Are we Really so Different?

Are you shocked by the daily hatred spewed against the thems?  Do the divisions in our country sadden and frighten you ? Like me, are you a dreamer who is wondering what has happened to people’s hearts?

Then why don’t we examine what it means to be different. Or the same. I differ from you, how? Let’s see. It could be my political party, what region of the country I live in, the church I go to, the shade of my skin or hair, who I want to marry. Those are the sorts of things that seem to be dividing our nation big time.

But I think they’re pretty friggin’ arbitrary. To begin with, my family is made up of many political parties; Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and even a Libertarian or two.   I love each of them no matter how they vote behind the curtain. And I’ve found I don’t even agree with everything people in my own party say and do. There are some things they propose or some personal actions that give me pause.   Second, I live on the Central Coast of California but does that mean I’d say to my Washington friends, “Mt. Ranier? No way. It’s Whitney or no mountain at all.” Or to  Texans, “Can’t hang with you. Your state is shaped like a weird pancake.”

Of course not, it’s silly!

How about the church, synagogue, mosque, or the open field people choose to pray in? If I see them walking into those doors, or, if they choose, skipping the trip, I don’t say I’ll never walk with them again. Their spirituality is between them and their God. Same goes for shades of skin and hair. Mine change with how much time I’m in the sun and how many trips I make to the hair dresser. But I sure as Hell don’t trade my friends from season to season depending on whose skin  shade more closely matches mine. Now it’s winter and I’m pale, I think Myrtle and I match  but OMG  when summer comes I’m only going to do drinks with tan Zelda. 

globe hand

Or who I want to marry? I married a man, (GASP!) but was still in school. Had to take classes after the wedding and finish my degree. But I haven’t noticed anyone shunning me for School Marriage.

The ways we are different are as myriad as life itself; birthday and time, address, social security number, how many hangnails on our left hands, height, weight, job, education, how much money is in our bank accounts, family make-up, favorite food, house color, car make, piercings, pets, music tastes of who rocks and who sucks, creative outlets…And it goes on and on.

But look at how we are the same. Every human being needs love. In fact without love, life itself cannot exist. Studies have found time and again that babies will fail to grow and thrive or even die without those kind words of assurance and gentle touch. We all need sustenance, shelter, and family. We all can become ill, injured, or healthier. We all have faces longing to be seen. We all seek a sense of worth.

painted sky

We all have an immense capacity for love. Let’s honor that part of us that is the same, and maybe the petty differences will begin to fade away.

Peace Mediators in Seven Easy Steps

Fighting? Bullying? Gossip? When I started to see lots of problems on the playground I decided it was time to try something new. But I didn’t want kids to feel like I was just adding another rule. I decided to empower kids with a program that they could manage, organize, and man.
We called them Dolphin Mediators.
What are they? Dolphin Mediators are a group of student volunteers who help to keep our school calm. After I train the kids in assertive language, they memorize my script and roll-play situations. Once they seem comfortable with everything from stopping a bully to helping little ones take turns, they are approved to be recess monitors. Then they walk the playground, clipboard in hand, helping our school keep the peace.

If you’d like to give it a try at your school the lesson goes as follows:

Objective: Students will learn positive communication techniques to help other children resolve conflicts peacefully on the playground.

Materials: Clipboards, reward tickets, pens, Dolphin Mediator Script.

Background: Dolphin Mediators are a group of students who have volunteered to act as a go-between for other kids who might be having a conflict. With a faculty advisor, they use a prepared script to help others learn to take turns, communicate with “I feel” messages, and come up with win-win situations. At recesses, they offer advice, guidance, and rewards to those who resolve conflicts peacefully.

1) Ask for volunteers for friend mediators. Tell the students that they must be approved by a teacher to be accepted.
2) Once there are volunteers invite students to attend training.
3) At the training review the three different types of communicating
a) Passive = Giving in to another. (lose, win)
b) Aggressive = Attacking another. (lose, lose)
c) Assertive = Be firm with the desired outcome. (win, win)
4) Next, tell them that the goal is always to help others engage in win-win.
5) Also, advise them that this program is only for mild disagreements. It is not their job to be involved in situations where they could be hurt, such as breaking up fist fights. Leave those to adults.
6) Rehearse the following script with the volunteers:


AMBASSADOR 1: Hi my name is__________
AMBASSADOR 2: And my name is________
ALL TOGETHER: And we are Dolphin Mediators.
AMBASSADOR 1: We are here to help you solve this issue. But before we start there are few guidelines.
AMBASSADOR 2: Yes. First is that the only person who can speak is the person holding the clipboard. (Holds up clipboard.)
AMBASSADOR 1: Each one of you will have a turn to share your problem, then we’ll try to help you so both of you feel better.
AMBASSADOR 2: But remember that our goal is always to have a win-win situation.
AMBASSADOR 1: Now tell me what happened.(Passes clipboard to one child. When the first child is done takes clipboard back.) Now it is your turn. (Repeats with clipboard pass.)
AMBASSADOR 2: Now let’s try to find some win-win solutions where you both feel happy.(Asks each child to come up with a solution that makes both happy.


AMBASSADOR 1: Congratulations you just took a dolphin detour.
AMBASSADOR 2: And here is your ticket. (Fills in names and gives them ticket explaining it will be used for rewards later.)

7)  Send children out to the playground.

I’d love to hear how things go. Let me know what happened at your school with Dolphin Mediators.

But I’m Embarrassed!

I gulped. Me? What if I sound stupid? Hell, I will. I’ll say something that’ll make Dumb and Dumber look like Einsteins,  I thought when the president of my writer’s club, Cathy Kitchco, sent an email asking if she could interview me for her weekly radio show. I pressed reply and began to type, NO WAY! But then a quiet voice whispered in my shy skull…

Stop. Writer’s need to do interviews. You’ve done them before and didn’t die. Actually were good. Be brave.

My hand hovered over the keyboard. Forcing my shaking fingers to type what my flip-flopping gut fought I told Cathy that I’d be honored to do an interview over the phone.

Then came the big day. That morning I must have cleared out every frog that ever dared to hide in my vocal cords. Ahem. Ahem. AHEM.  Then, with notes splayed all over my kitchen table, I waited for the phone to ring.

Was I shaking and nervous? Hello? Does a skunk’s spray stink? You bet I was. But a funny thing happened as I started to talk about writing. I forgot I was being interviewed and started to focus on the joy writing brings me.

And guess what? I sounded nothing like Jim Carey.

Here it is, what do you think?”>Woodward Interview

Happy Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day to all the men who father in creative ways. To my mentors, Dave Burnight, Bill Denneen, Charles Varni, Jay Chapel, Quinn Plante, and Richard Welch, thank you for giving me fatherly guidance when my path was confused. To my own father, thank you for your healing generosity. To my brother, Brian, I am so proud of how you love and nurture your girls. To my cousins, Linda’s children, you inspire me to be a better mother. To all who love and guide, bless you!

Dean with The Dalai Lama

Peace. A word. A concept. For a select few, like the Dalai Lama, a state of being. But for all too many children, it is sadly elusive. So many young people across the world deal with hunger, abuse, terror, and homelessness. But everyone can make a difference. And I suppose that’s why my friend and collaborator, Dean Bernal, and I worked so hard on creating peace curriculum which is now being shared world-wide.

Recently, he brought the Peace with the Environment program to the Tibetan’s in Exile School in Dharamsala, India. On June 7, 2017 for World Ocean’s Day he presented in His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s TCV school program to senior and junior students. Another second project on June 8th also for World Oceans connected school kids in Mali Africa with TVC school kids in Dharamsala India to talk about Dean & JoJo and protecting the oceans and planet. Environmental groups and individuals from around the world were truly inspired by His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s views, concerns, spiritual inspiration, and advice about the environment and all life.

Dean tibet
Mr. Dean Bernal was there as a special guest of the of the TCV school and addressed the existing and also new thoughts and ideas of Tibetan students as part of the Dalai Lama’s program. As an introduction, Mr. Bernal presented an example of his powerful environmental story and spiritual path of healing, that has reached over 1.5 billion people today.
Dean’s compassion for an orphaned wild dolphin named JoJo and the need to protect both their ocean and terrestrial homes allowed them to build a lifelong friendship that continues to inspire people to find their true and compassionate path in life.
backpage kids book
Dean addressed an important human element, that as an evolving species capable of contemplating an enlightened path, we are taking part in a collective consciousness of global preservation. In searching to recognize and provide for this living planet and ocean, which is presently our only known life support system, we must provide it with our collective healing by protecting our environment.
Dean addressed the students on environmental issues, the importance of true to source compassion on global preservation, passion from the heart to protect habitats, and truth in the place of origin and its global impact on the environment. Students were encouraged to talk about the environmental teaching by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and shared their thoughts, experiences, views, and projects. Dean then collaborated with like~minded individuals seeking to support students during this insightful presentation.
Wonderful work Dean! I am so proud of my dear friend!