Getting Carded

October 12, 2022

My retirement party was back in June, but you’d think it happened just yesterday. You see, I have yet to redeem 90% of the amazing gift certificates I received from friends and family. It’s not (just) a matter of wanting to spread out the enjoyment. I am mostly paralyzed with indecision when I spread out my bounty. From experience I know that once I get going, my Amazon dollars will dwindle quickly, and soon I will have recipient’s remorse, realizing that I absent-mindedly used a chunk of my balance to buy a new dustpan, or the Kindle edition of a book that sounded intriguing, until I find out it sounded intriguing because I already had it in paperback.

I have been gifted with over $100 in cards for Starbucks, which is lovely. I used to go to my local shop and sit upstairs for hours, writing and nursing a chai latte. Alas, since the pandemic they have eliminated all of their seating permanently, and writing in my car in their parking lot isn’t quite as satisfying. But I’m determined not to spend my Star-bucks on the family ground coffee supply, so I’m looking for a more distant location that might still have chairs and tables.

Additionally, there are generous certs for spa treatments, dinner at a fabulous restaurant, The Philadelphia Orchestra, even Airbnb! Should I combine all of these in one splurge day? Mani-pedi, dinner, concert, ending with an overnight at a center city apartment? Or should I spend them gradually? Or should I (as occasionally happens), let their eventual expiration dates make my decision for me?

As bad as I am about redemption, I’m worse when the giving shoe is on the other foot. For many years, we thanked our teen and tween VBS volunteers at church with a little something at week’s end. One of the moms would just give out bags of candy, which I thought showed a real lack of creativity. So, when I took over, I opted for gift certificates to, first, good old Amazon, and later, Rita’s Water Ice. The problems were both the paltry amount of the gifts ($5), and the fact that our young recipients were pretty underwhelmed by printed pieces of paper exchangeable for future treats. In other words, they really preferred the candy.   

So is it better to give and receive actual items, and not glossy promissory notes? But I struggle with gift registries too, ending up buying the wedding couple six hand towels because that’s all that’s left in my price range (ditto the multicolored sippee cup set if it’s a baby shower). And if I can just get my act together, I really do love pondering how to spend gift cards I’m given.

The bottom line is: all presents are gifts from the heart, equally to be cherished because of the messages they send: you matter. I care about you. I wish you well.

That settles it. Logging on to Amazon right now. TWO dustpans this time!! Woo hoo!!


    I am an author (of five books, numerous plays, poetry and freelance articles,) a retired director (of Spiritual Formation at a Lutheran church,) and a producer (of five kids).

    I write about my hectic, funny, perfectly imperfect life.

    Please visit my website: or email me at



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