Archive for the 'Reminiscing' Category

Happy Birthday Dad! 66-Years!

The best teachers impart knowledge through sleight of hand, like a magician.  Kate Betts

Happy Birthday Dad! January 16, 1951

Dad U Sonny Pap Gram Aunt Heather Piper

Dad, Uncle Sonny, Pap & Gram (plus a mystery person) at a mystery location during a mystery year.

Just to reiterate, Dad despises me talking about him online. (So don’t say anything)  I rarely do, at least he’s not the focus of most of my stories, except for today.

Dad’s added another digit to his age.  He’s still moving forward, a lot slower, but still going.  I couldn’t live without the old man.  It’s funny, I never realized it until recent times just how much Dad loves us, all of us.

Dad’s a unique individual, in more ways than one.  He truly loves us and always wishes the best for us in a selfless manner.  His heart is true.  He reminds me of my Pappy, Ryan and Kyle in that respect.  His definition of success isn’t the type of car a person drives or any other superficial means.  Nope.  His definition of a good person is how well they can shoot a gun.  (Half joking)  Dad looks at a person from the inside first, except when watching television, then he’s not so kind with his words.  I’m not saying Dad’s some holy person, not even close, but he is a decent guy.  A bit opinionated, and a many times irritating when he wants something done, but I’ll take that over someone who’s spiteful, materialistic and out for themselves any day.  I’m aware of Dad’s shortcomings and they’re trumped by his good qualities, in my opinion.

This past year we had a great hunting season.  I personally, had a record year, and Dad was excited about it.  Truly.  He’s so proud when I harvest a deer, I hear him telling EVERYONE.  Not only that, but when I’m a good shot and his friends witness it or even if they don’t, boy does Dad beam with delight.  He’s genuinely happy for me.

Dad & U Sonny on Ridge building grams house c.1953 Aunt Heather Piper

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

Before rifle season started, Dad went bow hunting and muzzle-loader.  I’m glad he has something he looks forward to doing and it keeps him moving.

As history dictates, we went hunting in New York, where I harvested a buck, and poor Dad didn’t see a single deer.  A week later, the Monday after Thanksgiving, we went hunting in Pennsylvania.  I filled most of my tags and Dad filled a couple.  The best part?  We had a great time together, especially sitting in a small tree stand with the big guy.  Sometimes he gets on my nerves and is a bit too serious, but other times he totally cracks me up.

During the hunting season, most of our conversations focus on Ryan and Kyle.  We all miss Ryan, but hunting season heightens Dad’s longing for his son.  That was their time together.  Every once in a while Dad would comment “Boy, Ryan would be enjoying himself”, or he’d say “I wish Kyle was here.”

We did more than hunt deer this year.  For the first time ever, I got to go pheasant (ringneck) hunting.  We had a blast!  When I was little, Dad used to bring home a pheasant periodically, so it’s not like I was unfamiliar with the birds but it was neat to be directly involved.  Dad and I went a couple of times and filled our limit of two birds each, both times.  Dad didn’t stop talking about it for weeks.  The first time we brought home our pheasants Kyle was home.  Without hesitation, Kyle helped up skin the birds.  Kyle wouldn’t gut them, but he did wash them out.  The best part of that day?  Kyle sat with me and Dad during the process and hung out, plus he learned the trait.  It was a nice time together.

Dad’s been doing a lot of goose hunting this year.  I joined him a few time and I know nothing would make him happier than if I’d go with him every day, but like I’ve told him, repeatedly, “I have to work.  I’m not retired.”  Occasionally, I sneak out but I can’t do it day in and day out like he wants to.  Even if I could, goose hunting doesn’t excite me that much.  Perhaps it’s because I’m not a fan of goose meat.  While we’re on it, I don’t even really like duck.

A funny trait about Dad?  He doesn’t look at himself as an old person.  In fact, he gets irritated with elderly people.  In many cases, they’re the same age as Dad!  Doesn’t that just crack you up?  I find such humor in Dad calling a person driving beside us “old”, when clearly they’re the same age.

One a side note, I have a funny story.  The other day I was walking through a store and this lady stopped me and asked if I was Ron Piper’s daughter.  Believe it or not, this has happened to me many, many times over the years.  She couldn’t remember my name, but she knew exactly who I was.  I’ve always been told I look like my Dad and more than not, I was told, in a negative way, that I act like him too.  I’m okay with that and I’m proud to be like Dad.  As it turns out, the lady was Shirley Achhammer, another relative.  How funny!

Happy Birthday old man.  Keep kicking and doing what you do!

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posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Family,Milestone,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Pumpkin Guts, No Thanks

Tis “the witching time of night”, / Orbed is the moon and bright, / And the stars they glisten, glisten, / Seeming with bright eyes to listen  ~John Keats

Happy Halloween or technically All Hallows’ Eve!

kyle-as-jay-jay-at-the-house-10-2004-aunt-heather-piper

Kyle as Jay Jay the Jet Plane, courtesy of Aunt Nikki at Gigi & Pappy’s house 10/2004

Did you know the root word of Halloween is ”hallow,” meaning ”holy?”  The suffix “een” is an abbreviation of “evening.” Halloween refers to the Eve of All Hallows, the night before All Saints’ Day, the Catholic Holy day that honors saints of the past and a time to pray for those in purgatory.  Note, anyone can pray for anyone, living or deceased at any time.

Just for a reference, All Saints’ Day is November 1st, followed by All Souls’ day on November 2nd.

It’s always this time of year, when I see the pumpkin patches full of kids and Jack-O-Lanterns light up doorsteps and windows that I can’t help but chuckling.  Why?  Kyle of course.

When Kyle was a little tyke, and into the recent few years before he gave up on the trick-or-treating tradition, pumpkin carving was always an issue.  Really?  You bet!

Kyle loved searching the pumpkin patches for the perfect pumpkin.  He loved selecting the largest pumpkin imaginable, even when he couldn’t pick it up.  Kyle truly loved the idea of Halloween and the activities that went with the holiday, event pumpkin carving.  However, Kyle never liked the actual carving of a pumpkin, not in the slightest.  Don’t believe me or think I’m exaggerating?  Not even close.

Halloween activities were never the same since the first time Kyle tried carving his pumpkin.  The moments leading up to this point where exciting and eventful.  It was all good and dandy until Kyle actually put his hand in the pumpkin.  As standard protocol dictates, I cut the top off of our pumpkins, Kyle wanted me to have a pumpkin too, and I showed him how to pull the guts out.  Kyle looked down into the center of his pumpkin, sniffed it, and hesitantly reached in.  What happened next took me by surprise and honestly baffled me a bit.

Kyle proclaimed he didn’t like the feeling of the guts on his hand and he wouldn’t continue.  Instead, he looked toward me to do his dirty work for him, literally.  At first, I thought he was being silly, but he was serious.

kyle-at-karens-as-jay-jay-10-2004-aunt-heather-piper

Kyle as Jay Jay the Jet Plane, Karen’s house 10/2004

After my shock wore off, I tried to work with Kyle and his pumpkin gut issue.  I gave him a long handled metal serving spoon to scrap the guts.  I thought this would get him past the beginning stages of the pumpkin carving activity and move him toward the actual carving fun.  Something I thought Kyle would enjoy.  Wrong.

Eventually, after I gutted my pumpkin, Kyle abandoned his and took ownership of my project.  He had a good time carving, but certainly not complete excitement like I was expecting.

Every year since, Kyle remembered that faithful day, and reiterated his disgust for pumpkin guts.  It really left an impression on him.  Kyle would prompt our pumpkin patch activity by telling me I had to gut his pumpkin.  Seriously!  Yes.  While walking through the pumpkin patch and making his selection, which always had to be bigger than mine, Kyle would state I was gutting his pumpkin for him.

Trying to get creative, I even had Kyle wear gloves one year, which worked out fine until his bare arms hit the side of the inner pumpkin wall and that ended that.  I should also add, Kyle never liked long sleeves, or cloths for that matter.

I even tried bribing him, yet he would not budge.

Another tradition is taking the seeds and roasting them with a little salt.  Kyle would not even entertain the idea of sorting through the pumpkin guts to retrieve the seeds.  He did eat the roasted pumpkin seeds, but that was about it.

Eventually, we would purchase pumpkins and Kyle would draw faces on them, and watch me carve my pumpkin.  Although, that didn’t really keep his interest for too long.  But I will say, Kyle loved watching the lit pumpkins sit on the porch banister at night.  Standing outside at night, staring upon the flicker light in the shape of a face would creep him out, but he loved it  That is, as long as someone stood with him.

kyle-as-jay-jay-at-latrobe-parade-10-2004-aunt-heather-piper

Kyle as Jay Jay the Jet Plane. 10/2004

This time of year makes me laugh out loud, every time I think of Kyle carving a pumpkin, or more accurately passing the carving buck.  Kyle was never shy about telling others about his pumpkin gut aversion.  Too funny!

As for the rest of the commercially celebrated Halloween celebration, Kyle adored.  The selecting a costume, getting dressed and receiving bag fulls of candy he could handle.

I say that, but there was a year that wasn’t exactly true.  The year when Kyle was Jay Jay the Jet Plane.  Would you believe Kyle wouldn’t put his costume on?  Why?  He thought he was going to take flight.  Seriously?  I’m not making this up.

My sister bought him that costume and it took a few attempts before he would put it on.  The first few Halloween activities we did that year, I had to walk around holding Kyle’s hand on my one side, while I carried his costume in the other hand.  That was one of those situations when I couldn’t stop laughing.  Eventually, he did wear the colorful costume, but it took a while, and I think it was after Halloween pasted.

My little guy, he has his quarks, which makes life interesting and fun.

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

15 Years of Missing Ryan, Another Year Closer to Him

Life seems sometimes like nothing more than a series of losses, from beginning to end. That’s the given. How you respond to those losses, what you make of what’s left, that’s the part you have to make up as you go.   ~Katharine Weber

September 24,  1977 – October 23, 2001

ryan-with-jim-confirmation-c-1990-aunt-heather-piper

Ryan’s confirmation at St. Vincent Basilica with his godfather, our cousin Jim Olczak. c. 1990

Every year it’s the same pattern of celebrating Kyle’s birthday in July, then observing Ryan’s birthday in September, then the reminder of Ryan’s death in October.  Not that I think of the later during Kyle’s month long birthday celebration, but I do reflect on it this time of year.

Kyle’s fifteen years old, the same number of years we’ve been trudging through life without Ryan.  The two will forever correlate, which I guess it’s fitting for Kyle to be tied to his Dad in an unconventional way.

Sometimes I wonder how Ryan would have adapted to the present world.  A lot has changed in fifteen years.  Ryan used a computer, only when needed, but would he have a smart phone?  Would he be in business for himself?  Would he be bald at the age of thirty-nine?  (My own little joke.  I always teased Ryan about going bald.  Not that I cared, but he did.)  Those are the thoughts that will never be turned into reality, merely kept as thoughts.  Although, I do know for certain, Ryan’s world would have revolved around Kyle, and Kyle would have greatly benefited from being raised by Ryan.

Recently, I had to give cliff notes of our family situation.  While chaperoning the band for the Latrobe football game at Latrobe, it wasn’t making sense to the band parents how Kyle and I knew the area so well.  Kyle actually told a few parents he lives in Latrobe, which he always did halftime.  It’s been a while since I had to give the family tree of how Kyle’s my nephew.  Sadly, yet proudly, I always state Kyle’s my brother’s kid.  Then, after a quizzical stare, I have to slightly elaborate that my brother passed away and my family is from Latrobe.  Do I mind?  Not really, I’d rather people know the truth.  Not that it changes anything, but it fills in the gaps for others and it shows just how important Kyle is to me.  Only if asked do I get into details, which again I don’t mind because fact is fact and it’s the way it is.

Sometimes I find peace thinking about the “What Ifs” and writing about Ryan and remembering my only brother, yet, sometimes it’s extremely difficult.  Which is it this time?  It’s a well guarded secret, but every day is a day I miss Ryan, and some are still harder than others.  Admittedly, it was difficult getting out of bed today.

I sit here wishing Kyle would call me to spend the day together, but I know he had a busy weekend of band, and I’m sure he’s tired and wants to loaf around.  Kyle has always been the one constant that eases my grief, even when he’s not in close proximity.  Although, today I’m missing Ryan AND Kyle.

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

Arnold Palmer was Already a Legend

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

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

September 10, 1929 – September 25, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts,Reminiscing,Travels and have No Comments

Happy Birthday Ryan!

Each of us has a unique part to play in the healing of the world.  ~Marianne Williamson

Happy 39th Birthday Ryan!

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Me, Ryan, Nicole, Jeremy & Chad Piper Easter 1981

Today, Ryan would have turned 39 years old, and his son Kyle, is a teenager of 15 years.  I can honestly say, I miss Ryan today like I did when he passed.  Maybe a little more, just in a different way.

It’s weird, talking about a person’s birthday and in the same breath their death.  Like it or not, I guess that’s the circle of life.  Although, Ryan’s life circle was a bit shorter than anticipated and there are so many holes missing,  I can only guess or imagine how they would have unfolded.

Since Kyle was Ryan’s everything, it would have been fun to watch Ryan parent and influence Kyle in all his activities, including band.

I bet Ryan would have been a band chaperone or at the very least helped in some way.  Would I have been a band chaperone if Ryan was alive?  You bet I would!  With or without Ryan, I’m there to support my little man, and in turn I would have supported Ryan too.  In fact, Ryan probably would have leaned on me to be involved, especially since I was as in band myself.

Ryan would have encouraged Kyle in school to keep up his grades, and he certainly would have welcomed my assistance.  Ryan would have played a huge influence in Kyle’s hunting and fishing activities, not that my dad doesn’t now.  It would be nice to go hunting with Ryan again, or even sit on a river bank and cast a few lines.

Usually when it’s one of our birthday’s we get a hold of Kyle to call the celebratory person to wish them a happy birthday.  However, with Ryan, it would only be a reminder of someone not present, at least physically.  Someone Kyle only knows from stories.  Kyle is the one who lost the most when Ryan passed away.

Kyle’s a busy boy, but I hope he always remembers his family and his dad.  While Kyle never remembered meeting Ryan, Ryan loved Kyle more than anything and would have done anything for that kid.  I hope Kyle realizes that one day and knows who truly is there for him.

Happy Birthday Ryan!

Leave Ryan a birthday wish.  Kyle would love to see it one day.

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posted by auntheather in Church,Family,Milestone,News,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Let the Fishing Begin!

Nothing whets the intelligence more than a passionate suspicion, nothing develops all the faculties of an immature mind more than a trail running away into the dark.  ~Stefan Zweig

Youth Fishing Loyalhanna Kyle 4-9-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle too cool (literally) to stand, leaned against the bushes & fell… I laughed! Loyalhanna Creek 4/9/16

Youth fishing was last Saturday.  Did we take Kyle?  You bet we did.  He really does love fishing.  Hunting he could take it or leave it, and over the last couple years he left it, (I know he’ll be back) yet fishing has always remained.

I too like to fish, although if I had my choice I’d much rather hunt.  Why?  Simply because in hunting season, I like to walk around the woods, pushing deer or just roaming around.  I like being among the trees, I feel at home.  Fishing is great, but sitting for long hours isn’t my thing, not to mention, I have a serious aversion to mosquitoes, which always accompany the riverbanks and lakes and warm weather.

Ryan loved fishing, and hunting too.  It seemed he did more fishing, but perhaps that’s due to the longer season.  Usually he fished with dad, his friends, friends of the family and my uncle and cousins.  He fished!

It’s nice to see Kyle having something in common with his Dad, especially one that my Dad, Kyle’s Pappy, enjoys as much.

Every time I think of Ryan fishing, the image of him drowning comes to mind.  On one such fishing excursion to the local creeks, Uncle Sonny took Ryan and I believe my two cousins, Chad and Jeremy.  I’m sure there was a group of them, but I don’t remember.  Naturally, they were wearing waders, you know those rubber overalls.  I guess Ryan tripped or slipped or something and fell into the water.  Many times when that happens, depending on the speed of the creek and the position of the person in the water etc., the water can drag a person down and create a suction effect.  Ultimately, drowning the unfortunate fisherman.  From what I remember of the stories told, that’s what happened to Ryan, who never liked water in his face and was a panicky swimmer anyway.  Scary stuff!  Uncle Sonny had to pull him up out of the water, essentially saving his life.  I don’t know if he was really on the brink of death, or Ryan just panicked, but it happened.

Youth Fishing Loyalhanna Creek 4-9-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle has casting down pretty good… he’s a pretty good fisherman, now baiting his own hook! Loyalhanna Creek 4/9/16

I’m never worried about Kyle and water.  I know things can happen, and quickly, but Kyle doesn’t have a sense of panic in the water.  I’ve had him in swimming lessons since he was little, around five or six.  He went once a week until he was about twelve or so.  He LOVED his swimming days.  He used to draw pictures of the pool at the YMCA, and include his name on one side of this blue area on the paper, and the capital letter H on the other side, where I sat watching him.  I took him when he went from the small pool and graduated to the big pool, from the shallow end to the ultimate depths of the water.  He loved diving deep underwater.  In fact, he loved being completely submerged.  Kyle is very secure with his swimming abilities, as am I.

This past Saturday, would have been a very cold day to make contact with the water.  Dad and I took Kyle fishing, with the many other little munchkins lining the Loyalhanna Creek with their batman and barbie fishing pools.  Dad and I got a chuckle out of that, too cute!  It wasn’t that long ago Kyle was there, but now he’s graduated to the adult size reel and pole.  Come to think of it, I believe Kyle took my Dad’s fishing pole on Saturday.  He’s too much!

Dad and I were permitted to catch and release, but I didn’t want to.  I preferred watching Kyle fish.  He was only allowed to catch two trout, but hey, it was the experience I enjoyed.

Now the typical Kyle we’ve all grown to know and love, or at least accept.  While getting ready to leave, I told him it was really cold out and it would be colder down by the creek.  Kyle’s response, “I’ll be fine.”  Ignoring him and knowing better, I gave him long underwear.  He gave me a look of “Ya right” but actually dressed in the set, while only adding jeans and a t-shirt.  Although, he did take my thickest hoodie.  I asked him, do you want a pair of gloves?  Kyle’s response, “No, I’ll be fine.”  Then I stated, “Kyle I want you to wear a hat or something over your ears.”  After he rolled his eyes at me, he responded, “I’ll be fine.”  Right!  I know I’ve been mistaken for being psychic, but honestly I’ve been through this same scenario many times before.

Youth Fishing Loyalhanna Kyle 4-9-16 Kyle & Dad Aunt Heather Piper

Yep, Pap has fallen prey to modern times… he’s on his cell. Kyle & I laughed at him. Loyalhanna Creek 4/9/16

We get to the creek and choose a seat on the wall, overlooking the water.  No more than twenty minutes passed, and Kyle started complaining how cold he was.  He wasn’t exaggerating either, I could tell he was really cold.  Mostly he complained about his hands being frozen, go figure.  “Kyle, do you want my gloves?”  Without hesitation and without modesty, he answerd “Okay!”.  So there went my hunting gloves.   They’re warm too!  They’re the kind of gloves with the cut out fingers for mobility, and the tops flip up into mittens for complete fleece warmth.  Awesome gloves!  I actually did prepare for Kyle asking for my gloves, and I brought a spare pair of snowboarding gloves, however they were back at the car.  No worries, I kept my hands in my hunting coat and I was toasty.

A child down the creek from us, caught a really nice sized trout, but no luck on our side.  It’s funny, Dad really enjoyed watching the boy reel in his fish and get excepted over his catch.  He was so happy for that child!  Kyle, didn’t really care.  He only kept commenting on how cold it was and was hinting around of leaving.  I wasn’t too happy about that, only because he was too stubborn to dress appropriately, and now I missed going to the gym.  I don’t mind standing there, but Kyle better be fishing and not complaining.

Soon, we left that spot for another, and to warm up in the car.  Dad drove down the opposite side of Route 30 to find another spot, one he’s never fished before.  It was great!  A nice spot where the river was running a little faster than our previous spot, assisting with the snags, and right along the water.

As we stood there, in the snow, yes, the beginning of April and it was snowing, it was quite the sight when the snow started flying.  Kyle was amazed that we were fishing among large fluffy snowflakes.  Dad’s response, “Oh, I’ve fished in worse weather than this before.”  He began to tell Kyle about some of his fishing adventures in Michigan.  The sky was completely overcast, not letting a bit of light shine through.  Kyle joined my gaze and made the same observation.  Just then Dad said, “If the sun would start shinning, I bet the fish would bite.”

Youth Fishing Loyalhanna Kyle & Dad 4-9-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Look closely, you’ll see Kyle in my hunting gloves… Loyalhanna Creek 4/9/16

Next thing you knew, the clouds parted ever so slightly and the sun shined down on us.  Not for long, but enough and soon Dad got a nibble.  He turns to Kyle to offer him the honor of reeling it in.  Without thinking twice, Kyle handed me his pole and to0k over Dad’s, like he was the professional among us.  Too funny!  Dad gave me a big smile.  It was like Kyle was five again.  He reeled in the Rainbow and was as happy as I’ve seen him in a while.  The trout was legal, and Kyle decided to keep it.

Not surprising, Kyle took over his Pappy’s spot and began casting into the water.  Dad laughed and took a seat on a rock to let Kyle have the run of the area.  I stood by in support, with net in hand.  It didn’t take long for Kyle to get another bite.  He was excited and reeled in another Rainbow, instructing me to get the net out.  Dad yelled over, “I think that’s bigger than the last one!”  Kyle’s eye got big and looked toward his catch.  It was slightly larger, a perfect size fish!  Way to go!

Kyle's picture of the YMCA pool c. 2007 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle’s artistic expression of swimming lessons at the YMCA with me. I think I’m the capital H c. 2007

Kyle decided to keep both fish, meaning we were done fishing for the day.  Now who gets to clean up the prizes?  Me?  YES, me!  In the freezing cold.  Dad remained on his rock, and I thought for a moment, he was going to make Kyle clean his own fish, but instead had me do it.  Kyle smiled knowing I didn’t want to pull my hands out of my pockets.  (I don’t mind cleaning the fish)  Kyle helped me by handing me the fish.  Did I mention he was still wearing my hunting gloves?  I guess now they smell like fish!

My hands were freezing!  As I was descaling the fish, Dad kept commenting, “Make sure you get all the scales off.” and “Get between the fins.”  Kyle stood there watching me snickering.  I was ready to kill them both, stinkers!  My hands were turning blue.  Then, while gutting the fish and rinsing them off in the ice cold water, my hands became numb and stinging.  I was barely able to move them.

We raced back to car and Dad cranked the heat.  We did have a very fun and successful day.  I’m glad I tagged along and helped out.

Did we eat the catch?  You bet we did.  Everyone shared in the small feast.

Tomorrow is the first day of fishing for everyone.  Dad has our spots mapped out and planned.  It looks like it’s going to be a nice day, which means a lot of fishermen.  I hope we’re blessed with a good catch and a nice time.  Dad’s already planning on smoking our plenty.

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

A Pillow of Memories

I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.  ~Laura Ingalls Wilder

Pappy & Kyle on Pillow c. 2003 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle snuggling up with his beloved pappy on his pillow. c. 2003

Looking at Kyle from a distance, he’s definitely more a man than a little boy.  He’s nearly as tall as me, leaned out and he’s even carrying himself with purpose.  However, every now and again he does something that screams little boy, and I can’t help but notice and smile.

This past Saturday, we were watching The Hobbit:  Desolation of Smaug.  (for the countless time, it’s one of our favorite movie series)  True to Kyle’s idiosyncrasies, he turned off all the lights to set the movie watching mood, then he pulled up a pillow.  Okay, pulling up a pillow to get comfortable isn’t weird, but he pulled up the dog’s bed and proceeded to snuggle in, right in front of the television, on the floor.

You see, when Kyle as a little tyke he loved to sprawl out on the floor in front of the boob tube.  He would try and get as close as humanly possible.  It became an issue with us having to pull him back, while he always protested.  Eventually, we came to an agreement and he knew where the line was established.  I’m guessing that was ingrained in Kyle, because he stayed at the borderline on Saturday.

The action with dog pillow cracked me up too.  When Kyle was a baby, four months old to be exact, right after his dad passed away, I painted and redecorated Ryan’s old bedroom at my parent’s house for Kyle, since we knew he’d be living with us part-time.  I also wanted him to feel he was always welcomed and was at home.  (Kyle has a room at my house too.)  I embellished Kyle’s room with items for children, while leaving little pieces of his dad here and there.  To really polish off the child’s domain, I made Kyle curtains.  The fabric I chose had red trucks and dogs printed on solid blue, red, white and yellow blocked backgrounds.  I even embellished the curtains with large primary colored buttons.  They were very cute and cheerful, especially considering our state of mind at that time, dealing with the loss of Ryan.  Anyway, upon completion of the curtains, I realized I had a lot of extra fabric left.  What to do with the material?  Turn it into an over-sized pillow of course.  I stitched up the rectangle sides and made Kyle a huge pillow, roughly twenty-four inches by thirty-six inches.  It took a lot of stuffing, but I made this, unbeknownst to me at the time, favorite pillow of Kyle’s.

Pappy Kyle & Jake with Pillow Aunt Heather Piper c. 2004

Kyle hanging with Pap & Jake, the pillow was always nearby. c. 2004

Naturally, when Kyle was a baby, he didn’t really take notice to the pillow.  As he grew older, I’d find him dragging it throughout the house to lay on, or he used it as a nesting spot to play with his cars and trucks.  Soon, when he discovered cartoons, Jay Jay the Jet Plane, Thomas the Tank, Bear in the Big Blue House, and George Shrinks (Kyle and my dad’s favorite) to name a few, Kyle would  pull that pillow in prime watching position on the floor, which were hardwood, for ultimate viewing comfort.

Kyle loved that pillow!  Even though I don’t think he remembers it nowadays.  So much so, that eventually the once fluffy pillow became beat down and lumpy, especially after many justified washes.  Eventually, I opened up the stitching, and replaced the stuffing to get a few more years out of it.  Back then, Kyle loved doing anything with me, and he certainly assisted with the process, which I very much enjoyed.

To be honest, I’m really not sure when we decided to give up on the pillow, and tossed it once and for all, but it no longer resides on the floor, in front of the television.  That place is reserved for the dogs.  I’m sure before removing that staple from the house, I consulted Kyle on the decision, to avoid a childhood scar like I endured regarding my banky (blanket).  I’ll explain that situation one day.

Now the present, and Kyle’s on the dog’s therapeutic bed, which he drug in front of the television to watch the movie in the dark.  Just like old times.  My little man’s still in there!  Kyle will always be my little man!

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

Sounds of Deep Sleep … Purrrrr

I went to collect the few personal belongings which…I held to be invaluable: my cat, my resolve to travel, and my solitude.  ~Colette

Storm in Suitcase 2014 Aunt Heather Piper

While packing for Davey’s wedding in Minnesota, I turned around to find this … guess Lady Fluffington wanted to come too 4/2014

Picture it, I was laying on my back, head propped up on my pillow, fast asleep, enjoying some much needed rest, when something woke me from my dream state.  Was it someone?  No.  Was it a noise?  No.  Was it a feeling?  No.  Was it a ghost?  No.

As I was minding my own business, Storm a.k.a. Lady Fluffington got into bed and took up space next to my head.  Is that unusual?  No, but what she did was never done before, at least not to my knowledge.  She deliberately laid her furry tail across my face.  Now that was a first!  I was actually half awake and half asleep, moving my head from side to side, blowing puffs of air out of my mouth and nose, like you do with a piece of fuzz, trying to remove the tickle from my skin.  Even through those actions, I still couldn’t pull myself completely out of sleep, to fully comprehend what was happening.

The best part?  Her tail rested under my nose on my upper lip!  If someone actually saw that, that would have been hilarious!

Instead of rolling over or removing the fuzzy extremity from my face, still half asleep, I began to pet Lady Fluffington as an automated response.  Really?  What can I say?  I’m a sucker for that little ball of fur.  Well, naturally her reaction was to start purring.  That did it for me, I actually fell back asleep with her tail across my face, to wake in the morning fully rested.  Once the purr engine rolled to life, I don’t remember another minute of the situation.

Storm-on-Grape-Harbor-9-2-13-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Lady Fluffington getting back to her wild side… among the grapes 9/2/13

Seriously?  Oh, yes!  Forget the babbling brook, the crashing waves, or the sounds of nature, a cat’s purr can put me in a sleep comma, instantly.

Ever since I was a little girl, I’d be playing with my cats on the porch in the summer, they’d start purring and I’d wake up hours later, alongside my cats.  If you add being in close proximity to their soft warm fur, combined with the purr vibrations, it’s a lethal dosage of sleep medication for me.

As I was telling the tail (pun intended) of Lady Fluffington and how I fell asleep, would you believe no one understood the sedative effects of a cat’s purr?  I’m talking about cat people.  I get it if you’re strictly a dog person, which I happen to love my Seven too, but he has the opposite effects on me.  Nope, I have yet to meet anyone who shares my kryptonite for a cat’s purr.  Am I alone?

Only after I awoke, I realized Storm’s food bowl was empty and then my mind rushed back to the incidence, recalling that darn tail.  My guess?  She tried to wake me for a midnight snack.  Well, the joke’s on her!  She put me into a deep sleep for the duration of the night or morning or whatever time it was.

If you have trouble sleeping, try curling up to a purring cat.  I’m tell you, it does the trick every time!  Sweet dreams.

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Family,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Pets,Reminiscing 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)

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

Happy Birthday Ryan!

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately… ~Henry David Thoreau

Happy 38th Birthday Ryan!

Believe it or not, Ryan would’ve been 38-years old today!  He just turned 24 when he pertinently went to his grand woods in the sky.

Ryan with his boss 1996 Aunt Heather Piper

Ryan joking with his old boss at Ryan’s graduation party. Like me, Dad & Kyle, Ryan carried the sarcasm gene & the sweet tooth. 1996

A fun fact, something I’ve noticed more recently, I use Ryan’s birthday as our birth date for Thrill of the Hunt.  Really?  Yes, not the year, but I always claim September 24, 2012 as the beginning of Thrill of the Hunt.  To be honest, it was September of 2012 that we sold our very first private scavenger hunt.  I could probably find out the true date, but in all reality which date do I credit?  When we received our first proposal, the approval for the quote, or when the scavenger hunt took place?  We also held our very first public scavenger hunt on September 22nd of that year.  In fact, I believe our corporate paperwork went through in 2011, not that we did anything with the company until later.  September became our breakout month.  So yes, Ryan and Thrill of the Hunt share the same date of birth.  It’s my way of including Ryan in our adventures.

To be honest, I got the idea from another event.  This might be silly, but the town of Forks, Washington, holds September 13th as Stephenie Meyer day, actually, they call it “Forever twilight in Forks.”  You know the lady who brought Twilight to the masses and brought a little unknown town to the world.  In the book, September 13th is Bella’s, the main character’s, birthday.  In honor of Stephenie Meyer, the town holds this day, and the days surrounding it, as a time of celebration and to pay homage for everything the author did to their dying town.  I liked that idea, and wanted to include Ryan in on Thrill of the Hunt in a subtle way, besides Kyle’s involvement in the company.

I’ve had some ask me if Kyle knows who Ryan is?  Yes he does.  But Ryan, his dad, doesn’t mean the same to Kyle as Ryan meant to us.  It’s a shame, considering between Kyle’s birth and nearly three months, Ryan already showed traits of being a stellar dad.  Perhaps down the road, Kyle will feel a connection with Ryan, maybe one unique to them.  I hope so.  I’d like to think Ryan’s always with Kyle, and Ryan’s looking out for our little teenager.

Happy birthday little brother, you’re still remembered and in our hearts, always.  One day we’ll run through the woods together again, this time no mosquitos!

 

 

 

posted by auntheather in Church,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts,Reminiscing,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts and have No Comments

Busy Little Bees

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

Beekeepers-Picnic-cupcakes-8-9-15-Aunt-Heather-Piper

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!

Beekeepers-Picnic-8-9-15-Aunt-Heather-Piper

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!

Beekeepers-Picnic-Meeting-8-9-15-Aunt-Heather-Piper

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.

Beekeepers-Picnic-wild-flowers-8-9-15-Aunt-Heather-Piper

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

Happy Birthday Kyle! 14 Years!

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

Happy 14th Birthday Kyle!

Kyle-with-dolphins-on-cruise-6-2015-Aunt-Heather-Piper

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

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

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

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

Kyle-at-Seabase-for-5th-birthday-7-2005-Aunt-Heather-Piper

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unconventional Gifts

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

Kyle-in-plane-7-30-2010-Aunt-Heather-Piper

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.

Kyle-on-bumper-cars-Seabase-7-2005-Aunt-Heather-Piper

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

Piano-Recital-5-17-09-Aunt-Heather-Piper

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

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

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

Entertainment/Culture/Education

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

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

Kyle's-Pig-Aunt-Heather-Piper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Out of the Ordinary/Adventure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discovering Our Own Backyard – Johnstown
Memories Sewn Into a Quilt

 

 

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued…

 

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