Friday, February 13, 2009

Lovely Things Day 5: The Perfect Greeting Card

(Happy 32 weeks!)

Isn't it funny and wonderful how excited one can get over something simple like noticing that suddenly it's not dark anymore at 4pm? I had that moment of miniscule euphoria yesterday as I was sitting at the Birth Center having a meeting with my midwife Pippa. It was ever so pleasant to sit there drinking my cuppa and staring out into the cold, snowy London afternoon, which despite its gloom was light, not dark.

On that note, onto the loveliness of today...

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I think today's lovely thing calls for an intense flashback. The kind that could very well dredge up some great or not-so-great (if you were the socially awkward kid) memories. Fair warning.

But on a less forboding note, there are few things in this world that can make me happier than a thoughtfully selected and written card. I'm always shocked at how much comes out in greeting cards and from people you'd never expect. After our wedding, opening the cards with the gifts was often more insightful and touching than opening the gift itself. People you thought you weren't that close to often wrote the most heartfelt of messages and really put into perspective how any gift, no matter how lavish or grand, is worth that much less if not accompanied by a sentiment of genuine caring.

My friend Kristine still loves the middle one.

What better way to show you really care than by telling someone? And if you're going to tell
them, why not do it with a super crafty, stylish or heartwarming greeting card (unless you do it with cupcakes, of course)?

Lovely thing #5 is *fiendish bugle ditty* THE PERFECT GREETING CARD.

* * *

*much waving of fingers in an entrancing flash-backy way*

Go back, dig deep and remember...Elementary school. You'd spent the evening stuffing envelopes with each class member's name - choosing the special ones for the kid you had a crush on, the ugly ones for that girl you hated (but had to include because of school rules), scotch taping lollipops onto or stuffing little candy hearts into the miniature envelopes and maybe even writing a little special message on the cards belonging to your best friends.

One year it was the Care Bear cards, another year The Transformers or the the latest Disney princess, with the cool folding cards (not the plain one-sided ones, though those were cool too).
But if you were really hardcore, some of your cards were handmade. The ones for the special people - the ones you'd have to hide from the rest of the class while walking in line stuffing Valentine's Card Bags hanging on the edges of the desks. Those are the cards that stick with you because you'd constructed them yourself or someone had taken the time to make one for you.

They were carefully crafted by little expert hands from that unforgettably textured red, white and pink construction paper your teacher gave you at school. Hearts cut out (by folding the paper in half and then drawing a half-heart and not cutting the inner fold, just like the teacher said), and then embellished with glitter, hand-drawn pictures (crayola markers!), or complimentary shapes using contrasting colors of construction paper. If you were lucky (and super fancy), maybe you even had some tissue paper to cut further hearts and shapes out of to further personalize your creation.

Any of this ring a bell?

Well, even if it doesn't, at the very least I would hope most of us do know what it's like to stand in the greeting card aisle trying our best to pick the right card with the right look and the right
message. I kid you not, my friends: the card can make or break the gift, the night, the gesture. Take it from someone who takes this part of a gift almost more seriously than the gift itself. Cards are important - and if they're not handmade, then they better be damned thoughtful.

You can get
away with a lot in the universe of card giving, as long as the personalized message strikes the right chord -- brings it home with a bang. But even so, there are some lines across which we DO NOT (Thank you Walter from the Big Lebowski).

Here are some guidelines to help the less crafty and/or printed-material sensitive:

Signs Your Valentine's Day Card Does NOT Have that "Coolness" Factor and Would Therefore Probably Be Considered Lame by Card Snobs Like Me

judged based entirely on my highly subjective, personal coolness scale by which I rate all things of importance

5. The front flap includes the words "To my beloved (insert relation)" or "To a Wonderful (insert relation)" and/or you have been given a similar card by one of the following:
a. Your grandmother

b. Your elderly aunt

c. Your patently uncool boss

I don't think this requires further explanation. We've all received one of these, and the messages are always about as sickly-sappy as is humanly possible to conceive. Just don't go there.

4. It is not occasion appropriate.
Examples include (but are not limited to) cards featuring:

a. random and not-comical animal pictures, including those of:

- small rodents eating nuts
- birds of prey and/or birds only a committed bird-watcher could identify soaring in a blue sky or perching majestically
- rare amazon / jungle creatures such as vibrantly colored frogs, cats of prey, or safari animals (unless your gift is an adopted elephant in Africa pictured on the card you are giving)
- animals otherwise not commonly considered cuddly or really
funny looking, especially those southwestern coyotes with bandanas tied around their necks howling at the moon next to a cactus (Ask yourself seriously: What coyote would allow someone to do that without mauling them first? The realization will immediately bring to light the absurdity of encouraging the continued production of such items by buying them.)

b. random and not-subject specific nature pictures (specifically blank-inside cards), f
or example:
- steamy, thrashing waterfalls
- 80's-esque closeups of traditionally unromantic flowers, pictures of roses (aka otherwise considered romantic flowers) which have been given the "foggy-dewy" look by someone with outdated experience in photoshop
- random cloudy mountains

- southwestern canyon/sunset scenes

Soooooooooo not romantic.
No ifs, ands, or buts.

c. Doctored Non-Valentine's Day Cards:
Anything occasion specific which you have shamelessly doctored at the last minute to cover your own pathetic negligence. No matter how "generic" or "well-fixed" you think the card is - believe me, people can always tell.

3. It is TOO "occasion appropriate" (aka Cheesy in a bad way).

If the card features a picture of a human on the front which is not humorous it is probably not cool. This pertains especially to:
a. softened pictures of men or women wearing what very well could be Jordache Jeans, pirate-esque (Thanks, Seinfeld) white billowy shirts scantily unbuttoned, and who sport a hair-do
which required a curling iron, hair spray and might actually fit well in a Whitesnake music video.

b. men or women dressed as above whose mouths are hanging "sensuously" half-open
- the card's font is nauseatingly flowery AND features words in at least three different font sizes AND includes tasteless arabesque embossing which evokes weddings featured in Adam Sandler's "The Wedding Singer"

c. a cowboy or cowgirl and/or a "California" surfer / surferess (?) with a six pack leaning against an old wooden fence, or posing contrivedly in a studio with a gray-sheet backdrop

Qualification: If your card features any of the above and you turn it around by writing a legitimately hilarious
and romantic personalized message, this could actually be a stroke of genius and significantly, if not exponentially 'up' the coolness factor.

2. The message and/or poem written inside/on the card:

a. is too long for you to write your own message (i.e. it covers every possible blank space on all sides of your card and/or requires one of those freakish fold-out deals so big in the 80s)

b. is written by someone you and the person you're giving it to will have never in a million years heard of (think: Elizabeth Kirkfield or some other random non-famous "poet's" name) and will never hear of again

c. uses the words or phrases "devotion," "passionate," "soul mate," "miracle," or "partner in life" copiously and in what is intended to be an entirely serious, non-tongue-in-cheek- but-I-really-do-love-you kind of way

1. You could, if in a pinch, conceivably use it to give to someone you are NOT romantically involved with and not feel awkward about it.

This is of particular importance given the necessary individualized quality any good greeting card should have, and which is undeniably present in a custom-made construction paper creation. If the person can tell (even subconsciously) you didn't pick it because it screamed their name or made you tear up at the store (however embarrassing, I've done it many times), it'll make that romantic moment crumble like a stale, stale cookie. And everyone hates stale cookies.

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Today's lovely thing (and how not to screw it up) is brought to you by "Best of My Love" by The Emotions. Even if your Valentine's Day Card ends up depressing you, you can always watch this video and laugh at the soul sistas dancing in the front row. And remember - it is actually the thought that counts. :)
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