What a year! These 366 days. They came at us like roiling storm clouds. One freaking squall after another. At times I have felt like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, running for the backyard hole-in-the-ground before the tornado hits. My own storm shelter is made of blankets, which I pull over my head. I close my eyes, cover my ears and go “na-na-na-na-na.” Apparently kindergarten is still in session our house.
Obviously, in ways stark to slim, this year will not leave us where it found us. We are forever changed. At whiplash speed. Sure we’re all in this together, considering we live on the same planet, but it sure seems like we’re riding out the storm in different boats. The immensity of the issues that confront us, personally and as earth-dwellers, is overwhelming and I can go into a dark funk just thinking about it.
But through all the darkness of 2020 there have been flashes of sunshine. And stars and a rainbow or two. So when I’m not hiding under the covers, I change the conversation and direct the self-talk to what I’m called to do. Right now. Right here. This helps me be with today’s mess as if I’m peering through a wider lens. Like what do things look like from a hundred miles up? From two years from now? So I choose doing because ruminating is making me crazy.
This quote, “Grit, grace, gratitude,” is pressed under the plastic coverlet on my desk. I stuck it in a place where I would see it every day. Next to my computer. These are the words of Gwen Ifill, the late, dearly beloved journalist who passed away in 2016. When I first heard them, something inside went ding-ding-ding. They have served me well in the last 366 days.
And here we are—at the cusp of a new year. Does it feel like we are being drop-kicked into 2021?
But there is the sunshine part too: My zoom classes and gigs have been a miracle of technology and heart. We are helping each other endure, to make it through. And we’re doing it together, inviting total strangers over an invisible threshold into our own corner of the world–a living room, dining room, bedroom, office, cubby hole, garage, closet, kitchen, under a tree, in a car, into our life.
For me, this is grace made visible. And grit (are you woodshedding that Bb chord?) And gratitude (for waking up this morning). Singing and playing together, it changes the conversation. No matter our differences.
I’ve shared my ukulele fantasy with many of you: By executive order, every member of Congress is issued a ukulele. Nothing fancy or high end. They hire a patient and politically-neutered teacher to show each Democrat, Republican, Independent, how to strum three chords: C, F and G7. In tempo! They learn to play and sing one chorus and verse of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.” Each senator and representative must practice five minutes every day. Alone and with a colleague from across the aisle. When they all show up for an important vote… Well you can see where this is going. They have to do Woody Guthrie FIRST. Ya think more legislation would pass?
Yeah, I know… In my dreams. Well maybe Congress can’t change the conversation. But you and I can.
So here’s a toast to grit, grace and gratitude. To a change of heart, to enduring, to kindness and to the healing power of music! We will need them all in the new year.
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I just finished reading your blog. What inspiration you have managed to put into just a few words!! You just made me want get get going and shout to the world ”Play a Uke and and love life”!!!
What a simple concept but how powerful it could be if we could just work together for a better tomorrow.
Another terrific blog, Cali. I love the Gwen Ifill reference and of course your final paragraph – a vision of political harmony in the key of C! We too are surviving well over here, thanks to grit, grace and gratitude in whatever amounts we can muster in each moment. You are forever inspiring, Cali. It’s good to have you in my life, even at a distance.
Cali, you’ve been a blessing during this difficult time of isolation, fear, loss, etc. Thank God for music–even my weak attempts to play. I love your quote from Gwen Ifill…a truly genuine, beautiful woman…alas too short time with us. May we all hang in there with “Grit, grace, gratitude “.
Just read your write-up – loved it! (like so many others you have written). Liked your quote, “grit, grace, gratitude” thank you for sharing!
Thank you, dearest Cali, for that wonderful letter!! You are a poet (who needs corny rhyming?) and a philosopher. I LOVE every word. You hit on every emotion, every thought. From under-the-covers our to Grit, Grace, Gratitude and all the Goodness life has to offer. I love every word. Thank you so much!
(On a negative note) I can foresee 2021 being even worse…but then, (on a positive note) I have a choice of what to think about. So I’m choosing the three G’s! And on that note (pun intended) I will go and commune with my ukulele.
If you aren’t the MOST ADORABLE gal, I do not know who is! Thank you so much for your blogs. Always inspirational. I just put the “grit, grace and gratitude” in front of my computer!
I love your fantasy of the ukuleles in Congress, teaching everyone how to play This Land is Your Land … how fantastic would that be. I CAN imagine. A beautiful dream. And like you, I believe it’s on us to do what we can. And you for sure are doing great and happy things. Thank you and Happy New Year!!! If we can get through this coming week unscathed, I will count that as a win…
Stay healthy and cheery and thank you for your uplifting words.
Also for getting This Land is Your Land stuck in my head…
I love everything you expressed in your blog, Cali, and how beautifully you expressed it! I had not heard Gwen Ifill’s quote, “Grit, grace, gratitude,” but I will be putting it somewhere on my School website where all of my students can see it! Thank you for all of your beautiful words and music and for sharing them with the world.
Thank you dear Cousin Halaine. I’m so glad Gwen Ifill’s marvelous philosophy is finding new fertile ground at your school. These times are calling for the best of us to show up!!!
Your inspiring words actually brought tears to my eyes. I would add “gentleness” to Gwen’s three words, and you model that quality really well. I am new to this great group and already hooked on the power of the people playing ukuleles. I LOVE your idea of issuing ukes to all member of Congress. Music is magical! Best to you and your family (and your larger ukulele family) in 2021.
Thank you Peg! I love adding “gentleness” to the roster and am glad you are enjoying our ohana. May you stay healthy and strum lots in the New Year!
I endorse your idea of giving congressional members a ukulele and singing “This Land Is Your Land”. This year reminds me of JFK when he said,” Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”. That quote has been on my mind for months.
I second that! I’ve always thought that playing ukulele is about so much more than ourselves. It can brighten someone else’s day too. Thank you Sharon.
Thank you for all you give to us through the online classes. You dedication, your sense of humor, your talent, and your perspective have meant a lot. Your classes have really been a touchstone and been moments of light to me during this pandemic. Once again, thank you and best wishes for you and our world in 2021.
Love this, as I do all of your blogs, especially the idea for giving ukuleles to Congress. I remember Jake Shimabukuro saying something like “The world would be a better place if everyone played the ukulele”.
(not sure if I have It exactly as he put it).
I have been doing some zoom classes with my group at the senior center and while I still miss the personal touch it is a wonderful way to stay in touch during this time. Thanks for your encouragement.
Yay for you–finding a way through all this and bringing musical sunshine to so many others. Carry on darlin’!
Beautifully said. With Gods’ grace and mercy, I pray that the country will survive under Kamala Harris’ communistic influences. After all, here we are after 4 years of Trump
I always look forward to your classes…very uplifting.
Here’s to 2021 and beyond. Happy New Year
PS: Have you had your shingles shots? It’s a MUST.
Thank you Evelyn. Speaking of “changing the conversation,” music has a way of doing that, even when our views on politics are so different and devisive at times. Although you and I don’t share the same political point of view, what a joy to make music with you. And yes I got my shingles shot. The new high-octane upgraded version and luckily got shot #2 a week before California shut down in March. Whew! There’s enough to worry about in this world right now…