Encouragement · Grief · Faith

Manchester

As yours, our hearts go out to those who suffered loss and injury as a result of the terror attack at the Manchester England Concert last night.  The horror for those parents and children who lost track of each other in the moments following the explosion is unimaginable.   But moments are translated to years of agony for those who received the terrible news – their loved one was severely injured or lost.

As you,  the Hirn family is praying for these families and those who have witnessed this event.  But we are also praying for our world which is suffering such senseless brutality at the hands of a few misdirected cowards.

Staying in your own backyard may seem easiest right about now.  But remember, the world is filled with far more people who love life and love others regardless of their faith or persuasion.  It is important to remember that we who love our families, our lives and the lives of others are in the majority.

 

great hirn shot gb copyWe are grateful for our safety when we visited England not long after another terror episode.   Be vigilant wherever you go.  But don’t let bullies dictate your movements.

Hirns GB copy

We love you each.  Dawn

Dear Dawn · Encouragement · Grief · Travel

The bright side

Dear Dawn,

 I applaud you for always looking on the bright side of life.  After what you have been through, I’m sure it might have been easier to let your grief rule the day.  But you and Ron chose to lead your other sons in joy.   Wondered how you handled the reminders of the Nazi horrors against the Jews in WWII.  Did you avoid the German Holocaust memorials and museums on your trip, or did you go through them?   Did your kids understand?  How did they handle it?

Dear Bright Side, Can you ever measure grief?  I always thought the word “Holocaust” meant mass extermination.  But the Greek Word holokaustos, actually means ‘burnt whole.” The knowledge that millions of lives were purposely ended is shattering.  Ron and I will never be able to run away from the visions of our own personal holocaust when fire took our seven-year old Ryan from us.

Auschwitz bunkers
Auschwitz bunkers

We cannot change the past anymore than Germany can change the horrors that happened in the streets and concentration camps throughout Europe in the 1930’s and 40’s.   But there are choices that have to be made:  When the past seems to hold a curse, look to the future. Ron and I intentionally chose to introduce our boys to the world and her history, not trying to water it down for our sons’ ears.   But we tried to look beyond the horrors in the remnants of Hiroshima Japan, Auschwitz Poland and other Nazi Concentration camps, and in huge numbers who were killed in the name of communism.

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Auschwitz urinals

The truth lies in the overwhelming courage it took for the survivors to continue forward in life and beauty.

Auschwitz furnaces

We walked through the ghostly concentration camps and war memorials as a family – but each of us were silently processing our thoughts.  With the museums, after consulting with the guides, we chose to censure the most graphic museum images for our 8 and 10 year old by scanning ahead and steering them away from the more gruesome images. But we felt Tyler, at 14, was old enough to handle the complete truth and he viewed freely. Those who remain alive today to tell the story were children then! At the end of the day we were each left with the same theme: Hope and courage.

 

 

The Germans have found a way to honor those taken, and find beauty and resolve shining through future generations.    Ron and I share our enthusiasm for life with our boys while still honoring the short but vibrant life of our firstborn, Ryan.

Holo.shot BPOur cameraman takes a shot most memorable to our family at the ‘Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe’

I guess you never appreciate the light until you’ve seen how absolutely dark darkness can be.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Dawn

Family · Travel

Freundschaftsbezeugung

(Bet I don’t get many ‘shares’ on this one!) That’s the German word for demonstrating friendship – which we always thought was a Hirn ideal.

tyler friendLooking back over my photographs of Germany, I detected a pattern with my family: everyone seemed a bit more relaxed in the photos. Friendship flowed among them (more easily than Freundschaftsbezeugung flowed off my tongue!) My boys adapted beautifully to each new experience and country we visited; I’m just saying, the pace seemed more relaxed here.

Could it be a result of the work/life balance set for in Germany? Germans are hard working people, but they recognize the value of time off for family. Employees are given four to six-weeks paid annual holiday and are offered leave for training or further education. They have a ‘parental leave’ policy, which allows for moms or dads to take up to 14 months of parental leave without being penalized at work and entitled to up to two-thirds of their income while on leave. I find that amazing!  Perhaps that is why the Germans are such hard-working people and happy to boot.

 

The boys found new friends, shared good moods with each other marching off into the woods or figuring out how to ride the strange six-man bike. They seemed happier, healthier and more at home here than practically anyplace we had been.

6-man bikeCould it be because we loved the German people? We say “Ja” but with the German pronounciation “Yah”.

Could it be because we have German blood coursing through our veins? Again, “Yah”.

happy hirn-GERMSWe are the Happy Hirn-Germs!

You don’t have to master the pronunciation of the word: Freundschaftsbezeugung! Just do it!  Incidentally, why do you think the German’s have such long words? I believe it’s because they give their people so much free time to use them!

Dawn

Encouragement · Grief · Travel

My other car . . .

Vietna overnight cruise“My other car is a  . .  cruise ship” the bumper sticker on the car in front of me read.  Remembering our last cruise made me laugh out loud:

cruise ship Vietnam

It’s not about the car for me.  Never has been.  I was always more interested in where I would end up than how I would look getting there.

My other car is NOT a Lamborghini.  (But I still get a charge standing in front of one!)

lambo Dubai DawnIn Dubai, this is the norm rather than the exception.  For me, it’s the opposite!

Doesn’t matter what type, model, color or age you have; unless you use it to head yourself in the right direction you may stay in the showroom for the rest of your life. The way I see it, you use the vehicle you’ve got to get you to the places you want to go.  Good shoes for me are more important than fancy wheels.

1992 Ron/Dawn bought, travel 25 countries, 10 mthsYears ago, Ron and I rented a Westfalia in Germany  (remember Shaggy and Scooby-Doo’s Scooby-mobile?  Add a pop-up top and you’ve got it.)     We weren’t concerned about luxury camping.  We had found camping across Europe to be one of the cheapest ways to go, a great way to meet people and easy to find a space for the night.  There are no Walmarts in Germany, but almost everyone holds the Walmart Policy:  “Park here for the night!”

 The memories of how we got there flood my mind and bring great smiles: From airplanes headed to Saudi Arabia, to bamboo rafts headed down the river.

And once we got there we always ended up using exactly what God had given us:  Our brains and our feet.  Remember what Dr. Seuss said:  “You’ve got brains in you head, and feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself any direction you choose. 

Choose!

Great weekend!

Dawn

 

 

Encouragement · Travel

Hole in the bucket!

Fear has never been a part of my life, until it cornered me in that burning car in 2001.  I lost my treasure that day.   Fear showed up as I took my plan of protection to new levels with my other three sons.  (I chose more politically correct words to describe fear, when I billed myself as a cautious, conscientious mother.) Bottom line was some of the courage I had found in my youth had been squashed.  And when that happens, it’s a fight to gain it back.

Before Ron, before kids, I was a world traveler.   I lived in all over Europe and got to know and love different countries and their people.  Ron and I traveled extensively when we were first married. So it was natural for us to want to take our kids back to the places we had seen so we could share the adventure  with them.  And more selfishly, we wanted to gain fresh kid-sized perspectives.   We took a mighty step out by taking this world trip with young sons,  and while we were cautious, we refused to let fear stand in our way.  God has given us (and you!) an incredible world filled with wonderful people, and He has seen fit to allow us to be born in a free country where we can travel abroad as we choose.

Camper we rented Germany
2014 25′ German Rental

 

 

In another bold move, we rented a camper in Germany, packed ourselves in and headed out!  Germany had found itself more than once checked off our Bucket List. But we will never let those checkmarks stop us from going back again and again.  Going back again – that’s what makes the country and the experience yours.   Fresh perspectives!

 

Thank God for gung-ho kids!

In the Hirn family, we encourage our boys to make sure their buckets have holes in them, so they can keep adding and adding.  Your bucket should never be full and neither should your list.

So if you have something on your bucket list, do it!  Go!  Then go back again.  And again.  Punch a hole in your bucket and keep adding!

Dawn

Dear Dawn · Encouragement · Family

Body language

Dear Dawn,

I’ve heard you say your legs were badly burned in the horrible automobile fire, and even after skin grafting you are terribly scarred.  That had to be a blow to someone who was a model.  Any tips for someone who is going through a difficult transition – from model to real life?

Dear Real Life, (Real life: nothing is better; nothing is worse.)  My legs do look rather, shall we say, “quilted” and because they no longer sweat(no oil glands),  it’s difficult for one who loves playing sports as much as I.  But I never try to cover up my scars. When I look at my legs now, I am reminded of my sweet Ryan who lost his life the day I got these scars. And then they take on a different significance.

When it comes to despair, I work backward from death.

American’s are obsessed by perfect body images because we compare ourselves to the airbrushed magazine cover images of women. Have we bought the Stepford lie?

I gained a bit more perspective from meeting the people in the world, who are far more fixated on their happiness than how they are being viewed.  We met the Fues family  in Germany, and in a very short time,  this family, who loves God, country and family just as we do, adopted us!  The admiration was mutual.

Fues familyCarl and Bruni Fues instilled the importance of hard work, integrity and strong moral values in their children.  They invited us to stay with them, fed us and treated us like old friends.  Like many Europeans, they had a sauna which they used daily regardless of the weather.  This dignified family that wouldn’t have dared call someone they had just met by their first name, invited Dr. and Mrs. Hirn into the sauna.  Ron and I entered the sauna to find this entire family in the buff.  Bare. Naked!  Ron and I, in our swimsuits, cover-ups and towels were ‘overdressed’ to say the least.

So many wonderful experience were crammed into those travel days.  When it comes to choosing perfection over the imperfection of real life – authentic life experiences win every time!

Dawn

PS – Oh, did I mention when the Fues family left the sauna they jumped into the cold pool and then into the snow to make snow angels?   Ron and I DID NOT join them in that adventure!

tin man

And remember, when the Tin Man went to see the Wizard he asked for the thing that really mattered most to him:   not new legs,  a heart!

Encouragement · Travel

Perception

Perception is:  “the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses.”   Question is, can you trust your senses?  Never 100%!

Of course there is the obvious:  smell what appears to be garbage, and most likely there will be a reason for the odor.   Taste what appear to be off and it might be!  We’ve got a new heads up these days by food packaging  ‘sell-by dates’.

Years ago when I was an international model, (an exotic sounding vocation involving long trips, unsteady pay and daily starvation) I received an assignment requiring me to live in Germany.  And I was nervous at best and anxious at worst. My perception? Holocaust, hate, genocide, extermination . . . . and I was on my own!

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Germany.  Land of the Nazi’s, who rounded up people based upon their heritage and faith, ran them through concentration camps, furnaces and physical and mental torture.  Eleven million people — wiped out.  What kind of monsters treat each other with such cruelty?  And I never came up with a reasonable answer.  Never will.

Determined to be courageous,  I marched into my next modeling assignment to face-off with these German devils.  But, as I met individuals, I found that these people who also had horrible recollections of Nazi abuse, were my new friends. They had been raised much like I, with strong house rules, secure in the fact that hard work pays off and laziness causes poverty.  I saw the hearts of these people one at a time – which is the best way to discover anyone’s true character.  And I met some of the most genuinely kind caring people in the world.

Years later when I took the ones I love most with me back to Germany,   I had drummed up enough enthusiasm to fill my family’s hearts with a great desire to see this country and meet more new friends. red and yellowRed and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.

Don’t ever let your perception block you from a visit to a country marked “Safe” by the US State Department.   And look at her people and her children,  one heart at a time.P1530279

Dawn

PS – Please follow us on Facebook and my blog for more on Germany this month!