7 Types of Crappy Gift Givers & Receivers

veruca salt willy wonka animated gifBrace yourselves: the holidays are coming. That means many of us will be thinking about gifts soon. The thought makes some people groan, others rub their hands with glee. Whatever your attitude, this post may insult you, possibly in multiple ways. It’s meant to.

Here’s the thing: I think we as a society have some terrible attitudes about gifts, and we hurt each other’s feelings all the time over something that’s supposed to be joyous. We need an adjustment. We’ve got a variety of different crappy ideas going on, so I want to shed some light on them. I’m guilty of almost all of these myself, so in no way am I trying to say that I’m a model gift receiver or giver. But I’m trying to get better. Here’s what to watch out for:

Crappy Receivers

1. The Expecter – Expects to receive gifts on certain occasions. Yes, most of us do this, and yes, it’s kinda crappy. Unless it’s for a shower event, of course, since gifts are the point of a shower. (And, by the way, this is why you can’t throw a shower for yourself.)

2. The Princess – Even though you put money, time, effort, or thought into the gift, it isn’t the “right” thing, so the princess is ungrateful.

3. The Guilt Tripper – Feels bad and consequently makes you feel bad because you gave her a nice gift.

4. The Mute – Never acknowledges that a gift was received.

5. The Refuser – Preemptively requests No Gifts, or refuses gifts that people try to give. This is usually meant to be kind, but it counts as being an Expecter and/or a Princess.

6. The Veruca – Requests a specific gift from you without being prompted.

7. The Victim – Views a gift as an act of aggression. Sometimes this attitude is the result of having previously received a gift from The Gangster (see below).

Crappy Givers

1. The Grinch – Hates giving gifts. Sees it as an obligation instead of an opportunity to make someone they care about smile. This attitude is sometimes the result of having to give to a crappy receiver.

2. The True Love – Gives mass quantities of gifts. …And a partridge in a pear tree.

3. The Poor Planner – Forgets to leave room in his budget or schedule to give gifts.

4. The Clueless – Has no idea what to give, even if she knows you intimately. This person sometimes imagines that anything she might give will be somehow wrong.

5. The Puppeteer – expects you to keep every gift he gives you for the rest of your life. Feels personally insulted if you part with something he gave you.

6. The Genie – Asks you what you want as your gift. Depending on the situation this can work, but often it puts undue pressure on the receiver.

7. The Gangster – Gives a gift with an ulterior motive. May intend to make you (or someone related to you) feel inferior, obligated to reciprocate, or otherwise bad.

Now, here’s what I think is the correct attitude to have when it comes to gifts:

Giving: if you choose to give a gift—and yes, you do have a choice—do it with love. Do it because you want to make the receiver smile. Go forth and choose something that you think they might like. Then give it to them. The moment the gift has been received, understand that the receiver has the right to do whatever she wants with the gift, including give it away immediately, and don’t take such behavior as a sign of ingratitude.

If you don’t know what to get, gift cards are perfectly good gifts. The receiver gets to go to a shop she likes and pick out something she might not have gotten for herself otherwise. Just don’t judge her for what she picks! Alternatively, you can give gift cards for movie theaters or restaurants. Who doesn’t love going out on someone else’s dime? Spa treatment gift cards are also awesome and usually appreciated.

Another great gift for the right person is a charitable donation in that person’s name. I’ve done this a couple of times and it was well received. It’s easy, and it makes everyone feel good—as a gift should.

Gifts don’t have to be expensive. If you just can’t afford to buy or make gifts, you can probably still write a nice note on a card and give that instead. And that’s perfectly acceptable.

Receiving: don’t expect to receive a gift. From anyone, ever. (That said, it’s wise not to buy too much for yourself in the couple of months preceding your birthday and major gifting holidays.) If you do receive a gift, lucky you! Someone cares a lot about you. Be grateful, no matter what it is or how much money you suspect was spent on it. Say thank you. It would be especially kind if you tried to put the gift to use, but you have the right to do whatever you want with it and not feel guilty.

Look—when someone offers you a gift, they’re not just giving you the thing itself. They’re offering you their love. That’s the whole point. So even as the receiver, you have a job to do. You need to accept the gift with grace and gratitude, especially if you know that a sacrifice was made when this gift was acquired for you.

I think it’s okay to keep a Pinterest board of things you’d like to receive as gifts. That way, nobody has to directly ask you, and you’re more likely to receive things you actually want. Keep it up-to-date, otherwise you might receive things you don’t really want anymore. Unfortunately, it’s hard to see someone’s Pinterest board if you don’t have a Pinterest account yourself, but it’s still the best option I’ve encountered. You can also create wish lists on many e-commerce websites, and those are usually easier for your friends and family to view. You can add absolutely anything to your Amazon registry, even if it isn’t sold on Amazon.

Most importantly, whether you’re the giver or the receiver, remember this: the moment a gift is received, it has served its purpose. The true purpose of any gift is to make both the receiver and the giver smile for a moment. If the thing happens to be useful and/or desirable to the receiver, great! If not, that’s okay, too. In this society where we all have hundreds of possessions and everyone has unique taste, the thing itself is not essential to your relationship. It really is the thought that counts.

Agree? Disagree? Did I forget any distinct types? Tell me in the comments.

NaNoWriMo 2013 – I did it!

2013 NaNoWriMo Facebook Winner Cover image

I’m a NaNoWriMo winner! Which just means that i wrote a 50,000-word “novel” this month. Whew!

I hadn’t even planned to do this, but on November 1st i saw Erin Morgenstern (author of The Night Circus, i.e. my idol) and a couple of other people tweeting about it, and i thought man, i really want to do that. I wish i had a story to write! And so, in the true nature of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, by the way), i decided to fly by the seat of my pants. I took about an hour to come up with a story that had a semblance of a plot, with a protagonist and a sort-of antagonist and something of a conflict/mystery and a beginning and a middle and an end, and then i signed up and started writing. And i made myself write every day, just like they told me.

It wasn’t easy. My dog feels very neglected. The first week was easy, and then the second week was much harder. I thought getting past the halfway point would make things easier, but it didn’t. The third week was the worst; i was swiftly running out of story and i felt like i was writing total crap and that my story wasn’t even worth finishing anyway. There was one day when i was feeling so miserable about it that i decided that i needed to donate $10 to NaNoWriMo and get my halo so that if i felt like quitting i would feel crappy about giving money to something that didn’t work for me anyway. And that strategy worked, because i damn near quit that night but then i saw my halo, and i got to work.

Why is it a halo, by the way? All the cartoons i watched as a kid trained me to associate halos with dead people. So, looking at the NaNoWriMo site, it looks like half the participants are dead because they have halos over their avatars.

Anyway, i powered through it and i got through week four slowly but surely, adding little scenes here and there to fill out what was already a finished story. I never fell behind. I gave myself the day off yesterday for Thanksgiving (which was a fantastic meal hosted at our place for the first time and cooked almost entirely by Nathan!). And then this morning i got up at six, went beer shopping with Nathan, came home and putzed around a bit and then started writing. I had about 1800 words to go and nothing to write, so i added one more playful scene, hit 50k words, validated it on the WriMo website and earned this nice little badge! And it’s not even 1:00 p.m. now.

Now i can read books again! I’ve fallen behind with my reading goal because of this, so i need to read four more books in December. Wish me luck!

July 2013 Update

Holy Hell, 2013 is more than half over already. How did that happen?! I guess time sort of passes without my noticing since i’ve always got my nose buried in one book or another. Currently it’s The Once and Future King, by the way. Here are some recent goings-on from the past month or so:

The 4th was good fun; we finally got to see a good fireworks display this year and hang out with family at the same time. My cousin Amanda’s brand-spanking-new house has a prime view of the Des Moines Golf & Country Club’s not-entirely-private show. There was a keg and a volleyball game and lots of food and a stunning array of booze and a good time was had by many.

On the 5th i went to 80/35 once again with my dear friends Emily & Sara. We got to see Annalibera, who were very decent, The Emperors Club which didn’t sound a thing like their YouTube video, Yeasayer (left; Photo: Jonathan Krueger/Iowa State Daily) which was our very favorite act and excellent to dance to, Menomena—briefly—whose newest tracks are IMO just no fun, and David Byrne + a surprisingly blond St. Vincent. That duo’s collaborative work is rather odd, but they also performed a few other songs including a few of St. Vincent’s own, which i quite enjoyed, and at the end of the night “Burnin’ Down the House.” What a kickass sendoff for we delicate ladies who had to leave before the encore.

St Vincent at 80/35
Beautiful blond St. Vincent; Photo by Zach Boyden-Holmes and/or Michael Watson

I borrowed my sister-in-law’s ice cream maker recently because i needed something to do with all the mint that’s growing happily by the side of the house. My first-ever ice cream turned out so well that we decided to buy our very own ice cream maker and have been dreaming up all kinds of exciting flavors (like Kentucky Brunch, blackberry + sage, and Horchata) to busy ourselves with making in the months to come.

mint ice cream
My first ice cream: vanilla / honey / mint

At some point a while back, probably when i was planning our wedding and learning the names of all sorts of flowers i’d never bothered to care had names before, i fell in love with the big white mophead hydrangeas like this one at the August Home test garden, and i finally bought one last weekend to adorn the front of our house. I’m pretty happy about it.

I think i’ve decided that i don’t hate summer after all. Last year it was offensively hot and i was angry about the world in general, and i’m a little angry this year that i can’t go outside without being awarded a new itchy mosquito bite, but it’s significantly cooler and the flowers are beautiful and the fireflies are abundant and the cicadas are starting to sing and the air in the evenings smells like fond memories and good times. So Summer has redeemed herself a bit in my estimation this year (but i’m still secretly dreaming of Fall).

How I Spend My Day Off

My company is closed today, so i have the day off work. Nathan is working, so i’m home alone. Here’s how i entertain myself (once i’ve finally rolled out of bed):

I photograph the sugar cookies i made at my cookie decorating party. 🙂

Merry Christmas!

Autumn Update

Due to recent developments in the life of Steph, i may have to come up with a new theme for this blog. I’m more like 50% Disaster and 50% Dreamer now. I’ve been laid off from my position as a web designer, and that’s three strikes. I don’t plan to return to design again; from here on out i’m either a web developer or studying to become a programmer, depending on what happens in the next few weeks.

In the personal realm of life, Nathan and i have been enjoying the season together quite a bit, despite having opted for Thai food and a zombie movie at home rather than a party on Beggars’ Night. We made a trek to Iowa City a few weekends ago and visited an orchard, picked up some seasonal microbrews, had dinner with Nina & Karl and went to a hookah bar after discovering that the band we had traveled to see had cancelled the show due to van troubles. At the orchard we picked a couple of ill-fated little pumpkins and enough apples for Nathan to double our current stockpile of delicious homemade pies.



The treasure was a small decorative gourd.

Day 2

Day 4

Fucking figures.
Day 6

Evidently the squirrels around here have a taste for pumpkin.

More recently, i walked the Race for the Cure with my mom, a thirteen-year cancer survivor. It was quite a sight to see a river of pink filling the streets of Des Moines and all the names written on their backs of survivors and victims alike. It wasn’t quite the feeling of accomplishment that i got two years ago when i ran/walked it, but it was definitely more of a sense of sisterhood. This time it was about relationships rather than endurance.

Autumn has been pretty kind to us this year; we haven’t seen a snowflake yet, but it is getting chillier as the days pass. Most of the leaves have fallen now. It’s time to pick up the pieces.


Our tree