Tag Archives: family

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


Relationship Tips as You Gather

“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” that you plant in the present:

  • Refuse to react.  If someone “pushes your buttons,” you make the choice that it will not bother you. Take a deep breath, leave the room, or let it roll off your shoulders. Learning the skill to de-escalate will take you a long way.
  • Find common denominators. There tends to be a focus on what divides in relationships.  I encourage you to intentionally find what unites. This could be as simple as watching a movie, playing board games, cooking, sports, etc.
  • Focus on the people. Focus on the people who are present.  What do they enjoy? What are their interests?  What are their hobbies or career interests? What current challenges do they face? How can you encourage them?
  • Don’t “go there” with hot topic issues. Decide ahead of time that if you know people at the same gathering have different philosophical ideas, a boundary should be erected before the conversation begins to snowball.  If someone tries to push buttons among the group, kindly respond that it’s not the time or place. Use appropriate body language, words, and tone. Shift the focus on an idea or topic for all to contribute.
  • Ask open-ended questions.  Nothing will diffuse a potential argument than incorporating this technique.  If someone offers an opinion,  ask the following: “Tell me why that’s important to you,” and then leave it at that.  Don’t offer your own side of looking at things. You won’t change someone’s belief system while gobbling down turkey.
  • Ask each other what you are thankful for.  This is an especially useful “tool” if you’ve experienced hardship or grief this last year.  Why?  Science has proven that if you intentionally focus on what is going well, it balances out your cognitive thinking so the negatives don’t spiral you emotionally. The perfect ratio is >3 to 1 (listing at least 3 things you are thankful for even in the midst of the one negative event).
  • Be flexible. If families have changed, are blended, or experienced loss, be flexible and forgiving with the traditions of the past (what to fix, when to meet, etc.).  Remember:  it’s not the tradition that you’ve held, it’s about creating memories with people you care about.
  • Forgive. This isn’t about the other person, it’s about you.  Forgiveness is a process (much like grief), and must be “walked through” with a pastor, counselor, or life coach.  Forgiveness is about letting yourself off the hook, not the offender.  Life’s too short to hold to grudges and bitterness.  Do something about it now. It’s about YOU moving ahead in life.
  • Grief. If you have experienced loss, somewhere along the line you’ve adopted a belief that says, “I must stay strong for the family.”  You have permission to cry and acknowledge your loss among your gathering. Of course things are different. You are embarking on a “new normal” and right now you have no idea what that looks like.  So, cry together, laugh together, and remember the person who is no longer there.  It promotes the healing promotes and is the first step in the grief process. In holidays to come, you may want to remember their memory in a special way at family gatherings.  Be creative and allow your idea to fully embrace the person who is no longer with you.
  • Dress colorfully. As simple or silly as this may sound, there’s psychological benefit to wearing something that positively affects your emotions and makes you feel good.
  • Hobbies. Between gatherings, be sure to build your resiliency “tool box” with things you enjoy – reading, resting, painting, etc.  These hobbies and healthy coping skills make you resilient during times of stress.

Let this season of gathering be joyful – regardless of hardship and trial – and decide now to take ownership of what YOU bring to the table.

Life Coaching Tip:

Regardless of the “heritage” behind you, you decide what “seed” to plant TODAY that will reap a future “harvest” in your life.





Questions Before and After My Naturalization Day


I still remember this day.  I was 4 years old. My mother, grandmother, and I boarded a train in the middle of the night to Washington, DC where we met my father for the Big Day.

My Big Day was a Big Deal.  The shrouded details of mystery in leaving one country to enter this one are still just that, shrouded.  There are many questions that still linger.

Since I was obviously a minor at the time of my naturalization, my mother filled out the questionnaire on my behalf.

Here are the questions:

  1. Have you married, or been widowed, separated, or divorced?
  2. Have you been absent from the United States?
  3. Have you committed any crime or offense, or been arrested, fined, or charged with the violation of any law whatsoever?
  4. Have you joined any organization?
  5. Have you become a member of the Communist Party?
  6. Have you claimed exemption from military service?
  7. Has there been any change in your willingness to bear arms on behalf of the United States; to perform non-combatant service in the armed forces of the United States; to perform work of national importance under civilian direction, if the law requires it?
  8. The law provides that a petitioner for naturalization shall not be regarded as a person of good moral character who, at any time after his or her petition for naturalization has been filed, has committed adultery; has been a prostitute; has procured any person for the purposes of prostitution; has been a narcotic drug addict; or has dealt in narcotic drugs illegally in any way.  Have you committed such an act or been such a person?

The questions for the process of naturalization have, no doubt, changed.  And the questions that still remain unanswered are still a mystery to me.  I waffle between HAVING to know and TRUSTING in what I don’t.  Nothing changes the result:  God’s sovereign hand in literally plucking me from one part of the world and placing me in another.

Some questions answered, some not. Regardless, I have been given freedom in the Land of the Free.







Anxious Living: “C” in R.E.S.I.L.I.E.N.C.Y.


The “C” in R.E.S.I.L.I.E.N.C.Y. acknowledges four concepts for buffering stress. Consider the following:


Learn to cultivate calm evenings.  In particular, there are two recommendations:

  1.  Do not discuss “heavy” topics at night with family members.  This activates the brain in ways that is not conducive to restful sleep.  If needed, discuss stressful topics during daytime hours.
  2. Develop a calm bedtime routine.  This may include a relaxing bath, soft music, no blue light (for an hour and a half before bedtime),  reading a hardcover book, etc.


Share your stress with a trusted friend or professional.  You are a “jar of clay” (2 Corinthians 4:7) and need to have an “inner circle” to connect and commune with during challenging times.  In addition, these trusted individuals can bear the burden of your stress by either just listening, or actively serving you to lighten the load. In either instance, put pride aside.


The tendency to be stimulated during a time of stress is a vicious cycle, especially if you haven’t been able to sleep well.  Be intentional about greatly reducing your caffeine intake.  If you’re used to caffeine at all three meals, begin by deleting it at the dinner hour.  Once your body is used to this, delete the caffeine at lunch as well.  Ideally, drink your cup of Joe in the morning and be done.  Your body is already stressed enough; caffeine doesn’t help the cause.


My grandmother always told me that a good cry was good for the soul.  Neurobiology has confirmed her wisdom.  The hormone that causes the production of cortisol is found in your tears.  Specifically, a 2-4 minute cry has stress reduction benefits. So go ahead and cry; however, beware of a pattern.

With these 4 concepts in mind, how can you…..

A. Make one change – and eventually more – in your bedtime routine to alleviate stress?

B.  Identify a trusted friend, family member, or professional to share your stress with?

C.  Monitor and delete your caffeine intake? Perhaps a family member to hold you accountable?

D.  Not suppress your feelings and give yourself permission to cry?

In summary, use these tips to manage stress.  Remember: The idea is to buffer and build (resiliency).

This is Hope Unveiled!


A Letter to My Birth Mother: Thank You for Not Aborting Me

Dear “Mom,”

I don’t know if you had a choice almost 53 years ago.

This letter is neither a political statement nor a call to judgment. I refuse to go “there.” Simply, this is a letter of gratitude and thankfulness.

The day was October 11, 1962. The place was a foreign country. I’m sure if you’re still alive, there’s not a day that goes by that you don’t think about it.

While the world viewed Johnny Carson and the Cuban Missile Crisis, I can only imagine where your focus must have been. Was there anyone looking at you and the emotional pain you may have been in? Were you alone?

I don’t know what motivated you to give me up for adoption. Was it because you were single? Was it because I was biracial? Was it because your lover wanted nothing to do with you once it was discovered you were pregnant?

I’m thankful for many things because of what you decided to do.

I was given a family who loved me. Probably too much. My maternal grandmother, my mom, and my dad, all of whom I miss terribly.

I’m thankful for piano lessons, dance lessons, and life lessons by my grandmother. I’m thankful for friends with whom I have shared nail polish, current fashions, and laughter.

And tears. Oh yes, especially the tears.

And as the years have passed, the friends and life events have revolved around caregiving, death, raising a family, and how to “do” marriage. I’ve learned many things to this point by trial and error.

I’m thankful for the gift of marriage and my husband who loves me unconditionally. I’m thankful that I’m a mom to two sons who share physical traits with me. When I look in their eyes, I see myself, in more ways than one. And for those traits that are my polar opposites, it painfully and gloriously grows me into a better woman, mother, wife, and friend. I would not be who I am if it weren’t for the three of them.

Just so you know, I would never say I have all the answers. I don’t. But my life’s experiences have taught me to be teachable. And I’m a work in progress, for sure. I learn the most when my “epic fails” are ever before me. It keeps me humble and dependent on God as He continues to transform me into a person who can bring Him glory and credit for everything He has done in my life. Including – especially including – your decision to release me.

I’m thankful for the red, white, and blue. The flag. This country. Hot dogs covered with mustard, and the national anthem loaded with emotion.

I’m thankful for sunrises, deep conversations, music, chocolate, and warm weather. I love to sink my teeth into a filet mignon and a meaty book. I’m thankful for the passions in my life that motivate me to encourage others.

The world has changed in 52 years. You can find me in an instant.

I’ll be good either way. The choice is yours.


Your Daughter

HOPE for Holiday Gatherings: UNVEILING Tips

Holiday parties and get togethers sometimes get stickier than the gooey treats on the Santa Claus serving platter. While the latter disappears quickly, the former potentially lingers from one year to another.

So what do you do when confronted with these situations?

These tips are for YOU, not the ones who necessarily need to change their behavior:

(Sorry…This is not about THEM.)

1. Control and take responsibility for your own behavior. You can’t take ownership for others’ behavior. Even if you see a need for others to change, release yourself from this expectation.

2. Anger prepares us for a state of preparedness when confronted with a “flight or fright” mode. Here’s the main point: If someone pushes your buttons, choose to NOT react. Being angry isn’t sinful, but reacting to anger in a sinful way is.

Remember these points for ANGER MANAGEMENT:

Know what/who triggers your anger

Stop/cool down/count to 10

Imagine the results/empathize with the other person/surrender your right to retaliate/keep your distance if needed

Deal with the issues that cause you anger so that you can confront it in a way that leads to restoration and healing

3. Words account for only 7% of communication. Tone, nonverbals, and body language say more than your words. Ask for clarification and don’t assume you know what the person meant.

4. Make a choice to NOT be part of the drama.

5. You don’t have to be right.

6. Forgiveness is a process. If you have been offended, consider seeing a therapist or pastor to walk through the stages of the forgiveness process. Remember: After walking through the steps of forgiveness, it doesn’t let the other person off the hook, it lets YOU off the hook.

7. Listen, keep quiet, or ask questions. Take the focus off of yourself. Asking open ended questions results in others’ revealing their belief/value systems.

8. Seek to understand the other’s point of view.

9. Validate what the other person is saying even if you don’t agree with them. You don’t have to agree with someone in order to validate their point of view.

10. It doesn’t matter what you know. If the other person doesn’t perceive your actions as loving or if they do not feel loved, you are nothing more than a clanging cymbal (I Corinthians 13).


The Quagmire of Comparison

Webster Dictionary defines quagmire as a “mixed up and troubled situation; a hopeless tangle (emphasis mine); a predicament.”

I always write when a particular topic boomerangs back to my thought process faster than a spider can spin its web.  Or faster than its prey becomes entangled.  And that’s exactly what happens when – like the spider’s prey – you are suddenly caught in a web that you didn’t even realize was quickly forming around you.  The next thing you’re aware of is that you’re tangled in a (perceived) predicament that usually results in some kind of internal chaos. Unrest and panic ripple from the mind’s center of “shoulds” and “musts.”  Life spins out of control thereby creating an internal uneasiness that paralyzes your soul.

So what is this quagmire?  Comparison.  And we are all guilty. Let’s examine what being IN the quagmire looks like, and then notice how this “predicament” permeates the levels of SELF, CHILDREN, SPOUSE, and OTHERS.


  • “I don’t look that way.” This can start at ANY age and continue through the life cycle.
    • Tall enough.
    • Short enough.
    • Skinny enough.
    • Big enough (for you weight training men out there).
    • Straight enough (for those of us with curls — *sigh*).
    • Curly enough (for those who pay for permanents or body waves).

The Point:  If you focus on how society or your peers view beauty then your self esteem will waffle as fast as the changing trends.  You will never be satisfied with how you are created if your mindset is constantly in comparison mode.  Focus, instead, on your physical traits that you really like and learn to develop a positive mindset that “talks” to yourself in a healthy way about your characteristics.

We can also use this same comparison in the work place, the home place, or the church space. It’s never ending. It’s exhausting.  It’s unfair.  It’s unrealistic. Focus on developing who you are and the best version. And show yourself some grace in the process.


  • “My children have to…..” (This list never ends, no matter their ages.)
    • have that toy…or else I’m “behind” in giving my infant something to stimulate.
    • be in this extracurricular activity…because everyone else their age is.
    • play this sport….since other kids their ages are doing it.
    • take that class….because Johnny is smart enough for it.
    • be on this team….so my child isn’t looked upon as an outcast.
    • go to that school…because isn’t that where all the kids go who get into “the” colleges?
    • take this educational program…because they won’t be “successful” if they don’t.
    • make that grade…so let’s sacrifice time as a family so Johnny can make an A.
    • pass this AP exam….because if he doesn’t, he won’t get into “the” college.
    • get into that college…because it’s the end all, be all, right?
    • study this area of study…because it’s the area that makes you “successful.”
    • apply to this graduate school…because if you don’t, you won’t have an edge in the market place.

The Point:  As parents, train your child in the way he/she should go based on their unique abilities, passions, and strengths.  Do not train your children in the way he/she should go because all of their peers are doing the same.  IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT OTHERS’ CHILDREN DO OR DON’T DO. You have been entrusted with your children.  Use the energy in discovering who THEY are and what they are capable of doing (academically, athletically, relationally, spiritually). And do not compare your children with each other. EVER!


Lest we think we fall into the quagmire of comparison where our kids are concerned, think again.  We do to ourselves in comparing ourselves to others.  And we may do it to ourselves with where we used to be with where we are now (reading the list below will explain this).

  • “I need to live in that neighborhood….because it’s “the” place to live.”
  • “I have to buy this kind of car….because I want people to think I can afford it.”
  • “I need to mortgage to the hilt to buy this kind of house….so people will be impressed.”
  • “I have to work this hard or else I won’t be able to afford…..all the extracurricular activities my   kids are involved in (see above list).
  • “I need a second home because….”
  • “I need to sell the second home for a bigger second home because….”
  • “My spouse needs to be more like……or look more like…or treat me more like…”

THE POINT: It’s not what you have or don’t have.  It’s how you perceive what you have and don’t have (materialistically or maritally).  

I’ve now lived long enough to see marriages fall apart.  Sometimes this happens because the emotional game of comparison (will) has started weaving its internal web (mind) long before any external actions follow (body).

Comparison is a dangerous web that casts its spell at every age and every stage.

John Ortberg, in his most recent book Soul Keeping, states that your soul is comprised of the following parts:

  • Will (your intentions; the capacity to choose; “exercising dominion” (Genesis); saying “yes/no”.
  • Mind (your thoughts, feelings, values, conscience).
  • Body (your face, body language, your actions, your habits).

Furthermore, he indicates that the mind craves to be at peace.  I will elaborate on this thought to say that when we are caught in the quagmire of comparison, our minds are not at peace.  Ortberg goes on to say that a “soul without a center feels constantly vulnerable to people or circumstances” (p. 100).

So, in my opinion, how do you combat this quagmire?

1.  Acknowledge that you DO have a choice (your will).

Because you have been created with volition, you do have a choice about whether you will continue to live in a mindset of comparison or not.  That is good news!  It IS within your control!

2.  Awareness of your thoughts (your mind). When you become consciously aware that your thoughts are taking you down the dangerous path of comparison, stop them.  Pray for wisdom and be thankful for what you DO have.  Gratitude has a way of crowding out a comparison mindset. Focus your time, energy, and healthy thoughts over those things under your personal dominion.

3.  Actions of daily living (your body).  Are you caught up in a family schedule that is so chaotic that it sacrifices your core values (your mind)?  If so, then examine your lifestyle, your schedule, and your expectations for yourself, your children, and your spouse.

The One who created you desires most of all that you rely on Him to untangle the web of confusion and chaos leading to your personal battles with comparison.  Be honest with Him.  You will seek Him and find Him when you seek Him with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).  He also promises to “deliver you from all your fears” (Psalm 34:4).  And isn’t fear at the very root of our comparison struggles?

When you learn to consciously integrate your will, your mind, and your actions, then your soul will free itself from the quagmire.  And what a place of peace it is when you finally free yourself from its web.