Brain Dump: My Unhealthy Work Mindset

It’s one of those weeks. My creative sparks are fizzling out. So, I’ll just write what I know, emptying my brain onto the page, giving it an extra shimmy and shake as we do when we dump the contents from a trashcan. 😉

I’m feeling tired as I write this. It’s been mostly rainy and cloudy this week, but today, the atmosphere has remained a medium grey all day. Sitting next to a big, South-facing window usually provides the light I need to work, but a flourescent overhead light illuminates the room now. I much prefer the warm, orange-y rays of the sun to the kind of artificial lighting that hurts one’s eyes when staring directly at it. But at least it’s keeping me awake.

My phone just alerted me that we’re under a tornado watch. Whew, boy. No wonder today’s weather has been awful; it signaled impending doom…and possibly power outages…please, God, not another power outage.

All the writing I do each week is burning me out. Between video scripts, my job at a biweekly paper, a weekly blog post, bookstagram captions and a weekly devotional (in the place of Sunday school–until it’s warm enough to gather outside again), it feels like I’m being wrung dry of my creative juices. I fret that my blog posts haven’t been as good as they used to be, and I’m generally not writing out the devo until Saturday morning, though I at least meditate on it throughout the week.

I think the solution will be two-pronged: I need to improve my time management and I need to give myself grace. With the former, I’ve started creating a daily to-do list, and it’s helping me to spend less time between productive activities contemplating what to do next or goofing off on social media. Though I’m good at keeping myself busy, I really need to work smarter, not harder. I think I’d be able to churn out better writing in every area consistently if I mapped out when to do what in a way that gives my creative muscle ample downtime.

But I also have to get real. I need to prioritize working out three times a week with my trainer, even if the driving and exercising and showering and what not takes up a decent chunk of my waking hours, because my disabled body will deteriorate otherwise. I need to spend a few hours reading books and blog posts each week, though it’ll take away from the time I worked–for my mental health, for my vocabulary expansion, for my bookstagram posts, for inspiration. I need to be okay with going out with my mom or watching a couple movies with my fiance or hanging out with a friend without the persistent thought in the back of my mind that I could be accomplishing things if I were home and/or alone.

I realize when reading back the last paragraph that my mindset about work is pretty unhealthy. I’ve really got to start giving myself grace. I have to accept that I might skip weeks sometimes with blogging or get videos out late or not make a bookstagram post for weeks (okay, admittedly, I already do that last thing). I look forward to exchanging the written Sunday school lessons for less formal group discussions. C’mon spring!

It’s pouring cats and dogs outside now, but funny enough, the sun is shining brighter through the clouds. It’s coincidentally reflective of how I feel after getting things off my chest. I may just be able to cut off this dang vibe-killing overhead light.

What are your tips for time management and taking care of your creative muscle? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!

P.S. Here is my latest video. Give it a watch if you have six minutes; I think it’s pretty funny, thanks in part to my fiance’s editing advice. Thanks a million to anyone who watches. ♥♥

P.P.S. I post videos on a weekly basis, but I don’t always share them here because some are political, and I don’t want longtime readers to feel alienated if they disagree with me. But if you’re curious, check out some of the other vids on my channel!

Random Life Updates: COVID-19, Ice Storms & More

Well, the plan was to write a blog post to coincide with my newest video on whether money is really the root of all evil. But after a crazy week, I’m typing this the evening before posting, fearing I’ll lose power at any moment. Looks like this’ll just be a casual “updates” post, and you’ll have to watch the video if you’re curious about the money topic. 😉

It’s a longer story than you likely care to read, but getting to the point, my fiancee and his mom have COVID and have been quarantining in her house for a week and half. I’ve had two COVID tests five days apart that both turned up negative, and I haven’t experienced any symptoms. Somehow, I avoided catching it from him. [Though I still feel paranoid in the back of my mind, since the incubation period can last up to two weeks. Pray for ya girl!]

Part of me wants to shout–thank the Lord! But I feel weird/guilty for thinking that way because faithful people, and good people in general, have contracted and even died from this virus. So, I don’t know what to say or feel. But I am grateful. [BTW, my fiancee and his mom certainly haven’t had a jolly time, but based on what’s happened so far, I believe they’ll be okay.]

Of course, while they’ve been sick, we were hit with freezing rain that caused widespread power outages. Thankfully, they didn’t lose theirs, and mine came back within one day. Sadly, some people went days without it, but everyone finally got it restored…then, we got MORE freezing rain. As it turns out, my last post on dealing with the cold weather as a disabled person was well-timed.

(Somewhat) unpopular opinion: WINTER IS HORRIBLE!

This week, I also worked my tail off finishing our next District United Methodist Women newsletter and completing my tasks for the newspaper, along with spending a lot of time editing this week’s video to be informative yet fun and fast-paced. Plus, I filled in for my pastor Sunday, so I wrote, recorded, edited, and uploaded a worship service with some music spliced in, too. Last Saturday’s power outage didn’t help me on any of these fronts!

So, that’s how I’m doing. I’m ready for this season and this pandemic to end!

How have you been? Have you also experienced wacky weather? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading.

P.S. Here’s my latest vid. Please watch if you’re intrigued by the title/thumbnail; like (helps with the algorithm) and subscribe if you enjoy it. Thank you so much for your support! ♥

Complaining About Cold Weather as a Disabled Person

Dealing with a disability is always hard in some ways. But surviving winter seems to take it all to another plain of misery (partially saying that for dramatic flair, but partially serious).

First off, the cold exasperates achy joints. Cold AND rainy? Ugh! My seven-year-old knee injury isn’t letting go of her grudge any time soon. UN-limber limbs and balance issues go together like peanut butter and mustard.

Recent pic of my family

Using a wheelchair obviously means I get less blood circulation throughout my body. While most people walk and stand frequently, my doing so is restricted to transfers (like getting out of my chair and pivoting to sit on the toilet seat) and the 3ish (give or take) times a week I work out and/or squeeze in some assisted walking practice. So, whether I’m freezing my butt off outside or sitting inside, still colder than I’d prefer to be (don’t wanna make the electricity bill too high), I’m lacking the warmth that comes with full-body movement. If I’m sitting outside in the winter while the wind is blowing hard, I’m done. Thank goodness my fiancee’s mom gave me a space heater for Christmas so I can now get more toasty when I’m relaxing at home.

Due to what I mentioned above, and my nerve/blood/etc.’s general inability to travel efficiently to the furthest corners of my body, my calves are literally always cold. Even on a hot summer day, I’ll reach down to touch them, and they’re moist and clammy…yet still cool! But their perpetual iciness reaches new heights in the winter. The coldness in my calves seems to actually radiate and spread into my bones; I wonder at times if they might, on some chilly day, shrivel up and detach from my body.

Sometimes lately, I have this fun, new FA symptom where I’ll be so cold while climbing in bed that my leg muscles tense up uncontrollably. I have to pull on the covers and wait a few seconds for my body to warm up before my muscles relax–then, I can adjust myself into a comfortable position.

And let’s not forget the dreaded shower. It feels sooo nice inside, but opening the door/curtain and feeling that blast of chilly air collide with my damp, warm skin…it’s just cruel.

Needless to say, my plants and I are anxiously awaiting Spring!

What’s your attitude towards and experience with cold weather? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!

P.S. Here’s my latest vid. Please watch if you’re intrigued by the title/thumbnail; like (helps with the algorithm) and subscribe if you enjoy it. Thank you so much for your support! ♥

Is Christianity Superficial & Arbitrary?

Those who’ve read the Bible and/or had God set their hearts on fire for mission and ministry know the answer to this question. In case it wasn’t obvious…NO! But I have to remember that many people did not grow up in church (or didn’t grow up in a church that was actually passionate about meeting people’s physical and spiritual needs and also exemplified grace within its walls). For so many, ideas of Christianity as a religion, Christians as individuals, the purposes of church, etc. stem from bad experiences, sterotypes, etc. But you know what’s the sad part?

We did that!

Generally, the responsibility for distorted views on these subjects lies with Christians and the church.

The Christian who walks in a grocery store without a mask and harrasses the cashier about going to hell may be the only “Jesus” that person ever meets.

When sects of the church turned sexual purity into an idolatrous obsession or fixated on the blasphemous horror of R-rated films and secular pop songs, they sent out the message that Christianity’s main purpose was to dictate people’s lives.

When certain mega churches opened their doors to preach a prosperity gospel yet closed them to the hungry, freezing homeless people outside, they demonstrated that religion is only needed when it can be manipulated to support capitalism and the status quo.

Maybe that ruffled your feathers if you believe R-rated movies and secular pop songs are sinful. Self-control, wisdom, discernment, and conviction are integral to the Christian life. And if a song or movie or whatever else makes you feel uncomfortable or promotes wrong choices, don’t partake in it. I know some things convict me waaayyy more as I’ve grown closer to God. For me, it’s more often things like “the harsh words I said to a loved one in a moment of impatience” or “an instance when I could’ve witnessed but was afraid.”

But, I digress…

Here’s the point: Christianity is about being reconciled to the God of the universe, who created all things and loves us dearly, through Jesus, who died and was resurrected to defeat sin and death. The Holy Spirit guides us through life in pursing God and following Jesus, and this relationship with the three-in-one God gives us a life abundant in love, joy, hope, peace, and strength; we’re driven to share these things with others.

THIS IS THE GOOD NEWS. It’s sooo much more than the “rules to follow for a ticket to heaven” box in which we want to confine faith.

This week’s video briefly delves into this topic. Amazingly, what I wrote here isn’t even part of it; I just said a prayer before opening this blank post and word-vomited everything above as fast as I could type it. Divine guidance or the heretical musings of a misguided woman? You can decide. 😉

If you have five and a half minutes, I’d so appreciate a watch. Also, hit the like button and subscribe if you enjoy it. Thanks so much for watching and/or reading!

The Making of a Neat Freak: Maturity, Priorities, a Pandemic & a Progressive Disability

For most of my life, I didn’t care about organization and cleanliness. In fact, when I come across an old ‘bathroom mirror selfie,’ I cringe at the disarray on the shelves behind me. I was the typical teenager whose room was usually a mess, and wiping dust off things? Forget it! Every surface was cluttered. The room next to mine, a sort of den/bonus room, was a catch-all for anything and everything. My walk-in closet bordered on a disaster zone. Christmas gifts still laid haphazardly near where we display our tree by the time I was wearing shorts and tank tops again.

My childish habits carried on to the beginning of adulthood, and at age 19, living away from my parents for the first time, I hadn’t changed much. My roommate was on my same basic maturity level. Living without supervision, my irresponsibility extended further. Not only was my room still a wreck…but we would throw parties and awake the next morning to sticky counters, half-eaten food on the kitchen table, and a recycle bin overflowing with beer bottles/cans. It wasn’t unusual to run out of toilet paper and have to use napkins on our nether regions for three days. We two ladies had a place that exuded “bachelor pad” vibes.

Fast forward through moving back home, moving out again, moving back home again–I had gotten somewhat better with age, though not drastically. I did go through my bathroom shelves in a wild frenzy one day, throwing away two trash bags of old hair and skin products. I rearranged the bonus room a bit and went through some of the useless junk lying around. I got rid of unworn clothes in my jam-packed closet.

But my mindset has dramatically shifted in the last 2ish years. Maturity/priorities, the pandemic, and my disability each played a role.

See, through my teen years, my initial college years, and the back-and-forth moves, I was still walking, though I started using a walker towards the end of that period. I transitioned to a wheelchair in mid-2016 (age 23), but I was still pretty nimble and was hyper focused on my English studies. In Dec. 2017, I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English.

In the last 5-10 years, a lot has changed. I’m 27-years-old as I write this. I’ve gone from years of constant preoccupation with homework, classes, tests, actually getting around campus (ugh) to relative freedom to order my time. Could I spend all day every day watching Netflix (aside from the handful of hours I work for the newspaper each week)? Sure. But I wouldn’t be happy. So I do a gajillion things. It’s still nice to do things because I want to, rather than because I have to (I don’t miss ya, big assignment deadlines!).

Being closer to my 30’s than to high school, my maturity has increased. I’ve noticed, though, that plenty of adults are messy, so I guess age and organization skills aren’t directly correlated for everyone. But it seems to be for me. Since my priorities have shifted from “partying/being cool/chilling with friends” (18-21) to “making straight A’s and being consumed by reading books and writing essays” (21-24) to “doing what I want” (24-27), I’ve had the mental space to self-reflect and care about my surroundings. The pandemic has of course forced me to stay home more, giving me extra time and motivating me to make my nest a happy place.

But my disability might’ve been the biggest factor–subconciously. As the years and my condition progress, I gradually lose abilities and freedoms. Okay, that sounds really depressing, so I’ll just note that thanks to my constant workouts with a trainers, my insistence on regular walking practice at the gym and at home, and God helping me be strong and driven, I’m doing fantastically under the circumstances.

Anyways…

As you lose more and more control of your health (or something else in your life), you gain a greater appreciation for what you can control. I may have no power over my coordination, but I can control my muscle strength–so I do. I may be unable to go out and work 99% of full-time jobs (due to disability but even moreso thanks to fatigue), but I can do productive things from home at my own pace–so I do. I may have no control over most things in my life and in the world, but I can create a clean, clutter-free space for myself–so I do.

What are your cleaning and organizational habits? What is it in your life that you can or can’t control? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!

P.S. Here’s my latest vid. Please watch if you’re interested and like/subscribe if you enjoy it. Thanks for your support. ♥♥

Don’t Give Up on Sustainability: The Little Things Count!

There’s no point in stressing over things we can’t control, right? So, acknowledging the disturbing levels of consumption in America feels futile. What power does any one of us have to fix the factories, the supply chains, and environmental impacts of the corporations like Unilever who make many products we need and use frequently? This argument is understandable.

We Americans, and all those with the comforts and conveniences available in first-world countries, have more or less thrown our hands in the air with this topic. We choose not to think about how much the earth and people get mistreated and exploited every day. But we need to face the truth

  • The average North American household uses roughly 240 gallons of water daily for indoor and outdoor uses.
  • In 2017, the average American generated 4.5 lbs of municipal solid waste (MSW) each day, with only 1.6 lbs recovered for recycling or composting. For comparison, MSW generation rates (lbs/person/day) were 2.20 in Sweden, 2.98 in the U.K., and 3.71 in Germany.
  • Drivers traveled over 3.2 trillion vehicle-miles in the U.S. in 2018, a 112% increase since 1980. This is equivalent to more than 6.5 million round-trips to the moon.
  • In 2017, more food reached landfills than any other material. This waste accounts for roughly 15% of the municipal solid waste stream and represents a loss of $450 per person each year
  • Rubber, leather, and textiles make up more than 9 percent of municipal solid waste in the U.S. according to EPA estimates. That means the average American throws away about 81 pounds of clothing every year.

(Taken from http://css.umich.edu/factsheets and https://www.saturdayeveningpost.com/2018/01/ready-waste-americas-clothing-crisis/)

It’s true that big companies generate most waste. It’s also true that we need to drive to get to work, and we need to buy clothes for our growing children, and many of us are too financially strapped to boycott corporations that make affordable goods. We know the problems, but what can we really do? We’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.

But this is unsustainable. If we go indefinitely at this rate, we will destroy this beautiful earth that God created for us and called “good.” So much is out of our control–but we, individually and collectively, can make better choices. One million people doing something will help our planet more than ten thousand people living militantly low-waste lifestyles.

In other words–it’s the little things that count.

Shop secondhand and/or locally when possible. Don’t be so quick to throw away leftovers and bags and old clothes; remember the saying “reduce reuse recycle.” Make sustainable swaps–reusable water bottle vs. disposable ones, reusable bags vs. disposable ones, etc. Educate others; be that person who saves the giftbags at the Christmas party or that person who insists people recycle their soda cans at the family reunion–and explain WHY. Start a recycling or composting program in your home, workplace, church, wherever.

Most importantly, don’t give in to apathy; don’t lose hope. Just do your part and encourage (not pressure–encourage) those around you to do the same.

As one of my favorite sustainability YouTubers, Shelbizleee, always says: “You cannot do all the good that the world needs, but the world needs all the good that you can do.”

How do you try to be a good steward of the earth? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!

P.S. Here’s my latest vid. Thanks to anyone who watches. Please like and subscribe if you enjoy it. ♥ This was my first time editing in Davinci Resolve, and I had way too much fun. 🙂

We Need to Stop Apologizing

We often feel guilty for things we shouldn’t.

The desire to please people feels almost instinctive for me, probably due to both nature and nurture. People like myself are hyperaware of the shifting moods around us; we sense tension in the air. We can tell from the subtlest change in vocal tone or body position that someone is defensive or relieved, irritated or intrigued.

And many women (+ some men) apologize far too often. We endlessly criticize ourselves. No matter how hard we try, we’re never polished enough, prepared enough, impressive enough. We are all too aware of our inadequacies. These issues are worsened by the social-media-comparison-game; our cluttered houses or loud kids or hastily-thrown-in-a-bun hair seems pitiful when we behold stylish women with picture-perfect homes and mild-mannered children.

Below is a list of things we need to stop apologizing for:

  • Not wearing makeup and/or fixing up our hair
  • Not having an immaculate home
  • Being tired
  • Not being able to take on another volunteer role
  • Needing time to ourselves and/or to relax
  • Not having the meal prepared just yet when people are ready to eat
  • Speaking up during a group conversation
  • Correcting misinformation
  • Our children misbehaving
  • Not wanting what a telemarketer or real-life salesman is advertising to us

Can’t you picture these so easily?

I’m sorry; I look like a train wreck today.

I’m sorry; I’ll have dinner ready in just a few minutes.

I’m sorry; I think you meant to say “the Civil War” rather than “the Revolutionary War.”

I’m sorry; I don’t need a new health insurance policy.

I know some men are more sensitive or more geared the way I’m describing. But I’ve only ever been a woman, so that’s my perspective; feel free to share another viewpoint. As a woman, I conciously and subconciously feel that I need to be small. Many women try to take up as little physical and metaphorical space as possible. Since speaking our minds, having needs, and requiring attention does the latter, we often compulsively apologize to minimize ourselves.

Coincidentally (or is it divine fate?), the lectionary this week includes lines of Psalm 139, which tells us we are each “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Remember that you are specially crafted in the image of God and infinitely beloved.

To all those who are empathetic, who are people pleasers, who nitpick themselves, who never seem to be good enough: you are worthy of all the space you take up and more. Stop apologizing for being human.

What else do people need to stop feeling guilty for? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading.

P.S. In my latest vid, I discuss bitterness, both in the nation (extreme political divides) and my personal life (having a progressive disability, the tension that arises in the caretaker-disabled person relationship). Then, I mention other instances that can cause bitterness and beckon viewers to reflect on who or what causes bitterness in their lives. Then, I end with a devotional.

Please watch, like, and/or share if you are interested. Thanks so much. ♥

2021 Goals, Resolutions & Blogging Plans (+ a Convicting Sentiment on Prayer)

As we settle into the groove of a new year, many of us contemplate what we’d like to accomplish. Sharing those goals and resolutions is socially acceptable but sorta-kinda borders on narcissistic because let’s face it–no one cares as much as me! 😉 Still, for fun and accountability’s sake, and to perhaps provoke you to think over your own goals, I want to share some of mine.

“Typical” new year resolutions:

  • Drink more water.
  • Start a vitamin regimen.
  • Create a cleaning schedule.
  • Use daily to-do lists more often.
  • Get my living space totally organized.
  • Get rid of clothes and other items I don’t use (no matter how much it makes me feel guilty).

Lily-esque goals:

  • Read scripture and pray daily (more on that below).
  • Read 1-2 Shakespeare plays and more books on historical events.
  • Upload videos to my YouTube channel regularly.
  • Come up with a good name and intro for my channel.
  • Get a camera and a better set-up (depends on finances).

Fortunately, my goals and resolutions for the year can happen despite the status of the pandemic. Like everyone, I’m eager for a return to normalcy, even if our new version of that requires a little more caution and cleanliness. IDK about you, but I’m fine with people washing their hands more, businesses wiping down their bathrooms frequently, etc.

My blogging habits may shift a bit this year. Since I’m directing a lot of creativity and energy towards my YouTube channel, and there’s only 24 hours in a day, I may devote less time to composing lengthy blog posts. I’m not going anywhere; writing is still my #1 passion. But since I’m also writing video scripts, my posts might be less in-depth at times. I will probably have weeks when I want to break down a topic and go deeper, but other weeks, I’ll turn out a shorter post like this one (well, I thought it would be…ha). Some weeks, I might take a “two-birds-one-stone” approach and blog on a subject about which I’m also making a video–not always, but sometimes.

I’ll leave you with a convicting sentiment I came across the other day. I read a post about “not making time an idol” with regard to prayer (though I’m applying it to scripture reading, also). It essentially read that we’re all busy, so incorporate your relationship with God into your life constantly, as He’s never out of reach. There was also a quote from someone who said, “I never pray for a long sitting, but I never go 30 minutes without praying.”

While there’s an argument to be had about making time for God and/or prioritizing devotionals, it is hard to the point of impossibility for most people to carve out a lengthy prayer-and-scripture-reading time in their schedules. And even those who could do so for some days likely can’t do it every day. Though the phrasing of time being an idol struck me as odd, it did make me contemplate whether I’ve become a bit legalistic about my relationship with God–reserving it for an “official” devo time, almost treating it as ceremonial when it should instead be interwoven in the fabric of my being. So, this year, I’m going to try to let that go and pray and read scripture every day, whenever and however I can, for five minutes, 20 minutes, an hour, or whatever length of time is available. [Sidenote: “Can we become legalistic about our relationship with God?” definitely needs to be a future vid!]

Now you know my goals and resolutions for the year; what are yours? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!

Please watch, like, and subscribe if you want. It’d mean the world to me. ♥ My channel will generally feature Christian topics, but I have some ideas related to disability and books, and I’m wondering if I should make two channels or have one channel that’s a mash-up (like this blog). Let me know if you have input on that!

This post is part of Twinkl’s New Year Campaign, and is featured in 20+ New Year’s Resolutions For Families

Books I Read in 2020

As we embark on a new year starting today, it’s fun to look back on what we accomplished over the last year. In this case, I want to reflect on my reading in 2020 and see how many books I got through and what kind I gravitated to the most.

Here’s the books I read in 2020 (smiley face=good, heart=great):

  1. Little Men by Louisa May Alcott 🙂
  2. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë ♥
  3. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline 🙂
  4. The Pale-Faced Lie by David Crow ♥
  5. Middlemarch by George Eliot 🙂
  6. The Christian Atheist by Craig Groeschel 🙂
  7. The Green Mile by Stephen King ♥
  8. The Shining by Stephen King ♥
  9. Gay Conversations with God by James Alexander Langteaux ♥
  10. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence 🙂
  11. The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon ♥
  12. Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy 🙂
  13. What This Cruel War Was Over by Chandra Manning ♥
  14. So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo 🙂
  15. Precious by Sapphire 🙂
  16. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck ♥
  17. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas ♥
  18. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (started in 2019, finished in 2020) ♥
  19. America’s Original Sin by Jim Wallis ♥
  20. Practicing Resurrection by Janet Wolf 🙂

DNF (Did Not Finish): Sick Girl Speaks! by Tiffany Christiansen (lost interest b/c she mostly talks about navigating doctors and hospital visits–can’t relate at this point in time–may revisit someday), Third World America by Ariana Huffington (informative, but b/c it’s ten years old, info needs updating), 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson (unbearably tedious)

Current Reads (end of 2020, going into 2021): Rise of the Warrior Cop by Radley Balko, A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Your perspective on the size of my list will vary depending on your own reading habits; those who don’t read often may be impressed, while fellow Bookstagrammers might wince with judgement. Considering the (mostly, though not totally, self-imposed) responsibilities I juggle–editing worship and Sunday School videos weekly, writing/reading blog posts, Bible study and prayer, writing/recording/editing my own videos, reading books, writing SS lessons, making the UMW newsletter, my job with the newspaper, exercising, not to mention time spent with my fiance or relaxing/having fun–I think it’s pretty commendable!

But these Bookstagrammers and real life serial readers don’t play around. It amazes me that some people can read 5-10 books a month. How?! Do y’all even eat or sleep?! Ah, well. I squeeze in my books around the rest of my life.

This year, I read several books on current social issues, like the phenomenon of women objectifying themselves (Female Chauvinist Pigs) and racial justice (America’s Original Sin). What This Cruel War Was Over was my only historical book; it delved into the American Civil War. 2020 was the year I was first exposed to Stephen King through The Green Mile and The Shining, and perhaps needless to say, I’m hooked. I read several classics this year because I’ll always be an English major at heart, but I branched out and read a few modern fiction novels, too.

As far as Bible reading, I got through all the major prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel) and most of the minor ones in the OT. I think 2021 is the year I can start over again at Genesis! Yay! IDK how people read the entire thing in one year; it’s taken me about three years to wade through the OT. Since the NT is so short, I just lap it repeatedly.

I don’t particularly have any 2021 reading goals except to keep knocking out unread books on my shelves. It would be nice to squeeze in a Shakespeare play and read more historical books and Stephen King novels.

Did you read any books in 2020, or down you plan to in 2021? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!

‘Tis the Season for Unwanted Gifts!

Did you know that waste increases by a significant margin during the holidays? It’s pretty obvious why–wasted food, used gift wrap/tape/bows/boxes/bags, cheap decorations that get tossed in the trash after the season, things we get rid of to make room for gifts we received, you name it. I could write a post with ideas to cut down on waste (the link above provides some good ones). Maybe next year! But, for whatever reason, I feel like discussing gift giving today. Because you know what’s a really shocking fact?

Americans spend billions of dollars a year on gifts people don’t want.

Yeah. Seriously. Look it up.

This disconcerts me for a few reasons. Firstly, the amount we spend on unwanted gifts could do so much good if it were instead funneled to charities and people in dire need. Secondly, it’s a shocking yet unsurprising reminder of Americans’ hypermaterialism. Thirdly, how self-defeating is it that, in a weird, round-a-bout way, we dole out hard-earned money to accumulate more unneeded clutter in our homes? We’re paying to add chores to our plates!

Gift giving is a fun topic because everyone treats it differently. Some people drop thousands of dollars on their families’ presents, some don’t even exchange them, and most of us fall somewhere in the middle. Some people give experiences, like tickets to a game. Some go the safer route and stick to money or gift cards. Some give all handmade or homemade items, like sweet treats or crafts. Some go to Walmart and indiscriminately choose an array of widely-appealing items; some put painstaking thought into each item they buy for each person (me). Some go for quantity, and others prioritize quality.

My mom has gravitated to giving my brother and me money because she got tired of seeing barely used or new items mixed in “donating to the thrift store” piles–and who could blame her? I still buy her a handful of meaningful or useful things each year. I exchange 1-2 gifts with my dad and brother with the mutual understanding that we barely know what the other person would want–ha! In regards to my fiancee and his mother, Christmas is a big production with lots of presents flying in every direction. My fiancee and I buy small gifts for his sister’s family and our grandmas.

What kind of gifter are you? What is the gift giving dynamic in your family? Let me know in the comments. Here’s some tips for ensuring you pick presents your loved ones actually want, which is better for the recipient, your wallet, and the planet.

  • Ask them what they want! Get them to make an Amazon, Etsy, etc. wish list or write a regular list.
  • Put deliberate thought into gifts. Don’t just buy some run-of-the-mill junk. Reflect on some questions: Are they into books/music/movies/TV shows, and if so, what kind? Do they have a hobby or special interest? Can you think of something they might need or like to try? Do they deal with a certain health/hygiene issue like dry skin or frizzy hair for which you could find a helpful product? What is their living situation, and can you get something to fit well with it? [They have a porch? Maybe some windchimes. They have a yard? Maybe a bird feeder. They live in a tiny apartment? Some hanging shelves could be nifty yet practical.]
  • Buy presents that can be used up or are intangible (won’t create longterm clutter): tickets to something, candles, food, flowers, getting a star named after them (yep, that’s actually a thing), a cleaning session for their vehicle or residence, a spa day/facial/massage, money/gift cards, etc.
  • Support small businesses, sustainable companies, and local crafters whenever possible. FYI, one-of-a-kind art is so cool.
  • If you’re feeling frisky, try some DIY’s. [Not for me–but more power to you if you’re up to the task!]
  • Consider donating to a charitable cause related to something they’re passionate about in their honor. How’s that for wholesome? 😉

Thanks for reading!

p.s. Here’s my latest video. To anyone who watches, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support. ♥