The Open Roads With a Driving Permit

When you set sail for Ithaca,
wish for the road to be long,
full of adventures, full of knowledge.  ~
Constantinos P. Cavafis

Kyle-on-his-Home-Depot-car-for-his-1st-birthday-7-2002-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle on his Home Depot car for his 1st birthday.  My cousin Heather in the background. 7/2002

It’s no secret I’ve been sneaking Kyle short drives here and there on back roads for a few months now.  Not to mention, over the years, I’d let him steer, shift and start the car.  I never wanted driving to be a totally foreign concept to him.

Kyle got his permit last Tuesday, August 8, 2017.  He passed on the first try!  Way to go buddy.  He’s officially allowed on the open roads with a legit driver.

It’s amazing how many rules and regulations have changed since I took my driving test, a few years ago.  (insert wink)  Like what?  Well, first of all the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is in a different location in Greensburg.  That’s right, it used to be closer to downtown Greensburg off Pittsburgh Street.  Now it’s in a strip mall leaving Greensburg on the outskirts.  Back then we were allowed to get our permit at fifteen and take our test the day we turned sixteen.  Or get our permit one day and the next take our test.  There was no waiting period.  Now the students have to be sixteen to get their permit, log so many hours of driving in all sorts of weather conditions and wait six months before taking the driving test.  At first I was sort of irritated over the new rules, but after I thought about it, if this process proves safer for our young drivers, I’m on board.

Last Tuesday, I actually got to meet Kyle at PennDOT before he took his test.  Somehow I was the possessor of his social security card.  Naturally, he needed it, Aunt Heather to the rescue.  Seeing him, even for a brief moment and wishing him luck made my day.  Not to mention receiving a text message shortly after, stating he passed his permit test made me even happier.

A week ago today, my cousin Stacey got married.  Congrats Stacey!!

I picked Kyle up early and asked if he wanted to take over the wheel.  He smiled, shrugged his shoulders and said, “I guess.”  While backing out of the driveway Kyle remarked, “I’ve never gone over 20 miles an hour.”  What?  It was then I realized he never logged time behind the wheel. No one took him out at all.  None. Zero. Zip. Now we were on our way up busy route 66, to get onto even busier route 22, then through town and finally back roads.  Pretty aggressive travel plans for a newbie.  My comment?  “Well, go slow.  You’ve got to learn to drive these roads some day, so I guess it’s today.  I’ll help.”

Stacey's Wedding 8-12-2017 Aunt Heather Piper

Me & Stacey at her wedding! Bridal dance 8/12/2017

Kyle seemed excited, yet a little nervous.  He was lucky it was me instructing him. (Ask Tree when I took her driving in my stick shift. She hit the curb at Legion Keener.) I’m really calm and patient in these situations, and I’m good at supplying detailed instructions, the way Kyle responds best.  I wanted to show him I had faith in his abilities, as well as use the opportunity to give him valuable intangible lessons.  There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance.  I wanted Kyle to gain experience and build that confidence, while shying away from arrogance.  Plus, the more road time he got with an experienced driver, the better.

How did he do?  GREAT!  He did stress when cars passed us on the opposite side of the road going the other direction.  He was also uneasy when cars went around us on route 22.  Understandably.  Throughout the entire trip, I reiterated, “I know buddy, it’s stressful.  For now, just stay to your side and focus on the road.  Let everyone else wait or go around us.”

While we were on route 66, before reaching Delmont, not even a mile into our trip, a car passed Kyle illegally.  Yikes.  He looked at me alarmed, not knowing what to do.  I told him, “Stay on course.  Let them go around.”  Typical Kyle called out, “That’s illegal!”  My response?  “I know buddy but are you going to arrest them?  Let them get in trouble and focus on the road.”

Once we got to the point where a left turn was necessary to merge onto route 22, Kyle was forced to change lanes.  He was uneasy.  I found out he couldn’t turn his head to look, use the mirrors, drive, and turn on the turn signal.  We’ve all been there.  He did manage to use his side mirror without drifting into the other lane. I craned my neck to double check for oncoming cars.  In fact, I did that entire way just to play it safe.  We made a good team.

At the red light a lady in the passenger seat beside us spotted me giving Kyle hand motions in preparation for the turn left, to avoid sideswiping our neighbors and without driving headfirst into the opposite traffic making their turn.  At this intersection, if a driver isn’t careful, paths could cross resulting in devastation.  Our temporary neighbor lady was sweet.  She smiled and gave Kyle thumbs up.  Kyle grinned and remained focused on the red light.  I told him, “She knows you’re a new driver and she’s wishing you luck.  People are generally kind and understanding.”  Kyle kept his eyes on the road in anticipation of the left turn and zoned out of our unspoken conversation.

While making the successful turn, I explained we had the right away from merging traffic on our right.  Before I could get the words out, a car that was going too fast, cut in front of us without yielding.  I guess these are all good lessons for Kyle to learn and to know what to watch out for.

As quickly as that happened, we had to get onto route 22, merging left.  Now we were the yielding party on a busy road with cars in front, beside and behind us.  This time Kyle strictly kept his eyes on the road ahead.  To make a safe transition, I was his lookout spouting instructions regarding fast approaching traffic.  Kyle merged gracefully, while seemingly not sweating it.  However, upon closer inspection his knuckles were bright white.

Eventually, I’ll have Kyle practice changing lanes on route 22, but I didn’t want to give him added anxiety or press our luck.  He handled the road like a champ.

Kyle's Text Message 8-8-17 Aunt Heather PiperI did find Kyle was already driving like me, too fast.  More than a few times I caught him going 60+ miles an hour. All I said, without yelling or freaking out as to not startle my inexperienced driver was, “Kyle let off the gas.”  The first time I said it, Kyle looked surprised because he wasn’t doing it on purpose.  He glanced at the speedometer and said, “Oh” then did as instructed.  After it happened a few times Kyle admitted, “I’m just trying to keep up with the traffic.  Everyone is speeding!”  I had to laugh, he is so me.

To put things into perspective I said, “Kyle, you don’t have the experience they do.  Plus, you don’t have your driver’s license and I don’t know the consequences of getting pulled over for speeding with a permit.  And if I get in trouble for your speed, you’re in double trouble.”  His reply?  Typical me comment, “I don’t think anything would happen to me.”  I smiled and retorted, “You don’t think?  I bet the cop will make an example of you and take away your license for a year.  Maybe even make you retest for your permit.  Plus, I’m sure I’ll get in trouble too.”

On a side note, it would be funny for Kyle and I to take our driving tests together.  Not an ideal situation, but a good story for later.

Kyle pondered my words and soon after I noticed a big change in him. He kept asking me the speed limit and would confirm his speed out loud, more for himself than for my benefit.  He’s so funny.  He gives the exact speed.  Example:

Kyle:  “What’s the speed limit here?”
Me:  “Umm, I’m not sure, I bet it’s 45, just go slower to play it safe.”
Kyle:  “Yep, it’s 45. (I never saw the speed limit sign).  Okay, I’m going 46.”
Me:  “You’re doing good buddy.  Just don’t go over the speed.”
Kyle:  “Okay, I’ll let off the gas a little. Now I’m going 44.”

Kyle never slammed on the breaks when he realized he was going to fast or when he was easing into a stop sign or red light. Sometimes his stop was a little rushed but not totally abrupt.  I did explain about people rear-ending him and trying to avoid collisions, his fault or not.  His advance was sometimes a rushed.  I told to relax with the gas peddle, we weren’t in the Fast and the Furious.  We weren’t drag racing anyone.  He laughed.

Lilia at Stacey's Wedding 8-12-2017 Aunt Heather Piper

Me & Lilia sharing a smile at Stacey’s wedding. 8/12/2017

There were a few times cars looked like they were going to back into us, or they stopped without using their turn signal.  Every time, Kyle’s reaction was to let off the gas and I saw he was ready to use his breaks. All without panicking. I reiterated my observations to give him constructive praise.

Kyle did crack me up at four way stops.  He waved everyone on so no cars would be around when he turned or went through.  I remember those days too.  I reassured him, “I know it’s a little stressful going around other cars, just take your time.  If you use your turn signal and go slow, most people will see you’re a new driver and be patient.”  Sometimes cars waved Kyle on.  He grunted every time with distress but made it through unscathed.

During the entire 45-minute journey, there were only two scary instances.  One was making the right turn onto route 981 from route 22 at the light.  Kyle was going a little too fast and didn’t cut the turn tight enough.  I told him to slow down and tighten the turn.  He responded with, “I know, I am.”  Umm.  Not really.  I had to grab the steering wheel before we grazed the line of cars sitting at the red light.  He realized what had happened and I believe he learned from it.  Prior to that, when Kyle was in the passing lane in Delmont, he kept creeping toward the centerline.  He wasn’t used to that side of the road.  Again, minor instances.

During our trip I noticed when Kyle was off center, too close to the side of the road or the double line or he was speeding, he corrected himself before I called it out. Again, each time I gave him positive comments to reinforce good habits.

Kyle drove the rest of the weekend, to the store, the wedding and back home.  Each time, I could tell he was doing better and more comfortable around other cars on the road, slightly.

Kyle was also faced with unusual instances. While driving through Latrobe, he had to pull around a person on a bicycle.  I could see the fright in his eyes as I told him to go into the other lane to get around.  He didn’t like that scenario yet skirted past our bicyclist easily.  He also had to go around a parked truck that was unloading.

Finally, let’s discuss parking. Ironically, his issues were mine. I had Kyle pull up to the sidewalk while I ran into a store. I was half expecting him to scrap the sides of my tires. He didn’t and inquired, “How close am I? I need to be within 12 inches.” Not to burst his bubble but to be honest I stated, “Umm. It looks more like 18 inches buddy.” He retorted, “Well that’s the first time I parked like that.” I get it. It takes practice.

Kyle was forced to park at K-Mart, I spared him by not going to Wal-Mart. Playing it safe, he attempted his park job away from other cars, unsuccessfully. Laughing, I told him church people do a better job. He reiterated that he never parked before. No worries, I told him I’d take him out to practice a day of parking. I was never good at it either. We lived in the country and never had lines to park within, or other cars to park between. He’ll learn.

Fun Story. I’m notorious for never putting gas in my car, nor paying attention to how much is in the tank. Ever since I started driving, that task was never a concern to me. Did I run out of gas? You bet. Usually, I’d walk to the closest house and call Ryan to bring me gas. He always had some on hand, probably for me. Did it bother me? No. Maybe that’s why I never paid attention.

Kyle get’s in my car and immediately looks at the gas tank to exclaim I only have less than a half a tank. In my eyes, it’s nearly full. Kyle was not so blasé about the situation. As we were driving, the gas tank must have bothered him because he stated, “I know what I’ll do. When the gas hits the halfway mark, I’ll fill it up.” Yeah, now I’m not so sure we’re related, although, he did sound like my Dad.  I told him he can borrow my car any time he wanted.  I got a kick out of that comment!

One more funny story. Someone moved my car in my parent’s driveway, close to the side of an embankment. Directly behind it was a burn pile they burn boxes and papers but sometimes other items like nails and such get mixed in. I didn’t want Kyle to run into the pile for fear of puncturing my tires. I stood outside the car and had him cut the wheel into the driveway. He was seriously on edge (pun intended). Making sure he was in reverse (yes if he hit the gas in drive, it would not have been pretty) I gave him instructions. He kept the drivers door open. If I know Kyle he had an escape plan. He yelled at me, “This is illegal you know!” I told him to relax, he’s got it, and he did. If I thought he couldn’t handle it, then I would have taken over the wheel.

Okay, last funny story. Kyle drove us to the wedding. We had to park in a field with all the other guests. I was going to change places with him but he stated he could back into the parking spot. Okay, why not. As I gave him instructions to arch wide to give him enough room to straighten the car so he was backing straight, he misunderstood me. He drove in a big circle in the field. I was dying. The guys directing traffic were confused, as were the line of cars behind us. He did freak out on me, “You told to me to go this way!” I told him, “Calm down. It’s okay.” He managed to back up, with my help guiding the steering wheel.

He drove us home at night too.

Since Kyle was born, there wasn’t a day that’s gone by when I haven’t thought about him (and his Dad) and prayed for his well-being. The older he gets, I find myself adding to his prayer list. I could never handle Kyle meeting the same fate as his Dad. Maybe that’s why I’ve always insisted he gets experience behind the wheel. Ironically, Ryan was a great driver and that situation still doesn’t make any sense. God always has a plan.

 

Added:  8/27/17

On Monday August 21, 2017 was a solar eclipse.  Pretty cool.  It took place around 2:00 p.m.  I texted Kyle and told him he needed to go out and drive around during the natural phenomenon so he could write down in his ledger about the weather conditions.  His response.  Nothing.

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

Ziplining Into 16-Years

Never say ‘no’ to adventures. Always say ‘yes,’ otherwise you’ll lead a very dull life.  ~Ian Fleming

Aunt Heather Piper & Kyle pre ziplining 8-2-17

Me & Kyle … pre-zipline prep. Seven Springs. 8/2/2017

On Wednesday, I surprised Kyle with an adventure to the Laurel Mountains. What did we do?  We ziplined at Seven Springs!

I’ve never done it before but I always wanted to and I guessed Kyle concurred with this bucket list item.  While it wasn’t as exotic as ziplining in the Amazon, it was a lot of fun.  Pennsylvania has a lot of venturesome nooks and crannies worth exploring.

Kyle’s birthday is always a celebration, one we all look forward to every year.  The gifts have always varied in price, practicality and complexity, yet the goal has always remained the same, to introduce Kyle to new adventures and opportunities for personal growth.  My gifts may not all be extravagant, but they’re always unique and given from the heart.

Kyle unhooking ziplining 8-2-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle sticking the landing & getting unhooked to zip another line. Seven Springs 8/2/2017

Sunday was Kyle’s actual birthday and I didn’t tell him his birthday surprise.  To keep him on his toes, I simply informed Kyle he was spending Wednesday with me.  Instantly, Kyle’s interest was peeked and I gave him a hint to wear tennis shoes and comfortable cloths.  It didn’t take long for the gears in his head to begin churning.  He enjoys surprises but he can’t handle them.  He gave me a look and I stated, “Kyle, have I ever disappointed?”  He didn’t answer but knew I always brought my best game.

Missing Kyle in the worst possible way, I picked up my little man midday Tuesday.  Pleasantly, I found him in a good mood and not being difficult.  We hung out at my parents, since their house was closer to Seven Springs.  We ate, watched movies and enjoyed each others company, like the old days when he was a kid.  A perfect evening if you ask me.

Funny story.  As habit has recently dictated, I switched seats with my new driver midway up the ridge.  Instead of having Kyle pull into mom and dad’s driveway, I had him put the car in reverse to go up the hill for additional practice.  He certainly found it more challenging.  We snaked around a bit and kicked up stones.  As I was sitting in the passenger seat, I thought, Dad‘s probably watching and wondering what’s wrong with me?  I was right.  When we got out of the car, (that was parked very crooked) I saw Dad take note Kyle was the driver.  Dad started grinning and said, “I was wondering what the hell was wrong?”  Kyle cracked a smile thinking it was funny to fool his pappy.

Kyle hanging from a zipline 8-2-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle ziplining! Seven Springs. 8/2/2017

On Wednesday, Kyle rose from his beauty sleep around 7:30 am.  Without prompting him, he jumped in the shower, ate and strapped on his tennis shoes and was ready for his day of fun.  He still didn’t know what I had in store for him but he was game for anything.

On our way up the mountain, Kyle started guessing our activity.  His first assumption was Caddy Shack for Go Cart riding.  Nope.  Then, I saw the light bulb.  With conviction he said, “Oh, I know, where we’re going.  Seven Springs!  That’s the only thing up here.”  I retort, “Not necessarily buddy, there’s other things to do in the Laurel Mountains.”  I must not have been convincing because the next thing I knew, I was unwillingly participating in 20 questions.

By the time we made the right at Sarnelli’s and then the left to take us directly to Seven Springs Kyle knew our final destination, but he didn’t know what we were doing.  That stinker pulled up the Seven Springs website and began naming all the activities to get me to bite.  Funny enough, the ziplining was on a separate page, which I knew but he didn’t.

While parking the car and on our way to our render-vous point, Kyle kept saying, “I named everything, it has to be one of those.”  Maintaining my excitement, I smiled and responded, “Well, that’s not what we’re doing.  You didn’t name everything”  To only have Kyle retort, “Yes I did.  It has to be one of those!  We’re going hiking aren’t we?”  I laughed.  He didn’t say hiking with disdain like he usually does, but not with excitement either.

Kyle wouldn’t let it go.  Once we entered the offices to sign in, it dawned on him, he was missing an adventure.  Seeing the sign for the Canopy Laurel Ridgeline Zipline Tour his face lit up and confidently he stated, “The only thing I didn’t say was the Canopy tours.”  Ding. Ding.  You got it!  I only smiled and he couldn’t resist giving me a smile back.

Kyle ziplining 8-2-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle getting ready to stick the landing… ziplining at Seven Springs. 8/2/2017

Throughout the offices were large wall sized photographs of ziplining experiences.  Kyle was pleasantly surprised.  Actually, he was seriously excited and couldn’t contain it!

We met the rest of our group and they were very cool people from the Penn State area.  In fact, when they heard this was Kyle’s birthday present they joined in wishing him a happy birthday and expressing what a perfect birthday present.  We also found out Kyle and this lady (Karen) shared the same birthday.  What a neat coincidence.

Normally on the weekends, the ski lift takes the adventure seekers to the spot to begin, unfortunately, we had to take a van.  The drive was like riding dune buggies over treacherous terrain, there and back again.  After ziplining and on our way back down the hill, Kyle laughed and said, “Did you see him spin out on the gravel around the turn?”  It was funny.  I said, “You should give him some driving lessons.”  Kyle laughed!

At the first platform, the last person up the ladder was to zip first.  Kyle, who normally likes to be first, moved slowly and stayed toward the back of the line.  I turned to him, “So, you want to go first?”  It really wasn’t a question but a confirmation.  The rest of the group noticed and cheered for the “birthday kid.”  Like I said, great group of people.

Before we took the plunge, I whispered to Kyle, “Watch, I’ll probably project myself into a huge patch of poison ivy.”  Kyle snickered and snapped back, “Or a tree.”  What?  I said, “Why would you say that?”  Kyle giggled and the others heard us and chuckled.

Kyle ziplining through the Laurel Mountains 8-2-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle ziplining! 1st one to go… 8/2/2017

I felt like a monkey zipping from one platform to another.  The first few were shorter and they progressively got longer and faster.  The longest was 1,500 feet and the second longest was 1,400 feet.  Because of the way the lines were located on the second to the longest line, it slightly assended to the platform.  Meaning, anyone light needed to cannonball their way to keep their speed going to the end.  I thought I weighted enough so I was good, not really.  I left my legs dangling which slowed me down.  I did have to pull myself about 10 feet, while Kyle on the other hand had to pull himself a bit further.  He came up about 30 feet short.  I’ll give him credit, he never panicked and pulled himself up like a champ.  Of course, it helped the group cheered him on.  He smiled over the jokes they made, “Kyle did you want more of an adventure?” and “Kyle did you want to get in another workout?”  He was good about the teasing.

The course consisted of ziplines, naturally, but also two suspension bridges.  The first one, we had to propel ourselves off a platform to access another platform and the bridge.  It was made of half logs that were fairly spaced out.  The guide instructed us to stay at least three log lengths apart.  Granted, we were strapped in, but I didn’t want to slip and get road rash down my legs so I took my time.  Kyle, who was behind me.  He tried to rush me and stressed me out.  He thought he was funny.  That stinker!

Kyle getting his zipline instructions 8-2-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle getting instructions before taking the plunge.. our first zip liner! 8/2/2017

All in all, we had a blast.  I love that Kyle has my adventurous spirit and is fearless.  I truly believe he had a great day and enjoyed himself.  Of course, it was perfect blue skies and warm weather.  How could anyone not have a great time zipping 150 feet in the air over trees and spending a day in nature?  Not possible.

Our instructors, Kiarra and Dan, were fabulous.  They maintained safety regulations, yet were entertaining and personable.  They really made the day special, in addition to our group.

Who was this mysterious extension to our ziplining crew?  There was a husband and wife, their 18-year old son, and the wife’s brother and their 79-year old Dad.  The grandpap was in better shape than all of us combined.  He was amazing.  Again, great group.

Now, what to do for Kyle’s 17th birthday?  I better start planning now.  In the meantime, I asked Kyle is he wanted to come back this fall to do the course again.  Yes, of course he does.  I thought it would be beautiful with the Autumn leaves.

I did manage to get a couple videos.  One of Kyle propelling himself off the platform and one of him ziplining (very short).  Enjoy.

 

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posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Milestone and have No Comments

Happy Birthday Kyle! Sweet 16!

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

Baby-Kyle-8-12-01-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle as a little man. Ryan carried him around in this seat everywhere. 8/12/01

Can you believe Kyle is 16 years old today?  Seems like these milestones are becoming more frequent and harder to accept.

Happily, I was there when Kyle was born, all 6 pounds 10 ounzes of him.  Ryan was ecstatic over the arrival of the new package and I was nervous, yet thrilled to be an Aunt.  Kyle was a blessing, and it was only over the years did I really understand just what a blessing he’s been and continues to be.  Ryan would be proud, as am I.

Sixteen years later, Kyle turned into a smart, kindhearted, wonderful young man anxious to get his permit and tackle another stage in his life.  Finally, he’s excited to drive and gain a little more freedom.  Kyle mentioned he has to get a physical and then it’s off to get his permit, this Friday. Friday!  As much as I want him to be independent, I’m nervous.  Add another item to the prayer list.

Kyle at the Movies 7-29-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Nicole & Kyle at the movies to see Valerian. We took him for his birthday celebration. 7/29/2017

What have we been up to for the big birthday weekend?  Not much of anything.  Kyle stated he wanted to hang out.  Fine by me, I could always use some uninterrupted Kyle time.  Nicole came home to join in on the celebration too.

Yesterday, we went to the movies to see Valerian and afterwards headed to my parents house for some DQ ice-cream cake and a bonfire.  My favorite way to spend the day.  Chilling on the deck gave us some time for Kyle to catch us up on his recent activities.  Surprisingly, he did.

Before heading to the movies, Nicole and I had Kyle back Nicole’s SUV out of the driveway and partially down the ridge.  Kyle stated, “Too bad it’s not a week later, then I’d be driving us to the movies.”  Yes, he would have.  

Kyle's 16 Birthday 7-29-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle’s 16! 7/29/2017

I spoke of Kyle going to Northwestern University for a week in the previous post From February Till Now, A Summary of Kyle.  He told us about his adventure.  He was given the opportunity to build a few items using PVC pipe and ductape (I have no idea exactly what he was talking about) with the engineers, attended a lecture with the Dean and another lecture from a seasoned professor.  Kyle even toured the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab)!  How cool was that!  He received a letter of recommendation from the school and is one step closer to finalizing his future endeveorus.

Today we went to brunch at DeNunzio’s at Latrobe Airport and continued hanging out for the rest of the day and enjoyed Kyle’s company, which is becoming a rarity.  

What did I get Kyle?  You’ll see. I’m picking him up Tuesday night for a Wednesday fun surprise, just the two of us.  He seems excited over his surprise and stated, “You’re not taking me to a Lego’s thing are you?”  I’m not sure why he thought that.  I am aware he is sixteen and not a little tyke.  At first, I couldn’t tell if he was in favor or not of a Lego’s thing.  Reluctantly, I said, “No. Why?”  He sighed with relief and said, “Oh, good.  Cause I don’t want to.”  Even though Kyle likes his Legos decorating his room, I guess partaking in Lego fun is now out of the question.   My response?  “Kyle, have I ever disappointed you for your birthday?”  He snickered and never answered.  More to come on Kyle’s birthday.

Happy Birthday Kyle!  I love you!

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posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Reminiscing and have No Comments

From February Till Now, A Summary of Kyle

Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.  ~J.D. Salinger

Planinsek Fishing Derby Kyle & a hug Aunt Heather Piper 5-13-17

I love my little man, who is now as tall as me! Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/13/2017

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I released a blog post.  The end of January.  Yikes!  I’ve thought about it, then got sidetracked or ran out of time.  Where have I been?  Bombarded with work, that’s where.  Marketing has kept me a pretty busy lady.  But the bigger question is, what’s Kyle been up to?

Let me give a monthly recap.

February

I really don’t remember what went on in February.  At least nothing so monumental that it warrants a call out.  We didn’t have much of a winter.  When snow did fall, I asked Kyle to go snowboarding, but my invitation was quickly declined.  He had other plans.  (Probably nothing)  He stated that he still likes snowboarding but wasn’t interested when asked.

Originally, I wanted to take Kyle and a few of his friends to Seven Springs.  However, the way the snow landed, or lack there of, I wasn’t given much notice to plan a trip to the slopes.  Personally, I want to see if Kyle remembers how to snowboard.  I also want him to feel comfortable again on the mountain without fear of him hurting himself.  I guess there’s always next year.  Maybe I’ll plan a trip out west. It’s been a while since I’ve ridden any real mountains and Kyle’s never had the chance.  Making a mental note.

March

First Day of Fishing Kingston Kyle 4-16-17 Aunt Heather Piper

First Day of FISHING! Kingston 4/16/2017

Again, another month without the steady presence of Kyle.  I do miss my little man.  This is in such contrast to when Kyle was a youngster.  He was around all the time.  I could count on him to answer my calls, my text messages and even Facetime me, talk and hang out.  He never passed up an opportunity to do something fun together.  Actually, it didn’t need to be fun, he was game to do anything as long as I was there doing it with him. (Yes that included cleaning)

It just goes to show, appreciate what you have when you have it.  I guess fifteen is the rejection age.  Although, this has been going on for about a year and a half since he was thirteen – fourteen.  Now I want to know when will it end and I get my buddy back?  Of course, I wouldn’t want to hang around a family that yells and argues all the time either.  I know he gets enough of that at home.

April

Kyle Derek Logan Band Concert 5-2-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle, Derek & Logan watching the other band performances. Lookin’ good guys! 5/2/2017

Holidays are always a great excuse to see friends and family.  Kyle can’t escape hanging with his aunt for Easter.

A Saturday in either March or April
I got a call that Kyle wanted picked up.  Great!  Did I mind it was last minute and I had to change my plans to accommodate him?  Never.  I was excited to see my guy.

As recent history dictated, Kyle was quite on the ride.  When I asked him questions, he either shrugged his shoulders or gave his typical answers, “Good”, “No”, “Fine” or “I don’t know.”  Good talk buddy!

As we were driving to my parents house to visit, I got a great idea.  Knowing Kyle would be turning sixteen in July, I thought I’d surprise him with a little driving lesson.  For a change, we weren’t in a hurry and it was a lovely day.  Why not?

I pulled into the cemetery near my parent’s without informing Kyle of my plan.  I put the car in park and got out and walked around to the passenger side.  Kyle began to freak out like he was in trouble.  I definitely sported a snicker.  I opened the passenger door to find Kyle getting defensive and not willing to leave his seat.  I told him my plans and his response?  “But I’m not sixteen yet, I’m not allowed to drive.”  Kyle was always like that, never willing to break the rules, no matter.  My reply?  “Do you think you should wake up on your sixteenth birthday and be allowed to get behind the wheel on the highway without a little practice?  Besides, I’ve already had you driving since you were little.”

Kyle at Fishing Derby 5-13-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle waiting for the big one at the Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/13/2017

Believe it or not, Kyle argued with me.  What kid does that?  Most teens would be all too excited to take the wheel, especially with me, who’s not going to freak out if he hits something.  I did mention, “This is where I learned to drive, of course I drove a stick on the hill.  But it’s a good place, no one’s around and everyone’s already dead.”  He gave me an uneasy look.  “The most I’ll have to do is owe someone a new headstone, so try and stick to the road.”  I was graced with a smirk for my candor.

After a little attitude, I got Kyle to drive.  I enforced using his turn signal (good habit) and showed him other basic car features.

He was pretty steady, although, Kyle did give me a fright when he approached a turn, that if not addressed properly would have resulted in us flying down over an embankment.  He was going to make the left turn but he was moving a bit too fast (not that he reached 10 miles an hour, but it was still too fast for the situation, especially a first time driver).  I grabbed the oh S#@$ handles and used my imaginary break.  My actions received me a full blown smile from my young driver.  Let it be known I never yelled.

Kyle by fire at Fishing Derby 5-13-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle playing games by the fire at the Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/13/2017

As we began our decent down the grade, after he made the bend without launching us over the side of a cliff (large gully), it resulted in another sharp left turn.  This one I wasn’t so worried about.  The most Kyle could do was run into the grass.  As we approached the turn, it went something like this:

Me:  Better go slower.
Kyle:  I got it.
Me:  Left turn signal and you better slow down.  Cut your wheel sharp at the bottom.
Kyle:  (He used his turn signal) I know.
Me:  Kyle, you’re going to run off the road if you don’t go even slower and tighten your turn.
Kyle:  I’m good.
Me:  We’re going off the road.
Kyle ran off the road mid turn into the grass.  No damage but I did give him a look of listen next time.
Kyle: Oh, I guess we’re off the road.
Me:  Umm (I wasn’t mad in the slightest, infact I started to laugh at his funny expression)
Kyle chuckled and did as I instructed to give a little gas as to not dig up the grass.  He got back on the road and continued.

We ended up doing a couple loops around the cemetery.  The second, he clearly showed more confidence and skill.  He did a great job.  I even had him pull onto the road and drive into my parents driveway.  More to come regarding Kyle driving.

Friday, April 15, 2017 – Sunday, April 16, 2017

Fishing Derby Prizes 5-13-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle hanging out with cousins at the Planinsek Fishing Derby, waiting for the prizes. 5/13/2017

Easter weekend.  We actually got Kyle on Friday, which was a nice surprise.  Me, Dad and Kyle caught up on our Fast & Furious movies, watching the marathon on television.  True to Kyle, he turned out all the lights to create the optimum movie watching environment.  It was a nice relaxing evening.  My sister came in late Friday night with Acorn.  The house was alive with activity.

On Saturday, we got up early for the first day of fishing.  Me, Dad and Kyle went to Kingston to fish our limit in trout.  We caught a few rainbows but mostly brook trout.  I was stuck cleaning a majority of the fish.  Kyle did lend a delicate hand, but he’s still not a fan of guts and blood and reluctantly assisted.  Dad sat there and critiqued my fish gutting abilities.  Although, I’ll give Dad credit, he did scale the rainbow.

Fishing was a blast, I saw Kyle smile and enjoy himself on a number of occasions.  He even put his phone away to focus.

Planinsek Fishing Derby Kyle Fishing 5-13-17 Aunt Heather Piper

My fisherman! My job was to catch the fish & bait the hook. Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/13/2017

Funny story.  Dad caught this HUGE trout, I mean BIG.  I’m surprised it didn’t break his pole.  We added the fish to our cooler of ice along with the other catches.

Kyle happened to be standing by the cooler when all of a sudden the monster sized fish, that was on ice for at least fifteen minutes, tried to make its escape.  The fish jumped out of the cooler.  (Yes the lid was closed and it still was able to project itself out) Kyle jumped.  He thought I threw something at the cooler, I was startled, thinking Kyle knocked the cooler over.  Dad focused on his fishing and only gave us a curious glance.  When Kyle looked down to see the behemoth fish flopping around, the truth dawned on us.  We looked at each other in shock and began laughing.  Kyle’s hands were full, I believe he was reeling in another trout, so I scooped up the slimy vertebrate and placed it back in the cooler.  It was a great fishing day!  (Secret: I’m still the worst fisherman in the family.  Dad remains at number one and Kyle is a close second.  I’m by far last, even after Nicole.)

Later, after we cleaned up and ate, Nicole, me and Kyle went to the movies to continue where we left off the night before with The Fate of the Furious, the most recent movie.

Earlier, I cornered Nicole to suggest we leave early and head to the cemetery for a little more practice in a different vehicle.  I said, “Just pull into the cemetery and don’t say anthing.”  Nicole giggled and was excited to join in on this milestone.

Once Nicole put the car in park, Kyle smiled knowing what she had in mind.  Without insidence Kyle changed seats with his Aunt.  I was in the backseat like Driving Miss Daisy.  In fact, Kyle seemed exctied to be practicing.  He did better than before and Nicole’s SUV is a lot bigger than mine.  Great practice.

We had a good time at the movies.  Hearing Kyle laugh out loud totally cracked me up.  His humor lights up my world even in the middle of a dark movie theater.  Those moments are most precious to me.  He has a great laugh.  It reminds me of his Dad’s.  Even the way he rolls his eyes, or grins, I see Ryan.

Kyle Band Concert 5-2-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle at his spring concert sporting a tuxedo! Handsome guy. 5/2/2017

Would you believe Kyle ordered his usual, the Miss Piggy sandwich?  It’s nice to see some things never change.  He is definitely a creature of habit.  Now I have to get him out of the habit of ignoring us and we’re all set.

Once Sunday rolled around we went to church and came home to grub up.  Kyle stayed for most of the day before asking to leave.  I took him home.

While heading out to the driveway, I ran past him and darted for the passenger side.  Kyle stood there stunned.  He said, “I can’t drive all the way home.”  Oh, goodness no.  I told him I wasn’t suicidal.  I wanted him to practice backing out of the driveway.  If he can master mom and dad’s driveway and then my Uncle Walter’s, he was good to go in reverse.

While backing out, he snaked the straight path slightly, but overall did a great job.  On the one side of the driveway is the front yard, no big deal.  However, on the other side, it slopes down into my Uncle’s field.  To reassure Kyle in case of a lapse in reverse judgement, I said, “Don’t worry, if you go down over the bank, you won’t be the first, Pappy did it with the Honda once.”  That cracked me up and Kyle seemed relieved.  He tried to use the turnaround at the bottom of the driveway, but I wouldn’t let him.  I wanted him to get a feel for looking both ways, pulling out onto the road and not running into the ditch.  He drove us partially off the ridge back to the cemetery where we changed roles.

On our ride home I busted out laughing.  Curious, he asked, what?  I said, “You back up better than your Aunt Nikki.”  He found humor in that very true statement.  My sister backs out of the driveway live she’s trying to purposly miss the road, and she’s been practicing since before she was sixteen.  I guess she’s pretty consistent too.

Another true to form, Kyle fell asleep in the car.  He did that as a young tyke and is taking up the habit again.  I don’t mind.  I’m still hanging out with him, even if he is unconscience.

May

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Kyle smiling at band concert 5-2-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle trying not to smile Spring Band Concert. Great job buddy! 5/2/2017

About mid-day, I get a call from mom telling me Kyle called and he had a band concert that evening at school, which is over an hour away.  A little inconvenient, but I was excited he called to inform us, knowing I’d be upset if I missed it.

I shut down work early, canceled my evening plans and got ready.

Kyle was first tuba chair!  What a pleasant surprise.  AND he was wearing a tuxedo!  He looked so handsome, I just wanted to squeeze him and never let go.  (That would have been when hell froze over, the day Kyle would let me do that, especially in front of all his friends and their parents.)

I enjoyed the evening of music and special honors for the seniors.  I came home with a permanent smile on my face.  Seeing Kyle simply made me happy.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

First Day of Fishing Kyle & Dad Aunt Heather Piper 4-16-17

Kingston fishing for the first day, Dad & Kyle leading the way. 4/16/2017

Mother’s Day, which also marks the weekend of the Annual Planinsek Fishing Derby.  The kids are permitted to fish from sixteen years and younger.  Kyle has one more year.

He didn’t want to stop up for the bonfire on Friday night but requested we be there for 7:00 am breakfast.  I believe we made it by 7:30 am since Kyle had a hard time getting up.  He is certainly going through a growth spirt and he needs to learn to go to bed earlier.

He had a nice time fishing and playing dodge ball with the kids.  I enjoyed socializing and relaxing.

At the end, they fill picnic tables of toys and stuff for the kids.  I wasn’t sure if Kyle wanted me to purchase him tickets or not, so I did.  The first couple of times Kyle’s name was called, he took a variety of items, then he began to give away his turns to his cousins, Grant, Olivia, Piper, Owen, Lilia, Hailie, Mattox, Caleia and Kelsey.  That was nice seeing Kyle think of them.  Not only that, he also walked each child up to the table to help them pick out a prize.  Kyle’s a good kid.

Another funny story.  Kyle insisted he wasn’t going to be cold, even though it was chilly in the morning and the ridge is always colder.  Just in case, I packed an extra hoodie, socks and a change of cloths for Kyle.  Next thing I know, I saw Kyle zipping up the extra hoodie, that is until the sun peaked around noon.  When it comes to dressing and preparing for the weather, he never listens.

Monday, May 29, 2017
Memorial’s Day.  I was asked to chaperon the parade in Vandergrift for Kiski Marching Band.  Looking forward to seeing Kyle, everyone was asking me where he was.  I honestly had no idea.  I texted him and surprisingly he anwered me back.  He was sick.  I felt bad and offered to bring him ice-cream.  He declined.  I missed him terrribly.

June

June 25, 2017 – June 29, 2017

Kyle Playing in Band Concert 5-2-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle playing the tuba at his spring band concert. Lead chair! 5/2/2017

This was Aunt Nikki and Kyle’s Week of Fun trip.  Where to?  Iceland.  Kyle seemed pretty excited, or at least as excited as he gets.  Nicole said they had a great time but it was cold.

Another funny story.  Kyle is notorious for not being prepared for the weather, specifically the cold, as mentioned above.  Before he left I asked him, “Are you good with packing?  Did you need me to get you anything?  Did you pack a pair of jeans and hoodie?”  Kyle’s entire response, “I’m good.”  Of course you are…

Nicole said when they got there it was around 40 degrees and the wind made it colder.  She said it was at that moment Kyle, who was obviously shivering (although he would never admit to it) informed her that he didn’t bring pants, only shorts.  Are you kidding me buddy?  You were going to ICELAND.  I’m guessing the irony had no effect on him. Nicole took our frozen package shopping and spent a lot of money to keep him comfortable.  I guess we’ll forever have a funny story.

When they got back, Nicole told us about the unplanned shopping trip.  I looked at Kyle half joking and said, “You suck at packing and being prepared.”  Kyle shrugged his shoulders.  He didn’t care.  I suppose I’m okay with him not sweating the small stuff and I guess shopping for jeans was minor.

Over the course of the weekend, Nicole and Kyle shared stories about their adventures.  I’ve always been happy to see Kyle explore the world and enjoy life.  He definitely has the Piper travel bug.  A good quality to have.

July

Spring Concert Band Booklet 5-2-2017 Aunt Heather PiperNow my rough timeline brings me up to last week.  Kyle, my Mr. Traveler, was at Northwestern University.  Yes, the college on the other side of Chicago.  Why was he there when he’s going to be junior in high school?  He’s smart.

Proudly, Kyle was informed that he was selected to represent Kiski at the National Student Leadership Council.  Way to go buddy!  Because of his interest in engineering, they outlined a select number of schools with that focus to include: Northwestern, UCLA, California at Berkley, Harvard Medical (biotechnology), Yale, Georgia Tech, Rice, American, Georgetown.

Kyle chose Northwestern.  Why?  I have no idea.  The last I heard he was thinking about Georgetown.  I would have chosen Yale or Harvard.  Why not?

Kyle got to spend a week on campus touring the facilities and studying his chosen specialty.  At the end he was to recieve a certificate of achievement and a letter of recommendation.  How cool is that?

I tried calling him to see how it went.  Nothing.  Crickets.  I hope he had a wonderful time.  What a great experience.

Well, those are some of the highlights for the first half of the year.  I also did some traveling to Salt Lake City, but only for work, nothing too exciting.  This week begins Kyle’s week long celebration for his birthday.  I hope I get to spend some good quality time with him. He’s a good egg and I love him to pieces.

Spring Concert Band Cover Booket 5-2-17 Aunt Heather Piper

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

Stink Bugs Do Have A Natural Enemy!

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.  ~John Muir

Stink bug close up Aunt Heather PiperI’m no expert on stink bugs, but I’m certainly no stranger to them either.  The weather in western Pennsylvania has been fluctuating lately, from snowy cold days, which is normal for January, to sunny abnormally warm days reaching the 60s.  Sometimes this temperature range happens within 24-hours.

Besides unfavorable road conditions, the up and down weather is tricking the stink bugs into an early spring.  The warmth draws them out to make their appearance in droves.

Annoyed with these stinkers, literally, I was curious about them, since I don’t remember the critters from my childhood.  Evidently, the stink bug were accidentally introduced into Pennsylvania, Allentown to be exact, in the mid-1990s.  They’re native to China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

Presently, the stink bug can be found in most states and are now posing a real problem with the fruit and vegetable farms.  The stink bugs feed on these plants as well as weeds and tree leaves.  Okay, now we’ve gone from annoying to a true issue.  Stink bugs don’t scare me as per say, but the thought of their ultimate damage doesn’t settle well with me.

Now some fun facts.  Stink bugs can lay 20 to 30 eggs, leading to developed adults within 35 to 45 days, in optimal conditions.  In the lifespan of a female stink bug, she can lay four hundred eggs.  That explains a lot.

From what I’ve read, these pests are impervious to insecticides.  Although, I’m not a fan of toxic remedies, especially when pesticides are harming the bee population.  I’m also not a fan of distributing the ecological structure of an area to deal with a single pest.  Sure, there’s more natural solutions such as soapy water, however, I don’t think that’s a reasonable solution for large farms.  What to do with the stink bugs?  I guess that’s the ultimate question.

Stinks bugs in mason jar Aunt Heather PiperI read an article on the consideration of introducing a parasitoid wasp, which is a primary predator to the stink bug, to solve the problem.  NO!  That’s not a solution.  That’s a recipe for an even bigger problem.  Instead, I have an idea.

Chickens!  Really?  Yes.  Since you can’t squash, frighten or even disturb a stink bug without it secreting its foul-smelling order, which seriously turns my stomach, I started collecting them.  Well, not in the collectible coin fashion, but rather for a food supply for my feathery friends.

Idiotic solution?  No more than using toxic chemicals and infesting the area with wasps.

Sure, stink bugs have always been a nuisance, but when they started flying into me while I slept, disrupting my sleep and freaking me out when I felt them walk across my skin, I had enough.  Using basic common sense,  I began capturing the smelly buzzing bugs in a pint size mason jar with a lid.  Originally, I started trapping them with the intent to kill the bugs behind glass doors, so to speak.  However, I realized they served a better purpose.  The chickens LOVE the stink bugs.

They do!  The chickens are now accustomed to the jar and flock toward the little protein crunchies.  It almost makes me want to find more stink bugs to deliver.

I’ve never read about chickens as a solution to stink bugs, but why not?  Now’s the time to get creative, through natural means.  Perhaps find safe traps for the stink bugs and deliver the tasty meal to some farm animal.   There could be other stink bug predators that are native to each area to use.  I don’t know if chickens could be the ultimate solution for farmers, but it might be a nice try.  This would also ensure we no longer have an egg shortage like we did a couple years ago.  Now that’s solving two problems at once, productive.

Anyone have a better solution?

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

Kyle’s Christmas Scavenger Hunt

It’s true that adventures are good for people even when they are very young. Adventures can get in a person’s blood even if he doesn’t remember having them.  ~Eva Ibbotson

Scavenger-Hunt-Clue-for-a-Teen-Thrill-of-the-Hunt

This year, I had grandiose plans for Kyle’s Christmas gift, but alas they fell through.  So I found myself scrambling for his gift.  Keep in mind, I was up against time constraints and a 15-year old who has way too much in terms of stuff.  I was at a loss for last minute Christmas gift ideas.  Reluctantly, I turned to the ever popular and safe bet, gift cards.  Yes, I buckled.  However, my gift cards were strategic.  I got him iTunes (which I found out he has Google play, so money took that place), a movie card, since he likes to frequent the movies with his friends, and a Seven Springs snowboarding gift card, something we haven’t done in the last couple of years, but something we’ve always done together.

Instead of simply handing the kid the gift cards, because where’s the fun in that, I got creative.  I wanted Kyle to work for his gifts, plus have a little adventure and fun.  I made Kyle a custom scavenger hunt.  Why not?  I make them all the time for Thrill of the Hunt, and I’ve yet to do one for Kyle.

The idea rocked!  At least from my perspective, and from the enthusiasm and smiles that radiated from Kyle’s face, I’d say my assumption was correct.

There’s so many different ways to create a scavenger hunt.  This one, I added a lot of items that mean something, heirloom furniture, inside jokes, Kyle’s dog and so on.  Truth be told, I had a blast creating the scavenger hunt, and I had an even better time watching Kyle go through it.

I started off making Kyle a Christmas card that was placed under the tree.  I knew he thought he was getting money or gift cards, he was correct, but not that easily.  The front of the card gave Kyle an overview of what was happening, that he had to follow the clues exactly, how many clues were given, and how many gifts:

Get ready for a Christmas adventure of fun & prizes
Follow 10 clues to find your gifts of all sizes
But be warned, follow the instructions to a T
Hints are few, your Christmas gift rewards are 3

Let’s get started.  Good luck Buddy!

On the inside of the card, I gave Kyle his first clue, which had multiple steps.

Clue#1

Venture out to see the ladies
Also stop by House of Hades
Collect the clues at each spot  
They’re hints for your next trot

The first part “ladies” is a joke in our household referring to our chickens in the chicken coop.  The second part “House of Hades” referred to the 4th book from Rick Riordan, Heroes of Olympus series.  Kyle was a big fan of the books.  Each location contained a clue, the chickens housed the clue – Bowl, and the book contained the other clue – Punch.

You got it.  Kyle had to look in our punch bowl, which was brought back from my parents when they lived in Germany while my Dad was in the service.  Our family tradition is to bring out the punch bowl every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Over the years, Kyle has taken over the punch making responsibilities.

Clue number three was a blast, literally.  Dad just got me a new .12 gauge shotgun.  I figured I’d work it into the equation.  Plus, it’s been a while since Kyle shot a gun and I thought he might have a little fun blowing apart a milk jug.

Clue #3

Your next clue points to a gift
Remember backyard safety -be swift  
Any shotgun holds the key
Shoot the jug to set it free

In the backyard, I had a plastic milk jug filled with water and a clue floating inside (wrapped in a sandwich bag).  Kyle went straight toward the gun safe, pulled out my .12 gauge shotgun and shot at the jug, a few times for fun.  Once he was satisfied that the jug was pulverized sufficiently, he pulled out the clue Behind the guitar!  Not only did this location contain another clue, a rebus which was a little harder to solve, but he also received an iTunes gift card. 

Behind-the-Guitar-Clue-Teen-Scavenger-Hunt-Thrill-of-the-Hunt

The answer to the rubus was a bit tricky, but I couldn’t make it too easy on my guy.

The answer was, Aunt Heather’s Gravy Boat.  I made the gravy boat out of clay when I was in high school.  Since that time the gravy boat, like the punch bowl has made its appearance at the holidays.  The gravy boat housed a black light.  I wrote messages and some clues in invisible ink along the way.  Kyle loved that!  It added another element of excitement and adventure to the scavenger hunt.

Clue-4-Thrill-of-the-Hunt-Scavenger-Hunt-1

Throughout the scavenger hunt, I included a Christmas ornament Kyle got my Dad in 2013, which held another clue hanging in the Christmas tree.  I included Kyle’s guitar, our punch bowl (mentioned above), a few books, a chess table built by my Grandpap Chester (a family heirloom piece, and Kyle and I like to play chess) and naturally Scooby, Kyle’s dog, who carried a clue around his neck.

Here’s the clue I placed around Scooby.  I didn’t place it on the dog until Kyle was close to the clue, for fear Kyle would jump ahead or worse, the dog would scratch it off.

 

Clue #5

Take a selfie with me Kyle!

Take me for a walk, let’s stop at the apple tree
Let’s take Seven, we’ll both run & be free

Kyle and I used to take the dogs (Seven is my dog) for walks all the time, and every Easter was spent in the orchard in the backyard collecting Easter eggs.  Kyle has also helped plant many of those trees on the property.  Not only was this location significant, but I also wanted to test Kyle’s tree knowledge.  He found it no problem.  Of course, I heard him ask my Dad which tree was the apple.  I had no problem with Kyle phoning a friend, so to speak.

In Kyle’s room, I hung one of my old snowboards as a shelf, and recently I added another snowboard to the wall.  Kyle and I have been snowboarding together since he was 4-years old, except for the last couple of years.

Clue #7

Under the Lamar, under the Ride
Another gift is found on the backside
For you & a friend to crush the slopes
You might have to show your friend the ropes

The one snowboard was a Lamar and my old snowboard was a Ride.  I got Kyle a gift card to Seven Springs for him and a friend.  I told Kyle I’d take him up alone so he could get his feet back on before going up with a friend, and I’d be tagging along.  Of course, I plan on riding the slopes, but I doubt I’d be welcomed with the young duo.

During the entire scavenger hunt, I had Kyle complete easy and difficult clues and challenges.   He even allowed me to shoot video clips of his excursion.  That really made my Christmas Eve day!  I’m sure Kyle won’t remember the gift cards or when he used them, but I’ll bet he’ll remember the scavenger hunt for ever.

Here’s my video montage of Kyle’s Christmas Scavenger Hunt adventure.

Great job Kyle!  I hope you enjoyed it.

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

Happy Birthday Dad! 66-Years!

The best teachers impart knowledge through sleight of hand, like a magician.  Kate Betts

Happy Birthday Dad! January 16, 1951

Dad U Sonny Pap Gram Aunt Heather Piper

Dad, Uncle Sonny, Pap & Gram (plus a mystery person) at a mystery location during a mystery year.

Just to reiterate, Dad despises me talking about him online. (So don’t say anything)  I rarely do, at least he’s not the focus of most of my stories, except for today.

Dad’s added another digit to his age.  He’s still moving forward, a lot slower, but still going.  I couldn’t live without the old man.  It’s funny, I never realized it until recent times just how much Dad loves us, all of us.

Dad’s a unique individual, in more ways than one.  He truly loves us and always wishes the best for us in a selfless manner.  His heart is true.  He reminds me of my Pappy, Ryan and Kyle in that respect.  His definition of success isn’t the type of car a person drives or any other superficial means.  Nope.  His definition of a good person is how well they can shoot a gun.  (Half joking)  Dad looks at a person from the inside first, except when watching television, then he’s not so kind with his words.  I’m not saying Dad’s some holy person, not even close, but he is a decent guy.  A bit opinionated, and a many times irritating when he wants something done, but I’ll take that over someone who’s spiteful, materialistic and out for themselves any day.  I’m aware of Dad’s shortcomings and they’re trumped by his good qualities, in my opinion.

This past year we had a great hunting season.  I personally, had a record year, and Dad was excited about it.  Truly.  He’s so proud when I harvest a deer, I hear him telling EVERYONE.  Not only that, but when I’m a good shot and his friends witness it or even if they don’t, boy does Dad beam with delight.  He’s genuinely happy for me.

Dad & U Sonny on Ridge building grams house c.1953 Aunt Heather Piper

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

Before rifle season started, Dad went bow hunting and muzzle-loader.  I’m glad he has something he looks forward to doing and it keeps him moving.

As history dictates, we went hunting in New York, where I harvested a buck, and poor Dad didn’t see a single deer.  A week later, the Monday after Thanksgiving, we went hunting in Pennsylvania.  I filled most of my tags and Dad filled a couple.  The best part?  We had a great time together, especially sitting in a small tree stand with the big guy.  Sometimes he gets on my nerves and is a bit too serious, but other times he totally cracks me up.

During the hunting season, most of our conversations focus on Ryan and Kyle.  We all miss Ryan, but hunting season heightens Dad’s longing for his son.  That was their time together.  Every once in a while Dad would comment “Boy, Ryan would be enjoying himself”, or he’d say “I wish Kyle was here.”

We did more than hunt deer this year.  For the first time ever, I got to go pheasant (ringneck) hunting.  We had a blast!  When I was little, Dad used to bring home a pheasant periodically, so it’s not like I was unfamiliar with the birds but it was neat to be directly involved.  Dad and I went a couple of times and filled our limit of two birds each, both times.  Dad didn’t stop talking about it for weeks.  The first time we brought home our pheasants Kyle was home.  Without hesitation, Kyle helped up skin the birds.  Kyle wouldn’t gut them, but he did wash them out.  The best part of that day?  Kyle sat with me and Dad during the process and hung out, plus he learned the trait.  It was a nice time together.

Dad’s been doing a lot of goose hunting this year.  I joined him a few time and I know nothing would make him happier than if I’d go with him every day, but like I’ve told him, repeatedly, “I have to work.  I’m not retired.”  Occasionally, I sneak out but I can’t do it day in and day out like he wants to.  Even if I could, goose hunting doesn’t excite me that much.  Perhaps it’s because I’m not a fan of goose meat.  While we’re on it, I don’t even really like duck.

A funny trait about Dad?  He doesn’t look at himself as an old person.  In fact, he gets irritated with elderly people.  In many cases, they’re the same age as Dad!  Doesn’t that just crack you up?  I find such humor in Dad calling a person driving beside us “old”, when clearly they’re the same age.

One a side note, I have a funny story.  The other day I was walking through a store and this lady stopped me and asked if I was Ron Piper’s daughter.  Believe it or not, this has happened to me many, many times over the years.  She couldn’t remember my name, but she knew exactly who I was.  I’ve always been told I look like my Dad and more than not, I was told, in a negative way, that I act like him too.  I’m okay with that and I’m proud to be like Dad.  As it turns out, the lady was Shirley Achhammer, another relative.  How funny!

Happy Birthday old man.  Keep kicking and doing what you do!

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

Age Is a State of Mind

It’s not denial. I’m just selective about the reality I accept.  ~Bill Watterson

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Glen & Barb, Mom & Dad, Buddy & Jocye, Uncle Sonny & Aunt Carol & Chad at Grandpap Risher’s 1972

My parent’s 47th anniversary was yesterday, as was my birthday.  While the old people are adding to their years (not me), my Dad doesn’t seem to notice his age, at least not mentally.  Sure he knows he’s getting older.  He moves a little slower each year, and his endurance has dwindled.  Yet, it doesn’t stop Dad from going outside, firing up the chainsaw and chopping firewood, which he never complains.  He still goes traipsing through the woods during hunting season, even though his traipsing requires less walking and more riding the quad.  Regardless, he stays active.  Don’t get me wrong, Dad’s no athlete, but he enjoys life and living it.

What really cracks me up is his perception of his age.  I’ve lost track of how many times we were going somewhere and I heard him say, “Come old man, get out of the way.”  or “Look it’s an old lady.  She needs to get off the road.”  Okay, that’s not really funny, in fact it’s kind of annoying, but the real humor lies in the fact that the “old” people Dad is referring to are his age!  One would think he’s talking about crypt keepers or those on the verge of death, nope.  Everyone one slightly younger than him and up, are old people in his eyes.  You should hear him in the grocery store!  He’ll comment about the old people getting in his way with their shopping carts, or taking forever in the checkout line because they can’t see the screen.  Isn’t that a hoot?  He has a hard time reading the credit card machine too.

Every time I hear Dad spout out about an “old” person, first I laugh, usually out loud, then I reply, “Dad!  You’re probably the same age!”  Sometimes he snickers and other times he ignores me, truly irritated with the person in question.  He means no harm.  He’s simply impatient, but it’s hilarious.  The pot calling the kettle black always comes to mind.

Now my own revelation.  I just noticed it this past year while chaperoning one of Kyle’s band competitions.  I don’t really pay attention to “old” people but I do have a skewed sense of age reality.  When speaking to someone, there’s never an age differentiation, for the most part.  If I’m conversing with someone in their twenties, there’s no age gap in my mind.  If I’m speaking to someone in their teens, my mind only registers that I’m slightly older.  Does it go the opposite for older people?  Depends.  When I’m at the gym talking with someone a decade older, then nope, we’re the same age.  But if the person shows or acts their age, and they’re older, then in my mind, I’m simply younger.  However, no matter the age in the room, it’s usually a guarantee I still act the youngest.

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My birthday with Nicole & Chad. 1976

Dad and I are the same!  In our minds, we really don’t have a clue to our own age or it doesn’t register.  I mean we’re not delusional, we’re well aware of how old we are, it just doesn’t change our thinking or perspective.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say, this is a good way to be.  I’m sure it could be considered a mental defect, but I like to think of it as a fresh approach to life.  After all, the mind is very powerful.

When I was in San Diego a few months ago, I shared my age related story in Adventures in San Diego on a Dog Scavenger Hunt.  Let me rehash.   While walking along the boardwalk I kept seeing people riding bikes and skateboards, unusual for the Latrobe scene but not for San Diego.  As a youth, I loved skateboarding, particularly the skateboarders.  Between the sound of the crashing waves and people milling around, I’d hear skateboard wheels and the clapping of the skateboard decks on the cement boardwalk.  I truly enjoyed revisiting this sound from my youth.  Eventually, I paid attention to the actual person riding the skateboard.  It occurred to me they were older people, for the most part.  Honestly, in my mind I kept thinking, Wow, they’re older.  This thought kept up until reality smacked me in the face.  I’m their age! 

You know, I think Kyle shares the same perspective on age?  He adapts to the ages of people around him.  I’ve seen it.  Whether or not he has a grasp on his own age, even though he’s only fifteen, I have no idea, but he has the ability to blend with older and younger persons.  Plus, let’s not forget, he’s a Piper and we tend to mature late.  I’m guessing, Kyle will always remain young at heart, at least I hope so.

In fact, the more I think about it, I bet my Pappy was the same way.  He never really treated his disability as an issue and I bet his age was never one either.

On a side note, I’ve never wanted to get older.  Ever.  Most teens can’t wait to turn sixteen to drive or turn 21 to drink.  Not me.  I’ve never said the words, “I can’t wait till I’m…”  Nope.  In fact, I remember the summer before I went into sixth grade.  I was depressed knowing it was my last year at Sacred Heart and I had to go to junior high school.  I wasn’t thrilled at all.  In my mind, it meant I was getting older and there would be added responsibility and expectations.  Did I want to get out of high school?  Not in the slightest.  I loved my high school days and I didn’t want them to end.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad for all the milestones in my life but I never had an urge to rush time.

God has blessed me and is keeping me young, at least at heart.  Cheers to all those young at heart!

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

Don’t Hide Behind Love

Whatever it is you’re seeking won’t come in the form you’re expecting.  ~Haruki Murakami

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Trump house Youngstown, PA 2016

I believe, respecting the opinions of others is the first step to living in peace and understanding.  I’m not saying accepting morally wrong choices and actions, or approving criminal activity.  No.  Those are simply wrong and should not be tolerated or even considered.  There are many opinions and different ways of handling situations, some better than others.  Everyone working for the betterment of the people with truly good intentions, needs to be given a chance.  Let’s face it, the best way to handle a problem is to work together to find a solution, not create more problems.

Sure everyone has a right to protest and speak their voice, but when it’s done as a temper tantrum with complete disrespect, and then done alongside criminal activity, it’s simply wrong.  It’s abuse of a right.  Naturally, I’m referring to all the riots surrounding our President Elect Donald Trump.

The protesters are speaking for women’s right, immigration reform, and healthcare issues, among others.  At least that’s what their signs say and it appears on the surface.  Yes, those are some problems plaguing our country and certainly hot topics.  Agreed.  However, those topics are going to be addressed from our new president, at least that’s what’s promised.  It’s certainly not going to happen through violent and anger.

When it comes down to it, the protesters are displaying a complete lack of respect for our voting process, its citizens, and the American way.  Let’s cut to the chase, the protesters, are only mad because their candidate didn’t win.  End of story.  There wouldn’t be any riots if the outcome were different and yet, we’d have the same problems.  In fact, no one was rioting regarding those issues with our current administration.  These problems didn’t just surface.  They’re the same issues our president elect will be inheriting because our past administration didn’t address the problems properly or successfully.  Donald Trump didn’t cause them.   Sure his solutions seem a bit unconventional, but maybe that’s what we need turn our country around.

american-flag-taken-in-texas-aunt-heather-piper-2016To make things worse, Trump supporters have been attacked and physically beaten nearly to death.  Is that right way to handle your opinion?  No.  That’s taking those voters’ rights, and their right to basically live freely in the United States, the land of the free.  That’s just plain wrong.  Now to add more to this injustice, the protesters are looting and destroying personal and commercial property.  This is insane.  How are those actions solving any problems?  It’s not.  It’s only creating more problems without solutions.  Common sense needs to be reviewed and noted.  Those actions are hidden under one reason, but are really for selfish, destructive and disrespectful reasons that resemble anarchy, not what this nation stands for.  Get the irony?

The sad part?  Many of the protesters interviewed didn’t even vote!  What is wrong with these people?  Fighting for rights is good.   Leading with emotion is not wrong, but it is when it takes over common sense and breaks laws.  The protesters are basically saying my vote was not important, and only their opinion should be heard.  That’s also saying those that give respect and obey laws shouldn’t have a vote, or be bullied for different opinions?  I thought we lived in a Republic and not a dictatorship?  That’s not only disrespectful for the winner, Donald Trump, who won fair and square, but it’s also insulting to those who supported and voted for him, which was the majority.

It’s also a shame that we live in a society that doesn’t know how to loose and take it gracefully.  Basically, a society that’s never been told NO.  They think they have the right because they can scream and shout, throw a punch and steal at random.  No one is benefiting from their wasted energy, and they’re only showing they’re a bunch of spoiled brats.  I personally know those types of people, that throw a tantrum when they’re told NO or proven wrong.  They’re also the type that needs to be humbled and never given power, because if they do, they abuse it.

Personally, I didn’t vote for Obama, neither time, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt, both times.  I was willing to work with our new leader for the betterment of our country.  There wasn’t major chaos when he was voted in, and yet he wasn’t liked by everyone.

A few months ago, I read the book The Girls by Emma Cline.  Just to give an overview, it’s a fictional book interweaving a young girl, Evie, among the actions of the Manson family.  Really a neat twist.  It’s told through Evie’s eyes as an adult, recollecting those days.  I’ve also read Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry.  Both books tell the accounts of the Manson family and their facade of being peace loving children.  However, what really happened?  That love was disguised as pure hate and selfishness.  Manson came across as loving and free at first, yet his underlying true nature slowly worked its way out, in the form of hate, resulting in murder, control and abuse of youngsters.  If Manson got his own way and became a rock star and was praised in the media, like he wanted, then possibly history would’ve been written differently.  Instead, Manson threw a temper tantrum, an extreme one, and he was the louder voice to recruit others, who followed him without using common sense.  Sound familiar?  Mason wanted attention like a child and wanted his own way.

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The American flag standing proudly. Taken in Texas, 2016

Instead of wasting energies for negative rioting, vandalism and violence, use it to support a good cause, comfort someone who lost a family member or friend to a terminal illness, adopt a pet, volunteer with the elderly, or spend your Saturday mornings picking up trash to make America beautiful and clean instead of being the cause of the trash.

Our soon to be president is already moving in a positive direction.  It’s no secret our country and it’s people are in a financial rut, to put it mildly.  Donald Trump has already announced he will take office without a salary.  That alone says a lot to his true purpose of wanting to help our country.  The stupid, and I meant that, rioters should be happy.  Mr. Trump is already becoming a solution.  Did any other president ever deny a salary?  It’s not like Mr. Trump was pressured, he voluntary gave up it up.   The rioters are so self-centered, they don’t even want to hear positive aspects of our future.

I’m not a very loud person, figuratively speaking.  (I can be loud when talking and joking around.)  I prefer to show my stance through actions, not words, ironic since I’m writing this.  (I totally see the humor).  But it’s true, I’ll support a candidate or a cause, I’ll join The Race for the Cure and I’ll join any fundraiser, as long as my actions help a cause.  I don’t ever want to be a problem or the cause of a problem.  I try to make a difference through my actions, which do speak louder.

I’ve said this before the election, it really appears that history is repeating itself.  These events remind me when Abraham Lincoln was voted into office.  Not that I was alive during that time, but I’ve studied the Civil War in depth in college and I’m a big history buff.  The south did the same thing, with riots, vandalism, violence and even disrespecting our great country enough to secede.  Let’s learn from our past.  It didn’t end well for anyone back in 1860s, and if this action continues, it won’t end on a positive note for anyone presently.

President Obama and Hillary Clinton have both stood up and publicly and sincerely announced they are standing behind the vote of the American people.  They’ve all asked for a stop to the violence.  This goes to show those rioting simply want to have something to yell about with no respect to anyone, even their candidate.  They want to say something, but don’t have anything to say.  Is this generation so attention starved?

What is unfolding before my eyes is exactly the behavior I’ve always taught again with Kyle.  However, I started to teach him these lessons when he was a little tyke.   Maybe, the protestors need to be schooled and scaled like a child.

When it comes down to it, I’ve always said a prayer for our president elect, and for the people of the world.  I’m not blind to know he’s just a man, who’s made mistakes and will continue to do so, but he does deserve our respect until proven to not act in our best interests.  I bet a moment of silence and prayer would move more mountains than yelling and destroying.

God Bless the U.S.A.!

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

Vote Informatively – Election 2016

Love lights more fires than hate extinguishes.  ~Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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Trump House, Youngstown, PA 11/7/16

Our country is torn in two, at least that’s what it seems.  Although, is it really that different from the 1860 election when Abraham Lincoln ran against his opponents Breckinridge, Douglas and Bell?  As much as we honor and respect Abraham Lincoln, he didn’t carry the popular vote.  In fact, he wasn’t liked by many people, hence his assassination.  However, in present day, most agree he was honest and tried to do right by all the American people, even though it wasn’t acknowledged until much later in textbooks.  Did you know Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican president?  Fun fact.

Now, going back in time, to the near past, one that I remember when George W. Bush ran against Al Gore in the 2000 election.  That was a very close race.  I’d like to say the 2016 elections reminds me of those days, yet the attitude is very different.  We seem to be truly divided down the middle, desperately in need of a leader to unite us.  Although, that doesn’t worry me.  In fact, it seems to be a repeating theme throughout history, regarding war, politicians, laws and even art.  What is disturbing, are the verbal attacks, lies and disrespectful actions of our candidates, some more than others.  That’s what makes this election classless and in poor taste.

As a nation, we’ll never have one hundred percent agreement on anything.  That we can to agree on, that and the idea of simple respect needs to be practiced more.  I’m not talking about compromising morals and what’s right as to not hurt another person’s feelings.  I’m talking about being honest, direct, listening and reacting with truly good intentions and selfishness.  Tall order right?  It is, but not impossible.  I’m referring to our candidates toward each other, the candidates toward the people (becoming humble and always being honest and truly doing what’s right) and the people toward each other including the media.

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Trump House, Youngstown, PA 11/7/16

On a side note, when did reporters stop doing their research and begin believing rumors and bringing their own personal opinion to the front page?  Reporters need to be held accountable for their work and their actions.

What I’d like to see is a responsible and honest election.  Let the people actually have a vote.  I guess I should correct that statement with saying living people (yes that’s not such a subtle dig on those who are using our deceased to sway the election).  Again, disrespect for the deceased, the families, and our country as a whole.  I personally don’t like my rights being taken away by such actions.  We have an obligation to show the rest of the world what a true republic is and how good honest actions prevail.

After this election, history will be remembered slightly differently, depending on the outcome.  Why does time change a situation?  Or does it allow us to reflect and learn?  I remember studying history in school and being taken back when I learned our soldiers returning from the Vietnam War, after risking their lives for our country (most drafted), were treated with hatred and anger and disrespect.  Of course that’s not in fashion now, thankfully.  Now my next biggest question, is it because it’s what’s trendy and popular or because it’s what’s right?  Again, I see history repeating itself and instead of using common sense and respect, the trendy path is chosen.

Evey person has the ability to change history and change the path of our future.  Every person.  Every person has a choice to do what’s right and to think of others before themselves.  Everyone.  I’m not trying to sway anyone.  I’m simply asking people to stop lying for others, stop being deceitful, and stop any illegal actions (that’s another tall order), starting with election fraud.  Stop the violence when you don’t get your own way, stop the disrespect and start working together for a better future.  No one wins when hate takes the reins, but we all win when love is in our hearts and actions.

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Trump House, Youngstown, PA 11/7/16

On another side note, without pushing one candidate over another, I’ve found this pretty neat.  The Trump House in Youngstown, Pennsylvania.  Little old Youngstown, Pennsylvania has made major news for their part in the election.  Perhaps there’s a Hilary House somewhere, and if so I’d love to hear about it.  Since I’ve never heard of any, I’m going to focus on what I know, the Trump House.

I love the involvement and dedication that resulted in the Trump House.   The Trump House owners spent their personal money for signage and other promotional pieces to give away.  Now a days, people expect reimbursement or compensation for such actions.  The owners of the house are not pushy or loud, except the house decor certainly makes a statement.  They really want to educate and do what’s right for America.  That I can respect.  Again, perhaps there’s a similar place dedicated to Hillary.  If so, wonderful.

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Me & Kyle at the Sarah Palin rally Latrobe Airport 2012

How can anyone not appreciate the effort in this house?  I mean, they have a fifteen foot tall (I really don’t know how tall it is) picture of Donald Trump!  What a fun idea!  Since the creation of the house, they’ve had nonstop traffic from supporters visiting, getting their pictures taken and honking when passing by.  This is what America is about, freedom to choose and freedom of expression.  This is what makes election season exciting, certainly not all the bashing commercials on television, the radio and online.

Not to end on a negative note, but the Trump House has every right to decorate their building any way they want and to support any candidate they choose.  So why did they need to hire personal security to deter violence and vandalism at the Trump House?  Why did they get major backlash from people criticizing the way they spent their money?   This is what I’m saying, no respect.  If it was for Hillary, I’d think it was equally neat.

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Kyle standing in line at the Sarah Palin rally. I actually took him out of school to join me. Latrobe Airport 2012

The house has been dedicated to the Trump campaign since I believe this past summer, and it took the Tribune until this past week to write a story on them, hidden among the pages.  I always thought the news was to be unbiased, but all I’ve heard are opinions running through the media, for both sides, again some more than others.  The majority of the news is obviously swayed to one side.  It’s still not right and basic propaganda, similar to Hitler’s tactics.  He used media to reinforce his ideals and he targeted children and the younger generation who were easily swayed.  Let’s get back to practicing respect, the truth, common sense, and good old-fashion morals.

Personally, I’ve always tried to involve Kyle as much as I can with the news and historical milestones, trying to avoid negativity and reinforcing good moral decision making.  In the past, I’ve taken Kyle to rallies.  I’ve even taken him into the voter’s booth with me.  I wanted to show him what to expect when he got older, and I tried to set the example of having an educated and sincere voice.

On Sunday night I asked Kyle if he wanted to come vote with me this year.  I was denied before I even got it out of my mouth.  He’ll come around with his own opinions when he’s older.

I’ll certainly be voting tomorrow, and I’ll be praying tonight for God to lead this country in the right direction.

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

15 Years of Missing Ryan, Another Year Closer to Him

Life seems sometimes like nothing more than a series of losses, from beginning to end. That’s the given. How you respond to those losses, what you make of what’s left, that’s the part you have to make up as you go.   ~Katharine Weber

September 24,  1977 – October 23, 2001

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Ryan’s confirmation at St. Vincent Basilica with his godfather, our cousin Jim Olczak. c. 1990

Every year it’s the same pattern of celebrating Kyle’s birthday in July, then observing Ryan’s birthday in September, then the reminder of Ryan’s death in October.  Not that I think of the later during Kyle’s month long birthday celebration, but I do reflect on it this time of year.

Kyle’s fifteen years old, the same number of years we’ve been trudging through life without Ryan.  The two will forever correlate, which I guess it’s fitting for Kyle to be tied to his Dad in an unconventional way.

Sometimes I wonder how Ryan would have adapted to the present world.  A lot has changed in fifteen years.  Ryan used a computer, only when needed, but would he have a smart phone?  Would he be in business for himself?  Would he be bald at the age of thirty-nine?  (My own little joke.  I always teased Ryan about going bald.  Not that I cared, but he did.)  Those are the thoughts that will never be turned into reality, merely kept as thoughts.  Although, I do know for certain, Ryan’s world would have revolved around Kyle, and Kyle would have greatly benefited from being raised by Ryan.

Recently, I had to give cliff notes of our family situation.  While chaperoning the band for the Latrobe football game at Latrobe, it wasn’t making sense to the band parents how Kyle and I knew the area so well.  Kyle actually told a few parents he lives in Latrobe, which he always did halftime.  It’s been a while since I had to give the family tree of how Kyle’s my nephew.  Sadly, yet proudly, I always state Kyle’s my brother’s kid.  Then, after a quizzical stare, I have to slightly elaborate that my brother passed away and my family is from Latrobe.  Do I mind?  Not really, I’d rather people know the truth.  Not that it changes anything, but it fills in the gaps for others and it shows just how important Kyle is to me.  Only if asked do I get into details, which again I don’t mind because fact is fact and it’s the way it is.

Sometimes I find peace thinking about the “What Ifs” and writing about Ryan and remembering my only brother, yet, sometimes it’s extremely difficult.  Which is it this time?  It’s a well guarded secret, but every day is a day I miss Ryan, and some are still harder than others.  Admittedly, it was difficult getting out of bed today.

I sit here wishing Kyle would call me to spend the day together, but I know he had a busy weekend of band, and I’m sure he’s tired and wants to loaf around.  Kyle has always been the one constant that eases my grief, even when he’s not in close proximity.  Although, today I’m missing Ryan AND Kyle.

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posted by auntheather in Church,Family,News,Observation & Imagination,Reminiscing and have No Comments

I Met Leigh Bardugo!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leigh Bardugo Website:

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

10/3/16 –  As I was wrapping up Crooked Kingdom, which is a great book, I had papers shoved in the book that fell out and made me think of an addendum to my story above.  While Leigh Bardugo was opening my books to sign, a few receipts and papers fell out.  Naturally, I apologized and then I felt like I should explain, so she didn’t think I was a junk collector.

Whenever I’m reading a book I tend to drag it along with me wherever I go.  Typically, during that time, I find myself taking care of daily activities that sometimes require waiting, such as getting an oil change, sitting at the veterinarian’s office, flying to a new location, and so forth.  Usually, I collect paperwork from those instances.  I intentionally place certain documentations among the pages of my book.  Granted, I can’t leave everything, or it would be a big pile of miscellaneous papers, but I do add a few select items, sometimes.  Why?  Those unrelated pieces of information are record keepers.  My books record my history in a sense, of what I was doing when I read them.  So the next time I re-read the book, it’s like a walk down memory lane.  Plus, one day if Kyle decides to take adventures into my books, he might find it interesting to see my past, even though it’s usually nothing exciting.

I’m also the one who likes to write in the margins of my books, especially if I know someone is going to read it after I do.  I like to make silly comments, or add inside jokes based off of the story.  It’s another way for others to share in my adventure, and I in theirs, because no matter what it, these entries stop a person in their tracks and sparks conversation.

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

Arnold Palmer was Already a Legend

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

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

September 10, 1929 – September 25, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10/3/16 – Recently, I heard a fun story about Arnold Palmer from my cousin John Olczak.  He said his dad, my Uncle Frank, my Grandpap Chester’s brother, and the other brothers caddied together with Arnold Palmer at the Latrobe Country Club when they were younger.  Apparently, they always had to keep track of Mr. Palmer because he would sneak way to hang out on the putting green and practice, instead of caddying.

It just goes to show Arnold Palmer was meant to be a golfer.  He had a natural talent that I’m guessing was driven by a true desire and a love to play the game.

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

Happy Birthday Ryan!

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

Happy 39th Birthday Ryan!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Birthday Ryan!

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

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

Adventures in San Diego On a Dog Scavenger Hunt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mission Beach boardwalk, San Diego 9/10/16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Visit to Google Pittsburgh

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

Google Pittsburgh Tour 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Escape Room Experience

Shut your eyes and see.  ~James Joyce

Escape Room Latrobe 5-29-16 Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hello Mary Kay Andrews!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Career

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

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

Happy reading everyone!

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

Fishing & Fun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kyle Fishing Pose c. 2003 Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jury Duty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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