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

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

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

Break On Through to the Other Side

“You know the day destroys the night

Night divides the day

Try to run

Try to hide

Break on through to the other side.”

With a voice as savage and untamed as his vision Jim Morrison calls us to action in “Break on Through.” But this is no gentle supplication. Using raw energy  palpable in every syllable he summons that hidden part of us to emerge from light and find shadow, entreating us to throw off our ideas of what is proper and moral while crashing through glass to another place.

The Doors Break On Through

I have heard this song my entire life, but it wasn’t another hollow-eyed night that I tried to find some meaning in their words. During the sleepless hours I tossed and turned, clutching at lonely sheets wondering how to break through in a relationship pierced with gashes weeping the piquant odor of  wounds.

In my personal life I am fearless. I have no problem traveling the world and leaping into the abyss of new experience. I’ve scuba dove through coral caves and kelp forests, hiked over lava flows with steam rising all around, backpacked over unmarked mountains, and flown over remote glaciers where bear roamed below.

My interpersonal life has been more cautious. Ever since the discovery of my ex-husband’s multi-year affair and subsequent divorce, I have lived in fear. So afraid of the hurt I might incur or the inevitable lies all relationships seem to have that I could not break through.

I want that to change.

So I listen to Jim.

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. More about her work can be found at artania.net

 

But I’m Embarrassed!

I gulped. Me? What if I sound stupid? Hell, I will. I’ll say something that’ll make Dumb and Dumber look like Einsteins,  I thought when the president of my writer’s club, Cathy Kitchco, sent an email asking if she could interview me for her weekly radio show. I pressed reply and began to type, NO WAY! But then a quiet voice whispered in my shy skull…

Stop. Writer’s need to do interviews. You’ve done them before and didn’t die. Actually were good. Be brave.

My hand hovered over the keyboard. Forcing my shaking fingers to type what my flip-flopping gut fought I told Cathy that I’d be honored to do an interview over the phone.

Then came the big day. That morning I must have cleared out every frog that ever dared to hide in my vocal cords. Ahem. Ahem. AHEM.  Then, with notes splayed all over my kitchen table, I waited for the phone to ring.

Was I shaking and nervous? Hello? Does a skunk’s spray stink? You bet I was. But a funny thing happened as I started to talk about writing. I forgot I was being interviewed and started to focus on the joy writing brings me.

And guess what? I sounded nothing like Jim Carey.

Here it is, what do you think?

https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/329723064&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true”>Woodward Interview

Seeing the Good

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Students Seeing their Wonder by Volunteering to Create Peace

Even though news events have been beyond heartbreaking recently I still believe with every cell of my being that people are essentially good. It’s everywhere: you only have to look… Just in the past 24 hours a hulking bear of an African-American man who was grinning ear to ear in Home Depot while he chatted up every one, offered to help me carry my leaf blower to my car. He didn’t look at the color of my skin, just that the box was almost as big as me. Yesterday while I was admiring a little girl’s sand castle on the beach she gifted her treasured shell to me. When our family pup, Magnum got out yesterday morning a homeless man who naps under the trees helped me look for him. (He was returned unharmed by another kind neighbor.) I’ve seen news casts of good people taking to the streets in peace, showing solidarity with others who work for peace.
Love abounds!

Cyberbullying’s Silent Wounds

https://youtu.be/z5hwTeAsOhI

It’s just a text. Or a post. Only a few words. It’s not like I punched or kicked someone. No biggie.

Or is it? Just how big is cyberbullying to a victim?

  1. 25 percent of teenagers report that they have experienced repeated bullying via their cell phone or on the internet.
  2. Over half (52 percent) off young people report being cyberbullied.
  3. Embarrassing or damaging photographs taken without the knowledge or consent of the subject has been reported by 11 percent of adolescents and teens.
  4. Of the young people who reported cyberbullying incidents against them, one-third (33 percent) of them reported that their bullies issued online threats.
  5. Often, both bullies and cyberbullies turn to hate speech to victimize their target. One-tenth of all middle school and high school students have been on the receiving end of ‘hate terms’ hurled against them.
  6. Over half, (55 percent) of all teens who use social media have witnessed outright bullying via that medium.
  7. An astounding 95 percent of teens who witnessed bullying on social media report that others, like them, have ignored the behavior.
  8. Unfortunately, victims of cyber bullying sometimes, in an attempt to fight back, can shift roles, becoming the aggressor. Often, this happens as a sort of back-and-forth between victim and aggressor which tends to continue the behavior.
  9. More than half of young people surveyed say that they never confide in their parents when cyber bullying happens to them.
  10. Only one out of every six parents of adolescents and teens are even aware of the scope and intensity involved with cyber bullying.
  11. More than 80 percent of teens regularly use cell phones, making them the most popular form of technology and, therefore, a common medium for cyber bullying
  12. About half of young people have experienced some form of cyberbullying; among them, between 10 and 20 percent experience cyber bullying regularly.
  13. The most common types of cyberbullying tactics reported are mean, hurtful comments as posts.
It’s important to let children know that they can speak up against cyberbullying. If we educate them and have them stand up with assertive language the victims will become empowered. At the same time, adults need to monitor their child’s social media sites for predation and bullying.
Every child deserves to see their own wonder. Let’s not let cyberbullies rob them of that.

Compassion Circle

circleHave you ever had a day that rocks you to the core? A day that makes you believe in humanity? Have you ever witnessed such powerful love you can’t help but cry? I have and it was in my fifth grade classroom. During a class meeting my students opened up and supported each other in ways that would soften the most hardened heart.

Now I work in a community with gangs, poverty, and drug abuse. And like many teachers I don’t want to know every sad story. Some are so heartbreaking it makes it hard to teach. But this one year I had students facing extreme challenges that were affecting everyone. One little girl had gone from Student of the Month to a taunting bully. Another kept stirring up girl drama while ignoring her schoolwork. Soon she was two years behind.

I wondered why?

The school counselor and their parents soon told me. The bully had recently walked in and found a cousin hanging from a rope, the victim of suicide. That, compounded with a single parent household and relatives in gangs, made her so angry she lashed out at whoever was nearby.

The second girl had a father who’d been arrested for gang activity in a loud raid on her home. His arrest was in the papers and she was so ashamed that she could barely focus in school. She often started to cry in the middle of class and asked to be excused. I tried my best to comfort her or distract her with a joke or interesting work. But when a child is missing her Daddy there is little a teacher can do.

Neither of these girls shared their pain with their classmates. Both were too ashamed.

One day the tension felt so high I called a class meeting. I cautioned the kids about the rules saying that this was private, not something to gossip about. We could share with our parents but not on the playground. Then like I often do, I started it off with acknowledging how proud I was to be their teacher, how honored I was to be part of their lives, and how much they meant to me.

I smiled at the girl whose father had been arrested and passed her the talking stick. She whispered in my ear, “I want to share about my dad. What do you think?” I told her it was her choice.

She turned the talking stick over in her hands as she spoke. “I know I’ve been fighting with some of you guys. I’m sorry. But it’s because I’ve had hard stuff to deal with. My dad got arrested. And I don’t know when he’s coming home.”

As she started to cry in the arms of the child next to her, we all chanted, “Thank you for sharing.”

I acknowledged her for being so brave and once again cautioned the students about the rules.

Next was the bully’s turn. She looked at her sobbing friend with wide eyes and shared. “I haven’t been acting great either. But it’s because I had a loss. Of my cousin.”

The kids stared at her with wide eyes. And compassion.

What happened next gave me chills. Along with the usual please-be-quieter-so-I-can- work, a couple of kids tearfully shared their parents’ divorce and how lonely it made them feel. Then two more children said they had a parent in jail and how that loss haunted them.  But between each difficult sharing was such empathy! Time and again I heard both boys and girls say, “I’m sorry for your loss and I’m here for you.”

We passed the talking stick around the circle multiple times that day and each time we did a new child revealed loss or pain. Yet every heartrending story was tempered with classmates speaking up with loving affirmations.

And when we were finally done I held the talking stick and said, “We’ve discovered something very special today. That we all have sad things to deal with. Things that are out of our control. But we also have this amazing community of support to help us. I am so proud of how brave and kind all of you were. When you’re sad, remember this and it will comfort you. We are so lucky to have each other.”

36 children. A talking stick. And a room vibrating in love.

I couldn’t help but cry.

Without Love

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Without touch

We are a dead sea

Where tides rise and fall

On a barren shore

 

Without family

We are the last white rhino

Of a nearly extinct sub-species

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.

Out of the Mouths of Babes: A Peaceful Playground

SAM_0873Who are you?  Why are you here?  The answers to these questions can be as profound as the depth in each child’s eyes. Since I believe that it’s never too soon to begin this inquiry, I use my role as Student Council advisor to get  children to look inside themselves. Our introductory meeting includes each student telling the group why they volunteered to be leaders.

This year their answers moved me to tears.

Many of the 5th and 6th graders were former students, previous peace ambassadors, or had seen the impact our  peace program had on campus. Oh sure a few had the typical response of  just wanting  to make posters or pass them out on spirit days but I was surprised at how many kids wanted to stop bullying at school. As we went around the room and each said, “My name is___. I am in ___grade and joined Student Council to ____” several shared their dreams of a more peaceful campus.

“I want to stop bullying so kids don’t feel sad, and maybe won’t do suicide later.  I want my friends to be happy,” Daisy said.

“I joined Student Council because I imagine a peaceful playground where kids feel safe. I want to stop mean kids from getting in fights,” Andrew added.

I was already getting choked up when Joseph spoke. “I joined because I want to be a friend mediator. But not just that, I want to expand our program, go deeper so we get at the cause of  problems. Because if we figure out what’s making kids do this maybe we can truly help them.”

Now I’m a real gush who gets teary just hearing a whimpering puppy, but this struck a deep cord. Ten and eleven-year-olds aware that the future was  in their hands?  And wanting to make a difference? I was blown away and so very proud.  These kids knew that if they didn’t do something to help their classmates, horrible things could happen.

My students come from all walks of life: from the most stable loving homes to severe abuse. But even those whose lives are easy see their peers’ pain.  They hear the stories of gangs, homelessness, and neglect. And they wanted to change that.  By becoming Student Council leaders they felt empowered. You could see in their hopeful faces that they truly believed  they could inspire others to kindness.

We kept going around the room until each child had a turn to share how the school should change.  Not a one asked for more cookies at lunch or to ban  homework. Instead each child shared how he or she would serve.

5th and 6th graders in service.  Kids are friggin’ beautiful.