Focus on the Family

Focus on the Family with Jim Daly

Practical Help for When You’re Overwhelmed (Part 1 of 2)

Practical Help for When You’re Overwhelmed (Part 1 of 2)

In a discussion based on their new book, Overwhelmed, Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory offer advice for reducing stress, organizing your schedule, learning to say "no" to unnecessary commitments and increasing your capacity for joy. (Part 1 of 2)



Mrs. Kathi Lipp: “Overwhelm” is, I think really at its core, is a lot of circumstances and feeling that you have no control over.

Jim Daly: Okay.

Kathi: And so, when you’re caught up in somebody else’s drama or external circumstances or emotions that really you don’t have a way to manage, that’s the overwhelming feeling that tends to shut us down.

End of Teaser

John Fuller: That’s Kathi Lipp reflecting about what it feels like to be overwhelmed, and she’s with us today, along with Cheri Gregory, to help you deal with stress. This is “Focus on the Family,” with your host, Focus president and author Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.

Jim: John, the level of stress in a woman’s life today is deep and strong, and I see it in my own wife’s life, you know, just trying to keep it all moving forward and doing the right thing. And it’s real simple today. Our desire is to help you develop a game plan for those times when you feel overwhelmed. And this should be about 98 percent of the listenership, and I’m looking forward to bringing that kind of practical help and hope to the discussion today.

We have brought in a couple of wonderful women who have grappled with these same feelings. It’s Kathy Lipp and Cheri Gregory. Together they’ve written a book entitled Overwhelmed, and I think that title, John, says it all.

John: And you can order the book at or call us at 1-800-the letter A and the word FAMILY.


Jim: Ladies, welcome back to “Focus on the Family.”

Kathi: Thanks so much.

Cheri Gregory: We are thrilled to be here.

Jim: Let’s start with a word of hope. That might be the better direction, because we are going to concentrate on a lot of things that are probably broken or feel broken, so let’s start with that word of hope. Is it actually possible to not feel overwhelmed?

Kathi: Well, so maybe this doesn’t sound super hopeful.

Jim: It’s tripping you already.

Kathi: I would say “no,” but I believe there’s a game plan to get out from feeling overwhelmed.

Jim: To help manage it better.

Kathi: Right, because I think that, that overwhelm can come from anything from having to run extra errands that day to the illness of a parent. So you’ve got the whole gamut in between, but the feeling is overwhelmed. And so, that rises up in a million different ways every day, every week, every month, but there are strategies to not live in that place of overwhelm.

Jim: Right. Let me ask you this. The, you know, again, this topic of overwhelmed can be embraced by both male and female. Today we’re talking about how women particularly feel it, and it is interesting, you know, we’ve often had guests on the program, John, experts talking about men and their capability to compartmentalize. It’s why men may do better when they are under high stress and they, you know, they talk about men in a combat situation. They come home and Vietnam vets and World War II vets, they don’t talk about it. They just lock it away in this part of their brain and their memory and they don’t unlock that door. They compartmentalize it.

Where women, you guys are firing on both sides of your brain constantly. It seems like even the way the Lord has wired women it’s more difficult for you to put things aside and say, “Okay, that’s tomorrow’s problem. I think that women have great capacity. I wouldn’t call it multitasking, but having their fingers in a lot of pots. You know, that’s how women work.

Jim: And it gives you the feeling, you know, of being overwhelmed.

Cheri: Well, and so many women, I think the overwhelmed becomes their identity. They don’t say, “I have overwhelming circumstances.” They say, “I am overwhelmed.” And so that’s the hope that we like to bring today and through our book is that it is possible to go from “I am overwhelmed” to “There are overwhelming things happening in my life, but I am not overwhelmed. I am at peace. I am free and I have hope.”

Jim: Well, let’s start with the basics. What is the definition of being overwhelmed?

Cheri: You know the description in the dictionary is a description of a wave coming crashing over and turning you completely upside-down. And when I speak on this, I use a slide of an enormous tsunami wave. And that’s what it feels like, whether it’s an external overwhelm because of the outside circumstances or some of us it’s the internal overwhelm. We have huge emotions. I call it the “emotion ocean” coming up. But whatever it is, it feels like this force that is absolutely about to come over you and take over you and make it so that, I mean, if you’ve ever been tumbled in a wave in the ocean, you can’t breathe. You’re so disoriented, you don’t even know which way is up.

Jim: See and that may point to why I’m a sick person, because I love that. I love to be turned (Laughter) over in a wave in the ocean.

Cheri: But you, then, have a much higher need for stimulation.

Jim: Yahoo! Let’s do that again! At least that’s true when I was younger. But on the serious side, that is, that perpetual sense of being overwhelmed, you’re saying it becomes part of who you define yourself as.

Cheri: And do you like that when it blindsides you?

Jim: No, of course not.

Cheri: You like it when you choose it.

Jim: And it’s when I’m choosing it.

Cheri: Exactly.

Jim: I’m in the ocean with my boys and we’re body surfing and we’re in eight-foot waves and it’s kind of exhilarating and exciting.

Cheri: And so you’re on top of it, literally.

Jim: Well, yeah.

Kathi: And “overwhelm” is, I think really at its core, is a lot of circumstances and feelings that you have no control over.

Jim: Okay.

Kathi: And so, when you’re caught up in somebody else’s drama or external circumstances or emotions that really you don’t have a way to manage, that’s the overwhelming feeling that tends to shut us down.

Jim: Now you have also created, in your book Overwhelmed, a quiz that women can take to kind of help self-identify where you’re at. In fact, we want to post that online. With your permission, we’ll do that.

Cheri: Oh, absolutely.

Jim: But get to the point of the quiz. What does that help you see in yourself?

Cheri: The first quiz in the book helps them identify what kind of overwhelmed they are, whether it’s decision fatigue or maybe they don’t know their true self or they are not being true to themselves, doing too much with too little for too long. Having unexpected emergencies or being overwhelmed by worry and disappointment. I mean that was one of the things that you realized early on, Kathi, was that overwhelmed takes on so many different facets.

Kathi: What overwhelms Cheri doesn’t overwhelm me.

Jim: Okay, so it’s individual.

Kathi: Right, but what overwhelms me, Cheri can handle with her hands tied behind her back blindfolded.

Cheri: In fact, I enjoy some of the things that overwhelm me.

Kathi: Which is hard to be friends with somebody like that sometimes.

Jim: Aww.

John: Seeing them being overwhelmed.

Kathi: It is and that’s exactly why we’re good friends is because we can talk each other down. We can help unravel some of that. I think it is so valuable to have somebody in your life who can help you identify what your “overwhelm” is and really help you with a game plan.

Jim: So you would, if you felt overwhelmed, it’s possible you would call Cheri and say, “Help me.”

Kathi: Call, text, Facebook message. Yeah, we do it all the time. If you look back at like our texting and stuff like that, I was just on a family vacation. I love my family. I love them to pieces. But there were a whole bunch of cries for help, cries for prayer. Cheri calls it “pray-cessing,” so it’s processing through prayer, all of that, because having somebody look from the outside and saying, “I know it feels overwhelming, but here is your next step,” is a huge, huge gift.

Jim: I want to talk about those personalities in just a minute, but you mention decision fatigue.

Cheri: Yes.

Jim: And I’m just thinking of people close to me in my life and how decision fatigue, I see that one, it’s more prevalent in our marriage. What does that mean, decision fatigue?

Kathi: Well, this came, as we were writing this book I texted Cheri and I said, “I think,” I can’t remember if I said 80 or 90 percent of overwhelm is just decision fatigue. And she sat with it for a while, and she said, “You know what? I think you’re absolutely right.” We have so many more decisions we have to make here in the year 2017 than we’ve ever had to make before, because there are so many more things that are required of us.

And so, you know, I had a much simpler life when my kids were little, but there were a bunch of decisions that had to be made. But now, you know, doing business, friendship, relationships, online, there are a mult- . just look at how many channels we have on TV.

Jim: No, it’s true.

Kathi: Decision fatigue is everywhere.

Jim: It’s true, and I think we all feel it, but again, I think women feel it to a greater extent than men often do because there are so many things you’ve got to decide.

Kathi: Well, and this is so key in our time right now. We have so many more opportunities, you know. What were my opportunities 50 years ago for career and what I was going to do with my life? And now I look at [the fact that] I have just unlimited opportunities, but it also means unlimited decisions.

Jim: Yeah. Now let’s talk about those major personality types that you’ve uncovered. Describe each type and what overwhelms most women. And again, these things can fit with men as well, but let’s go through the personality types.

Kathi: So the first personality that I’ll talk about is the expressive, which is me. And I know we’ve talked about these?

Jim: You’re expressive?

Kathi: I know. (Laughter) It’s a shocker to everybody who knows me. And so, we are, we’re the starters. We’re the ones who love to get the ball rolling. We have ideas, we’re innovative, but we also, when it comes to overwhelm, we have some really key issues that overwhelm us.

Cheri: With an expressive, we become overwhelmed when life is no fun. And so, we will start to add the fun to our life and we’ll start new things in addition to everything we have.

Jim: Like too many new things?

Cheri: Oh, way too many new things.

Kathi: Way too many.

Cheri: Because all the things we already started have gotten boring.

Kathi: Or hard.

Cheri: Or hard.

Kathi: And when it’s hard, we don’t like hard. Hard is hard.

Jim: So discard hard and move on to the next fun thing.

Kathi: Yes, ’cause it’s fun to start things, but it’s hard to finish them.

Jim: So how does that come when it’s like paying bills?

Kathi: Oh, I’m not allowed to pay bills in our house because both Roger and I would end up in prison. I mean, I just know that. And so, it’s good to know what your strengths and your weaknesses are. And it’s great, you know, how amazing is it that God often gives us somebody who is completely our opposite, which Roger is to me. He can make sure that bills get paid and we’re not thrown out of our house. I make sure that we have a lot of fun in our relationship and it’s a good balance for us.

Jim: Okay, so that’s the expressive. What’s the next type?

Kathi: Okay, so the analytic. And this is more of what my husband is. He’s the one who makes sure the bills get paid on time, but there’s definitely, for an analytic, I would say there’s a process and a procedure to everything, and when those don’t go according to plan, that can be really frustrating.

Cheri: Yeah, the analytic becomes overwhelmed when life is imperfect, and almost always it’s the people in their life that are causing the imperfections. (Laughter)

John: It’s not the process? It’s the people.

Jim: So that gives you a little feeling of what Jesus felt like, right? (Laughter) Everybody around me is not perfect.

Cheri: Absolutely, absolutely and so, they have a hard time making decisions because it has to be the perfect decision, and telling them to make a good-enough decision, like their eyes will cross. That’s a concept they can’t understand, “good enough.”

Jim: So again, putting it in the context of the woman having that analytical gift, how does that work in the marriage? I mean what do you do if you’re married to a non-analytic and everything your husband’s doing is irritating you, because it’s not perfect?

John: It’s not perfect, yeah.

Cheri: You know, I have so much compassion for this particular woman, because in our society the expressive is admired. We want them at the party, but who wants the person who’s busy going, “Oh no, honey, that didn’t happen on Thursday; that happened on Friday. Oh no, it didn’t happen at 2 o’clock; it happened at 2:07”?

John: Are you saying there’s something wrong with that? (Laughter)

Cheri: I’m saying that that person is not generally popular at the party, but when you think about it, this is the woman who gains her sense of peace from having her home look beautiful. This was my mother. And having everything in the right place makes her feel not overwhelmed. And when she lived with a bunch of Philistines who could care less, she can get that house looking beautiful. Maybe she stays up till 2 in the morning, and then what happens at 6 o’clock? The people wake up.

Jim: The imperfect people.

Cheri: Yes, and they ruin everything because they don’t care. And so, you know, this is a hard position to be in. And to answer your question, she needs to be really honest with her husband and say, “This is important to me. Just like you having a good time at a party fills you up, these things fill me up.”

Kathi: And I think one of the biggest acts of service we can do to our fellow women is understand and recognize the strengths that they bring to the table.

Jim: Sure.

Kathi: I am about as far from an analytic as you could possibly get. There is no scale for how far I am, but I so appreciate [them], and it’s taken me years, because I thought they were just “fun-quelchers,” and what I’ve come to understand is I need those analytics in my life, and they need me. We need each other.

Jim: Well, and it’s a great point, you and Roger particularly, because you said he was more the analytic.

Kathi: For sure.

Jim: So the early part of your marriage—

Kathi: Oh.

Jim: –what kind of conflict did this create?

Kathi: Oh my goodness, I made him crazy. You know to him it’s obvious when you take the toothpaste, you know, lid off, you put it back. I’m like, “Why would—

Jim: You’re one of those? You and Jean. (Laughter) Oh no.

Kathi: –why would you do that? Because you just have to take it off again. You know, that’s the most basic example, but I … I know that it was frustrating for him to not do things in a particular way, but I’ve come to understand I’m one of the most blessed women in the world because my bed is made every day. It’s not made by me, I’ll be honest with you.

Jim: Oh, you are blessed.

Kathi: I am! I am. And so, when I learned to call out in Roger, thank you so much for taking care of the details because I know that’s what makes our lives run [well].

Jim: Do you know how many wives’ elbows just went into the ribs of their husbands because of what you said? I mean, ouch!

Kathi: Yeah. (Laughter)

John: The bar just got raised.

Jim: “He makes the bed, honey.”

Kathi: Well, but you know why he makes the bed? Because I appreciate that he makes the bed. When we look at [it], it’s the same things that attract us to our spouse that make us crazy later on. And so, when I came to understand I do appreciate all this, I have to learn how to live with it and I have to tell him how much I appreciate it.

Jim: Okay, we’ve only covered the expressive and the analytic. We’ve got a couple more.

Kathi: Okay.

Jim: But before you do that, though, I wanted to ask this: when you realized this, did you begin to naturally create even work lists between each other so you went to your strengths rather than your weaknesses?

Kathi: We absolutely do. So one of the things I’ve learned is Roger doesn’t want to feel like he is doing the bills by himself. He wants to feel like we’re in a partnership. So he does the bills while I’m sitting in the room organizing papers and stuff. He just needs to know that there’s a team member with him. But bills fall squarely in his bucket.

And, you know, we learned this in the kitchen. He is a master at getting the dishwasher loaded to maximum capacity. He has this figured out. I hate loading the dishwasher, so I do everything else, you know, putting things away, cleaning the counters. When we understood that, we stopped fighting about cleaning the kitchen. It’s such a magic key.

Jim: Okay, but in that context—and we will get to the other types—what do you do when you come to an impasse? Both of you hate the dishwasher.

Kathi: Right. Then we both have to suck it up and do it.

Jim: Okay.

Kathi: And I know that’s hard, but when you see yourselves operating 90 percent of the time in your strengths, that 10 percent becomes a lot less contentious.

Jim: That makes sense. All right, let’s go to the next one.

Kathi: Drivers! Okay, drivers are the ones who want to get things done. They’ve got a plan, and even if they have to leave dead bodies in the road, they are going to achieve that plan. And a driver just what overwhelms them is when life is out of control.

Cheri: Yeah, drivers do not like surprises.

Kathi: Yeah.

Cheri: Because if there’s gonna be a surprise, they want to be the one who actually causes the surprise.

Jim: Okay. (Chuckling)

Cheri: [For] a driver, spontaneity for them is like three weeks of planning. (Laughter) They do not like to have any surprises.

Jim: I’m thinking of some combos here.

Cheri &Kathi: Yes. Yeah.

Kathi: And then finally the amiable. This is the person who just gets along with everybody.

Jim: Finally.

Kathi: Yes, I know, I know. We need amiables. They’re the peacemakers, the peacekeepers. These … these are great people to have in your life. But the amiable becomes overwhelmed when life is filled with pressure from other people. That’s a huge issue.

John: So is the amiable a people-pleaser then?

Cheri: They can tend towards leaning in that direction. Their downfall is that they tend to make everybody else make the decisions for them, and they never express what they actually want. But at some point, all of that becomes cumulative and then they’ll end up blowing up and saying, “You never listen to me! You never do anything I want to!” And everybody around them’s going, “When did you ever tell us what you wanted?”

Jim: Yeah, okay.

Cheri: When did you ever give us input?

Jim: So what should that wife do, particularly, again talking in the context of women, if she’s an amiable married to a non-amiable?

Kathi: So she needs to have a safe place to be able to say what she wants, and she needs to get brave and say, “Here’s what I’d like. I’m willing to compromise; I’m willing to come to a consensus; but here is what I’d really like.” I think for the amiable sometimes they still have to figure out what they really want, and so that’s a self-discovery process that they have to sit in and pray in.

Cheri: Well, and I think a lot of women they know what they need, but even the idea of saying, “I want,” that feels so selfish.

Jim: That’s a hard thing to say.

Cheri: We’re so culturally engrained that self means ultimately selfish. And you know what I found with my husband, and I’ll dance around and never tell him what I need or want, and then I’ll get mad at him when he doesn’t do it. And he’s a good man. If I would just say it in one sentence, “I want this,” most of the time he’ll do it if I can say it clearly to him. But for me, it was years of coded communication. It wasn’t really communication because he could never figure out what it was.

And so, I’m slowly in the last few years, it’s been part of the Overwhelmed journey, learning to say, and it’s hard. It’s hard for me to find out for myself, and then of course if I don’t know, how is he gonna possibly know?

Jim: Oh, that makes such sense.

John: And we’re listening to Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory doing some self-disclosure on today’s “Focus on the Family,” (Laughter) and helping all of us, I think, identify a little bit more with what overwhelms us and how we’re wired. Just a reminder, we have a little web-extra quiz for you. You can take a self-assessment when you got to and find out more about their book, Overwhelmed.

Jim: Cheri, I appreciate that, that knowing, but are you 10 percent better at that now, 50 percent better in terms of expressing your desire to your husband so he clearly gets it? How often are you hitting it?

Cheri: I’m one who has to take the time to be able to think, “Okay, what is going on right now?” And in the past what I would do is I would just immediately try to change what he was doing. Let me give a quick example?

We were driving down for my father re-marriage, which was already a[n] emotionally fraught event for me. And my husband wanted to take his car in to be washed, and so I offered to do it before we left, and he didn’t want to do it that way. So I decided not to get into a big debate about it, but I was like, “Let me take it first.” I wanted to leave 20 minutes earlier.

Jim: Hey, I’m impressed you were ready to go that you could go wash the car. That right there gets me.

Cheri: Well, I was afraid we were going to leave late, and so I decided I’m not gonna say anything, and I realized after we got there what my real desire was had nothing to do with the car. My real desire was to not be the one to drive the last leg of the trip. I was afraid that I was going to get stuck driving from 9 to 10 to 11 to midnight.

And that did not turn into a big argument, but me realizing, hang on, I was talking about when to wash the car when my real thing that I should have said was, “Hon, I’m really afraid that if you have me driving from 9:00 to midnight I’ll get into an accident,” because I totaled his other car a few months ago.

And so for me to look at the I’m talking about washing a car, but my real need is to not be driving at night, and so that’s, I’m trying to kind of use that kind of as my template. Okay, I’m asking him to change what he said he’s going to do. What’s my real desire? What’s my real need here in this situation.

Jim: So you’ve hit the four, the expressive, the analytic, the driver, the amiable, all of them pretty self-disclosed. Lastly, though, you have a kind of a nuance for what you almost identify as another, but that’s the highly sensitive person, but I guess that would apply to any of the four.

Cheri: For sure.

Jim: But you possess that, Cheri.

Cheri: Yes.

Jim: What does the highly sensitive person react like and how does it fit with these other four?

Cheri: You know, the highly sensitive person, the first thing is they are very extra-easily overwhelmed, and sometimes it can be emotionally overwhelmed, it can be “sensorily” overwhelmed, it might be the woman sitting in church and she can’t concentrate because the drummer is beating the drum so loud. It might be the guy who can’t concentrate because the woman sitting next to him, her perfume is just giving him a headache. And so, they also tend to have been very deep processors. Like you say something and forget it. Five days later they’re still mulling over what you meant by that.

Jim: Yeah.

Kathi: She remembers things that I said three years ago. I’m like, “I said that?” But she remembers.

Cheri: I remember where we were when she said it.

Kathi: It’s crazy. And so I’m a highly insensitive person, apparently, but it’s true that they have to chew on things for longer; they need to process longer. It’s just there’s more.

Cheri: When I learned about this and I would go to a faculty meeting where they would want to bring something to an immediate vote, I started becoming the person to say, “Can we please have 24 hours? Can we please have 48 hours to think about this?” Because I don’t know what I think about something until I’ve had some time to “pray-cess” it, and usually it is 24 to 48 hours.

Jim: Well, and you talk about in your book the future you, to aim for that future you. Describe what you are getting at there, the future you. It sounds a little funny. But what are you aiming for, and then let me have a follow-up?

Kathi: Well, it’s talking about serving your future self. Who do I want to become? And so, one of the tools that we have in the book is a personal manifesto, and I love this. I’ve written out things and Cheri has too, about who I am at my best self and who I want to become. And so things like, you know, I love God, I love my people, and I love His people. I tell the truth but I tell it with love. These are the things that I don’t always do 100 percent of the time, but it’s what my best self does. And so, what I’m trying to do with God directing me and guiding me is to become the best version of myself in the future as I possibly can. I’m constantly working for that.

Jim: I would think that creating that “future you” perspective can be a little bit demoralizing at times. Let me just take an easy one. I struggle with this as well, but if you look out year, now we’re in January, I’m sure many people have just set their New Year’s goals, right?

Kathi: Right.

Jim: I’m going to lose 20 pounds.

Kathi: Yeah.

Jim: And this is a common one.

Kathi: Yes.

Jim: And you get to December at the end of this year going, “I’ve actually put five on.”

Kathi: Yes.

Jim: But that wasn’t my future you, and now you’re already disappointed in a whole [cycle of] recriminating yourself that you didn’t do what you set out to do. How do you not get trapped in that vicious cycle?

Kathi: Okay, first of all, I think, you know, we have these goals, and I think goals are important, but they come second to who do we want to become? So instead of saying I’m gonna lose 20 pounds by the end of the year, I say I have to earn health every single day. So what that means is today I need to go take a walk. It doesn’t mean I need to go prep for a marathon, but today I need to spend a little bit of time going for a walk. I need to take care of myself physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.

And so, when you really see that a lot of this future stuff is really self-care, it really changes your perspective on it. It’s not beating yourself up for those extra five pounds. It’s saying, “What can I do today to take really good care of myself?” And today all God is calling me to do is move my body, you know, to go out and take a walk and to go enjoy this whole great world that He’s provided for me. And when you change that perspective, it seems so much more indulgent at first, but it’s actually things you can stick with. What a concept. You can stick with going for a walk every day.

Jim: Well, and I want to come back next time. We are out of time already, but I want to come back and talk about that, how you say “no” in certain circumstances. And then also God’s joy and God’s peace. How do we actually tap into that? So let’s do that next time.

And I want to turn to the listener, the woman who is going, “Oh my goodness, this is me. I am living this way.” We want to put this resource in your hands. We want to help you. That’s why Focus is here, whether it’s counseling, which we have gifted, caring Christian counselors who can talk with you and we want you to call if that’s where you’re at, you need that kind of help. We’re here for you.

If you want to get a copy of the resource and say, “Okay, I want to take the quiz. I’ll go online, take the quiz, I’ll get the book,” do that. What we’ll do today is make the book, Overwhelmed, available to you for a gift of any amount as a way to support Focus on the Family to do its job and our way to support you in hopefully, bringing God’s peace into your life.

John: Yeah, we would encourage you to call. Our number is 800-A-FAMILY, or donate and help Focus on the Family’s ministry effort online at

Jim: All right, this is your last chance. What is something today, as a woman, and you’ve just pierced my heart for the last half hour, what is it today I can do that’s really gonna help me?

Kathi: As a woman, I would say one of the first things you can do is take a look at your calendar and see what you’re spending time on that you don’t really value. I think a lot of times we’ve let other people decide our priorities, so what committees are you serving on that don’t bring you joy? What is it that you are dreading and you feel overwhelmed by? It’s a hard decision to say, “I’m not gonna do that anymore,” and it feels overwhelming to make that decision, but the freedom that comes after that, ah, it’s like Christmas. It really is.

Jim: Well, I’m looking forward to talking next time, so let’s do that.


John: And on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team here at Focus on the Family, thanks for listening, and do join us again next time as we once again, help you and your family thrive.

Today's Guests


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Becoming a Clutter-Free Family

Joshua Becker discusses the benefits a family can experience if they reduce the amount of “stuff” they have and simplify their lives. He addresses parents in particular, explaining how they can set healthy boundaries on how much stuff their kids have, and establish new habits regarding the possession of toys, clothes, artwork, gifts and more.