celebrate life…every day

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic C...

Image by sarowen via Flickr

It’s kind of a running joke in the Catholic Church, actually it’s probably true of all religious denominations, that there’s an explosion of attendance on two annual occasions, Christmas and Easter. Regular churchgoers have to literally suck in their breaths to make room for the masses of people who join in celebrating the birth of Jesus, and then His resurrection from death. But all are welcome, regardless if they only come once or twice a year.

I acted as a meet and greet person for 8 a.m. Mass this morning. Seems to be a volunteer job I’m becoming more and more adept at doing. No cowboys here though, like there was at my previous gig. Just regular folk in their Sunday best. My husband helped usher people. We arrived about 15-20 minutes before the start of services, so there weren’t a ton of empty spaces left in the pews. I had a hunch we’d be one of the many standing the entire time, which we did.

After fulfilling our tasks, I remained in the vestibule where I’d been welcoming fellow worshippers with “Good morning. Happy Easter.” Meanwhile, hubby stood directly opposite me at the other end of the church. We could’ve waved “hello” but we didn’t. We were respectful, and minded our “P’s and Q’s,” or at least I did. He’s always reverential. Did I tell you he was a seminarian studying for the priesthood when he was in high school? God decided he had a more difficult job to undertake…keeping me on the straight and narrow, which he’s done, at times with difficulty. I’m not the kind of sheep who’s easily led. I like to ask “but..why?”

Because I was standing where families gather, outside the glass doors that separate them from the other parishioners, I couldn’t follow the priest’s words very well. With babies and toddlers cooing and talking, or parading up and down the aisle, or running in some cases, I quickly decided that God was also present among them and all of us standing on the periphery, not just within the main body of the church where the altar was. So I watched, and enjoyed, the children and their parents interact. Jesus, Mary and Joseph must’ve carried on like any one of these normal families.

La vierge aux raisins

Image via Wikipedia

A young couple whom I had brought over to an empty chair in front of me, were wonderful to watch. The husband encouraged his wife to sit with their baby in her lap. Taking off his jacket, and draping it over the back of the chair, he gently stroked his wife’s back as she tended to the little one’s needs. At times, he would lift the girl up into his arms to give the mother a little respite. Once he left, taking his daughter with him. They were gone a little while so I wondered if he’d taken her somewhere to change a diaper or use the restroom. Of course I didn’t know for sure, but he seemed the considerate type who wouldn’t flinch at the task. At the kiss of peace,” I wished them a “Happy Easter,” and told them how much I enjoyed their wonderful family.

It’s always rewarding to notice God’s handiwork in the smallest moments of daily living. Happiness, I think, is an accumulation of all such worthwhile minutiae. Approaching life this way has meant that I’m able to sustain ongoing joy. I’m better able to keep the “valleys” in perspective, not letting them drain me of my positive resolve. It’s an ongoing struggle, for sure, but one which I’m determined never to lose.

My favorite author, Leo Buscaglia, makes the best case for celebrating every day as though it were Easter, or Christmas, or any other sacred occasion.

A Rose to Brighten Your Day

Image by TT IN THE DESERT via Flickr

Life is meant to be a celebration! It shouldn’t be necessary to set aside special times to remind us of this fact. Wise is the person who finds a reason to make every day a special one.

hugs for every day of your life being special…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.