Monday, August 8, 2016

I'm grateful I was disowned.

SO! That's quite a title isn't it? Here we go...

There once was a girl, of only 16 years. Maybe she thought she was in love, maybe she was simply hoping someone really loved her. Whatever she was thinking or feeling, cost her childhood. Without knowing, she grew up in one night, as her future was conceived in her womb. Along with a baby, grew a burden of shame and guilt that she would carry for the rest of her life. Added to that was a nagging doubt she had made the wrong decision. Oh, not to have the baby and accept motherhood.

She made a life altering decision that she would never know for sure was the right one. She chose the father of her baby. She didn't leave it up to biology or chance. She took back her power and made the best decision she could, with the knowledge and skills she had at the time. She didn't live long enough to know it was the right one all along.

I have though.

I connected with my biological father a few years ago via facebook. He was never part of my life. He would say it was my mother's choice, shirking any personal responsibility. I know enough of the legal system, if he truly wanted to be in my life, nothing and no one could stop him. I was over that though. Willing to accept him as is and allow him into a small part, at least digitally through social media. My personal life was falling apart at the same time so it was all I could handle.

Fast forward to the past month. I discover that I have another brother. A biological half brother, who shares a father with me. Strange. He is quickly accepted by the extended paternal side of our family and by our father...for about three minutes. Then he was denied. I question bio-daddy about this and, oh about three minutes later, I was virtually disowned via social media. Since that was the only way I had to connect with him, I no longer can. Just.Like.That.

Here's the thing though. The real point of this post.

In that moment, when it all went down--though I felt shocked, I mostly felt immense gratitude. Confirmation that almost 45 years ago, my mom made the BEST choice ever. For me, for her, for the man I REALLY call dad. He was the best thing that happened to us. He is an amazing father. He also, did the best he could with the skills and knowledge he had. He stayed. He loved. He chose fatherhood, even as a teenager. He chose me.

One brief, shocking moment brought a lifetime of clarity...and healing. Resentments I didn't even know I had toward my parents, nothing major, self-centered, residual, teenage angst I didn't even perceive I had been carrying around-was healed in the realization that I was so blessed with the father who raised me.

All the work I've been doing on myself, working through heart ache to self-care, healing and being emotionally and mentally healthy and whole, was also demonstrated when I didn't react brokenly by bio-daddy's unwarranted shunning. I clearly saw his brokenness and let him carry it.

How could I have seen my own growth? Is there another way to practice gratitude but when you experience loss? Or are unjustly mistreated? How can you not be grateful for the distance from madness? Once again, I have been reminded...the separation is the rescue.

Thank you mom. You made the right choice.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Friday Hike Day: Lewis Falls, Azuza

Tickle torture.
The trail to Lewis Falls is still well hidden and little known enough that you can have it to yourself. It is way up the mountain toward Crystal Lake and there are no trail markers. The road was closed for years, opened then closed again due to fire damage. It only re-opened a few months ago. 

Trying to get a shot of one brother, captured two...Can you see him?
The only marker is a NO FIRES sign that faces in the opposite direction. GPS via google maps will take you right to it, though you can't tell when you pull up. Park on the side of the road, there is a shoulder and use your Adventure Parking Pass. There are NO restrooms! You can use the restrooms at the Soldier Creek picnic area before you arrive at the trail head. This is NOT a stroller friendly hike and I do not recommend baby in a back pack style carrier because, as you will see in the following pix, the trail requires ducking, squatting and climbing up, over, and under tree branches, logs and rocks.

Ducking under! This branch got me right on the back of my shoulder as I tried to go under and thru. Ouch!
It is only about 1 mile to the falls but can feel intense at moments due to the ducking and climbing, which keeps it interesting. It's definitely not a flat trail. Trail is mostly shady which contributes to a bit of creep factor. The old cabin ruins don't help. There are also a couple cabins that are still in use, so be respectful of private property.

Climbing up rocky 'steps'.
Since the trail still doesn't get much use, it can be confusing to follow in a few spots. Five minutes in, you will come to a large boulder. Do not be fooled in thinking the trail leads along the left of the boulder toward the creek! It actually leads right to a switch back. You will head behind a private cabin, upwards and into full sun for a little while before returning to the creek for a few crossings.


This is not Lewis Falls.
The creek and falls were still flowing but the pool at the base of the falls certainly had a lower water level than the first time I did this hike with a friend. It's only ankle deep but still refreshing and beautiful to look at. Flies were more of a nuisance then I remember then the last time. Depending on the season, and drought conditions, the creek water flow could be very low.

Lewis Falls!
The falls are located in a small, narrow canyon. Boulders provide a few spots to sit. Beware of mosquitoes, large black ants, spiders and red ants, depending on the season. This trail is not boring. The climbing and the lush environment keeps it interesting.

Spikes.
Wild flowers, other flora and fauna are in bloom right now, at the end of spring. I don't think I saw any poison oak but be careful anyway. I wouldn't be surprised if there was some growing along the trail. Parts of the trail are nearly over grown and very narrow. The blooming foliage also attracts plenty of bees. 


Groupie!
This trail is so enchanting. If there was ever a forest populated with fairies...it would be this one! I can imagine them watching us stomp through their mossy neighborhoods. Be sure not to leave anything that could disturb them or their eco system, like trash.




I am sure these solar glares are fairies flying too close to my camera phone. Aren't they beautiful?
This is a very kid-friendly hike due to it's short distance and the visual and physical interest factor. The views from within the enchanted forest and along the side of the road, can not be beat. We give this a mid-to high rating on the adventure scale. You may see various birds and lizards...it is snake season and though we didn't see any along the trail, we saw one attempting to cross the road on the drive up. Stay aware and toward the middle of the trail as much as possible.





See you next week.
Start the day outside! 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Friday Hike Day: La Tour, Victoria Beach-Laguna


This is more of a walk then a hike. If it's open, there is parking on the opposite side of PCH for free. No restrooms at this Beach point of entry. Not necessarily stroller friendly once you hit the sand. Child in a body carrier is fine. 

The main attraction of this hike is the little castle, known as La Tour (the tower) on the sand between the cliffs and shore. 


Make sure you go during low tide to be sure you can access the tower and so you can check out the tide pools. When you enter Victoria Beach, you won't see the tower. You will go to the right, from facing the ocean. Pass the corner of the first tide pools and the tower comes into view. 


Enjoy the view, the crashing waves and check out the sea treasures at the tide pools. This is a low intensity walk, though you will have to walk uphill on the beach access road and thru the residential neighborhood on the return.


There is a Ruby's Diner right up the street if you want to grab a burger. You can also head back down PCH, into the hub of Laguna Beach atmosphere.


Of course, you can actually swim in the water as well. Always be sure to use sun protection, stay hydrated and bring snacks if you don't plan on eating out. There is NO shade! 


Over all, it's a unique spot. How often do you get to take pix of a mini-castle on the beach? You can peer into the door and tiny windows to view a wooden staircase that leads all the way to the top. 

Or dream of being Rapunzel while you soak up some rays. Haha.

Start the Day Outside! 
See you next week. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Knotts Berry Farm Summer Fun: Ghost Town Alive



Ghost Town has a new interactive atmosphere for the summer. We had SO much fun yesterday. We were only there for a few hours (we're season pass holders) and ended up staying in Ghost Town the entire time. I know it's against the teen code to even admit, but my two teens loved being involved in all the town business and the 7 year old loved feeling included, looking for characters to deliver messages and letters to.

If you or your children are shy or non-joiners you can still enjoy the hands on aspect.  At the end of the block where the blacksmith is, the toy barn is now a livery. There's a couple horses and a donkey you can pet.

Across from the General Store is the Assay Office and the laundry, where you can pretend to wash and hang clothes on the clothes line. Next to that is the barber, get a custom mustache or a set of mutton chops finely groomed (drawn/painted) on your face. While you're there you might over hear some news about the Mayfield's threatening to take over Calico.

Right past Calico Grill is the new dress shop. Try on a fancy dress or skirt and snap a pic. Don't be startled if you hear a ruckus outside, probably a card game gone bad next door at the sheriff's...or a couple bandits getting locked up.

While we were there, a gold miner shared news of a robbery in progress at the bank...the sheriff hollered for all of us to follow him and check it out. Oh my! A gun fight broke out between two bandits on the balconies above the bank and the saloon! If you're a witness, you will be asked to file a report at the sheriff's station or draw a wanted poster at the bank.

If you'd rather stay away from the fray, mosey on into the Post Office. The postal clerk is unable to leave his post and may have a letter for you to deliver to the Mayor at Town Hall.

When we arrived two younguns' were getting hitched! They received a certificate of matrimony from the town of Calico and everything. We delivered the letter to the Mayor but...he wasn't too happy about what it said. He told us not to tell anyone.

We may have accidentally let it slip as we were playing match-maker, giving the paper boy some love advice. He's got the googly eyes for the perty daughter of a town official...but you didn't hear it from us!

There are a couple perty, new teachers at the school house. They are looking for dates for the Hoe Down that evening. There's a certain barber and snake-oil salesmen, I mean medicine-man, that has his wagon parked near by. I wonder why he's always hangin' around, he's too old to be in school? 

Do your civic duty and be sure to vote in the local election, for town Mayor of Calico, rumor has it, the race might be a close one. Don't forget to become a bona fide citizen as well and sign the guest book at Town Hall before you leave.

Keep your eyes and ears open, there are shady and shifty characters everywhere. You never know what you may see and hear in Calico, where you become part of the adventure!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Friday Hike Day: Etiwanda Falls, Rancho Cucamonga


You would never believe this trail leads to a shady oasis consisting of a refreshing creek and waterfall. This hike was almost overwhelming for all of us. It's dry, rocky, full sun and up hill the entire way! 

We arrived at 10am and temps were already high. Please hydrate the day before and bring more water than you think you would need. The hike isn't that long at all but under the blazing sun-yikes! 


Parking is free in a small gravel lot, adjacent to a residential community.  Due to the slippery, rocky path, this is NOT a stroller friendly hike but would be great for a child carrier-make sure the child is well protected from the sun. 

There are two gated trails, take the one straight ahead from the parking lot. There will be a couple trails that lead to the sharp left and to the sharp right, these head to shaded picnic areas. 


When you reach a triple fork in the road and a faded sign on a stone marker, with an arrow pointing left, take the trail in the middle, with a gate. If it's hot, you may feel like giving up-DON'T! The trail really isn't that long, maybe 30 minutes to the creek.


You will eventually reach a grate with water flowing through it. Splash some on your neck to cool down, you are very close! Follow the trail up one more time, you will see the trees and probably hear other visitors. 


You will finally come upon a shady grove, the creek in front of you and the falls to the right, below. You will be at the top of the falls. The base is accessible with caution, at least when we went and the water was flowing but low. 


The base of the falls was filled with beautiful butterflies; tiny blue ones and larger yellow ones. There were too many to count! 


After such a warm hike the water is refreshing and cool. The hike is not that exciting in and of itself. At the top, you can catch some awesome views of the canyon and the city below. 

It gets a mid-level score on the adventure scale. Children will enjoy the water and may see lizards. Older kids may enjoy exploring further up the creek. Be aware of bees among the wild flowers and congregating near the water. Be sure to save some of your water for the way back down...and watch your step. The rocky trail can be slippery. Hiking shoes recommended.

See you next week! 



Thursday, June 2, 2016

Abuse Drills

We teach our young children safety in every aspect, like staged fire drills, earthquake drills, stranger danger, what parts of their body should be considered private etc. But often over look emotional health and well being, especially as they get older.

As vigilant parents, we have to over-come our own awkwardness and have the hard conversations. Tell your daughters and sons what domestic violence and abuse looks like. Prepare them so they never doubt themselves or perpetrate it on another.
Teach them an escape plan for abuse. What to do if they find themselves the victim of a situation you never want to imagine will happen.

For my daughter, our plan goes like this: 

1. Do whatever you need to do to stay safe in the immediate moment.
2. Remove yourself from the situation/person ASAP.
3. If unable to remove self,  get to a phone soon as it is safe and you can.
4. Call your brother or me and we will come get you immediately-no questions asked.

It's simple and not too much to think about in an emergency.

Encourage them to listen to their inner voice that tells them something is just off about a person. To pay attention when they get a bad vibe. Most of all, empower them with healthy boundaries. 

Explain to your sons and daughters, their individual value and how a relationship will never meet all their needs or make them whole-because they aren't half a person! And their deepest needs can only be met by Christ.

This way they won't over ride red flags, signs and checks in their spirit out of desperation, the idea that they lack the worthiness to be treated with respect and honor or worse; that no one else will ever love or want them.

Speak God's identy truths into them-yes! This is not a guarantee...just as earthquakes, fires, and accidents happen. Situations can happen that we may never expect, but they must be prepared for them. This isn't fearful parenting any more than having a fire escape route in your home or explaining gun safety. This is empowered parenting! 

Build up your children spiritually and emotionally, as well as equipping them practically. I didn't grow up witnessing any form of domestic violence between my parents but it was never explained or talked about either. It wasn't clear to me what it was exactly...I thought it only looked like someone getting beat up and visibly bruised regularly.

Now I've learned, it doesn't always look that way and can be even more unrecognizable if you are unfamiliar with abusive behaviors. 

You are your children's advocate. The most equipped teacher of life experience IS YOU! You can do this! 


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Hello June

June is NOT doom and gloom. It's a rest for the in-between-time. A breath between what has finished and what is about to start. Inhale deeply, for the whirlwind of joy and celebration is coming.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Friday Hike Day: Trail Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest

Steep, side trail that leads to the base of Trail Canyon Falls.

Here is an easy to miss, underestimated hike. It offers a variety of scenery, shaded and sun filled paths, creeks to cross and rocks to climb. First, you have to find it! 

Driving along the mountain, you can easily miss the road that leads to the trail head because there is no signage. In the opposite direction, there is a road sign that indicates Trail Canyon and Cold Creek. Otherwise, it looks like a turn off on your left. 

We discovered a skunk carcass at the base of the falls! 

Follow the dirt road up then all the way down, leading to a parking area and the trail head, surrounded by a few residential cabins. I believe parking is free but we have an annual Adventure Pass for parking so I put it up, just in case. 

The trail can be very dry and hot, I can't emphasize this enough: hydrate the day before and bring more water than you think you need! Always better safe than sorry. Don't forget protective sun wear. 

Trail Canyon Falls...still trickling.
The trail leads past cabins, some currently inhabited-always be respectful. You will cross the creek a few times. 

The trail offers shady and lush respite from the sun in spots but the last leg of the journey will be full sun. Don't give up, you are almost there. Just as the doubts may begin to get the best of you...and in my case, my boys prepared to stage a mutiny...You turn the corner and see the falls in the distance to the right. 



The trail leads you to the top of the falls. There is an easy to miss trail on the right that leads down to the base-we took this trail. Use caution, it is steep, slippery and involves scaling rocks for a few steps. 

The falls were just a trickle but the water was cool. Perfect to wet your head and splash a bit. 

This hike is about a 7 or 8 on the adventure scale, depending on whether you've gotten a good sleep the night before. Haha. The water fall cove is serene and private but very small. Not much to sit on besides the ground. Bring a towel if you don't like sitting on bare ground or a log crawling with large ants and spiders.

We saw a couple desert ground squirrels, a hawk, lizards and lots of bees! This is not a stroller friendly hike. A child carrier would be fine except in spots where you may need to crouch thru trees and may pose a balance danger if you take the steep trail down to the fall's base. 

See you next week! 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Friday Hike Day: In Search of Upper Bonita Falls


I am not a fan of this gorgeous waterfall. We've been a few times already, last being on Christmas Day. The disappointment is the overwhelming amount of graffiti! 


It makes me physically sick to my stomach! We only returned because I read about a second, upper waterfall. The trail head is unmarked, a small gravel lot that simply looks like a turn out on the side of the mountain road. There are two decent porta-potties and an Adventure Pass is required for parking. 


We did not find the upper Falls, however, word is you climb up the canyon right before Bonita Falls.

We tried it anyway. I don't recommend it with smaller, inexperienced children. Mine could all hack it but we eventually gave up. It's slippery gravel on the way up, previous hikers left a few ropes which were helpful. We also brought our own which was super helpful on the way down! 


The view was extra spectacular though, even though we didn't find the falls. We headed back down to Bonita. I will have to return another time with out the Adventure Kids. 


As you can see, Bonita is beautiful on its own and extremely popular. The hike is mild and the falls are easy to get to. Also indicated by the graffiti. The desecration gets as close as one can to the falls without being in the water, it's even on plants! A real shame. 

The first have is a rocky trek thru a dry wash. There was a little water this time. Definitely not stroller friendly...or even stroller accessible. A steady foot should be able to trek with a child in a carrier. 

Start the day outside.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Taking Time Not To Lose It


Lunch...for the most challenging 7yo I've ever had! As a mom, I finally realized, when I am feeling the *most* frustrated-is when I *most* need to slowdown...and intentionally show and pour (strangle? No, pour! ) extra love into the moment. I can't even fathom how many million deep breathes I will have taken by the time this 'exhuberant' child is grown...but however many are necessary, I will take them! 

I stopped fighting the moment this morning. Walked away to focus on an act of love. The 7 year old could certainly make his own lunch. I acted out the grace by making it for him. I put in extra effort to make it look pleasing and attractive. I intentionally took the extra, unnecessary...or perhaps completely necessary, time to perform a gratuitous act of love. 

He ate his entire lunch in one sitting. A rarity! Peace was restored.