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.
A recent conversation brought this to mind. The saying of, “Better to ask forgiveness than permission”, is another of the things people frequently use incorrectly. Generally, they say this somewhat cavalierly because they leap to the conclusion forgiveness will automatically be given. In the real world, that is most assuredly not the case.
The first time I heard this expression was as a young second lieutenant in the Army. The desire to cut through bureaucratic layers/red tape is the usual reason this approach is taken. A few years after when I was a senior first lieutenant/soon to be captain, a boss elaborated on the concept. He was not an easy guy to work for, but this was one of those pieces of advice I took to heart and have passed on to subordinates. He said that if I choose to disregard a regulation or a policy – of which there are many – to remember this: a) There are legal aspects that underlay many regulations. Learn the difference and never break a law; b) Take time to learn the regulation/policy or listen to someone who does know it – there are usually “experts” in these things; c) Have a logical reason for disregard and have a persuasive argument if called to task; d) Understand there may be adverse consequences to the choice and accept responsibility if it turns out that way
In my career, I never knowingly broke a law although I admit there may have have been some early on I wasn’t aware of. There were times I did the deliberate disregard after being advised to follow the regulation/policy and it worked out just fine – maybe a butt-chewing, but forgiveness. There were a few notable times of adverse consequences and I have the figurative scars as a reminder. The advice works just as well in the civilian world as in the military.
Quite a whirl of a week with Hubby and I both double committed more than one day. This is part of writing for the community paper as different groups hold events we routinely cover and other items of interest come in at the same time. It’s been flat out since a week ago Monday. Tomorrow has the potential for a bit of a break.
Anyway, granddaughter did have her birthday celebration Monday and her grandmother from Maine was able to be there. Apparently, the weather wasn’t as nice as they’d hoped, but March can be a tricky month. They have created a countdown calendar for the Disney trip and as I explained on the birthday phone call, it’s like that gap between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It can seem like a long time when you’re a kid. In the never missing a chance to make more money, there is an option now to have a “magic bracelet” which when activated allows you to open your room, gain access to the parks, etc.,. And of course they have a huge number of choices in color and design. Hubby wanted Darth Vadar and I went with something fairly normal. He will do whatever it is he has to do to activate them with the computer. Part of granddaughter’s surprise was for them to go on-line and pick out their bracelets as well. Son wanted some kind of Star Wars one as well and granddaughter got something in pink. The kids have of course already put the App on their phones and Hubby will do that, too. I won’t bother with it since a) I’ll be with one them all the time and b) I don’t intend to need it again. Not surprisingly I have old Apps on my phone (or some that came preloaded) that I don’t need and don’t know how to delete them.
Birthdays on Mondays are awkward and the kids only get Sundays off in a regular week. Granddaughter will be eight on Monday and not surprisingly the celebration will be on Sunday, the 12th. I’m not sure what they’re doing as last year she chose to take a few friends to a park that features climbing type activities. Not rock wall climbing, more like netting and ropes.
There will also no doubt be posts of “how have eight years gone by?”, the inevitable question as children enter new phases. The other day I heard a new song on the radio although I didn’t catch the name. It’s the same theme as the one several years ago, “Don’t Blink’, where the old man being interviewed on his 100th birthday gave that advise to express how quickly we move through life events. Like many of us when we’re kids, it is the, “I can’t wait until I’m old enough to…….” – whatever it may be. I have had those times in my life that do seem to drag on and there are most assuredly people in particular situations who need to “get through to be in a better place”. As one of the aging Babyboomers and with several friends now in their late seventies/early eighties, there is the tendency to look back at an event and be surprised to realize the number of years that passed since then. I have half-a-dozen standard topics I do talks for and one is “Refining Your Bucket List”. A point that I make is there are some items you might need to factor in age as a “resource”. The example I use is you always wanted to go white water rafting in the Grand Canyon and learn to grow orchids. For most people, learning about orchids in their eighties will be more practical than white water rafting at that point. Yes, I know there are a lot of very active seniors, but I am talking about the average person.
I’ve posted before about creating the town of Wallington, GA when I wrote the “Small Town” Quilting series. I used four towns I’ve lived in or have visited extensively; one in Georgia, one in Louisiana, one in Maine, and here in South Florida. I threw in other things as needed for descriptions, plot, or character support.
Small towns are definitely not for everyone. E-commerce and all the on-line deliveries available now though has gone a long way to minimizing one of the big drawbacks which is limited access to goods. Then again, there is also the definition of “small”. Census data uses a range of less than 5,000 although less than 10,000 is referred to as well. For me, around 15-20,000 is more my comfort zone, which isn’t the kind of “true small town” where literally everybody knows everybody. When I go back to visit Louisiana, my stops include the range of the very small place where my favorite aunt and cousins live to the larger university town, and of course I was going to the town where Daddy lived. There’s no one left there for me to visit although I may need to make another trip to take care of one lingering task.
Anyway, what prompted this post was I spent a frustrating part of yesterday morning trying to reach Social Security to get a piece of information about Daddy. Not surprisingly, he didn’t have an on-line account. Without getting into dreary detail, I was at that stage of raising my voice at the robot “help”. And yes, I had looked everywhere I could to try and send a query on-line. After my second round of calls attempting to get through, I did finally get passed to wait for a representative. That went to a “we can’t accept any more calls today. Please call back at another time”, plus a couple of comments about how busy they are. I then had a thought and looked up the number to the actual office in the town where Daddy lived. I waited until afternoon and tried the main number once again just to be fair. No luck on even the first round of trying to get help. I then called the office and spoke with an actual human. He listened to my problem, looked up what I needed and will allegedly mail it to me today. No, he didn’t know Daddy – the town isn’t that small – yet he was sympathetic and was willing to help.
February is that oddly short month that tends to throw everyone off. Couple that with some extra items/tasks thrown in and it does seem to truly “fly by”. Anyway, it seems as if everyone decides to then schedule virtually everything else in March with hardly a day in the coming month without some event or needing to prepare for an event. This is Women’s History month which accounts for part of it. Then there are two major fundraisers for two different organizations – okay, technically three, but one of those sort of wraps it in with the Woman’s History angle.
We do have some awesome women around and it’s always good to celebrate Sisterhood. By that I mean the genuine kind; not the thin veneer slapped on to fit a specific occasion. I looked up some different quotes and hadn’t seen these two before. “Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and, above all, confidence in ourselves. We must believe we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.” – Marie Curie. Also, “The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who’s going to stop me.” – Ayn Rand.
Quite some time ago, I did a post (maybe more than once) about how from my perspective genuine sisterhood includes understanding that choosing to be a “traditional mom” has a special place, too. I don’t dispute we appreciate Marie Curie’s accomplishments and Ayn Rand had a tremendous influence on me in my early twenties. Not everyone is going to be a groundbreaker/pioneer or famous. And not every woman actually has a choice to be a “stay at home” wife or mother instead of juggling job (or career) and family. To insist though that it “doesn’t count” unless you are juggling both is inappropriate. Shifting gears, I am also heartened to see when girls/young women look at IT and the trades as a path. This is still an area where women lag behind and we’ll see what the future brings with it.
Last night we had an event with Homestead Center for the Arts in what we call MuSe – Music Series. We started it several years ago and quite frankly, it may have run its course, but that’s not the point of this post. The band that the other committee member found was a local I wasn’t familiar with. We bring in different genres for MuSe and hadn’t done 60s-70s rock for a while. I had been told the lead singer was quite good and that was certainly true. The whole band was and the range of songs was extensive. Jefferson Airplane, Fleetwood Mac, and others – all cover stuff so I don’t know if they do their own.
Anyway, a long time ago I made the comment about you know your age at the moment you say, “I just don’t get today’s music.” When Rap and Hip Hop came along, I didn’t care for it although I did understand the appeal. (The violence/profanity aspect was a whole different thing, but again, that’s not the point of the post.) I don’t listen to the radio in general except in the car and yes, the primary stations are classic rock and country. I will admit some of the really old country is okay, although I don’t care for the common “twang” that was popular at the time. I’m the same way with my parents’ music of Big Band and while it’s good for a special event, that’s about it. When talking about today’s music, the only reason I know any of the names is because they are often in the news. I have no idea who sings what and I’m sure some songs are good – I just don’t plan to try and find out.
We don’t go out for Valentine’s Day, Mother or Father’s Day, Easter Brunch, etc,., because it’s generally really crowded at places and we do enjoy making nice meals at home. Hubby was going to pick up filets for Valentine’s Day, but it was one of the times when the Publix butcher (very helpful Australian guy) recommended the bone-in rib-eye instead. They were indeed delicious and as is often the case we had leftovers. Not enough for a full second meal, however, there was plenty if we added a first course, and I opted to do steak Bordelaise. This is a stove top prep, is fairly simple, and doesn’t take long. In fact, the plan was to mince the shallots (two in this case) beforehand and liberally grind black pepper over the slices of steak, and set both aside.
I gave Hubby a choice for first course of seafood or French onion soup and he opted for the soup. If we hadn’t been doing Bordelaise, I would have used shallots along with the sweet and red onions for the soup. Anyway, Hubby also prepped the salads while I made the soup. We enjoyed it and then I made the steak dish while he managed the microwave with the potato dish and whatever vegetable it was.
For the sauce, put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet on medium-low heat. Saute the shallots, adding more cracked pepper and some salt. It takes about 8-9 minutes to get them to the limp stage. Remove from the skillet onto a plate. Add two tablespoons of butter to the skillet, increase the heat to medium and add the steak slices when the butter is melted. Cook for about two minutes on each side. Remove steak to a plate, put in oven to keep warm. Return the shallots to the skillet, add one TBS of cognac (or a little more) and quarter cup of red wine (maybe a little more). Stir thoroughly and cook another three minutes, adding a bit more liquid if needed. Place the steak on the plates and spoon the sauce on top of the slices. (No, this is not a low-cal dish although it is low carb).
And yes, we still had leftover dark chocolate flourless torte to finish off the meal.
In the strictest sense, it is not that I have an actual gap in writing as I’m still doing one, often two, occasionally three articles a week for the community paper. Since 1997, I was publishing at least one book per year and frequently a novel plus a non-fiction (a few co-authored). For those who may be less familiar with my writing, I have three series in novels and some stand-alone as well as the non-fictions. When people ask me how many books I’ve written I have to pause for a count. It comes up to 15 novels, 3 non-fiction, and 4 co-authored (https://www.charliehudson.net/books.html) I have mentioned before that swapping between a novel and non-fiction near simultaneously was never as issue for me as they are distinctly different in approach. Okay, not an issue from a writing perspective; time management was another aspect.
Anyway, a series of things – again as I have either mentioned or alluded to in the blog – have occurred over the past two years to result in me not having an active book project for the first time in decades. This fall into two categories; 1) real life does interfere sometimes, and 2) priorities can get shuffled around. Part of it is the “Small Town” Quilting series was pretty much intended to be a short run of four books and I closed that out. I have now completed four books in the “Shades” and “Chris Green” series and while I haven’t closed either out, the idea I have for “Shades of Remorse” is a bit tricky. I have to use a technique I haven’t done before and I am not yet clear on how I will do it. I am getting closer though and think I’m ready to tackle it later this year which will put publication in 2024. With that said, I now also have to do some of that re-prioritizing of the time management part.
Emotional content alert. If you have followed the posts with me all these years, or even fairly recently, you know I do cross into occasional emotional areas either through musing or making a specific point. Several individuals on Facebook have recently experienced the passing of loved ones. It is difficult and even though we all understand we will lose our parents or another older relative/friend someday, the time and quite frankly the manner of, is painful. In some cases, it is somewhat sudden, in others the pain is worsened with lingering and debilitating illness.
We are coming up on the first anniversary of our father’s passing and in some ways, his decline was the “best” you can hope for. The unexpected part was the passing of my stepmother before him as statistically speaking most men don’t lose two wives. (My mother had always had health issues and actually passed away a few days before her 61st). However, the point with my father was even though he did have short-term memory problems, he had come to manage those and he never reached the stage to where he didn’t know who people were; he might call someone by a wrong name, but he knew them in context. After a mild stroke, he recovered quickly and did opt to use a wheelchair rather than try to go back to a cane or walker because he could get around easily in the chair, in and out of bed, etc., and he considered it to be more stable. The assisted living facility he was in was nothing fancy but well organized and staffed. He never had any kind of condition that caused him continuing pain and when I was back for his 95th birthday, my brother later used the term of “winding down”. The same was true for his 96th and not long after that, he was placed under hospice. This was a case of nothing specific; rather an administrative action to ease things for when the day came.
His 97th birthday did go as well as could be expected and he hung for about an hour in the gathering. It was a few months later when the call came that we thought was “it”. I relayed that in my blog posts then about how after rushing to get to Louisiana, he had rallied. He was seemingly unaware of why everyone had come in for a “surprise visit”. That did give us a chance to make/refine certain arrangements.The private time I had with him was mostly watching him sleep in his recliner, but that is normal in these situations. My stepsister and husband who lived in Texas were working remotely at the time. They stayed and the other “steps” lived in town or close by. The end came quietly a couple of weeks later. So for those going through grieving now, it does get better with time.
The days have been a bit extra jammed lately between helping a couple of people out more than usual added to the already generally full schedule. In fact, I am on my way shortly to cover an second piece for the community paper. This popped up late yesterday and it’s something Hubby would ordinarily cover. It’s an important infrastructure project that is part of a multi-phased program and he covered a critical first part not long ago. He had something else planned for today he couldn’t change and I had to juggle my day a bit to make it work. This happens to be what I call “no creativity required” because it really is a “who, what, where, when, how” piece. My one hope is they have some kind of written program or more detailed press release as there are likely to be at least a few people I am not familiar with and trying to properly identify them for the photos might be tricky. Anyway, that will take care of my piece for next week. I actually have a feel-good one I’m working on, but it isn’t time-sensitive. There are weeks when the editor needs something additional and this is the kind of piece that works well for that.
Continuing on in that vein, one of the reasons I am valuable to the paper is because I am always out and about in the community and run across – or am told – about these kinds of things. Naturally, I am occasionally approached with a topic/event that isn’t suitable, but as a community paper, highlighting local successes or events the public can share in is important. As I have noted in several posts, I have gone to assignments reluctantly, not aware of how heartwarming, uplifting, exciting, or just cool the story would turn out to be.