A Visit to Google Pittsburgh… Continued

My life is like tofu—it’s what gets added that makes it interesting.  ~Angela Johnson

Google Pittsburgh Tour 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Our Google Pittsburgh Tour. Kyle, Duncan, Barb & Me Bakery Square 7/27/16

Last Wednesday, I took Kyle and his friend on A Visit to Google Pittsburgh to tour the facility as a birthday surprise.  Now I want to share my surprises and the details of the Google offices!

Yes, I knew the office would be Googled up, and fun, and unique, but what I saw blew me away.  First, I didn’t realize the size of Google Pittsburgh.  They employ about 500, and are planning on doubling that with the expansion of the new building.  Perhaps I had it in my head this office was the same office they originally occupied near Carnegie Mellon University (CMU).   Not that I was ever there, but I knew it was smaller.  Things have changed.

Google Pittsburgh is located in Bakery Square in Pittsburgh at the old Nabisco plant.  The office consists of seven floors of sheer fun.  There are no other words to describe it.  In addition to all the branding, which Google does it right, and the attention to detail, they’ve really honored Pittsburgh with the themes and designs.  Each floor has a different theme.  While I don’t remember which floor was which, and I don’t remember everything I saw, I’d like to give a general overview.

Floors

Kyle at Google Pittsburgh Candy bowl 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle helping himself to the candy bowl at Google Pittsburgh Bakery Square 7/27/16

As I mentioned each floor has a different theme.  There are seven floors total.  When you arrive in the Google lobby, you’re on the seventh floor and once you pass a secure door, the awesomeness is reveled.

One floor pays homage to Nabisco.  Each room is named for one of their products.  They even have a huge original mixer on the floor they kept from the old plant.  It sits near the pool table and pinball machine.

Another floor is dedicated to Kennywood.  There’s an actual roller coaster car in the lobby facing down the stairwell, enough said!  While walking about, they’ve incorporated ramps and railings and Kennywood styled signs to give it the feel of being in Kennywood.  It worked for me!

Another floor is dedicated to the bridges of Pittsburgh, again naming the rooms for each bridge.  There are design elements everywhere representing our beloved bridges.

One floor has the parks and trails theme, with bamboo dividers, rough cut wood paneling and total nature theme.  I mean they even have a live tree stretching up through one of the stairwells that connects two floors interrupted by an occupied floor.  Me coming from a family of loggers and woodworkers, I fell in love with that idea instantly.  I’d love to have a live tree for Thrill of the Hunt one day.

One floor captures the essence of our tunnels with hallways resembling the archways of a tunnel, the textured walls of cement and even the lighting gives you the feel of the Fort Pitt Tunnel or the Squirrel Hill Tunnel.  As you’re walking through the hallway, you almost feel like the cityscape of Pittsburgh should appear before your eyes at the end.

I wish I could remember the other details of the themes and the floors, perhaps it’ll come back to me.  I was in complete aw during the entire tour.

“Cafeteria”

As I mentioned before with A Visit to Google Pittsburgh, the cafeteria is a huge beautiful space with snazzy chairs, booths, real plates and silverware, and food stations.  All complementary for all employees and visitors.  They have a quality chef on payroll with a full kitchen staff.  Google doesn’t take this job lightly.  I heard it’s no easy task becoming a chef for Google.

Google Pittsburgh Roller Coaster ride 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Duncan, Kyle, me & Barb in the roller coaster on the Kennywood floor at Google Pittsburgh Bakery Square 7/27/16

In the corner of the kitchen they grow select fresh vegetables and herbs, to be used by the kitchen or the employees can help themselves.  One the roof of one of the levels, they even have laying chickens and more herbs growing.  Yes, real chickens someone takes care of and picks the eggs.  All the fresh ingredients are used in making the grub.  Great idea!  In fact, every food item at each station is labeled with the ingredients.  They’re even color coded according to taste and nutritional value.  The goal is to feed the employees healthy food, without it appearing or sounding healthy.

They have stations for hot foods and cold.  The kitchen staff is even on hand during the lunch hours to mix up your personal salad or serve your hot meals.  You can help yourself to fresh fruits, vegetables, water infused with a variety of healthy organic ingredients, desserts or even simply peanut butter and jelly.  They’ve got it all!  And it’s all unlimited for zero dollars!

The area is spacious and clean and very inviting.

During the tour we walked past not one, but several smaller kitchens and coffee shops scattered throughout.  You’re never more than a few feet away from a kitchen stocked with a variety of drinks (healthy and not so much), snacks, cereals and so on.  The kitchen staff stocks those smaller kitchens and coffee shop style areas of the building every day.  The Google employees are seriously hooked up.

No employee ever has to worry about bringing their lunch or snacks.  Google is also ensuring its employees are eating a lot healthier, at least that’s the goal.  It’s a proven fact that individuals who eat healthier are more alert, think better, have more energy and in turn can give back to their job.  Plus, Google just removed a major stress out of the day, what to eat?

Upon entering the lobby into the front desk area, I did notice (how could anyone miss it) a huge candy bowl.  Again, it’s a help yourself area.  When we walked in, Kyle immediately helped himself to some candy.  I gave him an “are you kidding?” look stating, “Did you ask before you helped yourself?”  His response?  “No, it’s here for anyone to eat.”  Trying to ensure he always uses good manners, I said, “Still, you should always ask first and don’t assume.”

Google even holds cooking classes in their test kitchen area for the employees.  They sometimes bring in celebrity chefs.  Wow!

Details

Google Pittsburgh lobby with Kyle Duncan Barb 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle, Duncan & Barb in the lobby at Google Pittsburgh Bakery Square 7/27/16

During our tour, Andrew, our tour guide, pointed out little corners of the offices, and side conference rooms to be used by anyone who needs a change of pace from their desk, or to meet up with fellow co-workers to discuss work.  It seemed like at every turn there was a sitting area or a mini escape from the daily grind.

While walking past a cubical section of the floor, watching our Google workers hard at making our lives searchably easy, Andrew pointed out a large hammock / jungle gym structure hovering over a corner of the work space.  He took us up there.  It was literally a huge hammock, suspended a floor above for anyone to sit and relax, take a nap or stretch your legs.  It lead to another private corner with a massage chair.

Speaking of massages.  They have a massage therapist on staff as another perk.  Another great idea!

Keeping with the theme of relaxation and exercise, in yet another area, they have a room with walking treadmills overlooking Bakery Square.  The employees can plug in and work while putting on mileage.  Although, traveling through the offices will certainly give you extra steps on your pedometer.

They have a couple lecture halls to keep up with continued education and to introduce new visitors, staff members and such.  Since they have so many visitors, they have a room containing several washers and dryers for anyone to use, especially for those out of town guests.  They’ve thought of everything!  Google is certainly very considerate.

Google even has their own tech support.  Sure that would make sense since they have not only enough computers for each employee, plus.

A few additional perks include, a fully equipped gym, a music room to jam out at the end of a day, and naturally it’s a dog friendly office.

Stories

While on tour, after walking through a vault style door, we came to a hallway sporting an enlarged image covering the entire wall.  Andrew shared one of his Google experiences with us.  It was a distant shot of a building with railroad tracks in the foreground.  The building held special significance to Andrew.

Google Pittsburgh lobby sign 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

This starts our tour of Google Pittsbugh Bakery Square 7/27/16

One of his first visits to Google Pittsburgh, when the office was near CMU, he said he came to the front desk, who asked him what size t-shirt.  While the front desk chick had her back to Andrew, she placed the t-shirt over her shoulders and was messing with something in the corner.  He said she all of a sudden turned around pointing Nerf guns at him and said “This office isn’t safe.”

Apparently, a few times a day the trains passed and literally shook the entire building for three minutes.  In that time, no one can get any work done.  So instead of the disturbance being a hindrance, they took advantage of the downtime with Nerf wars.  I love it!  Andrew even said that as per Amazon, a person is only permitted to purchase so many of the same product, for fear of that person reselling the product.  His friend is forever banned for life from buying Nerf products on Amazon because of their daily recreation.

Andrew also told us that Google employees get credit for visiting other data centers and offices, when they swipe their badge.  What do they get?  Simply a virtual trophy or some sort.  I love how Google encourages its employees to go above and beyond, in a fun and productive way.  Now that’s a vision the company mastered.

Keep in mind this is all just in Google Pittsburgh.  Can you imagine the headquarters?  Which is now on my list to tour.  I thoroughly enjoyed by visit to Google Pittsburgh.  They have taken their success and done right by their employees and customers alike.  Great job Google!  I’d love to build a scavenger hunt in any Google office.

I can’t wait for Kyle’s next birthday.  It’s a big one, sixteen!

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

Pittsburgh – Night Out in the Big City! Vol. 4

They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.  ~Tom Bodett

Maggie-Aunt-Heather-Piper-Marching-Band-Latrobe-1992-93

Maggie McNeely & me at a football game in Latrobe Stadium, Marching Band. 1992-93

If you’ve been following along with my single most memorable and scary night, in Pittsburgh, as a teenager, you might be saying to yourself, ReallyPittsburgh – A Night Out in the Big City!  Vol. 1, Pittsburgh- Night Out in the Big City! Vol. 2, Pittsburgh – Night Out in the Big City! Vol. 3  All true!  To recap, I took my car into Pittsburgh when I wasn’t allowed, it broke down, I accepted a ride from a homeless man living in his car, who hit a transvestite.  Then, I accepted a ride from a drunk man before the police showed up.  Eventually, with a little help from my metal beret, we got the car working and headed east, back home.  Now the car just died again alongside a very dark highway.  The reason?  The possibility of running out of gas was mentioned.  Can you believe all this happened in one night?

Now a group of teenagers were sitting alongside a highway, in the dark, without a clue to the closest gas station, if that indeed was the reasoning for the most recent issue.  Again, everyone got out of Black Beauty to get some fresh night air.  Plus, I think it made everyone feel like they were helping.  Would you believe during this entire ordeal, no one was mad at me, or seemed upset in the slightest?  Nope, everyone rolled with it and tired to help when possible.  Granted at this point, we’re all a bit tied and frustrated, but no one pointed fingers and blamed me. Now that’s a group of friends!

Jay-Aunt-Heather-Piper-at-Derry-Show-c.-1992

Me & Jay Boring hanging out at the Derry band show. c. 1992

Just then, headlights approached us and parked directly behind my car.  What now?  Believe it or not, I remember thinking to myself something along the lines of, Let me guess, an axe murderer, or a serial killer to polish off the night?  I knew once we found our way, and got the car in forward motion, I was tempting fate too much.

Again, not knowing what lurked behind those headlights and not wanting anyone to get hurt, I approached our third stranger of the night.  However, this one didn’t seem to have any issues.  I can’t even remember if it was a guy or a gal, but my vote is with the earlier.  Our nice stranger was a single person that didn’t appear to be drinking, drove a modern car, no beater, dressed casually, and seemed, well, normal!  Can you say Ted Bundy?  Yikes!  I thought we were all dead meat.

And yes, on a side note, I knew exactly who Ted Bundy was and what he did.  For some reason, I was fascinated by that crazy man and followed his case on television, even staying home from school (it was a Tuesday) to watch his execution.  No joke! I still remember watching the spokesperson announce his death.  Personally, I thought I was going to be able to literally watch him die.  I was wrong, and I’m glad for it.

Jeremiah-Tom-at-Eat-n-Park-Marching-Band-1993-94-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Jeremiah, me & Tom at Eat n’ Park after a Marching Band competition or game. 1993-94

Admittedly, my newest stranger was very nice, and offered assistance, without monetary compensation.  For a second time, our group pushed this huge and very heavy car.  My guardian angel must have been still hanging by my side, because the car died at the top of a ramp, leading to a gas station, according to our stranger.  That’s double convenient, near a gas station and it was downhill!  As soon as we moved the car in a little downward motion, we piled back in and was able to coast it, right into the gas station by the pump!  Can you believe our luck?  My car was so old, it was before the days of anti-lock breaks.  I was able to steer it, while the engine was off.  Honestly, it seemed too easy of a solution.  Keep in mind, we really didn’t know if our problem was due to a low fuel tank.

Assuming we were out of gas, I pumped fuel while the nice stranger remained in his vehicle waiting for us.  He never hovered, and made sure he kept his distance.  I paid no mind and felt at ease with this guy, who was probably in his late thirties, early forties.  It also helped, that we were in a very well lit gas station, with a few people coming and going, on a familiar road.  Once I put plenty of gas in the car, it was the moment of truth.  Would it start?

I got in, turned over the ignition and it roared to life!  Can you believe we ran out of gas?  I can!

Marching-Band-Senior-Night-Pirates-of-Penzance-1993-94-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Senior night at Latrobe Stadium. The Marching Band theme… Pirates of Penzance. 1993

Our nice stranger checked in one last time to make sure we were okay.  After our small celebration, we ensured our stranger we’d be fine.  Without accepting my monetary compensation, or my offer to fuel up his car, and without haste, he disappeared into the night, as quietly and stealthy as he appeared.  Literally, it was like he just appeared, and disappeared as quickly.  That was a very odd experience, and that’s saying something considering everything that happened, including seeing a transvestite and hitting him/her with the car.

A little gas did the trick, and the engine was purring.  We continued on our path, increasing the distance from us and our awful night.  The further from Pittsburgh we drove, the closer to Latrobe we came.  Unfortunately, the closer to home, the more frequently the cord would break, forcing us to get out and adjust it again, and again, and again.

Finally, by sunrise, we made it to Vanessa’s house!  No one was happier than I!  Believe it or not, as I pulled into her driveway, the car died one last time.  I left it exactly where it stopped, right in the middle.  No one cared.  We were exhausted.  Slowly, filing out of Black Beauty, everyone swarmed into her living room to feel the comforts of a true safe haven.  Without much conversation and teenage behavior, we crashed, hard.

Vanessa-Vedas-at-Derry-Show-Aunt-Heather-Piper-c.-1992

Vanessa Vadas at a Derry show. c. 1992

Once semi-rested, I called my dad to let him know the car died in Vanessa’s driveway.  He came out, did what I did all night only with electrical tape, and followed me home, where I pulled Black Beauty directly in the garage.  Evidently, it was the ground cord connected to the alternator that was old and rotted.  Dad changed it without haste, and I was back in business within an hour.  That easy?  Yes!

On a side note, dad asked me why there was wax throughout the engine.  I explained we didn’t have a flashlight, but we had candles.  He accepted my explaination without asking anymore questions.  My guess?  He didn’t want to know.  The car was fine, I was home, life was good.

Did I make very stupid decisions?  Yes I did, but we also tried to be the safest with our stupid decisions.  After that night, I realized I have a guardian angel, or a flock of them.  They were definitely working in overtime.  My prayers were answered and no one got hurt or in trouble.  Trouble?  Yes, I was worried about getting in trouble, instead about being abducted or killed or both.  Don’t get me wrong, I worried about those things, but remember, I was a teenager with a strict dad.  So yes, getting busted equaled kidnapping or death.  Did that adventure open my eyes to a world I never knew existed?  Yes, but one I wasn’t ready to accept or experience ever again.

The-Hitchhiker-by-William-DeBernardi-1994-Latrobe-art-collection-Aunt-Heather-Piper

This artwork was purchased my senior year of high school… How ironic it’s called The Hitchhiker by William DeBernardi. It displays a long dark highway… perhaps I associated with the painting. I know it got my vote! 1994

Was my night over?  Not really.  By Monday, I had to return to band camp.  I was in the colorguard.  Did I mention, I left halfway through the day that Friday for the concert, without permission, and without telling anyone.  Why?  I thought no one would notice I was gone.  Well, they did.  When I came back, and I made eye contact with my band director, Mr. Hamill, I knew my agony wasn’t over.  He requested my presence in his office, with the door shut.  That’s never a good sign!  I got an earful.  I didn’t say much, knowing I was clearly in the wrong.  If he actually had a clue of what I went through that night, he would’ve realized that was punishment enough.  I didn’t care, I was happy to be back in safe old Latrobe, doing my thing.

I hope Kyle makes better decisions than I’ve done, especially during his teenage years.  Although, he tends to favor my sister, and not live on the edge.  He’s certainly no risk taker, and still continues to play by the rules, at least at this point in his life, very unlike myself.  He’s a smart kid, and I believe in the foundation I was apart of building.

Was the stress of the night and potential danger worth the story?  You tell me…

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

Pittsburgh – Night Out in the Big City! Vol. 3

We are all vainer of our luck than of our merits.  ~Rex Stout
Cory-Tree-Aunt-Heather-Piper-Cure-Concert-Mellon-Arena-7-17-96

Cori, Tree & Me at the Cure Concert at the Mellon Arena (now Consol Energy Center) Pittsburgh, Pa. 7/17/96

If you’ve been following along with my previous posts, Pittsburgh – A Night Out in the Big City!  Vol. 1 and Pittsburgh- Night Out in the Big City! Vol. 2, you’ll realize, on the occasion, I make bad decisions.  During this particular night that never ended, I made several really bad decisions.  One after another, after another, after another.

To recap, I took my old car into Pittsburgh when I wasn’t allowed.  Said car broke down, in a tow away zone, in the middle of the ghetto, somewhere.  We were lost beyond hope.  I took a ride to get a new car battery, from a homeless man who lived in his car, who had no breaks and used his emergency break.  Incidentally, that same homeless man, hit a transvestite throwing her/him on the hood of his vehicle, intentionally I might add.  Once the battery was purchased, no one had tools to install it, however we did have candles, naturally.  Now introduce a new stranger, who was completely intoxicated, but had tools.  I took my second ride of evening with that stranger, the drunk one, to return the unused battery, since that wasn’t the cause of the car not starting.  Now you’re caught up … Enjoy the ride!

The drunk man did as promised, and found the store.  It was open!  Kinda.  It appeared closed, but people were standing among the darkness inside.  So I entered the shady establishment, and asked to return my unused battery, that I just purchased.  Surprise!  They refunded me!  My luck was turning around.  At this point, any silver lining was a step in the right direction.

Friends-in-Strip-District-Pittsburgh-Early-1990s-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Not sure, Jill, Lori Beanner, Justin Baldonieri, & me at a concert in the Strip District, Pittsburgh, Pa. mid 1990’s

Our drunk driver took us back to our friends and back to my broken down, illegally parked car in the ghetto.  This time, we didn’t hit anyone, but we definitely ran a few red lights.  Giving this stranger some grace, it was late at night with almost no traffic, and beggars can’t be choosers.

Upon approaching the corner store, all three of us, me, Sefo and our drunk driver, saw all the lights dancing around, lighting up our temporary home that resembled a dive convenience store in the middle of the hood, and the center of our demise.  It was the boys in blue.  In a way, I was relieved, yet I wasn’t.

Our drunk friend wasn’t happy to see the police, AT ALL.  He refused to drop us off, and sped past our destination.  I get it, he was drunk and who knows what else controlled him, but let us out!  This once relatively calm drunk man, turned into a frantic freak.  Now I was getting scared.  I know, NOW I decided to become scared, what can I say?  I’m a late bloomer.

The drunk man drove down the street, barely stopping, and ordered me and Sefo to get out and walk back.  We did as instructed and watched the man sped out of sight.  On our way back to the car, I knew I had some explaining to do to the Pittsburgh police.  Obviously, I was illegally parked, and personally I was aware of my Cinderella license, and the rules that accompanied it.  I also knew those flashing lights meant that I was going to pay out the nose for getting lost, figuratively speaking.  Truly, I didn’t care.  In my eyes, no one got hurt and the police were friendlies who swore an oath to serve and protect.  Good enough for me!  From what I’ve experienced thus far, in the short amount time from the conclusion of the concert to this point, the men in blue were a welcoming sight.

Aunt-Heather-Piper-at-concert-in-Pittsburgh-early-1990s

Me presenting my shoes in a an odd fashion…Yes I had a runner in my fish net stockings.  Strip District for a concert at the Metropole, Pittsburgh, Pa. mid 1990s

The officer instructed me to move my vehicle or I’d get a ticket.  Seriously?  That was the least of my worries.  I’d gladly accept the ticket if it meant I could get my friends and my car back home safely.  I explained the situation, omitting the details about the homeless man, and the drunk driver, and most importantly the homeless man hitting the transvestite.  No sense in rehashing actions that caused no harm and couldn’t be changed.

What did the police have us do before offering assistance?  They made us push the car back out of the illegal spot and park it along the curb on the street.  Really?  It was late at night and that’s what they were concerned about?  First, I want to say, I’ve never nor would I ever park in a handicap spot.  I was merely beside the convenience store, where it said  No Parking.  Why?  I have no idea.  To me it was a none issue.

What next?  One of my friends sat in the driver’s seat, while we pushed the car away from its current location.  In that time, the cop asked us to try and start the engine again.  We did and voila!  It started!  Are you kidding me?  No, but as soon as it started and it registered with me, the engine turned off again.  Okay, now this I can work with.  My logical side of the brain was telling me something supplying juice to the battery was loose.

The one cop asked me to pop the hood.  I did as directed, this time holding onto every bit of hope I had left, thinking they’d find a solution we overlooked.  We went through the same procedure as before with the same result, nothing.  However, this time we had actual flashlights, as opposed to candle light to look around the engine.  My eyes frantically followed their lights looking for anything out of place or suspicious.  Then, I saw something.  It was a cord snapped in half, near the battery.  Not knowing what it did, or if it was indeed the root of the problem, I just reacted.

What did I do?  This is all one-hundred percent true.  I usually wore berets in my hair, and on this eventful evening, I had a metal beret.  I simply unclipped the beret from my head, and snapped it to the broken wires to hold it together.  The engine fired to life and remained so.  Halleluiah!  Instantly, I thanked God.  I finally felt myself relax a little, at the very least my stomach stopped doing flips.  Now we needed to make hast!

Tree-Tracey-Art-Room-Latrobe-High-School-Aunt-Heather-Piper-1993-94

Tree, me & Tracey in the art room at Greater Latrobe High School 1993-94

The cops gave us directions and sent us on our way.  We left without looking back and continued on getting lost.  Was I ticketed for my illegal park job?  Nope.  Things were looking up.

We continued on our way, trying to find a familiar road or sign, pointing us east.  Every few miles, the clip came loose, shutting down the juice to the car, in turn shutting down our travels.  As that happened, I’d stop, usually in the middle of the road, get out, and re-secure the wires, and repeat.  This was an inconvenience, but I didn’t care, it was the little bit of hope I was holding onto.

That is until the car shut down for good, probably about halfway home.  This time, we actually knew our location, and we were well past the city limits, headed to the safe suburbs.  Another little silver lining to our adventure.  I tried wiggling the wires together, nothing.

I truly had no idea what the problem was this time.  Not a clue!  That is until someone spoke up and mentioned the idea that the car might be out of gas.  Yes, Of course!  Can you believe it?  We ran out of gas!  At least that was our theory.  Now what?  We’re stranded on the side of the highway, in the dark (of course there wasn’t a street light around), still miles upon miles from home, with a temporary fix on the car engine, thinking we might be out of gas but really not sure.

To be continued…

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

Pittsburgh – Night Out in the Big City! Vol. 2

Stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold.  ~S.E. Hinton

Gary-Aunt-Heather-Piper-at-Cure-Concert-Mellon-Arena-Pittsburgh-PA-7-17-96

Me & Gary & not sure at the Cure Concert at the former Mellon Arena (now Consol Energy Center), Pittsburgh, Pa. 7/17/96

Let me recap.  I was reminiscing from my high school days, actually about one night in particular.  A night that is so outlandish it sounds like it was made fictionally for television, but it’s entirely true!  Pittsburgh – A Night Out in the Big City!  Vol. 1

I took my old car, 1976ish Buick Limited, into Pittsburgh for a concert, when I wasn’t allowed, especially with a group of teenage friends.  We got lost in a bad section of Pittsburgh, illegally parked my car at a shady convenience store, to only find the night got worse when my car wouldn’t start.  Then, we accepted a ride to an auto parts store to purchase a new battery from a homeless man living in his car, which he may or may not have stolen.  We made it to the auto parts store and headed back to my friends who stayed behind with the broken down vehicle, in the middle of the ghetto, in the middle of the night.  Oh yeah, the homeless man’s car had no breaks.  He used his emergency break to stop.  I think that about sums up the last post.  It only gets better from here.

Our homeless man, or more accurately, the man living in his car, drove a little fast, as per the speed limit signs, and definitely too fast considering we had no real means to stop.  Suddenly, another obstacle struck us, or I should say we struck her.  What looked like a woman, dressed in stilettos, a micro mini skirt, and big hair, staggered in front of us.  Naturally, what else could make my story more colorful than a stranger appearing out of nowhere, to make contact with a moving vehicle, with no breaks!  Granted, we weren’t cruising at top speeds, but we were certainly in motion, and remained there despite the pedestrian.

Our driver used his emergency break to come to a stop, but not before we nudged her.  I know it wasn’t right, but we barely grazed this unconcerned night walker, who just walked in front of a moving vehicle.  Well, she wasn’t have having any of it, and showed her disdain by punching the hood of the car.  Then, our driver pushed the gas peddle, throwing her up on the hood, before using the emergency break again, throwing the stranger from the car.  What?  YES!  Can you imagine my shock?  I was mortified!

Tree-Tracey-Aunt-Heather-Piper-Graduation-from-Greater-Latrobe-High-School-6-1994

Tree, me & Tracey, graduation day from Greater Latrobe High School. 6/94

Please understand I never grew up around any alternative lifestyle, let alone knew what an alternative lifestyle was, or witnessed actions such as this one, meaning yelling out of a car at someone!

Again, what I thought was a lady, correction, I thought she was a prostitute, was not.  I sat there speechless, craning my neck to look over the hood of the car, trying to find life, hoping she wasn’t dead.

Eventually, what seemed like an hour later, the night walker got up, looked around, and stumbled a little.  To add to the terror, our angry driver began honking the horn and yelling out the window to get her to move.  Then, he started muttering a few words, one being transvestite.  Transvestite?  What?  Again, I’m a small town gal from Latrobe, who believed that a transvestite was a fictional character on television like a vampire, or an urban legend.  Instantly, my attention left our driver, my eyes grew three times the size, and I began to really examine the lady/guy standing in front of us, in the middle of the road, completely forgetting she/he was just hit by us.

Still staggering, she/he appeared to be either completely intoxicated or on drugs, or both.  The gal/guy stumbled to the passenger side of the door, where Sefo sat with the window down (allowing me to get air before I puked).  Why that side, and not the side of the verbal driver?  No clue. Aside from the staggering, which was evident before impact, our hit and run victim seemed unscathed.  The next thing I remembered, she/he tried to punch Sefo!  What did he do?  Sefo leaned into me, to put some distance between his shoulder and the staggering fist.  Luckily, our driver’s reflexes were quicker.  The homeless man, correction, the man who lived in his car, hit the gas, leaving my first transvestite encounter in the dust.  I mean Bruce Jenner (Caitlyn) wasn’t all over the news.  My heart was racing and never slowed down.  I looked at Sefo with wide eyes, expecting him to tell me all will be fine, that is until I saw his reaction.  It was exactly like mine!  Maybe a little more since he was in the line of direct fire.

Lori-Beanner-and-Justin-Baldonieri-at-Strip-District-Pittsburgh-Pa-early-1990s-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Lori Beanner & Justin Baldonieri at a concert in the Strip District. I’m not sure why SCREAM was written on Lori’s leg. Pittsburgh, Pa. early 1990’s

Our unconventional hero of sorts, the homeless man who lived in his car, held true to his word and took us back to our friends and my broken car, almost safely.  We had a battery, now what?

It appears the craziness is nearly behind us, right?  That’s what I thought.  How could it get worse?

Would you believe we never thought about tools!  I didn’t have any, and our homeless man didn’t either.  Personally, I thought with all that junk in the car, he’d at least have a screwdriver?  Nope.  Now what?

While we were off hitting, literally the night life, (pun intended), my friends took a walk to a local hangout to use the restrooms.  They traveled down the street and came upon a gay bar.  Again, please keep in mind, times were very different back then, and my innocence was not ready for the reality of the world aside from my own personal corner of Latrobe.  My friends told me all about the sights they saw.  What did they witness?  No idea.  I wasn’t paying attention in the slightest.  It was at that moment, I started to hear ringing in my ears and I felt lightheaded.  I was breathing heavy and the world was in slow motion.  It was so surreal.  The last thing I wanted was to put my friends in any sort of danger or crazy situation.  Although, I will admit, they didn’t seem to mind and weren’t bothered by anything at all, except Sefo, rightfully so.  I can’t imaging hitting anybody, let alone a transvestite with a car was normal.

Friends-in-Art-Room-at-Greater-Latrobe-High-School-1993-94-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Not sure, Vanessa Vadas, me & Erin Butina in the art room at Greater Latrobe High School 1993-94

Sefo told our tale to everyone, and it was at that point, I knew changes needed to made, immediately.  What did I decide?  I instructed a few of my friends to call their parents to come and get them, while I stayed with the car and figured out how to get it home.  The idea of a tow truck did lurk in the back of my mind, but remember, I was about 30 to 40 miles away from Latrobe.  I probably could have called a tow, but to travel that distance would have cost me a fortune, and I didn’t have much cash left. Reality, I didn’t even have that much cash in my bank account.  Well, naturally my friends wouldn’t leave, so we all pulled up a seat along the curb discussing our next plan of action.  Sometime in there, our homeless man who lived in his car departed without incidence.

Please note, it’s now probably about two in the morning and I had my Cinderella driver’s license.

Just then, a beat up truck pulled into the parking lot.  Remaining consistent with our seemingly poor judgement, someone got up and asked the gentleman for assistance.  This time, we simply asked for tools to install the brand new battery.  He had tools!  Now we’re in business.

Giving this new stranger, who was obviously drunk, a few bucks to change out the battery, he did so, with the help of our candles.  One might wonder just how I was going to explain a brand new battery to my dad, and I thought about that.  I’d tell him the truth.  I had to have a new one installed since the old one died.  Done!

Feeling hopeful, I jumped in the driver’s seat to turn over the engine.  Nothing!  Are you kidding me?  No almost.  No turning over and grinding.  No attempt at trying.  Nothing.  Oh doubly crap!  It wasn’t the battery after all!  Now what?

Cure-Concert-Star-Lake-Aunt-Heather-Piper-5-23-92

Me on some sort of flippy ride at the Cure Concert at the former Coca-Cola Star Lake Amphitheater (now First Niagara Pavilion) 5/23/92

Our situation got even worse, and I didn’t have the money for a tow the whole way to Latrobe.

Now a second minor problem.  What was I going to do with a brand new battery?

Take it back of course!  Keep in mind, I had no idea where this auto parts store was located, or how to get there.  Personally, after the situation with the staggering transvestite, my mind was wiped clear of all awareness and reality.  How would we know where to go?  I got it!  I had the receipt containing the name of the auto parts store.  Would it be open?  It was worth a try.

Unbeknownst to our drunk driver, he was about to be added to our nightly events.  Sefo asked him to give us a lift back to the auto parts store.  Not knowing if the store was closed or not, me and Sefo jumped back into another stranger’s vehicle, this time we knew his full story, or at least the pertinent details, he was clearly drunk.  We took a ride from whence we came, for a small fee of course.  Driving like a manic, actually like a blind man, we departed, not knowing if we’d make it back, leaving our friends in the ghetto.  Who was safer?

To be continued…

 

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

Pittsburgh – Night Out in the Big City Vol. 1

Sometimes I make bad decisions.  ~Heather Piper

Jill,-Lori,-Justin-Aunt-Heather-Piper-Concert-in-Pittsburgh-Pa

Jill, Lori Beanner, Justin Baldonieri after a concert in the Strip District, Pittsburgh, PA early to mid 1990’s

It’s funny how a simple conversation with someone can bring back memories nearly forgotten.  Throughout my life, I’ve found myself in unusual situations, putting it mildly.  This story is certainly one of those but is one-hundred percent true.  This stuff cannot be made up!

To this day, my parent’s have no idea, and I’d prefer not to bring it up at all, but to teach Kyle from my mistakes, I’m willing to share.  In a way, I don’t want Kyle to know my stupidity as a teenager or young adult, but then again I do, so he learns from my errors and immaturity, and knows I’m not perfect.

I’m very proud to proclaim I’ve never lied to my parents, at least not in the traditional sense.  However, at times, I’ve kept pertinent information from them that would have incriminated me.  I know, I know, the same thing, but not.  However, I’ve never looked them in the eyes and told a bold face lie, never!

tape recorder Aunt Heather Piper

Same tape player Nicole had & I used in my 1st car, since it didn’t have a radio.

As I’ve mentioned, my very First Car – My Very Own Days of Thunder was a 1976ish Buick Limited.  A big black beast with red interior, nicknamed Black Beauty.  I loved that car and so did my friends, one because I had wheels and two, because that car could seat a crowd.  Perfect for transporting large groups of teenagers who didn’t have rides, which is synonymous with that age.r.

Being a Latrobe native, I never really ventured any further west than Greensburg, about 15 miles.  East was a different story, my family is from Ligonier and I was familiar with the Laurel Mountains and the ridge.  In all reality, my parents were comfortable with that direction, as opposed to Pittsburgh.  Not that I was restricted by many rules, but one my parents reinforced was me traveling long distances, especially in my old car.  Understandable.  I really wasn’t permitted to go into Pittsburgh, about an hour and a half away, 40 miles or so.  Guess what?  That’s were I always wanted to explore, and I did.  Did they know?  They did, but mom and dad had the security of reinforcing my Cinderella license, when I had it.

Now that the stage is set, and the anticipation is built, here comes the most unbelievable night of my life.  It’s been a little over two decades since this adventure, so the details are a bit fuzzy, but the major events are still crystal clear.

Another big no in our household was concerts.  Really?  Unfortunately yes.  Mom and dad didn’t let us go to concerts, especially with friends.  I would have been open to my parents taking me to a show, but alas it never happened.  However, in this instance, I think I did tell them I was going to the show, since I paid for it myself.  In my senior year of high school, I waitressed at Valley Dairy.  I paid for my own gas, concert tickets, and associated expenses.  Regardless of my employment status, I do know for a fact that I wasn’t allowed to take Black Beauty into Pittsburgh, especially traveling with friends.  Yeah, I disregarded that rule.  We needed a ride and I had one, priorities!

The night started with a live show from Porno for Pyros (now that I think about it, what a horrible name).  Anyway, it was Perry Farrell’s band, the front man from Jane’s Addiction.  It was August 20, 1993, I found my old ticket stub!

Colleen-Aunt-Heather-Piper-South-Side-Pittsburgh-Piper's-Pub-c.-1999

Me & my cousin Colleen in the South Side, in front of Piper’s Pub. Night out before our friend Markelle moved to Arizona. Pittsburgh, PA late 1990’s

About five or six of my friends, including my good friend Maggie and I, made plans to stay at our friend Vanessa’s house.  Everyone met at Vanessa’s and I drove our eclectic group to Station Square in Pittsburgh.  To cut to the chase, we made it to the concert without incidence and it was a blast, but when it was time for us to simply exit stage right, we did, or so I thought.

Common sense would dictate that this story will take a hard right turn, especially since I was in charge of driving and maneuvering a group of teenagers from the suburbs into Pittsburgh and back out again.  Did you forget how Directionally Challenged I am, and always have been?

That’s exactly what happened.  I got us lost.  Where?  No clue, even to this day.  Also keep in mind, there were no cell phones and no GPS systems to guide our way.  We had to rely on road signs and verbal directions from locals.  To add another element of challenge, my gas gauge was broken.  I was instructed by my parents to record my mileage every time I got gas.  Did I?  Almost never.  I would go on gut instincts when fueling up.  Occasionally, I’d run out of gas and I’d have to walk to a house to call my brother, Ryan to rescue me.  A little foreshadowing here.

Eventually, after driving around for what seemed like forever, we ended up at a convenience store in the ghettos of sorts.  We stopped for two very important reasons, one, to get directions, and two, to stock up on snacks.

Did I mention I illegally parked the car too?  I figured our stay would be short lived, so no worries.  Well, that’s where it all went awry.

Please note, I’ve never and will never park in a handicap designated area.  The spot where I temporarily left my car was indeed in a tow away zone, but there was no real reason why it was marked as such.  There was additional access to the store from all angles.  The lot was triangular in shape, and I was in the back corner.  To me, a rule to be broken.

As we exited this dinky, dive store that sat on the corner among the shadows, we filed back in the car to find our way home.  Did I also mention I left the keys in the car because I was used to doing so?

Melanie-Aunt-Heather-Piper-at-Wedding-late-1990s

Melanie Grimm & me. Wedding in Mount Pleasant, late 1990’s

It didn’t matter anyway.  Once I tried to turn over the engine, all I heard was click.  It wasn’t like the starter was grinding and trying to start.  Nope!  There was nothing!  No trying.  No almost.  Nothing.  Oh crap!  It was at that moment a sickness settled in the pit of my stomach nearly making me vomit.  Then, visions of my angry dad popped in my head.  YIKES!  Now can you say Adventures in Babysitting?

Being slightly familiar with engines, meaning not really at all, I had to try something.  I popped the hood to look inside.  Of course, no one had a flashlight. Why would we?  However, oddly enough, someone had candles and matches.  Seriously?  Yes!  I didn’t question, I just rolled with it.  We lit the candles to look inside to see if something stood out.  Nothing.  Keep in mind, the melted wax had to go somewhere, including dripping down into the engine.  A side note for later.

Okay.  Now what?  We had to try and fix the situation.  How?  By accepting a ride from a homeless man to a local garage.  Really?  Yes.  Who’s brilliant idea was that?  I have no idea, but I was desperate.  Almost immediately after coming to terms with a broken vehicle, this guy pulled up to the convenience store.  Sefo (his real name was Matt) was talking to this stranger who seemed semi-normal and I believe we paid him ten bucks to take us to a nearby auto parts store to purchase a battery.

Lori-Aunt-Heather-Piper-Strip-District-Pittsburgh-PA-late-1990s

Lori Beanner & me in the Strip District in Pittsburgh, PA. Pre-concert at the Metropole. early to mid 1990’s

Keep in  mind, at the time, we believed it was the battery that just died. Why didn’t we have someone jump the battery?  We didn’t have jumper cables.  Did I know how to give the car a jump anyway?  You bet I did!  But without cables, I couldn’t transfer juice from one battery to another simply by wishing it.

Our plan?  Sefo, who was no bigger than me, would travel with me and this homeless man to the auto parts store, while the rest would stay with the car.  Homeless?  Yes, he converted his backseat into a closet, meaning I had to sit in the front seat between Sefo and this stranger.

Only when we began our trip, did I find out he had nearly no breaks.  How did I know?  When we approached a stop sign, the car sputtered and jerked because he had to use his emergency brake, before obviously admitting to the lack of break system.  That wasn’t the worst part.  Upon closer inspection, I saw all the wires from the dashboard strung up on the outside, and hanging down at our feet.  It really looked like he stole the car!  Scary!  To be honest, I was still more afraid to tell my parents I took the car into Pittsburgh.  Why didn’t someone else call one of their parents?  I have no idea.

Somehow this man, who was somewhat pleasant drove us, recklessly through downtown Pittsburgh, bringing us an auto parts store, as promised.  Sefo stayed with the stranger in the car, while I went in the store to purchase a battery.  Luckily, I had a checking account and I had my checkbook with me, yes when we used checks and not Mac card or credit cards.  I didn’t have either.  Now for the trip back.

To be continued…

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

Pittsburgh Has the “Ugliest” Accent?

Just growing up in Pittsburgh and knowing different neighborhoods, having family there and just loving it, it’s like no other place.  ~Wiz Khalifa
Pittsburgh entered the core of my heart when I was a boy and cannot be torn out.  ~Andrew Carnegie
Gateway-Clipper-8-5-06-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Me, Kyle & mom on the Gateway Clipper in Pittsburgh, Pa. We rode the locks & dams!  Kyle has a blast, he was 5 yrs old.   8/5/06

Growing up about an hour east of Pittsburgh, roughly 45 miles or so, I consider myself a Pittsburgher, secondary to being a Latrobean.  Random Fun Facts:  Latrobe, Pennsylvania  Pennsylvania is known as the Keystone State, as well as the State of Independence.  Tucked away in the lower left corner of the state, better known as Western Pennsylvania, lies the city of Pittsburgh.  It’s our own piece of the world, and it’s a great place to visit, and for me a place I call home.

Over the years, I’ve traveled and explored other areas of our beautiful planet, but I’ve always returned.  Why?  Because this is my birthplace, my home, and it’s a great place to live!  Sure we have our quirks, but nothing beats the landscape of the Laurel Mountains, the three rivers, all the art and architecture, and the quaint communities surrounding Pittsburgh and the suburbs.  Nothing!

Recently, Pittsburgh has been voted as having the “Ugliest Accent” from Gawker.com’s “America’s Ugliest Accent” tournament.  Do I care?  Not really.  I’m proud of our city with everything it has to offer, and its hard working and loyal people.  After all, no one can claim to have die hard sports fans like we do with our “Stillers” (Steelers), Steeler Nation, the Pirates (baseball) and the Penguins (hockey).  We are world renowned for our hospitals and doctors, and recently the Pittsburgh area has caught the attention of the movie industry, and celebrities alike.  Not to mention there are plenty of famous individuals who call Pittsburgh home or have close ties with our city, including Andrew Carnegie (the Carnegie Museum), Gene Kelly, Michael Keaton, Billy Gardell, Christina Aguilera and our world famous artist, Andy Warhol.  Not a bad line up.

We have Heinz ketchup!  Say no more.

Sure, we used to be known for our “still mills” (steel mills), but times have changed.  And sure, we don’t progress as quickly as other cities, but slow and steady seem to win the race, especially with respect to the cost of living.  Our area wasn’t hit hard by the housing market crash, no major spikes and valleys here.  Pittsburgh, like its steel is cool, smooth and solid.

I read somewhere, Pittsburgh averages more rainfall and “partly clawdy” (partly cloudy) days a year than Seattle, Washington.  I don’t know who won that race, but I can attest for our fickle weather that usually hides the sun.   Personally, I don’t mind the rain and clouds, for when the sun does shine we appreciate it all the more.

As a student in school, I was taught correct grammar, like most, learning the difference between slang and proper English.  It’s true, Pittsburgh is an educated bunch, so don’t let the “ugly” accent fool you.  We are fully aware of our creative and very recognizable Pittsburgh language, and we are proud of it the same.  In fact, I’m sure since I’ve started writing this blog, I’ve slipped in a few slang terms, or at least I started to until spell check didn’t realize I was from the Pittsburgh area.

My Pittsburgh accent isn’t as thorough as some, but I do “redd up” my room and walk through “jaggers” in the woods and “chitchat” with friends and offer them a “pop,” even though I don’t drink soda.  Sometimes it gets “slippery” when “yinz” are walking across one of our great bridges.  Yes, we have more bridges than Venice!  Sunday’s I find myself  “loafin'” around while my mom “worshes” (washes) the dishes with water from the “spicket” (facet).  Now that’s one I personally can’t stand!  I’ve never put an “r” in my wash, EVER, and I never will.  My mom is the only one in our family who does, and that drives me crazy!

Pittsburghers are a quirky bunch, but a great place to call home.  If you’re in the area, stop by and have a Primanti Brother’s “sammitch” (sandwich) and visit the “sahside” (Southside), “norside” (Northside) or “dahntahn” (Downtown) “n’at” (and that).  Don’t mock it until you’ve tried it, so go ahead and practice your Pittsburghese.

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,News,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts,Travels and have No Comments

Life Flight with Harold the Helicopter

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

Kyle-&-Pap-watching-TV-Aunt-Heather-Piper-c.-2003

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.

kyle-with-Aunt-Heather-Piper-in-hospital-11-18-03

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.

Aunt-Heather-Piper-&-Kyle-at-Gutchess-Picnic-Idlewild-Park-2002

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.

Kyle-&-Joel-Planinsek-Pavilion-c.-2002-Aunt-Heather-Piper

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

More In Her Head Than an Aneurysm

A true friend is the greatest of all blessings, and that which we take the least care of all to acquire.  ~Francois de La Rochefoucauld

Aunt-Heather-Piper-&-Markelle-Harden-c.-2006

Me & Markelle hanging at Connie Leeper Baker’s in Latrobe. c. 2006

Markelle has been a very dear friend of mine for so many years, I almost can’t even count that far back.  The first question I get asked when talking about my mon ami is, “How did she get her name?”  Good question, which I’ve asked her too.

I was told this story is two fold.  Markelle’s mom had a friend in high school who named her little girl Marquel.  The word on the street, literally,  was she saw a street with that name somewhere and got the idea.  (The girl’s maiden name is Marquel Province from Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania.)  About a year prior to Markelle’s birth, her poor mom had a still born, named Mark.  Once they had a beautiful baby girl, (they thought was a boy, like my parents thought about me before I was born)  they wanted to honor him.  So Markelle arrived! I always knew that lady was born with special significance!

Believe it or not, we met working at a local bar called Mr. Toads, waitressing and bartending.  She was a great person back then and she’s remained the same to this day.

Many, many giggles and good times always accompanied working with Markelle.  Way back when, she was going to the University of Pittsburgh and I was at the community college before I transferred to Seton Hill University.  If one of us was working and the other was hanging out, we would help the other clean up and such, without asking!  I’ve always admired Markelle’s strong work ethic.  She was and still is a hard worker, paving her own way in the world.  I respect that big time!

Yes, we had a blast!  Looking back on it now, Markelle instantly become a big part of my life, almost like a sister.  Heck, there were many a night we would sit with a beer in hand, and shoot the breeze for hours.  What a great gal!

Sincerely, I can’t speak highly enough about Markelle.  Truly, she is one of the most caring and considerate and encouraging friends I have.  She will help you with anything, but will never ever judge and will always stand by your side.  The best part?  Markelle tells you how it is, no sugarcoating, no lying, no fuss, no muss.  A straight up good soul.

We’ve stayed in touch over the years, even when she moved to Phoenix, Arizona.  I visited her a couple times, once when my sister lived in Tucson.  After hanging with Nicole, I went to stay with Markelle for a few days, killing two birds with one stone.   That was the trip we hiked Camelback Ridge Trail in Scottsdale.  For some reason I remember that day very fondly, it was a fun simple day hanging with Markelle. (Except it was really, really hot!)

Trying to convince my friend to move home, Markelle did eventually head for the east coast, but not as close as I suggested, my backyard.  She moved to North Carolina.  Ok, I’ll take that!  Again, to stay in touch we would take mini vacations to visit one another, meeting in the middle whenever we could.  Although, the best trip was the Hilton Head weekend with the girls.  Markelle was gracious enough to invite me with her friends from the south.  It was perfect weather in October and we hung out, relaxed, read, walked the beach, danced, all with a bunch of fun good-hearted ladies.  At the time it was exactly what I needed.  Markelle always knows what’s best.

Olivia-Harden-8-months-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Markelle & Eric’s daughter Olivia at 8 months old, showing her favoritism to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Now don’t get me wrong, Markelle and I would talk on the phone, email and naturally Facebook to keep in touch through the long pauses between vacations.  Periodically, she would make it back to Pennsylvania.  Although I know it gets hard to see everyone on short trips, but whenever she wasn’t wrapped up with the family, we would get together to catch up.  Sometimes I would have Kyle, and Markelle had her daughter Olivia.  It’s funny how we went from hanging out in a smoke filled bar (yuck) to going to restaurants with the kids like responsible adults.  Notice I didn’t say mature, neither one us hit that milestone in our life yet.

We’ve been friends for so long, I often wonder how this happened.  The only sound explanation that I could possibly muster is simply our values.  Besides being a hard worker, Markelle shares a lot of the same conservative views I do.  We both try to walk in the way of the Lord and live a good strong morally sound life, relying on each other for advice and guidance.  Yep are basically alike in many way, just a couple of average chicks.

For some odd reason, out of all the nice things Markelle’s done for me, and let’s face it I could fill a book, the most memorable was the support I received after my brother died.  Typically, everyone is supportive, so what was so different about Markelle?  First let me say, Ryan’s death came as surprise to everyone, he was in a car accident, taken from us immediately and suddenly.  During this time, Markelle lived in Phoenix, so she was miles and miles away.  Naturally because of family, time, money, work, you know the drill we’ve all been through it, she wasn’t able to be at the funeral.  After Ryan passed, Markelle graced me with her presence in the simplest yet most heart felt way.  What did this creative young lady do?  She sent me a Vermont Teddy Bear!  Yes, she sent me a hug!

The weeks during the funeral were very hard and the weeks that followed weren’t that great either.  But for one day, the sun seemed to shine on me, telling me everything was going to alright.   That was the day I arrived home and received a box on my doorstep.  In it was this Teddy Bear with a card attached, simply saying she was sending a big hug my way.  It was a random day that brought with it a moment I really needed.  It was that moment that helped me start to heal.  She couldn’t be there, yet she was.  Markelle always knows what’s best for me!

When her dad passed away, I don’t think I even came close to helping her out like she did me.   I wanted to be a rock for her, but instead I was more like a pebble.  My heart bled for her and her family and I tried to send prayers their way.

So why am I talking about Markelle like I’ve just lost my best friend?  I am very happy to say that is NOT the case!  Nope, or this blog would be seriously taking a dangerous turn for the worse!  No worries, I expect Markelle to be around for at least a hundred years or so.  I simply wanted to take this time to show my appreciation for my friend before our inevitable end, whenever God chooses.

On a side note, personally I’m putting my dibs in to go first.  Not because I know Markelle will make sure the funeral runs smoothly and everything is organized, because she will, but loosing a jewel like Markelle would be truly heart breaking.

Why am I thinking about life and death?  Recently, Markelle had a brain aneurysm.  Yikes, is all I could say.  Then my next question, what the heck is a brain aneurysm?  Believe it or not I’ve heard of them, mostly associated with old people, but I never really knew what one was.  Thankfully, my other dear friend Holly happens to be my residential nurse, answering all of medical questions.

Apparently, it’s not a good thing!  Holly explained it to me in layman’s terms, emphasizing the severity of the situation.  Holy crap!  Then I heard she was going into brain surgery!  BRAIN SURGERY?  Seriously?  O my Markelle!  That’s when it really hit me!

Immediately I thought of getting on a plane and flying down to stay with her and help out with the family.  Why didn’t I?  Unfortunately at the time, I got really sick!  Bad timing!  My dad and I both had this sinus bronchitis thing that was really bad for a week and a half.  So heading to North Carolina to hang out with someone who was fresh out of brain surgery, would be very irresponsible and selfish of me.

Eric, her husband was the best at keeping all of her friends and family updated on her progress and her procedures.  I mean he did an outstanding job!  Even explaining the procedures and her symptoms so they could be understood by all.  What a trooper!

The result?  Markelle has been home for over a week now and she seems to be doing very well!  She is improving everyday from what I understand.  We’ve been Facebooking each other through private messages.  Good sign!

See, I’m convinced Markelle is no ordinary woman.  O no!  Besides being pretty and youthful in appearance and attitude, she is mighty in her will.  I hope that doctor took a good long look in her head, putting aside the stubbornness, to see her intelligence with a strong emphasis on common sense, to see a one of a kind gal.  I know in my heart God has even bigger plans for my friend.

Personally, I can’t wait till we’re both little old ladies.  My guess, we’ll both be feisty and fun!

I couldn’t image a world without Markelle.  She is proof that prayers do get answered!  God Speed to Markelle, her husband, her daughter, her family and all of her friends!

Markelle when you’re ready for a Piper visit, let me know.  I miss you terribly and I pray for you often.

Below are a few screen shots I took from the Facebook posts with respect to Markelle’s surgery.  Some were written by Eric and some Markelle.

Brain Aneurism news 1-17-14 Aunt Heather Piper

Brain Aneurism out of Surgery 1-17-14 Aunt Heather PiperBrain Aneurism 1-17-14 Aunt Heather PiperBrain Aneurism 1-18-14 Aunt Heather PiperBrain Aneurism 1-22-14 Aunt Heather PiperBrain Aneurism 1-22-14 Scary Aunt Heather PiperBrain Aneurism 1-29-14 Aunt Heather PiperBrain Aneurism 1-29-14 Aunt Heather PiperBrain Aneurism 2-8-14 Aunt Heather PiperBrain Aneurism 2-12-14 Aunt Heather PiperBrain Aneurism 2-13-14 Aunt Heather Piper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

One Month Flew By – Time Does Fly

But meanwhile time flies; it flies never to be regained.  ~Virgil
Kyle-&-Nicole-at-Christmas-12-24-10-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle & Nicole exchanging gifts at Christmas 12/24/10

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

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

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

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

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

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

Small Business Race is On…Avoid Obstacles & Win

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

Exploring Inspiration -Scavenger-Hunt-Thrill-of-the-Hunt-Race-Expo-Pittsburgh-Marathon-9-27--9-28-v37 Aunt Heather Piper

Olympic Champion Kurt Angle, Kyle & me! At the Race Expo in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, Pa. 9/28/13

A few Saturdays ago, Thrill of the Hunt participated in the Race Expo, September 27th thru September 28th, held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The Race Expo is the prelude to the Great Race 5k and 10k held in Pittsburgh every year.  I ran the race in years past, but alas not this year.  Why?  Because I’ve joined a different kind of race, one to get my company up and running and sustaining itself.  While doing this, I’m also busy tackling roadblocks and obstacles falling in front of me, as all business owners do.

I’ve never heard anyone say starting a business was easy.  Naturally, if it was everyone would want to partake.  Being a business owner has its benefits equal to the pitfalls, making it the career choice of passion and sometimes blind faith and sometimes complete insanity.  Right up my alley!

The Race Expo was a great place for me to continue branding the company and getting the word out about our scavenger hunt packages and events.  In fact, the Pittsburgh Marathon people contacted me asking Thrill of the Hunt to build a scavenger hunt for the two day event.  Great!  I’m in!

Exploring Inspiration-Scavenger-Hunt-Thrill-of-the-Hunt-Race-Expo-Pittsburgh-Marathon-9-27--9-28-Aunt Heather Piper

Greyhound, Pittsburgh Marathon at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Race Expo 9/28/13

The Exploring Inspiration Scavenger Hunt was a unique way to have the participants explore the booths and products at the expo as well as learn about the participating vendors.  Most of the merchants had their very own start-up and inspirational stories.  How do I know?  Before building any scavenger hunt, I try and look into the area, companies, vendors and such to make my scavenger hunts educational and informative, as well as fun and interactive.  I do my homework.

Was the Exploring Inspiration Scavenger Hunt a success?  Yes and no.  Building and executing any scavenger hunt is great practice and perfect for my portfolio, so yes.  Yet, unfortunately, my booth was hidden within the mix of the other vendors and activities.  The option to participate in this free scavenger hunt was also not promoted and not highlighted, so Thrill of the Hunt never really was given center stage.  Some comments from participants and interested parties  included, ‘I’ve already walked through the expo and I don’t want to again.’ or ‘I have to leave now, I don’t have time.  I wished I knew about it when I got here.’ and so and so forth.  Lesson learned!  But it was still great exposure, great feedback and great contacts!  Those that did participate had an adventurous time and won some pretty sweet prizes.

Exploring Inspiration-Scavenger-Hunt-Thrill-of-the-Hunt-Race-Expo-Pittsburgh-Marathon-9-27--9-28-v10 Aunt Heather Piper

A couple participants in the Exploring Inspiration Scavenger Hunt, presented by Thrill of the Hunt at the Race Expo in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, Pa. 9/27/13

I held down the fort on Friday, getting there around 8:00 am and working the booth till 7:00 pm.  Trying to watch every penny, I was the sole workforce for the day.  So yes, it was a very long long day.  However, Kyle joined me on Saturday from 9:00 am till 5:00 pm.  Well, actually we left a 4:30 pm for two very good reasons, one because we passed out all of our brochures.  Not bad, as long as they are put to good use, a.k.a. call me to set-up a scavenger hunt for someone’s special event or occasion.  And the number two reason, Kyle had to serve mass on Saturday night.  Since we were at least an hour away from home, we had to hightail it out of there to make it back to my parents house, allowing him a few minutes to get dressed and get to the church for 6:00 pm mass.  The race is always on!

Having Kyle by my side, always makes the time more interesting.  He did walk around passing out brochures as well as wasting time, avoiding work at our booth.  Not that I mind.  It was still nice to have someone help with the clean up and he is always good company in the car.  He’s funny, as soon as we got down to the Convention Center, Kyle asked “Isn’t this the location where they shot Jack Reacher?”  What a card!  He was right!

Exploring Inspiration-Scavenger-Hunt-Thrill-of-the-Hunt-Race-Expo-Pittsburgh-Marathon-9-27--9-28-v12 Aunt Heather Piper

Our participants in the Exploring Inspiration Scavenger Hunt, presented byThrill of the Hunt had a blast!! Race Expo at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, Pa. 9/27/13

I am looking forward to my next event for the Pittsburgh Marathon, the North Park Race.  Can’t wait!  That one is called the Witches Brew Scavenger Hunt.  Again, paid for by the Pittsburgh Marathon, free to anyone who wants to participate.

On a side note, did I mention Kyle and I were in a booth beside Kurt Angle?  If you don’t know who he is, Google him, his career list is quite impressive!  His participation and winning in the Olympics is what really stands out to me.  I met him and got his autograph a few years ago when I was working at DeNunzio’s Restaurant, while in college.  He’s a really nice guy and he’s a Pittsburgh local too!

These are all great opportunities, with few minor roadblocks and problem solving situations mixed throughout.  Recently, I’ve encountered different types of serious roadblocks.  Well, I should say the same problems that reoccur since the commencement of Thrill of the Hunt to only remain and increase in severity and become more problematic.  What are these horrible problems and issues?  As with any start up company there are many, depending on the business and the person behind the obstacles, the intensity may appear more or less so.  Mine?  The internet!

Mostly my days consist of a good gripe regarding the internet.  Yes, something we all take for granted, yet expect it to work whenever called upon.  Rightfully so when you pay for a service you expect it to work, at least as good as it’s suppose to!  Nope, not Verizon, and they don’t care!  Really, they don’t.  I’ve called for months now, every time it goes down, which is a lot.  Sometimes a few times a day, sometimes a few times a week.  If they can’t get it to work, they just say “Well I’m sorry there’s nothing I can do.”  Really?  And that’s that?  Unfortunately, my office, a.k.a. my parents kitchen, has no other options when it comes to high speed internet.  So they know they have me pinned to their mercy in a big way.  Another downside to this irritating problem is my email.  Yes the Verizon servers don’t play nice with my business email, meaning they don’t always go through and they are as slow as a tortoise.  Frustrating!

Exploring Inspiration-Scavenger-Hunt-Thrill-of-the-Hunt-Race-Expo-Pittsburgh-Marathon-9-27--9-28-v20 Aunt Heather Piper

Me & Kyle in the Thrill of the Hunt booth at the Race Expo, David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, Pa. 9/28/13

Occasionally my obstacles include trying to help other small business owners by incorporating them into my scavenger hunts, giving them a free opportunity to have traffic driven directly to their store front.  Yes, that is a challenge!  Free advertising and foot traffic!  Most businesses shy away from my events and don’t want to be bothered.  However, I have encountered the few forward thinkers and adventurous ones that welcome Thrill of the Hunt with open arms.  Thanks guys!

Then again there are problems that appear out of thin air and fortunately can be rectified fairly easily with little cost.  I’m talking about my keyboard.  Yes my beloved iMac keyboard became a huge roadblock.  Why?  Well, first let me set the stage that I am not the only one using the iMac, and let’s face it we all eat and drink around the computer.  I have a feeling the keyboard became the catch all plate over the years.  Especially me!  I drink a lot of water and I know the condensation on my bottle of water always seems to drip on my keys just at that perfect moment, when the bottle passes from desktop to my mouth.  Next thing you know, the letter “x” was not working.  Manageable, that is until the letters “v”, “r”, “f”, “c”, “h” and the delete button joined suit.  Try typing an email!  Not a pretty sight!  That problem was easily fixed by Amazon.

Maybe these will be problems of the past.  I’m sure I will always encounter other obstacles and roadblocks, I guess I need to accept that, handling them in the most efficient and productive manner to not create brand damage.  Hopefully, God will walk me through the fire like He has done thus far.  Either way, I am still grateful for this opportunity to make my dreams come true.

Please VOTE!

Thrill of the Hunt is proud to announce we made it to the second round of the Intuit Small Business Big Game Contest.  Help us win big!  What do we get?  Our very own professionally produced TV commercial and a 30-second TV Spot played during the Superbowl, plus chances for much much more!

As of now, Intuit is deliberating to pick the Top 20!  Counting down to hear the lucky few.  Right now we need your prayers to get to this round.  If we make it, then we will need your VOTES!  Everyone can vote daily!

Read about the company and my Intuit submission, I even had to make a video.  Thank you for your support!

Intuit Small Business Big Game Contest Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunt Aunt Heather Piper

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

Laughing About Nothing … Dog in Space

How many legs does a dog have it you call the tail a leg?  Four.  Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.  ~Abraham Lincoln

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Kyle hanging out in the Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C. 6/27/09

Yesterday was a great day!  Kyle played my assistant while we went to Shadyside.

Being located just outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Shadyside is such a quaint, close-knit community that forces you to get out and walk around and explore.  My kind of joint!  We were down there to pass out flyers, meet with business owners and supply posters for the Thrill of the Hunt Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt. Obviously, the scavenger hunt is taking place in Shadyside, at the end of the month on Saturday June 29th.  If you are a dog owner, you won’t want to miss this event!

Traveling about an hour to get to our destination, allows for some serious dashboard time.  I couldn’t help myself, I told Kyle I got him his birthday gift.  I also mentioned that I will have to fork it over early.  He politely smiled and shrugged his shoulders.  I said, “Don’t you want to know what it is?”  He shrugged again and said, “Umm ya I guess but I know you’ll never tell me” without an ounce of enthusiasm.  I’m not surprised, he knows very well that I won’t by him toys or video games.  My gifts to Kyle have always been unconventional.  Meaning they are either educational yet fun, or a skill or an opportunity to try something new, which he may have never done so.  I’m all about the experiences in life.  Examples, piano lessons, guitar lessons, flying a plane, swimming lessons, the Harry Potter book set, Chess set, Monopoly game, tickets to see Lion King the musical with the family and so on and so forth.  Even though he loves the gifts, he is still a bit shortsighted by his love of Legos, video games and toys.  At least at this point of his life.

Kyle-at-Air-&-Space-Museum-with-Lego-Aunt-Heather-Piper-6-27-09

Yes, that’s Kyle in the Air & Space Museum in Washington D.C., holding a Lego set! He hasn’t changed yet. 6/27/09

Well, little does Kyle know, I purchased him a Bricks 4 Kidz camp for a week.  The morning session is Animal Grossology and the afternoon session is Space and Astronomy -Star Wars.  As we drove, I though I’d get him a little bit psyched up by offering clues.  He wasn’t about the guessing game, so I made him.  I said, “Ok, I’ll give you two clues, number one, it involves animals and number two it involves space.”  Now Kyle’s imagination and complete silliness took over.

He was saying, “You got me a dog in space.  You got me a cat in space.  You got me a dog shaped comet.  You got me a dog and a telescope.  You got me a telescope to look at dogs in space.”  Then the ultimate comment.  “You got me a dog shaped telescope!”  We both busted out laughing, for what came next took our breath away.  I said, “How does that work, you lift up its tail and look through its bum hole?”  We were dying!   And then, maintaining consistency with our wild imaginations, we took it to the next outrageous level.   I said, “Ya and to zoom in our out, you push the paw and when you’re done, you put the tail back down.”  Kyle was laughing so hard, no noise exited his mouth.

After a while we started talking about the sounds the dog shaped telescope would make, and it went on from there.  Good times!

It was one of those gut stretching moments that seems like only Kyle and I really appreciate.  We do have such a great time together and he has such a great personality and imagination!  Even if it is just riding in a car.

On a side note, Kyle was such a great kid the entire day.  Even as I met with business owners, he was polite, shook their hands and really sincerely helped me!  He even had a great idea of stopping those people who were walking their dogs to give them a flyer.  Great idea buddy!  Go straight to our target market.

Dog Gone Scavenger Hunt Thrill of the Hunt

Kyle never once complained about walking, however he did take advantage of the opportunity to window shop while moving through the streets.  I can’t blame him, I did the same!  We did swing by the Apple Store, of course why not we were right there, to take a peek at what’s new and exciting.

On a side note, Kyle mentioned he lost his ipod.  What?  Are you kidding me?  He said, “Umm well I know it’s somewhere in my room.  I just haven’t found it yet.”  O Kyle!

Another great day with the little man, totally unplanned and very productive on my end.  Kyle is excited about the Dog Gone!  Scavenger Hunt, as am I!  It’ll be a fun event.  More on that later.  So don’t miss the fun and go to the Thrill of the Hunt website (ThrillScavengerHunt.com) and purchase your Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt tickets!

Catch all the ridiculously funny stories!

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Laughing About Nothing … True Story

Laughing About Nothing … Cats!
Laughing About Nothing … Truck Horn!

posted by auntheather in Education & Learning,Family,LEGO's,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Travels and have No Comments

Forks or Bust! – Twilight Pilgrimage Part 1

Good luck tended to avoid me.  ~Bella Swan, Twilight, Chapter 1, p.11

Please be warned, this blog entry contains a lot of references to the Twilight books and movies.  If you are not fan you might get lost in Forks.

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Nicole & me at Beth's Cafe on our way to tour the Boeing Plant

My flight leaving Pittsburgh was slightly late and so was my changing flight leaving Denver, but by the time I made it to Seattle I was only about 10 minutes behind.  The best part was when I was making my way to the baggage pick-up, I saw my bright red suitcase drop onto the carousel.  That never happens!  I was on time and ready to start my vacation except I was short one sister.

This trip was mostly contingent on Nicole and not me for once.  You see she had a direct flight from Dulles to Seattle, which never happens to me, and they had mechanical trouble.  I guess the plane went to take off and Nicole said she heard a loud ‘thud’ noise before they made an emergency landing.  Then they made the passengers sit on the plane and wait to tell them they couldn’t fix the issue and proceeded to board them onto another plane.  Later they realized, before taking off thank God, that it had a fuel leak.  I couldn’t believe my sister’s luck!  I did know about the delays when I was in Pittsburgh and Denver, so as I was in flight, I was hoping she was too.

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Beth's Cafe as seen on Man vs. Food -Seattle 3/17/12

As I stood in Seattle’s airport, waiting for my vampire hunter companion to join me, I decided to get our rental car and get checked in at our sleeping quarters.  I texted Nicole, telling her to call me when she landed, hoping she was in the air and on her way.  Now I wasn’t prepared to take control of the itinerary, since my sister loves that job, but I did.  Got the rental? Check!  Got the room? Check!  Made myself comfy in my raccoon pant pj’s in front of the TV? Check!  Fell asleep while watching Man vs. Food Seattle? Check!  Didn’t hear my sister’s text messages at 2:00 am Seattle time (5:00 am PA time)? Check!  Was awoken by her call asking where I was? Check!

Finally my sister made it!  We where both in Seattle and ready to begin the last leg of the trip.  The next morning we made our way to the Boeing plant for a tour.  For breakfast, I wanted to stop at a restaurant called Beth’s Cafe.  I saw it on Man vs. Food the night before.  They are known for their omelets, and ironically it was on our way to the Boeing plant.  We had one of the best breakfast’s ever!  Their specialty was this Amish bread, which was incredible!  It was a fun place that gave you paper and crayons to draw pictures.  All self professed artists hung their artwork on the walls, scattered throughout the tiny restaurant.  Naturally, I had to make a picture of me and Nicole for Kyle.  Nicole hung it up somewhere before departing.  This place was a tiny little dive in a really cute neighborhood.  As we drove in and out of the area I instantly fell in love with it.  That place is on the list of ‘must go backs’.

Beth's-Cafe-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Nicole in front of Beth's Cafe.. best omelet! Try the Amish bread!! 5/17/12

Getting to the Boeing plant wasn’t too far and was on a nice stretch of highway overlooking what was going to be a perfect day.  Entering onto the Boeing property was awe inspiring.  Just to see the planes parked, and the sheer size of the buildings!  Too cool!  Our tour lasted nearly two hours and we covered quite a bit of distance, between riding and walking around.  Being in the Boeing plant was much like looking across the Grand Canyon.  You really don’t comprehend the size of the space and it’s hard to get a perspective, until you find a tiny person way down on the floor and make a direct comparison.  On a side note, that tour was amazing!  I highly recommend it to anyone making their way to Seattle.  Now some fun facts I learned on the tour:

  • The plant employs around 35,000 people
  • They have three shifts
  • The only employees who can park around the perimeter of the building, must have worked there for at least 20 years.
  • The plant has 11 cafeterias
  • Boeing supplies 2,000 bicycles for the employees to use and get around
  • The color pigment used to paint the planes weights more than the white color paint
  • On the side of the Boeing building resides the world’s largest digital print graphic, making it’s way to the Guinness Book of World Records
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Me & Nicole at the Boeing Plant in Seattle, WA 5/17/12

After our tour and taking in all the displays and information, we decided to head out and set our GPS for Forks.  It was going to take us about four hours.  It was such a pretty day and we were totally stoked that the ride was no big deal.

What I didn’t realize, was that we needed to cross on a ferryboat.  Another first for both of us!  I imagined we looked like such tourists, when I try to drive up on the ferry without a ticket.  I still have no idea how the guy new I needed a ticket, but he did and he directed us down the road.  It was neat sitting in the loading zone, engines turned off.  Of course, we were getting out and taking pictures, just like tourists.  I will admit I was Four Squaring, Twittering, and Facebooking throughout the trip.  I’m guessing we had a few eyes roll our way from the locals, but that doesn’t bother me.  Once the ferry arrived all engines began to turn on.  That was my cue, showtime!  Cautiously, I drove our rental car onto the ferryboat for a 20 minute ride.  Not being able to control my thoughts, I said, “How would I explain it to the insurance agency that I drove my car into the water?”  Nicole, quickly laughed and said, “Yes Aunt Heather that would not be good.”

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Boeing Plant - Seattle Washington 5/17/12

As the car was parked, Nicole and I jumped out to walk around and to go up on the deck to take in the sights.  It was chilly no doubt, but worth the experience.  We could even see the city of Seattle peaking over the coastline.  Projecting a little humor, I even played my Titanic part at the front of the boat.  It was all fun until the seagulls started to fly around us.  Nicole said, “That would be funny if they pooped on you!”  Well, first I’d like to say, that would not have been funny and secondly if it would happen to anyone, it was going to be me.  I kept trying to throw up my hands and arms around to scare them away, but they just continued circling above our heads.  Needless to say, I abandon my post admitting defeat.

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Me on the ferryboat...heading to Forks. Titanic pose 5/17/12

Soon we made our way back to the parked car in the front of the line on our side.  Again, my thoughts started to pour out of my mouth by saying, “This would be my luck, the boat goes to dock, hits the side of the boat hard and shoves all the cars directly into ours.  I would have to tell the insurance agency that I wasn’t even in the car during the time of the accident  The car wasn’t even on.”  We both laughed reluctantly because if something this unexpected and off the wall was going to happen, again it was with me.  Nicole just chuckled and said, “Yes Aunt Heather.”  I could tell she couldn’t even handle a situation like that at the moment, especially with the rest of our trip clearly ahead of us.  Riding the ferryboat was a really neat experience.  Now, if I had to do it everyday for work, maybe not so much, but for a first timer.  Yep, totally worth it!

During our journey towards Forks we had to pass through Port Angeles.  Stopping the car to look around and stretched our legs, we hit up a couple of stores.  I found this pretty purple dress in a second hand store for only $5!  That made my day even better!  We scoped out the Italian restaurant, made famous by Twilight, that Nicole wanted to eventually sit down for dinner sometime on our trip.  It was starting to get late, even though it was still very light outside, when we continued another 57 miles toward our final destination of Forks.

It was a beautiful ride the entire way.  The same consistent weather all day, a little cold but sunny and perfect blue skies.  Driving along a cliff/rain forest and a sea of water was a bit intimidating but very majestic.  All along the way at specific times, we saw waterfalls between the trees.  Of course this sparked more intense thoughts like, ‘Wonder what they do with a heavy snowfall?’ ‘Wonder if there’s another way in and out of this area?’ ‘Wonder what happens if the roads are icy?’  We were just thankful to have never found out the answers to any of those questions making it to Forks by 8:00 pm Thursday night.

My first impression of Forks?  Deserted dive town!  It is a depressed city located in the middle of nowhere!  There really wasn’t any glamor to it.  One red light, one grocery store, and every place we saw seemed to be a dive.  I’ll tell you more about Forks later.  But first let’s discuss our living quarters.  As the GPS guided us in, I didn’t know how to react.  It was more than a dump, it was a scene for a murder story.  I looked at Nicole and she just laughed saying, “Let’s just take a look at it, it might not be that bad.”  Yikes!  Really?  You are still that positive?  We had a great day and all our luck was soon to come to an end.

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Front of our motel in Forks, WA...can you say Bates Motel? 5/17/12

As we pulled up to our door, I said, “Nicole I think I saw an episode just like this on Criminal Minds!  We are literally staying at the Bates Motel!”  She laughed and encouraged me again.  Our room was on the end and I noticed there was a sort of make shift room attached to the side.  I didn’t care, I saw that episode of Criminal Minds where someone was watching this couple from a secret door in the wall.  I went on telling Nicole and going into detail as I went to inspect the cubbyhole.  While Nicole did not object, and normally she w0uld have, she didn’t join me either.  She was just as curious, but was satisfied that I looked around.  Seemed safe enough.

As we opened the door, I did notice the carpet looked new.  I was semi at ease until I walked into the bathroom.  Part of the shower was separated from the wall and I just got the chills.  The only thing that didn’t have me packing was the new, very clean toilet.  I turned to Nicole and she started to laugh and I said, “Ok I guess this is just like camping.”  Both laughing she said, “Ya, just like camping.  Plus there really wasn’t many options for hotels around here.”  I said, “Ok but help put me at ease so I don’t catch some sort of fungus in the shower and let’s go to the store for bleach.”  Nicole laughed and agreed.  Once we saw the stark white towels hanging and clean white sheets under the old bedspread, we both agreed and headed back out the door for munchies and bleach.

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Side view of our 'motel'...with or without the flowers it was equally as creepy... 5/17/12

We chose, what looked like a dinner to eat along the main strip.  The waiter there was very nice and so was the rest of the people.  At this point, I really wanted a big salad.  I love a good crunch, veggie filled salad, in fact I crave them.  I was in luck, they had a salad bar!  Upon closer inspection of the feast laid out before us, I noticed all the lettuce on my plate was slimy and brown.  Even Nicole commented.  I slid all that lettuce back off and took inventory of the selection.  Minimal at best.  We started to laugh, because it was kind of funny.  Our waiter was very nice and accommodating, the kitchen even made me a large plate of grilled vegetables, which were done just like mom does.  At this point, we noticed the Twilight theme has crept into every crevice of this town.  It was pretty neat and exciting, especially in the grocery store.

Once we got back, I realized we have been riding in a car for hours, and the day before I was on the plane all day.  My legs were tight and sore.  They needed to be stretched out, so I decided to strap on my Brooks and head out for a run.  Nicole, alarmed said, “Where are you going? How long are you going to be gone?”  I agreed to just go to the edge of town, a straight shot and back again.  I figured I’d get in about three miles.  In the meantime, I made Nicole spray down that bathroom with bleach so when I got back I could take a safe shower.

During my run, I noticed it was a bit colder than earlier in the day and my legs where really tight.  I headed straight for the other side of town till I got to the edge and noticed I didn’t even hit a mile!  Really?  The town isn’t even a mile long?  My Run Keeper said I was at 7/10 of a mile.  So I weaved in and out of the side streets trying to gain a little more mileage, which was pointless because I already lost my focus and my legs were still stiff.  Whatever, it was getting late anyway.  I decided to head back to another adventure…the shower.

To Be Continued…

Pre-flight – Twilight Pilgrimage Prequal

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

Light Up Night

Christmas is a necessity.  There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we’re here for something else besides ourselves.  ~Eric Sevareid

Light Up Night Pittsburgh Heather Piper

Me & Kyle at PPG Place 11/18/11

So another year is coming to a close, marked by the beginning of the Christmas season.  This past Friday was Light Up Night in Pittsburgh and, as tradition dictated, I took Kyle.  Earlier in the day, he had his school fall musical.  It’s always so much fun watching Kyle.  He seems to enjoy the attention of being on stage and singing.  Mom and I were in the front row, smiling and snapping pictures as with everyone else in the gym.  Pretty much as soon as the musical finished up, we left for Pittsburgh.

Heading straight for PPG Place, we made a pit stop at the local Subway to grab a quick sandwich.  You see, PPG Place is the perfect setting for a Christmas wonderland.  They erect a huge ice rink around a Christmas tree towering 64 feet in the air.  Not to mention, all the small trees lining the streets draped in small white lights giving an outline to their shape.  It’s really a sight.  What makes it more touching is the walk around the rink and the ice skaters circulating the tree.  They are the survivors or family members or friends of those who have battled cancer.  They walk and ice skate around holding up light sticks attached with a tag containing a loved ones name.  It’s really inspiring. Sad, but inspirational.  No matter how many times I witness this part of Light Up Night, it still really takes my breath away.  Then they do a count down to light up the Christmas tree.

As I stood there I couldn’t help remembering the first time I took Kyle to Light Up Night.  We stood in pretty much the same spot we have since we started going.  He was a little guy then, probably about six years old – the perfect age.  I was still able to pick him up.  As I stood beside Kyle, I realized those days are long gone and new and different memories are awaiting us.

Kyle with Polish Santa Clause Heather Piper

Kyle with the Polish Santa Claus 11/18/11

I remembered Kyle was so amazed by Pittsburgh at our first Light Up Night, especially PPG Place, that he said, “I bet it’s larger than Washington D.C.!”  I told him, “I don’t think so.”  He stared at the top of the glass tower with amazement and commented that, “It’s like a castle, Aunt Heather.”  I laughed and agreed with him.  One of the years, I remember which one, he kept staring up into the sky.  Finally I asked him, “What are you staring at?”  He responded by saying, “Wouldn’t it be really cool if Santa would just fly over us right now and drop my gifts using a parachute?”  That’s my Kyle, always thinking of how he was going to get his presents.  I had to give him credit, that was a pretty cool thought.

We always do a tour of the gingerbread houses, set-up around a train set, inside of the PPG Place.  They also have statues of Santa Clauses from around the world.  It’s always crowded, but totally worth it.  Kyle has always loved trains.  Besides seeing Santa, this is probably his favorite part, watching the trains chug around the homemade gingerbread houses.  This year we had to stand there until the three levels of trains crossed their tracks at the same time at the same spot in perfect timing.  I thought we’d have to wait all day but, you know what, Kyle called it and we stood and watched it happened.

We did the usual making our way around Market Square, weaving up and down the streets, showing off decorative windows, ice sculptors in the streets, and activities along the way before arriving to our ultimate destination, Point Park.  Down at the point is the Santa Spectacular.  There’s a stage with singing and dancing entertainment before good old St. Nick arrives.  This year, we made it in good time to be front row.  Good thing since, in the past, I had to hold Kyle up to see the action on the stage. This year, that would not be possible.

Light Up Night Pittsburgh Heather Piper

Close Up of me and Kyle. It wasn't as cold as previous years, but not a heat wave either. 11/18/11

The first time Kyle saw Santa on stage, he could not contain himself.  He yelled at Santa to look in his direction.  Of course, so did about a thousand other children.  You see, once Santa sings a little, he throws these fire balls at buildings and then fireworks go off.  Then, his last fireball is thrown at the point where the Christmas tree lights up.  In the past, Kyle could hardly believe his eyes seeing such a sight.  I remember him telling my parents all about it for weeks after the event.  And you know what, Kyle still remembered the fireballs this year and was equally excited to see them again.

Kyle is aware of the real meaning of Christmas, but it’s hard to get past his thoughts of presents all the time!  Well, I still have years ahead of me to continue instilling the giving and reaching out to those in need.  Christmas does hold a certain amount of memories and I’m glad Kyle is able to capture them.

 

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