On the rare occasion that I am out shopping alone or when I have a little leisure time and don’t have to crank my pacemaker up all the way to keep me from overheating on the days I’m scurrying from one errand to the next, one of my favorite ways to let loose is to head into town and try to get carded.

Although it’s no secret that I enjoy a glass of wine every now and again, I didn’t earn the nickname “Mama Merlot” for nothing, I’m not talking about my current fantasy of being asked to show proper ID at the liquor store.  My days of having to furnish my license when I purchase anything fermented long passed since the birth of my 6th or 7th child (can’t remember now).  My guess is the fact that I smelled like sour milk or had strained peas on my always present burp rag for well over a decade announced that not only was I of legal drinking age, but to please streamline the process so I could get home and uncork as soon as the kids were in bed.   Nope—not that kind of carded—I’m talking something even better--browsing the glorious aisles of the greeting card section.

I have always been a paper person.  For whatever reason, ever since I was a child I absolutely loved the touch, smell, feel and sound of paper.  Whether it was brightly colored construction paper, a glossy magazine, or a crisp new book I simply adore and admire all that paper has to offer.  Whenever friends or family have a birthday or other special occasion coming down the pike, selecting the right card is important to me.  And so it began—my obsession with greeting cards.

Depending on my mood, the occasion and person I’m looking for, or the type of store I’m shopping in (there is an etiquette to getting carded you know) will determine how I behave while partaking in this hobby of mine.  As a general rule of thumb, these are the guidelines I follow:

  • Sympathy Cards—Out of respect to the recipient of this card, and to others perusing this section, it might be best to keep a somber manner as you choose your condolences, unless, of course, the card is for a dear friend who has finally had to put her favorite vacuum cleaner to rest.
  • New Baby Cards—Feel free to giggle and guffaw over the cutesy sugar and spice and everything nice selection that awaits your pick.  It is a joyous celebration, after all, and if it so happens that this is the couple’s first baby, and you’ve been there done that a few times, go easy on the “thoughtful advice” sentiments—don’t spoil their fun by announcing that sleep is overrated, stick to teddy bears and lullaby themes instead.
  • Birthday Cards—Here’s where I absolutely lose control.  There is an abundance of chuckles in this aisle and I say your behavior here is fair game.  I happen to be a sucker for Hallmark’s witty, wise-cracking icon, Maxine!  All I have to do is look at her and I laugh right out loud.  Sure, you’ll find your share of serious, sappy ones to choose from as well, but if ever you need a little pick me—head right over to the birthday cards and don’t leave until you’ve managed to get others wondering what is making you laugh so hard.
  • Inspirational Cards—Consider bringing a box of Kleenex along when you start to shuffle through this sector.  You’ll no doubt notice all the tranquil and soothing artwork first, and then they’ll hit you—the thoughtful sonnets, poems, and versus that will let any friend in trouble know that they can and indeed must go on.  If this in itself doesn’t make you cry, you can use that Kleenex to wipe away the tears once you discover it’s going to cost you at least an Abe Lincoln to purchase it.
  • Thank You Cards—It’s no secret that I, Cheryl L. Butler, have always been a firm believer in the written thank you card—no matter what!  When you flip your way through this portion of cards, I recommend putting on your “appreciation hat”.  Is there someone who’s done something kind for you or your family that could stand to be recognized?  C’mon, think now—your neighbor who baked you that delicious fruit cake for Christmas or who drove the carpool for 2 weeks while you recovered from bunion surgery perhaps?  Whether your mother n law has gifted you with a photo tote bag sporting her mug, or you want to thank your child’s bus driver for the dozens of times she waited for little Jimmy who was late yet again, surely you can find a card that will express your undying gratitude.
  • Cards with Sound—I’ve saved the best for last.  With today’s savvy technology we are quite fortunate to have cards that whistle, light up, applaud, record our voices and of course, play hip music.  Once you start flipping these auditory delights open, you may well not be able to stop yourself until you’ve listened to every last one.  Go ahead and indulge!  The worst that can happen is you disturb a few cranky shoppers in which case you can politely smile and ask which one they’d rather receive?

According to our friends at Hallmark, approximately 141 million cards are exchanged each year for Valentine’s Day.  Whether you have a special someone, a dear friend that you cherish, or are just in the mood for some playful fun, the next time you have a few spare minutes why not head to your favorite store and try getting carded?

Copyright 2011 Cheryl L. Butler