We got married in 2003 in a destination wedding at a resort in Arizona. When arranging the ceremony, we were told that the prime spot in the resort was already booked, so we settled for another area — still nice, but certainly not as nice as the one with all the lush plantings and blooming flowers. When we arrived, it was a little hard to pass the first-choice grove and and not feel a twinge. On the morning of the wedding, I walked by the prime spot and saw it was set up for an elegant wedding, with beautiful chairs, ribbons, an arch and a gorgeous ball of roses — all in the color of my flowers. I never thought I would care about such things, but seeing the incredible space gave me a stab of “If, only. ...”

I complimented the woman tending the area, and she said it was set up for wedding planners to come see it that morning so they could guide their clients to book their events at the resort. I took the plunge and asked if there was any way they could leave things up for my afternoon wedding. “Hmmm,” she said. “I don’t see why not.”

With this stroke of good luck and good vibes, we got married in a setting that was lovelier than we could have imagined.

Kara Scanlon McKinn,

Urbana, Ill.

My friend Judy and I went with her father to a cattle auction in Bullville, N.Y., when I was 11. We were given a small ticket stub for a raffle. As the auctioneer read out the numbers, we missed opportunities to win butchered meat, which I would have loved to bring home to my mother. Suddenly, the numbers matched mine! The prize was a heifer calf named Patroon Nill Knight.

I raised her, showed her at the county fair, bred her, calved her, milked her, bred her again and sold her. The skills I learned as a child, devoting time and energy to a thoroughbred Holstein I called Nilly, readied me for the challenges of school and work. The money we earned when we sold her added to a scholarship; loans and on-campus jobs help pay for my bachelor’s degree in English at Albertus Magnus College in Connecticut, where I met my husband.

Denise Ann Terry,


I made a contest with my daughter Caitlin to see who could give the best birthday or Christmas gift — without spending any money. She is winning. First she stole my iPod and replaced the lousy music I had accumulated with all the hits I enjoyed as a teenager and young adult. Then, when my sister passed away and I was sad, she quietly visited a dozen churches and lit a candle in my sister’s memory. This was the best gift anyone could give to make me feel better.

Pat O’Brien,


Query: Tell us about a time when you got something for nothing.

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