Instructions for a DYI memory book with a purpose: to call children to their values, heritage, identity, village. To be reminded of who they are at their core.

A Life Plumb Line–DIY!

Let’s start off with saying that this is my first DIY blog post…I’ve written over 700 posts and not one of them is a Do It Yourself.  But I pulled off a project recently…I mentioned this memory book recently at a couple of workshops and presentations I led to illustrate a point, people asked if they could steal my idea for their Junior Tribe Members (JTM).

No stealing required.  Take this idea and run with it in a way that is yours.

But first my point:

I believe that we all struggle with feeling good enough about ourselves.

There are moments (or weeks or months) where we all struggle to find our own worth and value.

When our children grow into young adults…they can struggle with wondering if they are valued and valuable, and well…that’s when a kid can play these strange games that are a lot of effort, and don’t really work anyways…like:


  • entering a profession to show smarts rather than following true passion in career choice
  • drinking alcohol or experimenting with drugs to be accepted at “cool” by peers
  • finding ways to puff up like being overly loud at a party or speeding home from it
  • finding ways to shrink, hoping no one will notice and criticize or judge, working to disappear into the woodwork

A young person can lose sight of their value and worth, and lose sight of guiding values and principles in the hustle for worthiness.

It’s not just young adults that struggle with that.

Yeah, so you get that, too.

So often other people see us in a more positive light than we see ourselves…I think the world would be a different place if we could see ourselves the way those who love us see us.  Too often, the only time we get to hear how others see a person is at their funeral…when it is too late.

Sooo sad that there isn’t a way for our children to hear and know and see and remember their own value through the lives of others. Hmmmm…

One of the things I have always admired about many cultures is the way they have rituals that welcome a child into adulthood. These ceremonies often centre around the older and wiser members of the community reminding them of where they came from and who they are. The ceremony
  • challenges the young adult to hold strong onto the love the family/community has for them,
  • reminds in practical and tangible ways that they are valued and prized for who they are, and
  • serves as a reminder of the enduring truths and principles of the community.


I think of ceremonies that transition a child into adulthood as sort of a plumb line event…something that can serve as a life long reference point.

Something that can be recalled and used as a reminder of ones worth, one’s value and one’s values and principles.

But…I’m not Jewish, so a bar mitzvah for my JTM’s wasn’t an option.  My own faith tradition doesn’t have a ritual to transition a child into adulthood…so I thought I would create a childhood-into-adulthood event.

But…I’m an introvert…and creating a big splashy party with new rituals and ceremonies with food and celebration with invitations and hosting had me begin to hyperventilate and get itchy.

I was going to have to do something that fit for us…I created a Plumb Line Book.

Plumb LIne Book with Roosevelt quote: We may not be able to prepare the future for our children, but we can at least prepare our children for the future. Poster by Bergen and Associates

Here’s the DIY part:

1. Start about 3 months before your JTM’s 18th birthday (or whatever occasion you choose to do this for…16, high school grad, college grad, 21)

2. Email 20-30 people who have been influential in your own JTM’s life.  Teachers, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, coaches, mentors, family friends, pastor/rabbi/iman, siblings–people who know and love your child.  Invite them to join in the opportunity to usher your child into adulthood by emailing you a paragraph about:

  • strengths of your child
  • celebrating memories and experiences
  • providing inspiration/challenge/comfort for the years ahead
  • and ask them to include a photo of themselves with or without your child

It is a bit of work for you and for those that send you something…but mostly they feel honoured that they were included in the ask. Send a reminder so that submissions are in 6 weeks before…that gives you about 2 weeks to put it together.

3.  Collect pictures electronically of the years gone by…if you have pictures only with old fashioned prints developed from negatives, just take pictures of those pictures with your phone.  The important thing here is to git’er done, not be overly tech-y about it.  It doesn’t have to be perfect…in fact, it’s better if it’s real

4. Find a coupon for an online self publishing site…part of the fun is to get the best coupon possible.  It’s always more fun to do a project when you are also saving money. I used Picaboo this time, but have used Photobin in the past–there are other sites that work as well.

5. Cut and paste the submissions from family and friends into the pages of the book on the website. Keep it real, not perfect. Drag and drop your photos into the spaces provided. Have a couple of pages filled with photos…you are celebrating the past in such a way as to make a clear path forward. This takes a bit of time, but you are making lasting memories, people!

First page:

Intro page for plumb line book…during days you might wonder...his memory book

Part of a coach’s note:

Sample of note from coach for plumb line book: his memory book

Part of an uncle’s note:

An uncle sends words of encouragement and identity for his memory book

Another note, this one from a pastor:

Plumb line note from a pastor

The baby picture page:

The baby picture page of A Plumb Line Book: his memory book

Wasn’t he adorable?!

The back cover:

Back cover of plumb line book...his memory book

6. Push “pay/print/send” in time to get the finished product for the occasion. It won’t be perfect, and you could tweak/add/change photos until a year from next Tuesday…Just. Finish. It.

7. Order a second copy for yourself…it’s a powerful thing to see and remember how others see your child. Truly.  And one day, your JTM will not live at home and this will be a comfort.  I plan to sleep with my copy once he goes off to college.

8.  Create an event to present the completed book. This is important.  The giving of it is a celebration of the JTM, a marking of time, and a send-off into the future.  It doesn’t need to be fancy or huge, but it does need to be a thing.  Our thing is a lunch date where the child misses school to celebrate their birthday–just the two of us–at the restaurant of his choice. Since preschool.  Without fail.  It’s our thing.

When you present the book, give a little prepared speech about how you much you love and cherish your JTM…and how you want your JTM to be reminded about who s/he is on days when it might be hard to remember.

9. Practice gratitude…it’s a big deal that a buncha busy folks with full lives troubled themselves to invest in your kid.  Let them know of the impact.

After our lunch date, my JTM took his into school that afternoon.  I asked what people said when they saw it. He had one response. “The other kids wished their parents would do one for them”.

Everyone likes to:

  • be celebrated
  • know they are valued and appreciated for their uniqueness
  • be fussed over (even if they say otherwise in the moment)
  • know their lives have meaning for others.

Why would we wait for a funeral, for someone to be dead before we spend time affirming the best in them?

My JTM finally cleaned up his room this week and rearranged his stuff. There is only one book prominently displayed on the shelf above his desk…the book that will serve to centre him to his values for years to come. The book that will help him to align himself with his values. The book that celebrates him…because he is so loved by so many.

And on days when he forgets how much he is loved…he will have the book to remind him.

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