The Box

Traci S. Sanders

During the holidays, a sense of nostalgia always washes over me. That’s when I open The Box. It’s not a gift anyone else would want. Full of scraps, scribbles, receipts, ticket stubs, even plastic toys that could only come from a gumball machine, it puts a smile on my face every time. “Remember this?” I say to my children who inevitably laugh and say, “Let me see that.” It’s a moment wrapped in a memory. These are my favorite gifts to share.

So, after the big presents are opened, and the boxes strewn to the side, keep one. And inside, fill it with all those things that will, someday, put a smile on your child’s face because it’s the little things that really matter when they come from those who matter the most.


Why We Love A Story

Traci S. Sanders

Character or plot? When I asked my fifth grade class what was more important to them, almost all said character. Why? Because it made them care, not just about those on the page, but about the world they inhabit.

I’ve thought about this a lot since the Coronavirus began. It has, in essence, changed humanity’s story. But how? At the beginning of this year, we were human doings, racing through our days. Then, somewhere along the way, as the virus became bigger in our world, our individual worlds became smaller. The plot changed, but not the characters.

Today, and every day, we spend more time with the people in our lives – face-to-face and computer to computer. And, in doing so, we are discovering that, perhaps, we had placed plot over character too many times in our own narratives; as hectic, as exciting, as routine, as surprising, the plot got in the way.

So, in today’s new world, let us remember that as good as the plot can be, it is the characters that make up the story. They are why the plot even matters; they are why the story even exists.




Catching up…a Sports Story

Traci S. Sanders

You know those kids that are natural-born athletes? I’m not one of them. Yet, even those who stay in the shadows have their day in the sun. And mine was in softball, specifically the summer of my 7th grade year.

It was a really hot day, nearly ninety degrees. My team had long ago given up on me adding to the lineup in any positive way. They simply wanted me to not mess up any potential wins, so I ended up in the outfield where the ball rarely flew or rolled.

On this particular day, the sun had it in for me. I couldn’t even see what was going on at home plate, let alone see a ball coming at me, so I waited…and waited. I didn’t care who won (we were ahead by one). I just wanted some shade.

Here’s what I remember: The other team was up. Two outs. I was looking at my feet so I didn’t have to stare at the sun. Then I heard the crack of the bat as it made contact with the ball and a lot of excited parents yelling from the stands. Darn…this could mean extra innings. I looked up, but I couldn’t see a thing with the sun directly in my eyes, so I put my hand up to block it and “Wham!” That ball ended up right in my sun-shielding gloved hand, and those happy screams coming from the stands – as opposed to moans – were for me. FOR ME! This was the greatest moment in my athletic history. I had stopped the team from catching up. I…Had…Won…The…Game!

And while no one yelled my name – I don’t think most even knew it – that’s okay. It was an instant of pure surreal joy. It was also when I made a life-changing decision. I’m done! Never again would I have a moment like this in sports. Never! This was retiring from sports on a high.

And so, my best moment in sports’ history was also my last. But, wow, was it a good one. A good one?! A great one!

Some games are like that.

Enjoy it all!

Seeing is believing…

Traci S. Sanders

I remember the day I got glasses. One moment I saw the world one way; the next, another.  In essence, life came into focus. And my perception, the lens in which I viewed this world, forever changed.

Then I thought about it. Yes, my perception changed, but more so, my prescription. My eyes became blurry, but I got used to it. When I was prescribed a new way of seeing, it felt a bit strange at first; but, over time, I was so thankful for the clarity and a new way of looking at the world that I thought I knew.

Don’t stories work in the same way? The words we read or hear? Don’t they also allow us to view the world differently? Sometimes, they even allow us to see things that were once out of focus or simply not visible.

To me, opening a book is about so much more than reading. It is truly about seeing – ourselves, others, everything around us. And it doesn’t always have to be the entire book, sometimes it’s no more than a few words or a sentence or two. But it changes how we see.

This is a gift we not only give ourselves, it is one we give to our children every time we read to them. And so, while glasses provide the gift of clearer sight, reading goes one step further – reading gives us, all of us – the gift of greater insight.



Looking Back

Traci S. Sanders

As parents, we focus on our children’s milestones, but at some point, as the clock moves forward, we learn of our parents’ as well. Not only those milestones that began when we were born, but those that occurred long before we entered the world.

These moments are no more poignant than after a parent passes…when we inherit the archive of a life well lived.

When I started going through my father’s things, I felt like I was disturbing treasures in a museum. I would simply pick them up and put them back in exactly the same place. Years later, I have many of these pieces – his books with handwriting I still find hard to decipher; the sweater he wore for his TEDx Talk; his notebooks with yellow legal pads; gifts given to him because he mattered to many; hundreds of emails that captured good ideas, wise words, and always a joke or two; New Yorker cartoons; everything I ever wrote and sent his way; and, of course, cards that – before he opened them – would always ask “Is this going to make me cry?”

There are others –

The three carrot ring (actual plastic carrots on a ring), because he couldn’t afford a real three carat ring (my mom has a sense of humor); his master’s thesis and dissertation; articles that talked about the work he was doing and how he was making a difference; copies of awards; and letters from those whose lives he changed.

I have spent the past few years learning about my dad’s milestones and sharing them with my family. I am, in a sense, getting to know him better, because there are memories in what he saved. He kept what defined his life. And, in doing so, has helped others, including myself, define theirs.

I’m not sure a daughter, no matter how close she was to her father, can ever come close to doing his life justice. And so, I have included his TEDx Talk so that he can tell those listening about a life well lived.


To view, go to:

”The Milestones Project – The Bonds that Unite Us: Richard Steckel at TEDxDenverTeachers”