Dear Dawn · Travel


Dear Dawn, My family thinks I’m a ‘fraidy cat,’ because I really am anxious about traveling. There is so much in the news!  Were you ever afraid when you traveled?  Any close calls?

Dear ‘Fraidy,’

When I was a child I don’t remember anyone calling me a ‘fraidy cat’; but I used it on others.   Constantly!   Pride goeth before the fall!

Am I proud of traveling over thirty-five countries a la carte?  You know it!  I rarely remember being afraid.  Maybe it was my youth,  maybe my naivety,  but it worked. Groomed in the deep south, I was used to doors being opened for me,  and “Yes-sir” and “Yes-maam” were part of my Southern Belle vernacular.

The  Hirn men all wanted to go to India to see the Taj Mahal.  Me too, but I had read just enough news clippings and seen videos of graphic gang rapes of women in the streets of India to make me nervous.    In America, we call rape and attacks ‘crimes’; the Indian Government at that time, didn’t.

It was my turn to be called ‘fraidy cat.’   But I went anyway.TajHow did I conquer my fear?  Who said I conquered it? I insisted one of the boys hold my hand the entire time, giving me the feeling of a unified front.  I put on my “Dawn-the-disintegrater-face” — you know, ‘if looks could kill,’ and headed into the subway with my family.  That worked well until the day I stopped for a quick photo of the last subway car marked “Women Only.”  When I turned around the doors of the subway closed with my family inside the train, and me alone on the platform.

There will come a time in each woman’s life when she needs to use the  “don’t-touch-me-I’m-a-bitch-who-will-claw-your-eyes-out”-look.  I used mine.

Poster school hallways

The Indian women appear so demure and kind. They tuck that look safely away.

The situation in India is improving, thanks to those who have raised world-wide attention by standing strong against violence, in their speech and their writing: “To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.” ― Arundhati Roy, The Cost of Living

Ron and I have tried to lead our sons by example and pray they will continue to respect all their brothers and sisters in the world.colt hug Dawn



Family · Parenting

Mothers vs. Motherboards

Motherboards, made up of silicon components, are the main circuit control boards within a computer.

Mothers are made of flesh and blood, patience and love for the purpose of control within her family.   (Silicone components are optional.)   

Simply said, a computer’s motherboard connects all its other parts together.

A mother connects all of the family parts together.

Everything that makes a computer work:  CPU, RAM, hard disk etc.,  are processed through the motherboard.

Everything that makes a family work:  schedules, dirty clothes and diarrhea, homework and healthcare,  food and fun, social directing and safety,  taxi service and transport,  are processed through the mother.  

A motherboard turns a pile of components into a computer.  It cannot adapt to change without reprogramming.

A mother turns a pile of components into a family.  She adapts to changes, no reprogramming necessary.

You can’t hug a motherboard.  A motherboard doesn’t laugh, cry, cheer you on, correct you when you mess up.   But on the plus side,  a motherboard doesn’t get eye-rolls and ‘lip’ when she routes one of her components in an undesirable direction.

road school 2

road schoolStrict road school schedules.

A mother is usually softer and more attractive than a motherboard.  She can change her appearance but her heart keeps the link between her and her components strong.

Dawn & Colton -London

A motherboard is built for absolute control.  A mother knows she will never be completely in control of another human being; but, she leads  by example and gives it her best as only she knows how.  She has been given an internal power beyond technology:  Love.

And love is more powerful than any computer that has ever been or will be built.

Takes the byte out!


Parenting · Perfecting Dysfunction


One of the greatest reasons to travel with your kids is the time you get to spend knowing them.  One of the worst reasons to travel with your kids is the time you get to spend knowing them!   For the good and the bad of it, there is an adventure in finding out what is on your kid’s mind.  And one thing for sure:  teenagers rarely tell you what you don’t want to hear.

There is a subtle way around information gathering — and I’m not talking about dogging your teens on SnapChat, Instagram or Twitter.  Give them a camera. When we traveled the world, I created a ‘road’ school class of photo journaling. Each boy had to take some pictures every day, post their “favorite” to their Tumbler account each night, and write 3 full sentences or a paragraph describing the photo(age length). It was a challenge but worth while. Here’s what we discovered:

Tyler has a good eye for photography.  Even in dense smog he pulled out a great Taj Mahal photo. And he patiently waited for evening light to grab one more photo. (The key to being a good photographer is patience!)

Ty's mom 2Despite how my sign language, hugs, and rough attempt to speak to everyone seemed to drive my sons crazy, down deep they didn’t actually mind it at all.

Parenting lesson #1:  “Teach a good lesson even if you don’t talk.”  We all became better huggers after this world trip!  Take THAT to the diplomatic table!

Food prep in other countries will bring home a touch of reality to any American kitchen.  Trenton’s photos of this kitchen in India, spoke volumes about his heart. We hoped this photo would be a gentle reminder each time he or either of his brothers opened our refrigerator at home to say: “We have nothing to eat in this house!”


This is a shot Colton took but that’s another…

upside downAnd finally one of my personal favorites which pretty much explained how each of us felt from time-to-time on our trip. Of course, you can pretty much correct anything in Photoshop if you know the problem.

And you can pretty much correct anything in the training ground of hands-on parenting,  if you are willing to see the problem!  If you don’t have a clue where to start, give your kid a camera!

You will discover a whole other side to your child’s vision of his world.


Adventure with Engagement AWE · Travel

The Book of Magic

We are still steeped in patriotism with the recent memories of our July 4th celebration on Lake Martin.  These memories are fresh for us – reminders that we are part of the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.  And we can carry that identity with us in the way of a passport nearly anywhere in the world.

I remember another time shortly after Ron and I were married.  We had begun saving our money almost immediately to travel through Europe.  We set out in a camper we bought in Germany and headed where the wind blew.  Borders back then were tightly monitored.  But we had nothing to fear.  We were young and in love and, if push came to shove, we could charm people into submission with our quick wit and smiles.  (Did I mention we were deluded into thinking love conquers all?)

Dawn Ron early yearsDR campsiteSetting up housekeeping in our used VW Camper.Mom in law visit“Hey “Ron, my mom’s coming for a visit!”

Life for us was smooth until we arrived at the border crossing of Bulgaria.   We thought we had properly followed the traffic directions following the circle-around thing.  But we ended up entering the wrong way and cutting in line.  This ticked off the Bulgarian Border Patrol, and one guard in particular, was suspicious of our German tag.  He approached the car ready for war.  Always playing ‘Miss Congeniality,’ I rolled down my window to give him my best smile and sweetest voice.   This has worked for me before in America.

In Bulgaria, not so much.

This guy went ballistic, and began screaming at me: “Turks!  Turks!”  And with one fell swoop, he reached through the window and knocked the sweet smile right off my face, breaking my glasses and bloodying my temple.

Dawn gloves showing determ

Most women would shed a tear at this point.  But never having been one to back off, I got angry, grabbed his tie and jerked it off him. Ron, unaware of all of this, drove around to the proper position. Within moments, the guards were running to us in our camper, demanding passports and a tie. The moment the passports were produced, the climate changed dramatically.

Attila the Bulgarian Hun was joined by the rest of the guard dripping apologies all over Ron and I. We’d never seen anything like it. “Americans, Americans,” they exclaimed. In no time, we were escorted to ‘the head of the line,’ offered more apologies, muttering that they thought we were Turks, and gently provided us with a bloodless escort across the border.

I’m an American!

I’ve really done nothing to deserve this privilege of carrying the book of magic — the American Passport.  And in addition, I am allowed to vote, own land,  travel freely and say what I think.   Punching isn’t included in my ‘inalienable rights.’

When you travel, you might want to reconsider getting into any fights with border guards.  They don’t like it much when you rip their clothes off.

But if you insist, flash them your Book of Magic first!


PS – I apologized and returned Attila’s tie!

Adventure with Engagement AWE · Family


Reeling from a week of company is like coming down from a mountaintop.

So many people squished together in one house, so many personalities, so many agendas.    When we stand back, things look like a mess.  But we know the ‘mess’ is held together by love and that changes the whole atmosphere.

Hirns 4thDo we all get along constantly?  I’m tempted to fill the rest of the blog with hahahahahahah.  But we respect each other and that covers a whole lot of ground.   God put me in the middle of five men, and I’ve got to say I’ve loved being there.

And this week, He has shared with me nieces and cousins, who have come to spend the week of July 4th, bringing with them splashes of drama and color!   I’m reaching way out from what I am used to dealing with men.

I’ve always said I wouldn’t know how to raise a little girl, and I still say “hats off to their mom’s and dads.”  And they probably say the same thing about me with boys!


But I’ve thoroughly enjoyed their magical approaches to life, the red, white and blue decor they added to our boats and our lives.  I’ve enjoyed watching the drama and the comedy, the rehearsed poses which have given me some outstanding photos of these little girls!   (Tell a boy to smile at the camera and you never know what you’re gonna get!)


Step out of your comfort zone and make memories!  One of the most magnificent things about world travel is ‘youneverknowwhatyoutgonnaget.’  We left the ordinary ‘sameness’ in our lives to embrace people of different cultures, beliefs and lifestyles, in the name of brotherhood, respect and love.   And you cannot get the experience of building relationships from a book or a movie!

Dr. Seuss said it best:  “Be who you are and say how you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”


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!


Family travel


Answer:  The gift that keeps on giving.   Question:  What is ‘being able to adapt?’

If you are fluffy, you may not be a good candidate for World Travel. Traveling around the world is not soft.  But it builds character, and by that I mean, shaves the fringe off the fluff and gets down to the bare basics of understanding.  We who lead cushy lives,  will never understand how others in the world live unless we walk in their rice paddy.

If you cannot live without cell service, lipstick,  massages,  pedicures or two-ply toilet paper,  world travel may not be your thing.  But before you decide, ask yourself two questions:

  1. Is the life I carved out for myself significant?
  2. What kind of standard have I set for my kids?

You will get through life no matter what you choose.   But you only have one shot at it. Don’t let your days slip by without recording the exceptional moments outside lunch at the club or tennis matches.   The good stories usually come to us in the unexpected and unpredictable.

We found ourselves in Vietnam for Colton’s birthday and did our best to find him a birthday cake.  We explained to the restaurant staff, the ‘birthday cake concept’.  Big smiles from them told us they understood.  They didn’t.

Colton’s birthday dinner was certainly healthier than McDonald’s.

bday candles vietnamAnd then came the cake.

The kitchen staff is still scratching their heads as to why we would light the fruit and veggie plate on fire, blow it out and clap our hands.  Adapting is the courage to face the fact that your way may not necessarily be the best way.

colton bday vietnm

Adapting.  Once you are able to pass this course, you are able to experience real living, value each moment and each day and each birthday cake!



PS.  And when we got to France, we hit the patisseries to re-celebrate Colton all over again!