About Charlie Hudson

Off with my combat boots and onto writing best describes Charlie my two careers. Born in Pine Bluff, Ark., and raised in Louisiana, I count myself as a military veteran, wife, mother, freelance writer, and author. What was intended to be a quick two years in the Army became a 22-year career instead, and somehow in the process, I discovered that I was an inadvertent pioneer by serving in several positions that had previously been held only by men. By the time I was in Desert Storm and later Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti, women in leadership assignments was more widely accepted. My love of writing never left me though whether it is a short article that highlights an animal rescue group, penning the stories of a female police detective in the Florida Keys, or presenting issues about aging that Baby Boomers need to address, or working on a corporate proposal. When my husband, Hugh, also retired from the Army, we relocated to South Florida where we can both enjoy the underwater world in dive sites all around Key Largo. We do break away though to still travel, and especially visit the Washington, D.C. area where son Dustin is a professional dancer and lives with his wife, Samantha.

Merry Christmas……

It’s been a beautiful day which is part of why people love South Florida in the winter. We checked in with the kids and it wasn’t too bad for them – 40, but no snow or ice yet. They don’t require a white Christmas at this point.

I’ve watched “A Christmas Carol” and “Miracle on 34th Street”, so I’ve had my fix. Although hardly a classic, there is a movie that brought a point to mind I’ve posted about before. Ben Affleck and other stars were in “Surviving Christmas”, a movie about a very wealthy young man who decided to “rent” a family for Christmas one year. He didn’t explain why he wanted to come into their home as their “son”, but he was willing to pay a lot of money and they agreed. As you can imagine, a variety of mishaps occurred until the point when it seems as if the whole family was coming apart. In trying to sort through what happened (and of course come to happy resolutions), Christina Applegate, who was the real daughter in the family finally got Affleck to explain his motivation. His mother, raising him alone with no help, had been a waitress at a diner. Since she made double for working at Christmas, she always took not only her regular shift, but an extra one and by the time she was finished, she would be too tired for celebration. His Christmas had been to come to the diner for a big stack of pancakes. The movie had a mostly funny and a tiny bit poignant ending, but the point is that many of us think about military personnel being away from their families. We sometimes consider police, firefighters, etc.,. The fact is, in our busy world, there are a lot of 24-hour jobs staffed 365 days a year. I promise the power plant is being manned and like the woman in the movie, a lot of diners are open. Granted, places like Chinese restaurants that celebrate at different times of the year aren’t in quite the same category. Do take a moment though if you are out at a convenience store or whatever and be sure to give a smile and say, “Merry Christmas” to those who are working today.

The “Profit” Side of Being Nice…..

Sales, especially this time of year are something most of us enjoy. No, I do not nor ever intend, to participate physically in “Black Friday” events. Anyway, way back when I was a teenager, a “Five and Dime” store, a regional chain that I don’t think exists any longer, opened a new store in town. I was just turning sixteen and they needed extra temporary help to get the store ready and for the first few weeks. Work permit in hand, I had my first retail job. I came back later and worked there part time when I was in college. We lived in a small college town, so it made for an easy set-up. In coming from a one-income middle class family, a part time job was necessary. (One summer, I actually had three, but that’s for another post.)

I’ve never pretended to be an economist, but there some valuable lessons I learned about the corporate world with that job. The manager knew I would be moving on and he chatted with me sometimes about how things actually worked. It was school supply season and we were selling notebook paper for an absurdly low cost. I made the comment and he explained. “We do lose money on that and a few people will come in only for that. Most though will bring their whole list and rather than run around to different stores, will buy everything they need here. We lose on the paper and make it up on the rest.” Ah, got it.

Fast forward to the other night when a discussion came up about wine stores. We were talking about one we used in Maryland and I recounted that aside from them having a big selection and good prices, the staff was knowledgeable and friendly. We mentioned they often recommended less expensive wines for new ones for us to try and we appreciated the approach. One of the individuals in the group had once worked in a wine store. “There are two good reasons for that,” was the explanation. “The truth is the profit margin on an expensive bottle of wine is often lower than on a mid-to-low price one. So, you make $2 by selling the expensive one and say $4 dollars per bottle by selling the lower price one. The customers feel like you’re looking out for them – and you are – but at the same time, you make more profit.” Another ah, got it. Makes perfect sense.

When’s The Next Book?….

The other day someone asked about what writing I was involved with. Since the book Mystery of the Last Olympian: Titanic’s Tragic Sister Britannic, (http://amzn.to/2c1iKJl) was released in February 2016 and I publish at least one book a year, it was an understandable question. As some of you who follow the blog know, I was drawn into co-authoring another non-fiction book that I haven’t been at liberty to discuss. There are still a few details to work out and if you are a baseball fan, you’ll be happy. (It’s been quite a stretch for me, but an interesting project.) There has also been activity on the novel side, but I can’t quite explain that yet either. The reason is because it, like Irises to Ashes, or Orchids in the Snow, is a stand-alone book, but is very different from others I have written because it is not in the genre of woman’s fiction.  More explanation of that will soon follow as well.

I have returned to Verde Key and Police Detective Bev Henderson and there are a couple of thorny issues to work out. A murder sequence I intended to follow simply wasn’t flowing as I had hoped and I had to adjust the story accordingly. I think it will get me where I want to go now, but I have to play around with it a bit more before I’m certain. In other words, it’s possible I’ll have the non-fiction and one novel out in late spring and the “Shades” book in late summer. As for the cozy – “Small Town” quilting series, there will be a fourth one although perhaps not until early 2018.

So yes, writing definitely is continuing and more news is forthcoming.

Frazzle and Dazzle…..

Well, I’m not sure Christmas decorations are “dazzle”, although some certainly can be. The frazzle tends to come with all the rushing about and prep and multiple commitments and potential travel issues for those traveling. I had intended to try and get a couple of tasks cleared up immediately after Thanksgiving to have a little “buffer time”, but that didn’t exactly happen. However, I did pick up a few things I needed today for later to minimize the last-minute rush part. And it turns out, I can slide one appointment to next week, so that helps, too. I am having the cleaning lady come in an extra day and that definitely helps.

Last week was more double-booked than I originally planned, but we managed to get around for at least a while to the different places we were supposed to be and share in holiday greetings. I do need to put on a load of laundry though and I might be able to hold off on that until tomorrow. (In fact, I can in thinking through things.)  Hubby got the decorations out yesterday and put several up as well as the basic set of lights on the tree. We ran into one of those “secondary effects” we hadn’t previously considered. I think I may have mentioned that he designed and built me a special cabinet for my quilting projects. It’s perfect for what I need, but not until it was put into place did we realize that’s the spot where the Christmas tree usually goes. The alternate spot isn’t quite as large, so we have a smaller tree this year that also required some modest furniture rearrangement. On the other hand, I can almost reach the top of the tree without needing the step stool, so that’s kind of nice. Photos will follow.

A Morning Underwater…..

Green Moray Being Cleaned (Key Largo Reef)

Green Moray Being Cleaned (Key Largo Reef)

Last year I woefully neglected diving and have promised to do better this year. I still haven’t been out once a month as I intended, but it’s been about every six to eight weeks. The weather wasn’t great much of the week except for Wed and Thursday and those days were quite nice. We did Thursday and went to one of the shallow wrecks, then over to the great reef complex on Molasses. Hubby was diving just for fun which meant he could take his camera with him. (He can’t carry it when he’s teaching.)

For those who know what a “cleaning station” is, please bear with me because it’s something really fun for those not familiar with it. We were swimming along and Hubby saw a large green moray eel with one side against the reef and the rest of him stretched out on the sand. Eels tuck back into the rocks during the day unless they happen to be out, mostly swimming to another spot to tuck into. (They come out at night to feed). Not only was this one out, he hardly moved despite the fact Hubby was practically in it’s face. As always when photos are involved, I had a quick look and moved out of the way so I wouldn’t interfere in the shots. I thought the eel was not well since that’s often the case when they aren’t moving around. After we returned to the boat, I made a comment about it and Hubby said, “Not at all – it was a cleaning station.” Oh, how cool. Here’s the way it works and I haven’t the faintest idea how it evolved. Tiny “cleaner fish” and “cleaner shrimp” will nibble away at dead skin and parasites for larger fish. The fish – in this case the eel – remain quite still and the cleaners flit all over them to include going inside the mouth and cleaning there. In each case, the larger fish could quickly gobble them up as a snack, but don’t. Once the fish is cleaned, it moves off and resumes it’s normal routine. When you first start diving, you tend not to notice these amazing behaviors because you’re too busy dealing with your equipment, learning how to maneuver underwater, etc., After you’ve been at it for a while, you know what to look for and it’s always enjoyable to watch a cleaning station.

Pearl Harbor Day Thoughts…….

Serious content alert. My dad served in the Pacific, but it was deeper into the war and so he was never in any fighting. He was on an ammunition ship out of Ford Island and when they came to visit us in Hawaii, it was certainly a very different place. We were stationed at Schofield Barracks although my first year I was assigned to Fort Shafter which is close to Pearl Harbor. For anyone familiar with the island of Oahu, there are military installations all over the island. Schofield Barracks, away from the beaches, included the mountains with Kole-Kole Pass where the Japanese aircraft came through to remain undetected before the strikes. Wheeler Army Airfield is nearby and that’s where a few aircraft were able to get off and briefly engage the Japanese.

As you can imagine, there are multiple observance ceremonies each year and they are each powerful in their own way. The Arizona Memorial is of course open all year round as is Punchbowl Cemetery (National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific is the proper name). Punchbowl is not exclusive to World War II. Ironically, Richie and I will be doing a webinar this evening about his years of shipwreck exploration, many of which are military casualties. The date is an coincidence because Best Publishing wanted to slide the webinar in before  the holiday rush and Wednesdays are a common night for scuba clubs to meet.

In looking at the significance of today, how sad it is that 75 years later we still have the level of conflicts we do. Hundreds of millions of lives lost and harmed because we have yet to find ways to live peacefully. If you read history, progress has been made, although not nearly enough. May the near future be a time when we can move closer to what should be a reality and not merely something to be hoped for.

Fifty Deserves Gold….

Last night was a celebration of some friends’ 50th wedding anniversary and recently another couple we know celebrated their 62d. I fondly remember both sets of grandparents 50th and my sister and her husband don’t have too much longer to wait. Most people have a major celebration as they should although it is interesting that we tend to focus in five-year increments. I will always associate two humorous pieces with my maternal grandparents’ anniversaries. As they were approaching the 55th, my aunt wanted another big open house and my grandfather said, “Let’s wait and we’ll do something big for the 60th”. They almost made it, too. Which leads me to the second item. His birthday and their anniversary were only a few days apart. Sunday was our general family gathering as we would drive the 20+ miles after church, one branch of the family lived in the same town, and although my aunt and her family lived a bit further, they would come in for special events. I can’t recall if it was the 57th or 58th anniversary approaching, but the point is the optimum Sunday was going to be maybe the day after my grandfather’s birthday and a couple of days before the actual anniversary. In looking at the calendar, my aunt suggested this particular Sunday and once again my grandfather declined. “Who knows? Maggie might decide she’s had enough of me and leave before the day and we would have celebrated prematurely,” or something like that was his wry response.

Of the guests gathered for our friends’ celebration, they were the only couple who were on their first marriage. Granted, two were previously widowed; one of whom has not remarried yet, but the other attendees were divorced with a mix of remarried. That thought leads me to one of only a few segments I distinctly recall when Toffler wrote his book, Future Shock, back in the 1970s. He said we would see a surge in later-life divorces because as people were living longer and staying active longer (especially working at second careers), there would be a recognition that staying in an unhappy marriage was not necessary. It was a radical idea at the time, but I have watched it play out among friends and casual acquaintances. So, for those who by virtue of living longer and managing the realities of marriage for 50 years and more, it is indeed reason to celebrate.

No Turkey Leftovers……

The only real drawback to traveling away for Thanksgiving is you don’t have turkey leftovers – especially the picked over bird to use for stock. I remember years ago when my maternal grandmother was in a nursing home (that was before my parents converted their living room/dining room into a bedroom and moved her in), my uncle came up to visit. He called as he always did and was of course invited to have late lunch at the house. Daddy told him we were having turkey leftovers. He arrived expecting turkey sandwiches, but I had prepared tetrazzini instead. That’s always been one of my favorites, although I do genuinely like making pot pie and of course killer turkey soup. Until recently, I pretty much stuck with two varieties and if I go the turkey rice path, I use brown and wild rice to give a different flavor dimension. In trying to watch carbs though, I have converted to the turkey and sausage recipe I previously posted.

The odd thing of course, if you can get turkey all year round in about any form you want it and yet, like so many people, we tend to only buy it around the holidays. We eat chicken a lot, and therefore, not choosing turkey more often isn’t really logical. What say you, readers? Who all does turkey on a regular basis? (Yes, I do remember I do have some vegetarian followers.

Note: I actually thought I finished this post on Wednesday. That was the intent anyway.

Travel Over….

Ah yes, you never know what the holiday road trips will bring and yesterday was no exception. When we made the drive home from GA back in May, things were going well until a little past Ocala when we encountered rain. For the next five hours, it was steady precipitation, although in varying amounts from torrential downpours to drizzle. Yesterday, the skies were mostly sunny and the 54 degree morning gave way to 78+ as we stopped for a quick refuel and lunch. Ocala is our primary spot depending on timing. There are plenty of fast food choices and it’s pretty easy on and off. Okay, we get past Orlando and then it happens. Major wreck on the Turnpike with a pick-up truck that apparently managed to literally elevate up onto the guardrail. I’m not certain, but I guess there were a total of three vehicles involved and I hope no one seriously injured. As it turned out, we were fairly near where the accident occurred and I don’t know how far back the line stretched. We sat for a little over an hour.

People shut their vehicles off, got out and formed little clusters; all of us with the same basic point of view of. Granted, none of us in our group were traveling with small children. The temperature was pleasant at that stage and there was no threat of rain. So, if one must be stuck, at least we  had that going for us. That was the only major issue though and the rest of the trip proceeded smoothly. Unless something unexpected comes up, we won’t be taking any more road trips for a while.

Giving Extra Tips……

I did a Facebook post earlier about pausing amid enjoying friends and family to remember those who aren’t in a position to celebrate. It’s easy to think of the military and first responders, as we should. It’s even easy to think of nurses on duty, but it’s also easy to forget how many round-the-clock jobs we have primarily to make our lives more comfortable. The lights are on in your house because teams are always at work at a power plant. Airplanes are in flight and truckers are hauling rigs to get shipments where they’re going. Restaurants that offer special Thanksgiving meals or even something like a 24-diner or fast food place are staffed. You’re probably planning to watch at least some TV today and if you’re computer starts acting up, you might call for tech support. Now, the flip side to the coin is employees are often paid overtime, so for some, it is a chance to earn extra money. For others who have no special sentiment for a particular holiday, it’s not a big deal.

I would just ask that if you encounter someone today who is working, give a smile or perhaps an extra tip if that’s appropriate. Happy Thanksgiving to all whether you relax for some quiet time or are out and about.