Perfecting Dysfunction

The Magi-ettes

You know the story of the gift of the Magi found in the Bible?  We’ve heard it again and again, and still I am in awe as I picture the kings from foreign lands coming to pay homage to the little baby born in the little town of Bethlehem.   Located just outside Jerusalem, Bethlehem is under Palestinian authority today.   Land over there has a way of switching hands, but for Israel “day ain’t over yet.”

The Bible doesn’t support the story of the Three Wise Women.  But I read something someone had written which caused me to wonder how the story would have been altered had a woman produced this Journey from the East:

Do you know what would have happened if there had been Three Wise WOMEN instead of Three Wise MEN?

The WOMEN would have:

– Asked directions, – Arrived on time,

– Helped deliver the baby,

– Cleaned the stable,

– Made a casserole, and

– Brought practical gifts (like diapers!)


Though women didn’t have much of a Biblical role, Mary takes the top position for female adoration.   I imagine she had a tough time balancing her very pregnant body on top of a donkey, while she and her husband road-tripped  to Bethlehem.  There was no water to boil, no sanitary standards at all in the barn, and the epidural wouldn’t be invented for another 2,000 years.  But I’m certain she suffered through it all with a great attitude.   Makes me so proud to be a woman.

Whether you’re a Magi or a Magi-ette, or a shepherd or a spectator, take this time to celebrate Christmas with your family, or with the homeless, or sick, or friendless.  You don’t have to have a title to be ‘the giver of good gifts.’  A word of encouragement can work Magi-cally!

Merry Christmas from Dawn, Ron, Tyler, Trenton and Colton, with sweet memories of Ryan, our first born.


Parenting · Perfecting Dysfunction


Last night I watched a documentary of the a cappella group PENTATONIX – five perfectly tuned vocal instruments requiring no accompaniment.  They spend days together, practicing, traveling, and perfecting harmonies for their next performance.   Together they are the Pentatonix. But if one were missing, they would become the “Tetratonixs,’ or perhaps even the “Triangulatonixs.”

No matter the size of your act, it gets bigger and better when you blend.  We blended for more than 180 days when we brought our family’s vagabond routine worldwide.  Five of us with a cameraman, filming us as we got to know some of the strangest people.


(And I am just as certain they told their families the same thing about us!)  At the toss of a ball, or a smile and a laugh, they became part of our group.

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Friends in spite of communities and languages!   While we blended with each other, we oddly seemed to blend  into each culture, experiencing the full ‘star-treatment’ especially in China!  Maybe ‘blend’ is the wrong word.  But we weren’t laughed outta town!  The notes that came from our little band weren’t always attractive, but we knew right away when somebody was off key.  And together, we brought them back to pitch.




You may take pride in your solo act;  but the concert is a lot harder when you travel alone. When you bring your group,  you’ll find ways to make everybody’s performance more a little better or at least a bit more interesting. Or challenging!  But always more memorable. You become each other’s best friends, confidantes, sounding boards and whipping posts.

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Your solo becomes ‘solo with substance!”  Of course from time to time notes go sour and someone threatens to leave the group to visit the Gin-and-tonix.

When it comes to “getting away from it all” remember to take what matters most to you.  Your family.  Maybe it’s strange, but if you have love and patience, you are a perfect fit.  And the next step?  A world tour!


Cape of Good Hope  Cape Town, S.Africa


Great day!




Crunch time

images-1Who was the school administrator that came up with the plan to conduct mid-terms just before Christmas? Is it the same one who decided that teenagers (night-owls each) would begin taking SAT tests at 8AM Saturday mornings?  One of the most important tests of all begins two-hours before teenage brains are awake? Cruel!

We homeschooled our three kids six years — NOT the easy way out.  We will never regret it, and if you decide to do likewise..Courage!   Then we took it a step further putting our show on the road, through thirty-plus countries.  On-the-road education took on a 24/7 aspect which kept us all on our toes.  But there were invaluable lessons on the road.




On-the-road education is usually reserved for after college graduation — from the testing ground to the proving ground.   It’s where you discover why you suffered through Algebra, Physics, and Chemistry.  Our kids were not finished suffering when we took them abroad, but the things they saw in foreign schools gave them a real sense of the importance of education which has haunted them each a time or two since. The wake-up call on the importance of education was fully realized in China.



They each attended schools for their particular ages – long hours spent in unheated, cold rooms, minus the technology we take for granted in America.



No matter how hard kids study, occasionally test scores go south.  Poor test results are more palatable in the US of A than they are in China.  Under-achievers there don’t have much hope for good lives. Doing their best is not always good enough. Students must outperform each other.  Our guys have not forgotten, and this in itself is a motivator.


Russian school


Still, I wish the exam timing were different.  December crunch time in my mind should be about Christmas break, and days spent with the family dressed in winter gear,  smashing around in deep snow. And yet . . . we live in Alabama.  Go figure.

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This is more like it. Big snow day 2017!


Parenting · Perfecting Dysfunction

The gift that keeps on givin’

I got to thinking about the kids’ Christmas lists and wondering, exactly what was it last year they ‘couldn’t live another year without,’  that thing that forced me to stand in two-hour lines to purchase? (What was that thing?) Can you remember what you got for Christmas last year?  How about your spouse or your kids?  Can you remember what you gave, or where you spent the day?




After we lost our seven-year-old son, each Christmas was spent wondering what sort of gift he would have wanted that particular year.

We tried to never let our sadness affect the excitement our other three sons experienced.   But we realized:  things had become less valuable than relationships.  Much less! And from that exchange came our ideas about taking a world trip with our family.   More time together, more adventure, more mistakes, more recoveries, more memories!

Suzhou,  China

Ask me what I remember about the gifts I got or gave last year, and I doubt I can give you a complete list.  But ask me about the Christmas spent three years ago when we took Our BackPack around the world and I can nail that memory!

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Before you get too wiggy this year spending your money on family gifts of technology which will be outdated in another month, consider starting your own “AWE Travel Fund.”  Ask each family member ‘If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be – and why?”   Talk it up!  When you study cultures together knowing you may get the chance to actually visit these places, you get a whole new level of interest.

Cousin Eddie in the movie Christmas Vacation, said it best:  “It’s the gift that just keeps on givin’, Clark.”

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(Cousin Eddie thought it was the Jelly-of-the-Month-Club — but we are pretty sure it’s a family adventure!)





Parenting · Perfecting Dysfunction

The Fowl Look


In 1621, Edward Winslow wrote a letter to a friend in England that describes the meal shared by the Pilgrims with the Indians: “Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors.”

This wasn’t the first attempt to share dinner with people who were basically the same, but down-to-the-last-detail, different.


The letters left behind assure us that the early American settlers sat down to dine with the Wampanoag Indians, sharing a dinner of whatever they could bag on the hunting trip.  No doubt the Indians brought their version of corn pudding, the kids picked berries, and, although a pumpkin soufflé wouldn’t be possible for another three hundred years, they did what they could with it.  But we don’t know the result of the men’s hunting trip.

'Next year, we'll shoot the turkey.'

We could assume it was a turkey.  It was native to North America.  (Ben Franklin said the turkey would be a more appropriate national emblem for the US than the eagle.  And the way people have behaved from the result of this past year’s election, you can see where that might have applied!)

But here is a little tip:  when you are sitting at the Thanksgiving table, take a minute to thank God for those to whom you are attached.


Thanksgiving is about ‘love,’ not necessarily ‘like.’  It’s about forgiveness and second, third and fourth chances. It’s for each of us and all of us – no matter the race, creed, color or place of birth.

Turkey enchiladas?  Turkey Hash?  Moo Shu Turkey?  BBQ Turkey Pizza?  Or good old California-style Vegetarian Turkey Tofu . . . . enjoy the meal and the time spent with those friends and relatives.  And chalk off any ‘fowl looks’ to indigestion.


Happy Thanksgiving!







Mom Power!

One week ago, America ended the most vicious election in American History.  (I think.  I’ve only been around for fourteen and actually remember eight.)

And the heat goes on.  Some of us are pleased; some are confused, some scared and others are violently upset.  We are all blessed with freedom of speech and expression.  But before you go off half-cocked on some wild rant, do a ‘mommy-check’ in the mirror.  Your kids are watching!   Show yourself your ‘happy face.’  Then, practice your ‘sad-face,’ your ‘angry-face’ and your ‘ugly face.’    These are your tools for behavior and, believe me, you will use all of them.    And as a mom I know, they will come back to haunt or bless you.

Your kids are watching when you cheer people who burn American flags or blonde heads in effigy or deface property with hateful slurs.   Many have become so angry they aren’t governing their ‘vent.’    But as a mom you must remember the things you do and say in wake of a win or a loss often follow you around long after the dust has settled.

My kids still pull out things I have said in moments of rage, disappointment, or frustration and they find the most inopportune time to repeat them to me.  (Why is it when my kids repeat the things I have said, they sound more horrid pouring from their mouths than they did from mine?)

It’s time to rethink this thing.  Regardless of which side of the ballot you voted, remember your friends and neighbors on the other side of the ballot.   Your kids are watching your performance.  Mom power is leading by example and  most perfectly shown during times of victory or defeat.   Moms lead by example:  If we kick a guy when he’s down, your kids will no doubt do the same sort of kicking.  If we gloat in victory, don’t expect your kids to show humility when they win. If we spit on the American voting process or scream ‘death to the winner,’ we can expect our kids to follow or at least remind us how we behaved . . . when we least expect it.

And above all, pray for our leaders.  There is only one person who walked the earth in perfection.   And their name wasn’t Hillary, or Donald, or Dawn, or _______________.

Be kind to each other!


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not the enemy

When you travel through our country meeting other Americans, you pretty much know what you’re going to get.   Unless you have just walked through one of the most vicious presidential elections in history.  Then, it’s all about smiles and nods and holding your tongue.

Because everyone was convinced that unless their candidate won, life as they lived it would be gone forever. Voters turned out in droves.  That is a good thing!    After every election storm comes the sun, to dry things up.   And the sun that does wonderful things can also do damage.

Those who stand in the glory of the sun for too long holding on to their party banner of “nana nana boo boo, I won and you didn’t,” will eventually get burned.   Those who feel defeated put up defensive shelter turning the best conversation into a heated argument or attack:  A simple question – “How are you doing?” could in their mind have hidden meaning: “Are you REALLY saying, since I lost the election, how bad do I feel?” or  “I don’t really care how you are feeling because I feel fabulous?”

When our kids were interviewed about our world trip, eight-year old Colton told the interviewer, “You know, I thought we would be in some trouble when we went to China; turns out I was wrong.”  Colton charmed his way through the communistic country, as he interacted with her people.  And we all won.

The Bible says, “A house divided against itself cannot stand” (Mark 3:25)

Thanksgiving is on our very near future and we should all not only be grateful for living in the land of the free and being part of the home of the brave but we need to learn to suck it up and/or quit gloating.  It’s a matter of humility and greater purpose — all for one and one for all.   You will understand that even better once you and your family get the travel bug, and broaden your own scopes and widen your territory.

Listen, comfort and respect each other no matter what platform you choose.   Just because they have a different opinion than you, doesn’t make them the enemy.


Great weekend!



What lies beneath!

“What do Scottish men wear under their kilts?”  I don’t have the answer and I’ve never ever been tempted to peek.   But I did find myself curious as to  why Colton was so insistent I find him the “fat suit’ costume for Halloween yesterday.

We have moved several times in the past few years, and I find it’s hard to track my own stuff, much less the stuff that belongs to my husband and three sons.  I find myself laying awake at night seeing the ‘lost thing’ in the perfect place I put it only to realize that I don’t live in that place anymore. If you’re a mom, you know that everything that belongs to your kids only belongs to you when it’s lost.  Then it’s your fault it’s gone.   As mothers, our reputations depend upon keeping up with their things.

My reputation with my kids has never affected my performance.  But I wanted to find that ‘fat suit’ for Colton, so I could be the Halloween Hero. FatColt.jpgAnd I finally did.  I should have expected something fishy when I saw him  — the serious, sober Colton – staring at the camera from under the fat suit.

Wasn’t till he got home last night that I figured the whole thing out!

Candy Colt.JPGHope you had a happy, safe Halloween!


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!


Encouragement · Parenting


The Olympics in Rio are over.  We are left with wonderful memories and some baggage we are having to take home that is, well “less than wonderful.”  But again, there are lessons for our kids in all of it:

The US Swimmers taught them:  “Don’t lie. Because nobody believes a liar even when they are telling the truth.” (And because of that you may lose millions of dollars in advertising sponsorships.)

Simone Biles gave a great lesson in ‘sharing the glory,’ as many of us will remember her pulling Aly Raisman the silver medalist into the spotlight for “all-around best” with her.

And who could forget the cheers that went up for the Refugee Olympic Team from South Sudan, Syria, the Congo and Ethiopia.  Great lesson in courage under fire.

So much of my take-away was from the stands – watching the parents of these athletes who had given their time, enthusiasm, comfort and encouragement, day after long day leading up to these games.  Kohei Uchimura, Japan’s Gymnastic King, held a sliver of hope to beat the Ukranian favorite.  But that’s all it took:  A .099-of-a-point- sliver.  All eyes were on his #1 fan – his mother Shuko, who passed out right there!   Can’t you relate?

Gladly we give our kids our time,  our wisdom and encouragement so they can achieve the goals in their lives.  Medal or no medal, we expect them to finish graciously.  It takes perseverance and blisters to reach a goal.  But never lose the importance of versatility.  I always tell my boys: “You are a multiplicity of talent.  Be more than a ‘one-hit wonder’.”

Olympic weightlifter.jpgLife runs best on versatility.  Learn the technique from Lithuanian Weightlifter Aurimas Didzbalis, who was so happy to qualify with a Bronze Medal, he flipped.  Literally.  Another day, another possibility.


Talk soon.  Dawn