Martin Luther King Jr: A Quote

Dr. King said, “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact violence merely increases hate…Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.”

More than fifty years have passed since Dr. King spoke these years yet many still hold onto the false belief that violence can stamp out evil. But it is the violence itself that is a blight on society. Destroying a few individuals with hatred will not bring a stop to it. Isn’t it about time that we learned to walk a new path? I have seen children from gang families, abused kids, homeless students, and the impoverished act with more empathy than many adults.

We could learn a great deal from them. And by remembering these words spoken so long ago.

Elementary Students Volunteering to Create Peace at My School

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

Drifting Light

Dylan Thomas said, “Do not go gentle into that good night.

Old age should burn and rave at close of day.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Yet T. S. Eliot said, “This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.”

As the hot air balloon floated upward on yet another birthday and mortality ever more visible, their words drifted into my mind. My son had surprised me at dawn with, “Get up Mom! We have to go.”

“What’s up sweetheart?”

“We’re going on a hot air balloon ride. We have to leave in ten minutes.”

With sleep and tears in my eyes, I brushed my teeth, threw on some jeans and tennies, and applied a quick swath of lipstick. During the forty-five minute drive Nick and I got caught up on how San Francisco State was treating him, his new job training students for the climbing wall, and concerts he’d recently worked as a bartender. Before we knew it we were at the Los Olivos Market meeting our guide and pilot, James Lawson, owner of Sky’s the Limit Ballooning Adventures. Two husband-wife couples milled about nearby as we made last minute pit stops to the restroom and snuggled into jackets to keep out the chill morning air.

The seven of us boarded the shuttle and drove a short distance to Santa Ynez Valley field where the basket lay on its side next to the deflated balloon. After James gave us a few safety tips, he yanked the pull cord on the huge fan a few times and the blower engine revved. As the balloon filled, we were asked to enter two by two for photos inside its belly. Nick and I stood arm in arm giggling, the strong winds blowing back our hair and clothes. Next, we all stood at a safe distance and they lit the burners which shot two yards of blue and red flame into the bag. While the fabric billowed and rose we were witness to Archimedes’ principle of buoyancy pulling the basket upright.

“Okay, line up,” James ordered us. “You’ll be three by three on either side of the basket.”

Using footholds cut in the side of the gondola, we climbed aboard and situated ourselves in the compartments. Ours was a six-person basket with the burner directly over us warming our heads with the blasting flames. There were multiple roped hand holds surrounding us making me think that this was going to be some roller coaster of a ride. Afraid I might tumble into Nick, I grabbed one, just to be safe. Then James pulled on some levers, and the burners hissed. Tension built in my shoulders.

And I waited.

And waited.

I cocked my ear to the side. Weren’t we going to take off? Then I realized. We already had.

I felt nothing. No jarring jolts. No rattling shudders. Not even a wobble at lift-off.

Yet moments later we were airborne drifting over the golden grasses of a California autumn. Everyone grew silent, as if in prayer, communing with the moment. And the world and all its worries withered making space for the quiet of wind and fire.

Below red and valley oaks stood sentinel on hillsides flanked by coastal sage scrub and grasses. The sun’s rounded shoulders arced from under the horizon changing the peppered cirrus and altostratus clouds from tangerine to lavender and finally alabaster.

The ground waned as we ascended becoming a blanket for the behemoth that is our Earth. I pulled out my phone, trying to capture a few snippets of the venture while still remaining present. My fellow passengers seemed to have the same sentiment, shifting from detached photojournalist to awe-struck spectator every few minutes. The balloon shadowed the undulating chaparral below reminding me of an angel with interlocked wingtips unfurled.

Our pilot and guide not only navigated the balloon but also his spiel expertly. As he guided the craft in and out of oak forests, over green vineyards, and even over a field to hover and pick up a pumpkin from one of his crew, he recited tales of land and man, geology and climate, history and biology. He would speak intermittently, allowing each of us meditative moments to breathe in this singular experience.

My boy and I exchanged few words during the flight but multiple loving glances. I could tell how thrilled he was to bring me joy, something he has done many times since becoming an adult. Nick has taken me on mother-son dates to rock concerts by Neil Young and Robert Plant, long hikes to remote places, and even a Halloween rave party. That boy loves giving to his family.

With memorable days like this one.

Yep, I may be another year older with mortality rearing its Medusa tentacles my way. But on this one day, I got to rage, rage, against the dying of the light.

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

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.  Isn’t this a symbol of our own search for a spiritual existence in a technical world?  As we further remove ourselves from a nature 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 constantly take the blue pill?  We wrap ourselves up in the digital world of computers, TVs, cellular phones, hidden behind cubicle dividers or car privacy glass. Hell, we could have hundreds of conversations in a day while never touching another living human being. Constantly cut off from real interaction with the world.

Although violence is often a gratuitous tool used by Hollywood to entice movie goers, the violence is essential to the plot in this film.  As Neo combats the machine constructs within the digital Matrix, he must face his own doubts and fears thus seeing that there is more to his world than meets the eye. It becomes a symbol of man’s struggle with himself. It forces us to ask what is more important in the intellect versus the body or faith versus fact questions that have long plagued human kind. Do we live the life we choose or one of enslavement?  Neo fights his way through and overcomes internal struggles in trying to discover 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

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

White Gloves: A Poem

Tongues click

White gloves sweep tables, until grey

Clasped hands cry conformity

Like a muted scream in sign language

As lips lecture

Biblical quotes

Cleanliness is next to Godliness.

Eyes scan and fall upon

An unmade bed

Or a dirty dish

Ocular glares

Filthy lazy child!

Blares

An encapsulated bullhorn

Shatters bifocals

Leaving piercing shards upon the floor

Which cut my feet. 

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

Single Breath: A Poem

My footsteps echo

In empty rooms

As feet shuffle over

Silent floors.

A single breath

Fills the air

Where once

Two voices shared.

I wander

Extant in

Another farewell.

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

(Cover Photo by David Stroup)