Archive for the 'Milestone' Category

Teenager vs. Aunt Heather – Part 1 Math Tutor

Some people care too much. I think it’s called love.  ~A.A. Milne

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Kyle didn’t want his picture taken… I made him suppress a smile. Happy 14th Birthday Kyle! 2015

Where to begin.  How about in chronological order.  To be honest, I’ve been so upset as of lately, I didn’t feel like rehashing these events in writing until now.  I figured I record the good, so to be realistic I should record the bad, so to speak.

I know Kyle is growing up, and he’s finding himself, his likes and dislikes, and he wants to be his own person, and have his own voice.  All of that I’m very happy about, truly!  However, he can’t possibly think he should be allowed to do whatever he wants, when he wants, how he wants to do it.  Nope!  A little independence, sure, complete freedom with a bad attitude and disrespect, never, ever.

Kyle has been giving me a big attitude for some time now.  His newest thing, is to ignore my phone calls and text messages.  Something I’m sure is a learned behavior and will be addressed in a big way down the road unless corrected.  That’s the first item of disrespect.  Then, he was only visiting my parents when he wanted something, strike two.  Again, we love Kyle with all of our hearts, and we love seeing him, and spending time with him, even if it’s only for a short period of time.  But to take complete advantage of our generosity and kindness, not cool.

Moving on.  Everyone who knows me, knows there are two topics I NEVER budge on, church and school (showering and brushing teeth are also a couple others, but in my eyes those are mandatory acts of living that sometimes causes arguments and we work through them quickly).  I learned long ago to pick my battles, and those are it.  Whether Kyle likes it or not, in addition to being his aunt by blood relation, I’m also his godmother and an adult figure who’s been an integral part of his life from the beginning.  I was specifically chosen by my brother, Ryan, to raise him Catholic and it’s my job to carry out Ryan’s wishes.  A part of that is to keep Kyle on the path of moral responsibility and goodness, which I’ve been trying to do.

Next topic of conversation is school.  I’ve talked about that before, many, many times.  I worked with Kyle to get him into kindergarten at a young age, I helped pay for his preschool, and I’ve always made him accountable for his report card and homework, at every grade.  My intent was not to be mean but the opposite.  I care so much for Kyle, I only want the best for him, and if that means not taking the easy way, I’m there.  Seeing Kyle reach his potential and having no regrets has always been my goal.

I’ve never really said too much on Kyle’s clothing, music, hobbies or anything allowing him to be self expressive.  I do get on him about his video games, only because he spends way too much time in those mind sucking virtual worlds.  Speaking up and creating balance is for his own good.

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Kyle with his cousin Cheyenne. Kyle was trying to get her to smile for the picture. What a great little guy! Bethel Church 2005

About three Sunday’s ago, August 23rd to be exact, I wasn’t in the area to take Kyle to church.  Next in line is my mom, who was suppose to be my voice and presence when I’m working.  What did Kyle do?  Knowing very well my mom is a push over, he basically told her he wasn’t going to church, and my mom didn’t argue!  I was livid!  Now take that a step further, when I called and texted him about the first day of school, on that Monday, he didn’t reply.  I simply wanted to wish him good luck and to hear his voice.  Would that teenager give me two seconds of his time, even through a text message?  Nope.  Ignore.  Here we go.

Now after a week of no word from Kyle, Saturday, August 29th rolls around.  The Olczak family reunion.  My sister came home, as did Kyle.  I had work to do on the computer so I skipped out, but from I was told, Kyle helped my mom make the Haluski and assisted with the setup.  Cool deal buddy!  That’s what I like to hear.  See how this roller coaster ride is going, down and up, and it continues.

Once he came home from the reunion, Kyle carried a small bit of an attitude, but nothing serious.  I talked to him for a few minutes, which went fine, even though he tried to avoid me, knowing I would bring up church sooner or later.  It was at this time, I knew I needed to break it to him what his official birthday gift was.

A math tutor!  You got it, remember A Dip In the Grades.  Yeah, well I didn’t forget.  In passing, I simply told Kyle, “We’re going to 9:30 am church.”  He rolled his eyes, and then I heard my sister chime in, “Why do we have to go so early?”  She’s never been like the rest of the family, minus my mom. We’re morning people.  Anyway, with conviction, I replied, “I don’t care what mass you go to, we’re going to 9:30 and then he has his tutor meeting.”  Kyle’s face was priceless.   Immediately I added, “Instead of taking you to Cedar Point and spending money on a day in Pittsburgh with your friends, because of your attitude and your grades, I decided to buy you a math tutor.  Happy Birthday!”  It was only for a split second, but I definitively caught a grin on Kyle’s face after announcing “Happy Birthday”.  Naturally, I sported a huge smile myself.  It was kind of funny.  What melted my heart was Kyle’s grin that looked exactly like Ryan’s.  For a split second, Ryan was standing before me.  Then Kyle opened his mouth and Ryan disappeared.

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Kyle’s 14th birthday cake! 2015

Sincerely, I didn’t expect Kyle to get upset about the tutor, nor did I care, but he did.  In fact, he was really mad!  He kept grunting and whining about the tutor and arguing with me.  Another funny.  Kyle, nearly raising his voice inquired, “Why do I need a tutor?”  I gave him a sideways look and said, “Come on buddy, I think you’re smart enough to figure that one out on your own.”  For a second time, he turned his head so I couldn’t see, but I did, and a grin surfaced.  Now that’s the Kyle I know and love.  He was somewhere in there, but the dark side wouldn’t let the old Kyle out.  Yikes, the internal temporal.

Kyle really took the news of a tutor hard.  Again, something I wasn’t expecting.  I watched him storm around the yard, and it looked like he was texting or calling someone.  I didn’t give a fig.  He screwed up, and I wanted to help him out of his wrong turn.  I mean that’s why he has adults in his life, so when he messes up, someone is there to help him out.  Right?

At one point, during an argument about the tutor, which incidentally continued ALL night, Kyle started to give me his list of excuses.
Kyle:  “I didn’t care about my grades because I knew they didn’t count for college.”
Me:  “If that’s true, then why was math the only subject you tanked in?”
Kyle:  No response.
Kyle:  “I only got a bad grade because I wasn’t doing my homework.  There was too much and I didn’t want to do it.”
Me:  “Then you really don’t know the subject, which is the foundation for all your future math classes.”
Kyle:  “I do!  I know Algebra II.  Why do I need a tutor?”
Me:  I turned toward Kyle, looked him squarely in the face before admitting, “Kyle!  Because I seem to be the only one who seriously cares about your future!  I want you to have a choice of anything you want to do in this world.  I want you to choose whichever college you want to attend.  I don’t want you to struggle with your future subjects.  I want you to feel good about yourself and show everyone just how smart you are!  I love you dearly, that’s why.”  I couldn’t resist, I added, “Happy Birthday buddy!”  That’s the instigator in me.
Kyle:  No comment.  Maybe a slight smile but he was holding strong.
Me:  “Kyle it took me a while to find this tutor, I especially chose her.  She’s a Greater Latrobe High School math teacher!”
Kyle:  His eyes got big and the look of “O crap” appeared across his face.
Me:  “That’s right buddy, I’m not messing around.  I didn’t get you a student, I got you someone who can handle your teenage attitude and really knows the subject.”
Kyle:  Still holding strong.  “Why do I need a tutor.  I know math.”
Me:  “Buddy, if that’s true, then prove it.  Let the tutor tell me that you really know the subject.  I’m not doing myself any favors paying for a tutor, I’m not benefiting from this.  I’d be happy to cancel the lessons.
Kyle:  No comment.

Kyle sighed, grunted and stormed off.  I know deep down, he thought he would win, yet he knows I’m not being unreasonable and he’s in the wrong.

Now onto Sunday.  First things first, church before the tutor.  The saga continues…

 

P.S. I carefully chose this quote, it wasn’t by happenstance.  You see, A.A. Milne authored the Winnie-the-Pooh books.

When Kyle was a tiny tyke, he had this teething ring Winnie-the-Pooh, which contained a button to play music.  Kyle loved that toy!  I believe that’s when I first realized how much he loved music.  He would bounce his head to the sweet tune of the plastic key chain.  Sometimes, we’d simply sing, “Winnie-the-Pooh… Winnie-the-Pooh…”

A little bit of trivia.  A.A. Milne’s son, Christopher was given a teddy bear on his first birthday.  For Kyle’s first birthday, he received a king sized quilt I made him out his of his dad’s (my brother) tees and flannels shirts.  Anyway, Christopher called his bear, Edward Bear, before renaming the stuffed animal, Winnie-the-Pooh.  The first Pooh story was published four years later.  Children do make the world of difference in the lives they touch.  They’re also great inspirations!  I too wrote a book, young adult, for Kyle.  I guess there are others out there as blessed as I am, to be inspired by such love.

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

Congratulations – Mikey & Mary Beth Got Hitched!

… when it comes down to it, that’s what life is all about: showing up for the people you love, again and again, until you can’t show up anymore.  ~Rebecca Walker

Mr. & Mrs. Olczak

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Mikey & Mary Beth got hitched! Congrats! 8/1/15

This is a celebration worth writing about, the union of my cousin Mikey and his new wife, Mary Beth.  On Saturday, August, 1st, before God, they married in a small Catholic church in New Derry, Pennsylvania.  The reception?  The best venue ever!  The Planinsek Pavilion!  Yes, the very same location of the Fishing Derby (25th Annual Louis Planinsek Fishing Derby)!

It was a traditional, yet simple ceremony.  There wasn’t a lot of frills or fluff, they kept the wedding to the meat and potatoes, the important things, close family, caring friends, and the loving couple.  It was perfect!  After mass, everyone migrated to the Planinsek Pavilion for a good old-fashioned celebratory dinner and dancing.

It was a lovely sunny day with bright blue skies, low humidity, and we were even blessed with a light breeze. Like I said, perfect!

Now for some of the wedding details.  Be prepared, these little touches added to the wedding will pull on the heart strings.  A few years ago, the bride’s father passed away.  However, Mary Beth wanted to include him on her special day, in a subtle way.  He was known for wearing this red baseball cap with white polka dots.  Really?  Oh yes!  When I picture the man, that’s exactly how I see him, and that’s how he was always described by others.  The bride and bridesmaid, one of Mary Beth’s sisters, incorporated a red ribbon with white polka dots at the base of their bouquets.  The sweetness didn’t stop there.  Mikey’s dad, walked Mary Beth down the isle, and Mikey walked Mary Beth’s mom down the isle.  That’s true family unity from the beginning.  Told you, too sweet!  Again, perfect!

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Front Row: Mary Beth (now Olczak) Stacey, Marla, Elizabeth, Karen   Back row: Joel, Mikey, Casey, Jim Olczak 8/1/15

Favors were not offered, at least not in the traditional sense.  Since Mikey’s a woodworker by trait, he made cutting boards for each table.  Yes!  His hand-crafted wooden cutting boards were the vehicle to serve the fresh fruit, cheese and crackers for each table.  Then, at the end of the night, designated guests were given the custom Red Barn Woodworking pieces to take home.  What a great idea!  Mikey also made the card box and personalized it.  Now that’s a way to add details and a special touch.

Mikey and Mary Beth’s reception was very different from ones I’m accustomed to.  One big aspect of a typical Western Pennsylvanian wedding is the cookie table!  Oh, yes, this is truly a thing, and a big thing.  Weddings in this area are judged by the cookie table.  Mikey and Mary Beth did not disappoint!  However, aside from the cookie display, and their first dance, they didn’t keep with wedding tradition.  There was no polka music or polka dancing, no bridal dance, no formal cutting of the cake, no formal introduction of the bridal party.  Although, keep in mind, the bridal party consisted of our loving couple, and the bridesmaid and the best man.  Both respected siblings, and both individuals where known by all of the attendees.

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Mikey & Me … had to have a cousin picture! Congrats Mikey & Mary Beth 8/1/15

Did I miss all these standard aspects to a typical wedding?  Not at all!  I loved how the evening unfolded!  I simply loved it!  There was no pressure, no expectations, no stress, from the guests or our newlyweds.  Like I mentioned, perfect!  The love and simple attitude from Mikey and Mary Beth spilled out over onto everyone.  Now that’s a real power couple!

To be honest, the reception was more like a huge family reunion.  Everywhere I looked, I was related to someone in one way or another.  This wedding, combined the large families of the area, the Olczak’s, the Piper’s, the Planinsek’s and the Butina’s, into one big party.  I’ve always been friends with the Butina’s.  My best friend in elementary school was a Butina, and so I was an adopted Butina, like many of my cousins.  Naturally, I’m related to the Piper’s and the Olczak’s.  The Olczak’s are related to the Planinsek’s, and now were all related to the Butina’s.   One big ridger family!

On a side note, a ridger is a person who lives on the ridge.  What’s a ridge?  The top of a hill or elevated area in a rural area.  A ridger is slang around Latrobe and Ligonier.

We danced the night away to the band, Life of Brian, friends of the happy couple.  They rocked the night away, and got everyone up and moving!  That was the first time I’ve heard them, and I was impressed!  They’re really, really good and made the evening even more enjoyable

Chef Mark’s Palete catered to the party.  Talk about eating like kings!  Chef Mark was on hand to carve the smoked roast beef, as well as serve the multi-layered wedding cake, not courtesy of Chef Mark.  His staff was very attentive to the guests and kept things moving smoothly.

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Life of Brian… a great band!

It was great mingling among everyone and catching up.  Knowing Mikey and Mary Beth, I would have expected nothing less.

I had a great time and I wish them all the happiness in the world!  Mikey and Mary Beth are perfect examples of what happens when two people are raised with morally strong families, and are just all around good people.

Congratulations Mikey and Mary Beth!  I look forward to witnessing your unity over the years.  I know it will be full of happiness and fun.  You guys are a great couple!  Cheers!

 

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination and have No Comments

Happy Birthday Kyle! 14 Years!

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

Happy 14th Birthday Kyle!

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Kyle fulfilling a life goal, swimming with the dolphins from his cruise with his Aunt Nikki. 6/2015

Kyle has really taught me about life.  It amazes me how one little boy, although he’s not so little anymore, can teach me about life and people and behaviors and the list goes on.  It’s great!  I love seeing the world through his eyes and his perception, especially now that he’s a young adult.

Now we’re working through the teenage years.  I’ll admit, it’s trial and error, I’ve made some mistakes and Kyle has made some, but we’re still tight.  There is nothing I wouldn’t do for for that kid, and I know he truly cares for me, and my family.  I’ll always be his Aiya (Aunt Heather) and he’ll always be my Narrow.  We are associated by blood, but bound by love.

Thinking back on these fourteen years, I’m amazed at how much learning and activity has been packed into each year.  What a ride!  One, I would never trade, ever!  Kyle has been a blessing and continues be so.  Since reaching teenager status, he’s been spreading his wings and pushing boundaries.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, depending on how he goes about it.  I’ve always encouraged Kyle to be independent, yet responsible.  Although, I’m adjusting to the idea of not being cool anymore, or a desired companion for fun activities.  However, I’m hoping one day, Kyle will revert back and I will be here with open arms.

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Kyle celebrating his 5th birthday at Seabase in Greensburg! He was a king that day, & every day since… 7/30/05

Now for my biggest surprise from this year.  Besides shaving, Kyle has really stretched up.  I only have about a head on him now, then he’ll surpass me.  I’m about five foot six inches, so Kyle is slightly under that.  He keeps eyeballing me up when standing next to me, and displaying that ornery grin.  His feet are already bigger than mine, which isn’t saying much since I have small feet.  We pretty much wear the same size shirts and jeans, except I need a little bit more length to mine.  There was a time when Kyle thought he was being a stinker wearing my cloths and enjoyed doing so.  I warned him, the tide will be changing soon enough, and now the high tide is in.  The other day, Kyle said, “Hey Aunt Heather, that’s my tee shirt.”  I simply looked down and said, “Umm, yes it is.  Payback time!  And it only goes downhill from here.”  He didn’t say much.  He just snickered and continued playing his video game.

Kyle is showing to be a goodhearted and honest young man, just like his dad.  Ryan would’ve been very proud of him.  Kyle’s not presently aware, but Ryan, his dad, would’ve been a very hands on, interactive father.  That’s the only part of Kyle getting older that saddens me, not having his dad interact with him and experience every milestone.  I guess Ryan’s here in spirit, and always in our hearts.  Although Kyle would’ve benefited tremendously to have Ryan in his life.

Kyle’s a happy child and is blessed with a good life.  That I am thankful for!

Happy Birthday Kyle!  I hope you enjoy your day.  I look forward to many more birthdays.

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

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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

A Dip in the Grades

Children aren’t happy with nothing to ignore,
And that’s what parents were created for.  ~Ogden Nash

Kyle-cousin-Cheyenne-2005-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle with his cousin Cheyenne at Bethel Lutheran Church. This picture was taken for my Gram. 2005

Grades.  I remember report card time.  The stress of working your butt off to get the grade desired, or to be redeemed from a not-so-desirable past grade.  All the studying, and all the writing, and all the preparation, to be judged by The Report Card.  I do agree with this method of ranking a child in school.  It gives them good benchmarks and goals to work toward.  It’s also a way to see if a child is truly struggling and needs additional assistance, or if the teacher needs to be replaced.  Certainly, not a foolproof method, but one universally accepted.

I’m a little late on talking about Kyle’s grades, well considering he’s been hiding them from me, so I guess I’m not.  Kyle has been blowing me off when asked about his report card.  I should have known this was going to be a struggle, considering I never saw the second quarter grades.  Kyle’s response, “I don’t know what I did with it.”  I bugged him and bugged him, till I finally said, “Well, I’ll be looking for the next one.” meaning the third quarter.  I did manage to review that term, and yes the grades were already slowly slipping.

Aunt-Heather-Piper-at-Kunkle-Park-c.-2008

Me at Kunkle Park. My shirt says.. Don’t Mess With Me! Love that! c. 2008

Getting a hold of his third quarter report card, was a chore unto itself.  I remember my sister asking Kyle a very logical question, “Since you’re in advance math, maybe it’s getting too hard for you.”  Kyle’s response, “Umm, na, I was just slacking a little but I’m getting back on track.”  Keeping it real buddy!  I can work with that honesty, assuming he truly meant it.  However, I bet Kyle never realized that math is a subject that always builds upon itself, and continues to get harder and harder.  So if a critical step in the learning process is missed, putting it simply, you’re screwed.  The only way to catch up, is to go back and relearn or reiterate previous teachings to get back on track.

Apparently during this time, my sister called Kyle on the phone, and found out that he didn’t want to show me his report card because he dropped in two classes.  He knew I would ground him and get on his case to ensure his homework was done and done correctly.  Let me think on this… HECK YEAH!  Personally, it makes me happy to find out that Kyle is afraid to show me his slipped grades.  It proves that Kyle knows I mean business, and it also shows he’s aware of his wrongdoing.  He knows what’s expected.  He’s also treating me like an involved parent who cares.  I’m good with that!

Kyle-in-cave-in-West-Virginia-visiting-Casey-2007-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle in the Caverns of West Virginia, while visiting Casey. Kyle loves to learn! 2007

Good so far, except, this “fear” of me, which really means fear of not being able to play his video games.  It also means he basically lied to me, and then covered it up, AND tried to get sympathy from my parents, sister and other family members, like I’m wrong in this scenario.  Boy that kid is good, but I’m better!

Recently, I knew the final report card was out, and I had yet to see it.  Did I ask for it?  You bet I did!  And asked, and asked and asked.  Apparently, Kyle, “Didn’t know where it was.” and he “Wasn’t sure what his grades were.”  I heard it all.  I knew that was code for a slip in the grades, but to what extent, I had no idea.  Please keep in mind, I do give Kyle grace with respect to some classes, since he’s in advanced math and advance science.

Finally, I got my hands on his grades, not only the forth quarter but also the year long averages.   I now had an overview of all his grades and his progress during eighth grade.  I had two words, NOT HAPPY!  If he thinks he’s getting into Carnegie Mellon University for engineering with those grades, he has another thing coming.  He’d be lucky to get accepted to community college, and everyone gets into community college.

My-pap-Aunt-Heather-Piper

My pap. He only had a 5th grade education, only because he didn’t have the opportunity to reach his potential. Believe it or not, he was smart! He was also a very kind & goodhearted person.

What were his grades?  Let’s just say, he’s been playing way too many video games.  He went down in five classes, up in two, and maintained one-hundred percent in band.  The overall grades weren’t terrible, but not great either.  I won’t embarrass Kyle by calling anything out in particular, for the details are personal, just not acceptable.  I need to get a handle on this kid, and fast.  He’s way too smart to ruin his future because he’s being lazy.  And his manipulation toward adult figures in his life isn’t helping him out.  Sometimes I think I’m the only one seeing it.  Hence, why he’ll say he’s afraid of me.  He knows how to play the game to get everyone on his side and not be held accountable for his actions.  No joke, I think I’m the only one seeing the whole picture, and truly wanting to help this kid.  So, yes!  I will take away his video games and lazy time and replace it with homework and additional school work reinforcement.

How was Kyle punished?  I just found out he wasn’t.  He was talked to but really, NOTHING!  Literally nothing!  In fact, early this summer he went on a cruise with his Aunt Nikki, and now he’s on another vacation, and his birthday is this week.  He was never grounded, never had his video games taken away, nothing!  I don’t like to punish the kid either, but this is for his own future and for a good reason.  I care enough about Kyle to guide him in the right direction.  The last thing I want to see is Kyle trying to get into a college of his dreams, and be declined due to a lack of sufficient grades.  I think that’s just plain cruel and mean.  Especially, when this could have been avoided in the first place.

Kyle-bowling-2007-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle showing off his bowling skills… 2007

I want more for Kyle.  I want to see him succeed in life, and I’m not just talking about monetary value.  I’m talking about happiness, and being a good person with high moral standards, and basic intelligence.  I don’t want anyone to call him dumb or think he is, or worse, he thinks he is!  I don’t want him to have stress and disappointment, even though I know it’s inevitable.  I want him to fulfill his dreams and reach his goals.  Not guiding the kid in the right direction now, and not encouraging and holding him accountable for his actions, is not helping meet any of these.  In fact, it’s the easy way to parent, or lack of parenting.

First things first, I’ve been praying for my little man.  He needs it.  Next, I need to devise a plan of action to get Kyle back into the game.  Not an easy task, but again Kyle’s totally worth it.  Anyone have any ideas to assist Kyle bring up his grades for next year, specially with Algebra II?  He’s going into the ninth grade.

 

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

Pittsburgh – Night Out in the Big City! Vol. 4

They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.  ~Tom Bodett

Maggie-Aunt-Heather-Piper-Marching-Band-Latrobe-1992-93

Maggie McNeely & me at a football game in Latrobe Stadium, Marching Band. 1992-93

If you’ve been following along with my single most memorable and scary night, in Pittsburgh, as a teenager, you might be saying to yourself, ReallyPittsburgh – A Night Out in the Big City!  Vol. 1, Pittsburgh- Night Out in the Big City! Vol. 2, Pittsburgh – Night Out in the Big City! Vol. 3  All true!  To recap, I took my car into Pittsburgh when I wasn’t allowed, it broke down, I accepted a ride from a homeless man living in his car, who hit a transvestite.  Then, I accepted a ride from a drunk man before the police showed up.  Eventually, with a little help from my metal beret, we got the car working and headed east, back home.  Now the car just died again alongside a very dark highway.  The reason?  The possibility of running out of gas was mentioned.  Can you believe all this happened in one night?

Now a group of teenagers were sitting alongside a highway, in the dark, without a clue to the closest gas station, if that indeed was the reasoning for the most recent issue.  Again, everyone got out of Black Beauty to get some fresh night air.  Plus, I think it made everyone feel like they were helping.  Would you believe during this entire ordeal, no one was mad at me, or seemed upset in the slightest?  Nope, everyone rolled with it and tired to help when possible.  Granted at this point, we’re all a bit tied and frustrated, but no one pointed fingers and blamed me. Now that’s a group of friends!

Jay-Aunt-Heather-Piper-at-Derry-Show-c.-1992

Me & Jay Boring hanging out at the Derry band show. c. 1992

Just then, headlights approached us and parked directly behind my car.  What now?  Believe it or not, I remember thinking to myself something along the lines of, Let me guess, an axe murderer, or a serial killer to polish off the night?  I knew once we found our way, and got the car in forward motion, I was tempting fate too much.

Again, not knowing what lurked behind those headlights and not wanting anyone to get hurt, I approached our third stranger of the night.  However, this one didn’t seem to have any issues.  I can’t even remember if it was a guy or a gal, but my vote is with the earlier.  Our nice stranger was a single person that didn’t appear to be drinking, drove a modern car, no beater, dressed casually, and seemed, well, normal!  Can you say Ted Bundy?  Yikes!  I thought we were all dead meat.

And yes, on a side note, I knew exactly who Ted Bundy was and what he did.  For some reason, I was fascinated by that crazy man and followed his case on television, even staying home from school (it was a Tuesday) to watch his execution.  No joke! I still remember watching the spokesperson announce his death.  Personally, I thought I was going to be able to literally watch him die.  I was wrong, and I’m glad for it.

Jeremiah-Tom-at-Eat-n-Park-Marching-Band-1993-94-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Jeremiah, me & Tom at Eat n’ Park after a Marching Band competition or game. 1993-94

Admittedly, my newest stranger was very nice, and offered assistance, without monetary compensation.  For a second time, our group pushed this huge and very heavy car.  My guardian angel must have been still hanging by my side, because the car died at the top of a ramp, leading to a gas station, according to our stranger.  That’s double convenient, near a gas station and it was downhill!  As soon as we moved the car in a little downward motion, we piled back in and was able to coast it, right into the gas station by the pump!  Can you believe our luck?  My car was so old, it was before the days of anti-lock breaks.  I was able to steer it, while the engine was off.  Honestly, it seemed too easy of a solution.  Keep in mind, we really didn’t know if our problem was due to a low fuel tank.

Assuming we were out of gas, I pumped fuel while the nice stranger remained in his vehicle waiting for us.  He never hovered, and made sure he kept his distance.  I paid no mind and felt at ease with this guy, who was probably in his late thirties, early forties.  It also helped, that we were in a very well lit gas station, with a few people coming and going, on a familiar road.  Once I put plenty of gas in the car, it was the moment of truth.  Would it start?

I got in, turned over the ignition and it roared to life!  Can you believe we ran out of gas?  I can!

Marching-Band-Senior-Night-Pirates-of-Penzance-1993-94-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Senior night at Latrobe Stadium. The Marching Band theme… Pirates of Penzance. 1993

Our nice stranger checked in one last time to make sure we were okay.  After our small celebration, we ensured our stranger we’d be fine.  Without accepting my monetary compensation, or my offer to fuel up his car, and without haste, he disappeared into the night, as quietly and stealthy as he appeared.  Literally, it was like he just appeared, and disappeared as quickly.  That was a very odd experience, and that’s saying something considering everything that happened, including seeing a transvestite and hitting him/her with the car.

A little gas did the trick, and the engine was purring.  We continued on our path, increasing the distance from us and our awful night.  The further from Pittsburgh we drove, the closer to Latrobe we came.  Unfortunately, the closer to home, the more frequently the cord would break, forcing us to get out and adjust it again, and again, and again.

Finally, by sunrise, we made it to Vanessa’s house!  No one was happier than I!  Believe it or not, as I pulled into her driveway, the car died one last time.  I left it exactly where it stopped, right in the middle.  No one cared.  We were exhausted.  Slowly, filing out of Black Beauty, everyone swarmed into her living room to feel the comforts of a true safe haven.  Without much conversation and teenage behavior, we crashed, hard.

Vanessa-Vedas-at-Derry-Show-Aunt-Heather-Piper-c.-1992

Vanessa Vadas at a Derry show. c. 1992

Once semi-rested, I called my dad to let him know the car died in Vanessa’s driveway.  He came out, did what I did all night only with electrical tape, and followed me home, where I pulled Black Beauty directly in the garage.  Evidently, it was the ground cord connected to the alternator that was old and rotted.  Dad changed it without haste, and I was back in business within an hour.  That easy?  Yes!

On a side note, dad asked me why there was wax throughout the engine.  I explained we didn’t have a flashlight, but we had candles.  He accepted my explaination without asking anymore questions.  My guess?  He didn’t want to know.  The car was fine, I was home, life was good.

Did I make very stupid decisions?  Yes I did, but we also tried to be the safest with our stupid decisions.  After that night, I realized I have a guardian angel, or a flock of them.  They were definitely working in overtime.  My prayers were answered and no one got hurt or in trouble.  Trouble?  Yes, I was worried about getting in trouble, instead about being abducted or killed or both.  Don’t get me wrong, I worried about those things, but remember, I was a teenager with a strict dad.  So yes, getting busted equaled kidnapping or death.  Did that adventure open my eyes to a world I never knew existed?  Yes, but one I wasn’t ready to accept or experience ever again.

The-Hitchhiker-by-William-DeBernardi-1994-Latrobe-art-collection-Aunt-Heather-Piper

This artwork was purchased my senior year of high school… How ironic it’s called The Hitchhiker by William DeBernardi. It displays a long dark highway… perhaps I associated with the painting. I know it got my vote! 1994

Was my night over?  Not really.  By Monday, I had to return to band camp.  I was in the colorguard.  Did I mention, I left halfway through the day that Friday for the concert, without permission, and without telling anyone.  Why?  I thought no one would notice I was gone.  Well, they did.  When I came back, and I made eye contact with my band director, Mr. Hamill, I knew my agony wasn’t over.  He requested my presence in his office, with the door shut.  That’s never a good sign!  I got an earful.  I didn’t say much, knowing I was clearly in the wrong.  If he actually had a clue of what I went through that night, he would’ve realized that was punishment enough.  I didn’t care, I was happy to be back in safe old Latrobe, doing my thing.

I hope Kyle makes better decisions than I’ve done, especially during his teenage years.  Although, he tends to favor my sister, and not live on the edge.  He’s certainly no risk taker, and still continues to play by the rules, at least at this point in his life, very unlike myself.  He’s a smart kid, and I believe in the foundation I was apart of building.

Was the stress of the night and potential danger worth the story?  You tell me…

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

Pittsburgh – Night Out in the Big City! Vol. 3

We are all vainer of our luck than of our merits.  ~Rex Stout
Cory-Tree-Aunt-Heather-Piper-Cure-Concert-Mellon-Arena-7-17-96

Cori, Tree & Me at the Cure Concert at the Mellon Arena (now Consol Energy Center) Pittsburgh, Pa. 7/17/96

If you’ve been following along with my previous posts, Pittsburgh – A Night Out in the Big City!  Vol. 1 and Pittsburgh- Night Out in the Big City! Vol. 2, you’ll realize, on the occasion, I make bad decisions.  During this particular night that never ended, I made several really bad decisions.  One after another, after another, after another.

To recap, I took my old car into Pittsburgh when I wasn’t allowed.  Said car broke down, in a tow away zone, in the middle of the ghetto, somewhere.  We were lost beyond hope.  I took a ride to get a new car battery, from a homeless man who lived in his car, who had no breaks and used his emergency break.  Incidentally, that same homeless man, hit a transvestite throwing her/him on the hood of his vehicle, intentionally I might add.  Once the battery was purchased, no one had tools to install it, however we did have candles, naturally.  Now introduce a new stranger, who was completely intoxicated, but had tools.  I took my second ride of evening with that stranger, the drunk one, to return the unused battery, since that wasn’t the cause of the car not starting.  Now you’re caught up … Enjoy the ride!

The drunk man did as promised, and found the store.  It was open!  Kinda.  It appeared closed, but people were standing among the darkness inside.  So I entered the shady establishment, and asked to return my unused battery, that I just purchased.  Surprise!  They refunded me!  My luck was turning around.  At this point, any silver lining was a step in the right direction.

Friends-in-Strip-District-Pittsburgh-Early-1990s-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Not sure, Jill, Lori Beanner, Justin Baldonieri, & me at a concert in the Strip District, Pittsburgh, Pa. mid 1990’s

Our drunk driver took us back to our friends and back to my broken down, illegally parked car in the ghetto.  This time, we didn’t hit anyone, but we definitely ran a few red lights.  Giving this stranger some grace, it was late at night with almost no traffic, and beggars can’t be choosers.

Upon approaching the corner store, all three of us, me, Sefo and our drunk driver, saw all the lights dancing around, lighting up our temporary home that resembled a dive convenience store in the middle of the hood, and the center of our demise.  It was the boys in blue.  In a way, I was relieved, yet I wasn’t.

Our drunk friend wasn’t happy to see the police, AT ALL.  He refused to drop us off, and sped past our destination.  I get it, he was drunk and who knows what else controlled him, but let us out!  This once relatively calm drunk man, turned into a frantic freak.  Now I was getting scared.  I know, NOW I decided to become scared, what can I say?  I’m a late bloomer.

The drunk man drove down the street, barely stopping, and ordered me and Sefo to get out and walk back.  We did as instructed and watched the man sped out of sight.  On our way back to the car, I knew I had some explaining to do to the Pittsburgh police.  Obviously, I was illegally parked, and personally I was aware of my Cinderella license, and the rules that accompanied it.  I also knew those flashing lights meant that I was going to pay out the nose for getting lost, figuratively speaking.  Truly, I didn’t care.  In my eyes, no one got hurt and the police were friendlies who swore an oath to serve and protect.  Good enough for me!  From what I’ve experienced thus far, in the short amount time from the conclusion of the concert to this point, the men in blue were a welcoming sight.

Aunt-Heather-Piper-at-concert-in-Pittsburgh-early-1990s

Me presenting my shoes in a an odd fashion…Yes I had a runner in my fish net stockings.  Strip District for a concert at the Metropole, Pittsburgh, Pa. mid 1990s

The officer instructed me to move my vehicle or I’d get a ticket.  Seriously?  That was the least of my worries.  I’d gladly accept the ticket if it meant I could get my friends and my car back home safely.  I explained the situation, omitting the details about the homeless man, and the drunk driver, and most importantly the homeless man hitting the transvestite.  No sense in rehashing actions that caused no harm and couldn’t be changed.

What did the police have us do before offering assistance?  They made us push the car back out of the illegal spot and park it along the curb on the street.  Really?  It was late at night and that’s what they were concerned about?  First, I want to say, I’ve never nor would I ever park in a handicap spot.  I was merely beside the convenience store, where it said  No Parking.  Why?  I have no idea.  To me it was a none issue.

What next?  One of my friends sat in the driver’s seat, while we pushed the car away from its current location.  In that time, the cop asked us to try and start the engine again.  We did and voila!  It started!  Are you kidding me?  No, but as soon as it started and it registered with me, the engine turned off again.  Okay, now this I can work with.  My logical side of the brain was telling me something supplying juice to the battery was loose.

The one cop asked me to pop the hood.  I did as directed, this time holding onto every bit of hope I had left, thinking they’d find a solution we overlooked.  We went through the same procedure as before with the same result, nothing.  However, this time we had actual flashlights, as opposed to candle light to look around the engine.  My eyes frantically followed their lights looking for anything out of place or suspicious.  Then, I saw something.  It was a cord snapped in half, near the battery.  Not knowing what it did, or if it was indeed the root of the problem, I just reacted.

What did I do?  This is all one-hundred percent true.  I usually wore berets in my hair, and on this eventful evening, I had a metal beret.  I simply unclipped the beret from my head, and snapped it to the broken wires to hold it together.  The engine fired to life and remained so.  Halleluiah!  Instantly, I thanked God.  I finally felt myself relax a little, at the very least my stomach stopped doing flips.  Now we needed to make hast!

Tree-Tracey-Art-Room-Latrobe-High-School-Aunt-Heather-Piper-1993-94

Tree, me & Tracey in the art room at Greater Latrobe High School 1993-94

The cops gave us directions and sent us on our way.  We left without looking back and continued on getting lost.  Was I ticketed for my illegal park job?  Nope.  Things were looking up.

We continued on our way, trying to find a familiar road or sign, pointing us east.  Every few miles, the clip came loose, shutting down the juice to the car, in turn shutting down our travels.  As that happened, I’d stop, usually in the middle of the road, get out, and re-secure the wires, and repeat.  This was an inconvenience, but I didn’t care, it was the little bit of hope I was holding onto.

That is until the car shut down for good, probably about halfway home.  This time, we actually knew our location, and we were well past the city limits, headed to the safe suburbs.  Another little silver lining to our adventure.  I tried wiggling the wires together, nothing.

I truly had no idea what the problem was this time.  Not a clue!  That is until someone spoke up and mentioned the idea that the car might be out of gas.  Yes, Of course!  Can you believe it?  We ran out of gas!  At least that was our theory.  Now what?  We’re stranded on the side of the highway, in the dark (of course there wasn’t a street light around), still miles upon miles from home, with a temporary fix on the car engine, thinking we might be out of gas but really not sure.

To be continued…

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

Pittsburgh – Night Out in the Big City! Vol. 2

Stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold.  ~S.E. Hinton

Gary-Aunt-Heather-Piper-at-Cure-Concert-Mellon-Arena-Pittsburgh-PA-7-17-96

Me & Gary & not sure at the Cure Concert at the former Mellon Arena (now Consol Energy Center), Pittsburgh, Pa. 7/17/96

Let me recap.  I was reminiscing from my high school days, actually about one night in particular.  A night that is so outlandish it sounds like it was made fictionally for television, but it’s entirely true!  Pittsburgh – A Night Out in the Big City!  Vol. 1

I took my old car, 1976ish Buick Limited, into Pittsburgh for a concert, when I wasn’t allowed, especially with a group of teenage friends.  We got lost in a bad section of Pittsburgh, illegally parked my car at a shady convenience store, to only find the night got worse when my car wouldn’t start.  Then, we accepted a ride to an auto parts store to purchase a new battery from a homeless man living in his car, which he may or may not have stolen.  We made it to the auto parts store and headed back to my friends who stayed behind with the broken down vehicle, in the middle of the ghetto, in the middle of the night.  Oh yeah, the homeless man’s car had no breaks.  He used his emergency break to stop.  I think that about sums up the last post.  It only gets better from here.

Our homeless man, or more accurately, the man living in his car, drove a little fast, as per the speed limit signs, and definitely too fast considering we had no real means to stop.  Suddenly, another obstacle struck us, or I should say we struck her.  What looked like a woman, dressed in stilettos, a micro mini skirt, and big hair, staggered in front of us.  Naturally, what else could make my story more colorful than a stranger appearing out of nowhere, to make contact with a moving vehicle, with no breaks!  Granted, we weren’t cruising at top speeds, but we were certainly in motion, and remained there despite the pedestrian.

Our driver used his emergency break to come to a stop, but not before we nudged her.  I know it wasn’t right, but we barely grazed this unconcerned night walker, who just walked in front of a moving vehicle.  Well, she wasn’t have having any of it, and showed her disdain by punching the hood of the car.  Then, our driver pushed the gas peddle, throwing her up on the hood, before using the emergency break again, throwing the stranger from the car.  What?  YES!  Can you imagine my shock?  I was mortified!

Tree-Tracey-Aunt-Heather-Piper-Graduation-from-Greater-Latrobe-High-School-6-1994

Tree, me & Tracey, graduation day from Greater Latrobe High School. 6/94

Please understand I never grew up around any alternative lifestyle, let alone knew what an alternative lifestyle was, or witnessed actions such as this one, meaning yelling out of a car at someone!

Again, what I thought was a lady, correction, I thought she was a prostitute, was not.  I sat there speechless, craning my neck to look over the hood of the car, trying to find life, hoping she wasn’t dead.

Eventually, what seemed like an hour later, the night walker got up, looked around, and stumbled a little.  To add to the terror, our angry driver began honking the horn and yelling out the window to get her to move.  Then, he started muttering a few words, one being transvestite.  Transvestite?  What?  Again, I’m a small town gal from Latrobe, who believed that a transvestite was a fictional character on television like a vampire, or an urban legend.  Instantly, my attention left our driver, my eyes grew three times the size, and I began to really examine the lady/guy standing in front of us, in the middle of the road, completely forgetting she/he was just hit by us.

Still staggering, she/he appeared to be either completely intoxicated or on drugs, or both.  The gal/guy stumbled to the passenger side of the door, where Sefo sat with the window down (allowing me to get air before I puked).  Why that side, and not the side of the verbal driver?  No clue. Aside from the staggering, which was evident before impact, our hit and run victim seemed unscathed.  The next thing I remembered, she/he tried to punch Sefo!  What did he do?  Sefo leaned into me, to put some distance between his shoulder and the staggering fist.  Luckily, our driver’s reflexes were quicker.  The homeless man, correction, the man who lived in his car, hit the gas, leaving my first transvestite encounter in the dust.  I mean Bruce Jenner (Caitlyn) wasn’t all over the news.  My heart was racing and never slowed down.  I looked at Sefo with wide eyes, expecting him to tell me all will be fine, that is until I saw his reaction.  It was exactly like mine!  Maybe a little more since he was in the line of direct fire.

Lori-Beanner-and-Justin-Baldonieri-at-Strip-District-Pittsburgh-Pa-early-1990s-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Lori Beanner & Justin Baldonieri at a concert in the Strip District. I’m not sure why SCREAM was written on Lori’s leg. Pittsburgh, Pa. early 1990’s

Our unconventional hero of sorts, the homeless man who lived in his car, held true to his word and took us back to our friends and my broken car, almost safely.  We had a battery, now what?

It appears the craziness is nearly behind us, right?  That’s what I thought.  How could it get worse?

Would you believe we never thought about tools!  I didn’t have any, and our homeless man didn’t either.  Personally, I thought with all that junk in the car, he’d at least have a screwdriver?  Nope.  Now what?

While we were off hitting, literally the night life, (pun intended), my friends took a walk to a local hangout to use the restrooms.  They traveled down the street and came upon a gay bar.  Again, please keep in mind, times were very different back then, and my innocence was not ready for the reality of the world aside from my own personal corner of Latrobe.  My friends told me all about the sights they saw.  What did they witness?  No idea.  I wasn’t paying attention in the slightest.  It was at that moment, I started to hear ringing in my ears and I felt lightheaded.  I was breathing heavy and the world was in slow motion.  It was so surreal.  The last thing I wanted was to put my friends in any sort of danger or crazy situation.  Although, I will admit, they didn’t seem to mind and weren’t bothered by anything at all, except Sefo, rightfully so.  I can’t imaging hitting anybody, let alone a transvestite with a car was normal.

Friends-in-Art-Room-at-Greater-Latrobe-High-School-1993-94-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Not sure, Vanessa Vadas, me & Erin Butina in the art room at Greater Latrobe High School 1993-94

Sefo told our tale to everyone, and it was at that point, I knew changes needed to made, immediately.  What did I decide?  I instructed a few of my friends to call their parents to come and get them, while I stayed with the car and figured out how to get it home.  The idea of a tow truck did lurk in the back of my mind, but remember, I was about 30 to 40 miles away from Latrobe.  I probably could have called a tow, but to travel that distance would have cost me a fortune, and I didn’t have much cash left. Reality, I didn’t even have that much cash in my bank account.  Well, naturally my friends wouldn’t leave, so we all pulled up a seat along the curb discussing our next plan of action.  Sometime in there, our homeless man who lived in his car departed without incidence.

Please note, it’s now probably about two in the morning and I had my Cinderella driver’s license.

Just then, a beat up truck pulled into the parking lot.  Remaining consistent with our seemingly poor judgement, someone got up and asked the gentleman for assistance.  This time, we simply asked for tools to install the brand new battery.  He had tools!  Now we’re in business.

Giving this new stranger, who was obviously drunk, a few bucks to change out the battery, he did so, with the help of our candles.  One might wonder just how I was going to explain a brand new battery to my dad, and I thought about that.  I’d tell him the truth.  I had to have a new one installed since the old one died.  Done!

Feeling hopeful, I jumped in the driver’s seat to turn over the engine.  Nothing!  Are you kidding me?  No almost.  No turning over and grinding.  No attempt at trying.  Nothing.  Oh doubly crap!  It wasn’t the battery after all!  Now what?

Cure-Concert-Star-Lake-Aunt-Heather-Piper-5-23-92

Me on some sort of flippy ride at the Cure Concert at the former Coca-Cola Star Lake Amphitheater (now First Niagara Pavilion) 5/23/92

Our situation got even worse, and I didn’t have the money for a tow the whole way to Latrobe.

Now a second minor problem.  What was I going to do with a brand new battery?

Take it back of course!  Keep in mind, I had no idea where this auto parts store was located, or how to get there.  Personally, after the situation with the staggering transvestite, my mind was wiped clear of all awareness and reality.  How would we know where to go?  I got it!  I had the receipt containing the name of the auto parts store.  Would it be open?  It was worth a try.

Unbeknownst to our drunk driver, he was about to be added to our nightly events.  Sefo asked him to give us a lift back to the auto parts store.  Not knowing if the store was closed or not, me and Sefo jumped back into another stranger’s vehicle, this time we knew his full story, or at least the pertinent details, he was clearly drunk.  We took a ride from whence we came, for a small fee of course.  Driving like a manic, actually like a blind man, we departed, not knowing if we’d make it back, leaving our friends in the ghetto.  Who was safer?

To be continued…

 

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

Getting A Handle On the Teenage Years

I’m quite illiterate, but I read a lot.  ~J.D. Salinger

Uncle-George-Gram-1980s-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Uncle George, Gram & (not sure) 1980s

Evey time I catch myself huffing and puffing over Kyle’s behavior, or worse his attitude, everyone tells me he’s a typical teenager.  I guess so, but does that mean I have to tolerate it?  Perhaps I expect too much from him, maybe more than I should.  I just want Kyle to be a respectful, hardworking (non-lazy) young man who’s moral compass points North.  I’m not asking a lot.  (I’m quietly laughing to myself.)

Monday was a bit of a rough day with the focus being Gram’s funeral.  It’s true, Kyle didn’t fight me on his attire.  He wore dress slacks, nice brown shoes and his navy woven top with clusters of anchors.  The very same outfit he sported on his cruise.  He looked nice and appropriate, and he didn’t argue when it was time to get ready.  He was off to a good start.

However, during the visitation, Kyle sat in a corner and wouldn’t get up to acknowledged the visitors and accept condolences.  Okay, maybe that was asking way too much from a thirteen year old, soon to be fourteen.  Personally, I found it rude, especially when others made it a point to talk to Kyle and include him in the conversation.  Kyle’s response?  He did smile occasionally but barely look up from his seat.  I addressed that immediately.  “Get your butt up when someone is talking to you and shake his or her hand.”  I guess that’s also a maturity thing, as well as learned behavior.  Everything considered, Kyle was pretty good.

On a side note, there was no casket, which I didn’t understand.  I asked Kyle to walk around and find Gram because “The guest of honor has to be here somewhere.” as I so plainly stated.  Kyle snickered at first, and then gave me a horrifying look.  Feeling a bit awkward with my request, Kyle tried to ignore me and continued starring at the floor while sitting in his seat, playing his video game periodically.  Letting Kyle off the hook for my unusual request, I went seeking the answer myself.   What I didn’t know, was Gram chose to be cremated and then buried by my Pap.  A bit of information that would have gone a long way with me before walking into the funeral home.  That took me completely off guard, and the fact that we weren’t going to the cemetery, which is very unlike Piper funerals, really threw me for a loop.

dad-sonny-building-grams-house-on-ridge-c.1953-Aunt-Heather-Piper

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

Then, while at the brunch after the funeral services, Kyle sat on his iPhone and played video games.  At one point he left the American Legion, which is where we met in Latrobe, to sit on the Legion’s front steps to either text, play video games or whatever he was doing on his iPhone.  I was so embarrassed.  Seriously?  Good friend’s of the family, and relatives wanted to talk to Kyle and try and get to know this mystery man they never get to see.  Kyle was quiet and almost distant.  What was his problem?  Again, I knew it was a rough day of funeral services, but still.

On Saturday, two days before the funeral, I stopped down to mom and dad’s house.  I pulled in the driveway to find my dad, who is in his sixties, outside in the dead of the heat, splitting and stacking wood, by himself.  Upon entering the house, I found my sister and nephew playing a board game sitting in the air-conditioning.  I think it was great Kyle was off his video games and spending time with my sister, but come on, help an old man out!  Naturally, my sister yelled at me and very tactfully stated they were playing a game and I was to “Shut Up!” as my sister so respectfully demands.  Now that doesn’t help Kyle’s attitude or his unwillingness to do actual work and get off his phone.  I was floored.  That’s no way to teach a young man to respect his family, very poor example, but moving on.

This past Tuesday, Kyle actually agreed to help me and dad build the chicken run.  Really?  He did!  He was almost enthused about it.  That is until we started working.

We needed an area for the chickens to run around outside, while being safely enclosed, so critters don’t have an opportunity to eat chicken for dinner.  Sure, it wasn’t easy digging holes to set the posts, hammering boards together for the door, and tacking the chicken wire fence in place, etc.  It was a beautiful day, but very sunny and HOT.  We worked from 9:30 am till about 7:00 pm.

Gram-A-Kaye-John-U-George-Rhea-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Gram, Aunt Kaye, her husband John, Uncle George, his wife Rhea. 1990s

I’ll give Kyle kudos, he was trying, but I could also tell he’s out of shape and was having a tough time.  Then, the attitude made its appearance.  What’s better is when dad or myself calls Kyle out on it.  Kyle will actually challenge us with a stare down and blatantly deny his attitude and insists, “What?  What did I do?  I didn’t do anything!” (And repeat that over and over again even after we told him what he did)  When we all know, including Kyle about his attitude.  He wasn’t terrible on Tuesday, but that snotty behavior is working my nerves big time.  He treats me like I’m his parent, which is funny because I’ve always played that role with him.  Maybe I should take it as a compliment.

About midway during the day, when we were about halfway done with the project, we decided to stop and refuel before continuing.  While eating lunch, I heard the shower running.  What?

Me:  “Kyle, why do I hear the shower?”
Kyle:  “Because I’m going to take a shower and go home.”
Me:  “What?  No you’re not.  You purposely work as slowly as you could this morning, to stretch out the work, and you think you’re going to abandon us?  Without saying a word?  Then, you think I’m going to stop what I’m doing to take you to your mom’s house?  Seriously?”
Kyle:  crickets…
Me:  “No, you said you’d help.  You need to finish what you started.”
Kyle:  Huffs as he walks away and turns off the shower.

He did help us, and as soon as we gave him an easy project, tacking the wire fence to the door, Kyle’s mood changed.  I could tell he was proud of the work he put into the chicken run and felt a sense of accomplishment.  Granted, Kyle didn’t stick around to help clean up, but I did ask him to pick up two quarts jars and a pint jar (used for drinking water) laying in the grass.  What did Kyle grab?  One quart jar and one pint jar.  Did I let him get away with that?  Nope!  This kid needs to be held accountable for his behavior and learn to follow direction, even for something as simple as collecting the jars.  Again, I addressed this with Kyle and he headed back up to the yard to retrieve the other jar, while rolling his eyes slightly and pouting along the way.

Please note, it’s not like we ask Kyle to do much.  In fact, he does very little around the house.  We’re always offering to take him fishing, and we build fires and make mountain pies and s’mores.  Supposedly, we’re going fishing this weekend, I hope Kyle doesn’t blow us off again.  It really upsets my dad, and after loosing his mother last week, dad needs a good day of fishing without an attitude.

On another side note, the quote above cracked me up, thinking about the Catcher In the Rye!  I loved that book!

Below is a screen shot from Gram’s obituary.

Grams Obituary Aunt Heather Piper

 

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Video Games & Games 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.

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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

Cruising the Open Seas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kennedy Space Center. NASA 6/10/15

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

 

 

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

Shake, shake, shake … Shake Your Booty!

The music in his laughter had a way of rounding off the missing notes in her soul.  ~Gloria Naylor

Kyle-busting-a-move-at-Casey's-Wedding-c.-2004-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle (about 3 years old) busting a move at Casey’s wedding at Green Gables in Jennerstown, PA 2004

The other day I was listening to the radio and what song came on?  Yes!  (Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty by KC and the Sunshine Band.  Okay, catchy song, but why would that tune in particular bring a smile to my face?  Simple.  Because it has the same effect on my sister and parents, yes even my dad.  Ready for the story?  Before I begin, one might guess this story has everything to do with a certain little boy.  If that was your thought, then you’d be correct!

When Kyle was a baby, still in diapers and not yet speaking, his Aunt Nikki would shake his little chubby belly and sing, “Shake, shake, shake … shake, shake, shake … shake your booty, shake your booty!”  Coming from my dry humored sister, it was pretty funny.  Periodically, when she’d fly home from Arizona, she would continue this tradition.  It caught on, and I’d find myself singing the same song to Kyle while shaking his little body.  Eventually, my dad joined the bandwagon and it became a thing in the Piper household with the theme song originating from the seventy’s.

Looking back, a little over a decade ago, we needed more reasons to laugh than ever before.  Having Kyle around all the time brought light to our darkness and allowed us to enjoy life.  Incorporating those funny instances momentarily brought us out of our depressed state, from the loss of Ryan.  Yes, we humored ourselves at Kyle’s expense.  Don’t judge!  I’m sure there’s worse things in life.

This sporadic and silly behavior continued for years until Kyle was a toddler.  He became so accustomed to the song that upon hearing it, he would automatically shake his booty, literally.  No joke!  It was hilarious!  Instantly, when we began to sing the first set of “shake” he’d give us a smile to light the world, kick his legs around and pound his heels on the floor.  Sometimes if he was feeling spry, he’d get up on his feet, stabilize himself with a wide stance, and rapidly shake his backside back and forth.

The older Kyle got, the funnier the reaction came from him.  Sometimes we’d be sitting in the living room and my dad would give Kyle this peculiar look, indicating what was to follow, before spouting out “Shake, shake, shake.”  Kyle would return his pappy’s look with a HUGE smile and a twinkle in his eyes, and begin his mini performance.  It was too cute!  We loved watching and encouraging Kyle to dance around and be merry.  It was a positive experience for both parties, Kyle thrived on our attention and being center stage, even if it was only for a few minutes, and we loved seeing him happy.  Yes, of course we’d applaud and cheer him on.  Kyle always did love music, especially one with a solid beat or catchy lyrics.  Funny part?  The only lyrics we knew were “Shake, shake, shake… shake, shake, shake… shake your booty, shake your booty.”

Those days ended when Kyle was two or three years old, maybe all the way up till the age of four.  Then the appeal was lost in Kyle’s eyes, certainly not ours.  Nothing would bring me great joy as to have Kyle stand there again shaking his bottom and singing “Shake, shake, shake…”  Although, Kyle’s now thirteen and I’m sure he’s forgotten all about that song and dance.  I’m also fairly certain, he’d be devastated if I suggested such an action.

I guess this is the joy of life, when it’s least expected, something happens, like a song coming on the radio that takes me back a few years of fun memories with my little man.  It warms my heart over and over again and makes me truly appreciate this little boy God gave us, and the wonderful family and life I was blessed with.  My only regret?  I wish I would’ve captured that memory on video!  That would’ve been the best ever!  At the time, I never thought of it, and when Kyle got older he wouldn’t let me record him.  Dang!

P.S. On Friday, 5/22/15 I went to the movies with a group of my friends to see Pitch Perfect 2.  (Love those movies!)  What song did they begin singing?  Yes!  I about fell out of my seat giggling at the perfect timing of this blog post.

 

“(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty” Lyrics

Aah, everybody, get on the floor
Let’s dance
Don’t fight the feeling
Give yourself a chanceShake shake shake, shake shake shake
Shake your booty, shake your booty
Oh, shake shake shake, shake shake shake
Shake your booty, shake your bootyAah, You can, you can do it
Very well
You’re the best in the world
I can tell

Oh, Shake shake shake, shake shake shake
Shake your booty, shake your booty
Oh, shake shake shake, shake shake shake
Shake your booty, shake your booty
Woah, woah, yeah

Shake shake, shake shake
Aah, Shake shake, shake shake

Aah, Shake shake shake, shake shake shake
Shake your booty, shake your booty
Oh, shake shake shake, shake shake shake
Shake your booty, shake your booty

Aah, Shake shake, shake shake, shake your booty
Aah, don’t fight the feeling
Shake shake, shake shake, shake your booty
Aah, give yourself a chance

Shake shake, shake shake, shake your booty
You can do it, do it
Shake shake, shake shake, shake your booty
Come home with mama now

Shake shake, shake shake, shake your booty
Woo woo hoo
Shake shake, shake shake, shake your booty
Aah, run down to sister

Shake shake (come on), shake shake (come on) on your booty
Aah! do your duty. Aah haa
Shake shake (come on), shake shake (come on)

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

Resemblance of Past Ryan & Present Kyle

The belly is an ungrateful wretch, it never remembers past favors, it always wants more tomorrow.  ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Baby-Kyle-2001-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Our little man … Kyle as a 3 month old baby. 2001

In keeping with one of my goals for this blog, recording stories about Ryan as they come to mind so Kyle has the opportunity to read them later in life and get to know his dad, I have a very sweet story to share.

A few weeks ago, Kyle mentioned he was hungry, and was going to make himself cinnamon toast.  You know, toasted bread, spread with butter, and sprinkled with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.  Great, whatever buddy!  That’s what I thought until I saw what he did.

Kyle took that comment as a full time job.  As I rounded the corner, I saw Kyle perched in front of the television with a stack of cinnamon toast, and I mean a STACK.  I didn’t count the slices, but I bet there was nearly a loaf of bread there!  The best?  He meticulously stacked the bread onto a small plate.  It was almost comical.  The base of this structure was less than half of the height.

On a side note, I did sneak a few slices of cinnamon toast for myself.  However, Kyle didn’t go without, he added more bread to the toaster to replace the casualties.  Of course, when he gave me a look, I said, “Go make more then.”  For once Kyle listened to me.

Sometime, after I satisfied my immediate craving, and the humor of Kyle’s actions subsided, something else came to light.  Kyle’s resemblance to his dad!  No joke!  Not only did Kyle look like Ryan physically, at least at first glance, sitting on the couch wearing jeans and a tee shirt with sandy blonde hair, sitting in my parents living room, but the entire scene took me back a few years.  Ryan used to do the exact same thing, literally.

Ryan-with-godparents-Paula-and-Joe-1977-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Ryan with his godparents, Paula & Joe. To the right is my Grandpap Chester’s checker table he made. 1977

Similar to Ryan, Kyle’s dad, Kyle also has a sweet tooth, especially for cinnamon toast!  Ryan used to make an entire loaf of bread, and I mean THE ENTIRE LOAF, (including the ends) dripping with butter and a heavy hand sprinkling of cinnamon sugar to each slice, covering the very corners.  With the stack nearly reaching the ceiling, Ryan would plop himself in front the television to chow down and watching cartoons.  Sometimes, Ryan would make himself a cup of hot chocolate to dip the bread.  The hot chocolate was a condiment for the cinnamon toast.  It was truly an amazing sight!  This activity didn’t last all day.  Oh, no!  It only took Ryan a few minutes to ingest the contents of his plate, and sometimes work on round two.  Seriously?  No exaggeration!  I don’t know how mom and dad kept us in stock of food.  This incidence didn’t just occur once a month or once every few months.  Nope!  It was more like twice a week, mostly in the winter.  The summer was reserved for indulging in fruits and vegetables. Who Does Kyle Favor More, His Dad?  No matter how many times I witnessed this phenomenon, it always captured my attention.

Naturally, I did the same thing with Ryan as I did with Kyle, steal a slice or two from the bread tower.  However, Ryan never really cared, he’d simply go make more if the contents in his stomach didn’t reach the brim.  This is one of those stories that seeing is believing.

So here we are, over two decades later, and Ryan’s eating habits have come full circle, without his influence.  Unbeknownst to Kyle, he was reenacting the same scenario his dad participated in.  Kind of weird, yet heart warming.  It’s those little moments that comfort me with the loss of Ryan.  It also brings  me joy to see the similarities between Ryan and Kyle.  It’s almost refreshing when Kyle isn’t acting like his Aunt Nikki or his Gigi or others, simply like his dad.

How did Kyle learn this behavior?  On a very rare occasion we make cinnamon toast, but it’s certainly not a staple in the household.  That’s how Kyle learned about cinnamon toast, but choosing to make a truckload at a time and ingesting it within minutes must be all genetics, I guess.  Perhaps Kyle is gaining Ryan’s metabolism and hunger.  Yikes, I can only imagine if Ryan and Kyle were alive at that same time, the world would be wiped out of food, especially bread!  Add me to the mix and it would be a world deprived of all sustenance.

Kyle you are your daddy’s son, in more ways than you can imagine!

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Kyle trout fishing with me & his pap at off of Route 30, Causeway at Loyalhanna Creek 4/24/15

 

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

Easter Egg Scavenger Hunt

The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.  ~Rachel Carson

Coloring-Easter-Eggs-3-26-2005-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Coloring Easter eggs with Aunt Nikki, Kyle, Pappy & me. Kyle mostly dictated what Nicole & I were to do… 3/26/05

Happy spring!  The first day of spring (vernal – Latin for spring, equinox – Latin for equal night) is one of only two days when the sun passes directly over the equator and crosses that celestial equator going from south to north.  The spring and fall equinoxes are the only two times of the year when the sun rises due east and sets due west.  Pretty interesting!

Did you also know Easter falls on the first Sunday following the first full moon after spring?  I’m no astronomer, but that’s what I’ve read.  Along those fun facts, the egg is a symbol of fertility in spring, and this time of year is also called Lent or Lenten.

With Easter around the corner, everyone is posting their fun Easter ideas and traditions, mostly on Pinterest.  I’ve read about a variety of Easter basket items, and fun activities, and so on and so forth.  These innovative suggestions got me thinking of different ways to enhance our own typical Easter traditions.

Naturally, my mind turns everything into a scavenger hunt!  Yes, incorporating the standard Easter egg hunt with a scavenger hunt!  Why not?  Actually, I wish the idea crossed my mind when Kyle was younger.  Adding another layer to the typical Easter egg hunt would’ve been the perfect challenge for my little man.  He would’ve loved the extra effort on my part, and I most certainly would’ve loved to create something unique for his Easter experience !  What fun!

When I was little, our family tradition was for the “Easter Bunny” a.k.a. mom, to hide our dyed eggs around the house.  The more I think about it, that was risky in the event we missed an egg and it remained hidden, especially with the summer heat fast approaching.  That could’ve been lethal!  I’m pretty sure mom counted the eggs to ensure none were overlooked.  Although, that would’ve made for an interesting story about a rotten Easter egg, but no such luck.

Ryan-Nicole-Aunt-Heather-Piper-Easter-Morning-1981

Me, Nicole & Ryan Easter morning before church. 5/1981

With Kyle, we added another level of excitement by stuffing colorful plastic eggs with quarters and candy, and sometimes Matchbox cars in the larger eggs.  He loved each of those equally.  When the weather wasn’t too shabby, we’d hide the eggs in my parent’s orchard in the backyard.  Early Easter morning, I’m talking about 4:00 am or so, Kyle would attempt to wake everyone for his Easter morning adventure.  No one would budge, except leave it to good old Aunt Heather to give in to my little bundle of enthusiasm.  I’ll admit, it wasn’t too difficult to get up early, since I was like a kid myself, excited for Kyle to find the eggs mom and I hid the night before.

Together, Kyle and I would pull on our rubber boots, still in our pajamas (Actually, I stand corrected, I was in my pjs, while I had to make Kyle dress in some sort of pant, usually sweatpants and a t-shirt.  I was lucky if I got him to wear a coat.) and venture into the early morning hours to run around the yard looking for plastic eggs with flashlights in hand.  That was always fun, watching Kyle dart from one tree to another, looking high and low.  When the weather didn’t cooperate, we’d hide the eggs in the house, not exactly ideal but it worked.

So, back to my idea.  How does an Easter egg scavenger hunt work?  Simple.  Create a map or a serious of riddles and clues to uncover the hidden Easter eggs.  It can even be as detailed or as simple as desired, as per the age range of the participants.  One idea is to give a single clue to one egg, which contains another clue to the next, and so on and so forth.  If I was developing the Easter Egg Scavenger Hunt, I’d add scholastic questions to really challenge the child and reinforce his or her school subjects.  I’d also add religious questions to reinforce the true meaning behind Easter.  And if I’m designing the scavenger hunt in the typical Thrill of the Hunt fashion, I’d add online challenges for the child to take pictures and video along the scavenger hunt adventure.  The entire family could join in on the fun for a family fun good time!  This scavenger hunt doesn’t necessarily have to be targeted to young children (I’m thinking 4+), but could be developed for pre-teens and teenagers alike.  That’s one way to include everyone on an Easter Egg Hunt Scavenger Hunt!  This can be accomplished inside or out, or both.

Thrill of the Hunt offers many different types of themed scavenger hunts.  Check them out at (www.ThrillScavengerHunt.com).

Think Team Building … Think Scavenger Hunts
Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt
WannaBe 80’s Scavenger Hunt & a Puppy in a Day
Scavenger Hunt – Getting Our Start At Seton Hill University & Continuing

Now time to promote Thrill of the Hunt.  If you’re interested in a unique custom scavenger hunt or just want to discuss the possibilities, email me at Game@ThrillScavengerHunt.com, Heather@AuntHeather.com or fill out the form on our Contact Us page for a free quote.  We’ll get back to you within 24-business hours. I promise!

Please note, Thrill of the Hunt will be hosting our first ever Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt in Winchester, Virginia on Saturday, May 30, 2015.  We’re also hosting our annual Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunts in local cities including Latrobe, Pennsylvania; Annapolis, Maryland; Alexandria, Virginia; and New Hope, Pennsylvania.  Tickets are on sale now, but are limited.  We’re still accepting local businesses to be added to the actual scavenger hunt to increase foot traffic to these locations.

Thrill of the Hunt is in the planning stages for our Singles Scavenger Hunt in Virginia.  Keep your eyes peeled.

Speaking of different areas, we are always open to hearing suggestions on scavenger hunt themes and hometowns to bring our events.  Please Suggest An Event on our website, or email Game@ThrillScavengerHunt.com.  I seriously want to hear from you!

Please make sure you’re following the hunt on our social sites. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Youtube, always using #ThrillofHunt

Remember, everyone needs to … Experience the Game!

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Random Fun Facts,Reminiscing,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts and have No Comments

Don’t Judge, Everyone Has Scars – Part 2

The past beats inside me like a second heart.  ~John Banville

Pap-Ryan-on-Front-Porch-c.-1979-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Ryan & his beloved pap sitting on Pap’s porch on the ridge. Pap only had one prosthetic leg at this point. (left) c. 1979

Previously, I talked about not judging a situation and forgiving those that do.  Everyone Has Scars, Don’t Judge Part 1  Again, easier said than done.  I know.  What’s really upsetting though, or even worse in my opinion, are those that believe they don’t judge or judge others for judging.  Yikes!  Come on.  No one’s perfect.  NO ONE!  I do try to avoid such actions in general, but it’s something I need to work on too, for I’m not perfect.  It’s an ugly human behavior that needs to be addressed to be avoided and corrected.

I don’t mean to bring a heavy topic on such a beautiful Thursday, although slightly chilly, but perhaps this will get everyone thinking differently this weekend and change behaviors for the better.  In fact, I was so inspired by a friend of mine who commented on my previous post that I wanted to share it.

“Instead of judging, wouldn’t it be nice if people offered up a smile?  Or to help in little ways?”

YES!  Excellent ideas!  Since we’re in the lenten season, a time of penance and reflectance, I think this might be a step in the right direction to being a better person.  I know me personally, I will try to offer up more smiles and lend assistance when needed!  I LOVE THESE IDEAS!

Now time for an example.  Not too long ago, we ran into my third grade teacher at Saint Vincent Church, for Sunday mass.  Kyle had the privilege of meeting one of the greatest teachers I’ve ever had!  (Kyle’s met her on a number of occasions but alas he was just a little tyke.)  One that I still respect and appreciate to this day.  (I’ll keep her name anonymous in case she’s not comfortable being on my blog.  I never asked permission.)  Unfortunately, when I reminisce on that part of my life, third grade, I can’t help but remember what happened to Ryan that very year.

The day started before school, early morning.  Ryan was in first grade, Nicole in fifth and I in third, at Sacred Heart School.  I believe it was spring, with the school year coming to an end, hence the reasoning for our hyperactive morning.  We were running around simply being silly.  I believe the situation initiated with Ryan or Nicole locking me out the front door, or threatening to do so.  Why?  Why not.  We were kids enjoying a bit of energy release before heading to school on a pleasant morning.

Ultimately, I had it in my head to retaliate and lock Ryan outside.  I clearly remember mom was on the phone trying to quiet us while she conversed, probably to another PTA mom.  Eventually, I succeeded in locking Ryan on the opposite side of the door as myself.  I was on the inside.  So what does a first grader do who was tricked and forced to the front porch by his older sister?  He knocks on the door with his fists, demanding reentry, of course.  Nicole, yelled at me, naturally taking Ryan’s side.  Please keep in mind, I realize I was not the initial instigator in this situation, but I certainly was guilty of continuing it.  

To add to the taunting, I stood directly in front of the door, which at the time had glass panels running from the top to the base.  Also note, this was an older door, with equally as old glass panes, each measuring about two feet wide by about eight inches height.  While taunting Ryan by waving through the small windows, he continued to pound on the bearer that separated us.  Just before I was actually going to unlock the door and run, it happened.  Something I didn’t anticipate or even considered.  Ryan pounded not on the solid wood door frame, but on a single flimsy glass panel with both hands.  In a single moment, I was faced with glass flying in my direction, and Ryan’s hands protruding through the door. 

Ryan-Nicole-Christmas-early-1990s-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Ryan & Nicole Christmas … look at Ryan’s bony legs! I have no idea what’s in Nicole’s hand, but mom’s on the couch behind Ryan. I must have taken the picture because Ryan & I got her something funny. c. 1990’s

Instinctively, Ryan withdrew his hands, at the same time I looked around making sense of the mess.  My only concern?  The idea of me getting in trouble for the broken window.  Glass was shattered all over the kitchen floor, and the once whole glass panel, was now a voided rectangle with jagged shards of sharp glass protruding from the edges inward.  No one, not even Ryan, had a clue to the extent of the situation.  Not even my sister, who didn’t waste any time yelling in my ear, in stead of evaluating the scene and offering assistance.

Was I injured by the flying glass?  Nope.  Perhaps a scratch on the leg, but nothing to keep me down. Ryan on the other hand was not doing well, except the adrenaline was keeping him from feeling pain.  Either when his hands went through the glass, or upon retracting them, probably both, his wrists scrapped the edges of the sharp shards, slicing them up.  Ouch!  Within minutes I saw blood dripping from the glass.  Eventually my eyes made their way to Ryan and his wrists, were the blood was flowing freely.

My mom, who was still on the phone, had no idea what just happened.  Leave it to my sister to get mom’s attention and in the same process tattle on me.  She reminds me of Kyle!  There was a lot of yelling going on, all from my sister and mom, Ryan and I remained quite.  After reality settled in, Ryan may have shed a few tears, but certainly no whaling.  I’m not sure who mom was talking to but I know they were met with a dead line, when mom realized what happened and simply hung up.

Time went from slow motion as the glass flew, to high speed ending in a lot of blood, in a matter of seconds, matching my heartbeat.  Mom ran straight for Ryan, who stood in shock.  She’s never been a fan of blood, not the ideal candidate to deal with this terrible accident.  To assist with the bleeding and probably to cover up the wounds, mom ran to the bathroom, grabbed a towel and wrapped both wrists in the terrycloth.  Ryan pressed both wrists together against the towel to control the bleeding.  Mom yelled again, yes mom yells when things are fine, but she has more of a knack for yelling, especially in stressful situations.  What did she say?  I have no idea.  Something along the lines that Nicole and I were to go to my cousin Karen’s house down the road.  Our normal routine was to walk to Karen’s and pick up my other cousins, and walk to school as a group.  We did so minus Ryan.

The rest of the day, was a blur.  I really felt bad for my brother, even telling my third grade teacher, yes the one I saw recently in church, about the entire morning.  She was so since and caring, in fact all the teachers heard about the accident by mid-day.  I know I shed a few tears for Ryan, especially as the day unfolded and we heard no word from mom.  Later that day, we either had an assembly in the cafeteria (which also housed our stage) or we were practicing for our spring musical, either way, everyone was gathered in the cafeteria when mom finally arrived with Ryan.  Finally!

He was sporting two wrists wrapped with stark white surgical tape.  I never thought about it at the time, but he did resemble someone who tried to slit his wrists.  The result?  Ryan had to go into immediate surgery to repair the nerve damage to his wrists.  They weren’t sure if he would regain complete feeling in that area again.  However, they seemed certain he would have functionality.  Seriously?  Yes!  All because a couple of kids were screwing around and it was a nice morning?  Unfortunately, yes.

Chad-Ryan-hanging-at-Grams-Apartment-1990's-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Chad & Ryan hanging at Grams apartments. c. 1990’s

Eventually, Ryan healed up, sort of.  He was able to use his hands without incidence and hunting or fishing was never an issue.  Great!  However, his wrists told a different story.  For the remainder of his short life, his wrists were permanently decorated with laceration scars, and one wrist had no feeling at all.  How do I know?  Ryan would demonstrate the lack of nerve sensation under the scars by grabbing the skin and twisting it and turning it, without pain!  His nerves on the skin were damaged and never healed.

Over the years, as we got older, I heard some folks ask Ryan about the scars, wondering if he tried to commit suicide and slit his wrists.  Seriously?  YES!  Okay, I’ll admit, I can see that deduction, but totally wrong assumption.  Ryan was always goodhearted about the accusation.  He never got bad, in fact he would give a little chuckle before explaining.  It used to bother me a little, but since Ryan never really gave two figs about what others thought, I didn’t either.  As a well trained circus act, he would demonstrate the lack of nerves in those areas, and give a brief for them.  That always made me wonder, how many others thought Ryan tried slicing his wrists, but never said a word and just assumed.

I know very well no one can control the thoughts of anothers.  And I don’t know which is better, the curious (nosy) person who asks up front, or the one or never brings up his or her thoughts?  Regardless, there’s always at least two explanations for a situation, but the correct one it’s not always the most obvious.  Ryan and I both carried scars from that single morning, only Ryan’s were visible.

Read other entries:

Everyone Has Scars, Don’t Judge Part 1

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

Happy Birthday Aunt Nikki!

The thing about getting older is that you don’t need everything to be possible any more, you just need things to be certain.  ~Monica Ali

Chad-Nicole-Nicoles-Birthday-1975-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Nicole’s birthday. Our cousin Chad looks like he beat Nicole to the candles.  My pappy is in the background. c. 1975

Nicole is officially in her forties, forty-one to be exact.  What could have possibly happened in a year’s time worth mentioning?  A lot, besides family fun and normal wear and tear.

Let’s discuss Nicole’s midlife crisis called Avery, a.k.a. Acorn, a.k.a. Dobby.  (Dobby is the free elf that worked at Hogwarts from Harry Potter.  Dad made the connection that Avery looks like Dobby.  Kyle and I are in complete agreement with Dad’s assessment, either that or Yoda.)  I won’t even get into Nicole aliments, for there are too many in my opinion.  She’s not a youngster anymore.

When I think of Nicole getting older, the Golden Girls instantly comes to mind.  (Kyle used to watch that show with us until Dad commented that he didn’t like it.  Ever since then, Kyle “claims” he hates the Golden Girls and won’t watch it.  However, I’ve caught him giggling at the old ladies a time or two.)  Especially the episode when Dorothy had a mysterious illness and the doctor thought it was in Dorothy’s head.  Her mother, Sofia came to her rescue by commenting …

My daughter may be no spring chicken, and her jaw might crack when she chews! And she may have noticeable trouble digesting raw vegetables! …

That’s Nicole!  There’s no denying how very different we are in many, many, many ways, but we’re both big fans of the Golden Girls, even to this day.  I thought the quote was very fitting and appropriate.

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Aunt Carol & Uncle Denny, Nicole’s godparents. Nicole’s First Holy Communion at Sacred Heart. c.1981

I know there will be a time when we’ll live together in mom and dad’s house, sitting on our rocking chairs, on the front porch, bickering as two old ladies.  Well, I’ll be in my mid-youth because I’ll always be able to do laps around Nicole, while she’ll be ancient.  Kyle will reluctantly visit his two old crazy aunts who love him more than anything.  Just don’t expect me to change Nicole’s clothes or wipe her butt.  It will NEVER happen!  I nominate Kyle!

The best part about Nicole’s birthday is the fact that I’ll always be younger than her.  And if you count my lack of maturity and my hyperactive nature, I’m decades younger still.

Nicole has accomplished so much thus far, and still has so many more adventures ahead of her.  Perhaps a bucket list is in order, after all she’s at that ripe old age.

Happy Birthday Nicole!

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Just for the fun of it… check out the comparison between Avery & Dobby… remarkable!  This is hilarious!

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

Don’t Judge, Everyone Has Scars – Part 1

Wounds turn into scars and scars make you tough.  ~Aisha Tyler

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Kyle’s 5th Birthday, party at SeaBase in Greensburg. He had a blast! 7/2005

Everyone knows the old saying, “Don’t judge a book …”  Even though it’s true, sometimes it’s hard not to make our own assumptions.  I know me personally, I’ve been on the receiving end of judgement, and even though I’d like to think I’m not a judgmental person, I’m sure I’m equally as guilty.  I don’t hold grudges but sometimes stories need to be told to learn from them.

Like what?  When Kyle was a baby, even until present day, I’ve had strangers give me stares and accusatory looks, assuming I’m a single parent.  Yes!  All true, no exaggeration.  I noticed, but never gave it much thought, nor did I hold it against anyone.  Why waste energy worrying over something that didn’t matter?  Also, why dwell on the negative?  Not worth it at all.  In fact, I tried to look at my situation from the opposing point-of-view.

Let me give a single example and set the stage.  At the time, I was a young single gal, who looked even younger still, sporting a five month old baby in a papoose, walking around the mall like an unemployed mall rat.  The reality was, I was about twenty-five years old, working two jobs, in college finishing up my marketing degree, and taking care of my nephew because his dad, my brother, recently passed away about two months prior.  Reality verses assumption, big difference!

Once, this very inaccurate judgement happened while at SeaBase, in Greensburg.  SeaBase is a local indoor child’s play area, where the youngsters run around, play on climbing walls, jump among padded floors and walls, and take a swing at goofy golf, that sort thing.  We actually held Kyle’s fifth birthday there.  During this particular period in my life, I was working a lot, and consequently I was always completely exhausted.  Plus, I was back in college working on my fine art’s degree in graphic design.  Did I mention, I was also taking care of my wonderful nephew too?  On one particular day, I wanted to do something fun with Kyle, as my dad would say, “To get the stink blowed off him.” and let him get out and have fun.  Kyle was about two years old and needed to socialize, and do something different to break up his repetitive day.  Seabase.

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Casey, Kyle’s godfather & me, Kyle’s godmother at his Baptism at Sacred Heart Church, the day prior we buried Ryan. 10/28/01

I remember the situation perfectly.  It was a rainy cold mid-day, during the week, hence why I chose an indoor activity.  There were no words to express just how drained I truly was, and the rhythm of the rainfall didn’t help my cause.  Why did I go?  I knew Kyle needed to get out, he really did.  He needed to stretch his legs and run around and burn off some energy, something of a luxury for him.  If I didn’t step up, then he would have missed out.  More importantly, I was long overdue to spend some quality time with my little man and give him my utmost attention.  You know, instead of hanging with him while multitasking.

While we were playing in a pit full of colorful plastic balls, I started to doze off.  Yikes!  I couldn’t help myself.  Not to mention, my appearance was a bit rough, looking like I just rolled out of bed.  Once I was able to pinch myself hard enough to keep my eyelids from drooping, something caught my eye and I saw things clearly.  Please note, this wasn’t that long after Ryan’s passing, which still felt like it just happened, much like it does presently.  So yes, I’m sure depression played a big roll for my lack of energy, and unconcern for my attire and overall physical appearance.  I didn’t care, my only concern was Kyle’s happiness.

What happened?  Well, first let ME pass judgement.  I was in close proximity to a few stay at home moms, who no doubt didn’t have to work and were able to get a good nights rest to really participate and enjoy their children.  Yeah, those women actually gave me glares.  Granted, they never did say a word to me, but it was evident in their caddy whispers and stares in my direction what they were saying.  Again, I’m sure I looked a lot younger than I was, and I know I appeared as unemployed, and I’m absolutely positive I seemed like a neglectful parent, trying to catch a few zzz’s in the plastic balls with a small child at my side graving for my attention.  Regardless, the situation wasn’t as it appeared.

Even though my scars were not visible, they were clearly there.  Did those unaware individuals bother me?  Not really, the only thing that aggravated me was my lack of energy for Kyle.  As long as Kyle never felt the passive aggressive judging demeanor of others, I never gave it a second thought until now.

Being on the receiving end of judgement, I can see how this type of unspoken treatment could effect someone, especially being in a delicate state like I was.  But again, I never let it get to me.  Also at the time, we were dealing with Kyle’s medical issues, alarmingly his ears (ear infections) and bouts of pneumonia, croup, sinus infections etc.  That’s the main reason I had to get Kyle out that very day.  Regardless of my own fatigue, Kyle wasn’t sick and I wanted him to take advantage of his health and share in his happiness.

I could go on, but I won’t, there’s no point.  Plus, I’m sure there were many more instances that I didn’t even catch.  I’d like to think someone saw me, and instead of making assumptions for my situation, they said a prayer for me instead, or more importantly for Kyle.

What made me think of this?  I passed SeaBase the other day and it just came to me.  I had a lot of great memories there, mostly when I was energized and could hang with Kyle.  However, it only takes one time, and that one in particular, I felt horrible for not giving Kyle my fullest energy potential and my undivided attention (actually any attention).

I know Kyle never remembered and if he did, he probably could care less, but I do.  I love my buddy!

So let that be a lesson, everyone is fighting their own battles, don’t judge.

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

Fighting For What’s Right

Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.  ~Oscar Wilde

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This says it all!  Kyle sporting a halo at our cousin Lee’s wedding. 2011

This is not a finger pointer, but a way to realize what needs fixed for Kyle’s well-being.

I’m not a perfect person, not even close, nor did I ever claim to be.  There are many, many people who can attest to that.  Sure, usually my methods for handling certain situations are a bit abrasive and direct, especially when it comes to Kyle.  However, at least I’m not passive aggressive, and I’m always honest, usually brutally. (If the true can’t be handled then perhaps it’s time to look in the mirror and make some adjustments.)  However, it’s no secret to where I stand with Kyle, for I’m not shy about my thoughts and showing that he’s a priority.

Believe it or not, I’m actually a pretty easy going person, except when it comes to Kyle’s well-being.  I’m well aware that these young teenage years shape and develop traits to strengthen his adult character, or they can be a detriment and hinder him in the long run.  Kyle’s early learning structure is pretty stellar, but molding a kid doesn’t stop when he wants all the freedom in the world at thirteen.  I’m talking about the big three, mental, physical and spiritual wellness.

This past Sunday, which started out as me picking up Kyle for church, turned into a big, almost silly, blowout.  (It’s silly now that it’s over, but not at the time.)  Granted, Kyle wasn’t totally to blame, I played my part, as well as others.  I won’t rehash the long drawn out scenario, but I would like to point out the good that came from this potentially lethal situation, actually a few positive key points and the solutions we agreed upon.  Kyle is a good kid, and I plan on keeping it that way!

First, Kyle claims all I do is yell at him.  Probably true, but if anyone had to deal with Kyle’s attitude, and to top it off by listening to his whining and back-talking all the time, I believe even Mother Teresa would raise her voice, too.  Secondly, Kyle believes that he can never do anything right by me.  Not true, in fact I make it a point to complement him and encourage him when does good, but I won’t sugar coat his actions or behavior when the opposite is true.

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Kyle getting ready for a hike, this time minimal arguments as long as he had his iPod & his trusty walking stick. 2012

Personally, some of these issues are real, but his emphasis on the severity and number of instances aren’t.  Kyle’s pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes.  Seriously!  He’s gotten really good at playing the martyr.  He’s so dramatic!

Example, if I tell Kyle he’s kicked off of his video games for a half an hour because he played for four hours straight, he’ll respond with the usual whine and arguing.  Then, his time-out is such a traumatic experience.  He’ll poor it on thick to anyone who’ll listen to how he’s not allowed to play his videos games for the entire day!  When in reality it’s only a half an hour.  Did I mention he claims he’s not allowed to do anything during that time, even though I suggest a game of chess or a walk.  Yes, according to Kyle, he’s in prison serving hard time.  Think I’m kidding?  Not even close.  This is what Kyle does to get his own way, and work everyone to the dark side.  Who wants to deal with this?  It’s not right, and I won’t tolerate it.  Sadly, no one sees his stunts or if they do, they continue to cater to his whims to avoid an argument.  Not me!

Let’s discuss Kyle’s grades.  They’re not terrible, but I know he can do better, and I won’t stand back and accept skimping by.  I hold him accountable.  Why?  Because I believe in him, and I know he’s smarter than what his grades reflect.  However, he’ll argue and claim other.  I have faith in my little man and praising his grades is basically saying, “You’re not that smart, and I accept your half-way attempt.”  Nope!  Did you know he told my sister he knew he was slacking a little, and he needed to buckle down?  Yes!  Those were his words after he made excuses for his grades.  I appreciate his honesty, but I knew it!  There are so many more instances, I won’t even elaborate on.

When discussing my situation with a good friend of mine, who has a nephew a few years younger than Kyle, it was discovered that she had the exact same problem, almost word for word.  While describing Kyle’s behavior, she said it was an exact replica to her own behavioral situations with her nephew, exactly, down to every drama moment.  What are the common denominators to this behavior?  Both kids eat junk, play hours upon hours of videos games, get no exercise, and basically have little to no structure.

Trying to get this under control and do right by Kyle, I don’t assume I have all the answers, but I will find an expert who does.  I  consulted another friend of mine, who’s a school psychologist!  Perfect!  She handles children’s behavioral problems on a daily basis.  I explained the entire scenario.  Her solution?  Reward with good behavior.  I agree!  If Kyle does good, then a reward is called for.  But what?  My initial friend, mentioned earlier with her nephew, and I tried to brainstorm ideas.  You know what conclusion we came to?  There’s nothing!  No, seriously.  These kids have way too much, and that takes away the opportunity to treat them, or surprise them.  Ultimately, they are rewarded all the time for bad behavior.

This is a poor example, but one that came to mind.  When I was a kid, we were never allowed fast food, only when we went to the doctors as a treat.  Not that fast food or even food should be a reward, but I can’t even use that because his off days, Kyle’s usually filled with junk. (We always cook three meals a day and most of it is raised or butchered by our own hands.  Although my parents do sneak in garbage every once in a while.)  If I gave Kyle another video game, I’m fueling the fire for spending more time on those mind sucking animations that create laziness, and that started this miserableness with the kid.  (I try to teach moderation.)  Money?  Forget it!  I tried to have Kyle work for my company, Thrill of the Hunt entering data, and I paid him.  He wanted nothing to do with it.  Why?  Because if he wants money to go to the movies or to buy something, he simply asks for it and it appears.  He’s not stupid, he’s working the system.

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For Kyle’s 9th birthday, I bought him flying lessons. It was a fun day! 7/24/10

Yes, at this point, anyone with any common sense is realizing the real problem at hand.  It may result with Kyle, but it doesn’t stem from him.  This is what’s causing friction between us.  I don’t, and I will never buckle to the kid, even if it’s not totally his fault.  Sure, I do make compromises, but I won’t tolerate all this, and he knows it.  Hence, his reason for ignoring my phone calls, pushing my buttons and then claiming I’m always yelling, and trying to avoid hanging out with me because I expect him to do chores.

Let’s get this straight.  He does chores maybe once a month, more in the spring and summer months, but I don’t ask him to break his back, or to consume his entire day.  Well, actually it usually does take the whole day, about five hours of arguing, whining and moving at a snail’s pace, and then a half an hour of actual work.  Do I give in?  NOPE!  Why?  Because I want to do what’s right for Kyle.

Kyle’s biggest complaint about me?  You’ll love this one!  I make him take walks (less than a mile, to three miles total) with me and the dogs in the woods.  It’s good for him to get off his iPhone (yes he has an iPhone 6 loaded with video games) and stretch his legs, while recharging his battery in God’s country, and giving the dogs some exercise.  Kyle’s response nearly EVERY time, results in crying for at least an hour, taking another hour to get dressed, and complaining the entire walk, at least until he breaks a sweat and then he’s good (sometimes).  Yes, once he starts clearing his head, he’s happy and enjoys himself.  Granted, it’s getting harder and harder to get to that point, but I won’t give up.  Why?  Because I want to do what’s right for Kyle.

How about other activities?  I’ve tried these and then some, but are denied as the ideas passed my lips.  Shooting at the gun range?  No.  Roller skating?  No.  Shopping?  No.  Playing a board games or chess?  No.  Going to the comic book story. (used to be his hang out)  No.  Walking around a park?  Hell no!  Movies?  Maybe.

So back to my original story, what good could come from our blow out on Sunday and all this tension?  A lot!  I was able to justify my true intentions, so Kyle really understood my point-of-view.  I explained that I’m willing to fight for him.  I’m willing to fight to my last breath for his well-being and his long-term happiness.  I will fight all the video games in the world, and preservative filled foods, and anyone trying to sabotage his natural goodness for their own self satisfaction and easy parenting.  I’m not doing this for myself, but for him.  I won’t give in to him or give up on him, not because I enjoy the fights or I have nothing else to do or it’s the easy way.  NO!  On the contrary, I’m taking the difficult path.  Sometimes doing what’s right isn’t easy, but I will fight for Kyle every step.  I also explained to Kyle that no matter what happens in life, I have his back and I will fight for him every time.  I will fight the devil if I have to, to make sure he’s following in the way of the Lord.  My actions won’t be halfway, or passive aggressive, I will fight for him head on.  Why?  Because Kyle’s worth it, every difficult argumentative whiny moment of his existence is worth trying to do what’s right by him.  That’s how much I love that little guy.

His response?  A few tears were shed, but nothing said.

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Kyle & Aunt Nikki hiking up the hill with their trusty walking sticks. Look who’s pulling up the rear? 2012

My job as his Aunt Heather and godmother, isn’t an easy one, but one I’ve been completely dedicated to since he was born.  Ryan trusted me these responsibilities and he knew, when it came down to it, I would always fight for what’s right by this little boy.  I know if Ryan was alive, he’d have my back and agree with me, for he wouldn’t have tolerated a bratty kid either.  And he would believe in Kyle like I do, and know he’s a better kid than his actions are portraying.  Kyle’s not bad, just spoiled, and a kid who’s becoming a teenager, a difficult stage in itself without compounding it with other issues.

The solution to all this?  I agreed to never raise my voice to Kyle again (even though that’s how I was raised), as long as he promises to keep his attitude in check and listen to me when I tell him to do something, no more whining and complaining.  Begrudgingly he murmured, “Yeah.”  I did blatantly explain, to avoid confusion, that I love him wholeheartedly and I’m not trying to be a roadblock or an opposing force, but one that’s trying to guide him to being a good person and to keep him on the path of righteousness for his own sake.  We’re a team, we’ve always been a team, and we’ll always be a team.  I will never give up on him!  No matter what.  That’s family, and that’s love.

On a side note, my cat Storm, a.k.a. Lady Fluffington, and my dog, Seven hate it when I’m yelling, they really get upset and I don’t enjoy it either.  I’m kind of relieved over our new compromise.  It will force me to stop and think, in turn making me a better person.  I told you, we learn from each other!

I believe this was a good stepping stone, one long over due.  I have faith in Kyle, and don’t expect perfection from him, but only good intentions and everything for his own well-being.

It was also brought to my attention that this blog is hurting Kyle and his adolescents.  I disagree, for I never divulge everything, and I still keep Kyle’s privacy, more so than most.  This blog is the same as other “mommy” blogs and those who post on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or Vine etc. I don’t regularly go in that direction, instead I choose a well thought out blog post.  If I thought this blog was truly hindering Kyle, then I would delete it immediately.

Unbeknownst to some, I get a lot of private messages giving me guidance and sharing personal stories to assist me with Kyle, or others take my advice for his or her own personal dilemmas.  This blog has been a learning experience for me and my readers.  Plus, it’s a way for my family and Ryan’s friends to stay in touch.  Let me get back to the real reason I write.  It’s for Kyle, to have an account of his life stories, something to read when he’s older.  I want him to always know his dad and his family.  A minor point, but I do use this blog for my company, Thrill of the Hunt.  Perhaps, I might cut down on the Kyle stories, and focus on his dad and other activities.  Time will tell.  God speed!

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts,Video Games & Games and have No Comments

Communication! Keep Me Posted!

In the absence of information, everyone assumes the worst.  ~Robert McClelland

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Peddling trip around Pittsburgh bars with the Acusis team. Bob McClelland, me & Penny Patch-Sobehart Pittsburgh, PA 7/18/14

A good friend of mine, Robert (Bob) McClelland who happens to be an outstanding leader, once said to me, “In the absence of information, everyone assumes the worst.”  You know he’s right!  He was referring to work and client projects, but it holds true with family, especially kids.

Typically, I’m an easy going person, except when it comes to Kyle.  Well, that’s not completely true, as long as he’s keeping me in the loop, and opening the lines of communication, then life is good.  I’m reasonable and understanding, to an extent, depending on the situation.  Typical for someone who truly cares for her little man.

This weekend, Kyle really frustrated me, to the point of total anger and caused me to hit a fifty on the old tension scale (reference to the movie The Burbs).  On the contrary to Kyle’s current belief, I’m not a fan of yelling or getting bent out of shape.  But when I’m intentionally blown off, and taken advantage of, without an ounce of respect and consideration, then my inner demon will surface.  It’s not pretty.  “Come on buddy, this could have been avoided!”

Saturday’s the perfect example.  I get it, Kyle’s thirteen and he’s pushing boundaries and wants to hang with is friends.  I’m totally fine with that, but be a little considerate of my plans and my time.  Friday night, Kyle was hanging with his friend, they went to the movies.  Great!  I’m happy for you, even though we still need to discuss his report card.  Regardless, sounds like fun.  Keep in mind, pulling this information from Kyle was a task in itself.  Okay, I’m still working with the kid.  Assuming Kyle wanted to hang with his friend Saturday morning, I didn’t bother him.  That is until mid-morning, and I still haven’t heard a peep from Kyle.  I texted him, trying not to be too pushy, but I wanted to know the plans of the day.  Kyle got back to me, and said he wasn’t sure of the plans.  Okay, I get it, two teenage boys, hanging around, probably playing videos games.  No worries.   I’ll wait.  I still haven’t talked to him, only via text.

Keep in mind, I didn’t make any plans or work on anything too consuming, expecting Kyle to do his usual, and call last minute expecting me to pick him up.  That’s Kyle’s standard process, which I don’t usually mind.  Now the day is fast approaching mid afternoon and still no word.  I want to know what’s going on!  After several calls and texted messages, no word, not a single peep.  At this point, I’m starting to get worried, what is going on?  Are two teenage boys home alone, left to their own devices?

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Kyle’s band concert. I love him dressed up! That looks screams 13-year old! 12/2014

One hour turned into two, and then three, no word.  Finally, Kyle responded to me, via text message, informing me he’s no longer with his friend.  What?  I asked why he didn’t call.  He simply stated, “‘Cause I don’t know what’s going on yet?”  What does that mean?  He’s not a business man with a tight schedule.  He’s a kid, that’s suppose to be under my supervision.  He’s the one changing our routine.  I agree, giving him a little freedom, sure, but not all the freedom in the world to do whatever he desires.  Plus, he’s been keeping me hanging ALL day.  It’s basically a blizzard outside, and I didn’t know if he’s on the road or who he’s with.  I wasn’t happy!

I called Kyle, he wouldn’t answer, I texted him, no answer.  This was a few hours later, from the previous communication.  He texted me and said he was at dinner.  What?  With whom?  Who drove in that white out?  Where was he at?  I called him immediately knowing he had his phone in hand, no answer!  I texted him stating to call me asap and that I was getting mad.  No answer.

Now I’m boiling!  There’s no reason for any of that, none, very disrespectful and inconsiderate at the very least.  Kyle did eventually call me, making sure to set the stage, having all the company sit around listening to me yell at him, like he’s some martyr.  Of course, no on one the other end knows the games he played with me ALL day, and the stress and worrying I’ve been experiencing.

All Kyle had to do, was let me know he was going to dinner, and who he was with, and where he was dining, so I wouldn’t wait any longer and worry.  He needed to inform me of the plans.  Even if he didn’t know them, he should have called me to see what my plans were, or tell the other party that he needed to give me a heads up.  Something!  Anything!  Not ignoring me like I was a nuisance.  I was so mad!  When I asked Kyle again, trying to be flexible, what his plans were for the evening, he said, “I don’t know, maybe Jeff might come over.”  No that’s not a plan, that’s Kyle saying, “Leave me alone, I’m doing what I want.”  Nope!  I don’t think so.

Naturally, by this point, which was early evening, I’ve lost it.  My patience ran out the door and was now lost in the snow.  I was also sensing something was up because he was being so sneaky and secretive.  Yes, I yelled at Kyle, but he did bring it on himself.  He could have excused himself from the table to speak with me.  Instead, he welcomed a big old audience.  Let’s face it, I wasn’t shy about informing Kyle about his rudeness and inconsideration, and how I was worried.  Nope, I let it all out.  Hours, upon hours of all day waiting and concern, exited my mouth via cell phone.  Of course, Kyle clammed up and had no explanation for his actions.  He said maybe two words, again like he’s an innocent victim here.  I’m onto him!

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The Planinsek Fishing Derby. Shooting the breeze & having a good time. Dad, Kyle & me. 5/10/14

What happened next?  After I yelled and told Kyle to be ready at 6:45 am, the next morning for Sunday mass, he begrudgingly agreed and sulked on the phone.  Before closing the line of communication for the night, I did tell him that I loved him.  He murmured it back to me without conviction.

Shortly after that, I get a phone call from my sister, yelling at me!  What?  First of all, she’s three hundred miles away, and she had the audacity to step in the middle, and give ME an earful, over a situation that she wasn’t even a part of, nor is she ever around?  Then, to take the word of a teenage boy, who was completely in the wrong, over my actions, without gathering all the facts?  Are you an A$# or what?  Apparently, Kyle called Nicole after we hung up.  I guess he finally learned how to make a call on his phone.  Basically, he tattled on me to my sister, and probably laid it on thick, like I was being unreasonable.  I can’t believe she fell for it!  Whatever!  I hung up.

We took Kyle to church on Sunday and things calmed down.  I warned him, the next time that happens, I will be in my car, tracking him down and then he would have an even bigger problem.  He snickered at me like I was joking, but we all know, I mean it.  He’s a good kid, and I plan on keeping it that way.  He did ruin by entire day, but Kyle’s safe and healthy, so I can’t be too mad, in the grand scheme of things.

Looking back on it now, I know Kyle was treating me like a parental figure, and that should bring a little comfort to me, but it’s still unacceptable.  If I wasn’t any sort of adult figure, I would’ve let him run wild without any explanation to his whereabouts.  Nope, I know he needs to seek independence, for I too did at that age, even though my dad held tight on the reins, but he also needs to be guided through his freedom and pulled back at times for his own safety and well-being.  I would do anything for that kid, and he knows it.  He also takes advantage of me, and tries to play us against each other.  That’s down right wrong, and it will stop now!

 

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

Happy Birthday Dad! – 64 Years

A party without cake is just a meeting.  ~Julia Child

Happy Birthday Dad! January 16, 1951

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Dad as a baby with Uncle Sonny. 1951

Dad is still kicking it into another year, slowly but surely.  Sure his bones creek, his muscles sore, and his hearing is sporadic, yet I’m glad the old man is hanging in there and is a big part of Kyle’s life.   He may not be as fast, or as intense as he once was, but he still continues his passion for all things he loves.  Like what?

Dad LOVES hunting.  I can’t even stress that enough.  I mean everything about hunting.  He enjoys loading shells, and more importantly having Kyle and me load with him.  He enjoys shooting in the guns at the range, again having the family tag along.  He enjoys scouting out hunting areas in the spring and fall, and watching hunting shows ALL year long, day and night!  He can still make his way through the woods if there’s a chance of loosing a deer, and he can still climb into a tree stand (ladder stand), not gracefully, but he manages without incidence.  Yet, the most unbelievable, Dad can still shoot with amazing accuracy, up to about three hundred yards, outside.  Pretty impressive!  Yes, I would say that Dad is an experienced hunter, hunting since he was nine or so.

Then, there’s his love of fishing, which happens to be more of Kyle’s passion.  Dad lives for taking his rickety old fishing boat out on Loyalhanna Lake in the summer, especially when Kyle and I, and sometimes mom join the voyage.  He continues to make traps for catching snapping turtles.  A little known fact for some, but Dad can’t swim, and is very uncomfortable in a shaky boat (ask Kyle).  Dad does however, like being on the water, and reeling in the big ones.

Anyone who really knows Dad, knows his love of wood.  Yes, remember Ingrained In Wood? He loves walking among the trees, chopping down trees, and splitting firewood.  Being Dad’s right hand gal with all outdoor activities, I can attest to that hard work, yet, one Dad enjoys.  He just moves a little slower, and somehow faster than Kyle.  Seriously!  Unintentionally, dad is always checking out timber, making note of trees that should come down and ones that are worth money, or areas that were cut down in the past.  I’ve even caught Dad, several times I  might add, ogling other people’s firewood stock pile.  Yep, Dad was born a woodsman, and one he will forever be.

Lastly, I can’t leave out Dad’s favorite love of all time, Kyle and the dogs.  Believe it or not, I bet they run equal nowadays.  Sounds silly, and in truth, Kyle always ranks supreme, but Seven and Scooby, and now Avery have won over Dad’s heart many times over.  Dad would be lost without our dogs, (maybe not Storm, my cat).  Even though Dad lost one of his loves, Ryan, at least in physical form, Ryan remains in Dad’s heart, as he does all of ours.

Later today, Kyle and I plan on making Dad a pound cake, one of his favorites.  Perhaps we’ll cook down some strawberries for a little sweet sauce and call it a birthday cake.

Happy 64th Birthday Pap!

 

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