My New Title … Band Chaperon

Authority without wisdom is like a heavy axe without an edge, fitter to bruise than polish.  ~Anne Bradstreet

Close up Kyle Kiski Marching Band 10-23-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Close up of Kyle playing his sousaphone during their show (Origins) 10/23/15

I’ve always been involved with Kyle in some fashion or another, on all aspects of his life.  Was this a requirement for being Kyle’s Aunt Heather?  Well, no, but in good conscience, yes.  That was my choice made the day Kyle was born. (Honestly, I probably made that decision before then, when I saw the joy in Ryan’s eyes upon the anticipation of his son.)  Regardless, some of my influences and involvement have been necessary.  I always wanted to support Kyle in his interests, activities and friends, as well as his scholastic goals, his physical fitness, and most importantly his spiritual well-being.  For no other reason than for him, not for my own pride, my personal gain or anything of the such.  Being directly involved was the way I knew how to make this happen.

A few weeks ago, I received an email asking me to chaperon a Friday night football game for the band, and a Saturday night band competition.  Apparently, there was a last minute cancellation from a chaperon due to an injury.  Would I accept the challenge?  Of course!  Actually, I was beyond excited.  Okay, perhaps I do have a little bit of personal gain in volunteering.  What do I get out it?  I not only get to assist, but I also receive the opportunity to see Kyle grow as a young man, and experience his happiness while doing something he loves and he’s proud of.  That’s what makes it worth it.

Did Kyle know I was chaperoning?  Nope.  On my defense, neither did I until two days prior.  I would have called Kyle to give him a heads up, but he was still going through this phase of not answering my text messages or my calls, so I thought the heck with him, he’ll see me when he does.

Kyle & his tube line Kiski 10-23-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle with his sousaphone line. Their show is called Origins 10/23/15

Was Kyle happy?  Not in the slightest.  It was a quick reminder those days of volunteering for the PTA, and participating in Santa’s workshop were over.  Those were the good old days when Kyle would see me way down the hall in school, and he’d wave in desperation to get my attention.  The days he actually would tell parents, students, teachers, everyone, I was his Aunt Heather, and was proud of it.  The days he wanted to hang with me, and loved my involvement.  Yep, while lining up to get ready for the parade prior to the game, I was reminded those days are long gone.

While the kids were arriving and putting the final touches on their uniforms, they retreated into smaller groups to practice.  I was geared in my own Band Chaperon embroidered shirt.  On a side note, this is how much I love Kyle.  The shirts are canary yellow.  Yellow!  Anyone who knows me, is aware of my aversion, actually my revulsion for yellow.  The school colors are blue and yellow, and I get why they chose the less desirable color because we stand out for the students, but yuck!  Anyway, I never saw Kyle during all the confusion, that is until he was sporting his sousaphone.  How could anyone miss that instrument?

Kyle Kiski Marching Band 10-23-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle’s Marching Band performance – Origins 10/23/15

Surprisingly, I knew one of the band parents from the PTA.  In fact, she brought Kyle along with her son and another student.  She told me she asked Kyle if I was chaperoning on Saturday, seeing my name on the list.  Kyle’s response?  “I don’t know.”  That’s my little man.

Did I talk to Kyle?  Of course, who couldn’t resist?  Not wanting to make the night miserable for my sousaphone player, I kept my distance, but I had to acknowledge him at least once.  Upon setting up in formation for the parade, (the band marched through town to the football stadium), I nudged his arm to say hello.  Naturally, I was sporting a huge stupid grin.  Kyle on the other hand looked confused and almost disgusted.  Whatever.  I was there not only to support him, but his fellow band members.  I had a job to do!

I kept my promise to myself, and never called Kyle out, nor did I infringe on his personal space.  Although, while we (the band parents) were passing out water to the students, Kyle tried to dodge past me.  He literally ducked and weaved.  I never saw such fancy footwork from that kid!  Okay, now my maturity surfaced.  I instantly leaned in his direction, to get his attention and said, “Kyle, don’t you need water?  Kyle! KYLE!”  That brought a huge smile to my face, as well as to a few students witnessing such a strange exchange.  Kyle wouldn’t look up, he only shook his head and darted past me.  Am I that repulsive?

Kyle during Kiski Marching Band performance 10-23-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle’s kneeling in position during the Kiski Marching Band show (Origins) 10/23/15

Throughout the night, some of the other parents commented, that they couldn’t believe what a cold shoulder Kyle was giving me.  I just shrugged and laughed it off.

The Saturday band competition was much of the same.  The only difference, I was preoccupied helping out and Kyle, as well as the other students, were feeling the stress and anxiety of competition.  It was a horribly rainy day and night.  While standing in our rain gear, getting organized, I turned around to find I was in close proximity to Kyle the entire time!  I had no idea, and I know he didn’t either, since my rain hood was up and I was wearing a YELLOW band raincoat.  I wanted to say “Hi'” and leave it at that, but Kyle’s evasive demeanor pushed me to be a stinker.  Again, I couldn’t help myself.  I suddenly felt a desire to be irritating.

What did I do?  Nothing terrible, at least not in my eyes.  Standing beside Kyle was his fellow tuba player.  I simply said hello to him, and he responded with a very polite hello back, albeit a little confused.  I continued, “I’m Kyle’s Aunt Heather.”  Kyle’s face was priceless.  He started to laugh and look away, trying to escape the situation he knew was going to happen.  I continued, “I’m Kyle’s really cool Aunt, even though he doesn’t know it and won’t admit to it.”  Now the boy was flashing looks between Kyle and myself, wearing the biggest grin, mimicking my facial expression.  He was such a nice kid, he only said, “Yeah, everyone has a cool Aunt.”  Taking that as my cue, I replied, “Yeah!  That’s me!”  We laughed for a few seconds before moving along.  I figured my job was complete.  Kyle kept his face turned away from us, probably rolling his eyes.

Kyle playing Marching Band 10-23-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Kiski Marching Band Show – Origins. Kyle playing during the show 10/23/15

Did Kyle ever mention that exchange to me again?  Nope.  And I don’t care, I wanted to be there with Kyle, and that’s that.  I want to help celebrate his wins and support him with his losses.  That’s what family does.

Kiski won first place at the Gateway competition.  Right after the announcement, I searched the crowd for my little man.  Surprisingly, I spotted Kyle among all those similarly dressed students instantly.  He was hugging other students and celebrating their win.  That’s a memory I filed away, for he was truly happy and I was proud of him.

I wanted someone to get a picture of the two of us, Kyle in his band uniform and I in my chaperon shirt, but I didn’t want to push the situation.  Perhaps another time.

I hope I’m called upon to chaperon down the road.  Some of the parents already asked if I could join them for Grand Nationals in Indianapolis.  But alas, I’ll be goose hunting with dad and a few of his friends near Erie.  I was thinking about heading out to Indiana after we were done hunting, but Kiski was scheduled to perform on Friday, the day of the hunt.  Next time.

Kiski Marching Band 10-23-15 Aunt Heather Piper

2015 Kiski Marching Band – Origins 10/23/15

On another side note, I finally was formally introduced to Kyle’s band director.  He sat behind me on the Gold bus.  During our little bit of chitchat, I asked why he moved Kyle from the trumpet to the sousaphone.  He said, “Honestly, Kyle was having a hard time hitting the high notes, but he’s a natural sousaphone player.”  Good to know.  Then, I shared with him, Kyle’s ability to play the piano and somewhat the guitar.  He was surprised, not knowing this information.  I’m not sure why Kyle refuses to admit to his talents, but I took care of that one too.

Kiski Marching Band is pretty stellar.  They also have a great support team, which is so good for the kids.  It’s also nice to see such family involvement.  After the competition on Saturday night, we actually had a police escort all the way back to the school.  Once the buses rounded the bend to the loading dock, the parents were lined up in their cars waiting for our champions.  Illuminating the night, they held up these light spinners, and hoked their horns cheering on the band.  Great support!

Good luck Kiski during Grand Nationals!  You guys are truly talented!

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

Still Adjusting to the Loss of Ryan, 14 Years Later

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seemed filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster  ~Elizabeth Bishop

September 24, 1977 – October 23, 2001

St. Vincent -Confirmation Piper Family Aunt Heather Piper 1990

Mom, me (8th grade), Dad, Ryan (6th grade) & Gram at my Confirmation at St. Vincent Basilica. Ryan served mass 1990

Years after loosing Ryan, I know I retreated in many ways.  I think I was trying to … actually, I have no idea what I was trying to do.  I don’t truthfully know why I distanced myself in many ways, for it wasn’t a conscience decision, it just happened.  Most would say I was dealing with my loss.  True.  I also focused all of my energies on Kyle.  True.  But really, I’ve seen other people deal with loss and travel down different paths.  I guess this is the road I was chosen to trek.

Ryan’s death affected everyone differently.  It’s definitely, not just about my family and myself.  Nope, his loss included distant family, friends of the family, Ryan’s friends, my friends, and unbeknownst to him, Ryan’s son Kyle, among others near and far.

As the years tally up, and I leave my personal cocoon, I run into signs of the pain as a result of Ryan’s death, even after all this time.  Some are literal signs.  Example, Ryan’s one friend Jacob (or his brother Luke) has a tattoo on his leg marking Ryan’s date he departed us.  Another friend of mine and Ryan’s, Danielle, named her daughter after Ryan.  This is a common theme, for I’ve ran into a few people who did just that, including Ryan’s friend Travis (I think it was him).  It’s a very sweet and heartwarming gesture.  I hope Kyle realizes just how much his dad meant to everyone, enough to name their offspring after my brother.

Recently, I’ve been missing Ryan.  Yes, that’s not a new concept and always an underlying truth, but I miss Ryan for Kyle, and I wish he would’ve know his father.  Presently, I feel like Kyle needs his dad, especially with the major issues we’ve been having with Kyle, mostly his attitude.  I don’t know how the present would appear if Ryan was still with us, but I do know for certain, Ryan wouldn’t have allowed any of it to happen, or put a mad stop to it immediately.  I get it, Kyle’s a teenager, but disrespect should never be permitted, let alone displayed, no matter the age.

Kyle isn’t a bad kid, really he’s not.  He’s a pretty good young man, but we’ve hit a rough patch.  I pray Kyle understands that I try and make decisions based on what his dad would say or do, or how he felt about certain topics.  Loss is never easy, for anyone involved, not even one who was three months old when Kyle experienced his first loss.

Words cannot express how much I miss you Ryan.  Truly.  I know you chose me as Kyle’s godmother for a reason, and you always knew I’d put Kyle first and I’d do right by him.  I’m sincerely trying my best.  Honestly, you’d be proud of Kyle.  He’s a very talented and intelligent young man and his future is promising.  He’s already shown to be a success as a person.

The introduction quote is actually a snippet from a poem.  It’s really a lovely piece, and very appropriate for this blog post.  Ever since loosing Ryan, I try not to sweat the small stuff.  I put things into perspective, especially when it comes to materialism, which I’m not a big fan of and never have been, similar to Ryan.  Nothing, and I mean NOTHING is as important as human life and doing the right thing.

Like Elizabeth Bishop, I too try and accept loss and loosing someone.  But I’ve never completely come to terms with Ryan’s death.  I’m sure he’ll always weigh heavy on my heart, some days are easier than others.

Below is the poem in it’s entirety.  Take a moment and try it out for yourself.

One Art
By Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

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

Silly Greeting, Aunt Heather Style

Silly things do cease to be silly if they are done by sensible people in an impudent way.  ~Jane Austen

Pittsburgh gals 1995 Aunt Heather Piper

Becca’s wedding. Me, (L) Becca, Kathleen, Tracy – Pittsburgh gals from Contempo Casuals & Trade Secret 1995

This is a bit silly, and anyone who knows me, can picture this one.  I guess old habits stay with me, and this one certainly has in a big way, for about 14-years.  I’d like to think that one day, Kyle is going to tell stories about his crazy Aunt Heather, and one such story will include this special phrase.  To ensure Kyle truly understands, and knows this phrase was always delivered with warmth and love, for it comes straight from my heart, I’ll explain.

I have this thing I do with Kyle, (and sometimes with my dog and cat) which has spread to selected individuals, only at the right moment.  It’s really pretty silly actually, but something worth noting.  In fact, when I say this phrase to others, I always share stories about Kyle, my little Narrow.  It goes to show, just how much that little bugger is always on my mind, and how much I care for him.

What’s the phrase?  Instead of saying “There he is!”, as in Kyle walks into a room and I show my love and affection for him by focusing all my attention toward him.  I’ve changed it slightly to “Dare he is!”

Why?  Initially, it started when he was a baby, hence the baby talk.  Also, sometimes I was so excited to see my little guy, I’d rush through the words to eliminate the “Th” and pick a letter at the front of the alphabet for quicker delivery.  Plus, it was sillier to say “Dare” instead of “There”.  At least Kyle got a kick out of it, and it made him giggle.  Then, it became our thing.  So it stuck.

Dave greeting Aunt Heather Piper c. 1997

Davey greeting me in his own unique way.  He cracks me up!  Philadelphia area visiting his mom. c. 1997

When do I use this silly phrase?  When Kyle was a little tyke, I’d say it with pure enthusiasm and gusto, upon him waking  from a nap or from a long nights sleep.  Sometimes I’d say it when he walked in the door or visa versa.  Sometimes I’d say it out of nowhere just for the heck of it to make him smile, and show my love towards my Narrow.  In recent times, I’d say it to get his attention, and if I wanted to see a smile.  Especially, if he was being crabby or the tension was a bit overwhelming, to help lighten the mood.  It usually worked.  At least, after the argument, not necessarily during.  Of course picture me saying “Dare he is.” over and over with all of my heart and soul, sporting a big old grin.  Who can resist me?  Not even Kyle!

In fact, over the years I’ve caught Kyle using this phrase, mostly towards our pets, but sometimes with his Aunt Nikki and with myself.  He always did like to get a rise out of me, and that’s the best way to do it!  Personally, I loved it when he tried to get my attention by saying “Dare she is.  Hey Aunt Heather, dare she is!”  That little stinker would flash me an ornery grin and look at me from the corner of his eye.  LOVED THAT!

When I say it towards friends, it’s obviously not as frequent, but it’s a way for me to bring a smile to others, and possibly lighten their day.  Plus, those who know the story, which is about everyone, appreciates its origins, and I enjoy sharing my joy of Kyle with others.  Kyle and that silly phrase are such a part of me, naturally they’d go hand in hand.

The big question, how is it used?  It was always sort of our own personal greeting.  But it’s not a single line greeting.  Oh no!  It’s to be said in repetition, with each time getting louder, projecting more excitement, and enunciating each word deliberately.  In the case of Kyle, usually I follow it up with a big hug and a kiss (later on the cheek).

Example:  “Dare he is.  Dare (pause) He Is!  DARE (pause) HE (pause) IS!” and sometimes one for the road only quicker.  “Dare-he-is.”  It’s to be said with gusto, pure love and a huge smile.  Not only is this greeting verbal, but it’s also body language and attitude, a good attitude.  More than not, I’ve found myself saying it with my arms extended ready to embrace my little man.

Just talking about our silly greeting makes me want to give Kyle a big old hug.  This is one thing I hope Kyle always remembers about me, and I hope he remembers it fondly with all of my love.


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

Happy Birthday Ryan!

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately… ~Henry David Thoreau

Happy 38th Birthday Ryan!

Believe it or not, Ryan would’ve been 38-years old today!  He just turned 24 when he pertinently went to his grand woods in the sky.

Ryan with his boss 1996 Aunt Heather Piper

Ryan joking with his old boss at Ryan’s graduation party. Like me, Dad & Kyle, Ryan carried the sarcasm gene & the sweet tooth. 1996

A fun fact, something I’ve noticed more recently, I use Ryan’s birthday as our birth date for Thrill of the Hunt.  Really?  Yes, not the year, but I always claim September 24, 2012 as the beginning of Thrill of the Hunt.  To be honest, it was September of 2012 that we sold our very first private scavenger hunt.  I could probably find out the true date, but in all reality which date do I credit?  When we received our first proposal, the approval for the quote, or when the scavenger hunt took place?  We also held our very first public scavenger hunt on September 22nd of that year.  In fact, I believe our corporate paperwork went through in 2011, not that we did anything with the company until later.  September became our breakout month.  So yes, Ryan and Thrill of the Hunt share the same date of birth.  It’s my way of including Ryan in our adventures.

To be honest, I got the idea from another event.  This might be silly, but the town of Forks, Washington, holds September 13th as Stephenie Meyer day, actually, they call it “Forever twilight in Forks.”  You know the lady who brought Twilight to the masses and brought a little unknown town to the world.  In the book, September 13th is Bella’s, the main character’s, birthday.  In honor of Stephenie Meyer, the town holds this day, and the days surrounding it, as a time of celebration and to pay homage for everything the author did to their dying town.  I liked that idea, and wanted to include Ryan in on Thrill of the Hunt in a subtle way, besides Kyle’s involvement in the company.

I’ve had some ask me if Kyle knows who Ryan is?  Yes he does.  But Ryan, his dad, doesn’t mean the same to Kyle as Ryan meant to us.  It’s a shame, considering between Kyle’s birth and nearly three months, Ryan already showed traits of being a stellar dad.  Perhaps down the road, Kyle will feel a connection with Ryan, maybe one unique to them.  I hope so.  I’d like to think Ryan’s always with Kyle, and Ryan’s looking out for our little teenager.

Happy birthday little brother, you’re still remembered and in our hearts, always.  One day we’ll run through the woods together again, this time no mosquitos!




posted by auntheather in Church,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts,Reminiscing,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts and have No Comments

Who’s Behind That Sousaphone? – Marching Band

Chaos often breeds life, when order breeds habit.  ~Henry Adams

Kyle with Pap and Scooby 9-20-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Mom got Kyle to pose with his Pap for a picture with Kyle’s Marching Band Metal from Bands of America on 9/19/15, 1st Place! Scooby made his appearance too… 9/20/15

Yes, this isn’t another quote chosen by happenstance.  I thought it only fitting since Kyle loves math and he’s my little teenager trying to be unique.  It’s also a reminder that life is delicate, simple, and yet complex, especially when dealing with a teenager.  I know I’ll never truly know Kyle’s outcome in life, but I do know what I’m desperately trying to teach him, and how I’m leading by example.

It’s no secret Kyle’s always loved music, hence why I started him young, at the age of six to be exact, with piano lessons.  Now as a fiery fourteen-year-old he’s in the marching band.  Honestly, this decision, which was solely his, which rings music to my ears.  I love Kyle’s involvement in the band!  It’s wonderful discipline, a structured social activity, good competition and great cultural exposure with their travels, just to name a few benefits.

Unbeknownst to some, I too was involved in the Greater Latrobe Marching Band for four years.  Granted, I never played an instrument, I was in the Colorguard, but I was apart of a great group of people and I had the best years of my life.  The marching band was my gateway to Winterguard, and in my senior year, I was apart of the Indoor Drumline.

Did I influence Kyle at all?  I’m really not sure.  I know I never pushed him into marching band, but I’ve made comments, mostly about my experiences in the band and how much fun I had.  Perhaps something resonated with Kyle, or he’s more like me than I realize, and we have the same type of interests and enjoy the same activities.  Who knows?  Personally I don’t care.  I’m happy he found something he enjoys.

As you may have guessed, Kyle plays the sousaphone.  What is that?  It’s a form of tuba.  Does he like it?  When asked, he kind of shakes his head and nonchalantly smiles.  I’ve learned in teenage terms, that’s a great big YES.

He’s already gone through band camp, which in everyone’s experience is dreaded, yet favorable in lifelong memories.  It’s hard work but the payoff and benefits are well worth it.

About two Saturday’s ago, September 12th, Mom and I were able to attend Kyle’s home band competition at Kiski.  Sadly, it rained off and on throughout the competition.  Add the bitter cold and it made for a less than favorable evening of band watching.  Did I care?  Not one bit!  It brought back memories of marching through the mud, and being soaked to the bones along with everyone else.  Those are the times that bond a group, believe it or not.  The hard times reveals everyone’s true attitude and nature, and can be the glue that unites a large group.  From what I’ve been told, it’s very similar to being in the armed forces, same basic principle.

Kyle in Kiski Marching Band 9-12-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Our little man, middle sousaphone (tube). Kiski Marching Band home competition. 9/12/15

Competitions were always my favorite.  Football games, I didn’t really care much about, and parades were okay, but what I lived for, besides the travel, were the Saturday night competitions.

Naturally, mom and I arrived early.  We wanted to get a good seat and make sure we didn’t miss anything Kyle was involved in.  We didn’t!  In fact, when entering the football field, we came in on the wrong side and had to cross the field, literally in the grass to get to the other side.  While doing so, Kyle and his group of blue were lined up practicing before us.  What luck!  Boy did that make my day!  Naturally, I stood in front of everyone, yelling, “Kyle!  Kyle!”  Of course, he was in the back and didn’t hear me at first.  Getting the attention of a young lady, I was on a mission to make eye contact with Kyle.  Finally, Kyle looked up and tried not to give me that typical grin.  Was I flailing my arms around and waving them in his direction?  You bet I was!  Subtly, he brought his hand up to give me a little wave, trying to appease me so I’d leave.  My night was complete!  I got to see Kyle and he looked good!

It was great watching the bands again.  I truly enjoyed it.  Some braved the rough terrain and kept to their routines, while others stood and performed for the audience.  Kiski stood and played.  They were the last high school on the field, so I didn’t blame them.  As a whole, they looked and sounded great.

Kyle did not disappoint.  When Kyle wants to, he’ll give his all to being the best that he can possibly be given the task at hand.  I’ve seen in when he was a server (alter boy) in church.  The same precision and intent was portrayed while Kyle was on the field.  I mean he carried himself well, and had the attitude of an competitor.  I was very proud!

This past Saturday was Bands of America in Monroeville.  I was unable to attend since I was administering to a scavenger hunt in Arlington, Virginia for Thrill of the Hunt.  When I got back on Sunday, after I picked Kyle up at the tutor’s, I asked about the event.  Proudly, Kyle told me they took first place and he had a metal to show for it.  I could tell he was very pleased, as he should be.

Good job buddy!  I wish I could have been there to watch and support you!  Next time.  I couldn’t be more proud, and I hope your experiences are rewarding and fun.  Congratulations!


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

Teenager vs. Aunt Heather Part 3 – Flexing the Attitude

Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood.  ~George Orwell

Kyle at Latrobe Airport for his birthday 7-31-10 Aunt Heather Piper

A happy Kyle at Latrobe Airport ready for his flying lessons – 9th birthday. 7/31/10

So far in my last two posts, Kyle has been giving me major attitude and disrespect.  I got him a math tutor that he didn’t want and feels he didn’t need, even though he tanked Algebra II last year, and now I was waiting to pick him up for church, which he clearly was resisting.

Waiting for the bus to drop off my little man,  I greeted him with a big smile, trying to ignore the tone he had already set while talking to him briefly on the phone prior, while on the bus in route.  Kyle smiled and headed straight for the house.  I told him to grab his homework, we had to go.  In all reality, I had somewhere I had to be at 4:30 pm and we were cutting it close, plus I was suppose to be on a conference call for work.  I mean my life doesn’t always revolve around Kyle, unbeknownst to him.

What did Kyle do?  He ignored me and left me out in the driveway for an hour!  Yes, you heard me right.  I was sitting in a hot car, waiting on Kyle, in the very hot sun, till I felt sick.  I banged on the door, still trying to keep my cool, even though I was boiling and now nauseous with a headache from the sun and heat.  Kyle argued with me till he finally came out.  I asked, “Did you bring your homework?”  He rolled his eyes, went back in the house for another fifteen minutes and came out with a piece of paper.  I thought, “That was all his homework?  Okay, whatever.”  During our brief conversation while he was on the bus, I stated to grab all your homework.  In fact, I believe on Sunday, I told him when I was picking him up, to grab ALL his homework.  There was no issue on Sunday with the plans, but know there was.

On a side note, if Kyle did that to ANYONE, made them wait on him, let alone in a hot car in the sun, I would have had him moved his butt out the door before he hit the fifteen minute mark.  But then again, I respect others and I try to take others into consideration.  Kyle’s actions was not respectful and teaches him to be a self centered, rude child to only turn into the same type of adult.

While making our leave, Kyle began the argument fest again, “Why do I have to go to church?” and “Why don’t I have a choice?” and “Why do I need a tutor?”  I’ve always been very truthful with Kyle, whether he wants to hear it or not.  Seriously, I’ve never lied to him, with the exception of Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny, which I came clean on years later.  Always being upfront and honest with the kid was my demonstration of showing respect and the right way to live.

Anyway, I explained to Kyle, his dad, my brother Ryan wanted him to be raised Catholic.  And as his godmother, my job is to ensure he has a close relationship with God and is spiritually healthy.


Me & my cousin Lila. She’s my little protégé … A little Heather Piper in training… At Mikey’s wedding 8/1/15

Obviously, Kyle didn’t like those answers and did what I hated the most, he kept repeating himself, without even giving me a chance to explain and kept interrupting.  He didn’t want answers, he wanted to complain and get his own way.  Then, he argued, “I was raised Catholic, I was Baptized and I had my First Holy Communion.”  I couldn’t help but give a little chuckle.  That’s the answer of an uneducated child who thinks he’s an adult, but is only fourteen.  I said, “Kyle, you weren’t raised, you’re not grown up.  And those are milestones to reinforce your faith.  You have a lot more learning to do.  Plus going to church reinforces your faith week after week so you don’t forget.”  That was followed by, “Why don’t I have a choice?”  Actually, I corrected him, stating he does, if he chooses another church, I will support him, but he can’t just not choose God and abandon Him altogether.  Kyle’s comment, “Why not, I’ve done good so far.”  I was very upset by that comment, stating, “Really you think your life was led this way because of you?  And you don’t need God?”  He shrugged his shoulders not having an answer.

If later in life Kyle decides to abandon church and his faith, then that’s his decision, one I tried to build his spiritual foundation to get him through life, to make honest and moral decisions.  Kyle asked when that was, I laughed a little and said, “When you’re eighteen.”  Okay, I did giggle over that, but I meant it.  He retorted with a, “What?  That’s by law!  Why not before that?”  I simply stated, “It’s by law you can make your own decisions, I didn’t make that rule.”  He was furious!

As we were cruising along, he said, “I have a lot of homework to do!”, which was his battle cry from the time we spoke earlier on the phone.  I reiterated, “That’s why I told you to bring ALL of your homework.”  He snapped back at me, “Well I don’t have it all.”  WHAT?  I slammed on the breaks, now ready to loose it on this kid.  I was already late and at this point, we were going to miss mass.  I turned around, and made him get all his homework.  He took another fifteen or twenty minutes, making me wait.  Obviously, that was Kyle’s way of getting back at me, which I didn’t appreciate, but I was thinking of the bigger picture and what was best for him.

His whole demeanor was less than favorable, even though I promised him I would never yell at him again, I was ready to explode!  I reminded Kyle of this fact, and I also stated that I didn’t appreciate him raising his voice at me.  He was practically yelling at me.

Once we headed out again, Kyle dictated, “You’re going to take me to church and then bring me right back.”  What?  Is that what he said?  It was, word for word!  First of all, who made him my boss, and who ever gave him the right to speak to anyone like that!

It was a struggle the entire forty minutes to Latrobe (counting traffic).  I told Kyle to get off of his video games. (he started to play on his iPhone) If he had that much homework to do he could get started on it now, as opposed to wasting valuable time on video games, especially since he made a big issue about church.  He wouldn’t listen.  I was loosing it big time.  He spat, “Why?  I don’t have to listen to you, you can’t tell me what to do.”  My response?  “Yes you do and looks like I just told you what to do.”  That kid actually puffed out his chest as if physically threatening me!  I was not having it from a little snot nosed teenager with an attitude problem.  I smacked him on the top of the head and took the phone right out of his hand.  (My reflexes are faster than his)  His response?

“YOU STOLE MY PHONE!”  Are you kidding me?  I merely told him I have his phone because he’s now grounded from it for the night.  He yelled like a crazy person, and stated I couldn’t ground him.  I said, “Looks like I just did buddy.”  Keep in mind, I have yet to yell.  My tone was even but very authoritative and unwavering.

I don’t know where all this was coming from, but it was intense and very disrespectful.  I was not going to back down.  Like I told Kyle when he was a little man, “I invented stubborn and you’ve met your match!”

Kyle at Idlewild c. 2003 Aunt Heather Piper

A young Kyle at Idlewild Park, Jump’in Jumgle in Ligonier for Gutchess Picnic. c. 2003

The best part?  Kyle said I was ridiculing him.  Really?  I asked how.  His response.  “You keep calling me names and ridiculing me!”  My response?  “Kyle, you’re acting like a jerk, so I will call you a jerk.  What name would you like me to call you while your acting like this?   I’m not ridiculing you,  I’m not making fun of you, I’m stating a fact.  You’re acting like a jerk.”  He didn’t like that comment either.  Of course, I knew anything I said, unless it was something he wanted, was futile.  For some reason, he wanted to take his aggression out on me and in his eyes I was his enemy.  However, in all reality, I was the one who loved him the most.  Anyone else would have caved in to his demands or sent him back to not deal with him.  I chose the harder route, one for his benefit.

I drove us to my parents house, partially to cool off and because I thought Kyle might straighten up for my dad.  The entire ride Kyle spat, “Take me back, NOW!”  Nope.  As we pulled into the driveway, I said, “You go in and give Pappy a hug.  He didn’t do anything to you.  Be nice, he misses and loves you.”  What did Kyle do?  He stayed in the car for a while, wouldn’t come in, and wouldn’t begin his homework.  I was beside himself.  I went out and warned him, “You’re not going anywhere until you do all that homework.  Do you understand?”

What did he do?  He went into the house and began looking for his phone straight away, with his superior attitude.  Prior to that, I explained the entire situation to dad.  Dad was beyond furious and at his last end with this kid.

Dad called Kyle into the living room and the major attitude, in the form of a teenager, stood before my dad acting tough, but I saw his lower lip quivering.  During the conversation, Kyle stated he didn’t want to come to the house anymore.  I knew those words really struck Dad in the heart.  Dad’s tone was strong and very intimidating.  While listening to him from the other room, I felt like a kid myself getting in trouble.  Dad’s voice dripped with anger and yet there was definite sorrow behind it.  Something I’m sure Kyle didn’t catch.  Then, Dad brought a tear to my eye when I heard him raise his voice stating, “You see that picture (on the mantel) THAT’s YOUR DAD!  WE’RE YOUR FAMILY!  Do you understand that?  So you better start treating us a little better!  After everything we’ve done for you, you act like this?  Kyle, I’ve always done EVERYTHING for you and you treat us like this?  Fine if you don’t want to come here anymore, then you don’t have to!”

Turkey Coop 9-6-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Our turkey coop at Mom & Dad’s. 9/6/15

What did Kyle have to say?  Nothing.  He walked out of the house.  I found him doing homework sitting on the wood pile.  I could tell logic wasn’t strong with him that day, for he should have moved his homework to the deck, but whatever.  I got dressed for church and said, “Let’s go.”  Without another word, Kyle got in the car.  I handed him his youth group t-shirt, the one everyone was wearing for mass.  He actually thanked me.  That was a step in the right direction.  (Previously I explained the process to get him the T-shirt.)   He put it on without saying much.  Another step in the right direction.  I stated that I’ll give him his space and sit in the back of the church, while he sits with his youth group.  No comment.

After leaving church, we were welcomed to stay and enjoy refreshments and snacks in the church basement.  I gave Kyle the option and he opted out.  We went back to my parents house, since it’s closer and I told him to finish his homework and once he’s done, we’ll leave.  He came in the house, never entered the living room where mom and dad were sitting, sat at the kitchen table and finished his reading.  He was a bit antisocial, but more than that I think he felt bad and awkward due to his outburst earlier.  Upon leaving church, his attitude did make a huge adjustment.  Perhaps he had time to reflect.

Upon completion of his homework, Kyle managed to give my parents a dry emotionless hug before we headed out again.  After hugging dad, he kind of looked like he wanted to cry.  Yep, like the Grinch, his heart was growing.

Keep in mind, Kyle still didn’t have his phone, nor did he know where it was located.  I had it now in my pocket, and I thought a nice gesture would be for me to give it back.  However, just as I was handing it over he said, “Now where’s my phone!”  We were almost there!  Umm…. I told him to watch his tone.  I gave him the phone but he wasn’t allowed to play any games on during the ride back.  He did his standard, “Why?”  I told him because he was grounded for the night and out of good faith I gave him his phone early.  He listened and placed it in his pocket making sure I couldn’t get it again.

On a side note, he was like an addict with that phone.  Truly!  A little alarming.

The ride was quiet.  Partially because I found Kyle dozing off, very unlike him.  Just before I dropped him off, I found out the night before, he was up till midnight doing homework because he had band practice till late.  That explains part of the attitude, he was tired, but it doesn’t explain what he was saying.  Of course, I’m aware he’s a teenager with no logical thoughts or actions sometimes.

Kyle did give me a hug and let me kiss that chubby little cheek of his.  He also gave me a nod in affirmation as if stating “I love you too.”  after I spoke those words.

You know it’s always situations like these that really makes me stop and reflect on my actions and questions if I’m doing right by Kyle.  I was told by a friend of mine, “Stick to your guns and do what’s right, just make sure they know you love them.”  I hope Kyle knows that, for I interject it when possible, even when I’m gritting my teeth trying not to grab him by the scruff of the neck.

How is Kyle now?  That past weekend he was really good.  He even helped me and Dad finish building the turkey run.  I didn’t even have to ask.  How much longer do I have with this teenage attitude?

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

Teenager vs. Aunt Heather Part 2 Calm Before the Storm

On the whole, I think you should write biographies of those you admire and respect, and novels about human beings who you think are sadly mistaken.  ~Penelope Fitzgerald


A very little Kyle visited by his godfather & cousin, Casey. Kyle is one lucky little man to have such good & caring people in his life. 2002

Kyle has been giving major attitude and showing me disrespect.  He’s been pushing boundaries and spreading his wings, thinking he should be a free range teenager.  Nope.  Some freedom is good, too much is just asking for trouble.  In my previous post, I just broke the news to Kyle that I got him a math tutor, since he tanked in Algebra II on last year’s report card.

Now we’re onto Sunday, August 30th. He wasn’t too bad getting ready, but he did display his typical attitude, which I didn’t care for much, especially while walking into the Lord’s house.  I’m trying with this kid, but he’s stepping over major lines.

Upon leaving church, Kyle seemed to be in good spirits.  Believe it or not that always happens after attending mass, especially when the music picks up our souls and sores them to the ceiling of the basilica.  Attending mass does lighten Kyle’s spirit, as it does mine.  I blatantly see it.  I’m pretty sure I witnessed a miracle.

Next stop, the tutor!  Of course, our meeting place was closed, and every other public location in close proximity was packed with church goers.  Wendy, the tutor had another meeting after ours and didn’t have time to waste.  We did the formal introductions and she took time to get to know Kyle, and in turn Kyle became familiar with his new tutor.  She asked a few questions about his current math class, and what he was having trouble in.  Naturally, Kyle shrugged his shoulders, not offering up much information.  I found it funny when Wendy said she loved Geometry, after Kyle stated that’s his current math class.  His face showed it all, again!  He knew he met his match and he had no one to blame but himself.  She was wonderful though.  She gave him instructions on what she expected from him and what he needed to bring for the next session, and what they’d be working on.  Kyle nodded and shook her hand like an adult, another proud moment in my eyes.  Others may not care, but to me, Kyle was showing Wendy respect and his foundation that I tried to instill in him from a young age was surfacing.  I love that!

After our brief encounter, Kyle relaxed quite a bit.  Perhaps he was stressed over the shock of a tutor, or dealing with a new teacher, or a change in his schedule.  Kyle’s never been much for change.  Whatever it was, it was nearly gone.  Once we got back to my parent’s house, Kyle was seriously a good kid without most of his attitude.  It was great!  In fact, dad and I were heading up to Indiana to set up my tree stand for hunting and Kyle helped.  He didn’t want to come with us, but he assisted me in loading the tree stand in the back of the truck.  Giving him kudos where it’s deserved, Kyle was a really big help!  He did the heavy lifting and it appeared that he wanted to show off how strong he’s become.  He’s stretched out before my eyes and is turning into a young man.  In the entire time after church, Kyle never complained, never argued, never drug his feet, nothing.  He was a delight.  Now my cynical side wanted to think he wanted to get rid of me, so he could play his video games in peace  In all reality, I do believe Kyle wanted to be helpful.  Either way, I appreciated his actions.

Before we left, I had Kyle give me a big hug, which he did without incidence.  He almost seemed happy.  While getting in the truck, I yelled for Kyle to come out of the house.  “Kyle!  Kyle!  Come on, give me more love.  I miss you and I need it to last.”  I was motioning for him to give me another hug while I motioned.  Kyle gave me a grin, and graciously came out, again, without argument or hesitation, to give me and dad another hug.  While he was moving toward me, I chirped one of my famous, “Dare (There) he is!  Dare he is!”  Kyle couldn’t resist his Aunt Heather.  I heard a chuckle fall out of his mouth.  That simple situation of Kyle being nice and giving us heartfelt hugs, and me telling dad how helpful he was made Dad’s day!  Mine too!

Great!  We left Sunday on a high note, to only be faced with a very difficult version of my nephew a few days later, Tuesday, September 1st.


Kyle on his birthday, enjoying his birthday Valley Dairy ice-cream sundae with his Gigi & Pappy. 7/31/05

Let me set the stage.  Kyle’s youth group emailed me, in addition to his entire group informing us that our new Bishop, the most Reverend Edward Malesic, J.C.L., the fifth Bishop of Greensburg, chose to give mass at Holy Family on Tuesday night.  The entire youth group was to attend wearing their youth group t-shirts and sit as a group, meeting at 6:30 pm.  Thinking in advance in Kyle’s best interest, I knew his t-shirt from last year definitely didn’t fit.  I didn’t want him to be the only one without a youth group tee, so I reached out to one of the youth leaders and made arrangements to get a bigger size.  Initially, I thought Kyle would enjoy hanging out with kids from his youth group, and thinking he’d be interested in going to mass out of sheer curiosity to see the new Bishop.  In my heart, I knew it would be a grand mass that Kyle should experience, and one he might enjoy.  Boy I was wrong.

Kyle texted me late, I mean around 11:30 pm on Monday asking “Why do I have to go tomorrow”.  Naturally, I was sleeping and didn’t receive the text message until the next morning.  He then texted me when I was on my way to pick him up around 3:00 pm on Tuesday.  Again, asking “Do I have to go”.  I didn’t respond to either text message, I was driving and I really don’t like texting and because I didn’t feel like listening to him whine.  I also wanted to give him a taste of his own medicine and feel the sting of someone intentionally ignoring him, like he does me.

Granted, mass wasn’t until 7:00 pm, but I had things I needed to do and it was convenient for me to get him as soon as he got off the bus.  Plus, it was a nice excuse to spend an evening with Kyle like we used to, when I took him to swimming lessons, piano lessons, and guitar lessons, after school over the years.

Calling him when I was nearly there to finalize plans, he actually answered!  He started on me the minute he picked up the call with complaining and whining.  I responded kindly that I was almost there.  Kyle gave me an attitude stating he was still on the bus and he had a lot of homework to do.  He was already out of control.  Seriously.  Did I care?  Nope!  He was going to listen and that was that.

I pulled into the driveway and waited for the teenage attitude to arrive.  Little did I know, the worst was on its way.

To Be Continued…

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Teenager vs. Aunt Heather – Part 1 Math Tutor

Some people care too much. I think it’s called love.  ~A.A. Milne


Kyle didn’t want his picture taken… I made him suppress a smile. Happy 14th Birthday Kyle! 2015

Where to begin.  How about in chronological order.  To be honest, I’ve been so upset as of lately, I didn’t feel like rehashing these events in writing until now.  I figured I record the good, so to be realistic I should record the bad, so to speak.

I know Kyle is growing up, and he’s finding himself, his likes and dislikes, and he wants to be his own person, and have his own voice.  All of that I’m very happy about, truly!  However, he can’t possibly think he should be allowed to do whatever he wants, when he wants, how he wants to do it.  Nope!  A little independence, sure, complete freedom with a bad attitude and disrespect, never, ever.

Kyle has been giving me a big attitude for some time now.  His newest thing, is to ignore my phone calls and text messages.  Something I’m sure is a learned behavior and will be addressed in a big way down the road unless corrected.  That’s the first item of disrespect.  Then, he was only visiting my parents when he wanted something, strike two.  Again, we love Kyle with all of our hearts, and we love seeing him, and spending time with him, even if it’s only for a short period of time.  But to take complete advantage of our generosity and kindness, not cool.

Moving on.  Everyone who knows me, knows there are two topics I NEVER budge on, church and school (showering and brushing teeth are also a couple others, but in my eyes those are mandatory acts of living that sometimes causes arguments and we work through them quickly).  I learned long ago to pick my battles, and those are it.  Whether Kyle likes it or not, in addition to being his aunt by blood relation, I’m also his godmother and an adult figure who’s been an integral part of his life from the beginning.  I was specifically chosen by my brother, Ryan, to raise him Catholic and it’s my job to carry out Ryan’s wishes.  A part of that is to keep Kyle on the path of moral responsibility and goodness, which I’ve been trying to do.

Next topic of conversation is school.  I’ve talked about that before, many, many times.  I worked with Kyle to get him into kindergarten at a young age, I helped pay for his preschool, and I’ve always made him accountable for his report card and homework, at every grade.  My intent was not to be mean but the opposite.  I care so much for Kyle, I only want the best for him, and if that means not taking the easy way, I’m there.  Seeing Kyle reach his potential and having no regrets has always been my goal.

I’ve never really said too much on Kyle’s clothing, music, hobbies or anything allowing him to be self expressive.  I do get on him about his video games, only because he spends way too much time in those mind sucking virtual worlds.  Speaking up and creating balance is for his own good.


Kyle with his cousin Cheyenne. Kyle was trying to get her to smile for the picture. What a great little guy! Bethel Church 2005

About three Sunday’s ago, August 23rd to be exact, I wasn’t in the area to take Kyle to church.  Next in line is my mom, who was suppose to be my voice and presence when I’m working.  What did Kyle do?  Knowing very well my mom is a push over, he basically told her he wasn’t going to church, and my mom didn’t argue!  I was livid!  Now take that a step further, when I called and texted him about the first day of school, on that Monday, he didn’t reply.  I simply wanted to wish him good luck and to hear his voice.  Would that teenager give me two seconds of his time, even through a text message?  Nope.  Ignore.  Here we go.

Now after a week of no word from Kyle, Saturday, August 29th rolls around.  The Olczak family reunion.  My sister came home, as did Kyle.  I had work to do on the computer so I skipped out, but from I was told, Kyle helped my mom make the Haluski and assisted with the setup.  Cool deal buddy!  That’s what I like to hear.  See how this roller coaster ride is going, down and up, and it continues.

Once he came home from the reunion, Kyle carried a small bit of an attitude, but nothing serious.  I talked to him for a few minutes, which went fine, even though he tried to avoid me, knowing I would bring up church sooner or later.  It was at this time, I knew I needed to break it to him what his official birthday gift was.

A math tutor!  You got it, remember A Dip In the Grades.  Yeah, well I didn’t forget.  In passing, I simply told Kyle, “We’re going to 9:30 am church.”  He rolled his eyes, and then I heard my sister chime in, “Why do we have to go so early?”  She’s never been like the rest of the family, minus my mom. We’re morning people.  Anyway, with conviction, I replied, “I don’t care what mass you go to, we’re going to 9:30 and then he has his tutor meeting.”  Kyle’s face was priceless.   Immediately I added, “Instead of taking you to Cedar Point and spending money on a day in Pittsburgh with your friends, because of your attitude and your grades, I decided to buy you a math tutor.  Happy Birthday!”  It was only for a split second, but I definitively caught a grin on Kyle’s face after announcing “Happy Birthday”.  Naturally, I sported a huge smile myself.  It was kind of funny.  What melted my heart was Kyle’s grin that looked exactly like Ryan’s.  For a split second, Ryan was standing before me.  Then Kyle opened his mouth and Ryan disappeared.


Kyle’s 14th birthday cake! 2015

Sincerely, I didn’t expect Kyle to get upset about the tutor, nor did I care, but he did.  In fact, he was really mad!  He kept grunting and whining about the tutor and arguing with me.  Another funny.  Kyle, nearly raising his voice inquired, “Why do I need a tutor?”  I gave him a sideways look and said, “Come on buddy, I think you’re smart enough to figure that one out on your own.”  For a second time, he turned his head so I couldn’t see, but I did, and a grin surfaced.  Now that’s the Kyle I know and love.  He was somewhere in there, but the dark side wouldn’t let the old Kyle out.  Yikes, the internal temporal.

Kyle really took the news of a tutor hard.  Again, something I wasn’t expecting.  I watched him storm around the yard, and it looked like he was texting or calling someone.  I didn’t give a fig.  He screwed up, and I wanted to help him out of his wrong turn.  I mean that’s why he has adults in his life, so when he messes up, someone is there to help him out.  Right?

At one point, during an argument about the tutor, which incidentally continued ALL night, Kyle started to give me his list of excuses.
Kyle:  “I didn’t care about my grades because I knew they didn’t count for college.”
Me:  “If that’s true, then why was math the only subject you tanked in?”
Kyle:  No response.
Kyle:  “I only got a bad grade because I wasn’t doing my homework.  There was too much and I didn’t want to do it.”
Me:  “Then you really don’t know the subject, which is the foundation for all your future math classes.”
Kyle:  “I do!  I know Algebra II.  Why do I need a tutor?”
Me:  I turned toward Kyle, looked him squarely in the face before admitting, “Kyle!  Because I seem to be the only one who seriously cares about your future!  I want you to have a choice of anything you want to do in this world.  I want you to choose whichever college you want to attend.  I don’t want you to struggle with your future subjects.  I want you to feel good about yourself and show everyone just how smart you are!  I love you dearly, that’s why.”  I couldn’t resist, I added, “Happy Birthday buddy!”  That’s the instigator in me.
Kyle:  No comment.  Maybe a slight smile but he was holding strong.
Me:  “Kyle it took me a while to find this tutor, I especially chose her.  She’s a Greater Latrobe High School math teacher!”
Kyle:  His eyes got big and the look of “O crap” appeared across his face.
Me:  “That’s right buddy, I’m not messing around.  I didn’t get you a student, I got you someone who can handle your teenage attitude and really knows the subject.”
Kyle:  Still holding strong.  “Why do I need a tutor.  I know math.”
Me:  “Buddy, if that’s true, then prove it.  Let the tutor tell me that you really know the subject.  I’m not doing myself any favors paying for a tutor, I’m not benefiting from this.  I’d be happy to cancel the lessons.
Kyle:  No comment.

Kyle sighed, grunted and stormed off.  I know deep down, he thought he would win, yet he knows I’m not being unreasonable and he’s in the wrong.

Now onto Sunday.  First things first, church before the tutor.  The saga continues…


P.S. I carefully chose this quote, it wasn’t by happenstance.  You see, A.A. Milne authored the Winnie-the-Pooh books.

When Kyle was a tiny tyke, he had this teething ring Winnie-the-Pooh, which contained a button to play music.  Kyle loved that toy!  I believe that’s when I first realized how much he loved music.  He would bounce his head to the sweet tune of the plastic key chain.  Sometimes, we’d simply sing, “Winnie-the-Pooh… Winnie-the-Pooh…”

A little bit of trivia.  A.A. Milne’s son, Christopher was given a teddy bear on his first birthday.  For Kyle’s first birthday, he received a king sized quilt I made him out his of his dad’s (my brother) tees and flannels shirts.  Anyway, Christopher called his bear, Edward Bear, before renaming the stuffed animal, Winnie-the-Pooh.  The first Pooh story was published four years later.  Children do make the world of difference in the lives they touch.  They’re also great inspirations!  I too wrote a book, young adult, for Kyle.  I guess there are others out there as blessed as I am, to be inspired by such love.

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

Busy Little Bees

Every grain of experience is food for the greedy growing soul of the artist.  ~Anthony Burgess


A little bee humor at our beekeepers picnic / meeting 8/9/15

I love our bees!  I simply find them fascinating!  What’s been going on with my newest hobby?  A lot!

At the end of July, Dad and I added the super to our bee hive.  What does that mean?  Ultimately, it means honey for us!

Our hive is two boxes high.  Those boxes contain honey strictly for the bees to keep the hive going and healthy, especially since winter is right around the corner.  Dad and I added a smaller box, called the super or sometimes the medium, to the hive, since our bottom boxes were nearly full.  Plus, let’s get real, we couldn’t wait any longer.  Before adding this addition to the hive, we placed the queen bee blocker between the boxes, so the queen can’t enter the top box and lay eggs.  She’s confined to the rest of the hive, while the worker bees, who are a lot smaller in size, can enter the top domain to make honey for our consumption.  The Piper’s honey and not the bees.  Pretty simple.

Adding the super to the bee hive 7-26-15 Aunt Heather PiperPrior to adding the super to the hive, we had to do a mite treatment.  Evidently, there are different methods for destroying the mites in the hives.  Mites, really?  Yes!  It’s a huge problem, one that is unavoidable, yet maintained.

To do this, we have a contraption that contains a metal plate and two electrical cords.  I added two scoops (one for each box) of this fine powder material to the metal plate.  This treatment is actually wood bleach, better known as oxalic acid.  Seriously?  Yep.  Then, we took the plate and hooked it up to a car battery to give it a charge.  Really?  True!  The plate heats up and creates a smoke that’s not toxic to the bees but kills the mites.  The procedure only takes about two minutes for the actual smoking process, and about fifteen minutes to allow the smoke to settle.  This process is repeated a few days later, about a week before a super is added to the hive.  Do the bees like it?  Not at all!


Beekeepers come in all sizes, even young. Great beekeepers picnic & meeting. 8/9/15

The first time we treated the bees for mites, Kyle assisted.  We waited till nightfall, to ensure the bees were snug in their beds.  Dad and I dressed in full suit, while Kyle argued and said, he wasn’t entering the hive area, and that he’ll be fine.  We needed him to help time the process.  However, what Kyle didn’t realize, was bees don’t stay in a certain area, they’ll fly ten feet from the hive and certainly the five foot distance from were Kyle was standing.

On a side note, it’s pretty difficult moving around in the pitch black, wearing bee suits with a black mess intercepting our vision and leather gloves.  I’m just saying.

As with everything in life, we learn valuable lessons through experience, some faster lessons than others.  Dad and I didn’t smoke the bees first to calm them down, assuming the treatment wouldn’t be so negatively received.  Well it was!  As Dad and I stood there, the bees were actually hitting us, bouncing their bodies off of ours.  We didn’t get stung, but it felt like someone was throwing tiny rocks at us.  This chest bumping is a warning from the bees saying “I’m going to sting you if you don’t back off, I’m not happy.”  Next thing I heard was Kyle screaming, “Ooouch!”  and he took of running down the hill.  He even dropped his precious iPhone 6 were he once stood.  I’ve never seen that kid move so fast, not that I was able to really see him, but I can only imagine.  Dad and I thought he was being attached by a herd of bees.  Was he?  No!

Bee mite Treatment 7-17-15 Aunt Heather Piper

After things settled down and we completed our mission, we returned to the house.  I asked Kyle if he was alright and how bad was the attack.  Kyle pointed to a single spot on his arm.  I about died laughing.  Not because he was stung, I agree that hurts and that doesn’t make for a good day, but because he sounded like he was being mulled by our flying friends.  Even Dad joined in on the humor and all that fuss for a single sting.  Of course, if I was in his shoes, the fear of not being able to see and not knowing what to expect, would have been the worst part.  Then, naturally we added, “Why didn’t you wear the extra bee suit?” and “I guess you wished you were wearing the bee suit.”  Kyle simply snickered and ignored our teasing of the truth.  Originally Kyle argued and claimed he’d be fine without the suit.  I guess he was wrong.  I did tease him and mention, “Is that what it takes to get you off of your phone?”  Kyle only responded with a grunt.

Beekeeper Meeting Twitter feed 8-9-15 Aunt Heather Piper

What really happened, was Kyle freaked out over a single bee that landed on his arm and he swotted at it, resulting in a sting.  I’m guessing the bees weren’t even concerned with him in the slightest.  I told Kyle, “You shouldn’t have swotted at the bee.  Leave them alone and they won’t hurt you.”  Granted, that’s a general rule, but truly one worth trying.  The honey bees are pretty docile and don’t go attacking for no reason.  Again, this isn’t a one-hundred percent guarantee.

Do we have honey yet?  Alas, no.  We just checked recently, but they’re beginning to make the honey combs!


At the beekeepers picnic / meeting in Stahlstown. To the left with her back towards us is my cousin Pat Piper. 8/9/15

Last weekend, I was able to discuss our bee experiences with others of like interest.  I was able to attend my first bee keepers meeting. This one happened to also be a picnic on the president of our organization’s farm.  What a great day!  They taught us about all things bees, the topic of this meeting was harvesting queen bees.  A subject I have no interest in, at least not at this stage of my beekeeping experience, but information worth noting.  They also gave a few life hacks and supplied information on wild flowers.  Dad was right when he said, “They’re all above our level of understanding and experience.”  However, everyone is really great and helpful.  These group of people are a wonderful resource.  Thanks to my cousin Pete (David) Piper, who got us into bees and supplied us with our first hive, we’re able to hang with him and his wife Pat at the meetings and discuss bees alongside others.

Kyle joined us at the picnic, but I don’t think he has an interest in bees.  Maybe later in life, or when his iPhone dies.

As you might imagine, the bee community is close-knit.  Recently, we received an email stating a bee keeper from Stahlstown was getting out of the bee business and was selling all his equipment and supplies.  Naturally, every bee keeper in the area swarmed to his house and raided his stock.  Dad and I were no exception.  Why not?  It’s a way to build a back log of needed material at a low investment.  We scored an electric bee extractor and bunch of boxes and inserts and even some plastic containers to bottle the honey.  Not only is obtaining these pieces valuable because they’re at a great price, but talking to an expert helps us learn.  He was a great guy who offered us a lot of advice.


Wild flowers that bees LOVE! It’s good know this stuff! Beekeepers picnic / meeting 8/9/15

While speaking to this gentleman, who I know will miss his bees, I made him do a double take.  We were talking about wearing our bee suits, (he only ever wore his mask) and the number of times he was stung.  I mentioned that I’m allergic to bees so I always wear my bee suit.  He almost fell over with surprise.  Relax, I have yet to go into anaphylactic shock!

I know my garden is really flourishing and our fruit trees are producing so well because of our bees.  They’re a much needed asset to our existence, and they’re a truly interesting hobby.  I can’t wait till we get our very own swarm!

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Hiking & Outdoors,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Random Fun Facts,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Congratulations – Mikey & Mary Beth Got Hitched!

… when it comes down to it, that’s what life is all about: showing up for the people you love, again and again, until you can’t show up anymore.  ~Rebecca Walker

Mr. & Mrs. Olczak


Mikey & Mary Beth got hitched! Congrats! 8/1/15

This is a celebration worth writing about, the union of my cousin Mikey and his new wife, Mary Beth.  On Saturday, August, 1st, before God, they married in a small Catholic church in New Derry, Pennsylvania.  The reception?  The best venue ever!  The Planinsek Pavilion!  Yes, the very same location of the Fishing Derby (25th Annual Louis Planinsek Fishing Derby)!

It was a traditional, yet simple ceremony.  There wasn’t a lot of frills or fluff, they kept the wedding to the meat and potatoes, the important things, close family, caring friends, and the loving couple.  It was perfect!  After mass, everyone migrated to the Planinsek Pavilion for a good old-fashioned celebratory dinner and dancing.

It was a lovely sunny day with bright blue skies, low humidity, and we were even blessed with a light breeze. Like I said, perfect!

Now for some of the wedding details.  Be prepared, these little touches added to the wedding will pull on the heart strings.  A few years ago, the bride’s father passed away.  However, Mary Beth wanted to include him on her special day, in a subtle way.  He was known for wearing this red baseball cap with white polka dots.  Really?  Oh yes!  When I picture the man, that’s exactly how I see him, and that’s how he was always described by others.  The bride and bridesmaid, one of Mary Beth’s sisters, incorporated a red ribbon with white polka dots at the base of their bouquets.  The sweetness didn’t stop there.  Mikey’s dad, walked Mary Beth down the isle, and Mikey walked Mary Beth’s mom down the isle.  That’s true family unity from the beginning.  Told you, too sweet!  Again, perfect!


Front Row: Mary Beth (now Olczak) Stacey, Marla, Elizabeth, Karen   Back row: Joel, Mikey, Casey, Jim Olczak 8/1/15

Favors were not offered, at least not in the traditional sense.  Since Mikey’s a woodworker by trait, he made cutting boards for each table.  Yes!  His hand-crafted wooden cutting boards were the vehicle to serve the fresh fruit, cheese and crackers for each table.  Then, at the end of the night, designated guests were given the custom Red Barn Woodworking pieces to take home.  What a great idea!  Mikey also made the card box and personalized it.  Now that’s a way to add details and a special touch.

Mikey and Mary Beth’s reception was very different from ones I’m accustomed to.  One big aspect of a typical Western Pennsylvanian wedding is the cookie table!  Oh, yes, this is truly a thing, and a big thing.  Weddings in this area are judged by the cookie table.  Mikey and Mary Beth did not disappoint!  However, aside from the cookie display, and their first dance, they didn’t keep with wedding tradition.  There was no polka music or polka dancing, no bridal dance, no formal cutting of the cake, no formal introduction of the bridal party.  Although, keep in mind, the bridal party consisted of our loving couple, and the bridesmaid and the best man.  Both respected siblings, and both individuals where known by all of the attendees.


Mikey & Me … had to have a cousin picture! Congrats Mikey & Mary Beth 8/1/15

Did I miss all these standard aspects to a typical wedding?  Not at all!  I loved how the evening unfolded!  I simply loved it!  There was no pressure, no expectations, no stress, from the guests or our newlyweds.  Like I mentioned, perfect!  The love and simple attitude from Mikey and Mary Beth spilled out over onto everyone.  Now that’s a real power couple!

To be honest, the reception was more like a huge family reunion.  Everywhere I looked, I was related to someone in one way or another.  This wedding, combined the large families of the area, the Olczak’s, the Piper’s, the Planinsek’s and the Butina’s, into one big party.  I’ve always been friends with the Butina’s.  My best friend in elementary school was a Butina, and so I was an adopted Butina, like many of my cousins.  Naturally, I’m related to the Piper’s and the Olczak’s.  The Olczak’s are related to the Planinsek’s, and now were all related to the Butina’s.   One big ridger family!

On a side note, a ridger is a person who lives on the ridge.  What’s a ridge?  The top of a hill or elevated area in a rural area.  A ridger is slang around Latrobe and Ligonier.

We danced the night away to the band, Life of Brian, friends of the happy couple.  They rocked the night away, and got everyone up and moving!  That was the first time I’ve heard them, and I was impressed!  They’re really, really good and made the evening even more enjoyable

Chef Mark’s Palete catered to the party.  Talk about eating like kings!  Chef Mark was on hand to carve the smoked roast beef, as well as serve the multi-layered wedding cake, not courtesy of Chef Mark.  His staff was very attentive to the guests and kept things moving smoothly.


Life of Brian… a great band!

It was great mingling among everyone and catching up.  Knowing Mikey and Mary Beth, I would have expected nothing less.

I had a great time and I wish them all the happiness in the world!  Mikey and Mary Beth are perfect examples of what happens when two people are raised with morally strong families, and are just all around good people.

Congratulations Mikey and Mary Beth!  I look forward to witnessing your unity over the years.  I know it will be full of happiness and fun.  You guys are a great couple!  Cheers!


posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination and have No Comments

Happy Birthday Kyle! 14 Years!

Each day means a new twenty-four hours. Each day means everything’s possible again. You live in the moment, you die in the moment, you take it all one day at a time.  ~Marie Lu

Happy 14th Birthday Kyle!


Kyle fulfilling a life goal, swimming with the dolphins from his cruise with his Aunt Nikki. 6/2015

Kyle has really taught me about life.  It amazes me how one little boy, although he’s not so little anymore, can teach me about life and people and behaviors and the list goes on.  It’s great!  I love seeing the world through his eyes and his perception, especially now that he’s a young adult.

Now we’re working through the teenage years.  I’ll admit, it’s trial and error, I’ve made some mistakes and Kyle has made some, but we’re still tight.  There is nothing I wouldn’t do for for that kid, and I know he truly cares for me, and my family.  I’ll always be his Aiya (Aunt Heather) and he’ll always be my Narrow.  We are associated by blood, but bound by love.

Thinking back on these fourteen years, I’m amazed at how much learning and activity has been packed into each year.  What a ride!  One, I would never trade, ever!  Kyle has been a blessing and continues be so.  Since reaching teenager status, he’s been spreading his wings and pushing boundaries.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, depending on how he goes about it.  I’ve always encouraged Kyle to be independent, yet responsible.  Although, I’m adjusting to the idea of not being cool anymore, or a desired companion for fun activities.  However, I’m hoping one day, Kyle will revert back and I will be here with open arms.


Kyle celebrating his 5th birthday at Seabase in Greensburg! He was a king that day, & every day since… 7/30/05

Now for my biggest surprise from this year.  Besides shaving, Kyle has really stretched up.  I only have about a head on him now, then he’ll surpass me.  I’m about five foot six inches, so Kyle is slightly under that.  He keeps eyeballing me up when standing next to me, and displaying that ornery grin.  His feet are already bigger than mine, which isn’t saying much since I have small feet.  We pretty much wear the same size shirts and jeans, except I need a little bit more length to mine.  There was a time when Kyle thought he was being a stinker wearing my cloths and enjoyed doing so.  I warned him, the tide will be changing soon enough, and now the high tide is in.  The other day, Kyle said, “Hey Aunt Heather, that’s my tee shirt.”  I simply looked down and said, “Umm, yes it is.  Payback time!  And it only goes downhill from here.”  He didn’t say much.  He just snickered and continued playing his video game.

Kyle is showing to be a goodhearted and honest young man, just like his dad.  Ryan would’ve been very proud of him.  Kyle’s not presently aware, but Ryan, his dad, would’ve been a very hands on, interactive father.  That’s the only part of Kyle getting older that saddens me, not having his dad interact with him and experience every milestone.  I guess Ryan’s here in spirit, and always in our hearts.  Although Kyle would’ve benefited tremendously to have Ryan in his life.

Kyle’s a happy child and is blessed with a good life.  That I am thankful for!

Happy Birthday Kyle!  I hope you enjoy your day.  I look forward to many more birthdays.

posted by auntheather in Church,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing,Video Games & Games and have No Comments

Unconventional Gifts

Good books tell the truth, even when they’re about things that never have been and never will be. They’re truthful in a different way.  ~Stanisław Lem


Kyle taking the controls of a Piper, getting ready to hit the open skies for his 9th birthday. 7/30/10

The other day, I was speaking with a few friends of mine.  About what exactly?  Well, you name it, we covered most standard topics, but this part of the story was about Kyle and my belief in giving him unconventional gifts.  In honor of his birthday tomorrow, I thought this was appropriate.

I’ve mentioned it previously, as a child, Kyle always had way too much.  Too many toys, toys of all varieties, and he most certainly didn’t need anymore, especially from me.  Now that he’s a teenager, he has too many video games, and spends way too much time on them.  Do you see a pattern?

Since the birthday gifts I get Kyle are never the standard, go to the store and wrap them, type of presents, they need a fair amount of planning.  My goal here?  To get others thinking about gift giving in a nontraditional way, like I do.  Here are a few gift givings of years past.

So what do you get a child that is spoiled and flooded with their desirable material goods, at that particular moment in life?  Easy, spoil them with attention, love, knowledge, and opportunities.  How does one do this?  Simply with unconventional gifts.

First, what do I consider an unconventional gift?  In my eyes, unconventional gifts come with some sort of bonding or learning aspect.   They may also include life experiences to be engrained in the child forever, or skills to be used later in life.  Of course, these are very subjective, but it’s a place to start.

When Kyle was a tiny, tiny little baby, it’s true, I did get him toys.  One in particular was a large metal Optimus Prime transformer.  It was really cool!  It even spoke when a button was pushed, with a serious of prerecorded standard phrases including the noise the transformers make when changing from vehicle to robot or visa verse.  I believe that was the last toy I purchased Kyle.  He played with it for a short period of time, and I don’t think I saw it after that.  In fact, I have no idea what ever happened to it.  That’s when I decided to think of gifts for him differently.


Kyle celebrating his 5th birthday at Seabase in Greensburg. Bumper car fun! 7/2005

Wanting Kyle to have every opportunity in the world at his fingertips, and to be exposed to all things to help him grow as a goodhearted honest person in every aspect, I knew there was more value in gift giving then instant gratification.  It was time to pull out the thinking cap.  And I did in a big way!  I wish I recorded my gifts to Kyle when he was younger, but alas, I did not, so I’m not always exactly sure which gift went with which celebration, but not really relevant to this post anyway.

Secondly, what constitutes a celebration worthy of gift giving?  Of course, there’s the standard birthdays and Christmas.  However, I also give Kyle a gift for Easter, and I’ve been known to give him something for summer or for no particular reason.  Well, actually the reason would include a good deed, or good behavior, or to cheer him up due to illness, or sometimes just to surprise him.  That’s about it.  I don’t believe in turning every occasion into an excuse to spoil our little man more.  I don’t ever want him to grow up to expect material items from anyone, ever!

Please note, Kyle’s a great kid, he truly is!  So when I talk about spoiling him, it’s out of love.  He is certainly apart of this instant gratification generation, not waiting in anticipation or really working for things.  Who’s fault is that?  The family, me included, but I’m certainly not the main culprit.

Finally, what gifts have I given Kyle that fell under the classification of unconventional?  Here’s a brief list.  The items range in entertainment value, quality time, fundamental learning aspects, and some just plain different, or a combination of all things.


Swimming.  Kyle took swimming lessons once a week, all year long at the local YMCA from the time he was five years old to about ten or eleven years.  It was our time together and now he’s a great swimmer, and has no issues with being in water of all depth levels.

Gymnastics. He stayed in gymnastics for less than a year.  Even though Kyle was not the athletic type, it was great for him to run around and learn certain skills, such as doing jumping jacks and tumbling.  Again it was our bonding time, and I loved it.  Plus, he was able to socialize with other kids.

Soccer.  Kyle was really little when I had him in soccer, probably about three.  He never did understand the game, not that I could have helped him.  As a general rule, everyone knows I have no clue about sports.  He had the opportunity to have fun, socialize with other kids, and gained a great cardio workout.

Basketball.  I signed Kyle up to play on a basketball league, again through the YMCA.  My sister once asked me why?  I remarked, “I don’t expect him to get a call from the NBA, but if he ever wants to go shoot hoops with his friends, he would be familiar with dribbling and shooting baskets.  So he’s not singled out.”  Small skills that could be most invaluable to Kyle later in life.

Snowboarding.  When Kyle was four, I purchased him snowboarding lessons, which he loved!  Then, for a few years after that, I’d purchase him his season tickets for the slops, along with his rental and accessories (coats, pants, helmet etc.)  Again, it was always something we did together and enjoyed being outside in God’s country up in the mountains.  Neither one of us have been able to hit the slopes in the last couple of years, but I think we’ll both get back into it, maybe next year.



Kyle’s piano recital.  Yes I made him wear a suit, the one he wore for his 1st Holy Communion  5/17/09

Piano lessons & Keyboards.  Kyle received a keyboard to practice at my parent’s house, and one for his mom’s house, since his time was equally split.  This was for his sixth birthday, I believe, and the lessons continued until last August, right after he turned twelve.  Again, it was our quality time together, or whoever took him.  He also showed an interest in music early on, so I complied.  I believe this education really fine tuned his brain, and gave him an appreciation for music.  Since that time, Kyle took up the trumpet in school, joined the jazz band, and now started playing the tuba in the marching band.  He’s very accomplished at reading music, too.

Guitar and lessons.  Originally Kyle wanted to rock out on the guitar.  I made a deal with him, if he learned to play the piano, I’d get him guitar lessons.  He kept up his end of the deal, as did I.  For Christmas one year, I bought him a guitar and lessons.  He took to it very well, but never practiced enough to really be able to play.  He could strum the strings without looking at his fingers and follow along in his music books.  He took lessons off and on for a few years, and then called it quits.  He continued with the piano lessons at this time.  Most would say, playing both instruments at the same time, at a young age was too much for Kyle.  I completely disagree.  He had the talent and the knowledge to do so.  However, Kyle doesn’t like doing anything alone.  If I could have played with him, and practiced along side my musician, he would have excelled.  Alas, I have no music ability.  Hence why I want him to be so much better than me, at everything!


Lion King tickets and dinner.  For one Christmas, I purchased Kyle and the family tickets to see the Lion King at the Pittsburgh Benedium Theater.  It was a nice way to spend an evening with the family, while being exposed to culture.  Prior to this, Kyle loved the cartoon, The Lion King, as well as the music.  So therefore, I thought he’d enjoy the musical.  He did!  In a big way.  Although when asked about it in his early teens, Kyle doesn’t remember going.  Sad.  Kyle and I actually spent the entire day in Pittsburgh together, hanging out at the Carnegie Museum (mostly among dinosaurs) before meeting my parents and my sister for dinner and then off to the theater.

LegoFest Tickets.  Anything to do with Legos used to be the thing to get Kyle.  So when I saw LegoFest was planning on making an appearance in Pittsburgh, I jumped at the chance to get us tickets.  As expected, it was a hit.  Everyone gave Kyle money to purchase Legos, which only added to his experience and made it complete.  We were there all day, before returning to get a few hours of hunting in.


Kyle’s Piggy Bank. A ceramic pig I made for his fourth birday. It has a cork in the belly area to remove the moola, & a slot one its back to add the cash. Teh eyes are plastic shaking eyes, & it’s equipped with the a metal squiggle tail. 2005

Bricks 4 Kids Lego Camp.  I purchased Kyle two different Lego Camp sessions, one morning and one afternoon, at Saint Vincent College, for a week each.  He was able to socialize with other Lego lovers, and he enjoyed learning about different ways to build certain items.  He was exposed to other ideas and possibilities with Legos, all brightening his week.  Kyle was in heaven!  It also gave him something to do in the summer, instead of playing video games and watching television.  He stayed with me for the week, and I dropped him off, took him lunch, and picked him up at the end of his hard day.  This was a suggestion from Lori Planinsek!  Perfect!

Flash Cards.  One Christmas when Kyle was two years old, I decided to purchase him addition flash cards, as well as workbooks.  Did he put his nose up to them?  NOT AT ALL!  He loved working with me on the workbooks and he would ask me to quiz him on his math flashcards.  Everyone thought that gift was a bust, but in reality, it turned out to be a big hit.  So by the time he was three years old, Kyle was easily adding all numbers.  Soon after that I got him subtraction flashcards.  He did have a little more trouble learning, but not much.  It’s no surprise that math is one of Kyle’s beloved classes that he’s in the advanced program, at least he was until this past year.

Books.  It was always tradition with my family to receive books in our Easter baskets.  I took it a step further and began giving Kyle books for almost all occasions.  Some books I knew he wanted to read, and others I got him to expand his horizon.  Those books became our shared interests, for I read most of them or I wanted to, before purchasing them for Kyle.

Written Books.  With Kyle becoming a teenager, I noticed his interest in reading has become relaxed.  I don’t ever want Kyle to loose his love of reading, especially since it was a struggle getting him to this point.  I get it, he loves his video games, but reading is important too.  So what did I do?  I wrote Kyle a book.  Seriously?  Yep!  It’s roughly a 400 page survival book that takes place in a post apocalyptic world.  It includes hunting, fishing and snowboarding, all things we both love.  I added elements of education and fun trivia to make it informative.  It’s slightly sarcastic and witty and the main characters travel by foot from Colorado to Latrobe, Pennsylvania.  Surprisingly, the book is finished, and the second in the serious has begun.  All that remains is to have it professionally edited for accuracy, and then I’ll have a book printed.

Really?  Yes!  I truly enjoyed writing the book and I thought it’d be something Kyle would enjoy.  What a better way to encourage reading, than by writing a book specifically for my young man.  Once the book is at a point to publicly talk about, I’ll write a post on it. (I also started two other separate books, I’m getting into this writing thing!)  I hope to give Kyle the book for this Christmas.  I’m also planning on designing the cover too, with my own photography.

iPod Touch.  Originally, the iPod Touch was a way for the family to keep in touch with Kyle since he didn’t have a phone yet.  It was also a means to begin working him into a little bit of freedom with electronics, music and the internet, while being monitored.  I setup Kyle with face-time, which he occasionally did with the family.  I also setup his own iTunes account (and some credits) and of course I gave him the iPod with an engraving on the back.  I did place parental controls and a tracker on it.  All of which I explained to Kyle, as well as my reasoning.  I wanted him to be safe, but I never wanted to be sneaky about it or deceitful.  He accepted the terms of the gift, and almost appreciated my concerns.   Of course, he was simply excited to get an iPod Touch!  Since then, it’s been replaced and he’s been hooked up with a laptop and an iPhone 6.  He did get a lot of mileage out of that gift and we benefited too!

Out of the Ordinary/Adventure


Kyle’s King sized quilt I made for his 1st birthday. 7/2002

Quilt.  I wanted to do something really special for Kyle’s first birthday.  I mean the kid was turning one, without knowing his dad, nor would he ever remember his dad.  Ryan passed away nine months prior.  It was a difficult time, but I wanted to help celebrate this every special milestone with Kyle.  I was given the idea to use all of Ryan’s cloths to make Kyle a quilt.  I did!  It ended up being a king size quilt, made from Ryan’s flannel shirts and tee shirts!  To this day, I think that was the best gift I’ve ever given!  It was a long road to making this gift, with the help of friends, but one worth it.  Since then, I’ve never made another again.

Clay Pig.   I’ve always taken clay / ceramics classes, in high school and college.  I love working with clay!  So it’s no surprise that I gave my love of clay, to my beloved nephew, and made him a very unique gift I knew he’d love.  I made him a piggy bank!  Everyone in my clay class knew the pig was for Kyle, for his birthday gift.  At the time Kyle was about four years old and he was learning to count, particularly money.  I was also trying to teach him to save, and to earn enough money to buy himself whatever large gift he wanted.  This was also the time I taught him about tax.  That kid got it.  He could figure out the total of our purchases, including tax before the register would display the answer.  Truly amazing!  To this day, Kyle still stores his moola in the pig, and he knows I made it for him for his birthday.  I’m always thinking of my little man.

On a side note, Kyle mentioned he wanted to go to England and that’s what he was saving his money for.  Good choice! That was about the time Nicole and I traveled abroad.  We spent a lot of time in London.


Kyle getting acclimated to the Piper, before his flying lessons. 9th birthday 7/30/2010

Flying Lessons.  For Kyle’s ninth birthday I thought it’d be fun to get him flying lessons.  YES!  Again, not that I planned on him being a pilot, but it was the experience.  He always mentioned how he was never in a plane, so I thought for his first time defying gratify, we’d do it right and let him fly the open skies, with an instructor, naturally.  Result?  Kyle remembered that experience, and looks at it fondly, almost brags to others about him flying a plane.  I was so happy for him!  It was a fun day.  I even hired a photographer to capture the experience.

Train ride.  I purchased Kyle, my sister and myself train tickets.  We took the train from Latrobe to Johnstown for the day (only about a forty-minute trip).  Granted, it wasn’t exciting, but it was something different.  We rode the incline and explored the town of Johnstown, took a tour of the Flood Museum, and even caught a movie. (Maleficent)  When we got back, we surprised Kyle and celebrated with an ice-cream cake at my parent’s house.  Prior to that trip, I purchased him companion books to the Lord of the Rings.  He began reading one of the books on the train.

Over the years, I’ve had many ideas for gifts, but sometimes it wasn’t the right time, or it was too expensive, or I chose another path, or I haven’t used the idea, YET.  Regardless, I hope others can take my ideas for unconventional gifts and run with them, or get back to me other ideas.  I’d love to hear them!  Here are a few:

  • Hot air balloon ride
  • Surfing lessons
  • A plane ride to Vermont to snowboard for the weekend
  • Helicopter flying lessons or a ride
  • Movie passes (which I’ve done but not for a special occasion)
  • Museum passes
  • Bike trip on the Great Allegheny Passage and camping along the 400 miles (I thought it would be fun to bike to Washington DC and have my sister meet us and take us home)
  • Volunteer – Instead of getting Kyle anything, we’d spend a day or a week together volunteering somewhere, maybe not local to get us both out of the area and find a new adventure.
  • Membership to my gym to participate in the kids class
  • A robotics camp or some sort of geeky week with others like him

I know I gave Kyle many, many more gifts, and I’ve had a ton more ideas, but alas they’ve escaped me.  I already know what I’m getting Kyle when he graduates high school.  Really?  You bet I do, and it’s really good!  I’ve had this idea since he was a toddler.  It’s a two part gift, and Kyle’s going to LOVE it.  When the time comes, which is around the corner, I’ll let everyone in on the secret.

Here are a few blog posts about my choices for unconventional gifts:

Good Intentions
Gift of Music – The Final Piano Lesson
Bricks 4 Kids, Kyle’s Lego Camp Birthday Surprise
Family Time Through an iPod Touch
Flying Back to Kyle’s Ninth Birthday

Discovering Our Own Backyard – Johnstown
Memories Sewn Into a Quilt



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

A Dip in the Grades

Children aren’t happy with nothing to ignore,
And that’s what parents were created for.  ~Ogden Nash


Kyle with his cousin Cheyenne at Bethel Lutheran Church. This picture was taken for my Gram. 2005

Grades.  I remember report card time.  The stress of working your butt off to get the grade desired, or to be redeemed from a not-so-desirable past grade.  All the studying, and all the writing, and all the preparation, to be judged by The Report Card.  I do agree with this method of ranking a child in school.  It gives them good benchmarks and goals to work toward.  It’s also a way to see if a child is truly struggling and needs additional assistance, or if the teacher needs to be replaced.  Certainly, not a foolproof method, but one universally accepted.

I’m a little late on talking about Kyle’s grades, well considering he’s been hiding them from me, so I guess I’m not.  Kyle has been blowing me off when asked about his report card.  I should have known this was going to be a struggle, considering I never saw the second quarter grades.  Kyle’s response, “I don’t know what I did with it.”  I bugged him and bugged him, till I finally said, “Well, I’ll be looking for the next one.” meaning the third quarter.  I did manage to review that term, and yes the grades were already slowly slipping.


Me at Kunkle Park. My shirt says.. Don’t Mess With Me! Love that! c. 2008

Getting a hold of his third quarter report card, was a chore unto itself.  I remember my sister asking Kyle a very logical question, “Since you’re in advance math, maybe it’s getting too hard for you.”  Kyle’s response, “Umm, na, I was just slacking a little but I’m getting back on track.”  Keeping it real buddy!  I can work with that honesty, assuming he truly meant it.  However, I bet Kyle never realized that math is a subject that always builds upon itself, and continues to get harder and harder.  So if a critical step in the learning process is missed, putting it simply, you’re screwed.  The only way to catch up, is to go back and relearn or reiterate previous teachings to get back on track.

Apparently during this time, my sister called Kyle on the phone, and found out that he didn’t want to show me his report card because he dropped in two classes.  He knew I would ground him and get on his case to ensure his homework was done and done correctly.  Let me think on this… HECK YEAH!  Personally, it makes me happy to find out that Kyle is afraid to show me his slipped grades.  It proves that Kyle knows I mean business, and it also shows he’s aware of his wrongdoing.  He knows what’s expected.  He’s also treating me like an involved parent who cares.  I’m good with that!


Kyle in the Caverns of West Virginia, while visiting Casey. Kyle loves to learn! 2007

Good so far, except, this “fear” of me, which really means fear of not being able to play his video games.  It also means he basically lied to me, and then covered it up, AND tried to get sympathy from my parents, sister and other family members, like I’m wrong in this scenario.  Boy that kid is good, but I’m better!

Recently, I knew the final report card was out, and I had yet to see it.  Did I ask for it?  You bet I did!  And asked, and asked and asked.  Apparently, Kyle, “Didn’t know where it was.” and he “Wasn’t sure what his grades were.”  I heard it all.  I knew that was code for a slip in the grades, but to what extent, I had no idea.  Please keep in mind, I do give Kyle grace with respect to some classes, since he’s in advanced math and advance science.

Finally, I got my hands on his grades, not only the forth quarter but also the year long averages.   I now had an overview of all his grades and his progress during eighth grade.  I had two words, NOT HAPPY!  If he thinks he’s getting into Carnegie Mellon University for engineering with those grades, he has another thing coming.  He’d be lucky to get accepted to community college, and everyone gets into community college.


My pap. He only had a 5th grade education, only because he didn’t have the opportunity to reach his potential. Believe it or not, he was smart! He was also a very kind & goodhearted person.

What were his grades?  Let’s just say, he’s been playing way too many video games.  He went down in five classes, up in two, and maintained one-hundred percent in band.  The overall grades weren’t terrible, but not great either.  I won’t embarrass Kyle by calling anything out in particular, for the details are personal, just not acceptable.  I need to get a handle on this kid, and fast.  He’s way too smart to ruin his future because he’s being lazy.  And his manipulation toward adult figures in his life isn’t helping him out.  Sometimes I think I’m the only one seeing it.  Hence, why he’ll say he’s afraid of me.  He knows how to play the game to get everyone on his side and not be held accountable for his actions.  No joke, I think I’m the only one seeing the whole picture, and truly wanting to help this kid.  So, yes!  I will take away his video games and lazy time and replace it with homework and additional school work reinforcement.

How was Kyle punished?  I just found out he wasn’t.  He was talked to but really, NOTHING!  Literally nothing!  In fact, early this summer he went on a cruise with his Aunt Nikki, and now he’s on another vacation, and his birthday is this week.  He was never grounded, never had his video games taken away, nothing!  I don’t like to punish the kid either, but this is for his own future and for a good reason.  I care enough about Kyle to guide him in the right direction.  The last thing I want to see is Kyle trying to get into a college of his dreams, and be declined due to a lack of sufficient grades.  I think that’s just plain cruel and mean.  Especially, when this could have been avoided in the first place.


Kyle showing off his bowling skills… 2007

I want more for Kyle.  I want to see him succeed in life, and I’m not just talking about monetary value.  I’m talking about happiness, and being a good person with high moral standards, and basic intelligence.  I don’t want anyone to call him dumb or think he is, or worse, he thinks he is!  I don’t want him to have stress and disappointment, even though I know it’s inevitable.  I want him to fulfill his dreams and reach his goals.  Not guiding the kid in the right direction now, and not encouraging and holding him accountable for his actions, is not helping meet any of these.  In fact, it’s the easy way to parent, or lack of parenting.

First things first, I’ve been praying for my little man.  He needs it.  Next, I need to devise a plan of action to get Kyle back into the game.  Not an easy task, but again Kyle’s totally worth it.  Anyone have any ideas to assist Kyle bring up his grades for next year, specially with Algebra II?  He’s going into the ninth grade.


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

Pittsburgh – Night Out in the Big City! Vol. 4

They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.  ~Tom Bodett


Maggie McNeely & me at a football game in Latrobe Stadium, Marching Band. 1992-93

If you’ve been following along with my single most memorable and scary night, in Pittsburgh, as a teenager, you might be saying to yourself, ReallyPittsburgh – A Night Out in the Big City!  Vol. 1, Pittsburgh- Night Out in the Big City! Vol. 2, Pittsburgh – Night Out in the Big City! Vol. 3  All true!  To recap, I took my car into Pittsburgh when I wasn’t allowed, it broke down, I accepted a ride from a homeless man living in his car, who hit a transvestite.  Then, I accepted a ride from a drunk man before the police showed up.  Eventually, with a little help from my metal beret, we got the car working and headed east, back home.  Now the car just died again alongside a very dark highway.  The reason?  The possibility of running out of gas was mentioned.  Can you believe all this happened in one night?

Now a group of teenagers were sitting alongside a highway, in the dark, without a clue to the closest gas station, if that indeed was the reasoning for the most recent issue.  Again, everyone got out of Black Beauty to get some fresh night air.  Plus, I think it made everyone feel like they were helping.  Would you believe during this entire ordeal, no one was mad at me, or seemed upset in the slightest?  Nope, everyone rolled with it and tired to help when possible.  Granted at this point, we’re all a bit tied and frustrated, but no one pointed fingers and blamed me. Now that’s a group of friends!


Me & Jay Boring hanging out at the Derry band show. c. 1992

Just then, headlights approached us and parked directly behind my car.  What now?  Believe it or not, I remember thinking to myself something along the lines of, Let me guess, an axe murderer, or a serial killer to polish off the night?  I knew once we found our way, and got the car in forward motion, I was tempting fate too much.

Again, not knowing what lurked behind those headlights and not wanting anyone to get hurt, I approached our third stranger of the night.  However, this one didn’t seem to have any issues.  I can’t even remember if it was a guy or a gal, but my vote is with the earlier.  Our nice stranger was a single person that didn’t appear to be drinking, drove a modern car, no beater, dressed casually, and seemed, well, normal!  Can you say Ted Bundy?  Yikes!  I thought we were all dead meat.

And yes, on a side note, I knew exactly who Ted Bundy was and what he did.  For some reason, I was fascinated by that crazy man and followed his case on television, even staying home from school (it was a Tuesday) to watch his execution.  No joke! I still remember watching the spokesperson announce his death.  Personally, I thought I was going to be able to literally watch him die.  I was wrong, and I’m glad for it.


Jeremiah, me & Tom at Eat n’ Park after a Marching Band competition or game. 1993-94

Admittedly, my newest stranger was very nice, and offered assistance, without monetary compensation.  For a second time, our group pushed this huge and very heavy car.  My guardian angel must have been still hanging by my side, because the car died at the top of a ramp, leading to a gas station, according to our stranger.  That’s double convenient, near a gas station and it was downhill!  As soon as we moved the car in a little downward motion, we piled back in and was able to coast it, right into the gas station by the pump!  Can you believe our luck?  My car was so old, it was before the days of anti-lock breaks.  I was able to steer it, while the engine was off.  Honestly, it seemed too easy of a solution.  Keep in mind, we really didn’t know if our problem was due to a low fuel tank.

Assuming we were out of gas, I pumped fuel while the nice stranger remained in his vehicle waiting for us.  He never hovered, and made sure he kept his distance.  I paid no mind and felt at ease with this guy, who was probably in his late thirties, early forties.  It also helped, that we were in a very well lit gas station, with a few people coming and going, on a familiar road.  Once I put plenty of gas in the car, it was the moment of truth.  Would it start?

I got in, turned over the ignition and it roared to life!  Can you believe we ran out of gas?  I can!


Senior night at Latrobe Stadium. The Marching Band theme… Pirates of Penzance. 1993

Our nice stranger checked in one last time to make sure we were okay.  After our small celebration, we ensured our stranger we’d be fine.  Without accepting my monetary compensation, or my offer to fuel up his car, and without haste, he disappeared into the night, as quietly and stealthy as he appeared.  Literally, it was like he just appeared, and disappeared as quickly.  That was a very odd experience, and that’s saying something considering everything that happened, including seeing a transvestite and hitting him/her with the car.

A little gas did the trick, and the engine was purring.  We continued on our path, increasing the distance from us and our awful night.  The further from Pittsburgh we drove, the closer to Latrobe we came.  Unfortunately, the closer to home, the more frequently the cord would break, forcing us to get out and adjust it again, and again, and again.

Finally, by sunrise, we made it to Vanessa’s house!  No one was happier than I!  Believe it or not, as I pulled into her driveway, the car died one last time.  I left it exactly where it stopped, right in the middle.  No one cared.  We were exhausted.  Slowly, filing out of Black Beauty, everyone swarmed into her living room to feel the comforts of a true safe haven.  Without much conversation and teenage behavior, we crashed, hard.


Vanessa Vadas at a Derry show. c. 1992

Once semi-rested, I called my dad to let him know the car died in Vanessa’s driveway.  He came out, did what I did all night only with electrical tape, and followed me home, where I pulled Black Beauty directly in the garage.  Evidently, it was the ground cord connected to the alternator that was old and rotted.  Dad changed it without haste, and I was back in business within an hour.  That easy?  Yes!

On a side note, dad asked me why there was wax throughout the engine.  I explained we didn’t have a flashlight, but we had candles.  He accepted my explaination without asking anymore questions.  My guess?  He didn’t want to know.  The car was fine, I was home, life was good.

Did I make very stupid decisions?  Yes I did, but we also tried to be the safest with our stupid decisions.  After that night, I realized I have a guardian angel, or a flock of them.  They were definitely working in overtime.  My prayers were answered and no one got hurt or in trouble.  Trouble?  Yes, I was worried about getting in trouble, instead about being abducted or killed or both.  Don’t get me wrong, I worried about those things, but remember, I was a teenager with a strict dad.  So yes, getting busted equaled kidnapping or death.  Did that adventure open my eyes to a world I never knew existed?  Yes, but one I wasn’t ready to accept or experience ever again.


This artwork was purchased my senior year of high school… How ironic it’s called The Hitchhiker by William DeBernardi. It displays a long dark highway… perhaps I associated with the painting. I know it got my vote! 1994

Was my night over?  Not really.  By Monday, I had to return to band camp.  I was in the colorguard.  Did I mention, I left halfway through the day that Friday for the concert, without permission, and without telling anyone.  Why?  I thought no one would notice I was gone.  Well, they did.  When I came back, and I made eye contact with my band director, Mr. Hamill, I knew my agony wasn’t over.  He requested my presence in his office, with the door shut.  That’s never a good sign!  I got an earful.  I didn’t say much, knowing I was clearly in the wrong.  If he actually had a clue of what I went through that night, he would’ve realized that was punishment enough.  I didn’t care, I was happy to be back in safe old Latrobe, doing my thing.

I hope Kyle makes better decisions than I’ve done, especially during his teenage years.  Although, he tends to favor my sister, and not live on the edge.  He’s certainly no risk taker, and still continues to play by the rules, at least at this point in his life, very unlike myself.  He’s a smart kid, and I believe in the foundation I was apart of building.

Was the stress of the night and potential danger worth the story?  You tell me…

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

Pittsburgh – Night Out in the Big City! Vol. 3

We are all vainer of our luck than of our merits.  ~Rex Stout

Cori, Tree & Me at the Cure Concert at the Mellon Arena (now Consol Energy Center) Pittsburgh, Pa. 7/17/96

If you’ve been following along with my previous posts, Pittsburgh – A Night Out in the Big City!  Vol. 1 and Pittsburgh- Night Out in the Big City! Vol. 2, you’ll realize, on the occasion, I make bad decisions.  During this particular night that never ended, I made several really bad decisions.  One after another, after another, after another.

To recap, I took my old car into Pittsburgh when I wasn’t allowed.  Said car broke down, in a tow away zone, in the middle of the ghetto, somewhere.  We were lost beyond hope.  I took a ride to get a new car battery, from a homeless man who lived in his car, who had no breaks and used his emergency break.  Incidentally, that same homeless man, hit a transvestite throwing her/him on the hood of his vehicle, intentionally I might add.  Once the battery was purchased, no one had tools to install it, however we did have candles, naturally.  Now introduce a new stranger, who was completely intoxicated, but had tools.  I took my second ride of evening with that stranger, the drunk one, to return the unused battery, since that wasn’t the cause of the car not starting.  Now you’re caught up … Enjoy the ride!

The drunk man did as promised, and found the store.  It was open!  Kinda.  It appeared closed, but people were standing among the darkness inside.  So I entered the shady establishment, and asked to return my unused battery, that I just purchased.  Surprise!  They refunded me!  My luck was turning around.  At this point, any silver lining was a step in the right direction.


Not sure, Jill, Lori Beanner, Justin Baldonieri, & me at a concert in the Strip District, Pittsburgh, Pa. mid 1990’s

Our drunk driver took us back to our friends and back to my broken down, illegally parked car in the ghetto.  This time, we didn’t hit anyone, but we definitely ran a few red lights.  Giving this stranger some grace, it was late at night with almost no traffic, and beggars can’t be choosers.

Upon approaching the corner store, all three of us, me, Sefo and our drunk driver, saw all the lights dancing around, lighting up our temporary home that resembled a dive convenience store in the middle of the hood, and the center of our demise.  It was the boys in blue.  In a way, I was relieved, yet I wasn’t.

Our drunk friend wasn’t happy to see the police, AT ALL.  He refused to drop us off, and sped past our destination.  I get it, he was drunk and who knows what else controlled him, but let us out!  This once relatively calm drunk man, turned into a frantic freak.  Now I was getting scared.  I know, NOW I decided to become scared, what can I say?  I’m a late bloomer.

The drunk man drove down the street, barely stopping, and ordered me and Sefo to get out and walk back.  We did as instructed and watched the man sped out of sight.  On our way back to the car, I knew I had some explaining to do to the Pittsburgh police.  Obviously, I was illegally parked, and personally I was aware of my Cinderella license, and the rules that accompanied it.  I also knew those flashing lights meant that I was going to pay out the nose for getting lost, figuratively speaking.  Truly, I didn’t care.  In my eyes, no one got hurt and the police were friendlies who swore an oath to serve and protect.  Good enough for me!  From what I’ve experienced thus far, in the short amount time from the conclusion of the concert to this point, the men in blue were a welcoming sight.


Me presenting my shoes in a an odd fashion…Yes I had a runner in my fish net stockings.  Strip District for a concert at the Metropole, Pittsburgh, Pa. mid 1990s

The officer instructed me to move my vehicle or I’d get a ticket.  Seriously?  That was the least of my worries.  I’d gladly accept the ticket if it meant I could get my friends and my car back home safely.  I explained the situation, omitting the details about the homeless man, and the drunk driver, and most importantly the homeless man hitting the transvestite.  No sense in rehashing actions that caused no harm and couldn’t be changed.

What did the police have us do before offering assistance?  They made us push the car back out of the illegal spot and park it along the curb on the street.  Really?  It was late at night and that’s what they were concerned about?  First, I want to say, I’ve never nor would I ever park in a handicap spot.  I was merely beside the convenience store, where it said  No Parking.  Why?  I have no idea.  To me it was a none issue.

What next?  One of my friends sat in the driver’s seat, while we pushed the car away from its current location.  In that time, the cop asked us to try and start the engine again.  We did and voila!  It started!  Are you kidding me?  No, but as soon as it started and it registered with me, the engine turned off again.  Okay, now this I can work with.  My logical side of the brain was telling me something supplying juice to the battery was loose.

The one cop asked me to pop the hood.  I did as directed, this time holding onto every bit of hope I had left, thinking they’d find a solution we overlooked.  We went through the same procedure as before with the same result, nothing.  However, this time we had actual flashlights, as opposed to candle light to look around the engine.  My eyes frantically followed their lights looking for anything out of place or suspicious.  Then, I saw something.  It was a cord snapped in half, near the battery.  Not knowing what it did, or if it was indeed the root of the problem, I just reacted.

What did I do?  This is all one-hundred percent true.  I usually wore berets in my hair, and on this eventful evening, I had a metal beret.  I simply unclipped the beret from my head, and snapped it to the broken wires to hold it together.  The engine fired to life and remained so.  Halleluiah!  Instantly, I thanked God.  I finally felt myself relax a little, at the very least my stomach stopped doing flips.  Now we needed to make hast!


Tree, me & Tracey in the art room at Greater Latrobe High School 1993-94

The cops gave us directions and sent us on our way.  We left without looking back and continued on getting lost.  Was I ticketed for my illegal park job?  Nope.  Things were looking up.

We continued on our way, trying to find a familiar road or sign, pointing us east.  Every few miles, the clip came loose, shutting down the juice to the car, in turn shutting down our travels.  As that happened, I’d stop, usually in the middle of the road, get out, and re-secure the wires, and repeat.  This was an inconvenience, but I didn’t care, it was the little bit of hope I was holding onto.

That is until the car shut down for good, probably about halfway home.  This time, we actually knew our location, and we were well past the city limits, headed to the safe suburbs.  Another little silver lining to our adventure.  I tried wiggling the wires together, nothing.

I truly had no idea what the problem was this time.  Not a clue!  That is until someone spoke up and mentioned the idea that the car might be out of gas.  Yes, Of course!  Can you believe it?  We ran out of gas!  At least that was our theory.  Now what?  We’re stranded on the side of the highway, in the dark (of course there wasn’t a street light around), still miles upon miles from home, with a temporary fix on the car engine, thinking we might be out of gas but really not sure.

To be continued…

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

Pittsburgh – Night Out in the Big City! Vol. 2

Stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold.  ~S.E. Hinton


Me & Gary & not sure at the Cure Concert at the former Mellon Arena (now Consol Energy Center), Pittsburgh, Pa. 7/17/96

Let me recap.  I was reminiscing from my high school days, actually about one night in particular.  A night that is so outlandish it sounds like it was made fictionally for television, but it’s entirely true!  Pittsburgh – A Night Out in the Big City!  Vol. 1

I took my old car, 1976ish Buick Limited, into Pittsburgh for a concert, when I wasn’t allowed, especially with a group of teenage friends.  We got lost in a bad section of Pittsburgh, illegally parked my car at a shady convenience store, to only find the night got worse when my car wouldn’t start.  Then, we accepted a ride to an auto parts store to purchase a new battery from a homeless man living in his car, which he may or may not have stolen.  We made it to the auto parts store and headed back to my friends who stayed behind with the broken down vehicle, in the middle of the ghetto, in the middle of the night.  Oh yeah, the homeless man’s car had no breaks.  He used his emergency break to stop.  I think that about sums up the last post.  It only gets better from here.

Our homeless man, or more accurately, the man living in his car, drove a little fast, as per the speed limit signs, and definitely too fast considering we had no real means to stop.  Suddenly, another obstacle struck us, or I should say we struck her.  What looked like a woman, dressed in stilettos, a micro mini skirt, and big hair, staggered in front of us.  Naturally, what else could make my story more colorful than a stranger appearing out of nowhere, to make contact with a moving vehicle, with no breaks!  Granted, we weren’t cruising at top speeds, but we were certainly in motion, and remained there despite the pedestrian.

Our driver used his emergency break to come to a stop, but not before we nudged her.  I know it wasn’t right, but we barely grazed this unconcerned night walker, who just walked in front of a moving vehicle.  Well, she wasn’t have having any of it, and showed her disdain by punching the hood of the car.  Then, our driver pushed the gas peddle, throwing her up on the hood, before using the emergency break again, throwing the stranger from the car.  What?  YES!  Can you imagine my shock?  I was mortified!


Tree, me & Tracey, graduation day from Greater Latrobe High School. 6/94

Please understand I never grew up around any alternative lifestyle, let alone knew what an alternative lifestyle was, or witnessed actions such as this one, meaning yelling out of a car at someone!

Again, what I thought was a lady, correction, I thought she was a prostitute, was not.  I sat there speechless, craning my neck to look over the hood of the car, trying to find life, hoping she wasn’t dead.

Eventually, what seemed like an hour later, the night walker got up, looked around, and stumbled a little.  To add to the terror, our angry driver began honking the horn and yelling out the window to get her to move.  Then, he started muttering a few words, one being transvestite.  Transvestite?  What?  Again, I’m a small town gal from Latrobe, who believed that a transvestite was a fictional character on television like a vampire, or an urban legend.  Instantly, my attention left our driver, my eyes grew three times the size, and I began to really examine the lady/guy standing in front of us, in the middle of the road, completely forgetting she/he was just hit by us.

Still staggering, she/he appeared to be either completely intoxicated or on drugs, or both.  The gal/guy stumbled to the passenger side of the door, where Sefo sat with the window down (allowing me to get air before I puked).  Why that side, and not the side of the verbal driver?  No clue. Aside from the staggering, which was evident before impact, our hit and run victim seemed unscathed.  The next thing I remembered, she/he tried to punch Sefo!  What did he do?  Sefo leaned into me, to put some distance between his shoulder and the staggering fist.  Luckily, our driver’s reflexes were quicker.  The homeless man, correction, the man who lived in his car, hit the gas, leaving my first transvestite encounter in the dust.  I mean Bruce Jenner (Caitlyn) wasn’t all over the news.  My heart was racing and never slowed down.  I looked at Sefo with wide eyes, expecting him to tell me all will be fine, that is until I saw his reaction.  It was exactly like mine!  Maybe a little more since he was in the line of direct fire.


Lori Beanner & Justin Baldonieri at a concert in the Strip District. I’m not sure why SCREAM was written on Lori’s leg. Pittsburgh, Pa. early 1990’s

Our unconventional hero of sorts, the homeless man who lived in his car, held true to his word and took us back to our friends and my broken car, almost safely.  We had a battery, now what?

It appears the craziness is nearly behind us, right?  That’s what I thought.  How could it get worse?

Would you believe we never thought about tools!  I didn’t have any, and our homeless man didn’t either.  Personally, I thought with all that junk in the car, he’d at least have a screwdriver?  Nope.  Now what?

While we were off hitting, literally the night life, (pun intended), my friends took a walk to a local hangout to use the restrooms.  They traveled down the street and came upon a gay bar.  Again, please keep in mind, times were very different back then, and my innocence was not ready for the reality of the world aside from my own personal corner of Latrobe.  My friends told me all about the sights they saw.  What did they witness?  No idea.  I wasn’t paying attention in the slightest.  It was at that moment, I started to hear ringing in my ears and I felt lightheaded.  I was breathing heavy and the world was in slow motion.  It was so surreal.  The last thing I wanted was to put my friends in any sort of danger or crazy situation.  Although, I will admit, they didn’t seem to mind and weren’t bothered by anything at all, except Sefo, rightfully so.  I can’t imaging hitting anybody, let alone a transvestite with a car was normal.


Not sure, Vanessa Vadas, me & Erin Butina in the art room at Greater Latrobe High School 1993-94

Sefo told our tale to everyone, and it was at that point, I knew changes needed to made, immediately.  What did I decide?  I instructed a few of my friends to call their parents to come and get them, while I stayed with the car and figured out how to get it home.  The idea of a tow truck did lurk in the back of my mind, but remember, I was about 30 to 40 miles away from Latrobe.  I probably could have called a tow, but to travel that distance would have cost me a fortune, and I didn’t have much cash left. Reality, I didn’t even have that much cash in my bank account.  Well, naturally my friends wouldn’t leave, so we all pulled up a seat along the curb discussing our next plan of action.  Sometime in there, our homeless man who lived in his car departed without incidence.

Please note, it’s now probably about two in the morning and I had my Cinderella driver’s license.

Just then, a beat up truck pulled into the parking lot.  Remaining consistent with our seemingly poor judgement, someone got up and asked the gentleman for assistance.  This time, we simply asked for tools to install the brand new battery.  He had tools!  Now we’re in business.

Giving this new stranger, who was obviously drunk, a few bucks to change out the battery, he did so, with the help of our candles.  One might wonder just how I was going to explain a brand new battery to my dad, and I thought about that.  I’d tell him the truth.  I had to have a new one installed since the old one died.  Done!

Feeling hopeful, I jumped in the driver’s seat to turn over the engine.  Nothing!  Are you kidding me?  No almost.  No turning over and grinding.  No attempt at trying.  Nothing.  Oh doubly crap!  It wasn’t the battery after all!  Now what?


Me on some sort of flippy ride at the Cure Concert at the former Coca-Cola Star Lake Amphitheater (now First Niagara Pavilion) 5/23/92

Our situation got even worse, and I didn’t have the money for a tow the whole way to Latrobe.

Now a second minor problem.  What was I going to do with a brand new battery?

Take it back of course!  Keep in mind, I had no idea where this auto parts store was located, or how to get there.  Personally, after the situation with the staggering transvestite, my mind was wiped clear of all awareness and reality.  How would we know where to go?  I got it!  I had the receipt containing the name of the auto parts store.  Would it be open?  It was worth a try.

Unbeknownst to our drunk driver, he was about to be added to our nightly events.  Sefo asked him to give us a lift back to the auto parts store.  Not knowing if the store was closed or not, me and Sefo jumped back into another stranger’s vehicle, this time we knew his full story, or at least the pertinent details, he was clearly drunk.  We took a ride from whence we came, for a small fee of course.  Driving like a manic, actually like a blind man, we departed, not knowing if we’d make it back, leaving our friends in the ghetto.  Who was safer?

To be continued…


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

Pittsburgh – Night Out in the Big City Vol. 1

Sometimes I make bad decisions.  ~Heather Piper


Jill, Lori Beanner, Justin Baldonieri after a concert in the Strip District, Pittsburgh, PA early to mid 1990’s

It’s funny how a simple conversation with someone can bring back memories nearly forgotten.  Throughout my life, I’ve found myself in unusual situations, putting it mildly.  This story is certainly one of those but is one-hundred percent true.  This stuff cannot be made up!

To this day, my parent’s have no idea, and I’d prefer not to bring it up at all, but to teach Kyle from my mistakes, I’m willing to share.  In a way, I don’t want Kyle to know my stupidity as a teenager or young adult, but then again I do, so he learns from my errors and immaturity, and knows I’m not perfect.

I’m very proud to proclaim I’ve never lied to my parents, at least not in the traditional sense.  However, at times, I’ve kept pertinent information from them that would have incriminated me.  I know, I know, the same thing, but not.  However, I’ve never looked them in the eyes and told a bold face lie, never!

tape recorder Aunt Heather Piper

Same tape player Nicole had & I used in my 1st car, since it didn’t have a radio.

As I’ve mentioned, my very First Car – My Very Own Days of Thunder was a 1976ish Buick Limited.  A big black beast with red interior, nicknamed Black Beauty.  I loved that car and so did my friends, one because I had wheels and two, because that car could seat a crowd.  Perfect for transporting large groups of teenagers who didn’t have rides, which is synonymous with that age.r.

Being a Latrobe native, I never really ventured any further west than Greensburg, about 15 miles.  East was a different story, my family is from Ligonier and I was familiar with the Laurel Mountains and the ridge.  In all reality, my parents were comfortable with that direction, as opposed to Pittsburgh.  Not that I was restricted by many rules, but one my parents reinforced was me traveling long distances, especially in my old car.  Understandable.  I really wasn’t permitted to go into Pittsburgh, about an hour and a half away, 40 miles or so.  Guess what?  That’s were I always wanted to explore, and I did.  Did they know?  They did, but mom and dad had the security of reinforcing my Cinderella license, when I had it.

Now that the stage is set, and the anticipation is built, here comes the most unbelievable night of my life.  It’s been a little over two decades since this adventure, so the details are a bit fuzzy, but the major events are still crystal clear.

Another big no in our household was concerts.  Really?  Unfortunately yes.  Mom and dad didn’t let us go to concerts, especially with friends.  I would have been open to my parents taking me to a show, but alas it never happened.  However, in this instance, I think I did tell them I was going to the show, since I paid for it myself.  In my senior year of high school, I waitressed at Valley Dairy.  I paid for my own gas, concert tickets, and associated expenses.  Regardless of my employment status, I do know for a fact that I wasn’t allowed to take Black Beauty into Pittsburgh, especially traveling with friends.  Yeah, I disregarded that rule.  We needed a ride and I had one, priorities!

The night started with a live show from Porno for Pyros (now that I think about it, what a horrible name).  Anyway, it was Perry Farrell’s band, the front man from Jane’s Addiction.  It was August 20, 1993, I found my old ticket stub!


Me & my cousin Colleen in the South Side, in front of Piper’s Pub. Night out before our friend Markelle moved to Arizona. Pittsburgh, PA late 1990’s

About five or six of my friends, including my good friend Maggie and I, made plans to stay at our friend Vanessa’s house.  Everyone met at Vanessa’s and I drove our eclectic group to Station Square in Pittsburgh.  To cut to the chase, we made it to the concert without incidence and it was a blast, but when it was time for us to simply exit stage right, we did, or so I thought.

Common sense would dictate that this story will take a hard right turn, especially since I was in charge of driving and maneuvering a group of teenagers from the suburbs into Pittsburgh and back out again.  Did you forget how Directionally Challenged I am, and always have been?

That’s exactly what happened.  I got us lost.  Where?  No clue, even to this day.  Also keep in mind, there were no cell phones and no GPS systems to guide our way.  We had to rely on road signs and verbal directions from locals.  To add another element of challenge, my gas gauge was broken.  I was instructed by my parents to record my mileage every time I got gas.  Did I?  Almost never.  I would go on gut instincts when fueling up.  Occasionally, I’d run out of gas and I’d have to walk to a house to call my brother, Ryan to rescue me.  A little foreshadowing here.

Eventually, after driving around for what seemed like forever, we ended up at a convenience store in the ghettos of sorts.  We stopped for two very important reasons, one, to get directions, and two, to stock up on snacks.

Did I mention I illegally parked the car too?  I figured our stay would be short lived, so no worries.  Well, that’s where it all went awry.

Please note, I’ve never and will never park in a handicap designated area.  The spot where I temporarily left my car was indeed in a tow away zone, but there was no real reason why it was marked as such.  There was additional access to the store from all angles.  The lot was triangular in shape, and I was in the back corner.  To me, a rule to be broken.

As we exited this dinky, dive store that sat on the corner among the shadows, we filed back in the car to find our way home.  Did I also mention I left the keys in the car because I was used to doing so?


Melanie Grimm & me. Wedding in Mount Pleasant, late 1990’s

It didn’t matter anyway.  Once I tried to turn over the engine, all I heard was click.  It wasn’t like the starter was grinding and trying to start.  Nope!  There was nothing!  No trying.  No almost.  Nothing.  Oh crap!  It was at that moment a sickness settled in the pit of my stomach nearly making me vomit.  Then, visions of my angry dad popped in my head.  YIKES!  Now can you say Adventures in Babysitting?

Being slightly familiar with engines, meaning not really at all, I had to try something.  I popped the hood to look inside.  Of course, no one had a flashlight. Why would we?  However, oddly enough, someone had candles and matches.  Seriously?  Yes!  I didn’t question, I just rolled with it.  We lit the candles to look inside to see if something stood out.  Nothing.  Keep in mind, the melted wax had to go somewhere, including dripping down into the engine.  A side note for later.

Okay.  Now what?  We had to try and fix the situation.  How?  By accepting a ride from a homeless man to a local garage.  Really?  Yes.  Who’s brilliant idea was that?  I have no idea, but I was desperate.  Almost immediately after coming to terms with a broken vehicle, this guy pulled up to the convenience store.  Sefo (his real name was Matt) was talking to this stranger who seemed semi-normal and I believe we paid him ten bucks to take us to a nearby auto parts store to purchase a battery.


Lori Beanner & me in the Strip District in Pittsburgh, PA. Pre-concert at the Metropole. early to mid 1990’s

Keep in  mind, at the time, we believed it was the battery that just died. Why didn’t we have someone jump the battery?  We didn’t have jumper cables.  Did I know how to give the car a jump anyway?  You bet I did!  But without cables, I couldn’t transfer juice from one battery to another simply by wishing it.

Our plan?  Sefo, who was no bigger than me, would travel with me and this homeless man to the auto parts store, while the rest would stay with the car.  Homeless?  Yes, he converted his backseat into a closet, meaning I had to sit in the front seat between Sefo and this stranger.

Only when we began our trip, did I find out he had nearly no breaks.  How did I know?  When we approached a stop sign, the car sputtered and jerked because he had to use his emergency brake, before obviously admitting to the lack of break system.  That wasn’t the worst part.  Upon closer inspection, I saw all the wires from the dashboard strung up on the outside, and hanging down at our feet.  It really looked like he stole the car!  Scary!  To be honest, I was still more afraid to tell my parents I took the car into Pittsburgh.  Why didn’t someone else call one of their parents?  I have no idea.

Somehow this man, who was somewhat pleasant drove us, recklessly through downtown Pittsburgh, bringing us an auto parts store, as promised.  Sefo stayed with the stranger in the car, while I went in the store to purchase a battery.  Luckily, I had a checking account and I had my checkbook with me, yes when we used checks and not Mac card or credit cards.  I didn’t have either.  Now for the trip back.

To be continued…

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

Turkey On The Run

Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don’t be sorry.  ~Jack Kerouac


Dad & Kyle in the fishing boat, getting ready to fish! 8/20/10

It’s no surprise, I totally get a kick out of our chickens and turkeys.  Truly!  So when a story as amazing as this one presents itself, I feel obligated to share the experience.

We need to step back about two and half weeks.  Dad just mowed the lawn, which was pretty high from the continuous rainfall for the last two months, and he asked me to rake up some of the bigger piles of grass to feed to the chickens and turkeys.  Great idea!  They love fresh grass and it’s healthier for them and us too.  I raked the chlorophyll strands into a five gallon bucket, and headed to the turkey coop first, since it’s further away.

Please note, normally our turkeys are very docile upon entering their domain.  They either huddle together opposite to the door, or they remain steadfast on their roosts.  So you can imagine, any other behavior would take me completely off guard.


The escapee… this turkey is a survivor! 7/14/15

From the minute I opened the door, the story began.  I entered the turkey coop with my bucket of fresh cut grass and simply turned the container upside down to release the contents.  Well, the turkeys didn’t welcome such actions, and all eleven, yes there were (keyword here is were) eleven turkeys, each weighing about ten pounds or so, nearly fully grown, flapped their wings.  They flew in all directions and quite frankly freaked out!  Can you picture it?  Me standing in the middle of a feathery wind tunnel with large projectiles flying at and around me.  Just then, I saw two turkeys heading for the opened door, mid-air.  I leaned back, pretty gracefully I might add, and swatted the one bird back in the pen.  However, the second frantic bird made a break for it and succeed.  Oh crap!

My dad was still on the lawn mower doing the upper part of the yard.  I immediately, jumped out of the crazy hen house (pun intended), closed and locked the door behind me, and ran to the house to get the large fishing net.  While I was running around like a chicken myself (pun also intended)  I stopped dad to explain the situation.  Thinking he was going to be really made at me, he rolled his eyes, sighed, and got off the lawn mower to assist in rounding up the bird.

Dad and I cornered the escapee in the woods in the brush.  Yes, I was running around the woods with a long handled fishing pole while my dad was trying to work the bird in my direction.  At one point, we swopped and dad had the pole.  Did we capture the turkey?  Nope.  Of course that wouldn’t make much of a story.  The bird took cover under some very thick brush, and we couldn’t find it, even though we heard it calling.


Gram & Kyle for Gram’s birthday at her apartment. 7/24/10

That happened about midday, so we had no choice but to return to our chores.  That night, as dad I were sitting on my parent’s deck, I looked up the hill.  Low and behold the turkey was strutting around the turkey coop.  It was too comical.  This time, I had the big guns with me, Kyle!  We each grabbed a long handled fishing pole, and we went turkey hunting.  We were doing pretty good too, keeping the chase out of the thick brush, at least for a while.  I got the turkey by its back once, but it slipped out.  Kyle did the same.  To be honest, I actually had a fun time running around the woods, chasing the turkey with Kyle.  It’s been too long since Kyle and I have been involved in a silly situation like this one.  My little man did a great job assisting me, but alas the bird eluded us and we lost it in really thick brush.  I didn’t want to keep pushing the bird in the opposite direction toward my cousin’s fields.  I wanted to keep it close, so we gave up for the night.  We came back to the house empty handed, and decided to make mountain pies and s’mores on the fire.

That night, the following day and into Sunday it rained, and rained, and rained, and rained hard!  To me that was a good thing considering most animals hunker down in storms, meaning they wouldn’t be out hunting.  Not to mention, the rain helps to wash away any turkey scent.  On Sunday, Kyle and I went back into the woods, yes with our fishing poles, to look for our runaway.  Did we see her?  Sadly, no, but I also didn’t see a crime scene either.  Good sign. (Imagine what we looked like walking through the woods with long handled fishing poles!)

Upon exiting the woods, I decided to throw some feed alongside the turkey coop in case it would come back.


Gram & Pap. 1986

This brings us to Tuesday, of the following week!  The turkey lived for over a week in the wild.  Every once in a while we’d see it prancing around but couldn’t catch it.  It was too big, too fast and now it was flying.  Keep in mind, a couple hours earlier that day, I was informed my Gram passed away.  I happened to be at my parent’s house getting work down, since it was a really nice day.  I got a text from my cousin Mikey saying, he just saw a strange looking turkey on the road near my mom and dad’s house.  That’s our turkey!  She’s still alive!

Excited over the good news, I put Gram’s death aside, and ran out of the house to be struck down.  As I slammed the front door and walked down the porch steps, something came up from behind me, landed on my neck right behind my jaw and stung me!  Can you believe it?  I was stung in the neck!  Joking, I said that was Gram fighting one last time.

I ran back in the house holding my neck panting, “Oh crap!  Oh crap!  Oh crap!  It got me dad!  It got me in the neck!”

Dad:  “What happened?”
Me:  “I got stung in the neck!”
Dad:  Calmly.  Snickering at my drama.  “Ya, they hurt, especially there.”
Me:  “Oh crap dad!  It really hurts!”
Dad:  “Ya, I can imagine.  It’s not so funny now that YOU got stung.  You laughed at me when those bees chased me out of the turkey coop and stung me.”
Me:  Snickering to myself.  “No I didn’t laugh about that.  I said, I’m glad it was you and not me.  I laughed at you last summer when we were eating on the deck and the bee stung you in the lip and your lip swelled.”
Dad:  Chuckled
Me:  “Wow!  It really hurts!”
Dad:  “Maybe you still have the stinger in.  Come here and let me look.”  Dad looked, without putting on glasses and proclaimed.  “Nope, no stinger.”  Like he could see it!
Me:  “What if I have an allergic reaction?”
Dad:  Calmly.  “Well, then me and the boys (our dogs) will take you to the hospital.”
Me:   “No dad I don’t want the dogs to go along.”
Dad:  “Why?  They’d like to take a ride.  Seven (my dog) would hold your hand.”
Me:  “Dad!  I don’t want the dogs to ride along to the hospital!”
Dad:  “Oh, they’d be good.  Everyone should have a Lab doggie by their side.”  Our dogs are Labs but not my sister’s dog, even though Dad refers to her as a Lab.


Dad & Kyle fishing on Kyle’s birthday. The entire family joined in on the fun! 7/30/05

Luckily, the only reaction I got was really bad soreness in my neck and down into my shoulder, no major swelling, and no trip to the hospital with the dogs.

Dad and I armed ourselves with our fishing poles, and continued where we left off, chasing the turkey in the woods till we gave up.  Best way to spend the day after the loss of a family member!

Two days later, that Thursday, my sister came home for the funeral.  Nicole joined in on the hunt and we gave it the old college try when we saw the turkey strutting around the coop, begging us to chase it.  This time Nicole added a new element of surprise or challenge?  You decide.  Instead of using the long handled fishing poles, she decided to grab an old sheet.  Yes, a flat sheet, like the kind that goes on a bed.  A sheet! This just keeps getting better and better.  I think, she was expecting to gracefully throw the sheet on the turkey, and have the sheet perfectly spread out and land naturally onto of our bird, and then she’d tackle the lump in the sheet.  I’m guessing that was her reasoning.  What really happened was very different.

Nicole walked around the woods holding up this sheet, while I was opposite to her with my fishing pole.  (I wish I had a video of that!  It was as funny as you can imagine.)  If anything, I think Nicole gave that turkey a good laugh, or the runaway thought a ghost was following her around.  So far Piper 0, turkey 5.  All along, I’d throw turkey feed around the coop to keep our turkey in the area.  It worked!


Turkey’s on their roost 7/14/15

That following week, me, dad and Kyle finished building the chicken run on Tuesday, the day after Gram’s funeral.  We enclosed the area so nothing could get in or out.  That Wednesday, the chickens were running around in their playground, and who decided to join the fun?  Our turkey.  She came down to hang out by the chickens.  Dad had a great idea.  He instructed me to throw feed outside the chicken coop, prop the door open to their enclosure, and throw more feed inside, thinking we’d lure the turkey in.

That evening, when I went to set Dad’s trap, I came face to face with the turkey.  It was roosting on the post.  I couldn’t believe my luck.  Thinking I could capture the bird myself, like a ninja I crabbed my trusty fishing net and threw the net up over the turkey.  Did I get it?  Nope.  It flew up in a nearby tree.

The next morning dad said he went out to check on the chickens.  Guess who was waiting for him in the chicken run, eating the feed I spread?  Our wild turkey!  Dad said, he simply stepped in the fenced in area with a net, shut the door, and caught the turkey!


Chickens walking around their pen 7/14/15

We’re now back up to eleven turkeys, happily roosting in their coop, until this fall.  That turkey had no idea how close I came to pulling out the shotgun and taking care of this problem once and for all before another wild animal feasted on our bird.  To be honest, I’m surprised our dogs, especially my sister’s dog didn’t get the turkey.  At one point the neighbors Saint Bernard ran across the road and chased the bird, but I intercepted him before he had a turkey dinner.

I’m sure the refugee told the others about her adventures in the wild.

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Pets,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts,Travels and have No Comments

Getting A Handle On the Teenage Years

I’m quite illiterate, but I read a lot.  ~J.D. Salinger


Uncle George, Gram & (not sure) 1980s

Evey time I catch myself huffing and puffing over Kyle’s behavior, or worse his attitude, everyone tells me he’s a typical teenager.  I guess so, but does that mean I have to tolerate it?  Perhaps I expect too much from him, maybe more than I should.  I just want Kyle to be a respectful, hardworking (non-lazy) young man who’s moral compass points North.  I’m not asking a lot.  (I’m quietly laughing to myself.)

Monday was a bit of a rough day with the focus being Gram’s funeral.  It’s true, Kyle didn’t fight me on his attire.  He wore dress slacks, nice brown shoes and his navy woven top with clusters of anchors.  The very same outfit he sported on his cruise.  He looked nice and appropriate, and he didn’t argue when it was time to get ready.  He was off to a good start.

However, during the visitation, Kyle sat in a corner and wouldn’t get up to acknowledged the visitors and accept condolences.  Okay, maybe that was asking way too much from a thirteen year old, soon to be fourteen.  Personally, I found it rude, especially when others made it a point to talk to Kyle and include him in the conversation.  Kyle’s response?  He did smile occasionally but barely look up from his seat.  I addressed that immediately.  “Get your butt up when someone is talking to you and shake his or her hand.”  I guess that’s also a maturity thing, as well as learned behavior.  Everything considered, Kyle was pretty good.

On a side note, there was no casket, which I didn’t understand.  I asked Kyle to walk around and find Gram because “The guest of honor has to be here somewhere.” as I so plainly stated.  Kyle snickered at first, and then gave me a horrifying look.  Feeling a bit awkward with my request, Kyle tried to ignore me and continued starring at the floor while sitting in his seat, playing his video game periodically.  Letting Kyle off the hook for my unusual request, I went seeking the answer myself.   What I didn’t know, was Gram chose to be cremated and then buried by my Pap.  A bit of information that would have gone a long way with me before walking into the funeral home.  That took me completely off guard, and the fact that we weren’t going to the cemetery, which is very unlike Piper funerals, really threw me for a loop.


Dad & Uncle Sonny building Gram & Pap’s house on the ridge. c. 1953

Then, while at the brunch after the funeral services, Kyle sat on his iPhone and played video games.  At one point he left the American Legion, which is where we met in Latrobe, to sit on the Legion’s front steps to either text, play video games or whatever he was doing on his iPhone.  I was so embarrassed.  Seriously?  Good friend’s of the family, and relatives wanted to talk to Kyle and try and get to know this mystery man they never get to see.  Kyle was quiet and almost distant.  What was his problem?  Again, I knew it was a rough day of funeral services, but still.

On Saturday, two days before the funeral, I stopped down to mom and dad’s house.  I pulled in the driveway to find my dad, who is in his sixties, outside in the dead of the heat, splitting and stacking wood, by himself.  Upon entering the house, I found my sister and nephew playing a board game sitting in the air-conditioning.  I think it was great Kyle was off his video games and spending time with my sister, but come on, help an old man out!  Naturally, my sister yelled at me and very tactfully stated they were playing a game and I was to “Shut Up!” as my sister so respectfully demands.  Now that doesn’t help Kyle’s attitude or his unwillingness to do actual work and get off his phone.  I was floored.  That’s no way to teach a young man to respect his family, very poor example, but moving on.

This past Tuesday, Kyle actually agreed to help me and dad build the chicken run.  Really?  He did!  He was almost enthused about it.  That is until we started working.

We needed an area for the chickens to run around outside, while being safely enclosed, so critters don’t have an opportunity to eat chicken for dinner.  Sure, it wasn’t easy digging holes to set the posts, hammering boards together for the door, and tacking the chicken wire fence in place, etc.  It was a beautiful day, but very sunny and HOT.  We worked from 9:30 am till about 7:00 pm.


Gram, Aunt Kaye, her husband John, Uncle George, his wife Rhea. 1990s

I’ll give Kyle kudos, he was trying, but I could also tell he’s out of shape and was having a tough time.  Then, the attitude made its appearance.  What’s better is when dad or myself calls Kyle out on it.  Kyle will actually challenge us with a stare down and blatantly deny his attitude and insists, “What?  What did I do?  I didn’t do anything!” (And repeat that over and over again even after we told him what he did)  When we all know, including Kyle about his attitude.  He wasn’t terrible on Tuesday, but that snotty behavior is working my nerves big time.  He treats me like I’m his parent, which is funny because I’ve always played that role with him.  Maybe I should take it as a compliment.

About midway during the day, when we were about halfway done with the project, we decided to stop and refuel before continuing.  While eating lunch, I heard the shower running.  What?

Me:  “Kyle, why do I hear the shower?”
Kyle:  “Because I’m going to take a shower and go home.”
Me:  “What?  No you’re not.  You purposely work as slowly as you could this morning, to stretch out the work, and you think you’re going to abandon us?  Without saying a word?  Then, you think I’m going to stop what I’m doing to take you to your mom’s house?  Seriously?”
Kyle:  crickets…
Me:  “No, you said you’d help.  You need to finish what you started.”
Kyle:  Huffs as he walks away and turns off the shower.

He did help us, and as soon as we gave him an easy project, tacking the wire fence to the door, Kyle’s mood changed.  I could tell he was proud of the work he put into the chicken run and felt a sense of accomplishment.  Granted, Kyle didn’t stick around to help clean up, but I did ask him to pick up two quarts jars and a pint jar (used for drinking water) laying in the grass.  What did Kyle grab?  One quart jar and one pint jar.  Did I let him get away with that?  Nope!  This kid needs to be held accountable for his behavior and learn to follow direction, even for something as simple as collecting the jars.  Again, I addressed this with Kyle and he headed back up to the yard to retrieve the other jar, while rolling his eyes slightly and pouting along the way.

Please note, it’s not like we ask Kyle to do much.  In fact, he does very little around the house.  We’re always offering to take him fishing, and we build fires and make mountain pies and s’mores.  Supposedly, we’re going fishing this weekend, I hope Kyle doesn’t blow us off again.  It really upsets my dad, and after loosing his mother last week, dad needs a good day of fishing without an attitude.

On another side note, the quote above cracked me up, thinking about the Catcher In the Rye!  I loved that book!

Below is a screen shot from Gram’s obituary.

Grams Obituary Aunt Heather Piper


posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Video Games & Games and have No Comments

Gram, I Hope You Finally Have Peace

I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow; but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.   ~Agatha Christie

Alice M. Piper 

July 24, 1930 – June 30, 2015


Gram & Pap at the Harbor Inn.

My 84-year old Gram, Alice Piper passed away today, Tuesday, June 30, 2015 sometime mid-morning.  (It’s kind of ironic, since she hated the mornings and never got up before noon.)  To some, it may come as a surprise to honor this lady with a blog post.  Reality?  She was my Gram, actually my only grandmother I ever knew.  My maternal grandmother passed away, long before my parents even met.  It’s true, we don’t get to pick our family, but we should try and support each other, at the very least, wish them well, and pray for them.  This is my opportunity to do that for Gram.

Gram is survived by two great grandchildren, which I think is pretty special, Kyle and Cheyenne, among the rest of the family, minus my Pap, Walter and my brother, Ryan.  I also believe Gram was the last surviving sibling in her full-blooded family.  She had half brothers and sisters, some still living.


Dad, Gram & Uncle Sonny. 1990’s

There’s no doubt to anyone who spent any sort of time with Gram, knew she was a true firecracker in every sense of the word, even up to her last breath.  It’s no secret that Gram wasn’t your typical loving, nurturing, old lady that baked and was a saint.  No!  She was a loud, opinionated, trouble maker, who used to chain smoke. (for much of her life until she was placed in a nursing home)   I could tell many tales of disrespect and meanness.  However, thinking more on this, those are stories that have been told and retold all throughout Gram’s life, and I’m sure will be retold in the future.  Besides being an embarrassment, they only display the negative side to my grandmother.  What many don’t know, is that Gram actually had a positive side.  Granted, it was buried deep down, and only appeared very sparsely at random times, but she did in deed have a heart.  Those are the stories that really need to be told.

Unbeknownst to some, Gram had a rough childhood including living dirt poor (complete poverty), a mother abandoning all her children and leaving them to a mean and violent man, who drank, was lazy, didn’t work and was supported by welfare.  First hand accounts of this man were never positive, so I can only image what it was like living in that household.  No wonder all the women desperately tried to get out.  Years after Gram’s mother ran away, her dad remarried a women who was slightly older than my Gram was at the time, and they had kids together.  Right about now, I hear the dueling banjo’s playing in my head from the movie Deliverance.


Uncle Sonny, Gram, Pap & Dad 1965

Long before suffering the loss of a grandchild, my brother Ryan, Gram lost her first born.  In addition to having my uncle and dad, Gram’s first offspring was a still born baby boy, a situation that was common back then, but I’m guessing equally as devastating.

Believe it or not, Gram was pretty active in her church when I was a youngster.  She taught bible school every summer at Bethel Lutheran Church, and I believe she helped out with Sunday school too.  Helping the church, and God’s children is always a good thing.

Because of Gram’s insistence on spending time with her and my pap on the ridge, every third weekend (Nicole, Ryan and myself alternated weekends) and staying very third week in the summer, I was also able to keep in touch with some of my cousins.  Otherwise, I would’ve only seen them once a year at the Piper Reunion or occasional family gathering because they went to Ligonier, and I went to Latrobe school.

Did you know Gram loved going to the movies?  She did, and so my interest in the big screen came to be.  Granted, Gram loved westerns, not a favorite of mine, but she also watched thrillers and comedies and such.  Again, she wasn’t the typical grandmother who baked and taught her grandchildren to do so.  She considered homemade, opening a box of cake mix and adding the oil and eggs.  She was a less than par baker, and a borderline editable cook.  She didn’t garden or sew, at least not with consistency that I can remember, and she definitely didn’t knit or croshay.  So after my pappy died, what do you do to not be alone?  You hang out with your grandchildren.  What do you do with them that didn’t require much effort in terms of physical activity or interaction?  You take them to the movies!  Did I mind?  Not at all, in fact I loved going (still do)!  I see this interest in the big screen continuing with Kyle, for he too loves going to the movie theater.

Gram loved to play cards and board games.  Every evening in the summer, we’d sit on the front porch on the ridge, she in her rocking chair, and I on a plastic fold up chair (that latter collapsed on me, sending me down the cement steps head first), in front of a card table and we played games.  Pappy watched us from his glider.  What did we play?  We played Three of a Kind, Go Fish and Uno.  (My pappy taught us to play poker.)  She also loved board games like Trouble, Sorry, Connect Four, Candy Land, Checkers, Chinese Checkers, Backgammon, Clue, Battleship, Chutes and Ladders, Life, Yahtzee, Scrabble and Operation.  Sometimes we’d sit and fill out crossword puzzles together or word searches.  All of this I did enjoy, minus her cigarette smoking.  Again, Kyle has always showed an interest in playing cards and boardgames, a trait he genuinely shared with his great grandmother.


Gram & Nicole at Nicole’s college graduation from Penn State University 1996

Gram tried to stay involved in our activities.  All throughout school Gram and pap attended our spring musicals at Sacred Heart, every sacrament received, and every function, even after pap passed away.  Gram joined us at Penn State College to witness my sister receiving her college diploma.  Nicole was the first in our family accomplish a formal education.  Gram honestly loved and cared for us.  Many years later, when Kyle graced us with his presence, Gram always requested his presence at her apartment for visits.  She loved our little man equally as much as we do.

Did you know my Gram never had a birthday party?  (Now Harry Potter pops into my head.)  Nope, never as a child or even as an adult.  So by the time Gram was ready to celebrate her sixtieth birthday in July of 1990 (I believe), mom planned a big surprise party.  Me, Ryan and Nicole took her to see Pretty Woman (obviously we didn’t know what it was about) while all the guests arrived at mom and dad’s house.  We showered her with gifts and cake and ice-cream.  I remember how honestly surprised she was and truly happy!

A few years after my pap died, Gram became an in-home caretaker to an elderly person.  She took classes to get certified and that was her very first job, ever.  She was in her sixties.  To be honest, I was proud she went to school and began working.  Perhaps that experience carried over to her ending days in the nursing home.  I was told by some nurses that Gram actually helped calm a dementia patient at times, another good deed nearly gone untold.

I’m certainly not making excuses for Gram, or her behavior over the years, but I am saying we are all God’s people.  There is good in every single person.  Gram lived a life, keeping us on our toes and everyone one around her.  I hope she finally has the peace I think she’s always needed.

Gram, Pap might be hiding from you, so let him know you’re ready for peace and quiet, and give it to him as well as yourself.  Make sure you look for Ryan, I suspect he’s hanging with Pap, you know those two were always so tight.  Tell Pap and Ryan how much we miss them and let Ryan know Kyle’s getting big and is a great kid! God Speed Gram!  Until I see you again.


Grams Obituary Aunt Heather Piper

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