Turkey-toe

A Plante family tradition is to hang a turkey-toe in a doorway, and when you walk under it, you have to say what you’re grateful for.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. No gifts means very little stress. Just time with your family and your own traditions. I’m sure some people’s traditions revolve around watching football, playing games or eating certain foods. My family had those, sure, but our best tradition was the “turkey-toe.”

This was invented by my kids when they were little. (Although now that I think of it, there may have been an intermediary step in there, where they developed the “pizza-toe,” but I truthfully can’t recall the purpose of that.)

They remembered that we had “mistletoe” for Christmas and they somehow decided we needed “turkey-toe” for Thanksgiving. So, in the same doorway that we hung the mistletoe, we also hung the turkey-toe. The only difference was that, when you stood under the mistletoe, you got kissed, and when you walked under the turkey-toe, you had to stop and say something you were grateful for.

When I think back on our “turkey-toe,” I think it’s kind of a genius idea. It’s clearly not genius because it’s so fancy. It’s genius because it makes you think about what you’re grateful for. Studies show the importance of and the direct correlation between gratitude and happiness, gratitude and work productivity, and gratitude and health. As a matter of fact, it seems that most areas of your life are improved by practicing gratitude. While looking into this further, one conclusion struck me as particularly interesting. Researchers Tennen and Afflek (2002) found that “when people are faced with adversity or trauma, if they are able to experience gratitude, they are able to push through the adversity and trauma and be more resilient.”

Resilience has been identified as a trait that’s been lacking in many kids, teens and young adults over the past few years. Many experts believe that this lack of resilience is causing more mental health issues in our youth today. If something as simple as practicing gratitude can make a profound improvement in our lives, why wouldn’t we do this? We can all be a little more productive, a little happier, a little healthier and a little more resilient, simply by being a little more grateful. If I had known then what I know now, I can guarantee you, we would have had a “turkey-toe” in every room, all year long.

So, as we head into this season of joy and peace, make an effort to prioritize gratitude. Our lives may not be perfect. We may have suffered great losses. We may be grieving or worried or stressed. We may be too busy and have too many obligations. Regardless of your current struggles, there is always someone who has it worse. Be grateful for all those things you do have. Make it a point to talk about what you’re grateful for and encourage it in your kids and families. Heck, make yourself a turkey-toe and put it where you’ll walk under it frequently. It will help you remember that you’ve got a lot to be grateful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Toni Plante grew up in Wayzata. She lives in Minnetonka with her husband, Al, and their two dogs. Her remaining child, Leo, lives in NYC. She, her family and extended family all miss Ana terribly. Suicide prevention and mental health are her passion. She is not a therapist or a counselor. She is a parent who is committed to making a difference by sharing her experience.

This column is meant to offer insight and awareness, not advice. If you have suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

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