Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Thursday Photo Challenge: Exercise

This week's theme is "exercise".

My submission is a photograph of Magdalena Abakanowicz's sculpture titled "Agora". It is composed of 106 cast iron figures, each about 9 feet tall.  I love it because walking among them reminds me of being a child - when I was so small that all I saw were legs.  

Taken January 2009 in Grant Park, Chicago, Illinois.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Orphan Train Lecture

My mother is concerned about her legacy. I think I've shared before that she has a hope chest she refers to as "her life" with mementos of her childhood, friends/family, and trips she has taken.

While working on our genealogy, she found one relative that was hard to trace back looking at census records. Something didn't look right.  After more research and consulting with others, it was decided that he and his sister were most likely transfers to Iowa from New York via the orphan trains.

Mom, Grandma, and I were fortunate enough to attend a lecture at the Aurora Historical Society given by Carol Chandler, a member of the Lee County (Illinois) Genealogical Society.  Carol's research had allowed her to collect a variety of stories on the experiences of orphan train children.

The orphan trains were started by a minister who witnessed child gangs running the streets of New York City in the late 1800s.  Many were true orphans who came though Ellis Island after loosing their parents during the journey to America, but some were simply abandoned by their parents battling their own demons (alcoholism, drug addiction, prostitution, etc.). Because of the lack of social services in those days, when these little gangs of children vandalized property or robbed merchants, police placed them in jails with adults.  I don't want to imagine what happened inside those jail cells!

Knowing the need for cheap labor existed in the ever expanding west, the minister arranged these orphan trains to shift children from the streets of the larger cities in the east to the farming communities in the west (as far as as the Mississippi River).  A few days before the train arrived, posters were placed around town announcing their arrival.  Families willing to take in a child or two were asked to come meet the train.

As you can imagine, the experiences these children had ranged from horrible to wonderful.  As a social worker in the field of child welfare today, I know we have improved but I wonder how the today's adopted children will report their experiences 50 - 100 years from now.

For more information on the Orphan Trains, you can check out the following websites:

The Children's Aid Society

The National Orphan Train Complex, Incorporated

**images from this post courtesy of The Orphan Train Complex, Inc.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thursday Photo Challenge: Two

While procrastinating this evening (I should be working on my paper and a report for work), I happened upon the Spun With Tears website that posts a weekly photo challenge.  Photographers are invited to submit their interpretation of the theme for peer review.

This week's challenge is "TWO" and here is my submission:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Mini Trip to St. Louis

For our anniversary, Tom and I always take a week off in February.  This year I believe his plan was to sleep in late, play video games all day, and have me make him three meals a day.  I had other plans.

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were already scheduled with other activities so I told him we were leaving Thursday morning and returning on late on Friday. He wasn't happy but didn't argue.

Our first stop was about an hour southwest of St. Louis in Stanton, Missouri.  I had read about the Meramac caves and wanted to see them for myself.  After delays at the car rental store (an employee overslept), we got on the road a bit late and made it to Stanton just in time for the final tour.  It was beautiful.

Our hotel room at the Crown Plaza was on the 17th floor and the views from the balcony were incredible!

The next day was super busy.  It started with the tram ride up to the top of the arch.  The woman behind the ticket counter asked if we were claustrophobic or had trouble with stairs.  I do sometimes have trouble with tight places but hoped that it would be ok.  We bought our tickets and headed down the ramp to the stairs and at the bottom we stood in line.  I was very surprised when the doors (only two feet by four feet) opened.  The tram, as it is called, is actually more like a pod.  Tom and I were alone inside so there was plenty of room.

Any slight anxiety I felt during the four minute ride up to the top was quickly gone as we stepped out of the pod and climbed the stairs to the top.  Looking out the small windows, I gasped.  The view was amazing.

Afterwards, I got some great photographs below the arch.

Before heading back to Illinois, we made a few more stops.  The Budwieser Factor Tour was really interesting.  I have to admit the Clydesdale horses live in a stable that is nicer than any house I've ever been in.

The next stop was lunch at Fitz's Restaurant.  They make and bottle their own root beer and soda. If you ever go, make sure you are seated near the large window so you can watch them bottling.  Tom and I liked it so much we brought two cases - one regular cream soda and one diet root beer.  The food was great, too!  

Our final stop was to the Third Degree glass studio.  We arrived the day after a large function so not all their pieces were out and easily viewed, however, what was out was beautiful!  There were also three artists working and it was fun to watch them in action as they created their art.  We'll need to go back again on a Thursday so that we participate in their hand-on demonstrations the third Thursday of every month.  

There is really a lot to do in St. Louis and we will definitely return.