Ziplining Into 16-Years

Never say ‘no’ to adventures. Always say ‘yes,’ otherwise you’ll lead a very dull life.  ~Ian Fleming

Aunt Heather Piper & Kyle pre ziplining 8-2-17

Me & Kyle … pre-zipline prep. Seven Springs. 8/2/2017

On Wednesday, I surprised Kyle with an adventure to the Laurel Mountains. What did we do?  We ziplined at Seven Springs!

I’ve never done it before but I always wanted to and I guessed Kyle concurred with this bucket list item.  While it wasn’t as exotic as ziplining in the Amazon, it was a lot of fun.  Pennsylvania has a lot of venturesome nooks and crannies worth exploring.

Kyle’s birthday is always a celebration, one we all look forward to every year.  The gifts have always varied in price, practicality and complexity, yet the goal has always remained the same, to introduce Kyle to new adventures and opportunities for personal growth.  My gifts may not all be extravagant, but they’re always unique and given from the heart.

Kyle unhooking ziplining 8-2-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle sticking the landing & getting unhooked to zip another line. Seven Springs 8/2/2017

Sunday was Kyle’s actual birthday and I didn’t tell him his birthday surprise.  To keep him on his toes, I simply informed Kyle he was spending Wednesday with me.  Instantly, Kyle’s interest was peeked and I gave him a hint to wear tennis shoes and comfortable cloths.  It didn’t take long for the gears in his head to begin churning.  He enjoys surprises but he can’t handle them.  He gave me a look and I stated, “Kyle, have I ever disappointed?”  He didn’t answer but knew I always brought my best game.

Missing Kyle in the worst possible way, I picked up my little man midday Tuesday.  Pleasantly, I found him in a good mood and not being difficult.  We hung out at my parents, since their house was closer to Seven Springs.  We ate, watched movies and enjoyed each others company, like the old days when he was a kid.  A perfect evening if you ask me.

Funny story.  As habit has recently dictated, I switched seats with my new driver midway up the ridge.  Instead of having Kyle pull into mom and dad’s driveway, I had him put the car in reverse to go up the hill for additional practice.  He certainly found it more challenging.  We snaked around a bit and kicked up stones.  As I was sitting in the passenger seat, I thought, Dad‘s probably watching and wondering what’s wrong with me?  I was right.  When we got out of the car, (that was parked very crooked) I saw Dad take note Kyle was the driver.  Dad started grinning and said, “I was wondering what the hell was wrong?”  Kyle cracked a smile thinking it was funny to fool his pappy.

Kyle hanging from a zipline 8-2-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle ziplining! Seven Springs. 8/2/2017

On Wednesday, Kyle rose from his beauty sleep around 7:30 am.  Without prompting him, he jumped in the shower, ate and strapped on his tennis shoes and was ready for his day of fun.  He still didn’t know what I had in store for him but he was game for anything.

On our way up the mountain, Kyle started guessing our activity.  His first assumption was Caddy Shack for Go Cart riding.  Nope.  Then, I saw the light bulb.  With conviction he said, “Oh, I know, where we’re going.  Seven Springs!  That’s the only thing up here.”  I retort, “Not necessarily buddy, there’s other things to do in the Laurel Mountains.”  I must not have been convincing because the next thing I knew, I was unwillingly participating in 20 questions.

By the time we made the right at Sarnelli’s and then the left to take us directly to Seven Springs Kyle knew our final destination, but he didn’t know what we were doing.  That stinker pulled up the Seven Springs website and began naming all the activities to get me to bite.  Funny enough, the ziplining was on a separate page, which I knew but he didn’t.

While parking the car and on our way to our render-vous point, Kyle kept saying, “I named everything, it has to be one of those.”  Maintaining my excitement, I smiled and responded, “Well, that’s not what we’re doing.  You didn’t name everything”  To only have Kyle retort, “Yes I did.  It has to be one of those!  We’re going hiking aren’t we?”  I laughed.  He didn’t say hiking with disdain like he usually does, but not with excitement either.

Kyle wouldn’t let it go.  Once we entered the offices to sign in, it dawned on him, he was missing an adventure.  Seeing the sign for the Canopy Laurel Ridgeline Zipline Tour his face lit up and confidently he stated, “The only thing I didn’t say was the Canopy tours.”  Ding. Ding.  You got it!  I only smiled and he couldn’t resist giving me a smile back.

Kyle ziplining 8-2-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle getting ready to stick the landing… ziplining at Seven Springs. 8/2/2017

Throughout the offices were large wall sized photographs of ziplining experiences.  Kyle was pleasantly surprised.  Actually, he was seriously excited and couldn’t contain it!

We met the rest of our group and they were very cool people from the Penn State area.  In fact, when they heard this was Kyle’s birthday present they joined in wishing him a happy birthday and expressing what a perfect birthday present.  We also found out Kyle and this lady (Karen) shared the same birthday.  What a neat coincidence.

Normally on the weekends, the ski lift takes the adventure seekers to the spot to begin, unfortunately, we had to take a van.  The drive was like riding dune buggies over treacherous terrain, there and back again.  After ziplining and on our way back down the hill, Kyle laughed and said, “Did you see him spin out on the gravel around the turn?”  It was funny.  I said, “You should give him some driving lessons.”  Kyle laughed!

At the first platform, the last person up the ladder was to zip first.  Kyle, who normally likes to be first, moved slowly and stayed toward the back of the line.  I turned to him, “So, you want to go first?”  It really wasn’t a question but a confirmation.  The rest of the group noticed and cheered for the “birthday kid.”  Like I said, great group of people.

Before we took the plunge, I whispered to Kyle, “Watch, I’ll probably project myself into a huge patch of poison ivy.”  Kyle snickered and snapped back, “Or a tree.”  What?  I said, “Why would you say that?”  Kyle giggled and the others heard us and chuckled.

Kyle ziplining through the Laurel Mountains 8-2-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle ziplining! 1st one to go… 8/2/2017

I felt like a monkey zipping from one platform to another.  The first few were shorter and they progressively got longer and faster.  The longest was 1,500 feet and the second longest was 1,400 feet.  Because of the way the lines were located on the second to the longest line, it slightly assended to the platform.  Meaning, anyone light needed to cannonball their way to keep their speed going to the end.  I thought I weighted enough so I was good, not really.  I left my legs dangling which slowed me down.  I did have to pull myself about 10 feet, while Kyle on the other hand had to pull himself a bit further.  He came up about 30 feet short.  I’ll give him credit, he never panicked and pulled himself up like a champ.  Of course, it helped the group cheered him on.  He smiled over the jokes they made, “Kyle did you want more of an adventure?” and “Kyle did you want to get in another workout?”  He was good about the teasing.

The course consisted of ziplines, naturally, but also two suspension bridges.  The first one, we had to propel ourselves off a platform to access another platform and the bridge.  It was made of half logs that were fairly spaced out.  The guide instructed us to stay at least three log lengths apart.  Granted, we were strapped in, but I didn’t want to slip and get road rash down my legs so I took my time.  Kyle, who was behind me.  He tried to rush me and stressed me out.  He thought he was funny.  That stinker!

Kyle getting his zipline instructions 8-2-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle getting instructions before taking the plunge.. our first zip liner! 8/2/2017

All in all, we had a blast.  I love that Kyle has my adventurous spirit and is fearless.  I truly believe he had a great day and enjoyed himself.  Of course, it was perfect blue skies and warm weather.  How could anyone not have a great time zipping 150 feet in the air over trees and spending a day in nature?  Not possible.

Our instructors, Kiarra and Dan, were fabulous.  They maintained safety regulations, yet were entertaining and personable.  They really made the day special, in addition to our group.

Who was this mysterious extension to our ziplining crew?  There was a husband and wife, their 18-year old son, and the wife’s brother and their 79-year old Dad.  The grandpap was in better shape than all of us combined.  He was amazing.  Again, great group.

Now, what to do for Kyle’s 17th birthday?  I better start planning now.  In the meantime, I asked Kyle is he wanted to come back this fall to do the course again.  Yes, of course he does.  I thought it would be beautiful with the Autumn leaves.

I did manage to get a couple videos.  One of Kyle propelling himself off the platform and one of him ziplining (very short).  Enjoy.

 

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posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Milestone 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

Our Marvel(ous) Bond

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

kyle-in-band-nemeis-2016-aunt-heather-piper

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.

aunt-heather-piper-in-port-angeles-restaurant-5-2012

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!”

kyle-helping-to-plant-a-paw-paw-tree-12-6-2015-aunt-heather-piper

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

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

Stories of Cell Phones Past

An adult life…is a slowly emerging design, with shifting components, occasional dramatic disruptions, and fresh creative arrangements.  ~Jill Ker Conway

First Cell Phones Aunt Heather Piper 1995

I believe the phone on the right looked more like my 1st cell phone. I actually had to pull up the antenna. 1995

I thought this story was Christmas appropriate, since many people will be giving and receiving electronics.  Just the other day, a few friends of mine were talking about cell phones, and the now obsolete pagers.

For those who remember that once common device, pagers could only receive phone numbers or a string of numbers.  It worked like this.  You had to call a pager number from a phone, and enter the number for the person to use a phone and call you back.  Communication was laborious,  but they were very popular.  I never had an interest in them.

Now, we all know what our cell phones mean to us, and the services offered such as text messaging, the internet, email and so on.  Even though they’re taken for granted, cell phones are an integral part of our lives, and most would agree, we couldn’t function without them.  Unfortunately, I too am one those individuals.  Even children have cell phones, and they live by them! Scary!  Kyle’s certainly addicted his and the video games he plays them on.  They’re wonderful inventions for emergencies, shopping, running a business and such, but cell phones have also created an unnecessary reliance on said devices.  Perhaps this topic is up for later discussion.

What many people don’t know, mostly the younger generation, or many have forgotten, are the stages society went through to get to this point of cell phone design and coverage.  Do I?  Not to date myself, but I completely remember the stages of my cell phone over the past twenty years!

Tree & Corey on Tree's couch Mid 1990s Aunt Heather Piper

Tree & Corey posing on Tree’s couch. Mid 1990s

Surprisingly, I was one of the first in the area to have a cell phone.  True!  Those were the days when public phones were still prominent on every street corner, and in restaurants and bars, and used frequently.  The old days when everyone carried a quarter in case they needed to make an emergency call.  I’ve had a cell phone since 1995, when I was still a teenager, and my sister was in college, and my brother in high school.  Can you believe I’ve had the same phone number for more than two decades?  Obviously, not the same phone.

To really put this into perspective, I’ll recap.  I had a cell phone when it was still analog, before digital cells phones and services existed.  My phone has always had the area code 412, because the entire Pittsburgh and surrounding areas were the same.  The days before our area code changed to 724.  In fact, during the transition, when someone from my area would call me or I them, I was charged a long distance call because it was a different area code, even if they were calling from a mile away.  It was explained to me that the cell signal needed to go to Pittsburgh to be send back.  Consequently, when I called true long distance calls with the area code 412, it wasn’t considered a long distance call.  During this transition many people changed their phone numbers to decrease their phone bill.  I did not.  I figured I had my number for the past three years, and I wasn’t going to change.  I knew the billing coverage would adjust as time passed, which it did.  Today, I have unlimited calling and texting anywhere in the United States.  Again, times have changed.  My cell is also a hot spot for internet service.

Aunt Heather Piper in hat at Trees Mid 1990s

Me at Tree’s getting ready to go to Bonkers (Illusions) Mid 1990s

I still remember picking my phone number.  Yep.  The basic crux of the story is, I got in trouble for not calling home, so mom thought she’d stick it to me, by making me get a cell phone.  I was also told I had to pay for it.  I complied, even though I didn’t want to be bothered.  Little did I know, just how much I was going to rely on the mobile device.  At the time, pagers were more popular.  However, in my eyes, if I was going to pay for something, I’d rather be able to send and receive calls, as opposed to relying on a pay phone.  Plus, the idea of me carrying change was never a guarantee.

Mom went with me to Westmoreland Mall, to the cell phone store, which I think was a Bell Atlantic.  Not being thrilled with this new expense, I selected a basic brick style phone.  The only options were the brick phone or a clunky flip phone.  I preferred the simple sleek design, even though it was basically a portable phone,  just not as thick.

Now time to pick the phone number.  I don’t how anyone else received their phone number, but I was given a piece of paper, listing numbers to peruse.  Seriously?  Yep.  The numbers were typed on a simple unassuming sheet of paper.

Think about it, when filling out information for job applications and such, there wasn’t even an option to add cell or mobile phone numbers.  Nope.  It was home or work.  I remember, I solely used my cell phone, a very uncommon practice back then.  Who knew I was before my time.

Tracey Behind a Tree Mid 1990s Aunt Heather Piper

Tracey hiding behind a tree … why? I have no idea. During one of our DBs Mid 1990s

Would you believe my phone didn’t have text messaging capabilities, for it didn’t even exist yet.  It didn’t have email service, not that I had an email address.  It didn’t have internet coverage, and forget about games and apps, no such thing, yet.  Smartphones didn’t exist until about 2007 with Apple’s iPhone 1.o, and then later came the app store, and soon after the full internet usage and data coverage options.

Right before digital service was introduced to the area, I had to get a new phone to adapt to the new technology.  That Christmas, I also purchased Nicole the same phone, her very first cell phone.  That was probably around 1998 or so.  By then, I saw the value and I understood the importance of the electronic device.  By this point, all my friends had my phone number and called me whenever, knowing I was going to be the one answering.  By then I started to become reliant on my cell phone, heavily.

Not long after, I had to purchase a new cell phone to accept text messaging, which was very much in its infancy stages, but growing in popularity.  I also had to pay for the additional service, unlike my unlimited option of today.

Eventually, I came up to speed with the smartphone craze, and turned Kyle into a cell phone machine, to never look back.  It’s crazy talking about my first cell phone and its capabilities, compared to today.  Anyone else remember their very first cell phone?

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas!

 

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

Cruising the Open Seas

The voice of the sea speaks to the soul.  ~Kate Chopin

Kyle-swimming-with-dolphin-on-cruise-6-2015-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle finally got to swim with the dolphins! One of the many activities on his cruise trip with Aunt Nikki. 6/2015

Summer has arrived and has consumed all of my time.  Between Thrill of the Hunt and my scavenger hunt events, the garden, the bees, the chickens and the turkeys, and trying to wrangle in a 13-year-old to spend quality time with me, there’s little time to do anything else.  Personally, I wish I’d open my schedule for more leisurely reading and writing, and I will, but until then, busy, busy, busy.  Those are my days, which are clearly very different from Kyle’s.

Kyle seems to be enjoying his summer thus far.  He’s in the marching band, practicing one day a week.  He’s also trying his hand at the Tuba.  I’m glad he’s challenging himself and I’m very proud of that young boy, who still hasn’t shaken his attitude (partially).  However, that’s not all, besides fishing and mostly laying around playing video games, Kyle recently added some miles to his life experiences.

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex 6-10-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle and his Aunt Nikki set sail for Kyle’s first cruise.  Seriously?  Yes!  It was the annual Aunt Nikki and Kyle’s Week of Fun trip(Please note, I’m still not invited on these trips, which would make them even more adventurous and fun, just saying.  We could call it Kyle and the Aunts’ Week of Fun!)    I can’t believe the trip was nearly a month ago now.  To be honest, it started a few months back when Nicole and Kyle began discussing this year’s “Week of Fun” trip ideas.  Then, the anticipation grew even more when Kyle’s passport came in the mail.  What 13-year-old kid has a passport and has used it?  I’m sure some kids, obviously Kyle, but I never did until I reached my twenties.  He is blessed!  Then, the true excitement, when Nicole came home the weekend before departure to pick up the package, a.k.a. Kyle.

On Sunday, June 7th Nicole and Kyle drove to Baltimore, Maryland to jump aboard their cruise liner and set sail for a memorable week.

Aunt-Nikki-&-Kyle-Week-of-Fun-Cruise-Ship-6-7-15-Aunt-Heather-Piper

“Aunt Nikki and Kyle’s Week of Fun” … this year a cruise. 6/2015

Where did they go?  They went to the Bahamas, stopped off in Florida and visited NASA and the Kennedy Space Center, and they participated in activities on the cruise ship while at sea, including the hairy chest contest.  Nicole won!  Just kidding! (That totally made me laugh out loud!)

These were all firsts for Kyle, including the hairy chest contest!  I’m glad my sister was able to introduce him to new experiences.  Like what?  Kyle got to swim with the dolphins!  Did he love it?  You bet!  He also got to explore the Bahamas, something I’ve never even done.  In fact, whoever his tour guide was left an impression on Kyle that lasted long after his trip.  Unbeknownst to the tour guide, he knew how to speak Kyle.  Basically the language of Kyle is through statistics and numbers.  Nicole and Kyle came home on Sunday, June 14th.  I was in Arlington, Virginia on Friday administering to the Singles Scavenger Hunt, so I occupied Nicole’s house until my world traveler arrived, so I could bring our precious cargo back.  On the four hour ride home, Kyle kept rattling off trivia regarding the Bahamas.  “Aunt Heather, do you know how someone can become a citizen of the Bahamas?” (one is to purchase a house on the island) and “Aunt Heather, did you know they don’t pay taxes?” and “Aunt Heather they only lost eight people with the last hurricane, so it’s really not that dangerous.”  Yep for most of the ride, Kyle was simply spouting off facts and figures, mostly about the Bahamas and some regarding NASA.  That’s my Kyle!

Week of Fun Cruise 6-10-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Nicole-Kyle-&-the-captain-on-cruise-6-2015-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle insisted on meeting the captain of their cruise ship. Aunt Nikki, Kyle & the Captain. 6/2015

While sitting in Nicole’s living room, listening to the two reminisce about their trip, I was reminded just how much Kyle is like me.  Apparently, while waiting to take the elevator, they had to, well… wait.  Then, the elevator stopped at every level before arriving at their room.  Patience wasn’t strong with Kyle.  As the story goes, Kyle made my sister, who has an aversion to exercise, take the steps.  The agreement was, if it was more than two floors they’d take the elevator, if less the steps.  Now that’s my Kyle!  In general I usually take the steps, a habit Kyle has certainly picked up from me.  It’s that little extra effort that can make a world of difference to a person’s health.  While Nicole was commenting about the steps, I jumped into the conversation to defend Kyle, reminding Aunt Nikki that taking the steps was a wise choice considering all the food consumed.

Nicole said Kyle literally ate a burger a day, and treated himself to an ice-cream a day throughout the trip.  When bringing this fun fact to light,  Kyle gave me an ornery look as if saying “Ya Aunt Heather, I ate whatever I wanted and not healthy.”  I smiled and said, “Good for you buddy, I’m glad you enjoyed yourself.  That’s what vacations are all about.  I’m glad you got some protein in your system and not all sweets.”  He seemed pleased with himself.

There’s no doubt Nicole and Kyle had a blast and created memories for a lifetime.  Like I’ve always told Kyle, I want him to take every opportunity to travel and see the world, explore every inch and enjoy life.

During our ride back, Kyle mentioned that he could live in the Bahamas.  I’d visit him, but that’s about it.  That comment kind of surprised me, since Kyle doesn’t like being in the sun, and hates the heat, and really hates to sweat.  Who knows, maybe the Bahamas will be his favorite vacation spot.

On a somewhat side note, while driving home with Kyle I looked down to see he changed his iPhone cover.  What is it?  The NASA logo.  I guess he did have a great time and was very influenced by his experiences!  After pointing out the case and telling him it was nice (it really is), I told him about his Aunt Nikki’s childhood obsession about working for NASA.  He seemed intrigued, yet I’m sensing he picked up on this little known fact during their visit to Florida.

Kennedy-Space-Center-6-10-15-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kennedy Space Center. NASA 6/10/15

The annual tradition of Aunt Nikki’s and Kyle’s Week of Fun has been in existence since Kyle was a small tyke, growing in wow factor, mileage and expense year-over-year.  I hope it never stops and always continues for those two!  Personally, I love hearing the stories.  Wonder what next year will bring?

 

 

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

Fishing Derby Pride

There is no secret to success except hard work and getting something indefinable which we call ‘the breaks’.  ~Countee Cullen

Thanks to everyone for making this event happen, especially Cindy and Dave Planinsek!  I know it’s a lot of work, but one worth it.  Like everyone else, my family looks forward to the Fishing Derby every year!

Fishing-Derby-Kyle-at-Sign-5-9-15-Aunt-Heather-Piper

26th Annual Louis Planinsek Fishing Derby! 5/9/15

This past weekend was the twenty-sixth Annual Louis Planinsek Fishing Derby.  As always it was great time, and we were blessed with perfect weather!  No rain, no snow, simply a lot of sun, blue skies, white fluffy clouds, good conversation and the fish were biting, giving the kids and adults another memorable experience.

Similar to last year, Kyle didn’t want to camp out from Friday night to Saturday.  I offered with all sincerity, but he had no desire to rough it.  Instead, we stopped up at the pavilion Friday night to hang out, eat, socialize, eat and eat.  That’s one constant that I participated in on Friday and continued throughout the day on Saturday, eating!  Friday night, Kyle basically disappeared, for he was running around playing with all the kids.  I love seeing him have good old-fashioned fun of playing tag, exploring and climbing on the swing set and slides.  I too enjoyed myself, catching up with those I run into maybe once a year, and touching base with others I see more frequently.

Kyle-Fishing-Leader-Board-5-9-15-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle made the leader board with his 19.25″ trout at the Fishing Derby. Not the winner of the day, but started it off right! First time making the leader board! Way to go buddy! 5/9/15

The next morning, as tradition dictates, breakfast was served at 7:00 am, or there about.  Unlike years past, Kyle didn’t want to get up early, my little man must have been running hard and needed his beauty rest.  Once he cracked his eyelids enough to let the light in, we packed the car with his fishing gear, and he was ready to join the festivities.

After the announcements were made, rules outlined, prayer said and the bugle called, all fishing lines were cast.  Who started off the leader board?  You guessed it, Kyle!  I was thrilled for him!  In all the years we’ve been coming, he’s never once made the leader board, let alone be the first kid to catch a fish.  He was so excited, he was jumping around more than the trout in the net.  I know he was even happier his Gigi and Pappy (and possibly me) was there to witness his victory, and yet disappointed his Aunt Nikki was on the road, not there yet.  His trout measured nineteen and a quarter inches.  That’s a big fish!

Did he take home the trophy for the largest trout?  Nope.  He was twice kicked out of the top spot with Jacob Singer taking home the gold with a twenty-three and a quarter inch trout.  Congrats buddy!  Was Kyle upset?  No, he really wasn’t.  In years past I could’ve seen him devastated over the loss, but he’s maturing and was truly happy for Jacob.  Now that’s sportsmanship and that made me proud.  However, that wasn’t the proudest moment of the day.  It was what happened before the fishing derby that touched me.

As tradition dictates, about a week or so before the fishing derby, everyone, mostly the Planinsek family, gets together to clean up the pavilion, split firewood, lay gravel or mulch or whatever is needed and stock the pond with fish.  Believe it or not, it might seem like a laborious day, but it’s a fun one with everyone working together.  I wasn’t able to help this year, but Kyle did, all day!  So back to my initial thought.  What made me so proud of Kyle?  His work ethic!

Kyle-Aunt-Heather-Piper-Fishing-Derby-5-9-15

Me & Kyle at the Fishing Derby after his big catch of the day. 5/9/15

Between Friday night and all day Saturday during the derby, at least a dozen people independently came up to me with complete sincerity, and informed me of how hard Kyle worked that Saturday, in preparation for the Fishing Derby.  It wasn’t simply a blanketed statement either.  I was told when one task was completed, Kyle would ask what else needed done.  According to eye witness accounts, he worked really hard and afterwords played hard with the kids.  Now that made me very proud!  I guess Kyle is a true Piper, even though he hides it when asked to do work around the house!  I’ll take it though, Kyle being well-behaved and hard working with others, yep those are qualities worth mentioning.  That’s my not-so-little man of thirteen years.  And you know what?  He never said anything, but I know he too was proud of his efforts he put into the Fishing Derby and the bond that was forged from such hard work.  I wish more kids would have such opportunities to feel a sense of accomplishment and teamwork with such a great family.

A special thanks to my cousin Casey Olczak and Boo Planinsek.  They offered to clean Kyle’s trout for him.  I was going to, but they were on a roll, so who am I to stop them?  They also gave us a few extra unclaimed fish for Sunday breakfast.

See you next year!

Casey-&-Owen-Fishing-Derby-5-9-15-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Casey & Owen at the Fishing Derby. 5/9/15

On a side note, Kyle made it very clear this year that he doesn’t like his picture being taken.  Can you tell, I cared?  (sarcasm)  However, Kyle barely got his fish out of the pond before he was reaching for his phone to get a picture of his trout!  I guess, we are a lot alike, whether he’ll admit it or not.

Breakfast-at-Fishing-Derby-5-9-15-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Planinsek Fishing Derby breakfast. Fueling up for the fishing adventure! 5/9/15

Kyles-19.25-inch-trout-Fishing-Derby-5-9-15-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle made the Fishing Derby Leader Board with his 19.25″ trout! 5/9/15

Mom,-Dad,-Kyle-Fishing-Derby-5-9-15-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle at the Planinsek Fishing Derby. Mom, Dad and Roger Parks watch our young participants. 5/9/15

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

Autumn’s Sights, Sounds & Smells

Were I called on to define, very briefly, the term Art, I should call it ‘the reproduction of what the Senses perceive in Nature through the veil of the soul.’ The mere imitation, however accurate of what is in Nature, entitles no man to the sacred name of ‘Artist.’ ~Edgar Allan Poe

Our-Ridge-in-Fall-2013-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Our ridge in the Autumn … love this drive no mater the season. 2013

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always loved this time of  year.  ALWAYS.  Something about the cooler, yet usually sunny weather that makes me want to move around and be active.  Even on cold dreary rainy days, I must admit, I still find it refreshing and appealing.  To me, Autumn is simply a season to fill all my senses.

Sights/Touch

The fall colors always mesmerize and draw me into their paintings.  They create an almost surreal world where mystical meets reality.

The other day I was walking through Latrobe and the wind kicked in, releasing colorful dead leaves from the branches as I was under the tree.  It was amazing!  All the leaves gently fell all around me and gathered at my feet.  Like a little kid, I did a small twirl with my face turned toward the bright blue sky with my arms stretched wide, feeling the sun and the wind.  It was a small moment, but a huge one in terms for thankfulness of experiencing such beauty.

The Laurel Highlands are so very pretty on a macro and micro level.  Whether you’re looking at the ridges from a distance with all the clumps of different bright fall colors, or starring directly into a pile of raked leaves, visually it’s intoxicating, in a good way.

Yes, the leaves and bare trees scream of death, letting us know winter is around the corner, which I’m happy about for that’s my second favorite season.  But you have to admit, the process to get us to the next cycle of life is well worth it.

Besides the leaves turning, partaking in the creepy Halloween decorations are exciting.  The ghost and ghouls and witches and bats line yard after yard, ready to creep out a kid or two is entertaining.  Again, bringing me back to my youth.

Fall festivals like Fort Ligonier Days Fort Ligonier Days Parade – Marching Down Memory Lane and pumpkin patches also scream fall and the arrival of Halloween and Thanksgiving.  Like most kids, I too carved up a pumpkin or two in my day.  In fact, that was one tradition I kept going for most of my life, expecting Kyle to take the reins.  Well, when Kyle was about three years old or so, I found out that wasn’t going to happen.

True story.  My parents and I took Kyle to the pumpkin patch to pick out, none other than pumpkins.  Kyle chose the biggest one for himself and smaller, less appealing orange squashes for me and my parents.  He’s always been a stinker like that!

I got everything ready for the carving adventure to begin, which Kyle was still on board and excited to help hack away at his very own pumpkin, that is until we began.  After I cut the top off for Kyle, I instructed him to scoop out the guts before cutting the face.  That kid sniffed the inside and took a good long look down into the innards.  Turning his nose up, he instructed me to scoop out his guts.  No way, I was working on my own pumpkin.  I did get him started before he reluctantly joined in.  Bravely following my lead he stuck his bare hand inside, to quickly remove it announcing he doesn’t like the feel of the seeds on his skin.  Are you kidding me?  Nope.  That’s our Kyle.  For a couple of years after that we got him latex gloves, yes like he was doing surgery, but if the wall of the pumpkin grazed his arm he would freak out.  Eventually, Kyle would sit while I carved the pumpkins for him, all while he dictated what I was suppose to be doing and telling me how to do it.  This proves my love for that kid!

Soon that even got old and our pumpkin carving days pretty much came to an end, something Kyle could care less about.  At one point, I had Kyle paint his pumpkin, but again that didn’t keep his interest.  So now we just decorate with plain old pumpkins.

Sounds

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Kyle picking grapes to make grape juice & grape jelly. 9/2/13

In addition to enjoying the mosaic colors of God’s impressionistic landscapes and human imagination of Halloween decorations and pumpkin carvings, I like the sounds of autumn.

Fall seems to bring with it a unique sound.  Sure the crunching of leaves under my feet certainly sets the stage for winter.  Granted, it’s not very helpful when hunting, but there’s something so therapeutic about stomping on dried up leaves.  To me it’s the same effect that bubble wrap has, it’s just fun to hear the sound of popping and the anticipation before the “explosion”.  Of course no matter what season, perhaps not a hot humid summer day, hiking through the forest is the best medicine for any ailment.  Walking in the woods is like being in my own personal telephone booth and answering a direct call from God, very spiritual when your heart and mind are open to listen.

During the fall season, even the wind vibrates differently, like it’s sounding an alarm for the coming of snow and winter.  I know the geese hear it for they too blast their own siren announcing their travels to the south.

Besides the peaceful sounds of nature, there’s the Halloween screams and horror that fill the air.  The creaky floorboards, the terror of young ones being frightened, the maneuvering through corn mazes and the sounds of tractors driving around a wagon full of hay and spectators who are also enjoying the fall season.  Exhilarating!

Smells/Tastes

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A perfect fall day on my Uncle Walter’s farm. 2013

But the best part of autumn are the smells and the foods that hold those scents!  Spices!  I’m not talking about Cajun seasonings or hot sauce.  No.  I’m talking about ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon.  Each is a unique and wonderful aroma, but put them together you get autumn in every bite.  Naturally, I’m talking about deliciousness such as pumpkin pie, mom’s absolute favorite; spice cake, hot apple cider, sunflower seeds, mostly the action of harvesting the seeds and baking them; and apple butter.

The other day mom got a jar of apple butter and slathered it on a piece of bread.  As a youngster, I helped mom can food all the time in preparation for the long winter months.  What did we can?  Just about everything from the garden, tomatoes, beans, beets, (we do can deer meat too, and sometimes we find the deer in the garden) cucumbers for pickles, and corn.  I also helped my mom and grandma make apple butter.

Yes, I was part of the entire process from picking the apples, which I never cared for due to the bees buzzing around the rotten apples on the ground, to grinding the fruit and boiling the jars for canning.  Over the years, I’ve even enjoyed opening a fresh jar of apple butter to accompany my toast.  My brother, Ryan, LOVED apple butter.  Sometimes I would catch him eating it straight from the jar.  Forget waiting for the toaster to make toast, Ryan would sit in front of the television with a loaf of bread, not slices, an entire fresh loaf of bread and a pint size jar of apple butter.  In a matter of minutes he would fill his craving and empty stomach and polish off all the bread and the apple butter.

Apple butter is good, but nothing gets my mouth watering like homemade grape juice!  We’ve always had a grape arbor and sometimes dad would make wine out of it, now recently my cousin Mikey harvests the grapes for his wine, but when I was little we picked the grapes strictly for grape jelly and grape juice.  Making grape juice is really easy, too easy.  The hard part is the time it takes waiting for the juice to ripen for consumption.  I used to suck down juice like it was water.  (Later on did I find out that juices were my number one trigger for my serve attacks with mouth ulcers, no more juice for me)  Making grape juice was really a lot of fun, so much so I even had Kyle join in on the tradition. Smallest Moments, Mean the Most Kyle’s not really a juice type of guy, but he’ll drink the sweetness especially if he invested time in preparing it.  He also really likes our homemade grape juice.

No matter what your favorite season is, you have to admit, autumn has a little bit of something for everyone.  Our family has a lot of traditions that accompany this time of year, which makes it even more meaningful.

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

Fall Cartoon Line-Up of Years Past

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

*Means a favorite of mine

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

Ringing in the New Year

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes…you’re Doing Something.  ~Neil Gaiman

Well here we are, 2014!  Happy New Year!

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Me & Kyle celebrating New Years! Storm photo bombed us from her perch. 12/31/13

Kyle and I rang in the New Year like we always do.  We made our rice crispy treats, (actually I made them while Kyle watched Despicable Me 2).  Thanks to my friend Tree for helping to make that a New Year’s tradition!  We were making the delicious sticky treats when we were in high school and it stuck!  We ate our pork and sauerkraut and hot dogs, brats, and kielbasa.  Yep, the same sauerkraut we just made Family Traditions Through Sauerkraut in November.   Another tradition started by my mom when I was little, was the meat and cheese tray.  Usually, it’s complete with a variety of crackers, carrots and celery, olives and such, but this year we just nibbled on the meat and cheeses.

Keeping ourselves entertained, we played Trouble and a little Wii, even though I didn’t give Kyle hours on the game, we did play a few rounds of shooting and fishing and horse riding.  Since then, Kyle has a renewed interest in the video games.  Maybe this weekend we’ll bust out the Michael Jackson Experience and dance to a little MJ action.

We watched Dick Clark’s Rockin’ Eve as many do.  Mom and I were reminiscing days of New Year’s old.  One New Year’s, my sister went to New York and rang in the new year in Time Square.  That was fun having Kyle try and find his Aunt Nikki among the sea of celebratory people.  That is until he spotted the Lego store in the background.  Yes!  Only that kid would hone in on the Lego store among the crowds and crowds of people and on-air activity.  I remember he immediately called my sister and instructed her to go into the Lego store and take pictures and send them to him.  What a card!  He wanted the mission completed at that very moment, while my sister was corralled into limited space with millions of others.  Nicole was not able to tackle such fetes, but later that summer or the following one (I can’t remember) Nicole took Kyle to New York so he could experience the Lego store for himself on the ‘Aunt Nikki and Kyle’s Week of Fun’.

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Seven celebrates New Year’s in style… Happy 2014! 12/31/13

Around 11:30 pm or so, we really humored ourselves by making the dogs wear party hats.  Once midnight hit, we blew our party horns and blasted our party favors till we covered the living-room with streamers.  Naturally, we took pictures and sent them to Aunt Nikki, keeping her in touch with all things Kyle.  We had a really good time!

New Year’s day we took the .22 and the 20 gauge out squirrel hunting.  We didn’t see any signs of life, but maybe that’s because of our invited guests, Seven and Scooby.  They had a blast running through the snow in the woods and jumping around.  This was the first walk I took them on since this past fall, when Seven broke his leg.  Great way to ring in the New Year!

Yep, it was a pretty good 2013.  I mean, I was able quit my nine-to-five office job at the ad agency and start working on Thrill of the Hunt full-time.  Thrill of the Hunt is going into our seventh month of business, full-time.  Technically we started Thrill of the Hunt in September of 2012, but it was only a part-time gig.  Even though the company is not self-sustaining, it is picking up notoriety and popularity.  My goal for the New Year is to make the company profitable and organize our finances and database.  Sounds simple enough, yet I know the challenges and I am ready to take them on ten fold.

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Scooby receiving his New Year’s attire… Happy 2014! 12/31/13

Kyle is now in the seventh grade, taking advanced science and math classes and doing pretty well.  Nicole and I discussed it, and this year we’ll start training Kyle to take over all finances including entering expenses, accepting checks and possibly creating invoices in Quickbooks for The Piper Corporation.  Yep!  You heard that right!  I trust Kyle explicitly, and finances and dealing with numbers is kind of his thing.  Plus, I feel it gives him great work experience and exposure to business and will build good work ethic and character.  Not to mention he will truly be a part of the company.  He is now, especially with all his help promoting scavenger hunts and working the events, but he will be an integral part of the company.  Did I mention, I will follow-up on the information entered?  You bet!  I can’t very well expect Kyle to not make mistakes or do things incorrectly, at least not until he really learns the program and gets into a routine.  My accountant will also be aware of our unofficial employee and keep an eye out to ensure all is entered correctly.  How else is he going to get this experience and learn?  He’s worth the extra time!

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Me & Seven celebrating New Years! 2014! 12/31/13

Nicole and I discussed Kyle’s new role with him over Christmas and he was truly excited!  Excited to be learning something new, excited to be dealing with numbers, exciting to be helping us out and excited to be getting paid.  I think the later was more important to him.  He called me yesterday asking when he was going to start working in Quickbooks.  Apparently, he wants to buy something.  What a stinker!  But a very ambitious one!

I asked Kyle, as I always do, what his New Year’s resolution was?  His reply?  A dismissively “Umm I don’t know.”  He could care less, but I guess that will come over time, although when I was his age I made resolutions.  I mean it’s good to set goals, right?  This year mine includes, blogging at a minimum of three days a week, finally writing my book (not sure about that one, but why not), branching out Thrill of the Hunt into Virginia, Maryland and Ohio, in addition to Pennsylvania and building the company to a profitable state.  I’m not looking for millions, just enough to say we’re profiting.  But I guess in time all things will work out the way they are suppose to.

The snow has been falling all day yesterday and all night long.  It’s beautiful out!  Even though we have my Uncle Ray’s funeral tonight, Uncle Ray – Passing of a Piper Legend it’s a bittersweet beginning to a new year.  I have faith that God will bless us with an extraordinary 2014!

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Pets,Reminiscing,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts and have No Comments

First Day of Hunting – Ryan’s Story

When some of my friends have asked me anxiously about their boys, whether they should let them hunt, I have answered yes – remembering that it was one of the best parts of my education – make them hunters.  ~Henry David Thoreau
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Ryan’s buck, 10 pts about 19″ spread. 1st buck! 12/2/92

Since it’s Christmas Eve day and we are all missing Ryan terribly, and since I was recently reliving our hunting tales from 2013, I thought I’d continue.  I never told the stories of Ryan’s hunting expeditions, especially his first year.

Ryan practically grew up in the woods, exposed to hunting since he was two years old.  No joke!  Ever since he was potty trained and able to walk around, dad took Ryan with him hunting.  So even though Ryan never shot a deer until he was twelve, he had a decade of experience in the woods tracking, gutting, dragging and skinning deer.

Ryan went with me and Nicole on our first hunting adventures, walking around pushing deer with dad.  Wherever you found dad, Ryan was attached to him.  Seriously, almost all the time.  So by the time Ryan found his way to heaven, it made dad’s favorite hobby, (for a lack of better term, even though hunting is more of a way of life with dad then a side hobby) that much harder to enjoy.  Well, that is until Kyle became of age and I got back into hunting.  Now hunting is truly enjoyable again.

This year, more than others, dad started telling all the Ryan hunting tales of years past.  I mean it, dad could drive by some hillside in Green County or Westmoreland County or even Cortland, New York, and comment ‘We shot a lot of turkey up there.’ or ‘Ryan shot a nice size doe over there.’ and so on and so forth.  He did it the entire time!  It was nice seeing all the hunting areas dad and Ryan trekked together.  To be honest, I had no idea just how many hunting adventures and how many different spots Ryan and dad ventured.  Definitely more than I could ever correctly repeat.

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Ryan’s 1st buck, 10 pts, about 19″ spread. Deer hunting was on of his favorite activities 12/2/92

While me, dad and Kyle were hunting this year, Kyle took a shot at a small buck, and dropped it on one shot!  The adrenaline was working its magic, because Kyle wanted to plug it with another bullet.  Apparently, dad said, “Nope, you got ‘er buddy!”  Dad said it was a great shot in the shoulder, it looked like he took a sledge hammer to the deer, quick and painless, hopefully for the deer.  That deer gave us a nice supply of deer meat for the freezer.

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Close-up of Ryan’s 1st buck. 10pts, 19″ spread 12/2/92

The first year Ryan went hunting, naturally dad took him.  Alas, at that point I had already turned in my license or the year after, to only return many years later.  Dad said, “When your daddy shot his first deer (doe) I had to laugh, it was full of holes!”  Kyle and I both laughed at that comment.  Ryan must have been so nervous to drop it, he shot the deer up.  Dad commented, “I had to throw away the hide, I couldn’t sell it ’cause it was so full of holes.”

That statement intrigued Kyle, our little banker.  I totally forgot, dad used to sell the deer hides from the season.  In recent years, he has since retired that action.  Probably without the extra help of Ryan, it’s a lot of work.  Maybe that might be something I’m willing to get back into again.  I do believe Kyle would enjoy selling the hides.

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A side view of Ryan’s 1st buck. 10pts, 19″ spread, way to go! 12/2/92

Now the best story ever!  Ryan’s first buck.  Do I remember it?  You bet!  Only because it was such a prize.  Dad had my cousin’s Jeremy and Chad with him, as well as Ryan hunting.  I’m not sure if anyone else was present.  But the story goes, dad instructed Ryan to reload his gun, whereas my cousins did not, just in case they saw something.  Never question my dad, Mr. Grizzly Adams himself.  Like I’ve said before, he speaks deer.  Well, wherever they were hunting, no clue, but out pops this buck and since Ryan was locked and loaded, he took it down.  I remember that day, crystal clear.  I recollect the guys all coming back to mom and dad’s house to skin their deer and for their photo ops.  Ryan was beaming, but not nearly as much as dad.  Boy was he happy and proud of Ryan!

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Those are Ryan’s horns from his first buck! Below is the gun rack Ryan made in high school. The feature was from our trip to Cortland, NY to move dad’s tree stand. Taken 12/24/13

Later, dad had Ryan’s horns from his prize buck mounted, which now resides in dad’s office across from his loading desk, above the gun rack Ryan made in high school and right beside the gun cabinet Uncle Walter made for dad one Christmas as a gift from mom.

I do wish Ryan was around to take Kyle hunting.  There’s no doubt, that Ryan would have treated Kyle like dad treated Ryan.  But Kyle is very blessed to have his pappy around to show him the ropes of hunting, fishing, loading, tracking and even trapping (Kyle has expressed an interest in, even though dad hasn’t trapped for a really long time).

Christmas always carry’s a different type of tradition, an almost unspoken one.  You see, since deer season is so close to the holidays, most of the tales within the woods are fresh on everyone’s minds.  Usually when we get together with family, all the hunting stories come to life.  All of them!  Silly, serious, unbelievable and all true.  Deer hunting is more than killing wild animals, it’s more than proving meat for the family, it about family time too.  Priceless, quality time together in nature!

Read other adventures in Hunting

Deer Hunter, Kyle’s First Deer
Hunter’s Safety Course – Passed!
Hunting – Survival or Sport?
First Day of Hunting- Kyle’s Story

First Day of Hunting – My Story

Hunting Adventures of 2013

Our Hunting Adventures … New York
Our Hunting Adventures … New York Continued
Our Hunting Adventures … Pennsylvania – Green County
Our Hunting Adventures … Pennsylvania – Westmoreland County

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

Our Hunting Adventures … New York

This is an interesting planet. It deserves all the attention you can give it.  ~Marilynne Robinson

Aunt-Heather-Piper-&-Kyle-in-Green-County-Hunting-12-2013

Me & Kyle in Green County hunting… we saw nothing! Yet had fun hanging out with dad a.k.a. pap 12/2/13

As I’ve mentioned it a time or two, we are a family of hunters and recently was our prime season.  Deer season!  Yes, there is more to hunting besides deer, but deer season seems to be the most exciting and gets those not-so-diehard hunters out and about.  It’s really a lot fun!  Not the idea of killing but the idea of family time, getting back to nature and helping to supply the household with good, healthy, natural deer meat for the freezer.  Plus keeping the deer population down to help eliminate bad car accidents as a result of deer.

On Friday, November 15th, Kyle and I drove up to Cortland, New York to meet up with dad, who drove up earlier that morning.  Why did we make the six hour trip?  Deer hunting!  Yes, we got our New York tags in addition to our Green County and Westmoreland County tags in Pennsylvania.  What is really cool about New York, you are allowed to shoot buck and doe on the first day.  As opposed to Pennsylvania, where you are only allowed to hunt buck on Monday till Saturday, then anything brown is down until the season is over.  Well, actually that’s technically not the case.  Depending where one is shooting, some rules state there needs to be two points on one side plus the brow point to be counted legal, and other cases three points on one side, not including the brow.  But if you really want all the details, it’s in the Pennsylvania Hunting and Trapping book.  Dad’s bible throughout the season.

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The elusive tree stand Cortland, NY 2013

On a side note, I picked up Kyle from school on Friday and we headed out.  About halfway into our trip Kyle mentioned he had to relieve his bladder.  Well, so did I!  We did the thing you do alongside a dark desolate highway, in the mountains, we pulled over and watered the ground.   I let Kyle go first.  He positioned himself between the passenger door and the back passenger door facing a patch of woods.  Great idea!  Once he was done, I had him switch sides with me, while I grabbed a swatch of paper towel and followed suit.  As we proceeded to switch back to our right sides, I joked and said to Kyle, “Watch out, don’t stand where I went to the bathroom.”  as he saw the discarded paper towel on the ground.  No!  I am not typically a litter bug, but this time, with a paper towel, which will disintegrate in a heavy rain, I could live with.  As Kyle walked past my spot of nature, he asked “You wiped up the ground?”  As if he was missing some sort of etiquette.  I about died!  It never dawned on me that he didn’t know, girls take an extra step in the bathroom.  He thought I cleaned up the ground!  I was laughing!  By the time we got home I told mom.  We both lost it and laughed at Kyle’s innocence and ignorance.  LOVE that kid!!

We got up to Cortland late Friday night, about 10:00 pm or so and went straight to bed.  Dad was already sawing logs when we walked in and Kyle pretty much joined him before we arrived.  Love my side kick, but when he’s tired, he’s down!

Then, back up at 3:30 am.  Only dad!  Daylight wasn’t until 6:30 am or so and we were only about a half an hour away from our hunting destination.  Granted, we did need to make our way back to the tree stands, but getting up that early was a bit silly.  Dad was so excited, he was like a kid on Christmas morning.  He truly looks forward to hunting in New York every year, and then to have me and Kyle join him, he was elated!  It was like the old days when Ryan hunted with him.

We stayed and hunted up until Monday, around noon and had a blast every step of the way!

On Saturday, when dad was giving me direction where I was to be stationed, this was how he described it to me.  Keep in mind, I was only ever in a different part of those woods once, never in the area I was to be hunting, and it was pitch black and it was 5:00 am and I had little sleep!  Dad said:

Heather, we’ll all ride the quad back the path and then you’ll get off and walk to your tree stand.  Follow the path to where it bends towards the left about a half a mile or so until it slopes down slightly.  Keep going until you see a log down, about six inches in diameter along the side of the path.  Walk a little further down, there should be a ribbon around a tree.  On the same side is your tree stand.  You’ll see the ground is all tore up where the turkeys were scratching.  Go ahead and get in the tree stand, we’ll be down over the bank from you.  If you think the tree stand is too high and you don’t feel comfortable, then find a place on the ground to sit.  Make sure you get out of the brush.

OK, so let me get this straight, I am suppose to stay to the left, look for a log down in the woods among other trees down and find turkey tracks in the mud, in the pitch black under all the fallen dead leaves and find a black tree stand in the dark?  Right!  I just nodded and said “Alright dad.” thinking in my head, if I don’t find it in the dark, then I’ll find a nice stump and wait till it gets light to see where I’m suppose to be positioned.

Would you believe, I found the tree stand?  Yes!  In fact, it was as if Ryan came down from heaven and tapped me on the shoulder making me look toward the right.  Seriously, that’s what it felt like, to make me all of a sudden turn my flashlight toward the tree containing the deer stand.  No joke!  I totally missed the ribbon, which later I saw very small and kind of obscured.  The tree stand was higher than what I am used to, but it didn’t bother me.  To be honest, it was nice of Larry, dad’s friend who allows us to hunt on the property, to get me set up.

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1st day of deer hunting in Cortland, NY. Perfect early morning view! 2013

The first day was crazy.  Did we see deer?  You bet!  But what really cracked me up, there was about thirty turkeys behind me in the brush having a party.  They were scratching up the ground and gobbling like crazy!  At one point, I turned over my shoulder and I saw a conga line of four more turkeys joining in on the party.  They were making such a ruckus.  I kept thinking there were deer walking around me, but nope, it was the turkey party.  I couldn’t see them through the thick brush, but there was no mistaken.  I must have crashed the turkey party pad.

Now, let’s discuss the angry squirrel.  First, I’d like to state that I don’t care for squirrels, at all!  To me, they are large rodents and not appealing in the slightest.  I have no qualms shooting them during small game season.  Dad loves squirrel potpie, which is okay, not a favorite of mine like deer meat.  Well, me and this squirrel got into it.  Really!  It kept trying to climb up my tree.  I yelled at it saying “No!  You are not coming up my tree.  There is a whole forest of trees to choose from and you can’t join me.”  Apparently, the wrong thing to say, because that squirrel ran up the tree opposite to me, turned to face downward and gave a loud almost scream.  Then, it ran down the tree and across the path back towards my tree, where I slapped my hands on my lap and yelled No!  This situation continued on the same course a few times before the squirrel buckled, gave up and left me a lone.  Alone, with me and my turkey party.  That is until the next day and we went through the same routine again.  You should have heard it scream.  It was like a lady with a high pitch screech!  I’ve never heard anything like it.  It kind took me back.

It’s always an adventure with the Piper clan.  On Sunday morning, …

… to be Continued

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

Family Traditions Through Sauerkraut

When publications like the Baltimore Sun run headlines like ‘Seafood, tea, sauerkraut in food spotlight,’ you know that sauerkraut has arrived in the national consciousness and has spiked in popularity. We’ve seen our sales climb pretty rapidly in the fourth quarter of 2005 as people have learned about the health benefits of sauerkraut and continued eating it because of its versatility and flavor.  ~Chris Smith

Kyle's-8th-Birthday-at-Chef-Dato-Tin-Lizzy-7-2009-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle’s 8th Birthday Party at the Tin Lizzy with Chef Dato. They made pizza’s & pretzels. Great party! 7/2009

Yes, we do make our own sauerkraut, about once every couple of years.  We make a big batch, and then when it’s ready, we freeze it and it lasts a long time.  No joke!  Great for the crock-pot with kielbasa and hot dogs! Anytime of the year.

It’s funny, as we were getting things prepped and ready on Sunday for the deed, Kyle was super stoked!  He was so excited to participate with the family on such a tradition.  I even said to him, “Kyle you’ve only done this once before.”  He corrected me, and informed me he’s participated a few times with making sauerkraut.  My bad!  I didn’t realize this meant so much to him, and it really did!

Actually, I’m pretty happy about that, learning to make anything is a good lesson, not to mention keeping up family traditions is the best.  My sister didn’t join us this time, but maybe next.

So why would one make sauerkraut?  It tastes so much better than store bought out of a can!  Way better!  Tell me if this makes sense, but growing up with a half Polish mom, you’d think I would have a taste for the aged cabbage sustenance, but alas I never really cared for it.  In fact, when mom would cook sauerkraut, I would gag at the smell, literally dry heave.  Luckily, over the years I’ve grown accustomed to the potency, and developed a mild craving for sauerkraut, only mom’s.  I still don’t care for the canned or store bought.  Probably because mom and dad’s sauerkraut simply contains cabbage, salt and water.  Whereas, if you read the ingredients on the packages, it contains a lot more than that, which I feel taints the taste.  Yep, homemade or nothing.

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The kids made pizza’s & pretzels for Kyle’s 8th Birthday Party. Tin Lizzy with Chef Dato. Kyle’s on the right. 7/2009

How does one start to make sauerkraut?  It’s really easy actually.  Dad always gets about eight large heads of cabbage or so, from the farmers market.  Then, we peel off the outside leaves, chop the heads in half to remove the heart, then the real fun begins.   We have a professional grade meat slicer we use to slice up the cabbage.  Before our lives were made easier, we would use mom’s food processor set to slice, and then before that we would use a hand mandolin or micro-plane, whichever you prefer to call it.  Now that uses the arm muscles!  No wonder the Polish women are buff!

After each head of cabbage is sliced, then it is placed in a large ceramic crock, ours holds about fifteen gallons.  Add about one of dad’s handfuls of course Kosher salt, and begin pounding the sliced cabbage down.  This action helps to generate the natural juices from within.  Where does one buy a sauerkraut pounder?  No clue.  Dad made ours.  It’s simply a wooden cylinder head attached to a long wooden handle.

This process is repeated after every head of cabbage is shredded, and added to the ceramic crock.  While the pounding continues, tons of juices come to the surface till your arms are ready to fall off.  Dad and I took turns pounding.  Mom was in charge of adding the cabbage to the ceramic crock, while Kyle was on the meat slicer.  Yes I know, not a safe job for a munchkin, but he did help with the other jobs and begged us to let him on the meat slice.  It does have the safety features and Kyle was instructed on the consequences of what could go wrong.  When Kyle is scared, he is always overly cautious.  Knowing that, we still meticulously watched him and made sure he was safe.  Dad’s only comment was, “Kyle this thing could take off your finger easily and that hurts, trust me!”  As dad showed him his finger.  Kyle about turned white from hearing and envisioning the reality.

Kyle's-8th-Birthday-Party-at-Chef-Dato-Tin-Lizzy-7-2009-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle rolling out his dough for his personal pizza at his 8th Birthday Party with Chef Dato. Tin Lizzy 7/2009

It’s true, a couple of years ago dad was slicing deer meat on the band saw and took off the tip of his finger.  It’s still missing, gone!  Did he go to the doctors?  Nope!  He wrapped it up, and washed it out until it healed.  It’s still sore for him, but he manages, and uses it now as a learning lesson.  That’s taking a negative and turning it into a positive!

Once the sauerkraut was pounded and done, we placed a glass plate facing down on top of the soon to be aged saurerkraut, with a gallon jug of water to weight it all down, allowing the cabbage to soak in all the salty juices.  Then, we placed several layers of garbage bags down in to seal it off from contaminants.  Yes, the bags are clean and no, I don’t know what they used in the olden days.  Probably some sort of burlap, which we don’t have a supply of laying around the house.  Then, as a final step, we dumped more water into the garbage bags, which resided on the gallon jug, glass plate and the sauerkraut, to really keep the weight pressed down on the future goodness.  That’s it!  Let it alone for about eight weeks and enjoy!

Since we make so much at a go, we divide it into freezer bags, label them and send the sauerkraut to our own arctic in the garage, awaiting our next meal, or for New Year’s Eve morning.  Yes, that’s another tradition I know most people share, hot dogs, kielbasa and sauerkraut for New Years.  I love it!

While we were making the sauerkraut, I do recall the last time.  Kyle was giving everyone positive reinforcement.  You know, “You’re doing good Aunt Heather, keep it up.”  or “Wow, pap pap, good job!” as he gave my dad a thumbs up.  He was in that cheering stage, which was way too cute!

Love that kid!  I hope he never changes and I hope he is always available to make sauerkraut with us for years to come!

P.S. it’s such a whirl wind when making sauerkraut, I never thought to stop and take pictures.  It actually happens so fast and we get into such a rhythm.  Maybe next time, I’ll be sure to snap a few pics for my records.

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

Memories Sewn Into a Quilt

Memory is a way of holding on to the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.  ~Kevin Arnold

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Kyle sitting on his bed in his room (Ryan’s old room) with the quilt I made him out of Ryan T-shirts & flannels 2002

You know it’s funny how time flies.  It might sound cliché, but it’s so very true.  I can’t believe Kyle will be twelve years old in seven days, July 30, 2001!  I was there when he was born and I pushed his dad out of the way to let me hold my perfect little nephew.  True story.  I really wanted to hold the baby and Ryan said, “I want to hold him.”  Followed by me working the bundle into my arms and Ryan giving me his ornery grin.  I think it was more of joy and happiness than irritation, but Ryan gave in to let me hang with my future buddy.

Over the years, even long before the birth or our little man “stuff” seems to get collected.  Sometimes you’re not sure why you have all this “stuff” and sometimes you know very well why it’s kept, for simple sentimental reasons.  Regardless, that “stuff” does carry a bit of history with it and me being a history buff, I love to preserve history.

Ryan passed away on October 23, 2001.  Naturally, his “stuff” was kind of pushed into closets and stacked in corners.  No one really wanted to deal with it at the moment, or even months later.  Some of the piles included Ryan’s cloths, mostly his T-shirts and flannels, the staple of his wardrobe.

The majority of his attire was purchased by yours truly as gifts for Ryan.  Every time he changed the oil in my car, rotated the tires, cut the rotors, changed the windshield wipers, (the list goes on and on), I would repay him with cloths, since Ryan never accepted money from me.  Never!  It was a win win because Ryan didn’t really purchase himself cloths,.  So I took it upon myself to dress him in exchange for all is work.  He would graciously accept the articles of clothing, especially the jeans.

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Tight shot of Kyle’s quilt, while it was being made. Those are all of Ryan’s T-shirts & flannels! 2002

You see Ryan was a tall lean beanpole, a strong one at that, still thin.  His jeans, which had to be Levi’s, needed to measure 29 x 34.  Do you know how hard it was to find those?  So every time I was in the store, I would raid the men’s jeans department in search for Ryan’s jeans.  This saved him the trouble of trying to find them himself,  a real scavenger hunt!

Yes, so all my shopping for Ryan, eventually made their way to untouched sad piles of fabric with an unknown future.  No matter how simple it may sound, those pieces of clothing showed their history and was a part of Ryan, every stain, every tear, every wrinkle, every shirt logo.   I mean, the shirts literally showed Ryan’s likes and interests, almost like they were a living ghost of Ryan laid before our eyes.  Some of the T-shirts were so worn out you could tell they were his favorites.  Now what?  What do I do those these simple treasures?

Kyles-quilt-making-Aunt-Heather-Piper-2002

I had a lot of help with the final assembly of this massive quilt. Holly (Quilts by Reese) is in the lower right corner with her back turned, hard at work! Her soon to be husband to her right. 2002

Over the months of healing after Ryan’s passing, I held onto these small memories, which I had no idea what to do with.  I mean, I wasn’t going to wear them, but on the other hand it would have broken my heart to give them away or worse, trash them.  What to do?  What to do?   Then, my friend Christina, yes the same one I would run around like a bee and press cloths with our bums, (Gotta Dance!)  came to me and presented the best idea I have EVER heard!  She said, “I know what you can do with your brothers cloths!  Turn them into a quilt!”  Brilliant!!  Sincerely, the presented solution was like gold to my ears and for a brief moment, I remembered how to be happy.   Joy filled me and I couldn’t wait to share this revelation with my family.  I knew they were going to love the idea as much as I did.  And you know what?  They DID!

At the time, I don’t think Christina knew what that idea meant to me and my family.  Being in a state of loss, confusion and grief, any small ray of light was most welcome and needed!  Now, where to begin?  You see I never made a quilt before.  In fact, at the time I didn’t even have a sewing machine.

Kyle-sleeping-on-the-pillow-Aunt-Heather-Piper-made-2002

Kyle playing on the pillow I made him out of the extra fabric from the curtains I made, sitting next to the quilt made out of his dad’s T-shirts & flannels, given for his 1st birthday. 2002

Problem solved.  That Christmas my family bought me a sewing machine.  Like I said, they were excited about the future quilt.  Now I have the equipment, what do I do with it?

Over the years, I’ve sewn Halloween costumes, hemmed pants, and such, but never a blanket and certainly not a quilt.  Well, me being me, I decided to take on the challenge and make it my spring project.  It was now a mission to complete it and give it to Kyle for his first birthday.

It took me months to cut everything out.  On a side note, to actually begin cutting into these priceless T-shirts almost made me sick, but it needed to be done to get to the final goal.  Yet, it was hard.  Once I decide how I wanted the T-shirts laid out and how I wanted to incorporate the flannel shirts, then I painstakingly sowed each piece to the next to create smaller shapes.  Then, those smaller shapes turned into larger shapes until it started resembling a quilt.

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Kyle’s full quilt, gave it to him for his 1st birthday. Loved how it turned out! Kyle’s dad’s T-shirts & flannels. 2002

All along the way I will admit, it became very therapeutic.  Sitting there by myself sewing for hours, holding onto pieces of Ryan actually made me feel better.  I’m not sure if it’s because I had such an intimate relationship with some of those shirts beforehand, or I was able to put my self in a different mindset, but the hard work gave me hope that things will be fine.  Never better, just different and manageable, and more importantly Ryan would never be forgotten.  Similar to writing in my blog.  Still neither are like holding Ryan’s son, the closest most dearest part of Ryan we still have.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, this perceived small project turned into a king size quilt!  Yes I didn’t have the heart to omit certain T-shirts, they were all so dear to Ryan.  To be honest, the final quit was actually larger than a king size.  On another note, I didn’t know that until I was pretty much done.  I kind of kept going and going, deep in thought until I reached the final edges of the quilt.

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Holsters, Kyle’s Aunt Hot Dogs, playing with a 6 month old Kyle. 1/2002

Throughout the process, many of my friends helped me with the assembly of the quilt and supplied their opinions and advice, especially my friend Holly (Holsters).  Ironically, she now sews quilts, specializing in T-shirt quilts, as a side job.  Her quilts are far more superior than my creation.  Maybe I should have let her help more with my project.  She really has a talent with quilting, check her creations out on Facebook Quilts by Reese.  Her quilts are even sold internationally!

The quilt was by all means not perfect, not in the slightest, but that blanket was made with all my LOVE!  It was made to give a piece of my brother to his son for his first birthday.  It was made to preserve Ryan in a visual piece for the entire family to appreciate.

During the duration of the assembly, my place looked like a sweat shop. Literally!  Sitting on a stool in front of my sewing machine for hours upon hours, trying to get all the puzzle pieces together to resemble a bed covering, while maintaining the integrity of the fabric, was not an easy task.  I had stacks upon stacks of cut fabric and piles of miscellaneous remnants.  What drove me?  Kyle’s birthday deadline.

To give me an extra challenge, the end of May that year, I went on a cruise with a bunch of friends and than two weeks before Kyle’s birthday, I was in Korea.  Yes, I was competing in the World Haidong Gumdo Championships (samurai sword).  As part of my very memorable trip, I also trained and toured sections of the peninsula.  Great experience, even though I was completely off the grid and missing my little man so much!

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Close up of Kyle’s quilt that I made for his 1st Birthday out of his dad’s T-shirts & flannels. 2002

Unfortunately, because of the timing of my Korean trip, I couldn’t give the long anticipated gift to Kyle on his actual birthday.  Believe it or not, that broke my heart, even though I know he would never know or care.  If I’m recalling correctly, I think I got home the day after his official birthday, but as soon as I got off of the plane and mom picked me up, we took a detour to head straight to see Kyle before heading home.  Even before I stopped to get some American food back in my system, we made a beeline to see my little man, who was already a year old.  Officially I gave him the quilt that weekend.

Kyle’s very first birthday gift from me was a homemade king sized quit, made from my very own fingers from his dad’s wardrobe.  I guess in a way, the blanket was from his dad too!

I’m really blessed to have gone through this exercise of making a quilt.  I’ve never made one since and I never plan on it.  After all, I have Quilts by Reese to do that!  But I certainly do cherish the work I put into it and appreciate the opportunity to clear my mind.  Plus, I hope one day, Kyle will realize just how much he meant to me from day one, for me go through all that trouble and effort to make him a quilt straight from his dad, for his very first birthday.  In a way, that blanket started the tradition of giving Kyle unconventional gifts!

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

Would There Have Been Death Without A Gun?

Your laws ignore our deepest needs,
Your words are empty air.
You’ve stripped away our heritage,
You’ve outlawed simple prayer.
Now gunshots fill our classrooms,
And precious children die.
You seek for answers everywhere,
And ask the question “Why?”
You regulate restrictive laws,
Through legislative creed.
And yet you fail to understand,
That God is what we need!   ~Darrell Scott

Dad-Aschaffenberg  Germany-1971 Aunt Heather Piper

Dad in Aschaffenberg, Germany with his new pistol before him & mom came home 1971

Guns!  Guns!  Guns!  When in doubt, blame the guns.  At least that’s where the finger seems to point to first, or how the media wants us to respond.  It’s no big secret that I am pro gun, pro sport shooting, pro self protection and pro hunting, as is the rest of my family.  Many agree with me on my opposition of any kind of gun control, and many do not.  That’s fine, I will carry a firearm, while the counter does not.

Having anyone perish by the hand of another human being, while using a gun or not is tragic.  Violence in any form is not healthy and is not something to be celebrated.  Yet, there are times when it is unavoidable, especially when survival instincts take over.  Obviously, I’m referring to the George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin case Who Has the Right to Judge?.

George Zimmerman’s gun was perfectly legal.  It was obtained legally, it was kept legally and it was registered legally.  It was even used legally.  When someone threatens death upon you, especially when they’re punching and striking your face and cracking your skull into the cement, resulting in a broken nose, you are within your right to protect yourself.  It’s called self defense.  It’s not a malicious intent, expect to do what our brains are wired to do and that is survive.

Now that the gun law has been brought to light again, I started thinking, ‘Would anyone have died that night on February 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida if there wasn’t a gun involved?’  Yes!  That’s what’s really scary.  The removal of the gun, doesn’t mean complete safety.  When Trayvon Martin was beating George Zimmerman’s head into the concrete, he could have easily killed him or gave him irreversible physical damage. (not even talking about physiological damage) Does that mean we need to get rid of all sidewalks?  Stop making cement?  Could Mr. Martin have obtained an illegal gun and used it on Mr. Zimmerman?  Sure, especially with a person known to abuse drugs, and we all know that illegal guns and drugs tend to go hand-in-hand.  That wasn’t the case in this particular incident, but it’s a strong reality.

Piper-Cousins-Deer-Hunting-1989-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Chad, Ryan & Jeremy deer hunting. Everyone filled their tags that year! 1989

Anything could be used to kill, a tall building, a kitchen knife, a box cutter!  Granted, guns could be used more efficiently with creating more damage, but not in every case.  A plane was used in 911, killing way more people than an automatic weapon ever was capable of, without the use of a single gun.  We as people are never going to learn unless we start looking and understanding the true source of crime, of destruction, of evil.  I mean the true source, not the easiest or the most popular, but the deepest rooted problems.  The real problems that might be tough to talk about, that might not be able to be fixed overnight and would take time and dedication to solve, the darkest corners.  Yes those problems that never seem to be brought to light.  And I believe it all starts with family and family life.

This thought was best addressed by the person responsible for my lead quote.  I specifically chose him for a reason.  I felt his words needed to be heard again and Darrell Scott really hit the nail on the head and called out the source of the violence and grief, the bottom line, the real issue.

Grandpap-Chester Aunt Heather Piper

Could be my grandpap Chester or his brother, my Uncle Frank during World War II

On April 20, 1999 fifteen students died and many more were injured during the Columbine School Massacre.  Some may not realize that Darrell Scott, the gentlemen I used to quote from, was the father of two of those children who were there that day.  His daughter Rachel Joy Scott was killed.  Did he blame the guns?  Nope!  He did not.  And you might be surprised to find out that he wasn’t a hunter, he didn’t even own a firearm.  In fact, he gave a very powerful statement to a small house subcommittee when taking about the incident.  He spoke of the nature of man,  good verses evil.

He’s right we all have free will, that’s how God made us!  We choose to do right and we choose to do wrong.  Granted sometimes accidents happen and there are misjudgements, but we have to look into our hearts and see the intent.  That’s what makes all the difference, the intent.  A person who intentionally shows the good deeds he’s done is certainly not walking side-by-side with God as another who does good for the sake of doing it, not just for show.  Same goes for the opposite.  George Zimmerman’s intent wasn’t to just start blasting away, and it certainly was not race related.  It was self defense.

Believe it or not, there was a time in history when guns didn’t exist.  And believe it or not, there was still death at the hands of our fellow neighbors.  It’s certainly not the fault of the gun, but solely at the hand of one controlling it.

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Dad turkey hunting…I guess it was a good day! This was before dad quit chewing tobacoo! I see the side chew

Recently, when we had an issue with our dogs Dog Gone Irony!, who ran off and got lost for a couple days, I went hiking through unfamiliar woods trying to locate our delinquents.  Before I set out, I packed my book bag with a few necessities, including my .22 pistol.  Not a large or extremely powerful weapon, yet if needed it would get the job done.  I felt safer, not from people, although if I did encounter a stranger, particularly one without good intentions I was glad I was packing heat, but my immediate concern was animals, specifically bears or mountain lions which have been spotted in the area.  Really my thought was a mama bear and her cubs.  A dangerous encounter that would be scary and could have ended badly.

As I was hiking along, making my way through brush, creeks and trees, I thought, what if I didn’t have access to a gun?  Or worse, what if they were totally outlawed?  Then, basically that decision would take my safety away from me.  It’s not protecting the innocent, the law abiding citizens.  It’s protecting those who turn a blind eye to the law, to what’s right and choose to do harm.

Mom said she saw an interview on TV with a Jewish gentlemen who is pro gun, yet didn’t own a gun, never owned a gun and never even shot a firearm in his life.  Seriously?  Yes!  He said he was pro gun because he was from a time that most may not remember or even know about during World War II.  He commented that one of the first actions set in motion when Hitler started to take power, was to take away all firearms from the Jews.  The Jews couldn’t protect themselves, yet millions died and not all by firearms.

So is gun elimination or even gun control really make us that much better off?  Or does it make us sitting ducks?

 

Below is a portion of Darrell Scott’s transcript:

Since the dawn of creation there has been both good and evil in the hearts of men and women. We all contain the seeds of kindness or the seeds of violence.

The death of my wonderful daughter, Rachel Joy Scott, and the deaths of that heroic teacher and the other eleven children who died must not be in vain. Their blood cries out for answers.

The first recorded act of violence was when Cain slew his brother Abel out in the field. The villain was not the club he used. Neither was it the NCA, the National Club Association. The true killer was Cain, and the reason for the murder could only be found in Cain’s heart.

In the days that followed the Columbine tragedy, I was amazed at how quickly fingers began to be pointed at groups such as the NRA. I am not a member of the NRA.

I am not a hunter. I do not even own a gun. I am not here to represent or defend the NRA — because I don’t believe that they are responsible for my daughter’s death. Therefore I do not believe they need to be defended. If I believed they had anything to do with Rachel’s murder I would be their strongest opponent.

I am here today to declare that Columbine was not just a tragedy — it was a spiritual event that should be forcing us to look at where the real blame lies!

Much of the blame lies here in this room. Much of the blame lies behind the pointing fingers of the accusers themselves.

I wrote a poem just four nights ago that expresses my feelings best. This was written way before I knew I would be speaking here today:

Your laws ignore our deepest needs
Your words are empty air
You’ve stripped away our heritage
You’ve outlawed simple prayer

Now gunshots fill our classrooms
And precious children die
You seek for answers everywhere
And ask the question “Why”?

You regulate restrictive laws
Through legislative creed
And yet you fail to understand
That God is what we need

Men and women are three-part beings. We all consist of body, soul, and spirit. When we refuse to acknowledge a third part of our make-up, we create a void that allows evil, prejudice, and hatred to rush in and wreak havoc.

Spiritual influences were present within our educational systems for most of our nation’s history. Many of our major colleges began as theological seminaries. This is a historical fact. What has happened to us as a nation? We have refused to honor God, and in so doing, we open the doors to hatred and violence.

And when something as terrible as Columbine’s tragedy occurs — politicians immediately look for a scapegoat such as the NRA. They immediately seek to pass more restrictive laws that contribute to erode away our personal and private liberties.

We do not need more restrictive laws. Eric and Dylan would not have been stopped by metal detectors. No amount of gun laws can stop someone who spends months planning this type of massacre.

The real villain lies within our own hearts.

Political posturing and restrictive legislation are not the answers.

The young people of our nation hold the key. There is a spiritual awakening taking place that will not be squelched!

We do not need more religion. We do not need more gaudy television evangelists spewing out verbal religious garbage. We do not need more million dollar church buildings built while people with basic needs are being ignored.

We do need a change of heart and a humble acknowledgment that this nation was founded on the principle of simple trust in God!

As my son Craig lay under that table in the school library and saw his two friends murdered before his very eyes — He did not hesitate to pray in school. I defy any law or politician to deny him that right!

I challenge every young person in America, and around the world, to realize that on April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School prayer was brought back to our schools. Do not let the many prayers offered by those students be in vain.

Dare to move into the new millennium with a sacred disregard for legislation that violates your God-given right to communicate with Him.

To those of you who would point your finger at the NRA I give to you a sincere challenge. Dare to examine your own heart before casting the first stone!

My daughter’s death will not be in vain! The young people of this country will not allow that to happen!

Be courageous enough to do what the media did not — let the nation hear this man’s speech. Please send this out to everyone you can!!!

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

Planting Traditions

It is rather for us here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to the that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.  ~Abraham Lincoln

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Kyle really helped me arrange & plant the flowers for his dad’s grave. Great Memorial Day tradition. 5/26/13

Yes,  the annual tradition of planting flowers on the headstones of the beloved deceased relatives was this past weekend.  What a nice time to plant delicate color among the rows and rows of inexorable reminders of those who are living elsewhere.  Odd enough, I do enjoy it!  Sometimes it helps to lessen the pain of loss.

Of course, what’s not to love?  Picking out pretty flowers?  Digging in the dirt to plant spring? All while sitting in manicured green grass.  It’s actually quite enjoyable, especially on the ridge where we tend to Ryan’s, pap’s and baby Piper’s graves.  The Bethel Lutheran Cemetery sits on the edge of the woods and overlooks the countryside.  As long as we get an early start on the day, or like this year, go late in the evening when the blazing sun is ready to retire, it makes for a relaxing family activity.

But no matter if it’s early or late in the day, cloudy or sunny, I can be found wearing a hat and smelling heavily of sunscreen, 45+ for babies.  Kyle can test to that, for I coat him in a thick layer as well, to protect and preserve his flawless skin.  Mom, finds a shady spot to plant herself during the activity.  You might say we are sun sensitive people, minus dad.

While continuing tradition, something struck me as kind of funny.  We plant annuals, yes the plants that die once winter comes.  As opposed to perennials, which sprout up every year.  It’s true, years ago I planted bulbs on Ryan’s and pap’s plots so the tulips and daffodils are up once spring arrives, for Easter.  Besides that, the only flowers we plant are annuals.  It’s kind of funny, planting something that will die in a place full of dead people.  Almost reminiscent of their life, starting out as a seed from the ground, grew out of the dirt to grace the world with life and beauty, and then went back to the earth from whence it came.  So maybe the annuals are more appropriate than perennials?  After all, if life was intimating life in my crazy random thought, who wants the dead to come back to life and then die again, to repeat the steps every year?  Aren’t those considered zombies?  Although I can’t lie, I would love to hang out with Ryan again, but I know one day I will.

Uncle-Walter-&-Aunt-Mary-Headstone-2013-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Continuing our tradition, we planted flowers on Uncle Walter & Aunt Mary’s headstone. Uncle Walter was a merchant marine. Where did his flag go? 5/26/13

So annuals it is!  On another side note, I am well aware our beloved deceased relatives are not truly hanging out in cemeteries.  The headstones are a nice symbol to remind us of who they were and where they are now.  It gives us a place to physically visit their memory.  Plus let’s face it, cemeteries are very peaceful and almost refreshing.

Quick story.  After Scooby, our Lab, had surgery to remove the tumor under his chin, he wasn’t allowed to run in the woods, for fear of ripping the stitches.  The poor dog wanted to go on our daily walks so bad!  To accommodate our pup, I modified the route to include the neighboring cemetery, which is positioned on the side of a small hill. Better exercise for me and for the dogs to run up and down.  The boys run free, with their shock collars strapped to their necks of course, in case of disobedience.  However, they do listen pretty good.

Anyway, as we rounded the bend to enter the cemetery, it dawned on me, ‘What if they have to expel waste?’  Yikes!  I would never want the dogs to crap in front of someone’s plot, nor pee on their headstone!  I watched them run around and you know what?  They used the edge of the woods to do their business.  Amazing!  It’s like the dogs had respect for the dead.  Now if dogs know better, why don’t some humans?  So basically those individuals who vandalize cemeteries are less than dogs?  Sounds about right!

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More tradition of planting flowers on Uncle Frank & Aunt Kathryn’s headstone 5/26/13

This year Nicole was home.  We packed up the vehicle and headed out to our first stop, Saint Joseph’s Cemetery, in Derry.  My cousin John usually tends to his parents, but the weather was not cooperating prior to Memorial weekend.  He and his family were on vacation at the Outer Banks.  Lucky devil!  No worries, I needed to visit Uncle Frank and Aunt Kathryn’s anyway.

Then, we headed back to Latrobe to make a big stop at Saint Vincent’s Cemetery.  I really do love that cemetery.  It’s always well kept and sits on the outskirts of the college.  We planted mom’s parents and her grandparents.  We also had the privilege of making a stop by my Uncle Walter and Aunt Mary’s to spread more colorful cheer.  My cousin Paula was not able to get to her parents.  Again, no worries we were in the area and I do love giving back to the family, even though it’s in the form of parking a few flowers.  To give respect for my family living and deceased, in addition to planting flowers, I clean off their headstones and clean up the area to make it nice and presentable.  I believe the graves are an extension from our homes, after all it’s ground that we own, similar to our places of residence.

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After a day flower planting traditions, we headed out to the backyard for a campfire. Love mountain pies! Aunt Nikki & Kyle warmed up by the fire. 5/26/13

Next we headed up on the ridge.  Ryan’s takes me a bit longer because I sit and plan out his flowers and I have a little bit bigger area to fill.  This year Kyle really participated.  I mean, in the past he’s always helped me plant and clean up trash and such, but this year he gave his sincerest opinion and assistance.  He told me which flowers he wanted on his dad’s headstone and thought out the arrangement they were to be placed.  Great!  He also really dug in and helped, not just going through the motions, but giving a heartfelt desire to make things nice.  That’s my buddy!

I always enjoy planting flowers and tending to the headstones, but this year was even better!  Kyle and I shared the longing to honor and remember our loved ones.  I hope, one day this tradition takes roots in Kyle, especially after I’m long gone.

Hint:  Petunias are pretty, come in a variety of colors and are hardy.

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

65th Annual Piper Reunion

A tree without roots will fall over.  ~unknown

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Me & Ryan teaming up for games...Elizabeth & Mikey in the background. Piper Reunion c. 1987

This past Sunday marked the 65th Annual Piper Reunion.  The Piper Reunion is always on the third Sunday of July, usually following the Stahlstown Fair.  What an event!  To help bring in the celebration we had a pig roast this year.  Everyone donated towards the pig and as tradition dictates, every family brings a covered dish.  However, I remember long ago it was established that every family bring their own picnic lunch.  I prefer the covered dish approach so much better, to get a sample of everything.  Regardless, we are never without food!  There is a spread of main dishes, side dishes and an entire section of desserts.  A feast fit for a…Piper!

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Sonny, Uncle Ray & Dad - 65th Piper Reunion 7/15/12

The Reunion is always held at my cousin Pete and Pat’s house.  Again that wasn’t always so.  For years we had the Piper Reunion at the Flax Scutching Grounds.  My Uncle Ray told my Aunt Connie about the first Piper Reunion, it took place in an orchard up on the ridge.  I guess that year, Uncle Ray and bunch of people made tables for the event.  Little did they know that, that was going to start a tradition that lasted nearly three quarters of a century, and counting.  I’m still trying to uncover a picture taken from the very first reunion.  Putting it in perspective, my parents weren’t born yet and my pappy was a younger guy.  I’d really like to see the crew that started all this.

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Kyle playing in the volleyball sand court. Piper Reunion 2009

Having the reunion in the middle of July, it’s usually hot.  This year it rained off and on and was very humid, even up on the ridge where it’s usually ten degrees cooler.  The sun did manage to make its appearance allowing us to continue our annual activities of swimming, fishing, driving golf balls, volleyball and horse shoe.  On Pete and Pat’s property they have a merry-go-round, a swing set and a few other playground items on the far end of the yard for the kids to play on.  Not to mention the trampoline is always hit with the middle aged kids.  As far as the younger kids are concerned, throughout the day you could find them turning the sand volleyball court into a sandbox, digging and driving trucks around.  The swimming pool is a nice refreshing treat for kids and adults alike.  Pete and Pat have an in ground swimming pool with a diving board and a slide.  Down over the hill they have a pond for fishing.  At the top of the hill, usually the guys get together to drive goal balls.  Yep there’s a little something for everyone.  When the reunion was held at the Flax Scutching Grounds, the committee members would put together games for the kids to participate in and the adults just sat around and sucked up oxygen.  There was a baseball field on the grounds that we would get a game going, sometimes of adults and kids.  But that was the extent of the activities.

As Kyle and I pulled in this year, he remembered a few years ago someone hit a golf ball into the back bumper of dad’s truck.  Whoever drove the golf ball must have really hit it with such force because, pardon the pun, it left a golf ball size dent in the steel bumper of the truck.  I remember the guilty party came forward to claim his accident but dad just laughed and brushed it off.  I can’t believe Kyle remembered that!

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Denny & Aunt Mary Piper Piper Reunion 2009

Throughout the day we sell 50/50 tickets and we have a Chinese Auction.  All the money goes back into the Piper Reunion fund, our ‘kiddie’ to help purchase paper products, the port-o-john, the keg of beer, drinks and any other miscellaneous items for the next year.  We also give out prizes for the recently married, longest married, oldest man, oldest women, and youngest baby.  Sometimes we sell T-shirts, hats and mugs marking an anniversary year.  Actually since this was that year, we were going to do have items printed, however everyone was too busy and we ran out of time, maybe for the 70th.

For the 60th anniversary we had a scavenger hunt.  It was really a lot of fun.  Everyone got a list of items they needed to find and bring to the reunion beforehand.  Most families teamed up since there were sixty hard to find items on the list.  Mom and I worked together. I believe we were able to uncover fifty-five or fifty-six pieces.  Just to give an example of some of the items: an old coke bottle, an old fashion iron, a concert ticket stub, moonshine, and a picture from the very first reunion, which no one was able to dig up.  Then on the day of the reunion, a member of The Piper Reunion Committee went around to check to see who had obtained the most items on the list.  Actually I think we did place, but I can’t remember.  Mom and I both had people at work help us hunt down a few of the items.  That was really a lot of fun, even for none family members.

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Ricky Piper & Kyle at Piper Reunion 2002

Yep, we have our very own Piper Reunion Committee, which consists of a President, Vice President and  a Secretary/Treasurer.  They are voted in every two years during the meeting, the day of the reunion.  The meeting is called to order after everyone eats and participates in the day’s events.  It’s really very informal.  The committee members are in charge of the ‘kiddie’ and making decisions for the next reunion, such as printing T-shirts or having a pig roast, which only happens during an anniversary year.  They have to administer the invitations, purchase the eating utensils, make sure the signs are put up and taken down on the day of the event, and let’s not forget getting the keg of beer.  Last year I missed the reunion because the day before I was moving the keg of beer into mom and dad’s refrigerator in the garage and pulled my back out.  I was being too impatient to wait for dad, and we had to get to church.  Lesson learned!  I missed the Stahlstown fireworks that night and the reunion the following day.  The committee members are also responsible for setting up and tearing down tables on the day of the party.  All basic stuff, but needs to be delegated to ensure everything gets done.  Of course everyone pitches in to make the event a nice time.

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Elizabeth, Nicole, Ryan & Me are in the center -Piper Reunion c. 1987 at Flax Scutching Grounds, Stahlstown

I must say, I do look forward to the Piper Reunion.  It’s nice to see family members whom I may only get to see once or twice a year, like my Uncle Ray.  Usually it’s because of a funeral or a wedding.  No fault to anyone, it’s the same story, every gets busy.  Uncle Ray, my pappy’s brother is a great guy who’s health is declining, as usually what happens when you’re older than the reunion itself.  Although he is still a Piper through and through.  Love that!  This year he won for oldest guy.  Way to go Uncle Ray!  In the past, I remember my Aunt Mary took that prize for oldest woman.  She died a few years ago at the ripe old age of 93.

There’s always the new generation of kids running around, continuing the cycle of Piper tradition.  Most of the Piper’s have always lived on the ridge, but in recent times, a lot have moved away or are so busy we don’t visit like we used to as kids.  The reunion usually turns out a couple hundred people, although in recent years the numbers have been dwindling.  People move away, get busy and I’m sure the list goes on and on.  It really is a nice time and I’m glad that I have been part of such a strong tradition and we’re able to share it with Kyle.   The Piper Reunion is a way for Kyle to get to know his extended family.   A couple of years ago, we were at the reunion and I told Kyle to go play with his cousins.  He looked at me with a very puzzled expression.  He didn’t understand that all the kids running around were his cousins.  I pointed out that just about everyone here was related in some way.  He stopped, looked around at all the people mingling and shooting the breeze.  He said in disbelief, “These are all my cousins?” and my mom and I said, “Well yes Kyle, we are at the Piper Reunion.”  I guess it never dawned on him.  But I think he was in shock over the sheer numbers.  To this day, I still don’t think Kyle understands how large our family extends.  I hope he always remains apart of the Piper tradition and eventually really gets to know the entire family.

 

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

Memorial Day Tradition

Other things may change us, but we start and end with family.  ~Anthony Brandt

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Kyle helping with his dad's flowers. Pap's headstone is in the background. 5/26/12

Every year since I can remember, my mom and I have been going to the cemeteries to plant flowers at the headstones of deceased family members.  Specifically, my mom’s parents and her grandparents.  Before my Aunt Katherine passed away, mom and I would also take Aunt Katherine to plant flowers on Uncle Frank’s headstone, her husband.  Uncle Frank and my grand pap Chester were brothers, so there’s the relation.  Participating in this tradition has allowed me to have a comfortableness with final resting places.  Little did I know, what eventually was down the road, now the present, has helped bring a sort of peace to me with death, loss and tragedy.  I have practically grown up with such a familiarity for Saint Vincent and Bethel Cemeteries that they are like an extension to me, my peaceful place.  Planting flowers is one of those small gestures that really mean a lot, makes me feel like I’m doing something for someone else, even if they are no longer physically with us.  It is also a way of getting to know those who have moved on before my time.  You see, inevitably there is always a story or two that was brought about while tending to their occupied space.  So in a way mom and I have a good time planting.

This past weekend continued our family tradition.  Some years my dad and sister would join us and ever since Kyle was able to walk, we’ve brought him along.  He’s great company, a big help and it’s important that Kyle knows the family, experiences a family tradition and Kyle has the opportunity to visit his dad’s final resting place.  We talk about Ryan, but it’s another gesture to keeping his spirit alive and the with days going by so quickly, it’s easy to have an extended period of time pass before making an appearance.

Without sounding morbid or demented in any way, I will admit I truly enjoy this repetition in history.  Going to the greenhouse to pick out the flowers, visiting all the grave sites, digging up the ground and making them look cheerful and inviting.  Freshly planted flowers shows someone was there, someone is missed, and someone cared about them.

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Kyle taking a break by Gigi...it was already getting hot out. 5/26/12

Each year I would pick a theme, either a certain color motif or specific flowers.  This year since we’ve already had such an early spring, and a hot one at that, I talked to the greenhouse lady and she suggested waxed begonia’s since they do well in the heat and they will bush out and fill up the space.  Sold!  This year we planted four colors of waxed begonias.  While at the greenhouse, I always get a variety of flowers to plant at my house as well, along with the left overs from the cemetery.

Kyle is always a big help, but this year he really pulled through for me!  He carried the flowers back and forth, watered all the freshly planted greenery, removed the trash, filled up and carried water containers and helped dig a few holes.  Now, I am not a big fan of direct sunlight, being fair skinned I burn!  To get around the inevitable and to ‘beat the heat’ so to say, we started our tasks early.  Getting up around 6:00 am, we were out the door by 7:00 – 7:30 am.  I think by that time, the temperature already reached the 70s.  At it’s highest on Saturday I think it topped off in the 90s.  Crap it was hot!  Most cemeteries are laid out in the open sky, under the direct sunlight, which held true for our locations.  By the time we hit our last stop, Bethel Cemetery on the ridge, it was HOT and it was around noon, the hottest part of the day.  Kyle was so kind as to hold a golf umbrella over both of us while I planted.  Believe it or not it made a difference, the sun wasn’t searing our skins and there was a noticeable temperature change in the shade.  Mom sat in the shade most of the day since her joints where talking back and she was showing clear signs of old age.  Mom acted as our GPS all day, getting me to the cemeteries and pointing where the plots were location.  As I’ve mentioned, I am Directionally Challenged.

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Aunt Katherine and Uncle Frank's headstone

Going in chronological order, we first hit Saint Joseph’s Cemetery to address Aunt Katherine’s and Uncle Frank’s headstone.  Usually my cousin John takes care of his parents’ plots but he wasn’t able to make it out from Philadelphia this year.  That gave me the honor of taking the responsibility and gave me an excuse to visit, since I haven’t been there in quite some time.  My Uncle Frank died when I was in the third grade or so, but my Aunt Katherine passed away years later.  She was a great lady, very feisty, strong willed.  I loved her spirit!  She was an old lady with a fight left in her until she passed away.  My mom and I would help her get groceries once every few weeks or so, whenever she needed them.  She would walk through the grocery store and read all the labels.  As a kid I would get impatient, never showing that to her, but expressing it to my mom.  Looking back on it now, I’m turning into that person and I have to laugh because I really enjoyed going grocery shopping with Aunt Katherine.  Not only was she a spitfire but she was also hard of hearing.  Not to be rude, but most people who are hard of hearing crack me up!  She never understood what I was saying, I guess I didn’t speak loud enough, although my mom had no trouble communicating with Aunt Katherine.  Hearing them walk through the store was like two people using bull horns to communicate.  She was  such a great lady, she would always say something funny toward me to keep in included in their conversation.  Sometimes it was just an ornery grin and a nob of the head, but I understood and smiled.

As were planting the headstones, I remembered the times we would pick up Aunt Katherine.  She would never hear us knocking at the door and she certainly never heard us letting ourselves in. There was the occasional scare, which is not a good thing to do to an elderly woman, as we came around the corner.  However, Aunt Katherine did get us back, sometimes when we would pick her up, she would lay down on the couch to rest before the big adventure.  Naturally she wouldn’t hear us walking through the door as she laid on her back, on the couch resting.  I never wanted to be the one to nudge Aunt Katherine and wake her, just in case God made a visit.  I would observe from a distance to see if her chest was rising and falling as mom would try to be subtle.  Once after waking her from her nap, she told me and mom about a dream she had either that day or shortly before.  Now, keep in mind, I was preteen or in my early teens when she told the story, so I know I don’t remember all the details, but she talked about this angel who was hovering over her while she laid on the couch.  Actually that story never scared me, but was very intriguing.

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Aunt Mary & Uncle Walter's headstone

Even as a kid I always enjoyed Aunt Katherine’s company and her determination. When she would talk to mom and mention how tired she was, mom would ask her, “Well Aunt Katherine, what did you do today?” with a reply of “I had to scrub down the walls.” or “I needed to clean out the cupboards.”  It was an endless cycle that my mom couldn’t understand, but I got it, I knew exactly where she was coming from.  Boy, I do miss Aunt Katherine!  One day I’ll also talk about Uncle Frank, I don’t want to shun him out, but that’s for another story.

Yep, once we hit Saint Joesph’s Cemetery we headed for Saint Vincent’s Cemetery.  This one was the big stop on our tour.  As every year dictates we stop at grand pap Chester’s, mom’s mom, and her grand pap and grand ma’s sites.  Days before we leave to go on our excursion, mom calls around to see if anyone wants us to swing by their family plot and tend to them.  This year my cousin Paula asked that we take care of her parents.  Paula’s dad and my grand pap Chester were brothers and she was Ryan’s godmother.  Again, it really is not a chore in the slightest, I do enjoy planting the flowers and visiting.  This year we stopped by my Aunt Mary and Uncle Walter’s headstone and added them to our list.

Two cemeteries down, and we planted eight plots, and that wasn’t even my big order.  Once we make our way to the ridge, that’s my last stop and one that consumes a good part of the day.  I do spend a lot of time at my brothers headstone.  Not to discredit the planting I do for everyone else, but I will admit I do take a little extra time and plant probably way too many flowers on Ryan’s.  By the time we wrap up pap’s, baby Piper’s and Dale’s- a friend of the family’s, I am beat and ready to call it a day.  But it certainly is a day of satisfaction and peace, always looking forward to it the next year.

Yep I truly enjoy this tradition.  As weird as it may sound I plan around it and look forward to it every year.  Pardon the pun, but I have a feeling I will be keeping this tradition alive, only I will have a few more stops to make.

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