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

On Meditation

Breathe in deeply. Hold it. Exhale. Repeat, filling your chest deeper with each inhalation. Repeat. The practitioner recites. And I listen, trying to follow his/her instructions. Trying to find peace in an uncertain world  of chasmic divisions. Trying to find wisdom in the myriad of mistakes and false steps that have tripped my life.

What set me on this path? Didn’t teaching full time give my life purpose? Wasn’t I already writing poetry, books, and blog posts to quench that creative thirst? Shouldn’t I have been satiated with the successes of my career?

Nope. Because while I was elevating my professional life, I was ignoring my  personal one. Going off to do my “important shit” while leaving my boyfriend behind. Every morning and most weekend days I’d wave him away saying no to every invitation for breakfast, beach walk, or football game. While I wrote he’d go off by himself often texting me with his complaints. “Come on, meet me. I’m lonely, damnit.” Or “Dating you makes me feel like the loneliest man in town.” 

Did any of that change my behaviors? No. I kept typing in a desperate attempt to  become a “great writer” like Thoreau, Hyde, Atwood, and Koontz.  I didn’t leave any space for him, ignoring his every plea and sad text until, over time he stopped asking. When he became disillusioned, and told me he was moving out, I was shocked. And heartbroken.

Again.

I begged him to stay. Told him what he wanted to hear. I’ll change. Get counseling. Meditate. Spend more time with you. Don’t go!

Although I did all of those things, none of them worked. It was too late.  Another failed relationship. Feeling like a total shit, I started to wonder if I’d learned friggin’ anything since my divorce. 

The old tapes started playing in my head, telling me what a selfish failure I was. Still I kept practicing my daily meditations. Sometimes I’d sit there with tears rolling down my cheeks as I listened to positive affirmations saying, “I know who I am. I am love. I am kind. I am beautiful. I am fun and funny.”

I’d always been taught to be humble and at first it felt strange to repeat those words. But over time I noticed a difference in how I felt. Yes, I was sad to lose my best friend. Yes, I had ignored him a lot of the time. But that didn’t make me a horrible person. Or evil. Or a failure. It just made me single.

And that was okay.

While I tried many podcasts and videos, Rising Higher Meditation was the most healing I found. It showed me that no matter what, I was full of love and kindness. Perhaps it can help you too.

Rising Higher

The world continues to be uncertain and relationships still have their ups and downs but in the two years since I began this practice, I have learned to calmly accept these truths. My new mantra is “Love, peace, health.”

Try it, you just might be surprised.

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

Sky Brown: Olympian and Inspiration

Do you love reading about or watching strong girls? Young women who kick ass in sports and life? I sure as shit do. And one sport that is a friggin blast to to watch is skateboarding. Long a male dominated discipline, it has changed in recent years. Women now skate and compete in greater numbers than ever before. This year the categories of park and street skating for men and women were added to the Olympics.

Yes!

What is the difference? Park skating is done on a course that resembles a bowl. Skaters launch themselves off the sides of the walls in 45-second runs and perform tricks that are judged by a panel of five judges. Skaters get three 45-second runs per round, and the judges grade them on a 0-100 point scale. A skater’s best score of three is the qualifying score.

Street skating is judged on a street-like course that includes handrails, slopes, curbs, benches, and walls. Here skaters perform tricks over the obstacles while a panel of five judges scores them on a 0-10 scale . Each skater gets two 45-second runs and five tricks, and judges rate the tricks. The highest and lowest scores for each run and trick are dropped, and the remaining three scores are averaged.

There are many admirable athletes competing in this year’s Olympics, but for me Sky Brown inspires the most. Not only is she the youngest ever to compete for Great Britain, but her journey to Tokyo has been a difficult one. Just a year ago while practicing vert, she fell fifteen feet onto flat concrete. Injured horribly, the twelve-year-old drifted in and out of consciousness with multiple fractures to her skull, a broken left arm, multiple broken fingers, and lacerations to her heart and lungs.

Four days later she had her full memory back, was smiling at her father, joking with doctors ,and watching TikTok. Doctors described her recovery as a miracle attributing her ‘grit, positivity and attitude.’ On to the Olympics, she won bronze for women’s park skateboarding. Go girl!

As I read about this inspirational young woman skating vert, dropping in down the side of the ramp to do Fakies, Rock and Rolls, Axle Stalls, and Kick flips I found myself all choked up. Then I thought, we need inspirational people like her. That is why I created the character of Gwen Obranovich for my Artania Chronicles series. She is a lot like Sky. Tough. Strong. Willing to push beyond to learn a trick.

A skater girl and heroine who battles monsters in an art created world.


Let’s hear it for strong girls and women!

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)

The Breedloves: Jay’s Story

“Let the song breathe. It’s something from the heart. Enjoy.” says Jay Kirkland, of the acoustic duo the Breedloves. This axeman, half of an inspirational couple who are partners in life and in music, breathes ethereal rhythms into his guitar, ukulele, and mandolin which bathe the listener in warm and gusting zephyrs. The Breedloves’ website does not lie when it says, “Love is contagious and forever spreads in the presence of Jay Kirkland and Barbara Gorin.”  With Jay on lead guitar and Barbara on her 12-string keeping rhythm, the two shape musical constructs that both amaze and uplift their audience.

This father of three and grandfather of six shares as much from the heart as his fingers with his sublime riffs and compositions. I have seen many guitarists over the years, but Jay’s brilliant playing always makes me gape in wonder. Not only is he a gifted instrumentalist, but Jay also moves his audience with the loving looks he gives Barbara during their performances. 

Jay Kirkland was born and raised in Richmond, California a city on San Francisco’s East Bay. Culturally diverse and home to shipyards, the historical Ford Assembly Building, and multiple beach walks and hikes it was the perfect place for a creative boy like Jay to grow up. Raised in a very spiritual home, his mother with Lebanese and Syrian Orthodox Christian roots and his father a mix of Scottish, Dutch, French and German, Jay was blessed to have multiple cultural influences. They divorced when he was young, but soon after his mother married his stepfather, who had a profound impact on Jay’s love of music with his record collections and stereo blasting Motown and rock.

Rock and roll was everywhere during his youth. One of his early influences was Credence Clearwater Revival and he often paused to listen to their bluesy beats on the radio. In third grade he saved his allowance until he had enough to buy their album before begging Mom to take him to the store. Proud to actually purchase a record, he marched up to the counter and put a fistful of bills and change on the counter. Grinning ear to ear, he hugged that cardboard square to his chest the whole way home. 

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     Jay always loved to entertain his family and friends. As a little boy he used to put on Elvis Presley records and gather his family in the living room. Then he’d scrunch his face into what he thought was Elvis’s smoldering sneer and launch into his best impersonation of “All Shook Up” or “Jailhouse Rock.” Wanting to be authentic, he gyrated his little hips and even went so far as to splash water on his face to mimic perspiration.

Reveling in rhythmic patterns, Jay began playing a toy drum set when he was five and guitar at twelve. He continued strumming on it for the next couple of years until ninth grade when he enrolled in a guitar class with Mr. B., who also taught Kirk Hammit from Metallica and Les Claypool of Primus. Under Mr. B’s tutelage Jay’s craft grew until he joined a neighborhood band at sixteen. Then between skateboarding, studying, and riding bikes, he’d jam with his buds at local venues such as parties and dances.

Jay also studied martial arts and boxing throughout his teens, training with golden glove champion Ron Esteep for many years. The discipline, which he continues to study, helped to mold him into the man that he is today. At the same time he was inspired by personalities such as Evil Knievel and Bruce Lee who illustrated a “Go big or go home,” approach to life, one he has incorporated in his own philosophy. Jay says, “Whatever you do, don’t just go through the motions. No matter what you do, do it with passion.”

Jay dabbled in small bands for many years until his mid-twenties when he began to take it more seriously. That’s when he became a second lead guitar player for Line Drive, a heavy metal group out of the Bay Area. His first professional band, they opened for acts such as BTO, Motor Head, Vicious Rumors, and Ruffians. At the same time, he was working construction, starting a family, and doing studio work.

One challenge he liked was to turn the radio dial to try and play along with whatever was on. Not only was it fun, but the practice helped to build his musical chops. This led him to auditioning for a slot on a TV show called, 30 Seconds to Fame, where each contestant exhibited his/her talent for 30 seconds.  Jay played a medley of nearly a dozen songs on the guitar in half a minute and, luckily, Eddie Van Halen who saw the show was so impressed with Jay’s playing he got in contact. Eddie continued to reach out with the two of them speaking often about his desire for Jay to become part of a super group with Sammy Hagar.

 Jay finally relented to Eddie’s requests and joined a project that wasn’t named yet, which consisted of Mark Anthony, drummer Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Sammy Hagar.  They never performed any live shows, as they were working in the studio on material, but Sammy and Eddie were having a falling out, and Jay decided to not get in the middle and bowed out of the project, then they ultimately hired Joe Satriani and the band Chickenfoot was formed.

Over the years Jay has performed with Canned Heat, singer songwriter Eric Burdon of the Animals, Leon Hendrix, Lester Chambers, and Archie Lee Hooke. Jay was in Jokers-N-Thieves when he met Barbara ten years ago when he hired her band, Led Graffiti, to perform in a benefit concert. They had an immediate attraction, but Jay waited until they’d been dating a while before sharing his talents with her.

Barbara says, “When he stayed with me the first night…the next morning he was playing his electric guitar and I was in the other room. I had my mouth open, and tears were streaming down my face.” Still shedding loving tears, she came up to him and said, “You didn’t tell me you could play like that.”

Although he has always been blessed to feel every note, their relationship together forever changed Jay’s approach to music. In many ways, Jay’s beginnings with Barbara made him feel as if he were playing for the first time. This is evident to anyone watching them perform. His eyes light up as if he sees her bathed in glowing light. “It’s a trippy journey with us because I didn’t plan for this. I’ve taken lots of unexpected trips, but this is a wonderful, beautiful accident. Her style isn’t always mine. She’s East Coast and I’m West Coast.”  

Their relationship also introduced Jay to the organization called Guitars Not Guns. Barbara had already been volunteering some years for the philanthropic group and often spoke of the difference it could make in children’s lives.

What exactly is Guitars Not Guns? Their mission statement says, “Guitars Not Guns, Inc. provided guitars and lessons to foster kids, at risk youth, and other deserving children in a classroom setting with qualified teachers. No child is turned away for lack of funds.” They loan guitars to students that are used for learning and practice during the eight-week course. Students and guardians must sign a lease contract for the equipment, agreeing to care for it. One of the goals here is to teach the students to care for their possessions. The students are not told this but those who successfully complete the course, are gifted with the guitar at a completion ceremony. There the students perform, and accomplished musicians are brought in to further motivate them to continue playing.

     Soon Jay too was teaching at risk kids to play guitar and has found the experience moving. Jay recalls his most poignant moment was with a silent little foster girl. She had been in care for much of her young life but the only way she communicated was by whispering in her older sister’s ear. Not a word to her foster parents in two years. One day while Jay was teaching, he told her she was doing a good job. “Thank you,” she whispered.  

Jay says, “I looked over to see her foster mom crying. She said that that was the first time she’d ever heard her speak.”  He calls times like these God’s wink. “Your prayers might not always get answered right away. God is winking but he has a plan for you. It will happen at the right time.”

Now ten years into this beautiful accident, the Breedloves wheelhouse includes everything from romantic acoustic originals to jazz to blues to metal and fusion. The duo enjoys remixing covers and adding different instruments to their show, whether it is ukulele, saxophone, keyboards, or flute, with innovative interpretations of covers from Sly and the Family Stone to Fleetwood Mac to Johnny Cash. All the while having a blast doing it, says Jay. “I’ve played with a lot of musicians in my life, but she really loves it.”

The Breedloves currently have one CD and close to a dozen individual songs recorded out of seventy originals. Their music can be found on I- Tunes and Spotify as well as their website The Breedloves Band – Music, Musician, Music, Guitar (the-breedloves.com) They play at various venues from music festivals to wineries to an upcoming tour. For a list of events see The Breedloves Band – Shows, Music, Shows, Musician | The Breedloves Band (the-breedloves.com). You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Jay and Barbara. Two musicians embodying symbolic sounds of beauty incarnate. See them play and you will know love personified.

And be part of the Breedloves’ magic.

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

Openings: A Poem

Openings

First a door

Then a bottle

And blinking eyes

Shyly probing

With wonder.

Later ears ensnared  

Opened

To aerial refrains.

And awkward hands

Fearful of smoke smoldering

In pans

Gliding deftly into

Epicurean entrees.

And uncertain skin

Long draped in fabric

Uncloaked.

Opening a

Woman’s essence.

Opening her

To love.

Photo by David Stroup

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 artania.net

Ascension: A Poem

Heart pounding my

Body quivers in

An enveloping mist

Of love.

I am in a dream

Where

I see your face 

And feel your probing hands on my skin

Calloused yet gentle.

I take a breath

And fill my lungs with your 

Man and musk scent.

Cocking an ear

Your moans 

And whispers

Enter me

An ethereal figure

That is my ascension

Into the beauty

Of your soul.

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