Friday, December 2, 2016

Pearl Harbor Day – The USS Arizona

Copyright 2016 by Lori-Ann Willey


“FORWARD”
(boring personal memories)

PEARL HARBOR DAY
(USS Arizona)

“FORWARD”

Back in 1985, Paul received Army Orders.  Destination - Field Station Kunia, Hawaii.   Newly married by less than a year and pregnant with our first daughter, Alanda, we drove from Maine, up through Canada, and then, to San Mateo, CA.  There, our light blue Cavalier was shipped onward to Hawaii.

When we landed in Honolulu, I knew for sure I had never seen so many people or highways in my life. The air was so humid that I remember the feeling of slight suffocation in my lungs. The air was filled with a salty sea breeze.  The sun, very direct and intense upon the body.  

Married, with a child on the way, Paul immediately put us down for Military Housing, but unfortunately, the waiting list was six months to a year. This meant that we had to live off base, and hopefully close to Paul’s work.  For the first two weeks, we stayed at the guest housing on Schofield Barracks. The old WWII barracks had been converted into temporary lodging for soldiers in transition.  Each single room had a bed and joined another room occupied by another soldier.  Two rooms shared the same bathroom.

Sharing a bathroom with strangers was not something I was used to, so I not only checked once to see if I locked their bathroom door, I checked it several times as I did my duty in this very small bathroom that was just large enough for two doors, a toilet, a sink, and a shower stall. 

The men we shared a bathroom with were friendly, but I came from a non-smoking house, so their wretched cigar smoke filtered through the doorway and gave me wicked headaches and nausea 24 hours a day. The only escape was to be outside in the heat. To this day, the mere mention of a cigar brings back horrible memories!  There, in our single room, too, was where I learned what cockroaches looked like and how HUGE they were!

Paul and I went straight to work looking for a place to live in the civilian world.  The first thing we noticed was the cost of living factor.  WOW!  Even in 1985, a gallon of milk cost about $5.00, and it was cheaper to buy a pineapple at a rinky-dink grocery store in Maine, than it was to buy one locally.  That was especially shocking because not a mile down the road and there were millions of them growing for as far as the eyes could see!  Unfortunately, they belonged to either Dole or Del Monte, and hearsay said to pick one and get caught meant a $10,000.00 fine.

I remember well, the realtor that took us around to look at places to rent.  She was a very talkative young woman, full of self-assurance, but even at 19, and coming from the country living of Maine, I knew she was more talk than walk. The woman never stopped talking. When I sat in the back seat, I immediately noticed a piece of cardboard over a rotten piece of plywood on the floorboard.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, it moved aside as I sat.  When I looked down, I literally saw a large gaping hole in the floor the size of a youth basketball!  The rest of the floor was very thin and rusted with holes the size of a quarter!  The seats also had holes.  The cushion springs were literally poking our butts and backs as we sat.  I never dared to rest my feet upon the floor, but instead straddled the holes the best I could as I watched pavement move to a blur between my feet.  I was less than impressed. That was our first and last ride with that woman.

It wasn’t long before we found a place to live on the second floor in a development in Wahiawa.  The cockroaches were everywhere there, too!  However, we did our best to keep them under control by spending at least $10 each week for roach killer sprays.  Thankfully, we could keep them from coming into the apartment via conventional methods, but we had not thought that the eight inch long centipedes would come up the drains!  It is sad when you can sit on the toilet and hear a three-inch roach crawling up the shower curtain beside you!

Hawaii was certainly a different culture for us.  We fell in love with the gecko’s and lizards, but the roaches, centipede’s, and scorpions were not our favorite things to encounter.  Our downstairs neighbor was a wonderful Filipino family with a live-in grandmother who stayed home and tended the kids while the parents worked.  Due to a language barrier, we rarely spoke, but we’d share warm smiles and grins in passing. 

It was there, that I learned that in the Philippine culture when offered a gift, you can either accept or decline that gift.  Unknown to me, I did not understand the gesture behind such offerings.  So, when one day, the grandmother offered me a spider plant, I declined.  We were moving into military housing and I already had enough to pack.  I did not know that declining her gift meant that I declined her friendship!   To this day, some 31 years later, I still feel bad about that!  Had I known, I would have happily accepted her friendship.  Sigh!  It really does help to learn different cultures!  These days, I do!

By then, our daughter, Alanda was six weeks old when military housing became available in Honolulu.  It would be a decent drive for Paul to go to work each day, but he knew of co-workers that lived there and they carpooled the distance together.   Our address was 1319 C Ixora Place. Google Map it, and see that we lived on the edge of a dormant volcano crater.   Like any volcano, dormant or not, occasionally, we’d wake to tremors. There was never any damage, and after a while, even I slept through most of them.

Here is where I became pregnant with our daughter, Dawn.  I have a blog entry about her that you can find if you want a sappy read.  We were only stationed in Hawaii for 3 ½ years, but in that time, we met some very good lifelong friends that we consider family.  What so many non-military do not realize is how quickly neighbors become like family.  All of them were away from home, so we learned to lean on each other, become babysitters, etc.  We all came from different walks of life and from all parts of the world, but we all had one major commonality, the military lifestyle. 

Because I was pregnant much of our 3 ½ years in Hawaii, we didn’t do much of the tourist-like activities.  We did go to a Pro Bowl football game once, a couple luau’s, the Punchbowl Crater, etc., but mostly, there was so much to explore that we took up snorkeling, hiking, beach camping, and boogie-boarding.  At 9 ½ months pregnant we even hiked a mountain and a mountain range.  No, my doctor was not impressed with me in the least, but those who know me even today and the lifestyle we live, do not doubt my activities while very, very pregnant! That 4 ½ mile mountain trail had such drop-offs that if your hands or feet slipped from a root (the soil had washed away on the cliff-like slopes), they’d never find your body.  It was that hike that we discovered passion fruit and guava strawberries that grew wild along the trail.  They were DELICIOUS!  Unfortunately, I was to learn quickly that I was allergic to passion fruit!  Luckily, all I did on the trail was collect and carry.  Thankfully, it wasn’t until after we got home that we started eating them. 

PEARL HARBOR DAY -  USS Arizona

One place we made sure to visit while living on Oahu was the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor.  Quite honestly, I sat down to write about that experience alone but then got side-tracked a bit.  Everything written above this is that “side-tracked” mind of mine. That is why my twin sister calls me “Edith”! 

One day, Paul and I decided to visit the Arizona Memorial.  Pearl Harbor was literally only a ten-minute drive away from where we lived.  We had passed the Arizona Memorial more times than not, so one day, we went to pay our respects.

Upon arrival, you were led into a room to watch a short history film about the USS Arizona.  The room was filled with many different nationalities, but mostly, the room was filled with Japanese.  The mood was very somber, respectful, and filled with apprehensive sadness.  Throughout the film, both Paul and I were very taken back that the Japanese men and women sat and openly cried.  Even now, remembering that as if it were yesterday, I have tears in my eyes.  What I would have given to know their thoughts as they wiped their eyes of tears.  I wondered how many times they visited the memorial? How did they know to bring tissues?


After the short film, the room emptied and we were lead out to a carrier that had seating much like that of a bus. After the boat filled …and each boat is always filled, we slowly chugged to the memorial site.  I remember how beautiful the weather was, yet how somber the ride.  If anyone spoke, I did not notice.  Even Paul and I sat quietly. 


Soon, the boat docked.  I remember the walkway, all the names of those who perished really set the already drab mood that tore at my heart. I remember quite well, the shock when Paul pointed to the very visible USS Arizona that lay directly below our feet.  My heart stopped as I stared at dry land just a few dozen feet away.  “They were so close to shore!”  A lump lodged in my throat as I read how many men were trapped underwater with no way to escape and no way to be rescued. 


Paul pointed at the oil that still rises from the sunken ship.  I remember watching it shimmer in the sunlight …how beautiful, yet how very sad, yet amazed, that after (then) 45 years, oil continued to seeped from below.  The sailors entombed for eternity.  As we approach the 75th “anniversary” of the Attack on Pearl Harbor, Paul told me just a few days ago, that oil still seeps from the depths.  That still amazes me!

The USS Arizona left an impression upon me.   I’m not saying that I enjoyed the visit, but I can say that if we had not visited and paid our respect, that I do not think I would be writing this blog entry today.  It is not the case of “seeing is believing”, but instead, “seeing is feeling and remembering through historical memorials” such as the USS Arizona.

While living in Hawaii and so close to Pearl Harbor, we learned a lot about the people who lived there during the time of World War II.  There was a man who rebuilt a Japanese WWII plane and wanted to fly the same route with it as the Japanese Kamikaze pilots flew that memorable December 7, 1941, morning.  The older citizens -Hawaiians, Japanese, and Japanese-American’s alike- did not like that idea because it brought back too many horrific memories.  Their families feared realistic flashbacks and showed great concern for their loved ones who remember so vividly that day in history.  A day that changed their lives forever.   They were concerned not only for their emotional beings, but their age and health played a large factor, too.   We moved before we learned the result of their plea.

Also, while living there, there were reports that some of the island elders had emotional setbacks each time the military performed their exercises in breaking the sound barriers over the ocean. Numerous times we heard the sonic booms, and could easily relate to the sounds of bombs in the distance. I could easily understand how such things affected the islander elders and their emotional being, even after all those years.

Since visiting the USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor Day takes on a whole new meaning to me.  I have a soft spot for Veteran’s in the first place, but until you sit and talk with a wartime hero or visit such a memorial as the USS Arizona …I wonder how survivors cope with their experiences?  They truly are hero’s and they deserve so much more admiration and respect than given by so many.  They helped make this country great!  Please don’t forget that.



Friday, November 11, 2016

THANK YOU, VETERANS


THANK YOU, VETERANS
Copyright 2016 by Lori-Ann Willey

Paul Willey receiving an Army Achievement Medal.
Short and sweet is this blog entry, but the four entries below were written over the past few years after some personal, very moving conversations and observations I've had with /of Veterans while at the Togus VA Hospital.  I hope you read each story, and then, feel free to share.  I hope they touch your heart as these experiences touched mine.  Our Veterans deserve your attention today and every day.






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Thursday, November 10, 2016

ELECTION OUTCOME - How I See Things (My Opinion)

ELECTION OUTCOME - How I See Things 
(My Opinion)

Copyright 2016 by Lori-Ann Willey

OY!  I honestly don’t know where to start.  If I hadn’t been so busy yesterday while my thoughts were crisp and focused, I could have written a book about the election.  But, that was yesterday and today is today. Today, my thoughts are jumbled and two more friends “disowned” me for voting Trump.

There is no denying this past Presidential Race was one of, or the worst in American history.  For that, I think most Americans became frustrated with both candidates, and rightfully so. Trust me, I was one.  The entire campaign was a disgrace.  Where were the topics of importance? There was not one candidate (Trump vs Hillary) that put forth enough information for us to formulate our own opinions about the important topics.  I could barely keep up with the “soap opera”. The media didn’t help!

One day early in the primaries, I stated that I was a Trump supporter right off the bat.  Paul (my husband), on the other hand, was a Rubio supporter.  I just didn’t “see it” happening.  This country is in a world of hurt on all levels and that includes attitude.  I consider myself an upbeat and fair person, but I’ve been told that I’m delusional if I actually believed that.   Those people had opposing political views and obviously didn’t know me personally, but instead judged me on my political stance instead.  That told me really quick what I was up against.

Paul says, “I would have voted for Hillary the first time around”, but she never made it to the election phase”, and then continued to say, “I would have voted for her this time if it weren’t for the email thing”.  I personally would not have voted for her for several reasons that would be too futile to get into and I do not have enough time on my hands to discuss all topics either.   We are not “staunch” voters, but I do know that many are. Taking each candidate into careful consideration is the only responsible thing to do.

MEDIA
I will forever blame a lot of the media for their role in dividing this country.  For the most part, their “news” was not factual, but largely opinion-based and biased. I lost a LOT of respect for CNN, especially.  They should do some MAJOR sole and soul searching, for their ethics are a down right disgrace. Yet, there are people who faithfully listen to them and believe their twists and churns. Thus, a lot of American’s are “scared” to have Trump as President.  Again, I blame the media!

The media is to blame for much of this election mess. If they gave actual quotes in their entirety and not cut them short / omit some wording, OR skew catering to their personal opinions, I may have a little more respect for them than I do.   THEY are the cause for this “fear” and “I’m scared” feeling in this country because THEY put this fear into the citizens like never before. I’m so disgusted with them and their unethical ways.

One of the most widely misconstrued is this quote by Trump –

“When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending the best,” he said during the announcement. “They're not sending you, they're sending people that have lots of problems and they're bringing those problems. They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime. They're rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they're telling us what we're getting."

And this is how the media paraphrased him many times since that day-  Read bold words only.

“When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending the best,” he said during the announcement. “They're not sending you, they're sending people that have lots of problems and they're bringing those problems. They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime. They're rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they're telling us what we're getting."

Of course, Clinton and some of her supporters took full advantage of those false statements and they THEMSELVES took it as fact and seized the opportunity to spew hatred. They saw it as a chance to “claim” Mexican and Latino voters and boy did that work out well for her.  Mr. Trump is NOT a racist, but thanks to the media, in the eyes of all those who refuse to listen to Trump’s actual statement, he became a hated man overnight and thus all his supporters were and still are accused of being racists, too.  The hate movement began.  Thank you, Media.  I blame YOU, because up until that moment, I had never been accused of being a racist in my life!

THE WALL
Trump did not say that all those who come across the border are those things. Not at all.   I personally know a story of a woman who came to the USA illegally and to hear her story literally set me to tears. She’s been in the USA for about 20 years and has struggled the entire time while raising three children. Her story is so amazing. Her story IS why America is such a great country.  She is a very hard worker. She goes without so her kids can eat.  She is a true asset to this country.  SHE IS NOT WHOM Trump was referencing.  She is far, far from it.

This country has a HUGE drug problem. The majority of those drugs are coming through tunnels at the border.  It happens to be most problematic at the Mexican border, that’s all.  Drugs come through Canada and Florida, etc., too.  Drugs are harvested and created in labs throughout the country.  Our DEA is maxed and the drug problem persists and persists on a very, very large scale.  Drugs are ruining our youth, people of all ages, ruins lives, and families, too.  THAT is reason enough to tighten our borders and not just the Mexican border, but ALL borders.

I KNOW there is a GREAT fear that Trump will kick all illegals out of the USA, but that WILL NOT HAPPEN!  He wants those illegals who commit crimes, especially felons, to be removed, YES and so do most of the American people.  Why do I think how I do?  Let me briefly tell you my thoughts.  Let’s take the few families I know personally.  They have children who are legal USA citizens. Trump is NOT Hitler-like. Comments of the such frustrate me. That is such an insult to anyone.  I honestly believe that he will NOT take all illegals, herd them like cattle, and then, force them out of the country like animals.  That is especially so if there are children involved.  Trump is not for separating the family unit. He will not send the parents back across the border and leave children homeless and will not displace them. Not only due to humanity reasons, but for economic reasons, too. He knows that a clear majority of American’s would revolt against such a movement. I’d be in the forefront of such an act!  He wants to UNIFY, not DIVIDE.  Now, I do expect him to give a reasonable time limit for them to become a citizen, and if here over 5 years, then hopefully, they are granted immunity.  If, within that time, they chose not to become a citizen, that is their choice, but at least they were given that choice. That is how I see all that being played out. Given all that said, I DOOOOO understand their fear. But, it is not so different than the fear they have every day because they are undocumented. 

LGBT, etc.
Now, I have family members and friends who are gay / bi / lesbian.  I also have at least one friend that is transgender.  I’ve heard their stories and they know that I’m AOK with whatever makes them happy, for they deserve happiness, too.  One man, and I won’t name names due to respect and love for him, but one man (I’d guess in his middle to upper 60’s) in particular stopped into our house one day a couple years ago and openly told me that he better identifies as a woman. He always has.  When he is home alone, he dresses in a skirt, etc. and it makes him feel whole, happy inside and out.  He spoke about how so few people know this about him and some in his own family have scorned and separated themselves from him because of it. He is a GOOD man and holds a government paying job, even.  He is kind and gentle, so full of laughter and love, yet he struggles deeply within.  As he sat there, he cried openly in front of me, and inside, I cried with him. This man opened up to me because he knew he could …that he would not be scorned, but accepted and loved unconditionally.  I still hear his words of appreciation and thanks. I still see his tears and hear his broken and weakened voice.

I know there are a lot of people who have worked so hard to get recognized and approved to marry, get insurance, etc. for their significant other as a same sex partner.   I was one that helped vote in Same Sex Marriage.  People (ALL) deserve to be happy. There is not one person that should have say over someone’s happiness, ever.   With all that said, I do not think that Trump will force same sex marriages to be null and void.  What good would that do?  How are “they” hurting anyone?  Peace and love is what I want for all.  Everyone deserves a chance to be happy.  Who am I, the populous, or the President to say otherwise?   Those of the LGBT (and I don’t like to give labels) community that know me know I have their back and support them.

RACIAL DIVIDE
The racial divide in this country quickly heated up after Obama became President.  I understand that all “races” want to be treated fairly and be recognized and I applaud that 100%. To me, there is no color. I’m always “preaching”, “Education is key”.  To me, there is cultural differences, yes, and if one does not take the time to learn about those cultures, then there is automatic separation in understanding. It does not have to be between skin color or ethnic groups, each part of the country has their own culture and history.  One is wrong or better than the other?  No. I love learning about it all, but so few people take the time or have the same enthusiasm to learn as I do.  I will sit and listen to anyone’s story and appreciate it from where it comes and just as much as from whom it comes. We all have a story …”his-story”.  Each of our experiences are different.

A woman recently told me that when Obama became President, that people took to the streets in her area of CA and started looting as they saw fit.  Their excuse was that they could get away with such things now that Obama was in office.  Apparently, their looting was short-lived and those few did not represent most people, but it only takes a few to turn things “foul”.

The “black” (again, I cringe, as I do not like labeling) people had a very unfair start in this country.  How they were treated was very, very unfair.  I learn and watch all I can about early American history with special interest from the first settlers through the Civil War.  To think that slaves once set free, still were not treated humanely, but many of them were. I believe the word “Aunty” comes from slavery days when the woman slave took care of the children as a second mom, a nanny, if you will …they were fondly called, “Aunty”. In my family, I am called “Aunty” by my nieces and nephews and just hearing that title warms my heart.  I love the history behind the title, too.

There are so many people who do not see color in another person, but unfortunately, there are a people who do, and they are the ones that should be scorned, not those who look like them. There are people who still feel oppressed. I find that sad.  Some use slave days as an excuse to “get even” today.  They seem to forget that we had a civil war over slavery and it was because of the North, slavery was abolished. One of my all-time favorite books is, “Up from Slavery” by Booker T. Washington. If you have not read it, I suggest you do. It is a good read, easy read, and very educational from the angle of a slave. Impressive book. It is one of those books that will always be a part of my bookshelf.  Some of us have empathy. But, because we have empathy, does not give anyone a free pass in life. We all (of all ethnic groups, to include “whites”), should work for what we want, what we get.  I would hope that we all want fairness and equality. We’ve come a long way, but it is obvious that we have a way to go still.  All of us do.

I get frustrated with people and their mentality levels or their refusal to understand or take on another person’s viewpoint. Then, when I think there is no hope, I experience this… A month ago, I was at Walmart in Brewer while Paul was having his lengthy IVIG treatment.  I had on a camo shirt, and in the front “purse section” of my cart were eight camo drinking cups when a man approached. He glanced down and smirked in an appreciative way.  I stood beside a camo fold out table wondering if was sturdy enough to use in the ice shack, when the man (black) came up to me and started talking.  I bet we talked for at least a half hour just shooting the “shit” together. His name is Reginald, and what a nice man.  We didn’t get into politics, but we did discuss morals, what is important in life, the world today, and how we both wished for goodness and good decisions by all. I could have talked to him for hours and I think the feeling was mutual.  We appreciated each other and that is how it should be with all that we meet, strangers or not.  The man is from CA.  I did not ask what brought him to Maine, but he seemed to enjoy it here and its people.  We shook hands, I think three times as we stood there, and bid each other a good day, but then would start talking again.  It was wonderful.  I wondered why there is such a divide in people.  Why, why, why, why?  I don’t get it.

POLICE KILLINGS
Plain and simple, the police killings must STOP!  The hatred for the police is a “movement” that is unjust.  Yes, there are a few bad police, just like there are a few bad apples in any bin, but to target and kill any police officer or law enforcement of any level is nothing short of shameful and a total disgrace.

Paul and I ran into the “good ole boy system” even here in the woods.  We were targeted by a few others who enjoy spending their days drinking, and then, see who can top the other in harassment.  We became targets.  We are quiet people. We stay to ourselves.  We spend our money wisely, and we’ve had successes in life. Paul is disabled and I am a woman.  To some, all that meant lots of false rumors and thus, easy targets.  When complaining to the police, a woman officer told us, ‘I’ve heard about your situation (officer name omitted) said that he was stuck between a rock and a hard place.  On the one hand, (officer name omitted) grew up with these guys, and then there are you two.’ I was so dumbfounded by her statement that I was left speechless.  We are “outsiders” because we are not from the area.  Therefore, we became targets, or as a top Game Warden said, “the bullseye”.  There is no racial divide and we were still targeted.  We were still largely ignored by law enforcement, too.  Plain and simple, we were wronged greatly by the local police.  We ended up going to court, filed, and won a boat harassment charge at least.  If it weren’t for the state police officer that came and spent a couple hours or more with us one day, we’d still be in a bind here. He wanted to see all our evidence and as we showed him, his jaw dropped that we were not helped in here.  As a result, he helped stop the crap and I will always be forever grateful to him for standing up for us as victims when the local law enforcement decided to choose their classmates over the law.  FINALLY, we live in peace once again, but I tell you, it was a wicked battle that should never began. Thus, I do understand the dislike for the law enforcers in some cases, and quite honestly, it wasn’t until we befriended a different state trooper that we regained faith in the law once again.  So, yes, I DO understand corruption, but to shoot and kill other law officers because you had a run in with one does not make any of it right …or just!  There is NO excuse!

TERRORISTS
Thankfully, terroristic activities have slowed down in this country, but I do agree with extreme vetting!  To say all Muslims are terrorists is wrong, but that is a real fear that many have because of a real fear of terrorists.  It just happens to be that the terrorists are an extreme offshoot of the Muslim religion, but that does not mean that all Muslims are terrorists!  Trump does not think all Muslims are terrorists either!  Nor is Trump anti-Muslim!

However, if we simply asked all Muslims if they were terrorists, do you think those who are would admit to it?  No, so what are we left to do except to do extreme vetting?  It is not the fault of America, nor is it the fault of good, honest, faithful Muslims, but how do we tell who is who?  We need extreme vetting of all who claim to be Muslim just to be safer.  It is NOT an anti-Muslim issue; it is a terrorist issue.  Anyone who does not believe in extreme vetting at this point, lives in a fantasy world.  Trust me, I like the sound of a utopian world, too, but realistically, it can’t happen so we must be realists.

The terrorists are sneaky. If there is an avenue, they will exploit it because they HATE America, its values, and all that we stand for. They also kill gays and lesbians, and have a very low opinion of women, too.   We need to protect AMERICA and our values …our people, our way of life, too.  Trump is NOT against Muslims and I wished some of you people would wake up and see that one person killed is tooooo many!  Did we already forget 9-1-1?

OUR MILITARY
Ah! I NEED to give a plug to our military, because, this is an area where I really get sappy.  I have such admiration and respect for our military men and women that I’d be willing to bet none can surpass.  Many Americans are “scared” about our world stance now that Trump has become President.  Something Paul reminded me of this morning was that Bernie and Trump have pretty much the same views when it comes to this topic.  So, why are so many Bernie supporters now so ‘scared’ of Trump? He’s not like a cartoon monkey sitting in a spinning chair all goofy-like asking, “What does this button do” as he presses the nuclear war button!  It doesn’t work like that!   I agree with all when I say, I worry about our military overseas in such war zones.  I appreciate them every day for their efforts.  They are fighting a war THERE so it is not brought HERE on American soil.  That, too, is why extreme vetting is needed.  We must do our share on our own soil, too!

I implore you all to watch the series called, “Taking Fire”.  I watched the “in-person” documentary by a few Kentucky soldiers while overseas in a battle zone and it is gut-wrenching!  It is REAL and not embellished.  I kept telling Paul, “So many of our American People do not know what we’re up against.  If they did, they’d better understand why we need a STRONG AMERICA and a STRONG STANCE in the world. “Taking Fire” should be aired on all television networks for a better understanding …but again, so many would be so traumatized they’d turn around and sue the television station!  UGH! That is the country we’ve become!  It is scary. Watch the documentary and see for yourself what our Military endure 24 hours a day, and then, consider sending care packages, because they sure could use that little bit of support from home. 

ELECTORAL VOTE vs POPULAR VOTE
After this election, so many people want to change the voting process so the candidate that receives the popular vote wins the presidency.   Many do not understand the process and I can’t explain it any better than this link does.  Thank you Pepper C. for the link.


IN CONCLUSION
Now, in conclusion, I’m tired of all the bickering. Trump is NOT Satan. He is NOT Hitler-like either.   I get so tired of the hate spewing.  Comedic is one thing, but the downright hatred is another.  Calling someone a rapist with unfounded evidence is wrong. Yet, some think it  funny to say Trump was due in court the day after Halloween to answer to rape charges of a 13-year-old is just sick in the mind and very disturbing. How sad is that the people want to believe such things?  Even more so, if you say such things to get a “popular vote” amongst your friends, or say things like, ‘You Righties are gullible.  I love getting under your skin’.  Really?  You may be a woman, but YOU DO NOT REPRESENT THIS WOMAN, because in NO instance is rape funny.  What an insult to those who have been raped!

I voted for Trump because, although he is very rough around the edges and “unrefined” in his choice of words, he has come a LONG way in his communication.  He is learning!  He’s a smart man, and it did take him a bit longer than I hoped before he spoke more wisely, but he’s getting there, and I am very thankful of that. Trust me, he frustrated me along the way, too, but he DOES have America’s best interest at heart.  He may not be coddling or suave in his words or tone, but his heart IS there.  Despite unwarranted popular belief, I firmly believe he has America’s back. ALL of AMERICA.

Though I admit that Trump frustrated me a few times during his campaign, I could not get past Hillary and her proven corruption.  I just couldn’t overlook that proof, intent and carelessness.  Before you conclude that Trump is a woman hater/abuser, a racist, a LGBT and non-American hater, please do some research.  Anyone can spread lies, but each of us have the resources to confirm or deny its authenticity.  The question is, do you chose to be responsible or irresponsible?

Just because Trump wasn’t raised in politics, not his first career choice, or that he did not become a lawyer along the way that taught suave and etiquette speaking, does not mean he is not capable of running this country.  Yes, he has a lot to learn and yes, he must depend the experts in the fields “under” him, but don’t all Presidents? Isn’t that what the experts are there for in the first place?  To see the government as it is and then see where it can better itself, clean itself up, and better represent the people and its finances? I would think that is a GREAT thing. After all, he is a brilliant businessman, and I think we need his angle of thought for the next four years. I do think, that if given the chance, you will think so, too.  Maybe not today or next month, but I do believe you’ll see a change that you like somewhere. That is, if you allow yourself to think outside your personal box.

I have not covered all topics …there is NO WAY I could without writing a book. So, any topic I did leave out please keep to yourself.  I don’t want to hear “yeah, but” anything. These are my views on a FEW chosen topics.  I just hope, in some way, people think before they act on rumor, assumption, and untruths. That instead, you research the validity of EVERYTHING and make sure your source is credible, for there are so many out there that aren’t, and instead, they spew intentional turmoil to lure in the uneducated, the suckers, and the haters.  Let those topics be THEIR problem, not yours.  Don’t get caught up in the crap of haters, because, like a smile, hate is “catching”, too.

We are individuals, but together, I hope we can find peace and harmony filled with “grace and charm (Daniel S.)”.

Let us somehow find the peace we all want …we all deserve. Be fair and honest with yourself, research for truth, then decide.












Saturday, September 3, 2016

For the Love of Nature: The Dragonfly

For the Love of Nature:  The Dragonfly
Copyright 2016, by Lori-Ann Willey

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My Setting
In the late afternoon air, I sat and faced the gentle mountain breeze.  With my legs dangling over the aged, rough-cut dock boards, they hovered a couple of feet from the water’s surface.  My hands rested loosely and lazily upon my lap.  Nonstop, my eyes scanned the skies looking for a break in the clouds. The break, large or small, it didn’t matter.  My goal was simple.  With a clean-slated mind, I hoped that a writing topic would present itself in some way, shape or form. The color blue, once again escaped my view …the sky was cloud-filled, a solid layer of textured gray of varying shades met my eyes no matter their direction.  The clouds, once again, hastened darkness before it was due. 

August 31st is the date, but I did not need a calendar to tell me that the sun is “drifting” further and further away, lingers less and less, or that the days are shorter, cooler.  The calendar does not tell the plants when their lifecycle is complete, nor tell the critters when to prepare for the long winter months ahead. The calendar is a human thing. Mother Nature has a calendar of her own, and she does not depend on the inventions of two-legged critters we call humans.

I watched as the sky grew dimmer by the minute.  Nighttime was imminent.  The sun, always in singular form, the sky, too, has no boundaries, just obstacles of interruption, both man-man and nature-made.  That sun remained hidden much of the day, so she was not expected, nor missed come time for sunset.  It took those clouds -vast, bulbous, and gray-  all day to combine into the solid mass I saw before me …above me.

Light streaks of rain lined the sky that partially obscured the mountain from view.  With intent, or maybe not, the rain visually changed the landscape before me.  Almost instantly, Mt. Katahdin transformed.  No longer did she look alive, colorful, or picturesque. Instead, her appearance was one of a black and white sketch of well-placed diagonal lines, uniform, and perfect -a photo opportunity that I did not take advantage of.  If I had, it would have defeated the purpose of my sit.  

Instantly, I visualized the underwater world of long slender grasses as seen so many times while I snorkel.  There is such beauty there …underwater, that is.  At the same time, the rain-streaked sky offered its own beauty …just a different kind is all.  Differing in color, whether it be streaks of rain in the sky, wavering grass in the water currents, or the exposed fine-haired tree roots that reach for a nearby water source.  It didn’t matter. Nature is intriguing in all ways. In my mind, I link nature to people life in so many ways.  Both are beautiful. However, none of those were considered writing topics at the moment.  All that, was "just" the setting in which I sat waiting for a topic.

My Topic
Today, I thought about relaying my love of nature to those who cannot readily experience it as I can.  Hence, the start of a new blog series titled, “For the Love of Nature”.  My hope is to somehow, even for just a few minutes, bring you into my world, to tell you about my love for nature and all that she holds dear, for all that she protects …her own trials and tribulations of sorts. 

I could pull a million and one topics from a dozen or more hats, and then, further “go with the flow” of memories and experiences I’ve had over my 50 years on Earth.  Instead, I sat on the dock and waited for Mother Nature to present herself in an unsuspecting way.  I was prepared for a long sit.  However, I hadn’t sat for more than two minutes when the wings of a large dragonfly fluttered around my head.  It nabbed an insect too minute to see without a pair of “Grammy-Glasses” upon my nose. Instantaneously, my mind flashed through dozens of thoughts and memories.  I knew then, that the first entry in this blog series would be about dragonflies!

True Love Begins with a Story
As the large late summer dragonfly darted about the area, I thought about how, weeks ago, it had mated.  I envisioned their preferred egg-laying habitat and conditions, too.  Then, when the eggs hatched, how each egg, if not already fallen victim of pray, is now in the nymph stage.  Those dark-colored nymphs hide under rocks, in dead or dying vegetation, under or inside logs, too. Once in a while, I see them use the slow moving current to aid their travels about the area.  Either way, the bottom of the lake is where they feast upon living things smaller than themselves.  

The parent dragonfly that flew past me now lives its daily life as it waits to die.  Hours, days, or weeks, like humans, the dragonfly doesn’t know its exact lifespan either.  As the dragonfly continued darting around, nabbing one insect after another, I was drawn to my childhood years to a time when I was intimidated by the same insects that I now treasure.  As a kid, their bodies looked like thick, dull needles ready for the piecing of my flesh.  Their big eyes and long helicopter-like wings that sounded like shredded paper flapping in the wind never bothered me.   It was that needle-like tail that I watched with full intent!  It probably didn’t help any that my grandmother referred to them as darning needles that could sew up a holey sock faster than she could!

Nowadays, my love and appreciation for dragonflies is immense, and it all started one early morning about 20 years ago.  After our now full-grown children boarded the school bus on one September morning, I walked through an area of unmown grass that was taller than I.  The morning was quite cold already, but it became considerably colder when the dew-wetted grass clung to my bare skin that found a way to grip me with each step.  I remember how surprised I was that the tip of each dilapidated grass blade wasn’t covered with frost that morning.

As I walked along with my camera in hand, I found that walking through that tall tangled mess was much easier if I used my free hand to part some sort of pathway.   Though my hope was for less skin contact with that wet grass, in reality, I was already cold and wet.  The chill that morning was greatly felt upon my bare arms and legs, and it didn’t help that the sun had not yet risen over the treetops at the other end of the field some 900 feet away.  In the shadows or not, in an instant, I was no longer cold the second I spotted a dragonfly resting upon my arm.  It was just as wet as I was.  The dew upon my arm was smeared, whereas the dew was beaded upon its cold, lethargic body.  At first, I thought it was dead. Without taking so much as another step, I closely examined the beautiful insect to ensure I had not caused it injury, or even death.

With my arms nearly dripping wet, light clothes, too, I stood and took several photographs of the dew-covered insect. All 30,000 (that is not a typo) eye facets were covered with several thick water beads, too.  I wondered if the cold little creature could see me through all that wetness.  If so, did I appear distorted through the water droplets?  I also wondered if all those facets were still able to move individually while wet, or did the water weight them down in such a way that they became more fixed?  Normally, each of those eye facets moves about individually. Therefore, they can see and watch  many different objects at the same time. They also help to give the dragonfly a constant 360-degree view. Given the conditions that morning, I wondered if they could they see anything at all?

I was sure that the heat from my arm was welcomed by the insect, and I was rather surprised that it was not long before he turned his head to look at me all curious-like …much like when a dog is spoken to, and then, waits patiently for a command.  The mommy in me wanted to wipe it dry but knew that would be an impossible task.  Instead, I found a more natural way.

As the sun worked upward, I rose my arm so the sun’s rays touched the dragonfly in a visible, yet invisible kind of way.  The glistening sun upon its wetted body was breathtakingly beautiful.  Each dewdrop sparkled as if made of precious gems, each laid, poised, and at such an angle as to cast a pinpointed light into any passersby eye. My goal was to help warm and dry the insect. In return, I was thanked by Mother Nature who ensured that I was mesmerized by her beauty through the dragonfly that morning.  To me, even after 20 or more years, the experience is still both story and picture worthy.

In order to hasten the warmth and drying process, I continued to walk through the cold wet grass until my arms and legs were numb from the cold. The dragonfly was no doubt warmer than I at that point because I kept my arm raised to give him the most sun possible. Trying not to allow the tall grass to swipe the fly from my arm, it took me several minutes to exit the area. 

By the time I reached the shorter grass, the dragonfly walked about my arm with ease.  We had both heated.  Once I reached the house, the sun was shining fully and brightly upon us.  I watched as the beads of dew grew smaller as time tick-tocked.  The cute little buggah became less lethargic-like, too.  I had no doubt, that he appreciated my body heat and the sun alike. 

When I reached the deck, I rested my arm in such a way as to encourage the dragonfly to crawl onto a drier surface.  Reluctant he was, but with little prodding movements, I unfairly encouraged him to either fly or step away from my heat.  It did not work.  The darning needle-like fly repeatedly climbed further onto my arm after each touch of the cold, damp deck board.  He wanted warmth, and I wanted a friend.  It was a win-win situation.

Those few moments touched the depths of my heart that morning, and to this day, I believe the appreciation went both ways, a communication of sort between a human sap and a very cold 6-legged insect. I stayed with the dragonfly until most of the water beads evaporated completely.  More and more he became more lively …more aware of his surroundings, too.  After flapping his wings a few times, I’m sure to finish ridding unseen dew drops of varying sizes, he flew away.  I was no longer needed.

After recalling the cherished memory above, immediately, my thoughts went to another memory. 

The Emergence!
One spring morning many years ago, again with camera in hand, I happen to be walking along a body of water looking for an intriguing photography specimen when I happened to see a dragonfly dangling from some sort of hard-shelled insect.  At first, I thought maybe the dragonfly was caught in a spiders’ web, as there were plenty of those along the water’s edge, too.  Upon closer inspection, I didn’t quite understand exactly what I saw.   Curious, I sat upon the ground and swapped camera lenses.  With a macro lens attached, I used it as a sort of high-end, funky-shaped magnifying glass.  Once up close and personal, I was amazed at what I saw!

Captivated beyond belief, I watched as a dragonfly pushed bodily fluids from his abdomen, thorax, and wings over the next couple of hours.  “Water” dripped from its posterior one very excruciating slow drop at a time.  There is usually a total of three drops from there alone.  Over the expanse of time, the wingtips partially filled with a clear, green-like gel that resembled a thin layer of lime-favored Jell-O on a sheet of plastic wrap resting upon a pane of glass.  The faint reflecting prism of colors was magnificent.  I captured hundreds upon hundreds of photographs of emerging dragonflies that day, and quite honestly, I would not be surprised if I snapped well over a thousand, even.  Though that may seem rather obsessive and maybe even a little bit impulsive, but hey, that is how you get some amazing photographs.  Or, at least that is how I do!

Dragonflies spend most of their lives underwater in the nymph stage of development.  There, they can stay in the nymph form for a few years, shedding their exoskeleton several times.  When the time is right, conditions, too, they emerge from the water and crawl up a tree, or onto a large rock, driftwood, etc. They find a place where the breeze helps their drying process, and their mud-colored exoskeleton is camouflaged to further protect themselves against prey.

When a suitable spot is found, their claw-like grip is strong and they hold steadfast.  Whether it be gripping to a ceiling-like structure or as if hugging a tree, their claws, though almost too small to see, stay gripped long after the dragonfly emerge.  Sometimes I’ll see an empty nymph casing still hanging firmly in place many months, or even a full year later.  To me, that is quite impressive given how powerful the obsessed winds, snow, and rains are here. 

As an adult, each dragonfly emerges in the same methodical order.  Gravity is a great thing, even for dragonflies.  The emerging process starts with a small whitish-colored X-shaped crack in the exoskeleton at the back of the nymph’s thorax.  It is from there that the dragonfly sees daylight for the first time as an adult.  From the center of the X, where the two angles intersect expands outward, an opening grows to the size needed for the dragonfly to emerge. Sometimes, that opening process is very slow, but then, there are other times when the gaped hole appears in a quick blink of the eye.  

That newly expanded opening is from where the dragonfly slowly emerges after several throb-like motions.  Each “throb” has a purpose.  The emerging process is slow, and if possible, I always make time to watch from start to finish.  The dragonfly had spent several years as a nymph, only to transform into something that looks totally different.  Imagine if your legs were folded up in an accordion style and squished into an exoskeleton 1/3 the length of your body, or if you had wings, how flattened and shriveled up they had to be to fit inside that same casing. In adult form, that is the cramped lifestyle each dragonfly must endure until it emerges.

With the aid of gravity, eventually, the new dragonfly emerges, head first, followed by the thorax, legs, and then, lastly, the abdomen.  Everything about the dragonfly is almost unrecognizable.  Every part of the insect is nearly flat, deflated far worse than Tom Brady’s footballs.  Even the eyes are dented, sometimes even wrinkled or creased. Honestly, there are many times, I wonder just how painful the entire transformation is on the poor things.  Sadly, I have to admit, that at times, though, not very often, I find a dead dragonfly partially emerged.  Mostly, those look like they were deformed or were subject to prey during the process of outing itself.  Without proper inspection and/or knowledge, it would not be fair for me to determine one over another.

The dragonfly “empties” the nymph exoskeleton head first, almost as if working its way out of a sock, and all with the help of gravity.  Once the head emerges, it dangles as if to use that weight to help pull the rest of itself from the same casing. Slowly, the thorax area comes into view. Attached to the thorax section are the legs and wings.  Everything is pressed and compressed snuggly.

At first, unless you know what you are looking for, the wings are unrecognizable.  They are all squished, wrinkled, and pinkish-gray-like in color. The thorax bulk also adds weight and helps aid that gravitational pull downward …and, in this case, outward from the exoskeleton, too. Lastly, the base of the abdomen starts to appear.   It is at this stage that I have my camera more so at the ready.

The dragonfly seems to halt in this position for a while …sometimes up to a half hour or more while it continues to prepare its body for the next step.  Meanwhile, the eyes slowly inflate, as does the thorax. The wings slowly grow longer and less wrinkled, too. Insects have six legs, and each of those starts to wiggle and pull away from the body a little bit at a time, in slow jerky-like movements that are impossible to photograph.

Close to a half hour later, the dragonfly starts to move its body more as more and more of the abdomen shows itself.  The wings, long, but still pleat-filled, they take on the look of pulled open window curtain.  They drape motionless.  Soon, the dragonfly appears as if doing stomach crunches. 

Typically, the movements are subtle at first with long pauses between each crunch. After a few partial crunches, it moves onto full sit-up motions. Usually, before the fifth full sit-up, the claws are gripped firmly around the opening from which it came.  Within seconds, the dragonfly pulls the remainder of its abdomen from the nymph casing. The adult dragonfly is born!

It is at this stage that the newly emerged dragonfly is totally defenseless against predators, and unfortunately, dragonflies take so long to “inflate” that they become easy prey for birds, small critters, spiders, and ants, too.  I have watched a few dragonflies meet their demise well before they are capable of making an evasive move or escape. Sometimes, even I become a safe haven for dragonflies that were taken by a gust of wind. I had a few that were not quite ready to fly, but would have enough movement to flap onto my hand, camera, or hair. I am always very willing to sit for as long as it is needed for them to fly away on their own after that.

The dragonfly continues to cling to the exoskeleton with all six claws while the body continues to inflate, and then, as I mentioned above, squeezes excess water from its posterior. I consider it somewhat like an internal after-birth, a flushing out the system type cleansing, but in reality, I have no idea how or why that excess fluid benefits the dragonfly.

Factors such as air humidity, temperatures, and the wind all determine how long before the newly emerged dragonfly is able to fly away.  Over the years, I watched the process take anywhere from two to four hours!  I have even seen deformities, a popped eye, a bent wing, and a missing leg here and there.  Nature is not perfect by far.

An Annual Tradition
Each spring I anxiously wait for the right conditions.  When met, I can be found slowly walking along the shoreline with camera(s) in hand looking for the wet mud-colored dragonfly nymphs.  When I see one, I find a comfortable, sometimes all too common uncomfortable, spot to sit and watch a beautiful dragonfly emerge.  Hours and hours I’ve spent, and hours upon hours I will continue to spend watching it all in complete awe year after year with my mouth, justah grinnin’.

Though the process is always the same, the “birth” of a dragonfly is nearly comparable to the sound of a laughing child.  Neither gets old. Both greatly cherished.  Equally, they leave you wanting more.  What a privilege it is to see such emerging’s so up close and personal-like.  How can one not be in awe over such things?

Time escapes me when I am outside observing nature.  To me, there is no better place to be than laying on the ground or sitting in observance of my woodland surroundings.  Many times, I spend at least a couple of hours or more doing nothing more than watching the sun dance with the swaying trees before me. To some, I see “nothing”, but to me, I see it “all”, for nature is never-ever nothing.

I do not know what my next topic will be, but I assure you, you will know when I do.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Wicked Impressive Woman!

A Wicked Impressive Woman!
Copyright 2016 by Lori-Ann Willey

I’ve always been a sap. If someone cries, I’m teary-eyed with them. If someone is in pain, I’m cringing and holding my breath, too. It is just the way I’m wired, I guess. So, when I tuned on my laptop this morning and saw an article that read, Paralyzed Woman Hikes Appalachian Trail, I gasped in disbelief. I wondered the validity of the story, but nonetheless, I found myself sitting in front of my laptop with the story opened for reading. I’m such a sap for such inspirational, against all odds kind of stories.

My first question, other than wondering if the story was real or not, were questions like: How can she do that? She must have human aides helping her? Does she carry her own pack? How paralyzed is paralyzed? Those questions still go unanswered, but I figured if I followed her journey, I’d have my answers. 

Thankfully, I reminded myself that paralyzed is not the same as being a paraplegic. A paraplegic is what Paul is. Paraplegia is the loss of muscle function in the lower half of the body, including both legs. Paralyzed is partly or whole incapable of movement. Once I got that sorted out inside my head, I had a better “visual”, so to speak, but that didn’t matter. I was, and still am, very impressed with the woman I am about to introduce.

Ohio resident, Stacy Kozel is not only the subject of this entry, but she is A Wicked Impressive Woman, too! Two years ago, Lupus left Ms. Kozel paralyzed from the waist down. Despite no feelings in her legs, in 2014, with braces attached, she navigated Mt. Katahdin! That, is an impressive accomplishment! Now, with new style braces, she is hiking the entire Appalachian Trail. If you don’t already know, the trail starts in the state of Georgia and ends upon our beloved Mt. Katahdin in Maine. The same mountain that I photograph almost daily.

“My goal is to bring awareness to these braces and hopefully get more people out of wheelchairs and out exploring the world,” she wrote. “When insurance companies deny people due to ‘it is not necessary’, I hope my story will prove the opposite.” - Stacy Kozel

Reading those words sank my heart. I could relate in an able-bodied kind of way, and Paul can relate in a disabled-body kind of way. Paul is in a wheelchair, and he has Lupus, too. Thankfully, his lupus is in remission, but all his other medical issues are not. His daily life is a struggle with chronic symptoms. My daily struggle is watching him suffer with it all. Like always, instantly, my “Mommy Nurture Mode” kicked in while reading her story.

Little does Stacy admit in the article; her story brings more awareness than of those braces that she wears. Her story is one of determination, self-fulfillment, encouragement, stamina, and inspiration to name just a few words of awe off the top of my head. Her story triggers a wide array of emotions within me, too. I’ve seen the struggle in Paul and automatically felt her struggle. Empathy is both a blessing and a curse for me.

After reading through the article (Linked below), I felt the need to make sure you all know her story. Stacy is a perfect example of all that I “preach” to many. Life is filled with obstacles, but if we dig deep enough, hard enough, and for long enough, we can find a way to overcome, or at least, make the best of any situation. It may not be in a traditional manner, but does that matter? No. No matter the ability, or disability, with a determined mindset, you’ll be surprised just how much is possible in any given situation.

Like us, Stacy posts her story publicly. I can’t speak for her, but our story is an “open book”, so to speak. One phrase we’ve used many times is, if we can do it, so can you. Our struggles with Paul’s health and living off the grid make us stronger in a lot of ways. Some of you may think we are bonkers, but I, for one, understand Ms. Kozel’s mindset and I applaud it greatly! Her story, like so many, touched this sappy heart of mine. I feel it would be wrong of me to keep it to myself and not share it with you. Though her Appalachian journey will officially end at the summit of Mt. Katahdin, her overall journey is just getting started, and I have a feeling this won’t be the last time we read her name!

Hats off to you, Stacy!

Share this Inept Blog entry so others can follow and offer Stacy support, too!

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