Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Saint George and the Lizard

You know that telephone call that you dread? It comes when you least expect it. It came the night before last. Our friend Saint George (not his real name) called with an emergency. I immediately put the television on mute, sensing the urgent nature of the call to The Hubs’ cell phone. OK, I was nosy too.

It’s just that emergency phone calls from Saint George’s house might be anything from an invitation to dinner to his youngest son’s latest stand-up comedy routine. You can’t beat comedy from an 11-year-old.

But, no. This was a different kind of emergency.
It seems Saint George had thought to treat his oldest son’s pet lizard to a bit of afternoon sunshine, something that doesn’t always happen in San Francisco in July. After the lizard spent the afternoon in what appeared to be spa-like luxury, it ate a hearty meal of a jumbo cricket, went to sleep and, well, you guessed it. The lizard shuffled off its mortal coil.
After some nudging and prompting, Saint George had to admit he probably had slain the dragon, even if it was a 6-inch Western Fence Lizard. Wracked with shame as any father might be at the accidental demise of a child’s pet, even if the child is 17 and probably knows everything (just ask), Saint George called my husband.

Naturally, you’d think of my husband when you have a dead lizard emergency. He’s that kind of guy. The surprise was that the call wasn’t about what to do with the lizard. Mrs. Saint (actually that has to be her real name because that adorable woman has three sons and Saint George to deal with day in, day out) and I would probably agree on a simple trashcan-over the cliff into the hedges-flush it down the toilet disposal arrangement. A moment of silence might be warranted.

No, the emergency was that Saint George needed parenting advice from my husband, a man who has raised no children through no fault of his own or want of trying. The Hubs of course does have a heart as big as all outdoors and an easily shared font of suggestions. This is why he’s the guy you call with your lizard emergency.

I had some sympathy. After all, where in the parenting magazines or websites, where in the psychology books, in the instruction manual that comes with every child, where, I ask you, does it say how to break the news of the death of a pet lizard to a creative, sensitive, cranky, hair-triggered 17-year-old?

Saint George had a moral dilemma. Should he confess his reptile negligence and insensitivity and admit up front that he probably killed the lizard, mysterious as the death was? Or was a cover-up called for?

I voted for cover-up, especially after I did a quick internet search on the proposed lifespan of a Western Fence Lizard in captivity. First, let’s get the legalities out of the way. It’s not an endangered species, well, not in general. I’m not sure I’d let Saint George lizard-sit for me. Then again, I don’t have a lizard.

As it turns out, if Fluffy—I call it Fluffy because I don’t know the lizard’s real name and there are probably HIPAA laws about releasing a specific lizard’s health issues to the general public—if Fluffy were a boy lizard, he would have rather an intense blue underbelly. If Fluffy were a girl, she would make more subtle fashion choices. There are several sub-species of the Fence Lizard, which turned out to be too much information for me, but one of the things they like doing is hanging out on fences and rocks in the sun.

This characteristic seemed to point to the innocence of my client, Saint George, who was still inconsolable or at least still in a quandary about the right way to handle the dead lizard thing. Fluffy probably enjoyed its moments in the sun.

“Seriously,” I called to The Hubs across the living room, “the prisoner exercised in the yard, ate a hearty meal, and, if you’ll excuse the expression, croaked.”

The Hubs waved me away, trying to keep from crying and laughing at the same time. We did, however, have the same idea on next steps. Put Fluffy and his habitat back in Number One Son’s room and wait for the disappointing discovery.

“Are you sure it’s dead?”

I read further in Wikipedia.

“They hibernate! Maybe Fluffy had the big warm up, ate the big cricket and is taking a big snooze instead of the Big Sleep.”

Saint George assured us that the lizard was pretty darned dead. I wasn’t sure we were giving the box-seats coaching advice we had been called for.

The call was over. I had missed something.

“Hey, what happened? Is he going to just put Fluffy back in the kid’s room or what?”

“No,” The Hubs harrumphed. “He’s going to call him and tell him!”

We rolled our eyes. It was asking to be berated by a 17-year-old. I mean really, how close can a kid and his Western Fence Lizard be, anyway? Did it fetch? Did it photobomb with the family? Did they have matching leather jackets? Did it whistle or tap-dance?

“WAIT!” we both said at the same time.

“Who’s the patron saint of lizards?” The Hubs asked me. I know stuff like this.

“Saint George, of course. You know, Saint George and the dragon?” After all, like all patron saints, perhaps a small donation to a worthy charity might bring about a Lazarus-like lizard miracle.

“Right,” he said, dialing our distraught daddy-friend back. “SAINT GEORGE!”

It was, of course, too late. Our friend just happens to be the nicest guy besides my husband and felt morally compelled. He had immediately called Number One Son and told him The Awful Truth, just like the Knight of Swords riding off to vanquish evil and stand for truth, justice and the American Way.

“Well, shoot,” I pouted after The Hubs got off the phone the second time. I was waiting for the surprise Facebook postings upon the awful discovery, the hunt for the perpetrator, the whole drama.

Coincidentally, one of our tarot community members, tarot creator Ciro Marchetti, however, did provide the best little ever-so-slightly Photoshopped snap of an iguana who had wandered into the open back door of his Florida home. I sent it to Saint George’s Number Two Son who had stood by quietly in all the drama and snickered the way the middle child can at such events. Perhaps this will cheer the crepe-draped halls while they heal from the loss.

I hear they are thinking of getting a snake now.
Best wishes.


My deepest sympathies to the community of Aurora, Colorado, and all affected by the recent horror there. To all the responders who helped, shielded and comforted those who were there, and to Christian Bale for visiting hospitalized victims of the shooting, thank you.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Things to Do During Mercury Retrograde

I thought I would take a positive spin on the usually-tricky Mercury retrograde season. OK, for the people who think this is all bosh I must toss you a bone and say, no, no one really thinks planets move backwards. Really! You’d think we were talking about magic or miracles or something. No, retrograde just means the apparent backward movement of planets. It all has to do with relative movement and things you can look up in more authoritative sources than this. You aren’t coming to me for this kind of information, are you? OK, that’s settled.

Now, we’ve just entered a Mercury retrograde time, one of three times a year. It’s a time associated with computer malfunctions and communication errors. This sort of thing tends to make people addicted to Twitter and Facebook cringe since our current fashion is to communicate electronically, the faster the better. Shut that down and, golly, we’d have to go outside, read a book, do some gardening, clean house, all those thing we put off because we spend too much time with our computers. Think of the horror! What was life like before smart phones?

What’s that you say? You’ve lived through every one of these so far? Me, too. It’s the annoyance of the little things that go wrong that get you during these things. But there’s a something positive you can do when the electronics and communications planet goes into reflection mode. Maybe even more than one thing.

One of the recommendations during a Mercury retrograde period is to review things that have already happened instead of starting something new. That’s not such a bad thing, is it? It’s a “bloom where you’re planted,” “shop in your own closet,” and “read the books you’ve already bought” sort of message.

Unlike most of my buddies, I’ve never watched Game of Thrones. What a great time to catch up since the reruns are available On Demand. I know it isn’t the best exercise, but watching the politics of a fictional realm puts a softening aura around the politics of the real world. I started watching and realized I had seen at least parts of the first two episodes already, making it an even better Merc Rx deal; it’s about the do-overs. The Hubs points out that this is merely Dallas for the unelectrified.

While I’m writing this, I’m watching the first season episodes and thinking I had hoped to see more about the dire-wolves than I have so far. But so far I like all the animal references, like sending a raven instead of Potter’s owls and the horse culture who doesn’t believe in crossing water deeper than a horse. If only our own politics were as entertaining as George R. R. Martin’s mind.

Sean Bean as our hero has certainly a pleasant image as the voice of moral leadership on GoT. I remember Dawn French’s Vicar of Dibley had a crush on Sean Bean. That’s a series that’s swallow-your-gum funny if you haven’t seen it. Dawn French is one of my favorite funny actors.

Those who admire Diane Lane’s stunning performance in Unfaithful should also admire French’s Vicar, charged with the spiritual life of her village as one of the few female vicars and also charged with, um, admiration for Sean Bean. The play of conflict and desire is no less gripping than Lane’s Oscar performance and funny too. Such a human comedy is Dawn French. Sean still looks good to this old girl in GoT.

However, I read in the descriptions that the show purposefully portrays the actors somewhat in need of a bath. Watching sweaty barbarians who seldom change clothes, I am reminded that my mother’s vision of “smell-a-vision” as the next big thing and I am grateful technology went for color and high-definition instead.
“What’s that smell?” your friends would hop back in horror upon entering the TV room.

“Oh, we were just watching the Game of Thrones. Let me put the fan on and open a window.”

What might have been is not always a candidate for wistful longing. Just saying.

Besides going through cob-webby entertainment, there are other Merc Rx things to do. For instance, I have unfinished needlework projects I would like to resume. Much better to resume an old project than start a new one when Mr. Tricky is looking backwards.

Where to start? I have a fabulous purse I was mid-stitch from a stunning Celtic knot pattern in blues and turquoises which has sat for a while. If I finish it, and I really should, it will be breath-taking with the jacket I started earlier this year. I have everything I need to make it so resuming that project seems like the obvious choice. And there are some ornaments that the Hubs stitched that I have meant to finish. I could do that in time for Christmas and they wouldn’t take long. There’s at least one ornament of mine to finish too. Hmm, there’s a theme here. And there’s a tea cozy I started. Oh, and a case for a deck of tarot cards. This stack is taller than I thought at first glance.

The thing not to do while pawing through my “UFO” or unfinished objects pile is to start yet another new project. This might be a great time to research and plan for the next project, though. The fine line between planning and actually starting it up, like listing supplies needed as opposed to actually obtaining those supplies, can be the tricky part.

Have you ever cleaned out a closet and gotten distracted by the “lost” treasures you unearth? It’s something like having a pity party only a lot more cheerful. The result is the same though. You didn’t really get anywhere with the project. You were distracted by your old stuff, whether it was a box of fragrant soaps you had forgotten or a hasty choice you regret. A retrospective should have a useful outcome even if it’s just to remind you that you don’t need to buy soap because you have some or that sometimes, hanging around like the Hanged Man, it’s better to rest your usual nature and just reflect. Inaction is a choice too.

Well, heck, there goes Sean Bean. OK, no more spoilers. I’ll be hanging with the reruns.
Best wishes.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Shoe on the Other Foot

Remember wardrobe malfunctions? Yeah, me, too. I think I told you all about my swimming suit catastrophe in high school. That was an accident. Strictly speaking, it was a series of accidents, the kind of cataclysm that makes you think there has to be something to waking up under the wrong stars. My mother used to quip, “I should’a’ stood in bed.” But the keyword on that unfortunately funny day was accident.

There’s no way I could have known that not one, not two but three bathing suits would, uh, let me down, so to speak, all in one day. It was my own personal disaster movie.
And then there are those self-inflicted wardrobe malfunctions.

I know there is a classic dream sequence that goes something like you are standing in front of your classroom reading your book report when you happen to notice that you have forgotten to dress for the day and you are (fill in the blank) nude, still in your pajamas, in a clown suit or otherwise embarrassingly not ready for prime time.
Seriously, stuff like this really happens. Maybe you’ve been there?

Like many of my contemporaries, I am half-convinced that today’s fashions actually free a person from the fear of wardrobe errors. After all, if it’s OK to display various sections of your undergarments as a fashion statement, doing so by accident could at worst be seen as an ambiguous style choice. Which is worse? The classic tradesman dorsal cleavage, or purposefully having your pants waist somewhere south of your own waist? At least the tradesman can stand up and resolve the problem although by that time the viewers’ eyes may have melted right out of their skulls. There’s a scene from one of the Indiana Jones movies that comes to mind when faced with the unexpected moon shot. There but for the grace of, well, you get the idea.
But we’re used to thinking of these things as something to resolve or better still avoid rather than parade. So when the younger folks present themselves with what we would consider at the very least a hobbling trousers-and-drawers combination, we blurt before we can stop ourselves, “Pull up your pants!”

Oh, yes, yes, I know that the baggy pulled down thing is supposed to indicate that one might be concealing something more than the usual equipment, perhaps a deadly weapon, in the extra space created between the wearer’s natural branching and the britches hung low. For me, of course, the deadliest weapon is the laugh-inducing, blushing in sympathy, head-desk inspiring vision of a young person trying to be cool. I’m sure there’s a more up-to-date word for cool now, but in the effort to keep my embarrassment at a distance I have not kept up with the latest patois.
It becomes astonishing to us to learn that the victims of terminal embarrassment we are trying to save are actually ourselves. It’s quite certain that the pants fashionistas feel pride, not shame at their selection. Why, I remember fondly when one’s choice of foundation garments was a secret sense of pleasure at the surprise it would bring that special other person when breathlessly revealed. No, that wasn’t in the 19th century or in a Bronte novel. So the sudden revelation to an unintended audience was, well, it wasn’t a fashion choice.

Ah, but what about those unwitting choices we make? One of the hazards of the workaday world is that we have to dress for the public and admittedly more conservative professional environment before we are fully awake and often without the benefit of proper lighting.
The key here is preparation. When it came to getting ready for work, this was never my strong suit, no pun intended. I dressed according to my mood for work. If I felt gloomy and dark that morning, I would wear something appropriately sepulchral if only in color. If I felt bright and cheery, I went with pastels all the way. Felt like blending into the woodwork? Beiges and browns, of course! And I never wanted to pick the mood-o-day mode-o-day the night before. No, the day deserved its own mood.

Naturally, this made getting ready in the morning a bit of a daily crisis, which served doubly as a natural sort of double espresso. There’s nothing like a time deadline to get things right when you’re half asleep, dressing in the dark and terrified of being late to work. Anything that went the least bit wrong was magnified.

In hot and humid Illinois summer mornings, I would regularly ruin 3 or 4 pairs of pantyhose by putting my thumbs through them trying to drag them up my humid skin. There was no cure for this except having many, many pairs of pantyhose. God forbid that I wear hose with runs in them or not wear them at all. It wasn’t done. I kept spare pairs in my desk drawer. I did the same with earrings because nothing could horrify me more than the sight of myself, finally awake in the office ladies room with earlobes with holes and no earrings.
Nothing could save me from myself ultimately. My shoe habit, for the purchase of so many pairs of shoes could only be described in terms of addiction, often took the form of buying a style I liked in every color available. At least once I looked down at my feet about mid-morning only to discover one blue shoe and one black shoe on my feet, doomed to wear them the rest of the day.

This is the exact scenario portrayed in the 7 of Wands in the RWS deck. Our hero is essentially not quite ready. He is, at least, on top of things, but it’s pretty clear when you look at him that this could change at any minute. This guy is getting no breaks. If you look closely, you’ll see that he has one shoe on and one boot on. Was it a decision made in haste? He obviously has higher priorities at this moment than fashion. Would a little preparation have helped? He is Mr. Wardrobe Malfunction and he will take care of it later, thanks. Please call back when he’s not busy.

This is one of the best reasons I can think of for having a buddy at work, someone who might help you notice that there is some small thing you want to resolve before it really matters to you. When I was a new computer programmer in Illinois, my buddy was Don. Don was happily married, a little older, funny, smart and not too charming; he was The Friend. We talked over coffee in the break room in the morning.

“You, uh, have a rough morning so far?” He raised his eyebrows and nodded toward my waist where hung the belt to my dress, never buckled.
“Thanks,” I sighed, grateful that this one, at least was easy to fix. And as I left the coffee room, I whispered softly to his shoulder.

“Barn door.”
Yup, it’s good to have a friend at work just in case you aren’t completely prepared.

Best wishes.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Fire Works

It occurred to me just now that several of the cards in my various decks have a smidgen of USA patriotism portrayed in them and that, in honor of my country’s birthday, I might do a reading with them. So first, let me get the cards in question assembled here in between moments when I have to assure my various small creatures that the explosions they are hearing are not gun or cannon fire but good-natured fireworks.

Oh, and while we’re waiting for me to pull those cards, more than one person I know has commented on the irony of the EXTREME FIRE DANGER signs posted by the people trying to keep you, yours and parklands from burning up juxtaposed with FIREWORKS FOR SALE at the corner of "hay stubble" and "countryside brown and crispy as matches." I know they’re saying that people will someday think that Manhattan was built in astronomical alignment with the sunrise on July 11, a “Manhattanhenge.” What will they make of our unwitting mixed messages like these? I know, I know, it’s an election year and folks, even you folks are going to remind me that mixed messages are the fare of the day. I suppose.

At any rate, if you plan to set the world on fire, do it with inspiration and kindness and not with fireworks or any other incendiary device, if you don’t mind. It’s just my preference. I was just in Colorado after all, between two fires that the press isn’t even talking about that much.

You’re burning with curiosity about these cards. I can tell. So let’s get going.
Tea Tarot
(c) Copyright 2011 Marcia McCord

Looking through my decks, I find I have made only one major arcana card patriotic-themed. That’s the Emperor from the Tea Tarot. And such a theme that is in our news constantly, isn’t it? The President, the election, the nature of effective leadership, what kind of leadership is needed in our country today, all these things are foremost in our consciousness, often because that’s where the people reporting on the news want us to focus, often because those who have strong feelings about political themes want us to focus and, occasionally, by accident. The Emperor’s themes are temporal rule, the idea of boundaries, power, its uses and abuses, decision making, the Executive Branch of anything including your life. It’s what you do with it that counts. Of course, by making a decision, you’ve necessarily decided against, if only temporarily, the alternatives. The Emperor stirs emotions, both positive and negative. In this year of the Hierophant, the two major cards struggle. How do we separate religious belief from rule of law? Can we do it?

Art Postcard Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord
Within the same theme of politics and leadership, especially leadership style, is the King of Wands from the Art Postcard Tarot. Theodore Roosevelt was that “walk softly and carry a big stick” guy, never subtle, known for his “bully” enthusiasm when bully could mean something positive instead of the oppression of strong against weak as we understand the word today. And yet critics saw that other definition looming so this card is actually a cartoon where Teddy’s own Teddy Bear whispers in his ear, “No third term.” Should we have term limits to avoid entrenched thinking? Or should we have constant turnover that boots the incumbents just as they are starting to make a difference? It’s another theme in our country.

War, the military, how we treat others, how we defend others and ourselves, how we treat those who have defended us, all these things show up in the next group of cards. Like it or not, we in the USA have a love-hate relationship with war. We want to honor our heroes because they are our loved ones as in the Picture Postcard Tarot 8 of Cups. Too many families have said goodbye to their loved ones in the military, hoping for them to return. And when they return, will they be whole? Certainly, they will never be the same, no matter what their experience. Will they have lived bravely through the gut-wrenching decisions and heart-pounding luck? Will they have jobs when they come home? Will they be hated or loved or feared or ignored? Will they be thanked?
Picture Postcard Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord

Picture Postcard Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord
Will their dedication to the principles of freedom and liberty be recognized, even late? Kady Brownell who is the Queen of Swords in the Picture Postcard Tarot was the only woman to receive official discharge papers from the Union Army and granted an Army Pension and recognized as a member of the Grand Army of the Republic for joining her husband in battle in America’s Civil War. Her thanks came late. Her pension was $8.00 per month and started in 1884, 20 years after the end of the war. Her recognition is a footnote. Was she the first veteran to be officially given a bad deal at the end of her service?

Picture Postcard Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord
Like Custer in the Picture Postcard Tarot 5 of Swords, will those who stand out in the field of battle be too confident and lose everything, including the glory they so longed for? Is war a win-lose scenario? A lose-lose scenario? Custer hoped to be President someday but is remembered today for his remarkable defeat in a battle with First Peoples. Will those who strive for glory be remembered for folly and pride, misjudging the task at hand, leading their loyal followers to a place of curiosity and shame in history?

Picture Postcard Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord
The Economy. The words are on everyone’s mind and not just in the USA. The Picture Postcard Tarot Ace of Pentacles is both a look backward to the past idea of the USA as a world economic power and a look forward. Is the USA past its prime as an economic power? Can we renew the engine that has kept everyone’s hope for comfort, security, shelter, health and well-being? In this hottest of topics before us, how to spend our limited dollars is perhaps the one thought on everyone’s mind and yet likely the subject of bitterest debate.

Victorian Trade Card Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord
The Victorian Trade Card Tarot 4 of Pentacles shows the American eagle, our symbol bird, feeding her young, tending the fledglings who will become the future, ever mindful of those who would prey on them. Our eagle shows us charity begins at home. I think we have no argument there. What divides us so often is where that care and nurturing ends. Do the strong protect and foster the weak and young, but only their own? Do we abandon the old, the infirm, the less-fortunate to predators? How do we care for those in need? What if, in the midst of crushing poverty, there was a mind so remarkable, a talent so undeniable and so necessary at the perfect moment in time? It doesn’t happen today, but in our past, several of our Presidents have come from such humble circumstances. Should only the strong and wealthy survive?

Art Postcard Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord
So, this July 4, while we exercise a power we are barely able to control, like the Art Postcard Tarot Page of Wands, let us continue to learn and grow wise. I hope that we use the spark of inspiration, not to set fire either accidentally or purposefully to all that has come before us, but to grow and glow as a nation, diverse, opinionated, reckless, sometimes bright as lightning, sometimes ignorant and dim, but always striving to make the world a better place for everyone.

Best wishes!