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.

Doctors and Other…..

Recent events and a conversation yesterday led me to thinking about the whole doctors, health, etc., Not about the abysmal health/medical costs in this country – well, that is perhaps tangential, but also a topic I won’t venture into.

At some point in our lives we all eventually make health and life style choices. Granted, there are households where healthy eating is not practiced and as I have posted before, growing up when I did in small towns, it was basic fare. Good and nutritious although I do have a friend who can’t comprehend those of us who used bacon grease as a prime ingredient. Anyway, once you reach a certain age or change in your environment, you can decide to also change the way you eat. Expand your tastes, become some variety of vegetarian – or whatever. The same with drinking, smoking, exercising; general factors that affect health. While there are people who genuinely don’t understand how these things are related, that is also a topic for another time (if ever).

In my case, as much as I disliked running, it was a requirement throughout my Army career. I’m fine with walking and once I retired, I swapped from one to the other. After an injury to my knee a number of years ago, I swapped from walking to a stationary recumbent bicycle. Like most women in my family, I struggle with my weight and I’m pretty sure I’ve posted about that before. I did start smoking during college and quit 6 or 7 years later when I was pregnant. I was never addicted and quitting wasn’t difficult. As for drinking, let’s say I definitely don’t agree with the medical profession’s general advice of only one drink a day. (I also suspect few of them adhere to that).

All right, barring genetic issues – and those cannot be discounted – as we get older, we will develop things we didn’t have to deal with in our younger years and taking medication is part of that. In some cases, making lifestyle changes can help, and in other cases, “better living through chemistry” is the answer – or the choice. I have issues with “Big Pharma”, but at the same time, there are simply things I enjoy that I don’t want to give up. And so, my follow-up to the doctor this morning means I will be taking yet another prescribed medication instead of continuing to rely on a supplement that no longer seems to be adequate. Sigh!!!

Unplanned Gap…

I can’t get into the situation now, but let’s just say I’ve had some unexpected commitments.

It’s an exciting weekend for Hubby though as the NASCAR playoff races are here. He’s at the Homestead-Miami Speedway again today; was there yesterday afternoon into the evening and two races are today. He left out early as there are all sorts of other aspects he’s photographing and capturing for his pieces for the paper. The third and biggest race is tomorrow. Mother Nature did mess with them a little yesterday although the fairly light rain cleared off and it has been lovely, plus should be again tomorrow.

As usual during this weekend, traffic anywhere near the area is jammed and they bring in extra police and alter the flow to accommodate the thousands who come in. Even though the races end tomorrow, we learned the first year that traffic doesn’t actually clear out until almost noon on Monday. Most of the folks who come in RVs to stay at the Speedway, plus the big haulers and many of the crew members don’t depart until then. Fortunately, everything I need to do Monday takes place where I can stay off those roads.

I have a couple of deadlines I’m working for the one non-profit because it’s the time of year where we have to submit a substantial report to the County. I have multiple parts to complete and while I spent several hours previously, today was another big chunk. The next phase is coming up soon, too, and I try to have a few days in between since it’s easy to mix up the documents – another of the lessons I learned the first couple of times I did these. Among the volunteers I don’t have and need is an individual to help with this part. It is also one of the most complicated, does require a special level of skill and therefore, is one of the most difficult to get help with. Ah well, maybe one of these days.


A Rapid Decline…..

Emotional content alert. A friend’s father passed away recently and as often happens, it brought to mind memories of other passings. As I mentioned in the posts about my father, his decline had been gradual – like “fading” – for a few years. In those final three weeks when the hospice nurse recommended come, there was a rally where my sister and I were able to be there and he was unaware of our real purpose in the “unexpected visit”.

Turning to my friend; she had relocated her father from his previous home as his second wife had passed away and despite his protests, he could no longer live alone. As often happens in families, she was the one who stepped up to make the arrangements and be his advocate in assisted care here. There was adjustment that wasn’t always smooth, but it did work out. She and her husband had a trip to Brazil (his home country) planned for this month and prior to leaving her father had a series of trips to the hospital. Despite many tests, there was no good diagnosis and he was better and seemed to be stable. She went on the trip and went to see her father as soon as they returned. He was still having issues with falling and a night attended was engaged as a precaution. Within only a few days, everything changed. Confusion, etc., and hospice was brought in. From that, it was very rapid although my friend was able to be with him and it was quite peaceful at the end. There is not a large family and because of his recent relocation, she will later take his ashes back to his previous location to be interred in the plot with his second wife.

We friends are of course here for her in whatever she needs.

Services Needed Of Course……

Naturally, in a week when I am jammed up with lots of extra tasks, my Escape, “Change Engine Oil Soon”, notice came on and the AC people called to schedule a service. Hubby could have taken the Escape in as usual, however, I needed him to do something else. He couldn’t be here for the AC service which is going on as I type this. Now, when the AC runs approximately 360 days per year, skipping a service is unwise. That happened last year because it was when Daddy was failing and during one of my trips, they left a voice mail about setting up a time and quite frankly, I forgot to do it. Skipping the service meant the drain did back up which later led to a leak. It’s just one of those realities to be dealt with.

Back to changing the oil. Again, with today’s digital features in vehicles, you no longer have to do the thing of, “Okay, I’ve driven X-number of miles or in the case of low mileage, it’s been X-months since oil change”. On the other hand, when the notice comes up, that gives you only 2-3 days before the notices switches to “Change Engine Oil now!” Anyway, we usually combine that with some other service that needs to be done and go to the dealer. In other cases, such as yesterday, we use Jiffy Lube. I’m old enough to remember when Jiffy Lube first opened as a company. It was a startling idea and naturally, there were people who didn’t think it could work. This is one of the reasons capitalism and free enterprise are great. They proved the concept and then, as is almost always the case, other similar companies sprang up although Jiffy Lube still has the greatest market share.

The techs were efficient and polite and while I was there a bit longer than at other times, I did have my Kindle with me. Oh, one slightly amusing thing. The guy finishing the service had to talk me through re-setting the Escape’s “memory” to let it know the oil had been changed.

Catching Up, Sort Of……

The trip to Louisiana was somewhat whirlwind and did involve a fair amount of driving. It was good to see people though. I think I posted before about how I reconnected with the three high school friends, but that’s been a while if I did. Most people who read this blog realize there was a time with no email, no cell phones and no social media. You wrote letters and called long distance at an extra price. When I left Natchitoches almost immediately after college graduation, it was to go to initial training in Alabama, on to the next level training in Maryland, then on to my first assignment in Germany. The time I had in between meant bouncing from parents to grandparents, once again driving different distances to do so. One of my three high school friends stayed in Natchitoches, but my parents had moved up to Minden while I was a senior in college. The second friend was already in  Shreveport as she moved up there in our junior year for the other part of the nursing program. The third friend left to go somewhere in Texas I think it was. Since I was never assigned back in Louisiana, it was easy to lose track of people.

Anyway, they decided to hold a combined junior and senior class twenty-year reunion one summer. One of my friends called Daddy to find out how to get in touch with me. That was sweet, but where the coincidence comes in – or not depending on your view – we were being reassigned to Germany that summer. We shipped one automobile out of Baltimore as we were assigned in Maryland. We went up to Maine to visit family, then drove to Louisiana to visit other family with the intent of shipping the second vehicle out of New Orleans. In almost the exact time, the reunion was not only planned for that weekend, it was to be held at a hotel we literally had to pass on the way to New Orleans. The only adjustment I had to make in order to attend the reunion was stay one less night visiting some of the relatives. We did go, reunite with my three friends, and kept in touch at least each Christmas. Email and social media has of course made it easier once we had such things.

Louisiana Trip, Day 5……

Yesterday was the quick go back by my aunt’s with a promise next year’s visit will be less rushed. At least that’s the plan. We headed up to Minden and this is a somewhat “divergent” part. If you are not familiar with the HGTV show, “Home Town”, it’s another husband and wife renovation show set in Laurel, MS. They are a delightful couple and in addition to restoring homes, the husband has an amazing wood shop/work shop where he almost always creates something extra special for each home. Anyway, a few years ago, they got the idea and the network agreed to a “Home Town Takeover” where they select a small town trying to revive itself and can’t quite make it. There are certain criteria and the first time they did this, they selected Wetumpka, Alabama which wasn’t very far from Laurel. The format is they spend four months and do four projects; two businesses, one public place, and one home for someone known for strong community giving. The concept was such a success, they expanded it and decided to bring in extra teams and do four towns in different parts of the country. I was surprised to hear Minden was one of the towns. They faced severe economic set-back when the real estate bubble burst and have struggled to regain their footing. Anyway, one of the businesses selected was a breakfast and lunch cafe, “Geaux Fresh”, run by two women. I didn’t realize my sister had actually been there, but she didn’t know anything about the transformation. We went for lunch and a) it looked as cute as it did on TV; b) the menu was terrific; c) the food was excellent; and d) there were a lot of people there. The only drawback for me is they don’t serve beer and wine, however, I wasn’t going to be drinking anyway.

They have a huge selection of sandwiches, burgers, salads, and several pastries. Sis had a lovely chicken salad and I had the Black Bayou burger that included sliced jalapenos, bacon, jalapeno jam, and pepper jack cheese on jalapeno bread. Yes, it was spicy and messy.

It was a beautiful afternoon to go to the cemetery although warm and the VA marker had been installed on Daddy’s grave. It doesn’t match Mother’s as his is granite and hers is brass, but it looks nice and more importantly, everything on it was correct.

Louisiana Trip, Day 4…….

This was the easy driving day, barely half hour to get to my aunt’s house. The two places my high school friend intended for us to have lunch weren’t open on Sunday so after a little trial and error we went to TJohnny’s, a spot on Cane River. I did get my crawfish. Sis had shrimp again and my friends both had catfish. Yes, the primary cooking method was to fry. Anyway, we had a good time catching up and they plan a trip to the Keys next year. Friend’s husband is big time into fishing and wants to do the back country.

I won’t get into the details, but my aunt’s house is in disarray. It’s about 100 years old and was my grandparents. An accident with the floor occurred and as is always the case, that revealed many problems that should have been dealt with long ago. Anyway, repairs are on-going, but at least she is back in the house. All the kids who live in the area have been working incredibly hard as so much had to be packed up and moved into a PODS, then repairs managed, stuff getting moved back in as can, and so forth. We’re staying at one of the cousin’s house who had to be gone this weekend. When we arrived yesterday, the cousin who is my age, his wife and the cousin a couple of years younger were at my aunt’s. We spent about four hours visiting and will go back this morning for another hour or so. Then it’s up to Minden to the cemetery to check on the grave marker and say Happy Birthday to Daddy. Sis thought about getting wreath for his grave, but that didn’t turn out to be practical.

Speaking of not practical, neither did my idea of taking my aunt out for dinner last night. Sis and I ran by the cousin’s house as I wanted to arrive before dark. I’ve only been here like once and even though it was close by, it’s in a neighborhood I’m not familiar with. We dropped stuff off and went out. Many is a very small town and being Sunday, I was expecting only the few fast-food places to be open. There was, however, one of the regional family Mexican restaurants open. Sis had never been to one of these and the ambience is charming. Great homemade chips and salsa. I had a chicken dish and she had a mixed plate. Other than not enough seasoning for her, she enjoyed it.

Louisiana Trip, Day 3…..

The trip back up from Mandeville went well; a little more time on the Interstate as not all sections were doing construction on a Saturday. Now, there is an iconic – well, from a regional perspective – place called Lea’s which is on one of the state roads. Back before the interstate was built, our maternal grandfather would always stop for lunch there when going back and forth to Baton Rouge. Sis made a comment about it and when I told her it was still open, that was the obvious place for lunch. It’s iconic for two reasons. First, they have a very limited menu. Baked ham is the specialty with little else and homemade pies. Second, the owner Lea – long gone and I don’t know if family still runs it – was quite the character. He was straightforward – if you wanted something else on the menu, there were other places you could go to. Anyway, Sis did have a ham sandwich and they did have two other items on the menu, so I had old-fashioned cube steak with gravy. I passed on the offer of a biscuit as we were going to split a piece of pie. Cherry was Sis’s choice.

Anyway, the only downside to the day was my high school friend we were to have dinner with is not feeling well and we had to pass. I took Sis to Mariners on the lake – the exact opposite of somewhere like Lea’s. I called for reservations and explained it was to be her first time there and they did give us a table with a view of the lake in a spot where we could watch the sun set. We both had shrimp dishes. Considering lunch, she went with the mandarin orange salad adding grilled shrimp. I had a slight variation of Shrimp Oscar; grilled shrimp with lump crab meat, Bernaise sauce, and a couple of asparagus spears. We didn’t do dessert.

Lunch with other high school friend is still on for today and then we drive the short distance to see the branch of family in Many.

Louisiana Trip, Day 2……

I stand corrected. Although the trip is 90% interstate, there is significant construction so the “lady” who does navigation sent me mostly on state roads. I don’t mind as driving slower is okay. That would make Hubby slightly crazy except he does know the “lady” selects the fastest route so he might agree had he been with me. Anyway, the only traffic was understandably in the Baton Rouge area. We’ll see what’s recommended in the morning.

My sister did get in with no problem and this was the first time all three of we siblings have been together for a while. Brother wasn’t able to be at Daddy’s funeral because of respiratory problems. Not COVID, but infectious nonetheless. We went to Vera’s, a local seafood place and yes, I had catfish and shrimp. Crawfish will come later. Sis had shrimp, brother had blackened shrimp tacos and sister-in-law fried oysters and catfish. The day’s bread pudding was caramel apple.

I had forgotten as cute as Marvilla Guest House is in Mandeville, they don’t have an elevator and parking is across the street. Well, I needed a bit of a workout anyway. We walked down in search of cold beverages as they don’t really have those either and the cafe next door is just breakfast and lunch. Will hit it in the morning. Found Tandem, lovely little coffee and cocktail place. (We are close to New Orleans after all.) Lucious looking pastries I did resist considering lunch. Tonight is the lovely Nuvolari Italian restaurant. This is all in the historic Mandeville section. It’s a mix of old houses, old houses converted into businesses (mostly boutique type) and some new places done in the older style. Sis has not been here before and if she hadn’t had to walk so much earlier today, she would go up to Lake Ponchatrain. Depending on what time we’re up tomorrow, I might drive her the short distance. None of the houses are on the lake itself as there is the road in between. They do all have a clear view of the massive lake.

Louisiana Trip, Day 1…..

Well, the day did have some glitches. They aren’t that important except for the fact I didn’t have the chance to actually eat a meal until dinnertime. There were enough delays so all I could do was grab snacks and still get to the flight on time. I thought that might happen and I was a little careful with what I selected. Anyway, weather was good and when I finally picked up the rental car – a Malibu this time – and got on the road, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to go beyond Natchitoches. If all had been well, I was going to try to make it to Alexandria, the next major town on I-49. It was a little after 6:30 though and the sun was ready to set and I decided not to push it.

This is the weekend of the Classic Car Show and I wasn’t sure if a motel room would be available. There are multiple motels at the I-49 exit and one of my preferred ones did have a room. The IHOP is next door and while that’s hardly the type of place I ordinarily pick for dinner, it was the most practical. Basic Salisbury steak with salad and broccoli to help off-set my less than nutritional fare of the day. It was interesting though to see several people had breakfast foods for their dinners. That’s never been a “thing” for me, but if I had been craving pancakes it would make sense.

Okay, if I can get on to sleep – which is happening in about twenty minutes – I’ll start early tomorrow for the longer drive south to Mandeville. It’s not quite 300 miles and is interstate 90% of the trip.