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Honoring a Fallen Friend With Music – Please Donate

Music, once admitted to the soul, becomes a sort of spirit, and never dies.  ~Edward Bulwer-Lytton

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Kyle & his fellow sousaphone members performing Nemesis 2016

I’ve talked about Chaperoning the Kiski Area Marching Band and being a band chaperone.  I truly love being apart of this organization, not only for Kyle’s sake but for all the students who work so very hard.  They’re a great group of students, staff and parents.

A few months ago, I was asked to take over the Kiski Bands social media.  Did I accept?  Of course.  I was honored to use my marketing experience and skills to help promote this talented and dedicated group.  Even though I’m still in the process of systematizing their online efforts, I was able to finalize a press release, one that needs to be shared far and wide.

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Kiski Area Marching Band performing Nemesis 2016

This past June, I addressed Dealing With Loss, the tragic accident that claimed the life of Nicholas Ursiny, a member of the Kiski Area Bands and a friend of Kyle’s.  I’m no stranger to tragedy, loss or grief, and I know nothing can truly ease the sadness when dealing with this emotionally powerful trio, but there are numerous ways to work through the heartache.  Many times God presents opportunities to help us heal and cope, and this one comes in the form of music.

The band directors and the student leadership collaborated to present a unique and truly inspirational opportunity for everyone to be involved and honor a young man, taken too soon.  How?  Through music of course.  The Kiski Area Bands is in the process of collecting monetary contributions to commission an original piece of music to honor Nick.  Once the music is completed, the bands will present this tribute in concert, open to the public for all to hear and enjoy.

This memorial will last a lifetime and beyond, and could touch the lives of countless souls, even those unaware of its origins.

Please help the Kiski Area Bands fulfill their mission of honoring one of their own through music.  All donations, made in any increment, may be made to:

KAIB (Kiski Area Instrumental Boosters)
c/o Nicholas Ursiny Memorial Commission
P.O. Box 124
Vandergrift, PA 15690
www.KiskiBands.org

I hope the next time I talk about this personal tribute, it will be while listening to the piece of music written specifically for Nick.  This gesture, however original and appropriate, won’t heal the hearts of those effected by Nick’s death, but it does give the students, teachers, staff and parents a goal to work towards and night of celebrating Nick’s life for all to hear.

Below is the original press release.  Please contact me at Heather@AuntHeather.com with any questions, suggestions or inquires.  Thank you in advance for taking the time to hear this story.

Kiski Band Raising Money for Nicholas Ursiny Memorial Commission

Nick Ursiny, a Kiski Band Member Passed Away In a Tragic Accident

December 14, 2016 – The Kiski Area Bands from Vandergrift, Pa. need help to complete their goal of raising $5,000 to commission a new piece of music composition in memory of Nicholas Ursiny, a Kiski Area Band student who tragically passed away in June. Thanks to generous donations, the Kiski Area Bands have raised approximately $3,500 and is asking to help close the gap for this unique memorial. Donations may be issued to KAIB (Kiski Area Instrumental Boosters) www.kiskibands.org/contact.

Nicholas Ursiny, a student at the Kiski Area High School, was going into his sophomore year. He was a member of the horn/mellophone section in the Kiski Area Bands and played French horn in the concert bands before a tragic accident claimed his life this past June. To keep the spirit of Nicholas alive, the Kiski Marching Band student leadership worked with directors, Robert Traugh, Chad Heiny and Shawn Pityk, to develop the idea of honoring Nicholas through a piece of commissioned music.

“This project is simple and heartfelt, offering the opportunity for all who were shocked by this tragedy to create a lasting memorial through music to a life lost too soon.” said Robert Traugh, Band Director of the Kiski Area Bands. “Nick was a valuable part of our organization and was truly missed this past season.”

Donations from friends, family, students and faculty have been gratefully received. Neighboring bands, Norwin, Gateway, Connellsville, Highlands and Mars, have paid their respects and generously donated to the Nicholas Ursiny Memorial Commission.

“The band is a close-knit community of passionate and talented individuals. While we compete against each other; we’re all family and we fully support each other.” Traugh replied. “We’ve been blessed with many donations and we hope to begin the process for this musical tribute and engage a composer soon.”

Information on the commissioned composer will be available as soon as the completed funds are available. Members of the Kiski Area Bands will premiere the piece of music in concert, open to the public.

For more information on the Kiski Area Bands including a list of events, concerts and competitions visit www.kiskibands.org.

About Kiski Area Bands

Kiski Area Bands, apart of the Kiski Area School District is from Vandergrift, Pa., about 35 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, Pa. Kiski Area Bands is a student organization lead by Band Directors Robert Traugh, Chad Heiny and Shawn Pityk and is comprised of students from grades five through twelve. The Kiski Area Marching Band is a division of the Kiski Area Bands consisting of students from grades ninth through twelfth.

KAIB (Kiski Area Instrumental Boosters)
P.O. Box 124
Vandergrift, PA 15690
www.KiskiBands.org

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posted by auntheather in Church,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,News,Patience and have No Comments

Good Samaritans Do Exist

Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone.
Kindness in another’s trouble,
Courage in your own.  ~Adam Lindsay Gordon

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My Aunt & Uncles house in the snow. The view from my parents front yard. 2015

A little over a week ago, on December 14th, I was heading out to the Pittsburgh Airport, traveling to North Carolina for work.  The Pittsburgh weather was typical, all over the board and unpredictable. Earlier in the week it was warmer and raining, and yet the day before I left it snowed.  On a side note, it was a beautiful white fluffy snow that outlined everything with white detail.  The type of snow I wish we had for Christmas.  The roads weren’t great but manageable.  Being a seasoned Pittsburgh driver, that didn’t stop me, well not totally.  As I was heading westbound on I-376, I hit a patch of ice and spun out of control, bouncing off of the Jersey barrier a few times before coming to a stop, facing oncoming traffic.

By the grace of God I wasn’t really hurt, except for a burn on my hand from the airbag and a little whiplash.  Plus, no one else was involved just me, myself and I.  The other drivers on the road including myself, were all maintaining safe speeds and keeping safe distances around in the event there was black ice.  There was!  My fellow morning drivers were able to watched the accident, plus they had time to stop and assist.  Did I also mention it was about 6:30 a.m. and the roads were pitch black except for the reflection of headlights?  Not ideal conditions but you gotta work with what you have.

Was I upset?  Sure.  To be honest, at first I was in a little shock, everything happened so fast.  Both airbags deplored, the car was undriveable, I caused the backed up traffic and I was so close to the airport.  It wasn’t a great way to start the morning, nor was it a great way to begin my journey to the south.

That was the bad news and now the good.  Good?  You bet, dealing with actual tragedy, which this wasn’t, I’ve come to appreciate the good in every situation.  This accident was no exception.  Here’s my list that I’m thankful for.  I wasn’t really hurt, people stopped to help and call the emergency personnel, no one else was involved, I had plenty of time to get to the airport without missing my flight, the entire incident took only a half an hour from the accident till I was on my way, and a good Samaritan really went above and beyond.

I’ve come to realize that out of bad incidences, good always has an opportunity to make its appearance and normally does.

The one car behind me containing a lady, was on her way to work.  She stopped and stayed with me the entire time!  In fact, I remember later, right after the accident, once my car came to a stop, my hand was burning and I smelled this stink.  Initially, I thought the car was on fire but it turned out it was the powder from the airbags.  I got out of the car on I-376 to walk away from vehicle not paying attention I was on a major interstate, at night.  Also, for some reason, I thought I was on the other side of the road, probably because my car was facing the wrong direction.  I do remember this lady stopping across from me in the slow lane and asking if I was fine.  My response?  “I’m not sure.”  She walked me off the road and that’s when everyone jumped into action to help.  It was a big blur for the better part of the situation, I was a little out of it.

A local cop showed up to assist before turning it over to the state cop, who was also a good person.  He even called the tow truck and released me before it came so I wouldn’t miss my flight.

My good Samaritan, which I did get her name but I don’t want to release it without her consent, went above and beyond.  Not only did she assist me, and stayed with me along the side of the highway, offering her vehicle to sit inside and stay warm, she also drove me the rest of the way to the airport.  Seriously?  YES!  Granted, I wasn’t that far from my final destination, but I can’t believe her kindness.  She called her work to tell them she would be a little late, too.  Guess what?  She was also a member of our armed forces!  That does not surprise me.  She serves our country and now she’s extending her kindness to a stranger.  In addition to uncovering her name, I also found out she’s an electrician with the air force, and she had a baby boy.  I wish her all the happiness in the world.  One day I hope to pay her back by paying it forward and using her actions as the standard for being a good person in the event of an accident.

My good Samaritan wasn’t the only person who stopped and assisted.  There were several genuinely sincerely people who made phone calls and checked in on me.  I truly can’t thank all those people enough.  Pittsburgh is really a very friendly city and I think we have an over abundance of good Samaritans.  I wish we could put that on a license plate.

I hope this story is an inspiration to everyone.

Have a very Merry Christmas and a happy and safe New Year!

12/30/16 Update – I received this flyer in the mail the other day.  I’ve receive it before but never paid much attention, since I never really drove the Honda, but this time it meant something.

There was recall on my car because the airbags contained metal fragments and were known to kill or injure the passengers when deflated.  Seriously?  Yes.  Can you imagine the sickening feeling I received upon seeing this candy-cane stripped oversized flyer?  Even though I was the only one in the accident, it still could have been a fatal.

I never addressed the problem because I was always too busy, forgot or like I mentioned, didn’t really think anything of it since I didn’t drive the Honda much.  It just goes to show just how blessed and fortunate I am.  I’m guessing my brother has a full time job looking out for me.

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

Don’t Hide Behind Love

Whatever it is you’re seeking won’t come in the form you’re expecting.  ~Haruki Murakami

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Trump house Youngstown, PA 2016

I believe, respecting the opinions of others is the first step to living in peace and understanding.  I’m not saying accepting morally wrong choices and actions, or approving criminal activity.  No.  Those are simply wrong and should not be tolerated or even considered.  There are many opinions and different ways of handling situations, some better than others.  Everyone working for the betterment of the people with truly good intentions, needs to be given a chance.  Let’s face it, the best way to handle a problem is to work together to find a solution, not create more problems.

Sure everyone has a right to protest and speak their voice, but when it’s done as a temper tantrum with complete disrespect, and then done alongside criminal activity, it’s simply wrong.  It’s abuse of a right.  Naturally, I’m referring to all the riots surrounding our President Elect Donald Trump.

The protesters are speaking for women’s right, immigration reform, and healthcare issues, among others.  At least that’s what their signs say and it appears on the surface.  Yes, those are some problems plaguing our country and certainly hot topics.  Agreed.  However, those topics are going to be addressed from our new president, at least that’s what’s promised.  It’s certainly not going to happen through violent and anger.

When it comes down to it, the protesters are displaying a complete lack of respect for our voting process, its citizens, and the American way.  Let’s cut to the chase, the protesters, are only mad because their candidate didn’t win.  End of story.  There wouldn’t be any riots if the outcome were different and yet, we’d have the same problems.  In fact, no one was rioting regarding those issues with our current administration.  These problems didn’t just surface.  They’re the same issues our president elect will be inheriting because our past administration didn’t address the problems properly or successfully.  Donald Trump didn’t cause them.   Sure his solutions seem a bit unconventional, but maybe that’s what we need turn our country around.

american-flag-taken-in-texas-aunt-heather-piper-2016To make things worse, Trump supporters have been attacked and physically beaten nearly to death.  Is that right way to handle your opinion?  No.  That’s taking those voters’ rights, and their right to basically live freely in the United States, the land of the free.  That’s just plain wrong.  Now to add more to this injustice, the protesters are looting and destroying personal and commercial property.  This is insane.  How are those actions solving any problems?  It’s not.  It’s only creating more problems without solutions.  Common sense needs to be reviewed and noted.  Those actions are hidden under one reason, but are really for selfish, destructive and disrespectful reasons that resemble anarchy, not what this nation stands for.  Get the irony?

The sad part?  Many of the protesters interviewed didn’t even vote!  What is wrong with these people?  Fighting for rights is good.   Leading with emotion is not wrong, but it is when it takes over common sense and breaks laws.  The protesters are basically saying my vote was not important, and only their opinion should be heard.  That’s also saying those that give respect and obey laws shouldn’t have a vote, or be bullied for different opinions?  I thought we lived in a Republic and not a dictatorship?  That’s not only disrespectful for the winner, Donald Trump, who won fair and square, but it’s also insulting to those who supported and voted for him, which was the majority.

It’s also a shame that we live in a society that doesn’t know how to loose and take it gracefully.  Basically, a society that’s never been told NO.  They think they have the right because they can scream and shout, throw a punch and steal at random.  No one is benefiting from their wasted energy, and they’re only showing they’re a bunch of spoiled brats.  I personally know those types of people, that throw a tantrum when they’re told NO or proven wrong.  They’re also the type that needs to be humbled and never given power, because if they do, they abuse it.

Personally, I didn’t vote for Obama, neither time, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt, both times.  I was willing to work with our new leader for the betterment of our country.  There wasn’t major chaos when he was voted in, and yet he wasn’t liked by everyone.

A few months ago, I read the book The Girls by Emma Cline.  Just to give an overview, it’s a fictional book interweaving a young girl, Evie, among the actions of the Manson family.  Really a neat twist.  It’s told through Evie’s eyes as an adult, recollecting those days.  I’ve also read Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry.  Both books tell the accounts of the Manson family and their facade of being peace loving children.  However, what really happened?  That love was disguised as pure hate and selfishness.  Manson came across as loving and free at first, yet his underlying true nature slowly worked its way out, in the form of hate, resulting in murder, control and abuse of youngsters.  If Manson got his own way and became a rock star and was praised in the media, like he wanted, then possibly history would’ve been written differently.  Instead, Manson threw a temper tantrum, an extreme one, and he was the louder voice to recruit others, who followed him without using common sense.  Sound familiar?  Mason wanted attention like a child and wanted his own way.

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The American flag standing proudly. Taken in Texas, 2016

Instead of wasting energies for negative rioting, vandalism and violence, use it to support a good cause, comfort someone who lost a family member or friend to a terminal illness, adopt a pet, volunteer with the elderly, or spend your Saturday mornings picking up trash to make America beautiful and clean instead of being the cause of the trash.

Our soon to be president is already moving in a positive direction.  It’s no secret our country and it’s people are in a financial rut, to put it mildly.  Donald Trump has already announced he will take office without a salary.  That alone says a lot to his true purpose of wanting to help our country.  The stupid, and I meant that, rioters should be happy.  Mr. Trump is already becoming a solution.  Did any other president ever deny a salary?  It’s not like Mr. Trump was pressured, he voluntary gave up it up.   The rioters are so self-centered, they don’t even want to hear positive aspects of our future.

I’m not a very loud person, figuratively speaking.  (I can be loud when talking and joking around.)  I prefer to show my stance through actions, not words, ironic since I’m writing this.  (I totally see the humor).  But it’s true, I’ll support a candidate or a cause, I’ll join The Race for the Cure and I’ll join any fundraiser, as long as my actions help a cause.  I don’t ever want to be a problem or the cause of a problem.  I try to make a difference through my actions, which do speak louder.

I’ve said this before the election, it really appears that history is repeating itself.  These events remind me when Abraham Lincoln was voted into office.  Not that I was alive during that time, but I’ve studied the Civil War in depth in college and I’m a big history buff.  The south did the same thing, with riots, vandalism, violence and even disrespecting our great country enough to secede.  Let’s learn from our past.  It didn’t end well for anyone back in 1860s, and if this action continues, it won’t end on a positive note for anyone presently.

President Obama and Hillary Clinton have both stood up and publicly and sincerely announced they are standing behind the vote of the American people.  They’ve all asked for a stop to the violence.  This goes to show those rioting simply want to have something to yell about with no respect to anyone, even their candidate.  They want to say something, but don’t have anything to say.  Is this generation so attention starved?

What is unfolding before my eyes is exactly the behavior I’ve always taught again with Kyle.  However, I started to teach him these lessons when he was a little tyke.   Maybe, the protestors need to be schooled and scaled like a child.

When it comes down to it, I’ve always said a prayer for our president elect, and for the people of the world.  I’m not blind to know he’s just a man, who’s made mistakes and will continue to do so, but he does deserve our respect until proven to not act in our best interests.  I bet a moment of silence and prayer would move more mountains than yelling and destroying.

God Bless the U.S.A.!

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

Vote Informatively – Election 2016

Love lights more fires than hate extinguishes.  ~Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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Trump House, Youngstown, PA 11/7/16

Our country is torn in two, at least that’s what it seems.  Although, is it really that different from the 1860 election when Abraham Lincoln ran against his opponents Breckinridge, Douglas and Bell?  As much as we honor and respect Abraham Lincoln, he didn’t carry the popular vote.  In fact, he wasn’t liked by many people, hence his assassination.  However, in present day, most agree he was honest and tried to do right by all the American people, even though it wasn’t acknowledged until much later in textbooks.  Did you know Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican president?  Fun fact.

Now, going back in time, to the near past, one that I remember when George W. Bush ran against Al Gore in the 2000 election.  That was a very close race.  I’d like to say the 2016 elections reminds me of those days, yet the attitude is very different.  We seem to be truly divided down the middle, desperately in need of a leader to unite us.  Although, that doesn’t worry me.  In fact, it seems to be a repeating theme throughout history, regarding war, politicians, laws and even art.  What is disturbing, are the verbal attacks, lies and disrespectful actions of our candidates, some more than others.  That’s what makes this election classless and in poor taste.

As a nation, we’ll never have one hundred percent agreement on anything.  That we can to agree on, that and the idea of simple respect needs to be practiced more.  I’m not talking about compromising morals and what’s right as to not hurt another person’s feelings.  I’m talking about being honest, direct, listening and reacting with truly good intentions and selfishness.  Tall order right?  It is, but not impossible.  I’m referring to our candidates toward each other, the candidates toward the people (becoming humble and always being honest and truly doing what’s right) and the people toward each other including the media.

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Trump House, Youngstown, PA 11/7/16

On a side note, when did reporters stop doing their research and begin believing rumors and bringing their own personal opinion to the front page?  Reporters need to be held accountable for their work and their actions.

What I’d like to see is a responsible and honest election.  Let the people actually have a vote.  I guess I should correct that statement with saying living people (yes that’s not such a subtle dig on those who are using our deceased to sway the election).  Again, disrespect for the deceased, the families, and our country as a whole.  I personally don’t like my rights being taken away by such actions.  We have an obligation to show the rest of the world what a true republic is and how good honest actions prevail.

After this election, history will be remembered slightly differently, depending on the outcome.  Why does time change a situation?  Or does it allow us to reflect and learn?  I remember studying history in school and being taken back when I learned our soldiers returning from the Vietnam War, after risking their lives for our country (most drafted), were treated with hatred and anger and disrespect.  Of course that’s not in fashion now, thankfully.  Now my next biggest question, is it because it’s what’s trendy and popular or because it’s what’s right?  Again, I see history repeating itself and instead of using common sense and respect, the trendy path is chosen.

Evey person has the ability to change history and change the path of our future.  Every person.  Every person has a choice to do what’s right and to think of others before themselves.  Everyone.  I’m not trying to sway anyone.  I’m simply asking people to stop lying for others, stop being deceitful, and stop any illegal actions (that’s another tall order), starting with election fraud.  Stop the violence when you don’t get your own way, stop the disrespect and start working together for a better future.  No one wins when hate takes the reins, but we all win when love is in our hearts and actions.

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Trump House, Youngstown, PA 11/7/16

On another side note, without pushing one candidate over another, I’ve found this pretty neat.  The Trump House in Youngstown, Pennsylvania.  Little old Youngstown, Pennsylvania has made major news for their part in the election.  Perhaps there’s a Hilary House somewhere, and if so I’d love to hear about it.  Since I’ve never heard of any, I’m going to focus on what I know, the Trump House.

I love the involvement and dedication that resulted in the Trump House.   The Trump House owners spent their personal money for signage and other promotional pieces to give away.  Now a days, people expect reimbursement or compensation for such actions.  The owners of the house are not pushy or loud, except the house decor certainly makes a statement.  They really want to educate and do what’s right for America.  That I can respect.  Again, perhaps there’s a similar place dedicated to Hillary.  If so, wonderful.

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Me & Kyle at the Sarah Palin rally Latrobe Airport 2012

How can anyone not appreciate the effort in this house?  I mean, they have a fifteen foot tall (I really don’t know how tall it is) picture of Donald Trump!  What a fun idea!  Since the creation of the house, they’ve had nonstop traffic from supporters visiting, getting their pictures taken and honking when passing by.  This is what America is about, freedom to choose and freedom of expression.  This is what makes election season exciting, certainly not all the bashing commercials on television, the radio and online.

Not to end on a negative note, but the Trump House has every right to decorate their building any way they want and to support any candidate they choose.  So why did they need to hire personal security to deter violence and vandalism at the Trump House?  Why did they get major backlash from people criticizing the way they spent their money?   This is what I’m saying, no respect.  If it was for Hillary, I’d think it was equally neat.

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Kyle standing in line at the Sarah Palin rally. I actually took him out of school to join me. Latrobe Airport 2012

The house has been dedicated to the Trump campaign since I believe this past summer, and it took the Tribune until this past week to write a story on them, hidden among the pages.  I always thought the news was to be unbiased, but all I’ve heard are opinions running through the media, for both sides, again some more than others.  The majority of the news is obviously swayed to one side.  It’s still not right and basic propaganda, similar to Hitler’s tactics.  He used media to reinforce his ideals and he targeted children and the younger generation who were easily swayed.  Let’s get back to practicing respect, the truth, common sense, and good old-fashion morals.

Personally, I’ve always tried to involve Kyle as much as I can with the news and historical milestones, trying to avoid negativity and reinforcing good moral decision making.  In the past, I’ve taken Kyle to rallies.  I’ve even taken him into the voter’s booth with me.  I wanted to show him what to expect when he got older, and I tried to set the example of having an educated and sincere voice.

On Sunday night I asked Kyle if he wanted to come vote with me this year.  I was denied before I even got it out of my mouth.  He’ll come around with his own opinions when he’s older.

I’ll certainly be voting tomorrow, and I’ll be praying tonight for God to lead this country in the right direction.

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posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience 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

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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

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

Adventures in San Diego On a Dog Scavenger Hunt

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

mission-basilica-san-diego-9-10-16-aunt-heather-piper

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

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

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

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

sunset-at-mission-beach-san-diego-9-10-16-aunt-heather-piper

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

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

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

bark-park-westfield-utc-san-diego-9-10-16-aunt-heather-piper

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

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

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

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

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

mission-beach-boardwalk-in-san-diego-9-10-16-aunt-heather-piper

Mission Beach boardwalk, San Diego 9/10/16

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

mission-basilica-san-diego-9-10-16-inside-aunt-heather-piper

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

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

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

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

mission-beach-san-diego-boardwalk-9-10-16-aunt-heather-piper

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

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

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

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

mission-beach-in-san-diego-9-10-16-aunt-heather-piper

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

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

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

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

Dealing With Loss

What we remember from childhood we remember forever – permanent ghosts, stamped, inked, imprinted, eternally seen.  ~Cynthia Ozick

Honestly, I’ve been toying around with this blog idea since last week.  The Aunt Heather blog may come from my perspective, but the stories are really for Kyle.  These accounts of Kyle’s life from my point-of-view are more important now than ever.  Since Kyle’s fully embraced his teenage years, I’ve seen less of him.  I always want Kyle to know how important he is, and not having him by my side is my own personal loss.

It is with a very heavy heart I talk about Kyle’s friend, fifteen year old Nick Ursiny.  He passed away last Sunday, June 19, 2016 from an accidental gun shot wound to the head.  The incidence happened on Friday, June 17th around 5:00 pm.

Kyle called on Sunday to tell us he was going to the hospital to visit his friend, that’s when we heard the news,  Shortly after speaking with Kyle, we received the news Nick passed away.  I spoke to Kyle on the phone, and naturally he seemed a little distraught.  I could heard the tears swelling in his eyes, which instantly broke my heart.  Not only for the pain Kyle was facing, and at such a young age, but for the family and all of Nick’s friends.

When I heard about the incidence, it really hit home with me.  My family target shoots pretty frequently, for fun and in preparation for hunting season, and Kyle’s been apart of that tradition since he was a little tyke.  My heart broke for Kyle, yes because of a tragic loss of his friend, but also because of Kyle’s reality.  Unlike some, he knows the sound, the smell, the feel of a fired weapon.  He knows first hand the damage it does, at least with respect to hunting.  Kyle’s awareness of this accident is so much more acute than many of his fellow students, those who have never fired a weapon.  I couldn’t imagine dealing with that situation, and the complete grief and feeling of accountability.

These thoughts have been rushing through me all week.  It’s weird how that depression from a very real experience of loss creeps back, and settles into your soul, even when you’re not completely aware.

Nick was in Kyle’s class and he was also a member of the band.  Even during my chaperoning experiences, I personally didn’t know Nick, nor his family, but I know the helplessness and sorrow that’s overcome them.  And worse, I know the road they’ll be facing and the healing process, which does not get easier as time passes, they”ll only learn to adjust.

The band visited the funeral home last night as a group.  I did reach out to Kyle and ask if he wanted me to go to support him.  His text response?  “I’m fine.”  Okay.  I know everyone handles grief in their own way, and I respect that.  I was still going to go, but I wanted to give Kyle his space, and let’s face it, that would have been hard even for the toughest of people.  Instead, my thoughts and prayers were focused on that family and Nick.

Accidents do happen, no matter how minor or major, even though you try to avoid them.  It’s such a shame, this accident cost the life of such a young promising person.  If anything else, I hope children and adults alike, learn from this story and are more careful.  I don’t know the details behind the accident, but addressing safety is always a good practice.

God speed to Nick’s friends and family.  Rest in peace Nick!

I grabbed a few screen captures of online stories, for reference.

Full Obit Aunt Heather Piper June 2016

Kiski Facebook post Aunt Heather Piper

News Article Aunt Heather Piper 6-18-16

News Aunt Heather Piper 6-20-16News Article Aunt Heather Piper 6-20-16

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

Celebration of a Real Parent!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dad found not guilty for taking tween’s phone away

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

Below are screen shots of the article.

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

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

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

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

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

Teenager vs. Aunt Heather Part 3 – Flexing the Attitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kyle at Idlewild c. 2003 Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

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

Turkey Coop 9-6-15 Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teenager vs. Aunt Heather Part 2 Calm Before the Storm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Be Continued…

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

Teenager vs. Aunt Heather – Part 1 Math Tutor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kyle-&-Cheyenne-posing-2005-Bethal-Church-Aunt-Heather-Piper

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

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

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

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

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

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Kyle’s 14th birthday cake! 2015

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Congratulations – Mikey & Mary Beth Got Hitched!

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

Mr. & Mrs. Olczak

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Life of Brian… a great band!

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

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

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

 

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

Happy Birthday Kyle! 14 Years!

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

Happy 14th Birthday Kyle!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unconventional Gifts

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

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

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

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

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

Entertainment/Culture/Education

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

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

Kyle's-Pig-Aunt-Heather-Piper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Out of the Ordinary/Adventure

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discovering Our Own Backyard – Johnstown
Memories Sewn Into a Quilt

 

 

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

A Dip in the Grades

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My-pap-Aunt-Heather-Piper

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

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

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

Kyle-bowling-2007-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle showing off his bowling skills… 2007

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vanessa Vadas at a Derry show. c. 1992

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued…

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