Sunday, February 25, 2007

Week Nine: Letters to Your Siblings' Descendants

The prompt for Week Nine is an expansion of some of the prompts from Week Three: Your Immediate Family. Week Nine focuses on your siblings, but we're going to take a slightly different approach from the question-and-answer format. For each of your siblings, write a letter to their future descendants of 50 years from now. Imagine that you are the only one left to describe the lives of your siblings to their descendants (and for some of you, this may be so). Incorporate the important events, locations, and people of your siblings' lives, but most importantly, describe the things that make them "real," which are difficult for the family historian to discover: their personalities, their flaws and strengths, their passions and dislikes, their relationship with you.

Obviously, if you have many siblings, this assignment will take a while. You may choose to write one letter a day, or to write one now and each of the others around the time of your siblings' birthdays, as a way to honor them. Don't forget half- and step-siblings.

If you are an only child, you can adapt this for favorite cousins or even close friends.

You can include photos of your siblings at different ages of their lives, and photos that include both of you. Make copies of these letters and share them with your siblings (cousins, friends) and/or their descendants. They would make nice gifts at birthdays, anniversaries, or reunions.

Week Ten will focus on your mother and her life.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Week Eight: Your Oldest Living Ancestor

Who was your oldest living ancestor (grandparent, great-grandparent, even possibly a great-great-grandparent!) at the time you were born? Perhaps you didn't have a direct ancestor living, but a collateral one, i.e. a sibling or cousin of a grandparent or great-grandparent. You can choose to write about this person instead, especially if your grandparents weren't living when you were born or didn't live nearby while you were growing up. Just to make it a bit easier for me, I'm going to refer to this person in my prompts as "she."

*What was the relationship (grandparent, great-aunt, etc.) of the oldest living ancestor you had at the time of your birth?

*What was her full maiden name? What was/were her married name(s)?

*When and where was she born? Who was president when she was born? Go here to find out.

*How old was she when you were born?

*Did you get to know this ancestor/relative personally? What was your relationship like? Were they a favorite, or were you neutral towards this person? Perhaps the relationship was even strained. How did that affect you?

*Describe this ancestor's personality, likes/dislikes, strengths/weaknesses. How are you similar to this ancestor? How are you different?

*Describe this ancestor's physical features, including complexion, hair and eye color, build, height, and any possible disabilities that she had. How are you alike or different from her in your appearance?

*Did you inherit anything of sentimental value from this ancestor? Describe the item(s) and include a photograph in your blog or journal.

*Did this person ever talk about her ancestors? Tell about the oldest ancestor she may have mentioned, following the same prompts that this blog has.

*Write a short biography of her life from birth to death. Include her parents' and siblings' names, her spouse(s) and child(ren), the places she lived, her occupation(s), military service, etc. Make sure to include full dates and locations of major life events. Also include photographs, especially any that has the both of you in them.

Next week, we'll return closer to home and go in-depth about your siblings. Are you an only child? We can journal about that, too!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Week Seven: Your Religious Life

Were you raised in a household where religion/faith was a major part of every day living? Was your family only nominally religious, or somewhere in between? These questions are the basis for our weekly prompt, Your Religious Life.

*What religion/faith/denomination/sect were you raised in, if any?

*What do you know about the history of your faith or particular religious organization?

*For how many generations was your family involved in this particular faith or denomination?

*Who would you characterize as the religious leader in your childhood household or extended family? How involved with your local house of worship were the adults in your household?

*How often did you attend your house of worship? Was your attendance on major religious days only, several times a year, once a month, once a week, or every time the doors were open?

*What religious leaders were important to you, and how did they make a difference in your life?

*As an infant, were you baptized, dedicated, christened or accepted into your faith in a ceremonial way? Tell about this event.

*As a child, did you participate in Sunday School, Children's Church, Vacation Bible School, Hebrew School, or any other faith-based children's program on a regular basis?

*Were you involved in any club-like group as a child that was organized through your house of worship (Awanas, Boy or Girl Scouts, Royal Rangers, Missionettes, etc.)? Tell about any awards or badges you received.

*Did you ever attend retreats or camps for children or youth, sponsored by your religious organization?

*As a youth, were you involved in a youth group? Tell about some of the activities you participated in, whether service-oriented or just for fun.

*Did you participate in any ceremonies in your childhood or youth that demonstrated your commitment to your faith (first communion or confirmation, becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, etc.)? Tell about that event: what was the ceremony like, who attended, what gifts did you receive?

*As a youth or adult, did you become an official member of your particular faith? Did you make a public commitment or profession of faith (baptism, etc.) or participate in a ritual or ceremony to celebrate it?

*As an adult, do you still remain involved in the faith of your youth? Have you changed denominations or even religions? Are you no longer involved in faith-based organizations? What has caused you to remain with or change from the faith of your youth? If you were not involved with a faith as a child, but now are as an adult, how did that change occur, and why?

*Are you currently involved in any service to or activities within your house of worship, and if so, in what capacities?

*If you are married, did you marry someone within your faith, and was the ceremony conducted by a religious leader of your faith?

*If you have children, did you raise--or are you raising--your children in the same faith? Why or why not?

*Have you had what some call a religious experience or life-changing moment?

*If you could write a statement of your personal faith, what would it be? Include your own personal philosophies and beliefs, whether or not they are generally accepted by your official faith. Things to consider can include the meaning of life and suffering, your beliefs about God and holy leaders, and your beliefs about the after-life.

*Do you have a special scripture from your holy book that has particular meaning for you, or that you use for a personal statement of your faith?

*Do you have any favorite hymns, songs, and/or prayers? Why are they significant to you?

Photos from major religious events in your life, of the house(s) of worship you attended, of religious leaders, and of religious activities in which you participated would be great illustrations for this topic. You could also add ephemera (certificates, awards, church newsletters, Sunday bulletins, etc.) to your journal.

Next week, we will change our focus from our own lives to the life of the oldest ancestor that was alive at the time of your birth. Start thinking now about what you know about this person. We will return to more prompts about our own lives at a later date. Mixing it up a bit will help us be more creative in our thinking, and thus our writing!

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Week Six: Your College (or Post-High School) Life

This week's topic focuses on your college (or post-high school) life. The prompts for college life are listed first; prompts for post-high school life are listed after.

*What college(s) or university/ies did you attend? Where and when?

*Why did you choose that/those particular college(s)?

*What was your college's colors and mascot?

*Do you know the history of your college? You can do a search at Google to find your college's website to learn more.

*Has the college's name been changed, or has it merged with another institution? Is it still operating?

*Were you offered a scholarship? How did you pay for your tuition, books, and other expenses (savings, scholarships, loans, work-study, job)? Do you remember how much tuition cost per year?

*Where did you live during college? Home, dormitory, apartment, etc.?

*If you lived off campus, how did you travel to school?

*If you lived away from home, when did you go home for visits, and how?

*What was your major (or majors)? How did you become interested in this? Did you switch majors? What was your minor, if you had one?

*Did you complete college with a degree? If so, which one(s)?

*What classes/courses did you take?

*Which were your favorite or worst classes, and why?

*Do you remember any of your professors/instructors? What memories do you have?

*Do you remember any other staff (administrators, deans, counselors, secretaries, custodians, etc.)?

*What kinds of grades did you get? Were you ever on the dean's list? What was your GPA and/or class ranking at graduation, or when you left college?

*Did you ever win any awards?

*Did you ever get disciplined?

*Did you participate in college sports, leadership, music, clubs, or other activities? Write about those experiences.

*Did you ever attend games, dances, concerts, parties, or other activities?

*Were you accepted into a fraternity or sorority?

*Did you ever stay up all night to finish a term paper or cram for finals?

*What was your dating life like during college?

*Who were the friends you hung out with?

*Share your graduation experience.

*Were you able to find a job in the field in which you earned a degree? Why or why not?

*If you attended a trade or vocational school, answer the questions above that relate to the type of school you attended.

*What degree(s) or certificate(s) did you obtain from your trade or vocational school?

*If you did not attend school post-high school, write about why you choose the direction you did. Answer any of the above questions that pertain to your post-high school life.

*What kind of job or career did you work at after high school? How did you obtain or choose that particular career? How long did you work at that? Did you like working there? Why or why not?

*Describe some of the experiences you remember with supervisors, co-workers, and customers.

*Do you know the history of the business(es) your worked at, post-high school? Is that/those business(es) still in operation?

*What was your social life like in the four or five years after high school?

*Where did you live, and what was your transportation?

*Did you ever go back to finish a degree or certificate at college or trade/vocational school? How difficult/easy was it to go back to (or start) school after being away for a number of years?

*No matter what direction you took after high school, as you reflect over those first few years of adulthood, what life lessons did you learn? What regrets do you have? If you could do it again, what would you change, and what would you keep the same?

Don't forget to add photos of your college, trade/vocational school, or career days to your journal, as well as copies of your diplomas, certificates, awards, etc. Remember to caption all photos.

Next week's prompt will be about your religious/church/faith life.

Thank you to all who have let me know that they are following the weekly prompts! Everyone I've heard from so far is journaling off-Internet, which is fine, as many of the topics have been very personal, and may not be appropriate for online publication. See you next weekend!