I took the Christmas tree down last night…


I took the Christmas tree down last night. It’s the same little tree that stood up proud in the back of my truck as I drove down Highway 101, on the way to our For The Sender Holiday Show at the Belly Up. I lost about half of the ornaments on that short trip along the coast, and by the time the tree was loaded back up to come home after the show, it had been a long night and all I wanted to do was get in the truck and drive.

As I headed back north, I could see the shadow of an ornament in my rearview mirror, hanging on furiously to one of the top limbs. The wind coming off the ocean met the drag from the truck and the shadow whipped around and around and around, but I could make out the shape. It was a tiny surfboard, emblazoned with ‘Ma ‘n Pa’s Grocery’ on the top, which was the little store down the block from where I grew up. I gave a silent prayer for the old ornament to hang on and I don’t know why I didn’t stop, but I didn’t. I knew it would probably be gone by the time I got home.

Which it was. Over the next couple of weeks when I’d take out a saddle or a bridle from the back of the truck I’d check the crevices of the bed just to be sure, because the ornament was sort of a historical marker to my past. But it was gone, likely resting in a gutter on 101, so I had to let it go.

Probably just as well, because this Christmas was different for me. My family’s flights into town were canceled several times so I was on my own for the first time and struggling with the idea of letting go of someone close to me, which I still am, and sometimes all you can do to lessen that kind of pain is hope for a change in the season. And so last night, when my mom asked me when I usually took the Christmas tree down, I said, ‘Now.’

When the tangled lights and ornaments were put away and the needles swept up, I dragged the proud little tree out to the curb. A stray something or other caught my eye as I turned to walk away and I bent down to pull whatever this debris was still clinging from the small branches.

My breath caught for a moment and I gently took the small wooden surfboard from the fingers of the tree to my own.

Maybe some things don’t ever let go once they take hold.

That’s ok by me.

“Do you believe in Santa Claus?”

Last year around this time I was on a plane when a little girl in a puffy pink jacket became what will be my eternal Christmas reminder.

Maybe she can be the same for you, too.


“Do you believe in Santa Claus?”

The question came last night from the little girl in a puffy pink jacket sitting next to me. She had been in my seat by the window when I boarded the plane and I had told her as much, so she fumbled with her seatbelt and had already slid over to the aisle before I realized how Grinch-like it was for me to tell her she was in my seat. She probably wanted to look outside.

So I asked her if she wanted to sit by the window and she said yes please and thank you and scooted back over. I settled into the seat next to her as she pulled out a beat-up Hershey’s chocolate bar from her coat pocket. She unwrapped it, broke off half, and held it out to me.

“Do you want to share?”

She introduced me to her stuffed animal and we spent the flight playing Rock Paper Scissors and talking about the important things. She asked me if I was married and then why I wasn’t. She guessed my age and I guessed her’s. I showed her a picture of my horse and she asked me if I was sure my horse wasn’t really a camel.

She asked me if believed in Santa and told me she’d asked him for three things: to be good, to be able to study hard, and to be with her mama forever. But she knew she was getting something else too, because she had peeked in a bag her mama had brought home a few days ago.

She asked me what the tallest mountain in the world is and I said I thought it was Mt. Everest.

“Do you think God sits on top of it and watches over me and everyone?”

I sat there for a second, looking at this little girl whose face was shining and curious and real and beautiful and so full of promise and gratitude and sharing and love and all these things I think I’ve sometimes lost. All these things that were now being given back to me by this angel sitting in seat 7E.

And I told her yes, yes I think He probably does.

The plane touched down and rolled to a stop and she crawled over me into the aisle. As she started to walk away she turned back to say that it was nice talking to me and she hoped I’d have a Merry Christmas.

And then she was gone.

Do you believe in Santa Claus?

If he can look like a little girl in a puffy pink jacket, then yes.

I do.

For the Sender Holiday show profiled on Examiner.com


Is a letter for the receiver or “For the Sender”?

Confronting loss and heartache is difficult enough but to write a letter then share your personal beautiful memories, aspirations and heartache is quite another. For the Sender, a book and album created in 2012 by Alex Woodard consists of inspirational true-life stories of hope, love, loss and remembrance. A tribute to life and love the “For the Sender” letters are nostalgic, somber, healing, most of all written with love – appreciative of the blessings to have had the time and experience.

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For The Sender holiday show profiled by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer George Varga in the San Diego Union-Tribune


It’s unlikely you’ll hear a better batch of San Diego singer-songwriters teaming up for a more worthy cause than at Sunday’s “For the Sender” concert at the Belly Up.

The show is a benefit for the Switchfoot Bro-Am Foundation. The nonprofit organization was formed this year by the Grammy Award-winning San Diego rock band Switchfoot, whose annual Switchfoot Bro-Am surf contest and concert has raised nearly $1 million over the past decade for homeless and at-risk youth here.

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Alex & For The Sender featured on NBC 7 San Diego


Though it may not feel like San Diego is in the middle of winter, rest assured the holidays are coming, and you can warm your soul to the cozy coos of the For the Sender crew, back for a special holiday show at the Belly Up on Sunday, Dec. 14.
Singer-songwriter Alex Woodard got inspiration for the “For the Sender” series — for which he writes songs about and in response to letters he receives — from a fan who sent her own letter. “She said she felt like my songs were pieces of myself that I was putting out there in the world,” he told SoundDiego earlier this year, “and she wanted to give me a piece of herself in return. Along with it, she included a letter that she had written to her soulmate. [Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek and I] wrote a song about it called ‘For the Sender,’ about how this letter in particular was like a prayer. It was more for the sender than the receiver. That was kind of the genesis for the whole project.”

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For The Sender featured on 91X


Hello everyone it’s Lou Niles here recommending an amazing show at the Belly Up Tavern on Sunday December 14th; its called “For The Sender” and its to celebrate the release of the Book/CD compilation “For The Sender – Love Is (Not a Feeling)”.

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Alex featured in 92067 Magazine


How does someone with a finance background end up becoming a successful musician? Alex Woodard, a new resident in the Covenant community, did it by acting on his heart’s desire to connect deeply with others. Even as a young child, Alex realized that music allowed him to do this. He explained, “I’d been a pretty quiet kid, but I noticed that people would respond emotionally to what I wrote and sang.”

After graduating from UCLA with a Business Economics degree, Alex eventually landed a finance job at an internet software company in Seattle, which was the nation’s grunge music capital at the time. Continuing to write songs in his free time, Alex worked up the courage to perform them live at open mic nights. After playing shows at bigger and bigger venues, Alex quit his job to pursue music full time. By his early 30s Alex settled down in Leucadia, but now that he owns a horse named Annie (“She’s a big part of my world!” he raved), he decided to move to the Rancho Santa Fe property that houses her and his dog, Stella.

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Love Is (Not a Feeling)


The words scratched into the wall in this photo say it all.

Once a week we’ve been posting my thoughts on the message from each For The Sender chapter, making our way through both books and giving away a book autographed by the For The Sender family each time. We’ve come to the end of the road.

And here’s the last chapter of Book 2. Share your story of a moment when love was something other than a feeling in the comments below and we’ll choose a post and send you a book autographed by the For The Sender family.