Tattered Past

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

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?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Busy Day

Yesterday started off with my talk at the Tempe Public Library about "Legends of Arizona Outlaws and Lawmen." It was fun even though the beautiful weather gave us a poor turn-out.
The facilities are gorgeous.

Of course an absolute must was a stop at the used book store. They have a marvelous collection and I found this "gem."
The back states, in part, "Gem of the Prairie exposes the workings of gangsters, pickpockets, prostitutes, and crooked politicians from the time "Slab Town" was settled to Prohibition days. The story of Chicago's golden age of crime climaxes with a dramatic account of the careers of "the biggest of the Big Shots": Big Jim Colosimo, Terrible Johnny Torrio, and the elusive Al Capone."
I'm anxious to read it and then pass it on to my friend, Susanne, who is from the Windy City.

Afterwards we went for my birthday dinner at Joe's Crab Shack. Crab stuffed mushrooms and a bucket of steamed snow crab each spurred us to need to do a bit of "walking-it-off" so we went down to Tempe Town Lake for a stroll.

I haven't been down there and it is really lovely. I haven't seen that many people with cameras since I was last at the Grand Canyon. There were some photo shoots going on along with many individuals taking advantage of the view and wonderful weather. Doug went on and on about how skinny one model was.
What a wonderful day.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Crayons and Journals and A Love Dog

What a wonderful day with birthday wishes coming in from all angles. I'm taking a bit of a break in preparing for my speech on Sunday to share my happy day.
Yesterday my friend Barbara and her daughter Amy brought me some lovely rose shaped cranberry cupcakes. What a surprise.

Today I received a package from my friend in Florida. Her birthday is tomorrow and we've exchanged gifts for many years, since we turned 13. How fun to receive a box of crayons and a Winnie the Pooh coloring book. And for my other muse a beautiful journal and pen.
Now I have no excuse. Right?


Doug got me a rose colored MP3 and I've been busy copying my cds and visiting iTunes. Anybody for some Bobby Vee or Kyo Sakaguchi?
Through the Internet I've received so many birthday wishes I've been finding through Facebook and other places. How lucky in contact with people I've known most of my life. Life is Grand.

And last but not least, a special hug and kiss from my Puppy Love.
Because of our goofy schedule we are planning on celebrating after my talk on Sunday with a trip to Joe's Crab Shack in Tempe.
Thank you Dear Friends, Family and Furkid.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Journal Prompts: Real Memories?

Sometimes what we don't remember is important. This was my Great Aunt Grace's home. I don't remember ever being there but I probably was in my younger years.

This is Great Aunt Grace. My mother got her middle name from her. She was apparently quite a character. She would collect all the little bits of thread the rest of the women cut off and use them . . . the short pieces nobody else wanted to bother with.
When I started doing my research I wrote to her a few times. Her letters were always quite comical as she "corrected" information I got from other family members; in red ink. I know Mother thought a lot of her, I wish I had known her more than just a couple of letters.
As I was writing a memory came to me of a house with a big living room with wooden floors and a kitchen or dining room at the far end. I remember entering this house but I don't know who's house it was. Perhaps it was Aunt Grace's but I've always connected the memory to my father's side of the family.
I don't remember ever having a birthday party . . . until I turned 13. Surely I did. mom baked birthday cakes and I received presents. There aren't any pictures of birthday parties. Yes, this bothers me. I don't know if I didn't have any or I just don't remember.
Someday as I work my way through the prompts and dig deeper into my past I will find those memories, if they exist. I also have very long blank areas. Fourth grade is a blank. I've worked at bringing it back and with help from people I've found on the Internet. I at least know my teacher's name. Why don't I remember an entire year? I mentioned that to Jeanette Walls and she said it may be a good thing but I want to know.
I don't remember my father or any of his family. I don't remember living in Garden City, Kansas. I don't remember learning to read. Not knowing is important . . . not knowing is part of who I am.
Not knowing led me to starting my genealogy. Led me to journaling. Led me to doing this blog.

What are some of the things you don't remember?

Seven new journaling prompts:

Write about heirlooms. Give their history and what they mean specifically to you. Add photos if you can.

Write about playing cards.

Tell about a car accident you were involved in.

Tell a story about cursing.

Have you ever gone hunting?

Write about homecoming festivities at your high school?

Was there anything unusual about your birth?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Remember When: Panning For Gold

This is a picture of my sister panning for gold in northern Arizona. There are many aspects to this memory. My sister, obviously. Her ever present cigarette. Her complete absorption in anything she did. Her sweaters.

It brings back other memories. Doug and I were involved in gold panning for quite some time and enjoyed getting out on the back roads. We never found more than a few flecks but we did have fun and enjoyed being together. We co-led a troop of Girl Scouts for years and one of the things we did was take them gold panning; very close to the area where we took my sister and family.

Some writers call digging up memories or finding writing ideas "panning for gold." This is a good analogy. Panning requires patience and dedication.

The water is usually very cold. You sink your pan and scoop up some sand or dirt from the bottom of the stream. Then you lift the pan out leaving the water in it. All this while squatting on the side of the stream which is hard on knees and backs. Then comes the real trick. Swishing the water in the pan in such a way the lighter weight sand and dirt swirl out over the sides, leaving the heavier gold in the bottom. Swish. Check what remains. Swish. Check what remains. Swish. Over and over. Once that pan is empty you sink the pan back in the water and start over.

In writing you write. Write. Write. Sometimes you read back over the pages and see if you find any "gold." If so you write to expand that idea or image. If not, you write. Write. Write.

When writing memoir the writing can bring up golden memories or dark memories. Those bits are then expanded into more memories.

It all takes patience and dedication.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

"Sonia's Song" by Sonia Korn-Grimani: Women on Writing's Mass Blogging Event

Today’s post is in participation with Women On Writing’s mass-blogging event, Everybody is Talking About Finding the Music in Life. We are celebrating the release of Sonia’s Song by Sonia Korn-Grimani. To read Sonia’s post and follow our symphony of participating bloggers visit The Muffin at http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/. Share your comments on any participating blog for a chance to win a copy of Sonia’s Song!

Sonia’s Song is the story of one girl, who rises from war's ashes to sing the songs of hope and love world-wide. A heart-wrenching and poignant memoir, by internationally renowned singer Sonia Korn-Grimani. Learn more about Sonia at http://claygrouse.com/sonias_song/.


Writing memoir is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and loved ones. Writing with pen and paper or at the least the plan to print and distribute copies is critical. As our lives are spread between blog posts, emails and Facebook the part of us that comes from the heart is threatened by being lost in the black hole of the Internet or lost through changes in media storage and crashing computers.

One of my greatest joys is to see my great grandmother's handwriting or a recipe written by my mother. The old cabinet photos or the snapshots from my childhood. I used to love to sit and go through the train suitcase of family photos. The hands-on feel of paper and cardboard. The sort them in to piles by family or era. Just getting to know those people. With digital files none of those things are possible and I'm guessing kids don't spend much time going through old digital files when the World Wide Web is just a click or two away.

I've started a campaign of sorts to get people to write their memoirs. I batted the idea around for a long time and then one sleepless night it came together. You can read about it here.

Writing memories leads to more memories and with a little work finding the people who were lost from your life along the way. In the spring I will be meeting up with a childhood neighbor who I haven't seen or talked to since the mid 1960s. There will be laughter, and joy with a bit of sadness thrown in. I look forward to hearing her memories and joining them with my own. And, of course, making new ones. Where can you find your memories?

 Another neighbor girl.

The neighbor's yellow house. With my dog and pet chick.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Journal Prompts: Make the Effort

People are catching on to this memoir writing thing. New readers are coming to my blog and people I associate with are asking more questions. I tend to be getting so enmeshed in my own project I don't want to do anything else.

Next month I will be going to Colorado to visit with my brother-in-law, great nephew, great niece and her son. We haven't all been together since my sister passed away. I'm looking forward to sharing memories, looking at family heirlooms and, of course, making new memories.

The following month is my my 41st high school reunion. New memories, Different memories.

These events take time. Time to plan, time to travel and time to attend. Everyday I hear "I don't have time" or "time is flying by so fast." Both are true but there should always be time for family, friends and memories. Don't forget to take time to write them down.

Cruisin' around my parents' cafe.

Seven new journal prompts:

Did you or a sibling ever run away from home? What was the cause? How long were you/them gone?

Write about a time you told or listened to ghost stories.

Did you ever have a tree house?

Write about looking for a lost animal.

Describe a class reunion. What were some of the biggest surprises?

Were you influenced by your family's cultural heritage?

Was there anything unusual about your birth?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Remember When: Kindergarten

 As part of my memoir writing I have written about each grade level; filling in as many memories as I can for each one.

Kindergarten was at this school, Morrison Grade School. That classroom was on the opposite side from this view. It was a very large room with windows like these on two sides. Underneath were shelves for games, books and other supplies. We each had a towel we'd lie on for nap time. I can still remember the feel of the darkened room and the cool floor. All the children spread around the room, some asleep, some just fiddling with their hands or looking around quietly.

Our teacher was Miss or Mrs. Williams. She was an older woman who played the piano. These were my classmates. I'm in the middle of the back row.
In one corner of the room was an alcove filled with shelves and very nice wooden kitchen furniture. We all loved playing in that area, going shopping for food on the shelves and putting it in the refrigerator just like our parents. It seems we might have even had a grocery cart or two.

We did crafts and learned songs including "This Old Man" which is still one of my favorite children's songs.

Did you go to kindergarten? Do you remember what your room looked like or what you enjoyed doing?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Journal Prompts: Mining Tools

In the September issue of Writer's Digest magazine writer Elizabeth Sims suggests memories are "buried treasure" for fiction writers. ("Ten Fast Hacks for Fiction Writers") To mine these treasures she suggests finding an object associated with a memory and study it, smell it, "experience it." She says that if you write about memories others will come. Again smell, taste, hear what is/was going on.

These are all important things for memoir writers, too. Whatever you can find or see or use to bring back a memory is a tool to writing your life.
Photo taken at Taliesin West, Scottsdale, Arizona.

Seven more journal prompts:

Which historical figure do you most admire?
Have you ever gotten a traffic ticket?
Write about a wedding other than your own.
Where did you and your family generally sit to watch television?
Write about spiders.
Write about receiving an unwelcome surprise.
Write about being lost.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Remember When: Sewing

I learned to sew from my mother, my aunt and my grandmother. A bit here and a bit there. Not to mention the home economic classes in junior high that did more to turn me off from sewing than anything.

My mother passed away in 1990 and Jessica and I went back to Kansas to visit her grave, family and places of importance to our family. We saw the house my great, great grandfather built, the remains of the dugouts where the family first lived, and my father's aunt in Liberal.

I'd never met my Great Aunt Nell before, that I know of. We stayed at her house and her brother and his wife were up from Kansas. It was great. They are the keepers of the old stories. The ones about the Civil War and my dad's childhood.

While showing us around the house I was excited when she had the old treadle sewing machine that belonged to her mother. Sadly I didn't get a picture of it but this is was it looked like.
Aunt Nell has since passed away and I don't know where the machine ended up. I just hope it is still in the family somewhere.
Here's my sewing machine and the corner where I do most of my art and crafty stuff. Not much room but I enjoy having my space.
Have you come across sewing items that have been handed down through the family? Do you have pictures? If not try finding something similar on-line because the younger generations may not have an idea of what you are talking about and at least a newspaper ad gives them a visual.
Have you followed up on any traditional sewing (or other) arts?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Memoir Journal Workshop: Recap

One my way home from a trip to Washington I got an idea for a fun way to get people to write down their memories with pen and paper.

Although some of the ideas didn't pan out the prompts got people writing and that is what is important. I'm about 3/4 of the way through my composition book. I've had a few revelations and surprising memories surface even though this is something I do on a regular basis.

I'm going to continue the prompts on Thursdays. I will post seven prompts for the week. I hope all of you who have been writing will continue and if you find this post and want to start yourself you can go back to here. Then work your way forward through the posts to pick up all the past prompts.

One thing I started this week was writing as much detail as I could for each year of school. Teacher's names, classrooms, extra activities; anything that comes to mind. This was greatly helped by my school timeline that has the years I was in that grade, the teacher, and my age for reference. This goes from Kindergarten to Senior in high school.

I look forward to comments on how all the writers are doing and any other little "rewards" or "tricks" you have come up with to help keep yourself writing. One writer is using a different colored pen for each session. How fun!

Here are a few prompt to get you through the week until we get on the Thursday schedule:

More Prompts:

Have you ever had surgery?

Describe in detail riding your tricycle, bicycle, etc. Where did you ride? Did you have crashes? Did you ride with others?

Describe a visit to an amusement park.

What were some of the first aid techniques used in your family?
(We had the dreaded "red stuff:" mercurochrome.)