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.

Did I Mention Coffee?…..

In coming up on Christmas and sipping my third mug of Black Rifle coffee, I suddenly remembered a technique that may not still exist. (The post I did last year explained about the Black Rifle Coffee Company)

Anyway, many years ago, my brother gave me a “cold water coffee extract” kit for Christmas. I think that was when he was working at the still fairly unknown Whole Foods Market (yes, that one), and more importantly, he does not and never has been a coffee drinker. When he sent this he assured me his coffee drinking friends loved it. Alright, now to describe it. There was a glass carafe, a round plastic container that fit over the neck of the carafe, and a plug to fit in the container. The instructions were to put the plug into the container, place up to one pound of ground coffee into the container, fill it to whatever the marker was on the container with cold/room temperature water and allow it to “drip” around the plug for 8 hours or overnight. The extract it produced in the carafe was then to be refrigerated and used like instant coffee. I was understandably skeptical, but I do love my brother. My first try with it did not go well as somehow I didn’t set it up correctly and had a mess on the counter. I managed that part okay the next time. I don’t recall exactly how much extract was produced, but I think it was enough for about twenty mugs. Much to my surprise, it did make excellent coffee because it provided a smoother taste with no heat in the process of making the extract. On the other hand, it was a “process” to plan out.

I also don’t recall at what point I probably broke the carafe or lost part of the kit in a move, but whatever happened, I didn’t bother to find out how to replace it. Like I said, I don’t know if such a thing still exists, but my brother was correct about it.

Dolphins Are A Go…..

During the Thanksgiving call, son said they did talk to granddaughter about the dolphin encounter and she’s all for it. I wasn’t surprised, but it was important to confirm in case I needed to cancel. When she was younger, there would be adventures she would think about and then change her mind when the time came. Now, we simply have to hope Mother Nature is kind to us from a weather perspective.

Since we will have the 28th, 29th, 30th, and 31st as days, there are multiple options. The dolphins are the 29th and I’m planning the 30th for son and daughter-in-law to have “date day” as granddaughter and I maybe go to the nearby park, have pool time and maybe bake some cookies or brownies. I will have given my vehicle to the kids, so if Hubby is home we can go on some type of adventure. With their flight back scheduled New Year’s evening, there will potentially be a few hours which might include a drive out to the Everglades after a hefty New Years’s Day brunch . At this point we don’t know how much Hubby will have to work even though it is often almost the whole visit. Lots of people come here specifically to dive for the holidays.Other friends in Redland have a New Year’s Day reception and we might all pop around to say hello depending on how everyone is feeling.

I haven’t quite decided on New Year’s Eve menu yet as I’m not certain if we’re having 9, 11, or 13 for the party. I was considering food laid out for constant eating instead of sit-down and am now thinking sit down instead (buffet style). The decision will be easier if we find out Hubby has to work that day. That will impact how much I’ll have to do even though the kids will of course help.

Holiday Meal Memories……

Setting aside some of the chaos that can come with the holidays, food is of course a major part of Thanksgiving and it’s interesting to look back on the different places and families I’ve been with over the years.

Growing up in small towns in the deep South before the time of being able to access literally any kind of food, the tradition was turkey and ham as the meats. My maternal grandmother’s famous dressing as stuffing for us was something you saw in magazines. I think I’ve posted before that she didn’t use a recipe as is often the case with family dishes, and my sister spent years experimenting until she was finally able to match it. Mashed potatoes and candied yams with marshmallow topping, green bean casserole, rolls and giblet gravy (never been a fan of that). Cranberry sauce from the can and in addition to pecan and pumpkin pie, my grandmother did a cherry spice cake.

My first encounter with stuffing and “real cranberry sauce” were, not surprisingly, when  I was in Maryland. I didn’t encounter mince and strawberry-rhubarb pie until I was in Maine and no, I don’t care for either one. Butternut squash done in a mashed potato style was also new for me and I’m sort of neutral on that.

I’ve previously posted about Thanksgiving with my Georgia in-laws as the one I find truly astounding since somehow over the years the “sides” increased in number. In addition to the “regular items” their tradition includes potato salad, mac and cheese, broccoli salad, corn casserole, field peas, collard greens, yellow squash casserole, and I may be leaving something out. You simply can’t fit everything onto one plate. The dessert variety is almost as plentiful.

There have been multiple Thanksgivings spent overseas and when in a place with a fairly small commissary (grocery store on post), waiting until the last minute often meant not being able to get at least one staple – like no crescent rolls or maybe no frozen pie crusts to help out those of us who don’t do them well from scratch.

Anyway, this year, we’re going again with folks from the dive shop and we’ll take the fried turkey as our contribution. Host has new smoker he’ll be using for that one.

Enjoying Rum…..

Okay, for those who may not have seen the previous post about the Miami Renaissance Rum Festival, it is put on by Rob and Robin Burr. The usual date is in May or June as they also have a rum cruise this time of year. COVID changed all that and so they held their 12th annual Festival Sunday, Nov 14th. They’re still not certain of what 2022 will bring; hopefully a return to normal.

Although previous festivals were held in large venues with judged competitions, seminars, and entertainment, that did demand a much higher level of logistics and made it a two-day event. They moved to the Coral Gables Woman’s Club, an historic building with two open rooms for the vendors. There were more than 40 and most had multiple rums to taste. We generally only taste the aged rums and will have one or two drinks of the vendors who do a mixed drink. The small amount you get per rum does add up and no we don’t drive after. There is a hotel close by with a good Greek restaurant. We spent the night and we may Uber next year instead; plenty of time to decide.

The vendors come from different places; the ones you would expect such as Panama, Jamaica, Venezuela, then the surprising ones such as two from Louisiana. As the guy from Wildcat Brothers Distilling said, “We have lots of sugar cane.” This is from their website: “The story of Wildcat Brothers Distilling may be the most unorthodox tale this side of the Bayou. Set in fertile South Louisiana (“Cajun Country” as we like to call it), our story features two unlikely heroes: a former lawyer and Ph.D. behavioral scientist. Together, they embarked on a journey to help their fellow Acadians celebrate the joie de vivre with the very best French style rum. The result was Acadiana’s first distillery. Merging old-world recipes and modern techniques, our flavors harken back to the way the original Acadians would have crafted rum – with their own hands and local ingredients.” https://wildcatbrothers.com They were fun guys to talk to and their “Noir” run was good.

A bit more whimsical though was the lady in the Mardi Gras hat because they were with Roman Candy Rum Company. “In 1915, Sam Cortese began making and selling his hand-pulled molasses taffy from a wooden, mule-drawn wagon on the streets of New Orleans. The famous red and white wagon bearing the name “Roman Chewing Candy” is a true fixture of New Orleans tradition and still can be found in the streets today, clanging its bell and calling all to come to enjoy the hand-pulled chocolate, strawberry and vanilla taffy. Our rum is a tribute to Grandpa Sam and to New Orleans.” http://www.romancandyrum.com

Resilience Instead of Victimhood…..

Social comments alert. This is another post where the intent is not to stray into politics although it can be construed that way.

An interesting story came in to the paper and was passed to me. The article will run next week. The essence is a woman and her older brother lived in Homestead back in the 1980s under very difficult circumstances. Her mother had made some really poor decisions that caused her to be away from the kids for a while and when she took them back, it seems to have been only marginally better. The point is a man in Homestead “hired” the kids to help them out and they sold subscriptions to the local paper. That added income to their mother working at a low-paying job did enable them to at least have a place to live. The guy continued to do nice things to help out and was an inspiration to her brother who had no father figure. The girl actually was still in touch with her kindergarten teacher in MA who apparently also recognized the problems in the family and served as “a mentor”. The situation in Homestead didn’t last more than a few years as the mother married badly again, moved the family back to MA, and was then murdered by her husband. This time the 12-year-old daughter and her brother were split up to be raised by different family members. Not surprisingly, they each had coping issues and each decided to enter the service as soon as they could as a way out of their circumstances. The brother joined the Navy and the sister the Coast Guard.

The brother served one enlistment (might have been a little longer), got out and started his own small business in MA. The woman stayed in the Coast Guard for a career, and had multiple assignments in Florida as well as other places. She retired to FL with her family, but also spends time in MA helping her brother with certain aspects of his business. In the course of the years, they lost track of the man in Homestead who helped them and the woman hasn’t been able to find him through social media or standard searches. One of the aspects of the article is perhaps he or someone who knows him will reach out to re-unite them so they can assure him his long-ago kindness has not been forgotten.

Desert Storm Memory……

I was guest speaker at one of the local Woman’s Clubs yesterday with my presentation of, “Inadvertent Pioneer”. This was in honor of Veterans Day. That presentation is focused on the transition time of 1974 thru 1995 when significant changes took place for women and I happened to be part of it through a series of circumstances.

Anyway, this presentation always stirs memories of different parts of my career. As I’ve posted before, my husband and I were with Second Corps Support Command (2d COSCOM) under the VII Corps for Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He was moved to the newly established Task Force Bennett and I stayed with the COSCOM Headquarters. In practical terms that meant he was further forward in the desert than I was and we did see each other briefly occasionally when our duties overlapped. During the main part of our deployment, we did have some trailers as office space at the headquarters (we did move three times I think it was before we folded into King Khalid Military City after Hussein surrendered). Most of the headquarters was in tents; the large ones for mess hall, operations, etc.,  – smaller ones for living. One of the things we had to get used to were the sudden, violent dust storms that would appear in the same way squalls do. We often saw towering “dust devils” in the distance which were interesting to observe. The type of storm I’m talking about would appear with little notice from a clear, hard blue sky. Think of one of the large tents like you see at events except instead of open sides, the sides are down and pegged into the ground. Now think of that same tent being literally snatched up a few feet off the ground, twisted and set back down, partially collapsed. The storms rarely lasted more than maybe ten minutes and weren’t always that intense. Everything was obscured though and you certainly didn’t want to be outside without protection. As far as I know, no one ever got hurt, but cleanup always took a while.

First Time With Dolphins…..

One of the local activities available here is interacting with dolphins. There are three different places. One is Island Dolphin Care, the therapy group I have posted about before. Although that does help fund their programs, they have had to be extra cautious during this time of COVID. The more commercial group in Key Largo is the one I booked the kids with a few years ago and further south at Theater of the Sea, there is the choice of dolphins or sea lions. Traffic is so heavy in the Keys on weekends and during holiday periods, there’s no reason for them to go the extra distance for what is a similar activity.

While swimming with dolphins is a definite experience, you do have to be a confidant swimmer and so the “shallow encounter” is better for younger children and adults who aren’t overly confidant in the water. In talking with the kids when we were up in Virginia, we decided the shallow water for granddaughter is the right choice at this stage. With the condo pool closed yet again this past summer, she didn’t get actual swim time and went to the parks with like splash pads. The shallow water encounter will allow her contact with firm footing. Also in discussion with the kids, Dad will go in with granddaughter and Mom is booked as a “watcher”. Since they have a professional videographer as an option I will check to see if they want that added on. After all, at age six, this could be something granddaughter wants to watch multiple times.

What I don’t know is when they want to tell her. My inclination is to wait and I’ll have some kind of book about dolphins under the tree wrapped. I’ll run that by them and see what they think.

Your Room At The End…….

Musing Alert. There may not be anyone new reading this post, but if there is, the book I published in 2011, Your Room at the End: Thoughts About Aging We’d Rather Avoid (https://charliehudson.net/books/your-room-at-the-end.html) was a book I genuinely thought would provide a breakthrough for me. It’s only 150 pages, yet touches on virtually every aspect of aging that Baby Boomers need to consider for their parents/other loved ones and ourselves. As I came to learn, however, it is, “the book people should read the most and want to the least.”

The quick background is when my first husband’s mother entered her 80s, she was widowed, and my husband had been their only child. She and her husband were only surviving children and there was simply no direct family other than our son who was in college. I was in Florida which is certainly a long way from Maine. As a fiercely independent woman, she actually worked part time until she was 84 and she had a plan for her “older years”. Unfortunately, her body (and then her mind) weren’t in sync with the plan. There were some good friends who helped her a great deal and I spent much of her last two years running back and forth between Florida and Maine. In the process of doing so my next door neighbor and good friend strongly urged me to write this book, citing how she thought it would be of great use to others. (Ironically and tragically, she passed away from cancer at only age 60 less than six months after the book was published.)

Anyway, the book did not sell well even though there are several people who bought multiple copies to give to friends and/or their adult children. One gentleman is convinced the time has come to “give it another go” and use his network to promote it. Most of the content is still valid, so the fact it’s been out for ten years shouldn’t be a drawback. We’ll get started with that soon and see what happens.

 

Made My Monthly Dive….

I always get a little concerned as we approach the end of the month, but the fact is with all my other commitments, the last week is often the best time for me to be able to carve out a day for diving. (Not that I don’t work the rest of the day to “make up for it”) Anyway, Tuesday’s conditions were nice even though visibility was down a bit. There were two couples on the boat from Quebec; one who was experiencing Key Largo diving for the first time. A different couple whom Hubby was guiding (along with the others) had been trained in lakes and a quarry so this was their first ocean dive. I did my best to find them all some really cool stuff and wasn’t able to come up with anything “big”. However, I usually come up a little earlier than Hubby and it turned out they saw a baby Goliath Grouper after I headed back to the boat. “Baby” in this definition was probably close to 75 or more pounds. The same thing happened on the second dive where they saw a nurse shark. While I would have enjoyed seeing both of those, it’s more important for the visitors to have the extra experience.

The usual array of fish was good, especially on the wreck of the Benwood where we saw three or four large schools. I did find a big worm although I didn’t know what kind. In this case, “big”, was about 4 inches long and Hubby told me it was a fire worm which is a type of bristle worm. On the first dive I did see a stingray, but it was moving too fast and away from the group for me to be able to get them pointed in the right direction to possibly see it. On the second dive I found nice-size cowfish to show them too. As always, I was happy to see a rock beauty like in the photo.

Rock Beauties are the smallest of the angel fish we have on our reefs.

And Forty-one Years Have Passed…..

A bit of musing alert. Today is son’s 41st birthday. I imagine they celebrated yesterday as it’s the only day of the week they get off and Mondays are rather awkward to try and celebrate unless there is an actual holiday involved.

For those of us who have been around for a while, there is such irony in the times we were young wishing for a “future time” to “hurry up”; to be old enough to fill-in-the-blank for whatever applies.And I’m certain I have previously referenced the Country and Western song, “Don’t Blink” by Kenney Chesney. It begins with someone interviewing a man who is about to turn 100 and his advice continues, “You’re six years old and you take a nap, wake up and you’re twenty-five and your high school sweetheart is now your wife.” You look at the photos of your child as a baby, toddler, etc., and four decades have gone by. There were so many moments that marked different stages and entering adulthood came with all the questions as to what that would bring. As everyone who follows the blog knows, his career choice was not something we expected nor initially fully embraced. We did manage to work through that quickly enough so not to hold on to what we thought things should be and understand what that reality was.

There is of course also the question of, “How on earth do I have a 41-year-old son?” The answer is easy in doing the simple math and yes, that too can give pause for thought. Fortunately, Hubby and I are both in good health and active although definitely aware of normal aches and less agility than in the past. I have no doubt six-year-old granddaughter wished her Dad a Happy Birthday without a thought in the world that she will be that age someday.