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.

Things We Don’t Remember….

No, I’m not talking about the heartbreak of the various forms of dementia, especially as our older loved ones wither from the individuals we once knew. Nor am I referring to our joking about “Senior Moments” before it does become serious. Not long ago, I had a discussion with someone, fortunately on the telephone so my body language didn’t give me away. The individual was talking about his clear memory of not only the first time we met, but about a time a few years later as well. I have no reason to doubt him as the context all made sense and everything tracked with the sort of things I would have done and said. The are indeed other things I recall in the time we spent together – this is all on a professional basis – yet the times he vividly remembers are complete blanks for me.

Indeed, when I give my presentation on “Capturing Family Memories” to begin the process of writing a memoir, I make a point of this. Unless video and audio recordings are available, every experience is subject to personal memory and/or interpretation. This can be true whether an event occurred a short time prior or many years. In general, the longer after, the more disparate versions will be, although the significance of the experience generally does matter. In the case I am referring to, as I have mentioned in other posts, I was the “first female” in a number of positions during my Army career. Therefore, men who were not accustomed to having a woman in that position might well remember it as common with any “first”. I, however, having been through this on multiple occasions might not file the meeting away as anything particularly special. On a different note, remembering people’s names can be difficult for most people and I have almost reached the point where I’m not embarrassed to ask again when I draw a blank. I admit in a setting where business cards are likely to be available, I will sometimes smile and use the ploy of, “Do you have a card with you? I simply can’t seem to find where I put the last one.”

 

Sorry, Little Chrysalis…..

Ah, the pains of being novices. Okay, in the recent post about finally getting the backyard re-landscaped and focusing on plants to attract butterflies and birds, I did mention they planted some milkweed. Subsequently, all the milkweed leaves were eaten and there were more than a dozen caterpillars. Now come the probable error on our part. There were only two chrysalis when we went out a few days later; one on the almost stripped milkweed plant and one further over dangling off a sign. In looking about at all the nearby plants, we couldn’t find any of the caterpillars or other chrysalis. We don’t have a clue as to what happened to the caterpillars. I don’t know if birds can swoop in and eat them when they’re vulnerable or if maybe they crawled off into some other plants to where we couldn’t see them. Anyway, the one on the milkweed plant fell or was knocked off in the recent windy/rainy day which leaves our one lone chrysalis. I do hope it makes it. So, we’re up for suggestions from those who have been through this before.

I also haven’t seen any finches coming around to the one tree with berries they supposedly like. On the other hand, I don’t know that they aren’t. I do love those little critters and would like to have them as regular visitors. No hummingbirds yet either and again, we’re not during the migration time and all the indigenous ones may be perfectly happy where ever they are with no need to seek out new yards. With that said, the new plantings are all doing well and the lemon tree has grown some. We don’t expect fruit for maybe a year.  The beautiful one called a chocolate raspberry (a climber) has recovered nicely. Hubby had transplanted it when they were coming to replace the fence and the landscape crew transplanted it a second time. I know that can be tough on plants and we kept our fingers crossed. It is enjoyed by butterflies.

The Poor Bike…..

While I do know people in our age group who still run marathons and compete in the Senior Olympics, most of us don’t fall into that category. Part of the reason Medicare and other insurances have their “Silver Sneakers Program” and there are numerous exercise routines designed for we seniors, is to try and make it as easy as possible to maintain  exercise. I have a friend who is amazing with yoga. Having tried it only a few times, I can’t seem to get my head wrapped around the techniques. As I’ve mentioned in more than one post, I have struggled with my weight since my late teens. It’s both a metabolic and a lifestyle issue. All the women on my mother’s side of the family deal with the inclination to being overweight and the men don’t. There is probably some cosmic chuckle in there somewhere. Anyway, as much as I hate running, I was required to do so in the Army and it did keep my weight under control, albeit at the very edge of what was acceptable. It was truly my own fault I allowed it to “edge up”, then “shoot up” after retirement. My primary doctor has either never had a weight problem or had one and overcame it because she is this slender thing who constantly reminds me of how I can lose weight. Yes, thank you, I’m aware of all that.

Anyway, the fact is I enjoy eating and drinking and even though I have cut back on carbs, that isn’t enough to make more than incremental progress. I do faithfully exercise just to manage that much. I work out 5-6 days a week for 40 minutes. I used to walk and when I had a minor injury, the therapist suggested  a recumbent, stationary bicycle. I can’t use an ordinary bike because of my knees (a common aspect of a career in the Army). A recumbent gives the same aerobic workout with less downward pressure on the knees. And so, our poor bike has been “ridden” many miles between Hubby and I. The gears began slipping several weeks ago and it reached the point of a replacement being necessary. The new one is to be delivered today. I just hope it doesn’t have all kinds of electronic functions I have to learn.

Sometimes, It’s The Little Things….

When we remodeled the kitchen a few years ago and replaced most of the public spaces’ tile with engineered bamboo, I took advantage of all the mess and cleared out a number of things we no longer needed. I think I remarked at the time how our frequent moves during our military careers kept us from over-accumulating, but with finally being settled, the inclination to let something sit rather than re-purpose or dispose of did take hold. I think I also explained how we weren’t able to increase the square footage exactly, but did gain some needed cabinetry and a larger pantry through a couple of clever design changes. We have had an overhead pot rack for many years that has seen more than one house.  I had also wanted one of the pot stands, but when we did the kitchen, the other two items I wanted were a pie safe and a wine cabinet. Again, with only so much room, those two items won out.

Week before last, for some reason, I made a comment to my husband about wishing we’d been able to fit a pot stand in. I guess I hadn’t previously mentioned it because he pointed to a spot and said he was sure he could find one a little smaller than what I originally had in mind. It didn’t take him long and while it was smaller, it would work. For reasons that aren’t important, I only had two pieces left of the original Le Crueset set and they were stored in a drawer. He ordered the stand and it fit right in as if we’d planned it. I was going to head to the local Bed, Bath, and Beyond, but Hubby suggested we go up to The Falls, a nice shopping center we hadn’t been to in quite some time. They have a William Sonoma, Macy’s, and Bloomingdales. They also have a PF Chaing which made for a nice day. In wandering around William and Sonoma, I suddenly remembered we have two cobalt blue enamel colanders we keep in a cabinet with the strainers. So, two pieces of new cookware later, and a lovely lunch, plus a quick stop for a few things at Fresh Market and back home we came. My original pieces are the traditional “Flame” and I wanted to have a color mix. I am very happy with the end result. That’s a deep dish pie dish on the bottom. In all fairness, I’ll be making hubby an apple pie soon.

Hurricane Warnings….

With only two years passed since Hurricane Irma, the threat of Dorian is very much on people’s minds here, and even more so for the ones  who suffered through Hurricane Michael last year . At the moment, the northerly track places the storm further up in Florida. While that may be good news for this area, the strength of it is troubling for those who may be hit. In storm preparations exercises held in May by Florida Power and Light (FPL), the regional supplier for FL and up into GA, they are no doubt watching very closely. With a new governor in FL, he probably would just as soon not be tested in his very first year. I don’t mean that in a cavalier manner; this is serious business. I mean, no matter how prepared you think you are to respond  to a disaster, you don’t know how your teams will react until the time comes. On the other hand, if lessons were learned from last year, that will be helpful.

A very real point is the seeming lack of understanding of a lot of people about the first three days, sometimes referred to as, “72 on you”. That means having adequate supplies on hand to be able to sustain yourself/family and stay off the streets/roads for 72 hours. Relief measures cannot take place in the middle of a storm and accessibility of roads and streets immediately following is unpredictable. One of the reasons is hurricanes often spawn tornadoes and that is where significant tree damage can occur which in turn brings down power lines and blocks streets/roads. Keeping all vehicles except those actively involved in relief efforts out of the way is important. Heavy rainfall is the other aspect which can cause flooding and that can apply even if storm surge is not a factor. Rescue vehicles can be limited in their use if heavy flooding is an issue. Preparation and prayers are in order right now.

May Be Closing In….

Back in 2012 (might actually have been 2011) when I developed the plan for the “Small Town” quilting series, beginning with “Small Town Lies”, the idea was for four books. “Small Town Haven” came out the year after “Lies” and “Small Town Quilting Blues” was delayed due to a change from the original publisher. I also had other projects in between. I knew the central story and strong secondary story I wanted for “Small Town Quilting Treasures”. Once I finally began writing though, I realized neither plot point would require as much time to tell as I thought. With the cast of characters created for the fictional town of Wallington,Georgia, and Helen Crowder’s quilting circle, there are multiple avenues to pursue. I worked through some of them and had to stop for a while as I was still a little shy of where I needed to be length-wise. One of the “3:00 a.m. inspirations” allowed me to craft another chapter, then a thought about another dimension to explore set me along that path. I was at lunch with a friend earlier this week as I commented on needing just one more to fill a blank as I already had the final two chapters outlined. She kindly rattled off a couple of possibilities and I exclaimed, “Aha, that could work!”, for one of the ideas. The more I thought about it, the more it provided an intriguing follow-on to a situation encountered in “Small Town Quilting Blues”. I feel comfortable with where it is going and I won’t do a spoiler here about how it will unfold.

This will be the first series I have ended. As I’ve mentioned in other posts about appropriately ending television series, my plan is to resolve several relationships and hopefully leave fans with a sense of satisfaction in having come along for the journey. If all goes well, the book should be out for Thanksgiving.

Same Name, Different Dishes…..

Anyone who has traveled to Germany knows that hearty eating is in order and being carnivorous is handy. A popular dish in all the Guesthouses and most restaurants is schnitzel served in a variety of ways. Wiener style is simply breaded and fried served with lemon wedges. Rahm is in a cream sauce similar to a chicken fried steak. Jaeger is “hunter style” with a brown mushroom sauce. Zweible is with onions. Papricka is with sweet peppers. Schnitzel can also be done with veal or pork pounded out thin. In Hungarian cooking though “Papricka” is more about the spice itself rather than adding peppers and in the last minutes of simmering the meat in the reddish/brown sauce, you remove the pan from the heat, and stir/whisk in a couple of heaping spoons of sour cream, being careful to blend it thoroughly so you don’t have white streaks. When the mixture is smooth, you return it to the heat for only long enough to make sure everything is hot. (The chilled sour cream can reduce the temperature of the dish).

In actuality, the German dish is also referred to as Zieguener style to avoid confusion with the Hungarian version. We have some sweet peppers in the fridge we really need to use and I had said we would have Paprika Schnitzel tonight. I wasn’t sure if there would be veal at the store or only pork and was glad to see they did have veal. I also toyed with the idea of getting sour cream to do a hybrid of the dishes and decided not to bother with it. Had I really been on the ball I would have found the aisle where they have Spaetzle, the little dumplings Hubby really likes. I’d already been out for a while, and with the way they rearranged the store a few months back, I still haven’t found all the new locations of items, so I didn’t go on a hunt. Roasted potatoes will do s a side. (Okay, they’re the frozen type)   Hmm, I do have crispy crowns in the freezer, too. We’ll see which way we go with that.

Backyard Finally Done…..

In a follow-up to last year’s post, the landscaper and her team arrived about 8:00 yesterday morning and when I returned from my meeting around 2:00, they were already done. It’s amazing the way they rolled in; only four of them and she is right in there with them. For anyone not familiar with the soil here, digging is very difficult due to lots of coral rock embedded. It was also a day of 95 degrees. The last time we refreshed the yard, we had her work around the existing plants, many of which were in containers for two reasons. First was the difficulty in digging and second is we have some really nice containers. Some of the wooden planters though were in bad shape – it’s a tough outdoor environment and we weren’t doing the digging, so those were all replaced with in-ground plants.

They were among almost forty new plants and all of them were pruned, trimmed, etc,. We are set for when more butterflies and allegedly finches will soon appear, not to mention possibly buntings and hummingbirds. She had of course rattled off the names of all the plants when she came to do the survey and I couldn’t follow them all. Milkweed, I know of course and the lemon tree to replace the poor one battered by Hurricane Irma. There are already eggs on the milkweed and I’ll be patience as biology works its way through the stages. Now, we’ve always had butterflies;  simply not the mass of plants as now. In having also previously explained my lack of gardening skill, I have committed to keeping three of the container plants trimmed so they don’t become root-bound again. Hubby has the tougher job of pruning the numerous palms and the Pygmy date does have thorns. The landscaper claims that by transplanting the banana plant from the container into a new spot, it will eventually bear fruit. Not that I like bananas, but Hubby does so maybe with only one tree we won’t be overwhelmed.

Photos will follow occasionally as things settle in.

Summers in Maine….

Photos aren’t posted yet, but the kids made the 12ish-hour trip up to Maine yesterday. They’ll visit for four or five days, then make a stop to see a longtime friend in Rhode Island on the way back. Granddaughter is old enough now to really understand and remember the visits. As I have mentioned in previous posts, Dustin spent at least a month every summer in Maine, often longer. While we were there each Christmas as well, either for, or right after Christmas, summertime is very different. There are, of course, the masses of tourists to cope with as Grandpa swore each summer he would stay tucked away, “on the farm”, until after Labor Day. Taking Dustin on special excursions did make for the exception to his rule, although since was also still working, it would often be Gram and Dustin going somewhere as they “made memories”. It was important for him to embrace that part of his heritage and since my daughter-in-law is one of the few in her family to move away from Mane, granddaughter has deep roots there. The cottage on the lake makes for a perfect setting, except I’m sure even in August, the water temperature will be cool. Naturally there is the spot where they make a fire underneath star-filled night skies.

Blueberries in all shapes and forms, handmade ice cream, maple candies, and lobster for the adults are givens. I’m not sure if granddaughter has developed a taste for seafood beyond fish sticks, but there will be plenty of fried haddock nuggets. August can bring black flies as a nuisance, so here’s hoping it might be a mild year for them. I’ve probably forgotten some special culinary treat, and will no doubt see photos soon on Facebook as they make the different rounds to see family and friends. Perhaps Mother Nature will be kind and keep the weather sunny for them.

 

 

My Scuba Schedule…..

I try to get out to dive once a month, knowing Jan and Feb are unlikely between schedule and weather. In other cases, it’s a matter of whether there’s availability on the boats as I am admittedly spoiled and prefer not to go when it’s really crowded. That usually lets out the weekend. I also don’t go deep if Hubby is in a professional capacity. That’s a rule I made because he has to be able to focus on his student/client and if a problem occurs in diving deep, he doesn’t need to have his attention diverted because of me. While an actual problem isn’t likely, I am not as good on air as he is (that means I consume a greater amount of air – or for deep diving, Nitrox – than he does in the same period of time). While in most cases I will be as good or better on air than whoever he’s with, that isn’t always true. In a buddy situation, you have to stop the dive based on time or whoever is at the “turn around point” of air. For deep dives, you have to add in the time required to ascend to the 15-20 foot mark and do a 3 minute safety stop before completing the ascent. In other words, you have to allow an extra 5-6 minutes for that part of the dive. So, if we are deep and I hit 1,000 on my gauge, that’s the general point to begin ascent for the safety stop. If everyone else is doing better on air, they have to also stop and come with me. If Hubby and I are diving alone deep, it’s okay because he dives so often, cutting one dive a bit short isn’t a big deal. Causing a client to shorten a dive isn’t fair.

Anyway, Jan and Feb were in fact months I couldn’t get out and I knew June wasn’t likely with everything I had going on. July almost worked, but it was in fact Mon, Aug 5th when I finally got out. I am planning one extra dive day in August, so that will sort of make up for July. We didn’t see anything spectacular, although a few people did see an eagle ray. I kept looking for rays and wasn’t in the right spot at the right time. I did see some of my regular favorites and conditions were very nice.

This is a trunk fish and I always enjoy them.