Tattered Past

Tattered Past: My ongoing journey through genealogy, history, writing, self-exploration and art. ~~~ Rita Ackerman

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Remember When: Mom's Dishes

My mother loved to cook and bake. As the holidays approached smells of cinnamon
and fudge filled the house.

One of Jessica's strongest memories of the holidays at her Nana's was this dish loaded with sweets.
She'd stand by the table and stand on tip-toes to see all the wonderful foods. Mom made divinity, fudge and peppermints. The rest of the table would have cookies, pecan pies, pumpkin pies and more.
Over the weekend Doug and I did some baking. We haven't been able to do this for years because of a bad oven. We also have to keep it down because of Doug's diabetes.

Pumpkin bread to share with friends.
And one of my favorites, Scottish shortbread petticoat tails named after the shape they are baked in. They aren't very festive but they've become one of my special traditions.

One of the genealogy blogs I follow Olive Tree Genealogy has hints on writing memoirs and then publishing them on Lulu.com.
Go take a look at the gift book she made for her children.
Thank you, Lorine.
Seven Memoir Prompts:
Make note of your favorite holiday recipes.
Tell about climbing a hill or mountain.
What is/was your favorite candy?
Do you save all the holiday paper and ribbons for future years?
Write about roller and/or ice skating.
Write about a visit to Santa Claus?
Have you ever built a snowman?



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Remember When: Snow

Just the thought of snow makes me cold. Living in Arizona most of my life I haven't had to deal with it on a daily basis, just occasional visits years ago. Now I avoid it like a plague.
Here's a photo of two of my uncles at my great grandmother's house in Fowler, Kansas.
A photo of my grandparents' house in a nearby town.

I'm glad these are just pictures.
Just a couple of weeks ago friends and people I came across were complaining we hadn't had any cold weather and it's hard to get into the holiday spirit with shirt-sleeve weather.
Saturday, as we were shopping I heard complaints about the rain, over-and-over. One worker at the grocery store was ranting about why all these people were coming out in the rain to shop. Huh?
I guess his floors were getting messed up. Not to mention his attitude.
Whether it rains or shines, snows or blows,
our attitude is our own responsibility.
I've been trying to decide where to go with this blog. I wasn't sure the memoir prompts were going anywhere. Until I got this comment from fellow writer, Mary:
"I completed a 200 page composition book tonight. The first entry was "Sept 4th Childhood Toys" before that I was only writing the occasional check or a food shopping list. I wouldn't have done this if it hadn't been for your prompts and this blog being so interesting. Thank you very much for helping me find out that my life experiences were worth reliving. Now I'm off to put my first words into Book Two, I hope you continue to share prompts and please know that your efforts here are appreciated."

Congratulations, Mary. And Thank you. I will be keeping the memoir prompts but they will be on Tuesdays with my "Remember When" posts. Other then that, I don't know. Stay tuned:

Seven Memoir Prompts:

How has a friend impacted your life in a small way?

Describe a restaurant you often went to as a child/teen.

Write about snow days.

How did you get to and from grade school and/or high school?

Describe something you consider beautiful.

Tell about overnight guests.

What is your favorite holiday movie?


Monday, December 17, 2012

Walking In The Rain

A couple of weeks ago I sent worry stones to each of the grandsons. Alex is carrying his in his pocket and loves the calming effect. Brendan is using his as a 'treasure' and keeps it in the 'treasure box' I made for him a couple of years ago.

Jessica was a little afraid Alex would loose his so I told her we would get more. Saturday, even though it was raining off and on all day and rather cold, our first hint of winter here in Phoenix, Doug and I headed to Old Scottsdale to find some worry stones.

It was wonderful. Walking up and down the streets in jackets and knit caps, dodging raindrops, and popping in and out of stores if something caught our eye was reminiscent of shopping in the downtown area of my home town in Kansas. It felt wonderful and I actually picked up some Christmas spirit.

One shop owner invited me in his jewelry shop to meet a lady from Canada who was browsing his store. (I was kind of hovering by the door waiting for Doug to get out of the car.)  I told him I needed worry stones and he made some suggestions on where to find them.

I thanked him and we headed for the Mexican Store, where we were headed anyway.

This is a marvelous over-stuffed store where you can find all kinds of things. It has been on this spot for years and always seems to be busy.
I bought seven worry stones, one in the shape of a heart, which I'm keeping for myself.
Since we were enjoying the day so much we roamed around through some more shops and Doug found himself a tee-shirt that says something like:
"If a man makes a statement in the middle of the desert and his wife isn't around is he still wrong."
I said "YES!"
I later told him I was going to write that on the bottom, but of course I wouldn't. (or would I?)
 Across the street was this marvelous display of yard art.

I want to get a bunch of the sunflowers to put along our back fence. 
Across the street from that was more sculptures and the marvelous little pathway that begged to be explored (but not in the rain.)

Sometimes we forget the most wonderful places are right in our own back yard.
Or that the best memories come from taking the time to walk in the rain.

Monday, December 10, 2012


We watched the movie "Neverwas" on Netflix streaming last night. It was amazing. A little hard to follow at times but we both want to watch it again.

It is about a psychiatrist who leaves his job at Cornell to go to work in a small institution where his father had once been committed. His father had written a famous children's book that seemed to change lives. At work the psychiatrist meets a schizophrenic who knows more about the book than the doctor himself.


It is always a joy to come across a movie that you've never heard of and yet it touches your in places deep inside. I feel like I've been looking for Neverwas for quite some time now.

Let me know what you think.

P.S. My shopping is officially done and now I can get back to writing. I'm planning some changes in my blog and its content so stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Remember When: Handcrafts

For as long as I can remember somebody in our family has been doing handcrafts. Grandma could knit, tat, crochet, and quilt.

My great niece, Liz, has taken over where she left off and has also taken up  loom knitting. Here's her loom with a bamboo/silk yarn.
She made me this bag to put my journal in.

It feels so wonderful.
While I was in Colorado she taught me to loom knit.

I had found the loom at Goodwill before I left so I'm working on a larger scale.
I ended up with a very long, heavy scarf that I may never use here in Arizona but I sure enjoyed doing it.

It took about a day and a half.
I don't know what's next but I found some really soft yarn that reminds me of denim.
Now I just have to remember how to do it.
The best part is we made new memories around handcrafts. What memories have you made?

Friday, November 30, 2012

Journal Prompts: Class Reunions

I've been home from Colorado for a couple of days. I really haven't had time to settle in and figure out what all I need to be doing.
Except for one thing: I finished the National Novel Writer's Month challenge of writing 50,000 words during the month of November. WooHoo!!!
While I was in Colorado I came across my sister's yearbooks and photographed them.

Betty was ten years older and finished school in Kansas.

This is her senior picture. Isn't she pretty?
Tomorrow my graduation class is having kind of a mini-reunion to clebrate a
couple of class member's brithdays. I'm proud and happy to be part of a class who
has made so many efforts to stay in touch.
We share memories, memorabelia,  and friendship.
I'm looking forward to catching up.
Seven More Journal Prompts:
Write about your high school graduation.
Write about high school class reunions.
Describe a bad haircut or permanent.
Did you ever have a crush on a teacher?
What were your school colors and mascot?
Write about homecoming; before and after your graduation.
How did you get to and from high school?


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Remember When: Lost

 Here it is my last evening in Colorado. I was so worried about the cold weather and it's been really nice. The only snow I've seen was in the distant mountains. That is NOT a complaint!

I'm here visiting my brother-in-law, great nephew, great niece and her son. We haven't done anything but eat, visit and be together.

One morning Liz, her toddler and I went to breakfast at a nearby Village Inn. When I got out of the car I saw this sign and memories of my mother came flashing through my mind.

My mother was notorious for getting lost. When I was about 12 we were still living in Kansas and we decided to visit my sister and other relatives in Denver. My Aunt Marie and Cousin KayLee were with us. We crossed the Kansas/Colorado border below Pueblo and headed North.
When we reached Colorado Springs we stopped at a Holiday Inn for dinner. It was really nice. I had trout. Mom pulled out of the parking lot and headed South. Besides getting lost Mom tended to not believe me. She was Very headstrong. I told her we were going the wrong way and she answered with an abrupt "No we aren't."
I could tell by her tone to keep my mouth shut, mostly. I did try one more time with the same result.
When we reached the northern limits of Pueblo Mom said, "We're going the wrong way!" and turned around.
I did NOT tell her I told her so.
One of the things I've been doing while here is copy the photos in my sister's box. Here's one of my Mom on one of our many trips to Colorado.
I have many stories of Mom getting lost.
Do you have a memory of being lost to share?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Journal Prompts: Hope

Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Americans.

For those who have been around for a while will remember our "Hope Baby." For the rest of you go visit here.

This is the collage I made for my great, great nephew, Trent, with a little help from my poet friend Cindi.


I've visited the little guy a few times when they lived in Seattle but missed them this year because my great niece Liz and Trent moved to Colorado to be with her Papa.
Since Liz's brother is also here from the armed forces we decided we'd spend today together.
Hope and joy abound.
Trent, now three-years-old, being silly with Auntie Rita.
Seven writing prompts:
Write about an extended family member.
What is your favorite holiday dish?
List 15 things you are thankful for.
Do you remember making special holiday decorations at school?
Tell a funny story about a child.
What is the farthest you have ever travelled to be with family?
What are some of family stories about get-togethers?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Remember When: Dessert

A few months ago I was at a luncheon for the Phoenix Writers Club. At the beginning of the meal Elaine asked for bread. They said they didn't have any but maybe they could come up with a biscuit.

We finished our meal. No bread. Suddenly they came out with a bunch of trays of humongous
biscuits. I love biscuits and these were really good especially when I nabbed the honey another friend had asked for to go with her tea.

So our table is laughing over the biscuits and then the honey but that was just the beginning. They then brought out dishes of ice cream. They had apparently filled the dishes and set them in the freezer where they became hard as rocks.
Our table was the only one that knew why we got biscuits for dessert. The whole room got a kick out of trying to chip away at the ice cream. 
Then we had to leave but we still joke about the biscuits and ice cream.
Have you ever had an unusual dessert?


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Journal Prompts: Memory Boosters

Do you recognize this guy?  Just seeing him brings back so many memories.
Just thinking about Shari Lewis and her wonderful critters: Lamp Chop, Hush Puppy and Charlie Horse didn't bring back the memories the actual figure did. We can't always be lucky enough to come across a vintage collectible like this, but with the Internet we can find photos and an endless number of memories.
How about Googling all the childhood shows you can remember? Keep a list in your journal to refer to. Just like the movies television brings back memories. What about watching shows from your teen years? Look at the clothing. Did you wear mini skirts and white boots?
Ah, such memories.
Another week worth of memoir prompts:
Tell about experimenting with make-up, nail polish or hair products.
Did you ever enter a science fair?
Tell about a small kindness somebody once did for you. Or one you did for somebody else.
Write about a family mystery.
Describe one of your bad habits.
Write about a favorite piece of furniture. (Now or in the past.)
What were some silly nicknames in your school.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Remember When: Old West Days

Saturday we went to the Mesa Old West Days. Mesa is part of metropolitan Phoenix but has kept much of its small town flair including this Main Street event. The street is lined with historical buildings and about three blocks were closed for the event.
There were many people in authentic costumes including our dear friend, Angel (center.)
And this fantastic plains Indian.

 There were all kinds of booths, many geared to the Old West, and others, well, not so much. Food a plenty including our favorite: Navajo Fry Bread.
And a wild train ride for the kiddies.

The best memory for us was seeing Joe Bethancourt. Before we were even married we often went to see this guy perform at little place across from the old Christown Mall in West Phoenix.

He plays 65 instruments and sings all kinds of folk and western music.
He performed one of the best renditions of "Ghost Riders in the Sky" I have ever heard.
It was a great day. Full of memories, some cold wind and a bit of rain.
Have you been to a street festival lately? Do you remember childhood train rides or a favorite local entertainer?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Journal Prompts: Old Movies

A couple of nights ago Doug was browsing through the list of streaming movies on Netflix. I happened to walk through the living room and noticed "Houdini" starring Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh. This movie was released in 1953. I remember a couple of scenes that have kind of haunted me over the years.

As I thought about this, and Doug added it to our instant queue, I kept getting a very strong sense of watching this movie on the black and white television in what our family refers to as "the little house." We lived in that house from about 1957 to 1966. It is very likely this "feeling" is a memory. I'm wondering if I will feel more when we have a chance to actually watch the movie.

Do movies have specific memories for you? Are there movies that give you a "sense" of something that doesn't fit the movie? Could it be a memory trying to find its way to the surface?

Try scanning different lists of vintage movies and see if memories surface.

The television in the "little house" in the summer of 1960.
P.S. We watched "Houdini" this evening. I remembered quite a bit including the scene in the river that has "haunted" me all these years. The movie is in color, I remember it in black and white which strengthens my notion I watched it on this television.

Seven more journal prompts:

What was your favorite movie as a child? As a teen? Now?

Describe the naughtiest thing you ever did and any consequences.

Describe an attic you were once in.

Describe some of your neighbors.

Write about your first motorcycle ride.

What was your favorite subject in high school?

Tell about a visit to a zoo.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Remember When: Ghost Stories

Over the weekend my husband and I took the new Phoenix Ghost Tour downtown. Joe, the tour guide, is very personable and knowledgeable about what went on in various buildings along the tour which starts at the historic Orpheum Theater pictured below.

The Professional Building has many strange happenings.

The Hotel San Carlos where celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe stayed and where at least two women jumped to their death.
The Securities Building at the other end of the block was connected to the hotel by a tunnel. Find out why.

Part of the Phoenix Ghost Tour group in front of the Westward Ho Hotel.

The Orpheum Lofts cater to the wealthy.
One guide dog wasn't too happy there.
Back at the Orpheum and heading home for the night.
A prior tour guest had an interesting shadow in one of the Orpheum windows.
I haven't had much time to study my photos. Do you see anything?
 You can learn more about this fun tour at http://www.phoenixghosttours.com/. And at http://www.examiner.com/article/phoenix-ghost-tours-offers-history-haunts-and-mayhem?CID=examiner_alerts_article
I think this was the last night but if he gets a lot of requests I bet there will be more!!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Journal Prompts: Keep the Pen Moving

As NaNoWritMo begins I am reminded of the importance of keeping the pen moving. Don't stop and think, just write. In memoir writing that is what opens the subsconscious and brings forth those hidden memories.  Go with details. If you get off track keep going with the new thought. There's a reason your mind is following that train of thought.

Seven more journal prompts:

Have you ever had a recuring dream?

What have been the greatest challenges of your life?

Have family members, or others, ever lived with you?

Did you ever make mud pies?

Have you ever gone boating?

Where was your favorite place to shop?

Write about having childhood diseases.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tomorrow It Begins

Here I go again. Challenging myself to do way more than I believe possible. That's how I get things done.

First of all is the National Novel Writers Month affectionately known as NaNoWriMo. This is an Internet challenge to write 50,000 words during the November. From one guys idea to an international writing frenzy this challenge is writing-life altering. I have done it quite a few years, I've lost track of which ones, and although I've never followed through and gotten any of them published by writing takes on new heights every time I give it a try.

The whole idea is to write fast, without thinking, without worrying about the outcome, grammar or anything else except getting those words in the computer. It is unbelievably freeing. Ideas come from nowhere and make it through the keyboard and for many some revision actually produces a book. Ready to join me and thousands of others? Go here to sign up.

The other challenge is an off-shoot: NaNoJouMo. I can't quite remember how that translates but it is basically the same idea but instead you produce one art journal style page per day based on a prompt supplied on the host blog. NaNoJouMo

I'm hoping these two will feed each other and prepare me for other challenges to be announced after November.

One of my biggest worries is the ten days I will be spending in Colorado with family. When this chance to head north came up I was already committed in my mind to doing both of these challenges so all I can do is do my best and ask my family to understand my need for time to work. As I think about  it I remember they are all television addicts and I watch very little tv. So while they view the small screen I will keep my eye on the computer screen. Some of the scenes could even end up in my story. Inspiration is everywhere.

I've been working on some doodles, zentangles or whatever you prefer to call them. This one is in an 8 1/2 x 11 sketchbook done with sepia toned Pitt pens.
I finished it last week and started this one. It may be December before I get back to it.
Doing this is so meditative. Give it a try.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Remember When: Halloween

Last week at my writer's group we were discussing homemade versus store-bought costumes. I happened to have just scanned this one photo I have of me in a Halloween costume. Cleopatra (?) was obviously a store-bought with an uncomfortable plastic mask that was impossible to see through and a very thin little dress. I do remember it was blue but nobody probably saw it because in Kansas it would have been buried under a coat. I think we were allowed to wear them to school then but I don't really remember much about it.
Of course, I had to dress up our dog too. That's Smokey who any of you who've been around awhile know was my companion all through my childhood days. I don't have a clue what was on his little cape.
He was missing an eye because we had a burglar who kicked him in the head. Mom heard him barking the night before but didn't pay much attention as we tend to do. The neighbor found him lying in the yard the next morning. They saved him but not his eye. He lived many more years.
The only other costume I remember was my cowboy outfit which is in the photo I put in the banner for this blog. I was all in black.
Do you remember your costumes? Did you make costumes for your pets?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Making Memories

 This sculpture in front of the Gilbert Ortega store in Old Scottsdale really caught my eye. I wish the lighting had been better but that just gives us an excuse to go back, right?
 This sculpture says so much about childhood. Exploring, helping each other, climbing and reaching for the clouds.
What memories do you have about exploring your environment as a child?
Where can you go exploring and make new memories?

Seven Memoir Journaling Prompts:

Write a list of firsts: first car, first date, first visit to the mountains or beach, first pet, first apartment on your own, etc. Then write about each one adding as many details as possible.

Write about learning to cook.

Were you, or somebody close to you, in the military?

What chores did you do outside?

How did you pass the time on road trips?

Write about making and/or flying a kite.

What regrets do you have?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Remember When: More Kitchens

 I  finally found the other photo I remembered of the kitchen where I grew up. Look at all the memories! That's my mother's room in the background so I know this was after my sister got married and moved out. We always shared that room before then because it was bigger.

That's Ricky in the cage. All our birds were named Ricky. I think he talked but I'm not sure.
I remember that cake pan and metal bread box. But I didn't until I found this photo again. To the right of that table was the washer. We had no dryer. How funny that seems now. I wish I could see more of that picture above the door.
 This was the kitchen of the next house we lived in. I used to lie on that counter to talk on the phone. No extensions. One day I was talking to my friend, Lydia, and one of those plants hanging on the end of the cupboard hit me in the head in a way that made no sense. I always felt that house was haunted.

On the other side of the room was the refrigerator and on top of that a huge glass plate that shattered one day for no apparent reason. Lydia still remembers that day.

Many strange things happened.  That's one of my mother's dates. She was never ready on time so I had to entertain. One of the bad memories of my growing up. Can you see our Pekingese showing off how he sat up? Oh and there are the red frosted wine glasses. So many memories in one photo.
I also found this one of my mother with her Aunt Grace who I wrote about last week. I'd forgotten about this photo. I really have to get these photos sorted. They are scattered among various boxes.

Have you given your old photos a new look since we've started reminiscing?