"In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy." Brother David Steindl-Rast

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Welcome

Today I am grateful for the wisdom found in a group gathered together for a shared purpose. I am also grateful for my father and the life he had.

I always think of Dad today, his birthday. He was a good man in so many ways and I am grateful I got to have him in my life for 33 years. He lives on in me and many others in a variety of ways.

As I started to circle back to my earlier blog posts, the very first word in the title of my very first post grabbed my attention: welcome. Welcome to Habitual Gratitude is the post that started it all on March 27, 2012. Welcome is such a nice word, an inviting mindset.

Welcome. Today, I welcome memories of my father. I welcome gratefulness in and push negativity out. I welcome the newness and opportunity of this day. I welcome chances to interact with others in positive and meaningful ways.

Welcome. When I practice gratitude habitually, I welcome into my mind healthier thoughts and a better perception of myself and those around me. My heart and soul follow, and I have a day where I do more contributing and less contaminating.

Welcome. Let's welcome mindful gratitude today, share it with others, and see where it takes us.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Circling Back

Today I am grateful for a conversation with my friend Sheila and for time to work on my poetry and other writing pursuits. I am also grateful for the wisdom and experience shared by others in recovery.

Many destinations, many routes to get there. That is life. I have choices about where I want to go and how to get there. I have messed up often, gotten lost more than a few times, took longer than I had hoped at other times.

I have found new roads and helped build some too. I have had faith to know which way to go when I came to a fork in the road. I have had smooth travels on beautiful stretches of road after rough miles on rocky and treacherous terrain.

For nearly 5 years, my life's travels have played out and been chronicled on this blog. A few months ago I said I was going to cut back on posts and maybe circle back around to some of the 1500 + previous posts.

I have cut back a little (mainly on Saturday mornings when a run is typically on the schedule) and I have also put more time in to my second blog Late Bloomer and Slow Learner. I have many dreams and goals when it comes to my writing. Like daily gratitude practice, daily writing helps me focus. What that daily writing looks like is always evolving and may mean another day less of this blog so I can put more time elsewhere.

Regardless of how often I blog about gratitude, I practice it daily. That is what counts.

It is time to do more circling back to the earlier days of this blog and see what I have learned along the way, to see what has been taught to me by others and by the habitual practice itself.

Circling back to important life lessons and finding clarity in the actions that sustain us day-to-day is never wasted time. What will we each find when we do some circling back?  Let's go find out.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Enroute

Today I am grateful for the soothing tick-tock of the clock I am listening to as I sit and watch the sunrise from my recliner. I am also grateful for visitors, blueberries, and laughter. 

We enjoyed our visit with my sister Leonice and sister-in-law Annie yesterday. They were enroute from the airport here down to family in Iowa. Thanks for swinging our way! It is always great to see you. 

Then we were enroute to a couple of shopping stops before heading to the middle school theater production at my school. The production was "Alice @Wonderland" and was entertaining and comical. Thank you to all who made it possible by participating and sharing their talents. 

These were physical destinations. Where am I enroute to in terms of my mental, emotional, and spiritual destinations? 

That is a larger question and one that I pursue daily with the help of healthy habits like writing, practicing gratitude, taking time to pause, prioritizing, setting goals, keeping expectations reasonable, and more. More would include seeking plenty of acceptance and also asking my Higher Power/Great Spirit for guidance. (When I try too hard to run the show it can get ugly and tense and peace goes out the window.)

Physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual places aren't each separate destinations really, just different modes of transportation to help us reach the places we hope to reach. Isn't it nice to have different ways to get where we hope to go? Wearing out one avenue while ignoring others limits our view, while using all modes gives us more scenery to enjoy along the way.

Simply being enroute to the next minute and next hour helps slow me down and enjoy today's journey more. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Gratitude Waits Patiently

Today I am grateful for opportunities to walk and talk with some colleagues yesterday. I am also grateful for school spirit and the Great Spirit I have faith in day to day.

Yesterday I implored "Can it be this simple?" The idea of practicing gratitude and the ripple effect it can have?  I believe so.

There is more good news about making gratefulness a habit of our minds, hearts, and souls; gratitude never walks away from us. We may walk away from it, but it waits patiently. This is captured nicely in the following quote:

"While we cry ourselves to sleep, gratitude waits patiently to console and reassure us; there is a 
landscape larger than the one we see."  (Sarah Ban Breathnach)

A landscape larger than the one we see. That is what I want to keep my eyes and heart open to--a larger landscape, a wider and less self-centered perspective. Self-pity gives me tunnel vision and a negative perception. I start to see everything through a dark and despairing lens, and I spiral downward. Self-pity is to be avoided if I want to stay sober, have energy, be a kind and loving wife and mother, contribute to the world in productive ways.

And I know no better way to keep self-pity at bay than to practice gratitude. If I have a little bout of self-pity, and we all do from time to time, I know that tomorrow is a new day. Even that the next hour brings new opportunity and the very next moment can bring some peace if I pause and consider what I have to be grateful for right here and right now.

Yes, it can be that simple. Not always easy, but simple. Gratitude waits patiently and never lets me down when I seek it. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Can it be this simple?

Today I am grateful for professionals who adeptly share their expertise. I am also grateful for the continuous source of hope and energy I get from practicing gratitude.

I find myself discouraged at times. Discouraged about personal goals that sometimes seem unattainable. Discouraged and jaded by my job in a field that is as challenging as it is rewarding.
Discouraged about the future of our country, our society, our culture; especially with some of the trends that are carrying us along.

The feeling of discouragement doesn't linger for long. Sometimes I vent to people I trust. Sometimes I go for a run. Sometimes I eat a pint of ice cream. Always, I write. Always, I practice gratitude. Even on days when I may not feel very grateful.

More and more, as I listen to news and hear others talk about their discouragement, I think to myself this "What if?": "What if everyone simply focused on being kind and respectful to each person they encountered in their day? What if that lessened the negativity floating around and getting absorbed by too many of us? What if it could be this simple?"

Too many people have become disillusioned and disengaged. In their own lives, wider communities, and the global community. They erroneously believe their one voice, one vote, one contribution isn't enough to matter, to make a difference. So they do nothing and feel worse in the process.

Every person matters. Every positive effort makes a difference and then some. And while we are it, let's not forget this crucial piece: One of the people we most need to be kind and respectful to is OURSELVES.

Gratitude practice helps create a culture of kindness and respect at the true grassroots level--with each of us individually. And it then empowers and engages us to contribute to the larger stream of life in positive ways. Less negativity. Less divisiveness. Less discouragement.

Can it be this simple? I believe it can be. Let's find out by trying.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Home: The Place

Today I am grateful for wisdom and experience gained that helps me keep my job in perspective. I am also grateful for the moon visible through a light fog this morning as I walked Oliver. 

Yesterday I wrote about going back home to where I grew up and the people there. Today, it's about the place home is. Here are some of the many things about this place and area that I appreciate:

*The farm sounds and smells.

*Young lambs to intrigue little visitors.

*Seeing the sun rise and set across the countryside. It's a different view of the horizon 
than what is seen in the city.

*A beautiful February weekend to invite us to sit outside.

*The quiet that can be experienced on the farm that just isn't going to happen where we live.

*More stars visible in the night sky.

*Kolaches, cinnamon rolls and omelet breakfasts.

*The familiar roads taking us to familiar places.

Familiar and friendly places and people are true blessings. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Home: The People

Today I am grateful for safe travels, beautiful February weather, and time with numerous family members over the weekend. I am also grateful for time with my friend Betsy and other friends yesterday. 

I appreciate when I go "home" to where I grew up. I enjoy spending time with family, being out on the farm, and getting away from my job and my own home. I love our house, but when I am here sooner or later all the things that need to be done start pulling on me. 

Time away, back to the area where I grew up, is always rejuvenating. First, because of the people.
Here are some of the reasons why people at home matter:

*Seeing nieces and nephews now with their own growing families. They have grown up to be some wonderful contributors to their own families and wider communities. 

*Always a little reminiscing seems to go on. 

*Everyone brings food and there is plenty to eat and enjoy sharing.

*Being with Mom to help celebrate her 86th birthday.

*To see the family resemblances in each generation.

*Laughter and smiles are fairly frequent.

*No one has been disowned or banished. That says a lot when this group now numbers over 100.
All are welcome. 

*Getting to spend time in conversation with Mom and her sister Helen.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Truth and Reasoning

Today I am grateful for a chance to walk and talk with my friend Dorothy yesterday afternoon. I am also grateful for my ability to hear the music I most enjoy.

Wellness Week winds down at school today with this theme: "Balance--Truth and reasoning are mindfulness in action."

The truth is, balance is something I do well on some days. Not so much on other days. Wellness is overall health in the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual realms. Balance means action in each of these areas. I definitely have practices that compliment one another across the four realms. Running, writing, and gratitude practice are all good examples.

But some days I tilt off balance because I don't take time for one area, or I simply overextend myself.
Even if for good reasons, overdoing is overdoing and leads to lack of balance. Lack of balance is lack of peace. Lack of peace is lack of mindfulness.

So I seek progress not perfection. Practice makes progress possible. Today, I will seek my truth and be reasonable with my expectations of self and others. Mindfulness in action isn't always about action. Sometimes it is about no action. Pauses. Presence.

I will be taking a blog break for a few days. Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Presence

Today I am grateful for lessons in acceptance and ill-placed expectations. I am also grateful for the hours of sleep I got last night. Each was needed after an exhausting day yesterday.

Today's Wellness Week theme is "Presence: Wherever you are, be all there."

Be all there Lisa, pausing to write two things I am grateful for in my gratitude journal just now.

Be all there Lisa, as I have conversations today with individuals and as part of groups. Be all there as a listener, valuing the person you are listening to.

Be all there Lisa, as I prepare a simple breakfast and sit to partake of it.

Wherever you are, be all there. It can be a tall order when the day gets underway. All we can do is try.

Presence is the best present to give ourselves and those around us.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Pause. Pay Attention.

Today I am grateful for the power of gratitude shown to me time and time again. I am also grateful for the awe felt when pausing to notice the moon and stars in the pre-dawn sky as Oliver and I took our walk this morning.

The word pause has shown up in many of my blog posts, including in post titles. It shows up pretty frequently because it is pretty important in this mindfulness stuff. It starts with a pause, continues with a pause. A lot happens during a pause, and yet nothing happens. That is the precise point.

It comes around this time because it is part of today's Wellness Week theme at school. "Pause--pay attention to the here and now." I know I keep a pretty steady pace throughout the day, but I do manage to pause. This morning I paused to add to a gratitude list. I paused to feel the cold air on my face as I stepped outside.  I paused to pray. I paused to enjoy a bite of toast with peanut butter and jelly.

Pauses. If you think you don't have time for them, you do.  If you think they don't make a difference, they do.  You can try to prove these ideas wrong, but hopefully instead you will prove them right and add a few to your day.

Pause. Pay attention to the here and now.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Mr. Valentine

Today I am grateful for recovery friends I get to see regularly and visits from those who have moved away. I am also grateful for my husband Darcy, on this Valentine's Day, and every day. 

I used to avoid writing about Valentine's Day. It was too tough, too "poor me." Too much a reminder of what I didn't have and seemingly everyone else did.

Now I joke about how every day is Valentine's Day when you are married to a real Valentine. Love isn't a joke though. It is genuine and deep, and at times hard work. My husband Darcy, Mr. Valentine, has put in hard work to make our marriage strong and our relationship healthy.


I want to acknowledge his love and his dedication to us. I am not an easy person to live with at times.
It is true that those closest to us see our best and our worst. Thank you Darcy for seeing past my worst, for forgiving, for staying committed.

I don't want you to think I am a holy terror, but truth be told, when I am spun up, I am not fun to be around. It usually has everything to do with me and where I am at in my head and heart, but it comes out in unwelcome and unkind ways at times.

Darcy will read this and say he's not perfect either. But I give him credit for being the more consistently reasonable one in this partnership.  We have grown so much together, as individuals and as spouses. For that I am deeply grateful. And looking forward to where today and tomorrow will take us.

It is fitting that today's Wellness Week theme at school is "Intention: If it doesn't challenge you, it won't change you." A healthy marriage and gratitude practice both take consistent effort and commitment. Both are worth it ten times over.  I love you Darcy! 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Frenetic or Friendly?

Today I am grateful for the convenience and sweetness of bananas and for opportunities to learn more about slowing down and taking care of myself.

I tend to have a lot of energy, but I also tend to have an unreasonable set of expectations for my days, both at home and at work. Frenzied and frenetic describes my pace too often. That squeezes the joy out of me and I forget to savor moments. I also become exhausted and that leads to touchier emotions.

So I am a work in progress when it comes to allowing myself a friendlier, less frenetic pace. Friendlier to myself and friendlier to those around me.

I don't write about my job on this blog much, but this week there is a natural connection. (I will say that this blog and the gratitude practice it enhances help me be a more effective counselor and co-worker.) We are having our annual Wellness Week at school this week. A group I co-advise has organized the week and will be carrying out various activities. That means a busy time for me.

I am excited about this year's theme and energized by the possibilities. Our overall theme is "Mindfulness Matters."  Mindfulness is briefly defined as moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. I like to call it being present in the here and now.

The idea of mindfulness and the practices that promote it have been around a long time. Our modern times and fast-paced world seem to be creating a greater need for it though. Our young people are growing up in a culture that leaves them spinning if they don't know how to slow down.

Each day this week has a theme as well. Today's is "Calm: Let go. Just breathe."

If I keep those suggestions in mind, I will have a friendlier and less frenetic day. I wish you the same.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Seasons Winding Down

Today I am grateful for our son Sam's wrestling coaches and teammates and the experiences he has had this season. I am also grateful for all the seasons of life, sports and other.

Sam is wrapping up his first season of high school wrestling, and his fourth overall. Yesterday, he hit a high note by winning the JV conference title at his weight. He had three solid matches, pinning all three of his opponents. The thrill of victory was his, and he relished it.

But one thing I really appreciate about my son is that he is always able to keep things in perspective pretty well. Sure, he shows frustration at times, but in general he moves on from a match, win or lose, pretty quickly. He's got some of my competitiveness, and gets emotional, but definitely keeps it more even-keeled than I did at his age.

Just like nature's seasons, some sports' seasons end sooner than preferred. Others get long. And some are just right. I think Sam would say this wrestling season has been just right. 

Our winter has been typical and the extremes have been short-lived. We are in the midst of a thaw now, and coupled with longer daylight, I am getting a touch of spring fever. My goal remains, however, to stay in today. Just for today. To live fully and mindfully. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

A New Day Dawns

Today I am grateful for sharing an interesting evening with an author and dozens of other women.
I am also grateful for the freshness of a new day, the opportunity to begin it with a clean slate.

A new day dawns. I appreciate the opportunity. Yesterday was an off day for me. A main contributing factor was the hormonal fluctuations of perimenopause. It is what it is. It's not an excuse, it's a reality.
I felt edgier, with a shorter emotional fuse. Less tolerant, more agitated. Off.

I made it through the day without major incident. Those around me likely noticed, as I am usually pretty upbeat and even-keeled. But we all have days like this. Let's cut ourselves and one another some slack. The hormones that allow women's bodies to do some amazing things also wreak a little havoc now and then. Not an excuse, a reality. It bears repeating.

Putting the day to rest and waking up to a new day, a fresh start, is an ongoing source of gratitude for me. For some, yesterday was the last day they woke up.

I am here, greeting this day, forgiving myself for yesterday's "itchy, scratchy" moments as my friend Jill refers to them. I am here. Grateful. Mindful. Ready to head into a day of opportunities.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Blood Sisters and Other Humans

Today I am grateful for opportunities to learn from other people of all ages.  I am also grateful for early morning quiet.

Happy Birthday to my sister Zita today! I am grateful to you and to all of my siblings. Thank you for being a regular reader of "Habitual Gratitude" for nearly five years. Thank you for your ongoing support and your contributions to our large and growing family.

Read Zita's guest post from December, 2015 here.

I appreciate my blood relatives, and I also appreciate humankind, both those I know and those I only encounter briefly.

Yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity to watch a performance of the play "Unveiled" by Rohina Malik. It is described this way:

Unveiled: A One Woman Play
by Rohina Malik

Racism.  Hate crimes. Love. Islam. Culture. Language. Life.
Five Muslim women in a post-9/11 world serve tea and uncover what lies beneath the veil in this critically acclaimed one-woman show.


I saw a performance of "Unveiled" by students from Washburn High School, located in Minneapolis. Thank you to all who helped bring the play to the school I work at. Watch it on YouTube here. Five females and a male acted out true stories. They ran the gamut of emotions from hope-filled and feisty to devastating loss and intolerance. Thank you to all!

I was left with many thoughts, but primarily the simple idea of the dignity of each person, regardless of race, religion, views, attire.  It is an idea we seriously need to carry with us in these divisive times with too much hate and closed-mindedness.  

The Muslim girls who acted in the play face real and daily comments like "terrorist" or "go home" simply because they wear the hajib, the veil of their faith that symbolizes modesty and privacy.
How sad! How intolerant!

One young woman, in a Q and A after the performance, left us all with some profound advice. When asked how we can help break down walls and hate, her response was so simple, so true. "Smile and say hello."

Human compassion starts right there. It starts right here. Respectfully acknowledging another person and their right to be safe and peacefully coexist with others.  

I will practice this simple gesture today. Smiling and saying hello isn't just showing compassion, it is showing mindfulness. I am noticing those around me, which means I am not just stuck in my own head and thoughts.


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Less Comparing, More Celebrating

Today I am grateful for books full of recovery wisdom and suggestions. I am also grateful for songs that always stir my soul.

We each have our talents, our strengths, our comfort zones where we can really excel if we take that necessary leap of faith. And by leap of faith I mean believing in ourselves and in the wider world.

The comparing, competing, drive for perfection that consumes so many and is too prevalent on social media and elsewhere is futile. It is a slap in our own faces. I am enough, as is. You are enough, as is.
We are each enough and are here to make a difference in our own unique ways. 

Less comparing and competing, more celebrating. Please! Too many young people are disillusioned and giving up. Too many adults are comparing their insides to other people's outsides and coming up short. Too many are looking for quick fixes that don't exist. Hope exists and comes in the form of healthy actions. Such actions stem the tide of disillusion and set us back on a positive course.

Running out on a ball diamond or stepping up to a race's starting line are celebrations of life and opportunity that have mattered to me. Most of the pleasure of the game or the run stems from being out there. Let's not lose sight of that. The sun beating down, cheering your teammates on, the crack of the bat. The group gathered with nervous energy before the starting gun is fired, ready to share in a journey like none other.

Does winning add to the pleasure? Sure, but it is short-lived. If you truly love the game, the sport, the activity, it isn't about winning. It is about the celebration of engaged involvement, a celebration of being in a positive mix of humanity.

We are diminishing each other and ourselves with all of this comparing and competing. Let's stop the comparing and competing. Gratitude practice helps us find ample reasons to celebrate. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Troubles Transformed

Today I am grateful for opportunities to read my poetry to others yesterday, for a fun coffeehouse experience at my school last evening, and those who made it possible. I am also grateful for friends who put their trust in me.

Troubles. They can't be entirely avoided. But our actions and thoughts do impact if the troubles multiply or subside.

As Simone Weil notes in this quote, troubles can bring grace-driven transformation:

"We must not wish for the disappearance of our troubles, 
but for the grace to transform them."

Wishing our troubles away would be wasted energy. Working them away is possible. It requires, at least at times, working through some soul-searching and self-honesty. When I honestly search, I realize that many of my troubles are of my own making. Ouch, but true.

Ego, pride, and self-centered fear can all compound what may start as a legitimate problem or concern that needs to be addressed. 

It helps me to step back and seek perspective, to see a solution that my tunnel vision had excluded.
It helps to get myself out of the way. That is when the transforming power of grace has a chance to unfold.

Today I will look for opportunities to consider a difficulty I am facing, step back, and allow grace in. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Practice for Progress

Today I am grateful for new recipes and old standbys. I am also grateful for those who organized and carried out a well-run wrestling tournament on Saturday.

As I completed the fifth alphabetical gratitude list I have done on this blog, I was reminded of the importance of practicing gratitude regularly. Anything worth doing well is worth practicing. Practice makes progress possible.

You won't, however, hear me say "practice makes perfect."  I am not going for perfection, I am going for daily acknowledgment of the blessings that enrich my life. I pursue peace and energy.

What gratitude practices help you? I started with a daily gratitude journal in 1995. I added this blog nearly five years ago. I do thank you notes, gratitude letters, A-Z lists, 3 x 3, and now text messages shared with recovery friends, and Facebook posts with others, like Steve Foran, striving for regular efforts to find gratefulness.

Action is required. And with actions, progress is pretty much guaranteed. With action, gratefulness is found, day after day, moment after moment.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Attention

Today I am grateful for blue skies to greet the morning, and time in my recliner too. I am also grateful for the excellent movie "Hidden Figures" and that Darcy and I finally made it to the theater to watch it last night. We had wanted to go for weeks and things just hadn't worked out, or we got too tired.

ATTENTION seems a very fitting word to end this Z-A gratitude list I have been traversing. It is truly where all gratefulness and mindfulness begin. By paying attention. Pausing and noticing what is right here, right now. By being fully present, not partially absent.

It is also fitting to have this quote included in today's post:

"Attention is the doorway to gratitude, the doorway to wonder, the doorway to reciprocity."
(Robin Wall Kimmerer)

Robin Wall Kimmerer studies, teaches, and writes about our environment and nature. Acknowledging and experiencing our place in the natural world is the only way, I believe, that we can find a sense of center and feel grounded. We can only truly experience when we are truly paying attention.

When we give attention to present circumstances and those others with us, we are more likely to think about the collective good and beyond our own selves and goals. We are more likely to give back, to contribute, to respect and honor that which we have taken time to notice and appreciate.

Pauses, full attention, and mindful presence are all good ways to start and end a day, an hour, a moment. 

Consider paying attention to be a deposit into a savings account for peace and grace, or a payment to an insurance policy that guarantees gratitude in daily life. 

Attention. Start here. 

Friday, February 3, 2017

Beaches

Today I am grateful for a productive work week. Exhausting, but in a good way. I am also grateful for
Arthur and Emily, my stepchildren, and all they bring to our lives.

BEACHES came to mind when I was considering words that start with "b." My favorite ones have been the cooler and more rugged beaches of the Pacific Ocean along the Oregon Coast and the Atlantic Ocean on the coast of Maine.

The oceans are amazing and awe-inspiring. Being able to walk along their beaches; hearing, feeling, tasting, smelling, and seeing the tide coming in and receding is a calming thing for me.

I have had only limited opportunities to take in oceanside views, as I grew up and continue to live in states in the middle of the country that are mostly landlocked.  I have appreciated the beaches of lakes along the way too.

I have not witnessed a beach after a hurricane or tsunami has roared through. Beaches aren't always inviting. Just like our lives, they are subject to ebbs and flows, some rather unsettling. But they return to equilibrium, and so can our lives. With mindfulness. With grateful pauses.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Content

Today I am grateful for my physical capabilities and some sweat and endorphins to start my day. It adds to my level of content and helps me release discontent.

CONTENT carries double meaning for me today. There is the content found in calm and peace that I feel when I keep a sane pace. This week has had some sane times and some less sane ones.

And then there is the content of my mind--which goes hand in hand with whether or not I feel content.

Too much content, a.k.a. a full mind, and too much editing and critique of said content, and peace is nowhere to be found.

So it is the balancing act of pausing, letting go of unnecessary thought content, replenishing ongoing gratitude, and repeating.  Such efforts increase the right kind of content.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Dairy

Today I am grateful for timely pauses and clear thinking. I am also grateful for overnight oatmeal.

DAIRY is the word of the day. It is broadly defined as containing or made from milk. I have a strong connection to dairy products, and a deep love for them as well. I grew up on a dairy farm. Ours was a small operation, 30 cows and also chickens and pigs. We had fresh milk every day and what we sold helped make other dairy products available.

I love cheese and ice cream. And I mean love. Butter is an indulgence I allow myself. I regularly eat yogurt and cottage cheese and put milk on my cereal. I support dairy farmers pretty much daily.

Besides being friendly with dairy products, I was also friendly with the cows on our farm. Friendly enough to be in close proximity on a regular basis, as I did my part to help out with chores ranging from carrying pails of milk to the milk house to helping clean manure out of gutters in the barn. I still get sentimental, in a good way, when I smell that mix of hay, milk, and cows.

Today's dairy operations tend to be large and highly automated. I am grateful for the farm where I grew up. We learned the value of hard work, teamwork, and everyone doing their part. We gained a respect for nature and all living things.

Today, dairy products are on my menu. How about yours?