Carl Mays: Enjoy and appreciate your traditions

Feb. 20, 2014 @ 11:17 PM

I appreciate the email messages in response to my Valentine’s Day column last week. If you didn’t happen to see the column, it was about the celebration, challenge and test of endurance in navigating through a wedding anniversary on Feb. 9, Jean’s birthday on the 12th, and Valentine’s Day on the 14th.

One emailer compared it to Florida’s basketball team winning a road game against Kentucky in Rupp Arena on the 15th, after having won in Tennessee’s Thompson-Boling Arena on the 11th. (This was Florida’s first win at Rupp since 2007, and only its second win at Thompson-Boling in the last nine visits.)

With Florida’s road sweep comparison in mind, let’s just say that Jean and I did have an enjoyable time. One thing that enhances the enjoyment we experience is that we have established several traditions over the years – one of them being the practice of giving two greeting cards to one another on celebratory occasions. One of the cards will be on the serious side, the other... well, let’s just say, “not so serious.”

Both of us are continuously on the lookout for appropriate cards throughout the year. Of course, as a result of my speaking career, with engagements in every state and internationally for many years, I have always had an unfair advantage, considering the amount of time I have had an opportunity to spend in airport and hotel gift shops.

One of my anniversary cards to Jean this year, accompanied by appropriate graphics, read: “Happy Anniversary! The moment I saw you, I knew we’d fall desperately in love, get married, have kids... (open card) ...and drive each other crazy for the rest of our lives!" (Jean is always saying to me, “You drive me crazy, you know that!”)

The zinger card I gave her for her birthday this year said: “You’re a good example of what happens when people eat right, exercise, and really take care of themselves... (open card) ...They get old anyway.” Jean loved it.

The zinger Valentine card this year was really less of a zinger and more of an inside joke. We both emphasize eating right, exercising and really taking care of ourselves. However, we also view “special occasions” as times to splurge. Jean had mentioned recently how absolutely delicious some chocolate turtles looked in an appetizing display case we passed. Thus, the Valentine card I presented to her shortly after was perfect.

Even though you can’t really appreciate the full impact unless you see it – and open it – the front of the card, accompanied again with appropriate graphics, read: “U + me.” When opened, the “U” that was framed in a art on the front is predominant on the inside as the card lights up to spell “Love” – and the Turtles sing their big 1967 soft rock hit, “Happy Together.”

This “card giving tradition” has been passed along to our son Carl II and his family. This year Carl II presented Jean with a birthday card that read: “It’s your birthday, Mom. Relax! Focus on you! Don’t think about anything else... (open card) ... for the next 10 minutes or so. And when you are done with that, I’d like a sandwich. No hurry.” Even our grandson Trey gave her a card with a dog on front saying, “You’re HOW old?” Inside, the words continued, “Wow – in dog years, that’s, like... Oops, never mind. Happy Birthday.”

Our friends have even got into the act over the years. For Jean’s birthday this year, Barbara and Ed Whaley’s card read, “Happy Birthday from your two most fun friends!” The inside continued with, “Kinda makes you want to broaden your social circle a little, doesn’t it?”

Enjoy and appreciate your traditions.

© 2014 by Carl Mays, National Speakers Association Hall of Fame member and author of over a dozen books. Email or visit