there is no problem.

I buy cards at yard sales and thrift stores. I have bunches and bunches (and bunches) of them. I keep them organized in a dresser. Stationery is probably one of those things that most people don't realize you can get used. Not only can you get them, you can find enough to develop an unhealthy collecting habit. The best place to find them is estate sales. Old ladies are card hoarders. They buy them in multi-packs all the time - on vacation, at holidays, to support various charitable causes. And then they die, and someone sells their whole card collection to me for a buck or two. I pick out the ones I like, and then the rest I ship off to a relative with small children. I suggested they use them for crafting, but I really have no idea what they do with all those cards. They probably wonder the same about me.

I've always been big into sending birthday cards. People just like it so darn much. Even as stamp prices rise, it's a pretty cheap way to make someone happy. If you did the math and figured out how much happiness is created with the cost of a card and a stamp, you would find it's an excellent value. Then I would ask to see your numbers, because I'd really like to know how you quantified happiness. It doesn't have to be a nice card, and you don't have to put money in it. Somehow, the act of getting mail, of being remembered, is enough.

I call them "used" cards, but "secondhand" is probably a better term. However, sometimes they actually are used. A person will buy a 25 pack of Christmas cards and then just sign them all in one session before realizing they only have 21 friends. Then they stuff the four extra cards in a drawer somewhere with every intention of using them next year. But they forget about them until the next time they move or clean, which is how they end up at the thrift store, where I buy them. Sometimes, I send them anyway. (For a couple of years, I sent cards signed from the local Masonic lodge to a girlfriend of mine in New York. She thought the first one was weird, but she got really freaked out when one year she moved and they found out her new address. She suspected me, but when she asked, I told her that I would never ever forge the Masons' signature, which was true, though misleading.)

Anyway, while my collection is impressive, it is not exactly a replacement for Hallmark. I used to take a lot of time to pick out just the right card, spending a half hour just to find one. It was pretty stereotypical woman behavior (I make up for it by being good at math). Now, the selection is more limited, though frequently more interesting (and free). I do make myself pull from my stash, otherwise, I would have no justification to keep buying stationery (and I do want to keep buying it).

Basically, I have to get a little creative, but is that ever a bad thing? Luckily, I have a very large selection of cards that are blank inside, so they can be for any holiday. I do write a little note for each one. I frequently feel the need to make an explanation as to why the other person is receiving what might seem like a pretty weird card. I try hard to make the card choice seem relevant. But maybe I don't have to explain that at all. Maybe the people who get cards from me know me well enough to realize that I don't know how to send cards like a normal person. Being weird acts as its own excuse.

Anyway, all this is to explain that I got a couple of odd birthday cards this year. They were from my nieces, who live in a household that has been the recipient of my rejected overstock cards. One of them was an Easter card, and the other was a Christmas card. While the older niece made some effort to replace the Season's Greetings with birthday ones, the little one just stuck a "Dear Aunt Sandra" before the message wishing me a happy Easter. Considering one of those girls once gave her brother one of her baby teeth in a jar as a birthday present, this was actually a relatively sane gift.

I think this is a positively brilliant solution to feeling like I don't have the right card to send. The solution is to not care at all. Frnakly, I should have thought of this myself, since I apply it in other areas of my life.

For instance: accessories! While visiting my sister this year, I wore a green shirt, while I was also carrying a green suede purse. She asked if I had a different purse for each outfit. I told her no, sometimes it works out that way, but in general I'm not that put-together. She said that she always carried a black purse, that way it matched everything and she didn't have to worry about it. My response was that she didn't have to worry about it anyway, and then she could use any crazy purse she wanted. We are different people, so we each thought our respective way was better based on our priorities. It is more important to her to match. It is more important to me to have fun purses.

Just like the problem of having a matching purse, the solution to the problem of using an appropriate card is to not care about the problem. It turns out that there is no problem.

It's funny - my nieces sent the out-of-season cards because they are kids and have not yet succombed to the idea that only birthday cards are for birthdays. They probably picked those specific cards because they liked the pictures. Give them ten years, and they will likely do things differently. Except for the fact that they have an Aunt Sandra, who has decided that the problem of appropriate cards is not a problem. Given my example (which was originally their example), maybe they'll see it that way, too.

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