Happy Birthday Dad! 66-Years!

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

Happy Birthday Dad! January 16, 1951

Dad U Sonny Pap Gram Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Age Is a State of Mind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My birthday with Nicole & Chad. 1976

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Marvel(ous) Bond

It is better to arm and strengthen your hero, than to disarm and enfeeble your foe.  ~Anne Brontë

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Kiski Marching Band performing Nemesis! Kyle is the left trombone in the trio. 10/2016

Life contains those subtle special moments that can be easily overlooked.  Personally, I love those moments, and this one really melted my heart.  I’d thought I’d share.

I had Kyle this past Sunday.  Actually, I also spent last weekend with him too!  When I picked Kyle up he seemed a bit cranky, but even toned for the most part.  I didn’t make a big deal of his attitude because I was excited to spend the day with him and I chalked it up to being tired.

Honestly, we don’t get Kyle too often anymore, not like when he was kid.  Kyle spent a lot of time with us, more than half time.  When his presence graces us nowadays, I can’t stop smiling.  Just having Kyle around puts me in such a good mood (as long as his attitude is subsided).  I miss my busy little teenager.

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Me in Bella Italia Restaurant in Port Angeles, Washington 5/2012

Kyle didn’t really want to do anything in particular.  I offered to take him for a hike, rollerskating and to the movies, but he wanted to hang out, mostly to play video games on his phone.  Not my idea of a fun day, but we were both vegging on the couch and catching up on a little television.  Still a nice bonding time, especially since I wasn’t going to see Kyle until Thanksgiving since Dad and I were going hunting in New York this weekend.

First we started to watch Mysteries at the Museum.  One of my Sunday favorites.  I loved watching Kyle pause his game to give his full attention to the history taught in the form of a half hour show.  I can’t remember what other shows we watched, but it was a nice relaxing start to our day.  Eventually, we agreed upon Iron Man, especially since we caught it at the beginning.

I took Kyle to see all the Iron Man movies in the theater, in addition to most of the Marvel movies.  We’re both big fans of movies and we love our superheros.

Sadly, like an old person, I started to doze off, to be abruptly awakened by Kyle.  What happened?  Kyle spotted Stan Lee, as he always makes his cameo appearances in the Marvel movies.

It wasn’t a passing comment.  No. Kyle actually paused the movie, got up to walk over to me, to shake my shoulder to get my fullest attention.  He wasn’t malicious in any way, but excited to show me his findings.

In a daze, I blinked and followed his finger as he pointed toward the television screen.  It was perfectly paused on Stan Lee.  I smiled and said, “Yep, there he is!  Good eye buddy.”  Kyle continued, “Yep, I saw him in Dr. Strange too!”

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Kyle helping to plant the Paw Paw tree at Gigi & Pappy’s 12/6/2015

Okay.  Is this really a big deal?  Maybe not to anyone one else but it was to me.  You see, I’ve always told Kyle to look out for Stan Lee, ever since we started watching the Marvel movies.  I taught him who the man was and his importance to the comic book world.  I’ve always pointed the guy out with every movie and commercial.

Kyle’s gesture showed that he does pay attention to what I say, even though it’s pretty trivial.  It also showed me that our bond is still as tight as ever and he wanted to share his movie night with his friends with me.

Recently, Kyle went to the movies accompanied with his friends to watch Dr. Strange.  I wanted to take Kyle, as tradition dictates, but alas my teenager had other plans.  No problem. I get it.

It was really neat to hear Kyle excited to tell me he spotted Stan Lee in the Dr. Strange movie.  Why didn’t he tell me earlier when I asked him how the movie was and who he went to the movies with, when I picked him up?  My guess, he didn’t think of it and I think he was still rubbing sleep from his eyes.  Once he saw Stan Lee in Iron Man, it triggered his memory and Kyle couldn’t wait to tell me the news and interest we share together.

As silly as this story sounds, it really means something to me.  Kyle and I are still a team, and those roots can’t easily be ripped up and destroyed, by no one.  He’s a good kid and I’m very blessed to have him in my life!

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

Vote Informatively – Election 2016

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

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Trump House, Youngstown, PA 11/7/16

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

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

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

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Trump House, Youngstown, PA 11/7/16

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

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

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

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

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Trump House, Youngstown, PA 11/7/16

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

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

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Me & Kyle at the Sarah Palin rally Latrobe Airport 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pumpkin Guts, No Thanks

Tis “the witching time of night”, / Orbed is the moon and bright, / And the stars they glisten, glisten, / Seeming with bright eyes to listen  ~John Keats

Happy Halloween or technically All Hallows’ Eve!

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Kyle as Jay Jay the Jet Plane, courtesy of Aunt Nikki at Gigi & Pappy’s house 10/2004

Did you know the root word of Halloween is ”hallow,” meaning ”holy?”  The suffix “een” is an abbreviation of “evening.” Halloween refers to the Eve of All Hallows, the night before All Saints’ Day, the Catholic Holy day that honors saints of the past and a time to pray for those in purgatory.  Note, anyone can pray for anyone, living or deceased at any time.

Just for a reference, All Saints’ Day is November 1st, followed by All Souls’ day on November 2nd.

It’s always this time of year, when I see the pumpkin patches full of kids and Jack-O-Lanterns light up doorsteps and windows that I can’t help but chuckling.  Why?  Kyle of course.

When Kyle was a little tyke, and into the recent few years before he gave up on the trick-or-treating tradition, pumpkin carving was always an issue.  Really?  You bet!

Kyle loved searching the pumpkin patches for the perfect pumpkin.  He loved selecting the largest pumpkin imaginable, even when he couldn’t pick it up.  Kyle truly loved the idea of Halloween and the activities that went with the holiday, event pumpkin carving.  However, Kyle never liked the actual carving of a pumpkin, not in the slightest.  Don’t believe me or think I’m exaggerating?  Not even close.

Halloween activities were never the same since the first time Kyle tried carving his pumpkin.  The moments leading up to this point where exciting and eventful.  It was all good and dandy until Kyle actually put his hand in the pumpkin.  As standard protocol dictates, I cut the top off of our pumpkins, Kyle wanted me to have a pumpkin too, and I showed him how to pull the guts out.  Kyle looked down into the center of his pumpkin, sniffed it, and hesitantly reached in.  What happened next took me by surprise and honestly baffled me a bit.

Kyle proclaimed he didn’t like the feeling of the guts on his hand and he wouldn’t continue.  Instead, he looked toward me to do his dirty work for him, literally.  At first, I thought he was being silly, but he was serious.

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Kyle as Jay Jay the Jet Plane, Karen’s house 10/2004

After my shock wore off, I tried to work with Kyle and his pumpkin gut issue.  I gave him a long handled metal serving spoon to scrap the guts.  I thought this would get him past the beginning stages of the pumpkin carving activity and move him toward the actual carving fun.  Something I thought Kyle would enjoy.  Wrong.

Eventually, after I gutted my pumpkin, Kyle abandoned his and took ownership of my project.  He had a good time carving, but certainly not complete excitement like I was expecting.

Every year since, Kyle remembered that faithful day, and reiterated his disgust for pumpkin guts.  It really left an impression on him.  Kyle would prompt our pumpkin patch activity by telling me I had to gut his pumpkin.  Seriously!  Yes.  While walking through the pumpkin patch and making his selection, which always had to be bigger than mine, Kyle would state I was gutting his pumpkin for him.

Trying to get creative, I even had Kyle wear gloves one year, which worked out fine until his bare arms hit the side of the inner pumpkin wall and that ended that.  I should also add, Kyle never liked long sleeves, or cloths for that matter.

I even tried bribing him, yet he would not budge.

Another tradition is taking the seeds and roasting them with a little salt.  Kyle would not even entertain the idea of sorting through the pumpkin guts to retrieve the seeds.  He did eat the roasted pumpkin seeds, but that was about it.

Eventually, we would purchase pumpkins and Kyle would draw faces on them, and watch me carve my pumpkin.  Although, that didn’t really keep his interest for too long.  But I will say, Kyle loved watching the lit pumpkins sit on the porch banister at night.  Standing outside at night, staring upon the flicker light in the shape of a face would creep him out, but he loved it  That is, as long as someone stood with him.

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Kyle as Jay Jay the Jet Plane. 10/2004

This time of year makes me laugh out loud, every time I think of Kyle carving a pumpkin, or more accurately passing the carving buck.  Kyle was never shy about telling others about his pumpkin gut aversion.  Too funny!

As for the rest of the commercially celebrated Halloween celebration, Kyle adored.  The selecting a costume, getting dressed and receiving bag fulls of candy he could handle.

I say that, but there was a year that wasn’t exactly true.  The year when Kyle was Jay Jay the Jet Plane.  Would you believe Kyle wouldn’t put his costume on?  Why?  He thought he was going to take flight.  Seriously?  I’m not making this up.

My sister bought him that costume and it took a few attempts before he would put it on.  The first few Halloween activities we did that year, I had to walk around holding Kyle’s hand on my one side, while I carried his costume in the other hand.  That was one of those situations when I couldn’t stop laughing.  Eventually, he did wear the colorful costume, but it took a while, and I think it was after Halloween pasted.

My little guy, he has his quarks, which makes life interesting and fun.

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

15 Years of Missing Ryan, Another Year Closer to Him

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

September 24,  1977 – October 23, 2001

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chaperoning the Kiski Area Marching Band

Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.  ~Ursula K. Le Guin

Great job Kiski!  Everyone worked really hard and it showed.  I knew you guys could do it!

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A very drenched Kyle on the bus after the football game at McKeesport … boy does he remind me of his Dad 10/7/16

Saturday, the Kiski Area Marching Band participated in the Bands of America competition in Newark, Delaware.  How did Kiski do?  They took first place at preliminaries and second place overall, out of 27 top bands from the east coast.  They brought it and then some.

While I chose not to chaperon the Delaware trip, I’ve been honored with chaperoning pretty frequently throughout the season for football games and competitions.  Do I mind?  Not at all!  I love being involved with Kyle and supporting his interests and activities.  Plus a big bonus, the band kids, the band parents and the staff are wonderful people who are working to make this group the best it can be for each and every child.

Does Kyle want me chaperoning?  I really don’t think so, but the more I’m around the band, the more he’s acclimated to my presence, and the more he seems to accept it.  I try to give him his space, but sometimes I just can’t help myself, I want throw big hugs and kisses his way.  Trying not to overstep my bounds, I’ve ambushed him with a few hugs and a few waves, and certainly many shout outs during performances, but that’s it.  Anyone who knows me, knows I’m showing restraint.  I just love my sousaphone player and I’m very proud of him!

Now that Kyle’s older, sometimes it’s hard to see his Piper family influence.  Then, a situation happens that shows his roots. Once being the Latrobe verses Kiski football game.  It was at Latrobe.

I met the band at the Latrobe Memorial Stadium, which saved me a lot of driving.  As I waited around, waited around, waited around, I had a sneaky suspicion they got lost.  Knowing Kyle wouldn’t answer me, I texted him asking to give them some guidance to the stadium.  Just then, I get a return text saying We’re here.  While reading the message, the buses rounded the corner, everyone except for the equipment truck, who went to the high school.

Later I found out, during their travels a bus broke down and they got a late start.  It happens.

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Kyle in the Kiski Area Marching Band – performing Nemesis at Deer Lakes High School 2016

To offer a very rare assistance, (I’m very directionally challenged) I let the parents know I’m a Latrobean and I know the area very well.  In fact, I’ve traveled the route from Delmont to Latrobe too many times to count.  In addition, I informed them they had a secret weapon among their group, Kyle.  I made sure the parental crew was aware Kyle knows his way around Latrobe with absolute certainty, and if needed, they could lean on him to bring the entire marching band into Latrobe.  That’s when I received news that melted my heart.

The one mom told me Kyle was on her bus offering his assistance letting her know he’s from Latrobe.  That’s my little man!  Naturally, she was confused until I explained that I’m from Latrobe and Kyle has always lived with us half-time, until the band consumed his weekends.  (That brought a laugh from everyone.  It’s true the band is very dedicated and they practice a lot, which builds good character.)

I’m glad Kyle is apart of this group, but I do worry about him.  Not only in band, but in all aspects of his life.  During the beginning of the season, a few parents mentioned to me that they were concerned for Kyle.  Since the tragic passing of his friend Nick, Dealing With Loss.  Kyle took it hard.  Understandably.  What really melted my heart, besides the idea of Kyle suffering inside, was the heartfelt thoughts and concerns from these parents that I hardly knew.  They also stated an unknown fact, Kyle and Nick always sat together on the bus.  My poor Kyle.  What a constant reminder of the passing of a friend.  A few parents confessed to trying to talk to Kyle about Nick, but Kyle brushed them off.  I greatly appreciate their concern , and trying to ease Kyle’s pain.  Thank you!

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A very pensive Kyle on the bus to a Wednesday Competition. 9/21/16

Moving past the sadness, now a funny story that might have indirectly helped Kyle.  While I was in the auditorium between performance for the Gateway competition, I happened to stumble onto a conversation with a group of students in close proximity.  Being a nice bunch, I couldn’t resist, I showed them my wallpaper of me and Kyle at Legofest on my iPad.  The kids didn’t make fun of Kyle, but they were very excited to discover his childhood.  Ironically, the one student took a picture of Kyle earlier on the bus sleeping.  Naturally, I couldn’t pass it up, so I asked him to text it to me.  That was my little man, he looked exhausted.

The following week for a Wednesday competition, I received another mysterious text message, another picture of Kyle.  It kind of broke my heart.  He was sitting by himself, not talking to anyone, simply looking out the window.  It was almost a lonely picture.  Granted, every student on the bus could have been in that mood, or it was for a brief moment, or Kyle needed some quite time, but it still emotionally got to me.  I thanked the band member (I’m trying to keep names out) for the picture, saved it, and moved on.

Since my first encounter with those band kids, they’ve been calling me Aunt Heather, respectfully, and have been sharing stories about Kyle.  Nothing malicious, simply fun interactions with Kyle, stories they knew I’d appreciate.  Shortly after the previous picture was taken, the one kid told me he sat with Kyle on the bus.  Smiling and acknowledging his actions, I was grateful.  I don’t know if that’s what Kyle wanted, and I’m sure the student spoke of me during their bus ride, which Kyle probably wasn’t keen on, but it was a nice gesture.

Week after week, pictures began beeping across my phone showing a very different Kyle.  He was sincerely enjoying himself.  Several of those pictures of Kyle smiling and having a good time has since become my favorite.  I don’t know if one action is tied to the next, but if Kyle’s happy, who cares?

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Me & Sharon at the McKeesport game… chaperoning in the rain. 10/7/16

Without chaperoning, I wouldn’t have known about the bond with Nick and Kyle, I wouldn’t have those behind the scenes pictures, and I wouldn’t be apart of Kyle’s life that means so much to him.  Driving an hour to chaperon (plus going home), those long nights getting in late, and all day competitions were all worth more than I can verbally express.  Plus, I’ve gotten to know some stellar people, band chaperons and band staff.

Keep in mind, I’m not the chaperone superhero, not even close.  Those band parents, moms and dads, are really dedicated to their child(ren) and the band.  They go way above and beyond, making soups, arranging lunches, back and forth to practices, fundraising, helping with the equipment, even assisting with field setup and exiting.  They are extraordinary people.  I’m blessed to know them and to have them around my beloved Kyle.

Thank you!

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

Happy Birthday Ryan!

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

Happy 39th Birthday Ryan!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Birthday Ryan!

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

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

Is Kyle Aware?

To truly be committed to a life of honesty, love and discipline, we must be willing to commit ourselves to reality.  ~John Bradshaw

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Yes, that’s Kyle with the backwards baseball cap! Go Kiski! 9/2/16

Kyle is a full blown teenager.  And with that status, there are certain acceptable and some non-acceptable aspects to that age and stage in life.  I get it, I do.  However, how do you know when the line has been overstepped into disrespect, not only because of the teenager status but due to outside influences?  And how do you correct it, especially since it’s being disguised and hidden as a teenager?

Personally, I can handle Kyle and his attitude.  He’s human, and a growing young man who’s trying to find his own path in life, and searching to adulthood.  I respect all of that, and I always make myself available to Kyle for guidance and support, whether he likes it or not.  My love for Kyle surpasses all that and beyond.  Granted, I don’t tolerate disrespect, but I do forgive and love unconditionally.  It’s no secret, I’ve reiterated these thoughts to Kyle a time or two, or three or four.

Is Kyle aware he likes to be difficult?  I guess all teenagers do to a certain extent, or at least they will.  I did, maybe not at the moment, but upon reflection, I did.  Again, normal growing pains, I understand and accept but shear snottiness I don’t.  Honestly, Kyle is a good kid.  How do I know?  I have proof!

Last Friday was the first football game of the season.  I was asked to do my “parental” duty and chaperon the band.  Gladly!  Keep in mind, I don’t do this for myself or for any other reason other than to spend time with Kyle and support his interests.  Driving an hour to and from the school is not my ideal way to spend a Friday night, plus being responsible for a group of teenagers.  I do it because I enjoy seeing Kyle happy, as well as the other kids.  I do it because family is important and sometimes that means going out of your way to being apart of it.  I don’t get paid, I don’t want recognition and I don’t need any special perks.  I love volunteering and being of assistance.  (I had to go into that dissertation because I was accused of such things when I became a band chaperone.)

How does this prove Kyle is a good kid?

Taking the long way to get the point, I have an example.  Trying to give Kyle respect and keeping my distance, I didn’t bother him at all on Friday, until just before the game was ending.  My Dad asked to see if Kyle would come home with me and I’d take him back the following day after a party he was invited to, near his house.  When I made my way to the top of the bleachers to talk to him, Kyle was just plain snotty and miserable.  He was a little crapper.  In fact, I had to look him in the eyes and say, “Be nice Kyle.”  I never yelled, or caused a scene, but I was stern to show not to push me.  Kyle’s response?  He continued with the major attitude, rolling his eyes and putting up walls.  Again, I repeated, “I’m asking you to be nice.  Just be nice.”  Kyle didn’t say anything but he certainly pouted and had a major attitude.  Not to stir an argument, I left him alone and retreated back to the band parent section.

Upon my return, the one mom, whom I’ve known since Kyle was little, (her daughter and Kyle have been in the same grade since elementary school) ask me how my talk went.  Now it was my turn to roll my eyes.  When I reiterated the conversation, she chuckled, knowing this teenage stage, but was also in a little shock.  She told me that Kyle is a very respectful and polite young man.  She’s never seen anything to the contrary come from him in public and towards parents or authority figures.  That I can live with!  I don’t want him to grow up to be a jerk to people.  I guess some influence has worn off and landed on Kyle.

Is Kyle aware he’s a pawn, and he’s being dramatically influenced, not for good?  That’s my bigger question.  The one question that truly keeps me up at night.  With teenagers especially, it’s easier to take the path of least resistance and the one that offers freedom, no accountability and less work.  Normal.  It’s not in Kyle’s best interest to support such actions, but understandable.  I know it’s also a normal response to want to dump added stress factors to make others happy, especially for a kid.  I get it.

How do you combat all that, not for ego, but simply for the betterment of a child?

I’m really not sure.  I guess me showing Kyle love, understanding and support.

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I tried to get a pic of Kyle, but he wouldn’t let me. I had to sneak this one… Kiski Band 9/2/16

Recently, I had the honor and privilege of being offered some very good advice from a retired school teacher. (Once a teacher always a teacher)  She told me to keep doing what I’m doing, no matter what.  Keep loving Kyle and being there for him.  She also advised me to let him fall, metaphorically speaking.  She said if no one is supporting you and Kyle’s giving major resistance, let him crash and burn, even with school.  She continued, “He has to fail to figure out how to grow.”  She also commented that it’s hard to stand back and let this happen.  I completely agree with her logic, but it’s not easy.  My heart breaks when Kyle is upset, or messes up, or doesn’t do well in school or has a hard day.  I’m happiest when he’s succeeding, and content in life, and simply happy with God in his life.  I wonder if Kyle’s aware of all that?

I’m glad Kyle has the influence of the band.  They’re a great group of kids and the parents really care for them.  All their actions are selfless and out of love.  Seeing Kyle surrounded in that environment puts me at ease.

On another somewhat related but side note, I don’t know what it is about me that puts seriously insecure people’s insecurities into overdrive.  Is it because I’m not a nurturer and I don’t coddle or baby others?  Maybe because I don’t tolerate excuses and finger pointing, but instead offer solutions?  Is it because I set my standards high and expect the same from others?  Maybe it’s because I call people out on their lies and ulterior motives?  Either way, I know Kyle has struggles in making certain people happy for their own arrogance and control.  I wish I could help more.  Now onto the funny.

The funny?  You bet, it’s never a story from me without a bit of humor and adventure.  This time I have two funnies.

While the band was practicing, before marching to the stadium for the football game, the parents where helping tape up gloves, pour water and be of assistance.  Just before leaving, the band director was going through the songs and having the band rehearse.  As our yellow shirt group chatted among ourselves, watching the Big K (that’s what they call Kiski Band), the band director announced, “Cold Water”.

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The Kiski Band practicing before the football game at home. 9/2/16

Just then, a few parents did an about face and headed for the area where the water was poured into cups, waiting to be passed to out to parched band members.  At that very moment, Diane, the head of the band chaperones, called over, “No wait, that’s the name of the song!”  What?  I about died laughing.  The band was playing Cold Water by Major Lazer and Justin Bieber .  To be honest, I was ready to head for the water too.  I couldn’t stop laughing.  It was too comical.

Now onto funny number two.

The band goes out before the game and plays the National Anthem and the school Anthem before returning to their seats in the bleachers.  Then, they do a few songs for halftime, plus they’re in the stands playing for every touchdown and for encourage.  All this playing builds up a thirst.  The band boosters serve cups of water.  Usually, we tray up the water and pass it out while the kids are entering the bleachers, and sometimes we wait and pass out refreshments while the students are already seated.

During this process, I made sure I stayed to my side of the bleachers, while Kyle was on the other.  Although, I couldn’t resist a funny idea I had.  I started to hand cups of water to kids who didn’t ask for it, and instructed them to pass it to Kyle.  I’m not talking about one or two cups, I asked Kyle about eight cups of water.  I don’t know why I thought that was so funny, but it was.  Some kids looked confused upon my request, until I flashed them an ornery grin (which I’m sure resembled Kyle’s).  Some students giggled, knowing what I was up to.

I told a couple of parents what I did and they started laughing.  I said, “Can you imagine him sitting there and everyone handing him a cup of water?”  I thought that was so funny.  I added, “Next time I’ll bring a marker and label his cups with a big old KYLE, LOVE AUNT HEATHER on it.”  The parents about died at that comment.  I thought that was clever, especially since Kyle wouldn’t talk to me.

I don’t want to embarrass him, but I do want Kyle to know I’m there for him and I love him deeply.  Believe it or not, the water is very symbolic with me and Kyle.  I’ve always encouraged him to drink water, and I’ve always made sure he was hydrated, his entire life.  His health was always important to me.  I love that little guy!

Good luck this weekend at the band competition.  It’s at Kiski.  Proud of you buddy, you look great!

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

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

Happy Birthday Kyle! 15 Years!

I have accepted fear as part of life – specifically the fear of change… I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back….   ~Erica Jong

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

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

Turning the page to another year, I’m happy to arrive at my little man’s fifteenth birthday!  As Kyle ages, one of my biggest fears is the person he will become.  However, in actuality, he’s already been a huge success and I couldn’t be more proud.

What stresses me about his character?  You see, when he’s with the family, he’s a bit of a smarty pants, curt, sarcastic (which I appreciate), stubborn and even a bit negative.  Granted, this isn’t a constant, and it seems to be more heightened when he hit his teenage years, but a fear regardless.  I don’t want Kyle to act disrespectful with his friends, friends’ parents, teachers or even strangers.  I don’t ever want Kyle to be labeled as such (I’m not concerned about the stubbornness unless it’s a hindrance), and I want him to be happy and have friends and experience life with love in his heart and a positive outlook.  However, while investigating Kyle’s behavior, I’ve been proudly informed time and time again, he’s a kind, polite, and a typical teenage boy. (Yes, I do constantly check up, things change and quickly.)

How do I know?  Simply, I ask and pay attention.  Really?  Yes, I do care for Kyle that much that I take the time to inquire, and I’m not talking about a passing comment.  When I get the chance to speak with a parent Kyle recently spent time with, I ask how he’s acted.  Usually, you can get a feeling when a parent is telling you the straight up truth or whether they’re sugar coating.  Asking the right questions also helps.  While chaperoning the band, I watch from a distance.  Again, my observations with the way he interacts with friends and fellow band members shows a lot about Kyle’s outside behavior and the real person he is.

You see, I was told once that teenagers need a means to get it out.  They’re hormonal and finding themselves, and they need a safe place to act out and dump everything from the inside, out.  I was also told a child will only do this with those he loves and is one hundred comfortable with.  Yeah for us. (sarcasm)

What would I do if I saw appropriate behavior?  Tell him.  As his aunt, and anyone who loves and respects him, it’s our job to call him out.  Perhaps he’s not aware of his actions, or if he is, it’s our job to correct bad behavior.  It’s in his best interest to shape into the person he will one day be. I know no ones perfect, we’re all  human, but it doesn’t mean we don’t try.

I am very proud of Kyle.  He’s always been my inspiration, and even if he longer believes it, we’re still a team.  I’ve always got his back no matter what.

Happy Birthday buddy!

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

Escape Room Experience

Shut your eyes and see.  ~James Joyce

Escape Room Latrobe 5-29-16 Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hello Mary Kay Andrews!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Career

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

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

Happy reading everyone!

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

A Pillow of Memories

I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.  ~Laura Ingalls Wilder

Pappy & Kyle on Pillow c. 2003 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle snuggling up with his beloved pappy on his pillow. c. 2003

Looking at Kyle from a distance, he’s definitely more a man than a little boy.  He’s nearly as tall as me, leaned out and he’s even carrying himself with purpose.  However, every now and again he does something that screams little boy, and I can’t help but notice and smile.

This past Saturday, we were watching The Hobbit:  Desolation of Smaug.  (for the countless time, it’s one of our favorite movie series)  True to Kyle’s idiosyncrasies, he turned off all the lights to set the movie watching mood, then he pulled up a pillow.  Okay, pulling up a pillow to get comfortable isn’t weird, but he pulled up the dog’s bed and proceeded to snuggle in, right in front of the television, on the floor.

You see, when Kyle as a little tyke he loved to sprawl out on the floor in front of the boob tube.  He would try and get as close as humanly possible.  It became an issue with us having to pull him back, while he always protested.  Eventually, we came to an agreement and he knew where the line was established.  I’m guessing that was ingrained in Kyle, because he stayed at the borderline on Saturday.

The action with dog pillow cracked me up too.  When Kyle was a baby, four months old to be exact, right after his dad passed away, I painted and redecorated Ryan’s old bedroom at my parent’s house for Kyle, since we knew he’d be living with us part-time.  I also wanted him to feel he was always welcomed and was at home.  (Kyle has a room at my house too.)  I embellished Kyle’s room with items for children, while leaving little pieces of his dad here and there.  To really polish off the child’s domain, I made Kyle curtains.  The fabric I chose had red trucks and dogs printed on solid blue, red, white and yellow blocked backgrounds.  I even embellished the curtains with large primary colored buttons.  They were very cute and cheerful, especially considering our state of mind at that time, dealing with the loss of Ryan.  Anyway, upon completion of the curtains, I realized I had a lot of extra fabric left.  What to do with the material?  Turn it into an over-sized pillow of course.  I stitched up the rectangle sides and made Kyle a huge pillow, roughly twenty-four inches by thirty-six inches.  It took a lot of stuffing, but I made this, unbeknownst to me at the time, favorite pillow of Kyle’s.

Pappy Kyle & Jake with Pillow Aunt Heather Piper c. 2004

Kyle hanging with Pap & Jake, the pillow was always nearby. c. 2004

Naturally, when Kyle was a baby, he didn’t really take notice to the pillow.  As he grew older, I’d find him dragging it throughout the house to lay on, or he used it as a nesting spot to play with his cars and trucks.  Soon, when he discovered cartoons, Jay Jay the Jet Plane, Thomas the Tank, Bear in the Big Blue House, and George Shrinks (Kyle and my dad’s favorite) to name a few, Kyle would  pull that pillow in prime watching position on the floor, which were hardwood, for ultimate viewing comfort.

Kyle loved that pillow!  Even though I don’t think he remembers it nowadays.  So much so, that eventually the once fluffy pillow became beat down and lumpy, especially after many justified washes.  Eventually, I opened up the stitching, and replaced the stuffing to get a few more years out of it.  Back then, Kyle loved doing anything with me, and he certainly assisted with the process, which I very much enjoyed.

To be honest, I’m really not sure when we decided to give up on the pillow, and tossed it once and for all, but it no longer resides on the floor, in front of the television.  That place is reserved for the dogs.  I’m sure before removing that staple from the house, I consulted Kyle on the decision, to avoid a childhood scar like I endured regarding my banky (blanket).  I’ll explain that situation one day.

Now the present, and Kyle’s on the dog’s therapeutic bed, which he drug in front of the television to watch the movie in the dark.  Just like old times.  My little man’s still in there!  Kyle will always be my little man!

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

Don’t Judge, Everyone Has Scars – Part 1

Wounds turn into scars and scars make you tough.  ~Aisha Tyler

Kyle's-5th-Birthday-at-SeaBase-2005-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle’s 5th Birthday, party at SeaBase in Greensburg. He had a blast! 7/2005

Everyone knows the old saying, “Don’t judge a book …”  Even though it’s true, sometimes it’s hard not to make our own assumptions.  I know me personally, I’ve been on the receiving end of judgement, and even though I’d like to think I’m not a judgmental person, I’m sure I’m equally as guilty.  I don’t hold grudges but sometimes stories need to be told to learn from them.

Like what?  When Kyle was a baby, even until present day, I’ve had strangers give me stares and accusatory looks, assuming I’m a single parent.  Yes!  All true, no exaggeration.  I noticed, but never gave it much thought, nor did I hold it against anyone.  Why waste energy worrying over something that didn’t matter?  Also, why dwell on the negative?  Not worth it at all.  In fact, I tried to look at my situation from the opposing point-of-view.

Let me give a single example and set the stage.  At the time, I was a young single gal, who looked even younger still, sporting a five month old baby in a papoose, walking around the mall like an unemployed mall rat.  The reality was, I was about twenty-five years old, working two jobs, in college finishing up my marketing degree, and taking care of my nephew because his dad, my brother, recently passed away about two months prior.  Reality verses assumption, big difference!

Once, this very inaccurate judgement happened while at SeaBase, in Greensburg.  SeaBase is a local indoor child’s play area, where the youngsters run around, play on climbing walls, jump among padded floors and walls, and take a swing at goofy golf, that sort thing.  We actually held Kyle’s fifth birthday there.  During this particular period in my life, I was working a lot, and consequently I was always completely exhausted.  Plus, I was back in college working on my fine art’s degree in graphic design.  Did I mention, I was also taking care of my wonderful nephew too?  On one particular day, I wanted to do something fun with Kyle, as my dad would say, “To get the stink blowed off him.” and let him get out and have fun.  Kyle was about two years old and needed to socialize, and do something different to break up his repetitive day.  Seabase.

Casey-Aunt-Heather-Piper-Kyle's-Baptism-10-28-2001

Casey, Kyle’s godfather & me, Kyle’s godmother at his Baptism at Sacred Heart Church, the day prior we buried Ryan. 10/28/01

I remember the situation perfectly.  It was a rainy cold mid-day, during the week, hence why I chose an indoor activity.  There were no words to express just how drained I truly was, and the rhythm of the rainfall didn’t help my cause.  Why did I go?  I knew Kyle needed to get out, he really did.  He needed to stretch his legs and run around and burn off some energy, something of a luxury for him.  If I didn’t step up, then he would have missed out.  More importantly, I was long overdue to spend some quality time with my little man and give him my utmost attention.  You know, instead of hanging with him while multitasking.

While we were playing in a pit full of colorful plastic balls, I started to doze off.  Yikes!  I couldn’t help myself.  Not to mention, my appearance was a bit rough, looking like I just rolled out of bed.  Once I was able to pinch myself hard enough to keep my eyelids from drooping, something caught my eye and I saw things clearly.  Please note, this wasn’t that long after Ryan’s passing, which still felt like it just happened, much like it does presently.  So yes, I’m sure depression played a big roll for my lack of energy, and unconcern for my attire and overall physical appearance.  I didn’t care, my only concern was Kyle’s happiness.

What happened?  Well, first let ME pass judgement.  I was in close proximity to a few stay at home moms, who no doubt didn’t have to work and were able to get a good nights rest to really participate and enjoy their children.  Yeah, those women actually gave me glares.  Granted, they never did say a word to me, but it was evident in their caddy whispers and stares in my direction what they were saying.  Again, I’m sure I looked a lot younger than I was, and I know I appeared as unemployed, and I’m absolutely positive I seemed like a neglectful parent, trying to catch a few zzz’s in the plastic balls with a small child at my side graving for my attention.  Regardless, the situation wasn’t as it appeared.

Even though my scars were not visible, they were clearly there.  Did those unaware individuals bother me?  Not really, the only thing that aggravated me was my lack of energy for Kyle.  As long as Kyle never felt the passive aggressive judging demeanor of others, I never gave it a second thought until now.

Being on the receiving end of judgement, I can see how this type of unspoken treatment could effect someone, especially being in a delicate state like I was.  But again, I never let it get to me.  Also at the time, we were dealing with Kyle’s medical issues, alarmingly his ears (ear infections) and bouts of pneumonia, croup, sinus infections etc.  That’s the main reason I had to get Kyle out that very day.  Regardless of my own fatigue, Kyle wasn’t sick and I wanted him to take advantage of his health and share in his happiness.

I could go on, but I won’t, there’s no point.  Plus, I’m sure there were many more instances that I didn’t even catch.  I’d like to think someone saw me, and instead of making assumptions for my situation, they said a prayer for me instead, or more importantly for Kyle.

What made me think of this?  I passed SeaBase the other day and it just came to me.  I had a lot of great memories there, mostly when I was energized and could hang with Kyle.  However, it only takes one time, and that one in particular, I felt horrible for not giving Kyle my fullest energy potential and my undivided attention (actually any attention).

I know Kyle never remembered and if he did, he probably could care less, but I do.  I love my buddy!

So let that be a lesson, everyone is fighting their own battles, don’t judge.

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

Fall Cartoon Line-Up of Years Past

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

Nicole-opening-gifts-mid-1980s-Aunt-Heather-Piper

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dad-and-Kyle-watching-TV-c.-2004-Aunt-Heather-Piper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

*Means a favorite of mine

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

Childhood Goal is Measuring Up

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

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

Me & Kyle at Idlewild Park for the Gutchess Picnic 2003

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

May You Both Find Eternal Peace

A human life is a story told by God. ~Hans Christian Andersen

Melanie A. Grimm
December 18, 1976 – March 28,2014

&

Bertha F. Nesser
December 19, 1970 – May 22, 2014

Melanie-Grimm-Thumbs-Up-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Melanie Grimm giving a reassuring thumbs up! Rest-in-Peace 12/18/76 – 3/28/14

Recently, meaning within the last couple of months and a week ago, two friends of mine from back in the day, have separately moved on into their eternal journeys.  Melanie Grimm and Bertha Nesser both passed away at young ages, but graced everyone who knew them with their friendship and loving spirits.

Unfortunately, in recent times, I’ve lost touch with both ladies, only reaching out via Facebook or the rare get together, but I still considered them friends.  To be honest, I took advantage of these distant friendships, thinking they would be around for a long long time, into our ripe old ages.  I guess God had other plans.

Previously, I wanted to pay homage to Melanie, who passed away on Friday, March 28, 2014, but was never sure how, it’s been weighing on my heart.  To be honest, I was in a little bit of shock, knowing she was sick for quite some time, yet remaining in that false safe place called denial.

Then, Bertha passed, on Thursday, May 22, 2014.  Now the true reality of death is standing in front of me and staring me in the face, without as much as a blink or a flinch.  I know this is a part of life, but one I was hoping to postpone for many years.

Recently, Grandma Ferry – Moving Into Greener Pastures, passed at the age of 97.  That’s an acceptable age, at least in my mind, but 37 years and 43 years, respectively, is uncompromisable, again in my tunnel vision.  I’m still trying to fathom the death of my cousin Tommy who was only 13 years old.  Moving On Too Soon – Thomas Watson Piper.  I know there’s no age prerequisite for dying, but some ages make more sense to me than others.

Bertha-Nesser-Smiling-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Bertha Nesser looking radiant. Rest-in-Peace 12/19/70 – 5/22/14

There is no doubt that there is a world of people, meaning strangers, who have experienced worse in life, so much more so than I can ever imagine.  But the death of a friend still shakes a person up a bit.

I’m no stranger to dealing with a sudden loss, and I’ve experienced tragedy first hand.  Nothing can ever compare, nor crumble my spirits and drop me to my knees with sadness and sorrow like it did with Ryan’s passing, at least I hope not for a long time.  Yet, loosing a friend effects me in a different way, not better or worse, just different.  It certainly rekindles emotions from Ryan’s funeral.

Sometimes, I wish I could become callous to death and facing the loss of loved ones with ease and without sadness.  Personally, I guess I wish that of no one, for every life has meaning and is essential to the world and should be treated with extreme importance.  However, on the same note, even though death is inevitable, I pray for many to have peace when exiting this world and their family and friends are graced with acceptance and strength.  My heart bleeds for those suffering, truly heartbreaking.

It’s weird, but both gals, Melanie and Bertha were very similar, at least in ways that come to my mind; fun, goodhearted, hard working and friendly, to name a few.  I came to know Melanie through a friend, as did I with Bertha.  Did they know each other?  I don’t believe so, but without a doubt they would have been friends.

I don’t mean to lessen either death by combining them in one blog post, but to be honest, I don’t think I could have ever mustered two separate tributes without it breaking me down.  It seems as though I am comforted to speak of them together and deal with their deaths as one whole, little bit more manageable from my point-of-view.

I want to give a call out to each lady and reiterate how genuine and great each one was in life, and how missed they are and will be for years to come.  My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone Melanie and Bertha touched.

God Speed Melanie Grimm

Melanie Grimm Obituary Aunt Heather Piper

God Speed Bertha Nesser  

Bertha Nesser Obituary Aunt Heather Piper

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

Grandma Ferry – Moving Into Greener Pastures

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

July 6, 1917 – May 8, 2014

Grandma-Ferry-Funeral-Pamphlet-Aunt-Heather-PiperGod retrieved another good soul, but blessed us with her for 97 years.  Mrs. Sophie (Ferry) McLaughlin was a good friend of my family’s for as long as I can remember, as long as my mom can recollect.  The entire Ferry clan has been an integral part of our entire life, living on the opposite hillside.

Grandma Ferry, as we always called her, which is exactly what she was to us, a grandma, passed away on Thursday, May 8, 2014.

Some may ask why I would call this neighbor lady, who clearly wasn’t even related, with the honor of the grandma title?  Easy, my maternal grandmother passed when my mom was a teenager, so I never met her.  It’s true my paternal grandmother is alive and well (still is causing trouble), but let’s say Grandma Ferry was more of the grandmotherly type.  Granted, we had my Uncle Walter and Aunt Mary down over the hill who were also very close with us and like a another set of grandparents, but somehow Grandma Ferry got the title and it has remained ever since.

Grandma Ferry  lived directly behind my parent’s house, most of her life, until she re-married and moved to Ohio.  During my childhood, occasionally she was needed to babysit, and let me tell you it wasn’t a free for all.  Nope, if our rooms were a mess (which usually they were), then she made us clean them up and organize the disaster.  If the house needed cleaned, we had to get to work straight away.  If any work, inside or out, needed done, there was no time to dilly dally.  When it was time to feed us, she wasn’t no short order cook.  O no!  We helped her prepare our lunches and no television while eating.  We had to sit at the table and eat together, the way it should be.

Grandma-Ferry-Funeral-Pamphlet-Inside-Aunt-Heather-Piper

I remember once when I was hanging cloths, yes back then we had cloths lines strung up alongside the house.  Part of my chores were to hang the dripping wet garments and take them down, fold them and put them away.  One day, while doing so, I remember as plain as day, I spotted Grandma Ferry making a beeline for me.  Her house sat up higher on the hill directly behind mom and dad’s, making our backyard and the sides of the house easily visible.  As a kid, I know I rolled my eyes when I spotted her, because I didn’t want to be doing these chores, let alone listen to someone tell me how to do them.  She marched right up to me and showed me the right way to hang the laundry.  My comment, “That’s not how mom does it.”, which we all know my mom was never the poster child for good housekeeping.  In her own polite way, without throwing my mom under the bus, she held her ground and showed me the reasoning for hanging the clothing a certain way and the correct way to do so, which I remember to this day.

Every once in a while she would have me and Ryan rake her leaves or grass clippings.  She paid us in homemade soup and freshly baked bread.  I remember thinking, I would rather have some cold hard cash (I would have never dared ask), but the food was so delicious it made all the work worthwhile.  She also didn’t let us slack while raking.  Nope!  If we missed areas she would point them out and we weren’t done until the job was done, no matter how long it took us.  We always had to finish what we started.

She really was a huge help to mom and dad, especially when mom went back to work when I was in the third grade.

Grandma-Ferry-Funeral-Card-Aunt-Heather-PiperWhile playing in the backyard or taking hikes up through the woods with my cousins, she would always pop her head out to see what we were up to, questioning our actions every now-and-again and sometimes not speaking a word.

Thinking about our interactions with Grandma Ferry now, from a different perspective, she was never a nag or a pain, she really cared for us.

On a side note, sometime when I was little, dad put in our small orchard, which overlooked Grandma Ferry’s front porch.  She always loved it, especially when dad would mow.  Dad even commented that she came down one day, while the digging had begun, and gave dad a little bit of money to put toward the project.  She too had an apple tree and a huge grape harbor, which again Ryan and I would have to pick.

Did I think she was annoying and bossy?  You bet!  Exactly like I did my own parents, that same bittersweet love.  She really was my family and truly a nice lady.  However, you never crossed her for she wouldn’t take any crap, and that meant from us kids, even around our own parents.  Most adults shy away from disciplining kids in front of their parents, especially ones that aren’t their own.   Not Grandma Ferry.  She knew where she stood and demanded respect and demanded we show respect to our parents and each other.

Grandma-Ferry-Newspaper-Article-Aunt-Heather-PiperWe always joke around wondering how I know how to fold and clean properly and am so organized, the complete opposite of mom.  I think I finally found my answer, Grandma Ferry.  Looking back on it now, I owe her a lot.  She wasn’t just the little old neighbor lady.  She was a big part of our childhood and helped reinforce what we were taught, respect and hard work.  She taught me to do laundry, clean, yard work and even a little cooking.  She was one of the good ones, who took an invested interest in us, not for her own sake, but for ours.

I’m sure she led a great life before I came into this world, and I know she led one while I was here, being a first hand witness.  I can’t even imagine what those eyes have seen over a span of ninety-seven years.

Rest-in-Peace Grandma Ferry! 

Thank you for being you!  You will always be remembered!  

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

The Fishing Derby Story

You never realize how much of your background is sewn into the lining of your clothes.  ~Tom Wolfe

Stacey-Olczak-1995-Winner Aunt Heather Piper

My cousin Stacey Olczak. She won the 1995 Louis Planinsek Fishing Derby!

Another Mother’s Day is upon us and that means the Annual Louis Planinsek Fishing Derby!  The 25th Annual Louis Planinsek Fishing Derby to be exact.

Participating in this event year-over-over, I take it for granted.  But it does take a lot of work and effort to organize this tradition.

About this time last year, I was curious with respect to the origins of this family fun event.  “How did it start?” and “Who started it?”

Since the Fishing Derby is now a quarter of a century old, and I’m a little bit older than that, it doesn’t take a mathematician to realize I was indeed around for the event’s inception.  However, that was twenty-five years ago when I was entering my teenage years and doing my own thing.  Kyle’s age now.

So what DO I know?  I know my cousin Casey Olczak (Kyle’s godfather) won the very first Fishing Derby and my brother, (Kyle’s dad) attended the weekend fun when he was younger.  Aside from that, I don’t know much about the origin of the Louis Planinsek Fishing Derby or who’s idea sparked a tradition that is going strong today, and by the grace of God will continue to do so.

For these details, I reached out to my good friend, Nina Enfinger, former Planinsek, a pretty solid source to satisfy my curiosity!

On a side note, with this blog I not only record life events and lessons learned for Kyle to read at a later date, but I also try to anticipate future questions and clarify details, so Kyle has a strong understanding of his past and his true family and friends.  It occurred to me, he might want to know about the Fishing Derby, like myself.

From what I’ve been told, Dave Planinsek started this Mother’s Day tradition after attending a similar event.  He saw how much fun those kids had and how everyone enjoyed themselves.  Take that idea along with a place to have the Fishing Derby, the Planinsek Pavilion, then a seemingly simply tradition was created.  The Louis Planinsek Fishing Derby, named after his dad.

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

Dave Planinsek going over the rules before blowing the bugle to start the fishing Derby. 2012

The Fishing Derby always starts on the Friday night before Mother’s Day, pitching the tents, a big bonfire, plenty of food, and a bunch of kids running around playing tag, dodge ball or whatever else they dream up.  It’s five dollars to purchase a ticket to the Fishing Derby and everyone brings a covered dish.  There’s always homemade popcorn made on the fire and the raffling of donated items begins.  The adults eat and drink and shoot the breeze until late into the night before retiring to their tents or for the less die hard, to their nice warm beds to only start again the next morning.

Saturday starts fresh at around 6:00 am or so, with the smell of breakfast cooking over the fire, typically scrambled eggs, bacon, pancakes and french toast.   Someone always brings fresh doughnuts and fruit, plus the assortment of homemade covered dishes from the night before and new ones appearing throughout the day.

18-Annual-Planinsek-Fishing-Derby-5-13-07-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Planinsek’s lined up, celebrating the 18th Annual Louise Planinsek Fishing Derby. (top row) Jimmy Singer, Sean Michael Lynch, Patrick Lynch, Amelia Enfinger, Jenny Singer, Rachel Campbell, Dave (Boo) Planinsek.  (bottom row) Jacob Singer, Lizzie Planinsek, Will Enfinger, Lexie Planinsek & Natalie Rodgers  5/13/07

From early in the morning till right before the bugle is blown, (yes they actually have a horn they blow!) all participants set up their chairs and fishing gear around the pond.  The derby starts at 9:00 am after the acknowledgments are announced, thanking those who helped out or assisted in some way to make the day a success.

Now let’s not get silly, the area isn’t set up ready on command and the pond isn’t stocked by chance.  The Planinsek’s really do a lot of leg work to get this event together.  Family and friends help clean up the Pavilion beforehand by stacking firewood and stocking the pond.  This usually takes place a few weeks before the Fishing Derby.  Like I’ve said, this is a well planned and much anticipated activity every year.

Emma-Jackman-2010-Winner-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Congratulations Emma Jackman! She won the 2010 Louise Planinsek Fishing Derby

Let’s not forget, all the leg work to gather the donated gifts and gift baskets for the raffles, purchasing the toys for the kid’s raffle, getting the breakfast food, the paper utensils, the signage, and I’m sure there is a lot more that are hidden behind the scenes that doesn’t even scratch the surface.  Not to lessen any efforts from anyone, but I was informed that Cindy Planinsek is responsible for a majority of this pre-planning work.  Thanks Cindy!

At this time, after acknowledgments, they also recognize friends and family who have moved on in life, giving a moment of silence.  Then the rules are recited and the derby is ready to begin.

Forgive me for butchering anything up or missing any key parts, but it’s pretty straight forward and simple.  All participants must be 16 years of age and younger.  Since it’s a small pond, with an army of little ones who may not have the best casting skills, the adults can help the child cast.  This makes sense since the adults are the ones who have to untangle lines, remove bobbers and hooks from tree branches and help bait the hooks.  All participants need to reel in their catch, while usually the adult waits with a net to again assist.  No adult can be caught with a fishing pole without being accompanied by a child!

The goal is to catch the largest rainbow trout.  There are also additional prizes for the largest Palomino and other species.  But the coveted trophy and the honor of having his or her name recorded in the books is strictly for the trout.  Naturally, all the fish can be caught and kept for frying up or released to be caught again.

Over the years, I’ve heard stories upon stories of tales from Fishing Derby’s past.  It’s so much fun to hear all the tall tales while sitting around a campfire.

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

Mick, Lexis, Lizzie, Wendy Planinsek.  Lexie Planinsek won the 2010 Fishing Derby!

One story, they do share right before the kids cast their first lines of the day, more to demonstrate safety and being aware of ones surroundings, is the face hook story.  This story really makes you think before you cast your line!

As you might have guessed it involves a hook and a face.  About forty some years ago Dave Planinsek hooked his Aunt Sally in the cheek or the nose or some facial feature with a fishing hook while he was casting his line.  Ouch!  Can you imagine having a fishing hook in the face?  Can you imagine being the one who did it?  I’ve caught my own fingers, but that’s pretty serious!

Now the activities vary from year-to-year, but the theme remains the same.  In addition to fishing, which is the heart and soul of the day, Mick Planinsek usually gives hay rides and the kids always get a mean game of dodge ball going.

With twenty-five years worth of history, I can’t outline all the winners but here are the recent few.  A few years ago Joshua Enfinger (Nina’s son) won with a twenty-four and half inch rainbow trout.  The year after Lexie Planinsek (Mick’s daughter) won (not sure of the size).  Our last year’s champion, Ryan Hiles won with a twenty-three inch rainbow trout.  Each year it seems like new records are broken, but the fun always remains the same.  Winners have gone from seven and eight years old to sixteen, the maximum age for the participants.  There’s a huge age span, so it’s anyone’s trophy.

The Planinsek family is a great group of people, a truly sincere hardworking dedicated fun bunch.  They are responsible for creating the memories that last eternity.  Thanks so much!  Happy fishing!

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