What Your Christmas Gift Says About Me

I’ve been thinking a lot about my frustrations and lifestyle choices. Most of them have to do with how I want to be seen by the world: thoughtful, stylish, interesting, smart… whatever. Put-together. I generally don’t feel like any of those things, so it can be a challenge. But before I end up getting off-topic (so early in the post!), I should introduce the actual topic: giving gifts, and how the things we choose to give make us appear to the giftee. (I apologize for use of the word “giftee” just now. I thought “receiver” sounded weird and “recipient” too pretentious, for some reason.)

Rarely have I done much exchanging Christmas gifts with friends, and when I have it’s never an expected part of our relationship. It’s generally been an I’ll get you something if I have money and see something you’d like/have time and energy to make something situation. So I don’t buy a lot of presents. Immediate family and one or two friends only. I would love to buy gifts for all my friends, but I don’t have enough money or energy to do so.

If you’re giving gifts en masse, it becomes impossible to give each person a thoughtful item (or collection of thoughtful items). I mean, unless you started in June… so you have to get little animal finger puppets or small boxes of chocolate for everyone and hope you don’t have any friends who hate finger puppets or chocolate. As I mentioned, this really hasn’t been a problem for me, so I’m just guessing that this is how it would go.

The people I usually shop for get good presents. Sometimes they’re really good, because I found this perfect thing, or I remembered something they really wanted. Other times it’s not quite as special but still something they’d appreciate. Occasionally, it’s something that was really given minimal effort (in terms of the actual search) because I thought for weeks and couldn’t come up with any ideas.

It’s easy to buy nice, personal gifts for people you know really well. You understand their tastes and what might actually be useful to them. You see stuff you know they’d like all the time. Often, this is because their tastes overlap with yours–but not always. Like, you don’t like the grass-scented Yankee Candle Company mini-candle, but it’s your friend’s (weird) favorite, so you get them one. However, if you’re close enough to know that they have five of these at home, that’s not what you buy them.

Often, you will have a certain gift in mind because the person has mentioned to you at least once, but more likely twice or more, that they want this thing. If they mention it more than once, there’s a good chance they haven’t bought it for themselves. So you can get this thing they’ve specifically told you they want, which means there’s a good chance they’ll like the thing, and as a bonus you’ve proved that you listen to them.

Then there are those times when you don’t have a specific thing in mind, and when you try to think of something the person will definitely appreciate, you realize you don’t know them that well after all. You know about some things they like, but you really aren’t sure what they want or need. You don’t want to get them something dumb or silly, because that’s not special. So you make do with something you know they like and hope they’ll appreciate the thought enough even if they never use the gift you get them.

When I give someone a gift, I want it to give the impression that I actually care. That I took the time to understand something about them and that I’m intuitive, creative, clever, sweet, etc. I want to give a gift that is among those gifts they’re really happy they received (at least for a few weeks. I guess if they forget about it after that, I won’t be offended). I want to impress.

If I do give you a box of chocolate, it’s not because I couldn’t think of anything better. I actually think chocolate is a great present, for someone who really likes chocolate. But unless it’s this special kind of chocolate that I had from this place once and I haven’t been able to find it since, it’s not really as personal. Almost everyone likes chocolate. You see what I mean?

I don’t know how much my gifts will impress this year. Most likely not that much. And of course I preemptively feel inadequate and selfish because of that. But I guess every year can’t be THE gift year. I can only hope the people I’m giving to can see that there was thought and love behind the choice.

Choosing Themes

In case you haven’t noticed yet, I decided to give my blog a makeover. New look, new title.

My prior theme (as they call the background/layout, as I’m sure you know), Koi, was in place for about two years. Three years? Anyway, a pretty long time. I liked everything about it except that it was so popular that as I browse others’ blogs, I’d come across it and get this strange sense of –I suppose deja vu is the correct term. Something that seems familiar, but isn’t. It’s like a pod-blog. Looks just the same, but with different content. I chose this one, which is simpler in color scheme and appearance, with slightly more customizable options. I found that picture of the tree on some public domain site. That picture might not be around long, so enjoy it while you can (if you like it, that is. Do you like it? If you don’t, feel free to tell me. I’m open to your input.)

The title is NOT about the internet being not physically there or anything so trite. You should be relieved to hear that.

The new title, Between Worlds, has two meanings. It refers to 1) bouncing between the work/chore/necessity aspects of my life and the writing/dreaming/anything I actually want to do parts. The trick is to make the creative part of my life make me money, so that my creative life and my professional life can be joined, but I haven’t managed this yet. In the meantime they really feel like two different worlds… 2) Traveling between the worlds of different pieces of writing, or different parts of the same work. Ever read Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino? If not, you should, it’s an awesome read. Anyway, think of it like that.

I feel the need now to discuss how difficult it is to choose a theme for a blog. There are so many options, and for the most part one is really no better than the next. The deciding factor, I guess, is which one “speaks to” you when you’re deciding how your blog should look. I honestly don’t know how many pages of options you could scroll through, because I don’t believe that spending several hours trying out every possible theme is a great use of time, so I’ve never gotten to the end. Like I said, one theme is not that much better than any other…

Of course that doesn’t mean I could just pick any old one and apply it to my blog. No, it does have to feel right. The key points of theme selection, for me, were as follows.

In the “browse themes” page, I sorted by “newest.” I figured, most likely without any factual or statistical basis, that fewer other blogs would have the newer themes. I believe this would be called flawed logic, but I thought at the very least I would find themes I had not seen yet, so I just went with it.

I only looked at the free options, which narrowed things down. The choice to pay extra for certain blog features probably makes plenty of sense for some people, but on my budget it just doesn’t work. I need to eat this month, you know…

So then, within those constraints, I had to decide between different types of themes. There were two real considerations here: layout and color scheme.

Layouts like this one, which show the posts or summary in a sort of standard, book-page form, linear and very readable, are the best choices for a writing blog. (At least, I think so.) For some blogs, the home page with multiple boxes laid out side by side with different posts is a great way to browse, but for me it’s just too busy. The writing itself is the draw here, not a fancy design. I don’t want my content to be lost in all the little boxes.

Out of the themes that are designed in a similar layout, I then had to choose a color. Koi had a nice soft coral background, which was one of the things I liked best about it. I know that I don’t like to look at a website with a very bright background for more than a few minutes; I don’t want to drive away my readers with the blinding glow coming from the computer screen. Then again, although I liked some of the darker themes, having too dark a background does not seem too welcoming. I don’t want to come to my own blog and see this dark screen. The world’s a dark enough place already. (For some people, the dark background works great. I’m happy to read your blog on any background you choose.)

The theme I chose is a little brighter perhaps than I would have liked, but the gray softens it, making it easier to stare at for long enough to read the first two chapters of my Helen of Troy novel (under the “Helen” tab). The other aspects of the design were pleasing enough for me, and there are quite a few custom options, meaning that I can make it feel more personal.

Any other features, like headers, title font, where the tabs appear, or funky pictures, were mostly irrelevant to my selection process. They were items to be dealt with if they were attached to a theme I liked, but not what I sought out. After Koi’s very pretty but rather intricate borders, I felt it was time to simplify.


Much like I should simplify in real life by sorting through all my crap. But that’s a story for another time…