Sunday, November 27, 2016

What Our Advent *might* Look Like This Year.

Things have been challenging the past year and even more so the past few months. I really looked forward to Advent as a time of focused devotion to the scriptures of Christmas, the intentional time to gather with my ktbunch and breathe. It's not all faith and Bible verses but it mostly is. I added a new Advent book/devotional/calendar on a whim last month and could barely wait to bring it out. We are not organized, we are not uptight and we may go strong for a few days a week, for a few weeks. It's something though. A time set apart for meditation, prayer, and being together. It's effort and right now, that's about all I've got to give: good intentions.

All the Colors of Christmas
First, here are the books we pull from: 

I bought this Advent activity Calendar new this year. It has a daily devotional, an advent calendar tree to assemble, and activities to go along with each devo. The main part of this book though, is the brilliant illustrations to color. The pages are large and I expect it could take us years of advent celebrations, to finish each page.

The ktbunch is free to color while they listen if they wish. There is no pressure to participate but the option is there.

Christ in Christmas

I also have a few favorites I have collected through the years and continue to use to enrich our time together. My first book was this classic pictured on the left.

This book contains guided scripture readings, devotional content, classic faith based Christmas carols to sing, an activity and prayer for each Sunday of advent.

We sing the Christmas carol together and it offers another option to enrich our time together.

The next little book is not an Advent book at all. It's a book of prayers I found at the grocery store a few years ago but the prayers are Christmas themed and each one includes a Bible verse.

Each passage is short enough that my seven year old can read it with ease, without becoming over whelmed.

Touching Wonder

This next book I own digitally on Kindle. This one is also an absolute favorite of mine! It is such an honest, raw account of Christmas, as told through each of the characters and players of the scriptural story we know so well. It's not a dreamy version or account but an awe inspiring, gritty and fresh perspective that moved my heart and soul.

The book also includes pencil drawings/illustrations and a hand written letter commentary image for each chapter from the author.

We are reading our scriptures from this Bible I purchased a few months ago. The bible itself is beautiful. It features illustrations to color and wide, lined margins for your own personal journaling and creative expression.

And one more book...that I can only HOPE to use this year...not an Advent or devotional at all but still Christmas's a COOK BOOK!

A gorgeous book filled with spiritual comfort and recipes to meet your physical and emotional needs. Haha. I also found this one at the grocery store, last year I think.

It features gorgeous full color pictures and scriptures.

Now along with these primarily faith based books and reading selections, I also pull from a variety of Christmas themed books on my Kindle. Most were freebies; novels, a few classics and a couple collections that feature passages from various Christmas books, poems and traditional readings.

Here is a list of some of the books i have acquired for FREE via Kindle.

The Gift  of the Magi
A Christmas Carol
Christmas Stories and Legends
A Little Book of Christmas
The Night Before Christmas and Other Popular Stories for Children
The Children's Book of Christmas Stories

Here's what our modern-use-what-you-have-and-do-what-you-can-Advent looks like:

I don't aim to do *everything* on my Advent wish-it-looked-like-list, but whatever. We gather on my bed, the only common meeting place we have right now. And we take turns reading scriptures, passages, prayers and stories from the variety of resources we have. We may snuggle afterward and watch a Christmas movie if there is one. We will color if anyone wants too in the new advent coloring book. We'll sing a Christmas carol. Maybe we'll do the recommended activity for the evening and maybe we won't. I strictly depends on what we have available, to be honest.

If I'm feeling ambitious, maybe I will have something fresh baked...ok, let's be real! A cup of hot chocolate or tea seems more realistic. We'll see how it goes. Haha. My whole life is in storage and that means all my Christmas decorations. I am trying to keep Christmas in my heart, and maybe that is the point over all. Maybe the forced simplicity can produce peace in the midst of the unrest that is our current lives. Attitude of gratitude, right!?! Got it! 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Friday Hike Day: Abalone Cove, Rancho Palo Verdes

Before we started our hike this week, we took a brief tour of this gorgeous glass chapel. You can read about the Wayfarers Chapel here.  Visitors are welcome. There is a small visitor center that is more of a gift shop, with restrooms. You can walk around the gardens of the chapel and into the glass chapel itself and also admire the coastal views.

The cliff side we took down to the beach.
Abalone Cove Park is the trail head for this hike. It is very close to the Terranea Discovery trail we have taken before. It's an easy to moderate short trail but not stroller friendly. Full sun-no shade, wear sun protective clothing and bring water, like any day at the beach. The park only has free parking the first 30 minutes. It's $6 for 2 hours then $12 beyond that. There is no way to get down to the beach, explore and return within 30 minutes. 

We drove down to the lot for the Terranea Discovery Trail. It is free parking and there are also clean restrooms. We took the trail along Palos Verde Dr. from the parking lot to Abalone Cove Park. It's about a 30 minute walk.

We discovered this lovely little waterfall flowing to the sea shore.

From Abalone Cove Park, walk down to the beach. There are a few trails to follow. We cut one trail short but heading down the cliff side. It wasn't very treacherous or challenging but definitely requires caution. The trails have gravel and the beach is rocky, so I do not recommend the use of a stroller but a child carrier is fine.

We headed left, toward tide search of sea stars. Recent pix found online via social media showed others finding the treasures of the sea. Last year, we learned about the coastal disease and warmers waters caused by El Nino like weather conditions, that had killed off much of the tide pool sea life along the west coast. Sea Stars seemed to be the primary victims.

We arrived in time for low tide but there is a crossing where the rocks are low and the water is high. I suppose we could have risked it but with an unpredictable 7 year old in tow...wisdom screamed caution! We stayed to our side. The water was low but we would have had to still get our shoes and feet wet to venture further out and away from shore to explore deeper.

We stayed close to shore where there was still plenty of life to see. We viewed many sea anemones, sea slugs, various crabs, tiny fish and colorful sea plants. It was beautiful and colorful. Of course the repetition of crashing waves is always relaxing too.

We didn't see any of the usual chubby, orange sea stars we are used to, but as we were leaving, I caught sight of this teeny tiny one in the sand, along the shore! I don't know how I even recognized what it was...maybe I didn't even know but I bent down to see what it was and thought it was dead. It was still alive and moving. It had a very short spindle of an arm that was growing back. The boys were up ahead of us so Bird and I were the only ones who got to get a close-up and personal look at this tiny wonder. 

The day was gorgeous and slightly breezy. You never know what you will find or see at the beach or the woods. Getting outside though, is always nice. I would recommend this hike for a casual, fairly easy day. It wasn't very challenging for us but on a hot day, the sun could be an issue as there is no shade.

See you next week!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

If I Don't Reach the Promised Land, Beyond the Curse of the Desert Wilderness

We've all been there in the midst of a trial-that moment when we look back and long for the past. Just as the Israelites, in the middle of their own wandering, began to view their past of slavery and bondage, through the filter of rose colored lenses.

Maybe it wasn't so bad? At least it was familiar,

We can read their story with the privilege of it's entirety. We know how it's going to end.

In our own lives though, we don't know the ending. And that scares us! We get uncomfortable. We do not like change. We want what WE want, how we want and when we want it. Of course.

We know how that ended with the Israelites--the generation of Moses never entered the Promised Land. What a punishment and what they are forever known for.

God is never that cruel though.  Perhaps, there was solace and even a redemptive quality to their lives that has been over looked?

The Israelites that didn't reach the Promised Land, are also the generation that led their families OUT of slavery! Into FREEDOM!

After generations of bondage, they were finally free. Their children were free, no longer subject to the whims of a master or genocidal pharaoh. Their grandchildren would grow up free.   This is significant.

Many of us face and endure the wilderness journey at times. The heat and barrenness of the desert, where refreshment and reprieve are only a mirage. Admittedly, I have been in that place for more than a few years now. I have been guilty of looking back at times, longing for the comfort of my own slavery and bondage.

Until God reminded me of what is ahead AND the importance of the present. Not only for me, but for generations to come. I have done this. I have led my children out of slavery. They will step into the Promise Land. They will have the strength to knock down walls and take back what is theirs.

They could not move into their own promise if we had not walked into the freedom of the desert. There is no going back. Regardless of the environment, our freedom can not be taken from us. Freedom from negative patterns of behavior that were being practiced and taught by example.

The Israelites stood in the gap between slavery and freedom. Someone had to. Someone had to take the first step and cross over. Someone had to make the choice and be brave, venturing out into the unknown, without a map! Their wilderness journey served a purpose whether they ever entered the Promise Land or not. 

Someone has to stand in the gap. I made that choice. If I never step into the Promise...It will have all been worth it to watch my children walk in the truth of freedom.

Be Brave.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Friday Hike Day: Search for Vincent Cabin/Mine Gulch Trail, Wrightwood

This trail head is the same one for the Big Horn Mine trail, and sections of the Pacific Crest Trail. There is a vault toilet at the trail head, parking is free but I don't recommend strollers but a child carrier would be fine. Trail features sections of full sun and shade cover.

Research is definitely required if you want to find the actual historical cabin. I did research and still missed it somehow. I believe it is on a turn off from the main trail.

The views are spectacular in parts. Fall is in affect, with bright yellow colored leaves littering the trail floor. It was a gorgeous day. Warm with a slight breeze.

Since we didn't find the cabin, the hike was longer than expected. We went all the way down to the gulch and beyond. The trail doesn't appear to get much usage, so it can be a challenge to see at spots.

Trail is mostly dirt and gavel and a thick bed of leaves under the trees. The trail through the trees is where it can become the most confusing to stay on the path.

I must warn you, the worst part about this hike today...was the incessant flies! They were more than a nuisance. They were the small kind that buzz right up to your ears, nose, eyes and mouth. We had to keep our hands moving the entire time we were hiking, to keep them away from our faces.

I guess we could have used bug repellent but this happens so rarely, we never do. I never have any on hand and am skeptical about the chemical usage to be honest. However, it practically ruined an otherwise lovely hike. It took A LOT of patience to endure. I am not exaggerating.

The final picture above highlights the camouflaging of the trail. With out the flies, this would have been a fabulous and enjoyable hike. I don't recommend it if you are tired or feeling impatient. I am hoping the flies were seasonal, as I would like to return and find the historical cabin!

See you next week.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Friday Hike Day: Walnut Creek Park, San Dimas

This trail is also known as Walnut Creek Park

No restroom facility
Free parking
Kid/family friendly
Semi-stroller friendly
Dusty trail

This is an interesting trail. We parked at the equestrienne staging area, before the school of Buddhism. From the parking lot, we took the left trail entrance. It makes a quick stream cross then returns up to the road. The trail continues on the other side of the road.

There is another trail to the right and picnic tables. The tables were very dirty and dusty when we arrived, bring a towel or something to dust them off but they are under a nice shade canopy of trees.

Trail is dusty but features shady breaks from the sun. Even now, end of summer, there was water in the creek. Parts of the trail are uphill, feeling harder than it probably really is due to the sun exposure. We caught sight of a rabbit hopping across a dry brush area very quickly. That is always fun.

Yelp reviews stated there is a hidden rope swing somewhere along the trail...we didn't find it. Maybe you will?

This is a multi-use trail...used by horses and their riders. From the equestrienne staging area parking lot, it leads up to a main road. There you will find another very small parking lot, nice view and a couple picnic tables. However, it is full sun, be prepared. Across the road from that parking lot the trail continues but it appeared to be a horse trail. It was already hot and that trail has no shade so we did not explore any further.

We turned around and headed back down the way we came. 

This trail is semi-stroller friendly due to the uphill incline, stream crossings and some rocky points along the trail. But a rugged, jogging stroller might work for the more ambitious parents. Otherwise a back-pack child carrier would be fine.

See you next week!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Friday Hike Day: Thurman Flats; Secret Swimming Hole

I wasn't interested in returning to the area we were just at last week but I am sure glad we did! I was afraid the pool we enjoyed last week wouldn't be as full and I was right. When we arrived at the 'pool' the water level was disappointingly low but still splashable. While the kids dropped their packs and began to cool off in the refreshing water, my daughter, another momma and I, headed up the creek to explore a little.

Our own personal jacuzzi in the woods! 
The creek had little man-made pools all along it's winding path. One was the perfect jacuzzi size with fresh, running water streaming down a large boulder, creating a lovely waterfall. The type luxury home-owners pay big bucks for in their back yards! Haha.

We hiked farther up and came across a log wall...with a tent behind it. Obviously, a homeless person had sent up a semi-permanent camp there. We were hesitant but kept going and came upon this...

Chopped down trees and logs created a larger dam then the pool we left behind. It was deep, had a rope swing and other constructions.

We were a bit creeped out, and even more so when we saw the potential builders or at least inhabitants, approach us. The two men played it cool though and so did we. They admitted they lived there. We asked if they wouldn't mind if we brought our kids back up there to swim. They were happy to oblige, stating lots of people enjoy the space.

It's not a strenuous hike, by any least not for us. The guy who lives behind the log wall told us there was access beyond Thurman Flats, along the highway, if you are looking for a shorter route. Otherwise, from Thurman Flats, take the stairs down to the creek and head left. Keep going. 

There is shade and on this day, the water was about waist deep. It can change at any time if the rangers or the Department of Fish and Wildlife (game?) come and tear it all down. For now though, it's a nicely hidden spot...It obviously gets well used though, as proven by the amount of trash, unfortunately. The guy that lives there collects recyclables so at least that helps keep the area cleaned up and he benefits by collecting the recycling fees.

Remember to pack out what you pack in. There are vault toilet restrooms at the Thurman Flats picnic area and a $5 Adventure (parking) Pass is required in the lot and along the highway. Lots of sun so remember to wear appropriate sun protective gear. Don't forget to bring water. The water levels may vary according to weather and season. The trail along the creek is rocky. I don't recommend a stroller but a back-pack/child carrier is fine. 


See you next week.

Example of the rocky terrain and cool, refreshing water. 

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.

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. 

This trail is so enchanting. If there was ever a forest populated with 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 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.