Tag Archive | writing

Mr. Middleton’s Writing Assignment



Ever wonder what your kid does in school all day? Last week, at a take your parent to school day,  I had a chance to follow my sixth grader from class to class, something I had been threatening to do to my older son to make sure he writes down all his homework assignments and hand them in on time.

I spend the morning at West Hills Middle School, a 4-8 Grade upper elementary and middle school. With my son I used a nail, a magnet and a smooth piece of glass to identify minerals in science class, and made bracelets according to a very old tradition in a fictitious island nation to learn about the concepts of market economy in social studies.

My favorite, of course, was my son’s writing class. Like the other classes, the parents in the class could not just sit back and sip their morning coffee while they watched their kids work. No, we had to do work too. A student passed around clip boards, pencils and paper to the parents. Then, Mr. Middleton said we were about to see a photo and we were to write for five solid minutes, no thinking, no erasing, just write whatever came to one’s mind based on what the picture would trigger.

Okay, Mr. Middleton, I’ve had three cups of coffee. I’m a writer. I’ve got this! Let’s go.

And then he posted this.


And I felt my heart flip-flop.

A tutor house… the white stucco with the brown trim.. how I miss it…..


How I always thought it would be the home I would grow old in….

The home where my kids were babies. A home where the roof leaked if it rained just a bit too hard, just like when the last fragments of Hurricane Katrina blew through Western New York, or a roof that was porous enough to let a few bats through one winter when my current sixth grader was just an infant. 

The leaded glass and the tiny windows in the walk-up attic….

How I still miss it, the attic with the full bathroom and a claw-foot bathtub… the third room that my baby moved into when he could no longer stand sharing a room with his older brother. 

The water below reminds me of the Erie Canal


From Albany to Buffalo it went, and for miles, you can bike or walk along it. 

There are not places like this I have yet to find in Michigan, at least not near my home. You don’t get to walk near water in the Detroit suburbs. Oh yeah, there are lots of lakes, all on private property You just get fleeting glimpses of them as you speed by on the drive from here to there … 

And that is how far I got. Wow, look at me, almost two years after my move, there are still parts of me pining away for my old haunts.

But you really can’t go home.

Last week, my husband took our sons back to Rochester for a visit for a special occasion of some friends back there. My husband said it was great to be back to catch up with old familiar faces and places.

But some places, our home, looked very different.

The big old silver maple that graced the front of our house had to be cut down because age and time rotted it from the inside out.

My husband sent this photo to me in a text and I burst into tears:


If I had to write about this picture, all I would say is: Nothing lasts forever. Thank you, tree, for my kids’ thinking spots and photos on the first day of school. Thank you for your shade, your carpet of leaves in the fall and your shower of helicopter seeds in early summer. 

Nothing stays the same. 

Moving on. 

Thank you, Mr. Middleton, for this great trip down memory lane and for getting our kids’ creativity flowing!

Here is a writing challenge: Find a photo in an old box, on the web, and just go, for five minutes. What did you come up with, let me know and share in the comments. 

What I’ve learned from one year plus one month of Blogging

I’ve seen a lot of posts that celebrate bloggerversaries, for lack of a better word. So, as my blog approaches 20,000 hits by the end of the month,  here are some things I’ve learned about blogging, and the blog statistics that keep track of how my blog is viewed:

  • First, I am thankful for every hit to my blog and thank people for visiting Transplantednorth and the encouragement given through your comments.  To reciprocate, I do my best to read a few blogs each day and if I am searching for a topic, I search WordPress posts in addition to searching on Google.
  • There is a definate feeling of euphoria after a blog post has become Freshly Pressed. I got freshly pressed after blogging for only four months. But after that one glorious time, I am forever chasing to repeat that high like  a common  street junkie. Checking stats has become an obsession. One blogger likens the additiction to getting a high score on video games.
  • Like many bloggers, I am making no money doing this – yet. But like many bloggers, I am going to do my best to figure out how I can turn every hit into a dollar. Or at least a quarter.

Here is what I have learned from WordPress’s statistic keeping tools:

  •  There are people out there who really want Trader Joes to come to the Rochester area. The proof:  Over the last year, almost 100 searches about “Trader Joes Pittsford” or “Trader Joes Rochester” or “Trader Joes Western New York” drew readers, or at least clicks, to my blog post about my longing for Trader Joes to find a home in Rochester.  This post has received 259 views since I first put it up in September. And, it still gets about five views each day.
  • In spite of the ever-present permeance of  tweets and texts in everyday life, everyone still loves a good, old-fashioned, handwritten love letter.  There are people out there who are either lonely and want to read hand-written love letters, or who are searching for a love letter template to emulate. How do I know this? My post Hey…vs. the Love Letter, which I posted during National Letter Writing Week back in January, has received the most hits on my blog: a whopping 6,554 views.  I am almost tempted to take this post down. I don’t want to be pigeon-holed into becoming the love letter blogger. I never even posted an actual love letter.   But, it is a reliable draw to my blog, and it is my hope that once there, people will explore other dimensions of my writing. 
  • Hits to my blog definately slow down during vacation weeks, like Christmas and Easter week, and are slower in the summer months.
  • Bloggers are interested in gardening. At least they are interested in arugula:  I’ve had 172 hits to my blog in the last year as a result of people searching for “arugula.”
  • Since I’ve blogged about a cleanliness checklist for sleepaway campers, many out there are searching for “shampoo bottle” or “fish shaped shampoo bottle” have discovered my blog. I have no idea what or why these searches were performed, but I hope the searchers were happy to find my blog.

Overall, I have discovered that I have things to say and thoughts to think and there are people who want to read them. Even more than writing my weekly column in Rochester’s main newspaper, the Democrat & Chronicle, blogging has given me the confidence to know that yes, I can come up with ideas that I can put down and express in written words. And these ideas are sought after and (hopefully) read. With some fine tuning, I can turn these ideas into articles that I plan to pitch to publications.  Then, at last, my dream of writing for my life will be fulfilled.

…..Well, one can dream, can’t they? In the meantime, I’m off to wake the kids and make breakfast.

The Hunt for my next Human – Interest Story, that is….

This summer and hopefully for many months to follow, my editors have given me a new challenge – find interesting people to profile in the ROC East Towns of Pittsford, Victor, and Webster.  Find people with a unique way of making a living or those who possess a hobby, craft, talent, or story in their past that sets them apart. And make the idea photogenic, and coordinate your source’s schedule with a staff photographer; because photographers have to make a living too.

Come on people, I know you’re out there.

How do I know this? Because within one walking block of my house, I have found interesting people that would make incredible subjects for profile stories. Artists. Gardeners. Mysterious Xylophone players. People who used to live in Nepal.  But I only know these facts about my fabulous neighbors is because they are my  neighbors.

And if all these people inhabit just one small block of Rochester’s eastern towns, then just imagine who else could be out there – other fabulous people with hobbies, businesses, causes, or talents that really make them stand out.

So, if you know of any such people and they are your Pittsford, Victor or Webster neighbors, won’t you please ask them if they might like to be possibly featured in the Our Towns section of the Democrat & Chronicle? If they are a budding entrepreneur, artist, musician, this could only be a win-win situation.

If not, I just might show up in a suburban development near you, walking the sidewalkless streets wearing a placard that says “Got Story?”

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