Saturday, August 8, 2015

Fifty Ways Fifty Feels Fun!

Fun? Seriously!?

On the eve of my 50th birthday just the other day, my own mom reminds me over the phone on one of our many daily conversations:
"Have fun today!....  Because tomorrow you'll be in the last half of your CENTURY!"

Then she erupted in a fit of giggles! "Bwhahahaha!" She does that a lot lately!  Really Mom!!!  Wow!

But I decided a loooooong time ago, that each day is a celebration!  Regardless of what life may throw at me, from four busy kids to a hotthubby with PD, I purposefully seek to find the positive in each and every situation.  So, on that note, on the eve of my 50th birthday, I made all my mom friends sing "Happy Birthday!" to me!  Of course, they really didn't mind (at least I don't think they did...) that on Monday M.O.S. (which stands for "Mom Only Swim") I bought a cheesecake, stuck in some candles, fired them up, then began my 50th year (a little early) with a celebration that "Fifty Feels Fun!"

My flame lit cheesecake!  Thanks for the picture Ms Nikki! Fifty Ways?

Oh sure!  So, rather than moan and groan about joining the bottom half of the century, I thought that I would attempt to see if I could think of 50 ways to celebrate turning 50.  Maybe you can help me, here we go:

1)  Provide your own favorite dessert at a gathering.
2)  Force a crowd of unsuspecting friends to sing "Happy Birthday!" to you.
3)  At 12:00:01 a.m. on your actual birthday, run in to your 15 year old daughter's room where her 15 year old friend is sleeping over and shout:  "It's my birthday!"
4)  Then do a little dance and run out of the room.
5)  Check Facebook at exactly 12:04 a.m. on my birthday just to see if there are any "Happy Birthday" posts to me.
6)  Read 8 "Happy Birthday" posts!  Then force yourself to go to bed because, really,... who wants to sleep on their 50th Birthday?
7)  Enjoy mimosas for breakfast.
8)  Prepare Eggs Benedict for all the crazy people in the Hott House, even those that don't eat it.
9)  Invite a friend, or 10, to celebrate at the coolest restaurant ever:  Lot 12!  Except, they are closed on your birthday day so make reservations for two days later!
10) Sign up to do a half marathon for the first time ever, in Cumberland!
11) Go for a run at 50, because you signed up for a half marathon a month away.
12)  Enjoy 4 miles in the early morning W. Va. outdoors without my two annoying dogs (because I snuck out the basement door to keep Freckles from waking up even though he is deaf).
13) Say a prayer for all those I love during my run. Say more prayers for my neighbors as I run by their houses.
14) Decide to text Jenny Ellis as soon as I get back to the house with an idea!
15) Return home, walking up that stinking hill, and drink a giant glass of water!
16) Discover Leah walking around outside with a beautiful butterfly we release in our weedy flower garden just before she presents me with the most amazing dragon drawing ever.
Leah's Dragon
17) Blast your favorite musical Wicked in the house at 9:00 a.m.! (even though the kiddos are still sleeping because it is time for the entire world to be up to celebrate my 50th birthday)!
18)  Sing at the top of your lungs "I have been changed FOR GOOD!"
19)  Run 8 loads of laundry.
20) Sign up for another half marathon because, well, I just turned 50, but this one is in Vegas!
21) Play the soundtrack to Wicked,... again because, well, people are still sleeping!
22) Sing loudly "Defying Gravity"
23) Attempt to defy gravity while making hollandaise sauce for Eggs Benedict.
24) Fall in the kitchen, because,... well.... of gravity.
25) Stir up Leah reading downstairs in Caity's room.
26) Make another mimosa.
27) Eat Eggs Benedict, twice.
28) Receive loving birthday surprises from my favorite people in the universe, like Violet's new coffee mug filled with chocolate covered coffee beans and beautiful Pinterest card!
29) Display my own Lego Sigfig next to my original Levi Lego creation of our log home on the piano.
Original Lego Art by Levi

30) Scream hysterically when opening my hotthubby's card with tickets to see Kristen Chenowith at Wolftrap on August 28th!
31) Watch "Taylor the Latte Boy" 50 times on youtube, because...yes, I am 50 now!
32) Giggle nonstop because Kristen Chenoweth is hysterical.
33) Sob nonstop watching Kristen and Idena sing "For Good" because it is just the best duet ever.
34) Discover a youtube video with Kristen and Anna Kendrick that is amazing!

35) Remember to text Jenny about an idea for which she'll probably consider me a weirdo.
36) Text Jenny Ellis.
37) Put on a tiny bikini (because no one is home but me and well, I am now 50).
38) Blast Wicked for the third time, except this time on the outside speakers (just in case the neighbors missed it in the kitchen, or they are also still sleeping!).
39) Float around the pool.
40) Sip on some sweet tea someone left here earlier this week.
41) Wonder which teenager went home without their giant blue Nike's sitting by the pool.
42) Remain puzzled by the mom who went home last night without her pool bag.  Make a mental note to text someone about that.
43) Forget to apply sunscreen.
44) Wonder if Dan wants to go to Vegas in November.
45) Spend the best 90 minutes ever with my 11 year old Isaac while floating around in the sun.
46) Notice Dan arrived and is sitting by the pool too, sipping a sweet tea.
47) Remember he really hates sitting outside, but is hanging out with me because, well, I'm 50 today!
48) Enjoy my favorite ribs and corn with my favorite people for my first supper as a 50-year-old-grey-haired-PD blogging-hott-mama of four - and sometimes more!  Talk to Caity on the phone.
49) Lace up my Runners Retreat, size 5, kid Brooks sneakers again on my second day as a 50 year old and go for a run.
50) Register to do a half marathon in Key West in January 2016 and dream about sand under my before mentioned sneakers while it is snowing up north.
51) Arrive home finally after my Lot 12 dinner party celebration to discover 50 people in my house!


Sounds like the PERFECT birthday to me!  While most of this list actually occurred, some items remain to be seen; like registering for a half marathon right down the Vegas strip or around Key West in the winter.  Still waiting on the mimosas; but just thinking about champagne at any time feels festive, right? And honestly, I think there were way more than 50 people here last night,  You guys are the best!  Thank you ALL for loving me and my family, my crazy ideas, reading and sharing my posts, and most of all, making turning 50 feel like so much fun!  Where two or three...or 50 are gathered, right?

"No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, 
and his love is brought to full expression in us."  1 John 4:12

Know what?  I saw Him here on Hott Mountain many times this week, His full expression, in the faces of each of...!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Caregiver's Review of "CARING AND COPING: A Caregiver's Guide to Parkinson's Disease"

Yes, that's me...finally reading CARING AND COPING,
A Caregiver's Guide to Parkinson's Disease
A Caregiver's Review of CARING AND COPING:  A Caregiver's Guide to Parkinson's Disease

Books do NOT sit around my house.  No, no, no!  When a new book comes through the door of our log house nestled here in the hills of West Virginia, there is never time for a speck of dust to collect on its cover.  New books just don't get a break around here!  It's like, the second we bring them home, they are circulated around the many readers, stuffed in back packs, carried to cars for road trips, or lounging with someone out by the pool.  A new book is a little like a batch of cookies:  it disappears quickly!

So then, why did CARING AND COPING: A Caregiver's Guide to Parkinson's Disease find itself shuffled around my house?  Nearly two weeks following the arrival in our rural box half a mile away, this free resource offered by the National Parkinson's Foundation just got ignored.  It sat there, all alone.  I just could not bring myself to crack it open and read this "comprehensive guide for caregivers of people with Parkinson's at any stage."

Yes, at any STAGE, it says plainly in the description.  However, what it failed to communicate to me was at any AGE!

With just a quick glance, between the covers of CARING AND COPING:  A Caregiver's Guide to Parkinson's Disease, I found that all, and I mean ALL the PWP (People with Parkinson's) were way older than my PWP!  Packed full of Senior Citizen images, and not to belittle their needs or diminish the severity of their disease, (after all, the National Parkinson's Foundation says that "the average age of PD diagnosis is around 62) this 49 year-old-grey-haired-PD-bloggin-hott-mama-of-four was just way too young to find any need for what it had to tell me!  I may have turned white earlier than most, but I was not ready to include my hubby of 18 years with those in their 80's.

So, there it sat.  And sat...

...and sat.

My PWP.  My adorable hott-hubby Dan was diagnosed at barely 50.  At the time, our youngest were just 2 and 3 years old.  When I finally swept the dust of the cover and picked up my workbook with tips and tools for my Parkinson's caregiving journey, I looked everywhere for young families like mine.  Did I find them?


But here is what I did find.  And it is simple.  And I needed to hear it.

CARING AND COPING:  A Caregive's Guide to Parkinson's Disease "focuses on your dual role as a caregiver:  caring for someone with Parkinson's disease, and taking care of yourself."

Now, that is just something I don't have time all!  Taking care of me?  No, there is just too much to do!  What, with four busy children, three are in three different schools!  So...with activities ranging from elementary school carnivals and tattooing all 400 children in grades three - five; middle school track meets and band concerts; high school running events; final exams; field trips and churro making for tomorrow's Spanish class, how I am supposed to take care of me?

So, I began to read.  CARING AND COPING comes with not just all there is to know about Parkinson's Disease.  In fact, in my journey with PD, I have read much of it already.  But what is nice is that the dear people from NPF have managed to contain not information on PD stages but a wealth of information for me to consider as Dan's symptoms progress, and as much as I attempt to deny it, they will progress.  So, how do I prepare for this?

I have my workbook, CARING AND COPING:  A Caregiver's guide to PD!  Packed with practical pointers from organizing medical information, understanding symptoms, to getting outside help, there are even worksheets to help caregivers organize meds and monitor symptoms.  I can remain in my sea of "denial" all I want, but the fact remains that unless Parkinson's is cured sometime soon, I will slowly watch Dan and I evolve into just the people pictured in this book.

And that scares me.

So...what do I do?  How do we caregivers "cope" with watching our loved ones battle with this stinking illness.  Sure, with adequate meds carefully timed, life almost seems...well,...normal.  But how is living with painful muscle cramps, rigidity, slowness, fatigue, freezing, or even the "mask" normal?  Early disability from a thriving career in your early 50's is not normal.

It's not.  Plain and simple.  So, what do we do?  We read resources like CARING AND COPING.  And, well,... we pray.

Yes, we pray.  And we get involved in an organized national effort which brings not only hope for a cure but encourages engagement and participation with other caregivers all over the world. Get over the denial, start getting involved, and read this book...finally.

And I finally listened to another mom (thanks Tally!) who told me I needed to do something for myself, anything... like start running maybe.  Just do it, and little did I know then, but it will be easier to start now, before we are in our golden years and overcome by PD.   Although it took me years to try it and 4 months to train, I just did my first virtual 10K on National Running Day, June 3rd.  Joined by some crazy friends, we ran the C & O Canal to beat Parkinson's Disease.  It sure wasn't Miami...but it was just as much fun!
Are YOU a caregiver?  Find something to do that YOU like and
start reading CARING AND COPING.
What are you waiting for?  Just do it...NOW!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Thanks for the Ride, Russ!

"I was a friend of Russ Tutterow."

Chicago was my home in the late 80's when knowing Russ Tutterow connected me to a new family far away from my hometown, Berkeley Springs, WV.  A fresh theatre college grad from "back east," I arrived in Chicago and settled in my first studio apartment.  Russ was my first dinner guest.

I will never forget the look on his face staring at my Italian sausage plate of spaghetti.  I guess it really was kinda funny; but Russ graciously accepted my West Virginia hospitality, an expression of gratitude for his help when I was new in town, during the days when the Chicago Dramatists Workshop was still on Halstead (right street...I think?'s been such a long time!)

While attending one of the many gatherings of playwrights, during the holidays of 1989 Russ looked at me all decked out in my finest holiday comfy clothes (I was barely 5 feet and 7 months pregnant) and said, " look like a Christmas bulb!"  Bob Goodman giggled.

Later in early 1990, when I found myself soon to deliver my first baby much earlier than expected, Russ went to the airport to pick up my mother, arriving from West Virginia.  Over the last 25 years, she has never forgotten this ride and I have often heard her retell the story where the first words she heard getting off the plane were from Russ Tutterow: "Congratulations!  You have a new granddaughter!  The baby arrived early, delivered after an emergency C-section just a little while ago."  Now remember, Russ had never met this woman.

Quickly receiving a hard slug in the arm from my West Virginia momma and a surprised "NO! Already?!"...Russ then drove my mom to Ravenswood Hospital to meet the first grandchild of her only daughter.  This, my mom will share, was a ride she will NEVER forget.

My mom, me, and Russ Tutterow.
In the hospital after Caity was born, Jan. 1990.
Arriving to Russ' car, he gently explains with a twinkle in his eye that his car had recently been stripped, by thieves!  Unsure exactly what to expect, my mom rode to the hospital driven by Russ Tutterow in a lawn chair!

Still, she too will add "I was a friend of Russ Tutterow."

Shortly after Caity was born, I eventually moved back to West Virginia where I remain today.  Of all the excitement of living in Chicago and loving the theatre scene, what I always missed the most was the ever warm hug, twinkling eyes, and smile of Russ Tutterow.

The news of Russ' passing yesterday morning makes my heart sad because

"I was a friend of Russ Tutterow."

Thursday, April 9, 2015

"The Story of King Jesus" - A New Children's Book Review

Looking for a beautiful book about Jesus to share with your family?  Try "The Story of King Jesus" by Ben Irwin to discover the Bible stories captured in short prose and colorful illustrations that come to life from God's beginnings to contemporary times.  

A nonprofit Christian publisher based in Colorado Springs, David C. Cook offers a unique opportunity for adults to connect with children with "The Story of King Jesus."  Reading the familiar passages, author Ben Irwin manages to provide families with a new way to share the Gospel.  As I expected to be re-reading God's message, I found that as I followed the story, what appeared in the illustrations offered a completely separate picture-story.  Check it out!  Scattered among the illustrations, by Nick Lee, are pictures of separate stories!  I find it a magical opportunity to read along AND tell God's stories at once.  Each image provides yet another Bible message.

In Mr. Irwin's "Note to Parents," he says this:  "In the Bible, when the Israelites wanted to pass their faith to the next generation, they shared their ancient story of rescue; 'We were slaves of Pharoah in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand' (Deuteronomy 6:12). Stories have the power to nurture children's curiosity and to engage their imaginations."  As the scenes unfold, parents have a unique opportunity to tell even more stories from scripture with the pictures skillfully scattered throughout.  What a magical way to bring the Bible to life for the next generation of believers to then experience and someday share with their own families!

When I asked my own next generation, 10 year old Levi, if he would recommend "The Story of King Jesus," he said "Definitely!"  

So too does this 49-year-old-gray-haired-blogging-hott-mama of four!  I definitely encourage others to share "The Story of King Jesus" with children!  Interested in receiving a copy?  Please comment or message me to be entered to receive a complimentary book from David C. Cook.  

Friday, February 13, 2015

House Bill 2005 for Education Reform in West Virginia

Our West Virginia Legislature has been working hard and I am especially encouraged to learn of the House of Representatives recent passing of House Bill 2005.

This exciting bill, which will allow second career subject matter experts to teach in classrooms, also proposes acceptance of Teach for America, an organization that "recruits committed recent college graduates and professionals of all backgrounds to teach for two years in urban and rural public schools."

According to the Charleston Daily Mail, "Of the ten poorest states in the nation, West Virginia is the only one that has shut out Teach for America.  The organization sends teachers to rural Missippi and Arkansas, to inner-city Baltimore, to eastern Kentucky."  See more at:

Not West Virginia!  Why?  Well, who really knows; but from what I have read it is because of union control over education in our state. (See above story.)  However, as a parent and voter in West Virginia, NOW is an exciting opportunity for ALL residents of West Virginia to initiate a change!  By letting our elected officials know we support education reform, YOU can help House Bill 2005 pass and become law.

You see, I am currently involved in a project to enrich Morgan County's STEM education with robotic technology.  By investing in resources to design, build, and program robotic technology today, we help grow tomorrow's engineers, technicians, and operators.  With more Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEaM) available for our students, we (yes! we!) will provide them the hope to achieve life long skills and dreams to achieve careers providing competitive wages.

Our problem is financing with Morgan County, and West Virginia's, limited resources.  With the availability of Teach for America here, we can not only fill critical vacancies state wide but also propel our new robotics program to the next phase: hire a county STEM/Robotics Educator and provide a class to ALL students county wide in the related arts rotation.  To date, we have been able to fundraise for the technology with the generous support of State Farm Insurance, Tom Seeley Foundation, Gat Creek Furniture, Forum for Arts Science and Technology, and community support.  In fact, the partnership with Morgan County Schools and the WVU Extension Office has raised nearly $25,000!

Now, it's YOUR turn to help.  Please forward a brief message to our elected officials asking them to pass House Bill 2005.  It has already passed in the House at a vote of 60-35.  Now, as it proceeds to the Senate and then Governor Tomblin, you can let them know of your support by sending this quick message (provided below, just copy and paste to your email):

To:  Governor Tomblin:  888-438-2731
        Senator Trump:  304-357-7980
        Senator Blair:  304-357-7867

Dear Governor and Senate Representatives:
I support Education Reform in West Virginia.   Please vote in favor of House Bill 2005 to allow for alternative teacher certification for second career field experts and authorize Teach for America permission to recruit teachers to fill our state's much needed vacancies.
(your name)

Thanks for helping our students achieve their dreams!


Saturday, January 10, 2015

I Support the North Berkeley Rail Trail

Do you?  Because if you happen to find the benefits of a community walking/running trail for Morgan County, we need to let our commissioners know before small town politics reject a well conceived concept for the health, wellness, and safety of our citizens of ALL ages.  In order to "Save the North Berkeley Rail Trail" please contact all our county commissioners and, if possible, attend their next meeting on January 22nd, at 9:30 a.m. (Contact info to follow so keep reading.)

Excuse me?  Can I tell you why the news that Ford wants to pull the plug on North Berkeley Rail Trail was so upsetting to this soon-to-be-50-grey-haired-hott-mama-of-four?  I read the article from the Morgan Messenger as it was released late Thursday afternoon.  We were on our way to Ruby Tuesdays to celebrate the 20 year anniversary of our first blind date.  Back to school after a snow break, our 14 year old freshman cross country runner is chatting away in the car about her trip to the Morgan County Courthouse with the team.  Imagine my surprise as I realized she was present at the very meeting reported in the paper.

I found it alarming that our BSHS Cross Country team state CHAMPIONS had to witnesss the discussion to possibly reject a running/walking trail by our county commissioners.  From a town that harbors a winning running program recognized state wide and no adults in the room realize or notices that the county commissioners are discussing cutting a trail project that could benefit the very future voters present in the room.  As a parent of a runner, I found this to be in poor taste, setting a terrible example for our children; not to mention belittling the very effort and hard work these students exhibit by their dedication to a sport which provides them beneficial life-long learning.

Later, I read on facebook:  "As someone mentioned in a whisper at this meeting: 'why don't they just say they want to kill it because it was Stacy's project. At least we'd respect them.'" Well, our children heard what happened because as they left the meeting, a teenager whispered, "I kinda wish we had a trail like that to run on."

So do I!  This parent of a runner, and with a large family that frequently runs and bikes together, I also wish they had a safe trail off the busy curvy roads to run and for practice.  It sounds to me like it would honor a team of Champions and provide a valuable resource for our community and not just our tourists, making an asset for people already living here; and a reason for people to stay.

Trails are provided for communities all over the country!  I was so surprised to read that the commissioners felt this was "ill conceived from the start."  According to the article, "'it's my belief that it was an ill-conceived project from the word go,' said Ford. 'I've asked what the purpose is of the project and I've never got a clear answer.'"

Purpose of a walking/running trail?  Seriously?   Commissioner Ford had plenty of runners in the room that could have helped him figure out the "purpose of the project."  As a resident of Morgan County, I find it offensive not only that this was part of the meeting while the team was present but that it was chided about tourists utilizing the trail. What about families?  What about seniors?  Where has Ford been?  Ask anyone around town where the teams run.  They are everywhere during training AND after: out New Hope Road, on Hospital Hill, along Route 13.  Hard not to miss them.  What is the purpose of the trail?  Well, for walking and running!  Communities all over the country build trails to promote healthy living.  Kinda fits our little spa town, doesn't it?

In fact, my own family often drives over to Hancock to bike or run the rail trail.  It is always an adventure and the kids love it!  We always tie in the 30 minute drive there with a treat which normally includes picking up a pie at Blue Goose, lunch at Weavers, the Farmer's Market on Thursdays, or just a trip to Pittmans (for Levi's Lender's onion bagels which aren't available in Food Lion).  Hmmmm... sounds like plenty of good reasons for a trail in Morgan County.

And you know what?  Not all of Hancock's trail is scenic.  In fact, who wants to walk parallel along noisy Interstate 70?  And, why would a North Berkeley Rail Trail be called a "trail to no where"?  It seems like the Senior Center and Towne of Bath are both pretty cool destinations, right?

I was told in defense of the meeting, that the girls were later than expected because of the school delay; hence they witnessed the trail debate.  Sorry, but this mom feels that is no excuse for adults to allow this debacle in front of children.  Did no one recognize the complete irony of it all?  It so sets a poor example of our local government when it could have been tabled until after the team was honored.  Now what must they be thinking?  Work hard and achieve a success only to come home and hear an elected official question the purpose of a community trail.

I will apologize for my rant here and, honestly, I mean no disrespect.  Forgive me for expecting more from the adults we have elected to govern our county we call home.  Quite frankly, this voter feels that our commissioners owe these children and their coaches an apology for overlooking the craziness of debunking a rail trail with them present.  The behavior of adults, especially elected officials, are watched under a microscope.  Come on.  These kids were invited to be recongized for achievement of being Number One in West Virginia - for running!  Why can't we have a safe place for them to train and continue to produce champion athletes?

Why can't we provide seniors with a trail for exercise?  Why can't we provide families with healthy alternatives locally?  Why can't we respect each other more at a public meeting?

So, please support the North Berkeley Rail Trail.  Come to the Jan. 22nd meeting.  Tell ALL our county commissioners to continue this very well conceived concept for our community and figure out the funding and most reasonable engineering to make this happen. Here is their contact information.

Morgan County Commission Office:  304-258-8540
Commissioner Bradley J. Close, President, email
Commissioner Robert L. Ford, email
Commissioner Joel R. Tutte, email

"Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you." 
Genesis 13:17

Friday, December 12, 2014

"My Christmas Miracle" from Judy Judy

Sharing this true story of Judy Judy's Christmas Miracle, a real life Hallmark Christmas Story!   "The Christmas Miracle" was written by Don Kesner, a minister, who continues to write part time for the Hampshire Review in W. Va.

"My Christmas Miracle

DON KESNER Review Staff
SLANESVILLE — Six-year old
Judy Ann stood along the
roadside, waiting for the big yellow
bus to come that would take
her to school.
Her hair was uncombed, her
face was dirty and the flip flops
on her feet exposed her toes and
legs to the cold wind.
There was no coat in her closet
to put on. In fact, there wasn’t
even a closet, according to Judy
Her parents lived in a big, old
farmhouse, but stayed in just
three rooms. The rest of the
house was closed off to keep the
heat confined to the small living
“I remember that when I’d get
to school, the teachers would
take me into the rest room and
wash my face and try to fix up
my hair before I would go to
class,” she said. “Those teachers

were very kind to me.”
She remembers kids at school
making fun of her because of
her clothes, and because of her
Judy Ann had a speech impediment
that made her difficult,
at best, to understand when
she talked.
“People would ask me where
I lived and I would tell them, ‘I
live in the ticks(sticks),’” she said.
Judy Ann said she didn’t
know to tell people that she
lived in Slanesville because all
she had ever heard about her
home was that it was “in the
The old farmhouse sat down
a long, dirt road that was seldom
ever traveled because her
parents didn’t have a car.
Her mom was mentally challenged
and her father was an alcoholic,
according to Judy Ann.
She is the fourth among six
siblings. The first three, two
half-sisters and a half-brother,
were given away at birth, she
“People told me that my
mom always talked about wanting
to keep one of her babies. I
guess I was the lucky one who
got to stay home,” said Judy
Home isn’t exactly the word
that would describe Judy Ann’s
living environment, but it was
all she knew at the time, she
“I remember being hungry,
and that there were times when
Mom and I would go for a couple
of days without food,” said
Judy Ann. “I remember we had
company one time and after
they had left, I found a can of
unfinished Vienna Sausages in
the trash can. I couldn’t believe
anyone would throw away
She finished them off, she
Judy Ann says her mom’s
mental limitations made it impossible
for her mother to care
for her daily needs.
“Mom was more like a little
kid,” she said. “She would go
out in the yard and play with
me and she’d go for walks in
the woods with me.”
Judy Ann remembers the next
baby being born — a younger
“She was born in the outhouse,”
said Judy Ann. “I remember
my mom telling me
that her stomach hurt and that
she had to go to the outhouse.
She came back carrying a
Judy Ann said she remembers
seeing her little sister lying in a
bassinet that someone had given
her mother.
“I don’t remember ever seeing
her again until I met her at
my grandmother’s funeral,”
said Judy Ann.
That, she said, was nearly 23
years later.
It was when Judy Ann was 6
that her bus driver, Pat Percival,
told a friend about her.
Slanesville residents Robert
(Rip) and Brenda Riffle had no
children of their own, so in order
to make Christmas really
special, they would take a child
from the Burlington Children’s
Home and keep him or her for
the Christmas holidays, according
to Judy Ann.
After hearing about Judy Ann
from Pat Percival, the Riffles
agreed to take her for the holidays.
“(Pat) told me about this really
nice couple who wanted to
have a little girl at their home
for Christmas, and asked me if I
wanted to spend Christmas with
them,” Judy Ann said.
Christmas wasn’t anything
Judy Ann had ever really experienced.
There was never a tree
or a decoration. There were no
ornaments to remember or gifts
to open.
That was, until one year she
remembers the Voit family
coming to the house with boxes
of presents.
“There were toys and clothes
and I remember being so excited,”
said Judy Ann. “There was
a little ceramic Mickey Mouse
cup in the box. That was my favorite.”
Judy Ann remembers her dad
having a television installed in
the old home shortly before the
Voits had made their memorable
“I had seen a commercial on
TV for Bounty paper towels,
and how they would put a cup
on a wet paper towel and carry
it around,” said Judy. “I remember
trying it with my ceramic
Mickey Mouse cup.”
She said she can also still remember
crying because the paper
towel didn’t hold and her
cup fell onto the floor and
It was Dec. 11, 1974, and
Judy Ann awoke with an excitement
like none before.
“I just knew that someone
was coming to take me to their
house to stay for a while,” she
It was an answer to a prayer
that Judy Ann had prayed many
“I don’t know how I knew to
do it, but I would lay in bed at
night and pray for a new family,”
said Judy Ann. “And even
at 6 years old, I knew that
morning that someone was
coming to get me and that I
wanted the house to look nice. I
remember running around the
three rooms, trying to pick
things up so it would look good
for the people who were coming
to get me.”
It was a long walk down the
old dirt road and Brenda, Pat
and Pat’s daughter, Cindy, came
walking up into the yard.
Judy Ann left her home that
morning and it was the last time
she ever went home.
It took her a while to warm
up to “Rip” because, she said he
had a beard and she was afraid
of men with beards.
“But I can still remember the
feeling walking into their home
and everything was so pretty
and clean,” said Judy Ann.
That night, Brenda gave her a
bath in a hot tub, something
she’d never experienced.
Her old home never had running
water, or any of the conveniences
of a real home.
“(Brenda) taught me that
night how to wash myself, and
how to do my hair,” Judy Ann
said. “And I got to sleep in my
own room with a big bed.”
It was only a twin-sized bed,
but to Judy Ann, it was huge.
Until she was at least 3, she
said she had to sleep in the bed
with her mom and dad.
“When I was 3, someone
gave us a crib, and that became
my bed until I left there that
morning,” Judy Ann said. “I
have memories of climbing up
over the rails to go to bed.”
But Judy Ann said she’ll never
forget Dec. 11, 1974, or that
It was the first Christmas tree
she had ever seen.
“Brenda and Rip asked me
what I wanted for Christmas
and I told them a talking kitty
that I had seen on television,”
she said. “I only asked for one
thing because that’s all I
thought a kid could get.”
That Christmas was the first
time she ever experienced helping
to make cookies, get presents,
see Christmas trees and
The Riffles took her to New
Jersey to Brenda’s parent’s
“Their Christmas tree must
have been 20-feet tall,” she
said. “I just stood there and
stared at it.”
That was the Christmas her
life changed.
“They kept asking me if I
wanted to go home, and I’d tell
them no, I wanted to stay
there,” Judy Ann said.
She took to calling both
Brenda and Rip’s parents
grandma and granddad right
Judy Ann said she remembers
her mom coming to visit her at
the Riffle’s house occasionally.
“Dad would drop her off in
the driveway and leave,” said
Judy Ann. “Mom liked my
room and would talk about how
pretty everything was.”
As time went on, the visits
became fewer and fewer until
she never saw her mom again
until one day she showed up at
the end of their old road, waiting
for the bus.
“Pat stopped the bus and
asked Mom what she wanted,”
said Judy Ann.
Her mother said she had
come to take Judy Ann home,
but Pat said she couldn’t let
Judy Ann off at that stop.
“I rode the same bus when I
moved to Brenda and Rip’s, I
just got off at a different stop,”
she said. “But I had drawn a
pretty picture that day at school.
I know it was pretty because
my teacher told the other kids,
‘look what a pretty picture Judy
Ann has drawn.’”
That day, at that stop, Judy
Ann said she asked Pat if she
could give her mom the picture.
“I walked to the front of the
bus, gave mom the picture and
a hug,” said Judy Ann. “I can
still remember her crying as the
bus pulled away.”
It took three long years before
the Riffles could officially
adopt Judy Ann.
“I really think my dad held it
up because he would tell Brenda
and Rip that he could get
good money for me,” she said.
“I think now that he must have
gotten a welfare check for me,
even though I was living with
the Riffles.”
But with the adoption official,
Judy Ann settled in to her
new home for good.
“Brenda and Rip are my parents,
and always will be,” said
Judy Ann. “But I guess that, because
it took so long to get
adopted, I just got used to calling
them Brenda and Rip.”
But Judy Ann said the Riffles
have made Dec. 11 of every
year extra special because that’s
the date she became theirs.
And Christmas has always
been special to Judy Ann ever
“I never saw my mom again
until her mother passed away
and I went to the funeral,” said
Judy Ann. “I was married to my
husband Billy and was pregnant
by that time.”
Judy Ann said her mother
recognized her right away.
“Judy Ann,” she said, “I
would know you anywhere.”
Judy Ann said the kids at
school quit laughing at her after
she went to live with the Riffles.
And with the help of Gerald
Mathias, a speech therapist with
the Hampshire County Board of
Education at the time, and
Brenda, she overcame her
speech impediment.
Judy Ann uniquely married a
man with the same last name as
her first name and became Judy
The Judy’s home shouts
Christmas from the time it
comes into sight in Pleasant
Dale Acres.
The inside is lighted as
brightly as the outside, with a
Christmas tree in every room,
yes, even the bathrooms.
Each one is uniquely decorated
with a different theme and
Christmas cookies set on the
table for company.
Everyone who visits the Judy
home during the Christmas holidays
goes away with a little
Christmas gift, a token showing
how special Christmas is.
She has reunited with all of
her siblings over the years. And,
she has visited her mother on
She never saw her dad again
and sent a single rose to the funeral
when he died, but she didn’t
According to Judy, his abusiveness
to her and her mom
made him easy to forget.
But some things she’ll never
forget, like every piece of
Christmas decorations she has,
and who gave them to her, as
well as why she received them
and when.
This is the first year she didn’t
get to spend Dec. 11 with
her parents, Brenda and Rip.
They moved to North Carolina
and she and her family plan to
visit them over the New Years.
But, on Dec. 11, a dozen roses
were delivered to her, in
memory of Dec. 11, the day she
came to live at her new home
35 years ago."

Judy with her roses celebrating Dec. 11!
Wasn't that beautiful!  "My Christmas Miracle" makes me wonder how God must have felt sending Jesus to earth on Christmas to give away his only son.  How hard it must have been for Judy's mom, although compromised, watching that bus pull away with her baby.  God so loved her too... and little Judy, He gave a child a new life that December 11, 1976.

"For God so loved the world, that He gave his only son...."  John 3:16

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Oh I Want a Lego Robot Kit for Christmas!

Listen to Levi and EV3 sing about a way to ignite a student's STEM education and put Lego Robotic technology under a teacher's tree this year!  Join the community helping Morgan County launch a Robotics STEM Program for students county wide!  Donations of $500 will purchase Lego robot technogy for a teacher's classroom, 4H Club "Relentless Robotics", and provide needed intervention in math and science!  Any contribution welcome! To find out more, contact Angie Hott ( or visit us at:

 Here are the words to sing along with Levi (the tune is "Oh I Want a Hippopatimus"):

Oh I want a Lego Robotics Kit for Christmas
Not just any Lego Kit will do
A Mindstorm EV3, or a WeDo for me
My teacher at school will use to teach us math see

See me at school after Christmas morning
Walking down the ha-all
Imagine my surprise
When I open up my eyes
To see a Mindstorm Robot standing tall!

Oh I want a Lego Robotics Kit for Christmas
Not just any Lego Kit will do
A Mindstorm EV3, or a WeDo for me
For Interventions needs At Morgan County After 3

Help Morgan County grow a program
To benefit us a-all
Achieve careers in STEM
This is how we can begin
Teachers need equipment to start on the ball

Oh I want a Lego Robotics Kit for Christmas
Help us buy a robot kit or two
A Mindstorm EV3, or a WeDo for me
Send your donation to be under teacher’s tree

Monday, December 1, 2014

Advent Conspiracy for Cyber Monday

December 1st!

Cyber Monday!

So, the kiddos are back to school and this morning is the first time I have checked my email since before Thanksgiving.  Holy cow!  214 messages in my "Promotions" inbox!

Thinking I could do a little online shopping since the house is quiet (and Levi is not manipulating my laptop), the shear amount of great deals and offers are making this 49-year-old-grey-haired-PD blogging-hott- mama-of-four's mind spin!

Aaaaaarrrrrgh!  Delete,... delete...  DELETE!

You know what?  Yesterday, Pastor Stan shared this video called the "Advent Conspiracy."  Check it out.  I never realized the US spends $450 billion at Christmas!  Wow...that sure could purchase quite the STEAM robotics engineering program for our at risk county here in rural West Virginia.

Excuse me, can I tell you something?  My sister-in-law, Tammy (who headed home to Philly early Sunday morning) proposed just this idea on Thanksgiving Day!  She suggests that our family contribute to a charity collectively as a family rather than purchase gifts for adults; and continue her traditional yummy cookie and mint fudge exchange!  Her idea was that we select the Michael J Fox Foundation, who is researaching a cure for Parkinson's Disease.  There's a cool gift!

I love it!  And, how interesting that within an hour after she heads home Pastor Stan shows us all this video.  I think God was winking at Aunt Tammy as she headed north on that PA Turnpike!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Career Day at the Elementary School

Meet your future Hazmat Civil Engineer!

Today is Career Day at Warm Springs Intermediate School.  Organized as a fundraiser for the fourth grade field trip to the National Zoo, each student is encouraged to come to school dressed as a career which interests them.  Each student brings $1 to participate!

So, imagine the excitement from Levi when he announced that he wanted to go to school dressed as a Hazmat Engineer!  I thought his daddy was going to burst at the seams as well!  I am not sure what was more fun for Levi; looking like the Hazmat dude in the Godzilla movie or his suit moving in and out when he breathes.

A retired civil engineer for Chevron, my hubby Dan was able to round up the professional mask and hazmat suit pictured here on Levi on his way out the door this morning.  Since Dan closed his environmental engineering firm in 2008, providing our 9 year old with his career day clothes made him just as giddy!  You should have seen them both!

Levi also has bathroom duty today.... a task for which he is well prepared!

"...For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise."  (John 5:19)