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.  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


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


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!


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!, 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


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!"  


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:  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

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Missing Monica

Have you ever had one of those days when you just seemed to be stuck?  Have you ever been present in the current moment with your head so far in the past, well... it just doesn't seem real?  Have you ever had a life triggering event that took your thoughts back to memories of "days gone by"?

No?  Well, up until yesterday, I didn't think I was old enough for that either.  Barely still a 48-year-old-grey-haired-hott-PD-bloggin-mama-of-four, I really still feel invincible - like I can still do all those things like play and party hard like our old high school days.  (Don't tell my kids!)

Most of my quiet time occurs in the shower.  So this morning as the hot water steamed up the mirror, my mind was grinning at the thoughts of Lief Garret, closet elevators, chocolate chip pancakes, silly sleepovers, and Farra Fawcet hairdos!

So, when did all this yucky big people stuff like mortgages, taxes, flu, school... Parkinson's, lymphoma, breast cancer, and now ovarian cancer creep up on us all.  Funny how it takes such tragedies to make us stop and hear God in the little things.  For me, it's that gentle tap on the shoulder (or sometimes a smack in the head) when I hear Him whisper, "Excuse me, can I tell you something?"  Enjoy today.  Live happy.  Love more.

Take me back to 1972 please.  Let's do high school all over again.  Although I haven't seen Monica in years (since planning our 20 year high school reunion in 2003), the news of her struggle with ovarian cancer has saddened our small school-day community and spread across the country.  Thanks for posting this picture on facebook, Lisa.  Sure brings back memories!

Monica Lynn Newbraugh Bowers
February 12, 1965 - January 31, 2014

"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."  Revelation 21:4

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

In God's Hands

If I've heard it once, I've heard it a million times; "It's all in God's hands."

Have you?  I know.  I get it.  I pray for God's will, for my life to be in God's hands.  Don't you?  At times, I even consider what it would be like to actually "be" in the hands of God.  I mean, to have Him hold your every being, feeling his strong and powerful presence in good times... and bad.  Grace is a cool thing, isn't it?

Today, while roaming around Facebook on a frigid January afternoon, I stumbled across a picture that brought a unique image of this familiar phrase "In God's Hands".  Sure, I was enjoying the posts about the Arctic Vortex, cancelled schools, recipes for a cool winter day from chilli to chocolate chip cookies.  What began as regular "what's happening" on Facebook kinda thing ended up as a "Wow....." like never before.

You guys probably enjoy keeping up to date with family from far and wide as I do.  Social networking is a pretty cool tool to share our major life events, right?  Well, please allow me to share with you a recent story from the extended Hott family.

Just last week, on Tuesday (New Year's Eve), Dan's nephew from Chambersburg, PA, Tim Hott, posted that his wife, Kate, took a little unexpected trip in a helicopter.  This air travel was an emergency flight to York to deliver their daughter.  Weighing in at a whopping 2 lbs 14 ozs, Charlotte Ruth Hott was born.  (Can I hear a Praise God!)

This past week has been a plethora of pictures of the proud parents, hospital visits, four (yes, 4!) excited siblings -- even roaming robots in hospital hallways!  Today... well, today as I was enjoying the one week birthday hospital photos of our gorgeous little great niece, I came across this of their little miracle, Charlotte, holding hands with her Daddy:

Before you continue, go back and just look at this picture again. Forget the freezing cold weather, piling bills, struggles, and whatever else is happening in your life, and look at this picture.

Tim, a new dad, comforts Charlotte by holding her tiny, frail, little hand in his.

I want my heavenly Father to hold my hand too.  Don't you?

             "Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands."  Isaiah 49:16

Father, Please keep little Charlotte Ruth safely in your hands, may she feel your love as you cradle her and bless her new life which gets stronger every day.  I praise you, God, for blessing us with tiny Charlotte and the privilege to see your miracles and share her story. Thank you for the reminder that we are all truly "in God's hands"...!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Counting Blessings (and Inches) for 2014

As the holidays wind down here on Hott Mountain and the lemon cookies have disappeared, I wanted to share with you a startling discovery.  With 2013 coming to a close, I was searching for a picture in my files and found it within this post.  Since it's original publication, let me just say this now 48-year-old-grey-haired-hott-mama-of-four is celebrating 24 new inches of Hott fun for 2014!
Here is where I found the picture and am reposting it in part because it still makes me giggle.  You'll find the picture at the end:

Burning the Christmas Cookies... Again!

"My woeful attempt to portray Julia Child at Christmas time is normally met with some traumatic experience either on the part of me or my family.  Although I do enjoy experimenting a little in the kitchen and am grateful to my loyal subjects for their willingness to sometimes act as my guinea pigs, one would think the simple tasks of Christmas Cookies would be met without incident.  Here's what happened one day when my phone rang:

Me:  "Ahlooo-oh!"  (That's my best Julia impression!  I'm really good at it!  Just ask Dan!...  I do it all the time!)
Caller:  "Uh, hello?  Mrs. Hott?"
Me:  "Whooo?  Oh, you mean me?  Yes, speeeeaking!"  (It's my Julia Child again!  I'm still not used to being called Mrs. Hott.  That name is reserved for Dan's 89 (now 92) year old mother.  I really do forget it's me after 14 (actually 17) years.)
Caller:  "This is Morgan County 911 Emergency calling.  Is everything alright?  We got a call from one of your neighbors."
Now, I can hear a fire whistle zooming up our hill.
Me:  "My neighbors?  Are they okay?"  (I am confused.  All the Hotts are fine, present, and accounted for.)
Caller:  "Yes mam.  They are fine.  But they have called to report a fire."
Me:  "Fire. Really?!!!  Where"
Caller:  "Well, at your residence!  We have received a report of billowing smoke emitting from your home."
Me:  "Smoke... where?  Are you serious?  Can you see me at my house?  How do you know there is smoke?"  -- Like 911 has some magic eye;  I really thought they were looking at me talking on the phone via satellite or something.
Caller:  "Yes.  Emergency services should be there any second."
Me:  Finally realizing what in the world was going on, "Oh, oh, oh!   Smoke!?  Oh no.... that's just me.  I was burning the Christmas cookies,... again."

Oh! eat these cookies!  They called the Fire Department on me!  Yikes!  When they showed up, I had to give them the only good batch I had.  Talk about feeling like a fool!  There was NO fire!  The only smoke coming from the Hott house was a tray of Christmas cookies I stuck out on the back porch.  Well, they nearly did go up in flames before I got them out of the oven.  But the house wasn't on fire, for goodness sakes.  You probably don't believe me; so, I'll show you a picture:

Doesn't that look yummy?  You see, Julia Child (although I love her) I am not!  And for some unknown reason, I manage to ruin 90% of everything I bake and/or cook.  Although I am kidding about 911 and the fire truck, I seriously DID have to set out quite a few trays of smoking cookies on the back porch after my kitchen was engulfed in smoke and our house alarm went off.  Even the cats won't touch them.

Now, I look at that tray of burned cookies and I am reminded of all the dishes I've burned; crazy things I've done and silly mistakes I've made both in the kitchen and over the years.  And you know what?  It's just cookies.  Each crispy chunk of carbon reminds me of a disappointment I've had over the year 2010 (original post); another mess in the kitchen; mountains of laundry; numerous trips to the grocery store; boo boos needing band aids; noses to wipe; miles of trips to town for school events; more gas for the car; midnight runs to the ER when Levi fell out of bed; mountains of bills waiting to be paid; medical needs that never quit; to mouths to feed again and again."

But like I said, they're just burned cookies.  Let's count blessings! Here are mine!
     Christmas 2010                                                                          Christmas 2013

Just like the Hott family, our blessings grow every year.... least 24 inches combined.   2013 brought us new adventures, wedding dates, career move for Caity, an economics masters degree from AU for Brian, race ribbons for Violet our athlete, Rubik's twisty puzzle records for Isaac, and well.... Levi continues his constant stream of comedy and now music!

Happy New Year from the Hott Family!
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.
In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33

I send all my troubles (a.k.a burned cookies) to God.  He doesn't mind!