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.

That Apple Cake…..

I don’t do much baking and certainly far less than when we had son and teenage friends around the house. I’ve mentioned in posts before how I do not have the knack for dealing with pastry and I am definitely not creative when it comes to making a cake, cupcakes, or cookies look pretty. Today, however, happens to be one where I needed to prepare a specific cake (well, I mean specific because I chose it) for a social event. I had decided on an apple cake that I haven’t made in ages. It goes all the way back to my very early years in the Army and I can’t even recall now which wife did this one and then shared the recipe. Notwithstanding the fact it has apples, it is not what one could call nutritious. Delicious yes, and it has the added benefit of being one of the recipes you are supposed to make a day ahead. The batter is quite thick by the time you get everything in (done by hand) and when done, the cake is very dense. But if you want something in the “comfort food” category, here it is.

2.5 cups flour; 2 c sugar, 1c salad oil, 2 eggs, 1 tsp cinnamon, 3 cups chopped apples, 1 bag butterscotch chips (caramel or white chocolate would work, too).

Sift flour and cinnamon together. Put oil, eggs, and sugar in bowl and stir with fork. Add flour mixture in small batches and blend in. Stir in apples. Place into 9X13 baking pan and top with butterscotch chips. Bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes (I find 57 min to be right for my oven).

The melted chips make it a little harder to cut, but you have to wait around an hour before you can do so. You can leave it in the pan and cover with foil or if you want to take the squares (rectangles) out and place into some other dish/container, use a spatula and be gentle. It can fall apart since it does take a few hours to set up. It does not require refrigeration although you can if you like. I serve it at room temperature and you can top with whipped cream and some kind of berry if you’d like.

So Much in Orlando…..

Dragon Atop Building in Diagon Alley, Universal Studios Park

The other day someone was startled to learn the number one vacation destination in the U.S. is Orlando. For anyone who hasn’t been in a number of years, it may seem incredible, but the fact is between Disney and Universal Parks, they just keep adding more to what they already have. That doesn’t take Sea World and a few more notable, smaller, theme-specific parks/attractions into mind. In addition to theme parks, there are like ten museums, art galleries, more shopping than most people can manage, and it has become quite the “foodie town”. The convention center is huge and people who attend conventions often pick up the literature about what all there is to do and decide to return for vacation.

As I have mentioned before, when we go to the big dive trade show every other year, we usually tack on 1-2 extra nights to do either Disney or Universal and true, it’s combined with business, but it is still a deliberate choice. Hubby is already thinking granddaughter can enjoy Disney younger than I was planning (age 7), but I think I’ve convinced him 5 is a bit young and we’ll settle on 6. Even with that, you literally can’t see all of Disney in less than a week unless you go solid all day every day. Universal isn’t quite as bad, but you do need two very full days. A real issue is wait time for the really popular or new rides and people often don’t have the ability to go at non-peak season. Not surprisingly, they do a very brisk business with the add-on charges for the pass that allows you to be in the Express (or whatever the term is) lane.

Notwithstanding the lure for kids/teens, there is plenty for adults to enjoy, and that’s why Disney will have special annual events such as the Garden Show and the Food and Wine Festival. There are a number of places that put together coupons and other savings for visiting Orlando and it’s not a bad idea to check these out before making plans. Visits are expensive and especially if you go in for the “extras”.

 

About Those Benefits…..

I was reminded in a recent conversation of something from my second career I hadn’t thought about for a long time. After I retired and took some time off to write my first book, the novel, Orchids in the Snow, it became painfully obvious I would not be making a living as a writer. Like most other retired military in the D.C. area, I went to work in the defense services contracting sector. I knew I didn’t want to work for a Fortune-500 company and went with a small company experiencing growth. The culture was what I was looking for and their salaries were mid-range which was fine based on our situation. What benefits to provide employees can be rather complex. Their basic package was basic and the intent was to add selected benefits as they were able to. I knew the company had work in some high-risk areas/specialties, none of which I was remotely interested in. But when they added kidnap and ransom insurance as a benefit for those employees who did that sort of work, it was appreciated. (To the best of my knowledge, the policies were not put to test during the time I was with the company.)

When it came to growth, another thing I was unfamiliar with was the founder and his wife decided to buy another company. This wasn’t anything I had experience with, but I usually had lunch with my boss and he explained the rationale and process to me. A second company was later acquired to make the original company become “A Group”, which was in turn acquired by a Fortune-500 corporation. This was a case of becoming, “too big to be small, and too small to be big”. In other words, there are certain contracts set aside for small business and once you pass out of that category, you are then required to compete with the really big guys. It’s difficult to go head-to-head with them and the big guys all know this. Selling the company is often the most advantageous and the original founding members were able to negotiate a nice deal. Another interesting lesson learned in the real world of business.

The Ups and Downs of Volunteering…..

I’ve previously posted about the extra volunteer work I have taken on and how I really should have said “no” to the last board request. I did not, however, and therefore have pretty much only my lack of willingness to say “no” to account for this. The up side to volunteering is when you see the good of it. I was at a luncheon today where someone thanked me for helping give their organization a bit of a boost when it was at a kind of critical time for them. Since it is a group that helps mostly high school and young adults, how can that not make you feel good?

On the other hand, I have also been dealing with the proverbial “tempest in a teapot” in some other situations the past two weeks because quite frankly of egos more concerned with their own agendas than the goals of the organization. This aspect of groups is just as likely to occur among volunteers as in business. When in business, you can sort of understand the drive that might very well result in promotion or career advancement in whatever capacity. In a volunteer organization, it is essentially self-aggrandizement, which can be tolerable if the end results are something good for the organization. On the other hand, if the behavior includes persistent denigration of others, that makes it tough to cope with. How does one handle it? Cautiously if the intent is to maintain the group. In some cases, the departure of selected individuals is the only solution. The individual/individuals who depart though might not be the ones “creating the waves”. It really is a shame, but so it can go. Ah well, these are the times, an adult beverage or soothing cup of tea comes in handy.

About Being a Parrothead……

We haven’t really counted how many Jimmy Buffet concerts we’ve been to; around a dozen which is certainly fewer than some fans. Or “Parrotheads” as we are referred to. I think I’ve previously posted about how they are really more an “experience” than a traditional concert. To start with, costumes can be quite elaborate. Some like us, merely opt for tropical-motif shirts, shorts, and sandals. Others add in the touch of parrot or shark hats, grass skirts on top of shorts, leis, and coconut bras. Full-fledged pirate attire is of course appropriate. Hubby didn’t take a photo Saturday, but the guy in the pink flamingo costume was a first for us. As Buffet has said, when he started this journey forty years ago – initially trying as a country singer by the way – he never truly imagined it would still be going on and that three generations would now be attending his concerts. His “empire” from a business perspective is phenomenal. After the many hit records, accompanied by tee shirts came the Margaritaville restaurants/stores with all sorts of products. Then it was the Margaritaville Resorts/Casinos, and most recently, an actual retirement community. This first one is in Florida and I assume if it is as successful as his other ventures, there will be others.

As with many of the older stars who still perform, their body of work is so large, they generally cannot get to all the favorites and Buffet is no exception. He will absolutely always do “Come Monday”, “A Pirate Looks at Forty”, “Margaritaville”,” Fins”, “Son of a Sailor”, “Changes in Latitude”; usually “One Particular Harbor” and “Southern Cross” (one of the few he or one of his longtime band members didn’t write). He starts his concerts on time or within about ten minutes and gives a full two hours with only a short intermission. Every sings along and people have been known to stand the entire time, moving to the beat. As I said, it is an experience. I suspect we have only a few more concerts left and he, too, is likely to wind down at some point in the not too distant future. For now, however, the fun does still go on.

In A Whirl….

The days do seem to accelerate at times and this week is like that. One of the non-profits I am most heavily involved with and have previously posted about is Homestead Center for the Arts (http://homesteadcenterforthearts.com) We have a degree of difficulty in explaining what the organization is and what we do because we do not have a physical location. HCA was actually started back in 1977 (or 1976 depending on how you count it) by a core of individuals who realized the local artistic and cultural groups had no voice in the county. They came together and arranged for a small county grant to be awarded under their administration. The charter was, and continues to be the nurturing and promotion of groups and individuals engaged in different forms of art and culture. There are 20 Affiliate members, some of which are 501c3 and others not officially organized as such, but brought together to support and promote whatever their particular passion is. The Lamplighters Writers Group is obvious from the title as is the East Everglades Orchid Society. Dance Expressions is easy to understand, and the Historic Homestead Town Hall Museum is an example of culture rather than art. All the organizations seek members or volunteers and there really is something for just about everyone.

Anyway, in our on-going effort to let people know who and what we are the founder of What If Works, a theater and film non-profit, created an on-stage showcase, the first we have ever done. This is another one where it’s easy for the South Dade Community Choir to kick the show off with a rousing number. How to promote the South Florida National Parks Camera Club? Having an array of beautiful photographs scroll across the large screen as the poem “Everglades Morning” (written by a local author) is read.

As the first of its kind, however, there has been a lot of work being done by only a few people. In this case, it was a deliberate choice to limit the number of people since we don’t know how the reception will be. If we can establish it to become an annual event, we can use the lessons learned to form appropriate committees for the future.

“Little Chickens”…..

The game hens have finished thawing for tonight’s dinner. This is one of those meals that brings back fond memories. The title of the post by the way comes from a scene in a TV sitcom where the rather demanding woman of the house told the housekeeper to pick up game hens and said, “And don’t buy little chickens and tell me it’s the same thing.”

Anyway, we now grill game hens as a weekend meal, each have half, then do a meal of leftovers later in the week. When Hubby and I were going together, he invited me to his place for dinner. We hadn’t really had many discussions about his culinary ability although we did both enjoy food. I more or less assumed it would be steaks because that’s kind of a guy thing. I walked into his condo to see the table set, a lemon slice in the water glasses, salads ready, the wine opened, and a lovely aroma from the kitchen. He had just taken the roasted game hens stuffed with brown and wild rice from the oven. I expressed my pleasure and he explained someone had once given him the advice that as a bachelor, he needed to find and perfect just a few dishes – one for special dinners, one to take for pot-lucks, and one to have as central to parties. That was to be in addition to the common guy expertise with grilling.

The game hens were obviously the special dinner, he had a wonderful broccoli rice casserole for potlucks, his chili-cheese dip for parties is always popular and he did a killer chili. As you know if you follow this blog, cooking together is something we share and the number of his specialty dishes has definitely expanded. We’ve had a few we’ve experimented with that while they were good, we determined they just weren’t worth all the trouble. It’s been a lot of fun along the way, not to mention delicious.

Memorable Movie Lines….

Hubby made the comment recently that he thought the most lines routinely quoted were from “Princess Bride”. I quickly pointed out, “Casablanca”. He countered with if you ask Millennials, they wouldn’t know about it. Hmmm, he may have had me there. I truly don’t  know how many younger generation have watched “Casablanca”. First of all, I don’t know how often they watch black and white movies. Nor do I know if, of those, WWII ones are of much interest. Not that it was precisely a war movie. Anyway, there are fabulous lines from both those movies that really have made their way into many conversations.

“We need a bigger boat” and “I’ll be back” are certainly two others. The whole Dirty Harry thing of “Do you feel lucky?” and “Go ahead and make my day” count. “Failure is not an option” has to get some votes and even though it isn’t a whole line, “the right stuff” was picked up quickly. .There are definitely some lesser known ones that have always resonated with me when it comes to philosophy. Two were from “The Competition” when Richard Dreyfuss was really young. He and Amy Irving were in an intense piano competition. Winning for her would be the high point of many years of hard work in her privileged life. Winning for him would be a career launch out of his lower middle class life where he had to struggle to fit piano time in. They of course became interested in each other providing the necessary complication to the movie. At one point, as Irving debated about deliberately losing since she could compete in a later year, her mentor and teacher said something like, “Of course, and when it is your final year, some other pianist will step aside and let you win because life is so fair and equitable.” Since it’s possible you will actually watch the movie some day, I won’t give the other quote because it would be a spoiler.

So, how about it? Favorites movie quotes?

Balancing Love of Art and Practicality…..

I have previously posted about the “journey” of Hubby and I in the decision of son to become a professional dancer rather than pursue one of the careers we anticipated for him. Those who are fans of my books are also aware the “great commercial breakthrough” has yet to occur. Those two elements came together in a recent discussion when I was having coffee with a young man who is both an artist and a performer. He is in a position to be able to work part time in administration at a small performing arts center, and be in the associated community theater group as he works on an associate degree in business. Whether or not he continues with a bachelor degree remains to be seen and he is realistic about balancing his passion with the need to be marketable.

There is often the question as to why someone in the arts must generally put their art (in whatever form that takes) second to an income-producing career. This is especially painful when the individual is inclined to art to the degree it is difficult to do well in the skills considered more suitable to most paying jobs. The core reason is “supply and demand”. , Setting aside whether an individual is talented enough to be paid for whatever the art form is, there are simply far more artists, musicians, writers, etc., than people who can (and will) pay for those products and services.

Since that aspect of the world is not likely to change, being supportive of someone’s artistic desire is important while understanding for most, it will be something “done on the side” or as a hobby. The love of such can found in some of the oldest records of mankind and it is something to embrace even if it must be far less than full time.

Finally Underwater…..

I did intend to post yesterday, but it was pretty hectic and today has been about the same. Tomorrow will be a bit worse and Thursday and Friday have the potential to be fairly normal. That would mean busy without being totally jammed.

Anyway, I in fact got to spend Easter diving. We went to one of the more distant reefs due to better visibility so it was a bit longer of a day and since Hubby was with students, the nice leisurely lunch we try to have wasn’t in the cards. However, conditions on the reefs were good and we saw some of my favorites like the trunk fish in the photo along with a decent size stingray,  a couple of nurse sharks and a very large green eel as well as some fairly large groupers. I was looking at one of the groupers under a ledge and realized the eel was in with him. The other divers were close enough to let me get their attention and I backed out of the way for them to get a good look. Hubby used his light since it was a bit dim and by moving the light around, the eel moved some, too. Although it didn’t come out from under the ledge, everyone got a nice view. On the other end of the scale, I found a tiny shrimp tucked away and the bright blue Chromis I enjoy aren’t much bigger than a thumb. I spotted all four of the most common angelfish – queen, French, gray, and rock beauty. There are allegedly blue angels around and are almost never seen.

I really am going to try to go one more time in April to make up for not going at all in March. As we know, it will remain to be seen if that works out.