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!

A Ranty Pep-Talk on Combating “Blogger’s Block”

This has certainly been a thing since writers of all walks of life first created their own corners on the world wide web and began producing regular, bite-sized articles called “blog posts.” But, in the last couple months, *multiple* bloggers I follow have lamented their struggle to open a new, blank post and simply write. For some, this longterm struggle finally morphs into dread (that’s the term someone used in a recent post, for real!).

I’ve been blogging for 3.5 years as of posting this, and this doesn’t generally happen to me (unless I wait ’til the day before my post goes live to start it, as I don’t do well AT ALL under pressure, but that’s more of an anxiety issue…anyways…). So, I’d like to share Retrospective Lily’s two cents. Here we go–

A major reason people experience “Blogger’s Block” (writer’s block for bloggers, if that wasn’t obvious) is because we tend to pigeon-hole ourselves. Maybe it’s a psychological thing; we NEED rules and guidelines to help us navigate our world with relative safety and self-assurance, so we sometimes, even subconciously, give ourselves unnecessary boundaries. So, allow me to ground us with a few important reminders:

  • Most of our regular readers don’t care that much what we write about.
  • Most of us care much more about our blogs than our readers do.
  • Most of us don’t and will never generate (a large amount of) money from our blogs.

Well, that was certainly blunt and controversial. I’ll explain, then you can feel free to disagree on one or more points.

Most of us will gain followers based on how we market ourselves. For instance, a fashion blogger’s followers will likely be interested in fashion, or a Christian blogger’s followers will mostly be Christians. But, for your CORE readers–the small sliver who actually read/like/comment on most of your posts–the main appeal is YOU. The true ride-or-die supporters of your blog won’t stop reading because you deviate somewhat from your main focus.

Not everyone agrees with this; a blogging buddy of mine recently made another site to keep his personal life updates separate from his more scholarly main posts. Maybe it depends on how strict your focus is or how far you stray from that focus. But MOST bloggers will hang on to their core readers regardless of what they do because they’ve established relationships (even if they are weird, distanced ones in which we put forth whatever persona we want).

And to add to that–most of our readers care less about our blogs than we do. Shocking, I know! But we’re the ones slaving over our post ideas, editing, adding/creating images, obsessively reading it again and again. Others see our post, and most skip over it without a passing thought but a few skim it, maybe leave a like or comment, and swiftly move on with their own day and their own life. IMO, it’s silly and perhaps a bit vain to stress over what our readers want and how they’ll perceive us when we’re a tiny blip on the radar of their world.

Additionally, most of us will never make money from our blogs (aside from some chump change, if you host ads). Ignore me if you’re an author or a graphic designer or something. But most bloggers are really doing this as a hobby.

Here’s the point of my rantings: the (blogging) world is your oyster! Write what you feel. The fans you have will likely stick with you, and who knows? You might attract some more this way. Because writers flourish when they lean into passion and showcase their personality.

It’s helpful to keep a list of blog ideas that you add to on the go, and talking about yourself (life updates, something interesting that happened to you or that you observed, etc.) is a reliable back-up when your mind is blanker than a fresh, empty post. But, when I start a rough draft, I just go with the flow–which is how this ended up as a rant instead of the originally-intended, neatly-formatted list of tips.

Funny and semi-related anecdote: my fiancee has an IG account on which he posts daily with pictures of his movie room or film reviews that he writes and I edit (give @garth_riot a follow!). He recently got a comment on a post that irritated him, so he called me to complain (what are best friends for, after all?). After entertaining his rant for over half an hour, I firmly instructed him to channel his passion into a video script (he’s got a YT channel in the works). Within a couple hours, he texted me that it was three pages long and thanked me for giving him that advice.

Do you experience blogger’s block? How do you fend it off? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!

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! ♥

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. ♥♥

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

“The Perfect Gift” (a Christmas Poem) + a Proclamative Scripture Compilation

A couple weeks ago, I posted about gift giving during the holidays. It’s estimated that Americans waste billions of dollars on unwanted presents every year. I provided some tips for buying special gifts people will appreciate while also supporting local crafters, small businesses, and sustainable companies.

Multiple family members asked me what to get each other this year. Using my own advice, I gave deliberate instructions for each person and even went shopping on one person’s behalf. I can’t wait to see the look of delightful surprise on each face as they unwrap their presents. “It’s the thought that counts,” as they say. When my loved ones receive gifts perfectly tailored to their needs, interests, and style, they’ll hopefully know they are seen and loved.

These family members want so much to please each other that they seek advice, striving to make that just-right choice. We all want to bring joy to our loved ones. As I mulled it over, I decided to write this poem.

Since my next post would fall on Christmas day, I’m going to take a week off to prepare (I’m about halfway done wrapping!) then relax and appreciate my loved ones when the day comes. I wish you all a Merry Christmas–or Happy Holidays if you celebrate Hannukah or a different special time. God bless you all, especially anyone who is grieving loss or loneliness in this season.

The Perfect Gift

It’s the most wonderful time of the year–

Christmas and winter holidays are here

How the beauty of the season touches my soul!

I love to watch the magic unfold

Lights, decorations, stockings, wreaths

A festive mantle dressed in red and green

Tinsel wrapped around the beloved tree

Little figurines forming a nativity scene

These traditions are backed by a special thing–

Out and about, in the air, a certain feeling

When “chestnuts roast on an open fire”

Everyone’s spirits seem to be higher

What is Christmas spirit, and where does it come from?

Being more thoughtful and generous; sharing love

How exactly did this concept come to be?

What causes the boost of joy we see?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My family consults me for gift ideas

“What would mom, dad, brother appreciate?”

We want to see the look of satisfied gratitude

As they unwrap the box on Christmas day

What’s the perfect gift? We ask–

We ponder, bargain hunt, search, strain

But we should realize the very best presents

Don’t require us to wrack our brains

Our presence is the best present!

Money can’t buy time together ♥

Having people who genuinely care for us

is a blessing; there’s nothing better

Except for one other thing–

Ultimately, the reason for the season

God’s love for us, demonstrated through Jesus

The eternal hope of salvation

Thanks for reading! 🙂

P.S. I put this together for my church service Sunday and am sharing here so y’all can be blessed by the wanderous beauty of the good news and God’s word.

Be strong and let your heart take courage–all you who wait for the Lord (Ps 31:24); weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning. (Ps 30:5)
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger coming to announce peace and salvation and bring glad tidings! (Isa 52:7)
Arise and shine, for now, the light has come (Isa 60:1); He brings good news to the oppressed, binds up the brokenhearted, and proclaims liberty to the captives. (Isa 61:1)
You and all people–the blind, the crippled, and the lame–are invited to God’s heavenly banquet. (Lk 14:21)
The Lord comes to vindicate the widow, the orphan, the foreigner, and the poor. (Zech 7:10)
This hope is the sure and steadfast anchor for our souls. (Heb 6:19)
So, ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters! And you who have no money–come and eat! (Isa 55:1)
Let the humble hear and be glad; O, magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt his name together. (Ps 34:2-3)
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior! (Lk 1:47)
Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. (Jn 14:6)
He comes not to be served but to serve–and to give His life as a ransom for many. (Matt 20:28)
For those who revere His name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. (Mal 4:2)
Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven! (Matt 21:9)

‘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. ♥

Recent Controvery Around Disability & Media: PC Gone Mad Or Rightful Call-Outs?

Just this week, I’ve heard of two instances where people called out media companies for portrayals that marginalize the disabled. The game Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has received backlash for using the term “disfigured” to describe a burn victim’s face. The film Witches has been criticized because the main antagonist, a witch, has hands that resemble those of a person with Ectrodactylyl or “split hands.” Many people might ask, Seriously?! We’re going after FANTASY now? What a joke. Well, I’d like to share my two cents…and, hopefully, you won’t think I’m a milk sop by the end. 😉

BTW, I got this idea from a great post by Caz at Invisibly Me, who writes about invisible chronic illnesses. Her article mostly raises questions, and as I perused the opinions of other commenters and left my own, I decided this would make a good post!

Before we start: Google search them if you don’t believe me, but most articles on this game and film are unrelated to disability. As you read, remember that these criticisms don’t override the generally positive fan reception to these properties. [In other words, we don’t need to feel sorry for them–they are doing just fine, haha.]

Why people are reacting negatively to this media…or to those making the complaints

The world is your oyster, little one. ♥

People point out these issues because they perpetuate stigma against those who are handicapped or somehow “different” (ex: missing limbs, a humped back, extreme scars or birthmarks–you get the picture). Up to the last half-century or so, many disabled people were hidden away and disregarded. Thanks to general societal progression and also the internet (#1 way to spread awareness), we better understand access and inclusion and are learning to view the disabled as autonomous human beings worthy of respect and the pursuit of happiness. Thus, media which excludes or marginalizes the disabled (along with other groups) is getting called out more and more.

But, on the flip side, many feel this is getting out of hand. Cancel culture and political correctness are often unforgiving and even unnuanced. As some say, we’re “offended by everything” now.

“Othering” villains and the origin/meaning of art

In the comment section of Caz’s post, one blogger said, “Stories have always ‘othered’ villains, and it likely won’t stop anytime soon.” This is accurate and problematic.

Many argue that the fantasy realm should be off limits to PC meddling. For God’s sake, it’s a fictional story with totally made-up characters! Consider this: whatever the art form or setting, it’s exclusively made by human beings. It’s worth reflecting on why we create the art we do–the conclusions could be telling.

The observation that villians have always been “othered” puts this subject in better perspective. Though we now see it critiqued here and there, the issue actually spans throughout history and across cultures. Art, from an overarching standpoint, reflects the human experience. Despite our infinitely varied circumstances, we all recognize love, fear, stress, joy, awe, etc. Hero vs. villain stories are practically foundational to storytelling. There are a few hero archetypes, but they are generally brave (or become brave); this reflects what most people strive/wish to be–someone with courage to stand for justice, help others, and do the right thing. So, what does the “othered” villian archetype represent? Perhaps that we subconciously fear and mistrust people who aren’t like us?

My conclusions

Being a wheelchair user greatly influences my opinions here. It’s literally a common phenomenon in the FA community for patients to resist assistice devices through countless falls, public humiliation, crippling self-conciousness, etc. Displaying a physical marker of disability is that stigmatized. I know someone who barely survived a house fire as a child, and she struggled with immeasurable insecurity for her entire youth–all because she looked “different.”

A couple concessions: Putting parameters around art, even well-intentioned ones, can stifle creativity. It’s also worth mentioning that, for many “othered” villains, the “othering” heavily contributes to their character’s nefarious motives.

Comment below: what does this convey to you?

That said, I don’t think it’s petty to raise these criticisms; in fact, I assert it’s important. It’s not morally wrong to enjoy Assassin’s Creed Valhalla or Witches or other problematic depictions of the disabled or “different.” But let’s at least discuss it. Going further, let’s analyze our own subconcious biases and reflect on why we make or enjoy the art we do. Going even further, let’s contemplate what art in general says about its creators.

Thanks for reading! What’s your two cents? Let me know in the comments. BTW, I may or may not take a break for Thanksgiving week (depends how it goes), so if I don’t post next week–Happy Thanksgiving! 🙂 God bless you all.