Wednesday, August 7, 2019

My 2019 Graduation Cards

Signed, sealed and ready for delivery.

I might be a wee bit late to the party, but my 2019 graduation cards are finally done.

Most of my cards go to my wonderful math students. I love to share in the celebration of their high school graduations, and almost always follow them through their college careers as well. 

As much as I love to make homemade graduation cards for them, I must admit that sometimes I fall behind. And I don't necessarily mean a little behind. The sorry truth is that several of this year's recipients actually graduated in 2018 and I hadn't quite gotten round to making their cards until this summer.

Okay as belated greetings go, I'll be the first to admit that this situation is completely out of hand. Worse even than the year I sent Christmas cards out in July. Which is a true story and I have old college roommates who will vouch for me if you have any doubts. 

So it's no exaggeration to say that "better late than never" are words I most sincerely live by, and this is a perfect opportunity to do so. 

At first glance, the cards appear flat and inanimate, but once the ribbons are untied, they spring to three-dimensional life. 

Wandering across my dining room table are a handful of this year's creations. 

Though each year's cards are slightly different from other models, at this point, my general technique is tried and true.

Heavy watercolor paper cut to desired size and folded accordion style. 

In the past, I've sized the pages to match a dollar bill folded into quarters. This time I folded them to fit a gift card on that standard cardboard hanger that they are mounted on when you buy them.

I've also been known to squeeze longer names into shorter spaces, to keep the total number of pages down, but this year,  I went a little wild and put each letter on a separate page. 

I'm dealing with two years of pent-up graduation celebration sublimation here, and things are bound to get a little crazy

"Dear student, you rock."

I attached that gift card-sized pocket onto either the last page or the back of the card, depending on whether I needed to spell out either an odd- or even-numbered name, respectively. That's where I tuck an handwritten note of congratulations, and a little stash of cash or gift card. 

The covers are made from crayon and watercolor on plain ol' printer paper, wrapped around cardboard rectangles. I did a color-coordinated design on the heavier watercolor paper for the letters, and cut each one by hand.

A true labor of love, almost as great as completing the square or working a chemical mixture problem.

Rachel has an even number of letters in her name, so her pocket is built onto the back of her card. By contrast, Jon (whose card is toward the back, in blue) has an odd number of letters, so his pocket fits onto the last page inside. 

I love that my cards feature the graduates' names. Our names speak us into existence, and when other people call us by name, we all get that special warm glow. You know what I mean.

Over the long years of my work with each student, every time I showed up to deliver yet another set of lectures on, oh, maybe trig identities or trinomial division, I made a point to greet them by name. I'm convinced that hearing our names matters because it makes us feel known. 

And as you may guess, I am willing to bet the ranch that seeing our names matters too. 

Now, for each letter in the person's name, I generated a personality trait or characteristic that suited that person, wrote out the word on a small slip of paper, and attached it to the page underneath the corresponding letter. 

Though I love every step in this tried-and-true process, this is my favorite part. Finding just the right words to describe the unique person that I see each one of them to be is a special challenge. I feel honored to reflect back to them who I know them to be, and help them see themselves through my eyes. 

I want them to feel known. As known as the Pythagorean Theorem. Or maybe even the quadratic formula. Which are both very well known indeed.

^ Once the book is complete, with a length of ribbon taped to the inside of the back cover, and then both covers glued into place, you can flip through it page by page, as an ordinary book is read. 

Or, as my amazing student demonstrates, you can open it all up at once. VoilĂ !

* * * * *

Congratulations and best wishes to all my favorite 2019 graduates and special thanks to Rachel for sending me this photo. <3

And remember, if I forgot to send you a card this year, there's always 2020!


  1. ...better late than never - I LOVE IT!!! Most definitely worth the wait!! <3 -h

    1. I've given up on the idea that life is linear; now I just try to be complete.


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