Monthly Archives: July 2014

What to Say in a Thank You Card

I am beginning to wonder if sending thank you cards is becoming a lost art. It seems these days, at least for me, when I send a gift it’s hit or miss whether or not I receive a thank you note for it. This can be particularly frustrating if the gift is sent in the mail – you are left wondering if it was ever received. Yes, I know, I can pay for tracking through the postal service, but knowing it was delivered is not quite the same thing as knowing the intended recipient got it, opened it, and had some sort of reaction to what was inside.

OK, maybe I don’t want to know if they hated it, but I would still like it to be acknowledged; for the time and effort I took to find something I thought they’d enjoy to be recognized. Is that selfish on my part? To want a simple note of appreciation? Am I being too demanding on the part of etiquette standards? I don’t think so.

So in order to help my own cause, I am offering here my guide for how to write a thank you note. It’s really simple. And I wonder if some times thank you cards don’t get written because “I just don’t know what to say”. Well, so much for that excuse! It’s easy. Pick up pen and paper and follow the rule of threes (basically things are always better in threes).

Well, OK, there are actually 6 lines to a basic thank you note, but three substantive lines. Here goes:

  1. Salutation
  2. Thank you for the [specific item]
  3. Provide one or two reasons why you specifically like the item. If you didn’t like the item, be kind, be vague, refer to the effort the giver put into choosing the item for you
  4. Add a sentence about how you will use the item / have used the item and enjoyed it. If it doesn’t seem likely that you will you may need to skip this line, or include a line about the sender’s thoughtfulness in thinking of you.
  5. Repeat your thanks.
  6. Sign your name

Oh, did I mention that thank you notes are most effective if sent in paper form?

There are some occasions I’ve sent electronic thank yous, but I’ve then followed up with paper versions. For example, when I got out of the hospital earlier this year after unexpected surgery, I sent a quick electronic thank you to a coworker who, out of the blue, had sent me flowers. She had sent me an e-mail to check in on me so I was replying and mentioned my thanks for the flowers. But her gesture was so kind (she had missed the opportunity to contribute to the office flowers and felt she needed to do something on her own) that it deserved a special written thank you as well.

My mom and I still exchange handwritten thank you cards for birthdays and Christmas gifts and even for “listening to me on the phone last night when I needed to talk”. It gets a bit ridiculous at times, since we usually see each other, particularly for Christmas and those notes sometimes end up looking like laundry lists, but still, it’s the sentiment behind them that counts.

If you’re still not sure what to say, here are some sample thank you’s following the layout given above:

To a relative:
Dear Aunt Mary, Thank you so much for the set of hand towels you sent us as a house warming gift. The colors match our new guest bathroom so perfectly, and you know how much Steven is a fan of penguins. We can’t wait until you can come visit us to give them a work out yourself. Thanks again for the best wishes on our new home. Sincerely, Jane

To a boss:
Dear Marilyn: I just want to say thank you for allowing my husband and me to use the company’s tickets to the city’s orchestra last night. Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons has always been one of my favorite pieces and I so enjoyed hearing a live performance of it. It was a wonderful evening out. Thanks again. Eleanor

To a friend:
Dear Rachel, Where do I begin to say thank you for the salon day for my birthday? As you know things have been rough for me these last few months, and a day of pampering was just what I needed. Not to mention spending the day with my best friend to gossip and vent! We have to do that again sometime SOON! Thank you thank you thank you. Kim

For the unwanted / unliked item:
Dear Emily, Thank you for the cat and dog salt and pepper shakers / figurines that arrived the other day. They were such a surprise to find in the mail. As you know I am quite an animal lover and I am always amazed at what you are always finding and sending my way. I know these will find a special place. Thanks again. Sarah

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I hope these samples and the 6 simple steps outlines above will help you out the next time you face any thank you note angst.  Remember, as with the gift itself, it’s not so much what you write, but that you do write — it’s the thought that counts.

Thank you for reading!
Cindy

 

 

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Some Thoughts on Creativity

Perhaps I was better off not knowing the exact definition of the word. You see, I have a 4 x 6 index card sitting on a bookshelf in my den with the following statement in my rather messy handwriting: “I am creative”. However, sometimes I wonder if that’s a lie, or at least a half-truth.

It all started on a Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago, when I rather optimistically sat down with a brand new package of Stampin’ Up!’s Simply Pressed Clay to create something I’d seen in Stampin’ Success!: their bimonthly magazine for Stampin’ Up! demonstrators. The finished product was very pretty and from the instructions they provided, sounded fairly straightforward to accomplish. I’d gotten my supplies (cookie cutters and the clay) about a month earlier and finally had worked up my courage to give it a try. It quickly became evident, however, that I was doing something, or perhaps many things, wrong and in the end I ended up not with a cute little clay dish formed in the shape of my chosen cookie cutter, but with a sticky and messy pink blob. In a last ditch effort to salvage my pride, I thought, well, I have a lump of clay, what could I at least shape it into? Yeah….nothing. Not even a cute little pink heart for my boyfriend. To me it was just a clump of clay, not some grand canvas waiting to be shaped and molded. Apparently I’m not meant to be a sculptor.

So after I cleaned up, and feeling pretty discouraged already, I decide maybe I should look up exactly what it means to be “creative”, pretty sure I wasn’t going to find my name listed. According to the Oxford Dictionary it is: “Relating to or involving the use of the imagination or original ideas to create something”. Meanwhile, Merriam-Webster gives one of the definitions of “create” as “to produce (something new, such as a work of art) by using your talents and imagination”.

I flinched when I read those definitions, because, strictly speaking, then I’m not really creative. I can’t make something out of nothing. I’m not, and never will be, a great artist. I think you are either born with that talent or you’re not. It’s not really something you can develop. For example, either you can sit down and the lines of a drawing flow out of you or it doesn’t and it will always look forced and amateurish.

I know of what I speak. When I was growing up, both my brother and I took piano lessons. I never got beyond a rote style of simply hitting the keys printed in the music book. The whole concept of the musical notation, the rests, the timing, the dynamics of how to play the music (mezzo forte, crescendo, etc.) was far beyond me. I couldn’t make music. My brother, on the other hand, has an ear for music. And he continues to this day to find great pleasure in playing music written by others and music he was written himself – both on guitar and keyboard – for others. I admire his talent and ability.

And, unfortunately, I think, for a period during my early adult years, I let my lack of musical talent negatively affect my opinion of myself as a creative person. I had never performed well in art class in school; I lacked natural drawing ability – I even remember being teased in elementary school because I couldn’t color inside the lines; my pottery endeavors always came out lopsided, and I’m too much of a “rules” person to see ordinary objects and want to use them for abstract art pieces.

But in my mid-30s I taught myself how to crochet. I was – and still am – very proud of that accomplishment. It’s tough though, with cats, to enjoy your own crochet work – too many tiny claws around to pull out the yarn and ruin things. So I enjoyed making baby blankets, afghans and other items for friends and family. Then, after brief spates of other crafty endeavors, came card making. And again, I found something I could be my kind of creative at. Found it BIG time. You see, luckily, in the world of paper-crafting, everyone is encouraged to “case” – copy and share everything. You can see what others have done, use the design for inspiration, and then add your own special style, flourish and flair.

Sometime within the last year or so, I read about a study of children’s impressions of their art work (unfortunately, I could not find a citation for it online; despite a lot of searching). As they got older, they were more critical of the quality of their work and found less enjoyment in it. As I began writing this posting I was agreeing with the authors of that study – that the results were discouraging and show how creativity is squashed by self-awareness. And maybe to some extent it is. But on the other hand, maybe it just reflects that as you grow up, you mature and realize, yes, you are better at some things than at others. And that other people are better at some things than you are. The kid next to you in school had incredible drawing ability; you don’t. It’s not pleasant to have that realization that you are “less than” in any category, but that’s part of maturing, and part of life. You need to learn how to acknowledge that you are not the best in some areas, but then move on and focus on those areas you are good at. You can’t dwell in what you lack or you’ll never find where you can succeed.

That’s why I’m glad I found card making and paper crafting. I’m not claiming I’m the best. Far from it, in fact. I fully accept that there are many, many, many, many, card makers / paper crafters out there who are far more creative than I am. I subscribe to their blogs and am awed by their talents every day.

But I can look at what they’ve created and use it to inspire my own work. I have found that I can learn. Or I can simply find enjoyment in my own acts of creation, whether or not they turn out as spectacularly as others or not. I do this for me. Everyone should have such an outlet.

And so, after the clay debacle, I went online to find out what I had done wrong and for suggestions on what to do right the next time. Sure enough, there were plenty of ideas. I can’t wait to give that clay dish another shot.

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Filed under About Me, Creativity

To Send an E-Card or a Paper Card…That is the Question

I seem to have a number of friends, co-workers and acquaintances who celebrate their birthdays in the spring and summer. So needless to say, I’ve been sending out a number of greetings lately, both in electronic and paper form. And that got me wondering what the criteria is as to when you send an electronic greeting, or when you send a paper one.

So, of course, I turned to the source of all answers these days….the Internet. And, of course, the answer was “it depends”. How more crystal clear could it be than that!

Here’s some of what I found. That the question has been around since at least the turn of the 21st century, according to an article from the Baltimore Sun and then in 2011, the Emily Post Institute announced that electronic greetings were perfectly acceptable for holiday cards. And, as those closest to me know, I am, if nothing else, a stickler for the rules of etiquette. (For those of you who don’t know me that well, please read that last sentence tongue in check.)

I also found some interesting commentary that men were more likely to send e-cards than women. And I suspect that’s true. Think about it. The last time you were in Hallmark, or the card aisle of the grocery store or drug store, were you in the company of men or women? Yes, that’s what I thought your answer would be. Me too. And also that younger people were more likely to send e-cards than those of the older generation. No surprise there either. It’s simply a matter of being more familiar and comfortable with the technology involved. Sorry Mom.

And it may be more than that. I wonder if sending cards simply isn’t on the radar of some members of the younger generation. (Oh dear… Am I dating myself when I start speaking of a “younger generation”?) So posting a Happy Birthday on someone’s Facebook page is sufficient. But I don’t mean to judge here, I’m just as guilty of a simple wall posting, even when I’d rather send a card, but these are acquaintances that are “just” Facebook friends, or have become “just Facebook friends” as our personal contact has faded. You see, I don’t actually have mailing addresses for them. Yes, that’s a poor excuse. In this day and age of cyber tracking, it’s fairly easy to find a mailing address for just about anybody. I’m just being lazy about it, at least for birthdays.

Whatever the reasons, laziness, unawareness, ease of use, environmental considerations (hadn’t even thought about that one until I started this research!), apparently the printed greeting card industry is taking a big hit from the popularity of e-cards and of custom printed cards, according to a 2013 Market Watch report: a 60% decline in sales of traditional greeting cards (and other printed matter) from 2003-2013, compared to a jump in the sales of e-cards and custom printed ones created and ordered online from $65 million in 2002 to $3.5 billion in 2012. As a couple of sources pointed out, it’s not that sending e-cards is the easy way out. In fact, it can take quite a bit of time to choose an e-card, play around with fonts, colors, and other creative elements during the design process. It may even take more time than it would to drive to the store, pick out a card, pay for it and put it in the mail!

So, what’s the answer for me? Yup, you guessed it…..it depends. The important thing is that you make the effort to reach out to someone. Birthday, illness, anniversary, or other occasion worth noting. Or even “just because”.  I think I’m more likely to just use an electronic greeting for birthdays, particularly for acquaintances. Serious illnesses, sympathy cards, and weddings however still seem to warrant a paper card where a handwritten message is required. Other instances, such as a light-hearted “pick me up” card, could go either way – a cute, animated e-card could work just as well as a humorous paper card.

So what’s your preference?

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Filed under Card Etiquette, ECards, Paper Cards