Archive for the 'Travels' Category

The Open Roads With a Driving Permit

When you set sail for Ithaca,
wish for the road to be long,
full of adventures, full of knowledge.  ~
Constantinos P. Cavafis

Kyle-on-his-Home-Depot-car-for-his-1st-birthday-7-2002-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle on his Home Depot car for his 1st birthday.  My cousin Heather in the background. 7/2002

It’s no secret I’ve been sneaking Kyle short drives here and there on back roads for a few months now.  Not to mention, over the years, I’d let him steer, shift and start the car.  I never wanted driving to be a totally foreign concept to him.

Kyle got his permit last Tuesday, August 8, 2017.  He passed on the first try!  Way to go buddy.  He’s officially allowed on the open roads with a legit driver.

It’s amazing how many rules and regulations have changed since I took my driving test, a few years ago.  (insert wink)  Like what?  Well, first of all the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is in a different location in Greensburg.  That’s right, it used to be closer to downtown Greensburg off Pittsburgh Street.  Now it’s in a strip mall leaving Greensburg on the outskirts.  Back then we were allowed to get our permit at fifteen and take our test the day we turned sixteen.  Or get our permit one day and the next take our test.  There was no waiting period.  Now the students have to be sixteen to get their permit, log so many hours of driving in all sorts of weather conditions and wait six months before taking the driving test.  At first I was sort of irritated over the new rules, but after I thought about it, if this process proves safer for our young drivers, I’m on board.

Last Tuesday, I actually got to meet Kyle at PennDOT before he took his test.  Somehow I was the possessor of his social security card.  Naturally, he needed it, Aunt Heather to the rescue.  Seeing him, even for a brief moment and wishing him luck made my day.  Not to mention receiving a text message shortly after, stating he passed his permit test made me even happier.

A week ago today, my cousin Stacey got married.  Congrats Stacey!!

I picked Kyle up early and asked if he wanted to take over the wheel.  He smiled, shrugged his shoulders and said, “I guess.”  While backing out of the driveway Kyle remarked, “I’ve never gone over 20 miles an hour.”  What?  It was then I realized he never logged time behind the wheel. No one took him out at all.  None. Zero. Zip. Now we were on our way up busy route 66, to get onto even busier route 22, then through town and finally back roads.  Pretty aggressive travel plans for a newbie.  My comment?  “Well, go slow.  You’ve got to learn to drive these roads some day, so I guess it’s today.  I’ll help.”

Stacey's Wedding 8-12-2017 Aunt Heather Piper

Me & Stacey at her wedding! Bridal dance 8/12/2017

Kyle seemed excited, yet a little nervous.  He was lucky it was me instructing him. (Ask Tree when I took her driving in my stick shift. She hit the curb at Legion Keener.) I’m really calm and patient in these situations, and I’m good at supplying detailed instructions, the way Kyle responds best.  I wanted to show him I had faith in his abilities, as well as use the opportunity to give him valuable intangible lessons.  There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance.  I wanted Kyle to gain experience and build that confidence, while shying away from arrogance.  Plus, the more road time he got with an experienced driver, the better.

How did he do?  GREAT!  He did stress when cars passed us on the opposite side of the road going the other direction.  He was also uneasy when cars went around us on route 22.  Understandably.  Throughout the entire trip, I reiterated, “I know buddy, it’s stressful.  For now, just stay to your side and focus on the road.  Let everyone else wait or go around us.”

While we were on route 66, before reaching Delmont, not even a mile into our trip, a car passed Kyle illegally.  Yikes.  He looked at me alarmed, not knowing what to do.  I told him, “Stay on course.  Let them go around.”  Typical Kyle called out, “That’s illegal!”  My response?  “I know buddy but are you going to arrest them?  Let them get in trouble and focus on the road.”

Once we got to the point where a left turn was necessary to merge onto route 22, Kyle was forced to change lanes.  He was uneasy.  I found out he couldn’t turn his head to look, use the mirrors, drive, and turn on the turn signal.  We’ve all been there.  He did manage to use his side mirror without drifting into the other lane. I craned my neck to double check for oncoming cars.  In fact, I did that entire way just to play it safe.  We made a good team.

At the red light a lady in the passenger seat beside us spotted me giving Kyle hand motions in preparation for the turn left, to avoid sideswiping our neighbors and without driving headfirst into the opposite traffic making their turn.  At this intersection, if a driver isn’t careful, paths could cross resulting in devastation.  Our temporary neighbor lady was sweet.  She smiled and gave Kyle thumbs up.  Kyle grinned and remained focused on the red light.  I told him, “She knows you’re a new driver and she’s wishing you luck.  People are generally kind and understanding.”  Kyle kept his eyes on the road in anticipation of the left turn and zoned out of our unspoken conversation.

While making the successful turn, I explained we had the right away from merging traffic on our right.  Before I could get the words out, a car that was going too fast, cut in front of us without yielding.  I guess these are all good lessons for Kyle to learn and to know what to watch out for.

As quickly as that happened, we had to get onto route 22, merging left.  Now we were the yielding party on a busy road with cars in front, beside and behind us.  This time Kyle strictly kept his eyes on the road ahead.  To make a safe transition, I was his lookout spouting instructions regarding fast approaching traffic.  Kyle merged gracefully, while seemingly not sweating it.  However, upon closer inspection his knuckles were bright white.

Eventually, I’ll have Kyle practice changing lanes on route 22, but I didn’t want to give him added anxiety or press our luck.  He handled the road like a champ.

Kyle's Text Message 8-8-17 Aunt Heather PiperI did find Kyle was already driving like me, too fast.  More than a few times I caught him going 60+ miles an hour. All I said, without yelling or freaking out as to not startle my inexperienced driver was, “Kyle let off the gas.”  The first time I said it, Kyle looked surprised because he wasn’t doing it on purpose.  He glanced at the speedometer and said, “Oh” then did as instructed.  After it happened a few times Kyle admitted, “I’m just trying to keep up with the traffic.  Everyone is speeding!”  I had to laugh, he is so me.

To put things into perspective I said, “Kyle, you don’t have the experience they do.  Plus, you don’t have your driver’s license and I don’t know the consequences of getting pulled over for speeding with a permit.  And if I get in trouble for your speed, you’re in double trouble.”  His reply?  Typical me comment, “I don’t think anything would happen to me.”  I smiled and retorted, “You don’t think?  I bet the cop will make an example of you and take away your license for a year.  Maybe even make you retest for your permit.  Plus, I’m sure I’ll get in trouble too.”

On a side note, it would be funny for Kyle and I to take our driving tests together.  Not an ideal situation, but a good story for later.

Kyle pondered my words and soon after I noticed a big change in him. He kept asking me the speed limit and would confirm his speed out loud, more for himself than for my benefit.  He’s so funny.  He gives the exact speed.  Example:

Kyle:  “What’s the speed limit here?”
Me:  “Umm, I’m not sure, I bet it’s 45, just go slower to play it safe.”
Kyle:  “Yep, it’s 45. (I never saw the speed limit sign).  Okay, I’m going 46.”
Me:  “You’re doing good buddy.  Just don’t go over the speed.”
Kyle:  “Okay, I’ll let off the gas a little. Now I’m going 44.”

Kyle never slammed on the breaks when he realized he was going to fast or when he was easing into a stop sign or red light. Sometimes his stop was a little rushed but not totally abrupt.  I did explain about people rear-ending him and trying to avoid collisions, his fault or not.  His advance was sometimes a rushed.  I told to relax with the gas peddle, we weren’t in the Fast and the Furious.  We weren’t drag racing anyone.  He laughed.

Lilia at Stacey's Wedding 8-12-2017 Aunt Heather Piper

Me & Lilia sharing a smile at Stacey’s wedding. 8/12/2017

There were a few times cars looked like they were going to back into us, or they stopped without using their turn signal.  Every time, Kyle’s reaction was to let off the gas and I saw he was ready to use his breaks. All without panicking. I reiterated my observations to give him constructive praise.

Kyle did crack me up at four way stops.  He waved everyone on so no cars would be around when he turned or went through.  I remember those days too.  I reassured him, “I know it’s a little stressful going around other cars, just take your time.  If you use your turn signal and go slow, most people will see you’re a new driver and be patient.”  Sometimes cars waved Kyle on.  He grunted every time with distress but made it through unscathed.

During the entire 45-minute journey, there were only two scary instances.  One was making the right turn onto route 981 from route 22 at the light.  Kyle was going a little too fast and didn’t cut the turn tight enough.  I told him to slow down and tighten the turn.  He responded with, “I know, I am.”  Umm.  Not really.  I had to grab the steering wheel before we grazed the line of cars sitting at the red light.  He realized what had happened and I believe he learned from it.  Prior to that, when Kyle was in the passing lane in Delmont, he kept creeping toward the centerline.  He wasn’t used to that side of the road.  Again, minor instances.

During our trip I noticed when Kyle was off center, too close to the side of the road or the double line or he was speeding, he corrected himself before I called it out. Again, each time I gave him positive comments to reinforce good habits.

Kyle drove the rest of the weekend, to the store, the wedding and back home.  Each time, I could tell he was doing better and more comfortable around other cars on the road, slightly.

Kyle was also faced with unusual instances. While driving through Latrobe, he had to pull around a person on a bicycle.  I could see the fright in his eyes as I told him to go into the other lane to get around.  He didn’t like that scenario yet skirted past our bicyclist easily.  He also had to go around a parked truck that was unloading.

Finally, let’s discuss parking. Ironically, his issues were mine. I had Kyle pull up to the sidewalk while I ran into a store. I was half expecting him to scrap the sides of my tires. He didn’t and inquired, “How close am I? I need to be within 12 inches.” Not to burst his bubble but to be honest I stated, “Umm. It looks more like 18 inches buddy.” He retorted, “Well that’s the first time I parked like that.” I get it. It takes practice.

Kyle was forced to park at K-Mart, I spared him by not going to Wal-Mart. Playing it safe, he attempted his park job away from other cars, unsuccessfully. Laughing, I told him church people do a better job. He reiterated that he never parked before. No worries, I told him I’d take him out to practice a day of parking. I was never good at it either. We lived in the country and never had lines to park within, or other cars to park between. He’ll learn.

Fun Story. I’m notorious for never putting gas in my car, nor paying attention to how much is in the tank. Ever since I started driving, that task was never a concern to me. Did I run out of gas? You bet. Usually, I’d walk to the closest house and call Ryan to bring me gas. He always had some on hand, probably for me. Did it bother me? No. Maybe that’s why I never paid attention.

Kyle get’s in my car and immediately looks at the gas tank to exclaim I only have less than a half a tank. In my eyes, it’s nearly full. Kyle was not so blasé about the situation. As we were driving, the gas tank must have bothered him because he stated, “I know what I’ll do. When the gas hits the halfway mark, I’ll fill it up.” Yeah, now I’m not so sure we’re related, although, he did sound like my Dad.  I told him he can borrow my car any time he wanted.  I got a kick out of that comment!

One more funny story. Someone moved my car in my parent’s driveway, close to the side of an embankment. Directly behind it was a burn pile they burn boxes and papers but sometimes other items like nails and such get mixed in. I didn’t want Kyle to run into the pile for fear of puncturing my tires. I stood outside the car and had him cut the wheel into the driveway. He was seriously on edge (pun intended). Making sure he was in reverse (yes if he hit the gas in drive, it would not have been pretty) I gave him instructions. He kept the drivers door open. If I know Kyle he had an escape plan. He yelled at me, “This is illegal you know!” I told him to relax, he’s got it, and he did. If I thought he couldn’t handle it, then I would have taken over the wheel.

Okay, last funny story. Kyle drove us to the wedding. We had to park in a field with all the other guests. I was going to change places with him but he stated he could back into the parking spot. Okay, why not. As I gave him instructions to arch wide to give him enough room to straighten the car so he was backing straight, he misunderstood me. He drove in a big circle in the field. I was dying. The guys directing traffic were confused, as were the line of cars behind us. He did freak out on me, “You told to me to go this way!” I told him, “Calm down. It’s okay.” He managed to back up, with my help guiding the steering wheel.

He drove us home at night too.

Since Kyle was born, there wasn’t a day that’s gone by when I haven’t thought about him (and his Dad) and prayed for his well-being. The older he gets, I find myself adding to his prayer list. I could never handle Kyle meeting the same fate as his Dad. Maybe that’s why I’ve always insisted he gets experience behind the wheel. Ironically, Ryan was a great driver and that situation still doesn’t make any sense. God always has a plan.

 

Added:  8/27/17

On Monday August 21, 2017 was a solar eclipse.  Pretty cool.  It took place around 2:00 p.m.  I texted Kyle and told him he needed to go out and drive around during the natural phenomenon so he could write down in his ledger about the weather conditions.  His response.  Nothing.

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

From February Till Now, A Summary of Kyle

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

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

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

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

Let me give a monthly recap.

February

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

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

March

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

First Day of FISHING! Kingston 4/16/2017

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

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

April

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fishing Derby Prizes 5-13-17 Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kyle Band Concert 5-2-17 Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 14, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June

June 25, 2017 – June 29, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Behind the Kiski Area Marching Band

Better a cruel truth than a comfortable delusion.   ~Edward Abbey

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Kyle (center) giving his all during the performance of Nemesis – Kiski Area Marching Band 2016

Last night, Kiski presented the showcase of bands, whereas the seventh through twelfth grade students in band, performed, including the marching band.  What a great talented group.

Mr. Robert Traugh is the Kiski Area Marching Band Director.  Watching him instruct his students and seeing how they truly respect him is very refreshing and a relief to me.  In fact, Mr. Traugh is a true leader.  Besides being musically talented himself and very creative, he never accepts passing the blame, he gets straight to the heart of a problem to find a solution, he pushes his students towards excellence and beyond, and he holds each and every band member accountable.  Like I said, a true leader and a good role model.

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Kyle (left) at practice before Bands of America in Newark, Delaware. 10/12/16

How do I know?  Simply watching from a distance, as well as a brief encounter not long ago.  Unbeknownst to Mr. Traugh, I was a bystander in the back of the room during one of his speeches to the entire band, after the Gateway Competition preliminaries when they first lost.  I heard the talk in the halls, the students where blaming the program and wanted to go back to last year’s Origins show.  Some where pointing fingers to this group, that person and so on.  It was upsetting to me because I’ve never tolerated such behavior from Kyle, and there I found him among it.  However, enter Mr. Traugh stage right (literally, the band members were on the stage in the auditorium) to put out the fire.

He must have heard or sensed the same negativity and gathered the students in the auditorium between performances for a little talk.  Since it was a long day of chaperoning, I brought my iPad to work during down time.  Coincidentally, I was seated among the spontaneous gathering site.  I thought about moving, but I was right in the middle of a few thoughts I wanted to jot down first.  Then, I didn’t want to bring any attention to myself by walking past the kids to exit during Mr. Traugh’s speech.  So I stayed put.

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Kyle napping on the bus before a competition after practicing all day. 9/17/16

He got straight to the point.  Calling out specifics during the performance for the band’s low score and placement.  In contrast, he pointed out the good aspects of their show, too.  Mr. Traugh humbled the students, in a good way, and really turned their attitude around.  Then, he drove it home by having the kids place themselves in the winners shoes and stated how good those kids must be feeling, especially since they haven’t placed first in a very long time.  I believe it was Norwin or Moon that beat them.  (Sorry I can’t remember)

Let me step back a few hours to right before Kiski’s first performance at Gateway.  I don’t want to say they were arrogant, but overtly confident with an air of privilege.  After all, in their minds, they swept last year’s first place seats time and time again, which they earned.  After the students didn’t place this year, they had a reality check that was evident on everyone’s faces.  Now, they were ready to fight for first place and earn their top spot again.  On a side note, I thought they had a wonderful performance.

The way the kids responded to Mr. Traught’s lecture and encouragement made me proud.  The kids are really a great group, and they wouldn’t be without proper leadership.  Not only from Mr. Traugh but from all the instructors and the band parents alike.  While the students are the face of the marching band, the parents and staff are the backbone.  Without that structure, the band wouldn’t be able to rise to greatness.

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Kiski Area Marching Band performing Nemesis 2016

During that day, which I believe was Saturday, September 24th, Ryan’s birthday, Kyle’s dad,  Kiski school was home base to Moon between performances.  Our kids were very welcoming and respectful, as was Moon.  In fact, Moon ordered enough frosties from Wendy’s for the entire Kiski Band, as a thank you to hosting them between performances.  Can you believe it?  What a nice gesture!  I’m guessing they have pretty stellar leaders too.

In fact, I’ve noticed during all performances, the Kiski Band has shown respect for all other bands.  Watching the band stand and clap for performances, cheering on other kids, simply showing good comrade.  They’ve also shown respect by they actions before, during and after performances, pitching in as a team to assist their own, and others and remaining quiet when needed.  Yes, I can’t be happier to have Kyle surrounded by this group and the Kiski leadership.

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Kyle on the move performing Nemesis for the Kiski Area Marching Band 2016

Last Saturday, October 15, 2016, Kiski Area Marching Band competed in Bands of America in Newark, Delaware.  How did they do?  Fantastic!  They took first place at preliminaries and second place overall, out of 27 top bands from the east coast.  That’s what happens when instructors listen to constructive criticism to make the students better, the students humble themselves to do their best, and everyone works hard.

Way to go Kiski!  Your show is really fantastic and you guys are very talented!  Great season!

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

Chaperoning the Kiski Area Marching Band

Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.  ~Ursula K. Le Guin

Great job Kiski!  Everyone worked really hard and it showed.  I knew you guys could do it!

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A very drenched Kyle on the bus after the football game at McKeesport … boy does he remind me of his Dad 10/7/16

Saturday, the Kiski Area Marching Band participated in the Bands of America competition in Newark, Delaware.  How did Kiski do?  They took first place at preliminaries and second place overall, out of 27 top bands from the east coast.  They brought it and then some.

While I chose not to chaperon the Delaware trip, I’ve been honored with chaperoning pretty frequently throughout the season for football games and competitions.  Do I mind?  Not at all!  I love being involved with Kyle and supporting his interests and activities.  Plus a big bonus, the band kids, the band parents and the staff are wonderful people who are working to make this group the best it can be for each and every child.

Does Kyle want me chaperoning?  I really don’t think so, but the more I’m around the band, the more he’s acclimated to my presence, and the more he seems to accept it.  I try to give him his space, but sometimes I just can’t help myself, I want throw big hugs and kisses his way.  Trying not to overstep my bounds, I’ve ambushed him with a few hugs and a few waves, and certainly many shout outs during performances, but that’s it.  Anyone who knows me, knows I’m showing restraint.  I just love my sousaphone player and I’m very proud of him!

Now that Kyle’s older, sometimes it’s hard to see his Piper family influence.  Then, a situation happens that shows his roots. Once being the Latrobe verses Kiski football game.  It was at Latrobe.

I met the band at the Latrobe Memorial Stadium, which saved me a lot of driving.  As I waited around, waited around, waited around, I had a sneaky suspicion they got lost.  Knowing Kyle wouldn’t answer me, I texted him asking to give them some guidance to the stadium.  Just then, I get a return text saying We’re here.  While reading the message, the buses rounded the corner, everyone except for the equipment truck, who went to the high school.

Later I found out, during their travels a bus broke down and they got a late start.  It happens.

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Kyle in the Kiski Area Marching Band – performing Nemesis at Deer Lakes High School 2016

To offer a very rare assistance, (I’m very directionally challenged) I let the parents know I’m a Latrobean and I know the area very well.  In fact, I’ve traveled the route from Delmont to Latrobe too many times to count.  In addition, I informed them they had a secret weapon among their group, Kyle.  I made sure the parental crew was aware Kyle knows his way around Latrobe with absolute certainty, and if needed, they could lean on him to bring the entire marching band into Latrobe.  That’s when I received news that melted my heart.

The one mom told me Kyle was on her bus offering his assistance letting her know he’s from Latrobe.  That’s my little man!  Naturally, she was confused until I explained that I’m from Latrobe and Kyle has always lived with us half-time, until the band consumed his weekends.  (That brought a laugh from everyone.  It’s true the band is very dedicated and they practice a lot, which builds good character.)

I’m glad Kyle is apart of this group, but I do worry about him.  Not only in band, but in all aspects of his life.  During the beginning of the season, a few parents mentioned to me that they were concerned for Kyle.  Since the tragic passing of his friend Nick, Dealing With Loss.  Kyle took it hard.  Understandably.  What really melted my heart, besides the idea of Kyle suffering inside, was the heartfelt thoughts and concerns from these parents that I hardly knew.  They also stated an unknown fact, Kyle and Nick always sat together on the bus.  My poor Kyle.  What a constant reminder of the passing of a friend.  A few parents confessed to trying to talk to Kyle about Nick, but Kyle brushed them off.  I greatly appreciate their concern , and trying to ease Kyle’s pain.  Thank you!

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A very pensive Kyle on the bus to a Wednesday Competition. 9/21/16

Moving past the sadness, now a funny story that might have indirectly helped Kyle.  While I was in the auditorium between performance for the Gateway competition, I happened to stumble onto a conversation with a group of students in close proximity.  Being a nice bunch, I couldn’t resist, I showed them my wallpaper of me and Kyle at Legofest on my iPad.  The kids didn’t make fun of Kyle, but they were very excited to discover his childhood.  Ironically, the one student took a picture of Kyle earlier on the bus sleeping.  Naturally, I couldn’t pass it up, so I asked him to text it to me.  That was my little man, he looked exhausted.

The following week for a Wednesday competition, I received another mysterious text message, another picture of Kyle.  It kind of broke my heart.  He was sitting by himself, not talking to anyone, simply looking out the window.  It was almost a lonely picture.  Granted, every student on the bus could have been in that mood, or it was for a brief moment, or Kyle needed some quite time, but it still emotionally got to me.  I thanked the band member (I’m trying to keep names out) for the picture, saved it, and moved on.

Since my first encounter with those band kids, they’ve been calling me Aunt Heather, respectfully, and have been sharing stories about Kyle.  Nothing malicious, simply fun interactions with Kyle, stories they knew I’d appreciate.  Shortly after the previous picture was taken, the one kid told me he sat with Kyle on the bus.  Smiling and acknowledging his actions, I was grateful.  I don’t know if that’s what Kyle wanted, and I’m sure the student spoke of me during their bus ride, which Kyle probably wasn’t keen on, but it was a nice gesture.

Week after week, pictures began beeping across my phone showing a very different Kyle.  He was sincerely enjoying himself.  Several of those pictures of Kyle smiling and having a good time has since become my favorite.  I don’t know if one action is tied to the next, but if Kyle’s happy, who cares?

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Me & Sharon at the McKeesport game… chaperoning in the rain. 10/7/16

Without chaperoning, I wouldn’t have known about the bond with Nick and Kyle, I wouldn’t have those behind the scenes pictures, and I wouldn’t be apart of Kyle’s life that means so much to him.  Driving an hour to chaperon (plus going home), those long nights getting in late, and all day competitions were all worth more than I can verbally express.  Plus, I’ve gotten to know some stellar people, band chaperons and band staff.

Keep in mind, I’m not the chaperone superhero, not even close.  Those band parents, moms and dads, are really dedicated to their child(ren) and the band.  They go way above and beyond, making soups, arranging lunches, back and forth to practices, fundraising, helping with the equipment, even assisting with field setup and exiting.  They are extraordinary people.  I’m blessed to know them and to have them around my beloved Kyle.

Thank you!

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

I Met Leigh Bardugo!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leigh Bardugo Website:

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

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

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

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

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

Arnold Palmer was Already a Legend

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

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

September 10, 1929 – September 25, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adventures in San Diego On a Dog Scavenger Hunt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hello … Adele

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

Kelly Berger Aunt Heather Piper in Delmont c. 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

Hunting Adventures – Deer Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deer Hunting Tweet Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

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

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

Freshmen Year of Band, In the Back Pocket

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hunting Adventures – The Goose Hunt

Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but of playing a poor hand well.  ~Robert Louis Stevenson

Goose hunting Pymatuning 11-13-15 Aunt Heather Piper

View from our goose blind in Pymatuning State Park. Yes, those are decoys .. 11/13/15

I blinked, and a month just passed me.  I guess this is the time of year everyone experiences the same.  For me, I’ve not only been busy with Thrill of the Hunt, but hunting season is in full throttle.  It’s been an interesting season thus far, so let me recap.

First, I’d like to mention, that on the Friday of goose hunting, Kyle was in Indiana for Nationals Marching Band Competition.  He also chose not to hunt this year.  Why?  I’m not sure.  He says it’s because he’s too busy with band, but truth be told, I believe he’s just not into hunting.  There isn’t anything wrong with that.  I too took a sabbatical in my late teens and twenties.  Between colorguard, winterguard, indoor drumline (senior year), work, college and becoming an independent adult, it seemed like there wasn’t enough time to add hunting.  I almost wished I didn’t, but then again I don’t regret it.  Although, I wish I would’ve had the opportunity to hunt with Ryan before he passed.  I mean Ryan came along when I started hunting, but he wasn’t old enough.  At least, I was able to be apart of Kyle’s hunting origins.  Perhaps, Kyle’s a lot like me with respect to hunting, growing an interest and appreciation for it later in life.  Whatever he decides I’m on board, but I truly missed him.

Now let me recap last month’s hunting adventures, starting with goose hunting.

Dad Goose hunting Pymatuning 11-13-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Dad was playing lookout at Pymatuning State Park. Goose Hunting 11/13/15

Friday, November 13th – Goose Hunting in Pymatuning State Park (about 60 miles south of Erie, Pennsylvania)
This year was the first in about twenty years that dad was issued his goose blinds in Pymatuning!  Let me tell you, he was really excited, as was I.

I’m no stranger to Pymatuning State Park.  My parents had good friends, (two of the brothers who joined us on our hunt), had a cabin in that area.  We’d go camping in the summer, and feed bread to the carp at the Spillway on the Pymatuning Reservoir.  Yes, there are so many carp, the ducks actually walk on their heads.

So what does it mean to get a goose blind?  It means that dad was allowed to go goose hunting on his assigned day and bring four other guests.  Naturally, I was his number one choice!  The other two who joined us were Dave and Dean Shober.

The rules are very clear.  Like what?  We’re only allowed to hunt from sunrise, which was at 6:34 am till 12:30 pm, and checking out by 1:30 pm.  They clearly listed the rules as we walked in to get registered, as well as reiterated once we drew our blind number.  I can’t remember all the rules, but we weren’t allowed to shoot more than thirty to fifty yards away.  They encouraged waiting till the geese or ducks landed (not always practical).  We weren’t permitted to sky blast as they called it.  Of course, we were only allowed to use ten steel shot shells per person (total of forty shots out of one blind) and one goose or duck per person.  Do they count?  You bet they do!

Now for the fun part, the events of the day.  We leave mom and dad’s house around 1:00 am to arrive really early, about 4:00 am or so.  Registration wasn’t until 5:00 am (one and a half hours before sunrise).  Then, walking in, the first thing they do is ask for your Pennsylvania hunting license, goose stamp (an actual stamp purchased at the post office, which had to be signed) and the migratory bird license (another purchase).  All this to shoot one goose?  Yep.  Did we have everything required?  Yes, kinda.

Goose hunting Pymatuning Dad leaving 11-13-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Calling it a day, goose hunting at Pymatuning State Park. 11/13/15

In fact, I decided to be in charge of packing the required paperwork for me and dad.  The Shober brothers went in line first.  Everything checked out.  Done.  Now dad and I were up, with a minor problem.  We didn’t have our hunting licenses.  Really?  Kinda.  You see, I grabbed the doe tags thinking we just needed to prove we had a license, after all we couldn’t have our doe tags without having a license.  Boy I was wrong.  Apparently, those are tags and not the actual license.  The license was at the top of all the tags with a bar code on it.  Seriously?  In all the years I’ve been hunting, and been around hunting (my entire life) I never knew that. I thought the tag was the license.  Nope.  Apparently, they needed to punch a stamp in the actual license.  Oops.

Of course, the game commissioner had to pull us aside and look up our information and such.  Obviously, we had our Pennsylvania hunting license, or we couldn’t have presented our doe tags, but whatever.  Eventually, after much lecture and warning, he graciously let us hunt, since we were legit and we drove a large distance to hunt.  Dave said, “Once I heard you had no license I was ready to get back in the truck and go home, thinking they would never allow us to hunt.  Then, both of you didn’t bring your license!  I thought there’s no way!”  Ye of little faith.

Did you know the entire time, dad never threw me under the bus?  Ever.  He even stood up for me and concurred with my logic.

While we piled back in the truck to head to our blind (#18) I told the guys not to bring it up because it was my fault.  Dave said, “That doesn’t matter, it’s still Ron’s fault and he’s never gonna live this down.” as the guys laughed, ready to give a life long torment to dad.

Funny Stories

Dad Dean Dave Goose hunting Pymatuning 11-13-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Dad, Dean, Dave creeping on the geese at Pymatuning State Park, PA 11/13/15

Now to the bat cave.  Not really, but to our blind.  We followed the map, and parked in the designated area, but no one really knew the actual location of our assigned blind.  Plus, it was around 5:30 am, still very dark.  In front of the truck sat a field.  The Shober’s thought we might need to hike back in there to get to our blind, but one knew for sure, until a stranger spoke up.  Another hunter must’ve overheard our conversation and pointed us in the right direction, which was the complete opposite of where we were heading.  Can you imagine, four hunters, dressed in total camouflage, walking around with large geese decoys, totting shot guns, in a mystery field of tall grass, in the pitch black?  Now that would have made for a GREAT story!

As we approached our blind, all four of us stopped to stare in disbelief.  We were expecting a small space among the corn field with four tiny stools.  Nope.  Instead, we landed ourselves the Taj Mahal, the luxury blind!  It was a well built enclosed structure complete with seats for everyone, shelves to set drinks and food, notches for the shot guns to lean safely, four half walls and a swing door.  The front structures had panels to remove in case additional visuals were needed, and the roof retracted back to accommodate sky shots.  Perfect!

When we were getting ready, Dave pulled out this light that wraps around his head, similar to the ones dad and I have.  He showed me his features including high and low beams and some read flashing lights.  Wow!  He had the Lexus of head lamps!  Me and dad?  Ours was a very simple on/off light that did tilt (although dad figured that out a week later after we basically had to wear the headlamps between our eyes to get the right angle).  Boy did that spark comments between the guys.  Dave kept asking dad to turn on his low beams, knowing dad didn’t have that option.  They were cracking me up!

Then, let’s discuss placing the decoys.  First of all, it was pitch black when we initially placed them.  The guys had me count out about fifty feet from our post to give us a general idea of distance.  After what should have been a simple activity, seemed to be a chaotic dance ritual.  Did I mention, Dave kept high beaming dad when talking to him?  I was dying!  Then, after playing musical chairs inside the blind, we got situated.  As soon as we could see our decoys, Dean decided to rearrange furniture again.  He also gave us a dissertation on his reasoning behind the placement.  Too much!  Personally, I didn’t care, I was just having fun laughing at the guys acting like kids.  Dean did give some some fun facts, like geese land flying into the wind and take off the same.  The wind was actually at our backs that day.

Guys leaving Goose hunting Pymatuning 11-13-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Dad, Dean & Dave, leaving our luxury goose blind at Pymatuning State Park 11/13/15

Now onto the face mask.  A few times, the geese were headed our way and we thought they were going to land and mingle with our decoys.  We all ducked behind the blind, concealing ourselves.  Can you image watching a bunch of grown men, dressed head to toe in camouflage, scurrying to hide from flying geese?  Then, what came next almost made me fall off my seat laughing.  Dave places this camouflage mesh face mask over his face, tucked under his hat, to peek out over the wall.  He announced, “I don’t see any geese.”  What?  There was an entire flock flying our way.  Dean decided to inspect the situation.  He pulled his camouflage hat low over his face and creeped up to look over the wall.  He said, “There right there Dave!”  I couldn’t handle it!  They were like Laurel and Hardy!  Even dad busted out laughing.  This didn’t just happen once, but a few times.

I felt like I was in a hen house with all the chattering going on.  What were they talking about?  You name it.  They were telling past and present stories of deer hunting, geese hunting, fishing, and all things guys.  On our way up to Pymatuning, we actually saw a driver on route 30 clip the hindquarter of a doe.  Dad tried not to hit it, but as soon as he was finally able to stop completely, Dave who was sitting in the passenger side, saw the deer’s head moving around not going anywhere.  To evaluate the situation, dad put the truck in reverse.  We felt the truck lift and drop as we drove back over the deer.  Yikes!  I was expecting the worse, but as soon as that happened, the deer got up and ran off.  Dad had it pinned under the truck!  Only later did that become part of the taunting with respect to the doe tags.  “Ron should have tagged the doe since he brought his doe tags to geese hunt.” and “Since Ron brought his doe tags, we should go deer hunting.”  I simply shook my head, laughing along with them.

At one point, the guys noticed another blind up the hill removed their decoys all together.  So our crew chose to follow suite thinking they had some goose insider.  Again, we had to leave our blind, which according to the rules, was only permitted if absolutely necessary.  I turned around to find dad holding two decoys, one under each arm like he was flying.  He was flapping his wings and cracking himself up.  He was like a little kid having fun with his friends.

It was a really windy and cold day, but one worth it.  I was torn between going to watch Kyle and go goose hunting with dad.  I would have won with either decision.  Did we eventually fill our tags and get our geese?  Nope.  Did anyone take a shot?  Nope.  Did the geese even come remotely close?  Nope.  Did we have a great time?  You bet!  I can’t wait to go again!  I bet Kyle would enjoy himself if he came.

 

 

 

murders row

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

My New Title … Band Chaperon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kiski Marching Band 10-23-15 Aunt Heather Piper

2015 Kiski Marching Band – Origins 10/23/15

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

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

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

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

Unconventional Gifts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Athletics

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

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

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

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

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

Music

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

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

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

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

Entertainment/Culture/Education

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

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

Kyle's-Pig-Aunt-Heather-Piper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Out of the Ordinary/Adventure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discovering Our Own Backyard – Johnstown
Memories Sewn Into a Quilt

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued…

 

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

Pittsburgh – Night Out in the Big City Vol. 1

Sometimes I make bad decisions.  ~Heather Piper

Jill,-Lori,-Justin-Aunt-Heather-Piper-Concert-in-Pittsburgh-Pa

Jill, Lori Beanner, Justin Baldonieri after a concert in the Strip District, Pittsburgh, PA early to mid 1990’s

It’s funny how a simple conversation with someone can bring back memories nearly forgotten.  Throughout my life, I’ve found myself in unusual situations, putting it mildly.  This story is certainly one of those but is one-hundred percent true.  This stuff cannot be made up!

To this day, my parent’s have no idea, and I’d prefer not to bring it up at all, but to teach Kyle from my mistakes, I’m willing to share.  In a way, I don’t want Kyle to know my stupidity as a teenager or young adult, but then again I do, so he learns from my errors and immaturity, and knows I’m not perfect.

I’m very proud to proclaim I’ve never lied to my parents, at least not in the traditional sense.  However, at times, I’ve kept pertinent information from them that would have incriminated me.  I know, I know, the same thing, but not.  However, I’ve never looked them in the eyes and told a bold face lie, never!

tape recorder Aunt Heather Piper

Same tape player Nicole had & I used in my 1st car, since it didn’t have a radio.

As I’ve mentioned, my very First Car – My Very Own Days of Thunder was a 1976ish Buick Limited.  A big black beast with red interior, nicknamed Black Beauty.  I loved that car and so did my friends, one because I had wheels and two, because that car could seat a crowd.  Perfect for transporting large groups of teenagers who didn’t have rides, which is synonymous with that age.r.

Being a Latrobe native, I never really ventured any further west than Greensburg, about 15 miles.  East was a different story, my family is from Ligonier and I was familiar with the Laurel Mountains and the ridge.  In all reality, my parents were comfortable with that direction, as opposed to Pittsburgh.  Not that I was restricted by many rules, but one my parents reinforced was me traveling long distances, especially in my old car.  Understandable.  I really wasn’t permitted to go into Pittsburgh, about an hour and a half away, 40 miles or so.  Guess what?  That’s were I always wanted to explore, and I did.  Did they know?  They did, but mom and dad had the security of reinforcing my Cinderella license, when I had it.

Now that the stage is set, and the anticipation is built, here comes the most unbelievable night of my life.  It’s been a little over two decades since this adventure, so the details are a bit fuzzy, but the major events are still crystal clear.

Another big no in our household was concerts.  Really?  Unfortunately yes.  Mom and dad didn’t let us go to concerts, especially with friends.  I would have been open to my parents taking me to a show, but alas it never happened.  However, in this instance, I think I did tell them I was going to the show, since I paid for it myself.  In my senior year of high school, I waitressed at Valley Dairy.  I paid for my own gas, concert tickets, and associated expenses.  Regardless of my employment status, I do know for a fact that I wasn’t allowed to take Black Beauty into Pittsburgh, especially traveling with friends.  Yeah, I disregarded that rule.  We needed a ride and I had one, priorities!

The night started with a live show from Porno for Pyros (now that I think about it, what a horrible name).  Anyway, it was Perry Farrell’s band, the front man from Jane’s Addiction.  It was August 20, 1993, I found my old ticket stub!

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Me & my cousin Colleen in the South Side, in front of Piper’s Pub. Night out before our friend Markelle moved to Arizona. Pittsburgh, PA late 1990’s

About five or six of my friends, including my good friend Maggie and I, made plans to stay at our friend Vanessa’s house.  Everyone met at Vanessa’s and I drove our eclectic group to Station Square in Pittsburgh.  To cut to the chase, we made it to the concert without incidence and it was a blast, but when it was time for us to simply exit stage right, we did, or so I thought.

Common sense would dictate that this story will take a hard right turn, especially since I was in charge of driving and maneuvering a group of teenagers from the suburbs into Pittsburgh and back out again.  Did you forget how Directionally Challenged I am, and always have been?

That’s exactly what happened.  I got us lost.  Where?  No clue, even to this day.  Also keep in mind, there were no cell phones and no GPS systems to guide our way.  We had to rely on road signs and verbal directions from locals.  To add another element of challenge, my gas gauge was broken.  I was instructed by my parents to record my mileage every time I got gas.  Did I?  Almost never.  I would go on gut instincts when fueling up.  Occasionally, I’d run out of gas and I’d have to walk to a house to call my brother, Ryan to rescue me.  A little foreshadowing here.

Eventually, after driving around for what seemed like forever, we ended up at a convenience store in the ghettos of sorts.  We stopped for two very important reasons, one, to get directions, and two, to stock up on snacks.

Did I mention I illegally parked the car too?  I figured our stay would be short lived, so no worries.  Well, that’s where it all went awry.

Please note, I’ve never and will never park in a handicap designated area.  The spot where I temporarily left my car was indeed in a tow away zone, but there was no real reason why it was marked as such.  There was additional access to the store from all angles.  The lot was triangular in shape, and I was in the back corner.  To me, a rule to be broken.

As we exited this dinky, dive store that sat on the corner among the shadows, we filed back in the car to find our way home.  Did I also mention I left the keys in the car because I was used to doing so?

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Melanie Grimm & me. Wedding in Mount Pleasant, late 1990’s

It didn’t matter anyway.  Once I tried to turn over the engine, all I heard was click.  It wasn’t like the starter was grinding and trying to start.  Nope!  There was nothing!  No trying.  No almost.  Nothing.  Oh crap!  It was at that moment a sickness settled in the pit of my stomach nearly making me vomit.  Then, visions of my angry dad popped in my head.  YIKES!  Now can you say Adventures in Babysitting?

Being slightly familiar with engines, meaning not really at all, I had to try something.  I popped the hood to look inside.  Of course, no one had a flashlight. Why would we?  However, oddly enough, someone had candles and matches.  Seriously?  Yes!  I didn’t question, I just rolled with it.  We lit the candles to look inside to see if something stood out.  Nothing.  Keep in mind, the melted wax had to go somewhere, including dripping down into the engine.  A side note for later.

Okay.  Now what?  We had to try and fix the situation.  How?  By accepting a ride from a homeless man to a local garage.  Really?  Yes.  Who’s brilliant idea was that?  I have no idea, but I was desperate.  Almost immediately after coming to terms with a broken vehicle, this guy pulled up to the convenience store.  Sefo (his real name was Matt) was talking to this stranger who seemed semi-normal and I believe we paid him ten bucks to take us to a nearby auto parts store to purchase a battery.

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Lori Beanner & me in the Strip District in Pittsburgh, PA. Pre-concert at the Metropole. early to mid 1990’s

Keep in  mind, at the time, we believed it was the battery that just died. Why didn’t we have someone jump the battery?  We didn’t have jumper cables.  Did I know how to give the car a jump anyway?  You bet I did!  But without cables, I couldn’t transfer juice from one battery to another simply by wishing it.

Our plan?  Sefo, who was no bigger than me, would travel with me and this homeless man to the auto parts store, while the rest would stay with the car.  Homeless?  Yes, he converted his backseat into a closet, meaning I had to sit in the front seat between Sefo and this stranger.

Only when we began our trip, did I find out he had nearly no breaks.  How did I know?  When we approached a stop sign, the car sputtered and jerked because he had to use his emergency brake, before obviously admitting to the lack of break system.  That wasn’t the worst part.  Upon closer inspection, I saw all the wires from the dashboard strung up on the outside, and hanging down at our feet.  It really looked like he stole the car!  Scary!  To be honest, I was still more afraid to tell my parents I took the car into Pittsburgh.  Why didn’t someone else call one of their parents?  I have no idea.

Somehow this man, who was somewhat pleasant drove us, recklessly through downtown Pittsburgh, bringing us an auto parts store, as promised.  Sefo stayed with the stranger in the car, while I went in the store to purchase a battery.  Luckily, I had a checking account and I had my checkbook with me, yes when we used checks and not Mac card or credit cards.  I didn’t have either.  Now for the trip back.

To be continued…

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

Turkey On The Run

Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don’t be sorry.  ~Jack Kerouac

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Dad & Kyle in the fishing boat, getting ready to fish! 8/20/10

It’s no surprise, I totally get a kick out of our chickens and turkeys.  Truly!  So when a story as amazing as this one presents itself, I feel obligated to share the experience.

We need to step back about two and half weeks.  Dad just mowed the lawn, which was pretty high from the continuous rainfall for the last two months, and he asked me to rake up some of the bigger piles of grass to feed to the chickens and turkeys.  Great idea!  They love fresh grass and it’s healthier for them and us too.  I raked the chlorophyll strands into a five gallon bucket, and headed to the turkey coop first, since it’s further away.

Please note, normally our turkeys are very docile upon entering their domain.  They either huddle together opposite to the door, or they remain steadfast on their roosts.  So you can imagine, any other behavior would take me completely off guard.

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The escapee… this turkey is a survivor! 7/14/15

From the minute I opened the door, the story began.  I entered the turkey coop with my bucket of fresh cut grass and simply turned the container upside down to release the contents.  Well, the turkeys didn’t welcome such actions, and all eleven, yes there were (keyword here is were) eleven turkeys, each weighing about ten pounds or so, nearly fully grown, flapped their wings.  They flew in all directions and quite frankly freaked out!  Can you picture it?  Me standing in the middle of a feathery wind tunnel with large projectiles flying at and around me.  Just then, I saw two turkeys heading for the opened door, mid-air.  I leaned back, pretty gracefully I might add, and swatted the one bird back in the pen.  However, the second frantic bird made a break for it and succeed.  Oh crap!

My dad was still on the lawn mower doing the upper part of the yard.  I immediately, jumped out of the crazy hen house (pun intended), closed and locked the door behind me, and ran to the house to get the large fishing net.  While I was running around like a chicken myself (pun also intended)  I stopped dad to explain the situation.  Thinking he was going to be really made at me, he rolled his eyes, sighed, and got off the lawn mower to assist in rounding up the bird.

Dad and I cornered the escapee in the woods in the brush.  Yes, I was running around the woods with a long handled fishing pole while my dad was trying to work the bird in my direction.  At one point, we swopped and dad had the pole.  Did we capture the turkey?  Nope.  Of course that wouldn’t make much of a story.  The bird took cover under some very thick brush, and we couldn’t find it, even though we heard it calling.

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Gram & Kyle for Gram’s birthday at her apartment. 7/24/10

That happened about midday, so we had no choice but to return to our chores.  That night, as dad I were sitting on my parent’s deck, I looked up the hill.  Low and behold the turkey was strutting around the turkey coop.  It was too comical.  This time, I had the big guns with me, Kyle!  We each grabbed a long handled fishing pole, and we went turkey hunting.  We were doing pretty good too, keeping the chase out of the thick brush, at least for a while.  I got the turkey by its back once, but it slipped out.  Kyle did the same.  To be honest, I actually had a fun time running around the woods, chasing the turkey with Kyle.  It’s been too long since Kyle and I have been involved in a silly situation like this one.  My little man did a great job assisting me, but alas the bird eluded us and we lost it in really thick brush.  I didn’t want to keep pushing the bird in the opposite direction toward my cousin’s fields.  I wanted to keep it close, so we gave up for the night.  We came back to the house empty handed, and decided to make mountain pies and s’mores on the fire.

That night, the following day and into Sunday it rained, and rained, and rained, and rained hard!  To me that was a good thing considering most animals hunker down in storms, meaning they wouldn’t be out hunting.  Not to mention, the rain helps to wash away any turkey scent.  On Sunday, Kyle and I went back into the woods, yes with our fishing poles, to look for our runaway.  Did we see her?  Sadly, no, but I also didn’t see a crime scene either.  Good sign. (Imagine what we looked like walking through the woods with long handled fishing poles!)

Upon exiting the woods, I decided to throw some feed alongside the turkey coop in case it would come back.

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Gram & Pap. 1986

This brings us to Tuesday, of the following week!  The turkey lived for over a week in the wild.  Every once in a while we’d see it prancing around but couldn’t catch it.  It was too big, too fast and now it was flying.  Keep in mind, a couple hours earlier that day, I was informed my Gram passed away.  I happened to be at my parent’s house getting work down, since it was a really nice day.  I got a text from my cousin Mikey saying, he just saw a strange looking turkey on the road near my mom and dad’s house.  That’s our turkey!  She’s still alive!

Excited over the good news, I put Gram’s death aside, and ran out of the house to be struck down.  As I slammed the front door and walked down the porch steps, something came up from behind me, landed on my neck right behind my jaw and stung me!  Can you believe it?  I was stung in the neck!  Joking, I said that was Gram fighting one last time.

I ran back in the house holding my neck panting, “Oh crap!  Oh crap!  Oh crap!  It got me dad!  It got me in the neck!”

Dad:  “What happened?”
Me:  “I got stung in the neck!”
Dad:  Calmly.  Snickering at my drama.  “Ya, they hurt, especially there.”
Me:  “Oh crap dad!  It really hurts!”
Dad:  “Ya, I can imagine.  It’s not so funny now that YOU got stung.  You laughed at me when those bees chased me out of the turkey coop and stung me.”
Me:  Snickering to myself.  “No I didn’t laugh about that.  I said, I’m glad it was you and not me.  I laughed at you last summer when we were eating on the deck and the bee stung you in the lip and your lip swelled.”
Dad:  Chuckled
Me:  “Wow!  It really hurts!”
Dad:  “Maybe you still have the stinger in.  Come here and let me look.”  Dad looked, without putting on glasses and proclaimed.  “Nope, no stinger.”  Like he could see it!
Me:  “What if I have an allergic reaction?”
Dad:  Calmly.  “Well, then me and the boys (our dogs) will take you to the hospital.”
Me:   “No dad I don’t want the dogs to go along.”
Dad:  “Why?  They’d like to take a ride.  Seven (my dog) would hold your hand.”
Me:  “Dad!  I don’t want the dogs to ride along to the hospital!”
Dad:  “Oh, they’d be good.  Everyone should have a Lab doggie by their side.”  Our dogs are Labs but not my sister’s dog, even though Dad refers to her as a Lab.

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Dad & Kyle fishing on Kyle’s birthday. The entire family joined in on the fun! 7/30/05

Luckily, the only reaction I got was really bad soreness in my neck and down into my shoulder, no major swelling, and no trip to the hospital with the dogs.

Dad and I armed ourselves with our fishing poles, and continued where we left off, chasing the turkey in the woods till we gave up.  Best way to spend the day after the loss of a family member!

Two days later, that Thursday, my sister came home for the funeral.  Nicole joined in on the hunt and we gave it the old college try when we saw the turkey strutting around the coop, begging us to chase it.  This time Nicole added a new element of surprise or challenge?  You decide.  Instead of using the long handled fishing poles, she decided to grab an old sheet.  Yes, a flat sheet, like the kind that goes on a bed.  A sheet! This just keeps getting better and better.  I think, she was expecting to gracefully throw the sheet on the turkey, and have the sheet perfectly spread out and land naturally onto of our bird, and then she’d tackle the lump in the sheet.  I’m guessing that was her reasoning.  What really happened was very different.

Nicole walked around the woods holding up this sheet, while I was opposite to her with my fishing pole.  (I wish I had a video of that!  It was as funny as you can imagine.)  If anything, I think Nicole gave that turkey a good laugh, or the runaway thought a ghost was following her around.  So far Piper 0, turkey 5.  All along, I’d throw turkey feed around the coop to keep our turkey in the area.  It worked!

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Turkey’s on their roost 7/14/15

That following week, me, dad and Kyle finished building the chicken run on Tuesday, the day after Gram’s funeral.  We enclosed the area so nothing could get in or out.  That Wednesday, the chickens were running around in their playground, and who decided to join the fun?  Our turkey.  She came down to hang out by the chickens.  Dad had a great idea.  He instructed me to throw feed outside the chicken coop, prop the door open to their enclosure, and throw more feed inside, thinking we’d lure the turkey in.

That evening, when I went to set Dad’s trap, I came face to face with the turkey.  It was roosting on the post.  I couldn’t believe my luck.  Thinking I could capture the bird myself, like a ninja I crabbed my trusty fishing net and threw the net up over the turkey.  Did I get it?  Nope.  It flew up in a nearby tree.

The next morning dad said he went out to check on the chickens.  Guess who was waiting for him in the chicken run, eating the feed I spread?  Our wild turkey!  Dad said, he simply stepped in the fenced in area with a net, shut the door, and caught the turkey!

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Chickens walking around their pen 7/14/15

We’re now back up to eleven turkeys, happily roosting in their coop, until this fall.  That turkey had no idea how close I came to pulling out the shotgun and taking care of this problem once and for all before another wild animal feasted on our bird.  To be honest, I’m surprised our dogs, especially my sister’s dog didn’t get the turkey.  At one point the neighbors Saint Bernard ran across the road and chased the bird, but I intercepted him before he had a turkey dinner.

I’m sure the refugee told the others about her adventures in the wild.

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Pets,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts,Travels and have No Comments

Cruising the Open Seas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kennedy Space Center. NASA 6/10/15

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

 

 

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

Miracles of Our Time

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

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

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Autumn on the ridge. 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Snowy day on the ridge 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot of a game on FB 2014 Aunt Heather Piper

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

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