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

Candlelight Memory: A Poem

I miss you.

Your strong and calloused hands

Massaging, probing, stroking,

Clavicle, rib, sternum.

Eyes closed, I reach out

And feel

The curve of

Pelvis, abdomen, and thigh.

Brush fingers over a

Fine dusting of man down.

Your voice echoes

A virile timbre of

Power and pitch.

Your scent lingers

On this drowning woman’s

Every breath.

Succor for

Long deprived lungs

Then, in shadow

I see your soft brown eyes

Locked on mine

And blink

A candlelight memory.

candle-

 

 

 

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.
Untitled presentation (1)

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.

drum hands

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

 

Dark Shame: A Novel Excerpt

Part of me is tearing up right now; this is so hard to write I want to press delete, but because April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and so many have gone through what I have, I decided that it was time to come out about what happened to me. Maybe sometime my story will make a difference for someone.

I was 17 and hitchhiking home from a rock concert when it happened. I know I shouldn’t have hitchhiked, but my teen-aged self argued, You can’t miss the greatest rock concert of the year! You saved for months to get that ticket. Bad things don’t happen to nice girls. Anyhow, you are safe because your are with a boy. 

But what power does a skinny sixteen-year-old have against two grown men with gun? The boy was robbed and left in a gutter while I was taken to a shack and…and… and… did everything I could to keep them from killing me.

I survived but for years I have woken up screaming from open-eyed nightmares believing there is someone next to my bed, hands inching toward my throat. When I’m in public and see men that look like my attackers, my heart starts pounding, it’s hard to breath, and I begin to shake uncontrollably searching furtively for escape. Being alone at night is the worst. When I hear the rustling of what is probably some animal in the yard, I imagine an intruder and search behind shower curtains, beneath beds, inside doors to every closet, bedroom and corner of the garage. Some nights these panic attacks have me crying uncontrollably wishing I could crack open my skull and empty the horrific images branded in memory.

I have gotten counseling many times, but for the last two years I  have been trying to work through these feelings in a novel.  Even though this project brings up a great deal of pain, I am compelled to continue. For some reason I keep going. I don’t know why since I’m crying half the time I work on it.

Here is an excerpt from the first chapter.

“So here I was, a kid certain that someday the light of hippie sun would shine on all our faces as we danced barefoot in meadows. I had so much faith in this dream that I thought if you can really talk to a person, get them face to face, and bare the beauty of your child soul you could soften even the hardest of hearts.

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 this soft mist, like an out of focus camera and you trust people, thinking they just want to give you a ride.

Yeah, I never knew people were truly ugly until the night I peered into the tunnel of darkness.

You know, I really thought the face there 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.”

 

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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

Without Touch: A Poem

Without touch

We are a dead sea

Where tides rise and fall

On a barren shore

 

Without family

We are an endangered species

A wraith of a white rhino

Waiting in vain for a mate

That never comes

 

Without love

We are but hollow shells

Exoskeleton crustaceans

Branded by the noonday sun

 

Alone

We are but specimens in a zoo

We pace before the bars

Of a hundred onlookers

Searching each face

In despair.

 

(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

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

Hoarfrost Barricade: A Poem

He stands behind a glass wall

Inviting me to look through

Its streaked opaqueness

Gyrating his hips

And flashing a nipple.

 

As if seeing his skin

Will make me believe that

His heart is open.

 

He turns this way and that

Taunting

Teasing

Forcing my breath to come

Ever faster.

 

Then retreats.

One step

Two.

I press my fingers to

The glass

Each exhalation

Fogging his image.

 

He retreats further.

And I search for a

Hammer

To smash through this barricade

 

Pounding

Until

Hoarfrost

Rains

Down

Icy slivers tear through flesh

And open veins

We bleed.

And for a moment

Know

What truly

Beats in our chests.

 

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

Connection

The weight presses down. Shortening spines. And we wonder if we can go on. Then when the loneliness seems more than we can bear, an exchanged glance comes and lightens it in immeasurable ways.  Sometimes it’s when you’re sitting in a cafe musing over a story idea.  Or when a coworker says, “Want to do lunch?” A high five during Groove at the gym. Or Dog Beach sharing puppy stories. And often with soothing music in the background.

In my divorce year I was a desolate wraith, drifting from one hollow task to another. In constant pain, I didn’t know who I was or what I was doing. My body moved but there was such a chasm between action and connection that I ceased to be the friend and family support I’d long prided myself on. Barely living, I began searching for a new way to define myself as I navigated this alien life thrust upon me.

After months of crying,  I swallowed my fear and forced myself out of the house to a local beach resort hosting a free outdoor concert. With the mantra. Dancing is easy. You can do this, I fisted my hands  and took two steps away from my car. Then stopped, unable to move.

I stood on that cliff staring at the diamond sea below and fought the urge to run. What if I started to cry again? Images of his hardened back came to mind. If my husband, who I trusted with life itself, didn’t want my friendship, why would anyone else? I was so full of doubts and insecurities that I was sure they flashed like a blinding lightning storm.

The tears began to well as I looked to the wispy clouds, ethereal shapes in blue that I’d so often shared with him. When we’d co-created wonder. No, I couldn’t do it. Not without my love.

Then one cirrus cloud stretched its long arms and diffused in the atmosphere. The trees rustled as I imagined a voice whispering, “Leap into the abyss.”

I took a deep breath and let it out. Shoulders back, I strode toward that grassy green where hundreds had gathered to enjoy the spring sun. Then stood on the sidelines watching. I gave one person a shy smile. They didn’t notice me. Then another. I was invisible.

A minute later, the music started to play and I remembered all the times I’d swayed to the notes. This waltz mirrored who I truly was. Dammit, just because one man didn’t see my wonder, didn’t mean it had disappeared. It was within me. But I needed help. So I walked up to group of dancing women and said, “Hi, my husband just left me and I’m newly single. Can I hang with you guys?”

“Sure!” Carol said inviting me in with hug. After she introduced me around to others with divorce stories like mine, the volume increased. That band started rocking and so did we.  Within moments we were all leaping and bouncing like children just let out to recess. And we danced round and round until the sun hung low on the Pacific.

With these accepting individuals swirling and kicking their feet, I started down a new path. A road of friendship I have been on ever since. One I continue to be thankful for. For many years now this wonderful group of women have twirled and leapt together while meeting life’s challenges.

Which come when you least expect.

Not long ago, I had another breakup and once again felt the old doubts rear their ugly head. More crying. More insecurities. More wondering who I was and where the Hell I was going.

Then I met a new friend. Experienced another time of joy.  While exploring this discovery, I expressed my thanks and said, “Life surprises us.”

To which he countered, “No, it’s what you make of it. We surprised life.”

And I nodded. Yes, by letting new people in, we do surprise life.

We absolutely astound.

 

(photo by David Stroup)

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