Rainy Season…….

We have entered the rainy season here in South Florida, although it isn’t quite like the rainy season in some parts of the country. The rain is pouring at the moment and that will last for a while longer. Then, it is just as likely that the sun will come out with the humidity obviously hovering in the 80-plus percent category and steam everything. Then again, threatening clouds may roll in once more with intermittent rain throughout the day or perhaps not until late at night. The forecast pretty much stays at 30% chance of rain, chance of scattered thunderstorms during this time. Having an umbrella in the car is always a good idea and at least we don’t have to worry about putting water in the pool for a few weeks.

Had I progressed in my desire to learn more about our wonderful South Florida botanicals, I would also know which ones that I could be planting at this point, but somehow, this skill has once again escaped me. Okay, I supposed escaped is not the correct word – more that I have yet to put my mind to it. My, what “branching” thoughts occur when you start on a particular topic. My other act of procrastination is in not getting a rain barrel which I truly meant to do this year. However, we also apparently have some sort of gutter system that isn’t particularly compatible with a rain barrel, although I haven’t checked into those details.

There is one other aspect to rainy season and that is the arrival of the Black Water (or is it Black Water Sound?) mosquitos. They’ll start to hatch and if we’re lucky, it will be a short period of only about three weeks when it is miserably “buggy”, then we’ll be beyond it in general. There are, of course, some areas around here where bugs are fairly constant.

Ah, the rain seems to have stopped, but since it’s only 5:30 a.m., I can’t tell what we might have in the way of clear skies once we have sunrise. We shall see and keep the umbrellas handy.

Leaving Ocean Springs……

Okay, now for the twist to what should have been a really pleasant. day. I was booked on the 2:30 flight out of Gulfport-Biloxi airport which is about a forty minute drive from Ocean Springs. The plan was to have a leisurely breakfast with my brother and sister-in-law, take them to one more scenic spot, then us go our separate ways. I had booked the late flight because one never quite knows what may happen when my brother and sister-in-law are involved in a trip and I wanted to give myself extra time  in case they had been delayed in arriving in Ocean Springs or even if I had needed to make a last minute adjustment and dash over to Louisiana where they lived. Anyway, that was a logical decision on my part and that was going to put me into Miami around 8:00 p.m. The kicker to all of this was that I had a commitment to an event beginning at 3:00 p.m. on Monday.

At any rate, all was going well – pleasant breakfast, took care of last minute family business, and off we all go. I obviously arrived at the airport in plenty of time, planning to have a cold beer or two, see if the airport had Wi-Fi. (Not only did they, but it was free.) Then things began to unravel with the delay of the in-bound flight that would cause me to miss the Atlanta connection. Okay, well, there are a lot of flights between Atlanta and Miami. Apparently, however, not as many as I thought. I was told that they could not in fact get me out of Atlanta on Sunday and I could choose to go to Atlanta and spend the night or stay in Biloxi and take the 6:00 a.m., but in either case, I wouldn’t go out of Atlanta until the 11:45 flight on Monday. In retrospect, perhaps I should have gone on, but I decided to stay in Biloxi. So, it was up very early to catch the 6:00 a.m., then not very long at home before I had to change and get to the 3:00 p.m. commitment that went until 7:00 p.m. Needless to say, I was definitely ready for an early night. Ah well, the week has now literally dissolved in a series of commitments and I hope that today with complete me recovering my balance.


Ocean Springs, Day Two…..

Al Frecso Italian Restaurant in Ocen Springs, MS

Al Frecso Italian Restaurant in Ocen Springs, MS

Dinner my first night was at Al Fresco, a pleasant place, family run with a menu that was not extensive, but had all the essentials. Something interesting did occur though. I judge all Italian restaurants by the way they do veal. My waiter was friendly and as we discussed this, he assured me I would love their veal. As he delivered my fresh bread with a nice dipping oil that had both cracked black pepper and parmesan cheese in it, he said the chef wanted me to know that they had received their veal delivery from a different source and they were not happy with it. They were having problems getting it as tender as it should be. I thanked him for the warning and ordered the shrimp scampi. It was freshly prepared and with a surprisingly light sauce.

Okay, my plans to poke around some of the lovely shops in Ocean Springs on Day 2 was disrupted for reasons that aren’t important. My brother and sister-in-law arrived right on schedule though so we walked into town and had lunch at the Government Grocery and Restaurant. (It’s on Government St and I assume it was once a grocery store). Great burger and cold beer – what more can you ask for?

My brother and I then took care of some family business as my sister-in-law did roam the shops. She is an incredible seamstress and fabric artist and Ocean Springs has several shops that she loves. I had some residual work to take care of after my brother and I finished, plus I snatched a little nap. Hey, it happens.

Even though I had Italian on Friday, Leo’s has wood-fired pizza and I am a sucker for that. The outside dining was full and inside was filled with marvelous black and white photos of movie stars and singers. Lena Horne, Audrey Hepburn, James Dean, etc., – the iconic photos. Most of the restaurants downtown are not large and I have been impressed with the service. It has routinely been attentive without hovering. There are multiple restaurants downtown and I’m making my way through them. The others are spread out on either Highway 90 or on Washington just past the bridge up to the I-10 exit.

There is a nice mix of cuisines available with fresh seafood and the Cajun influence prominent along with standard Southern favorites. Mississippi was one of the first states to enthusiastically establish catfish farms, so that is plentiful. We did not go to those places on this trip, but we will keep them on the list.


Belated Blogging From Ocean Springs…..

View from Ocean Springs Park

View from Ocean Springs Park

 I have of course explained before that I am not a technically savvy blogger. That lack of skill became apparent during my recent trip to Ocean Springs as I was unable to access my blog for two reasons. One was an error on my part and the other was the decision to stay in a sort of B&B (that means the Bed and not Breakfast part) where there was no connectivity. At any rate, the next three posts will be catch up as to that trip. Under the circumstances, I will post in daily sequence with wrap-up at the end.

I spent the first night of the trip in Biloxi, and did not arrive in Ocean Springs until the morning of Day Two. As I wrote in a previous blog, we discovered Ocean Springs as we were en-route to New Orleans. It is a really inviting small town on Biloxi Bay. In fact, it is so inviting, that I wanted to come back and look around, plus it’s only an hour and a half from where my brother and sister-in-law live. The plan was for them to come down (well, down and over) on Saturday for a pleasant lunch, then dinner, and my return to FL Sunday afternoon.

The fact that Oak Shade Retreat where I stayed was a short walk to the beach made up for the inconvenience of no internet. I am not at the point in my life to where I need to be “wired 24/7” for most trips.

I saw lots of brown pelicans which I dearly love and a number of other birds as well as plenty of Spanish Moss dripping from the plentiful oak trees that have survived generations of hurricanes. Katrina did a huge amount of damage here and in some places people decided not to rebuild. While the property prices plummeted as they did nation-wide, they are headed back up and waterfront, as always, held its value.

Breakfast my first morning was at the Bayview, a place that does breakfast, lunch, and catering. Enjoyable ambience, had a superb lemon-poppy seed muffin and excellent coffee. Lunch was back over in Biloxi at McElroy Seafood, a place on the bay that has been around for quite some time apparently, but was destroyed by Katrina and re-built. Dinner – we shall see.


Brown Pelicans at Big Chill in Key Largo

Brown Pelicans


A Trip Interrupted…….

Ah, this was supposed to be a delayed post to talk about my trip to Ocean Springs, MS. I will do that, but at the moment, I am trying to curb my intense frustration with still being in Biloxi instead of on the way to Miami. I will not divulge the name of the airline until I have contacted them with my extreme displeasure. I do not know why the flight coming into Biloxi was delayed as long as it was, but that resulted in me not being able to make the connecting flight. Now, since they try and re-book using a central system instead of agents on the ground, the woman whom I will never meet informed me on the phone that they could not get me out tonight whether I left Biloxi or not. You can imagine my response. So, I will take a 6:00 a.m. flight tomorrow morning in order to make the connecting flight that will then hopefully get me to Miami around noon. Since I have a commitment at 3:00 p.m. in Homestead, that means I will literally get home in time to change clothes and leave for a 3-plus hour event.

I will stop the post at this point and let everyone know tomorrow how all of this works out.

For Parents Who Travel

Perhaps the fact that I’m traveling tomorrow so soon after Mother’s Day sparked the thought about my book, The Parents Guide to Business Travel, the first non-fiction book that I wrote. While I usually hyperlink the title, this time, I’m providing the link to the first chapter instead because there might be some passages that will sound very familiar. http://www.charliehudson.net/books/week_sample.html

In actuality, I think the spark came from a discussion with a friend who has a friend who is feeling that his relationship with his children is strained due to travel, but he thinks that it will eventually work out. And it might. However, if the plan is to pretend that there isn’t a problem and ignore it rather than honestly look at the situation, then the scales could tip in the other direction. The very reason that I wrote the book was based on many years of work-related separation, to include the six months of deployment during Desert Shield/Storm. The separations began when my son was only three and continued through high school. That is why I divided the book by age group – how one handles separation with an infant is not the same as with an adolescent. No matter the age though, there is a common theme and that is to convey to the child/children that you are not away because you value work more than family. The demand of travel in a job is a reality in certain professions and that is what you explain. How you explain that will depend on age, personality, and other factors that I discuss in the book. When managed correctly, this can be a positive influence because it provides insight to a child about adults and work. Children can understand priorities when those are presented in a user-friendly way. “Mommy/Daddy has work and sometimes it is at the office and sometimes it’s in a far away place. I will come home as soon as I can,” instead of, “Stop crying about me leaving. I have to because of work.” It may seem like a subtle difference, but it is a difference.

Enhanced technology can be a wonderful thing for helping “shrink the distance”, although that doesn’t always work schedule-wise if you travel in significantly separated time zones or are on a project that starts early in the morning and ends late at night. The key point to remember is that children can and do understand about why you travel if you have two-way communications and address their concerns seriously. (That doesn’t mean agreeing to emotional blackmail, but I cover that in the book, too). So, if it’s time to pack that bag again soon, interact with your child/children prior to the trip and if the response is, “That’s okay, it’s not a big deal,” that probably means you are handling the situation well.



A Different Gift For A Mother…….

There are definitely elements of the O. Henry story, “Gift of the Magi” in this, but something triggered a memory the other day. You meet a lot of people during your time with the military and a gentleman that I knew related this to me when we were discussing the various assignments he’d had. It’s important that I digress to explain how assignments in the military work for those who do not have that background. All military personnel, enlisted or officer, are assigned to a specific branch of the service and have a specific Military Occupational Speciality (MOS). That means the type of training they receive such as in Military Personnel, Military Police, Infantry, etc., There are multiple MOSs within a field and an individual can be trained throughout a career in different MOSs. Assignments are based on MOS, location, and the all-encompassing “needs of the service”. In other words, all personnel are given the opportunity to ask for a certain area or installation such as, “the Southeast” or Fort Bragg, North Carolina. If the individual’s request and the service’s need coincide, that’s fine. However, the individual’s request simply doesn’t have priority and virtually everyone has stories of odd assignments to places they had no intention of going to.

Okay, I have set the stage. The gentleman I am talking about had one brother who was also in the Army. By chance of timing, they were coming up on assignment at essentially the same time. I don’t recall if their mother was widowed or divorced, but she was single for many years and lived close to Fort Hood, Texas. The sons had been stationed either overseas or some distance away and as they spoke to each other about their pending assignments, they agreed that asking for Fort Hood would be a really nice surprise for their mother. Since Fort Hood is a very large installation with a lot of units and not necessarily one of the more popular choices, they felt confident that their request would be approved. They were correct, but the military is also notorious for last minute changes and so they waited for a bit to spring the surprise, wanting to make certain that the assignments were locked.

As you might have guessed, she was surprised and touched. She had a surprise for them, too. She had met a wonderful man that she was in love with and was to be remarried before she and her new husband moved to I believe it was Oklahoma. Needless to say, the family conversation was filled with surprises. Notwithstanding the exchanges of “What?!”, that probably occurred, everyone apparently accepted the situation philosophically and at least she and her new husband weren’t going across the country.


Seeing Manatees……..

Mother and baby manatee near Horizon Divers in Key Largo. Photo by Jack Devore.

Mother and baby manatee near Horizon Divers in Key Largo. Photo by Jack Devore.

The large populations of manatees tend to be more on the Gulf side of Florida and up around Crystal River. An overnight to there is another of the “to-dos” that hasn’t gotten done yet for several reasons. Manatees in this area are common enough that if you are frequently around the docks, you’ll see them on a fairly regular basis. They often meander into the canals, especially when it’s time for rinsing down boats. They come seeking the fresh water and of course all the marine mammal experts rightfully tell people not to let the manatees drink from the hoses. On the other hand, holding out a hose with a stream of fresh water as a manatee raises up out of the water and holds its head to where it can catch the stream of water is difficult to resist.

I have only had a chance to see a few come in around the docks; once it was a mama and baby. Our friends from NY who will be headed home next week took this photo the other day as a mama and baby pair cruised up from the ocean side. They really are lumbering creatures and boaters have to excercise a great deal of caution because the manatees simply cannot manuever quickly enough to get out of the way of a propeller. This is why you have the no-wake zones in so many parts of Florida – or you may instead see the Manatee signs along with them. However, like most wild creatures, they don’t go only where there are warning signs and that is why boaters have to pay close attention when they are in any environment where manatees might be. They eat sea grass and are indeed in the “so ugly they’re cute” category. The term sea cow is appropriate and if the legend is true that sailors once mistook them for mermaids, then they must have had pretty low standards for what they thought a mermaid would look like.

Hibiscus Happiness…..

Hibiscus in full bloom

Hibiscus in full bloom

Notwithstanding the fact that my gardening skills continue to be far less than they should be, my husband continues to adroitly manage the health of most of the items except the orchids. There is only one of the several that he has tried that has survived and it is currently in a non-blooming state, although the leaves look fine. The hibiscus on the other hand are finally both flourishing. The red one has always been hearty and in fact is so large, it’s main root has grown through the container and into the ground. We discovered this when we intended to remove it from the pot and transplant it. Alas, that will not be happening and my husband has now secured part of a branch to the fence in order to prevent the pot from being toppled over by the weight of the bush.

We don’t actually know the proper name for the color of the second one – coral, orange, something like that. When we first purchased it, there were two sections in the pot and it was lovely, Something occurred to kill part of it and the rest looked as if it would not survive. My husband played around with the amount of water and fertilizer and it has indeed recovered. The blooms close at night and open during the day, as full and beautiful as we could ask for. How long this will last, I don’t know, but we will certainly enjoy it while we can.