Story Time

Rising Above

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I’ve always loved this Winged Heart message written by cardie Rosemary Tolliver, and I’m smiling at the thought that, if my mother were alive today, she’d be ordering dozens to send far and wide.

Saturday would be Mom’s 94th birthday and, watching the news last night, I couldn’t help thinking how much she’d have to say. And that made me think of something she once shared with me … I’d asked her how she thought she’d become so open — actively seeking out friends of various faiths, cultures, and backgrounds as she did — when she herself had grown up so sheltered. She was an only child raised by a maiden aunt surrounded by the corn fields of central Illinois.

“I’m sure it was because of Aunt Anna,” she said. “I learned to see the world through her eyes. I remember being around eight, returning home from our one-room schoolhouse up the road. Because Aunt Anna was such a voracious reader — all our days and nights were spent reading everything we could — I was sure she’d be really excited about the new word I’d learned on the playground that day. ‘It’s n****r,’ I’d proudly proclaimed, then watched her calmly rise as she explained, ‘Honey, that is not a good word. It is a word no one should use. Please come with me.’ She led me to one of her floor-to-ceiling shelves and pulled out a book that was big and thick and titled Heroes of the Dark Continent. Then she led me to my favorite reading chair and proposed that I ‘read this cover-to-cover so you will know the proud heritage of the African-American in our society.’”

I’m not sure which is more striking to me now, that that conversation took place 86 years ago, or that it’s so necessary to have again today. I do know that I am very grateful to the tiny enlightened Scottish woman who so gracefully guided my mother, and I hope her sense of truth and justice soon finds us all.

~ jodee stevens
cardthartic founder

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A Better World

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No matter how wishful, loving or beautiful, a card is not going to calm the collective nerves of our nation. But we put this one out there as a touchstone, a soothing reminder to see the good in the eyes of those who are doing us small kindnesses every day.

Cardie Christy Wheat wrote this card message to her friend Meg Mosley. “It was when Meg was going through a chaotic period in her life,” Christy remembers. “With her mother’s health declining, she was trying to move her mom closer to her while coordinating doctor’s appointments and transportation remotely.  At the same time, her job was requiring her to travel all over the world. Well, some minor drama was playing out in my life — really no big deal in comparison — and Meg took the time to reach out to ask if I needed anything. Me!?

“Thing is, she’s like this with ALL her friends, not just me. Meg’s that one-of-a-kind friend that everybody needs, the kind that shows us how much better the world could be if we were all as good to each other as she is to me.”

May this find you with a moment to bring your own Megs to mind. Let’s let their goodness fill us up and give us hope. Then let’s all go out and be Megs today.

~ jodee stevens
cardthartic founder

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Giving Thanks

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When it comes to feeling and expressing gratitude, I think it must be in card lovers’ DNA. Maybe we cardies are born with an enhanced ability to see and appreciate the good that’s all around us? I remember my late Dad teasing a 30-something me, “Jo, you live a charmed life!” and my saying to him so assuredly, “No, Dad, I just choose to see the charm in life.” 🙂

With her permission, we’re sharing a chapter in the life of one of our favorite cardies, Mary Morini. If you follow Cardthartic, you may already know we first became acquainted two years ago when Mary emailed to say she enjoyed our cards and stories. She closed that e with the great message we immediately asked to publish: “Blessings come in many forms,” she wrote, “Thank you for being one of them.”  Once she saw her words printed in a Cardthartic card, the retired HR exec was happily hooked, and we’ve now published a dozen of her messages, including the one in the Gratitude Journal card featured above. Because Mary has by now become a dear friend, that card has recently taken on far more meaning.

Back in March, her dentist spotted something suspicious on the roof of her mouth. Since then, she’s undergone three surgeries to remove a rare palatal cancer. FYI, three operations were necessary because there is no test for cancer in the mouth – surgeons have to go back in and cut more tissue to be tested, wait for the pathology report and repeat as many times as it takes for the margins to come back negative. Which the margins finally did in late June, yay!!!  Mary’s in the clear.

Beyond the miracles of modern medicine, what’s amazing to us is how Mary has maintained her attitude of gratitude. When first diagnosed, she shared, “You’ll not hear any whining from me. Seeing a four-year-old in the cancer specialist’s office sure puts things in perspective.”  Imagine hearing a “malignant” pathology report and being told, “Until we can remove all the cancerous tissue and repair your palate with a skin graft from your thigh, you’ll be left with a hole where your palate is now, making it difficult to speak or swallow.”  Mary’s response: “There’s always, always, always something to be grateful for. Right now, I’m most grateful that I have a slow-growing cancer and that chemo and radiation aren’t involved.”

Following the final successful surgery, having not spoken or eaten solid food for the required two months, she reported, “Have been diligent about being quiet (a miracle), taking the antibiotics and resting. It’s all good!” I sent her celebratory cookies, and soon received her email that read, “I feel healthier already!  And need I tell you how much I loved the card? Many thanks and much love.” Here, in the pic she attached, you can see how not being able to talk didn’t keep her from expressing gratitude … on her indispensable whiteboard.

She emailed her entire fan club, “During this time of quietude, I’ve had many positive experiences. High on that list was having time to contemplate the meaning of friendship. I’m touched that so many people, far and wide, have reached out. Each of you in so many ways provided enduring gifts of support. There were prayers, pretty flowers, a joke book and the friend who flew in to visit pre-op while I was still able to talk (non-stop!).  I enjoyed a delicious fresh fruit basket before surgery and devoured soft homemade cookies while recovering. Just as I was looking for more reading material, a wonderful novel arrived at my doorstep. There were movie recommendations and a book of Daily Devotionals.  A beautiful prayer shawl was put to good use, as was the Dammit Doll!  Luckily, my Pocket Angel is still watching over me.  Even though you knew you wouldn’t get a response from me, the cards, texts and emails kept coming. Your messages that were intended to encourage, did just that. Friends reaching out meant the world to me. I really don’t think I’d have done so well without you.”

As Mary now grows ever more grateful and confident that this will soon be behind her, in her honor let’s take this opportunity to acknowledge the people who make it into our own versions of the gratitude journal. We’ll enclose this card FREE in every order you place before August 15. May we all choose to see and feel the charm in life that Mary Morini does, even if we don’t always feel quite as charming as she is. 🙂

~ jodee stevens
cardthartic founder
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Cards to Keep Us Smiling

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Gotta keep laughing!” my mother used to say. So, for any of your own friends and family who may be going through a “What crazy shoe is going to drop next?!?” time in their life, here are a few light-hearted encouragement cards that I’m currently sending to a lovely Miami Beach friend and neighbor of mine.

Three years ago, Pamela Salem-O’Hagan was tripped up by a broken sidewalk, and a titanium plate promptly replaced her right elbow. Two years ago the cheery English actress good-naturedly let her surgeon know, “I have a screw loose!” and back into surgery she went. Darned if that screw didn’t come loose Again, so here she is pictured soon after a third surgery this past April. Oh, and then there was that little double-mastectomy thing a year ago. And she’s still smiling!?!

Two weeks ago, Pam’s larger-than-life husband, actor Michael O’Hagan, went in for a physical and, next thing he knows, was scheduled for triple bypass surgery. A very scary hold-your-breath time for them, but the operation went so well that Mike is already back home and feeling strong – yay! And, through it all, Pam remained as positive as ever. Amazing given that, well, from here on I’ll quote Pamela verbatim the morning after Michael came home (and feel free to read her words in a proper English accent. 🙂

“In addition to our garage door refusing to open for the past week, the house air conditioning went on the fritz right before Michael was released yesterday afternoon. Can you imagine your first night back in your own bed after a fortnight in the hospital and it’s with no air in this Miami heat!?! Round midnight, we heard some tremendous rumbling and vibrations in the walls. We’re wandering about putting our ears to this wall and that – just what you want to be doing when recovering from triple bypass surgery! Michael kept shaking his sweet, sweat-beaded bald head muttering, ‘Should have stayed in the hospital!’ Finally concluding the noise must be coming from the broken air conditioner, we went back to bed.

“This morning when the air repairmen arrived to fix it, we promptly had them listening to the walls instead. They insisted it must be the water heater (the water heater now?!?) so we booked a plumber to come look after that while they got the air working again. As I looked out the patio door at the pouring rain, I saw a hawk perched on the picnic table. Well! He was dining on a decapitated dove!!!

“The good news is that, had I not gone out to relocate the dove to the bushes until we could circle back round to him, I would likely not have noticed that the patio was flooding! I ran the block to Town Hall and came rushing right back with two great municipal workers who saved the day by spotting the outdoor pipe leak that was causing the flooding and, in the process, solving the mystery of the wailing walls … it had been the water pipes all along!

“All calm then, I thought, ‘I’ll just run some quick errands in Town’ and, while walking along minding my own business, a pesky blackbird swooped down and snatched some of my hair!  I’m sure any onlooker must have thought, ‘Who’s that madwoman waving her arms in the air shouting, ‘I am not here to take your babies! I have no interest in your babies!’

“Meanwhile, Michael is now lounging around in an orange dressing gown, looking like a full-on Buddhist monk! I said all he has to do is start levitating and we’ll know he’s fully cured!”

Whew. How has Pamela so joyfully kept her great wit and stiff upper lip through years of aaaalllways something? “I stop and think of all the lovely people who have stepped forward and let us know they care. Thank God for all our friends and their support and good wishes that have helped us carry on.”

If you care to “step forward” and bring good cheer to those who could likely do with some light-hearted support about now, we’d like to support you in that!  From now until the 31st, we’ll ship one FREE “Oy!” design with every order on which you enter promo code: “OY” Inspired by Pam & Mike, let’s all stay happy, stay healthy and keep laughing!

~ jodee stevens
cardthartic founder
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Perspective

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As we begin gearing up to heartily celebrate how blessed as Americans we are on the 4th (already bought the brats and corn-on-the-cob that we’ll grill here on Miami Beach :), I’m remembering a conversation I had with a young cab driver a few years ago on my ride home from the airport.

Getting in the car, I had commented on how comfortable and immaculate it was. As handsome and polished as his vehicle, the man thanked me profusely, saying that not everyone would notice, much less pay him the compliment. I smiled and acknowledged that I tend to take nothing and no one for granted. And that was all he needed to hear …

Catching my eye in the rear view mirror, he spoke in an elegant, lyrical Haitian baritone, saying, “I feel the same as you, but not everyone sees things our way! I recently drove a man to a meeting 90 minutes away. For the first 45 minutes, I listened to him complain about everything from the traffic to the weather to the economy to the resort where he would be staying. He had only negative, thankless things to say. Finally, I could not take it anymore. I pulled over and turned to him and said, ‘Sir, please stop. I can no longer listen to this. I am from Haiti where, not so long ago, hundreds of thousands of my countrymen died in less than a minute. Many now eat dirt. Dirt, sir. They have nothing more.’”

Dumbstruck, I could only mumble, “wow,” and he continued, “I said to the man, ‘Please be grateful for all you have.’ I asked him, ‘Do you not see all that you have here in this great country? Are you unable to see that you have the comfort of this car and the money to pay me a large sum for taking you in your expensive clothes to one of the most exclusive hotels in the world? Can you not see how fortunate you are?’ I told him that sometimes I pray, ‘God, you have given me so much in this country, and for this I thank you. Please, whatever you plan to give me next, give it to those still living in my homeland, for they have so little.’ I said, ‘As Americans, we are very blessed, sir. Now may we just be quiet and ride?’”

In the rush of the coming days, and in the midst of family and friends and fabulous fireworks that cost a small fortune, may you find a quiet moment to ride a wave of gratitude for all we have and are as Americans. As the card says, “God Bless America … and God bless you.”

~ jodee stevens
founder & creative director
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Dad Gratitude

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To all the good dads out there, Happy Father’s Day. May it be a day you feel duly appreciated because, God knows, most other days a lot of us treat you and all you do for us as a given. And you’re not!

I’ve always loved the story that Randy Moore, our printing company’s founder, tells about his daughter. “One night, when Melanie was about 15, I wouldn’t let her go to a party where I felt she didn’t belong. She was fuming mad. After a few rounds with me holding firm, she marched upstairs and slammed the hinges off her bedroom door. I thought we were done for the night but, Nooo!” Randy chuckled, “A few minutes later, back down she stormed, got right up in my face and pronounced, ‘You know, I can get another dad just like That!’ and snapped her fingers at me. I didn’t want to laugh in the face of her fury, but I just had to as she was such a loving handful.” Hehe, Melanie went on to become a professional actress, and holds her still-protective papa near and dear. 🙂

I recently asked my friend Larry Morini how he thought his large family grew up to be so close and in a heartbeat he said, “Our dad. Even though he died when I was still a boy, one of my strongest memories is of him having us all kneel around our table in Queens to say the rosary together for up to an hour every night before dinner.” Ouch! I said, and Larry was quick to explain, “Yes, but we grew up with his message that that tight circle of loved ones around us would always be there for each other. And we still are.”

The day after this conversation with Larry, my friend Nancy McGinn happened to share the childhood memory of her farmer father coming in from the fields one hot summer evening, covered with sweat and dirt head-to-toe. “He found me by my lonesome, pitifully throwing the ball up on the roof of the house and catching it when it rolled back down. I can still hear him saying, ‘What’s the matter, Nanc? Did you complain to Mom that there’s nothing to do around here maybe one too many times today?’ 🙂  Then, as exhausted and ready for a shower and supper as he must have been, he said, ‘Let’s play ball.’ I’m sure it was only 15 or 20 minutes of pitch & catch, but I remember it so well decades later because — with just that small gesture — my father made me feel as seen and acknowledged as I have ever been.”

As many Cardthartic followers know, I always tie the birth of this company with the death of my Dad, 25 years ago now … it was the kind, sincere sentiments so many people wrote in their condolence cards to our family that made me think, “Wow, why don’t card companies publish real messages like these?” and ultimately to answer, “Why don’t I?”

If you are fortunate enough to have had a good father in your life, and can take the time to sit and consider the many small but significant ways he’s touched it, we hope today you will find a way — whether in person, by phone or by prayer — to say, “Not a day goes by that I don’t give thanks for you.”

~ jodee stevens
founder & creative director
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