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)

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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

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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.

Kyle's-door-measurements-Aunt-Heather-Piper-8-16-14

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.

Decoding-the-Past-Scavenger-Hunt-Seton-Hill-University-Greensburg PA Thrill-of-the-Hunt-6-8-14-v2

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.

POP-TRiViA-Scavenger-Hunt-ECHO-Real-Estate-Services-Thrill-of-the-Hunt-Pittsburgh-Pa-6-25-14-v166

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

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

Discovering Our Own Backyard – Johnstown

There is no past or future. Using tenses to divide time is like making chalk marks on water.  ~Janet Frame

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Celebrating Kyle’s 13th birthday! Great day taking the train to Johnstown & now ice-cream cake! 4/26/14

This year Kyle’s birthday lands on a Wednesday.  What does that mean?  It means Kyle believes both weekends are open for birthday celebration, in addition to his actual birthday. I guess we’re getting better, I remember the days when the entire month of July was dedicated to Kyle’s birthday.

This year?  It was a last minute decision.  I planned an adventure to Johnstown, Pennsylvania.  How far away is that?  Only about thirty to forty minutes from Latrobe, Pennsylvania.  How is that exciting?  Let me tell you, sometimes it’s the journey that makes the adventure.

This past Saturday morning, we started the day off with a train ride from Latrobe to Johnstown.  Yes!  A train ride!  I knew Kyle was never in Johnstown, nor was he aware of the great flood of 1889.  It’s true, Kyle was on a train when we went to Strasburg, Pennsylvania to see Thomas the Tank Engine when he was three or four.  We actually rode on “Thomas” and we took another train ride around the area.  It was more an old fashioned train, with the windows down, chugging along at a slower speed for sightseeing.   This time, Kyle was riding a transport train with other travelers.  It had cars for overnight passengers and food and beverage cars.  Granted, none of those interested us during our forty minute ride, but it still was neat to say we rode a passenger train.

The Amtrak train station is located off of McKinley Avenue in Latrobe, behind DiSalvo’s Station Restaurant.  Of course it’s not the hub of all transportation for the masses, but it was neat sitting on the platform awaiting our scheduled train.  Naturally, I kept making comments like, “Kyle, where is platform nine and three quarters?”  and such in reference to Harry Potter.  Being nearly thirteen, he only found me mildly humorous.

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Kyle & Aunt Nikki waiting at the Latrobe Amtrak Station to board a train to Johnstown for the day. 7/26/14

Just as we were parking our behinds on the bench Kyle commented, “Umm this is a little run down.”  Nicole and I started to laugh.  He was right, but again this was about the adventure not the aesthetics of our environment.  Then, in true Kyle fashion, he added, “It could use a fresh coat of paint.”  Ok, now we were dying at his observation for renovation.

Now came the real excitement, a train rolled at high speed past us.  While we were sitting there, a container train shot past us, only a few feet from our seats.  I’m sure it wasn’t moving at top speed, but it still stole our breath at the massive locomotive whizzed past.  There is a yellow line, signalling to go no further toward the track, but that simple yellow line doesn’t quite do it justice like a high speed moving death vehicle to signify danger.  Perhaps, it was due to our lack of experience riding trains, but I concurred with Nicole when she said, “Kyle’s right, they could use a fresh coat of pain to mark the yellow line.”

Did I mention this was all a surprise for Kyle?  Yep, he had no idea we were riding a train and he had no clue where we were heading.

Once we boarded the train and settled into our seats, Kyle begin reading the book I got him for his birthday, The Children of Húrin by J.R.R. Tolkien (companion book to The Lord of the Rings).  I was excited to see he was enjoying his newly purchased literature.

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Aunt Nikki getting out of our pink taxi in Johnstown … Kyle hates pink or so we’ve been told. 7/26/14

We arrived in Johnstown around 9:15 am.  There was a few main attractions on our schedule for the day, including the Flood Museum and the incline.  Before we tackled the day’s activities, we headed to a small diner for breakfast and to waste some time before the museum opened.

Johnstown is an old town, very quaint but not the hustle and bustle of activity, pretty low key.  While walking through the streets, we read the land markers attached to buildings and those highlighted in designated areas.  Most were focused on the flood, sharing information such as the height of the water and the number of people who perished.  This was one of those history lessons that was sad, but very interesting.  I am a true believer of learning the past as to avoid repeating it.  One wish I hope to pass along to Kyle.

Ok, I get it, going to a flood museum and walking around a dead town was not on Kyle’s top list of things to do for his thirteenth birthday.  Regardless, Kyle should be aware of the events that have taken place in his own backyard.  Did I mention it was a last minute plan?  We didn’t think we were going to have Kyle this past weekend, so it was a last minute plan, something different.

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Pan of Kyle getting ready to board the Amtrak train in Johnstown after a day outing for his birthday. 7/26/14

We walked around the museum and made time to watch the documentary video on the flood.  A truly great video production!  Very informative and really takes a person back to the time, to feel the impact and the devastation of the flood.  It was even Kyle approved, keeping his attention and peeking his interest on a part of history he was not aware of.

From the Flood Museum we took a taxi (pink) to the local movie theater to see Maleficent (the only movie playing at a good time to fit the day).  It was also a cafe and movie theater, so Kyle ate his lunch while watching the movie.

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Kyle getting ready to board the train in Johnstown after our day excursion… next stop Latrobe, Pa. 7/26/14

On a side note, while riding in the backseat of the taxi, Kyle leaned into me to whisper, “I hate pink”.  What a funny kid!

After the movie, we headed back into the town of Johnstown and made our way to the incline, the world’s steepest vehicular inclined plane.  At the top, there’s not much to do but hang out on the observation deck and stare down at Johnstown.  We were blessed with a lovely day.  Nicole helped us to get our perceptive by pointing out specific buildings of interest, such as the Flood Museum, the train station and the streets we traveled.  That was quite a view!

Eventually we made our way back down to ground level to stop for an early dinner/snack.  We tried to tour the War Memorial Arena, but alas the doors were locked.

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Me & Kyle on the Johnstown Incline! Steepest vehicular incline plane in the world! 7/26/14

Taking our time, we walked back to the train station to complete our round trip.  Since the train was delayed slightly, we sat on the benches and read, or in Nicole’s case, napped before boarding our train headed for Latrobe.

On another side note, while riding the train, I couldn’t help but sing The Gambler by Kenny Rogers.  When I was a kid, I loved that song and movie!  It just seemed appropriate.  Neither Nicole nor Kyle thought so.

When we were nearing Latrobe, I called mom to let her know we were in route.  I had her hang a Happy Birthday banner and light the candles on the ice-cream cake to surprise Kyle.  My cousin’s Paula, Pete and John were also on the deck waiting to sing.

Was Kyle excited?  You bet he was!  Maybe not totally thrilled and blown away, but he certainly enjoyed himself.  Although we did have to hear about going to the new comic book store in Latrobe, every thirty minutes or so throughout the day.  I guess to be thirteen!

How did I think of such a fun and educational day?  Simply, mom.  When I was in the third grade (I think) mom was heavily involved in the PTA and she helped plan our field trips for Sacred Heart School.  Saturday was pretty much a repeat that year in the eighties, minus the movie.  During our school field trip, we got to pack our lunches and eat in the park in the center of town, exciting for a group of young kids.

To this day, in my eyes that was the best field trip ever!  An experience I always wanted to repeat and share with Kyle.  Maybe next time when I have more of a notice, we’ll repeat it with one of Kyle’s friends.  I bet he’d enjoy that!

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

Life Flight with Harold the Helicopter

Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.  ~Thomas Keneally

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Kyle with his beloved pap … they were always cuddling on the couch & Kyle loved his bottle … of water!

After reminiscing about My Senior Art Exhibit at Seton Hill University- ARTsylym, I couldn’t refer to that experience without including another, for they will forever be intertwined.

Even to this day, thinking about the events that unraveled on the evening of April 16, 2005 makes my heart race and pound out of my chest with fear and anxiety.  It has been nearly a decade, yet I can still remember that most horrible feeling sitting in my gut, but by the grace of God turned out just fine.

What happened?  Kyle was life flighted to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Let me set the stage to put things into perspective.  It was indeed Saturday night, April 16, 2005.  How do I remember the date?  Besides it being a horrible and memorable experience, earlier that day I was at Seton Hill University in Harlen Gallery with the rest of my group, Mike, Josh and Albert, setting up our senior show.  We left, preparing to return early the next morning, on Sunday to work throughout the day to get our art exhibit ready for Monday’s opening.  Sometimes plans don’t go as planned!

As I was leaving, literally pulling out of the parking lot around 11:00 pm or so, I got a call from my mom informing me, mom and dad had Kyle over at the emergency room in Latrobe.  YIKES!  Just hearing those words, your mind races through all horrible scenarios.

Graciously, mom clarified Kyle was alright but he was really sick and was throwing up massive amounts of mucus.  I knew when I picked him up on Friday, he didn’t seem like himself, so I knew he wasn’t feeling very good.  Even when I was hanging with him on Saturday during the day, he wasn’t a typical three year old.  Mom said he wanted to sleep with her and dad that night and as soon as his head hit the pillow, mucus erupted from his throat.  So much so he couldn’t breath.

Upon hearing this explanation for the emergency room visit, I was already in route to meet them in the waiting room.  You know the dreaded waiting room.  The one that seems to steal not only hours from your life, but it appears to remove days from the calender.

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My poor little sick man. He was at Latrobe Hospital with phenomenon again. I didn’t care, I would jump in bed & cuddle with my little man. 11/18/03

While barreling through the automated doors, I spotted Dad holding Kyle, a weak looking three year old, who fell asleep on dad’s shoulder.  Up until this point, Kyle was in and out of hospitals and doctor’s offices with sever sinus issues, respiratory problems, ear infections that sort of thing. (Don’t tell me smoking around a baby doesn’t affect a child)  We were all too familiar with a sick kid.  Eventually, Kyle started to join the land of the healthy, once he had tubes put in his ears to help the drainage.  That and he also had his tonsils and adenoids removed, and later scrapped again, twice.

Once the nurse called Kyle’s name, indicating he was next in line, I happen to be holding my little man.  I followed the procession and walked him back to a weighing station.  The nurse instructed me to lye him down so she could weigh the package.  As soon as his head rested parallel with his body, he began projecting strands and strands of mucus!  It was a horrifying site!  The nurse, who was closer to Kyle, grabbed him and set him upright and started clearing out his throat so he could breath.  Once sitting perpendicular to the bed he was fine, but the minute he was lying down, he was drowning in mucus!

As soon as that happened, the other nurses came rushing over and called the doctors.  Almost immediately, they whisked him back into his own room and started an IV, sitting him upright of course.  Mom, dad and me scurried after the medical group, following Kyle.  We wanted to remain at his side so he wasn’t afraid, and to calm our own nerves.  There was always something about Kyle, and still is that calms us and puts us all at peace.  Perhaps it’s because he is a part of Ryan, my brother.  Having Kyle around means Ryan is still beside us.

The doctor checked Kyle, made some notes, left, came back, made more notes, left, came back, checked him, left and came back again.  Nurses and doctors were entering and exiting the room every few minutes, either poking him with something, or sticking him with a needle or pushing a tongue depressor down his mouth, or inspecting his ears and so on.  You name it, Kyle had everyone’s attention, which under normal circumstances he would have enjoyed.  Not so much this time, but Kyle was a pretty good sport, except for the IV.

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Me & Kyle reading a book at Idlewild Park for the Gutchess Company Picnic. c. 2002

Without much communication, the doctor finally pulled us out of the room to deal us in on the plans.  They had already called life flight from Children’s Hospital, they were taking Kyle as soon as the helicopter arrived.  WHAT?  I felt sick to my stomach!  Just hearing the words LIFE FLIGHT makes your mind race, especially when I didn’t fully understand the severity of the situation, nor the exact situation.

Please keep in mind I am no medical professional, so my details may be slightly off, but I clearly remember what he told us.  It appeared that Kyle had strep throat.  The doctor said he had to have had it for at least a week now, fever and all.  The infection caused his tonsils to touch, cutting off his airways.  He also had an ear infection (or both), which was compounding the situation.  So needless to say he was pretty sick!

The conversation was rushed, there was no time to stop and think.  They were in emergency mode and my head was in a whirlwind.

As I’m trying to comprehend what everything means, I got the weirdest question asked by the doctor, “How much do you weight?”.  What?   Really?  Apparently, they didn’t know how Kyle was going to be on the flight to Children’s Hospital, so they were considering having me hold him for the ride to Pittsburgh.  Without hesitation I agreed!

Almost immediately we were alerted that life flight landed and soon they would be taking Kyle.  I’m telling you what, everyone from the nurses, to doctors and the entire staff were all wonderful and very patient with us.  During our short stay there, they kept us informed and moved quickly for the sake of this little helpless boy.

It was at this time, I was informed that I couldn’t go with Kyle because they brought an extra doctor in case they needed to do an emergency tracheotomy.  What is going on?  Now hearing that, I about died!  This night went from bad to worse!

Mom, dad and me were allowed to go up to the roof to see Kyle off and to make sure he wasn’t going to panic or freak out.  As soon as he was wheeled out onto the roof and saw the helicopter waiting for him, he said, “Loot, Aiya it’s Harold!”  His eyes got big and a smile even made its appearance.  Going with it, we cheered Kyle on and built up the excitement, that he was going for a ride on Harold the Helicopter.

You see, for years, Kyle was a HUGE fan of Thomas the Tank Engines.  He had all the toys and miles upon miles of tracks, accessories and naturally he owned just about every cartoon video.  He LOVED Thomas the Tank!  The helicopter from the cartoon was named Harold, hence his association.  Almost too perfect!  God was helping us all through this ordeal.

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Joel Olczak (cousin) & a feisty Kyle at the Planinsek Pavilion. In the back to the left is Benny Scanlon (cousin) & to the right Jim Olczak (cousin). Kyle has always been a regular at family functions! c. 2002

We stood in the doorway, for we were not permitted out on the launch pad, waved and smiled, putting Kyle at ease, even though we were completely on edge.  Once the helicopter door shut and Kyle was out of sight, we all darted downstairs to get the car.  I drove us into Pittsburgh going probably way to fast for even a race car driver.  I thought my parents might yell at me, but instead all dad said was, “There’s no cops out, let’s get there.”  Meaning, speed to get us to Children’s Hospital.

We were told it takes about twelve minutes for life flight to get to Pittsburgh, I made the hour and half trip in twenty five minutes.  Yes, one might have guessed I was speeding and to be honest, I didn’t care in the slightest, for the only important thing in my life at that moment, was getting to Kyle.

I dropped mom and dad off at the main door to find Kyle’s room and sit with him while I parked the car.  This all happened so fast, I truly don’t even remember entering the building, nor do I remember parking the car.  I do remember running through the hospital frantic trying to find my family.  Low and behold, who did I manage to find?  Yep, one of the doctors who was on the flight that I just talked to not even twenty minutes earlier.  She gave me a shocked look and simply said, “I know you didn’t obey the speed limit to get here so fast.”  I  just smiled and gave a look, ‘Where is Kyle?”  After her judgement comment, she was very gracious and led me in the right direction.

Upon entering the room, I found Kyle in ICU with a T-shirt hanging over the bottom of his crib/bed and stickers near him.  Apparently, they found Kyle’s weakness for stickers and hooked the kid up.  Did I mention they were glow-in-the-dark helicopter stickers?  Boy was he excited!  I was excited for him.

Kyle was looking a little perkier, I’m sure it helped that he napped on the flight and the IV gave him an added boost.  I remember the smile Kyle flashed me when I walked in to join everyone.  He couldn’t wait to show me his stickers!  It was a bittersweet moment of joy and excitement for him, yet uncertainty for being in the ICU.  He went on to tell me about his ride in Harold, even though the doctors said he slept the entire ride down.  Believe it or not, this kid was on cloud nine!  I owe part of that to the doctors who transported him and played up the Harold card.  They helped turn this nightmare into a dream come true for our little three year old.

Herold the Helicopter Aunt Heather PiperOn a side note, after this ordeal, Kyle played with Harold the Helicopter in a whole new way.  Even when I watched him play or when I joined in, Harold the Helicopter took on a whole new meaning and transported people around, even the other tank engines.

All night long, dad sat by Kyle’s side, never leaving.  I sat most of the night by Kyle, for we were only allowed two people at a pop.  Finally by morning, Kyle was moved to a room and surprisingly, by later that day, the doctors informed us that he was getting discharged.  I stayed until the paperwork was official before heading back to Greensburg to join my group in setting up the ARTsylum show at Harlan Gallery, Seton Hill University.

Even though is was a frightful experience, it was also a blessing in disguise.  Not long after that incidence, Kyle had surgery on his ears; tubes put in, eventually a permanent tube; his tonsils removed; his adenoid removed and then later scrapped and scrapped again.  He was closely watched for additional ear infections and bouts with the croup and pneumonia, all he suffered with severely up until that point.

Do you know, Kyle remembers that helicopter ride to this day?  Or at least he remembers the idea of it, fortunately not in a bad way.  He recalls getting to ride in a helicopter and he’s acutely aware that not many people have that opportunity.  Of course his was a good reason, which I don’t ever bother to bring up, I let him have his helicopter ride.  In fact, when I purchased flight lessons for Kyle for his ninth birthday, Flying Back to Kyle’s Ninth Birthday he commented that he rode in a helicopter but never an airplane.

Without reservation I am truly grateful for the doctors and the complete medical staff at Latrobe Area Hospital and Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh.  Equally, everyone was wonderful, kind and sincere with Kyle and our family.  Mostly they helped to get him on the road to wellness while keeping him at ease.  They also started the process for his future medial procedures and monitoring, eventually getting him to healthy!

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

A Sincere Thank You!

Never ruin an apology with an excuse.  ~Kimberly Johnson

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Marla (cousin) & our little dirtball Kyle at the Planinsek Pavilion 2002

Like many Americans, I do publicly show support for our military, (Happy Veterans Day, Silent Admiration, Remembering All Veterans) those who served and those still serving, past and present.   I don’t mean to downplay any and all efforts performed by our men and women in the armed forces, or those who serve a little closer to home such firemen and police officers.  But I want to give a special shout out to all the hard working Americans who make a difference, every day, without any recognition.

It’s no secret, I’ve always had an affinity for nurses, regarding them with the utmost respect.  I truly mean that.  Why?  I have no idea, perhaps it’s because of their loving nature or their desire to help others, or their moral support and experience during an emergency.  They are everything I am not and I appreciate that, one hundred percent.  I’ve met quite a few nurses in my short life, and each and every one of them have impressed me.

Over the years it was nurses who have brought us good news, like the birth of a healthy baby boy, to later be named Kyle.  It was also nurses who helped us with the tragedy of Kyle’s dad passing, my brother, not so great news.  It was nurses, some related and some friends who have managed to keep those near and dear to me trucking along.  Paula (Olczak) Klotz (cousin), Helen (Piper) Scanlon (cousin), Maureen Butina (friend), Mike Reese and Holly Reese (friends) and Sabre McClellend (friend) all have played major rolls in my life with respect to their discipline, in one way or another.

On a side note, if I left anyone out, I do apologize.

To me a hospital or any sort of medical facility works like the human body. It’s going non-stop, all the time, without fail, without thought, and sometimes without sleep.  The body continues from our very beginning, till the very end.  In that engineering structure, there are jobs to be done, all important and all unique.  If I had to sum it up, nurses are the heart of the body, physically and metaphorically.  Nurses are at the center of it all, and we can’t live without them.  They are constantly pumping life throughout all parts of this massive form and in turn, taking in the depleted to turn it around to push out more life.  Like I said, nurses are all heart.

I know I can’t categorize everyone under the same umbrella, rather I shouldn’t, and not all who share in the title of nurse, fits my perception and experience.  Like any discipline, there are those who have a passion for it and those who go through the motions.  Although, I can’t snub my nose at the later, for they too are hard working and pull their own weight, paving their own way without a free ride.

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Aunt Helen Scanlon (cousin) & her mother Aunt Mary Piper. Helen was a great nurse who took care of my pappy for years.

Now, I want to take my thanks a step further.  Those who assist the nurses.  Yes, the nurses aids.  The worker bees who * “do the thankless dirty work”.  Again, without downplaying any other medical professional role.  Everyone is important and needed to keep the machine running.

If I was to classify nurses as the heart of the body, I guess that makes the nurses aids the pulmonary artery and the aorta and the veins and such.  Those functions for helping the heart do its job.

On another side note, I know just because I took anatomy and physiology in college, I am no expert on the human body, let alone a major origin like the heart, or any other organ for that matter.  Although, I am proud to say I dissected a brain, eyeball and a frog so I’m no stranger to the medical world.  Just no expert or even an experienced worker.

My cousin Marla (Olczak) Sutton is a nurses aid, as well as a lot of other people I know.  Seeing it first hand, they work hard and I know what their job entails and doesn’t entail, which they have to endure.

So where am I going with all this?  Basically I want to say thank you!  Thank you for all your hard work, thank you for all your patience and thank you for caring.  I am not a sensitive person and perhaps my heart is two sizes too small, but I don’t have that passion for the sick like these individuals do.  They are what makes a difference in the lives they touch or indirectly touch.

I am shameful that most of the time, these medical professionals are background noise for me.  Not that I would ever disrespect anyone or treat them any less, EVER.  I simply just don’t pay attention.

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Holly Reese & me at Crossfit 2014

Then, there are times when someone is so disrespectful, when the misbehaved person should be the complete opposite and should appreciate those who are trying to make their lives better.  I’m speaking in reference to Alice Piper.  Truth be told, she is my paternal grandmother, even though I don’t like owning up to it.  Why?

Recently, one of the nursing assistants, yes one of our beloved worker bees, went through an ordeal that no one should ever face.  Poor Debbie Brant, a single mom working two jobs, trying to put one kid through college, was assaulted by none other than Alice.  Even worse, it was with a dirty gross washcloth to the face.  I’m sure there are many stories more horrific than this, but my grandma wasn’t behind those (at least I hope not).  I take the embarrassment of my grandmother’s behavior, one she has graciously and unwillingly bestowed on our family, very personally and regrettably.

One day I’ll write the tale of Alice the Awful, but now is NOT about her.  Take my word for it, I am not exaggerating about this nasty old lady in the slightest.  There is no excuse for her attitude, her filthy mouth, her immature behavior, her threats or her physical abuse.  None!  No mental illness, nothing!  She is a miserable example for a human being, let alone a great-grandmother to Kyle and Cheyenne!  Sincerely, it’s a known fact that Alice is just plain mean and horrible and disrespectful.  Take it from my experience, she has been that way her ENTIRE life.  Even my dad can vouch for the truth I speak of.  Again, one day I will outline Alice the Awful.

Debbie, I know no amount of apologizes would fix the situation nor change it, but on behalf of my family, “I’m sorry” and “Thank you” for your efforts and hard work.  If in the future you need anything from me or my family, anything to help make your life a little easier, let us know!  You’ve put up with enough crap!  Please note, just because we don’t say it, we are appreciative of you and everyone else who deals with Alice (other patients included).  So to everyone else who has to endure Alice the Awful, I too am sorry.  I surely hope you will be rewarded in heaven for this!

*Quote from Aunt Hot Dogs

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

Dog’s Perspective vs. Reality

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All your life, you will be faced with a choice. You can choose love or hate…I choose love.  ~Johnny Cash

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Me & Joel with my dog Jill. We were on the swings in our front yard. 1980s

There’s always moments in life that just plain work your nerves.  Sometimes it’s Kyle, my family, work, a trip to the grocery store etc.  This time?  The dogs!

I mostly consider myself a cat person, even though I’ve always had dogs my whole life.  I appreciate those friendly barking beings and I most certainly love our dogs, Scooby and Seven, but they can sometimes be a pain in my bottom.  Both are Labradors, Scooby blond and Seven noir.  In truth, they are a couple of good dogs and I wouldn’t trade them for the world, but it would be nice to have a babysitter on speed dial, especially when their corks are heightened.

There are so many good things I can say about them and really mean it, like they are friendly (at least Scooby is with us), somewhat well-behaved (at least Seven is with me) and they are full of love (only Scooby with us, Seven loves playing with the neighbor dogs and kids).  But then they have their hiccups too, so let me vent for a moment or two or three.

I’m sure my perspective is off slightly, since I’ve also been watching Nicole’s dog, Avery.  I’ve had her for two weeks now and I still have another week to go.  At least, that’s what I’m hoping for.  I just found out Nicole may need to go out of town for work again, then after that out of the country for a month.  Guess where that leaves me?  Yep with a third dog.  When did I become the dog whisperer?  I’m going to have to add dog wrangler to my resume.

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My pap with his dog Pudge. 1970s

Avery’s a Rottweiler, pit bull, Doberman mix. (Something like that).  She’s a little over a year old, so she’s still a puppy.  A very vocal annoying puppy.  Nicole took her to be professionally trained by those who actually train dogs for the CIA and such.  Acorn (as I like to call her) knows how to listen and be good, but like all puppies (or kids) they know how to push major buttons.  Avery’s major malfunction?  She is constantly barking and whining, for no apparent reason and she chases my cat.  Major no!

I’m sure having Avery here with Seven and Scooby has caused everyone to be off his or her game.  Regardless, I’m going to speak freely about those actions that irritate me the most, mostly about Scooby and Seven.

There is the obvious, every time I go to lace up my shoes I get bombarded.  Both dogs instantly jump up, start panting and breathing heavy in my face, with their noses not even two inches from mine.  I can’t even get through their bodies to put my shoes on.  They believe every time, and I mean EVERY time I put on a pair of shoes, it’s so I can take them for a walk or a hike in the woods.  No!  I am not your personal walker!

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Seven & Storm (a.k.a. Lady Fluffington) Storm loves Seven! Seven could care less. Picking grapes…. 2013

They used to only do this when I would put on a specific pair of tennis shoes, the ones I walk them in, but somewhere they decided any shoe will do.  Then, they  jump around barking and crying in excitement, LOUDLY.  I can almost handle that, ALMOST.  Until they start knocking things over and jumping on my feet.  Let’s face it, a couple of nearly ninety pound Labs jumping in a small space leads to disaster, whether they are happy or not.  Unfortunately now-a-days, they get in my face even if I’m putting on a pair of stiletto heels.  Come on guys, I’ll let you know when it’s walk time!  Sad part?  They taught Avery to do the same!

Then, when I try to build the trust and give them some freedom to roam around outside in the yard, they all of a sudden disappear.  Even if I’m watching and simply take my eyes off of the hounds for a moment.  A SPIT SECOND!  They take off for the woods for a four or five hour plus, walkabout.  Forget it if they are spotted making their great escape.  Once they’re at a certain distance away, I swear they give me the middle finger and continue on their journey, only to find them on the porch hours later, totally muddy, panting and exhausted.

I will admit, I am relieved when they return, I’ve been through Dog Gone and Dog Gone Irony!  It’s also a great outcome upon closer inspection and they return with no signs of porcupine quills stuck in their noses or obvious injuries.  But seriously, what is wrong with them?  It’s not like they don’t get walks.  Does it have to be when they decide they want exercise?  Frustrating!

Moving on to the next pet peeve.  I like how every time I don’t have the door to the bathroom shut completely, they feel it’s their right to barge in, leaving the door hanging wide open!  Naturally, you are not able to get up and shut it at that particular moment.  So you sit there, with the door flapping in the breeze and a dog starring you squarely in the eyes and breathing in your face.  Love that!

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Scooby (blond), Seven (black) & Avery (annoying) out for a walk. The boys are old hands at it, so no need for a lease when running through the woods. 2013

While we’re on the topic of bathrooms, let’s continue.  Our dogs believe the rug in the bathroom is another bed for them to hang out on, again while you are doing your business.  Now since that is their self proclaimed, temporary bedding area, it’s always covered in dog hair, ALL THE TIME.  Then, every time I get out of the shower and my wet feet hit the area of cushion, I look down to find hairy hobbit feet where mine used to be.  Gross!  It’s not like I leave the rugs go for a month to be washed.  In fact, before I wash the hair catchers, I have to take them outside to give them a good shake first.  YIKES!

That’s the one time I can get a break from the dogs, when I’m in the shower.  They are terrified of water.  Funny, right?  Labradors who are afraid of water.  Yep, they hate baths!  They don’t even really enjoy doing their business in the rain.   Scooby will hold it until he’s ready to burst like a rain cloud, which is ironic, because my cat loves to hang out while I’m showering.  She’ll sit on the toilet (with the lid down) and stare in my direction.  She’s also the one who will go outside and walk around in the rain.  Comical!

Usually our Labradors are pretty good when it comes to their own bathroom time.  Usually, they try and go in the weeds or closer to the woods, keeping their piles of business out of direct line of my foot when I’m walking in the yard.  However, when we have to babysit my sister’s dog, who thinks it’s her right to crap next to the deck or by the front steps, things start to change.  The other day, I was getting the boat ready to go fishing Catfish Hunter and low and behold what did I step in?  Avery crap!  Which is not petite in the slightest.  I was beyond livid.  That’s the one thing that totally grosses me out and I can’t stand.

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Seven riding along in a car, he always gets the back seat, when Scooby gets the front. 2013

It’s very true I can do what every other American does and go out and clean up the crap to avoid such matters.  But then again, that’s the perk about living in the country.  We have the woods for them to do their business without clean up time and I don’t have to leash the dogs to take them for walks.  They are able to run free in the woods, which makes everyone very happy.

Going back to my previous thought, why is it when dogs actually have a good habit, it’s automatically turned to the dark side when the bad example is set by another dog?  Couldn’t the dog with the bad habit learn good?  Nope!  I guess the force is strong with Avery because when she visits, our dogs find it a need to crap closer to the house, apparently to show who has the bigger pile.

On a side note, I noticed my cat has been meowing to go outside, and now sometimes she uses the restroom near the dogs’ areas.  Nice!  I’m liking that Storm! a.k.a. Lady Fluffington.

Next item up for discussion, the kitchen.  I don’t particularly like cooking with dogs in the kitchen, not only because they always get in my way and are constantly begging, but because … well that’s usually it.  And the fact that their hair just flies through the air with the greatest of ease.  I can’t control where it lands.  Another gross!

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Scooby always takes shotgun, sometimes when someone else is in the car. 2013

How is it, when you say ‘Move!  Get out of my way?’ they instantly align perfectly centered with your body and stay a half a paw in front of you, so you’re walking on their heels?  This talent is particularly evident when I have a hot pan in my hand walking away from the oven.  Same goes for a pot that is too full and I’m rushing to the counter to only have a dog or two, instantly appear out of nowhere to trip me up.  Dangerous for all parties involved!  Stop that!

On the opposite note, my dogs insist on walking on my heels, literally.  When I’m wearing flip flops, that’s when I notice it the most.  Of course, there have been several occasions when I nearly shot myself forward due to a paw tramping down at the back of my shoe.

Personally, I never said it was acceptable to walk past me while I’m wearing shorts and lick my leg either!  Or when I’m lying on the couch and the tongue drags (usually Avery) across the bottom of my foot. Double gross!  This ambush is effective when I’m carrying groceries and I don’t have a hand to push them away, or worse wipe the spit from my leg, allowing it to just dry there as a reminder I need to jump in the shower and scrub.

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Me & Kyle washing Avery.. no this was not pre-approved by Aunt Nikki! 6/28/14

Again, I do like dogs, but I’ve never been a fan of dog kisses, licks or slobber, whatever you want to call it.  My old dog Jill, who was part Colly and part Coonhound, was the best!  Instead of lapping up my face with her tongue, she would do the gesture without ever making contact.  It was the thought that counted and I appreciated her for that.

However, when the dogs are fast asleep, they are pretty peaceful and worth it.  Especially when I’m having a bad day.  Even worth the effort to coddle Scooby when it’s storming out.  He is frightened of thunder and lighting (which is funny because that’s Scooby and Seven’s nicknames respectively) and he’s too fat to fit under the bed.  It is worth it when Seven cuddle’s up to me at night and it’s definitely worth it when I bring my sidekicks along for hikes.  Yep, I guess the dogs are alright, even Avery.  Well, Avery in small does.  They are apart of the family.

 

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Pets,Reminiscing and have No Comments

My Senior Art Exhibit at Seton Hill University – ARTsylum

To me the purpose of art is to produce something alive…but with a separate, and of course one hopes, with an everlasting life of its own.  ~Henry Green

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My ARTsylum poster from our Senior Show at Seton Hill University in Harlan Gallery – Design by Josh Simon & Mike Sloskey 4/2005

With all the graduation parties and celebrations going on, it brings back a memory of my own.  How many graduations have I had?  Well, there was my sixth grade graduation, which wasn’t a graduation as per say but Sacred Heart did have a ceremony for us acknowledging our next milestone.  Then, there was my high school graduation from Greater Latrobe High School.  Yep, I wore my cap and gown as I walked across the stage to collect my high school diploma.

On a side note, I was really sick and didn’t even want to go.  I actually had walking phenomena and had a hard time breathing.  I was just plain miserable, although collecting that diploma was a very good feeling!

Then, there was the first time I graduated from Seton Hill University, at the time it was still the college.  That’s when I received my Bachelors of Arts in Marketing Management.  Only a few short years later, I received another degree, this time a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Graphic Design, again from Seton Hill University.

I guess this story is about the later, my second degree.  Going through the business program and then the art program, I quickly realized how completely different they were.  Besides the obvious of the different personalities of the students and the teachers, but the atmosphere, the assignments, the approach to assignments, the stress, all totally different.  I didn’t enjoy one degree over the other, for they were of equal importance to me.  Now looking back on it, exactly equal importance, I use them both in tandem on a daily basis.

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The ARTsylum crew .. Mike Sloskey, Albert Nimley, Heather Piper, Josh Simon, our senior show, closing reception in Harlan Gallery at Seton Hill University 4/24/05

Kyle may not have remembered, but he was there at my senior show.  Granted, he was a little munchkin, but as with all important moments in my life, Kyle was there.

Graduating from the art program, we were required to have a senior show.  It was a big deal!  Not only to the students who were displaying there very best work, but to those students and facility who perused the gallery shows upon the conclusion of every year.  Not to mention friends and family of said students.   Yes, it truly was very exciting, especially since that was my first and last art exhibit, ever.

Please note, all my references to the senior art show was from way back in my day.  I’m sure the requirements have changed since my days at Seton Hill.

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One of my favorite black & white photography pieces I’ve ever done … Kyle’s knee (literally there was no injury, just a band-aid -2003) It was hung in Harlan Gallery at Seton Hill during my senior show – ARTsylum 4/2005

We were allowed to request a solo show, whereas the student had the entire gallery as well as the back room to display their work.  This was usually reserved for those who majored in painting or drawing and over the years compiled enough artwork for an entire gallery.  Some students had the option for a partial solo show, whereas they were given the back section of the gallery to themselves.  I believe with both requests, they had to be submitted in advance to be reviewed by the facility, either approved or disapproved.

The most popular senior show consisted of three or four seniors, usually of like disciplines, combining forces to create one big gallery show.  That’s the option I chose.  I was very blessed with my group, for I had three great guys join forces with me: Mike Sloskey, a graphic design major; Josh Simon another graphic design major; and Albert Nimley a studio arts major (or something along those lines).  All wonderful and very talented gentlemen!

How did I get so lucky?  We were standing in the gallery during class with our professor Carol Brode, she simply asked for us to pick our senior show group.  I was standing in close proximity to Mike and Josh, who I had many a classes with, being graphic designers.  Somehow Albert, who I believe was friends with the guys, joined forces with us.  The rest was sheer awesomeness.

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I’m saving the cake that Mike’s parents got us for our closing reception of ARTsylum, our senior show at Seton Hill University. Kyle was ready to dive right in! 4/24/05

When you decide to partake in a show with someone, you not only need great art pieces for the presentation, but you really need good communication skills; the ability to compromise and work with different personalities; a shared vision of the show; and a respect for one another.  It’s not just hanging pictures on the wall, there’s so much more to it.

First, as an individual, you have to pick out your best artwork from the course of four years.  Usually, these pieces were completed within recent times.  The artwork could be one or a mixture of paintings, drawings, ceramics, video, photography, 3-D pieces and websites, etc.  Some students would create pieces or perform a  theatrical display specific for their show.  The professors at Seton Hill were wonderful about assisting in this process, giving suggestions and guidance the entire way.

Even before combining forces with your fellow show exhibitioners, the group collectively needed to agree upon a theme or a title for the show.  Ours?  ARTsylum.  Yes, our theme was CRAZY.   We felt we had such an eclectic assortment of pieces and talents it was like a mad house, or because we loved art so much.  I can’t remember the reasoning, but together we loved the idea, which I think was Josh’s.  Going above and beyond to carry the theme down to the tiny details, we even called around different hospitals looking for a real straight jacket!  Our plan was to be photographed wearing the jacket for our marketing materials, posters and such.

Did I really call the hospitals and ask to borrow a straight jacket?  You bet I did!  Alas, I was told that I was insensitive to those suffering with mental illness.  Needless to say, we were denied!  Clearly they didn’t see our vision, for we were not making fun of others, but celebrating our own group and our passion for art.

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ARTsylum Cake for closing reception .. courtesy of Mike Sloskey’s parents! 4/24/05

Which brings me to my next item, the pre-show set up.  You just can’t walk into the gallery and decide to start setting up.  Nope!  We had to pick our dates (shows lasted for a week) and our reception, either opening or closing.  We chose a closing reception.

There are many, many requirements involved in a show.  We had to construct a press release (which I can’t find) and actually have it sent to the local papers alerting the interested public.  I wrote ours with the help of the guys, and yes it was published, however I don’t believe I ever kept the newspaper clipping.  We also had to create posters and flyers advertising the event.  All four of us plastered Seton Hill with our ARTsylum faces!  I believe it was a mixture of Josh and Mike who designed the posters and flyers.  I know Josh was the one who photoshoped us in our straight jackets.  Yes we found a solution to our vision!  Photoshop!

Keeping with the theme, we each made our own postcards, naturally with us in our straightjackets.  These were to be sent to anyone we wanted to personally invite.  It was exciting talking to friends and family upon receiving the invites.  It started to make it real.

Now the even harder part, hauling all the art into the gallery and organizing it into some sort of show, with everyone represented equally.  There are many, many ways to do this, we chose to categorize by medium i.e. paintings, clay, photography, graphics etc.  With each category, at least three of us were represented, except ceramics.  I was the only one who had clay pieces and books.  They were placed on pedestals in the middle of the gallery.  On the same token, I was the only one who wasn’t represented in the paintings section.  I had nothing that I cared to display, clay was more my passion.

We started on a Saturday night to get a jump start, deciding to work all day Sunday for our opening on Monday.  Quickly we agreed how things were going to be set up and we started to organize the sections, allowing enough room to house all the pieces.  Believe it or not, that was really tricky, deciding what was to be seen first as someone walks in, and making the space in some sort of logical fashion, within each section.  We did get creative by hanging things from the ceiling since we had so many pieces.  It also helped to pull the eye around the room and fill in the space.

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The ARTsylum invites … You’d by Crazy to miss it! Josh Simon, Mike Sloskey, Heather Piper, Albert Nimely. Harlan Gallery, Seton Hill University. 4/2005

Seton Hill was very open and encouraging toward the artists with respect to what was permitted in the gallery.  If we wanted to paint the walls fuchsia for our theme, we could have.  The only requirement was the gallery had to be returned to its original state for the next group upon tearing down.

During the process, I decided to make a video documentary with the four of us.  My logic?  It certainly wasn’t to give myself more work with my already full schedule, but simply to create a single piece representing each individual that was collectively ours.  Anyway, that was the idea behind the documentary.  Throughout our senior show, I tried to capture all aspects including the final show.  To give it some personality, I had each of us read our artist statements, which was another class requirement.  The guys were encouraged to help me by picking up the video camera and shooting at anything and joining in on the screen.  Albert made the music track for the background.  Sister Mary Kay was wonderful at helping me export the video.

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Opening day of the ARTsylum exhibit at Harlan Gallery, Seton Hill University. In front, Mike Sloskey, Josh Simon, me, & Albert Nimely 4/18/05

After putting in a long night on Saturday, it was agreed upon by all parties to call it a wrap and come back fresh in the morning to finish setting up.

To deviate slightly, that night I received a call as I was leaving, that Kyle was in the Latrobe emergency room.  He was really sick and even later into the night, he was life flighted to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh.  I’ll tell that tale later, for it was purely exhausting, mostly mentally.

I did finally get back to the gallery sometime late Sunday night, after Kyle was taken out of ICU.  My group was wonderful, they took it upon themselves to continue setting up as they saw fit.  They did a great job!  Unfortunately, at the time my cell phone was dead so I had no communication with them and they had no idea what happened to me, for it was totally out of my character to be late, and really late at that, and not to communicate my absence.  Yes, all night long I was sitting with a little boy of three years old in the ICU.  Not getting a wink of sleep, I went straight to the gallery after returning from Pittsburgh to join ARTsylum crew.  Naturally, I owed them all a big explanation and an apology.  They were very understanding!

During the final hours, it was a race to the finish, even getting into the gallery early Monday morning for the final touches.  Everyone was responsible for printing labels for each piece of artwork, having the pieces matted and or framed or mounted, that sort of thing.  Believe it or not, that’s an undertaking in itself, naming the art piece, outlining the medium and any other information desired for the public to read, plus having the piece prepped and ready for display.

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me, Josh Simon & Mike Sloskey – opening of ARTsylum at Harlan Gallery, Seton Hill University. 4/18/05

Now some details about the show.  We used mismatched large and small nails to hang the photography pieces, which were placed at odd angles and bent haphazardly, keeping with the asylum theme.  I purchased large white sheets and hung them in the windows looking into the gallery, giving it a feeling of confinement.  We also ripped up a sheet and tied the strips into one long strand with huge knots.  It was to represent the stereotypical someone trying to escape a hospital.  It started at our easel, which displayed the ARTsylum poster promoting the show, and ran all the way outside down the sidewalk, to greet anyone entering the gallery and lead them in.  I took the same fabric and created a cover to our sign-in book.  That same torn fabric was also used to hang items from the ceiling and to set the stage with the mannequins.  I was very impressed with the details we added to the show!

We did it!  The doors opened to a line of friends, family and facility excited to see what we put together and what each artist created over the years at Seton Hill, and naturally how it was displayed.  I enjoyed every stressful and fun moment, especially with my group!  They truly made it something special and not a burden.  It was well worth it, but I’m not sure I’d ever want to go through that again.

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Josh Simon & Mike Sloskey relaxing after setting up the ARTsylum senior show in Harlan Gallery, Seton Hill University 4/18/05

We did have a closing reception as I mentioned before.  Mike’s parents bought us a cake complete with images of us in our straight jackets, keeping the theme going!  Seton Hill supplied some of the appetizers.  My entire family came that Sunday to see what I’ve been working on.  My sister even flew in for the occasion.  Even my little man, who was fresh out of the hospital and on the road to recovery, made his brief appearance.  I couldn’t have had my gallery show without him there.  After all, he was my muse for all my black and white photography!

Unfortunately, I don’t do art anymore and I’m kind of out of the art loop.  Yes, I do graphics, but that’s more commercial.  Maybe one day I’ll get back into throwing clay.  Until then, I have taken up another creative outlet, writing!  Not only do I keep up with my blog, but I’ve also written a book and started the second.  Perhaps I will get it published one day.

Please view my documentary piece, included are some bloopers as well as the beginning of the art show and the final exhibit.  I wish I had the raw files to re-edit it, for I could do a much better job, but it served its purpose of documenting us.  What a great time!  Enjoy!

You may need to copy and past the link since Youtube is not pulling the correct video. Frustrating!

 

 

 

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

Hard Work in Strawberry Fields

If you work really hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.  ~Conan O’Brien

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Kyle’s not smiling because of all the delicious fresh sweet strawberries we get to eat. Nope! He’s happy he’s done picking! Pollock’s Strawberry Farm Bush Valley 6/28/14

Saturday morning, we got up early to head out to Pollock’s family farm in Brush Valley to pick, none other than fresh strawberries!  It was about a half an hour to forty-five minute journey to our sun ripened destination.

Why?  Well, besides having seriously fresh strawberries, it was a unique activity for Kyle to partake in.  Not many kids ever get to see strawberry fields, let alone sit among the rows of sweet goodness to pick them ripe off of the vine.  It was a good experience.

At first it was fun and exciting.  We got up there early to avoid sitting in the hot sun, which none of us are fans.  Then, the merriment really began when we got our baskets and were led to a strawberry row, followed by instructions.  What kind of instructions?  We were to start at the top of the row, work our way down and pick half of the row on either side.  When finished, no matter if the entire line was harvested or not, we were to move our flag to the completion of our efforts.  Pretty easy.  Kyle looked on with anticipation, at least at first.

Kyle was sandwiched between mom and me.  Naturally, he was in the row beside me, while Mike was on my other side, surrounding me by those I knew.  Even better!

I’m guessing about five small strawberry plants down, Kyle informs me that I needed to pick his entire row because he was focusing on one.  The one him and his Gigi shared.  Ok buddy, whatever works for you.  This I was expecting to be honest.  No worries, I still picked half of my row by Mike and the entire row closest to Kyle.  Sitting on my knees, I scooted down with every pass getting into a rhythm.

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Mom & Kyle picking fresh strawberries at Pollock’s Strawberry Farm. Mom gave up early…I made Kyle help me. 6/28/14

Before long, my basket was full and I had Kyle run to get me another so I could finish my section.  By then, mom had long since ditched us.  Her knees were bothering her and I’m sure the direct sun overhead didn’t help my sun sensitive mother either.

By the time I was on my second basket, Kyle was simply going through the motions, not really working.  In fact, I watched him as he picked a berry or two, waited for me to push my basket down the row, then followed suit.  He was keeping up with me, just not the way I expected him to.  I can’t really tell you how many times I heard, “Aunt Heather, it’s really hot out here.” or “Aunt Heather, I’m sweating.  I don’t like to sweat.”  Anyone who knows me, knows I too am not a fan of direct sunlight, nor heat and humidity, which all accompanied us on our trip.  I shared my logic with Kyle and that was ‘The faster we work, the quicker we’ll be done and leave.’  Kyle still didn’t hold that goal near and dear to his heart, he was just plain done.

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The beginning of fresh strawberry snacks… Pollock’s Strawberry Farm, Bush Valley, Pa. 6/28/14

Soon I told Kyle, once he filled up his basket, he was done.  I even started to throw some of the red berries I picked into his basket to help him out.  What did Kyle do?  Well, he certainly didn’t step it up.  O NO!  He started to look into my basket and criticize the berries I picked, mentioning if they weren’t fully ripe or too small etc.  Yep, it took everything I had not to loose it on this pre-teen who should be able to match my energy and work efforts second for second.  At the very least strawberry pound for strawberry pound.

Once we were done, we weighed our strawberries, paid and left.  As we were standing at the car talking, down in the lower field was a coyote running at full speed.  Then, it got me thinking, I wondered how the farmers were able to keep rabbits, deer and such out of the strawberry fields?  I didn’t see any fence or natural obstruction.  I never did ask, but now I’m even more curious than ever.

Riddle's-Bait-Shop-Brush-Valley-6-28-14-Aunt-Heather-Piper

We took a detour after picking strawberries to stop at Riddle’s Bait Shop. Stocking up for fishing on Sunday on the Loyalhanna Lake. 6/28/14

We did manage to take a detour to the local bait shop before going home, to pick up some bait for a Sunday fishing expedition on Loyalhanna Lake.  It’s never a full weekend without the fishing poles making their appearance.

On a side note, while fishing on Sunday, dad snapped his fishing pole.  He purchased it with his own hard earned money at nine years old.  It was heartbreaking to see this fifty-five year old pole in pieces.  It held a lot of memories and experience.

After we came home and settled in to our cozy air-conditioned environment, mom brought up a good point.  She mentioned to Kyle how some people earn their living by doing the very same thing we did for forty-five minutes, all day long at least five to six times a week, for months at a time.  They don’t pick for the luxury of fresh strawberries, but for minimum wage, to simply provide for their families.  That’s hard work.  Those are the people who appreciate their efforts the most.

Pollock's-Strawberry-Farm-6-28-14-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Pollock’s Strawberry Farm in Brush Valley, Pa. Picking our own fresh sweet goodness! 6/28/14

I don’t believe anyone really knows what others go through unless the path is walked for them.  I knew Kyle didn’t quite get the point, but then again there was a small part of me that knew he did.  It’s not only good to have an appreciation for where your food source comes from, but also how it’s awarded.  Buying groceries in the store certainly looses the origin and the hard effort it takes to deliver food to the table.  Yes, it’s nice, but every once in a while, getting back to our roots is the way to maintain a sense of reality and appreciation for God’s land and people.  At least that’s what I hope Kyle gained from this experience.

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

Catfish Hunter

Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.  ~Henry David Thoreau
Kyle LOVES to fish!  I mean that, he truly looks forward to the beginning of fishing season every year.  It starts with The Fishing Derby Story, 25th Annual Louis Planinsek Fishing Derby and then goes throughout the summer.  In all sincerity he would choose fishing over hunting any day.
Dad-fishing-1984 Aunt Heather Piper

Dad fishing. Looks like it was a successful day! 1984

The funny thing is, Kyle doesn’t like and simply won’t bait his own hook, at least not with maggots, mealworms, red worms, butterworms, or chicken livers.  I have seen him hook his own line with some sort of prepackaged bait, salmon eggs and he’s a big fan of the spinner when fishing for trout.  Aside from that, he leans on me or dad to hook him up, so to speak.

Kyle also won’t unhook a freshly reeled fish.  He doesn’t like touching the slimy, slippery skin and its pointy scales and teeth.  Forget ever asking Kyle to help scale and gut the fish.  NOPE!  I’ve tried having him help me once, and I thought he was going to puke.  He did a halfway job and I had to finish thoroughly cleaning his fish for him.  He told dad next time he’ll try and help us.  I’m not holding my breath.

Kyle does enjoy the thrill a fish nibbling on the hook and the tugging of the line ever so slightly; the feeling of knowing there is a fish interested in his bait; and the possibility of a huge catch.  Everyone loves that!  He gets so excited with the exhilaration of fighting the mystery fish and then finding out the species, and of course, the size of the catch.  This information is only used for later story telling on Kyle’s behalf.  He could careless about the meat he’s bringing to the table.

Kyle also eats fish, which I am so glad!  This past weekend, my sister was home, so mom fried us up the freshly caught catfish from Saturday.   Total, we probably caught about twenty small to medium sized catfish, mixture of bullhead and channel cats.  None of them were the size you see on television, whereas they needed to be picked up by two or three people.  Nope, these were pretty manageable for a single person.  Enough for a good meal.

On Saturday morning, we got up early.  How early?  I was up around 5:30 am and I woke sleeping beauty around 6:30 am, dad was up well before me, 4:00 am.  We packed the boat and headed out to Loyalhanna Lake, getting on the water by 8:00 am.  We wanted to get out earlier and be at our spot by then, but it was raining pretty good and it took us longer to get situated.  Dad’s not as fast in his later years, not like when I was a kid.

Yes, it was raining and we still wanted to go fishing.  Dad is no stranger to fishing in any sort of weather, even if it’s a cold, bone chilling rain.  Dad is, or I used to say was, as die hard about fishing as he is hunting.  It did drizzle on us a little, but no monsoon was in the forecast.  Personally, I was fine with that, it wasn’t too cold, it was cloudy so the sun wasn’t directly hitting me and making me sick, and the bugs were kept at bay from the rain.  Win, win all around!  Like I said, perfect day to go fishing!

Nicoles-First-Holy-Communion-Aunt-Heather-Piper 1981

Nicole’s First Holy Communion. All cousins: Front row – Casey Olczak, Ryan, Me. Back Row – Timmy Bobinchek, Jeremy Piper, Chad Piper & Nicole. Yes, that’s the tree that held my fishing pole after I was practicing how to cast. c. 1981

I’ve been fishing since I was little.  All of us fished except surprisingly, mom.  Ryan loved to fish too, often going by himself when friends and family where working or busy.

As we were casting our lines, I noticed how controlled Kyle was at the action.  I was the only one who caught a tree, but it didn’t result in a loss of hook or bait!  So no worries.

While we were sitting there fishing up a storm, I told Kyle how I used to practice casting my line all the time when I was little.  He looked at me in amazement.  It’s true, I did!  Not in water, but in the front yard.  I really enjoyed standing there and practicing the action of throwing out the line and reeling it in.  Of course, back then, mom had a white birch tree in the middle of the yard.  Somehow, I caught the tree, a few times. (sarcasm)  Yes, instead of casting away from the tree, I would stand directly in front of it and cast my line.  One time in particular, I was not able to pull my fishing pole out of the branches, so I reeled in the line and let the pole hang there, waiting for dad to get home from work.  Dad rolled his eyes resulting in the pole hanging there for quite some time. I didn’t care, I was enjoying myself.

Naturally, the first person who caught anything was dad, a nice sized catfish.  Then, Kyle and I started to get into the rhythm.  At one point, all three of us were pulling in catfish at the same time!  That made it so exciting and really a lot of fun.  We moved to a few different locations when the biting stopped, to try our chances elsewhere, before calling it a day at 2:00 pm.

While patrolling back down the tributary, dad decided he had to relieve his bladder.  I know I probably shouldn’t be talking about his but it was so funny!  Earlier, we made Kyle do so off the side of the boat, while dad and I looked the other way.  It wasn’t that easy for dad, since he’s so big and the boat is so small.  Instead, dad decided to pull up to a rock cliff and have us hold onto saplings to keep the boat parallel with the side of the hill, while he stepped out and climbed up the bank.  At first Kyle wasn’t holding onto anything while dad was stepping out.  Dad had one leg on the rocks and one in the boat, as the boat slowly started to separate from the side of the hill.  Kyle looked at me, without trying to help, like he was accepting his next statement and said, “I think this is going to end badly.”  Yes!  I started to laugh because it was kind of humorous, but then I yelled at him to grab a hold of a branch to pull the boat closer to help his pappy out.  It was quite comical!  Doring this adventure, I was hoping no one would go past, and no one did.

Legofest-2012-Aunt-Heather-Piper-in-Pirate-Hat

Legofest 2012… I decided to be a pirate. Kyle was cracking up, yet was rolling his eyes at my silliness. Pittsburgh, Pa 2012

After putting away the bait and poles, Dad explored the other side of the lake that we never ventured down.  Let me explain, he recently got back his boat engine that was in for repairs.  Basically, dad was a boy who got back his toy.  He opened it up, let her rip, making wakes!  We felt the spray of water in our faces.  Keep in mind we were on a little fishing boat that resembled the one used from Grumpy Old Men, nothing extravagantKyle and I were giggling and hanging on the entire time, not that dad was going mock speeds, but it was just the kid in us, well maybe me and dad, since Kyle is still a kid.

It was pretty uneventful getting the boat in and out of the lake.  Except, when I went to drive the boat up on the trailer, I accidentally hit the gas pretty hard and scared myself, driving it at full speed toward the truck.  Dad must have saw the freight in my eyes and started to laugh while sitting in the driver’s seat.

While I was out on the boat, I yelled to Kyle to assist me getting the boat on the trailer straight.
Me:  Kyle direct me in.
Kyle:  What?
Me: Kyle direct me in!
Kyle:  What?
Me:  Kyle!  Tell me if I’m straight!
Kyle:  (Stood there like a statue and pointed his index finger ever so slightly in one direction)
Me: (Thinking, Whatever!)

Once the boat was safe and secure, dad commented, “I thought you were going to drive the boat into the bed of the truck.”  We got a good laugh.  You should have seen the look on Kyle’s face when I revved up the engine too hard, he gave a reaction like I was going to drive into him.   Keep in mind, he was a good yard and a half away from the action, in no immediate danger.  Afterwords, Kyle stood alongside his pap and got a good chuckle.

May-2012-Prizes-Planinsek-Fishing-Derby-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Planinsek Fishing Derby, the long awaited for PRIZES! 2012

Before we left I instructed Kyle to leave his phone and his iPod behind.  You see, Kyle finds it a need to take a picture of EVERY fish he catches.  He was devastated when I told him all electronics are getting left behind.  He actually got into a slight state of panic when he realized, I meant my phone too.  He argued, “But Aunt Heather what if we have an emergency and need to call someone?  Then we are out in a boat in the middle of the water.  What do we do?”  I told him, “Believe it or not buddy, people have been fishing on water for centuries without a phone, we’ll be alright, besides we’re not out in the middle of the ocean.”  He didn’t particularity care for my comment but reluctantly went along with my logic.

Nope, no phone and I wouldn’t let Kyle take his either.  Not because I thought he was going to be sitting there talking.  Actually, on the contrary I wanted him to call his Aunt Nikki to see where she was in route, but simply because it was raining off and on and I didn’t want any phone to be ruined.  Unbeknownst to me, halfway through our fishing, I realized dad has is phone on him anyway.  Personally, it was great not checking emails, answering the phone or responding to text messages.  Just fishing.

What great quality time with the family.  Collectively, we all had fun.  Dad and I kept calling Kyle Catfish Hunter!  It was so peaceful and relaxing.  A nice lazy day in the boat with fish as my only focus.  Can’t wait to do it again!

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

It’s Not About the Money

Money can’t buy happiness, but it can make you awfully comfortable while you’re being miserable  ~Clare Boothe Luce

Kyle-Easter-Morning-with-Scooby-&-his-books-4-20-14-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle, accompanied by an excited Scooby, this past Easter morning… I stocked him up on books.. he was excited to start reading! 4/20/14

Teaching life lessons to a child seem to be much harder than I could have ever imagined.  Truly, when Kyle was a baby I used to think, lead by example and that should do it.  Now, I have resorted to actually taking money from a kid to prove a point.  One that I don’t think he’s getting.

About a month ago Kyle and I were in the store.  Previously, he saw these movie and gaming posters that he really liked and wanted for his room.  Great!  “You have money, so buy yourself a poster.”  Was my only response.

On a side note, I swear that soon to be thirteen year old kid always has more money than me.

I stood with him going through the posters, not appreciating the scantily dressed women in bikini’s with up close and person bottom shots, but we quickly got past those.  He considered The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Minecraft and Halo.  Which one he chose?  I have no idea, I think it was The Hobbit but don’t quote me on that.

At the same time, dad asked me to get him some air fresheners for his car.   While we were on location, it made sense to pick up a few fragrant smelling plastic clips too.

Now, for the story of my frustration.  We get to the checkout and I’ll admit, I was testing Kyle, for I put everything together.  I wanted to see if he would offer to pay for all the items, at the very least his poster.  Let’s face it, the total was maybe nine bucks, with his poster being five.

What Kyle did next, totally blew me away.  He stepped away from the register as the lady was ringing us up and never offered a penny!  I thought he’d at least throw in five dollars to cover his purchase.  Nope, he physically stepped back and gave me a look, expecting me to pick up the tab for everything.  I was floored!  Needless to say I paid.

Mom-Dad-Kyle-fishing-in-Loyalhanna-Lake-6-1-14-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Me, dad & Kyle went fishing on Loyalhanna Lake, mom tagged along. We got the boat out & got it stuck in the mud… 6/1/14

All I said to Kyle was, “This is your poster you know.”  followed by him saying, “Ya, but that other stuff isn’t and I’m not paying for it.”  followed by me saying, “But the poster is yours and it doesn’t seem like your paying for that either.”

We left the check out before I tore into him.  I was totally flabbergasted!  He didn’t even offer to pay for his stupid poster, and not even care about the items for his pap?  The man who gives him everything, treats him like gold, never asks for anything from this kid, except for maybe good behavior.  The man who truly loves him with all his heart who takes him hunting and fishing, makes sure the kid is never without.  The man who goes well out of his way for the happiness of this little boy.  Ya, that man Kyle would not spend four dollars on, knowing that his pappy would compensate him tenfold for the gesture.  Heck, I would have given him the money for just simply offering.  And probably taken him to the movies or bought him another poster as a reward.

Nope, instead of being considerate and generous to those who love him the most, he chose the self-centered, greedy avenue.  One that marked him for life, or at least until the next incident.

As we were walking out of the store, I exploded!  None of us in my family are like that at all.  My brother certainly was never greedy, in fact he was too nice and generous with money, letting others take from him and never paying him back.  Granted, I don’t want Kyle to be that nice, but come on, this purchase was for him and his pappy.  I wasn’t expecting him to buy a months worth of groceries.  In fact, I wasn’t asking him to give up anything, it was the gesture or in his case, the lack of gesture that ticked me off as well as his attitude.

I don’t want Kyle to be greedy, not even close to greed.  That’s why I’m always Warning Against Materialism – Encouraging Dreams  I don’t want him associating with it.  I certainly don’t want him to be THAT guy who expects everyone to pay for him and he won’t even step up to return the gesture or meet halfway.  YIKES!  I hate that type of guy or gal. (not playing favorites)

Then, to make matters worse, I too do for him all the time.  I take him to the movies, to the store, to his piano lessons and I run around extra to accommodate him and his plans.  Not that I’m keeping score, but come on buddy, at least appreciate what you have and try to give back!

Did I mention that the money in his wallet was probably given to him by my dad, his pappy?  Frustrating!

Recently, Kyle called me about two hours before his piano lesson to inform me he didn’t want to go.  Now, I get the reasoning, he had family that was in town and surprised him, and it wasn’t totally his fault.  But he needs to learn that two hours beforehand to cancel on someone is not acceptable.  Yet, he was still planning on going to his baseball game that night.  Let me see, it was that important for him to cancel, and I still have to pay for the thirty minute lesson, but he can spend two hours at his game?  Granted, again there was a lot of political pressure put on him that was out of his control, but he needs to learn appropriate behavior and stand up for whats right.  So I said, “That’s your decision, but you’re paying me for the piano lesson.”  His response?  He cried.  My response?  I didn’t care.  Maybe a little.

Did you know, that kid tried to get out of paying me for the missed lesson?  Yes!  Then, to make matters worse, Kyle misplaced his piano books, so therefore he was not practicing all week.  He waited three hours before his lesson to ask me to look for his piano books at his Gigi and pappy’s house or my house.  Missed again buddy.

Naturally, we couldn’t find them and he had to go to his lessons without any music.  Before it was Kyle’s turn, I made him sit there and come up with a few good solutions to the problem.  Telling him it wasn’t the teacher’s problem, but yours alone and one he needed to find a reasonable solution.   I had to help him with suggestions like, “Ask your teacher if you can practice scales, or if he had other music you could play etc.”  The teacher was very accommodating but I was beyond angry.

Kyle-before-Piano-Lessons-at-Seton-Hill-Performing-Arts-Center-9-23-14-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle waiting his turn for piano lessons at Seton Hill Performing Arts Center. 9/23/13

Now the lesson not only included wasting my money, but it was inappropriate protocol.  Waiting till we leave for lessons to look for his book, when he should have been practicing all week, not acceptable!   I was more than furious that he felt it was admissible to not practice simply because he didn’t know were his books were located.  And somehow it became my responsibility and not his?  Wrong again buddy!  He needs to be held accountable for his actions.  I told him he was paying for that lesson too and if he thinks I forgot about the previous one, he was wrong.

Now Kyle must have realized I meant business and I was not happy with his behavior, for the next time I picked him up, he handed me five dollars for the poster, still refusing to acknowledge payment for the piano lessons.  I guess that was too steep for his budget, but I didn’t care.  Again, I reminded him and again he ignored my warning.

So now we have missing piano books for another week.  I told Kyle to call me on Monday giving a status update if he looked for them, he waited till Wednesday, the day before his lessons.  Getting better buddy but not there yet.  While we spoke on the phone, I was extremely calm, probably eerily calm for him.  I told Kyle he has a few choices to make, either we stop by the music store and pick up the books, which he has to pay for, or I’m pulling him from piano all together and he has to pay for the rest of the lessons that I pre-paid, about two hundred dollars worth.  I also asked for his suggestions, which he had none.

Kyle was stunned and completely speechless.  He didn’t know what to say or do.   Although, I will give him credit, he started to come up with temporary solutions like, “Aunt Heather, could you grab my old piano books, maybe I could play something in there.”  Good effort, now you’re slowly getting it, but still missing the mark.  Sadly, for Kyle it wasn’t about getting the most out of his lessons, or letting me down or not appreciating the opportunity I gave him with music, it was all about the money, his not mine.  Now I was depressed, realizing the materialism and greedy nature of this little boy.  How sad!  Again, my family would never in a million years act like this, apparently he’s learning it elsewhere.

Long story short, Kyle got out of any decision when I found his books.  And yes, he wanted to place the blame on his Gigi, because they fell into her box of photo albums that no one realized.  Yet, the books where still his responsibility and he should of had us looking long before he did.

This past weekend, Kyle had his wallet on him, the nice chain and leather gift given by his pap.  Would you believe the kid handed me forty bucks to cover the two piano lessons?  I was stunned actually.  No apologies, but he handed the money over to me saying, “Here Aunt Heather for the piano lessons.”  I could tell, he thought I was going to give it back with maybe a speech on being responsible and accountable that sort of thing.

I didn’t waste my breath.  I’ve said it all before.  I simply took the paper currency and said “Thank you.”  His eyes were sad for the loss of money.  I also noticed he did this in front of his pappy, thinking his pappy would do what he normally does and replace the cash.  Dad did no so such thing, knowing the situation.  We’re on to you Kyle!

Now what Kyle doesn’t know, is I’m planning on adding the forty bucks to his education fund.  He’s had that account since he was almost three months old, set up by my cousin Paula, who was Ryan’s godmother, Kyle’s dad.

I do believe Kyle is not a lost cause, he just needs more guidance.  In fact, not even a year ago, someone handed Kyle five bucks for doing a good job serving mass.  That was way too sweet.  Without thought, Kyle immediately gave the money to father for the church.  I was so very proud of him!  It was something he wanted to do and I could tell he felt it was the right thing.  I never steered him one way or the other.  It actually happened so quickly, Kyle already had his mind made up before I knew about it.  He is a generous kid!  Sometimes.

I’m working with him, everyday!  I just need to pray for patience.

Below is a video of Kyle playing the piano with his instructor at the Seton Hill Performing Arts Center.  Normally he won’t let me video him, but this time he did. 10/21/13

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