The Open Roads With a Driving Permit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kyle never slammed on the breaks when he realized he was going to fast or when he was easing into a stop sign or red light. Sometimes his stop was a little rushed but not totally abrupt.  I did explain about people rear-ending him and trying to avoid collisions, his fault or not.  His advance was sometimes a rushed.  I told to relax with the gas peddle, we weren’t in the Fast and the Furious.  We weren’t drag racing anyone.  He laughed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He drove us home at night too.

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

 

Added:  8/27/17

On Monday August 21, 2017 was a solar eclipse.  Pretty cool.  It took place around 2:00 p.m.  I texted Kyle and told him he needed to go out and drive around during the natural phenomenon so he could write down in his ledger about the weather conditions.  His response.  Nothing.

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

From February Till Now, A Summary of Kyle

Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.  ~J.D. Salinger

Planinsek Fishing Derby Kyle & a hug Aunt Heather Piper 5-13-17

I love my little man, who is now as tall as me! Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/13/2017

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I released a blog post.  The end of January.  Yikes!  I’ve thought about it, then got sidetracked or ran out of time.  Where have I been?  Bombarded with work, that’s where.  Marketing has kept me a pretty busy lady.  But the bigger question is, what’s Kyle been up to?

Let me give a monthly recap.

February

I really don’t remember what went on in February.  At least nothing so monumental that it warrants a call out.  We didn’t have much of a winter.  When snow did fall, I asked Kyle to go snowboarding, but my invitation was quickly declined.  He had other plans.  (Probably nothing)  He stated that he still likes snowboarding but wasn’t interested when asked.

Originally, I wanted to take Kyle and a few of his friends to Seven Springs.  However, the way the snow landed, or lack there of, I wasn’t given much notice to plan a trip to the slopes.  Personally, I want to see if Kyle remembers how to snowboard.  I also want him to feel comfortable again on the mountain without fear of him hurting himself.  I guess there’s always next year.  Maybe I’ll plan a trip out west. It’s been a while since I’ve ridden any real mountains and Kyle’s never had the chance.  Making a mental note.

March

First Day of Fishing Kingston Kyle 4-16-17 Aunt Heather Piper

First Day of FISHING! Kingston 4/16/2017

Again, another month without the steady presence of Kyle.  I do miss my little man.  This is in such contrast to when Kyle was a youngster.  He was around all the time.  I could count on him to answer my calls, my text messages and even Facetime me, talk and hang out.  He never passed up an opportunity to do something fun together.  Actually, it didn’t need to be fun, he was game to do anything as long as I was there doing it with him. (Yes that included cleaning)

It just goes to show, appreciate what you have when you have it.  I guess fifteen is the rejection age.  Although, this has been going on for about a year and a half since he was thirteen – fourteen.  Now I want to know when will it end and I get my buddy back?  Of course, I wouldn’t want to hang around a family that yells and argues all the time either.  I know he gets enough of that at home.

April

Kyle Derek Logan Band Concert 5-2-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle, Derek & Logan watching the other band performances. Lookin’ good guys! 5/2/2017

Holidays are always a great excuse to see friends and family.  Kyle can’t escape hanging with his aunt for Easter.

A Saturday in either March or April
I got a call that Kyle wanted picked up.  Great!  Did I mind it was last minute and I had to change my plans to accommodate him?  Never.  I was excited to see my guy.

As recent history dictated, Kyle was quite on the ride.  When I asked him questions, he either shrugged his shoulders or gave his typical answers, “Good”, “No”, “Fine” or “I don’t know.”  Good talk buddy!

As we were driving to my parents house to visit, I got a great idea.  Knowing Kyle would be turning sixteen in July, I thought I’d surprise him with a little driving lesson.  For a change, we weren’t in a hurry and it was a lovely day.  Why not?

I pulled into the cemetery near my parent’s without informing Kyle of my plan.  I put the car in park and got out and walked around to the passenger side.  Kyle began to freak out like he was in trouble.  I definitely sported a snicker.  I opened the passenger door to find Kyle getting defensive and not willing to leave his seat.  I told him my plans and his response?  “But I’m not sixteen yet, I’m not allowed to drive.”  Kyle was always like that, never willing to break the rules, no matter.  My reply?  “Do you think you should wake up on your sixteenth birthday and be allowed to get behind the wheel on the highway without a little practice?  Besides, I’ve already had you driving since you were little.”

Kyle at Fishing Derby 5-13-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle waiting for the big one at the Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/13/2017

Believe it or not, Kyle argued with me.  What kid does that?  Most teens would be all too excited to take the wheel, especially with me, who’s not going to freak out if he hits something.  I did mention, “This is where I learned to drive, of course I drove a stick on the hill.  But it’s a good place, no one’s around and everyone’s already dead.”  He gave me an uneasy look.  “The most I’ll have to do is owe someone a new headstone, so try and stick to the road.”  I was graced with a smirk for my candor.

After a little attitude, I got Kyle to drive.  I enforced using his turn signal (good habit) and showed him other basic car features.

He was pretty steady, although, Kyle did give me a fright when he approached a turn, that if not addressed properly would have resulted in us flying down over an embankment.  He was going to make the left turn but he was moving a bit too fast (not that he reached 10 miles an hour, but it was still too fast for the situation, especially a first time driver).  I grabbed the oh S#@$ handles and used my imaginary break.  My actions received me a full blown smile from my young driver.  Let it be known I never yelled.

Kyle by fire at Fishing Derby 5-13-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle playing games by the fire at the Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/13/2017

As we began our decent down the grade, after he made the bend without launching us over the side of a cliff (large gully), it resulted in another sharp left turn.  This one I wasn’t so worried about.  The most Kyle could do was run into the grass.  As we approached the turn, it went something like this:

Me:  Better go slower.
Kyle:  I got it.
Me:  Left turn signal and you better slow down.  Cut your wheel sharp at the bottom.
Kyle:  (He used his turn signal) I know.
Me:  Kyle, you’re going to run off the road if you don’t go even slower and tighten your turn.
Kyle:  I’m good.
Me:  We’re going off the road.
Kyle ran off the road mid turn into the grass.  No damage but I did give him a look of listen next time.
Kyle: Oh, I guess we’re off the road.
Me:  Umm (I wasn’t mad in the slightest, infact I started to laugh at his funny expression)
Kyle chuckled and did as I instructed to give a little gas as to not dig up the grass.  He got back on the road and continued.

We ended up doing a couple loops around the cemetery.  The second, he clearly showed more confidence and skill.  He did a great job.  I even had him pull onto the road and drive into my parents driveway.  More to come regarding Kyle driving.

Friday, April 15, 2017 – Sunday, April 16, 2017

Fishing Derby Prizes 5-13-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle hanging out with cousins at the Planinsek Fishing Derby, waiting for the prizes. 5/13/2017

Easter weekend.  We actually got Kyle on Friday, which was a nice surprise.  Me, Dad and Kyle caught up on our Fast & Furious movies, watching the marathon on television.  True to Kyle, he turned out all the lights to create the optimum movie watching environment.  It was a nice relaxing evening.  My sister came in late Friday night with Acorn.  The house was alive with activity.

On Saturday, we got up early for the first day of fishing.  Me, Dad and Kyle went to Kingston to fish our limit in trout.  We caught a few rainbows but mostly brook trout.  I was stuck cleaning a majority of the fish.  Kyle did lend a delicate hand, but he’s still not a fan of guts and blood and reluctantly assisted.  Dad sat there and critiqued my fish gutting abilities.  Although, I’ll give Dad credit, he did scale the rainbow.

Fishing was a blast, I saw Kyle smile and enjoy himself on a number of occasions.  He even put his phone away to focus.

Planinsek Fishing Derby Kyle Fishing 5-13-17 Aunt Heather Piper

My fisherman! My job was to catch the fish & bait the hook. Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/13/2017

Funny story.  Dad caught this HUGE trout, I mean BIG.  I’m surprised it didn’t break his pole.  We added the fish to our cooler of ice along with the other catches.

Kyle happened to be standing by the cooler when all of a sudden the monster sized fish, that was on ice for at least fifteen minutes, tried to make its escape.  The fish jumped out of the cooler.  (Yes the lid was closed and it still was able to project itself out) Kyle jumped.  He thought I threw something at the cooler, I was startled, thinking Kyle knocked the cooler over.  Dad focused on his fishing and only gave us a curious glance.  When Kyle looked down to see the behemoth fish flopping around, the truth dawned on us.  We looked at each other in shock and began laughing.  Kyle’s hands were full, I believe he was reeling in another trout, so I scooped up the slimy vertebrate and placed it back in the cooler.  It was a great fishing day!  (Secret: I’m still the worst fisherman in the family.  Dad remains at number one and Kyle is a close second.  I’m by far last, even after Nicole.)

Later, after we cleaned up and ate, Nicole, me and Kyle went to the movies to continue where we left off the night before with The Fate of the Furious, the most recent movie.

Earlier, I cornered Nicole to suggest we leave early and head to the cemetery for a little more practice in a different vehicle.  I said, “Just pull into the cemetery and don’t say anthing.”  Nicole giggled and was excited to join in on this milestone.

Once Nicole put the car in park, Kyle smiled knowing what she had in mind.  Without insidence Kyle changed seats with his Aunt.  I was in the backseat like Driving Miss Daisy.  In fact, Kyle seemed exctied to be practicing.  He did better than before and Nicole’s SUV is a lot bigger than mine.  Great practice.

We had a good time at the movies.  Hearing Kyle laugh out loud totally cracked me up.  His humor lights up my world even in the middle of a dark movie theater.  Those moments are most precious to me.  He has a great laugh.  It reminds me of his Dad’s.  Even the way he rolls his eyes, or grins, I see Ryan.

Kyle Band Concert 5-2-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle at his spring concert sporting a tuxedo! Handsome guy. 5/2/2017

Would you believe Kyle ordered his usual, the Miss Piggy sandwich?  It’s nice to see some things never change.  He is definitely a creature of habit.  Now I have to get him out of the habit of ignoring us and we’re all set.

Once Sunday rolled around we went to church and came home to grub up.  Kyle stayed for most of the day before asking to leave.  I took him home.

While heading out to the driveway, I ran past him and darted for the passenger side.  Kyle stood there stunned.  He said, “I can’t drive all the way home.”  Oh, goodness no.  I told him I wasn’t suicidal.  I wanted him to practice backing out of the driveway.  If he can master mom and dad’s driveway and then my Uncle Walter’s, he was good to go in reverse.

While backing out, he snaked the straight path slightly, but overall did a great job.  On the one side of the driveway is the front yard, no big deal.  However, on the other side, it slopes down into my Uncle’s field.  To reassure Kyle in case of a lapse in reverse judgement, I said, “Don’t worry, if you go down over the bank, you won’t be the first, Pappy did it with the Honda once.”  That cracked me up and Kyle seemed relieved.  He tried to use the turnaround at the bottom of the driveway, but I wouldn’t let him.  I wanted him to get a feel for looking both ways, pulling out onto the road and not running into the ditch.  He drove us partially off the ridge back to the cemetery where we changed roles.

On our ride home I busted out laughing.  Curious, he asked, what?  I said, “You back up better than your Aunt Nikki.”  He found humor in that very true statement.  My sister backs out of the driveway live she’s trying to purposly miss the road, and she’s been practicing since before she was sixteen.  I guess she’s pretty consistent too.

Another true to form, Kyle fell asleep in the car.  He did that as a young tyke and is taking up the habit again.  I don’t mind.  I’m still hanging out with him, even if he is unconscience.

May

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Kyle smiling at band concert 5-2-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle trying not to smile Spring Band Concert. Great job buddy! 5/2/2017

About mid-day, I get a call from mom telling me Kyle called and he had a band concert that evening at school, which is over an hour away.  A little inconvenient, but I was excited he called to inform us, knowing I’d be upset if I missed it.

I shut down work early, canceled my evening plans and got ready.

Kyle was first tuba chair!  What a pleasant surprise.  AND he was wearing a tuxedo!  He looked so handsome, I just wanted to squeeze him and never let go.  (That would have been when hell froze over, the day Kyle would let me do that, especially in front of all his friends and their parents.)

I enjoyed the evening of music and special honors for the seniors.  I came home with a permanent smile on my face.  Seeing Kyle simply made me happy.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

First Day of Fishing Kyle & Dad Aunt Heather Piper 4-16-17

Kingston fishing for the first day, Dad & Kyle leading the way. 4/16/2017

Mother’s Day, which also marks the weekend of the Annual Planinsek Fishing Derby.  The kids are permitted to fish from sixteen years and younger.  Kyle has one more year.

He didn’t want to stop up for the bonfire on Friday night but requested we be there for 7:00 am breakfast.  I believe we made it by 7:30 am since Kyle had a hard time getting up.  He is certainly going through a growth spirt and he needs to learn to go to bed earlier.

He had a nice time fishing and playing dodge ball with the kids.  I enjoyed socializing and relaxing.

At the end, they fill picnic tables of toys and stuff for the kids.  I wasn’t sure if Kyle wanted me to purchase him tickets or not, so I did.  The first couple of times Kyle’s name was called, he took a variety of items, then he began to give away his turns to his cousins, Grant, Olivia, Piper, Owen, Lilia, Hailie, Mattox, Caleia and Kelsey.  That was nice seeing Kyle think of them.  Not only that, he also walked each child up to the table to help them pick out a prize.  Kyle’s a good kid.

Another funny story.  Kyle insisted he wasn’t going to be cold, even though it was chilly in the morning and the ridge is always colder.  Just in case, I packed an extra hoodie, socks and a change of cloths for Kyle.  Next thing I know, I saw Kyle zipping up the extra hoodie, that is until the sun peaked around noon.  When it comes to dressing and preparing for the weather, he never listens.

Monday, May 29, 2017
Memorial’s Day.  I was asked to chaperon the parade in Vandergrift for Kiski Marching Band.  Looking forward to seeing Kyle, everyone was asking me where he was.  I honestly had no idea.  I texted him and surprisingly he anwered me back.  He was sick.  I felt bad and offered to bring him ice-cream.  He declined.  I missed him terrribly.

June

June 25, 2017 – June 29, 2017

Kyle Playing in Band Concert 5-2-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle playing the tuba at his spring band concert. Lead chair! 5/2/2017

This was Aunt Nikki and Kyle’s Week of Fun trip.  Where to?  Iceland.  Kyle seemed pretty excited, or at least as excited as he gets.  Nicole said they had a great time but it was cold.

Another funny story.  Kyle is notorious for not being prepared for the weather, specifically the cold, as mentioned above.  Before he left I asked him, “Are you good with packing?  Did you need me to get you anything?  Did you pack a pair of jeans and hoodie?”  Kyle’s entire response, “I’m good.”  Of course you are…

Nicole said when they got there it was around 40 degrees and the wind made it colder.  She said it was at that moment Kyle, who was obviously shivering (although he would never admit to it) informed her that he didn’t bring pants, only shorts.  Are you kidding me buddy?  You were going to ICELAND.  I’m guessing the irony had no effect on him. Nicole took our frozen package shopping and spent a lot of money to keep him comfortable.  I guess we’ll forever have a funny story.

When they got back, Nicole told us about the unplanned shopping trip.  I looked at Kyle half joking and said, “You suck at packing and being prepared.”  Kyle shrugged his shoulders.  He didn’t care.  I suppose I’m okay with him not sweating the small stuff and I guess shopping for jeans was minor.

Over the course of the weekend, Nicole and Kyle shared stories about their adventures.  I’ve always been happy to see Kyle explore the world and enjoy life.  He definitely has the Piper travel bug.  A good quality to have.

July

Spring Concert Band Booklet 5-2-2017 Aunt Heather PiperNow my rough timeline brings me up to last week.  Kyle, my Mr. Traveler, was at Northwestern University.  Yes, the college on the other side of Chicago.  Why was he there when he’s going to be junior in high school?  He’s smart.

Proudly, Kyle was informed that he was selected to represent Kiski at the National Student Leadership Council.  Way to go buddy!  Because of his interest in engineering, they outlined a select number of schools with that focus to include: Northwestern, UCLA, California at Berkley, Harvard Medical (biotechnology), Yale, Georgia Tech, Rice, American, Georgetown.

Kyle chose Northwestern.  Why?  I have no idea.  The last I heard he was thinking about Georgetown.  I would have chosen Yale or Harvard.  Why not?

Kyle got to spend a week on campus touring the facilities and studying his chosen specialty.  At the end he was to recieve a certificate of achievement and a letter of recommendation.  How cool is that?

I tried calling him to see how it went.  Nothing.  Crickets.  I hope he had a wonderful time.  What a great experience.

Well, those are some of the highlights for the first half of the year.  I also did some traveling to Salt Lake City, but only for work, nothing too exciting.  This week begins Kyle’s week long celebration for his birthday.  I hope I get to spend some good quality time with him. He’s a good egg and I love him to pieces.

Spring Concert Band Cover Booket 5-2-17 Aunt Heather Piper

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

Chaperoning the Kiski Area Marching Band

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you!

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

Pittsburgh – Night Out in the Big City Vol. 1

Sometimes I make bad decisions.  ~Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

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

tape recorder Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued…

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

Cruising the Open Seas

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

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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.

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“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

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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.

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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

I Met Annabelle!

There’s things that happen in a person’s life that are so scorched in the memory and burned into the heart that there’s no forgetting them.  ~John Boyne

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Skyping with Aunt Nikki … Kyle & I thought she looked creepy so we took a screen shot! 2012

Fall has always been my favorite time of the year, especially Halloween.  It’s also that time when all the ghosts and ghouls come out, especially on the big screen, but this one freaked me out.  For a few weeks now, the movie Annabelle has been advertising.  With the repeats of the advertisement, I had a weird feeling I’ve heard that story before, except I didn’t recollect the doll in the movie, just the name Annabelle and the story of a possessed doll.  Weird right?

With every advertisement and the mention the possessed Annabelle doll, my memory kept flickering to the past but couldn’t quite place it.  Then, it seemed like every time I searched the web using my iPhone or iPad, a pop up ad would appear with the face of this creepy doll, promoting the movie.  Let me tell you, it ALWAYS scared the crap out of me!  One, because it was the face of a creepy doll and two, I knew this story was familiar and it was haunting me.  Again, the doll’s face I didn’t recognize, yet the name Annabelle I knew.  I know, I sound like I was being hypersensitive to the ads, but they did feel like they were following me and I couldn’t shake the feeling I knew Annabelle.  What the heck?

As a kid, I did have a few dolls, mostly Barbie but I wasn’t one of those girls who kept them long, nor did I drag them around everywhere.  I had a blanket for that, which I won’t get into now, perhaps in time I’ll share the story of my banky (blanket).  So it’s not like baby dolls resonate with me or bring back childhood memories.  (Not like my blanket)  Why was I connecting with Annabelle?

Then, out of the blue it hit me.  I finally remembered the story I heard years ago.  I had to ask Nicole to confirm it and I was right!  While the commercial played its thirty second clip, my memory surfaced bringing with it a face of the person who told me the story, Lorraine Warren!  She’s the director of The New England Society for Psychic Research, and better known for her involvement in the Amityville horror case.  How in the world do I know her and why was she telling me the story of Annabelle?

There’s a very good explanation, my sister!  For years, my sister followed the Paranormal State crew around to the haunted places.  Let me step back to explain, Paranormal State was a paranormal reality television show on A&E.  The show’s stars were the members of the Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) Paranormal Research Society.  No joke!  A bunch of Penn State students created this club for dealing with creepy things.  I guess being a Penn State Alumna and a fan of all things haunted, Nicole’s interest found its home.

This group of ghost hunters traveled all around the United States conjuring up spirits.  Sometimes, they would hold seminars and give talks regarding their latest scary encounters and tell their ghost stories.  Naturally, Nicole followed the group on Facebook and Twitter and attended these events, sometimes dragging me along.  How could I resist an excuse to travel?

One trip I took with Nicole was to the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado in October of 2009.  Yes, the very hotel where the master of horror wrote The Shining, which I did get to see his room where he wrote the thriller, coincidentally our room was right beside it.

On a side note, the movie wasn’t actually shot at that location, but Dumb and Dumber was!  At least that’s what they told us when we toured the hotel.

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Kyle as Jay Jay the Jet Plane accompanied by is Aunt Nikki. At first he was afraid to put the costume on, thinking he was really going to fly away! 10/2004

Anyway, it was a fun trip, which included a Halloween party and bunch of paranormal seminars, which I did find some interest, but not like Nicole.  That’s when I first met Lorraine Warren and heard the story of Annabelle.  I must admit, I was quite intrigued and creeped out at the same time.  On that very trip, I also met Father Bob Bailey  from the Prasesidium Sancte Michele Arcangelo (The Praesidium of Warriors of St. Michael).  They are a group of trained priests who perform exorcisms and deal with demonic activity.  I know it sounds like a joke, but it’s true!  My CCD teacher informed our class a few years ago that the Catholic church was in the process of training additional priests to deal with the increase of demonic activity around the world.  Every diocese is to have one of these trained priests stationed on location to deal with any of these special cases.  It’s very real and I feel we need it.  After all, a perfectly normal man doesn’t just one day become possessed and start eating the face off of a homeless man for nothing, in the middle of a street, in the middle of the day.  I believe crazy events like this happen more than we are aware and demons are the root cause for these unusual and extreme inhuman cases.  www.foxnews.com/us/2012/05/29/victim-in-face-chewing-attack-identified-as-cops-recount-goriest-crime      

After my introduction of the paranormal gang, which all the attendees seemed to know each other for their shared interest and traveling together, I was requested by Nicole to meet her in Gettysburg, a year or two later for another weekend of spook fun.

Knowing I love Gettysburg, I couldn’t resist joining Nicole, not to mention Gettysburg isn’t that far from my house.  Deciding I didn’t want an entire weekend of chasing vapor around, I thought I’d take Kyle for an educational mini vacation.  Plus, it was an opportunity for Kyle to spend some time with his Aunt Nikki.  Ghostly Encounter in the Hallway

While we were there taking in the sights of all things historical, Nicole wanted to meet up with us occasionally.  I distinctly remember one of those meetings we met my sister.  That Friday night after we got in, we met Nicole at an old house of some sort.  It was very brisk outside while we waited in line in the dark with others of ghostly interests.

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Ferry kids trick-or-treating mom & dad & Kyle. 2003

On another side note, someone in front of us in line was smoking and the smoke kept blowing in our direction.  Poor Kyle, who has always suffered congestion and sinus issues, was coughing a little just getting over being sick.  Naturally, the toxic air seemed to head directly for his nose.  I know we were outside, but it still doesn’t take away the pollutants.  I’ve never hid my disgust for smoking, and Kyle is clearly aware of my feelings for the repulsive habit.  He also knows that smoke assists in making him sick and isn’t good for his little lungs.  As we stood there, Kyle tattled on these strangers, “Aunt Heather their smoking!  Tell them they can’t smoke around me.”  Yep, that’s my little man, stand up for yourself and call a spade a spade.  I was not happy about the smoke choking me either, so instead of making a scene, I moved us out of direct contact until it was our turn to enter the house.  Nicole took one for the team and kept our place in line.

Once we got inside, I fully understood what it was we were waiting to see, evil objects.  Yes, it was a room or two (I can’t remember) of all sorts of objects laid out on tables with signs asking ‘Do Not Touch’.  Each object had a story associated with it, some kind of story of evil or possession.  I wasn’t liking Kyle, only about nine or so, exposed to evil like this, but now he was intrigued and wanted to stay.  Did I mention it was warmer in there than waiting for my sister outside?

One of the hosts of the event was Lorraine!  We meet again!  Not that she knew who I was, for I was just a person in the crowd but I remember her very clearly from Colorado.  This time her story of Annabelle was different, this time she actually brought the possessed Annabelle doll!  Yes, the real Raggedy Ann doll! (Not the doll they portrayed in the movie)  At first blush, the doll did seem very creepy.  Then, add the story to it, and total scary!

While inside, they asked that no one touch anything for fear of spirits attaching to someone.  They informed us prior to handling any of these objects, they would wash their hands in holy water and a priest was present to offer blessings.  Kyle being Kyle and ALWAYS following the rules, was very careful not to come close to anything, not that I would have allowed it to happen.  Although, at one point, as I was reaching over a few items to point to something or examine an item closer, and Kyle instantly grabbed my arm and yelled, “No Aunt Heather!”  He took me a little off guard and almost shifted me off balance, where I would have fallen directly on the table of strange objects.  That’s my little man, always caring for his Aunt Heather!  Like I’ve always told him, “We do look out for each other because we are a team”.

So what is the story of Annabelle?  Below is a part of the story taken directly from the Warren website.  If you want the full story visit this website.  It’s really quite eery and unsettling.  www.warrens.net/Annabelle.html

In 1970 a mother purchased an antique Raggedy Ann Doll from a hobby store. The doll was a present for her daughter Donna on her birthday. Donna, at the time, was a student in college, preparing to graduate with her nursing degree and resided in a tiny apartment with her room mate Anngie (a nurse as well). Pleased with the doll Donna placed it on her bed as a decoration and didn’t give it a second thought until a few days later. With in that time both Donna and Angie noticed that there appeared to be something very strange and creepy about the doll. The doll apparently moved on its own, relatively unnoticeable movements at first, like a change in position, but as time passed the movement became more noticeable. Donna and Angie would come home to find the doll in a completely different room from which they had left it . Sometimes the doll would be found crossed legged on the couch with its arms folded , other times it was found upright, standing on its feet, leaning against a chair in the dining room. Several times Donna, placing the doll on the couch before leaving for work, would return home to find the doll back in her room on the bed with the door closed.

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

Playing As Kids – Tire Rolling

You couldn’t relive your life, skipping the awful parts, without losing what made it worthwhile. You had to accept it as a whole–like the world, or the person you loved.  ~Stewart O’Nan

Traditional-Korean-house-2002-Aunt-Heather-Piper

“Traditional” Korean hotel/house. Check out the game of pushing the wheel. 7/2002

The other day at the gym, the topic of playing as kids and the things we did came up.  It’s so very true how different I had it growing up compare to Kyle, and I’m sure my mom could say the same and so on and so forth.  Although, mom’s childhood was not entirely different from mine, no surprise considering we both grew up with our slew of cousins as neighbors, on the same hillside, on my uncle’s farm and in the same house my mom lived.  How about that for family stability, which is almost unheard of now-a-days!

Sure, we had Atari and Pong and we did have one of the first apple computers that could have been programed to dance multicolored lines across the screen.  However, those electronics were never the focus of our entertainment. Gigi Our Original Gamer – Pac-Man and Gamers Start Small & Grow

Aunt-Emily-Olczak-Aunt-Heather-Piper

My Aunt Emily Olczak, sister to my Uncle Walter. Love the Babushka! c. 1980s

What did we do exactly?  Well, first I’d like to say, my brother, sister, cousins and myself were all a bit odd in our merriment.  We made due with what we had around us.  Honestly, we enjoyed life and had a great childhood without all the frills!

There are so many strange activities we discovered, as they come to mind, I’ll be sure to record them in my blog, so Kyle can read about our crazy pastimes.

Please note, not all of our stupid entertainment happened when we were young, some but not all.  Sometimes we were well into our teens, heck twenties, humoring ourselves.  Now on with the tire rolling…

Jill-in-front-yard-c.-1980s-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Our beloved Jill sitting in the front yard, over looking my Uncle Walter’s field & house.

Once after school, roughly  junior high age, I stepped outside to see what Ryan was up to.  I’m still not sure where it from came or from what, but Ryan was rolling this tire around in the yard.  It was about half the diameter of a bicycle tire, but it was wider.  I remember Ryan was pushing it to get it rolling and then running up to wheel and catching it.  Seriously?  Yes!  Naturally, I wanted to join in, so we started taking turns.  We were pushing a tire to get it rolling and then running beside it to stop it.  Did we loose our minds?  Perhaps, but we were having a good time!

Our initial challenge was to get this tire to travel a far distance before falling over.  Then, one of us got the brilliant idea to push our limits by rolling the tire down the hill into my Uncle Walter’s field, below my parent’s house.

We pushed the tire, down a hill, into a field, and ran beside it.  Once we wrapped our hands around the rogue tire, we would march it back up the hill and start all over, taking turns of course.  Sometimes gravity chose to join in on the fun by pulling us to the ground tripping us up and creating a good face plant before reaching the tire.  Sometimes the tire would just fall over from hitting divots in the ground and not get very far.

Korean-Home-Korea-2002-Aunt-Heather-Piper

“Traditional” Korean hotel/house. We slept on wooden floors under mosquito nets. 7/2002

Did I mention we had a blast?  That is until mom pulled up the driveway and saw what we were up to.  One would think, ‘Who cares, the kids were having harmless fun’.  Well we were, but what you didn’t know and as kids we never considered, my Aunt Mary’s green house sat at the bottom of the hill.  A greenhouse made entirely of glass held together by metal cross sections.  If that tire would have picked up more steam and stayed on course, it could have made a direct impact for the glasshouse.  Let’s face it, that wouldn’t have been so fun.

Where was my sister during all this?  Inside watching television ignoring us.  There was no way Nicole would have thought chasing a tire, set in motion by oneself, as enjoyment, not in the slightest.  Ryan and me on the other hand, thought it was the most entertaining activity to date!  Seriously, I can’t even remember how many passes we made, but I do now they reached the double digits.  We were exhausted, yet it was a good time.  I’m sure I slept well that night.

Uncle-Walters-Field-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Over looking the front yard into Uncle Walter’s field & house. The greenhouse was on the other side of the pine trees.

Many, many years later when I traveled to South Korea (The Republic of South Korea) in 2002, I stayed at this “traditional hotel”, that’s what I called it since we had to sleep on the wood floor, under mosquito tents, in the middle of no where.  I guess it was kind of like a bed and breakfast, since the family lived there and fed us our meals.  We only stayed one night, and that evening we hung out in the center court.

It was a dirt area in the center of the buildings separating the sides of rooms.  The one side housed the guys and the other side the ladies and the dining room and kitchen areas.  The center court area was not roof covered and I believe both sides of the building were independent from each other if my memory serves me correct.  It was really a very nice but very rugged establishment, a traditional house without showers and other modern enmities.

Korean-boy-Korea-2002-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Korean boy showing us how to play the game with the wheel & stick. 7/2002

That evening the little boy of the house came out to entertain us, or check out the foreigners in his house, or both.  He had this wheel without the center.  He used a stick to push it around and control the round object.  Instantly, when I saw this activity, I was reminded of Ryan and me with our own wheel game.  No joke, it was about the same size and as I watched the child use a stick to push his wheel.  Instantly what came to mind is ‘We never considered that!’.  For a moment, the worlds intertwined, my youth and my adulthood, North America and South Korea, and I realized our game of chase the tire was not so uncommon.  Pretty cool!

It was a random weekday, after school in the spring air.  It only took one tire, one hillside and two hyperactive kids that made our own semi-harmless fun.  An activity I was reminded of years later, half a world away and still to this day!  Did I mention it was great exercise too, which was never even a thought at the time?

I have many more silly stories much like this one.  As they come to mind, I’ll write a blog entry about each.

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

Riding In a Car Gives Me a Headache

I’ve helped people get rid of headaches by placing my hand on their forehead, and backaches by placing my hand on their back. It’s a powerful example of love that really works.  ~Shelley Long

Young-Kyle-in-glasses-c.-2009-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle sporting his new glasses. Love his smile! c. 2009

For the last several years, Kyle has complained about getting headaches.  They only seem to occur during car rides.  It’s always just as we head out, he’ll say, “My head hurts” or “I have a headache.”   Last week Kyle said, “I can’t wait till it’s nice out and I can put down my window when I get a headache, it makes me feel better”.

What’s really funny about that statement is I can’t ride with just one window down, I have to have a least two or more to cut the pressure in the car or that kills me!

Yesterday, heading to church for our Ashes (Ash Wednesday, signifying the first day of Lent in preparation for Easter.) Kyle made the same remark, “My head hurts.”  My response?  “Really buddy?  We just left.”  Literally, I just pulled out of the driveway and couldn’t have been more than two hundred yards before he spoke up.

What is going on with this kid?  I would be on red alert if this ailment was continuous, inside and outside the car, but it’s not, it’s only when riding in the car, at least that’s what he tells me.

It seemed to start years ago when Kyle first got his glasses.  Granted, he was pretty young when he started wearing them so I can’t really speak of the time of pre-glasses.  It’s not like the little tyke was able to say, “Excuse me Aunt Heather my head hurts.”, while safely strapped into a car seat sucking on a Binky.  However, I don’t think he got headaches.

Originally, Kyle was only suppose to wear his glasses when watching television or reading, but then he started wearing them all the time.  Thinking the cause of his head thumping was the magnified pieces of glass suspended by wire frames resting directly in front of his eyes, I use to tell Kyle to take his glasses off when riding in the car.  It seemed to help until he developed a common childhood obsession for video games.  He would play his Nintendo DS and later his iPod, both glued to his fingers.  Yes, he would play video games till his head was pounding!  He learned quickly to minimize his online activity while riding along.  Now he waits for a red light before fighting off stick people.

Kyle-on-Merry-Go-Round-Idlewild-Park-2012-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle riding the Merry-Go-Round at Idlewild Park in Ligonier, Pa. Rides don’t seem to make Kyle sick but cars do. 2012

As this issue continues, my thoughts try to factor in all variables and take into account my car.  Either the way it rides or sits, that sort of thing.  I even considered the very slim chance, it was the driver of the vehicle, a.k.a. me.  I asked Kyle once if his headaches only happened in my car.  His response, “No every time I get in a car.”  I know that’s a bit of an exaggeration, because I don’t think it’s EVERY time, just often.  However, yesterday I asked him the same question.  His response, “Yes, I think it’s just your car Aunt Heather.”  Wonder if that’s true or not or if he was teasing me?  Again, that’s hard to tell since I am usually the one picking him up and driving him around, not really a fair assessment.

Could it be me, personally, triggering his headaches?  If that was true then one would think he would always have them, since I’m with him so much.

Over the years I’ve blamed this problem on lack of water, eating too much junk food and playing too many hours of video games, but I have nothing to base my hypothesis on.  Kyle claims these are not the reasoning, but again he has no proof for his argument either.

My biggest fear is it could be something more serious showing itself before it really does.  Between my friend Markelle and her aneurysm bursting More In Her Head Than An Aneurysm and loosing several cousins to brain tumors, I can’t help but think of the worst.  Granted, I don’t dwell on those thoughts but they do come to mind from time to time. (no pun intended)

Honestly, as a kid and into my adulthood, I very rarely got or get headaches.  When I do, believe it or not it’s simply because my neck needs adjusted.  The more I go to the gym, the less that happens, the less I get headaches.  This crazy cycle only really started later on in life when I got a job sitting at a desk, typing into a computer.  Prior to that, my headaches were far and few between.  Then, Bam!  Neckache and headache!  Although I’m not immune to migraines either, having only a handful in my entire life, thankfully I don’t have a chronic issue like some unfortunate souls.

I’m going to throw this truly outlandish idea out there; an observation I’ve made over the years and I do believe it, although I absolutely have no proof; but when I get headaches, they’re usually during hurricane season.  Yes!  When the air pressure takes giant leaps, especially right before a storm, my head will ache terribly.  But once the storm passes, suddenly my pain is relieved.  Sounds crazy I know, but I’m telling you, I can’t deny it!  It also seems to get worse the older I get.  Can I be that sensitive to air pressure?

Markelle-VA-trip-Aunt-Heather-Piper

My good friend Markelle showing off her picture perfect face on one of our trips… Virginia.

So what is the problem with Kyle and his throbbing head?  I guess the better question is how do I fix it for the poor kid?  He’s been on many, many road trips with us, especially his Aunt Nikki.  Sometimes riding in the car for long distances can effect me as well, but Kyle’s problem seems to stem from quick rides back and forth to the movies, the store, or to piano lessons, not major distances.  I would like to alleviate his pain or at the very least pinpoint the problem to address it, if possible.

The fresh air seems to help Kyle.  Could it just be a case of plain old car sickness?  He usually doesn’t get nauseous, but that has accompanied the headaches on occasion.  And like me, we can’t read in the car or we do get a little vertigo.  I know my Uncle Walter used to get horrible car sickness, but no one in my immediate family does, not even Ryan did.  Kyle can also ride any ride at an amusement park without issue.  So what is it about a car?

On a side note, the overly cautiousness in me wants to get a CAT scan for my nephew’s melon, just to rule out anything serious.  Not reasonable I know, but always a thought in my head…

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

More In Her Head Than an Aneurysm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brain Aneurism news 1-17-14 Aunt Heather Piper

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Mr. & Mrs. Piper Add Another Year – Happy 44th Anniversary!

The secret of a happy marriage is finding the right person. You know they’re right if you love to be with them all the time.  ~ Julia Child
I’d like to give a big shout out to mom and dad, a.k.a. Gigi and pappy.  Today marks their forty-fourth wedding anniversary!  They were married in 1969 at Sacred Heart Church in Youngstown, Pennsylvania.
Mom-&-Dad-in-Germany-1970s-at-Carol-&-Lynns-Party-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Mom & dad in Germany in the early 1970s. The caption read at Carol & Lynn’s Party … looked like they had a good time!

Besides my parents getting married, which six years later became my birthday, what else was going on in 1969?  According to Google, Wikipedia and all other “reliable” internet sources, 1969 was a full year.
  • Richard Nixon was our 37th president
  • 1st man landed on the moon on the Apollo 11 mission by the United States – Neil Armstrong and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin – 1st humans to set foot on the moon
  • In August, more than a half a million people gathered in the small town of Bethel, in upstate New York better known as Woodstock
  • 250,000 marched on Washington in protest against the Vietnam War
  • The US institutes the draft lottery to determine draft into US Forces for Vietnam War (dad just signed up for the Army)
  • The very 1st United States troop, withdrawals are made from Vietnam
  • The FCC banned all cigarette advertising on television and radio (good thing!)
  • Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) established
  • Top movies included Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Wild Bunch and Easy Rider
  • One of the top books was Mario Puzo’s Godfather
  • On August 9th, members of a cult led by Charles Manson murder 5 people (I read the book Helter Skelter a couple of times, scary interesting)
  • Hurricane Camille hits the Mississippi coast killing 248 people
  • Militant black students at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York use force to take over Willard Straight Hall demanding a black studies program
  • Cost of new house $15,550.00
  • Average income per year $8,550.00
  • Average monthly rent $135.00
  • Average cost new car $3,270.00
  • Gas per gallon $.35  (That’s a huge change at about $3.45 per gallon now)
Aunt-Heather-Piper-Christmas-1979

Me (4 yrs old) in my cute little Christmas outfit. Check out the plastic clip on earrings! Dad was holding Ryan (3yrs old) & Nicole (6 yrs old), like usual was cut off from the picture. We were at gram & paps house on the ridge. 1979

 

Yes, on the exact same day only six years later on December 12th, in 1975 I was born.  I guess it’s no surprise that I really enjoy winter and the snow, after all I came into this world with that as my backdrop.  At this point mom and dad moved back to the United States after living in Germany for two years while dad was in the Army.  They lived in the same house that my grandpap Chester built, the same one they live in, to this very day.  What else was going on in 1975?

  • Vietnam War ends as Communist forces take Saigon and South Vietnam surrenders unconditionally
  • The United States carries out Vietnam “Operation Babylift” bringing Vietnamese orphans to the US
  • The United States pulls out of Cambodia
  • New York City avoids bankruptcy when President Gerald R. Ford signed a $2.3 billion loan
  • The unemployment rate in the US reaches 9.2% and recession is recognized by President Ford
  • Jimmy Hoffa (ex teamsters boss) disappears never to be seen again
  • Patti Hearst becomes most wanted and is arrested for armed robbery
  • Margaret Thatcher defeats Edward Heath for the leadership of the opposition UK Conservative Party (Thatcher was 49 and Britain’s 1st female leader of any political party)
  • Average cost of new house $39,300.00
  • Average income per year $14,100.00
  • Average monthly rent $200.00
  • Average cost new car $4,250.00
  • Cost of a gallon of gas $.44 (an so the spiking gas prices begins)
  • The UK implements the Sex Discrimination and Equal Pay Act
  • Construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System begins
  • Bill Gates and Paul Allen develop a BASIC program for the Altair 8800
  • Motorolla obtains patent for the first portable mobile phone
  • The name “Micro-soft” (for microcomputer software) and Microsoft becomes a registered trademark
  • Sony introduces Betamax videotapes and Matsushita / JVC introduce VHS
  • Cray-1, the first commercially developed supercomputer, invented by Seymour Cray
  • Volkswagen introduces the Golf
  • Wal-Mart incorporates as Wal-Mart Stores, Inc
  • Charlie Chaplin is knighted by Elizabeth II
  • The Rocky Horror Show opens on Broadway in New York City
posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,News,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts,Reminiscing,Travels and have No Comments

What It Takes to Move a Tree Stand … Continued

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. ~Ephesians 6:4

Kyle-with-feature-Cortland-NY-Aunt-Heather-Piper-8-31-13

Kyle sporting the feature we found while in Cortland, NY setting up a tree stand. How much fan can be had from a single found feature? Those are dad’s earphones when he was running the chainsaw. 8/31/13

With my previous post, I outlined the events that led us to this moment, the reason for this trip.  What It Takes to Move a Tree Stand

As we moved forward, what did my eyes catch sight of?  Yes, the tree stand!  Positioned gloriously against a tree about ten feet off of the ground, dressed in camouflage burlap.  It was at that moment, I heard the angels sing Alleluia, while the sun shined on the stand as if revealing a pot of gold.  We have arrived at our destination.  Now, what did we need to do?  Ah, yes, we needed to take it down, move it up the hill and set it back up again.  Easy enough.  Not really.

Dad, took off up through the brush to scope out a new home for our tree stand.  Kyle took that as an opportunity to climb up and hang out in the elevated platform.   Me? I just stood there swatting mosquitoes until I joined dad to force him to make a quick decision, so we could wrap this adventure up and go take showers.

As I was walking away from Kyle, he yelled “Hey Aunt Heather where are you going?”  I told him to see what his pappy was doing, which was maybe one hundred fifty yards away.  Kyle said, “Wait!  I want to come, but I can’t get down by myself.”  I was cracking up!  He was too afraid to use the ladder to get down, even though he had no trouble getting up, nor playing around while sitting in the tree stand.  I gave him detailed instructions on how to safely exist the landing, but he insisted someone had to help him down.  I left him.  I know that sounds mean, but it was kind of funny and I knew he was probably safer up there than anywhere else.  What’s even funnier, he didn’t seem to mind.  Maybe a little quite time by himself was good for his soul, or not.

The whole time I was talking with dad and helping him pick a new location, Kyle would yell “Hey guys, what are you doing?” and “Hello?” then the eventually annoying “Echo, echo, echo”.  Kyle is seriously a funny kid and he doesn’t even know it.

Once dad found the perfect spot, he said, “Ok, let’s go get our buddy out of the tree and move this stand.”  He asked, “Did he climb up there all by himself?”  Yep.  Dad was pleased with that, that meant Kyle was not afraid and dad could count on Kyle to hunt in the tree stand during deer season.  Whatever!  Let’s get this show on the road.

Aunt-Heather-Piper-Kyle-in-tree-stand-Cortland-NY-8-31-13

Me & Kyle with victorious smiles on our exhausted faces. Tree stand it up! Cortland, NY 8/31/13

Now back to the dreaded tree stand.  I guess I never thought it through, but it dawned on me as I was sitting up, hovering over the ground, looking down into briar bushes, fallen trees and Lord knows what else, that eventually the tree stand would not be secured to the tree anymore.  That is, once I unhinge it, however to do that I needed to be in the tree stand.  What a predicament!  Dad’s reply?  “No, no, you have another one down below and you’ll be partway down the ladder when you loosen that.”  Not really encouraging dad!  Of course, dad’s response to my comment about me falling was, “Well the jagger bushes will catch your fall.”  Nice.

I did manage to loosen some of the straps, but for the life of me, I really couldn’t get them to release.  So I had to send my dad, who is in his sixties and is seriously overweight up the unstable tree stand to finish removing the supports.  I stood at the bottom holding the ladder, along with Kyle, as if that was security.  I turned to Kyle and remarked, “If pappy goes you’re catching him.”  With concern on Kyle’s face he just gave me a grunt and half grin, trying to joke along while realizing the possibility.  I think we were both holding our breath and saying big prayers at this point.

We did manage to release the tree stand from the tree and get dad down safely.  Then, came the heavy lifting.  The tree stand was metal with an attached ladder.  It was heavy!  Especially after all the walking and exertion of getting it down, not to mention the realization of hauling it up a hill about one hundred and fifty yards, through tall brush, briars, unsteady ground, over fallen trees, while being mauled by mosquitoes.  Easy enough.

Aunt-Heather-Piper-getting-into-tree-stand-Cortland-NY-8-31-13

Kyle snapped a picture of me getting into the tree stand. Cortland, NY 8/31/13

What was Kyle doing for the better part of this time?  I found out later he was video tapping me in the tree stand.  I’m sure, he was hoping for some action to be caught on tape.  And since that didn’t keep his interest, he continued to play with the feather.

The feature.  We found this feather while walking to get to our destination and it became the focus of our attention during down times.  I used it as a fan to help with the flying pest situation around my head, and to help get some moving air through the stuffy environment.  Kyle too found entertainment in the simple object.  That feature made it the whole way back with us.  Not just out of the woods, or to the motel, the whole way back to good old Latrobe, Pennsylvania.  It was a really neat feather.

Anyway, as we carried this beast of a stand up the hill, we almost passed up our carefully selected tree.  And let me tell you, I felt sick once we got there, as I know dad did.  Sick, as in exhaustion and dehydration.  I even sent Kyle to the quad to get us something to drink, especially dad who had to rest on a log.  That kid started to walk up the hill, (the quad was down the hill maybe fifty feet).  Kyle got lost, not lost that we didn’t know where he was, but he couldn’t find the quad at all!  Even though I pointed in the direction and I could see the lights reflecting from it through the trees.  As we watched Kyle maneuver around while resting, me and dad found that funny and called him back.

Next?  Now we had to get the tree stand up and secured, then we were told we’d be on our way.  It was a bugger getting that thing up, even to just lean it against the tree.  Dad did most of the work.  Once the tree stand was leaning, and somewhat stabilized against the tree, I climbed up in it to fully secure it.

That proved to be a bugger as well.  My arms are only so long, and trying to throw the straps around the tree, which was split, proved to be quite a tough task.  I had to lean out over the tree stand to grab the straps.  Did I mention it was only standing upright because it was leaning on the tree and we were on a light hill?  I told the old man, he better hold onto the ladder, because if I’d go flying and I can’t work, Aunt Nikki won’t be too happy.  He just laughed and said, “O you’ll be alright.  Come on, once we get the straps on, we’re done and we can leave.”  Score!

Kyle-in-Tree-Stand-Cortland-NY-Aunt-Heather-Piper-8-31-13

Kyle made his way up the tree stand & then couldn’t get back down. He enjoyed it up there… Cortland, NY 8/31/13

Eventually, I got the straps around the tree to give the tree stand some stability.  Naturally, I couldn’t tighten the clamps like dad, so dad had to get up there to thoroughly secure the touch points.  He also thought in advance and put another strap for an additional reinforcement.  Evidently, dad was planning on having all three of us in this tree stand. I’m not so sure about that one.  Although, I’m saving that argument for a later date.  I must say, Kyle and I fit comfortably on the seat, side-by-side.

The whole time we were there, dad stared at the newly relocated tree stand sporting a huge grin.  He did cut down a few small trees around it, one of which I thought was going to take down the new addition.  I said, “Dad if that tree would have hit the tree stand and knock it down, I was going to leave.”  Kyle busted out laughing and dad joined in saying, “Yes, I guess that would be our luck.”  Dad kept peeking up at the stand and in his head, laying out the options in which we could shoot deer, depending on how they approached us.  I know he was envisioning herds of  deer running all along the woods below are feet, while all three of us shot down.  This is dad’s candy store.  Nothing makes him happier than shooting, especially with his family.  He kept talking about the size of the deer and the racks on the local bucks.  He kept saying that’s what’s in store for us this hunting season.  Then, he would go off into, how much deer meat we were going to have this winter.  Only dad!

Done?  Not quite yet.  We had to make it back out and since dad initially made his own trail to find the tree stand that was eluding us, he wanted to stick to the established road, clearing it out for deer season.  We found the road pretty easily, but it was seriously overgrown and soggy from all the rain earlier in the week.

It took us as long to get out of the woods as it did to set up the stand, if not longer.  It was a roller coaster ride, back up the slate rock road to an almost vertical climb.  Yes, I was back on the front of the quad, like Kyle white knuckling it.  I felt like I had to seriously lean forward to avoid the whole quad from tipping backwards and crushing all its passengers.

We made it back safely and dad was in such a good mood.  As we were ready to load up the quad, dad did something odd that made me and Kyle both stop and watch.  He drove the quad back nearly a hundred yards to load it on the trailer.  What does he need such a runway for?  At that moment, dad revved the engine and gassed it toward the trailer.  I turned to Kyle and said, “What is pappy planning on doing?  Launching himself over the truck like Evel Knievel?”  Kyle was howling!  Just then dad put the breaks on right at the lip of the trailer and slowly drove it on.  Pap thought he was pretty funny too, my guess is from the look on our faces he did psych us out.

Earlier we saw a turkey and along the way, a bunch of deer tracks.  Dad couldn’t have been happier, spending time with us, especially Kyle and moving his tree stand to what he perceived as the perfect shooting spot.

Aunt-Heather-Piper-with-Feature-Cortland-NY-8-31-13

Now it was my turn to play with the feature. Seriously, how much fun can 1 feature bring? Cortland, NY 8-31-13

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful, granted it was around five or six o’clock at this point and we were all beat.  We found a nice little market to get sandwiches and other sustenance, got back to the motel,  showered up, played a few card games with Kyle as well as chess on my iPad, and finished out the night watching back-to-back episodes of Too Cute!

The next morning, pappy slept in till around eight o’clock, which again is unheard of, but Kyle and I played more chess.  On our way back, dad had to stop at his friend Lanny’s house to visit.  Dad hunts on his property every year too.  In fact, dad stays with the elderly gentleman, who is very cordial and hospitable.  I must say, at this point I was getting irritated over dad’s new found relaxed behavior and I wanted to get on the road.

We did make it back about fifteen minutes before we had to get ready to go to late Sunday mass, so I was happy.  Good end, to a surprisingly fun trip.  A trip that I hope we never have to repeat.

Read the first part … What It Takes to Move a Tree Stand

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

What It Takes to Move a Tree Stand

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
An eternity in an hour.  ~William Blake

Kyle-Cortland-NY-with-Feature-8-31-13-Aunt-Heather-Piper

We found this feather in the woods in Cortland, New York. It became the focus of our attention for a while. Kyle was cracking me up! 8/31/13

Dad gets his hunting license not only for Westmoreland County, but also for the surrounding counties and his New York license.  In certain areas, dad has his tree stands set up, keeping them there year-over-year.  Yes, that wasn’t a typo.  Tree stands!  As in plural, meaning more than one.

So what does all this have to do with me?  Let me tell you were I was this past weekend.  In Cortland, New York moving a tree stand.  Why?  Simply, because last year, someone hit a big buck up the hill from where dad was sitting.  Ever since then, dad has been talking about moving his tree stand up the hill.  He believes it would have been his buck if he was positioned at a higher elevation.  Is that a fact?  Not necessarily, but I do trust dad’s hunting sense and his observation.  Previous to that, Dad’s was actually talking about moving the tree stand for a while now, but since the buck incidence, that made up his mind for him.

Now don’t get me wrong.  Dad’s not bitter in any way shape or form, for the lucky hunter, not at all.  He’s happy for anyone who gets a deer, especially if it’s a prize.  But he’s had it in his head for a while now to move the stand, pretty much where Larry, a good friend of the family and my mom’s boss at Gutchess Hardwoods, suggested in the first place.  Dad said, “I should have listened to Larry, but I was being so stubborn and had my mind made up.”  Can’t imagine!

Moving a tree stand seems simple enough, not really.  First we had to drive six hours to Cortland, New York to get to the woods where the tree stand was situated.  Then, we had to drive back into the woods, only so far, before all piling on the quad and riding it another couple of miles, before getting out and hiking to the hunting spot.  Yes, somewhere in the 500 acres, was this big metal tree stand attached to a tree.  Did I mention I was the one who had to assemble the beast a few summers back?

Let’s start off with Saturday morning.   I mean morning.  We got up around 3:00 am, and we didn’t leave until 4:30 am.  There used to be a day when dad was up early and started on his day right away.  No sitting around, none of this taking his time, watching the news, finishing his coffee blah blah blah.  Nope!   Dad used to get up, make sure everyone else was up, get dressed and out the door like lightening.  Boy have times changed.  Usually Kyle does pretty good in the am, but this time was a bit different, not that I can blame him, even for me this was a bit early.

Kyle-with-.22-Rifle-Shooting-Range-8-25-13-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle shooting pap’s .22 rifle at the shooting range. Not a bad shot! 8/31/13

Once we were off, Kyle slept in the backseat of the truck.  He really wasn’t ready to get up and get moving, that is until we made a pit stop at Sheetz.  Naturally, he had donuts on his mind and with his pappy there, he pretty much gets what he wants.  Although as in keeping with tradition, I raced him in and out of the gas station, to and from the truck.  At one point, we both tried to wedge ourselves out of the door and practically got stuck.  Dad saw us and just shook his head and chuckled.

While on the road, once we finally got Kyle up, Kyle and I started to play a game of War.  You know the card game that goes on forever and requires little to no thought.  That game seemed like it was the longest ever played!  Seriously.  Me and Kyle were in amazement because it was never ending.  We kept joking around that we were going to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records.

The drive was pretty uneventful.  It’s actually kind of nice to be up before dawn and watching the day unfold before my eyes.  We passed Beaver Stadium, my sister’s Alma Mater.  We joked around a little and called my mom and my sister to check in.  I was even fine with the Willy Nelson Serious XM radio station on, that is until it stayed on the entire time to and from New York.

Dad cracks me up.  When he had to pee, he just pulled the truck, which was hooked to the trailer containing the quad, onto the side of the road, peed and left.  Back in the day, when I was little, dad NEVER stopped for no one.  Not himself, not my mom and certainly not for his kids.  We had to go before we left and we learned to hold it until we got to our destination.  Granted, we never really traveled for than four or five hours, but regardless that’s how dad traveled.  Come to think of it, that’s probably why I am, the way I am, when traveling.  I never stop, I keep going till I reach my journey’s end.  Now-a-days things are different, very different.  I swear we pulled over every hour!  Every roadside pause gave me and Kyle the giggles.  Then it would start the teasing towards dad.

Dad-spotting-&-Kyle-reloading-8-25-13-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Dad was checking the shots with the spotting scope. Kyle was reloading, ready to go again. 8/31/13

At one point, Kyle had to use the restroom, as did I but I can hold it because I knew dad would expect me to go along side of the road.  Fat chance!  Dad pulled over for Kyle, but not just on the side of the road.  He pulled over were they were doing construction.  To reach the side of the road, dad had to weave the truck and the trailer between the cones.  Me and Kyle were dying!  For some reason we thought that was the funniest thing ever!  Keep in mind this is around ten o’clock or so in the morning, along a major highway.  I knew Kyle wouldn’t use natures facility, and I was right.  But what made the situation even funnier, dad drove down the road that was coned off, and as we progressed the cones got closer together.  We were taking bets if dad was going to knock down a row of cones.  Nope!  Didn’t even graze them!

After we checked into our motel room in no-man’s-land we headed to the woods.  The minute we got out, I was attacked by mosquitoes!  Anyone that knows me, knows I am always the first person to take fire from the blood suckers and I usually get it the worst.  My bites always swell and linger for twice as long as most.  Would you believe no one thought to bring bug spray?  Nope!  We were screwed!

After we unloaded the quad, dad had me plant my buttocks on the front rack, while Kyle was seated right behind dad, beside the chainsaw, tools, salt block and extra chainsaw gasoline.  Yes, that was my first reaction too!  What are we cutting down?  The layout of us all situated on the quad was nothing new, we rode like that before for hunting season and I suspected it was going to be that way.  But what I didn’t know is that we had to chuck wood too?  Yes, apparently we had to clear out the roadway back to the tree stand.  This just keeps getting better!

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The Piper outing at the shooting range. Nicole got back into the swing, not a bad shot. Kyle was shooting pretty good & mom shot a couple, but just observed. 8/31/13

The ride to and fro was quite an adventure!  We hit a few pond size mud puddles, which at one point I thought was going to sink us all whole.  Then, let’s talk about the cliff of death.  The trail was pretty wide, wide enough for a full size vehicle.  So naturally one would think we had enough room for a quad.  Well, we did, but dad kept driving along side the brim of the edge, while looking down!  Me and Kyle were hanging on.  I stated, “Dad, they had a ton of rain this week.  You have the entire road, use it!”  Meaning, dad get away from the edge, the ground is soft and could collapse at any minute driving us down over the edge into the heart of the woods.  Even Kyle laughed about that one and was feeling the same way.  When we later recapped the story to mom, Kyle commented on that very scenario.

We did need to hack up a few logs laying across our path, to get through and I had to get off a few times to walk.  I must say it was quite the journey.  The one part of the road seemed like it was a complete vertical shot straight down and the road looked like a miniature Grand Canyon from being washed out.  I was hanging on, trying not to be projected off from the front end.  It was hard!  The road wasn’t exactly smooth sailing.

Once dad had me and Kyle on foot, he instructed us to walk up the hill and he followed on the quad.  He even tried to go up a side of a bank and I swear I saw the front end of the quad lift, like it was going to flip.  Me and Kyle just gave each other the look, you know the kind that says, ‘Wow that was a close one.’ or ‘Something bad is going to happen today.’  Then I said, “And you wondered why I brought my phone?”

While on foot, in the hot, humid mosquitoes infested deep woods, we seemed to keep walking on forever.  Like our path was never going to end.  Kyle turned to me and said, “I don’t think pappy knows where he’s going.”  I laughed so hard, I was thinking the same thing!    We kept trucking and following dad on foot.  Did I mention I had a long-sleeved thick hoodie type of top on, zipped up to my neck to protect some of my skin from the pests, and jeans on while I dripped with sweat in the eighty degree weather?  Awesome!

As we zigzagged through the tall brush, dad would stop every now-and-again to cut a few fallen trees.  That is until we came upon vertically intimidating, reaching the top of dad’s head, “jagger” bushes, briars and thick brush.  He actually used the chainsaw to mow down the obstruction!  Me and Kyle watched in amazement.  Then, when he was done, I yelled over, “You didn’t tell me we needed the weed whacker!”  Dad gave me an already tired grin and nod, while me and Kyle found that comment to be pretty darn funny.

Dad even used the quad to knock down small trees and mow down tall brush.  Then, we started to have a field day with that saying, “Does pappy think he’s a bulldozer?” and “We know what to get him for Christmas.”  Kyle said, “Ya, he could use a steam press to flatten our path.”  Very true buddy!  Very true!

Almost there…

To be continued…

 

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

Who Does Kyle Favor More, Aunt Heather?

Aunt
She isn’t my mother.
She isn’t my sister.
She’s one of the family
Who’s more like a friend.
Aunt
She has fun with me,
laughs with me,
listens to me, encourages me.
Aunt
She spends time with me,
believes in me,
shares with me, cheers for me.
Aunt
She understands me like a mother.
She’s there for me like a sister.
And perhaps best of all –
she loves me like a friend. ~Kimberly Rinchart

Kyle-&-Aunt-Heather-Piper-on-Merry-Go-Round-Idlewild

Me & Kyle at Idlewild for the Gutchess Picnic

My little man, what else can I say? I’ve reviewed how Kyle resembles my brother – his dad, my sister – his Aunt Nikki, my dad – his pappy, and my mom – his Gigi. There are a lot of cross over similarities and yet there are some traits that are distinctly a particular person.

Does Kyle resemble me at all? He sure does! Yes it’s true, Kyle is more of the engineering mind, but he is also a rare bread, complete with innovation, a strong personality, social skills and a  business visionary.

Obviously, Kyle’s physical traits don’t really resemble mine much. I will admit we do have the same type of skin, at least at this point in his life.  Also our noses.  We both have the perfect button noses.  A trait I’ve claimed as ours.  As for all other physical traits, you can’t even tell he’s related to me, our body types are different.  We don’t stand the same, or walk the same, and our outward presentations are not similar, not in the slightest.  If we talk about personality traits, now we’re getting somewhere!

As a baby just learning to walk, Kyle was always very structured.  What I mean is that everything had to be perfectly aligned.  Perfectly!  Kyle loved his Matchbox Cars, literally having hundreds of them. He would take the cars out one-by-one, examine them, and then line them up on the coffee table in rows. Every car was facing the same direction, front bumper to back, in perfect lines, until the entire coffee table was covered in Matchbox Cars.  That’s all he would do until it was time to put them away. Well, except if I was being ornery.

Kyle-in-Aunt-Heather-Piper-sunglasses-laughing 11-18-03

Me & Kyle screwing around with my sunglasses 11/18/03

Once when Kyle was nearly finished placing the cars, I waited for the perfect time for him to look away to retrieve another car.  I took my foot and pushed the coffee table over so the cars slid off and all landed on the floor. I know it sounds mean, but the look on his face was hilarious!  He was first in complete shock like he just witnessed an earthquake for his cars.  Then, as he noticed my foot still on the evidence, a complete realization of what just happened settled in.  His nose crinkled, his face soured, and he came over to me and begin to push my foot off the side of the table saying “No Aiya! No!”  Making it very clear that this was no acceptable behavior.  He looked like my sister when she gets angry with me!  I know, it’s not nice to tease, but it’s good to shake things up with these engineers.  Keeps it real.

Kyle not only aligned his cars but also his juice boxes in the refrigerator.  They had to be right side-up, facing front in a perfect line on the shelf. Let me tell you about convenience stores. If I would extract a bottle of water from inside the cooler, Kyle would realign the bottles making sure all the labels were facing out.  If the second bottle didn’t slide down to the front, then Kyle would help it along.  Bystanders that have actually witnessed this behavior, smiled at the precious narcissistic little boy.  I will admit, I tend to have the same disposition, everything orderly, tidy and aligned.  I do notice details, as does Kyle, and sometimes the smallest things drive me crazy.  Although, Kyle tends to be very selective with his details and neatness.  He is not always consistent but the natural tendencies are certainly there.

Granted as Kyle grows and as he is presented with different situations, he shows traits from all of us, including his business mind. Not everyone has the ability to be structured and think out of the box and use forward thinking.  My brother had a business mind, as does my dad and both equally have the work ethic to accompany such talents.  I do believe I possess these traits as well, similar to Kyle.  He has this unique thinking of setting and accomplishing goals and the ability to understand the idea of profit while maintaining the integrity of business.  A regular businessman.  How do I know?  I’m not just making a broad statement.  He has proved it through the interaction and assistance of my company The Piper Corporation (Thrill of the Hunt, SpyRing).  Yes with the little involvement he has had, he has shown me all these traits.  He is also a natural leader and he knows how to (and does without any quorums) delegate.  Once I teach him to properly follow up and address everyone with respect, and learn how to really utilize resources, he will be a force to reckon with.  I just hope I am able to instill a good work ethic and appropriate business practices with good moral intentions.

Aunt-Heather-Piper-Kissing-Kyle-

Me & Kyle at Idlewild… he is always a lot of fun at every age!  I love his perfectly round head!

Kyle’s people skills are pretty impressive!  He knows how to use his manners and speak directly to others.  Granted, sometimes he is a bit too direct, but like me, I love the candor and tend to steer in that direction.  Again as he matures, I can see his social skills tightening up and sharpening.  He already knows how to work a crowd to get their attention and to get what he wants, similar to his Aunt Heather.

As much as Kyle thinks, and he is a thinker, he forgets to think equally as much.  This behavior tends to get us both in sticky situations.

We both love to fish and I will admit, like Kyle, if I’m doing something I like, I want to perfect it and practice beforehand. Story time! Once when I was in elementary school, probably a little younger than Kyle is now, I decided to go outside and take advantage of the nice day and practice casting my fishing pole.  At the time mom had a dogwood tree in the middle of the yard.  Why is this relevant?  Because as I repeatedly cast my pole, I would caught a branch and have to pull my line out.  One would think that I would have just moved away from the tree, after all I had an entire yard.  But nope, I stood my ground until I cast my line in the top of the tree and couldn’t pull it out.   Yikes!  I didn’t know what to do.  Naturally the smart thing to do would have to cut the line.  Not me!  Instead I decreased the slack on the line and pulled the entire pole toward the top of the tree.  Yes, I let the fishing pole hang there in the dogwood tree.  Later that day, when dad came home from work, he noticed it instantly and asked no one in particular, in a very even toned voice, “Why is there a fishing pole in the tree?” I said, “I was practicing my casting and it got stuck.”  Nonchalantly dad replied, “Well don’t you think you better get it out?”  I knew I should, but for the life of me I didn’t realize at the time, breaking the line was an option, that is until weeks later when dad did just that.

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Me & Kyle rocking the night away at Chad’s Wedding

Sometimes Kyle goes on his one track-mind and doesn’t bother to open his eyes to those around him.  I’m sure this will change as he grows, after all he is a sincere caring kid.  He is not malicious in anyway.  Although, I do the same, but it’s only because my mind is usually focused on other things, probably similar to Kyle’s.  At this point in his life, I would put my life on it, that it’s Legos!  Over the years, I can’t even tell you how many people would say they saw me, and I NEVER saw them.  Even if I walked right past them.  This happens a lot when I’m driving.  Hopefully, I’m concentrating on road, although I’m guessing my mind is wondering elsewhere, but not towards Legos.

Kyle’s a dreamer too.  Not just uses his imagination, which he totally does, but he is a visionary.  He always creates these grandiose ideas of how something should be, or how it will be or how it’s going to unfold.  I tend to be that dreamer too.  But I do believe that’s a great quality to have, especially being an entrepreneur.  Dreaming big is never a bad thing, just failure to act on it is.

There are so many more comparisons including the love of snow!  We both enjoy sled-riding, snowboarding and the crisp cool days.  Neither one of us like to be hot and we certainly don’t enjoy sweating, even though he does more than me.

We both love to cook and to experiment with ingredients.  Maybe more me than Kyle, but we love to try new foods and learn and understand different culture.

And like the rest of the family, there is one trait we all posses besides believing in God.  I don’t mean to omit the big Guy because to me that’s a standard, however I’m learning it’s not the case with most people.  But this time I’m talking about TRAVELING!  We are all equally intrigued by the rest of the world, new sights and the sense of adventure.  None of us has ever been afraid to explore and my parents have always encouraged this behavior.  Which speaking of, this week is ‘Aunt Nikki and Kyle’s Week of Fun!’  They are doing a road trip tour of the New England States.  How fun!  Next trip, I’m going to sneak my way in on the action!

I guess Kyle is a little bit of each of us, making him the perfect mix!  He’s a little bit country and a little bit rock n’ roll.  (That’s for mom’s benefit!)

Read the complete list of comparisons

Who Does Kyle Favor More, His Dad?
Who Does Kyle Favor More, Pappy?
Who Does Kyle Favor More, Aunt Nikki?
Who Does Kyle Favor More, Gigi?

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hunting & Fishing,LEGO's,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Random Fun Facts,Reminiscing,Snowboarding,Travels and have No Comments

Buckwheat Pancakes

I think children are like pancakes.  You sort of ruin the first one, and you get better at it the second time around.  ~Kelly Ripa

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My cousins Bill, Denise & Zach Olczak

Two Sunday’s ago, mom made the batter for buckwheat pancakes.  I totally love buckwheat pancakes!  They are a little bit thinner and crispier than regular pancakes and in my opinion they have a hardier taste.  What’s the difference between regular pancakes and buckwheat cakes?  Basically the buckwheat.  So next question what is buckwheat?  Truthfully, I had no idea so I did a little digging around.  Naturally, I did what every person sitting at a computer does, I Google’d it.  In my little bit of reading, and we all know the internet doesn’t lie or contain false information, (sarcasm) I found that buckwheat is a fruit off of a plant.  Then it’s ground down into flower.  It’s considered a hardy and nutritious fruit, rich with omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, minerals and essential amino acids.  I also read:

“Buckwheat is a member of the grass family whose seed is high in calcium. Buckwheat seeds are ground whole into a flour before used in cereal, which result in the appearance of small, black specks in flakes. Buckwheat is gluten-free.”

Does all that really mean a lot to me?  Yes and no.  I already liked the pancakes prior to this knowledge and if buckwheat wasn’t really healthy, I still wouldn’t give it up, just be mindful.  Of course, with this knowledge tucked away in my brain, it actually causes more damage.  Now I have it in my head that I can eat the entire batch, which is not healthy either.

So why the rediscovery for buckwheat pancakes?  Pretty simple actually.  Dad just purchased the buckwheat flour with the intent of making buckwheat pancakes.  The entire family is a fan of the hardy food, well Kyle is he just forgot.  Did the internet tell me this piece of information?  Nope, I actually have proof on this statement.  Every year, we try to make it to the Flax Scutching Festival, (65th Annual Piper Reunion) where incidentally they sell buckwheat pancakes.  So I know Kyle has tasted buckwheat over the years and if he disliked it in any way, we would have heard about it.  Kyle is not shy about voicing his opinion.  Yep, we are all fans of buckwheat!

Being a little unsure about the buckwheat pancakes, Kyle helped me flip them anyway.  Partially because he takes pride in trying new foods and experimenting with cooking methods, and because he really enjoys cooking with me.  I must admit, it has become a favorite of mine too.   Mom mixed up the batter the night before and Kyle helped me man the griddle, well he started to for a little bit until he helped himself to the fresh hot cakes with maple syrup while I finished up.  On a side note, nothing beats real maple syrup, 100% genuine maple syrup!  I don’t really care for the store brands that are loaded with a list of ingredients.  Anyway, I don’t mind cooking at all, plus it gave mom a break, considering she definitely has more hours invested in front of the stove than I do.  But no matter who’s cooking, the conversations seem to surface.  While I was standing there flipping the cakes, I was talking to mom about the best pancakes in history, courtesy of my uncle Walter.

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Uncle Walter & Family. My grandpap Chester is on the far right

My uncle Walter was one of my grandpap Chester’s brothers.  He was truly a great guy!  Uncle Walter lived down the hill from us on the farm and was a huge part of our lives.  He had cows and chickens and he made hay, just a simple farm boy.  Not to mention he and my aunt Mary had a greenhouse where they sold soil and plants.  In his younger days, uncle Walter was a merchant marine in the navy.  His job?  A cook of course!  There is no doubt those guys were very well fed!  I’m sure Uncle Walter’s life reads like an impressive resume, but I just wanted to give a synopsis.

As mom and I stood there babysitting the buckwheat pancakes, I brought up one of our trips to Erie, that’s where the story of the best blueberry pancakes takes place.  My cousin’s Bill and Denise live in Erie, Pennsylvania.  Casey’s dad, Jim and Bill are brothers, both sons of my Uncle Walter.  They are all on my mom’s side of the family.  One weekend, all of us including my cousin Casey’s crew and my whole family took a road trip to visit that branch of the family.

It was so much fun!  We went to Presque Isle and ran around on the beach.  We hung out at Bill and Denise’s and fished from their pond off the dock,  paddled the canoe around the water (being mindful of the drain), checked out the beavers living near the water and visited their goats.  Incidentally, that was the first time I ever had goat milk.  I am not a milk drinker but that trip opened my eyes to the love of goat cheese and ever since then, I am a dedicated fan and advocate.  At the time, I don’t remember if they had their horses, but it certainly was an adventure.  Even down to the sleeping arrangements.  Since there were so many of us, all the kids camped out in tents in the yard, making the trip even more exciting and fun.

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Mom & dad sitting by the pond at Bill & Denise’s 7/4/85

That Saturday morning, I remember waking up early to the smell of breakfast, blueberry pancakes!  To this day I can describe the fluffy spongy texture of the pancake that encapsulated the juicy sweet blueberries, perfectly spread throughout the circular treat.  As uncle Walter flipped the hot cakes, I stood behind watching his technique.  I was amazed that they never stuck and the pancakes seemed to be perfectly round.  As I was staring, uncle Walter just gave me a smile and asked if I wanted some.  To be honest I was just content watching him make the pancakes, although they smelled so good my stomach told me differently.  What I really wanted to do was assist him, but I didn’t want to screw up his system.  In no time at all, I gave in to hunger and ate my beautifully sweet, heavenly blueberry pancakes.  To this day, I just remember how awesome they were!  No other pancake has touch his, ever!  I’m sure there were other meals that weekend, and I’m sure uncle Walter helped out, but nothing stood out in my head like those pancakes, except maybe the introduction of goat cheese.

With all the running around and the excitement of hanging out with family, we had a great weekend!  Ever since that weekend in July 1985, 27 years ago, we kept saying we are going to head back up and visit Bill and Denise.  But alas we never made the time.  I think we are past due, and this spring Bill and Denise are going to get some visitors, including one who’s never been to Erie, our little Kyle.

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Uncle Walter with one of his five kids

Just to give a short bio on Bill and Denise.  Besides being a pillar in the community, they are great role models and a testament of what one family and one dream can become.  Even though the desire and knowledge to start Mystic Mountain was always in their hearts, it didn’t come into fruition until 2001.  They opened Mystic Mountain Training Center, a nonprofit organization for children and families to learn mentoring, discipleship, and teamwork.  So what do they do?  Besides offering equestrian, shooting, and drama, they inspire and bring families together.  I can’t image growing up and not knowing what the countryside is like or riding a horse.  Bill and Denise developed programs to bring inner city kids to Mystic Mountain to experience all the benefits of God’s country and the beasts of the earth.  I believe being a part of nature, especially being around horses energizes the soul and helps to develop a new respect for life.  Keep up the good work guys!

CampStaffNCounselors Aunt Heather Piper

Mystic Mountain Training Center

Interested in experiencing Mystic Mountain Training Center for yourself or would like to make a donation?  They would love to hear from you.   Go to www.mysticmtc.com.  Tell Bill and Denise Aunt Heather sent you!

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

Simply Respect – Remembering 9/11

Respect your efforts, respect yourself. Self-respect leads to self-discipline. When you have both firmly under your belt, that’s real power.  ~Clint Eastwood

Respect is something earned and should be expected at the sames time.  I’ve always taught Kyle to respect others, that includes their property and how he addresses them.  Not only elders and authority figures, but also other children, pets, nature etc.  However, I have also taught Kyle that respect is a two way street.  Both parties need to walk down that street, it’s not just one sided.  As with everything I expect from Kyle,  I try to set by example.

Kyle really impresses me sometimes.  This weekend we were back at Giant Eagle and Kyle started to help bag the groceries for the cashier.  When our cashier would hand Kyle a bag of groceries to add to our cart (I Don’t Like to Push a Shopping Cart!), Kyle would look at the young man and say, “Thank you!”  He said it with such confidence and almost second nature that it really made me open my eyes. Is this my little man?  You know what?  It is!  He uses his manners, especially ‘Excuse Me’, when he passes someone or a group of people, ‘Yes Please’ when responding to a question, and naturally the ‘Thank You’.  I’m not saying Kyle’s perfect, I do have to reinforce these with him periodically, but for the most part, he is a good little man!

In remembrance of September 11th, I wanted to share a cute little story about the tomb of the unknown soldier.  For years now, since my sister moved into the D.C. Metro area, we have been going back and worth to Washington D.C. to visit her and to visit our nation’s capital.  I know I’ve mentioned with every trip to Washington D.C., we manage to discover something new to explore, not taking in all the sights at once.  On one of our trips, we toured Arlington Cemetery and witnessed the changing of the guards.  Kyle was around four or five, so he was just a little tyke.  Before we went to the tomb of the unknown soldier, we told Kyle that he needs to be quite and respectful.  I remember thinking, ‘If Kyle was disturbing the crowd, then I would take him out of the area and we would go for a walk’.  I also thought, ‘He would be so grounded for acting up in such an honorable place’.  As a family, we discussed Kyle going to the ceremony and we believed it was an experience that he should be apart of, he just needed to be taught the correct way to behave.  You know what?  Kyle was an absolute perfect angel during the entire demonstration.  He stood and watched the guards attentively.  He was such a respectful little man, who made us all proud!

In honor of those how have survived, the families of the fallen and those who have perished during the tragedies of 9/11, may peace be with you.  And to our soldiers who have fought and continue to fight for our freedom over the years, THANK YOU!  You have my utmost respect and prayers.  God Speed!

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Aunt Heather Piper

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

Forks or Bust! – Twilight Pilgrimage Part 1

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

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

We-Love-You-Kyle-Aunt-Heather-Piper

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beth's-Cafe-Aunt-Heather-Piper

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

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

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

Me & Nicole at the Boeing Plant in Seattle, WA 5/17/12

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

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

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Boeing Plant - Seattle Washington 5/17/12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Be Continued…

Pre-flight – Twilight Pilgrimage Prequal

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

Pre-flight – Twilight Pilgrimage Prequal

C’mon, Bree. Be my bestest bud forever. Please?  ~Diego, The Short Second Life Of Bree Tanner, p.42

Text 1 Aunt Heather PiperEver since Stephanie Meyer created the Twilight book, published in 2005 and then released the remainder of the series, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn, The Short Second Life of Brie Tanner, and the not-yet-officially released Midnight Sun, my sister and I have been wanting to go to the location of where it all takes place.  The Twilight books are on my list of top books ever!  I’m not sure if I’m embarrassed to say it, but I’ve read each of the books at least three times, and they never get old!  My sister is the guilty party who got me started in the series and the movies.  I remember our conversation exactly, she said, “Heather you have to start reading the Twilight books, they are so good!”  I rolled my eyes and said, “Nicole, “I’m not reading some teenager books.”  Nicole chose to push the subject further by saying, “Heather, trust me just read Twilight and if you don’t like it, then you don’t have to read the rest.”  Fair enough I thought.

new-moon-bella-edward-woods Aunt Heather Piper

New Moon - Bella & Edwards

Well, Nicole’s persistence paid off and I was hooked by chapter three of Twilight.  What makes the books so appealing?  Enough to sell over 116 million copies world wide?  I’m not really sure.  But I do know from my perspective the story is one of a simple love story that encapsulates danger and action without gore, scandal or drama.  It almost omits the day-to-day issues and responsibilities and lets you run free, well not that you can run with a vampire, ’cause their fast. (pun)  Somehow Stephanie Meyer created this world that draws you into it and you become entranced, almost memorized by the simplicity of a small town filled with monsters, who happen to be good people, well at least the residence.  Not to mention they take place in a real life place called Forks.

Text 2 Aunt Heather PiperWhen Stephanie Meyer had her dream about the vampire and the girl, she needed a setting for her story.  Where does one find answers now-a-days?  The internet of course.  She actually Googled the rainiest place on the continental United States, and what popped up but the one and only Forks?  Then of course, she did her do diligence and really researched the town and surrounding areas, hence La Push Beach and the usage of the Quileute Tribe.  This is where my story starts.

Since the books, and no doubt the movies have been released, Forks has been put on the map, literally. I’m not really a big fan of the movies, it’s more like the movies make the books so real and exciting, but regardless it’s all fun.  Fork’s, a small rural town with a population of roughly 3,000 people, positioned in the middle of nowhere on the Olympic Peninsula, is a hot spot for Twilight fans, even to this day.  Nicole and I ran into at least a dozen fans passing through the area, but I’ll get to the stories as they unfold.  Now that the background behind this trip has been established, let the trip begin!

Text 3 Aunt Heather PiperI have always wanted to see Seattle and visit my cousin who lives outside of the city.  With this trip I was getting my cake and eating it too, plus a pilgrimage to Forks!  Nicole and I decided to do an extended weekend, sneaking out and back from Wednesday, May 16th through Monday, May 21st.  My sister was flying out of the Dulles Airport and I was coming from Pittsburgh.  The anticipation of this trip was like two children getting ready for a field trip.  As word got out about the trip, my friends wanted to come ‘vampire hunting’ and instructed me to ‘watch out for Victoria’ and so forth.  My sister and I did the typical count down and romanticized about the trip beforehand.  The weeks and days leading up to our departure we would text funny messages like, ‘I want to go here’ and show a picture from the movie.

When I travel, there are certain things you can count on.  I always pack light, as I’ve mentioned in Traveling Habits and speed walk everywhere, especially in airports.  By nature I am not a person who strolls or takes their time to get from point A to point B, I walk with a purpose, even if I’m not in a hurry.  All this sounds great, except you can also count on me arriving at my destination without bags, because the airline lost them, or me missing my flight all together.  The mismanagement of bags, I certainly can’t control, but it does seem to happen to me, a lot. Then let’s discuss my missed flights.  Sometimes it’s not my fault, just the luck of draw with flight delays and schedules.  Unfortunately, more than not, it’s usually my fault.  Missing flights on a number of occasions is a result of not allowing enough time to tackle lines and traffic, or not paying attention to my emails when flights are moved around and are ahead of schedule.  My sister is well aware of these minor hiccups involved with me traveling and her method to alleviate them is to threaten me.  A conversation with Nicole would always seem to include “And you better not miss your flight.  I’m not waiting for you.” or “You miss your flight and you’re on your own.”  All empty promises, but quite funny! Even up to the minute I was suppose to leave, I worked a half day on Wednesday, and Nicole was texting me asking if I left yet and reminding me of my departure time.  What I was not aware of, was that she registered my cell phone for calls and text message updates.  Boy, she covered all basis!  And she had alerts on my flight information sent to her phone as well.   That’s my sister, very thorough!

Text 4 Aunt Heather PiperLeaving work halfway through the day on Wednesday, meant that I would have made it to the airport without stress.  But I decided to take a slight detour before heading to the airport.  You see, Kyle asked me for a new folder for school a week prior, he said, “Aunt Heather my fold is in two pieces and I need a new one.”  Well, I can’t have Kyle running into a roadblock such as a torn folder holding all his homework, now could I?  I had an extra plain black folder at the house and I put it in the car to leave with him, but alas I kept forgetting to pass it along.

Now, there I was leaving work, suppose to be heading straight to the airport, but I looked down in my front seat to see Kyle’s folder.  What to do? What to do? What else?  Stop by his school and drop it off with a note!  I will admit it was a bit out of my way, but I didn’t care, although my sister’s voice chirping in my ear about not missing my flight was certainly going off as clear as day.

As I pulled up to his school I was all wound up, getting ready to leave for the airport and sneaking Kyle his folder with a note, it was already a great day!  The minute I stepped into the school, who stepped off of the staircase into the hallway leading a line of kids?  The one and only Mr. Kyle Piper!  He saw me first and all I heard was, “Aunt Heather! What are you doing here?”  Being totally surprised and taken aback, I said, “I came to give you your folder silly.”  He just looked at this plain black glossy folder, and said, “Ok”.  I gave him a sideways hug, since full hugs and kisses are totally forbidden, especially in front of all his friends in school.  I asked him “Where are you off to?” with a reply of “Math class”.  Just then a few of his friends tried to catch my attention and waved at me, and then they reached for the folder in Kyle’s hands.  I heard a few voices whisper, “What’s the folder for?” and “Let me see it.” Wow!  If I would have known this folder was going to get such attention I would have purchased him a really cool one, like The Avengers or something better than just plain black, but at least it wasn’t pink!

Text 5 Aunt Heather PiperThis entire encounter took maybe five minutes.  I didn’t want to hold Kyle up, since I didn’t have permission to be in the school anyway and let alone hold up the line of students and distract Kyle.  I told him I was off to the airport to meet up with Aunt Nikki in Seattle.  He said, “You’re not going to be home this weekend?” I said, “No buddy, remember we talked about his.  I’m going to Seattle with your Aunt Nikki, I won’t be back till late Monday night.  I’ll be missing only one of your baseball games.”  He gave me a pensive look as if our plans were finally making sense to him and disrupted the flow.  I reiterated that his Gigi was still going to be picking him up on Friday.  He gave me a cute little sideways smile, before I darted right back out of the door.

As I left, I was so excited that I called my mom and told her about my little chance encounter.  It really left me with a great feeling!  Even though I knew I was going to miss him, I got to talk to him and I got one last little hug.  That meant more to me than anything!  Sometimes it’s just those unplanned chances in life that really stick with you and make the world of difference.  That was one for the books!

Next stop, Pittsburgh airport, but first one more detour.  I had to fuel up the car.  Being completely on empty is not a new concept with me.  I tend to forget or wait until I am on fumes before I fill up the gas tank.  When I noticed that I was in the danger range, according to the fuel gauge, I thought, ‘Nicole would kill me if I didn’t make my flight because I ran out of gas!’  Stopping at Sheetz, which was on my way, I also picked up a burrito M-T-O for dinner, win win killing two birds and thinking once I got situated I would eat.  Perfect!

Text 6 Aunt Heather PiperGetting to the airport in good time, I was pretty relaxed, never loosing any of my excitement built up previously.  It’s a good thing too, because I had to park way out at the furthest end of extended-long term parking.  There were NO parking places.  I don’t mind walking, especially on nice sunny days when I have enough time, in fact I must admit I enjoyed my walk.  It helps to stretch out my legs and burn off some energy before having to be confined to a plane seat for hours.  I must say, this time the only issue I ran into was at security when they accused me of having a container of liquid in my bag.  What? I knew I didn’t have anything like that, I try to make sure I remain in compliance with the airline rules, as to not be delayed.  Here the lady with the latex gloves came over to me to inspect my bag further and she pulled out my burrito.  She said, “What’s this?” and I quickly put her mind to rest by saying, “A burrito.”  Really?  It has Sheetz M-T-O written all over the wrapper.  At first, I thought I was going to have to unwrap my dinner to prove to her it was in fact a burrito, but she put it back in my bag and instructed me to continue on my way.  I guess they are only doing their job and trying to keep everyone safe.  It just took me off guard.  Maybe the foil wrapping made the machines go off?  Who knows but now I was on my way.

I actually really enjoy sitting at an airport.  I always get a new book, and this time I bought two new ones, each one being two books in one, The Vampire Diaries.  I’ve always wanted to read those books and I thought it was appropriate on this trip.  Sitting there reading with no interruptions, except for text messages between me and Nicole, is my favorite part of traveling.  That is the time where I can relax and my vacation begins.

to be continued…

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

Traveling Habits

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.  ~Saint Augustine

Nicole Piper and Aunt Heather Piper in Ireland 2005

Me & Nicole at the Heineken Brewery, Ireland June 2005

Having an adoration for seeing the world is ingrained in me.  I am fortunate enough to have parents who feel the same way, always encouraging my brother, sister and myself to see the world.  That’s one thing I really truly appreciate and admire about mom and dad.  There was never a time they forbade us or threw up roadblocks when the opportunity arose to see different destinations, within the states or abroad.

Always trusting how we were raised, as good hearted, responsible individuals, my parents reinforced being safe and using common sense.  Let’s face it, common sense is a very useful and powerful tool.  Mom and dad were never ignorant to the fact that there is crime and violence everywhere in the world, not to mention less than acceptable living conditions and sicknesses, but they have always believed that traveling was essential to growing.  They know there is a world of history, art, culture and just plain beauty, not to mention the adventure of it all.

You know it’s funny how different people travel.  Being a no muss, no fuss traveler, I always trek around with just the necessities, minimal bags.  Avoiding hold ups like digging for travel documents is the key.  I try to have those ready and on hand, just the essential documents, not the printout of a book from an email and all confirmations, just my travel destinations highlighted for quick reference.  Moving through transportation terminals such as airports and train stations, I move my tooshy and try not to dilly dally.  I am that person who walks up the escalators, walks on the people mover, the one who will not drive around for an hour looking for the closest parking spot, and the one who will check in all baggage so I don’t take additional time boarding and unboarding.  Not to mention the little things like staying out of the way and not holding up lines.  If I am not sure of my direction or need to get situated, I get out of everyone’s way until I am ready to proceed.  Carrying a piece of fruit and some sort of nuts or granola bars for snacking, I avoid stopping to get in lines to eat.  This helps me consume minimal food during my adventures so I don’t need to stop and use the restroom facilities.

Me and Kyle touring the caves of West Virginia - Aunt Heather Piper

Me & Kyle touring the caves of West Virginia with Casey 2011

Then there is the opposite of me, those who travel nothing like what I’ve described.  I’m not saying one is better over the other, just making pure observation.  But I do need to call out those individuals who seem to need a manual on etiquette for traveling or, at the very least, common sense.  Yes, you know who you are.  Again, I’m sure over the years I’ve broken a few of those rules myself, unintentionally, but I do try to take others into consideration with my actions during my journey.

I was on a flight not too long ago and I saw a man trying to push his huge carry on, that barely fit into the overhead might I add, in front of another bag.  And I mean he tried.  Common sense must have escaped him or better, he must not have checked it at baggage.  Did anyone ever tell him that you can’t fit 10 pounds of something in a five pound bucket?  Apparently he missed the memo.  Really I don’t care except he held up boarding of the plane with his actions.  What made this even better, they announced before we boarded the plane that it was a full flight and they recommended that anyone with larger carry on luggage to check it in.  So this gentlemen had the chance to check in his attaché and chose against it.  But now he is pushing his bag into another in the overhead.  Gets even better.  Not all the overhead space was taken.  All he needed to do is walk a few feet down the isle to an open bin.  Problem solved!  Then he could have made his way to his seat and let everyone follow suit.  Do you think it occurred to him?  Well I will never know the answer, but I do know he held up everyone boarding and getting into their respected seats because he remained focused on loading that large piece of matter into one specific spot, along with the bag that already occupied the space.  One also would think that, if you have an entire line waiting on you, staring at you, you would change your course of action or at the very least adjust the plan of attack.

Aunt Heather Piper in front of Le Louvre in Paris France

Me in front of Le Louvre in Paris, France. 2005

Well, I take that back, he did.  He chose to shove this massive bag in the overhead opposite to him, which was equally as full.  Really?  Did you think there was going to be a different outcome?  I guess he doesn’t know what doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is called.

Eventually, after 15 minutes, he got the hint, felt the pressure or gained common sense.  No matter what the reasoning was, he adjusted his arrangement.  I wasn’t mad but, I must say, having a front row seat to this craziness was quite interesting.  Maybe he had his reasons, though I really don’t see the logic, even reflecting on it now.

So I guess the moral of this story, when you travel you effect everyone around so be considerate.  O also user common sense!

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