Liz Wolfe | good
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I just threw away $75 in Borders gift cards. Before ultimately admitting defeat, I had confidently gone to barnesandnoble.com to redeem them. I recalled that B&N had taken over when Borders had gone out of business, so I assumed that they would accept my gift cards. Boy, was I wrong. Annoyed, but still determined, I did some internet research to see if anyone would accept them, or if I was in fact out of luck. The only results that seemed to surface were accounts of people who were also looking to redeem their cards, and the answer was always the same: NO. In the midst of my research, I chanced upon an article published on a financial advice site that was encouraging people to redeem their cards back when Borders was initially going out of business. The article was written in 2009. Really? I had had those gift cards on my desk for more than three years?

A hot cup of coffee. Crispy, almost burnt toast. An uncomfortable sense that I’m already behind in my day. The only thing missing in this flashback to my childhood is the sound of bleating lambs coming from the basement, awaiting their breakfast. I half expect my mother to turn the corner into the room, berating me for still lingering at the table instead of mixing up their vanilla-smelling milk concoction, made from powered Real Imitation Milk.

I woke up yesterday angry at America. Angry at the world! And angry at my kids. Someone ate the Reese’s peanut butter cup right off my dresser, the one that I’d been saving, the one, truth be told, I took without asking right out of my son’s Halloween candy stash. Found the wrappers in the trash can, right within view, no hiding that. When confronted, neither my son nor daughter admitted to having eaten it. Could my husband, who is out of town, have eaten it? Nope, he texts me. Back to the kids. My son did his “I’m lying but pretending not to be” shrug, twice, and I shrugged it right back at him. He also claimed to have completed all his homework on Election Day – back to that in a minute – on his day off. Nope. Lying again. I looked straight at him and said, “I don’t understand why saying you didn’t eat a candy bar that I know you ate is worth defending.” At no point, however, did I admit that I had taken it right from the stash strewn over his floor. So that technically it was his. I was waiting for him to admit it first. Which being 13 he was not likely to do.

My mother used to say, “It’s always something.” I’ve been looking forward to going upstate for quite a while. Jon and I both took extra measures to prepare for the trip so that things would go smoothly and we could make that oft sought after early departure. As a self-admitted “time optimist” I’ve historically been caught running around, crazed and harried, while tensions mount between me and my family members. I was bound and determined to break from this historical experience today.

I recently read a moving and insightful book called 365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life by John Kralik. It’s a true story of a man who completely turned his life around when he decided to write a thank you note every day for one year. This memoir is an example of how powerful gratitude can be. The story that I remember most from the book, though, was one that Kralik tells in the beginning. He describes how as a young boy his grandfather gave him a silver dollar, telling him that if he received a thank you note, he would send another one. As long as Kralik sent him a thank you note, the silver dollars would keep coming. In this way, his grandfather taught him a life lesson in etiquette, while simultaneously illustrating how gratitude generates more abundance.

I’m a singer, and all my life, I’ve wanted to play the guitar so that I could accompany myself. I did pick up a guitar once in a while and try it, but I always hated the pain from the strings cutting into my fingers. Despite people assuring me that I would build up calluses after a while, I never pursued it. I’ve recently begun singing with a bluegrass jam group. When I first joined, everyone in the group played a string instrument except for me. I loved the music, so I was content to just listen if it wasn’t my turn to lead a song. Eventually I came upon a washboard and started bringing it along so that I could have a more active part in the music making. It was fun to play, but still, it didn’t quite fulfill my desire to create music.

My husband Jon’s grandparents lived right around the corner from him while he was growing up, and I was lucky to have met Jon while they were still alive. During the early years of my relationship with Jon, it was a form of entertainment to go to his grandparents’ house and have them show us their collections. This was not your average every day collecting. This was extreme collecting. Salt and pepper shakers. Shot glasses. Drop crystals. Little figurines. Beer mugs. Dolls. China. Linens. You name it, they had it -- or 10 of it.