Hunting: Our Pennsylvania Adventures

One day might be different from another, but there ain’t much difference when they’re put together.  ~William H. Armstrong

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While hunting in New York with dad, I couldn’t help but capture the view from my seat. Perhaps Ryan was joining us? 11/2014

It’s official, hunting  season for deer with a rifle in Pennsylvania is over, at least for the year.  No, hunting is not done, archery and muzzle loader for deer come back after Christmas.  After then starts small game season and spring gobbler, but the big hunting event of the year, the one that only lasts for two weeks, has come to an end.  Was it a good year?  You bet it was, in more ways than one!  God blessed us with a good harvest and great family time in nature.

Besides hunting in New York Hunting: Our New York Adventure, dad, Kyle and myself had fun and were able to harvest several deer for canning and some meat for the freezer, to be consumed for dinner in the near future.  Even though Kyle and I didn’t get a single deer in Pennsylvania, dad filled his doe tags and added to our stockpile of meat.

The best part of hunting?  Yep, hanging with dad and Kyle and getting out in nature!  I must admit, I missed Kyle being with us in New York, but he made up for it on the first day of buck, which was Monday, December 1st, plus this past Saturday and the one prior.  It’s always an adventure with the Piper family, double when Kyle is involved!

There are so many funnies, I seriously can’t remember them all, but here are a few for the records.

Something that started in New York, but I forgot to mention it, was dad and his smarties.  My dad LOVES those small pellets of sugar that come in clear plastic packaging.  If those aren’t available then he settles for sweet tarts.  This year, he kept stocking up on the rolls of Wonka Sweet Tarts.

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Dad loves his Wonka Sweet Tarts! He claims they bring in the big deer during hunting season… too funny!

While in New York, I was sitting in our tree stand with dad watching out for deer.  All of a sudden I heard the subtle tearing of paper?  I turned my heard toward dad to see him carefully tearing his candy roll as to not drop a single sweet tart.  After he popped in a colorful disc, he leaned into to me with a serious face and said, “These will help bring in the big deer.”  I started cracking up!  During the day when things got slow, dad would pull out his sweet tarts and reiterate, “The deer like these, they’ll come now.”  Very unlike dad in the woods, joking around, but it was funny!  I mean we weren’t dancing around, but those comments cracked me up, not to mention, my dad, a big lumberjack type of guy, tearing at his Wonka candy with precision was hilarious!

Now back to Pennsylvania.  By now, dad was fully addicted to his Wonka Sweet Tarts.  That Wednesday, after the first day of buck, dad and I sat together in the woods.  We never did see anything, but it wasn’t due to a lack of sweet tarts.  Dad did the same thing, unrolled his paper to release a colorful disc when there was no signs of deer.  I even joined him, popping a few colorful candies to pass the time.  At one point, dad almost knocked me off my chair, he nodded at me to look in his direction.  Just then, dad unzipped his vest and pulled the fabric back to expose his top shirt pocket.  There were two more rolls of those darn sweet tarts sticking out of his pocket!  He showed me his candy with a straight face, like a gangster was showing his pistol.  I actually laughed-out-loud!  Dad and that candy was totally silly!  After that, the Wonka candy became part of our checklist before entering the woods: rifle, check; shells, check; deer tags, check; candy, check.  Kyle got a kick out of me telling him about his pap and the new “deer lure”.

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Down the hill from our hunting location in Indiana, Pennsylvania. 12/2014

I can make anything into an adventure, even by myself.  On Saturday, December 6th, the first day of doe, I made my way down to my spot, marked with orange ribbons, placed by dad a week prior to hunting season.  The same spot I sat for the first day of buck.  It was a soggy Saturday, raining ALL night into the next morning and continuing ALL day.  I chose my tree and pulled out my portable seat.  It was the kind that folds up, like a directors chair, only smaller.  I placed it in position and pushed it firmly into the saturated muddy ground.  The chair was strategically placed in front of a fallen log, so if I needed to shoot off of it, I could.  Great!  I was facing a couple deer paths and ready to go, or so I thought.  As I sat my bottom down on my portable stool with a metal frame and a fabric seat, I began sinking and sinking and sinking.  Initially, I thought the gravitational pull would cease, and the ground wouldn’t swallow me up whole, and that I would be secured momentarily.  Wrong!  I continued to sink until I was laying flat on my back with my rifle laying over my chest.  What?  It seriously all happened in slow motion and I was completely dumbfounded.

After a moment or two passed, and the shock of me spread out on the floor of the woods became clear in my mind, I jumped up to examine the scene.  The fabric on the chair ripped, sending the metal sides to flatten out, since there was no fabric to hold them together, allowing me to meet the ground.  Standing in the rain looking down at my flattened seat, I just laughed and laughed, almost thankful no one was around.  Although, I wouldn’t have minded someone joining me in the humor of the situation.

So what did I do?  I folded the seat back up, almost meeting the metal framework together, and forcefully ramming the legs of the stool into the muddy ground till it was secured.  Simply, I sat on the metal frame projected from the ground.  Not comfortable, yet not entirely uncomfortable.  I didn’t care, after all it was already less than favorable hunting conditions with constant rain, which never let up.

Naturally, that’s the one day I got to see something, and I missed at the doe.  As I was trying to see the deer in my fogged up scope with rain falling down my face, a big rain drop hit my scope with a pitch perfect “tinking” sound that seemed to echo for miles around.  Before the echos could travel far, the doe was getting ready to run and “hightail” it out of there, not that I blame her.  All the deer in the area were already spooked, so I quickly took a shot… and missed!  She didn’t stick around for me to reload and took off down the hill into the brush.  It happened very quickly, with low visibility on my part.  Dang!  It happens.

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Near the lake, down the hill from our hunting spot. I couldn’t resist checking it out while pushing deer for dad. 12/2014

Another funny… the same day, I was wearing a camouflaged rain coat with a thin bright orange vest and an orange baseball cap.  I know, what a sight!  Dad had on similar clothing to try and keep as dry as possible.  Kyle on the other hand, was dressed in a bright orange poncho, as to not be mistaken in the foggy rainy woods for something other than a pre-teen.  After all, no one would get close enough to hear him whine, or munch on food and determine the mystery figure was indeed Kyle.  Dad kept calling him the Ninja Turtle.  That’s comical!  The whole ride back and the week until this past weekend, Kyle was referred to as the Ninja Turtle.  Sometimes dad comes up with good ones!

By 1:00 pm, we were all ready to call it a day.  Even with our ponchos on, we were soaked to the bone and cold.  The temperature was just warm enough to bring rain, yet cold enough to chill the body.  We left without a deer, but I had some excitement.

This past Saturday, the last day of hunting season, I did see a few deer, but was not able to get a shot.  One deer only showed the top of its ears and tail, too much brush to find the body, let along shoot through that mess.  It does make it exciting, to see anything, even if a shot isn’t taken.

During the day I called dad to check in on him and Kyle, they were at a nearby location in a ladder stand.  As I was talking, in low tones, dad responded, “I can’t really hear you, someone is chomping on trail mix in my ear.”  Obviously referring to Kyle.  I could tell, they both had enough.  It was pretty cold and I bet the wind off of the lake, hit them hard in their stand.

Eventually, Kyle convinced dad he was too cold to hunt anymore.  This time it was about 1:30 pm.  Only Kyle can work his pap over to leave the woods early on the last day of hunting, without dad getting his buck.

On the ride back, dad and Kyle told me what they saw in the woods.  Deer right?  Nope.  They saw a small hawk swoop down from the sky and grab a hold of a bluejay passing by.  Both birds dropped to the ground and were wrestling.  Kyle said the bluejay was screaming and squawking, but the hawk had a good grip on its victim.  Dad said, “I thought that bluejay was a gonner.”  It must have been an exciting sight, for Kyle and dad were consumed with the intensity of the situation while telling the story.  Then, Kyle gleefully piped up saying, “Ya, and then all of a sudden the bluejay flew away and the hawk sat above us, watching us”.  Dad added, “I don’t know how it got away, but the hawk wasn’t much bigger than the bluejay.”  Kyle was nodding in agreement and repeated, “That hawk sat above us and watched us.”  I started laughing and added, “Boy he had a big appetite, maybe he was eying YOU up Kyle.”  Kyle just grinned as he reiterated the story with added details and gusto.

While pulling into mom and dad’s driveway what did we see?  Not a buck, but a few does in my Uncle Walter’s field. I called out my finding to dad, who was driving.  Before the words were fully out of my mouth, the truck stopped immediately, dad jumped out, loaded his rifle and scanned for deer.  Kyle and I were still sitting in the truck.  Kyle looked at me with wide eyes saying, “Wow!  I’ve never seen pappy move that fast!  I didn’t know he could load his gun that fast!”  I just smiled for I’ve seen that swiftness many times before.  Kyle was amazed.

At the position dad was standing he couldn’t see the deer.  I took that as my cue to comment to Kyle, “What does pappy need us to draw him a map?”  Eventually dad saw his target, lined up his sights, took aim and shot the doe, about a hundred yards away!  Great shot in the front shoulder, but that didn’t bring it down right away, unbeknownst to us at the time.

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Another view down the hill from our hunting location in Indiana, Pennsylvania. While pushing deer for dad, I traveled closer to the water for a better look… not that I thought I’d find deer walking on water… 12/2014

Seeing more does, Kyle and I grabbed our rifles creeped around the small patch of woods in the field hoping to get a shot at our very own doe.  What we found, surprised us both.

Dad’s deer popped up in the field, nearly twenty feet away from us, and ran across the field.  She scared us both!  Kyle was quick to pull up his rifle to shoot and drop the injured doe, however I stopped him.  Why?  He was standing at least a few feet behind me to the side.  I completely trust my little man, and he is a good shot, but I don’t want him to get in that habit, it’s not safe.  In all the excitement, I did explain my reasoning for stopping him.  He understood, but was focused on the area the doe eventually dropped in.  Kyle moved down the hill like lightening, by now dad was on his quad fast approaching us.  Kyle moved in the direction of the injured deer and shot.  Unfortunately, he shot her in the body, through the guts, when I told him to shoot her in the head to put her out of her misery, quickly.  Kyle told me, “I saw her head in my scope.”  Well, that’s not where you shot, but that’s ok buddy, good practice with free hand.

While all three of us came up on the deer, dad and I noticed she was still kind of alive.  Yikes!  I told Kyle, who had his rifle out and ready to fire, to shoot her in the head.  He looked at me and told me to do the deed.  I could tell he felt bad for the doe and couldn’t do it.  Me, on the other hand, I will absolutely shoot any animal in the head to avoid suffering.  I borrowed Kyle’s .243 and brought the brave animal to peace.  It was an exciting end to a pretty boring day.  Dad and Kyle saw nothing for the duration of the last day, until we came home.

Personally, I’m very happy to know Kyle is fully aware where the meat we consume comes from, and he is capable of survival.  I am also very happy to see he has such a tender heart and didn’t like to see the deer suffer.  He knows he can always count on me and his pap to help him out.  He trusted us to do the right thing and fix the situation.

Overall, it was a great harvest!  Now it’s time to put away the rifles until target shooting in the summer.

On a side note, while butchering the doe dad shot, Kyle responded, “It’s a good thing I got cold and came back early, huh pap?”  He felt bad for wanting to leave early and was trying to justify his actions.  Little does Kyle know, my dad would NEVER have that kid sit there with cold feet, even on the last day of hunting.  Kyle is worth more to us than any doe or buck!

Another note, while butchering the deer, Kyle busted into Christmas songs playing on the radio.  He is such a great guy!  I love hanging out with him!

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Patience and have No Comments

Happy Anniversary Mom & Dad! 45 Years Strong

To love is good, too: love being difficult. For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.  ~Rainer Maria Rilke

 Happy 45th Anniversary mom and dad!

Mom-Dad-wedding-announcement-in-paperWhile going through pictures, I found mom and dad’s original wedding announcement from the newspaper.  How cool is that!  I’m guessing it was either from the Latrobe Bulletin or the Tribune Review, our local papers.  (I was amazed at the detail the paper described mom’s wedding dress!  While dad only got an honorable mention!)  How times have changed, from when the printed paper was one of the biggest sources for news that everyone read daily.  Now, newspaper circulation is nearly extinct and online and television news is the go-to source.  Just think, when mom and dad got hitched, the internet didn’t exist, neither did email, nor did social media sites, and certainly not blogging.

Well, mom and dad are still kicking with 45-years of marriage.  I bet my grandpap Chester would have never guessed it.  Mom and dad have come a long way since December 12, 1969.  I’m sure they’d both agree it has been, and still continues to be an adventure.  I know it has been from where I joined the crazy train, December 12, a few years later.  Yes, every year since I was born we’ve celebrated both mom and dad’s wedding anniversary and my birthday together, for I graced them with my presence on their anniversary.  (not the other way around)  There for a while, it was also the first day of doe season, which used to take priority with dad, but that’s a minor note.

This past August, good friends of mine celebrate their 50th Anniversary.  Happy 50th Anniversary!  It’s neat to think, that that will be mom and dad in just five short years.  With all of mom’s positive attitude (sarcasm) she claims they’ll never make it that far, not due to divorce, but to death.  Yes, I’m sure the old folks are amazing and astounding their doctors for just being alive.  Personally, I think they still have a fight left in them, if Kyle and I have anything to do about it.

Forty-five years is a long time, almost none existent today.  Mom and dad are a rare breed, in more ways than one, so I guess their anniversary is fitting.  Because of their commitment to each other, we’ve all had a wonderful and stable family life, including Kyle.  I’m not saying it was perfect, only typical for such a tight knit family.  It says a lot about mom and dad’s character for having maintained their marriage, raised a family and dealt with outside forces, good and bad, for nearly a half a century.  Their anniversary (not their eating habits nor lack of exercise) should not be taken lightly, but only celebrated and viewed as a goal for others to strive towards.  I am blessed to be apart of their legacy and I am proud they have set the example for Kyle for what it really means to be married.

Happy Anniversary Gigi and pappy!

 

Since I’m discussing celebrations, I never got to write mom a blog post, formally celebrating her birthday from October 26th, this past year.  At the time I was visiting my sister in Virginia, helping her get her rental property ready for new tenants.  The week escaped me.  I planned on being home in time for mom’s birthday, but alas that didn’t happen.  I wanted to give mom a shout out for her 65th birthday too!  Happy Birthday late mom!

As we’ve always done, mom, dad and I exchange celebrations between us.  Dad asked me with an ornery grin, the same one Kyle gives me from time to time, “So do you feel old?”  Fat chance!  Acting young, some may say immature, is my thing!  It’s what I truly believe allows me to stay youthful at heart and in appearance, that and I drink a lot of water and stay out of the direct sunlight.  I guess there’s a lot to celebrate today!  TGIF!

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Family,Milestone,News and have No Comments

Hunting: Our New York Adventure

You know, one of the tragedies of real life is that there is no background music.  ~Annie Proulx

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Kyle at the shooting range with his .22. Kyle’s not a bad shot! 8/25/12

It never fails, my life is an adventure.  Sometimes it brings a smile, or in the case of my dad, it causes a lot of eye rolling.  This past weekend, dad and I were in Cortland, New York hunting.  We left early last Friday (only after we finally remembered to pack everything and had to turn around in Derry, and right before that, Seven and Scooby took off for a jaunt in the woods).  The first day of rifle season was Saturday.

As I’ve mentioned before, the New York hunting rules are slightly different from Pennsylvania’s.  Example, we are allowed to fill our tags with a buck and a doe starting at sunrise on Saturday, the season includes Sundays, and lasts for three weeks.

We arrived Friday mid-afternoon and met Larry, for all intents purposes he was the orchestrator of the hunters.  I was also given the honor of meeting sergeant Mike Bennett.  He’s a wounded warrior from northern New York, who served in the Afghanistan conflict and was a part of our hunting group.  Larry showed us our new hunting spot, and we rode the quads around a bit to get acclimated, seeing five doe on the way.

That night, all the hunters gathered around the campfire on the edge of the woods to finalize the game plans for the next day, and to enjoy idle conversation and socialization.

Dad and I got up early Saturday morning, about 4:30 am, got ready and headed for the woods, riding the quad to our tree stand.  We were on the opposite end of the woods, compared to last year; a really nice spot, with rows of trees, a few trails and a logging road, near a few patches of pines and up the hill from a crab apple section.  In theory, and later on in reality, a great spot!  Actually, I preferred dad hunt in this area, only because getting to it was not such a roller coaster ride and less dangerous for the old man, again compared to his other tree stand.  It was even closer to the truck, pretty ideal. Our Hunting Adventures … New York Our Hunting Adventures … New York Continued

Waking up to about a half inch to an inch of snow was a nice surprise.  Why?  It makes it better to hunt.  The deer pop off of the background, making them effortless to see.  Plus, it’s easier to follow the deer tracks when pushing deer through the woods or tracking the wounded.  Dad said this was the first opening season in years that snow laid on the ground.  So far so good!

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My 1st buck ever! It as a nice size deer, with a small 6 point rack. Cortland, NY 11/15/14

I do love being in the woods, like dad.  There is something so tranquil and calm, especially sitting in a tree stand, overlooking the woods, blanketed in snow, before the darkness lets the light in.  It’s really quite lovely watching the sun paint the sky with a red and yellow glow as daylight approaches.  It seems at that moment, the cold is not bothersome, in fact refreshing.  The anticipation of the day’s events hold your mind hostage, yet keeps you at peace.  A feeling that needs to be experienced, for words do it no justice.

Hunting started out like it typically does, nothing, nothing, nothing, until that something.  Dad saw a deer wondering through the trees.  Actually, the conversation, which consisted in a loud whisper because dad is hard of hearing, went something like this.

Dad:  There!  Past the big stump.  Do you see it?
Me:  Where?
Dad:  There Heather!  Do it see it move its head?  To the right of the (some species of tree).
Me:  Where?
Dad:  Heather!  Look straight down past the big stump! (while there are several large stumps with blown over trees)
Me:   O think I see it! (I did see its backside for a brief moment)
Dad:  Do you see it?  It went behind the trees.
Me:  No.
Dad:  Do you see it now?
Me:  No.
Dad:  Do you see it now?
Me:  No.

Repeat that last part for about a half an hour.  I could not see the deer to save my soul.  At first, I thought I saw it briefly, but then it was behind a cluster of trees and out of my vision, or at least that’s what I’m claiming.  It also took me off guard that my dad, who is in his sixties with questionable eyesight, spotted the deer that far away, at least one hundred fifty yards, through obstacles.  Initially, I was looking closer to us, till I realized dad was looking at a large stump way down over the hill among the trees, through the brush.

The rest of the conversation continued with:
Dad:  There, its moving to the right.  Do you see it?
Me: (as I looked toward the left with my scope)
Dad:  Your other right!
Me:  (I chuckled a bit, for I was starting to get stressed out and flustered) O I see it!  (This time I actually did!)

Hastily, I lined up the deer in my scope and shot through the brush… and missed.  To make sure, dad had me get out of the tree stand and check out the scene to make sure it wasn’t wounded.

Naturally, once on the ground, I couldn’t find the location of the action.  While walking around an area, I looked up to see dad waving me in the right direction.  Now, I was able to really chuckle to myself, for I am always directionally challenged.  Eventually, dad must have been frustrated, so he too got down from the tree stand and trekked toward me to look around.  We saw no signs of the deer and most importantly no blood.  Total miss.  A little disappointing, but the day was still young.

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The trail leading up to our tree stand in Cortland, NY 11/15/14

By the time we got back to the tree stand, dad was stripping off his neck warmer and hat and breathing heavy.  I had to wait for him to enter the stand first, since he’s so large and awkward, it makes it easier on him, and me, to use all the space to get adjusted before I plant my bottom down.  Dad needed to take a minute to catch his breath at the lander, before heading up.  Being a stinker and in not bad shape, I simply said, “Does someone need more cardio?”  Ya, dad gave me a snarly look, but totally worth it.

The next few hours weren’t very exciting, that is until dad pointed out a few does.  Picking out the largest one, I shot her at a close fifty to seventy-five yards.  We went through the process of getting out of the stand again, inspecting the harvest and tagging it with my name, and getting back in the stand again.  Believe it or not, that was my very first deer.  Yes, I did hunt when I was younger, but I never got anything.  I took a hiatus for many years before returning to my roots.

Believe it or not, in less than an hour later, even before I could get cold again, I saw a buck walking through the trees.  This one I spotted on my own.  I now had deer vision.  At this point, my heart was pounding and I was getting nervous.  Once dad spotted the graceful beast, which didn’t take him long, he coached me a bit.  “Wait for it to get out of the brush, don’t try shooting through the brush.”  He spoke in a whisper.  After watching the buck in my sights for what seemed like an hour, it finally gave me a clear shot, with less than a minute window to react at about one hundred twenty-five yards away.  I did, and the result?  I harvested my very first buck!  It was a nice size deer, no doubt I knew it would yield a lot of good meat.  How many points?  The buck had a small rack in relation to its body, but there were six points!  Dad was really proud of me; for the solid shot, for providing food for the table, for my first buck, for my efforts to keep our hunting tradition alive, you name it dad was happy!  He gave me a big old hug and a smile that lit up the already bright sunny blue sky.  It was a good day!  One I will always remember.

Now that my tags were filled, dad was next.  The rest of the day was uneventful, with the exception of gutting and skinning my deer.  That night everyone met at Larry’s house for some late night snacks, to show off everyone’s harvests and to share stories.  We stayed for a good while before our eyelids became heavy and the anticipation of the next day was overwhelming.

Sunday was much like Saturday, only a bit colder.  Early in the day, dad filled his doe tag, but not his buck.  The guys made a rule to those seasoned hunters, that they were only allowed to shoot eight points or better.  The only exception was me and the kids and those who have never shot a buck before.  We were allowed any number of points.  Did we see any bucks at all?  Nope.

Funny story.  During August or September, dad and I made a day trip to Cortland to bring our extra tree stand and help clean up, getting ready for deer season.  On our way back, I noticed all these birds sitting on the highway signs.  I mean, it seemed like thousands of them!  Every time I pointed it out, dad would drive by and miss this gathering of birds.  Repeating this phenomena at least twice, dad missed both.  By the time we came to a third sign, dad looked up and said, “Boy look at all those birds, looks like they’re going to bend the sign!” with total sarcasm.  I looked up to see about three birds sitting on the metal pole.  “Not funny!”  I told dad and tried to justify my observation.  The entire way home and after, dad teased me about the birds that bent the sign.  Whatever!

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The Trooper Hunt Club in Cortland, NY. 1st day of rifle season. I got a buck & doe. Great harvest! 11/15/14

Well, as we sat there, all these geese started flying over head.  Naturally, they were making all kinds of noise.  There must have been a hundred, even though it seemed like a thousand.  The funny part, they flew in small sections, continuously making noise.  It went on for about fifteen minutes.  I couldn’t help myself, I started laughing.  Dad chimed in to say, “I bet they’re going to bend a pole.”  I was cracking up!  It was one of those silly moments, which are rare with my dad, who takes hunting very seriously.

A little later, dad pulled a Kyle.  He got out his trail mix and was trying to open the plastic bag, which was SO noisy.  It sounded like something Kyle would do.  I gave him a look of ‘Are you done yet?’.  That sparked me to say, “Ok, Kyle.”  Dad and I snickered and then started telling Kyle stories to humor ourselves, but mostly because we missed our little man so much.

Where was Kyle?  He wasn’t able to join us on our trip.  He already missed too much school, plus he was sick from the week before, still holding onto a cold.  The trip wasn’t the same without Kyle, but a good regardless.  Everything is more adventurous and fun with Kyle!  Maybe next year.

By Monday, it warmed up a bit, with steady rain ALL day.  It was a cold, bone chilling rain that was not comfortable to sit in.  Being the only ones in the woods, dad and I moved out of our wet spot to another tree stand nearby with a roof.  Well, in my opinion, it was too late since I was already sopping wet.  Dad and I stuck it out till about 2:00 pm or 3:00 pm before calling it a day.  I even hiked through the pine trees to push some deer toward dad with no luck.  We didn’t see any deer and we both knew they were hunkered down not moving, waiting out the rain too.  Eventually, we retreated to the local convenience store for some soup and hot chocolate (dad got coffee).

It took our little space heater in our motel room the rest of the day and all night to dry out our gear.  During our down time, which dad napped a bit, I brought my iPad to get some work done and enjoy the quiet time (with the exception of dad’s snoring).

By Tuesday morning, we decided to hunt a half day and before heading home.  That night the temperatures dropped, forming ice over everything and luckily enough, snow also fell to give some traction to the slick roads.  It was cold!  I mean really, really cold!  The temperatures were in the twenties with major wind, giving the feeling of single digits.  After about two or three hours, we both buckled and went home.  In that time, I walked for about an hour, trying to kick up deer and push them toward dad.  No such luck.  I didn’t even see fresh tracks.  It was time to exit stage right.

I do enjoying hunting, but the best part is spending time with dad in the woods.  God blessed us with a great harvest!  Can’t wait for Pennsylvania’s hunting season to start!  This time I get to hunt with Kyle!

Thank you to Larry, his family and everyone in New York for the hospitality!  I had a great time and I look forward to meeting up with everyone next year.

 

 

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Pets,Reminiscing,Travels and have No Comments

Hunting: Why I Hunt

m4s0n501

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.  ~Maimonides

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Kyle hamming it up on dad’s trail cam. 1/9/11

Recently, I saw a Facebook entry questioning the practice of hunting, especially posting pictures of the harvested deer.  I take that back, I’ve seen many posts praising hunting and many opposing the practice.  I wanted to respond, but I know I couldn’t justify my actions in a few words, however, hopefully I could get my point across to naysayers through a few more words, actually many many more.  I don’t’ want to single anyone out because this is not about bashing, but simply informing and educating.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I can about my family, some of my friends, and me personally.  Sure, there are those who don’t hold the same opinions as I do with respect to hunting, and there are those who give the practice a bad connotation.  Again, I can only outline what I know and hopefully teach through my experiences.

Before I go into detail, I would rather see a picture of a deer harvested from the woods and prepared for dinner, than see it splattered all over the highway.  Over population of deer is very dangerous and a real problem.  That’s why hunting is regulated by the Game Commission and is a legal practice.  Some remote parts of the world only survive on hunting and wild game.  Would you rather a family starve to death, instead of consuming the wild beasts God provided?  Would anyone deny hunting to those tiny communities in Alaska whereas a bear or a moose feeds an entire village?  Guess what?  It takes generations of teaching this skill and a lot of practice to accomplish said goal.  A person can’t just wake up one day and know what to do and the ethical practices with respect to hunting.

FB-entry-Aunt-Heather-PiperIdea of Hunting
Hunting is not about the kill, sure that is in deed what happens, but that is not the true end result.  The absolute result is about providing food for the family; good quality, natural deer meat, which is the healthiest meat to consume and not prepackaged prepared stuff sold in the grocery stores, loaded with preservatives and toxic junk.

My family not only harvests the deer, but we butcher our own meat.  The entire process straight from the woods to the skillet.  Some of the deer meat is canned, (yes it’s very tasty) some made into jerky and bologna and most of it is cut up into steaks and roasts and ground meat to be wrapped and frozen for later consumption.

I don’t judge those who take their meat to another facility to have it butchered.  Some may not know how to cut up a deer, for they were never taught.  Or they don’t have the space and equipment to do so.  The materials for this process alone are expensive and time consuming.  I am blessed because I do know how to cut up a deer and prepare it for storage, and I have the material to do so.  In fact, dad and I are pretty quick at gutting and skinning the deer in the woods and when needed, sectioning it up, especially if it’s freezing cold outside!

From there, my parents have the all the equipment to cut up the meat into steaks, roasts, ground meat, bologna etc, nothing gets wasted.  Growing up, my parents didn’t have much.  No exaggeration.  For my mom to buy box cereal was a luxury item.  However, we never went hungry and my family never asked for a hand out, and no one ever paid our way, not even the government.  Nope, instead we relied on hard work with our garden and hunting to provide food for the table.  Hunting was a means for survival, like it was designed to be.  It was never about the kill but about providing for the table.  Sure it’s also a favorite pastime and hobby, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with combining necessity and fun.

Benny-Chad-Jimmy-Scanlon-Hunting-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Cousins Benny, Chad & Jimmy Scanlon. Chad passed away from a brain tumor 9/4/94 – 5/25/07. They captured every moment they could before his passing.

Picture Taking
Getting back to the idea of taking a picture with the trophy of the hunt.  Taking a picture not only records the actions at that present, but it also captures memories and the reality of survival.  So when I post a picture of me or my nephew or whoever, with a freshly harvested deer, it’s not about showing off death and killing, but pride for being able to be a part of providing for the family.  That is a true honor, which I wish more people would be able to experience.  For if they did, others would learn to respect firearms and their food source more.  Same with gardening.  If more people solely, or mostly lived off of their hard word with gardening, there would be a greater respect for fresh food and healthy eating.

Granted, when my dad was young, picture taking was a rarity (not only because dad didn’t and still doesn’t’ know how to work a camera or phone) because of the generation.  They didn’t have social media, but they did share stories and passing around the horns of the kill instead of taking pictures.  That’s how to teach younger generations to learn what to do and what to expect, through visuals.

Did you know some kids truly don’t know where meat come from?  In some ways, we as a society are becoming to removed from reality.  It’s not healthy and damaging.

I cherish every picture I have of my brother, especially those with my dad and him in the woods, doing what they both loved, hunting.

Above is a picture of my cousins (Benny and Jimmy’s mother was Helen Piper).  The youngest in the picture is Chad Scanlon, my thirteen year old cousin who passed away from a brain tumor.  The Chad Delier Scanlon Story They tried to capture every moment of his short life.  Can you blame them?  Life happens quickly, I wish I would have captured more pictures of Ryan in the woods hunting, with or without the harvested animals.

Keeping Traditions
Hunting is a tradition, a long honored tradition in the Piper family, regardless of gender.  Everyone is treated the same, no one is snubbed in our family when it comes to hunting.  It was always a family activity, my mom, sister, brother, dad, cousins, aunts, uncles and now my nephew.  All aspects of hunting have been learned from generations before.  In fact, my one rifle was handed down from my pap, to my brother, and after his passing, to me.  Eventually, the rifle will end up in Kyle’s hands, Ryan’s son.

There is more to hunting than going out with a rifle, and plugging a deer.  Nope, first is starts with learning to load the shells, shoot, and clean and maintain the firearms.

Loading
All summer long we load our own shells with the exception of .22 bullets, and target shoot at the range.  Loading our own rifle shells is a science and is becoming a lost art.  Recently, I was made aware that not a lot of people know this practice.  Well, I do!  And Kyle does.  Dad has made it a point to pass down his knowledge of loading to us, like he did with Ryan.  It’s really important to dad to keep this tradition alive, and for that I am very grateful.  The more I learn, the more hunting means to me and I appreciate.

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Kyle at the shooting range practicing with bowling pins. 11/10/13

Learning to Shoot
Even target shooting is a real skill.  Sure, it sounds easy going out in the woods and pulling the trigger.  That’s the basis of the action, but there is so much more to it than that.  First, learning to shoot at various distances is a practiced skill.  And learning to shoot through a scope is a big difference between shooting with open sights.

Sometimes the rifle isn’t shooting straight and learning to shoot in a gun to line up the sights properly is another skill.  Yes, there are methods such as taking the rifle to get it boresighted, but that’s not always a guarantee for shooting dead on.

Then, there’s different ways to shoot, off of a guide like a bi-pod or tri-pod, or free standing.  There’s a difference between fifty yards and two hundred yards.  I myself am pretty good up to two hundred yards, at the target range.  There’s a big difference between shooting at a piece of paper with a cross-hair marked in red, and a moving one in the woods.

The woods contain a ton of obstacles including brush and weather conditions and time.  That’s the hardest part for me, waiting, quietly.  Sometimes it takes hours and hours before a deers makes its appearance, if at all.  The deer don’t just show up at a convenient location and wait around for someone to shoot either.  Nope.  They could be running, walking, either head on, walking away or moving side to side, which is ideal to shooting the deer in the front shoulder.  My dad has taught me to drop a deer with one shot, and you know what?  Every time I’ve shot a deer, I dropped it with one bullet, within a minute from the bullet exiting the barrel of my gun.  (please note, I’ve only ever shot three deer to date, and there were misses in there too).  However, it doesn’t always work out that way, even with a seasoned professional like my dad.

Sometimes bullets will ricochet off of brush or trees and cause the bullet to miss it’s intended target spot, or the target wasn’t standing in the ideal angle for a perfect kill. With every bullet fired, dad investigates the potential death of the deer, especially if it’s wounded.  Dad has always, and even in his older age, continues to track EVERY wounded deer, even if it results in miles and miles of tracking.  Dad doesn’t believe in shooting an animal to let it suffer or waste the meat.

Tacking
Even learning to track a deer can be a challenge.  Sure, it’s not so bad when it’s snowing and there is a lot of blood loss, but try it when there’s no mud trail or blood trail and possibly a lot of brush to tackle.

Respecting the Rules
Then, there’s knowing what you are shooting within seconds before pulling the trigger.  Sometimes it’s only buck season, or the rules dictate a certain number of points on the horns.   Rules?  Yes, there are formal rules maintained by the Game Commission and there are unspoken rules, ones that aren’t necessarily illegal, just respectful.  Like what?  Shooting a deer that is bedded down is not very sporting. Shooting a very young deer is not very sporting.  Leaving an animal to waste is not very sporting.  Leaving an animal to suffer on purpose is not very sporting.

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Kyle & Scooby playing on the trail cam. 1/9/11

Learning the Deer Habits
Even before a shot is fired, learning the habits of the deer should be addressed.  Usually we go hiking through the woods in the summer and or fall, preparing for hunting season, following tracks, taking note of rub marks on trees, looking for bedded down grass or weeds where they hunker down, so on and so forth.  Even when sitting during hunting season, deer don’t just jump out waving a flag.

Many times, the hunter needs to have a three hundred sixty degree awareness for all moving animals in the area.  Sometimes looking a couple hundred yards, through crooked trees and brush and branches over rocks into valleys or up hillsides, for an animal that might be creeping like a ninja.  Did I mention sometimes it’s snowing or raining or the sun is shinning in the eyes, not always perfect conditions?

Tree Stands
Tree stands are a relatively new tool used by hunters.  They were more common during archery season, but have been adapted to rifle season as well.  When I was a youngster learning to hunt in the woods, I would sit on a log or a rock.  I was also taught to hunt while walking through the woods, like my dad did for many years.  Or course, it’s a harder on my sixty-some-year-old dad to do that nowadays.  Sure, being in a tree stand does have its advantages, but not always.

Cleaning the Rifles
Throughout the year, the rifles are cleaned and maintained.  Dad has taught us all the proper way to clean and oil our guns, in a safe manner. Usually this is done late summer before hunting season, depending on how much the firearm was shot.

Kyle-&-Dad-at-shooting-range-8-25-13-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Dad & Kyle at target range, shooting in rifles. 8/25/13

Family Bonding
Like dad, I too love being out in the woods, sitting in nature.  It’s very peaceful and serene.  That I chalk up to being a Piper.

Some of my favorite memories with the entire family include hunting.  Even to this day, every time we head to the woods, whether hunting or not, dad always seems to reminiscence about Ryan and their time together in the woods.  Those memories are priceless.  Even my First Day of Hunting – My Story was an adventure that still cracks me up to this day.  Not to mention all the stories I can tell about Kyle and his own hunting adventures with us.

Hunting isn’t something that started with my dad’s generation, or my pap’s generation, but generations upon generations before.  This is the means people have practiced for survival since the beginning of time. It saddens me to see these true traditions are slipping away to the unknown or criticized when they are a part of everyone’s roots, like it or not.  My dad is a true hunter, even in his older age.  He has this sense about him that can’t be taught, but is either innately built in or has been engrained over the years.  Something I haven’t seen a lot of, something I wish I possessed.

Hunting-season-NY-11-15-14-Aunt-Heather-Piper

A portion of the woods in Cortland, New York for deer season. 11/15/14

Granted, I didn’t address everything including safety, pushing deer, and all about sportsmanship.  But after going through all this, I believe taking a picture of my hard work is justifiable.  Perhaps, many people don’t like to view these images and prefer to live in ignorance with blinders on.  If the pictures are offensive, hiding the posts are in everyone’s right.  But remember, it’s all about the intent of the action, not the perceived intent, but the actual intent.  I don’t believe the pictures I’ve seen are malicious in any way, simply a picture of accomplishment.

I would never choke my way of life down anyone’s throat, never.  But I also would never speak out against something I don’t understand or have never experienced.  God made us all different so we would rely on each other and learn from one another.  (As long as what we’re doing it morally responsible)  Personally, I invite anyone that criticizes or speaks ill of hunting, that has not experience the tradition, to join me for one hunting season.  Not to shoot, but to assist me in most aspects that I’ve discussed, at least before speaking out negatively with the time honored practice.

Sure not a lot of hunters know what I have been taught, and there are a lot of hunters who give hunting a bad reputation, but the only way to change that is to maintain the true way of hunting, and to pass along the respect I have been taught to the young generations.  Happy Hunting!

On a side note, Hunting-of-a-Lifetime does a lot with kids dealing with terminal diseases.  The Chad Delier Scanlon Memorial Fund sponsors a youngster every year who always wanted to hunt.  I believe the families of these kids cherish the pictures of their child with the harvested animal.

 

This is a great article with respect to hunting.

www.fox23.com_f90cd3f076f74cdb89dfb24d35c86acd

 

 

*Look for another post telling about my adventures hunting with dad in New York this past weekend.

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Painting Warmachine

People do not change, they are merely revealed.  ~Anne Enright

Kyle-modeling-a-book-bag-2012-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle modeling a drawstring book bag for Thrill of the Hunt c. 2012

Kyle’s newest interest is called Warmachine.  Warmachine Tournament  It’s a game that young and old play, whereas the players purchase an army of models and battle each other in tournaments and in fun games.  Even though it’s more in depth than that, that’s my boiled down version.

Warmachine consists of model figures, some plastic and some metal.  The players not only glue their pieces together to reveal the creature or warrior, they also paint them and add embellishments for a desired effect, depending on the army.  There are actual competitions for best artwork!  Yep, in the Warmachine world, these model pieces are a really BIG DEAL!  Participating in the actual game holds no interest to me, unlike Kyle’s Aunt Nikki, but I sure can get into painting.  Kyle knows it!

Last weekend, Kyle wasn’t feeling his best.  He was all congested and just plain miserable.  As the weekend progressed, Kyle was starting to heal and come back to the land of healthy.  As a result, he was feeling a little bit crafty, which in turn made me a bit crafty.  Only because he recruited me to help him paint his Warmachine figurines.

Because Kyle was Pushing My Buttons a few weeks ago, I took away his new Warmachine models as punishment.  A threat that resonated with him BIG TIME.  He didn’t get these game pieces back until last Saturday.  Since he was being so good, and he really was, and I felt bad for him being sick, I buckled and returned his models.  Boy was that chicken soup for his soul, he lit up with pure excitement!

I love doing activities with Kyle, some more so than others, but this one I will admit I do enjoy.  We both sat in the living-room with his chess size figurines that he had previously glued and primered, and began adding color and accenting armor weaponry.  Kyle dictated the color schemes for each, and I gladly followed his instructions, enjoying our quiet time.  After all, it’s his game and I’m just a worker bee.

While painting with a very fine paint brush, trying to use a steady hand, Kyle admitted to me that this was his least favorite part of Warmachine.  In a way I had that feeling, for Kyle is not much of a crafty kid, nor was he ever into coloring and painting.  Even as a youngster, I tried to get him interested in art, drawing and painting with him and taking him to gallery shows and museums, but nope Kyle is genetically designed for other interests, and I guess that includes Warmachine.

Kyles-Warmachine-Figurines-11-2014-Aunt-Heather-Piper-

Kyle’s Warmachine figurines 11/2014

My family and I support Kyle’s interest in Warmachine one hundred percent, in moderation of course.  I’m truly glad he found something he enjoys and is not mind numbing or troublesome for the soul.  From what I’ve seen and experienced, Warmachine is an interactive strategy game that is a challenge for all players and requires the use of the brain and pure thinking.  Basically it’s a board game, just a little unconventional, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

posted by auntheather in Education & Learning,Family,Patience,Video Games & Games and have No Comments

Latrobe Theme & Variations Art Gala

All art is autobiographical; the pearl is the oyster’s autobiography.  ~Federico Fellini

Mom-&-friends-at-Latrobe-Art-Gala-11-6-14-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Latrobe Art Gala in the auditorium. Mom, Aunt Carol, Kathy Dominick & Donna Fannie 11/6/14

Last Tuesday mom, Aunt Carol and I, attended the Theme and Variations art gala at the Greater Latrobe High School.  This wasn’t a typical high school function.  Nope!  When Latrobe does something, we go all out, turning the already elegant school entrance way into a ballroom with stations upon stations of hors d’oeuvres and refreshments.  The art not only included the impressive school collection consisting of hundreds of pieces of work from established artists curated over the years, but it also included the art hand chosen for the gala.  Again, local artists.

Like many, I too take Latrobe’s art collection for granted.  Our school halls have always been decorated with an eclectic arrangement of artists using a variety of mediums, even before my grandpap Chester, along with Mr. Fred Rogers graduated from Latrobe in 1937 at the old school (currently Latrobe Elementary School, LES) and long before my mom, who was the first graduating class from the new high school (current location), my Alma Mater.  While studying art in high school, we were exposed to the culture that surrounded us on a daily basis.  Personally, I wish I knew more about our collection and was required to do so.  I have always been proud of the acquired art, and that pride has only intensified over the years.  Trying to  get that message across to Kyle is a bit of a challenge, or perhaps he does get it but doesn’t want to give me the satisfaction of showing it, either or are very possible with Kyle.

My-Neighor-by-Kathy-Rafferty-11-6-14-Aunt-Heather-Piper

A piece in the Latrobe art collection, My Neighbor by Kathy Rafferty

When speaking with those who have not been exposed to Latrobe High School, I always forget about our influence by culture in the arts is a rarity.  A privilege not a lot of schools and their students experience.  I’ve actually encountered individuals from other learning facilities who were amazed at the quality of the school, especially the art that lines the halls.  Usually the comments consist something like “Do they ever get vandalized?” and “How do you protect your art?”.  Seriously, until those questions were brought to light, I never thought about it.  You see, much like a family, it’s all how your were raised.  Latrobe students were raised on the arts, at the very least exposed to it early on.  There is always an underlying respect for our collection, which I believe resonates in the minds of the students, whether they are aware of it or not.  Like anything, introducing a child to something early and it will be a part of them for life.  Unfortunately, sometimes those privileges are taken for granted.

Latrobe is also known for our music programs, athletics and academic excellence, but today I’m focusing on the arts, my personal passion.

What was this gala about?  It was an event, not only to view and appreciate local artists, but it was a way to bring the community together to vote on the next piece of art joining the collection.  Yes, everyone attending had a vote, as did the Latrobe schools: elementary, junior high and high school.   This function brings young and old together, from people of all art appreciation levels and understandings, and all sorts of backgrounds.

Portrait-Study-by-Mara-Light-Latrobe-Art-Gala-11-6-14-Aunt-Heather-Piper

The winner of the art gala at Latrobe High School is titled Portrait Study by Mara Light 11/6/14

In my opinion, Latrobe should be used as an example for surrounding and national schools alike.  I believe we have discovered a simple underlying solution to respect for the community, our heritage and ourselves.  It not only is present in the art, but how we elevate the arts and bring everyone together to celebrate in our local accomplishments.

When discussing the subject matter of art, the question of ‘What is art?’ always comes to mind.  Perhaps it was my education going through the art program at Seton Hill University that always has me thinking, for we were asked to define that very question.  To me art is history, whether it’s art imitating life or life imitating art, it can’t be denied, it’s history.  There is a specific year always tied to a piece, or sometimes several years.  Looking at the paintings displayed at Latrobe High School, usually the year it was completed, directly reflects the happenings at the time, although not always.  Still art is a time piece that can be and should be revisited time and time again.

So who was the winner?  It was Portrait Study by Mara Light.  Her painting also ranked among the ones selected by the students.  It’s a beautiful piece of mixed media that included gauze as part of the painting.  A truly striking painting that captured my attention immediately.

It was a wonderful night of beautiful artwork, all stunning and very talented artists!  I can’t wait until next year’s gala.  I wish I was more involved in the arts, after all, Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas are very supportive.

It’s great to see Latrobe excelling in all aspects of learning, especially with their continued interest and support for the arts over all these years.  Go Wildcats!

Below is the program booklet from Tuesday.  I scanned it to give credit to all the artists,  the donors,  and to all of those who helped organize the event.  Thank you!

Latrobe-Art-Gala-Booklet-1-11-6-14-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Latrobe-Art-Gala-Booklet-2 11-6-14 Aunt Heather Piper

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Latrobe-Art-Gala-Booklet-4-11-6-14-Aunt-Heather-Piper

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,News,Observation & Imagination and have No Comments

Random Fun Facts: Seton Hill University

I would wish to fit you for that world in which you are destined to live.  ~Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

Educate a woman and you educate generations.  ~Sr. M. De Chantal Leis

Seton-Hill-University-Panel-Dr.-Giunta-Mike-Aunt-Heather-Piper-11-4-14

Me, Dr. Catherine Giunta & Mike Fecik at Seton Hill University for the Customer Centricity Panel, Cecilian Hall 11/4/14

This past Tuesday, I was asked to be a part of the Customer Centricity panel at Seton Hill University.  Dr. Catherine Giunta, my adviser when I attended Seton Hill for marketing management, asked me to join the panel, totaling of three alumni.  In fact, I’ve been included as part of the venue every year since its inception in 2011.

Speaking to Dr. Giunta’s MBA and undergraduate business majors is an honor, one I enjoy.  Not because I like to build presentations, which I do, but because it helps me reflect on Thrill of the Hunt and my own business model.  It’s a great exercise to go through to truly reevaluate the direction of the company and it recharges my energies when discussing my start-up and the progress made.  Having students interested in Thrill of the Hunt and inquire about the steps and the processes I took to get to present day, is inspirational.  Plus, public speaking is a talent that needs to be exercised.  This is a perfect way to do so.

Over the years, Thrill of the Hunt has built scavenger hunts for Seton Hill’s homecoming block party Discovering Greensburg in the Rain, Scavenger Hunts – Getting Our Start at Seton Hill University & Continuing and as part of the alumni weekend activities.  Building these scavenger hunts are a lot of fun and educational, not only for those participating in the scavenger hunt, but for me as well.  I try to incorporate history or fun trivia as part of the game, in turn, I usually learn a thing or two.

Since I’ve spoken about Random Fun Facts:  Saint Vincent College and Random Fun Facts:  Latrobe, Pennsylvania, why not my old Alma Mater?  Join me as I outline some of the history that created the tree lined drive, to the top of the hill.  Seton Hill, a place where a whole new world exists, one that is working to make a difference with its students and community.

Random Fun Facts:  Seton Hill University

Sullivan-Hall-Seton-Hill-University-Aunt-Heather-Piper-2004

My black & white photography, Sullivan Hall at Seton Hill University 2004

History

  • Founded in 1885 as a college (Seton Hill Conservatory of Music & Seton Hill Conservatory of Art)
  • Seton Hill was named in honor of Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton,  founder of the Sisters of Charity & the 1st American-born saint

A statue of her is in the lower level of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.  On one of my trips to visit my sister, Nicole, mom and myself went to mass there & toured the Catholic Church.

  • August 7, 1882, Mother Aloysia Lowe (Mother Superior of the Pennsylvania Sisters of Charity) purchased the hilltop farmland for the site of a Mother House for the Sisters in the region
  • The farmland was known as the Jennings farm
  • In 1883, Saint Joseph Academy, boarding school for girls was established & operated until 1947
  • In 1914, the Sisters opened the Seton Hill Junior College & in 1918, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania approved Seton Hill’s charter for a four-year institution of higher learning
  • April 21, 1887, the cornerstone for the new building was laid in place
  • Everyone in attendance of the ground breaking ceremony, each signed their name to a scroll of paper that was placed in the cornerstone of the building (along with a medal, rosary, or relic from each, copies of the newspapers of the day, a number of rare coins, & pictures of Bishops Phelan & Tuigg)
  • 1887 – the Sisters’ Mother House were permanently & officially established at Seton Hill
  • 1887 – 1st year a class graduated from Saint Joseph Academy (The Saint Joseph Academy class of 1887 consisted of Sarah Sullivan, Rose Padden, Anastasia Casey & Alice Akers)
  • 1889 – Saint Mary’s Preparatory School for Boys moved from Blairsville, Pennsylvania to Saint Mary Convent at Seton Hill (since then always referred to as Saint Mary’s Hall)
  • 1908 – Maura Hall (originally called Saint Mary’s Seminary) was completed to serve the boys of Saint Mary’s School
  • Seton Hill was a working farm from time of purchase until the 1960s
  • In 1909 the original barn, located near the bend in the current drive burned to the ground
  • In 1911, The Pennsylvania Railroad built a new road to bridge the gap between Seton Hill’s hilltop buildings to College Avenue at the bottom of the hill  (prior to, it was a long wooden boardwalk)
  • 1914 – The Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes was built in a wooded alcove below the Administration Building (remains to this day)
  • April 1916 the coal rights to 18 acres of the property were sold.  The proceeds were used to fund the construction of new buildings
  • 1921 – Mother Mary Raymond Creed was inaugurated as 2nd president of Seton Hill
  • 1923 – Saint Joseph Dormitory completed
  • 1924 – Saint Mary’s School for Boys discontinued
  • October 25, 1929 – official opening of Sullivan Hall (called the activities building for nearly 20 years)
  • 1930 – Seton Hill establishes its Honors Program
  • 1931 – Rev. James A. Wallace Reeves inaugurated as 5th president of Seton Hill
  • September 30, 1958 Reeves Library was dedicated (named for Seton Hill’s 5th president)
  • Reeves Library houses Reeves Theatre & Harlan Gallery
  • Fall of 1958 – Havey Hall opened (Havey Hall named after the 1st president of the College, Mother Mary Joseph Havey)
  • Fall of 1965 – Brownlee Hall (named for Sr. Francesca Brownlee, 1st academic dean of the College) opened
  • 1970 – Sr. Mary (Thecla) Schmidt inaugurated as 7th president of Seton Hill
  • 1970 – the Clay Frick Lynch Hall of Science completed (commonly known as Lynch Hall)
  • September 14, 1975 – Elizabeth Ann Seton was canonized (founder of the Sisters of Charity)
  • In 1986 – the School of Fine Arts began accepting male students interested in pursuing majors in art, theatre, communication & music
  • 1987 – JoAnne Boyle, Ph.D. (a 1957 graduate of Seton Hill) was inaugurated as 9th president
  • 1987 – National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education as established at Seton Hill (in response to Pope John Paul II to recognize the significance of the Holocaust and to “promote the necessary historical and religious studies on this event which concerns the whole of humanity today”)
  •  April 19, 2005 – McKenna Center Opened (The Katherine Mabis McKenna Center)
  • September 2009 – the Performing Arts Center opened (73,000 square foot)
Saint-Joseph-Chapel-Seton-Hill-Univsersity-2004-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Saint Joseph Chapel at Seton Hill University. My color photography 2004

Saint Joseph Chapel

  • On November 18, 1896 – Saint Joseph Chapel (“the heart of Seton Hill”) was dedicated
  • Pillars of rose Georgian marble & side altars of Carerra marble
  • 18 stained glass windows (including 2- 16 foot rose windows & a circular angel window in the ceiling above the altar)
  • Hand carved wooden pews
  • Artist Mother Joseph Doran directed the construction of the chapel & designed the stained-glass figures in its south front doors
  • Donations from the families & friends of the Sisters furnished the chapel including gold jewelry, which was melted down & reformed as a halo for the statue of the Virgin Mary
  • Above the main entrance stained glass window depicts the values dear to the  Sisters of Charity: humility, simplicity & charity (actual words are part of the stain glass)
  • Pipe organ was donated by Andrew Carnegie a few years after the chapel’s completion
  • The wing housing Saint Joseph Chapel contains Cecilian Hall (The same hall I spoke in for the Customer Centricity Panel)
  • November 11, 1998 the Tenzin Gyatso (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet) visited Seton Hill Mister Fred Rogers  introduced the Dalai Lama at the 1st public lecture
  • 2011 – The 112-year-old Administration Building re-opened (3-years of renovation)
  • 2002 -Seton Hill College was granted University status by the Pennsylvania Department of Education & became Seton Hill University
  • 2002 – Seton Hill officially became coeducational
  • September 2004 – Farrell Hall (residence hall named for former president Eileen Farrell) opened
Admin-Building-Seton-Hill-University-2004-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Administration Building at Seton Hill University. Black & white photography 2004

General

  • 35 miles east from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Mascot is the Griffin
  • The legendary medieval character, the griffin has a head, beak & wings of an eagle & the body & tail of a lion As per the myth, griffins are blessed with the speed, flight & penetrating vision of the eagle, & the strength, courage & majesty of the lion.  Symbolically this represents the combination of intelligence & strength
  • School colors are crimson and gold
  • University motto is Hazard yet Forward
  • Originally the campus sat on 200 acres of old farmland, near downtown Greensburg, Pennsylvania

Curriculum

  • In 1914, the Sisters began further their education to prepare to teach college level courses
  • In 1914 the Seton Junior College opened to provide 2-years of college instruction for women
  • 1992 – The National Education Center for Women in Business (re-named E- Magnify in 2006), was established
  • In 2006 – E- Magnify achieved designation as a Women’s Business Center (WBC) by the U.S. Small Business Administration
  • 1995 – Seton Hill College offered first 2 graduate programs (Master of Arts in Elementary Education & a Master of Arts in Art Therapy)
  • 2,000+ students attend the university from across the U.S. & around the world
  • 80 + undergraduate, 8 graduate degree programs offered & an adult degree program & advanced certifications in a variety of disciplines
Window-of-Admin-At-Seton-Hill-University-2004-Aunt-Heather-Piper

I had to lean out a top floor window from the Admin Building at Seton Hill University to get this shot.  Worth it!  What a beautiful view of Greensburg, Pa.  2004

There is so much more to Seton Hill than what is listed above.  The school will always have a soft spot in my heart, not only for my scholastic education, but also my cultural exposure, and the opportunities it gave me to shape my professional career and later my entrepreneur journey.  Seton Hill is like an old friend, one that has been with me through many ups and downs in my life, and has helped me through life in one way or another, while attending and post graduation.  The students, past and present, and facility are very special and are monumental to shaping lives.  I received so much more from Seton Hill than what my diplomas state.  Hazard Yet Forward!

Resoureces
http://www.setonhill.edu/aboutus/history_and_traditions/then_and_now and the Westmoreland Historic Society (books and newspaper clippings)
posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,News,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts,Reminiscing,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts and have No Comments

I Met Annabelle!

There’s things that happen in a person’s life that are so scorched in the memory and burned into the heart that there’s no forgetting them.  ~John Boyne

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Skyping with Aunt Nikki … Kyle & I thought she looked creepy so we took a screen shot! 2012

Fall has always been my favorite time of the year, especially Halloween.  It’s also that time when all the ghosts and ghouls come out, especially on the big screen, but this one freaked me out.  For a few weeks now, the movie Annabelle has been advertising.  With the repeats of the advertisement, I had a weird feeling I’ve heard that story before, except I didn’t recollect the doll in the movie, just the name Annabelle and the story of a possessed doll.  Weird right?

With every advertisement and the mention the possessed Annabelle doll, my memory kept flickering to the past but couldn’t quite place it.  Then, it seemed like every time I searched the web using my iPhone or iPad, a pop up ad would appear with the face of this creepy doll, promoting the movie.  Let me tell you, it ALWAYS scared the crap out of me!  One, because it was the face of a creepy doll and two, I knew this story was familiar and it was haunting me.  Again, the doll’s face I didn’t recognize, yet the name Annabelle I knew.  I know, I sound like I was being hypersensitive to the ads, but they did feel like they were following me and I couldn’t shake the feeling I knew Annabelle.  What the heck?

As a kid, I did have a few dolls, mostly Barbie but I wasn’t one of those girls who kept them long, nor did I drag them around everywhere.  I had a blanket for that, which I won’t get into now, perhaps in time I’ll share the story of my banky (blanket).  So it’s not like baby dolls resonate with me or bring back childhood memories.  (Not like my blanket)  Why was I connecting with Annabelle?

Then, out of the blue it hit me.  I finally remembered the story I heard years ago.  I had to ask Nicole to confirm it and I was right!  While the commercial played its thirty second clip, my memory surfaced bringing with it a face of the person who told me the story, Lorraine Warren!  She’s the director of The New England Society for Psychic Research, and better known for her involvement in the Amityville horror case.  How in the world do I know her and why was she telling me the story of Annabelle?

There’s a very good explanation, my sister!  For years, my sister followed the Paranormal State crew around to the haunted places.  Let me step back to explain, Paranormal State was a paranormal reality television show on A&E.  The show’s stars were the members of the Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) Paranormal Research Society.  No joke!  A bunch of Penn State students created this club for dealing with creepy things.  I guess being a Penn State Alumna and a fan of all things haunted, Nicole’s interest found its home.

This group of ghost hunters traveled all around the United States conjuring up spirits.  Sometimes, they would hold seminars and give talks regarding their latest scary encounters and tell their ghost stories.  Naturally, Nicole followed the group on Facebook and Twitter and attended these events, sometimes dragging me along.  How could I resist an excuse to travel?

One trip I took with Nicole was to the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado in October of 2009.  Yes, the very hotel where the master of horror wrote The Shining, which I did get to see his room where he wrote the thriller, coincidentally our room was right beside it.

On a side note, the movie wasn’t actually shot at that location, but Dumb and Dumber was!  At least that’s what they told us when we toured the hotel.

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Kyle as Jay Jay the Jet Plane accompanied by is Aunt Nikki. At first he was afraid to put the costume on, thinking he was really going to fly away! 10/2004

Anyway, it was a fun trip, which included a Halloween party and bunch of paranormal seminars, which I did find some interest, but not like Nicole.  That’s when I first met Lorraine Warren and heard the story of Annabelle.  I must admit, I was quite intrigued and creeped out at the same time.  On that very trip, I also met Father Bob Bailey  from the Prasesidium Sancte Michele Arcangelo (The Praesidium of Warriors of St. Michael).  They are a group of trained priests who perform exorcisms and deal with demonic activity.  I know it sounds like a joke, but it’s true!  My CCD teacher informed our class a few years ago that the Catholic church was in the process of training additional priests to deal with the increase of demonic activity around the world.  Every diocese is to have one of these trained priests stationed on location to deal with any of these special cases.  It’s very real and I feel we need it.  After all, a perfectly normal man doesn’t just one day become possessed and start eating the face off of a homeless man for nothing, in the middle of a street, in the middle of the day.  I believe crazy events like this happen more than we are aware and demons are the root cause for these unusual and extreme inhuman cases.  www.foxnews.com/us/2012/05/29/victim-in-face-chewing-attack-identified-as-cops-recount-goriest-crime      

After my introduction of the paranormal gang, which all the attendees seemed to know each other for their shared interest and traveling together, I was requested by Nicole to meet her in Gettysburg, a year or two later for another weekend of spook fun.

Knowing I love Gettysburg, I couldn’t resist joining Nicole, not to mention Gettysburg isn’t that far from my house.  Deciding I didn’t want an entire weekend of chasing vapor around, I thought I’d take Kyle for an educational mini vacation.  Plus, it was an opportunity for Kyle to spend some time with his Aunt Nikki.  Ghostly Encounter in the Hallway

While we were there taking in the sights of all things historical, Nicole wanted to meet up with us occasionally.  I distinctly remember one of those meetings we met my sister.  That Friday night after we got in, we met Nicole at an old house of some sort.  It was very brisk outside while we waited in line in the dark with others of ghostly interests.

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Ferry kids trick-or-treating mom & dad & Kyle. 2003

On another side note, someone in front of us in line was smoking and the smoke kept blowing in our direction.  Poor Kyle, who has always suffered congestion and sinus issues, was coughing a little just getting over being sick.  Naturally, the toxic air seemed to head directly for his nose.  I know we were outside, but it still doesn’t take away the pollutants.  I’ve never hid my disgust for smoking, and Kyle is clearly aware of my feelings for the repulsive habit.  He also knows that smoke assists in making him sick and isn’t good for his little lungs.  As we stood there, Kyle tattled on these strangers, “Aunt Heather their smoking!  Tell them they can’t smoke around me.”  Yep, that’s my little man, stand up for yourself and call a spade a spade.  I was not happy about the smoke choking me either, so instead of making a scene, I moved us out of direct contact until it was our turn to enter the house.  Nicole took one for the team and kept our place in line.

Once we got inside, I fully understood what it was we were waiting to see, evil objects.  Yes, it was a room or two (I can’t remember) of all sorts of objects laid out on tables with signs asking ‘Do Not Touch’.  Each object had a story associated with it, some kind of story of evil or possession.  I wasn’t liking Kyle, only about nine or so, exposed to evil like this, but now he was intrigued and wanted to stay.  Did I mention it was warmer in there than waiting for my sister outside?

One of the hosts of the event was Lorraine!  We meet again!  Not that she knew who I was, for I was just a person in the crowd but I remember her very clearly from Colorado.  This time her story of Annabelle was different, this time she actually brought the possessed Annabelle doll!  Yes, the real Raggedy Ann doll! (Not the doll they portrayed in the movie)  At first blush, the doll did seem very creepy.  Then, add the story to it, and total scary!

While inside, they asked that no one touch anything for fear of spirits attaching to someone.  They informed us prior to handling any of these objects, they would wash their hands in holy water and a priest was present to offer blessings.  Kyle being Kyle and ALWAYS following the rules, was very careful not to come close to anything, not that I would have allowed it to happen.  Although, at one point, as I was reaching over a few items to point to something or examine an item closer, and Kyle instantly grabbed my arm and yelled, “No Aunt Heather!”  He took me a little off guard and almost shifted me off balance, where I would have fallen directly on the table of strange objects.  That’s my little man, always caring for his Aunt Heather!  Like I’ve always told him, “We do look out for each other because we are a team”.

So what is the story of Annabelle?  Below is a part of the story taken directly from the Warren website.  If you want the full story visit this website.  It’s really quite eery and unsettling.  www.warrens.net/Annabelle.html

In 1970 a mother purchased an antique Raggedy Ann Doll from a hobby store. The doll was a present for her daughter Donna on her birthday. Donna, at the time, was a student in college, preparing to graduate with her nursing degree and resided in a tiny apartment with her room mate Anngie (a nurse as well). Pleased with the doll Donna placed it on her bed as a decoration and didn’t give it a second thought until a few days later. With in that time both Donna and Angie noticed that there appeared to be something very strange and creepy about the doll. The doll apparently moved on its own, relatively unnoticeable movements at first, like a change in position, but as time passed the movement became more noticeable. Donna and Angie would come home to find the doll in a completely different room from which they had left it . Sometimes the doll would be found crossed legged on the couch with its arms folded , other times it was found upright, standing on its feet, leaning against a chair in the dining room. Several times Donna, placing the doll on the couch before leaving for work, would return home to find the doll back in her room on the bed with the door closed.

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing,Travels and have No Comments

Headless Horseman … Favorite Halloween Story

There is a serene and settled majesty to woodland scenery that enters into the soul and delights and elevates it, and fills it with noble inclinations.  ~Washington Irving
Kyle-and-Gram-Halloween-2002-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle a.k.a. the lion on his 1st Halloween (actually his 2nd for we didn’t take him trick-or-treating after Ryan’s passing) with Gram Alice, who’s scarier? 10/2002

Ever since I was a little tyke, I’ve always loved Halloween.  Obviously, at that time I enjoyed the trick-or-treating, and as I got older I participated in bagging (a Latrobe Halloween tradition) Halloween of Years Past.  Soon after, Halloween took on a partying feel as an adult and then back to the beginning with trick-or-treating, now only as an accomplice to my little monster, as Kyle became a part of my life.

I didn’t properly introduced Kyle to the act of bagging only because he never really cared for such activities like I did.  There are many other ways to enjoy the holiday, and yes, Halloween is a holy day of obligation.  Besides trick-or-treaking and getting dressed and gorging on candy and hopefully making it to mass, Halloween is celebrated through movies!  Just turn on the television and Halloween is repeated over and over, same as years past.

Yes, I will admit, I do look forward to the Halloween classics, which I don’t give a second thought to any other time of the year.  Like what?  There was a time when I got caught up in the Nightmare on Elm Street movies and Poltergeist and the Halloween series.  Then, there’s the real classics likes Psycho and the Exorcist, again I love any story based off of truth.  But not all movies have to be that scary, and yes I do consider those scary.  They might be old classics by now, but they still provoke a nightmare or too when the lights are out.  I love Hokus Pokus and Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein and Monster Squad.  The Addams Family Values is a great one that brings back my love of the original television show the Addams Family. I was such a fan, that I named my cat Morticia.

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Mario & crew for Halloween. Front: Nick as Mario & Kyle as Bowser (yes I made that entire costume!) Back: Holly as Luigi & me as red shy guy. 2011

Although my personal all time favorite Halloween story is the Legend of Sleepy Hollow.  You know, the story of Ichabod Crane and the headless horseman.  I’ve always been fascinated with the creepy faceless (headless to be exact) rider, terrorizing the night on a dark horse.  Sure, I too like the other scarey stories of haunted houses and poltergeists, but something about the headless horseman has always fascinated me.   Perhaps it’s the history associated with it, a small town post American Revolution in the 1790’s (I’ve always been a history buff); or it’s because the story is based off of real life with the elements of fiction sewn into the storyline.  That’s my favorite, when stories could very well be real, especially when the author, in this case Washington Irving, used real names of actual people and landmarks to describe his story, a real place in New York.  Maybe it’s because the story is a bit of folklore and a legend, remade over and over again in movies and cartoons, making its appearance every Halloween; OR perhaps it’s because the setting is in the woods, a place of perceived solitude, mystery and wonder, one of my favorite places to regain my thoughts.  My guess?  It’s the combination of all of the above that intrigues me, making the Legend of Sleepy Hollow my favorite.

Knowing all that, it’s certainly no secret that one of my best-loved Halloween movies is Sleepy Hollow with Johnny Depp Oooh I like Johnny Depp!  I mean the story of the headless horseman AND Johnny Depp ALL in one movie!  A win win in my opinion.  It’s my choice of style for a movie, suspense and creepy, yet no obvious gore and unnecessary language or adult situations, a clean scary story.  I’m not a big fan of blood and guts and excess violence.  Sure there might have been a time when I looked for all the stage show, but not really any more, I prefer the simpler things.  When it comes to scary movies, I believe less is more.  Like Jaws, you know from the sound of the music playing that the shark was approaching or going to strike, yet you didn’t see a lot of anything.  Now that’s suspense!  Totally scary in my opinion.

Yes, I am aware there is a show on television called Sleepy Hollow, again based off of the legend, along with their own creative interpretations.  One would think I would be all over that show, but alas I don’t watch much television, and I never was able to get into it.  Maybe I like to save the headless horseman strictly for Halloween, it makes it special and something to look forward to.

What kind of scary does Kyle like to watch?  None.  I mean that, he couldn’t even handle watching a preview for The Conjuring or The Woman in Black with Kyle’s favorite Danielle Radcliffe, Mr. Harry Potter himself.  Nope.  Kyle won’t even entertain the idea, and has to turn his head when he sees a commercial or a preview playing containing something scary, forget the blood and guts!  I’ll admit Kyle will watch Sleepy Hollow with me and movies like The Dark Knight, but that’s the extent of his “scary” movie interest.  Nothing wrong with that, I’d rather he protects his mind from unnecessary fright and evil.

My sister on the other hand was the reason I saw movies like Children of the Corn, Pet Cemetery and It as a kid.  She used to read the master of horror, Stephen King himself.  That’s probably the biggest difference between those two.   Nicole looks for ghosts and Kyle chooses to ignore any idea of such scary things.     

No matter what type of scary is your favorite, if any, I hope everyone has a safe and fun Halloween!

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Pittsburgh Has the “Ugliest” Accent?

Just growing up in Pittsburgh and knowing different neighborhoods, having family there and just loving it, it’s like no other place.  ~Wiz Khalifa
Pittsburgh entered the core of my heart when I was a boy and cannot be torn out.  ~Andrew Carnegie
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Me, Kyle & mom on the Gateway Clipper in Pittsburgh, Pa. We rode the locks & dams!  Kyle has a blast, he was 5 yrs old.   8/5/06

Growing up about an hour east of Pittsburgh, roughly 45 miles or so, I do consider myself a Pittsburgher, secondary to being a Latrobean.  Random Fun Facts:  Latrobe, Pennsylvania  Pennsylvania is known as the Keystone State and tucked away in the lower left corner, better known as Western Pennsylvania, lies the city of Pittsburgh.  It’s our own piece of the world and it’s a great place to visit, and for me, to call home.

Over the years, I’ve traveled and explored other areas of our beautiful planet, but I’ve always returned.  Why?  Because this is my birthplace, my home, and it’s a great place to live!  Sure we have our quirks, but nothing beats the landscape of the Laurel Mountains, the three rivers, the art and the quaint communities surrounding Pittsburgh and the suburbs.  Nothing!

Recently, Pittsburgh has been voted as having the “Ugliest Accent” from Gawker.com’s “America’s Ugliest Accent” tournament.  Do I care?  Not really.  I’m proud of our city with everything it has to offer, and its hard working and loyal people.  After all, no one can claim to have die hard sports fans like we do with our “Stillers” (Steelers), Steeler Nation, the Pirates (baseball) and the Penguins (hockey).  We are world renowned for our hospitals and doctors and recently, the Pittsburgh area has caught the attention of the movie industry and celebrities alike.  Not to mention there are plenty of famous individuals who call Pittsburgh home or have close ties with our city, including Andrew Carnegie (the Carnegie Museum), Gene Kelly, Michael Keaton, Billy Gardell, Christina Aguilera and our world famous artist, Andy Warhol.  Not a bad line up.

We have Heinz ketchup!  Say no more.

Sure, we used to be known for our “still mills” (steel mills), but times have changed.  And sure, we don’t progress as quickly as other cities, but slow and steady seem to win the race, especially with respect to the cost of living.  Our area wasn’t hit hard by the housing market crash, no major spikes and valleys here.  Pittsburgh, like its steel is cool, smooth and solid.

I read somewhere, Pittsburgh averages more rainfall and “partly clawdy” (partly cloudy) days a year than Seattle, Washington.  I don’t know who won that race, but I can attest for our fickle weather that usually hides the sun.   Personally, I don’t mind the rain and clouds, for when the sun does shine we appreciate it all the more.

As a student in school, I was taught proper grammar, like most, learning the difference between slang and proper English.  It’s true, we are an educated bunch, so don’t let the “ugly” accent fool you.  We are fully aware of our creative and very recognizable Pittsburgh language, but are very proud of it.  In fact, I’m sure since I’ve started writing this blog, I’ve slipped in a few slang terms, or at least I started to until spell check didn’t realize I was from the Pittsburgh area.

My Pittsburgh accent isn’t as throughout as some, but I do “redd up” my room and walk through “jaggers” in the woods and “chitchat” with friends and offer them a “pop”, even though I don’t drink soda or “pop”.  Sometimes it gets “slippery” when “yinz” are walking across one of our great bridges.  Yes, we have more bridges than Venice!  Sunday’s I find myself  loafin’ around while my mom “worshes” the dishes with water from the “spicket”.  Now that’s one I personally can’t stand!  I’ve never put an “r” in my wash, EVER, and I never will.  My mom is the only one in our family who does that and it drives me crazy!

Pittsburghers are a quirky bunch, but a great place to call home.  If you’re in the area, stop by and have a Primanti Brother’s “sammitch” (sandwich) and visit the “sahside” (Southside), “norside” (Northside) or “dahntahn” (Downtown) “n’at” (and that).  Don’t mock it until you’ve tried it, so go ahead and practice your Pittsburghese.

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,News,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts,Travels and have No Comments

Potty Training, Sticker Style

Make your mistakes, take your chances, look silly, but keep on going. Don’t freeze up.  ~Thomas Wolfe

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Uncle Sonny with a 3 year old Kyle on his birthday. He loved stickers! 7/2003

The subject of potty training has been popping up around me.  Every time I hear stories from others, it brings a smile to my face, for that was the one  parenting act I did right from the beginning, no trial and error needed.  I potty trained Kyle in a single night.  Of course, Kyle should have some credit too.  When I think of potty training, to me it was as easy as peeling a sticker and giving a hash mark.

Yes, way back in the day, I potty trained our little rug rat.  Kyle was a few months from being two, I believe. Personally, I was ready to rid us all of the diapers a year prior, but I know it takes time.  Did I mention I’m not the most patient?  Yes, literally I had an idea on how to potty train this smart little man and one day I just decided to do it.  Deep down I know Kyle was definitely ready to graduate to the little potty, or least I convinced myself he was.

I didn’t mind changing Kyle’s dirty diapers as a baby, not at all.  It became so secondary to me, I managed to go through this stage of his life without wearing his waste, not once!  I was quick, yet I didn’t sacrifice cleanliness for speed.  I always made sure that child’s bottom was sparkling so he could feel good and keep the diaper rash at bay.  He did manage to suffer with small bouts of diaper rash at times, but it wasn’t because I made a real effort.  It broke my heart to bear witness to my little package in pain.  In fact, I would check him more frequently and change him regularly to avoid what could be avoided.

So back to the potty training.  How did I do it?  I’ve heard of horror stories about kids rebelling and so on and so forth.  No for me.  All I did was use Kyle’s weakness against him, or however you want to look at it.  What was Kyle’s kyrptonite?  Stickers! Yes, those colorful pieces of paper with an adhesive on the back, that comes in all shapes, sizes and themes.  Stickers!

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Kyle dancing around in his Incredibles underroos in my boots…too funny not to capture! 10/2005

Seriously?  That’s all it took were some stickers?  Well, no, not exactly, but that’s the bulk of it.  First you have to understand that Kyle always loved stickers.  Always!  I started him on his sticker interest when he was a little tyke.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, they were going to be my biggest ally.

Why stickers?  Why not.  I, myself  was a fan of stickers as a young girl, and I guess I wanted to bring a little of my childhood and interest to Kyle for him to enjoy.  As a youngster, I remember having books upon books full of  stickers.  Back then I didn’t have actual books that housed stickers, nope I used the peel away photo albums to store my precious treasures with their waxy paper backing still in tacked so I could trade or reorganize them again.  My favorites were the ones that smelled.  Scratch and sniff stickers!  I was also a fan of the textured stickers with fuzz or fur.  Exciting.

Over the years of Kyle’s early days, we would buy him sticker books.  The new trendy books whereas Kyle would have to match up the sticker with someplace specific in the book and permanently stick the sticker.  My little man would spend hours stickering up those books and then take the time to review his efforts.  He really enjoyed this activity.  Funny enough, later on this would be a favorite activity while he was using the toilet.

Kyle’s interest was mostly animals off all sorts and his staples, Star Wars and Lego theme sticker books, sometimes a combination of both.  Admittedly, I would sit for hours with Kyle and help him sticker up his books.  He enjoyed the attention and I loved hanging with my little man, and we both adored the activity.

How did Kyle become so interested in stickers?  Again that was my doing.  Let me step back in time a little further to the beginning of Kyle’s love of stickers.  In fact, I can almost pin point the exact moment.  I shouldn’t say this out loud, you know in case someone was able to go back in time and wanted to alter the course of Kyle’s history. (Back to the Future reference)

As a thirteen year old, Kyle could careless about those sticky pieces of fun, but times were different.  When Kyle was a baby of about eight months, maybe younger, I showed him a new way to wear stickers.   Granted, he had no choice in the matter, but I found it hilarious.  At my cousin Chad’s wedding, I placed a sticker to Kyle’s forehead.  Being a baby, the only responsibility he had was to eat, fill his diaper, sleep and repeat.  So the mischievously placed sticker wasn’t even a thought to him.  For some bizarre reason, I found that extremely funny.  My sister yelled at me and told me to stop picking on the baby, but she too laughed.  It really was funny watching the kid look around without the knowledge of a sticker planted directly in the middle of his forehead.  Then it got even better.

Soon he realized there was something on his forehead and he began to go crossed eyed trying to focus on it.  If my memory serves me correctly, this was a short amount of time after Chad’s wedding.  He used to look up, his eyes would cross and he tried to reach in the air to get a hold of the object stuck to his forehead.  I know mean, but pure entertainment!

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Kyle’s underroos dancing in my boots… He cracks me up! 10/2005

Eventually, the ornery action on my part, became a standard embellishment for Kyle.  He would place stickers to his cheeks, arms and legs and leave them there.  The entire sticker situation back fired when it became a fight to remove the unnecessary body art.  This usually happened when Kyle portrayed the sticker as too sticky and he was afraid to rip it off, or it was bath time and he simply didn’t want them to fall off.  He would rather omit the bath to keep the stickers stuck.  I guess I totally deserved that for tormenting Kyle.  One well worth it.

Stickers became the hot commodity in our household, so much so, I decided to use them as a reward system.  Knowing Kyle was the type that thrived on positive reinforcement, unlike me.  So I came up with a game plan for potty training.

At the time, I don’t believe Kyle gave any indication that he was ready to potty train, but I knew I was ready for that next step.  Informing mom, she agreed and helped me to set the stage for victory.  Yes, I didn’t just say, go us the potty and the child listened.  Nope, I was good but not that good.  Preparations needed to me made to ensure the potential battle was weak and over with before it began.

Before I was ready to change Kyle’s world, we all went shopping, including Kyle.  We let him pick out whatever underroos he wanted, all the while building  up the excitement about being potty trained.  In addition to the new garments, I made Kyle a bathroom chart, simply marking “Pee” and “Poop”.  The deal was, every time he used the potty, either his little boy potty or asked to use the big potty, he would get a hash mark on his chart and a sticker.  Each “pee” was worth one and every “poop” was worth two.  I hung his chart on the closet door in the bathroom at his eye level so he could see his own progress.  I hid all the stickers on the fireplace mantle, knowing he would dive into those if left unsupervised.  I did show him the gold mine I tucked away up there out of his reach, or so I thought.

I remember distinctly, it was a Friday, I picked Kyle up the day prior, knowing the gig was going down before the weekend.  I explained about the deal and he was all in!   How exciting!  I knew it wasn’t going to be perfect  and I knew it was my responsibility to work with the kid to give him a change, but it was a good sign to hear he was all in.  Maybe he was ready.

On Friday, I explained about letting me know when he needed to use the restroom.  I even alleviated potential embarrassment by telling him it’s ok if he had an accident, just let me know.  I had Kyle pick out his new underwear and he wore them immediately, all day and into the evening.  During this time, I constantly asked Kyle if he had to go to the bathroom and sometimes I had him try anyway.  Naturally, no matter what, he would give a little tinkle and request a hash mark and a sticker.  Done!  I was cracking up, it almost became fun for me too!

Kyle was so very good.  By bedtime, he went the day without a single accident.  Did I revert back to a diaper for the night hours?  Nope.  If I was going to commit, I was going to commit all the way.  It would have been an injustice to confuse the kid with alternating between underwear and diaper.  Nope,  I told him he was a big boy now and he only used the toilet, either his or the household one.  In fact, shortly after this, we gave all his extra diapers away.  Again, proving we had faith in him and we too were committed.  I did have to wipe his back side when needed, a team effort only Kyle relished in.

The next day mom and I had to drive to Pittsburgh, about an hour away.  Did I bring diapers  just in case?  Nope!  I did bring a lot of extra underroos and other supplies including the chart and a bunch of stickers.  I also did manage to sneak an extra blanket under his bottom in the car seat, just in case of a mishap, but none ever came.

Granted, we still did the reminding of using the restroom and encouraging all along the way.  Yep, ever since that night, Kyle was one hundred percent potty trained, no diapers ever made their way back to our house.  Believe it or not, Kyle never had an accident either, with the exception of being sick, but that doesn’t count.

Kyle reinforced his own potty chart, demanding a hash mark for doing his business and then the reward of a sticker.  Eventually, when he was able to use the household toilet on his own, his interest in the chart and the stickers lessened over time.  But I certainly, didn’t rush that, for that was his decision and he earned it.

On a side note, the day we were in Pittsburgh, my dad was in the hospital.  There were a few years after Ryan’s death, dad was pretty sick almost joining Ryan a couple of times.  By the time we got to see dad, Kyle, now wearing his big boy pants gave us all a surprise.  He saw his beloved pappy and pulled up his sleeve (those were the days when he would wear long sleeves) to reveal a bunch of stickers stuck to his arm.  He peeled one off and handed it to my dad.  First, I was in shock there were stickers on his arm that I didn’t know about, and then I was laughing.  It was a nice gesture, giving away his prize possessions.  Soon I began to wonder where he got all those stickers?  I rolled up the other sleeve and low and behold, more stickers!  What the heck?  Then, Kyle really blew me away.  He lifted up his shirt to reveal a stomach postered with STICKERS!  Wall to wall stickers!

Upon closer inspection, I recognized the sticky art.  They were the ones I just bought for Kyle’s potty training exercise!  They WERE on the mantle.  How did that kid get a hold of them?  When asked, Kyle just shot me an ornery grin and then gazed upon his pap who gave him a thumbs up.   Those two were always in cahoots.  Apparently, Kyle decided he wanted an advance on his bathroom chart.  It was then that I realized I needed to hide the stickers.

Kyle was always a stinker, pun intended, but no matter what, he’s always been a great kid, always full of pleasant surprises!

 

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Another Year Closer to Ryan

Life is just a short walk from the cradle to the grave, and it sure behooves us to be kind to one another along the way.  ~Alice Childress

Nicole-Ryan-Aunt-Heather-Piper-early-1980s

Nicole, Ryan & myself. I guess the theme was black & white. early 1980s

It has been thirteen years since I’ve last spoken to Ryan, at least in the physical sense.  It has been thirteen years since I’ve last seen him alive, except in pictures.  It has been thirteen years since Kyle lost his dad.  And it has been thirteen years since I wondered how I was to carry on without my brother, and how we as a family were going to cope with our loss.  Well, it’s been thirteen years today, and we have carried on, mostly with the help of our little guy, Ryan’s son, Kyle.

How did we do this?  I have no clue, no doubt by the grace of God and the help of friends and family.  It’s been a struggle, and there isn’t a day in those thirteen years that I didn’t think of Ryan and at times fallen to melancholy.  Yet, over the years, there too have been times when I seriously look forward to the day I can hang with Ryan again.

Personally, I love my days with my family, especially Kyle and watching him grow up.  I cherish every moment with that little bugger and being a big influence in his life. I do enjoy life, but there’s a part of me that can’t wait to see Ryan again and catch up.  I mean that, not in some crazy suicidal way, but in a way that gives me something to look forward to, a happy ending to my story.  Granted, I know I have a long way to go, at least that’s my assumption, but it’s still a new way to handle Ryan’s death, with hope of reuniting with him.

It’s not just Ryan I want to see again, in fact there’s a laundry list including my pappy, my sister’s friend Jennifer, and bunches of cousins and aunts and uncles and pets.  When I pass the pearly gates, if Saint Peter has me on the Almighty’s worthy list, I expect there to be a big old party of catching up and rejoicing.  I also trust that Ryan will remember how I am, and give me a personal tour of Heaven, since I do tend to be Directionally Challenged.  I suspect my directional deficiency won’t change even after death.

Like most, I too wonder about that light at the end of the tunnel and what Heaven has in store for me.  Maybe I will be able to go shopping for my own wings, or even better, have them custom made as per my creative instructions.  Maybe, I will be able to choose designer shoes to match my wings.  Not that I’m materialistic because even here on earth, I’m not, and I doubt Heaven has room for such nonsense nor would God would allow such things.  My idea of looking my best is to show my honor and love of being apart of the supreme spiritual, to be the best representative for God and all the angels.

Much like we have free will on earth, I’m guessing it will be the same in Heaven.  Perhaps I will be able to pick my own child to guard for all of his or her life.  I wonder if I work really hard, would I be able to manage two children?  I am a task master and that’s a challenge I welcome.

Putting all my silliness and imagination aside, I do miss Ryan.  I’m always trying to look on the brighter side, which for Ryan, he gets to be in Heaven and escape the suffering and the terrors of life.  Yet, I believe Ryan does experience the joys we part take in, similar to singing in church. You see, during mass, it is said that Heaven opens up and the angels join in with our singing.  Of course, if we were all placed on American Idol, I’m guessing the angels would win the sing off.  The point is they rejoice with us.  I’m thinking it’s the same for Ryan when we are happy and joyous.

God Speed Ryan!  I can’t wait to laugh and joke around together again.  Maybe we can play pranks on the living!        

 

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Pets,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Closing Down the Garden

We are stardust, we are golden and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.  ~Joni Mitchell

Dad Uncle Sonny as kids Aunt Heather Piper

Uncle Sonny & dad as kids. c. 1950s

This past weekend, among all the activities with the Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt for Thrill of the Hunt and Kyle’s homework, building a fort for history class, we also managed to address the garden.

When I was younger, my parents had a huge garden.  Mom canned, A LOT, to stock up for the winter, and naturally all of us had to help out with the chore.  Did I like it?  Nope!  Well, that’s not entirely true.  I loved picking the fresh vegetables and of course eating the goodies.  I hated picking the rocks, HATED IT.  It was the most dreadful activity I had to do, besides the dishes.  I didn’t mind planting seeds or the plants.  I never minded weeding either, although I don’t remember doing much of that as a kid.  When the tomato worms made their appearance, those bulbous shaped green gross tomato killers, and they would try and devour our tomato plants, I rather enjoyed smashing them with rocks to help keep them at bay.  I guess like anything, there’s things we like and others we don’t.

Do I enjoy gardening now?  I do!  I don’t mind preparing the ground for planting, although shamefully, I make Kyle pick any rocks.  Still by far my favorite part of the garden is plucking the suckers off of the tomato plants.  You know the extra stem growing between two.  Love that job!  Then, afterwards, my fingers smell like fresh tomatoes.  LOVE IT!

We had a great run this season, God blessed us with a healthy harvest.  We had an abundance of tomatoes, which we were able to can a dozen quarts or so.  Early on in the season, I couldn’t keep up with the cucumbers and lettuce. Usually, no matter what, our squash is overwhelming, but not this year.  We did have some, mostly patty pan squash, but not like in years past.  Apparently, some sort of critter attacked the squash plants at the root, somewhat killing off the plant.  Others I talked to had the same issue.  I guess it happens.  Our giant pumpkins started to form, but died off early.  Dad’s peppers did finally take off, only producing a couple peppers the size of a half dollar.  Overall, a good harvest.

Surprising me this year, we feasted on a bunch of cantaloupe and watermelon.  Funny thing?  I didn’t plant any.  It was only later that I found out Kyle added his own touches to the garden.  That made sense since they were all planted together.  Regardless, good job buddy!

I also had Kyle and the neighbor kids plant giant sunflower seeds.  They grew!  Big!

I kept the garden going until there was a threat of frost, all the way up until this weekend I was picking tomatoes.  To not take any chances, I picked the rest of the green tomatoes on Sunday before tearing down the garden.

What are we going to do with the nearly four large bags of the green tomatoes?  I sorted some to be cut up for fried green tomatoes, the smaller ones we are going to pickle and can, and the nicer, unblemished ones are going to be placed in brown paper bags and stored in a cool dry place to ripen.  By Thanksgiving, we should have a few garden ripened tomatoes.  Not all will survive  but we should have some to join our bountiful spread.

Christmas-1992-Dad-Uncle-Sonny-Nicole-Aunt-Heather-Piper

dad, Uncle Sonny, Jeremy & Nicole & Uncle Denny’s back. Christmas 1992

Hopefully in the next couple of weeks before deer season starts in New York, we will be proactive and prep the ground for next season.

What do we do when getting the land ready for winter?  On Sunday, we pulled up the tomato stakes, lifted the plastic (we use garden plastic to help control the weeds) and we folded up our make shift fence.  To get the garden ready for next summer, we’ll spread peat moss, sand and a big old pile of manure on the ground.  It’s better to let it set all winter.  We get my cousin Jim to plow for us if he has time before the seasons change, then disk and level the ground in the spring, but if not, he’ll do it all in the spring when he has the plow hooked up to the tracker.

Kyle was a huge help!  Seriously, a major three-hundred sixty degree change from last weekend.  Yes, he was screwing around and playing with the dogs as he worked, but he did a spectacular job!  Minimal to no complaining and he was in a good mood, no doubt the effects of the brisk sunny air and little bit of exercise.  He was a happy kid, the way I truly enjoy seeing him.  Not to mention it helped the dogs were cracking us up and running around like wild animals who were finally released from prison.

It was a good day!  Poor dad was really sick with a sinus infection, but we got the job done.  Gardening doesn’t just fill the tummy, but the soul too.  Next year I’m planning on expanding my product selection.  I have all winter to decide what additional crop we are going to enjoy next year.  Can’t wait.

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Milestone,Patience,Pets,Reminiscing,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts and have No Comments

Autumn’s Sights, Sounds & Smells

Were I called on to define, very briefly, the term Art, I should call it ‘the reproduction of what the Senses perceive in Nature through the veil of the soul.’ The mere imitation, however accurate of what is in Nature, entitles no man to the sacred name of ‘Artist.’ ~Edgar Allan Poe

Our-Ridge-in-Fall-2013-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Our ridge in the Autumn … love this drive no mater the season. 2013

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always loved this time of  year.  ALWAYS.  Something about the cooler, yet usually sunny weather that makes me want to move around and be active.  Even on cold dreary rainy days, I must admit, I still find it refreshing and appealing.  To me, Autumn is simply a season to fill all my senses.

Sights/Touch

The fall colors always mesmerize and draw me into their paintings.  They create an almost surreal world where mystical meets reality.

The other day I was walking through Latrobe and the wind kicked in, releasing colorful dead leaves from the branches as I was under the tree.  It was amazing!  All the leaves gently fell all around me and gathered at my feet.  Like a little kid, I did a small twirl with my face turned toward the bright blue sky with my arms stretched wide, feeling the sun and the wind.  It was a small moment, but a huge one in terms for thankfulness of experiencing such beauty.

The Laurel Highlands are so very pretty on a macro and micro level.  Whether you’re looking at the ridges from a distance with all the clumps of different bright fall colors, or starring directly into a pile of raked leaves, visually it’s intoxicating, in a good way.

Yes, the leaves and bare trees scream of death, letting us know winter is around the corner, which I’m happy about for that’s my second favorite season.  But you have to admit, the process to get us to the next cycle of life is well worth it.

Besides the leaves turning, partaking in the creepy Halloween decorations are exciting.  The ghost and ghouls and witches and bats line yard after yard, ready to creep out a kid or two is entertaining.  Again, bringing me back to my youth.

Fall festivals like Fort Ligonier Days Fort Ligonier Days Parade – Marching Down Memory Lane and pumpkin patches also scream fall and the arrival of Halloween and Thanksgiving.  Like most kids, I too carved up a pumpkin or two in my day.  In fact, that was one tradition I kept going for most of my life, expecting Kyle to take the reins.  Well, when Kyle was about three years old or so, I found out that wasn’t going to happen.

True story.  My parents and I took Kyle to the pumpkin patch to pick out, none other than pumpkins.  Kyle chose the biggest one for himself and smaller, less appealing orange squashes for me and my parents.  He’s always been a stinker like that!

I got everything ready for the carving adventure to begin, which Kyle was still on board and excited to help hack away at his very own pumpkin, that is until we began.  After I cut the top off for Kyle, I instructed him to scoop out the guts before cutting the face.  That kid sniffed the inside and took a good long look down into the innards.  Turning his nose up, he instructed me to scoop out his guts.  No way, I was working on my own pumpkin.  I did get him started before he reluctantly joined in.  Bravely following my lead he stuck his bare hand inside, to quickly remove it announcing he doesn’t like the feel of the seeds on his skin.  Are you kidding me?  Nope.  That’s our Kyle.  For a couple of years after that we got him latex gloves, yes like he was doing surgery, but if the wall of the pumpkin grazed his arm he would freak out.  Eventually, Kyle would sit while I carved the pumpkins for him, all while he dictated what I was suppose to be doing and telling me how to do it.  This proves my love for that kid!

Soon that even got old and our pumpkin carving days pretty much came to an end, something Kyle could care less about.  At one point, I had Kyle paint his pumpkin, but again that didn’t keep his interest.  So now we just decorate with plain old pumpkins.

Sounds

Kyle-picking-grapes-for-juice-9-2-13-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle picking grapes to make grape juice & grape jelly. 9/2/13

In addition to enjoying the mosaic colors of God’s impressionistic landscapes and human imagination of Halloween decorations and pumpkin carvings, I like the sounds of autumn.

Fall seems to bring with it a unique sound.  Sure the crunching of leaves under my feet certainly sets the stage for winter.  Granted, it’s not very helpful when hunting, but there’s something so therapeutic about stomping on dried up leaves.  To me it’s the same effect that bubble wrap has, it’s just fun to hear the sound of popping and the anticipation before the “explosion”.  Of course no matter what season, perhaps not a hot humid summer day, hiking through the forest is the best medicine for any ailment.  Walking in the woods is like being in my own personal telephone booth and answering a direct call from God, very spiritual when your heart and mind are open to listen.

During the fall season, even the wind vibrates differently, like it’s sounding an alarm for the coming of snow and winter.  I know the geese hear it for they too blast their own siren announcing their travels to the south.

Besides the peaceful sounds of nature, there’s the Halloween screams and horror that fill the air.  The creaky floorboards, the terror of young ones being frightened, the maneuvering through corn mazes and the sounds of tractors driving around a wagon full of hay and spectators who are also enjoying the fall season.  Exhilarating!

Smells/Tastes

Fall-on-Uncle-Walters-Farm-2013-Aunt-Heather-Piper

A perfect fall day on my Uncle Walter’s farm. 2013

But the best part of autumn are the smells and the foods that hold those scents!  Spices!  I’m not talking about Cajun seasonings or hot sauce.  No.  I’m talking about ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon.  Each is a unique and wonderful aroma, but put them together you get autumn in every bite.  Naturally, I’m talking about deliciousness such as pumpkin pie, mom’s absolute favorite; spice cake, hot apple cider, sunflower seeds, mostly the action of harvesting the seeds and baking them; and apple butter.

The other day mom got a jar of apple butter and slathered it on a piece of bread.  As a youngster, I helped mom can food all the time in preparation for the long winter months.  What did we can?  Just about everything from the garden, tomatoes, beans, beets, (we do can deer meat too, and sometimes we find the deer in the garden) cucumbers for pickles, and corn.  I also helped my mom and grandma make apple butter.

Yes, I was part of the entire process from picking the apples, which I never cared for due to the bees buzzing around the rotten apples on the ground, to grinding the fruit and boiling the jars for canning.  Over the years, I’ve even enjoyed opening a fresh jar of apple butter to accompany my toast.  My brother, Ryan, LOVED apple butter.  Sometimes I would catch him eating it straight from the jar.  Forget waiting for the toaster to make toast, Ryan would sit in front of the television with a loaf of bread, not slices, an entire fresh loaf of bread and a pint size jar of apple butter.  In a matter of minutes he would fill his craving and empty stomach and polish off all the bread and the apple butter.

Apple butter is good, but nothing gets my mouth watering like homemade grape juice!  We’ve always had a grape arbor and sometimes dad would make wine out of it, now recently my cousin Mikey harvests the grapes for his wine, but when I was little we picked the grapes strictly for grape jelly and grape juice.  Making grape juice is really easy, too easy.  The hard part is the time it takes waiting for the juice to ripen for consumption.  I used to suck down juice like it was water.  (Later on did I find out that juices were my number one trigger for my serve attacks with mouth ulcers, no more juice for me)  Making grape juice was really a lot of fun, so much so I even had Kyle join in on the tradition. Smallest Moments, Mean the Most Kyle’s not really a juice type of guy, but he’ll drink the sweetness especially if he invested time in preparing it.  He also really likes our homemade grape juice.

No matter what your favorite season is, you have to admit, autumn has a little bit of something for everyone.  Our family has a lot of traditions that accompany this time of year, which makes it even more meaningful.

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,News,Observation & Imagination,Pets,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Pushing My Buttons

You think you can break me, you have another thing coming, I invented stubborn! ~Heather Piper

Kyles-has-pap-2003-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle has his pappy wrapped around his finger … in this case literally. We love every piece of that little man! c. 2003

Those words have been ringing true over the years.  I’ve said them to Kyle more times than I seriously can recollect.  What I didn’t expect is the irony and the impact they would bring.

Kyle is a good kid, truly.  I’ve said it before and it still holds true today.  I mean that in every sense, he’s kind and sincere, honest and I’d love to say hardworking like his dad, but Kyle tends not to take after the Piper side with respect to work and work ethic, at least at his thirteen years.  He can work hard and has proven to do so, yet that is more a rarity.  When he wants to work toward something, he does his task the best he can.  However, getting him there is a journey all to itself with yelling, threats of being grounded and sometimes and all out war.  He is very difficult and stubborn, I guess like most kids.

I love Kyle with all my heart.  There is nothing I wouldn’t do for him and everything in my life is done with him in mind, EVERYTHING. Ever since God blessed us with that little critter, he has been my world.  Does he know this?  He sure does, even when I get so angry with his attitude or actions (usually lack of action) I still make sure I tell him how much I love him and care about his well being.   Let’s go back to our soul purpose on earth, to ultimately live in the absolute love that God gave us and prepare to live with Him in that love in heaven.  Can I claim this?  Sadly no, but I try.  Does Kyle care?  Probably not.

The more I reflect on my actions from this past weekend toward a teen with an attitude, I realize, he’s just like me, kinda!  First of all I will admit, I know I am not perfect and I believe rethinking some of my poorer decisions and actions can help make me a better person and perhaps a better aunt.  Secondly, coming to the conclusion that Kyle is just like me, blew my mind.

Kyle has always resembled his dad, my brother and yet has glimpses of my dad, Kyle’s pap, but mostly my sister.  The older Kyle gets, the more I see my sister in that kid.  Everything, from the way they move, to the way they think and even their appearance is similar.   Who Does Kyle Favor More, Aunt Nikki?

On a side note, I’ve actually had some friends of mine think Kyle looks just like me.  I’ve never seen it, but I’ll take it.  Perhaps they are seeing what I just realized, how very similar we are personality wise.  I’ve always tried to figure out Who Does Kyle Favor More, Aunt Heather?

Kyle is no stranger to being yelled at, especially from me.  Normally, I don’t completely flip my lid and loose it on that kid, but there have been times when I shamefully have lost my temper, to the extreme.  It does take me a while to get to that point and Kyle seems to be the one to take me there.  It’s not usually one thing, it’s a build up and a repeat of the same behavior that makes me hit an eleven on the old tension scale.

Kyle-as-the-scarecrow-2010-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle as the scarecrow for Halloween. This is how he looks to me with his attitude! Take at the Sacred Heart Church parking lot before the Youngstown Halloween parade c.2010

What sparked this one?  Egg rolls.  Yes!  First let me set the stage.  On Saturday, I was in New Hope, Pennsylvania administering to the Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt for Thrill of the Hunt, my company.  Usually, I need assistance when doing these activities and Kyle usually helps me.  Well recently, his interest in the company has become less than mediocre.  There was a Warmachine tournament at the local comic book store Saturday morning and not wanting him to miss it, I offered to administer to the scavenger hunt solo.  It would have been nicer if I had someone help me set up and wrap up the scavenger hunt, not to mention the nearly six hour drive out and back in a day gets lonesome, but I knew it was important to him.

Let me also include, that for the last several months, not days, not weeks, MONTHS, at the very least since the beginning of summer, Kyle was suppose to get my database for Thrill of the Hunt in order and organized.  He made a deal with me and I was counting on him.  Basically, his job was to enter data so I wouldn’t loose important contacts and so I could keep all the scavenger hunts and their participants in order.  This database was not only going to help me target new businesses but it was to be used to reach out to our customers to promote up coming events.  You know so I can get our numbers up and all things associated with that.  Needless to say, it’s a very important job that I don’t have time for.  Did I also mention I was paying the kid?  Yes, even after all I give him and do for him, I wanted him to earn money, as opposed to just asking for it, a good work ethic lesson.  Plus, I know the experience he would receive by going through this process would be good for his accountability, to be apart of building the company from the ground up, great work experience for his knowledge and as a resume builder, and it would prove to be beneficial to him in his career.  All good reasons for him to administer to the Thrill of the Hunt database.  Could I get someone else?  Sure, but I wanted to give him this opportunity.

Is my database done?  Nope!  Not even close.  I even sat with him to assist at times.  He just wants someone to hold his hand and basically do the job for him!  I even tried helping, by showing him how to manage his time to tackle the mile high pile, piece by piece.  I don’t expect the kid to sit for hours upon hours on the computer entering data, but a half an hour every day is not too taxing.  Keep in mind, he’ll sit there for four even five hours straight, if not more, playing video games.  Yes, there is no reason why he can’t be responsible for completing this task.  None.

Ryan-Uncle-Sonny-1980s-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Our cousin Fred, Uncle Sonny & Ryan. Dad’s head made it in the pic. Taken at Uncle Sonny’s kitchen mid 1980s

Now the database not done was becoming a huge argument and growing fast.  Then add in the egg roll instance and Kyle’s attitude became a lethal combination for me to blow up like the atomic bomb.

Back to the egg roll, which was never really about an egg roll.  Kyle was at the Warmachine tournament and mentioned how Gigi got him Chinese food from the place next door, like all the other Warmachine players.  Cool, Kyle’s hanging with people of his own kind and fitting in.  Then, he brought up the egg rolls and how he threw them away.  Keep in mind this all happened right after church, when I should have had God in my heart the most.  Guess not.  I was appalled that he didn’t think of us in any way shape or form to bring the egg rolls home and offer them to us.  I got over that hurt and was more devastated to find out that he never even thought of anyone in the room to offer his egg rolls.  What?  How self centered!

First of all wasting food in my mind is no good.  Personally, I hate it and I hate seeing it.  Then, to not even offer someone what he doesn’t want, not like he’s sacrificing anything, is mind blowing.  Don’t even take me back to the fact that he never even thought of us, at all!  Didn’t I help raise this kid from birth?  Did he forget everything?  Now I began wondering how was he acted during the tournament?  Was he using his manners?  Was he being a teenage spoiled brat?

Well, in the matter of a few minutes that set the stage for the entire Sunday, which included a huge fight about my database.  It got even worse when I found out he didn’t care and was making mistake after mistake with my database!  Was he trying to sabotage the company?  The very company I am working so hard to build.  Apparently, he could care less.  Probably because all he has to do is ask my parents or my sister or anyone else for something and he gets it.  Why would the kid want to work when he gets things handed to him?  The answer is he doesn’t.  I wasn’t asking him to go chop down trees or build a house, he was simply sitting there entering data for a half an hour.

Then, I found out he wasn’t entering the companies!  What?  He didn’t want to, was the point, although he started to make an argument that is was double the work and all I had to do was search what I needed and pull the reports differently.  I did hear him out and considered his suggestion, even though I know it wasn’t to make himself more efficient nor to help me make a better database.  I told him NO, I wanted it done correctly and my way.

Well, Kyle was not going to be told NO, which is not like me at all, none of us were ever like that.  He argued and argued and pouted and commented under his breath and then was moving so very slow, I wanted to send him flying out the window into the my Uncle Walter’s field!

Kyles-Lego-War-2012-Aunt-Heather-Piper

There’s a Lego war brewing … Kyle’s Lego army. 2012

During all this, the egg roll argument and then later the database discussions, he kept giving me a stubborn snide grin.  AND he was glaring at me eye-to-eye as if challenging me.  Are you suicidal?  It was all around nasty and I was tired of Kyle’s self centered, spoiled, greedy, no-it-all attitude.  I responded as a frustrated human being and up and smacked him in the back of the head.  Was it right?  No.  Did it solve anything?  No. Did I feel better?  Kinda, but not really.

After I walked away and started to come back to reality again, I thought of my actions as well as Kyle’s.  I needed Kyle to learn from his behavior.  I simply told him he was fired from the database, but he was going to still help around the house with manual labor.  (He needed to be taught a real lesson and it was good exercise)  I also informed him that the Warmachine pieces my mom got him for Christmas and gave him early, (yes that’ part of the kids problem, he gets everything on demand, again not working for it) was going to be taken away until Christmas.  AND the WarMachine tournament in November, which is going to be a bigger point system that he was excited about, was not going to include him.  (Plus with me taking way those pieces, he wouldn’t have enough points to compete).

Did Kyle keep up that crappy defiant grin and snicker at me with an attitude?  Nope, his eyes welt up with tears of fear and disappointment.  Bingo!  I found superman’s kryptonite.  I finally outsmarted the teenager!  His stubbornness is a lot like mine was as a kid.  I knew I was bullheaded and headstrong, yet I was always considerate with my family and I was ALWAYS a hard worker when my parents needed something done.  If there was money to be made, I was ambitious and first in line.  When my parents had the sawmill, I begged them to let me work there.  I was never afraid of hard work, just laziness.  You could always count me on me to get stuff done, unlike Kyle.  He has shown that he’s not responsible and can’t be counted on, which breaks my heart to say that.  Perhaps in time as he matures it will change, at least I will do my best to help guide him.

I know I learned a lesson, violence is not a solution.  Sometimes the knowledge and ability to use it is a good way to keep peace.  When I took karate years ago, they taught us we were trained not be aggressive and fight, but to have the ability and knowledge, so when peace is threatened and those that cannot defend themselves are in harms way, we can stand up for those that aren’t able to do so for themselves.  Violence should never to used out of frustration or anger.  Lesson learned.  I too hope Kyle learned a lesson, but I have a feeling there are many more to come.  No matter how hard it will be, I care for Kyle that much and his well being that I’m willing to fight for it.

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts,Travels,Video Games & Games and have No Comments

The Dog Catcher Part 2

The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.  ~Aung San Suu Kyi

dog-catcher-dog-beagle-10-9-14-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Very sad beagle found at the dog catcher, reminded me of Ryan’s dog Jake. 10-9-14

With my previous blog Dog Catcher Part 1, I set the stage with respect to our dogs taking off, giving themselves a nature run and not returning with Avery.  Now for the truly scary part of the story.

Once mom got the message that my cousin saw some post on Facebook about a stray dog, a.k.a. Avery, we then found out they called the dog catcher.  Yikes!  This was a new one for us.  I don’t believe it was a malicious action for this family stated that they asked around and no one claimed this stray, who happened to be a  Virginian dog.  Avery probably gave off the out-of-towner vibe up on the ridge.

Since we were moving into unknown territory, questions started surfacing.  How does one get a hold of the dog catcher?  Who is the dog catcher?  Where is the facility?  Seriously, we had no clue to any of those questions.  I called the Greensburg state police and they gave me a phone number, but they didn’t know where the kennel was located.  Really?  That’s what he said, and he wasn’t brushing me off, but on the contraire being very sincere.  He informed me that Hoffman’s Kennel doesn’t answer their phone, but I should leave a message and they’ll get back to me.

We did as instructed but we also didn’t want to wait around for a call back, Avery was wrongfully placed in prison and it was our duty to bust her free.  This process was all new to us.  I never even realized there was such a thing as a dog catcher in the area.  To me he was a myth you only see in cartoons. You know the mean old nasty man who wanted to catch dogs with an oversized fishing net.

Thinking smart, mom called her veterinarian for an address.  Bingo!  In addition to the address, there was a stressful tone in the voice that gave a sense of complete urgency to retrieve Avery, immediately.

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Another curious prisoner at the dog catcher 10/9/14

Now the worrying really kicked into fear.  Even though we never spoke to this mysterious dog catcher, mom and I headed in his direction to 285 Cloverleaf Drive Delmont, Pennsylvania 15626.  We were told he lives on the property, so we might be able to pop in and get the goods before bedtime.

On the way, mom told me about a story she read on the You Know You’re From Latrobe, PA IfFacebook page.  (There are screen shots of the conversations)  According to these individuals, Hoffman’s is a dog serial killer!   There is even a Facebook page to try and shut him down Stop Hoffman Kennels.

Ok, hearing that, and only those stories and nothing to contradict, I made up my mind regarding this faceless figure.  Not fair I know, but think about the stress I was in, not to mention Nicole kept calling and hounding us, asking if we got the dog yet.

Finding the place was easy, if you knew the address.  The facility wasn’t marked like I expected a government funded location to appear, very creepy and almost shady.  I mean that, granted it was dark but regardless, I felt like a dog thief intruding on someone’s house.

Once there, I knocked on the door and he, a.k.a. the dog catcher, Gary Hoffman, graciously opened it, hearing me out.  I gave a description of Avery and informed him that he was holding her.  Mr. Hoffman gave me a puzzled look and simply told me no, he didn’t have a dog by that description.  What?  Still standing awkwardly in the doorway, with no sense of invitation, I stood my ground and wouldn’t take that as an answer.  I told him I know for a fact he picked her up today.  Still sporting a confused look, he again reassured me he didn’t have my dog.  Again, sternly I informed him yes he did, I know for a fact a person called him and he picked her up, mid-day today.  Mr. Hoffman’s response, “I was in Fayette County all day.”  Personally, I don’t give a crap where he was, he had my sister’s dog!

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Poor lonely dog at the dog catcher 10/9/14

Still not believing me, he said meet me around other door.  I was invited into a waiting room type that smelt horribly of ammonia!  We continued this repetitive conversation and I never backed down. I was stern yet polite.  Finally, after repeating myself and ensuring him he does in deed have Avery without question, he did say, “I don’t have her, but you’re more than welcome to have a look.”  Couldn’t he have just offered in the first place when I told him I know for a fact he had my dog?

Giving Mr. Hoffman the benefit of the doubt, let me explain.  He might have been confused during the conversation because I kept calling Avery a puppy.  She is technically a puppy, just a large one, nearly fifty pounds.  But one would think if I have a missing dog and I said she was here, he would automatically let me see the dogs?  He was almost dismissive of me.  Granted it was 7:00 pm, past normal hours, but that’s his job.

Once inside the actual Kennel, I caught Avery’s eyes immediately!  She looked so sad from behind the chain linked fence.  Now another obstacle stood in my way, literally.  He wouldn’t release Avery.  What?

He stated all dogs need to have their tags on them to be released.  Seriously, if she had her tags on her then he would have known where to find her owner.  Frustrating!  He wasn’t going to let her go without tags, which are all the way in Virginia!  I get the reasoning, to make sure all dogs have his or her shots.  I explained I was dog sitting for my sister and the dog got away from me and must have lost her tags in the woods.  I informed him Avery’s tags were in Virginia.  I also informed him that we could call my veterinarian’s office, they have all of Avery’s paperwork since I took her there to get her final shots while babysitting.

He still was not going to release her and gave me a run around saying I couldn’t take the dog.  Seriously?  I was ready to tackle this guy, grab the dog and run!  My mom was waiting in the car and when needed, she could peel rubber like the best of them.

Dog Catcher Aunt Heather PiperSolution!  Call Nicole!  My thought was that she surly had copies of Avery’s tags!  I know my geek sister and that sounded about right.

Right in front of Mr. Hoffman, I wasn’t shy about my intention of leaving with the dog, I called Nicole.  Once I got her on the phone, the dog catcher did ease up a bit and said, she doesn’t need tags since she’s an out of state dog.  What?  Why didn’t he just say that in the first place?  He knew she was from Virginia, a.k.a. out of state!  What is going on here?  He took down Nicole’s contact information and filled out some form.  Now can I get her and go?  Nope!  He said there’s a fee.

Ok, how much?  He kept saying it wasn’t for him it was the state.  Whatever.  How much?  Fifty bucks.  In all the confusion, guess who didn’t have my purse.  I felt like this was a nightmare that wouldn’t end.  It was taunting me.

Mom!  I exited the smelly waiting room to pull my mom into my nightmare to meet our villain face-to-face.  Mom was prepared and wrote the man a check.  This was a bit comical.  Mr. Hoffman kept repeating that the money wasn’t for him, it’s for the funds of some sort.  Mom asked “Who do I make the check out to?”  He replied, Hoffman’s.  A snicker escaped my lips.  Personally, I don’t even care if the money was for him.  He was doing a job and he should get paid, I get it, but he seemed very defensive over the money.  We did get a receipt so as far as I can tell it was all legitimate.

Now let me lay all the cards on the table, which are fact and which are fiction, I truly have no idea?  All I know is what I went through and eventually our own personal story was a happy tail (that’s a pun).  We got Avery back home safe and sound.

Dog Catcher Hoffman Facebook Aunt Heather Piper48 Hour Rule
I was told everyone has 48 hours to retrieve their dog before he euthanizes them.  48 hours?  Really?  That’s just enough time to realize your dog is gone and the neighbor’s haven’t seen the 4-legged refugee.

I also heard after the situation, that Hoffman’s works with a local no-kill shelter to get the dogs before they are killed, as long as the shelter has room.  Again, I have no proof, but this is what I was told.

Finding Owners
Many people claimed Mr.  Hoffman doesn’t try and track down the owners beforehand.  Avery did have a chip in her, which he did wand but the wand came up negative.  Perhaps he needs to change the batteries in his wand.

First of all, one would think he would have done that before placing Avery in her prison cell.  What’s wrong with being proactive?

On the contrary, a close friend of mine informed me Mr. Hoffman scans microchips and ID tags to contact the owners.  He is not required by law to seek dog ownership, only to keep them for 48 hours.  Again really?  Unfortunately, he is just doing a government funded job.  Again back to my issue with government having too much control.  Dogs die.

Location
Now, let’s get down to the location of the dog catcher and his prisoners.  No one seemed to have a clue where his facility was located, not even the police!  If you check the website, it just gives a phone number.  I’m somewhat fine with leaving a message and having him screen his calls, but let’s face it, this is a job and that’s part of the job.

While writing this blog, I did manage to find the address online, but it took a little digging.  It also helped I was more informed of the kennel’s name and location.

This one I do have a huge issue with.  The kennel is unmarked, at least from what I saw!  It just had the house number like any other house on the street.  If this is a government funded facility, meaning I can’t even take my pistol in there even with a permit, then it should be marked as such.

I had someone share a counter point-of-view on this.  They stated that not publishing the location of the kennel was done by design so people wouldn’t abandon their dogs.  Perhaps cameras and large fines would solve that problem.

In case the contact information for Hoffman Kennels was missed here it is again:
285 Cloverleaf Drive
Delmont, Pennsylvania 15626
724-468-5505

Hoffman Kennel Contact Information Aunt Heather PiperSolution
Basically, what this boils down to is Legislation.  I don’t know who is Mr. Hoffman’s boss or how we can get the rules changed, but in this digital world we live in, helping these strays and missing dogs being reunited with their owners shouldn’t be like moving mountains.  Perhaps if Mr. Hoffman was required by law to photograph all captured dogs and ID them immediately, then post this information to a central Facebook page, it would help a lot of dogs and their owners, since going viral is the quickest way to get the word out,  eliminating the old fashion methods.

Also, I get it Mr. Hoffman’s job is 24-hours, but if he signed up for that and is getting paid for such, then that is his job.  He either needs to continue or resign.  Maybe, there is a way to have an assistant, perhaps there is one in place to help with some of the workload?

I’m really not sure what I feel about this entire encounter and the policies of the dog catcher.  I must say, it seems as though legislation needs to revisit policies and procedures.  I’ve heard both sides, yet my experience was a bit odd, not helpful and understanding but shady.  Again, it was a strange situation.  Am I missing something?

I was suggested by many to contact the local news stations and report my experience.  Doing some digging around, I found out Hoffman Kennels was in the news on several occasions!  About a year ago, the TribLiv had this article and Channel 4 News ran a story on Hoffman Kennels.

http://triblive.com/neighborhoods/2517886-74/hoffman-animal-dog-control-dogs-kennel-walters-license-soxman-plum#axzz3GD7BLv5P  TribLive Hoffman's Kennel Aunt Heather Piper

Channel 4 news Hoffman Kennel Aunt Heather Piperhttp://www.wtae.com/news/local/westmoreland/Residents-upset-with-Delmont-dog-kennel/16200662

Thank you to everyone who reached out to me with advice, prayers and informed me on the opposing views.  All this was very new to me.  While I was touring the clink, I did manage to snap a few pictures of captured dogs.  I posted them to Facebook on the ride home, hoping to alert a dog owner.  Also, I should say thank you to Mr. Hoffman for answering the door in the evening and hearing me out, eventually releasing Avery to us.  From what I understand, he doesn’t make that his policy.  See, prayers really do work!

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Pets and have No Comments

The Dog Catcher Part 1

Stories can conquer fear, you know. They can make the heart bigger.  ~Ben Okri

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Avery relaxing on the couch. She looks more like my cat … 2014

Recently, we had a run in with the dog catcher.  Yes!  Let me step back to explain.

Last Thursday, I had all three dogs, Seven (black Labrador), Scooby (blond Labrador) and Avery (a.k.a. Acorn a Doberman mix) outside to stretch their legs and run around.  Let me step back even further that very day to state, I was suppose to put the tracker on Avery, which I was going to do when I went back into the house.  However, I didn’t get the chance.

Why?  Because all three dogs, yes they formed a posse, eluded me and made for the woods.  Truly, it was like one of the dogs said, ‘Hey look over there’ while they pointed in the opposite direction they were heading, and then took off running before I realized what had happened.  I know that makes me sound like a simpleton, but you don’t know these dogs.  Normally they are clunky, loud and up my butt, until they get into ninja mode.

Anyway, my heart sank when I came to the realization that I lost ALL three dogs, on my watch!  It’s bad enough when Seven and Scooby go on their walk abouts, but this time they have my sister’s precious mutt.  Yikes!  I knew if I didn’t get that dog back soon, I was in deep water.

Naturally, right before this happened, I had to leave.  Crap!  No worries, I thought, they’ll probably go trotting around the woods and be back in a couple of hours, at least that’s their behavioral pattern.

Upon my return around diner time, I found Seven and Scooby and Storm, my cat, waiting for me on the porch.  All three animals were ready to go inside and relax.  What!  I’m missing one?  Avery!  O no!  Now that’s serious.  Not only because she’s my sister’s dog and Nicole would go spastic, but Avery is a puppy, who doesn’t know our woods like our boys do.  Plus, we highly suspect Seven relies on Scooby’s nose to get them back.  Now Avery is completely solo.  What to do?

I called my mom.  She knew they all left in the morning, because I informed her and I was happy to report two out of the three dogs returned.  When she asked which ones, we both got a little scared.  I stated, “Why didn’t she just stay with the boys?”  Mom’s response, “‘Cause she’s an idiot!”  Later on, I would find humor in that statement, I don’t think Nicole did.

That’s when I stopped up the neighbors house to tell them to keep their eyes peeled.  While talking to the neighbor gal, she made a very good point.  She stated that I was out numbered!  Yes I was!

Mounting the quad, I drove it around to areas of woods in close proximity, places I could reach on four wheels.  Nothing!  No Avery.

Aunt-Nikki-Rain-Walking-Avery-2013-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Look at this dynamic duo, Nicole & Avery walking in rain. 2013

Again, I had to depart but was planning on returning in a couple of hours.  By the time I wrapped up work, mom and I started searching for this lost bad puppy by 4:00 pm or so.  I even strapped on my boots, packed my flashlight and pistol and took Seven and Scooby for a hike through the local woods.

On a side note, there have been a number of bear sightings in the area.  Great!  I thought watch me come face-to-face with one.  My luck, I’ll startle it taking a crap or something, hence the need for the pistol.  I know if faced with a relentless bear, you are suppose to make yourself look big and menacing.  Right?!  I only look that scary when I don’t get enough sleep or Kyle is pushing  my buttons.

You see, over the years tracking our boys we’ve grown pretty custom to their running behaviors, so I had an idea where to look.  Having a few options, I chose the one that made the most sense and the one I wasn’t personally familiar with, near the soccer fields.

There is a stretch of woods from one ridge road to another.  Closest to my parents house is my Uncle Walter’s property, then it spans to other property owners before reaching Bethel Church Road.  Set back in the woods are the Loyalhanna Soccer fields.  We’ve tracked Seven and Scooby way over there before, but I’ve never hiked that far in that direction.  I guess it was a perfect time to get familiar with those woods. 

Did I mention it’s bow hunting season?  O yes!  I was praying no one took a shot at that puppy or was planning on using me as a target.  While trudging through the leaves and branches, I saw a couple of hunters in their tree stands.  Feeling bad about disrupting them, I quickly redeemed myself when I accidentally kicked up a deer and pushed it in their direction.  That made me feel a little better.

I let Scooby take the lead, perhaps bringing me in the direction of their earlier adventures.  It seemed to work for a little until he tuckered out on me and Seven was simply excited to go for another walk.

On another side note, the dogs led me into a bunch of thorns and jagged brush.  Seven refused to go first, remaining safely behind me while I got all sliced up tramping down the natural barbed wire death traps.  Then, he pushed my butt with his head to get me to move faster, nearly face planting me, yet wouldn’t take the lead.  I kept yelling at him to stop pushing me.  It was like being in the woods with Kyle!  I know the hunters saw or at the very least heard us.

As I was hiking some pretty steep rocky hills, mom called to give me a heads up, that our next step was to inform Nicole.  Mom wanted to post Avery’s picture to Facebook but not without giving her fair warning.  Agreed and understood, yet scared!  We knew that was our best chance of recovering Avery, yet we really didn’t want to face the wrath of my sister.

Eventually, Nicole did call while I was winded from hiking a cliff of death, to yell at me and to blow off some steam.  She informed me that she was personally holding me responsible and blaming me for Avery’s disappearance.  My reply, I wouldn’t think anything other.  She also asked me if I was calling her name while hiking.  Really?  No, I wanted another challenge, and I thought I’d move through the woods like a Sasquatch and sneak up on the dog. (sarcasm)  Yes, I was yelling, my throat was raw and sore.

To sum it up, I eventually found my way to the soccer fields and no Avery.  I called mom to pick me and the boys up.  I also thought, since there were games going on and kids running around, I had a touch of hope that Avery pushed her way onto some other family, but nothing.

As mom pulled in, I saw she was on the phone.  She got a lead!  Avery was found up on Butina ridge (not a technical term but if you’re a local you know where that is).  Apparently, Avery found some kids and decided to try and make friends. (I knew it!)  While Avery is truly only a puppy, she’s still a fifty pound dog that likes to jump and plant her long tongue in people’s faces, like it or not.  The kid’s dad didn’t know what to do with her, since her tags were missing and their neighbors didn’t recognize her, so he called the dog catcher.  doom doom doom.  We’ve all heard horror stories about the dog catcher!

This was the first time we’ve ever had to deal with the dog catcher.  Our boys usually stick to the woods and shy away from people when they take off.  Of course with one exception, Dog Gone Irony they always return.

Now the second part of our adventure, the dog catcher!  To be continued… The Dog Catcher Part 2

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Pets and have No Comments

Think Team Building … Think Scavenger Hunts

Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.  ~Andrew Carnegie

Molly-Kyle-Team-Building-in-Ligonier-PA-4-27-14-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Molly & Kyle working together to get across the Ropes Course in Ligonier, Pa. for the Sacred Heart / Saint Cecilia Youth Group 4/27/13

I’m a huge fan of team building activities, you know for business functions or company outings.  They offer great benefits such as building moral, setting the cultural dynamic of a business or an organization, and allowing your team to think differently especially with problem solving and creative ideas, while working together.  Team building!

Corporate/Company:
These seemingly simple ideas are endless, yet should not be taken lightly for it really is important.  Administrating and participating in team building activities and company outings are imperative today, with the new generation taking over the workforce and those that are soon to be joining.  These young professionals interact differently, think differently and have a different concept of what an employer should offer and what they expect from his/her job.  Not to mention the work dynamic is drastically changing and in order to have a solid skilled work force, companies need to adjust culturally.

Examples:
Ideas like what?  There are so many activities that can be taken advantage of that can be as elaborate or simple as desired.  Ideas such as team races, paint ball or a computer or board game.

One concept a close friend told me about, which seemed very fun and rewarding at the same time, involved bicycles.  The participants had to separate into small groups and build a bicycle.  Yes!  An actual bike, with two wheels and brakes and all the fixings.  After it was inspected for accuracy, one of the participants had to ride their newly constructed means of transportation to the finish line, where a group of underprivileged kids were waiting to receive a brand new bike, unbeknownst to the participants before they started the journey.  Talk about a win win!

Sacred-Heart-Saint-Cecilia-Youth-Group-Ligonier-PA-4-27-14-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Sacred Heart / Saint Cecilia’s Youth Group team building activity in Ligonier, Pa. Ropes Course … Team Building! 4/27/13

Another team building concept I heard about involved the sense of smell.  The participants had to create a perfume scent for themselves.  Then, they were blind folded and had to walk around finding the scents to match their co-workers.  I may have butchered that one a bit, but the basic concept is there.

Regardless, team building activities should be fun and interactive.  Also, no one says you can’t focus on the company mission statement, history and/or values and not have it fun.  Sure you can!  And guess what?  If it’s interactive and challenging, a simple walk across the street can be an adventure!  Team building exercises don’t have to be just about each individual, personally.  Sure, it will obviously include their personalities, or in some cases a lack there of, and their strengths and weaknesses.  But it can also involve how they work within the company and their roll they play, in addition to how they work with co-workers.  There are many layers and different dynamics to team building.  They should be explored and these activities implemented at least once a year, or with the completion of a goal.

Scavenger Hunts:
Why am I talking about this?  I’ve had an influx of people requesting team building events or was inquiring about doing something different for a team builder exercise.  You came to the right place!

As I’ve mentioned before, Thrill of the Hunt is my company.  (Add Thrill of the Hunt to the Latrobe List, Scavenger Hunts – It’s the Thrill of the Hunt!, Scavenger Hunts – Getting Our Start At Seton Hill University & Continuing …, Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt) (Select the category Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts for a complete list of blog entries written on my company).

Thrill of the Hunt builds scavenger hunts for company outings, team building activities, trade shows, fundraisers, birthday parties, bachelor/bachelorette parties and family reunions, to name a few.  Thrill of the Hunt also self hosts several scavenger hunts throughout the year, in various locations.

Sacred-Heart-St.-Cecilia-Youth-Group-in-Ligonier-PA-4-27-13-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Sacred Heart / Saint Cecilia’s Youth Group team building Ropes Course in Ligonier, Pa. 4/27/13

Scavenger hunts are a unique way to engage all sorts of people, in any environment, for any level of participant.  Scavenger hunts can include all sorts of information or can be simply fun and trivial.

My suggestion for companies is to incorporate some company value or history.  It’s a fun way to keep the participant’s connected to the company and reinforcing the culture.  Forcing employees out of their comfort zone, either with the location of the scavenger hunt or with the challenges is the best way to make an impact.  Even though Thrill of the Hunt can build a scavenger hunt on site indoors or out, but my preference is outside at a separate location.  This allows everyone to get their head out of the office zone and clear their minds with fresh air.  My more successful company scavenger hunts forced the participants to really move through cities and towns, outside even in the cooler weather and even rain.

Team building doesn’t just stop at companies and large corporations.  No!  Personally, I think team building can be used as a way to become familiar with everyone on the team or organization.  Example, about a year ago Kyle’s youth group participated in the Ropes Course in Ligonier, Pa. You can read about the entire event at  What’s Gonna Work?  Teamwork!

To summarize, Kyle’s youth group participated in a very unique type of team building experience.  The Ropes Course!  This activity is perfect for smaller groups.

Before taking the plunge onto the obstacle, we played several team building and energetic games.  Yes, we actually got to run around and act silly, while building trust among each other in the group.  Then, after our instructors felt we were ready, we tackled the Ropes Course!

It was a serious of suspended cables, an unsteady bridge, shaky boards and a not-so-stable log walkway, all hanging about six inches off the ground.  Our mission was to figure out how to get everyone through the course without stepping on the ground and working together as a team, using everyone’s strengths and understanding everyone’s weaknesses.  Every time someone touched the ground, the entire group had to reset and start all over again, each time learning from the previous toward reaching our goal.

It took some time but we did figure it out.  Granted, we ran out of time before executing our final plan of attack, but it was a great experience regardless.  To this day it left such an impact on me, I incorporate some of the values and techniques into my scavenger hunts.

There are all sorts of team building activities that can be done, with any group of any size at any location, just pick one and try it.  It is totally worth it for the company or organization and everyone involved.  Email me for some ideas!  Heather@PiperCorporation.com.

Below are a couple of videos from the Ropes Course in Ligonier, Pennsylvania.  This was just part of the course, showing how we had to figure out to help each other to get through it, leaning on everyone’s strengths.  Poor Kyle, he was working so hard to make sure he didn’t touch the ground and yet got across the log.  Good job buddy!

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Random Fun Facts,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts,Travels and have No Comments

Laughing About Nothing … Our Dog vs. A Robber

Every act of perception, is to some degree an act of creation, and every act of memory is to some degree an act of imagination.  ~Oliver Sacks

Scooby-Seven-Backyard-2014-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Seven & Scooby running & relaxing in the backyard. 2014

Even though Kyle is growing up and becoming more independent and “cool”, he still has a witty sense of humor and makes me laugh, hard!  This past weekend his humor shined through and through.

These silly situations usually happens when we have dashboard time in the car.  One of us makes a comment, then the other joins in with another comment, only more ridiculous and so on.  This continues until we have a seriously stupid yet very comical fictional story for our own pure entertainment.

What was so funny?  Our dogs!  Kyle asked about Scooby’s behavior with a stranger in the house, the DirectTV guys working on our cables to be exact.  I had to lock all three dogs in the bedroom (yes I am still dog sitting Avery), not a good thing!  Then, somehow we started on a scenario involving a robber entering the house.

For those of you who don’t know, Scooby is our blond Labrador.  Normally, Labs are very friendly dogs, well not Scooby, at least not with anyone else besides us.  Scooby is seriously the most gentle and loving dog, borderline clingy, that is ONLY with us.  Scooby is not even very nice with friends and family who frequent the house.  Yep, he’s a one dog family.  He’s too needy for my tastes, but very good with Kyle and pretty protective of him.  Kyle lays on Scooby and tugs on him and smothers him and runs him around.  Scooby loves every minute of it, unlike my dog Seven who is the Black Labrador.  Seven likes to be loved, but does not need saturated with affection like Scooby craves.  Scooby mean side is the basis of our sense of humor, at least for this particular story.

Kyle and I went off on ideas  of a robber entering the house and how Scooby would react, charging and latching on no doubt.  Typical stuff you’d see in a movie when a robber enters the house with an attack dog.  At least that’s how I envisioned it.  Then, our made up story went a bit non politically correct from there.  Do disrespect intended.

Pap-and-Piper-cousins-1977-Aunt-Heather-Piper

We loved pap! Me to the far left, Nicole, Jeremy & Chad. 1977

We started laughing about this fictitious robber who now has a wooden prosthetic leg.  I know, now-a-days most prosthetic legs are made from some sort of metal, however I also know first hand they used to be made of wood.  How do I know?  My beloved pappy had not one, but two prosthetic legs.  I’ve talked about my dad’s dad many times before Truly Homemade, Who Does Kyle Favor More, Pappy?  He had his first leg amputated below the knee before I could remember, and the other leg amputated above the knee when I was a little girl.  At the house, he used a wheelchair to get around, but when he was at work (yes he worked in a sawmill until he had a stroke and died) he had two prosthetic legs.  He would walk on them with two canes.  My pap was mentally and physically strong.

Our story started with Scooby getting a hold of this mysterious stranger’s leg and yanking it off.  To add to the fun and drama, our scene continued with Scooby gnawing on the leg and turning it into sawdust while the robber hops along.  Then, somehow Scooby got outside, still clutching the wooden prosthetic leg and running around the backyard, proud of his new “stick”.  Scooby would throw it in the air and catch it and then the other dogs would join in pulling and play with the leg.

What happened to the robber?  No clue.  We focused on the humor of Scooby running around with a wooden leg.

As we detailed this ridiculous story, I commented how funny it would be to come home to Scooby running with a wooden prosthetic leg in his mouth.  “Can you imagine him greeting us as we pulled in the driveway with a leg hanging out of his mouth?”  Kyle and I died!  We were laughing so hard, no sound was exiting our mouths.  If it wasn’t for his seat belt, Kyle would have been rolling around on the floor of the car.  It was one of those gut stretching laughs that caused your body to convulse and the muscles to tighten up, one of those perfect laughs that relaxes you.

I know my words don’t do the story justice and for the life of me I couldn’t remember all the silly comments we both made, but thinking back on it now, it’s still totally hilarious to me!  Guess you had to be there.

I love my little man!  He makes life so much fun and entertaining.  Even a simple car ride turned out to be a memory that I’ve been chuckling about all week.

Catch all the ridiculously funny stories!

Laughing About Nothing
Laughing About Nothing … True Story

Laughing About Nothing … Cats!
Laughing About Nothing … Truck Horn!
Laughing About Nothing … Dog in Space!

Below is a video of Kyle, Mr. Shirtless running around my parent’s backyard with our boys, Seven and Scooby.  Two good Labradors!

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Observation & Imagination,Pets,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Did You Vote Thrill of the Hunt?

Nothing great in the world was accomplished without passion.  ~Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunt Logo in bubbleAs most may have realized, I entered my company Thrill of the Hunt in a contest, the Chase Mission Main St. Grant Contest.

What does that mean?  It means I have a shot, granted a very slim chance, at winning one of twenty prizes awarded.  It’s true, I’m a small town Latrobe start-up company in our second year, and there were roughly 35,000 participants in the 2013 contest, so the odds are not in my favor (a little Hunger Games reference).  I get it, but I also know someone, 20 small businesses to be exact, will win.  Why not try?

Before I forget and get wrapped up in the details of this contest, please vote.  If you voted, thank you so very much!  There is only one vote per person permitted and currently as of now, I only need 39 more votes to go in 10 days.

Follow this link–>    .

Now onto the details of this contest.

The big prize or the crème de la crème is winning the $150,000 grant (naturally I’ll have to pay all local, state and federal taxes).  In addition to the prerequisites to entering the contest, such as the number of employees, the minimum of two years in business and such, I had to complete essay questions.  I met the strict criteria with flying colors, the easy part, but the questionnaire took some time to work out.  There were several sets of questions to answer including outlining the details to how the money will be used if won.  A great way to force me to think wisely with respect to spending, on a micro and macro level, with or without winning.  Thinking this way will only help Thrill of the Hunt in the long run.

Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunt Founder Aunt Heather Piper

Me at the Seton Hill University Homecoming Block Party, doing a scavenger hunt for Seton Hill in Greensburg, Pa. 9/21/13

How would I use the money?  Since there are two sides to Thrill of the Hunt, the public, which are our own hosted scavenger hunt events; and the private, which include business functions, team building activities, fundraisers and parties, I addressed them both, for they work in tandem.

The money will help Thrill of the Hunt expand our public events into other cities and states.  It will also give me the resources to truly promote our events AS AN EVENT!  With every public scavenger hunt and new city we participate in, Thrill of the Hunt meets new contacts and promotes our services as a scavenger hunt adventure for private functions!  These public and private scavenger hunts give me the marketing power to promote Thrill of the Hunt with the use of Google keywords, increasing our SEO within each hosted area.  See how both sides of the house play off of each other and yet, are mutually independent?  That was not by chance but by my design.

Then, there’s the trip to Google headquarters to attend a seminar with small business experts.  Having the opportunity to tour Google alone would be amazing, not to mention speaking with these experts and making contacts, again spreading the word on Thrill of the Hunt.

As part of the benefit package, the winners will also receive a Google Chromebook laptop and a $2,000 coupon toward one market research study with Google Consumer Surveys.  All good for taking my company to the next level.

Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunt Kyle & Aunt Heather Piper at Pittsburgh Event

Me & Kyle administering a scavenger hunt for Thrill of the Hunt in Shadyside, Pittsburgh, Pa. 2013

I’ve done other contests in the past and lost, but going through this process is good for me personally and the company.

Last year I participated in the Intuit Big Game Small Business Contest.  Why do I take the time to do so when my time is so limited?  I enter these very hard to win contests for several reasons.

First and foremost for the opportunity to win.  They each have a very enticing draw, which will benefit Thrill of the Hunt tremendously if awarded.  Again, I’m not so blind to realize the odds, but like I said, someone has to win.  I feel if I don’t try, I am doing my company an injustice and a missed opportunity.

Plus, completing the application is a great process to go through.  It helps to reevaluate the direction of the company and truly get to the heart and soul of the business.  I mean that.  These contests ask the tough questions or ones not even considered. Like what?

Besides the typical short and long-term goals and competition, they ask ‘Why did you start the business?’, ‘What will winning mean to your company?’, “What made you want to be an entrepreneur?’, and ‘How does your company help the community?’.  Writing up the essay questions is a great way to evaluate yourself as a business owner and the company.  It also helps to really narrow your focus or confirm your business model.  Not to mention, the more that is written about your company, the better your copy sounds and is refined.

It also recharges your battery and builds excitement, reiterates why the company was started in the first place.  Keeping the passion up and going can be a challenge too.  Every little bit of encouragement helps.

Did I mention with these essay questions they are usually limited to about 1,000 to 1,500 characters?  Not words, but characters including the spaces.  Yikes, that’s right!  That in itself is very difficult and challenging, but it forces a person to really eliminate all the unwanted bull and the unnecessary words to capture the true essence of the company.  Like I said a great practice to go through.

Dog-Gone-Scavenger-Hunt-Thrill-of-the-Hunt-Shadyside-Pittsburgh Pa 6-2013

Leko (pre Cooper) showing off his Thrill of the Hunt prizes at the Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt in Shadyside, Pittsburgh, Pa 6/2013

Another big factor with these contests is the marketing aspect.  Yes, the national promotion of being associated with a big name, and naturally the prestige of winning under said name is a bonus, but also the indirect publicity with friends and family.  This helps to spread the word on the company to those who might not know you are in business for yourself, or may not know exactly what it is you do.  Those people who we take for granted and are often times overlooked are monumental to a company!  These contests force a person to reach out to EVERYONE, especially when it comes to the voting process, which they all seem to share.  It’s a great way to introduce a company on a very personal level without commitment.  It’s also a great excuse to continue promoting the company to those who are very aware of the business and to maintain top of mind awareness.

With these contests, they usually give marketing options and templates to use or store for future efforts.  Again, going through the activity of writing a press release or scripting and shooting a video to distribute, moves everyone out of their comfort zone and into the real world of marketing, another avenue to promote the company.

Believe it or not, all this activity and project development does take time but helps to get your thoughts together to really understand your own company.  That was always a big fear of mine, not having a clear defined message.  Working in an ad agency with an eclectic assortment of industries and companies, I’ve seen the opposite.  Believe it or not, I’m not talking about small companies but established businesses with major resources.  I’ve seen them fall short on the focus of their company or have yet to find their true niche.  Scary.

To anyone who has a start-up company, or is thinking of doing so, or is already up and running, take the time to invest in these contests.  No I’m not being paid to promote them, and yes, they are long shots, but with experience comes understanding and knowledge.  More importantly, theses exercises will get you thinking differently and out of your comfort zone.  Plus, someone has to win!

Good luck Thrill of the Hunt!  Remember, everyone needs to … Experience the Game!

Thank you to everyone who has helped me out with Thrill of the Hunt in one way or another over the years.  Your involvement has been appreciated and needed!  Most are friends and family who want to see my company succeed, but some are strangers who see potential in my business.  To everyone who voted, spread the word, sent me leads, gave advice and direction or just gave me words of encouragement, I want to send a very sincere Thank You!  I wouldn’t have made it this far without everyone’s help.

For more information on Thrill of the Hunt, visit our website at www.ThrillScavengerHunt.com or email us at Game@ThrillScavengerHunt.com.

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Common Sense,Education & Learning,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts,Travels and have No Comments
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