My tradition of giving my wife "customized" greeting cards is deeply rooted in a mind that has, for over four decades, struggled to contain its 13-year-old self. While no woman deserves to suffer proximity to the pubescent weirdness of a newly-minted teenaged boy, some women (mothers, for instance) simply have no choice. Kristin has quite sportingly laughed off my spates of regression for every birthday and anniversary for as long as I’ve known her. After 34 years, it’s safe to say she has actually come to expect, if not necessarily appreciate, an admittedly juvenile "enhanced" card from yours truly for each and every occasion. It’s just one of our little things.

Now certain that I’ve piqued your curiosity let me explain my process in developing a custom greeting card for Kristin. First, I typically look for a card that has two cartoon characters of some sort — squirrels, birds, pick-up trucks, trees — depicted as a loving couple. You’ve all seen them. These cards typically follow a frame-by-frame representation of a non-perfect, but undeniably loving relationship. ("You always burn the toast, but I LOVE burnt toast." And so forth and so on.) I search for cards that are simple, syrupy and dumb. And it never takes too long to find a favorite.

Once acquired, the next step involves markers, scissors, glue and even an occasional spring from inside a ballpoint pen. The objective is to customize each of the characters into overtly obvious male and female beings — and I’m not talking about adding a beard and a ball cap here and a scarf and stiletto heels there. Trust me, you’d know which character is the man and which is the woman. The whole point is to make Kristin laugh, and I haven’t failed in that regard in 34 years.

While this tradition has always been intended as a "for your eyes only" experience, a very close call just the other evening could have elevated our inside joke to an outside scandal — no doubt one might have made it around the world in minutes.

Months ago, when the pandemic first hit, I had chosen our living room mantel as the backdrop for my remote, video-conferenced city council meetings simply because it’s one of the least cluttered spaces in the house. Kristin has always made a big deal out of placing things "just so" in this space, so I figured it would be pleasant and free from distractions while I participated by video in the business at hand.

On a recent Monday I had just sat down in the living room to log in to the meeting when I hesitated. The late afternoon sun coming through the blinds was casting a bright glare across the room, so after making some adjustments I turned on the computer’s camera just to make sure it wouldn’t be an issue during the meeting. That’s when I discovered Kristin had inadvertently placed the card I had "dressed up" for her recent birthday on the living room mantel along with the greetings she’d received from other decidedly more normal people. My card, in all its glorious inappropriateness, sat just over my left shoulder for all the world to see! With catlike reflex I swatted the card out of view only seconds before the meeting began.

The headlines would have been scandalous!

(I’d love to hear your questions or comments! Write to John Lorson Send Help, P.O. Box 170, Fredericksburg, OH 44627. Be sure to check out Facebook for time-lapse film clips of Kristin’s artwork and other fun stuff at JohnLorsonSendHelp)