My Sentiments Exactly

Finding the perfect greeting card should be easier.

It’s such a frustrating routine of: reach for non-cheesy-looking card, read it, unleash my best eye-roll, angrily return card to its slot—repeat, repeat, repeat. I’ve bought more blank cards than ever this year because it’s simply easier to write my own sentiments.

Many things are going wrong with the cards I find, but the number one offender—and the one I’ll not only refuse to buy, but actually get mad that I even read—is the one with the pun on the inside. It’s bad enough when the outside says “Cow you doin’?” with some kind of cattle illustration. But at least it’s upfront in its ways. However, the one that says on the outside, “Just want you to know …” and the inside says, “I lava you” with a spewing volcano, makes me want to head butt the nearest person.

crefit: tumblr

I feel kind of bad hatin’ on the pun because my nephew loves them. Watching he and my dad go back and forth is actually pretty entertaining. But I love those two and they’re creative and clever. Some of these pun cards aren’t even true puns, just lazy wordplay. Dumb lazy wordplay. Dumb lazy deceitful wordplay. I’m becoming more and more bitter as I write.

With so many occasions that call for a greeting card, it’s a relatively important aspect of our lives; yet, I feel let-down nearly every time I go pick out a card. I think the same thing 99% of the time. “I should stop complaining and just make a line of cards people actually want.” Then I tell one of my artistic friends, “We should make a line of greeting cards.” She replies, “We totally should.” Then we don’t. Fast forward 5 weeks later and I’m back in the card aisle looking for someone to head butt.

This brings me to another fail. Salutations. My oldest niece is a cool 20-year old college student. Do you think she wants a card covered with velour flowers that starts off with “Niece?” I don’t—because here is the thing—I DON’T ACTUALLY ADDRESS HER BY HER FAMILIAL TITLE.

“Niece, true beauty lies within our dreams and …” NOOOO! Would it kill someone to make a card that says, “Life is just better with a Niece like you!” It’s not extravagant, but it does the trick and then allows me to write some goodness inside.

Uh-oh. I just remembered one of the things that makes me actually throw the card down right in the aisle. Here it is. You want to get your dad a really good Father’s Day card. You see an entire row of gray-blue hopefuls—because, you know, dads and guys only like grays and blues. And sailboats.

You see a card that holds a little promise—doesn’t start off with “Father” and has only a small trophy in the corner (another thing all men like). Nothing too cringeworthy in the beginning lines, just some workable, “You’ve always been a pillar of strength and a source of pride for me …” It continues with, “You’ve shown me what it looks like to be a person of honor …” You’re ready to toss the winning card in the cart and head for the chip aisle.

Until screeeeeeeeeeech! You open it up and it commits the second most maddening offense.

It gets too specific.

“That’s why, when you held my son for the first time and wept …” Wait. What? I don’t have a son! You don’t cry! How many people meet this exact criteria? Pillar of strength, check. Honor, check. Delivery room tears, NOPE. And how sad for the person who hits all the major points, but has a daughter.


Who allows these cards to be printed? And every greeting card line is guilty. You know it and I know it. “Sister, we’ve laughed together. We’ve cried together. We’ve stolen merchandise together.” What? No we haven’t!

It seems like such a rookie mistake to not hone in on universalities. (I might have made that word up; I’m not sure.)

But here is where that fed-up, exasperated feeling takes a sharp left turn to borderline sadness. (Did you know greeting cards were such an emotional rollercoaster?)

Have you ever gone to pick out a card for someone you care about a lot or even love—not your other half, but a friend or family member—only to realize you’ve been overzealous in your level-of-love calculations?

Case in point. You need a birthday card for your friend whom you love to death and can’t imagine life without. You head to the Birthday>Female>Friend section. It’s not as expansive as you’d hoped, but you shake it off and chalk it up to “grocery store card limitations.”

You see an awesomely bold card with a martini glass shooting out colorful birthday confetti, so you proceed, “Hey Girl! I know we have so much in common and think all the same things are funny, but I want you to know you’re more than someone I like to party and shop with. Our heartfelt talks and the way you show you truly care, by being there for me in good times and bad, mean more than you’ll ever know. I’ve never had a friend like you and doubt I ever will. You’re the best of the best.”

Then it happens. The realization that you’ve overestimated your love. You’ve overshot it pretty badly. And it dawns on you that she really is just a party friend and she’s never been there for you in bad times. In fact, when you had that health scare after visiting your dermatologist, she pouted and said she couldn’t believe you were going to start spoiling all the fun with sunscreen.


“Grandpa, you’ve been like a second dad to me—taking time to teach me the finer points of what it means to be a man of character.” You look around in surprise and wonder, “Oh. That’s a Grandpa thing? Mine just taught me to whittle and dip snuff—and we called him Grandude.”

It’s pretty eye-opening to see what card companies consider typical or expected feelings of certain relationships. Should I really love my friends to death—like, literally? Does my dad not care about golf enough? Are my brother and I doomed if we didn’t grow up torturing each other? Should I say sappier things to my sister?

“Mother, from the womb to the crib—from the car seat to the driver’s seat, you have given me your last ounce of energy and your last dime. We have wept together and embraced the joys along the way.”

Oh come on! Wouldn’t you rather it say, “Hey Mom, I know you gave up a lot to provide for me everything I ever wanted or needed—thank you—we should discuss this while shopping.”

“Dad, let’s go have a beer so I can tell you how thankful I am for all the free meals.”

I yearn for a realistic line of cards. I’ve seen some that are getting closer, but they can lean toward an R rating—which is fine for certain people, but not appropriate for your child’s teacher.

I also want an entire line of cards that are all the same size and available with any color envelope you want—like from the top row. Each category would have the same line on the outside but various ones on the inside, so you could find one that suits your relationship. There would be ample room available to write your own thoughts since each relationship we have is unique.

On the front:
I like you because:

On the inside (choose one):
you crack me up
you’re meaner than I am
you get mad at others on my behalf without needing details
you know things go downhill quickly when I need food

On the front:
I love you when:

On the inside (choose one):
you bathe the kids so I can relax
you tell me you’re happy I’m yours
you call me on my BS
you act like a dork to make me laugh

On the front:
We’re friends because:

On the inside (choose one):
you know too much
you’d rather cheer for me than compete with me
we love food more than air
you let me exaggerate

On the front:
Thank you for:

On the inside (choose one):
knowing what I needed
standing up for me
being a good texter
being honest with me

Notice how none of these said, “Thank you for … thinking of me when I took the LSAT.” Too.much.information. Keep it general, but clever and let the giver fill in the blanks.

Maybe I’ve missed them and they’re out there. Does anyone have a favorite line of cards that consistently deliver winners? Does anyone want to be my illustrator?

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0 thoughts on “My Sentiments Exactly

  1. There are too many gilded lines in here for me to type them all out. Prepare to have me recite every one to you later! But I wholeheartedly agree on every point…and that is why I have taken to typing out my own ridiculously-specific-and-catered-to-you cards on

    1. I love your detailed someecards to me! You’re on your way over to recite lines to me – I can hear your loud boots coming 😉

  2. Yes Yes No – yes on the frustration, yes on the need, no on being the illustrator – unless of course you want everyone to look they are from Mars – you’ve seen my pictures on Draw Something! Great post! Keep ’em coming.

  3. This is so on point. I recently had to buy a card for my husband’s grandmother and it was exasperating. They all had freaking sonnets of gratitude written in them. And heads up to the card companies: my Dad neither (a) plays golf or (b) drinks beer while hoarding the remote control. Find a new angle. For ideas, please reference this blog and it’s brill ideas!

    1. Right?? I agree on the dad stuff – can you get them to rethink all that for us? Thank you for the love 🙂

  4. True dat, Anna! I hate looking through the plethora of cards at Wal-Mart–and it never fails…the urge to go the bathroom hits me as I’m in that aisle, so here I am looking through cards quickly with my foot tapping or my leg jiggling. Jeez. I had to laugh at the first image you posted because I did a double-take. Was that you circa 1991-2 back in college? LOL. And the second image sparked a great idea. I HATE taking care of sick, throwing-up people. That person had the right idea! Why didn’t I think of that?
    Maybe save that topic for another blog post?????????

    1. Pilaf! My perm was WAY better than that! Sounds like YOU need to start a blog – you’re full of ….. ideas 🙂

  5. The best cards I get are from you, with somecards help. You DO need to start your own card company. My favorite part was the “on the front” “on the inside” part. It’s your details that always make me laugh so hard. I loved the pictures, too.

  6. Oh Anna!!! Once again I’m thinking how fun it would be to discuss all this deep stuff with you in person…over sushi and really good wine :)) I must first admit that I love NOTHING, absolutely nothing more than the corny pun card and if if includes a talking animal OR an animal exhibiting human qualities…S*O*L*D!! Love how you nailed it when you are shopping for a card and they are so dang sentimental (level-of-love!!! “just a party friend”…) I remember needing a more…ahem…”honest” card to send certain family members (“sorry I was such brat for like 8 years but you were so darn TENSE”…glad we’ve both grown up”). “Thanks for embarrassing the snot outta me in front of my friends. I’ve forgiven you~Happy Birthday Granny”

    And I loved “you get mad at other people on my behalf without needing details”

    Anna~seriously LOVE your writing!

    1. Thank you x10, Tammy! I’m so happy you’re enjoying my blog. I have a feeling I’ll be less incensed over the animal pun next time – knowing that for you, it’s a real find. Oh goodness! lol Thank you so much for all the support 🙂

    1. Right? Don’t you just really appreciate when someone not only texts you back w/in a reasonable amount of time but also answers all questions – not just one? Lol. Yes, we need a card to show our appreciation 🙂

      On Wed, Jan 9, 2013 at 8:11 AM, Anna Lea West

  7. My housemate has told me over and over that I should work for card companies because I spend HOURS and many trips to multiple locations to find the perfect card… months in advance.

    I have a box of favorites that I’ll never give to anyone because they make me smile!

    One of my new favorite lines from American Greetings is called Just a Wink. – They’re hilarious, short, sweet, and to the point.


    Graduation Card
    Front: You Did It!
    Inside: Congradufukinlations

    It’s perfect for the snarky 18 year old who thinks they know everything and it a REAL adult now they’re graduating from high school… and for that teenager who has a really awful potty mouth and does not expect you, the much older and wiser human being, to give such a card.

  8. This is so timely because this month is commonly known in my family as “the month of birthdays.” It’s a wonder I am still alive to read this post after all the fruitless card shopping I have done recently. This post is so spot on its scary. And you finally named one of my greatest hurdles in life: “Does my dad not care about golf enough?” The answer is no, he does not. So good luck finding him a card. I usually get him cards with fart jokes, which he loves IMMENSELY. But I had trouble finding one this year that I haven’t already given him. Is it possible I have bought all the fart cards in existence? When you get that card making company going, make sure fart cards are on your short list of ones to get to market ASAP.

    1. I’m happy you liked this post, Kelly (it was one I hadn’t yet shared on my FB page, but I’d written it a year ago or so. But on to more important matters … I can’t grant your request about the cards bc, as you should know, I can’t even say that F word. But I see that you can, as you used it 3 times in one comment. What will I do with you? And now you’ve got me picturing you illustrating a F-cards at your cool desk with your cool beer and the image is unsettling for me so early on a Thursday. Please advise.

      1. Maybe “fart” would be easier for you to say if you could ever see the intense shake-laugh it brings about in my dad. It is literally one of my favorite sites to behold, and then it gets everyone else laughing. So it’s kind of the necessary evil to get to the prize. Five minutes with my dad, and you’d being saying “fart” all the time. Know that to be true.

        Also, I never realized how much I wanted to illustrate fart cards until you painted that scenario for me. (And there, I said it three more times.)