The Open Roads With a Driving Permit

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

Kyle-on-his-Home-Depot-car-for-his-1st-birthday-7-2002-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle on his Home Depot car for his 1st birthday.  My cousin Heather in the background. 7/2002

It’s no secret I’ve been sneaking Kyle short drives here and there on back roads for a few months now.  Not to mention, over the years, I’d let him steer, shift and start the car.  I never wanted driving to be a totally foreign concept to him.

Kyle got his permit last Tuesday, August 8, 2017.  He passed on the first try!  Way to go buddy.  He’s officially allowed on the open roads with a legit driver.

It’s amazing how many rules and regulations have changed since I took my driving test, a few years ago.  (insert wink)  Like what?  Well, first of all the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is in a different location in Greensburg.  That’s right, it used to be closer to downtown Greensburg off Pittsburgh Street.  Now it’s in a strip mall leaving Greensburg on the outskirts.  Back then we were allowed to get our permit at fifteen and take our test the day we turned sixteen.  Or get our permit one day and the next take our test.  There was no waiting period.  Now the students have to be sixteen to get their permit, log so many hours of driving in all sorts of weather conditions and wait six months before taking the driving test.  At first I was sort of irritated over the new rules, but after I thought about it, if this process proves safer for our young drivers, I’m on board.

Last Tuesday, I actually got to meet Kyle at PennDOT before he took his test.  Somehow I was the possessor of his social security card.  Naturally, he needed it, Aunt Heather to the rescue.  Seeing him, even for a brief moment and wishing him luck made my day.  Not to mention receiving a text message shortly after, stating he passed his permit test made me even happier.

A week ago today, my cousin Stacey got married.  Congrats Stacey!!

I picked Kyle up early and asked if he wanted to take over the wheel.  He smiled, shrugged his shoulders and said, “I guess.”  While backing out of the driveway Kyle remarked, “I’ve never gone over 20 miles an hour.”  What?  It was then I realized he never logged time behind the wheel. No one took him out at all.  None. Zero. Zip. Now we were on our way up busy route 66, to get onto even busier route 22, then through town and finally back roads.  Pretty aggressive travel plans for a newbie.  My comment?  “Well, go slow.  You’ve got to learn to drive these roads some day, so I guess it’s today.  I’ll help.”

Stacey's Wedding 8-12-2017 Aunt Heather Piper

Me & Stacey at her wedding! Bridal dance 8/12/2017

Kyle seemed excited, yet a little nervous.  He was lucky it was me instructing him. (Ask Tree when I took her driving in my stick shift. She hit the curb at Legion Keener.) I’m really calm and patient in these situations, and I’m good at supplying detailed instructions, the way Kyle responds best.  I wanted to show him I had faith in his abilities, as well as use the opportunity to give him valuable intangible lessons.  There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance.  I wanted Kyle to gain experience and build that confidence, while shying away from arrogance.  Plus, the more road time he got with an experienced driver, the better.

How did he do?  GREAT!  He did stress when cars passed us on the opposite side of the road going the other direction.  He was also uneasy when cars went around us on route 22.  Understandably.  Throughout the entire trip, I reiterated, “I know buddy, it’s stressful.  For now, just stay to your side and focus on the road.  Let everyone else wait or go around us.”

While we were on route 66, before reaching Delmont, not even a mile into our trip, a car passed Kyle illegally.  Yikes.  He looked at me alarmed, not knowing what to do.  I told him, “Stay on course.  Let them go around.”  Typical Kyle called out, “That’s illegal!”  My response?  “I know buddy but are you going to arrest them?  Let them get in trouble and focus on the road.”

Once we got to the point where a left turn was necessary to merge onto route 22, Kyle was forced to change lanes.  He was uneasy.  I found out he couldn’t turn his head to look, use the mirrors, drive, and turn on the turn signal.  We’ve all been there.  He did manage to use his side mirror without drifting into the other lane. I craned my neck to double check for oncoming cars.  In fact, I did that entire way just to play it safe.  We made a good team.

At the red light a lady in the passenger seat beside us spotted me giving Kyle hand motions in preparation for the turn left, to avoid sideswiping our neighbors and without driving headfirst into the opposite traffic making their turn.  At this intersection, if a driver isn’t careful, paths could cross resulting in devastation.  Our temporary neighbor lady was sweet.  She smiled and gave Kyle thumbs up.  Kyle grinned and remained focused on the red light.  I told him, “She knows you’re a new driver and she’s wishing you luck.  People are generally kind and understanding.”  Kyle kept his eyes on the road in anticipation of the left turn and zoned out of our unspoken conversation.

While making the successful turn, I explained we had the right away from merging traffic on our right.  Before I could get the words out, a car that was going too fast, cut in front of us without yielding.  I guess these are all good lessons for Kyle to learn and to know what to watch out for.

As quickly as that happened, we had to get onto route 22, merging left.  Now we were the yielding party on a busy road with cars in front, beside and behind us.  This time Kyle strictly kept his eyes on the road ahead.  To make a safe transition, I was his lookout spouting instructions regarding fast approaching traffic.  Kyle merged gracefully, while seemingly not sweating it.  However, upon closer inspection his knuckles were bright white.

Eventually, I’ll have Kyle practice changing lanes on route 22, but I didn’t want to give him added anxiety or press our luck.  He handled the road like a champ.

Kyle's Text Message 8-8-17 Aunt Heather PiperI did find Kyle was already driving like me, too fast.  More than a few times I caught him going 60+ miles an hour. All I said, without yelling or freaking out as to not startle my inexperienced driver was, “Kyle let off the gas.”  The first time I said it, Kyle looked surprised because he wasn’t doing it on purpose.  He glanced at the speedometer and said, “Oh” then did as instructed.  After it happened a few times Kyle admitted, “I’m just trying to keep up with the traffic.  Everyone is speeding!”  I had to laugh, he is so me.

To put things into perspective I said, “Kyle, you don’t have the experience they do.  Plus, you don’t have your driver’s license and I don’t know the consequences of getting pulled over for speeding with a permit.  And if I get in trouble for your speed, you’re in double trouble.”  His reply?  Typical me comment, “I don’t think anything would happen to me.”  I smiled and retorted, “You don’t think?  I bet the cop will make an example of you and take away your license for a year.  Maybe even make you retest for your permit.  Plus, I’m sure I’ll get in trouble too.”

On a side note, it would be funny for Kyle and I to take our driving tests together.  Not an ideal situation, but a good story for later.

Kyle pondered my words and soon after I noticed a big change in him. He kept asking me the speed limit and would confirm his speed out loud, more for himself than for my benefit.  He’s so funny.  He gives the exact speed.  Example:

Kyle:  “What’s the speed limit here?”
Me:  “Umm, I’m not sure, I bet it’s 45, just go slower to play it safe.”
Kyle:  “Yep, it’s 45. (I never saw the speed limit sign).  Okay, I’m going 46.”
Me:  “You’re doing good buddy.  Just don’t go over the speed.”
Kyle:  “Okay, I’ll let off the gas a little. Now I’m going 44.”

Kyle never slammed on the breaks when he realized he was going to fast or when he was easing into a stop sign or red light. Sometimes his stop was a little rushed but not totally abrupt.  I did explain about people rear-ending him and trying to avoid collisions, his fault or not.

Lilia at Stacey's Wedding 8-12-2017 Aunt Heather Piper

Me & Lilia sharing a smile at Stacey’s wedding. 8/12/2017

There were a few times cars looked like they were going to back into us, or they stopped without using their turn signal.  Every time, Kyle’s reaction was to let off the gas and I saw he was ready to use his breaks. All without panicking. I reiterated my observations to give him constructive praise.

Kyle did crack me up at four way stops.  He waved everyone on so no cars would be around when he turned or went through.  I remember those days too.  I reassured him, “I know it’s a little stressful going around other cars, just take your time.  If you use your turn signal and go slow, most people will see you’re a new driver and be patient.”  Sometimes cars waved Kyle on.  He grunted every time with distress but made it through unscathed.

During the entire 45-minute journey, there were only two scary instances.  One was making the right turn onto route 981 from route 22 at the light.  Kyle was going a little too fast and didn’t cut the turn tight enough.  I told him to slow down and tighten the turn.  He responded with, “I know, I am.”  Umm.  Not really.  I had to grab the steering wheel before we grazed the line of cars sitting at the red light.  He realized what had happened and I believe he learned from it.  Prior to that, when Kyle was in the passing lane in Delmont, he kept creeping toward the centerline.  He wasn’t used to that side of the road.  Again, minor instances.

During our trip I noticed when Kyle was off center, too close to the side of the road or the double line or he was speeding, he corrected himself before I called it out. Again, each time I gave him positive comments to reinforce good habits.

Kyle drove the rest of the weekend, to the store, the wedding and back home.  Each time, I could tell he was doing better and more comfortable around other cars on the road, slightly.

Kyle was also faced with unusual instances. While driving through Latrobe, he had to pull around a person on a bicycle.  I could see the fright in his eyes as I told him to go into the other lane to get around.  He didn’t like that scenario yet skirted past our bicyclist easily.  He also had to go around a parked truck that was unloading.

Finally, let’s discuss parking. Ironically, his issues were mine. I had Kyle pull up to the sidewalk while I ran into a store. I was half expecting him to scrap the sides of my tires. He didn’t and inquired, “How close am I? I need to be within 12 inches.” Not to burst his bubble but to be honest I stated, “Umm. It looks more like 18 inches buddy.” He retorted, “Well that’s the first time I parked like that.” I get it. It takes practice.

Kyle was forced to park at K-Mart, I spared him by not going to Wal-Mart. Playing it safe, he attempted his park job away from other cars, unsuccessfully. Laughing, I told him church people do a better job. He reiterated that he never parked before. No worries, I told him I’d take him out to practice a day of parking. I was never good at it either. We lived in the country and never had lines to park within, or other cars to park between. He’ll learn.

Fun Story. I’m notorious for never putting gas in my car, nor paying attention to how much is in the tank. Ever since I started driving, that task was never a concern to me. Did I run out of gas? You bet. Usually, I’d walk to the closest house and call Ryan to bring me gas. He always had some on hand, probably for me. Did it bother me? No. Maybe that’s why I never paid attention.

Kyle get’s in my car and immediately looks at the gas tank to exclaim I only have less than a half a tank. In my eyes, it’s nearly full. Kyle was not so blasé about the situation. As we were driving, the gas tank must have bothered him because he stated, “I know what I’ll do. When the gas hits the halfway mark, I’ll fill it up.” Yeah, now I’m not so sure we’re related, although, he did sound like my Dad.  I told him he can borrow my car any time he wanted.  I got a kick out of that comment!

One more funny story. Someone moved my car in my parent’s driveway, close to the side of an embankment. Directly behind it was a burn pile they burn boxes and papers but sometimes other items like nails and such get mixed in. I didn’t want Kyle to run into the pile for fear of puncturing my tires. I stood outside the car and had him cut the wheel into the driveway. He was seriously on edge (pun intended). Making sure he was in reverse (yes if he hit the gas in drive, it would not have been pretty) I gave him instructions. He kept the drivers door open. If I know Kyle he had an escape plan. He yelled at me, “This is illegal you know!” I told him to relax, he’s got it, and he did. If I thought he couldn’t handle it, then I would have taken over the wheel.

Okay, last funny story. Kyle drove us to the wedding. We had to park in a field with all the other guests. I was going to change places with him but he stated he could back into the parking spot. Okay, why not. As I gave him instructions to arch wide to give him enough room to straighten the car so he was backing straight, he misunderstood me. He drove in a big circle in the field. I was dying. The guys directing traffic were confused, as were the line of cars behind us. He did freak out on me, “You told to me to go this way!” I told him, “Calm down. It’s okay.” He managed to back up, with my help guiding the steering wheel.

He drove us home at night too.

Since Kyle was born, there wasn’t a day that’s gone by when I haven’t thought about him (and his Dad) and prayed for his well-being. The older he gets, I find myself adding to his prayer list. I could never handle Kyle meeting the same fate as his Dad. Maybe that’s why I’ve always insisted he gets experience behind the wheel. Ironically, Ryan was a great driver and that situation still doesn’t make any sense. God always has a plan.

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

Happy Birthday Kyle! Sweet 16!

Each day means a new twenty-four hours. Each day means everything’s possible again. You live in the moment, you die in the moment, you take it all one day at a time.  ~Marie Lu

Baby-Kyle-8-12-01-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle as a little man. Ryan carried him around in this seat everywhere. 8/12/01

Can you believe Kyle is 16 years old today?  Seems like these milestones are becoming more frequent and harder to accept.

Happily, I was there when Kyle was born, all 6 pounds 10 ounzes of him.  Ryan was ecstatic over the arrival of the new package and I was nervous, yet thrilled to be an Aunt.  Kyle was a blessing, and it was only over the years did I really understand just what a blessing he’s been and continues to be.  Ryan would be proud, as am I.

Sixteen years later, Kyle turned into a smart, kindhearted, wonderful young man anxious to get his permit and tackle another stage in his life.  Finally, he’s excited to drive and gain a little more freedom.  Kyle mentioned he has to get a physical and then it’s off to get his permit, this Friday. Friday!  As much as I want him to be independent, I’m nervous.  Add another item to the prayer list.

Kyle at the Movies 7-29-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Nicole & Kyle at the movies to see Valerian. We took him for his birthday celebration. 7/29/2017

What have we been up to for the big birthday weekend?  Not much of anything.  Kyle stated he wanted to hang out.  Fine by me, I could always use some uninterrupted Kyle time.  Nicole came home to join in on the celebration too.

Yesterday, we went to the movies to see Valerian and afterwards headed to my parents house for some DQ ice-cream cake and a bonfire.  My favorite way to spend the day.  Chilling on the deck gave us some time for Kyle to catch us up on his recent activities.  Surprisingly, he did.

Before heading to the movies, Nicole and I had Kyle back Nicole’s SUV out of the driveway and partially down the ridge.  Kyle stated, “Too bad it’s not a week later, then I’d be driving us to the movies.”  Yes, he would have.  

Kyle's 16 Birthday 7-29-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle’s 16! 7/29/2017

I spoke of Kyle going to Northwestern University for a week in the previous post From February Till Now, A Summary of Kyle.  He told us about his adventure.  He was given the opportunity to build a few items using PVC pipe and ductape (I have no idea exactly what he was talking about) with the engineers, attended a lecture with the Dean and another lecture from a seasoned professor.  Kyle even toured the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab)!  How cool was that!  He received a letter of recommendation from the school and is one step closer to finalizing his future endeveorus.

Today we went to brunch at DeNunzio’s at Latrobe Airport and continued hanging out for the rest of the day and enjoyed Kyle’s company, which is becoming a rarity.  

What did I get Kyle?  You’ll see. I’m picking him up Tuesday night for a Wednesday fun surprise, just the two of us.  He seems excited over his surprise and stated, “You’re not taking me to a Lego’s thing are you?”  I’m not sure why he thought that.  I am aware he is sixteen and not a little tyke.  At first, I couldn’t tell if he was in favor or not of a Lego’s thing.  Reluctantly, I said, “No. Why?”  He sighed with relief and said, “Oh, good.  Cause I don’t want to.”  Even though Kyle likes his Legos decorating his room, I guess partaking in Lego fun is now out of the question.   My response?  “Kyle, have I ever disappointed you for your birthday?”  He snickered and never answered.  More to come on Kyle’s birthday.

Happy Birthday Kyle!  I love you!

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

Stink Bugs Do Have A Natural Enemy!

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.  ~John Muir

Stink bug close up Aunt Heather PiperI’m no expert on stink bugs, but I’m certainly no stranger to them either.  The weather in western Pennsylvania has been fluctuating lately, from snowy cold days, which is normal for January, to sunny abnormally warm days reaching the 60s.  Sometimes this temperature range happens within 24-hours.

Besides unfavorable road conditions, the up and down weather is tricking the stink bugs into an early spring.  The warmth draws them out to make their appearance in droves.

Annoyed with these stinkers, literally, I was curious about them, since I don’t remember the critters from my childhood.  Evidently, the stink bug were accidentally introduced into Pennsylvania, Allentown to be exact, in the mid-1990s.  They’re native to China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

Presently, the stink bug can be found in most states and are now posing a real problem with the fruit and vegetable farms.  The stink bugs feed on these plants as well as weeds and tree leaves.  Okay, now we’ve gone from annoying to a true issue.  Stink bugs don’t scare me as per say, but the thought of their ultimate damage doesn’t settle well with me.

Now some fun facts.  Stink bugs can lay 20 to 30 eggs, leading to developed adults within 35 to 45 days, in optimal conditions.  In the lifespan of a female stink bug, she can lay four hundred eggs.  That explains a lot.

From what I’ve read, these pests are impervious to insecticides.  Although, I’m not a fan of toxic remedies, especially when pesticides are harming the bee population.  I’m also not a fan of distributing the ecological structure of an area to deal with a single pest.  Sure, there’s more natural solutions such as soapy water, however, I don’t think that’s a reasonable solution for large farms.  What to do with the stink bugs?  I guess that’s the ultimate question.

Stinks bugs in mason jar Aunt Heather PiperI read an article on the consideration of introducing a parasitoid wasp, which is a primary predator to the stink bug, to solve the problem.  NO!  That’s not a solution.  That’s a recipe for an even bigger problem.  Instead, I have an idea.

Chickens!  Really?  Yes.  Since you can’t squash, frighten or even disturb a stink bug without it secreting its foul-smelling order, which seriously turns my stomach, I started collecting them.  Well, not in the collectible coin fashion, but rather for a food supply for my feathery friends.

Idiotic solution?  No more than using toxic chemicals and infesting the area with wasps.

Sure, stink bugs have always been a nuisance, but when they started flying into me while I slept, disrupting my sleep and freaking me out when I felt them walk across my skin, I had enough.  Using basic common sense,  I began capturing the smelly buzzing bugs in a pint size mason jar with a lid.  Originally, I started trapping them with the intent to kill the bugs behind glass doors, so to speak.  However, I realized they served a better purpose.  The chickens LOVE the stink bugs.

They do!  The chickens are now accustomed to the jar and flock toward the little protein crunchies.  It almost makes me want to find more stink bugs to deliver.

I’ve never read about chickens as a solution to stink bugs, but why not?  Now’s the time to get creative, through natural means.  Perhaps find safe traps for the stink bugs and deliver the tasty meal to some farm animal.   There could be other stink bug predators that are native to each area to use.  I don’t know if chickens could be the ultimate solution for farmers, but it might be a nice try.  This would also ensure we no longer have an egg shortage like we did a couple years ago.  Now that’s solving two problems at once, productive.

Anyone have a better solution?

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posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Farming & Planting,Hiking & Outdoors,News,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts and have No Comments

Kyle’s Christmas Scavenger Hunt

It’s true that adventures are good for people even when they are very young. Adventures can get in a person’s blood even if he doesn’t remember having them.  ~Eva Ibbotson

Scavenger-Hunt-Clue-for-a-Teen-Thrill-of-the-Hunt

This year, I had grandiose plans for Kyle’s Christmas gift, but alas they fell through.  So I found myself scrambling for his gift.  Keep in mind, I was up against time constraints and a 15-year old who has way too much in terms of stuff.  I was at a loss for last minute Christmas gift ideas.  Reluctantly, I turned to the ever popular and safe bet, gift cards.  Yes, I buckled.  However, my gift cards were strategic.  I got him iTunes (which I found out he has Google play, so money took that place), a movie card, since he likes to frequent the movies with his friends, and a Seven Springs snowboarding gift card, something we haven’t done in the last couple of years, but something we’ve always done together.

Instead of simply handing the kid the gift cards, because where’s the fun in that, I got creative.  I wanted Kyle to work for his gifts, plus have a little adventure and fun.  I made Kyle a custom scavenger hunt.  Why not?  I make them all the time for Thrill of the Hunt, and I’ve yet to do one for Kyle.

The idea rocked!  At least from my perspective, and from the enthusiasm and smiles that radiated from Kyle’s face, I’d say my assumption was correct.

There’s so many different ways to create a scavenger hunt.  This one, I added a lot of items that mean something, heirloom furniture, inside jokes, Kyle’s dog and so on.  Truth be told, I had a blast creating the scavenger hunt, and I had an even better time watching Kyle go through it.

I started off making Kyle a Christmas card that was placed under the tree.  I knew he thought he was getting money or gift cards, he was correct, but not that easily.  The front of the card gave Kyle an overview of what was happening, that he had to follow the clues exactly, how many clues were given, and how many gifts:

Get ready for a Christmas adventure of fun & prizes
Follow 10 clues to find your gifts of all sizes
But be warned, follow the instructions to a T
Hints are few, your Christmas gift rewards are 3

Let’s get started.  Good luck Buddy!

On the inside of the card, I gave Kyle his first clue, which had multiple steps.

Clue#1

Venture out to see the ladies
Also stop by House of Hades
Collect the clues at each spot  
They’re hints for your next trot

The first part “ladies” is a joke in our household referring to our chickens in the chicken coop.  The second part “House of Hades” referred to the 4th book from Rick Riordan, Heroes of Olympus series.  Kyle was a big fan of the books.  Each location contained a clue, the chickens housed the clue – Bowl, and the book contained the other clue – Punch.

You got it.  Kyle had to look in our punch bowl, which was brought back from my parents when they lived in Germany while my Dad was in the service.  Our family tradition is to bring out the punch bowl every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Over the years, Kyle has taken over the punch making responsibilities.

Clue number three was a blast, literally.  Dad just got me a new .12 gauge shotgun.  I figured I’d work it into the equation.  Plus, it’s been a while since Kyle shot a gun and I thought he might have a little fun blowing apart a milk jug.

Clue #3

Your next clue points to a gift
Remember backyard safety -be swift  
Any shotgun holds the key
Shoot the jug to set it free

In the backyard, I had a plastic milk jug filled with water and a clue floating inside (wrapped in a sandwich bag).  Kyle went straight toward the gun safe, pulled out my .12 gauge shotgun and shot at the jug, a few times for fun.  Once he was satisfied that the jug was pulverized sufficiently, he pulled out the clue Behind the guitar!  Not only did this location contain another clue, a rebus which was a little harder to solve, but he also received an iTunes gift card. 

Behind-the-Guitar-Clue-Teen-Scavenger-Hunt-Thrill-of-the-Hunt

The answer to the rubus was a bit tricky, but I couldn’t make it too easy on my guy.

The answer was, Aunt Heather’s Gravy Boat.  I made the gravy boat out of clay when I was in high school.  Since that time the gravy boat, like the punch bowl has made its appearance at the holidays.  The gravy boat housed a black light.  I wrote messages and some clues in invisible ink along the way.  Kyle loved that!  It added another element of excitement and adventure to the scavenger hunt.

Clue-4-Thrill-of-the-Hunt-Scavenger-Hunt-1

Throughout the scavenger hunt, I included a Christmas ornament Kyle got my Dad in 2013, which held another clue hanging in the Christmas tree.  I included Kyle’s guitar, our punch bowl (mentioned above), a few books, a chess table built by my Grandpap Chester (a family heirloom piece, and Kyle and I like to play chess) and naturally Scooby, Kyle’s dog, who carried a clue around his neck.

Here’s the clue I placed around Scooby.  I didn’t place it on the dog until Kyle was close to the clue, for fear Kyle would jump ahead or worse, the dog would scratch it off.

 

Clue #5

Take a selfie with me Kyle!

Take me for a walk, let’s stop at the apple tree
Let’s take Seven, we’ll both run & be free

Kyle and I used to take the dogs (Seven is my dog) for walks all the time, and every Easter was spent in the orchard in the backyard collecting Easter eggs.  Kyle has also helped plant many of those trees on the property.  Not only was this location significant, but I also wanted to test Kyle’s tree knowledge.  He found it no problem.  Of course, I heard him ask my Dad which tree was the apple.  I had no problem with Kyle phoning a friend, so to speak.

In Kyle’s room, I hung one of my old snowboards as a shelf, and recently I added another snowboard to the wall.  Kyle and I have been snowboarding together since he was 4-years old, except for the last couple of years.

Clue #7

Under the Lamar, under the Ride
Another gift is found on the backside
For you & a friend to crush the slopes
You might have to show your friend the ropes

The one snowboard was a Lamar and my old snowboard was a Ride.  I got Kyle a gift card to Seven Springs for him and a friend.  I told Kyle I’d take him up alone so he could get his feet back on before going up with a friend, and I’d be tagging along.  Of course, I plan on riding the slopes, but I doubt I’d be welcomed with the young duo.

During the entire scavenger hunt, I had Kyle complete easy and difficult clues and challenges.   He even allowed me to shoot video clips of his excursion.  That really made my Christmas Eve day!  I’m sure Kyle won’t remember the gift cards or when he used them, but I’ll bet he’ll remember the scavenger hunt for ever.

Here’s my video montage of Kyle’s Christmas Scavenger Hunt adventure.

Great job Kyle!  I hope you enjoyed it.

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

Happy Birthday Dad! 66-Years!

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

Happy Birthday Dad! January 16, 1951

Dad U Sonny Pap Gram Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honoring a Fallen Friend With Music – Please Donate

Music, once admitted to the soul, becomes a sort of spirit, and never dies.  ~Edward Bulwer-Lytton

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Kyle & his fellow sousaphone members performing Nemesis 2016

I’ve talked about Chaperoning the Kiski Area Marching Band and being a band chaperone.  I truly love being apart of this organization, not only for Kyle’s sake but for all the students who work so very hard.  They’re a great group of students, staff and parents.

A few months ago, I was asked to take over the Kiski Bands social media.  Did I accept?  Of course.  I was honored to use my marketing experience and skills to help promote this talented and dedicated group.  Even though I’m still in the process of systematizing their online efforts, I was able to finalize a press release, one that needs to be shared far and wide.

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Kiski Area Marching Band performing Nemesis 2016

This past June, I addressed Dealing With Loss, the tragic accident that claimed the life of Nicholas Ursiny, a member of the Kiski Area Bands and a friend of Kyle’s.  I’m no stranger to tragedy, loss or grief, and I know nothing can truly ease the sadness when dealing with this emotionally powerful trio, but there are numerous ways to work through the heartache.  Many times God presents opportunities to help us heal and cope, and this one comes in the form of music.

The band directors and the student leadership collaborated to present a unique and truly inspirational opportunity for everyone to be involved and honor a young man, taken too soon.  How?  Through music of course.  The Kiski Area Bands is in the process of collecting monetary contributions to commission an original piece of music to honor Nick.  Once the music is completed, the bands will present this tribute in concert, open to the public for all to hear and enjoy.

This memorial will last a lifetime and beyond, and could touch the lives of countless souls, even those unaware of its origins.

Please help the Kiski Area Bands fulfill their mission of honoring one of their own through music.  All donations, made in any increment, may be made to:

KAIB (Kiski Area Instrumental Boosters)
c/o Nicholas Ursiny Memorial Commission
P.O. Box 124
Vandergrift, PA 15690
www.KiskiBands.org

I hope the next time I talk about this personal tribute, it will be while listening to the piece of music written specifically for Nick.  This gesture, however original and appropriate, won’t heal the hearts of those effected by Nick’s death, but it does give the students, teachers, staff and parents a goal to work towards and night of celebrating Nick’s life for all to hear.

Below is the original press release.  Please contact me at Heather@AuntHeather.com with any questions, suggestions or inquires.  Thank you in advance for taking the time to hear this story.

Kiski Band Raising Money for Nicholas Ursiny Memorial Commission

Nick Ursiny, a Kiski Band Member Passed Away In a Tragic Accident

December 14, 2016 – The Kiski Area Bands from Vandergrift, Pa. need help to complete their goal of raising $5,000 to commission a new piece of music composition in memory of Nicholas Ursiny, a Kiski Area Band student who tragically passed away in June. Thanks to generous donations, the Kiski Area Bands have raised approximately $3,500 and is asking to help close the gap for this unique memorial. Donations may be issued to KAIB (Kiski Area Instrumental Boosters) www.kiskibands.org/contact.

Nicholas Ursiny, a student at the Kiski Area High School, was going into his sophomore year. He was a member of the horn/mellophone section in the Kiski Area Bands and played French horn in the concert bands before a tragic accident claimed his life this past June. To keep the spirit of Nicholas alive, the Kiski Marching Band student leadership worked with directors, Robert Traugh, Chad Heiny and Shawn Pityk, to develop the idea of honoring Nicholas through a piece of commissioned music.

“This project is simple and heartfelt, offering the opportunity for all who were shocked by this tragedy to create a lasting memorial through music to a life lost too soon.” said Robert Traugh, Band Director of the Kiski Area Bands. “Nick was a valuable part of our organization and was truly missed this past season.”

Donations from friends, family, students and faculty have been gratefully received. Neighboring bands, Norwin, Gateway, Connellsville, Highlands and Mars, have paid their respects and generously donated to the Nicholas Ursiny Memorial Commission.

“The band is a close-knit community of passionate and talented individuals. While we compete against each other; we’re all family and we fully support each other.” Traugh replied. “We’ve been blessed with many donations and we hope to begin the process for this musical tribute and engage a composer soon.”

Information on the commissioned composer will be available as soon as the completed funds are available. Members of the Kiski Area Bands will premiere the piece of music in concert, open to the public.

For more information on the Kiski Area Bands including a list of events, concerts and competitions visit www.kiskibands.org.

About Kiski Area Bands

Kiski Area Bands, apart of the Kiski Area School District is from Vandergrift, Pa., about 35 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, Pa. Kiski Area Bands is a student organization lead by Band Directors Robert Traugh, Chad Heiny and Shawn Pityk and is comprised of students from grades five through twelve. The Kiski Area Marching Band is a division of the Kiski Area Bands consisting of students from grades ninth through twelfth.

KAIB (Kiski Area Instrumental Boosters)
P.O. Box 124
Vandergrift, PA 15690
www.KiskiBands.org

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

Don’t Hide Behind Love

Whatever it is you’re seeking won’t come in the form you’re expecting.  ~Haruki Murakami

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Trump house Youngstown, PA 2016

I believe, respecting the opinions of others is the first step to living in peace and understanding.  I’m not saying accepting morally wrong choices and actions, or approving criminal activity.  No.  Those are simply wrong and should not be tolerated or even considered.  There are many opinions and different ways of handling situations, some better than others.  Everyone working for the betterment of the people with truly good intentions, needs to be given a chance.  Let’s face it, the best way to handle a problem is to work together to find a solution, not create more problems.

Sure everyone has a right to protest and speak their voice, but when it’s done as a temper tantrum with complete disrespect, and then done alongside criminal activity, it’s simply wrong.  It’s abuse of a right.  Naturally, I’m referring to all the riots surrounding our President Elect Donald Trump.

The protesters are speaking for women’s right, immigration reform, and healthcare issues, among others.  At least that’s what their signs say and it appears on the surface.  Yes, those are some problems plaguing our country and certainly hot topics.  Agreed.  However, those topics are going to be addressed from our new president, at least that’s what’s promised.  It’s certainly not going to happen through violent and anger.

When it comes down to it, the protesters are displaying a complete lack of respect for our voting process, its citizens, and the American way.  Let’s cut to the chase, the protesters, are only mad because their candidate didn’t win.  End of story.  There wouldn’t be any riots if the outcome were different and yet, we’d have the same problems.  In fact, no one was rioting regarding those issues with our current administration.  These problems didn’t just surface.  They’re the same issues our president elect will be inheriting because our past administration didn’t address the problems properly or successfully.  Donald Trump didn’t cause them.   Sure his solutions seem a bit unconventional, but maybe that’s what we need turn our country around.

american-flag-taken-in-texas-aunt-heather-piper-2016To make things worse, Trump supporters have been attacked and physically beaten nearly to death.  Is that right way to handle your opinion?  No.  That’s taking those voters’ rights, and their right to basically live freely in the United States, the land of the free.  That’s just plain wrong.  Now to add more to this injustice, the protesters are looting and destroying personal and commercial property.  This is insane.  How are those actions solving any problems?  It’s not.  It’s only creating more problems without solutions.  Common sense needs to be reviewed and noted.  Those actions are hidden under one reason, but are really for selfish, destructive and disrespectful reasons that resemble anarchy, not what this nation stands for.  Get the irony?

The sad part?  Many of the protesters interviewed didn’t even vote!  What is wrong with these people?  Fighting for rights is good.   Leading with emotion is not wrong, but it is when it takes over common sense and breaks laws.  The protesters are basically saying my vote was not important, and only their opinion should be heard.  That’s also saying those that give respect and obey laws shouldn’t have a vote, or be bullied for different opinions?  I thought we lived in a Republic and not a dictatorship?  That’s not only disrespectful for the winner, Donald Trump, who won fair and square, but it’s also insulting to those who supported and voted for him, which was the majority.

It’s also a shame that we live in a society that doesn’t know how to loose and take it gracefully.  Basically, a society that’s never been told NO.  They think they have the right because they can scream and shout, throw a punch and steal at random.  No one is benefiting from their wasted energy, and they’re only showing they’re a bunch of spoiled brats.  I personally know those types of people, that throw a tantrum when they’re told NO or proven wrong.  They’re also the type that needs to be humbled and never given power, because if they do, they abuse it.

Personally, I didn’t vote for Obama, neither time, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt, both times.  I was willing to work with our new leader for the betterment of our country.  There wasn’t major chaos when he was voted in, and yet he wasn’t liked by everyone.

A few months ago, I read the book The Girls by Emma Cline.  Just to give an overview, it’s a fictional book interweaving a young girl, Evie, among the actions of the Manson family.  Really a neat twist.  It’s told through Evie’s eyes as an adult, recollecting those days.  I’ve also read Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry.  Both books tell the accounts of the Manson family and their facade of being peace loving children.  However, what really happened?  That love was disguised as pure hate and selfishness.  Manson came across as loving and free at first, yet his underlying true nature slowly worked its way out, in the form of hate, resulting in murder, control and abuse of youngsters.  If Manson got his own way and became a rock star and was praised in the media, like he wanted, then possibly history would’ve been written differently.  Instead, Manson threw a temper tantrum, an extreme one, and he was the louder voice to recruit others, who followed him without using common sense.  Sound familiar?  Mason wanted attention like a child and wanted his own way.

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The American flag standing proudly. Taken in Texas, 2016

Instead of wasting energies for negative rioting, vandalism and violence, use it to support a good cause, comfort someone who lost a family member or friend to a terminal illness, adopt a pet, volunteer with the elderly, or spend your Saturday mornings picking up trash to make America beautiful and clean instead of being the cause of the trash.

Our soon to be president is already moving in a positive direction.  It’s no secret our country and it’s people are in a financial rut, to put it mildly.  Donald Trump has already announced he will take office without a salary.  That alone says a lot to his true purpose of wanting to help our country.  The stupid, and I meant that, rioters should be happy.  Mr. Trump is already becoming a solution.  Did any other president ever deny a salary?  It’s not like Mr. Trump was pressured, he voluntary gave up it up.   The rioters are so self-centered, they don’t even want to hear positive aspects of our future.

I’m not a very loud person, figuratively speaking.  (I can be loud when talking and joking around.)  I prefer to show my stance through actions, not words, ironic since I’m writing this.  (I totally see the humor).  But it’s true, I’ll support a candidate or a cause, I’ll join The Race for the Cure and I’ll join any fundraiser, as long as my actions help a cause.  I don’t ever want to be a problem or the cause of a problem.  I try to make a difference through my actions, which do speak louder.

I’ve said this before the election, it really appears that history is repeating itself.  These events remind me when Abraham Lincoln was voted into office.  Not that I was alive during that time, but I’ve studied the Civil War in depth in college and I’m a big history buff.  The south did the same thing, with riots, vandalism, violence and even disrespecting our great country enough to secede.  Let’s learn from our past.  It didn’t end well for anyone back in 1860s, and if this action continues, it won’t end on a positive note for anyone presently.

President Obama and Hillary Clinton have both stood up and publicly and sincerely announced they are standing behind the vote of the American people.  They’ve all asked for a stop to the violence.  This goes to show those rioting simply want to have something to yell about with no respect to anyone, even their candidate.  They want to say something, but don’t have anything to say.  Is this generation so attention starved?

What is unfolding before my eyes is exactly the behavior I’ve always taught again with Kyle.  However, I started to teach him these lessons when he was a little tyke.   Maybe, the protestors need to be schooled and scaled like a child.

When it comes down to it, I’ve always said a prayer for our president elect, and for the people of the world.  I’m not blind to know he’s just a man, who’s made mistakes and will continue to do so, but he does deserve our respect until proven to not act in our best interests.  I bet a moment of silence and prayer would move more mountains than yelling and destroying.

God Bless the U.S.A.!

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

Our Marvel(ous) Bond

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vote Informatively – Election 2016

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

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Trump House, Youngstown, PA 11/7/16

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

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

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

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Trump House, Youngstown, PA 11/7/16

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

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

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

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

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Trump House, Youngstown, PA 11/7/16

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

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

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Me & Kyle at the Sarah Palin rally Latrobe Airport 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pumpkin Guts, No Thanks

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

Happy Halloween or technically All Hallows’ Eve!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kyle as Jay Jay the Jet Plane. 10/2004

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

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

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

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

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

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

Behind the Kiski Area Marching Band

Better a cruel truth than a comfortable delusion.   ~Edward Abbey

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Kyle (center) giving his all during the performance of Nemesis – Kiski Area Marching Band 2016

Last night, Kiski presented the showcase of bands, whereas the seventh through twelfth grade students in band, performed, including the marching band.  What a great talented group.

Mr. Robert Traugh is the Kiski Area Marching Band Director.  Watching him instruct his students and seeing how they truly respect him is very refreshing and a relief to me.  In fact, Mr. Traugh is a true leader.  Besides being musically talented himself and very creative, he never accepts passing the blame, he gets straight to the heart of a problem to find a solution, he pushes his students towards excellence and beyond, and he holds each and every band member accountable.  Like I said, a true leader and a good role model.

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Kyle (left) at practice before Bands of America in Newark, Delaware. 10/12/16

How do I know?  Simply watching from a distance, as well as a brief encounter not long ago.  Unbeknownst to Mr. Traugh, I was a bystander in the back of the room during one of his speeches to the entire band, after the Gateway Competition preliminaries when they first lost.  I heard the talk in the halls, the students where blaming the program and wanted to go back to last year’s Origins show.  Some where pointing fingers to this group, that person and so on.  It was upsetting to me because I’ve never tolerated such behavior from Kyle, and there I found him among it.  However, enter Mr. Traugh stage right (literally, the band members were on the stage in the auditorium) to put out the fire.

He must have heard or sensed the same negativity and gathered the students in the auditorium between performances for a little talk.  Since it was a long day of chaperoning, I brought my iPad to work during down time.  Coincidentally, I was seated among the spontaneous gathering site.  I thought about moving, but I was right in the middle of a few thoughts I wanted to jot down first.  Then, I didn’t want to bring any attention to myself by walking past the kids to exit during Mr. Traugh’s speech.  So I stayed put.

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Kyle napping on the bus before a competition after practicing all day. 9/17/16

He got straight to the point.  Calling out specifics during the performance for the band’s low score and placement.  In contrast, he pointed out the good aspects of their show, too.  Mr. Traugh humbled the students, in a good way, and really turned their attitude around.  Then, he drove it home by having the kids place themselves in the winners shoes and stated how good those kids must be feeling, especially since they haven’t placed first in a very long time.  I believe it was Norwin or Moon that beat them.  (Sorry I can’t remember)

Let me step back a few hours to right before Kiski’s first performance at Gateway.  I don’t want to say they were arrogant, but overtly confident with an air of privilege.  After all, in their minds, they swept last year’s first place seats time and time again, which they earned.  After the students didn’t place this year, they had a reality check that was evident on everyone’s faces.  Now, they were ready to fight for first place and earn their top spot again.  On a side note, I thought they had a wonderful performance.

The way the kids responded to Mr. Traught’s lecture and encouragement made me proud.  The kids are really a great group, and they wouldn’t be without proper leadership.  Not only from Mr. Traugh but from all the instructors and the band parents alike.  While the students are the face of the marching band, the parents and staff are the backbone.  Without that structure, the band wouldn’t be able to rise to greatness.

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Kiski Area Marching Band performing Nemesis 2016

During that day, which I believe was Saturday, September 24th, Ryan’s birthday, Kyle’s dad,  Kiski school was home base to Moon between performances.  Our kids were very welcoming and respectful, as was Moon.  In fact, Moon ordered enough frosties from Wendy’s for the entire Kiski Band, as a thank you to hosting them between performances.  Can you believe it?  What a nice gesture!  I’m guessing they have pretty stellar leaders too.

In fact, I’ve noticed during all performances, the Kiski Band has shown respect for all other bands.  Watching the band stand and clap for performances, cheering on other kids, simply showing good comrade.  They’ve also shown respect by they actions before, during and after performances, pitching in as a team to assist their own, and others and remaining quiet when needed.  Yes, I can’t be happier to have Kyle surrounded by this group and the Kiski leadership.

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Kyle on the move performing Nemesis for the Kiski Area Marching Band 2016

Last Saturday, October 15, 2016, Kiski Area Marching Band competed in Bands of America in Newark, Delaware.  How did they do?  Fantastic!  They took first place at preliminaries and second place overall, out of 27 top bands from the east coast.  That’s what happens when instructors listen to constructive criticism to make the students better, the students humble themselves to do their best, and everyone works hard.

Way to go Kiski!  Your show is really fantastic and you guys are very talented!  Great season!

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

Happy Birthday Ryan!

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

Happy 39th Birthday Ryan!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Birthday Ryan!

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

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

Is Kyle Aware?

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

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

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

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

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

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

How does this prove Kyle is a good kid?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now onto funny number two.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Visit to Google Pittsburgh… Continued

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

Google Pittsburgh Tour 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

Floors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Cafeteria”

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

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

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

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

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

The area is spacious and clean and very inviting.

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

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

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

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

Details

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Visit to Google Pittsburgh

Being a nerd, which is to say going too far and caring too much about a subject, is the best way to make friends I know.  ~Sarah Vowell

Google Pittsburgh Tour 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Andrew Widdowson, Barb Planinsek, Kyle Piper, Duncan Jones & Me at Google offices in Pittsburgh at Bakery Square 7/27/16

This past Wednesday, I wanted to surprise Kyle and do something for his birthday, which is tomorrow.  Summer is nearly over, especially when Kyle begins bandcamp and I’ve hardly seen my little vacationer since school let out.  This weekend he’s heading to Virginia, deep south with my parents and family friends to go catfishing, at night.  (Actually, they left a few hours ago.)  Skirting around all the plans, Wednesday felt like the most opportune time to spend a day with Kyle.  Done.

With the help of a family friend, Barb Planinsek, we made arrangements to tour the Google offices in Pittsburgh.  You see Barb’s nephew, Andrew, is employed by Google and chose to work in Pittsburgh this summer. (Nephews are the best!)  He travels all around the world for his job, but is headquartered in Mountainview, California.  Of course I couldn’t pass up this opportunity.

Unbeknownst to Kyle, the plans for Wednesday were made months prior, when I met Andrew at the Fishing Derby in May.  Naturally, upon hearing who Andrew’s employer was, I instantly thought, Touring Google Pittsburgh would be a great experience for Kyle and a perfect birthday activity!  I’m not one hundred percent sure, but I think I was right.  Although, trying to get excitement out of that kid is hard, but by golly I saw it during our tour!

Unfortunately, because of everyone’s schedules, Wednesday was planned on Tuesday.  Not ideal but it worked out.  My goal was to surprise Kyle with an experience most don’t have, give him an educational activity he’d enjoy, and begin networking him for his future.  Bonus!

Kyle & Duncan at Google Pittsburgh 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle & Duncan tour the Google offices in Pittsburgh as a birthday surprise! 7/27/16

Andrew kindly moved his day around to accommodate us.  Barb and I were on board from the beginning.  Now came the hard part, Kyle.  I tried calling, to let him know I arranged a surprise for him, but he never answered the phone. I thought about texting, and chose another route.  Initially, I was toying with the idea that Kyle might enjoy the experience more with a friend.  During the planning process, I got a hold of Jennifer, Kyle’s good friend Duncan’s mother.  (If you can follow that.)  She was more than happy to lend us her son for the day.  In fact, Duncan was in on the secret and helped me align Kyle.  Plus, Duncan was excited about the adventure too.

All day Tuesday, Jennifer kept me posted to Kyle’s responses to Duncan.  Duncan called Kyle and said he was coming over Wednesday morning around 7:30 am for a surprise.  I was told Kyle’s response was, “If I’m getting up early I want to know why.”  Boy is that kid stubborn!  Duncan remained steadfast and never told Kyle who was picking them up, and what they were doing.  Eventually, later in the day, I was told Kyle was intrigued about the surprise.  I believe he was excited because when I showed up on Wednesday, he was ready to roll.  He even tried to hide a smile from his lips, though I’m quick and I saw it!  I too was grinning from ear to ear ready to jump out of my skin.

Heading west, we eventually made our way to Bakery Square in Pittsburgh.  We stopped and had breakfast, figuring the boys would be hungry before our ultimate activity.  We actually had time to waste, since I didn’t know what traffic was going to be like, and we were so close to Shadyside, we headed to the area for some exploration.  What did the boys do with their freedom to shop and money in their hands?  They played Pokemon Go.  At least I got Kyle out moving around and he seemed to be in a pretty good mood.

Duncan & Kyle playing Pokemon Go in Shadyside 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Duncan & Kyle playing Pokemon Go in Shadyside before our Google Pittsburgh tour 7/27/16

Once we made our way back to Bakery Square and entered the lobby, Kyle read the list of companies on the elevator wall, while I told the guard we were heading to the seventh floor.  Even Kyle couldn’t miss the bright bold letters that read “Google”, seventh floor.  Then, suddenly without warning it happened again.  True happiness in the form of a smile left Kyle and was spotted!  Kyle’s smirk is like the elusive Sasquatch, it has been rumored to make its appearance and then vanish before your eyes.  Now I can say I was a first hand witness!  The facial gesture was something between ornery, knowing the secret, and being truly excited.  It was at that moment, I was honestly happy.

We get to the lobby and naturally I want to start snapping pictures.  Kyle wasn’t pleased about this part of our trip, but complied with minimal resistance.

Andrew met us at the front door and passed out our name tags, while I did the formal introductions.  Would you believe Kyle didn’t remember meeting Andrew at the Fishing Derby?  I made it a point to introduce him and of course his employer.  That kid cracks me up.

Andrew did a great job with the tour!  He shared his own personal stories and fun facts about Google, especially Google Pittsburgh.  I knew Andrew was the perfect tour guide, but what I didn’t expect is what I saw in the offices.  Wow.  In a separate post, I’ll explain later.  You would not believe.  Now it was my turn to be surprised.

Once the tour came to a close it was lunch time.  We joined Andrew in the “cafeteria” which resembled an upscale restaurant, with stations of gourmet food, real plates and utensils, a variety of infused waters, and restaurant quality tables and chairs, and booths.

Our lunch was fantastic!  Plus, it was all free.  Google has a full kitchen staff, including a quality chef to prepare these, nutritious (mostly aside from the desserts), delicious meals for all its employees as a perk.  There was so much, Andrew had to walk us around and show us everything, including the corner of the room where they grew some fresh vegetables and herbs.  Seriously?  Yes!

Not to downplay the tour, which is impossible, but the best part of the day was our conversation during lunch.  Andrew continued telling us about his job and sharing stories, always projecting enthusiasm.  You can tell he genuinely loves what he does, and is proud of his accomplishments at Google, which he should be.  Kyle and Duncan even stepped out of their comfort zone to ask questions, but mostly they listened.

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

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

After we ate lunch, we sang Happy Birthday to Kyle and celebrated with cupcakes.  On Tuesday, during the planning stages, I ordered cupcakes from a local bakery and had them delivered for another little surprise twist.  I knew we were eating lunch there and I thought it would be fun to celebrate Kyle’s fifteenth birthday at Google Pittsburgh.  Yes, I even brought candles!  (Although, I forgot the matches, which Barb reminded me of when we were in Shadyside.  I bummed a pack from a smoker who worked in a bar.)

On a side note, I didn’t realize there are roughly five hundred employed in Google Pittsburgh.  I was going to order a sheet cake, thinking we’d share with everyone in the office.  Nope.  Besides, they’re well stocked with sweet treats, I’m sure they didn’t miss the cupcakes.

During the course of the Google experience, I noticed Kyle and Duncan were never distracted by their phones or video games (at least not that I was aware of).  They listened to Andrew and seemed interested in what he was saying, even during lunch.  I think the day was a success.  Now I’m starting to make plans for Kyle’s next birthday.  It’s a big one, his sixteenth.

After we said our goodbyes, we headed to Station Square to get on a Ducky Tour of Pittsburgh, keeping with the theme.  Unfortunately, the next ride was booked up.  I did make reservations the day prior, but I cancelled for fear we might not make the departure time.  I didn’t want to rush us out of Google.  It was a hot day and I could tell the boys had enough anyway.  We headed home.  It didn’t take them long to fall asleep.

On a side note, besides giving Kyle a memorable experience, there was just an equally great part to the adventure.  It was rubbing our personal tour of Google in my sister’s face, and continuing my claim to the coolest aunt!  At least that’s what I told her.

I hope Kyle and Duncan had a great day.  Happy Birthday Kyle!

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

Escape Room Experience

Shut your eyes and see.  ~James Joyce

Escape Room Latrobe 5-29-16 Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Playing As Kids – Building Forts & Making Gold

All life demands struggle. Those who have everything given to them become lazy, selfish, and insensitive to the real values of life. The very striving and hard work that we so constantly try to avoid is the major building block in the person we are today.  ~Pope Paul VI

Olzcak's-1986-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Our cousins, Casey holding Marla, Joel in the back, Michael & Elizabeth. Stacy has yet to come. c. 1986

Trying to teach Kyle that you don’t need money or the latest and greatest video games to have fun, is surprisingly a really hard lesson to teach.  At least with my little stubborn man.  I can’t say it enough, he is a good kid, a truly good hearted person, but he only sees playing and having fun as an activity that has been dictated by his generation of video games.  He is not accustomed to good old fashion playing outside, unless I demonstrate and participate of course.

This past weekend, Kyle wanted to play a game with me.  Great!  I suggested a game of chess.  Denied!  I suggested a game of Battle Ship.  Denied!  I suggested a game of Trouble (love that mindless game.  We used it to reach Kyle how to count when he was wee little.)  Denied!  He wanted to play a few games with me on the Wii.  Ok, I’ll give him that since we haven’t busted out the Wii for a while.  His compromise was to play the hunting games and the Wii Sports Resort (Swordplay, Fruit Ninja, Wakeboarding).  I wanted to dance to Micheal Jackson, denied!   I gave in and we played, having a pretty good time.  But after so long, I didn’t have the patience to sit in front of the television and play games anymore.  I would rather get up and move around.  Not Kyle, he wanted to continue for hours upon hours.  Denied!

I pretty much have to force Kyle to undertake any activity before he realizes he’s actually having fun or enjoying himself.  Time and time again this has happened.  Perfect example would include his perceived dreaded hikes with the dogs, which he does enjoy while on the hike.  Even after we come back from having a nice time, he still won’t admit to it.  I guess it’s not cool.

As kids we made up some pretty crazy games and undertook some unusual activities to keep ourselves entertained.  One of the stories I’ve shared with Kyle was the fort building.

Let me step back to state, I grew up with my brother and sister and my cousins around.  So there was never a shortage of kids to play with.  For Kyle, not so much.  I know that has a lot to do with the way he plays and his interests, but I do try as best I can.

Anyway, when we were kids, we used to chop down trees, yes with a hatchet, smaller trees, probably about six inches in diameter and stack them on top of each other to form a fort.  Yes, a real fort with four sides, nestled back in the woods.  We would play in and around this fort all day.

Near this location were these large vines that hung over a small creek.  We would take turns swinging back and forth on the natural ropes like Tarzan and Jane.  It was so much fun.  We did all this with our dog Jill hanging around, without parental supervision, while everyone was getting along and getting dirty and exercise.

Cousins-at-Twin-Lakes-1986-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Cousins playing at Twin Lakes for Lisa’s birthday. L to R Nicole, Tim, Lisa, Ryan, Casey, me, Elizabeth & Mikey behind trying to claim a spot on the swings. c. 1986

Let’s be realistic, I don’t really have a desire to build another fort anymore.  However, if Kyle really wanted to, I would, but since manual labor is not at the top of his list, we never relived those good old days.

Instead, dad decided he wants to raise chickens.  Apparently, I’m going to construct a chicken coop, correction, Kyle and me are going to build a chicken coop soon.  I guess that’s close enough to a fort.  At least he’s doing something productive, in real life.  I Need To Build My House – Video Games.

As far as the whole experience including the vine swinging goes, I’ve actually taken Kyle in the woods and we have done just that!  He even enjoyed himself!  Although for me it seemed more fun as a kid, but for Kyle, who is still a youngster, it was a new experience.  There is something about swinging past trees that is so relaxing and fun.

Now onto the gold.   Another quick story of how we used our imagination and every day items to create our own pastimes.

One day Ryan was tinkering around in the garage, yes I believe we were still in elementary school. He was always in that garage.  Anyway, he came running out yelling, “I’ve found gold!  I’ve found gold!” as he darted down the driveway toward my cousin Casey and Joel’s house.  What on earth?

Ryan found a can of gold spray paint and took some rocks and spray painted them.  They did look like nuggets of gold.  Yes we added that to the items we played with as kids, simple rocks.  We even fought over the rights to the “gold nuggets” and made up war games with the “gold” as the booty.

Really it shouldn’t take much to have an imagination and to be entertained.  At least not with us as kids.  We found fun in everyday life, with every day things, even rocks!

Read other related blogs

Playing As Kids – Tire Rolling
Playing As Kids – Chasing Cars

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

Respectfully Standing Up For Yourself

Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.  ~Anne Frank

Kyle-at-Easter-2011-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle digging into his basket on Easter Sunday morning. 2011

The one thing I learned quickly when Kyle was just a little tyke, was that he was indeed a person.  Not a half person, not a non-person, but a real life living and breathing person.  Just because he wasn’t a full grown human being and he had a lot to learn, didn’t make him any less of an individual.

Before Kyle could speak, he knew what was going on and remembered things, even though I’m sure he can’t recall those memories today.  My point is, children of all ages should be respected for who they are, and the person they will become.  Any and all interaction kids have with the world shapes them for the future at any age.  So my question is, why aren’t children treated with as much?

Maybe some are, but Kyle keeps having these situations of disrespect and dismissive behavior pop up, and they are truly upsetting me.  Kyle is being overlooked or worse, totally ignored by adults, complete strangers, in retail outlets.  Yes, I get it he’s a kid, but that doesn’t make what he’s doing any less important, especially if he’s trying to help me out by standing in line or retrieving items.  Common sense should dictate that the kid is twelve and obviously didn’t drive himself to the store, so one would think he has been asked to undertake a task for an adult.

I know these situations seem trivial, and they are, but there’s a lesson I want to teach Kyle now and that’s not to be taken advantage of or walked all over.  However, teaching a kid to stand up for himself, respectfully, which is the keyword, is a bit of a challenge.  At least one I’m facing.

This happened a few times in Giant Eagle.  To help my mom out, Kyle and I will get her groceries.  Great!  Nice gesture.  So in turn, Kyle will help me to expedite our order even faster by standing at the deli counter to get dad’s beef pastrami and cheese.  There has been countless (though not all the time) times adults would overlook the kid, obviously holding a ticket, and jump the line.  Not cool!  I bet they wouldn’t do that if I was standing there, or perhaps they would be that rude.  That’s one situation that annoys me, but the one that really gets me fired up, was the deli guy at Giant Eagle and his blunt disrespect for Kyle.

Kyle-in-front-of-Shriner's-Band-Fort-Ligonier-Days-Parade-Aunt-Heather-Piper-10-2010

Kyle at the Fort Ligonier’s Day Parade, in front of the Shriner’s Band. Ligonier, Pa. 10/2010

I was in the check-out isle and I totally forgot dad’s lunch meat.  Yikes!  So what does a gal do?  You guessed it, I volunteered Kyle to go and stand at the deli counter to retrieve the processed salty meat.  My hope was that Kyle would return with the goods before I paid.  However, knowing how notoriously slow they are, I accepted the fact that I was going to have to give Kyle money to go through the check-out while I take the groceries to the car.  No big deal.

Well, in Kyle’s eyes, I’m going through the check-out and he needed to hurry.  Nice gesture buddy!

He stood in the deli line like anyone else, pulled the ticket, like anyone else, and when it was his turn, those waiting in line respected my little man and accepted it as his turn.  Good so far, until the deli guy said to Kyle, “That’s ok, someone else will get you.”  and proceeded to skip over him totally and take the next customer in line.  Are you kidding me?  I was ticked beyond belief!  I didn’t know what had happened until we were out the door.  That was one of those times I wished I was standing right there!  The nerve.

You know people loosely talk about discrimination, well that’s exactly what happened!  I’m guessing he was discriminated because Kyle’s a kid, or perhaps for being a boy or maybe the deli guy knew what Kyle was going to ask for and didn’t want to get it?  I’m not sure the reason but it wasn’t right.

I’m actually a pretty relaxed person, and I don’t even care if people jump in front of me in line, especially if I’m not in a hurry, for perhaps they are.  But I will never stand for obvious disrespect toward me or my family.  Kyle was beside himself and didn’t understand the mean gesture.  He came back all stressed trying to hurry for my sake.

Taking this negative and trying to turn it into a positive, I want to use it as a lesson.  I’ve tried my best to tell Kyle, “Without an attitude you need to stand up for yourself and say, ‘Excuse me but I’m next’ or ‘It’s my turn’, but say it respectfully.”  In general, Kyle is not an assertive person and I get it, there’s a fine line of what a kid is allowed to say, but he needs to stand up for himself!

This didn’t just happen at the grocery store.  O no!  This past weekend, Nicole, Kyle and me went to see Divergent.

On a side note, I loved it!  They really stuck to the book.  I can’t wait for Insurgent!  Kyle and me are fans of the book series (Aunt Nikki didn’t finish reading Insurgent or Allegiant yet).  Kyle actually read them all before me.

That particular movie theater, offered food items, one that caught Kyle’s eye was the soft pretzel.  I gave him money about eight bucks for his pretzel, while Nicole and I sat in our seats.

Ryan-in-Grams-Tub-c.1981-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Ryan, Kyle’s dad bathing in Gram’s tub. Look at that face! c. 1981

Kyle came back a little upset.  Apparently, someone cut in front of him in line.  That was the first thing.  Then, the cashier never gave him his change, correction my change.  My first thought was, “Well, Kyle did you say, “I’m sorry but it’s my turn in line?”  Of course he didn’t.  Then the money thing.  “Kyle didn’t you ask for your change?”  Of course he didn’t.  What is so wrong about that?  I don’t think I was over stepping my bounds of what I expect from Kyle.

Time and time again I keep telling him if there’s an issue come and get me.  Heck, he could have called me on his cell phone from the line and I would have been out instantly.  So basically I paid eight bucks for a soft pretzel with cheese, which really wasn’t the point.

While getting caught up on the pretzel situation, Kyle looked at me, like it was now my job to go out and fix it.  In my eyes it was too late.  Perhaps it wasn’t and I could have helped him out or showed him what to do.  Maybe I too was being too passive.  It wasn’t the loss of money, it was Kyle not standing up for what’s right that really gets me.

Kyle’s dad, Ryan was the same way.  Very nice, too nice to people and many, many, many people walked all over him and took advantage.  Not only as a kid, but more so as an adult.  One day, I’ll call out those who wronged Ryan, you be surprised for they are closer than you think.  Maybe it’s a family trait, for my pappy was the same way.  Just too nice and trusting, if there is such a thing.

I hope one day, and soon, Kyle learns to stand up for himself and always demands respect, as well as gives it.

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

Communication Skills Need Some Work

Take advantage of every opportunity to practice your communication skills so that when important occasions arise, you will have the gift, the style, the sharpness, the clarity, and the emotions to affect other people.  ~Jim Rohn

Aunt-Heather-Piper-at-the-Seton-Hill-University-Alumni-Panel-11-12-13

Brenda Shaffer, Michael Fecik & me speaking at the 3rd Annual – Customer Centricity: Serving Clients & Employees Panel at Seton Hill University for Dr. Giunta.  Q & A Session!  11/12/13

Talking to Kyle yesterday on the phone, made me realize something, the kid has no verbal communication skills, at least not on the phone.  I know this is no revelation, but worth noting and addressing.   After all he is my pre-teen and has to learn to proper communication.

Face-to-face, Kyle is not a shy person, not in the slightest.  He has no qualms asking for assistance in stores or asking anyone, for anything to get what he wants at any time.

When family members or any adult figure speaks directly to him, asking about school or Christmas or some general topic of conversation, he usually just spouts out, ‘Good’ or something very brief, to the point and simple, with maybe a head nod.  I get that, he’s a kid and really doesn’t want to be participating in the conversation where he has no vested interest.  For when he does have a stake to the claim, he can rule the words to make himself and his purpose known.  So I never would peg Kyle as needing direction when speaking on the phone.  But it’s true!

Keep in mind we are too used to Kyle, and take him for who he is, which every child should be accepted!  But what I’m talking about, is coaching and assisting him throughout his journey of life, making him a better person for whatever his future endeavors might be.   Plus, let’s not forget sometimes his cryptic sentences drive me crazy!  This kid is twelve years old and his communication skills need to grow and mature with him.

Now back to the matter at hand, yesterday’s conversation.  I called him to see what he was doing, if he practiced his piano, how school was, you know the standard run of the mill questions.  Kyle initially said “Hi”.  Good we are off to a great start.  We might need to work on his influction and ease of his voice, but nevertheless, good.  Then after starting my conversation, trying to prompt some response from him, Kyle just said, “Ya, can you get me Saturday?”  As if he could care less about the questions and dismissed me, completely!  Immediately I retorted, “That’s great buddy, but how about ‘Hi Aunt Heather school was good.  I still have to practice my piano.  So I was thinking, would you mind picking me up on Saturday?'” As I reiterated a ‘normal’ conversation back to him he just made an ‘ok’ noise and was pretty dismissive as usual.

Then I said, “Kyle you are going to have to work on your verbal communication skills.  No more it’s all about you and what you want.  You need to participate in a nice conversation, Not one where I have to solve a riddle to understand it.”  Then, all I heard was “Ok” with a little chuckle.  He’s a smart kid, he knows what I’m talking about.

Aunt-Heather-Piper-speaking-at-Alumni-Panel-Seton-Hill-University-11-12-13

Yours truly, speaking at the 3rd Annual Customer Centricity: Serving Clients & Employees Panel for Seton Hill University. Talking about The Piper Corporation & Thrill of the Hunt. 11/12/13

I don’t get it, I really don’t?  Is it generational?  Is it his personality?  Is it just with my family?  Is it maturity?  Whatever it is, I don’t give a flying fig.  He is going to learn to correct his poor communication skills.  Kyle cannot think he can walk around speaking to people with only his agenda on his mind and a cryptic one at best.  Nope, not no my watch!

Seriously, he wasn’t always like that.  Or was he?  All I remember is this little two year old, who was just learning to speak (after getting his ears checked and the problems temporarily fixed) sitting in the backseat of my car, talking into his Finding Nemo toy phone.  He loved that thing.  I got it for him because he expressed an interest in phones, usually he had his eye on mine.  So I told him he could have one of his own that had lights and made noises.

One day we were driving and he was talking.  I mean carrying on a conversation.  I said, “Hey buddy who are you talking to?”  He said, talking into the phone as a real person was on the other end, “Hang on, Aunt Heather is talking to me.”  What?  Then he replied, “I’m talking to Aunt Nitti, what you want?”  Too cute!  All I could do was feel embarrassed I interrupted him and said, “O, sorry buddy, tell her I said hi and to call me later.”  That little munchkin turned back into the phone and said, “Ok, I’m back, Aiya said ‘Hi’ and to call her later.”  Then, to really play out the conversation how it would be in real life, he turned to me and said, “Aunt Nitti said, Ok”.  I was dying!  My heart melted!  That’s one of those moments when you wish the entire world was watching and enjoying it with you.  At least my family.

Aunt-Heather-Piper-Speaking-at-Seton-Hill-University-Alumni-Panel-11-12-13

Me speaking at Seton Hill University for 3rd Annual Customer Centricity: Serving Clients & Employees Panel. Starting off with The Piper Corporation & Thrill of the Hunt! 11/12/13a

He continued on this “conversation” for a while, pausing every now-and-again to answer a question and to ask a question like, “When are you coming home?” or “What presents do you have for me?”.  Once he was tattling on me and said, “Ya Aunt Nitti, Aiya drives like a race car driver.”  What?  Even in his imagination world he tattled on me!  At the end of his conversations,  I always heard him say, “Ok, I’ll talk to you later, bye.”  before closing this bright blue plastic flip phone and putting the antenna down.   Too much!

Now I know the kid knows how to carry on a normal conversation, at least an imaginary one.  That’s a start!  So why doesn’t he?  Is is because he’s being lazy?  Or is too used to us and knows no matter what, we love him and will do anything for him so he cuts to the chase?  I can respect that, for I am too impatient with responses and I like to get to the point when I’m in a hurry.  Now that I’ve admitted my behavior, is Kyle like me?  Is he picking up my candor?  Yikes!  I better watch it!

However, the difference between my communication skills and his, besides years of experience is the quality.  I know how to carry on a conversation, I know how to give pleasantries, I know how to be “normal”, kind of.  I’m not that convinced with him, not just yet.  Until then, I think Mr. Kyle is going to get a lesson on phone etiquette until it sticks to his brain and falls out his mouth and becomes secondary to his communication skills.  After all, parents, or in my case Auntie has to be the life coaches for these children.  Kids don’t know what is not taught.  So I’ll take the time and usually the headache that accompanies these lessons, to teach him as best as I know how.  Not that Kyle has to be like me, not in the slightest, I want him to develop his own style, but there needs to be a foundation for him to build on.  Here we go!

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

It’s Called Hard Work for a Reason

It isn’t ever delicate to live.  ~Kay Ryan

Kyle-sleeping-6-9-12-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle crashed… 6/9/12

Two weekends ago, well actually that entire week, I was working in my yard.  Yes, the very same yard work I should have done in the spring, or even the summer and yet here I am, trying to get it done before winter sets in and hunting season starts.  Luckily, we’ve had a pretty mild fall.  We’ve even been blessed with nice temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s and overcast with some sun.  Perfect for outside work.

I’m glad I got my work done because as of today,  the snow rolled in.  Only a few inches but still a pleasant sight.  I love snow!

You see spring always seems to sneak up on me and then I miss the boat with respect to tending to the lawn.  Then summer rolls around and I don’t handle the heat and the sun too well.  Literally!  Being outside in the sun makes me sick to my stomach.  I get really bad headaches and let’s not forget about my sun sensitive skin.  I have to be pretty well covered and protected from the harmful rays at all hours of the day, especially in the summer.  And those summer months, I am usually busy with Thrill of the Hunt events.  So there you have it, back to fall work in the yard.

What needed done?  The usual, mowing and weeding and trimming, which I have elected to do about once a month now-a-days.  I’m sure my neighbors love that sight.  Actually, they should be thankful, for I make their lawns look perfect!

Last Thursday night, early Friday morning we had one heck of a windstorm roll through.  It resulted in a tree branch taking down a power-line, right down the road from my parents.  Guess what?  I couldn’t work on my company stuff nor my freelancing work, since my “office” is in the corner of their kitchen with my desktop and my external drives.  Don’t worry, I always have something to do.  No free day for me!

Aunt-Heather-Piper-backyard-steps-landscaping

This was the beginning of my backyard steps… 2011

On a side note, I purposely set up my “office” in my parents house, as opposed to my house, to get me out, dressed and moving.  I want to make sure I never get lazy, especially with The Piper Corporation.  So I force myself to travel to my work station.  It’s perfect actually, I have a great view of my Uncle’s farm and a view of Saint Vincent College out looking through the picture window in the kitchen.  The best office space ever!  Plus my office companions aren’t too bad either, Scooby, Seven and Storm.

I recruited Kyle to assist me on Saturday at my house, since my parents were still without electricity.  I took this as a sign from God, telling me to get in the yard and finish it up.  After all I couldn’t work on the computer.

Starting my day as soon as the sun rises, around 6:00 am, Kyle and I went to work.  Yes it was not light duty chores.  It was hauling mulch and river rock, pulling weeds and walking up and down my back steps around my landscaping.  Truly hard work even for a professional landscaper.  So how did Kyle fare?

Well, at first it was a big argument.  He didn’t want to do the mulch and was seriously exaggerating his motions in such a way, I made him carry the river rocks while I took over the mulch job.  I knew I could get it done faster, making better progress than Kyle.  Then, I caught him trying to do the job half way, cutting corners that sort of thing.  I was livid!  There are few things I really truly can’t stand and detest, beside smoking, and that’s laziness.  I just can’t understand making that choice to wimp out, especially on something that is benefiting oneself such as my house.

Aunt-Heather-Piper-Backyard-Landscaping

My backyard while we were just getting started… before the steps. c. 2009

After about an hour of me loosing my patience, yelling and Kyle dropping his attitude and getting acclimated to the job of the day, he really began to work.  And I mean he worked!  That kid was on fire!  Really after, we got moving and he started to get into a rhythm and saw progress, he was such a hard little worker.  He was even proud of himself saying, “Wow Aunt Heather I think I’m getting stronger with each rock!  Soon I’ll be even better in the weight room!”  What a cutie!  I had to concur with his reasoning, because he was right.  The more work he did, the stronger he was getting.

You see, for the next few weeks Kyle is in the weight room at school for gym class.  They are teaching him how to lift and such.  He seems to really like it.  Kyle even asked me, “Hey Aunt Heather, how much can you do on the leg press?”  Truly not remembering I said, “Probably around 100 pounds or so.  Why how much can you do?”  With a victorious and ornery grin, Kyle responded proudly with “I can leg press 240 pounds!”  Wow!  Holy smokes buddy!  That’s great!  I really was proud of him.  He is a strong little compact bugger!  He said only one other kid did more than him and he did 260 pounds.  Still all very impressive.

With the weight room talk, it gave Kyle another incentive to keep on truck’in.  He was great!  All the way up until it started to rain on us.  I was almost done with the mulch, when I turned around to see my little man with his hoodie up, soaking wet carrying buckets of river rock and looking defeated.  We had to leave soon anyway.  Kyle was serving mass at 6:00 pm that night.  After seeing the look on his face, I said, “Go jump in the shower, we’re done for today.”  Shear joy fell over him.  Not to mention a sense of accomplishment.  Kyle did remark, “Wow Aunt Heather it’s actually looking nice.  We got a lot done!”  Yes we did buddy, especially with all his hard work.

Aunt-Heather-Piper-Backyard-Before

My backyard while in the progress of landscaping… ton of brush! c. 2009

As it turns out Kyle wasn’t done working, not by a long shot.  You see he had off of school on Monday for an in-service day.  So I took advantage of that fact and asked him to assist me again to try and finish the work once and for all.  Surprisingly, he was enthused to help me wrap up the yard.  That morning, we first helped my dad by stacking some wood before making our way to my dreaded lawn.

On another side note, sometime on Saturday I must have weeded out poison ivy and proceeded to scratch my face and my eye.  Yes my eye!  By Sunday, my face was all swollen, itchy and my eye looked like a big marshmallow.  Not believing in doing actual work on Sundays, I try to honor the Sabbath Day as much as possible, I took a few Benadryl pills and fell into a sleep coma.  By Monday, my eye was even worse and we had to make a pit stop at Med Express to get me on steroids again.  I really hate those things!

Yes, I worked like that with basically one eye since I could only see out of it with a sliver.  I figured, I would rather get in contact with the poison ivy again, now that I was on medication, rather than later when I was healed and had to go through this again.  Plus, I wanted to stay away from people with all my ugliness.  I even avoided the gym in the mornings.  But lucky for Kyle, I had no qualms about hanging around him.  I would even tease my little man by leaning in with my bulging eye and saying, “Go ahead and touch it.  Feel how squishy it is!”  He was grossed out and would squirm around me.  Eventually, we made a joke out of it saying “Don’t make me give you the stink eye.”  And then I would point my eye in his direction.  That cracked us both up! If you can’t laugh at yourself, then what’s the point in living.

While we were talking and working Kyle mentioned again about getting an apartment and buying land to build his house and huge fish tank on.  I said, “O buddy between me and your Aunt Nikki, we will probably have enough rental properties for you to live in so you don’t have to worry about it.”  Kyle took that as a sign that he will take my house.  It’s yours buddy, you earned it through sweat equity!

While wrapping up some of the work on Monday afternoon, Kyle started to comment about hard work and how hard our activity was.  Then, he started to get a bit sarcastic and threw out the attitude again.  He said, “This is suppose to be my day off from school and I’m not suppose to be doing work.”  Really?  Says who.  I retorted with, “What do you think most people do Kyle?  They work all week and do yard work in the evenings and weekends.  Welcome to reality.”  He had nothing to say on that note.

I get it, he was tired and not used to working that hard for that many days in a row.  I completely understood.  But I still won’t tolerate an attitude.

After that came the fury of Aunt Heather.  I asked Kyle to dump a couple of buckets of dirt up by my back fence in a mulch pile of leaves and branches.  Not wanting to walk up the hill, we both kind of laughed at the thought of making another trip there.  Finally, Kyle did what I asked and made the first trip, promising I’ll make the second.

Cow-Toilet-Found-on-a-Walk-Aunt-Heather-Piper

No this was not in my yard! Me & the boys saw this while on one of our walks… I LOVE IT!!

When I made my trip, to help him out and show he is not doing all the hard work, I noticed he dumped the dirt right in the yard, not even coming close to the pile!  Fiery anger shot out of me and resulted in a lecture on laziness.  I wanted him to understand that he has to train himself now, NOT to be lazy and to NOT take shortcuts, for it will always bite him in the butt in the long run, especially in a professional environment.  I went off explaining how I trusted him to do a job and I expected it to be done right and not to have to redo it.  Then, I went into a tangent about how he doesn’t want the reputation of being a lazy kid.  And so on and so forth.

When teaching a child to NOT be lazy, you’re actually teaching them more than hard work, you’re teaching a sense of worth and self-accomplishment, good foundation structures that I fully believe in to create a solid character.

Okay, granted I was tired too and it was a long few days, plus with all the poison ivy irritating my skin, I’m sure my nerves where just a little bit sensitive.  He felt horrible and kicked it up a notch until he was out of steam.  Seriously, I haven’t seen a kid his age work that hard in forever!  I was really proud of him, and maybe I was a little too hard on my man.  But I wanted to make a point, that it’s not just about my yard.  I am training his character, the man he will hopefully grow to be.  The one I hope him to be, minus any laziness.  And you know what?  I believe he will get there.  It was only at that moment, he was being a kid and a tired human.

Thanks buddy for all your hard work!  You earned every muscle you worked out and you earned both movies and popcorn.

This past weekend I took Kyle to see Thor 2: The Dark World and I believe the second movie of his choice is The Hunger Games – Catching Fire.  I even told him he earned popcorn, which he gave me a victorious smile.  I love paying this kid in movies.  It makes for a well deserved date night.

I never thought to get finished pictures of the yard, so once the snow disappears I will take pictures and do a comparison.

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