Crumbling Horizon: A Poem

He emerged on the horizon

Of a crumbling walk

And paused to swab

Caked and

Bleeding feet.

 

Pointing downward

He spoke:

 

Tread lightly on love’s esplanade

Skip rope, draw chalk figures,

And dance upon it,

Let it lead you to

Wondrous playgrounds

And home again.

 

And beware

The falling snowflakes,

So beautiful as to blind,

Whose ice crystals

Seep into cracks

Breaking

The consecrated.

And turning it to dust.

 

Until all that is left

Are aimless fragments

On the wind.

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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

 

Finding Gratitude

Thank you. A simple phrase. So easy to utter.  It falls from our lips multiple times each day. Yet, have you ever thought about what it means to be thankful? To embrace the gifts all around?

I know I don’t always show gratitude. Sometimes I live in resentment,  blaming others for my successes and failures. If my step-father hadn’t beaten the women in my family, I’d have been assertive in my romantic relationships.  I would have stood up and demanded that my needs be met. If my husband hadn’t had an affair, I wouldn’t be doubting my lovability today.  Even if we’d still divorced I would have begun dating with confidence in my attractiveness.  It was my boyfriend’s job that kept me from committing fully. If he had just gotten a better paying one, we would have had the perfect relationship.

And it goes on and on.

So often, I’ve argued with what is the truth of my experience.  But I have no control over past events. I cannot change the fact that my ex-husband had a secret seven-year affair. I cannot rewrite an old boyfriend’s resume. I cannot magically erase the black eyes and broken bones my step-father inflicted.

But I can choose where to focus to my thoughts. I can say thank you for every experience. I can choose gratitude. I can thank my ex-husband for believing in me when I was just an insecure kid unsure of my life’s path. I can admire how my step-father sought counseling and tried to overcome his anger showing me that anyone can change.  I  can be grateful for how my boyfriend told me time and again to be kind to myself . How he modeled self-acceptance and making peace with what is.

Instead of fixating on what never manifested, I will remember what has.

I may be single, again, but wondrous relationships abound. My children fill my heart and mind with joy. My silly dad and worry-wort mom say ridiculous things that make me chuckle. I have rocking times with friends dancing, chatting, sharing stories. Kisses and caresses from lovers of the past linger on my skin.  I have an abundance of love for myself and others.

I am blessed.

Thank you all.

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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

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

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

 

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

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

2019 Year in Review

New Year’s Blessings to all of you! May 2020 be all that you dream it will be!

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

Fallen God: A Poem

He who was once as Zeus

Now is as Icarus

Wax-wings smoldering,  then blazing,

Then gone

Fallen to Earth

Sans net, sans arms

Sans me to break his fall.

He is mortal.

My Medusa-eyes see

Petrified penis

Manhood in stone

A cast mold

Of the God he once was.

 

Have you no lightning bolts to throw,

Dear Hypocrates

To turn this stone to flesh?

 

No Hypnos!

I sleep not

I dream not!

I sculpt.

I am Pygmalion

I kneel at the feet of goddesses

In silent entreaty

A mortal in a barren temple

A woman embracing an empty womb.

 

Laurie Woodward is the author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. She co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy and 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.

 

 

See Through Their Eyes

They say you can never truly feel empathy for another until you walk a mile in their shoes. Now, as adults we can imagine the pain, suffering, and challenges of others because we have walked life’s path. But with their limited experiences, this can be challenging for a child. So,  how do we help our young ones  with bullying, assertiveness, and empathy?

This is what I wondered when I tried to design a lesson. I knew I couldn’t have my students take off their shoes and share them. Their feet are all different and that wouldn’t get the message across. But then I thought about how donning a mask frees up even the shyest of people. What if children made masks of either a bully or a victim and then role-played a scene where they resolved a conflict?

Following is the  lesson I designed. Give it a try with your kids and let me know how it worked.

Objective: The learner will increase their understanding of what other children feel through making either a bully or victim mask then pretending to be that person while wearing it.

Materials: Pencils, construction paper or paper plates, thin paper or tissue paper, craft glue, craft sticks. crayons, markers, scissors. Chart paper, white board or electronic whiteboard.  If you’d like a premade mask click on the words “Mask template”  following for a link to a reproducible:  mask template

Procedure: 1. List the four kinds of bullies on the board.

Verbal                  Physical                 Social                 Cyber         

Cruel words       Hurting bodies    Excluding          Text

Name calling      Pushing                Gossip           Social Media

Intimidation      Touching              Cliques                Email

2. Ask the children to imagine what the face of the bully looked like when he/she was bullying. Ask the children to imagine what the victim’s face looked like when he/she was being harassed.

3. Tell them that they are going to make a mask either of a bully or a victim. Encourage about half of children to be each.

4. Pass out art supplies.

5. Go over steps for masks:

Step 1: Sketch an outline of the shape you want to make, using the inside edge of the rim of a paper plate as a guide for the bottom of the face. Cut along sketch lines. Step 2: To make hair, cut paper into a rectangle about 2 or 3 inches wide and 2 to 18 inches long. Put this shape through a paper crimper if you want to make the hair even wilder. Fringe the rectangle to within 1/2 inch of the long edge. Cut the fringed rectangle into smaller pieces, and glue pieces around the top of the plate. Glue craft stick to bottom as holder. Let dry.

6. Once the masks are complete have students look through them and pretend to be the bully or the victim.

7. Keep the masks for role play. Or as an extension the children could write scripts and act them out.

Laurie Woodward is the author of  several novels including Forest Secrets, and the fantasy series The Artania ChroniclesShe also cowrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy and 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 her novels on the Central Coast of California.

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Sublime Love: A Poem

I had a sublime love once,

A love of salt and sea and skin

A love where every song was him

And poetry filled my heart.

 

I had a sublime lover once

One who gently brushed my cheek

With the back of his hand

And whose lips quivered

As he taught me who I could be.

 

I had a sublime marriage once,

One that had me dancing from room to room

And singing off key

To babes as beautiful as life.

 

I had a sublime friend once,

Who stood at my shoulder

With words of comfort

As we created home, and art, and family.

 

I had a sublime eternity once

With a statue in transcendent embrace

Watching over graves with the etched words,

Love was not meant to be just fine.

Love was meant to be one thing,

Sublime.

 

But all  that was long ago.

 

(Photo of The Kiss by Auguste Rodin)

 

Laurie Woodward is the author of  several novels including Forest Secrets, and the fantasy series The Artania ChroniclesShe also cowrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy and 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 her novels on the Central Coast of California.