Elvis Re-Imagined and Re-Commercialized

A New World.  Elvisland!

The Guest House is located behind a steel fence!

On our way to a Blues Harmonica Conference in Clarksdale, Mississippi, Tom decided to camp at Sam’s Town Casino in Tunica because it was in between Memphis and Helena, Arkansas.  We were surprised at the quality of the RV Camp at the Casino. Full hook-ups were only $20 a night. (Full hook-up means water, 50 amps of electricity, and sewer.)  It was a bargain.

Here is the new Elvis Mall. It looks like a military installation, hidden from view!

Graceland Has Lost Its Grace

The first day out we headed for Elvisland.  We have done the tour of Graceland on every trip through Tennessee. Usually we hit the shops.  And we have even camped across the street from Graceland a couple of times.  After enjoying Elvisland.  There was always a lot happening in Memphis.  So, Sun Record’s bus would pick you up in front of the Heartbreak Hotel and bring you down to Beale Street (for free).  We know the beat!

But … when we arrived at Elvisland this time, we found that everything, except Graceland itself, was destroyed.  All that was left of Heartbreak Hotel were piles of sticks.  The shops were gone.  The planes were hidden.  The retro-cars had left the scene.  The humanity of Elvis was gone!  If we wanted to visit the new Elvis MALL, we had to pay to park.  Huh? We even had to go through guarded gates to visit the new humongous Guest House Hotel that dwarfs Graceland.  What a heartbreak!

Rockin’ Beale Street

Chicken and Waffles and a vegetable plate for me!

We decided not to enter the highly guarded holy site and headed down to Beale Street and Miss Polly’s for lunch.

Beale Street was everything it has always been!  Huge guitars dotted the landscape this time.  Tom had time to visit the Gibson guitar showroom again.  Guitars run in the thousands of dollars.  W. C. Handy’s and Elvis statues welcomed us.

Just dream! You will have to work a long time to  purchase one of these

Sign said, “Do not touch!”

At the Visitor’s Center west of town, we paid homage to B.B. King and Elvis once again.  The first time I saw the King statue (years ago), I wondered why he was enshrined near Elvis.

His life and work make us all proud!  BB King!

Now that I have been studying the Blues for more than a year, I understand that both Elvis and B.B. were kings in the music world!  B.B., like Elvis, was a tremendously talented self-made man! Here is a link to “Riding with the King,”  a favorite of ours.

So cool. This was on the side of a building and it was fading away!

 

The Blues Trail. Helena, Arkansas

If you are interested in Blues music, find time to visit some of the historic places along the Blues Trail.  (There is a map to help you find the greats.) These Blues giants are worshipped today in ways they were not during their own lifetimes. Yesterday we made a trek to Helena, Arkansas.  KFFA has been broadcasting the King Biscuit Time for more than 75 years from Helena. African American Blues singers and players found audiences here when they were not allowed to play and sing on other radio stations.  Have you ever heard the term “race” music?

How big is that guitar?

Tom and I were hopeful of visiting sites in Helena, but the trip was a “bust.”  It seemed like most of the houses were unoccupied or condemned.  Huge storage facilities were lifeless and rusting.  What a shocker!  It reminded me of the miles of abandoned factories on the Japanese island of Hokkaido. It was Monday and almost everything downtown was closed.  There were no public restrooms.  We considered entering the Courthouse as a last resort.

After visiting a Civil War cemetery, circling Ft. Curtis, and photographing several very large well-trimmed churches, we found The Tavern and had a great lunch.  My favorite spot in Helena was the Jewish Synagogue.

Temple Bet El

Sometimes you learn more than you can quantify, even if a site does not meet your expectations. Memphis and Helena will long be on our minds as we continue investigating the Blues.

For the next week Tom will be improving his musical skills at the Blues Camp at the Shack Up Inn.  I hope that he will write a paragraph or two about his experiences soon!

As always this blog is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

P.S. “Elvisland” is a word that I created! Maybe others have used it too.  I was thinking of that famous novel, Herland!

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Make Your Dreams Come True. Head for Alaska!

Alaska.  More Than An Adventure is Published!

This is the cover for the color version of the book.

Think about placing Alaska in your bucket list.  It is one of the most astonishingly beautiful places on earth.  It is a place where the air is crisp and clean.  It is a place that can revive and restore you!  Wild animals abound and fish can be larger than a human beings.  There is so much more to Alaska than can be captured in a book, but I hope to lead readers  to the “Promised Land.”

Cruising and RVing in Alaska

What is the best way to travel to Alaska?  Well, there is no “best”  way!  But– you could cruise the Inside Passage, or you could rent an RV and skim across the countryside.  Linking the two experiences will bring you up close to the landscape, historic sites, people, fish, foul, and animals in the wild.  Of course, you could just call a travel agency, sign up for a bus tour, or travel by train through some of Alaska.  Or, you could launch into the travel-planning yourself!  But if you are considering visiting Alaska your way, this book may help to make your dreams come true. And you just might enjoy its 200+ photographs and illustrations of Alaska.

The Peoples of Alaska

Not only will we visit the most important sites of Alaska — you may learn a little about the peoples who have inhabited the land.  Back-stories on glaciers, Russians, First Nations, and myths/stories that have been preserved by Alaskans, permeate the book.

A Shaman’s Mask!!

Ancient oral traditions reveal how early peoples lived very challenging and scary lives.   Raven’s story about how he survived and escaped the belly to of a whale to freedom is inspiring.  And the blind boy who begins to see because of a Loon, teaches us that parents should take care of their children. And during the gold rush days, the story about Soapy Smith and the gunfight on Moore’s dock is a nail-biter.

One of the more than 30 Russian Orthodox Churches that you will find all over Alaska!

 

 

Alaska. More than an Adventure will visit most of the major cities and towns in Alaska, with advice on how to plan and prepare for the adventure.  By land, we visit Fairbanks, the Arctic Circle, Anchorage, Seward, Whittier, Prince William Sound, Valdez, and across the Kenai Peninsula. We will meet a moose who adopted us as we speed by Kenai, Soldotna, Kasilof, Ninilchik, and the Homer Spit.  By sea, we will explore Vancouver, Seattle, Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Hubbard Glacier, and the Tlingit stop at Hoonah.

The beauty of Alaska is on every side!

Gold Rushes.

B&W Version of the Book

We consider the gold rushes and the hundreds of thousands of men and women who fled to Alaska with high hopes of wealth. And those that died from exposure, hunger, or avalanches.

Exploitation of First Nations Peoples.

Being one quarter Cherokee, I was compelled to consider the indigenous peoples in Alaska. There are feature stories about the exploitation of the First Nations by both Russia and the United States. It was their land and now it is our land! Understanding a bit about the land and its peoples makes the journey even more meaningful!

Dream of Denali!

Soon.  The original book is in color.  Both the Kindle and Second book (Two) are in Black and White.  At this point Amazon has uploaded the B&W and Kindle versions of the book.  I am waiting for the color version to emerge.

They have incorrectly run the text together that describes the book.  Hopefully that will be fixed soon!  In the next few days, I hope to send you an excerpt or two from the book.  Click on the title of the book above and it will take you to one of its locations on Amazon.  Find a legal pad, keep your pen ready, and take this fascinating journey with me!  More photos will be coming soon!

If you have questions about Alaska, please email me at selvidge@ucmo.edu

As always this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

 

 

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Florida in February and Skipping the Missouri Winter Blues

Where are the palms?  Where is the sun?  Where are the ocean breezes in Missouri?

(Beware, there are lots of photos below!)

On the Sebastian Inlet Beach. Ohhh so gorgeous!

Conquering the world for God and the Spanish crown!

Did you know that Juan Ponce de Le’on landed at Melbourne Shores? And he wasn’t looking for the fountain of youth, he was looking for land to exploit and conquer for the monarchs of Spain. He had already served as governor of Puerto Rico and joined in the massacres of the native population in South America. This is the type of important info you learn while trying to escape the cold winter in Missouri. (Tongue in cheek, of course!)

 

Camping in Florida

RV Spaces at a premium!

Florida is gorgeous and everyone knows it. That is why there are hoards of people hitting the beaches. Luckily, we arrived one week before Spring Break. While in Florida we began looking for a place to park our motorhome for a couple of months next January and February. We want to be sun worshippers too.

Finding a place to stay (rent) for our motorhome in 2019 is a bit overwhelming. Every campground or resort has a date when you can begin to reserve,  IF anything is available. Some very nice RV resorts require a rental of at least three to six months. We love the sun but we love our home in Missouri too and don’t want to stay away that long. Many campgrounds that might be available pack RV’s into spaces like sardines. You can’t breathe! We have tried for two days to book St. Sebastian Inlet Campground but there are so many rules and so many people trying to book that we think we will be out of luck. One campground would not even allow us on the property to determine if we wanted to rent one of their driveways. We were so frustrated that we stopped looking for a spot.

Should we Purchase our Driveway in the Sun?

Our hotel in Melbourne Beach on the beach!

One solution to this problem is to purchase our own pad at an RV resort. Those little pieces of ground, as big as a small driveway, start at about $60K and go up to $250K. We could not believe it! There are too many people floating down to Florida, I think. They must drive up the prices.

A friend told us that more than a million people visit Florida during this time of year. But in 2016 there were 110 million visitors and in 2017 eighty eight million visited Florida in spite of the hurricanes.   There are only 21 million residents of Florida at the moment.

Sunshine is not cheap nor reasonable.

We loved all the dogs playing on the beaches!

Once you have purchased your little piece of sunshine (pad), then you are assessed a monthly fee starting at about $200-$500 and going up depending upon the resort. I am not sure that we will ever be able to reserve RENTED spots for next year.

 

 

 

 

The Beach 

Indiatlantic Beach (in Melbourne Beach) was our ocean home for a week. I forgot how grand and memorable the waves could sound! Dogs, birds, treasure hunters, surfers, sun bathers, runners, fishers, bicyclists, and children of all ages walk the beach. Everyone is happy and staring at the ocean. Everyone is uncovering their knees and shoulders and ….

The lines were a hazard!

She did not find any gold!

Tom loves the water!

ET Experiences

Oh say can you see …

We had several ET experiences here including a rocket launch.  (This link is of a silly tune “Rocketman” by our friends Igor and the Red Elvises.) We started gathering on the beach and looking north toward Cape Canaveral a few minutes before five in order to see the rocket /satellite launch. From our balcony we held our cameras high to catch the space wonder. I thought it would be boring. After all, I had watched Sputnik fly over my home as a child. It was not at all boring! A gleaming object leaving a white trail passed right in front of us. The white exhaust began to fade and that is when the impact and noise of the launch hit us. WOW! Let’s do it again!

Sunrise every morning! Another ET event!

Moon over our hotel! Could that be ET?

Treading Sacred Water and Land

This photo is from the Fish Museum at Sebastian.

St. Sebastian Inlet Park was beyond beautiful. It is where the Indian River heads out to the Atlantic Ocean. Hundreds of fishers set up their stakes hoping for the catch of a life time. One fisherman told me to get off the pier because tourists bothered him. I wondered if he was really a local. The scenes around the beach were unbelievably gorgeous!

The bridge to Sebastian Inlet State Park

Combat fishing on the pier at Sebastian!

The Pelicans posed for me!

 

The waves were huge and surfers took advantage of them!

Rich Grissom Memorial Wetlands.

These wetlands, dedicated to a sixteen year old boy who lost his life here, took us by surprise. As we walked a lonely road hundreds of birds were singing, dancing, and clucking. I have only heard songs like this in the jungle of Sierra Leone, West Africa. Alligators stealthy patrolled the marshes and occasionally dined on foul caught off guard. Oh no!

Birds had nested in almost every palm tree!

Beware!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tom found another nature preserve for us to hike near Sebastian Inlet Park. Trees were gnarled,  Indian River slapped against decaying foliage. An occasional palm stuck its head out of the bushes. We heard not one bird, not one animal, not one insect on this trek. We were not even bothered by mosquitos. A sign warned us that alligators were ahead, so we turned back. The silence made me think of the polluted Treadmill mine in Juneau, Alaska. I think we were walking on a superfund site again! Were there really alligators ahead?

Sun and Fun

From left to right: Rick, Barb, and Ines!!!!

We extended our stay to catch up with old friends Barb and Rick from Delaware, and found a new friend, Ines. In the past, we traveled with them to Alaska, Ireland, Belgium, and a memorable Caribbean cruise. It was so nice to talk with people who were of the same mind!  While in Melbourne, living it up, we had such a great time talking, and dining, and thinking about the future, that I forgot to take a photo of all of us. Shucks! Rick took this selfie for me.  Thanks Rick!

Moos and Ron Jon

It was a meeting place for all ages!

Moos became our favorite place to load up on calories. They serve Cow ice cream and we ordered the coffee flavor more than once.  In Cocoa Beach we visited the Ron Jon Surf Shop extravaganza.  Bass Pro and Cabela’s would be jealous!

This was really too much for us!

When you walk the beach, you are never alone!  Many creatures accompanied us on our strolls!

Florida was a fantastic break from the cold chill in Missouri!

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge!

 

This could be you next year during February!

Below are pics of some of my books that may be purchased at a variety of online outlets.  Alaska.  More than an Adventure will be published by  summer!

Posted in Camping, Camping in Florida, Cocoa Beach, Florida, Igor and the Red Elvises, Indiatlantic Beach, Juneau, Melbourne Beach, Missouri, Motorhome, Recreation Vehicles, Ron Jon Surf Shop, Sebastian Inlet State Park, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We Need To Sing Truth!

 2018 Folk Alliance International Conference (FAI)

“How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?”

Capturing our experiences at the FAI is almost impossible. I kept thinking about the quote above from the Sound of Music. The music was all around us like an uplifting light!  Next year it is in Montreal!

Don’t you think it looks like a turtle on his back?

Everywhere you looked musicians were carrying their instruments, sometimes three at a time. They gathered in circles talking, playing, or singing together. Like upright turtles with their guitars and bass instruments strapped to their backs they slowly muddled across the floor.

Tom and I attended no less than 18 concerts or public showcases in just three days. It was a musical overload when spliced together with 20 hours of volunteering as security at the Exhibition Hall. We would see the artists on stage and then talk to them at the door. What fun!

This is really a good way to get someone’s attention. I could have used a bagpipe in the classroom!

FAI took us on a world tour of vibrant and meaningful music. We sailed to many countries including Scotland and heard the thundering Talisk; the mysterious chanting of songs from southern Italy (Newpoli); to the heartfelt pleas of an Aborigine from Australia (Yirrmal); and the chided songs from a lesbian in New Zealand (Anika Moa). We missed Cubanisms and Rosie the Riveters!

Bagpipes called us to stand at a attention! We listened to the vibrant strings and Italian arias of Beppe Gambetta and were in awe of the all-Spanish Radio Free Honduras. Artists from 27 countries attended FAI last year.

What a special moment for me, standing with “The Wardens!”

During the times private showcases were offered, we visited the Alberta Room so we could hear one of our favorite groups, “The Wardens.” They were not part of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police but they do and did keep the peace in Canada’s National Parks of Alberta. They sang a song about how they are replenishing the Buffalo in the National Parks in Alberta, Sleeping Buffalo.  In the Alaska room we caught up with a fabulous pianist Kat Moore. I could see her work sung on stage in a musical and contacted her about the idea.

What a voice! What a talent! Ruthie Foster!

Our favorite evening was spent in a session sponsored by the Blues Foundation from Memphis, Tennessee. Hands down Ruthie Foster held us spellbound with her compelling voice honoring her slave ancestry.

We danced in our seats to Chris Barnes‘ Hokum Blues set. Rita Chiarelli, a Canadian, brought us to a lonely cell in a prison where she has been working with inmates. “Four Walls” was a chilling reminder of the isolation of incarceration. Hans Theessink, an Austrian Blues player, set us straight about the appeal of the Blues all over the world. Guy Davis took us back to the early days of the Blues and channeled Sonny Terry. He was very funny!

Her penetrating voice goes right to your heart. Martha Redbone!

The most spellbound and challenging concert for me was by Martha Redbone. Martha captured her African American, Cherokee-Choctaw, and Kentucky roots, by chanting the story of how the U.S. Calvary massacred 1,000 Native Americans. She even sang in the language of the Cherokee. I related to her tunes because I am one quarter Cherokee. My mother grew up in Kentucky not far from Martha’s roots and lived in abject poverty as a child. See, Life Everlasting and the Twelve Mile Blues.

Our own Kansas City group, Victor & Penny and the Loose Change Orchestra deserves a standing ovation. Like so many other groups we heard, they have resurrected tunes from the early 20th century and put a modern spin on them. They were fantastic and made Kansas City proud!

So professional! So talented! So much fun! Victor and Penny!

The conference itself is a feast not only for the ears but also for the mind and eyes. People were dressed in period costumes or not much at all. Hair was a myriad of colors. I envied the males who had long curly hair streaming down their backs. It seemed as if everyone wore a hat from cowboy types to dainty little diddies with a feather on top.

Our very nice BOSS. Mike!

FAI is more than a music festival. It offers opportunities for participants to engage in issues related to their fields through discussion panels (70 of them)  staffed by professionals. FAI also offers a health fair with hearing, vision, blood, etc. screenings. It helps to support musicians/artists with access to agents, advice on planning a career, and legal issues! There were even sessions that evaluated tunes developed by artists.

Tom is frowning because Sheriff’s never smile. He is guarding the Exhibition Hall. We decided to wear badges!

We were constantly reminded that music can change lives, reveal lives, and heal lives.

It can create underground movements and many of those tunes pointed out the devastation to people that the current administration has caused.

I kept wishing that someone would create a tune that we could all sing together that would force the politicians to do the “RIGHT” thing! It could happen!

We need to sing truth!

Tom has encouraged me to place a list of my recent publications at the bottom of my blogs. I hope this does not distract from the fun you might have reading our thoughts.

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

Below are only a few of the books I have published since retirement!  I will add more to the next blog!  Alaska.  More Than An Adventure will be published soon!

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Love in the KC Music Community. From Tom’s Dashboard!

Everette DeVan is a Kansas City Star!

Since resigning from full time employment, Marla and I have focused a portion of our energies on music. Marla has been studying piano and I have been practicing guitar and, now, harmonica. In addition to learning new skills we are enjoying the local music community by attending Blues shows at BB’s Lawnside BBQ, rock and blues at Knuckleheads, Jazz at the Phoenix, musical Vesper programs, and the monthly offering of Spirituality and All That Jazz at Unity Temple on the Plaza. Cover charges range from $4 to $15 so it hardly diminishes the 401K. We have also volunteered at the Folk Alliance International Conference held the past 2 years in KC and will be here again on 2/14/18. Next on our agenda is visiting the Green Lady Lounge that offers Jazz seven nights a week on two stages. There is no shortage of venues to enjoy the local and visiting musicians in Kansas City.

Starving Artists

As you may know many musicians would fall in the category of “starving artist.” Some are full time musicians who perform and give lessons. If they get gigs three nights per week, at $200 per performance, that adds up to just over $30,000/year without benefits. With that low stipend it is difficult to put away money for a rainy day or for retirement. This is quite different from the internationally famous musicians and singers who visit KC, like Billy Joel or Taylor Swift, who’s stadium concert tickets sell for $100 to $500 and more.

Benefit for Everette DeVan

Today we attended a benefit for Everette DeVan at BBs. The event featured Kansas City notables from the blues and jazz communities. Everette, a graduate of the Colorado Conservatory of Music, has been a shining staple of the Kansas City jazz scene for 40 years on piano and Hammond B3 organ. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, a career in music does not lead to a financial nest egg.  And Everette is in need of a liver transplant ($575,000).   We do not know the details of his financial situation, but assume the medical expense may be covered by Medicare, but with his illness, he can not perform to make a living to cover expenses. (Or, given the health care system in the US, he may need to cover at least some of those expenses also).

The benefit performance by over 20 musicians, young and old, was an outpouring of love for Everette and demonstrated the bond among the musicians in the local community. All of the musicians had played with or learned from Everette over the years. The music was full of warmth, caring, and energy. Even though we are predominantly consumers of music, the event made us feel part of the music community, and we were energized by the experience.

Why not get out and support your local musicians. They give their heart and soul to their music, and you and they will benefit from it. There are a couple of Go Fund sites for Everett online, we know Eboni and her site but it appears to be dated. Here it is:  https://www.gofundme.com/everettedevan

And we wish that we had more information to give you on how to help him!

Here is Everette playing his heart out on a Hammond B3 organ!

As always this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

 

 

 

Posted in BB's Lawnside BBQ, BB's Lawside BBQ, Benefit for Everette DeVann, Benefits for Musicians, Blues, Blues in Kansas City, Everette DeVan, Jazz, Jazz in Kansas City, Kansas City Blues Scene, Musicians in Kansas City | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“Alaska More Than An Adventure” to be Published in the Spring

This cover is a work in progress!

Sneak Peak!

Below is a sneak peak of the book before it is published! The book will be titled, “Alaska More Than An Adventure.”  It’s goal is to function as a beginner’s guide to RVing and Cruising in Alaska — including hundreds of color photographs.

Tom and I have visited Alaska about eight times and rented motorhomes twice,  with Marla lecturing on several cruise ships over the years.

Let’s Visit Some of the Towns in the Kenai Peninsula

Driving South on Seward Highway toward the Gulf of Alaska

 

What a drive this is! I think one of the best in Alaska!

Crossing the Kenai Peninsula is like floating through a wonderland. The Kenai River is massive and sparkling clear. People who like to fish or adventure in the water will be stunned by its beauty of Kenai Fjords National Park or Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

You can go south to Seward, east on Portage road to Whittier (the Chugach National Forest) , or west on the Sterling Highway that will take you to the Kenai Spur Highway going north, or continue on Sterling until you reach Homer. Take your time and enjoy the scenery and wild life along the way. If you see someone stopped along the road, you know there has been a sighting.

This bear is in captivity but I have photos of many in the mountains!

Driving South on Seward Highway

Turnagin Arm

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love Turnagin Arm. Take your time as you wind around this great geological site. The views are breath-taking and the air is so crisp and clean you will feel years younger than you are! It deserves a lot of attention on your trip. The tide goes in and out and sometimes Turnagin is full of water and other times fish are stranded as the water flows out to the sea to reveal a sea of mud.

Stop at Potter’s Marsh and walk the wooden walkway through natural surroundings that welcome all types of birds and fish. We have seen Sockeye Salmon by the hundreds here. Just down the road at Bird Creek Fishing you might run into combat fishers hoping for a mother load of salmon!

Combat fishing is very dangerous!

Take time to visit the Potter Section House Railroad Museum. You can visit an old train with a rotary plow that used to plow through the snow. Skagway also features a rotary plow which can be viewed if you book passage on a cruise ship floating through the inside passage.

           

If you are hungry, sit and eat lunch at Beluga point where whales have been seen. Sit quietly and wait for Nature to find you.

This is a photo near Turnagin.

We have visited Alaska during the salmon runs and witnessed combat fishing down the streams flowing out of Turnagin. Hundreds of people stand side by side and, sometimes, three deep as they throw their lines into to catch one of the golden fish. Last time we were in Alaska a fisherman threw his hook into someone’s ear. As blood dripped down this fisherman’s face, people tried to free the hook. With no luck, he went off to the emergency room at a hospital.

More to come later ….

As always this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge.

Posted in Alaska, Alaska More Than An Adventure, Camping, Gold Mines, Hubbard Glacier, Juneau, Ketchikan, Mendenhall Glacier, Motorhome, National Parks, Recreation Vehicles, Rving across America, Save on your next Cruise, Skagway | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Ghost of Katrina, Jefferson Davis, and the Beach

Two Hurricanes and the Angry Gods.

This white beach goes on for miles and miles.

It is ironical. We should have been enjoying Buck Island at Tamarind Reef Resort on St. Croix, USVI. Hurricane Maria thought otherwise and plowed down everything it could on the island. In December, only 30% of the island has electricity and about that percent has clean drinking water. Instead we headed for Waveland, Mississippi to camp as close to the beach as we could. But it was quiet in Waveland, too quiet!

Waveland after Katrina.

In 2005 Hurricane Katrina hit Waveland, dead center. If you remember, New Orleans was in the news. We heard only briefly about Mississippi. “Katrina’s storm surge was a wall of water 20 – 35 feet high moving at 80-100 MPH.  When the surge came ashore, it swept clean the first few lots along the beach.” See  http://www.schlatter.org/Katrina/aerial_photos.htm

 

Driveways along the coast lead to open fields.

 

Twelve years later most of the lots facing the beach (Gulf of Mexico) are empty from Waveland to Biloxi. It is an eerie sight! Lonely pylons out in the Gulf look like sticks thrown to earth by some great and angry god.  The storm surge reached I-10 some ten miles north and plowed down all that it could in its path. We

Support beams echo the ghost of Katrina as you walk the beach. You wonder, what did they support?

are so lucky that the State of Mississippi rebuilt Buccaneer State Park so that we could enjoy the gorgeous beach!

The Beach Boulevard sign still stands!

We hope that St. Croix will be rebuilt enough for us to return next year!

Jefferson Davis

Early portrait of Jefferson Davis.

Neither Tom nor I had studied the life of Jefferson Davis, first and only president of the Confederacy. (He also served as a Senator from Mississippi in the US Senate.)  So we visited “Beauvoir,” the last residence of Davis, discovering a home, two guest-houses, a large museum, and a Confederate cemetery. Included with our ticket was a tour of his home. Donna Barnes, an ordained minister guided us through each room of the main house. With the zeal of an evangelist, she pointed to Davis’ bed, “This is where he slept!” Or, “This is where he sat!” “This is where he bathed!” She seemed to be in the presence of the Divine as she told us several of the places where Jefferson “read his bible!” He was loved by all! During his time at Beauvoir, he wrote several books, among them “The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government.”

The lovely home of Davis.

Our enthusiastic guide, Donna Barnes.

We had mixed emotions about our trek through the property and museum. What about all of those 600,000 boys that lost their lives in the Civil War? Why wasn’t Jefferson imprisoned for life for his deeds? Of course, the more you read about him, you discover that many people came to his rescue and supported him after the war.  He was a very lucky guy!

Jefferson Davis Museum.

Inside the very spot where Jefferson Davis sat.

After visiting Beauvoir, we learned that Sarah Ellis Dorsey bequeathed the property to him. Our guide said that he purchased it! Sarah was a constant companion of Davis until she died in 1879. Varina, second wife, for a time, also lived at Beauvoir.

It is interesting to read accounts of the lives of these people. Some stories are written like a hagiography and others tell a different and more complicated story.  Jefferson was ill with Malaria most of his life along with other chronic diseases. And he may have been a bad-tempered recluse who had bouts of depression. After losing his 140 or so slaves, he was left penniless after the Civil War. Jobs alluded him! And he could not run for Congress again because he had lost his citizenship. There is so much more!

It is so sad that all of these people had to die!

Cousin Charles

Lunch was too short with cousin Charles.

Today we caught up with my world-traveled cousin Charles. He drove in from Pensacola, Florida and we met in Biloxi, Mississippi.  Our homes were only a mile apart when we were children. Our fathers were brothers. Charles worked at Bower Roller Bearing Company with my dad. It so good to hear him talk about my dad. Apparently when he asked Joanne to marry him, Joanne’s father asked my dad about the trustworthiness of Charles. Said my dad, “He’s the best of the Selvidge’s.” Unfortunately Charles’  beloved spouse Joanne passed away over two years ago! It was a fine lunch with a great cousin!

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

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Mississippi Blues Pilgrimage

Mississippi Blues Don’t Make You Blue!

Who da’ thought that tooling down to the Mississippi coast would be such a learning experience!

Arkansas

My little friends who wondered who I was?

Our first stop on our way to Buccaneer State Park in Waveland, Mississippi was Dardanelle State Park in Arkansas. We know this place. It is peaceful and even more peaceful this time of year. Arriving at sunset I hurried to break out my camera for a shot of the gorgeous rays on the water and the mountains. Luck was my friend. Two children were trolling the lake in a Jon boat. Their silhouettes were breath taking. As they came close to the shore I said to them, “This is so beautiful.” One of the young boys replied, “Yeah, and we got a lot more places even more beautiful than this around here.” The other boy said, “You ain’t from around here, are you?” I asked them how they knew that I lived somewhere else. “You don’t talk like us.” I said, “How should I talk?” And they replied in unison, “Southern!”

Cotton Fields

The bales of cotton were like pieces of candy in the fields.

Our trusty motorhome took us across fields of harvested cotton for hundreds of miles. Along the edge of every road and highway were puffs of cotton that clung to the weeds. It looked like snow but at 70 degrees we knew it could not be snow. Bales of cotton lined the side of the road ready to be transported. I reasoned, “If cotton was really worth anything, people would be picking up all the cotton along the roads.”

On a beautiful sunny day as we crossed Arkansas, the skies were suddenly

This photo was taken from a petition asking to ban the burning of fields in Arkansas. My photo was not quite as close to the action.

filled with black smoke. For many miles we could see fire in the fields at least six feet high. What a hazard! We supposed the burning was intentional because we could find no alerts on the Internet.

 

Clarksdale

Shack Up Inn

We planned to investigate Clarksdale, Mississippi because Tom has enrolled in a weeklong intensive harmonica class there in April of 2018. We left the highway and crept through some narrow streets only to discover that we could not visit downtown because the overpass was one foot shorter than our RV. We will save this adventure for another day when we rent a car. Tom did find the Shack Up Inn where we will be staying in April. It is a working plantation with refurbished sharecropper shacks and has become a blues destination!

Indianola

BB King lives on in his museum!

Indianola, Mississippi was our next stop. Here they have built a $16 million dollar museum dedicated to the late B.B. King, the blues singer and player. It was top-notch and more than enjoyable to learn about his life. Orphaned at four years old then living with his grandmother for another four years, he found himself alone when she died. Finally a relative came to his

Our RV parked outside the BB King museum in Indianola.

rescue when we was a teenager and sent him to school. The museum did not mention if he had studied music formally.  His notebook demonstrated that he understood chord changes and keys!

He led a wandering life.  During his career two marriages failed as he dedicated his life to music. When he died in 2015, he had fathered 15 children and gladly paid for all of their educations. King’s music is legendary around the world and Mississippi has dedicated September 1 as BB King Day. This place is a must-see if you visit Mississippi.

Jackson

Andrew Jackson stands proudly in front of the old city hall!

“I’m going to Jackson, I’m going to mess around,” sang Johnny Cash. The Jackson stop was not planned  but after reading about the town, we decided to stay two days in order to walk its streets. On the fly, we rented a car, and began our lonely tourist discovery. I say lonely because Jackson is the state capitol but hardly anyone was enjoying it. The streets were empty.

Ruth Cole introduced us to the old Capitol and nearly talked us into moving to Jackson. What a lady!

Jackson is an anomaly. Part of the city is thriving and the other areas are dying (or dead). The old and new capitols, war memorial building and old city hall, are handsome flowers on the streets where they reside. But more than half of the town is empty. Ornate skyscrapers and storefronts are boarded up. If you wanted to shop, you had to visit a museum store! Mold covers sidewalks and buildings. Streets are in need of repair!

They would not let us inside the gate to take a picture of the governor’s mansion.  I had to squeeze through the bars to take it.

We stopped to take a photo of the governor’s mansion and a white-shirted man holding a folder stopped to talk with us. He was the economic development person for the city. He asked about our visit. We told him we were interested in Jackson’s history and architecture and some of the museums. He talked to us about the difficulty of Mississippi’s past and the new civil rights museum that was about to open. He was so kind.

The War Memorial was so unusual spouting all types of instruments of war!

One of the main reasons we stopped in Jackson was to visit the International Museum of Muslim Cultures. “It is the only one in the United States,” barked the brochure.  We wondered how a museum like this could be in Jackson? We soon found the

Sculptures adorn the War Memorial  building. I would love to study it!

museum.  The building in which it is housed is the failing Art Center which has been neglected for at least a decade. We made our way up the stairs to the museum. No one was at the door. We peeked in at a few exhibits that looked like high school projects and determined that we knew more about Islam than the museum. This was such a disappointment for us!

Inside the old capitol. It is gorgeous!

The old 1937 Greyhound Bus Station is a treasure!

This is a Methodist Church. It looks like the Parthenon, built in Greek Revival style.  The Baptist Church covered three whole city blocks. It was like they were competing to determine which church would spend the most money on a building. I wondered if anyone worshipped in them today?

Tax-base Eroded by White Flight

We were sad that the Civil Rights Museum had not opened yet.

Later we discovered that after the schools were forced to integrate, light-skinned people moved away from Jackson and enrolled their children in private schools. This eroded the tax base and quality of education. Without taxes the city of Jackson could not be maintained. And, I had never thought about private schools being an escape from African Americans. I thought it had to do with religious beliefs!  Racism is everywhere!

More later on our Mississippi holiday!

As always, this blog is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

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Camping Along the Danube on a Viking Longship!

Tom called the Captain the “Warden” and our Cabin “The Cell!”

The sun and warm breezes followed us as we crossed Eastern Europe. Today it is drizzling while we float through the Iron Gate (locks) area with archaeological evidence of peoples dating back to the Romans. Multi-colored leafed mountains on both sides wave at us as we paddle for the fjord ahead.

Here is a map of the exotic cruise (in purple). Budapest to Bucharest! We visited all the cities marked on the map including Veliko Tarnovo, Vidin, Belogradchik, Osijek, Kalocsa, Belgrade, Bucharest, and more!

 

 

Viking Cruises plan and orchestrate trips very well, even down to the last day when they picked us up at our hotel (with boxed breakfast in tow) in Bucharest at 4:30 a.m. There are included excursions for every day.   They add shorter excursions (extra cost)  if you think you will be bored or can’t spend a whole day on a bus or you can’t walk very far.

The Viking Lif

King Decebalus greeted us as we paddled the Danube!

The Viking Lif hosts 180 passengers and about 80% of them have traveled the world for a very long time. We met a second woman who had traveled to more than 100 countries! Our first woman was in Turkey.  Last night we talked with a man who had traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan for his job.

Many passengers are in their 80’s. There is plenty enough room for everyone on the ship except in the staterooms. Twinkers and Hillary (our beloved canines) share a bigger space than we did. When we arrived on the ship, I wondered if Tom would fit into the shower. It is 50% smaller than the one on our RV. If you ever book a cruise on Viking, choose a suite so you can breathe! Tom calls the room our cell!

Sewer Gas

During the first four days of our cruise sewer gas escaped from the shower in our room.  Tom complained several times and they told us that the design of the longboat was problematic.  Finally they gave us another stateroom but it also smelled–but less!  The smell made us nauseous.  If you cruise on a Viking ship book a cabin on the second or third floor!  Some passengers knew about the problems because they had been on Viking ships in the past.  They booked a higher level cabin!

Ocean Cruises versus River Cruises

While on ocean cruise ships (not river boats), many sea and land adventures are offered. And if you don’t want to choose an excursion there are plenty of drivers waiting at the dock to take you anywhere. We usually rent a car or hike the towns where we dock. There were no cabs (or anyone other than chartered buses) waiting at our docks for this ship.  I asked one person working on the ship if he was getting off the boat and he said, “There is nothing here to see!”

A salad in Bulgaria. They serve salads without dressing!

Viking prefers adventures of the mind, eyes, and stomach. When we visit a town (all 180 of us) we are taken to “free” places such as churches, synagogues, (no mosques) with a local guide. We had never been on tours that were so large with so many people. Sometimes we listen to classical or Christian concerts. On a farm in Osijek, Croatia horses danced, sat, and played coy for us! Here we learned how the locals defended themselves with horses and whips that sounded like bullets.

Local pottery to bring home!

In Bucharest we were fed some type of chicken stew with a warm Pepsi or wine, your choice. It felt as if they were throwing feed at cows. Women pushed five foot carts in between the tables.   The best thing about this meal was the ice cream.

The same meal was served at a very nice restaurant in Serbia. It tasted like leftovers! Feeding 180 people is a challenge!   We never dreamed that everyone would go on all the excursions together!

Lace was sold everywhere but who would use it today? I saw loads of lace like this in China?

Culinary Delights

Cooking, wine-tasting, opera, and specialty foods fill in the hours. Last night on the ship our dinner was a Taste of Serbia. I thought most of the food came out of cans because we attend Serbian Fests in Kansas City with real fresh food. And a lot of the food on the ship seemed as if it had been pre-cooked, stored in plastic, or frozen.  The beef stew tasted slimy with lots of salt.  It was probably pre-cooked in plastic bags — like those you can buy at Walmart.  Rarely did we enjoy lunch or dinner. Breakfast was okay.

Lunch Buffet on the Lif.

Beer, wine, and soft drinks are free flowing and free at every meal. Plus, you can buy a liquor package that will allow you to drink any spirit 24 hours a day. (A lot of people spent their time on the cruise drinking and they were over the edge!) In between meals they greet you at the door with Hungarian specialties or some unknown blue or yellow alcoholic concoction.

They played music for us, danced for us, sang for us, and took care of us. We have been on scores of ships and  have never met such gentle and helpful people. This is reflective of their captain (the warden) who appears also to be a kind and gentle soul. My favorite person on the ship was Pedro, the piano player.  He was from Portugal.  I recognized that he was playing music from the same Fake Book (Song Book) I use.

As we marched into dinner these guys played for us!

WIFI went up in Smoke!

This trip was very challenging! While the longship of Viking claims it has WIFI, it flickers on and off. It is so unstable that I could not post any blogs. Their WIFI is suspicious too. Sometimes it appeared that I was trying to enter a Spanish porthole and at other times it is French or Hungarian or whatever! It was like a puff of smoke floating across the Danube.

Ocean Cruises versus River Cruises, again!

Before the cruise I made several calls to Viking. No one could give us any info about times at port or when the excursions ran before our cruise. They even changed the date of the first excursion which messed up our flights.  (I thought this was odd.) The lack of information was frustrating because we would have liked to have toured more on our own. We never knew how far a town was from a port and we did not know the names of the ports (If they were cities!) ahead of time. Ocean ships always have port times posted and list the name of the port where the ship would be docked.

The lounge area on the Viking

The planning and control on the Lif was too much for us! (I know I am just droning on here!) One passenger told us that we were on this trip twenty years too soon! Within a couple of days, the cruise began to feel like a jail. They dictated when breakfast, lunch, or dinner would be served. (On ocean cruises you can dine at any moment because food of some type is always available!) We were obliged to attend a briefing on rules for the next day’s activities right before dinner. And there were lots of rules!  Then on the excursions we rarely had a few minutes of freedom.

Fake Information from Guides

The guides spouted propaganda just like this image of a model in a soldier’s uniform in Bucharest.

I became frustrated with a couple of the guides whose knowledge of religions was about “zero” but they kept spouting inaccuracies. A few passengers were talking about the guides who had trouble with “real” facts. I guess this is the Trump Age with Fake News everywhere!

(Dr.) Larry our Room Attendant took care of all of us!

Both Tom and I contracted diseases on this trip. I became ill in Budapest with what, I believe, was Strep Throat. Don’t worry, I brought antibiotics with us. Tom became ill about the same time we boarded the ship and the rest of the passengers on the ship followed with their own versions of respiratory and intestinal disturbances. I believe he has had some type of flu, even though he had a flu shot.  (Three weeks later we are still recovering.) We began to worry when his fever was very high. The bed was his companion for almost two days. We do not remember a trip when both of us became ill so quickly. These are joys of traveling and flying next to very sick people!

We met a few women who were traveling by themselves.  They told us that they like the planning, cultural events, and security that they find on Viking cruises. Some people had cruised eight times on Viking!  You don’t have to worry about anything and, especially, you don’t have to make many decisions about what to eat or where to visit.  It is sort of like cruising on a floating assisted-living island!

Maybe you would like a Viking Cruise too! Everything is planned down to the millisecond!

As always, this blog is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

 

 

 

 

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The Sins of the Brothers, Sons, Uncles, Cousins, and Fathers

Paddling  Through Eastern Europe.  Where am I?

Where am I?  Kalocsa or Puszta, Hungary?  Where am I? Osijek or Vukovar, Croatia?  Where am I? Vidin or Belograde, Serbia?  Where am I? Russe, Bulgaria or Bucharest, Romania?

One sight on the Danube as we paddled along!

Budapest is a vibrant city but as we sailed the Danube across Eastern Europe the faces and towns changed. They talk of the wars, especially the war in 1991 between Croatia and Serbia. We hear about the Ottomans, WWI, WWII, Civil Wars, and …. We pass by ruins. We hear about the killing of brothers and neighbors and friends!

 

 

Mass Murder on a Grand Scale

Synagogue with Jews!

Yesterday we were taken to a lovely Synagogue complex in Novi Sad, Serbia.  I asked the guide about its name. She said it has no name. It has no name?  Huh? The synagogue has a name but no one remembers it. (I found the name of Beit Hatfutsot?)

The town elders assassinated the Jews and destroyed the Jewish quarter.  Upon their land they built white businesses and a theatre. Apparently less than 10% of the Jews survived the Homeland extermination. Serbs killed them where ever they could find them and dumped their bodies in the river. (This killing of Jews in WWII had also happened in Budapest earlier in the century. There is a monument entitled “Shoes” along the Danube.)

Holocaust Monument! Iron Shoes along the Danube in Budapest. The Jews were killed but the shoes were kept because they had worth!

We drove through Vukovar, Croatia with tears on our faces. They did not stop the bus to allow us to take pictures of the houses that still lay in ruins.

This Vukovar pic was taken off the net. It looks like Syria today, doesn’t it?

 

Another shot of the city in the 1990’s.

 

See website:  http://mediaobservatory.net/radar/vukovar-life-size-monument-dead-city

Serbs destroyed 90% of this small town in what they call the “Homeland War” in the 1990’s. They say is was a massacre. Every other house and business is in ruins. The Serbs told the people to leave because they were taking over their town, their businesses and residences. A few thousand remained to fight the Serbs and try to protect their homes. In the end, like Syria, nothing much was left of the town and the Serbs went home. Their greed ended up killing 5,000 people, according to our guide. All of this violence did not mean too much to us as we traversed the town. How do you take sides in a war?

She sang Christian hymns! It sounded like chanting!

After this heart-wrenching sight we went on to a the Holy Cross church in Osijek, Croatia which is in the center of Croatia.  The church itself looked like a place where furniture (altars) had been collected and stored to protect them.  Nothing seemed to fit its structure and there were many different pieces of furniture with varying colors and styles.  We were treated to a concert by a young lady who had won singing contests! And then taken out to a courtyard where there had been a fort?

Belgrade, Serbia

While Belgrade needs a facelift and seems to be in decline. It’s shopping area was stunning!

The next day we visited Serbia and spent the afternoon in Belgrade. Immediately we understood what the Serbs had done. Belgrade has magnificent buildings similar to Budapest. You could see a long history of wealth and power on every street, unlike the country hamlets in Croatia that we visited. Like a child who wanted the toys of others, Serbia made a land-grab. Our guide in Belgrade protested that NATO sent bombers to Belgrade and destroyed parts of the city. We were shown a quadrant that stood destroyed like a holocaust monument to the past. She lamented the death of 4,000 children and civilians. But that bombing stopped the Serbs in their greedy path according to some.

On the Prince Michael’s shopping street, little girls and old men played for tourists hoping to make a little cash.  I have never seen little kids play toy pianos for money!

They were quite the hit on the mall!

 

Novi Sad, Serbia

Lovely Novi Sad, Serbia. A Thoughtful Guide in the Square!

A sadness covers the faces of many people as we visit country after country. Our guide in Novi Sad, Serbia said, “We don’t look backward, and we don’t look forward.” We live day by day and hour by hour! We are not planning because another war could come any time. I kept thinking about what she had said. I think the people are still grieving about the wars.   How do you ever stop grieving for all the atrocities done by your brothers, fathers, cousins, or your family?

 

Bucharest, Romania

This is not my photo. I wanted you to view the grand area created by the Communists. It is overwhelming to experience. It is called the Palace of the Parliament!

There is more. Bucharest, Romania rivals Budapest in its grand stature but it needs some redecorating. They are trying to renovate block-long apartments constructed by the Communists.  Communism under Nicholae Ceausescu re-ordered the lives of the people until they went over the edge and assassinated him. Massive buildings line the crowded streets. I felt like I was entering an arena of a God. This man murdered thousands with his strict approach to allocation of resources, and was said to be the cause of a civil war that also killed thousands.  To build his monumental valley, he uprooted and destroyed whole communities.  Some say that he tore down 30 churches.

According to the Economist, “The government (Romania) is in the midst of liberalising the economy, opening up new sectors (most notably, energy and telecoms) to competition and investment. Economic growth is at 4.1%. Wages are rising fast. Adjusting for prices, Bucharest’s GDP per capita is above the EU average. Indeed, the average Bucharest resident is comfortably better off than the average resident of Manchester.”

More than ugly apartments. You find these in all Eastern Europe Countries! I would tear them down! They remain symbols of tyrants!

And while there are great sites like the Parliament, the practical side of running the city seems to be lost.  There are nine cars for every parking spot. Roads look like parking lots and people park wherever they can, even in empty lots.  We saw people driving on the medians. We did not see motorcycles or bicycles.  This is a big-car city that is as large or larger than Budapest.  At sidewalk level, almost every building is covered in graffiti. Over and over I kept reading “fascist” on sidewalks and walls.  As you walk the city, you feel a harshness in the air. You see a determination in the eyes of the people. An employee in the Sheraton Hotel assured us that it was safe to walk the downtown area.  Interesting? We did not ask him if it was safe!

People do not respect the property of others in Bucharest!

 

Nationalism

As we landed in country every country, I noticed a pronounced nationalism. The countries are no bigger than many of our states. We are facing our own issues of nationalistic ideologies these days with the president. Does it matter in the USA whether you are from Ohio or New York? Yes, there are regional differences but we do not have the need for a specific local identity, do we?

Even within the countries people take on regional identities? It is helpful that these countries are working toward membership in the European Union. It may mitigate  the nationalism we felt as we crossed borders. Tom argues that people need identities because they have been conquered by so many outside forces. Those who have survived hold hands and wave a proud flag.

With almost every guide the speech was “superlative.” This bridge is the third largest, or this building is second in weight next to the Pentagon, this was the first, best, most beautiful, most important, most intelligent or brilliant, filled their speeches.

St. Sava in Belgrade. It is just an ugly  shell to be finished!

When we arrived in Belgrade, Serbia a guide took us to an unfinished Serbian Orthodox Church, St. Sava.  She said it was the largest on earth. I asked, “What about St. Sophia in Istanbul.” She retorted that it was a museum now and her church was three meters higher!

St. Sava  pales in the shade of  St. Sophia but in her mind it was the largest and best on earth!

Hagia Sophia has to be the largest Greek Orthodox church! It was turned into a mosque!

As we entered the church, we were stunned by the state of ruin or as she said, “It is in a constructive stage.”

Notice that church and state are together in this image in  St. Sava, a Serbian Orthodox Church.

But, the basement was finished with fabulous painted icons on the walls and an iconostasis (altar) where services were held for the locals.

There was no way for a handicapped person to enter this space.  So people on our tour just waited at the top of the steps.

 

 

Pollution is Highest in The Balkans.  The Sins of the Fathers.

You wonder about pollution after the wars?  We experienced very dark skies (polluted air), crumbling buildings (asbestos?), and traversing empty dusty farmland. The European Environmental Agency has done studies and concluded that 90% of European countries have dangerous levels of toxins in the air.

“East European countries, including Bulgaria, Poland and Slovakia, were found to be the most exposed to particulate matter, largely, it is thought, from coal and wood burning.

Particulate matter remains a serious threat to health, because no threshold for PM has been identified below which no damage to health is observed. In western, central and eastern Europe it has caused 430,000 premature deaths,” it said.

We have traveled to the war-torn countries of Cambodia and Vietnam and there we heard of the bombs and pollution in the soil from the wars.  As we criss-crossed Eastern Europe, you know that it has the same issues. And you wonder how the pollution is affecting you?  Eastern Europe is a bread basket much like the midwest is for the USA.  Is it migrating into the food that is grown?

Reflection

One of the goals of this blog is to bring people to places they might not have visited.  I usually write with an upbeat and positive pen about our travels.  The current blog introduces you to the REALLY difficult side of traveling.  You become more informed and it changes your life in ways that you never dreamed!

As always, this blog is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

 

 

 

 

 

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