One Thing

Remember this dialogue from City Slickers (1991), where Mitch (Billy Crystal) talks to the crusty lunatic cowboy, Curly (Jack Palance)?

Beside a campfire, Mitch sits uncomfortably, with Curly:

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?

[holds up one finger]

Curly: This.

Mitch: Your finger?

Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean &%*@!

Mitch: But, what is the “one thing?”

Curly: [smiles] That’s what *you* have to find out.

This past weekend my mom, my sister Darby and I went to Birmingham’s Sidewalk Film Festival – one of the best in the nation!DJD at farmWe came to promote our film, Our BackPack, but also to support the array of talented people who have put together over 266 films.  When they hit the mother lode, and I believe some of them will, the Press will call them “overnight successes,” or “surprising new finds.”  But I assure you, from one who has worked hard for several years, to produce a TV show and movie, nothing about success happens overnight!

The people at the festival have full-time jobs outside their fields of interest, (gotta eat?!) like Alabama local, George Hardy. That’s Dr. Hardy to you. George, a successful Alexander City dentist, has the lead role in the entertaining and well directed short called Texas Cotton the Movie. When he, along with the other fellow Sidewalk Festival participants, leave home each day,  they park their passion just inside the front door to greet them when they get home each night.  These people have an abundance of talent.  But is talent enough?

Curly was right; “the secret to life is ‘One Thing.’   Stick to that and the rest don’t mean %*&@!”

Putting that one thing ahead of everything else, requires sacrifice!  Lots of midnight oil, lots of thinking, planning, a few little successes, a whole lot of failures and the willingness to tear up your perfect plan A and try to find a new approach to the One Thing.

Poster Style #1-Child's Play copy

Darby, my mom and I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the Sidewalk Film Festival, joining our “comrades in arms,” like George, encouraging them, applauding their efforts and celebrating the little victories.

What is that “One Thing” in your life?  As Curly says with a smile:   “that is what you have to find out.”

Poster Back Style #5Check out our Websites: Ourbackpack.com, Ryanshines.com, Ourboysintheworld.com. and you can catch a preview of our shows on YouTube under ‘dawn hirn.’

Have a great weekend!


Backpack Logo Semi Final 3
Our Backpack


Encouragement · Family

The Spiral

SpiralThe image of damage!  Poor Texas. They were hit hard by storms and rain.  Lots of rain.

Catastrophe hit with little warning, unless you consider two hours enough time to evacuate from a flood.  Stories of rising flood levels were staggering.  So is the extensive damage.  But even more staggering, by today’s standards, are the stories of those who reached out to their neighbors to rescue, save, protect, feed, clothe and house those who needed help.

.bw spiral

Take another look at that spiral image, and put yourself inside.  If you placed yourself in any of the outside corners going in, you may get stuck inside the center of your own vortex of problems, and never be of any good to anyone.  Least of all,  yourself!  But, if you begin in the center of confusion starting at the place where you are weakest, and begin your trip outward to help others, the spiral becomes huge.  All encompassing.  There is no limit to what you can do, once you take the focus off your own problems.

God blessed Texas with some wonderful people, who reached out from their own trauma to help save and protect others who were stranded.  Many left their own flooded homes in boats and on rafts to rescue others.

Others have taken strangers into their homes and though they are sharing what food they have in total darkness.  Dry and safe.

Little Texas, performed a song that is so perfect for this trial.  Goes like this:

“God Blessed Texas, With His own hand

Brought down angels from the promised land

Gave ’em a place where they could dance

If you want to see heaven, brother, here’s you chance

I’ve been sent to spread the message

God blessed Texas.”

Each catastrophe is different but the pain can always be lightened when you reach out to help others carry their loads.    We will never forget those, also Texans, who reached out to us when we lost Ryan.  And we look back extremely grateful for the time we spent visiting with the burn survivors and their families at  various children’s burn hospitals on foreign soil.  It’s a privilege to reach out of our own situation to help support and encourage other parents of burn survivors, through our foundation Ryanshines.com.

Remember The Spiral     TUS copy when you are faced with a dilemma greater than you can handle.  Place yourself within the spiral.  Is your focus on the quagmire of the inner circle – or do you start with your own chaos and head out to the edges to help others?

Pisa boysWhen you see a need, lend a hand.  Upward and Outward!

Hirn fam looks outAnd God, Bless Texas!


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!