Ghosts

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I spent almost 20 years in a small mountain community that has a gunfight between the cowboys on the main street…and train robbers…and of course a train that rolls you up into the Grand Canyon and back again in a day. Every night during the summer you can find a crowd of tourist and some incredibly authentic cowboys fighting over a barmaid or a card game gone south, it’s a lot of fun and with the horse-drawn carriages and the train whistle I feel like I spent the last twenty year in the 1800’s…well at least on summer nights.

Lots of Old Western buildings, the town had died and been reborn many times, there were even some old hotels that boasted “ghost tours”…old west legends and what not…

During the winter all that changed, snow would make driving a challenge, and the mountain highways (and especially the road north to the Grand Canyon) contained another kind of ghost, not the Stephen King kind but the “grey ghost of the mountains” the elusive elk and deer that thrived in the worlds largest ponderosa pine forest we know of.

There is something both haunting and exciting about hearing the elk bugle in the early morning fog, echoing off peaks and pines the sound is otherworldly and they are truly elusive along with the other tribes of deer and wildlife that make the Coconino Forest their home…you see them but sometimes you think you’ve only seen a ghost, a brief flash of grey or rust and then they’re gone like Keyser Soze in the Usual Suspects “poof and he’s gone” (arguably Kevin Spaceys finest performance).

I’ve learned to not invest to deeply in people who don’t have a ghost or two hanging around them, or worse yet never admit to having any ever, the perfect person ascended back to heaven and you ain’t him so lets cut the crap we all have ghosts.

Oh I get it how some people only want to focus on the “positive” and the glass is always half full approach is probably valid most of the time, but it is our ghost that allow us to connect our most important aspect of who we are, our hearts.

Our brains are undoubtedly our greatest tool in gathering data, informing our decisions and processing our surroundings, but it is our hearts that are our greatest power. When someone says they have no ghosts or refuse to admit that they have been seen what they are saying is “I only want to connect in places I can control…I will answer your heart question with a brain response”…that is unkind. It means the person either thinks your heart is not worth the honest effort or their heart is somehow better than to connect with you on that level…and it’s not that I don’t trust them, it’s that they don’t trust themselves and when push comes to shove they will be unpredictable.

Crisis has a way of changing our environment…and when that changes our brains go into overtime to control it, and when your brain is in overdrive the heart is usually in the pickup bed bouncing around saying “Hey don’t forget I’m back here”…

And that’s about the time we turn the corner and run over someone who was trying to get close to us or give us advice or well, warn us the bridge was out up ahead and BOOM!…another ghost is born.

People who fail to see or admit to the ghosts in their lives should not be allowed to drive you around…I’m not saying avoid them…just don’t invest too much in their destination…someone is gonna get run over, like an elk rushing out of the mist it will be unavoidable and hopefully it won’t be you.

I’ve been on the receiving end of getting hit by ghost avoiders…people who would not face the truth about themselves and what that meant to my heart…and each and every time it happened it was a mangled mess that has taken me years to patch up…

I guess my point is mainly this, your heart is your greatest treasure, not your brilliance or your body, those things rust and wear out, learn to hang out with people who answer a heart question with a heart reply and not a brain fact…those are the people who have seen the ghosts up close., and maybe give the other folks some time to grow…eventually it will come to us all…we all have ghost stories we could tell…

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On being a Dad

I remember it like it was yesterday, the call from the Principal…”Mr. Pixley we need you to come and get your daughter she is being suspended today”…it wasn’t the first time but it was the last mainly because it was the last year of the last child in public schools. I texted her, asked what she did, and headed over to the school…

The Principal and I respected one another, we didn’t always see eye to eye but I let him know I appreciated and supported him as a parent…so the conversation was short and sweet…

“Whad’she do?” I asked (already knowing the answer) “She called her teacher an asshole”…”Ok whats the punishment?” “She’s suspended for a day”…Ok…

“You know I am not going to punish her right? This is like a vacation to her…”

“Why not?” he asked…

“Because I agree with her, he is an asshole, he drew first blood by calling her a name in front of her peers, he lost his cool and he should not have”…

The Principal looked down and said…”I agree and he will be reprimanded, but we cannot have students calling teachers assholes”…I agreed, we shook hands and I left…

It was at this point I realised that my job as a parent was pretty much over…my kids could think for themselves, would not sit idly by while people abused power and were not afraid of the consequences…

At the graduation I had at least 4 teachers come up to me as happy as the kids graduating, all saying the same thing “I am so glad you don’t have anymore kids, the Pixleys gave us the biggest fits and I don’t think I could take another one”…

What they meant by that was my kids were not afraid to research and call out bs when they saw it…what they meant was “Your kids think for themselves and it’s hard to keep them in line with the rest of the herd”…

Later I would discover that they had not been buying into the BS theology I had raised them with…they “thought it through” and realised that if God was a Father he would love you no matter what, you would always be his kid and hell was some kind of confused illusion they no longer supported they did not have an answer but they knew it did not jive with the picture that Jesus portrayed of the Father…” They knew the tithes and offerings were a joke because they saw where most of it went, to the “ministry”…they knew the spiritual politics and the using of people was wrong…they simply did not buy into the evangelical schtick because…well they thought for themselves.

Over the last many years we have all had in-depth and profound discussions as I have finally grown up…we have taken a hard long look at the theology and have been honest about it…and that brings me to my second memory…the times I came home from being away and had to make dinner with only a bag of frozen tater tots and some bacon that they did not want to cook…mainly because I got home AFTER the one horse town had closed its store and they had not managed to cook for themselves. In those moments I discovered I could be a gourmet chef with a creative mind and tummys would be filled and well, really, all gourmet recipes probably start out of a creative necessity…that necessity truly is the Mother of invention…and in that I learned that I was never limited, not by the cupboard or the clock and that there’s no such thing as “no answer”…

I’ve watched that idea translate into kids who fear nothing…rear-ended in LA traffic, told they would not get to the car rental place in time, they take out a red crayon and a cooler lid ┬ástop traffic defying the odds of crazy drivers, LA heat and stupid rental car policies, because they were parents now themselves and refused to believe the schtick of some sales rep or tow truck office and simply would not accept life on the terms it came at them, they loved their own kids to much to acquiesce.

My own natural father packed his suitcase and his guitar when he found out my mom was pregnant with me…that is the last time we saw him, and I never did…so maybe it was a desire to fight the genetic absentee trait that made me take my kids in the divorce and do my darndest to be there for them…THERE being in the Principals office or the hospital room, there being anything they needed that I have, be it time, money, hugs, or trinkets…

They are my friends now…and as I glance over our storied history of diapers and homecoming crowns, principals office as well as doctors offices, basketball courts and municipal courts, from Junior High to Juris Doctorate it was really me who has been learning the most…they’ve taught me who I was when I had no idea how to be anyone else.

Being a dad is the most exciting and humbling adventure I have ever been on…and I am more Christ-like because they have shown me what love is supposed to look like…

My own son has his first child, he was honestly the one I worried about the most, he was so “male”…but observing him laugh and cuddle and just adore his daughter even as he changes her poopy diapers…I know the torch has been passed on…because really that’s the main thing about being a dad…it trains you in the fine art of adoration.