I choose to think of good things happening to me as blessings rather than luck. Just how many blessings does one person deserve?

The numbers person that I am, I still couldnít begin to count all my blessings.

Earlier this month, I received another blessing, one for the ages.

After nearly four decades of working for The Hays Daily News as a reporter and editor, I get the chance to go back to where this all started ó to Fort Hays State University as a feature writer in the office of University Relations and Marketing.

Funny how the circle of life works. It was at Fort Hays where I got my start in journalism in 1976, in the sports information office.

That led to fellow college students introducing me to FHSUís student newspaper and yearbook, then the sports editor at The Hays Daily News. The rest, as they say, is history.

My first day of work at the HDN, helping take basketball game statistics called in via phone, was Dec. 13, 1977. For anyone counting, thatís 37 years, eight months and 17 days ago.

In between were sporting and news events that included trips to Tahiti and Washington, and possibly the most memorable ó a two-week memorial to a local helicopter pilot who was shot down in Afghanistan.

I have been asked, but simply cannot rate stories or events. All had an impact on my career and my life. The same holds true with how many stories Iíve written or how many people Iíve interviewed ó absolutely too many to count.

Because of deadlines, this column was written before I had to turn in my office key, with the number 5 etched into it, to the HR department Friday. While itís not the same key ó weíve changed locks at least once during my stint here ó Iím fairly certain itís the same number Iíve always had. George Brett, Albert Pujols and my key.

Whoever ends up with that key, please take good care of it. It represents a lifetime of memories.

I have had the privilege to work for six different publishers, eight newsroom editors and to work with countless photographers and reporters and my most favorite ó you, the public.

I can probably count on one hand how many times I woke up in the morning and didnít want to go to work, and that was because I was feeling under the weather. What a blessing to be able to say you donít consider your job work.

How lucky can a storyteller get than to talk to dozens of people a month, then tell their story to a whole lot of other people. Each and every person with whom I have come in contact has made an impact on my life in one way or another.

For that, I am blessed.

Iíve been trying for awhile to get used to the idea of someday not working for The Hays Daily News. Itís hard to wrap my mind around it. The HDN is part of my fabric, and itís hard for me to change my wardrobe.

So now, I get to work for the best mid-sized university in the Midwest. That, by the way, doesnít sound like work, either. Do I deserve to be this blessed?

Just go with it, I tried to tell myself one day while sitting in my favorite outdoor spot on the south side of our HDN office building.

As I leaned against the brick wall just outside the back door, I glanced up at the 18-foot pine tree in front of me. I remember when we planted that tree. Sure was little then. Time does indeed fly by.

My Hays Daily News days that span parts of five decades include me finding a husband who put up with the crazy inconsistent hours of a newspaper reporter, raising our two sons who often were able to tag along with me on my job and the birth of our first grandchild.

So many blessings, too many to count, I mused. Then it hit me. An idea for a thank-you/goodbye column ó that tree, and what it represents.

How in the world could anyone count all those needles, I wondered. Well, my blessings even outnumber the needles on that pine tree.

Thanks to all who have contributed to that gigantuous number of blessings, or still might in the future. I have met more people, had more interesting conversations and more fun in performing this ďjobĒ at the HDN than anyone has a right to. And now I get to continuing doing the same at my alma mater.

I am so lucky and blessed, and thatís a hard combination to beat.

Diane Gasper-OíBrien is now a former reporter at The Hays Daily News.