Ripped Away: A Poem

My rose-colored glasses

Were ripped from my face

By distant flames

And an unseen

Organism

Born on air.

I reached for them

Groping through smoke

And ash

But only felt

The charred remains

Of what was once

My beautiful

California.

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

Scorched: A Poem

In the orange haze

We look to the sun

Peering through smoke

And ash

Eyes burning

We do not turn away

But seek the light

Through apocalyptic days

That have now become night.

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

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.

peeopleneedunderstand

Performance: A Child’s Right

I believe that children have the right to

Self-expression

Acceptance

Equality

Fairness

A stimulating curriculum

And mentors who believe

In their wonder.

kidsrunhappy

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

Round the Mountain: An Excerpt

I can’t  remember when Mom married Ronald, I was only two. But I do remember my real Dad coming around. And how he used to set me on his knee and start bouncing while singing, “She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain” in a Johnny Cash voice.  Imagining I was riding six white horses, I’d cry, “Faster, Daddy, faster.” And his leg would jiggle so much I’d teeter before falling off in a heap of giggles.

Once, while rolling around in a fit of laughter I looked past Dad at the popcorn ceiling and noticed a long crack from one side to the next. “Look Daddy, a river.”

His tickle hands halted, and he froze, staring at that crack for the longest time. Then he stood and walked away. Kept right on going out the front door.

Pretty soon after that, I started riding a stick horse.

Dad sang, “We’ll all go out to greet her when she comes,” but he hasn’t greeted me in so long I can’t remember.

I wonder what I did wrong.

Anyhow, once during a visit to Aunt Kay’s when I was supposed to be sleeping, I crept down the hall to listen to her and Uncle Mike rant about Ronald and Mom.

“Just call me Ronny, like Governor Reagan,” Kay mocked.

“Ronny, my ass. He thinks he’s hot shit because he drives a Lincoln and lives in The Estates,” Mike said.

“Did you see her face?”

“Again?”

“She tries to cover it up with make-up, but I know.”

“Asshole,” Mike said.

I knew what the make-up was covering. The same thing our perfectly mowed lawn and etched concrete patio did. The same thing shrouding our windows. Mom was just as skilled at curtaining her face in Cover Girl beige as she was in sewing flawless window coverings.

And we all pretended to believe that the discolorations beneath the foundation were just smears, places she hadn’t expertly applied the make-up.

Like today when I got back from camp.

Yeah, if my real dad was here, he’d kick Ronny’s ass. Lay him flat. Wrap Mom up in his strong arms, (They were strong, weren’t they?) and whisk us away to a place beyond the mountain.

***

The previous is an excerpt from my nearly complete novel, Bong Years.

***

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

 

Closing Walls: A Poem

The walls close in

Birthing a prison

Of  painted wood and stucco.

A hallucinatory jail

Of iron bars

And invisible jailers their

Nightsticks and cattle prods

Held aloft.

 Escape!

My mind screams

As I jiggle one locked door

Then another

In vain.

 

The walls close in

With rain-spattered windows

That press against

My hands and face

Forcing the remembrance

Of the busy street that was

Before Shelter in Place

And the maleficent novel virus

Hovering in air.

 

Walls close in

Like an Alice in Wonderland

Nightmare

With warped mirrors

Forcing me to look

At the scars

I’ve tried so hard to hide

With Cover Girl

And powder.

I draw back

Then cry

No!

I will not curl into a fetal ball!

But observe each wall

And stroke the glass

With nurturing words

And love.

single grain

(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

School’s Closed Due to COVID 19

Yesterday I was stunned to receive the following email from our school district’s superintendent, Luke Ontiveros:

“Dear SMBSD Family,    As you may have heard, all schools in Santa Barbara County will close no later than Wednesday, March 18, in order to slow the potential spread of COVID-19. At this time, there are no confirmed COVID-19 cases in Santa Barbara County. However, all SB County school districts agreed that the need to close was prudent in light of the statewide situation.

Our schools WILL be in session on Monday, March 16, and Tuesday, March 17, for staff and students to provide SMBSD students and families with access to information, materials and resources to support learning during the closure. Schools will not be in session for students beginning on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. 

By holding school on March 16 and 17, we hope to provide working parents and families enough time to arrange for childcare. On those days, the schools will also be providing students with take-home technology, supplies and materials so that learning and academic engagement can continue during the closure. More information about this will be available soon.

Additionally, SMBSD is developing a plan to continue to provide meals to students. This information will be communicated to families through the district website, phone messages, texts and emails.

District employees WILL continue to work in a variety of capacities in order to continue to support students and families in our district. Further, more detailed information for staff members will be communicated through district emails over the next several days. Please check your district email frequently over the weekend and throughout the next several weeks for information and instructions.”

The pit that had developed in my gut during the last few days hardened. Was I living inside of a dystopian novel  about the end of days? Perhaps I’d entered the Matrix where computer entities had suddenly decided to change the landscape? Were we at war with an alien species who was using the media to spread fear in order to divide and conquer us?

The answer, of course, was none of the above. Our district, like most California districts had decided that the risks of exposure to the corona virus outweighed the uncertainty of how the closing of school might effect those involved. This unprecedented decision came so quickly that I personally couldn’t process the information.

I was in shock.

Like most of you, I first heard about COVID-19 when the Chinese cases emerged. I was sympathetic, but this was happening on the other side of the world so tucked the information away in that not-relevant-to-me part of my brain. Then it moved to Europe and other countries. North America. A nursing home in Washington. Creeping closer to my central California home.

And I started to pay more attention.  Friends sent me emails about the possible spread of the virus and how to prevent contamination. When I received the first one, I clicked my tongue thinking my friend was overreacting and playing into media fear.  Then government officials released sobering reports with worst case scenarios.

Now I was engaged. I began reading various articles with more fervor, making a mental note to follow the advice. I made changes in my classroom. It had long been my policy to shake every student’s hand as they entered the classroom. (Then use hand sanitizer or wash my hands.) But now we switched to a fist bump instead, and I then used extra hand sanitizer.

More news. Large events cancelled. Coachella. The SLO Film Fest. All school sporting, fine arts, band, and non-essential events were cancelled. Our Student of the Month Assembly was postponed until the end of the year. Even our Friday Flag Salute where the entire school gathered outside on the green for patriotic songs, announcements, and the school cheer was cancelled.

In a matter of days, our lives changed radically.

That brings me up to yesterday’s announcement. According to the letter, I would have two more days of face-to-face instruction with my sweet fifth graders, then school would be suspended. However, teachers will continue to report to work monitoring on-line assignments. Okay, now I’m supposed to teach remotely via computer with no idea what it’s going to look like.

As changes occur, I’ll keep all of you posted. Like my hard-working colleagues, I’ll try my best to give students what I can during this challenging time. And pray that all of these policy changes do help keep the most vulnerable of our population safe.

Virtual hugs and blessings to you all.

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

Children Honoring Dr. King

This Martin Luther King Day I am thinking back to making an anti-bullying video last year. When I first heard about the contest, I thought it’d be a great way to teach my kids about how to deal with bullying. So I wrote a script, had some auditions, and started filming the munchkins in imaginary bullying situations. I was lucky to have such good actors this year who were open to retakes, but still it was pretty tough to try and fit filming into our already busy schedule. Most of it occurred during recesses.

And the due date was fast approaching.

One of the greatest challenges was finding a quiet place at school to film the scenes.  We don’t have any special equipment like muff-covered microphones or special lights. Just an IPad. We’d be in the middle of one with the kids rocking their acting and the bell would ring or a ball would roll our way with a second-grader right behind.

So with a groan I’d delete that take and try again.

On the last day before all entries were due, I tried taking the kids to behind the school, thinking that would be quiet and protected from the blustery winds of Santa Maria. And it worked, sort-of. But then there was another announcement while filming.

With recess over, what choice did I have? We were out of time so I had to use the scene.

And was surprised as heck with how good the video came out.

But would we win?

Weeks passed. No news. The kids kept asking me if I’d heard anything and I had to shake my head no. Then one morning there was an email in my inbox.

“Dear Laurie,

We are delighted to inform you that you are a Winner in the Take A Stand Against Bullying Video Contest sponsored by Oxy Skin Care. The Scholastic and Oxy teams were so impressed with the caliber of work; your students should be very proud!” I read the other morning as my fifth-grade students were getting out their homework.

“Yahoo! We won! We won!” I crowed jumping up and down in front of my astonished class.

“What, Ms. Woodward?”

“The video we made won the national contest!”

There was silence for a moment then a roar of cheers, applause and desk pounding so deafening  I was sure the principal would come in any second and tell us to quiet down. Kids leapt into the air, high-fiving each-other while I did a victory Salsa dance across the room.

I love being a teacher.

 

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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 Side of the Moon: An Excerpt

The world is changing. The war is over, and they say civil rights have been won although if you look around my school you wouldn’t know it. In high school there’s an invisible line dividing kids into whites, Mexicans, and blacks. Oh, sure we cross over and party with each other, but we all know that there’s this glass wall between us.

We all live in separate worlds. And it pisses me off.

Ever since Charles Manson made hippie a symbol of evil, kids have stopped hitting the streets to march for peace. Now we teens steal behind trees in parks or shut ourselves into the back of Chevy Vans where we pass joints around and listen to Pink Floyd take us to the dark side of the moon.

On that side no one cares when gang fights break out. Over there it doesn’t matter if we are denying people of color their rights. We breathe in Colombian smoke and the guitar’s riffs fill our ears as we listen to Pink Floyd’s quiet desperation guiding us ever further from the light.

On the dark side of the moon we are so high we don’t notice the rest of the world. Our vision is blurred and all we see are the twinkling stars in space.

 

The above is an excerpt from a novel I’m working on. 

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