Is This The Matrix?

Is this all an illusion? Am I truly here on this planet revolving around the sun or am I a dream in someone else’s imagination? Is my mind my own or the extension of a large factory?

The movie The Matrix poses these questions with superb symbolism and poetic ideologues.  Through the use of a futuristic world whereby a machine race has enslaved mankind as a renewable energy source, we both question our own existence and our purpose here on Earth.  If we are but a dream inside of an elaborate world of dreamers, and controlled by image-makers is there any free will?  How can we fight injustice and inequality if life is only a mirage?  Perhaps we believe we are at battle but truly all is a simulacra; a construct of our minds and we are in conflict with our own alter-egos.

As the story unfolds we find ourselves intrigued by the young man, Neo who searches for something he calls the Matrix.  Is this not a symbol of our own search for a spiritual existence in a technical world?  As we further remove ourselves from a natural existence and find comfort and company ever more in electrical images does it not make sense that a quest for spirit would take place on the Internet?  Yet when Neo delves deeper into this world of computers he finds not a God but a race of machines who have declared themselves God.  So, does he embrace them and kneel before their alters? No!  On the contrary! He joins a force which seeks to destroy their temples in a holy crusade.  He is an unbeliever at first.  He doubts what he cannot see or touch.  But then again, what has he ever felt or touched that he can trust?

Morpheus says, “Welcome to the real world.” But Cipher quips, “Why didn’t I take the blue pill?”

Do we keep taking the blue pill today?  We wrap ourselves up in computers VCRS TVs, cellular phones, cars, and cubicles.  This cuts us off from our interaction with the real world.  Hell, we could have hundreds of conversations in a day and never touch another living human being.

Although violence is often a gratuitous tool used by Hollywood to entice movie goers, in this film the violence is essential to the plot.  How else could our protagonist realize that he is not of the Matrix World than to combat within it.  It is a symbol of man’s own struggle within himself of the intellect vs. the body or a life of choice vs. a life of enslavement.  As he fights his way through  we see him overcoming his own doubts about who he is and where he is going.

Just like me.

About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and Forests Secrets.  Laurie Woodward  is also a screenwriter who co-authored Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at Author Laurie Woodward — Next Chapteria.net

Trampoline

Children

On fabric suspended by

Springs

Cartwheels

Hand springs

Pratfalls

Leaping ever higher

Making mystical nests of clouds

Touching dragons in the sky.

 

 

About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and Forests Secrets.  Laurie Woodward  is also a screenwriter who co-authored Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet, and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at Author Laurie Woodward — Next Chapteria.net

Finding Joy: A Book About Abuse

My name is Joy, Joy Chappell. Over the top, I know, but my Mom wanted me to sound all innocent. And maybe I was, in my own way.

Can a car stealing, pot smoking, LSD tripping chick be innocent?  I thought so.

Even though it was always on my mind. It, the thing we never talked about. It that Mom hid with Cover Girl and I lied to my friends about. It, making me dream that someday the light of hippie sun would shine down as we danced barefoot in meadows.

Naïve, I know. But when you’re a kid you see the world through your own eyes. And when you’re high to boot, everything is tinged with a soft mist, like an out of focus camera, and you trust people, thinking they just want to give you a ride.

Even with It, I never knew people were truly ugly until that night. I really thought the face inside was just a mask, one I could melt away with my Kodachrome soul. But I was wrong. And by the time I figured it out, it was too late.

I was seventeen, and I was about to die

About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and Forests Secrets.  Laurie Woodward  is also a screenwriter who co-authored Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at Author Laurie Woodward — Next Chapteria.net

Father’s Day: A Time to Reflect

This Father’s Day, take a moment to remember the magical times while creating anew.

Baby rubs her eyes.

About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and Forests Secrets.  Laurie Woodward  is also a screenwriter who co-authored Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at Author Laurie Woodward — Next Chapteria.net

Binary Philosophers: A Poem

In the Desert of the Real

We are the creatures

Who lope, crawl, and slither

But here

On the circuit board

We are noesis.

Binary philosophers

Espousing 1 and 0.

We ask the screen:

When we are zero

In the hard drive of our souls

Do we lose mass

And become antimatter?

Or in the vacuity

Of nothingness

Do we escape the desert

And touch the infinite?

About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and Forests Secrets.  Laurie Woodward  is also a screenwriter who co-authored Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at Author Laurie Woodward — Next Chapteria.net

(Photo by David Stroup)

Finding Joy: A Novel Excerpt

I hardly recognized the girl that stepped off the boat. Could that tanned kid twittering away with other girls, wide grin showing the gap between her teeth, be my daughter?

Not trusting my own eyes, I raised my hand in a tentative wave.

“Stop making a spectacle of yourself,” Ron hissed under his breath. He wrapped an arm around my waist and dug his fingers into the soft flesh under my blouse.

Immediately, I lowered my arm and clasped my hands in front me to look like the well-trained wife Ron demands. Wincing as his pinch tightened down like pliers and bowing my head, I peeked through my false eyelashes to see if anyone who’s important in Ron’s eyes had noticed my faux pas.

Nouveau riche mothers with flared jeans and glam tops flicked cigarette ash from their manicured nails, while the Beverly Hills elite in Perry Ellis skirt suits rolled their House Beautiful magazines into canvas bags.

But the only person that I noticed was Joy, whose high-stepping filly gait sunk to a slow shuffle. With every step, her wide smile folded deeper into a scowl.

I wanted to run to her, take her in my arms like when she was five and spin her around, but Ron’s hand was there. If I dared move, it would tighten on my waist like a spring-loaded clamp. I put on my half-smile placid mask.

“Hi, Mom. Hi Ronny,” Joy said, giving me a dutiful peck on the cheek before copying my clasped hand pose.

Ron greeted her with a grunt and had started to turn toward the exit when that actor from the Mary Tyler Moore show walked by, arm slung over his son’s shoulder.

Suddenly, the Ron that wooed me all those years ago appeared. Pivoting on his Ferragamo loafers, he lifted a rakish brow and trumpeted, “Who took my daughter and replaced her with a tan goddess?”

When the actor, Ted Kite, glanced our way, Ron squeezed Joy so tight I thought he might break her ribs. She stood there, arms stiff at her sides, lips pressed into a smile that never reached her eyes.

The next thing I knew, Ron was shaking hands with Ted Kite. After a boisterous joke or two about sending kids to camp, he swept an arm in our direction.

“My wife, Iris and this tanned goddess is my daughter, Joy.” He didn’t say stepdaughter.

While Joy stared at her shoes, I nodded politely and gushed how I was a huge fan. Ted’s chortling was cut short when Ron shoved a business card into his hand.

“If you are ever looking for real estate in Santa Juana, give me a call.”

Ted held it up like a mini-flag and said he had to go.

Ron shook his hand heartily and led us out of the terminal. Once we were all buckled into the Lincoln, he rolled up the windows and turned on the AC. But that cold air did nothing to dim the rage in his face.

“Did you have to fucking embarrass me?”

“What?”

“Your head bobbing like a plastic Jesus in a Spic’s low rider.”

“I was only trying to act how you want me to.”

“Looked like an idiot. You could have said something about my listings, but I should have known when I met you, you were just white trash. Take her out of the sewer, she’s still covered in shit.”

“I never was trailer trash,” I retorted.

I felt the heat before the sound. It spiced the cool air, a flashing palm burning skin with brutal piquancy.

My husband, father of the year.

About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and  Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Bringing Peace to Children

Just like you, recent events have rocked me to the core. As humanity’s ugly underbelly is exposed with mange and open sores that continue to bleed, I’m seeking hope. For me, it lies with children. I have seen first hand that these innocents desire justice and harmony. I believe children have the power to create profound change in our world. If there is ever to be true peace, it must transcend the generations. But first they must dream of the changes they want. Here are ten creative ideas I’ve used with my students. Let’s all begin the change.

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1. Make Peace Cards.

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2. Make an anti-bully poster.

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3. Draw cartoons dealing a bully.

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4. Paint a peace sign on a paper plate.

peace

5. Create a Love the Earth card.

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6. Make a dream board.

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7. Photograph someone doing a kind act.

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8. Create a dance high-fiving and smiling with your buds.

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9. Film a video of yourself singing a peace song.

Colby Jeffers: Change the World

10. Paint a self-portrait.

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Any more ideas? Share  and we’ll turn 10 to 10,000!

About Laurie: The author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Polaroid: A Novel Excerpt

The crumbling walls

Fall all around

While men draw

Palaces in the dust

It’s been raining all morning. Tried opening White Fang but my eyes kept blurring on the page. Guess I’ve read it too many times. Started looking through some of Mom’s books. She’s got some spooky ones like The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane.

In it there’s a girl around my age who lives all alone. She’s mega-smart, brave as shit, and independent. When her dad was dying he said he never wanted her to lose her spirit so figured out a way for her to have money and a house until she grew up.

That would be so amazing. To live by yourself. No school. No one telling you what to do. No mean kids on the bus.

So, this Saturday I curled up in one corner of my room with my giant panda and read how this girl survived. When the lady with the long cruel fingernails came to take her away the Little Girl made her a special tea. The kind that tasted of almonds. The kind she had to serve with almond cookies to hide the flavor.

I was just getting to the part when a creepy guy asks her if she has a boyfriend when I heard a soft knock on my door.

“What is it, brat?” I asked when I saw Kyle standing there, hair combed all perfect even though it was Saturday.

He put a finger to his lips. “Can I come in?”

I eyed him for a sec to see if he was messing with me before opening the door all the way. Once inside, he beckoned me to the other side of the room. I closed it quietly and approached. Then he just stood there searching my face, his long-lashed blue eyes everyone compliments him on blinking.

I raised my arms, exasperated.  “What? Just tell me!”

He cocked an ear and let the silence fill the room before whispering, “It’s Mom.”

“Huh? Did Ronny–?”

“No, no not this time. He’s off at the Club. Golf buddies.”
            I looked out the window at the steady rain. Ronny would not play in that. I gave Kyle a bewildered shrug.

“She is in the living room, just staring at some picture.”

“Of what?”

“Not what, who.”

“Then who?”

“A lady. With lots of make-up.”

“Another magazine? So.” Mom often got lost in her glamor mags. She’d thumb through them for hours until the astray was overflowing with cigarettes.

“It’s a polaroid. Has an X O written at the bottom.”

Then I knew. It was Ronny. Even when he wasn’t there, he still left marks.

I’d seen the way he was at their parties. Telling stories to ladies about the movie stars he met on the golf course. I thought that was pretty cool until he’d lean in close and whisper something in their ears that either made them blush or their faces go white.

And Mom would glance over and then pretend to check a button her blouse or if her necklace was straight before going to our glass and chrome bar for another Seven and Seven.

“Is she crying?” I asked.

He shook his head. “Just staring.”

Part of me wanted to check on her. Make sure it wasn’t too bad. Be the comforting daughter. But another part, the kid one, told me to stay in my room with my book and big panda.

I am only thirteen! I thought staring at the teddy bear Dad had given me three years before. Then I glanced at my baby brother’s face. And Kyle’s only ten so come on. Be brave. Like the Little Girl.

“You stay here. I’ll check.”

Kyle nodded, his face suddenly looking exactly like it had when he was three and off to preschool for the first time.

In the living room Mom was so deep in the suede club chair she’d become a part of it. I mean if a stranger had walked in at that moment, they might not even have seen her and sat right on her lap. Slumped over, both hands clutching a photo I could tell she’d been holding a long time because the edges were crumpled and her hands white. She didn’t seem to hear me when I approached.

For a moment, I wondered if it was real. “Mom?”

Still stared.

“You okay?”

Not even a blink.

“Mom?”

Without removing her gaze, she said. “She’s not very pretty, is she?”

I glanced at the polaroid. “No.”

“Kind of cheap. Like K-Mart.”

I didn’t know exactly what that meant but agreed anyhow. “Not like you. All my friends say so.”

Now she slowly looked up. “They do?”

“Yeah, they say you’re one of the pretty Moms. You know, the kind all the dads smile at.”

“Hmm.”

“You okay, Mom? You been sitting here a long time.”

“I have?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh.” She returned to the photo.

I didn’t ask where it had come from. Or who it was. I knew. Didn’t want her to have to say the words. Thought about giving her a hug. But we weren’t real big huggers in this family. Searched my brain for something to say.

No words came.

Finally, I just went back to my room where Kyle was waiting with a did-you-find-a-magical-brew-to-fix-it look.

But all my potions were in my mind, so I did what I always do, I lied.

“It was nothing. She’s fine.”

The above excerpt comes from my soon-to-be-released novel, FINDING JOY.

About Laurie: The author of Forest Secrets and  the soon to be released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Mismatched Shoes: A Poem

Standing at the offramp

Mumbling incoherencies

He huddles into a hoodie too thin

To block the winter wind.

Head cast down, his gaze

On mismatched shoes

One black and muddied

The other orange with a once white strip

Both torn and worn

As if pulled from a dump heap.

When did his life become mismatched?

Was he born to disfunction and despair?

Did chemicals fill his youthful mind

Starting small then growing in need

Until that rush of liquid in veins

Became heart’s beat.

Perhaps delusions set him

Wandering down paths unknown

Stumbling over cracked and broken concrete

Until his feet were bare.

Maybe he is a victim

Of an abandoning economy

Seeking employment.

Finding none.

Cleaved from the life he once knew.

I am blessed with pair after pair.

Black, red, tan, blue, satin, and sparkling.

While the homeless man

Shuffles to nowhere

In his mismatched shoes.

About Laurie: The author of Forest Secrets and  the soon to be released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Ripped Away: A Poem

My rose-colored glasses

Were ripped from my face

By distant flames

And an unseen

Organism

Born on air.

I reached for them

Groping through smoke

And ash

But only felt

The charred remains

Of what was once

My beautiful

California.

About Laurie: The author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net