In this NPR article, psychologist Jordan Peterson says, “The act of writing is more powerful than people think.” He created a course for at-risk university students which centers on a writing assignment to “reflect on important moments in their past, identify key personal motivations and create plans for the future, including specific goals and strategies to overcome obstacles.” He calls the two parts ‘past authoring’ and ‘future authoring.’ YES! What he refers to as “self-authoring” is what we call “life mapping.” McGill University studied the results of the course and found a “powerful positive effect, reducing the drop out rate and increasing academic achievement.”
This cute Valentine’s Day display is in Barnes & Noble in Bloomington, Indiana. We just love it when people send us photos of our journals in stores. Thanks, Shelly! If you see our books somewhere, snap a photo and let us know.
My theory for why New Year’s Resolutions fail so often is that they usually aren’t grounded by a bigger purpose. So you want to exercise more. Why? To attract a vibrant life partner? To be healthy enough to play with grandchildren? To have many years to work on a cause you care about? The more clarity of the “why,” the more motivated you’ll be to follow through.
Yes, this takes some thought. You’ll need some guiding questions and exercises to either talk or write about. Maybe you have a wise friend or someone else wanting to dig deep who can partner with you. Maybe you could take a personal development workshop on the topic, or hire a life coach. Or you could simply find some good reading and journaling materials.
I highly recommend Tara Parker-Pope’s recent New York Times article: Creating a Mission Statement. She suggests asking yourself some of the same questions that David and I walk you through in our latest book, My Life Map: A Journal to Help You Shape Your Life.
If you like Parker-Pope’s article, consider letting My Life Map guide you through this discovery process.
How would you answer these prompts for your mom? Here are a few of my answers in the journal I gave my lovely mom:
I. You might have thought I wasn’t listening, but I have. Here are a some life lessons I’ve learned from you…
Top 5 List
1. Be frugal, whether you need to be or not.
2. Eat healthily (no processed foods, except chocolate)
3. Connect with nature as often as possible (at least once a day)
4. Smile until you mean it.
5. Look to dogs as good role models (especially border collies).
II. I was or am happy that you are my mother when…
I see friends losing their mothers. I’m grateful that you have taken such great care of yourself so that you are so vibrant and able to be a part of our lives at 85. You are a role model for aging well!
III. If I could make three amazing things happen for you by waving a magic wand, I’d…
1. bring Dad back to keep you company (and do the taxes for you)
2. erase all your occasional aches and pains so you can scamper along on hikes, free of pain
3. let us both travel the 3,000 miles between our homes with the snap of our fingers
[These prompts are from the gift journal – What I Love About You, Mom - a sweet way to share memories and appreciation with your mom.]
Most reviews of our books make me smile for one reason or another. This new review for What I Love About You made me smile so much this morning that I just had to share it:
“Probably my favorite product from amazon all-together! The book is so thorough, and is appropriate for any stage of a relationship. I love that there are questions that really apply to the specific couple – the way it’s written it encourages you to give a detailed, very personalized answer and it feels almost effortless to fill out! There are around 89-ish pages to fill out though, so leave a little time to do it. I love that there are all types of questions (check off, fill in the blank, paste a picture, etc.). This book expressed everything I’ve been feeling for the past 7 years with my significant other and I very, very highly recommend it. Of all the sentimental gifts I’ve given, this one got the biggest (positive) reaction, and is my absolute favorite.” – BrittanyN10
Wow, I just heard the sweetest story. Last month, my friend Pam got a copy of the What I Love About You, Mom for her mom. She set it on the coffee table and planned to start filling it out for her mom over the weekend. That evening, Pam’s adorable daughter saw it and began leafing through the pages. She’s in second grade, and excited about learning to read and write independently. She asked Pam if she could write in it for Pam’s upcoming birthday. Wow. Of course Pam said yes, and suggested she fill out 9-10 pages for her birthday, then 9-10 more for Christmas, and so on.
After her birthday, Pam showed me what her daughter had given her. I was floored by how well she was able to complete the first set of pages. Our goal in creating the short answer and check mark format was to make it easy for anyone to fill out, but I was still surprised to hear how easy it was for someone as young as this sweet gal. She wrote precious memories from “when she was young” with freshness and inventive spelling. She thanked her mom for “changing my dipers” and making “good snaks.” I know she’s going to love the pages that ask for drawing.
I’m happy for Pam to have this expression of gratitude from her young daughter, and a keepsake of this moment in time.
Whenever we tell people about our gift journal for moms – What I Love About You, Mom – it usually gets them talking about their own moms. Since I had just gotten a handy dandy new Samsung phone with an amazingly clear video function, we decided to film a few of them answering questions from the journal.
1. What’s something special or unique about your mom? Answers involve favoritism, shining lights, and time keeping. They also prove that young men do love their mamas. Watch.
2. What’s something you want to thank your mom for, big or small? Answers involve New Jersey accents, acceptance and safety. Watch.
3. Share a memory about your mom from when you were a kid. Answers involve snapping turtles, balls of yarn, and a toad in trouble. Watch.
I just have to share part of an excellent article by Jason Lengstorf on his blog, Scrawny to Brawny. Here’s the general theme: “As simple as it seems, taking the time to recognize the good stuff can have a huge positive impact on your relationships with colleagues, significant others, friends, and clients.”
Excerpt from Jason’s article:
STOP GLOSSING OVER THE GOOD STUFF (How to Be Positive and Happy)
Positivity at Home
Every day I tell my girlfriend, Alison, what makes her special to me. Whether it’s her outfit, something cute she did that put a smile on my face, or just the fact that – to my bewilderment – she still hasn’t thrown all of my things out the window and changed the locks.
As a result, I can share my frustrations with her without it feeling like the relationship is ruined. We still fight, but those fights happen with the understanding that we don’t have each other, we’re just pissed that one of us was supposed to do the laundry and instead watched an entire season of The West Wing.
Yes! This is what at least two of our journals are all about…taking time to recognize the good stuff in your relationships. It may be simple, as Jason says, but not necessarily easy without some help, or a jumpstart from something like What I Love About You and What I Love About You, Mom.
Jason’s full article is here.
Do you have favorite book covers? Why do you like them? Four different teams put together covers for our eight guided journals. All the covers do the job, but these two just might be my favorites. Both of these books are intended as keepsake gifts, so they need to be appealing. I know nothing about design, so my thoughts are purely instinctive.
The first one, for What I Love About You, was designed by Donna Sinisgalli for Crown Archetype in the Random House family. It’s simple, clean and smart. The book is a fill-in journal for you to write in for a romantic partner, expressing the many things you love, admire and appreciate about him or her. The big heart quickly tells you what to expect. At first I wasn’t sure about the light blue, but now I appreciate that the cool color helps the cover avoid being overly sentimental or feminine. I was amused that the cover went through several rounds with design and marketing teams before being shown to my husband and me, and we were the first to notice the boobs and bottoms element to the heart and upside down heart. The team decided that if customers picked up on that image, even subliminally, that was okay. I also like the inside design – you can see that in the “peek inside” feature on Amazon.
My next favorite cover is for the sequel to this journal, this one to fill out for your mom – What I Love About You, Mom. It was championed by the same wonderful editor, but with a whole new design team at Plume in the Penguin family. Catherine Leonardo was the designer. I think she did a great job keeping the simple, clean look, this time choosing flowers to express love. It reminds me of the time when four-year-old me picked all my neighbors tulips as a gift for my mom on Mother’s Day. Surprise! The colors chosen for the cover are cheerful and inviting. I especially love the way the petals touch, as if holding hands or hugging. The inside design is also gorgeous, using a batik-like border. The back cover has the two flowers leaning outwards to show the descriptive text, peek-a-boo style. Cute.
I love this sweet mother-of-the-bride music video from Carrie Underwood to her mom, but I can’t help but think she should’ve used What I Love About You, Mom in there instead of a plain old photo album. Have a listen:
CatholicMom.com Interview with Kate about What I Love About You, Mom :
Q: Tell us a bit about What I Love About You, Mom — what prompted you to write the book and what went into its design and contents?
When David’s mom had a special birthday a few years ago, we wanted to give her a memorable gift. She had no material needs; like many moms, all she really wanted was love and appreciation from her children. We decided to adapt an earlier journal that we’d published for couples – What I Love About You – for her. All four of her adult children filled it with memories and thanks, and presented it to her on her special day. She was floored. To this day, she says it’s the best gift she’s ever gotten from her children. We decided to create a version of this journal for others to do this for their moms, too.
What I Love About You, Mom is a little fill-in-the-blank journal that helps you tell your mother the many things you love, admire and appreciate about her. We provide the prompts, and you fill it with memories and love. It lets you share memories from the early years; express admiration for your mom’s special qualities and talents; say thank you for the many things she’s done for you over the years; and express good wishes for the future.
It’s not always easy to say what’s in our hearts, so the journal leads you through this in different ways: writing prompts with a few lines to answer, lists to checkmark or circle, spaces for photos or drawings, fun things like a template for a gift certificate, a place to trace the outline of your hand like we all did as kids…lots of different ways to express thanks and memories. Some of the prompts are more playful (I love this funny family sorry about the time you…) and some are more reflective (You are strong or unique in this way…).
Q: What are readers saying about their experience of using this book?
What I Love About You, Mom has only been out a few weeks, so we are just now hearing from people who have started writing in it. They’re saying that they can’t wait to see the look on their moms’ faces when they give it to them. They like making a one-of-a-kind gift like this for their mom. Some have said that the journal is giving them a deeper appreciation for how important their mom has been to them over the years.
We expect similar responses to this book as the ones we’ve gotten over the years from people using the couples’ version – What I Love About You. They share that it does take some time to write in the journal (at least a few sittings), but that the pleasure that it gave their loved one, many shedding tears of joy, made it a wonderful experience. We hear about how close it made them feel to each other.
Q: What’s your favorite section of or activity in the book?
David and I worked hard to include a mix of topics and activities so that everyone—all kinds of personalities and preferences—will find things that engage them and are comfortable to them.
I liked doing the more creative pages. Even though I’m not an artist, it felt right that a child-to-mother gift include a little drawing. One page in the journal asks you to pick one word that describes your mom and illustrate it. I picked “determined.” My mom is a great role model to me for aging well—she works hard at staying mentally and physically fit. She had a stroke a few years ago, but immediately started re-training and very soon was back to her farm work and hiking the hills. I drew “D-E-T-E-R-M-I-N-E-D,” with each letter climbing up a hill. The final “D” was on the top of the hill, wearing sunglasses and a carrying a walking stick.
I also liked writing about things I look forward to in our relationship; things I want her to a part of in my life and that I hope we can do together, both big (celebrating future weddings and great/grandchildren) and small (tea time, watching our favorite shows, going on walks).
Q: Have you filled out the book and gifted it to your own mothers? What was their reaction?
David’s mom is still thrilled with her copy, years later. She has it on her coffee table for all her friends to see. She says she wishes she’d thought to do something like this for her own mother before she passed.
I filled it out for my mom as soon as we got the published edition earlier this year. We live on opposite sides of the country and don’t get to see each other often, so this was a nice way to stay close. She’s in her early 80’s now, and doing really well, but you never know what could happen, so I am immensely grateful to have been able to fully express my appreciation to her now. She loved it. She especially loved hearing my memories of our early days, which triggered memories of her own. As a result, we had fun exchanging stories, including a funny story she told me about a trip to the pediatrician when I was a girl that I had never heard before.
Q: How will children — including adult children — benefit from enjoying and sharing this book?
Performing acts of love feels good. In our experience, expressing love and gratitude like this is at least as beneficial to the giver as it is to the receiver. One person told us that the memories the journal extracted from his mind were as pleasurable to him as he expected they will be to his mom. In addition to the pleasure of recalling happy times, writing about the relationship, focusing on the positive blessings, makes you feel more connected and even more loving to the person. If the journal brings you closer together, that’s truly a gift to you both.
David and I feel more at peace knowing that our moms have heard what’s in our hearts. Saying “I love you” is great, but there is something powerful about giving something that can be read and re-read many times over. Now we can be sure that our moms know how much we love them back.
On the eve of the publication of our new gift journal for moms – What I Love About You, Mom - I asked some folks to tell me something wonderful about their moms. Here are their responses:
“My mom doesn’t gloat when she kicks my behind in Scrabble…” (KC, New York)
“My mother is the original MacGyver. She has always had an almost supernatural ability to pull success from chaos, to take meager materials and create beauty, to make something out of nothing and save the day.” (Anne, Indiana)
“She has eyes in the back of her head, so don’t slouch. Really.” (Anne, New York)
“Long into my adulthood, she stood at the kitchen window and stared up the street waiting for me to arrive home safely. Not until I had grown kids did I appreciate her anxiety, and wish I could tell her thanks for her devotion.” (Cheryl, California)
“Our Mom is the glue that holds our family together. She’s always the one you go to whenever you need advice, or just a smile. She always has the best advice, and never, ever does she say, “You can’t!” It’s just not in her vocabulary! Her shoulders are strong because she’s been through a lot in her 75 years, but from the outside looking in you would never know she’s had a bad day in her life! That is love!” (Cindy, Florida)
“She never stopped wanting to learn.” (Maren, Arizona)
“I think in a different time and under different circumstances, my mom could have done anything. She graduated from college the same year I did after raising 3 children and supporting my dad’s career. She found her own space and voice in her own time, but she has always been generous in all things, most of all to her children, telling us we could be anything we set our hearts and minds to be.” (Katherine, New Hampshire)
“She makes me smile and makes me feel loved. She will give advice when asked but not judge. She is always willing to share about her childhood and things were when she and my dad were younger. It is one of my desires for my children to say the same about me someday.” (Susan, Florida)
How about your mom? What’s something wonderful and/or unique about her? Does she know you admire or appreciate it?
To see more answers and post your own, watch our 2 minute VIDEO on this.
The Chicago Tribune just printed an article called “Heirlooms are Not Treasures to the Young,” saying that the long tradition of passing down family heirlooms may be coming to an end.
Julie Hall, a North Carolina liquidation appraiser, says “Over the next 15 years, the estate sale market will be flooded with silver flatware, china and heavy, dark furniture that will quickly depreciate in value.” Baby boomers’ children don’t want this stuff, even if their elders consider them family heirlooms. “The kids don’t want 3,000 square feet of dark, heavy furniture because they can’t fit it into their 1,000-square-foot home.” And they don’t want to polish silverware, or deal with china that can’t be thrown into the microwave or dishwasher.
A study by the investment firm U.S. Trust found that “fewer than half of wealthy boomers say leaving their children a monetary inheritance is a priority. One in 4 said they were concerned that money would make their children lazy, and 1 in 5 said their children would probably just waste it.”
So if china/silver/crystal/furniture are not treasures to the young, and boomers don’t want to shower them with money, what does make a valuable heirloom to pass down to the next generation? According to a study by Allianz Life Insurance Co., “86 percent of boomers said inheriting family stories and traditions is more important than inheriting money.”
That’s where Marshall Books comes in! These two journals, when filled with the stories of their family elders, make especially good gifts to the next generation:
Gary Chapman, author of bestselling book The Five Languages of Love, writes that “the need to feel loved by one’s spouse is at the heart of all marital desires.” He explains that when one person invests energy in filling his or her partner’s “emotional love tank,” the other person naturally reciprocates and that this sets the course for a long-lasting, loving relationship. According to Chapman, Love Language #1 is “Words of Affirmation…best expressed as simple, straightforward statements of affirmation.”
John Izzo, PhD, author of The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die, claims that the secret to a happy marriage is sincere, loving affirmations. He sites a study that claims that couples who express seven positive affirmations for every one negative criticism of each other have longer lasting marriages than those who do not.
Do you agree? Of course, staying loving and positive is not always easy to do. Sometimes we lose it – nobody’s perfect. But when one of us is mindful enough to change the channel and sing each other’s praises it feels indescribably good. That’s what our two couples’ journals – The Book of Us: A Journal of Your Love Story in 150 Questions and What I Love About You – are all about. The writing prompts and fill-in-the-blank format help you find the words to affirm your partner in a way that can be read over and over.
Post-Valentine’s Day reviews - from people who got or gave one of our couples journals for VDay – are popping up on Amazon now. These reviews convince me that we’re on the right track with these journals. It makes me happy that they’re making a difference in people’s relationships.