I went to a birthday bash last weekend that was rather special.

Val, the birthday girl, invited all her friends to join her for a night of dancing at Fishermen's Village, an outdoor/indoor entertainment complex that offers free music each weekend. That meant we had a band and a terrific party setting – all for free, thanks to Val's good planning.

In all, there were four long tables of people and Dave and I knew no one except Val. I always say that Val would make a great social director because she has a gift for turning a room full of strangers into one big, happy family.

She did exactly that at her party. It was more than a case of making conversation" with strangers. There was a genuine feeling of warmth and kinship as we all sampled ample Italian food, danced and chatted.

As I was sitting there among all those friendly, laughing people who were soon issuing invitations for us to come to dinner at their house, it dawned on me that this was much more than a birthday party: It was a celebration of life.

Victor, one of our new friends, made the same observation as he talked about how much we were all enjoying dancing and getting to know each other. I think when you get to be a certain age you no longer take life for granted and you try to make the most of each day," he said. That's what we're all doing."

I agree. I'm like Val in that I'm always looking for reasons to celebrate life. It doesn't have to be something as special as a birthday to prompt a celebration.

The other night Dave and I sat on the patio celebrating chocolate, of all things. With the enthusiasm of little kids, we smacked our lips and savored each bite. While we both love chocolate, we only indulge as a special treat, not an everyday occurrence.

Earlier that week, we celebrated life in a literal sense when his heart catheterization revealed no blockage and no problems. Rather than taking the news in stride, we decided it called for a private celebration.

We celebrated with two of our favorites – Sangria wine and pizza. If his arteries weren't clear, we would not, in good conscience, have indulged in pizza so it was a true celebration.

We talked that night about the goodness of life and our vow never to take it for granted.

We don't. We celebrate as much of the beauty of life as we can.

One favorite celebration ritual of ours is to drive to the beach at sunset to glory in the golden spectacle of one of nature's daily treats.

No matter how many sunsets we see, each new one is awe-inspiring. Like a kaleidoscope that offers a different color pattern at each turn, each sunset is new and different.

Some sunsets offer fiery shades of red and orange, lighting the sea with its fire. Others are muted or moody shares of mauve. Last night's sunset was pretty in pastels – soft pinks and a lingering light blue sky.

No matter what the sunset looks like, we count ourselves lucky to see it and we celebrate each one.

Sometimes we celebrate a sunset by getting on our bikes and riding along the waterfront, watching the play of changing light on the water.

Celebrations are all about appreciating life and I try to do that with all aspects of it.

Sometimes I celebrate the seasonal return of a friend. Sometimes I celebrate being able to have lunch with favorite friends. And sometimes I simply celebrate staying in bed as long as I want to.

That's something I seldom do. Now that I'm semi-retired, I don't get up early because I have to. I can't bring myself to stay in bed because I don't want to miss any of the wonderful daily happenings.

I celebrate the beauty of life as I watch the rising sun bring my backyard to life. Like a flashlight that illuminates all before it, the sunrise slowly reveals the morning midst sparkling on the grass and the palm trees reflected in the still waterway.

Filled with tranquility, I give thanks to God for the beauty and for the gift of another day. Who could fail to celebrate such gifts?

I hear the birds join in celebration as they sing their Ode to a New Day. I hope they know how much I appreciate their early day concert.

By now my Pennsylvania friends are celebrating the sight of a riot of color as fall paints each tree. It's the time of year to go for a walk or a ride, not to get anywhere in particular, but to appreciate fall foliage at its finest.

Here in Florida, my friends and neighbors are applauding something you take for granted at this time of year – crisp, cool days. It's a time when we can turn off the air conditioners and open our homes to a refreshing breeze.

This morning when I got up, I celebrated the combination of clear, sunny skies and a brisk breeze. Then I called my friend, Kay, because I knew she, too, would be celebrating the beauty of the day.

No matter where you live, there is so much beauty in the world.

Do you just rush by it, unseeing? Do you take it for granted? Or, do you, too, pause to celebrate the beauty of life?

There are so many reasons to celebrate life. The important thing is to enjoy it all while it is ours to have.