Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Book Review: You Are

This book is the sweetest ever! I am familiar with books of blessing and own a few. However, this is the first children’s book of blessing I have ever seen or read.

Each page of this board book offers a life giving statement of identity to speak (read aloud) into your child’s heart, and the scripture that reiterates it.

I actually included it as part of our Advent readings and allowed my 9 year old to read it aloud to us. I felt emotional listening to the words declare who God says I am, straight from His Word.

It was very touching in a way I did not expect. It’s simple phrasing, attractive illustrations and thick board pages, make this an excellent book to read to your child at any age!

I can see this book becoming a cherished family favorite. It would make an excellent baby shower gift for expectant parents. Since it’s the season, it would also make a great stocking stuffer.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who had a child in their life...or even to read to yourself!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

What Do You Expect?

🕊 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13 🕊 

What if you fail? What if you get fired? You have no idea what you are doing! Don't get your hopes up in case you mess this up. Imagine how it will feel to tell everyone you were fired after telling them you finally found a job!?! Don't even tell anyone you got a job...just in case!

Those were the desperately frantic and fearful thoughts running through my head immediately after I was offered and accepted a position at a school, for exactly the type of job I was looking for.

The anxiety began to reach a fevered pitch. As I have many times before, I wondered if I had been called to a life of suffering or struggle, therefore, told myself not to get to excited when good things happened. We know there were followers and lovers of Christ that suffered greatly. The disciples faced immense hardship and persecution. Perhaps that is my calling, my gift? When the struggle lingers, long suffering becomes an intimately familiar way of life.

STOP!!! I thought-yelled at myself.

The infamous Jeremiah 29:11 came to my mind as I attempted to talk myself down, speaking truth to my heart and soul (don't act like you never think-talk to yourself!). 

I have trained for this. I AM trained for this. This is exactly what I have been working toward and wanted. THIS has been the plan all along. Why wouldn't they want me? I AM qualified. God has not brought me this far to fail...or get fired.

What are your expectations? Are you living in the expectation of failure, or a life of suffering? God tells us He has good plans for us. Some versions use the word ‘thoughts’ - He has good thoughts toward us.

God gave me a very clear plan to follow. So why would He not bring it to fruition? He also promises in His Word that he will complete the works He starts in us. Does this not also include the paths He implores us to follow?

We can confidently trust that He keeps His Word. He has not set us up to fail or fall short. Learn and grow? Yes. He is not a game player or promise breaker. He declares His plans and thoughts for us are for good. Knowing this, choosing to believe it, means we can walk and act as people of value and worth, because our God sees us valuable enough that when He looks at us, He declares, 'That's MY girl!' and 'That's MY guy!'

I don't have to expect suffering. I can expect a good end for my effort. I can expect good things to come my way. Rewards for hard work. Why expect anything less from a good and loving God?

He has prepared you.
Go and succeed!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Practiced Silence

 I feel like I've been fighting against silence my entire life.

When an older boy invited a few of us 1st grade girls to sit on his lap on the swing and then put his fingers in our underwear--I pretended to fall off of him, without a word. I told my mom...and I think another little friend who said he did the same thing to her. I think we told a few other girls to stay away from him. Our teacher told us not to tell anyone else because then those people would tell others and eventually so many people would know. My mom told the authorities at the school immediately and I *think* I remember having to repeat it to police? But I could be remembering wrong. The boy had to leave the school.

Later, I was told my dad was not my biological dad. I did not realize what it really meant for my heart and soul. That is when the lies of my heart and fragmenting of my identity began because from that moment on--I was NOT who I SAID I was. I thought I was 'brown' but I wasn't. When I was a teen, I wanted more information and my mom refuse to tell me anything. She said she was not ready. Again, silence. I was forced to carry the burden of her secret and that was unfair.

Between there somewhere, I was getting groped by a close member of the family. I don't remember when it started but I had decided I had to take care of myself. I handled it, in silence. Unfortunately, as a kid, I would sometimes forget again, and there he was. Always ready for me to forget and walk by too close. 

It all came out when I started triggering with a boy friend in high school. I was fine the entire summer we spent making out. I broke the silence accomplished nothing. He was allowed back in our family's life. An even closer family member, swears he molested his daughter. I was told she admitted it. But so? Nothing changed except if he was around, we all acted as if he wasn't. We blocked him out in silence...until he just faded away. He's still here. He even spent years coaching girls sports. Everyone practiced the silence now. For who's benefit? At what cost? 

I verbally fought with my mom a lot in high school. I felt this rage inside--I think it was the silence trying to escape--fighting for a way out. I was never known for 'being quiet'. I was sassy as heck. Always my 'mouth' that 'got me in trouble.' But so many words I wasn't allowed to express. 'Why didn't you protect me?' came out as 'I HATE YOU!'

Let me not forget the moment I was told a female can not be a pastor. Because the Bible says. That's the verdict. No debate, no question. Women are not allowed to the church. 
But the marriage. The marriage provided the strongest silencing influence. There are still events I have never shared aloud and I don't know if I ever will...or can. But mostly, my voice is returning. It's not raging anymore. It's controlled and assertive, or written...mostly.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Courage, Dear Heart: Letters to a weary world: Book Review

I regret waiting so long to start reading it. Rebecca K. Reynolds honesty and grace is refreshing and affirming.

Life, even as a Christian, can be way harder than we could ever imagine, at times. Rebecca doesn't shy away from validating these hard truths.

This book really  ministered to my heart and I think it will minister to yours too.

The pictures say it all. Facing disappointment and heart break, can be faith altering. The reassurance in this book, of God's love, even through our own brokenness, is a balm for every hurting soul.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Reluctant Reader? Visit the Book Store!

Every parent knows the challenge when you want your child to be a reader and it's not in their nature to be one. There are way too many articles, stats and research to support the value of reading and being able to read well.

Each of my kids are so different and unique from each other in their preferences and their abilities. They can all read sufficiently but they don't all have a natural desire to read. One can barely sit through dinner!

I noticed a funny thing the other day though. My 16 had a bookstore gift card. That bookstore is attached to a coffee shop so I invited a mom friend and her kids to run this errand with us because she had time to kill while two of her kids were still in a class. We all headed over.

Students who are naturally avoidant and reluctant readers were suddenly mesmerized by all the books. They showed lots of interest in the variety of books available, asking to be bought this and that book. It was fascinating. They were excited. They touched the books, opened them up, laughed at the covers. Oh and all but one were teens!

Many students start off excited about the prospect of learning to read and being able to read a book of their own choosing. I believe part of the reading resistance begins when reading turns from something they choose to do for pleasure, into something they are forced to do. Along with being forced, their choice begins to be taken away as they are assigned reading material. Some of my strongest memories were of being in the school library and choosing books that I did not realize at the time, were above and beyond my grade and age range, but the librarian let me check out whatever I wanted without reservation. She may have been guiding and offering suggestions but it was ultimately my choice. I used to love to read and would devour books like candy.

When I got older that slowed down as my life became more social and sedentary free time became less and less. As an adult, reading took the characteristic of being a luxury that I did not have time for. I have intentionally worked on changing this the last few years--except while I was in school myself. Haha.

My hot tip for the day, to encourage reluctant readers--is to take a trip to your local book store. Reward your kids by actually buying them a book. Then introduce them to the public library. A place without limitations! A place where they can actually choose ANY book they want. Lead by example as well. If nothing else, slow down and take the time to read to your kids. You won't regret it. I know both you and your children will savor those memories someday.

Monday, September 3, 2018

13 Days in Ferguson: Book Review

Captain Ronald Johnson, of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, was unexpectedly put in charge of restoring peace during the unrest in Ferguson, after the death of Michael Brown. He tells his story woven within the daily events of those tense 13 days. He mingles his faith and times of doubt, in a way that keeps you riveted and gives you insight to the disconnect between law enforcement and those they are called to serve and protect.

Captain Johnson's story flashes between the past of his childhood and the present tension, confusion and frustration during the civil unrest in Ferguson. His own experiences of racism and bias directed toward him as a child, his upbringing and his faith, all have an influence over the decisions he makes in Ferguson and how he responds to the rising action of the events of those initial 13 days.

I highly recommend this book. I found it very inspiring and the first hand account credible. Its a fairly easy read, divided into chapters of each day's events. The Captain chronicles how his faith grew as he faced each day not knowing what would transpire, hoping and praying it wouldn't be another death.

He chose to be honest with media, citizens and colleagues, while intentionally working with the people in the Ferguson community, breaking down the barriers of us vs them, police vs the people, the people vs the police.

His story gives first hand insight into the lives of people who have felt invisible, unheard, unseen and neglected by their communities and the country at large.

As an educator myself, this part stood out to me. The schools closed down during the unrest in Ferguson. One teacher came to the protest with a sign indicating students could still have a place to go to learn...the local public library. Captain Johnson records his visit to this teacher's make-shift school at the library. On the first day only a handful of students showed up but by the end of the week there were over a hundred students actively continuing their education. A truly dedicated educator, who did what she could to empower the students in her care and the students in her school.

Captain Johnson makes it clear in his memoir that he was not alone, even when he felt like it. Though not everyone supported his decisions, he still had support, especially from his family, who worried about his own safety daily.

Again, I highly recommend this book.

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Beds We Make, The Beds We Lie In

I have owned 5 beds in my adult life-yes I counted. I moved from my parents home to marriage, with no independence in between. The first bed I had as an independent adult, and also married, was a huge, dark brown wooden water bed. So 70's but it was 1992. It was freezing to lay on because the heater was broken or something so we layered thick Mexican blankets on it, so we wouldn't catch our death of cold. The type that had two colors and an animal, like a horse or lion on it.

We took that bed with us to our first apartment. There was barely enough space for it in the bedroom. We did not move it with us when we upgraded to a cute back house with a loft and small bedroom upstairs for our first little one. We, well the husband actually-he just came home with it, I had no input, bought our first new bed in that home. It was a black, wrought iron bed with tall metal bedposts, for a canopy I guess. Though we had the four posts up we never utilized it with a canopy.

It went with us for another move but we did not assemble the canopy bars. The first marital lies were told in that bed. When I moved out and we separated the first time, I did not take the bed. I was done and I had no intention of ever sleeping in that bed again. I had a change  of heart, we reconciled and the bed came with us, though the mattresses got the heave ho!

There was something wrong with that bed though. It kept collapsing. Every so often, the mattresses would mysteriously fall through the frame rails and crash to the floor. I had no idea what caused it but I began to feel annoyed and distrustful of the stability of this bed. Sometimes it was stable and supportive so it didn't seem right to get rid of it.

Eventually, we got lucky and my parents got a new bed and offered their old bed frame to us. It was strong, sturdy wood. I even personalized it by custom painting it a beautifully deep, fuchsia color. The bed remained strong and sturdy as long as we had it. This bed bore witness to even more lies and deceptions. Memories of intimate humilations, kept at bay in the periphery of the past.

It survived another separation, though again, the mattresses did not. Fresh hopes and dreams were conceived on this bed. Healing and forgiveness. Reconciliation came with a new baby. Someone took pity on a momma using an air mattress on this sturdy bed and blessed us with a brand new mattress and bedding set.

Again, hopes were crushed and devastated as the dreams were unsustainable. A completely new start would be needed. I slept alone in the bed as it felt so much bigger than I imagined it ever could. I shortened my nights and time in it by staying up as late as possible. I rearranged it's placement. I cleaned out the closet, got rid of old clothes, swept every corner around it spotless. Still the bed loomed large and empty in the room. I finally gave away that bed, my parents bed, only to learn the recipient wondered if my experiences could be transferred with it. I could only wish my parents loyal love would have been.

I purchased a beautiful, big, sleigh bed, on my own. It was used but I chose, bought and transported it home myself. I didn't know that it would not last. The hope it held was false. As time passed I began to realize that this bed was also unstable. Though the dark wood and commanding size gave the illusion of reliability, again, my mattress came crashing to the floor. I finagled it as best as I could at the time, to hold me up and it worked...for awhile. It supported my long nights of tear entangled prayers.

It survived a moved and all seemed well. Until the night it dangerously came crashing down again--like all my hopes and fears. There was no more repairing it. I knew I had to get rid of this bed, once and for all. It went straight to the trash. I let it go and all the dreams of the future I was holding onto, with it.

Another bed. Chosen for its vintage design as well as it's affordability. It held no false hopes, only a future belonging solely to me. About me. These days it's sturdy enough to hold all three of my kids still at home, (two of which are young adults) and myself on it at once; to watch a movie, do some writing or homework, snuggle or just chat. I can trust this bed. It has all the appropriate supports and gives no indication of weakness. This bed is honest. It holds no secrets. It is light and lovely, yet strong. It's covered in layers of comforting blankets, quilts, sheets, with colorful pillows atop. This bed is our safe space, of sleep and sanctuary.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Shortest Trail to the Hollywood Sign, Mt. Lee, Hollywood


  • There are so many trails you can take to the HW sign. 
  • I parked in a residential neighborhood so parking was free. Pay attention to signs.
  • STAY on the trail since it passes through private neighborhoods.
  • NO restroom before, after or along the trail.
  • Distance: less than 5 miles out and back.
  • Full sun, no shade; wear sun protective gear.

Though I am a California native, I have never hiked to the Hollywood sign. This needed to change. With a little research I found  the shortest route available to get to the infamous Hollywood sign! 

The trail starts from a residential neighborhood. I parked on the street and right in front of me was a white service gate and signs everywhere warning to NOT stray from the trail or face $1000 fines.

Initially you have a clear view of the sign above and behind you. Once you get to the top, your view of the sign will only be from the back of it but the view of the city will be amazing! 

The trail is primarily a dry and dusty dirt road and up hill. 

Eventually you will reach a large green gate. To the LEFT of the gate is an almost hidden, narrow walkway. Go up a few stesp and  on the ground you will see stars. Follow the stars to a fork in the road. The gate is private property and to the right are private homes. Please be respectful.

To continue to the Hollywood sign you will stay to the RIGHT of the fork--toward the Smokey the Bear sign. However, look left for an awesome photo opp with the sign behind you.

Toward the left you will see a small hill that leads you to the photo opp. You can also add mileage to  your hike by heading up toward the water tower if you want.

When you come to this  point in the trail, stay on the road heading forward. Across from these signs will be a small sign to your left. Very easy to miss.

This is the easy to miss sign across from the signs pictured above. You can see my finger pointing to the trail summit you are looking for: Mt. Lee. 

Farther along, you will find another sign just like the previous one when you are almost there...You can follow it to Cahuenga Peak, again if you want to lengthen your hike. To stick to the shortest route to the Hollywood sign, continue left toward Mt. Lee Summit!

Stay to the left and you will come up to a chain link fence behind the Hollywood sign. For the best views, head toward the cell towers. Make a sharp left up a small hill--this offers panoramic views of  the sign and the city.

You have arrived!!! 

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Stoddard Peak, Angeles National Forest


  • Adventure (parking) Pass required.
  • NO restrooms.
  • Parking lot is small BUT you can drive down the dirt trail road for more parking or park along main road. Pay attention to signs!!!
  • Road is very rocky, uneven and dusty. Use caution with your car if you decide to follow it down. 
  • There are private cabins at the beginning of the trail. Please be respectful.
  • Turn off is easy to miss--refer to pix below. 
  • Last 1/4 of hike, up the hill to the peak, is sort of over grown and will have brush. Long sleeves and pants recommended.

This was my first time on this trail. I hiked with a group of women who are also members of Girls Who Hike LA. My goal for this year is to attend at least one group hike a month with this awesome community.  

This hike is a nice, moderate, mid-level hike. 6.2 miles round trip--though with missing the turn, I think we did about 7 miles. From the parking lot, take the road along the left. TO the right of the parking lot is a preserve sign and boulders blocking an asphalt fire road. That is NOT the trail you take to Stoddard Peak. After you head down the dusty, gravel covered road, you will pass a woodsy, cabin community. There are residents and private property. As always, please be respectful. 

Most of the trail is uphill and covered in bark and acorn hats combined with slippery gravel and rocks.

There is a nice amount of tree canopy at first but eventually the trail becomes full sun. As the landscape changes, be aware of the turn off (see pix below). It is very easy to miss. We missed it the first time but another hiker had a map that we could consult to realize our mistake. 

The trail is primarily dry but there are at least 2 creek crossings near the beginning of the hike. The water was very shallow and I can imagine it drying up in the heat of summer. The creek was wide in one spot so we moved to the left to cross at a narrow spot. 

The tricky part is the last quarter mile or so. You turn right from the trail and head up the hill. The brush is very over grown and the trail is easily missed. This is where you need to be sure you are wearing long sleeves and pants, suitable for hiking. This part of the trail is also full sun.

As you reach the first peak, you may be tempted to stop here. This is NOT Stoddard Peak. The trail for SP continues along 2 peaks before you reach Stoddard. The 2nd peak requires you to gingerly go around the back of a large boulder peak. You will follow it around the boulder and continue on to the next peak.

Don't miss this turn out!!

Stoddard peak has  triangular metal sign that seems to be some sort of marker. In the center of that last peak, there is a rusted old can. Open it up to reveal a log book. Be sure to sign your name!

Get up that hill!!!
NOT Stoddard Peak
BUT one of the peaks you will pass
on your way to it. 
I normally do not like hikes without some sort of water feature, especially a water fall, at the end. This hike, though, was great. Of course I was in good company but also because it's not that strenuous and there was a creek to cross and the views at the top of Stoddard Peak are breath taking.
Oh, depending on what time and season you do this hike, the water levels may vary, parking can be scarce and the mountain can be cold. I was freezing in the parking lot while we waited for other group members to arrive. I warmed up quickly enough though.

Standing atop Stoddard Peak.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

How to Find Devil's Gulch Falls aka Secret Waterfall along the San Gabriel River via Bridge to Nowhere Trail {Part 2}

Is that the longest post title ever or what!?! Haha. This secret water fall is secret for a is VERY well hidden. Since it is still fairly unknown, there is not a true trail leading to it, there is wild brush but little trash at the falls with random items along the way.


  • Adventure Pass required for parking.
  • Vault toilets at lot, below at trail head and along the road before the lot. Bring your own TP.
  • Weather and water levels vary. Wear layers.
  • Your feet WILL get wet. Plan accordingly.
  • Beware of POISON OAK exposure at final river crossing up to falls.
  • Hike is about 8 + miles round trip.
  • You will pass miners, their work area and camps.
  • First half of trail follows Bridge to Nowhere trail--there will be small hills, bouldering and river crossings.

This account assumes you are at least somewhat familiar with the Bridge to Nowhere trail as you will be following it for the first half of this hike. The first marker to be aware of is entering Sheep Mountain. You will cross the wooden bridge and see the sign. Continue to follow the trail along the river. You will travel over rock face, use caution--always use caution. Then the trail will narrow and cross what looks like a former rock slide are with small gravel. You will come down a hill and cross over an open area with gravel, rocks and sharp, pointed yucca plants. 


Eventually you will reach a point where you MUST cross the river, regardless if you are heading to the Bridge to Nowhere or not. Normally you would cross over to the *left* side of the river, then *back* across to the right, sort of like a U-turn to avoid a large rock face that enters the rivers edge. (it is on your right as you make this crossing)

In this case, STAY on the LEFT side of the river--do NOT cross back over here. Follow along up the river, from the left side. It will sort of feel like a trail because of flat ground with small rocks.  You will stay on the left side most of  the time while crossing back and forth.

First crossing back to the right
side of the river.

The first time you cross back to the right will be because the 'trail' dead ends into the river and you have no other option but to cross over. Trekking poles or a large stick may be good as you are crossing the river to help with stability. For the most part, we were able to keep our feet and shoes fairly dry with a few toe splashes, by rock hopping. If we had to step into the water, we looked for the most shallow spots, hopped quickly across and toughed it out. 

When you have no idea where you are going, it can feel like forever, but don't worry, it will be quick and easy on the return. The next major marker to be aware of is a large ditch/rock quarry/active mining area on the LEFT side of the river. 

Active mining area.
Ditch/rock quarry

We stayed along the left side but at this point, we crossed back over to give the miner his space. There were also tools on the right side but he was working on the left so we left him alone and gave a wide berth. You should see extremely large piles of big rocks. He is digging ditches and moving rocks, had a wheelbarrow, and other tools. He has been there probably a few years. Last summer (2017) when we passed, he had a ditch the size of a room and we passed by on the left. He has rearranged so many rocks and expanded his work area significantly since then, at the time of this writing.

Another marker that may be helpful is coming upon lime/light green colored rocks face. This is also located on the left side of the river. This will help break up the confusion and affirm you are on the right track and have NOT passed up the tributary yet. You will climb on this a little to continue traveling along the left side of the river. Eventually you will pass slightly red rock. 

The next significant marker is an abandoned camp or mining area on the right side of the river. You will need to cross over at this point to the right. This time had way more cast offs and materials than last summer (2017). There were clothes and shoes spread out all over and some still in bags. There were tarps but also signs of previous mining attempts, long, large tubes all along the right side of the river. The atmosphere may feel a little eery and you realize you are very alone on this road less traveled.

 At this abandoned area you should see a very, unusable swing. It may have barbed wire wrapped around it--I do not recommend using it. Keep moving forward up river. 

Some points along the left side will feel open, airy and the ground will be flat. At  other points, you WILL be stomping through brush, tree branches, over rocks, fallen trees, avoiding getting stabbed by yucca plants--keep going. Maneuver however you need to continue moving up along the river. You can travel up the center of the river when it is shallow, if you like. Some areas are deeper and the water moves more rapidly with unstable river floor of rocks and small boulders. 
Can't see in this pic but that is where
the water flows down/over from and into
the San Gabriel River.

When you finally reach the tributary streaming into the river, you will probably be on the right side of the river OR in the river itself. Its a tricky spot and can easily be missed. Right where the stream is flowing into the river is a bit of a deep and potentially unstable spot to step with rapid flowing water. We chose to cross a couple feet past it, where it was shallow and you could see the river bed. It is well hidden with brush and it makes you doubt it is anything more than a random trickle of water.
THIS IS IT! It's what you have been searching for. Yay. We entered on the right of the tributary. It is uphill (sort of) but not too hard. Use caution because now your shoes are wet and rocks will be slippery. It is over grown so also be aware of poison oak. I did not notice any poison oak on this trip but we were very aware of it last summer. Some boulders you need to climb up, will be waist high. There will also be inclines of gravel. 

The falls begins to come into view.

The pictures can not do it justice!
Devil's Gulch Falls

Enjoy a serene moment taking in the view. During the summer, we got in and stood under the falls. This time we did not get in at all and simply took selfies from the shore. Enjoy a quiet and serene lunch listening to the falls. It's breathtakingly beautiful. 

Eventually you will head back down and out. Keep an eye to the left on your way down to catch sight of old ruins and the remains of a road or foundation {I don't know which}.

We traveled down the center of the river for awhile. We came upon a weekend gold miner and he advised us of a 'trail' along the 'right' side of the river, which is now on our left as we are travelling *down river*. We ended up staying on that side most of the way since we did not have to stay aware looking for the hidden tributary. We crossed back over at the point where we initially crossed and separated from the original BtN trail, to rejoin the trail.

These graffiti arrows are not noticeable when you descend this gravely part of the trail after sheep mountain. They work as good markers to be aware of to get back onto the trail, up above the river. When/if you come across these, they are on your left or right in front of you. The trail is just to the left of this picture and easy to miss. It heads back up above this rock face. 

I hope you enjoyed this trail and find the secret falls. In case you are more of an auditory person...I also made a VIDEO! lol It is a scrappy video that I initially planned on using for my own personal notes. Please keep your expectations LOW. I made this on the fly. It may or may not be helpful but I hope it is.

Let me know if this helped and if you have any more questions, I'll try to answer them.

See you on the trails.