Due to the things going on at the house between my last “Adventurous Recap” post and today I just haven’t had time to sit down and really recap what happened.

In a nutshell we stayed at the Luray Caverns West Motel, which was luckily within easy walking distance to a McDonalds (yuck I know, but it was food) and within the delivery range of several Italian places.

After an unsuccessful conversation with the local insurance agent we made the decision to go ahead and get a rental car (provided by our insurance) and head down to Michie Tavern for the day while we figured out how best to have the car repaired.

Michie Tavern definitely hit the spot and made up for 2 meals at McD’s!! Even Sophie hit her chicken limit… tho she still had plenty of room for dessert!

We had decided that our best course of action was to have J head up with our flat bed trailer (after getting a tow quote of somewhere near $1600) and M and Sophie to head down in the rental while I stayed at the motel with the car.  I was able to arrange for a friend to hang out with the boys at the farm and keep an eye on things while J and M were in transit but I had not taken into account how stressful this how adventure had been on them.  In hindsight I should have had J pile Martha and the boys into the truck and had him meet M somewhere along the way… however that didn’t happen and ultimately lead to situations that I will blog about at a later date.

I will say that 4 hours that I was solo in the motel with M and J on the road was horrific. My phone was refusing to charge properly and as I was the only female in the entire motel (the other occupants being well intoxicated golfers) I didn’t feel exactly comfortable just wandering around.  I had thought to spend some time sketching or writing but my pens and pencils had been nicked by Sophie for her trip back home.  So I dug out a book I had purchased in Carlisle.  Last Words of Sinners and Saints is not good reading when you’re slightly creeped out and by yourself.

It was a long 4 hours.

I felt so sorry for J.  He drove all that long way up to Luray, slept fitfully in a less than comfortable bed, loaded up the car and headed out again the next morning.  That was a lot of driving!! At least the return trip he had me chatting away in his ear… the whole time…. mostly nonstop.

So… We made it home… dropped the car off at David’s and started the process of getting the x5 back in working order.  Not going to lie but it’s been a serious undertaking.  So many things were damaged from that deer that had to be replaced… things that were damaged that damaged other things that had to be replaced.  At one point I seriously thought the car was going to be totaled but thankfully it was not.

The car was completed and ready to go just in time for our next trip to MD for feed.  Happily that trip went uneventfully and we have since changed feed to a locally available product which works out better for both our horses and our cars :)

Had I been able to write this closer to the time it happened I’m sure there would’ve been more humor but so many things that happened on this trip started the downward decline of Martha that I can’t really look at it with humor anymore.  Martha was always a sensitive person and would fret over perceived issues.  Her worry over us having a wreck, her worrying over M and J driving so far. Her worry over me being alone so far from home. Her worry over situations that happened with the boys while we were away.  All those worries surely didn’t help an already unwell woman.

 

January 6, 2015 around 4am, my aunt Martha passed away.

I am sitting here thinking about how to sum up how one little curmudgeonly woman shaped my life and I honestly don’t know where to begin.

Martha was born June 12, 1944.  She was a wartime baby as well as sickly in her early childhood and as such was pampered to the point of being spoiled rotten.  My mother was born 4 years later and it wasn’t long before she became Martha’s unofficial caretaker and companion.  When the other children ran and played, Martha sat on the porch.  While M was racing Selam around Grandpa’s farm, Martha was sitting with her aunts listening to the tales of our family’s lineage.

One would think that Martha would’ve been meek and mild, non-assuming and quick to demure.  That would be the farthest thing from the truth!  For all that Martha would claim that she wasn’t as smart or clever as “the rest of us” she was quick to let you know what she deserved, required, and would demand!!

Martha lived with my grandparents until we sold their house after my Grandfather’s death in 1992.  My parents built the house we all live in now and moved Martha in sometime in the fall of 1993 or 94 (I’ve never been great about remembering that date exactly).  Martha was unhappy living alone and while it took a little time for us to figure out how to live together as a great big family, we made it work just fine.

Martha’s health was never robust.  Sometime in my early 20s she had a reaction to a beta-blocker that caused her to have vivid hallucinations.  She “saw” armed gunmen at the windows, dancing trees and carried on multitudes of conversations with our dead relatives that were sitting on the couch with her.  Some of our most hilarious Martha-stories come from this time.  Most famously the night that I was alone watching her as D was off driving a bus and M was working.  Martha swept out of her room, head held high, rage seething from her eyes.  She proceeded to the archway to the kitchen, paused and dramatically demanded, “Are you coming to the meeting?”.  She made calls to 911, she tried to bite me, she tried to walk-away (it’s like running away from home, but slower), and she never slept for more than few minutes at a time.  Not surprisingly she slept for a couple of days once we figured out her medicines!

For many years Martha had a habit of getting up before daybreak to go to the local Hardee’s in Pickens to meet up with friends (we called them her cronies).  We all knew that before 6 am we would hear Martha’s car crank up and she would be off!  One morning shortly after she left the phone rang and it was Martha telling us she’d had an accident.  On the phone she sounded perturbed but fine, so we were more annoyed than worried when we left the house to go get her.  Turns out her car had suffered some sort of mechanical failure that resulted in her taking the big curve at the cemetery at about 45 mph!! She went airborne, somehow missing the gas mains and the telephone poles, before nose diving and flipping her Taurus in the yard of the 7th day Adventist church.  The amusing thing about this is that Martha had made a habit of going by the local Flowers bakery and purchasing carts of day-old bread that we fed to the chickens.  So… imagine, if you will, a flipped over Taurus and about 2 shopping cart’s worth of Bunny bread strewn all around it.  The tow-truck guy was the best… as he was hooking up her car to flip it back over he stopped with his hands on his hips and with a very serious face he asked what happened to the bread truck.

So many stories.

Kyle and I always got at least 2 Christmas presents from Martha.  One well before Christmas as she could never wait and one actually at the gift giving on Christmas Eve.  It was a point of yearly contention with my Grandmother.

In our childhood we adored Martha.  If I was ever sick then I could count on Martha to bring me Snoballs, or crayons and a coloring book.  She loved us unconditionally.

As we aged Kyle and I found Martha a bit cumbersome.  We were (and still are) fluent in sarcasm and rapid wit with clever word-play being a favorite game.  Kyle is extremely well read and well y’all know how I am.  So for a time we outgrew Martha.  And then we became adults and once again grew to appreciate Martha.

Martha’s love for us overflowed to our children.  I quite seriously believe that she would’ve caused physical harm to anyone that hurt my children.  The one time we lost Sophie and couldn’t find her after tearing the house to shreds… Martha walked to the creek and through the woods calling for her.  And then the boys.  No children were ever more fiercely loved than my boys.  She could not abide for them to be punished so anytime one of them was in trouble she would finnagle a way to sneak them a chocolate, or spirit them away to her room where they would watch game shows while making paper airplanes and doodling on her ever present yellow notepads.

She was our family informant in a time before Facebook and social media.  She let us know what was going on with cousins, who had had babies, who had moved, who had divorced.  She knew everything that was going on.

I could go on and on and on.

Now, lest my readers who didn’t know Martha think that she was the paragon of serenity and love… she was not.  She was grumpy. And moody.  And if you said boo to her about something she had done then she would yell and fuss and stomp her foot and bite her lip and cross her arms and have a full on, old fashioned pout, while shouting “well then go ahead and get a gun and just shoot me!!”

She did this often.

She had a habit of being in exactly the space you needed to be in at the exact moment you needed to be in it.  Baking a cake? She would be standing directly in front of the oven door.  Making supper?  She would be leaning on the counter.  Need to get to the dryer? She would be sorting her clothes for the washer.  Seriously… it was her super-skill.

She drove us to distraction with her inability to stay on a sensible, healthy diet.  She loved her junk food and her colas.  She loved doughnuts and bon bons.  Chocolate covered cherries were her Christmas time favorites and she didn’t want to miss out on helping the Girl Scouts with their famous cookies.

Late last year Martha’s health took a dive and she ended up in the hospital for 2 or so weeks.  Martha, who loved every member of our family, found herself abandoned.  No visitors (outside of us), no cards.  It was like no one cared and you know possibly they didn’t.  When she was stable enough to move out onto the floor we ran into a new problem… unsympathetic nurses.  We all thought that since J and M were nurses in the hospital that Martha’s care wouldn’t be an issue.  We were wrong.  She was abused by staff, demeaned and made to feel unworthy of actually living by more than one nurse.  That is inexcusable behavior that resulted in meetings with the director of nursing and many conversations with supervisors.  Shameful.

So we managed to get her moved back to CCU where J works and while her care improved her spirit was broken.  Why didn’t anyone come visit?  Why no cards?

So I went on FB and made a plea.  I didn’t think I had the time to wait on people to send her cards so I bought a couple boxes of cards and every time someone gave me a thumbs up I signed a card and taped it to her wall.  When I didn’t feel like I had enough cards to make a difference I started signing cards from my horses, the dogs, the cats, heck even the chickens got in on the signing.  I figured she needed to see the volume and as I had hoped, it worked.  She rallied and started to improve.  Even then she asked if specific family members had sent cards, called, come by… anything… and sadly I had to say they had not and I could tell it saddened her.

After my card campaign Martha stabilized enough to be discharged on Hospice care.  So home she came.  There at the beginning she was more like her old self… curmudgeonly and bossy.

And then there was the ding-dong.

God save us from the ding-dong.  Hospice had recommended that we get a portable doorbell as a call bell so that Martha could retain more privacy and we wouldn’t have to stay right underfoot.  Martha ADORED that thing.  She carried it with her everywhere and declared it the most wonderful invention ever made.

She drove us nuts with it.

One night she literally hit the ding-dong button every 5 minutes.  All night.  Everybody says “why didn’t you just take it away from her?” well that just wasn’t an option… her anxiety would go through the roof at the mere mention of taking her precious away, so we learned to suffer through until she was able to use it more judiciously.

She never slept well.  Matter of fact she spent more time sleeping during the day than at night.  When I asked her about that she said “no ones coming to see me anyway” and how could I argue with her?  No one ever came aside from her Hospice staff.

So we went into the holiday season.  Martha was doing so well that the Hospice staff teased her that she was going to be released from their care.  Then near Christmas she tanked.  Pictures from Christmas morning show a confused and addled shadow of her former self, sitting morosely in a wheel chair while the kids opened presents.  Throughout Christmas I think she had 2 cards.  Sadness.

Then once more she rallied and New Years Eve she toasted in the New Year with a mug of champagne and complaints about “all that racket” outside.  She complained again of how awful it was that the family had not visited her, nor even called.  She asked me, in a tiny, sad voice “why do they think I don’t matter?” and I had no response.

And then it all changed.  She became confused, and forgot who I was.  She referred to J as “her male nurse” and at one point only remembered the name of Fred (her cat).

Suddenly she was the sweetest most compliant person.  No matter what I fixed for her she ate every bite of it.  She rarely complained and while her evenings were still restless she never once rang the bell (at least on my watch).

And then she died.

That was a hard, hard day for our little family.  Beckett who had been her favorite lackey was inconsolable.  Xander was sad, and Sophie was strangely quiet.

Per Martha’s request her funeral was a private affair.  If no one would come visit her in life, then she didn’t want them coming to laugh at her in death (paraphrasing her words).

I’m thinking for all that it was a tiny funeral it was one of the most emotional for me because I never once felt like I had to put on my normal/typical face.  I laughed, I cried, I giggled through the opening of her service only to giggle harder when M and J kicked and elbowed me.  We buried her with her favorite things… bingo cards, her favorite bag, a chocolate covered cherry and her beloved ding-dong bell.

Just before they slid her into her crypt we toasted her life with a 13 chocolate covered cherry salute which induced another round of hysterics but somehow I think Martha would’ve approved.

It’s been nearly a week and the house has been a strange place.  We are slowly going through Martha’s room.  I had to dismantle her coat-rack because it was one of those visual things that I associated with her and my grandparents.

We’ve all experienced phantom Martha sounds.  The clunk of her walker, the shsh of her feet shuffling across the floor.  More than once Sophie has called to Beckett and it’s sounded not unlike Martha.

And sadly her phone now rings with calls from all the people who couldn’t spare the time when she was alive.  Funny isn’t it… they only make time when it’s literally too late.  But you know I feel sorry for them.  All those people that Martha wanted to hear from, they will never know what a wicked sense of humor she really did have.  They’ll never know the horrors of not getting her on your team for Trivia/Timeline night.  They’ll never know how she would move mountains to make you feel better, or at least commiserate the injustice of the world.  They’ll never know…

All they knew was a simple woman that didn’t fit into society… but we know who she really was: a misunderstood princess with a heart of gold, a short temper and indignant ego that we miss very much.

 

 

On the twelfth day of the Christmas my true love gave to me… A wireless charging station for my (our) phone(s)!

On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me…. A pink ps3 controller!

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… Hay bucker gloves from Noble Outfitters!

Ninth… New windshield wipers and fancy valve stem stoppers for my Land Rover!

Eighth… A pink and teal Ottercase for my phone!

Seventh…. A pink Noble Outfitters knife!

Sixth…. Year of the Horse Swatch watch!

Fifth… Book 5 of the Game of Thrones series!

Fourth… A Faber Castell Fountain pen!

Third… A history of Westeros book!

Second… Skullcandy Crusher headset!

First… Tickets to Rolex and a horsey key fob!!

Needless to say this has been an awesome Christmas!!

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So today Sisyphus made a break for freedom… He’s brash and independent like that.  He’s the sort that will look you in the eye and then make a spectacular leap to the floor then scamper (yes SCAMPER) across the floor in an attempt to climb the Christmas tree.

He is a TREE frog after all.

Currently he’s giving me the eye from corner as he slowly slides back down to the bottom of the tank.  His tank mates are all frog piled up asleep but no not Sisyphus… he’s got to be doing.

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See he woke up Natty Grumpo… Natty Grumpo is the least amused frog in the whole tank.  That’s him on the left.  Notice how Sisyphus is mischievously peaking over the leaf and Natty is just looking disgruntled.

I’m still working on names for the remaining two frogs.  They were actively exploring this morning, climbing out on the vines and taking brief dips in the pool.  Nobody is burying up in the moss so that’s good… the heat regulator is doing an awesome job maintaining an even temp and the humidity is maintaining nicely.  There were poops this morning so it appears that everybody is getting over their trip here just fine.

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And after all that exploring this morning it’s time for a froggie nap… loving that Sisyphus felt the need to moon me in this shot… He’s going to be devil that one….

I’ve tried starting this entry at least 15 different times and I’m resorting to just saying… We got frogs in the mail today and they are awesome!

I was able to catch the 25% off post-Christmas sale at Josh’s Frogs and we are now the proud care givers of 4 White’s Tree Frogs!!

They are quite hilarious and have enjoyed exploring their new home even if it’s slightly bare bones right now.  I have a bevy of vines and decor coming early next week but currently they are enjoying their fake ivy and their big swimming hole.

wpid-wp-1420303503962.jpegThese two are the biggest by far.  The one on the bottom has fully explored every inch of their tank and all the other frogs too… evidently it’s ok with everything because it’s currently asleep on one of the vines.

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This one is very active and has been the most comical.  For the longest it would climb up the side to the very top then slide slowly down… then climb back up… then slide back down.  It was quite amusing to watch!

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How about a little frog butt?  Seriously these guys are hysterical! I haven’t come up with names yet, tho I’m sure their personalities will start shining through soon.  I’m tempted to call the one above Sisyphus.

I was very sad when our other two WTFs passed… I’ve done a lot of research before getting this gang and hopefully they will benefit from my studies :)  I have better heat regulating sources for them and also a better understanding of what they need in their habitat to thrive.  I also think buying the frogs from a breeder (or at least reputable source) alleviated some of the stress on the frogs.  As much as I love Repticon I think the middle men are often more interested in their profits instead of animal well-being.  Having said that, I would like to give a HUGE shout out to Josh from Josh’s Frogs for calling and discussing with me the best time to ship the frogs.  He was concerned about the upcoming drop in temperatures for us and was wanting to make sure someone was going to be home today to receive the frogs.  He was extremely nice on the phone and even answered a few questions M had about one of her fish tanks… YAY for customer service!!

So here’s hoping that the blog will have a regular froggie feature detailing the adventures of Sisyphus and his friends… yep that one is definitely going to be Sisyphus now.

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