Putting your Money where your Heart is (On the Holidays, Giving, and Two Year Olds)

Ahh, the Holiday Season.

Halloween has passed, Thanksgiving is a few weeks away, and we’re all gearing up for a couple of months of family, friends, food, and spending our money on gifts for the people we love. 

I have a two year old now, and I’ll be honest when I say I have spent a lot of time thinking about Christmas - which is the December holiday we celebrate in our home. In previous years, he was too young to understand what was happening. This year, he understands presents. For several weeks after his birthday in late May, he would exclaim “Presents?!” Anytime USPS brought a package to the door. 

Jack's First Christmas in Minneapolis, 6 months old. 

Jack's First Christmas in Minneapolis, 6 months old. 

My little family lives 2,000 miles away from grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins - so we travel back to Wisconsin and Minnesota in late December for a couple of whirlwind weeks of love and memories with family we don’t see the rest of the year. My husband and I have come to understand this as our holiday tradition - getting on a plane, and spending the 25th living out of suitcases. We love it - and have jettisoned the sort of “Usual” tree-decorating home stuff in exchange. 

But that doesn’t mean we don’t shop for gifts! It just means that many of them come wrapped up with our clothing and toiletries on our Southwest flight, or arrive at my dad’s office in Amazon boxes, ready to be hastily wrapped before placing them under someone else’s tree. Every year we struggle with what to bring, what to buy, and how to make it all work. How to get everything covered and inside our budget. 

And I don't like it. I don't want to pass that to my son.  I am trying to change it. 

Snow falling at my parent's house in Elroy, Wisconsin 

Snow falling at my parent's house in Elroy, Wisconsin 

Since Jack was born, we have been lucky and VERY privileged to be able to land in Minneapolis BEFORE Christmas, leaving a few days to do our last-minute shopping downtown at the myriad local businesses that line the streets of my in-law‘s neighborhood. Last year, I purchased my difficult to-buy-for Dad a pound of coffee from a small local roaster. I bought my stepmom a shirt from a tiny boutique near our favorite Minneapolis breakfast cafe, Moose and Sadie’s. We found a book and small toy for our friend’s new baby at Pacifier, the neighborhood baby store and a really cute handmade necklace for my sister from my favorite place in all of MSP, I like you, which sells products from artists all over the city. 

There’s something I feel is ugly about our society, and it becomes oh-so-much-more visible in December, when we stress and buy and stress and buy more. And every year with my son has illuminated it. Why have we decided to prioritize MORE for CHEAP? Why do we believe that a tree piled to the brim with large packages is better? Why do we rush out of our homes on Thanksgiving to load up carts with cheap stuff made in dubious fashion from companies who pay their employees very little to be away from their own families? Why do we equate inexpensive with value? 

All of the things I bought for my family and friends at small shops in Minneapolis last year cost me more than similar things would have cost at say, Target or Toys r Us.  And I presented my family with less presents than in the past. But when I spent the money I had budgeted on these things I was putting money directly into the pockets of these entrepreneurs and their families during the most important time of year.  Businesses whose blood, sweat and tears have been poured in to their inventory, their merchandising, and their customer service. Our spending in November and December helps small business survive the “lean” winter months of January, February and March. 

My money is hard-earned. Putting it in the hands of another mom running a business? Or a family who has supported a few generations through their local storefront? It makes every dollar I spend on the gifts seem all the more valuable. 

The necklace I bought my sister cost me $25 and the box I put it in was tiny and on its own. When I gave it to her, I told her that I’d purchased it on an adventure in Minneapolis from a local artisan who had moved there from our home state. It was a little silver Wisconsin charm, with a little heart punched in the middle. I don’t get to see her often because we live thousands of miles apart. I want to give her something that matters. Something with value. 

I felt better about that tiny box than anything I've ever given her. 

My sister and my son enjoying autumn in Wisconsin.

My sister and my son enjoying autumn in Wisconsin.

Small businesses support families.
Small businesses support careers. 
Small businesses support neighborhoods.
Small businesses support our cities and make them stronger. 
Spending your money with a small business puts that money immediately back in to your community. 

And you know, I'm here for this. I'm publishing these words, on my website, as a small business myself. I support my family by photographing yours. And I am grateful for every single one of you. 

This is my busy season, too.  My calendar is buzzing, with family sessions many days of the week and late-nights of editing and submitting orders for products I spent endless hours curating and perfecting just for you to treasure  and present to your loved ones this holiday season. And, together with a large community of other talented colleagues running their own small businesses, I'm creating beautiful images of you and yours for the greeting cards you'll send off to all corners to bring happiness to those you love. 

Every photograph that you purchase, that you gift, that you send off on a greeting card crafted by a small business like mine is so much more than just a file, or a piece of paper.  

The value is enormous. For you and for me. 

So as we launch full-force in to this season of buying and sending I want to take this moment to consider how we're spending our energy and our money with each other and for each other. Because it matters. 

It's one of the ways we can make small and meaningful changes to our society and ourselves. What better time to start than during the most wonderful time of the year? 

Black + white textured art print, matted and ready to be framed! 

Black + white textured art print, matted and ready to be framed! 

This year, my last portrait session will be photographed on December 9th. Once every last print order is framed, wrapped and delivered to you,  I'll be packing my family up to head back "home" for the holidays - back to the Midwest where we were born and raised, to soak up all the valuable love and connection we miss the rest of the year. 

Once I close the books on 2017,  I look forward to spending my money with the individuals and families running businesses in our community here in the San Francisco Bay area and back home in Minnesota and Wisconsin. 

And we'll focus on buying and giving with intent, with mindfulness, with purpose.

Want to join me? 
(Two year olds welcome. We'll need all the help we can get) 

{IF YOU HAVE A SHOP or a SMALL BUSINESS, please leave a comment on where we can find you online or in person here in the comments!}