Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Tech Issue and Orphan Trains


I had three annoying tech issues all in the same day chasing me like the hounds of Hades which is a bad metaphor to use here. Why? Because I'm not afraid of those hounds guarding the gate that keeps the walking dead from escaping the underworld. Armed with a couple of good steaks, I could outrun them. Ya, I know Halloween is over so it’s time to get the gruesome imagery out of my head and replace it with turkeys and pilgrims and wondering if cranberries will be safe to eat this year.

I’m quite sure if I had a grandson I would have called him to come over to rescue me from Tech Hell but since I don’t I had to call 1-800-fix-self, extension Jean. I started with my TV which was having a sound issue. I wasn't getting any. With the help of an online troubleshooting guide, I walked through three questions that if you answer ‘yes’ to any one of them you are dumpier than a stoner: Is the mute button on? Is the volume turned down? Are there earphones plugged into the TV? No, no and no. Next they asked: Did you unplug the cable box and plug it back in? Bingo! That did the trick, but inquiring minds want to know why that works on electronics and why can’t I ever remember to do it without reading it in a troubleshooting guide? And why didn’t I consult the troubleshooting guide before spending a half day of watching the TV in the kitchen while listening to the TV in living room with the volume jacked up high enough that it drove the dog out of his favorite chair? 

While the sound issue was going on I was trying to get my cap lock key on the computer fixed. It was stuck which is a serious matter if you go places that require cap sensitive passwords. That took me a half hour of digging gunk out from under my keys using the sticky end of a Post-it Note to capture hair, dead skins cells and dust. It’s like pealing sunburned skin, once you start cleaning one key you can’t stop until you’d done them all. But be forewarned, you’ll start wondering if it wouldn't be wise to wear a hairnet when you’re playing on the computer.

While I was digging gunk out from my keyboard I didn’t have enough common sense in my Technical Service Tool Belt to turn off my computer and I accidentally did something to my Firefox browser, causing it to lose all my bookmarks and worse yet, no way to bookmark new pages. Let me tell you, that was panic time here in the big city. But once again a Google search to find a way to fit the issue did the trick. But as much as I love Google I wish it would quit asking me to review the places I go. Ya I know, I can change the settings on my phone so GPS won't track my every move but it’s really a good safety feature for elderly people who might get lost and their kids need to find them before they run out of gas a hundred miles from where they were going.

One of the places I was asked to review was a continuum care complex where I went to hear a lecture, a fascinating lecture about the Orphan Trains (1854 to 1929). It was given by a woman who wrote four historical fiction books based on her research in a planned series of eighteen. I’ve read other authors who have written about the Orphan Trains but I hesitate to share this lady’s name because she’s self-published so I don’t know how well-written her books are. Her lecture, however was well done and covered the seventy-five years the orphan trains were a part of our history starting with how New York City came to have over 250,000 homeless children who were put on those trains going out west to find homes, and she ended her lecture talking about the social programs that were set up to help prevent having kids as young as four and five from living in the streets begging for pennies or bread and sleeping in doorways. Some of the photographs the lecturer shared of the street kids were heart breaking and while not all the kids found good homes in the towns along the train tracks it’s estimated that 87% of them did. 

One man, in particular, can be credited with setting up and financing the Orphan Trains. They were the brainchild of Charles Loring Brace, an ordained minister who dedicated his life to helping street kids plus thousands of babies left off at a Catholic nunnery in the middle of the night. Some people today are quick to bitch about social programs that help the poor (including Planned Parenthood)---calling them socialism and worst---but all we’ve got to do is look back at the world before we had those social welfare programs and ask ourselves if we really could turn a blind’s eye to the suffering that would go on without them.

My very first introduction to Orphan Trains was on a episode of Little House on the Prairie, if memory is serving me correctly. Either way, Orphan Trains are a well-documented part of our history and PBS did a program about them if you're interested in learning more. But there were also trains running to coal country in the same time frame that took foreign-born men and older boys from the over crowded city to work in the mines. My grandfather was on one of those "work recruitment" trains. ©

28 comments:

  1. Jean, mercury is in retrograde. Now stop laughing....this is when you'll have trouble with all communications like computer, TV etc. We are all dealing with some sort of this right now. And when our satellite is giving us grief they always make me unplug and then plug back in. So now I try that first before calling - damn if it doesn't work but who knows why. I leave that to those younger than me. :-)

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    1. I'm not laughing, could be a magnetic field or something that the common man doesn't know about or understand but the Einsteins of the world do. Or it could be the Russians messing with us. LOL

      Unplugging satellites and cables is like a reset of some sort but I'd still like to know HOW it works.

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  2. Wow. My head is spinning. How you got from cleaning dead skin out of your keyboard to Orphan Trains is astonishing. But you did.

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  3. I have never of the Orphan Trains before reading this post. Oh no, you have given me a new area to read and study!

    You are right about electronics. I unplug and re plug my cable modem, router, and Roku box once a month. If I don't, one or more will mysteriously stop working. It is like your cell phone. If you don't power if off and then turn it back on occasionally, all the data gunk that hides in there in random bits and bytes slows things down or makes web use difficult.

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    1. That's a great tip about turning off computers and other devices once a month. I'm guilty of never doing that but it sounds like a good maintenance action I need to start doing. Thanks for sharing that.

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  4. I have often "almost" bought books about the orphan trains--now I may just have to press"buy". I somehow can't imagine how so many children became orphans. Thanks for pushing me out of indecision.

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    1. The lecturer showed a graphic of how NYC's population exploded during the Great Migration when people were starving to death in Europe. The city itself in terms of buildings to live in had not changed and 6-8 families were living in one or two rooms. Children as young as 8 were working in factories, the men without work because the children could be hired so much cheaper. If a child got hurt or sick and couldn't work, they usually ended up in the streets. Of course this was before birth control and Planned Parenthood so many of the newborns died until the nunnery opened it's lobby for drop-offs. Mothers often died in childbirth, too, and that was another way their other children ended up living on the streets if fathers went looking for work in other cities but didn't come back with rent money. That's the thumbnail of social issues that fed into the homeless children during that time frame.

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  5. Great point about the suffering prevented by social programs that half the country likes to bitch about because they don't know or care about history. Our foray into populism is another example of 'forgetting' how the horrors of the last century got started.

    I was told many, many years ago that turning off or unplugging any electronic item, leaving it for 60 seconds to clear the 'cache' then plugging it back in takes care of the problem 75% of the time and I've never forgotten that. The 'cache' is a dark little room in computer memory where mixed signals get stored and occasionally cause problems. I think.

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    1. The president is doing a good job of dehumanizing certain segments of our population. It's easier for people to look away from suffering when they do that.

      Thanks for the explanation about the why it works to unplug electronics. I need to start penciling it into my calendar to do it on a regular basis.

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  6. Another hilarious post, as usual Jean! Thank you for that šŸ˜„
    I know from work that the first thing the IT people tell you to do in any situation is to unplug the device, let it rest for a minute, and plug it back in again. Most of the time that is all that is needed, in my experience. If only that worked for other things as well...like cars...and people!

    Deb

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    1. If only it worked with cars and people! Oh, my gosh wouldn't that be sweet.

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  7. I've read a couple of articles about the orphan trains and a novel based on them. They are hopeful and bittersweet at the same time. To not be wanted in one place, then shipped to somewhere else where you might get a fair deal-- or not. Such a life, such a risk...

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    1. It sure was a risk. The families were supposed to be approved by a community of local business people but some towns did a better job than others approving homes. But life on the streets of New York and Boston was even riskier.

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  8. I have participated in a Cajun radio show for the past nine years..La Tasse Dr Cafe..KVPI..out of Ville Platte, La and the orphan train subject has come up many times as the decendents of some of the orphans are still there and active in the community. I am sure many were adopted to be workers on farms, but then treated no differently than other children. I also have a friend here whose relative was adopted and had a good life. It was a massive experiment. I would enjoy learning more and wonder if the DNA kits now so popular have yielded more information.

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  9. It is my understanding they went to most states, even here in Montana, but oddly enough, not Idaho or Utah. Both are Mormon based.

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    1. Here's an interesting quote from Wikipedia: "Orphan trains were sent to 45 states, as well as Canada and Mexico. During the early years, Indiana received the largest number of children. At the beginning of the Children's Aid Society orphan train program, children were not sent to the southern states, as Brace was an ardent abolitionist." I'm thinking the earlier trains probably didn't go out as far from New York as the later trains and my lecturer was talking about the very first train when she said its first stop was MI and Iowa was the last. I didn't write that right up above and I'm going to delete it so I'm not dispensing bad information.

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  10. One of the two Orphan Train Museums is located in Opelousas, La. Just up the road from Ville Platte. I looked up the information that over 2000 children from the train were adopted. I did not mean any criticism of your post but just wanted to add to the information for those who are interested in this subject. I do know the people in Louisiana are very proud to have been a part of the project as it is often discussed on La Tasse de Cafe.

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    1. I didn't take it as criticism, not to worry. Not all the kids were formally adopted. My state took over 5,000 but because an adopted boy could inherit property families weren't too quick to take that step here. In AZ there was a big scandal because one batch of kids were set up as indentured services and they had a court battle over that. Tons of interesting stories came about because of the trains.

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  11. I have a copy of the novel "Orphan Train" on my bookshelf that I haven't gotten to yet. I found it used in near perfect condition and had heard good things about it. Since we're looking to downsize next year, I'm trying to read my book backlog (ha!) so I don't move those I won't read. Needless to say, it's a fool's errand, but I'm trying. I'll have to put that one near the top of the pile. Very interest post.

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    1. I've read that book and liked it. It's very popular with book clubs. I'm working on a post for next week that includes my woes about downsizing books. I don't have a lot of fiction to catch up on reading but I sure hate the whole idea of downsizing my books which are mostly non-fiction, collectible and reference books.

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  12. Everyone's having tech problems this month. You are far from the first. I am too. Blaming it on Mercury Retrograde which lasts for another few weeks. I don't get why, but it always seems to happen -- I've been tracking it for years.

    The Orphan Trains lecture sounds really interesting. I don't know much about it. I might have to read up~!

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    1. I don't know much about Mercury in Retrograde but you're the second person to mention that. Guess I should read up on that. LOL

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  13. Yes, some of that History of abject Poverty and Homelessness, even of the most vulnerable, is Heart wrenching and may History never repeat itself! You do crack me up tho' and your Tech Challenged Stories had me laughing out loud! As well as the bit about moving on from Halloween to wondering if Cranberries will be safe to eat this year... is there a Cranberry epidemic I should know about? *winks*

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    1. Gosh, has it been that many years ago that cranberries were killing people before they got pull from the market? Probably. I have a knack for remembering obscure stuff.

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  14. My explanation of why rebooting so often works in solving tech device problems is that "you have to erase its little pea brain and start over." Glad it worked. Last week, I spent ten hours on the phone with charming Dell tech support folks in India, who all speak excellent English very fast with British pronunciation and Indian accents, after an automatic Windows update went awry and Widows couldn't restart itself. It's a good thing they were such charming company.

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    1. Ten hours with tech support is my nightmare. I have a hard time understanding accents!

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