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GHOST HORSE: a Novel ~Thomas H. McNeely

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

“’Divorce,’ she said, “is a disease caused by the lies of feminism and secular humanism.’” (Catholic school teacher’s words to middle school boys; early pages of uncorrected, advanced copy)

GHOST HORSE is a book I found hard to read and yet very worthwhile.  It came in the loveliest package, with a folder full of publicity material and extra resources.  The font was precise and extremely small on my review advanced copy and there were no page numbers.  I thought it was a young adult book, now I know this book needs discussion because there is a surface story and then the recording of societal change which is impacting our current lives with tremendous relevance.

Buddy is a 12 year old boy who is being torn apart with the normal feelings of the changes in a boy’s life, by his Catholic education, by his physician father’s return after 12 years of being away, by his sparing, controlling grandmothers, and by the transitions the USA was making in the turbulent 1970s.  He can see how hard his mother is working and how smart she is and well trained as she runs a pathology lab and teaches.  Margot supports her own mother and is buying a house for her.  There is not adequate childcare or transportation for her son and she must work extremely long hours because her pay is not equal to men’s income.  Dad wants a divorce and custody of Buddy, Jimmy is a physician wanting a huge, fancy house and he runs his own cancer/pathology lab.

GHOST HORSE is about a time when the folks in Houston, Texas were just exploring big changes in expectations and culture and yet it is a place where one could delineate the classes and futures clearly.  The Mexicans lived in one area, the whites another, the wealthy even another location and the Negroes had their own place on this earth.   There were even more categories such as conservative Christians and trailer trash; people spoke one way at home and the well-educated spoke another way in public.  The Priests and teachers were eager to spread the message of anti- change, violence and hate.   How is a boy to find himself and figure out who he is and what his true relationships are; Buddy becomes extremely confused trying to make sense of who he is and what he needs to do?

Thomas H. McNeely is a writer and a professor and he grew up in Houston during this time of turmoil.  It took him 14 years to write GHOST HORSE.   The boy’s confusion comes right off the page and into the mind with the concise puncture of incredible words and feelings exquisitely placed on the page.  Racism, sexism, homophobia, fundamentalism, bigotry, economic inequality, hatred and violence coming at Buddy at every moment of this boy’s day haunting him like the GHOST HORSE – where is the escape?  Would it be in making a movie about the GHOST HORSE with your Mexican friend?

TLC Book Tours and Gival Press  sent me an advanced copy to review of GHOST HORSE.   The story pushed a great many personal feelings to the surface for me.  I was back working at as an Adult Educator in the South and thinking about all the threats I received and how angry people were and how many refused to even acknowledge the problems – how quick to blame and hold on to their perceived values.  Paula Dean, the southern chef, reminded me last year when she said, “we used the ‘N’ word at home all the time”;  she was ostracized.  Our feelings are just masked now and we can see the backlash to change with the election of President Obama.   Baby!  We have not come a long way.  We need these reveals and yet we cower like a 12 year old boy and keep it to ourselves until we find a point of outrage and release.

Thomas H. McNeely is a very interesting person and the winner of numerous awards.   GHOST HORSE has been nominated for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize and has won the Editor’s Choice award at Amazon.

The Signature of All Things
The New Men
Margaret Fuller
Supreme Justice

Blossoms To Discover Peace and Joy

Monday, June 4th, 2012

Orchid buds

Early on in my blogging practice I wrote a post about how much I love flowers.  They speak to me with their simple and profound beauty.  They amaze me with their fragrance and sexy spirits. Flowers are a part of so many rituals, traditions and practices in our lives. I know I am modest photographer, yet I wanted to share my Easter Orchid which has been part of my morning healing practice.   Flowers cause us to remember and now they console me.

Free Columbine

Today, I did my morning practice and deep breathing around the Columbine blooming all over my yard.  The deep purple and light pink are free spirits and just pop up indiscriminately in the garden beds and sidewalk cracks.  I sat and watched them move in the breeze and thought of the Columbine Shootings.


Red Columbine 2012

I moved to where the sun was breaking through the clouds and saw the lovely Red Lady and I sent energy and compassion to the people in Seattle who experienced a fatal shooting of 6 people in the University District this week by a young man trapped within a mental illness.  The tears were fresh.

Memorial Columbine

The Memorial Columbine was planted to remember a young mother kindergarten teacher whose husband thought her joy and popularity was the work of the devil and ended her life and then his own. How can a religion be so full of hate and woe?
I thought about the hate promoting Baptists coming to town this week to demonstrate because of our Marriage Equality decisions – at a local high school.  I will cheer on the students who have designed a program of anti-bullying and tolerance within their school.

Columbine 2

I wanted to dance free so sought out the dainty ballerina in the bunch and rejoiced in her petticoats of white and by now the gentle wind touch was becoming an enthusiastic breeze of delight.

Yellow Columbine

This bright beacon remains  tossed in the wind as the sun disappears behind the grey – more rain.


I need flowers to bring me home, console, delight, remember, ground and progress, how do flowers play a part in your living?

Related Reading
How Hard Is This? (The Comma Blog)
I Love Flowers
Spring is Sexy

Being Alive – Another Teacher Arrives

Monday, May 9th, 2011


As of late, I have something stuck in my head and it keeps rising up like the head of a sleeping snake.  There are moments when it hisses and prepares to strike.   I just get so upset when they come in the middle of the night.

It is not like the tune to a song or the lyrics to an advertising jingle, rather it is more a constant rehash of the offending statements made by a person in my community or in the media.

My newly elected representative to the House of Representatives keeps making these amazing statements that cause me to wake in the middle of the night and go over and over what she has said.   It makes me study her campaign website and her congressional site and to thoroughly read her response letters.

I can not find anything nice to say about her.  It is easy to see that she is conservative and feels empowered by her election to carry out her own agenda and claim it is representing this district.   She is definitely carrying out her own agenda and not even the Republican agenda (though it fits in her pocket nicely) but she is truly only representing herself and her own ideas.

That she is systematically bulldozing all the projects that I have worked on all my life, that she “hates” children, veterans, and immigrants  and anyone who needs assistance in their lives or a helping hand; in my humble opinion those are all straight-forward easy to witness ideas that will get her defeated in the next election cycle.  We have sent this kind of individualistic, self-serving person off to the Capital before and they have had a turn.  That is part of Democracy.

So what is bothering me and letting me choose to suffer and keep this individual in my mind?

My initial thought was that it was because she is flying under the wire and appears to be just fitting in with the conservative leadership, thus she is appearing to be a follower and can weave her web and work her plan rather away from the public eye.  That is troublesome but it is not IT.

My second thoughts centered on her being a rigid thinker.  Well over 50% of the adult population becomes “rigid” in their thinking as they grow older.  Yep even Liberals become rigid in their thinking capacity as they age; for that matter so do Radicals and Progressives.   So as scary as it is to have elected someone to office who is a rigid thinker so young, we know how to handle rigid thinking as a society – we often call it maturity or coming to our senses!

So I keep being harassed by this person and her words – and I keep choosing to be awakened in the night to crawl into the pain and suffering that my thinking keeps hissing at me.   It is alive within me.

This morning I understand what is niggling me and so deeply making me confront my aroused fears.   It is her HATE and the depth of her HATE that I can not abide.

It is hate wrapped up in sophisticated garb and a confident air.   It is hate that is masked by the power grabbing and confusion.   It is not boiling over in tantrums and noise, but it is there and it is making the HATE within me come alive and rise up.

When my children were small and I was teaching them about the world and some of the problems of the world, I would remind them of the feeling that they get inside when they hear a police siren or fire truck horn coming down the road.  I told them when they felt that feeling inside when they were with someone that is a warning; get away from that situation and give yourself space to sort it out away from that situation.  Get away. It is your inner self telling you that you might not be safe.

My life’s work is to work on being loving and kind.   So arrives my new teacher coiled and ready to strike.  Here is my next workout and my next fear to understand.
I must now confront my capacity and expression of Hate.

I need concentration and focus.  I am healing by exploring my hate.  I am choosing to change and grow; I am choosing to learn from this teacher.  I am choosing not to suppress this emotion into high blood pressure, heart attack or a stroke. I am choosing not to bury these feeling with food or distraction.

Do you confront or distract?  What do you do when something is alive within you?
Do you choose to beat it with a stick or simmer it on the stove?  What is it you are valuing and learning?   How do your teachers arrive?

I value your comments:

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Lessons From The Dead

Monday, March 7th, 2011


Just last week the Conference Minister for my church came to speak to us about his Immersion Seminar at Centro Romero.

I was extremely moved by the experience and by listening to his personal stories about the Mexican and US Border situation in California, New Mexico and Arizona.    These stories had a profound effect upon my thinking and they remained in the forefront of my mind as I traveled and returned from the celebration to honor my Aunt’s life, which was held in Canada.

I learned about how farmer’s were selling their productive farms to the folks who wanted to build factories and  were then hired as cheap labor, how recently  the factory owners have found cheaper labor elsewhere, those farmers are being sent away with nothing – no work, no money, and no farms for food. I learned about all the water pollution from the factories that is causing the shanty towns to have ever increasing birth defects.   I learned about stimulus money being spent on more and more WALLS and how the latest and best wall, was scaled by 2 young women in 18 seconds (I understand there is a You Tube Video available – but I could not find it)

I learned about dehydrations, kidnappings, prostitution, rapes, and shootings are a daily part of life for those seeking work and a better life and future.   I learned about all the advertizing of the USA as the land of milk, honey and opportunity and as a way to get away from the drug war and warlords.

We talked about how one could get people to stay home and be empowered to change their culture and society. We talked about fear and how it is just permeating our daily lives and how we live in a culture of fear, and how we feed and nurture the fear.  How we are a part of the destruction and how we can be a part of the rebuilding of hope and future.

The Reverend Denton talked about being in Arizona when the people were killed in Tuscan and how the people that he was staying with were totally convinced that this was the start of a war of the borders and they were going to be killed at any moment.   The fear radiated everywhere. There was an assumption of violence. Folks were presenting arms.  FEAR was in the air they were breathing.

Turning People into the OTHER.   Dehumanizing.  Degrading.

What could we do to counter balance this fear, this violence?  What could we do to raise up the human spirit and promote justice and peace?

Then Rev. Denton reminded us that we in Washington State and all the states along the Canadian Border are under the same laws as those people in Arizona.   That thousands of pounds of marijuana and other drugs come into these states on a daily basis and already WALLS are being constructed – Drones make night flights filming the borders and the perpetrators. The forces against this flow are contracted troops and not under military jurisdiction.  Violence and fear are already here…and the problems of the migrant workers and the people left behind.

I saw evidence of our new thinking about our Northern Neighbors (and my family) as I went across the border 2 times this weekend.  The man sitting behind me on the ferry spent a part of the trip explaining to his Asian friend how Canadians had too many people from Pakistan in their country and the whites were too passive to be worthwhile, but it was a good place to come to play and drink.

The Border Agents took a great deal of time sizing up each passenger as they entered each country.

I do not have any solutions to share other than my 15 years of work with Nonviolent Communications by Dr. Marshal Rosenberg, work on relocalization, and all my work in the area of social justice.

My best idea is to educate and work at stopping the expansion of fear and violence.  We must stop saturating ourselves with violence towards the other and bathing in the waters of fear.   We need to daily work on our kindness to others right in our own neighborhoods and call out injustice in our own cities and towns.  We must each become the Velveteen Rabbit with no fur remaining.

I opened my new book from Pema Chödrön, Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from old Habits and Fears and found comfort in her words, I want to share them with you:

“We have a tendency to label one another as an irritating person, a bore, a threat to our happiness and security, as inferior or superior; and this goes way beyond our close circle of acquaintances at home or at work.

“This labeling can lead to prejudice, cruelty, and violence; and in any time or place when prejudice, cruelty and violence occur, whether it’s directed by one being toward another or by groups of beings towards other groups, there’s a theme that runs through:  “This person has a fixed identity, and they are NOT LIKE ME.  We can kill someone or we can be indifferent to the atrocities perpetrated on them because THEY ‘RE JUST HAJIS, or THEY’RE JUST WOMEN, or THEY’RE JUST GAY.   You can fill in the blank with any racial slur, any dehumanized label that’s ever been used for those we consider different.

“There’s a whole other way to look at one another- and that is to try dropping our fixed ideas and get curious about the possibility that nothing and no one remains always the same.  This starts, of course, with getting curious and dropping the limiting stories we’ve created about ourselves.  Then we have to stay present with whatever is happening to us.  What I find helpful is to think of whatever I am experiencing – whether it’s sadness, anger, or worry; pleasure, joy or delight – as simply the dynamic , fluid energy of life as it is manifesting right now.  That shifts the resistance I have to my experience.  Because I’ve been practicing this approach for some years now, I’ve come to have confidence in the capacity for open receptivity, for wakefulness and nobility in all beings.  And I’ve seen that how we regard and treat one another can draw this nobility out”

“Anything we experience, no matter how challenging, can become an open pathway to awakening.”

My Aunt Margery was a woman who radiated a warm loving spirit and every person who experienced her felt special and honored.   I would add I truly felt loved whenever I was with her.

I experienced two major lessons in my life this week and both are on my mind.  I want to be a peacemaker and not feed the fear and violence against others and I want to be like my Aunt and honor others I meet along my journey.

How do you think we should eliminate this fear in ourselves and in our world?  How do you tear down walls?

I would add on a global scale of thinking how do you think we can end the USA’s addiction to drugs and resources and figure out a reality that is honest and true?

Looking forward to your comments:

Related reading you might also enjoy:
Hats off to two wonderful world changing men and the books about them
We have met the Enemy by Daniel Akst
Border Songs by Jim Lynch
Mug vs Heart

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