She Landed Yesterday

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She landed yesterday. This little sleeping ball of feather, which I held in my hands for so long wondering if she would fly, came back down for awhile. I had let her go, not knowing if she’d come back at all, in an old, historic California theater some time ago. She looked like a collection of letters, songs, and stories, but to me she was more like a small bird that I’d been taking care of, unsure if she’d survive. And after I presented her to the audience in that theater, I opened my hands and let her fly.

She took off out the main doors that night and flew across the cold clear winter sky, and along the way she landed in a few people’s hands who’d help her fly even farther.

And yesterday she came back down for awhile.

I’ll let Hay House CEO Reid Tracy explain.

And maybe she’ll land in your hands, too.


“Sometimes a letter is like a prayer; it’s more for the sender than the receiver.”
—Alex Woodard

Whenever I see a copy of For the Sender, I still can’t believe how much impact this one little book has had on so many lives. Let me tell you about how it first landed in my hands.

It was one of our staff members who brought it to me. She said it was written by a friend. Uh-oh. I’m very skeptical when someone brings me a manuscript from “a friend” or an aunt, uncle or cousin. The end product usually has very limited appeal.

I receive quite a few unsolicited books and manuscripts that come to me from unknown authors or without a recommendation from an established author. When they are handed to me, I have a process that I always put into play: I read the first sentence. Then I read the first paragraph. This tells me right off the bat whether the author has a compelling voice.

The first sentences of For the Sender drew me in:

Me and the leaves are barely hanging on when I get the letter. Autumn is painting change everywhere, and I am turning over a season of my own, although the trees are doing a better job of letting go than I am. Leaves and dreams alike are either dying on the limb or already gone. And so is she.
And I kept reading. I read for another hour until I finished. When I sat back in my chair and had an immediate impulse to tell more people about this book, I knew I had something special in my hands.

Publishers usually don’t sign unknown writers, but I knew that Alex Woodard, author of For the Sender, was somehow meant to be with Hay House. Here was a local musician from San Diego who received a handwritten letter from a fan. Her name was Emily and she sent this letter to her favorite guitarist because his songs made her life easier after the love of her life had passed away. Alex was so moved by Emily’s letter that he wrote a song for her, which eventually led to more letters, more songs and his first book.

Emily’s letter did something else that I didn’t realize until later. It started a chain of events that would eventually blossom out of this new relationship we had with For the Sender and its author Alex Woodard. These would include a letter writing contest that germinated more songs for a second book, the addition of live music at our I Can Do It! events, a live concert right in the middle of our Hay House Carlsbad office, tribute songs for a local weatherman and a young boy whose life was cut short in Sandy Hook, and more best-selling books.

I shared For the Sender with a number of our authors and personal friends. Cheryl Richardson read it on her flight home from one of our San Diego events and loved it, even though she tried hard not to cry all the way. Chris Northrup said she couldn’t put it down, and Deepak Chopra called it a “beautiful tribute to the human spirit.”

When I sent a copy to Wayne Dyer, he called me immediately. He was so moved by it, that it inspired him to look back on his life. For the Sender soon became the inspiration for his next book, I Can See Clearly Now. (I’ll save that story for next time along with a very funny story about how I first met Wayne.)

By now, Alex learns that his words have inspired Wayne. He’d like to honor this somehow by writing a song. In his new follow-up book For the Sender: Love Is (Not A Feeling), Alex shares this song, “this gift” along with more songs, stories, letters and special moments that evolved from the writing of his first book.

Alex’s new book, For the Sender: Love Is (Not a Feeling) is another reminder about how truly connected we all are. I hope you’ll agree when you read it.

I’m including an excerpt from For the Sender: Love Is (Not a Feeling) below this column so you can read the remarkable details that led to the creating of the tribute song for Wayne. We’ll also include a link so you can watch Alex and Wayne’s daughter Skye perform the song live.

One more thing, you’ll also hear Alex and Skye perform this song during Wayne’s new Public Television Special in March (watch the video trailer). More on that next time…

My best wishes

Reid Tracy

Jordan Pundik (New Found Glory) featured on new Alex Woodard song


Singer/songwriter/author Alex Woodard has released a new song, “Breathe The Sky,” which features New Found Glory frontman Jordan Pundik on vocals.

The song, which premiered today on Billboard, is taken from For The Sender: Love Is (Not A Feeling)—the second installment in Woodard’s music/book project, which is due for release February 25. Pre-orders are available here.

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Alex Exclusive Premiere “Breathe The Sky” with Jordan Pundik on

New Found Glory’s Jordan Pundik & Songwriter/Author Alex Woodard Team Up for ‘Breathe the Sky’: Exclusive Premiere

The Americana-influenced track tells the story of a man’s unflinching optimism while dying from Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

“FOR THE SENDER: Love Is (Not a Feeling)” – the second installment of the ongoing music-meets-literature project of Alex Woodard – is shaping up to be one of the year’s most touching, unique releases. Accompanying the corresponding book is a CD of 13 songs, each inspired by a heartfelt letter. New Found Glory’s frontman Jordan Pundik lent his vocals to the stirring “Breathe the Sky.”

“This was a completely different kind of thing for me,” Pundik says, referencing the departure from NFG’s chugging guitars and sneering punk hooks. “I’ve always been into alt-country and Americana, and [the song] has that vibe. I was able to tone down my voice a bit, to not to belt so hard.”

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The fire was starting to die last night when I thought about how we sometimes make decisions as antidotes. Some of us get married as an antidote to being down at the end of the bar at closing time, looking for someone, anyone, after everyone else has gone home. We sometimes run away from these things that scare us, instead of running to the things we love. And in the end, we all choose one or the other.

But what if these things we’re scared of weren’t even options? What if we decided that being down at the end of the bar at closing time didn’t exist as a possibility for us anymore?

We wouldn’t need to avoid it. Or have an antidote for it.

There’s a big, beautiful world out there that we can choose to be in, but not because we’re running away from something.

More because we’re running to something.

There’s a big difference there, and you can see it in a kid named Sam. He died yesterday from a disease called progeria, which caused him to age extremely quickly and presented a world that most of us would run away from.

But he ran to it.

His three philosophies to living a happy life are brilliant, and if you want to run to beauty, watch this.

RIP Sam. And thank you.

He Didn’t Bring The Trash Cans Out This Sunday.

Trent 2011

He didn’t bring the trash cans out this Sunday.

He always did. For everyone. He would brave barking dogs (mine included) and uncertain house guests to open gates throughout the neighborhood and bring the trash cans out to the street for the early Monday morning pick up. Some people called him ‘slow.’ Others less sensitive called him ‘scary’ and the meaner ones called him ‘retarded.’

But to me he was just Trent.

Sometimes he would rifle through the trash to find bottles to recycle, but always, always, he would give me a hard time about just about everything: how the girls come and go at all hours from my house (they really don’t), how my parents were going to drag me away and lock me up someday (they probably won’t), how my dog Stella would rather live with him (she definitely wouldn’t).

Stella didn’t like him. There was something about his energy that flipped a switch in her and she would bark aggressively whenever he came through our gate. She’d search for a ball to hold in her mouth, because she knew that’s what she was supposed to do instead of biting him. She got ripped apart by a pit-ridgeback mix when she was about a year old and has carried a protective streak with her ever since, which I soften by giving her choices of other things to ‘kill’ when she feels threatened. Things like tennis balls.

Trent was understandably sometimes wary of Stella, but he left a pile of tennis balls for her on our front porch last week. He’d found them in someone’s trash can and I told Stella the balls were from him the next morning as she headed to the beach with one of them in her mouth.

He came over later that day and let himself in the gate, like he sometimes did when he wanted to talk about the trains or his Grandma up in heaven. Stella snarled and ran for one of the balls he gave her while he called ‘Stelllllla, Stelllllla, heeeeerrrrreee puppy’ over and over and patted his jeans with his hand.

He eased himself down onto the planter box in my backyard and held the wood framing for support as he sat with his feet flat on the grass. Stella circled about five feet away from him, her low growl rumbling and hair bristling down her spine. She shook her head violently, clutching the ball in her huge jaws, but I knew she wouldn’t do anything to him; it was always this way.

Then she stopped.

She looked at him with her head low and ears back and stepped a couple of steps back, then a few more steps forward, until she was within striking distance. I was starting to feel slightly uneasy when the most unimaginable thing happened.

She stretched her neck out as far as she could and put the ball in Trent’s hand.

He looked down at the ball with a childlike wonder and threw it as far as he could, which amounted to a few feet past her. Stella pounced on it like a puppy and brought it back to him, but the ball dropped through his unready hands onto the grass. She gently picked it up and again placed it in his palm, again and again until he could grip it. And he threw the ball again, laughing like I’d never heard him laugh.

They played for a long time, Trent and Stella. I thought about taking a picture because this moment hadn’t ever been among the remotest of possibilities and no one in the neighborhood would believe me if I told them about it.

But I stepped back into the shadows of the house and watched the impossible become possible between these two beings with minds and bodies long ago damaged by something outside their control. These perfect souls now connecting with love, for the first time after years of mistrust.

It was the first time and the last time.

Trent died a few days ago on New Year’s Eve. The neighborhood will have a memorial service for him here on the street sometime next week and everyone who knew and loved him will be invited. Including the trash truck drivers. And Stella.

Today is Sunday and kids are playing, dogs are being walked, strollers are being pushed. But something is missing out there on the street.

He didn’t bring the trash cans out this Sunday.

Huffington Post

Threads in a Blanket: Creativity and Healing in the Face of Violence
by Vanessa Contopulos

Original Article:

John Paul Lederach has worked all over the world in conflict areas as a mediator and companion to people rebuilding lives and communities after the violence of war. In his book The Moral Imagination, he suggests that the greatest lie that violence seeks to impose is that it inhabits a wasteland where nothing else can grow. He says, “Artists shatter that lie, for they live in barrenness as if new life, birth, is always possible.”

A few months ago John Paul gathered together a small group of artists, neuroscientists, contemplatives and leaders in the field of peacebuilding to reflect on the roots of compassionate presence. I had the privilege of being there. Among those present, quite a few had lived through conflict. As they shared, I was struck by the way artists shine a light on what might be, even in the midst of bleak violence.

I sat and listened as Sierra Leonean poet Oumar Farouk Sesay read poetry that emerged as war ravaged his country. With every word and every moment of silence he brought to us people’s tears and resilience. I listened as Farouk and his colleague, Kirsten Rian, spoke of gathering broken and grieving people in dusty huts in the middle of war, to write and read poetry. As they clung to these lifeboats of words they told their stories and shattered the lie that nothing but violence could live in Sierra Leone.

I sat with tears in my eyes as Northern Irish artist, Carole Kane, spoke about Petals of Hope. On August 15, 1998, a car bomb was detonated in the Northern Irish town of Omagh, killing 29 and injuring over 200. Not long after the tragedy, Carole heard a conversation on the radio discussing what could be done with the huge numbers of flowers of condolence that had been left. With an artist’s spirit she proposed a project to hold cross-community gatherings to create art using handmade paper that incorporated the flowers. Each of the grieving families was given a piece of art and larger pieces were given to each town affected. Along with art exhibitions and a book, Petals of Hope, each acted as physical reminders that violence can’t bully everything into silence.

As the one year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings came and went, these stories have been with me. They serve as beacons of light as I consider what it means to be part of a grieving society, one grappling with the large questions of what to do in the face of violence.

In the space created by this horrific and unfathomable loss, what is growing? What is being born out of the depth of love for those lost? What grows as a result of the beauty of these stolen lives, and the courage of those who remain? Many of the families have started foundations in honor of their loved ones, and with each foundation, they seek new ways to solve some of the underlying societal problems connected with mass shootings.

Last February, a concert of community healing was held in Newtown featuring artists such as Peter Yarrow and Dar Williams alongside some of the grieving family members. Francine and David Wheeler, who lost their son Ben, sang on that night. I learned of this concert through a Bill Moyers interview with Peter Yarrow, Francine and David. When I think of beauty and courage in response to violence, I think of Francine and David Wheeler. Though I have never met them and I will never have the chance to meet their beloved Ben, they have touched my life deeply. Francine is a singer and she believes in the power of music to bring her strength and healing. This resonated with my work as a music therapist and my work with The SongStream Project. Because of their story, I wrote a song called “It’s Love That Wins.”

Music has always been drawn from the dark well of pain. Through his project FOR THE SENDER, singer-songwriter and author Alex Woodard has written many songs inspired by letters he has received from people, often addressed to a loved one who has died. One such letter was from Scarlett Lewis, written to her son Jessie who was killed at Sandy Hook. Alex, and his songwriter friends wrote three songs in response to the poignant beauty of Scarlett’s letter. This week, along with colleague Molly Jenson, Alex had the opportunity to meet Scarlett and share the songs with her. When the second FOR THE SENDER book and CD comes out in February, Jessie’s life, his story and his mother’s love will touch lives around the world through the music they have inspired.