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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

I’ts the Little Things that Count to a Child

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.  ~Frederick Douglass

Max,-Landon-Jordan-Aunt-Hot-Dogs-Crew-Aunt-Heather-Piper-2013

Max, Landon, Jordan, hanging with the cousins! Aunt Hot Dogs is the chauffeur 2013

With New Year’s resolutions set into motion, I hope everyone makes it a point to be more loving to their fellow neighbor or family member, especially children!  Little gestures truly do matter!

It’s funny, everyone now-a-days, well maybe not EVERYONE that would be a grossly generalized statement, but many feel the need to spend money on their children.  Why?  To show love I guess.  Sometimes I’ve found myself falling into that trap, but then I step back and realize Kyle is happy even just picking rocks (yes no joke, he’s like his dad whereas they will search for cool looking rocks to collect) as he would be participating in a shopping spree.  Kyle is truly happiest when someone is doing something with him, giving him attention, showing him love, and learning something new.  Even if it’s cleaning.  Now, if it’s perceived as exciting through his own mind, even better!

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Little Landon celebrating Christmas… not as great as a parking garage, but a close second! 2013

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with spending money on a child, because my family has cornered the market with that action over the years.  But I also believe it’s the little things, sometimes the smallest gestures that mean the most to a youngster.  Those minor actions, that don’t take that much energy, and sometimes acquire no cost, are remembered and cherished above all.

I do try to live by this rule.  That’s why I take Kyle for walks in the woods, (one reason, second for exercise and third to get him off of those video games) not only do I try and get him to appreciate God’s artwork, but I try to spend those extra few minutes with him, without distraction.  (Well once he’s stopped complaining)  It’s true, sometimes playing a game of Chess or War means the world to that kid.

Mentioning it a time or two, when Kyle was a toddler of about two or three years of age, he loved sitting with me practicing his addition and subtraction flash cards.  Loved it!  Not only did he like to test his knowledge and get correct answers, but he also liked the little bit of attention and positive reinforcement.  Not much has changed since those days, and I’m happy for that!  So now, that makes me wonder how different some kids would be if they only had that little extra?  Or if they were held with love?

Landon-Aunt-Hot-Dogs-Nephew-Aunt-Heather-Piper-2012

Little Landon, a.k.a. Peanut sportin’ a suit. Looking good buddy! c. 2012

Before Kyle could speak, he would show us what he needed.  Sometimes, he simply wanted to be held, being so content sharing hugs and being in human interaction.  Seriously, no joke!  By the time I’d pick him up on Friday, that’s all he craved.  By Sunday, he was more independent, not needing as much direct affection, but the need for attention never lessened!  How many other kids are in that same boat?  I bet the true numbers are astounding.

Without dwelling on the negative, I want to share a story, almost an allegory, about a couple of great people.  When this tale was being relived to me, I was overwhelmed with joy and excitement for the child and I felt the sheer love for the toddler by the couple.  This is one of those unspoken stories that mean the world to all parties involved, even a bystander like myself.

Forgive me for any inaccuracies, for this story was told to me this past fall, not out of bragging but out of pure love and wanting to share the experience.  A good friend of mine, let’s call her Aunt Hot Dogs was spending time with her nephew, Landon (actual name, which in English means “long hill” – this is relevant).  Good old Lando, also known as Peanut (which is funny because that’s what my dad used to call me) was three years old.  So far, in his short, yet very important life, he has shown an affinity for parking garages.  Yes!  He is infatuated with the ramps on parking garages.  You have to admit, that makes him even more of a cutie!  Seriously, a precious little munchkin and to have that as an interest just melts your heart.

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Looks like Landon is ready to go & work on those parking garages! c.2012

Anyway, Aunt Hot Dogs and Uncle Mike live near a hospital.  Naturally, near a parking garage, Landon’s golden kingdom.  One day, as a treat Aunt Hot Dogs decided to push him in his stroller up the ramp of the parking garage.  Can you imagine?  It was like a kid going to Disney World!  His eyes probably were bulging out of his head with excitement over seeing his dream come true.

Without having to say it, but I will, the kid was thrilled!  Then, to top it off, to really add to the moment and make it so much more special,  Aunt Hot Dogs and Lando peered out over the railing.  In the distance they could see Aunt Hot Dog’s and Uncle Mike’s homestead.  With the steady arm of Aunt Hot Dogs, she pointed out her house in the distance, and who was sitting on the front porch?  Yep, Uncle Mike!  To add to this thrill ride and to participate in the little man’s moment, Uncle Mike waved to the two parking garage attendants.  Those little gestures helped to make this event even more special and memorable!  What a fun time!

When me and Aunt Hot Dogs went running that very afternoon, she couldn’t wait to tell me about her feature story.  She was so excited about Landon’s perfect day and being a part of it, she was beaming from ear to ear and laughing.  Let’s face it, it is kind of funny for a kid to be entertained by walking through a parking garage.  The point was, everyone was elated!  That little Peanut pulls on her heart strings, but I can certainly see why.  He is a gem!  I was excited about the activity, it even made my day!  Those small moments, the unplanned ones, the basic simplicity of life is just plain awesome!

Granted, Landon probably will not remember the incidence, at least not in long-term, but the feeling associated with his Aunt Hot Dogs and Uncle Mike will always be there and strengthen with each activity.  It just took a few minutes to mean the world to this little three year old, and to shape that child into an even better young man.

I wish I could do that with Kyle, but alas those days are gone.  Parking garages don’t mean nearly the same to Kyle as they do for Landon, I don’t think they ever did.  Plus, I hate to say it, I get claustrophobic and I probably wouldn’t have been able to do that.  So major cudos to Aunt Hot Dogs and Uncle Mike!  Now, if we were on go-carts, maybe!  Nope, I’ll leave the parking garage dream to Landon!

Let Aunt Hot Dogs and Uncle Mike be the example of what family and bringing love is all about!

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

Uncle Ray – Passing of a Piper Legend

Whether you like it or not, you’re forced to come to the realization that death is out there. But I don’t fear death, I’m a fatalist. I believe when it’s your time, that’s it. It’s the hand you’re dealt.  ~Clint Eastwood

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Uncle Ray & Kyle. We stopped in for a visit… glad Kyle got to know his great Uncle Ray! c. 7/2011

Today is  bittersweet.  As we move from one year to the next, God has brought home another one of His blessed sons.  It saddens me to talk about the passing of my Uncle Ray and yet I am very proud of the man I knew and shared the surname Piper.  I am also very happy he is no longer suffering and reunited with my Aunt Clemmie.  I bet Ryan is showing him around!

My heart goes out to my cousins who lost their grandpap, great grandpap and father.  Also to all of my cousins, family and friends of the family everywhere, may you be comforted to have simply known Uncle Ray and the truly upstanding man he was.  Stories of Uncle Ray will be told for years to come, for he was one of the good ones who lived a very full life.

Naturally, everyone on Facebook is sending their thoughts and prayers to the family.  My cousin Brook, one of Uncle Ray’s grand kids commented on Facebook that Uncle Ray was shot in the chest at age 19 in France while fighting with Patton’s 3rd Army.  What?  Really?  Wow!  I had no idea!  I’m sure over the years, I’ll probably learn more about Uncle Ray then I could ever have guessed, certainly more than my little world ever knew.  So let the stories begin!  Uncle Ray has earned center stage!

Uncle Ray was my pap’s brother on my dad’s side.  Yep, Uncle Ray was a Piper through and through.  Of course, I cannot speak of Uncle Ray and exclude his late wife, my Aunt Clemmie.  They were two peas in a pod, and admittedly a couple of my favorites.

It’s funny, but most of my memories of Uncle Ray and Aunt Clemmie included Halloween.  No joke!  My family grew up on a ridge, not the one Uncle Ray and Aunt Clemmie lived, but a connecting one.  It’s great living away from town except for the fact there are no walkable neighborhoods to trick-or-treat during Halloween.  Minor downside.  Mom would always take care of that situation by driving all of us ghosts and ghouls around to collect our share of sweet treats.  In addition to acquiring more candy (because you know there is never enough) and extending the Halloween fun, trick-or-treating the Piper ridge was a great excuse to see family, aside from the Piper Reunion in July.  Me, Ryan, Nicole, Casey, Joel, and Elizabeth, and later Mikey would pile in the car.  Usually mom took us because Karen had Marla and later Stacey.  We would make our pit stops all along the ridge, hitting up family and friends of the family.

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My cousin Sonny (Ray), his dad my Uncle Ray & dad at the Piper Reunion 2012

Uncle Ray and Aunt Clemmie’s stop was a favorite, also one of the last ones.  I loved going back to their house.  It was always so creepy in the darkness and among the trees.  Perfect for Halloween, loved it!  Uncle Ray always made us homemade potato chips in the barn.  To this day, I can still smell the grease and taste the crunchy starchy goodness of the chips.  Growing up, mom and dad never kept junk food among the cupboards, so the homemade potato chips were a real treat!

As a kid, I hated to wait for chips to finish bathing in the oil, and let’s not discuss the patience I had to demonstrate while they cooled.  (I was never very patient)  When Uncle Ray added the salt, I knew it wasn’t long before I would get a taste!  Looking back on it now, how many kids were blessed with freshly made potato chips made from a real cowboy?

Throughout the summer, me, Ryan and Nicole would take turns spending a week with my gram and pap on the ridge.  Ryan was lucky, he usually got to go to the sawmill with pap, while I was stuck with gram.  Nicole never did mind laying around grams house, which I still don’t get to this day.  Although, to break up the time, gram would drag me around to visit local family.  Usually, it was uneventful, except when I would hang with my Uncle Ralph and of course, my Uncle Ray and Aunt Clemmie.  My days were spent in the barn or in his fields.  Uncle Ray would help entertain me by letting me help him with small chores.  Seriously the best!  I loved helping out around the house and spending time with Uncle Ray.  He always wore that cowboy hat!  I used to think he was so goofy.  Naturally, I would tell him so and he would always pick back.  Loved him!

One more quick story.  Periodically, throughout the winter, my parents would fire up the snowmobiles and take us for rides back through the woods.  Those trips were a blast!  You see back then, winter really was winter.  Snow laid on the ground from about November or December till about March or April.  It was great!  There wasn’t just a dusting either, there was consistently piles and piles of snow all winter long!  So going through the woods was a non-issue, especially when you’re racing above the ground with a feet of snow between.  The ridge my parents live on connects to the Piper ridge, via the Butina ridge (these are most certainly not technical names but it was how I was grown up to refer to such places and most people understand these directions).

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Aunt Clemmie at the Piper Reunion 2002. Totally miss her!

Mom would ride with Nicole and dad would take me and Ryan.  (Ryan always got to ride upfront and steer while I was stuck behind dad.  Just like Kyle, always a stinker.)  Mom would call a few relatives to let them know we were heading up, to be ready for us.  Sometimes mom and dad’s neighbors, the Davis’ and the Ferry’s would fire up their snowmobiles and ride along.  We always left when it was dark, adding to the excitement!  In my mind, it was midnight, when in reality it was probably around 6:00 pm or so.

By the time we got to Uncle Ray and Aunt Clemmie’s, which was always a stop, Aunt Clemmie would have hot chocolate ready to bring me back from my frozen state.  I always got really cold, even when I ate ice-cream, so riding in the cold wind didn’t do me justice, even though I loved every minute of it.  We always hung out at Uncle Ray’s, shooting the breeze and gold old fashion visiting, before calling it a night and making our departure back down the ridge.

I can still see Uncle Ray and Aunt Clemmie’s faces.   They never seemed bothered by us kids running around and always welcomed us!  I think Aunt Clemmie loved being my hot chocolate savior!

I am truly grateful that Kyle got to meet and hang out with Uncle Ray.  Even though the meetings were short and didn’t mean much to my little man at the time, I am certain over the years he will learn more about his family and appreciate them as much as I have come to.

Rest-in-Peace Uncle Ray and God Speed!

This video cracks me up.  How many conversations are going on all at once?  This is what it’s like when you get a room full of Piper’s together. c.7/2011

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

Smells of the Past, Missing You Ryan!

Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived.  ~Helen Keller

Ryan-with-Truck-Aunt-Heather-Piper-c.-1980s

Ryan playing with a toy truck… look at those boney legs! 1980s

I’ve said it countless times, yet it seriously does seem like it was just yesterday when Ryan moved out of our lives and moved permanently in with our Heavenly Father.  For him, great move!  For us, not so much!

How long has it been?  As of today, twelve very long yet short years.  He would have been 36 years old.

Among all the hustle and bustle of life, I do like to take a few minutes and remember Ryan, not that a day goes by when I don’t think of my little brother.  I’ll admit, acknowledging his birthday is easier than the anniversary of his death, but it’s an inevitable part of my life, as well as my family’s.

They say smell and scents are the most powerful memory triggers.  I concur!  Recently, dad had me take the gas tank when I went to fill up my car.  He wanted to get the allotted gallons of gasoline available with their Giant Eagle Perks Card.  Naturally, it’s not that easy and I spilled the gas jug in the back of my car.  Luckily, I had not one, but two blankets under the unstable plastic jug full of potent liquid.

Nicole-holding-Ryan-on-Bike-Aunt-Heather-Piper-1980s

Ryan trying out Nicole’s new bike. Casey is on the right. c. 1980

The smell in the car only lasted about a day, until the fumes evaporated.  But I will admit as I was cruising along, the smell brought me back to Ryan.  You see he did the same thing!  Except he wasn’t as lucky.  His trunk and the inside of the car had matching odors that seemed to last FOREVER!  How do I know?  Because for some reason, around that time I needed Ryan to take me to and from work.  So yes, I had to sit in the car with my head hanging out the window like a dog, just to catch some fresh air.  I’m sure I totally exaggerated it at the time, but Ryan got a kick out of me.  Well, maybe not, but he tolerated my silly behavior.

Eventually, someone told me about this carbon type of bag that you place in such an environment to absorb the smell.  Ryan always maintained my cars, cut the rotors when needed, replaced the brakes, changed the oil,  and the list goes on and on.  He would never take any money from me, so when an opportunity arose to get him the perfect gift, I jumped at the chance!  This carbon bag was pretty cool, it actually worked!  Once the smell infiltrated and was captured in the carbon bean bag, it was to be placed in direct sunlight to eliminate the order.  Really a nifty invention!

As I drove around, memories of that time came back to me.  Not the most heartfelt story, but to me all memories of Ryan tug at my heartstrings.  No matter if they were fond or foul memories, they are all near and dear to me.

Ryan-fishing-in-Montana-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Ryan fishing in Montana, when he traveled with Jim, Casey & Joel. c.1989

On a side note, I didn’t think to lay out the gasoline soaked blanket in the sunlight to evaporate the fumes before washing it.  Nope, not me, I immediately placed the saturated blanket in mom’s washer when I got back to their house to drop off the culprit gas tank, thinking I got it in good time.  Well, what I didn’t anticipate was the aroma de gasoline was going to set up camp in the washer and leave a little trace on every piece of clothing it encountered.  Not a pretty sight or smell, but eventually it worked its way out, and all is good now.

This would have been one of those situations Ryan would have rolled his eyes at me, knowing better, and just snickered to himself.  Heck, he probably would have called me on it, saying something along the lines of “Idiot” or “Really Smart!”, or “Why didn’t you think first?”.  Yep, that was Ryan!  I would have said the same thing if the roles were reversed.

When the day is done, we were all a very tight and close family, willing to do anything for each other.  Kyle has very much joined those ranks.  He is not only my nephew, but he has started to turn into my brother too.  Ryan would have loved to do the things I am doing with Kyle, but I guess he’s enjoying our activities and interaction from a different seat.

I can’t wait to join Ryan and have him as a roommate again!  Save a seat for me Ryan!

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

Who Does Kyle Favor More, Aunt Nikki?

Only an aunt can give hugs like a mother, can keep secrets like a sister, and share love like a friend.  ~Unknown

Nicole-&-Kyle-First-Holy-Communion-3-2009-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle & his Aunt Nikki at Kyle’s First Holy Communion 3/2009

There are so many other instances in which Ryan was channeled through Kyle, but there are more noticeable ones between Aunt Nikki and Kyle.  The resemblance is borderline scary.

Kyle, mirroring his Aunt Nikki is not a new concept.  Actually, that’s an understatement.  We’ve been observing this behavior since Kyle was able to walk.  Even at a very young age he began to show his personality and specific traits.  These unique traits really stood out and continue to do so, giving us glimpses of who Kyle is going to be as time passes.  Unaware and unintentionally, Kyle has personified my sister, proven true time and time again.  Before I get into details, I do want to make note that Kyle is certainly his dad but really shares a resemblance to his Aunt Nikki, behaviorally and physically.

Let’s start at the beginning, puzzles.  Yes, those pieces of curvy cut cardboard containing sections of an image, to be put together by a patient soul, resulting in a complete picture.  Kyle has always loved puzzles!  From the time mom gave him his first small puzzle, he seemed to graduate to thousand piece sets by the age of three.  Kyle would sit there and put them together for hours until completion.  For the record, I want to say I hate puzzles, definitely not my bag but my sister has the patience for such entertainment.  At one point, Kyle referred to himself as “Puzzle Boy”.  While putting a puzzle together, as we all watched him because he expected us to, Kyle turned to my dad and said, “Look pap pap I’m puzzle boy!”  Way to cute! Later on, unbeknownst to us at the time, this behavior would escalate to Lego’s.

Nicole was not much of a builder like Kyle or Ryan, but just like puzzles she can figure out the pattern to put it back together.  She has the even temper to sit and sort out all the pieces and group them together for Kyle, acting as his assistant.  That’s one of the ways they enjoy spending time together.  Me?  Heck no!  I’ve tried to sit with Kyle and sort puzzle pieces and Legos and I’ve found out that I have no patience and no desire.  I enjoy watching Kyle’s progress and seeing his satisfaction of another job well done, as we all do, but to actually get into the thick of it, nope!  Nicole, Ryan and Kyle all have that engineering gene, which seems to run in mom’s side of the family.

Kyle-&-Aunt-Nikki-hanging-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle loves his puzzles & Aunt Nikki is there to assist

Much like my sister, Kyle always did have an engineering mind.  He thinks things through and always tries to come up with a better solution to a product design.  Seriously?  Yes!  He tends to examine objects as if dissecting them to see how they work and how they would be better if designed differently.   I’ve heard Kyle countless times say, ‘It would be better if they just did it this way or do it that way’.  I wish I could remember an instance, but they are escaping me at the moment.

Going hand-in-hand with engineering is math.  Let’s just discuss Kyle’s love of math.  It’s always been his subject of choice and much like Nicole, they both love the structure of numbers.  As of now, Kyle has made known his talent for math and is proud of this skill.  They both appreciate art, but that’s clearly not their bag.  I tried for years and years to get Kyle into drawing and painting, nope.  It wasn’t who he was suppose to be, and I accept that.  He loves math!

Kyle and Nicole are both ‘play it by the rules’, ‘play it safe’ type of individuals.  Neither one physically can’t break the rules, literally, without being sick about it.  Once when Kyle and I were hiking up through the woods, we came across a No Trespassing sign.  He was probably four or so.  I knew the marker was placed there by my neighbors.  I also knew I was allowed on their property.  Kyle stood there, right below the sign and would not continue on our course of action.  In fact, Kyle usually never leaves my side, but this time he would not follow my lead.  It became a stand off, he wouldn’t cross the invisible line, made by the No Trespassing sign.  He just pointed to the instructions outlined on the white paper in bold black letters.  I laughed and challenged him.  On this particular walk, we brought our quads and parked them off the path before deciding to explore on foot.  As I disappeared into the thicket to try and pressure Kyle to follow, he turned around and headed back to his quad to wait for me.  He upheld the rules, no matter what!  What really cracks me up, is he wouldn’t stand there waiting for me, he wanted to sit down and wait.  Very Nicole!

Now don’t get me wrong, Ryan and I never completely disregard rules, but we didn’t hold them to our heart either.  Some rules are to protect us and our neighbors, and some rules have a little bit of wiggle room.  At least that’s how I view them.  I’ve always taught Kyle, if you choose to break the rules (ya right) know the rules and know the consequences to your actions.  If you get busted doing wrong, then you have to accept the punishment, no question.  That might not be a good thing to teach a child, but I also wanted Kyle to be able to think for himself and do what’s right, even if it is ultimately breaking rules.  Moral law is higher and more important than man made.

Neither one, Nicole or Kyle, are very adventurous.  Actually, I take that back, in recent times, Nicole has spread her wings and enjoys adventure.  Let’s not get silly, she is still a play-it-safe type of girl but she has enjoyed exploring new local fare, traveling and investing in new endeavors.  After all she is co-founder of The Piper Corporation, as well as SpyRing and Thrill of the Hunt.  A huge step for Nicole, heck a huge step for anyone, taking on entrepreneurship.  Kyle is part of the company too, after all he is our consultant.  However, at this point, he has the least to loose and participates the least.

Aunt-Nikki-&-Kyle-with-his-boots-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Aunt Nikki helping our little Kyle with his boots.. his big toe was probably sticking up…

Making a decision doesn’t always come easy to Nicole or Kyle.  Sometimes it takes Nicole six years before she can make a decision and stick to it.  Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration but I’m not that far off the mark.  Example.  A little while after Nicole purchased her house, she wanted to change the colors of the walls.  Great!  I offered to help her pick out the paint and add the colors to the walls.  Sincerely, my plan was to wrap it up in a weekend, maybe come back the following weekend to touch up.  Friday night Nicole and I hit the paint store to pick out colors.  Rambling off what I think she should use for the trim, walls, and accent walls, I could tell Nicole was struggling with seeing my vision.  Instantly, Nicole became stressed and wouldn’t commit to anything.  Her solution?  She decided to purchase small samples of the colors as well as similar shades to see which one she liked the best.  Ok, I can live with that.  Once we got back to her place, Nicole had me paint large squares of colors on her one wall in the living-room.  Looked like a quasi Mondrian.  We both stepped back to examine our choices, and instantly I knew what colors would look great.  I was ready to go back to the store, get the supplies and begin work.  Nope, not Nicole.  She said, “Well, I don’t know.  Just wait, let me think about this!”  Stating a fact, I said, “Nicole I would rather get started on it tonight so we wrap this up by Sunday.”  She didn’t care.  Making a hard and fast decision was not going to happen.  I even tried to help her out by saying, “If you don’t like it, I will repaint it for you.”  Nope.  Still not budging.  Just like Kyle, holding strong to a decision until it has been thought through and through.  Do you know, it took her one full year to pick the colors for her living-room, dining-room and foyer?  It became a big joke.  Every time I would go and visit her, I would examine the large squares painted hap-hazardously on the wall and ask, “Nice artwork you got”.  That was usually replied with a grunt and a “Shut up!”.

Yes my sister is not the only one who sometimes has difficulty with making a decision.  It’s true, Kyle could care less about wall color, but ask him to pick one Lego off the shelf, forget it!  He will debate back and forth and even plan out the battles in his head, how he wants to play if choosing certain Lego sets.  Unbelievable!  The only reason he’s ever picked out a Lego set with me and fairly quickly might I add, because I have no patience for his deliberation and I force him to make a selection or we leave without a Lego.  That does it every time.

Enough with Kyle’s personality and intellectual DNA, let’s discuss physical traits.  Kyle and Nicole do resemble each other very much.  Again it helps with the blond hair and blue eyes, but they have the same body type, not even close to Ryan’s.  Nicole has never been much of an athlete.  In fact, I believe that was Nicole’s only subject in high school, which she did not excel.  Kyle, completely the same!  They even walk the same and move very slowly. Exactly the same way!

Kyle-&-Aunt-Nikki-at-Chads-Wedding-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Aunt Nikki hanging with our little man at Chad’s Wedding

Once when Kyle and I were at the playground, mom commented to my dad, “Look Ron, here comes Heather and Nikki.”  referring to Kyle.  Just like my sister he walks a good ten paces behind me, so I have to crane my neck to have a conversation with either of them while on the go.  Let’s discuss when I slow down allowing each individual to catch up, they begin to slow down their pace.  Frustrating! But exactly the same!

Usually when I describe Kyle, I must say the words clunky, clumsy, and stiff roll from my lips.  He is not flexible at all.  At all!  Can you guess who else I might compare him to?  Yes, the one and only Aunt Nikki!  Again, neither are athletes by no means.  Both would be happy just sitting there either playing video games, reading (nothing wrong with that) or watching TV.  However, I will call out, again in recent years, my sister has explored her athletic abilities with hikes and such.  So I guess there is hope for Kyle.

Lastly, let’s discuss attire.  Presently this is not the case, but when Nicole was younger she always dressed sloppy, constantly walking around with stains on her shirt.  It took Nicole years before fashion sense was adopted into her daily life.  Again maybe there is hope for Kyle, because presently his outfits look like something picked as an after thought.  I’m not even talking about formal wear, even if his casual outfits were worn stylish I could certainly  live with that.   Of course, I guess I’m not necessarily talking about the actual clothing but the way it’s worn too.

Sometimes I may pick on Kyle but he is truly loved by all of us.  As I’ve told Kyle time and time again, “If you turn out to be half the person your Aunt Nikki is, your doing alright.”

Read more comparisons

Who Does Kyle Favor More, His Dad?

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

Happy Birthday! Aunt Nikki Gains Another Year

You know you’re getting old when you get that one candle on the cake.  It’s like, ‘See if you can blow this out.’  ~Jerry Seinfeld

Happy Birthday Aunt Nikki!

I must say I do look forward to this day every year.  It means another year separating us, Nicole is another year older than myself.  That’s one thing I can always count on, Nicole will ALWAYS be older.

When Kyle was a little tyke he use to say to my sister, “Aunt Nitti, your ozer (over) the hill.”  He would say that while motioning his hand like it was a roller-coaster ride plummeting to the ground.  It was great, well until Kyle would say it to me!  Dad always antagonized that one.

In celebration of all my sister’s years on earth, she is going to St. Martin for a little R & R.  Safe travels!

Please enjoy the many years of Nicole.  Starting from the upper left corner is dad holding Nicole, who was over a year old in 1975.  To the right, is a nice bedhead shot of Nicole when she was four years, 1978.  On a side note, I think mom and Nicole invented bedhead, I’ve never seen anyone sport that look worst than those two.  Kyle would probably join that group but we keep his hair buzzed.  Below that is mom and Nicole when mom was pregnant with me in the summer of 1975.   Nicole was about 16 months old.  To the left of that, is Nicole’s confirmation picture when she was in the eighth grade, 1988.  Last but not least, in the center is Nicole’s first Christmas in her precious rocking chair that many years later, Kyle adopted it as his own.  She was nine months old, 1974.

Nicole-Birthday-Pics-2013-Aunt-Heather-Piper

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

Family in a Photo – Looking Back

What greater thing is there for human souls than to feel that they are joined for life – to be with each other in silent unspeakable memories.  ~George Eliot

Mom-&-Kyle-holding-Cousin-Pic-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle & Mom showing off the group shots of the cousins (new 2012  –  old 1985)      12/2012

It seems like every Christmas there is one person in particular that is receiving something of real meaning and importance, the big gift of the Christmas.  This year’s winners were mom and dad!  What was this victory gift?  Where did the idea come from?  How did it come together?

It started with when I was perusing boxes upon boxes of old photos, looking for a few to scan and upload to my blog.  I came across this image of a group of kids from July 1985.  The children, ranging in ages from 12 years to about 18 months happened to include Ryan, Nicole, our cousins, from mom’s side of the family and myself.  Upon closer examination I noticed that three of my cousins weren’t even born yet.  This was one of those rare pictures.  The unplanned kind, that only one person seems to have the photo, no one has the negative (yes back then there were negatives) and no one remembers taking the photo.  Later on, I asked around for another such picture that included everyone but alas no such luck.  My Aunt Irene, who is the queen of pictures and organization never saw another photo like the one I had.  By all means, this newly discovered photo didn’t include ALL the cousins, but a majority of us that have grown up around each other.  My Uncle Frank’s grandkids, my cousins Denise and Matthew were not present, just to name a few.  However, most of my life they lived closer to the Philadelphia area.  So we never really grew up around them like we did the Olczaks, Bobincheks and Milligans.

Something struck me about this picture, maybe because I actually remembered the day it captured.  We got together and met at Twin Lakes Park for a picnic.  Only later, did mom tell me that we were there celebrating my cousin Lisa’s birthday.  Believe it or not, I remember mom driving us up to the party spot in dad’s red truck.  My attire included a Madonna T-shirt, which I remember showing off to everyone, it’s pretty prominent in the picture.  It was a gorgeous sunny afternoon.  Aunt Irene (my godmother) welcomed us as we arrived and was ready for a serious picnic adventure.

Now, I really don’t recall what we did the rest of the day, but I remember getting there and snacking, and believe it or not the picture being taken.  If my memory serves me correctly, I can hear someone yelling for all of us to look over at the camera and say “cheese.”  Who the photographer was, is still a mystery.  But as I sat perched front row, I can still feel the worry for my, then little, cousin Mikey falling backwards off of the picnic table.  Again proven in the photo.  Mikey was maybe 18 months old, being born in 1983.

Now, really getting to the point of this mystery photograph.  As I scanned the picture into the computer and started cleaning it up, I couldn’t help but try and imagine each of my cousins in present day.  Then it hit me!  The idea which would be the big Christmas gift surprise of 2012.  I thought it would be great to get all the cousins together and get the picture taken again, at the same location, in the same seats.  My idea didn’t just stop there.  I thought it would also be nice for everyone, to get a picture of the cousins with their spouses and kids.  A huge family photo.  Boy do I know how to dream big!

As the brainstorming was starting to solidify in my head all the way to reality, I began to spread the word to each of the 11 cousins, my sister and Kyle.  Originally, I talked about the idea with Casey and later with Elizabeth and Marla before sending a private Facebook message along with the picture, to get everyone on the same page and to get their buy in.  Then, I created a group email to make this process easier.  It took a little bit of back and forth and a lot of planning and moving schedules around but I did it!  I got a day and time.  Mind you it was a very short window of time, but enough for a few pictures.  It was set!  Everyone was available over Labor Day weekend, that Sunday.  Keep in mind Casey and my sister were the two from out of state, and the ones I worried about the most trying to get them in town.  Unfortunately, my grandiose idea of having the spouses and kids involved was a bit too aggressive.  So I had to settle for my cousins who were all grown up.  I was happy with that!

Old-Cousin-Group-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Front Row: Me, Mikey Olczak, Joel Olczak, Ryan Piper
Middle Row: Christina (Milligan) Wineland, Lisa (Milligan) Amatucci, Tim Bobincheck, Lee Bobincheck, Elizabeth (Olczak) Eury
Back Row: Casey Olczak, Nicole Piper     7/1985

Just when it seemed like everything was going my way, the photographer was on board, all the cousins were organized, God threw me another obstacle, or potential obstacle as it sat.  Our area was going to be hit with part of hurricane Isaac, moving up through Western Pennsylvania.  Yikes!  Are you kidding me?  Nope, it was all true.  I simply emailed everyone and said, no matter what, we were going to get this picture, instructing the group to bring umbrellas.  My thinking was, push comes to shove we could get a cute picture with our lot under multicolored umbrellas.  Whatever was thrown at me, I was going to make this work, especially after all this back and forth and planning.

Houston we have another problem.  The Friday before the picture was to be taken, Nicole called and said she was sick and she couldn’t make it up.  What?  Really?  Are you kidding me?  Not on my watch.  I instructed her to drive up from the D.C. Metro Area anyway, after all it was only four hours (sarcasm).  She could get her picture taken and go back home.  Needless to say she was not very pleased with me, and she was slightly bitter about the situation on the day of the picture, but it had to be done!  This picture was meant to be!  The show must go on.

Keep in mind all this was done under the radar of mom and dad, not that dad pays much attention to anything non-hunting and fishing related.  That Friday, before speaking to me, Nicole called mom and said she wasn’t coming home.  Naturally, after mom picked Kyle up off the bus she told him that his Aunt Nikki wasn’t going to make it back.  Kyle was in on the mission and he was also aware that it was a big secret, mom and dad were to never find out.  While mom and Kyle were cruising home, and I was at work, Kyle called me and said, “Aunt Heather we have a problem, Aunt Nikki isn’t coming home this weekend.  What about the picture?”  I said, “Kyle are you sitting in the front seat right beside Gigi?”  He reassuringly said, “Ya but she doesn’t hear me and she doesn’t know about the picture.”  All spoken at full volume!  In complete shock, I said, “Kyle!  What did you say to Gigi? And yes she can hear you, she’s not deaf.”  He said, “O, well I did say ‘I guess we can’t get the picture taken then’ when Gigi said Aunt Nikki wasn’t coming home and she said ‘What picture?’ but I didn’t tell her about it.”  Really?  Is this conversation happening?  Is was playing out right in front of mom!  Trying to get Kyle off the phone and drop the conversation I assured him that Aunt Nikki was coming home and not to worry about it.  He started to insist on talking about her absence as if he knew more than I did.  I quickly defused his worry and changed topics.

So basically, Nicole was still a possible no show and Kyle pretty much spilled the beans.  This all happened within minutes from one another.  I managed to keep this Christmas gift under wraps for roughly four months and it unfolded in the blink of an eye.  Everyone knew this picture was only going to happen with all cousins present, including my sister.  The only person missing was Ryan and Kyle was sitting in for him.

New-Cousin-Group-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Front Row: Me, Mikey Olczak, Joel Olczak Kyle Piper sitting in for Ryan Piper
Back Sitting Row: Christina (Milligan) Wineland, Lisa (Milligan) Amatucci, Tim Bobincheck, Lee Bobincheck, Elizabeth (Olczak) Eury
Standing: Marla (Olczak) Sutton, Stacey Olczak, Katie Milligan, Casey Olczak, Nicole Piper      8/2012

The day of the shoot…went pretty well.  Nicole did manage to get home.  She almost puked in my car on the ride to Twin Lakes, but as long as she didn’t get any on her cloths, I didn’t care.  As we gathered to get into position, the rain let up.  The last roadblock came from my cousin Stacey, also the youngest one of the bunch.  She slept in and lost her car keys.  But no worries she was close-by and her sisters stepped in and retrieved our missing link.  We remained a little behind schedule, but I think it worked in our favor since it gave the sun a chance to make its appearance.

Getting the finished piece from the framers also proved to be a challenge.  The day I was suppose to pick up this masterpiece, I happened to get the stomach flu and missed the call.  So now what?  The framer was gracious enough to meet me the next day, a day before giving the gift, taking time out of her schedule to do so.  The finished piece turned out really nice, I went to i frame it! in Youngstown, Pennsylvania.

Anyway, after all this planning and running around, the gift was finished and delivered, sitting in my mom’s hands.  Kyle gave the pictures, which were now matted and framed, to my mom.  I expected a big hurray, but alas all mom said was, “Kyle I can’t really see what I’m looking at, get me my glasses.”  Yes, I never took into account that mom would need her glasses to see the Christmas gift.  Naturally, no one knew where mom set her glasses, so while Kyle ran around the house looking, mom sat there and squinted at the pictures trying to make out what she was looking at.  Once her sight of vision was clear, she really liked seeing everyone together, all grown up.

It took 27 years for the photo to be retaken, well past due.  How I wished Ryan was present, but I guess he was in spirit.  He gave us the best stand-in, Kyle!  We added the pictures to the walls of family photos spread throughout the Piper household.  It’s really a nice addition!

Thank you to all my cousins who participated!  I really appreciate it! 

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

Happy Birthday Gigi!

The old believe everything; the middle aged suspect everything; the young know everything.  ~Oscar Wilde

Mom was born today 63 years ago, in 1949.  Grandpap Chester and Grandma Anna Mae had a flaming redheaded little girl.  Happy Birthday Mom!!

Mom's-school-pic Aunt Heather Piper

Mom’s school picture c. 1958

 

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

Influence and Association

Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.  ~Napoleon Hill

Kyle-in-hospital-11-18-03 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle playing cars in Latrobe Area Hospital 11/18/03

Sometimes I forget how much our actions and unconscious decisions influence Kyle.  Not to mention he is a bit of a habitual person. Example.  It seems now Sunday nights have become our time to sit and read at my house. I mean no TV on, no distractions, just enjoyable reading time, squished in a chair in my living-room.  Another Example. Going for a walk doesn’t generally mean going down the hill.  It means traveling up the hill with the dogs for a walk through the woods. Another example. Me picking Kyle up during the week, means heading straight to swimming lessons, then to my house for dinner and work on homework before returning him.  I’m sure there are many more scenarios, but I couldn’t help but notice that this has always been Kyle’s way.

Did you know that up until about a year or so ago, when we would make a trip to Giant Eagle for groceries, Kyle instantly thought of the Eagle’s Nest and playing in the kids room? That was his hang out.  In fact, he would beg us to take him to Giant Eagle so he could play in the designated area, which was monitored and very safe so a parent didn’t have to worry while grocery shopping.  All the workers knew him by name, even when they’d run into us locally, completely unrelated.  Once my sister was home with Kyle, and she called me at work to say she doesn’t know what to do.  You see, she didn’t need anything else at Giant Eagle but she was told, by one Mr. Kyle Piper, to take a long time in the store.  Nicole’s solution, to call me at work since she was bored and didn’t want to rush Kyle.  We still laugh about that one to this day!  Giant Eagle did a great job with their Eagle’s Nest and their employees!  Kyle has since outgrown the age whereas he is not permitted in the Eagle’s Nest, but I do see him checking out the room every-now-and-again.

While I’m thinking about it, I’m going to step back in time when Kyle was just a little guy.  When he would play with his matchbox cars and Thomas the Tank train sets.  Kyle had this blue metal truck that was slightly larger than a matchbox car.  I don’t know where he got it, but he loved playing with that truck.  Actually, that truck would always make its appearance on the sidelines of Kyle’s play activity, usually while playing with Thomas the Tank.  He would specifically seek out the truck and have it sit there to watch all the other toys act out the imagination of Kyle.  You see, when dad become sick and couldn’t work for a short period of time, dad would pick Kyle up every Thursday and we’d keep him throughout the weekend till Sunday night.  Since I was in school during the day and mom was working, dad would spend all day Thursday and Friday with Kyle, who was still in his diapers.  Wow! I can’t believe he has gotten so big!  Anyway, one of their favorite pastimes was to go to Latrobe Airport and watch the planes take off and land.  I know Kyle would look for the helicopter, since again he was a fan of Thomas the Tank.  Harold the helicopter was a character on the show and Kyle just loved him.  Ironically, dad and Kyle sat in dad’s blue truck watching the activity while the day flew past.  What is really interesting about his weekly ritual, is the impact it had on Kyle.  Even years later Kyle looked favorably on that little metal blue truck.

By the time Kyle was around three or four years old I got him a Finding Nemo toy cell phone.  He always loved my phone so I thought he might like his own.  One time when I was driving and he was in the backseat, at the time in his car seat, he opened his Nemo phone and started talking.  I laughed so hard listening to him have an imaginary conversation with my sister.  He even said, “Ya I’m good, I’m with Ahia in her car.  When [are] you coming home?”  I couldn’t help but ask him, “Who are you talking to?” and then I heard him speak back into the phone, saying “Aunt Nitti, hold on” He moved the mouth piece of the phone out of the way to respond, “Aunt Nitti”.  Of course what was I thinking.  He even concluded the conversation by saying, “Ok talk to you later. Bye.”  You see at the time, my sister lived in Tucson, Arizona and similar to today, she called Kyle a lot to stay in touch.  Plus, I’m sure it made my sister feel closer to home through the conversations with Kyle.  I mean how she could she not?  Kyle always brightened up our days, even through a simple phone call.

Kyle-YMCA-drawing-Aunt-Heather-PiperAs Kyle got older, actually for his fifth birthday, being the practical one, I got him swimming lessons.  Taking him to swimming lessons once a week, every week throughout the year, even to present day.  Kyle was not a kid that drew a lot but when he did, sometimes he would draw me pictures of the swimming pool and him at one end and me watching at the other side, just like he sees it.  He always drew a blue square and placed a letter ‘K’ on one side, later it was his full name as he got older, and a letter ‘H’ on the other side of the blue square.  Over the years he’s made me dozens of those pictures, which I’ve kept, being my prize possessions.  I loved it!  I guess those swimming lessons and our time together really mean something to Kyle.  You know, I believe they still do to this day.

Even in the face of an emergency, Kyle still makes a clear association with specific places.  One summer about four or five years ago we were cutting down trees and clearing out brush from my backyard.  Of course Kyle was there, “assisting”.  The night before dad bought a new hatchet.  Keep in mind, for some reason Kyle was instantly infatuated with the brand new hatchet.  That morning, dad decided to teach Kyle about safety with the tool, using both hands on the handle so he doesn’t chop off a finger, not running with it, setting it down correctly etc.  I agree with dad, you can’t just expect kids to know how to do something as an adult, you have to teach them and ease them into experience while they are monitored.  Well, we just dropped an oak tree, which was covered in leaves and branches.  It was a beautiful tree that I would have kept, except it was too close to my house.  It was fun walking through the mighty oak as it laid on the ground like a maze inviting others to join in.  At that moment, Dad was sharpening his chain saw to prepare to chop it up in manageable sizes for firewood.  Kyle decided to adventure through the branches of the fallen tree with the hatchet.  Now on Kyle’s defense he was not doing anything he wasn’t allowed to do.  He decided he wanted to help his pappy out by chopping at a branch.  But what no one ever anticipated was the variable of Kyle’s sweaty hands.  You see it was in the middle of August in the middle of the day. HOT!  As Kyle chopped, the hatchet flew out of his sweaty little palms and it landed in his shin.  Yep, Kyle gave himself a nice big gash.  Not life threatening, but scary no doubt.  As dad and I drove him to the emergency room for stitches he began to worry that he was going to have to spend the night.  What?  You see for the first few years of Kyle’s life, he was in and out of the hospital with ear infections, pneumonia, tonsillitis and the list goes on.  So in his mind the hospital trip meant not just a visit, but a stay.  That broke my heart!  I think he only got about five stitches.  After the stitches were in place Dad shook Kyle’s hand and said, “Welcome to the club.”  At that moment Kyle smiled and was kind of proud, later bragging about his stitches.  Dad and I are both in that club and Kyle knew it.

Kyle continues to surprise me with this association to specific actions or activities.  About a month ago, Kyle was not feeling well, in fact he was up all night, I could tell he was achy.  I thought since he was perking up a bit, it was a good time to take an easy walk up through the woods, getting him out of the house, stretching his legs and taking in some fresh air.  Well about halfway through the trip, Kyle was clearly not well.  In fact, he said he felt like he was ready to vomit.  I could tell he was weak and dehydrated, since he was not sweating in the slightest, very unusual for Kyle.  I got him home and started to push water in him, to remove any dehydration issues and to alleviate his headache.  Would you believe that the very next weekend when we began on our weekly voyage through the woods, Kyle brought up that trek?  He said, “Aunt Heather, I don’t think that was a good idea to go hiking last time since I was still feeling sick.  I thought I was better, but I wasn’t.”  I still feel horrible for misjudging his state of health, and I would have to agree with his assessment of the previous adventure.  In fact, Kyle still brings that day up to me, not holding it against me, but just remembering it and making it known.

My little man, I pray that I never do or say anything that Kyle associates with me in a truly negative manner.  I hope he always thinks of me with happiness and love, even if I do royally screw up, which is inevitable.  But everything I do, I try to do with Kyle’s best interest in mind and out of love and respect for him.

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

Strong Soul

Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragement, and impossibilities:  It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak. ~Thomas Carlyle

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Dad holding Nicole sitting by pap Christmas 1974

As I was watching the movie Soul Surfer last week, the film based off of a true story about a young girl who had her arm amputated by a shark, I remembered my pappy and his prosthetic legs.  Yep I said legs, plural.  My pappy, my paternal grandfather, had both of his legs amputated, one above the knee and other below the knee.

Being really young, if born at all, when pap’s first leg had to be amputated just below the knee, wasn’t a big deal to me.  If I am remembering the stories correctly, pap broke his leg, I’m guessing in the woods since he was a woodsman, and the doctor applied the cast too tight, cutting off his circulation, and eventually resulting in the amputation.  As far as I can remember, he only ever had one leg.  But looking back on it now, it didn’t seem strange or odd, it was normal to me having a prosthetic leg and using a cane.  In fact, he didn’t let the wooden leg stop him, even from driving.  He had a stick he used for the gas peddle, which would put him in jail today.  I also believe he had a wheelchair in the house, but I don’t remember if the wheelchair came before or after his second amputation.

pap-at-Aunt-Heather-Piper-b-day

pappy, Ryan, Joel & me at my birthday party c. 1980

Regardless, as kids we loved the wheelchair.  It’s almost shameful to admit, but me and Ryan used paps wheelchair as our own personal amusement park ride.  We would push each other around, chase each other, squeal tire (leaving the occasional tire mark on the floor) and spin the wheelchair into doughnut motions in the middle of my grandmothers kitchen.  We had a blast on that thing!  Every now and then, probably more times than I care to admit, we would accidentally run into grams cupboards, which always provoked a few loud reprimands from the living-room or porch.  Pap never really was upset with us, at least not that I can remember.  We also would use the wheelchair as an extra seat in the living-room.  It was always parked by pap.  I would request to occupy the seat to sit near pappy, it was either that or risk gram cuddling me to the point of crushing.  Sometimes, Ryan and I would fight over who got to sit in the wheelchair by pap, it was prime real-estate.  You see, Ryan and pap were always really tight, they were two peas in a pod.

Aunt-Heather-Piper-diary-page-5-6-87Now eventually, pappy lost his second leg to poor circulation, which I’m sure his smoking habit didn’t help the situation out.  Did I mention they were Camel Straights?  Those life stealing addictive sticks totally stunk and were extremely gross!  Although, I do give pap kudos, he never really smoked around us and at one point he did try quitting, with no help of my gram.  He would go out on the porch, even in the dead of winter to inhale a few less years on his lifespan.  So I guess it’s no surprise when I say that over the years, because of paps health, I was no stranger to Latrobe Area Hospital.  When he lost his second leg, which I remember very clearly, we went to visit him in the hospital, just like we did every time he had a heart attack or another health issue.  To this day, I can still picture the hospital chapel perfectly.  Mom would always march us down the hallway to the chapel to say a prayer for pap and to get us out of the room so the adults could talk.  Now I don’t remember pap being upset over the removal of his second leg, which was above the knee, but I’m sure he was.  To this day, I remember the journey into paps hospital room and seeing him lay there.  I did shed a few tears on my journey, I must have been upset by this newest adjustment.  Pap was strong, at least in my eyes.  From my perspective, the new challenge didn’t seem to bothered him at all.  However, mom did tell me years later, after my brother had already pasted, that pap was depressed over the second amputation.  This came as a complete surprise to me.  In fact, I remember pap giving me one of his ornery grins while laying in hospital bed.  I don’t remember seeing him struggle with the canes, and I certainly never heard a negative word said about his handicap.  He wasn’t even negative about trying to quit smoking.  I do remember he struggled with kicking the habit out of his life once and for all, but he was never mad.  Never mad at life and never blamed anyone for his woes or wished his life was different.  He was content, he was pap.  He would sometimes refuse to use the handicap parking, saying ‘Those are for handicap people.’

During the time of the second amputation, Ryan wasn’t in school yet, so he stayed with pap during the day.  I guess he helped him around the house and kept him company.  Ryan was probably a God sent to pap, kids tend to be like that, I know I’ve experienced it first hand with Kyle.  Thinking now on the situation, no wonder Ryan and pap were so tight.  Ryan kept pap going and saved his life, just like Kyle did for us nearly twenty years later.

Over time, pap learned to walk with two canes and two prosthetic legs.  His car had a contraption installed so he could drive, since gram rarely did, and trust me it was much safer that way.  He continued to work at the sawmill, literally until the day he had his last stroke and died.  Pap went to work every day, Monday through Friday and sometimes worked on Saturdays.  When it was my turn to stay the week with my grandparents during the summer, I would wake up at 5:00ish in the morning with pap and hang with him before he went to work.  He always made his own lunch and packed it away in his metal lunch box.  His midday fuel supply always included a pack of saltine crackers and a piece of fruit.  Then, when he would leave to start off his day, I would go back to bed with gram.

Aunt-Heather-Piper-dairy-page-5-7-87Pap died on May 6, 1987, which I just realized was the day Ryan got married.  While pap was working in his high lift at the sawmill, he had a stroke and was rushed to Latrobe Area Hospital, where he passed away a day or two later. I remember it was a Wednesday and I was in the fifth grade at Sacred Heart.  In fact, I remember I was suppose to go to a birthday party that weekend and we were going to make sundaes. I was bummed about missing the party and the fun.  Now don’t get me wrong, I was really upset about the passing of pap.  We were all very close to him and since my grandpap Chester passed away when I was five, pap was our only grandfather.  What is really amazing about my memory, I remember every detail about the funeral, riding in the backseat of the car as we followed the hearse to the cemetery, the blue dress trimmed in white with ruffles that I wore, and mostly I remember the pain my brother was going through.  Later, following Ryan’s hearse to the same cemetery I thought of that ride behind pap.  Well, Ryan is buried at the foot of pap.  Two strong souls sticking together forever!  Rest-in-Peace guys, till I get there!

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

Imagination, Completely Into It!

Logic will get you from A to B.  Imagination will take you everywhere.  ~Albert Einstein

kyle-loves-guam-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Until his ipod, you couldn't pry Kyle's Nitendo DS from his hands... (T-shirt courtesy of Aunt Nikki)

Kyle is definitely a logical person, very uniformed and structured in his thinking and habits.  He thinks things through, and in order to accept the way something is dictated or presented to him, he has to have a full understanding and it has to make logical sense.  If not, he has no trouble questioning, anyone!

Although, I am happy with this level of logic Kyle exemplifies.  I am also happy to have observed his inner creativity on a number of occasions from Listening to a Child’s Thoughts and Afraid of a Story.  Kyle does have a very vivid imagination!  This is so true for movies, books, video games and even walking back the hallway to his room.  Granted, I get it, Kyle is after all a kid, and majority of children have imaginations to some degree, but Kyle physically feels the story.  However, the opposite is true, when something doesn’t capture his attention.  He is not interested and doesn’t give it the time of day.  But, once Kyle’s mind is engrossed in the subject, he is mentally and physically committed.

While watching cartoons, movies and playing video games, Kyle brings the action to life through his verbal and animated gestures.  It seems the natural course of action goes like this:  Kyle sees the subject of interest, the visual enters through his eyes and ears, it makes its way around his brain, then exists through his mouth and arms.  Kyle will literally makes the gun and car sounds, his version of a running noise, or mimics the background music, especially if it emphasizes tension or suspense.

During his video game battles when things  start heating up, Kyle throws up his hands and begins rubbing his head, as if in a stressful motion, and his whole body tenses.  It’s rather funny!

When Kyle was probably around five or so, he would ride around in the shopping cart in the store, usually playing his Nintendo DS.  One time, just out of curiosity, mom and I pushed the cart containing Kyle, to the middle of the isle and we proceeded to hide at the other end, peeking at Kyle from around shelved merchandise.  This was my experiment, to see how long it would take Kyle to leave his game, come back to reality, and realize he was alone and not moving anymore.  Just as we started to execute the experiment, one guy in the isle watched us and wondered what the heck we were doing.  That is until he gave us a devilish grin and saw the kid in the cart intently playing his video game.  It took Kyle close to ten minutes before he realized he was along and we were gone, well actually hidden out of immediate sight.  Mom and I almost fell over laughing as we peeked around the isle to watch him.  He first just happened to look up, then to his surprise he was alone, no one was in the isle.  All we heard him say was, “Hello?” like he was answering a telephone!  No screaming, no immediate panic, kind of just curious.  It was too much, mom and I busted out laughing and came walking toward Kyle.  He sat there with the biggest grin ever!  He said, “I was wondering where you went?”  I said, “You didn’t even notice we were gone.”  He just smile, knowing the point I was making.

kyles-dinos-9-18-11-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle's dinosaur drawing 9/18/11

This past weekend was really rainy, cold and dreary.  The ingredients for a perfect book weekend, well the perfect time to do some baking too.  Kyle was almost done with his Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix book, so we sat and read it together.  I really enjoy creating intensity while reading, through the rhythm of the words, the pace the sentences are read, and the proper use of enunciation and exclamation.  On Sunday night, we both squeezed in the chair in my living-room and picked up where we left off from earlier.  It was pretty intense.  Every time I turned the page, Kyle was rubbing his head, throwing up his hands in an excited motion, and letting out squeals.  He truly makes reading fun, and brings the excitement of the stories to life!  I hope Kyle keeps that intensity through life!

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

Singing Alleluia!

A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.  ~Maya Angelou

Kyle-with-Turbietwist-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle sport'n Nicole's Turbie Twist 2001

Everyone knows I can’t sing, plain and simple.  I wish I could, but alas I was not blessed with the gift of music.  In fact, I think I’m slightly tone deaf, but regardless, I do love music and sometimes I just have to belt it out.  I am also a bit of an instigator, no big surprise there.  Sometimes I need to fulfill my need to sing and antagonize, what better way than through the repetition of rejoicing through song.  Then when you put the need to squeak out, off beat musical lyrics, with my natural ability to push someone’s buttons, you get a lot of irritation.

There are times when I am just inspired by great music and I want to sing.  I feel happy and joyous and I certain let it out to let the world know!  For example, when we leave church and they play my favorite songs, it truly makes my day!  I can’t help it, when you hear the organ kicking How Great Thou Art, America, or Amazing Grace, you just want to continue singing those songs all day long.  There are a number of other tunes I adore that are played in church, but alas they are escaping me at the moment.  Not only are they great songs that rejuvenate the soul, but they also take me back to my childhood.  I remember listening to the same songs, sitting in the pews of the same church, with my family and my classmates from Sacred Heart.  Then when we get home, just like I was a kid, I’m still singing the songs.  Sometimes very slight and subtle and sometimes you’d swear I was on stage performing for an entire arena.

Kyle's-daycare-play-c2004-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle's play at daycare was a hit! c.2004

What really cracks me up is Kyle.  He does the exact same thing!  Out of no where I’ve hear him repeat a song or a line of a song and bellow it out like he was an opera singer.  Especially when we leave church, just like me.  He will continue singing the song or Kyle’s favorite, Alleluia.  Yep, that’s his old stand by for anything, especially if something goes his way or turns out right, like a Lego creation, you’ll hear Kyle sing, ALLELUIA!  ALLELUIA!  He even uses his hands as if he’s a conductor or lifts them in a fashion as if the light of God was shining down on him.  It’s hilarious!  I even join him in his jubilation.

Then there are times when it’s not a song, but a word or a phrase, usually heard in a movie or on a show.  I can’t help myself, I just have the urge to keep repeating it.  My sister will appreciate this one.  When we were in Los Angeles, on our way to our hotel room, I all of a sudden I started saying, “Hey you what’s your dream?  Hey mista, what’s your dream?, everyone’s got a dream.”  If you didn’t know it’s a line from Pretty Women, from a side character without a name.  Nicole knew instantly where I got that from.  She laughed at first and then said, “You better not do this the entire time we’re here.”  You know what?  I did!  I just felt like it.  The funny thing is, I do it when you least expect it.  Although, even Nicole has to laugh over that one.  As I think back on it now, my brother used to repeat that line too! But he was much funnier.

Sometimes there’s no reason for the outburst, just to do it.  One weekend a few months ago, Nicole was home and out of no where I walked around saying “Watcha self!” with complete gusto.  Where I got that phrase, I have no idea.  But I thought it was so funny.  So at random times throughout the entire weekend, you’d hear me project, “Watcha self!”  With small giggles to appease me, Nicole would say, “Yes Aunt Heather.”  Even Kyle thought it was funny, or he enjoyed me tormenting my sister.  Either way, he decided to join in, to get a rise out of Nicole no doubt.  She just laughed and I believe I saw her roll her eyes at us.

That following weekend, I was at the computer and Kyle was playing with his Lego’s behind me, then all of a sudden Kyle said, “Hey Aunt Heather, Watcha Self!”  That was a classic!  I instantly stopped and started laughing as I turned around.  Then to get him going, I belted it out, “Watcha Self!”  Then of course taking the most of the situation I said, “Hey let’s get Aunt Nikki on the phone.”  Kyle, with this devilish grin, nodded his head and instantly agreed.  I love my buddy, he is truly the coolest cat!!  Sometimes it little stupid moments that show we are related and cement our bond further. What’s your Alleluia?

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

Happy Birthday Aunt Nikki!!

I’m at an age when my back goes out more than I do.  ~Phyllis Diller

 


My sister, Nicole R. Piper, better known as Aunt Nikki, was born on March 16, 1974.  Surprisingly, she was born around noon, never being much of a morning person.  She is the oldest of the three, preceding me by 21 months and my brother, Ryan by 42 months.  Nicole and I share the godparent responsibilities of Kyle and she enjoys her roll as an aunt.  Please enjoy my collage of the years of Nicole…

Happy Birthday!!!

May the odds be ever in your favor!

Nicole-birthday-collage-Aunt-Heather-Piper

posted by auntheather in Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,Reminiscing and have Comments (2)

Late Bloomer

Maturity begins to grow when you can sense your concern for others outweighing your concern for yourself.  ~John MacNaughton

Kyle is missing a tooth Aunt Heather Piper

Ringing in 2009 with a new smile 12/31/08

You know, Kyle didn’t lose his first tooth until he was in the third grade, he’s in the fifth grade now.  In fact, I plucked that tooth out on New Year’s Eve Day. It took me a better part of the day to convince Kyle to let me pull it out.  It’s amazing how the one little tooth drove me crazy just hanging there.  And it’s amazing how the idea of pulling one little tooth stressed him out.  Kyle’s not the bravest when it comes to pain or blood, let alone the thought of it.  I think that was and always is Kyle’s biggest fear, the unknown.  Well, maybe not the unknown per se, but his perception of what it should be like, his imagination spinning completely out of control.  Anyway, at this point, Kyle was upset because all the kids in his class already lost at least one tooth, not to mention those that have already lost all baby teeth replaced by adult teeth.  None of this was a concern to me, not one bit. In fact, I was very happy that Kyle was a late bloomer.  I want him to be a kid as long as he can and really enjoy his childhood.  Not to mention, we Pipers are generally late bloomers.  So he certainly fits the Piper profile.  My mom, not a Piper by birthright, didn’t lose her last baby tooth until she was in her early twenties.  I don’t think I lost my last one until I was Kyle’s age now, somewhere in fifth grade or so, maybe later.

Kyle ranging in the New Year's Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle ringing in the New Year! Of course with the least amount of clothing on 12/31/09

I remember when my teeth were starting to fall out.  My pappy would get out his red handkerchief and try to attach it to the smooth sides of the tiny tooth to give him some grip and pull.  I remember we had a hard time getting one of my teeth out.  I was never grossed out or feared pulling out my teeth. Sitting on the sink in the bathroom and starring at the hanging tooth and examining  the root was fascinating to me.  However, not all of my baby teeth fell out naturally.  You see, at one point, my adult teeth started to surface along side my baby teeth.  Would you believe my baby teeth never loosened up?  So needless to say, it became very crowded very quickly.  Mom had to take me to the dentist to give an eviction notice to those who would not leave the premises.  On a side note, I guess I shouldn’t be so hard on Kyle because that particular visit didn’t go as bravely as I may have remembered.  I know the dentist wanted to give me a shot of Novocaine before he began yanking out the culprits.  Ambushing my dentist with a slight over reaction started the whole adventure.  I do remember waiting until he approached my mouth with the needle before I forceably moved his hands, needle included, out of their course of action.  That did result in me shooting the dentist in the arm with the needle of Novocaine, which ultimately resulted in me getting yelled at by the dentist, getting a shot anyway, and the removal of a few stubborn baby teeth.  On my defense, I think I was suffering from PTSD when I was attacked by a dog and the side of my face, near my eye, had to be stitched up.

Kyle lost his first tooth Aunt Heather Piper

I plucked Kyle's first tooth on New Year's Eve - Ringing in 2009 12/31/08

Regardless, back to Kyle.  He still comments on the lack of teeth he’s lost comparatively to what he has, as well as his friends.  But I have been telling him that they’ll eventually come out.  Of course not mentioning my experience or the fact he may need to get them removed professionally.  I think I’ll deal with that situation when the time comes.

Now, to lighten the tooth pulling mood, this story needs to be shared just for the simple humor and innocence that resides in the mind of Kyle.  Let’s talk about armpit hair! Or I really should say, the invisible armpit hair.  One evening during Kyle’s nightly ritual of showering he summoned me to the bathroom.  I heard him saying, “Aunt Heather, look! I can see it!”  I thought, “What in the world is he seeing in the shower? Keep in mind, he was probably six or seven years old.  I pushed the shower curtain aside and asked, “What’s wrong honey?”  While raising his arm, exposing the armpit, Kyle starts telling me that he saw a hair.  What?  O my!  Did he just say he saw a hair?  That was the funniest thing I think I’ve ever heard.  Now keep in mind, I don’t think Kyle even had any hair on his legs, if very few and they were blonde!  Again, back to being a late bloomer.  In disbelief I asked, “What did you see?” His response as clear as day was, “Ya, Aunt Heather, look! I have a hair.”  I proceeded to tell him there was no hair.  But he wouldn’t believe me.  He said, “Look closer, Aunt Heather! I saw a hair!”  Again, even though he was thoroughly convinced there was a hair in his armpit, I reiterated there was no hair.  In fact, he would not give up on the idea, he said, “O, it must have fallen out when I was scrubbing.”  What a card!  He stood there, holding up his arm to expose the armpit to me for complete examination.  That was too funny!!  A real Kyle classic.

Kyle with Scooby Ringing in New Year's 2010

Kyle with Scooby Ringing in 2010! 12/31/09

Dad is to blame for that one.  You see, even to this day, he sometimes likes to tease Kyle poking at his armpits and saying, “I think I see a bush! Is that a bush under there!”  Kyle always did and still does giggle and gets very ticklish.  I must say, it is kinda funny.  Kyle is now ten, and still no armpit hair.

I guess there are all sorts of growing pains and many more to talk about.  Maybe later. After all, it seems to be around the corner. Kyle is growing up so fast.

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

Years of Santa’s Workshop

All the time a person is a child he is both a child and learning to be a parent. After he becomes a parent he becomes predominantly a parent reliving childhood.  ~Benjamin Spock

Kyle Piper with Christmas bows - Aunt Heather Piper

I put bows on Kyle's head... notice my sister didn't interject.

About five years ago Kyle wanted me to “Be a parent that goes on field trips with his class”.  So I looked into it and found out that I had to be a PTA member.  I also had to fill out specific forms and send them in to the state, allowing me to work with children.  Before I moved forward, I asked Kyle if he really wanted me involved in his school activities.  His response, “Ya, Aunt Heather, then you could go with me on trips.”  I said ‘ok’ and so I proceeded to fill out the paperwork to join the PTA.  At that time, I received a checklist of activities planned out for the year.  Unfortunately, because I work full-time during the week, I was not able to help out at the day activities such as homeroom mom or the parties.  But I was able to help judge creative work submitted for the Reflections entries and my favorite, Santa’s Workshop.

Every year since I became the only non-parent PTA member I have worked the Santa’s Workshop, taking a half-day off of work.  I must say, I actually look forward to it every year.  At first, I never told Kyle that I would be at his school, it was a surprise.  The first year I participated, Kyle was lined up in the hallway with the other kids when he spotted me.  I was more excited over his reaction.  In fact, I still remember it as plain as day.  He jumped out of line, started waving his hands and yelling “Hey, Aunt Heather, Aunt Heather!” with a low yell as to not get in trouble, wearing the biggest smile imaginable.  I LOVED it!  And you know what, over the years I’ve always gotten the same reaction.  Although I think, this year, his excitement was more about the extra moola to spend, knowing I would give him additional money, than actually shopping with me.  But it still doesn’t change the fact that I like to be a part of Kyle’s life and I like helping out when I can, even though I think this year was the first time he remembered that I work the Santa’s Workshop.

Kyle is still talking to Santa -2004 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle is still rattling off his Christmas list. 2004

A couple of years ago, Kyle was surprised to see me at the workshop and he asked me, “Aunt Heather, what are you doing here?”  I said, “I always come and help out, I like shopping with you.”  That was followed by, “I don’t remember that.”  Meanwhile, I believed I had already worked about three years in a row.  This year my mom asked Kyle, “Where you surprised to see your Aunt Heather?”  He responded with confidence, “No, Aunt Heather works the Secret Santa every year.”  What a stinker!!  And yes that’s what Kyle always calls it, the Secret Santa.  I believe he remembered I was going to work it.  The weekend before, Kyle reminded me several times that the ‘Secret Santa’ was on Wednesday, but he couldn’t remember the time.  He even had an email sent to me two days before confirming the day and time.  He had all his bases covered.

As I stood there this year and talked to the other parents (which, incidentally, they call me Aunt Heather – LOVE that!) I noted that I only have one more year of Santa’s Workshop.  I must say I was kind of bummed.  But Kyle is growing up and I have no choice but go with the flow.

I always did believe that it’s the little things that make the difference even though, for the longest time, I didn’t think Kyle even realized that I was a PTA member and I worked the Santa’s Workshop.  But then again, it’s not about racking up the points or keeping score.  It’s about doing what’s right for the child.  And what was right was showing him how important he is to me to take time off of work, support him at his school, and spend time with him. Although, I will admit, I am being a bit selfish, it really makes me happy to help out too.  I also like getting to know the other parents and most of all spending time with Kyle and watching his excitement over buying gifts for the family.  Definitely a day well spent!!

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

Are Professions Taught or Born?

A musician must make his music, an artist must paint, a poet must write if he is to ultimately be at peace with himself.  ~Abraham Maslow

Kyle and his Aunt Nikki - Heather Piper

Kyle with his first Thomas the Train set. Courtesy of Aunt Nikki

It seems as though some people are born into professions rather than are taught.  I’ve watched this theory strengthen through observations over the years.  It seems as though being true to your profession means it is an innate part of you.  Now I’m not saying this is a blanket statement for everyone, but I’ve always known this to be true for people of the clergy.  Certain individuals are chosen by God to serve Him in a specific blessed way that others aren’t called to do so.

Along the way, I’ve had the honor of meeting such talented people.  For example, I’ve known many artists, but there are only a couple that I can say not only have a natural talent, but their profession is a part of them.  It is who they are.  They can’t stop drawing or painting or whatever the case may be.  It consumes them and their thoughts.  It’s like their existence, their reason to live, is art.  It’s not just a passion, it’s more, it seems to be part of their DNA.  This is not a judgement nor a criticism, but an observation.  Again, there are a lot of artists, whom I would consider to be truly talented and really enjoy what they do, but I’m not talking about them, I am referring to a different breed of people. Those who don’t need a vacation from their profession.  Those who have had a life long passion for what they do.  Off the top of my head, Henri Matisse comes to mind.  I’m not saying I knew him, but I have studied his works.  During his last days, when most would have retired, he gave direction to interns on how to expedite his cutouts.  Another famous art figure is Edgar Degas.  When Degas’ hands were becoming crippled from old age, he sculpted the La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans (Little Dancer of 14 Years) in wax before being cast in bronze and adorned with ribbon and a skirt.  It was easier on his hands to sculpt in warm wax.  I also wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t mention my favorite painter, Caspar David Friedrich.

Watching Kyle grow up, I’ve had the opportunity to really study his behavior.  I’ve seen the way he enjoys putting together 500 and 1,000 piece puzzle sets, without effort.  From the time he was about three years old till he discovered video games, around the age of six or seven, he was the self-proclaimed “Puzzle Boy”.  He used to put together his puzzles on the coffee table and say, “Look pap pap, I’m puzzle boy.”  He loved the challenge of bigger puzzle sets, and I mean bigger in terms of the number of pieces.  He didn’t care what the picture was on the puzzle, just that it had a ton of tiny pieces.  I used to buy Kyle large notepads to draw and paint pictures but, alas, he could care less.  He would watch me paint and draw, but he never really had the desire, unless he was painting numbers.  I don’t mean paint by numbers, I mean actually painting the shapes of numbers, and then sometimes doing math problems.

Little Dancer of 14 Years- Edgar Degas - Heather Piper

I took this picture in the Museum D’Orsay in Paris. Little Dancer of 14-Years – Edgar Degas

Over the years I would watch Kyle build.  He would take building blocks, cardboard boxes, books, you name it, he always had to build.  It first started with the Thomas the Train set.  He would build tracks that consumed the entire living room floor, eventually pushing himself by making the track more challenging, curving over other pieces of track, getting to another section.  Then Kyle discovered Legos.  That’s all I have to say.  This kid is still such a Lego nut, sometimes that’s all he talks about.  Building this, building that.  He’s even told me about some of his dreams and, you know what, they include building Legos.  He has close to every Lego set made on the planet, his favorite being Star Wars.  Every now and again, I catch him writing papers for school and explaining how much he loves to build and how good he is.

My theory wouldn’t do justice unless I explained what happened in convenience stores on a number of occasions.  When Kyle was a little tike and I would grab a bottle of water, Kyle would actually push the other bottles toward the front, that is if they didn’t slide down on their own.  Then he would proceed to straighten the bottle so the labels were facing front.  In fact, we would put juice boxes in the refrigerator for him and he would straighten them.  They were placed at his height and he would go in the fridge, straighten the boxes so they were in a perfect line and all the labels were facing front, sometimes stacking them.  It would creep me out when I opened the refrigerator door.  It was like the movie “Sleeping with the Enemy” when Julia Roberts opened the cupboard and saw all the cans straightened perfectly.  Yep, that was Kyle, although not a neat freak in the slightest.  He just likes straight lines and uniformity.

Caspar David Friedrich- Heather Piper

Me standing by a Friedrich in Berlin! Yes, that’s a T-shirt I got from the Saatchi Gallery.

As the years went on, I would see true engineering traits being displayed by Kyle.  He has become more like my sister, who is an electrical engineer.  Come to think of it, much of my immediate family are engineers or builders in some form or fashion.  Once, Kyle pulled out his stylus from his 3DS and proceeded to examine how it was put together.  Recently, last Wednesday, Kyle took my sticky tabs, those pop-up tabs you used to mark a page or to mark a section in a document that needs signed.  I watched him as he examined its functionality.  He said, “O, I see how it works.”  Then he went into this dissertation on how the item was assembled so it works properly.  Sometimes Kyle tells me his own theories on how some things should be put together and the better way to do it.  It’s really pretty neat to watch his thoughts.  I am currently reading the Steve Jobs book.  Not that I ever met Steve Wozniak, but Kyle does remind me of him, at least according to how he’s portrayed in the book in his early days.  To me, Steve Wozniak was a true engineer, it was an innate part of him, part of his DNA.  He could not have been anything else.

I’m not one of those rare individuals who has a special part of my DNA structured for a specific profession.  I can do a little of a lot of things, but not a true profession.  My only talent, so I’ve been told, is the ability to change the attitude of people around me and have them follow me.  At least that’s what I’ve been accused of.  At that thought, Jasper Hale (Twilight) comes to mind.

Kyle personal list- Heather Piper

Kyle had to describe himself… building made the list twice.

I’m now wondering if we, as a society, have allowed the distractions and challenges to change or alter our true calling.  Maybe it’s ’cause you need to put food on the table and a shirt on the back, which is the responsible thing to do, just maybe not the most romantic.

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

Halloween of Years Past

‘Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world.  ~William Shakespeare

Kyle as Anakin Skywalker

Kyle as Anakin Skywalker. He wore it all weekend and wouldn't take it off.

You know, there are always some that think negatively upon Halloween and then there are others who take it to extremes.  And when I say extremes, I mean in a sadistic, not so positive way.  I always liked Halloween.  I enjoyed the challenge of being creative with costume ideas and I especially liked making them.  Even when I was at Sacred Heart, we were allowed to dress up, have our own school parade, and have a Halloween party.  The nuns never dressed up, but they enjoyed watching the creativity and eclectic mix of costumes.  You see, they were never opposed to Halloween, especially when we dressed up as Saints. Probably because they had faith that they taught us what the holiday really meant.  They knew we were aware of the feast of All Saints Day, the celebration of those who have passed.  A time to pray for those loved ones who have departed this life into eternity.  It’s also symbolic of acknowledging that evil does exist as much as good.

Latrobe Halloween Parade- Heather Piper

Elastigirl and Dash- Incredibles. Latrobe Halloween Parade

Things are so different now.  Please indulge me for a moment and take a step back with me to reminisce about my Halloween days.  When we were growing up, we lived in a rural area.  We didn’t have a neighborhood of people to trick or treat.  Every year, either my mom or my cousin Karen would pile all of us, including my cousins, in the car and take us up on the ridge to visit family to get our share of the Halloween goodies.  Looking back on it now, I loved trick or treating.  Not only did we get candy, but we also got to visit family.  And the best part was driving to get there and getting back home.  We would go when it was dark and driving up the ridge through the trees during Halloween was priceless!!  It really got you in the spirit of the season, pardon the pun.  When we stopped at my Uncle Ray and Aunt Clemmy’s house, Uncle Ray would make us homemade potato chips in the barn. They were so fresh we would have to wait for the chips to cool down before snacking.  Then we would go down the road to visit more family, eventually hitting my grandparents, my cousins grandparents, cousins and close friends of the families.  There was no special day we would trick or treat.  Whenever it was most convenient, mom would just give a call to a few houses to spread the word that we were heading up.

Chad and Kyle lion costume Heather Piper

Chad & Kyle

The Wednesday before Halloween was the Youngstown’s Parade.  It was so much fun to line up in the parking lot of Sacred Heart School and Church getting ready to walk the Main Street.  The fire trucks were lit up and the end always resulted in more treats.

Later on, to keep the Halloween tradition alive, without being childish, we would go bagging.  Now it was not a common thing to do, as I later found out.  I assumed everyone knew what bagging was but, alas, it must have been a Latrobe thing.  You see, bagging usually happened with preteens/teenagers.  It was a way to have safe Halloween fun and still collect the annual candy funds.  When I was younger, when you went to the grocery store, you always received brown paper bags to carry your groceries.  Usually they were recycled into covers for school books or trash bags but, at Halloween, they were used for bagging.  Everyone in your group dressed incognito, usually all black, and we would decorate the bags as desired.  The design was always accompanied with a message, something like “Please feed these hungry ghosts” or “Leave us a Treat”.  Then what you would do is sneak up on someone’s front porch, leave the bags facing the front door, ring the door bell and run and hide in the bushes.  Then the person at the front door was supposed to drop candy into the bags.  However, baggers would usually get strange items like toothpaste or batteries.  I think I got a rock before.  Anyway, that also made it fun to tell people about the treats received.  Sometimes the trick or treatee would steal your bag.  But, if you were smart, you would bring back-up.  And sometimes, the trick or treatee would wait for the trick or treaters to retrieve their bags and then jump out at them and chase them off the porch.  It was actually a lot of fun and would give us stories to tell for the next month or so.

Ah yes the good old Halloween fun.  The time when all the world’s a stage and you write your own story.  What’s your story?

Have a happy Halloween!

Kyle and Gigi  bee costume- Heather Piper

Kyle & Gigi in parade

posted by auntheather in Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Reminiscing and have Comment (1)

Scary Good Morning

When witches go riding,
and black cats are seen,
the moon laughs and whispers,
‘tis near Halloween.  ~Author Unknown

Incredibles Heather Piper

We were the Incredibles, Elastigirl (me) and Dash (Kyle). Yep, I made these costumes. Best costumes ever!

Yesterday, mom, dad and I went to see Kyle’s Halloween parade at his school.  As he marched around the parking lot with all the other ghosts and ghouls, I realized I will only get to see him do this one more year.  Where has all the time gone?  No more asking him about his Halloween party at school, no more getting excited about what he’s going to be for Halloween, no more thrill of trick or treating, and no more candy!  Yikes!  Of course this shouldn’t be a surprise to me. Every year since Kyle understood the tradition of getting dressed up and receiving candy, we would start talking about his costume over the summer.  I loved it!  I must say I would get equally as excited as Kyle, maybe more.  For Kyle’s early years, his Aunt Nikki would purchase his costumes online and send them home.  It was her way of being involved since, at the time,  she lived so far away in Tucson, Arizona.  Then, when he became of age to make his own decisions and had his own costume opinions, I sometimes would make our outfits, yep, from scratch.  I would make my own patterns and sew and sew and sew or Papier-mâché.  And, of course, we usually went as a pair.  But, this year was different.  I asked Kyle during the summer what he wanted to be for Halloween and he would comment, “I’m not sure.” or “I don’t really care.”  That was my first indicator that Kyle was growing up and was no longer excited about the scary fun of the season.

This morning was one of those memorable perfect mornings.  Kyle and I got up around 6:30 am and we cuddled in the reclining chair while watching Saturday morning cartoons.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  I must have blinked quickly a dozen times before coming to the realization of the blanket of fresh snow outside.  “It snowed!” I told Kyle.  He immediately said, “Can we get our snowboards out?”  I had to giggle at that comment.  What was really funny, about an hour later, my sister started texting us to see what we were doing.  Only my family is up that early on a Saturday morning.  Yep, it was a perfect morning!

Dash Incredible Heather Piper

My Dash- Kyle thought people wouldn't recognize him in his costume.

While sitting there I couldn’t help but reflect back on my years of Halloween fun.  I remember we, as in my brother and cousins and I, would go down to my uncles barn and prepare the feed corn for corning.  If you are not aware what corning is, it’s simply throwing corn at cars, houses, and people in the dark during the Halloween season.  Once we corned grandma Ferry’s car.  She wasn’t really my grandma.  She was my neighbor and, since I only had one grandma living, she treated us like her grandchildren.  Anyway, we corned her car as she drove past one night and practically gave her a heart attack.  She stopped the car and laid into us.  Like I said, she treated us like her very own.   We never corned cars again.  What we did was continue to run through the woods, in the middle of the night, and sneak up on each others houses and corn the heck out of them.  It was always so much fun sitting there watching TV and, the next thing you know, you would hear the corn hit the front porch and window.  Then Ryan and I would get up, grab our bag of corn, and run out after my cousins.  Halloween was always such a fun time to me. I’ll share more stories soon.

Latrobe Parade Heather Piper

Walking in the Latrobe Parade... the Incredibles and Heather and Aden beside us!

As Kyle and I sat there, we started to get restless.   He decided to get dressed and take the dogs outside.  He got their collars on and said to me, “Should I let the beasts out?” Kyle took the dogs outside to play in the snow.  He stood out on the porch in a t-shirt and sweatpants yelling, “It’s snowing!”  The dogs ran around the yard, tearing up the new snow like they were children.  Just then, Kyle peeked his head in and yelled, “Get the sled!” and came in to put on gloves, a hat, and a jacket.  He went out and threw snowballs at the dogs as they chased him around.  Yep, I had a great morning!

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