Pushing My Buttons

You think you can break me, you have another thing coming, I invented stubborn! ~Heather Piper

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Kyle has his pappy wrapped around his finger … in this case literally. We love every piece of that little man! c. 2003

Those words have been ringing true over the years.  I’ve said them to Kyle more times than I seriously can recollect.  What I didn’t expect is the irony and the impact they would bring.

Kyle is a good kid, truly.  I’ve said it before and it still holds true today.  I mean that in every sense, he’s kind and sincere, honest and I’d love to say hardworking like his dad, but Kyle tends not to take after the Piper side with respect to work and work ethic, at least at his thirteen years.  He can work hard and has proven to do so, yet that is more a rarity.  When he wants to work toward something, he does his task the best he can.  However, getting him there is a journey all to itself with yelling, threats of being grounded and sometimes and all out war.  He is very difficult and stubborn, I guess like most kids.

I love Kyle with all my heart.  There is nothing I wouldn’t do for him and everything in my life is done with him in mind, EVERYTHING. Ever since God blessed us with that little critter, he has been my world.  Does he know this?  He sure does, even when I get so angry with his attitude or actions (usually lack of action) I still make sure I tell him how much I love him and care about his well being.   Let’s go back to our soul purpose on earth, to ultimately live in the absolute love that God gave us and prepare to live with Him in that love in heaven.  Can I claim this?  Sadly no, but I try.  Does Kyle care?  Probably not.

The more I reflect on my actions from this past weekend toward a teen with an attitude, I realize, he’s just like me, kinda!  First of all I will admit, I know I am not perfect and I believe rethinking some of my poorer decisions and actions can help make me a better person and perhaps a better aunt.  Secondly, coming to the conclusion that Kyle is just like me, blew my mind.

Kyle has always resembled his dad, my brother and yet has glimpses of my dad, Kyle’s pap, but mostly my sister.  The older Kyle gets, the more I see my sister in that kid.  Everything, from the way they move, to the way they think and even their appearance is similar.   Who Does Kyle Favor More, Aunt Nikki?

On a side note, I’ve actually had some friends of mine think Kyle looks just like me.  I’ve never seen it, but I’ll take it.  Perhaps they are seeing what I just realized, how very similar we are personality wise.  I’ve always tried to figure out Who Does Kyle Favor More, Aunt Heather?

Kyle is no stranger to being yelled at, especially from me.  Normally, I don’t completely flip my lid and loose it on that kid, but there have been times when I shamefully have lost my temper, to the extreme.  It does take me a while to get to that point and Kyle seems to be the one to take me there.  It’s not usually one thing, it’s a build up and a repeat of the same behavior that makes me hit an eleven on the old tension scale.

Kyle-as-the-scarecrow-2010-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle as the scarecrow for Halloween. This is how he looks to me with his attitude! Take at the Sacred Heart Church parking lot before the Youngstown Halloween parade c.2010

What sparked this one?  Egg rolls.  Yes!  First let me set the stage.  On Saturday, I was in New Hope, Pennsylvania administering to the Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt for Thrill of the Hunt, my company.  Usually, I need assistance when doing these activities and Kyle usually helps me.  Well recently, his interest in the company has become less than mediocre.  There was a Warmachine tournament at the local comic book store Saturday morning and not wanting him to miss it, I offered to administer to the scavenger hunt solo.  It would have been nicer if I had someone help me set up and wrap up the scavenger hunt, not to mention the nearly six hour drive out and back in a day gets lonesome, but I knew it was important to him.

Let me also include, that for the last several months, not days, not weeks, MONTHS, at the very least since the beginning of summer, Kyle was suppose to get my database for Thrill of the Hunt in order and organized.  He made a deal with me and I was counting on him.  Basically, his job was to enter data so I wouldn’t loose important contacts and so I could keep all the scavenger hunts and their participants in order.  This database was not only going to help me target new businesses but it was to be used to reach out to our customers to promote up coming events.  You know so I can get our numbers up and all things associated with that.  Needless to say, it’s a very important job that I don’t have time for.  Did I also mention I was paying the kid?  Yes, even after all I give him and do for him, I wanted him to earn money, as opposed to just asking for it, a good work ethic lesson.  Plus, I know the experience he would receive by going through this process would be good for his accountability, to be apart of building the company from the ground up, great work experience for his knowledge and as a resume builder, and it would prove to be beneficial to him in his career.  All good reasons for him to administer to the Thrill of the Hunt database.  Could I get someone else?  Sure, but I wanted to give him this opportunity.

Is my database done?  Nope!  Not even close.  I even sat with him to assist at times.  He just wants someone to hold his hand and basically do the job for him!  I even tried helping, by showing him how to manage his time to tackle the mile high pile, piece by piece.  I don’t expect the kid to sit for hours upon hours on the computer entering data, but a half an hour every day is not too taxing.  Keep in mind, he’ll sit there for four even five hours straight, if not more, playing video games.  Yes, there is no reason why he can’t be responsible for completing this task.  None.

Ryan-Uncle-Sonny-1980s-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Our cousin Fred, Uncle Sonny & Ryan. Dad’s head made it in the pic. Taken at Uncle Sonny’s kitchen mid 1980s

Now the database not done was becoming a huge argument and growing fast.  Then add in the egg roll instance and Kyle’s attitude became a lethal combination for me to blow up like the atomic bomb.

Back to the egg roll, which was never really about an egg roll.  Kyle was at the Warmachine tournament and mentioned how Gigi got him Chinese food from the place next door, like all the other Warmachine players.  Cool, Kyle’s hanging with people of his own kind and fitting in.  Then, he brought up the egg rolls and how he threw them away.  Keep in mind this all happened right after church, when I should have had God in my heart the most.  Guess not.  I was appalled that he didn’t think of us in any way shape or form to bring the egg rolls home and offer them to us.  I got over that hurt and was more devastated to find out that he never even thought of anyone in the room to offer his egg rolls.  What?  How self centered!

First of all wasting food in my mind is no good.  Personally, I hate it and I hate seeing it.  Then, to not even offer someone what he doesn’t want, not like he’s sacrificing anything, is mind blowing.  Don’t even take me back to the fact that he never even thought of us, at all!  Didn’t I help raise this kid from birth?  Did he forget everything?  Now I began wondering how was he acted during the tournament?  Was he using his manners?  Was he being a teenage spoiled brat?

Well, in the matter of a few minutes that set the stage for the entire Sunday, which included a huge fight about my database.  It got even worse when I found out he didn’t care and was making mistake after mistake with my database!  Was he trying to sabotage the company?  The very company I am working so hard to build.  Apparently, he could care less.  Probably because all he has to do is ask my parents or my sister or anyone else for something and he gets it.  Why would the kid want to work when he gets things handed to him?  The answer is he doesn’t.  I wasn’t asking him to go chop down trees or build a house, he was simply sitting there entering data for a half an hour.

Then, I found out he wasn’t entering the companies!  What?  He didn’t want to, was the point, although he started to make an argument that is was double the work and all I had to do was search what I needed and pull the reports differently.  I did hear him out and considered his suggestion, even though I know it wasn’t to make himself more efficient nor to help me make a better database.  I told him NO, I wanted it done correctly and my way.

Well, Kyle was not going to be told NO, which is not like me at all, none of us were ever like that.  He argued and argued and pouted and commented under his breath and then was moving so very slow, I wanted to send him flying out the window into the my Uncle Walter’s field!

Kyles-Lego-War-2012-Aunt-Heather-Piper

There’s a Lego war brewing … Kyle’s Lego army. 2012

During all this, the egg roll argument and then later the database discussions, he kept giving me a stubborn snide grin.  AND he was glaring at me eye-to-eye as if challenging me.  Are you suicidal?  It was all around nasty and I was tired of Kyle’s self centered, spoiled, greedy, no-it-all attitude.  I responded as a frustrated human being and up and smacked him in the back of the head.  Was it right?  No.  Did it solve anything?  No. Did I feel better?  Kinda, but not really.

After I walked away and started to come back to reality again, I thought of my actions as well as Kyle’s.  I needed Kyle to learn from his behavior.  I simply told him he was fired from the database, but he was going to still help around the house with manual labor.  (He needed to be taught a real lesson and it was good exercise)  I also informed him that the Warmachine pieces my mom got him for Christmas and gave him early, (yes that’ part of the kids problem, he gets everything on demand, again not working for it) was going to be taken away until Christmas.  AND the WarMachine tournament in November, which is going to be a bigger point system that he was excited about, was not going to include him.  (Plus with me taking way those pieces, he wouldn’t have enough points to compete).

Did Kyle keep up that crappy defiant grin and snicker at me with an attitude?  Nope, his eyes welt up with tears of fear and disappointment.  Bingo!  I found superman’s kryptonite.  I finally outsmarted the teenager!  His stubbornness is a lot like mine was as a kid.  I knew I was bullheaded and headstrong, yet I was always considerate with my family and I was ALWAYS a hard worker when my parents needed something done.  If there was money to be made, I was ambitious and first in line.  When my parents had the sawmill, I begged them to let me work there.  I was never afraid of hard work, just laziness.  You could always count me on me to get stuff done, unlike Kyle.  He has shown that he’s not responsible and can’t be counted on, which breaks my heart to say that.  Perhaps in time as he matures it will change, at least I will do my best to help guide him.

I know I learned a lesson, violence is not a solution.  Sometimes the knowledge and ability to use it is a good way to keep peace.  When I took karate years ago, they taught us we were trained not be aggressive and fight, but to have the ability and knowledge, so when peace is threatened and those that cannot defend themselves are in harms way, we can stand up for those that aren’t able to do so for themselves.  Violence should never to used out of frustration or anger.  Lesson learned.  I too hope Kyle learned a lesson, but I have a feeling there are many more to come.  No matter how hard it will be, I care for Kyle that much and his well being that I’m willing to fight for it.

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

The Dog Catcher Part 2

The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.  ~Aung San Suu Kyi

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Very sad beagle found at the dog catcher, reminded me of Ryan’s dog Jake. 10-9-14

With my previous blog Dog Catcher Part 1, I set the stage with respect to our dogs taking off, giving themselves a nature run, and not returning with Avery.  Now for the truly scary part of the story.

Once mom got the message that my cousin saw some post on Facebook about a stray dog, a.k.a. Avery, we then found out they called the dog catcher.  Yikes!  This was a new one for us.  I don’t believe it was a malicious action, for this family stated that they asked around and no one claimed this stray, who happened to be a  Virginian dog.  Avery probably gave off the out-of-towner vibe up on the ridge.

Since we were moving into unknown territory, questions started surfacing.  How does one get a hold of the dog catcher?  Who is the dog catcher?  Where is the facility?  Seriously, we had no clue to any of those questions.  I called the Greensburg state police and they gave me a phone number, but they didn’t know where the kennel was located.  Really?  That’s what he said, and he wasn’t brushing me off, but on the contraire being very sincere.  He informed me that Hoffman’s Kennel doesn’t answer their phone, but I should leave a message and they’ll get back to me.

We did as instructed, but we also didn’t want to wait around for a call back, Avery was wrongfully placed in prison and it was our duty to bust her free.  This process was all new to us.  I never even realized there was such a thing as a dog catcher in the area.  To me, he was a myth you only see in cartoons. You know the mean old nasty man who wanted to catch dogs with an over-sized fishing net.

Thinking smart, mom called her veterinarian for an address.  Bingo!  In addition to the address, there was a stressful tone in the voice that gave a sense of complete urgency to retrieve Avery, immediately.

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Another curious prisoner at the dog catcher 10/9/14

Now the worrying really kicked into fear.  Even though we never spoke to this mysterious dog catcher, mom and I headed in his direction to 285 Cloverleaf Drive Delmont, Pennsylvania 15626.  We were told he lives on the property, so we might be able to pop in and get the goods before bedtime.

On the way, mom told me about a story she read on the You Know You’re From Latrobe, PA IfFacebook page.  (There are screen shots of the conversations)  According to these individuals, Hoffman’s is a dog serial killer!   There is even a Facebook page to try and shut him down Stop Hoffman Kennels.

Okay, hearing that, and only those stories and nothing to contradict, I made up my mind regarding this faceless figure.  Not fair I know, but think about the stress I was in, not to mention Nicole kept calling and hounding us, asking if we got her dog yet.

Finding the place was easy, if you knew the address.  The facility wasn’t marked like I expected a government funded location to appear, but instead it was very creepy, and almost shady.  I mean that, granted it was dark but regardless, I felt like a dog thief intruding on someone’s house.

Once there, I knocked on the door and he, a.k.a. the dog catcher, Gary Hoffman, graciously opened it, hearing me out.  I gave a description of Avery, and informed him that he was holding her.  Mr. Hoffman gave me a puzzled look and simply told me no, he didn’t have a dog by that description.  What?  Still standing awkwardly in the doorway, with no sense of invitation, I stood my ground and wouldn’t take that as an answer.  I told him I know for a fact he picked her up today.  Still sporting a confused look, he again reassured me he didn’t have my dog.  Again, sternly I informed him yes he did, I know for a fact a person called him, and he picked her up, mid-day today.  Mr. Hoffman’s response, “I was in Fayette County all day.”  Personally, I don’t give a crap where he was, he had my sister’s dog!

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Poor lonely dog at the dog catcher 10/9/14

Still not believing me, he said meet me around as side door.  I was invited into a waiting room type, that smelt horribly of ammonia!  We continued this repetitive conversation, and I never backed down. I was stern yet polite.  Finally, after repeating myself and ensuring him he does in deed have Avery, without question, he suggested, “I don’t have her, but you’re more than welcome to have a look.”  Couldn’t he have just offered in the first place when I told him I know for a fact he had my dog?

Giving Mr. Hoffman the benefit of the doubt, let me explain.  He might have been confused during the conversation because I kept calling Avery a puppy.  She is technically a puppy, just a large one, nearly fifty pounds.  But one would think if I have a missing dog, and I said she was here, he would automatically let me see the dogs?  He was almost dismissive of me.  Granted it was 7:00 pm, past normal hours, but that’s his job.

Once inside the actual Kennel, I caught Avery’s eyes immediately!  She looked so sad from behind the chain linked fence.  Now another obstacle stood in my way, literally.  He wouldn’t release Avery.  What?

He stated all dogs need to have their tags on them to be released.  Seriously, if she had her tags on her then he would have known where to find her owner.  Frustrating!  He wasn’t going to let her go without tags, which are all the way in Virginia!  I get the reasoning, to make sure all dogs have his or her shots.  I explained, I was dog sitting for my sister and the dog got away from me, and she must have lost her tags in the woods.  I informed Mr. Hoffman, Avery’s tags were in Virginia.  I also gave a solution that we could call my veterinarian’s office, they have all of Avery’s paperwork since I took her there for her final shots while babysitting.

He still was not going to release Avery, and gave me a run around saying I couldn’t take the dog.  Seriously?  I was ready to tackle this guy, grab the dog and run!  My mom was waiting in the car and when needed, she could peel rubber like the best of them.

Dog Catcher Aunt Heather PiperSolution!  Call Nicole!  My thought was that she surly had copies of Avery’s tags!  I know my geek sister and that sounded about right.

In front of Mr. Hoffman, I wasn’t shy about my intention of leaving with the dog, I called Nicole.  Once I got her on the phone, the dog catcher did ease up a bit and said, she doesn’t need tags since she’s an out of state dog.  What?  Why didn’t he just say that in the first place?  He knew she was from Virginia, a.k.a. out of state!  What is going on here?  He took down Nicole’s contact information, and filled out some form.  Now can I get her and go?  Nope!  He said there’s a fee.

Okay, how much?  He kept saying it wasn’t for him it was for the state.  Whatever.  How much?  Fifty bucks.  In all the confusion, guess who didn’t have my purse.  I felt like this was a nightmare that wouldn’t end.  It was taunting me.

Mom!  I exited the smelly waiting room to pull my mom into my nightmare, to meet our villain face-to-face.  Mom was prepared, and wrote the man a check.  This was a bit comical.  Mr. Hoffman kept repeating that the money wasn’t for him, it’s for the state funds of some sort.  Mom asked “Who do I make the check out to?”  He replied, “Hoffman’s.”  A snicker escaped my lips.  Personally, I don’t even care if the money was for him.  He was doing a job, and he should get paid, I get it, but he seemed very defensive over the money.  We did get a receipt, so as far as I can tell it was all legitimate.

Now let me lay all the cards on the table, which are fact and which are fiction, I truly have no idea?  All I know is what I went through, and eventually our own personal story was a happy tail (that’s a pun).  We got Avery back home safe and sound.

Dog Catcher Hoffman Facebook Aunt Heather Piper48 Hour Rule
I was told everyone has 48 hours to retrieve their dog before he euthanizes them.  48 hours?  Really?  That’s just enough time to realize your dog is gone, and the neighbor’s haven’t seen the 4-legged refugee.

I also heard after the situation, that Hoffman’s works with a local no-kill shelter to get the dogs before they are killed, as long as the shelter has room.  Again, I have no proof, but this is what I was told.

Finding Owners
Many people claimed Mr.  Hoffman doesn’t try and track down the owners beforehand.  Avery did have a chip in her, which he did wand but the wand came up negative.  Perhaps he needs to change the batteries in his wand.

First of all, one would think he would have done that before placing Avery in her prison cell.  What’s wrong with being proactive?

On the contrary, a close friend of mine informed me Mr. Hoffman scans microchips, and ID tags to contact the owners.  He is not required by law to seek dog ownership, only to keep them for 48 hours.  Again really?  Unfortunately, he is just doing a government funded job.  Again back to my issue with government having too much control.  Dogs die.

Location
Now, let’s get down to the location of the dog catcher and his prisoners.  No one seemed to have a clue where his facility was located, not even the police!  If you check the website, it just gives a phone number.  I’m somewhat fine with leaving a message and having him screen his calls, but let’s face it, this is a job and that’s part of the job.

While writing this blog, I did manage to find the address online, but it took a little digging.  It also helped, I was more informed of the kennel’s name and location.

This one I do have a huge issue with.  The kennel is unmarked, at least from what I saw!  It just had the house number like any other house on the street.  If this is a government funded facility, meaning I can’t even take my pistol in there even with a permit, then it should be marked as such.

I had someone share a counter point-of-view on this.  They stated that not publishing the location of the kennel was done by design so people wouldn’t abandon their dogs.  Perhaps cameras and large fines would solve that problem.

In case the contact information for Hoffman Kennels was missed here it is again:
285 Cloverleaf Drive
Delmont, Pennsylvania 15626
724-468-5505

Hoffman Kennel Contact Information Aunt Heather PiperSolution
Basically, what this boils down to is Legislation.  I don’t know who’s Mr. Hoffman’s boss, or how we can get the rules changed, but in this digital world we live in, helping these strays and missing dogs being reunited with their owners shouldn’t be like moving mountains.  Perhaps if Mr. Hoffman was required by law to photograph all captured dogs and ID them immediately, then post this information to a central Facebook page, it would help a lot of dogs and their owners, since going viral is the quickest way to get the word out,  eliminating the old fashion methods.

Also, I get it Mr. Hoffman’s job is 24-hours, but if he signed up for that, and is getting paid for such, then that is his job.  He either needs to continue or resign.  Maybe, there is a way to have an assistant, perhaps there is one in place to help with some of the workload?

I’m really not sure what I feel about this entire encounter, and the policies of the dog catcher.  I must say, it seems as though legislation needs to revisit policies and procedures.  I’ve heard both sides, yet my experience was a bit odd, not helpful and understanding, but shady.  Again, it was a strange situation.  Am I missing something?

I was suggested by many to contact the local news stations and report my experience.  Doing some digging around, I found out Hoffman Kennels was in the news on several occasions!  About a year ago, the TribLiv had this article and Channel 4 News ran a story on Hoffman Kennels.

http://triblive.com/neighborhoods/2517886-74/hoffman-animal-dog-control-dogs-kennel-walters-license-soxman-plum#axzz3GD7BLv5P  TribLive Hoffman's Kennel Aunt Heather Piper

Channel 4 news Hoffman Kennel Aunt Heather Piperhttp://www.wtae.com/news/local/westmoreland/Residents-upset-with-Delmont-dog-kennel/16200662

Thank you to everyone who reached out to me with advice, prayers and informed me on the opposing views.  All this was very new to me.  While I was touring the clink, I did manage to snap a few pictures of captured dogs.  I posted them to Facebook on the ride home, hoping to alert a dog owner.  Also, I should say thank you to Mr. Hoffman for answering the door in the evening and hearing me out, eventually releasing Avery to us.  From what I understand, he doesn’t make that his policy.  See, prayers really do work!

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

The Dog Catcher Part 1

Stories can conquer fear, you know. They can make the heart bigger.  ~Ben Okri

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Avery relaxing on the couch. She looks more like my cat … 2014

Recently, we had a run in with the dog catcher.  Yes!  Let me step back to explain.

Last Thursday, I had all three dogs, Seven (black Labrador), Scooby (blond Labrador) and Avery (a.k.a. Acorn a Doberman mix) outside to stretch their legs and run around.  Let me step back even further that very day to state, I was suppose to put the tracker on Avery, which I was going to do when I went back into the house.  However, I didn’t get the chance.

Why?  Because all three dogs, yes they formed a posse, eluded me and made for the woods.  Truly, it was like one of the dogs said, ‘Hey look over there’ while they pointed in the opposite direction they were heading, and then took off running before I realized what had happened.  I know that makes me sound like a simpleton, but you don’t know these dogs.  Normally they are clunky, loud and up my butt, until they get into ninja mode.

Anyway, my heart sank when I came to the realization that I lost ALL three dogs, on my watch!  It’s bad enough when Seven and Scooby go on their walk abouts, but this time they have my sister’s precious mutt.  Yikes!  I knew if I didn’t get that dog back soon, I was in deep water.

Naturally, right before this happened, I had to leave.  Crap!  No worries, I thought, they’ll probably go trotting around the woods and be back in a couple of hours, at least that’s their behavioral pattern.

Upon my return around diner time, I found Seven and Scooby and Storm, my cat, waiting for me on the porch.  All three animals were ready to go inside and relax.  What!  I’m missing one?  Avery!  O no!  Now that’s serious.  Not only because she’s my sister’s dog and Nicole would go spastic, but Avery is a puppy, who doesn’t know our woods like our boys do.  Plus, we highly suspect Seven relies on Scooby’s nose to get them back.  Now Avery is completely solo.  What to do?

I called my mom.  She knew they all left in the morning, because I informed her and I was happy to report two out of the three dogs returned.  When she asked which ones, we both got a little scared.  I stated, “Why didn’t she just stay with the boys?”  Mom’s response, “‘Cause she’s an idiot!”  Later on, I would find humor in that statement, I don’t think Nicole did.

That’s when I stopped up the neighbors house to tell them to keep their eyes peeled.  While talking to the neighbor gal, she made a very good point.  She stated that I was out numbered!  Yes I was!

Mounting the quad, I drove it around to areas of woods in close proximity, places I could reach on four wheels.  Nothing!  No Avery.

Aunt-Nikki-Rain-Walking-Avery-2013-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Look at this dynamic duo, Nicole & Avery walking in rain. 2013

Again, I had to depart but was planning on returning in a couple of hours.  By the time I wrapped up work, mom and I started searching for this lost bad puppy by 4:00 pm or so.  I even strapped on my boots, packed my flashlight and pistol and took Seven and Scooby for a hike through the local woods.

On a side note, there have been a number of bear sightings in the area.  Great!  I thought watch me come face-to-face with one.  My luck, I’ll startle it taking a crap or something, hence the need for the pistol.  I know if faced with a relentless bear, you are suppose to make yourself look big and menacing.  Right?!  I only look that scary when I don’t get enough sleep or Kyle is pushing  my buttons.

You see, over the years tracking our boys we’ve grown pretty custom to their running behaviors, so I had an idea where to look.  Having a few options, I chose the one that made the most sense and the one I wasn’t personally familiar with, near the soccer fields.

There is a stretch of woods from one ridge road to another.  Closest to my parents house is my Uncle Walter’s property, then it spans to other property owners before reaching Bethel Church Road.  Set back in the woods are the Loyalhanna Soccer fields.  We’ve tracked Seven and Scooby way over there before, but I’ve never hiked that far in that direction.  I guess it was a perfect time to get familiar with those woods. 

Did I mention it’s bow hunting season?  O yes!  I was praying no one took a shot at that puppy or was planning on using me as a target.  While trudging through the leaves and branches, I saw a couple of hunters in their tree stands.  Feeling bad about disrupting them, I quickly redeemed myself when I accidentally kicked up a deer and pushed it in their direction.  That made me feel a little better.

I let Scooby take the lead, perhaps bringing me in the direction of their earlier adventures.  It seemed to work for a little until he tuckered out on me and Seven was simply excited to go for another walk.

On another side note, the dogs led me into a bunch of thorns and jagged brush.  Seven refused to go first, remaining safely behind me while I got all sliced up tramping down the natural barbed wire death traps.  Then, he pushed my butt with his head to get me to move faster, nearly face planting me, yet wouldn’t take the lead.  I kept yelling at him to stop pushing me.  It was like being in the woods with Kyle!  I know the hunters saw or at the very least heard us.

As I was hiking some pretty steep rocky hills, mom called to give me a heads up, that our next step was to inform Nicole.  Mom wanted to post Avery’s picture to Facebook but not without giving her fair warning.  Agreed and understood, yet scared!  We knew that was our best chance of recovering Avery, yet we really didn’t want to face the wrath of my sister.

Eventually, Nicole did call while I was winded from hiking a cliff of death, to yell at me and to blow off some steam.  She informed me that she was personally holding me responsible and blaming me for Avery’s disappearance.  My reply, I wouldn’t think anything other.  She also asked me if I was calling her name while hiking.  Really?  No, I wanted another challenge, and I thought I’d move through the woods like a Sasquatch and sneak up on the dog. (sarcasm)  Yes, I was yelling, my throat was raw and sore.

To sum it up, I eventually found my way to the soccer fields and no Avery.  I called mom to pick me and the boys up.  I also thought, since there were games going on and kids running around, I had a touch of hope that Avery pushed her way onto some other family, but nothing.

As mom pulled in, I saw she was on the phone.  She got a lead!  Avery was found up on Butina ridge (not a technical term but if you’re a local you know where that is).  Apparently, Avery found some kids and decided to try and make friends. (I knew it!)  While Avery is truly only a puppy, she’s still a fifty pound dog that likes to jump and plant her long tongue in people’s faces, like it or not.  The kid’s dad didn’t know what to do with her, since her tags were missing and their neighbors didn’t recognize her, so he called the dog catcher.  doom doom doom.  We’ve all heard horror stories about the dog catcher!

This was the first time we’ve ever had to deal with the dog catcher.  Our boys usually stick to the woods and shy away from people when they take off.  Of course with one exception, Dog Gone Irony they always return.

Now the second part of our adventure, the dog catcher!  To be continued… The Dog Catcher Part 2

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

Think Team Building … Think Scavenger Hunts

Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.  ~Andrew Carnegie

Molly-Kyle-Team-Building-in-Ligonier-PA-4-27-14-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Molly & Kyle working together to get across the Ropes Course in Ligonier, Pa. for the Sacred Heart / Saint Cecilia Youth Group 4/27/13

I’m a huge fan of team building activities, you know for business functions or company outings.  They offer great benefits such as building moral, setting the cultural dynamic of a business or an organization, and allowing your team to think differently especially with problem solving and creative ideas, while working together.  Team building!

Corporate/Company:
These seemingly simple ideas are endless, yet should not be taken lightly for it really is important.  Administrating and participating in team building activities and company outings are imperative today, with the new generation taking over the workforce and those that are soon to be joining.  These young professionals interact differently, think differently and have a different concept of what an employer should offer and what they expect from his/her job.  Not to mention the work dynamic is drastically changing and in order to have a solid skilled work force, companies need to adjust culturally.

Examples:
Ideas like what?  There are so many activities that can be taken advantage of that can be as elaborate or simple as desired.  Ideas such as team races, paint ball or a computer or board game.

One concept a close friend told me about, which seemed very fun and rewarding at the same time, involved bicycles.  The participants had to separate into small groups and build a bicycle.  Yes!  An actual bike, with two wheels and brakes and all the fixings.  After it was inspected for accuracy, one of the participants had to ride their newly constructed means of transportation to the finish line, where a group of underprivileged kids were waiting to receive a brand new bike, unbeknownst to the participants before they started the journey.  Talk about a win win!

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Sacred Heart / Saint Cecilia’s Youth Group team building activity in Ligonier, Pa. Ropes Course … Team Building! 4/27/13

Another team building concept I heard about involved the sense of smell.  The participants had to create a perfume scent for themselves.  Then, they were blind folded and had to walk around finding the scents to match their co-workers.  I may have butchered that one a bit, but the basic concept is there.

Regardless, team building activities should be fun and interactive.  Also, no one says you can’t focus on the company mission statement, history and/or values and not have it fun.  Sure you can!  And guess what?  If it’s interactive and challenging, a simple walk across the street can be an adventure!  Team building exercises don’t have to be just about each individual, personally.  Sure, it will obviously include their personalities, or in some cases a lack there of, and their strengths and weaknesses.  But it can also involve how they work within the company and their roll they play, in addition to how they work with co-workers.  There are many layers and different dynamics to team building.  They should be explored and these activities implemented at least once a year, or with the completion of a goal.

Scavenger Hunts:
Why am I talking about this?  I’ve had an influx of people requesting team building events or was inquiring about doing something different for a team builder exercise.  You came to the right place!

As I’ve mentioned before, Thrill of the Hunt is my company.  (Add Thrill of the Hunt to the Latrobe List, Scavenger Hunts – It’s the Thrill of the Hunt!, Scavenger Hunts – Getting Our Start At Seton Hill University & Continuing …, Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt) (Select the category Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts for a complete list of blog entries written on my company).

Thrill of the Hunt builds scavenger hunts for company outings, team building activities, trade shows, fundraisers, birthday parties, bachelor/bachelorette parties and family reunions, to name a few.  Thrill of the Hunt also self hosts several scavenger hunts throughout the year, in various locations.

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Sacred Heart / Saint Cecilia’s Youth Group team building Ropes Course in Ligonier, Pa. 4/27/13

Scavenger hunts are a unique way to engage all sorts of people, in any environment, for any level of participant.  Scavenger hunts can include all sorts of information or can be simply fun and trivial.

My suggestion for companies is to incorporate some company value or history.  It’s a fun way to keep the participant’s connected to the company and reinforcing the culture.  Forcing employees out of their comfort zone, either with the location of the scavenger hunt or with the challenges is the best way to make an impact.  Even though Thrill of the Hunt can build a scavenger hunt on site indoors or out, but my preference is outside at a separate location.  This allows everyone to get their head out of the office zone and clear their minds with fresh air.  My more successful company scavenger hunts forced the participants to really move through cities and towns, outside even in the cooler weather and even rain.

Team building doesn’t just stop at companies and large corporations.  No!  Personally, I think team building can be used as a way to become familiar with everyone on the team or organization.  Example, about a year ago Kyle’s youth group participated in the Ropes Course in Ligonier, Pa. You can read about the entire event at  What’s Gonna Work?  Teamwork!

To summarize, Kyle’s youth group participated in a very unique type of team building experience.  The Ropes Course!  This activity is perfect for smaller groups.

Before taking the plunge onto the obstacle, we played several team building and energetic games.  Yes, we actually got to run around and act silly, while building trust among each other in the group.  Then, after our instructors felt we were ready, we tackled the Ropes Course!

It was a serious of suspended cables, an unsteady bridge, shaky boards and a not-so-stable log walkway, all hanging about six inches off the ground.  Our mission was to figure out how to get everyone through the course without stepping on the ground and working together as a team, using everyone’s strengths and understanding everyone’s weaknesses.  Every time someone touched the ground, the entire group had to reset and start all over again, each time learning from the previous toward reaching our goal.

It took some time but we did figure it out.  Granted, we ran out of time before executing our final plan of attack, but it was a great experience regardless.  To this day it left such an impact on me, I incorporate some of the values and techniques into my scavenger hunts.

There are all sorts of team building activities that can be done, with any group of any size at any location, just pick one and try it.  It is totally worth it for the company or organization and everyone involved.  Email me for some ideas!  Heather@PiperCorporation.com.

Below are a couple of videos from the Ropes Course in Ligonier, Pennsylvania.  This was just part of the course, showing how we had to figure out to help each other to get through it, leaning on everyone’s strengths.  Poor Kyle, he was working so hard to make sure he didn’t touch the ground and yet got across the log.  Good job buddy!

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Random Fun Facts,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts,Travels and have No Comments

Laughing About Nothing … Our Dog vs. A Robber

Every act of perception, is to some degree an act of creation, and every act of memory is to some degree an act of imagination.  ~Oliver Sacks

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Seven & Scooby running & relaxing in the backyard. 2014

Even though Kyle is growing up and becoming more independent and “cool”, he still has a witty sense of humor and makes me laugh, hard!  This past weekend his humor shined through and through.

These silly situations usually happens when we have dashboard time in the car.  One of us makes a comment, then the other joins in with another comment, only more ridiculous and so on.  This continues until we have a seriously stupid yet very comical fictional story for our own pure entertainment.

What was so funny?  Our dogs!  Kyle asked about Scooby’s behavior with a stranger in the house, the DirectTV guys working on our cables to be exact.  I had to lock all three dogs in the bedroom (yes I am still dog sitting Avery), not a good thing!  Then, somehow we started on a scenario involving a robber entering the house.

For those of you who don’t know, Scooby is our blond Labrador.  Normally, Labs are very friendly dogs, well not Scooby, at least not with anyone else besides us.  Scooby is seriously the most gentle and loving dog, borderline clingy, that is ONLY with us.  Scooby is not even very nice with friends and family who frequent the house.  Yep, he’s a one dog family.  He’s too needy for my tastes, but very good with Kyle and pretty protective of him.  Kyle lays on Scooby and tugs on him and smothers him and runs him around.  Scooby loves every minute of it, unlike my dog Seven who is the Black Labrador.  Seven likes to be loved, but does not need saturated with affection like Scooby craves.  Scooby mean side is the basis of our sense of humor, at least for this particular story.

Kyle and I went off on ideas  of a robber entering the house and how Scooby would react, charging and latching on no doubt.  Typical stuff you’d see in a movie when a robber enters the house with an attack dog.  At least that’s how I envisioned it.  Then, our made up story went a bit non politically correct from there.  Do disrespect intended.

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We loved pap! Me to the far left, Nicole, Jeremy & Chad. 1977

We started laughing about this fictitious robber who now has a wooden prosthetic leg.  I know, now-a-days most prosthetic legs are made from some sort of metal, however I also know first hand they used to be made of wood.  How do I know?  My beloved pappy had not one, but two prosthetic legs.  I’ve talked about my dad’s dad many times before Truly Homemade, Who Does Kyle Favor More, Pappy?  He had his first leg amputated below the knee before I could remember, and the other leg amputated above the knee when I was a little girl.  At the house, he used a wheelchair to get around, but when he was at work (yes he worked in a sawmill until he had a stroke and died) he had two prosthetic legs.  He would walk on them with two canes.  My pap was mentally and physically strong.

Our story started with Scooby getting a hold of this mysterious stranger’s leg and yanking it off.  To add to the fun and drama, our scene continued with Scooby gnawing on the leg and turning it into sawdust while the robber hops along.  Then, somehow Scooby got outside, still clutching the wooden prosthetic leg and running around the backyard, proud of his new “stick”.  Scooby would throw it in the air and catch it and then the other dogs would join in pulling and play with the leg.

What happened to the robber?  No clue.  We focused on the humor of Scooby running around with a wooden leg.

As we detailed this ridiculous story, I commented how funny it would be to come home to Scooby running with a wooden prosthetic leg in his mouth.  “Can you imagine him greeting us as we pulled in the driveway with a leg hanging out of his mouth?”  Kyle and I died!  We were laughing so hard, no sound was exiting our mouths.  If it wasn’t for his seat belt, Kyle would have been rolling around on the floor of the car.  It was one of those gut stretching laughs that caused your body to convulse and the muscles to tighten up, one of those perfect laughs that relaxes you.

I know my words don’t do the story justice and for the life of me I couldn’t remember all the silly comments we both made, but thinking back on it now, it’s still totally hilarious to me!  Guess you had to be there.

I love my little man!  He makes life so much fun and entertaining.  Even a simple car ride turned out to be a memory that I’ve been chuckling about all week.

Catch all the ridiculously funny stories!

Laughing About Nothing
Laughing About Nothing … True Story

Laughing About Nothing … Cats!
Laughing About Nothing … Truck Horn!
Laughing About Nothing … Dog in Space!

Below is a video of Kyle, Mr. Shirtless running around my parent’s backyard with our boys, Seven and Scooby.  Two good Labradors!

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

Did You Vote Thrill of the Hunt?

Nothing great in the world was accomplished without passion.  ~Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunt Logo in bubbleAs most may have realized, I entered my company Thrill of the Hunt in a contest, the Chase Mission Main St. Grant Contest.

What does that mean?  It means I have a shot, granted a very slim chance, at winning one of twenty prizes awarded.  It’s true, I’m a small town Latrobe start-up company in our second year, and there were roughly 35,000 participants in the 2013 contest, so the odds are not in my favor (a little Hunger Games reference).  I get it, but I also know someone, 20 small businesses to be exact, will win.  Why not try?

Before I forget and get wrapped up in the details of this contest, please vote.  If you voted, thank you so very much!  There is only one vote per person permitted and currently as of now, I only need 39 more votes to go in 10 days.

Follow this link–>    .

Now onto the details of this contest.

The big prize or the crème de la crème is winning the $150,000 grant (naturally I’ll have to pay all local, state and federal taxes).  In addition to the prerequisites to entering the contest, such as the number of employees, the minimum of two years in business and such, I had to complete essay questions.  I met the strict criteria with flying colors, the easy part, but the questionnaire took some time to work out.  There were several sets of questions to answer including outlining the details to how the money will be used if won.  A great way to force me to think wisely with respect to spending, on a micro and macro level, with or without winning.  Thinking this way will only help Thrill of the Hunt in the long run.

Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunt Founder Aunt Heather Piper

Me at the Seton Hill University Homecoming Block Party, doing a scavenger hunt for Seton Hill in Greensburg, Pa. 9/21/13

How would I use the money?  Since there are two sides to Thrill of the Hunt, the public, which are our own hosted scavenger hunt events; and the private, which include business functions, team building activities, fundraisers and parties, I addressed them both, for they work in tandem.

The money will help Thrill of the Hunt expand our public events into other cities and states.  It will also give me the resources to truly promote our events AS AN EVENT!  With every public scavenger hunt and new city we participate in, Thrill of the Hunt meets new contacts and promotes our services as a scavenger hunt adventure for private functions!  These public and private scavenger hunts give me the marketing power to promote Thrill of the Hunt with the use of Google keywords, increasing our SEO within each hosted area.  See how both sides of the house play off of each other and yet, are mutually independent?  That was not by chance but by my design.

Then, there’s the trip to Google headquarters to attend a seminar with small business experts.  Having the opportunity to tour Google alone would be amazing, not to mention speaking with these experts and making contacts, again spreading the word on Thrill of the Hunt.

As part of the benefit package, the winners will also receive a Google Chromebook laptop and a $2,000 coupon toward one market research study with Google Consumer Surveys.  All good for taking my company to the next level.

Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunt Kyle & Aunt Heather Piper at Pittsburgh Event

Me & Kyle administering a scavenger hunt for Thrill of the Hunt in Shadyside, Pittsburgh, Pa. 2013

I’ve done other contests in the past and lost, but going through this process is good for me personally and the company.

Last year I participated in the Intuit Big Game Small Business Contest.  Why do I take the time to do so when my time is so limited?  I enter these very hard to win contests for several reasons.

First and foremost for the opportunity to win.  They each have a very enticing draw, which will benefit Thrill of the Hunt tremendously if awarded.  Again, I’m not so blind to realize the odds, but like I said, someone has to win.  I feel if I don’t try, I am doing my company an injustice and a missed opportunity.

Plus, completing the application is a great process to go through.  It helps to reevaluate the direction of the company and truly get to the heart and soul of the business.  I mean that.  These contests ask the tough questions or ones not even considered. Like what?

Besides the typical short and long-term goals and competition, they ask ‘Why did you start the business?’, ‘What will winning mean to your company?’, “What made you want to be an entrepreneur?’, and ‘How does your company help the community?’.  Writing up the essay questions is a great way to evaluate yourself as a business owner and the company.  It also helps to really narrow your focus or confirm your business model.  Not to mention, the more that is written about your company, the better your copy sounds and is refined.

It also recharges your battery and builds excitement, reiterates why the company was started in the first place.  Keeping the passion up and going can be a challenge too.  Every little bit of encouragement helps.

Did I mention with these essay questions they are usually limited to about 1,000 to 1,500 characters?  Not words, but characters including the spaces.  Yikes, that’s right!  That in itself is very difficult and challenging, but it forces a person to really eliminate all the unwanted bull and the unnecessary words to capture the true essence of the company.  Like I said a great practice to go through.

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Leko (pre Cooper) showing off his Thrill of the Hunt prizes at the Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt in Shadyside, Pittsburgh, Pa 6/2013

Another big factor with these contests is the marketing aspect.  Yes, the national promotion of being associated with a big name, and naturally the prestige of winning under said name is a bonus, but also the indirect publicity with friends and family.  This helps to spread the word on the company to those who might not know you are in business for yourself, or may not know exactly what it is you do.  Those people who we take for granted and are often times overlooked are monumental to a company!  These contests force a person to reach out to EVERYONE, especially when it comes to the voting process, which they all seem to share.  It’s a great way to introduce a company on a very personal level without commitment.  It’s also a great excuse to continue promoting the company to those who are very aware of the business and to maintain top of mind awareness.

With these contests, they usually give marketing options and templates to use or store for future efforts.  Again, going through the activity of writing a press release or scripting and shooting a video to distribute, moves everyone out of their comfort zone and into the real world of marketing, another avenue to promote the company.

Believe it or not, all this activity and project development does take time but helps to get your thoughts together to really understand your own company.  That was always a big fear of mine, not having a clear defined message.  Working in an ad agency with an eclectic assortment of industries and companies, I’ve seen the opposite.  Believe it or not, I’m not talking about small companies but established businesses with major resources.  I’ve seen them fall short on the focus of their company or have yet to find their true niche.  Scary.

To anyone who has a start-up company, or is thinking of doing so, or is already up and running, take the time to invest in these contests.  No I’m not being paid to promote them, and yes, they are long shots, but with experience comes understanding and knowledge.  More importantly, theses exercises will get you thinking differently and out of your comfort zone.  Plus, someone has to win!

Good luck Thrill of the Hunt!  Remember, everyone needs to … Experience the Game!

Thank you to everyone who has helped me out with Thrill of the Hunt in one way or another over the years.  Your involvement has been appreciated and needed!  Most are friends and family who want to see my company succeed, but some are strangers who see potential in my business.  To everyone who voted, spread the word, sent me leads, gave advice and direction or just gave me words of encouragement, I want to send a very sincere Thank You!  I wouldn’t have made it this far without everyone’s help.

For more information on Thrill of the Hunt, visit our website at www.ThrillScavengerHunt.com or email us at Game@ThrillScavengerHunt.com.

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

Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt

You have to be burning with “an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right.” If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out. ~Steve Jobs

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Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt participant from Latrobe, PA 10/19/13

Admittedly, I am very blessed, especially with my job.  Mentioning it a time or two, I own Thrill of the Hunt a product of The Piper Corporation.  I know I’ve talked about Thrill of the Hunt on a number of occasions, but I’ll reiterate.

Thrill of the Hunt is a company that solely develops and administers to theme scavenger hunts.  Yes, this includes birthday parties, business functions, company outings, team building activities and fundraisers, just to name a few.  We also host scavenger hunt events, which are open to the public.  Anyone can purchase a ticket and join others of like interest in a particular city on a scavenger hunt adventure.

Where was I this past weekend?  Annapolis, Maryland, administering to a pet friendly scavenger hunt for Halloween.  Yes, it’s October and my popular Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunts have commenced for the entire month.  I just started these last year, and since the interest was heightened, I decided to expand to include additional cities.

The biggest question I’m asked, “What is a dog scavenger hunt?”  Yes, it may sound odd and no, your dog is not taking the lead on this one to sniff out clues.  It’s a laid back family friendly event.  When I created these scavenger hunts, I wanted something for families to do with their dogs, so both parties could get out and stretch their legs, while exploring the community.   I also wanted to help promote the local businesses, so I started including the shops as part of the actual scavenger hunt.

The next question, “What do I have to do?”  Easy.  First you have to Like Thrill of the Hunt on Facebook or TwitterThrill of the Hunt combines a traditional scavenger hunt with social interaction to create exponential fun and to add another dimension to the game.  Some of our scavenger hunts require you to have a QR reader app for scanning QR Codes to complete online challenges.  Then, all you have to do is figure out the riddles that take you to specific locations in a particular area.  Once you’ve arrived, you get to collect your dog treat or toy and then tackle the online challenge, post it and then move on to the next location.

Since these are dog and family friendly events, it’s not a fight to the finish.  You can treat it as such, but as of now, these dog scavenger hunts are an activity to spend time with your dog and possibly family while taking in the sights and fresh air.

I do conduct other dog scavenger hunts, however the Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunts are by far the most popular and certainly the most entertaining.  Dog owners love dressing up their 4-legged friends in costume, as do I!  It’s quite entertaining for everyone involved, although not a requirement.

Now don’t get me wrong, I do other scavenger hunt themes, excluding dogs.  But since these are sometimes so comical, I wanted to share my weekend of fun.

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Nicole & Kyle with Avery a.k.a. Acorn. She’s an angel (riiiigght!) for the Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt in Latrobe, PA 10/19/13

Kyle is usually my side kick, especially for these dog scavenger hunts, but alas his Aunt Nikki came home and he wanted to spend time with her.  At the very least, Kyle will be joining me for the Latrobe Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt in two weeks.    I’m not sure about New Hope, Pennsylvania’s or Alexandria Virginia’s.  Of course, I’m having a hard enough time getting Kyle to keep our database updated and organized.  I guess he’s finding his own interests and they don’t seem to include Thrill of the Hunt.  Maybe that will change and he’ll find a renewed interest in the company.

About the Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt

Tickets are on sale now, but are limited.  Purchase your tickets HERE.  We are still accepting local businesses to be on the hunt, at no cost for Alexandria, Virginia.

We are always open to hearing suggestions on scavenger hunt themes and hometowns to bring our events.  Please Suggest An Event, either on our website or email Game@ThrillScavengerHunt.com or fill out the form on the Contact Us page.  I seriously want to hear from you!

Make sure you’re following the hunt on our social sites. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Youtube, always using #ThrillofHunt

Remember, everyone needs to … Experience the Game!

 

VOTE

I am also very pleased to mention, Thrill of the Hunt is in the running for a small business grant through Chase Mission Main St. Grants.  Please help us get into the final running by voting.  As of today, we only need 72 more votes and we only have eleven days to do it.  So VOTE Thrill of the Hunt and thank you in advance!

Follow this link–> http://t.co/nE2souOg8J @ChaseSmallBiz @ThrillofHunt ‪#‎ThrillofHunt‬

 

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Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt for Halloween in Latrobe, PA 10/19/13

Read about other scavenger hunt blog posts

Scavenger Hunts – Getting Our Start at Seton Hill University & Continuing
Singles Scavenger Hunt & MELODIME Show
Doggie in Disguise? Scavenger Hunt?
WannaBe 80’s Scavenger Hunt & a Puppy In a Day
Scavenger Hunts – It’s the Thrill of the Hunt!
Scavenger Hunt – It’s the Thrill of the Hunt! … Continued

 

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Pets,Reminiscing,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts,Travels and have No Comments

Looking for Construction Sites

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

Nicoles-1st-holy-communion-c.-1983-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Nicole’s 1st Holy Communion. Front: Casey, Ryan, Me. Back: Tim, Jeremy, Chad & Nicole. In the back, to the right is were our huge sandbox was placed. looks like it was in the works. c. 1983

When most people see a construction zone they try to avoid it, or they begin spouting off feelings of frustration or even anger.  I don’t like the headache of  roadwork or construction areas either, the waiting to take a turn to proceed or the smell of tar, or the loud disrupting noises or worse, having to drive in slow motion for miles.  Nope, those aren’t my ideas of an enjoyable ride.

However, to this day, when I’m in close proximity to a building construction site, those that require the large trucks to move dirt or flatten an area, it brings a smile to my face.  Not from the idea of progress or the anticipation of something new, but simply from the memory of one little enthused child and how he was just like his dad.

Before Kyle could speak, he loved trucks and large vehicles, just like Ryan.  I can’t say this interest has sustained over the years, but there was a time when Bob the Builder was his main man.

On a side note, I bought Kyle a pair of Bob the Builder boots and he LOVED them!  He strutted around in those things everywhere.  Even when the snow cleared, he wore them for as long as his little piggies would fit comfortably.

What made me thing of this?  I was in Latrobe the other day prepping for the Latrobe Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt and there’s a section of town under construction for the new Westmoreland County Community College (WCCC) branch.  They have the orange cones out to direct traffic away from potential debris and the caution tape up.  I didn’t see any giant real-life Tonka trucks, but I’m sure they were there at one point.  Taking a moment, I stood to watch the activity, which cracks me up and takes me back a few years.

Bee-in-Sandbox-2003-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle’s 1st sandbox, yes he actually had 2! If you look closely among all the toys, you’ll see a bee to the right, that’s Kyle! He was a bee for Halloween & he decided to take a break & play. 2003

When Kyle was just a little tyke, still riding around in his car seat in the backseat of my car, he would become mesmerized by construction vehicles.  I mean that, he LOVED watching them!  I would drive extra slow past development activity and he would point and giggle and watch with wide eyes.  It was quite funny.  Sometimes he would say, “Slow Aiya.”  All I could say was, “Ok, buddy!”  What’s really ironic, Kyle has proven to NOT be the blue collar type, yet there was a time when he was all about construction work.

Seriously!  Many times when we weren’t in any particular hurry, I would intentionally go out of my way to drive Kyle past a work zone.  Lucky for us we live in Western Pennsylvania where there is no shortage of roadwork.  I would slowly creep along letting him take in as much as he could.  Allowing him to get the full effect, I would wind down the windows, yes even in the dead of winter, so he could smell the air and really hear the sounds.  He LOVED it!

Kyle didn’t even need to be in a car.  He would act the same while standing there observing the workers in the distance.  I know I’ve talked about the Seton Hill University construction site previously Who Does Kyle Favor More, His Dad?.

Kyle was so excited about these little adventures, he couldn’t wait to tell his gigi and pappy and Aunt “Nitti” (Nikki).  Personally, I had a blast watching the enthusiasm erupting from the kid.  Usually, after the stories of all the construction vehicles were told, he would get out his own CAT or Tonka trucks and hang out in his sandbox or build in the living-room.  He would drive those realistic looking toys around and mimic the sounds of the trucks and the engines roaring to life.  He was so stinking cute!  I just wanted to gobble him up!

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Kyle’s 3rd birthday… check out the trucks on the cake & his t-shirt! He LOVED trucks! 7/2004

On a side note, Kyle’s sandbox wasn’t one of those small plastic structures purchased at Toys R Us.  O no!  He had a custom deal, similar to the one we had as kids, dad made sure of it.  Both sandboxes, even though they were about twenty years apart were very similar, both built from boards and both required a dump truck full of sand to fill up the space.  Kyle’s was smaller, for there was only one of him and three of us, measured to about a four or five foot square.  Ours, unlike Kyle’s which was placed front and center in the front yard, resided on the side of the house, but was somewhat shaded by the trees.  It measured about four or five feet by eight feet or so.  Dad even made us little seats at the corners.  Dad’s logic?  He felt it gave us enough room to move around and really play, which we did as did Kyle.  The sandbox was the best idea ever!  Nicole, Ryan and myself played hard in our sandbox for years.  I joined Kyle in his too.  He also loved his designated play space.  To be honest, and I know Kyle would agree with this, the best part was building and preparing the sandbox for the sand and then to have the big dump truck back into position and dump all that sand.  It was intense!  I loved it as a kid and it was equally as exciting watching Kyle get a kick over it.

During those years Kyle really reminded me of Ryan.  Kyle’s dad was the same way, except he never EVER outgrew his love of trucks and cars.  Perhaps it was an environmental thing, Ryan was always around dad, especially when they had the sawmill and they worked together in the garage, building and tinkering around.  Kyle was never exposed to any of that.  Poor guy, he didn’t really get to hang with his dad much before Ryan moved on, only three months.  Then Kyle was stuck with me to help out.  It’s true my dad was always around, almost never leaving Kyle’s side, but not like he was when Ryan was little, and certainly not the same before Ryan passed away.  I guess time changes us all in different ways.

Regardless, Kyle was all his dad for those few shorts years and I’m glad I was there to witness it and to help him enjoy the simpler things in life.  I hope he never looses that spirit and always remembers his roots!

 

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

Signs of Growing Up

One day at a time—this is enough. Do not look back and grieve over the past, for it is gone; and do not be troubled about the future, for it has not yet come. Live in the present, and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering. ~ Ida Scott Taylor

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Uncle Sonny & dad bathing at gram & paps. 3/1958

With each day, time passes, that’s inevitable.  Even though I am aware of this part of life, it still takes me by surprise when a lot of hours, days, months and even years add up to create a single moment.  I’m not talking about something as significant as a graduation or an anniversary.  Nope, I’m talking about the silent surprises that appear out of nowhere that have a huge impact.

What pray-tell am I talking about?  Kyle’s jeans!  Yes that very common piece of clothing worn by men, women and children all over the world, or at least that’s my assumption.  Jeans, that rugged leg covering that can be dressed up or down.

This past weekend Kyle and I were helping dad stack and split firewood, getting ready for winter.  Naturally, Kyle didn’t come prepared with pants of any kind, only shorts.  Pants, that piece of clothing usually doesn’t make its appearance until snow flies, even then Kyle will argue about wearing pants as opposed to shorts.  Anyway, since we were running the log splitter and dad was using the chainsaw and there have been sightings of copperhead snakes around, dad wanted Kyle’s legs to be protected with jeans.  Good thinking!  Well, not according to Kyle, but that’s a separate issue.

Of course the house is always stocked up with items for Kyle, since he’s always lived with us part-time.  But recently, he’s grown out of his weekend staples.  Upon getting ready, I really wasn’t paying much attention until Kyle came out wearing a pair of nice jeans.  I mean that.  They fit him around the waist and even the length wasn’t too long.  “Kyle where did you get those jeans?” I asked only because they looked familiar.  With a big smirk Kyle replied, “I don’t know.”, knowing very well he took an extra pair of my jeans I had at mom and dad’s.  Then, it hit, “Those are MY jeans!”  Kyle shrugged his shoulders as if he was too cool for the conversation, yet couldn’t quite suppress that ornery grin.

Personally, I could care less Kyle wears my cloths and he knows it.  Seriously.   Unless he started wearing my skirts and dresses, I might not be too comfortable with that, but no matter what, I love Kyle with all my heart.  Still, Kyle wearing my jeans, that fit him pretty good, took me by surprise.

When did that happen?  I mean Kyle’s been wearing my t-shirts for years, claiming they fit him.  I never cared because they’re just t-shirts and can be worn baggy, but my jeans?  Really?  Kyle and I have had the same size shoes for a year or two now.  His foot is now starting to grow again, but for some reason that never hit me hard, probably because I’ve always had small feet, so it was never a big deal.  But jeans?  That’s a whole other topic.

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Kyle running around as a bee at Uncle Sonny’s. He was a little over 2 years old. 10/2003

I remember the days when Kyle would flop around in my shoes and would be silly just for the heck of it.  Now Kyle can’t get his chubby foot in my shoes and is becoming too cool for such goofiness.

There was a time when Kyle and I would draw mustaches on post-it notes and stick them to our upper lip.  Then, we would walk around like bow legged cowboys holstering pistols.  Yes, it’s true!  It was hilarious.  Kyle would exaggerate his steps toward me with his hands in position over imaginary handguns on either side of his hips.  Keep in mind Kyle, as with myself, was sporting a yellow post-it note on our faces with a drawn mustache.  It was too funny!  I used to die!  Later on, to help Kyle with his scissor skills, we would cut the paper into fringes and the shape of a mustache, only using a pen to accent the lines.  Now-a-days, Kyle has a real, subtle mind you, mustache.  My dad calls it the caterpillar.

When Kyle is acting up or in trouble, dad will say, “Don’t make the caterpillar mad” or “Look at the caterpillar quiver!”  Even Kyle can’t keep a straight face for that one!

It wasn’t that long ago, I guess about ten years or so when Kyle was two, maybe three and he yelled for me to come into the bathroom where he was showering.  First of all, that doesn’t happen anymore.  Kyle does not run around naked like he used to, which I am thankful for.  Secondly, he doesn’t need me to be right by his side as he showers.  He used to love the company while showering.  Although, I will admit, we had a lot of great conversations during this time.  I guess because he had my undivided attention, Kyle’s favorite kind.  Nope.  Those days are long gone.  But one time in particular, when Kyle yelled for me to come and see something, I was totally taken off guard.  Thinking it was a bug or something trivial, I pulled back the shower curtain in a very blasé manner, almost annoyed, to be faced with Kyle’s armpit.  What?  Yes, he had his arm stretched to the ceiling exposing the under skin.

I had no idea what I was suppose to be looking at.  He just pushed the armpit closer to my eyes, which my eyesight has always been and still is stellar.
Me:  “What Kyle?”
Kyle:  “Loot, Aiya”
Me:  “Loot at what Narrow?”
Kyle:  “Loot, I have a hair!”

I died!  He thought he saw a hair under his arm and he swears it was attached.  I was almost in tears laughing so hard.  He had no idea what was so funny, which made the situation even more comical.  Trying to regain my composure to get the kid to finish his shower and get out, I wiped the area with my hand to show him there was no hair.

Me:  “Kyle I don’t see anything.”
Kyle:  “Ya, ha, it was there Aiya.”
Me:  Trying to let him down nicely, but never lying to the kid, “Honey, maybe it was one of my hairs that attached to your armpit?”
Kyle:  “No Aiya, it was attached.  Maybe I washed it off?”
Me:  “Maybe, but you don’t have armpit hair yet.”
Kyle:  “Ya I do!”
Me:  “No, look honey, nope, no hair and I have perfect vision.”
Kyle:  “Ahh”

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Pappy walking Kyle (bee) into Uncle Sonny’s kitchen, Uncle Sonny in the background. Whiskey (RIP) in the foreground. 10/2003

At that moment, I was taught by Kyle not to take anything for granted and never get annoyed with the young man’s requests, even as silly as they might be, they could be a story to tell later on and laugh about.

Presently, Kyle does have a few sprigs of hair growing under his armpit region.  He is becoming quite the man.  Soon he will surpass me in height and weight.  Although, like I’ve always told Kyle, I will ALWAYS be able to take him down!  Our little man is growing up and I’m very proud of him!  He’s still as much today as he was as a two year old.  I hope he always remains silly.

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

Fall Cartoon Line-Up of Years Past

Genius is the recovery of childhood at will.  ~Arthur Rimbaud

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Nicole opening gifts & Ryan sitting on pap sucking his finger mid 1980s

Since it’s Friday and the weekend is on our heels, I got to thinking.  Each year around this time, it takes me back to my childhood.  Well, yes with the going back to school season, but also with the television line up.  When you hear of season premiers and the smell of fall in the air, I must admit I feel like a kid again.

Just the other day, I caught myself making a list of the shows I wanted to add to my agenda.  Granted, I don’t watch much TV and as the season progresses, my interest will decrease, but regardless I actually wrote down the shows and the times to get my bearings straight.  Greek, right?

As kids, we never really watched much television during the week either.  Up to a certain point, we only had one television set, that is until my sister got one for Christmas.  It was a small, and I mean SMALL, the entire unit measured probably about eight inches by eight inches by a foot, and the screen was even smaller, portable television set.  Not to mention, I came from a generation that went outside and played, even in the dead of winter.  No, we never really watched that much television in the evenings as kids, and when we did it was the news or Marty Stouffer.  I’ve seen every episode, on every animal, ever made, EVER.  Back then I hated it, yet now-a-days I catch myself watching animal planet and enjoying it.  Maybe I did like that show, but only because dad ruled the remote I didn’t care for it so much.  However, I do remember a brief time of watching *Thunder Cats, The Brady Bunch and *School House Rocks upon coming home after a long day of learning.  So I guess we did get our turn on the television set.

Before school we were allowed to watch morning cartoons, as long was we were ready-to-roll or in the process.  What shows consumed my mind before school?  We watched, *G.I. Joe, *Transformers, *Smurfs, New Zoo Review, *Mr. Rogers, Captain Kangaroo, *Scooby-Doo and the *Flintstones.  Granted these weren’t watched all at once or even in the same time frame, yet over the years they were our basic staples.

But what I really remember and still cracks me up to this day, was the Saturday morning fall line up.  Yes, the new cartoons or shows or the new episodes of some favorites that would premier on Saturday mornings around this time of year, much like it does now.  I loved waiting to hear about the fall line up!  It almost made going back to school enjoyable, because you knew you’d get a break on Saturday mornings.

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Kyle & his pappy watching TV. Kyle usually got to watch what he wanted … Kyle is sitting on a large pillow I made him. c. 2004

To make things fair so Nicole, Ryan and myself wouldn’t fight, mom would get the TV Guide and let us pick out what we each wanted to watch.  Yes, we mapped out our Saturday morning shows in advance!  It was actually fun.  No wonder why I’m such a planner and I live by my schedule to this day.  While watching our shows, we would literally refer to the previously outlined schedule, written on a notepad, and stuck to it like gold, checking off each show as they were completed.  We treated the Saturday morning line up like it was work and we were doing our job!  No joke!  As the weeks passed we didn’t need our notepad for we now memorized the line up.

During the planning stages, which happened about a week out from the new line-up, we would pull newspaper ads and highlight all shows of interest.  When it was two against one, the odd ball would have to watch his or her desired show in the bedroom on the tiny television set. (refer to paragraph three).   Sometimes we all agreed on a cartoon, which made it more fun to sit together on the couch, wrapped in our blankets.  Yes, we even had our own designated blankets.  This was serious business!  The worst part was when two shows were on at the same time, both of equal interest, yet we had to made choice pick one.  Back then there wasn’t such a thing as TiVo or DVR, nope.  Eventually, we got a VCR, but recording the cartoons to watch later was never an option.  Perhaps we didn’t think of it or mom didn’t want us spending ALL day in front of the boob tube?  Either way, we had to make a choice, which was good practice for later on in life.

The line up started around 7:30 am or so till about noon, which at that point we had to get off our butts and do our chores, homework etc.  Usually, I got up earlier in preparation for the shows.  Nicole and Ryan had a little harder time getting out of bed, but once they heard the television spring to life, they bolted out as to not miss their placement.

The best part?  Dad and mom weren’t allowed to change the channel on us.  Dad was either working or doing something and mom was on hand to break up any disputes, yet they rarely interrupted us during our scheduled time.  Not to mention, mom always made us breakfast and we ate it while watching cartoons.  What did we have?  Usually eggs or oatmeal or cream of rice or french toast or pancakes.  But what did we want?  Sugar cereal!  Mom didn’t purchase too much cereal, but when she did it was a treat and was like crack cocaine!

So what were the shows of years past?  If my memory serves me well we watched (in no particular order and excluding previously mentioned).  Prepare yourself to be taken back to the past!:

  • *Ewoks
  • Snorks
  • Rainbow Bright
  • Punky Brewster
  • Berenstain Bears
  • Teen Wolf
  • Shirt Tales
  • *Speed Buggy
  • Gem
  • Captain Caveman & the Teen Angels
  • *Josie & the Pussycats
  • Mighty Mouse
  • *Superfriends
  • Ghostbusters
  • *Alvin & the Chipmunks
  • The Littles
  • *Casper
  • *Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • *Spider-man
  • Dark-wing Duck
  • *Heathcliff & the Catillac Cats
  • Duck Tales

 

I’m sure over the years there were more, but those listed I definitely remember watching.  Of course we were part of the Loony Tune generation and I’ve seen all of those.

On a side note, most of my favorite shows involved cats. I just realized that!  I have always been a cat lover.  My pappy used to call me old cat woman.  I am a geek!

While Kyle was growing up there were a few favorites of his including:

  • George Shrinks
  • *Jakers!  And the Adventures of Pigglywinks
  • Thomas & Friends
  • Bear in the Big Blue House
  • Teletubbies (only when he was really little, they were scary!  LaLa and Poe were his favorites!)
  • Sponge Bob (Yes, I’ll admit I have fallen prey to this cartoon)
  • Pokemon
  • Scooby-Doo (the older ones and new ones.  Hence, why Kyle’s dog (a blond Labrador) is named Scooby)
  • Fairly Odd Parents
  • Adventure Time (hated that stupid yellow dog!)
  • Phineas & Ferb
  • Tom & Jerry
  • Ben 10
  • How to Train Your Dragon Cartoon
  • The Penguins from Madagascar (they crack me up!)
  • Johnny Test
  • Wonder Pets (What’s gonna work? Team work!) (The phone, the phone is ringing.)
  • Bob the Builder

Did we ever outline such a schedule for Kyle?  Sadly no.  First of all, we have more than one large television set and my parents have Direct TV and I always had cable at my house.  Not to mention, there are channels upon channels dedicated to cartoons and influencing our young generation day and night.  No need to outline a plan of attack, for Kyle was able to watch cartoons anytime.  Plus, ad in all of his DVDs, no shortage of entertainment for the kid.  To be honest, all this fulfillment when desired takes the fun out of it all.  I liked having to wait and plan for such an event as Saturday morning.  It made you look forward to it more and we spent time together.  Perhaps that might become retro again.

*Means a favorite of mine

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

Happy 50th Anniversary!

To learn something, to master something, anything, is as sweet as first love.  ~Geoffrey Wolff

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Mr. & Mrs. Bob Arbuckle tied the knot 8/8/64

With so much tragedy and terror going on in the world, especially with the airstrikes in Syria (targeting ISIS) and the persecution of Catholics in the Middle East and around the world, it is truly a delight to write about something worth celebrating.  I know this is a bit past due, but good news never expires.

On August 8, 2014, good friends’ of mine, Lorraine and Bob Arbuckle celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.  I’ve spoke of them before True Penn State Role Model and it is an honor to speak of them again.

I should correct that by saying, they are not only friends of mine, but in deed like my second family, for they’ve ALWAYS treated me as such.  From the time I met Lorraine and Bob (and the entire family), they’ve always included Kyle and me as part of their own, and welcomed us both with open arms.  They’ve extended the same gesture to my parents and sister alike.  Keep in mind, mom, dad and Nicole have never met Lorraine and Bob, or any of the Arbuckle clan!  In fact, I don’t think they even know what each looks like!  How about that for blind love!  As a nice gesture, some people may ask about others to strike up a conversation.  Not Lorraine and Bob, they ask because they really care.

Lorraine and Bob made it 50 years as a happily married couple.  For those of you who don’t do math, they began their journey together on August 8, 1964, when pictures where still taken in black and white and marriages where promises kept.  Now, I’m sure life wasn’t always bliss, but with the help of God, which they both credit, they made it through together, hand in hand.  Due to their strong union and strong moral ethics, over the years they did a wonderful job raising their daughter and two sons, while remaining a staple in the community.

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Lorraine & Bob Arbuckle celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary! 8/10/14

In addition to being benevolent people and raising sincere and goodhearted children, this amazing couple also gave themselves to making life better for those less fortunate.  Lorraine and Bob both gave back through the Rotary Club, the church and the soup kitchen just to name a few.  Yes, over the years between being responsible Americans and having very accomplished careers, they donated their time and money for good-will.

Did I mention they are grandparents to a wonderful little man?  Their devotion runs so deep for that young fellow, take one look into his eyes and you know what his grandparents mean to him.

Lorraine and Bob’s affection extends even further to include their son-in-law, Erik.  Erik’s words have always been kind to the Arbuckle’s, but what impresses me the most are his actions, which only reinforces his words of respect and gratitude.  Like I said one big tight family!

It’s true, you can love and love and never run out.  I was a testament to this at Lorraine and Bob’s surprise 50th Anniversary Celebration.  Their daughter Lisa, who is a really good friend of mine, (heck I’m also friends with her husband, her brother’s Robby and Jeffrey, and the cousins and the aunts and the uncles etc), invited me to the party.  What an honor!  As I mingled in and out of family and long time friends, I saw and felt the same emotions radiating from everyone in the room.  What was it exactly?  I couldn’t quite pinpoint it, but it was definitely a mixture of  love and respect and appreciation.  That is what Lorraine and Bob mean to everyone they encounter.  They are no doubt rock stars to their family and friends!

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The Abuckle/Zettelmayer Clan! Front: Lisa Zettelmayer, Bob & Lorraine Arbuckle Back: Erik Zettelmayer, Jeffrey & Robby Arbuckle 8/10/14

On a side note, it was Lisa who organized the gala with the aid of recruited family and friends.  She did such a spectacular job!   I don’t mean that lightly.  Being an event planner myself, no detail was overlooked.  She put a ton of work into the day and it was truly amazing!  Lisa wanted everything to be perfect for her parents as did Robby and Erik (They both had to put up with Lisa while she was in her planning mode! Just kidding, kinda.) who both helped out like champs.  Jeffrey wrote a song, taking us all on a journey over 50 years.  He sang it and played the guitar beautifully for his parents.  If those acts were not proof enough to the love those children (including Erik) have for their parents (mother and father-in-law), I can’t for the life of me come up with a more perfect example.  When two people are innately good, good radiates to everyone around.

My theory on respect is it’s a two-way street and once someone walks down that path, the other person will follow.  Lorraine and Bob have most certainly set an example for the rest of the world to witness and to follow their lead.  Not only with respect, but for the entire package of good will, accountability, a Christian way of life.  Again, they are the poster children for walking in the way of the Lord.  I mean that.  I’m not saying they are saints or perfect people, but they try and try hard with all their heart.  Granted, I haven’t known the happy couple all my life, but from the years I’ve spent with them, their intentions were always sincere and pure.

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Lorraine & Bob still in love 50 years later! Happy 50th Anniversary! 8/10/14

Finding a single person that possess so many great qualities such as intelligence, kindness and love is very rare, let alone a pair that both freely exhibit these is almost unheard of.  Lorraine and Bob both have demonstrated what a true family is and the impact it has on EVERYONE they encounter.  If anyone ever wants to argue the idea that a solid family who puts God first, is what’s best for the family and the community, the Arbuckle’s are the perfect example.

To me they are one of the sweetest and most sincere couples I know.  I cannot speak highly enough of them and they deserve every kind word.  They are such an inspiration, not only to lasting marriages but that there is good in this world.  No one can question the presence of goodness, because I am here to tell you it still exits!  I have witnessed it first hand with my own eyes and it is addicting to be around.  They are one of the best examples I know for letting God lead their lives and keeping the faith.  When you follow in the footsteps of the Lord, true love is never far behind.

Not to short-sight my own family, for they too are a rare breed, but I have been doubly blessed.  (Actually, I can honestly say I have been blessed many times over with my longtime friends and extended family)   My parents will be married forty-five years this December.  They are close on Lorraine and Bob’s heels!  I can’t wait to write about mom and dad hitting 50 years!

I hope everyone is as blessed as I am to know and to have experienced this family, for they are a God’s sent.

Happy 50th Anniversary Lorraine & Bob!   

P.S. Thank you all again for the wonderful picture and frame (sitting on my desk looking at me now), the engraved plague for my company and the beautiful business card holder engraved with my name and title “The Light Bulb”.  Your faith in me is uplifting!  You guys are awesome!

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Look at the wonderful surprise I was presented with from Lisa & her family! Love them all!! 9/2014

 

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

Happy Birthday Ryan!

It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.  ~J.K. Rowling

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Ryan’s 3rd birthday party. Upfront: Nicole’s big head, then cousins: Tim, Chad, Jeremy & the birthday boy, Ryan. 9/24/80

Ryan would have been celebrating his 37th birthday today!  He would have loved waking up to his son, Kyle, who is now thirteen and probably went to work, stopping for a beer on the way home, never thinking much of the day.  Like me, Ryan never cared much for birthdays.  Unlike Kyle, who takes the entire month of July to celebrate his.  Granted, Kyle’s a kid, but regardless, Ryan and I still weren’t that interested in our birthdays, except to get our driver’s license and to legally drink.  Although, I was pretty stoked to vote.

Now that my company Thrill of the Hunt is really starting to make some traction, I wonder what Ryan would be doing?

You know, I truly believe Ryan would have started a company too.  He moved on before he had the chance, but Ryan would have been a great businessman!  How do I know?  Easy, Ryan possessed all the qualities of a great entrepreneur, the passion, the ideas, the know how, leadership and most of all the ability to work hard and stick it out, no matter what.  Ryan was never a quitter and there is no one that can say he wasn’t a hard worker.  No one!

Granted, Ryan’s interests in business were very different from mine, but still the same concept regardless.  Early on, Ryan showed an interest in starting a deer butchering business.  Dad told me once, Ryan really considered doing this as a seasonal job.  It’s true, Ryan and dad, heck the rest of the family are very experienced in gutting and butchering deer, plus other game and farm animals.  Yes, we do it all ourselves, every year, even the wrapping and preparing of the deer meat for the freezer, canning it, or making Bologna and/or deer jerky, usually all of the above.  And yes, we have all the equipment to cut up the deer, make ground meat etc.  I believe I knew of Ryan’s idea, but during high school, yes Ryan was in high school and wanted to start the business, I was so involved in my own activities I probably didn’t care much.

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We always hung on pap. Left: Nicole, me, Ryan (sucking his finger but trying to hide it), cousins Jeremy & Chad. c. 1980

Why didn’t he do it?  Easy, dad talked him out of it.  Not because dad didn’t think he couldn’t handle the work or make the business a success, nope not at all!  It was quite the opposite.  Dad knew Ryan would have made it into a flourishing business and he would have enjoyed it too.  Yet, dad was being realistic and pointed out that if Ryan was butchering other people’s deer, when would he have time to hunt himself?  Very valid point dad!  You can’t let a deer hang around too long, especially if it’s not gutted and skinned.  Dad’s theory the sooner the better for both.  The butchering and packaging can wait a few days if needed, as long as it’s cold out (our deer hang in the garage).  But sooner or later this needs to be done, and it couldn’t be done with Ryan in the woods hunting, not to mention he was still in high school.

In a way, I wished Ryan would have started the business. I would have most certainly helped!  Actually, at the time I stopped hunting myself and I could have picked up the slack, when it worked with my band and Winterguard schedules.  Ok, perhaps dad was right!

Ryan’s ideas and drive didn’t stop there.  For years, in high school and out, Ryan mowed lawns when he worked for Lester.  In fact, just the other day, dad pointed out Lester’s place as we passed.  I totally forgot Ryan worked for him!  When Ryan lost his driver’s license (a whole separate story) I had to drive him to and from work.  One time, I even gave his dog Jake (he was a beagle that I always fought with) a ride when picking Ryan up.  Anyway, years after Ryan passed, mom said she ran into Lester.  You know what he said about Ryan?  He said that if Ryan would still be living, and decided to start his own lawn business, he would have put Lester out of work.  Seriously, what a compliment!  You know, Lester’s one hundred percent right!  Like I said, Ryan was made to be an entrepreneur.

Sometimes, I think having the ability to start a business is in the DNA.  Ryan was so much like my pappy in many ways.  He was a good person, a truly warm soul with a big heart with drive and a solid work ethic, much like my pappy who started his own business,  a sawmill, Walter Piper & Sons Lumber.  Pappy started the business on a fifth grade education!  Yep!  Basically, pappy knew the timber industry and practically lived in the woods his whole life, but he also would pay attention and made most of the business decisions purely off of gut instincts.  He was even big into marketing, before he knew what marketing was.  Granted, that’s a tough industry and it lasted for years, even after my pappy’s death, but it did eventually come to an end.  Like Ryan, pappy had the entrepreneur spirit in him and he also possessed all the same qualities.  I couldn’t imagine how successful pap would have been, if he had an opportunity to finish high school, let alone further his education.

Would Ryan have paired up with Nicole and myself for Thrill of the Hunt?  Probably not, for it wasn’t really his gig.  But I would have loved to work with Ryan!  There is no doubt he would have helped out if needed.

Ryan never got the opportunity like I did, to start a company.  When he passed away, he worked at a Aggressive Grinding Machine Shop, furthering his career in his trade.  Just like my grandpap Chester, Ryan was a machinist, and from what I was told a very good one.  No matter what, Ryan always did the best he could and took pride in his work.  We all missed out by Ryan’s passing and he is still missed by many, very much!

Happy Birthday Ryan!

posted by auntheather in Education & Learning,Family,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Reminiscing,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts and have No Comments

Truly Homemade

Only someone who is well prepared has the opportunity to improvise.  ~Ingmar Bergman

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Mom as a young’in, probably about Kyle’s age during the cracker cereal incidence. c.1950s

I think it’s safe to say, most people like homemade meals.  At least I do.  If you compare homemade to the prepackaged boxed up junk you buy in the grocery store full of preservatives, homemade is gourmet all the way.  Even some of the “homemade” items at the deli counter and on display by the bakery section doesn’t have that delicious homemade quality.  It still tastes cheap and “store bought”.  But not always.  Depending where you get your meals and depending on the item, sometimes they taste like they came straight from your mom’s kitchen.

Of course, this all is dependent on what type of meals you grew up with as a child.  If your mom or the “chef” of the household was a terrible cook or believed homemade was heating up a prepacked meal, then, you don’t know what I’m talking about.  Me?  I am very fortunate, for my mom knows her way around the kitchen.  Granted, she’s not a delicate cook with petite serving sizes nor did she ever care about visual presentation.  Nope.  Mom’s an old fashioned gal who cooks with her pallet, usually no recipes necessary.

On a side note, it baffles me with those who don’t cook, even when there’s no reason for it.  Example:  Those who purchase precooked chicken and throw it on the grill.  Why?  Raw chicken doesn’t take that much longer and it’s not hard.  You get my point.  I’m all for simplicity and for some assistance, but really?

What’s really interesting about mom, is her talent to cook for the masses.  It’s true, mom has a talent for cooking large amounts of food for any occasion.  Not everyone can handle such a challenge.

When I was in elementary school at Sacred Heart, we always had our annual booth at the Fourth of July Celebration at Legion Keener in Latrobe.  Mom was always one of the parents who made large amounts of Italian roast beef for the roast beef sandwiches we sold.  That’s just one simple example.  She doesn’t stop there, mom made all the food for each of our graduation parties, each attendance of nearly two hundred hungry celebration gatherers.  I’m not talking about purchasing food or having it catered.  Nope.  Mom made all the grub from scratch and it was awesome!  No bland generic food when mom’s in charge.

In addition to cooking for large groups, mom is a genius with making due.  I mean, not having certain ingredients to complete a dish or making it up as she goes.  Mom rocks at it!  Although, fair warning, sometimes this isn’t for the faint of heart, watching her and actually knowing what she is mixing together.  The end result is great, but getting there looks a bit sketchy.

Ok, now for the truly funny part of this story.  Last night mom and I were talking about cracker cereal.  What is cracker cereal?  Simply, it’s when you crush up Saltine crackers into milk and sometimes add a little sugar.  Yes, those crackers that are white and square and comes in a sleeve.  They usually make their appearance when someone has the stomach flu, except in our house.  We get in our kicks for the slightly salty treats every now-and-again.  My pappy LOVED Saltine crackers.  He used to pack a sleeve of them in his lunchbox everyday.  (I know because when I was staying with him, I’d wake up at 5:00 am and help him pack his lunch since my gram wouldn’t)

Nicole-Chad-Jeremy-Tim-Aunt-Heather-Piper 1976

Nicole eating with our cousins. Nicole front left, behind her is Tim, across from Tim is Jeremy & in front is Jeremy’s brother Chad. c.1976

To some, cracker cereal might sound gross and to others it might be a step back in time.  Either way, mom ate it as a kid and in turn as did Nicole, Ryan and myself.  Not a lot, but it was usually consumed when the shelves were bare and no other cereal was on hand.

Did the tradition of the cracker cereal continue on with Kyle?  Nope!  First I’ll admit, we are not a big cereal eating family, never really was.  I personally am not a fan of milk, therefore cereal was never my choice of breakfast.  In fact, I’d sooner eat dinner or lunch dishes for breakfast any day, and I do.  Even salads, chili and sandwiches have been consumed by me in the early morning hours, without issue.

How did this tradition die?  Mom, a.k.a. Gigi didn’t introduce it early enough with Kyle.

As mom and I reminisced yesterday, we laughed about the day cracker cereal was presented to Kyle for the first time.  As with most milestones, I was there, including this one.

Kyle was laying on the couch watching his Saturday morning cartoons, probably George Shrinks or Thomas the Tank Engine or Jakers!  The Adventures of Piggley Winks (which it wasn’t because I LOVED that cartoon and I’d remember)  Anyway, Kyle was about six years old or so.  He asked his Gigi for breakfast, which we’ve always made him his morning meal, to make sure he got a home cooked healthy breakfast.  This particular morning Kyle requested cereal.  I thought mom was going to make him eggs or something along those lines to feed the kid, since I knew there wasn’t a box of cereal in mom and dad’s house in close to a year if not longer.

Next thing I knew, here comes mom with a bowl of what looked like cereal?  That was strange, but then again, perhaps mom purchased the disguised box of pure sugar and garbage for Kyle who might have requested it on the grocery list.  Now don’t get me wrong, there are some cereals I LOVE like Cinnamon Toast Crunch, but there’s no real nutritional value.  As mom helped Kyle get situated to eat and watch television, I saw the contents of the bowl.  It was cracker cereal!  No sooner after I realized this, did Kyle question the white monotone material floating in the milk.  His face turned up and I started to die inside, trying not to laugh myself off of the couch.  He ask, “Gigi, Gigi, what is this?”  I’m still trying to hold back the laughter.  Mom responds with a very straight face, as if the kid is uncultured and unsophisticated for never having this type of breakfast.  The conversation went something like this:

Mom:  “It’s cracker cereal.”
Kyle:  Still making this face.  “What’s cracker cereal?”
Mom:  Still holding a straight face.  “It’s crackers smashed up in milk.  It’s good.”
Kyle:  Still making this face grabs the spoon to push around the contents of the bowl.
Me:  Dying inside!
Mom:  Trying to sweeten the deal.  “Try it, I even put some sugar on top.”
Kyle:  Intrigued by the idea of sugar, which I never allowed him to have too much of.  He sniffs the soggy crackers and proceeds to taste it, ever so gently.
Mom:  Knowing this was going to end badly, gave it another effort to convince the kid to eat it.  “It’s good.  I used to eat it all the time as a kid.”
Kyle:  Making an even worse face.  “Umm Gigi, I don’t really like it.”
Me:  Now the bouts of giggles are erupting out my throat.
Mom:  Now is excusing Kyle from having to eat the contents, yet tries reverse psychology.  “Here, give it to me.  I’ll eat it, it’s good.”
Kyle:  Never fell for the trick and gladly handed over the bowl to see if mom was indeed going to eat it.
Mom:  Not wanting to back down and to prove her point, shovels in large bites.
Me:  Gagging
Kyle:  Watched mom, didn’t care and proceeded to ask what else is there to eat.
Me:  Completely lost it and started laughing uncontrollably.  Even mom joined in on the humor.  Kyle didn’t get it.

It was seriously one of those funny moments that can never be recreated, but will be and have been talked about since.  Last night, mom and I were still cracking up hysterically over that story.  While the interaction between mom and Kyle was unfolding, I felt like the reader of a book, knowing the outcome of the story and past chapters leading up until this point and knowing what the main character (Kyle) didn’t, and that’s cracker cereal wasn’t really cereal.  It was great!

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This is a rare photo I’ve never personally witnessed, pap with hair, walking with both of his real legs (no prosthetics) without canes. Miss you pap! 11/1959

Mom still shamefully admits she introduced cracker cereal to Kyle too late in life.  She says, “If I would have had him eating it when he was really little like you kids, then he wouldn’t know no better and wouldn’t put his nose up to it.”  Believe it or not, I think that’s mom’s greatest regret, not giving Kyle cracker cereal young enough.  I’m dying!

As we were talking last night, I also brought up the salad dressing.  You see I’ve always loved salads, yes even when I was younger, especially with the vegetables fresh out of the garden.  One summer day, unbeknownst to me, salad dressings where going to change forever.

You see, we were all out of, you guessed it, salad dressing.  So mom suggested making our own.  Most people would assume making your own would involve olive oil and spices and such, nope!  Mom had me mix, ketchup, squeeze ripe tomatoes, mixed with a little salt and pepper and a dash of vinegar together.  Yep!  That was mom’s version of salad dressing with the items we had on hand.

As we talked about this, we both were cracking up, yet I can’t deny it was pretty tasty.  My version was mostly made with the freshly squeezed tomato juice, which I still do to this day.

Gigi’s a crafty one.  They don’t make ‘em like her anymore, although when cooking I do find myself exuding some of her same characteristics, as does Kyle.  Look out next generation, Kyle and I are going Gigi style with cooking!

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Childhood Goal is Measuring Up

How much does one imagine, how much observe? One can no more separate those functions than divide light from air, or wetness from water.  ~Elspeth Huxley

Kyle-&-Aunt-Heather-Piper-Idlewild-Park-Gutchess-Picnic-2003

Me & Kyle at Idlewild Park for the Gutchess Picnic 2003

It’s funny how everyone’s perception is different from the next person to the next to the next and so on. Then, if you compare an adult’s perception, or usually a lack there of, with a child’s, the possibilities are endless.

Since Kyle’s birthday, it had me really thinking and reminiscing. We just measured Kyle on the back of his bedroom door in the beginning of August, which we’ve been doing since he was a little tyke of three years. This year I realized we missed two years in a row, ages eleven and twelve. How did that happened?  I have no idea.  Probably everyone getting busy and running around, that sort of thing. But luckily I got us back on track this year.

It’s funny, when I mentioned it to Kyle about measuring him up on the door, he got this ornery look to him, the same one he’s projected since we started this tradition.  Seriously, the exact same look of excitement.  In fact, he’s always too thrilled to be measured and see his progress compared to the last measurement.  He’s always loved watching his own growth, as have I.

You see Kyle has always been a short and compact package.  Yes, our little man has consistently displayed signs of being vertically challenged.  Over the years, we’ve mentally made note of Kyle compared to the rest of the kids in his daycare, elementary school and now junior high.  Without argument, he’s notoriously been in the shorter group.  Not that there’s anything wrong with it, just a mental note.  However, over the last couple of years, Kyle has really started to stretch up.

This attention to height was most certainly not brought on by my family nor me, it came from the one an only, Kyle.  Yes, from the time he could walk for some reason he became obsessed with his height.  All on his own.  Perhaps it was something heard in passing, unintentionally, or something he saw or most likely something perceived.  Regardless, Kyle has always kept tabs on his own growth progress, with respect to vertical distance.  He never cared about his horizontal circumference.

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This is a 10 years span of Kyle’s growth, from 3 yrs to 13 yrs. My how he has grown! 8/16/14

How do we know?  There was a day that brought this observation to our attention.  It started with me sleeping on the couch.  Yes, I was taking one of my famous naps, not that naps are famous or unusual but in our family I am notorious for my midday naps, usually on Sunday.  I LOVE naps.  Anyway, I was laying on my back on the couch with my legs stretched out in front of me.  I’m guessing I looked like someone deceased in a casket, with my hands folded over my chest, but regardless, Kyle didn’t take in that comparison.  Nope, instead he took notice to the length of my legs.

Mom later told me that Kyle was playing on the floor right beside me, like he usually did and stopped to look up at my resting body.  Kyle turned to my mom and said, “Gigi, when I get older I want long legs like Aiya (Aunt Heather).”  What made him notice my legs?  And what made my legs look longer than anyone else’s is beyond me?  Mom and I were cracking up.  Mom thinks it was just the way I laying that gave the illusion of longer legs.  But then again to a two year old, or so, I guess I did look giant like.

To be honest, I was flabbergasted!  I am taller for a chick, but not abnormally tall by no means.  My five foot six inch stature doesn’t measure up to some of my female cousins who are closer to six foot.  Let’s not even talk about some of the dudes in the family, easy six foot plus.  Granted, my mom might hit a little over five foot couple inches, and my dad has shrunk quite a bit over the years to slightly taller than me.  My sister always beat me by a few inches, but she too has shrunk.  I guess we are a family of about the same height.  My brother on the other hand, made the six foot mark.  Plus, his long lanky legs gave him the illusion of a skyscraper.

Kyle’s asked about his dad with respect to height and we’ve informed him about Ryan’s beanpole physic and tall stature.  I guess since Ryan has moved on to a better place, I’m the next best thing for Kyle to gauge his progress.  I’ll take it any day!

Regardless, ever since that faithful day, Kyle truly has always measured his legs against mine, keeping tabs and waiting for the day he surpassed me.  Now that he’s thirteen, he measures in at about five foot two inches, just under my mom, resting just above my chin.  Our little man is truly growing up before our eyes.

Over years, I never wanted Kyle to focus too hard on his height.  He does have the genes to be short or tall, it’s a coin toss.  I’ve always told him it doesn’t matter how tall he is or ends up to be, what’s really important is that he walks in the way of the Lord and demonstrates qualities of humility, compassion, integrity and forgiveness.  I’ve also told him he is very blessed for God giving him such an insightful brain and intelligence and two working legs.  Not to mention the kid does have a strong personality, when he wants to.  In my eyes, he has it all, regardless of his height.

I guess the stress of some are not understood by others.  I’m not saying Kyle is obsessed over his height, but he does take note.  I hope no matter what God’s plans are for Kyle, whatever path he is headed toward, I hope Kyle is appreciative and really focuses on what’s truly important in life, for he is truly blessed!

 

 

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

Truly Understanding A Family’s Pain

Drink today, and drown all sorrow;
You shall perhaps not do it tomorrow;
Best, while you have it, use your breath;
There is no drinking after death.  ~Ben Jonson

Kyle-fishing-with-Aunt-Nikki-&-Aunt-Heather-Piper-2005

Kyle fishing wearing his Penn State shirt (courtesy of Aunt Nikki) with his pappy, me, Aunt Nikki & Gigi (took the picture) 7/2005

This past weekend dad and I were in New York setting up a tree stand and getting ready for deer season.  As I’ve mentioned before, the New York season starts a week or two before ours in Pennsylvania, so we always get our tags and head up to hunt.  On our way back from Cortland, dad got a call from a guy he works with, informing dad of some horrible news.  Dad’s good friend Mike, another one of dad’s co-workers and a guy I’ve hunted on his property, lost his son Friday night in a car accident.  What?

Yes.  It was one of those moments when the past came rushing back and instantly depression fell over both of us.  For a brief moment, it wasn’t about Mike and his family, it was our family that was reliving a tragedy that happened nearly 13 years ago this October.  It was the phone call that changed everything, it was dad traveling to get back home after hearing the news, it was shock and a devastation that took us all off guard and permanently changed our lives.

Then, to find out Mike’s son had a little boy too.  Seriously?  Yes.  I’m not sure of the age of the child but that poor little munchkin will be following in Kyle’s footsteps of loosing his dad too early in life and only knowing him through stories.  That breaks my heart more than you can imagine.

There are no words that can be said to ease the family’s pain and help lesson the blow and gradually move them into reality.  None.  I know personally.  What they need are prayers, a lot of prayers, and support when asked.  Sometimes the best way to help, at least from my experience, was to keep a distance and being there when called upon, for they will reach out.  It may take them a while and it may be in a way that is unconventional, but it will happen.

They first need to get used to the new direction of their life and deal with the stress, the sadness, the confusion, the anger and everything in between on their own.  Then, their next obstacle will be dealing with the holidays and memories and accepting life as it is.  That is until they get to a point of possibly addressing the deceased belongings and such.  Believe it or not, another horrible pain, all a reminder of what used to be and what will never be again.

Is this immediate?  No, the emotional roller-coaster ride will go on for years, I still deal with it presently.  Like it or not the holidays arrive and leave.  Sometimes I slept through them and sometimes I dealt with them by visiting Ryan in the cemetery.  Naturally having Kyle helped ease some pain and almost made these celebrated seasons enjoyable.  As for the belongings, it took me a few years before I really went through Ryan’s stuff and organized it and made sense of it all.  I never got rid of anything of Ryan’s, in fact I boxed it up waiting till the time was right to give it to Kyle, if he wanted anything.  Of course, we didn’t even really need to do this, but we wanted to turn Ryan’s old room into Kyle’s, resulting in the need to make room for Kyle’s “stuff”.  And let me tell you, there’s a lot of “stuff”.  It seems like every year he accumulates more, even though every year we give a ton to St. Vincent de Paul.

I know others may have it worse, but this one is a little too close to home for my liking.  I always said, I never wished anyone to go through what we did.  At least, I’ve always had my family for support.  From the beginning, my family has been tight and held together through the entire tragedy of loosing Ryan, barely but we did it.  I pray Mike and his family remain as such and reach out to other friends and family for support when it’s right for them.  As time passes, it will never be easy, NEVER, but life will become manageable, at least in short segments at first.  Ryan, We Miss You!

I chose not to use full names or even mention names out of respect for the family.  I didn’t want to bother them with asking permission to write this blog and I didn’t want to bring additional attention to their situation.  I do however want to flood them with prayers and well wishes.  I want them to have some peace, the next week is going to get even worse before the healing begins.

Please everyone say a pray for this family and the newly deceased.  God speed.

I would also like to send thoughts and prayers to my cousin Roxanne who just lost her mom.  It was a long battle with cancer, which Roxanne sat by her side and took care of her mother until the very end.  My heart is broken for my sincere and wonderful cousin who only a few short years ago lost her dad too.  She’s been through enough.  Also please pray for her and her family’s peace.  God speed.

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Family,Hunting & Fishing,News,Reminiscing,Travels and have No Comments

Gathering of the Olczak Family

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.  ~Leo Tolstoy

Kyle-&-crew-at-Olczak-Reunion-8-23-14-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle (Katie’s dog), Katie, her mom Irene & Katie’s hubby Ryan. Lisa front & center with her son Dominic. Olczak Reunion 8/23/14

This past Saturday was the very first (at least in many, many years) Olczak family reunion.  For some, it was the highlight of the year. (My mom being one of them.)

I always talk about the Piper reunion 65 Annual Piper Reunion, now I have another family function to attend, straight from my mom’s side.  Granted, this reunion was much smaller in size compared to the Piper get togethers, but there was no shortage of GREAT food and good conversation.

This gathering was in the planning stages for quite some time now.  Between my mom, my cousin Paula and my cousin John, they’ve been organizing and charting and listing all preparations to make the day a success, and it most certainly was!  They got the ball rolling and I think everyone enjoyed themselves.  Of course, with such a great family how can you not?

This year it was held at the Planinsek Pavilion, the exact same place of the annual Fishing Derby Story & 25 Annual Louis Planinsek Fishing Derby  We had the comforts of the pavilion as well as a bonfire.  Did I mention there was a ton of delicious food?  Yep!  Without short siding anyone, I would like to call out a few dishes.  My cousin Joe butchered one of his cows just for our fresh burgers and someone brought garden ripened tomatoes to accompany the fresh meat.  Mom made her haluski, Cooking with Kyle – Gigi’s Haluski the noodles were done from scratch.  She probably made too much, but nothing new there with Gigi.  My cousin Paula (Ryan’s godmother) made my Aunt Mary’s (her mother’s) apple strudel, which was AWESOME!

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Cousin John Klotz, his dad Pete & my mom, Elizabeth in background. Olczak Reunion 8/23/14

On a side note, once mom and I tried to duplicate the recipe and more importantly the technique, without much luck.  We did manage to stretch the dough over the edges of the kitchen table, but also manged to tear large holes throughout.  Perhaps that was the reason for our lumpy and a-symmetrical rolling results.  Granted, with anything that involves cinnamon, sugar, butter and flour, how can you ever go wrong?  It just wasn’t the same but I must say, the experience was worth it.

While talking to Paula in regards to the apple strudel, she mentioned that she added a secret ingredient, one her mother never used.  This mystery factor helps to make the dough more pliable, especially in the humidity, which it was.  Paula never divulge this information, instead she said if we wanted to learn all the variables in her recipe, then we are come to her house and help her make the apple strudel.  Good plan!  I’m in!

During the reunion I learned a lot about the unknown Olczak side of the family.  Yes, there is no denying we are indeed Polish, which was no secret, but I didn’t know grandpap Olczak (my great grandpap) had a first wife who died before marring my great grandmother.  Therefore, I have distant half cousins I never knew was family.  The same situation happened in the Piper family tree.  I have half cousins on both sides of the family.

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Closest, Linda (Joe’s wife), Jim Olczak, back his brother Joe Olczak, their sister Paula Klotz & their brother Bill Olczak. Olczak Reunion 8/23/14

John also mentioned about our cousin Jean-Luke Olczak from France.  Apparently, after one of the World Wars, his family migrated to France and there he remained.  Although his last name is now spelled differently, he traced his family back to ours and we are related.  John keeps in touch with him every once in a while and mentioned about inviting him to the reunion, but he guessed he wouldn’t have made it.  That would have been really cool!

So did anyone speak Polish?  A little.  Mom was impressing our small crowd with her Polish counting abilities as was Jim.  Although, there were some discrepancies.  I’m guessing everyone who knew Polish as youngsters is now a bit out of practice.  From what mom told me, all the kids meaning my grandpap Chester, Uncle Walter, Uncle Tex, Aunt Helen, Aunt Emily etc didn’t learn English till they went to school.  Imagine that, your first language was truly Polish!  The next generation down, my mom, my cousin Jim and Paula etc knew some Polish words to speak but could understand the elders speaking in some conversations.  Alas those days are no longer.  I wish I was taught Polish growing up, but along with the elders it too died in the family.

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Cousins playing at the Olczak Reunion. On the bike is Hailey, Giana is pushing her, to the left Kellia & Maddox & Lila.  Ryan is standing facing us. 8/23/14

I will admit, I tease about these family functions, but I do love my family, both sides.  I am one lucky gal to have great cousins and uncles and aunts.  It’s nice to sit around and shoot the breeze with family and tell stories or listen to stories either forgotten about or never heard.  Marybeth was there with Mikey (Yes, Karen’s crew is related on both sides, Jim and mom are cousins and Karen and my dad are cousins.  Piper’s are everywhere!) and she said it best.  You never need friends when you have such a large family, friends are already built in.  We all agreed!  Don’t get me wrong friends are wonderful and needed, but family is the best, especially with our group.

I look forward to hanging with the Olczak’s next year.  Maybe we can get Maryanne and her crew to come down from Seattle for the occasion.  Perhaps Nicole, Casey and Christina will break away from their busy lives and make their appearance.  John already mentioned about uncovering the Olczak family crest and getting Polish beer.  Paula was talking about raffling off a piece of Polish china.  This year mom purchased a clock with the numbers written in Polish for the door prize.  Yep, I’m guessing it’s going to get more intense year-over-year.  Cześć (Bye)

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Family,Farming & Planting,News,Observation & Imagination,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Patron the Local Business & Show Appreciation

Behind every small business, there’s a story worth knowing. All the corner shops in our towns and cities, the restaurants, cleaners, gyms, hair salons, hardware stores – these didn’t come out of nowhere.  ~Paul Ryan

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Me & Kyle at the Latrobe Banana Split Festival … showing our local support! Thrill of the Hunt 8/24/13

I’m a pretty practical chick.  Truly, I appreciate the area I live in and frequenting the local businesses.  When it comes down to it, I am a small town gal.  Bricks 4 Kidz, Kyle’s Lego Camp Birthday Surprise, Perfect Gift – The Ugly Quilt  With that comes a pride for my area, including the small businesses.  This is something we are now trying to teach Kyle.  Why?  To always ensure our favorite stores are going to be around for years to come and to support our area.  Granted, this is not a guarantee due to other circumstances, but it’s a start.

No matter what, let me state I do believe in patronizing local stores and keeping mom and pop shops in business.  Granted, sometimes that means slightly higher prices but not always.  Everyone always complains about the cost of things, rightfully so in our economical rough times, but it’s not always the case.  I agree, paying outrages prices for the same item that could be shipped directly to your house is insane.  But a few extra bucks for the store down the street, I don’t really make a big deal about.  And believe it or not, sometimes the local stores have cheaper prices and usually better quality.

I too have been guilty of going online or making my purchases at the big old corporations, which there is nothing wrong with.  I mean, in most cases, those large corporations started out as something small, the local start-up company.  That is the joy of living in a republic, we have options and are free to choose.

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Colleen at the Seton Hill University Decoding the Past Scavenger Hunt. Thrill of the Hunt was part of the Alumni Weekend 6/8/14

What started this dissertation on small businesses?  The comic book store Kyle frequents, Westmoreland Gaming, Sportscards & Comics. Yes, his new hang out to play Warmachine.  Kyle, being a child of our century, is no stranger to going online to looking things up and to making online purchases.  So when he started to get into Warmachine, naturally the kid went to the virtual stores to compare prices with those of the comic book store, especially since he was spending his own money.  What did he find?  Some prices where a couple bucks cheaper online, nothing drastic.

Nicole had a great idea with respect to this issue.  To help the comic book store and Kyle, she actually gives Kyle the difference, so he would continue to patron the comic book store.  After all, it’s only right considering he practically lives there now, playing Warmachine with others and getting advice on the game and just plain taking up space.  This is our way of showing our appreciation.

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Kyle hanging with Mr. Rogers statue in Pittsburgh, Pa. Setting up the Class of 1984 Scavenger Hunt Fundraiser by Thrill of the Hunt. 4/26/14

Please keep in mind the guys that work at the comic book store, as well as the customers, are so very nice.  Truly, going above and beyond helping Kyle out and being very welcoming of our little teenager.  Warmachine Tournament They don’t stop there, they are really friendly with mom, Nicole and me too!  Mom told me while she was sitting there patiently waiting on Kyle to wrap up his battle the one day, Cody, the store manager offered mom something to drink.  Again, well above and beyond, hence the reason for our support.  They order items they don’t have stocked, which usually arive within a week, they are friendly and courteous to EVERYONE who walks in the door and it’s a true family establishment.  Westmoreland Gaming, Sportscards & Comics tolerate no riff raff or anyone acting in a way that is not conducive to family values and an environment for children.

Appreciation doesn’t always come in the form of money.  It can be done in many different ways.

Example, every year mom and I stock up on flowers and plants to decorate the headstones and to plant the garden, respectively. We frequent a small nursery in Derry, Pennsylvania, Orazios.  They are a wonderful family business, who are so very nice, not to mention their prices can’t be beat.  They also have such great quality plants, flowers and veggies, it would be stupid on our behalf not to purchase from them.

How do we show appreciation for their lower prices, good quality plants and excellent customer service, ultimately their family business?  We obviously shop there, but we also simply don’t take anything for granted.  To further demonstrate my point, after mom and I go around and plant the headstones, we don’t discard the plastic containers.  Yes, those thin plastic containers that hold either four or six plants, plus the plastic flats that hold all the plants.  Nope, we don’t like to waste anything.  Those items cost money and the more a business has to replace, the more it costs.  Like it or not, costs are always turned around to be picked up by the patron, basic business.  I believe in thinking ahead, going out of my way to stop waste by returning such items to be reused.

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Me at the POP TRiViA Scavenger Hunt by Thrill of the Hunt, for ECHO Real Estate Services company outing. 6/25/14

Think about it.  If everyone thought to do such an action, then the savings would add up.  In an ideal world, the decreased overhead would be passed along to the customer.  Seriously, if not, I’m fine with the local business making more profit.  That means they will be in business for years to come.  Putting aside extenuating circumstances, that’s probably the number one reason businesses go out of business, lack of profits.  After all that’s why they are in business in the first place, among other reasons I’m sure.  So if they make more profits and yet still sell great quality products at lower prices, win win for everyone.

Just thinking outside the box, maybe if it’s a local coffee shop, (I know I don’t drink coffee but work with me)  bringing in your travel mug when getting a coffee to go.  Or bringing your own bag instead of taking the store plastic bag.  I guess, these are just good practices anyway to eliminate waste and excess.

Please also keep in mind, large name brands could fall into this category.  Example, franchises are sometimes owned by local patrons.  They are also the ones who sponsor events like little leagues and they give back to the community and supply jobs to the area.  Just because they have a big name associated to a business, behind the curtain could be your neighbor.

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Thrill of the Hunt in Annapolis, MD for the Heart & Soul Scavenger Hunt, Davita’s company outing 3/18/14

Thrill of the Hunt
Yes, I too am a small business owner, a local Latrobe, Pennsylvanian homegrown company.  Being the co-owner of Thrill of the Hunt, a division of The Piper Corporation, we develop and administer to theme scavenger hunts for business functions, fundraisers, events and all sorts of parties, you get the point.  We also host public scavenger hunt events, our more popular being our dog scavenger hunts.  I could go on about our company so if anyone is interested, I can be reached at heather@PiperCorporation.com or visit our website Thrill of the Hunt.

Granted, I don’t have a retail store, but it is nice to see the local people wanting us to succeed. There is nothing better than positive vibes!  How do they do that?  Sometimes the best support is speaking honestly over my company, either good or bad.  I appreciate the feedback, ultimately helping to make my product and services better.

Also, the best support comes in the form of word-of-mouth.  When I hear others telling their friends and family about Thrill of the Hunt, I really get excited and it helps to recharge my battery.  Not to mention, those who have participated in one of my scavenger hunts are excited about them.  It’s even better when the scavenger hunt is still being talked about long after the event.  I love to hear that!  That’s exactly what I want, others to enjoy themselves and just plain have a great time!

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Jenny Singer with Thrill of the Hunt at Steelerfest in Latrobe, PA. 8/2/13

Believe it or not, just because I am a Latrobe based business, I also help the areas I attend in many different ways.  With our public scavenger hunts, I try and incorporate the small local businesses, adding them as part of the scavenger hunt, driving traffic directly to their doorstep.  I also train Thrill Leaders to work my scavenger hunts, providing experience and employment in those particular areas.

Now don’t get me wrong, if a company has poor quality or horrible service then they are on their own as far as I’m concerned.  If you take those negative aspects and add in no selection or terrible hours, then they need to reconsider their business and either make adjustments or part ways.  Just because they are local, doesn’t mean I, as a customer have to be treated as an after thought.  Nope!

So what is the point of this?  Simply patronize local businesses and home grown companies.  Take the few extra minutes to think like a business owner with respect to recycling or saving them costs or offering them constructive feedback.  It could mean saving you money in the long run or having a local business that will go above and beyond for you, which might come in handy one day.  There are many ways to show appreciation, even by writing a blog entry, reading it and passing it along!

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

Warmachine Tournament

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May the odds be ever in your favor!  ~Suzanne Collins

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Kyle preparing for his 1st Warmachine tournament. He was beyond excited! 8/9/14

What the heck is Warmachine?  Believe it or not I can answer that one!  Warmachine is a model game whereas people put together these figures like any model.  Yes, just like model cars or trains or planes.  For the most part, they are glued and painted and tended to with such care as if they were the Crown Jewels.  However, Warmachine takes the hobby a step further.  The figurines are played on a four foot by four foot battlefield against others of the same interest.

According to Wikipedia Warmachine is a tabletop steampunk wargame produced by Privateer Press.

This game is fairly new in the gaming world, from what I’ve been told.  It’s been around for over ten years.  In that time, established tournaments and practices all over the world have had been set-up and competed in.  There are even championship type of games.  Yes, this happens in plain view without knowledge of it, only to someone like me who has no interest in such games, but those who do are well aware.

Interesting tidbit, I heard there is a big tournament in Poland this year and the United States is allowed to send two teams for our representation.  That’s actually pretty cool, if I understood correctly.  I was also informed that this game is very competitive in Korea.  Apparently, they’ve taken the game to another level of intensity.

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Kyle’s Khador army …. prepping his troops for the Warmachine tournament. 8/9/14

Again how am I now privy to such information and inside scoop for being an outsider?  I have a man on the inside, Kyle!  Since his birthday a couple of weeks ago A Teenager! Happy Birthday Kyle! Gift of Music – The Final Piano Lesson, I’ve mentioned everything has changed, for us all.  Once Kyle found out we have a comic book store in Latrobe, he’s been wanting to stop in and check out the scene.  My sister took him and somehow he got hooked on Warmachine, purchasing his first starter set just after his birthday.

Ever since then, he’s been begging us to drop him off at the comic book store to hang out, trying for a chance encounter with another Warmachine player for an epic battle.  We have, but not without constant communication and for short periods of time.  In those “freedom” sessions, Kyle has battled the locals in Warmachine.  He’s loving every waking minute of it.  He even tried to take me to the dark side by teaching me the game, fat chance.  Although, I do believe he has my sister’s interest peeked.  She’ll be next on the list to drink the Warmachine cool-aide.

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Warmachine battle taking place, check out the pink figurines! Yep, chicks love this too. 8/9/14

This past Saturday, there was a Warmachine tournament.  Yes, Kyle was psyched about it since he heard the news. Literally, he was painting his figurines and reading up on the game all week, like he was cramming for a big exam.  Kyle’s faction he plays is Khador.  From what Kyle has told me, they come from the north.   Awesome, I can dig that!

There was a lot going on, but I changed my plans to spend the day with Kyle.  Personally, I thought it might take a couple hours, until I was informed to plan on a seven hour day, if I was fortunate.  The length depends on the number of participants.  Lucky me, there was only about ten participants, five matches playing at a clip with a total of three rounds.

Kyle lost his first two matches, but from what I was told he did so with humility and grace.  The one gentleman came up to me and said, “If that was my son I would be so proud.”  I had no idea what he was talking about.  To be honest, I was going to simply thank him, thinking he was talking about a kid who finds this type of gaming fun.  I found out I was wrong when he continued, “He listened to everything his opponent said, and didn’t argue and lost without incidence.”  Kyle was showing good sportsmanship and humility.  That man was right, I should be proud and I most certainly was!

His first match was against a man I’m guessing was in his late forties.  He also happened to be a referee, or whatever they call it when a person monitors matches.  For this game he was a participant, but a very knowledgeable one at that.

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Warmachine tournament at the comic book store. Yes, that’s Kyle at one of the battles! 8/9/14

Kyle’s second match was against the first gentleman’s niece.  Yes, it’s a family gig!  And yes chicks dig this too!  She, Aerial was a lovely gal of seventeen years.  She also goes to different tournaments in New York and such and competes against younger children of single digits.  Can you believe it?   I give this young lady credit, she loves the game and doesn’t seem intimidated by a predominately male presence.  Her game pieces are even mostly pink in color scheme, further bringing a touch of femininity to Warmachine.  She informed me she started playing when she was ten, but also in current years she’s been too busy to really stay in tuned with all things Warmachine.

For Kyle’s third match he battled Aerial’s brother Shawn, being three weeks shy from thirteen.  Finally!  Someone closer to Kyle’s age.  To be honest, this is what bothered me the most, the adult men Kyle was playing against.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I did feel a bit uneasy with Kyle playing with adults, strangers no doubt.  Perhaps it was my ignorance over the game or my fears from the ugliness of reality, or both that swept me away.  However I will admit, I was put at ease with Kyle’s opponent who was closer to his age.

Everyone else in the room?  Yep, I would say just taking a guess, mid to late thirties plus, mostly married.  (Where are their wives and what do they feel about this hobby?  I guess it’s no different than fantasy football.)  Everyone there was very nice and patient and encouraging with Kyle.  I couldn’t ask for a nicer group of people for him to hang out with for the day.

The mediator or referee or whatever his official title was, happened to be a very articulate and kind man.  He entertained my thousands of questions and tried to explain this world and the interest others have in it, as best he could.  Naturally, he too had a passion for Warmachine.  Kudos to him for doing what he loves.

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Kyle heavy in Warmachine battle… his opponent was very helpful to Kyle. 8/9/14

Now I can’t claim that I would ever get into this game, which Kyle will be disappointed to hear, but I can also come to the realization that eventually I will know more about this game than most.  I support Kyle in whatever he does and whatever hobby peeks his interests or his future interests, as long as he keeps them in check and they don’t rule his life.

The local comic book store is full of very nice people. I mean that, exceptionally nice and sincere.  Every time I’ve been in there, they’ve treated Kyle and myself as a special guest.  Not out of brown nosing or to butter us up to spend more or anything negative of the such, but simply to be nice.  They all enjoy their jobs and love the games they sell.  It’s definitely a job of passion.  I’m impressed!

In fact, upon Kyle’s registration for the tournament, we were told there are different required army points to play.  Kyle was shy by about twelve points, being a newbie and all.  Meaning he didn’t have enough figures to total the needed points.   The comic book store employee called someone to see if Kyle could borrow a few figurines for the tournament to get him eligible.  It was approved and Kyle was in business.  I was very grateful, as was Kyle.

One another side note, I totally can get into the painting of these figurines.  I asked Kyle if I could paint one.  He told me no.  I was kind of bummed, but whatever.

Yes, Kyle lost all three battles, but I believe he had a blast and learned a lot.  Of course, experience is a big part of life and learning.  He is now on his way to being a Warmachine maniac, within reason of course.

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

Gift of Music – The Final Piano Lesson

The present changes the past. Looking back you do not find what you left behind.  ~Kiran Desai

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Close up of Kyle playing the trumpet at Slippery Rock University for 7th grade Jazz Band. 4/5/14

Kyle just turned thirteen a little over a week ago and things are already changing.  I am sad to report, yesterday was Kyle’s last formal piano lesson.  He’s been taking lessons since he was six years old.  Indulge me for a moment, while I take you there and back.

I know I’ve mentioned his music lessons from time to time.   Sweet Sounds of Music Music Reinforces Our Tight Bond Music for the Eyes and Ears When Kyle was a little tyke of about five years of age, he wanted to play the guitar. Great!  I made one of our famous deals with him.   If I got him piano lessons and he learned to read music and play the instrument moderately well, when the teacher said he was ready, I would get him guitar lessons.  Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me.  He thought so!

Since I only believe in unconventional gifts, for Kyle’s sixth birthday, I decided to give the gift of music, piano lessons!  On his celebration day, I told Kyle what I got him, which meant nothing to a six-year-old.  I’m sure he felt “jipped” without having a tangible present from me, but I didn’t care.  I knew deep down inside this was the perfect gift.

Mom called around the area looking for a good piano teacher who would instruct our youngster in all aspects of piano.  God blessed us with a great one, Ms. Debbie! (who is my cousin Merle Piper’s wife’s sister)  Perfect, basically family!  In the more recent years, Kyle was instructed by David Emanuelson, a music student at Seton Hill University.

Unfortunately, I was unable to take Kyle for his first lesson due to work, but mom stepped in to get his musical interest started.  Before she picked him up, she stopped at the local music store and purchased a basic keyboard.  Nothing fancy, just something simple for him to practice on.  Mom commented when Kyle saw it, he was smiling from ear to ear.  He wanted to start playing the instrument right away.  Then, came the lessons.  Keep in mind, Kyle was six years old and probably forgot all about my gift to him, since it was mentioned a few weeks earlier, or he truly didn’t care until it became real.

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The beginning of the trumpet! 6th grade musical From the Inside Out 2013

Mom took Kyle to Ms. Debbie’s house for his first lesson.  She said he was elated!   She couldn’t get him to settle down, he was jumping out of his skin with shear excitement!  That made my day!  In fact, Ms. Debbie was so good with my little man, that she let him strum her guitar and knock on the piano keys before starting, getting him acclimated.  Ms. Debbie said she was happy to see a kid so enthused about lessons, unlike some of her  students who were made to go and didn’t want to be there.  Good so far!

I felt like I was actually there.  Mom called me during the lesson from her car and filled me in on the events leading up to that moment.  She was cracking up over Kyle’s reaction and I couldn’t help but join in, while I was sitting at my desk at work.  I felt like I could see the scene unfold as if I was a fly on the wall.  I know Kyle all too well.

I was thrilled for the kid!  Even though many said Kyle was too young and I shouldn’t waste my money, I knew it was what he needed at the time.  My intent wasn’t to have a child prodigy, but simply to expose him to various music snippets, and the proper way of reading music and playing the instrument.  I was always told that if you can play the piano, you can play any instrument, not to mention he would be able to carry that basic knowledge with him for life.  Like mom always says, no one can take education away from you.  I agree!  Learning something at any age is a good practice.

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Kyle (7th grade) & the trumpet line at Slippery Rock University for Jazz Band 4/5/14

That night, Kyle told me all about his lesson.  He had stars still in his eyes.  He demonstrated what he learned from his NEW piano books and showed me his NEW keyboard.  He was still lit up like a light bulb hours later, from his earlier adventure.  His energy and positive reaction drew me into his experience.  I couldn’t help it, I was psyched, and they weren’t even my lessons!  I did ask Kyle, “So you think you’re gonna like it?”  While I was asking the question Kyle began nodding his head in affirmation before responding “Yes, Aiya (Aunt Heather)!  I love it!”  My heart melted for this little boy and his desire to play the piano.  All I could say was, “So you like your birthday gift?”  Simply he replied, “Yep!”

Over the years, I can honestly say Kyle always did enjoy going to lessons.  I’m not sure if it was the lessons, or the fact that all attention was on him, or he enjoyed learning, or he loved getting stickers (early), or the kudos and positive reinforcement that Kyle thrives on.  Perhaps is was all the above.   He didn’t always like to sit and practice at home, unless we were giving him our undivided attention.  Then, he would practice and practice.

Occasionally, Kyle would explore his keyboard and start playing pre-programmed music.  Sometimes he would get up and dance around the living room or march around.   He was so contagious when he was just plain having fun that I would find myself following in his footsteps.  He was our very own pied Piper (pun included).  He would also get a kick out of playing a song with the sound of another instrument.  Sometimes he would choose the flute or the violin etc. while practicing his lessons.  He always did love to discover different sounds.  I’m guessing it was his way of challenging himself or to spice it up a bit, maybe both.

From early on, we were told Kyle was doing very well.  (Too bad he didn’t practice regularly and wasn’t encouraged from everyone to do so)  He was able to identify different notes just from listening and he started to pick up reading the sheet music pretty well too.  When learning to play with his left hand, he seemed to do so effortlessly, relative to a youngster.  Yep, that was the right move for Kyle at that age.  Please keep in mind, there’s no doubt he has a talent, but he never really tried, leaving his untapped potential a mystery.   Although if he would have practiced more, I bet he would have even impressed himself.

I always tried to encourage Kyle with piano.  I remember when I exposed him to the music of Elton John and the piano man himself, Billy Joel.  He was definitely intrigued.  He even enjoyed some classical music I gave him.  On a side note, one evening we came across MTV Cribbs.  You know the show they walk through the house(s) of the rich and famous.  That evening they were showcasing 50 cent. (I think).  Kyle’s eyes were huge!  He was floored at the grandeur of the place, mostly the electronics.  I told him to keep up playing the piano and he could be that wealthy.  He asked, “I can make money playing the piano?”  Too cute!  My response, “Heck yes!  If you are really that good and dedicated to your discipline.”  He practiced the piano that night without instance!

Eventually, I did get him a guitar and lessons for a later Christmas, in addition to his piano lessons.  Again, unconventional gifts are the best for a growing, curious, smart little boy.  He was never at a loss for toys, especially Thomas the Tank Engine and later Legos.  Mom and dad and Nicole always had that covered!  I handled the gifts that would eventually shape our rug rat from the inside out.

I believed by the time Kyle was eight or nine years old, he was playing the piano with ease and strumming his way through the guitar.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, he would also learn to play the trumpet in junior high and join the jazz band.  I’m glad my family and me were all apart of building the foundation for Kyle’s love of music and his musical abilities.

With the exception of maybe a half a year to year, when Kyle chose to focus on guitar, he always played the piano from the age of six to thirteen.  He was definitely better at piano than guitar, but of course he had more practice.  Although, I was told from Ms. Debbie who initially taught him to play both instruments, that he picked up the guitar better than most.  He was a natural with using his hands on the instrument, without looking at the strings and keeping his eyes on the sheet music.  Again, piano was a good choice for him initially.

Was all that running around and moving schedules and expense and sometimes fighting with Kyle to practice worth it?  Every last second of it!  That was one of the best ideas I’ve ever had.  I am so grateful that my parents and my sister all helped me to encourage Kyle and reinforce his lessons.  Also friends and other family members were wonderful when asking Kyle about his music instructions.  The Sacred Heart / Saint Cecilia Youth Group let Kyle play Christmas tunes for those attending the soup kitchen one year.  This positive reinforcement helped shape him even more.  I know his dad would have also helped to encourage Kyle too!  He probably wouldn’t have missed a lesson.

http://youtu.be/YvIBKxjqdkM

Honestly, I am sad over Kyle’s decision to stop his piano lessons, but it was always his choice.  He was given the opportunity to stop at any time (unless he was paid up until a certain point).  Yes, sometimes the lessons were an inconvenience when making plans, especially in the summer, but it was a good obstacle to have to work around.  Mom helped out a lot and would step in when I couldn’t.  Personally, I loved taking Kyle to his lessons and sitting there listening to him play and watching him progress over the years.  Mostly, I treasured my time with Kyle and truly enjoyed hanging out with my little man on an off beat day, just the two of us.

Kyle still plays an instrument, the trumpet.  Unfortunately, his guitar days are a thing of the past and maybe the piano will join the guitar in the land of the forgotten, but he’s still involved in music.  He’s in the jazz band at school and wants to join the high school marching band playing the trumpet.  I can’t wait to be a band parent and watch him in his next years of musical progress!  I am very proud!

On another side note, since Kyle’s interests are now into War Machine, I guess I’ll have to take up a new hobby to hang with him.  At least we still have snowboarding!

Check out Kyle’s sixth grade musical.  He’s in the front row, second from the left in the stripped shirt.  This was taken in the spring of 2013.

http://youtu.be/h2Hhal-H0PA

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

A Teenager! Happy Birthday Kyle!

When we are young, the words are scattered all around us. As they are assembled by experience, so also are we, sentence by sentence, until the story takes shape.  ~Louise Erdrich

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Kyle & his beloved pappy… there’s a team! Kyle’s 1st birthday 7/30/02 (I was in Korea)

I can’t believe it, our little man is now officially a teenager!  Kyle is a thirteen year old, even though he’s been displaying a teenage attitude for about a year now.  Not constant, but every once in a while the attitude has slipped out of his mouth or through his body language.  I guess that’s typical growing pains.

Kyle is a great kid, he really is.  Yes he has his quarks and Sheldon Cooper (The Big Bang Theory) tendencies, but overall, Kyle is a good person.  I’ve really enjoyed watching him grow up and more importantly I really enjoy being an integral part of his life and influence.  He is my best bud!  We’ve always been a team.  Even though he is finding different interests and venturing out on his own with his friends, we are still as thick as thieves, at least for now.

In honor of such a milestone birthday, below are a few key funny moments in Kyle’s life we all remember and love and some are still in effect today.  I hope these instances are as bad and as stressful as Kyle’s life will ever get!   

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Kyle & Gigi for Kyle’s 1st birthday! 7/30/02

As a baby, Kyle was always strong willed.  ALWAYS!  I would never have it any other way.  But his attitude would change in a blink of an eye.  My sister called it the 2.2.  He would go from happy little baby to upset child in 2.2 seconds.  I hate to admit it, but it was kind of funny, especially when we would laugh at him and say 2.2.  He didn’t find it humorous in the slightest, not when he was an infant nor later in life.

Kyle was never shy about sharing his feelings or his grievances with us, at any given moment.  I remember clearly one day, Kyle got made at me, I’m guessing I was instigating the little package, and he showed me.  He walked out on the porch and chucked his beloved bottle over the bannister into the front yard.  The snarly look he gave me was way too cute!  Me being me, I found complete humor in the situation.  Mom witnessing the entire thing, yelled at me to stop picking on the kid.  He was adorable, even when angered.  At least at that age.

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Kyle working hard in the strawberry fields. Pollock’s Strawberry Farm Bush Valley 6/28/14

I always did love observing Kyle with his activities.  He would spend hours upon hours lining up his matchbox cars.  Thanks to my sister he owned hundreds of them (no joke).  They always had to be perfectly in line, front to back, front to back, covering the floor or coffee table.  He would concentrate so hard, he blocked out the world around him.  Did I mention his focus included his tongue sticking out like my Uncle Sonny?  I always did find him fascinating, wondering what was going on in his little head.

When Kyle was around two and three years old, and a banana was requested, we had to peel it for him.  The banana had to be stripped down all the way.  Yes, we had to hand him a naked banana and if it broke, well, that was the end of the world.  He would throw a fit and not accept the fruit to eat and demand another.  I’m guessing he felt he couldn’t eat a broken banana or it wouldn’t taste the same or something.  It was a complete tragedy!  Usually I ate the broken pieces, which ticked him off even more.  I never gave in on this one.  He had to learn not to waste food and he wasn’t going to always get his own way.

For a few short years, Kyle would walk around the house with his Scooby-Doo slippers, which were initially three sizes too big.  He loved those things, asking to wear them every waking minute.   Surprisingly, he made his way around the house with minimal trip-age.  After he outgrew those slippers, wearing them until they were too tight, mom and I decided to take him to the store to get another pair.  He picked out ones that looked like a car, even with stuffed wheels on the side.  Letting him try them on to ensure we had a proper fit, Kyle’s mind surprised us again.  After placing the plush cars to his feet, Kyle stiffened up.  He held himself so still and hung onto my arm with all seriousness.  Why?  He thought the wheels were going to shoot him across the floor like roller skates and he was going to roll away!  Mom and I died!  We were laughing so hard, we couldn’t help the panicked kid.  He had no idea what was so funny.  Needless to say, we bought the slippers.

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Kyle’s cakeface for his 1st birthday! Pappy was under that hat … He always did love his sweets! 7/30/02

For years, Kyle believed that the sock manufacturers were making uncomfortable socks with a large seam at the toe just to irritate him.  He believed he was the center of everyone’s attention, even the sock manufacturer and they were out to make his life miserable!  Solution?  We learned that if you turn the sock inside out, the bulky seam was on the outside and didn’t really bother his little piggies.  Believe it or not, there were plenty of other sock issues, including touching his ankle, and the heel of the sock not matching up EXACTLY with his heel etc.  Unfortunately, even though these problems have toned down a notch or two, only because he wears flip flops in the summer, it’s still an argument.   He also believes socks and shoes make his whole body sweat and makes him too hot to wear cloths.

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Kyle lining up his Legos for the ultimate battle! c. 2013

When Kyle first started to wear walking shoes, getting them on with assistance, he would tell us the shoe didn’t fit if his big toe wasn’t able to be lifted comfortably in the confined space.  Yes!  He wanted his big toe to stand up in the shoe, all the way!  To this day, he won’t properly tie his tennis shoes and his hunting boots are about two sizes too big.  Although he is getting better, letting his pap lace up his boots for hunting so he doesn’t trip in the woods.  His tennis shoes still hang off of his feet, making it appear that he will walk out of them at any given moment.

While we’re on the topic of cloths, let’s discuss jeans.  Yes that basic article of clothing that everyone posses, at least a single pair.  Yes, that item that can be dressed up or down and is accepted at most venues.  Kyle HATED jeans.  From the time he was able to give his own opinion on his wardrobe, first grade or so, till he hit the junior high in seventh grade, Kyle never wore a pair of jeans.  EVER!  What did he wear?  Sweatpants or shorts.  Sometimes his sweatpants were the cotton kind and sometimes the shiny pants (which he still wears to this day)  For church, he was and still is never ever permitted to wear sweatpants.  Clothing of choice?  He has to wear dress slacks and in the summer, nice dress shorts.  At the time they had to have the elastic waistband.  Kidding?  Nope!  That always about killed him, but we worked through it, kind of.  He still hates cloths, and getting dressed for church sometimes poses a problem.

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Kyle being held by the Hulk at Legofest 2012 … Kyle’s humor!  Yes that’s made entirely out of Legos!

Switching gears a bit, train gears that is, let’s move onto toys.  No matter who played Thomas the Tank Engine, as instructed by Kyle, they had to be Diesel.  Kyle never did like Diesel, I really don’t know why?  I decided early on, this rule did not pertain to me.  I wouldn’t have a three year old tell me what I was playing with, which always resulted in little temper tantrum, sometimes a big blow up.  He would also dictate how I was to play, which direction to move and what I was doing.  Again, nope!  Kyle had to learn early on that he didn’t always get his own way and others had the freedom of choice.  I reinforced the ideas of compromise and sharing.  It was a struggle, but one learned, kind of.

Around two years and up, Kyle LOVED puzzles.  By the time he was walking till about three years, he was putting together some thousand piece puzzle sets!  Did I mention I hate puzzles?  However, I would turn over the pieces so they were facing up and sit with him while he matched piece after piece to create the picture represented on the box.  He said, “Loot pappy, I’m puzzle boy!”

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Chad Piper (cousin) & Kyle at Gutchess Picnic, Idlewild. c. 2003

Then, after the puzzles came the Legos!  Lego Love Kyle’s Lego Dream @LegoFest 2012 Bricks 4 Kidz, Kyle’s Lego Camp Birthday Surprise Another Lego Christmas  Happy Lego Birthday Kyle – 11 Years Old! Lego Obsessive or Driven Going Retro With Star Wars Legos etc. That phase lasted the longest thus far.  Once he discovered Legos there was no going back.  When Kyle was five, we made a bet at his peewee football ceremony and naturally he won.  The prize?  He wanted a Bionicle man, which needed to be assembled, for ages seven and up, I believe.  Kyle always loved a challenge and began putting those pieces together and eventually graduating to a thousand plus piece Lego sets, with movable parts.  I never let the suggested age restrict him.  EVER!  I always encouraged Kyle, especially when it was a challenge!  He knew it and was always proud of himself and his accomplishments.  So was I!  Did I mention he called himself Lego Man? Yes!

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Kyle’s Lego army about to do battle! c. 2011

One last walk down memory lane.  One that we are all grateful he grew out of and did a complete one eighty, reading!  I HATE READING! Reading Brings Generations Together Reading Brings Generations Together…Or Not? Harry Potter Made Me Do It! etc.  Kyle started off loving books.  He would always drag a book to our lap and have us read and rock him in the rocking chair.  LOVE IT!  Then, came the time he had to do the reading, which didn’t go over so well.  In fact, it pushed him to hate reading, which saddened me beyond imagination.  Though, I tried many tactics to change his perception of reading, my sister remembered one method, bribery!  Yes, for a very brief stent, we would pay Kyle in cold hard cash to read to us.  Judge us if you will, but it worked and the benefits of him reading outweighed the idea of bribery.  Of course, I tried may avenues including yelling, grounding, sharing the reading, acting out the story while he read etc.  In the end the most effective was reading to Kyle, Harry Potter Chamber of Secrets, with the most gusto and the best British accent I could muster.  After that book, Kyle chose on his own to continue reading the rest of the series.  I was very proud of him.  Since then I kept up his interest in reading by buying him books anytime he needed one, getting them for him with every holiday and special occasion and sometimes reading the same books so the lines of communication were open.  Yep, that was a struggle but again one well worth it!

In addition to reading, Kyle still loves to hunt, shoot his .22 and his 243 (his dad would be proud), fish, sled ride and snowboard, build (anything), and he loves his dog Scooby (plus Seven, Avery and Storm a.k.a. Lady Fluffington).  Over the years his interest in movies have grown, being a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings (movies and books) the Avengers (all superheros), video games (mostly Minecraft) and now he’s taken an interest in fantasy games such as Summoner Wars, Dungeons and Dragons, and WarMachine.

One of Kyle’s piano lesson songs happen to be Happy Birthday. I thought it be appropriate to record it for all to share on his birthday!

Happy Birthday Kyle!  I hope you have a blessed and exciting journey!

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Church,Education & Learning,Family,Hunting & Fishing,LEGO's,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments
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