Saturday, December 17, 2011

Holiday Greetings

I haven't been able to convince myself to send out holiday greeting cards this year. So I thought I'd take this chance to wish everyone a wonderful season of celebration this year.

Our year progressed in the typical manner with mostly small, nearly imperceptible moments of change and a few noteworthy milestones to give all the rest context.

The children (can you still use that term even when they are 18 and 20?)continue down their respective paths. The eldest is enjoying her new employment with the local bookstore. It is a natural fit for a bibliophile!

The younger is halfway through (nearly) his senior year and in the process of thinking about where to go from here. I believe, at some point, cardinal and gold are in our future as ISU has some of the best engineering options in the region.

Most of you know that I changed jobs (again). I'm now working as a Literacy Para at the largest elementary school in town. That means I get to work with small groups of students on reading and writing. I have all ages from kindergarten through fourth grade. I LOVE my job (even lunchroom duty with 2nd grade)!!

Doug continues with the Dept. of Correctional Services. Hard to fathom he's been there 18 years now! Hopefully the legislature will continue to fund his position. I happen to believe he's a genius and without him....they'd be sunk!

2011 did bring with it the passing of my grandmother and Doug's father. While it's never easy to say goodbye, I personally take solace in the fact that they will be having some truly awesome festivities with all the people they'd had to say goodbye to in the past. One day, we'll be right there too.

If you fancy some other highlights from the year, simply scroll down and read through some old posts. (There are some great photos of Niagra Falls and London, Ontario!)

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 08, 2011


Something To Think About . . .


In Washington , DC , at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, this man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After about 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule.

About 4 minutes later:
The violinist received his first dollar. A woman threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

At 6 minutes:
A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

At 10 minutes:
A 3-year old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head the whole time. This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent - without exception - forced their children to move on quickly.

At 45 minutes:
The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

After 1 hour:
He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed and no one applauded. There was no recognition at all.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before, Joshua Bell sold-out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100 each to sit and listen to him play the same music.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the D.C. Metro Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities.

This experiment raised several questions:

*In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?

*If so, do we stop to appreciate it?

*Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this:
If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made . . .

How many other things are we missing as we rush through life?

Wishing you all moments of beauty and joy this holiday season!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Yesterday was the last day of school before Thanksgiving break. As the kids in various reading groups were discussing things that they were thankful for (and many of them spoke of people and relationships, not just their Wii or bicycle), I thought it wise to take a moment to think of the things for which I am grateful. (Let's face it, a lot of people find it easier to dwell on the things that are missing and thus the negatives and forget to take the time to be thankful.)

First and foremost I am thankful for family and friends. My husband and two children are my life! While most members of my biological family are not a part of my life, the few with whom I still have a relationship are all the more dear to me. And I am ever thankful for the family I married into who have embraced me as one of their own for the past 24 years. Helmicks rock (including those with the last name Smith)!! Many of my friends are like family to me, and for that I am truly grateful as well.

I am grateful for my job. It is really nice to actually look forward to going to work and what the day will bring rather than dreading going and harboring dark thoughts on ways to NOT have to go. Thank you FDCSD!

I am thankful for good health as well as good insurance, for a house to call home, plenty of food to eat and clothing.

I'm grateful to live in Iowa and the U.S. (even though I have my complaints...I'm thankful I live in a place where it is safe to voice those complaints without fear of retribution, being disappeared or killed.)

I'm grateful for the traveling I have been fortunate to do.

There are, of course, many, MANY more things for which I am thankful. And none of these should be a surprise to anyone. (In fact, I'm guessing many people have a very similar list!)

Still, it is a good thing to stop every now and then and take account of your life and spend a moment in thanksgiving for all the goodness of life's many gifts.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Reasons To Love Iowa

It is a place for diversity and tolerance to take root and grow.

Sprouting up in the middle of nowhere, a Hindu Temple and Cultural Center in the middle of prairie and fields.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

In Absentia

Life sometimes gets in the way of things like blogging. I've had a lot of family stuff going on. By "family" I mean my immediate family as well as family of origin and extended family. Yeah....that's a lot of family.

It was a cr@p ton of stuff. By "stuff" I mean trips to ER's, dysfunctional craziness, overscheduled needs, follow-up to ER trips, emotional support to both give and receive, etc.

Suffice it to say that the sum of it all left me either too upset, too tired, or too emotionally drained to sit down and write anything here that wouldn't need to be immediately edited by dumping it into the trash.

I think I'm in a better place now.

In knitting news: I am working on some child sized mittens with leftover yarns to contribute to the school where I work. Lots of the children there don't have mittens, gloves or hats. Some don't have winter coats. So, I figured a good stash busting exercise would be to knit up some warm woolens they could use for recess to help keep those little fingers warm.

Also, I'm working on a scarf for my son. I hope to take some photos soon and post them.

Speaking of photos, here's one I shot of a country church about 45 minutes from here. I took it a couple weeks ago on a photo outing with my daughter. We had another destination in mind, but that didn't work out. (We'll have another chance to shoot that location next week. It's a potential State Fair entry.)

I've also enjoyed several postal letterboxes and LTC packages arriving at my door recently. That was fun!

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Time Warp

While we were driving through the Loess Hills on Saturday en route to visit my grandmother's grave, we passed through a small town that I had been to a few times as a child. We went because there was a geocache there to discover.

It was like stepping back in time!

None of the streets in Castana, Iowa are paved.

The old school appeared to be closed.

The central park had a cool memorial to local veterans, which included the corner pillars and entrance to the former bank which is no longer standing on the site. There was also a time capsule buried there, scheduled to be opened in 2036.

At the community center we discovered Castana's volunteer fire truck, ready to be dispatched in case of emergency!

What do you think? 1940's? 1950's?

Sunday, October 16, 2011


"Whan that aprill with his shoures soote The droghte of march hath perced to the roote, And bathed every veyne in swich licour Of which vertu engendred is the flour; Whan zephirus eek with his sweete breeth Inspired hath in every holt and heeth Tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne Hath in the ram his halve cours yronne, And smale foweles maken melodye, That slepen al the nyght with open ye (so priketh hem nature in hir corages); Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages, And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes, To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;" Geoffrey Chaucer

Or, if you don't happen to do too well with Middle English, a modern translation of Chaucer's opening lines in the General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales:

Here begins the Book of the Tales of Canterbury When April with his showers sweet with fruit The drought of March has pierced unto the root And bathed each vein with liquor that has power To generate therein and sire the flower; When Zephyr also has, with his sweet breath, Quickened again, in every holt and heath, The tender shoots and buds, and the young sun Into the Ram one half his course has run, And many little birds make melody That sleep through all the night with open eye (So Nature pricks them on to ramp and rage)- Then do folk long to go on pilgrimage, And palmers to go seeking out strange strands, To distant shrines well known in sundry lands.

DH and I went on a pilgrimage I have been longing to make for a few months now. My grandmother was one who, when she was physically able, kept the tradition of visiting family burial sites alive and well. She felt drawn to go, to spend some moments with kin and letting precious memories wash over her, carrying her beyond the here and now to be gathered in with those she'd loved and lost along the journey.

Although Chaucer's pilgrims set out in April, and my grandmother usually set out beginning on Memorial Day and continued on through the summer months, Saturday seemed like the day for me to make the trek to visit grandma's final resting place.

It's a peaceful spot, atop a hill outside of Turin, Iowa. The hills are lovely in any season, but were especially so on the first crisp and sunny Saturday of autumnal weather this year.

We wandered the cemetery after visiting her grave, listened to the wind and bird song afloat on the day's breezes and enjoyed being out. We found some geocaches along the way and made a few other discoveries too! (I'll save them for another day.)

I miss my grandmother. And I'm thankful to have made the pilgrimage to her final resting place.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I Suspected

I've been hearing lots of chatter lately about Facebook and some of its alleged practices. I've long wondered about the actualy benefits of the site and other social networking sites. I have my doubts as to whether FB or any of them really ever connected people in anything other than a superficial (dare I add, ARTIFICIAL) way. [Yes, yes, I know....I AM over 45 years old. I am still entitled to my thoughts and opinions!]

When I got home from school this afternoon to check Facebook in order to see if there were any updates on family who've been have a rough time of it healthwise and are hospitalized, I got the following response from my computer security/anti-virus software:

(actual screen shot of my computer upon my third attempt to access FB.)

Saturday, October 08, 2011


If you have never watched any of the TED talks before, I would invite you to check them out! You'll find thought provoking, meaningful and inspirational speeches and ideas from some terrific people! Check it out!!

Here is one I recently watched and enjoyed:

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Tuesdays With . . .

well, my name's not perhaps I should have found a better title!

Not sure how it got to be October already. Tomorrow is school picture day at the elementary building where I work. Bleh.....that means being in front of the camera rather than behind where I am most comfortable. I HATE getting my picture taken.

(My husband is always kidding me that the kids will look back on all our family photos and assume they were raised in a single parent household because I am not in 98% of the photos!)

If you look closely, however, you'll often spot me in photos, like this one from Ryan and Tiffany's wedding:

Yes, that's me--in shadow form--across the front of the couple. (I hope that doesn't ruin the photo for my friend Val as it has for me!!)

In knitting news, I have completed both the baby afghan and the cabled sweater and hat combo I was working on for my nephew's baby coming in February. I had enough yarn left over from the afghan that I am now making a hat and bootie set from that yarn. Photos to come in a future post!

For now, I'll "leaf" you with another shot I took at the park last Saturday!

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Saturday In the Park

Went to the local state park today, just for a drive and a photo adventure. Here are a couple things I spotted!

The last is my new desktop background! Cheers!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Forgetful Me

So, I received my new Knit Picks catalog on Friday. To my delight, there was a photo of a kit for making some beautiful mittens. Aren't they lovely?

When I saw the picture, I suddenly remembered that I already ordered this kit! I'd better pull it out and get knitting on those if I have any hope of making some for holiday gifts!

Also, we attended my best friend from college's son's wedding yesterday. I got to be the photographer and I took one of the funnest shots I've gotten at a wedding yet of the gals in the bridal party.

My friend (& mother of the groom) sewed not only the bridal gown, but the two ruby bridesmaids dresses and her own gown for the occassion!

I think she's amazing!!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Never doubt that the universe is capable of sending out moments of sheer clarity and a sense of peace even in the midst of chaos, confusion, pain or dysfunction.

In fact, I have discovered that's often the most likely moment you will receive what you need, if only you're open to it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Boundless Talent

This post is entirely me bragging about my DS who is nearly 18 and a senior in high school. I won't be offended if you decide to visit another of your favorited bookmarks and skip this post altogether.

We've known for many years that he's a super bright kid. His GPA puts him in the top 1% of his class. The first digit of his ACT score was a 3. He will graduate with over a semester's worth of college credit. Math and science are, to my way of thinking, shockingly easy/natural for him. He has already written code for several computer games and programmed his calculator to do shortcuts for him. And he also has a great sense of wit and the driest sense of humor you're likely to find.

And although he does "doodle" while he's watching tv sometimes, I was still caught off guard when his art teacher sent us an email to let us know that she is amazed by his artistic talents too. She is taking some of his work to an art show this spring, so photographed his self-portrait done in charcoal.

I agree with her, it's simply wonderful!!

Love ya' Bud! Couldn't be more proud of you!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

It's A GiveAway!

My blog-o-sphere friend at Caffeine Girl Knits is having a give-away on her blog to celebrate the "Back-to-School" season. I won this give away a couple years ago, and I can tell you, it's pretty darned amazing!

(Never underestimate a state that specializes in cheese products to also know how to make some truly delicious milk-chocolate goodness in those cow pies! YUMMO!!!!!)

So head on over to Caffeine Girl Knits and leave a comment on her post. You'll be registered for some wonderful goodies! While you're there take a little time to look around. She's not only a talented knitter, but an awesome bead and jewelry designer and dedicated special ed teacher. You're sure to find some inspirational stuff!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Rockin' Good Time!

We went over to the Clay County Fair in Spencer, Iowa last night to attend the opening night concert in the grandstand. What an awesome evening!

We saw Huey Lewis and The News! The performed several from their hits list (Heart of Rock-n-Roll, Power of Love, A New Drug, Working For A Living, etc.) They also performed some acapella, including "60 Minute Man" which was fun! And they performed two or three from their new soul/R&B album. Wowza! Fantastic!!
It was really nice to have a mini-"get-away" evening for just DH & myself. It was nice to see a concert again after nearly 18 years! And it was super sweet to be among the "younger" folks in the crowd!! (Who new folks in their 60's and 70's would turn out in droves to see Huey Lewis??!!)

For those in the area, Huey will be performing in Omaha in October!! If you have the chance, go see them!!

Friday, September 09, 2011

Friday Finale - Sept. 9


I think I may need to send out one of those apologies to the Universe for every bad thought I've ever had about any kid's parent(s) based on the way the kid was behaving or what the kid was saying at the time I encountered the kid. Because I'm pretty sure I did not raise my own kids to do or say some of the things they do and say to and around me. (Or their general attitude at certain times.) I am sorry, Universe. Truly. Deeply. (and if the Universe would like to see fit to somehow let me know in the next few days that I am, in fact, NOT the worst, most dispicable parent ever, that would be just super.)

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Fall's Promise

I have always said that autumn is my favorite season. It is still true. I enoy fall. In fact, I relish it! We had a bit of a cool down over the Labor Day weekend. (Which is great because we got out of school early due to heat indices over 100*F just before the weekend. And I don't do heat very well!) It was lovely enough that on Saturday DH and I went to a road near the local airport to watch the annual skydiving event. The breeze was cool, the sun was bright and our spirits were soaring nearly as high as the planes and parachutes! Fall always puts me in the mood to get active. After having been relegated to the realm of air conditioning, it is my chance to get outdoors once more. I'm eager to go caching and letterboxing again! I'm looking forward to visits to the orchard and walks around the neighborhood. And fall always puts me in the mood to visit a great Rennaissance Festival!
Of course the cooler weather also inspires me to get going on all that knitting too! (Now I have a definited date for a baby shower, so we'll see if the baby blanket gets completed in time, or becomes a birth day present.) (There's also the ability to fire up the oven just around the corner too! Oh what goodness comes from there! Homemade cookies and bread! Casseroles for supper! Baked squash and roasted vegetables! Yum!) What special joys does the change in seasons bring to you?

Saturday, September 03, 2011

We Are Family

My father-in-law passed away early in the week. His funeral was held yesterday, September 2. While it's a loss which brings us together, I am still grateful for the chance to spend some time with family we don't get to see very often. It's fun to watch my children in the presence of cousins, most of whom they were meeting for the very first time. It was really nice to see my DH enjoying his siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends he hadn't seen for years. The music at the funeral was just what my FIL would have liked. Mostly, it leaves me wishing we all lived just a bit closer so that we could be together like this more often....and for no special reason. I love them all!
My DH (far right) and his sibs.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Of Heating Pads and Ibuprofen

There has not been much knitting, photography or carving/letterboxing going on at my house of late. Mostly there's been time spent with the heating pad and waiting for the clock to catch up for my next dose of pain killer.

Turns out I have either sprained my lower back or have a herniated disc. (Won't know for sure for another week or two. Have to jump through the right hoops for a while before the insurance company will pay for the MRI to make the diagnosis.)

I went to physical therapy last Friday and had a wonderful time soaking in the heat and electrical stimulus. That led to a pretty decent weekend. (I went grocery shopping!) But I am uber sore again this morning.

My first three days with the school district were spent in training. Today will be my first day in the building. I am looking forward to meeting some students!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Back to School!

Today is our first day back to school! Can hardly believe my youngest is starting his senior year today!

I am off to training for literacy coaches. Fortunately it's at the public library, so I think there will be good air conditioning! (Why is it always so HOT for the first day of school??)

I'll miss my Wendesday sit-n-knit group! (I'm still plugging away on the baby blanket.)

Have a great day!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Survival Tips

Sometimes things happen and you wonder what sort of job you've actually done in conveying lessons to your offspring or the next generation. So I'm putting together some thoughts which I hope I am managing to pass along. Enjoy the first installment!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Back To School

Hi Friends! Today I had my first meetings to attend in the school district. Next week I meet at the elementary where I will be a Literacy Associate with the other reading teachers/helpers. I am REALLY excited about this!

Sorry I haven't had time to blog this week! As an apology I am simply putting this advice column out there which a friend shared with me.

Why Men Should NOT Write Advice Columns!


Monday, August 15, 2011

What We Did

This is the Splash Pad at Oleson Park here in town. It's free and open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, weather permitting. It's a great place to take visiting 7 yo nieces!

I'm very tired today. I've been dealing with low back pain for about 10 days now and if you've ever had that, you know how tiring it can be. (It's bad enough that several nights I haven't slept much. It's too difficult to get comfortable enough to fall asleep or stay asleep for more than 10 or 15 minutes at a time.)

So, since I'm a little scatterbrained, I thought I'd just list all the fun things we did with "csnacks" while she was here!

Geocaching, picnic/grill-out at local park (which included stream to walk/fall in!), watched Charlie and the Chocolate Factory AND Willy Wonka, wrote postcards, went to the library and checked out books, went on a photo shoot to get the cowgirl photo (and met a horse!), went to breakfast at McDonald's with my DS, went to the splash pad, got ice cream, went to the little park near our house, went back to the splash pad, went grocery shopping, made spaghetti with meatballs, went to office where DD is temping and took her to lunch where I work at Bloomers, did a little homework, played a hidden objects game on the computer together, went to the splashpad again, visited the orchard where we got peaches, fudge and played in the kids zone, made a blanket fort which transformed the entire dining room into a tent, made candy sushi with rice krispie treats & gummy worms & fruit roll-ups, slept with cousins in said tent over night, went to the Market on Central (where we got another coffee beverage at Bloomers and met some firemen who handed out fire hats and coloring books), went to play at the school playground, went out for lunch at Chen Garden, played in the tent, went to the splash pad with everyone, and then it was time to leave for home.

(In between there I also managed to squeeze in some work, dishes, laundry, etc.)

No wonder I'm tired!

Have a great week!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I'm Getting Old

Having a blast with my 7 year old niece visiting for a few days. But I'm discovering I don't have the same amount of energy as when my own kids were that age. (What's up with that??!!??) I'm working on the magazine while she watches Willie Wonka with her cousins, so I'll just post this pic of her and her brother outside their dad's office yesterday when I picked her up. (And I might add that my little bro's office complex is quite swanky indeed!!)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Free Pattern

My knitting pals were interested in me writing up the pattern I am using for the baby blanket I have in progress. Here it is!

Sailor’s Rib Baby Blanket

Worsted weight yarn and U.S. # 7 needles. (Gauge is not crucial in this project.)
(I am using 5 skeins of Caron’s Simply Soft in baby colors.)

CO 153 stitches using crochet cast-on.
(Pattern is multiple of 10 plus 1 - extra stitches added for garter stitch border)

Begin with 12 rows of garter stitch to form bottom border.

Every row in the pattern will begin and end with K6. This will form a garter stitch border along each side. You may want to place markers to separate these six stitches on each side so that you remember to always knit them.


Row 1 (right side): K6, place marker; K1tbl, *p1, k2, p1, K1tbl* repeat pattern between ** until six stitches remain; place marker, K6

Row 2: K6; p1, *k1, p2, k1, p1*, repeat pattern between ** to marker, K6

Row 3: K6; K1tbl, *p4, K1tbl*, repeat pattern between ** to marker, K6

Row 4: K6; p1, *k4, p1*, repeat pattern between ** to marker, K6

When blanket reaches desired length or yarn is running low, end with 12 rows of garter stitch to match bottom border. BO

K1tbl = knit one through the back of the loop (this causes the vertical row of knit stitches to stand out in a more pronounced way.)

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

7 AM Wake-Up Call

What was I doing first thing this morning?

Taking photos of a fireman!

The local fire department was more than happy to participate in the story I'm doing about people in jobs that young kids dream of becoming when they grow up. They invited me to come to the fire house bright and early this morning.

I arrived shortly before 7 a.m. and met up with Nathan C., the subject of this part of the story. The guys at the station were super friendly and willing to do whatever it took for me to get the shot.

Later in the week I'm going to do the part of the story that focuses on a cowgirl! (The rodeo coach at our local community college!)

I will miss getting to go out and do these kinds of stories and meet such wonderful folks!

Monday, August 08, 2011

A New Path

At least once a month for the past 5 1/2 years since I left the ministry someone asks me if I miss it.

The simple answer is no, I do not.

The longer answer is that I will likely never miss "the church" as an institution. But I do still connect with one of the prime motivating factors that lead me into the ministry in the first place: a desire to help others.

That desire to help is now leading me in yet another direction, down a new path!

I gave my two weeks notice to the newspaper on Friday. The September issue of the magazine will be my last. I have accepted a position as a Literacy Associate with the local public school system! I will be working with children in grades Kingergarten through 4th on reading and writing skills in conjunction with their classroom teachers.

I have always believed in the value and power of education, the foundation of which is literacy. I will be working with kids on the whole spectrum--those who have fallen or are on the verge of falling behind to those who are already achieving beyond grade level expectations.

I'm really excited about this change and opportunity! And it will be nice (if not tiring, and at times frustrating!) to feel I am making a difference in the lives of others.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Friday Finale

(This post has everything to do with one of the forks in the road of my journey and where the changes/growth of the future is leading me. More about that on Monday!)

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Love & Marriage . . .

. . . often lead to the baby carriage!

You may recall that I photographed my nephew's wedding last November.

So it seems that now they are expecting early next year. So, I did what any knitting great-aunt-to-be would do; I cast on for a baby blanket!

It's Caron Simply Soft yarn, and it lives up to its name! It's also 100% machine washable which is super important in baby stuff. Not having any idea if it's a boy or girl, I went with the "all inclusive" colorway.

The pattern was found in Barbara Walker's Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns. It is about 34" across and will be however long 5 skeins takes me!

I'm not sure when my nephew will be back from Afghanistan, but it should be before the baby's arrival. Hopefully the blanket will be done by then as well!

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Inspirational Mentors

One of the people who influenced my creativity, both with writing and with photography, was my 7th grade English teacher, Mr. Pithan. He started me on a practice which I've continued from time to time throughout the years, especially when I feel "stuck" and need some prompting to get the creative juices flowing.

Mr. Pithan kept several large files stuffed full of creative images he had pulled from magazines and advertising. The images could be anything: people, just faces, landscapes, a close-up of an item, architecture, street scenes, anything. What was common to all the photos and artworks was the fact that there were no words or lettering present with any of the images. The first time he pulled out the file folders, I had no idea what to expect. But once I knew what they meant, I looked forward to the days we would see the files laying out on his desk when we came in to class.

He divided us up in to groups of three or four and had us face our desks together. Each cluster of students was then presented with a stack of folders, the same number as students in the group.

He then explained that we were going to do a writing exercise. (At this point, some grumbling from several students always happened.) Each folder contained a single image from his file along with several blank sheets of writing paper. When he flicked the lights off and on, we were to each take one of the folders. We then had 10 minutes to look at the image in our folder and write a one page (or longer) story.
He challenged us to ask as many questions about the image as we could think of in the process of developing our stories. Who? What? Where? When? Why? What if? Why not?

When the time was up, we were to put our image and story in the folder and pass the folder to the person beside us. Another 10 minutes were put on the clock in which to accomplish the same task, but with a new image.

We kept this up until everyone had had the chance to write something for each of the images which had been given to our group. The folders were collected and kept until the following class period. Then we were asked to take a folder and read the stories while keeping the image before us.

I found it a fascinating exercise. I was always amused, and sometimes challenged, by the fact that each of the people in the group had seen and written such different things despite the fact we had all looked at the same image.

So let me challenge you. Here's a photo I took a couple years ago. Without looking at what others before you have written in the comments, write a five to seven sentence "story" with this image as your illustration and leave it as your comment.

I can't wait to see what you come up with!