You have permission to be awesome

This year, I worked a Halloween party where no one had ever had a Tarot experience (or at least none of the folks who sat down at my table). What happened seemed truly miraculous.

Morgan Greer Tarot ©U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
Man with the mustache

First, there was the woman who wanted to know if her husband was hiding something from her. I threw some cards. One landed face down, with the Knight of Pentacles atop it. (I was using the Morgan Greer Tarot from U.S. Games Systems, Inc.) I knew the knight was her husband, and he was hiding the face-down card. My client exclaimed the card even looked like her husband.

Morgan Greer Tarot ©U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
The pot of gold

Then there was the man asking whether his sales lead-generation program would be successful within three months. I turned two cards and asked which one appealed to him. Without hesitation, he pounced on the 10 of Cups, also from the Morgan Greer Tarot. When we completed the reading, he pointed to that first card and explained how perfectly its artwork reflected his company’s name.

Literal translations like this are fun, but the true miracles were the shifts I saw in these people. How their Tarot experience encouraged them and validated them. How they straightened their spines, carrying their chests high.

Transformations before my very eyes

Another client arrived with a beer in either hand. I doubt he’d have sat at my table without a little buzz on. But he became more and more focused as we went through his cards. More clear-headed and thoughtful. He seemed positively inspired.

Were these clients truly looking for insight, or simply taking advantage of the night’s judgment-free atmosphere to sit for a reading as a lark? It doesn’t matter. Whatever brought them to me, I gave them my best and was awed to witness what they offered in return. I’m so grateful.

Shuck the rules and discover yourself

At Halloween, costumes give us permission to behave strangely. Like demanding candy. Or requesting a Tarot reading. The usual rules don’t apply. And when everything is just for fun, it’s amazing how easily we find our wings and fly.

New things: Growing my own

Some of our homegrown Garrison lettuce, Celebrity tomato and cucumber mint water.
Looks yummy, doesn’t it? Let me tell you about a months-in-the-making addition to my list of 50 new things I’m trying this year as part of my 50th birthday celebration. Vegetable gardening.

I eat tons of salad, year-round, so I was happy to support my housemate’s enthusiasm for putting together a small garden in the backyard. I imagined the money I’d save growing my own organic cucumber. I thought about the varieties of lettuce I’d experiment with. And I counted the days until we’d have our own homegrown tomatoes.

(Brilliant American songwriter Guy Clark said/sang it best with a tune called “Homegrown Tomatoes” on his 1983 album, Better Days: “There’s only two things that money can’t buy, and that’s true love and homegrown tomatoes.”)

Early fruits

She mixed up earthy magic using a recipe developed by Mel Bartholomew (founder of Square Foot Gardening) to get us going and pretty soon, our little patch of heaven boasted seedlings galore.

The sugar snap pea scampered up its trailing string in a mad rush to bloom and fruit. The mint, basil, sage and dill made themselves at home. When we added mums and petunias for natural insect control, our fledgling garden literally blossomed.

Thanks to the magic of Mel’s Mix (and careful watering), I even coaxed lettuce and strawberries to grow in a notoriously inauspicious strawberry pot.

Cucumber and tomatoes were slower to establish themselves. The tomato plants mostly kept getting taller and needing more support. The cuke spent its days climbing and dividing into more vines. And we had a squash plant that made showy blossoms but was stingy with the actual fruit.

The solo gardener

For all my housemate enjoyed planning and setting up the garden, and as much as she and I both loved the hide-and-seek game of looking for fledgling cucumbers, the everyday routine of gardening couldn’t hold her interest.

A single day’s harvest of plum tomatoes!

I might have given up, too, as the Texas spring got hot and we spent more time in the air-conditioned house, but dang it, I wanted my salad goodies.

So I remembered to water every day. I tapped the blooming tomato plants to help ensure pollination. I guided the greedy cucumber vine to things it could hold onto besides the tomato plants. I dead-headed the ‘mums and petunias to keep them blossoming.

And finally…


The harvest of our first cucumbers and plum tomatoes began a riotous abundance of delicious summer eating. Soon, we were refreshing ourselves with cucumber-mint water from a never-empty pitcher. Snacking on plum- and cherry-tomatoes. And when at last we began getting full-sized tomatoes, we celebrated our homegrown bounty with BLT sandwiches and tomato cucumber salad.

Dog-day reflections

It’s mid-August now. Temperatures here have been in the triple digits for weeks. The vine of plum tomatoes is still producing fruit, though at a sluggish pace appropriate to these dog days of summer. Much of the garden has withered in spite of my ongoing efforts.

Knowing what I know now, will I get caught up in another gardening frenzy around here next spring? Ask me again when temperatures drop back into the 80s. Whisper words to me of love. Like bell pepper and sweet potato and other yumminess we haven’t yet tried to grow. Remind me how drinking cucumber water made me feel wealthy beyond measure.

And promise me homegrown tomatoes.

Photos: Sally Felt

Major Arcana. Major turning points

Strength card interpretations: Fortitude / Courage / Resourcefulness / Commitment / Self-confidence
“Think of important moments in your life. Choose a Tarot card to represent each experience.” This was the exercise offered by one of my Tarot mentors, Ferol Humphrey.

Three of us did as she suggested. We arranged our picks in chronological order and narrated our life’s highlights to one another.

Strength, 3 ways

All three of us included the Strength card. One, to represent her discovering a special affinity with animals in distress. Another, to represent her realization that one can choose not to fight without being weak.

For me, Strength represented my relationship with my skin. A decade ago, 40-year-old me faced yet another encore of disfiguring cystic acne. It proved a turning point in my life.

The battle I couldn’t win

Over the years, I’d tried any number of poisons to do away with this genetic condition. Nonstop antibiotics were the norm through my teen years, along with treatments involving sunlamps or dry ice, surgical lancing and occasional local steroid injections. Twice, I bombed my system with Accutane, once at age 21 and again at 30. (Sizable lawsuits have since forced the drug off the market.)

At age 40, the mirror once again reflected a familiar, hated landscape of redness, inflamed sores and distorted facial features. I could no longer kid myself there was any “conquering” cystic acne. I was going to have to befriend it.

So rather than seek a doctor crazy enough to prescribe a third round of Accutane or its equivalent, I sought a more holistic approach. With the help of a naturopath (who was also a skilled esthetician), I’ve come into a place of sustainable balance.

When Strength calls for surrender

Fighting against my condition kept me angry, resentful, fearful and occasionally mean. I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror and I took it out on everyone, including me.

Strength meant having the courage to lay down arms and try to understand my body. Strength meant having the patience to let small changes show their effects over time. Strength meant taking responsibility for my body’s nourishment rather than ask a doctor to fix me.

Being ashamed of my skin diminished me. With Strength, I can appreciate that my skin will forever show me — and everyone I meet — when I’m out of balance.

What have you done with Strength?

Think of important moments in your life. Is there a Strength moment among them? What did it teach you? How did it change you?

At some point in our lives, we experience all 22 cards of Tarot’s Major Arcana — it’s why they’re Major. Turning points. Game changers. Some fill us with gratitude, others leave us with scars. And some, like my Strength experience, do both.

Would you like clarity or insight on something in your own life? I offer personal readings and would be glad to help.

New things: dog washer

My new living situation finds me in a house with two dogs. Because I’ve had almost no history with dogs, I’m learning new things all the time. (How lucky that I made a vow on my birthday to try 50 new things this year!)

Going to the groomer makes Winifred anxious nearly to the point of seizures. So when her dirty-dog smell got distracting, my housemate proposed the do-it-yourself dog wash. Always up for a new experience, I offered to help. We gathered our quarters, grabbed a towel and put ‘Fred in her car.

Off to the Wag and Wash

This ingenious facility included a raised platform with a drain and a place to secure the dog on a short lead. Three hoses hung from the ceiling. One featured a spray nozzle that delivered shampoo, conditioner and rinse water. Another had a vacuum attachment for sucking excess water from a wet pooch. The final hose ended in a salon-like blow dryer.

‘Fred trembled and leaned against whichever of us was closer, but otherwise took it quite well. By time we had her toweled off and back in the car, she was feeling her oats. After all, she’d had an outing with her favorite person (my housemate), and didn’t have to share her with the other dog. Boosted her mood for days!

Me, I can now say I’ve vacuumed a dog and lived to tell the tail tale.

Photo credit: dno1967b

Mirrors, mirrors. Aren’t we all?

People can be so annoying. Especially when they show me something about myself I don’t want to see.

It happened at a recent Meetup. One of my fellow students of Tarot read her cards with fluttering hands and plenty of mystical drama. Normally, I would chalk it up to personal style and perhaps find it amusing. This time, it irritated me.

Why? If I needed to justify my feeling, I’d point to the way she spouted prognostications as set-in-stone truths. This precludes free will and thus violates my code as a Tarot reader.

But that very afternoon, I’d rolled my eyes while telling a friend about a client’s infatuation with the mystical trappings commonly assigned to the intuitive and psychic sides of life.

What was my beef?

Time to look in the mirror

Truth is, I was once as infatuated as my client. And while I’ve not indulged in the kind of hand-fluttering as my fellow reader, I recognize it as a symptom of the same thing.

It seemed my irritation stemmed from being reminded of a version of myself I’ve left behind. But if I’d truly left it behind, I’d feel compassion rather than irritation.

My irritation carried the ugly whiff of judgment. And now that I’ve noticed it, other examples are popping up. They represent different areas of my past/beliefs/self-image. Facing these mirrors challenges me. It’s uncomfortable to admit to feeling judgmental, of myself and/or of others.

It helps to remind myself that I’ve grown–I’m experiencing these feelings from a perspective never before possible for me.

In other words, it’s okay to be where I am today. It’s merely my opportunity to embrace what I see in the mirror, and to appreciate the people who show it to me.

What are your mirrors showing lately? How do you handle it?

Photo credit (mirror): Elizabeth/Table4Five

New things: “Surprise me”

Ever felt overwhelmed when asked to choose among awesome things? That was me at Nosh Euro Bistro this week.

A friend was treating me to lunch, and just reading the menu made me salivate. How would I choose?

She suggested I asked to have the chef surprise me. What a great idea! I asked for something from the “nosh” category and an entree.

Elevating “special” to “memorable”

The presence of a friend I’d not seen in far too long, combined with fanciness of the place (and that she was treating!) would have been plenty to make the day special. Add in the “surprise me” game and we had ourselves a high time.

Rather than turn my “50 New Things” project into a blog about food (rather than the full range of experiences I intend to include), I’ll simply say this about the things that turned up at our table: decidedly drool-worthy. Yum.

Will I play this game again? Absolutely. It needn’t be a restaurant-only game, either. Imagine playing it in the bookstore. At the movie theater. In the airport. I can’t wait to see what else these two words might bring me.

Photo from Nosh Euro Bistro website

New things: Enjoying beer

Awhile back, I announced my intention to celebrate my 50th birthday year by trying 50 new things. With this post, I begin a list of these new experiences. Happy birthday to me.

My hometown boasted a major brewery, and yet I never developed a taste for beer. I tried it plain, I tried it specialty, I tried it dark, but even when it was served very, very cold, it just didn’t suit me.

Beer masquerading as champagne

So imagine my surprise when I got home from my birthday party, peeked into the wine-bottle-tall gift bag a friend had left with me and discovered not wine, but Belgian beer. Specifically, Lindeman’s Framboise Lambic.

The packaging brings to mind sparkling wine and some beer-loving friends of mine declared it apt. “Imagine if raspberries, beer and champagne had a baby, they said. “This would be it.”

I set out a few glasses and we poured the reddish and quite foamy framboise. Mercy, me. I have found a beer I enjoy!