I just returned from my daily walk in the woods with Juergen (my man), and Joey (my dog) who thinks he’s a man.

I look forward to this walk every day and when I don’t do it, I feel the void.

As we walked we pondered things like which direction does this river take and which nearby body of water does it empty into?

We tested our cleats on the patches of ice and laughed as we determined, yes, it’s still slippery even with good gear and we should be cautious.

The dog runs off leash in this 2 mile section of trail because there are no cars in the parking lot.

This section of the trail is seldom used because you have to cross a main road to pass through to the next 20 miles of trail and there are plenty of other ways to get there.

We marvel at his playful nature, try to get a video of him making snow angels in what’s left for patches of snow from the last storm and how he runs ahead and stops to check to make sure we’re coming.

He’s definitely become a big part of our family since we picked him up from the local shelter last April.

After several moments of silence, besides the snow and ice crunching under our feet, I take a deep breath and sign “THIS IS MY HAPPY PLACE”.

Yesterday afternoon we went to my niece’s house for a visit. I stayed with the baby while she went to pick up the toddler from preschool. Juergen was downstairs building shelves for the new play room.

The baby had just eaten, was all snuggled up and her eyes were heavy. I made myself comfortable in the rocking chair, cradled her and softly hummed a lullaby.

She fought so hard to stay awake, but after only a few minutes, she drifted off into a peaceful sleep.

I couldn’t resist taking a selfie and letting my niece know “I’M IN MY HAPPY PLACE”.

Last night we celebrated the Lunar New Year. Juergen is part Chinese and traditions are important. I like to honor them when I can so we invited my family over for some traditional New Year foods.

There’s a lot that has to be done at the last minute because many of the foods are prepared ahead and should be steamed, fried, toasted just before serving so everything is hot.

Our guests sat down, with a place set for those who aren’t with us anymore and we began serving, it got noisy with conversation about ingredients, the different flavors, textures and meanings of the food.

We continued to work in the kitchen together with the rhythm of a pro team, almost reading each other’s minds and we had a wonderful time.

In the midst of the hustle and bustle of getting hot food to the table, I paused, smiled and thought to myself, “THIS IS MY HAPPY PLACE”.

The point is, our days are filled with opportunities for JOY.

Showing up and participating in our lives with a positive mindset, staying present to the moment with grace, patience and gratitude…these are the highlights.

We must PAUSE…NOTICE…GIVE THANKS to recognize the JOY in our lives.

It’s right here, now.