Saturday, September 19, 2020

A mystery wrapped in an enigma

And shoved up the ass of a puzzle.

On Wednesday I rested more than I've been accustomed to. I also pigged out on pizza, and that nearly foundered me. My body has grown unaccustomed to the carb/grease overload. I was quite uncomfortable for several hours, and then several more hours on top of that.

Sure tasted good though.

Thursday was busy on top of busy.

On Friday I got out for a bloody good gallop and was surprised at how much energy and stamina I had as well as how much more manageable the radiculopathy pain was.

Perhaps the biggest part of the surprise was that I started my workout early and had a really bad attitude going. Feeling sorry for myself mostly, but there are also some irons in the fire bothering the shit out of me and for which I have no good solution except to keep on keepin' on. Bureaucratic slash legal stuff. No matter how much money, time, and effort I throw at these things, the story slash rules slash laws are always changing to accommodate the lawyers and the bureaucrats. They do not change to accomodate me.

So I had a bad attitude and a case of sailor mouth going on.

Also, a maelstrom.

Between Vader Hill and the four mile mark I got my mouth under control (for certain values of control), began to appreciate the beauty of the day, and began to feel a good bit of surprise at my freshness and pain level.

I ended up doing five-and-a-half and felt like I could have done eleven.

So the obvious question having to do with the mystery wrapped in an enigma and shoved up the ass of a puzzle is this -- rest and diet?

I feel like those things are part of the answer. Too much over-physical/mental/emotional-work and not enough carbs and grease? Could be. I believe I need to do some rigorous 'sperimentin. That is, try to accurately measure diet and output rather than what i've been doing, which has been basically, "yeah, that's gotta be about right."

You can always tell a knuckleheaded knowitall corpsman. You just can't tell him much.


For those of you keeping score at home, Sarge gave me some tips on video embed technique here in the new blooger realm. Well, he more properly gave me some HTML code. Now I don't habla HTML and I'm probably doing this wrong, but here's what I did. I took his code, narrowed the width from 1100 to 1000 to better fit my layout, and changed the u2b video ID number (if that's what you call the thing). Then I switched from "compose view" to "HTML view" in the new post editor, found the right place, and pasted the code in. So far on preview it looks okay. But it seems like a lot of work. Why the firetruck can't I just pop the firetrucking u2b embed code in where I want it? WTF,O? On the other hand it looks like the extra steps will allow me to present videos of a size that looks better to my eye than the way I was doing it previously. Also, I'm probably doing it all wrong anyway. Another upside is the whole "challenge" versus "persecution" mindset. I always feel better when I'm taking on a challenge than I do when I'm being a firetrucking professional victim. And I might even learn something to boot!


Sometimes my bloody mind just spins out of control and I enter a maelstrom of crazy. It's an odd and unsettling feeling. I have such a big stack of "must get done" sammiches on my plate and because the world isn't designed to serve me and me alone I can't just tuck in and "eat 'em all gone."

Is that goofily mixed metaphorology or what?

This morning I have a touch (big touch!) of murderous rage against the whole shit-gargle empire, especially blooger and u2b. Terrible thing to have in my heart. I think they are behaving like real shitheads but the rage and anger in me is all on me and I must turn to the Big Guy to be rid of it. I can't survive with that kind of acid coursing through my veins.

I wrote this section before writing the above sections.


I've described here before the fact that Allie is the only woman I've ever actually loved, that she was and is the only woman I've ever given unconditional love to. It was such a huge and improbable thing that I've described it as bringing color to my world. It's much more than that of course, and I think I've also said here that there simply aren't words to describe what happened. I'm still -- and I suspect I always will be -- completely at a loss as to how such a thing could have happened. How in the universe could such a beautiful human being with such a beautiful soul have ever possibly allowed me to give all of me to all of her? Boggles the mind. As Woodrow Call put it in Lonesome Dove, "That don't make no sense a-tall!"

I say that to then say this. I have no way to express in words how much I love her kids. Such love was not even the stuff of fiction in my world before I met Alexzandra Lee Trujillo.

One of the very great blessings of my life, as odd as it seems to say and write it, is that the kids and I are working through our grief together. It feels like the most important thing I've ever done, like the most important thing I ever will do. Indeed, it could very well be the reason I exist at all, the reason I was given life to begin with.

Yesterday morning was brilliantly beautiful. The weather, smoke and all, was sunny and calm and warm and perfect for playing outside and eating popsicles.

And blowing bubbles and other stuff.

After lunchies (leftovers -- hamburger patty, mashed tatoes, fruit cocktail, skettioes, chocat milk) it was naptime.

I've mentioned naptime before. I wish there was a way I could come close to describing what it feels like to be me when these two little ones snuggle up with me and fall fast asleep.

I got a hint on an early summer morn. We'd just moved into the new house and the little ones woke up for the first time in their new room. They were scared and the proper cure was to snatch them up and bring them to bed with us.

When I lay down with them at naptime, Z-Man likes to snuggle but can take it or leave it. Sissy wants to hold on to my arm.

Wish there was a way to get better images/videos. There's not though. Ah well.

Today was a bit rough on the littles. The youngest in particular was cycling through a lot of emotion. It's very hard to describe in words what it looks and sounds and feels like as we navigate our rough patches together. Maybe someday I'll be able to properly essay and complete the task. Today all I got is this -- I have no way to express in words how much I love her kids.

I'll never understand how any of this can possibly be, but that doesn't really matter.

Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Thud, groan, plop, sigh

Late summer light and shadow, assisted by atmospheric particulates (smoke).

And, just like that legacy blooger has gone away. Whole new interface to stumble through now. We'll see if I'm up to the challenge. In composing this post I'm trending toward wanting to punch all pukel employees in the face. Better get rid of that attitude or the day's gonna be a wreck.


Anyway, post title? Yep, hit the wall.

I didn't see it coming, though perhaps I should have.

Lots and lots of busy days stacked up, and I've been busying the hell out of them. Working hard physically and mentally and emotionally.

And I've been working out hard too. Tuesday I crushed it with hill sprints, and I had a nice result with demon-smashing.

Yesterday morning I felt relatively fresh mentally and emotionally, but as soon as I got to moving around I realized I was spent physically. I was very fatigued and sore. This was different from the feeling of mental/emotional inertia left in the wake of my Love's death. I was physically "on my chinstrap" as they say in the Brit military.

The stars just happened to line up for me though, and I was able to steal some middle-of-the-day hours to blow on rest and refueling.


Why yes. My theory was that my body needed some "bad" food; food with carbs and fat. And a good big dose of it. So I stuffed a Shaun-doctored frozen pizza in the oven. Extra cheese and pepperoni. My body is craving, craving, craving just such a monstrosity.

These things are actually pretty good. Scandinavian via Canadia.

Long time since I've pigged out on a pie like this.

Can't let it become a habit though.

Eating the pizza seemed to be a mistake. My gut wasn't accustomed to the rich, greasy, carb-loaded food and it felt like I'd swallowed a boulder. Took forever, it seemed, to digest.

The rest of the day was blah and loaded with fatigue. Even an hour nap failed to perk me up. Coffee had zero effect.

So in a nutshell, yesterday sucked physically. I did make progress on laundry, though not as much as I like, and I did have a productive meeting later in the day.

The kids were in a right state yesterday too. They had a lot of fun but they were edgy and owly. I wonder how much of that they were channeling from the way I felt, or if it was a family-wide phenomena.

I'll never know.


This morning I feel much better. Lots of smoke in the air though.

The fatigue isn't as acute and I feel like I slept better. I had a lot of very odd dreams. Sometimes that seems to be correlated with the coming of a good day.

We'll see.


Little things. Little things that are big things.

When I was younger, and I think I've hinted at this to a certain extent, particularly in my Corpsman Chronicles series, I was not at all averse to spending alone time with young ladies. Horizontal and superimposed, as they (I?) say. It was always fun and enjoyable. On many occasions, after the immediate recreational episode had finished, I had the opportunity to sleep (the actual unconscious kind of sleep) with the young lady who happened to be in the sleeping place with me. I always hated that part. Something in my selfish nature recoiled at sharing the bed when it was sleeping time.

When Alex and I first found ourselves in a position to do the unconscious sleeping together thing, I worried that it would be a problem.

It was not.

I loved sleeping with Alex. From a 5 a.m. text message...

Alex: I hope you have a wonderful day my love. I slept so well with you holding me.....

Me: I love you forever beautiful. Sleeping with you heals my soul💚😊

I miss sleeping with my Love. I do love that beautiful woman forever. She did heal my soul.

Digging around in text messages is a risky game. It's got upsides and downsides.


And now off to the races. It's gonna be a busy, long day, and that's a good thing. I'm feeling refreshed and energized and ready to live.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Adventures in concealed carry

Among other things...
The boy favors a four o'clock carry, the girl is appendix all day every day.

After the first quite early snow of the season, late summer heat has returned and playing outside in the morning is just the bestest thing in the world! Hard play can lead to a bit of pre-lunch crankiness of course...


Mule Deer in the treeline.


Back at the beginning of summer Alex jumped on me pretty hard about using sunblock. Ranchers spend so much time outside that they are at high risk for developing skin cancer. I pooh-poohed the notion. I've been doing this for decades, I pointed out, and no skin cancer. That's not the point at all, she countered. She got pretty cross with me a time or two (or a dozen). I'd come home from work and get a big hug, then an immediate flaming.

"I can't smell any sunblock!"

"Um, it's odorless? It sweated off? The sun got in my eyes?"


We kind of agreed to disagree. Pretty much. Sorta.

She was out of town for 10 endless days in June, and it was during this time that my gut was disappearing fast enough that I felt comfortable working without my shirt on. The cows didn't seem to mind, and there were no hoomins to notice my girth. When she came back she liked the tan. "That's WAY better than a farmer's tan!" She agreed with me that you can't die from everything, but insisted on closely inspecting me for sun-caused blemishes. Which was something I could live with!


This afternoon I ran into a bit of self pity and impatience. I had fence to work on but decided to pound myself silly with a short hike and much hill running. Stomping along toward Vader Hill I espied a Cardinal Jumper ground hunting.

My route toward the healing hill took me through one of the canyons hard on the south side of I-80. I'll never walk that canyon without flashing back to walking it with my Sun Queen. It's fun to look at what nature does with erosion and try to suitcase in my mind the timescales she works in.

The view, the feel of the air, the slant of the sun. The combination of effort and pain and fatigue. The green. Smoky overcast. Exertion endorphins. Pain endorphins. Emotional endorphins. Spiritual endorphins.

I did thirty hill sprints, called it good, and started to leave. Beautiful vista. Fall-greening prairie. Skunkbush sumac. Allie.

But it wasn't enough. The pain and rage of loss were still worming through my guts and my soul. I did 41 more. The sprints became staggers. I developed tunnel vision and saw stars. Hot September air roared in and out of my lungs, parching mouth and throat. My heart pounded and pounded. I hit 180 beats per minute on the heart rate. My leaden legs became harder and harder to move until the effort became impossible. But not quite. There was plenty more in the tank. There had to be, I was two miles from the pickup.

The process of combining physical exertion, driving through physical pain, and working through emotional upset is a soothing balm. It's very hard work on all fronts, but the effort pays off in so many ways. I am so blessed to be able to this.


Later it was time to get rid of an old twin bed and fetch a new one. After the pounding workout one would think that I'd be ready to put the chore off until tomorrow. But no, I was fresh and strong and felt good. Moving frames and mattresses was child's play. And satisfying to accomplish. Company coming this weekend. Life is for livin'.

Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

A bit of levity, perhaps...

Kids being kids.


Couple of groaner Dad jokes.

What does a fish say when it bumps into a wall?


Guy walks into a bar with jumper cables draped over his shoulders.

"Hey," sez the bartender, "you tryin' to start something in here?"


She walked into the bedroom again Sunday night and smiled that smile. It was again an odd experience. I heard and felt her footsteps, her movement. It felt partly like a dream but partly like reality. Which was it?

"Do you come here every night?" I asked. I felt a moment of panic that I might be sleeping through most of her visits.

She just smiled. But words I'd shared with her many times came back to me in a strange commingling or her voice and my voice.

"It's just a thing, Sweetheart."

And, "Suck it up and drive on."



Monday morning.


I decided to cut my Sunday hike short at the 3.5 mile mark. I was experiencing a return of radiculopathy in my left leg and it got to the point where pushing farther seemed unwise.

Over the past week I'd been having more shooting-burning pains in the leg; on the outside or lateral aspect of the thigh and calf and on top of the foot. Those painful symptoms had been gone since the lumbar injections I received on August 4.

While the pain was returning and growing slowly in intensity, it hadn't yet approached the pre-injection level of intensity.

Fortunately I had an appointment with the pain doc Monday (yesterday as I write this) after lunch. While doing dishes Monday morning I noted that the old bugaboo of standing on a hard surface was causing a good bit of pain once again. So at lunchtime I headed for the big city of Scottsbluff to meet with the doc.

I've seen this guy thrice before; twice in his office and once in the interventional radiology/injection suite. Each time Alex was with me. So this trip was missing an important component, and that was a bit harder than I expected.

"Where's your wife?" asked the receptionist. She was shocked at the news and teared up.

"Where's your wife?" asked the nurse who took me back to the exam room. She was shocked at the news and teared up.

When the doctor came in he'd obviously heard the news and was blinking back tears.

Alex had a way of connecting with people. I think they sensed that she was a real person who was actually interested in them as real people. No game face, no bullshit, Just Alex being genuinely Alex.

It was tough to share the news and tough to bring unexpected grief to three people she had touched with her Alex-Presence. But it was good in a strange way.

Suck it up and drive on.

The plan is to do another round of injections. The doc thinks it might have a better and longer lasting effect this time. We'll see.

Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Slogging along

I learned a long time ago that in the midst of hard misery I always catch glimpses of neat stuff and profound beauty. I recall during must-pass training and actual rescue evolutions recognizing the wonder and beauty of actually being in the open ocean while at the same time being hammered physically, mentally, and emotionally. Experiences are never just one thing, they are a mix of many things. Hard experiences are livin' in top gear. Somehow it seems, at least in my experience, that the harder the situation the deeper and more profound is the beauty and wonder attending it.

I turn away from the beauty and wonder only at my very great peril. Embracing the awful and wallowing in self-pity will kill my soul in very short order, and I know from experience that a soulless Shaun is a monster.


The manifold writings on grief I've perused all agree; smashing sorrow comes when you least expect it, is almost too hard to bear, and must simply be endured.

This week has been like that. Not just for me, but for the entire family. I can't help but wonder why. Why all of us, and why at this particular time. I don't spend a lot of time wondering though, it's a question which cannot ever be answered. Speculation is just speculation.

In the midst of crushing sorrow though, there is much, much beauty and wonder.

On Thursday at nap time the little ones wanted to nap on the floor and they wanted me to nap with them. There are times when they need the discipline of, "no, just lay down, close your eyes, and go to sleep." There are times like yesterday when they need close contact and patience and enveloping love.

Laying on the floor with two little ones snuggled up next to me, relaxing and giving in to the need for rejuvenating sleep, was an experience too big and important for mere words to describe. It was a time filled with love and peacefulness battling sorrow and loss. It was exactly what we were supposed to be doing.

Later, in the evening, the littlest was having a monumental struggle with her emotions. Standing at my feet and screaming in rage and fear and loss. I knew exactly how she felt, for inside I, too, was screaming in rage and fear and loss.

Eventually it was time for a two-minute time out. I picked her up, sat on the couch with her in my lap, and held on while she wriggled, screamed, and cried. In a low voice I told her it was okay, that I felt the same way, that it was okay, that it was okay, that it was okay. Okay to let the emotions flow out. Okay to wriggle and struggle. Okay to not behave perfectly. Okay to be herself.

Nearing the two-minute mark, magic. A last shuddering howl, then she relaxed, turned into my chest, and snuggled.

These little ones are complete human beings. They aren't cute, animated toys, and they aren't "just kids." They know what death is. They know that Mommy is dead and will never come back. And just like me, they are working through this enormous thing as best they can. But they are only two and four. They need to know in their hearts that they are safe and loved and that they can melt down and still be completely safe and completely loved.

We're all making progress. We're enduring and learning and growing day by day.


Sometimes the little one likes to sit on my lap and watch "songs" on my phone. She likes a lot of songs. The other day we watched a couple of her favorite songs which had been turned into navy cruise videos by a couple of VAW squadrons; the Sun Kings and the Black Eagles.

Hey Ya...

Send Me On My Way...

Move Along...

She really enjoyed the mix of people and ships and airplanes and music. Pure magic.


On 9/11 we spent zero time remembering the attacks. We were busy. And only a couple of us grownups were old enough to recall the events of September 11, 2001 from an adult perspective.

Life goes on, an it's important to live it day by day properly. Especially for and with the little ones.


This post is all over the place because I'm all over the place.

Last night I had two very interesting dreams. One featured Rebecca. In the beginning she was as she was back then, then she morphed int the Rebecca of today. In the dream she urged me to give up the guilt I still feel for treating her badly. It's a message she's given me in real life many times over the last few months. That was interesting.

Then Allie came into the room and stood there smiling down at me with that special smile she used to explode my heart with love and joy. She didn't say anything, she just smiled.

Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

What the hell is checking cows?

Every morning I go out and check cows. I frequently write and talk about checking cows. It's not uncommon for me to suddenly realize, in the middle of a conversation or in reading a comment, that my correspondent or conversationalist really doesn't understand what I'm talking about. And why would they? Not many people check cows, and only one people check cows on the EJE Ranch.

At a slight tangent to the thrust of the previous paragraph, I also sometimes realize, usually in spoken conversations, that the person I'm talking to is completely certain that they know not only what I'm talking about, but they know it far better and more completely than I ever will. They've never checked a single cow anywhere, mind, but they know, and they know better. They are a superior form of life. They're what Orwell described as "more equal" animals in Animal Farm. That's kind of a scary situation, because people who spend a lot of time in the realm of certainty and extra-equality are some scary motherfuckers. Butt I digress.

The obvious (at least to me!) question is in the title of this post. What the hell is checking cows?

Well, brace yourself. Because checking cows is a lot of things, and assessing the health and wellbeing of cattle is only a small part of the thing.

Nevertheless, let's start with that. What am I doing when I check an actual cow?

In one sense I'm doing the same thing I did when I was seeing human patients in sick call. I'm looking at the cow or bull or steer or calf to see if they look healthy. Is it upright and breathing? Is it moving around? Is it eating and or drinking? Does it look at me? How is it holding its head, how is it holding its ears? Is it calm and relaxed and doing normal cow stuff?

When I first started this actual ranch operations cow checking, I had to eyeball every single individual animal and look closely while checking off my "healthy animal" list. Over time I got to where I could take these things in at a glance, and later still, I began to be able to assess cow status by seeing patterns. "How does this pattern of cow distribution and behavior match up with previous patterns, with 'normal', and is there anything in this pattern that looks abnormal?"

Whenever the pattern is disrupted by anything abnormal or different, the different thing or things stand out like a flashing strobe. A single set of droopy ears or a single drooping head. A hitch in gait. a "ganted-up" or gaunt looking animal. When I see the different thing I can take a closer look and assess whether there's a problem, and if so, begin to put together a plan.

Sometimes the different thing is fun. When I see a group of cattle which appear to be looking at the same thing off in the distance, I follow their gaze. Sometimes I see coyotes, or dogs, or fluttering bits of paper. One morning I saw a bunch of frisky calves chasing a coyote, and the mama cows seemed to be watching with approval.

I look at a lot of other stuff when I check cows. I look at grass and water and fences and weather. I think I'll save those things for another day.


What's the opposite of a wedgie? De-pantsing? Eigdew?

I went for a short walk through town and as I was walking along my now too-loose underwear slid down. All the way down until they caught in the crotch of my jeans. They'd have come all the way off were it not for the jeans, which themselves are now two sizes too large and cinched tightly to my waist with a belt. A belt which has had five new notches added over the spring and summer.

I did it to myself.


Took Tommy and Nona out to check cows this morning. It was Tommy's first time. He was a little bit uncertain.

His first time seeing chickens too.

And a first opportunity to meet Red and Jake.

Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Good inertia

I'm hoping I can share some hope today, but let me first warn you that there is grief talk ahead. Please don't hesitate to skip this post. No one likes to witness or read about this stuff.

On the other hand, perhaps writing and sharing these thoughts and observations might be in some way helpful to some readers. Perhaps that's a pipe dream or a delusion. I hope not.

There's no doubt that writing this stuff helps me order my thoughts and come to grips with the seemingly impossible task ahead. In that sense these maunderings are intensely selfish.


An object in motion tends to stay in motion and an object at rest tends to stay at rest unless said objects are acted upon by an external force. Something like that. And subject to the usual ideal vs real universe caveats.

As I was preparing to sail forth and do good work upon the world yesterday morning the littlest held up her arms in the universal sign for "pick me up."

Quite often that's the beginning of a game or an attempt to exercise some control. More often it's a desire for a quick hug immediately followed by autosquirm and "put me down, I got stuff to do!"

Yesterday morning she just wanted to be held. She wrapped her arms around my neck and rested her face against my face. I stroked her back with my fingertips and let the inertia of love operate the universe.

Eventually, of course, autosquirm was selected and loving force was applied to loving inertia.

Such things are a blessing beyond measure. Beyond the very concept of measure.


Parts of yesterday sucked and parts were indescribably delightful.

It's been really hard on the grief front. Four weeks. Twenty-eight days.

Hard on all of us.

When I see others suffering I wish I could fix everything for them. There's a part of me that is completely willing to bear all their pain myself if only it could make their pain go away. The world doesn't work like that though.


I'm still working on laundering Allie's clothes. They need to be washed and dried and folded and properly hung up and sorted and stuff like that. Why? The former me wouldn't have known the answer. The present me does.

It's a hard chore on every level.

I've been working daily on the task and I'm making good progress.

It's an exercise in heartbreak. I know I'm whining and I hate that in me. Nevertheless it's a process that hurts a great deal. I feel like I understand that pain and hurt must be worked through; body, mind, and soul. I have to face my personal loss squarely and let it hurt. I have to suck it up and drive on. I can do it, but I can't do it myself. God does the heavy lifting, the things impossible for me to do. Family loves me and their loving support works miracles. And Allie is here with me. Makes it okay.


I intended to work on some fence yesterday, and I nearly got started, but it was a day for thinkercise rather than labor. While my body did a 4.18 mile circuit of the perimeter of a particular pasture, my mind picked over and sorted through thinking stuff.

While my mind does its cognition thing my soul picks out all the troublesome stuff and and talks to God. My mind frequently comments, "I don't know how I'm gonna be able to do this." My soul replies, "Hold my beer and watch this."

Some of the cows seemed to wonder why I was hiking in the heat of the day.

Late summer flowers are always worth a closer look.

Lichens on former seabed.

Pretty as a picture.

Grazing hot grass.


This morning was very different. Light snow cover reveals cow pathways.

North wind, rain, snow, plunging temperatures. It is still officially summer!


And Brrr!


Water holds a lot of warmth.

It's hard to make it freeze, particularly when there's so much of it collected in one place.

Cattle can find the sheltered spots.

Wonder if this calf remembers the snow of springtime?

Out of the wind and comfortable.

Autofocus loved the swirling droplets and flakes.

As I announced my intent to go check cows this morning, the little ones scrambled up into my lap and gave me hugs and wet kisses. On their own initiative ands without prompting.

God and family and Allie.

Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.