Adventure with Engagement AWE · Family


Ah, I remember the days when Ron and I went off for a romantic “get-away” – just the two of us — booked at some fabulous five-star restaurant where they serve you ‘art’ instead of ‘food’.   You giggle at each other wondering who is going to be first to topple the triple layer salad with strange skinny breadsticks sticking out each side, topped with an origami-like vegetable-thingy.

Those were the days.  But these are the better days.

wine cheese.jpg This past weekend, we selected our romantic get-away for the Great Smoky Mountains and Clingman’s Dome.  And we had a ‘blast in the Pass” as we hiked up to the top of the Dome.   We went off path making our own way because that’s what we do, and at the end, set our own five-star table in the grass.

“AWE,” you say.  “I wish we could do that.”  Thing is, you can. Just take your schedule and a little carving tool, and scratch out some time.  A couple of days is a great romance-refresher and a nice break from running to this event and that event, and a picnic in the grass beats the socks off a bucket of KFC to go.

Ron and I don’t consider this selfish; we believe it’s essential for every married couple to step back and look at the ‘art of family’ they have created from a distance.  There is plenty of AWE to be found  in the Smokey Mountains.  Course, it  might have been the wine and cheese or maybe it was Mother Nature, in general. But I think it was more just having each other to ourselves.

Just do it!  (Oh, I guess that’s been used already.)  How about Find Ur AWE?

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Adventure with Engagement AWE · Parenting

Hot Water

This week our family has been without hot water, which gives us each a new reply to the question:  “Who ya gonna call?”    Funny, how an older home can provide so many challenging opportunities!  Adventure With Engagement?  The only engagement we have had this week is an exchange of yelps during cold water shower blasts.


Since we returned from our world adventure, we have gone soft.  We walk into a bathroom fully expecting an elevated potty ,  a shower with warm water, soap and a towel to dry off.   We expected the ‘unexpected’ when we traveled.  Hot water and a porcelain toilet are rare commodities where we visited.  But, we didn’t go for the luxuries.  Would have cut the Adventure part in half!


Ron and I had done this before.  The practically-expired camper we purchased in Germany,  didn’t have hot water.  Ever.  So we never expected it.  But in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, we fully expect the hot water to eventually come pouring out to grace our bodies with warmth.  Last week we wasted a lot of water waiting for the cold water in the shower to turn hot.  It never did.

We are raising soft kids.  I recognize this because my parents raised me.  I expect certain things as a given in a home.  Happiness in life involves flexibility — adapting to difficult situations.  Two suggestions:

  1. Travel to a third-world country at least once in your life so you and your family can see how lucky you are to have the luxury of fresh, warm or cold water at the turn of a knob, electricity at the flip of a switch and gasoline at the crank of a pump.  Softies expect everything to work.  Toughen up!

2. When you lose power or hot water, don’t gripe and complain too long, it makes you           look soft.  Remember how good we have it here in the U.S.A…


Have a good weekend!


Adventure with Engagement AWE · Family


Advertisers coined the word:  ‘slogan.’  But I believe every family needs one. In my world,  we all share the same dream, one or two status cars, designer-titled jobs, at least one super-fancy roof over our head, and kids known by their grades, sports ability or talents.   None of this calls attention to the direction we are going.   We need a slogan.

A slogan is different than a nickname;  it’s a motivator, a call to action, a direction, an intent.  Nobody else can give you a slogan.  Those of you who have been hurt by birth or life should always remember this! It’s never about looks or circumstances.  it’s about intention.

Before kids, Ron and I loved to travel and we weren’t willing to save those words for job applications in the place marked:  Hobbies.    We agreed- you can never truly tell people you love about doing something unless you actually do It!  A slogan should be a motivator or a call to action or accountability.  We chose AWE – Adventure With Engagement.

Early in our relationship, Ron and I bought a junky old VW camper in Germany, and set out  for a year of adventure to see places we had never seen and to meet the people in the world!    We were working the AWE, but we knew it would be even better when we added our first sons Ryan and Tyler, and eventually Trenton and Colton to the adventure.    When we lost Ryan, we shelved our dream for awhile.  But true dreams can never be completely retired.  We realized that an adventure is most grand when it includes strangers whose background and life-stories were different than ours.  We heal by sharing each other’s stories of surviving life’s hard knocks.

AWE is the recipe for our family cake.  Each one of us brings a different element to the mixing bowl.  Sometimes the heat of the oven is intense, but we know it will all turn out well.  The frosting on that cake is composed of the hours and days we spend with each other.

Your family cake may be perfectly baked, beautifully frosted and have a flawless presentation.    But unless you reach out an include new places and new people, you may never experience the joy of ‘sprinkles.’

Find a slogan.  And before you adopt it, think long and hard!images.jpeg


Adventure with Engagement AWE · Family

Being Goofy

Since school kicked back up, everyone is in “serious stress” mode.  For the guys, it’s another grade, another challenge.  For Ron and I, it’s squeezing two pounds of sand into a one-ounce hourglass!


The other night, we found ourselves ‘in between’ the frenzy of homework and extra-curricular events.  You could feel the pressure floating in the air (sort of an oppressive color of burgundy/black) and I recognized it was time for us to ‘lighten up’.   More accurately, the Hirn Fam needed to spend some time ‘being Goofy.’    Sounds like a fairly simple directive, but nobody easily drops into ‘being goofy-mode’ on command.   Tyler had already moved on from homework and had dug his tendrils into his Play Station’s ‘Destiny’ and Trenton and Colton were just anxious to escape and find their own fun.


Game night,” I declared.  And for the thousandth time they looked at their mom as only a disgusted man/child can.  It was easy getting the two younger guys interested in a game of Euchre, which for those of you who don’t know, is a trick-taking card game using standard playing cards.  With a bit of coaxing, Colton dragged his teenaged brother into some friendly competition.  Colton knew he could beat Tyler, and Tyler finally took the bait.

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The beauty of this game is that it is fast!  There is no dress code or gaming table.  We slung the deck of cards on the bed,  each of us grabbed a space, and for forty-five minutes we played hard. Nobody tried being Goofy – it just happened.


Never be in too much hurry to let each family member run off to  ‘wind down’ electronically after their hard work has finished.    Encourage a good game of cards, or Farkle or Scrabble.  Recruit!   The laughs you take away are well worth the sarcastic eye-rolls you get at first.   And game playing is one of the purest forms of AWE, with heavy emphasis on the Engagement part.    All of us need an audience when we are  being Goofy!


Adventure with Engagement AWE


Selfies help us establish how we looked particular time in our lives.  Like statues, we say:  “Here’s how I looked”.  But selfies rarely say:  “This is where I was”.   Can you define yourself by a selfie?  Certainly a  ‘duckface’, or ‘kissie-face’, or a close up of “me-being-dangerous-adventurous-and-humorous”, doesn’t tell the whole story.

When we took our family adventure around the world, we hired a videographer to capture the experience, and by ‘experience’ I mean the moments nobody else might consider capturing.   We each had  cell phones (no service)  to capture moments, but rarely had the time or frankly the inclination to set up selfies.   Our trip’s intention was Adventure With Engagement and each photo was designed around environment or interaction.  That quest doesn’t make us special – but it takes a certain amount of bravery to face the camera in unbrushed grins with dumpling juice on our coats.  We came to learn, to meet others whose cultures and beliefs were different from ours.  And underneath all the differences, we found similarities of heart with these strangers.    You cannot capture that in a selfie!

Next time you take a photo of yourself, consider your circumstances – your surroundings, and those who share your space.  Grab a ‘selfie-stick’ and stand back.  Choose that awkward moment of engagement rather than the “I-look-pretty-great-in-this-one” shot.

Selfies are generally two-dimensional.  But you need to capture the moments that preceded or surrounded your inclination to channel your inner Zoolander!

If you don’t remember where you’ve been, how can you appreciate where you are going?

Celebrate your differences!  Tuesday,I’ll address ‘beliefs’.  Someone much more intelligent than I once pointed out:  “Your beliefs don’t make you a better person.  Your behavior does”.


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Adventure with Engagement AWE


“Whether it’s the duckface smirk or the coyly suggestive close-up, selfies are a mainstay of Twitter and Instagram and have parents and psychologists wringing their hands over what they ‘mean’.”

I’ll bet psychologists are having an easier time diagnosing “narcissistic tendencies” these days, by simply plugging into a patient’s social media.

I’m not saying everyone who posts a selfie is a narcissist; we all have done it.  But I am saying if you post a photo of your best look every day of life, my power of prediction says you are likely to get the Social Media ‘unfriend’ boot.

We’ve all got to realize, the Selfie we take today is quite probably our last best Selfie.  By tomorrow at this time (24-hours later) scientists tell us we will have lost one-million skin cells.   Sounds dreadful!

We all love seeing photos of each other. But up-close and personal gets stale after awhile.   I enjoy a good steak from time to time; but every day is too much!  We need to see ourselves beyond our sweet smiles, smirks,  puckered lips, and muscles, to include a bit of what is around us.

Our family calls it AWE – Adventure With Engagement.  Without the ‘Engagement’ part, it’s just AW . . . . . . and repetitive performance tends to become pitiful.

Capture yourself in the cloud by adding other people to your selfie, showing your geographical location, your activities, or other forms of your dimension expression.  Perhaps we could start a revolution to rename Selfies into something more inclusive:  like Groupies!  Oh, never mind.  Tyler tells me that one is already taken.

buzz.jpgHave a good weekend!


Adventure with Engagement AWE · Family

Square One

Young kids gather around mom waiting for an elevator to take them fifteen floors down to the snack shop.  Ding!  Elevator opens, a kid rushes in. Doors close and mom realizes the arrow pointed UP.  What now? Mom remembers telling them:  “If we ever get separated always push LOBBY. Square One.  If there’s no LOBBY, push 1.

Often it is good to get back to Square One, in your life and especially in your marriage.  A crisis comes into each life and relationship sooner or later. The ‘easy way’ leads out.  But the hard way has a bigger payoff.  If you are wise, you gather up the fractured pieces and go back to the Square One, where things were fresh and more stable.   This is actually easier to do with kids than it is with partners.  But self-protection is rarely an aspect of a partnership.  Moms and dads are the hub of the family wheel.  And if the spokes don’t have a point of reference from the outer wheel to the inner hub – well, at best you’ve got wobble; and at worst, you’ve got collapse. The YouTube Video

shows the NASA final check before launching the Endeavor in 2009.  Fabulous really!  And next time you feel strain in your family, take a minute to check out each system involved.  Make sure there are ‘no constraints and you are ready to launch.’  And if there are problems in your family and especially between mom and dad, address them personally before you head off in the wild blue yonder!

Repair your ship by going back to  Square One.   Ready, Set, Launch, AWE!

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Adventure with Engagement AWE

AAH . . . .

For the past two years I have been promoting the theme of Our Backpack, the TV show we are producing, and proudly calling for  “AWE” – “Adventure With Engagement.” I still do.  But there comes a time in the life of each mom when she realizes there is too much ‘Adventure’ and what she really needs is some AAH: “Adventure Alongside Rest.”

‘Me time’ has always sounded so selfish!  And impossible.  Mom’s rarely are able to unhinge themselves from kids.  We’re problem magnets!   A simple ‘shut up’ or ‘go away’ isn’t very ‘mom like.’   I choose my me-time outside, running or playing tennis, and swimming, or inside capturing the moments reading or writing. I know how to do it.But lately I need something more:  I need some ‘AAH’.  Because amidst the frenzy of family life, sometimes it is “All About Healing”.

Next week I am scheduling some well-deserved Ga. beach time which, coincidentally, is where I grew up, sitting by the ocean staring at more of Gods’ creations.   Regardless of my change of pace, there will still be AWE.  But this time, engagement will be ‘salve for the tired soul’:  appreciating the rhythm and predictability of the waves, the ever-changing light, skies and winds, the texture of sand, it’s feeling on my toes, the discovery of yet another shell,  whose twin sister sits at home in a jar, and soaking in the soil of my youth.

We have five senses.  I plan to use every of them:  To hear the surf and gulls, to see the vastness of the ocean, to smell the salty air, to taste the fresh seafood, touch the sand and the water.  Which, incidentally, will touch me right back because of my engagement.

Always AWE.  But this  next week . . . . AAH!

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Great weekend


Adventure with Engagement AWE · Parenting

Hopeless Slackers

Britton Peele of GuideLive asks. “Are adults who play ‘ Pokemon Go’ hopeless slackers?”   The Dallas Morning News recently received this comment:  “Games like Pokemon Go are for kids so if you are playing the game you are either a child, or jobless, or a virgin.”  And,  no doubt,  a hopeless slacker.

A month ago, I blogged about Pokemon Go,  pretty much slamming the experience as a Virtual Vacation.  Seemed dangerous to me.  Some players were falling off cliffs, walking into traffic and being snake-bitten. And I was certain people were exchanging the digital drama for real life Adventure.

Pokemon has always been  dear to my heart because of Ryan, my firstborn son’s love for the characters.   As a mother of resilience and determination  — my description of me —  I like to think that I am too strong  to succumb to a video game – especially one that commands so much time and energy.  But this  ‘tough mom’ also wants to be remembered as the ‘fun mom.’  And lately I’ve been noticing my boys are having more fun than I.

I had already downloaded the Pokemon Go app on my phone for Trenton, who is too young to have a phone.   I was curious. I’m the parent and my sons’ well-being is my responsibility!   (Isn’t that what parents say when they are peeking into kids semi-private lives?)

I started to play. Let me re-word that:  I caught the fever!!   And frankly, I have to hold myself back from digging into the app during any moment of down time.  Does this mobile video game get you out of your comfort zone and into a world of fresh air and wonder?  Yep!  Is it a time-sucker?  Absolutely.  But why should this kind of addiction be limited by age?  I still love a good water slide.

It is a parent’s responsibility to investigate the activities that get our kids sidetracked from their work at hand, but it’s also our job to be part of their lives, to experience the AWE of their adventures. I am enjoying this game.   We have some hilarious exchanges talking about it, and frankly, they’re impressed if not totally surprised that “Mom is really into it..”

Does the fact I enjoy Pokemon Go,  make me a hopeless slacker?

Gosh, I hope not.  I’ve got a television show to sell!


Adventure with Engagement AWE · Travel

Just Say “No”

RIO DE JANEIRO—“The single most difficult and dangerous maneuver in women’s gymnastics—and maybe the most daring of the entire Olympic Games—won’t be attempted by anyone on Team USA.” THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/7/16 Cohen and Radnofsky

As the Olympic feats become more and more difficult, coaches ask themselves:  “When is enough, enough?”  “The Produnova vault is too dangerous,” say our US Gymnastics’ Team Members and Coaches. Sure it would get you some hefty points if it were done correctly.  But if not, you face death or paralysis.

Daredevils come in every shape and size, and to those who are Daredevil Travelers, we beg you to do your homework.  Find out about the dangers of the country you plan to visit before you book your trip.  When we traveled together as a family, our leader Ron, made sure the places we were going were relatively safe.  We knew we would not be tracking wild boar in Pakistan nor heading deep into the Sudan.  Lebanon and Syria were also on our ‘Just say “NO” list.’ And if you’re thinking of checking out that sweet little country that sits between Turkey and Russia, described as “the Alps meet the Mediterranean,” better find another song and get “Georgia off your mind.”

The world is full of wonders!  Before you travel, check with the US State Department,  for alerts and tips.  Check out the site:

Do your homework to make sure the adventure outweighs the risks.  Terrorist attacks can happen anywhere in the world.  But make sure you are looking logically at the risk, not your own uncertainty of its degree. Life is full of danger.  After we lost our son in a car fire just a few miles from home, we realized, staying close to home is no guarantee of safety.   But planning ahead and common sense go a long way!

We still heartily recommend AWE – Adventure With Engagement.   But before you race toward your next international adventure –  or your next Produnova Vault, check out the risks.  And learn when to Just say “No.”

But to all the other stuff, remember:

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AWE baby!