Archive for the 'News' Category

Celebration of a Real Parent!

There is greatness in doing something you hate for the sake of someone you love.  ~Shmuley Boteach

Kyle's Catch Fishing Derby 5-9-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle is quick with the cell phone, to record his big catch of the day at the Fishing Derby. 5/9/15

The other day I was given this article to read, entitled Dad found not guilty for taking tween’s phone away.  That peeked my interest immediately.  Teenager vs. Aunt Heather Part 3 – Flexing the Attitude and there have been many more issues with Kyle and that stupid cell phone.  Between the arguments, blow ups, obsession, disrespect and just plain annoyance, Kyle’s iPhone has certainly been the topic of many conversations.

Honestly, I don’t remember if I ever discussed the major issues I’ve had with Kyle, but there have been many, and they’ve been huge.  To sum it up, Kyle is obsessed with his phone.  I get it, he’s like most teenagers, but he’s really displayed an unhealthy desire to stay unified to that piece of electronic device, as well as show disrespect thinking he’s superior.

It was so out of hand, I was ready to take the shot gun and blast his phone to pieces.  Why didn’t I?  The only reason I didn’t was because Kyle and I got into a scuffle of sorts, and he was seriously acting irrationally and exceptionally erratic.  If I attempted to shot holes in his phone, I thought Kyle might do something stupid and desperate, like jumping in the line of fire to save his precious (I intentionally used that word, comparing Kyle to Gollum when he referred to the ring in Lord of the Rings).  That’s exactly how Kyle was acting.

Anyway, to shorten a very long drawn out and dramatic story, I did take the phone off of Kyle, at least at that particular instance.  I wouldn’t give it back until we had a family meeting.  This resulted in a loss of phone privileges for a week, something that was long overdue.  Personally, I didn’t care it was an inconvenience with his band, school and social activity.  I didn’t even care the phone wasn’t mine, and I wasn’t paying for the cell phone services.  Did I have a right?  You bet I did, especially with Kyle’s behavior.  It was the right thing to do, considering the disrespect I was enduring prior to that time and the day of the incidence.  Teenager vs. Aunt Heather Part 2 – The Calm Before the Storm  This problem expanded past me into the rest of the family.

Kyles Catch being Measured Fishing Derby 5-9-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle always had a knack for recording his fishing adventures with his cell phone. Fishing Derby 5/9/15

Would you believe I was given every excuse in the book and chastised for taking his cell phone away?  Yep.  I still didn’t buckle, because I knew Kyle was finally learning a lesson.  Again, it was the right thing to do.

Now back to the article.  What really struck me was the attitude of the mom and the step-dad.  Her only concern was the phone, not the well being of her very own child!  She only cared about the money and the material aspect to the situation.  Are you kidding me?  Read it for yourself.  She should have been working together with the father for the well-being of that child.  Come on, an inappropriate text message should have been the focus, not her ego or self-centered thinking.  Why?  My guess, she was mad the dad stepped in to do her job as a parent.

And shame on the step-dad, again for not begin an adult wanting to do what was right for that girl.  Nope.  Instead he flexed his muscles, like he was big s%$t and pulled strings to throw the situation even further out of perspective.  Having a man arrested in the middle of the night like he was a criminal?  Seriously?  If you’re a cop, you’re suppose to be protecting and serving.  I don’t know the context of the text messages, but shouldn’t that have been the topic of conversation?  Too much ego, way too much self-centered behavior, materialism and not enough parenting is the moral of this story.

The mom and step-dad are seriously stupid, by allowing a young adult to have such control over them and manipulate them like she did.

Kudos to that dad who didn’t back down and wasn’t bullied for being a true parent.  Kudos to that dad who had an interest in his daughter and wanted to do the right thing.  Kudos to that dad for standing up even in the face of criminal charges.  I hope one day his daughter understands who’s the real parent and who really cares for her, even if they don’t have a relationship currently.  Actually, I hope the mom and step-dad sees the error of their actions and takes a vested interest in the little girls well-being, although I’m sure they’re the reason for the broken relationship between the dad and daughter, when they should encourage the bong between the two.

I’m sure there’s more to the story than what’s been presented in the article.  It sounds like the relationship between the mom and dad are less than amicable, but that shouldn’t be the fault of the daughter.  No matter what the situation was, the mom and step-dad should have put on their big girl and boy pants and handled the situation like mature adults.  What kind of example are they setting for that little girl?  In fact, their daughter is probably picking up on their vibe and acting out, to only make further mistakes she may regret, all because of a lack of parenting.

I pray the dad comes back in the picture and the daughter matures a bit to face reality and her real family.

On a side note, I don’t believe cell phones are evil.  In fact, they do serve good purposes.  The problem is parenting, or a lack there of and giving boundaries and limitations.

Dad found not guilty for taking tween’s phone away

https://www.ksl.com/?sid=38299808

Below are screen shots of the article.

Dad found not guilty for taking tween's phone away Aunt Heather Piper part 1

Dad found not guilty for taking tween's phone away Aunt Heather Piper Part 2

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

Report Card. How Do I Help?

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

Kyle Christmas Eve 12-24-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle opening gifts on Christmas Eve 12/24/15

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

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

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

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

How Kyle views his Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hello Richard Branson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Growing Up With Star Wars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facebook screen shot Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stories of Cell Phones Past

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

First Cell Phones Aunt Heather Piper 1995

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aunt Heather Piper in hat at Trees Mid 1990s

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

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

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

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

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

Tracey Behind a Tree Mid 1990s Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas!

 

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

Troublesome Trio Strikes Again!

If I got rid of my demons, I’d lose my angels.  ~Tennessee Williams

Tracey Tree Aunt Heather Piper Graduation 6-1994

Tracey, Tree & Me graduation day from Greater Latrobe High School 6/1994

Watching Kyle grow, I’ve already seen him form tight bonds with his friends, and a few buddies have already gone their separate ways.  Take his friend Luke (Kyle called him “My svrend (friend) Luttie”, because he couldn’t say the “f” or “k”) for example.  Those two were inseparable in daycare, but alas now in junior high, their interests have changed and they each do their own thing.  I’m sure they’ll always remain acquaintances, at least I hope so.

Kyle now socializes mostly with Duncan, in addition to his band friends.  On a side note, Kyle met Duncan in the seventh grade, and they’ve been tight ever since.  Once I saw how Kyle spelled his name, Dunkin, like Kyle’s favorite, Dunkin Donuts.  I about died!

Kyle hasn’t had the honor of earning the rights to being called a “Troublesome Trio”or even a “Dynamic Duo”.  Maybe one day he’ll reach that status, after all he is a Piper, but until then, the “Troublesome Trio” resides with two wonderful people I know.  My friendship with Tree and Tracey have been ongoing since the seventh grade.  Originally, I believe the “Troublesome Trio” was coined with me, Maggie and Tree, but has since been shifted slightly to include Tracey.  We were Latrobe’s very own Charlie’s Angels.

Aunt Heather Piper in Trees Room early 1990s

Me hanging in Tree’s room.. ready to play Uno 1990s

This past Saturday, Tree had a great idea to get us together to watch The Clark’s play acoustic in Copperstown, outside of Latrobe, Pennsylvania.  Great idea!  It’s always fun catching up with the girls, and spending an evening with good music.  We had a great time, even though the days of staying up all night are long gone.

Before Tree called me to make plans, I was just thinking about them.  You see, I was completely engrossed in this book serious, the Hush Hush saga.  I love those books!  Throughout the story, the main character Nora and her best gal pal, Vee are seriously like a super sleuth duo.  They do DBs (drive bys, meaning to drive past a specific location to spy on a specific person – no shooting involved in our DBs) and try to dig up information based off of their hunches.  The girls wanted to figure out what’s going on with people they know, and specifically with their boyfriends.  The main concept of the story involves fall angels and Nephilim.  The girls together seriously reminded me of Tree and Tracey, making me miss our teenage and post teenage days.  The one girl Vee from the book, even drove up on a rock when they were scheming to bust into a boys bedroom to find out information on him.  One time, I tried to teach Tree to drive my car, which was a stick shift, and she drove right up on a huge curb.  We both laughed so hard.  I almost died when I read the similar instances like that in the book series!

Tree in her room of The Cure 1990s Aunt Heather Piper

Tree drying her Cure shirt … surrounded by The Cure in her room mid 1990s

Hanging out with Tree and Tracey on Saturday, I found I’m not the only one missing the days of old.  While getting caught up on all current issues with my gal pals, we stepped back to relive a few stories too.  Collectively, we truly crave our younger days, especially the of days of mischief.  We had great years growing up, and we really enjoyed life, even the stupid trouble we’d get into.

It’s true, as teenagers and even into our early twenties, we never did anything terribly wrong, no vandalizing, or trespassing, or running a muck.  Tree smoked, but she always did, and unfortunately continues to do so. (Bad Tree!)  The worst any of us drank was Tracey, with a large amount of milk once while on a DB, which resulted in a bad stomachache.  Me and Tree found complete humor in her discomfort.  She’s still lactose intolerance.  So why did she drink the milk?  I have no idea!  It’s Tracey.

Were cops ever called?  Surely, but not on us, by us.  Really?  While on our routes, whether we were on foot or in a vehicle, we would patrol the Latrobe area.  Remember, we were Latrobe’s very own Charlie’s Angels. 

Once while walking through a playground in the middle of the night, yes, it was probably around 2:00 am or so, it was summer time, and trouble found us.  Can’t imagine (sarcasm).  Actually, I don’t really know why we were up so late walking through a playground at night, but it was safe old Latrobe.  Anyway, we spotted a body in the playground.  Assuming someone was dead, (because there was no other explanation – sarcasm) we called the cops.  Did we approach the body?  No, because we convinced ourselves it was a dead body and who wanted to approach one of those!  The cops came to investigate, and told the drunk man to go home.  Wait, he wasn’t dead?  No!  He was  simply sleeping of the night’s alcohol.  He was intoxicated and we cleaned up the streets of Latrobe. Go us!   

Tracey on Trees Porch mid 1990s Aunt Heather Piper

Tracey, presenting a flower? I’m really not sure what she’s doing on Tree’s front porch. Mid 1990s

Think that’s bad?  Once, while doing a DB without me, (I was probably working) Tree and Tracey swore they saw someone writing graffiti on a bridge.  Naturally, they called the cops.  When the law enforcement went to examine the situation, there wasn’t a sign of paint to be seen.  The potential perpetrators must’ve been spraying water or something harmless, or Tree and Tracey were seeing things.  Too much!

One of our best DBs included a hot summer day, a bunch of squirt guns, and a hose.  I know it’s totally silly, but we got it in our heads to drive around and shoot people with squirt guns.  Keep in mind, back then they didn’t have supper soakers or anything of the sort.  Our water guns were generic, multicolored translucent plastic guns, which only held maybe a quarter of a cup of water, and they leaked terribly.  We certainly weren’t packing live rounds, nor did we have anything to cause harm to anyone like a paintball gun.  Nope, simple children’s water guns.

On one of our attacks, (using that term very loosely for we never hurt anyone or caused any damage) we drove past our friend Scotty’s house, who happened to be in his yard.  As we called him over to the car, we let him have it with the squirt guns.  Was he surprised?  Sure.  Was he mad?  Nope.  We even circled back to show him no mercy.  Well, what we didn’t realize was his mom witnessed the entire scene and unbeknownst to us, she lent him assistance.  When we got out of the car to douse him good, his mom gave him the hose and turned it on us.  We were drenched!  Seriously, what a fun summer day!

Tree and Tracey are still one hundred percent original!

Tree Tracey Aunt Heather Piper watching The Clarks 12-19-15

Me, Tree & Tracey at the Cooperstown Hall watching The Clarks 12/19/15

I could go on and on with stories upon stores of our adventures, some even included Ryan, perhaps another time.  I hope Kyle finds life just as much fun, and I truly pray that he remains harmless in his mischief like we did.  Although, unless Kyle moves his attention away from video games, he won’t have that opportunity to really enjoy the simple things in life.

I also hope Kyle finds and keeps true friends like mine.  Me, Tree and Tracey have always been kids at heart, and remain so to this day, in addition to being good friends.

Those gals are the most truest of all people, and a couple of silly chicks.  I’m thinking Tree and Tracey need to be memorialized in words.  Perhaps they’ll be my muses for my next book.

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have Comment (1)

Hunting Adventures – Deer Season

Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!  ~Bram Stoker

Deer hunting in Cortland NY Tree stand 11-21-15 Aunt Heather Piper

View from my tree stand in Cortland, NY … 1st day of deer season 11/21/15

Let me explain my reasoning for using this quote, which was selected more for my own personal humor.  It’s a famous quote, basically showing the correlation between Dracula and wild animals.  Bram Stoker was referring to the werewolves.  Plus, let’s not forget there’s the underlying theme of Dracula being a hunter.  (I think I’m going to add this book to my list of reads.)  Everyone knows who, not what, Dracula hunted, although perhaps he too hunted deer in his off time.

Out of shear curiosity, I looked up hunting in Transylvania, and they actually have red, fallow and roebuck deer!  A little fun fact.  One day, I’d like to take dad to hunt there.  I bet it’d be fun.

Anyway, focusing on good old white tail deer, during rifle season in Western Pennsylvania, a few weeks ago, the hunting season began.  I wish I had stories to tell from fall turkey, but alas I was really busy with Thrill of the Hunt and prepping to take time off for deer season that I wasn’t able to go.  Perhaps, I’ll be able to participate in small game and spring gobbler for the remainder of my 2015 – 2016 hunting license.  We’ll see.

Dad & Larry getting ready to deer hunt Cortland NY 11-20-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Larry adding ribbons to the trees, while Dad drove behind. Larry gave us a tour of the woods we were hunting in, & helped us get ready for the 1st day of deer. 11/20/15

Looking back on this entire season, it started off the same with the Hunting Adventures – The Goose Hunt and ended much the same with Pennsylvania deer.  How so?  Let me explain.

Dad and I went to Cortland, New York, as we do every year for the first day of rifle for deer, which began on Saturday, November 21st, a little over a week before Pennsylvania’s season began.  This year, we hunted in a different area, one that clearly showed signs of populated deer.  Promising right?  You bet!  Dad was positioned one side of the woods, while I was on the other end.  Prior to hunting on Saturday, a good friend of dad’s who we stayed with, showed us our new hunting spots the day prior.  Good to go!

Dad and I each had a buck and a doe tag.  How many deer did we get total?  Zero.  How many deer did we see between the two of us?  Nada.  Seriously?  Yes!  By Saturday night, everyone in our group got a buck, but no one saw a single doe.  It was the strangest thing, usually the opposite happens.  Then, for me and dad to not see a single deer, no one could believe it.  Well, it happens.

Deer Hunting in Indiana PA Tree Stand 11-30-15 Aunt Heather Piper

View from my tree stand in Indiana, PA. Love the morning view! 11/30/15

From what I was told, that area of New York, off the finger lakes, had a really rough winter last year ,and it killed off a bunch of deer.  Oh well, I was happy to see everyone else harvested at least one deer.  Keep in mind, that was just opening day.  Dad and I were going to continue hunting until we filled our tags, or Thanksgiving came first, forcing us home.

Sunday came, and yes you’re allowed to hunt on Sunday’s in New York, but another nothing.  No deer sightings at all.  Monday.  Zip.  Tuesday.  Zilch.  Wednesday.  Nada.  How many deer did we see?  Total between the two of us?  That’s a big fat zero.  We even moved to different locations throughout the week to increase our chances, but alas no deer.  I told Dad and Larry, I suspected the deer intercepted their phone conversations and had us bugged to avoid us.  Honestly, I had a great season last year so I can’t complain.  It’s a bit disappointing and anticlimactic, but it’s apart of the hunting experience.  Sometimes you see deer, sometimes you don’t, sometimes you see a trophy buck, sometimes you don’t even see a buck.  We left Wednesday to head home, after trying our luck in the woods again, but to no avail.

On a side note, Larry gave us his doe he shot later in the week.  That wasn’t necessary, but very kind of him.  Larry felt bad for our lack of adventure, but I don’t think he realized we had fun regardless.  Hanging with Dad in the woods is always a nice time.  I told Dad, that the deer he gave us to take home felt like a consolation prize.  Dad laughed and agreed with me, but was also very appreciative over the gesture.

Deer Hunting in New York 11-24-15 Aunt Heather Piper

One of my spots while hunting in New York. Waiting for Dad to pick me up to call it a day. 11/24/15

I’m glad we made it back by Wednesday night, to spend some time with Kyle.  I was also able to help mom cook and prep for Thanksgiving dinner, which Kyle joined us.

After a short hiatus, the first day of buck in Pennsylvania began on Monday, November 30th.  Dad and I were both really excited, thinking our luck was going to change.  Unlike New York, we were only allowed to shoot buck on Monday, three points or better.  The night before, I was joking with Dad saying, I forgot what a deer looks like in the woods.  Dad began to tease me and tell friends and family that I was the reason we didn’t see any deer.  We were both giggling over our New York experience, and we were ready to bring home some deer meat.

By eight or nine in the morning, I saw a few doe.  To be honest, it was nice just seeing the deer, however no horns.  At the end of the day when dad pulled the quad up to my stand to pick me up, neither of us had anything to drag out.  Dad didn’t see anything!  He was happy to hear I saw about thirteen doe, although I’m not sure if they were all different, or the same group running around.  Still, good sign.

Deer Hunting Tweet Aunt Heather Piper

Naturally, I have social fun while deer hunting. If Dad knew, I’d be the one shot, not the deer!

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to hunt on the first day of doe, that Saturday, but dad did.  He went into my tree stand and harvested a doe in the morning.  Yeah!  Finally something for our efforts.

I hunted sporadically with dad the rest of the season, again at different locations.  Can you believe we never saw a single deer?  Not one deer after Dad got his doe!  On the last day of deer season, Saturday, December 12th, which happened to be my birthday, and Mom and Dad’s 64th wedding anniversary, we never saw a deer.  This time we were hunting in Stahlstown.  We even had guys pushing for us, but nothing, not even an almost sighting, or a waving tail.

I didn’t realize our goose hunt started a trend we couldn’t shake the entire deer season, from New York to Pennsylvania.  The season might have been a bust with respect to harvesting deer meat, but to be honest, I had a great time with Dad.  It’s funny, when we came home on Saturday, Dad made the exact same comment about having fun even though no one took a single shot.  Like me, Dad loves being in the woods, walking around, and being removed from the hustle and bustle of life.  Sure, it’s always nice to accomplish your goal of filling the deer tags, but it’s also about the experience and spending time together.

I’m sure in years to come, we’ll talk about this adventure.  I hope so, for it’s a great memory!  The only thing missing was Kyle.

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

Freshmen Year of Band, In the Back Pocket

The unendurable is the beginning of the curve of joy.  ~Djuna Barnes

Kyle smiling Light Up Night Vandergrift PA Aunt Heather Piper 11-27-15

Love seeing Kyle happy! Kiski Marching Band Light Up Night Vandergrift, PA 11/27/15

Well, Kyle’s first year of marching band with Kiski has come to an end.  I know it’s a bitter sweet moment for him, as well as the rest of the students, for they’ve had quite a year, mostly in rain.

The 2015 Kiski Marching Band theme was Origins.  A little out there, pun totally intended, but very original.  From their scores and metals, evidently the judges enjoyed the show and understood the abstract meaning in the orbs.  You see, Kiski performed on the field with four very large orange orbs (rubber balls).  When the students came in close proximity to the orbs during their performance, they were said to gain knowledge.  Basically they did funky poses and choreography.  The colorguard really used the orbs for some fun routines!

The students worked really hard all year, putting in long Saturday practices, plus a few days a week, and Friday night football games.  Kyle experienced his first band camp this past August, and now he knows what it’s like to be apart of a team working toward the same goal, to be the best of their ability, and to perform like no one else.  Did that happen?  You bet it did!

On the few occasions I’ve seen their show in its entirety, I was thoroughly impressed!  Seriously.  Not because Kyle is my little man, I’d be proud of him no matter what the band looked like, but because they were seriously good.  So good in fact, their show placed them first in a few competitions locally, even beating Norwin, which is not be taken lightly.

This year, Kiski Area Marching Band also participated in the Bands of American Regional Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana on Friday, November 13th (the same day Dad and I went goose hunting), along with 95 other bands.  It was Kyle’s very first trip with the band, and a big one at that.  I’m glad Kyle got that experience, and I couldn’t have been happier for him, even though he came back sick.

Tubas Light Up Night Vandergrift PA 11-27-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle’s in the middle also wearing an elf hat! I about died when I saw that perched on his head! Kiski Marching Band, Vandergrift, PA 11/27/15

How did Kyle do?  From what I was told, not by Kyle, because trying to pry any information from that kid, especially without an attitude is next to impossible, but everyone did really well.  Their Friday performance was so good, they placed first, moving them to the next level and allowing them to perform on Saturday.  Overall, Kiski placed second in their division.  Good job!

On Friday, November 27th, Kyle marched his last parade of 2015, for Light Up Night in Vandergrift, Pennsylvania.  It was a fun and relaxed event for the students.  They showed their holiday spirit by decorating their instruments, and sometimes themselves with Christmas lights and such.  Did Kyle get into it?  He did!

In fact, I was asked to chaperon the parade, which I happily did, and I was actually taken back by Kyle’s attire.  He was dressed in full Kiski Marching Band uniform, however, all the tuba players were wearing creative hats, or I should say elf hats, totally out of Kyle’s character.  As I walked up to the boys, my eyes caught sight of the item perched on top of Kyle’s head.  I instantly giggled, not trying to make fun, and I blurted, “What’s on your head?”  Even Kyle gave me a funny snicker, knowing what I was thinking, basically this is out of his character.

Attitude Kyle at Light Up Night Vandergrift PA 11-27-15 Aunt Heather Piper

This is the attitude when Kyle is asked to get his picture taken… it’s almost too comical when he’s wearing an elf hat! Kiski Marching Band Light Up Night Vandergrift, PA 11/27/15

On a side note, Kyle is still trying to ignore me, like I’m ever going anywhere.  Fat chance buddy!

While the band was practicing, I couldn’t resist taking pictures, which ticked Kyle off.  I about died, when he started to throw a temper tantrum about me shooting some footage, when his fellow tuba player stepped in and said, “Get over it Piper!”  Kyle gave a smirk, especially when I gave the kid a high five.

At one point, I was in charge of passing out water.  Naturally, seeing Kyle, I approached him, pushing my water bottle case at his side, giving him the hint.  He wouldn’t take one so I left, to take care of the other students who appreciated me and my water supply.  Shortly after, I saw Kyle drinking water!  I knew it!  I knew he was thirsty!  I looked at him in surprise, at the same time he looked down at his water, and he gave me a huge ornery grin, knowing what I was thinking.  Jokingly, I said, “You wouldn’t take water from me, but you’d take it from someone else?!”  He almost choked while drinking, laughing at the situation.  Nothing else needed said.

Ah, good times.  It’s nice to see Kyle enjoying himself and having fun with his friends.  I’m really excited to see him enjoy band.  Can’t wait for next year!

And yes Kyle, I’m going to continue chaperoning, every chance I get!  So suck it up buttercup!  I’m your blood, your Aunt Heather, and I’m not going anywhere, EVER.

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

My New Title … Band Chaperon

Authority without wisdom is like a heavy axe without an edge, fitter to bruise than polish.  ~Anne Bradstreet

Close up Kyle Kiski Marching Band 10-23-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Close up of Kyle playing his sousaphone during their show (Origins) 10/23/15

I’ve always been involved with Kyle in some fashion or another, on all aspects of his life.  Was this a requirement for being Kyle’s Aunt Heather?  Well, no, but in good conscience, yes.  That was my choice made the day Kyle was born. (Honestly, I probably made that decision before then, when I saw the joy in Ryan’s eyes upon the anticipation of his son.)  Regardless, some of my influences and involvement have been necessary.  I always wanted to support Kyle in his interests, activities and friends, as well as his scholastic goals, his physical fitness, and most importantly his spiritual well-being.  For no other reason than for him, not for my own pride, my personal gain or anything of the such.  Being directly involved was the way I knew how to make this happen.

A few weeks ago, I received an email asking me to chaperon a Friday night football game for the band, and a Saturday night band competition.  Apparently, there was a last minute cancellation from a chaperon due to an injury.  Would I accept the challenge?  Of course!  Actually, I was beyond excited.  Okay, perhaps I do have a little bit of personal gain in volunteering.  What do I get out it?  I not only get to assist, but I also receive the opportunity to see Kyle grow as a young man, and experience his happiness while doing something he loves and he’s proud of.  That’s what makes it worth it.

Did Kyle know I was chaperoning?  Nope.  On my defense, neither did I until two days prior.  I would have called Kyle to give him a heads up, but he was still going through this phase of not answering my text messages or my calls, so I thought the heck with him, he’ll see me when he does.

Kyle & his tube line Kiski 10-23-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle with his sousaphone line. Their show is called Origins 10/23/15

Was Kyle happy?  Not in the slightest.  It was a quick reminder those days of volunteering for the PTA, and participating in Santa’s workshop were over.  Those were the good old days when Kyle would see me way down the hall in school, and he’d wave in desperation to get my attention.  The days he actually would tell parents, students, teachers, everyone, I was his Aunt Heather, and was proud of it.  The days he wanted to hang with me, and loved my involvement.  Yep, while lining up to get ready for the parade prior to the game, I was reminded those days are long gone.

While the kids were arriving and putting the final touches on their uniforms, they retreated into smaller groups to practice.  I was geared in my own Band Chaperon embroidered shirt.  On a side note, this is how much I love Kyle.  The shirts are canary yellow.  Yellow!  Anyone who knows me, is aware of my aversion, actually my revulsion for yellow.  The school colors are blue and yellow, and I get why they chose the less desirable color because we stand out for the students, but yuck!  Anyway, I never saw Kyle during all the confusion, that is until he was sporting his sousaphone.  How could anyone miss that instrument?

Kyle Kiski Marching Band 10-23-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle’s Marching Band performance – Origins 10/23/15

Surprisingly, I knew one of the band parents from the PTA.  In fact, she brought Kyle along with her son and another student.  She told me she asked Kyle if I was chaperoning on Saturday, seeing my name on the list.  Kyle’s response?  “I don’t know.”  That’s my little man.

Did I talk to Kyle?  Of course, who couldn’t resist?  Not wanting to make the night miserable for my sousaphone player, I kept my distance, but I had to acknowledge him at least once.  Upon setting up in formation for the parade, (the band marched through town to the football stadium), I nudged his arm to say hello.  Naturally, I was sporting a huge stupid grin.  Kyle on the other hand looked confused and almost disgusted.  Whatever.  I was there not only to support him, but his fellow band members.  I had a job to do!

I kept my promise to myself, and never called Kyle out, nor did I infringe on his personal space.  Although, while we (the band parents) were passing out water to the students, Kyle tried to dodge past me.  He literally ducked and weaved.  I never saw such fancy footwork from that kid!  Okay, now my maturity surfaced.  I instantly leaned in his direction, to get his attention and said, “Kyle, don’t you need water?  Kyle! KYLE!”  That brought a huge smile to my face, as well as to a few students witnessing such a strange exchange.  Kyle wouldn’t look up, he only shook his head and darted past me.  Am I that repulsive?

Kyle during Kiski Marching Band performance 10-23-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle’s kneeling in position during the Kiski Marching Band show (Origins) 10/23/15

Throughout the night, some of the other parents commented, that they couldn’t believe what a cold shoulder Kyle was giving me.  I just shrugged and laughed it off.

The Saturday band competition was much of the same.  The only difference, I was preoccupied helping out and Kyle, as well as the other students, were feeling the stress and anxiety of competition.  It was a horribly rainy day and night.  While standing in our rain gear, getting organized, I turned around to find I was in close proximity to Kyle the entire time!  I had no idea, and I know he didn’t either, since my rain hood was up and I was wearing a YELLOW band raincoat.  I wanted to say “Hi'” and leave it at that, but Kyle’s evasive demeanor pushed me to be a stinker.  Again, I couldn’t help myself.  I suddenly felt a desire to be irritating.

What did I do?  Nothing terrible, at least not in my eyes.  Standing beside Kyle was his fellow tuba player.  I simply said hello to him, and he responded with a very polite hello back, albeit a little confused.  I continued, “I’m Kyle’s Aunt Heather.”  Kyle’s face was priceless.  He started to laugh and look away, trying to escape the situation he knew was going to happen.  I continued, “I’m Kyle’s really cool Aunt, even though he doesn’t know it and won’t admit to it.”  Now the boy was flashing looks between Kyle and myself, wearing the biggest grin, mimicking my facial expression.  He was such a nice kid, he only said, “Yeah, everyone has a cool Aunt.”  Taking that as my cue, I replied, “Yeah!  That’s me!”  We laughed for a few seconds before moving along.  I figured my job was complete.  Kyle kept his face turned away from us, probably rolling his eyes.

Kyle playing Marching Band 10-23-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Kiski Marching Band Show – Origins. Kyle playing during the show 10/23/15

Did Kyle ever mention that exchange to me again?  Nope.  And I don’t care, I wanted to be there with Kyle, and that’s that.  I want to help celebrate his wins and support him with his losses.  That’s what family does.

Kiski won first place at the Gateway competition.  Right after the announcement, I searched the crowd for my little man.  Surprisingly, I spotted Kyle among all those similarly dressed students instantly.  He was hugging other students and celebrating their win.  That’s a memory I filed away, for he was truly happy and I was proud of him.

I wanted someone to get a picture of the two of us, Kyle in his band uniform and I in my chaperon shirt, but I didn’t want to push the situation.  Perhaps another time.

I hope I’m called upon to chaperon down the road.  Some of the parents already asked if I could join them for Grand Nationals in Indianapolis.  But alas, I’ll be goose hunting with dad and a few of his friends near Erie.  I was thinking about heading out to Indiana after we were done hunting, but Kiski was scheduled to perform on Friday, the day of the hunt.  Next time.

Kiski Marching Band 10-23-15 Aunt Heather Piper

2015 Kiski Marching Band – Origins 10/23/15

On another side note, I finally was formally introduced to Kyle’s band director.  He sat behind me on the Gold bus.  During our little bit of chitchat, I asked why he moved Kyle from the trumpet to the sousaphone.  He said, “Honestly, Kyle was having a hard time hitting the high notes, but he’s a natural sousaphone player.”  Good to know.  Then, I shared with him, Kyle’s ability to play the piano and somewhat the guitar.  He was surprised, not knowing this information.  I’m not sure why Kyle refuses to admit to his talents, but I took care of that one too.

Kiski Marching Band is pretty stellar.  They also have a great support team, which is so good for the kids.  It’s also nice to see such family involvement.  After the competition on Saturday night, we actually had a police escort all the way back to the school.  Once the buses rounded the bend to the loading dock, the parents were lined up in their cars waiting for our champions.  Illuminating the night, they held up these light spinners, and hoked their horns cheering on the band.  Great support!

Good luck Kiski during Grand Nationals!  You guys are truly talented!

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

Still Adjusting to the Loss of Ryan, 14 Years Later

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seemed filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster  ~Elizabeth Bishop

September 24, 1977 – October 23, 2001

St. Vincent -Confirmation Piper Family Aunt Heather Piper 1990

Mom, me (8th grade), Dad, Ryan (6th grade) & Gram at my Confirmation at St. Vincent Basilica. Ryan served mass 1990

Years after loosing Ryan, I know I retreated in many ways.  I think I was trying to … actually, I have no idea what I was trying to do.  I don’t truthfully know why I distanced myself in many ways, for it wasn’t a conscience decision, it just happened.  Most would say I was dealing with my loss.  True.  I also focused all of my energies on Kyle.  True.  But really, I’ve seen other people deal with loss and travel down different paths.  I guess this is the road I was chosen to trek.

Ryan’s death affected everyone differently.  It’s definitely, not just about my family and myself.  Nope, his loss included distant family, friends of the family, Ryan’s friends, my friends, and unbeknownst to him, Ryan’s son Kyle, among others near and far.

As the years tally up, and I leave my personal cocoon, I run into signs of the pain as a result of Ryan’s death, even after all this time.  Some are literal signs.  Example, Ryan’s one friend Jacob (or his brother Luke) has a tattoo on his leg marking Ryan’s date he departed us.  Another friend of mine and Ryan’s, Danielle, named her daughter after Ryan.  This is a common theme, for I’ve ran into a few people who did just that, including Ryan’s friend Travis (I think it was him).  It’s a very sweet and heartwarming gesture.  I hope Kyle realizes just how much his dad meant to everyone, enough to name their offspring after my brother.

Recently, I’ve been missing Ryan.  Yes, that’s not a new concept and always an underlying truth, but I miss Ryan for Kyle, and I wish he would’ve know his father.  Presently, I feel like Kyle needs his dad, especially with the major issues we’ve been having with Kyle, mostly his attitude.  I don’t know how the present would appear if Ryan was still with us, but I do know for certain, Ryan wouldn’t have allowed any of it to happen, or put a mad stop to it immediately.  I get it, Kyle’s a teenager, but disrespect should never be permitted, let alone displayed, no matter the age.

Kyle isn’t a bad kid, really he’s not.  He’s a pretty good young man, but we’ve hit a rough patch.  I pray Kyle understands that I try and make decisions based on what his dad would say or do, or how he felt about certain topics.  Loss is never easy, for anyone involved, not even one who was three months old when Kyle experienced his first loss.

Words cannot express how much I miss you Ryan.  Truly.  I know you chose me as Kyle’s godmother for a reason, and you always knew I’d put Kyle first and I’d do right by him.  I’m sincerely trying my best.  Honestly, you’d be proud of Kyle.  He’s a very talented and intelligent young man and his future is promising.  He’s already shown to be a success as a person.

The introduction quote is actually a snippet from a poem.  It’s really a lovely piece, and very appropriate for this blog post.  Ever since loosing Ryan, I try not to sweat the small stuff.  I put things into perspective, especially when it comes to materialism, which I’m not a big fan of and never have been, similar to Ryan.  Nothing, and I mean NOTHING is as important as human life and doing the right thing.

Like Elizabeth Bishop, I too try and accept loss and loosing someone.  But I’ve never completely come to terms with Ryan’s death.  I’m sure he’ll always weigh heavy on my heart, some days are easier than others.

Below is the poem in it’s entirety.  Take a moment and try it out for yourself.

One Art
By Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

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

Silly Greeting, Aunt Heather Style

Silly things do cease to be silly if they are done by sensible people in an impudent way.  ~Jane Austen

Pittsburgh gals 1995 Aunt Heather Piper

Becca’s wedding. Me, (L) Becca, Kathleen, Tracy – Pittsburgh gals from Contempo Casuals & Trade Secret 1995

This is a bit silly, and anyone who knows me, can picture this one.  I guess old habits stay with me, and this one certainly has in a big way, for about 14-years.  I’d like to think that one day, Kyle is going to tell stories about his crazy Aunt Heather, and one such story will include this special phrase.  To ensure Kyle truly understands, and knows this phrase was always delivered with warmth and love, for it comes straight from my heart, I’ll explain.

I have this thing I do with Kyle, (and sometimes with my dog and cat) which has spread to selected individuals, only at the right moment.  It’s really pretty silly actually, but something worth noting.  In fact, when I say this phrase to others, I always share stories about Kyle, my little Narrow.  It goes to show, just how much that little bugger is always on my mind, and how much I care for him.

What’s the phrase?  Instead of saying “There he is!”, as in Kyle walks into a room and I show my love and affection for him by focusing all my attention toward him.  I’ve changed it slightly to “Dare he is!”

Why?  Initially, it started when he was a baby, hence the baby talk.  Also, sometimes I was so excited to see my little guy, I’d rush through the words to eliminate the “Th” and pick a letter at the front of the alphabet for quicker delivery.  Plus, it was sillier to say “Dare” instead of “There”.  At least Kyle got a kick out of it, and it made him giggle.  Then, it became our thing.  So it stuck.

Dave greeting Aunt Heather Piper c. 1997

Davey greeting me in his own unique way.  He cracks me up!  Philadelphia area visiting his mom. c. 1997

When do I use this silly phrase?  When Kyle was a little tyke, I’d say it with pure enthusiasm and gusto, upon him waking  from a nap or from a long nights sleep.  Sometimes I’d say it when he walked in the door or visa versa.  Sometimes I’d say it out of nowhere just for the heck of it to make him smile, and show my love towards my Narrow.  In recent times, I’d say it to get his attention, and if I wanted to see a smile.  Especially, if he was being crabby or the tension was a bit overwhelming, to help lighten the mood.  It usually worked.  At least, after the argument, not necessarily during.  Of course picture me saying “Dare he is.” over and over with all of my heart and soul, sporting a big old grin.  Who can resist me?  Not even Kyle!

In fact, over the years I’ve caught Kyle using this phrase, mostly towards our pets, but sometimes with his Aunt Nikki and with myself.  He always did like to get a rise out of me, and that’s the best way to do it!  Personally, I loved it when he tried to get my attention by saying “Dare she is.  Hey Aunt Heather, dare she is!”  That little stinker would flash me an ornery grin and look at me from the corner of his eye.  LOVED THAT!

When I say it towards friends, it’s obviously not as frequent, but it’s a way for me to bring a smile to others, and possibly lighten their day.  Plus, those who know the story, which is about everyone, appreciates its origins, and I enjoy sharing my joy of Kyle with others.  Kyle and that silly phrase are such a part of me, naturally they’d go hand in hand.

The big question, how is it used?  It was always sort of our own personal greeting.  But it’s not a single line greeting.  Oh no!  It’s to be said in repetition, with each time getting louder, projecting more excitement, and enunciating each word deliberately.  In the case of Kyle, usually I follow it up with a big hug and a kiss (later on the cheek).

Example:  “Dare he is.  Dare (pause) He Is!  DARE (pause) HE (pause) IS!” and sometimes one for the road only quicker.  “Dare-he-is.”  It’s to be said with gusto, pure love and a huge smile.  Not only is this greeting verbal, but it’s also body language and attitude, a good attitude.  More than not, I’ve found myself saying it with my arms extended ready to embrace my little man.

Just talking about our silly greeting makes me want to give Kyle a big old hug.  This is one thing I hope Kyle always remembers about me, and I hope he remembers it fondly with all of my love.

 

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

Who’s Behind That Sousaphone? – Marching Band

Chaos often breeds life, when order breeds habit.  ~Henry Adams

Kyle with Pap and Scooby 9-20-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Mom got Kyle to pose with his Pap for a picture with Kyle’s Marching Band Metal from Bands of America on 9/19/15, 1st Place! Scooby made his appearance too… 9/20/15

Yes, this isn’t another quote chosen by happenstance.  I thought it only fitting since Kyle loves math and he’s my little teenager trying to be unique.  It’s also a reminder that life is delicate, simple, and yet complex, especially when dealing with a teenager.  I know I’ll never truly know Kyle’s outcome in life, but I do know what I’m desperately trying to teach him, and how I’m leading by example.

It’s no secret Kyle’s always loved music, hence why I started him young, at the age of six to be exact, with piano lessons.  Now as a fiery fourteen-year-old he’s in the marching band.  Honestly, this decision, which was solely his, which rings music to my ears.  I love Kyle’s involvement in the band!  It’s wonderful discipline, a structured social activity, good competition and great cultural exposure with their travels, just to name a few benefits.

Unbeknownst to some, I too was involved in the Greater Latrobe Marching Band for four years.  Granted, I never played an instrument, I was in the Colorguard, but I was apart of a great group of people and I had the best years of my life.  The marching band was my gateway to Winterguard, and in my senior year, I was apart of the Indoor Drumline.

Did I influence Kyle at all?  I’m really not sure.  I know I never pushed him into marching band, but I’ve made comments, mostly about my experiences in the band and how much fun I had.  Perhaps something resonated with Kyle, or he’s more like me than I realize, and we have the same type of interests and enjoy the same activities.  Who knows?  Personally I don’t care.  I’m happy he found something he enjoys.

As you may have guessed, Kyle plays the sousaphone.  What is that?  It’s a form of tuba.  Does he like it?  When asked, he kind of shakes his head and nonchalantly smiles.  I’ve learned in teenage terms, that’s a great big YES.

He’s already gone through band camp, which in everyone’s experience is dreaded, yet favorable in lifelong memories.  It’s hard work but the payoff and benefits are well worth it.

About two Saturday’s ago, September 12th, Mom and I were able to attend Kyle’s home band competition at Kiski.  Sadly, it rained off and on throughout the competition.  Add the bitter cold and it made for a less than favorable evening of band watching.  Did I care?  Not one bit!  It brought back memories of marching through the mud, and being soaked to the bones along with everyone else.  Those are the times that bond a group, believe it or not.  The hard times reveals everyone’s true attitude and nature, and can be the glue that unites a large group.  From what I’ve been told, it’s very similar to being in the armed forces, same basic principle.

Kyle in Kiski Marching Band 9-12-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Our little man, middle sousaphone (tube). Kiski Marching Band home competition. 9/12/15

Competitions were always my favorite.  Football games, I didn’t really care much about, and parades were okay, but what I lived for, besides the travel, were the Saturday night competitions.

Naturally, mom and I arrived early.  We wanted to get a good seat and make sure we didn’t miss anything Kyle was involved in.  We didn’t!  In fact, when entering the football field, we came in on the wrong side and had to cross the field, literally in the grass to get to the other side.  While doing so, Kyle and his group of blue were lined up practicing before us.  What luck!  Boy did that make my day!  Naturally, I stood in front of everyone, yelling, “Kyle!  Kyle!”  Of course, he was in the back and didn’t hear me at first.  Getting the attention of a young lady, I was on a mission to make eye contact with Kyle.  Finally, Kyle looked up and tried not to give me that typical grin.  Was I flailing my arms around and waving them in his direction?  You bet I was!  Subtly, he brought his hand up to give me a little wave, trying to appease me so I’d leave.  My night was complete!  I got to see Kyle and he looked good!

It was great watching the bands again.  I truly enjoyed it.  Some braved the rough terrain and kept to their routines, while others stood and performed for the audience.  Kiski stood and played.  They were the last high school on the field, so I didn’t blame them.  As a whole, they looked and sounded great.

Kyle did not disappoint.  When Kyle wants to, he’ll give his all to being the best that he can possibly be given the task at hand.  I’ve seen in when he was a server (alter boy) in church.  The same precision and intent was portrayed while Kyle was on the field.  I mean he carried himself well, and had the attitude of an competitor.  I was very proud!

This past Saturday was Bands of America in Monroeville.  I was unable to attend since I was administering to a scavenger hunt in Arlington, Virginia for Thrill of the Hunt.  When I got back on Sunday, after I picked Kyle up at the tutor’s, I asked about the event.  Proudly, Kyle told me they took first place and he had a metal to show for it.  I could tell he was very pleased, as he should be.

Good job buddy!  I wish I could have been there to watch and support you!  Next time.  I couldn’t be more proud, and I hope your experiences are rewarding and fun.  Congratulations!

 

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

Teenager vs. Aunt Heather Part 3 – Flexing the Attitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kyle at Idlewild c. 2003 Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

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

Turkey Coop 9-6-15 Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teenager vs. Aunt Heather Part 2 Calm Before the Storm

On the whole, I think you should write biographies of those you admire and respect, and novels about human beings who you think are sadly mistaken.  ~Penelope Fitzgerald

Kyle-&-Casey-Easter-2002-Aunt-Heather-Piper

A very little Kyle visited by his godfather & cousin, Casey. Kyle is one lucky little man to have such good & caring people in his life. 2002

Kyle has been giving major attitude and showing me disrespect.  He’s been pushing boundaries and spreading his wings, thinking he should be a free range teenager.  Nope.  Some freedom is good, too much is just asking for trouble.  In my previous post, I just broke the news to Kyle that I got him a math tutor, since he tanked in Algebra II on last year’s report card.

Now we’re onto Sunday, August 30th. He wasn’t too bad getting ready, but he did display his typical attitude, which I didn’t care for much, especially while walking into the Lord’s house.  I’m trying with this kid, but he’s stepping over major lines.

Upon leaving church, Kyle seemed to be in good spirits.  Believe it or not that always happens after attending mass, especially when the music picks up our souls and sores them to the ceiling of the basilica.  Attending mass does lighten Kyle’s spirit, as it does mine.  I blatantly see it.  I’m pretty sure I witnessed a miracle.

Next stop, the tutor!  Of course, our meeting place was closed, and every other public location in close proximity was packed with church goers.  Wendy, the tutor had another meeting after ours and didn’t have time to waste.  We did the formal introductions and she took time to get to know Kyle, and in turn Kyle became familiar with his new tutor.  She asked a few questions about his current math class, and what he was having trouble in.  Naturally, Kyle shrugged his shoulders, not offering up much information.  I found it funny when Wendy said she loved Geometry, after Kyle stated that’s his current math class.  His face showed it all, again!  He knew he met his match and he had no one to blame but himself.  She was wonderful though.  She gave him instructions on what she expected from him and what he needed to bring for the next session, and what they’d be working on.  Kyle nodded and shook her hand like an adult, another proud moment in my eyes.  Others may not care, but to me, Kyle was showing Wendy respect and his foundation that I tried to instill in him from a young age was surfacing.  I love that!

After our brief encounter, Kyle relaxed quite a bit.  Perhaps he was stressed over the shock of a tutor, or dealing with a new teacher, or a change in his schedule.  Kyle’s never been much for change.  Whatever it was, it was nearly gone.  Once we got back to my parent’s house, Kyle was seriously a good kid without most of his attitude.  It was great!  In fact, dad and I were heading up to Indiana to set up my tree stand for hunting and Kyle helped.  He didn’t want to come with us, but he assisted me in loading the tree stand in the back of the truck.  Giving him kudos where it’s deserved, Kyle was a really big help!  He did the heavy lifting and it appeared that he wanted to show off how strong he’s become.  He’s stretched out before my eyes and is turning into a young man.  In the entire time after church, Kyle never complained, never argued, never drug his feet, nothing.  He was a delight.  Now my cynical side wanted to think he wanted to get rid of me, so he could play his video games in peace  In all reality, I do believe Kyle wanted to be helpful.  Either way, I appreciated his actions.

Before we left, I had Kyle give me a big hug, which he did without incidence.  He almost seemed happy.  While getting in the truck, I yelled for Kyle to come out of the house.  “Kyle!  Kyle!  Come on, give me more love.  I miss you and I need it to last.”  I was motioning for him to give me another hug while I motioned.  Kyle gave me a grin, and graciously came out, again, without argument or hesitation, to give me and dad another hug.  While he was moving toward me, I chirped one of my famous, “Dare (There) he is!  Dare he is!”  Kyle couldn’t resist his Aunt Heather.  I heard a chuckle fall out of his mouth.  That simple situation of Kyle being nice and giving us heartfelt hugs, and me telling dad how helpful he was made Dad’s day!  Mine too!

Great!  We left Sunday on a high note, to only be faced with a very difficult version of my nephew a few days later, Tuesday, September 1st.

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Kyle on his birthday, enjoying his birthday Valley Dairy ice-cream sundae with his Gigi & Pappy. 7/31/05

Let me set the stage.  Kyle’s youth group emailed me, in addition to his entire group informing us that our new Bishop, the most Reverend Edward Malesic, J.C.L., the fifth Bishop of Greensburg, chose to give mass at Holy Family on Tuesday night.  The entire youth group was to attend wearing their youth group t-shirts and sit as a group, meeting at 6:30 pm.  Thinking in advance in Kyle’s best interest, I knew his t-shirt from last year definitely didn’t fit.  I didn’t want him to be the only one without a youth group tee, so I reached out to one of the youth leaders and made arrangements to get a bigger size.  Initially, I thought Kyle would enjoy hanging out with kids from his youth group, and thinking he’d be interested in going to mass out of sheer curiosity to see the new Bishop.  In my heart, I knew it would be a grand mass that Kyle should experience, and one he might enjoy.  Boy I was wrong.

Kyle texted me late, I mean around 11:30 pm on Monday asking “Why do I have to go tomorrow”.  Naturally, I was sleeping and didn’t receive the text message until the next morning.  He then texted me when I was on my way to pick him up around 3:00 pm on Tuesday.  Again, asking “Do I have to go”.  I didn’t respond to either text message, I was driving and I really don’t like texting and because I didn’t feel like listening to him whine.  I also wanted to give him a taste of his own medicine and feel the sting of someone intentionally ignoring him, like he does me.

Granted, mass wasn’t until 7:00 pm, but I had things I needed to do and it was convenient for me to get him as soon as he got off the bus.  Plus, it was a nice excuse to spend an evening with Kyle like we used to, when I took him to swimming lessons, piano lessons, and guitar lessons, after school over the years.

Calling him when I was nearly there to finalize plans, he actually answered!  He started on me the minute he picked up the call with complaining and whining.  I responded kindly that I was almost there.  Kyle gave me an attitude stating he was still on the bus and he had a lot of homework to do.  He was already out of control.  Seriously.  Did I care?  Nope!  He was going to listen and that was that.

I pulled into the driveway and waited for the teenage attitude to arrive.  Little did I know, the worst was on its way.

To Be Continued…

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

Busy Little Bees

Every grain of experience is food for the greedy growing soul of the artist.  ~Anthony Burgess

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A little bee humor at our beekeepers picnic / meeting 8/9/15

I love our bees!  I simply find them fascinating!  What’s been going on with my newest hobby?  A lot!

At the end of July, Dad and I added the super to our bee hive.  What does that mean?  Ultimately, it means honey for us!

Our hive is two boxes high.  Those boxes contain honey strictly for the bees to keep the hive going and healthy, especially since winter is right around the corner.  Dad and I added a smaller box, called the super or sometimes the medium, to the hive, since our bottom boxes were nearly full.  Plus, let’s get real, we couldn’t wait any longer.  Before adding this addition to the hive, we placed the queen bee blocker between the boxes, so the queen can’t enter the top box and lay eggs.  She’s confined to the rest of the hive, while the worker bees, who are a lot smaller in size, can enter the top domain to make honey for our consumption.  The Piper’s honey and not the bees.  Pretty simple.

Adding the super to the bee hive 7-26-15 Aunt Heather PiperPrior to adding the super to the hive, we had to do a mite treatment.  Evidently, there are different methods for destroying the mites in the hives.  Mites, really?  Yes!  It’s a huge problem, one that is unavoidable, yet maintained.

To do this, we have a contraption that contains a metal plate and two electrical cords.  I added two scoops (one for each box) of this fine powder material to the metal plate.  This treatment is actually wood bleach, better known as oxalic acid.  Seriously?  Yep.  Then, we took the plate and hooked it up to a car battery to give it a charge.  Really?  True!  The plate heats up and creates a smoke that’s not toxic to the bees but kills the mites.  The procedure only takes about two minutes for the actual smoking process, and about fifteen minutes to allow the smoke to settle.  This process is repeated a few days later, about a week before a super is added to the hive.  Do the bees like it?  Not at all!

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Beekeepers come in all sizes, even young. Great beekeepers picnic & meeting. 8/9/15

The first time we treated the bees for mites, Kyle assisted.  We waited till nightfall, to ensure the bees were snug in their beds.  Dad and I dressed in full suit, while Kyle argued and said, he wasn’t entering the hive area, and that he’ll be fine.  We needed him to help time the process.  However, what Kyle didn’t realize, was bees don’t stay in a certain area, they’ll fly ten feet from the hive and certainly the five foot distance from were Kyle was standing.

On a side note, it’s pretty difficult moving around in the pitch black, wearing bee suits with a black mess intercepting our vision and leather gloves.  I’m just saying.

As with everything in life, we learn valuable lessons through experience, some faster lessons than others.  Dad and I didn’t smoke the bees first to calm them down, assuming the treatment wouldn’t be so negatively received.  Well it was!  As Dad and I stood there, the bees were actually hitting us, bouncing their bodies off of ours.  We didn’t get stung, but it felt like someone was throwing tiny rocks at us.  This chest bumping is a warning from the bees saying “I’m going to sting you if you don’t back off, I’m not happy.”  Next thing I heard was Kyle screaming, “Ooouch!”  and he took of running down the hill.  He even dropped his precious iPhone 6 were he once stood.  I’ve never seen that kid move so fast, not that I was able to really see him, but I can only imagine.  Dad and I thought he was being attached by a herd of bees.  Was he?  No!

Bee mite Treatment 7-17-15 Aunt Heather Piper

After things settled down and we completed our mission, we returned to the house.  I asked Kyle if he was alright and how bad was the attack.  Kyle pointed to a single spot on his arm.  I about died laughing.  Not because he was stung, I agree that hurts and that doesn’t make for a good day, but because he sounded like he was being mulled by our flying friends.  Even Dad joined in on the humor and all that fuss for a single sting.  Of course, if I was in his shoes, the fear of not being able to see and not knowing what to expect, would have been the worst part.  Then, naturally we added, “Why didn’t you wear the extra bee suit?” and “I guess you wished you were wearing the bee suit.”  Kyle simply snickered and ignored our teasing of the truth.  Originally Kyle argued and claimed he’d be fine without the suit.  I guess he was wrong.  I did tease him and mention, “Is that what it takes to get you off of your phone?”  Kyle only responded with a grunt.

Beekeeper Meeting Twitter feed 8-9-15 Aunt Heather Piper

What really happened, was Kyle freaked out over a single bee that landed on his arm and he swotted at it, resulting in a sting.  I’m guessing the bees weren’t even concerned with him in the slightest.  I told Kyle, “You shouldn’t have swotted at the bee.  Leave them alone and they won’t hurt you.”  Granted, that’s a general rule, but truly one worth trying.  The honey bees are pretty docile and don’t go attacking for no reason.  Again, this isn’t a one-hundred percent guarantee.

Do we have honey yet?  Alas, no.  We just checked recently, but they’re beginning to make the honey combs!

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At the beekeepers picnic / meeting in Stahlstown. To the left with her back towards us is my cousin Pat Piper. 8/9/15

Last weekend, I was able to discuss our bee experiences with others of like interest.  I was able to attend my first bee keepers meeting. This one happened to also be a picnic on the president of our organization’s farm.  What a great day!  They taught us about all things bees, the topic of this meeting was harvesting queen bees.  A subject I have no interest in, at least not at this stage of my beekeeping experience, but information worth noting.  They also gave a few life hacks and supplied information on wild flowers.  Dad was right when he said, “They’re all above our level of understanding and experience.”  However, everyone is really great and helpful.  These group of people are a wonderful resource.  Thanks to my cousin Pete (David) Piper, who got us into bees and supplied us with our first hive, we’re able to hang with him and his wife Pat at the meetings and discuss bees alongside others.

Kyle joined us at the picnic, but I don’t think he has an interest in bees.  Maybe later in life, or when his iPhone dies.

As you might imagine, the bee community is close-knit.  Recently, we received an email stating a bee keeper from Stahlstown was getting out of the bee business and was selling all his equipment and supplies.  Naturally, every bee keeper in the area swarmed to his house and raided his stock.  Dad and I were no exception.  Why not?  It’s a way to build a back log of needed material at a low investment.  We scored an electric bee extractor and bunch of boxes and inserts and even some plastic containers to bottle the honey.  Not only is obtaining these pieces valuable because they’re at a great price, but talking to an expert helps us learn.  He was a great guy who offered us a lot of advice.

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Wild flowers that bees LOVE! It’s good know this stuff! Beekeepers picnic / meeting 8/9/15

While speaking to this gentleman, who I know will miss his bees, I made him do a double take.  We were talking about wearing our bee suits, (he only ever wore his mask) and the number of times he was stung.  I mentioned that I’m allergic to bees so I always wear my bee suit.  He almost fell over with surprise.  Relax, I have yet to go into anaphylactic shock!

I know my garden is really flourishing and our fruit trees are producing so well because of our bees.  They’re a much needed asset to our existence, and they’re a truly interesting hobby.  I can’t wait till we get our very own swarm!

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Hiking & Outdoors,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Random Fun Facts,Reminiscing 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

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
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