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.

Easter Bunnies and Such……

A FB post came around the other day showing little girls’ feet in white patent shoes in what was obviously a 1960s photo. It was one of those “Do You Remember This” things and my yes, didn’t it bring back memories? The white patent shoes were part of the Easter outfit although “bonnets” had become less popular. Lots of women still had their lovely Easter hats, but not so much girls anymore. And of course it was the general time frame to wear white, another of those fashion “rules” that I think have gone by the wayside. The dresses in the deep south tended toward dotted Swiss and I don’t know about the cooler parts of the country. Ham was the meat of choice since no one we knew had, or would have thought of, lamb. The whole wonderfully messy Easter egg coloring occurred a few days prior and I suppose we held onto the Easter Bunny idea for as long as we did Santa Claus.

When my son was a little tyke, I don’t think I ever actually tried to bother with real eggs as I had discovered how much easier it was to use plastic ones. For the longest time I did faithfully watch “Ten Commandments” as much because of Charlton Heston as for any other tradition. Our granddaughter is just about old enough this year to sort of grasp the concept so it will be interesting to hear how it all goes.

We got into the rhythm of Easter brunch for several years, but it so happens Easter morning is a very popular time for people to dive the Christ of the Abyss statue in Key Largo and therefore, Hubby often works that day. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for weather (which has been terribly windy) and boat situation so I can finally get back into the water as well. If so, maybe we’ll see an Easter turtle instead of a bunny.

 

A Tough Business…..

There are few small businesses that are easy and those with a lot of competition add an extra dimension of difficulty. Restaurants are among the most difficult for several reasons. The facility and health requirements are constant demands, and by that I mean a place can be all set to go for the day and the/a stove goes out. That can create all sorts of turmoil.  Health inspectors can show up unexpectedly and maybe the temperature for the hot water in the sinks isn’t correct. It may seem like a small thing, but can cause problems.

The simple fact is restaurants have to price within a narrow band of similar restaurants and managing inventory is difficult, especially if you want to promote “fresh”. That aspect means potential for spoilage which equals higher operational costs. Labor is of course a huge headache because again that is one of the major costs and turnover is common. Hiring good staff can pose problems, and keeping them even more so. Anyone who has ever spent time as a waitress/waiter knows this and anyone who experiences poor service does, too.

We have a local restaurant/lounge which is attempting to “transform” and it will be interesting to see what happens. The new manager is quite pleasant and means well, but there are a number of obstacles to overcome. One of the aspects is potentially mutually exclusive target markets. There may not be as much disparity as initially appears, so I will hold off judgment until I see how things progress. The menu at the moment is quite limited which is generally a good idea going back to inventory and quality management. Of the four items our group sampled, three were good and one was questionable. Again, the actual “transformation” will include new menu items, but having something that works well in the meantime is a basic step. I always hope the best when someone has a vision, is willing to take a risk, and works hard. We shall see.

Writing Update……

Between working on the two co-authored books (Mystery of the Last Olympian and the Benito Santiago memoirs) and my very different novel, To Play on Grass Fields, my scuba-themed mysteries and quilting cozy had to wait for a bit.

In spinning off the character of Chris Green featured in Deadly Doubloons, False Front, and Georgina’s Grief, I left Police Detective Bev Henderson in Verde Key for a while. That will be rectified in about a month with Shades of Deception. Things have been fairly quiet in Verde Key without me leaving a string of bodies around, but what’s a murder mystery without them? Deception has an element of Shades of Truth in that the reader knows what is going on. The question is, how is Bev going to figure out where they have made a mistake? It also has a bit of a slower start from the aspect of the first murder, but the build-up is important as you get deeper into the story. And with Deception headed off to the publisher (a new one I have to try for reasons I’ll explain in a future post), I can now turn my attention back to Helen Crowder and her quilting circle.

Small Town Quilting Treasures takes up not long after Small Town Quilting Blues ended. A new quilter will be introduced and I haven’t decided yet if one of them needs to leave to keep the group at 12 or if I can just squeeze another one in. As with the others in the series, there’s plenty of quilting and I take a little trip into the doll world as well. Those aren’t really my thing, but one of my cousins has a nice collection and if they weren’t all lost in the flood, my niece was very much into the American Girl dolls.

Anyway, I’ll provide more information as publication draws closer.

Those Amazing Leaps…..

Our granddaughter was three on Tuesday and along with a growth spurt is also the language spurt as in a greater ability to have an actual conversation. Not that high level discourse is around the corner, but there can now be a greater exchange where everyone at least understands what words are being said. The telephone call we were all finally able to squeeze in between hectic schedules included an update on having cupcakes and taking pictures with Mommy.

These are the leaps for parents when you suddenly wonder how did three years go by and you aren’t quite yet aware there will be no slowing down the process. Oh sure, there will still be the times when you aren’t completely communicating because articulating certain emotions/feelings are complex. Back when I was working on the book, A Parent’s Guide To Business Travel   I was startled when teenage son let me in on some concerns he’d had as a child when I would leave for trips. We always discussed my travel, about how I would miss him, when I would be coming back, etc. It never occurred to me he would think my travel was somehow a factor of wanting a break from him. When I expressed my surprise, his response was essentially, “Hey when you’re a little kid, you think about stuff like that. You don’t understand it until later.”

Age three is also when you really have the chance to build the concepts of sharing and respecting other people. That does take a while, but laying the foundation is important. And then of course, there is likely to be the moment when words you wish didn’t pop out of little mouths do because they hear, “Oh sh—, or whatever when you think they aren’t listening. If you’re lucky, having that first conversations about “bad words” will take place in private and not in the presence of strangers.

No Scuba Yet……

I had made a promise to manage to get out once a month to dive this year and I was doing okay initially. Hurricane Irma and the aftermath really wasn’t my fault. Then the holidays and catch-up, plus windy weather which pretty much took out January. February is a short month, so technically if I could have gone last week, I think I could have counted it. Sigh!! I am once again allowing all sorts of other commitments to take priority over diving, although there are weather and other factors that do come into play. I have hopes for next week and will make an extra effort. It’s more than simply enjoying diving. Since much of my writing involves diving, renewing the sensation is important.

I was speaking with an individual the other day who loves being on the water, but not in it. I can understand that even in situations where it isn’t a physical limitation. Another conversation had to do with snorkeling, but not scuba and that was because of asthma. As the individual said, “If an asthma attack occurs, I’m not far from the surface if I’m snorkeling.” Depending on the depth of the reef (real or artificial), snorkeling can be more practical because when you’re less than 15-20 feet deep, scuba equipment can actually feel a bit awkward. You also have the wider overhead view when snorkeling and unless there are lot of creatures inside crevices/under ledges, you might see more from the top-down view.The really small things of course like shrimp and yellow-headed jaw fish can’t generally be seen while snorkeling, but anything over a few inches long tends to be visible. Anyway, I am keeping my fingers crossed for next week so I can slip back into the wonderful world beneath the surface. I miss seeing my buds like pretty angel fish.

Queen Angel on Reef in Belize

A Little Self-Pity Doesn’t Hurt……

Serious content alert. Two friends, one older, and one considerably younger, just suffered injuries that turned out to be related to previously undetected medical conditions. For the older individual, it is in large part a reality of aging that things will happen. For the younger one, tests are still underway.

In each case, there is an inclination for the response to be, “Well, it could be worse.” A correct statement, especially if you spend any time in a medical facility where bodies are shattered or struggling with terminal diagnosis. On the other hand, the younger one’s current career is impacted, and may very well require a change of career. For the older one, there is the high probability of no longer being able to live independently and perhaps not even remaining at home with assistance. In both cases, the events occurred with no warning, no time to emotionally prepare. These are life-impacting situations and a certain amount of “Why me?” is a natural reaction. It is a loss; the degree of which is still unknown. All serious loss, no matter the focus, can be tied to the Five Stages of Grief described by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler in their famous book.

I’m not going into the complexity of these stages which are too often over-simplified, however, the need to cope with grief is sound. It is part of life few can avoid and anger in lashing out or wanting to scream closely followed by the desire to curl up and whimper are to be expected. (Yes, in some cultures, stoicism is greatly valued. That’s not the subject here.) There is nothing intrinsically wrong with spending an amount of time in self-pity.  As with much else in life, moderation is important, but even more so is the notion you should, “Just get over it already”, as can be carelessly tossed out. There are losses one does “get over”, and may well ironically fall into the category of clouds with silver linings and other applicable cliches. In other cases, though, it is adjusting to  (okay, acceptance of) the change, but a factor in this process is the “progress” is usually not linear. It can easily be steps forward, back, maybe a bit sideways. When dealing with whatever loss, you can be going along and then, “Zap!” it sneaks back in. When that happens, another round of self-pity isn’t going to hurt. You may want to cope with it on your own or reach out for support.  I hope anyone reading this has friends/relatives who can provide that support. And yes, the “friend” can be furry or perhaps something less conventional such as a special place in which to re-center.

 

 

 

 

 

About Mega Happy Endings…..

This is as much a “musing” post as anything. For those who have read Orchids in the Snow (my first novel), the ending of the book was not the original ending. The absolute silly, but incredibly un movie Wayne’s World that pretty much launched Michael Myers into movie stardom used the expression, “Mega happy ending” in the movie as they were mapping out different endings “that could have happened”. It really is a funny part of the film. Anyway, the original ending to Orchids was in fact, the Mega Happy version and the editor made a comment like, “It’s okay if you want to do this, but I think it would be more consistent with the dual protagonists if you did xyz.” I balanced it out and decided to make the change.

One of the reasons I like romantic comedies and Disney-type movies is the Mega Happy ending is usually consistent. When you shift into drama, it becomes less plausible. I’m okay with satisfactory endings and can accept the idea of the bittersweet or the hero/good guys dying as long as it’s for a good cause. (You get a lot of that in war movies obviously.) There is a particular book and movie from a few years ago that while I appreciated the intricacies of the plot, I truly hate it when the bad guy/girl gets away. Enough of that happens in the real world and I don’t need it for entertainment. I also don’t like it when there are no heroes, although I’m okay with complicated characters who are a mix, but at least one or two have to be more good than bad.

Anyway, what brought this about was reading a book the other day with one of those, “Really, you chose this for the ending?” moments. The story had taken a couple of unexpected turns and quite honestly, both protagonists had some flaws I wasn’t fond of. Now, I realize a “mega happy” wouldn’t have worked well. The final twist though was definitely a stretch. Ah well, to each his own, as they say.

Another Extreme Frustration….

We had another multi-day network outage. More accurately, most of Wed, all of Thurs, and until mid-afternoon Friday. With my work so closely tied to network access, it wreaked havoc with my schedule and my poor husband was only marginally better off. What made it worse for him was my multi-day angry outbursts each time we were told the problem wasn’t fixed yet. I was accepting of 24 hours worth. Past that, not so much. Yes, we have smart phones, but unlike the younger generation, I have extreme difficulty in using my smart phone to work emails and I am not set up to handle attachments. I was able to clear out mail I didn’t need and send short responses to others explaining I would do more later. That of course meant yesterday and today have been a lot of catch-up with a few tasks yet to do.

Okay, enough complaining. I’ll take the time to post something cheery and upbeat tomorrow.

Small, But Important Step….

I don’t know how familiar everyone is with neural linguistic programming. It’s a sub-field of a couple of major fields and has to do with the method in which individuals process information. It’s frequently referred to in the more common terms of “learning visually” or otherwise. Most people learn visually, but others are better at audio – hearing instruction – and some by hands-on touch (kinesthetic). Some combination of all three is often the ideal method, then of course there are unorthodox means for some.

Anyway, I am not a visual learner which is a bit of a drawback when quilting. I can’t simply look at a pattern and figure everything out. I often ask Hubby to give me a hand when I first lay at the quilt kit. I use a lot of kits because I don’t have a stash of fabric built up yet. It’s not that Hubby is one of the male quilters, but quilt projects and woodworking projects are similar. I inadvertently ordered a kit with a marine theme to discover it came with fusible appliques. I set my concern aside and decided it would be a good thing for me to try and if I didn’t care for it (as many don’t), then I would know. I managed the cutting and fusing and truly thought I could do a blanket stitch around the edges to secure them. It sounded simple enough and then oops, not so much. I finally set it aside until I could get some help from the veteran quilters in my small group. It did take a bit as I worked through what I was doing wrong. However, I have now taken the step. Mine may not be the prettiest blanket stitches in the world, but that’s okay.

 

Another Heartwarming Program…

In writing for our community paper (weekly), I mostly cover community and military subjects (hardly a surprise). Therefore,  I know a lot of the non-profits and like as today, there are stories which I then sometimes also post about in the blog.

I think most people are familiar with Habitat for Humanity and the article I’ll be working on this weekend has to do with a “Blitz Build”. (Before I proceed, we have been supporters of this organization for many years. It meets all the criteria we look for in a large non-profit.) From a logistics perspective, these builds are impressive. From a human interest story, they’re even harder to beat.  Hubby participated in one several years ago,  when I was on one of the extended business trips I used to take. He had a great time, learned how to cut and hang drywall, and yes, still has the tee shirt. Anyway, Blitz Builds are usually two weeks in duration and ten houses are built during that time. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Witness” and the scene with the old-fashioned barn raising, it’s the same concept on a larger scale. Volunteers, Habitat for Humanity staff, and the homeowners spend the two weeks starting from bare ground. Licensed professionals are brought in for certain tasks of course, but everything that can be done by semi-skilled, unskilled individuals is completed by volunteers and the potential new owners.

The program is an excellent example of a hand-up, not hand-out. In order to qualify for a house, the homeowner/homeowners must be able to qualify for the mortgage, but there is no monetary down payment nor interest on the mortgage. The homeowner must however work for 250 hours on a combination of their house as well as others. This accomplishes three primary goals of 1) giving a true sense of ownership, 2) “paying” the down payment in sweat equity, 3) having/acquiring a far great sense of what it will take to maintain the house once it’s finished. People not familiar with how the program works often believe the houses are given away, but that is not the case. However, because of the criteria for eligibility and the process they use, default on mortgages of Habitat houses runs about 2% which is far below the national average.

The particular piece of property this build is on actually has had other builds and the ten houses to be turned over to new owners tomorrow completes the total build-out of 65 houses. That means 65 families who might never have been able to afford down-payments/mortgages will be homeowners.

You can go onto https://www.habitat.org to see great photos of these builds and read the individuals’ stories.