The Best Kept Secret on the U.S. Gulf Coast

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Most have heard of New Orleans or the sugar sand and emerald waters of the Alabama and Florida panhandle beaches, but I’m willing to bet you are not aware of the natural beauty, diverse ecosystems, and the serene atmosphere of the best kept secret on the U.S. Gulf Coast – Mississippi.  Yes, Mississippi!  You may have actually heard of our mini-Vegas called Biloxi or the monster hurricanes to have walked or stormed across our land in your lifetime – or perhaps not.  We are so much more.  Let me paint you a word picture in four parts.

(1)  Pascagoula:  https://www.cityofpascagoula.com/            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascagoula,_Mississippi

I have not spent much time in Pascagoula (the name means, “Bread eater”).  It is located on one of the best hunting/fishing locations in our nation, with thousands of unspoiled acres. 

(2)  Traveling west on U.S. Highway 90, the next important stop is the quaint, walking town of Ocean Springs.  Home of the Anderson family of artist; Walter I. Anderson and the famous Shearwater Pottery Works.  The Walter Anderson museum is a must see.  The town has unique shops and restaurants galore.  The first weekend of November is the Anderson Art Festival with easily 100,000 visitors annually.

http://www.peterandersonfestival.com/

ocean springs

Continuing on our westward trek, one must cross the Biloxi Bay and enter Casino Row in Biloxi, MS.  The greatest concentration of casinos on the Mississippi with a few dotting towns further west in Gulf Port and Bay St. Louis.

There are a few deep water channels from which ships can enter the coast, the deepest is at the port of Gulf Port.  The coast is sheltered by islands between our coast line and the deep, warm waters of the gulf.  Most of these islands can be seen from the shore.  Mississippi doesn’t have the emerald waters of the deep waters of the Alabama and Florida Panhandle coast because we have the mighty Mississippi River flowing closely into our gulf waters and because our area of the gulf is shallow.

Even without the emerald waters, you won’t find a more beautiful or quiet respite along the U. S. Gulf Coast.  U. S. Highway 90 covers the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast.  Driving west past Gulfport, these is not the traffic or the tourist stops or dozens of traffic lights.  On the left side is sugar white sand beaches dotted with palm trees and sea oats.  On the right are centuries-old Live Oak trees and wonderful historic homes for miles.  You will still find many empty lots and foundation slabs left from hurricane Katrina.

To Be Continued. . .

In Praise of Mississippi Women

I spent a delightful, autumn day at a small-town Ms’sippi vintage art festival.  After being away from my Ms’sippi for over 3 years it was a treat to walk among these delightful women again.

There are two kinds of women in Ms’sippi:  Young and Perfect.  In Ms’sippi one becomes a woman at the delicate age of 21; from there they gradually move to Perfect.  There are no “old” women in Ms’sippi.  These women were out in force this past Saturday; a sight to behold.  I have traveled quite extensively over the past 12 years and I have met many wonderful women, but believe me I can spot an Ms’sippi Woman a mile off.  Let me paint a word picture of these exceptional women.

Even on Saturday, they will have spent a good hour or more getting ready to go out for the day…longer if they are taking the children.  They have their hair pulled up in a casual “up-do”, which took as long to arrange as her Sunday to Friday “Do”.  They have on the most trendy, casual outfits with boots or sandals (depending on the season).  The jewelry is perfectly balanced.  Five or six bracelets on one arm, watch on the other, earrings – but not to gaudy – a substantial ring on each hand (only one per hand) and the perfect fragrance, not to mention makeup that gives the appearance of no makeup.  Her bag is large enough to carry all the essentials her little family could require and she slings it over her shoulder with the greatest of ease; even if she has a baby on the opposite hip.

These women are not purely house-wives, often they work outside the perfectly orchestrated, domestic heaven with a fulltime professional position.  Some are teachers, doctors, nurses, bankers or CEOs.  The last professional position I had was supporting the Perfect Ms’sippi Woman who happened to also be the CEO of a multimillion dollar medical software company; the second largest in the nation.  Yes, in Ms’sippi.

I was once out running errands in my normal Saturday attire (jeans, cotton shirt, sneakers and a ball cap) when I ran into her at a gift ship.  Yep, you guessed it, she was shopping in stilettos and all that goes with it.  Just Perfect.

But I digress.  If the children are along then each of them have on the perfect seasonal smocked outfit and the girls have a matching bow in their properly curled hair.

The walk:  These women glide with just enough sway to make it an effortlessly choreographed pace.   Naturally, the children (magazine flawless) follow suit.

These women are not race specific.  You can find any race in the category of my Ms’sippi Women.  It is not race genetic, it is simply Ms’sippi.  The confidence and beauty that comes from knowing who you are and where you come from.  These women ooze strength, grace and confidence.  Steel Magnolia, move over.

These selfsame women decorate their completely lived in, historically accurate homes for each seasonal event with the ease of a butterfly flitting from rose to rose.  Southern Living has nothing on these women.  They entertain with the same grace and ease.  I stand in awe. 

Naturally, I mostly enjoyed watching them.  The art festival was this past November in the little town of Laurel, Mississippi.  Nothing could be more entertaining or nostalgic than enjoying a Ms’sippi autumn day on a downtown street bench.  This time of year (football season) the weather is crisp, warmed by the sun and cooled by an aromatic Ms’sippi breeze.

The event (festival) was different from your typical Christmas craft fair.  There was the proverbial festival food and music, but the other vendors sold mostly estate sale items and crafts made from vintage items.  It was such a treat watching these women move effortlessly through the booths and crowd collecting just the right items and gifts.  I was so preoccupied, I ended up only purchasing one item.  Naturally, I wasn’t the only one watching.  Many of these vendors were from 12+ hours to up to a two day drive away.  They were awestruck.  The kind of thing that makes your heart smile.

I failed to mention that I spent the day with my daughter (an Alabama women), my daughter-in-love (a Louisiana women) and my dear friend, Brenda (a certified Ms’sippi Perfect Women).  Somehow I missed out on that full Ms’sippi Women DNA.  It may be because my Dad was from Alabama.  But I can surely recognize and appreciate them because I grew up in their shadow.

I double-dog dare you, go to Ole Miss, on a football weekend, stroll through the chandelier bedecked tailgate tents with upholstered easy chairs and catered meals and tell me you cannot pick out a Ms’sippi Woman as described herein. 

There are songs written about “California Girls” and Billy Joel’s, “Uptown Girl,” but that is because they haven’t visited my Ms’sippi and met a real woman.

MOAB

When I saw the news report last night and saw that they called the bomb, “MOAB”,  I didn’t think of it as an acronym. I thought of the ancient nation of Moab and God’s great promise.  I found it most interesting that the bomb was called MOAB.

Israel and our great nation share the blessing of our creator God, who promised to bless those who bless His people. Moab an Israel are related, they share a great-grandfather in Terah, the father of Abraham (Gen 11:27), and Deut 2:9-12 gives Moab a similar history to Israel, displacing an indigenous race of giants in order to claim territory given to them by Yahweh (God).

In the Hebrew Bible, the relationship between Israel and Moab is an enigma. On one hand, Moab is the enemy. Moabite history begins with an ethnic joke that goes back to Lot’s incestuous relations with his daughters, implying that the similarity in Hebrew between Mo’abi (“Moabite”) and me’abi (“from my father”) was no coincidence (Gen 19:37). But Abraham counted Lot like a son and gave him preference and protection (Lot’s descendants founded Moab).

When Israel began taking back the Promised Land after they were released from slavery in Egypt and their 40 years in the wilderness, they fought every inhabitant of the land promised to Abraham (and Israel) except Moab. They were not even allowed to walk through it.

The Moabite king Balak hires Balaam to curse the Israelites but is foiled by a talking donkey (Num 22-24), and a later Moabite monarch, Eglon, oppresses Israel until he is assassinated by the clever Ehud from the tribe of Benjamin (Judg 3:12-30). The victorious King David was not allowed to destroy Moab. 

Other traditions present a more favorable view of Moabite-Israelite relations. The genealogy of David is traced to Ruth (and on to our Lord Jesus), that most worthy of Moabites (Ruth 4:17-18; and see Matt 1:5-6). Prior to murdering Moabite captives, David sent his father and mother to take refuge with the king of Moab while on the run from Saul (1Sam 22:3-4).

There are many in this nation and the world who curse the leaders The USA and Israel, but I have found a scripture that speaks straight from of God’s own mouth about these who stand against Him and His people: Isa. 44:23-29

Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, And He who formed you from the womb: “I am the Lord, who makes all things, Who stretches out the heavens all alone, Who spreads broad the earth by Myself; Who frustrates the signs of the babblers, And drives diviners mad; (witches). Who turns wise men backward, And makes their knowledge foolishness; Who confirms the word of His servant, And performs the counsel of His messengers; Who says to Jerusalem, ‘You shall be inhabited,’ To the cities of Judah, ‘You shall be built,’ And I will raise up her waste places; Who says to the deep, ‘Be dry! And I will dry up your  rivers’; Who says of Cyrus,* ‘He is My shepherd, And he shall perform all My pleasure, Saying to Jerusalem, “You shall be built,” And to the temple, “Your foundation shall be laid.”’.

There is nothing new under the sun. I am not afraid by this, but I am watchful. God is always involved. He sees the end from the beginning.

Thoughts?

*President Trump has been called the “Cyrus” of our day.

Home Away From Homeless (part 2)

After volumes of document requests supplied to our mortgage broker, we told him we would be out of the country on a cruise for seven days beginning March 5th, so if there could possibly be ANYTHING else he might need let us know prior to that date.  A closing date was set for the week after our return, so we and left for a much needed cruise with close friends. 

Cruise: We joined three other couples for a seven day cruise on The Norwegian Dawn to Mexico, Roatan, Belize and Mexico (again). This was R&R for all eight of us; long awaited and much needed.  While on the cruise we celebrated two important events:

(1) Three of us couples renewed our wedding vows on March 6th. The fourth couple officiated and took pictures.

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And (2) we surprised sweet husband with a belated, 70th birthday celebration.  Our friend, Kay, made tiaras with black netting for the women and the men got pointed, dunce caps (except sweet husband who wore the cake).

Sweet husband’s favorite shore excursion was to crew the 1987 America’s Cup sail boat race winner with good friend, Curt.  They raced a Canadian ship and won by mere feet.

Naturally, in spite of our telling our broker we would be out of the country, we got several urgent texts and calls while at sea ($50.00 worth) requesting yet more documents for underwriting, more signatures, etc. By the time we returned back to the wonderful shores of the USA, our closing date was delayed, the contract on our house expired and the seller’s wouldn’t extend it.  We became officially homeless.

In spite of this lovely news, we continued our pre-planned visits by spending another few days in Baton Rouge.  Then on to the metro-Jackson, Mississippi area to meet the newest grandson, visit my eldest son, my brother, several friends and Sweet husband’s other grandson who had just turned four.

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Above my only granddaughter dressed for Jr./Sr. prom night in Baton Rouge. 

From there we drove to Meridian to participate in the induction of two of my grandsons into a nation honor society. 

Liam and Mariner

The plan was to drive back to Tennessee to rest and pick up our “stuff” out of storage and move into our new (to us) home in Long Beach, MS…NOT!

Instead we drove to the Mississippi Gulf coast to find a home.  We gave ourselves three days.  We were successful on the second day and had a day of rest planned before heading to Tennessee to “wait” on the mortgage process (again) with a new mortgage company.

Our last evening there, I stepped off a curb in the dark and fell hard on a concrete surface.  I thought I broke my wrist, but I sprained, skinned and bruised just about everything else:  a rib, both wrists, my knee and my ankle.    At this point one might think, “Perhaps God doesn’t want us to move back to Mississippi”, but not me.  This has only made me more determined.

Speaking of God, the next day while in the ER, our friend in Alabama called to check on us.  Sweet husband told her about my fall and she insisted we come and recover at her house, which was only a two hour drive as opposed to the two to ten hour drive back to Tennessee.  We happily agreed.  Thank God for sweet Marie.

Home Away From Homeless (part 1)

condo

So we had this great, yet small, condo (1,000 sq. ft. +/-) situated at the front door of The Great Smoky Mountain National Park, our long desired retirement location. 

After much prayer and angst we decided to sell it to find something with a bit more room and a lot more autonomy (a unhappy association with our many investor neighbors was also a huge consideration).  In this decision, we failed to take into account the recent fire in Gatlinburg, which resulted in the shortage of available homes to purchase at our price point…DUH!

SIDE NOTE OF ADVICE:  If you buy a condo in a resort area, make sure that there are a large number of owner-residents onsite. We had a poor experience living in a condo community owned mostly by investors. Investors and homeowners are two different creatures…one treats it like home the other treats it like monthly income.

Pictured below are two examples of the devastating fire that swept through our beautiful park and the upper neighborhoods of Gatlinburg.

We had made plans, prior to selling, for a visit family and friends, out of state, and to go on a cruise out of New Orleans with close friends. Therefore, not being successful in finding a home to buy, in a timely manner, we packed everything and put it all into storage in time to head to Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

First stop, Orange Beach for Mardi Gras with friends. Sweet husband’s 70th birthday fell on Mardi Gras this year and his youngest daughter gave birth to her first child that very day.

Did you know that south Alabama has a replica of the Stonehenge, called “Bama-Henge”?

Above Bama-Henge

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Second stop, Biloxi, MS for a Yellowstone Employee Reunion. Wonderful friends we had made in 2015 who lived and worked with us at Grant Village.  Two fun-filled days of catching up.

YS Reunion

Prior to this trip and because housing prices were on the rise daily in Pigeon Forge, we decided to move to the Mississippi Gulf Coast (for many reasons, much too long and an unnecessary rabbit trail for this post).  WE placed an offer on a house and started the painful mortgage process…UGH! So while on the coast, we went to tour the house in Long Beach, MS we were purchasing…yep, made the offer sight unseen.  (This purchase has another chapter to it to follow in Part 3).

From there we drove to my youngest daughter’s home south of Baton Rouge for a long needed visit with a cruise sandwiched in the middle of our visit there.

Cruise blog and pictures to follow in Part 2

American Soup

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We canceled our Netflix effective yesterday and will pick up Amazon after our trip down south starting next week to visit friends, family and children.

We don’t watch much commercial TV, so I was watching programs about “American” arts, crafts, etc. on PBS.  

The many cultures that have melded to make America the culturally diverse nation we are have brought many wonderful artistic gifts with them.  I could list them, but to better understand, I recommend looking for the shows.

My point, however, is that all these wonderful cultures have made us rich in beauty.  Rich in music.  Rich in craftsmanship.  These cultures have other distinguishing qualities in common…strong family values and strong cultural values.  Over the centuries they have woven together to make us unique and united and all genuine Americans.  We are not African Americans, French Americans, Irish Americans or Native Americans, we are simply American.  Each culture has enriched our nation with the gifts each nationality brought into the mix.

Think about some of the top three or four events celebrated here annually:  St. Patrick’s Day, Mardi Gras, Chinese New Year, etc.  

I’m saying all this because it struck me as I watched these programs is that 99% of us came for a better life. I’m aware some were brought here by force and some were invaded, but we are all NOW AMERICAN.  We aren’t here to takeover.

Unfortunately, some coming in over the last several decades have come to takeover.  They believe it is their destiny and duty.  That, beloved, is not dramatic news reported by a conspiratorial, radical group.  

We are the United States of America, many colors, many cultures, many hopes for our children.  

We have always taken in the refugees escaping tyrants, and immigrants.  We still do, everyday.  We are, at least, most of us, those very refugees and immigrants.

Let us be good and wise protectors of this wonderful culture soup called America. There are many mindsets ready to destroy this gift we call America.

TREES

Trees

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mount is prest

Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.

–Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918)

 We have, over the past two or three years, had the privilege of visiting many of our National Parks and some other worthy sites in our vast and beautiful country. I’m not a loco-tree-hugger, but I have become a huge fan and I appreciate the necessity of keeping as many as proves to be healthy for them.

 This is my holiday blog. It is not about Christmas trees, as beautiful as they are, but a note to honor the creator of these magnificent living partners in His world.

 I begin with my most recent trip to visit Pearl Fryar. Topiary Artist. In Bishopville, SC Mr. Fryar has spent his life creating this garden from a corn field. It was featured once on CBS Sunday Morning and I was spellbound. I never dreamed I would see it, let alone meet the sculptor. He is ageing, but still the strongest and most agile person I have met older than me. He has started to hire help and has started a foundation to carry on his work. www.gardenconservancy.org

 

ODD TREES:  A few odd ones we move to next:  a work of art called a singing tree, a tree with wonderfully shaped root system, a frozen tree archway and a shoe tree we saw in Montana.  I have no idea what the purpose of the shoes in the tree were.  I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to take a picture of a tree with such unusual fruit.

 

 

SEQUOIA:  These majestic giants are native to our west coast.  A few have been moved to other continents during the Victorian era, before the environmental protection laws were written.  These laws are meant to save other trees from un-native insect pests.  A good Idea.  Sweet Husband is standing in front of one exported to Scotland over a hundred years ago.  It is still quite young.  These trees live to over 2,000 years making them the oldest organism on our planet.  Pictures cannot capture their grandeur.

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Banyan Tree:  These trees are characterized by their aerial prop roots that grow into thick woody trunks, which can become indistinguishable from the main trunk with age. Old trees can spread out laterally, using these prop roots to cover a wide area. In some species, the effect is for the props to develop into a sort of forest covering a considerable area, every trunk connected directly or indirectly to the central trunk. The topology of this structure of interconnection inspired the name of the hierarchical computer network operating system Banyan Vines.

This photo was taken at Edison’s summer home in Florida.  It covers an acre of ground.

When near the Edison & Ford Winter Estates' west entrance, see t

REDWOOD:  Superlatives abound when a person tries to describe old-growth redwoods: immense, ancient, stately, mysterious, powerful. Yet the trees were not designed for easy assimilation into language. Their existence speaks for themselves, not in words, but rather in a soft-toned voice of patience and endurance.  I can only express my reaction in tears of gratitude to my wonderful creator.

Exactly why the redwoods grow so tall is a mystery. Theories continue to develop but proof remains elusive. The trees can reach ages of 2,000 years and regularly reach 600 years.

Resistance to natural enemies such as insects and fire are built-in features of a coast redwood. Diseases are virtually unknown and insect damage insignificant thanks to the high tannin content of the wood. Thick bark and foliage that rests high above the ground provides protection from all but the hottest fires

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Monterey Cedar: These are medium-sized coniferous evergreen tree, which often becomes irregular and flat-topped as a result of the strong winds that are typical of its native area along the pacific coast of California. It grows to heights of up to 40 meters (133 feet) in perfect growing conditions, and its trunk diameter can reach 2.5 meters (over 8 feet). The foliage grows in dense sprays which are bright green in color and release a deep lemony aroma when crushed.  I fell in love with their wind-shaped beauty

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Live Oaks:  As a resident of the deep south, all of my life, these magnificent trees never fail to make my heart stop each time I see one.  They do not become lovely until they are at least 100 years old.  The trees below are 300 to 500 years old.  They lose their leaves in the spring when the new leaves push out last years leaves.  Therefore they are evergreen and probably why they gained the name LIVE.

Lodgepole pine cone, Pinus contorta, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

This is the cone of the Lodge Pole Pine.  The seeds are naturally glued in and can only be dislodged by fire.  The forest are dense and as far as the eye can see in most areas of Montana and Wyoming.