Sunday, December 29, 2013

Together--Our First Christmas

Thank you to everyone for your wonderful Christmas cards and holiday wishes!  We have truly drawn from your strength and experiences, along our journey.  You have motivated us, encouraged us and inspired us, and for that, we will be eternally grateful.  This was a our first Christmas as parents of ten!  We made memories and even learned a few lessons on the way.

Lesson 1=  Christmas is not just a day on the calendar, but a feeling of togetherness.  I had thoughts of having all of the children together, young and old, our first Christmas, to enjoy the Christmas story on Christmas eve, decorate cookies and deliver to neighbors, to discover their stockings together on Christmas morning and enjoy hot cinnamon rolls (which I don't even know how to make!) while opening gifts together.  However, the reality was, three of our children spent Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with their mom.  3 more of our children spent the early afternoon on Christmas day with their dad.  Then, by 6pm, Christmas night, we were all under the same roof, minus one.

Lesson 2=  When blending families and dealing with any type of family change, Christmas is a great opportunity to create bonds with one another.  Early in the month of December, the kids had drawn names amongst themselves.  They would purchase a nice gift for one sibling.  On Christmas night, with everyone finally together, each child held the gift they purchased.  One by one, they were to tell the person they had purchased the gift for, three things they loved and admired about that person.  A great thing began to happen.  By the third  person, everyone would chime in and say what they loved about them as well.  It took about 30 minutes to get through everyone.  And, by the end of the night, there was an amazing spirit of love and togetherness that was felt by all.  This type of activity is crucial when blending families, as the relationships are new.  During times of family change, like divorce or death, family dynamics are different, and often times, spirits are down.  So, a bonding activity is a great way to invite the spirit, and create new relationships with the new family dynamics.

Lesson 3=  Christmas is a time of great tradition.  While part of me wanted to just create all new traditions and forget the old, I spent the month of December asking the kids what their favorite Christmas was a why, what types of traditions they had and what they liked about them.  Whether death or divorce, the holidays can be a time of great sorrow, if we allow it, as our focus is all on Christmas Pasts and how things will never be the same.  However, by talking about those Christmases of yesteryear, all of the kids realized that I wanted to know, was interested in their traditions, and allowed them a positive venue for discussing such experiences when they may have felt like they could not talk to me about them.  I was then able to incorporate some and create some others, and celebrate the first Hirchak-Weidmer Christmas, together!

Lesson 4=  Christmas is a time of great anticipation for kids.  So, it was not surprising that out of our 10, their were one or two who were tired, grumpy and even vocalized their disappointment in the gifts they received.  Rather than take offense and feel like a failure, I just focused on the odds of 9 out of 10 and felt like we had done a pretty good job.  Their grumpiness also created a great teaching moment and opportunity to remind them that Christmas is not just about the presents, by His presence.

Lesson 5=  When things don't turn out just like you planned, make a new plan with what you have rather than focus on what you have-not!  It would have been easy to throw my hands up in the air and give up, when I realized that kids would be heading in many different directions on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, when I pictured us all together.  However, I got out an index card, and wrote down who was going where and when.  This allowed me to pinpoint the time that everyone could get together, and we made our plan, sent out the invites, shopped for special food and created a great family event, during the time that we could all get together.

I realized that each Christmas and holiday will be a little different than the one before, and a lot different than the many I remember.  However, each holiday has the potential to create loving bonds and be a vehicle for transforming us as families change, together!!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

2013 Hirchak-Weidmer Christmas letter

Christmas 2013

Here’s the story, of a lovely lady, who was bringing up 4 very lovely kids.
Some of them have glasses on, like their mother, E’en the youngest one in specs.
Here’s the story, of man named Brian, who was busy in the Public Safety realm.
He had 6 kids, 3 big, 3 little, and lots of food storage.

Deb and Brian, grew up together, same county, church and high school did they go.
School, sports, homework and seminary; great friends so long ago.
Then one spring day, they found each other, and they knew that it was much more than a hunch.
That this group of 12 must somehow form a family; August 8th began the Hirchak-Weidmer Bunch!

We took a trip in June, all of us together, as sort of a trial run, and camped at Lake Tahoe for a week.  We must have all passed the test!! Then, we spent the rest of the summer moving Brian and his 3 youngest kids to Orem.  And, on August 8th, Brian and I were married!  It was a beautiful event, one we will never forget!! 
Half of the garage has been converted into a woodshop.  Brian immediately designed and built a shed, in the backyard, for outdoor and camping equipment.  What was once Garrett’s room is now the Boy’s Bunk House.  And though Debbie enjoyed having a laundry room, after Ashlyn got married, that quickly became Karmen’s room.  And so, after the months of dating, moving and projects that go along with that, we have all been about blending our two little families into one big one------ and it has been so much fun!!
Brian is a Canyon Police Officer for Salt Lake County.  It is a dream job, as he gets to spend his days in the mountains he loves, and get paid for it.  He will often send pictures of the scenery he adores, so that we can all be jealous of the beauty he is surrounded in.  Brian works with the 11 year old Scouts, which is perfect for him.  Garrett is currently in his group and Sean will join them in February.  Brian has been fabulous role model for ALL of the kids, and I will be forever grateful for his love, laughter and guidance in our home. 

We have been blessed with two beautiful blonde daughters, in their early 20’s.  Brenan is very creative and loves to read, write and draw.  Ashlyn is married to Jordan, and they are awaiting the arrival of our first grandchild, a grand-daughter, the beginning of April--- and the whole family can’t wait!!  Both Ashlyn and Jordan are full-time students and great examples of hard work.

Tyler and Adam are 18 years old.  Tyler is a welder and works full-time.  He loves the outdoors, especially climbing, hiking, camping and sailing, just like his dad.  Tyler worked hard this summer to recertify, and proved to us all the importance of hard work.  Adam works full-time at the Mustang Grill.  He has been able to experience many of the different jobs that a restaurant has to offer.  He also works part-time at Hang Time, a popular trampoline facility.  Needless to say, Adam is quite popular among all of the younger kids, and he is kind enough to take them jumping and for a soda, as often as his time allows.  Both Tyler and Adam are great role models and the best big brothers ever.

Cassidee and Amber are both sporty, spunky and super fun!!  They both play basketball in high school.  Amber also plays softball while  Cassidee also plays volleyball and runs track.  They both act like they have known each other forever, and have a blast when we can get them together.  They both fill our home with laughter and love, and are incredibly helpful and fun to be around.  They are always smiling and usually Karmen, is not far behind.

Braden is 13 years old and in the 8th grade.  He loves the outdoors, video games and going to Hang Time with Adam.  He loves family events and ALWAYS wants to sit at the grown up table.  He is a leader and very smart.  He has a huge heart, loves to read and had a blast this summer, at his first go at Scout camp. 

Garrett is 11 years old and in the 6th grade.  Garrett has loved no longer being the youngest!  Garrett always wanted to be a big brother!  Garrett loves music, loves to sing and play any and all sports.  He is often found in the neighborhood surrounded with friends and brothers, organizing a football or baseball game at the park or the church.  Garrett is a great brother, super son, and fabulous friend. 

Sean is 10 years old and in the 5th grade.  Sean is brilliant!  Sean loves to have family meals all around the table and while he has a captive audience, he will tell us about his adventures of the day.  Sean enjoys playing on the computer and video games.  He also loves late night trips to the grocery store with Amber, and having his back tickled. 

Karmen is 9 years old, in the 4th grade and LOVES being the “baby” of the family.  She likes to remind everyone, that someday, she will be the only kid home, and she will get to eat whatever she wants, have the room of her choice, and be in charge of what we watch on TV.  Karmen loves Barbies, arts and crafts and helping Debbie with cooking and chores.  Karmen loves to pray and to leave us all notes of love and inspiration, in special places around the house. 

I am still a full-time student at UVU studying Public and Community Health.  I have 2 more semesters left!!  I still work part-time at the elementary school where Garrett attends.  I love to spend time with the kids, drive them to and from where they need to go, take them on errands, teach them all about Saturday chores, dance with them in the kitchen, and laugh a lot!!  We go through 100 Ziplock baggies, 40 granola bars and 6-8 gallons of milk each week.  I do about 20-25 loads of laundry each week, and do lots of night time “tuck-ins” and “tickles!”  Most of all, I have realized that a Mother heart has no limit!!!  And, that being a wife is just like riding a bike----- it’s something you never forget! 
We have all learned that there are many different ways of doings things.  And, “our way” and “their way”, really don’t matter.  What does matter is what will work best for our family NOW!  And, we have learned not to get upset if someone does not react in the way that we would react, or in a way that we think they should.  We just take each day, each person and each issue, and figure it out together, as if it is something that has happened for the very first time.  Brian and I have learned that after being single parents, we can do anything together!!  And, that step-parenting is really about learning when to STEP-IT-UP and help each other.  When to STEP OUT and allow time for one-on-one time with each of the kids, which is crucial in a large family.  And, we have learned that being a step-parent is really about helping the children use us to STEP UP and STAND a LITTLE TALLER.  It is just another opportunity to make a difference, and change generations for the better, one child at a time!

We know that, just as Heavenly Father blessed Mary and Joseph, that first Christmas night, He will bless us as we look to Him.   We know that He has brought our families together for a reason.  And, that within the walls of our home, something truly holy is taking place.  We are grateful for His love and guidance.  And, we know that He has and will continue to place shepherds and wise men and women in our lives, as we seek Him.  Heroes are those who are willing to give up something now, for something better later, in order to lift, love and rescue.  We are thankful for the many heroes in our lives, like each of you.  We will be forever grateful for your love and support.  Merry Christmas!!

Love, Brian and Debbie and kids 


 One night, not too long ago, our 3 young boys were running about the house, jumping and screaming, yelling and laughing.  When the volume reached a point that all thoughts and music could not overcome, I made my way up the stairs.  There I found our 13 year old, flying about, chasing the other kids and confidently  proclaiming, "I am Batman, and nothing can kill me!"  Though the movie screens, televisions and computers, toy stores and video games are full of  Hollywood heroes, I firmly believe that there are Heroes, divinely placed in our lives, to save the day!! I have spent the month of December, reflecting on such heroes in my life, and felt impressed to share.

Sallie was young mother in our little mountain town.  I looked up to her and loved spending time with both she and her little family.  When I was 12 years old, she was involved in a terrible car accident.  Her close friend and young mother was killed as a result.  Sallie suffered serious head injury.  Her long blonde hair was shaved as she endured surgery.  She would need to re-learn everyday skills like walking all over again.  The hospital she was in was about an hour and a half away, which, for a 12 year old, might as well be on another continent.  After months of hospitalization, Sallie came home.  I watched her light up when she put on earrings, her favorite scarf and hat, and walked out, aided by her husband, and enjoyed the comforts of home.  As the weeks passed, she grew more and more independent.  Sallie taught me that having courage does not mean never being afraid-----it means being afraid and doing it anyway.  She taught me that we are not products of our circumstances, but that we can choose what we become in spite of them.  Her accident taught me, at the wise age of 12, that bad things happen to good people, and that life is not always fair.  Sallie was, is and always will be a hero to me.  When I have gone through difficult times, especially those of Family Change, I have remembered Sallie's superpower of courage----- and the lessons I learned from her, have gone to "save the day", more than once in my life.  

Livvy was 3 years old.  She loved to play with her sisters, wear dresses and sit on her grandma's lap and watch MASH, and find the tissues and deep hidden treasures in Grandma's shirt.  One summer afternoon, Livvy suffered a near-drowning accident.  After her arrival at a near by children's hospital, I received a phone call to travel with our Relief Society president and support and offer help to her family.  When we arrived, we found Livvy's mother peaceful, but understandably worried.  Her husband was out of town on a business trip, so we spent much of that night, with Livvy's mother.   Mom immediately brought us back to visit her little princess.  What I saw and felt, left an impression on my heart and soul, that I shall never forget.  There in front of me, amidst the tubes and machines, lay my little friend.  Though she appeared lifeless, her giant spirit filled the room from floor to ceiling.  I took her hand and sang, If the Savior Stood Beside Me (as I had just arrived home from girl's camp, and that was our stake song).  As I sang to her, the spirit testified to me that the Savior would in fact, stand beside her, walk beside her and even lay down beside her in that hospital bed.  And, I felt very strongly that there were challenges ahead of me, and that the Savior would stand beside me, as well.  Though Livvy never really woke up, and could no longer leap a building with a single bound, her heart kept beating strong as ever.  Livvy remained in a body that no longer worked for her, and in that state, she went on teach lessons of love, service, endurance and strength to all those around her.  She survived for about 9 months, but as she was a true super hero, her legacy lives on.   Livvy's super power was her gigantic spirit and her love for her family.  These super powers allowed her to hang on for them---- for her father that was out of town, for her mother and grandmother who adored her and her devoted sisters and baby brother.
Christopher Reeves, a real life Superman once said, "I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles."  Livvy, is such a hero!!!

 Kate has been a long time friend and hero!  Kate struggled to finish school and was married young.  She loved fashion and make-up and doing hair.  She talked about going to hair school, but was not sure if she could do it because of the challenges she faced during her school years.  However, very young and married, and a baby on the way, she enrolled in hair school.  There were times when she felt like giving up. Times when she was tired of studying and just wanted to stay home with her baby.  However, with lots of family support, Kate mustered up the strength to continue.  Despite the class time, required reading and time away from home, she persevered and finished.  Kate is my hero!   Her super power is her ability to persevere.  A hero is willing to give up something now for something better later.  Heroes take journeys and confront dragons.  Kate persevered and confronted her dragons of self-doubt and fear and finished hair college, despite the odds.  She has gone on to become a beautiful wife and mother.  She has spoken in church, though I know that is not her favorite thing.  Kate took those challenges and used them as a spring board to grow closer to her family, closer to the Lord, to surmount and overcome.  A hero does not seek for rewards, but is willing to pay the price.  Kate has paid the price and I'm sure will continue to do whatever it takes.  Kate is just such a hero!

A wise superhero once said, "With great power comes great responsibility."  Britt was given great power.  Britt was given an incredible personality and ability to love others.  Britt is able to make everyone feel like they are the most important people in the world.  Britt loves music, theater and dance, but her true super power is her ability to be a friend.  Britt decided to use her super power in the mission field.  She prepared, and received her call.  She would study the Spanish language in the MTC for two months, before heading to South America.  No sooner had she arrived at the Missionary Training Center, when the adversary began to fill her mind and heart with doubt.  She felt afraid, unqualified and just plain overwhelmed.  She was ready to give up and come home before the end of her first week.  Through letters and family correspondence, I was able to keep updated on her progress.  I knew it was difficult and she was struggling.  It would have been SO EASY to give up, as she lived just miles away from the MTC.  As Britt was in the MTC, running the race of her life as a new missionary, I was home, running the race of my life as a single mother and full-time student.  The emotional demise of being left by a spouse is difficult enough, but to also overcome my fears and return to school was almost more than I could bear.   Many days, with my spirits running on empty, I wanted to give up.  However, I would think of Britt and say to myself, "If she can do it, I can do it!!"  As I would receive updates on Britt, there were highs and lows, but she never gave up-----------and because of her courage and dedication to the Lord, I never gave up either.  In November, she returned home, after completing 19 months (that's one month extra,over and above her call).  Her super power to love others allowed her to fulfill her responsibilities as a missionary.  Her super powers gave me super powers!!
 As I hugged her at the airport, I not only realized she did it ---- but so did I.  It's easy to see the difference that people make in our lives, but it's a lot tougher to make a difference.  A hero is someone that understands their responsibility and does it well----intent on making the world a better place.  Britt is such a hero!

You don't become a hero because of anything you do---- it's who you are, who you touch and who you inspire.  There are heroes all around us, divinely placed, to help us leap with faith, face our fears, overcome the overwhelming and beat the odds.  Those powers are not found in capes or muscles, but in the families and friends that surround us.  You never know how strong you are, until strong is all you have left.  Pondering the heroes in our lives can be an amazing Christmas gift to ourselves and to others.  It causes us to reflect and show gratitude.  But, most of all, I have realized that these heroes truly were placed in my life, not by accident, but miraculously on purpose to prepare me with the super powers I will need to face what lies ahead. Heroes are ordinary people about extraordinary things.  The greatest hero of all, we celebrate this Christmas season. It is He who can truly save, lift and heal.  It is He who gives us the courage to not be afraid.  He who gives us the strength to hold on.  He who enables us to confront dragons, to face our fears and to never give up.  He is my ultimate hero and yours.  His gift to us, His life, that we may live, lift, love and inspire!! Heroes!

Friday, December 13, 2013


 The other night, I was making my way home along the busy, snowy roads.  The light turned green, and cars began to travel in the typical holiday hurry to their various destinations.  Then suddenly, I heard a siren.  It got louder and louder and soon, the large hook and ladder was in view.  The streets, covered with new fallen snow, reflected the lights of the sirens, in a beautiful RED and white pattern.  It was captivating.  Soon, I realized the fire truck
was waiting to cross the street, and the cars were not letting them through.  Each and everyone in too big of a hurry, focused on their next stop or purchase or event.  I shouted to myself, "Debbie, Stop and pull over, there is a crisis ahead!"  As I pulled over, other cars began to follow suit, and make their way to the curb. And soon, the large RED truck was able to make its'way through the light and focus on the tragedy ahead.  As I sat on the side of the road, I remembered sitting in church, one Sunday in December, just two years prior, as an exhausted and overwhelmed single mother.  I still remember the moment, for it changed me.  My kids and I arrived, that cold Sunday morning, and took our seats in the center section, about 5 rows back.  I sighed and realized I had made it one more week.  One more time, I had kept everyone alive (including the dog) for one more week.  One more week, I had gotten everyone awake and fed and to church on time.  I was just finishing up finals, like I am today.  As I sat, I noticed the poinsettia flower arrangement majestically gracing the podium.  As members of the congregation spoke and sang, I thought to myself, "How can they be so happy when my life is falling apart?" This was puzzling to me.  How could I be struggling to survive each day, praying not only to make it through finals, but throw together some sort of Christmas miracle for my kids, and yet, everyone seemed so happy and did not even notice I was completely falling apart?  I sat and listened, my lip quivering with hurt, frustration, pain, guilt and even resentment towards everyone else who seemed to have it all together, that day.  You know, how when your car is broken down, everyone seems to be driving a shiny RED sports car.  And, when you have a bad hair day, the world seems to have just walked out of the salon----- well, everyone but you, that is.  I realized while sitting in the chapel that day, that even when you are having the best day of your life, someone else may be having their worst.  When you are the happiest, someone is the saddest.  When you feel like life just could not get any better, someone else is hoping and praying that it just doesn't get any worse. So, after pulling over and letting the firetruck through, I made it home.  I pulled into my driveway, and audibly yelled STOP!!
 I needed to regroup, and refocus.  So, I decided that rather than focusing on trying to figure out Christmas after finals, I asked myself, "Today, have I RED the words of He whose birth we celebrate this Christmas season?"  "Have I RED and pondered the life of service and sacrifice He led and of His blood He so freely spilt in my behalf?"  "Have I thanked Him for the gift He so REDily gave, that broken hearts like mine, can become healed hearts, through Him and only Him?"

We live in a world where so many celebrate His birth, each Christmas season, yet so few celebrate His teachings. I decided then and there, that I did not want to be one of them.  Every time I see firetruck, a stop sign, or anything RED, I will think of Him.  He who would STOP at nothing to save and heal me.  He who whose line is never busy, who always knows my needs and would not hesitate to "pull over" and let anything and everything go, just to help me during a time of tragedy, crisis or concern.  And, all I need to do is STOP and go to Him, who birth we celebrate this Christmas season.  Every time I see something RED, I will ask myself, "Have I RED of Him today?"  Have I RED of He who loves the unlovable, heals the incurable, warms the cold and feeds the hungry and befriends the lonely?  As I wrap up finals this next week, I will not allow myself to be overwhelmed with what the world calls Christmas.  I will strive to put Christ back into Christmas------- and remember, that even when I am the happiest, someone else's world may be falling apart, and I will do my best to reach out as He would, and be His hands of whom I have RED today, this Christmas season.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Season

As the holiday season approaches, I find myself trying to make it through finals, and get to the holiday concerts and events, while running out of time for anything else.   The other night, I laid awake, and the chill of all that I have not had time or resources to do was paralyzing.  Struggling to invite the light back into the night, I pondered some of those present, that first Christmas night.  And, as I pondered, I could see a little bit of myself in each of them.  The shepherds, full of faith, as they secured flocks and went in haste(quickly) to see the Christ child.  The magi, who were so wise.  They saw the star when others did not.  They knew the purpose of the star.  They had courage to follow the star, as they knew it would lead them to the holiest of scenes.  Then, they desired to bring gifts, the very finest as a symbol of gratitude and honor for the holy child.  And so it was, their knowledge, courage and offerings that led them to the baby Savior, that first Christmas night.  The Innkeeper, just plain out of rooms.  Perhaps, he was just too busy to feel the sacredness of what was about to take place?  Maybe he did feel something, and so wanted to help, and the stable was all he had to offer?  Joseph and Mary, a young couple who experienced the ultimate Family Change of their time---- find they are expecting a child, but in a way they had never dreamed of.  Joseph is quietly courageous and provides and raises this son as his own.  Mary responds, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord.."  Handmaid by Him.  She trusts that if He has chosen to divinely and precisely place this child in her home, that He will provide a way.  I am sure she knew that it would not be easy.  And as the days unfold, she is great with child on the back of a donkey.  Delivers in a stable.  Persecution mounts and many seek the life of her son.  And finally, more Family Change, she must bid farewell to her child, for a time, clinging to her testimony that she will see Him again.   As I lay in my bed that night, tears began to flow.  I could not help but think about my family of Christmas past.  I soon realized that though my family may not have come to be in the way that I dreamed of, I knew without a doubt that my little son we adopted, my six sweet step-children, and my three biological children have ALL been divinely and precisely placed in my home.  And, He who has placed them there will help me love them and teach them!  No matter how challenging and difficult at times, I realized that I am also one of his Handmaid, we all are.  And though, Families Change, He will provide a way, and the lessons we learn from the Nativity are key, in order to have His divine help.

We must be as the shepherds and constantly secure our flocks with quality family time and go to Him often, in haste.  We must be as wise as the magi,
and follow His lead, and bring our gifts to Him of gratitude, honor and dedication. We have to learn from the Innkeeper to always have room in our lives and in our hearts for Him.  I must have Him in my heart, if I want Him to be in the hearts of my children and be the heart of my home.  The Christmas season is not a season of presents----but a season of His presence.  And, as we reach out to those in need, may we give His presences in our lives as our gifts---- that is the magic of the season.  It is in reaching out with our hands, our means and our time in order to help our families and neighbors reach up to Him, whom we celebrate this Christmas season.  I know that Baby Savior, that first Christmas night, was divinely and precisely placed in the arms of His earthly parents, who then laid Him in a manger.  I know that my family was divinely and precisely placed in my arms, in my home and in my heart, by those same loving arms.  And, I will forever treasure the sweet lessons I have learned from this season.  And, though I know it is not always easy, I know where my strength lies..... and I will go to Him often, in haste, for I, too, was handmaid of Him.  This I know without a doubt.  I will forever be grateful for this gift of the Season.