Encouragement · Family travel

The Back Side

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



 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.’



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.


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.

venice bridge

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!


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.”


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!



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.”


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.


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




Adventure with Engagement AWE · Encouragement · Travel

What’s your color scheme?

Benjamin Moore (not a founding father) started up his paint company in 1883, dedicated to the production of excellence in paints and glazes.  Today, three of his colors still stand out: “Old Glory Red”, “Old Glory Blue” and White.  (Ok, so he wasn’t the most original dude on the block, but he was allegiant to his country!)  These colors hold significance to every American today. It’s our 241st Birthday, which makes us young by comparison to most other countries.  Red, white and blue is the color of our door marked freedom.  And, thanks to the freedom of speech,  we rejoice or complain our way through the door that allows us to choose the way we worship, and helps us along our educational path. Americans are used to working hard so we can own homes and land.   And we can choose to live safely within our own paint choices, or or we can travel, opening up every color imaginable on earth.

mosaic pigs Britainfrom blue mosaic pigs in Britain. . . .

We Hirns love America and take great pride in our Red, White and Blue.  But we have jumped and will continue to jump at the opportunity to uncover other color schemes.

Passenger trainto passenger trains in SE Asia. . . .

and beyond!

Today we celebrate July 4th with hot dogs,  S’Mores, apple pie, campfires, parades, ballgames and fireworks.    We are so  thankful to America for opening her doors allowing us to see so many colors beyond our own color schemes  . . . .  .                 from Lake Martin into the wild blue yonder!

IMG_0803Have and happy, colorful and safe Independence Day!


Encouragement · Travel

Go Dog. Go!

Go dog, go

P.D. Eastman wrote this book more than fifty years ago, using only 75 different words, as an inspiration to young readers. Funny. He liked the word “Go” so much he used it twice in the title. “Go.”  An action word, radiates a sense of ‘hurry up!’

“Go” is one of the Hirn Family favorite words too.  It’s an essential word, actually. There are places we have been that will never be the same again when we return because time eventually does that to a place.

love lock brWhen we visited the Love Locks Bridge in Paris (Pont des Arts), we were amazed by the number of locks attached to the bridge, placed there by visitors who vowed their everlasting love. “Engrave the lock, attach it to the bridge and throw the key in the Seine below.”  Before we left Paris, we affixed our own Hirn lock dedicated to our son and brother, Ryan, and inscribed with all of our names and the date.  Problem is, 45 tons of “love” all at once can and did cause a bridge a stability problem, and just a few years after we left, Paris decided to tear out the locks.  Safety and aesthetics, they said.

Lock on Paris's Pont des Artsbest boys lockSo . . . if you are thinking about taking a trip to one of those places on your bucket list, Go dog, go!  Now, before it’s too late.   Be the ones who share your stories and photos of places you were able to see up close and personal, not the ones who look back in regret at their ‘shoulda, woulda, coulda’s.’

The words of the great writers of children’s books, still carry their messages to those of us who have grown up.  (Sort of).  And I leave you with the words of Dr. Seuss:

You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!  

Go dog.  Go!


Encouragement · Perfecting Dysfunction

The moments in-between

France!  Toward the end of our trip, we were barely in control. Since we had all(not Ron) vowed not to cut our hair the entire 7 months, it was no surprise that it had lost the battle several weeks  before.  We hadn’t come to do the things other families do, or to send home the photos others send home.  And that was a good thing.  Because we were having too much enjoyment out of photo failures.

They missed the assignmt.Some of my favorite French moments  . . . . say fromageWhat’s ‘fromage’?fr. wall walker

Somebody once said: “when you try to control everything, you enjoy nothing.”  And I get it.

I know I drive them crazy with schedules, lessons, practices, studies and all but it is how we function.  And when I say “we” I mean “me”: it’s how I function.    I have to have plans, goals, milestones, and objectives.  But we all need ‘free time’ and occasionally ‘me time’ to explore, let our minds wander, and sometimes just sit in each other’s company just waiting for the gems to pop out of their mouths, into our minds.

“What did we love most about our world trip?”  I guess I would have to say, the moments in-between.

And just when you think you cannot get it right, no matter what, the accidental Christmas Card photo appears!

great fr, family photo

Have a great weekend!



education · Encouragement · Parenting · Travel

To the teachers

Legs BP logoTeachers!  They are the ones that walk beside us, behind us, and in front of us leading the way, so that one day they will step into our shoes and be the teachers.

boys walking holoc.The boys seemed to sense the reverence of these war memorials in Poland and Germany, and were certainly affected deeply by the remnants of luggage, shoes and clothing left behind.  But I wonder if anything touched them as deeply as the talk their father gave them about the concentration camp introductions? (check out Youtube.com and our facebook today for the video)

When we were in Japan, we also were touched by the museums and affects of the bombing of Hiroshima.  But things become more personal when a name or photo was attached to the story.  Ron took the time to read to the boys as they bedded down on the floors of the hostel in Japan. He chose the story of Sadako Sasaki, who was just 2 when the atomic bomb dropped in her city.  At 12, she was diagnosed with leukemia from radiation — referred to in Japan as the ‘atom bomb disease.’  Sadako took on the task of folding 1000 paper cranes, according to the Japanese legend that 1000 paper cranes would allow a wish to be granted.  Her wish was to live. Although Sadako only folded 644 before she died, her life is a legacy and tribute thanks to her friends and family who exceeded her task, raising a statue in her honor, publishing a book of letters about those who died from result of the A-bomb and placing her paper cranes of hope at the NYC 9/11 Memorial, at Pear Harbor, the Museum of Tolerance, in other places of honor.

“At the foot of the statue (of Sadako) is a plaque that reads:  “This is our prayer.  This is our cry.  Peace on Earth.”

Sadako_and_the_thousand_paper_cranes_00Make history come alive for your child.  It takes time.  It takes creativity.  It takes knowledge.  It takes love.  Be a teacher.