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Ziplining Into 16-Years

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kyle unhooking ziplining 8-2-17 Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

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

Kyle ziplining! Seven Springs. 8/2/2017

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

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

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

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

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

Kyle ziplining 8-2-17 Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Milestone and have No Comments

Happy Birthday Kyle! Sweet 16!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kyle’s 16! 7/29/2017

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

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

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

Happy Birthday Kyle!  I love you!

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

From February Till Now, A Summary of Kyle

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

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

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

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

Let me give a monthly recap.

February

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

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

March

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

First Day of FISHING! Kingston 4/16/2017

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

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

April

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fishing Derby Prizes 5-13-17 Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kyle Band Concert 5-2-17 Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 14, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June

June 25, 2017 – June 29, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kyle’s Christmas Scavenger Hunt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s get started.  Good luck Buddy!

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

Clue#1

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

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

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

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

Clue #3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Clue #5

Take a selfie with me Kyle!

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

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

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

Clue #7

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

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

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

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

Great job Kyle!  I hope you enjoyed it.

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

Our Marvel(ous) Bond

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Met Leigh Bardugo!

When people say impossible, they usually mean improbable.  ~Leigh Bardugo, Siege and Storm

Anything worth doing always starts as a bad idea.  ~Leigh Bardugo, Siege and Storm

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Me & Leigh Bardugo at the book signing for Crooked Kingdom – South Euclid-Lyndhurst County Public Library, OH  9/28/16

This past Wednesday, I had the honor of meeting Leigh Bardugo.  Who is she?  If you have to ask, you just don’t get it, and you’re probably not into young adult fantasy fiction.  If that genre strikes your fancy, then I suggest diving into her world straightaway.  You’ll thank me later.

Leigh Bardugo is the New York Time’s Best Selling author of the Grisha Series (Shadow & Bone, Siege & Storm, Ruin & Rising) and the Six of Crows.  She was doing a book signing for her newest release, Crooked Kingdom, the sequel to Six of Crows.

How did I find out about this book signing?  When I heard Crooked Kingdom was being release this September, I immediately went to Leigh Bardugo’s website.  There, I reviewed her events and books signing gigs.  It was at that moment, I started plotting my adventure.

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Leigh Bardugo book signing for Crooked Kingdom – South Euclid-Lyndhurst County Public Library, OH 9/28/16

Where was she?  There were only a few locations in which she’d be in close proximity to me, Ohio, Maryland and Pittsburgh.  To be honest, I actually looked at all the states and their corresponding dates, to see if I was doing an event with Thrill of the Hunt around the same time.  Alas, nothing was easily working in my favor.  Pittsburgh would have been ideal, however she was one of several speakers at the YALSA event at the convention center on November 4th, and it wasn’t a book signing. Incidentally, I would like to attend the weekend activities with YALSA.  That might be a near future possibility, and a last minute decision.  Next on the list was Ohio, only because the date was a day before the release of Crooked Kingdom, and I couldn’t wait.  I was acting like Kyle, my nephew, when he was a kid and a new Lego was being released.

Initially, when I Googled the location of the book signing, it informed me that it was going to be about an hour and a half trip.  I can handle that.  However, on Wednesday, I called to confirm the evening’s book signing activity, and to ensure they did have copies of Crooked Kingdom for purchase.  I also retrieved the address to GPS.  That was when my jaw dropped.  Keep in mind, I was excited beyond words and I was leaving in plenty of time without rushing or stressing.  What happened?  The GPS said it was going to take me three and a half hours to get there!  What?  I must have previously Googled the branch location.  Yikes!  I was already going to be late.  Did my newest obstacle stop me?  Nope! I darted out the door and put the peddle to the metal.

Where did I go?  I ended up at the South Euclid-Lyndhurst County Public Library in South Euclid, Ohio, across from Notre Dame.  It was a long trip, but one worth it.

I arrived without incidence, but was ten minutes late.  Anyone who knows me, knows I absolutely detest being late, for anything.  Regardless, I scurried into a room full Leigh Bardugo fans without missing a beat.  It was an eclectic assortment of individuals, mostly young adults, but also a variety of ages and genders.  Naturally, Leigh was on time and was in the middle of talking about the book and other projects as I crossed the threshold. Crap!

Prior to Wednesday, I read that DC Comics was teaming up with some writers for a four book collection based on superheros.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw Leigh Bardugo was writing the Wonder Woman book.  Can my days get any better?  I love reading her books and now she’s writing a book about my childhood idol!  Life is just getting better and better every minute!

leigh-bardugo-book-signing-crooked-kingdom-ohio-9-28-16-aunt-heather-piper

Leigh Bardugo speaking to her fans & answering questions for the release of Crooked Kingdom – South Euclid-Lyndhurst County Public Library, OH 9/28/16

Before meeting someone of influence and highly respected, there’s always a bit of anxiety.  Let’s face it, we’re all human, and no one is perfect.  There’s that slight chance that person may not be what was envisioned.  Was that the case with Leigh?  Not at all.  The minute I caught up to her conversation, I felt like she was already a friend.  I know that sounds a bit stalker, but it’s true.  She’s saucy, sarcastic, colorful, straight forward, and hilarious.  We’re practically sisters!  She’s the friend you call to go out for a drink, take a road trip or when you need cheering up.

After Leigh spoke and answered questions, we moved into the signing stage of the evening.  As I walked toward the table, I saw the heavens opened up and light streamed down onto Leigh with Crooked Kingdom in hand, like the heavens were pointing the way.  Okay, maybe it wasn’t a religious experience, but I did feel like a kid meeting a rock star.  Seriously?  Yes.  It was a mix between meeting this very cool chick I just heard speaking to the room full of fans, and the desire to jump back into the world of Kerch and Ketterdam, its capital. (Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom)  Yes, her books are that captivating!

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Leigh Bardugo signed my copy of Crooked Kingdom (plus Shadow & Bone & Six of Crows) 9/28/16

Naturally, I grabbed a few of my books for Leigh to sign.  I was going to take them all but I chose against it, I didn’t want to seem like a super fan, even though I just drove three and half hours to meet an author I praise without reservation, even when no one asks.

Believe it or not, after reading the Six of Crows, I reached out to Leigh’s literary agent, to see if I could obtain copyrights to do a Grisha/Six of Crows themed scavenger hunt.  I was instantly and nicely denied.  But in my eyes, that doesn’t mean forever.  Before taking on my midweek road trip, I meant to grab some literature on Thrill of the Hunt to give to Leigh.  Well, I left in such haste I forgot.  I did have a business card, like any good business owner.

During my own personal two minute encounter with Leigh, I mentioned that I reached out to her literary agent.  And you know what?  She seemed very excited, and then asked if I was a writer.  Leigh’s comment actually threw me for a loop.  Of course, for normal people that would be a typical reason for reaching out to a literary agent.  Actually, I wrote a couple books, but nothing published.  Now it was my turn to throw her for a loop.  Briefly, I informed her that I own Thrill of the Hunt and I make theme scavenger hunts.  I mentioned I would like to do a scavenger hunt based off of her books.  For a second time, she had a twinkle of intrigue in her eye.  Then discreetly, (actually not so discreetly) I pulled out my business card and slid it across the table to her, where she graciously tucked it with her purse.

Will anything come from this meeting?  Who knows, but it sure was fun.

Just before I turned into a pumpkin at midnight, I stumbled into my bed.  I was exhausted, yet really excited to crack that book and jump into the twisted and yet exciting story of Kaz Brekker.  I really don’t have an addictive personality, and I can’t say I have any vices, except maybe my books.  Actually, only certain stories can capture my attention and chain my hyperactive antsy bum to a chair.  Leigh Bardugo is one such author.

I was going to take Kyle along, even though he never read Leigh’s books.  If I can get that Kyle off of those video games long enough to read her books, I know he’d really enjoy the story and enjoy the Grisha world.  Why didn’t I take Kyle?  He’s very busy with school and band, and I didn’t want to keep him out late on a school night, especially to meet an author Kyle will only appreciate down the road.  One day when Kyle returns to the land of enjoyable reading, and not just for school, we can hit up a few book signings.

Taking on adventures in made up worlds is so very relaxing to me and keeps me energized.  I have an addiction to traveling to these mysterious lands, and fighting for the good in people and for simple love.  Fantasy keeps me in check with reality.

Now I seriously can’t wait for Wonder Woman.  On a side note, I should have worn my Wonder Woman shirt!

Leigh Bardugo was donating 10% of her book sales from the Troublemakers Tour (9/29 – 10/10) to GEMS, and Macmillan Publishing was matching her donation up to $3000.

Leigh Bardugo Website:

Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS) mission is to empower girls and young women, ages 12–24, who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking to exit the commercial sex industry and develop to their full potential. GEMS is committed to ending commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking of girls and young women by changing individual lives, transforming public perception, and revolutionizing the systems and policies that impact sexually exploited youth.

10/3/16 –  As I was wrapping up Crooked Kingdom, which is a great book, I had papers shoved in the book that fell out and made me think of an addendum to my story above.  While Leigh Bardugo was opening my books to sign, a few receipts and papers fell out.  Naturally, I apologized and then I felt like I should explain, so she didn’t think I was a junk collector.

Whenever I’m reading a book I tend to drag it along with me wherever I go.  Typically, during that time, I find myself taking care of daily activities that sometimes require waiting, such as getting an oil change, sitting at the veterinarian’s office, flying to a new location, and so forth.  Usually, I collect paperwork from those instances.  I intentionally place certain documentations among the pages of my book.  Granted, I can’t leave everything, or it would be a big pile of miscellaneous papers, but I do add a few select items, sometimes.  Why?  Those unrelated pieces of information are record keepers.  My books record my history in a sense, of what I was doing when I read them.  So the next time I re-read the book, it’s like a walk down memory lane.  Plus, one day if Kyle decides to take adventures into my books, he might find it interesting to see my past, even though it’s usually nothing exciting.

I’m also the one who likes to write in the margins of my books, especially if I know someone is going to read it after I do.  I like to make silly comments, or add inside jokes based off of the story.  It’s another way for others to share in my adventure, and I in theirs, because no matter what it, these entries stop a person in their tracks and sparks conversation.

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posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Family,LEGO's,Milestone,News,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts,Travels and have No Comments

Arnold Palmer was Already a Legend

Success in this game depends less on strength of body than strength of mind and character.  ~Arnold Palmer

The most rewarding things you do in life are often the ones that look like they cannot be done.  ~Arnold Palmer

September 10, 1929 – September 25, 2016

arnold-palmer-logo-aunt-heather-piperLatrobe lost one of our legends, golf great, Arnold Palmer.  He passed away yesterday due to heart complications at the ripe old age of 87.

arnold-palmer-painting-aunt-heather-piperBeing a Latrobean, I grew up around the legend of Arnold Palmer.  I was even honored by witnessing the man behind that legend in passing at the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport, and driving passing his house to find him retrieving his mail.  Not to mention, everyone knows at least one person with an Arnold Palmer story, always a benevolent encounter.  I’m not saying we were BFFs, I mean he didn’t know me, but when you’re from the same close-knit area like Latrobe, you’re automatically friends by default.

The news was blowing up all day today with stories, memories and past images of “The King”.  Rightfully so, he earned the kind words and the fame that accompanied him.  He definitely brought pride to Latrobe.  Whether you were a golfer or not, he was respected and a household name.

Why was Arnold Palmer so famous, not just locally, but around the world?  I mean, besides having a drink named after him.  Seriously?  You bet the Arnold Palmer, consisting of half ice-tea and half lemonade.  In addition, he won numerous events in golf, dating back to 1955, on the PGA Tour and Champions Tour.  What really made him a household name came from being the first superstar of the sport’s television age.  A man after my own heart, a true marketer.

arnold-palmer-drink-aunt-heather-piperMr. Palmer knew how to market himself and take his talent, along with his charm and good looks, to reach the masses.  Unlike a lot of superstars today, he wasn’t a troublemaker or a bad boy.  Nope, he was a positive role model and he was very appreciative of his own success, coming from humble beginnings.  His dad was a green-keeper at the local club where he took an interest in golfing.

Mr. Palmer even served our country in the United States Coast Guard.  That alone speaks volumes about him and his character.

I was not alive during the height of Arnold Palmer’s career, nor am I a golfer, but according to Wikipedia:

Palmer’s most prolific years were 1960–1963, when he won 29 PGA Tour events, including five major tournament victories, in four seasons. In 1960, he won the Hickok Belt as the top professional athlete of the year and Sports Illustrated magazine’s “Sportsman of the Year” award. He built up a wide fan base, often referred to as “Arnie’s Army”, and in 1967 he became the first man to reach one million dollars in career earnings on the PGA Tour. By the late 1960s Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player had both acquired clear ascendancy in their rivalry, but Palmer won a PGA Tour event every year from 1955 to 1971 inclusive, and in 1971 he enjoyed a revival, winning four events.

Granted these are just some of his accomplishments, which continued throughout his entire life.

After hearing the news of The King’s passing, my heart sank a little.  He really was a staple in our community.  The next thought that came to mind?  We’re going to be bombarded with celebrities.  I remember when Arnold’s first wife, Winnie passed away.  The biggest news was George H.W. Bush was spotted in K-Mart purchasing a belt for the funeral.

Arnold Palmer wasn’t a man in everyone’s face, riding the edge of controversy and reality television, but he was friend to many far and wide, high and low.  In my opinion, that made him a true legend.

While I don’t have the fame, nor the fortune of Arnold Palmer, I’m still very proud to announce Thrill of the Hunt is a Latrobe company, and I’m looking forward to the day when I join our prestigious line up local celebrities and keep the good name of Latrobe alive.

God Speed to all of Arnold Palmer’s friends and family.  Rest in peace.

10/3/16 – Recently, I heard a fun story about Arnold Palmer from my cousin John Olczak.  He said his dad, my Uncle Frank, my Grandpap Chester’s brother, and the other brothers caddied together with Arnold Palmer at the Latrobe Country Club when they were younger.  Apparently, they always had to keep track of Mr. Palmer because he would sneak way to hang out on the putting green and practice, instead of caddying.

It just goes to show Arnold Palmer was meant to be a golfer.  He had a natural talent that I’m guessing was driven by a true desire and a love to play the game.

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posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts,Reminiscing,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

Escape Room Experience

Shut your eyes and see.  ~James Joyce

Escape Room Latrobe 5-29-16 Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hello Mary Kay Andrews!

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.  ~C.G. Jung

Mary Kay Andrews Book Signing 5-22-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Me & Mary Kay Andrews book signing for The Weekenders Great lady! Oakmont, PA 5/22/16

I love meeting authors.  Who doesn’t? (perhaps none readers, maybe?)  Especially ones I’ve followed and are very familiar with their work, not to down play meeting new and upcoming authors.  Nope, that’s a different kind of fun, the finding of a new book, a new author, especially one unheard of in the mainstream, and becoming one of their original fans and spreading the word on their new work.  On the other hand, meeting accomplished authors carries an intrigue and excitement with the encounter.  Plus, it tends to carry a celebrity status.  I’ve met a few authors, some mainstream and some nearly unheard of (not as many as I’d like), and they were all really amazing and down to earth people, just like my newest encounter.

Let’s talk Mary Kay Andrews.  She’s a New York Times Bestselling Author, of Hissy Fit, as well as other novels.  She’s also the author of one of my favorites, Summer Rental.  Currently, she’s on her book tour promoting her 24th novel, The Weekenders.

I was introduced to Mary Kay Andrews by a good friend of mine, Kelly Berger.  Yep, she was shopping and came across one of her books, and was instantly drawn to the idea of a story taking place at the beach.  Kelly’s a HUGE beach fan, especially the areas around Hilton Head, Cape Hatteras and the Outer Banks.  I don’t have to tell you, Kelly read Summer Rental and was an instant fan, purchasing all published pieces by Mary Kay Andrews.

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Mary Kay Andrews during a Q &A session at Mystery Lovers Bookstore in Oakmont, PA  5/22/16

Since Kelly and I have always swooped books, and discussed authors and new releases, it was only a matter of time before Mary Kay Andrews would remain a staple on my bookshelf, too.  Kelly and I mostly have similar tastes when it comes to reading material, although her interest stops shy of fantasy.  Summer Rental happened to be a story fit for both of our personalities, and once I’m hooked on an author, I’m hooked.

I met Kathy Hogan Trocheck, a.k.a. Mary Kay Andrews this past Sunday, May 22 at the Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont. (514 Allegheny River Blvd. Oakmont, PA 15139).  What a cute little bookstore!

The day started out rainy and kind of ugly, you know a typical Pittsburgh day, perfect for staying inside and getting acquainted with an accomplished author.  Since I had Kyle, I thought this was the perfect opportunity for him to meet an author too.  I didn’t think it mattered if he read her works or not.  At least that was my thinking.  Kyle had a different opinion.  I guess it would have been a better time for him if he knew the author, but regardless it was a good experience.

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My signed copy of The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews. 5/22/16

All the ladies who showed up were fantastic!  I enjoyed the company as much as I did the purpose of my visit to MLB.  Mary Kay Andrews discussed The Weekenders and answered questions about her books, her influences, her family and so on.  It was great!  She’s so down to earth with a touch of sass!  I loved listening to her!

While waiting in line to get my book autographed (I got one for Kelly too), I struck up a conversation with the lady behind me.  We began talking about books, naturally, and somehow I mentioned I’ve written a book (plus a few started).  Let me step back, during the Q & A session, Mary Kay Andrews asked if we had any authors in the audience.  I didn’t raise my hand, only because my book still needs to be edited and isn’t published.  Well, by the time it was my turn, this wonderful lady, stepped in and informed Mary Kay Andrews of my secret.  You know, Mary Kay Andrews seemed very interested, and asked me questions about my book.  She told me to keep writing and go for it.  What an inspirational lady!

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Mary Kay Andrews discussing her newest novel, The Weekenders at MLB in Oakmont, PA 5/22/16

The entire day rocked.  Not only did I get to meet Mary Kay Andrews and get to purchase her latest book, and have it autographed, but spending the day with Kyle was much needed.  Granted, he played his video games during the entire book signing, but when it was my turn, Kyle jumped up and snapped a picture of me and Mary Kay Andrews.  Thanks buddy!  I really wanted a picture with all three of us, but Kyle already put his foot down in advance.  I didn’t want to push the issue and so I let it alone.  I simply happy to spend some time with Kyle.

During the Q & A session I learned a number of fun facts about Mary Kay Andrews.  Second to my addiction of reading, is my love of random fun facts.  Here are a few to wet your whistle.

Career

  • Mary Kay Andrews is a pseudonym for Kathy Hogan Trocheck
  • Received a B.A. in newspaper journalism from The University of Georgia in 1976
  • Began her career in newspaper journalism, working at the Savannah News-Press 1976-77
  • Worked for the Marietta Journal 1977-79
  • Reported for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from 1980 until she left in 1991 to write books
Family
  • Born July 27, 1954, in Tampa, Florida
  • A native of St. Petersburg, Florida
  • Married her high school sweetheart
  • From a big Catholic family
  • Mary Kay Andrews is a combination of her children’s names—Mary Kay for her daughter Mary Kathleen, and Andrew, for her son, Andy
  • Self proclaimed “junker”
  • Owns two restored beach cottages on Tybee Island, GA, both of which named for fictional locations in her novels

I can’t wait to begin this book!  Check her out!  She’s a southern hoot!

Happy reading everyone!

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

Jury Duty

There must be those among whom we can sit down and weep and still be counted as warriors.  ~Adrienne Rich

Juror badge Aunt Heather PiperLast week I was called to do my civil duty, jury duty.  Actually, I was mailed a questionnaire that I either had to fill out and mail back, or get online to complete.  I chose the later, 1) because it was easier and 2) it said I needed to return it in seven days, and I honestly had no idea how long it sat in a pile of mail I didn’t get to sorting.

I remember in my early twenties I received a similar notice, of course there wasn’t an option to fill out a form online.  In fact, I had to call a supplied phone number the night before to see if I was required to attend.  This time, the night before, I received a text message and an email telling me to appear at the Greensburg County Court House at 8:30 am., no other instructions, simply the report time and location.  It might have been my wild imagination, but it had a James Bond feel to it.

Was I excited.  To be honest, no.  I had a ton of work to do for Thrill of the Hunt and my dog scavenger hunt events, and it really was inconvenient, but I guess such is life.

Upon walking up the sidewalk to the courthouse doors, I saw a small crowd of individuals holding their paperwork for jury duty.  Wondering why they were standing around and not going inside to report, I asked the one guy in line.  He told me, we weren’t allowed in yet.  Really?

Well, it wasn’t much longer after that, that we made our way through metal detectors monitored by armed police officers, to a large room prepared for the jurors.

What an interesting process.  There were about sixty of us, and we each had a bar code name badge we were required to sport and move around in groups like branded cattle.

Juror Handbook Aunt Heather PiperSomething that struck me as odd, no one asked to see my drivers license or any form of identification.  In fact, when I walked in the ground floor room, designated to host us for the majority of the day, they scanned each of our ID badges.  Out of curiosity, I quickly glanced at the computer screen once my tag was scanned.  Honestly, I thought I’d see a picture of me with my name and address, at the very least.  I didn’t think they’d have my facebook profile picture, but I thought maybe my driver’s license or even my gun permit picture.  Neither showed up, not even my address.  What I did see in a very ancient type of font and minimalist computer font in green coloring on a dark background, was simply my name.  It did include my middle initial, which I never use.  How did they know I was Heather Piper and not a stand in?

I know this is a bit far fetched, but I was watching The Big Bang Theory earlier in the week and it was the episode where Sheldon paid Stewart to fill in for him with Amy, and later to wait in line at the movies or something.   Instantly, I thought, I should pay someone to take my place for jury duty.  Not that I would do it, but the idea did cross my mind, especially after seeing the lack of authenticating for each individual.

Once in our large basement room, we were given instructions on restroom facilities, vending machines and what we were aloud to do and not allowed.  I was surprised they had two television screens for us, (as long as it wasn’t local news), a rack of magazines, a coffee and tea area (no water) and the seats weren’t completely awful.

A local judge came in to give us the run down of the day’s itinerary and to make a statement what jury duty is all about.  He did comment that most people try to get out of it, guilty, and don’t want to be there, guilty, and yet they’re the most important part of our judicial system.

Believe it or not, completely by happenstance, I was reading To Kill a Mockingbird for the thousandth time. (One of my most favorite books ever!)   I was at the part when Atticus Finch was in the courtroom and the lawyers were cross examining their witnesses.  I love the line at the end of chapter 21, page 242, when Revered Sykes said, “Miss Jean Louise (Scout), stand up, your father’s passin’.”

That actually made me stop to consider what jury duty really meant.  Before I walked into the courthouse that day, I was given all sorts of advice on how to get out jury duty, and what to say, blah blah blah.  It all sounded good to me until two things happened.  After listening to the judge, I began to wonder what it would be like to actually sit through an entire trial and be one of the deciding voices.  Then it hit me, what if I was on trial one day?  I’d want a group of my peers, those with reasonable common sense and good moral judgement, sitting there to rein on my verdict.  I soon began to think differently about the process and my call to civil duty.

Soon they organized us into the small groups, and escorted us upstairs via the elevator, to courtroom number five.  Being an art major, my eyes tend to get drawn into the architecture and artistry of my environment.  This room certainly sucked me in.

The courtroom showed its years of character with the dark stained wood finished trimming and pews.  The walls and columns surrounding the judge’s chair were painted a mint green matte finish.  Yes, it was a monochromatic mint green mess.  My first thought was a nice stone or taupe color would do the room some justice (pun totally intended).  There were three main murals on the ceiling each labeled Justice, Moderation, and Mercy.  Instantly, I understood the first and last, but the Moderation threw me for a loop.

It was a mural, I’m not sure if it was fresco or simply acrylic or oil painting, containing a nude younger man, forcefully holding a chain attached to the collar of a Boxer type of dog.  He was also holding something in his left hand, but it wasn’t quite clear.  Keep in mind he was laying face up on steps.  Odd.  I’m sure the meaning is very clear to those in the legal field, but it struck me as an enigma, especially since it was placed in the center sandwiched by Justice and Mercy.  I could go on and on about the decor but that would take me several blog posts to really capture the essence of the room.

Soon the judge arrived and introduced us to the witnesses, and the legal staff for both sides.  Everyone turned around and gave awkward smiles and nods to us.  Honestly, I was half paying attention.  The judge also gave us instructions on what to expect through the the day and stressed the importance of this process and the extreme importance of the jury.  He brought up a good point.  He said something along the lines of, “The jury is so important that’s why they’re seated toward the front so they can hear the trial but also see the facial expressions and body language as well.”

Everyone was given a clipboard with a questionnaire to fill out, to be signed and turned into the officers present.  Not trying to pry, but the guy beside me, who was probably in his late fifties early sixties, took Forever to fill his out.  It was a list of questions and we had to mark yes or no.  No essay involved, no major thought provoking questions, pretty basic simple straightforward stuff.  My first thought was, this man can’t read very well.  I don’t know that to be true, perhaps he had a dyslexia or a reading comprehension issue, or he was just a slow reader.  Either way, he was the last person, out of all sixty of us who turned in his form.  The last.  Is that important?  Not really, not in my eyes, that is until what happened next.

Eventually, we were asked to sit in silence (without food or drink, did I mention it was fast approaching lunch?) while they called each and everyone of us to be interviewed.  Are you kidding?  Nope.  I wasn’t expecting that at all.

On a side note, I tried to make the most of my unplugged quite time with To Kill a Mockingbird.  Within minutes of pulling out my book and getting comfy in my seat, the guy beside me, yes the questionnaire guy, began fidgeting.  I don’t mind being restless, because I can be the same way, but I don’t like the huffing and puffing and the comments said to himself, yet purposely loud enough so his neighbors could hear, type of behavior.  It’s true, misery does loves company.

He kept mumbling about making money, and huffing and puffing his breath, like it was going to speed things up.  Then, after they’d announce another number, he’d huff even louder, and under his breath say, “This is going to take all day.”  or something along those lines.  He was one of those people who wanted to get others joining in on his complaints.  He wanted everyone to feel his attitude and express it.  You know those types of people, who are simply miserable.

I almost got past all that, except he wasn’t allowed to wear his baseball camp in the courtroom.  He kept capping his knee and with each huff and puff he’d uncap it and recap it again, making subtle suction types of noise mixed with fabric rubbing together.  He’d cross his legs, resting his ankle across the opposite knee, cap and recap his hat.  Then, switch legs to continue the adjustment process of the hat.  It was simply irritating.  I looked around, and everyone else brought something to occupy their time, except him.

I could even get past all that, but the constantly making comments about our number in line was too much.  I mean, our numbers were in the twenties, not the sixties and I think they moved through the potential candidates rather quickly.

They called us by our numbers into another room where the key players, including the judge was seated at a large conference table ready to ask us questions.  I’m sorry, but that was intense, even though everyone was very nice and cordial.

Eventually, I was released without being chosen.  Honestly, it was bittersweet.  Perhaps, I wasn’t the best person for the case.  Maybe next time.

On a side note, I was very much surprised to find a court stenographer working her typing magic.  Seriously, with all this technology of recording voices and video, which is probably more accurate then a stenographer, why continue to use one?  Then, add all the apps and technology and services for transcribing the court case.  That one threw me for a loop.  Can anyone tell  me why the court systems haven’t moved along with technology?  Or perhaps it’s only the local court systems? 

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

Hello … Adele

There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.  ~Charles Dickens

Kelly Berger Aunt Heather Piper in Delmont c. 2007

Me & Kelly hanging out at a picnic in Delmont. c. 2007

Like so many others, I too am a fan of Adele.  Not only do I love her music and appreciate her powerhouse voice, but with recent video clips circulating, I’ve seen her personality, which I absolutely adore.  Adele is a very comical and laid back chick, not that we’re BFFs (best friends forever), but from speculation and what I’ve witnessed it’s true.

Reliving and discussing the Adele prank on the Ellen show, as well as the Car-ride Karaoke with James Gorden, with friends of mine, I’ve come to the conclusion that hanging out with Adele would be a hoot.  The consensus from my friends was, heck yes!

I’ve decided, that I’m going to spend a fun friend filled day with Adele, without an itinerary and without a crowd.  Yes, that’s now one of my life’s goals, to shoot the breeze and be silly with Adele like a couple of high school friends.  How am I going to accomplish said goal?  No clue, but one day, I’ll meet her, at the very least.  We may not do the all day BFF thing, and she probably won’t remember my name when I do meet her, although I’ve been told I’m hard to forget, but it will happen.  After all, I’m a quarter English, two generations removed from our homeland.  I mean, me and Adele are practically sisters!  Granted, we look nothing alike, nor am I famous in the slightest, and I can’t sing without making dogs haul, but we’re practically family.

In fact, if I really wanted a gut stretching good time with my favorite gals, I’d have to include a few more lovely ladies, not that Adele couldn’t stand on her own.  Imagine it, I’ll swing by and pick up Adele, Jennifer Lawrence and Rebel Wilson.  What a car full of fun that would be!  Step aside James Gorden, my posse leaves yours at the curb.

On a side note, the entire group consists of people from countries with flags containing red, white and blue, Great Britain, the United States and Australia.  I wonder if Austrians are still angry with the British for parking them down under?  Or better, I wonder if the British still look upon the Australians as thieves and criminals?  Thinking along those lines, I guess I could speculate that Great Britain is still mad at the United States for winning our independence and dumping their tea.  Or, on the opposite note, the United States is holding a grudge with Great Britain for fighting with us regarding our freedom.  I guess, everywhere you turn there’s a past to be forgiven.

Okay, enough being silly.  Seriously, it would be an honor to meet such an interesting person as Adele, as well as the rest of my new dream crew.  Although, I can honestly say, I already have a fun group of friends.  They’re as equally as funny, sometimes more, and are wonderful people.


 

Fun Fact:  I read an article online addressing middle names of some celebrities.  Guess you made the list?  Yep, Adele!  Her full name is Adele Laurie Blue Adkins.  Read the rest for yourself.  WonderWall

Funny story.  While I was watching the Car Ride Karaoke with James Gorden and Adele, a humorous story came to my mind.  This is going back quite a few years now, when I was in my very early twenties.  I was talking to my boyfriend at the time, on my cell, and I stopped to get gas at the Sheets in Latrobe. (the old location, across the road from its current location).  After wrapping up my transaction at the pump, we hung up and I proceeded to go home (I still lived with my parents).  Clearly, I remembered I placed my cell phone on the passenger front seat.  While driving I plugged in some tunes, at the time CD players were the modern means of music.  My choice of music?  The Psychedelic Furs.  The song?  President Gas.  How do I remember this?  Read on.

Taking advantage of my alone time, and since it was late at night no one would see me, I decided to bust into song, at the top of my lungs, without a care in the world.  Did I mention, my singing makes dogs and cats cry?  Yes, my singing is beyond terrible, but I love to sing, and when I bust a tune, I express myself with all of my heart and sincerity, especially when no one is around.

Anyway, while I was walking into the house, my phone rang.  It was my boyfriend.  He wasn’t able to speak, only laugh.  For the longest time he didn’t say anything, he just kept giggling.  I had no idea what his problem was, until he managed to say, President Gas, before continuing to laugh to himself.  Being a little confused, I was ready to say, “Hey I was just listening to that song!”, not admitting I was singing, before he interrupted my thoughts by saying, in a sincere manner, “Please don’t ever give up a job to sing.”  That’s when it hit me, I never hung up the phone and he was listening to me the entire time!   Granted the ride was only about five minutes, but still that was for the duration of the song.  Eventually, I joined him and laughed at the situation.  How can you not?  I mean, I was busted dancing and singing in my seat, even though he couldn’t see me, I had a feeling he got a visual by voice.  I never had anyone front and center for one of my shows.  To this day when I find myself repeating history, and it does happen, I giggle to myself and realize these are the funny moments that make life interesting.

Below are some funny Adele video clips found on Youtube that I talked about earlier.  Sit back, enjoy, and have a great day with a little bit of humor!  Trust me these, videos are worth your time.

I couldn’t find the Adele and Ellen prank a milkshake/coffee shop.  If you could find the entire clip, do it!  It’s totally hilarious.

 

 

 

 

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

Report Card. How Do I Help?

But Montague is bound as well as I,
In penalty alike, and ’tis not hard, I think,
For men so old as we to keep the peace.  ~Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (1.2.1-3)

Kyle Christmas Eve 12-24-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle opening gifts on Christmas Eve 12/24/15

Kyle is such a stinker, and he’s driving me absolutely batty!  Granted his attitude has certainly taken a slightly uphill turn, but there are issues lurking in the shadows that everyone one seems to turn a blind eye to (except me), yet need addressed, immediately.  I am somewhat laughing over the details of the situation, even though it’s not really funny.  What now?  Kyle’s ninth grade second quarter report card.

Over the summer, we made a deal, if he brings up his math grade, then he wouldn’t need a tutor, one I paid for. A Dip in the Grades / Teenager vs. Aunt Heather – Part 1 Math Tutor.  Being the reasonable Aunt Heather that I am, I agreed, even though he moaned and complained about going, every time, and only gave half effort.  Whatever.

The moment of truth was revealed last Monday.  On a side note, I love how Kyle still tries to hide his report from me, like I can’t find out or perhaps I’m going to forget, not probable.  I don’t forget, and I won’t waiver when it comes to Kyle’s well-being.  The verdict?  His Geometry grade did come up slightly, as did his Biology.  Great!  That’s a step in the right direction.  It’s wasn’t by leaps and bounds, but I’m still happy and a deals a deal.

Now what’s the problem?  A few other subjects dropped.  When I told him to bring up those problematic subjects, I didn’t mean sacrifice the other subjects to do so.  My heart is truly broken.  Why?  The subjects that dropped, and I mean considerably, were US History II and Honors English I, two my favorite subjects.  First of all, history doesn’t change!  Read the material, memorize a few details and done.  It should be an easy grade.  Kyle loves reading, what could be so difficult?  When I asked Kyle about said subjects, he simply shrugged his shoulders.

How Kyle views his Aunt Heather Piper

Teenage years are a struggle for us all! Since I’m always fighting an uphill battle, this is what it feels like every time I need to discuss anything of importance with Kyle….

Honestly, I never took note that all of Kyle’s classes were honors classes, which I do give grace.  However, I will never accept below average.  I about fell out of my seat when I saw the English grade, especially when it originated from a solid B.

Even better, Kyle informed me he was getting a little extra help.  Obviously, that wasn’t working.  In a very calm yet confused voice I asked, “Kyle, why didn’t you call me for help?”  His response, “I don’t know.”  There was more to it than that, but my blog isn’t about pointing fingers and I don’t need additional family drama.  The gist of his explanation included a college degree, although not specialized in English or literature.  It’s true, I don’t have my masters degree, but I do have two undergrad degrees from Seton Hill University.  Not to mention, I write, that’s what I do.  I’m in marketing and I write, ad copy, television and radio scripts, press releases, articles, stories, testimonials, website copy, I ghost write blogs in addition to mine and the list goes on.  I’ve even written books!  Although, unbeknownst to Kyle (a surprise for later).  Wanting to find the root problem, Kyle informed me he’s required to write a lot of papers.  To prove my worthiness, I explained my qualifications and I even explained I was on the deans list.  I’m not just talking out my butt and making a claim I can’t back up.  If I don’t know something, I’ve always been honest with him, and I’ll gladly admit to it, hence the math tutor.   How frustrating!  What does that kid think I do all day?

With sincerity and confidence, I told Kyle I can help him get his grade back up by the next quarter.  I asked him to please call me with the next assignment.  Kyle’s response?  He shrugged his shoulders and clearly wasn’t about to ask me for help.  Why?  I have no idea.  Again, I believe there’s more issues lurking in those shadows that he’ll never admit, it’s called ego, pride and self-esteem, not on Kyle’s behalf.  Personally, if I was a teenager with an attitude, I’d want to see my aunt take the challenge, either to fall miserably to rub it in, or to assist me with my grade.  Either way, Kyle wins!  Not Kyle, he doesn’t want to succeed if it means I’m helping.  He should at least call my sister.  She may not be a creative writer, but she’s an excellent technical writer and elegant with the written word.

Kiski Band getting ready for Bands of America 2015 Aunt Heather Piper

This picture was online in the paper showing Kiski Band getting ready for Bands of America 2015

All his grades weren’t bad.  In fact, his Band and P.E. remained at an A+ status.  Times have changed, in elementary school, P.E. was Kyle’s only class he didn’t excel.  I even told him, “Kyle just look like you’re sweating and I bet you’ll get an A.  Run around and show a little effort.”  Since Kyle’s in the marching band, I would hope his Band grade would be nothing less than stellar.

I know all grades are important, especially keeping up his GPA for college, but I’m picking my battles with the Video Game Design I class.  It too dropped a letter grade.  I’ve asked Kyle what they’re working on, and he never did give me a real answer.  Perhaps, that’s why his grade dropped, due to a lack of attentiveness.  Moving on.

Now one class I’m in a little shock, yet I’m very proud of, a class his grade increased, Chinese I.  At one point in the conversation, I said something along the lines of, “Your English tanks, but your Chinese gets better?  How is that possible?”  I know I said it as a half joke.  I was a bit confused and yet astounded.  I’ll admit we both laughed over that revelation.  Come one, how can you not?  His native language is English, yet he’s improving in Chinese?  My guess?  He needs to work at it, and chose not to give up.

This past week I contacted his tutor, who is a great lady and I’d highly recommend her, to cancel our tutoring until the next report card.  She understood and was very kind about giving me requested advice.  She simply said Kyle has to want to bring up his grades and has to want to earn them.  She also stated the obvious, that he needs to mature.  Little does she know, we Piper’s mature late, ever.   She’s right on all accounts.  But how can I just sit back and accept this?  The answer.  I guess I need to do some heavy praying.

Honestly, I don’t have a problem with who’s helping Kyle, as long as it’s working.  If not, then it’s time to consider another option.  It’s about what’s best for this young man.  I don’t care if Kyle chooses the family dog over my help, as long as it works.  I wish they’d give out grades for stubbornness and blasé behavior because Kyle would ace those every time.

Kyle during a band performance 10-23-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle getting ready for a Kiski Band performance on their home field. 10/23/15

I love Kyle so much, I want him to succeed at anything he does.  He’s already expressed an interest in going to Carnegie Mellon University for engineering and I want to see that come to fruition.  Perhaps the tutor is right, he needs to find his own path.  Of course, that doesn’t mean step back entirely, because he still needs guidance and help along the way.

Am I pushing too hard?  If you could see what I’ve seen, you wouldn’t think so.  When Kyle was around four or five, he could add up a few items at the store and figure out the tax before the register gave the total.  By that age, I got him a wooden puzzle of the United States.  He could tell the state by the shape, show where it was located, name the capital and give a fun fact about each.  No he’s really bright, he just needs encouraged by the right people.

This quote was not by happenstance.  Kyle was working on Romeo and Juliet this quarter during English class.  Basically, Lord Capulet comes to terms with his age and doesn’t want to be apart of the family feud any longer.  He remains a peacekeeper from here on out.  Not saying that I’m old, not in the slightest, but I’m saying perhaps I need to assist from the sidelines.

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

Hello Richard Branson

A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts.  ~Richard Branson

Scavenger Hunt in Annapolis MD Thrill of the Hunt 2014 Aunt Heather Piper

Posing proudly, with a few graduating students while conducting a scavenger hunt in Annapolis, MD 10/4/14

A while back I read this article on Richard Branson, well, over the years I’ve read several articles on this mega entrepreneur, but this particular interview sparked my interest.  Why?  He stated that he actually tracks his own name online.  I’m sure a lot of top executives, entrepreneurs and every day people do the same, I know I do.

So why did this strike my fancy?  Well to start with, he goes through the action of uncovering his mentions himself, not an assistant or employee.  I’ve never heard anyone of his stature admit to basically Googling himself.   Perhaps I should test the waters?  I bet Donald Trump has eyes online, although with all the presidential campaigning chatter, I’m sure this post will only get lost in the mix.

So big deal if Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson Googles his own name?  He justified his actions by saying he’ll read the articles.  So?  If your going to Google yourself, one would think you’d actually read the information, right?  Yes, but he’ll sometimes reach out to those who mentioned him.  Light bulb!  (pun totally intended since my title at Thrill of the Hunt is The Light Bulb)   It’s been a while since I read the article, but that’s what I remembered.  As an entrepreneur, I look for any opportunity to help me in my journey.

In trying to find that exact article on Richard Branson, which I couldn’t, I found an even better one. 65 things you’ve always wanted to know about Richard Branson.  Okay, now some fun facts.  We both wake up at 5:30 am (in my case sometimes earlier), we both like to play chess (although I suck), and we both carry notebooks (mines on my iPhone).

His favorite social media tool and the best way to communicate with him is through Twitter @richardbranson.  I’ll be sending out a Tweet today.

Seton Hill University Scavenger Hunt Alumni Weekend 2015 Thrill of the Hunt Aunt Heather Piper

Me & Mary Cox at the Seton Hill University Alumni Weekend Scavenger Hunt. 6/6/15

When asked how Richard Branson would describe himself in three words, he answered, adventurous, curious and fun-loving.  Yep, that’s me!  In fact, I started Thrill of the Hunt with all three in mind, seriously!  I’m thinking we’re long lost relatives.  After all, my maternal grandmother came from England!  Perhaps Ancestry can clear up the mystery?

What do I find so intriguing about Richard Branson?  It’s not stated anywhere, but I bet he has a great sense of humor.  I mean is autobiography is Losing my Virginity!  I think he’d be a hoot to meet.

So what got me on this kick all of a sudden to test what I call the Richard Branson theory?  It began at 5:30 am, when I started my day scanning the morning news online.

On a side note, admittedly, I love reading fun facts and behind the scenes type of articles over serious news.  I do follow the news and try to stay current, but I simply prefer to keep my day bright and upbeat, especially in the early morning.  Let’s face it, the news doesn’t exactly fit that bill.  Plus, for some odd reason, the media will continuously repeat the horrible and the worst of the worst, day in and day out.  If I missed something news worthy, or I skimmed it, I can always pick up where I left off.  The feel good stories, and fun facts are short run.   I have to gobble them up before they disappear, and are overtaken by a bad day, somewhere.

Dog Scavenger Hunt Winchester VA Thrill of the Hunt Aunt Heather Piper 5-30--2015

Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt in Winchester, VA 5/30/15

Anyway, this morning I read an article on the facts behind Shark Tank.  Yes, fun facts always catch my eye.  One might say, I’m a fun fact addict!  I’m not going to rehash the Entrepreneur article, but it stated “More than 50% of the Tank’s TV handshake deals do not close.”  Wow.  What really flabbergasted me was “One out of every four entrepreneurs appearing on ‘Shark Tank’ was invited to apply.”  A quarter of the pitches were actually asked to be on the show?  I didn’t see that one coming.

Being a stinker, I instantly thought Shark Tank looked for some sort of drama to add to the ratings.  However, as I continued reading, they sited an example and I began to dig deeper.

It’s true, to be in business, you need to be seen.  You can’t sell goods or services, while being a secret.  This is where I’m falling short with Thrill of the Hunt.  Actually, that’s half true.  Over the years, I’ve received emails and calls from interested parties inquiring about scavenger hunts, and some wanted to interview me.  How did they find me?  Online.  Unfortunately, I didn’t find them first, it’s the passive way to find business and recognition.  I would prefer to be proactive.

Is there a point to my ramblings?  You bet there is!  I would like to meet Richard Branson and sit down and discuss my business plan.  All I’m asking for is his advice, and maybe the use of his fan base for advertising wouldn’t hurt either.  (joking, unless he will)  I’ve learned that knowledge, networking and guts is priceless in business.  Plus, I’d like to see if the article was true.   

I would also like to tell Mr. Branson about my other ideas for business ventures.  I have a ton!

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

Growing Up With Star Wars

It’s like learning to ride a unicorn. You never forget.  ~Eoin Colfer

Kyle at Star Wars Movie Theater Latrobe 12-24-15 Aunt Heather Piper

My young Jedi or I should say Padawan at the Star Wars The Force Awakens move Latrobe, PA 12/24/15

Besides seeing family and friends and eating myself into a sugar coma, two of my other favorite Christmas activities are snowboarding and going to the movies.  Since we’ve been experiencing a very bizarre warm winter of sixty degrees with no chance of snow, snowboarding is out of the question.  However, perhaps waking boarding needs to be the new tradition if this warm weather phenomena continues.

Now the movies.  I love going to the movies! TAKEN by Movies, Our Avatar Adventure, Everything Is Awesome – The Lego Movie, The Hobbit: It’s Always An Adventure with Kyle  Granted, you can go to the movies any time of the year, but the major motion picture industry seems to release their best features during the Christmas season.

Christmas Eve day is always celebrated in our household.  Since I was little, that was the big day, to open a few presents, go to church, have a big meal and invite family to join in on the festivities.  Kyle has grown-up with our traditions, making them as his own.  Christmas Eve day is the Piper Christmas.  Sure Christmas morning held its own special memories, but it started the night prior.  The day before Christmas, we get together and do whatever we want, without rushing, without interruptions, and without expectations, except attending church.  This year, we headed to the movies.

Who went?  Kyle, naturally, and Nicole and myself.

What did we see?  You got it!  Star Wars the Force Awakens Episode VII .  Actually, Kyle planned it, and of course Nicole and I complied, not only because it’s what Kyle wanted to do, but because we each wanted to see the movie with a passion.  Nicole and I turned Kyle into a life long Star Wars fan ever since he was a little tyke.  First, we got him hooked on the movies, and he continued with all his Lego figures, video games, and watching Star Wars the Clone Wars cartoon.  Kyle loved me telling him about the Ewoks cartoon we used to watch as kids.  I wished they’d bring those back.  Maybe with this new Star Wars resurgence.

Nicole & Aunt Heather Piper at Star Wars Movie Jedi training 12-24-15

Check out my lightsabre! Kyle wouldn’t pose twice, so I made him take our pic. Nicole looks like Chewbacca… same color of hair! Latrobe, PA 12/24/15

Did I like the movie?  You bet I did, as did Nicole and Kyle!  It was the typical First Order (bad guys) verses The Rebellion (good guys).  How can anyone not like seeing Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia, and no she didn’t wear her hair like cinnamon buns), Harrison Ford (Hans Solo) along with Chewbacca, and Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) reunited again!  I was surprised to see the Millenium Falcon, and even Darth Vader made a subtle and yet creepy appearance.  Plus, it wouldn’t have been a proper reunion without C-3PO and R2-D2!  Honestly, I was half expecting to see a vision of Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi, maybe next time.  I’ll admit, I wiped the sweat from my brow when Jar Jar Binks didn’t make his appearance.  Close one.  And secretly, I was hoping one of the planets that blew up was Naboo, although rest-in-peace planet Coruscant and The Republic.

As always, I enjoyed the little humor and silliness between the characters.  I love, with a passion, the hand-on-hand combat fight scenes (or I should say, lightsabers on lightsabers).  To this day, I have the sound of the lightsabers in my head and it gives me goosebumps.

My only question that came to mind while watching the movie, which I guess I anticipated, was how closely they’re going to stick to the story from the Star Wars books.  (I know George Lucas didn’t write them)  I’ll admit, I read a few Star Wars books long ago, in a galaxy far far away.  (pun intended)  Princess Leia had twins, similar to Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman), Princess Leia’s mom.  I assumed twins ran in the family, but there wasn’t any indicator of a twin in the new movie.  Of course, they didn’t reveal that Luke and Leia were twin brother and sister until Return of the Jedi.  Perhaps I’m getting a head of myself.

Have I always been a Star Wars fan?  I have.  I’m not as die hard as some, but I’m a bit of a Star Wars geek.  Believe it or not, I’ve actually seen all seven Star Wars movies in the theaters.  True!  The original Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope) debuted in theaters in 1977.  I was extremely young at the time.  So how did I see it?  Back then, movies circulated through theaters slower and played for a longer duration.  My dad actually took me and Nicole to the theater in Ligonier to see the feature.  Ryan, who was even younger than me, was really sick, so mom stayed home with him. 

Facebook screen shot Aunt Heather Piper

I remembered the movie, maybe not every detail at the time, but it left a life long impression on me.  How could it not when they were fighting with lightsabers?  I’ll bet that’s when I developed an interest in swords and samurai sword training.

A few years later, Empire Strikes Back was released, again back to the movie theater once it came around to us in little old Latrobe, Pennsylvania.  Then, a few more years later, Return of the Jedi.  This time, mom and dad took us to see it at the drive-in.  To this day, I remember that night with vivid accuracy.  You see, the drive-in hired someone to walk around dressed as Darth Vader.  Yikes!  As a kid, I was freaked out, thinking the dark side of the force was walking around the cars.  In my mind, all I thought about was getting word to the Rebel Alliance like Princess Leia did through R2-D2.  I know what an imagination I had. 

Around 2004 – 2005, the Star Wars movies were digitally remastered and extra scenes were added.  Yep, I hit the midnight showings with friends to re-live the adventures.  Naturally, I saw Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999), Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002), and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005).  For some reason, I believe I took Kyle to see Revenge of the Sith, although he would have been four years old.  Yep, that makes sense, because I clearly remember him grabbing my arm and curling into my seat when things got tense.  He also had the General Grievous Lego set, which he adored!  I wish I had my blog then, I most certainly would have recorded that event.

Aunt Heather Piper showing Jedi skills at Star Wars movie 12-24-15

Action shot of me practicing my Jedi skills on Nicole after the Star Wars movie. Latrobe, PA 12/24/15

It does make me happy to see Kyle sharing one of my interests, and really getting into it like I did.  In fact, Kyle was joking around before we left for the movies saying he was going to dress up (I can’t remember who he said he wanted to dress like).  My response?  I jumped up saying, “I’ll dress as Princess Leia!”  Kyle didn’t think anything was wrong with that.  That’s my little Jedi!

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

Teenager vs. Aunt Heather Part 3 – Flexing the Attitude

Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood.  ~George Orwell

Kyle at Latrobe Airport for his birthday 7-31-10 Aunt Heather Piper

A happy Kyle at Latrobe Airport ready for his flying lessons – 9th birthday. 7/31/10

So far in my last two posts, Kyle has been giving me major attitude and disrespect.  I got him a math tutor that he didn’t want and feels he didn’t need, even though he tanked Algebra II last year, and now I was waiting to pick him up for church, which he clearly was resisting.

Waiting for the bus to drop off my little man,  I greeted him with a big smile, trying to ignore the tone he had already set while talking to him briefly on the phone prior, while on the bus in route.  Kyle smiled and headed straight for the house.  I told him to grab his homework, we had to go.  In all reality, I had somewhere I had to be at 4:30 pm and we were cutting it close, plus I was suppose to be on a conference call for work.  I mean my life doesn’t always revolve around Kyle, unbeknownst to him.

What did Kyle do?  He ignored me and left me out in the driveway for an hour!  Yes, you heard me right.  I was sitting in a hot car, waiting on Kyle, in the very hot sun, till I felt sick.  I banged on the door, still trying to keep my cool, even though I was boiling and now nauseous with a headache from the sun and heat.  Kyle argued with me till he finally came out.  I asked, “Did you bring your homework?”  He rolled his eyes, went back in the house for another fifteen minutes and came out with a piece of paper.  I thought, “That was all his homework?  Okay, whatever.”  During our brief conversation while he was on the bus, I stated to grab all your homework.  In fact, I believe on Sunday, I told him when I was picking him up, to grab ALL his homework.  There was no issue on Sunday with the plans, but know there was.

On a side note, if Kyle did that to ANYONE, made them wait on him, let alone in a hot car in the sun, I would have had him moved his butt out the door before he hit the fifteen minute mark.  But then again, I respect others and I try to take others into consideration.  Kyle’s actions was not respectful and teaches him to be a self centered, rude child to only turn into the same type of adult.

While making our leave, Kyle began the argument fest again, “Why do I have to go to church?” and “Why don’t I have a choice?” and “Why do I need a tutor?”  I’ve always been very truthful with Kyle, whether he wants to hear it or not.  Seriously, I’ve never lied to him, with the exception of Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny, which I came clean on years later.  Always being upfront and honest with the kid was my demonstration of showing respect and the right way to live.

Anyway, I explained to Kyle, his dad, my brother Ryan wanted him to be raised Catholic.  And as his godmother, my job is to ensure he has a close relationship with God and is spiritually healthy.

Lila-Aunt-Heather-Piper-8-1-15

Me & my cousin Lila. She’s my little protégé … A little Heather Piper in training… At Mikey’s wedding 8/1/15

Obviously, Kyle didn’t like those answers and did what I hated the most, he kept repeating himself, without even giving me a chance to explain and kept interrupting.  He didn’t want answers, he wanted to complain and get his own way.  Then, he argued, “I was raised Catholic, I was Baptized and I had my First Holy Communion.”  I couldn’t help but give a little chuckle.  That’s the answer of an uneducated child who thinks he’s an adult, but is only fourteen.  I said, “Kyle, you weren’t raised, you’re not grown up.  And those are milestones to reinforce your faith.  You have a lot more learning to do.  Plus going to church reinforces your faith week after week so you don’t forget.”  That was followed by, “Why don’t I have a choice?”  Actually, I corrected him, stating he does, if he chooses another church, I will support him, but he can’t just not choose God and abandon Him altogether.  Kyle’s comment, “Why not, I’ve done good so far.”  I was very upset by that comment, stating, “Really you think your life was led this way because of you?  And you don’t need God?”  He shrugged his shoulders not having an answer.

If later in life Kyle decides to abandon church and his faith, then that’s his decision, one I tried to build his spiritual foundation to get him through life, to make honest and moral decisions.  Kyle asked when that was, I laughed a little and said, “When you’re eighteen.”  Okay, I did giggle over that, but I meant it.  He retorted with a, “What?  That’s by law!  Why not before that?”  I simply stated, “It’s by law you can make your own decisions, I didn’t make that rule.”  He was furious!

As we were cruising along, he said, “I have a lot of homework to do!”, which was his battle cry from the time we spoke earlier on the phone.  I reiterated, “That’s why I told you to bring ALL of your homework.”  He snapped back at me, “Well I don’t have it all.”  WHAT?  I slammed on the breaks, now ready to loose it on this kid.  I was already late and at this point, we were going to miss mass.  I turned around, and made him get all his homework.  He took another fifteen or twenty minutes, making me wait.  Obviously, that was Kyle’s way of getting back at me, which I didn’t appreciate, but I was thinking of the bigger picture and what was best for him.

His whole demeanor was less than favorable, even though I promised him I would never yell at him again, I was ready to explode!  I reminded Kyle of this fact, and I also stated that I didn’t appreciate him raising his voice at me.  He was practically yelling at me.

Once we headed out again, Kyle dictated, “You’re going to take me to church and then bring me right back.”  What?  Is that what he said?  It was, word for word!  First of all, who made him my boss, and who ever gave him the right to speak to anyone like that!

It was a struggle the entire forty minutes to Latrobe (counting traffic).  I told Kyle to get off of his video games. (he started to play on his iPhone) If he had that much homework to do he could get started on it now, as opposed to wasting valuable time on video games, especially since he made a big issue about church.  He wouldn’t listen.  I was loosing it big time.  He spat, “Why?  I don’t have to listen to you, you can’t tell me what to do.”  My response?  “Yes you do and looks like I just told you what to do.”  That kid actually puffed out his chest as if physically threatening me!  I was not having it from a little snot nosed teenager with an attitude problem.  I smacked him on the top of the head and took the phone right out of his hand.  (My reflexes are faster than his)  His response?

“YOU STOLE MY PHONE!”  Are you kidding me?  I merely told him I have his phone because he’s now grounded from it for the night.  He yelled like a crazy person, and stated I couldn’t ground him.  I said, “Looks like I just did buddy.”  Keep in mind, I have yet to yell.  My tone was even but very authoritative and unwavering.

I don’t know where all this was coming from, but it was intense and very disrespectful.  I was not going to back down.  Like I told Kyle when he was a little man, “I invented stubborn and you’ve met your match!”

Kyle at Idlewild c. 2003 Aunt Heather Piper

A young Kyle at Idlewild Park, Jump’in Jumgle in Ligonier for Gutchess Picnic. c. 2003

The best part?  Kyle said I was ridiculing him.  Really?  I asked how.  His response.  “You keep calling me names and ridiculing me!”  My response?  “Kyle, you’re acting like a jerk, so I will call you a jerk.  What name would you like me to call you while your acting like this?   I’m not ridiculing you,  I’m not making fun of you, I’m stating a fact.  You’re acting like a jerk.”  He didn’t like that comment either.  Of course, I knew anything I said, unless it was something he wanted, was futile.  For some reason, he wanted to take his aggression out on me and in his eyes I was his enemy.  However, in all reality, I was the one who loved him the most.  Anyone else would have caved in to his demands or sent him back to not deal with him.  I chose the harder route, one for his benefit.

I drove us to my parents house, partially to cool off and because I thought Kyle might straighten up for my dad.  The entire ride Kyle spat, “Take me back, NOW!”  Nope.  As we pulled into the driveway, I said, “You go in and give Pappy a hug.  He didn’t do anything to you.  Be nice, he misses and loves you.”  What did Kyle do?  He stayed in the car for a while, wouldn’t come in, and wouldn’t begin his homework.  I was beside himself.  I went out and warned him, “You’re not going anywhere until you do all that homework.  Do you understand?”

What did he do?  He went into the house and began looking for his phone straight away, with his superior attitude.  Prior to that, I explained the entire situation to dad.  Dad was beyond furious and at his last end with this kid.

Dad called Kyle into the living room and the major attitude, in the form of a teenager, stood before my dad acting tough, but I saw his lower lip quivering.  During the conversation, Kyle stated he didn’t want to come to the house anymore.  I knew those words really struck Dad in the heart.  Dad’s tone was strong and very intimidating.  While listening to him from the other room, I felt like a kid myself getting in trouble.  Dad’s voice dripped with anger and yet there was definite sorrow behind it.  Something I’m sure Kyle didn’t catch.  Then, Dad brought a tear to my eye when I heard him raise his voice stating, “You see that picture (on the mantel) THAT’s YOUR DAD!  WE’RE YOUR FAMILY!  Do you understand that?  So you better start treating us a little better!  After everything we’ve done for you, you act like this?  Kyle, I’ve always done EVERYTHING for you and you treat us like this?  Fine if you don’t want to come here anymore, then you don’t have to!”

Turkey Coop 9-6-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Our turkey coop at Mom & Dad’s. 9/6/15

What did Kyle have to say?  Nothing.  He walked out of the house.  I found him doing homework sitting on the wood pile.  I could tell logic wasn’t strong with him that day, for he should have moved his homework to the deck, but whatever.  I got dressed for church and said, “Let’s go.”  Without another word, Kyle got in the car.  I handed him his youth group t-shirt, the one everyone was wearing for mass.  He actually thanked me.  That was a step in the right direction.  (Previously I explained the process to get him the T-shirt.)   He put it on without saying much.  Another step in the right direction.  I stated that I’ll give him his space and sit in the back of the church, while he sits with his youth group.  No comment.

After leaving church, we were welcomed to stay and enjoy refreshments and snacks in the church basement.  I gave Kyle the option and he opted out.  We went back to my parents house, since it’s closer and I told him to finish his homework and once he’s done, we’ll leave.  He came in the house, never entered the living room where mom and dad were sitting, sat at the kitchen table and finished his reading.  He was a bit antisocial, but more than that I think he felt bad and awkward due to his outburst earlier.  Upon leaving church, his attitude did make a huge adjustment.  Perhaps he had time to reflect.

Upon completion of his homework, Kyle managed to give my parents a dry emotionless hug before we headed out again.  After hugging dad, he kind of looked like he wanted to cry.  Yep, like the Grinch, his heart was growing.

Keep in mind, Kyle still didn’t have his phone, nor did he know where it was located.  I had it now in my pocket, and I thought a nice gesture would be for me to give it back.  However, just as I was handing it over he said, “Now where’s my phone!”  We were almost there!  Umm…. I told him to watch his tone.  I gave him the phone but he wasn’t allowed to play any games on during the ride back.  He did his standard, “Why?”  I told him because he was grounded for the night and out of good faith I gave him his phone early.  He listened and placed it in his pocket making sure I couldn’t get it again.

On a side note, he was like an addict with that phone.  Truly!  A little alarming.

The ride was quiet.  Partially because I found Kyle dozing off, very unlike him.  Just before I dropped him off, I found out the night before, he was up till midnight doing homework because he had band practice till late.  That explains part of the attitude, he was tired, but it doesn’t explain what he was saying.  Of course, I’m aware he’s a teenager with no logical thoughts or actions sometimes.

Kyle did give me a hug and let me kiss that chubby little cheek of his.  He also gave me a nod in affirmation as if stating “I love you too.”  after I spoke those words.

You know it’s always situations like these that really makes me stop and reflect on my actions and questions if I’m doing right by Kyle.  I was told by a friend of mine, “Stick to your guns and do what’s right, just make sure they know you love them.”  I hope Kyle knows that, for I interject it when possible, even when I’m gritting my teeth trying not to grab him by the scruff of the neck.

How is Kyle now?  That past weekend he was really good.  He even helped me and Dad finish building the turkey run.  I didn’t even have to ask.  How much longer do I have with this teenage attitude?

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

Unconventional Gifts

Good books tell the truth, even when they’re about things that never have been and never will be. They’re truthful in a different way.  ~Stanisław Lem

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Kyle taking the controls of a Piper, getting ready to hit the open skies for his 9th birthday. 7/30/10

The other day, I was speaking with a few friends of mine.  About what exactly?  Well, you name it, we covered most standard topics, but this part of the story was about Kyle and my belief in giving him unconventional gifts.  In honor of his birthday tomorrow, I thought this was appropriate.

I’ve mentioned it previously, as a child, Kyle always had way too much.  Too many toys, toys of all varieties, and he most certainly didn’t need anymore, especially from me.  Now that he’s a teenager, he has too many video games, and spends way too much time on them.  Do you see a pattern?

Since the birthday gifts I get Kyle are never the standard, go to the store and wrap them, type of presents, they need a fair amount of planning.  My goal here?  To get others thinking about gift giving in a nontraditional way, like I do.  Here are a few gift givings of years past.

So what do you get a child that is spoiled and flooded with their desirable material goods, at that particular moment in life?  Easy, spoil them with attention, love, knowledge, and opportunities.  How does one do this?  Simply with unconventional gifts.

First, what do I consider an unconventional gift?  In my eyes, unconventional gifts come with some sort of bonding or learning aspect.   They may also include life experiences to be engrained in the child forever, or skills to be used later in life.  Of course, these are very subjective, but it’s a place to start.

When Kyle was a tiny, tiny little baby, it’s true, I did get him toys.  One in particular was a large metal Optimus Prime transformer.  It was really cool!  It even spoke when a button was pushed, with a serious of prerecorded standard phrases including the noise the transformers make when changing from vehicle to robot or visa verse.  I believe that was the last toy I purchased Kyle.  He played with it for a short period of time, and I don’t think I saw it after that.  In fact, I have no idea what ever happened to it.  That’s when I decided to think of gifts for him differently.

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Kyle celebrating his 5th birthday at Seabase in Greensburg. Bumper car fun! 7/2005

Wanting Kyle to have every opportunity in the world at his fingertips, and to be exposed to all things to help him grow as a goodhearted honest person in every aspect, I knew there was more value in gift giving then instant gratification.  It was time to pull out the thinking cap.  And I did in a big way!  I wish I recorded my gifts to Kyle when he was younger, but alas, I did not, so I’m not always exactly sure which gift went with which celebration, but not really relevant to this post anyway.

Secondly, what constitutes a celebration worthy of gift giving?  Of course, there’s the standard birthdays and Christmas.  However, I also give Kyle a gift for Easter, and I’ve been known to give him something for summer or for no particular reason.  Well, actually the reason would include a good deed, or good behavior, or to cheer him up due to illness, or sometimes just to surprise him.  That’s about it.  I don’t believe in turning every occasion into an excuse to spoil our little man more.  I don’t ever want him to grow up to expect material items from anyone, ever!

Please note, Kyle’s a great kid, he truly is!  So when I talk about spoiling him, it’s out of love.  He is certainly apart of this instant gratification generation, not waiting in anticipation or really working for things.  Who’s fault is that?  The family, me included, but I’m certainly not the main culprit.

Finally, what gifts have I given Kyle that fell under the classification of unconventional?  Here’s a brief list.  The items range in entertainment value, quality time, fundamental learning aspects, and some just plain different, or a combination of all things.

Athletics

Swimming.  Kyle took swimming lessons once a week, all year long at the local YMCA from the time he was five years old to about ten or eleven years.  It was our time together and now he’s a great swimmer, and has no issues with being in water of all depth levels.

Gymnastics. He stayed in gymnastics for less than a year.  Even though Kyle was not the athletic type, it was great for him to run around and learn certain skills, such as doing jumping jacks and tumbling.  Again it was our bonding time, and I loved it.  Plus, he was able to socialize with other kids.

Soccer.  Kyle was really little when I had him in soccer, probably about three.  He never did understand the game, not that I could have helped him.  As a general rule, everyone knows I have no clue about sports.  He had the opportunity to have fun, socialize with other kids, and gained a great cardio workout.

Basketball.  I signed Kyle up to play on a basketball league, again through the YMCA.  My sister once asked me why?  I remarked, “I don’t expect him to get a call from the NBA, but if he ever wants to go shoot hoops with his friends, he would be familiar with dribbling and shooting baskets.  So he’s not singled out.”  Small skills that could be most invaluable to Kyle later in life.

Snowboarding.  When Kyle was four, I purchased him snowboarding lessons, which he loved!  Then, for a few years after that, I’d purchase him his season tickets for the slops, along with his rental and accessories (coats, pants, helmet etc.)  Again, it was always something we did together and enjoyed being outside in God’s country up in the mountains.  Neither one of us have been able to hit the slopes in the last couple of years, but I think we’ll both get back into it, maybe next year.

Music

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Kyle’s piano recital.  Yes I made him wear a suit, the one he wore for his 1st Holy Communion  5/17/09

Piano lessons & Keyboards.  Kyle received a keyboard to practice at my parent’s house, and one for his mom’s house, since his time was equally split.  This was for his sixth birthday, I believe, and the lessons continued until last August, right after he turned twelve.  Again, it was our quality time together, or whoever took him.  He also showed an interest in music early on, so I complied.  I believe this education really fine tuned his brain, and gave him an appreciation for music.  Since that time, Kyle took up the trumpet in school, joined the jazz band, and now started playing the tuba in the marching band.  He’s very accomplished at reading music, too.

Guitar and lessons.  Originally Kyle wanted to rock out on the guitar.  I made a deal with him, if he learned to play the piano, I’d get him guitar lessons.  He kept up his end of the deal, as did I.  For Christmas one year, I bought him a guitar and lessons.  He took to it very well, but never practiced enough to really be able to play.  He could strum the strings without looking at his fingers and follow along in his music books.  He took lessons off and on for a few years, and then called it quits.  He continued with the piano lessons at this time.  Most would say, playing both instruments at the same time, at a young age was too much for Kyle.  I completely disagree.  He had the talent and the knowledge to do so.  However, Kyle doesn’t like doing anything alone.  If I could have played with him, and practiced along side my musician, he would have excelled.  Alas, I have no music ability.  Hence why I want him to be so much better than me, at everything!

Entertainment/Culture/Education

Lion King tickets and dinner.  For one Christmas, I purchased Kyle and the family tickets to see the Lion King at the Pittsburgh Benedium Theater.  It was a nice way to spend an evening with the family, while being exposed to culture.  Prior to this, Kyle loved the cartoon, The Lion King, as well as the music.  So therefore, I thought he’d enjoy the musical.  He did!  In a big way.  Although when asked about it in his early teens, Kyle doesn’t remember going.  Sad.  Kyle and I actually spent the entire day in Pittsburgh together, hanging out at the Carnegie Museum (mostly among dinosaurs) before meeting my parents and my sister for dinner and then off to the theater.

LegoFest Tickets.  Anything to do with Legos used to be the thing to get Kyle.  So when I saw LegoFest was planning on making an appearance in Pittsburgh, I jumped at the chance to get us tickets.  As expected, it was a hit.  Everyone gave Kyle money to purchase Legos, which only added to his experience and made it complete.  We were there all day, before returning to get a few hours of hunting in.

Kyle's-Pig-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle’s Piggy Bank. A ceramic pig I made for his fourth birday. It has a cork in the belly area to remove the moola, & a slot one its back to add the cash. Teh eyes are plastic shaking eyes, & it’s equipped with the a metal squiggle tail. 2005

Bricks 4 Kids Lego Camp.  I purchased Kyle two different Lego Camp sessions, one morning and one afternoon, at Saint Vincent College, for a week each.  He was able to socialize with other Lego lovers, and he enjoyed learning about different ways to build certain items.  He was exposed to other ideas and possibilities with Legos, all brightening his week.  Kyle was in heaven!  It also gave him something to do in the summer, instead of playing video games and watching television.  He stayed with me for the week, and I dropped him off, took him lunch, and picked him up at the end of his hard day.  This was a suggestion from Lori Planinsek!  Perfect!

Flash Cards.  One Christmas when Kyle was two years old, I decided to purchase him addition flash cards, as well as workbooks.  Did he put his nose up to them?  NOT AT ALL!  He loved working with me on the workbooks and he would ask me to quiz him on his math flashcards.  Everyone thought that gift was a bust, but in reality, it turned out to be a big hit.  So by the time he was three years old, Kyle was easily adding all numbers.  Soon after that I got him subtraction flashcards.  He did have a little more trouble learning, but not much.  It’s no surprise that math is one of Kyle’s beloved classes that he’s in the advanced program, at least he was until this past year.

Books.  It was always tradition with my family to receive books in our Easter baskets.  I took it a step further and began giving Kyle books for almost all occasions.  Some books I knew he wanted to read, and others I got him to expand his horizon.  Those books became our shared interests, for I read most of them or I wanted to, before purchasing them for Kyle.

Written Books.  With Kyle becoming a teenager, I noticed his interest in reading has become relaxed.  I don’t ever want Kyle to loose his love of reading, especially since it was a struggle getting him to this point.  I get it, he loves his video games, but reading is important too.  So what did I do?  I wrote Kyle a book.  Seriously?  Yep!  It’s roughly a 400 page survival book that takes place in a post apocalyptic world.  It includes hunting, fishing and snowboarding, all things we both love.  I added elements of education and fun trivia to make it informative.  It’s slightly sarcastic and witty and the main characters travel by foot from Colorado to Latrobe, Pennsylvania.  Surprisingly, the book is finished, and the second in the serious has begun.  All that remains is to have it professionally edited for accuracy, and then I’ll have a book printed.

Really?  Yes!  I truly enjoyed writing the book and I thought it’d be something Kyle would enjoy.  What a better way to encourage reading, than by writing a book specifically for my young man.  Once the book is at a point to publicly talk about, I’ll write a post on it. (I also started two other separate books, I’m getting into this writing thing!)  I hope to give Kyle the book for this Christmas.  I’m also planning on designing the cover too, with my own photography.

iPod Touch.  Originally, the iPod Touch was a way for the family to keep in touch with Kyle since he didn’t have a phone yet.  It was also a means to begin working him into a little bit of freedom with electronics, music and the internet, while being monitored.  I setup Kyle with face-time, which he occasionally did with the family.  I also setup his own iTunes account (and some credits) and of course I gave him the iPod with an engraving on the back.  I did place parental controls and a tracker on it.  All of which I explained to Kyle, as well as my reasoning.  I wanted him to be safe, but I never wanted to be sneaky about it or deceitful.  He accepted the terms of the gift, and almost appreciated my concerns.   Of course, he was simply excited to get an iPod Touch!  Since then, it’s been replaced and he’s been hooked up with a laptop and an iPhone 6.  He did get a lot of mileage out of that gift and we benefited too!

Out of the Ordinary/Adventure

Kyle's-quilt-7-2002-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle’s King sized quilt I made for his 1st birthday. 7/2002

Quilt.  I wanted to do something really special for Kyle’s first birthday.  I mean the kid was turning one, without knowing his dad, nor would he ever remember his dad.  Ryan passed away nine months prior.  It was a difficult time, but I wanted to help celebrate this every special milestone with Kyle.  I was given the idea to use all of Ryan’s cloths to make Kyle a quilt.  I did!  It ended up being a king size quilt, made from Ryan’s flannel shirts and tee shirts!  To this day, I think that was the best gift I’ve ever given!  It was a long road to making this gift, with the help of friends, but one worth it.  Since then, I’ve never made another again.

Clay Pig.   I’ve always taken clay / ceramics classes, in high school and college.  I love working with clay!  So it’s no surprise that I gave my love of clay, to my beloved nephew, and made him a very unique gift I knew he’d love.  I made him a piggy bank!  Everyone in my clay class knew the pig was for Kyle, for his birthday gift.  At the time Kyle was about four years old and he was learning to count, particularly money.  I was also trying to teach him to save, and to earn enough money to buy himself whatever large gift he wanted.  This was also the time I taught him about tax.  That kid got it.  He could figure out the total of our purchases, including tax before the register would display the answer.  Truly amazing!  To this day, Kyle still stores his moola in the pig, and he knows I made it for him for his birthday.  I’m always thinking of my little man.

On a side note, Kyle mentioned he wanted to go to England and that’s what he was saving his money for.  Good choice! That was about the time Nicole and I traveled abroad.  We spent a lot of time in London.

kyle-in-plane-9th-birthday-7-30-2010-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle getting acclimated to the Piper, before his flying lessons. 9th birthday 7/30/2010

Flying Lessons.  For Kyle’s ninth birthday I thought it’d be fun to get him flying lessons.  YES!  Again, not that I planned on him being a pilot, but it was the experience.  He always mentioned how he was never in a plane, so I thought for his first time defying gratify, we’d do it right and let him fly the open skies, with an instructor, naturally.  Result?  Kyle remembered that experience, and looks at it fondly, almost brags to others about him flying a plane.  I was so happy for him!  It was a fun day.  I even hired a photographer to capture the experience.

Train ride.  I purchased Kyle, my sister and myself train tickets.  We took the train from Latrobe to Johnstown for the day (only about a forty-minute trip).  Granted, it wasn’t exciting, but it was something different.  We rode the incline and explored the town of Johnstown, took a tour of the Flood Museum, and even caught a movie. (Maleficent)  When we got back, we surprised Kyle and celebrated with an ice-cream cake at my parent’s house.  Prior to that trip, I purchased him companion books to the Lord of the Rings.  He began reading one of the books on the train.

Over the years, I’ve had many ideas for gifts, but sometimes it wasn’t the right time, or it was too expensive, or I chose another path, or I haven’t used the idea, YET.  Regardless, I hope others can take my ideas for unconventional gifts and run with them, or get back to me other ideas.  I’d love to hear them!  Here are a few:

  • Hot air balloon ride
  • Surfing lessons
  • A plane ride to Vermont to snowboard for the weekend
  • Helicopter flying lessons or a ride
  • Movie passes (which I’ve done but not for a special occasion)
  • Museum passes
  • Bike trip on the Great Allegheny Passage and camping along the 400 miles (I thought it would be fun to bike to Washington DC and have my sister meet us and take us home)
  • Volunteer – Instead of getting Kyle anything, we’d spend a day or a week together volunteering somewhere, maybe not local to get us both out of the area and find a new adventure.
  • Membership to my gym to participate in the kids class
  • A robotics camp or some sort of geeky week with others like him

I know I gave Kyle many, many more gifts, and I’ve had a ton more ideas, but alas they’ve escaped me.  I already know what I’m getting Kyle when he graduates high school.  Really?  You bet I do, and it’s really good!  I’ve had this idea since he was a toddler.  It’s a two part gift, and Kyle’s going to LOVE it.  When the time comes, which is around the corner, I’ll let everyone in on the secret.

Here are a few blog posts about my choices for unconventional gifts:

Good Intentions
Gift of Music – The Final Piano Lesson
Bricks 4 Kids, Kyle’s Lego Camp Birthday Surprise
Family Time Through an iPod Touch
Flying Back to Kyle’s Ninth Birthday

Discovering Our Own Backyard – Johnstown
Memories Sewn Into a Quilt

 

 

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

Gram, I Hope You Finally Have Peace

I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow; but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.   ~Agatha Christie

Alice M. Piper 

July 24, 1930 – June 30, 2015

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Gram & Pap at the Harbor Inn.

My 84-year old Gram, Alice Piper passed away today, Tuesday, June 30, 2015 sometime mid-morning.  (It’s kind of ironic, since she hated the mornings and never got up before noon.)  To some, it may come as a surprise to honor this lady with a blog post.  Reality?  She was my Gram, actually my only grandmother I ever knew.  My maternal grandmother passed away, long before my parents even met.  It’s true, we don’t get to pick our family, but we should try and support each other, at the very least, wish them well, and pray for them.  This is my opportunity to do that for Gram.

Gram is survived by two great grandchildren, which I think is pretty special, Kyle and Cheyenne, among the rest of the family, minus my Pap, Walter and my brother, Ryan.  I also believe Gram was the last surviving sibling in her full-blooded family.  She had half brothers and sisters, some still living.

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Dad, Gram & Uncle Sonny. 1990’s

There’s no doubt to anyone who spent any sort of time with Gram, knew she was a true firecracker in every sense of the word, even up to her last breath.  It’s no secret that Gram wasn’t your typical loving, nurturing, old lady that baked and was a saint.  No!  She was a loud, opinionated, trouble maker, who used to chain smoke. (for much of her life until she was placed in a nursing home)   I could tell many tales of disrespect and meanness.  However, thinking more on this, those are stories that have been told and retold all throughout Gram’s life, and I’m sure will be retold in the future.  Besides being an embarrassment, they only display the negative side to my grandmother.  What many don’t know, is that Gram actually had a positive side.  Granted, it was buried deep down, and only appeared very sparsely at random times, but she did in deed have a heart.  Those are the stories that really need to be told.

Unbeknownst to some, Gram had a rough childhood including living dirt poor (complete poverty), a mother abandoning all her children and leaving them to a mean and violent man, who drank, was lazy, didn’t work and was supported by welfare.  First hand accounts of this man were never positive, so I can only image what it was like living in that household.  No wonder all the women desperately tried to get out.  Years after Gram’s mother ran away, her dad remarried a women who was slightly older than my Gram was at the time, and they had kids together.  Right about now, I hear the dueling banjo’s playing in my head from the movie Deliverance.

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Uncle Sonny, Gram, Pap & Dad 1965

Long before suffering the loss of a grandchild, my brother Ryan, Gram lost her first born.  In addition to having my uncle and dad, Gram’s first offspring was a still born baby boy, a situation that was common back then, but I’m guessing equally as devastating.

Believe it or not, Gram was pretty active in her church when I was a youngster.  She taught bible school every summer at Bethel Lutheran Church, and I believe she helped out with Sunday school too.  Helping the church, and God’s children is always a good thing.

Because of Gram’s insistence on spending time with her and my pap on the ridge, every third weekend (Nicole, Ryan and myself alternated weekends) and staying very third week in the summer, I was also able to keep in touch with some of my cousins.  Otherwise, I would’ve only seen them once a year at the Piper Reunion or occasional family gathering because they went to Ligonier, and I went to Latrobe school.

Did you know Gram loved going to the movies?  She did, and so my interest in the big screen came to be.  Granted, Gram loved westerns, not a favorite of mine, but she also watched thrillers and comedies and such.  Again, she wasn’t the typical grandmother who baked and taught her grandchildren to do so.  She considered homemade, opening a box of cake mix and adding the oil and eggs.  She was a less than par baker, and a borderline editable cook.  She didn’t garden or sew, at least not with consistency that I can remember, and she definitely didn’t knit or croshay.  So after my pappy died, what do you do to not be alone?  You hang out with your grandchildren.  What do you do with them that didn’t require much effort in terms of physical activity or interaction?  You take them to the movies!  Did I mind?  Not at all, in fact I loved going (still do)!  I see this interest in the big screen continuing with Kyle, for he too loves going to the movie theater.

Gram loved to play cards and board games.  Every evening in the summer, we’d sit on the front porch on the ridge, she in her rocking chair, and I on a plastic fold up chair (that latter collapsed on me, sending me down the cement steps head first), in front of a card table and we played games.  Pappy watched us from his glider.  What did we play?  We played Three of a Kind, Go Fish and Uno.  (My pappy taught us to play poker.)  She also loved board games like Trouble, Sorry, Connect Four, Candy Land, Checkers, Chinese Checkers, Backgammon, Clue, Battleship, Chutes and Ladders, Life, Yahtzee, Scrabble and Operation.  Sometimes we’d sit and fill out crossword puzzles together or word searches.  All of this I did enjoy, minus her cigarette smoking.  Again, Kyle has always showed an interest in playing cards and boardgames, a trait he genuinely shared with his great grandmother.

Gram-&-Nicole-at-Penn-State-Graduation-1996-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Gram & Nicole at Nicole’s college graduation from Penn State University 1996

Gram tried to stay involved in our activities.  All throughout school Gram and pap attended our spring musicals at Sacred Heart, every sacrament received, and every function, even after pap passed away.  Gram joined us at Penn State College to witness my sister receiving her college diploma.  Nicole was the first in our family accomplish a formal education.  Gram honestly loved and cared for us.  Many years later, when Kyle graced us with his presence, Gram always requested his presence at her apartment for visits.  She loved our little man equally as much as we do.

Did you know my Gram never had a birthday party?  (Now Harry Potter pops into my head.)  Nope, never as a child or even as an adult.  So by the time Gram was ready to celebrate her sixtieth birthday in July of 1990 (I believe), mom planned a big surprise party.  Me, Ryan and Nicole took her to see Pretty Woman (obviously we didn’t know what it was about) while all the guests arrived at mom and dad’s house.  We showered her with gifts and cake and ice-cream.  I remember how honestly surprised she was and truly happy!

A few years after my pap died, Gram became an in-home caretaker to an elderly person.  She took classes to get certified and that was her very first job, ever.  She was in her sixties.  To be honest, I was proud she went to school and began working.  Perhaps that experience carried over to her ending days in the nursing home.  I was told by some nurses that Gram actually helped calm a dementia patient at times, another good deed nearly gone untold.

I’m certainly not making excuses for Gram, or her behavior over the years, but I am saying we are all God’s people.  There is good in every single person.  Gram lived a life, keeping us on our toes and everyone one around her.  I hope she finally has the peace I think she’s always needed.

Gram, Pap might be hiding from you, so let him know you’re ready for peace and quiet, and give it to him as well as yourself.  Make sure you look for Ryan, I suspect he’s hanging with Pap, you know those two were always so tight.  Tell Pap and Ryan how much we miss them and let Ryan know Kyle’s getting big and is a great kid! God Speed Gram!  Until I see you again.

 

Grams Obituary Aunt Heather Piper

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

Miracles of Our Time

In this life we cannot do great things.  We can only do small things with great love.  ~Mother Teresa

Each one of them is Jesus in disguise.  ~Mother Teresa

Fall-on-our-ridge-2013-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Autumn on the ridge. 2013

Recently, I caught the movie A Walk To Remember (2002) on television.  The book by the same name was written by Nicholas Sparks.  Although I’ve never read that particular book by Mr. Sparks, I’ve seen the movie on numerous occasions.  I really enjoy the bittersweet love story, and I’d like to give the book a try.  Perhaps one day.

For those of you who read the book and/or watched the movie, ultimately a miracle happened.  The main character, Jamie Sullivan wanted to witness a miracle, and after a few years, she got her wish.  That was one of the items on her bucket list so to speak.

While watching, and knowing how the movie ends, I still found myself sitting on the edge of my seat and getting a warm fuzzy feeling at the actions leading up to the miracle.  It was in that instance, I began thinking of miracles, small and large.  With so much negative and unsettling actions taking place all over the world, some unknown to the masses and continue privately, it’s nice to think that we live in a time of actual miracles.  That goodness does exists.  We see tragedies and the ugliness of human behavior, but there is also the opposite.  The good does exist, it just not as popular or accepted.

Being raised, and is a practicing Catholic, who attended proctorial school for seven years, in my lifetime, as short as it is comparatively to history in general, I’ve seen, witnessed and heard of miracles.  The seeing and witnessing miracles, I’ll get to momentarily, but the hearing of miracles have been documented for ages.  The saints have been blessed with an extra dose of God’s grace, and God has had a very special relationship with these chosen people who do good in His name.  During the canonization process, these miracles are brought to light.  Random Fun Facts:  Becoming a Saint 

I once read Mother Teresa said her calling came to her in the form of a poor person.  She said she looked him in the face and saw Jesus.  Everyone knows Mother Teresa from her accomplished days of helping the poor in Calcutta.  Since Mother Teresa is on the road to sainthood with her beatification by Pope John Paul II, and she is the epitome of spiritual purity, I thought it fitting to incorporate her.

On a side note, originally, when I began writing this blog post a few years ago now (wow how time does pass by quickly!) I was helping Kyle with his geography homework, Europe before World War II.  Every time he mentioned Albania, I thought of Mother Teresa, where her roots began.

Over the years, speaking with people from all walks of life and faith practices, most have never heard of such modern day miracles, I mean even the big ones!  Keep in mind, Columbus was credited with discovering America in 1492.  Miracles happened and continue to happen all over the world.  The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe took place in Mexico in the 1530’s.  Then there’s the very intriguing story of Joseph of Cupertino, the Christian mystic and saint who had the power of levitation.  He was from Italy in the mid to late 1600’s.  I have to add the miracle of the bleeding Eucharist with the consecrated host.  In fact, there are several such instances.

Down-the-ridge-in-snow-2015-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Snowy day on the ridge 2015

Of course, some miracles have been heard of, but perhaps not completely understood.  Thanks to the movie Stigmata, Saint Francis of Assisi, who suffered the marks of Christ’s Passion through the stigmata, was brought to light.

There are so many other miracles that unfortunately, I don’t know them all, or I only remember the overview of the story, and not the pertinent details.  Keep in mind, I’m no expert on saints or miracles, but I’ve heard and accepted the stories as a sign from God and I believe wholeheartedly.  Perhaps miracles happen to reinstate our faith and to give us hope.

Not too long ago, I was told a story from a person who used to be an alcoholic.  For privacy sake, I’ll leave his name out and how I know him.  He told me of his emotional journey toward sobriety, having a similar experience like Mother Teresa.  Now here is this assumed ordinary Catholic man (I’m not saying you have to be Catholic to partake or witness a miracle), who was literally touched by Jesus.  After I heard the story, I didn’t doubt it for one minute!  Actually, I was so excited for him, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, even to this day.  To me, I was blessed enough to have a first hand account of such a miracle and holy intervention.

Really?  Oh yes.  My friend was befriended by a man who worked at this rehab facility.  The two men spent weeks together, sharing stories and working out my friend’s inner demons.  My friend even said the man’s face (worker) was like light.  Years after my friend’s release, he went back to the facility to find the worker who made such an impact in his life.  He wanted to thank him and keep him abreast of his new life in the clean and sober world.  Guess what?  The man never existed.  There was no record of him, anywhere, nor his likeness or his name.  It’s as if the worker didn’t exist, yet my friend spend hours upon hours with him, even in front of people.  To this day, he said he has no urge to drink and that God simply took that away.  Something to think about.

What miracle have I seen and witnessed?  First a good friend of mine survived a brain aneurysm that erupted, with little to now side effects.  She’s a walking modern day miracle.  Any others?  Sure.  Every time I attend mass and watch the priest consecrate the host and the wine into the Eucharist, the body and blood of Christ.  If you think I’m being naive or mislead, refer to the seventh paragraph above and look into it with an open mind.

I hope everyone gets to witness a miracle or at the very least a good deed!  We could all use a little reminder of good in our lives.

On a funny note, my biggest miracle would be to have Kyle drop the attitude.  He’s a good kid, with an edge to him.

This screen shot below is too comical.  I participated in one of those silly games on Facebook, and this was the answer for what is my calling.  Since I know it’s not true, as much as I’d be honored and blessed for it to be true, I wanted to prove we all have it in us, even me, even for a moment in a game.

Screen Shot of a game on FB 2014 Aunt Heather Piper

I took one of those silly trivia games on Facebook, & this was the answer. Since I know it’s not true, as much as I would be honored & blessed, I wanted to prove we all have it in us, even me, even for a moment in a game. 2014

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

Singing to Kenny Rogers

One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.  ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Aunt-Heather-Piper-singing-Pittsburgh-1994

Yes I was singing with deodorant … back in the days when I wore a watch… this was my first apartment in Pittsburgh after graduating. 1994

Silly story time!  Last week, while leaving the gym with my friend Holly, I heard Juice Newton sing Queen Of Hearts.  She was shocked to find out that I liked country music.  (I’m not sure if Queen Of Hearts constitutes country music but for this conversation, it does)  I stand corrected, when I was a kid, I liked THAT country music, from THAT time.  The Charlie Daniels Band, Crystal Gayle, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Barbara Mandrell, Dolly Pardon, Johnny Horton, and Willie Nelson were among some of my favorites.  Yes, when I was young some of the artists were already dead or pretty old themselves, regardless, that’s were my interest rested.  Keep in mind, I also loved Boy George and the Culture Club, the Go-Go’s and the Bangles.  I even enjoyed listening to country gospel tunes.  My music interests were certainly eclectic.  Presently, I’m not a country music fan, nor was I even in high school.

So it’s really no surprise that I’m a fan of Kenny Rogers, or I was.  I loved Kenny Rogers!  The movie The Gambler was one of my favorites.  (That reminds me, I need to introduce Kyle to that one!)  It ranked up there with Mary Poppins, Sound of Music and Singin’ in the Rain.  (Every once in a while, I also bust into one of those show tunes.  My family appreciates those moments. sarcasm)

So, it’s not so far fetched that when the Geico commercial came on, and Kenny Rogers began singing, I joined in, and then some.  Yep, I know all the words, forwards and back!  I couldn’t help myself.  While Making Deer Bologna & Deer Jerky on Saturday with Kyle and mom, I busted into song.

Admittedly, I went on for hours singing, the same song, over and over and over again.  Please note, I can’t sing, which made it even better!  At times I started at the chorus, sometimes at the beginning, and others I sang the last part and stomped my feet like the original song.  And somewhere in the darkness, the gambler he broke even, and in his final words I found an ace that I could keep…

At first Kyle ignored me, then he started protesting with his usual, “STOP!”  “STOP!”  “STOP!”  I can’t believe he thought that would really make be cease and desist.  After about an hour or so, (it truly did go on for a while) he found me a tiny bit humorous, even though he wouldn’t admit it.  Kyle, trying to be good humored about my stage act, started to tease me with a chorus of “Boo”, accompanied with silly smirks and motions of a thumbs down.  Now he found himself funny.  Kyle giggled and made sure I didn’t miss his gesture of thumbs down.  No worries, I know artists are sometimes misunderstood.  I held my ground, and continued singing the song of my soul.  Seven, my Black Labrador, even joined in by jumping around barking.  He was my back up singer, a supporter of the arts.  It was a fun family time in the kitchen!

What made the situation even better?  Every time that commercial came on the rest of the weekend, before Kenny Rogers was spotted on the television screen, I’d turn my heard toward Kyle, shoot him an ornery look, and sing.  As if on cue, Kyle would chuckle, roll his eyes and do his best to ignore me, which provoked me even more.   He continued giving me his standard thumbs down.  I love getting a rise out of that kid!  It makes life entertaining and keeps him on his toes.  We all know he LOVES it!

It was all in good fun, typical Aunt Heather style.  I bet I got that song stuck in Kyle’s head!

 

 

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