Author: Dorothy Sander

Every Accomplishment Begins with the Decision to Try*

Every Accomplishment Begins with the Decision to Try*

Winter Scene by Peder Monsted

Too often fear stops us dead in our tracks. Too often we give in to negative thinking that takes our dreams and turns them into a hundred and one reasons why we really don’t want to do the thing we think about doing. I’m the queen of negative thinking and fear, so I know what I’m talking about.

Fear and lack of confidence come from a variety of childhood experiences that carry forward year after year, morphing and compounding so that even with the help of therapy it is easy to remain stuck. As our birthdays pile up and we see our days on this earth coming to an end we either feel the pressure of our dreams yet to be accomplished or give into despair. There really is no more time, or need, for therapy, thinking and trying to get the confidence to proceed.

Fortunately, living our dreams is still within our reach and easier than we think, because all we have to do is make the decision to try. Take the leap of faith. Just do it, one step at a time. There are no mistakes in life. There are only experiences from which we learn and move on. And every accomplishment begins with the decision to try.

* The title of this blog is taken from a quote from Neil Wood’s Optimist Island Daily Quotes on Facebook by an unknown source

A Word About Our Health

A Word About Our Health

Yo-Yo Ma

What is the value of your pinky finger? Would you trade it for financial security? These are the things I think about as I drive to and from physical therapy. Today was my last visit with Kathleen at Triangle Orthopedic. I will miss her. She is a saint. The surgeon “officially” released me after nine and a half weeks of treatment. As he explained to me, “they’ve done all they can do. The rest is up to you and whatever your body decides to accomplish on its own.”

I have made progress. In fact, they tell me I’ve made “remarkable progress” considering the seriousness of the injury and I am inordinately grateful…most of the time.  I still can’t help but wish now and again that I had my pain free, fully functioning hand back, just the way it was before the accident.

As a young person I was much better at “going with the flow” of life. I broke my leg at five, had heart surgery at seven and any number of other personal setbacks throughout my early years. Never once did I consider the future or the possibility that I wouldn’t be healed completely.  I never questioned if I would walk after the cast on my leg was removed or whether the heart surgery would affect my life in any way. It was all good and I simply took one day at a time believing that my body would not fail me.

But now? The view from almost sixty is quite different. I move forward in a practiced way but I am considerably more aware of the potential permanence of physical illness and injury, such as the car accident that left me with a less than perfect pinky. “It’s just a pinky!” you say. Trust me, I hear the same words in my head, but I didn’t know how important having a pain free, fully functioning pinky was to me until I no longer had one. I use it for everything!

Down the road there will be financial compensation. The accident was in no way our fault, but that is when I raise the question, “is trading in my pinky for financial gain worth it?” I mean if I had a choice.  When I asked a friend this question she said, “Absolutely! I don’t need my pinky! I would definitely trade it for financial security.”  I am quite certain that Yo-Yo Ma would feel differently.

Automobile insurance is a wonderful thing. Everyone should have it. The driver of the truck that hit us should have had it. He also should have had a legal driver’s license. There isn’t sufficient money in the world, however, to replace the sounds that Yo-Yo Ma can produce on the cello using his pinky finger.

The permanence of my injury gives me pause. No, it isn’t serious in the overall scheme of things. Yes, it will continue to improve for at least a year or better. And yes, the financial gain will be appreciated. But, if I had a choice? No, I wouldn’t trade my pinky for financial security. There is no dollar amount that can replace physical health and pain free living, at least for me.

Saying Yes to Life

Saying Yes to Life

photo by D Sander


“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.

You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”

~ Eleanor Roosevelt

It’s not always easy to figure out why people do what they do, especially when that person is ourselves. Despite our best efforts many of us find that we are forever getting off, what we think is, the “right track”. Too often we take carefully calculated steps when what we really need to do is to go with our gut, not our mind. However, we are afraid to trust the directives of our heart and soul.

I recently read about a study that can give us a clue into one of the reasons why we may not trust ourselves. In the study, a group of babies who could crawl but not yet walk, were placed on a glass platform. Part of the platform was on top of solid ground but as they crawled forward they crossed onto a glass floor that was transparent. As you may know, we are born with a fear of falling. Across the room, the baby’s mothers were divided into two groups. One group of mothers was told to smile encouragingly to her child. The other group of mothers was to frown and look fearful. Neither was to speak. In all instances the babies whose mothers looked at them with encouragement and smiles continued out onto the transparent glass flooring despite the normal fear of falling. The others did not.

How our parents responded to us, even as early as infancy, either reinforces our fears or sets us free. If your mother was particularly fearful, like mine, you may have received a multitude of signals that have made it difficult for you to move into dangerous territory with ease and confidence. This, however, does not mean you cannot do so. It just means you’ll have to work a little harder at it. Recognizing that what we feel when faced with a new challenge is simply fear of the unknown can help give us the reassurance that we did not receive as children.

Our fears may take a variety of forms. It may even give us false messages about what we really want to do. We may mistake these messages for our inner voice. They are very powerful. One easy way to tell if what you are hearing is fear or your inner voice is to ask yourself this question when making a decision about a step to take. Does this step “say yes to life?”  Fear closes doors it does not open them. Fear keeps us stuck. Saying yes moves us forward. Even if we realize in time that the step was not the right one, we will have learned something about ourselves in the process and grown in confidence.

Dorothy Sander

"Always Be Pure, Simple and Honest"

"Always Be Pure, Simple and Honest"

Telling Mom a story

I just opened up a bag of Yogi tea so I might have something hot to sip on this cool, fall afternoon.

I adore herbal tea, more for the medicinal value than the taste. When I sip a new odd mixture of steeped leaves for the first time, any slightly unpleasant taste makes me feel more certain that it must be good for whatever ails me.

As some of you probably know, Yogi tea has a little quote on the paper tag and the quote on mine said “Always be pure, simple and honest.” I paused to think about that. Sounded lovely… the perfect way to be…a wonderful state of mind, creating a great world to live in…but ah, being pure, simple and honest is probably the hardest thing a person can do.
We’ve told ourselves so many little lies  and half-truths over the years, many dictated by parents, siblings, spouses, friends, and experiences ~ it’s hard to find that tiny, pure kernel of innocence that once was us. Being pure, simple and honest is what children do best, very young children ~ the two-year old I saw at the park the other day comes to mind ~ expressive, open, honest and pure.

On the road to find outThe child within us is worth looking for, reconnecting with and getting to know again.  It is where we will find who we really are and who we were meant to be. Despite the fact that achieving such a state as an adult may be next to impossible, moving toward it is worth serious consideration.



My husband and I are the parents of boomerang kids. We have two twenty something college graduate sons living under our roof as they search for a reason and the means to move out. Our family is far from unique as poll by Twentysomething Inc. revealed. According to their results, 85% of all college graduates plan to move home. This is a 67% increase over the results of a similar survey conducted in 2006.

I’ve heard many parents express concern that they must be doing something “wrong”. I confess I have wondered the same thing from time to time. The fact of the matter is, the job landscape for college graduates is pitiful. Unemployment for the 20 to 24 age bracket is 15%. Add to that the cost of living in many areas of the country, huge college loans, the need for advanced degrees for good paying jobs and you have a financially impossible situation in which to begin a life of independence. When our generation graduated from college, a college degree had job value and a master’s degree was gold. Not so now.  And so, we are stuck with one another, but this doesn’t have to be a burden.

The Benefits of Boomerang Children

1.       Different Parenting Style – We have been a different sort of parent to our children than our parents were to us. Throughout our children’s life we have focused on treating them as individuals and with a respect that we were not often afforded. We have been less likely to force them into a preconceived mold and more likely to encourage them to follow their natural inclinations. More of us know what it’s like to “talk” with our children. As a result, they are more comfortable living at home than we were. It is also a more acceptable practice among their peers.

2.       Mutual Support – The parents of boomerang kids are feeling the pain of being a member of the “sandwich generation”. We are not only worrying about how our children are faring but we are often the ones responsible for overseeing the care of our aging parents. Rather than seeing our boomerang kids as a burden, we’d do well to call upon them for assistance. They are now adults themselves and they can be a tremendous help. In the process they learn the importance of family interdependence, responsibility, and may broaden their value system. It’s not only an opportunity to help each other financially, but emotionally and practically as well.

3.       Re-establish a Connection – Throughout the teen years, children often pull away from their parents. In their effort to establish their own identity, they reject their parent’s values and beliefs. It can be a painful time for parents, even if it is the natural order of things. The children who once idolized them now roll their eyes and snicker behind their backs.  But, when these rebellious, angry teens return home after a period of independence there is a wonderful opportunity to heal the rift and shift the parent/child relationship to one of friendship. Each can begin to see the other as an adult to be enjoyed and appreciated. It is an opportunity to laugh together, discuss world events, share concerns, and re-connect in a deeper, richer more-adult way.

Accepting life as a parent of a boomerang child (or two!) is not always easy, especially if you suffered through the empty nest phased and learned to enjoy your new-found freedom. Having it taken away again can be a jolt. It is also very likely not what you expected would happen. I know I didn’t. Accepting change is not easy, nor is accepting the unexpected. However, if we can, having our children under the same roof again can be an enriching and positive experience for both.

Dorothy Sander

What to Think When Bad Things Happen

What to Think When Bad Things Happen

I have to admit that I love the irreverent phrase “sh*! happens” because too often in life there is just no explanation for the obstacles we face.

The first time I heard the expression I laughed,  a bit uncomfortably no doubt. I don’t even remember the context. Like all comedy there is an element of down and dirty truth behind the levity. It looks at life’s most painful or embarrassing experiences in the light of cold hard truth and the juxtaposition strikes us as humorous. It also informs us and requires that we look beyond the surface of an experience to what lies beneath.  The powerful is often not in what is said, but what is left unsaid.

Many of us were raised to believe that if we just do the right thing, life will all work out and our dreams will come true. By the time we reach our forties, fifties or sixties we have come or are coming to the realization that no matter how hard we try, things don’t always work out the way we expected or planned. In spite of our best efforts, our marriages fall apart; our children are less than the perfection we had imagined when we gave birth to them;  unexpected health issues assail us, our careers fizzle before they get off the ground, and an array of setbacks of all sizes have changed our view of our life and ourselves.

When life throws me a curve, reminding myself that *sh*! happens*, (and disregarding the irreverence of the expression),   improves my outlook, precisely because I hear the intended implication, that is: “Okay, so what are you going to do about it? Bad things happen. They just do, but you still have choices.”

When bad things happen, and they do and they will you have at least four options as as to how you can respond.

1. You can feel sorry for yourself and spend your time and effort crying and complaining about the horrible thing that happened and how unfair it is.

2. You can rage against fate and/or the person or thing that caused your setback or problem.

3. You can run away from reality and your responsibility to it by shopping, drinking, spending, or cavorting.

4. Or you can accept the setback as part of your reality and live through the difficulty to the best of your ability.

My husband and I were run off the road a month ago by a careless driver. As a result, I have temporarily lost the use of my right hand. I am a writer. I need my right hand! At first the fear of losing an essential part of myself terrified me. My husband responded differently. He was filled with rage at the driver. A friend of mine’s house was broken into and all of her valuables stolen, not to mention her sense of security. Her initial reaction was to run away, her husbands was to get out the shotgun and lay in wait for the intruders to return. In both situations our initial response was one of fight or flight.

However, after the normal period of time it takes our psyche to adjust to trauma, to continue on in this vein is futile and self-destructive.  At some point it is essential to just say “sh*! happens”, now what am I going to do to make the best of my life in spite of it. No doubt this is easier to do in some instances than others.

My view is not fatalistic or lacking in empathy and compassion. It is just reality. Pain and suffering is the nature of the less than perfect world in which we live. People make mistakes. We make mistakes. The sooner we accept this, the sooner we can turn our attention to the positive that remains in the here and now and put our energies into making the most of the time we have left.