Adventure with Engagement AWE · Family travel · Perfecting Dysfunction

1000 Words or Less

Every family trip photograph deserves a comment.  “In 1000 words or less, tell us about this photo.”    A 2-D shot doesn’t begin to tell the story of what’s being said while that photo is being captured. And unless you use descriptions, you cannot see the whole story.  Our videographer’s photo of Tyler and Trenton in the Roman Forum tell the story of how sick the boys got of being photographed.  This was allowable contempt, because the guys are mostly so respectful.

forum boys

Traveling through the marble and bronze antiquities of Rome,  gave us entirely new ways of looking at things, thanks to the boys’ reactions.

The photo below shows Romulus and Remus, twin brothers given credit for the beginnings of Rome, who were supposedly abandoned by their father by the Tiber River around 750 BC.   It is said female wolf raised the boys.  Romulus killed Remus in a family squabble so the city was named for him:  Rome, not Reme.

romulus remusThankfully the boys kept their comments on Romulus/Remus statue to themselves.  But their ‘eye rolls’ and stifled giggles were unforgettable.

funnt sculptureWhen somebody offered to take my photo in front of the Vatican sculpture of the priest Laocoön and His Sons being killed by sea serpents, I overheard this comment: “This is a church.  Why don’t they put some clothes on those things?”

And no matter how Ron and I tried to educate them with interesting facts about Michaelangelo’s 17-foot marble sculpture of David, we still fielded the kid’s hysterical one-liners.

Forum parkThe 1000-words or less photo capture Colton utilizing his keen business skills as he came up with the money-making Roman Forum idea: “Make this grassy area into a Jolly Jump Inflatable Playground for kids to enjoy while the parents walk around looking at the really old stuff.”

Whoever said ‘children should be seen and not heard’ was WRONG!!

Every photo deserves a comment.  1000 words or less.  Or more.  Your choice!

Dawn

 

Encouragement · Family travel

The Back Side

“The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it.”– Rudyard Kipling

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 There are five senses, right?  You know that until you discover neurologists have been able to identify nine senses and some as many as twenty-one!

 

When you watch hi-def TV in glorious 4K, head to the cinema or even experience Disney’s 360-degree adventures, you only get to use two of your senses:  sight and sound.  Somebody out there may have already discovered using the sense of smell, but at best you will get an artificial ‘Febreeze-style odor.’ So in essence, unless you travel you are getting ‘fake travel, fake sounds and perhaps one day fake smells.’

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Or you can slip your passport in your pocket and order a batch of the authentic, like we did.   Is it easy?  Lost luggage, passports, backpacks, kids, rain, snow, storms, messed up schedules, tummy aches . . . . . of course it’s not easy.    No adventure is!  Is it worth it?  Yes.  YES!!!

Thanks to the wonders of smart  phones, it’s easy to document your journey.  But never overlook the importance of shooting from the backside.

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The back side is where you see your son or daughter pondering the sights you are seeing.  Be quiet.  You can almost hear their little mind-motors humming, as they silently reflect on something they read about before. Don’t interrupt them.  They are developing the questions they are going to pound you with at the before bedtime nightly ‘Discovery/Question/Answer Session” with mom and dad.

colt side view

 

Shots from the front of your kids show the viewer how cute your kids are, or how funny they smiled.  They leave the “happy family taste’ in everyone’s mouth – which as you know, is only 1/3 of the story.

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Before you know it you will be able to tell others:  “There are more than five senses, folks.  I used at least nine of them when I traveled with my family!”

best back in Venice

Take the trip.  And remember, there is always more of a story from The Back Side!

Dawn

Adventure with Engagement AWE · Family travel · Parenting

The Almafi Acci-dent

My dad can bench press 350.

Nuh, uh!!

Uh Huh!!!

My dad can rip the top off a camper without losing his cool.

. . . . . you win.

When a parent commits to 180 full-time days with your kids touring the world, you open yourself to 5K resolution.  Intense scrutiny.   Errors.  All amplified!  You’re watching your kids every moment; but even scarier, they are watching you!

Ron, the boys, a videographer and I were traveling in a 25’ rental camper, down the very narrow Almafi Coast road. Our camper was sucking wind going uphill and we were  carefully governing our weight going downhill, causing a traffic problem.

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The Italian’s drive small, fast cars for a reason.  They are not known for their patience, nor do they bridal their passions.  We were getting the benefit of horns, hand gestures and passionate verbal assaults. Ron considerately would pull over from time to time, and let the cars behind zoom by before he headed out again.   But this is very difficult on  the Almafi Coast highway which is exactly 2-lanes wide with no shoulders or pull-offs.

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In order to let some very colorful Italians by, Ron pulled off and in haste failed to see the large restaurant awning just above us.  Ripping metal is a sound you never forget.

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 Tyler looked up at what used to be the camper skylight and ceiling and now was clear sky and said: “Oh no. . . dad’s not going to like this.”

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Where there once was an awning and a skylight

Stepping out of the camper to assess the damage, Ron faced an angry restaurant owner screaming in his face and the Almafi Coast Fire Department and Police asking questions.  One lane had closed which allowed the travelers more time to do their drive-by smirk.  And there stood my husband, under the scrutiny of strangers and the watchful eyes of his three boys and wife, in total control and composure as he watched the awning being extracted from the top of his rental camper.

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The roadside restaurant after the Hirn Family visit!

men after accidentSilence after humiliation is salve for the soul.

Ron showed us all his interpretation of true strength.  Nothing you can say to your kids will teach them more than your example.

I like the quote by Dave Willis:  “Show respect even to people who don’t deserve it not as a reflection of their character, but as a reflection of yours.”

Double-check your behavior.  Your kids are!

Dawn

Dear Dawn · Family travel

What lies beneath?

Dear Dawn

“Thanks for sharing so many of the photos you took while you and your family toured the world . . . . “

Any blogger will tell you, we love getting ‘love-letters of encouragement’ from those who take time to read what we have written.  But let me make one thing perfectly clear:  Ron, the boys and I never considered ourselves tourists.  Tourists are generally people who go to the best of the best places (aptly called tourist attractions), stay in the finest most affordable hotels, eat at restaurants recommended by other tourists, and run on a strict schedule.   Sure, we came to many of the same places for the view,  but we were more interested in the people, their lives and the story of what lies beneath.

From our pre-planning studies of Venice,  Italy came a gondola full of questions: When and how the heck did they build this city?

venice bridge

In around 500 AD, these 118 islands making up today’s Venice, were hiding places for runaways who were trying to get away from Attila the Hun-type bad guys who had taken over their cities.   When it came time to build a city, they wondered:  ‘How do you build cities of marble on marshy lagoons?’  “Wood piling,” someone called out.  Someone brighter than he asked: “Dove e il legno?” which is short for “Are you crazy? There are no woods in Venice.  Where are we getting this wood?  And how do we keep it from rotting in salt water?”  The answer came from western Slovenia’s water-resistant Adler tree trunks, used to make  the 12, 000 posts which were sunk deep into the Venetian lagoon mud and are still responsible for supporting more than 10,000 tons of marble buildings and bridges.

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Before you hop on that world-tour bus, sit down as a family and discover the back-stories of the places you are going.  A little research will take you a long way.

Any world trip offers enough surprises as it is!  And you never want to be one of those tourists who gets back home and says:  “I wish I had know that when I went!”   

Dawn Venice

Actually there is a good lesson in this for you and your kids:   Whenever you are faced with something you don’t understand,  always ask: “What lies beneath?”

Dawn

Family travel

Portable Eeeee-hah’s!

What’s an eeeee-hah to you? 

  1. The sound a cowboy makes when he gets his giddy-up on.
  2. Civil War forward attack cry.
  3. The sound of pure victory of celebration.

We choose #3.  As we traveled around the world, we never let a celebration slip by! Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years (celebrated Chinese-style in January), Easter and birthdays.  Colton ended his Vietnamese birthday celebration in tears when the big reveal presented a birthday cake made up of strange fruits and veggies.  (The people at that Vietnamese restaurant wanted so badly to impress him.  But how do you impress an eight-year old with Lotus Root and Kumquats?)   We promised him the goodness of guacamole if he would be patient and wait for a French Eeeee-hah.

 

Tyler was a little easier.  Like all teenagers, he was sleeping late his birthday morning, so the boys and I headed to the Montenegro version of The Dollar Store on the quest for a Rubix Cube.  Instead, we found all sorts of great junk to get a laugh out of Tyler.   Eeeee-hah!

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Celebrations should be portable.  Candles, cake and costly gifts are not required to produce a hearty eeee-hah.

This weekend we celebrated Ron’s birthday by accepting an invitation to a party and a challenge to dress from the clothes we found at the Childrens’ Harbor Thrift Store.  This party was a khaki and Polo-free zone!  Ron and I fully filled the funky requirement with our stylish combinations, giving a new meaning to the word: ‘tacky.’

Thank you to our friends who always look for new and creative ways to celebrate life.  We’ll never forget it.  Fact is we won’t be able to ever forget it.  This photo is in the cloud!!  Forever!

No matter what limitations you have – location, finances, or bakery-access, always celebrate the special moments of life creatively.  Don’t wait for the perfect time.

Eeeee-hah’s should be a part of everyday life!
Dawn

Dear Dawn · Encouragement · Faith

Pity Party

Dear Dawn,

Your Blog Tuesday, helped me realize I wasn’t the only one who had suffered poor health my whole life.  I’ve never lost a child, had cancer or heart issues, but my asthma, skin issues, headaches and  stomach problems often leave me discouraged and in a pity party.    How did you maintain such a good attitude with all you suffered, especially the loss of your son?  (And please don’t tell me you were born that way.  That doesn’t help me one bit!  LOL)   download

Dear PP,  Thanks for your note.  Anyone who says they are UP all the time just because that  is the way they were born, is lying. lyingEvery day of life requires some sort of adjustment.  Each day is a challenge — I get it.  I too, have health issues, the greatest challenge is the never ending discomfort of skin grafts from the burns on my arms, legs and backside. irrateMy skin draws up constantly, the discomfort requires thick coats of cream for softening.  Not a pretty picture, but I’m getting through each setback — from asthma to food allergies to skin problems.

I will never get fully adjusted to the loss of my seven-year-old.

But I am encouraged by the words of Henry Ward Beecher, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s brother,  who was a nineteenth-century minister.  Having lost four of his young children so he was no stranger to the Pity Party, I am sure.

One day,  sitting on a hillside in his hometown, he noticed a terrific storm coming across the valley.  He wrote:

“The heavens were filled with blackness, and the earth was shaken by the voice of thunder. It seemed as though that fair landscape was utterly changed, and its beauty gone never to return.

But the storm swept on, and passed out of the valley; and if I had sat in the same place on the following day, and said, “Where is that terrible storm, with all its terrible blackness?” the grass would have said, “Part of it is in me,” and the daisy would have said, “Part of it is in me,” and the fruits and flowers and everything that grows out of the ground would have said, “Part of the storm is incandescent in me.”

Ryan

Each part of the rain in my life is part of me, and always will be.

happy hirn-GERMS

Hang in there, kiddo.  The sun still shines brightly above the storm!

Dawn

 

education · Encouragement

In the Nick of Time

I run on schedule.  This is not a brag as much as a criticism.  But that fact didn’t hit me hard until this weekend, when I met Marion Pitts, a native of Rabun Gap, Georgia and a card-carrying member of Appalachia.

20354098_1652909498075013_2052261959_oI didn’t go looking for Marion and his wife, Dene.  But there they were, sitting at the table of the B & B where my sister, mom and I had breakfast.  My sisters, mom and I have never understood the word ‘strangers.’ We gave them the Raymond “third degree.”

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Marion had been born and bred in this neck of the woods.  He was the first person in his family to have graduated from high school, and now he teaches students enrolled in the GED program in a community college. Wise way beyond education, Marion told us he recommends each of his students read the short poem:  Limited, by Carl Sandburg.  It’s a beauty — that Ecclesiastes stuff that one day we will be gone and the stuff we treasure will turn to scrap.  But the underlying theme is a lesson that hit me hard after we lost our firstborn son.   I had often before and often since lived my life in dread: what if this happens, what if that happens? The fear of death limits our ability to live life fully.  The sun shines strong above, but you cannot see it for the clouds you’ve brought down.

 

When the unnatural relationship with death was forced upon me,  I was forced to be braver and more confident than any other time in my life.  And believe me, near death were words I heard way too often in my life, with the rough start I had as a baby, all my health problems topped off by severe burns and skin graft recovery after the accident.   I have often been less than brave.  But bravery is a choice, not a condition.

Marion Pitts was not on my schedule.  But he came to me in the nick of time, when I was feeling a bit down, and reminded me to enjoy the ride just as he had done for the fifty-three years since high school.

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And I am so thankful for the people who have put a nick in my time-line, to share a moment of their wisdom for my benefit.

China man/American boy
China man/American boys

Go thou and do likewise!”  Luke 10:37

Dawn