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”

The Mortar Between The Bricks

Traci S. Sanders

My father always told me that the big things in life, like holidays, celebrations, and vacations, are wonderful and should be treasured – they are the bricks.

He also taught me that these moments are not the most important. The most important, he liked to remind me, are the small ones, daily life’s unsung heroes. These, he said, are the mortar – the mortar between the bricks. It is what holds it all together.

When he first told me this, I was in my 20s and found it interesting;

in my 30s, I found it helpful;

in my 40s, I found it wise.

And today, when I think about these words, I find them essential.

Milestones are like this – the bricks and the mortar. The firsts are always the bricks; yet, as these firsts become part of a child’s life, they become the routine, the everyday, the mortar: car rides to and from school, eating a meal together, walking the dog, setting the table…there may not be photos of these moments – they are, in essence, the in-between spaces in an album – but this is what lives are made of – the small moments that hold it all together.

Bricks and Mortar. These words have never left me.



The End of a Tale

Traci S. Sanders

As a school librarian, I read The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo to my third grade class. They loved it.

Trying to find a book to read to them after we finished Despereaux was met with a lot of shaking heads – they simply couldn’t compete. One student summed it up best: “I miss Despereaux.”

”I miss him too,” I said.

”You know what? I was going to talk about something completely different during class, but I love what you just said, so let’s talk about that today.” This led to one of the best moments of my teaching career. And this is how it began:

“Think about this:

There are twenty-six letters in our alphabet that form words, to make sentences, that become paragraphs, to create a story.

And within this story lives a character, written in such a beautiful, compelling, thoughtful, and very real way, that we miss him when we finish the book.

That is the power of a great story. And that is the gift of a great writer.”

This is what we talked about for an hour of our day: All of our favorite characters that we missed when we finished the book.

So, when you’ve read the bedtime story hundreds of times it’s only because someone (or something) has captured your child’s heart and to say goodbye is simply too much. So instead, as the story ends, the characters tucked within the pages of the book, you hear your child whisper, “goodnight, see you tomorrow.”

And your heart soars.






This Generation Gap moment brought to you by…

Traci S. Sanders

Wherever you are, you’ll hear it – the generation gap.

Today, at a college football game, was the latest.

College-age son (heading to game that started an hour ago): “Mom, can you look on your phone to see the score?”

Mom: “Why don’t we just go in the stadium and be surprised?”

Son: “”Why, when you can just look on your phone?”

Ahhh, it happens to the best of us; the smartest of us; the wisest of us…Because, well, times change and things change.

But, you know what changes the least among us? Milestones: First Words, First Steps, Losing a Tooth, First Haircut. And the list goes on.

It is the moments we all have in common. Maybe they are shared in a different way – camera, video, on FaceTime, through Skype – but they are shared. And the feelings they engender are pretty similar – for children and their parents.

So, while we may find the generation gap becoming more common as our children get older, rest assured, when they get to be our age, and their children theirs, we will, again, share life’s most wonderful moments. It is that which binds us, no matter the year we were born.