“You can’t be sad and play ukulele at the same time. It’s impossible!”

                            --- Tommy Rocks, Founder, Jerome Ukulele Orchestra, AZ​ 



Have you hugged your favorite tree lately? Do you have an environmental checklist? Inspired by Earth Day teach ins, this festive day honors our connection to Mother Earth and commitment to eco-activism. In 2009, the United Nations adopted a resolution recognizing April 22 as International Mother Earth Day. Now, folks around the entire world share education, do activities and have celebrations which often culminate by ringing a Peace Bell. 
Why We Love International Mother Earth Day
A.  Every culture can celebrate its unique environment
Whether we're in the high desert of Sedona, a beach in Hawaii, a jungle in Costa Rica, or the mountains of Switzerland there's Mother Earth beauty to behold and honor. Wherever we're at on the planet we can rejoice in that environment and all it has to offer. Celebrating our special part of the world reminds us how extradonary our Mother Earth is and of all the diversity and sustenance she provides for us.

B.  We are all Mother Earth's children

Just like the Brady Bunch, we are one big extended family. The term "Mother Earth" was used in the United Nation's resolution as it "reflects the interdependence that exists among human beings, other living forms, and the planet we all inhabit".  This holiday recognizes that we're all connected as sisters and brothers with a common Mother Earth that provides for all of us.

C.  Mother Earth is good medicine
Spending a day in nature rejuvenates us and keeps us going strong. The fresh air, sunshine, water, earth, and wind can help us shake off stress and make us happier. In fact, the sun gives us our daily dose of essential vitamin D and early morning sunlight even resets our biological clocks so we sleep better. Our minds and bodies become healthier simply by spending time with Mother Earth.

How to Celebrate International Mother Earth Day
1.  Roll up your sleeves and dig in

You can plant trees, get a garden or edible landscape growing, clean up your local beachfront or river bank, start a recycling program, walk or ride a bicycle, insulate your home, fix leaky faucets, sew cloth bags, and build your own composter. Or you can simply go on an organic and fair-trade shopping spree! 
2.  Have a party or go to a festival
Making or attending a gathering is a fun way to get educated and share information on everything from voting Green to where to recycle in your own neighborhood. For your own celebration you can invite local and international organizations, guest speakers, and bands. Or you can check with your local environmental organizations for local festivities. 
3.  Adopt an endangered animal
Wolves, whales, elephants, rhinos, gorillas, chimps, monkeys, pandas, tigers,and sea lions are just a few of the wild animals that need your protection. Several conservation organizations offer symbolic adoptions which support the Mother Earth's other critters and their homes (habitat) too. 

Gifts for International Mother Earth 
Polar Bottle Insulated Water Bottle

https://www.amazon.com/Polar-Bottle-Insulated-Water-24-Ounce/dp/B000H9FJQE
It's easy to stop plastic water bottle waste with this re-usable cup.

The Green Book: The Everyday Guide to Saving the Planet One Simple Step at a Time
https://www.amazon.com/Green-Book-Everyday-Saving-Planet/dp/0307381358
Celebrities share their own tips in this inspiring book, loaded with great environmental tips.

Creativity for Kids Plant A Pizza Garden
https://www.amazon.com/Creativity-Kids-Plant-Pizza-Garden/dp/B06XNQ9V5G
Turn kids on to gardening in a super-yummy way as they grow their own pizza!

Key Moments in International Mother Earth Day History
2700 B.C.
First Forest Protection
Prehistoric deforestation sparked the first laws protecting the forests in Ur, Mesopotamia.

535 C.E.
Common Earth Laws

Roman emperor Justinian codified the Roman Law (Res communis) recognizing our common environmental heritage "the air, running water, the sea, and consequently the shores of the sea".

1970
First Earth Day Celebration
After the Santa Barbara oil spill, 20 million Americans stepped up to support environmental responsibility.

2009
International Mother Earth Day Resolution
The International Mother Earth Day resolution was introduced by Bolivia and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. 

5 Facts About Mother Earth That Will Blow Your Mind
Fact #1: 
Our Mother Earth is unique
Earth is the only planet that supports life. 
Fact #2: 
Her celebration is the largest secular holiday

The International Mother Earth Day celebration is observed in 192 countries and more then a billion people celebrate our Mother Earth every year.

Fact #3:
Every day is Mother Earth day
Changing our daily habits is a powerful way to steward the Mother Earth.
Fact #4:
You can vote for her
You can vote for Mother Earth in the booth (and with your dollars) for positive policy change to protect the planet for today's children and future generations.
Fact #5:
Big Foot's been spotted...in the mirror
In America, our over-sized ecological footprints greatly exceed our resources, yet we can shrink our footprints and make a positive difference by applying the 3 R's - reducing, reusing, and recycling.

By Smokey Rain ​​​​, photo by Paul Boyce, Main Stage, Cottonwood, AZ

 MERRY EVERY DAY!

12 Reasons Laughter Is Sweeter Than Christmas Morning

By Smokey Rain

        Ukuleles are like laughter, they are highly contagious and create boatloads of joy. Today ukuleles are experiencing a resurgence in popularity. In an era where people are over-stimulated it is the modest uke that is making people, young and old alike, put down their cell phones and IPads and turn on the fun. 

       It’s easy to catch Ukulele Fever, I have it and many of my friends have it. I have made new friends through our shared interest in the instrument and music and even more friends through the public curiosity and utter fascination generated by this petite lute. The uke offers a unique sound, portability, accessibility and endless hours of pleasure. Indeed, this simple 4-stringed instrument is a continuous source of amusement and the price is right, it is very affordable ($40 and up). The ukulele is in fact called the ‘everyman instrument’ because anyone can play it from the start, even a child.

        So, if you’re in the market for an exceptional gift then a ukulele would fit the bill. Why am I writing this and pitching the uke as a gift? Because I got one for a Christmas present last year and it is the gift that really does keep on giving...amusement. If you want to put a smile on a loved one's face and light up their life with music and laughter, then simply dash down to your local music store and pick them up a ukulele!

Three-toed Sloth, Manuel Antonio National Park 



A soprano ukulele by Kala,
Photo by: Smokey Rain

 Ok, just to be clear I’m not trying to have a reckoning with Santa. I love Santa! Kris Kringle has always been one of my favorite fellas and Christmas one of my favorite days. After all, Father Christmas is a great giver of holiday spirit, of generosity, of glittering gifts. Indeed, Grandfather Frost inspires the baking and sharing of delicious foods, especially cookies (yum). How could I do anything but love Old Man Christmas?

Yet, I think it would be wise and also just plain fun to take the pressure off the jolly old soul and take responsibility ourselves for our own laughter. We can make ourselves happier and healthier. Isn’t it time to give the good St. Nick a bit of a break and look within ourselves for the feeling of Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, our birthday, or whatever day of the year finds us celebrating life fully?

Go ahead and pretend like it is Christmas morning every day and do a Happy Dance, after all in some alternative reality I’m sure it is Christmas. Move your laughter and your laughter will move you like a sledless sled.

Reason # 1: Laughter Makes Instant Magic
Why wait until Christmas morning? What if you could experience the magic feeling of Christmas morning every day? Laughter is the best shortcut to happiness. Merriment will get you to that deep feeling of rejoicing quicker than you can say, “Rudolph”. Take a moment to laugh and feel the magic of Christmas morning instantly.

Reason # 2: Laughter is Free and Fulfilling
Laughter is a priceless treasure with no lay-a-way payments, no credit card bills and zero interest. There is really nothing better that we can give to ourselves and each other. Laughter is satisfying. When you are rolling on the floor laughing with family and friends you are quite content for laughter is genuinely gratifying.

Reason # 3: Laughter Doesn’t Have Bad After-Effects
No hangovers. No bloating. No dieting. No guilt. Laughter is a rare gem which feels good and actually is good for you.

Reason # 4: Laughter is Accessible

No mall-shopping or special orders required and you won’t run out of stock. Laughter is a renewable resource.

Reason # 5: Laughter is a Natural Sleep Aid

Remember when you were a kid and although you wanted to sleep because you knew when you woke up it would be Christmas morning? Yet, it was hard to fall asleep because you were listening for Santa’s jingle bells and reindeer hoofs on the roof. Unlike Christmas morning, you will awake more refreshed after laughter because it relaxes your muscles and your mind and helps you to unwind and get better rest.

Reason # 6: Laughter is Always in Season
Whether it is winter, spring, summer or fall anytime is a good time for laughter. There is always a reason for the all-year season of laughter.

Reason # 7: Laughter is the Perfect Gift
You don’t have to return or exchange it. Laughter fits you perfectly and it looks great on you. It really brings out your shiny spirit and makes your smile pop! 

Reason # 8: Laughter puts a Merry Twinkle in Your Eyes
Laughter puts everything in a healthy perspective. Unlike the holiday season, laughter eases anxiety, panic, depression and anger. Laughter can help shift your perspective so that you can gain and maintain a more positive outlook.











Reason # 9: Laughter Makes You Sing (and express yourself)
Laughter can make you sing, not only Christmas carols but other songs too! Laughter enhances brain functioning so you may find yourself feeling creative and finding solutions. You may want to sing, dance, paint, write, sculpt, act in a play or solve a problem. 

Reason # 10: Laughter Lights You Up Like a Christmas Tree (Without the Booze)
Laughter quenches the thirsty soul better than my Grammy’s magic egg-nog. Laughter is not only fun it is intoxicating, hence the phrase, “drunk on laughter”. Yes, you can get drunk and drooling happy on laughter because it boosts your endorphins. Go ahead and drink up the laughter!

Reason # 11: Laughter Makes Your Cheeks Rosy and Your Heart Happy
Laughter improves your circulation and is great for your heart health. More and more doctors are actually prescribing laughter because it is really good for your health and can prevent and treat heart disease. (Resources:
https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2016/08/3-ways-laughter-can-give-healthier-heart-2/   http://umm.edu/news-and-events/news-releases/2009/laughter-is-the-best-medicine-for-your-heart.)

Reason # 12: Laughter Snowballs 
Laughter begets laughter. Laughter increases your happiness which increases your laughter which increases your happiness and so on. Laughter is natural and a good sense of humor is a sign of happiness and good health. So let a blizzard of laughter snow over you and watch joy grow and snowball!

 

Dominical, Costa Rico

Photo by Smokey Rain

     

       Albert Einstein observed, "A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new". Have you ever tried to do something different and failed miserably? Welcome to the Club Try again! Afterall, it's new and you are not suppose to succeed at new, so keep experimenting. You see sometimes when I'm attempting something fresh, like a new skill or project, or writing a song or a story, it emerges from me effortlessly and sometimes it is utterly perfect the first time around. Other times (and more often) I have to keep whittling away at it and it is in effect hard-hard labor. But, regardless whether it's easy or difficult it is always satisfying to "give birth" to something new. Just because it's not always a cinch to accomplish whatever you set out to do doesn't make it any less worthwhile and can oftentimes even make it more worthwhile because you get to develop, stretch and grow. Let yourself re-cast yourself and "play it (again) Sam" as Humphrey Bogart suggested in the classic film Casablanca

         Forbes magazine recently featured best-selling authors Robert E. Quinn and Ryan W. Quinn (January 1, 2016) who are Leadership, Management and Effectiveness experts and co-authors of the book Lift - Becoming a Positive Force in Any Situation. A father and son dynamo, they gift us with their insight for uplifting ourselves and others by launching our leadership with an analogy of a jumbo jet lift-off. They discuss being purpose-centered, internally-directed, other-focused and externally-open. On January 5th, 2016, I had the pleasure of chatting with Robert and it proved to be a motivating and even magical experience. Robert is one of the most innovative and inspirational thinkers of our time, his life mission is to inspire positive change. Robert frankly admits change "isn't easy, but it is possible". And, it is certainly better than the alternative, stagnation.  

       Part of the fun in life is challenging ourselves beyond our current limitations...reinventing again and again. Sometimes, it may take a tremendous amount of effort and can even seem nearly impossible. You can throw in the towel if you want to. But, you don't have to! You can give up and go for something easier, like being a couch potato. But, you don't have to! You can "grab the bull by the horns" and do some good old-fashion wrestling, get down and dirty and work your touche off and then do it again and again and again before you may have even a smidgen of the result you wanted, expected or hoped for and that is okay. Indeed, it may be disheartening and one may even feel or actually be defeated.

       So what! Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, Ludwig van Beethoven, Emily Dickson, Stephen King, Elvis Presley, the Beetles, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Walt Disney, Dr. Seuss, Lucille Ball, Charlie Chaplin,, None of us are perfect and many successful people will be the first to tell you that they failed, often times miserably, and seemingly endlessly before they struck success. Authors tell of dozens or even hundreds of rejections before they're best-seller success. Businessmen tell of collapsed businesses before they built their empire. Great leaders tell of failed teams before they got there dream teams. Inventors create many flops before their known invention. Thomas Edison recognized that having to try many things does not make us a failure and in fact rather it does the opposite and brings us a step further on our path, "I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that do not work.”

       So, the next time you are trying something for the first, tenth, hundredth or thousandth time and you find it doesn't work...it's okay. Allow yourself the wide and deep breathe to enjoy what you are doing, the freedom to keep doing it and the sacred space to accept the results without expectation or judgment. Let yourself enjoy your passage fully and give yourself a pat on the back for being your own best friend, team captain and cheerleader and just keep playing, working, experimenting. Imagine if the Wright brothers had quit after six years of failed prototypes, when it was year seven they created a plane that could fly.

       .


A Celebration for All:

International Mother Earth Day, April 22, 2018 (Find out where to see Bigfoot right now!)  ​by Smokey Rain

I Did it Wrong...and it was So (W)Right! 

​By S​mokey Rain

Baby white-faced capuchin, Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica 

Photo by Smokey Rain

​​​The Laughing Instrument: A Great Gift