Saturday, November 22, 2014

You Found Me

Some people find God and some never find God.
Some people find God in their children, at their workplace, through their friends or on the corner of first and Amistad. 
I find Him in nature.
If I pay enough attention, I see Him not just in nature, but everywhere. If I am honest, my children have led me closer to God more than anything else. 
But my soul, the fibers of my body, humm and vibrate in unison with the pulse of nature. And I find God. He gathers me to him, like a child to his mother's breast and a soldier to his King's feet, in love and fealty.
I was reminded of how God works on me in that way when we went on a ten day hunting trip in October. 
After an 11 hour drive to Eastern Oregon with 3 kids under 5, even a dry camp looked like an oasis in the desert by the time we got there. The kids scampered out around the clearing in the woods as soon as their seat belts clicked off. I scampered over to a thicket of wild roses that were packed with cherry red rose hips, just waiting for me to harvest them. The Firefighter scampered away to give his ears and bladder a rest. We were all quickly called back, as my parents had stayed in camp the night before and had heard of very inquisitive bears in the area. Oh right, we weren't in Disneyland. 
No running water and no electricity meant few dishes, no laundry, and no showers for 10 days. We were gloriously filthy. We smelled to the bone of wood fire smoke and pine needles. The kids rolled luxuriously in the dust created by dry mountain air. Our only bath was in the soul-cleansing full moon that nearly shown like the sun in the dark forest night. 
Every day, we woke before the sun had considered rising, drank a cup of steaming camp coffee and snacked on homemade jerky, sourdough crackers and salty soaked almonds. In the dim pre-dawn, we took turns keeping the kids quiet and hiking into the wild country in search of elusive antlers. Some days we covered two miles of steep mountain before the hills were fully lit. 
Evenings were spent by the campfire after a long afternoon hike and peaceful sunset. Our bellies were full from hearty dinners and our bodies at rest. We raised our voices in song with the guitar. I imagined the music floating to the moon and drifting through the trees; the sound ebbing and flowing into nearby clearings, a lullaby to the forest. 
Even after constant "unsanitary" conditions, near death cougar experiences, absolutely no meat hanging in camp, a few bloody patches and rolled ankles, I would argue our bodies and minds had never been healthier.

He doesn't have to, but He gives us gifts. 

My Playlist:
My Kids playing with matchbox cars and a tea set

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Falling for September

September is my favorite month of the year. Is it any wonder?
Hot days quickly turn to pleasantly cool evenings at the first sign of the sinking sun. Lingering wildfire smoke clings to the edges of the hills reminding the nose of mountain camping trips. Green, yellow, and red leaves seem to catch fire in the soft bronze-gold of the early fall sun. Prickly stems and drying leaves curl back to reveal the last vestiges of sleek green cucumbers and bumpy yellow squash from the garden's harvest. Apples are finally in season; they crunch and explode with juicy sweetness like no other time in the year. The new pages of school books slide smoothly over eachother, their black ink dark with the promise of learning and adventure. The kids snuggle into their warmer fall clothes, the Fireman snuggles into his thermal henleys, and I snuggle into them all as the last rays of the summer's sun fall below the horizon.
While the world around us is following a pattern as old as time, the Chase family is having many new experiences this September.
We started homeschooling Brother. As I have discovered in many areas of parenting, this has been both very challenging and beyond rewarding. From blank stares, 'I-Don't-Know' answers and open defiance to understanding, 'This-Is-Fun' comments, love and laughing; we have experienced a lot in only two weeks of Kindergarten! I know we are in for a roller coaster ride during the next dozen-plus years of school, but this is our current conviction. So stay tuned!
We got two little Oberian dairy goats who will (hopefully) provide us with milk and cheese this coming Spring. Right now they are providing us with exercise as we try to keep them where they are supposed to be. Kat and Doob, short for Katmandu and Dubai (named by their previous owner), are apparently ninja goats, trained especially in the art of escape and theivery. Doob has made it into the chicken coop through the 10" by 12" chicken entrance in order to get to the kitchen scrapes inside. Both goats have escaped the field through electric wire multiple times. Picture red laser security systems and some very flexible goats. But seriously, there is no way to keep them from doing this. I am hoping when they get pregnant this winter they'll get too fat and forget their younger days as ninjas.

We found out what a "broody" hen is. One of our Buff Orpington hens attacked the Fireman one night as he tried to take her eggs away from her. After some quick research and some local networking, Broody Hen has been happily sitting on 9 fertilized eggs for 14 days. She only gets up once a day to poop and drink some water. She is starting to look wildly haggard, reminding me of my last few weeks of pregnancy. And, as a side note, if I ever need a genuine belly laugh, I ask the Fireman to give me his impression of a Broody Hen. It's the best.

Sister has discovered corn-on-the-cob. Since this discovery, corn has been on the dinner menu at our house most every night. This is not for her sake, but ours. She loves corn with a kind of ferocious passion. When those cobs are in her hand, the world melts away and it's just her and the corn. Bite after bite, she doesn't quit until it is gone. This makes for a most entertaining dinner show. As such, we have had a lot of corn lately, which is fine, because corn is five for a dollar at the farm stand right now.
There is our September in a moment. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to snuggle the Thermal Henley sitting next to me.

My Playlist:
Ho Hey - The Lumineers
Flowers In Your Hair - The Lumineers
Chop and Change - The Black Keys

Monday, August 4, 2014

A Series of Extraordinary Circumstances

I found myself telling The Fireman today "Hey Sweetie, don't do the dishes. I'm saving up hot water to wash the diapers."
Despite not having a number of modern amenities that I have taken for granted in my previous life, our little family is settling into this new life with surprising ease. There has been some complaining. There has been more than one moment where visions of nice big hot water heaters dance in my head. But, overall, losing some of our past life comforts has been surprisingly easy and (dare I breath the word?) refreshing. Shall I tell you about it?
My whole family sleeps with our heads within 5 feet of each other, separated only by a curtain. Now, this may seem like an unimaginable horror. But as parents of an imaginative 4 year old, a potty training toddler, and a newborn that requires feeding every two hours, this is a great arrangement. We don't have to get out of bed to assure Brother that there are, indeed, no green monsters lurking behind his door. When Sister needs to go potty for the tenth time at 11pm, it is approximately ten reasonable steps to get her to the bathroom and back into our own bed. When Little Brother wakes for his 2am snack, I don't even have to open my eyes to feed him and get him sleeping peacefully again. Now, please stay tuned for the next segment in The Chase Story: The Teenage Years.
I can clean my whole house in less than an hour. That is awesome. Does it matter that in less than 5 minutes that same clean house can look worse than it did before I cleaned it? I suppose it depends on who you ask. To me, no. In my heart, I know that in at least one point during the day, my house would've been presentable to the Queen of England. So, Queen, when you come to visit and there are rocks and feathers and dirt ground into my kitchen floor, and it looks like the ToysRUs clearance section was mixed with yesterday's table scraps and dumped on my living room rug, just know that at 9am this morning, the house was shining and beautiful. 
Without a dishwasher, I never need more than one 5-place-setting set of dishes because they all get washed after every meal. Saving money on dishes is great, right? Okay, I admit, I am really stretching to find the good in the whole no dishwasher situation. I would rather hand wash week old dirty diapers than the dishes. Really. When my parents, who we live next to, leave their house, The Fireman and I sneak over to their house with a tub of dishes and run them through the dishwasher. This brings us such excitement and sneaky joy that we giggle. Yes, giggle.
We found out post-move that we can't get internet out here. Something about the bandwidth being maxed out for the whole Dexter area, so no new customers. Anyway, what we can do is hover around the south wall of our house (the one closest to my parents) and try to pick up a faint signal from their internet connection. This signal is available at random times of the day and cuts out with no warning. We have had luck getting a better signal off our back porch. So, at night, The Fireman and I again sneak outside, ipad in hand, to watch an episode of 24. Excitement. Sneaky joy. Giggling.
Life is busy, crazy, and wonderful here. On my to-do list for the next month: Extract 7 hives worth of honey. Slaughter lambs to put up homegrown meat for the winter. Ferment cucumbers, cabbage, and beets for the winter. Card and spin freshly shorn Babydoll Southdown wool to make into warm cozies for my family. Organize and read through Brother's Kindergarten homeschool curriculum. Try to convince The Fireman to buy me a dairy goat.

My Playlist:
Counting Crows - Colorblind
Pearl Jam - Last Kiss
Bruce Hornsby - Every Little Kiss
Matt Nathanson - Come On Get Higher
Sia - My Love

Monday, June 23, 2014


I should really learn to ask more questions. Not only 'why' questions and 'can' questions but 'should' questions. For example, should a 9 month pregnant woman with two kids under 5 decide with her husband to move into a 600 square foot, 1 bedroom house? Sure there are plenty of reasons why. It definitely can be done. But should it be done?

I really dislike dumb questions.

Anyway, unless someone gets hit by a bus or some other tragedy, we will move from our 1200 square foot, 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom home into a 600 square foot rental on my parents 3 acre property in less than 4 weeks. There is one bedroom and a postage stamp sized bathroom. Brother and Sister will sleep in the closet in custom made bunks. When Little Brother makes his appearance, he will be with the Fireman and I. I'm thinking baths will be taken in a whiskey barrel in the kitchen.

All the goats, sheep, rabbits, chickens and bees will make the journey with us. We decided to keep them outside instead of in the house with us. It would just be too crowded.

Everybody has unique lives that are interesting and valuable in important ways. I realized today that our little family's decisions on how we are about to live our lives may be interesting to some people too. Or something to laugh at. Or at least to make you feel better about yourself.

Here try this out.

That's my kitchen right now. Sink overflowing with dishes because the dishwasher didn't get started and I can't reach past my belly to get to the sink. Moving boxes. Goodwill boxes. Giveaway boxes. Packing materials. A random pile of laundry that has sat on my kitchen table for days. See, feel better?

Or try this.

Can you see my feet? Yeah, neither can I.

Brother and Sister seem to be handling the slight craziness well.

Especially since they get to be in their jammies at lunch on the porch.

The Fireman seems to be happy.

Hmm, well he would be much happier if I would stop trying to fix up the house before we move.

And me? Oh, I'm happy. Look at all those pictures worth of things for me to be happy about. A kitchen. A dishwasher. My kids. My new baby. A husband. Sunshine. Opportunity.

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17

I hope I can keep y'all updated. It's sure to be an adventure!

My Playlist:
Josh Garrels iTunes Radio


Friday, May 17, 2013

Noble Foot

My Birkenstock clad feet shuffle across an open floor in an empty gym. I set my tiny plywood box down in center court. I step up. Addressing an absolutely silent room, I take a breath and begin, hoping that someone will join me.


When I sat down to write today, I contemplated that I might be the only one who struggles with vanity and low self-esteem. But then I did some quick research. Americans spend over 40 billion dollars per year on cosmetics. We spend 2.2 billion per year on plastic surgery. And we spend over 61 billion dollars per year on weight loss products. After a quick look at my bank account, I determined that it was not me who was spending all of that money and made a fairly certain decision that there are others in the world like me.

If i'm just like most everyone else, whats my problem?

My 8 month old daughter. My beautiful, blue-eyed, clear skinned, happy, pink-cheeked, innocent baby girl. She's my problem. And she's yours too.

We tell our cherubs, as they grow, that they are beautiful. We tell them that they are perfect just the way they are. We tell them to be confident. We tell them to believe in themselves. If our babies would just listen to us, they would grow up to be confident young women who are proud of who they are.

But they don't listen, do they? They watch us. They watch us as we flip through Shape magazine drooling over new weight loss products that promise to help us loose 10 sizes in 10 days. They watch us as we use four different tools and a gallon of hair product trying to get our hair to look full and shiny. They watch as we try on a new pair of pants and moan about how we can't fit into the size we want. They watch as we paint our faces to look 'prettier'. They watch as we have our bodies cut up and sewn back together to look like Kate Upton.

What am I really saying to my daughter then? Probably something more like this. "You are beautiful just the way you are, but I'm not." "Don't compare yourself to the other kids, but I'm going to compare myself to this magazine." "Be strong and confident, but I'm going to agonize over how these pants fit me."

Let me just suggest to you, fellow Mommas, that you really are beautiful. You really are fearfully and wonderfully made. If you believed that, truly believed, don't you think it would change not only how we see ourselves but how we raise our little girls? What if we stopped trying to look like what someone else says we should look like and spent that time appreciating what we already have? What if we focused on true inner beauty, mental and physical? Michelangelo was famous, in part, for his incredibly realistic sculptures. In reference to his works, Michelangelo said, "I saw the Angel in the marble and carved until I set him free." I propose that we are all marble angels, unique and individually beautiful.

There are many answers to the questions I've asked, and each answer will be as unique as you are. But my wish is that we really think about what we are saying to our girls with our words and our actions.


"What spirit is so empty and blind, that it cannot recognize the fact that the foot is more noble than the shoe, and the skin more beautiful than the garment with which it is clothed?" - Michelangelo



Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Fulfillment

     Dust flew in little moats around Simon's sandal clad feet as he stepped into the only bit of shade he could find in the melting sun. This precious rectangle of cooler air was cast by a neighboring dwelling, its baked mud walls absorbing the piercing sun's rays and allowing the few who found it a break from the thermal oppression. On less busy days, Simon would meet John and Samuel here to talk together while business was slow. Though business was flourishing today and John and Samuel were not even in town, Simon came to this spot to catch his breath for a moment and watch the crowds.
     Some he recognized and many he didn't. Some he had known from infancy and others he faintly recalled from his childhood 30 years ago. By their ragged appearances, some had come a long way. By their lack of ability to pay for a room, some had come at great cost.
     The conversation that wafted in pieces through the dry air was lighthearted, excited recognitions and jovial greetings. Men clapped each other on the back and gesticulated animatedly to each other. The milder voices of the women wove through their more boisterous mate's. A child's high pitched squeal could be heard now and then as their parents snatched their fleeing bodies, trying to keep them from getting lost in the throngs. Simon listened in amusement to the natural rise and fall of conversation.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

You Can Do That?!?: Vanilla Edition

Did you know that garage sales can seriously change your life?
What? That was random. But really, a garage sale changed my life.
It was eight years ago, an early summer Saturday morning. Garage salers were out in force, looking for deals on chipped tea cups, dusty coffee makers, and drooled on toys. I, myself, wasn't looking for anything in particular. I was just combing through strangers houses, enjoying their collections of presidential plates and mini McDonalds edition beanie babies. While looking through a particularly large collection of cookbooks, I found one called Breads From La Brea Bakery by Nancy Silverton. It had a lovely cover with all manner of nicely browned breads. 'What the heck', I thought, 'I like books, I like bread, and its only $.50'. A relentless bargainer, I talked the poor book's owner down to $.25 and left with my treasure. Excited as can be about my purchase, I brought the book home and promptly forgot about it.
A few months later, I was cleaning my room and found the book. It was dusty. The bread on the cover did not look appetizing dusty. I moved to put it in the 'throw away' pile. Suddenly a breeze from my upstairs window blew open the cover. The sun came through at the same time, illuminating the words and I began to read. (Okay not really, but this was one of those pivotal moments that changes the course of life and I thought it deserved a good story.) Anyway, before I threw it away, I wanted to read what I had spent my hard earned quarter on.
Before this book, I had thought of bread as the holy grail of baking. To get bread to rise and taste good was a huge accomplishment reserved for professional bakers and my grandma. I had also assumed that using yeast was the only way to make bread. Boy, was I in for a surprise.
Get this! You can make bread (excellent, better than you've ever tasted in your life bread) with just flour and water!
This idea appealed to me. This was how people from the beginning of time made bread. They pulled out their rock, smashed some wheat berries, and fermented it with water. How cool is that? I loved the idea of getting back to the basics.
So someday, I may write about my bread adventures. (I did end up successfully cultivating an active, delicious starter and making bread from flour and water. Still gives me excited jitters.) But for now, I just wanted to write about my introduction to 'getting back to the basics'.
Pretty much every ingredient I cook with these days I think, 'how could I make this myself?' or 'How would my great, great, great, great grandma have done this?' Those questions don't always get me anywhere (I don't have the ability to mine sodium bicarbonate from the earth... yet.) but in some cases, like making my own vanilla extract, it does.
But why, I sometimes ask myself. Why, in Gods green earth, would I want to make my own vanilla? Well, I could say that it saves me money (which it does) or that I can control the quality of ingredients (which I can), or that it tastes way better than store bought (which it does). No, the real reason is that I feel pretty darn awesome about myself. When everyone else in the world is suffering from a vanilla extract shortage, raiding grocery stores for it, and swarming the one vanilla extract delivery truck that comes every two months from somewhere in Mexico, I will already have a lifetime stash of vanilla in my cupboard.
Yes, I am that pathetic.
But, I am what I am. And so, when it all comes down, you'll know who to come to for all your vanilla needs.
If you want, you can always make your own too. It's ridiculously easy. All you need is vodka (or rum) and vanilla beans. Here's how.

When I first read about making your own vanilla, the recipe said to use 'bottom shelf vodka'. Being highly ignorant of all things alcoholic, I went to the liquor store and asked for 'Bottom Shelf Vodka', thinking I was asking for some brand of fancy vodka. When the clerk looked at me funny, it all clicked. Looking sheepishly down at my feet, I mumbled something about just needing their cheapest vodka. Guess what? She grabbed it from the bottom shelf. Lesson learned. On a side note, did you know that you can get vodka in a plastic bottle for $4?

I get my vanilla beans online, which is the only way I get my vanilla beans because it is so cheap. ( is cool).
So, to make vanilla, just take three beans, split them open, cut them in half and stuff them in a jar. Cover them with about 2/3 cup vodka. Make sure to push the beans down into the vodka. Put the lid on and put the jar somewhere out of the way. It takes eight weeks for the alcohol to extract the vanilla essence, so just wait. You can shake the jar up a little every week but make sure to get the beans down to the bottom of the jar again. In eight weeks, you have vanilla extract! 
So great, huh? The best part is that, as you use it, just replace the liquid with a bit more vodka. Then you don't have to wait another eight weeks. 
There you have it. Super easy. Super fun. And you may just feel like the coolest ever for making it yourself. 
Now, go find a garage sale. It may just change your life.

My Playlist:
All things Mumford & Sons