Archive for the ‘Memories’ Category

When I was around 11 or 12 years old, in my childhood living room, my dad taught my brother and I how to protect our faces and deliver a hefty punch, in case we ever got into a fight. (This knowledge was only to be used against meanies, of course). (Which it has, if you must know). Later, in college, I had a punching bag in my room that I frequently used to assuage my frustrated feelings and rattle the hallways of our poor old house. I’ve never been afraid of a fight, even though I consider myself a dreamy/artsy type, hence why the title quote made me smile this week.

I’ve been thinking about dreaming lately, and the fight that it takes to turn a dream into a plan. It’s said that planners marry dreamers, which is definitely true in my life. I’m the spontaneous and overly casual dreamer – I don’t measure when I cook and keeping track of my keys is my biggest daily challenge.  Adam, the planner, makes a carefully printed out and detailed spreadsheet for work-outs, vacations and Big Life Decisions, while I tend to only worry about such silly details 10 minutes before we’re about to embark upon said adventure, at which point I realize that I maybe should have thought this through.

Being with Adam reminds me that I’m not a planner. Honestly, I’m in awe of someone who is so rarely rattled. So, if I’m honest about my own short-comings, I’m completely shocked that my business is thriving. I very nearly break out in stress-related hives every tax season, I have done my fair share of blowing by opportunities and I often make dumb choices. Basically, I’m me and I never realized that I could actually be good at things. I’ve always expected much more from myself, and when I didn’t deliver, I would assume that was just how it was. Punching something, in my mind, only helped me feel better – little did I know that very fight in my heart, and that mere strong-willed determination might be enough to overcome my failures.

I know now that a bit of grit goes a long way, and a good pummeling only makes me stronger. A few tough brawls have taught me that although I’m rejoicing in my momentary success, hard times are just around the corner. That’s what boxing lessons with my dad taught me, anyway, and it hasn’t been disproven yet – don’t ever turn around on your adversary, don’t ever assume you’re safe – fight until you know you’ve won.

As much as I’ve wanted to give up sometimes, I’m glad I’ve learned the art of hunting down my dreams and giving them a stern beating. I have a new, personal goal to achieve and it will take a lot of clobbering to overcome. Luckily for me, I have a deadly right hook.


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I love mornings. (I REALLY love mornings after about 12 hours of sleep, but…) Even with limited sleep, however, wave a cup of coffee under my nose and give me a minute to think and I’ll be up and singing in the shower within minutes. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the power of mornings and new days, and the hope that comes with an AM address. I’m a routine-loving girl, and throughout my long and illustrious life I’ve had multiple routines that made mornings special.

  • Opening up the coffee stand in Bonanza, Oregon. I wrote about it here, and I can still smell the coffee, bleach and fresh-country-air smell of those days.
  • College. A shower, a granola bar and my North Face daypack and I was out the door. It was always hotter than I expected, even after four years I was always shocked by t-shirt weather in October. I was the only one in House 9 Abilene who actually PLANNED to have 8 o’clock classes, so I usually walked or drove to campus by myself, meeting up with my roommates later when they were in more charitable moods. (I’m the only morning person of the four of us, so I probably noisy-ed my way onto their morning bad side more than once. Sorry.)
  • Wrangler mornings. Smashing a cowboy hat on my rumpled curls and clomping out the door with Ami, my wrangler buddy, in the grey, misty dawn. It would be 100 degrees by noon, but in the morning, the air was brisk against our cheeks and smelled of wet grass, yesterday’s dust and horses. We’d get ready to bring our herd in, pouring grain, opening tack rooms and hay bales. The day would be long and dusty, but in the morning we were excited, refreshed, talking to our horses like a couple of doting moms and laughing at inside jokes.
  • Summer camp mornings. I worked as a counselor on and off in-between wranglering, and I would wake up much later than wranlger mornings, but STILL be up and get a shower before the kids did. GLORY HALLELUJAH. This was also where I learned how to have a “quiet time” with the Lord, which I try to still have as my morning routine.
  • Early OC days. When I first moved to the OC, I lived with my grandma and went jogging every morning in her neighborhood. Then I went and sat at my desk and ate bagels and candy all day, so I still gained weight, but at least it was a good habit. Right?
  • Dana Point. When I moved to my “bower” in DP, I woke up at the butt-crack of dawn, brewed a pot of coffee in my hobbit-sized coffeemaker, made myself a lunch and commuted up the coast for 40 minutes, occasionally early enough to see the pink morning sun glisten on the water and imagine myself alone on Pacific Coast Highway. I also gained weight at that job, what with the sitting on the butt and the drinking of many lattes. Office life, it does me no favors.
  • Married life. Adam makes coffee. I get spoiled. I hunker down with a Bible and steaming cup and then I get to work – blogging, writing, calling, talking, sounding like a professional. I love that pause, right when I have a fresh brew and a moment to glory in the peace of early morning and the possibilities that come with it – as Anne Shirley said, “Tomorrow’s a new day, with no mistakes in it yet.”

What makes your mornings special?


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So, I’ve done NaNoWriMo before. (Note: I use the word “done” very loosely. Please do not recall 2009 and 2008, both woefully inadequate attempts).

HOWEVER, this year will be different. This year, I am renewed in my sense of vigor and verve and vim and general good-writing mojo, and will probably make it to a full 12,000 words before I putter out. Since I have a crazy friend who’s already written 3,000 words BY DAY TWO, I figure mayhaps I better, um, write something, so as not to be totally shamed.

But, keep in mind that I’m also a little busy being Julia Child. (More on that, later. Speaking of “more on that”, I’m also going to try to blog more this month – when I give myself goals, I prefer that they be as unrealistic as possible. It gives me that “2-am-before-finals-i-might-actually-die” feeling. Quite exhilarating.)

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Hi, I’m Joey from The Young Oak.  Dani is on vacation right now and asked me to be a guest blogger on her site.  She beat me up once in college, so I said yes without hesitating.  I also said yes because Dani and I have been friends for a long time, and I wanted a chance to sit down and chat with her about the current goings-on in her life.  I’m in bold, Dani’s normal type.

Dani, thanks for talking with me!
I’m always excited to talk to you, Sir Joseph.

Let’s just jump right in.  You’ve been consistently blogging for a long time. Why do you do that?
Because if I didn’t blog, I’d just talk all the time and that would be irritating. [Laughs] No, really, I would go crazy if I didn’t. It’s a way to process my life and hopefully share something cool with somebody else.

So you write because you need to?
Basically. Over the years it’s grown to have some ambition in it as well, although I’m a part-time freelance writer now, I’d love to make my living at it full-time someday… but only because I love it.

I want to talk about freelancing. I know you write for local websites, and that you were recently published in print as well. That seems to be a big goal for lots of amateur and semi-pro writers. Any advice or observations?
It’s cliché, but you just have to go for it. I’m actually talking to myself more than anyone, because my own fears and perfectionism has kept me from some successes. I do feel that I’ve been learning how to get out of my own way.

Why part time?
The biggest bar to freelancing full-time is the uncertainty of it. It’s really hard to go from getting a bi-weekly paycheck to a really big check every three months and $20 here and there the rest of the time. But, it’s worth it. There have been so many times that I’ve wanted to quit. Every time I think I’ll be writing for $5 a blog forever, I get a big break and I run on that high for weeks.  I’m looking for the next one. Currently I’m writing a book, which is probably the hardest creative thing I’ve ever done because you don’t get the instant gratification. I still feel like I’m in the sandbox, in many ways.

What do you want to write? Is a book the end goal?
Yeah, I would say so. I want to be able to legitimately introduce myself as an author/writer

I guess it sounds trite, but I feel like I have something unique to say. And just like I can’t imagine my life without a horse in it, I can’t imagine my life without writing.

So you want to be who you’re meant to be. That sounds valid to me.
[Laughs] Yeah, I guess so.

I think you’re right about just having to do it. I was recently talking with a comedian and he asked me what I wanted to do. I said that I wanted to be a writer. He asked me if I had a working keyboard. When I said yes, he asked me why I wasn’t writing.

He was basically reverse-heckling. His point, though, was that if you want to do something, start working at it.  Eventually, you’ll be in the right place and the right time. I’ve read so many interviews with authors, comics, actors, businessmen, and they all say the same thing.  They don’t all publically call me out, but maybe that’s why that comedian’s words stand out.  He threw some water on my face and woke me up.
[Laughs] Adam often heckles me about it. It’s good for me.  I think what you’re saying is true. Even if you’re writing for pennies, as long as you’re inspired by it, do it!

Can I ask about the book?  Is it a story or non-fiction? Will there be 3D glasses or anything?
[Laughs] It’s creative non-fiction. Non-fiction as I see it, with licenses to protect people or exceptions made for my ailing memory. I’m writing about all the mistakes I made pre-Adam, and the things that I wrote to girlfriends about the dumb things we all did.  It’s a Blue Like Jazz approach to relationships – wisdom from my life, intended to be read with a cup of coffee and a grain of salt.

Unfortunately, no 3-D glasses, although I think we should keep that in the wings for the movie version.

How do you decide how transparent to be in your online presence?
Eeeesh.  I really don’t know. I have had times when I’ve thought, “Maybe that was an overshare.” Those are always the posts that get the most reaction and people are most moved by.  Not that I’m writing for applause, but I’ve never been good at being fake or fluffy, so I guess I just roll with honesty most of the time and hope people don’t mind.

Why do you think those posts are the most popular?
I guess we’ve gotten used to personas. Everybody has their script and follows it religiously. We love reading People because it’s proof that sometimes the script is wrong or a fake, and I guess maybe my blog is an itty-bitty People magazine of my life for the internet. Minus pictures of me in Juicy sweats at Starbucks.

Do you find that the blog helps you connect with people in real life? Either older friends or new ones?
Yes, absolutely. Several of my students’ parents read it and have become more open and personable with me for it.  Of course, its a great way to keep in touch with old and new friends: You, Val, Jules, Annie. There are countless people who I know in real life who blog and our relationships are stronger for it.

I cry at the sweet or sad blogs of people I don’t actually know. Amalah and Annie Blogs, I’m looking at you.

What’s the most unexpected thing that has come out of your blog?
Probably the response. I started blogging for me, and I still can’t believe it when people like what I write.

What are you reading, listening to, watching lately? Do you have career role models?
I just finished Good Enough to Eat by Stacey Ballis.  It was good and inspired me to just do it.  Again.

I’m listening to Tyrone Wells’ Metal and Wood and anything Ben Harper. It’s been rainy lately, and he’s my go-to guy for that.

I’m watching Community, Outsourced, and unfortunately some Real Time with Bill Maher and other political things to keep the noggin fresh.

Career models? I love Jen Lancaster and would love to be her.  I enjoy writing in the style of Living the Questions by Carolyn Arends and anything by Donald Miller.

What are the three most important things to remember in marriage?
1. Women – be respectful. Men – be loving.
2. Remember that’s your each other’s partner, hero, champion.
3. Get yo’ hankypanky on.

You grew up surrounded by nature, and you obviously still love it. Can you sum that up in a sentence or two? Also, do you have any advice for a novice camper about how to handle giant spiders and compost toilets?
[Laughs] The great outdoors has always been where I feel closest to God and where I enjoy being. I do appreciate working showers, though, having spent quite a long period of my adolescence without them. I’m not nearly as worried about spiders as I am about mice and stuff. Ick. Also, compost toilets? You’re on your own.

Who’s your writing career model, btw? And can I interview you when I get back from vacation?
I don’t know if I have a writing role model. It might be Felicia Day. She is kind of a one-woman tour-de-force in the nerd world. She writes and stars in the web series The Guild, she’s writing a comic, she was on a few Joss Whedon projects. The Apatow clan is pretty cool. Everything they do looks like so much fun, and it has so much heart, especially Freaks and Geeks.

Musically, I would say Pete Yorn and Jon Foreman.

I don’t know if there’s a common theme there. I think all of them all kind of do exactly what they want. That might be it.

Just do it.

I’ve been really into standup comedy lately. I’m interested in how comedians get their point across through humor. The idea isn’t just to say something funny, but to get your ideas out in a funny way.  It’s naturally subversive. I also think there is a lot of really good story-telling in video games now. That’s part of why it’s a bigger industry than movies. I don’t think of myself as a writer anymore as much as somebody who likes to make things.

Like Community! Some of the best social commentary in a funny way.

That’s my favorite comedy by far. By a mile. Did you know Donald Glover started with a sketch group on the internet and then became a writer on 30 Rock?  That goes back to the idea that you just have to do it.

Wow, enough about me.  We’ll get to me later.  What’s your current drink of choice?
Sam Adams Pumpkin Ale. It’s like a Pumpkin Spice latte with hops.

What’s the dream?  Live on a ranch with horses and write in a cabin?
[Laughs] Nailed it. Adam and I both love the idea of being our own bosses, and we love the country. So, a ranch and such would be ideal.

Thanks, Dani. We’ll wrap it up because I know you’ve gotta go.  I just interviewed my first published writer! In a way, that makes me published. Isn’t that how it works?
[Laughs] YES! I’m making it!

(Dani’s note – for the Interview with a Young Oak – politics and religion edition, click here.)

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(Note from Dani – Katie is one of my dear friends from ACU, and she is a talented writer with an old soul, a sweet spirit and a an almost obsessive love of tea. Enjoy her meditation on new places today as I wander through a new place myself. 🙂 )

So I’m totally jealous of Dani’s rad vacation this week – I love, love, love D.C. and all its amazing sights, and Williamsburg is a swoon-worthy destination for sure. But while part of me sighs with envy, another part is content to be just where I am. For the past two months, my hubs and I have been settling into our new home in Boston. As a couple of Texans who’d only visited Boston once before moving here, we had – and have – a LOT to discover. Just after Jeremiah got the job offer in June, we traveled to Houston for a wedding, and stayed with Jon, my best friend from high school and a voice of wisdom in my life for about 15 years now.

We were weighing the pros and cons of a move, and agonizing over whether to leave Abilene – where we’d met, gone to college, put down deep roots and formed a solid, loving community. Where we’d lived for eight years, where our finances were secure, where we had family. And Jon said something I’ll never forget.

Okay, so I can’t remember the exact wording. But the gist of it was something like this. When weighing major life decisions, he asks himself: Will this decision help me expand the cast of characters in my life? Don’t I want to discover new places and people to add to my story? Is my life complete, just the way it is now? Or will this change (whatever it might be) open up new scenes for me, stretch me and challenge me, and introduce me to people who need to be part of my story – and whose stories I need to be part of?

Something clicked for me as Jon talked about characters and stories, and I knew: Boston was the next exciting chapter in my (and our) story. I loved our life in Abilene, but the truth was, we’d been idling for several months. We felt restless, like it was time to move on – we just didn’t know where yet. We’d had several false starts, but they all came to nothing, and frankly, none of them felt right. Nothing felt right until Boston – and it felt, and feels, like our next great adventure. I’m loving all the things you might expect me to love about Boston: rich history, delicious clam chowder, tons of cultural opportunities, the excitement of exploring a big city.

But I’m also loving getting to know the cast of characters in this chapter of my story. They range from our sweet landlords, an Italian couple in their seventies who live downstairs, to our good friends Abigail and Nate, who moved up here from Abilene just before we did. They include people from half a dozen nations, born-and-raised New Englanders, and transplants like us. And they’re all a part of my story. And now, since I live here, I’m a part of theirs. Vacations are fascinating, it’s true, and even short trips can change your life (one week in London when I was sixteen led to a semester in Oxford and then an entire master’s degree there, for example).

But living in a new place is an entirely different breadth and depth of adventure. I’m thrilled to be writing this chapter of my story in Boston, and I can’t wait to see what – and who – happens next.

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Yesterday, I’m trying to get Wee Cowgirl to ask her horse to walk. She keeps insisting that the correct word is “go” and I insist on “walk”. Finally, she looks at me in exasperation, tiny toddler curls falling over big brown eyes. “Miss Dani, WALK!”

I lost my sunglasses. My eyeballs hate me.

I’ve grown to love so many bloggers whom I’ve never actually met… and I just bawled over this.

Adam has become Head Lighting Dude at church, and last night spent a few hours working out lights for Sunday’s service. He was very excited about LEDs and colors and all kinds of techy stuff. I stayed home and watched “My Trip to Al-Qaeda” and wrote this. We are both very nerdy.

I get to be in another wedding this weekend. Expect much waxing eloquent on love and friendship.

Valerie is going to Chick-fli-A without me. I want to eat waffle fries with her on the way to class instead, walking through the funky-smelling Jelly Bean to get said fries and out into the crisp West Texas fall.

My Hot and Godly husband makes coffee for us nearly every morning. Love manifests itself in the sound and smell of fresh coffee beans grinding and brewing. What perfection.

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So, I’ve mentioned my blog-crush on Annie Blogs. So when I saw “Annie Blogs” show up on my email, it was like a celebrity sighting for my little email account. wranglerdani (at) gmail.com was flabbergasted and really wanted to squeal, but I restrained her from doing anything too fangirly and embarrassing. Except for shriek off and tell Val, who responded as kindly as is possible when your best friend is irrationally freaking over a blog comment.

Anyhoodle, the comment that got me all a-twitter was on Annie’s fantastic post about how to have community, after which I commented a silly story about Awkward Girl, my alter-ego. I’ve learned many things from my dear Holli, but one of the best tips she’s ever given me was how to laugh at myself when I feel out-of-place (which is often). To do this, she invented an alter ego named Awkward Girl.  Awkward Girl carries her otherness around like a cape and joyfully traipses around, aware of her awkwardness but not allowing it to hold her back. She rolls off of exercise balls, squeals at shadows and gregariously introduces herself without worrying about the potentially painful consequences.

Despite my natural shyness, Awkward Girl was one of many forces who finally gave me the courage to be awkward, to step out past my safe bubble of friends and shake hands with somebody new.

Because I can’t really get away from it, anyway, right? Life is awkward isn’t it?

Community is awkward. People are awkward. I am especially awkward. (The word “awkward” is awkward. Just writing it over and over is making me want to play with it. AwkWord. Awwwwkward. Awkwarrrd. What a weird word. What? Anyways.)

I’m excited about introducing myself now, about new friends and new faces and community that cherishes and loves despite our awkward tendencies. Thanks, old friends, for putting up with Awkward Girl. Hi, new friends… you’re in for an offbeat treat.

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