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

Adventures in San Diego On a Dog Scavenger Hunt

Reading is like thinking, like praying, like talking to a friend, like expressing your ideas, like listening to other people’s ideas, like listening to music, like looking at the view, like taking a walk on the beach.  ~Roberto Bolaño

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Mission Basilica in San Diego. What a great place & such history 9/10/16

Recently, I trekked across the United States from Latrobe, Pennsylvania to San Diego, California.  Why?  Thrill of the Hunt was hosting a scavenger hunt.  What an adventure!

On Saturday, September 10, 2016, Thrill of the Hunt hosted our very first public scavenger hunt in San Diego.  It was a dog scavenger hunt.  Yes, Thrill of the Hunt is going to new distances with our events and we’re really expanding, bringing our adventures to others.

How did the trip go?  Honestly, it was very stress free and actually relaxing.  Is this unusual?  Sure.  I mean keep in mind, planning an event and getting all the logistics in order prior to leaving is a challenge all it’s own.  Then, tack on making sure everything gets packed, arriving on location in good time, and getting acclimated to the area, plus dealing with any changes or roadblocks along the way, and making the event happen as best as possible is a huge task.  One I relish in.

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Sunset at Mission Beach, San Diego, CA 9/10/16

Usually, the first issue begins with me catching my plane on time.  Yes, believe it or not, that’s always an issue.  Is it because I’m naturally a late person?  No.  In fact, I’m notorious for being early.  Unfortunately, when flying, I always underestimate my departure time, or I run into unforeseen problems or literal roadblocks.

This time was different, I left with more than enough time and guess what happened?  Nothing!  No traffic, no getting lost, which does happen to me a lot, even though I know where I’m going, no plane delay, no suitcase lost, nothing.  I thought of everything, although I did forget the dog bowls to refresh the dogs, but the Bark Park had an actual water fountain for dogs.  Really?  Yes!

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The Bark Park at Westfield UTC Shopping Plaza for the dog scavenger hunt in San Diego, Ca. 9/10/16

We’re did I go?  I flew into San Diego.  The dog scavenger hunt was held at Westfield UTC shopping plaza.  I met the participants at the Bark Park and they maneuvered their way throughout the dog friendly shopping area.  It’s a lovely place with the store entrances in close proximity to one another and isolated from traffic. Perfect for dogs on the move.

Check out the pictures and videos from the dog scavenger hunt.  They’re a hoot!   Facebook  •  Pinterest  •  Youtube.

What else did I do while in sunny San Diego?  I didn’t have much time, but I did explore a little.  I went to Mission Beach, which was breathtakingly beautiful.  I loved the boardwalk (cement).  It stretched along the coast, with sandy beaches and crashing waves on one side, and houses, restaurants and retails stores on the other.  People on skateboards, bikes and some with dogs traveled up and down enjoying God’s handiwork.

Did I swim, go surfing, or jog while there?  No.  In fact, I didn’t realize I never packed my swimsuit and I forgot sunscreen.  I was so focused on the event, it never occurred to me that I’d have extracurricular time.  So I walked and walked up and down the coast until dark, watching the sun set Friday night.

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Mission Beach boardwalk, San Diego 9/10/16

After the dog scavenger hunt on Saturday, I was given a recommendation to visit Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá.  It’s the first Franciscan mission in The Californias, a province of New Spain.  Let me tell you, VERY COOL!  I even arrived in good time to tour around, hit the confessional, sit and pray, and then I attended mass, which incidentally they played a bunch of my favorite songs.   It was a very spiritually enhancing and refreshing experience.  I’ll admit, while I was praying for Kyle’s well-being, I wished he was there, knowing he’d be intrigued by the history and structure of the buildings and gardens.

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Mission Basilica in San Diego. Very spiritual place! 9/10/16

After church, I headed back to Mission Beach.  One could say, I was hooked, even though I’m not much of a beach person.  I stopped at a taco stand and ate my dinner sitting in the sand watching the waves roll in while the sun set.  I continued where I left off the night before, walking around, stretching my legs and enjoying the atmosphere until darkness fell.  I was going to stop in a pub for a drink, to relax and soak up more of the energy, but I didn’t want to push my luck.  After hours and packed bars on a Saturday night, plus an out-of-towner, seemed like a recipe for trouble.

By the time Sunday rolled around, it was time to pack and head home.

What books did I read?  One part about traveling that I absolutely love, beside the adventure of it all, is the time I get to read.  Usually, on any trip, especially one that involves an airplane, I read a book leaving and one coming home.  This trip was no exception.  I read The Girls by Emma Cline heading to San Diego.  I knew the book took place in California so I thought it appropriate.  Coming back, I read the Young Elites by Marie Lu.  This is a series, which I need to get the next book, and the third will soon be released.

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Mission Beach boardwalk. Lovely beach! San Diego, Ca. 9/10/16

Next year when I head out to San Diego, I’m going to be prepared and bring my swimsuit, sunscreen and maybe I’ll try a few surf lessons.  I’ve always wanted to learn.  Actually so did Kyle, when he was little.

I missed my little man.  Where was he?  He had a football game Friday night, and a band competition and practice all day Saturday, on their home field.  I wished I was there to cheer him on, but alas I was almost 2,500 miles away expanding Thrill of the Hunt into new territory.  I texted him on Saturday wishing him good luck, with no response.  I also texted and called him on Sunday before leaving, and again no answer.  I just wanted to hear how his weekend went and to tell him how much I love him before flying home.  Maybe one day Kyle will rejoin Thrill of the Hunt and we can travel together.

Kyle’s a great traveler, even at the age of fifteen.  We’ve trained him well, he’s been traveling since he was a little tyke, to either my sister’s in Virginia, New York for mom’s work, West Virginia to visit Casey, plus the trips Nicole and Kyle took.  Yep, he’s already a world traveler.

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Mission Beach … lovely sandy beach & white waters. Great beach! San Diego 9/10/16

Now for the funny story.  After everything is an adventure with me.  It’s actually only a funny for me, but I’ll share.  Being a Latrobe native, we don’t have many skateboarders around, it’s not a lifestyle like it is in San Diego.  While walking around the boardwalk, I’d hear the wheels and the clapping of decks from skateboard after skateboard.  Sure there were some roller blades and a lot of bikes, but equally as many skateboards.  Eventually, I paid attention to the people riding the skateboards.  More than not, I made a mental note that they were older people, with the exception of a few youngsters.  Then it dawned on me, Wait, I’m their age!  I do have this thing about me.  I seriously forget how old I really am.  That made me chuckle.  The noise was very soothing to me, taking me back to my childhood.

I had a great adventure and I look forward to the next.

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posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Church,Education & Learning,Family,News,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts,Travels and have No Comments

A Visit to Google Pittsburgh… Continued

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

Google Pittsburgh Tour 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

Floors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Cafeteria”

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

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

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

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

The area is spacious and clean and very inviting.

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

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

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

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

Details

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pittsburgh – Night Out in the Big City Vol. 1

Sometimes I make bad decisions.  ~Heather Piper

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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!

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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.

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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

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“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

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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…

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

An Ice-Cream Cone Story

A lesson taught with humor is a lesson retained.  ~Ruth K. Westheimer

Kyle's-Close-up-Aunt-Heather-Piper

A close-up of my little man! He was about 3 years old. What a cutie!! c. 2004

Kyle, what else can I say?  He is too much, and sometimes the perfect reminder of stories past.  Yesterday, while taking him to his piano lessons, we stopped at PetCo first to pick up The World’s Best Cat Litter.  On a side note, it truly is the world’s best cat litter!  My sister introduced me to it a few years ago, and I must say, well worth the money.

Anyway, for some reason Kyle brought up ice-cream and he reminded me of the ice-cream cone story.  In fact, Kyle relives that story a lot!  Every time we get ice-cream, pass an ice-cream joint or like yesterday, out of no where mention the ice-cream cone incidence.

What is this great memorable story you may ask?  I know I’ve mentioned it a time or two, but I guess it’s worth highlighting again today.  After all it is Friday!

Kyle is now twelve, so I’m going back quite a few years when he was probably around four or five, maybe even three.  Yesterday Kyle told me he was four when it happened, so I’ll go with that.  The kid claims he has a horrible memory.  O no!  I beg to differ.  Kyle remembers EVERYTHING!  He really does, especially situations in which he got himself in serious trouble and those that really made him laugh.  He remembers ALL!

Back to the story at hand.  It all started one hot summer day.  Kyle and I decided to stop at the local Dairy Queen to pick up ice-cream for the family.  It was a scorcher, so we were trying to move quickly to get the frozen treats back before they became a mass of melted sweet milk substance.  At that time, Kyle only ever ordered his usual, ice-cream cone with rainbow sprinkles.  I’m not sure if this was the point in life when he ventured out and would eat the twist, or if it was strictly vanilla, but regardless it was an ice-cream cone.

I need to deviate slightly again to really set the story.  I’m not really meticulous about much, but there are certain things that get to me.  Once happens to be the inside of my car.  I like it clean and tidy, not that it always remains that way.  It may never always be sparkling perfect, but there is never extra  junk, trash or messes in my car.  Now the outside usually looks like I went off-roading, but not the inside.  Having Kyle as much as I have over the years, he knows this about me.  He sometimes tries to push my buttons, even to this day, by stuffing tissues, garbage or what have you, in the side of the door, or behind the seat.  I hate that, even though it is sometimes funny.  Just, last week I found his dirty socks stuffed in the door pocket.  That kid!  Now back to the ice-cream.

Naturally, the place was hopping.  After we stood what seemed like forever in the heat, we got the goods and scooted out.  As I always did and still do to this day, I said, “Don’t get any ice-cream on the seats.”  While Kyle licked his mountain of melting frozen goodness, he nodded and proceed to load himself in the backseat, with a little assistance from me, still being in his booster seat at that time.  He graduated to the window seat, as opposed to the center backseat position.  So maybe Kyle was right he was around four years old.

We loaded up the car and we were off.  Another thing about me, is I like to drive with the windows down.  Yes, no matter how hot or cold it is, I love the fresh air circulating.  So maintaining former habits, I dropped all four windows before pulling out and heading up the highway.  Looking back on it now, I guess air conditioning would have eliminated the entire story, but then again we wouldn’t have the story to laugh about for years to come.

As I was rushing up the highway, I heard Kyle say, “Umm O no… Aiya?”  Without turning around, remaining focused on my mission of getting our ice-cream back while it was still considered ice-cream, I halfheartedly replied, “What buddy?”  With a very nervous and unsure retort Kyle said, “Umm… Aiya, look!”  Kind of rolling my eyes as if what could possibly be the matter and what could’ve happened in the few minutes I had my eyes off of Kyle, I turned my head just give him a satisfactory glance, and then I saw what he was warning me of.

Kyle-with-ice-cream-cone-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle getting ready to really enjoy his ice-cream cone.. & get it ALL over him! 9/2012

Kyle had ice-cream all over his face, which I knew I would happen, but the rest was a surprise to me.  There sat Kyle, looking like a deer in headlights, holding onto his ice-cream cone while rivers of melted goodness along with colored sprinkles ran down towards his hands, as he was trying to vacuum them up.  To his right, ice-cream was splattered ALL over the seat belt, the seat, the window, EVERYWHERE.  It was even along the outside of the car just like I was shot with a paintball gun in rainbow sprinkles!  Apparently, accelerating with the windows down, while holding a very runny ice-cream cone, in the summer heat, causes the ice-cream to take flight and land perfectly all over the car.

I could tell by the look on Kyle’s face, he thought he was in trouble, even though there was nothing he could have done about it.  One look and I busted out laughing.  First of all ,he was just too cute sitting there in that mess and secondly it was my fault for not using the air-conditioner.  After realizing that I found complete and uncontrollable humor in the sticky situation, Kyle began to bust out in laughter too.  It really was funny!  Initially, all I could say was, “What on earth?”

Since we were only a few miles to our final destination and I didn’t have the cleaning supplies to tackle this mess, I told Kyle to hold tight and I’ll deal with it later.  We both laughed and giggled the entire way back.

Once we arrived at the house, Kyle couldn’t wait to tell his Gigi and pappy about our little sweet adventure.   That is, after he striped off his ice-cream covered cloths.  Kyle’s thing, he doesn’t like to be sticky or have his cloths wet.  He finished the remainder of his ice-cream cone in the comforts of the living-room in his underoos, while I eventually made my way back out into the heat to scrub down the car.  I never did get all the ice-cream out, but at that point, I didn’t care much.   I had a half a mind to send Scooby in there to clean up the mess.

Yep, that was a day neither one of us could ever forget and it seems to be a very fond memory of Kyle’s!  I’m glad I was there to experience it with him.  That mess was totally worth it!

Below is a video of Kyle eating an ice-cream cone from last year.  He was cracking me up!  He even brought up the ice-cream cone story.

 

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing 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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

Bill,-Denise,-Zack-Aunt-Heather-Piper

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.

Uncle-Walter-&-Crew-Aunt-Heather-Piper

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

Cooking with Kyle – Aunt Nikki’s Hors d’oeuvres

“If you knew how to cook, maybe I would eat,” Jace muttered.  Isabelle froze, her spoon poised dangerously. “What did you say?”  Jace edged toward the fridge. “I said I’m going to look for a snack to eat.”  That’s what I thought you said.” Isabelle turned her attention to the soup.”  ~Cassandra Clare, City of Bones

Since it’s Friday, I thought I’d bring out another one of my lost archive videos that Kyle and I made.  A Cooking with Kyle episode.  It’s a fun little snack that I hope everyone has the chance to make, or modify to personal taste.

Every year since Kyle was about five or six, he would go and spend a week in the summer with my sister.  It has now been dubbed “Aunt Nikki and Kyle’s week of fun.”  It’s their chance to hang out with one another, just the two of them.  Kyle loves his Aunt Nikki very much and looks forward to going every year.  Usually Nicole surprises him with a different adventure.  She has taken him to downtown Washington, DC, which has been visited many many many times by the entire family over the years since there is so much to see and do.  One of our favorite destinations!  They have gone to National Aquarium in Maryland.  One year Nicole tried to plan for Kyle to swim with the dolphins, but that didn’t work out.  They go to the movies, they go shopping, swimming, you name it.  Not to mention my sister allows him to play his video games day and night, which is not permitted any other time.  But when he’s on vacation, he’s on vacation!

Last year was the big trip, New York City.  Nicole arranged for them to take a bus from the DC Metro Area to New York City for the week.  The trip was actually a surprise, until Kyle read the ticket and found out his final destination.  They did all the touristy stuff, Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, and Central Park.  Nicole took him to Serendipity and other key places to eat.  Even though it was New York and Kyle never was in that city, there was another reason to visit the Big Apple, yep Lego’s!  Ever since Kyle saw the Lego’s store in the background while watching Dick Clark’s Rock’in Eve on TV one New Year’s Eve, he has been obsessed with the idea of a huge store dedicated to Lego’s.  That year we were looking for my sister on TV.  She was in New York City ringing in the New Year with her friends.  That’s when Kyle spotted the Lego store.  I will elaborate on the “Aunt Nikki and Kyle’s week of fun” another time.  Let’s get back to the subject at hand. Aunt Nikki’s Hors d’oeuvres.

It was during one of these ‘weeks of fun’ that Kyle and Nicole were grocery shopping and Kyle spotted the sample lady.  From my understanding, Kyle loved the snacks and had my sister buy all the ingredients to make them later.  After he came home, would you believe he told us all about his new favorite snack?  He had me get the ingredients because he wanted to show me how to make them.  Ever since then, he tells everyone about his healthy snack.

I hope you like them as much as Kyle does!

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,LEGO's,Observation & Imagination,Reminiscing,Travels and have No Comments

Coming Home – Twilight Pilgrimage Part 5

I’ll miss you. No matter how short a time you’re gone.  ~Alice Cullen, Midnight Sun, Chapter 1, p.27

Aunt-Heather-Piper-on-Bellas-Truck

Me doing my Emmett impersonation. The license plate was the actual one used in the movie. 5/20/12

Monday morning rolled around, it was time to go home.  With a bitter sweet feeling Nicole and I exited our hotel room and loaded up the car.  The tire, the one that was flat from the night before, was a little low but not too bad.  Seattle – Twilight Pilgrimage Part 4  I used the other can of Fix-A-Flat and we stopped by a gas station just to top it off with a little air before heading to the airport.

It was a rainy, dreary, hazy type of day, similar to the previous.  Typically what you’d expect from Seattle.  Nicole and I were spoiled with beautiful weather up until Sunday.  The weather did made it easier to exist stage right, but it was still hard.  We had that I-just-want-to-stay-one-more-day feeling.  Although, keeping my eye on the prize, I couldn’t wait to see Kyle and my family.

Dropping off the car was the easiest part of our trip.  We pulled up, paid for the rental and handed over the keys. Done!  This trip was the first time Nicole and I traveled together and our gates were almost exactly right beside one another.  We sat in a general area between the two, reliving our trip, before I pulled out my book and continued with my relaxation.  Nicole already started to look up flights to come back for Stephanie Meyers weekend.  Very tempting, but I would certainly want to at least see Marianne first.  Admittingly, I was rather intrigued by some of the events that happen that weekend.  I guess at one point everyone gathers down at La Push, First Beach and build bonfires. The Quileute elders come out and tell the legends of the their people.  Now that is too cool!

While we sat there alternating between shooting the breeze and getting lost in our books, Nicole told me to go check my gate, because naturally I was not paying attention to the time.  My first response was “I’m good” without even checking the time or the ticket counter.  Nicole’s insisted by saying, “Just go check!”  Well, she was right!  My flight was already boarding.  Good call!  I would have missed my ride!  Always leave it to my sister to keep in squared away.

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Hoh National Rain Forest on the Olympic Peninsula

By the time I transferred flights in Chicago I was held up a bit, due to a computer issue on the plane.  I guess the computer needed rebooted.  All they had to do was ask me and I would have pushed the button. (sarcasm)  Once that was resolved I was on my way home bound.  By the time I touched down in Pittsburgh Nicole was already home.  Keep in mind, I left before her and I still had an hour drive to my house from Pittsburgh.  It was probably about 1:00 am before I unlocked my front door and dropped my luggage in the living-room before my head hit the pillow.  I had to work the next day and the morning was going to arrive too soon.

It was a great trip!  We couldn’t have asked for nicer weather and better hospitality.  I learned so much about the history, the area and the people, and the general culture.  At one point, I felt like a native.  This was my type of vacation, a lot of scenery, trees and hiking.

Port-Angeles-Aunt-Heather-Piper

I will admit, I did miss Kyle terribly! It also didn’t help that for most of the trip, I had no cell phone service, sometimes spotty at best.  I’m used to getting a hold of the family when I feel like it.  In turn, I’m also used to them reaching out to me when needed.  In fact, weeks later I was talking about the trip to Kyle and he turned to me and said with his head down, “Aunt Heather next time, can I come with you guys?”  O my buddy!  That just broke my heart.  I said, “Absolutely!”  And you know what?  I really mean it.  I would never tell Kyle something that I didn’t intend to make good on.  Actually, I think he would have enjoyed the trip, well, maybe minus all the Twilight stops and photo opportunities but he adapts pretty good.  He is much like the rest of the family, we like to see new sights and learn about the area and the culture.  I think he has the potential to be a world class traveler.  Now that, I would encourage any way I could, ten fold!

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Map of the US at the Forks Chamber of Commerce

No matter how you look at it, traveling is bittersweet.  Loving the excitement of making the plans, counting down the days and the energized feeling of looking forward to a vacation.  But then there’s the flip side during the trip, the slow moving feeling when each hour has passed and then each day, until the trip has come to an end.  Then on the other hand when a trip has ended, it’s a great feeling going back home, seeing the family, sleeping in your own bed, and unpacking and washing your cloths.  The memories are great, just missed.  Although there’s still that opportunity to relive every minute while telling the tails of the trip.  Sometimes the stories seem more exciting the second and third times around.

While traveling to different places, I certainly do enjoy my time when I’m there.  However I would never want to take up permanent residence anywhere I’ve been, except maybe Seattle.  I don’t know what it was about the city and the surrounding areas that I loved, but it worked for me.  Maybe it’s because we did have nice weather, or there wasn’t a lot of tourists because we went in May.  The town that encapsulating Beth’s Cafe was so cute and totally quaint.  It seemed like everyone in the town ran or walked and had a dog that accompanied them.  It was a really nice neighborhood overlooking a body of water, which was framed by a park.  I love it!

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Me in front of the Forks Timber Museum & the Chamber of Commerce 5/19/12

Another place that caught my fancy was Port Angeles.  Again, another really lovely area with beautiful neighborhoods, neat little shops and a perfect view of the ocean.  Not to mention, I could totally live in a place that is supplied with fresh seafood consistently.  Port Angeles is a little bit of a hike from Seattle, but not too taxing.  It’s remote enough without being completely isolated.  At least they have Italian restaurants and a movie theater.  Thumbs up!

Seattle itself, was not what I expected.  I guess, I was waiting for the “grunge” type of landscape but it wasn’t.  It was very clean and actually well kept, at least the parts I saw.  We were told from one of our tours, it’s the newest built city in the United States.  The oceanic view plus the greenery surrounding the coastline made the experience complete.  I know it was just by chance but I loved the sunny blue days that were a bit chilly.  As I mentioned to Nicole, I’m guessing Seattle was much like Maine, although I’ve never been, yet.  It was that nautical fell that I liked.  I’m not really a pastel seashell, palm tree, type of person.  I’m more of a barges, ports, trees, rocky cliff sides and seafood type of gal.  Which was Seattle.

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Twilight World Map.. I am amazed at the distance the fans have traveled to make their very own Twilight Pilgrimage.

Something else that I was fully aware of, but still took me by surprise, were those travelers before us and the ones soon to follow us, taking the same pilgrimage to Forks.  I wonder what their thoughts were of the city?  The Chamber of Commerce has a map of the world were they encourage visitors to place a pin from their hometown.  This map was amazing!  Covered in multicolored pins, there were places marked that I didn’t even know existed, let alone think people actually inhibited those remote places.  Example, there were pins, not just a pin, but plural pins from these tiny islands above Russia!  Yes, above, meaning right next to Antarctica.  Really?  There are Twilight fans all the way up there?  Yep! Of course, I can’t image there is a lot to do in their area but read, so that makes sense.  These Twilight fans made a trek to the other part of the world, from one remote location to another.  It’s almost comical.  Yet, what an adventure to for them!  Kudos!  I would have done it too!

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Signs on the wall of a restaurant in Forks…they’ve embraced it!

I’m sure Stephanie Meyers couldn’t have fathomed the popularity surrounding the books that were a result of a dream she had years ago.  What is neat is all the details that became a part of our trip, all because Stephanie Meyers chose to do her research and build this very real place into her fiction story.  Making over $50 million plus a year, I know Stephanie Meyers is not concerned about my thoughts and opinions but, great job!  Thanks for bringing us on this adventure that seems to be staying for a long time.  I hope to see more good things in Twilight.  I think it’s great!  A really great read and fun to be a part of it all.

Read the trip from the beginning.

Pre-flight – Twilight Pilgrimage Prequal

Forks or Bust! – Twilight Pilgrimage Part 1

Rain Forest, Forks, Beach…all in a Day! – Twilight Pilgrimage Part 2

More Forks & Port Angeles – Twilight Pilgrimage Part 3

Seattle – Twilight Pilgrimage Part 4

Nicole-with-Twilight-crew-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Nicole posing with the Twilight crew… this picture is absolutely ridiculous! 5/20/12

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

Seattle – Twilight Pilgrimage Part 4

We have all eternity, and you’re worried about the time it would take to walk to the back door?  ~Bella Cullen, Breaking Dawn, Chapter 21, p.407

Nicole-&-Aunt-Heather-Piper-Space-Needle

Me & Nicole in front of the Space Needle 5/20/12

Yes, it was Sunday morning Nicole and I woke up early to find the church we chose to attend.  Just because we were on vacation doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop in to God’s house and pay respect.  With all the traveling that we were doing, we really needed His blessing to get us around safely, not to mention it was Ascension Sunday!  As we exited the church, it began to rain.  We were waiting for the inevitable, and to be honest I didn’t mind it.  It wasn’t too cold, just soggy, wet and hazy.  A perfect way to start our day of adventure, Seattle style.

We made our way to Pike’s Peak.  I will admit it took us awhile, since we parked the car and my sister was navigating the streets, but we found it.  And boy, I didn’t know what to expect, but it was PACKED!  We really had a tight schedule of sights planned, so we didn’t spend too much time there.  Finding a place to sit and grab a bite to eat before making our way around the city, became our priority.  Nicole and I both had egg sandwiches on sourdough bread, which was the BEST breakfast sandwich I ever had!  While eating, Nicole and I kept coming back to the topic of bacon.  Everywhere we went, when we had bacon, it was magnificent. I mean it really.  It was perfectly cooked, not fatty but not burnt and full of flavor.  It seemed like the state of Washington had stock in perfect bacon.  Nicole said, “They must have pig farms somewhere around here.”  I died!  That was too funny!  I said, “Nicole, it’s everywhere we went, even on the Olympic Peninsula in Forks.  We have pig farms and butchers around home, but the bacon is not like this.”  We had no other solid theories explaining the great tasting bacon.

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This is the building we started our Underground Tour...very educational.

Once we were as full as pigs, we needed to get up and walk around, heading for our first tour, The Underground City.  Just to give a brief overview, Seattle was built at sea level, so when the high tide would come in, it would flood the first, second and even sometimes the third floors of buildings.  Eventually, Seattle built up the roads to the second floors of the building.  As time moved on, to eliminate the need to climb ladders every time someone wanted to walk across the street, they enclosed the side walks overhead, meeting the same level as the road, which now made the once second and third floors, the first floors.  This created an underground city of sidewalks and forgotten first floor buildings.  Through the tour we learned the city is slowly starting to restore these areas and use them as functional store fronts.  The tour was so educational and fun!  Great pick on Nicole’s part!

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Actual furniture still seen on the underground tour.

After all that walking, I wanted to walk some more.  Even thought it was still drizzling and overcast, I didn’t mind, I wanted to use foot power to get to the Space Needle.  Together, Nicole and I agreed and headed in that direction.  Now there is an on going joke, a funny if you will, about me getting to the tops of famous monuments.  You see I never can, for one reason or another, reach my destination with respect to monuments.  Now I will admit I was fortunate enough to get to the top of one of the World Trade Towers, which can never happen again.  I am blessed to have had that opportunity.  But let’s discuss my string of missed occasions.  When I went to the Statue of Liberty in high school, we ran out of time and I only got to the pedestal.  When I went to see the Eiffel Tower, we got there too late and I only could go to the first tier and let’s not discuss the Washington Monument.  Nope, this time I broke free of the curse.  I got to the top and walked around the outside about three times and the inside twice, to make sure I had the full effect.  I was happy and my life at that point was complete!  Mom asked me later, “Did you get to the top of the Space Needle?”, as she asked with a curious grin.  Very funny mom!  All I could reply was, “YES!”

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Underground Tour of Seattle with our tour guide.

As I roamed around the Space Needle, and eventually making my way down to the gift shop to look around just out of curiosity, I stumbled upon a Space Needle Lego set.  Now how could I resist?  After all, I didn’t see anything that I really thought Kyle would want, except a pin that said ‘My Aunt Brought Me This From Forks’ or something along those lines.  Boy was I excited to surprise Kyle.  So as we made our way across the street to the Ducky Tours, our next big adventure of the day, I called Kyle while we waited and told him I got him something.  He naturally said, “What Aunt Heather?”  and I retorted by saying, “It’s a surprise, you’re going to have to wait and see when I get home.”  Kyle instantly was not going to accept that and then asked me where I got the gift from.  Answering him, what I thought was harmless knowledge, he caught me off guard because I was so wrong about my assumption.  Kyle said, “O I know what you got me!  A Space Needle Lego set!”  I was flabbergasted!  I tried to play it cool and asked him why he thought that, only to hear his reply, “They have all famous monuments in Legos.  Lego White House, Lego Statue of Liberty, and what’s that tower in France?” I assisted by saying “The Eiffel Tower?” while Kyle picked up on my words and said, “Ya Lego Eiffel Tower, and I know they have a Lego Space Needle.”  I said, “How do you know all this?” followed by Kyle saying, “They have them all listed online.”  I guess Kyle has memorized all the known Lego’s.  I shouldn’t be surprised.

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I thought I bought Kyle the perfect gift... Lego Space Needle

As we took our very cold, wet Ducky Tour, I still kept playing that conversation over in my head.  I said, “Can you believe that little creep?  He knew right away what I got him and he was so sure of himself, he wanted to know when I was going to give it to him!”  Nicole and I just laughed.  I said, “I’m going to wait till the weekend to give him the goods.”

While on the tour we were able to learn more of Seattle’s history and see famous sights such as the boat house from Sleepless In Seattle.  They also showed us the newly built or ready to be built boathouses.  Did you know that you have to purchase the ‘landing’ for the boathouse separate and the boathouses themselves are upwards of a million dollars?  Here, I thought we were living in a recession and the housing market was lagging.  Guess not in Seattle on the water.

Once we made it off the boat and back on dry land, we started to head back toward our car, which happen to be on the complete other end of the city.  Yep, in one day Nicole and I managed to walk from one end of Seattle to the other and back again, not to mention the distance we covered trying to find Pike’s Peak.  Our shoes certainly put on a few miles that day.  Then, when we finally made it back to the car, we saw one of our tires was flat.  I mean hugging the road in a serious sag, flat!  Yikes!

We called the car rental and would you believe, flat tires are not covered?  Apparently, it is the responsibility of the driver to replace the tire.  I am a bit embarrassed to say, I did yell at the woman on the phone, especially when she gave me an attitude.  I argued that tires are wear and tear on a vehicle and should be covered.  She said, “You’ve had the car for more than four days, so it must have happened with you.”  I couldn’t believe it!  I mean, I could have rented the car and it sat for the four days.  What did she know?  I was mad!  I actually I threatened to drive on the rim.  She said, “Well that’s your choice.”  I couldn’t believe her attitude toward me!  My responsibility?  I think not!

View-from-Space-Needle-Aunt-Heather-Piper

View from Space Needle

Once I was done with my rant, Nicole turned to me and said, “We are not driving on the rim!  I will pay the $70 for the new tire.”  I said, “No this is on principle!  Neither of us are going to pay for this tire.  We are turning it in tomorrow anyway.”  Nicole rolled her eyes and said, “Then how are we going to fix it?  Let me try my On Star”   We called Nicole’s On Star service and disappointingly found out the service only follows the car, not the driver.  I knew I had roadside assistance, but I had no clue what my information was.  After being rejected by On Star, in a very nice and friendly way, Nicole was ready to call the rental place back and pay for the tire.  Nope!  I was on a mission.  Nicole was not amused and we did argue.  I said, “You make it out like you’ve been privileged all your life.  Haven’t you ever been stranded without money?”  Now I could tell Nicole wanted to take control of the situation and I wouldn’t have it.  Since my phone died earlier and I was using hers, I had Nicole GPS the closest gas station.  She said with an attitude, similar to my rental lady, “How is that going to help us?”  I replied, “Haven’t you ever heard of Fix-A-Flat?”  Nicole was skeptical over my solution, which I thought was brilliant.  Once we found the closest gas station, which I was in luck, it was about a half a mile away.  The only downside, it was up a hill, and I mean up a hill!  Nicole threw me a glare and said, “I’m not walking!”  I said, “I’ll go.”  Since Nicole was sitting in the car, in the middle of Seattle, in a rental car, nearing dark, by herself, I thought, I’d better hurry up.

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Seattle's port side near Pike's Peak

In the rain for about a half a mile, I ran up the hill toward my destination to purchased Fix-A-Flat.  Once I got to the gas station, my heart felt like it was going to jump out of my chest.  I spotted the front desk guy and ask in a breathy desperate, almost non existent voice, “Do you have Fix-A-Flat?”  He looked puzzled and said, “If we do it would be under the football.”  I thought, the football?  Then my eyes caught this huge cardboard cut out of a football hanging over a few rows of items.  As I walked back I said a prayer to two.  My eyes scanned the car care items looking desperately, until I saw the words Fix-A-Flat.  I let out the biggest sigh of relief.  Playing it safe, I purchased two cans, which totaled about ten bucks.  Did I mention I was using Nicole’s credit card?  He actually asked my for ID.  Yikes!  Well ironically, I had my license in my pocket, but we clearly are not the same person.  I was ready to take the goods and run.  But to my comfort, as I was trying to explain it was my sister’s credit card, he looked at me and said, “As long you have the same last name.”  Sigh!! God was on my side!  Without dilly dallying, I  ran back down the same slick hill in my converse.  I almost bit it and slid down on my butt a couple of times but I managed to get through unharmed.  I remained focused and delivered the goods back to the car to get us on our way.

Immediately getting to work on the tire, Nicole came got out of the car to inspect or supervise or bother me or whatever.  It worked like a charm!  Nicole, still skeptical said, “How long do we have to wait?” followed by response of, “We can drive on it now.”  She didn’t believe me grabbing the can and scanning the directions.  All I heard was a grunt from her.  We filed back in the car and headed out.  Nicole quickly said, “Let’s try not to go mock speeds.”  Ok, now she was on my nerves.

Once we got back to the hotel, Nicole still unsure said, “What if it goes down overnight?”  I said, “That’s why I bought a second can and we can swing by a gas station to put air in the tire before heading out to the airport.  She said, “But what about the person that uses the car after us?”  I said, “It will show a low tire and the company will have to address it.”  Yep, I got a lot of eye rolling and grunts.  Once we got back to our hotel, we were both beat.  After packing and showering I managed to sit back and continue reading and relaxing until my eyes fell heavy.  This was the end of our fun filled adventurous vacation.   Completely worth it!  Now I just had to make it back home, which always seemed to be a challenge for me.

Alas, due to the flat tire, we were never able to meet up with my cousin Mariann.  I was upset over that, but she was busy much of the time we were there too.  No worries, that gives us another excuse to fly out and visit her.

To Be Continued…

Read the trip from the beginning.

Pre-flight – Twilight Pilgrimage Prequal

Forks or Bust! – Twilight Pilgrimage Part 1

Rain Forest, Forks, Beach…all in a Day! – Twilight Pilgrimage Part 2

More Forks & Port Angeles – Twilight Pilgrimage Part 3

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,LEGO's,Observation & Imagination,Patience,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
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