Tag Archives: Heart-to-Heart

Black Friday 2011


Not quite what you expected? Let me explain.

My best shopping experiences generally involve selecting the tastiest tomatoes in produce or the cool tools at the hardware store (I even have a favorite sales guy in electrical). I don’t abhor “real” shopping, but my natural inclinations pull me toward trails more often than malls. And quite frankly, Black Friday intimidates me. I wouldn’t even buy a banana in the midst of such an adrenaline-laced retail event.

So we escaped to Caesar Creek State Park. The parking lot was uncrowded. The trail was as clear as the air and the views. We completely missed the bargains. The competition. The madness.

This season arrives pre-loaded with a frenzy of traditions and obligations. It’s worth taking a quiet moment to choose what is most personally meaningful. If shopping is your thing, be my guest (and you can claim my parking space. At the back of the lot —sorry!). But before methodically checking off the items on your annual list, why not take a look at the list itself. See if last year’s priorities are worthy of the same attention this year.

It turned out that my “must do”s hadn’t changed over the past twelve months. Which is why we went hiking as a family the day after Thanksgiving.

For more on choosing meaningful traditions, visit “Traditions” on the Inspiration page at Heather Dugan Creative .

Cincinnati Things To Do on raveable



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Go Hannah Go!

Footsteps, by virtue of its author’s devotion to an active outdoor-oriented lifestyle, has often included mention of the dynamo who is my daughter: Hannah. Most of our best adventures, whether kayaking, hiking, snorkeling, cycling or running have included her at center stage and been enriched by her special spark. While also a talented writer and photographer, my girl’s natural state seems to be one of graceful motion. She joked once that she and I were the only ones she knew who sported mother/daughter running clothes rather than the traditional matching dresses. I guess workout gear just fit both of us a little better. And for Hannah, solo time with her dad is better enjoyed on a running trail than at a movie theater. But, while she may have grown up amongst runners, she has embraced the passion and made it all her own.

Her love of running began young. Hannah always seemed to possess her own rechargeable battery, allowing her to effortlessly fly across soccer fields, around tracks and over park trails. She still does.

And this Saturday, her gazelle-gaited gift, along with a truly impressive work ethic, will take her to the State Cross Country Championship to race the best of Ohio’s best. As her proud mom and a die-hard Hannah fan, I just had to take a moment and say: Go Hannah Go!!!

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Time Travel on a Tree

As we create travel memories, we add them to the branches of our Christmas tree. In the past couple of years we’ve added ornaments (or key chains: the non-shopper’s quickie souvenir ornament!) from Vieques, Puerto Rico, Grand Canyon NP, Mammoth Cave NP, Yosemite NP and Playa Del Carmen, MX. Wish I’d remembered to grab a key chain on one of my trips to Boston/Cape Cod but the warm memories will be enough.


I like to read the stories on our Christmas tree.


There are over-sized pine cones from a North Carolina roadside, hastily gathered during an accidental route departure (some would say we were “lost”), now “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…).


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.


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 and Mexico 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 and Bryce Canyon National Parks are new additions, three brightly colored key chains to remind of us this past summer’s adventures (we’ve found key chains make great, inexpensive ornaments when you’re too busy to shop for souvenirs).

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…

Originally posted: December 21, 2008

Columbus Things To Do


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