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

Hope for Peace: 10 Ways to Effect Change

Just like you, recent events have rocked me to the core. As humanity’s ugly underbelly is exposed with mange and open sores that continue to bleed, I’m seeking hope. For me, it lies with children. I have seen first hand that these innocents desire justice and harmony. I believe children have the power to create profound change in our world. If there is ever to be true peace, it must transcend the generations. But first they must dream of the changes they want. Here are ten creative ideas I’ve used with my students. Let’s all begin the change.

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1. Make Peace Cards.

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2. Make an anti-bully poster.

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3. Draw cartoons dealing a bully.

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4. Paint a peace sign on a paper plate.

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5. Create a Love the Earth card.

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6. Make a dream board.

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7. Photograph someone doing a kind act.

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8. Create a dance high-fiving and smiling with your buds.

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9. Film a video of yourself singing a peace song.

Colby Jeffers: Change the World

10. Paint a self-portrait.

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Any more ideas? Share  and we’ll turn 10 to 10,000!

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.
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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.

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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

 

Ten Tips for Coping With Shelter in Place

As a writer, it is my job to be introspective, to observe, comment upon, and analyze. I feel it my duty to create works that act as a mirror for society, human interactions, and emotion. But Shelter-in-Place is so foreign that I’m finding it challenging to write.

Like many of you, I am fighting feelings of helplessness and depression. I long for human interaction, closeness, touch. I miss patting my friends on the back as we laugh over some silly joke, twirling on the dance floor goofily between hugs, and placing a hand on a gal pal’s arm in comfort.

As humans, we were not built for isolation. Remember that study from your reading in Psych 101? Back in the thirteenth century, the German king, Frederick II, conducted an experiment to discover what language children would grow up to speak if never spoken to. So King Frederick took babies from their mothers at birth and placed them in the care of nurses who were forbidden to speak to them. But a second rule was imposed, as well: the nurses were not allowed to touch the infants.  Frederick’s experiment was an absolute failure, because every baby died. Without touch and tender words they couldn’t thrive.

We all need connection. So what to do now when that basic human need is denied us? I have found the following things help.

1) Avoid the news. It will only depress you. Read just enough to stay informed.newsdepress

2) Limit your TV watching. toomuchtv

3) Put your favorite music on. Dance around the living room. musicnoteroad

4) Do some activities that don’t need much brainpower such as cleaning. I find toilet scrubbing a good one. happytoilet

6) Get outside. If you live in a house, weed, plant, mow, edge, blow. If you live in an apartment, sweep the walk.  gardener

7) Keep to your normal routine as closely as possible. I still shower early, do my hair and get dressed in the morning.

8) Give yourself a makeover. Try a new hair or makeup style. Get goofy and have fun with it. Laugh at your own silly antics! Bad-Hair-Crazy-Tattoos-Clown-Hair

8) Go for a walk.

9) Find a workout  video and dance along. Zumba Workout

9) Go for a drive and crank the tunes: pretend you are a rebellious teen behind the wheel. Shake it Off Video

10) Do art. Paint, color, sketch. Make a dream board.

Any more ideas out there? I’d love to hear them. Blessings for healthy minds and bodies, dear ones!

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.

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(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

Masks of Fear: A Poem

Masked faces hide

Mouths, noses, chins

But cannot shroud

The terror in our eyes.

Strangers approach

We give them wide berth

Like wary deer

Near circling wolves.

Veiled contempt

In polite platitudes of

“Sorry,”

“Pardon me.”

 

Do He or She have

IT?

We wonder

As gloved hands

Encased in latex and Purell

Repel touch.

Leaving us desolately

Separate

And alone.

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