With the recession, many of you are no doubt seeking inexpensive or free ways to entertain yourselves.

For those of you frustrated with the rising price of movie tickets, cable or satellite service, video games, music and the Internet, I humbly suggest you check out the greeting card section at some of our local stores.


It's free!

I could spend hours perusing the greeting card section. It's an all-in-one entertainment center chock-full of emotional satisfaction. There are cards with humor, compassion, empathy, sympathy, friendship, anger and love.

There are cards featuring poetry andndash; good and bad. The artwork ranges from crude stick drawings to famous paintings. Some cards feature 3-D images and tactile features such as warts, hair and wrinkles. Some even serenade you! The Chipmunks singing "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" is a classic.

I like to walk up and down the card aisle, opening the "singing" cards in quick succession, creating a card symphony! Or is that a cacophony? That might explain the dirty looks I get from nearby store employees.

I didn't always love greeting cards. In fact, for years I dreaded having to pick one out every time a special occasion came around. I'd enter the card section with trepidation, quickly grabbing the first one that contained a halfway funny quip or sentimental saying that was remotely close to what I thought a loved one might want to hear.

Now? I stop by the card section every chance I get! The other day my daughter and I were looking for a birthday card for her nana. We spent a half hour pulling the cards out of slots, reading them and yelling out,

"Hey! Read this one!"

"Check this one out!"

"This one's great!"

"I love this one!"

We laughed. We cried. We "oohed" and we "aahed." At least until a store clerk ordered us to buy something or leave.

Of course, we could make our own greeting cards andndash; which my daughter is great at! Me? I pull out a blank sheet of paper and andndash; in just three hours andndash; voila! I have a blank sheet of paper.

It's people like me for whom online greeting cards were designed. Now, with a few clicks of the mouse, I can send someone an e-card via email, showing just how little I care about them!

Who uses e-cards? Yep, that's right. Disorganized people like me who look at the calendar and say, "Oh no, it's my mom's birthday!"

That's when the computer andndash; the one I swear at nearly every day when it crashes unexpectedly andndash; becomes my best friend. Whatever did the procrastinators and memory-challenged folks do before the Internet?

But beware! Online cards are usually advertised as free. But are they really? Not in some cases. You may be "giving" more than you think.

It's a common practice of e-card companies to hijack recipients' emails and use them for nefarious deeds, such as sending unsolicited marketing material (spam) or, worse yet, selling the emails to other marketing firms that will flood the recipients' mailboxes with spam.

On second thought, I think I'll stick with the blank sheet of paper or the cheery Chipmunks.