Story Time

Saying goodbye …

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This condolence design originated with our longtime Minnesota rep group principal, my mentor and dear friend, Shirley Robins. Shirley called me one evening two and a half years ago, just beside herself at the loss of her own dear friend and colleague, the beautiful Sally Perlich. Touchingly on and on Shirley went praising Sally, describing what a devastating loss Sally was to the world, and the infinite ways her life had been bettered by Sally. Catching her breath, Shirley said, “Oh, Jodee, there are no words … because there are so many.”

Now, Shirley and her family are preparing themselves for her spirit to join Sally’s. The life-threatening lymphoma she beat 22 years ago reared its ugly head again three weeks ago. Shirley’s devoted daughter Sue says that it is a matter of days.

At 82, Shirley is 20 years older and light-years wiser than me. All you cardies who so graciously say you love our cards and company, well, you have Shirley largely to thank. Back 22 years ago, I knew next to nothing about this industry. Shirley’s Rep group was one of our very first and — as if she did not have her own business to run, family to care for and cancer to beat — she answered every inane question and calmed every fear I had. As you might imagine, I was a needy little piggy, picking her brain and crying on her shoulders left and right. I’m not entirely sure Cardthartic would still be standing today were it not for Shirley Robins.

I know you’re busy facing your own challenges and appreciating all the joys life brings but, if you happen to pass by a rack of cards this weekend, maybe take a moment to consider that they didn’t magically appear — great, caring, hardworking pros like Shirley helped the store select them.  And, if you have a few prayers to spare, please say them for the indomitable Robins Family. They’re with Shirley now and will send her off knowing they were loved with a full heart. As Shirley’s longtime associate Linda Smith put so beautifully, “It is not easy for a family to stand by and wait, but being surrounded by love is such a good thing.” Good Shabbos, Shirley.

~ jodee stevens
founder & creative director
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Acts of Love

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Looking at this new Love card’s fun image, I can’t help wondering who made that heart for whom, and how great it would feel to walk up, see it, and know it was meant for you. <3

Little acts of love seem so easy to see as such, once you get used to looking at them in a larger way. And how filling it is when we do! For example, at the recent Atlanta Gift Show, I walked up to our booth and was greeted by our wonderful Wisconsin Rep, Mary Aschenbrener, who – with a big grin – handed me a little bag filled with two gigantic, beautifully-boxed caramel apples. Mary had known she would be seeing me at the show, and remembered what a fan I am of the home town delicacy she’d treated me to when we toured her territory years before. So, even though she was busy preparing to be away from work and family for a week womaning our booth at the show, the day before leaving she’d gone out of her way to Amy’s Gourmet Apples, then schlepped them on the plane. More than Amy’s amazing apples, it was Mary’s act of love that I savored.

Later in the day, a friendly competitor spotted our itty bitty brand ambassador — my 7-lb Papillon, Miss Josephine Barker — and made her way over to our booth for a fix. “May I?” she asked and, as I transferred MJB to her shoulder, the woman softly said, “I think I might cry.” I assured her that was ok, led her to a comfy chair and, once she was settled there nuzzling Josephine, handed her our tender Meanings of Life “good cry” design. I was honored to let her silent tears fall without question as I stood between her and anyone else who might see. When she was ready to be on her way, she handed Josephine back with a whisper into one of those fluffy oversized ears, “Little love, thank you for being here for me today.” To dogs, acts of love come so naturally.

Atlanta was the first gift show that our Creative Coordinator Elizabeth Biswell has attended, and I was proud to introduce my right hand to our Retail Partners with a pure-Liz love story. Our wise whippersnapper is a college sophomore now, and joined us a couple of years ago while still attending Miami Beach High. Before she’d ever heard of Cardthartic or imagined herself in our industry, Liz made it her mission to ensure that every resident of her local nursing home would receive a handmade card on Valentine’s Day. In the weeks leading up to Feb 14, she went around to her teachers and fellow students, lovingly nudging them to participate. And, when Valentine’s Day came, Liz alone made the rounds, telling 258 amazed recipients about the person who made his/her card, and listening to their heartwarming life stories.

“I believe thoughtfulness is a learned behavior,” Rep Mary says, “not innate. I learned it from my mom, and she learned it from hers. My mom is the queen of thoughtful — always baking something to take to someone she knows could use a pick-me-up. A neighbor just lost his wife but, every day, while he was visiting his wife in hospice, Mom was making sure he’d have something for dinner when he came home. She’ll drive by a retirement home and, knowing someone there, will just stop in to say hi. Doing for others makes us feel good,” Mary believes. “When I see an elderly person struggling in the grocery parking lot, I’ll ask if I can help them load their groceries. Little things that might brighten someone else’s day in turn make ME feel better. Kindness can take a moment and not cost a cent.”

So how about this … inspired by Mary, Josephine and Liz’s acts of love, we propose you kindly choose three folks to whom you may not have previously thought to send a card for Valentine’s Day, and we’ll give you cards for them FREE. Yep, right up until February 14, we’ll automatically apply a three-card discount to orders of 15 or more cards or magnets. Whether or not you take us up on this, here’s hoping that, of all the people who feel your little acts of love, the one who feels it most is You.

~ jodee stevens
founder & creative director
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Time out to rest and restore :)

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A few weeks ago, I glanced out the second-story window of my Miami home office and caught sight of my 93-yr-old friend Hannlis speedily wheeling her walker up the beach path. As I watched (and grinned in amazement) she stopped behind my building, lifted a big poinsettia out of the walker’s bucket seat and, with just the top of her snow-white head showing above an armful of fluttering red, walked adroitly toward my back steps sans walker. My 7-lb Papillon Josephine is somehow always able to sense when her beloved Hannlis comes ‘round, so bolted out the door the minute I opened it. And by the time I reached them, my whippet-thin friend was somehow holding one exuberant dog, a small tree and a belly full of laughter. What fun to see!

Back upstairs, I found this card tucked in my gift of poinsettia. In it, Hannlis had written, “I know you’ve been pushing very hard. Congratulations on getting your new designs for 2017 off to the printer. Now celebrate by getting some good rest!” I smiled at her unknowing choice of a Feel Better design that was written with people suffering from chronic illness in mind. Ah, but then I considered that there is very little my wise friend doesn’t know … how fitting to wish “some sweet relief” to someone who’s been under prolonged self-imposed pressure to perform. “And reasons to smile today,” well, she’d just handed me one!

Beyond new uses for this card, Hannlis has a lot to teach us about seeking relief and seeing reasons to smile; she helped hundreds of patients do that throughout her long career as a physical therapist. She retired at 75 only because, petite as she is, she felt she could no longer support the weight of many who needed to lean on her. I often ask her to tell me again how a Type-A might get better at this “resting” thing she so actively advocates and, always patiently, she says something like: “Our bodies tell us when it’s time to rest and recuperate; it’s just a matter of getting our minds to stop, listen and cooperate!”

The wisdom of resting not yet learned, last week I blew past the poinsettias and headed to the community lap pool. Before jumping in, I noticed a guy lounging in the hot tub. A half-hour later he was still there so, as I dropped into the bubbling vat beside him, I observed, “It appears you have the art of relaxation down.” He didn’t blink before he grinned, “I’m a specialist.” Haha, message received! I promptly skyped our Sales & Fulfillment Center in central Illinois and proposed that we be spontaneously and officially closed between Christmas and New Years. When all agreed we were in shipshape and could in-good-conscience do that with a big, “Whoopie!” we emailed our Retail Partners and valued Reps: “With the hope that you’ll also be able to give yourself a break, we think it’s high time we practice what we preach at Cardthartic. Wishing you the week to rest, reflect, restore and ready our bodies, minds and spirits for a great new year ahead. We’ll resume shipping January 3, 2017.”

I hope this finds you far better at resting than me this week, and that you’ll be able to make time to take walks, hug friends, squeeze puppies and/or just sit long enough to see the beauty in poinsettias. In this crazy busy world, Hannlis will tell you, it’s a message worth repeating to ourselves and those we love: “Wishing you some sweet relief … and reasons to smile today.”

~ jodee stevens
founder & creative director

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Making time …

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This is one of our most popular Friendship designs, and has always been a favorite of mine … I would love to know how those old clocks took up residence in their beautiful wire basket on the wall in Bruges, Belgium, where photographer Berit Schurse happened along. 🙂

If you were holding the card, you could flip it open and see that, inside, it reads, “but I do wish we could spend more of it together.”  Flip it over and you’d see “To friends too many to mention.”  Because more than a few will receive this card in early January as a Happy New Year greeting from me, I thought I’d use it here to plant a seed: Between holidays, I hope you, too, will give yourself time to sit, reflect and connect.

 Confession: I haven’t sent Christmas cards in ages. Instead, about this time each year, I order a select bunch of Friendship cards sent to my home knowing that, when things settle down after Christmas, I’ll want to nestle in, take pen in hand and have a Cardthartic Experience of my own. As all good cardies know, it feels great to just let those loving feelings flow. 🙂  And, gotta say, it also feels very gratifying to think that – just as my favorite people are trying hard to get into the swing of 2017 — along will come the unexpected lift from me.

Through our give-aways this past year – the grieving card back when violence was erupting all around us last summer, and the new USA design prior to the election – we’ve had the pleasure of hearing from so many of our great cardies that we can’t resist wrapping up the year in the same way.  With every order you place in what remains of 2016, don’t be surprised to find this card will be included FREE.  At Cardthartic, we think of ourselves not as a company doing business with other companies, but people doing business with other people. We feel honored that you’re one of our people, thank you.  Wishing you that time to reflect and connect.

~ jodee stevens
founder & creative director

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Cardies Get Creative

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Cardthartic Cardies Get Creative

Along with, “It’s so great that you’re Made in America,” one piece of feedback that we never tire of hearing is this: “Your cards sound so real!” 

What’s really fun is that more and more of our card messages are originating with our “cardies,” the passionate and often-eloquent followers of Cardthartic.  

Mary Morini"Pink Lily" by Mary Morini

For example, three of our new designs began with sentiments from gracious former St. Louis HR exec Mary Morini.

This time last year, Mary was kindly emailing us kudos on our e-blasts. Those messages were so full of warmth and good humor that we asked if she’d share what she penned in all those Cardthartic cards she told us she was sending.

Since then, we’ve proudly published a good many genuine “Mary Morinis.”

Jenni Betz"Popcorn" by Jenni Betz

One of our new anniversary cards began as a note from amazing Columbus, OH, mom Jenni Betz to her husband, Andy. 

We met Jenni years ago through one of our photographers. Through the unimaginable losses and deserved joys, Jenni’s soulful voice has created quite a few Cardthartic designs; you can read her own beautiful musings at Betz Family Columbus.

She shared this anniversary message a year ago and, when last month we sent her the image we finally found to live up to it, she replied, “Love it! And I really do love Andy!”  

Ann John

"Cluster of Flowers" by Ann JohnAnother beautiful new design, a condolence card, came via a caring cardie from Columbia, SC, named Ann John.  

This past summer, Ann emailed us, “I have become unable to send any condolence card other than one of your extraordinary cards. I have had several recipients tell me they have saved the card in their bedside table, their Bible or in their purse just so it’s handy when they need to see it again.” 

Thus began an ongoing exchange in which Ann shared, ”My love of a good card is in my genes. My mother passed away unexpectedly (and she lived every moment of every day until the moment she was no longer alive) at the age of 94 watering her vegetable garden on a lovely afternoon in May.” 

Ann gave us permission to publish the excerpt on this design and if/when you hold it in your hand, you’ll see on its back is her dedication, “In memory of Virginia McCracken.”

If you sense you’ve penned messages that may belong on our cards, please don’t hesitate to ask your Fairy Cardmother to pass them along.

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Bridging the divide

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We know it will take way more than one well-meaning greeting card to unite this nation but, cardies, it’s a start!

In an email yesterday morning, my friend Susan Lyon expressed exactly what I was feeling. “My heart is sad post-debate,” she wrote. “I woke feeling tired of the ugly descent to behavioral lows I am seeing on our national stage.  I hope this finds you writing your big heart out, creating new cards with diligence, delight, determination and a desire to lift up our weary souls.”

Susan’s positive ending reminded me of how Sunday’s final debate question was such a breath of fresh air in that tension-filled room. Town Hall participant Karl Becker had asked the candidates, “Regardless of the current rhetoric, can you name one positive thing that you respect in one another?”  And that led me to now wonder if you might be up for lifting a few spirits of your own?  If you will use them, we’ll proudly send you two of this new card FREE. Either add them to an order before the next debate or, no purchase necessary, email your Fairy Cardmother with your name and address and she’ll see that they get right out to you.

FYI, when she saw this USA card featured last week, cardie and inspiring patriot Amy Murray ordered 40 and, at checkout in the Order Comments box, graciously added, “I traditionally send friends and family a card to remind them to vote. This year’s campaign has been so toxic that I was struggling with what to send.  Of course, Cardthartic has just the right message.  Bravo!  And be sure to vote!”

I myself had mailed the USA card to my 92-year-young friend and neighbor Hannlis last week and received a call minutes after the mailman had successfully waded through her Hillary yard signs.  “Just calling to say I feel the same way about you!” she enthused.  “Thank you, thank you for the card.”  And I know who will receive my next two: Conservatives who have never held my liberalism against me! 🙂 Jack Kraft and Randy Moore may lean as far right as I do left, but our fondness for each other has only grown over the years. I would go so far as to say — were it not for these two — Cardthartic would not be today. Both successful business owners and investors, they helped back Cardthartic, and have continued to have my back for two decades.

I’ll never forget what fiscally conservative Jack wrote on the memo line of his investment check: “Spend it wisely and well.” And more protective than I could ever learn to be, it was Randy who early on proposed and then personally secured a line of credit for Cardthartic. “Let’s give you and your staff this sense of security for a rainy day.” While they both could have played on my “I’m so not a numbers person” insecurities, instead they would say, “But this company is nothing without your creativity!”  Well aware of our differences, these gracious men not only helped this woman business owner feel that I have a respected place at the table, they’ve made a point of proudly reminding me that it’s my being at the table that has put food on many others’.

Hehe, Jack once stayed in my place while I was away, and I returned to find my television had been tuned to Fox News. I sent him a teasing text that read, “Really?! I didn’t even know my TV got Fox.” and immediately came his quick-witted reply, “Sorry. Before I left, I tried switching it back to CNN, but your set cried out, ‘No! No! Please let me remain fair and balanced!’”

So if I’m Dem to the core and yet could not love and admire these Republicans more, how have we bridged our philosophical divide?  Regardless of our rhetoric (and there have been times! 🙂 we’ve never lost sight of all the good in one another, and how it’s our combined differences that make us a better whole.  I hope you are fortunate enough to have your own Jack and Randy, and that you’ll use this undebatable opportunity to acknowledge them and any other compatriots you choose.  Thank you for considering!

~ jodee stevens
founder & creative director

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