Posts in Guided Journals
Come Celebrate with Us in 2019!



My mom has always celebrated others — her friends, my friends, me, our broader family. She sends a care package of baked goods to our daughter and her college friends every week. Yes. Every week for four years. (She did that for me, too.) And it brings the college students and my mom such joy!

Celebrating good moments, achievements, and “just for fun” is part of her DNA. Maybe literally. Her maternal family were 100% Norwegian and they laughed all the time. I can still see (they looked like Vikings) and hear my great aunts and uncles and grandma giggling together — even into their 80’s. They were smart (many engineers and technology experts) with advanced degrees, but boy were they silly! Authentic, to the core belly laughs and celebrations were a central part of their lives. I loved spending time with them. 

I have had a front row seat to experience what happens when we celebrate others. They glow. They warm. They flourish. And life takes on a very different tone for everyone. — It is a wonderful one. 

This year, Annie and I have chosen “celebrate” as the focus for our book series. This will be so much fun and completely consistent with what the Read This… series is meant to do! Will be CELEBRATING everything we can along with you. Big, small. Whatever. Pretty sunrises, gatherings with friends, fun moments with pets, babies, children, aging parents, graduations, snow, warm weather, weddings, birthdays, new houses, mastering something, TRYING something new, retirements, quiet moments, goofy moments…let’s celebrate something every day! We’d love to hear from you because celebrating really is contagious and life-changing.     

Thanks Mom and the Christianson family…and



Who Were Your Ancestors? 



People are searching for their family history like never before, and what they really want to know is the STORY of their ancestors. Names, dates and places are good, but we all want STORIES. 

I have loved learning about my family. Especially two of my great-great grandmothers. 

One was befriended by the Sioux in South Dakota (Dakota Territory) when she was a young girl after her family arrived from Norway. The family, part of the first group to settle west of the Sioux River, included a widowed mother who spun flax as trade to survive, and two daughters. As time passed young Gurina’s Sioux friends warned her (and thus her sister and widowed mother) that they should leave immediately because of upcoming violence. They quickly fled to Iowa and, therefore, lived beyond an infamous (understandable) retaliation by the Sioux. The trio later returned, but if Gurina’s Sioux friends had not warned her, our family would not be here today! I love that we share a middle name and I wonder/worry about what became of her Sioux friends.

Gurina also told her part of a Jessie James encounter. One of her granddaughters who lives in The Yukon Territory (who was given the small flax spinning wheel that kept the family alive - how cool is that?) wrote it down. Apparently Jessie James was traveling west (read: “on the run”) after a very famous botched bank robbery in Minnesota. Gurina “gave” Jessie a horse. I’m laughing about the verb there. At first I thought there must be a better verb since he was on the run, but after giving it more thought and overlaying Gurina’s history, she probably did keep her cool and “gave” may be the perfect verb!

Another great-great grandmother “Hester” and grandfather (who started in Colorado) had actual lions, tigers, leopards, chimps and bears — to name a few. They had a LOT of them. (I’m not condoning wild animal capture, but it is a fact. They supplied circuses and later movies.) I’ve been told that there’s still an ordinance in Independence, MO, a few blocks from Harry Truman’s home, prohibiting elephants in the town square. It makes me laugh. There is much to this story, and I have read many accounts of people hearing the lions, panthers and tigers roar at night in Independence, MO and later in California. I have a copy of Hester’s handwritten will on the family’s business letterhead (the picture on this page) that features a lion, an elephant and a monkey. The will says WHY everyone receives their portion and tells part of Hester’s story. It’s so much more interesting than just a list of assets because it gives you a glimpse into her life and what she thought. Plus I love seeing her handwriting!

I often marvel at these two women and wonder whether my adventuresome spirit (my mom and dad used to call me “The Little Explorer”) passed down from these great-great grandmothers. I wish I could have met them!

Do you know your story? I’ll bet you wish you knew more. But that isn’t the end, it’s just the beginning. YOUR story matters. The one you are living today. In three generations, you will be a marvel! — Your words, ideas, reflections and memories will be of great value to your progeny.  More than you can imagine.

Our ancestors shaped us, and we are somehow shaping life for people who have not even been born yet. So WRITE IT DOWN! TELL YOUR STORY! Even just a page about your life and your thoughts. Bullet points are fine. — Leave them some clues about you!

A grateful great-great granddaughter,
“The Little Explorer" (grown up) - Christy

Mothers and Sisters, Who Are Not!



This weekend I found myself crumbling apart over the gorgeous renovation and expansion of the sorority house where I lived 3 out of my four college years.  Who woulda thunk tough old me would be standing among friends, in tears? Crying for the love we shared way back when and still share today. There is no way to value that marvel, other than what my wet face showed.

There are biological moms and biological sisters.  And then there are those who are not.  These were those whom I was among on Saturday.  These were those who stood me up, hugged me and pushed me through.  What I experienced in the late seventies during our college years was demonstrated again this weekend…some 40 years later.  

In my world, moms die unexpectedly.  Mine, when I was twelve.  Four women in our house had moms who died while we were in school.  I was literally and figuratively the president of The Dead Moms Club at the sorority house. It was a tight little group who talked among ourselves for therapy and tried not to share too much drama with our 80 housemates.  There is nothing worse than a non-stop, talk-about-myself-all-the-time drama queen. Really.nothing.worse!

And then there were these non-biological sisters who sailed seamlessly into my world.  Over time, they have shared their lives, their children, their gifts and their love with me in ways that are nearly inexplicable. Somehow, what we learned about one another in the seventies is the glue that binds us together still today. 

It’s a blessing, a miracle, a privilege to have these friends.  They are indeed sorority sisters; veritable strangers one day and familial the next. But nearly biological sisters too.  In that “I-know-all-about-you-and-still-love-you-anyway” kind of way.

But for them, my life would not be as rich and full as it is today. I fear the outcome that might have been without the opportunity to live with 85 women in one big house where growing up, learning manners, getting smarter, and envisioning our futures was encouraged.  In many ways this was demanded through national fraternal policies and expectations…making grades, giving back, proper behavior around young men, not licking your knife at the table…all added up to a big advantage for me.  

Lacking my own mom, I essentially won the sorority lottery and was instantly blessed with successful, and some demanding, role models. Essentially, they saved my life. I was nurtured, respected and appreciated. As a result, I am giving back. I am confident that the system will stay healthy and support others the way it did me. My gratitude was evident. I was embraced all over again by those who helped make me who I am today.

There is one word: grace, and yet there is another: thankful. 

For all the non-biological family out there…it matters! This is my story. Have you told yours?

With love and respect,  


Children Love To Hear Stories About Their Younger Years




That is precisely why Annie and I wrote Read This…® On Your Birthday. We all know we are living in a wildly busy world, and it seems to be getting busier by the week. In all this frenzy,  our good intentions are sometimes hard to implement. My cousin Amy recently told me she always had good intentions, but now she is determined to execute on her good intentions so her actions reflect what she always wanted to do. She is doing a great job of that and her story stuck with me. (Hold on — I’ll get back to that in a jiffy.)

We all know how children of all ages love to hear stories about their earlier years. The cute or funny things they did. The things people who love them/who they love were proud of. We adults think we will remember all those moments and we take gobs of photos to catalog it all, but we lose track. We keep pushing through the next “busyness" we have scheduled. 

Read This…®On Your Birthday provides a quick solution so those stories or situations don’t get lost over time! You simply pull off the shelf every year on a child’s birthday and write some quick answers to fun questions. The child can participate, too, by answering what they want to do when they grow up…and their “part” grows with them over time. Then you put it back on the shelf until the next year. Those simple, quick steps on the birthday every year become a tradition and add up to the story of the child’s life. AND it is SIMPLE! So it helps us execute on those good intentions (just like Amy is doing).

Who fills it out? Well it just depends on the situation!

  • Maybe a mom or dad
  • Maybe a grandma or grandpa (a great new-grandma or new grandpa gift)
  • My long-time friend Char can attest to how much grandchildren cherish notes from their grandparents.
  • Maybe a Godparent
  • Maybe an aunt or uncle
  • Maybe a combination of all of those special people in a child’s life!

No matter who does it, it becomes a treasure for that child.  —  A gift of lasting love. And one that is manageable in our crazy busy world filled with good intentions... 


It’s National Home Improvement Month



Your home is likely your biggest asset, so it is a great idea to keep it in tip-top shape. Whether you are staying or planning a move, according to HGTV these are the top 15 projects[1] that pay off over the long haul. 

Any of the following can be done for less than $10,000 and will be appreciated for years to come!  Consider…

  • Bathroom update: fresh paint, replace shower doors, new knobs, happy towels.
  • Landscaping: sod, a splash of seasonal flowers, hardscape, enhanced entry to your home
  • Kitchen refresh: paint walls and/cabinet, new knobs and pulls, change counter top
  • Curb appeal: paint/replace the front door, repair stairs, bricks, concrete, add container plants
  • Window replacement: update look, weather resistance and new triple pane glass

For major remodeling projects, in the $10,000 to $40,000 range, consider…

  • Kitchen overhaul: replace appliances, seating, cabinets, flooring, lighting, add built-in gadgets
  • Bathroom overhaul: replace tub, toilet, lavatory, cabinets, tile, lighting, closet components
  • Patio, screened-in porch or deck addition:  new outdoor area with furniture, rugs and pillows
  • Attic conversion: flooring, ceiling, lighting, furniture, and new insulation
  • New room addition: basement, office, bedroom, TV room, play room

Be sure to hire an accomplished designer and contractor to help you with decision making and work with confidence that these investments will be worthwhile.  




Who's On Your Heirplane?



Yes, guilty! I made this word up. My sister and I make up words all the time.  We are silly.

But this is a serious topic that needs consideration…who are your heirs? Have you taken the time to write down your story, identify who gets your most precious stuff, and plan out your final wishes?  

These three topics make up the sections in our guided journal we lovingly refer to as our “Dead” book since it is the first book in our Read This…® series. Over and over we hear from people who wish to gather their thoughts, organize their things, and share their funeral plans.

Obviously, an actual airplane transports people from one place to another.  So, will your Heirplane…it will convey your stories, deliver your favorite possessions, and unload the details of your good-bye as you move to your final resting place. 

A poll taken by Gallup (1) in 2016 suggests that at least 56% of Americans do not have a will.  This means their stories, stuff and funeral wishes will be left to the court system and Uncle Sam to sort out.  Egads! What better gift can you leave your loved ones than a seat on your Heirplane!

Consider your Heirplane the mechanism to peacefully transfer this precious cargo to your people, your heirs. You will need a Will, a Living Trust, a Power of Attorney, and perhaps a few other legal documents to avoid leaving without a trace! Certainly, do some research online or visit an attorney to discuss. Be sure to tell your heirs that they have a reserved seat on your Heirplane. Nothing could be sweeter than to hear those words!


What Happens When We Stop Sending Love Letters?




I smile every time I hear a story about shoeboxes of love letters between couples. I’m talking about those letters from their romance of days gone by. Or how about loving letters between parents or grandparents and the children they loved back when snail mail was the only mail. Think of opening those letters years later to read the loving thoughts they contained. The thought of it makes me smile. It feels warm. 

One example that moves me is a letter hanging on the wall, framed, at one of my friends’ homes. It is a letter from a young man in college to his grandmother - written many decades ago. The young man wrote the letter during his college days. It starts with an update about school and activities, but then transitions into girls. He says something like: he has met girls, but "no girl holds a candle to Karen." His grandma saved the letter. The young lovebirds married and had three children. His grandma saved the letter which became the keystone in the couple’s home. Filled with honesty and warmth, the letter has become part of their family history. Their grandchildren will read the letter that their grandfather wrote to his grandmother about his love for Karen - their grandma. The framed letter is a constant reminder of the love the boy had for the girl…and from that love a whole family grew.  

Flash forward to today. Texting and social media are the norm. A loving thought is often sent fast and then lost or buried in a stream. Or it is designed to disappear. Either way, it is gone. It doesn’t become part of the fabric of a relationship like that framed letter or the letters tucked away in a closet. The history and rooting vanish. When times are hard or we need a reminder about the love we have shared, where do we look for the thoughts and feelings? Sure we can find photos in the cloud, but where are the thoughts, the ones you might write privately? It feels empty in comparison.

Written notes whether short or long seem to come alive. They root and grow. They inspire and provide comfort. They make you laugh. They provide context. – All of that is a true gift. I’m thankful for the people in my life who have written me letters and notes with loving thoughts. 

That is why I am passionate about guided journals. They give you a place to jot your thoughts down. The really good ones about the people you love. A special space. And they become a roadmap for your loved ones to follow when they find themselves lost in the clutter of today - and tomorrow. They know exactly where to look to find your words/your thoughts/your guidance. However you do it, please write it down!


What is Escheat? OR Don’t Lose My Money!


Money. We work so hard for it. We save it. We count it. We invest it. So how is it that there are billions (yes with a B) of dollars of “unclaimed money” in the United States? Could you actually misplace or forget about some of your money? Could your heirs easily find all of your accounts?

Today I learned first-hand just how easily this can happen. We moved so I went to the bank to change the address on our accounts. Click, click, click. The teller smiled and said, “The address has been changed on all your accounts.” It was done.

Or was it? Our number of accounts didn’t match. The teller was missing one account I knew I had. I went home to grab a statement and called. There it was. My account. The friendly voice explained, “Oh, the tellers do not have access to this screen with these types of statements/accounts.” Wait, What?

Would I have continued to push if I had been an heir, or would I have assumed the account number changed or was closed? An heir might not know for certain. Had I died and my heirs knew to go to that bank, but didn’t know the account number or have the right phone number …all that money could have been lost. We would have relied on the bank to alert my estate. Hahahahaha! We moved and our address changed. Mail is only forwarded for a few months. By the time the bank knew I had died, the mail would likely be returned if they did send something to our original address.

Turns out this happens all the time. With bank accounts, insurance policies, certificates of deposit, safe deposit boxes, pensions, retirement funds…all sorts of financial transactions. We know mail is only forwarded for a few months…and you might not have left financial account passwords for someone to easily find. OH WOW!

So how much money is lost? In 2016 it was TENS OF BILLIONS of dollars. Simply gone. According to some sources, 1 in 3 Americans were effected. Sometimes it is forgetfulness. Sometimes it is confusion. Sometimes we are just busy and drop a ball. Technically, after a period of inactivity, the financial institution is required to send “unclaimed” money to the state. This is called ESCHEAT.

Escheat laws were originally intended to create a “lost and found” for each state. If there is no activity on an account for 3-7 years, the process can begin. Owners don’t always get their money back. So, the burden is yours to keep track of your money. All of it!

What’s the takeaway here?

Find a safe place where you can store copies of all your statements with account names and numbers. It can be on your computer, in a fireproof cabinet, or an online vault. Be sure to list life insurance information, also. Make sure it is a safe place that your heirs, attorney or financial planner can access. Of course, I keep my info in our book, Read This…® When I’m Dead.

But now I’m even more inspired to keep everything organized and up-to-date!


What On Earth Is A Guided Journal?


We aren’t in the habit of writing traditional books...the kind you think of with a story line or photos about someone else or some amazing novel

We created a guided journal series!  What on earth is that? It is a book full of space for you to write your thoughts. It’s all about you!  What we have learned, and what makes us come to work every day is you. It is the people who reach out to us and say things like:

  • I had the best conversation of my life with my mother in her final days as we used your Guided Journal to talk about all the things we hadn’t really discussed before.
  • My wife just died and we used to remember our marriage together by talking. If we had filled out Read This…® On Our Anniversary life would be different. (Tearfully.)  I’m buying your anniversary Guided Journal for my son who has been married over 20 years — so this won’t happen to them.
  • I’m filling out Birthday right now for my youngest. I’m buying another copy to try to remember “back in time” for my other children. I now know that I can’t remember those things that I wanted to tell them about them.

Every day we put thought and research into our craft — creating guided journals for people so they can Celebrate Life’s Treasures. These books capture the stories of people’s lives crafted around a subject. They are meaningful. The people and memories they celebrate are treasures.

Thank you for being a part of our community and for sharing your stories with us. We are looking forward to launching our fourth Guided Journal later this year!

Happy Valentine’s Day!!!