Monday, December 12, 2016


Click to enlarge photo.

Copyright 2016 by Lori-Ann Willey

It could save their lives.

Even if there are people on it.

Know the location of inlets, outlets, and channels.

NEVER trust the ice thickness MEASURED BY OTHERS
unless you personally watch them measure.  

Ice thickness can vary GREATLY WITHIN A FEW FEET.

Know that salt water freezes at about 28 degrees
Salt keeps water molecules from bonding together to form ice, thus it freezes more slowly.

Bodies of water with fluctuating water levels (hydro dams, pump stations, etc.) keep the ice in motion. Rising and lowering over rocks, stumps.  Along the shorelines are often slushy and not safe.  

Have moving water, thus are slower to freeze and ice is NEVER dependable from hour to hour, day to day.  Expect THIN ice, always.

KNOW that rocks, logs, stumps, and even docks absorb heat
Therefore, ice will be thinner around them.


Clear Ice (“Black Ice”) is the strongest. Some people call it "Blue Ice".

Gray or Yellowish Ice / Snow means water is present. (Slushy)

White Ice means frozen snow/slush and is about ½ the strength of black ice.   

Snow is white due to the presence of air.  That means air gaps.  Gaps mean not solid.  This is why when you walk on snow, it crunches or squeaks.  You are compressing the ice crystals (flakes), and you are actually hearing the snowflakes break under your feet.  

Know also, that snow is a great insulator. It will insulate the ice and keep it from getting thicker. A lot of people, even Mainers, think that because the ice holds that much snow, means that it'll hold people, snowmobiles, cars, trucks, too. That is not always the case. Remember, white means air ...air is light.

It could save their lives.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Playing Tug-of-War with the Toilet Seat


Playing Tug-of-War with the Toilet Seat

Copyright 2016 by Lori-Ann Willey

One would think that after 12 years living at our camp off the grid, that the simple act of “making the bladdah-gladdah” would be a mindless task. Well, it is …kindah-sortah.  Unfortunately, when living this lifestyle, not so many things are as simple as they seem …or what one would begin to expect or suspect! 

This morning, I was up by 4 a.m., which is not so out of the ordinary for me. Daylight comes around these parts of the Maine woods at about 7 a.m. this time of year.  However, since we live in the woods and the sun rises behind us …err behind a landscape of trees, our camp sits in the shade until noon-ish.  That means, that unless I turn on the bathroom light to do my duty, the small room remains quite dark throughout the day. That, despite a small window at head level.

Starting at about 6 a.m. this morning, I periodically stepped outside with my camera in hand.  I love to capture the predawn colors.  To watch as the sky and snowy landscape gracefully and ever-so-subtle-like lighten before my never-ending gaze is something that I enjoy doing each morning.  The sense of peace it brings is genuine and pure -a natural “being” if you will. 

In between my darts in and out with my camera, I sipped my coffee, tended to the fire, and caught up with friends and family on Facebook.   All the above is my morning ritual.  Adding to that is starting a fire, and, of course, over-stimulating the cat so he’ll leave me alone.

After about the 4th time I dipped outside, the 10-degree air and minus five degrees below wind-chill started penetrating my body.  My muscles tightened to maintain my body temperature.  At 50, that tightening also gives a sense of urgency to the bladder, too.  Sometimes, there isn’t much warning before that urge intensifies quite rapidly!    Dressed as I was, I knew that urge would come more quickly, too, but, of course, my photos are more important than releasing my bladdah. My bladder can wait, often the perfect photo cannot. 

This morning, as per usual, I was barefoot. I wore knit Capris and a thin tank top.   There wasn’t much to slow the wind or keep me warm.  I knew better, yet, I have this same routine all year long.    Hearty?  Hardy?  Or, just plain stupid.  I’ll let you decide.
To get a little blood flowing for added warmth, I trotted down the somewhat snow-covered steps trying to land each foot on the snowless patches to avoid slipping.  The darting about, that gravity thing, too, gave me the urge to pee before I reached the bottom step.

After snapping a few photos, I turned and walked the length of the dock toward camp.   At the base of the stairs, I paused and stared at all those steps that lead to the deck.  My body was cold and my bladder more urgent.  I grumbled, “You’re getting old, Lori-Ann!  You are cold and you have to pee!  That’s not a good combo!”

Inside, though the camp was barely 60 degrees, but after being outside, it felt like the tropics.  The cat, AhChoo, was not at the door to greet me upon return.  It didn’t take long for me to remember that when I crawled out of bed at 4 a.m., he was in the bathroom on mouse guard duty.  Apparently, he had one trapped in the corner behind his litter box.

I set my camera on the couch (sofa) and continued toward the bathroom without hesitation.  There was no need to flip the light switch for added light. I knew my way around that small room just as well in the dark as in broad daylight.  As I rounded the corner, I heard the cat leap out of the way and land atop the bucket of aspen shavings.  For that, I was rather thankful.  I didn’t want to take the time to walk around him or scoot him out of the way.

In case you didn’t know - 
During the non-frozen months, we use a composting toilet inside the camp.  It is nothing more than a glorified inside outhouse with a toilet-like set up inside.  To use, simply “go” as you would any other toilet system. The difference is that this toilet holds no water, per se.  Your waste drops through the floor and into a “drum” (holding tank) below.  After we poo, no matter the time of year, we toss a handful of wood shavings into the toilet.  Every few days, or weeks, the drum, accessed from outside, is rotated to mix up the human waste products, toilet paper, and shavings.  This keeps the “stuff” mixed up and composting; thus, the name, composting toilet. Every few months, the drum is emptied and I wheelbarrow it up to a pile where I let it age for two years before adding it to my garden as fertilizer. There is never a foul smell during the whole process, and the result is beautiful “black gold”.
During the frozen months, we have a somewhat different setup.  We still go poo in the composting toilet, but we make our bladdah-gladdah in a 5-gallon pail that we call, “The Coffee Pot”.  The coffee pot has a screw on cover to keep down any odor due to the lack of an obvious stink pipe from the pail.  When we pee, we unscrew the cover. Paul can “go” without putting on a rubber toilet seat, but not me. Well, I can, but that narrow pail rim is not very comfortable.  Thus, I remove the cover and plop the toilet seat that has a groove specifically for the bucket rim.  We call it “The Coffee Pot” because we use used coffee grounds as a scent cover.
Now that you have somewhat of a visual of our “going” process, you’ll better relate to my situation this morning.
After I unscrewed the cover from “The Coffee Pot”, I couldn’t put the cover on the shavings pail because the cat was there. Instead, I figured that I’d just swap places with the toilet seat.  However, when I reached for the toilet seat that usually rests upon the composting toilet seat, it was not there.  At that point, a smart person would have turned on the light, but apparently, I’m not that smart …or maybe I am too stubborn.   My preferred word is “determined”.

Bending over further, I felt the floor around the composting toilet.  In talking to myself, I whispered, “Nope, it’s not there.  AhChoo, where did it go?” At that point, I knew the only place it could be was underneath the cat himself.  You’d think the cat would move on command?  Of course, not.  His attention was on the mouse he kept at bay in the corner.   With both hands, I felt for the seat around the cat’s feet.  When found, I gave a gentle tug.  I thought for sure the cat would at least lift his feet or jump down, but that is human thought, not cat thought.   

By then, my bladder was quite “pressing” and my patience quite thin.  Still, I continued to struggle with the seat cover around the cat.  Everything was fine until I envisioned my stance and my actions.  Here I am a 50-year-old woman playing tug-of-war with a cat …and not with a rope!  Then, my child-like mind reverted to the problem-solving mode of a toddler.  Remember that Fisher Price toddler toy of stackable rings?  I figured if I could just pull the seat up around the cat, and then, over his head, I’d be fine.

Well, it took a few attempts to navigate around his legs, but all seemed to go smoothly until the seat reached the cat’s neck. I don’t know if that movement startled the cat, or if the mouse decided to make a run for it at the same time as the toilet seat reached the neck area. I suppose I’ll never know.  What I do know is that when the cat lurched forward and learned that he was held back by the toilet seat, and worse yet, he could not pounce on the mouse without strangling himself, he got more than a little bit antsy on me.  

These are not the toilet seats mentioned in this blog.
In haste, and in the darkness, I might add, I blindly tried to move the seat in the same direction as I predicted his movements, but I was too slow and I ended up moving opposite of his direction each time instead. Every move he made, he must’ve thought I intentionally blocked him.  A cat in the dark is stronger and quicker than I thought!   I don’t know how Paul didn’t wake up, as all this unfolded not 10 feet away from him.   With each attempt to escape the seat, AhChoo lurched. He is a big cat, so each lurch tipped the shavings pail and made more of a noise as it toppled to and from, too.  It seems that I couldn’t win and neither could the cat!  The mouse, I’m sure was either petrified more than ever or ceased the moment to run like hell.

Finally, I let go of the toilet seat and hoped the cat would sense his freedom and jump free of it all.  Thankfully, within a second, the cat was on the floor behind me!  Other than the tug-of-war with the toilet seat, all ended well, and for that, I was thankful. 

Trying to keep my composure, and keep control of my bladdah, too, I couldn’t help but let out an appreciative smirk as I quickly pulled the toilet seat to rest atop “The Coffee Pot”.   Unfortunately, I did not bother to feel around to see if it was properly secured in place. I should have.  I should have taken two seconds to flip the light switch, too. Hindsight is always 20-20, even in the dark, right? 

I stood. I turned.  I pulled down my pants.   I sat.  Instantly, I knew something was very wrong. During the game of tug-of-war with the cat over the oval-shaped toilet seat, it somehow got spun around so I set it upon the pail sideways.   Immediately, I knew I was not secure for a relaxed sit. Moreover, panic struck when I wondered if I had room to pee IN the bucket or if the seat was so offset that I’d end up peeing on the outside of it after all?  It was too late.  I was already mid-stream. All I could do was dive forward, ‘cause, as you know, it is not so easily for women to adjust our pee stream as it is for a man!  Dammit!  I’d love to be able to write in the snow!  All I could hope for this morning is the ability to lean far enough ahead to direct my stream more downwards.  Believe it or not, I was successful, but in all honestly, I don’t know how! 

By then, there was just barely enough light in the bathroom to see the darkest of silhouettes against a dark room.  The cat has very large ears that seemingly glow in the dark. It was obvious that he sat watching the whole "sitting" process with great confusion. He had forgotten about the mouse. Apparently, I was more entertaining at the time.   I had to laugh. If I could have read his mind!  If it were possible, in a cartoon-like cloud above his head, I know it would have read, “Just piss in the litter box!”  I spoke to him, but apparently, he was no longer amused. He turned and walked away. 

When finished “making my bladdah-gladdah”, I did the “hopper hop”. Remember when I said we pee in “The Coffee Pot”, and go poop in the composting toilet?  Luckily, so far, I have yet to hop in the wrong direction.  I don’t think AhChoo would be too impressed if I used his litter box, do you?  Although, after that fiasco this morning, I may consider it a safer bet …or maybe just flip that light switch next time! 

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Friday, December 2, 2016

Pearl Harbor Day – The USS Arizona

Copyright 2016 by Lori-Ann Willey

(boring personal memories)

(USS Arizona)


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. 


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 seep 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.