Not another hand turkey

Last week ended with a professional development session. One of those “compliance” types for which it’s hard to muster enthusiasm. I’ve led professional development under some tough circumstances—like, for an entire staff on the last day before winter break, when snowflakes began billowing on the other side of the window—so I know how hard it can be. I attempt to make whatever PD I do as inspirational and practical as I can for teachers (in the case of the snowfall, it was “Bye! Vacation starts now!”).

But this time, I was an attendee. The whole week had been out of whack between the holiday on Monday and my battling a minor illness. I was happy to see the end arrive despite some trepidation about this PD session.

Especially when we participants were asked to draw hand turkeys.

For real? I sighed. Is this in any way productive? 

I couldn’t recall the last time I did this. In my early elementary years, surely.  I tried to remember helping my own children trace their little hands in autumns past.

But I complied. I penciled the outline of my hand onto white paper.

We attendees were then told to write “something we’re proud of” on each of the four so-called tail feathers. These things could be personal, professional, or both.

Well, this was kinda different. The four things came to me pretty quickly:

My blog. It was born as a way of making myself write regularly, evidence of “walking the walk” as a teacher-writer. I can’t stand before colleagues and profess my love of writing or testify to its impact if I’m not doing it on a regular basis. That’s how the blog started; it soon became a keeping-place of memories and reflections, a patchwork quilt of my life now and long ago. Not to mention that it threw the doors wide open for meeting other teacher-writer and reader friends who’ve enriched my days immeasurably. That I’ve sustained it for nearly three years feels like a true achievement.

Coaching. My daily work. I collaborate with K-5 teachers on English Language Arts instruction.There’s a different ebb and flow to it each year.  The work can be like riding a train and watching the landscape zip by at an alarming rate. It’s sometimes like trying to irrigate monotonous, barren deserts. There’s a lot of new expectations of my teaching colleagues this year, new curriculum, newly-tweaked standards (again). With new and greater demands on top of all the old ones, it’s easy for a teacher to feel constrained, paralyzed. Every time I can help simplify, problem-solve, or streamline the work of classroom teachers, I feel like the “flow” gets better for them and for their students. We ALL grow.

My sons. I am so proud of who they are and where they are in life. Both of them are working on seminary degrees, one in music, the other in graduate divinity studies. One knew his path from early childhood, the other took the long way round, but both have chosen paths of service. On this note, my heart becomes too full for words. . . .

The Facebook devotional.  I don’t have a Facebook account (preferring Twitter) but my husband does. He’s had it for years and has never written a post. Last week, out of the blue, he said: “I need your help.” He’s a pastor. For three decades now he’s tirelessly served churches and communities. He’s married people, buried them, held their hands during their darkest times, laughed and rejoiced with them in the better ones. And ministry is changing; social media is a way to reach out . . . so, enter me.  Would I help him craft a short devotional post each day? It’s a small thing, really, but if the words help someone, or give them hope . . . then to me it’s a way of giving back. See, November marks three years since my husband was diagnosed with ocular melanoma. He lost his eye, but he’s alive. He’s here. Cancer-free. Every day is a celebration. There’s always, always, always something to be thankful for . . . yes, I’ll help him share it each day.

I suppose the professional development presenters may have wondered why I kept working on my hand turkey throughout the entire session. They may have thought I’d tuned them out. I hadn’t. I was listening. What they had to say was actually quite helpful. I processed it all as I added more and more detail to my turkey—let’s hope the facilitators thought I was sketchnoting. One thing just kept leading to another until I realized that the words on the tail feathers represented more than things I was simply proud of. This is the work of my hands, I mused, as I wrote and drew with one hand inside the outline of the other. Each thing I’ve listed is an opportunity, a piece of life’s work given to me.


Pride wasn’t the appropriate sentiment. Not even close.

I draped my turkey in a banner bearing the word “Gratitude.”

Isn’t that where the personal and professional roads should converge, anyway? Or the point of origin from which they radiate?

It is for me.

It is from this crossroads of gratitude that I wish you professional and personal joy, in all the work of your hands.

Happy Thanksgiving.

24 thoughts on “Not another hand turkey

  1. I love where this PD session took you. I love your choices and gratitude. I loved how you tied it all together with “the work of your hands.”
    I’ve been working with my own girls on this idea of gratitude. We now “start each day with a grateful heart,” just sharing on our morning drive to drop them off. This practice sometimes turns my entire day around- much like the turkey drawing shifted your mood that day.
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful words and outlook. You always inspire me. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think gratitude may well be the beginning of peace – through the lens of it we see everyone and everything so differently. You’re an extraordinary mom, Jessica; I am in awe of how beautifully you’re raising your girls. Such profound work of YOUR hands! Thank you so much for these amazing words. I am grateful for you!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I always slip into your posts and then emerge feeling inspired. You have such a beautiful way of finding meaning in the world and sharing it in a seemingly effortless, powerful way. I love the structure of this piece, how you wove in and out of the moment and into your thoughts and memories. Gratitude is a powerful lens indeed. Thanks for the perfect Thanksgiving post and on a side note, I love your turkey drawing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Such a lovely response – “slipping into” and “emerging” from the post as if it were a place, wow. So glad you enjoyed my inward journey – and the drawing! I used to draw a lot when I was younger. I didn’t realize how much I missed it. Funny, what leads us back to ourselves. Thank you for the gift of your words today. 🙂


    • A work of “heart” – I love that! Here’s a strange thing: If I’d been told to write what I was grateful for, the “feathers” might have been a little different. Being asked to write what I was proud of led to me to a deeper, layered reflection that I wouldn’t have expected. I’m not sure that was the presenters’ intent, but it’s where I landed. I would love to know what you’d write on your feathers.:)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. So glad I stopped to read your blog today. It was a gift to ME, pushing me beyond the “been there, done that” mindset. Your story details showed how much you learned. And then WOW – so glad you included the photo at the end! Thanks for sharing this story. Happy Thanksgiving!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. “This is the work of my hands.” Powerful learning in this PD, powerful reminder for me to make the most of what I am given. I love the way your posts help me reflect on my own life as you reflect on yours. Thank you for this one – gratitude indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am smiling that the description pulled you in. Sometimes I find the description harder to write than the slice! Do you-? Trust me, the whole experience wasn’t what I expected. I think it embraced me, in spite of myself. 🙂 Thank you so much.


  5. Your writing always leaves me full of admiration. Your writing captures the moments of your life and the thinking you do around those moments. Sometimes we sit in PD with a crack of ourselves open to new ideas. But that’s all it takes, a crack to let the new ideas, the discovery in! That hand turkey, putting pencil to paper, was the beginning of your discovery and then your message to us! We should never take gratitude for granted! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I always love your energy. It’s “catching.” 🙂 What a truth you’ve uncovered – how little of ourselves we leave open sometimes. Makes me ponder what and how much we miss in life as a whole … and I am so thankful for your words here. 🙂


  6. So many things. First what a lovely turkey. I’m envious of the production, but more so I’m envious of your certainty of your proud moments. This fall I have been struggling more than usual to write, to coach, to see those moments of success and pride. I think as coaches when we can, we can more clearly translate that pride and growth to others. I’d say you got a lot out of that PD, even if perhaps it wasn’t the intended result, but isn’t that the magic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think the very act of drawing led me to appreciate the productive struggle of my writing, my coaching, my sons, the new devotional page. Do these feel like successes, I ask myself now, after reading your reflection. I don’t know that successful is how I feel about each. I knew that “pride” wasn’t quite enough, after drawing for a while. Fulfilled, wanting to keep pressing on, wanting to see where each “feather” leads … that’s more like it. I know so well how facets of life seem to cycle through all or nothing. I know behind the struggle lies the wonderful – it’s always just around the bend, waiting for us! Thank you for such soul-searching words in response. Your own magic is in the works even if you don’t sense it just yet. ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

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