Tattered Past

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

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Take Me Out To The Ball Game

 Another Arizona Diamondbacks game. Doug's company rented a suite and had food catered in so we could all be together and watch the game. It was fun. I've never sat at a game and had cheesecake. mmmmm...
 We were pretty high up but it was fun. One ball came our way and went right below us. This was at Chase Field that used to be BOB, with the retracting roof.
 A parade of guys smoothing the dirt.

The TGI Fridays restaurant to the side of us.
The swimming pool was right below us. I did not lean
over to get a photo of that.
The view out the other side of the park.
That's Camelback Mountain in the distance.
A fun day away from the computer but I thought it was so sad how many people sat and played on their smart phones even at the party! About half of the ones sitting down where we were. I think that is a very sad statement about our society these days.
Have a great week!!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Memoir Journal Workshop: Day 24

I led my writing group this week. We have been meeting for seven years come October 11. We take turns coming up with prompts. The whole concept is based on "Writing Down the Bones" by Natalie Goldberg so I have been revisiting that book. Not a bad idea to do that on a regular basis anyway, it is one of the most inspiring books for writers I have ever read.

The prompt I used was from her essay titled "A Meal You Love."

     "If you find you are having trouble and nothing seems real, just write about food. It is always solid and is the one thing we all can remember about the day . . . When it comes to food, people know what they like, are definite, concrete, explicit . . .
     "Write about foods you love most. Be specific. Give us the details. Where did you eat it, who were you with, what season was it in? What was the best meal you had last week?"

Besides being a great prompt that you could probably do over and over from different times in your life the reminders to be specific and give details will be what makes your memoir interesting and special.

Seven more memoir prompts:

What did you want to be when you grew up? Did it change over the years?

Tell about a visit to the mountains.

Were you ever in a scouting program (or something similar)?

What hobbies have you had over the years?

What was one of the first movies you ever saw? Where was it?

Describe some of the neighbors of your childhood home.

Did you ever witness a crime or accident?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Memoir Journal Workshop: Day 23

Monday was "one of those days" so I'm doing that workshop post today and will still do another one tomorrow. We are in the last week of the challenge. Does anybody remember? I planned on filling a composition book in September. Well, I'm not going to make it. I'm just past half way. No matter, I'm still doing it and still coming up with prompts.

What I'm looking for now is some feedback. I know many of  you are writing, some every day, and that is the really important part. What I'm wondering is anybody doing the "Jots" section and the reward stickers and other things that I suggested in the beginning. What comments do you have about the prompts? Were some hard to understand?

Any feedback will be appreciated as I start putting the workbook together. Thank you, one-and-all, for joining me in this challenge and for helping me pull my ideas together.

By-the-way, I will not be stopping the prompts in Oct. Just doing it differently just keep checking in for more fun memoir writing.

Seven more memoir prompts:

Write about a time your heart was broken.

What was your favorite cartoon.

Did you have an imaginary friend?

Write about something you miss.

Describe a time you ate something new and "exotic."

What is the sport you most enjoy watching? Do you also play?

Tell about meeting a famous person.

I used to do a lot of work for various author and movie/television star events in Tombstone, Arizona. I loved meeting many of the actors I had grown up watching in the tv Westerns such as Hugh O'Brien, William Smith, and Greg Palmer; and others who are still active in acting and just enjoy the Old West atmosphere such as Martin Kove, Bruce Boxleitner and Melissa Gilbert.
Here I am at one event talking to Buck Taylor who from "Gunsmoke" and Leon Metz, a fantastic author who wrote the foreword for my Ike Clanton book. Note the Hop-Along-Cassidy impersonator in the foreground. What amazing eyes that man has.

Later with Stella Stevens who I remember most for being in a movie with Elvis Presley. She was working on a screenplay and we had long talks about women in the Wild West and writing in general.
And here are two of my favorites. Dirk London who played Morgan Earp in the television show with Hugh O'Brien and his wife, Jan Shepherd, who was also in an Elvis movie and many westerns such as "Bonanza."

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Remember When: Kitchens

The kitchen is where the family always gathers. I remember the kitchen in the "little house" where I lived most of my childhood very well. It was long and big with the washer on one end and the fridge, counters and stove all along one wall. The opposite wall was the table and the doorway to the bedrooms.

I had plenty of room when I was home alone to spread out my plastic cowboys and "ranch set" and have the big house and the corrals and the bunk house and lots of "pasture land." I loved it. When I got a little older and started in with the Barbies I always played with those in a corner of the living room so the kitchen speaks to me of cowboys.

This is me with a friend of my mothers. I don't know the year. I know there is another photo of us in another part of the kitchen but I can't find that one. So what do I learn from this photo? The color of the kitchen and since I know that is the doorway to the living room I see it was green.  That chair was where my daddy sat the one time I remember him visiting. I don't remember that bookcase at all!
Mom was an excellent cook and we had many good meals even though we were pretty poor. She could do amazing things with leftovers.
One of my favorite treats was when she took the left-over dough from her wonderful pies and made strips and then sprinkled cinnamon and sugar on them. She'd bake them and I'd inhale them.

Since I spent a great deal of time at my grandparents I included this picture of my grandfather in their kitchen. They moved a lot and this was the house that I didn't like. That door went out to the huge garden. Above the stove on the left was a metal play stove that was one of my favorite things to play with. Grandad always ate pickled pigs feet and Vienna sausages. Haven't tried the first but the second always reminds me of him.
What memories do you have of kitchens in your childhood home(s) or the homes of your extended family.
What was your favorite snack?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Memoir Journal Workshop: Day 17

I don't read many memoirs but one that has stuck in my mind was the Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls.

I made a point of going to her talk/book signing at the local Barnes & Noble. I wanted to see the person who had survived a childhood I couldn't even imagine.

I know I took notes but I can't seem to find them. A few of her comments still stand out in my mind.

As you start writing more memories will come and the more you write the deeper you will go with those memories.

Your memory is what is important. If you don't quite remember exactly what was said or happened it is okay, put it down to the best of your memory. This is your memoir.

A couple of months ago a memory was jogged by a place I visited. You can read that post here. I wrote that memory again with the first prompt below. This time I went further into the memory and came up with some feelings and thoughts I hadn't remembered before. Here's what I wrote:

There was a large auditorium with people spread about - a family reunion or event of some kind. I don't remember a lot of noise like a band or anything. There was a big metal heater hanging in each corner. They looked like cages and I was scared to death of them. I was afraid snakes or monsters would come out. I remember trying to get in the very middle of the room so I'd be as far away from them as possible. Then I turned and turned so I could keep an eye on them.

I can feel my little self watching those heaters. I seemed to know that if I said anything I would be scoffed at or perhaps I had already tried that. I had to guard myself from those scary boxes and whatever was inside.

I did three different locations for this prompt and have many more to do. I have so many wisps of memory.

Seven new prompts to get your memories flowing:

Do you have a sketchy memory of a place you wish you could remember better?

Describe a time you came face-to-face with racism.

Describe your favorite swimming pool/hole and a memorable event that happened there.

Describe a gift you made/bought for your mother. Do the same prompt again for your father and each of your siblings.

Describe the kitchen in  your childhood home. What was your favorite meal?

Write about lost keys, wallet, purse, etc.

Write about playing board games.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Murder For Hire

I am a big fan of true crime. I know that sounds really weird but I am fascinated by what makes criminals tick and how law enforcement goes after them.

My favorite tv show for many years has been "America's Most Wanted."
Doug and I watch it and when there is a capture we yell out, "YEA JOHN!"

Quite awhile back they featured a Phoenix cop who had been undercover for many years and retired. I was fascinated, especially as he had ridden with the Dirty Dozen motorcycle gang and brought many of them and others down. His name was Jack Ballentine.

Over time I saw other profiles about this amazing man so imagine my surprise that he was the speaker at the Phoenix Writers Club on Saturday. I didn't put it together until he started talking. I soaked up every word and bought his book.

He now works with the 100 Club which helps families of fallen officers. They also provide scholarships, training and counseling for returning soldiers who work in public safety. All proceeds from the book go to this worthy cause.

He wasn't sure he wanted to write this book and says he won't write another but his dedication was amazing. A writer friend had told Jack that he wrote five pages a day. If he tried to write more it wouldn't go anywhere and not be worth the effort. So Jack made that his goal and after work each day he blocked out the time to write five pages and then read them to his wife for her feedback.

He was determined to immerse the reader in the story. They had to be able to smell it and feel it. Now three chapters into the book I can say he succeeded in a phenomenal way.

My friend and fellow PWC member Doris Nehrbass wrote an article about his talk in her column in examiner.com. You can read it here. HBO is now working on a pilot and possible series based on his book.

Thanks to Doris for taking and sending this photo of Jack signing my book.

Thank you, Jack Ballentine, and every other man and woman
who has put their life on the line to protect the rest of us.
Now back to reading my book.

Remember When: Knick Knacks

 People collect all kinds of things. Figurines, stamps, ashtrays, books, angels and coins.
 I've had quite a few collections over the years.
On one visit to Boothill in Dodge City, Kansas my mom picked out a little set of three ceramic horses to take back to my sister. I wanted horses too but there was only one set. Mom suggested I collect dogs and that was that. I still have two of those little dogs from that set of beagles from Dodge City.
Since then I've collected horses, hedgehogs, stone critters, pens, miniatures, books and other odds and ends.
One figurine I received as a gift in second grade never became a collection. There really could only be one.
How sad he looks. I don't remember who gave it to me but I do remember the day. I had spent the summer and school year with my grandparents and and this was my going away party when I was getting ready to go back home in another town. The party was in the back yard of another child's house and I think most of my classmates appeared.
Over the years I'd sit and try to figure out how many critters are represented in this little guy.
Penguin (mostly from the back), lion, rabbit, raccoon, chicken, hawk . . . do you see any others?
Did you have a collection as a child? Do you still have it? Do you still add to it?
What other collections have you had over the years?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Memoir Journal Workshop: Day 14

We are moving steadily on. More and more people are joining us and I'm getting some great feedback. Thank you.

Today I want to discuss Time Lines. These are very helpful as you continue to work on your memoirs. I have different types that I work from. Since I have been doing this for so long I keep mine in a three-ring binder that also has bits and pieces and hints and clues that I find along the way.

For example, I found a floor plans for two of the schools I attended. These were both online and I found them by googling the names of the schools and then patiently going through all the stuff. One of them is actual newspaper that published the plans when the school was being opened. It's so cool to be able to find my art class and the cafeteria and the area where my locker was.

I digress, back to the time-lines. One is just my school years. Because many of  my memories come from school I found it easier to arrange the years by school year and age like this:

1958-1959 Kindergarten Ms. Williams
1959-1960 First Grade Miss Groh
1960-1961 Second Grade Mrs. Bently

The other timeline is by year and age and includes other events:

1960     age 7     spent summer and school year with grandparents in Montezuma
1961     age 8     Betty graduated from high school, I returned to Great Bend
1962     age 9    
1963     age 10
1964     age 11     spent summer in Colorado with sister and bro-in-law. Niece born
1965     age 12     started Harrison Junior High

My time-line has many more details but I don't want to put too much identifying information on line.

So work on your time-lines and here are the next seven prompts:

Describe the first bedroom you remember. What color was it? Did you have to share it? Where were your toys kept?

Describe a time you got sick in a public place or at least embarrassing circumstances.

Is there an object/heirloom that keeps popping up in your in your memories? Is it still in your life or has it disappeared over time?

Describe a time you were left out. For example: in a game during recess, at a party, in a group or club.

Describe a time your forgot an engagement. How did it work out in the end?

Did you get an allowance? How did you usually spend it? Were you a saver?

What is something you have too much of? A collection or just something you tend to acquire "whenever it's on sale."

Some of the journalers are writing the prompts out on slips of paper and keeping them in the pocket in the back of their journal. I print them out and have the extra sheet handy in my journal or purse.

Keep in mind that most of these prompts can be done over again for different times in your life. For example: if you write about getting your allowance at 8 that would have been very different then what you received at age 15 and what you spent it on.

Keep on writing.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Memoir Journal Workshop: Day 10

One of the participants asked me to post one of the writings from my memoir journal. I chose to share something I was not allowed to do which I wrote on 9/9/12.

     My sister was an artist and since she was ten years older she was doing sketches and oil paintings for as long as I remember.
     She had an easel, tray and stool set up in the corner of our room and the smells of oil paints and turpentine bring that image to mind.
     She had paintins of horses everywhere. Cowboys and ranch scenes.
     When she was still in high school somebody in town commissioned her to do a series of hunting dog paintings.
     Another time we had an old pickup in our driveway while Betty painted the name of the business and perhaps a logo on the doors.
     In later years she said the one time she really wanted to kill me was when I got into her paints and made a real mess of things.
     I don't remember doing this but I do remember Betty being really mad at me -- more than once.

[At this point I moved down to the Jots section and noted "sibling fights" for future subject matter.]

      I grew up wanting to draw and paint just like my big sister. I don't think it ever occured to me that the ten year difference was a big part of the problem.
     She tried to teach me to draw. Horses, trees, dogs. I can still feel the closeness of her and hear her voice as she patiently explained how it was done.

     That's it. That took two pages of writing in the journal. Some prompts have taken one page and others up to four pages. No worries. I just go with the thoughts that come to me. I try to keep the pen moving and not spend too much time thinking because as I loosen up and let the thoughts flow onto the page I find other memories follow quicker than when I try to force my memory to work.

Here are the next seven prompts:

Describe something you found.

Describe a time when something was stolen from you.

A class clown.

Favorite childhood tv shows. Do you still watch them?

Time spent in a waiting room. (doctor, car repair, therapy, hospital, tire store)

Things you did to pass the time. (sort through the button box, go through family photos, playing in a jewelry box, wandering through the tool shed.)

Write about something you "just had to have."


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remember When: Postcards

I love collecting postcards. Every where I visit I get postcards.
As Jessica was growing up I did the same for her and would occasionally see her sitting in her room flipping through the box of memories.
When I started doing genealogy I began looking for postcards of places related to my ancestors. At that time it meant hours leaning over boxes or sitting on the floor of antique stores.
Now I find them on the Internet. Primarily e-bay.
Here's where my family lived from about 1890 to the 1950s.
My sister was born in this town; in a house built by our great, great grandfather: John Riley Keith.
I've been in the house and hoped when I found this postcard it would be in the picture but I think it is just off the left side of the photo. I need to check but I think I have a photo of that two-story building in the middle being built. Probably by J. R. Keith. He was a stonemason and built many buildings throughout the area.
The next postcard is the main street in my home town. This has memories: BIG TIME.
We did all our shopping along that street. I remember seeing friends from school along those sidewalks. I remember darting in and out of the stores to avoid rain and snow. I remember school shopping and Christmas shopping. Woolworths was in that block and the dress shop and the shoe shop where I got my Buster Browns.
It is well-worth the time looking for postcards like these. Even if you still live in the area where you grew up. Try to find postcards from the years you remember. Then range further.
What about the countries your ancestors came from? Can you imagine them living there? What nationalities are in your blood?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Memoir Journal Workshop: Day 6

I am always inspired when I read books by writer/poet Natalie Goldberg. My favorite book on writing is her Writing Down the Bones.

When I learned she was coming out with a memoir writing book I couldn't wait to read it. It didn't disappoint but I'm sorry to say I haven't worked my way completely through it. 

In the introduction of Old Friend from Far AWay: The Practice of Writing Memoir Natalie says the following:
     "Think of the word: memoir. It comes from the French memoire. It is the study of memory structured on the meandering way we remember. Esentially it is an examination of the zigzag nature of how our mind works."

In the first section she adds:
     "Begin to work those (writing) muscles. Just like you'd go to the gym every day, lr atleast three or four times a week, pick up the pen and do these ten-minute exercises..." "Now begin with 'I remember' for ten minutes and see where it takes you."

Natalie has the knack of getting down to the nitty-gritty of writing. We use a cheap notebook so if we make a mistake it doesn't seem as big a deal. We use fast comfortable pens. We don't accept excuses for not writing. We write.

Here are the next seven prompts:

Name a school you graduated from. What special memories do you have of that school? (You can do this more than once for your different levels of graduation.)

What is the furthest distance you have ever travelled. What was the destination and what special memories did you make?

Were you even affected by a natural disaster.

What was your favorite childhood song?

Write about a day in the snow.

Who was your favorite high school teacher? Why?

Describe something you found.

Keep on writing. Keep on remembering.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Memoir Journal Workshop, Day 3

I am overwhelmed by the response to this workshop. I am also extremely happy because this is kind of a dream-come-true as I have a way to help others to work on getting their memories down on paper.

Thank you, Everybody, for all the comments.

The main thing I'm noticing is a worry about time. You do have the time, no matter what. Believe me. Writing for 10 minutes a day is okay and you'll be amazed at how the pages mount up. Of course more writing is better but no writing, well, no writing is nothing. Do what you can! It becomes easier and easier to find moments to pick up a pen.

I'm going to try to post these prompts on Mondays and Thursdays for those of you who have been asking for links and feeds and other things I don't know how to do. A bonus prompt is always posted on Tuesdays with with my "Remember When" series.

Need more prompts? There are a lot of memoir writing web sites and many of them have lists of prompts. There's really no end to what you can write about.

So. Writers, journalers, rememberers; Get to writing!

Here's round two of prompts:

A visit to the hospital

Something embarrassing

Classes you've taken - dance, instrument, yoga, exercise, rowing, archery

Describe in detail watching a parent or older sibling doing something around the house that you - at that time - were not allowed to do.

Libraries - town, school, speciality

Visiting an antique store or museum and finding something you remember from your childhood.

Describe making some kind of art or craft in elementary school

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Memoir Journal Workshop: Day 1

Here we are at day one of the Memoir Journal Workshop September Challenge. If you are just tuning in you can learn the basics here and here.

I will be posting regular prompts. You can write from these or any subjects that come up in your own search through your own past and the past of your family. There will also be prompts in my "Remember When" series on Tuesdays.

There are many goals. Get those memories into a book where the won't disappear into cyberspace. Develop the habit of journaling. Have fun. Fill a composition book in the month of September. Experience the healing that comes from journaling. Dredge up things you thought you'd forgotten.

My goal is to develop this into a workbook of some kind so more people can experience this process.

I've already post two prompts:
Childhood toys
A childhood friend you wish you hadn't lost touch with
Here are some more:
A trees you remember climbing, swinging from, sitting under
A field trip you took with your school
Scars you have and how you got them
A summer or other part-time job
Make of list of your childhood homes to have for further reference

Some things to remember:
Be specific
Try to include all of your senses
If you get off the subject and like where it's going keep going, you can always come back on another day
Don't worry about spelling, grammar or anything.
Write as freely as you can    Relax
Reward yourself every time you write

Remember When: Porches

Sitting out in the front yard is something that just isn't done here in Arizona. They don't even build houses with these wonderful front porches any more. Do they build them anywhere?

Porches were for meeting with family, for playing with dolls and/or cars, for eating watermelon. Most of all they were for hearing stories as the older folks sat and talked and passed on the family lore, local lore and wisdom they had learned in the same way as children.

Can you imagine your grandparents and distant cousins sitting on this porch with their heads bent over their mobile phones? To me this is one of the saddest parts of modern society. No talking, no sharing, no face-to-face conversation.

Porches are for relaxing. For sitting back and listening to the sounds of children at play or crickets in the bushes. What a stress-buster!

I remember sitting on porches especially in those old metal lawn chairs. There were stories told over and over of what this aunt or uncle did as a child to get in trouble. The time grandad caught a snapping turtle out at the creek.

Think back. Do you have porch stories? Write about them.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Memoir Journal Workshop

I've only had one person comment on the Memoir Journal Workshop, as I've since named it. That's okay. I just hope many more of you will give this a try. And please, if you are a reader and have a blog, link back to this page
for me: Memoir Journal Workshop In other words, spread the word. Everybody should be doing this.

We are to officially start on Tuesday but here are a few things to do to prepare your journal/composition book.

Mark each spread with an area for "Jots." These are the memories, thoughts and ideas that come up in your writing. You don't want to loose them so you can quickly put them over in the "jots" area and continue on.
You don't have to write "jots" in: I did it to emphasize the area. I used highlighters.

Then in the back of the book cut the last page in half and glue the bottom half around the edges to the inside cover to make a pocket.
 For now I just have some reward stickers in there. Every day that I write I give myself a sticker. As simple as this is it gives a strong sense of achievement.

I'm putting my reward stickers on the inside of the front cover.  Fun!

One last thing. Put a few index cards in your purse or pocket (or sticky notes) to jot down memories or ideas that come to you while you are out and about. These will be things brought out by smells, conversations, signs, etc. You don't want to loose any memories while you are away from your journal.

Just can't wait to get started? The first two subjects I have written about are:
childhood toys and a special childhood friend who you would like to make contact with again.

I will be posting these and other prompts two or three times a week: besides the prompt that usually comes with my Tuesday "Remember When" post.
If you come up with things in your "Jots" area feel free to write about those subjects. There is no particular order.

As you start a page or spread write the subject and the date. Then write with a loose hand and loose thoughts. Don't worry about spelling, grammar or any of those things. Just write. If you get off the subject and like where you are going stay with it. You can always come back to the original subject another day. So far I've written two pages on each subject but there's no rule there. Try for at least that but if you want to keep going feel free to write 10 pages if that is how it works out.