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.

Texas Trip, Louisiana Side….

We said our goodbyes to sister and brother-in-law yesterday and drove east to Abita Springs. My brother and his wife lived a few miles from there previously, then to Mandeville and now back at what was her mother’s until recently. Her mother made it to a little over a hundred and one of the two brothers was determined she would be allowed to remain in her home. While they each did different things, a great deal of the care giving fell to sister-in-law and brother. Anyway, the place was in need of repairs and updating, most of which are now completed. They are mostly moved in and will turn more attention to preparing their house in Mandeville to be sold. We simply didn’t have the energy to make even the short drive to go see their place and will do so in the not too distant future.

On to Abita Springs, which is a small town a bit northwest of New Orleans that features two or three main things. The Springs are historic, another of those “out of the city” places people would travel to when the summer heat and humidity made New Orleans very oppressive. In the more modern time, it’s part of Tammany Trace, one of the “Rails to Trails” projects that cyclist, walkers, and even horse riders enjoy. (http://www.tammanytrace.org/) We appreciate such things, but for us, it being the home of Abita Brewery is more important. That was one of the beers Emeril Legassee made famous on one of his cooking shows as he would often serve it to guests. We were able to stay in the Abita Springs Hotel again, a two-minute walk from the Brew Pub. Brother and  sister-in-law came in – it’s like six minutes driving from their place – and we had a lovely dinner. All seafood of course with a “bucket” of fried catfish, shrimp, crawfish tails, crab ball, and yes hush puppies. Brother had a different shrimp dish and sister-in-law went with a redfish special that I thought Hubby would go for. The beer was of course excellent.

Texas Trip, Day 3……

Shoe shopping was successful in the sense I do now have two pair of closed toe and heel casual shoes for those times when I go to climates where such is necessary. They did not have as much selection as I hoped, but at their prices it was just as well. Lunch at Escalante followed; a local Mexican chain with excellent food and they make their guacamole fresh to order so you can leave out or add extra of any of the ingredients.They used to do a table-side production and stopped that during COVID.

Hubby and brother-in-law were of course back well before we were and we puttered around a bit in the afternoon before he went for a walk around the neighborhood. By the time I caught up on emails and a few tasks I couldn’t delay, I didn’t have time to walk since we planned an early dinner. The Saltgrass Steakhouse is only a couple of miles from where my sister lives. It too is a regional chain with good food and a fairly standard menu. They do a beer bread as a signature and the usual variety of steaks. My sirloin was cooked a perfect medium and the cognac pepper sauce I did for an add-on was quite good. Hubby opted for the T-bone, sister the small filet. Brother-in-law had the Cajun redfish which meant topped with a sauce that included a shrimp and couple of crawfish. I’m saving my seafood night for tonight when we are in Abita Springs. We’ll head out about 9:00 this morning.

Texas Trip, Day 2……

The second day of driving went as smoothly as these trips can. We were able to time looping around New Orleans and through Baton Rouge to avoid peak traffic. We didn’t encounter any rain and inevitable construction zones weren’t too bad. For anyone who has never been to Houston, it is like every major city. While we weren’t at peak time, there was lots of traffic and a few spots of slow with a little stop-and-go.

My sister actually lives in Bellaire which is an old established small town basically engulfed as Houston expanded. They have their own police force and I don’t know what all else is independent, but lots of mature trees – especially oaks are seen throughout the neighborhoods. My sister and her husband did like many and purchased a modest ranch house for the express purpose of tearing it down and building large to where there is limited yard compared to house. The original type houses are still around although the others are far more common.

Today will be spent with Hubby and brother-in-law going off on a couple of errands and my sister taking me to one of the last shoe shops in town that carries a variety of size 4.5’s. As I have posted before, I can generally wear a 5 in sandals (in the limited of those I can find), but it’s different for close-toe shoes. I am literally down to one pair of flats. The intent today is pick up a couple of pair and once I have a brand that fits, I can then order on-line as needed. We’ll do lunch somewhere, too and tonight we’re going to a nearby enjoyable steakhouse. It is Texas after all.

Texas Trip, Day 1……

This is the road trip we have to take to Houston to handle one part of my father’s estate. It’s a tight time of year to go, but there aren’t any better “windows” so I spent all last week trying to either complete extra tasks or arrange for them to hold until next week. Anyway, the itinerary is we departed yesterday and will arrive in Houston mid-afternoon or so. We take care of that piece of business Tuesday and head to Louisiana Wednesday to see my brother and his wife, then start back Thursday or Friday depending on a couple of factors.

The advantage to traveling on Sunday was skipping the big city traffic of not having to leave at 6:00 a.m. to miss Miami traffic and avoiding Orlando and Tallahassee traffic. There were some slow-downs on I-75 after leaving the turnpike, but nothing too bad. There were also stretches of rain in the same way. Not too prolonged and not too much of an impediment. With it being daylight savings time and crossing into Central time zone, Hubby felt like pushing on to Mobile. While we prefer to stay somewhere with a restaurant, when the industry moved away from that with Hampton Inns, Expresses, etc., that’s more difficult to find. The cluster of choices at this particular I-10 exit only has one motel next to a restaurant and it wasn’t one of our preferred brands. There was a Ruby Tuesdays a little over a mile away and since they closed the one we had in Homestead, that seemed a reasonable choice. Their salad bar is still good and I enjoyed one of the chicken dishes while Hubby had their bourbon glazed salmon. As I think I’ve mentioned in other posts, when we are on long road trip it’s strictly a fast food close to a gas station choice for lunches. Anyway, it was an 11-hour day and that used to be easier in our younger years. That puts us about seven hours for today.

Went Diving Finally……

I’m a day later than planned posting because things finally came together for me to do an afternoon dive yesterday. That makes three months in a row I missed and almost four. As I have explained, I often miss out Jan and Feb. March was difficult this year for several reasons; however, conditions were the best they have been in days with basically flat seas and no surge. Hubby was teaching four students who he will finish up today. I don’t recall where they were from, but they were all pleasant and seemed to be having a good time. Conditions underwater were nice even though visibility was a bit better on the first dive. Although there was nothing really special on the first dive, there were enough of “the usual suspects” to enjoy and I did find them a large trunk fish like the one in the photo.

On the second dive I found an arrow crab which I haven’t seen in ages. I wasn’t close enough to the students to get them back to see it and Hubby had them at a coral cluster where there were two anemones almost touching. That is unusual to have two so close together. Not long after, I spotted a medium size Southern stingray nestled into the sand. We were careful enough not to disturb it into swimming away and everyone got a good look. I did see all three types of angel fish on that dive, too with a queen angel making an appearance as I was finishing up my dive. The water temperature is headed in the right direction at 77 degrees. I was a little ambitious in wearing my 1 mil suit instead of the 3 mil though. I did have to do few loops swimming faster to take the chill off.

Of Cars and Trucks…..

A recent conversation reminded me of one of those amusing aspects when I was in the advanced stage of pregnancy. My first husband and I were solidly with him as a General Motors guy and me as Ford with Dodge close second. Now I actually had one of the first RX-7’s brought into Clarksville, TN when we married. That was because many of us singles had sports cars and while I would have gone for another Mustang; being a “first” with the RX-7 was too hard to resist. Anyway, my husband had a Corvette and I don’t recall how many he’d had prior to that. The point is a distinct lack of cargo space in either car and we did buy a house. With a house you have to do things and my husband was quite handy. That means hauling stuff like bags of mulch, etc., Being newly wed I surprised him when I sacrificed my RX-7 and swapped it out for a Chevy Silverado truck for him. While I didn’t derive any particular pleasure in driving the Corvette, he had it for the weekends.

As I think I’ve posted in the past, I became unexpectedly pregnant early in the marriage and that was all fine and good. I never had any sort of physical problems – no morning sickness or anything serious.  I did deal with the  minor issues like I couldn’t eat certain foods due to getting heartburn more easily. Anyone who is familiar with a Corvette knows it sits low and in the last part of my pregnancy my belly was of course much bigger and, I “carried the baby high”. (Note: wives’ tale said that meant it was a boy and that did turn out to be true). So, trying to get into and out of the Corvette became extremely difficult. Not that climbing in and out of the truck was much better, however, there was a handle on the door and the running board. So here I am at eight months pregnant now driving a big truck while my husband had his Corvette back. In truth, we knew we would need a family car (that was before they had extended cabs options to allow for a “back seat” in trucks). Not long before son made his appearance, my husband decided he did like having a truck and traded out the Corvette for a Buick Electra.

New Market in Town…..

Homestead has another first with a Sprouts Farmers Market that opened a few weeks ago. I made a quick pass through there trying to line up an interview for the paper. The very nice manager referred me to their Corporate PR department who hasn’t answered back. I’m not sure why one advertising and then doesn’t want free publicity in the local paper, but they are based out of Phoenix. (https://sprouts.com)

My impression was of a smaller Fresh Market which we almost always stop at when we go up to Total Wine near The Falls. The fresh meat, seafood, and produce all looked good. They had some nice prepared meals and I found cornichons in the condiment aisle. If we still needed coffee, they had bins of beans, too (we now use the Black Rifle Coffee Club delivery as I have posted about before) and they do have a bakery. Hubby went today instead of going to Publix to check them out. He got salmon and swordfish for dinner tonight plus some other items, but they don’t carry many of the things we usually buy. So, we will treat them in the same way as Fresh Market which will be go there for special occasion stuff (or something like the cornichons). It’s certainly much closer and I’m happy for that. While we do buy organic at times, it’s primarily if we need something specific and organic in that item is all that’s available at the moment. However, for my friends who do care about buying organic Sprouts makes for a good option. I don’t know for sure they have a larger selection than the big Publix although they might.

It is a brand new store laid out well and the staff certainly seems friendly. We’ll see how they do as community partners.

Tricky Weather….

My hopes for going diving yesterday had already been disrupted because I had to schedule a meeting instead. The weather was going to be a bit tricky anyway and sure enough, they had to cancel the trip. I felt badly for everyone who could have gone and much of yesterday afternoon it did look as if we were going to get rain . We didn’t, but apparently the front simply slowed down as we’ve been having rain for a while now, to include thunder.

Hubby had decided it wasn’t going to rain and put water in the pool yesterday so I’m not sure if we caused it. We had a breakfast event this morning and after we returned, he got his gear together to head for the Everglades hoping for lightning shots and birds. I think I have explained before I do have a level of concern with the whole photographing lightning even though he does have some pretty spectacular shots. He did take a workshop where they emphasized all the safety measures to take. I don’t quite get the fascination, but he’s by no means the only one in the Camera Club who enjoys it. They do have a app for their phones that provides distance and I guess direction for lightning that’s within ten miles. (I think that’s how it’s set.) It all seems a bit odd to me, but I also think when he did his last camera lens upgrade, he may have gotten one that does better in the rain. It does do better in low light since he has to shoot nighttime events and I may be only imagining the rain part. Ah well, here’s hoping it passes before I leave. I do keep an umbrella in the vehicle as everything from light drizzle to torrential downpours are known to happen when they say, “isolated, scattered showers”.

Talk About Long Friendships…..

BFF may be a fairly recent term, but many Babyboomers have at least one friendship they can date back to decades. It may have started in elementary/middle/high school or like one friend of mine when we met at Fort McClellan going through WAC (Woman’s Army Corps) training. In some places, it can go back to simply being raised as neighbors.

A couple of weeks ago, a woman contacted the paper and said her mother and another woman have been friends for a long time and both are coming up on their 100th birthdays. Oh yes, that’s the kind of community story we always love to share.

The editor was hoping we could get both women together, but that was going to be difficult so Hubby and I arranged to go see the mother and daughter that called and then go over about fifteen minutes away to see the other mom and daughter. Both women were in remarkably good shape and the first one had her pack of cigarettes on the table. Interestingly both originally came from Ohio, and met their respective husbands in college. The friendship began in 1954 and is going strong. They don’t see each other as much today with it being more difficult to get around. Over the years, they both lost their husbands and each a son. There are, however, the surviving children and lots of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The second woman lives on what is basically a “family complex” of 40 acres and when they have their Sunday dinners, 20-25 are usually involved. As we were leaving there, her daughter confided her mother insisted on putting her pack of cigarettes out of sight for the interview; that coffee and cigarettes were still her daily habit.

This is a really long link and I’ve given the important points, but the photos are nice. You probably have to cut and paste since I don’t know if a link shows up when I publish the post: http://www.southdadenewsleader.com/news/best-friends-celebrate-100-together/article_b8f3eaac-b6c1-11ec-b309-c3f81eddbdea.html

 

 

Intriguing Presentation……

As I have mentioned before, writing for the local paper means I meet people I would probably not otherwise. Sometimes things come into me although more often to the editor first. In this case, it was both as I am now on several email notification lists.

College of the Florida Key (CFK) is in adjoining Monroe County, headquartered not surprisingly in Key West. The Upper Keys campus was previously smallish and in August last year they opened a new facility in Key Largo with greatly increased capabilities. Hubby did the photos and I wrote the story although I didn’t have the chance to actually go to the Center. The recent press release and note from the editor to look into the story was about a VIP Lecture series in it’s 8th year and for the first time, a presentation was to be held at the Key Largo Facility. The topic was “The Discovery, Early Mapping, and Charting of the Florida Keys and the Gulf Stream.” I contacted the initial individual because I wanted to engage with the gentleman who was doing the presentation for more background than was provided in the press release. We connected and his is a fascinating story, only part of which I had room for in the article. (http://www.southdadenewsleader.com/eedition/page-a03/page_d371bbf1-3af1-5861-99b7-4068df76a1af.html)

Hubby and I decided to attend if our schedules worked and they did, so we went down Tuesday night. In swapping emails and a phone conversation with the gentleman, we were able to spend about five minutes with him prior to the presentation. There were obvious connections among most of the almost full crowd, and he said for the first time, some of his family members, to include his 97-year-old mother were in the audience. Things did start a bit late and the Q&A was running over which meant there was a lot of enthusiasm in the room. We slipped out at 8:20 as we wanted a nice dinner, plus the drive up would put us home about 10:00. Buzzard’s Roost was the closest and a standard place for us.