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University of Southern California
University of Southern California
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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The Giving T(e)ree(sa)

Teresa


by Teresa

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Heyyy, besties! So the moment we enter Q4 on October 1, I start thinking about giving season because not to brag, buuut… I take a lot of pride in that (I believe) I give fantastic gifts. Whether big or small, I always try to make sure my gifts show people I was really listening to them when they shared with me that they’ve been wanting “X” or are really into “Y.” My top love languages are “quality time” and “physical touch” so you can imagine how much ya’ girl struggled throughout the pandemic, I’m not going to lie. But “gifts” became a welcome… well, gift.

In OT 405: “Foundations of Occupation” last summer with Dr. Halle, we learned that occupational therapy is rooted in the Arts and Crafts Movement but that our OT-founding queen pointed out that “handiwork alone was insufficient” (Slagle, 1930, p. 271). Then in the 1961 Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lecture, Dr. Mary Reilly shared the famous quote, “[Wo]Man through the use of [her] hands as they are energized by mind and will, can influence the state of [her] own health” (Reilly, 1963, p. 2). I know, I know — what is this, another lecture? But these things really stuck with me because it gave a definition to the calmness and serenity I had felt my entire life when crafting.

Over the past year, one of my favorite occupations has quickly become making things with my Cricut and I just feel the need to clear the air because whenever I say this, people are like “...🦗???” Okay, NO — it’s a machine that can make intricate cuts on paper, cardstock, vinyl, etc. and allows you to make your own personalized crafts.

It just so happens that in OT 405 last summer, I was placed in the same group with Alyssa Matlosz, who’d become my fellow student ambassador and more importantly, one of my closest friends in the program. She was the first facilitator for our group and in relation to her week’s topic of Progressive Era Influences on the founding of occupational therapy, she ended with “I’m just like my country — I’m young, scrappy, and hungry — and I’m not throwin’ away my shot” and I thought… Did we just become best friends?

So it only made sense that on her birthday this year, after a year’s worth of iconic Zoom moments…

Screenshot of Alyssa and her two stuffed animal koalas on Zoom from last year during remote learning. They are each wearing a birthday party hat

I truly do not even know how to begin to explain this, so please take it for what it is

...That I’d circle back to OT 405 and our shared love of “Hamilton: An American Musical” — a nod to the foundations of our friendship.

Screenshot of Teresa's design on the Cricut Design Space app, which includes the silhouette of a koala hanging onto a tree branch, the logo for Hamilton which is the silhouette of Alexander Hamilton pointing toward the sky as he stands atop a star, Alyssa's name in cursive font, and the words 'My Shot,' with the letters O.T. larger to signify occupational therapy

The designs I created on the Cricut Design Space app

Teresa selected the gold glittered vinyl she wanted to use, applied it to the green cutting mat, and inserted it into her mint-colored Cricut.

I selected the vinyl material I wanted to use, I arranged it to the cutting mat, I arranged it into the Cricut. (I arranged the menu, the venue, the seating!)

Two images of the weeding process following the cut. In the image on the left side, Teresa is using a sharp tool to extract the cut of the koala by removing the excess vinyl. In the image on the right side, all four designs have been weeded and are ready to transfer onto a surface.

Left: This process is called “weeding,” where you extract the cut by removing the excess vinyl. Right: The finished vinyl cuts ready to be transferred onto the surface I choose using transfer tape!

Two images of the final products after Teresa applied the vinyl cuts onto glassware. In the image on the left side, a shot glass reads 'My ShOT,' which is superimposed on top of the Hamilton logo. In the image on the right side, a wine glass reads 'Alyssa,' with the silhouette of a koala hanging onto a tree branch at the bottom of the glass.

Left: Honestly, I’m pretty proud of this. Please, no one ever throw away their (sh)OT. Right: Lights are overrated, there should be a koala at the end of every tunnel.

I made these gifts during a week that, truthfully, I did not have time for. In between assignments, exams, deadlines, and applications, I was feeling overwhelmed and to be completely honest, I couldn’t remember the last time I had done something unrelated to school. So instead, I took a break and powered up the old ‘Cut. Something I really enjoy about the therapeutic process of crafting is that not too long ago, you just had a concept you were brainstorming in your head and now it’s a tangible, real thing you brought to life. I’m not just talking about physical items you create with your hands, either. You can “craft” anything — an essay you wrote last week that you’re really proud of, a flyer you made online to promote an event, a photo you captured to add to your carefully curated Instagram post, a blog you’re writing about what everyone initially thought was your love for insects. You took an abstract idea and introduced it into the world and if your mind can do that, think of all the things you’re going to do in the future. What a wonderful gift for this world to look forward to — the promise and hope of the products of your creativity and ingenuity that are yet to come.

There is also something beautiful to be said about an item you make with your hands. I spent hours on this gift, but each moment was such a mindful experience. How could you not say crafting falls under OT? From the fine motor skills it takes to handle tools and delicate material, to the executive functioning required to sequence tasks, to the visuoperceptive skills needed to locate and work with everything, to the social connectedness you feel in making the activity personalized… the list goes on and on. And then being able to give the end product to another person and in doing so, indirectly saying, “I made this for you because I care about you. But in making it, I was able to sit down and take time away from my stress, so even though I care about you… I care about me, too.”

Is there any gift greater than that?

I have the honor to be…
Your obedient servant,
T dot Pham

References

Reilly, M. (1963). The Eleanor Clarke Slagle: Occupational Therapy Can Be One of the Great Ideas of 20th Century Medicine. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 30(1), 5–19. https://doi.org/10.1177/000841746303000102

Slagle, E. C. (1930). Address to graduates. Occupational Therapy and Rehabilitation, 9, 271–276.

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