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?...it'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, "Angie...you 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: http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150213/DM04/150219692/1279#sthash.Eapwg28B.dpuf

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:  governor@wv.gov  888-438-2731
        Senator Trump:  charles.trump@wvsenate.gov  304-357-7980
        Senator Blair:  craig@craigblair.com  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 bclose@morgancountywv.gov
Commissioner Robert L. Ford, email bford@morgancountywv.gov
Commissioner Joel R. Tutte, email jtuttle@morgancountywv.gov

"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 (ahottfamily@gmai.com) 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!  Are.you.kidding.me?

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)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Politicans and Parkinson's Disease Always

U.S. Senator Cory Booker.  Do you know him?  Honestly, I really don't have a clue who he is. With the recent election, politics have invaded my family time with incessant calls on our home phone - always during dinner!   I am not the most political savy rower in the boat, that's for sure!  But, when the National Parkinson's Foundation shared this link, I listened!

Even if I do not follow politics closely on national matters as well as I should, my radar always perks up when I hear any elected representative of the people speak on Parkinson's Disease.

U.S. Senator Cory Booker's message in this short video is no exception!

I especially like what he says about recognizing the early signs of Parkinson's Disease.  For this, I congratulate and admire his promotion and support during this Caregiver Month:  November.  Countless times, someone will ask me how Dan (my husband) knew that he had Parkinson's Disease.  We eagerly share the story from 2008 when his neurologist gave him the news:  "You have Parkinson's Disease."  In fact, a cousin just asked me about the specifics and how to get help.

Well, here is the answer!  Thank you Corey Booker, U.S. Senator, whereever you are!  With this helpful video, resources from the National Parkinson's Foundation are ready and waiting to assist!  In my experience, all you have to do is ask; and a friendly compassionate person from NPF is waiting to guide you!

Now, go watch and share this clip!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Funerals Are Fun

Are you kidding me!  Then why do these guys look so happy after attending the funeral for Violet M. (Smoot) Hott? Sure, we shed some tears today, didn't we...but, we also were surrounded by God's unending love of our family and friends,... including Ms. Gina and Abbygirl.

About 30 minutes after we all arrived home following what was the end to a very long week, our dogs began to bark.  It was dark outside.  We had just shed our funeral clothes, poured our first beverage, and began to discuss the remants of a very long day saying goodbye to Dan's mom when on our porch came Ms. Gina carrying this:  a pumpkin pie!

Still warm from her kitchen, this pie was so much more than the standard loving gesture of food folks deliver at these awkward times.   After celebrating my mother-in-law's life by posting "Permission to Eat Pumpkin Pie" during her final days on this earth, receiving this gift felt like a message from her in heaven.  Maybe it was the perfect timing of its' arrival or maybe feeling the warm pan in my hands.  I cried one more time today.

Sometimes, life has us do some pretty hard stuff, you know...like saying goodbye to someone you love.  Going to the funeral today was, indeed, one of the hardest things I have ever done.  You see, the family asked me to read at the service.  Have you ever met this Hott family?  Well, they are loud and cranky, and with 141 direct descendants I knew I was in for a tough crowd.

Oh, did I ever want to say "No way!"  But just like some of the crazy things Pastor Andrew asked me to do, somehow the Holy Spirit had other plans for us today.  Saying "no" sure would have been easier, right?  Like, if I never stood up there then I never would have risked disappointing you guys or felt weird for saying something goofy.

But typical fool that I am, I said "yes" and read at the funeral today.  Here is my unedited presentation:

(Today, I am here to share with you a post from my online blog called “Excuse me, can I tell you something?”.  Both Uncle Phil and Aunt Pam asked me to read for Grandma Violet’s service today, an indescribable privilege for me.  After Mrs. Hott passed on Saturday morning, I was hanging out down at the house with many siblings when their request that I share “P to Eat PP” both surprised and, honestly, scared the bejebbies out of me.  You see, I began blogging about faith and family in 2008 as, now - don’t you laugh,…oh, ok, you can laugh – the blogging “Hott Mama!”  Looking around this room, I can see many more “hott mamas”.  Saturday, Phil called me, instead, the family poet laureate – “ah” I think I like that better, quite a compliment.  Once, Mrs. Hott called me Sonie,…an even better compliment.  While Mrs. Hott was in the hospital last, I posted this story you’re about to hear.  Within an hour, it was trending on facebook.  In fact now, if you google pumpkin pie, it comes up third after a Better Crocker recipe.  Hahahah….imagine that!  So, someone out there is reading it.  Honestly, I’m not sure if I can today.  In fact, I tried to get Caity to do this for me but she said “no;” so…. Here I am.  You’re stuck with me, uhhh your blogging Hott Mama.  So, please bear with me.)

Before I start, I want to show you something.  You see, when I was little, I always heard my mom comment on the participation of my brother’s girlfriends/wives in kitchen work.  Woe to the woman who did not offer to assist my mom with supper dishes!

Being used to lending a hand, I thought it was customary to assist as well.  So, imagine my surprise during my early visits in 1995 to the Hott Farm when supper was underway, and dishes began.  You see, with a small crowd of… oh…90 or so on any given Sunday back then, supper dishes began as soon as the first round at the table is cleared with just say 82 mouths waiting to be fed. And, each mouth had to sit at the table too.  There would be none of that eating a plate of food in front of the tv or on the couch.  So, I jumped up and offered to wash! 

I can only imagine the thoughts of the several other daughters-in-law there!  Today, it’s HER turn!  Hah! LOL!  I stood there for three hours as the endless pile of dirty plates never disappeared.  I know for certain I saw the same cracked plastic yellow plate with flowers in the middle come through my soapy water 4 or 5 times!  Check this out…Here it is! 

Grandma Violet's Dishes
This is a simple, plain ‘ole dinner plate from Mrs. Hott’s kitchen.  I borrowed it from among the stack of many chipped and worn plates used to serve a flood of fabulous country food…even today.  Today, this yellow plate from the 1950’s “genuine melamine, made in the USA” that once held Mrs. Hott’s famous Sunday dinner, now holds a special corner of my heart.  I’ll tell you why.  Here… pass it around.

There was another time Dan and I happened to be early for Sunday supper (this never happened often…in fact, Ronnie would always look for snow when we showed up, even in July)  So, observing the Sunday supper preparations, I offered to help out in the kitchen.  Asking what I can do,  Grandma Violet assigned me to the task of peeling potatoes.

Oh….easy smeazzzzy!  Right? I can do that!  And, surely it won’t take forever like washing dishes around here!   And, once I get these potatoes peeled, I can play outside with Caity while they cook on the stove!  So….

“Sure!  I can peel potatoes!”  Immediately, Grandma Violet vanishes to the basement of her farm house (the basement - a place, by the way, to this day after 20 years of visiting I.have.never.seen! and do not care to venture full of critters and creachers– too spooky – Thanks for the scare Uncle Dump!)   After hearing all the ruckous below, Mrs. Hott emerges from the rickety old steps carrying something.  With ease, Grandma Violet then crosses the few feet to the sink to deliver to me

A 5 gallon bucket.

Of potatoes!  FULL!

Oh?...ok!  Wondering how this little lady managed to lug this 5 gallon bucket of potatoes from the depths below, I reached down to lift them and nearly pulled my arms out of my elbows.

Looking up and thinking this won’t take so long, I asked Mrs. Hott, “So,…. Uh…How many of these do you want me to peel?”

“Well, ALL of them.”  Then, thinking what a dummy I was, she turned around to stir gravy.

Of course.    

No,… Wait? She was serious?  “All of them?”. 

Just like the dishes, three hours later and four hand blisters later, I was still peeling potatoes.  That was the last time I offered to peel potatoes at the Hott house!  How do they do this?

So, proceeding to Phil and Pam’s request for me to read…. Here is my post called

PUMPKIN PIE from “Excuse Me Can I Tell You Something?”

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching and the leaves softly landing, this time of year brings to mind one of my many favorite treats:  pumpkin pie!  In fact, I have already enjoyed a homemade delicious slice of the orange fruit (or is it a veggie?) while visiting my cousin Tammy.  As I gaze out my kitchen window at the W. Va. fall foliage, crystal blue sky, and puffy clouds passing, Thanksgiving 2001 was my induction into the Hott's "permission to eat pumpkin pie"!

Well, I don't know about where you grew up; but where I come from we traditionally had a pumpkin pie or two to celebrate the season with family.  It was in 1995 when I made my first holiday venture to the Hott Family Thanksgiving Traditional Dinner.  Surely there will be plenty of turkey and the favorites;... wonder if there will be a pumpkin pie?!

So, how many pumpkin pies do you think there may have been? One..... maybe two pumpkin pies?

Three pumpkin pies?


You're wrong!

Not 1.  Not 2, or even 3!  --   28!  TWENTY-EIGHT!!!

Mrs. Hott had personally baked,... from scratch, with REAL pumpkins --  28 pumpkin pies! 

And I am sooo not kidding you!  Following a fantastic Thanksgiving dinner, pumpkin pies emerge from everywhere!  Apparently, desserts always are hidden out in the "milk shed" until supper is over. Mrs. Hott lovingly manages her kitchen table much like that of a New York City traffic cop; allowing for nearly 90 family members to each sit for a meal (not only on Thanksgiving but for each and every Sunday afternoon).  Once your plate is empty, you have to get up in order for someone waiting to eat to have a place to sit down.   Her farm house home is so crowded with relatives slowly inching their way, shoulder to shoulder, to the table.  Woo… Talk about a close family!

To this day, I am not sure from where all the food came!  Like a flood, endless plates of fresh garden vegetables, mountains of mashed potatoes, home-cooked casseroles -- all from seemingly bottomless pots and pans!  It really is kinda magical, you know.  Or, a bit like Jesus feeding the masses with just a fish and five loaves of bread!

Finally when she authorized permission to begin dessert, there was formed a caravan of grandchildren carrying inside 28 pies of pumpkin among a plethora of other delicious delectable desserts!

So, as Thanksgiving quickly approaches this year I stumble across my favorite picture of Mrs. Violet Hott, the matriarch of the family.  A certain photo I LOVE is from Thanksgiving 2001! With rosy cheeks, twinkling eyes, snowy white soft hair… hers is a face to rival Mrs. Claus!  After six years of sitting at her table for the same holiday, it is this year that she allowed me to have pie early.  In fact, after a few brothers-in-law yelled at me and tried to get me in trouble with Mrs. Hott when I found a pie on the counter, with a twinkle in her eye she came to my defense!  I got pie first that year.

And, well...so did Heath (another Hott nephew)!  Grandma Violet hid an entire pie just.for.him!  (Really, she did!  I saw him eat it whole and am still amazed!)

You know,… I do like to write.  If God ever let me recreate that verse in Matthew 25:35, it would go something like this:  “You are never a stranger at the Hott Farm.  If you're hungry, Grandma Violet gives you food; if you are thirsty, she gives you a sweet tea; and if you're a stranger, well.... it's only for a second. And, if you're lucky, you just might get permission to eat pumpkin pie early!”  

Today, Grandma Violet is now 93.  She is surrounded here by her large loving Hott family.  As we remember our sweet angel, the strong, hard-working woman whose 141 descendants span the hills of West Virginia to the shores of the Potomac, the mother of my sweet-loving Dan, number 10 child among her 13, the grandmother to many, including her last granddaughter - my very own Violet, I am thankful to God, who waits for her at His Thanksgiving table with her very own fresh slice of heaven, and a plate flooding with His unending love and amazing grace, exactly like my early slice of pumpkin pie.  

Feeling a little lost in her crowded and noisy house, I found favor in my mother-in-law that day, when I thought she never noticed me.  Funny how in something like just a piece of pie there was an expression of her grace, not unlike Your grace, God, in the smallest smile or twinkle in her eyes, waiting just for me, among the many, many Hotts.  

 I also saw she had countless expressions of her grace waiting for each of you. As this plate is nothing fancy, just an old plastic yellow plate among the pile with stains and chips, circulates empty here today, it was once flooding with countless meals.  From corn cakes or sausage gravy, to dumplings and ham, fresh peas from the garden to even nasty kale Davey tricked me into eating, maybe it is Saturday night burgers fried in the iron skillet or salty Sunday country ham, or fresh lettuce with egg and hot grease, back bones and sourkraut, pumpkin or corn meal mush (whatever that is!)… or… perhaps even Stacey’s own personal boiled potatoes set aside just for her from the mountain of mashed, Mrs. Hott’s plate from the farm held something special for each of us here.    But for Grandma Violet, I know it was not what was on the plate that mattered, but who was sitting in the seat at her table.

Thank you all, Hott Family, for showing me a little slice of heaven through the grace of your precious mother, Violet Mariam Smoot Hott.  A woman able to see through the crowded room into the heart of a stranger with just a seat at her kitchen table and small piece of pie.  If ever you feel lost in this crazy world, like the crowds are many and your plate is empty, I want you remember Violet Hott, and know by the miracle that was, no is she, there is always her grace, and the grace of Jesus waiting to fill your empty plate.

Even though it will be hard to imagine this Thanksgiving, or any dinner, with our Grandma Violet…and all the pumpkin pies,…as of today,  Her chains here are gone.  She’s been set free. Her God and Savior, her ransomed be. And like a flood, His mercy reigns, with unending love….She sits now at Your table, serving Your amazing grace.

I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.  Genesis 22:17

Amazing Grace...for Grandma Violet