Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Friends over 25 years ago, we recently reconnected and had a delightful dinner together.  It was so much fun to catch up on each other's lives, and talk about the ups and downs of family change.  We were both becoming experts on the subject, so it was fun to share some of our experiences and what we have learned.  She enlightened me with refreshing ideas and touched my heart with her honesty.  Our conversation went from present to early childhood.  She shared with me the experience of losing her mother at age 10, probably the ultimate family change for any little girl.  Two years of her mother's illness, slowly robbed her of her physical capacities and then, ultimately, her life.  I asked her what she remembered about her mother.  She said she was the life of the home.  She liked to dance in the kitchen and filled their home with positivity and laughter.  I asked her what she remembered about the actual passing of her mother.  She told me about how her illness  had taken away her mother's voice, as she neared the end of her earthly journey.  Her mother was afraid for her little girl to see her in such a state, but in the final days, when they knew that good-byes would need to be expressed without words, mother and daughter were reunited.  Mom was awake, yet unable to speak.  She tried to move her lips to form words, without sound.  This young daughter moved in closer, attentive, and in the quiet,  knew she was loved.   As she shared this experience, my heart was touched and my spirit taught.  I thought of my own kids.  Perhaps the quieter I became, the more my children would actually hear.  Have I lived my life in such a way, especially through change and trial, that if my voice suddenly escaped me, would my actions have conveyed the feelings in my heart?  I thought about this poignant teaching moment of mother and child--- the silence was power.  I thought about how oft times we try to get our message across through volume, quick consequences, and instant retraction of privileges.  When, perhaps, the quieter we become, the more they might be inclined to lean into us, and listen?  Though she lost her mother at age 10, her memory lives on in her own daughter's exuberance and positivity, her smile and laughter, her courage and determination in the face of adversity and family change.  And yes, she loves to dance! 
The first few moments after my husband left, the silence robbed me of the ability to stand on my own two feet.  I crumbled by my bed, and with my head in my arms, the tears began to flow like a raging river.  My physical body shook uncontrollably.  Then, I realized I was on my knees.  I did not even know what words to say, all I could muster was a whisper to the heavens, "HELP!"  The silence became power.  I found myself, leaning in to hear any sort of divine inspiration.  I knew I was loved and He would help me through this tragic Good-bye!   During times of family change, I have found, that the quieter I become, the more I can hear.  Taking time, morning and night, to quietly commune, brings me strength beyond my own. Silence can be powerful----- when coupled with the desire to hear the message from the giver.  Lean in.  Listen to the whisper.  You are loved!!  Smile!  Dance! 

Thursday, March 21, 2013


In between classes, I found myself sitting in the hosptial, waiting for some tests.  I was not worried or concerned, just in a hurry to get out in time for after-school-pick-up.  The radiologist entered my room and said she was going to do an ultrasound.  As the cold jelly hit my stomach, my heart began to race!  I immediately felt nauseated and the room began to spin.  As she moved the wand back and forth over my belly, the stillness in the room transformed me back, 22 years prior, when I sat in the same hospital, having an ultrasound.  The familiar setting was paralyzing.  Today, just a belly ache, but 22 years ago, it was to see the heartbeat of our first child.  I was SO excited!!!  I had been having some complications, but the doctor was confident that all was well.  And, the ultrasound was ordered to calm our fears.  However, 22 years ago, the tech was quiet.  The more she moved the wand, the quieter she got.  Staring at the grayish black mass of static, I would ask, with great anticipation, over and over again, "Is that the heart?"  With each question, somehow, the already quiet room would get even quieter.  Following the longest few minutes of my life, we were told to go home and the doctor would call.  Later that evening, he called and verified our biggest fear----there was no heartbeat.  The coming weeks were a fog of sorrow and emptiness-----the ultimate family change, the loss of a little one.  The loss of someone I felt SO close to, but had never met.  A void of something that felt so right, yet ended so wrong.  My very own womb became that "empty chair" for this little wanted, so loved, so perfect!  This afternoon, an ultrasound ordered to make sure a belly ache was only that and nothing more.  However, I was overwhelmed with sadness, just as I was 22 years ago.  The familiarity of my surroundings caused my own heart to ache again, for my incredible loss.   As I layed there, I realized the power of my own thoughts.  I quietly wiped a tear, and rather than a heartbeat, I calmly said, "how does it look?"  I believe the radiologist could detect my uneasiness, though she did not know from how deep it came, she confidently replied, "all is well!"  Alone this time, for the ultrasound, I said to myself, "if my brain can recreate heartache, it can recreate joy!!"  So, I put this realization to the test.  As the radiologist continued the exam, I took myself back to happier ultrasounds, "It's a girl!", "It's boy!", "There's the heart beating away!"  I remembered laughing all the way to home to pack for the delivery of our second baby, that we had been told was a girl.....but at a 38 week ultrasound, was told, "It's a boy----and a BIG one!!"  Within moments, my thoughts of sorrow and grief turned to smile and laughter.  My very own thoughts reminded me of the many times I was in the hospital to welcome a new little one, rather than the one visit, I had to bid farewell.  Today, within myself, I discovered a power like no other.  The power of my own thoughts!!!  I became my own superhero as I realized I had the power to go anywhere and be anyone.  I realized that I had the power to change sorrow into joy, just with my own thoughts.  The human mind is truly amazing.....and even more amazing, is He who created it!  Sometimes, those thoughts that bring us to tears are cleansing.  They remind us of loss, hurt and grief.  They can make us feel close to something or someone we once had or held.  However, it is empowering to know that we need not feel or experience that longer than we wish.  Once we have cried enough tears, felt enough hurt, and dusted the "empty chair", we have the power to laugh, to smile, to rejoice and exclaim, "I can be happy-----the power is within ME!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Race

Today, I had the opportunity to run a 5k with my kids.  As the race started, the crowd of runners, in one huge mass began.  Within moments, the very same crowd became a long line of runners, each finding their own pace and style of running.  I thought to myself, "I wonder what it is like to be the winner?"  I pondered for the first mile or so, how hundreds of people run, knowing there is only one winner.  So, what keeps them all running?  As I ran, I searched for my own answer.  Towards the midde of the race, I began to get tired.  Having run enough, I knew my body, and I knew this was the time to take some deep, oxygenating breaths, to put the pep back in my stride.  This has also been paramount for me, during times of family change and challenge, to breathe and take time to energize my spirit.  Whether that is a pedicure, or a quiet moment communicating with a higher power, when your steps begin to slow, breathe! 

Into the next quarter of the race, I was tired.  I wanted to stop and walk.  I wanted to slow down.  I really wanted to curl up with my favorite down blanket, right there on the side of road and give up!  But, I knew myself enough to know that if I even slowed my pace, I would lose my momentum.  So, I began to challenge myself to make it to the next garbage can, the next mailbox, the next tree, and step by step, I found myself getting closer and closer to the finish.  It still seemed like I had so far to go.  When families experience change and trial, often times our first reaction is that "down blanket," curled up on the side of the road of life.  We are so tired, done or even BEAT!  But it was exactly during these moments, after my husband left, that I would have to tell myself to just make it through breakfast.  And, if I could make it through breakfast and clean it up, I could make it to lunch.  And, if I could make it through lunch, I could surely make it through dinner, and that would mean I made it one more day.  And, if I could make it a day, I could make it two days and soon a week, and maybe even a month, if I just kept my momentum and could keep going.   Soon, the next mailbox and  tree were not enough to keep me going.  I felt as though my legs might collapse, but I had to keep running.  My kids were watching.  I finally answered the question for myself. Though I knew I was not going to win,  I was running for my kids.  I wanted to set a good example for them of finishing what you start.  I wanted them to see that just because something is hard, doesn't mean you can't do it.  And, I was running for myself.  I was running to overcome my weakness.  I was running to exercise the power deep within each of us.  So, I began talking to myself.  The first thing I said in shout that only I could hear, "Debbie Hirchak, don't you quit!"  That is when I felt my inner stregnth take over and I was filled with physical energy and the desire to keep running, beyond what I had felt the entire race.  Family Change is challenging.  For some, there will be nothing more difficult.  And, you will face those days when you realize you have to make it, for there are those relying on YOU.  That no matter how empty, sad, lonely and challenging each day may be, there are others depending on YOU to keep running, and finish the race.  The days right after my husband left, I would get up and get my kids off to school.  Then, I would stand in the stillness and see my down blanket and want to curl up in ball with the cold realization that I was not winning.  Then, I would see a picture of my kids, which are strategically placed in my house, and I could hear them cheer, "MOM, DON'T YOU QUIT!" Suddenly, I would feel the pep back in my stride and the motivation to keep running!!  I would take some deep breaths, clean up breakfast, 5-minute-upstairs tidy, and off to work or school! 

Finally, we reached the last quarter of the race and the finishline was in view.   A couple more deep breaths, and I was off with a sprint.  We are not all winners of the race we began.  Our goals, careers and even our families may not turn out exactly like we wished or imagined or even worked for.  So, why do we run?  We run for our families.  We run for our kids.  We run for those who are depending on us.  We run to set an example.  We run for ourselves.   We run to overcome!  Perseverance equals power and progress! We run to overcome weakness, challenge and trial and in doing so----- we are all WINNERS of our own race!   And, we run for those who have gone beyond-----who will welcome us at the ultimate finish line.  All of whom, here and there,  the reasons we run, are cheering us on, each day, louder than the bidding from the favorite down blanket----------- "DON'T YOU QUIT!"

Monday, March 11, 2013

My Disney Miracle

Last Spring Break, my parents had formally invited my brothers family and the kids and I to Disneyland.  Each member of the family received their own, Disney Invite from Grandma and Grandpa!  It was truly a dream come true.  I could not believe it!  After my husband left, I had decided that I was going to pull things together and save enough to take my kids to Disneyland.  Family Change can definitely take its toll on every member of the family.  My kids had been so valiant and positive throughout the whole ordeal.  If anyone deserved a week at the happiest place on earth, it was my kids.  As soon as my pulse slowed down enough to hold the invite without shaking, I read the words which were written.  "One week of lodging and tickets to the parks would be provided."  My heart sunk.  How was I going to come up with a few extra hundred dollars to pay for gas to drive there and then food for a week while we were there?  I kept my concerns to myself, amidst the screaming and laughter and excitement.  How could I let me kids down?  How could I tell my parents that lodging and tickets were not enough?  I had a few months to prepare.  With more than an extremely tight budget, I came up with a plan.  Then, I presented it in prayer.  I would save $10 a week from my food budget, and purchase bulk items to take to make sack lunches with in the park, and to eat as we traveled.  I still needed a plan for gas and dinners, which in a tourist town, can be more than expensive.  The rest of my plan was that I would pay my tithing, serve faithfully in my volunteer assignments.  I would double my fast offerings and  therefore quadruple my faith. I would hold regular Family Night once a week, and family prayer, daily, without fail.  There was no room for error in my plan.  For my service and faith would be in exchange for a plan for gas and dinners during our vacation-- which we were all looking forward to.  D-day approached!  It was Friday night and we were leaving Monday morning.  I had my $10 from each week saved, and went and purchased some bulk items, paper sacks, water bottles and baggies.  The less I had to buy in California the better.  Saturday we cleaned and prepared to leave.  Sunday morning, I woke up with a stomach ache.  We were leaving in less than 24 hours and I was still unsure how it would all work out.  Sunday evening, we were packing the van and coolers for the trip.  I asked Garrett, my 10 year-old to let the dog out.  Then he returned with an envelope.  It had been taped to our door.  It had my name written in pencil.  I opened it and thought I would choke from the enormous lump in my throat.  The envelope was full of cash.  I immediately thanked my Heavenly Father, I knew it was from Him.  That envelope contained $223, sort of an odd sum.  We left for Disneyland.  Had a wonderful week.  Little did I know, that 2 months later my oldest daughter would be engaged, so that was our last family vacation with all of the kids and cousins together----as kids!!  One of my kids forgot to pack socks, so I used a little of the money on a package of socks and the rest on the trip.  We returned home with .50cents!    I never felt so rich!! We did it---my kids and I and He who knew that $223 was exactly what we needed for our Disney Miracle!  We even had some bulk items and paper bags left over for school lunches for the following week.  Faith is power!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013



I remember growing up, and my dad made me wear a dresss once a week to get my allowance. He told me that he didn't want me to forget that I was lady.  This was a valid concern for a young girl growing up with two brothers, in the Sierra Nevada mountains. What I heard was that women must be really important people if my dad wants me to remember that I am one.  I remember my mom dropping everything and heading to UC Davis Medical Center to attend to some friends who had been in a serious accident. What I heard was that serving others was critical for the giver and the receiver.   Chemistry class was the hardest class I ever took in high school. I was not sure if I was going to pass. Then, through my love of sports, I suffered some stress fractures in my foot and was required to stay off of it for a couple of weeks. In order to help me pass, my dad attended my chemistry class in my place. Then, he would come home and teach me what I missed. What I heard from that experience was that education was important and so was I. My mother always kept a very tidy house, and believe it or not, I was not great at keeping up with her expectations in my bedroom.   One day, I asked why she was so clean. She told me that keeping a clean house was her way of showing gratitude to my dad for providing such a nice home for our family to live in. What I heard was that houses must be VERY expensive and hard to come by and that my mom loved my dad and our home. Mrs. Peterson asked me to sing a solo at the 3rd Grade Parent's night. What I heard from that invitation was that she believed in me.  I remember my dad asking me if I was sure I really needed that second piece of lasagne?  What I heard was that I needed to watch what I ate, and if I wasn't watching, he was.   My mom, having been divorced herself , was no stranger to Family Change.  I remember how she never spoke ill of him or his family nor her situation. What I heard was that at any point in our lives, we have the power to say, "this is NOT how MY story is going to end", and to begin writing anew.  I don't think my humble mother even guessed what inner voices her actions would create in me, 40 years later. Nor do any of us realize the ripple effect of what we do and say, in the lives of those around us.  These experiences have made me realize that we, mostly as parents, create the inner voices in our children. What we say and do is not always exactly what they hear------and these voices, they will continue to hear in the years that follow.  Such voices will mold them into the adults, parents, leaders and citizens they will become.  And, just as an artist with a blank canvas, we have the capacity to create, to brighten, to be inspired, as we are creating the voices they will continue to hear.

As a single parent, I have spent many nights evaluating and re-evaluating what takes place in our home and how I can improve. Though overwhelming at the thought, it has also been inspiring to realize that such inner voices may be up to me to create, for those I love the very most. I will try to be more aware of my words and my deeds.  Tomorrow, I will try a littler harder to make a concious effort to say and do what I would want echoed throughout my posterity. I will also take the time to ask more questions and find out what my children are actually hearing from me and the world around them.  And, what message those voices have presented them with.

I am creating the inner voices of my children.  I will rise to the occasion.  I will recognize my weaknesses and try to create such strengths in my children, by doing so.  Just as powerful as the the realization that I was possibily creating inner voices, was the realization that we all have the power to change, delete and alter the inner voices we hear and speak, by being aware of such power within each of us.  Don't let one bad day convince you that you have a bad life and give up. I will not shrink to the negative voices within my own ears!  I will replace such discouragements with positive affirmations.  I have value.  My kids have value. We all have value and we can all be anything we want to be.  The trick is having the courage and stregnth, each day, to be it. 
 Do you hear what I hear?  Voices!  

Saturday, March 2, 2013


       Crossroads are places where two roads meet------ and the path that is chosen determines the course.  I remember recently, driving my daughter to a Saturday practice. It was in a neighborhood that I was unfamiliar with.  My other kids needed to be somewhere around the same time, and I was burdened with the need to also grocery shop and accomplish Saturday chores and  homework.   I reminded her bitterly of my lengthy list of commitments, and she assured me it would not take long and she knew just where to go.  So, we loaded up the car---- my daughter, my anything-but-pleasant attitude and myself.  We drove, turned, yielded and stopped.  Finally, we came to a crossroads ----------which way should we turn?   At this point, patience was running at an all-time low.  Aggrevation pulled ahead and won the race.   She was able to call a friend, determined that the address given was incorrect.  Facts and directions were updated and we finally arrived.  No words were exchanged as she left the car, the door slammed and I quickly sped away to meet the rest of the day's obligations.  The crossroad in question was not whether or not to turn right or left.  It was not should we have called the friend earlier?  The crossroad was not whether or not I was taking her to practice.  That was a given.  The ride would be provided.  The crossroad was,  would I take advantage of the 15 mintues of travel to talk to my daughter?  To sing with my daughter?  Would we spend the 15 minutes dancing in unison at the red lights, regardless of who was watching?  Would I use that time to encourage or discourage?Or, would I choose to have a short fuse of anger, which would burn lower and lower with each wrong turn, until the inevitable combustion?  Unfortuntely, I chose a path that I am not proud of.  I chose a path and traded time with my daughter as a captive audience for wallowing in the demands of the day and taking out those frustrations on her.  Many parents who have experienced Family Change, would give anything for just another 15 minutes.  However, at that particular crossroad, I took the other road.

     We meet such crossroads everyday.  Will I turn left or right?  Each morning we wake up, our first crossroad.  Will I be happy or sad?  Will I choose to be positive or negative?   Each morning, as the sun rises, we have the opportunity to Give Up or Give our All?  To despair or be determined?  Will I walk today with my head hung down in grief and resentment?  Or will I hold my high because I am learning to be the best I can be, in spite of opposition and family change?  Will I spend this new day in sorrow and guilt over the past?  Or, will I brush my teeth with faith in the future---- faith that things can only get better?  Faith that hurt heals, empty is filled and challenge preceeds triumph?  Will I expect things to be as they were, or will I accept today and its newness and opportunity to become what I make it?  Families Change, and as they do, we can choose to focus on what is tearing us apart or, what is holding us together?  Remember, the question was not whether or not I would take my daughter to practice?  The question was, what would I make of that time?  Would our relationship be strengthened because of those 15 minutes or would I sacrifice that time and allow the pressures of life to rob us of what could have been?  Ironically, those 15 minutes became 45, as we followed an incorrect address in pursuit of practice.   The time allotted was tripled, and so was the time lost.  Each night a crossroad---- will I reflect on what went wrong that day, or what went right?  Turning left and leaving self-doubt behind?   Turning right and deciding to be a light,  so that others around us can see!!  Some crossroads seem an "open-road."  Others obviously "dead end".  Others, more of a "good, better and best."  Life will always be full of crossroads.  Everyday, choices to make.  Attitudes to share.  Destinies to determine.  Remember,  Alice fell in a hole before arriving in Wonderland.  A "hole" for me, anxious and overhwelmed on our way to practice.  Dorothy, along the yellow brick road, realized the importance of a brain and the priviledge to think and act for oneself.  She found courage was not something everyone had, but crucial to success.  She also learned that even those who seem to not have a heart, can learn to love.  The question was not, whether or not I was taking my daughter to practice.  But, what would I make of that time together?  Families Change.  That's a given!  And when in doubt , family first!  Crossroads!