Friday, June 20, 2014

Happy Birthday West Virginia, Our "Home Among the Hills"

It is always nice returning to my "Home Among the Hills"...Happy Birthday West Virginia!  After looking around the country, there is still no place like home.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Posting a Post for Father's Day






Funny the things that pop in my head while in the shower.  Today,... another Father's Day,... it was this picture.

Taken in the Berkeley Springs State Park during his sister's high school band concert, Isaac Hott (~18 months) was under the watchful eye of his Pap-pap, Bobbie McBee.

Tending to the needs of his 3 month old brother, Levi, this new mom of four was confident that her dad wouldn't let Isaac drown, while keeping him safe and well, happy, as I juggled my attention to the clarinet performance of his teenage sister, entertained her younger sister Violet with snacks, and managed the needs of a newborn.

Little did I know that all the while, his granddad was swinging Isaac over the springs to the delightful glee of toddler Isaac.  While soaring like a plane in his arms, Isaac notices with interest all that is contained within the springs of the Berkeley Springs State Park.  

Getting a much "closer" look, Isaac decides to land belly down to the ground as he proceeds to reach for all that grows and lives beneath the surface of the spring water.  Crawling with creatures and live yucky things, my curious toddler unable to reach the craw-fish on the bottom decides to explore the slimy green muck growing along the walls of the stream.  

With handfuls of the mossy wet green wonder and curly bangs dangling dangerously at the water's edge, Isaac reaches for another handful of the mysterious green sludge just when photographer, John Douglas (former editor of The Morgan Messenger) snaps this picture.  Little did Isaac realize his granddad was really close behind.

Engaged in nonstop conversation about the wonders beneath the town's springs, Pap-pap returns Isaac wet, dirty, slimy, muddy boots, with a suspiciously green smile... and... totally and completely happy!

Oh well...a little slime never hurt anyone, right?  

Seeing this picture reminds me how grateful I was to have a father that allowed me to explore my universe too, yet always within reach of his gentle, watchful eye; not at all unlike the comforting watchful eye of our Heavenly Father, who is also not far behind.  Allowing us to explore, to learn, and to discover all that is new and exciting about His amazing world, so did Pap-pap completely engage Isaac in an afternoon of discovery, all within his watchful eye.

I don't know about you; but it sure makes me feel good to know that my Father is with me and will watch over me wherever I go.  You too?

"I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. 
I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."  Genesis 28:15

Monday, April 28, 2014

WESTEST and Tummy Aches

Seasons come and seasons go, right?  Just as the Christmas holidays roll into winter which eventually brings us Easter with the budding Spring, not long after for those of us subjected to the West Virginia public school system, comes...the WESTEST.  (da, da, dahm -- go the ominous kettle drums!)

The WESTEST 2 is a criterion referenced summative assessment.  It measures how well a student demonstrates competency on the West Virginia 21st Century Content Standards and Objectives.  The test measures students in Math, Science, Reading/Language Arts and Social Studies.

Here in Morgan County, West Virginia, (and elsewhere), standardized testing has become a device that measures much more than our children's competency.  A local, heated debate over funding education, the WESTEST has evolved into a representation of both teacher performance and administration's management of our school system.  Scores have been quoted, numbers manipulated, and stories told that piture our county to be "dumber than rocks." For weeks, my three Morgan County Students have rolled out the door to school bemoaning the oncoming and unavoidable exercise - the WESTEST.

This school year, our youngest hottling, Levi, will undergo his first experience to take the West Virginia Educational Standards Test.  And he is NOT happy.  Does this happen at your house too?  "WESTEST and Tummy Aches!" occur daily!  Stress, sleeplessness, and loss of appetite?  Why, why, WHY?!  As much as we reassure him that he will be just fine regardless of his WESTEST outcome, he continues to fret this week's assessments.

Even so, he cried a few days ago when they were scheduled for WESTEST Practice.  Really?!  And, don't get me started about last month's writing assessments.

This 48-year-old-grey-haired-PD bloggin-hott-mama-of-four has three students taking the test this school year.  Coming from a house of West Virginia roots, we have college graduates, a sister already with an MBA and honors, a soon-to-be-brother-in-law with a Masters in Economics from American University, and a couple of nerdy parents with University of MD BS and UMass BA degrees. I continue to push my Morgan County students out the door this morning much happier than Practice and Writing Assessment Days.

I wish everyone would quit harping on this WESTEST and just get it over with.  The build-up is unbearable.  We are NOT "dumber than rocks" W. Va. rednecks here!  In fact, I'm sending two "Distinguished Scholars" back to take this crazy test this year along with a first time third grader.  (Check out these pretty cute "rocks" from Frozen!")

Morgan County is full of some pretty smart rocks out there!  I wish this levy conflict would see how terrible it has made the school year for our children and the conflict would crawl back under the rock it came from.  The levy election and WESTEST can't be over soon enough.

Vote "yes" on May 13th!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Technology, Toddlers, and PD

"Technology, technology everywhere.  Everywhere you look!"

As April rolls around once again to another month of Parkinson's Awareness, I love to celebrate!  Plain and simple, give me the tiniest accomplishment from first freckles, lost teeth, to MBA's and grad degrees, I'm popping champaign!  Bring on the big stuff, and don't hold me back because you'll find two bottles of bubbly.  Celebrate Parkinson's?  Why not!  Sure beats being bummed out about it.  Instead, I chose to recognize the blessings in PD's little gifts like another family sunset or late weekend mornings watching tv.  This year, this 48-year-old-grey-haired-PD blogging-hott-mama-of-four is even celebrating technology and Parkinson's.

Technology...me?  Well, yes.  You see, some how I have managed to find myself living in 2014 in this crazy house full of techno gurus!  Where did they all come from? 

Just look at our boys!  (But don't you dare tell them I showed you this picture!)  Fresh out of the tub, the Hott brothers just 2 and 3 years old, are cruising the internet on their own laptop provided by my hotthubby, Dan.  (Of course, look past those bare bootys to what is on the table...a computer.)

At an early age, Dan realized the importance of emersing our family in the latest in technology.  We have more laptops, gadgets, and game counsels in our house than technology in southern California!  Before long, I expect to see both boys and Dan wearing Google Glass around the house.  (At least they will be wearing something!)

Honestly though, this picture of Isaac and Levi online is one of my favorites.  Good thing we don't have neighbors out here in the hills.  Someone tell these kids to please put some clothes on. 

Now...about eight years later, check out Isaac (now 10) and his daddy, Dan.  Pictured here are my true techno boys building their own computer.  Yes, from laptops to a custom built gaming computer, Isaac researched and selected the parts to create a custom machine all his own.  Oooooh, just a small project for another snowy day at the Hott house.

Yeah, right.  But the funny thing is, as the mom in the house, all this technology stuff is like a foreign language to me.  So, when the National Parkinson's Foundation called me a few months ago to talk about Parkinson's Disease and technology, I kinda had to giggle.  Me?  Technology?! 

Does technology help my family deal with living with Parkinson's?  Well, once I get past the mystery of how this keypad transfers my thoughts to your screen and beyond, I had to answer, "yes," it does!  I may never get excited about giga-thingys and mega-pixels like Isaac and Dan; but, I honestly do rely on technology to connect me to others and keep me apprised of what's happening with this stinking disease.

So much so, that for Parkinson's Awareness Month, I think it was kinda cool that this interview on page four of the Parkinson Report features my thoughts on technology and Parkinson's Disease.  I may not be able to load my own PD app on my smart phone, but I do connect with others and express what it is like to be a PD partner through the use of technology.

Even "cooler" is the great people I have met all over the world along this PD journey through technology.  I will never have the millions needed for research to fix it, but "Excuse me, can I tell you something?"... with continued prayers and support from our friends, technology really does make it tolerable by keeping us connected and informed.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

AHA by Kyle Idleman - A Book Review of The God Moment that Changes Everything

AHA by Kyle Idleman arrived in my mailbox from David C. Cook a few weeks ago for me to review.  As I pulled it out of the package, I was instantly intrigued by it's dark cover with a lightbulb illuminating the title "AHA: Awakening. Honesty. Action."

Okay, so a lightbulb!  This 48-year-old-grey-haired-PD bloggin-hott-mama-of-four LOVES those "lightbulb" moments, don't you?  Nerdy reader that I am, I couldn't wait to experience a book full of "AHA" experiences.  Have you ever had one?  My hotthbby, Dan, and I have.

This may sound crazy (I can see Dan's eyeballs rolling now), but in March of 2003, we experienced an "AHA" moment in the literal sense; and by that I mean lights-a-flashing!  During a Sunday Service at First United Methodist, I was surprised by a voice from God telling me that He had a baby for us.  This was especially funny to me since those fancy city doctors told us that we would never, EVer make a baby all by ourselves, no matter how much we practiced. ;-)

But what does a doctor know, right?  After running to Food Lion early that Monday morning for a pregnancy kit, I called Dan at work saying that he needed to come home RIGHT AWAY!

Well, several hours later (I'm serious.  It was supper time!), Dan shows up and I take him privately to our bathroom to show him the "positive" line.  We are pregnant.  And my ever-loving, University of Maryland School of Engineering Graduate, business-owner, smarty-pants says to me, "What does that mean?"

Duh, right!

Ever the crazy schedule Dan had with his contract with Chevron, he packed the next morning for a business trip to Atlanta while I headed to the doctor's office for a blood test.  After a nervous wait from giving blood, I drove to meet Dan for lunch before he flew south,... again.  On the way, traveling 75 mph east on I70, my doctor's office called to confirm.  We were pregnant!

As we sit over chicken and a pickle sandwiches in Chick-fil-a, we are amazed at this news!  Dan then proceeds to give me my hardest ever assignment.  Don't.tell.anyone (till I get back)!

Seriously?  Okay.  He flies off to Atlanta and I drive back to Berkeley Springs.  The next day, I am babysitting my two nieces and grandma is over.  With a housefull of family, I quietly hide some pretty amazing news.  Late in the evening as we get all ready for pajamas, guess what?  Our electricity goes out.

Darkness.  Complete and utter blackness in our house.  With four little ones running around, we manage to test every light possible.  Nope, nothing, nada.  With nothing but flashlights, I get the girls off to bed.  We are all sitting in a dark house when I get a call that Dan will be home early.  Woohoo.  A little while later, Dan pulls up the drive and enters a dark house full of family.  Parents snuggle sleeping nieces home as Grandma also leaves late at night.

We are alone in a dark house, with, I remind you, some pretty amazing new news.  As things settle, I rise from my favorite chair to welcome him home with a kiss.  The instant, and I mean to the milisecond, our lips meet....  every light in the house (dramatic pause) comes on!  AHA!

It's 11:45 p.m.  The house is lit up like 4th of July fireworks, the television blares, the dishwasher starts!  Dan looks at me.  "Did you tell them?"  "No. I waited for you."

"Are there places in your life where you would like to experiene an aha! moment?  A moment of truth that renews your heart and mind bringing transformation?  Read AHA by Kyle Idleman and share your lightbulb, "the God moment that changes everything".  As I began reading, I first thought it would be yet another instructional manual for revealing and recognizing God's transformation.  Initially, I was even bummed a bit by his choice of the story of the Prodigal Son.  You see, the Prodigal Son story is probably my least favorite of all Bible stories for many reasons.  I continue to wait for the next chapter.  Maybe I even expected the author to reveal what the Bible does not; like what happens AFTER the celebration?

Rather, Mr. Idleman's narrative reveals God's relentless love for us as He waits for each to return from the "distant country" of sin.  Even when we are close to God, Kyle forces the question "where exactly is your heart?"   Reading this book provided me with an "AHA" epiphony, questioning the distance my heart truely is from God, maybe yours too.  Even when the closest to Him, my heart can be lost in the "distant country" of my crazy, busy mom-life.  I relish my literal AHA moment with God.  As the father in the story celebrated his son's return, God shares with me a celebration (a baby) for waiting for His blessings.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Ken Reed for Congress?

With spring finally here, I am reminded of an evening phone call that happened to me from an unlikely person way back in 1999.  Today, as I scroll through the pictures on social media, this individual comes to my attention in a photograph.

Way back then, my husband, Dan, was traveling a great deal from our new house in Berkeley Springs, WV, to Washington, Baltimore, and Atlanta while running his business. I was a commuter to my job with the City of Frederick, MD.  I found myself daily visiting the Genetics and IVF Institute in Fairfax, VA, going through a fertility cycle.  In the midst of “egg harvesting,” we came upon a critical element of timing.  You see, the exact moment (and pardon me for being scientific here) of ovulation requires an injection of hormones to achieve maximum harvest.

Imagine my turmoil when I got the call from the GIVF doctors telling me that today is the day!  It was time for my injection.  Back in Berkeley Springs, I was miles away from an open pharmacy!
Having all the necessary meds required, I only lacked a device to administer the shot:  a hypodermic needle.  No problem.  Just call the pharmacy!

Wrong!  Living in a remote area like Berkeley Springs, I found ALL the pharmacies closed.  However, I had visited that local guy and I knew he lived somewhere in my county. 

So, like the crazy woman pumped up on hormones and ripe eggs, I proceeded to call the pharmacist at home.  Yes, a complete stranger.  Getting the answering machine, I panicked.  Rambling on to a message machine (it was 1999), I explained my situation (probably in a little too much detail) and prayed he would receive my message.  If not, a complete cycle would be lost in timing what is essentially ovulation day!

Very late in the evening, my phone rang and this complete stranger said “What exactly do you need?”  It was Ken Reed.

The next morning, we met bright and early at Reed’s Pharmacy and I was able to receive my injection at the appropriate time.  Less than nine months later, Violet Eve Hott, was born.

Since then, Ken has opened a number of pharmacies in our region – all providing local, caring help to families like mine, a local business you don’t find in the big city chains. He also provides employment for many from pharmacist, clerks, to technicians.  From a family not unlike yours and mine (the son of a steel worker in Brooke County), Ken not only built a business from hard work, he continues to contribute to our community as a positive role model involved in church and school activities.  It is not uncommon to see Ken Reed at the end of a track shooting photos of the students out there giving their all.

Now, as Ken Reed is a candidate for US Congress, this mother of four from the eastern panhandle feels like someone who cares will be in Washington – enough to even personally call me again late at night if I was in need!  Many may see the name “Reed” on his businesses and wonder why he would want to be a congressman.  When I see "Ken Reed for Congress", I see a husband, father, and friend willing  to help and speak for West Virginia and our community. 


I’m voting for Ken Reed.  I hope you will too.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Alone?

Excuse me, God?  Are You there?  

Where are You?...  God?  I can't find You?  I know it is early in the morning, May 5, 2010, but I need You, God.  I need You, right now!  It is so cold here.  This building is just too unfamiliar and bright.  The stark lights reflecting off the surface of the spotless floors feel all empty and vacant.  All these strangers in white coats are rushing about, preparing to perform some critical procedure.  This place is full of activity,... yet it feels empty.  

I'm alone.

God?  Can You come soon?  It's still freezing in this giant empty structure while we wait.  Hold on...who is this?  Oh, oh, wait....  Oh, so this is the specialist who is about to insert two wires in my hotthubby's tender-loving heart and place a small computer under his handsome colarbone.  What?!  No, no, NO!... He did NOT just say that!  Wait, what?...!  What did you just say to me?  This new thing that is life-threatening, this Brugada, is heriditary!?  You say we need to have our children checked for this?!  

Oh, God.  I'm scared.  

Excuse me, God?  Anytime now, I need You!  They just wheeled him down this long, stark hallway and he disappeared into that room.  It's so cold here, where are You?  What will I do while I wait.

And, wait...alone.

Knowing the surgery would be hours, I figure that perhaps food would be important.  Over the last week, I keep forgetting to eat.  After calling to check on the children and updating family, I find myself roaming into the hospital cafeteria.  

I'm afraid.

Still virtually empty from the early morning hours, I walk through the line in a daze and pull out the only thing for breakfast that sounds remotely appetizing. Sitting down at a booth, I stare into my bowl of cereal.  Oh God, what else?  I began to sob into my breakfast.  For the longest time, our quiet table in the cafeteria is just me, You, a bowl of soggy Cocoa Puffs...

...and Pastor Andrew.

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, 
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."  Joshua 1:9

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Surprises

Excuse me, God?  Can I tell you something?

I heard You!

Yes!  I heard Y.O.U.!  In the middle of all the laughter, music, worship, kids, and noise, I.heard.You!

Crazy?

Well, maybe.  It was early March 2003.  I was hiding in the next to last row of the balcony, as usual, for worship service. This particular Sunday found me listening to a guest speaker talk about a trip to China.  He was traveling half-way around the world to meet his new baby.

While considering the enormity of the distance to meet your child, I heard you gently whisper, "I have a baby for you."

LOL!  I mean, seriously!?  I laughed out loud!  Oooooh...no, no, NO!

"Yes, I have a baby...for you."  (When I am nervous, I tend to get the giggles.)  As I looked around to the very last pew in the church, it was empty.

"Wwwhat?  No way.  That would just be funny, wouldn't it?  Especially since I only just gave away every last piece of maternity clothes from Violet - as well as all the baby/toddler supplies.  A baby?  For me?"

"I have a baby, for you!"

Now, excuse me, can I tell you something?  After many years of practice, a very fancy big city doctor told Dan and I that we would never be able to make a baby all by ourselves.  Never.  (Well, he said there was a less than 2% chance due to something scientific called acrozome reaction.... it has to do with, well, never mind!  It's scientific.)

So, who was that speaking to me?  Am I losing my mind?  (Shhhh Dan!)

"I have a baby, for you!"  It was You, God.  I know it now, and I knew it then.  The very next morning, I went to Food Lion and bought a pregnancy test.  When the line came up in the box, I laughed.  Science?  Blah!  God...Yeah!  Yes, I laughed.  Then I called Dan at work.

This picture shows our celebration service where we dedicated our surprise baby to you, God, and, miraculously, I was pregnant with Levi on this day.  We announced this surprise in front of the congregation of First United Methodist Church during this Christening Service.  Remember this?  We named our new baby boy Isaac, meaning laughter.  May you cradle him always in Your arms, Lord, just as this pictures shows him cradled in the arms of dear...

...Pastor Andrew.


"Sarah said, 'God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this 
will laugh with me." Genesis 21:6

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Laughter

Excuse me, God?...Can I tell you something?  I just want to thank you for the many great things you've done for me at First United Methodist Church.  From dressing like pirates to mad scientist, hog calling to Superman, from portraying "Grace" to even airing out my dirty laundry (literally) in the pulpit, this church always makes me and one of my crazy ideas feel welcome.  Today as I recollect on 14 years as part of your congregation, I want to take a few posts to appreciate your gifts and, today, thank you for the laughter.  

"Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; 
then they said among the nations, 'The Lord has done great things for them."  Psalm 126:2

I'm not sure you remember this, God, but it was early Summer 2005.  You see, Levi was just a baby, Violet was a toddler in the Noah's Ark Sunday School Room, and Isaac would have been about 20 months.  Back in those days, You could find me, a mother of four now, crawling around the floor of the nursery with our little Hottlings.  On any given Sunday, one would surely find a tiny Ben Golden, Laura Davisson, and eventually Chago Ellis climbing about "Mr. Dan" while I changed diapers and ran snack duty.  

Although those many Sundays in the nursery and eventually preschool rooms are such a blur, there is one consistent occurance.  We always cranked the nursery mic.  You see, with a large family, it was rarely that both my Hotthubby and I were in service together for worship.  Instead, we found ourselves playing with children.  This was our service.  This was our love.

So, we managed to catch bits and pieces of Your messages, God.  And, you know what?  It seemed like there was something pretty cool happening upstairs every Sunday.  Never knowing exactly what was being said, there sure was one thing for certain:  Laughter!

Coming from a traditional service, hearing the congregation crack up every Sunday was a welcomed change of scenery.  One random Sunday, the crowd seemed to be enjoying Your message with an extra dose laughter. It sounded like the opening monologue of SNL was happening upstairs.  I will never forget it when, out of the blue, the multitude of voices creating the latest laugh sountrack suddenly ceased.  Followed by a few seconds of silence, there came over the speaker the loudest "har-har-har!" we ever heard.  "Har! Har! Ha!"  

"Har-Har-Ha!"

Momentarily, even the babies froze for an instant.  Each one individually turned their chubby little cheeks to stare at the painted speaker on the wall.  

"Mommy!"  yelled Isaac (he was an early talker), "did you hear that!?"  

"Well, yes, I did hear that..." (thinking that everyone at Sheetz heard it too)!

"Let's go upstairs!  Let's go see upstairs NOW, mommy!  Can we go?  It's ELMO!  I hear Elmo laughing!  Elmo's here!"

"Uh, no Isaac....

... that would be Pastor Andrew."

Monday, March 3, 2014

Thanks to the Natives

On the heels of last night's Oscars, I am bringing back a quick clip from 2012.  Listen closely as 30 sixth graders from Warm Springs Middle School Film Art Class cheer "Art Integration: Raising Student Assets!"

Look closely,... perhaps such a class, which utilized the techniques of film technology, math, reading, music and creativity (all closely designed to follow the West Virginia Content Standard and Objectives), just may be the impetus to produce a future red carpet Oscar nominee.

After all, Art Integration is designed to excite the mind while enhancing existing academic objectives.  Art Integration is a proven method from the U.S. Department of Education which is known to improve a students success in math and science as well as personal assets.

Not only did these 30 students participate in the creation and development of a film entitled "Where is the Love?", the the entire class of 160 children took part in it's development.  Their final creation has been viewed 695 times on youtube!  (Check it out here:  http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=where%20is%20the%20love%206th%20grade%20video&sm=1)  Not bad for a small town..

Why do I post this?  Well, because this "native" 48-year-old-grey-haired-PDblogging-hott-mama-of-four was given an assignment by the Morgan Arts Council to research Art Integration and present a proposal to the Board of Education.  Since 2012, hundreds of students have had the opportunity to work one-on-one with an artist from sculptors, dancers, actors, to musicians in the classroom with our school's Art Integration and Adopt-a-School programs.

This "native" grew up in the 1970's when the New World Theater visited our Berkeley Springs High School with then Theater Director, Glenn Wells (God, I miss that man!).

This "native" graduated cum laud in the 1980's with a Bachelors of Arts (yes, arts) in Theater from the University of Massachusetts.

This Morgan County "native" worked professionally in the 1990's in theater arts administration in Amherst, MA, Chicago, IL, and Frederick, MD.

Having returned home, being a part of developing Art Integration in my home county was more than just giving back to the community that instilled the importance of the arts and learning in me.  Watching the arts be attacked is heart breaking.

Also heart breaking is witnessing a 9 year old from a "native" family struggle with reading.  She shyly sits at the back table with a group of others having a difficult time understanding basic concepts.  I've been to her house.  I've met her daddy.  The arts would never, never be affordable for this economically challenged family yet even accepted by her close minded, (yes, I said "closed minded"...) father (at least I didn't say "d.a.r.n.").

When I passed her table, she looked up at me under unwashed, untrimmed bangs with eyes the size of small planets.  "Mrs. Hott"  she said, "did you know cheetahs are ex... ext...  extinct?"  Then she went on to read rare animal facts to me one syllable at a time.

She was participating in a endangered animal clay class with artist, Lynn Lavin.

Art Integration works.  I've seen it.  Research proves it.

With the failure of the levy which provided $5.8 million per year in Morgan County, not only arts programming has been cut.  The Morgan Messenger headlined on February 26th that "School board cuts 27 jobs, reduces days & duties for 173 school workers next year".   With three Hott children of my own still in school here, it makes me want to vomit.

Shame on the "natives" for not voting on the levy and creating this terrible mess.  And shame on those natives that moved away and stopped caring about Morgan County enough to call home and encourage those left here to vote for the levy.  Stop being amused by the conflict.  Stop being tired of hearing about it.  Start encouraging others to see the situation and dismal future of education in Morgan County without adequate funding.  We are not "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo".  Not yet.

The Morgan County I knew and loved is gone.

Thanks to the natives.

"For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money, and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it."  Ecclesiastes 7:12