Category Archives: LIFESTYLE

Stories on our Tree

 Our travel ornament tradition continues! This year, my favorite additions will be memory ornaments collected in southwest Colorado, Chicago … and an ornament that my youngest son brought home from a class trip to Washington D.C.  It was touching to discover that this family tradition has become personally significant to him.

fish

I like to read the stories on our Christmas tree.

pinecone

There are over-sized pinecones from a North Carolina roadside, hastily gathered during an accidental route departure (some would say we were “lost”) and “child-enhanced” with cheerful globs of green and gold glitter glue.

styrofoam ball

Other homemade creations include painted wood ornaments and glass globes, sequin-covered styrofoam balls and assorted paper art. Everyone knows who made which one, and there’s a story behind most. I treasure a wooden star that my Grandma Dugan painted during one of the Christmases she stayed with us before moving to the care center.


A few ornaments date back to my childhood: a worn-looking angel, painted with the abandon of a child who has better things to do; a felt star festooned with sequins that I sewed on, one by one, at the dining room table of my childhood home; a trumpet given by my best friend in fifth grade; a mirrored nativity scene from my Grandma and Grandpa Prior…

treble clef

Musical notes and instruments are a recurring theme, many of them gifts from my late father (odd term; he was never late for anything and was actually a bit early in leaving us!).

penguin

Near the top of the tree, just beneath the Star, is a silly looking penguin whose wings and beak flap with a pull of a string. It joined us during our brief residence in Elida, Ohio and is the coveted find as we decorate each year.

cacti

Every year, the kids receive an ornament that reflects a current interest; these now include ballet slippers, a lizard, virtually every sports ball, and an electric guitar (ssh… a new arrival this year). We also make it a practice to find seasonal decorations when we travel. When I look at our tree I see islands such as Hawaii, Bermuda, St John and Virgin Gorda. Canada, Mexico, France, Spain, Gibraltar and Morocco dangle from branches as do a good number of states and cities of the US.

cable car and pinecone

A pair of flip flops and a ballerina cow from Hannah’s trips to Anna Maria Island and Chicago… A gecko and a cable car from Zach’s trips to Palm Springs and San Francisco… Leaping dolphins that Matt helped pick out in Hilton Head…

zion keychain

Zion, Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon National Parks were added in 2008, three brightly colored key chains to remind us of some great hiking adventures (we’ve found key chains make great, inexpensive ornaments when you’re too busy to shop for souvenirs). Similar keychains from Puerto Rico, Vieques, the Florida Keys, the Grand Canyon, Mammoth Cave NP and Aspen, Durango, Silverton and Ouray, Colorado dangle as snapshot memories.

star and music stand

It’s a well-covered tree this year, which helps hide the stripe of burned out lights near the bottom. As the kids settle into their homes and traditions, though, the branches will empty. Most of the ornaments will go with them as tangible reminders of their personal histories. Perhaps they’ll share the memories with their own children someday, just as I’ve recounted mine to them. And when they decorate their own trees, they’ll probably travel through a few memories… I hope so.

Because the familiar stories are usually the best.

Columbus Things To Do

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Treetop Views from Yokahu

Ninety-eight steps took us directly to treetop views of the El Yunque National Forest.  It seemed a pretty easy way to gain a panorama after our adrenaline-laced morning spent zip-lining, rappelling and hiking through the Luquillo Rainforest! The 360 degree perspective atop Yokahu Tower also included San Juan, Luquillo, Faro de Fajardo (from which we would eventually ferry to Isla de Vieques) and Playa Seven Seas.  Punctured periodically by arched windows, the silo-styled tower, erected in 1963, also afforded decent vistas during our climb to its observation deck.


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Call It An Adventure

Getting to and from Isla de Vieques from Puerto Rico’s main island was more of a challenge than any of the adventures I’d actually arranged for our August travels. But what’s a trip without a few surprises along the way?  It’s the unplanned events that usually prove to be the real memory makers.

We had planned to be on the 1PM ferry to Isla de Vieques from Fajardo, Puerto Rico. I’d padded our schedule to allow for the iffy ticketing and parking situations I had read about online. By the time we had wheeled our luggage  from the ticketing building to the terminal across the street, I was feeling pretty pleased with myself. Securing our ferry passage and getting the rental car into long term parking had been quite the test, but we had made it.  And I figured we were at least next to the correct boarding line if not actually in it.

But the boat broke.

Mechanical failures had already reduced the ferry pool from four vessels to only two running daily between Culebra, Vieques and Fajardo on the main island of Puerto Rico.  And while the initial announcements optimistically indicated a “delay”, it was soon clear that “delay” was but a euphemism for a very uncertain situation.  “Delay” didn’t mean the ferry would launch later that day or even on that same day at all.  The gentleman relaying the official announcements was non-committal.  The ferry might run later.  But it might not.  He shrugged.  He smiled. He shrugged again.

Eventually came an announcement that the ferry to Culebra would also be “delayed”.  Because it would be pulled to transport those of us traveling to Vieques.  Our ex-ferry, the  Atlantis, doggy paddled its way to the derelict side dock, and our comandeered boat docked in its place.  It lingered there after we’d boarded, however, to scoop up those arriving for a later Vieques bound ferry that would never arrive.  By now though, we were philosophical.  We’d made new friends.  We’d sustained ourselves with heavenly mango sorbet.  We were on a boat with a functioning engine. When we pulled from the dock and out into the harbor, there arose a stadium-worthy cheer…

Of course, we’d have to find another way to get off the island once we actually got there.  But that would be an adventure for another day…

One choice move toward resolving an unforeseen travel “event” is to take a deep breath and mentally label it an adventure.  This shifts you solidly from being a victim to stepping up as a problem solver. And reframing the situation may allow you to actually enjoy the experience. Attitude truly is everything.

Family Vacation on raveable
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