Reno Ukulele Festival – Backstage at the Really Big Show

audience at celebrity showcaseUkulele players from near and far settle into the sky-hugging Nugget Hotel for a weekend of “everything ukulele” and then some. This includes two big evening concerts in the historical Celebrity Showroom. Saturday’s opening extravaganza features “The Ukulele All-Stars.”

Plans for the Saturday show are still unfolding as we arrive in Reno and learn we are invited to join the All-Stars for the last song of the set. Of course we are thrilled but I didn’t pack anything razzle-dazzle to wear on such a grand stage and my feet are so sore that I’m in my funky worn-out black clogs instead of high heels. Oh whatever… We’re there! And this is why I bring my iPhone on stage to take a picture of the audience. Gotta capture the moment. Read More

Reno… Pictures and Pizzazz!

Hi Everybody!

My new friend Carrie, from Vancouver, British Columbia.

When all is said and done, the moments of our lives are wrapped in “relationship” whether that momentary connection is with another person, a thing, a thought, a whatever. Something about the ukulele builds and maintains relationships, communities, even. This extraordinary “coming together” was abundantly and joyfully evident at the Reno Ukulele Festival. So please relive these memories with me as we revisit the people!

Now here’s the scoop. My hubby Craig and I just recycled our old flippy-phones and joined the iPhone revolution. Apparently this thing can do everything except change the oil in your car (and there is probably an app for that too). I get overwhelmed with the “learning curve” that accompanies these new-fangled “time-savers.” So I’m tip-toeing around the bells and whistles. It’s enough that I can use the thing as a phone! Read More

Reno Ready

Hi Everybody!

I’m slipping out of the groovy groove I whirl in, here in SoCal. Love Los Angeles. Hardly ever leave Los Angeles. But at the end of the month my ukulele-playing hubby and I are packing the Honda Fit and heading due north, through the Mojave Desert onto Highway 395 which hugs the east side of the majestic Sierra Nevada mountain range, up up up past Bishop and Mammoth onto Reno, Nevada. We are performing and teaching workshops at the Reno Ukulele Festival which begins Thursday, March 29th and ends Sunday, April 1st. Read More

How’d they Do That?

Let me explain. In this picture I am the “person” on the right. Pointing at the zillion-dollar Lexus sedan which is just out of camera shot, as they tell me I might win it. Yes, welcome to Fantasyland? Oh and the nice lady on the left, in gray, completely in gray, is employed by the Cirque du Soleil to entertain and charm the audience before we are ushered into the Grand Chapiteau. That’s “tent” to the rest of us.

My friends and I are making a day of it at the beach in Santa Monica. It’s a postcard-perfect afternoon as we walk the half-mile from the parking lot past the pier, the bustle of families, strollers, oddballs, roller-bladers, bikini-clad California girls, all savoring the warm sunshine on this first weekend in March. Maybe it IS Fantasyland after all…

Of course the Cirque du Soleil is a wonder of sights and sounds and bodies that bend and fly. The flying part I get, thanks to the cadre of black-garbed tech guys who work the pulleys, but all that body bending? As one act follows another I hear a familiar mantra ringing in my head “how the hell do they do that?” This particular show, OVO, embraces the world of bugs, so there are a lot of insect-like movements on stage, but one in particular grabs my attention because I’ve actually tried to do it myself!

No, not bite my toenails… let’s back up a little. I do yoga. My poses are half-baked, my technique is pitiful, but I do it anyway and am flexible enough to bend forward and touch my palms to the floor. To the right is a picture of another pose, the “bridge pose.” I wish I could tell you that is ME doing it, but…


in real life, this what MY bridge pose looks like.




Enough said.

So back to the Cirque…

Midway through the show this lithe young lady appears on stage, dressed elegantly as a red crawly bug. I’m not sure if she has bones in her spine because now she is bending backwards into the bridge pose as if it is normal. As if this is how she gets her money at the ATM. And then she crawls, she crawls across the stage, all spider-like in that damned bridge pose. Can you picture this? I mean a little baby learns how to crawl across the floor and we go “ooo, look at that” and clap our hands. But if that same baby flips over and clunks upside-down over to grandma, the parents will freak out and throw all their DVD’s of “Alien” into the trash.

So back to the Cirque…

When you see an extraordinary demonstration like this, of the marvel and majesty of the human body in motion, it is art. You get it at a gut level. Analyzing the parts can wash the color out of the whole and leave it as gray as the Infiniti Lady. And badgering myself that “I can’t do that, I never will do that, I never could do that” like that, puts a little damper on things too.

So I’m glad to report that the next morning I do my 25 minutes of yoga in our little living room with a cup of steaming oolong tea nearby and revel in this miracle of having a body that still moves and bends and feels. Something.

Twenty Five Minutes at a Time

Apparently “delegating” is not something we jump through hoops to do.  It’s hard for us to admit the obvious, that we can’t do it all.  Then again, letting go with clenched fists is not a happy picture either. Read More

Asking for Help

For those of us who are spinning too many plates or burning too many candles at all ends or giving up altogether and devoting their lives to working Sudoku puzzles…and the hell with it…


It takes a village.  Why not call on people for help, especially when it’s a win-win for everyone.  Why didn’t I learn this lesson in kindergarten? Read More

Learning to Delegate

“Blogland” has been a distant star for me the last couple of months.  That’s what happens when you sink into the abyss of “overwhelm.”  Like many of us, I feel like the guy who appeared on the old Ed Sullivan show keeping all those plates spinning in the air.  When one begins to wobble and head south this desperate man rushes to the rescue, only to be distracted by a new wobbler at the end of the row.

I love my life and what I do and the glorious people I get to hang out with day after day.  I say “yes” because “yes” means life to me.  But too much of a good thing is not a good thing. Read More

“Uke” Can Change the World

My ukulele group, The CC Strummers, enjoyed an extra special treat on Monday.  And I mean extra special!  “Jumpin'” Jim Beloff, one the of seminal figures in the modern-day renaissance that is “ukulele,” visited the Culver City Senior Center for a teach-a-thon, storytelling and kanikapila (which means we all get to sing and play along).

Years ago, Jim and his wife Liz sensed something special about this humble little instrument, trusted their instincts and let that intuition guide them forward.  So what do we have today?  Their fabulous music books, Fluke & Flea Ukuleles and a world-wide presence, teaching and spreading ‘dem good ukulele vibes from “Down Under” to “Up Over.”

The ukulele has swept them into so many different circles of people.  They have connected with hundreds of ukulele groups as well as with the iconic figures in music who happen to embrace the ukulele too.  The list is long and Jim shares a couple stories with us.  This one especially resonates with me:

Enter Bette Midler.  Although she was born and raised in O’ahu, she never learned to play the ukulele or any instrument for that matter.  She began her career as the “girl singer” and of course grew into the extraordinary entertainer we know today.  But since she could not accompany herself, she is dependent on other musicians to play for her as she performs.

She is already an icon, a star when she contacts Jim to give her lessons on the ukulele.  He doesn’t give private lessons but laughs and says to us “when Bette Midler calls, you say YES.”

This woman is such a pro and knows that what “looks easy” on stage actually takes a lot of work and she is willing and ready to put in the time and effort to learn a few chords and strums on the uke.  By the third lesson, she excitedly brings Jim into her house, sits him down across from her and she sings AND plays the Beatle song “With A Little Help From My Friends.”

As Jim describes this sunshine moment he tells us that he sees that look in her face that he has seen a thousand times.  It happens when a person picks up the uke, strums and sings a song, at the same time, for the first time.  Ever.

Whether we are a Bette Midler or not.  It doesn’t matter.  The feeling and the joy of it all are the same.  May we never lose that thrill and wonder, no matter what that first time is…

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