Our Hunting Adventures … Pennsylvania – Westmoreland County

Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.  ~L.M. Montgomery

Cabin-my-brother-&-cousins-built-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Another shot of the cabin, hanging out, relaxed & peaceful. I sat on the steps for a few minutes watching deer & remembering the stories that surfaced from this place…. 2013

… Continued Our Hunting Adventures … Pennsylvania – Green County

On Wednesday, dad and I hunted on a friend of mine’s property.  My friend Susan was kind enough to let us take a shot at some new surroundings.  Pun totally intended!  Her kids shared the knowledge of a few buck sightings.  Why not?  We haven’t had any luck at this point, at least not in Pennsylvania.  Did we see anything?  Dad did!  But he said it wasn’t a legal buck, so no shot.  If Kyle was with him, Kyle would have been able to shoot, since he is not limited to the number of points.  Even though we came back unsuccessful, we found our new hunting spot for next year.  Dad and I both LOVE the area.  There are plenty of deer and it’s really a nice piece of property.  Not the cliff of death with spiderweb brush to get caught up in, like Green County.  And not that far away, maybe forty-five minutes.  Dad can also get around on his quad safely and I must admit, walking was a lot easier and very enjoyable.  Can’t wait for next year!

By Saturday, Kyle joined us back in the woods by my parent’s house in Westmoreland County, on my cousin’s property.  Finally, we were blessed with a fresh coating of white fluffy snow!  It really was so peaceful and pretty.  Early that morning dad and I saw a couple of deer running down through the woods, but no shot was obtainable at that angle.  Saturday opened up doe season.  We were permitted to shoot buck (three points on one side) and doe.

I’m beginning to think it’s not me that causes our adventures, it’s Kyle!  While sitting on a log, Kyle wanted to walk back to the house to use the restroom and grab a quick bite.   Anyone and everyone who knows dad, is well aware he doesn’t stop hunting for anything, not for food, not for drink, for nothing unless he drops a deer and is dragging it out of the woods.  Kyle was in shock over this revelation but wouldn’t give in.  Naturally, I was elected to head back with our halfway hunter, even though I wanted to stay and hunt.

While Kyle was doing his business I made a thermos of hot chocolate for us and I made dad a thermos of coffee.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, the hot chocolate might not have been the best decision.

Party-Cabin-in-the-woods-Aunt-Heather-Piper

As I was pushing deer for dad during hunting season, I walked past the cabin (a.k.a. the party shack) that my brother & cousins built. Why? For no reason … very peaceful 2013

When I finally got back to dad, taking a different route to try and push the deer in his direction from lower on the hill, I gave dad his coffee to warm him up a bit.  Dad asked “Where’s Kyle?”  Replying while I rolled my eyes, “No clue, probably a mile down the road.  You know how slow he moves and he knows the way.”  A few minutes later dad said, “I’m going to walk over to the other side of the road to look to see if anything is moving.”  Just then, here comes our great white hunter, dragging his feet up the road.  Dad turned to me and said, “Never mind.  If there was anything, they’re gone.”  That was so funny!   I did give a chuckle, as dad rolled his eyes and grinned.  We love our Kyle to death, but he can be challenging.

So we sat, and sat, waiting for movement.  Nothing.  Then Kyle takes out the thermos of hot chocolate, clicks the cap to get the liquid rolling, blows (loudly) to cool it down, then slurps up the warm drink.  Dad turned to look in our direction with a look of, ‘What is going on over there?’  It was Kyle drinking his hot chocolate as loudly as he drags his feet.  Dad was starting to loose his cool.  As per reading dad’s body language, I told Kyle to put it away and don’t get it out again.  I couldn’t believe how loud he was!  Of course looking back on it now, we can laugh over the situation, but not when the pressure was on and no deer dropped in Pa.

Dad and I continued to hunt on Monday and Tuesday.  No luck, but a lot of snow!  We went around my parents house.  I walked a few miles each day, trying to push deer, but nothing.  I love those woods, I am very familiar with them and it’s really nice stepping out the door and walking or riding the quad to our hunting spots.

Dad continued to hunt Wednesday morning.  It was more of an adventure when the dogs got out and decided to go on a day trip.  It was even better when dad and I saw them head up through my cousin’s field and they ignored dad yelling, turned and headed up through the woods.  Dad was like lightening on the quad after them, like he was the lone ranger.  Those stinkers eluded dad all the way up onto Frosty Lane.  The chase was on.  Even Gigi was calling from work while she was tracking them, as was I.  While this was going on, I would call and give dad the valuable intel of their location.  Dad said once he rounded the bend and saw Scooby, he dropped his head like ‘We’ve been discovered, our fun has come to an end.”  You see during hunting season, it’s happened when hunters will shoot the beloved four-legged friends, especially if the dogs were chasing deer.  Mean, I know!  Something none of us would EVER do, but it has happened and we desperately didn’t want to experience it for ourselves.

While tracking them I realized our boys went a lot further than we’ve ever seen them.  They also seemed to follow my lead, the same course I was pushing deer for dad from the day prior.  Obviously the dogs were mad because we kept leaving them in the house while we went through the woods hunting.  What a pair of spoiled dogs!

All in all, it was a pretty good year.  God blessed us with a buck and a doe, dad shot and a buck Kyle shot.  That meat is already butchered, wrapped and awaiting to be called upon from the freezer to be made into a meal.  Yes we gut, skin and butcher our own deer, every year.  That way you are certain it is done right and it’s your deer, no question.

Even though it was an unsuccessful hunting year for me personally, it was a great year!  Kyle and dad filled their tags and we all had a great time hanging out with each other.  Family time, nothing beats it!  There’s always next year.

Read our hunting adventures of 2013

Our Hunting Adventures … New York
Our Hunting Adventures … New York Continued
Our Hunting Adventures … Pennsylvania – Green County

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

Our Hunting Adventures … Pennsylvania – Green County

One eye sees, the other feels.  ~Paul Klee

Kyles-buck-2013-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle’s buck, way to go buddy!! 2013

…Continued Our Hunting Adventures … New York Continued

New York hunting always starts before Pennsylvania hunting, which increases our odds of filling the freezer with meat.  In Pennsylvania, the first day of buck is the first Monday after Thanksgiving.  The day of excitement!  Generally speaking, most schools in Western Pennsylvania give kids that Monday off, simply because a lot of kids hunt, including Kyle.

The Saturday before hunting season started this year, dad had me and Kyle went to the property where dad hunts in Green County.    What town?  I have no clue where I was except we had to pass through Waynesburg to get there.  All I knew, we had to take down yet another tree stand, and move it up hill.  Up this steep hill.  Up the steep hill with no clear path.  Did I mention it was up hill and the hill was steep?  Plus the ground was soft and muddy, which didn’t make the move easy.  Once dad picked his new spot, (sometimes that takes a while for him to evaluate his surroundings and pick the perfect tree) I had to get back in the tree stand and secure it.  I’m actually getting pretty good at it especially after What It Takes to Move a Tree Stand and What It Takes to Move a Tree Stand … Continued.

Now for the directions to my pre-chosen hunting spot, courtesy of dad.  The old man wanted me to find the tree stand before hunting so I was acclimated to the area.  Actually, great idea!  He also wanted me to physically sit in the tree stand, ensuring it was stable and secure.  Ok, good thinking!  Now for the directions to the Directionally Challenged, Dad said:

Follow this path up and at the large poplar tree make a left, go up the hill and off to the left you’ll see the tree stand facing uphill.

Again, there wasn’t really a clear path.  And, in a forest full of trees, which I’m sure there are more than one poplar tree, I had to find a big one.  What kind of directions are these?  Granted, it was daylight this time, but still sometimes looking for a black camouflaged tree stand can be tricky.  Again, Ryan must have came down from heaven to point out the tree, because when I saw it, I knew that was the one dad was referring to.  At one point, Kyle trekked up to see what I was up to, and I could  tell he was given the same instructions.  Luckily, he saw me in the tree and made a straight path for my stand.  When we left together, Kyle questioned, “Is that the big poplar tree pappy was talking about?”  I laughed and said, “I guess so.”

You think these types of directions are rare?  Nope!  Even up by my parents house dad’s directions include, “Out by the big poplar tree.” and “Over by the huge oak off the bank.” and “Beside the birch trees” and so on and so forth.  Dad’s lucky I usually can identify the trees, but not always.  I didn’t work in the woods my entire life like he did.  To dad, each tree is as unique as a street sign.

Monday, the first day of buck in Pa.!  I will admit, it was a long day.  Not only did it take us about an hour and a half to get to our hunting spot in Green County, plus the return trip, but we had to basically make our way up a cliff in the mud to get to our tree stands.  With every step uphill, we slid back two.  My tree stand, which used to be Ryan’s was furthest up the hill, past dad and Kyle’s hunting spot.  I’ll give dad credit, I’m in reasonable shape and my breath was labored walking up the path through the woods and handled the trip like a champ.  Good old Kyle was huffing and puffing along the way.

Usually the first day of buck is exciting, not this time.  There was almost no one hunting, which means no one pushing the deer either.  I did see a couple of doe up further on the hillside, but again we were only allowed to shoot buck and they had to have two points plus the brow point.  Dad and Kyle saw NOTHING!  Boring!

Kyle-hunting-in-Jims-woods-Aunt-Heather-Piper-12-7-13

Kyle & his hot chocolate.. I’ve never heard someone make so much noise with their drink before! 12/7/13

On a side, there were a bunch of turkeys making another ruckus.  Not as many as Our Hunting Adventures … New York but enough to bring a smile to my face.

Kyle always seems to make the days interesting.  One of the trips to see me, he came straight up in my tree stand, pushed me aside and plopped himself down.  It look like he just set up camp!  We were both cracking up, just because he seriously is so funny!

Then, I could tell he couldn’t wait to share his experience with me, probably because he knew I would get a kick out of it.  Which I totally did!

Kyle started by saying, “Well, Aunt Heather let me tell you about my morning.”  Seriously?  What a trip!  He continued, “First pappy knocked my bag, with all of my food off the tree stand onto the ground.  Then, I got deer poop on my hand.”  As he was showing me his hand (cleaned).  What!  What?  “Kyle, how on earth did you get deer poop on your hand in a tree stand?”  I was seriously wondering what the heck those two were doing.  Kyle said dramatically, “Well, when I was climbing up the ladder to get back in the tree stand, pappy must have tramped in deer poop and got it on the ladder and I put my hand in it.”  Gross!  Even worse, he knew I was totally grossed out and he continued on about the deer poop story.  “Ya and pappy had to pour my water onto my hand so we could get it out.”  I’m trying not to fall out of my stand laughing at this kid!  Then, the ultimate, he kept touching my arm with THE hand.  I said, “Stop touching me with the poop hand!”  He must have thought that was an invitation because he began patting me on the head with THE hand.

Later, dad retold the story and said, “That kid!  And how did he know I was the one who tramped in the deer poop, the deer scat?  No, it couldn’t have been him?” (sarcasm) On a side note, we find humor in calling the deer poop, scat.  So we exaggerate that word every time we see it or reference it.  Dad elaborated, “Ya we had to use all the water and you should have seen him scrubbing his hand and wiping it on me.  That kid!”  That’s our Kyle.

After, we calmed down, Kyle decides he has to go to the bathroom.  What?  Now the truth comes out.  He didn’t just visit me to see how I was doing, he came up so I would hang with him while he went to the bathroom in the woods.  You see dad said, “If you have to go to the bathroom, you’re walking back to the truck and doing it there.  I don’t want you going [to the bathroom] around our tree stands and hunting areas.”  Reiterating dad, I said, “You’re not going here! Go back to the truck, it’s not that far.”  Hesitantly, “Ya but I’ll probably get lost, I’ll just go around here.”  What?  No!

So what did I do?  I walked him up and over the hill, which happened to be the property line and let him use that area.  “Kyle I’m going back to the tree stand, when you’re done, go back the way you came, OK?”  He also commented, “Don’t tell pap until we get back to the truck.”  With my reply, “Ya right!   I’m tell him as soon as I see him.”  In my mind, I’m also telling his Aunt Nikki and Gigi about the situation.  Obviously he didn’t want to tell pappy and have to walk to the truck.

A little while later, I thought I saw Kyle at the top of the hill, walking down the wrong side, but then he disappeared.  Only to reappear again, standing at the top of the hill looking around.  I was cracking up, the kid got lost!  Finally, he was looking in my direction and I waved.  Kyle waved back!  Too funny!  Seriously, how can he not see me?  I’m up in a tree, probably close to his eye level, just a little distance away, wearing bright orange!  I stand out like a sore thumb.  Whatever.

Once he made his way back, he jumped up in my tree stand to confess the obvious.  I couldn’t resist asking, “Did you get lost?”  He smiled and confirmed my suspicion while we giggled over his actions before heading back to hang with his pap.

Leaving the day defeated, but having a truly fun day, we headed home.  Later on, we found out there wasn’t any action going on around my parents house either.  No one was seeing deer this year and especially not bucks.  How can that be?  There are at least a dozen or so dead deer along side the highways?

Dad and I went back to Green County to try our luck on Tuesday.  The same old nothing, however I did see the same couple of doe in about the same location.  But aside from that, zip!   I even hiked the hillside trying to push the deer out for dad.  Let me tell you, my butt and quads were burning!  That is one steep hillside and it was full of thick brush, which makes it really hard to walk through.  Tuesday heated up a bit and no movement from the deer.

Actually the only excitement came from dad.  Some hunter on the adjacent property, which apparently dad had words with in previous years, cut through the hunting area were dad and I were sitting, to try and push deer onto his property.  Dad yelled at him to stay on his own property and that was the last of it.

Read our hunting adventures of 2013

Our Hunting Adventures … New York
Our Hunting Adventures … New York Continued

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

The Hobbit: It’s Always an Adventure with Kyle

I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.
I should think so — in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!  ~J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

the-hobbit-the-desolation-of-smaug-Aunt Heather Piper

Yes, this past Saturday I took Kyle to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, in complete anticipation since we saw The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey.  Did I read the book?  You bet!  As did Kyle and we both loved it!  Kyle read all The Lord of the Rings books.  I, myself, am on the last of the series, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.  Truly great reads and a really cool, adventurous world to get lost in.

So what did we think of the movie?  LOVED IT!  I’m not sure what I loved the most: the integrity of the book brought to the big screen, the characters and their consistency, the excitement of the entire adventure, or the company I keep?  I have a feeling it’s a little bit of all of the above with an emphasis on the later.

Since it was a busy day, we attended Holy Family Church, the four-thirty mass.  Yes, we rearranged our day just so we could go to the seven o’clock showing of The Hobbit.  Going any later wouldn’t have sat well with me since I am an ‘early to bed, early to rise’ type of gal.  I suppose we could have gone to the traditional Sunday morning mass, but I knew we still had to get the Christmas tree and it’s nice not rushing around on a Sunday morning, yet knowing we made time to visit God in His house.

As the hours approached, the snow kept falling.  Snow, was really not the issue but the temperature.  It was teetering between freezing and rain.  That makes for less than desirable driving conditions, especially at night.

The-Hobbit-The-Desolation-of-Smaug-Tauriel Aunt Heather PiperNormally, I take Kyle to the Carmike 15 Cinema behind Westmoreland Mall in Greensburg, which is only about ten miles from my parents house in Latrobe.  However, I really didn’t feel comfortable driving, mostly the return trip, with the roads on the brink of becoming an Olympic sized luge track.  I mentioned this to Kyle and he about fell into an immediate depression and despair.  I know I agreed, but it wasn’t worth putting us both in potential harms way.  Trying for an immediate solution that we both could agree upon, I mentioned that we could go to a Sunday matinee.  Kyle’s response?  “It came out this Thursday and we have yet to see it!”  Keep in mind it was only Saturday, not a month after being released.  What to do?  What to do?  When you need answers, turn toward the internet.  Low and behold, Latrobe 30 Theatre & Cafe was playing The Hobbit!   It was only a few miles away.  What time?  Seven-thirty, perfect!

See, even before getting to the movies, it’s always an adventure!  Once we arrived, now comes a few of our standard arguments.  Normally, I’m on the fence about the popcorn, but I already agreed to let Kyle have his snack.  This movie theater offers slightly more options such as sandwiches and, yes, soft pretzels.  In a very pensive voice, speaking really only to himself said, “Now do I want a pretzel or popcorn?”  Then, turned to me as if confirming his conclusion by saying “Both?”  “Umm, no, pick one or the other buddy.  Kyle why don’t you get the pretzel since they usually don’t have those at the other theater?”  He opted for the popcorn and I am ashamed to say I buckled and got junior mints. (always remembering the Seinfeld episode).

Now ready for argument number deux?  Where to sit?  This movie theater is a lot smaller than the ones we normally attend, but I still like to sit toward the back, while Kyle likes his nose touching the big screen.  Since he picked our seat the last movie,  Thor 2:  The Dark World, I got my own way.  That is until my mind was changed for me.  As we sat there, a large man sat directly in front of me, and for the life of me, I could not see over him or around him.  Within a matter of seconds of this happening, Kyle turned toward me with this ornery look on his face like, ‘See, we should have sat where I wanted to.  Are we going to move?’  We did!  Kyle was happy, I didn’t really care.

The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug Dwarf in a BarrelNow, are we settled to watch the movie?  Nope.  Kyle decides he’s hungry for real food, not snacks.  He left and ordered himself a pulled pork sandwich.  Not a bad choice!  But now the real fun begins.  Kyle will not eat anything, nothing not even his popcorn before the movie starts.  Seriously, it’s like this thing with him, this irritating thing that I don’t get and kind of drives me crazy.  All the while I polished off my junior mints before there was picture on the screen.  Kyle said, “Now you don’t have anything to eat during the movie.”  Almost in a superior type of tone.  I said, “I don’t care, I would rather focus on the movie.”  Not Kyle, he sat there with his sandwich and popcorn lined up perfectly in front of him, waiting patiently to be devoured.  He would not even sample one kernel of popcorn!  Forget it if I tried to sneak a snack.  He must not have been too hungry.  That kid!

So now the movie right?  Yes!  What makes a movie is Kyle’s commentary.  He is sometimes so quick witted and sarcastic, it cracks me up.  At one point Bombur the one dwarf, the really fat one, was in a barrel and the barrel got loose and took off, taking down rows of orcs.  Classic stupid humor but totally cracked us up, especially when he ended up in a partial barrel encompassing his enormousness body,  still holding his ax and getting ready to fight.  We died!  Trying not to create too much for a ruckus in the theater, we were laughing so hard, there was no sound coming from our mouths.

Also, every time the orcs would call Tauriel the “She-Elf”, we both thought that to be hilarious. (Even though that was not original to the books)

The-Hobbit-An Unexpected Journey Aunt Heather PiperThen, came the best comment of the movie.  Legolas was shooting arrows into the orcs and he shot two orcs in the head with one arrow.  Kyle leaned in to me and said, “That’s Gigi’s shot!”  I was rolling in my seat trying to stay afloat.  You see, once years ago when my mom hunted, she accidentally shot two deer with one shot.  She shot the one closest to her and the bullet went through to the second deer standing directly behind the first, totally unbeknownst to her behind until she walked up on her kill.  Kyle loves hearing that story and apparently it has resignation with him.

What was really funny, was our reactions to the end of the movie.  Prior to seeing the second installment, we both read that they were making The Hobbit into a three part series.  Yet, for some reason we both thought it was only going to be two parts.  Then comes the end, and it abruptly stops.  Kyle, with this surprised look on his face said, “What?  It’s not over!  How are they going to make a third movie when there’s only a little bit left?”  I said, “That’s the power of Hollywood, they will probably embellish it a bit to stretch it out.”  Then, in pure disbelief Kyle asked to use my phone.  He looked it up and yes, the third movie is scheduled to come out next December of 2014.  How can we wait that long?

Yes it was truly a splendid evening with my little man.  Kyle was happy to see the movie, as was I.  Although I think he was more excited to see it before his Aunt Nikki.  That made his night!

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

One Month Flew By – Time Does Fly

But meanwhile time flies; it flies never to be regained.  ~Virgil
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Kyle & Nicole exchanging gifts at Christmas 12/24/10

Everyone finds themselves saying this at least a few times in their life, ‘Where did the time go?’  These fast few weeks, actually past month has been a whirlwind.  Just to recap, mostly for my own sanity, there was hunting in New York, then I was on set for a couple of days for a new television series shot in Pittsburgh, then Thanksgiving came and went, then hunting season for two weeks locally, then my parents Wedding Anniversary, then the Discovering Portage Scavenger Hunt, and Christmas tree shopping with the family.  Those are just the highlights.  I’m sure I’ll elaborate on each of these as I find the time in my schedule, but I wanted to get my thoughts organized to what seriously has been going on.

This past weekend alone was busy, busy, busy.  I guess this time of year most people find that the case.  Administering to the Discovering Portage Scavenger Hunt, in Portage, Pennsylvania took up a better part of my Saturday.  Of course the days leading up in preparation for an event, is also equally time consuming.  The Portage Winterfest commissioned Thrill of the Hunt to develop and administer to the Discovering Portage Scavenger Hunt for their Winterfest.  Great idea!
Discovering Portage Scavenger Hunt Thrill of the Hunt Aunt Heather Piper
The weatherman was forecasting a huge blizzard, which really wasn’t the case, but the snow did randomly fall.  Seriously, it was so pretty!  Portage is about sixty some miles from Latrobe, Pennsylvania, about an hour and half to get there, opposite direction of Pittsburgh.  Not a huge commute, but a little bit of a challenge with snowy roads.  Now don’t get me wrong, I have no issues driving in the snow, at all.  But as common sense dictates, I am not invincible on the white covered roads and I needed to adjust my speed to reflect the weather, so it became a little more of a road trip.
As we were driving along, I couldn’t help but reflect on my sister’s Penn State University years.  Picking her up, bringing her back and visiting Nicole at Penn State forced us to drive past Portage with every trip.  So this little coal mining town was not foreign to me, but a familiar sign along the roadway.
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Finishing up the SpyRing Scavenger Hunt in Latrobe, Pa! Proceeds were donated to rebuild Playland! — Lain Marie Fisher, Rachel Berger-Gregg, Sarah Rosenbaum & Aaron Fish at Legion-Keener Park. 9/22/12

It was great having MaRissa accompany me on this job.  However, it was bittersweet not having my little helper right beside me.  Where was Kyle?  He had to work the soup kitchen in Latrobe for the Sacred Heart / Saint Cecilia Youth Group, and it was the last day of hunting in Pennsylvania.  Making the most of the opportunity when Kyle can’t assist me, I like to bring on new blood.  It helps me to train others and prepares me for future expansion of Thrill of the Hunt.  I’m not saying anyone that has worked for me will make Thrill of the Hunt their career choice, or maybe they will, but it does give them working experience and extra moola.  Plus it gives me an extra body and assistance.  Win, win for everyone.

When I finally rolled into town, Kyle was putting the finishing touches on with respect to the Christmas decorations at my parent’s house.  He did a great job, even lighting the candles so I had the full ambiance when I walked in the door!  It’s nice walking into a home that is decorated in the spirit of Christmas, with the fireplace on, snow covering the ground outside and still falling and my little man truly enjoying himself.  Perfect home feeling!
Shortly after settling in, we went to Saturday mass at Holy Family.  Why going out of our norm?  We chose that church because they offer an early Saturday mass.  The evening was promised to Kyle and a night in the movie theater.
Discovering-Greensburg-Scavenger-Hunt-Thrill-of-the-Hunt-Greensburg-Pa-9-21-13-v4

Elliott, MaRissa & Chris participating in the Thrill of the Hunt, Discovering Greensburg Scavenger Hunt for the Seton Hill University Homecoming weekend. Great job! 9/21/13

That was the moment Kyle was waiting for, literally for months, The Hobbit:  The Desolation of Smaug.  I must say I was in complete agreement with Kyle.  I too have been waiting to see this movie with much anticipation.  We both loved The Hobbit the book and the first movie and couldn’t wait for part deux.
Usually I take Kyle to the Carmike Cinema behind Westmoreland Mall off of Route 30, however I wasn’t too keen on driving up the highway with the roads in question.  They were a mix of snow, rain and slush, teetering on brink of freezing into sheets of ice.  So we went locally to the Latrobe 30 Theatre & Cafe.  To us, we didn’t care either way, we both wanted to continue the adventure of The Hobbit.  I just wanted to do it safely with my precious cargo.
Was it worth it?  Heck yes! I’m sure I’ll talk about it later, but Kyle and I had a great time watching that movie.  Now we can’t wait for the third and final Hobbit series, scheduled for release in December of 2014.  A year from now!
On Sunday, my family went to get a Christmas tree.  Yes, we’ve never had a fake Christmas tree and will never own one.  There is nothing like the smell of fresh pine in the house.  It’s presence alone brings nature indoors and really feels good on the soul.  Plus it’s a nice continued tradition of picking out the focal point of the living-room for the Christmas season.
Later on that day, Kyle had Christmas play practice for his youth group.  Apparently, Kyle is running the lights.  While he was doing that I was getting a jump on my next scavenger hunt, Heart & Soul Scavenger Hunt.  This one if for a work Christmas party in Annapolis Maryland.  Yes, it’s outdoors!  And yes, it’s for a company that manages and administers to kidney care.  No, I didn’t call it Heart & Soul on purpose.  The title was to reflect the caring nature of these workers and the great job they do and the joy they bring to others who are sick.  I can’t wait to administer to this scavenger hunt on Tuesday!
Lots happening, lots going on, lots to look forward too.
posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts,Travels and have No Comments

Nothings Better Than a Great Personality!

Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.  ~Bruce Lee

Kyle-Ethan-Playing-SpyRing-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Ethan Kramer & Kyle playing SpyRing Both boys are such characters! c. 2010

Okay, there are other traits that are equally as important as a great personality, but not many.  A great personality can get you further in life, I really do believe that wholeheartedly.  Sure, you need to be intelligent and your moral compass needs to point north, but I believe having great charisma is the key.  Usually, this goes hand-in-hand with good social skills and communication skills and I know it’s a stretch, but leadership skills.

Some people were just blessed with a double dose of great personality, who are easy to converse with and are witty.  Then, there are those who seemed to have missed out altogether and were blessed with other great qualities, personality not being one of them.

Why a dissertation on great personalities?  As Kyle grows, his personality strengthens and is really shaping his character.  And you know what?  He has the best personality!  It’s a little sarcastic, a little bit of humor, intelligence mixed with a little bit of “knuckleheadedness” and most importantly, sincere and respectfulness.  Kyle has a good, scratch that, GREAT personality!

Now, this isn’t a news flash, by no stretch.  Kyle’s personality has always been strong, even as a tiny little baby, but it’s neat watching him mature and grow.  Our little man has blessed us in so many ways and I am very thankful he has such a strong personality.  I would love him the same if he was a slug, but it sure does make life more interesting with his sense of humor.

Pokemon Twitter Converstation Aunt Heather Piper 10-2012

A screen shot of my twitter feed… 10/2012

Last weekend, I seemed to pick up on his humorous side more than normal because it seemed like every time I turned around, that kid was cracking me up.  We went to see Thor 2:  The Dark World.  Funny movie!  Kyle and I both picked up on all the subtle and not so subtle humor in the movie.  Love it!  That kid understands and appreciates humor and sarcasm and playful words.  It made the movie that much better!  If you want to know how Kyle and I are similar, that’s it!  So I guess it helps we get each other.

Perhaps, Kyle was giggling so much, just out of sheer exhaustion.  You see he earned that movie It’s Called Hard Work For A Reason.  Not to mention, early Saturday morning and the better part of the day, dad had us clean out his garage, getting ready for hunting season.  Regardless of the reason, hanging with Kyle is fun and almost addictive, unless we’re talking about whining.   Then you just want to run!

It was a busy weekend.  On Sunday morning before church, we went to the gun range to shoot in our rifles one last time before New York hunting.  Even while Kyle was knocking down the bowling pins (shooting mine) he was full of spirit.  Especially, after dad suggested that they swing by Dunkin Donuts to pick up a sweet treat.  I did not participate, but I gave a one donut blessing.

Kyle-at-Idlewild-Gutchess-Picnic-2004-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Me & Kyle at Idlewild for the Gutchess Hardwoods Picnic. My little man! 2004

Between Kyle spending time with my parents, practicing his piano and playing with his Legos, we had a whirl wind of activities.  Then, let’s not forget we were scheduled to join in on the hayride at Stoner Farm for Kyle’s youth group.  The hayride was scheduled for 6:30 pm, which means it was dark.  Being somewhere out by the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport, finding one specific dark farm among many fields and farms was a bit difficult.  Once we found the road to take us back to the bonfire and hay wagon, we drove on.  We continued back on the road, and back and back and back.  Until we noticed, we were driving in the field!  We must have missed our turn.  Kyle found the situation to be the funniest thing ever!  He was laughing so hard, as I’m dodging major potholes and ruts in the field, that I began to join suit.  Then he started cracking comments like “Maybe we’ll run into the hayride.”  What a funny kid!

Just as we both agreed to turn around, Kyle looked over his shoulder and said, “Umm Aunt Heather, the bonfire is over there!”  We both busted out laughing before heading back in the right direction.

Once we got there safe and sound, Kyle was still living in the moment and telling everyone what we just did.  Yep he can find humor in the simplest of moments.  Great quality buddy!  Just like your dad!

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

Random Fun Facts: Saint Vincent College

Nobody ever figures out what life is all about, and it doesn’t matter. Explore the world. Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough.  ~Richard P. Feynman

Saint-Vincent-Church-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Statue of Saint Boniface Wimmer in front of Saint Vincent Church at Saint Vincent College. I received the Sacrament of Confirmation in this church… Ryan was the alter boy.

Since I recently wrote about Random Fun Facts:  Latrobe, Pennsylvania, it wouldn’t be complete without addressing Saint Vincent College.

This past June, for Kyle’s birthday gift I got him, Bricks 4 Kidz, Kyle’s Lego Camp Birthday Surprise at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe!  Actually I got him two different Bricks 4 Kidz sessions, Animal Grossology for the morning session and Space Adventure – Star Wars for the afternoon session.  The Lego camp lasted a week, from Monday June 24 through Friday, June 28.  Kyle’s birthday is in July, so he was really surprised.

Boniface-Wimmer-Saint-Vincent-College-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Saint Boniface Wimmer, Saint Vincent College

The first day of Lego Camp, on Monday, I thought it would be neat to hang out with Kyle for lunch.  So I packed us a picnic and we ate on the college grounds.  It was a warm day but really pleasant under the trees.  Afterwords, I thought he might find a tour of the campus interesting.  In my head, I remembered how cool it was when Father Alred gave our sixth grade class a tour of the college when attending Sacred Heart.  He talked about the history, the architecture, the stain glass windows, and so on and so forth.

Well, as it turns out, I remembered the feeling more than the facts.  I must say, I fell short and needed a refresher.  Kyle wasn’t amused at all!  It was at that moment when I thought, I need to revisit Saint Vincent College, in the books.

Ironically, when I was doing research for the Discovering Greensburg Scavenger Hunt for Seton Hill University Discovering Greensburg in the Rain  (the sister college of Saint Vincent), at the Westmoreland County Historical Society, I came across a lot of intriguing content on  Saint Vincent College.  I hope you find the history of the college as interesting and almost mind blowing as I do!  Please read to the very end!  I promise it will shock you!

Saint-Vincent-College-Sportman's-Hall-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Sportman’s Hall, built in 1790 by Father Theodore Brouwers- later become Saint Vincent

Random Fun Facts: Saint Vincent College

  • Founded in 1846 – Saint Vincent Arch-abbey and College
  • In 1766, before the monks John Fraser, an Indian trader, acquired land on part of which Saint Vincent is now situated
  • February 10, 1766 granted a tract of land along the Forbes Road to John- made in the name of the King George II of Great Britain by Captain William Murray, Commander of Port Pitt.
  • December 3, 1768 John Fraser transferred teh entire parcel of land to James Hunter, a farmer for Five Pounds Lawful Money
  • James Hunter owned the land for 21 years
  • March 12, 1790, the Supreme Executive Council of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania granted Joseph Hunter “a certain tract of land called ‘Sportsman’s Hall'” – 1st time the name of Sportman’s Hall was given to individual tract of land (name retained for over half a century)
  • Sportman’s Hall was called “the Cradle of Catholicity in western Pennsylvania”
  • April 16, 1790 Joseph transferred the deed to Rev. Theodore Brouwers, O.F.M.
  • Father Brouwers died on October 29, 1790.  As per his will his body was laid to rest in a plot overlooking Sportsman’s Hall.  Since 1869 his remains have reposed under a a stone cross in Saint Vincent Cemetery
  • Father Brouwers provided his successor by bequeathing all of his real estate “to a Roman Catholic priest that shall succeed me in this same place, to be entailed to him and to his successors, forever.”
  • In 1787, 6 Catholic families moved from Philadelphia and settle near Greensburg
  • A small log church was erected
  • Sportsman’s Hall stood northeast to the present Saint Vincent Archabbey Basilica until 1883 – in 1930s a marker was erected on this site
  • Reverand Michael Galllagher succeeded Father Stillinger as pastor, serving until October 21, 1846 – then Rev. Boniface Wimmer, O.S.B. was pointed as pastor
  • Boniface Wimmer was a monk from the Benedictine Abbey of Metten in Bavaria

Hence the name Wimmerton for the neighboring housing development

  • Boniface Wimmer received the monastic name of Boniface upon his entry into the monastery, a name with deep significance for German Catholics
  • Saint Boniface was an English monk who in the 18th century brought the Gospel and the Benedictine Rule to the Rhineland, where he established  monasteries and served as bishop of Fulda

He wanted to provide education for the sons of German immigrants and train clergy for the German community in the United States.

  • Saint Vincent is the 1st Benedictine college in the United States
  • Saint Vincent sits on roughly 200 acres of land
  • First buildings were built by the monks
  • The Benedictine Rule is known for spirituality and practicality
  • By 1855, Saint Vincent was divided into the Seminary, the Classical Department, and the Commercial Department – basic structure of college for next 50 years
  • In 1870, the college was incorporated by the State Legislature of Pennsylvania and given the power to grant degrees in the arts and sciences
  • February 25, 1931 Benedictine Sisters left Germany to go to America, set up residence in Saint Vincent, to earn money to send back to mother house during World War I
  • By 1987, one sister retired and founded Saint Emma’s Retreat House in Greensburg
  • In 1948, there were 19 majors available in the divisions of Humanities, Social Sciences, Science and Business
  • January of 1963 – a fire destroyed part of the campus – no life was lost

On the campus they have a memorial with a rescued bell saved from the bell tower.  The bent and torn metal of the once perfect bell is so surreal yet intriguing.

  • In 1983, Saint Vincent became co-educational

Until that point it was an all male college, sister college to Seton Hill University, which used to be an all female college

  • The college is sponsored by the Benedictine Monks of Saint Vincent Archabbey and shares the campus with Saint Vincent Seminary (4-year graduate school of theology), and Saint Vincent Parish
  • Saint Vincent College offers undergraduate degrees in business, education, medicine, engineering government service and church.
  • Saint Vincent College offers Masters degree programs in education and business
  • The Fred M. Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media (yes THE  Mr. Rogers!) is a college center
  • Nationally known, students from 24 U.S. states/territories and 20 foreign countries – half of these students are in the top 20% of their high school graduating classes
  • Accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and School
Saint-Vincent-College-Bell-Tower-Aunt-Heather-Piper-

Bell Tower at Saint Vincent, built in 1871 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the arrival of the Benedictines in the U.S. In 1963, destroyed in a fire

Ok, now for the the really fun and interesting information I stumbled across.  Evidently, the students at Saint Vincent College need or did need to write a senior thesis before graduation.  Using primary resources, they were permitted to write about anything.

One student narrowed his focus to Latrobe and decided to write about the history of Latrobe’s volunteer firer-fighters and the Latrobe fire company.  Nice little topic!

Unbeknownst to him, he was going to stumble upon some really ground breaking news that was overlooked, even by Saint Vincent scholars, even to present day!  When I had lunch with my cousins John and Sherry Business Leader in the Form of a Youngster, in September, I asked John if he ever heard of the news I will reveal to you below.  He didn’t.  Dr. Olczak who also translated books for Saint Vincent College and most certainly was knowledgeable in the history of his Alma Mater, had no idea!

In the 1870’s, the Latrobe Advance, the local paper which is now the Latrobe Bulletin, circulated a story which dealt with a recent incident at Saint Vincent College.  What made the news but never made any other history books regarding the college and was forgotten?

Boniface Wimmer, yes the founder of Saint Vincent monastery and college, made the paper in the form of a small hidden story.  On October 1, 1879, the newspaper reported that the then 70 year old Abbot was nearly assassinated by a “lunatic”.  YEP!  No joke!  Keep in mind at this point in history, Boniface Wimmer was no stranger to the world, especially when concerned with his dedication and progress towards education and as a missionary.  In fact, he was recognized by many as the American Roman Catholic Church leader.  Kind of a big deal!  The paper reported that the mad man tried to assassinate Boniface Wimmer in his monastery room.

The story goes, a stranger was found lurking around, outside the monastery for several days.  On Saturday, September 13, 1879 the stranger gained access to the monastery where Boniface Wimmer resided.  A monk cut him off at the pass and ejected him from the premisses.  A week later the creepy stranger, on Tuesday September 23rd made his way back in the monastery and proceeded towards Brother Nicholas room.  He was the Porter or the gatekeeper of Wimmer.  This crazed stranger struck Brother Nicholas on the head and bolted up the stairs to the Abbot Boniface’s room.  (currently located in Mauer Hall and is used as a guest room) The lunatic took the key and tried to lock himself inside along with Boniface Wimmer.

Quick witted and matching reflexes, even from an aged man, the Abbot noticed this unusual sight and took the would-be assassin off guard before he could lock the door.  There was a tussle between the two men and that’s when Boniface Wimmer received a blow to the head, but not before gaining a hold of the intruders arm and managing to gain the upper hand. The 70 year old Abbot took down his attacker!  Yes!  He wrestled him to the floor!  This just proves, you have nothing to fear with God on your side and when you have complete faith in Him.

The recovering Porter came to Boniface’s assistance, after gaining his wits about him, and eventually a couple of monks arrived at the scene, hearing yells for help.  They removed the determined stranger from the premises.  No charges, no cops, no finger pointing, nothing.  Now-a-days that would have made front line news and opposing sides would be talking about it and pointing fingers at everyone including the Abbot for days, or weeks, heck months.  Everyone would have someone to blame.

The reason for this situation?  Not an Anti-Catholic message nor a hatred against Saint Vincent nor its Abbot.  The intruder was a Latrobe native who had mental issues and recently escaped from an asylum.  He felt if he killed the Abbot Wimmer he would in turn take his place as the Abbot of Saint Vincent.   At least the mentally disturbed man had goals!

Since this was not recorded anywhere else or brought to the spotlight, how can we know this actually happened? Even though back then the reporters needed to check and verify their sources, so I would be pretty confident they did their due-diligence before including the story in the paper.  Well, I came across documentation of a letter Abbot Wimmer wrote to the Vatican giving them an update on the church and the college.  This was a standard letter, with pleasantries and general day-to-day stuff.  At the conclusion of his letter, yes not as a headline, the butt end, as if just mentioning it in passing or as an afterthought, Abbot Wimmer made note of this incident.  Why didn’t he make it out to be the big deal it was?  Simply, because he was a humble man and didn’t want to upset anyone or have the general population turning on the assailant.   At least that’s my guess.  Or perhaps he didn’t like the negative publicity.  Either way, it was real history.

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,LEGO's,News,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts,Reminiscing,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts and have No Comments

Random Fun Facts: Latrobe, Pennsylvania

Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.  ~Fred Rogers

Aunt-Heather-Piper-Latrobe-Winterguard-c.1990

Me during a Winterguard performance at Latrobe High School. We were wearing yellow ribbons in support of our troops during Desert Storm.  c.1990

Being a Latrobe native, I have a special place in my heart for the city of Latrobe. Actually, let’s face it, I can’t just say I’m from Latrobe, I exude of Latrobe pride. Yep, I am a Latrobean through and through. Some may know Latrobe for the originator of Rolling Rock Beer or being the home of the Steeler Training Camp. But there is so much more to Latrobe, unbeknownst to many, including myself until I started digging.  Since I just recently brought a Thrill of the Hunt Doggie in Disguise? Scavenger Hunt? to Latrobe, here are some fun facts about my hometown.  On a side note, if you get a moment, check out the pictures from the Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt.  They are hilarious!

First let’s start with the pronunciation of Latrobe.  It is correctly pronounced (leɪˈtroʊb), with the “LA”, in front of TROVB.  However, if you are a native to Latrobe you pronounce it (lay-trobe) with a long “A” sound.  Subtle, but a huge noticeable difference.

 Random Fun Facts: Latrobe, Pennsylvania

United States Census Bureau

  • Population was 8,235 (2012)
  • 2.16 persons per household (2007-2011)
  • Land area in square miles – 2.23 (2010)
  • Persons per square mile – 3,600.2 (2010)
  • Situated in the eastern part of Westmoreland County, in Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands region

Founding

  • In 1750, recorded of first white man
  • Christopher Gist (surveyor for the Ohio Company) passed through Latrobe
  • In 1765, many owned land in Latrobe including first Congressman to represent Westmoreland County,William Findley
  • In 1851, official founding of Latrobe began when Oliver Barnes (civil engineer for the Pennsylvania Railroad) purchased Thomas Kirk’s 140-acre farm
  • Latrobe was named after Barnes college roommate, Benjamin Latrobe
  • Benjamin Latrobe never set foot in the town
  • 1852 founded by Oliver Barnes, a civil engineer for the Pennsylvania Railroad
  • In May of 1854, Latrobe was officially incorporated
  • In June of 1854, a borough government was established (at a meeting in the home of David Williams, contractor for the Pennsylvania Railroad)
  • Latrobe is named after Barnes best friend & college classmate, Benjamin Latrobe
  • Benjamin Latrobe was a civil engineer for the B&O Railroad
  • Benjamin’s father, Benjamin Henry Latrobe was the architect who rebuilt the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. after the War of 1812
  • Youngstown, Pa. was established more than 50 years before Latrobe (George Washington stayed in the Youngstown Hotel)
  • About 40 miles southeast of Pittsburgh
  • Early residents included Delaware, Shawnee, Seneca and Mingoe Indians (fished in the Loyalhanna River)
  • In 1999, declared a city
Latrobe-Pa-Marching-Band-1993-1994-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Greater Latrobe Marching Band (part of) senior night. Yes, the Colorguard were pirates! c. 1993

Originators

  • One of the first in the nation to use Pay-per-Parking app
  • Home of golf legend Arnold Palmer – born & raised
  • Home of Mr. Fred Rogers – born, raised & died
  • Home of the Steelers Training Camp at Saint Vincent College
  • In 1770s, the Unity Chapel was built (Presbyterian)
  • In 1780s, the first Catholic parish was formed
  • In the 1840s, The Benedictine Monks were established in Latrobe
  • In 1852, the Pennsylvania Car Works began building railroad cars
  • In 1900, first Jewish congregation, the Beth Israel was established
  • In 1904, pharmacist David Strickler created the banana split
  • In 1910, Latrobe Area Hospital began with the School of Nursing
  • In 1927, Latrobe Public Library started  (2,500 volumes – 500 books issued first day opened)
  • George Hamilton Adams (freight agent for the Pennsylvania Railroad) left in his will for a new building for the library
  • In 1954, the new library opened named Adams’ Memorial Library in his honor
  • In 1938, Kennametal, global leader of mining and construction tooling, and national leader of metalworking products was established

Even More

  • Latrobe Art Center offers classes for budding artists and exhibits local artists’ work
  • Built in 1903, the Latrobe Train Station (DiSalvo’s Station) functioned as a railroad station up to 1970
  • In the 1980s, the train station was restored and in 1986 was registered as a national historic landmark
  • The DiSalvo family purchased the train station in 1989 – added Italian restaurant
  • Amtrak service is available in the historic landmark train station (houses DiSalvo’s Station- fine Italian restaurant)
  • Westmoreland Scenic Railroad offers a train ride through the Laurel Highlands
  • Today Latrobe Area encompasses the city of Latrobe, Derry and Unity Townships, and the boroughs of Derry, New Alexandria and Youngstown
Christy-Andrea-Aunt-Heather-Piper-Latrobe-Pa-Colorguard-Captains-1993-1994

Christy Queer, Andrea Shafran & Me the Captains of Colorguard/Winterguard our senior year. 1993-1994

Greater Latrobe Schools

  • Students who take the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or American College Test (ACT) consistently score above state and national averages
  • Over 80% of graduates go on to post-secondary education (either 2 or 4 year college or trade school)
  • Computer instruction begins in kindergarten
  • All 3 elementary schools are lined into the district-wide network
  • All middle and high school students and faculty members have their own laptops computers lined to building-wide networks by wireless connections (NETSchools)
  • GLSD was the 1st school in Pennsylvania to implement a program of NETSchools initiative – all students have immediate access
  • In 1936, the Special Collection was started by 2 teachers to develop the students’ appreciation for the arts
  • Greater Latrobe Senior High School has the Center for the Student Creativity – designed to integration the arts into education
  • Greater Latrobe Senior High School houses the Special Collection of Greater Latrobe School District (about 200 works of original regional art)

 

As I was holding the Dog Gone!  Scavenger Hunt in New Hope, Kyle and I met up with my cousins Dr. John Olczak and his wife Sherry.  While we were catching up during lunch, John was reliving his undergrad days at Saint Vincent with Kyle.  He also mentioned that his dad, my Uncle Frank and my grandpap Chester, along with all the other brothers, Uncle Tex, Uncle Walter they used to caddy at the Latrobe Country Club.  Now that he said that, I kind of remember hearing about it,  However, what I didn’t know was my grandpap and his brothers were taught to golf by the same man who taught Arnold Palmer.  True story!

Arnold Palmer

  • His childhood home was close to the 6th hole at the Latrobe Country Club
  • His father was the club’s course superintendent & golf professional
  • At 11 years old started caddying
  • By 17 years old won his first 5 West Penn Amateur Championships
  • Attended Wake Forest University then joined the Coast Guard for 3 years
  • Married Winifred (Wini) Waltzer
  • In the fall of 1954 turned golf professional
  • Won 92 championships in professional competitions starting in the 1955 Canadian Open
  • During the 1960s, National Associated Press poll named him the “Athlete of the Decade”
  • Won the Masters Tournament 4 times
  • Won the British Open 2 times
  • Won the U.S. Open once
Marching-in-Latrobe-Parade-c.1991

Marching in the Latrobe Parade… the Colorguard wasn’t so lucky to wear T-shirts & shorts.  Sequins in heat is not pretty!  c. 1991

Mr. Fred Rogers

  • Born in Latrobe in 1928
  • Mr. Rogers Neighborhood was inspired by the streets of Latrobe
  • In 1953, he joined the staff of WQED Pittsburgh (nation’s first community-sponsored educational television station)
  • In 1955, won the Sylvania Award for best locally-produced children’s program “The Children’s Corner” (featured music & puppets)
  • In 1963, ordained as a Presbyterian minister
  • In 1966, debut of “MisteRogers”, became national in 1968
  • Show was renamed Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood so began the famous trolley and “Land of Make Believe” populated by Lady Elaine, Fairchilde, Kind Friday XIII and Henrietta Pussycat
  • Recipient of 2 George Foster Peabody Awards and “Lifetime Achievement” Awards from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and the TV Critics Association
  • In 2002, President George W. Bush presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom (nation’s highest civilian honor)
  • Died in February 2003

 

Arnold Palmer Regional Airport

  • Charles B. Carroll, a Scottdale resident would use Saint Vincent Aviation field as a landing (meadow of clover on a hilltop at Saint Vincent College)
  • In 1919, 2 Army Pathfinders made an emergency landing
  • Carroll leased the pasture at the junction of Lincoln Highway and Manito Road (now US Rt. 30 & Rt. 981)
  • In 1924,  Longview Flying Field was open for business
  • Built hangers to house the military army surplus planes
  • The pilots were soon called “Longview Boys” or “Carroll’s Hooligans”
  • In 1926, Longview Flying Field held 4 aricraft – 4th highest in Pennsylvania
  • Longview Flying Field ranked 4th highest in number of flights and 3rd in number of passengers
  • Carroll renamed the field J.D. Hill Airport, 4 years after opening (in honor of his friend who was killed in 1927 during an attempt to cross the Atlantic to Italy
  • In 1935, christened Latrobe Airport after Carroll and Latrobe joined forces to expand runways
  • May 12, 1939, the Latrobe Airport (now Arnold Palmer Regional Airport) hosted the country’s first scheduled airmail pickup
  •  In 1950, the former farmland was formally purchased from the Kerr family by Latrobe Borough
  • Next few years the Tri-County Municipal Authority was formed
  • In 1958, Bruno Ferrari took over management, then became known as the Westmoreland-Latrobe Airport (officially a commercial facility)
  • 20 years later became known as Westmoreland County Airport
  • In 1999, renamed in celebration of Arnold Palmer
  • Today handles about 50,000 aircraft departures and landings each year
  • Runway can accommodate aircraft up to a 727
  • 125 planes are based there (half are for business use and half for recreational use)
  • Amenities include: free parking, flight training (Westmoreland Aviation), aircraft maintenance, car rental, charter service, restaurant (DeNunzio’s), travel agency and gift shop
  • US International Airways maintains a terminal
  • A study by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation found that the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport contributes to $51 million annually to the economics of the surrounding area
Latrobe-Football-Game-Marching-Band-Aunt-Heather-Piper

During a Latrobe football game.. I could never sit there that long without moving around…c. 1993

Football

  • In 1895, John Brallier was one of the earliest football players to openly turn pro
  • Brallier’s compensation was $10 plus expenses when agreed to play for the Latrobe YMCA against Jeannette Athletic Club
  • In 1897, Latrobe Athletic Association was the 1st to field a team made up entirely of paid professional players that played a full season
  • Home of the Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp at Saint Vincent College since 1969 – 3rd longest continuously running site in the National Football League

Rolling Rock Beer

  • In 1939, Rolling Rock began brewing beer by the Latrobe Brewing Company in downtown Latrobe
  • 4.6% abv (alcohol by volume) pale lager
  • Mid 2006 sold to Anheuser-Bush (Moved to Newark, NJ)
  • 7 oz. bottle of beer that became known as a “pony”
  • Number 33 is printed prominently on all bottles of Rolling Rock
  • Many speculation about the number 33
    • The “33” refers to the founding year of the Pittsburgh Steelers
    • 33 degrees is the proper temperature to keep beer
    • Latrobe test-brewed 33 batches of beer before coming up with the final formula for Rolling Rock (which I thought was a recipe from the Saint Vincent Monks)
    • There were exactly 33 stair steps from the brewmaster’s office to the brewing floor in the original Latrobe brewery
    • The PA fish & game commission at the turn of the century numbered the streams within the commonwealth and the water that was used to brew this beer was taken from the stream numbered 33
    • Marked the repeal of prohibition in 1933
    • “33” signifies the 33 words in the beer’s original pledge of quality, which is still printed on every bottle
    • An executive wrote “33” at the end of the slogan, indicating the number of words, to be used as a guide for the bottle printers. Assuming it was part of the text and incorporated it into the label graphics
  • The current pledge is on the 12 oz. bottles, while the “little nip” pledge is from the 7 oz. bottle version

Rolling Rock – From the glass lined tanks of Old Latrobe, we tender this premium beer for your enjoyment as a tribute to your good taste. It comes from the mountain springs to you.

—Current pledge written on the Rolling Rock bottle

A little nip from the glass lined tanks of Old Latrobe. We tender this package as a premium beer for your delight and economical use. It comes from the mountain springs to you.

—Original pledge written on the Rolling Rock bottle
posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts and have No Comments

Smells of the Past, Missing You Ryan!

Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived.  ~Helen Keller

Ryan-with-Truck-Aunt-Heather-Piper-c.-1980s

Ryan playing with a toy truck… look at those boney legs! 1980s

I’ve said it countless times, yet it seriously does seem like it was just yesterday when Ryan moved out of our lives and moved permanently in with our Heavenly Father.  For him, great move!  For us, not so much!

How long has it been?  As of today, twelve very long yet short years.  He would have been 36 years old.

Among all the hustle and bustle of life, I do like to take a few minutes and remember Ryan, not that a day goes by when I don’t think of my little brother.  I’ll admit, acknowledging his birthday is easier than the anniversary of his death, but it’s an inevitable part of my life, as well as my family’s.

They say smell and scents are the most powerful memory triggers.  I concur!  Recently, dad had me take the gas tank when I went to fill up my car.  He wanted to get the allotted gallons of gasoline available with their Giant Eagle Perks Card.  Naturally, it’s not that easy and I spilled the gas jug in the back of my car.  Luckily, I had not one, but two blankets under the unstable plastic jug full of potent liquid.

Nicole-holding-Ryan-on-Bike-Aunt-Heather-Piper-1980s

Ryan trying out Nicole’s new bike. Casey is on the right. c. 1980

The smell in the car only lasted about a day, until the fumes evaporated.  But I will admit as I was cruising along, the smell brought me back to Ryan.  You see he did the same thing!  Except he wasn’t as lucky.  His trunk and the inside of the car had matching odors that seemed to last FOREVER!  How do I know?  Because for some reason, around that time I needed Ryan to take me to and from work.  So yes, I had to sit in the car with my head hanging out the window like a dog, just to catch some fresh air.  I’m sure I totally exaggerated it at the time, but Ryan got a kick out of me.  Well, maybe not, but he tolerated my silly behavior.

Eventually, someone told me about this carbon type of bag that you place in such an environment to absorb the smell.  Ryan always maintained my cars, cut the rotors when needed, replaced the brakes, changed the oil,  and the list goes on and on.  He would never take any money from me, so when an opportunity arose to get him the perfect gift, I jumped at the chance!  This carbon bag was pretty cool, it actually worked!  Once the smell infiltrated and was captured in the carbon bean bag, it was to be placed in direct sunlight to eliminate the order.  Really a nifty invention!

As I drove around, memories of that time came back to me.  Not the most heartfelt story, but to me all memories of Ryan tug at my heartstrings.  No matter if they were fond or foul memories, they are all near and dear to me.

Ryan-fishing-in-Montana-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Ryan fishing in Montana, when he traveled with Jim, Casey & Joel. c.1989

On a side note, I didn’t think to lay out the gasoline soaked blanket in the sunlight to evaporate the fumes before washing it.  Nope, not me, I immediately placed the saturated blanket in mom’s washer when I got back to their house to drop off the culprit gas tank, thinking I got it in good time.  Well, what I didn’t anticipate was the aroma de gasoline was going to set up camp in the washer and leave a little trace on every piece of clothing it encountered.  Not a pretty sight or smell, but eventually it worked its way out, and all is good now.

This would have been one of those situations Ryan would have rolled his eyes at me, knowing better, and just snickered to himself.  Heck, he probably would have called me on it, saying something along the lines of “Idiot” or “Really Smart!”, or “Why didn’t you think first?”.  Yep, that was Ryan!  I would have said the same thing if the roles were reversed.

When the day is done, we were all a very tight and close family, willing to do anything for each other.  Kyle has very much joined those ranks.  He is not only my nephew, but he has started to turn into my brother too.  Ryan would have loved to do the things I am doing with Kyle, but I guess he’s enjoying our activities and interaction from a different seat.

I can’t wait to join Ryan and have him as a roommate again!  Save a seat for me Ryan!

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

Doggie in Disguise? Scavenger Hunt?

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.  ~Roger Caras

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Winner of best Costume! Way to go Molly! Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt in Latrobe, Pa. 10/19/13

It’s funny, this is my first year not planning for Kyle’s Halloween costume.  I guess once you hit twelve years old and are in the seventh grade, kiss trick-or-treating goodbye, as well as all the candy.  I’ve always looked forward to this time of year with Kyle, but my little man is maturing.  Well, as much as a Piper can.

What fills this void?  A Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt of course.  Yes, Thrill of the Hunt hosted the first ever Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.  What exactly does this mean?  No, the dogs were not expected to find items but they did dress up in disguise, walked alongside their owners and joined in on an adventure throughout the city of Latrobe.

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Zoey as Batman at the Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt in Latrobe, Pa. 10/19/13

This event was a laid back and easy going scavenger hunt, an activity for dogs, their owners and the whole family to enjoy.  After all, The Piper Corporation does encourage family fun and togetherness, building and reinforcing the bonds of the family. The participants were given clues and riddles to find out which store in downtown Latrobe they needed to stop by.  As I’ve always said, part of my scavenger hunt strategy is to encourage foot traffic directly to specific participating local stores and shops to reinforce branding and to give them an advertising opportunity.  I want to help local merchants and the communities alike.

Once the Thrill Seekers (those who participate in a Thrill of the Hunt scavenger hunt) arrived at a correct location, the participants collected dog toys and treats with each stop.  This particular scavenger hunt contained a total of seven missions and online challenges, an increase from past scavenger hunts.  I might just add a few more stops to next year’s Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt, extending the fun even more!  Everyone was also asked to conduct online challenges that included taking pictures and video of them with their dog at specific locations, making the event more thought provoking and interactive.

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Angie & her family joining the Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt in Latrobe, Pa. 10/19/13

What makes this scavenger hunt so much fun and just plain hilarious?  The dog costumes!  Yes, the dogs were dressed in their Halloween best!  When everyone finished finding their clues we gathered at the finish line, which happened to be the Family Video parking lot.  There, our non-bias outsider, John was present to judge the costumes, picking a winner.

Congratulations Molly, Super-girl won!

I will admit, that was the best part of the scavenger hunt!  Some of the costumes totally cracked me up!  There was a turtle, batman and joker, a witch and Elvis, among other very creative costumes.  In fact, one family told me since their daughter was too old for trick-or-treaing, they thought they would dress up the family dogs and take them out. Perfect idea!

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Elvis even made his appearance at the Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt in Latrobe, Pa. 10/19/13

Prior to planning the event, I worked with Darlene Smucker from the B & D Activity Center in Latrobe.  She owns a huge indoor dog facility that she brings in vets, hosts competitions and dog training sessions, among other 4-legged activities.  Perfect start location.  Both parties, B & D Activity Center and Family Video graciously let us use their space for the morning.  I also worked with Nick from the City of Latrobe to coordinate this scavenger hunt on the day of Latrobe’s Autumn Fest.

Everything certainly came together nicely.  God even blessed us with a nice brisk sunny day, perfect for walking around in the fall air, among the multicolored foliage of Latrobe.

Since the completion of the scavenger hunt, the Action for Animals Humane Society in Latrobe contacted me about maybe joining efforts to create one big event to benefit both parties.  I think that would be a great idea!  I’m totally game!  My friend Tree actually suggested the same thing earlier this year, but it looks like it might happen for the next annual Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt.

I’ve been working on Thrill of the Hunt full time for nearly six months now.  And as I’ve been developing and administering to these hosted scavenger hunt events, I thought how I could give back, making my scavenger hunts even more community friendly?  Eventually, when our popularity and participation increases, I will have the resources to donate a portion of the proceeds back to local charities, with respect to the themed scavenger hunt.  Another goal I would be happy to fulfill.

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Our participants had a lot of fun at the Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt in Latrobe, Pa. Can’t wait till next year! 10/19/13

My buddy, Kyle joined in administering to Saturday’s Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt.  Even Aunt Nikki made her appearance with Avery (a.k.a. Acron) wearing her angel wings, just as the judging was to begin.

I really truly can’t wait for next year!  It’ll be even better!

On a side note, I want to give my friend Holly a big shout out!  She not only walked around with me passing out flyers for the Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt but she also was my biggest cheerleader with her fellow dog friends, spreading the word on our event and building the excitement!  If she ever wants to quit nursing, she has a job with me in marketing and event planning.  Thanks Holsters!

Check out all the pictures on the Thrill of the Hunt Gallery Page, the Facebook Page, the Pinterest Page, as well as the videos on the Youtube Channel.  Please support our local start-up company and Like US and Follow Us!  Remember, everyone needs to … Experience the Game!

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

Fort Ligonier Days Parade – Marching Down Memory Lane

I look forward to this every year. … It’s always exciting for me. All my family is involved, and we love the bag pipes and parades.  ~Jim McKenzie

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Kyle playing with Thomas the Tank at Fort Ligonier Days, Ligonier, Pa. 10/11

Who doesn’t love a good parade?  I certainly do, well maybe without some of the side effects such as traffic congestion, parking issues and herds of people milling around in a small area.  Although it’s always fun to sit and watch the different floats, banners, bands and groups passing by in somewhat of a rhythm.  To be honest, I love seeing what bands are attending the parade and I like checking out their fashion flares, music choices and the quality of the Colorguard.  My old area of expertise!

On Saturday, we went to the annual Fort Ligonier Days Parade.  We’ve been attending this event for as long as I can remember, not ritually every year, but more than not.  I’ve also been taking Kyle since he was a little man sitting in my lap.  Now he requires his own seat, but seems to enjoy the parade the same.

Some years Fort Ligonier Days Weekend was so cold we needed blankets, hats, gloves and long underwear when sitting there watching the parade.  While, other years, it rained and yet some have been perfect fall days.  This past weekend God blessed us with such superb  weather!  It was sunny, mild temperature, blue skies with white fluffy clouds.  That made it more enjoyable.  I guess I wasn’t the only one who thought so, because people came out in the masses.

Anyone who has attended the parade knows, you have to place your chairs out the night before, which we always do.  Usually they are covered with trash bags to keep the rain off of them, as we did on Friday night.  Leading up to the weekend, it rained and was cold and dreary, so it was a nice surprise when the sun made its way out to greet the weekend participants.  Even when we were setting up our chairs, I believe go time was at 6:00 pm, it was drizzling.  You see there’s a specific time chairs are permitted to stake claim to small areas of the sidewalk in Ligonier, in preparation for the next day’s parade.  They don’t mess around and they mean it too!

It’s no secret I marched in the Fort Ligonier Days Parade for four years in a row during my high school days.  I was never a big fan of participating in parades, probably because most of them were hot and boring, but I will admit I loved the Fort Ligonier Days parade.  It was never really too warm or sunny.  To be honest, I didn’t mind the cold and being in the Laurel Mountains in the fall is such a pretty time of the year.  The trees show such vibrant colors everywhere, it’s like being Mary Poppins and entering your very own painting, not to mention Ligonier is so quaint and nostalgic.  Who wouldn’t love spending a day in those parts of the woods?

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Kyle finally got his caramel apple at Fort Ligonier Days. He was happy! Ligonier, Pa. 10/12/13

As the parade passed us along, mom and I would make comments to Kyle like, “There goes Kyle!” as the trumpet section passed.  Kyle is starting to show interest in participating in the marching band, just like I did.  Well, I was part of the Colorguard and Kyle plays the trumpet, among the piano and guitar (kinda), but regardless, I have been encouraging this interest.  Participating in the Colorguard, Winterguard and the Indoor Drumline gave me my fondest memories and adventures of my high school years.  I really truly mean that!

Kyle’s reaction to our said comments and encouragement?  He started saying, “Ya that’s hard twirling a stick!”  He is such a little stinker!  Razzing me like that!  I made him eat his words when some of the Colorguard showed off their skills right in front of us by doing tosses, spins and such.  Thank you ladies!  Your timing was perfect!  He was certainly amazed over West Virginia University’s Colorguard, as was I!  Nice job!

I didn’t take Kyle down to the Fort this year because it was so terribly crowded and I can only handle crowds for so long, before my complete claustrophobia settles in and my patience runs low.  Kyle went on a field trip to the Fort a few years ago for school, so it’s not like he was missing out on anything.  I’ve been in the Fort a few times, mostly when I was a youngster with my family.  I remembered me and Ryan really getting a kick out of the whole place, including those dressed up like Native Americans.

True story, dad and my cousin Merle cut down and hauled in the logs whenever they renovated the Fort years ago, long before I was around.  So in a way dad helped out with rebuilding history in our very own backyard.  Too cool!  We’ve told Kyle that story a couple of times over the years.  He loves hearing it and I know he feels the same pride as I do.

As we were sitting there watching the parade pass, it dawned on me, Hempfield Marching Band was probably among the mix.  Why was that so important?  Kyle’s piano teacher was student teaching at the high school and he was assisting with their marching band.  As my revelation occurred to me, I mentioned it to Kyle and his face lit up!  He couldn’t wait to see his teacher.  And sure enough, as Hempfield passed, I looked up the street to the endless line of marching band members and I saw his teacher in full suit marching along side his students.  He was on the same side as us too!  What luck!  I pointed him out and Kyle began waving like a little manic trying to catch his attention.  Did he?  You bet!  David flashed Kyle an ‘I know you’ smile, which made Kyle’s day even more complete!

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Kyle in front of the Idaho Potato truck. Yep, that’s a sculpture of a really large potato on the back of the truck! Fort Ligonier Days, Ligonier, Pa. 10/12/13

Obviously, there is more to Fort Ligonier Day’s besides the parade.  A few years ago when we were walking around another perfect day at the Fort Ligonier festivities, Kyle and I stumbled upon a huge, almost life size chess set, set-up outside one of the toy stores in town.  At that point, Kyle had already fell in love with the thought provoking and strategic game.  Naturally, he kicked my butt.

As I’ve always said, Kyle remembers EVERYTHING.  On Kyle’s agenda this year?  Yes you guessed it, the giant chess set!  He even did a little recon mission while using the restroom facilities during the parade to find exactly where the chess set was located.  That kid cracks me up!  Did we play a mean game of chess?  Nope!  There were others playing at the time of our arrival, not having any patience, I didn’t want to wait for the girls to complete their game.  Kyle was miffed.  It brought on the whines and the pouting.  I guess I really moved his cheese, but mom was waiting for us and I didn’t want her sitting there all day.  How did I make up for this disappointment?  I promised to play him chess at home.  He told me, “I can’t wait to tell you checkmate!”  Told you, he’s such a stinker!  And he did!

The only part of the tradition that did not make it into the day was the kettle corn.  Yes, we always manage to get a large bag of homemade kettle corn for the road.  This year, we truly couldn’t find the kettle corn stand among the crowds of warm bodies.  I also really didn’t feel like squeezing through people with a whinny disappointed kid.  So no kettle corn, but we certainly survived.

While hauling around our stuff, I couldn’t help but reflect on Kyle’s book.  Yes, Kyle made haste and was using his time wisely before the parade with a good book, as was I.  His chosen reading material?  The second book in the Divergent series, Insurgent by Veronica Roth.  Mine?  Lord of the Rings The Two Towers.  I already read both of the Divergent books and on another side note, I seriously can’t wait for the third and final installment, Allegiant.  Same goes for Kyle!

I remember years ago, when I was completely addicted to the Twilight books I was reading New Moon and I truly didn’t want to put it down, not even for the parade.  While sitting there some lady turned to me and said, “Wow, you are really into that book!  It must be really good?”  It was!  I could have continued with my face in the pages until completion if I didn’t have a little man sitting in my lap telling me different.  Now he was in the same boat I was in, totally addicted to the words on the pages.  That’s the chip off the old block!

Yep, it’s funny how one parade has such great memories and continues to build upon those year after year.  I do enjoy walking around and seeing all the crafts and art and such.  I mean Kyle even chose to go to the Fort Ligonier Days Parade instead of waiting for Game Stop to open to get his pre-ordered Pokemon video game.  Good choice buddy!

Can’t wait for next year!

On a side note, I totally forgot my trusty phone during the parade.  Yep, therefore I got no pics or video.  Total bummer!  Kind of out of my nature, yet, totally something I would do, and did!

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

Business Leader In the Form of a Youngster

The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.  ~Ronald Reagan

Dog-Gone-Scavenger-Hunt-New-Hope-Thrill-of-the-Hunt-9-14-13-v45 Aunt Heather Piper

One of the dogs from the Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt in New Hope 9/14/13

On Saturday, Thrill of the Hunt had another Dog Gone!  Scavenger Hunt in New Hope, Pennsylvania.  Is that far from me?  Heading out there is about a five hour trip, 300 miles one way.  So it’s certainly a hike and a half.  Why did we have a scavenger hunt so far away?  Simply, because I love the area, it’s so quaint and charming and I’ve found the business owners and locals very easy to work with and very positive about what I have to offer.  Not to mention, breaking out into New Hope was my way of introducing Thrill of the Hunt to the eastern side of Pennsylvania and the surrounding areas.  New Hope is just across the Delaware River from New Jersey, and is relatively close to New York, Maryland and Delaware.  Yep, New Hope, a borough in Bucks County, my next stop.

Kyle still loves being apart of all things with The Piper Corporation.  I mean that!  He never snubs his nose or whines when we have work to do with the company, well almost never.  In fact, Kyle got a new Macbook Air for this past birthday.  His comment to me?  “Now Aunt Heather I can help you out with the scavenger hunts!”  He meant it wholeheartedly.  Kyle always shows the most enthusiasm when it comes to the company work.  He really enjoys it and I enjoy having Kyle help me out and be apart of hopefully his future legacy, if desired.

Everyone knows Kyle is pretty money centric.  Not with Thrill of the Hunt.  Every now again, I will pay the kid in movies and popcorn, but no hard cold cash is ever transferred.  One day soon I hope to be able to put him on the payroll, but until then, Kyle understands and is just happy to help out.  And he truly is a huge help to me!

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Kyle manning his post at the Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt in New Hope. 9/14/13

We left Saturday morning around 3:30 am on a long day of fun.  It was a little difficult to get the twelve year old up, but let’s face it, it would be hard to get anyone up at that hour.  Without a second thought, Kyle even went to bed early so he could rest up for the long work day.  My little planner!

Once in the car he slept, and slept, and slept, and slept.  He did wake up briefly, while I made a pit stop, but he stayed in the car and relaxed.  I had a heck of a time waking him up when we finally got to New Hope.  He really didn’t want to join the land of the living.

Getting there early to set up and address any last minute issues and get our bearings straight helps to reduce stress.  I try to practice such behavior whenever possible, teaching Kyle the same lesson, after all I had my car packed and ready to go by Wednesday.  The one thing about the scavenger hunt events, almost everything needs to be done prior to, at least all the hard leg work.  So come the day of the event, it’s enjoyable not only for the participants, but also for us.

Usually Kyle stays with me, helps with registration, taking pictures and addressing questions, but alas this particular scavenger hunt I needed Kyle to pass out a prize at a participating business.  Did he mind?  Not really, he doesn’t prefer to be by himself, but he loves being needed and helping out.

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Kyle is mingling with a few dogs during the Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt in New Hope, Pa. 9/14/13

Part of my business model with the Thrill of the Hunt Events, is to help local communities and businesses by bringing the customer directly to their storefront, driving direct traffic.  There is more to the Thrill Sponsorship Program, but that’s how it came to be and the basic idea.  Well, I did have a local business who wanted to participate, but was unable to have dogs in their store.  They also didn’t have the staff on a Saturday to have someone stationed outside of their facility passing out prizes.  Problem solved, Kyle.  Normally, I wouldn’t have offered his service, but I’ve done this event already and I was an old hand at it.  So if I could help out, then I will, and I did.  Plus the business owner gave coupons for the participants’ goodie bags and branded them Thrill of the Hunt.  They too were trying to promote my company.  Now that’s working together!

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Kyle helping me out during the Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt in New Hope, Pa. What a businessman – a true leader! 9/14/13

So my little man and I were separated for the better part of the scavenger hunt.  He was cracking me up while he was sitting on his little perch outside the storefront.  He was passing out flyers promoting the Dog Gone!  Scavenger Hunt to any late comers.  Brilliant!  He even took one for the team.

Apparently, as per Kyle, he was trying to hand out a flyer to someone walking their dog and saw a few more dog owners walk past him.  He changed his mind and made an about face to approach the other set of dog walkers and splattered on the ground!  What?  Yep!  I saw the bark removed from his leg.  When he came to me later on in the day, he explained his story and showed me his minor scrapes on the knee and hands.  He did so without drama and without complete agony, very unlike Kyle.   To be honest, as soon as he told me his story, I busted out laughing.  Without controlling my laughter, Kyle joined in and proceeded to tell me that he had no idea what made him fall.  He didn’t trip, he just fell.  Boy does he remind me of Nicole!  He said, “I bet everyone that saw me wondered why I fell!”  I bet!

Anyway, while he was sitting there, I did receive several phone calls from Kyle.  He was keeping me updated on who stopped by and the new recruits he was sending my way.  Once he called me to tell me, “I got lonely so I called Gigi.”  What a stinker!  I said, “O that’s good buddy, I bet Gigi wanted to hear from you. I bet you made her day.  Did you tell her how things were going?”  He did and he gave me a report on Storm.

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Kyle continues to socialize with the dogs during registration of the Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt in New Hope, Pa. 9/14/13

You see, the day before Storm, my cat wanted out.  No problem, except she didn’t come back in before dark, which she usually does when called.  No Storm by the time we left, no Storm by the time dad got up at 5:00 am and no Storm when I called in around 9:00 am.  Now that made me nervous.  It seems like every time we have a Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt, we have family pet issues.  Dog Gone! Irony  Storm did eventually come back unscathed and ready to sleep the rest of the day.  No worries.

While manning his post, Kyle received a call from my sister who was checking in.  I guess, it was not a good time, because Kyle told Nicole, “I gotta go Aunt Nikki, I have customers.”  That’s my boy!  Priorities!  Laughing, Nicole called me to inform me of what just went down.  We both found it humorous and I found it inspirational.

Throughout the day Kyle did pull out his iPod to play games and he couldn’t stand at the registration table passing out flyers and answering onlookers’ questions for too long, but after all he is only twelve.  But he did try his best.

Dog-Gone-Scavenger-Hunt-New-Hope-Thrill-of-the-Hunt-9-14-13-v9 Aunt Heather Piper

I think Kyle had to pet every dog that participated in the Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt in New Hope, Pa. 9/14/13

At the conclusion of the scavenger hunt, a few of the participants came up to me, not knowing he was my nephew, and commented on how helpful and professional “the little boy”  was during the event.  He was given kudos from many, even from a few of the businesses that met him.  Kyle is getting accustomed to shaking hands, using his manners and speaking directly and speaking business.  What a great leader and an impressive youngster!  Thank you for all your efforts buddy!  They are certainly noticed and appreciated by all.

On a side note, on the way back it was pretty uneventful.  Kyle slept and slept and slept and slept all the way up till about hour from home.  Once he did wake up he was back to being a kid again, asking me when we were going to arrive, over and over again.  I told him, “Just go back to sleep.”  Once we arrived at my parents house, which was closer and lets’ face it they really missed our little man, Kyle was wide awake and ready for a late night snack.  Me?  I was ready for the pillow.  After all I was going on nearly twenty hours without sleep.  Was it worth it?  Absolutely!  Can’t wait for the next scavenger hunt this Saturday, Discovering Greensburg sponsored by Seton Hill University.

 

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

What It Takes to Move a Tree Stand … Continued

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. ~Ephesians 6:4

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Kyle sporting the feature we found while in Cortland, NY setting up a tree stand. How much fan can be had from a single found feature? Those are dad’s earphones when he was running the chainsaw. 8/31/13

With my previous post, I outlined the events that led us to this moment, the reason for this trip.  What It Takes to Move a Tree Stand

As we moved forward, what did my eyes catch sight of?  Yes, the tree stand!  Positioned gloriously against a tree about ten feet off of the ground, dressed in camouflage burlap.  It was at that moment, I heard the angels sing Alleluia, while the sun shined on the stand as if revealing a pot of gold.  We have arrived at our destination.  Now, what did we need to do?  Ah, yes, we needed to take it down, move it up the hill and set it back up again.  Easy enough.  Not really.

Dad, took off up through the brush to scope out a new home for our tree stand.  Kyle took that as an opportunity to climb up and hang out in the elevated platform.   Me? I just stood there swatting mosquitoes until I joined dad to force him to make a quick decision, so we could wrap this adventure up and go take showers.

As I was walking away from Kyle, he yelled “Hey Aunt Heather where are you going?”  I told him to see what his pappy was doing, which was maybe one hundred fifty yards away.  Kyle said, “Wait!  I want to come, but I can’t get down by myself.”  I was cracking up!  He was too afraid to use the ladder to get down, even though he had no trouble getting up, nor playing around while sitting in the tree stand.  I gave him detailed instructions on how to safely exist the landing, but he insisted someone had to help him down.  I left him.  I know that sounds mean, but it was kind of funny and I knew he was probably safer up there than anywhere else.  What’s even funnier, he didn’t seem to mind.  Maybe a little quite time by himself was good for his soul, or not.

The whole time I was talking with dad and helping him pick a new location, Kyle would yell “Hey guys, what are you doing?” and “Hello?” then the eventually annoying “Echo, echo, echo”.  Kyle is seriously a funny kid and he doesn’t even know it.

Once dad found the perfect spot, he said, “Ok, let’s go get our buddy out of the tree and move this stand.”  He asked, “Did he climb up there all by himself?”  Yep.  Dad was pleased with that, that meant Kyle was not afraid and dad could count on Kyle to hunt in the tree stand during deer season.  Whatever!  Let’s get this show on the road.

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Me & Kyle with victorious smiles on our exhausted faces. Tree stand it up! Cortland, NY 8/31/13

Now back to the dreaded tree stand.  I guess I never thought it through, but it dawned on me as I was sitting up, hovering over the ground, looking down into briar bushes, fallen trees and Lord knows what else, that eventually the tree stand would not be secured to the tree anymore.  That is, once I unhinge it, however to do that I needed to be in the tree stand.  What a predicament!  Dad’s reply?  “No, no, you have another one down below and you’ll be partway down the ladder when you loosen that.”  Not really encouraging dad!  Of course, dad’s response to my comment about me falling was, “Well the jagger bushes will catch your fall.”  Nice.

I did manage to loosen some of the straps, but for the life of me, I really couldn’t get them to release.  So I had to send my dad, who is in his sixties and is seriously overweight up the unstable tree stand to finish removing the supports.  I stood at the bottom holding the ladder, along with Kyle, as if that was security.  I turned to Kyle and remarked, “If pappy goes you’re catching him.”  With concern on Kyle’s face he just gave me a grunt and half grin, trying to joke along while realizing the possibility.  I think we were both holding our breath and saying big prayers at this point.

We did manage to release the tree stand from the tree and get dad down safely.  Then, came the heavy lifting.  The tree stand was metal with an attached ladder.  It was heavy!  Especially after all the walking and exertion of getting it down, not to mention the realization of hauling it up a hill about one hundred and fifty yards, through tall brush, briars, unsteady ground, over fallen trees, while being mauled by mosquitoes.  Easy enough.

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Kyle snapped a picture of me getting into the tree stand. Cortland, NY 8/31/13

What was Kyle doing for the better part of this time?  I found out later he was video tapping me in the tree stand.  I’m sure, he was hoping for some action to be caught on tape.  And since that didn’t keep his interest, he continued to play with the feather.

The feature.  We found this feather while walking to get to our destination and it became the focus of our attention during down times.  I used it as a fan to help with the flying pest situation around my head, and to help get some moving air through the stuffy environment.  Kyle too found entertainment in the simple object.  That feature made it the whole way back with us.  Not just out of the woods, or to the motel, the whole way back to good old Latrobe, Pennsylvania.  It was a really neat feather.

Anyway, as we carried this beast of a stand up the hill, we almost passed up our carefully selected tree.  And let me tell you, I felt sick once we got there, as I know dad did.  Sick, as in exhaustion and dehydration.  I even sent Kyle to the quad to get us something to drink, especially dad who had to rest on a log.  That kid started to walk up the hill, (the quad was down the hill maybe fifty feet).  Kyle got lost, not lost that we didn’t know where he was, but he couldn’t find the quad at all!  Even though I pointed in the direction and I could see the lights reflecting from it through the trees.  As we watched Kyle maneuver around while resting, me and dad found that funny and called him back.

Next?  Now we had to get the tree stand up and secured, then we were told we’d be on our way.  It was a bugger getting that thing up, even to just lean it against the tree.  Dad did most of the work.  Once the tree stand was leaning, and somewhat stabilized against the tree, I climbed up in it to fully secure it.

That proved to be a bugger as well.  My arms are only so long, and trying to throw the straps around the tree, which was split, proved to be quite a tough task.  I had to lean out over the tree stand to grab the straps.  Did I mention it was only standing upright because it was leaning on the tree and we were on a light hill?  I told the old man, he better hold onto the ladder, because if I’d go flying and I can’t work, Aunt Nikki won’t be too happy.  He just laughed and said, “O you’ll be alright.  Come on, once we get the straps on, we’re done and we can leave.”  Score!

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Kyle made his way up the tree stand & then couldn’t get back down. He enjoyed it up there… Cortland, NY 8/31/13

Eventually, I got the straps around the tree to give the tree stand some stability.  Naturally, I couldn’t tighten the clamps like dad, so dad had to get up there to thoroughly secure the touch points.  He also thought in advance and put another strap for an additional reinforcement.  Evidently, dad was planning on having all three of us in this tree stand. I’m not so sure about that one.  Although, I’m saving that argument for a later date.  I must say, Kyle and I fit comfortably on the seat, side-by-side.

The whole time we were there, dad stared at the newly relocated tree stand sporting a huge grin.  He did cut down a few small trees around it, one of which I thought was going to take down the new addition.  I said, “Dad if that tree would have hit the tree stand and knock it down, I was going to leave.”  Kyle busted out laughing and dad joined in saying, “Yes, I guess that would be our luck.”  Dad kept peeking up at the stand and in his head, laying out the options in which we could shoot deer, depending on how they approached us.  I know he was envisioning herds of  deer running all along the woods below are feet, while all three of us shot down.  This is dad’s candy store.  Nothing makes him happier than shooting, especially with his family.  He kept talking about the size of the deer and the racks on the local bucks.  He kept saying that’s what’s in store for us this hunting season.  Then, he would go off into, how much deer meat we were going to have this winter.  Only dad!

Done?  Not quite yet.  We had to make it back out and since dad initially made his own trail to find the tree stand that was eluding us, he wanted to stick to the established road, clearing it out for deer season.  We found the road pretty easily, but it was seriously overgrown and soggy from all the rain earlier in the week.

It took us as long to get out of the woods as it did to set up the stand, if not longer.  It was a roller coaster ride, back up the slate rock road to an almost vertical climb.  Yes, I was back on the front of the quad, like Kyle white knuckling it.  I felt like I had to seriously lean forward to avoid the whole quad from tipping backwards and crushing all its passengers.

We made it back safely and dad was in such a good mood.  As we were ready to load up the quad, dad did something odd that made me and Kyle both stop and watch.  He drove the quad back nearly a hundred yards to load it on the trailer.  What does he need such a runway for?  At that moment, dad revved the engine and gassed it toward the trailer.  I turned to Kyle and said, “What is pappy planning on doing?  Launching himself over the truck like Evel Knievel?”  Kyle was howling!  Just then dad put the breaks on right at the lip of the trailer and slowly drove it on.  Pap thought he was pretty funny too, my guess is from the look on our faces he did psych us out.

Earlier we saw a turkey and along the way, a bunch of deer tracks.  Dad couldn’t have been happier, spending time with us, especially Kyle and moving his tree stand to what he perceived as the perfect shooting spot.

Aunt-Heather-Piper-with-Feature-Cortland-NY-8-31-13

Now it was my turn to play with the feature. Seriously, how much fun can 1 feature bring? Cortland, NY 8-31-13

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful, granted it was around five or six o’clock at this point and we were all beat.  We found a nice little market to get sandwiches and other sustenance, got back to the motel,  showered up, played a few card games with Kyle as well as chess on my iPad, and finished out the night watching back-to-back episodes of Too Cute!

The next morning, pappy slept in till around eight o’clock, which again is unheard of, but Kyle and I played more chess.  On our way back, dad had to stop at his friend Lanny’s house to visit.  Dad hunts on his property every year too.  In fact, dad stays with the elderly gentleman, who is very cordial and hospitable.  I must say, at this point I was getting irritated over dad’s new found relaxed behavior and I wanted to get on the road.

We did make it back about fifteen minutes before we had to get ready to go to late Sunday mass, so I was happy.  Good end, to a surprisingly fun trip.  A trip that I hope we never have to repeat.

Read the first part … What It Takes to Move a Tree Stand

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

What It Takes to Move a Tree Stand

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
An eternity in an hour.  ~William Blake

Kyle-Cortland-NY-with-Feature-8-31-13-Aunt-Heather-Piper

We found this feather in the woods in Cortland, New York. It became the focus of our attention for a while. Kyle was cracking me up! 8/31/13

Dad gets his hunting license not only for Westmoreland County, but also for the surrounding counties and his New York license.  In certain areas, dad has his tree stands set up, keeping them there year-over-year.  Yes, that wasn’t a typo.  Tree stands!  As in plural, meaning more than one.

So what does all this have to do with me?  Let me tell you were I was this past weekend.  In Cortland, New York moving a tree stand.  Why?  Simply, because last year, someone hit a big buck up the hill from where dad was sitting.  Ever since then, dad has been talking about moving his tree stand up the hill.  He believes it would have been his buck if he was positioned at a higher elevation.  Is that a fact?  Not necessarily, but I do trust dad’s hunting sense and his observation.  Previous to that, Dad’s was actually talking about moving the tree stand for a while now, but since the buck incidence, that made up his mind for him.

Now don’t get me wrong.  Dad’s not bitter in any way shape or form, for the lucky hunter, not at all.  He’s happy for anyone who gets a deer, especially if it’s a prize.  But he’s had it in his head for a while now to move the stand, pretty much where Larry, a good friend of the family and my mom’s boss at Gutchess Hardwoods, suggested in the first place.  Dad said, “I should have listened to Larry, but I was being so stubborn and had my mind made up.”  Can’t imagine!

Moving a tree stand seems simple enough, not really.  First we had to drive six hours to Cortland, New York to get to the woods where the tree stand was situated.  Then, we had to drive back into the woods, only so far, before all piling on the quad and riding it another couple of miles, before getting out and hiking to the hunting spot.  Yes, somewhere in the 500 acres, was this big metal tree stand attached to a tree.  Did I mention I was the one who had to assemble the beast a few summers back?

Let’s start off with Saturday morning.   I mean morning.  We got up around 3:00 am, and we didn’t leave until 4:30 am.  There used to be a day when dad was up early and started on his day right away.  No sitting around, none of this taking his time, watching the news, finishing his coffee blah blah blah.  Nope!   Dad used to get up, make sure everyone else was up, get dressed and out the door like lightening.  Boy have times changed.  Usually Kyle does pretty good in the am, but this time was a bit different, not that I can blame him, even for me this was a bit early.

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Kyle shooting pap’s .22 rifle at the shooting range. Not a bad shot! 8/31/13

Once we were off, Kyle slept in the backseat of the truck.  He really wasn’t ready to get up and get moving, that is until we made a pit stop at Sheetz.  Naturally, he had donuts on his mind and with his pappy there, he pretty much gets what he wants.  Although as in keeping with tradition, I raced him in and out of the gas station, to and from the truck.  At one point, we both tried to wedge ourselves out of the door and practically got stuck.  Dad saw us and just shook his head and chuckled.

While on the road, once we finally got Kyle up, Kyle and I started to play a game of War.  You know the card game that goes on forever and requires little to no thought.  That game seemed like it was the longest ever played!  Seriously.  Me and Kyle were in amazement because it was never ending.  We kept joking around that we were going to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records.

The drive was pretty uneventful.  It’s actually kind of nice to be up before dawn and watching the day unfold before my eyes.  We passed Beaver Stadium, my sister’s Alma Mater.  We joked around a little and called my mom and my sister to check in.  I was even fine with the Willy Nelson Serious XM radio station on, that is until it stayed on the entire time to and from New York.

Dad cracks me up.  When he had to pee, he just pulled the truck, which was hooked to the trailer containing the quad, onto the side of the road, peed and left.  Back in the day, when I was little, dad NEVER stopped for no one.  Not himself, not my mom and certainly not for his kids.  We had to go before we left and we learned to hold it until we got to our destination.  Granted, we never really traveled for than four or five hours, but regardless that’s how dad traveled.  Come to think of it, that’s probably why I am, the way I am, when traveling.  I never stop, I keep going till I reach my journey’s end.  Now-a-days things are different, very different.  I swear we pulled over every hour!  Every roadside pause gave me and Kyle the giggles.  Then it would start the teasing towards dad.

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Dad was checking the shots with the spotting scope. Kyle was reloading, ready to go again. 8/31/13

At one point, Kyle had to use the restroom, as did I but I can hold it because I knew dad would expect me to go along side of the road.  Fat chance!  Dad pulled over for Kyle, but not just on the side of the road.  He pulled over were they were doing construction.  To reach the side of the road, dad had to weave the truck and the trailer between the cones.  Me and Kyle were dying!  For some reason we thought that was the funniest thing ever!  Keep in mind this is around ten o’clock or so in the morning, along a major highway.  I knew Kyle wouldn’t use natures facility, and I was right.  But what made the situation even funnier, dad drove down the road that was coned off, and as we progressed the cones got closer together.  We were taking bets if dad was going to knock down a row of cones.  Nope!  Didn’t even graze them!

After we checked into our motel room in no-man’s-land we headed to the woods.  The minute we got out, I was attacked by mosquitoes!  Anyone that knows me, knows I am always the first person to take fire from the blood suckers and I usually get it the worst.  My bites always swell and linger for twice as long as most.  Would you believe no one thought to bring bug spray?  Nope!  We were screwed!

After we unloaded the quad, dad had me plant my buttocks on the front rack, while Kyle was seated right behind dad, beside the chainsaw, tools, salt block and extra chainsaw gasoline.  Yes, that was my first reaction too!  What are we cutting down?  The layout of us all situated on the quad was nothing new, we rode like that before for hunting season and I suspected it was going to be that way.  But what I didn’t know is that we had to chuck wood too?  Yes, apparently we had to clear out the roadway back to the tree stand.  This just keeps getting better!

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The Piper outing at the shooting range. Nicole got back into the swing, not a bad shot. Kyle was shooting pretty good & mom shot a couple, but just observed. 8/31/13

The ride to and fro was quite an adventure!  We hit a few pond size mud puddles, which at one point I thought was going to sink us all whole.  Then, let’s talk about the cliff of death.  The trail was pretty wide, wide enough for a full size vehicle.  So naturally one would think we had enough room for a quad.  Well, we did, but dad kept driving along side the brim of the edge, while looking down!  Me and Kyle were hanging on.  I stated, “Dad, they had a ton of rain this week.  You have the entire road, use it!”  Meaning, dad get away from the edge, the ground is soft and could collapse at any minute driving us down over the edge into the heart of the woods.  Even Kyle laughed about that one and was feeling the same way.  When we later recapped the story to mom, Kyle commented on that very scenario.

We did need to hack up a few logs laying across our path, to get through and I had to get off a few times to walk.  I must say it was quite the journey.  The one part of the road seemed like it was a complete vertical shot straight down and the road looked like a miniature Grand Canyon from being washed out.  I was hanging on, trying not to be projected off from the front end.  It was hard!  The road wasn’t exactly smooth sailing.

Once dad had me and Kyle on foot, he instructed us to walk up the hill and he followed on the quad.  He even tried to go up a side of a bank and I swear I saw the front end of the quad lift, like it was going to flip.  Me and Kyle just gave each other the look, you know the kind that says, ‘Wow that was a close one.’ or ‘Something bad is going to happen today.’  Then I said, “And you wondered why I brought my phone?”

While on foot, in the hot, humid mosquitoes infested deep woods, we seemed to keep walking on forever.  Like our path was never going to end.  Kyle turned to me and said, “I don’t think pappy knows where he’s going.”  I laughed so hard, I was thinking the same thing!    We kept trucking and following dad on foot.  Did I mention I had a long-sleeved thick hoodie type of top on, zipped up to my neck to protect some of my skin from the pests, and jeans on while I dripped with sweat in the eighty degree weather?  Awesome!

As we zigzagged through the tall brush, dad would stop every now-and-again to cut a few fallen trees.  That is until we came upon vertically intimidating, reaching the top of dad’s head, “jagger” bushes, briars and thick brush.  He actually used the chainsaw to mow down the obstruction!  Me and Kyle watched in amazement.  Then, when he was done, I yelled over, “You didn’t tell me we needed the weed whacker!”  Dad gave me an already tired grin and nod, while me and Kyle found that comment to be pretty darn funny.

Dad even used the quad to knock down small trees and mow down tall brush.  Then, we started to have a field day with that saying, “Does pappy think he’s a bulldozer?” and “We know what to get him for Christmas.”  Kyle said, “Ya, he could use a steam press to flatten our path.”  Very true buddy!  Very true!

Almost there…

To be continued…

 

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

Blue Skies Dr. Jennifer (Smith) Galbraith

No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world.  And normally he doesn’t know it.  ~Paulo Coelho

Dr. Jennifer (Smith) Galbraith
July 28, 1974 – August 27, 2013

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Nicole & Jen hanging with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. c. sometime in the 80’s

Tragedy is no stranger to me and my family.  It has directly landed on us, suddenly, and with pinpoint accuracy, so I know what dealing with sorrow and confusion feels like.   We’ve been wrestling with it for nearly twelve years.  I’m not saying I understand it, and I’m not saying it’s easy, and I’m not saying I like it.  I’m just saying it’s a close friend and I certainly recognize it.

At this particular moment, I’m at a loss as to what to say.  I’ve never dealt with such a situation.  So instead of my typical format, I chose to write Jen a letter.  I’m sure it doesn’t do her justice, to her kindness, beauty inside and out, intelligence, sincerity, adventurous spirit, wit and sense of humor.  But my words are sincere and straight from the heart.

My thoughts and prayers are with Jen’s family and friends at this time and always.  We have been blessed to know such a wonderful person.  The world will not be the same.

 

Dear Jen,

If my memory serves me correct, we have known each other since I was in the first grade and you in the third, going to Sacred Heart Elementary School.  To be honest, I don’t remember when you officially joined our family because it seems like you were always there.  Who would have thought, from that moment on,  you and my sister would have become friends for so many years?

Dr.-Jen-Smith-Galbraith-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Dr. Jennifer (Smith) Galbraith eating a Twix.

Even though you were always Nicole’s best friend, you always treated me as a friend too.  I can’t believe it’s been years since those days at Sacred Heart, but we’ve always kept in touch, only due to your continued friendship and sisterhood with Nicole.

Over the years, my family would get updates on how you were doing, what was new and what was going on in your life.  Even though Facebook has been the focus of the media for negative uses and development of an anti-social society, Facebook helped us to connect again.  Prior to that, even without direct communication, you were always in my thoughts.  After all, you were very much a part of the Piper household.  I mean even dad remembered your name!

By the time I reached the seventh grade and you in ninth, in the Latrobe Junior High School, I would grin when I saw you in the halls.  You would smile and give me a friendly nod.  Actually, I think it was more of a laugh, I was always so lost, mentally and directionally.  Here I envied you because I thought you were so much more together than I ever was!  Even in junior high it seemed like your life would take a straight path to greatness.  Well, you certainly achieved greatness, in many ways.  But I was wrong, your life took a sudden and fatal sharp turn.

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Nicole & Jen graduating from Greater Latrobe High School. Class of ’92! Go Wildcats!

When I joined the colorguard and you were in the band (clarinet), it was nice to know someone among the older strange faces.  You never snubbed me or anything of the sort.  Actually, you looked out for me, and over the years as we both matured, maybe you more than me, I wasn’t just “Nikki’s little sister”, I was your friend too.

When I heard you were going to school to be a doctor I was so excited for you and I remember thinking, “Yes she is one smart cookie who will have no trouble getting through her studies.  She is going to be such a success in life!”  You were always such an intelligent girl, it came so natural to you.  In that respect, I could see why you and Nicole were always such good friends, you challenged each other intellectually.  In my younger days I didn’t appreciate that, but over the years I certainly have.

Jen, you always had such patience.  Every time I asked a stupid question like “How can you be an optometrist and not have perfect vision?”, you would answer me.  Even though we were private messaging each other or communicating digitally, somehow I could see that Jen smirk.  It’s funny, Ryan had the same type of grin.

You may not have realized it at the time, but you were loved!  You had a lot of friends, family, acquaintances, co-workers, neighbors, patients and the list goes on and on, that relied on you in one way or another.  There were so many lives you touched, including mine!  I know my sister looked up to you and was proud to call you a friend, as was I.

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Nicole’s birthday at the house. Back of Casey’s head, Mikey, Ryan, Jen, Nicole & Elizabeth. Rest-in-Peace Ryan & Jen, may you both find each other in blue skies.

In a way, I think you found me intriguing with my hyperactive nature and my adventurous and creative spirit.  You seemed to find those qualities later on in life, whereas I discovered them early.  I loved hearing about your skydiving adventures, your running accomplishments and your evenings on your porch with a beer.  You seemed to be enjoying the life you made for yourself.  I was enjoying it with you!

Did I ever mention I loved hearing about your dogs and especially your chickens!  When I heard you were building a chicken coop, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic and pride.  Not because you wanted to have fresh eggs, which I didn’t blame you, but because to me that was a sign of you hanging around my family.  You were always at the house and down my Uncle Walter’s farm.  It was almost like a piece of us up on the ridge was instilled in your very core.  You didn’t know it because I never told you, but to me that was a perfect compliment.  Now I may have been completely off base with my assumption, but I’m holding onto it.

Class-of-1992-Latrobe-Reunion-2012-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Welcome back class of 1992! Nicole, Jen, Heather, Susan 2012. Go Latrobe Wildcats!

On a side note, I saw that Facebook post you posted about getting locked inside your chicken coop.  I was howling!  That was so terribly funny, I still think about it.  You certainly found complete humor in yourself, which was a great quality to have!

I don’t know if you remember or not when Ryan died?  I bet you do, how can anyone forget that horrible time and grief.  The same grief everyone is feeling today.  Granted that wasn’t Ryan’s choice to leave us, but it doesn’t make any death easy to accept.  I guess that’s why they call it a tragedy.  I’m not sure why someone, including you would make that choice.  Maybe you really wanted to LIVE and wanted true peace.  I’m sure I’m a part of the mix of people you left behind wondering why?  Or what could I have done?  I mean, that’s natural right?  Everyone wants to understand and have a good reason, although in my eyes there wasn’t a good one, however that wasn’t my decision.  It was your unfortunate action that cannot be reversed.  One that I still can’t fathom.

Life will go on.  It always does, but it won’t be as colorful and interesting without you here.  I didn’t find out about your passing until early evening on Wednesday and I had the very same shock and confused feeling as I did when I got the news Ryan passed.  I guess that’s understandable considering you were family.

Jen-with-Lobster-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Jen with a Lobster. This was not my pic, but taken from Jen’s Facebook page. I just loved her in it! Rest-in-Peace Dr. Jennifer (Smith) Galbraith

Jen, I never thought your days would be short.  Of course, when loosing someone, who really thinks that?  I suspect you’ve always struggled internally.  I suppose I kind of knew that, but I never made mention of it.  Perhaps it was because I didn’t understand and I couldn’t identify with it or because I thought at this point in your life  all was good.  Do I get it now?  No!  Not even close!  Especially the way you chose to leave our earthly world.  Why that way?  It was so violent.  You seemed so happy, but I guess even though pictures can say a thousand words, they don’t show the inside, the truth, just the surface.  So I guess pictures can be deceitful lies.  I just don’t understand.  I mean here I am talking about going to the shooting range this past Sunday.  Did I give you the idea?  I hope not!  You grew up in the Piper household, you knew we respected the guns.  Did you forget dad’s rule about never pointing a firearm at another person, even a toy gun?  That includes yourself Jen!

I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a person near or far, friend, foe or even complete stranger that wouldn’t have stopped everything that was going on in his or her life to help you.  You, Jen were an asset to this life!  Did you realize that?  Many knew it, I hope you did too!  I bet everyone is wishing you would have called them.  Nicole would have been at your house in a heartbeat, as would I and many others.  Maybe you didn’t know or maybe you thought you had the perfect answer.  You were very smart throughout your short life and have done things right, this time your judgement was wrong!  If you had to do it again, would you choose the same?

Since you consistently read my blog, I thought it appropriate to give you your very own day, your own story, your ever lasting memorial.  Your words were always so kind and encouraging.  You used to state how much you loved my writing style and how much you loved hearing what I had to say.  I know you were just being nice, but coming from you, that was such a compliment!  You truly loved hearing about my silly and sometimes pointless tales, and a few uncontrollable rants.  Eventually, this post will be buried by life and other stories that always seem to want to exit my brain and travel down through my fingers, to end up in black and white, but like this post, you will always remain.  Remain in the minds and memories of those you knew, and maybe by some you didn’t.  You will never be forgotten!

Jen, I hope you are flying in the beautiful blue skies you were made to, and I hope your soul finds the peace it was seeking.  God bless!

With much love,

Heather

Rest-in-Peace and God Speed Dr. Jennifer (Smith) Galbraith!

 

Huffington Post Article on the Skydiving Accident

Jen worked for Leading Edge Eyecare since 2005.  I took a screen shot of the website.

Leading-Eyecare-Webpage-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Here are a few screen shots I took from Jen’s Facebook page to preserve her memory.

Jens Facebook post on the race Aunt Heather Piper

Jen Galbraith Facebook Post about running Aunt Heather Piper

Jen Galbraith Facebook Post Aunt Heather Piper

News of Jens death FB Aunt Heather Piper

Nicoles Facebook Post on Jens Death Aunt Heather Piper

Jen Galbraith Facebook Post from Patty friends Aunt Heather Piper

Friends of Jen FB Aunt Heather Piper

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,News,Reminiscing and have Comments (6)

Add Thrill of the Hunt to the Latrobe List

The road to success is always under construction. ~Arnold Palmer

Nick-Kyle-Legion-Keener-Latrobe-Pa-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Nick & Kyle hanging with Brutus at Legion Keener Park in Latrobe Pa. 2013

Being a Latrobe native doesn’t just mean that I have a specific location I can point to on the map and declare, ‘I’m from here!’  Nope!  Stating this fact holds a lot more, the history, the traditions, those who have paved the way for others and also the pride of the people and surrounding areas.

Many can claim the same about their area, but we, Latrobeans are truly a special breed. I’m not saying my broad stroke, ideal perception is consistent across the board one hundred percent true for everyone, but from my observations and where my heart stands, it is.

Latrobe is one of those typical small towns. You know the kind, most everyone knows each other and in my case because I’m a Piper, somehow I’m related to everyone. Latrobe is also large enough to give a little elbow room when desired. Originally it was a borough and then made into a city. Latrobe was named after Benjamin Latrobe. It’s true, it’s not suppose to be pronounced with a long “a” sound. However, if you are from Latrobe, you use the incorrect pronunciation, that’s our badge of honor and proof that we are true Latrobeans.  Yes I know, we also have the typical Western Pennsylvania slang, and distinct accent criticized by all, but there is so much more.

Thrill-of-the-Hunt-Scavenger-Hunt-Banana-Split-Latrobe-Pa-2013-Aunt Heather Piper

Me & Kyle at the Banana Split Festival at our Thrill of the Hunt booth in Latrobe, Pa. 8/24/13

What else makes Wildcat Country truly special? Well, lets start with the accomplishments surfacing from this area and the people. Even though it’s not official because it was never really proven, Latrobe is home to the first professional football game ever played. At least, that’s how I always understood it. Incidentally, Latrobe is home to the Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp, held at Saint Vincent College every year. Latrobe, mirroring our neighbor Pittsburgh has very much the same die hard type of personality. “Pittsburghers” are known world wide for their dedication to the city, especially the Steelers. I mean, we have Steelernation! Latrobe projects the same pride and love of the city, for both Pittsburgh and Latrobe.

Thrill-of-the-Hunt-Scavenger-Hunt-Banana-Split-Latrobe-Pa-2013 Aunt Heather Piper

Me & what I thought was a Guerrilla Girl (nope). Banana Split Festival in Latrobe Pa. at the Thrill of the Hunt booth. 8/24/13

Saint Vincent College, Latrobe’s very own, unbeknownst to many has a history that impacted many around the world for different reasons. Long before the college was the Steelers training home base, Saint Vincent Church was the first Benedictine monastery in the United States, founded by Boniface Wimmer, a monk from Bavaria Germany. The monks not only started the Catholic tradition and built a beautiful church that turned into the college, but they also held the recipe for Rolling Rock Beer, home grown form the fields of good old Latrobe Pennsylvania.

Growing up around the Rolling Rock Brewery, I never realized how famous the beer really was, until one trip changed all that. During one of my senior high band field trips, we went to New York City. A small town Latrobe girl in the big apple. Naturally, we did all the touristy things, but on our final day, we participated in the Saint Patrick’s Day parade. On a side note, up until that point, that was the most I’ve ever walked in one trip, ever! My feet and legs were so sore from marching miles on the New York streets I thought I would collapse. Anyway, as we marched along, and the crowds took note of our banner, ‘Greater Latrobe Marching Band’, they began to yell. It wasn’t making fun, or ridiculing us in any way, it was praise and excitement! They were yelling, “Latrobe! #33 Rolling Rock!” I’m not talking a small group of drunken individuals. I’m talking pretty much the entire city of New York! We were famous! Living in my own corner of the world being oblivious to outsiders, I had no idea that anyone knew who we were! Let alone loved us! People, cheered for our group of Latrobe natives and truly loved recognizing us. It was great! It was at that moment, I didn’t take it for granted that I was a Latrobean, a Wildcat!

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Nick & Kyle making a friend (Brutus) at Legion Keener Park in Latrobe, Pa. 2013

Beer is not only our claim to fame and neither are our black and yellow footfall fans. Latrobe has birthed some inspiring people. One being Mr. Fred Rogers who graduated from Latrobe High School. Actually, my grandpap Chester went to school with him and I believe Mr. Rogers was the class president. Graduating from the freshly built Latrobe Senior High School, my mom and brother and sister all walked down the same halls and graduated from the same alma mater. Mr. Rogers lived not far from my parents house in Edgewater. Some may not know or remember the TV personality, but he had a show for children on PBS, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood (1968–2001). One of his sweaters is actually on display at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. He had many more accomplishments, but he was made famous from his show and calming personality.

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Ice-Cream Joe, Valley Dairy (My first job) in celebration of the Banana Split Festival in Latrobe, Pa. 8/24/13

A friend of Mr. Rogers, and matching or perhaps exceeding in popularity would be our very own golf professional, Arnold Palmer. Yep the inducted World Golf Hall of Fame Latrobean was born and breed in the area. He too doesn’t live far from my parents house, right down the road from the Greater Latrobe High School. Every once in a while, I would see him pulling out of his driveway and I heard he still flies his plane in and out of the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Latrobe. Personally, I’ve never met the man, but I’ve known many who have and have commented on what a great guy he is. He was not only known in the golf world but to presidents too. I remember when Mr. Palmer’s wife, Winny (Winifred) passed away, former president George Herbert Walker Bush came to town to pay his respects.

More recently, Latrobe made their mark again with proving they are the home of the original banana split. Yes, invented by Latrobean David Strickler came the banana split. He didn’t just stop there, he also created the banana split boat to hold the ice-cream dessert.

This past weekend was the Banana Split Festival in Latrobe. Great time by all! I represented Thrill of the Hunt as part of the local vendors. We had a perfect sunny day and I loved running into old friends and meeting some new ones. Everyone was very encouraging and supportive about our start-up company. It was inspiring!

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The New Playland in Legion Keener Park, Latrobe Pa. 2013

Latrobe has produced greatness, yet remains humble and true to our roots. I love this city and what it stands for. Thrill of the Hunt is home grown in Latrobe, Pennsylvania and I hope my company will continue to bring the pride back to Latrobe like many before me.

There is a lot more to Latrobe and I just touched on a few. Everyone should take some time and visit this lovely area, nestled in at the base of the Laurel Highlands. And those who have since moved away, should stop back. It’s a great place to live and do business. I am proud to be a Latrobean through and through. Even Kyle has taken on the title of Latrobe native, well after all he was born and partially raised here. He considers himself a Wildcat and I agree, he is!

 

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

Bricks 4 Kidz, Kyle’s Lego Camp Birthday Surprise

You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.  ~Brigham Young

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Kyle’s 2nd day of Lego Camp at Saint Vincent College – Bricks 4 Kidz Program 6/25/13

Most people celebrate their birthday the day of their actual birth, or sometime close.  Others take a week or so in preparation and to celebrate the anniversary of their birth.  I really do neither, I’ve never been much of a birthday person.  Seriously, I could care less about my birthday, except it also happens to be my parents wedding anniversary (I was born six years after they were hitched).  Going out to eat, or birthday cakes and such never appealed to me.  Well, cake certainly peeks my interest, but not the celebration.  Yes, as a child I loved to get presents, but it wasn’t like it is today.  Even back then, I remember asking mom to stop the birthday parties.  Just not a big fan.

Kyle on the other hand is a big supporter of birthday celebrations, specifically his own.  Literally, from December 26th up until his day of birth, July 30th, he is preparing, scheming and throwing hints left and right.  Keep in mind, Easter falls between this time and he gets more gifts, not to mention his report card money that tends to go toward more Legos.  But his birthday, day, opens his eyes and fills his head with possibilities like no other.

Keeping with tradition, I never get Kyle toys or video games, basically what he asks for.  Nope!  I get him unconventional gifts.  They are items that I believe give him skills, introduces him to thinking differently, gives him life long knowledge or interests and helps him to grow as a person.  Others, mostly my parents and my sister get him the items that make his childhood bucket list of desirables.  (Happy Lego Birthday Kyle – 11 Years Old!, Flying Back to Kyle’s Ninth Birthday, Family Time Through an ipod Touch, Happy Birthday Kyle- 10 Years Old!)  I’ve mentioned it in the past about buying him piano lessons, swimming lessons, flying lessons, books etc.  So what to do for his twelfth birthday?

Starting to mill around ideas in my head back in May, which is when Kyle started to throw out hints, I really had no clue.  I’ve been known to give him a saving bond, again another practical gift to force him to save for the near future, but I really wasn’t sure.  Then, thanks to a family friend, Lori Planinsek Rodgers, she gave me the perfect idea!  Bricks 4 Kidz Lego Camp!

She mentioned it while we were at the 24th Annual Planinsek Fishing Derby, Gone Fishing!.  At the time I just thought it might be something fun Kyle would enjoy, so I mentioned it to him.  Naturally, anything with Legos causes the kid to jump out of his skin.  Well, that is until he found out he doesn’t get to keep the Legos he builds.  Too bad!  Looking online into the programs, the light came on in my head and bingo, his birthday present was established.

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Yes, another Lego even while at Lego camp – Bricks 4 Kidz at Saint Vincent College. That was his report card money courtesy of his Aunt Nikki 6/27/13

This gift accomplished more than just his gift.  Kyle always loved going to daycare (Come and Play) every summer.  He truly looked forward to hanging out with his friends and playing.  The kids not only played, but the daycare ladies  would make them bring books to read and they would have to go outside and run around and do some schoolwork.  Kyle’s days were very planned, very organized and very structured.  All the qualities that make for an enjoyable day for Kyle, truly!  Well, this summer Kyle didn’t go to daycare.  He was seriously bummed and bored!  I wish he was sent at least a couple of days a week, but nope, his summer consisted of hanging by himself at home.  That’s when I thought to send him to camp.  Granted the kid takes more vacations then any other child I know, but it still stinks to sit at home by yourself, not being mentally or physically challenged and being socially deprived.

Originally, I was going to sign him up for the third week in July, bringing it closer to his birthday, but alas that week was the ‘Aunt Nikki and Kyle’s Week of Fun’.  No good!  So I had to work backwards deciding on the week of June 24th through June 28th, last week.

Signing Kyle up for Animal Grossology in the am session (8:30-11:30) and Space Adventure – Star Wars for the afternoon session (1:00-4:00) at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, all I could think of was how excited he was going to be.

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Kyle received 2 certificates for finishing his Bricks 4 Kidz Lego Camp at Saint Vincent College. Animal Grossology & Space Adventure- Star Wars 6/28/13

Keeping the Lego camp a secret, I alerted the rest of the family and I made arrangements for us both to stay at my parents house all week, which made my parents really happy.  They were looking forward to his Lego camp too for two reasons.  One, to spend the week with Kyle and two, to share in his excitement, knowing how much he loves to build Legos and being challenged.

Leading up to the birthday present surprise, I started to prod Kyle a bit, although he never really took the bait.  Probably because he knew his gift from me wasn’t exactly what he wanted.  I did tell him he was getting his gift early and it involved animals and space.  That sparked one of our dashboard silly conversations Laughing About Nothing…Dog in Space.  Throughout Kyle’s short life, you would think he would learn to trust me.  Our activities are never items he’s thought about or thinks are fun, but he can never deny he loves the gifts I get him.

One of the hints I slipped him, was that he was going to college and it was an educational gift.  He politely smiled and gave me a grunt.  Then he said, “I can’t go to college, I’m not old enough.”  Love that kid!  I told him he’s going and he better pay attention!  I could tell he didn’t know whether to take me seriously or not.  Sometimes I can be such an instigator.

Sunday night, the eve before Kyle was going to partake in his Lego camp adventure, I told him where he was going.  His eyes lit up and excitement shot over his entire body, leaving his mouth ALL night!  To be honest, I was trilled at his enthusiasm but it was getting late and I was tired.  He kept speculating on  what he was going build and what he was going to do.  He commented, how much he loved animals and told me how much he knows about animals.  Then he went into his dissertation on space and Star Wars.  It was a long night until the sandman knocked Kyle out.

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Kyle his a great little guy! Check him out helping another, at the Bricks 4 Kidz Lego Camp at Saint Vincent College! 6/24/13

The next morning and all week he was up early, got himself his breakfast and got dressed, all without incident.  The first day was a bit rough, especially at lunch.  I packed us a lunch and thought we could picnic at Saint Vincent College and then walk around a bit.  I wanted to share with Kyle, some of what I remembered Father Alred teaching us about the buildings and the history when I was in the sixth grade at Sacred Heart.  (I found out that I remember very little and need to research the college again to bring back what I knew.)  Kyle was very quiet and almost blasé about his morning and kind of complained about his lunch.  Then, he didn’t want to walk around, didn’t want to sit, didn’t really care to go back.  I was in complete shock and let’s face it, irritated.  Only because I thought Kyle didn’t appreciate this opportunity.  Keep in mind it was pretty hot and humid out.

I dropped Kyle off for his afternoon class and then picked him up at 4:00.  Same attitude, same almost lethargic demeanor.  At this point, I thought Kyle was getting sick or maybe he was tried from getting to bed so late and waking up pretty early.  That is until the next day brought me my answers.

As I dropped him off for his morning session, I spoke to the one teacher to see how Kyle was doing.  She informed me that the room was really hot and evidently since it was an old building, putting the air conditioning on cool meant they were turning on the heater!  Yikes!  Kyle was sitting in not only a hot room, but it was being heated too!  No wonder he was so miserable.  The kid HATES being hot.  Not that I can blame him.

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Kyle loved the Bricks 4 Kidz Lego Camp at Saint Vincent College! 6/26/13

By the time I picked Kyle up for lunch on Tuesday, it was like he did a one eighty!  He was ecstatic, energetic and completely excited to tell me about his day and what he built!  I was so happy I didn’t make a mistake with the Bricks 4 Kidz Lego Camp.  I did not!  It was a hit, now that the temperature in the room was bearable.

What a great week!  Everyday, Kyle and I ate breakfast together; then I dropped him off for his morning class; picked him up for lunch, which we made and ate together; dropped him off for his afternoon session and then picked him up when his day was done.  Actually, everyday except Friday, mom picked him up for me since I was getting the Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt ready for the following day.  (For my company Thrill of the Hunt)  That was the start of the Dog Gone Irony!

Kyle had a GREAT time!  He not only got to feed his addiction of  building Legos, but he fed the brain too with animal knowledge and space talk.  As much as Kyle won’t admit to it, he loves to learn and discover new things and experiences, much like the rest of my family.  Lori, who introduced me to the Bricks 4 Kidz Program, messaged me this:

I see you’ve been busy dog hunting the past couple days, but I’m wondering if you’ve had a chance to see any of the videos posted for Bricks 4 Kidz! Looks like Kyle loved the programs! His teacher brought their entire class (5 or 6 kids) up to our class to show us how Kyle put a motor on the kangaroo (which wasn’t in the plans) and made it move – WHAT A GENIUS! I was proud of him and he’s not even mine!

Kyle surprises me all the time and makes me proud too!  He is a bright young man, that will no doubt shine in his future endeavors, whatever they may be.

He was an absolute jewel the entire week!  Seriously, the happiest and most non-argumentative child.  Everyday he came home and practiced his piano and read in his book.  Then he would watch some of his Lord of the Rings movies, watched a little TV or played with one of his many Legos.  He never complained about dinner and ate some of his veggies.  He even showered every night with little resistance and brushed his teeth without being asked, morning and night.  He was in a routine of structure, family, and good eating habits.  Believe it or not, it made the world of difference on his attitude.

I highly recommend the Bricks 4 Kidz Lego camp or any of the offered classes!  The teachers are really great to deal with, they have such a positive attitude and the benefits the children receive are priceless.  I’m not just talking about learning to build, but the socialization, the structure, the added knowledge and the attention are so good for the kids.  Kyle was looking into other Lego classes and wants me to sign him up for more.  If he can fit it into his busy schedule, I totally will!

Thanks Lori!  You saved my birthday gift dilemma and brought so much more to one little boy than you can imagine!  You really are a true teacher through and through.

Below is a video I took of Kyle.  I creeped into the classroom, while he was still playing with his creation of the day.  The kid was in complete glory!

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

Dog Gone Irony!

My little dog
a heart-beat
at my feet  ~Edith Wharton

Missing-Dog-Poster-Aunt-Heather-PiperThey always say when it rains it pours.  Sometimes that’s the case, it certainly was this past weekend, starting Friday morning.

Let me set the stage.  I’ve been developing and organizing the Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt all month, getting ready to launch our first Thrill of the Hunt scavenger hunt event in Shadyside.  So if you can image, there’s a lot of details and last minute items that need addressed.  All week I was unable to take the dogs, Scooby and Seven, for their daily three mile hike.  That’s my normal lunch break now-a-days.  Plus, keep in mind, Kyle was at his Bricks 4 Kidz Lego Camp at Saint Vincent College.  My lunches were consumed with Kyle, going to pick him up, getting him lunch and taking him back for his afternoon sessions.  Then, the rest of my day and evenings, I was consumed with plugging away at the Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt.  Busy, busy, busy week.

Then, Friday morning rolled around.  Naturally, I was up early with my head in my work, trying to wrap some items up before having to drop Kyle off at his Lego Camp.  I knew I had to make a trip to Shadyside and meet with the participating business owners before the work day ended, and I had to send brochures to the printers, pick them up and assemble all the Thrill of the Hunt bags for the participants before the day came to a close.  Needless to say, there was a lot on my mind and I was completely pre-occupied.  I’m not making excuses, just outlining the events of the day.

Roughly around 7:00 am, mom emailed me telling me to change Seven’s tracker, the battery was really low.  We use Tagg, which is a great service for tracking our freedom seeking dogs.  Only keeping a tracker on Seven, we’ve found that the buddies travel together so no need to weigh Scooby down.  My response to mom’s email?  “I don’t have time and I’m not planning on taking the dogs for a walk today, I have too much to do!”  Mistake number one!  Then around 7:30 am, Kyle was playing with my cat, Storm, on the porch and he had the front door wide open, without putting up the baby gate.  I was also going back and forth to my car loading it up with needed Thrill of the Hunt paraphernalia.

Then by 8:00 am, we both noticed we were two dogs short!  Around that time, I had to hurry up and update the Piper Reunion postcard and send it to press, since that was sneaking up on us; my friend Holly wanted to run hills and was calling; and mom called to ask me to bring her a large bowl to work.   Yikes!  Too much to do!  Not to mention I had to get Kyle over to his last day of Lego camp by 8:30 am and now the boys are missing.

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Seven & Scooby getting some rest after the rescue mission was a success! Poor Seven still had those porcupine quills in his face. Tired pups after 3 days missing. 6/30/13

Right around this very hectic time, mom emailed me giving me the update on the already known missing dogs.  She saw his last check-in was in Ridilliatown, not far from our house, but his tracker died so we really had no idea where their actual whereabouts were.  My response?  They’ll come back.  Did I mention this was when I was in route, between Saint Vincent, to Latrobe and mom’s work?

You see the dogs have a track record of taking off, running through the woods for a few hours and then making their way back home after they are good and tired and completely muddy (Dog Gone).  So who would have thought they would have deviated off of the norm?  Certainly none of us did!  In fact, we thought they would show up on the porch before dark, ready to sit out there punishment under the kitchen table.  That’s were they go when they’re in trouble.  The thinner, crappy doggie beds reside under there, making them really suffer their punishments out. (sarcasm)

Well, needless to say nightfall came and left and no signs of the dogs!  I woke up Saturday morning around 5:00 am to get ready for the Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt to find the house still a little empty.  I hate to say it, but when I talked to mom, who incidentally slept on the couch so she could hear are late night arrivals, I said, “I bet someone shot them!”  Mom agreed.  I know what a horrible thought!  I didn’t say I wanted that to happen, I was just trying to be realistic and prepare myself for the worst.  That’s what happened to my cousin’s dog when we were little, it was terrible!  Jack the dog, came back with half of his jaw shot off!

Speaking of shooting dogs.  That might sound like an over active imagination and not a present day reality, guess again!  When we were going around to the local neighbors where the dogs were once spotted, a lady told us that someone in Youngstown, near Latrobe Pennsylvania is known to shoot stray dogs.  She said they shot one before and wounded another!  Can you believe it?  I understand dog owners have to be in control of their dog at all times, but come on, things happen.  There is no reason to shoot a dog!  Maybe if it was bringing direct harm to another animal or person, sure for self defense, but just because they are loose and running around?  Even if they were on your property, shoo them away!  Don’t just shoot them!  What is wrong with some people?  Apparently, they have no heart and we need to say prayers for them.

Wishing I could have stayed to help with the rescue mission Saturday morning, Kyle and I headed into Pittsburgh for the Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt.  Before I left I had time to make a missing poster and I distributed it to my social sites far and wide.  While we were in Shadyside, the irony of the situation hit me!  I was running a scavenger hunt for dogs, when ours ran away and were lost, called Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt.  Not funny at the time, but has brought new humor.

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My poor Seven. Did he put his face directly up a porcupine’s butt? At least he’s home! 6/30/13

The scavenger hunt went really smoothly and was well received by all the participants and business owners.  During the hunt, besides reaching out to our participants via social sites along with my sister, we were  also helping to spread the word, on our very own missing four legged pals.  I was taking calls, and checking Facebook, keeping in touch with my friend Tree who was following up on leads and touching base with my family.  Talk about a lot going on!

As soon as I got back to the area, I joined the search and rescue team.  Getting in the car with mom, we rechecked the the last areas the dogs were spotted, and a few areas we thought they might have gone through.  What made this so difficult was the location of our runaways.  They were running through mostly woods, even worse, mostly unfamiliar woods to me, making their appearance every now-and-again near someones house or a main road.  Even though it was extremely frustrating, each report brought a bit of hope.  At the start of this all, the last place we knew the dogs were located in Ridilliatown, early Friday morning.  Keep in mind it is now Saturday afternoon.

The sightings included:  Someone saw them together off of route 30 near Sleepy Hallow at 6:00 pm on Friday.  Someone saw them near Kingston on Friday around 5:30 pm.  Someone almost hit them with their car off of route 30 near Ligonier around 6:30 pm on Friday.  What?  How did they make it that far coming from Youngstown?

Well, later on Sunday when I hiked the woods in that area, I found out it didn’t take me long to cross the ridges through the woods, only traveling about four miles.  Piece of cake for a couple of four legged travelers.

Then God gave us another bit of hope, Dave Planinsek saw them off his property Saturday morning around 6:15 am.  Great!  They made the night.  He did say it looked like the black one, Seven was foaming at the mouth.  That would explain why the others who spotted our pups said the one looked like he had porcupine quills in his mouth.  My poor Seven!

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Seven in the car after we found him, he was lost for 3 days & apparently met a porcupine on the his travels. 6/30/13

Saturday night was fast approaching and nothing, no sign, no word.  I even walked back in unfamiliar woods of Sugarbush, calling the entire mile in and mile out.  Once darkness completely took away my sense of sight, I reluctantly left the woods.  I will admit, it was pitch black and I had about three quarters of a mile to go just to get out of the woods and meet up with dad, who was on the quad.

We arrived at my parents house Saturday night, feeling completely defeated!  Especially knowing the dogs were going to have to spend another night in the woods and knowing that Seven was hurt and possibly Scooby.

That did it!  I had a new game plan.  I woke up early Sunday morning, we went to church the night before because Kyle had to serve mass, and packed my book bag.  I was going to hike all the woods in the area to try and find them.  Our logic, since no one had seen them since Saturday morning, they were hanging out in the woods.  They were injured, tired, hungry, scared and lost.

I packed up my .22 pistol, some food and water, first aide kit and a few other essentials.  I made sure my phone was completely charged so I could check my location on my GPS.  Mom was nervous since I have a track record of getting lost, (Directionally Challenged) but I had no qualms about walking around the woods.  I knew I’d pop out somewhere.  To play it safe, as long as my phone was on, Kyle could find me on Find Friends apps.  Not to mention I was using my RunKeeper app, which Tree and mom had my login information to track my last checked in status.

Breaking some of my RunKeeper records I continued on foot, while dad was on the quad and mom and Kyle were in the car driving around and checking with neighbors and putting up more posters.

This went on for hours on Sunday, it seemed like a lifetime.  When I would make my way to a main road, I would have mom and Kyle come and get me, to drop me off closer to start again.  By Sunday at 1:30 pm, I was with mom and Kyle in the car.  We decided to call dad to see how his progress was going.  When mom was talking to dad trying to outline our next plan of attack, possibly take a break for the time being, dad spotted Scooby!  We were in complete shock!  He called Scooby, and after Scooby recognized dad, he came running over to the quad, leaping up in his lap.  All dad was saying was, “Bring the car around and get him!”  I said, “Where are you?”  His vague reply was, “By the woods.”  Really?  Is this a joke?  “What woods?” I said.  Again, vaguely dad replied, “The ones we were by last night.”  Really?  Again, we were all over the ridge on Saturday.

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Scooby just woke up from hours of sleep after being lost for 3 days. He was looking for his buddy who still was not found at this point. 6/30/13

Trying to get dad’s exact location proved to be as difficult as trying to find the dogs because he just wanted to talk to Scooby.  He was even asking our blond pal where his pal Seven was.

Once we picked up Scooby, who had a few porcupine quills in his face, that I plucked out, Scooby fell asleep in the car on the way home.  Then back we went to track down number two doggie delinquent.  Apparently, the one house saw them, just before dad got to their house while he was on the quad, and they tried to call the dogs over.  Scooby came to our good Samaritans, (to my complete surprise)  but Seven was scared and took off (even more of a shock, I thought the opposite).  Now for the first time in days, the dogs are separated.

We looked and looked, to no avail.  Finally, as we were ready to make another pass at the ridge in the car, we got a call from the same house who found Scooby.  Seven was in their yard!  Mom drove like lightening to get there.  Once I saw my obviously distraught, disoriented and in pain pup, I welcomed him with open arms.  He reluctantly came to me, but eventually made his way into the car, for our ride home.

Seven and Scooby are safe back home!  Seven spent Monday at the vets getting those darn porcupine needles out of his face.  I was going to try and remove them like I did once for Scooby (Scooby Meets a Porcupine), but Scooby’s weren’t in for three days.  Seven was also really dehydrated and starving.  I thought it be best to wait out the night and take Seven to the vet first thing in the am.  They weighed him and it seems he lost nearly ten pounds!  Poor pup couldn’t eat or drink or even sleep for that matter, for three days.

Missing-Dog-Poster-Found-Aunt-Heather-Piper.psdThe boys were gone from Friday at 7:30 am and Scooby was brought home around Sunday at 2:00 pm, while Seven didn’t make it home till Sunday at 8:00 pm.  He also had to endure another night with the quills in his face before we could take him to the vet on Monday at 8:30 am.  He’s still not quite himself, but he is coming around, at least physically.  Scooby’s really stiff and his paw is proving to be hard to walk on, but he bounced right back.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to call in the sightings of the dogs, and those that tried to help completely strange dogs and unknowns owners!   Your efforts made the world of difference!

While everyone was extremely helpful, I want to give a big thanks to specific people.  One being my friend Tree.  She gave me all the updates of the reported sightings, posted on Action for Animals Facebook, responded back to posts and inquiries, tracked me as I walked through the woods so I didn’t get lost, sent us phone numbers and helped to remind me to keep the faith and reach out to my inner Wonder Woman!  Thanks Tree, you rock!  She was saying prayers and asking for Saint Francis and Saint Anthony to pray for us too.  Then there was mom’s friend Mary, who called all the police departments, local and state and reached out to specific key individuals in the area to spread the word and retrieve updates.  All of the Planinsek’s were most certainly helpful and patient with us driving around their property yelling for our delinquents, and walking and driving our quad through their woods.  The Seminsky’s went out riding around looking for beasts.  Renee Yazvec Hall’s husband and son drove around after seeing the posts on Renee’s Facebook page.  They also offered their services if we needed them, and truly meant it!  And not to mention the fellows from Frowen’s garage went looking with trucks and quads.  Thanks everyone, and those who I did not mention, some taking it upon yourselves to make calls and assist.  Thank you!

Although everyone in the surrounding areas were more than helpful, a big kudos goes to PJ Self and his family.  That young man, saw the dogs and let us know.  Then joined our rescue team on foot and ran through the woods and made a huge circle to look for Seven.  He actually ran.  Seriously, I mean he actually ran!  He even kicked up some deer, I saw them leaping like gazelles through Steiner’s field, while PJ ran along the tree line, miles from his house!  We never asked, he just wanted to help out.  Thank you so very  much!

Thinking about it now, I wonder if our boys learned a lesson?  Somehow I doubt it!  But for now they are safe and sound!

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

Home Away From Home – Parker Dam

Home is where the heart is.  ~Pliny the Elder

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Mom, Kyle & dad are packed & heading to Parker Dam. The boys (Seven & Scooby) are in the back. 6/13/13

Making another voyage to Parker Dam this past weekend, proved to be as nice of a time, as our other trips.  It was funny though, for some reason I really payed attention to my neighbors.  First, I’d like to explain that we always camp in the area approved for dogs.  Our favorite spot is lot number 90.  A nice little section out of the way, just outside the woods and near the restrooms and not far from the showers.

On Saturday, when Kyle and I were coming back from the Parker Dam beach, while riding my bike waiting for Kyle to drop his attitude and catch up to me, which incidentally he was moving so slow he could have grew moss, I people watched.  On a side note, I was reminded of something said to me last time we were riding our bikes at Parker Dam.  Kyle said, “Aunt Heather, we are on self propelled two wheel transportation devices.”  I have no idea where that came from, but it shot out of his mouth and almost made me fall off of my bike.  Anyway, as I peddled along, for some reason I really paid attention to the eclectic group of individuals staying on the camp grounds.  Some visitors only stay a night and move on, while others set up camp for what seems like a lifetime.   As different and unique as our fingerprints, same goes for the camp site setups and their dwellings.

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Sunday morning it rained at Parker Dam. Look at Nicole heading to the restrooms! I was dying when I saw her…yep she blends. Is she going to the bathroom or hunting? 6/16/13

Looking around at the different types of campers, meaning the vehicle they reside in while camping, not a reference to the person, I was utterly amazed!  Some camp sites are very rugged, getting back to the basics with a simple tent on the ground, while others set up a second home complete with satellite TV and a name plate posted in front of their temporary residence.  To be honest, I never noticed everyone else before.  We tend to stay to our own little rented out corner until it’s time to depart.  Personally, I really don’t care what everyone else it doing.   I, like my family, enjoy a little solitude and peace with nature, however as I peddled along my eyes were wide open.  I couldn’t believe what I saw!  I mean lights strung up in all shapes and sizes including chili peppers and ice-cream cones; a neon palm tree stuck in the ground with pink flamingos positioned all around; potted plants hanging from awnings; and huge tents to fit a wedding party staked to the ground.  Can you believe others take all that extra time for such embellishments while camping?  You better believe it!

I’m a pretty simple traveler no matter the destination Traveling Habits, only taking the essentials, not extra stuff.  That certainly holds true for camping.  Before we left and started packing up the camper, I thought to myself, ‘Boy this is a lot of work just for one weekend.  Is this really worth it for a two hour trip, a three day stay in a camper?’  I can’t imagine how long it takes those elaborate campers to pack up for their weekend stay, let alone set up camp.

You know, at first I can sit back and kind of make fun and laugh, but the more I looked, the more I noticed something, these little pieces of grassy lots holding all this stuff, is a home.  It certainly is that way for us.  In fact, there was a couple of times mom would say, “When we get back home”, meaning our camper.   It’s true what they say, ‘Home Is Where the Heart Is’.  And as I watched everyone have a great time, their heart was fully into camping, maybe not so ruggedly but the experience was there.  It almost made me feel like I was a part of something bigger.

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Seven & Scooby are packed & ready to head out to Parker Dam. They love the ride! 6/13/13

My parents had a neighbor, the Davis’ who used to take their RV camping.  They even had an electric golf cart so they could drive around the camp grounds visiting friends and socializing.  We are not that outgoing, but we did manage to break away for our isolation to chit chat with a few of our neighbors, who were nice and very interesting.  The one lady was in a wheelchair, yet she liked to camp, so their beast of a camper called the Wolf Pack folded down in the rear, allowing her to drive her motorized transportation up into her safe haven.

There was another lady walking her dog and kitten.  Yep!  Kitten!  A cute little tiger striped eight week old kitten.  The fury feline walked alongside the lady and her husband, while he walked their dog.  Now that kitten got me to stop and make a friend, as did Kyle.  He was obsessed with the fur ball!  When I told her I also brought my cat, she said, “O ya!  I had to, she’s still on the bottle and I didn’t want to leave her with my other cats.  I thought people would think I’m weird, camping with a cat.”  I totally laughed and said, “Cats are as much apart of the family as dogs are!”  Yep, we were surrounded by interesting and really down to earth people.

The weekend turned out to be another enjoyable trip.   It started off on Thursday night.  Kyle rode up with mom, dad, Seven and Scooby and the camper packed full, while Nicole and I left Friday during the day.  We were suppose to leave Latrobe around nine, however my sister convinced herself it was Saturday and apparently she wakes up later on the weekends.  Me?  I prefer to get up the same time all week long so my body is used to it and it becomes habit. Now I’m not saying I do wake up at 5:00 am every day of the week, but I do set that alarm to keep me in the rhythm.  Anyway, Nicole didn’t get up until around 8:00 am and she had a four hour drive to get me.  What?  Really?  Yep!  She finally got to the house at 1:00 pm and we made it to camp around 3:00 pm.  Not bad, even though I was looking forward to fishing with dad and Kyle in the morning, but no harm done.  Dad said the fish weren’t biting anyway.

Throughout our time at Parker Dam, we did a little biking, a little swimming and playing in the sand at the beach, we traipsed around with the dogs in the creek, made mountain pies and s’mores over the camp fire and relived the last time we were at Parker Dam.  Somewhere between Kyle’s need of an attitude adjustment and the fun and pleasant young man I know, he was singing uncontrollably.  All sorts of songs, including Christmas tunes.  What really brought a smile to my face and a song to the my lips, is when we were cautiously walking around in the creek and Kyle started singing Señor Don Gato!  I love that song!  I taught it to Kyle when he was just able to speak.  What brought that on?  I have no idea, but it was the perfect song for singing, while splashing around in a creek, in the middle of the woods.

Saturday night they had movie night!  They played Brave at their outside amphitheater.  It was really cool watching a movie in the middle of the woods outside in the nice cool air, while sitting under a blanket.  I loved it!  Almost like the drive in, only better!  While we were there we met a lady who was originally from Latrobe.  Incidentally, she was good friends of my parent’s neighbor, who were also friends of the family, the Ferry’s.  What a small a world!

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Check out the Piper bonfire! We never do anything small, not even hanging around a campfire at Parker Dam. 6/16/13

Funny story:  Sorry I can’t remember her name, but she is a manager of the park.  She also previously came across my blog, finding it on her Google alerts for Parker Dam.  She read my last few blog posts about our camping experiences at the park.  Smart lady, doing her homework and hearing first hand what others are saying.  I can only say good things about Parker Dam.  The facilities and amenities are very clean and really nice and the park rangers are very pleasant and respectful.  I’m not the only one who thinks so.  I have a friend who goes there twice a year, they’ve been doing since she was a little girl.  Well done!  Two thumbs up for Parker Dam!

Sunday morning rained.  Did we care?  Nope not at all!  We were in our very own dry safe haven.  It was just like being at home.  Nicole, Kyle and I played card games, Three of a Kind was the game of choice, although sometimes we broke out a mean game of war.  I brought the chess set, however it never made its appearance.  Kyle and I both read, I was working on Lord of the Rings The Fellowship of the Ring and his journey took place in Lord of the Rings The Two Towers.  Mom, dad, the dogs and Storm?  They laid around and nodded off and on.

With all this “stuff”, guess what also managed to make its appearance?  Yes you guessed it the Legos!  On Saturday night I sat with Kyle on our big rock by the camp fire and helped him set up the battle and played a little.  Funny story!  Kyle thought me and his Aunt Nikki were taking my car to camp so right before he departed on Thursday night with mom and dad, he loaded my car up Legos.  I mean loaded!  They covered the backseat, the passenger seat and the floor of all three places.  When I opened the door I thought I was at war.  Kyle said, “Ya that’s so when you get there, I would have already set up my battle and you can bring the reinforcements.”  Naturally, that’s exactly what I was thinking for our camping trip, to drag around a ton of Legos.  Only a few made the trip.

Now looking back on the weekend, and realizing what I am remembering are now memories, memories of fun, memories of togetherness, memories at our home away from home, I realize all the packing and hulling stuff, setting it up and tearing it down, ‘YES it was totally worth it!’  Can’t wait to do it again!

Read other adventures at Parker Dame

Fishing Towards Independence
Just Had to Take It to Parker Dam
Parker Dam State Park Story
Lego Love

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

Planting Traditions

It is rather for us here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to the that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.  ~Abraham Lincoln

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Kyle really helped me arrange & plant the flowers for his dad’s grave. Great Memorial Day tradition. 5/26/13

Yes,  the annual tradition of planting flowers on the headstones of the beloved deceased relatives was this past weekend.  What a nice time to plant delicate color among the rows and rows of inexorable reminders of those who are living elsewhere.  Odd enough, I do enjoy it!  Sometimes it helps to lessen the pain of loss.

Of course, what’s not to love?  Picking out pretty flowers?  Digging in the dirt to plant spring? All while sitting in manicured green grass.  It’s actually quite enjoyable, especially on the ridge where we tend to Ryan’s, pap’s and baby Piper’s graves.  The Bethel Lutheran Cemetery sits on the edge of the woods and overlooks the countryside.  As long as we get an early start on the day, or like this year, go late in the evening when the blazing sun is ready to retire, it makes for a relaxing family activity.

But no matter if it’s early or late in the day, cloudy or sunny, I can be found wearing a hat and smelling heavily of sunscreen, 45+ for babies.  Kyle can test to that, for I coat him in a thick layer as well, to protect and preserve his flawless skin.  Mom, finds a shady spot to plant herself during the activity.  You might say we are sun sensitive people, minus dad.

While continuing tradition, something struck me as kind of funny.  We plant annuals, yes the plants that die once winter comes.  As opposed to perennials, which sprout up every year.  It’s true, years ago I planted bulbs on Ryan’s and pap’s plots so the tulips and daffodils are up once spring arrives, for Easter.  Besides that, the only flowers we plant are annuals.  It’s kind of funny, planting something that will die in a place full of dead people.  Almost reminiscent of their life, starting out as a seed from the ground, grew out of the dirt to grace the world with life and beauty, and then went back to the earth from whence it came.  So maybe the annuals are more appropriate than perennials?  After all, if life was intimating life in my crazy random thought, who wants the dead to come back to life and then die again, to repeat the steps every year?  Aren’t those considered zombies?  Although I can’t lie, I would love to hang out with Ryan again, but I know one day I will.

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Continuing our tradition, we planted flowers on Uncle Walter & Aunt Mary’s headstone. Uncle Walter was a merchant marine. Where did his flag go? 5/26/13

So annuals it is!  On another side note, I am well aware our beloved deceased relatives are not truly hanging out in cemeteries.  The headstones are a nice symbol to remind us of who they were and where they are now.  It gives us a place to physically visit their memory.  Plus let’s face it, cemeteries are very peaceful and almost refreshing.

Quick story.  After Scooby, our Lab, had surgery to remove the tumor under his chin, he wasn’t allowed to run in the woods, for fear of ripping the stitches.  The poor dog wanted to go on our daily walks so bad!  To accommodate our pup, I modified the route to include the neighboring cemetery, which is positioned on the side of a small hill. Better exercise for me and for the dogs to run up and down.  The boys run free, with their shock collars strapped to their necks of course, in case of disobedience.  However, they do listen pretty good.

Anyway, as we rounded the bend to enter the cemetery, it dawned on me, ‘What if they have to expel waste?’  Yikes!  I would never want the dogs to crap in front of someone’s plot, nor pee on their headstone!  I watched them run around and you know what?  They used the edge of the woods to do their business.  Amazing!  It’s like the dogs had respect for the dead.  Now if dogs know better, why don’t some humans?  So basically those individuals who vandalize cemeteries are less than dogs?  Sounds about right!

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More tradition of planting flowers on Uncle Frank & Aunt Kathryn’s headstone 5/26/13

This year Nicole was home.  We packed up the vehicle and headed out to our first stop, Saint Joseph’s Cemetery, in Derry.  My cousin John usually tends to his parents, but the weather was not cooperating prior to Memorial weekend.  He and his family were on vacation at the Outer Banks.  Lucky devil!  No worries, I needed to visit Uncle Frank and Aunt Kathryn’s anyway.

Then, we headed back to Latrobe to make a big stop at Saint Vincent’s Cemetery.  I really do love that cemetery.  It’s always well kept and sits on the outskirts of the college.  We planted mom’s parents and her grandparents.  We also had the privilege of making a stop by my Uncle Walter and Aunt Mary’s to spread more colorful cheer.  My cousin Paula was not able to get to her parents.  Again, no worries we were in the area and I do love giving back to the family, even though it’s in the form of parking a few flowers.  To give respect for my family living and deceased, in addition to planting flowers, I clean off their headstones and clean up the area to make it nice and presentable.  I believe the graves are an extension from our homes, after all it’s ground that we own, similar to our places of residence.

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After a day flower planting traditions, we headed out to the backyard for a campfire. Love mountain pies! Aunt Nikki & Kyle warmed up by the fire. 5/26/13

Next we headed up on the ridge.  Ryan’s takes me a bit longer because I sit and plan out his flowers and I have a little bit bigger area to fill.  This year Kyle really participated.  I mean, in the past he’s always helped me plant and clean up trash and such, but this year he gave his sincerest opinion and assistance.  He told me which flowers he wanted on his dad’s headstone and thought out the arrangement they were to be placed.  Great!  He also really dug in and helped, not just going through the motions, but giving a heartfelt desire to make things nice.  That’s my buddy!

I always enjoy planting flowers and tending to the headstones, but this year was even better!  Kyle and I shared the longing to honor and remember our loved ones.  I hope, one day this tradition takes roots in Kyle, especially after I’m long gone.

Hint:  Petunias are pretty, come in a variety of colors and are hardy.

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

The Chad Delier Scanlon Story

It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.  ~Mother Teresa

This post is dedicated to my cousin Chad Scanlon.  In loving memory of Chad, September 4, 1994 – May 25, 2007.

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Chad Delier Scanlon, what a great inspiration!

This is a follow up to the Life’s Not Fair blog post.  After I wrote it, a certain someone came to mind, my cousin Chad.  He passed away on Memorial Day from a brain tumor, on May 25, 2007.  He was just 12 years old, about Kyle’s age.

Is that fair he didn’t have a chance to live his life?  Is it fair the family had to accept such an ordeal with the fight of cancer or worse, to loose a child?  Nope, but again it’s part of God’s ultimate plan I guess, even if we don’t understand it or really accept it.  So I guess life isn’t so bad when you spill your coffee or hit every red-light.

In all sincerity, I believe Chad lived a full life while he was with us.  How can you not growing up on the ridge?  The Scanlon family is a living testament to the type of person Chad would have turned out to be.  Jimmy, Marie-Paule and Sasha, Chad’s dad, mom and sister respectively, are all down to earth, good hearted folk.

The Scanlon’s and the Delier’s have always held their head high and never pitied themselves, nor did they expect that from anyone.  Nope!  They played the hand that was dealt to them and tried to handle it as best they could, even when Chad was fighting for his life and when he passed on.  Do they miss Chad?  Sure, everyday!  Everyday Chad is thought about, everyday they feel the grief.  Just like anyone who has lost a loved one, especially so young.  But they took this as an opportunity to help others while working through their pain.  They are the strongest of people, those that can move forward, face their grief and use it to help others, to reach out to those who need strength and support.

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Chad & Sasha in their pj’s. 12/31/05

As a lasting tribute to Chad, they established the Chad Delier Scanlon Memorial Fund at the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County.  Every year the Scanlon family, and I mean the entire family, organizes the Chad Delier Scanlon Golf Outing at the Glengarry Golf Course in Latrobe, Pa.

Besides helping the healing process, which I can totally understand and relate to (ie the Aunt Heather blog), they support many of Chad’s activities.  Can you believe Chad was fluent in French, ever since he was able to talk?  Yes!  His mother, Marie-Paule is bilingual, being born and raised in Belgium.  I always thought that was so cool!  Maybe because je parle un peu de Francais.

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Me, Jimmy & Marie-Paule Scanlon, Casey Olczak & Sasha Scanlon. The dream team! Chad Delier Scanlon Golf Outing at Glengarry Golf Course Latrobe. 2010

Chad went to the Holy Trinity Catholic School and he was a member of the church.  He enjoyed hunting and fishing.  What can I say?  All kids born into our family come pre-programmed for the outdoors.  Of course, I couldn’t speak of Chad without mentioning his love of jump rope.  Yes!  He was a member of the High Flyers Jump Rope Team.  In fact, while Chad was going through rehabilitation, he would work some jump rope into his activity.  Can I also mention he had a great attitude and never complained?  Never heard ‘It’s not fair.’

In addition to Chad’s activities, the Scanlon’s, raise money to help families whose own children are undergoing medical crises.  When I say the Scanlon’s, I’m referring to the immediate family and the rest of the family clan along with friends and neighbors.  Like I said, the Scanlon’s are genuinely good caring people.

It’s no secret, there are many more stories like Chad’s, but I’ve never heard anyone say ‘It’s not fair’.

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Chad’s High Flyers Jump Rope Team. Sasha is in the back row on the far left & Chad is in the middle back row.

Instead of saying ‘It’s not fair’, do what you can to help.  Years ago, when I read The Book of Chad, I was pleasantly surprised to find out what the local friends and family did to help Chad and his family during Chad’s struggle.  This is amazing to me!  Family and friends got together to finish building Jimmy’s garage.  Yes, while the family was dealing with Chad’s sickness, friend and family finished building a complete structure!  The Scanlon’s came home to find a finished garage at the end of the driveway.  I bet that was an awesome sight!  Maybe it helped to shift their focus, even if it was for just a moment.  I’m sure it made Santa’s little helpers feel good to just pitch-in and do something, and I know Jimmy and Marie-Paule appreciated it beyond words.  Sometimes giving is completely unrelated, yet it means the world to both parties.

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Kyle & Casey at the Chad Delier Scanlon Golf Outing at Glengarry Golf Course, Latrobe. Chad & Kyle share the same godfather!  2010

It’s easier said than done, and not everyone thinks that way or has the drive, motivation, resources or ideas to tackle their tragedy in the same manner, but there is much more to bringing comfort to others.  Instead of saying, ‘It’s not fair’ we should be saying ‘What can I do to help my fellow brother or sister?’

A few years after Ryan passed away, dad was back in the hospital.  Something about his oxygen in his blood being low, or something along those lines.   Naturally, I got a call from mom telling me to meet her in the emergency room.  On a side note, I walked in the room where mom and dad were, and dad was wearing a hospital gown for a shirt and he kept his jeans and boots on!  I almost fell over laughing at the sight!  Mom said he refused to get totally undressed, since they only needed his arms to take his blood pressure and such.  Only my dad!

Anyway, across the room from dad was a little boy, probably Kyle’s age at the time, two or three.  I’m not sure why he was there, but I do know he was sick, again the details were none of my business.  When dad heard about the little tyke, he immediately had my mom go and get the little boy a balloon and a stuffed animal from the hospital gift shop.  I know seeing that kid sick struck a cord with dad.  At that point, Kyle was always in and out of the hospital himself with phenomena, tonsillitis, ear infections, you name it, all respiratory issues.  We had a sick little man on our hands for quite some time.  I did peek my head in the room of the mystery boy, just to give the kid a thumbs up.  He was so happy over his spontaneous gift from an unknown source.  It made all of us smile.  And you know what?  The day was a little bit easier to take.

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Chad helping his dad with building the beginning of the garage before he got sick.

Was it fair that Kyle was so sick for so many years or that little boy was in the ER?  No, but we are blessed that Kyle is healthy now.  Like I said, others always have it worse, like Chad’s struggle.  But I will admit those years of emergency room visits, made us all aware of the fears and battles other sick children tackle.  Let’s not forget, it helped Kyle to soften dad’s heart.  So much so, that he reach out his neighbor, literally, across the hallway to give back.  This time in the form of a milliard balloon and a stuffed animal.

You know I do believe Ryan and Chad are hanging out in heaven together, maybe casting their fishing lines side-by-side.  I also believe they are with my pap and Chad’s grandma, my Aunt Helen.  That’s how we are related, my pap and Aunt Helen’s dad were brothers, Jimmy’s grandpa and my grandpa were brothers.  Aunt Helen was another one of those great spirits we were all blessed to know.  Ryan had such a crush on Aunt Helen when he was little.  He used to say she was his girlfriend.  Maybe she’s sitting there too, fishing in the pool of heaven.

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Me & Kyle working tickets at the Chad Delier Scanlon Golf Outing 2010

This year’s golf outing is on Saturday, June 15th at the Glengarry Golf Course in Latrobe, Pa., near Lycippus.  Every year the seats fill up fast, I guess that’s what happens when you come from such a large family.  It is a fun event!  All donations support the Make-A-Wish Foundation to help a child with a life threatening disease receive a wish; the Holy Trinity School in Ligonier; Hunt-of-A-Lifetime to help send a child with a terminal illness on a hunting trip; and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation for travel expenses to aid children in getting to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh for treatment.

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Sasha & Chad setting up the train for Christmas

If anyone is interested in volunteering or donating, please let me know.  Or visit the Chad Delier Scanlon Memorial Fund on Facebook.  Show your support for Chad and the family just by hitting ‘Like’.  Some donate in the form of monetary contributions; some sponsor a hole, which we do in memory of Ryan; while others donate their time and some donate baskets and prizes to be raffled off during the golf outing.  It’s a very well organized event that I am blessed to be apart of every year.

I do want to give a special shout out to the Glengarry Golf Course.  They have been exceptional to work with and they have treated us wonderfully.  Besides going out of their way to make sure the day runs smooth, not that Jimmy and Marie-Paule need any assistance, but they are easy to work with and they genuinely want the day to be successful.

To really learn the full story of Chad’s brain tumor, the struggles and obstacles he and his family faced, purchase The Book of Chad.  It couldn’t be more straightforward and spot on and educational.

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