Previously

Yesterday I had the day to myself which meant I was able to catch up on my to do list. I've always been a morning person, listening to the hum of the dryer and swish of the washer was comforting in a homey way. After the laundry was started I went up and started cleaning the kitchen. Friday night we went to see my new niece. It's hard to believe my little sister had a nine pound baby, she was still incredibly small but unlike my girls she had tons of thick dark hair.

I probably would have gotten more done around the house except I went on Facebook to see if any pictures of my niece were up. This summer I met a couple of new friends. I was just about to start the dishes when a message popped up. Since my friend lives in a different state than I do meeting up is easier said than done. The past few months have been difficult for both of us physically. It's hard to remember that last July we were sitting on the grass by the lakefront cooling down after a run.

No one at my new job knows me from before. Sometimes this feels like a mixed blessing. The other day a friend of mine that I used to sit by told me I looked like the picture of health, that made me laugh because every morning starts with a cocktail of drugs, vitamins and supplements. Another friend of mine calls conventional doctors drug dealers. She relies on God to guide her to wellness and at times like this I think maybe I should too because at least then the side effects would be good ones.

During the conversation with my Facebook friend we talked about alternative medicine. After following the link on my screen I wondered why I have such a hard time relaxing. I was not quite halfway through my tea and the video when I started crying. My friend introduced me to a woman who has already been a tremendous support. Reading online is not the same as being able to talk to real live people. I hate being scared even more than I hate feeling crappy all the time.

Naturally I want to focus on myself and the way that I feel however the people in my family are affected by the events in my life. Today I missed most of my children's Sunday School service because lying on my bed was all I had energy for. My girls have been through just about every version of egg, dairy, gluten free pancakes out there. Now we have separate pots and pans, different utensils and no one can reach into a bag of baby carrots or set a slice of bread down on the counter without worrying about where the crumbs might go.

One website suggested I get rid of my hand mixer, I had to laugh at that because I am way past the point where I can eat anything that remotely resembles dessert. The other night we went out to eat after visiting my sister in the hospital. I couldn't eat the chicken because it was colored with caramel, the list of ingredients under hamburger included dairy, wheat and soy, practically every item on the menu had something I couldn't eat on it so I ate a plate of plain lettuce while everyone else had chicken and ribs.

Because I have some autoimmune disorders my body starts malfunctioning whenever I'm exposed to certain foods. Having a damaged digestive system means that food particles can escape into the rest of my body. Your body is designed to identify foreign materials and since the food isn't where it is supposed to be your body recognizes that as harmful. Each time your body is exposed to that food the reaction is swifter and more intense. The good news is I may eventually go back to some of the foods on my forbidden list however knowing when these foods might be okay is something I'm reluctant to experiment with.

Through all of this I have to be grateful that I know how to cook, I'm relatively good at research and I had a mother who let me experiment in the kitchen with different foods. During the week I can't afford to be sick at work but on the weekends I try to see if there are new foods I can get into my diet. The funny thing is when I don't feel well I adhere strictly to my diet. As soon as I start feeling better I'm tempted to see if there's something I used to eat that I can go back to. Going through all of this has identified food allergies I never knew I had, now we laugh about the day I found out I was allergic to kale however at the time it was anything but funny.

Yesterday a friend encouraged me to start writing about what I've been through. Entire websites have been devoted to celiac disease however maybe there is some value in getting this out. The sooner you go through the denial, rage and bitterness you can move on to acceptance and healing. It does suck to feel as if I'm missing out on a lot of things however I'm hopeful that someday I will feel better and it has been nice to get some new clothes. My job is one of the high points in my life right now but it makes me sad when I miss basketball and volleyball games because I work so far from home.

When we were talking about writing my friend told me to write about the way I wanted things to be rather than the way that they are. It's been so long since I wrote something light and romantic that I'm afraid I rushed through it. The contrast between real life and rip tide amuses me, right now my ankles have been scratched raw, I have bloody scabs on my lower legs, patches of eczema that I can't see or reach and my mouth is much better now but when the skin on my lips started peeling off I was pretty sure I wasn't going to want to see myself in the mirror.

A couple guys at work have either asked me out or expressed interest in dating me. I've lost so much weight none of my rings fit me. I've had them resized once and I'm not going to have that done again until I know where my weight is going to stay. I'm never sure what I should say to people, currently I am legally separated, I want to move out and I want to move on but I have some financial issues that make staying where I'm at prudent.

The other day my boss said I should go out and meet new people. She's been a good friend, I really like the other guy in my department, the girl who sits across from me is also gluten free, I've learned things from her and she told me she went home and cried after I gave her a package of gluten free rice pasta and a jar of what I think is pretty good spaghetti sauce. My former supervisor has a big F. E. up on his dry erase board. When someone asked if that meant Fuck Everyone he said he got it from the Bible and it means Forgive Everyone.

While there are people I don't like or respect I've been making peace with the fact that I'm not going to get along with everyone. This one woman in particular is making it difficult for our department, I don't know what her issue is but she has it in for my boss. My guess is she feels threatened by a woman who is much younger, prettier and insanely organized but that's just a guess on my part. I'd like to say something to the people in charge but I don't want it to seem like our department is whining and for the most part we do our thing and avoid the troublemakers which is what I would tell my children to do in similar circumstances.

Now that I've been an E2 user for a couple of years this place is starting to feel more familiar to me. I've not been in a very social mood lately so I apologize if I haven't been a very good conversationalist. I used to come here to hang out and goof around. Now it seems there is less of that than there used to be however that could be me and my mood. I am going to try writing more daylogs but I have to be realistic about my time and energy committments so I'm not promising anything.

I have really appreciated all the people who reached out to me here and on Facebook. Words of encouragement and knowing that other people are out there helps. I've made a lot of good friends here, they are the reason I keep coming back because I could start a blog and write elsewhere but this place is already set up to take journal type entries and I already have a free account that's here whenever I want to use it.

The other day I went to the mall to return something. A couple walked past me, I turned around and said hello to a noder who normally dwells on another continent. He introduced me to his new girlfriend, when I left them they were on the way to the store I had just left. I had no idea my friend was going to be in town, over the weekend someone broke into my supervisor's car so I took back the gift I had gotten her because I figured she could use some cash. The roads were bad, I didn't want to go to the mall but now I'm really glad I did. Isn't life delicious?

I look up at the dark sky the day following the Solstice and wonder, what's the weather like in The States right now? The day before my girlfriend took pictures of the Solstice eclipse, the likes of which last happened in the early 1600s. I had to miss the momentous event, it was about 12 noon here in Afghanistan when it did happen, yet another thing this deployment has taken from me. It's already kept me from watching my stepson's birth, I've only had two weeks or so to meet my girlfriend of almost 7 months in person, and that was about 4 months ago. Every day here seems like two, and every week here only reminds me of how many more I have left.

The snow in Maine is heavy and deep. The ground is likely covered in a beautiful dress of purest virgin white, only occasionally sprinkled with conifer needles and bark. I remember last winter's sky was heavy and gray, it looked almost like it was going to fall down on everything all at once (indeed, several times it almost seemed that way). Snowmobilers would ride the trails, pedestrians would complain of the cold, and drivers would be cautious to stay on the road (I failed to once, but that's another story entirely).

Every winter I had the important responsibility of pushing the snow out of the driveway with a shovel, piling massive banks beside my dooryard. When the snow froze and turned into ice I had the duty of taking a heavy pick to the clear, slippery menace. Years of doing this taught me the importance of preparation (and rock salt) for any given meteorological event involving large amounts of frozen or otherwise solid water. I often had to break the ice on the stairs in front of the door so the door could be opened. It was dull, repetitive work, but somebody had to do it, so I did.

The scenery here in Afghanistan is nothing so divine as a New England winter. The air is a little chilly in the morning and snow has yet to fall, I have a feeling I'm going to have a brown Christmas. The only major weather that happened today was a windstorm that kicked some dust up into my face, though nothing like it had before in the summer. I haven't even seen any sign of rain for probably months. It's interesting how water falling from the sky can remind you of home. I almost can't wait to come home, step out the door and nearly fall facefirst into freezing, soft snow.

I only have a few months left here, I hope they pass quickly, there's nothing like scalding hot soup on a bone-chilling day.



For my beloved children and theirs to read on Christmas eve. Let's see if you ever find it.







There was a boy.

He was the first born of a Sicilian shoe salesman and the daughter of a Hungarian bartender.

They lived in New York City.

During his first December his father brought home a tree and put it on a stand in the living room. He could see it from his crib. Something green and tall and special. Many years later his mother would tell him they had no money for lights or ornaments so they got some cast offs from his grandparents days after the tree was put up. And by the way, he would have been far too young to remember something like that.

But he did. It was true. Because it was me.







The world was full of coincidence and interconnectedness. Everything seemed to happen for a reason even though all the philosophers and teachers taught him it was the province of the mind to find patterns in purely random systems. That the living human mind insisted on connecting dots that had no reason to be related. That being susceptible to such mental construction was a weakness.

But the parents of the boy had sent him to Catholic school for nearly a decade, and the religion taught in that institution insisted there was form and function behind the fantasy. You could see God in these things if you looked closely enough.

And so he did look really close.

And I spent years reading and learning and observing and thought I saw God and told my teachers so. But what I told them I saw wasn't what they told me I should see.

One of us was wrong, and despite two thousand years of Christian heritage I wasn't interested in it being me. And that was that.







For the record, I've never seen what they said I should see when I look at the world, nor do I see what anyone else sees.

And this has always been just peachy with me.







The Hungarian bartender's name was Albert, but everyone called him Bill, because back in those days people in bars called bartenders Bill, no matter what their names were for real.

I never met my grandfather Albert because he died of a stroke a few weeks before I was born. I never even saw a picture of him until one day when I was experimenting with developing photographs. I printed a roll of negatives my grandmother had given me. She told me that Albert loved to take pictures like I did, and he himself used to develop pictures in the laundry room, like I did. This was one of his rolls of film.

When I printed the pictures I saw one of a guy I had never seen in any picture of my family before. It turned out that Albert was always the one taking the pictures, so he was never in any of them.

Except for one. And I printed it in 8"x10" black and white format. I brought it upstairs to show my mother.

"That's him," she said.

"He looks like me," I said.

"Yes, you look just like him."

And that was the first time I'd ever heard that.







Albert was not a well-educated man. He was brought to America from Budapest when he was a boy. He went to work at an early age, and he worked up until he died. He died at a fairly young age. He was only forty seven, and it's weird to me that I am older now than my grandfather ever got.

My grandmother said he was a dreamer. He was always inventing something, pouring money into get rich quick schemes and making hair growing potions on the kitchen stove. He believed in ghosts and the fundamental goodness of his fellow man.

He was a very nice guy who always had a lot of friends.

That's what my grandmother said.

What my father told me was that his father-in-law scared him, which I always found amazing because my father was a tough Sicilian who would just as soon punch out your lights as ask for an apology. For someone to scare him was monumental to me.

He told me that on my grandfather's death bed, he grabbed my father by the arm and pulled him close.

"Take care of my baby," he told him, meaning my mother and he wasn't asking.

My father did just that until the day he too, died.

Promise kept.







When we are young life changes every day. The first snow is a life altering event. The first playground fight. The first kiss.

As we get older and more set in our patterns life changes less quickly. Then it's easier to see the things that changed our steps and made us what we are. Though at the time it was nothing special.

This boy had grown up wanting for nothing. One summer when school ended and the long hot days lay ahead he made a pact with himself he would teach himself the Theory of Relativity and read every book in the local public library.

It turned out Relativity was easy.

So he figured the second task would be no sweat, either. He started his reading of the entire New Monmouth library with the biography section and picked up a book called, "Weird and Tragic Shores," which was about Charles Francis Hall and his voyages on his ship the Polaris.

After that book I gave up reading the entire library and focused only on books about polar exploration

As far as I am concerned everything else in my life happened after that.







There was a girl.

She was the daughter of two college students who tried to finish grad school with a baby in the apartment.

It didn't work in a number of ways. Grad school disappeared. Parents divorced. Baby became a little blonde girl.

The girl spent equal time growing up between her father who worked as a designer of ships and lived on a seven acre farm, and her mother who lived with her boyfriend in an abandoned school bus in the woods.

She wasn't quite sure what she would be when she grew up, but she knew adventure would have something to do with it. Her relatives were adventurers and explorers. Sailors and revolutionaries.

As she was completely comfortable in the outdoors, she hiked the length of South America one summer, and across India during another. She dodged armed muggers in Panama and hurricanes in Tierra Del Fuego.

When she graduated she got a Pew Foundation grant to study the events in Poland leading to the collapse of the Berlin Wall. She interviewed Lech Walesa, and had to travel through the newly opened East Germany to get him in Krakow.

Something awful happened on the way back to the west.

That's when they met, only neither of them realized it at the time.







The first time I met the blonde haired girl I was in an isolation chamber at The Monroe Institute in 1999. I was in a class designed by ex-military intelligence operatives. We were there to get to know our spirit guides better.

It seemed like a good thing to do, and I always imagined my spirit guide was young Albert.

In the chamber we were subjected to interesting sounds which were supposed to mix in our brains like an old-fashioned heterodyne radio, and create tertiary signals that would alter our brainwaves. It was my second trip to TMI. I had no idea what compelled me to be there but I had the money and some free time. Learning to be psychic seemed to be a cool thing to do.

I remember the moment exactly. The tones were buzzing in my ears. The calm voice of Robert Monroe came on, mixed in with the sounds.

He said, "Ask your spirit guides to show up someone who's going to be very important to you."

So I did. Albert said, "Ok."

And for a fraction of a second, I saw a blonde haired girl on a bench in an archaic European train station. She was battered and bloody. Her clothes were torn.

She cried for help.

The session was over 90 seconds later. When came out of the chamber I felt more than ever heartbroken and driven to polar exploration.

That made no sense to me whatsoever. I was in a retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia learning to be a psychic and talk to dead people. So I pretended it was a meaningless hallucination like most of the other stuff that happened during those classes.







There is a greenhouse on the base at McMurdo in Antarctica. One day I was in there in a hammock. It was warm and there was humidity because the room is full of green plants and grow lights. Inside it is a sunny day in the summer, even though there might be a vicious Antarctic storm outside.

While I lay in the hammock in the greenhouse on McMurdo station I thought it might be a good idea to practice some of the interesting meditations I learned to do at the Monroe Institute.

Now, speaking to spirits or dead people is very much like imagining something. It's hard to tell the difference between something you make up and something that comes from that other place. But this particular time, it wasn't hard to tell what was happening was not being made up by me.

Albert came over to me. He was a teenager. He said, "I want you to take care of her. If you break her heart, you'll have to answer to me."

I honestly didn't know who he was talking about, except about ten seconds later the blonde haired girl came up to me and asked me if I wanted to walk back with her to the station to have dinner in the galley.

Then I realized she was the same girl I had seen years before at TMI.

"I have a weird question," I said to her as we packed up my hammock. "Have you ever been in an accident on a train in Europe?"

She turned very pale for a second, then said she had. I didn't ask her anything else about it that day.

Some years later I found out what had happened to her that day on the train in East Germany. And there's no good that can come of the telling of that story.







And all of this would be stupid coincidence. It wants to be. Nobody wants the dots to be connected, and there's no reason they should be. After all, most of it is in my head, and I could have made it all up. Fabricated the story after the fact for convenience.

Except Albert is a pretty clever guy.

Three other people in separate isolation chambers all saw the blonde haired girl at that point in the meditation at the Monroe Institute in 1999. We all talked about it, back then. We all described her. We knew she was hurt. We knew what she was wearing. We knew she would be important, but we didn't know who, why, where, or how.

We thought we were seeing an event that had happened in war time.

But it wasn't. It was now. Though we couldn't possibly know that at the time.







And dear ones, I can tell you who the other three people are. You have met them and they know you. And if you ask them they will say, "Yes. Of course. It's all true."

Being true doesn't make it any less miraculous, and doesn't explain some of the things that may trouble you.







One day in the early 1990s I was talking to a woman who would later become a well known writer. These days I see her books in airport book stores all over the English speaking world. She always felt she would have "made it" when her books were in airports.

When I see her books I think to myself, "There ya go." Though at the time we were speaking to each other regularly she was still just working very hard to be published anywhere.

One day I asked her, "Hey, did you notice that when you write something, it comes true?" because all sorts of things were happening to me that I had just written down in a story a day or week before.

She said, "Yeah, of course. Everybody knows that."

I didn't know that.

But I do now.

That's another thing that's true.







She wrote a bunch of books about a nurse who steps into a circle of stones and goes into the past and falls in love with a guy who leads an army to revolution. It's about a version of Scotland she imagined.

I haven't spoken to her in a long time, but if I ever talk to her again I will ask her how much of her books have come true.

And even though I'm reasonably certain she hasn't fallen into a time portal to medieval Scotland, I'm guessing a lot of things are coming true for her.







The reason I was talking to that author about writing was that I was writing a book as well, and we were associated by the same on-line writer's group. Like hers, mine was a story book. That is, it was something I had made up, though if you were to read it now, you'd think it was something about my own life.

I wrote about a guy who went to Antarctica and found his wife there. Naturally, when I was writing it I never dreamed I could go to Antarctica, and also, the last thing I ever needed to do was to find a wife.

As we know now it turned out my life followed the arc of that story. It could have been that my subconscious forced my life to follow that track. But along the way there were so many coincidences and so much good luck, that nobody would have ever thought any of those things could really happen.

But here we are.







Now you may be tempted to start thinking: all I have to do is wish for something and then write it down and it will come true and I will get all sorts of stuff. But it doesn't work that way. Because remember when I mentioned before that talking to spirits and dead people is pretty much the same as making up stuff? Well, it feels exactly the same.

And the stuff you make up is what it is.

And the stuff that comes from outside you, from those who love you and wish you well, is what it is.

So there.







This year the blonde haired girl and I got married, and you were all there and we were all happy together. You know that it wasn't always a smooth ride up to that part, but it's great now. You told me so, which is the greatest gift I could ever get.







Which brings us to Christmas, which is kind of about love and wishing for stuff and having it magically appear. We make up stories about Santa Claus and perpetuate those myths because it's great to watch your children learn to change what they think when there's something in it for them. And helping Santa is one of the funnest things a parent can do.

Now that you're older, you notice we're still doing it, year after year, even though you're older and know better. The trees go up and we become nostalgic for Christmases past. You're even doing it yourself now. And you may be wondering why this goes on, and you may be thinking you know, but you probably don't, yet. That's because you have to be older and go through all this stuff to figure it out. And there's never any sense in trying to jump ahead to the punch line, because it turns out that life is in living through the trial and errors. The end is uneventful. It's the middle that counts. That's where all the cool stuff is.

Imagine what would have happened if I had never written a story about a guy going to the south pole (which I will show you some day) or never went to the Monroe Institute, or had three wonderful children who asked me questions day in and out that I had to go explore to answer.

Nothing is free, it all comes with a price. There is hurt behind all that joy. That's the process of living. I don't know why. Maybe I will when I'm older.

I do know for sure that figuring out your own miracles is what Christmas is really all about.

None of this is made up.

The miracles are all real.

Belief is the best gift ever.



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