where you find them…friends

One of our greatest pleasures while sailing on the Queen Mary II to France and the UK, was meeting Scots Michael and Jackie, and South Carolinians John and Kathy. To say that we lucked out in our choice of dining companions is understating the fact. From the get-go we all fell into an easy, comfortable camaraderie. How amazing is that? 

Accents abound as we six engaged in active conversation. No shrinking violets, we. Amidst the yada, yada, yada, and the blah, blah, blah, there were laughs galore. I took to teasing Michael about “tieing the knot” with his beloved Jackie. And chided John for being the “red-neck” he proclaimed himself to be. All in good fun; all in good humor. Both were gentlemen, for they didn’t haul off and smack me upside the head for my witticisms.

The ladies were sweeties. Soul sisters with heart, we got along swimmingly. Great news, in case we had to jump ship. Of the three, I was the only one still wedded to the same man. Not that it mattered, for the others seemed smitten with mates with whom they were meant to be. Near our age, they were great role models of relationships that work outside of Holy Matrimony. Proof-positive that one size doesn’t have to fit all!

We learned that Michael only ate beef…not poultry, not pork, not fish. We discovered that Jackie’s 20ish-year-old daughter had recently moved to Australia. Or was it New Zealand? And because she feared flying, Jackie was trying to figure a way to cruise to see her daughter “down under.”

Together Michael and Jackie had sailed the Queen Mary II 8 times, and been on more than 30 cruises. When we docked in Scotland, they remained on the ship luxuriating in all it had to offer, while most of us mucked about in the wind and rain trying to see what they could see whenever they wished. Lucky, lucky them, not to have to rush about like chickens with our heads cut off trying to squeeze Scotland into a few hours of viewing pleasure.

John and Kathy made me think that southerners have healthy egos. They speak their minds, very eloquently. Right or wrong, they hold forth on their opinions. Not the least bit shy, they spoke of their dislike for Obama. Not until our last night together did Kathy ask how I felt about our President. I said I liked him. And that was that. No debate ensued as to our difference of opinions. She and John were probably the first people I’d ever met whom I liked immensely, despite their having proudly declared themselves to be die-hard Republican Conservatives, and ardent devotees of the Fox News Channel. They didn’t try to sell me their bill of goods, and that was more than alright with me.

John was a teddy bear disguised as a “red-neck.” He admitted to letting 2 ex-wives walk away with nearly everything. He just wanted out. Obviouslyly crazy about Kathy, John is great friends with her ex-husband, who blesses the relationship between his ex-wife and his good friend. Go figure! Must be southern hospitality at its best.

Cover of

Cover via Amazon

Kathy, an avid antiques collector and dealer, has acted in several movies that were filmed in her hometown of Buford…The Big Chill, and The Prince of Tides, starring Nick Nolte and Barbra Streisand. In the latter, Kathy played one of Barbra’s girlfriends. Evidently the great Streisand is a very nice person to be around…not diva-ish at all. So too it seems is Tom Hanks, whose film Forrest Gump was also made in and around Buford. Looks like small, southern towns are where the Hollywood celebrities feel most at home. After meeting John and Kathy, I can see why.

I hope we run into our shipmates again, whether on their home turf or ours. It’s obvious that when we allow ourselves to open up to one another, beautiful things can, and do, happen. Whether via the Internet, or sailing the ocean blue…

friends truly are…wherever you find them…

………hugmamma. 

 

the world…a ship’s eye view

While others may have dreamed of traveling to the Far East, I have always been partial to the UK and Europe. A few years ago my husband, daughter and I were fortunate to sail through the Mediterranean with Holland America Cruises, while just a couple of years back my husband and I visited Venice and Croatia. Seeing the countryside of France and the British Isles was next on my list of must-dos. Sailing there on the Queen Mary did not disappoint.

Unique to cruising is seeing the coastline from the deck of a ship. I was totally enthralled with the breathtaking landscape that unfolded with each nautical mile traveled. The Scottish cliffs…majestic… …rugged…

…serene.

The Irish landscape…picturesque…

…idyllic…

…postcard-perfect.

I was equally captivated by the sunsets…

…and the cloud drifts…

…the man-made elements…

…and the ocean itself.

nothing compares to viewing the world from an ocean-liner…unless of course…one gazes down at earth…from the inside of a spaceship………hugmamma.

10,001, and counting!!!

You’ve done it!!! Just the beginning of February, and you’ve registered over 10,000 viewings, better known as “hits.” And I’m 54 posts away from my goal of 365. So I’ll keep churning them out, hoping you’ll keep riding my catamaran…off into the tropical sunset. Wish I could take you all on a cruise to Hawaii. Maybe in the next life when I return as Maui’s answer to Oprah Winfrey. Never can tell. Anway I can fantasize, I’m great at that!

You can track the number of posts I’ve written, and the “hits” to my blog. Both figures are given in the sidebar, along the right side of my postings. The “hits” are further down, above the “comments” list.

congrats to you…and heartfelt thanks too!…hugmamma.

breast cancer, “reaching out”

A disease that has touched so many people, both victims and loved ones alike, breast cancer is like a magnet for human kindness. Family, friends, colleagues, women from all walks of life, have come face to face with an “enemy” that alters the world they knew, both those who survive and those who eventually succumb. And all who share their world are debilitated as well. So it is no wonder that these loved ones should lend their support in whatever way possible.

The Susan G. Komen Foundation is possibly the largest, most visible vehicle  affording everyone an opportunity to donate to the fight against breast cancer. On our Mediterranean cruise this summer, I had occasion to witness Holland America Line’s efforts on behalf of the Foundation. Begun in 2007, every one of the Line’s cruises, 500 in all, conducts a 5K deck walk for all interested passengers. The entrance fee of $15 includes a t-shirt and a wrist band, both sporting the Susan G. Komen logo,  as well as an invitation to a Pink Lemonade Party after the event. The proceeds are donated to the cause. Although recurring tendonitis in my ankle kept me from the walk, I made the donation and along with other bystanders, cheered on the walkers. It was a festive, and worthwhile, occasion. Congrats to Holland America Lines, a corporation that cares. Many others have also joined the fight. Kudos to all of them!

My English friend recently learned that a beloved friend of hers since their younger years in the UK, discovered she had breast cancer. In her late 60’s or early 70’s, it was a shock. Three weeks after learning of it, surgery was done, and she is now preparing for chemotherapy. My friend, an avid knitter, quickly made a “prayer shawl,” and mailed it to Catherine, who is now never without it.

Not as large as an afghan, the shawl falls below the waist, wrapping about the shoulders. I can imagine the comfort it’s giving both friends, who feel connected by a tangible form of their mutual love for one another. I’ve asked my friend to teach my daughter and I how to replicate the shawl so that we might donate them to women in need of our comfort, and prayers. I was unable to pick up the intricacies of the craft when I attempted to learn before, but maybe this time my daughter will “get it” and help me. If all else fails, I might have to purchase the yarn and have my friend’s nimble fingers work their magic. Wish me luck!

A Wall Street Journal article, “How Hope Travels With a Wig,” mentions the saga of a “traveling” wig. Its most recent trip was to the home of 40-year-old Alicia Gaudio. A couple of weeks ago, the Mt. Kisco, N.Y attorney learned she had breast cancer. She had a mastectomy this past week, and will soon be undergoing chemotherapy. Considered a talisman for cancer survivors who have worn the wig over the course of the last 4 years, Ms. Gaudio, her husband and 2 young children, are hoping she will be returned to good health, like the women who have worn it before her.

“The gift–a stylish brown wig…will be delivered by Nicole Rowe, who wore it after she lost her own hair during breast-cancer treatment last year. ‘We call this the healing wig,’ Ms. Rowe, an optician, plans to tell Ms. Gaudio.” The owner of the wig, Vanessa Pacella, a psychotherapist in Wellington, Florida, paid $5,000 for it after she was diagnosed with the disease.  ” ‘When you wear this wig and look in the mirror, you see yourself as a healthy person…There’s a lot to be said for positive energy.’ ” Others who have worn the wig were all friends of Ms. Pacella’s, themselves cancer survivors.

Researchers have found that human beings through thousands of years of civilization, have assigned “mystical possibilities in amulets and talismans,” especially in times of crises.  ” ‘It’s not voodoo,’ says Barbara Stoberock, a researcher at the University of Cologne in Germany. ‘It can be explained. If you have a lucky charm, and believe it helps you, there’s a psychological mechanism. It lifts your beliefs in your own capabilities, and gives you a boost.'”

Jeffrey Zaslow, who wrote the article, explains that the wig can serve as a compass for the women who wear it, giving them a sense of direction when they feel lost. Knowing that others who have worn it and survived, can give those still in the trenches, their bearings once again. For those who have gone before, the wig has offered “a shared strength, and a path back to health.”

Before the wig is delivered to Ms. Gaudio by Ms. Rowe, she will have it washed and blow-dried at a local salon. She will also relay the message that the 3 previous wearers are well. Ms. Rowe will also share the following anecdote.

Last winter, after Ms. Rowe went through chemotherapy, she promised her 3-year-old son, Alex, that her hair would return when the leaves were back on the trees. The first time Alex saw her in the wig, he got excited. He ran to the window, and even though it was still winter, he shouted, ‘Mommy, I can see the leaves coming back on the trees!’

Ms. Rowe explains that the “wig’s magic reaches beyond those who’ve worn it…It helped her little boy imagine the possibilities of spring.” Through the magic of “reaching out,” Holland America Lines through its 5K deck walks, my girlfriend through her “prayer shawl,” and wearers of the “healing wig” through their shared strength, and so many others like them, continue to ensure that, “hope springs eternal.” 

for my sister, as she recovers, huge hugs…hugmamma.

european getaway, holland america line

As a not-so-frequent world traveler,  I wanted to share some Holland America Line information, in particular cruises which I can vouch for, since I’ve “been there, done that.” Cruising is like taking your hotel everywhere you travel. There’s no need to pack , unpack and repack. You needn’t fret about transporting yourself from city to city. All meals are included, selections ranging from Asian to Italian to American to Continental to everything-in-between. And contrary to popular belief, you needn’t stuff yourself to overflowing. But if you do, exercise opportunities abound. There are spin classes, elliptical machines, decks to walk, and pools to swim. I can attest to the fabulous shopping, especially in the jewelry shops. Some of my favorite pieces, real and costume, were shipboard “gems.”  Nightly entertainment rivals Las Vegas and Broadway. Then there’s the casino for gamblers, the lounges for dancers, and the amusement arcade for the younger set. A theatre features current films, special cooking classes satisfy the gourmands among us, non-denominational services gathers the religious together. Finally, the ports-of-call are yours for exploring, if you so desire. Our family chose walking tours, so we killed the proverbial “two birds with one stone.” We could eat very well onboard ship, and rid ourselves of excess calories on the shore excursions.

Cruising is my idea of a REAL vacation, no making up the beds, no straightening and vacuuming, no cleaning the bathroom, no cooking and serving, no clearing away the table and stacking the dishwasher. I can rise early or late, eat whenever, nap if I like, finish a book I’ve only read for 5 minutes before falling asleep at night. Time to myself with no chores to do before I’m allowed to play, is my favorite part of being on a ship away from land, hearth and home, at least for a week-and-a-half or two. That’s enough to get me back into the swing of living the life I love.

A brochure recently sent in the mail was like a siren’s call to passing ships “Welcome to Europe, the place we call home, where priceless works of art meet compelling natural landscapes. Let us offer you a firsthand perspective of our heritage. Only here will you bike through Barcelona’s historic squares or live the life of a Viking as you cruise through Norwegian fjords. Readers of Travel Weekly named Holland America Line ‘Best Cruise Line, Europe.’ Cruise with us and you’ll understand why.”  A friend from exercise class, swears this is true, having cruised with HAL for the first time to Australia with her husband during Christmas, and most recently to Alaska, treating family members. Like me, she also did a 10 day Mediterranean cruise, thoroughly enjoying the included ports-of-call.

In Livorno, we saw the famed Leaning Tower of Pisa, snapping photos to our hearts content. Stopping in Monte Carlo, we took a side trip to Nice and Eze where we walked charming streets, shopping in small boutiques. A self-guided tour of Barcelona’s old district was my husband’s idea of a great time, while my daughter and I gawked at the modernistic architecture and spent euros on the latest European fashions. Driving into the hilly countryside of Palma de Mallorca, we understood why celebrities Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones chose to make their home on that breathtaking island. The white stone homes with painted blue doors of La Goulette were as mesmerizing, as the camels we rode near the docked ship were cause for nonstop giggles. Palermo offered us a chance to dine seaside in a local cafe among natives, our eyes soaking in the blue-green Mediterranean waters. In Naples we toured the beautiful Amalfi Coast, where we lunched, and shopped. But the “piece de resistance” was walking the streets of Pompeii, or what was left after its demolition by nearby Mt. Vesuvius. The cobbled roads, structural foundations, and preserved archaeological finds put us in awe of the Italians who built this city. Surrounded by the stillness and quiet, hot sun beating down on us, it was easy to imagine its citizens walking among us, going about their daily affairs.   

  • 20-Day Mediterranean Adventure Collectors’ Voyage – Roundtrip Civitavecchia (Rome)

Leaving Rome, the ms Noordam sails to Messina, Dubrovnik, Corfu, Katakolon (Olympia), Santorini, Kusadasi (Ehesus), Piraeus (Athens), Rome, Livorno (Florence/Pisa), Monte Carlo, Barcelona (overnight on board), Palma de Mallorca, La Goulette (Tunis and Carthage), Palermo, Naples, returning to Rome.

Dates include:  5/21, 31; June 10, 20, 30; Jul 10; Aug 6, 16, 26; Sep 5, 15, 25; Oct 5, 2011

Also available are 10 day cruises which feature some of the aforementioned ports. For this and other information, call your travel agent or 1-877-SAIL HAL (1-877-724-5425), or visit www.hollandamerica.com. Inquire about special promotions; it never hurts to ask.

tell them i sent you, with hugs…hugmamma.