Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – D. G. Kaye Explores the Realms of Relationships -December 2020 – Say it with Greeting Cards – Treading Carefully with Words

Say it with Greeting Cards – Treading Carefully with Words

Welcome back to my Realms of Relationships Column. In last month’s article, I hinted that my next post would be on the topic of ‘No Contact’, but I’ve rescheduled that one for later as I was inspired while visiting a forum about a topic that’s a bit more seasonally related – buying greeting cards for difficult people..

The inspiration for this post stemmed from an interesting conversation I struck up in comments after reading the article. Someone was sharing about anxiety issues she had when having to buy a greeting card for her narcissistic mother. Her comment struck a note of familiarity. I got involved in the conversation with comment and was then posed an interesting question – asking me if I’d ever encountered issues when having to buy a birthday card for my mother. The writer was taking a survey of those that encountered same difficulties as she did. And did I ever!

The incident sparked some memories about my issues, the difficulties I encountered when purchasing greeting cards for my mother, and many of you here already know my issues about growing up with a narcissistic mother, you can imagine the difficulties I had choosing the appropriate card for her for any occasion. It was a sensitive task. But hopefully, many of you here didn’t have to deal with such an experience, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have people on your card list that you too may find it an uncomfortable task when having to choose the right card for. We want to evoke our good wishes for them, but also don’t wish to convey anything overly mushy.

Such a poignant question took me back to those years of standing in front of the card section, reading card after card, looking for just the right words—words that could evoke a cheery greeting without the mushy sentiment, yet, not sounding as though there was no sentiment. Tricky one this is.

I spent much of my life trying to dodge my mother, and at the same time tried desperately not to hurt her feelings, so choosing greetings cards for her for any occasion became an uncomfortable time for me. This was a task that churned away at my insides as my empathic side always seemed to feel sorry for her despite my desire to stay away from her. And so, for the purpose of this post, I’ll use my mother as an example of what to look for in a card. Feel free to insert the name of anyone in your life you struggle with buying a card for, with my examples.

Looking for a positive message to honor the occasion without flouting the tender words is a sensitive operation. I won’t lie, even in a greeting card. The worst anxiety of card shopping for my mother came when choosing Mother’s Day cards. You may wonder why I bothered at all, considering the anxiety it gave me choosing a card while trying to envision how it would be received by my mother. But I’d given her cards since I was a small child, and she came to expect them. I felt if I didn’t continue, I’d be worse off by both, making my mother feel bad and excluded, and I’d also be harshly reprimanded for being so inconsiderate. Mother desperately wanted to be adored, and I never wanted to hurt her, but I also would not indulge her with the flowery prose and ‘love’ words she’d expected, so I had to choose my words carefully.

The anxiety began building weeks before an occasion. What card could I buy her that would make her happy and keep me out of the doghouse?

Picking out the ‘perfect’ greeting card, because she expected it, was essential, but finding one that conveyed a warm message with no mushy sentiments became a delicate mission. If there isn’t acknowledgement of love for mother in a card, sarcasm would ensue. It became a life-long struggle to appease to avoid conflict.

Choosing a greeting card as the child of narcissist can create great anxiety, especially for those like me who found it uncomfortable talking about feelings until I was well into my twenties.

There had to be a delicate balance between pleasing the narc parent to maintain sanity and not getting caught in the guilty web. An unnurtured relationship between mothers and daughters leaves a void of unfulfilment for the child. And so naturally, if I never felt the confidence to share my thoughts, dreams, fears, or aspirations with my mother, surely, I wasn’t about to express them in a greeting card.

Now imagine you aren’t comfortable discussing feelings with certain family members, and how uncomfortable it can be to have to buy a greeting card for them. So, here are some tips I use to help ease the process:

  • Work around the words. How many Mother’s Day cards are filled with ‘Thanks for being a great Mom’, ‘I love you Mom’, ‘A mother’s love is …’, you get the picture. A trip to the card store had me feeling anxious and had me spending too much time reading all the cards in search for appropriate words – Happy Mother’s Day, Happy Birthday Mother, Wishing you a beautiful day Mother – those were the type of cards I searched for, a warm greeting, acknowledgment of title (Mom) – short and sweet.
  • Thankfully, there are oodles of choices for greeting cards. If you don’t wish to reveal too much about what or how you’re feeling about someone you feel obligated to send a card to, first figure out how you wish to approach the hunt. Stay away from the heavy-duty sentimental cards. Think about giving a humorous card that will take the sentiment in a different direction to diffuse the ‘feeling’ cards and take the edge off the discomfort.
  • Find a card that acknowledges the person but doesn’t embellish on the sentimentality, eg: ‘Happy Birthday wishes to brighten your day Mother’ is a safer generic choice than ‘Happy Birthday to a loving mother’, you get the drift. This way you can convey good cheer without the mush.
  • If you’re crafty and/or artistic, you may opt to make your own cards. The sentiment is that you created it especially for that person, and you can choose your own words.

I’m sure everyone has someone in their lives they’ve felt a bit awkward about giving a greeting card to. There is no need to hurt someone’s feelings just because we may not be feeling the love. And there is no need to give a card that implies sentiments we don’t feel, because that just makes us feel awkward around that person. We must figure out what we want to convey in the message and choose the vessel and appropriate theme we wish to deliver the message in, and keep the sentiment light, but real. If humor makes us feel more comfortable, then go for the funny.

Also, if it’s a close family member you’re trying to dodge using endearing words for, do remember to still include a proper salutation in the card. For example: if it’s a Birthday card and you don’t wish to appear as stone cold with a generic card – ‘Birthday wishes’, make sure it’s still a card addressed to ‘Happy Birthday Mother’, ‘For your birthday Mother’, ‘Just for you Mother’, then read the inside words carefully to make sure the message is in line with your sincere wishes without including words that don’t apply to your sentiments or ones that magnify your feelings. Now you can feel good about presenting a card to a relative without the worry of slighting them and still acknowledging them without the fluffy prose.

Have any of you encountered the uncomfortable task of having to buy a card for a loved one that gave you trouble searching for the appropriate words?

©DGKaye 2020

My thanks to Debby for sharing what can be a tricky situation to be in when it should be a joyous occasion buying a card for someone close.  I know that she would love your feedback…

Debby Gies is a Canadian nonfiction/memoir author who writes under the pen name of D.G. Kaye. She was born, raised, and resides in Toronto, Canada. Kaye writes about her life experiences, matters of the heart and women’s issues.

D.G. writes to inspire others. Her writing encompasses stories taken from events she encountered in her own life, and she shares the lessons taken from them. Her sunny outlook on life developed from learning to overcome challenges in her life, and finding the upside from those situations, while practicing gratitude for all the positives.

When Kaye isn’t writing intimate memoirs, she brings her natural sense of humor into her other works. She loves to laugh and self- medicate with a daily dose of humor.
I love to tell stories that have lessons in them, and hope to empower others by sharing my own experiences. I write raw and honest about my own experiences, hoping through my writing, that others can relate and find that there is always a choice to move from a negative space, and look for the positive.

“Live Laugh Love . . . And Don’t Forget to Breathe!”

                 “For every kindness, there should be kindness in return. Wouldn’t that just make the world right?”

When I’m not writing, I’m reading or quite possibly looking after some mundane thing in life. It’s also possible I may be on a secret getaway trip, as that is my passion—traveling.

Books by D.G. Kaye

One of the recent reviews for Conflicted Hearts

Conflicted Hearts is a compilation of personal essays from D.G. Kaye’s emotional experiences of growing up with her unloving and narcissistic mother. The author struggles with her obligation as a daughter, but also her responsibility to care for herself regarding her own healthy well-being. In each chapter as she opens yet another window giving us a glimpse into her extremely trying times, the emotions become palpable. Because I am a mother of two adult children whom I love to the moon and back, I often felt tears forming and my heart being tugged at in different directions. How a mother can abandon her own children is something I find difficult to understand. The author writes with emotion, vulnerability, and humor. She is not afraid to admit mistakes, but she will also gladly glow in triumph – moments when I felt like clapping, thrilled with the outcome and thrilled for her!

Unfortunately, she lost her childhood because of her mother’s constant absence in the household. Her mother would rather be out partying, seeking the attention of men by using her luminescent beauty, and by doting on her passion for gambling. With the author being the oldest of her siblings, she naturally slid into the role of “mother” which in turn, shaped her decision of possibly not wanting to have children in the future. Her parent’s relationship ran extremely hot and cold, but mostly hot when her mother kicked her father out repeatedly. She adored her father, so each time he left, fear crept into her very soul that she’d never see him again.

The author writes with honesty and when she finds herself acknowledging enlightening realizations, she revels in her own personal growth. I read Conflicted Hearts not only as a memoir, but also as a compelling self-help book. And a difficult decision lies in waiting with each turn of the page exemplifying the author’s incredible courage and strength. I am sure her struggles are felt by others so that her personal growth benefits those who live each day in similar circumstances.

This is the first book of D.G. Kaye’s that I’ve read and because her writing is natural, conversational, and engaging, I am excited to read more from her. This book definitely falls into the “can’t put down” category. If you enjoy reading memoirs and self-help books, I highly recommend Conflicted Hearts. You’ll find yourself on an emotional and inspirational wild ride that will both touch and tug at your heart. An excellent read!

Read all the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US – and: Amazon UK –  follow Debby: Goodreads

Connect to Debby Gies: Blog: D.G. Kaye Writer – About me: D.G. Kaye – Twitter: @pokercubsterLinkedin: D.G. Kaye – Facebook: D.G. Kaye – Instagram: D.G. Kaye – Pinterest: D.G. Kaye


Thank you for joining us today and Debby would love to hear from you.. thanks Sally.

112 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – D. G. Kaye Explores the Realms of Relationships -December 2020 – Say it with Greeting Cards – Treading Carefully with Words

  1. What an interesting post from Debby. I can imagine the stress one would feel in choosing a card when always walking on eggshells. It’s much easier to choose a card for someone you have warm sentiments toward.

    It’s not the same thing because it’s not a family member, but this reminds me of when someone you think might not be a good employee asks for a job reference. What do you do? Level with them and tell them you can’t do that? Write something flowery when you don’t feel that way? I typically would still write a reference that was quite bland in nature and hoped that people could read between the lines.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I must say, I have always stayed away from difficult people. However, I remember sending a card to a difficult client, accompanied by a note, saying something of this sort: “It’s your birthday, I didn’t know what to write on this blank card, because often you have demonstrated to be difficult and didn’t want to make a mistake. So why don’t you write it for me and send it back to me.” She did and wrote my blank card with a great humor. She stopped being a difficult client.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Hi Debby and Sally, What a very good post that shows just how we can be driven to distraction trying to please a narcissist. You are a very thoughtful daughter, though, going to so much trouble. Toni x

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Buying cards has never been a big practice in my house. Greeting cards have always been expensive in South Africa and there was never money for such things. I used to make them sometimes at school, but even now, although I make many things, I never, ever buy cards, except for my aunt who really appreciates them.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I was so interested in Debbys’ post. It had never occurred to me what a personal statement your card makes – excellent.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I’ve never been in this situation, but Debby lays it out clearly and gives some great tips for navigating challenging relationships when purchasing cards. It’s so sad to think that even giving a card can be so full of stress.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. What another amazing post, from Debby! You are remembering me to choose some for – How Debby wrote “difficult people”? ;-).
    Have you ever tried sending a greeting card to a cleric, if you in the past got some only with Bible quotes`? 😉 My new challenge! Michael

    Liked by 2 people

  8. As always, Debby, you get your point across very well without beating around the bush, and you do in a refined way. I, too, had my share of greeting card problems and it took me a moment to sort it out. Wish I had known you then. This was a great post. Hugs
    Reblogged on Improvisation – “The Art of Living”

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Thanks so much Sally for this platform for sharing issues we encounter on various levels in relationships. I’m thrilled to have this feature here, and that readers always can take something away from it. I know not every post applies to everybody, but more often than not, I know someone can relate. Thank you. ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I agree with you Deb, choosing a card that says what you wouldn’t like to say is difficult to choose and there are always such people in a family, for whom you may not have emotional connection but would like to wish. Even some online card wishes seem lame if you don’t feel them!! I too look for simple wishing cards for such people. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I can’t remember the last time I bought a greeting card. Yet, I can only imagine how difficult this was for you, Sis. I gave up on my stepmother years ago. Nothing ever suited her so it was better to not even try. Dysfunctional for sure… but it made life easier. Bravo to you and your kind heart. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I still buy cards and send out Christmas cards. I can get lost in the Hallmark stores searching for the perfect cards that sound like my voice. At least my husband and my daughter always told me that they sound like I had written them.
    Debby, I did come across a difficult individual to whom I had not too many positive words to say, thus, no cards with the right messages. I often bought cards with neutral message for this person. Great post, Debby! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Oh, Debby! Are you sure you’re not writing about my mother? As you say, she comes to expect the card, so choosing one ups the anxiety. After many years I come to realize that if I gave her something she liked and took myself out of the equation, the stress went away. And that is how I came to rely on funny cards. She loved them and so did I. Laughter is the best medicine??

    Liked by 2 people

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  15. I’ve given up on Christmas cards and donate the money to some good cause instead, but I understand your predicament. It must be very difficult, although you’re right about the choice. Even if you’re not terribly handy, there are some options that allow you to use an online service to create a physical card and send it, so that might be an option if the selection in the usual shops doesn’t work. The funny cards also sound like a great option. Thanks for the advice, Debby.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Well, that brought it all flooding back! The relationship with a ‘difficult’ mother is all the harder because it starts when she’s the one with the power and that lingers well into adulthood. My mother’s card had to be big and showy so that she could use it to show others how much she was loved and what a good mother she was. For an easy life I’d just buy what she wanted and hope that it hit the criteria. I’m much more rational and reasonable with everyone else!

    Liked by 2 people

      • To be honest, I didn’t think anyone else could be having that same, wallking on eggshells, struggling to keep things on an even keel, being kept on a tight leash, experience. It’s such a relief to find I wasn’t alone! My husband couldn’t understand. His mother was wonderful and we got on so well. However, he wasn’t immune to my mother’s nature and a couple of years after we were married she turned up unannounced whilst I was shopping. I came back to find him in the wendy house in the garden (he’s 6′ 2″).

        Liked by 2 people

  17. Great advice, Debby!

    As a general rule, if I pick up a card in a store and see too much verbiage inside, I put it right back. I prefer cards with a really simple message — like Season’s Greetings! — and a lot of white space for me to write my own note, specifically tailored to the recipient. I cringe at those overly wordy, sentimental greeting cards; I always prefer to provide the content. (I guess that’s the writer in me asserting my control!) I find it’s not only more personal, but I can let the message be guided by the nature of the relationship itself.

    So, my advice would be: When selecting a greeting card of any kind, for any recipient, simpler is better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As I replied on my page, you are so right Sean. It’s definitely easier that way – that’s until you come across a difficult family member (like me) who would have made a bigger deal out of a card that didn’t have enough ‘schmultz’ in it! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  18. I’ve stood at the stand debating on cards. I know what you mean. In the past decade, I’ve opted for the funny ones without hesitation. It doesn’t matter what occasion it is. Funny is the easiest to give. If there’s a kitten on it, there’s all the sweetness you need. At least, that’s what I think. Doesn’t mean I’m right, but it works for me.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. I’ve read your post, Debby, and many of the comments here, so my comment is slightly off topic. I buy cards “ahead of time,” so to speak and often send them when they apply to a particular person as the need arises; otherwise, I’ll get a card for a specific person for a special occasion.

    I usually send out Christmas greetings, but not this year. I was planning to take a family photo at Thanksgiving to be sent for Christmas — we know how that turned out! Maybe we’ll convene before Easter/Passover and send a card later in the year. Who knows??

    You touched a nerve with this post, Debby. Thanks for sharing it, Sally!

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Can’t say I recall such a card problem. The closest thing might be the “Un-Santa” gifts at the office. One did “real” gifts with a low dollar limit. Another did gag gifts. The recipients were drawn from a bowl, anonymously and the gifts were given likewise. Which resulted in some odd–and occasionally very inappropriate gifts.
    When it comes to cards, there really are very few people that send individual cards to and those are close friends or limited family members. For the really close, it’s mostly looking for the funny ones OR blank (inside) cards with a great cover. As a writer, I am confident that whatever I say on the blank card will be way better than what the card company paid somebody to put on it.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. What a fantastic and unique topic, Debby! And a great conversation starter, based on the comments. My days of buying and sending greeting cards (other than for my niece and nephew) have long ceased. Easier to send personalized messages these days. Especially from the road. 🙂 And, why would I spend time and effort on someone I don’t care about?

    Liked by 1 person

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