Monday, November 27, 2023

The Next Day

When Nebalee had called Deejo and Mrs. Deejo to let them know what happened they insisted on driving up from Phoenix to join us. Junior wanted to come out to Grand Junction, too, but Mom was adamant about him NOT coming. He'd just started a new job and she didn't want to put it in jeopardy. I know that was super hard on Junior; the four of us sibs have always drawn strength from each other and being purposely left out had to sting.

The work started the morning after the accident. Deejo and Mrs. Deejo had arrived a couple of hours after Nebalee and I called it a night. Bill was in Salt Lake City at the Medical Examiner's office, Reba was in Monticello, Utah, and Mom was in Grand Junction, Colorado. Lots of coordinating began very early. Nebalee and I peeked in on Mom, then handed her off to Deejo and Mrs. Deejo so we could head down to Monticello to get what we could out of the car.

Sgt. Taylor had arranged a ride for Reba to see their K-9 vet in Moab, which was incredibly kind of him. During the drive from Grand Junction to Monticello, Nebalee and I took on the onerous task of calling people to notify them of the accident. While Nebalee drove, I dug through our phones to find family members' numbers; those who we didn't have a direct phone number for, we sent FB messages asking them to call us ASAP. The almost three hour drive was perhaps one of the most difficult times of our lives. We hadn't even had time to process our own loss, but still had to make a ton of phone calls and ended up feeling like we were consoling everyone else.

We learned from when a friend of our died a few years ago, that we had to explicitly tell people not to post to social media until we had a chance to notify everyone and publish an official statement from the Lodge. We weren't trying to hide anything, but there were people we needed to speak to prior to it getting out to the general public.

I got a second call from Sgt. Taylor to let us know that Reba's ride had fallen through, and that we'd have to take her to the vet ourselves. Luckily, Moab is right between Monticello and Grand Junction, so it would work out just fine.

We managed to get everyone notified on our way to Monticello, and it was a huge weight off our shoulders to have that task done. Now we could focus on other things. Mom had asked us to get some specific things from their car, and Sgt. Taylor agreed to give us access to the car. Prior to taking us to the impound lot, he sat us down and told us what to expect and that it could be very traumatic. I believe he even offered to have another trooper get everything out so we wouldn't have to see the car. Both of us felt we needed to see the car and try to follow Mom's wishes.

The car was in pretty bad shape, but one glance inside at the driver's seat made me feel much better. I've been on my share of accident scenes and my imagination had gone wild. I've seen some really horrific ways for people to die in car accidents and had steeled myself for the worst. The two or three drops of blood I saw on Bill's airbag were a relief - it meant that he'd been killed instantly. He hadn't suffered for any period of time. Sure enough, the Medical Examiner's report that we received a few weeks later, confirmed that he'd died of an atlanto-occipital dislocation (often called an internal decapitation). My heart immediately broke for the bystanders who had performed CPR on him until the ambulance arrived - they didn't stand a chance.

This looks worse than it was, because all of the scattered pieces of the car were just shoved in it to load on the tow truck.

The entire back seat and everything in the rear of the vehicle ended up pressed up against the front passenger compartment. If Reba had been seat belted in, or had been in a kennel, she would have been killed; instead, she was thrown free. 

Though I was disappointed when Reba's ride to the vet fell through, it turned out for the best. Nebalee and I were able to see her with our own eyes to take a report back to Mom. I think it was also good for Reba to see people who were familiar to her. 

Rebs was definitely struggling a bit. Any of you who have met her at the Lodge know she's a sweet, loving dog, so when Sgt. Taylor asked if my parents' dog liked us, I was surprised. Apparently, she did not like the morning trooper and snapped at him. I didn't know Rebs was capable of snapping at a human. It must have been a bit more than just a simple snap, because the looks on everyone's faces when we opened the kennel and urged her out was incredulous. I just picked her up and carried her to the car with her face next to mine. 

It didn't take an x-ray to see that she had definitely broken her "wrist".

On the way from Monticello to Moab, I consciously watched the road near where the accident occurred to see if I could piece together any more information from the accident. Here's what I saw: there were zero skid marks from the car that hit them, meaning they never hit their brakes. There were marks from when they hit and launched Mom and Bill into the air, and marks from when they landed, before rolling on the diagonal. Thomas figures that if Mom and Bill were traveling at 70 mph, the car that hit them had to have been doing over 100 mph for that kind of impact. Of course, we still don't have the official accident report, over a year later. <angry face>

I don't know how we managed to find "her" blanket, but she was thankful to have it.

After splinting.

The vet in Moab was nice enough to keep her overnight for us, until we could figure out how to get her home. She suggested that we amputate Reba's leg, as the break was bad enough she wasn't sure it would ever heal. We were in no place to make that decision on Mom's behalf, so the vet agreed to just splint the leg so we could get her to her own vet.

So much was going on that day, that some events are crystal clear and some are jumbled. I clearly remember the trip to Monticello and back, but couldn't tell you a thing about what happened after we got back to Grand Junction. I believe Mom was moved out of ICU and into med/surg within 48 hours of being admitted. Her list of injuries miraculously shortened, enough that I began to wonder if they switched her imaging with someone else. The mandibular fracture they told us about didn't show up on subsequent x-rays. The brain bleed turned out to not be as big a deal as they originally thought. The flail chest (two or more ribs broken in two or more places) still existed, but the pain from that was mostly eclipsed by the pain in the rest of her body.

Mom kept telling people that they "re-inflated" her lung in the field, but I think we sibs were the only ones who truly understood that it was done by bystanders, not by the flight medics. It wasn't until she talked to the respiratory therapist on the day of her release that someone showed an interest in it and asked to see the puncture wound. I got the distinct feeling that the medical staff thought her memories were jumbled.

People really rallied around us, offering to help in any way possible: 

  • A friend of mine with contacts with the Utah Highway Patrol got me in touch with one of Mom's human "angels".
  • We had many kind offers from friends to help care for/transport Reba home.
  • Mom's friends took on the job of calling and cancelling any upcoming reservations for the Lodge.
  • Nebalee's best friend's family took care of us from afar, sending food straight to the hospital room to make sure we were eating.
  • One of my blog buddies helped us find a Utah attorney with whom he'd worked on other claims.
  • Every. Single. Person we were in contact with throughout the entire ordeal was amazingly kind and generous, not just the hospital staff, but also the hotel staff and waiters at restaurants. Through this horrible period of time, we were surrounded by kindness. (Except for Mom's car insurance - dealing with them became Deejo's job and he did not hesitate to tell them that he most definitely did not feel like he was in "good hands".)
As anyone would, I really struggled with the "why" of Bill's death. Mom confided in us that Bill was convinced he had cancer and had scheduled an appointment with our family NP to follow up just a couple of days after their return from Arizona. I had my "why" answered and felt immediate peace with Bill's death. That's not to say I was okay with losing him, after all, we all expected to have him around for at least another ten years. But after hearing about his cancer fears, it explained why he'd been slowly withdrawing from us for the months prior to the accident. I thought it was just me, but Nebalee mentioned feeling the same way.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

365 Days

365 days ago I had gotten home from work and was in the midst of cutting pomegranates to remove the seeds when the phone rang. I glanced at it, but my hands were covered in sticky, red pomegranate juice. It was a number from Grand Junction, but not one I recognized. I decided that if it was important, they'd leave a message and went back to working on seeding my pomegranates. A voicemail popped up, and so I decided to quickly finish what I was doing and listen to the voicemail.

I don't remember the person's name who left the message, but she did mention that she had my mother in the emergency room at the hospital. I ruefully shook my head and wondered what Mom did this time. As far as I knew, she wasn't near any horses for another bionic-installation. I called back, ready to talk to Mom and laugh about whatever catastrophe had befallen her. It never occurred to me to wonder why Bill hadn't been the one to call - he's usually the one to keep us up-to-date on Mom's shenanigans.

I knew that Mom and Bill were on their way back from visiting Deejo in Phoenix, and expected them home that day, but didn't think much about it. They're experienced road trippers and had made the trip multiple times.

When I reached the nurse, she was very nice when she told me that my parents had been in a car accident and that she had Mom with her. Car accident? They happened all the time, surely it was just a fender bender and Mom was just letting me know that their trip home would be delayed. As the nurse continued talking, I realized that this wasn't a simple fender bender. This was a real-deal bad accident. She listed Mom's injuries: brain bleed, collapsed lung, flail chest, fractured mandible . . . the list went on and on. I don't panic, but I was definitely concerned and getting more so as she listed Mom's injuries. I figured when she was done, she'd move on to Bill's injuries. Instead, she said that Mom wanted to talk to me. I sighed a breath of relief - Mom's list of injuries was significant, but she was still with it enough to want to talk.

I tried to lighten the mood a bit when she handed over the phone, I don't remember what kind of joke I cracked, probably something about Mom being bionic enough, that she didn't need more. Her first words were, "Honey, we lost Bill."

I couldn't breathe. I must have made some sort of noise, because Jay looked up from his place on the couch and asked what was wrong.

Mom continued, "we were outside of Moab and a car ran right through us and threw us into the ditch. We rolled a couple of times. I must have lost consciousness because I came to when some bystanders were trying to pull me out of the car."

I mouthed to Jay that Bill had been killed in a car accident, and my mind immediately went into problem-solving mode. Mom said some more things, but my brain was stuck on 'we lost Bill'. I asked her if she wanted me to tell my sibs, and told her I was going to throw some clothes in a bag, grab Nebalee, and be there as fast as we could.

I completely forgot that I was supposed to be taking care of L.E.'s critters while she was on vacation to see her kids. I completely forgot that I was supposed to be at work the next morning. The only thing that mattered was getting to Mom as fast as I could. I called Nebalee, told her what happened and let her know I'd be there shortly to pick her up. There was never a question as to whether or not she was going with me.

Luckily, Jay said he'd take over critter duty, and I stopped long enough to text my supervisor that I'd be gone the rest of the week. Nebalee made the calls to the boys (Deejo and Junior) and let her kids know while I drove to her house. After I got there, she drove while I notified my kids. All I could think of was that when our Grandpa Ed died, Mom and Bill had the decency to come pick us up from school and tell us in person, while I was shirking that duty. I had to break my kids' hearts over the phone and couldn't be with them, but I needed to get to Mom.

I have amazing kids who completely understood, even though it sucked all around that we couldn't be together.

As we were traveling along I-70 to Grand Junction, I got a call from Sgt. Charlie Taylor from the Utah Highway Patrol. He'd been the responding trooper and was calling to offer his condolences. He wanted to make sure we knew that Reba had been found and that she was okay other than a broken leg. Honestly, I'd just assumed an accident bad enough to kill Bill had also killed Reba, and hadn't wanted to ask Mom about her. He said that he had Reba with him at the office and that she could stay overnight until we had a chance to see Mom. 

By the time we arrived at the hospital, Mom had been moved to ICU. It was a shock to see her lying in a bed, with a too-big cervical collar on. But if you've ever met our Mom, you know she's a force of nature. She might have had a list of injuries as long as my arm, and was black and blue, but she still looked like the force of nature she is. I could breathe when I saw her - I knew we weren't going to lose her too.

She was able to tell us what happened, and in the midst of this tragedy, there were a lot of "God things" happening. They were driving on Highway 191 just north of Wilson's Arch outside of Moab in the middle of a bright, sunny day. There weren't any other cars on the road, and Bill was doing about 70. I think Mom was reading, but she heard Bill say, "oh shit", and saw a black blur out of the corner of her eye, then they were hit on the driver's side rear fender. Their car was literally launched into the air, and when they landed, a tire caught on the soft shoulder and they flipped on the diagonal a couple of times.

Mom said she must have lost consciousness, because she came to as people were dragging her from the car. She knew she was hurt badly and thought she'd collapsed a lung. She consciously worked to control her breathing and fight away the panic. Lucky for her, two paramedics had been the ones to stop to help. One had recently retired from another state, and the other was off-duty. The recently retired paramedic managed to find cell service (it's notoriously bad in that area) and request a helicopter for Mom.

At this point, she knew Bill was gone. I'm certain she knew the exact moment he died. No one told her, but she did see bystanders pull him out of the car and begin CPR. Her breathing was getting harder, and the paramedics consulted between them. The off-duty one had the equipment and knowledge to perform a needle decompression right there in the field. I credit the two of them with saving Mom's life. The helicopter was twenty minutes out, and I can't imagine the horror of slowly losing the ability to breathe over that time frame.

When the helicopter landed, they immediately loaded her and off she went, without the chance to tell Bill goodbye. At that point, she also didn't know what happened to Reba, so she told her human "angels" to look for her. The recently retired paramedic stayed at the accident site with several other bystanders looking for Reba. After the helicopter took off, Reba poked her head out from between two cars and allowed herself to be caught. Since Reba can't talk, we can only assume that she was thrown out a window, and clear of the accident, from the impact.

By the time we arrived at the hospital and assured ourselves that Mom was going to be okay, it was very early in the morning, so we left Mom in the ICU staff's capable hands and headed to a hotel to catch some sleep.

The days after the accident are both a blur and crystal clear. I'll get to them within the next few days.


These past 365 days have been HARD. There are far more good days than bad (for me at least), but that doesn't make it any less hard. Perhaps the worst thing, even worse than losing the man who raised me, has been watching Mom go through such unimaginable heartbreak so bravely. She and Bill were inseparable, so not only is she having to heal physically, but she's having to do it without her other half.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Bill's Memorial Service


Taken at Bill and Juanita's 20th Anniversary trip to Yellowstone

We are having an in-person memorial for Bill, but he touched so many people worldwide, we wanted to be able to Zoom it as well. The Allenspark Community Church has been kind enough to set it up for us.

Bill's service is scheduled for tomorrow, December 2 at 2:00 p.m. MST. If you'd like to join us virtually, the information is below.

Topic: Bill Martin Memorial Service
Time: Dec 2, 2022 01:30 PM Mountain Time (US and Canada)
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Meeting ID: 886 3408 1098
Passcode: 836848
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Sunday, February 28, 2021

It's Getting Real

I've been working pretty steadily on Skeeter's cosplay for the last few weeks, but it didn't seem real until my patterns came in. I don't know what about seeing the patterns for my cosplays is so anxiety-inducing, but suddenly I felt the stress of pulling off my 50th birthday photoshoot.

Both patterns will need to altered significantly, and I can't really work on either of them until May once I've lost a few more pounds. The last thing I want to do is work on all those alterations of the pattern, just to have to make more adjustments at the last minute.

The pattern on the left will be altered to be a split riding skirt, so I don't have to hike up the dress to ride my Skeeter-sus. The pattern on the right will remain similar, but will be altered to look more like General Antiope's armor.

Oy, this project scares me. I'm cranking along on Skeeter's armor, but the thought of making my own is scary chit.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

The Big 5-0 is Coming

For a couple of years now I've been trying to figure out what I wanted to do to celebrate my half-a-century mark. I don't know, it seems like kind of a big deal and I want to do something to force myself out of my comfort zone. I thought about doing boudoir photos, or completing a Tough Mudder, or, or, or. I just couldn't figure out what I wanted to do.

And then I saw a posse-mate had done a photo shoot with her horse for her birthday. It was awesome, she and her horse were dressed up as warriors and it was breath taking! I decided I wanted to do something like that for my birthday.

Ever since I got Skeeter, I'd been tossing around the idea of cosplaying with her. Mostly because I've wanted to figure out a way to turn her into a dragon or a Pegasus. Once that seed was planted, it took root and now I'm obsessed with the idea.

I'll be pushing myself way outside my comfort zone with the cosplay(s) I have planned for my birthday in July. I mean, why do anything halfway?

Not only do I plan on transforming Skeeter into a Pegasus (a Skeeter-sus, if you will), but also a War Horse. I'd initially planned on doing just one cosplay and photo shoot, but since I'll be paying for a photographer and building costumes I might as well do two. Cross your fingers that I can pull this off.

My intention is to blog the experience, though I've been pretty bad about posting on a regular basis. My hope is that by blogging it, it'll give me some accountability.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Thunder Road Wine

 At an author signing in 2019, I bought a book called Wild Wine Making because I thought it sounded interesting. The author was a bit... well, odd, but very proud of his book. As usual, when I attend an author event, I end up spending more money on purchasing books than I make selling them. But, the book looked interesting and the author assured me it was incredibly easy, so I bought a book for myself and one for a friend.

Jay and I flipped through the book and decided to try one of the recipes for our Christmas Eve gifts. Each year, we make something different as family gifts for Christmas Eve. Last year was two different types of bacon salt; the year before that I canned homemade marinara; one year we made homemade ice cream, etc.

We discussed getting a batch started after we returned from SHOT Show, but we were slackers and didn't actually get around to buying the equipment until the shut-down in mid-March. Suddenly, it was the perfect time to get around to doing the projects we'd been putting off.

We ordered the equipment, and once it arrived we purchased the ingredients for a peach-blackberry wine. Almost immediately we realized that the "incredibly easy" wine recipes were anything but. If we had any experience at all with wine making prior to this, it might have been easy, but we were complete noobs. Luckily, the information we couldn't find in the book on how to make wine was easily found on YouTube. By cobbling the information together, we came up with a plan and turned our mudroom into a winery.

5/3/20 Day one

5/4/20 Day two

5/4/20 The yeast was definitely working

During the primary fermentation process, we stirred the nastiness (it's actually called "must") twice a day for a couple of weeks, adding sugar water as needed, until the yeast slowed down. After that, it was time to strain out the fruit and move the wine to the secondary fermentation vessel. In the book, the author says that a fermentation bag for the fruit is not necessary. Let me tell you, it might not be necessary, but it'll damn sure make your life easier. It took a very long time, and a lot of swearing to strain out the fruit. We made a huge mess, but finally got the wine moved to the secondary fermentation vessel.

Getting a large pot ready for the first straining

Removing the fruit and straining out the juice

Straining the juice again into the secondary fermentation vessel

Not having the right equipment will make the process tedious

5/14/20 Secondary fermentation started

Once it was all moved from the primary fermentation vessel (the 6-gallon bucket) into the secondary fermentation bottle (the glass bung (yes, that's its real name)), we fit it with an airlock that allowed the yeasts' gasses to escape, and covered with a cardboard box to keep it cool and dark. If we had a basement, that would have been a better option, but the cardboard box worked remarkably well.

The next day, we checked and saw the yeast were happily chugging along, doing their job.

A couple of days later we "racked" the wine, siphoned it to remove the sediment. At that stage, it was still pretty cloudy and we were still figuring out what the hell we were doing, but we got it racked.

After we racked it the first time, wine making got markedly easier. All we had to do was rack it every few weeks to remove the wine from the sediment. Racking the wine is the perfect time to taste it, and it was much better than I anticipated each time. The problem was, each time we racked it, we lost a bit of volume, so that by the second-to-last time we racked it, we'd lost a full gallon. There was nothing in the book about what to do, but we were under the impression the bung needed to be kept full to decrease the amount of oxygen the wine was exposed to. Not knowing what to do, we decided to add more sugar water to make up the volume.

The next time we racked the wine, it was much sweeter than previously. I complained that it was sweet. Jay looked at me and said, "it's a dessert wine" and thus the idea was born for a Grease-based theme for the wine.

By mid-September the wine was ready ready for bottling.

Jay put his graphic design talents to work and made us a great label. I think every year is our best Christmas Eve gift, but this one - the wine paired with Twinkies - was the best. So far.

We might not make wine as Christmas gifts again, but we'll definitely be trying again, now that we (sort of) know what we're going.

Noom Update

 You know, I think I'm getting the hang of this Noom thing. Really.

I started Noom on October 13, and am currently down 21.2#. As you know, from my whining in my first Noom post, the first few days were hard. But after that, it got easier and easier. There are days when I'm incredibly frustrated with the scale, but overall this has been fairly easy. 21.2 pounds in 15.5 weeks isn't a lot - it's just over a pound a week lost. 

My goal with Noom has always been to "make my outsides match my insides", meaning that while I felt fit and strong, I hated the way I looked. My weight was pretty steady all through the spring and summer, and I felt so fit with all of the walking and such I was doing. But I hated the way I looked in pictures.

August, 2020

Only because it was so muddy and slick that LE and I were laughing about it did I allow that full body picture of me to be taken. My insides (how I felt) definitely did not match my outside (how I looked).

And to be honest, the two don't match up yet, but they're getting there. This is a picture from a week ago, while I was on a road trip with the Shooting Hubby to go take a gun fighting class. I was pleasantly surprised when I looked at the picture.

Even with a bulky hoodie on, I look much better than I did in August. I'm even stronger now than I was then and am happy with my progress. I still have 25# to go, so probably another four months, but that's okay. As long as my insides and outside continue to line up, I'm good.