Story Time

Goodness personified

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This new friendship design above was written by a woman who has long amazed us with her ability to see goodness under the most trying of circumstances.  Jenni Betz is the mother of three joyful little boys; their big sister, Celia, sadly left this earth much too soon. To us, Jenni and her own mother, Rosemary Tolliver, are goodness personified.

We met Jenni and Rosie eight years ago now, after publishing the photo of their sweet Celia on a Little Reminders card. When we first chose the photo, we didn’t know Celia was living with a rare and fatal disease called Batten. It was through Jenni’s blog, betzfamilycolumbus, that we learned Celia’s Story, a hard but glorious read.

Jenni’s writing was (and is) so rich and raw and mesmerizing that I soon found myself mining her posts for potential cards. We created the first design featuring Jenni’s words when Celia entered hospice in 2009. Today, messages about life’s joys and challenges from Jenni and the awesome and eloquent Rosie now grace more than a dozen Cardthartic designs. And how cool that these two cardies are not professional writers, just simply exquisite writers!

A few weeks ago, we emailed all the cardies we know that love to write to invite them to submit messages for our Summer release. Back came an e from Rosie that read, “For the past few weeks I have been consumed with caring for my older brother, John. I am eager to do some writing, but it will have to wait a few more days … it did occur to me to share with you the words my husband, Rod, said when I called home to tell him that John had passed away.  They felt perfect.  ‘Well, he lived long and he lived well, and it was time to say good-bye.’”

Then, yesterday, along came another e from Rosie. “The next generation enjoyed a game of friendly flag football on the church lawn after my brother’s funeral service.  This picture that Jenni took of her boys is such a good reminder that there can be joy right in the middle of sadness, and that we need the love of family and special memories to carry us through the tough times.  There’s a card in there somewhere …”

Like their authors, Rosie and Jenni’s cards are all so full of their real life love and fun and wisdom that we thought you might like to see them together as a collection. Long live Jenni and Rosie’s goodness.

~ jodee stevens
founder & creative director
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Pure Puppy Love

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People often ask us, “Which comes first, the message or the photo?”
Answer is: It all depends on which reaches us first! In the case of “be up for anything” cover dog Phoebe, it was the adorable image that prompted a card. Three pounds at three months old, Phoebe belongs to our great Massachusetts Rep Karen Miller, and what a bittersweet tale of love and loss those two have to tell.

A year before Phoebe entered the picture, Karen tragically lost two dogs very dear to her — Knopa to a hit-and-run driver and Lucy to aggressive lymphoma. If you’ve ever lost a pet, you know it’s crushing.

As many people do after having to put a beloved animal down, Karen could have “taken a break” to grieve and distance herself from further loss. Instead, she had just so much love to give that she threw her whole heart into the hunt for another sweet animal that needed a good home. When she saw the pic of Phoebe on petfinder.com, it was love at first sight. Phoebe and her three siblings had been rescued from the 110° southern California desert heat and taken to Hope Ranch Animal Sanctuary outside San Diego … a long way from Boston where Karen and her partner Deb live but, hey, Karen was smitten!

Even before she flew west to bring Phoebe home, the proud new doggiemama had sent me a snapshot taken at the sanctuary. I received it via text while in a Cardthartic staff meeting and, the moment I turned the phone around, saw the tender looks on our team members’ faces and heard their “awws,” I knew we had the makings of a great card. Only problem was, the sanctuary photo was not high-enough resolution. 🙁 Phoebe’s pic would have to be reshot.

Little Phoebe has boundless energy, so getting her to sit for a portrait was quite a feat. 🙂 “We tried three different days for hours at a time trying to get her to stop long enough to get a good shot,” laughed Karen. “Deb took literally hundreds of pictures of just a little white blur. We wore ourselves out trying to wear Phoebe out! Finally, when we caught her on the porch steps, we knew we’d got the shot.” Indeed. Thanks, Deb and Karen. By gracing our new Little Reminders card, your little rescue will melt the hearts of many.

~ jodee stevens
founder & creative director

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Beautiful friends

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When you read this card, I hope you feel your heart filling with love and gratitude for your own longtime friends. It was created for and dedicated to a dear one of mine …

If you follow Cardthartic, you read my email three weeks ago about Shirley Robins saying her goodbyes to this world. Well, days later, she left us and her family gave her a lovely send-off. Yesterday was the first birthday in two decades that I did not receive a card from Shirley, and today is the day I would traditionally slip one in the mail to arrive for hers on the 6th. Instead, I’m thinking back to the last conversation I had with my dear old pal, when she said with such calm assurance that she was facing the end of her life at peace and with complete acceptance. Hearing the readiness in her voice, I said, “Then, Shirley, I will accept it too.” There was a brief pause before I blurted, “Ok, I need to be honest … a part of me is excited that you will finally get to meet my crazy mother!” Bless her heart, she giggled at my absurdity and, with the gift of wry wit that she shares with my long-gone Mom, said, “Well I’ll be sure to tell her you say hi!” 🙂

In that same conversation, Shirley asked me to give her eulogy. When the day came, it was an honor and, truly, a joy to sing her praises. Always the sort of cherished friend that left nothing unsaid, in the end she made what could have been an onerous task for me very easy … to her assembled loved ones I was able to simply read Shirley’s own words, written in a note she’d sent years ago after some minor surgery. She wrote:

“As I sit here in my cozy gift of a new wrap, smelling the many roses and seeing the wonderful array of cards, I realize how fortunate I am. I’m fortunate because of people like you, my dear friend, who came into my life as a gift – a gift made in heaven. Thank you for always being by my side.”

Needless to say, I cherish that note, and our long friendship, and the sense that she is still by my side. So how about this: In Shirley’s honor, choose a longtime friend of your own to receive this card and we’ll include it free in any orders you place this month. Shirley would often joke and grouse about having to “cross out the damn Happy Birthday” in order to send her favorite cards to whomever, whenever. Have at it. Just promise not to hold back on what you have to say to those beautiful friends you’re going through life with. Die-hard cardie that she was, Shirley will be pleased you took the opportunity.

~ jodee stevens
founder & creative director

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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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