I Met Leigh Bardugo!

When people say impossible, they usually mean improbable.  ~Leigh Bardugo, Siege and Storm

Anything worth doing always starts as a bad idea.  ~Leigh Bardugo, Siege and Storm

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Me & Leigh Bardugo at the book signing for Crooked Kingdom – South Euclid-Lyndhurst County Public Library, OH  9/28/16

This past Wednesday, I had the honor of meeting Leigh Bardugo.  Who is she?  If you have to ask, you just don’t get it, and you’re probably not into young adult fantasy fiction.  If that genre strikes your fancy, then I suggest diving into her world straightaway.  You’ll thank me later.

Leigh Bardugo is the New York Time’s Best Selling author of the Grisha Series (Shadow & Bone, Siege & Storm, Ruin & Rising) and the Six of Crows.  She was doing a book signing for her newest release, Crooked Kingdom, the sequel to Six of Crows.

How did I find out about this book signing?  When I heard Crooked Kingdom was being release this September, I immediately went to Leigh Bardugo’s website.  There, I reviewed her events and books signing gigs.  It was at that moment, I started plotting my adventure.

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Leigh Bardugo book signing for Crooked Kingdom – South Euclid-Lyndhurst County Public Library, OH 9/28/16

Where was she?  There were only a few locations in which she’d be in close proximity to me, Ohio, Maryland and Pittsburgh.  To be honest, I actually looked at all the states and their corresponding dates, to see if I was doing an event with Thrill of the Hunt around the same time.  Alas, nothing was easily working in my favor.  Pittsburgh would have been ideal, however she was one of several speakers at the YALSA event at the convention center on November 4th, and it wasn’t a book signing. Incidentally, I would like to attend the weekend activities with YALSA.  That might be a near future possibility, and a last minute decision.  Next on the list was Ohio, only because the date was a day before the release of Crooked Kingdom, and I couldn’t wait.  I was acting like Kyle, my nephew, when he was a kid and a new Lego was being released.

Initially, when I Googled the location of the book signing, it informed me that it was going to be about an hour and a half trip.  I can handle that.  However, on Wednesday, I called to confirm the evening’s book signing activity, and to ensure they did have copies of Crooked Kingdom for purchase.  I also retrieved the address to GPS.  That was when my jaw dropped.  Keep in mind, I was excited beyond words and I was leaving in plenty of time without rushing or stressing.  What happened?  The GPS said it was going to take me three and a half hours to get there!  What?  I must have previously Googled the branch location.  Yikes!  I was already going to be late.  Did my newest obstacle stop me?  Nope! I darted out the door and put the peddle to the metal.

Where did I go?  I ended up at the South Euclid-Lyndhurst County Public Library in South Euclid, Ohio, across from Notre Dame.  It was a long trip, but one worth it.

I arrived without incidence, but was ten minutes late.  Anyone who knows me, knows I absolutely detest being late, for anything.  Regardless, I scurried into a room full Leigh Bardugo fans without missing a beat.  It was an eclectic assortment of individuals, mostly young adults, but also a variety of ages and genders.  Naturally, Leigh was on time and was in the middle of talking about the book and other projects as I crossed the threshold. Crap!

Prior to Wednesday, I read that DC Comics was teaming up with some writers for a four book collection based on superheros.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw Leigh Bardugo was writing the Wonder Woman book.  Can my days get any better?  I love reading her books and now she’s writing a book about my childhood idol!  Life is just getting better and better every minute!

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Leigh Bardugo speaking to her fans & answering questions for the release of Crooked Kingdom – South Euclid-Lyndhurst County Public Library, OH 9/28/16

Before meeting someone of influence and highly respected, there’s always a bit of anxiety.  Let’s face it, we’re all human, and no one is perfect.  There’s that slight chance that person may not be what was envisioned.  Was that the case with Leigh?  Not at all.  The minute I caught up to her conversation, I felt like she was already a friend.  I know that sounds a bit stalker, but it’s true.  She’s saucy, sarcastic, colorful, straight forward, and hilarious.  We’re practically sisters!  She’s the friend you call to go out for a drink, take a road trip or when you need cheering up.

After Leigh spoke and answered questions, we moved into the signing stage of the evening.  As I walked toward the table, I saw the heavens opened up and light streamed down onto Leigh with Crooked Kingdom in hand, like the heavens were pointing the way.  Okay, maybe it wasn’t a religious experience, but I did feel like a kid meeting a rock star.  Seriously?  Yes.  It was a mix between meeting this very cool chick I just heard speaking to the room full of fans, and the desire to jump back into the world of Kerch and Ketterdam, its capital. (Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom)  Yes, her books are that captivating!

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Leigh Bardugo signed my copy of Crooked Kingdom (plus Shadow & Bone & Six of Crows) 9/28/16

Naturally, I grabbed a few of my books for Leigh to sign.  I was going to take them all but I chose against it, I didn’t want to seem like a super fan, even though I just drove three and half hours to meet an author I praise without reservation, even when no one asks.

Believe it or not, after reading the Six of Crows, I reached out to Leigh’s literary agent, to see if I could obtain copyrights to do a Grisha/Six of Crows themed scavenger hunt.  I was instantly and nicely denied.  But in my eyes, that doesn’t mean forever.  Before taking on my midweek road trip, I meant to grab some literature on Thrill of the Hunt to give to Leigh.  Well, I left in such haste I forgot.  I did have a business card, like any good business owner.

During my own personal two minute encounter with Leigh, I mentioned that I reached out to her literary agent.  And you know what?  She seemed very excited, and then asked if I was a writer.  Leigh’s comment actually threw me for a loop.  Of course, for normal people that would be a typical reason for reaching out to a literary agent.  Actually, I wrote a couple books, but nothing published.  Now it was my turn to throw her for a loop.  Briefly, I informed her that I own Thrill of the Hunt and I make theme scavenger hunts.  I mentioned I would like to do a scavenger hunt based off of her books.  For a second time, she had a twinkle of intrigue in her eye.  Then discreetly, (actually not so discreetly) I pulled out my business card and slid it across the table to her, where she graciously tucked it with her purse.

Will anything come from this meeting?  Who knows, but it sure was fun.

Just before I turned into a pumpkin at midnight, I stumbled into my bed.  I was exhausted, yet really excited to crack that book and jump into the twisted and yet exciting story of Kaz Brekker.  I really don’t have an addictive personality, and I can’t say I have any vices, except maybe my books.  Actually, only certain stories can capture my attention and chain my hyperactive antsy bum to a chair.  Leigh Bardugo is one such author.

I was going to take Kyle along, even though he never read Leigh’s books.  If I can get that Kyle off of those video games long enough to read her books, I know he’d really enjoy the story and enjoy the Grisha world.  Why didn’t I take Kyle?  He’s very busy with school and band, and I didn’t want to keep him out late on a school night, especially to meet an author Kyle will only appreciate down the road.  One day when Kyle returns to the land of enjoyable reading, and not just for school, we can hit up a few book signings.

Taking on adventures in made up worlds is so very relaxing to me and keeps me energized.  I have an addiction to traveling to these mysterious lands, and fighting for the good in people and for simple love.  Fantasy keeps me in check with reality.

Now I seriously can’t wait for Wonder Woman.  On a side note, I should have worn my Wonder Woman shirt!

Leigh Bardugo was donating 10% of her book sales from the Troublemakers Tour (9/29 – 10/10) to GEMS, and Macmillan Publishing was matching her donation up to $3000.

Leigh Bardugo Website:

Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS) mission is to empower girls and young women, ages 12–24, who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking to exit the commercial sex industry and develop to their full potential. GEMS is committed to ending commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking of girls and young women by changing individual lives, transforming public perception, and revolutionizing the systems and policies that impact sexually exploited youth.

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posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Family,LEGO's,Milestone,News,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts,Travels and have No Comments

Arnold Palmer was Already a Legend

Success in this game depends less on strength of body than strength of mind and character.  ~Arnold Palmer

The most rewarding things you do in life are often the ones that look like they cannot be done.  ~Arnold Palmer

September 10, 1929 – September 25, 2016

arnold-palmer-logo-aunt-heather-piperLatrobe lost one of our legends, golf great, Arnold Palmer.  He passed away yesterday due to heart complications at the ripe old age of 87.

arnold-palmer-painting-aunt-heather-piperBeing a Latrobean, I grew up around the legend of Arnold Palmer.  I was even honored by witnessing the man behind that legend in passing at the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport, and driving passing his house to find him retrieving his mail.  Not to mention, everyone knows at least one person with an Arnold Palmer story, always a benevolent encounter.  I’m not saying we were BFFs, I mean he didn’t know me, but when you’re from the same close-knit area like Latrobe, you’re automatically friends by default.

The news was blowing up all day today with stories, memories and past images of “The King”.  Rightfully so, he earned the kind words and the fame that accompanied him.  He definitely brought pride to Latrobe.  Whether you were a golfer or not, he was respected and a household name.

Why was Arnold Palmer so famous, not just locally, but around the world?  I mean, besides having a drink named after him.  Seriously?  You bet the Arnold Palmer, consisting of half ice-tea and half lemonade.  In addition, he won numerous events in golf, dating back to 1955, on the PGA Tour and Champions Tour.  What really made him a household name came from being the first superstar of the sport’s television age.  A man after my own heart, a true marketer.

arnold-palmer-drink-aunt-heather-piperMr. Palmer knew how to market himself and take his talent, along with his charm and good looks, to reach the masses.  Unlike a lot of superstars today, he wasn’t a troublemaker or a bad boy.  Nope, he was a positive role model and he was very appreciative of his own success, coming from humble beginnings.  His dad was a green-keeper at the local club where he took an interest in golfing.

Mr. Palmer even served our country in the United States Coast Guard.  That alone speaks volumes about him and his character.

I was not alive during the height of Arnold Palmer’s career, nor am I a golfer, but according to Wikipedia:

Palmer’s most prolific years were 1960–1963, when he won 29 PGA Tour events, including five major tournament victories, in four seasons. In 1960, he won the Hickok Belt as the top professional athlete of the year and Sports Illustrated magazine’s “Sportsman of the Year” award. He built up a wide fan base, often referred to as “Arnie’s Army”, and in 1967 he became the first man to reach one million dollars in career earnings on the PGA Tour. By the late 1960s Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player had both acquired clear ascendancy in their rivalry, but Palmer won a PGA Tour event every year from 1955 to 1971 inclusive, and in 1971 he enjoyed a revival, winning four events.

Granted these are just some of his accomplishments, which continued throughout his entire life.

After hearing the news of The King’s passing, my heart sank a little.  He really was a staple in our community.  The next thought that came to mind?  We’re going to be bombarded with celebrities.  I remember when Arnold’s first wife, Winnie passed away.  The biggest news was George H.W. Bush was spotted in K-Mart purchasing a belt for the funeral.

Arnold Palmer wasn’t a man in everyone’s face, riding the edge of controversy and reality television, but he was friend to many far and wide, high and low.  In my opinion, that made him a true legend.

While I don’t have the fame, nor the fortune of Arnold Palmer, I’m still very proud to announce Thrill of the Hunt is a Latrobe company, and I’m looking forward to the day when I join our prestigious line up local celebrities and keep the good name of Latrobe alive.

God Speed to all of Arnold Palmer’s friends and family.  Rest in peace.

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posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts,Reminiscing,Travels and have No Comments

Happy Birthday Ryan!

Each of us has a unique part to play in the healing of the world.  ~Marianne Williamson

Happy 39th Birthday Ryan!

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Me, Ryan, Nicole, Jeremy & Chad Piper Easter 1981

Today, Ryan would have turned 39 years old, and his son Kyle, is a teenager of 15 years.  I can honestly say, I miss Ryan today like I did when he passed.  Maybe a little more, just in a different way.

It’s weird, talking about a person’s birthday and in the same breath their death.  Like it or not, I guess that’s the circle of life.  Although, Ryan’s life circle was a bit shorter than anticipated and there are so many holes missing,  I can only guess or imagine how they would have unfolded.

Since Kyle was Ryan’s everything, it would have been fun to watch Ryan parent and influence Kyle in all his activities, including band.

I bet Ryan would have been a band chaperone or at the very least helped in some way.  Would I have been a band chaperone if Ryan was alive?  You bet I would!  With or without Ryan, I’m there to support my little man, and in turn I would have supported Ryan too.  In fact, Ryan probably would have leaned on me to be involved, especially since I was as in band myself.

Ryan would have encouraged Kyle in school to keep up his grades, and he certainly would have welcomed my assistance.  Ryan would have played a huge influence in Kyle’s hunting and fishing activities, not that my dad doesn’t now.  It would be nice to go hunting with Ryan again, or even sit on a river bank and cast a few lines.

Usually when it’s one of our birthday’s we get a hold of Kyle to call the celebratory person to wish them a happy birthday.  However, with Ryan, it would only be a reminder of someone not present, at least physically.  Someone Kyle only knows from stories.  Kyle is the one who lost the most when Ryan passed away.

Kyle’s a busy boy, but I hope he always remembers his family and his dad.  While Kyle never remembered meeting Ryan, Ryan loved Kyle more than anything and would have done anything for that kid.  I hope Kyle realizes that one day and knows who truly is there for him.

Happy Birthday Ryan!

Leave Ryan a birthday wish.  Kyle would love to see it one day.

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

Adventures in San Diego On a Dog Scavenger Hunt

Reading is like thinking, like praying, like talking to a friend, like expressing your ideas, like listening to other people’s ideas, like listening to music, like looking at the view, like taking a walk on the beach.  ~Roberto Bolaño

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Mission Basilica in San Diego. What a great place & such history 9/10/16

Recently, I trekked across the United States from Latrobe, Pennsylvania to San Diego, California.  Why?  Thrill of the Hunt was hosting a scavenger hunt.  What an adventure!

On Saturday, September 10, 2016, Thrill of the Hunt hosted our very first public scavenger hunt in San Diego.  It was a dog scavenger hunt.  Yes, Thrill of the Hunt is going to new distances with our events and we’re really expanding, bringing our adventures to others.

How did the trip go?  Honestly, it was very stress free and actually relaxing.  Is this unusual?  Sure.  I mean keep in mind, planning an event and getting all the logistics in order prior to leaving is a challenge all it’s own.  Then, tack on making sure everything gets packed, arriving on location in good time, and getting acclimated to the area, plus dealing with any changes or roadblocks along the way, and making the event happen as best as possible is a huge task.  One I relish in.

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Sunset at Mission Beach, San Diego, CA 9/10/16

Usually, the first issue begins with me catching my plane on time.  Yes, believe it or not, that’s always an issue.  Is it because I’m naturally a late person?  No.  In fact, I’m notorious for being early.  Unfortunately, when flying, I always underestimate my departure time, or I run into unforeseen problems or literal roadblocks.

This time was different, I left with more than enough time and guess what happened?  Nothing!  No traffic, no getting lost, which does happen to me a lot, even though I know where I’m going, no plane delay, no suitcase lost, nothing.  I thought of everything, although I did forget the dog bowls to refresh the dogs, but the Bark Park had an actual water fountain for dogs.  Really?  Yes!

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The Bark Park at Westfield UTC Shopping Plaza for the dog scavenger hunt in San Diego, Ca. 9/10/16

We’re did I go?  I flew into San Diego.  The dog scavenger hunt was held at Westfield UTC shopping plaza.  I met the participants at the Bark Park and they maneuvered their way throughout the dog friendly shopping area.  It’s a lovely place with the store entrances in close proximity to one another and isolated from traffic. Perfect for dogs on the move.

Check out the pictures and videos from the dog scavenger hunt.  They’re a hoot!   Facebook  •  Pinterest  •  Youtube.

What else did I do while in sunny San Diego?  I didn’t have much time, but I did explore a little.  I went to Mission Beach, which was breathtakingly beautiful.  I loved the boardwalk (cement).  It stretched along the coast, with sandy beaches and crashing waves on one side, and houses, restaurants and retails stores on the other.  People on skateboards, bikes and some with dogs traveled up and down enjoying God’s handiwork.

Did I swim, go surfing, or jog while there?  No.  In fact, I didn’t realize I never packed my swimsuit and I forgot sunscreen.  I was so focused on the event, it never occurred to me that I’d have extracurricular time.  So I walked and walked up and down the coast until dark, watching the sun set Friday night.

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Mission Beach boardwalk, San Diego 9/10/16

After the dog scavenger hunt on Saturday, I was given a recommendation to visit Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá.  It’s the first Franciscan mission in The Californias, a province of New Spain.  Let me tell you, VERY COOL!  I even arrived in good time to tour around, hit the confessional, sit and pray, and then I attended mass, which incidentally they played a bunch of my favorite songs.   It was a very spiritually enhancing and refreshing experience.  I’ll admit, while I was praying for Kyle’s well-being, I wished he was there, knowing he’d be intrigued by the history and structure of the buildings and gardens.

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Mission Basilica in San Diego. Very spiritual place! 9/10/16

After church, I headed back to Mission Beach.  One could say, I was hooked, even though I’m not much of a beach person.  I stopped at a taco stand and ate my dinner sitting in the sand watching the waves roll in while the sun set.  I continued where I left off the night before, walking around, stretching my legs and enjoying the atmosphere until darkness fell.  I was going to stop in a pub for a drink, to relax and soak up more of the energy, but I didn’t want to push my luck.  After hours and packed bars on a Saturday night, plus an out-of-towner, seemed like a recipe for trouble.

By the time Sunday rolled around, it was time to pack and head home.

What books did I read?  One part about traveling that I absolutely love, beside the adventure of it all, is the time I get to read.  Usually, on any trip, especially one that involves an airplane, I read a book leaving and one coming home.  This trip was no exception.  I read The Girls by Emma Cline heading to San Diego.  I knew the book took place in California so I thought it appropriate.  Coming back, I read the Young Elites by Marie Lu.  This is a series, which I need to get the next book, and the third will soon be released.

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Mission Beach boardwalk. Lovely beach! San Diego, Ca. 9/10/16

Next year when I head out to San Diego, I’m going to be prepared and bring my swimsuit, sunscreen and maybe I’ll try a few surf lessons.  I’ve always wanted to learn.  Actually so did Kyle, when he was little.

I missed my little man.  Where was he?  He had a football game Friday night, and a band competition and practice all day Saturday, on their home field.  I wished I was there to cheer him on, but alas I was almost 2,500 miles away expanding Thrill of the Hunt into new territory.  I texted him on Saturday wishing him good luck, with no response.  I also texted and called him on Sunday before leaving, and again no answer.  I just wanted to hear how his weekend went and to tell him how much I love him before flying home.  Maybe one day Kyle will rejoin Thrill of the Hunt and we can travel together.

Kyle’s a great traveler, even at the age of fifteen.  We’ve trained him well, he’s been traveling since he was a little tyke, to either my sister’s in Virginia, New York for mom’s work, West Virginia to visit Casey, plus the trips Nicole and Kyle took.  Yep, he’s already a world traveler.

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Mission Beach … lovely sandy beach & white waters. Great beach! San Diego 9/10/16

Now for the funny story.  After everything is an adventure with me.  It’s actually only a funny for me, but I’ll share.  Being a Latrobe native, we don’t have many skateboarders around, it’s not a lifestyle like it is in San Diego.  While walking around the boardwalk, I’d hear the wheels and the clapping of decks from skateboard after skateboard.  Sure there were some roller blades and a lot of bikes, but equally as many skateboards.  Eventually, I paid attention to the people riding the skateboards.  More than not, I made a mental note that they were older people, with the exception of a few youngsters.  Then it dawned on me, Wait, I’m their age!  I do have this thing about me.  I seriously forget how old I really am.  That made me chuckle.  The noise was very soothing to me, taking me back to my childhood.

I had a great adventure and I look forward to the next.

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posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Church,Education & Learning,Family,News,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts,Travels and have No Comments

Is Kyle Aware?

To truly be committed to a life of honesty, love and discipline, we must be willing to commit ourselves to reality.  ~John Bradshaw

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Yes, that’s Kyle with the backwards baseball cap! Go Kiski! 9/2/16

Kyle is a full blown teenager.  And with that status, there are certain acceptable and some non-acceptable aspects to that age and stage in life.  I get it, I do.  However, how do you know when the line has been overstepped into disrespect, not only because of the teenager status but due to outside influences?  And how do you correct it, especially since it’s being disguised and hidden as a teenager?

Personally, I can handle Kyle and his attitude.  He’s human, and a growing young man who’s trying to find his own path in life, and searching to adulthood.  I respect all of that, and I always make myself available to Kyle for guidance and support, whether he likes it or not.  My love for Kyle surpasses all that and beyond.  Granted, I don’t tolerate disrespect, but I do forgive and love unconditionally.  It’s no secret, I’ve reiterated these thoughts to Kyle a time or two, or three or four.

Is Kyle aware he likes to be difficult?  I guess all teenagers do to a certain extent, or at least they will.  I did, maybe not at the moment, but upon reflection, I did.  Again, normal growing pains, I understand and accept but shear snottiness I don’t.  Honestly, Kyle is a good kid.  How do I know?  I have proof!

Last Friday was the first football game of the season.  I was asked to do my “parental” duty and chaperon the band.  Gladly!  Keep in mind, I don’t do this for myself or for any other reason other than to spend time with Kyle and support his interests.  Driving an hour to and from the school is not my ideal way to spend a Friday night, plus being responsible for a group of teenagers.  I do it because I enjoy seeing Kyle happy, as well as the other kids.  I do it because family is important and sometimes that means going out of your way to being apart of it.  I don’t get paid, I don’t want recognition and I don’t need any special perks.  I love volunteering and being of assistance.  (I had to go into that dissertation because I was accused of such things when I became a band chaperone.)

How does this prove Kyle is a good kid?

Taking the long way to get the point, I have an example.  Trying to give Kyle respect and keeping my distance, I didn’t bother him at all on Friday, until just before the game was ending.  My Dad asked to see if Kyle would come home with me and I’d take him back the following day after a party he was invited to, near his house.  When I made my way to the top of the bleachers to talk to him, Kyle was just plain snotty and miserable.  He was a little crapper.  In fact, I had to look him in the eyes and say, “Be nice Kyle.”  I never yelled, or caused a scene, but I was stern to show not to push me.  Kyle’s response?  He continued with the major attitude, rolling his eyes and putting up walls.  Again, I repeated, “I’m asking you to be nice.  Just be nice.”  Kyle didn’t say anything but he certainly pouted and had a major attitude.  Not to stir an argument, I left him alone and retreated back to the band parent section.

Upon my return, the one mom, whom I’ve known since Kyle was little, (her daughter and Kyle have been in the same grade since elementary school) ask me how my talk went.  Now it was my turn to roll my eyes.  When I reiterated the conversation, she chuckled, knowing this teenage stage, but was also in a little shock.  She told me that Kyle is a very respectful and polite young man.  She’s never seen anything to the contrary come from him in public and towards parents or authority figures.  That I can live with!  I don’t want him to grow up to be a jerk to people.  I guess some influence has worn off and landed on Kyle.

Is Kyle aware he’s a pawn, and he’s being dramatically influenced, not for good?  That’s my bigger question.  The one question that truly keeps me up at night.  With teenagers especially, it’s easier to take the path of least resistance and the one that offers freedom, no accountability and less work.  Normal.  It’s not in Kyle’s best interest to support such actions, but understandable.  I know it’s also a normal response to want to dump added stress factors to make others happy, especially for a kid.  I get it.

How do you combat all that, not for ego, but simply for the betterment of a child?

I’m really not sure.  I guess me showing Kyle love, understanding and support.

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I tried to get a pic of Kyle, but he wouldn’t let me. I had to sneak this one… Kiski Band 9/2/16

Recently, I had the honor and privilege of being offered some very good advice from a retired school teacher. (Once a teacher always a teacher)  She told me to keep doing what I’m doing, no matter what.  Keep loving Kyle and being there for him.  She also advised me to let him fall, metaphorically speaking.  She said if no one is supporting you and Kyle’s giving major resistance, let him crash and burn, even with school.  She continued, “He has to fail to figure out how to grow.”  She also commented that it’s hard to stand back and let this happen.  I completely agree with her logic, but it’s not easy.  My heart breaks when Kyle is upset, or messes up, or doesn’t do well in school or has a hard day.  I’m happiest when he’s succeeding, and content in life, and simply happy with God in his life.  I wonder if Kyle’s aware of all that?

I’m glad Kyle has the influence of the band.  They’re a great group of kids and the parents really care for them.  All their actions are selfless and out of love.  Seeing Kyle surrounded in that environment puts me at ease.

On another somewhat related but side note, I don’t know what it is about me that puts seriously insecure people’s insecurities into overdrive.  Is it because I’m not a nurturer and I don’t coddle or baby others?  Maybe because I don’t tolerate excuses and finger pointing, but instead offer solutions?  Is it because I set my standards high and expect the same from others?  Maybe it’s because I call people out on their lies and ulterior motives?  Either way, I know Kyle has struggles in making certain people happy for their own arrogance and control.  I wish I could help more.  Now onto the funny.

The funny?  You bet, it’s never a story from me without a bit of humor and adventure.  This time I have two funnies.

While the band was practicing, before marching to the stadium for the football game, the parents where helping tape up gloves, pour water and be of assistance.  Just before leaving, the band director was going through the songs and having the band rehearse.  As our yellow shirt group chatted among ourselves, watching the Big K (that’s what they call Kiski Band), the band director announced, “Cold Water”.

kiski-band-practicing-before-football-game-9-2-16-aunt-heather-piper

The Kiski Band practicing before the football game at home. 9/2/16

Just then, a few parents did an about face and headed for the area where the water was poured into cups, waiting to be passed to out to parched band members.  At that very moment, Diane, the head of the band chaperones, called over, “No wait, that’s the name of the song!”  What?  I about died laughing.  The band was playing Cold Water by Major Lazer and Justin Bieber .  To be honest, I was ready to head for the water too.  I couldn’t stop laughing.  It was too comical.

Now onto funny number two.

The band goes out before the game and plays the National Anthem and the school Anthem before returning to their seats in the bleachers.  Then, they do a few songs for halftime, plus they’re in the stands playing for every touchdown and for encourage.  All this playing builds up a thirst.  The band boosters serve cups of water.  Usually, we tray up the water and pass it out while the kids are entering the bleachers, and sometimes we wait and pass out refreshments while the students are already seated.

During this process, I made sure I stayed to my side of the bleachers, while Kyle was on the other.  Although, I couldn’t resist a funny idea I had.  I started to hand cups of water to kids who didn’t ask for it, and instructed them to pass it to Kyle.  I’m not talking about one or two cups, I asked Kyle about eight cups of water.  I don’t know why I thought that was so funny, but it was.  Some kids looked confused upon my request, until I flashed them an ornery grin (which I’m sure resembled Kyle’s).  Some students giggled, knowing what I was up to.

I told a couple of parents what I did and they started laughing.  I said, “Can you imagine him sitting there and everyone handing him a cup of water?”  I thought that was so funny.  I added, “Next time I’ll bring a marker and label his cups with a big old KYLE, LOVE AUNT HEATHER on it.”  The parents about died at that comment.  I thought that was clever, especially since Kyle wouldn’t talk to me.

I don’t want to embarrass him, but I do want Kyle to know I’m there for him and I love him deeply.  Believe it or not, the water is very symbolic with me and Kyle.  I’ve always encouraged him to drink water, and I’ve always made sure he was hydrated, his entire life.  His health was always important to me.  I love that little guy!

Good luck this weekend at the band competition.  It’s at Kiski.  Proud of you buddy, you look great!

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

A Visit to Google Pittsburgh… Continued

My life is like tofu—it’s what gets added that makes it interesting.  ~Angela Johnson

Google Pittsburgh Tour 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Our Google Pittsburgh Tour. Kyle, Duncan, Barb & Me Bakery Square 7/27/16

Last Wednesday, I took Kyle and his friend on A Visit to Google Pittsburgh to tour the facility as a birthday surprise.  Now I want to share my surprises and the details of the Google offices!

Yes, I knew the office would be Googled up, and fun, and unique, but what I saw blew me away.  First, I didn’t realize the size of Google Pittsburgh.  They employ about 500, and are planning on doubling that with the expansion of the new building.  Perhaps I had it in my head this office was the same office they originally occupied near Carnegie Mellon University (CMU).   Not that I was ever there, but I knew it was smaller.  Things have changed.

Google Pittsburgh is located in Bakery Square in Pittsburgh at the old Nabisco plant.  The office consists of seven floors of sheer fun.  There are no other words to describe it.  In addition to all the branding, which Google does it right, and the attention to detail, they’ve really honored Pittsburgh with the themes and designs.  Each floor has a different theme.  While I don’t remember which floor was which, and I don’t remember everything I saw, I’d like to give a general overview.

Floors

Kyle at Google Pittsburgh Candy bowl 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle helping himself to the candy bowl at Google Pittsburgh Bakery Square 7/27/16

As I mentioned each floor has a different theme.  There are seven floors total.  When you arrive in the Google lobby, you’re on the seventh floor and once you pass a secure door, the awesomeness is reveled.

One floor pays homage to Nabisco.  Each room is named for one of their products.  They even have a huge original mixer on the floor they kept from the old plant.  It sits near the pool table and pinball machine.

Another floor is dedicated to Kennywood.  There’s an actual roller coaster car in the lobby facing down the stairwell, enough said!  While walking about, they’ve incorporated ramps and railings and Kennywood styled signs to give it the feel of being in Kennywood.  It worked for me!

Another floor is dedicated to the bridges of Pittsburgh, again naming the rooms for each bridge.  There are design elements everywhere representing our beloved bridges.

One floor has the parks and trails theme, with bamboo dividers, rough cut wood paneling and total nature theme.  I mean they even have a live tree stretching up through one of the stairwells that connects two floors interrupted by an occupied floor.  Me coming from a family of loggers and woodworkers, I fell in love with that idea instantly.  I’d love to have a live tree for Thrill of the Hunt one day.

One floor captures the essence of our tunnels with hallways resembling the archways of a tunnel, the textured walls of cement and even the lighting gives you the feel of the Fort Pitt Tunnel or the Squirrel Hill Tunnel.  As you’re walking through the hallway, you almost feel like the cityscape of Pittsburgh should appear before your eyes at the end.

I wish I could remember the other details of the themes and the floors, perhaps it’ll come back to me.  I was in complete aw during the entire tour.

“Cafeteria”

As I mentioned before with A Visit to Google Pittsburgh, the cafeteria is a huge beautiful space with snazzy chairs, booths, real plates and silverware, and food stations.  All complementary for all employees and visitors.  They have a quality chef on payroll with a full kitchen staff.  Google doesn’t take this job lightly.  I heard it’s no easy task becoming a chef for Google.

Google Pittsburgh Roller Coaster ride 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Duncan, Kyle, me & Barb in the roller coaster on the Kennywood floor at Google Pittsburgh Bakery Square 7/27/16

In the corner of the kitchen they grow select fresh vegetables and herbs, to be used by the kitchen or the employees can help themselves.  One the roof of one of the levels, they even have laying chickens and more herbs growing.  Yes, real chickens someone takes care of and picks the eggs.  All the fresh ingredients are used in making the grub.  Great idea!  In fact, every food item at each station is labeled with the ingredients.  They’re even color coded according to taste and nutritional value.  The goal is to feed the employees healthy food, without it appearing or sounding healthy.

They have stations for hot foods and cold.  The kitchen staff is even on hand during the lunch hours to mix up your personal salad or serve your hot meals.  You can help yourself to fresh fruits, vegetables, water infused with a variety of healthy organic ingredients, desserts or even simply peanut butter and jelly.  They’ve got it all!  And it’s all unlimited for zero dollars!

The area is spacious and clean and very inviting.

During the tour we walked past not one, but several smaller kitchens and coffee shops scattered throughout.  You’re never more than a few feet away from a kitchen stocked with a variety of drinks (healthy and not so much), snacks, cereals and so on.  The kitchen staff stocks those smaller kitchens and coffee shop style areas of the building every day.  The Google employees are seriously hooked up.

No employee ever has to worry about bringing their lunch or snacks.  Google is also ensuring its employees are eating a lot healthier, at least that’s the goal.  It’s a proven fact that individuals who eat healthier are more alert, think better, have more energy and in turn can give back to their job.  Plus, Google just removed a major stress out of the day, what to eat?

Upon entering the lobby into the front desk area, I did notice (how could anyone miss it) a huge candy bowl.  Again, it’s a help yourself area.  When we walked in, Kyle immediately helped himself to some candy.  I gave him an “are you kidding?” look stating, “Did you ask before you helped yourself?”  His response?  “No, it’s here for anyone to eat.”  Trying to ensure he always uses good manners, I said, “Still, you should always ask first and don’t assume.”

Google even holds cooking classes in their test kitchen area for the employees.  They sometimes bring in celebrity chefs.  Wow!

Details

Google Pittsburgh lobby with Kyle Duncan Barb 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle, Duncan & Barb in the lobby at Google Pittsburgh Bakery Square 7/27/16

During our tour, Andrew, our tour guide, pointed out little corners of the offices, and side conference rooms to be used by anyone who needs a change of pace from their desk, or to meet up with fellow co-workers to discuss work.  It seemed like at every turn there was a sitting area or a mini escape from the daily grind.

While walking past a cubical section of the floor, watching our Google workers hard at making our lives searchably easy, Andrew pointed out a large hammock / jungle gym structure hovering over a corner of the work space.  He took us up there.  It was literally a huge hammock, suspended a floor above for anyone to sit and relax, take a nap or stretch your legs.  It lead to another private corner with a massage chair.

Speaking of massages.  They have a massage therapist on staff as another perk.  Another great idea!

Keeping with the theme of relaxation and exercise, in yet another area, they have a room with walking treadmills overlooking Bakery Square.  The employees can plug in and work while putting on mileage.  Although, traveling through the offices will certainly give you extra steps on your pedometer.

They have a couple lecture halls to keep up with continued education and to introduce new visitors, staff members and such.  Since they have so many visitors, they have a room containing several washers and dryers for anyone to use, especially for those out of town guests.  They’ve thought of everything!  Google is certainly very considerate.

Google even has their own tech support.  Sure that would make sense since they have not only enough computers for each employee, plus.

A few additional perks include, a fully equipped gym, a music room to jam out at the end of a day, and naturally it’s a dog friendly office.

Stories

While on tour, after walking through a vault style door, we came to a hallway sporting an enlarged image covering the entire wall.  Andrew shared one of his Google experiences with us.  It was a distant shot of a building with railroad tracks in the foreground.  The building held special significance to Andrew.

Google Pittsburgh lobby sign 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

This starts our tour of Google Pittsbugh Bakery Square 7/27/16

One of his first visits to Google Pittsburgh, when the office was near CMU, he said he came to the front desk, who asked him what size t-shirt.  While the front desk chick had her back to Andrew, she placed the t-shirt over her shoulders and was messing with something in the corner.  He said she all of a sudden turned around pointing Nerf guns at him and said “This office isn’t safe.”

Apparently, a few times a day the trains passed and literally shook the entire building for three minutes.  In that time, no one can get any work done.  So instead of the disturbance being a hindrance, they took advantage of the downtime with Nerf wars.  I love it!  Andrew even said that as per Amazon, a person is only permitted to purchase so many of the same product, for fear of that person reselling the product.  His friend is forever banned for life from buying Nerf products on Amazon because of their daily recreation.

Andrew also told us that Google employees get credit for visiting other data centers and offices, when they swipe their badge.  What do they get?  Simply a virtual trophy or some sort.  I love how Google encourages its employees to go above and beyond, in a fun and productive way.  Now that’s a vision the company mastered.

Keep in mind this is all just in Google Pittsburgh.  Can you imagine the headquarters?  Which is now on my list to tour.  I thoroughly enjoyed by visit to Google Pittsburgh.  They have taken their success and done right by their employees and customers alike.  Great job Google!  I’d love to build a scavenger hunt in any Google office.

I can’t wait for Kyle’s next birthday.  It’s a big one, sixteen!

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posted by auntheather in Education & Learning,Family,News,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts and have No Comments

Happy Birthday Kyle! 15 Years!

I have accepted fear as part of life – specifically the fear of change… I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back….   ~Erica Jong

Kyles birthday celebration at Google Pittsburgh 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

We celebrated Kyle’s 15th birthday at Google Pittsburgh, Bakery Square 7/27/16

Turning the page to another year, I’m happy to arrive at my little man’s fifteenth birthday!  As Kyle ages, one of my biggest fears is the person he will become.  However, in actuality, he’s already been a huge success and I couldn’t be more proud.

What stresses me about his character?  You see, when he’s with the family, he’s a bit of a smarty pants, curt, sarcastic (which I appreciate), stubborn and even a bit negative.  Granted, this isn’t a constant, and it seems to be more heightened when he hit his teenage years, but a fear regardless.  I don’t want Kyle to act disrespectful with his friends, friends’ parents, teachers or even strangers.  I don’t ever want Kyle to be labeled as such (I’m not concerned about the stubbornness unless it’s a hindrance), and I want him to be happy and have friends and experience life with love in his heart and a positive outlook.  However, while investigating Kyle’s behavior, I’ve been proudly informed time and time again, he’s a kind, polite, and a typical teenage boy. (Yes, I do constantly check up, things change and quickly.)

How do I know?  Simply, I ask and pay attention.  Really?  Yes, I do care for Kyle that much that I take the time to inquire, and I’m not talking about a passing comment.  When I get the chance to speak with a parent Kyle recently spent time with, I ask how he’s acted.  Usually, you can get a feeling when a parent is telling you the straight up truth or whether they’re sugar coating.  Asking the right questions also helps.  While chaperoning the band, I watch from a distance.  Again, my observations with the way he interacts with friends and fellow band members shows a lot about Kyle’s outside behavior and the real person he is.

You see, I was told once that teenagers need a means to get it out.  They’re hormonal and finding themselves, and they need a safe place to act out and dump everything from the inside, out.  I was also told a child will only do this with those he loves and is one hundred comfortable with.  Yeah for us. (sarcasm)

What would I do if I saw appropriate behavior?  Tell him.  As his aunt, and anyone who loves and respects him, it’s our job to call him out.  Perhaps he’s not aware of his actions, or if he is, it’s our job to correct bad behavior.  It’s in his best interest to shape into the person he will one day be. I know no ones perfect, we’re all  human, but it doesn’t mean we don’t try.

I am very proud of Kyle.  He’s always been my inspiration, and even if he longer believes it, we’re still a team.  I’ve always got his back no matter what.

Happy Birthday buddy!

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

A Visit to Google Pittsburgh

Being a nerd, which is to say going too far and caring too much about a subject, is the best way to make friends I know.  ~Sarah Vowell

Google Pittsburgh Tour 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Andrew Widdowson, Barb Planinsek, Kyle Piper, Duncan Jones & Me at Google offices in Pittsburgh at Bakery Square 7/27/16

This past Wednesday, I wanted to surprise Kyle and do something for his birthday, which is tomorrow.  Summer is nearly over, especially when Kyle begins bandcamp and I’ve hardly seen my little vacationer since school let out.  This weekend he’s heading to Virginia, deep south with my parents and family friends to go catfishing, at night.  (Actually, they left a few hours ago.)  Skirting around all the plans, Wednesday felt like the most opportune time to spend a day with Kyle.  Done.

With the help of a family friend, Barb Planinsek, we made arrangements to tour the Google offices in Pittsburgh.  You see Barb’s nephew, Andrew, is employed by Google and chose to work in Pittsburgh this summer. (Nephews are the best!)  He travels all around the world for his job, but is headquartered in Mountainview, California.  Of course I couldn’t pass up this opportunity.

Unbeknownst to Kyle, the plans for Wednesday were made months prior, when I met Andrew at the Fishing Derby in May.  Naturally, upon hearing who Andrew’s employer was, I instantly thought, Touring Google Pittsburgh would be a great experience for Kyle and a perfect birthday activity!  I’m not one hundred percent sure, but I think I was right.  Although, trying to get excitement out of that kid is hard, but by golly I saw it during our tour!

Unfortunately, because of everyone’s schedules, Wednesday was planned on Tuesday.  Not ideal but it worked out.  My goal was to surprise Kyle with an experience most don’t have, give him an educational activity he’d enjoy, and begin networking him for his future.  Bonus!

Kyle & Duncan at Google Pittsburgh 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle & Duncan tour the Google offices in Pittsburgh as a birthday surprise! 7/27/16

Andrew kindly moved his day around to accommodate us.  Barb and I were on board from the beginning.  Now came the hard part, Kyle.  I tried calling, to let him know I arranged a surprise for him, but he never answered the phone. I thought about texting, and chose another route.  Initially, I was toying with the idea that Kyle might enjoy the experience more with a friend.  During the planning process, I got a hold of Jennifer, Kyle’s good friend Duncan’s mother.  (If you can follow that.)  She was more than happy to lend us her son for the day.  In fact, Duncan was in on the secret and helped me align Kyle.  Plus, Duncan was excited about the adventure too.

All day Tuesday, Jennifer kept me posted to Kyle’s responses to Duncan.  Duncan called Kyle and said he was coming over Wednesday morning around 7:30 am for a surprise.  I was told Kyle’s response was, “If I’m getting up early I want to know why.”  Boy is that kid stubborn!  Duncan remained steadfast and never told Kyle who was picking them up, and what they were doing.  Eventually, later in the day, I was told Kyle was intrigued about the surprise.  I believe he was excited because when I showed up on Wednesday, he was ready to roll.  He even tried to hide a smile from his lips, though I’m quick and I saw it!  I too was grinning from ear to ear ready to jump out of my skin.

Heading west, we eventually made our way to Bakery Square in Pittsburgh.  We stopped and had breakfast, figuring the boys would be hungry before our ultimate activity.  We actually had time to waste, since I didn’t know what traffic was going to be like, and we were so close to Shadyside, we headed to the area for some exploration.  What did the boys do with their freedom to shop and money in their hands?  They played Pokemon Go.  At least I got Kyle out moving around and he seemed to be in a pretty good mood.

Duncan & Kyle playing Pokemon Go in Shadyside 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Duncan & Kyle playing Pokemon Go in Shadyside before our Google Pittsburgh tour 7/27/16

Once we made our way back to Bakery Square and entered the lobby, Kyle read the list of companies on the elevator wall, while I told the guard we were heading to the seventh floor.  Even Kyle couldn’t miss the bright bold letters that read “Google”, seventh floor.  Then, suddenly without warning it happened again.  True happiness in the form of a smile left Kyle and was spotted!  Kyle’s smirk is like the elusive Sasquatch, it has been rumored to make its appearance and then vanish before your eyes.  Now I can say I was a first hand witness!  The facial gesture was something between ornery, knowing the secret, and being truly excited.  It was at that moment, I was honestly happy.

We get to the lobby and naturally I want to start snapping pictures.  Kyle wasn’t pleased about this part of our trip, but complied with minimal resistance.

Andrew met us at the front door and passed out our name tags, while I did the formal introductions.  Would you believe Kyle didn’t remember meeting Andrew at the Fishing Derby?  I made it a point to introduce him and of course his employer.  That kid cracks me up.

Andrew did a great job with the tour!  He shared his own personal stories and fun facts about Google, especially Google Pittsburgh.  I knew Andrew was the perfect tour guide, but what I didn’t expect is what I saw in the offices.  Wow.  In a separate post, I’ll explain later.  You would not believe.  Now it was my turn to be surprised.

Once the tour came to a close it was lunch time.  We joined Andrew in the “cafeteria” which resembled an upscale restaurant, with stations of gourmet food, real plates and utensils, a variety of infused waters, and restaurant quality tables and chairs, and booths.

Our lunch was fantastic!  Plus, it was all free.  Google has a full kitchen staff, including a quality chef to prepare these, nutritious (mostly aside from the desserts), delicious meals for all its employees as a perk.  There was so much, Andrew had to walk us around and show us everything, including the corner of the room where they grew some fresh vegetables and herbs.  Seriously?  Yes!

Not to downplay the tour, which is impossible, but the best part of the day was our conversation during lunch.  Andrew continued telling us about his job and sharing stories, always projecting enthusiasm.  You can tell he genuinely loves what he does, and is proud of his accomplishments at Google, which he should be.  Kyle and Duncan even stepped out of their comfort zone to ask questions, but mostly they listened.

Kyles birthday celebration at Google Pittsburgh 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

We celebrated Kyle’s 15th birthday at Google Pittsburgh, Bakery Square 7/27/16

After we ate lunch, we sang Happy Birthday to Kyle and celebrated with cupcakes.  On Tuesday, during the planning stages, I ordered cupcakes from a local bakery and had them delivered for another little surprise twist.  I knew we were eating lunch there and I thought it would be fun to celebrate Kyle’s fifteenth birthday at Google Pittsburgh.  Yes, I even brought candles!  (Although, I forgot the matches, which Barb reminded me of when we were in Shadyside.  I bummed a pack from a smoker who worked in a bar.)

On a side note, I didn’t realize there are roughly five hundred employed in Google Pittsburgh.  I was going to order a sheet cake, thinking we’d share with everyone in the office.  Nope.  Besides, they’re well stocked with sweet treats, I’m sure they didn’t miss the cupcakes.

During the course of the Google experience, I noticed Kyle and Duncan were never distracted by their phones or video games (at least not that I was aware of).  They listened to Andrew and seemed interested in what he was saying, even during lunch.  I think the day was a success.  Now I’m starting to make plans for Kyle’s next birthday.  It’s a big one, his sixteenth.

After we said our goodbyes, we headed to Station Square to get on a Ducky Tour of Pittsburgh, keeping with the theme.  Unfortunately, the next ride was booked up.  I did make reservations the day prior, but I cancelled for fear we might not make the departure time.  I didn’t want to rush us out of Google.  It was a hot day and I could tell the boys had enough anyway.  We headed home.  It didn’t take them long to fall asleep.

On a side note, besides giving Kyle a memorable experience, there was just an equally great part to the adventure.  It was rubbing our personal tour of Google in my sister’s face, and continuing my claim to the coolest aunt!  At least that’s what I told her.

I hope Kyle and Duncan had a great day.  Happy Birthday Kyle!

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

Dealing With Loss

What we remember from childhood we remember forever – permanent ghosts, stamped, inked, imprinted, eternally seen.  ~Cynthia Ozick

Honestly, I’ve been toying around with this blog idea since last week.  The Aunt Heather blog may come from my perspective, but the stories are really for Kyle.  These accounts of Kyle’s life from my point-of-view are more important now than ever.  Since Kyle’s fully embraced his teenage years, I’ve seen less of him.  I always want Kyle to know how important he is, and not having him by my side is my own personal loss.

It is with a very heavy heart I talk about Kyle’s friend, fifteen year old Nick Ursiny.  He passed away last Sunday, June 19, 2016 from an accidental gun shot wound to the head.  The incidence happened on Friday, June 17th around 5:00 pm.

Kyle called on Sunday to tell us he was going to the hospital to visit his friend, that’s when we heard the news,  Shortly after speaking with Kyle, we received the news Nick passed away.  I spoke to Kyle on the phone, and naturally he seemed a little distraught.  I could heard the tears swelling in his eyes, which instantly broke my heart.  Not only for the pain Kyle was facing, and at such a young age, but for the family and all of Nick’s friends.

When I heard about the incidence, it really hit home with me.  My family target shoots pretty frequently, for fun and in preparation for hunting season, and Kyle’s been apart of that tradition since he was a little tyke.  My heart broke for Kyle, yes because of a tragic loss of his friend, but also because of Kyle’s reality.  Unlike some, he knows the sound, the smell, the feel of a fired weapon.  He knows first hand the damage it does, at least with respect to hunting.  Kyle’s awareness of this accident is so much more acute than many of his fellow students, those who have never fired a weapon.  I couldn’t imagine dealing with that situation, and the complete grief and feeling of accountability.

These thoughts have been rushing through me all week.  It’s weird how that depression from a very real experience of loss creeps back, and settles into your soul, even when you’re not completely aware.

Nick was in Kyle’s class and he was also a member of the band.  Even during my chaperoning experiences, I personally didn’t know Nick, nor his family, but I know the helplessness and sorrow that’s overcome them.  And worse, I know the road they’ll be facing and the healing process, which does not get easier as time passes, they”ll only learn to adjust.

The band visited the funeral home last night as a group.  I did reach out to Kyle and ask if he wanted me to go to support him.  His text response?  “I’m fine.”  Okay.  I know everyone handles grief in their own way, and I respect that.  I was still going to go, but I wanted to give Kyle his space, and let’s face it, that would have been hard even for the toughest of people.  Instead, my thoughts and prayers were focused on that family and Nick.

Accidents do happen, no matter how minor or major, even though you try to avoid them.  It’s such a shame, this accident cost the life of such a young promising person.  If anything else, I hope children and adults alike, learn from this story and are more careful.  I don’t know the details behind the accident, but addressing safety is always a good practice.

God speed to Nick’s friends and family.  Rest in peace Nick!

I grabbed a few screen captures of online stories, for reference.

Full Obit Aunt Heather Piper June 2016

Kiski Facebook post Aunt Heather Piper

News Article Aunt Heather Piper 6-18-16

News Aunt Heather Piper 6-20-16News Article Aunt Heather Piper 6-20-16

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posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Family,Hunting & Fishing,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience and have No Comments

Escape Room Experience

Shut your eyes and see.  ~James Joyce

Escape Room Latrobe 5-29-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Me, Kyle & Aunt Nikki at Escape Reality in Latrobe, escape room. We nearly had it… 5/29/16

I’m a little late in telling about our escape room experience two weekends ago, but I believe it’s never too late to tell a good story.

Why am I so late?  Between Thrill of the Hunt, my garden, the bees, and just keeping up on every day life, the hours are limited and the days run together.

On May 28th I had the Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt in Winchester, Virginia.  It was a great event!  Shortly after wrapping up, I headed back to Latrobe, knowing my sister came home and Kyle was hanging out for the weekend.  My parents were camping, so it was an eventful weekend of the three of us.

Saturday night Nicole, Kyle and myself went to see X-Men: Apocalypse.  Nicole wanted to see Captain America: Civil War, however I took Kyle the weekend prior, which was his second time seeing the movie anyway.  Regardless, we had a nice time.

Now the big highlight of the weekend, Sunday, Nicole made reservations for us at Escape Reality in Latrobe.  You know those increasingly popular facilities that create a mystery to solve, and riddles and puzzles to figure out, in order to escape a locked room?  None of us had ever participated in an escape room, and certainly not in Latrobe.  Why not?

At this particular facility, six people were permitted in a group.  No one else signed up to join our trio, so the pressure was on.  We had the room to ourselves!  They had two different experiences, The Discovery or The Experiment.  We chose The Experiment, whereas we were captured by a doctor who spent his life trying to find a cure for the common cold.  Sounds good!

Four square check in Aunt Heather Piper 5-28-16

This was my check in on Four Square when we went to the movies… I thought this was hilarious! 5/28/16

Upon arrival and check in, we were given safety instructions and basic overall goals of the event.  They informed us no one has yet to escape the room without the assistance of clues.  During our hour long mystery experience, we were permitted to ask for clues to move us along.  How did we ask?  Simply by saying, “We need a clue.”  Each room is equipped with security cameras, as well as a monitor.  The wall mounted monitor displays the remaining time through a countdown.  It also communicates with the participants by typing messages to us or giving us clues.  The monitor also keeps a tally of the clues requested and those left.  I believe we were permitted to ask for six different clues.

Upon entering the relatively gloomy windowless room,  I immediately felt like I was placed in our story.  It was fairly chilly and almost creepy.  The facility stated that anything not bolted down is permitted to be moved and investigated and used for clues.  Great.

Surprisingly, Kyle wasn’t shy about digging in a getting started.  He was the first to really go to town, opening up drawers and digging through papers.  Nicole and I simply laughed at his sudden enthusiasm.  Prior to arriving he was very blasé and didn’t seem to care about hanging out with his aunts.  He was also very adamant about his plans later in the day, the typical Kyle.  Well, all that changed the minute we were locked in the room and the clock started ticking.

Honestly, I was the one who wasn’t aggressively looked through the supplied material.  I felt like I was prying in someone’s person stuff and it took me a while to get past that aspect.  Once I did, I was totally on board.

At first we didn’t really work as a team, but instead scattered independently trying to find the first clue or something that pointed toward a clue.  Kyle surprised us by literally crawling all over the floor, digging in every drawer, and even pulling out a variety of coins from a bowl and counting the change to see if the total dollar amount was a clue.  He was on a mission and he did a great job!  Kyle was able to look at the room from a different perspective that scored us our first major clue, a notebook of clues hidden under the desk.  Nicole and I looked at each other with wide eyes and the biggest surprise ever.  The funny part?  Kyle missed the clues leading him to the notebook, he only found the leather bound note pages stuffed under the desk.  While he was down there digging under the desk, I commented, “You look like your in National Treasure.”  Kyle didn’t care, he was focused.

Eventually, we found a few more clues that lead us to others and others.  Kyle scored us with another major breakthrough, without the aide of a previous clue.  He actually found words written in invisible ink on the baseboard around the room!  Seriously!   Among the phrases were missing letters, which contained letters to another clue.  Soon we opened a lock box that housed the black light.  A little late, but the fun of turning out the lights and using the black light to read the glow-in-the-dark letters was worth it.  It really made the experience and Kyle beamed with excitement.

At one point there were two lock boxes with four digit number combinations.  We found a four digit number that we hoped would unlock one of them.  Kyle tried the one lock and I the other.  However, due to Kyle’s due diligence, we realized that even with the correct lock combination, I still couldn’t open a lock.  After Kyle checked my work and realized I failed the test, I got the famous Kyle eye roll and ornery grin.  That’s my buddy!  Apparently, I’m lock challenged too.

I swear the entire time Nicole was stressed out and couldn’t handle the countdown of the clock, while Kyle was anxious and very energetic.  Those two cracked me up.  Eventually, we began working as a team, as we found more clues and answers were revealed.  That was exciting, getting closer to solving the riddles.

Did we escape?  Nope.  We were told we were about half way, using all six of our clues.  At the end, they asked us if we wanted to know the answer.  In unison, all three of us said, “NO!”  Actually, at first Nicole asked, “How often do you update the rooms?”  When they commented, “About once a year.” we chose to make plans to come back, take on the challenge and figure it out ourselves.

One the way home, we even recapped our discoveries and how we came to them, committing the event to memory to be later called upon.

Everyone was very nice and energetic.  I was impressed how they created the clues and guided us from one clue to the next.  They were very mindful of details, which really made the experience.  I hope we turn this into a yearly tradition, if not more often.  Maybe we can start hitting up different locations.

Nicole and I agreed that Kyle was the biggest surprise.  He basically mopped the floor, and really dove in without reservation.   I highly recommend trying an escape room.  Being a scavenger hunt enthusiast, I love solving puzzles and the adventure of it all.  I’d love to incorporate an escape room to one of my scavenger hunts.  Maybe in the future.

All that fun spoiled me.  The following weekend Kyle didn’t grace us with his presence at all.  I know he wanted to do his own thing, but I do miss him terribly when I don’t see him.  Maybe now that summer is upon us and school is out, he’ll surprise us by wanting to do more, or not.

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

Hello Mary Kay Andrews!

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.  ~C.G. Jung

Mary Kay Andrews Book Signing 5-22-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Me & Mary Kay Andrews book signing for The Weekenders Great lady! Oakmont, PA 5/22/16

I love meeting authors.  Who doesn’t? (perhaps none readers, maybe?)  Especially ones I’ve followed and are very familiar with their work, not to down play meeting new and upcoming authors.  Nope, that’s a different kind of fun, the finding of a new book, a new author, especially one unheard of in the mainstream, and becoming one of their original fans and spreading the word on their new work.  On the other hand, meeting accomplished authors carries an intrigue and excitement with the encounter.  Plus, it tends to carry a celebrity status.  I’ve met a few authors, some mainstream and some nearly unheard of (not as many as I’d like), and they were all really amazing and down to earth people, just like my newest encounter.

Let’s talk Mary Kay Andrews.  She’s a New York Times Bestselling Author, of Hissy Fit, as well as other novels.  She’s also the author of one of my favorites, Summer Rental.  Currently, she’s on her book tour promoting her 24th novel, The Weekenders.

I was introduced to Mary Kay Andrews by a good friend of mine, Kelly Berger.  Yep, she was shopping and came across one of her books, and was instantly drawn to the idea of a story taking place at the beach.  Kelly’s a HUGE beach fan, especially the areas around Hilton Head, Cape Hatteras and the Outer Banks.  I don’t have to tell you, Kelly read Summer Rental and was an instant fan, purchasing all published pieces by Mary Kay Andrews.

Book Signing at MLB Mary Kay Andrews 5-22-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Mary Kay Andrews during a Q &A session at Mystery Lovers Bookstore in Oakmont, PA  5/22/16

Since Kelly and I have always swooped books, and discussed authors and new releases, it was only a matter of time before Mary Kay Andrews would remain a staple on my bookshelf, too.  Kelly and I mostly have similar tastes when it comes to reading material, although her interest stops shy of fantasy.  Summer Rental happened to be a story fit for both of our personalities, and once I’m hooked on an author, I’m hooked.

I met Kathy Hogan Trocheck, a.k.a. Mary Kay Andrews this past Sunday, May 22 at the Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont. (514 Allegheny River Blvd. Oakmont, PA 15139).  What a cute little bookstore!

The day started out rainy and kind of ugly, you know a typical Pittsburgh day, perfect for staying inside and getting acquainted with an accomplished author.  Since I had Kyle, I thought this was the perfect opportunity for him to meet an author too.  I didn’t think it mattered if he read her works or not.  At least that was my thinking.  Kyle had a different opinion.  I guess it would have been a better time for him if he knew the author, but regardless it was a good experience.

Mary Kay Andrews The Weekenders 5-22-16 Aunt Heather Piper

My signed copy of The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews. 5/22/16

All the ladies who showed up were fantastic!  I enjoyed the company as much as I did the purpose of my visit to MLB.  Mary Kay Andrews discussed The Weekenders and answered questions about her books, her influences, her family and so on.  It was great!  She’s so down to earth with a touch of sass!  I loved listening to her!

While waiting in line to get my book autographed (I got one for Kelly too), I struck up a conversation with the lady behind me.  We began talking about books, naturally, and somehow I mentioned I’ve written a book (plus a few started).  Let me step back, during the Q & A session, Mary Kay Andrews asked if we had any authors in the audience.  I didn’t raise my hand, only because my book still needs to be edited and isn’t published.  Well, by the time it was my turn, this wonderful lady, stepped in and informed Mary Kay Andrews of my secret.  You know, Mary Kay Andrews seemed very interested, and asked me questions about my book.  She told me to keep writing and go for it.  What an inspirational lady!

Mary Kay Andrews at MLB Oakmont 5-22-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Mary Kay Andrews discussing her newest novel, The Weekenders at MLB in Oakmont, PA 5/22/16

The entire day rocked.  Not only did I get to meet Mary Kay Andrews and get to purchase her latest book, and have it autographed, but spending the day with Kyle was much needed.  Granted, he played his video games during the entire book signing, but when it was my turn, Kyle jumped up and snapped a picture of me and Mary Kay Andrews.  Thanks buddy!  I really wanted a picture with all three of us, but Kyle already put his foot down in advance.  I didn’t want to push the issue and so I let it alone.  I simply happy to spend some time with Kyle.

During the Q & A session I learned a number of fun facts about Mary Kay Andrews.  Second to my addiction of reading, is my love of random fun facts.  Here are a few to wet your whistle.

Career

  • Mary Kay Andrews is a pseudonym for Kathy Hogan Trocheck
  • Received a B.A. in newspaper journalism from The University of Georgia in 1976
  • Began her career in newspaper journalism, working at the Savannah News-Press 1976-77
  • Worked for the Marietta Journal 1977-79
  • Reported for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from 1980 until she left in 1991 to write books
Family
  • Born July 27, 1954, in Tampa, Florida
  • A native of St. Petersburg, Florida
  • Married her high school sweetheart
  • From a big Catholic family
  • Mary Kay Andrews is a combination of her children’s names—Mary Kay for her daughter Mary Kathleen, and Andrew, for her son, Andy
  • Self proclaimed “junker”
  • Owns two restored beach cottages on Tybee Island, GA, both of which named for fictional locations in her novels

I can’t wait to begin this book!  Check her out!  She’s a southern hoot!

Happy reading everyone!

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts and have No Comments

Fishing & Fun

Every moment happens twice: inside and outside, and they are two different histories.  ~Zadie Smith

Kyle Aunt Heather Piper Planinsek Fishing Derby 5-7-16

Yep that’s the attitude I’ve come to know & almost tolerate from my 14 year old. My batman was trying not to smile, he had to look unfazed by his Aunt Heather…. ya right! Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/7/16

Yep, we survived the 27th Annual Louise Planinsek Fishing Derby, two Saturdays ago on May 7th.  Did Kyle go?  Of course.  Did he really want to go?  You know, I believe he did!  After all, he asked me about it, and dictated the time we were to get up and be there for breakfast, although he never expressed an interest in camping out Friday night.  Let me translate, that’s fourteen year old code for “I’m really excited about the fishing derby and I can’t wait!”

Kyle has always seemed to enjoy fishing, much like his dad and pappy.  Since the first day of fishing this year, Kyle’s been going with my dad nearly every weekend.  Let me tell you, that makes dad extremely happy, to spend time with Kyle, and to fish.  If I had to choose, I’d pick hunting over fishing, but I do love a fresh caught trout.

Kyle’s allowed to participate in the fishing derby until he’s sixteen.  It looks like he has another two years left.  He can always join in eating and drinking (nonalcoholic beverages), and I’m sure everyone would love to see him regardless if he fishes or not, but the rules state he can’t fish past sixteen.  However, he’d be really good at assisting the youngsters, if he’s still interested in attending the fishing derby by then.  Of course, I’ve learned with a teenager, you never know.

On Saturday, Kyle did just that, he fished, naturally, but he also helped his cousins with their bait and casting.  Kyle was surrounded by Hailey, Lila, Owen, Grant, and Olivia.  In addition to keeping the lines untangled and the hooks prepped for a catch, I gave Kyle another responsibility, a huge one at that.  What else could I possibly have expected from him?  After all, his attitude was stellar and pleasant, and he was having a great time.

I told Kyle to be on the lookout for kids falling into the pond.  It seems like every year one child manages to become submerged in pond water.  Especially since Kyle was within arms reach of the little ones, he had to keep his eyes peeled.  You know, I don’t believe I had to say anything.  Kyle acknowledged my request with an “Okay” and continued fishing, yet I sensed he knew trouble is a real possibility and he was ready for it.  Boy is that kid growing up!

Abby her boys and her dad Planinsek Fishing Derby 5-7-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Abby handing with her boys & her dad. Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/7/16

Was there a child to fall in?  You bet.  This year, Grant, Casey’s step-son.  He was okay and it didn’t seem to phase him.  This happened on the opposite side of the pond from us, Kyle was off the hook (pun intended).

It was at that moment, I saw Kyle’s maturity take shape.  He knew he was the older kid, not that adults weren’t all around at every two feet.  Kyle also trusts his swimming skills, as do I.  He was keeping an eye out for more than himself while fishing.  He was helping more than himself.  He was truly a little mature man.

To be honest, spending the entire day at the fishing derby from 7:00 am till about 9:00 pm was a long day, one I really didn’t want to go without getting some work done, yet, I’m glad I did.  There were times I thought about bugging out to work on my dog scavenger hunt events for Thrill of the Hunt, but then I thought, I never get to hang with Kyle and He only has a couple of years left to fish.  Plus, my parents weren’t there, again not that I didn’t have friends and family at every step, but staying was my way of showing Kyle we’re still a team, and I’m there to support him because he’s that important to me.

Boo and Bennet Planinsek Fishing Derby 5-7-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Uncle Boo with his nephew, Bennett at the Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/7/16

It was nice to see Kyle hang with his local friends.  They kept the tradition of dodge ball alive.  I did have to interject once.  I watched Kyle hurl the ball at a few slightly younger kids.  He certainly wasn’t trying to be malicious, Kyle was having fun and didn’t realize he’s gotten a lot taller and stronger than he used to be.  I simply asked him to not throw so hard and certainly not at anyone’s face.  He did give me a crappy little grin, like, “That’s how the game is won.” but after that, I never saw him face shot again.

We’ve had some ups and downs with these teenage years, but I’ll admit Kyle is a good kid!  He’s a nice guy, a little sassy, but his heart is still much like his dad’s and great grandpap Walter’s, good and sincere.

As Kyle was waiting around watching the seasoned gentlemen make breakfast, someone spoke up and asked who was going to do the french toast.  Kyle offered his hand and went to work.  The guys were impressed.  I wasn’t, I know what a good cook Kyle is and he knows his way around a skillet.  Unbeknownst to that crew, I’ve had Kyle cooking since he was little.  He did a great job and seemed to enjoy himself.  They all joked around, and said Kyle was now expected to help with breakfast next year.  I hope he does.

Lori Raffling off flowers Planinsek Fishing Derby 5-7-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Lori with flowers to raffle. Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/7/16

Now time for a funny, slightly scary story.  While I was among Kyle and the kids along the pond’s edge, I was helping Grant bait his hook.  To set the scene, Kyle had placed the earth worms on his seat directly behind him.  Just as I migrated into Kyle’s space, I bent over to retrieve a fat juicy warm.  I was met with something squishy and wet that hit me squarely in the forehead.  Just a fraction of a second beforehand, I saw and heard a few people jump and yell “Watch out!”  What was going on?  Kyle instantly turned around in confusion too.  What happened?

Kyle cast his line, without looking behind him, just as I moved in the exact location of the flying bait, causing it to hit me in the face with live, pond water covered group of warms strung on a hook!  The nearby witnesses thought I got a hook in the eye, but by the Grace of God, I was only smacked with grossness.  It took me and Kyle a minute to understand what happened, while everyone around looked upon us with freight and amazement.  Kyle laughed, as did I, even though it was a serious offense.  I know he didn’t mean it, but it’s true he could have taken out my eye.  It was a lesson for all the kids and a rather unpleasant one for me.  It was also partially my fault, I should have paid attention to Kyle, since I invaded his territory unannounced.

At the end of the night Cindy and Dave Planinsek, plus the rest of the Planinsek gang, who worked hard to organized this annually anticipated event, purchased a variety of toys and fishing gear for the kid’s raffle.  Tickets are purchased and each ticket contains the name of a child.  The booty is placed on several picnic tables for the children to see.  Names are drawn and the children, with major excitement, approach the table to select a prize.  This continues until all the items are claimed.  I wasn’t sure if I should add Kyle’s name to the list or not, so I chose to purchase tickets, better play it safe.  There were other items in addition to toys, such as fishing poles, tackles boxes and bags, hats, and such.  Why not?

Kyle Fishing Pose c. 2003 Aunt Heather Piper

How my little man has grown… He always did love to fish, real or plastic fish. (about 2 years old) c. 2003

While all the kids settled down under the pavilion, I looked for Kyle.  I asked around were that kid was located.  Only because everyone was in one central location under the pavilion, where he was suppose to be.  I eventually found Kyle hanging out by the volleyball / dodge ball court, talking with a few kids his age.  Boy how times have changed!

Kyle used to be the first one, up front, ready for the drawing to begin.  Now he was very blasé about it.  I told him to join the crowd, which he was hesitant, but did so.  I stood in the back, nervously waiting for his name to be called, knowing it was either a good or bad decision to purchase him tickets.

Finally, I heard, KYLE PIPER.  He didn’t seem to hear his name.  I walked over and tapped him on the shoulder letting him know he should go and get a prize.  His response?  He rolled his eyes at me and shrugged his shoulders like, “There’s nothing I want.”  To assist and keep the once exciting part of the day in momentum, I pointed to the fishing poles and such.  Without much effort, he selected a fishing pole.  Kyle’s name was drawn a few more times, which he graciously gave to his little cousins to take his spot.  At the end, I asked him where his fishing pole was?  His response?  “I gave it to Grant, he wanted it.”  Okay, buddy, that was a nice gesture!

I love that kid!  I’m already looking forward to next year, as I believe Kyle is.  It’s days like that, that I’m grateful to have taken the time to spend with Kyle and to appreciate the little man he is and mature man he’s turning into.

Did Kyle catch any fish?  He did, a very small blue gill.  Now that was a definite laugh out loud moment.  Aside from the three inch killer whale, Kyle had no other luck.

On another side note, Kyle woke up Sunday morning in a rather crabby mood.  Maybe he had too much excitement and needed more sleep.

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

Jury Duty

There must be those among whom we can sit down and weep and still be counted as warriors.  ~Adrienne Rich

Juror badge Aunt Heather PiperLast week I was called to do my civil duty, jury duty.  Actually, I was mailed a questionnaire that I either had to fill out and mail back, or get online to complete.  I chose the later, 1) because it was easier and 2) it said I needed to return it in seven days, and I honestly had no idea how long it sat in a pile of mail I didn’t get to sorting.

I remember in my early twenties I received a similar notice, of course there wasn’t an option to fill out a form online.  In fact, I had to call a supplied phone number the night before to see if I was required to attend.  This time, the night before, I received a text message and an email telling me to appear at the Greensburg County Court House at 8:30 am., no other instructions, simply the report time and location.  It might have been my wild imagination, but it had a James Bond feel to it.

Was I excited.  To be honest, no.  I had a ton of work to do for Thrill of the Hunt and my dog scavenger hunt events, and it really was inconvenient, but I guess such is life.

Upon walking up the sidewalk to the courthouse doors, I saw a small crowd of individuals holding their paperwork for jury duty.  Wondering why they were standing around and not going inside to report, I asked the one guy in line.  He told me, we weren’t allowed in yet.  Really?

Well, it wasn’t much longer after that, that we made our way through metal detectors monitored by armed police officers, to a large room prepared for the jurors.

What an interesting process.  There were about sixty of us, and we each had a bar code name badge we were required to sport and move around in groups like branded cattle.

Juror Handbook Aunt Heather PiperSomething that struck me as odd, no one asked to see my drivers license or any form of identification.  In fact, when I walked in the ground floor room, designated to host us for the majority of the day, they scanned each of our ID badges.  Out of curiosity, I quickly glanced at the computer screen once my tag was scanned.  Honestly, I thought I’d see a picture of me with my name and address, at the very least.  I didn’t think they’d have my facebook profile picture, but I thought maybe my driver’s license or even my gun permit picture.  Neither showed up, not even my address.  What I did see in a very ancient type of font and minimalist computer font in green coloring on a dark background, was simply my name.  It did include my middle initial, which I never use.  How did they know I was Heather Piper and not a stand in?

I know this is a bit far fetched, but I was watching The Big Bang Theory earlier in the week and it was the episode where Sheldon paid Stewart to fill in for him with Amy, and later to wait in line at the movies or something.   Instantly, I thought, I should pay someone to take my place for jury duty.  Not that I would do it, but the idea did cross my mind, especially after seeing the lack of authenticating for each individual.

Once in our large basement room, we were given instructions on restroom facilities, vending machines and what we were aloud to do and not allowed.  I was surprised they had two television screens for us, (as long as it wasn’t local news), a rack of magazines, a coffee and tea area (no water) and the seats weren’t completely awful.

A local judge came in to give us the run down of the day’s itinerary and to make a statement what jury duty is all about.  He did comment that most people try to get out of it, guilty, and don’t want to be there, guilty, and yet they’re the most important part of our judicial system.

Believe it or not, completely by happenstance, I was reading To Kill a Mockingbird for the thousandth time. (One of my most favorite books ever!)   I was at the part when Atticus Finch was in the courtroom and the lawyers were cross examining their witnesses.  I love the line at the end of chapter 21, page 242, when Revered Sykes said, “Miss Jean Louise (Scout), stand up, your father’s passin’.”

That actually made me stop to consider what jury duty really meant.  Before I walked into the courthouse that day, I was given all sorts of advice on how to get out jury duty, and what to say, blah blah blah.  It all sounded good to me until two things happened.  After listening to the judge, I began to wonder what it would be like to actually sit through an entire trial and be one of the deciding voices.  Then it hit me, what if I was on trial one day?  I’d want a group of my peers, those with reasonable common sense and good moral judgement, sitting there to rein on my verdict.  I soon began to think differently about the process and my call to civil duty.

Soon they organized us into the small groups, and escorted us upstairs via the elevator, to courtroom number five.  Being an art major, my eyes tend to get drawn into the architecture and artistry of my environment.  This room certainly sucked me in.

The courtroom showed its years of character with the dark stained wood finished trimming and pews.  The walls and columns surrounding the judge’s chair were painted a mint green matte finish.  Yes, it was a monochromatic mint green mess.  My first thought was a nice stone or taupe color would do the room some justice (pun totally intended).  There were three main murals on the ceiling each labeled Justice, Moderation, and Mercy.  Instantly, I understood the first and last, but the Moderation threw me for a loop.

It was a mural, I’m not sure if it was fresco or simply acrylic or oil painting, containing a nude younger man, forcefully holding a chain attached to the collar of a Boxer type of dog.  He was also holding something in his left hand, but it wasn’t quite clear.  Keep in mind he was laying face up on steps.  Odd.  I’m sure the meaning is very clear to those in the legal field, but it struck me as an enigma, especially since it was placed in the center sandwiched by Justice and Mercy.  I could go on and on about the decor but that would take me several blog posts to really capture the essence of the room.

Soon the judge arrived and introduced us to the witnesses, and the legal staff for both sides.  Everyone turned around and gave awkward smiles and nods to us.  Honestly, I was half paying attention.  The judge also gave us instructions on what to expect through the the day and stressed the importance of this process and the extreme importance of the jury.  He brought up a good point.  He said something along the lines of, “The jury is so important that’s why they’re seated toward the front so they can hear the trial but also see the facial expressions and body language as well.”

Everyone was given a clipboard with a questionnaire to fill out, to be signed and turned into the officers present.  Not trying to pry, but the guy beside me, who was probably in his late fifties early sixties, took Forever to fill his out.  It was a list of questions and we had to mark yes or no.  No essay involved, no major thought provoking questions, pretty basic simple straightforward stuff.  My first thought was, this man can’t read very well.  I don’t know that to be true, perhaps he had a dyslexia or a reading comprehension issue, or he was just a slow reader.  Either way, he was the last person, out of all sixty of us who turned in his form.  The last.  Is that important?  Not really, not in my eyes, that is until what happened next.

Eventually, we were asked to sit in silence (without food or drink, did I mention it was fast approaching lunch?) while they called each and everyone of us to be interviewed.  Are you kidding?  Nope.  I wasn’t expecting that at all.

On a side note, I tried to make the most of my unplugged quite time with To Kill a Mockingbird.  Within minutes of pulling out my book and getting comfy in my seat, the guy beside me, yes the questionnaire guy, began fidgeting.  I don’t mind being restless, because I can be the same way, but I don’t like the huffing and puffing and the comments said to himself, yet purposely loud enough so his neighbors could hear, type of behavior.  It’s true, misery does loves company.

He kept mumbling about making money, and huffing and puffing his breath, like it was going to speed things up.  Then, after they’d announce another number, he’d huff even louder, and under his breath say, “This is going to take all day.”  or something along those lines.  He was one of those people who wanted to get others joining in on his complaints.  He wanted everyone to feel his attitude and express it.  You know those types of people, who are simply miserable.

I almost got past all that, except he wasn’t allowed to wear his baseball camp in the courtroom.  He kept capping his knee and with each huff and puff he’d uncap it and recap it again, making subtle suction types of noise mixed with fabric rubbing together.  He’d cross his legs, resting his ankle across the opposite knee, cap and recap his hat.  Then, switch legs to continue the adjustment process of the hat.  It was simply irritating.  I looked around, and everyone else brought something to occupy their time, except him.

I could even get past all that, but the constantly making comments about our number in line was too much.  I mean, our numbers were in the twenties, not the sixties and I think they moved through the potential candidates rather quickly.

They called us by our numbers into another room where the key players, including the judge was seated at a large conference table ready to ask us questions.  I’m sorry, but that was intense, even though everyone was very nice and cordial.

Eventually, I was released without being chosen.  Honestly, it was bittersweet.  Perhaps, I wasn’t the best person for the case.  Maybe next time.

On a side note, I was very much surprised to find a court stenographer working her typing magic.  Seriously, with all this technology of recording voices and video, which is probably more accurate then a stenographer, why continue to use one?  Then, add all the apps and technology and services for transcribing the court case.  That one threw me for a loop.  Can anyone tell  me why the court systems haven’t moved along with technology?  Or perhaps it’s only the local court systems? 

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

Let the Fishing Begin!

Nothing whets the intelligence more than a passionate suspicion, nothing develops all the faculties of an immature mind more than a trail running away into the dark.  ~Stefan Zweig

Youth Fishing Loyalhanna Kyle 4-9-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle too cool (literally) to stand, leaned against the bushes & fell… I laughed! Loyalhanna Creek 4/9/16

Youth fishing was last Saturday.  Did we take Kyle?  You bet we did.  He really does love fishing.  Hunting he could take it or leave it, and over the last couple years he left it, (I know he’ll be back) yet fishing has always remained.

I too like to fish, although if I had my choice I’d much rather hunt.  Why?  Simply because in hunting season, I like to walk around the woods, pushing deer or just roaming around.  I like being among the trees, I feel at home.  Fishing is great, but sitting for long hours isn’t my thing, not to mention, I have a serious aversion to mosquitoes, which always accompany the riverbanks and lakes and warm weather.

Ryan loved fishing, and hunting too.  It seemed he did more fishing, but perhaps that’s due to the longer season.  Usually he fished with dad, his friends, friends of the family and my uncle and cousins.  He fished!

It’s nice to see Kyle having something in common with his Dad, especially one that my Dad, Kyle’s Pappy, enjoys as much.

Every time I think of Ryan fishing, the image of him drowning comes to mind.  On one such fishing excursion to the local creeks, Uncle Sonny took Ryan and I believe my two cousins, Chad and Jeremy.  I’m sure there was a group of them, but I don’t remember.  Naturally, they were wearing waders, you know those rubber overalls.  I guess Ryan tripped or slipped or something and fell into the water.  Many times when that happens, depending on the speed of the creek and the position of the person in the water etc., the water can drag a person down and create a suction effect.  Ultimately, drowning the unfortunate fisherman.  From what I remember of the stories told, that’s what happened to Ryan, who never liked water in his face and was a panicky swimmer anyway.  Scary stuff!  Uncle Sonny had to pull him up out of the water, essentially saving his life.  I don’t know if he was really on the brink of death, or Ryan just panicked, but it happened.

Youth Fishing Loyalhanna Creek 4-9-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle has casting down pretty good… he’s a pretty good fisherman, now baiting his own hook! Loyalhanna Creek 4/9/16

I’m never worried about Kyle and water.  I know things can happen, and quickly, but Kyle doesn’t have a sense of panic in the water.  I’ve had him in swimming lessons since he was little, around five or six.  He went once a week until he was about twelve or so.  He LOVED his swimming days.  He used to draw pictures of the pool at the YMCA, and include his name on one side of this blue area on the paper, and the capital letter H on the other side, where I sat watching him.  I took him when he went from the small pool and graduated to the big pool, from the shallow end to the ultimate depths of the water.  He loved diving deep underwater.  In fact, he loved being completely submerged.  Kyle is very secure with his swimming abilities, as am I.

This past Saturday, would have been a very cold day to make contact with the water.  Dad and I took Kyle fishing, with the many other little munchkins lining the Loyalhanna Creek with their batman and barbie fishing pools.  Dad and I got a chuckle out of that, too cute!  It wasn’t that long ago Kyle was there, but now he’s graduated to the adult size reel and pole.  Come to think of it, I believe Kyle took my Dad’s fishing pole on Saturday.  He’s too much!

Dad and I were permitted to catch and release, but I didn’t want to.  I preferred watching Kyle fish.  He was only allowed to catch two trout, but hey, it was the experience I enjoyed.

Now the typical Kyle we’ve all grown to know and love, or at least accept.  While getting ready to leave, I told him it was really cold out and it would be colder down by the creek.  Kyle’s response, “I’ll be fine.”  Ignoring him and knowing better, I gave him long underwear.  He gave me a look of “Ya right” but actually dressed in the set, while only adding jeans and a t-shirt.  Although, he did take my thickest hoodie.  I asked him, do you want a pair of gloves?  Kyle’s response, “No, I’ll be fine.”  Then I stated, “Kyle I want you to wear a hat or something over your ears.”  After he rolled his eyes at me, he responded, “I’ll be fine.”  Right!  I know I’ve been mistaken for being psychic, but honestly I’ve been through this same scenario many times before.

Youth Fishing Loyalhanna Kyle 4-9-16 Kyle & Dad Aunt Heather Piper

Yep, Pap has fallen prey to modern times… he’s on his cell. Kyle & I laughed at him. Loyalhanna Creek 4/9/16

We get to the creek and choose a seat on the wall, overlooking the water.  No more than twenty minutes passed, and Kyle started complaining how cold he was.  He wasn’t exaggerating either, I could tell he was really cold.  Mostly he complained about his hands being frozen, go figure.  “Kyle, do you want my gloves?”  Without hesitation and without modesty, he answerd “Okay!”.  So there went my hunting gloves.   They’re warm too!  They’re the kind of gloves with the cut out fingers for mobility, and the tops flip up into mittens for complete fleece warmth.  Awesome gloves!  I actually did prepare for Kyle asking for my gloves, and I brought a spare pair of snowboarding gloves, however they were back at the car.  No worries, I kept my hands in my hunting coat and I was toasty.

A child down the creek from us, caught a really nice sized trout, but no luck on our side.  It’s funny, Dad really enjoyed watching the boy reel in his fish and get excepted over his catch.  He was so happy for that child!  Kyle, didn’t really care.  He only kept commenting on how cold it was and was hinting around of leaving.  I wasn’t too happy about that, only because he was too stubborn to dress appropriately, and now I missed going to the gym.  I don’t mind standing there, but Kyle better be fishing and not complaining.

Soon, we left that spot for another, and to warm up in the car.  Dad drove down the opposite side of Route 30 to find another spot, one he’s never fished before.  It was great!  A nice spot where the river was running a little faster than our previous spot, assisting with the snags, and right along the water.

As we stood there, in the snow, yes, the beginning of April and it was snowing, it was quite the sight when the snow started flying.  Kyle was amazed that we were fishing among large fluffy snowflakes.  Dad’s response, “Oh, I’ve fished in worse weather than this before.”  He began to tell Kyle about some of his fishing adventures in Michigan.  The sky was completely overcast, not letting a bit of light shine through.  Kyle joined my gaze and made the same observation.  Just then Dad said, “If the sun would start shinning, I bet the fish would bite.”

Youth Fishing Loyalhanna Kyle & Dad 4-9-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Look closely, you’ll see Kyle in my hunting gloves… Loyalhanna Creek 4/9/16

Next thing you knew, the clouds parted ever so slightly and the sun shined down on us.  Not for long, but enough and soon Dad got a nibble.  He turns to Kyle to offer him the honor of reeling it in.  Without thinking twice, Kyle handed me his pole and to0k over Dad’s, like he was the professional among us.  Too funny!  Dad gave me a big smile.  It was like Kyle was five again.  He reeled in the Rainbow and was as happy as I’ve seen him in a while.  The trout was legal, and Kyle decided to keep it.

Not surprising, Kyle took over his Pappy’s spot and began casting into the water.  Dad laughed and took a seat on a rock to let Kyle have the run of the area.  I stood by in support, with net in hand.  It didn’t take long for Kyle to get another bite.  He was excited and reeled in another Rainbow, instructing me to get the net out.  Dad yelled over, “I think that’s bigger than the last one!”  Kyle’s eye got big and looked toward his catch.  It was slightly larger, a perfect size fish!  Way to go!

Kyle's picture of the YMCA pool c. 2007 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle’s artistic expression of swimming lessons at the YMCA with me. I think I’m the capital H c. 2007

Kyle decided to keep both fish, meaning we were done fishing for the day.  Now who gets to clean up the prizes?  Me?  YES, me!  In the freezing cold.  Dad remained on his rock, and I thought for a moment, he was going to make Kyle clean his own fish, but instead had me do it.  Kyle smiled knowing I didn’t want to pull my hands out of my pockets.  (I don’t mind cleaning the fish)  Kyle helped me by handing me the fish.  Did I mention he was still wearing my hunting gloves?  I guess now they smell like fish!

My hands were freezing!  As I was descaling the fish, Dad kept commenting, “Make sure you get all the scales off.” and “Get between the fins.”  Kyle stood there watching me snickering.  I was ready to kill them both, stinkers!  My hands were turning blue.  Then, while gutting the fish and rinsing them off in the ice cold water, my hands became numb and stinging.  I was barely able to move them.

We raced back to car and Dad cranked the heat.  We did have a very fun and successful day.  I’m glad I tagged along and helped out.

Did we eat the catch?  You bet we did.  Everyone shared in the small feast.

Tomorrow is the first day of fishing for everyone.  Dad has our spots mapped out and planned.  It looks like it’s going to be a nice day, which means a lot of fishermen.  I hope we’re blessed with a good catch and a nice time.  Dad’s already planning on smoking our plenty.

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

Hello … Adele

There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.  ~Charles Dickens

Kelly Berger Aunt Heather Piper in Delmont c. 2007

Me & Kelly hanging out at a picnic in Delmont. c. 2007

Like so many others, I too am a fan of Adele.  Not only do I love her music and appreciate her powerhouse voice, but with recent video clips circulating, I’ve seen her personality, which I absolutely adore.  Adele is a very comical and laid back chick, not that we’re BFFs (best friends forever), but from speculation and what I’ve witnessed it’s true.

Reliving and discussing the Adele prank on the Ellen show, as well as the Car-ride Karaoke with James Gorden, with friends of mine, I’ve come to the conclusion that hanging out with Adele would be a hoot.  The consensus from my friends was, heck yes!

I’ve decided, that I’m going to spend a fun friend filled day with Adele, without an itinerary and without a crowd.  Yes, that’s now one of my life’s goals, to shoot the breeze and be silly with Adele like a couple of high school friends.  How am I going to accomplish said goal?  No clue, but one day, I’ll meet her, at the very least.  We may not do the all day BFF thing, and she probably won’t remember my name when I do meet her, although I’ve been told I’m hard to forget, but it will happen.  After all, I’m a quarter English, two generations removed from our homeland.  I mean, me and Adele are practically sisters!  Granted, we look nothing alike, nor am I famous in the slightest, and I can’t sing without making dogs haul, but we’re practically family.

In fact, if I really wanted a gut stretching good time with my favorite gals, I’d have to include a few more lovely ladies, not that Adele couldn’t stand on her own.  Imagine it, I’ll swing by and pick up Adele, Jennifer Lawrence and Rebel Wilson.  What a car full of fun that would be!  Step aside James Gorden, my posse leaves yours at the curb.

On a side note, the entire group consists of people from countries with flags containing red, white and blue, Great Britain, the United States and Australia.  I wonder if Austrians are still angry with the British for parking them down under?  Or better, I wonder if the British still look upon the Australians as thieves and criminals?  Thinking along those lines, I guess I could speculate that Great Britain is still mad at the United States for winning our independence and dumping their tea.  Or, on the opposite note, the United States is holding a grudge with Great Britain for fighting with us regarding our freedom.  I guess, everywhere you turn there’s a past to be forgiven.

Okay, enough being silly.  Seriously, it would be an honor to meet such an interesting person as Adele, as well as the rest of my new dream crew.  Although, I can honestly say, I already have a fun group of friends.  They’re as equally as funny, sometimes more, and are wonderful people.


 

Fun Fact:  I read an article online addressing middle names of some celebrities.  Guess you made the list?  Yep, Adele!  Her full name is Adele Laurie Blue Adkins.  Read the rest for yourself.  WonderWall

Funny story.  While I was watching the Car Ride Karaoke with James Gorden and Adele, a humorous story came to my mind.  This is going back quite a few years now, when I was in my very early twenties.  I was talking to my boyfriend at the time, on my cell, and I stopped to get gas at the Sheets in Latrobe. (the old location, across the road from its current location).  After wrapping up my transaction at the pump, we hung up and I proceeded to go home (I still lived with my parents).  Clearly, I remembered I placed my cell phone on the passenger front seat.  While driving I plugged in some tunes, at the time CD players were the modern means of music.  My choice of music?  The Psychedelic Furs.  The song?  President Gas.  How do I remember this?  Read on.

Taking advantage of my alone time, and since it was late at night no one would see me, I decided to bust into song, at the top of my lungs, without a care in the world.  Did I mention, my singing makes dogs and cats cry?  Yes, my singing is beyond terrible, but I love to sing, and when I bust a tune, I express myself with all of my heart and sincerity, especially when no one is around.

Anyway, while I was walking into the house, my phone rang.  It was my boyfriend.  He wasn’t able to speak, only laugh.  For the longest time he didn’t say anything, he just kept giggling.  I had no idea what his problem was, until he managed to say, President Gas, before continuing to laugh to himself.  Being a little confused, I was ready to say, “Hey I was just listening to that song!”, not admitting I was singing, before he interrupted my thoughts by saying, in a sincere manner, “Please don’t ever give up a job to sing.”  That’s when it hit me, I never hung up the phone and he was listening to me the entire time!   Granted the ride was only about five minutes, but still that was for the duration of the song.  Eventually, I joined him and laughed at the situation.  How can you not?  I mean, I was busted dancing and singing in my seat, even though he couldn’t see me, I had a feeling he got a visual by voice.  I never had anyone front and center for one of my shows.  To this day when I find myself repeating history, and it does happen, I giggle to myself and realize these are the funny moments that make life interesting.

Below are some funny Adele video clips found on Youtube that I talked about earlier.  Sit back, enjoy, and have a great day with a little bit of humor!  Trust me these, videos are worth your time.

I couldn’t find the Adele and Ellen prank a milkshake/coffee shop.  If you could find the entire clip, do it!  It’s totally hilarious.

 

 

 

 

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

A Pillow of Memories

I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.  ~Laura Ingalls Wilder

Pappy & Kyle on Pillow c. 2003 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle snuggling up with his beloved pappy on his pillow. c. 2003

Looking at Kyle from a distance, he’s definitely more a man than a little boy.  He’s nearly as tall as me, leaned out and he’s even carrying himself with purpose.  However, every now and again he does something that screams little boy, and I can’t help but notice and smile.

This past Saturday, we were watching The Hobbit:  Desolation of Smaug.  (for the countless time, it’s one of our favorite movie series)  True to Kyle’s idiosyncrasies, he turned off all the lights to set the movie watching mood, then he pulled up a pillow.  Okay, pulling up a pillow to get comfortable isn’t weird, but he pulled up the dog’s bed and proceeded to snuggle in, right in front of the television, on the floor.

You see, when Kyle as a little tyke he loved to sprawl out on the floor in front of the boob tube.  He would try and get as close as humanly possible.  It became an issue with us having to pull him back, while he always protested.  Eventually, we came to an agreement and he knew where the line was established.  I’m guessing that was ingrained in Kyle, because he stayed at the borderline on Saturday.

The action with dog pillow cracked me up too.  When Kyle was a baby, four months old to be exact, right after his dad passed away, I painted and redecorated Ryan’s old bedroom at my parent’s house for Kyle, since we knew he’d be living with us part-time.  I also wanted him to feel he was always welcomed and was at home.  (Kyle has a room at my house too.)  I embellished Kyle’s room with items for children, while leaving little pieces of his dad here and there.  To really polish off the child’s domain, I made Kyle curtains.  The fabric I chose had red trucks and dogs printed on solid blue, red, white and yellow blocked backgrounds.  I even embellished the curtains with large primary colored buttons.  They were very cute and cheerful, especially considering our state of mind at that time, dealing with the loss of Ryan.  Anyway, upon completion of the curtains, I realized I had a lot of extra fabric left.  What to do with the material?  Turn it into an over-sized pillow of course.  I stitched up the rectangle sides and made Kyle a huge pillow, roughly twenty-four inches by thirty-six inches.  It took a lot of stuffing, but I made this, unbeknownst to me at the time, favorite pillow of Kyle’s.

Pappy Kyle & Jake with Pillow Aunt Heather Piper c. 2004

Kyle hanging with Pap & Jake, the pillow was always nearby. c. 2004

Naturally, when Kyle was a baby, he didn’t really take notice to the pillow.  As he grew older, I’d find him dragging it throughout the house to lay on, or he used it as a nesting spot to play with his cars and trucks.  Soon, when he discovered cartoons, Jay Jay the Jet Plane, Thomas the Tank, Bear in the Big Blue House, and George Shrinks (Kyle and my dad’s favorite) to name a few, Kyle would  pull that pillow in prime watching position on the floor, which were hardwood, for ultimate viewing comfort.

Kyle loved that pillow!  Even though I don’t think he remembers it nowadays.  So much so, that eventually the once fluffy pillow became beat down and lumpy, especially after many justified washes.  Eventually, I opened up the stitching, and replaced the stuffing to get a few more years out of it.  Back then, Kyle loved doing anything with me, and he certainly assisted with the process, which I very much enjoyed.

To be honest, I’m really not sure when we decided to give up on the pillow, and tossed it once and for all, but it no longer resides on the floor, in front of the television.  That place is reserved for the dogs.  I’m sure before removing that staple from the house, I consulted Kyle on the decision, to avoid a childhood scar like I endured regarding my banky (blanket).  I’ll explain that situation one day.

Now the present, and Kyle’s on the dog’s therapeutic bed, which he drug in front of the television to watch the movie in the dark.  Just like old times.  My little man’s still in there!  Kyle will always be my little man!

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

Sounds of Deep Sleep … Purrrrr

I went to collect the few personal belongings which…I held to be invaluable: my cat, my resolve to travel, and my solitude.  ~Colette

Storm in Suitcase 2014 Aunt Heather Piper

While packing for Davey’s wedding in Minnesota, I turned around to find this … guess Lady Fluffington wanted to come too 4/2014

Picture it, I was laying on my back, head propped up on my pillow, fast asleep, enjoying some much needed rest, when something woke me from my dream state.  Was it someone?  No.  Was it a noise?  No.  Was it a feeling?  No.  Was it a ghost?  No.

As I was minding my own business, Storm a.k.a. Lady Fluffington got into bed and took up space next to my head.  Is that unusual?  No, but what she did was never done before, at least not to my knowledge.  She deliberately laid her furry tail across my face.  Now that was a first!  I was actually half awake and half asleep, moving my head from side to side, blowing puffs of air out of my mouth and nose, like you do with a piece of fuzz, trying to remove the tickle from my skin.  Even through those actions, I still couldn’t pull myself completely out of sleep, to fully comprehend what was happening.

The best part?  Her tail rested under my nose on my upper lip!  If someone actually saw that, that would have been hilarious!

Instead of rolling over or removing the fuzzy extremity from my face, still half asleep, I began to pet Lady Fluffington as an automated response.  Really?  What can I say?  I’m a sucker for that little ball of fur.  Well, naturally her reaction was to start purring.  That did it for me, I actually fell back asleep with her tail across my face, to wake in the morning fully rested.  Once the purr engine rolled to life, I don’t remember another minute of the situation.

Storm-on-Grape-Harbor-9-2-13-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Lady Fluffington getting back to her wild side… among the grapes 9/2/13

Seriously?  Oh, yes!  Forget the babbling brook, the crashing waves, or the sounds of nature, a cat’s purr can put me in a sleep comma, instantly.

Ever since I was a little girl, I’d be playing with my cats on the porch in the summer, they’d start purring and I’d wake up hours later, alongside my cats.  If you add being in close proximity to their soft warm fur, combined with the purr vibrations, it’s a lethal dosage of sleep medication for me.

As I was telling the tail (pun intended) of Lady Fluffington and how I fell asleep, would you believe no one understood the sedative effects of a cat’s purr?  I’m talking about cat people.  I get it if you’re strictly a dog person, which I happen to love my Seven too, but he has the opposite effects on me.  Nope, I have yet to meet anyone who shares my kryptonite for a cat’s purr.  Am I alone?

Only after I awoke, I realized Storm’s food bowl was empty and then my mind rushed back to the incidence, recalling that darn tail.  My guess?  She tried to wake me for a midnight snack.  Well, the joke’s on her!  She put me into a deep sleep for the duration of the night or morning or whatever time it was.

If you have trouble sleeping, try curling up to a purring cat.  I’m tell you, it does the trick every time!  Sweet dreams.

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

Celebration of a Real Parent!

There is greatness in doing something you hate for the sake of someone you love.  ~Shmuley Boteach

Kyle's Catch Fishing Derby 5-9-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle is quick with the cell phone, to record his big catch of the day at the Fishing Derby. 5/9/15

The other day I was given this article to read, entitled Dad found not guilty for taking tween’s phone away.  That peeked my interest immediately.  Teenager vs. Aunt Heather Part 3 – Flexing the Attitude and there have been many more issues with Kyle and that stupid cell phone.  Between the arguments, blow ups, obsession, disrespect and just plain annoyance, Kyle’s iPhone has certainly been the topic of many conversations.

Honestly, I don’t remember if I ever discussed the major issues I’ve had with Kyle, but there have been many, and they’ve been huge.  To sum it up, Kyle is obsessed with his phone.  I get it, he’s like most teenagers, but he’s really displayed an unhealthy desire to stay unified to that piece of electronic device, as well as show disrespect thinking he’s superior.

It was so out of hand, I was ready to take the shot gun and blast his phone to pieces.  Why didn’t I?  The only reason I didn’t was because Kyle and I got into a scuffle of sorts, and he was seriously acting irrationally and exceptionally erratic.  If I attempted to shot holes in his phone, I thought Kyle might do something stupid and desperate, like jumping in the line of fire to save his precious (I intentionally used that word, comparing Kyle to Gollum when he referred to the ring in Lord of the Rings).  That’s exactly how Kyle was acting.

Anyway, to shorten a very long drawn out and dramatic story, I did take the phone off of Kyle, at least at that particular instance.  I wouldn’t give it back until we had a family meeting.  This resulted in a loss of phone privileges for a week, something that was long overdue.  Personally, I didn’t care it was an inconvenience with his band, school and social activity.  I didn’t even care the phone wasn’t mine, and I wasn’t paying for the cell phone services.  Did I have a right?  You bet I did, especially with Kyle’s behavior.  It was the right thing to do, considering the disrespect I was enduring prior to that time and the day of the incidence.  Teenager vs. Aunt Heather Part 2 – The Calm Before the Storm  This problem expanded past me into the rest of the family.

Kyles Catch being Measured Fishing Derby 5-9-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle always had a knack for recording his fishing adventures with his cell phone. Fishing Derby 5/9/15

Would you believe I was given every excuse in the book and chastised for taking his cell phone away?  Yep.  I still didn’t buckle, because I knew Kyle was finally learning a lesson.  Again, it was the right thing to do.

Now back to the article.  What really struck me was the attitude of the mom and the step-dad.  Her only concern was the phone, not the well being of her very own child!  She only cared about the money and the material aspect to the situation.  Are you kidding me?  Read it for yourself.  She should have been working together with the father for the well-being of that child.  Come on, an inappropriate text message should have been the focus, not her ego or self-centered thinking.  Why?  My guess, she was mad the dad stepped in to do her job as a parent.

And shame on the step-dad, again for not begin an adult wanting to do what was right for that girl.  Nope.  Instead he flexed his muscles, like he was big s%$t and pulled strings to throw the situation even further out of perspective.  Having a man arrested in the middle of the night like he was a criminal?  Seriously?  If you’re a cop, you’re suppose to be protecting and serving.  I don’t know the context of the text messages, but shouldn’t that have been the topic of conversation?  Too much ego, way too much self-centered behavior, materialism and not enough parenting is the moral of this story.

The mom and step-dad are seriously stupid, by allowing a young adult to have such control over them and manipulate them like she did.

Kudos to that dad who didn’t back down and wasn’t bullied for being a true parent.  Kudos to that dad who had an interest in his daughter and wanted to do the right thing.  Kudos to that dad for standing up even in the face of criminal charges.  I hope one day his daughter understands who’s the real parent and who really cares for her, even if they don’t have a relationship currently.  Actually, I hope the mom and step-dad sees the error of their actions and takes a vested interest in the little girls well-being, although I’m sure they’re the reason for the broken relationship between the dad and daughter, when they should encourage the bong between the two.

I’m sure there’s more to the story than what’s been presented in the article.  It sounds like the relationship between the mom and dad are less than amicable, but that shouldn’t be the fault of the daughter.  No matter what the situation was, the mom and step-dad should have put on their big girl and boy pants and handled the situation like mature adults.  What kind of example are they setting for that little girl?  In fact, their daughter is probably picking up on their vibe and acting out, to only make further mistakes she may regret, all because of a lack of parenting.

I pray the dad comes back in the picture and the daughter matures a bit to face reality and her real family.

On a side note, I don’t believe cell phones are evil.  In fact, they do serve good purposes.  The problem is parenting, or a lack there of and giving boundaries and limitations.

Dad found not guilty for taking tween’s phone away

https://www.ksl.com/?sid=38299808

Below are screen shots of the article.

Dad found not guilty for taking tween's phone away Aunt Heather Piper part 1

Dad found not guilty for taking tween's phone away Aunt Heather Piper Part 2

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

Report Card. How Do I Help?

But Montague is bound as well as I,
In penalty alike, and ’tis not hard, I think,
For men so old as we to keep the peace.  ~Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (1.2.1-3)

Kyle Christmas Eve 12-24-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle opening gifts on Christmas Eve 12/24/15

Kyle is such a stinker, and he’s driving me absolutely batty!  Granted his attitude has certainly taken a slightly uphill turn, but there are issues lurking in the shadows that everyone one seems to turn a blind eye to (except me), yet need addressed, immediately.  I am somewhat laughing over the details of the situation, even though it’s not really funny.  What now?  Kyle’s ninth grade second quarter report card.

Over the summer, we made a deal, if he brings up his math grade, then he wouldn’t need a tutor, one I paid for. A Dip in the Grades / Teenager vs. Aunt Heather – Part 1 Math Tutor.  Being the reasonable Aunt Heather that I am, I agreed, even though he moaned and complained about going, every time, and only gave half effort.  Whatever.

The moment of truth was revealed last Monday.  On a side note, I love how Kyle still tries to hide his report from me, like I can’t find out or perhaps I’m going to forget, not probable.  I don’t forget, and I won’t waiver when it comes to Kyle’s well-being.  The verdict?  His Geometry grade did come up slightly, as did his Biology.  Great!  That’s a step in the right direction.  It’s wasn’t by leaps and bounds, but I’m still happy and a deals a deal.

Now what’s the problem?  A few other subjects dropped.  When I told him to bring up those problematic subjects, I didn’t mean sacrifice the other subjects to do so.  My heart is truly broken.  Why?  The subjects that dropped, and I mean considerably, were US History II and Honors English I, two my favorite subjects.  First of all, history doesn’t change!  Read the material, memorize a few details and done.  It should be an easy grade.  Kyle loves reading, what could be so difficult?  When I asked Kyle about said subjects, he simply shrugged his shoulders.

How Kyle views his Aunt Heather Piper

Teenage years are a struggle for us all! Since I’m always fighting an uphill battle, this is what it feels like every time I need to discuss anything of importance with Kyle….

Honestly, I never took note that all of Kyle’s classes were honors classes, which I do give grace.  However, I will never accept below average.  I about fell out of my seat when I saw the English grade, especially when it originated from a solid B.

Even better, Kyle informed me he was getting a little extra help.  Obviously, that wasn’t working.  In a very calm yet confused voice I asked, “Kyle, why didn’t you call me for help?”  His response, “I don’t know.”  There was more to it than that, but my blog isn’t about pointing fingers and I don’t need additional family drama.  The gist of his explanation included a college degree, although not specialized in English or literature.  It’s true, I don’t have my masters degree, but I do have two undergrad degrees from Seton Hill University.  Not to mention, I write, that’s what I do.  I’m in marketing and I write, ad copy, television and radio scripts, press releases, articles, stories, testimonials, website copy, I ghost write blogs in addition to mine and the list goes on.  I’ve even written books!  Although, unbeknownst to Kyle (a surprise for later).  Wanting to find the root problem, Kyle informed me he’s required to write a lot of papers.  To prove my worthiness, I explained my qualifications and I even explained I was on the deans list.  I’m not just talking out my butt and making a claim I can’t back up.  If I don’t know something, I’ve always been honest with him, and I’ll gladly admit to it, hence the math tutor.   How frustrating!  What does that kid think I do all day?

With sincerity and confidence, I told Kyle I can help him get his grade back up by the next quarter.  I asked him to please call me with the next assignment.  Kyle’s response?  He shrugged his shoulders and clearly wasn’t about to ask me for help.  Why?  I have no idea.  Again, I believe there’s more issues lurking in those shadows that he’ll never admit, it’s called ego, pride and self-esteem, not on Kyle’s behalf.  Personally, if I was a teenager with an attitude, I’d want to see my aunt take the challenge, either to fall miserably to rub it in, or to assist me with my grade.  Either way, Kyle wins!  Not Kyle, he doesn’t want to succeed if it means I’m helping.  He should at least call my sister.  She may not be a creative writer, but she’s an excellent technical writer and elegant with the written word.

Kiski Band getting ready for Bands of America 2015 Aunt Heather Piper

This picture was online in the paper showing Kiski Band getting ready for Bands of America 2015

All his grades weren’t bad.  In fact, his Band and P.E. remained at an A+ status.  Times have changed, in elementary school, P.E. was Kyle’s only class he didn’t excel.  I even told him, “Kyle just look like you’re sweating and I bet you’ll get an A.  Run around and show a little effort.”  Since Kyle’s in the marching band, I would hope his Band grade would be nothing less than stellar.

I know all grades are important, especially keeping up his GPA for college, but I’m picking my battles with the Video Game Design I class.  It too dropped a letter grade.  I’ve asked Kyle what they’re working on, and he never did give me a real answer.  Perhaps, that’s why his grade dropped, due to a lack of attentiveness.  Moving on.

Now one class I’m in a little shock, yet I’m very proud of, a class his grade increased, Chinese I.  At one point in the conversation, I said something along the lines of, “Your English tanks, but your Chinese gets better?  How is that possible?”  I know I said it as a half joke.  I was a bit confused and yet astounded.  I’ll admit we both laughed over that revelation.  Come one, how can you not?  His native language is English, yet he’s improving in Chinese?  My guess?  He needs to work at it, and chose not to give up.

This past week I contacted his tutor, who is a great lady and I’d highly recommend her, to cancel our tutoring until the next report card.  She understood and was very kind about giving me requested advice.  She simply said Kyle has to want to bring up his grades and has to want to earn them.  She also stated the obvious, that he needs to mature.  Little does she know, we Piper’s mature late, ever.   She’s right on all accounts.  But how can I just sit back and accept this?  The answer.  I guess I need to do some heavy praying.

Honestly, I don’t have a problem with who’s helping Kyle, as long as it’s working.  If not, then it’s time to consider another option.  It’s about what’s best for this young man.  I don’t care if Kyle chooses the family dog over my help, as long as it works.  I wish they’d give out grades for stubbornness and blasé behavior because Kyle would ace those every time.

Kyle during a band performance 10-23-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle getting ready for a Kiski Band performance on their home field. 10/23/15

I love Kyle so much, I want him to succeed at anything he does.  He’s already expressed an interest in going to Carnegie Mellon University for engineering and I want to see that come to fruition.  Perhaps the tutor is right, he needs to find his own path.  Of course, that doesn’t mean step back entirely, because he still needs guidance and help along the way.

Am I pushing too hard?  If you could see what I’ve seen, you wouldn’t think so.  When Kyle was around four or five, he could add up a few items at the store and figure out the tax before the register gave the total.  By that age, I got him a wooden puzzle of the United States.  He could tell the state by the shape, show where it was located, name the capital and give a fun fact about each.  No he’s really bright, he just needs encouraged by the right people.

This quote was not by happenstance.  Kyle was working on Romeo and Juliet this quarter during English class.  Basically, Lord Capulet comes to terms with his age and doesn’t want to be apart of the family feud any longer.  He remains a peacekeeper from here on out.  Not saying that I’m old, not in the slightest, but I’m saying perhaps I need to assist from the sidelines.

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

Happy Birthday Dad! – 65 Years Strong

Years fly by, but the heart stays in the same place.  ~Harlan Coben

Happy Birthday Dad! January 16, 1951

Dad U Sonny 10-1956 Aunt Heather Piper

Dad & Uncle Sonny, I think on a school field trip. 10/1956

I’m well aware Dad despises me talking about him online, not that he ever reads anything I write.  Why?  Because the old man’s never touched a computer in his life, let alone knows how to use a search engine. (He’s never even used an ATM machine.)  So how does he know I talk about him online?  I’m usually ratted out by people who read my blog and follow my social media sites, usually my Mom.  However, since Dad’s getting up there in years, he needs to have each and every year recognized and recorded, at the very least for Kyle to remember his dear old Pap.  My rule when reading my blog: read it to enjoy but never tell Dad where you heard the stories about him, or even those of Kyle.

Anyway, Dad added another year to his resume.  What’s been going on with my retiree?  Not much, he’s loving his simple life on the ridge.  His typical day consists of hanging with the dogs, Seven and Scooby, sneaking in a nap or two, sometimes cutting firewood or doing yard work, and visiting his ladies at least four times a day.

Ladies?  Who are the ladies?  That’s what Dad calls his chickens, which totally cracks me up!  He loves those birds.  Recently, they started laying eggs, which has now become the big excitement of each day.  No joke!

Sure, I still help Dad with our hobbies.  We have our honey bees, and up until this past fall, we were raising turkeys, who are now tucked away in the freezer.  Summer always brings a renewed interest in fishing and trapping snapping turtle, too.

Is Dad still hunting?  You bet!  In fact, he took the muzzle-loader out this year, and he participated in the senior citizen season.  Time for a true funny story.  Late October is the youth hunt or mentor hunting, coincidentally it’s also senior citizen hunting, prior to the standard deer season.  Every time I heard Dad recount this past hunting season with anyone, he talked about the youth hunt.  He always called it the youth hunt, not the senior citizen hunt.  Everyone, and I mean everyone, gave Dad a very inquisitive confused look when Dad, an old man, talked about hunting during the “youth hunt”.  In Dad’s head he knew he was legal, but most people were taken back by the term “youth hunt” in reference to Dad hunting.

Nowadays, Dad’s interested in purchasing a crossbow for archery season.  I’m okay with that!  Seriously, whatever keeps him active and happy.  He was even trying to nudge Mom (Gigi) back into hunting, to get her moving around since she too is retired as of the first of the year.  Personally, I think Dad has a better chance of shooting a 24 point, with an arrow that ricocheted off of a tree trunk, and a large rock before hitting the buck directly in the lungs, dropping it immediately.  Could happen, but highly unlikely.

What did we do today?  We butchered a 620 pound pig.  Seriously?  Yes!  Only in the Piper household.  Dad should have been a butcher for he loves harvesting his own meat.  Kyle even came over early to spend the weekend, although he passed on helping with the pig.  Instead, Kyle assisted me in making his pappy a pound cake.  We spent the day together, and had a really nice time.

Happy birthday old man!  I hope you keep going for another 60 years.

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