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.

Launching To Space……

Hubby was disappointed Wednesday when the joint NASA-Space-X launch was postponed until today due to weather. All was well at approximately 3:44 p.m. this afternoon though as engines fired and the ship streaked upward. This was an especially significant moment because of the public-private nature of the effort. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched a Crew Dragon spacecraft on its first test flight with NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on-board to be taken to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of the  NASA’s commercial crew program. The Crew Dragon will return to a splashdown at sea later in the weekend. NASA astronauts previously went to the ISS on regular shuttle flights, but that program was discontinued in 2011, leaving only Russia capable of delivering individuals to the station. By way of quick facts, 15 nations contributed to the station that was completed between 1998 and 2011, although the station has been continuously occupied since late in 2000 with more than 230 individuals from 18 different countries spending time on it. Several years ago my sister asked us to go with her to a launch because her Swedish neighbor was finally getting to go up. He’d been training in Houston for years and part of the tour that day was watching other pieces of the ISS being assembled. Different modules and capabilities have been continuously added to it.

Anyway, Elon Musk and his Space-X teams have had failures as always happens when working in this level of technology. Today, however, if not perfect (and it may have been) accomplished the critical initial stages of the mission. Unlike Hubby, who has kept track of multiple stages leading up to this, I was not aware a woman,Gwynne Shotwell, is the President and Chief Operating Officer for Space-X. She was one of the early employees of the company and in the interview shortly before blast-off, she said she’d become accustomed to launches, but was nervous about this one.

There are thousands of individuals in hundreds of roles involved with making something like this happen; all of whom must be feeling very proud today.

 

Some Things Better From A Restaurant….

As I have posted on numerous occasions, cooking is something Hubby and I enjoy. While we have certain specialties and of course I don’t even know how to light the grill, we share in preparation unless one of us has to be otherwise occupied. If he is grilling, I’ll take care of the salads and probably the sides. If I am doing veal paprika for example, he’ll handle salads after having done all the prep chopping for the main dish. One of the “givens”, is he adopted true “chef” techniques for chopping, has the specialty knives, and not only enjoys it, but cringes when he watches me chop in the same old-fashioned way I always have. Despite all of this, there are simply certain dishes we don’t bother with. Ribs fall into that category. Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day are times when burgers, brats, chicken, or ribs are really what one should have. Fried fish can be okay and yes, if one lives in New England, lobster is common.

Although ribs can be cooked in different ways, slow cooked for many hours no matter what seasoning one chooses is the correct method. Period. Ten to twelve hours is the minimum proper time and fourteen is even better. Duplicating that at home comes with far more effort than we wish to expend and we have no shortage of places in town offering excellent ribs. I personally go for the dry rub and Hubby is often torn, but generally goes that way as well.  We don’t have a strong preference as to cut even though baby backs do have a slight edge. Pork, not beef, as much because of his Georgia roots as anything. Granted, other boiled crustaceans,  few things are messier to eat and extra napkins and wipes are required. That, however, is worth the extra effort.

An “Ouch, That Does Hurt” Memory…..

I don’t have a clue how I managed to get a small blister on one of my toes. However, handling blisters is something I learned about many years ago. I’ve mentioned before that I wear a size 4.5 shoe. Those of us in South Florida joke about dreading to go places where we need closed-toe shoes again, and in my case it has extra meaning. I  can wear a size 5 in open-toe shoes which doesn’t give me a huge amount of choices when I go into a store, but I can find some. And as with other things in the world of on-line shopping, there are other sources. Finding combat boots to fit was an entirely different matter.

One of the issues of being a “pioneering female” was a lack of “off-sizes” whether one was very short or very  tall when it came to Army uniforms. That was especially true when I was taking ROTC and time came for our first in-the-woods exercise (that means simulated combat). The best they could do for me was a size 6, but hey, a couple of pairs of thick socks should help. That probably would have been true for only walking around. Tromping up and down in the woods for hours, and being Louisiana there was swampy ground involved, meant the end result of multiple large blisters, on both feet and ankles, some of which broke before I had a chance to get the boots off. The pain was indeed noticeable, but it was the persistent redness and swelling around the scabbed over flesh that finally caused me to go see the doctor. She took one look as I explained what happened and sighed at my lack of understanding. In giving me the prescription for antibiotics, she said I was close enough to blood poisoning that she wanted me back in the office in two days if the redness wasn’t diminishing. All did heal properly and there was a similar incident years later due to a ten-mile road march, but that’s another story. Oh, the Army did finally begin to make boots down to a size 4.

Days of Instant Coffee…..

A post to Twitter brought this old memory to mind. My mother did not drink coffee, so Daddy mostly drank instant. As I think I posted some time back, I didn’t start drinking coffee until I was in the Army. I did, however, work behind the fountain at the Rexall Pharmacy with one of the big silver electric coffee urns and had to learn to make coffee in it. I also learned what happens when one doesn’t make it to suit the taste of the regulars and it didn’t take long to correct the “too weak or too strong” errors. Since this was in the years before Mr. Coffee type drip pots became popular, I had the home percolator for those who are of an age to remember such things. But, since I was rarely home enough to drink more than a cup, I still often used instant.

Somewhere in the process, a couple of coffee makers introduced coffee bags – the same thing as a tea bag. For me, they generally produced a more reliably smoother taste than most of the granulated since the amount in the bag was pre-measured. The  solution to single cup dilemma was the Kuerig type machine and who knows, maybe the inventor was faced with the same issue of wanting “brewed” coffee, but only one cup at a time. Not to mention, having all sorts of choices available depending on which cup/pod is selected. The drawback of course is trying to make coffee for a group. I have been told there is at least one manufacturer who has a combination machine; one side is a regular drip maker and the other the single serving type. This is why free markets and capitalism are so great. We will probably check this out the next time our drip maker needs to be replaced.

When Kids Step Forward….

The full article about this team of kids is at http://www.southdadenewsleader.com/news/h-o-t-and-partners-reach-out/article_6c8df6fa-8fb1-11ea-af1e-a36e34c9128d.html

In essence though, a fairly small number of students, (about twelve) have truly great role models of parents who are heavily involved in different community support activities. These young people have been not only watching their parents over the years, but also participating in the activities as they reached the age when they could. There is a situation here that requires its own post that I won’t go into, but has to do with students and sometimes families who literally depend on meals from schools as their primary source of food. As I said, skipping the “whys” of that, a group of people set up a system last year to help provide food on weekends and holidays. During the process, these students came together to create their mission statement. “We are a team of students that have chosen to volunteer our time for no benefit other than to serve our community of Homestead, Florida. We care for and change lives for the better while putting others before ourselves when possible. We treat our fellow teammates with respect, love, kindness, gratitude, and above all else, the same way we want to be treated. Our four target areas to assist are the hungry, children with severe medical needs, animals in need and the military. However, we are willing and prepared to serve anyone in need at a moment’s notice. We are the H.O.T.” They also took the necessary steps and were recently officially designated as a non-profit, 501(c)(3).

Yes, they have adults who help, but they do most of the work, and have been for months now. In light of the COVID-19 situation, their focus for now is food collection and distribution. This was once again a time when learning about a new group was a pleasure.

 

Time for the Rainy Season….

I have to admit, I was startled when the Facebook and Twitter posts came in yesterday of snow apparently from Canada down through at least Mass. I mean, sure, you expect this in May in like the mountains, but not so much the other places. We, however, as entering the rainy season which generally will be a combination – perhaps daily – of thunderstorms and downpours followed by sun and steam. We will have some socked-in days of clouds and rain, although not usually more than two in a row. The water levels are down and so no matter how inconvenient it may be, we do need the rain to replenish. By the same measure, we will now get into the point of our twice-monthly mowing may not be enough to keep up. Last year wasn’t so bad, but in years prior, the grass seemed to literally start growing again about an hour after the guys mowed and within a week, it would look terrible. The weeds of course will be sprouting even more and will get quickly out of control if allowed to do so.

You become accustomed to the cycle though and know how to adjust the schedule. This is also when umbrellas sales go up; not only to accommodate newcomers. Many of us dash into wherever we’re going, place our umbrellas in a stand, under the table or wherever, saying, “Don’t let me forget to take this”…., and then promptly do so. Most of us have an umbrella in each vehicle, plus another one or two around the house. Granted, it’s not like living in Seattle or London since we only deal with this for two-four months out of the whole year. And allegedly, the rainier the “wet season”, the milder the hurricane season. I’ll take that trade-off anytime.

Out of Time Yesterday….

I would have posted yesterday, but we had an event to cover for the paper and then had to scoot home to work the article for a deadline. Notwithstanding getting jammed up at times when I have multiple articles in one week, I (and Hubby, too) do discover all sorts of things about the community we would not otherwise. I think I may have previously mentioned the Mariachi Academy (technically Conservatory) we have here. If I forgot to, this is the link to the article I did last year. http://www.southdadenewsleader.com/a-special-invitation-to-mariachi-students/article_37c73868-9e68-11e9-bceb-e7908cf587c5.html

I did a follow-up about their performance and have mentioned them another time or two in conjunction with other events. We had been notified about a press conference yesterday because of a performance the students were going to be doing in a farm field. We were a bit unclear as to what was going on. They were somehow involved in something called Altisimo Live (https://altisimolive.com) Once we arrived at yes indeed a field, we had a chance to talk to our guys in the midst of getting ready for their performance. With Cinco de Mayo celebrations disrupted as have been lots of things, a group of people got together and said, “We’ll have this major streaming festival instead.” More than 50 celebrities signed on and as it happens, one of the co-hosts has a soft spot in his heart for the Mariachi students. He reached out and basically said if they could figure out the technical piece of linking in and handle the other logistical arrangements, they could be part of an event that would be seen/heard by hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) from coast-to-coast and internationally. Oh yeah, they had 72 hours in which to make it happen.

I’ll link everyone to the article later this week, but it was a truly great experience. Since the press conference was during rehearsal time and we arrived a bit early, we were able to get the information/photos we needed and back home in time to tune into the show. I had it on YouTube and Hubby may have been on Instagram or Facebook. And that is how Eva Longoria, actress and the co-host, introduced a group of students and their instructors from here in Homestead to a whole lot of people.

 

 

Growing Hyrdoponics…..

For reasons I’m not entirely sure of, there seems to be a surge of Facebook promotions for growing your own hyrdoponics. We do have at least two local places I know that have these on a commercial scale – well, not like really huge – but enough to provide goods at some of the farmers’ markets. We, in fact, had the indoor Aero Garden for I guess it was two years or a little longer. What it comes down to is we were successful in the growing and the lettuces were delicious. The problem was the volume. With the single machine, the yield was not very large and the seed pods we ordered were expensive enough to where we couldn’t claim we were doing this from a “saving money” perspective. (There was an option to get seeds from a store and create your own pods, but we never did that.) It was interesting and the set-ups I’ve been seeing on Facebook are for outdoor. Unless you have some sort of greenhouse protection though you will have a specified growing season. As I have mentioned in previous posts, ironically the year-round ability to grow here does not include items like lettuces for the summer because it is too hot. Now, it has been a while since we’ve done this so I suppose there could be some hot-weather variant available that I am simply unaware of.

Cost of goods won’t be a factor for some people as much as the pleasure they get in growing their own and the certainty of knowing the source.Once again though, I’m not sure about quantity of yield and how many plants it would take to have enough lettuces. We each have a salad for dinner every night we eat at home except Friday (pizza night). I usually have a salad for lunch if I’m home. I’ll keep an eye on Facebook posts and see if any actual people discuss their experience.

 

Kindle and “Real Books”….

Every so often the conversation among readers turns to the subject of Kindle (or whatever the preferred e-reader is) versus the feel of a real book. I appreciate both and as I posted some time ago, we came later to Kindle than some of our friends, but are now on I think our third or perhaps fourth version. Our enjoyment is grounded in practicality rather than an urge for technology for technology’s sake. We have filled and somewhat overfilled eight book cases/sets of shelves scattered throughout the house. Like many people, we cannot bear to throw away books unless they are truly falling apart and there are few places we can contribute them to. Therefore, adding more books does present a physical space issue.

Storage space on the Kindle is quite large which means I can (and do) have well over 100 books loaded. It’s also nice to be able to order and download a book within a matter of minutes. Traveling with a Kindle is certainly easier than packing one or more books and for those of us who have reached a certain age, being able to increase the size of the font at the touch of a button is a nice feature. Granted, there are still some things I prefer about “real” books,such as being able to quickly leaf back and forth if I want to re-read a passage or check to see how long it is to the end of a chapter. I admit, there may be an easier way to do this with the Kindle and I am simply unaware of how. I personally don’t own a tablet because I prefer my lightweight “notebook style” computer for travel, but several friends love their tablets and have the Kindle app which allows them to use it instead of a separate device. And in praise of “real books”, you never get the warning of, “Battery needs to be recharged”, when you are in the middle of reading.

The Irony of Erratic Sleep…..

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I’ve always been a morning person, routinely waking between 5:00 and 5:30. This was helpful during my Army career as there are so very many early morning calls for different reasons. Nothing prepared me though for a child that did not sleep through the night until he was four years old.

I mean, people often prepare you for 3-4 months and you think, okay, I can do this. While that would have been difficult enough, this was of course the tragic year when my first husband was killed which meant I was now doing this as a single parent. I tried everything that should have worked, might have worked, etc;. It was a success when he slept for as long as three hours at a time. Anyway, we both came through it. Later, within a few weeks of being deployed to Desert Shield/Desert Storm, I served in a position where sleep was not a priority. I was also in a position where we were in the desert, but not in a direct combat zone. Hubby was further in, although not a direct combat zone either. We managed to get through that as well and did sleep a great deal the first few days when we re-deployed.

A couple of years ago, I began having issues with insomnia. I’ve tried a number of techniques and do give in and take an over-the-counter supplement maybe twice a week. Without that, my pattern seems to be 3, maybe 4 hours of sleep, then awake for 1-2 hours, then another 3 hours. Once I awaken the first time, if I’m not back to sleep in 15 minutes, it isn’t going to work so I move into the front room and tune into the Spa Music channel. I frequently fix a cup of chamomile tea, come up and log onto Twitter as I drink my tea, then head back down after to sleep on the very comfortable love seat. Perhaps I will eventually shift out of this.