t actually delicious.

Today, I can fret and freak out because I’m worried about my plastic breakfast and whether it’s good enough for my family, or I can recognize that maybe this breakfast doesn’t matter after all, that maybe the real breakfast is coming from somewhere else. Maybe all of my striving won’t make me successful, any more than worrying makes me healthier or happier.

It’s hard to learn a new way of living when the old way feels so empowering. It’s hard to remind myself that I will still have time to get stuff done after the baby is rocked to sleep or after I’ve cleaned the smushed strawberries out of the carpet. Maybe, if I can figure this out, I can be one of those awesome zen-like yoga moms who wears an adorable outfit with a matching workout headband to the kid-date in the mountains and somehow manages to squeeze in a professional life while planning imaginative educational activities, making homemade jam from handpicked blackberries and doing pilates. I’m joking, although if you are one of those moms, teach me your ways!

As nice as it sounds to be an adorably put-together yoga mom, it’s probably more important to be content to be me. I’m not in charge, sometimes I’m unsure and scared. My scary moments aren’t mitigated by the intensity and take-charginess that used to make me feel better, but hopefully I’ll learn to live with a little uncertainty and a little patience. After all, it’s just a plastic breakfast. Stress-shopping doesn’t make the plastic breakfast become real, and banging my toy saucepan on the painted burner doesn’t either.

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” -Jesus (Matthew 6:25-27)