No Time Like the Present

By Traci S. Sanders

A present every month! If I had told my children this when they were younger, they would have been (in order): ecstatic, reflective, doubtful. As my son liked to say: “What’s the catch?” And here it is: One present a month…including December.

When my friend told me this great idea, if was one week after Christmas. And while I love buying gifts – often highly “recommended” by the recipient – they all come at once.

As much as I’d love to say I remember every gift ever received at Christmas, I can’t; neither can my children. Yet, when I think of a gift my son or daughter chose when we spent time together; in essence, when we made a memory, then, well…that’s a gift in itself.

There is one exception – books exist outside this rule. If my children wanted to buy a book, I never said no. And I never regretted it. Those books are often some of their favorites, and the ones that sit on their shelves long after they stop reading them. 

So, back to the present…

I love this idea for a lot of reasons, but my favorite is that it reminds me that the gifts we never return and never forget, indeed, those we cherish the most, are the traditions we share and the moments we hold. 

So, as your child chooses the “perfect” present each month, enjoy this time. Even if the present breaks, shrinks, rips, disappears, or gets ignored, the most important gift remains…

Enjoy!

A Life Well-Shared

By Traci S. Sanders

My dad and I shared many things; yet, I only recently learned that the way we read was one of them. I discovered this while sitting with family friends who asked me what I was reading. Pulling my book out of my purse, with turned-down corners marking nearly every page, they laughed. “Well…who did we know who did this?” Isn’t it funny what we inherit from our parents? A love of reading? Definitely. Folding pages that matter to us? Really?! Maybe I noticed it as a child; maybe I saw it as an adult; or maybe in some mysterious way, it is just how we were wired. Irrespective, I like to think that every time I open a book, he is right there next to me, smiling (or more accurately, smirking) with the turn of every slightly skewed page…

This one’s for you dad…

A Dog-Eared Life

I used to think that dog-eared pages – those little folded triangles – were simply place holders; an end to the day’s reading and a marker for the next.

I don’t think that anymore.

For most of my adult reading life, I have turned down pages in nearly every book; I have also turned them up. And I never unfold them. They are a visual symbol of all that I have learned.

It does not matter whether the spine binds fiction or nonfiction, poems or novels, because it is what is shared and how that makes me pause and reflect. At times, It is as if the words turn a light on inside myself, illuminating that which was previously unseen; other times, it is the sharing of knowledge or ideas previously unknown that shift my perception and, thus, my understanding.

And so I dog-ear these pages that enrich my life. The fragments of language that transform me; changing my world through the power of words. 

If my dad was here, I would ask him why he dog-eared the pages of a book. I think, he would, first, say something funny, then he would ask me a question about what he just read, and then he would tell me why. But I like to think – knowing how much he loved to learn – that he did it for a similar reason; because he had an overwhelming curiosity satiated – in part – by reading – and folding – as many, as often, and as varied a collection as time allowed. I have these books now – the ones that really mattered to him. I’ve read some and started others. They all look very similar to mine, although he did use yellow highlighter to mark certain passages (something, after grad school, I loathe to do). Other than that, we were pretty similar. Sometimes, I try to figure out just why a certain page is turned down. And while I often don’t know, it does get me to read it. And maybe that was one of his reasons all along. Maybe it is one of mine as well. 

And so…As you open a book to read over the holidays, take a moment and wonder: who in my life am I like when I read? There is a story in there just waiting to be told.

Enjoy!

Every November…

By Traci S. Sanders

As Thanksgiving approaches, we tend to look back, grateful for all that was; then forward, grateful for all that is and will be. How interesting that the word itself follows this same path, reminding us that it is the last part of the holiday’s name, and then the beginning, that gives Thanksgiving its meaning: “givingthanks.”

Enjoy!

“Thanks…but no thanks.” Why Underwear Should Never be a Party Favor

By Traci Sanders

A true story…

When I was little (like 5 to 7 years old little), my mom had me give my friends underwear for their birthday. I kid you not. We would go to the store and pick out “cute” (my mom’s word) underwear in those plastic packages where each pair was layered just so (so there was no mistaking what underwear patterns you were buying). I used to ask/beg my mom, “Why?” I so desperately wanted to buy something else for my friend; but my mom always said “All kids need underwear.”

Sitting in the inevitable birthday circle – right before the cake and ice cream (so no one had left yet), my friend would start opening the pile of gifts. While everyone oohed and aahed… not me, I just stared at the one wrapped by my mom… The countdown had begun… 

And then it came, “Oh, this one’s from Traci.” So, there was always this weird moment when my friend would rip into the package always to be somewhat startled (like the underwear had yelled “SURPRISE!” which, let’s be honest, it might as well have), and not really say anything except some unintelligible gasp echoed by pretty much everyone else in the circle. And then her mom – with her voice raised two octaves – would say something like “Ohhh, thank youuuu.” 

The good news is that the underwear-giving birthdays didn’t continue, but the funny stories did, party after party, after party…

So, enjoy all those birthdays, and the parties that go with them. There are moments in there that you and your mom will laugh about for decades to come, because there is no greater gift than the gift of stories.

Enjoy!

“I have a question…”

by Traci S. Sanders

Here’s an amazing statistic from Warren Berger (amorebeautifulquestion.com): 

Did you know that between the ages of 2 and 5, children ask about 40,000 questions? 

This got me thinking about one of the ways the very young learn – they point – which I like to think of as the original question mark. Babies and toddlers may not ask “What’s that?” but we know what they mean as soon as they point. 

I see this all the time in my neighborhood – children in strollers pointing away. It’s as if they’re conducting their own learning. 

This led me to wonder about my experience when my children were very young. While I talked, read, and explained the world to them every day, it was always my questions and my answers. Yet, when they wanted to know something, they simply pointed; it was their very own question. 

As my children got a bit older, they stopped pointing and started asking. These were our years of discovery; learning together for the sake of learning. Some questions led to answers that skimmed the surface and disappeared; others dove deep and continued for years; and still others remained long after the initial questions had been asked, influencing them to this day. 

Looking back, some of the questions were about milestones, their milestones, and the stories behind them. This made me think that, throughout life, questions such as these take a unique path; they start with us and continue with our children. 

Our questions become their own. 

We ask…

When will they be born?

Whose eyes will they have?

What will their first word be?

What books will they love? What interests will they hold? 

What stories will they tell?

What gifts will they share with the world?

They ask…

When is my birthday?

Whose eyes do I have?

What was my first word?

What were my favorite books? Favorite interests?

What did I talk about? 

Who else loved to do this as much as me?

In essence, these are questions for understanding ourselves. 

And they continue – albeit in a different time and place – generations of asking and receiving, because we can inherit the answers from those we love; we just have to ask the questions. 

Enjoy!