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

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

The Breedloves: Barbara’s Story

Is it possible to breed love? What does that mean? Well, for one inspirational couple, who are partners in life and in music, to breed love is to create and share their ethereal sound with the world. As the first line of their website says, “Love is contagious and forever spreads in the presence of Jay Kirkland and Barbara Gorin, the Breedloves acoustic duo.”  With Jay on ukulele, lead guitar, and mandolin and Barbara on her 12-string keeping rhythm, the two shape musical constructs that both amaze and move their audience.

Barbara and Jay breeding love in Sausalito

Jay and Barbara met after Jay hired Barbara’s band, Led Graffiti, for a benefit concert. Barbara says, “We had a physical attraction the day we met…I didn’t know that Jay played guitar until months later.” As the story goes, they spent many weeks getting to know each other and growing closer, each sharing tales of family and youth. Barbara told Jay about being raised by loving Italian and Sicilian parents in Silver Spring, Maryland while Jay regaled her with his own history in Richmond, California.

Yet in all that time, she still hadn’t heard him play.

“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,” says Barbara describing how she discovered his talent. Still shedding loving tears, she came up to him and said, “You didn’t tell me you could play like that.”

And so their musical journey began.

Barbara’s Story

Born into a friendly Italian and Sicilian Catholic family in Washington D.C., Barbara was raised in Silver Spring, Maryland. This middle child with one older sister and a younger brother happily recalls lots of big noisy dinners with her extended family. Close knit, her paternal grandparents lived with them until they passed.

Surrounded by music from infancy, her mother, a secretary and medical transcriber, played piano while her dad played mandolin, bass, and guitar. Although both loved music, it was her Dad who influenced Barbara the most. Between writing for the Washington Daily News and running a newspaper delivery business, he led his own band. The Sal Caruso Orchestra was a popular 7-piece ensemble that usually had gigs every weekend.

Barbara took piano lessons from the age of six until nine and started playing guitar around eleven. Early influences included Motown as a pre-teen and teens rock and roll later.  She took lessons for a couple of years in school, but a lot of her learning came from friends. Although she dabbled with it, Barbara preferred the sweet sounds of strumming rhythm over playing lead guitar. As a teen, she used to sit in her room and listen to bands like Eagles, America, CCR, and Neil Young while trying to figure out the chords. Barbara was one of the lucky few kids at her high school who could navigate from jocks to brainiacs to band geeks.  Popular, friendly, and attractive, she was nominated prettiest eyes in 9th grade.

After high school she attended the University of MD planning to major in horticulture. However, the campus life did not suit her, so she dropped out and began working office jobs, moving to San Francisco in the late ‘80’s. Always trying to position herself for better opportunities, she eventually landed a job as a legal assistant at a law firm where she spent the next twenty-nine years until she retired to play music full time with Jay.

For many years she didn’t do much musically but strum her guitar now and then. All that changed in 2005 when she discovered Red House Studios, a cooperative organization dedicated to promoting musical learning. With a variety of classes and workshops, she was thrilled to find a place where you could bring a guitar and learn a variety of songs. They also taught people how to perform together and had “band foundries.” Her time there built both her confidence and chops but also helped her to meet the fellow musicians for the four bands she’d later become part of: Led Graffiti and Red Houses of the Holy, Led Zeppelin tribute bands, as well as an acapella group and Barbara and the 1, 4, 5’s.

For several years, Barbara was a legal assistant by day and a musician by night performing in shows and festivals throughout California. She loved the way the music richened her life and then, about fifteen years ago, she heard about a special organization that fostered guitar playing for underprivileged kids. She was at music festival cruising the stalls when she happened upon a Guitars Not Guns booth. She began to chat with the volunteers about music, playing guitar, and the group’s mission statement.

“Would you like to teach guitar to the kids?” Frank Darling, the President of the Contra Costa County Chapter, at that time, asked.

Barbara didn’t even think twice before agreeing to volunteer, a decision that forever altered the course of her life. She loved teaching the kids and watching their confidence grow with each passing week. Later, she began to take on organizational duties such as putting together “graduation” gift bags for the kids, garnering donations, and public relations work in the community. Within a few years she was the president and director of the Contra Costa County Chapter, a position she holds to this day.

In 2009 she was honored by Diablo Magazine with The Threads of Hope Award for her volunteer work with Guitars not Guns. She says, “It was honor I will always cherish. My Dad evenflew out from Maryland to come to the award ceremony.”

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.

Barbara was already living a life of purpose when she met Jay ten years ago. With their immediate attraction they started to do things together like do live karaoke with a house band. She would play guitar and sing while Jay played guitar with the band. They had different styles; Barbara strumming to the Beatles and Zeppelin while Jay preferred the rocking sounds of Van Halen and Hendrix.

The Night Barb and Jay Met

One morning at Barbara’s they decided to give playing together a try. Although Jay rarely played acoustic, he slowed down and started to teach her the rhythm parts of his originals. Barbara found his pieces both moving and inspiring. As time went on Barbara shared some of her favorite classic rock tunes while Jay played lead.

Barbara says, “I started playing…and I knew magic was made.”

Yes, it was. And we, their fans, all are so thankful.

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

School Prep During a Pandemic

So what is it like to be an American teacher amidst the pandemic? How do some schools provide for both the educational and safety needs of children and families? Is it even possible? Well, schools across the country have myriad approaches with both successes and failures but I am proud to say that my Santa Maria-Bonita School District has come up with a plan that balances the well-being of our educational community with learning.

Because of the rising number of cases in our community and the fact that we are a hot spot for numbers per capita on the Central Coast of California, we spent the summer taking stock. Surveys were sent out to teachers, parents, and staff asking for input on which direction to take. Multiple meetings were held, which I was proud to take part in, and negotiations began between the union and the district.

This was a time of logic, care, and thoughtfulness. In my opinion, all parties involved only had the best interests of our school community at heart in every negotiation. It may have taken the entire summer but by the time we started school there was a workable plan in place.

What was decided?

Our district decided that given the high numbers of cases we would begin the year with distance learning. However, this would be set up like regular school with a scheduled times for every subject, attendance requirements, and rigor that would rival in person schooling. We set aside two weeks to conference individually with parents and kids. At this time we would pass out books, supplies, go over procedures, and check each child’s computer to make sure that the programs were working properly.

That’s what I’m doing right now. And this is what it looks like.

Me Setting up a Pandemic Classroom

Wish me luck!

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

Between two worlds

You Are Not Alone Even in Lockdown

When I saw the headline yesterday that said, “Newsom orders all California counties to close indoor restaurants, bars,” the Covid pit in my gut I’ve tried like hell to keep at bay hardened.

I was at the gym listening to upbeat music as my feet twirled ever faster on the elliptical when I glanced up at the bank of televisions overhead to read the sad news. “Cases have climbed dramatically since then, and the number of people hospitalized and in intensive care with COVID-19 has increased steadily. As of Monday, more than 334,000 confirmed cases statewide. The state has been reporting, on average, more than 8,000 new cases a day over the past week.”

Shit. I thought trying to go to that happy place exercise usually takes me. But even though I chose the most positive songs from my playlist and willed my legs to circle strongly, I couldn’t stop the stressful thoughts from coming.

I’m going to be so lonely. Again. Just when I was able to get out and see friends, enjoy my community, try a few dates it’s all shutting down. I’ll be trapped at home. Don’t even have a boyfriend to hold at night.

And it went on and on.

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I kept working out. One hour. An hour and a half. When I started to get weak around the two hour mark, I showered and headed for home. Here I was met with my sweet girls: my daughter and my roommate. They were chatting and giggling over a glass of wine and I joined them. We told jokes, silly stories, debated politics, and shared insights and I felt better.

Later, I was doing my nightly meditation of “I am” affirmations when one phrase struck me. “I am a wonderful friend. I am here for others.” And I realized that even in lockdown, that I am able to live my best self. I can continue to be part of and give to the human community .

Dear ones, if you need me I am here… Together we can endure.

With love.

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Candlelight Memory: A Poem

I miss you.

Your strong and calloused hands

Massaging, probing, stroking,

Clavicle, rib, sternum.

Eyes closed, I reach out

And feel

The curve of

Pelvis, abdomen, and thigh.

Brush fingers over a

Fine dusting of man down.

Your voice echoes

A virile timbre of

Power and pitch.

Your scent lingers

On this drowning woman’s

Every breath.

Succor for

Long deprived lungs

Then, in shadow

I see your soft brown eyes

Locked on mine

And blink

A candlelight memory.

candle-

 

 

 

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

Covid 19: A Fifth-Graders View

What is it like for a fifth-grader to live under the shadow of Covid 19? How does an eleven year old in California experience shelter-in-place? Children are currently living through a time period that will be looked back upon and analyzed as historically significant. Thus, asking them them to share their stories in a slide show will help capture this unprecedented time.  Here are the condensed versions from two of my students, Eliseo and Natalie.
Untitled presentation (1)

Cancellation

***This assignment was inspired by Lauren Brown Created by Jessica Vannasdall***

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

Deafening Silence: A Poem

I plug my ears

Against the deafening silence

Of  forced isolation

Trying to bar screams from listless lips.

And the discordant phrasing of muted throats.

Have I become so jaded

As to find malaise in my own company?

Need I lament a compulsory isolation

As a petulant child might an elder’s chiding?

Or shall I unplug my ears

And let in the sound of

Birdsong, trees’ breath, and pelting rain?

This sublime orchestra

Invites me to perch at my conga

And accompany these tremors

For this is the time to exalt

And rejoice in

Each palpitating rhythm.

drum hands

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

 

Dark Shame: A Novel Excerpt

Part of me is tearing up right now; this is so hard to write I want to press delete, but because April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and so many have gone through what I have, I decided that it was time to come out about what happened to me. Maybe sometime my story will make a difference for someone.

I was 17 and hitchhiking home from a rock concert when it happened. I know I shouldn’t have hitchhiked, but my teen-aged self argued, You can’t miss the greatest rock concert of the year! You saved for months to get that ticket. Bad things don’t happen to nice girls. Anyhow, you are safe because your are with a boy. 

But what power does a skinny sixteen-year-old have against two grown men with gun? The boy was robbed and left in a gutter while I was taken to a shack and…and… and… did everything I could to keep them from killing me.

I survived but for years I have woken up screaming from open-eyed nightmares believing there is someone next to my bed, hands inching toward my throat. When I’m in public and see men that look like my attackers, my heart starts pounding, it’s hard to breath, and I begin to shake uncontrollably searching furtively for escape. Being alone at night is the worst. When I hear the rustling of what is probably some animal in the yard, I imagine an intruder and search behind shower curtains, beneath beds, inside doors to every closet, bedroom and corner of the garage. Some nights these panic attacks have me crying uncontrollably wishing I could crack open my skull and empty the horrific images branded in memory.

I have gotten counseling many times, but for the last two years I  have been trying to work through these feelings in a novel.  Even though this project brings up a great deal of pain, I am compelled to continue. For some reason I keep going. I don’t know why since I’m crying half the time I work on it.

Here is an excerpt from the first chapter.

“So here I was, a kid certain that someday the light of hippie sun would shine on all our faces as we danced barefoot in meadows. I had so much faith in this dream that I thought if you can really talk to a person, get them face to face, and bare the beauty of your child soul you could soften even the hardest of hearts.

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 this soft mist, like an out of focus camera and you trust people, thinking they just want to give you a ride.

Yeah, I never knew people were truly ugly until the night I peered into the tunnel of darkness.

You know, I really thought the face there 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.”

 

assultmonth

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

Without Touch: A Poem

Without touch

We are a dead sea

Where tides rise and fall

On a barren shore

 

Without family

We are an endangered species

A wraith of a white rhino

Waiting in vain for a mate

That never comes

 

Without love

We are but hollow shells

Exoskeleton crustaceans

Branded by the noonday sun

 

Alone

We are but specimens in a zoo

We pace before the bars

Of a hundred onlookers

Searching each face

In despair.

 

(Photo by David Stroup)

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