Congratulations – Mikey & Mary Beth Got Hitched!

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

Mr. & Mrs. Olczak


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Life of Brian… a great band!

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

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

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


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

You Only Live Once – #YOLO

Life is a beautiful magnificent thing, even to a jellyfish.  ~Charles Chaplin

First I want to say, I was instructed by one Ms. Nicole Piper to NOT write a blog entry about her birthday party.  When will she learn, telling me to do something won’t make it happen.  Here goes…

#YOLO, yep that was the theme of my sister’s fortieth birthday celebration that took place this past Friday.  On a side note, #YOLO was not my idea!  I just kept the theme going.  She told me she wanted everything #YOLO.  So I gave it to her… on the save-the-dates, invites, programs and decor.

Nicole Postcard YOLO Aunt Heather Piper

It’s true, her actual birthday was March 16th Happy Birthday Aunt Nikki!  The Big 40!.  So why such a lapse in time between birthday and party?  Simply, the venue in which Nicole wanted her party, Jammin’ Java’s, was booked until this past Friday.


The Penn State Crew, Katherine, Portia, Nicole, Leslie & Smaro. They are the definition of #YOLO 6/6/14

It was a night packed filled with a comedian, Matty Litwack, who I guess was a physicist turned comedian.  Perfect for that group of engineers!  Then, Todd Wright played guitar and sang the night away, until the dancing begun.

The party was dedicated to her best friend, Dr. Jennifer (Smith) Galbraith (Blue Skies Dr. Jennifer (Smith) Galbraith) investigation still ongoing) who passed away last year.  In lieu of gifts, she asked everyone to donate to the Women Giving Back – A HomeAid Northern Virginia Program.  Great idea!  What a perfect way to celebrate life, by helping others live a real life.

I’ll hand it to my sister, she does know how to throw a party!  It was well organized and all details were covered.


Elisa & Nicole… Nicole should have been paying attention to me! #YOLO 6/6/14

Personally, it was nice to meet some of her co-workers and past co-workers and catch up with others I’ve previous met.  Elisa was as always, welcoming and full of life!  Seeing her brings back memories from one Thanksgiving in which, her and her cousin joined us for the turkey feast.  Throughout the night, we caught up and even compared stories and shared pictures of my nephew and her godchild.

Some guests I met for the first time.  It’s neat to hear their perspective regarding my sister.  According to many, the ridge hasn’t left Nicole, yet if you’d ask dad and me, she’s all city now.  I even heard a few mention about Google’ing my parents house out of curiosity with respect to ‘The Ridge’.  OK?  Kind of creepy, but I get the audience I’m dealing with, a group of engineers who are probably like Nicole, and research everything plus have never experienced ‘The Ridge’!  Unfortunately, my parents don’t live on “The Piper Ridge”, but it’s all the same.


The Piper Gals! Nicole, mom & me. #YOLO 6/6/14

It was also great to see the old Penn State crew!  In fact, I was laughing when Portia used my name.  I told her, “I think that’s the first time I heard you refer to me by my name and not, ‘Nikki’s Sister’.”  In college when I would call for Nicole, and one of her friends answered, I would hear, “I think it’s Nikki’s sister since she asked for Nicole.”

Those gals were always a nice bunch.  I got to hang with them briefly.  We even talked about the book I wrote this year.  Yes, on another side note, I wrote a young adult book, originally for Kyle to read, and then I started the second one for a serious.  Not to mention, the flood gates opened up and I have ideas for many more books, which I plan on writing, if for nothing else, just to get my stories out of my head and give Kyle something handmade by me.

I’m considering trying to get the book published, which I was given great advice from Leslie on what to do and how to go about doing it.  She too is an author!  Thanks Leslie for the guidance, I might call you one day to further discuss and compare notes.


Nicole introducing the singer for the evening Todd Wright. It looks like she’s taking lead vocals…. Look in the background… it says #YOL9X with a cat! Only my sister!  #YOLO 6/6/14

Those ladies crack me up!  They are truly awesome!

Mom and I made the trek down to Virginia for the birthday bash.  Where was dad?  He was watching the dogs, like a babysitter instead of putting them in a doggie hotel.  Where was Kyle?  He was in Hershey Park with his jazz band for school.  Then, after they performed, the kids got to stay and ride the rides.  It was a late night for all, except dad.  Kyle said they got back to the school at 1:00 am.  Nicole said mom and I were allowed to stay until 10:00 pm and then we had to make our grand exits, so she could have fun with her friends.  Naturally, I stated the obvious, “I am the fun!”  I know many would agree!

It’s a shame the entire family wasn’t present, but again we are all better suited for the ridge and not the hustle and bustle of the D.C. Metro area, except for Nicole.


A few decorations for Nicole’s #YOLO Party… Yes that 40 sign is covered in pics of Nicole – all years! #YOLO 6/6/14

The best part about the night?  Knowing Nicole, my older and only sister will always and forever be older than me!  We are very opposite in many ways.  This one includes her embracing the big four-0.  I however, will NEVER turn forty!


#YOLO Party was dedicated to Dr. Jennifer (Smith) Galbraith. There were pictures in memory of Jen & Ryan … & Kyle made his appearance! 6/6/14

Happy Birthday Aunt Nikki!


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

Denied! No Dance For You!

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


Yep, that’s Kyle among a sea of kids, dancing around at his school’s Folk Festival. He was hiding from me after I busted a move to YMCA. Sometimes you just have to get it out. 6/3/13

It’s true, sometimes there are events and situations that occur, which can never be forgotten.  For those pessimists out there, I don’t believe these episodes are all bad and I believe any situation we encounter in life shapes us one way or another.  Heck, sometimes they are even really funny and will be brought up around the dinner table or campfire from time to time, just for a good laugh.  This is one of those stories, witnessed by many, remembered by me.

Yesterday was Kyle’s folk festival.  His very last assemble of elementary school!  Yes it was a bittersweet event.  In fact, Kyle, knowing I would want to see him and knowing that I would come, called me to remind me of the shindig.  He called me while I was meeting on the Chad Delier Scanlon Memorial Golf Outing. The Chad Delier Scanlon Story.  While I was confirming the date and time with my little man, this crazy thought popped in my head. The Heel Toe dance!

The Heel Toe dance is a dance, done every year during their Folk Festival after the students perform their required practiced square dance or line dance.  When they announce the Heel Toe dance, the students go running into the audience to select a parent, sometimes a teacher or a friend to partner-up with.  It always looked like so much fun!  As the memories of this dance come rushing into my head, the excitement was already building.  I mentioned the dance to Kyle, to plant the seed, as I do every year.  He just ignored me.  When I asked him again if I could dance with him, he just sort of laughed and then moved off of the subject before getting off the phone.


Kyle with his other friend Logan. Logan danced beside me at the schools Folk Festival, while Kyle ran… Surely he wasn’t embarrassed? 6/3/13

On a side note, I new nothing about the Folk Festival until Kyle called to remind me.  Thanks buddy!  It’s a good thing I’m working for Thrill of the Hunt, a division of The Piper Corporation or I wouldn’t be able to take off work, on such short notice.  Although I’m glad he included me!

Mom and I made our appearance, armed and ready to take video and pictures and to clap and cheer him on.  It was a nice cloudy day and the Folk Festival was held out in the school yard.  All the parents and onlookers circled the kids in the lawn chairs.

Slowly, the show moved along until we got to the long anticipated for, sixth graders!  At this point it was nice to see the kids do their square dance and to pull their loved ones out of the audience to dance the Heel Toe Dance, but my patience and interest was fading with every grade.  That is until Kyle and his class took center stage among the trampled down blades of grass.

Instead of a typical square dance, they did a line dance, which didn’t seem to amuse Kyle, at all!  He was barely moving through the motions and seemed annoyed at the assembly.  Keep in mind this was a child who called me a few days prior, excited to tell me about the festival and wanting me to be there.  Kids!

Then came the big moment I was waiting for, the Heel Toe Dance!  Yes!  After coming to all his assemblies and watching years worth of Folk Festivals, I wanted to be the one picked to dance the Heel Toe dance with Kyle!  I will confess, I sort of practiced it prior to, only from watching others perform it and paying attention.  I’m ready!

Naturally, as the kids move around gathering up their partners, it was pretty noisy.  I stood on the sidelines waving my hands yelling to get Kyle’s attention to show him where I was standing.  (Just in case he didn’t see me.)  Then mom chimed in and said, “Go up to him so he can see where you are.”  At that point, we both thought Kyle would dance with me, and let’s face it, I was excited!  So like an idiot, I went running across the lawn, in front of parents, teachers and the entire school of kids, with my arms flailing around as I was yelling “Kyle! Kyle!”

Just as I reached Kyle, in-the-nick-of-time before he chose someone, I wrapped my arms around him, startling the little package.  Granted, I know better, hugging him in front of the entire school was not accepted, but I couldn’t help myself.  Beside shooting me a big surprised look, he did give me one of his ornery grins.  Admittingly, I was sporting a huge smile on my overly energetic body.  I said, “Kyle are you going to let me dance with you?”  Like an idiot, I had it all planned out in my head, mom was on standby to take the video, and my dreams have finally come true.

Until he looked me square in the eye and said as a matter of factually, “No.” then he elbowed me to get away from him!  What?  Denied!  Are you kidding?  I was instantly removed from my fluffy dream of running through the green fields toward Kyle, only to end up spiraling down a black pit!  Did I take the wrong road?  Pick the wrong kid?

Nope, it was all true and was witnessed by some.  One being Kyle’s friend Luke’s mom, Sue.  Kyle picked his friend Logan, right in front of me!  Not knowing what to do next, I walked away with my head held low, in utter shock.  As I got to my mom all I could say was, “He told me no!”  Just then Sue busted out laughing.  Not that I can blame her.  I mean I looked pretty ridiculous running out there among the kids yelling, to only get turned down.

After the shock wore off, I found the humor in the entire situation, that I incidentally created for myself.  After all, Kyle never agreed to dance with me and there wasn’t anything in the rule books on the subject.  So, excepting the situation for what it was, I join Sue in the laughter.  By then, she was really busting a gut.  Of course, so was I when I did a play-by-play account of the last few minutes of my life, adding in the part when he elbowed me.  We were both dying!

This was a good story for the books!  No matter, if he wasn’t going to dance with me, I was going to make him.  Just to pay him back, as the entire class danced in the grass to YMCA, I got up and ran behind Kyle to bust a move.  He had no idea I was there until his friend pointed to me and Kyle turned around, with a mix of humor and horror on his face.  He did get a little red in the cheeks, but he couldn’t help laughing at me dancing and throwing my arms in the YMCA letters.

Putting this silliness aside, I am very proud of Kyle.  He just receive a letter from the school stating that after an evaluation of his work and test scores, he was going to move into advanced math next year.  Yep, so he will be a seventh grader taking ninth grade math!  I guess those flashcards I got him and worked with him when he was two, paid off.  Although that may have been a start, he always had the interest and intelligence to do math.  He worked hard for that accomplishment and it is all his.  Way to go buddy!  God Speed to you in junior high!

Maybe one day, the Heel Toe Dance will be mine!

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

What are the moments we remember?

The leaves of memory seemed to make
A mournful rustling in the dark.  ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Ryan Piper, Kyle Piper, Heather Piper - 7/30/01

Me, Ryan and new born baby Kyle. Latrobe Hospital 7/30/01

Guaranteed, everyone has a memory, good, bad or indifferent, stretching from childhood to the present.  What makes the memory memorable?  Is it total tragedy?  Is it complete bliss? Is it the number of people who know the memory? Is it the small moments that resonate in our hearts and minds or is it the moments that are as large as life?

Karl Rove in Courage and Consequence wrote about his memories from childhood through his White House years.  He wrote an entire chapter about 9/11, which most people remember or at least have heard the tragedy that was placed upon our country.  He described the moments with detail and sincerity, as he should.  That is a memory, which affects some differently than others, depending on how close to home this tragedy hit.  Granted the country was in shock but there were different levels of anger, sadness, etc.  What really stood out in my head is the memory he had when George W. Bush won his first election against Al Gore.  After all the legal crap and finger pointing and trying to figure out the winner (even though it was evident from the beginning) he remembered hearing the news of G.W.’s win on TV from his hotel room.  He remembers the room, what he was wearing, what he was feeling.  I believe it’s those little moments that really help shape a person, especially if we are intuitive enough to pay attention.

Ryan, Nicole, Heather Piper with my cat Morticia

Ryan, Me, Nicole with my cat Morticia. Morticia was the best cat... besides Pudd'in

There is no doubt that Narrow doesn’t know life without me in it or my parents and my sister.  We have been an integral part of his life since he was born, literally.  I was there at the hospital when he was wheeled in with his dad, smiling so proudly.   I remember holding that little bundle of baby that wouldn’t open his eyes.  As we sat rocking in the room, Narrow kept bringing his thumb to his mouth.  He managed to work his hand out of all those layers of blankets to try and suck his thumb.  My reaction was to keep pushing the hand back under the blankets until his dad said to leave him alone.  I told my brother, “He’s lucky I’m here, stopping a bad habit from starting.”  And you know what? He never sucked his thumb!

And then there’s the moments that may not mean anything to anyone but to that one person.  For Kyle’s 9th birthday my parents bought him a 14’ trampoline.  They gave it to him well before his birthday so we could enjoy it all summer (beginning of July).  After we put it together, Kyle and I jumped all Saturday night and then on Sunday after church, which was a very hot Sunday.  Jumping on a big black surface under the direct sunlight does not work well with me.  But Narrow, being the brilliant inventor that he is, hooked up the sprinkler to the hose and placed it inside the trampoline.  You see, Kyle wanted to jump more and he knew the heat was killing me, so he created a solution.  We had a blast jumping around the sprinkler on the very, very, very hot summer day.  We jumped the better part of the day until we ate dinner and I had to take him home.  Of course I remember how smart and inventive that little boy was that day, but he remembered something else.  He told me in the car on the ride home, “Thank you for jumping with me, Aunt Heather.”  That statement made me realize that the simple act of jumping and having fun really meant something to him.

Kyle Piper lost his second tooth Heather Piper

I plucked Kyle's second tooth

This past Halloween it was snowing pretty good.  I decided to plug in Michael Jackson for the Wii.  Kyle joined me and we had a blast jumping around the living room dancing with the King of Pop.  We were laughing and running into one another.  Seven didn’t know what to make of us.  He kept jumping up, thinking we were playing with him.  All the while, Scooby just sat there an gave us the look that we were a bunch of idiots.  We both broke a sweat and I think I pulled a muscle.  You know, the minute I walked in the house last Friday night, Kyle said, “Aunt Heather, let’s dance to Michael Jackson!”

Kyle doesn’t remember when he was little and we used to have Dance Party.  It was something I made up when my parents weren’t home.  We would get glow sticks, turn out all the lights and turn on the music station on the TV.  We would dance around the living room for hours.  I’m sure if someone was to look in on us from the big picture window in the living room, we would look like a bunch of monkeys having a party with glow sticks.

I rarely remember my life before Narrow. In fact, most of my memories of life involve him… good, bad or indifferent.  I guess that is what’s truly important to me, my Narrow.

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