Encouragement · Faith · Perfecting Dysfunction

Puttin’ up yer dukes

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One of my friends shared something very personal with me this week:  She, like many of us,  felt God had let her down.  Unlike so many of us, she had the guts to express her disappointment and share her journey back to faith.

I get it.  When we lost Ryan, Ron and I were ready for a fight with God.   We both had a terrible time understanding how a loving God could allow such a tragedy.  It’s been 16 years, and we are no closer to understanding now than we did then.  But the stories shared by encouraging friends are building blocks to restoration. And God continues to bless this family.

My friend has come back into the fellowship of her church and the understanding that she doesn’t understand everything about God;  but, she understands a few things about God.  And one thing she knows for certain is that He has never forgotten about her.

Few of us have the courage to actually admit we get angry with God.  But honesty and  transparency is a gift to and from your friends – the TRUE friends who will never use confession against you.  My friends have helped me understand that just because I question why He allows bad stuff to happen to good people, doesn’t necessarily mean lightning is gonna come out of the sky and fry me. God respects an honest spiritual struggle.

journey.jpegThank God.  And friends!

Have a great weekend!




Perfecting Dysfunction

Family matters.

No this isn’t a private blog just for the Hirn friends and family. It’s an observation.  A simple sentence:  Family matters.  A subject and a verb.

But there are times for every mom when running away sounds like a good option.   “Me time” some mothers call it.  But it’s difficult for mom’s to actually find “me time” ever.  One day you will take that vacation or long lunch, read that novel, and take that bubble bath.  The fact remains:    family matters.

Lately I’ve become painfully aware that my 2 teens and pre-teen boy are finding it less comfortable to have their mom close by.  And by ‘less comfortable’ I am going by the looks on their faces when I tell them that I will be in the front row cheering for their achievements, competitions and awards.  Their mom is not timid.  She has a vicious whistle that has blown eardrums from Alex City to Hong Kong.  She is an entire cheering section by herself.  But she wants to be present.  Because family matters.

Gone are the days of hand holding.

Colt Dawn london Airport.jpgAWE in Tut Tut in Thailand.jpgAnd cramming together in a tuk tuk may be beneath a teenagers level of ‘cool.’  But I still believe the family that plays together, stays together.  And we have had and still do have plenty of practice.

Family matters.  So regardless of what your kids say, as they beg you not to join them,  hang close.  And for heaven’s sake: get the uncomfortable moments in a photo or a video.  The moment of embarrassment is a lifetime of pleasure!



Family · Parenting · Perfecting Dysfunction · Travel

Too much stuff

I have 5 potato peelers in my drawer.  Five!  Not that I cook potatoes every night like my grandmother did, but should we decide to have potatoes, I can find five different ways to peel ‘em!

I’m not alone.  The Wall Street Journal writes, “Americans spend $1.2 trillion annually on nonessential goods—in other words, items they do not need.”  Like five potato peelers!  Psychology Today reports Americans spend more on shoes, jewelry, and watches ($100 billion) than on higher education.

And even with five potato peelers, four can openers, three scented candles, two pair of UGGS, we still can’t fit everything into our homes without at least one storage facility!  Does this make us happy? Ask Psychology Today that one.  Depression is on the rise.

Who can we blame?  You can try to pin the thing on Steve Jobs, but we have abused the technological opportunities he provided.  We must blame ourselves. We are so busy providing stuff for our families, we overlook the importance of spending time together – away from the normal structure of things.  And psychologists say spending time with your family is itself a huge gift!!   Ron and I have been trying to sell you on the idea of family travel because the experience was so incredible for us.  World travel costs far less than you would imagine, if you plan ahead.  We did, and still love looking back on our adventure:  The voyages of the Starship Hirn – to boldly go where we hadn’t been, to  explore and seek out strange new (and very very old) civilizations.  

In the weeks ahead I will be giving you some tips on how Ron and I were able to take this trip.  Your family deserves the trip of a lifetime.  You can dig up memories year after year — no storage required!   And seeing places up close and personal beats the socks off a two dimensional photo on a web page.  Yes, you can afford it if you cut corners and plan, plan, plan.   Ron, Tyler, Trenton, Colton and I all did so much homework.  Then, we lived it!

Or, you can stay home and complain that you just can’t afford to travel,  while you stockpile newer technology, another car, boat or hover board.  Your choice.  But remember, the stuff you cherish cannot hug you back.

Anyone need a potato peeler?



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.

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.

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!



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!

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!