the giving equation

The big white man makes a list and checks it twice.  Wise, right?  That list prevents him from walking around the mall, sipping an Orange Julius, and pondering which kids to buy gifts for.  Mr. Claus has a system, and he knows to secure a gift for Max and Anna but not Lily.  Luckily, children the world over send their Christmas wishes to the North Pole, and so he also knows exactly what to get: a bike for Max, a doll for Anna, and coal for Lily. Simple.

The week before Thanksgiving might seem a little extreme to begin Christmas shopping, but I’m fully committed to ‘the giving equation’ that determines just how early you should begin shopping.  Factors the equation considers:
1.) How many people you’re shopping for (family and close friends, of course – but what about the office? the neighbors?)
2.) How much time goes into each gift (do you already know what they want or do you have to figure it out? are you making this gift or purchasing?)
3.) Aversion to long lines and elevated shipping costs (strong aversion to both means you should begin a few days earlier than most)
4.) How long will it take to wrap your newly purchased gifts? (unless you’re planning to stick all items in a garbage bag, you’re probably going to need a day or so here).

My mother-in-law shares all my same interests (yes yes, my husband fulfilled that old-cliche) and so shopping for her is always my most simple Christmas task.  This year, Uncommon Goods let me pick her gift from their holiday collection, and I couldn’t be more excited.  Check out the goods:
A grow your own apple tree kit and a poetry word scramble? Perfect, right?  If perfect is too strong an adjective for you, at least grant me thoughtful and original.

Up next is the larger challenge of shopping for my husband.  Does every girl struggle in this category?  We have opposite interests, so I can’t exactly imagine what I would want, and so I usually nudge him for hints and then hit up the ‘christmas-gifts-for-men’ on shopping sites.  Uncommon Goods has some pretty promising gadgets to make him smile.  Y’all know Jon pretty well by now: which gifts do you think I should get?

An equation clock:

A portable ping pong set:
Home plate door mat:
Or maybe a whiskey stone gift set?  How cool would that be?  My main man is about to get pretty lucky, huh? And what about the gifts at the top of this post? I’m planning to model all my wrapping after the gorgeous designs by NINE+SIXTEEN.  Check out her blog for some more holiday inspiration 🙂

targeted kindness with babycakes

ImageWhen was the last time that you were overwhelmed with kindness?  It’s happened to me a number of times, but more often than not, it’s the goodness of a loved one that inspires me.  Today, however, I was almost brought to tears by the generosity of a stranger.

Samantha recently opened an Etsy shop to sell gifts that she makes by hand with the help of her family.  She read about my random acts of happiness on the blog, and she wrote a letter asking if her Etsy shop could support the project.   I said yes, of course, and waited to see how the collaboration would evolve.  A couple days later, Samantha sent me half-a-dozen baby outfits designed to look like cupcakes.  She included the sweetest note:
Despite the title of the random acts of happiness, I decided to go a little targeted with this donation by giving the gifts to women in need.  I feel like this is a new rule of thumb:  commit random acts of happiness unless targeted happiness will provide a greater good.  In this case, I knew that the Minneapolis nonprofit Birthright would be grateful for the thoughtful gifts.  Image
Minneapolis Birthright provides one-on-one counseling for pregnant and expecting mothers.  The nonprofit works with single, married, divorced and widowed women to dispense quality information regarding medical care, financial assistance, and childcare.

I spoke with a Birthright representative, and she told me that volunteers usually go yard-sale shopping to find baby items for expecting and new mothers.  She commented that “it is very rare, if ever, that Birthright children own something brand new. “

And so, I decided to break the cycle of giving Birthright women secondhand apparel.  I brought Samantha’s customized gifts to the center, and I told the volunteers to provide them to the women most in need.
ImageImageImageImageImageImageDear readers, if you want to make someone else happy, try an act of targeted happiness.  Families in need are a great place to start, and a simple Google search with “donations + ‘your area code’” will display a variety of places that would be grateful for your donation.

And, finally, if you’re thinking of donating baby goods, why not start with something from Samantha? You can check out her Etsy shop KaeLilyBoutique, and show her just how quickly good karma comes back around.    And remember:
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