Learn to look passionately

New York City, with and without advertising. March 2007

New York City, with and without advertising. March 2007

“…it is even more urgent that we learn to look passionately and technically at stories, if only to protect ourselves from the false and manipulative ones being circulated among us.” ― George Saunders

Tomorrow is the third anniversary of this blog.  For the past year, I’ve published posts only twice weekly, instead of the daily posts that I wrote for the first two years.  So it’s fitting that this year’s celebration would be less of an event than those of the previous two birthdays (see pages linked above under “Thank you!” and “Celebrate again” for more on those festivities). But it’s still a milestone of sorts, and I wanted to mark it in some way.

This year, I decided to give myself and the rest of our blog family a different sort of party favor by doing something I’ve wanted to do since the very early days of Defeat Despair: we’re going ad-free here.

In the beginning, when I was new to blogging, I had no idea that advertising would appear on my blog, or that I would have no control over what type of ads they were.  Since I hate have a low opinion of advertising and the ever-increasing role it plays in our culture, this really bothered me. I never see the ads myself when I’m signed in on my own computer, but over the past three years when I’ve happened to see my blog on other people’s computers or cell phones, I’ve found it quite distasteful to see those commercials perched just above the gravatars and comments of readers in our blog community.

My longtime disclaimer “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain” (at the sidebar to the right) has at long last been rendered irrelevant.  It never really made me feel that much better, anyway.  From the start, I wanted this blog to be a place of respite from all that was annoying, disrespectful, manipulative or depressing.  I also wanted it to be a respite from the bombardment of advertising that is everywhere we go, including the sneaky product placement messages embedded into a lot of what passes for content.  But I was too cheap frugal to pay the big upgrade fee.  Well, no more.  Happy Anniversary to us!

Y’all can help by letting me know immediately if you see any ads here, and I’ll sic my cyber outrage hounds on the perpetrators.  In the meantime, I hope you will enjoy these nuggets of wisdom from far better writers than I am, who give us much food for thought in their commentary about advertising.  Let’s continue to focus on the inspiring stories among us, and defeat despair by refusing to fall prey to false and manipulative messages.

“All the papers that matter live off their advertisements, and the advertisers exercise an indirect censorship over news.” ― George Orwell

“Ads sell a great deal more than products. They sell values, images, and concepts of success and worth…It’s in our biology to trust what we see with our eyes. This makes living in a carefully edited, overproduced and photoshopped world very dangerous.” ― Brené Brown

“It did what all ads are supposed to do: create an anxiety relievable by purchase.”
― David Foster Wallace

“Advertising is the modern substitute for argument; its function is to make the worse appear the better.” ― George Santayana

Advertising is the art of convincing people to spend money they don’t have for something they don’t need…If advertisers spent the same amount of money on improving their products as they do on advertising then they wouldn’t have to advertise them.” – Will Rogers


  1. WOOHOO! I started paying for my blog a while back for exactly the same reasons. I hated the idea that I might appear to be endorsing a product that I don’t even know about…. and like you say, there’s enough advertising in the rest of life, it’s good to be safe from it here.
    So, congratulations on reaching 3 years… I only discovered you (via Pauline) earlier this year, but I do love your posts ❤

    • Thank you so much! I’m happy to know others share my aversion to advertising. I am grateful to know you enjoy the blog; we are fortunate to have you here!

  2. I did not realize that there was advertising on my blog, because I never see any. Now I would like to know if anyone has seen ads on any of my blogs. However I have so few followers that it might not be worth it for them to show ads on my blog.
    I would read your blog ads or no ads, it’s that good. :o)

    • Patricia, I don’t remember ever seeing any ads on your blog, but I think other WordPress users do not see them. At least it used to be that way — I am so far behind on reading posts that I haven’t been able to get a sense of whether that policy is one among many that have changed. Plus it confuses the issue that some people do “monetize” their blogs and sell ads. I’m relieved to have finally made the decision to buy my way out of that dilemma. But thanks for being a faithful reader no matter what. Your kind words are such an encouragement to me!

  3. Ann

    What a wonderful thing for you to do! Defeat Despair has always been a place of peace and solace. Now it is quiet too.

    • Thank you Ann! I’m always delighted when anything about me is referred to as “quiet” — more proof that I need to write more and talk less! 😀 I’m so happy you are here.

  4. Renee West

    You go my girlfriend. I love your commitment to helping people! Seeing the need & filling it is a call from God. We are all blessed by your gift of creative writing. Congrats!

    • Renee, what would I do without you? Keep shining your light! Love you.

  5. ClIff Shiblom

    I have been reading Defeat Despair since March of 2013 when I found your Upper Room devotion. I have appreciated DD and have shared a number of the postings with a small Cursillo group that meets in our home. I may have only responded once or twice, but you should know that there is a wider appreciation for your pictures and prose than you may be aware of. I look forward to reading/seeing them whenever you send them out.

    Cliff Shiblom, Bartlesville, Oklahoma

    Sent from my iPad

    • Thank you so much, Cliff. Though you are among the majority who do not comment often, that does not diminish my appreciation of your presence here. I am deeply honored that you would share anything I have published. And thank you for reminding us that our influence extends much farther than we are able to see or know. This is sobering, isn’t it? Because it can apply to bad deeds as well as good ones. However, I will keep on believing that what is kind, loving, peaceful and holy is much stronger than what is not. And I hope that all who read your words here will let it be an encouragement to defeat despair one person, one action, one hopeful thought at a time. We are so glad you are here!

  6. Well now I know how observant I am. I didn’t notice advertising on your blog and never knew if I had any on mine. I think there is only one blog that I follow that has a lot of it and I think it’s embedded to create income for the blogger. Well researched on the advertising and I am in complete agreement with you. There are many good books out there about how we are hammered by advertising. Most of it false.

    • Hi Marlene, it might be that you don’t see the ads because you are a WordPress subscriber. At some point in the past, I read that those who are signed into WordPress don’t see them. I haven’t read that lately and was afraid maybe that policy had changed (as much at WordPress seems to change over time). Because many of those who read this blog are not on WordPress, I hope that they will not see ads either. It seems almost impossible to escape advertising, and I worry that our children and young people are subject to it at such young ages. One of Drew’s first words was “McDonald’s” (which he pronounced “Ba-daws” because he was barely past one year old). I remember being amazed at their power to capture a kid’s mind so quickly. We didn’t even eat there in those days.

      • You could be right there about not seeing the ads because I’m a subscriber. I ignore most ads because I’m aware of how we are programmed. Can’t do McDonald’s unless I’m in the middle of nowhere and I need a cup of coffee or a glass of tea. They do a good job on both.

        • Marlene, they do make good tea, and I like the “any size for 99 cents” price. I have to mix it, though, because I need to keep it mostly unsweetened. I usually allow myself to put in at least a little bit of the sweetened kind, though. I haven’t tried their coffee, but I’ve heard coffee lovers say it is good.

          • I carry my own packets of stevia and that’s what I use to sweeten it. I’ve had coffee in many places but most taste too bitter for me so I water it down. Tea can be bitter as well so I know now where to go for the better stuff. .

            • Marlene, I often get sidetracked and let my tea steep too long, so I’ve learned to drink it bitter! But it’s much better if brewed correctly. I have a bunch of stevia in my pantry, along with coconut palm sugar, xylitol, monk fruit, agave syrup, honey and other sweeteners, but I only use sweetener as a special treat. I generally limit my sugar consumption to chocolate. I’m a carbohydrate lover so I have to really put a lid on using sweeteners.

  7. Patricia

    You have been on my mind these past few days, and since Cherie mentioned you in the UR comments, I knew I needed to visit DD. Your anniversary present to yourself is a present to us as well. Thank you. Advertisements are not all bad, but many of them are. The quotes above reflect the thoughts of most of us reading here. I especially like the Brene Brown quote. Isn’t she wonderful! My soapbox speech is about the horrible medical ads on TV, the ones that display disease and bodily functions, usually just before or after mealtimes. What are the manufactors thinking! If I ever needed any of those OTC meds, I would choose the competitor on principal! Off soapbox! 😁 Seriously, thank you for all you do on this blog. Your insight is wisdom and comfort to me and all who read this blog.
    Sending love your way,

    • Thank you, Patricia! I have to admit, I too choose the competition in response to some of the more offensive advertising. I imagine we are not the only ones. I hope at least some of their nonsense backfires, but they say there is no such thing as bad publicity. As the political season approaches, I’m especially averse to advertising. If propaganda were not so influential, then our elections would not go to the highest bidder as they so often do. OK, now it’s my turn to get off the soapbox! 😀 Your encouraging words mean a great deal to me. I’m so happy to have you here with us — and I’m sending love and thanks right back to you! ❤

  8. Barb Seibel

    Awesome! I love the quotes, especially the ones by Orwell and Rogers

    • Thank you Barb. Have you read Animal Farm by Orwell? I think it’s a masterpiece. I’m happy you liked the quotes!

      • blseibel

        I have not read it. Maybe that should be the book I read to get back into reading this winter.

        • It might be a great one to start with, because it’s short and very easy to get through, but much deeper than it seems on first glance or even first reading. Sort of like Alexander McCall Smith’s Botswana series.

  9. Congratulations on your third anniversary!

    • Thank you Timi! 😀 Hope you are doing well.

      • I’m good! And you?

        • Mostly good too – thanks for asking!

    Julia, that is a wonderful gift! I read the book “Influence the Psychology of Persuasion,” which was enlightening, but made me increasingly sensitive to feeling offended and insulted by ads.
    Thank you, Julia, you are so kind to us. 🙂

    • Susan, thank YOU for that book recommendation — I have just placed a hold for it at our public library. I am so happy you are here with us! Your recent visit was an appropriate treat for the blog anniversary, even though neither of us was thinking about it at the time. Hope you are enjoying some nice weather.

  11. cherie

    Julia, HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!!!! I love you and you have helped me defeat despair more than once. I pray you and the family are doing well.

    • Thank you Cherie, it makes me so happy to think that anything I’ve written here has been helpful to you. We do appreciate and need your prayers. Sending love and light right back to you! Thanks for being here with us. ❤

  12. raynard

    Julia ” I’ve ” not been in the land of milk and honey” but working 6 days since last month.( disclaimer if I’m going to get ” someone” the Christmas Present I promised” yada yada yada.. I notice now when I go on Amazon, my searches end up as advertisements elsewhere. Doesnt both me ” and sometimes it helps with’the moments” Be blessed

    • Raynard, I’ve noticed that same thing…kind of creepy, isn’t it? Not only is “BIG BROTHER” watching us (as Orwell said in 1984) but so are legions of folks who want to sell us things. I can see where it could be helpful, though. At least I don’t get any advertisements for miracle cures or juicy gossip sites. Now if I could just get rid of those vendors who want me to look younger… 😀 Hope you are doing well. Give my hugs to the ladies and the doggies.

  13. I have never seen an advert on your blog – nor on any of the blogs I follow. Perhaps this is an advantage of living at the bottom of the world 🙂 Love to you dear Julia xo

    • Hi Pauline! I don’t see many ads either, and I think it has something to do with being a registered WordPress user. Most of the ads I see are on monetized blogs. In any case, I don’t see them at your site nor most of the ones I follow. I do think there would be quite a few advantages to living “at the bottom of the world” or should I say “Middle Earth?” 😀 Love to you too. It’s a gloomy fall morning morning here — no rainbows but the crystal still looks lovely as it catches the amber light. I moved my computer upstairs and can see it from where I sit! 🙂

  14. Happy anniversary, Julia! I’ve been add free since pretty early on. I didn’t know ads appeared until a couple of friends pointed it out. Shortly thereafter they were history. It’s nice to have the option of a paid blog without ads. I follow a few that are monetizing, and while I respect their desire to make a living with their blog, I do find them distracting. I used to use AdBlock on Facebook, but they’ve now wised up and plant the sponsored ads directly into the news feed.

    I loved your contrasting photos, above and the quotes as well. I’ve read a few of them over the years. They’re all true.

    I hope your week is off to a good start. We had a brief thunderstorm. It was heaven!

    • Hi Alys! I was so happy to see the photos of your rainy weather and your garden. I never did locate photos of our CA xeriscaping to send you, but some of your plants look similar to what we had planted, and we too had gravel and mulch around them in the front yard. It really kept the weeds to a minimum, much better than mulch alone.

      Re: the ads — it seems that advertisers are continually finding ways around our attempts to block them. I find the sly product placement ads the most annoying. I’ve almost quit reading magazines (one a favored activity) because I see advertisements sneaking into the content of the few pages that are not devoted to ads (the brand names, links and prices are a dead giveaway). The plus side of the ads is that they keep the print publications going at an increasingly low cost to the reader, but caveat emptor…

      Sending warm wishes your way…hope each day finds you nearer to being “back on your feet” and better than ever!

      • Thanks for your well wishes, Julia.

        • Hoping you’re feeling even better now than you were when you wrote that comment! 😀

      • Oops. I hit send too soon.

        I’ll eventually post the names of the new plants along with photos as they grow and we can compare notes.

        As consumers have become savvy, so too are the advertisers. I think I read somewhere that 65% of magazines are ads. Without that they wouldn’t be affordable as you’ve said. I still have a few that I enjoy: Entertainment Weekly, since I’m a huge movie fan and Real Simple, which I’ve enjoyed from the start.

        If you piled a stack of gardening and home design magazines next to me I wouldn’t complain, but so much of that can be enjoyed in books and online. Habits change.

        Right now my days are better than my nights. As soon as I’m prone my leg starts to protest. It twitches, thumps or just lays there feeling heavy and awkward. I toss and turn all night, and am happy to get up again so I can sit on the couch, feet elevated. Crazy, eh?

        • Wow, I would have thought it would be just the opposite; that your leg would feel better lying down than sitting. I wonder if that’s why people used to have their leg elevated in some sort of sling in hospital beds? Have you tried sleeping in the recliner or on the sofa?

          I too enjoy Real Simple. Even though they do have ads, the overall look seems cleaner and less junked-up for some reason. I have learned to quit expecting my home to look like the magazines, though. It took awhile for me to realize that all those attractive magazine spreads were not just a simple matter of decorating or having lots of money for furniture or even organizing well; they also are “staged” to hide the artifacts of daily life. In the photos, we never (or very seldom) see dog leashes on the counter, toothpaste tubes on the bathroom sink, coffee mugs and eyeglasses and remotes placed randomly around the room. Magazine-ready closets feature perfectly folded color-coordinated towels (oddly, all the same size in many cases) and nothing is ever crammed to fill the last inch of space. So the magazines are an escape of sorts from these aspects of reality, and a healthy one at that, if we find some good tips and soothing photos to inspire us. I think it would be fun to take a sharpie to the cover and insert the words (editor-style) “life is never this” between the words “real” and “simple.” 😀

          Hope your leg — and the rest of you — has a restful night tonight!

          • Julia, one of the things I notice too, as that desks seem to have lamps, clocks and laptops but without a single cord. Magic! 😉

            And don’t you love how all the book covers are often the same color? I choose all my books based on the color of their spine. My favorite: the light is always streaming throughout the room. No dark corners anywhere. One of my favorite blogs is Thrift Diving. She’s been renovating her 1970s home by DIYing thrift store finds and it is quite amazing. She shows before pictures with dirty carpet and cheerios on the floor and is otherwise always keeping it real. Her posts are informative, down to earth and entertaining. It also takes courage.

            Thanks for your well wishes. I’m back to see the doctor Monday.

            • Alys, I want some of those cordless lamps and clocks and laptops!! 😀 Recently when Drew and Megan sold their condo, the agent had her staging person come and prepare their home for sale. They must have done something right because it sold for list price in one day. But it looked as if nobody lived there. They used their books, but arranged them by color and turned them horizontally in stacks, with the largest books on the bottom and the smallest ones on top. As any librarian can tell you, that’s an arrangement for people who never need to get to their books– at least, not the ones on the bottom!

              Thanks for the tip about Thrift Diving. Sounds like my kind of site.

              Hope you got a good report from the doc today.

              • Oh yes, book arranging by color is all the rage. I’ve done it myself for a client. It’s all about making a space look neutral so that potential homeowners can imagine themselves living there. That’s part of why the ask you to remove personal photos and trinkets. Homes also feel more spacious when they are uncluttered and monochromatic. Home staging companies have it all down to a science.

                My stitches are out. In there place I have a dozen butterfly bandages and a less padded cast.

                Here is the latest: http://gardeningnirvana.com/2015/11/18/native-garden-my-left-foot-and-a-bit-of-bad-news/

                • Alys, thanks for the update at your blog. I’m glad your leg is now a bit lighter.

                  Home staging is effective and also humorous — as with the magazines, the goal seems to be making the home look as if nobody lives there. The funniest part was Grady’s room. When they finished staging it, you would almost not know a toddler ever went in there. Drew said “they staged this as a child’s room for people who don’t like children.” 😀 When I went to take a shower that night, I found there was no soap in the bathroom except for one very expensive, delightfully wrapped gift bar sitting on top of neatly folded color-coordinated towels. I didn’t want to spoil the effect, so I had to fish around for a “regular” bar of soap which I found in the kitchen. I did admire the overall effect, though. My goal is to achieve a bit of that same simplicity on the inside of my brain, but it’s a continual challenge!

                  • It is all quite silly and comical, but I guess it sells houses. Conversely, when Mike and I were looking for our house twenty years ago we were appalled at the lack of effort in a few. One house in particular smelled like Axel grease when we walked in. The son had been aloud to work on his motorcycle IN HIS BEDROOM. Can you imagine? It was a winter day, all the lights were dimmed and when we stepped out back, the deck was covered with dog droppings. We got out of there before finishing the tour.

                    I love the idea of simplicity in the brain. I just don’t think we’re wired that way. Daily meditation helps a lot though. We can train our brain to go to a quiet, contemplative place. It’s a great place to visit.

                    • Sheila, when we moved away from NorCal in 2004, rumor had it that homes were selling so quickly that people didn’t even have to straighten up and take out the garbage to get them sold, pronto, at top dollar. Those were the days…When Jeff and I went out looking for houses for the first time, my supervisor told me “I never even look at a home that isn’t clean,” which I thought was good advice, as it says something about maintenance. Staging might take it a bit far, but given that most of us are DROWNING in too much junk, I can see why it became necessary.

                      Yes, the brain is a wonderful wilderness…like the land of Oz, “some of it isn’t very nice, but most of it is BEAUTIFUL!” I do think it becomes more and more crucial to train our minds to avoid prolonged stress, over-stimulation and other detrimental habits. We face challenges that earlier generations never dreamed of, and our brains have not evolved as quickly as technology has. I’ve always thought that there must be some primal part of our brains that feels terrified to be going 70 mph in an automobile, for example. We may not be as accustomed to things as we think we are, and we may not handle the demands as well as it seems at the time. Stillness, meditation, prayer, awareness and unhurried exercise are all wonderful practices that counteract the siege on our psyches that happens every single day.

            • Awww….Alys, thank you for the shout out!! 🙂 That means a lot!

              I had to go back and read this original post and I have to play devil’s advocate when it comes to advertising. I definitely see your point, Julia. I hate having advertisement on my blog, too. They’re annoying and take away from my awesome content. With that being said, I am a full-time blogger. Advertisement made up about 30% of my revenue for 2015 (of what I have calculated so far). Without ad revenue, I would be required to take a day job again and would go back to the crazy lifestyle of trying maintain my blog (which is my baby) as well as feed my 3 kids and husband.

              There was one ad company I had used some time ago and noticed that the type of ads that were coming up on my blog were inappropriate and instead of keeping them (and enjoying the little bit of ad revenue from them), I ditched them. I would rather have done without questionable ones than to have that crap popping up.

              There are ways that Google Contributor and other sites are coming up with ways for readers to support a creator so that the creator can remove ads. I would be totally willing to remove all advertisement if it means my readers would pay a monthly subscription to my blog (maybe $10-15). It’s a novel idea, and I would definitely be willing to try it. I think I’d get a lot of backlash but it IS something I have considered doing. My audience is more thrifty, so I don’t know how well it would go over with them, but if it meant no ads, they might just jump at that option :).

              Thanks for the topic discussion!


              • Serena, I’m honored to have you visit us here! I think it’s great that bloggers are able to support themselves through advertising. For me, though, it’s just a hobby so I resented someone else making money by putting ads on my blog. As much as I complain about advertising, I like the fact that it makes so many things (magazines, online offerings, Ryanair flights) so much more affordable than they would be otherwise. I was astounded how inexpensively we flew between London and Frankfort a few years ago. The nonstop commercial messages from the flight attendants became annoying, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat for a fare such as the one we got! If your audience is as cheap frugal as I am, they probably prefer the ads, if having them will save them money.

                You make a good point that all advertising is NOT created equal. Some is amusing, and some is actually helpful. Where it comes to targeted ads, I’m torn between the privacy I give up with tracking, and the chance to have at least some of the ads focused on things I might actually want to buy without seeing the advertising.

                I just indulged in a few minutes at your blog — as well as a few minutes there earlier today — and I love it! I’m so glad Alys told me about it. I hope I’m able to visit there more often in the future. It has a nice, spacious feel and features lots of good info without seeming cluttered. The ads are not overly distracting as they are on some sites. Plus I really like your disclosure page, which is clear and communicates a respectful tone.

                Thanks again for stopping by!

              • I’m delighted to see you here, Serena!

              • 🙂

  15. Mary Ellen Davis

    Thank you Julia. Happy Anniversary of your blog. Still coming here for your beautiful images and thought provoking quotations and essays. Thanks again.

    • Thank you Mary Ellen! I appreciate your visits here, and also your leaving a comment to let me know you are reading. Hope all is well in your world. We are happy you are here!

  16. Julia,
    Whenever I admire a beautiful flower bed I never acknowledge the weeds that may grow within it. My view is directed toward the good.

    As it is with your blog. I can honestly say that any advertisements have never distracted my attention from your wonderful writing.

    Congrats on your third year anniversary.

  17. bobmielke

    On this day we celebrate our veterans. I’m reminded as a veteran that freedom isn’t free. Nothing is free! I talk about blogging and my journey down that road. What I don’t talk about publicly I speak about to a professional in an attempt to change why I go through periods of depression because of my serving this country. All I’ve managed to do is live one more day.

    • Bob, I think the courage to “live one more day” is an achievement in itself, and this is far more true for some of us than for others. No one outside the military could ever imagine what war veterans endure, and even within the ranks, some pay a far greater price than others. The phrase “all gave some, and some gave all” comes to mind. Sadly, I don’t think it’s generally true anymore as it was in our parents’ generation, but I do think it still applies today to those who willingly wear the uniform and bear the burdens of which most Americans live in blissful ignorance. I think you choose wisely to divide your discussion into public and private venues. I salute you for the bravery it takes to work through painful memories and get to a place of peace. I hope this finds you enjoying a wonderful week in your new home!

  18. HarryS

    I saw Grady’s 2nd birthday and I have never seen such passion and joy.

    Thank you so much for helping me Defeat Despair.
    My deepest respect and profoundest admiration.

    • Harry, you have said the magic words that all grandmothers love to hear. Grady has been a reliable source of sunshine to Jeff and me. I will never forget that the announcement of his coming arrival was given to us at a time of deep anguish (just as the announcement of our second grandchild, now on the way, came at another time of deep sorrow). When we learned of Grady’s upcoming birth, we had just been given Jeff’s diagnosis and were numb with shock and grief, so much that we could hardly be happy or even feel that we would be grandparents within the year. I felt a sense of despair that neither Jeff nor I would be able to be with him very much, as whatever time remained to us was likely to be fraught with medical appointments, surgeries, and the trauma of cancer and its treatments — and even that scenario was only if things went better than they were projected to go. A dear friend of mine who understood my bewilderment and confusion wrote me a long and heartfelt letter in which she said the following: “Somehow, some way, this child will be a blessing to you.” Those words are in the treasure box I keep in my heart. What a blessing he has been to us — and it touches me deeply to think that he has blessed you too in some way, even if brief and transient. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this comment. It means more than I will ever be able to say.

    • LOVE the belly laugh! So delightful!

      • So do I. He sounds like a little cartoon chipmunk or something.

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