Wednesday, August 28, 2013


“Don’t make me choose.”

It was something of a showdown between my father and me. In his very old age he had come to live with us to recover and even thrive for just a little while. He had fallen down an escalator in a department store and shortly afterwards got up in the night in his small apartment and his hip had collapsed, broken.

I was in California then and he was in Missouri, far away from any of his children and doggedly stubborn, something that must surely be a genetic trait within our family. I could not fly out fast enough and spoke to his surgeon who expressed doubts about Daddy making it through the surgery.
Off-Center Lenormand
(c) Copyright 2012 Marcia McCord

“I know he’s 90 or whatever and I know he has heart problems and other issues, but, with all due respect, doctor, you don’t know my father. He will live if only to prove all of you wrong.” And he did. The doctor was dumbfounded.

As Daddy recovered in a nursing home, we kids took turns spending a week with him until vacations ran out and it was clear that without family presence he was not going to be well-cared for.

It was part of our initiation into the world of elder care, the various interpretations of advanced directives, etc. Daddy had a DNR order and had created a Power of Attorney naming me as the person to make decisions should something devastating happen. What we found was that instead of the folks caring for him and consulting me on major decisions, they interpreted DNR “do not resuscitate” as “do not care for.”

When we scooped him out of the nursing home to airlift him to California, he had bedsores, edema, pneumonia and other things that displayed a lack of care. Nothing keeps your loved one alive, I found, more than your presence and attention attracting the notice of the caregivers.

Daddy recovered from all those things likely to kill older people and moved into my first floor apartment, what I call the “basement” although it is not underground. He thrived in a way. He got well enough to become, instead of the “pet father” I had hoped for, truly a troll in my basement. His old age, in his defense, was not necessarily happy for him. His beloved third wife had died after a short and dreadful battle with small-cell lung cancer. He could not see why he was still alive and was constantly angry at everyone from me to Hilary Clinton whom he blamed irrationally for Noni’s death.

I gave him a break though. He was 90 and had alienated just about everyone who might have cared about him, alienated or outlived. And it’s hard for someone who lives only for the attention from others when the audience has left the theatre.

At some point, he picked a fight and demanded that I choose between him and all I held dear.

In Lenormand, the card that signals “loyalty, regard, friendship and enduring kindness” is the Dog. Dogs forgive. Dogs stand by you. Dogs don’t care if you wear good clothes or bad. Dogs will put up with a lot to remain in your pack if they have bonded with you. Dogs stay.

When someone asks you to choose between loyalties, they likely do not realize that they have just revealed their lack of loyalty to you. If they were loyal, they would say, “I need to do this and I know it’s something that you can’t agree with, but I would like to remain your friend.” But by saying, it’s me or them, their regard is revealed as conditional and their loyalty limited; yet, by the demand for choice, it is as if you are the one whose loyalty is in question.

I’ve had that kind of situation lately among some friends. It is heartache for me. Unlike the temporary motto of my family crest (now abandoned with better DNA testing), I don’t identify with “My way or the highway.” It’s a type of loyalty that is divisive, not building.

If your friends and loved ones really care for you, they love you in spite of what they do not agree with. They are strong enough to acknowledge a different point of view, a different choice, without calling it evil or sick or deluded or, of course, disloyal.

When my father presented me with the choice between himself and the rest of my world, I was very clear to him.

Do not try to make me choose. You will lose.

The attempt to force my choice demonstrates your weakened bond to me and signals the danger in my placing my complete loyalty with you. Allowing me to remain loyal to myself will earn you my undying friendship. And then this cat will be the dog.

Best wishes.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

BATS Foolery

It was hot, too hot for me. And there was not enough air in the room, either. I was backstage with my SF BATS buddies who were part of the Saturday night entertainers for the “stage” that was the area at the end of the hallway at the Doubletree in San Jose. We were waiting for Thalassa and for the start of the show.

Backstage is a funny place for players. We tug on our clothes, never quite sure if they are right and yet quite sure the overall effect will be, no doubt, a Show. David from Texas stood tall in his wizard…or was it swami? guise, a dramatic figure just standing there wordless. The sound man worked on the equipment. Lon Milo DuQuette sat quietly behind all of us in his impeccable white suit. Lon always looks like some deity to me, although the religion isn’t necessarily what it appears.

Peter and Jimmy are backstage with us, Jimmy in the best Fool costume with his yellow tights, green-sunflower tunic and green Robin Hood felt hat, Peter in his always-ready smile in the middle of us girls who were the first act.

Valentina had dressed as fall, and never a more luscious harvest than she with her great, broad-brimmed hat of fruit and whole dress the color of ripened pomegranate, a feast in herself with her dark hair and dark eyes. Rhonda made the most of her signature long white hair dressed in the charcoals-to-whites of winter, looking like the January that would never end, the frost, the ice, the snow, the wind. Beautiful Carrie was endless summer, bright in pinks and reds. And I was spring in my peacock green printed low-cut long gown and golden slippers. “Nature’s first green is gold,” I had quipped, mostly to myself as I had selected my dress. Now I was just hoping it would stay in place on my too-ample frame.

I was like a bud ready to burst in bloom (good) but I didn’t want to burst out of my dress (bad). I had abandoned the double-sticky wardrobe tape that they say Hollywood uses to keep actresses and their gowns in place.

“Duct tape,” I muttered. “I need duct tape.”

An astrologer had once told me that gravity was not my friend, predicting some 15 years before the event that I would suffer a great accident and injury to my leg. Well, I thought, gravity has done me more harm than my snapped knee and broken elbow.

I remembered a joke my friend Alice had told me. As we all fanned ourselves, waiting for the show to begin, I told it.

“At our age,” I began, “when they yell, ‘Show us your….’” And Peter dissolved into helpless laughter for minutes, gasping in horror at the thought of the ravages of gravity on tender lovelies as they drag towards the knees.

I said a few more things to keep the laughter up. It helps to laugh backstage. At least it helps me.

After a while and a few more crazy girl-jokes, Lon spoke up and said, “You know, this is exactly what my wife is afraid I do on these trips!”

“Give us the phone,” I urged him. “We can reassure her that you are safe!” He did not take me up on the offer, although it was sincere. Lon is a treasure of talent, musical and esoteric.

David handed me a plastic sword and I lent Carrie a cane. Suddenly, Thalassa came in and it was showtime.

Nancy, our director and principal dancer, directed covering us with white sheets so that our appearance would be revealed season by season. Lon and his ukulele went center stage, our Music Man. Covered in a sheet, I now could only hear the players move to the stage. And then it was my turn to be escorted to my mark.

Thalassa introduced us. The music started. I could hear Nancy dancing and suddenly, since I was Spring, I was first to be unveiled. I popped David’s plastic sword up like a jack-in-the-box with an equally bouncy smile on my face. Nancy danced. I mugged for the crowd, moving the sword in rhythm to Lon’s singing and playing. Laughter rose from the crowd.

Good, I thought. We all take ourselves too seriously sometimes. It was a relief to play the Fool for a weekend.

My life has been too serious this year. My workplace has been in upheaval. My job, along with all those of my co-workers, has been in question. Will it be there? Will I have to move to the Deep South and make the best of a hot and humid place, likely not to return to California? Will I be forced to get a job somewhere else in a time where jobs are not plentiful or guaranteed or often pleasant? Will I be forced to move all I have to continue to survive? Will I be able to make the most of another Tower event in my life, recreate myself one more time, find the Star in the rubble? Will I be able to rise above? And when will I know?

Finally, an indication of hope without a complete collapse has come. It looks like I will be able to stay in California. I have held back tears and screams and fear and panic since March, since first hearing of the possibility of great change. I know all reprieves are temporary, all respites brief, all comforts passing and all joys priceless. And for that, they are all the more precious.

So I try to laugh and make others laugh, to forget trouble for a while, a brief moment, as is the purpose of the jester, to make others laugh and to make the monarch think or feel. From within me, from my fears and sorrows and pain and anger, can well up the absurdity of our struggle to make things make sense. And from within me, a greater force arises out of love, to hold the plastic sword, to shield the principal dancer as she changes costume, to kiss the troubadour and flee to the stage door to exit, only to find it locked.
The show goes on while I pound on the door.

“Peter!” I cry in my best stage-whisper, my impromptu panic rising. “Peter! Let me in! Open the door!”

I expect it will be like that, knocking on heaven’s door. And Peter, helpless with laughter as gravity has taken its final toll, may let me in. Otherwise, I’m sure I’ll see most of my friends.

Best wishes from my BATS-termath!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Happy Squirrel

Vacation! Never did a madwoman need a vacation more than I do! Thank goodness it’s here. Not that I didn’t end up working all day Saturday, my first day of “vacation.” Well, the work show must go on too and that one list of updates didn’t get to me until Saturday. Well, it did take me all day but the rest of my week is freedom!
Art Postcard Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord

Freedom is not unplanned, however, as I will be attending SF BATS in San Jose. Maybe I’m lucky I have my little car, but there is no problem getting there that two CD’s of the Gipsy Kings can’t cure.

Yes, I’ve done a little planning in advance too. Lucky me, I was asked to teach a class this year! While the full schedule is never published in advance, I just found out that my day will be Sunday and I’m not giving anything away since it is posted officially on the site. So I have my class materials and some give-away items for class participants.

As much as the Tarot Goodness and Lenormand Lushness that is sure to be part of this year’s SF BATS, I’m also looking forward to seeing folks I talk to often but don’t see often enough. The challenge will be to try to fit all the classes, noshing and deep philosophical conversations into a short amount of time. Good news, I’m going early and leaving late. I'm looking forward to the extras, the side trips and all the main events, everything I can soak up. Be prepared, that’s my motto for SF BATS!

I’ve actually already started to pack. I have lists. I have even learned how to use my projector for my class, a small feat of female triumphing over A/V equipment. I still have a few things to do, like get my car cleaned. There’s a little dog food in the floor of the car from a short trip with the dog, a little bit of blue stuff I need to put in windshield reservoir, dresses to iron.

I’m going to worry about my hair, whether to bring my Birkenstocks and my flat slippers in a bunch of colors, if I’ll possibly be able to apply false eyelashes like I used to for Sweet Adelines. I will have cat-separation-anxiety. I have already been preparing the last couple of weeks for staying up all night with my Extreme Jitters over everything that’s been going on, work, BATS, everything.

I know I’m not the only one who’s excited about the weekend. As I’ve mentioned, a lot of work goes into putting the whole thing together. But a lot of preparation is done by the vendors, teachers and even participants to make the most fun and a meaningful educational experience out of a short time together.
My talented friend Kirsten Weiss actually got my Happy Squirrel started Sunday by interviewing me for a mini-series of blog entries regarding the difference between Tarot and Lenormand. We had a great discussion down in my untidy garden, sipping ice water and enjoying the breeze. We then retreated to my dining room where I brought out my box of Lenormand goodies including the antique decks I feature in my class presentation. I showed her Dondorf Carreras decks and a couple from the 1800’s, plus a few non-oracular goodies I picked up at auction from the Stuart Kaplan collection. Her posts will come in October and I’ll be sure to post a link to them here when they are published.

Tarot and Lenormand are exciting for me. Yes, they are built on traditions, some old, some older, some really ancient. They have meaning for me in the modern world in the same way the ocean washes up a whole new beach every day on the shore.

Oh, and just before Kirsten left for home after our great afternoon geeking out with the cards, I had her autograph the third and fourth books in her Riga Hayworth mysteries, metaphysical, supernatural and magical Riga solves crime with a very handsome guy and her very own gargoyle Brigitte. Love that Brigitte! Gotta check that out on Amazon, mystery lovers!

Yup, I’m one Happy Squirrel.

Best wishes!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Where's the Cat?

I woke up uncharacteristically early. It was this dream, watching one of my cats, my easily-spooked black and white long-haired Elly dash across a busy street and climb to the top of a palm tree and squall and I was in a maze. Gotta get that cat out of the tree, I’m dreaming. And the maze of buildings gets more complicated, building 4, floor 5 and then taking the stairs to 7 and confronting the wise but perverse administrator who knew the answer and would not tell me because of rules. It was like a bad role-playing game. I did make friends with the administrator but I was still looking for the broadcast booth for the radio station.

Yeah, I’ve been a little jumpy lately.

It didn’t help that my dream about Elly-Belly’s flight to the palm tree in my dream seemed to touch on a terrible reality. I couldn’t find Baby. Baby’s real name is Pixie, although the concept of a cat having a real name is something like naming the stars. Cats and stars laugh in your face at your petty attempts to name them!

Baby was an impulse rescue, the kind that doesn’t make sense and probably upsets the natural order of things in a household just getting used to the latest addition even if she is a benevolent tyrant. This is not a conflict in terms in the cat world as it might be in human terms.

Baby started out as a foundling in Napa. I was trying to help her finder find a forever home for her. We had a deadline, the end of the Labor Day holiday weekend. I didn’t want her to go to the pound. Sometime midway through the weekend, I caved and asked Andrea to bring her to me. Seriously, what’s one more cat? My older cats stand with picket signs, citing food riots and other unpleasantness should their world be shifted.

Shift it does and Pixie comes to live at my house and since she’s only a ball of fluff, just a few weeks old, we call her Baby, too. It sticks. To  keep her from becoming a feral indoor cat in her formative years, I determine to take her with me on a road trip to the Four Corners area. Since the dog was coming along anyway, what’s one more?

You’re starting to notice a theme, I think? What’s one more? I have Jupiter in the nadir in my birth chart, Jupiter in Gemini. This is “generous to a fault” but perhaps super-sized. After all, what’s one more? That’s called Jupiter in an “ill-dignified” sign. Uh, oh, OOPS. As the fearless leader of the Daughters of Divination, Thalassa, says, “Dignity. Always dignity.”  OK, how about sometimes dignity? There are other planets. My natal Venus is in Taurus and couldn’t be happier.

So it is energy that lends itself to planning an opera out in the barn called Die FliederRabbit starring a familiar looking rabbit with unfamiliar looking bat wings through the Miracle of Photoshop. Suddenly, I envision customized little blue jackets, a slathering-mad Mr. MacGregor waving wooden stakes and a gun with silver bullets, a toothy minion chorus, and, well, remember the scene in Fantasia where the basement floods due to an overboard spell by the Sorcerer’s Apprentice?

OK, fine. More isn’t always better. More is more. But the dog, the other cats, the humans and Baby all settled down into sort of a Cold War if not truce. Our house has all the intrigue of a walled and divided city. There are those who go to the North Sector and those who never do. At least one never goes to the South Sector. Alice, the Empress, likes to vacation in the downstairs apartment, luxuriating in having the place to herself.

Baby, who believes her presence is appropriate for any occasion, goes wherever she pleases. She hangs out on the ironing board waiting for an unsuspecting resident to walk by. She leaps, knowing she is likely to land badly, so all claws are used to get a purchase on her target. This is especially inconvenient when carrying a bowl of soup, for instance. She likes to lie in wait for Derek our ordinarily pleasant housekeeper who comes once a week to despair over all our personal failures. When he ventures near, she likes to remove a chunk of flesh to see if he tastes the same this week.

Lately, however, her terrible twos have mellowed just a touch. She has forgotten herself for a moment and left her Hell on Wheels personality behind. She has actually taken to giving me a snog good night. Nice kitty! Perhaps there is hope for my Holy Terror.

Any mother with any time on the job knows that the time to be most afraid is when the children are quiet. So after waking up from my dream about scared cats in palm trees, I detected the silence of the Lambie-Pies.
“Ah, snoozing,” I thought and wondered why I wasn’t snoozing also. I sat dutifully at my desk, hoping I was really looking at two computers instead of having had my astigmatism stuck in left gear. I read my work email. The street sweeper came by.
Art Postcard Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord

I waited for Baby to pound on my door as she does whenever the street sweeper comes. She’s pretty sure that, for her sins, that thing is going to eat her. I don’t discourage the notion entirely. Heavy machinery is hell on cats. Loud noises among the sound-sensitive are particularly jarring. The Coming of the Street Sweeper must be the scariest movie she can imagine.

But there was no pounding on the door. This didn’t make sense. This didn’t smell right. I had to investigate because where the heck was the kitty? Noses counted and I’ve come up one short. Where’s Baby? I start to whimper. I call her name, her names. I call her lots of names. Other cats come to see if there’s food involved and retreat when they realize it’s just me on my hands and knees checking under furniture. Binket beeps at me and sits, explaining that she might have told me there was nothing under there except a cat toy, which she wouldn’t mind having.

My panic grows. The little rat charges the front door every once in a while. Did she make a break for it as long ago as last night? I wander down the back stairs and pad around the back yard calling softly for her. John takes a walk around the block while I imagine the worst. She is hit by a car? She is stolen by hawks? She is scared and alone?

As I settle down to my desk to have a good cry in utter despair, fully “fived” about the whole thing, I consider which might be worse, the 5 of Pentacles, the fear of material loss or the 5 of Cups, the sadness of a heart sunk low by loss.

A small form emerges from behind the stove in the kitchen. Naughty kitty to give your cat mama a heart attack! I say a little prayer to St. Angina, the patron saint of “You aggravate my heart and soul.”

My day begins.

Best wishes.