Karen Bohnert
My father would have turned 79 years old at the end of last month. He is missed daily. Those that knew him, knew his laughter and his big smile. Life wasn’t always easy for my father — actually, many times it was just the opposite — but he always found the glass overfilling. When life weighs me down, I think of my late father and smile.

His life stresses mimic ours; trying to make more out of less, including the shrinking milk check and rising input costs. But, now we get to deal with consumer demands that have us scratching our heads, because more and more consumers have never milked a cow, and truthfully, most of them have never seen a cow.

Often I think of my father and ask myself, “What would Bob think?”

My dad’s rolodex of people was diverse. He was well rounded despite being pretty much a hermit the later part of his adult life. He lived a childhood that most of us cannot comprehend, one with poverty and abuse. He felt he made it big when he owned and operated his own dairy farm and had a family that he loved tremendously, and who loved him equally as much. And, that he had a life that allowed him to splurge and eat Tillamook brand ice cream.

His wants were simple, and so he would probably have a hard time comprehending today’s consumers — those that want to drink nut juice, but then that same person who wants to avoid dairy is adding butter to their coffee. Or there are the consumers that socially state they are striving to eat healthier and make odd choices, yet you find them in the fast food lane now more than ever before.

So, what would Bob say? He probably would have thrown out a quote like, “I think the next best thing to solving a problem is finding some humor in it.”

Laugh at the things you cannot understand. Dad did that well. He would have also invited them into his home, served them my mom’s best homemade chocolate chip cookies (made with real butter, of course) and a cold glass of milk, and opened up the conversation.

My dad taught me firsthand what a special gift laughter is. No matter how hard life can be, there is always something to smile about and something to laugh about. I know this can seem pretty near impossible some days, but when I open my eyes, I see small glittering, giggling moments that fill my heart and inflate my soul. My guess is so do many of you.

I recall back to when my oldest son, Tyler, was 8 years old. His uncle, Brian, told him, “Your cow is in heat.” Tyler, quick to reply, said, “I know, we better get a fan on the cow to cool it down.” Every time the weather turns warm or we see a descendant of that cow family, we giggle thinking of that story. We forever tease my now freshman son about this.

Find reasons to laugh. Trust me, funny moments will come at the least expected and most needed of times.

My youngest son, Jacob, always makes us laugh. Sometimes I worry what he will say because it is always unfiltered. Cute when you’re 3 years old, not as much the older he gets. But, one afternoon, when he was 4 years old, we were standing in the grocery store line. He kept saying, “I need a hooker, mom,” and other people around me questionably looked at us. I replied, “Jacob, you don’t need a hooker.” He insisted he must have a hooker for his wagon. I smiled and said, “No, Jacob, what you need is a hitch pin, not a hooker.”

This story makes me literally laugh out loud. We educated the everyday consumer on the difference between a hooker and a hitch pin on that day.

Laughter can really be the best medicine. It has been medically proven to reduce stress hormones and elevate immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals.

While dairy farming is a business and a serious one at that, we have to learn to not take ourselves too seriously and find ways to laugh. I remember my father snipping at us girls one winter evening because the cows had gotten out and he was frustrated. We all ran outside to help and one stubborn, fresh heifer kept getting away from us. He chirped on and on about not letting the heifer go, and then the next he knew, he was the one to let it go because he got a Charlie horse in his leg. He grabbed his leg, and the Holstein heifer ran by. After a good chuckle, and my father’s leg finally feeling better, we regained the will to get the cows back in, including that darn heifer.

It once was said, “A good laugh heals a lot of hurts.” I know many of you are in pain. I am, too, some days more than others. But, I try to do what my late father did so well and find little slices of humor in my day-to-day life. Having a spouse that laughs a lot helps, and so do children. We even laugh at the mistakes we make. Because, really, what else can we do?

Around the Kitchen Table is a regular column in Hoard's Dairyman. The author and her husband work in partnership with family on a 500-cow dairy in East Moline, Ill.