Uke Your Way to Happiness

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When I bought my first ukulele on a whim a number of years ago I never imagined I would end up buying two more and playing uke performances every few months in Los Angeles California of all places! But since then, the uke has transformed into so much more than just a cute yet mostly decorative instrument that I “should learn to play some day”. That “some day” is now and I’ve been taking group lessons for nearly two years in Manhattan Beach at Dietz Brothers Music School. Let me tell you something, music lessons are not just for kids, silly rabbit. They are for everyone of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds. It’s not just an instrument for people who spend most of their time on the beaches of Hawaii either. The only thing it requires is a love of music… well practice and a little patience too. 

  
Such a sense of fun and nonjudgmental acceptance by a group of people brought together for one reason: to learn and play the ukulele! I love that our teacher is less about theory and all about about playing. She teaches us theory along the way, but we get the instant gratification of learning new songs every week at class. The school is very close to my place, class starts later in the evening so I’m not being rushed through rush hour AND I get to bring Elliott, who has become the class mascot. What’s there not to love about this set up? 

Music has been an integral part of my being since the womb, I’m sure. And a life without music would be a terribly sad existence. I played the recorder for the Recorder Society in elementary school, and then went on to be the first chair floutist in the State of Colorado through Colorado Honor Band and now, many moons later, here I am strumming and singing a wide assortment of hits, both past and present, on the ukulele. I can certainly say, your brain will never dull while learning something new like an instrument. Man, it sure takes some hand/eye/brain coordination to pull this all together and I’m hardly a pro, but I do okay! Of course I practiced my other instruments a lot more and didn’t have an office job to drain my brain like I do now, but such is life, right? Hell, if a woman 20+ years older than me can learn to play the banjo then I can surely learn the ukulele.

  
The point I’m trying to make is, these little 4 (and 6) stringed pieces of carved wood have brought me such joy, accomplishment, belonging and happiness while feeding music to my spirit on a regular basis and then, every so often, I get to perform a few songs within the safe confines of a group for others to enjoy. And if and when I’m lucky, I can wrangle up someone I know to come watch!  

After last night’s performance, I just felt the need to share my love of music from a different perspective than my usual concert replay. Playing an instrument as an adult is highly underrated and is a somewhat untapped source of happiness that every single human could benefit from. Don’t just listen to other people’s music. Make your own music! It’s good for the soul! 

Disneyland: The Happiest Place on Earth Last Night

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If you love Disneyland, AND I DO, then it only makes sense to become an Annual Passholder on some level. And even being the lowest mouse on the tiki totem pole, you still get to reap the benefits with all the others. A few weeks back I received an email and postcard in the mail to inform me of a special after hours party for Passholders with anniversary dates within the range of mine. Free to attend, just RSVP on a first come first served basis. In a manic panic I called the dedicated Passholder customer service Cast Member and signed up pronto. I was not about to lose out on this opportunity! Scheduled from 9pm to 1am on a Tuesday night (aka “school night”) was going to be a little rough but I didn’t care. Nothing would stop me from going to this event. 

Finally! Yesterday arrived. The day had come! In light of rush hour traffic, I held off leaving home until about 7:45. Traffic was such a breeze I regretted not leaving earlier. I pulled in to the massive Mickey & Friends parking garage just as the fireworks show began. Cool perspective to watch it from your car! Like mystical bombs of fairy dust exploding over your head! 

 
The parking lot Cast Member waved her magic wand and poof! My first secret gift of the night. 

I was giddy with excitement for a late night of Disney fun. The event check in line was more or less nonexistent and I was off like Buzz Lightyear! First stop PETER PAN!!! This ride has ALWAYS been a crowd favorite but after being closed for numerous months of remodeling and updating, everyone’s curiosity has piqued and the lines have been outrageously long according to insider reports. I knew I had to knock this ride out first because it was on the top of my to-do list! I had to stop for a moment and admire the exquisiteness of the Castle. All lit up and glittering with diamonds for the 60th (diamond) anniversary. Breathtaking! Oh Walt, you were a true genius! 

  
Well apparently Peter Pan was first on the list of everyone else who showed up as well. No worries. This is Disneyland. The Happiest Place on Earth. It’s a beautiful, cool Southern California evening and I’ve got all night to play. Thankfully I got in a line to get in THE line right after the fireworks ended around 9pm. It seemed daunting but I only ended up waiting maybe 30 minutes? NOT BAD, not bad at all!  

   
I have to be honest and say that while the sound system and music were greatly improved, the visuals were a bit disappointing. I was expecting Peter and Tinkerbell to be riding alongside of me for all the hype that’s been created regarding the reopening of this ride. It was thoroughly adorable and sweet OF COURSE, but I will admit I liked the old “scenery” better. Oh well, at least I got to experience it first hand without a 2+ hour wait filled with stifling temperatures and screaming tired kids. Next stop…the Mickey Mouse pretzel cart! 

  How can a pretzel fanatic go to Disneyland and NOT get one of these bad boys, complete with a side order of hot cheese, OF COURSE? Love it! As I sat with my pretzel and cheese for a few minutes, I looked around and was absolutely amazed at how the crowds had thinned out. Basically they close off all the “lands” and as non-event “riff raff” attempts to enter, they are pleasantly reminded that Disneyland is now closed for a private event. So within the first hour, the crowds were gone and it was just us Disney Diehards. Hardly any small children, very few strollers… Was I dreaming?? THIS IS AWESOME! 

  
Mesmerized by the dimly lit up Small World, I headed over in that direction and was greeted by a Cast Member who happily announced, “walk right up, there’s virtually no wait!” Now THAT’S what I want to hear! What is there to say about the Small World ride that hasn’t been said before? Its song and precious dolls of the countries of the world are an iconic symbol of Disneyland and Walt’s vision to bring everyone together to enjoy the fun. Period. My memories of this ride go all the way back to 1975, my first visit to Disneyland. Priceless.  Come along on a miniature version of the ride, and remember to sing along with the words…

 It’s a small world after all….

 It’s a small world after all,

  It’s a small world after all, 

    
It’s a small, small world!! 

 
Ahhhh don’t you just feel all warm and happy inside now? I know I do! 

Ok. Back to business! As I made my way over to Adventureland, I spent a little time around the Castle. Oh the glorious Castle. Where dreams really do come true! Cinderella. Snow White. Sleeping Beauty. All the veteran Disney Princesses. Unforgettable. Timeless beauty and innocence.  

   
 
Waltzed in to Indiana Jones with a 10 minute wait! Lovin it!! This ride cracks me up! It is definitely one of the best attractions, but way too bumpy for photos while riding. So here’s a little teaser for you.  

 

Wanted to check out the Haunted Mansion but it’s closed in preparation for HALLOWEEN. However, my walk over was not wasted because look who I got to meet! 

  
That’s right! Daisy and Donald! As a special event treat, certain characters were out in each land ALL NIGHT for you to meet them, get a photo and a hug. I was on Cloud 9! 

Pirates of the Caribbean is another must for me every time I visit. A lasting symbol of Disneyland. Those gold-crazy, booze-guzzling pirates! And of course that wacky Jack Sparrow. He is everywhere! Just like Waldo! 

   
    
   
En route to the Tiki Room I ran into this guy. He may seem evil but I think there’s a nice guy in there somewhere deep down inside! 

  
After meeting Jafar, I was hooked on the idea of meeting as many of the character as I could in the remaining minutes of the event. So I decided to forego the Tiki Room and headed straight back to Fantasyland to meet Pinnochio and Geppetto! The line was a bit long but SO WORTH IT! Precious little Pinnochio! 

  
One last stop before the night was over…on the hunt to find Chip and Dale in Frontierland. For some reason no one I asked knew where they were. Time was running short so I had to be quick. Walking at high speeds through Frontierland and THERE THEY WERE! I was so happy to meet these two little guys. And while the photographer Cast Members were happy to snap shots with your iPhone, another perk of the evening was that they would take your pass card and all the professional photos will be uploaded within a day or so. Can’t wait to see them! 

  
I can’t believe how fast those 4 hours flew by and how much I did in that time! Wow! I am still glowing with pixie dust and smiles! It was an absolutely perfectly supercalifragilistically magical night at Disneyland and I am here to tell you that the price of your annual pass is worth this one night alone! Thanks for the memories Walt and Mickey! Thank you for this sensational gift that allows us all to let our inner child out to play as if we have not a care in the world. Happy 60th Anniversary celebration to The Happiest Place on Earth! 

Good night Walt. It’s comforting to know you will always be around here at the park watching us all laugh, play and have fun! God bless! 

  
 

LA: 19 Months of Lessons Learned

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In May 2013, I took a flying leap of faith and moved out here (Round 4) for a job in the Los Angeles area. I left behind a very good, albeit very safe existence in Denver and as difficult as some of the challenges here have been thus far, I have made it my mantra to enjoy my time in this city as much as humanly possible… Otherwise why bother? Being that the year 2014 is quickly coming to an end, I’ve been inspired to jot down some things I’ve learned after spending the last 19 months in the City of Angels. Take it for what it is. Good advice. Entertainment. Delusional rambling. I’m ok with any of the above.
1. I will never get over how f’ed up the traffic is and how COMPLETELY INTENSE and LITERALLY INSANE it is driving here. You have to REALLY pay attention. I mean REALLY PAY ATTENTION. Oh and you will LIVE by your map app Waze, but be prepared to be led through some down right sketchy hoods if you want to avoid the traffic jam du jour. Drivers are completely zoned out or in a totally aggressive/psychotic state but either way, you have to deal with it. Also be aware of the hierarchy of cars out here. In other words, the nicer or bigger the car someone drives, the more rude and obnoxious they think they are allowed to be on the road. Seriously. What the hell is with that reasoning? Choose to be Zen or your blood pressure will sky rocket. Probably worth your time to make a really bitchin playlist for your travels or start listening to Joel Osteen on CD.

2. Dare I even say this? The girl who LOVVVVES the warm sunshine?? But, sometimes, just sometimes I would like it to NOT be 80 degrees and sunny outside, which is why this December weather filled with rain, stormy dark clouds, wind and chilly temperatures has been a pretty cool change of pace. I have gotten to wear REAL LIVE sweaters and….BOOTS without sweating to death!! Kind of fun because I know that I’ll be wearing my sundresses and tank tops again soon enough! And yes, weather is a MAJOR topic of conversation here even if 90% of the time it’s the SAME THING EVERY DAY.

3. I’m pretty sure I could live happily ever after without ever seeing another new Mommy with her Cadillac SUV stroller running full speed down The Strand in Manhattan Beach to keep in shape 3 days after giving birth.

4. I will never fully comprehend how much there is to see & do here. I mean I am a hyperactive go-getter of a girl but My God almighty, even I couldn’t tackle everything here in 10 years. The music, arts, museums, churches, Missions, beaches, wave/whale/dolphin watching, scenery, history, hiking, biking, touring, dining, historic monuments & architecture, ethnic enclaves, the rich, the poor, the vast variety of cultures, religions, window shopping, celeb folklore, unlimited day/weekend road trip options, exploring, discovering…it will never end. These are all very good things. P.S. Not having grown up here I’ve got to tell you, hopping on my bike and riding along the beach with my dog, soaking up the sun, salty air and ocean views is a pretty INCREDIBLY AWESOME thing to do.

5. Don’t count on making new BFFs too quickly, or ever, but do keep your eyes & mind open for really cool random connections with people. I wish I had kept a list of all the interesting one off interactions I’ve had with people here. The man who made my grilled cheese at Chace Burton Park in Marina del Rey. The DJ down at the Buskerfest in Long Beach. The two men who I philosophized with at Redondo Beach. The street musician at the Redondo Pier. The Indian men, women & children who were so fascinated with Elliott in Little India. And on and on and on. Are there scads of self absorbed ass faces here? Yes…Of course! But if you remain open & friendly, every once in a while you will come across a genuine and memorable moment or two.

6. You will never know how OLD 44 is until you live in a truly youth obsessed culture. Living here in my 20’s I never ever would have imagined in my wildest dreams that at 44, you are basically done. Your business world experience means nothing other than you are unhip and out of touch. You can’t possibly impress a (potential) employer with your maturity, wit and know-how when they are seeking a 20-something brainless wrinkle-free bubble head who they want to hire to kiss their ass and fetch their lunch. And socially speaking? Other than being asked history questions such as “what was it like to grow up in the 80’s,” you are more or less invisible in every way. Damn, even with the knowledge that most of the 20-something’s here are completely clueless, shallow and dull, it’s still a hard pill to swallow when you thought you were so cool back in the good old days.
God help us all.

7. I know the names of every dog in my neighborhood yet know nearly none of the names of their parents. Lola and Athena, Teddy and Daisy and baby Teena, Scooter, Preston, Lacey just to name a few. Priorities. Selective memory. 😬

8. If you like your car, you better hide it under a bullet proof blanket every time you leave it somewhere. Brace yourself for a car full of dents, dings, deep scratches and keyings. People here simply have ZERO RESPECT for your car or any others. Painful but true.

9. Flock to the elders and working class folks. They have brilliant and perceptive views as well as fascinating stories of yesteryear. Much more interesting than those who don’t really see or experience anything outside of their own little narrow world. And sadly, there are A LOT of the latter out here.

10. When it comes to rent, get over it. You are paying for location, location, location. Even if you live in a shoebox. A shoebox in a high end beach neighborhood with fresh salty ocean breezes beats out cheaper rent and more space in a shit hole hood.
I prefer cleaner, safer, prettier streets with an 8 minute walk to the ocean versus the gritty, edgy “uber hipster” or plain ghetto factor of so many of the neighborhoods out here. Not to mention the amount of energy and brain power required to find a neighborhood that you like and can even remotely afford that is within a REASONABLE commute time to the place where you earn your paycheck. I for one, am not down with a 90+ minute commute each way. I simply value my time and sanity too much to do so.

11. LA is THE place to try new things. No matter what you dream of, it can be found here somewhere. Horseback riding underneath the Hollywood sign? Wine tasting while on a rare animal safari? Tango lessons with celebrity dance instructors? Movie parties in a cemetery? Playing at the home of the world’s most famous Mouse? Late night drinks with Harry Dean Stanton at Dan Tana’s? Meditating at the otherworldly Self Realization Center’s swan lake complete with windmill? Dinner at a magic castle? Anything and everything imaginable, and then some. It’s all here. Will you pay a hefty price? Yes indeed. But what the hell, you only live once, so go with the flow, catch that big beautiful wave and surf it for as long as you can.

Welcome to my world …

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Enjoying the salty ocean breezes in Malibu after a long hot day exploring Topanga Canyon!

Enjoying the salty ocean breezes in Malibu after a long hot day exploring Topanga Canyon!

I’m finally doing it … my very own blog! Those of you who know me will now have a new place to follow my life adventures, discoveries, reviews, thoughts and perspectives. Those of you who don’t know me will learn who I am swiftly through my photos and stories. I am passionate about all things music and animals, traveling to explore nooks and crannies both near and far, discovering hidden gems as well as known crowd favorites and life in general! I possess an insatiable thirst for interesting encounters, excitement and good times. I love to see, feel, taste, smell, hear and experience new things. I love to share my adventures with others in hopes of providing inspiration and motivation to get out there and find your own version of fun!  I want my blog to educate you in an entertaining, insightful way as you come along with me (and my loyal and loving furry pal, Elliott) as we travel down this wild and wooly road of life. Whether you add items to your bucket list or see them as cautionary tales, it’s all good. Sit back, strap yourself in kids … let’s get going!