Relationship Tips as You Gather

Hope Unveiled

“The Heritage of the Past is the Seed That Brings Forth the Harvest of the Future.”

This quote from the National Archives in Washington, D.C. is dense with meaning and application.

Gathering Together…

The first gathering for thanks most likely occurred in 1621 even though it wasn’t officially recorded until two years later. As you learned early in your academic studies, the settlers had had many obstacles in the heritage of their past that posed challenges unlike any other.  Let’s face it.  The majority of us will never know what kind of hardship and trials they faced.

These families focused on what they DID have, not what they had lost.  Unlike the photos and popular belief, they wore clothes of bright colors and enjoyed song, dance, and outdoor activities. In fact, this tradition began after they had experienced a two month drought. Gratitude.

As You Gather Together….

These are the “seeds”…

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56 Musings at 56

I am thankful for the life lessons I have learned in 56 years, many of which have been learned in the last two decades.

May my reflections encourage your life journey!

  1. I am thankful to be a 100% American by nurture and 99.3% Persian by nature.
  2. Compare yourself to no one – not their looks, their style, or their lives.
  3. All hard things are meant for growth. Don’t become bitter.
  4. God is not the scapegoat for your unfortunate life experiences.
  5. You can control your thought life.
  6. Gratitude will keep you from being entitled.
  7. You’re not perfect. Grow for growth, not perfection. If so, you’ll always be disappointed.
  8. There are toxic people in this world. Draw cordial boundaries.
  9. Sometimes the way you are treated isn’t about you at all.
  10. Life isn’t fair. Expect that.
  11. Stop living vicariously through your children, no matter how old they are.
  12. Parent your children for them to become who they are meant to be, not what you want them to be.
  13. There’s no such thing as “greener grass” whatever that means to you.
  14. Perspective is everything.
  15. Use the good china when your adult children come home.
  16. God is for you.
  17. Friends are God’s gifts. Treasure them.
  18. Be teachable. You don’t know everything.
  19. Unconditional love is a “no strings attached” kind of love.
  20. You don’t have to post your life on social media. Private and personal things are meant to be just that.
  21. Examine the “musts” and “shoulds” in your life.
  22. Do the right thing when those unfortunate mishaps occur. Own up.
  23. Address conflict. It can make you closer if handled the right way.
  24. Take ownership when you do stupid things. It’s okay. It’s not your identity.
  25. Just because you have the right to do something, doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.
  26. Do something nice for the person who is “down and out” who crosses your path. It’s not a coincidence.
  27. There’s no such thing as coincidence.
  28. Have favorite food for family celebrations. This creates memories.
  29. If you’ve lost a loved one, it is up to YOU to carry on their memory, not others.
  30. Don’t discuss heavy issues at night. Sleep. Then talk when the sun is out.
  31. Love your spouse.
  32. Focus on your mate’s positive traits, not the ones that irk you.
  33. Love your children because they are your children, not because of what they accomplish. That sends the wrong message.
  34. Don’t sacrifice family time of connecting emotionally to the god of education.
  35. Don’t overcommit your children. Examine your beliefs that tell you those things are a priority.
  36. Don’t post your kids’ accomplishments on social media unless you ask.
  37. Be kind. It goes a long way.
  38. If you don’t understand something, ask.
  39. Ask open ended questions when in “discussion” with anyone with a different point of view. Your way of looking at something is based on your own experiences, not theirs.
  40. Of course you’re opinionated. If you weren’t opinionated, there would be no need for tolerance.
  41. Presents aren’t just meant for birthdays or holidays.
  42. Write a letter to your grown children.
  43. Be intentional with your life. You aren’t a victim.
  44. Stop blaming. When you keep blaming, you’re walking in the wrong identity. It excuses you from taking ownership of your own life.
  45. Your life experiences aren’t your identity. Your identity is who God says you are, not what happens to you.
  46. When you’re anxious, find a scripture verse that penetrates your soul. It works.
  47. Enjoy your top 10 list of healthy behaviors. It’s your way of coping when life is a struggle.
  48. Laugh.
  49. Surround yourself with people who are good for you.
  50. Pray. It’s a way for your brain to release your concerns without ruminating constantly.
  51. Think of at least 3 things that are going well when something unpleasant is happening in your life. It balances out your brain and keeps you from spiraling.
  52. Every day is a gift.
  53. It’s never too late. Never. If you have today, you have today to change things.
  54. Take care of your body. You’ve been given only one. And you are the steward of it.
  55. Take care of your close relationships. Work things out. Don’t wait for another person to take the first step. You be the person who takes the first step.
  56. Surrender those things over which you do not have control.

Be a learner of life! Allow all of your experiences to help you to grow and see things in a new way. It doesn’t stop until God takes you home to eternity. You’re a work in progress!


The Underprivileged, The Uniform & The Unacceptable

Let me introduce you. This is my father, Daniel Hritzko, born 
November 25, 1918 in Chisholm, Minnesota.

His father, Dmitri, arrived in America through Ellis Island and 
worked for two years before returning to Europe to gather his wife
and two children. They settled on a large family farm where eight
more children would be born. What identified this family was their 
strong work ethic and core values. My father really did walk ten 
miles in the snow to attend school in nearby Hibbing. Then, upon 
returning home each day, family chores necessitated survival. 

What did they value?

The underprivileged. 

Why? Because this family knew what it was like 
to survive hard times. Every day was just like the one before it.
Nothing was handed to them. My father always cheered for the 
"underdog" and, consequently, was a registered Democrat his entire 
life. You didn't need talk or debate this issue. He understood, 
firsthand, what it was like to be in this country as an "outsider." 
To him, this meant you worked hard for everything that came your way.No handouts, no entitlement, no recognition. You did what you had to do. 

But that did not deter him or his siblings. They, unlike their 
parents, were college educated. And what was his next step
after high school?

The Uniform.

His high school academic career provided an athletic opportunity 
where he played football for the University of Minnesota. World War
II interrupted the continuity of his education, so he donned the 
second uniform.

The Uniform of a Soldier.

He enlisted on May 19, 1942. Except for brief discharges to complete
his education, he remained committed for a lifetime. Three wars,
eight combat campaigns, a Silver Star for crossing the 
Rhine River under heavy "enemy resistance" and countless other
accolades (The Bronze Star [twice] and a dozen others) would span hiscareer. His title by the end of his stellar career was Colonel.  Fullbird, that is. He never spoke of any accomplishments or awards.
His ability to lead came from his core trait of humility.

Allegiance to this country and what it represented went hand in hand.
The land of the free, the home of the brave. Being underprivileged 
and wearing a uniform - athletic or military - were not exclusive 
categories; rather, they represented the same core values his
family believed in.

My father died on July 23, 2001. I was able to give him recognition
in death that he never desired in life - a full honors burial at 
Arlington with a 21 gun salute. His two living brothers had seats of honor at the graveside. I accepted the flag because my mother could
not attend. 

Previously underprivileged, now being recognized in death.

Previously uniformed, now being honored by those in uniform.

I fully believe his heart would break over the current mindset as 
well as the actions by those involved in the game he loved. His 
football uniform and military uniform were not exclusive. 

It was because of the latter that he was given an opportunity as the 

The Unacceptable.

Disrespect to this country or flag would have been, in my father's 
opinion, completely unacceptable. It was THIS country that afforded 
his family a chance, an opportunity, and a beginning. And they knew 
it, embraced it, and embarked on it.

And because of his beginning, he gave me mine. He took a risk, he worked relentlessly, and he adopted. Me.

Because of your under privilege, you gave me privilege.
Because of your uniform, you gave me freedom.
Because of your unacceptable mindset of irreverence, you instilled

I will honor your legacy as I leave mine. 

You are the example that mutually exclusive categories do not exist.


Colonel Daniel Hritzko
November 25, 1918 - July 23, 2001


The Significance of “29”: The Road More and Less Traveled

Where will you go next?


Last month, Highway 29 became the road traveled as we moved our youngest son to his destination.

It’s the place where he said “hello” and we said “goodbye.”

In December 1960, Arlington is where my parents met at the Ft. Myers Officers’ Club only to marry the very next month in St. Louis by a Justice of the Peace.

It’s the place where they said “hello” and then said “goodbye” as the army sent my father on assignment to Iran.

In 1964, the same question was asked of my army colonel parents as they left overseas to await their next assignment.

Where would they go next?

Arlington.  Specifically, 1500 Arlington Boulevard.

It’s the place where I said “hello” to a new country and “goodbye” as an orphan during my adoption and naturalization in 1967.

In the years that followed, Highway 29 would be the road where memories flashed of places and people:  musings from grandma regarding the “old folks’ home” in Culpeper and memories of family reunions in Schuyler. It was also the road where countless field trips ended in Appomattox or Charlottesville; where dad and I would road trip between college and home; where my husband and I would road trip between our temporary “home” for his graduate school and our home town.

In the coming years, I would travel frequently on Highway 29 between High Point and Lynchburg during caregiving years.

Where I said “goodbye” to the way my mom and dad used to be and said “hello” to Alzheimer’s, dementia, and physical illness.

In August 2001, I eulogized my father at Arlington National Cemetery.

Long distance family members said “hello” while I said “goodbye” to my father.

In October 2001, I laid my mom to rest beside my father.

The place where my parents said “hello” and I said “goodbye.”  Again.

In 1988, my husband was coming to the close of his graduate studies when we asked,

Where will we go next?

High Point.

This year celebrates his 29th year in private practice. We are thankful for this destination where we started his career.

We said “hello” to High Point and “goodbye” to Chapel Hill.


And now, with the passage of time, Highway 29 becomes significant again.


Where our son says “hello” and we say “goodbye.”

Full circle on a road that’s a straight path.

I’m thankful for the significance of Highway 29 and 29 years as the former has been a connector of three generations while the latter has signified the journey of life thus far.


A place of beginnings and endings. A place of joy and tears. A specific place with numerous mile markers that signify the history of our family.













Confidence Unveiled: Physical Identity


Let’s remove some veils before we smother.

We are living in a culture of extremes that glorifies the smallest to the biggest of sizes.

We are either obsessing with appearance (WDYT) or settling with health (FOFO). And, because we’re at one extreme or the other, we usually “weigh in” with either pride or despair….

Can anyone relate?

In the event you don’t think I’m reality based, here are recent facts to substantiate:

  1.  1 in 2 deaths in the U.S. is due to lifestyle choices.
  2.  Plastic surgery apps on your phone now make it possible to cut yourself to a smaller size before posting onto social media.



We listen to the voices of culture that begin to play inside our minds creating thick, internal veils….

“I’ll never measure up.”

“What good does it do to take care of myself? I’ll die of something…”

Culture sways…Satan speaks….We hit “Play” and our Identity is Taken Away!

Whenever you compare yourself to others, you’re actually lowering your standard because you’re one of a kind…the unique combination of your physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual components that make up YOU in totality.

Let’s offer some HOPE, shall we?

What would it be like to approach each new day with the following mindset….

“What can I do today to care for my body?”

“How can I eat properly so my body and mind are nurtured well?”

“How can I work my body to keep it strong and active?”

“How can I appreciate (and even like!) the one body God gave me?” (Psalm 139)

“How can I use this body to fulfill God’s earthly mission since it’s the vessel He has given me to accomplish my daily tasks?”

A healthy balance is to take pride in your appearance without being prideful.

A healthy balance is to be proactive with your health, especially if you know your medical history.

The question ISN”T “Why Do I?”…. The question IS “Why Wouldn’t I?”

Two points to offer hope:

  1. Selectively focus on the traits you DO you like when you gaze in the mirror!
  2. Focus on what you’ve got; stop trying to look like someone you’re not!

Remove those veils of obsessing and settling and UNVEIL some confidence today.



LENT: Look to the Positives

What if you rephrased the question of “What will I give up?” to “What will I gain?”

This short blog will utilize the counseling paradigm of the BIOPSYCHOSOCIOSPIRITUAL Model that focuses on the premise that each person is a unique and complex human who is composed of a physical being, an emotional being, a relational being, and a spiritual being.

What if you decided during this Lenten season to focus on one particular area of your life – based on the above concept – and focused on what is to be gained instead of lost?

BIO = Your body

What one thing can you do each day to better your physical health?

Take note that by doing something better, you’re actually giving up something that is of much lesser quality that may be harmful for your physical health.

How would this change your view of what you eat, drink, or improve self care since you are created in the image of God and your body is a “living sacrifice?” [Romans 12:1,2]

PSYCHO = Your mind

What can you do each day to take ownership of your thoughts and choose to think on things that are “true, noble, right, pure, admirable, and honorable?” [Philippians 4:8]

Do you need to “crucify” an attitude of entitlement and, instead, focus on gratitude for 40 days?

Take note that by choosing better things to think about, you’re actually giving up thoughts of much lesser quality that may be harmful for your emotional health.

(Are you starting to see a pattern? 🙂

SOCIO = Your relationships

What can you do each day to improve the relationships in your life? No, not what OTHERS should do, but what YOU decide to do to improve your marriage, friendships, relationships with your children, etc.

Do you need to start focusing on what the people in your life are doing well as opposed to what they aren’t? Does your attitude of harshness or selfishness need to be “crucified?”

Take note that by choosing to improve the relationships in your life, you’re actually giving up the right to only seeing things from your perspective.

SPIRITUAL = Your relationship with God

How can you choose to intentionally meet with Him each day?

Take note that by choosing to improve your relationship with your Creator, you’re giving up something of much lesser quality that demands your energy and time.

Side note:  You may say you don’t worship God.  Well, okay.  But look at WHAT or WHOM you DO worship, because we all worship something or someone.  And misdirected worship never satisfies. Never has, never will.

Focus on what you’re gaining this Lenten season as opposed to what you’re giving up.  It pales in comparison.

This is Hope Unveiled!



IMG_1997.JPGLearning to live well is as simple as your ABCs. Let’s think holistically, shall we?


The very first step toward change is realizing that a change needs to be made. Insight. Awareness. Call it what you’d like, but it’s the very first step.


Nothing changes if it only goes as far as your thought process. [The counseling arena as a 5 point process to acknowledge the complexity of our thought lives in deciding to DO something with our lives.] And, lest we fool ourselves, it’s not up to anyone but us. Proactivity. Period.


This is also known as replacement theory. You can try to delete, delete, delete, but there HAS to be something to take the place of that which you are deleting or else you feel depraved or default back into the comfort zone that you’ve known and become all to familiar with.

Whether it is your physical body, your thought life, your friend group, your spiritual life, it’s prudent to be intentional about making the wisest choices possible that are within your locus of control.

On a singular level, let’s take food. I love it. Period. But I have to A) Acknowledge where my vulnerabilities are [sugar], B) Be intentional about drawing boundaries that work for me, and C) Change out one thing for another.

Here’s an easy one. Substitute romaine lettuce leaves for bread. Yes, you can. Create a new mindset about what you usually do for your meals and replace it with a new, wiser choice.

Can you delete a number of things from your daily intake? One thing at a time? What has worked for you? What hasn’t worked? Whatever you decide, it has to be realistic and achievable.

Try this healthy swap. Eat clean in 2017. And if you need a little help getting started, visit Amazon for my Recipes Unveiled cookbook to get you started!

This is Hope Unveiled!

**The above meal has substituted romaine lettuce for bread, apple chips for potato chips, and a turkey burger for red meat.

A Lesson in Snowflakes

As we await snow in the South, perhaps this former blog will encourage you!

Hope Unveiled

I’m currently donned in too many layers, snuggled up inside with my laptop, a heater at my feet, a goLite™ glowing artificially in my face, and a small cup of hot tea within reachHonestly, I’d rather be outside shedding layers of clothes while poolside, reading a book, feeling the natural warmth of the sun, and hoping not to topple over a tall glass of water.

I, along with the east coast, am hunkering down for snow to begin at any minute.

While I wish the snow would come and go faster than it can land and melt on my sidewalk, I thought it at least beneficial to consider the handiwork of this wintertime sensation.

Consider the following quote by William “Snowflake” Bentley in 1925 who spent his teen and adult years studying the intricacies of snowflakes:

“Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and…

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Go Nuts with this Recipe!

I go nuts over walnuts.  That’s probably why temptation got the best of me while shopping @Costco before Christmas when I spotted this Kentucky bourbon cake.  I discovered that the topping was what I loved — a mixture of nuts, chocolate, and sugar.

So I decided to tweak my temptation in a healthy way by using this original recipe to substitute one for the other.

Sauté walnuts in a 1/2 – 1 T. coconut oil (amount of oil depends on amount of walnuts).

While sautéing, sprinkle the following: cocoa powder, stevia, and cinnamon (and any other  spice that’s appealing to you!).

Remove from heat after coated and rest on paper towels until cooled. Store in airtight container.

It’s not just about deleting something from your daily intake; it’s about substituting something healthier!

Unless you’re allergic to walnuts, find ways to incorporate them into your diet.  They contain fiber, protein, minerals, vitamins, and Omega-3 fats (the healthy kind!). Use on salads, greek yogurt, or eat a few as a snack.

If you’d like clean recipes, visit and order my gluten and dairy free cookbook to get you started (Recipes Unveiled by Shirene Gentry).

Remember:  Simple.  Easy.  Clean. In 2017!

This is Hope Unveiled!