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.

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.

How I Learned About Internal Combustion Engines…..

The saying of, “You don’t always get what you want, but you might get what you need”, is probably true for most people. As has been happening of late, certain conversations trigger memories of my Army days. In the short version, I joined the Army in order to afford law school. The fact that didn’t happen is a very different post that I’ll do at some point in the future.

Anyway, I actually came into the Army through a special program because contrary to popular belief, women could not enter as officers through either ROTC or the military academies until 1976. I was commissioned into the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) in the waning years before they officially disbanded that. Part of the disbanding was to no longer have all women assigned to WAC units, but rather have them go into the various branches of the Army, most of which were open to women. Through a series of misunderstanding on my part (also another future post), I found myself in a situation where I didn’t know which branch to ask for and the Ordnance Corps decided they wanted to increase the number of women being brought in. They sent a couple of majors to Fort McClellan to explain to all of us why we ought to request being in Ordnance. Now, there are essentially two major areas within Ordnance. The original, as the name implies, is Ordnance as in ammunition. The other is maintenance which gained far greater prominence once there were things like vehicles. To say I was not mechanically minded is an understatement and so when I was assured by the two majors that Ordnance really was the branch we ladies ought to join I agreed and thought, “Okay, how hard can it be to learn about munitions?”

A not particularly important event occurred and I was later strongly advised to swap from my idea to instead go into the maintenance side. I very carefully explained my genuine concern about my ability to learn about maintenance. I was again assured the fact I didn’t know anything didn’t mean I couldn’t learn what I needed to. As an officer, I would not be actually working on vehicles (to include things such as tanks). The mechanical training we would receive was to enable us to understand the basics so we could understand what it was the fully qualified mechanics (enlisted and warrant officers) were doing. In other words, we had to know just enough to be able to say, “Bull___” if someone wasn’t doing their job. I reluctantly agreed and in the initial stages of my training, my concerns seemed justified. Several of us struggled and failed tests because we really weren’t grasping what pistons, wiring harnesses, hydraulic systems, etc., did. Our instructors were equally struggling because they couldn’t figure out how to get the ideas across any differently.

Our male counterparts stepped in to help. This was when most guys worked on vehicles to some degree or the other. They essentially took those of us who were having difficulty and said, “You’re making this too hard.” Of the two that took me under wing, one was a mechanical engineer and the other highly mechanically inclined as what was referred to as a “shade tree mechanic”. Admittedly, this was back before vehicles became much more complex with electronics and computers. As it turned out, the guys were right. We just needed someone who could take their time with us and phrase things in a way we could grasp. One of the practical exercises we had to complete toward the end of the three-month course was to disassemble and reassemble a jeep engine. Despite the extra tutelage, I certainly wouldn’t have tried to tackle this alone, but we were in teams and I was in fact fully capable of helping and understanding what my guys were doing. Aside from the direct application to my Army career, the same knowledge has been quite useful when dealing with auto repair shops.

One of the Lesser Known Military Units…..

First, I thought I had posted this the other day. Then again, I thought I had previously written about this topic, but apparently it hadn’t made it beyond the idea stage. When we were stationed in Hawaii we knew of a number of smaller, specialized units, one of which is officially named the Joint Task Force–Full Accounting (JTF-FA) and Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii (CILHI). It is commonly referred to by the acronym of CILHI (pronounced like Sill Hi). Although there are some military personnel assigned and a friend was the commander for a couple of years, the staff is predominantly civilian experts. You can read more details at http://www.vietvet.org/jtffainf.htm but I’ll explain.

A Joint Task Force means all military services are involved and it is especially fitting for JTF Full Accounting. The remains of thousands of American service members are still missing and over the years, sites have been discovered in some pretty remote paces. The term “leave no man behind” has existed for a long time and it extends to the idea of bringing home the bodies of those who have served their country. With advanced forensics and the amazing capabilities of the Laboratory those can be used to either positively identify someone or at least greatly narrow the possibility. For example, if a plane from WW II was last heard from over a certain area in a mountainous region, and the Task Force is notified of wreckage being found in that same region, a team can go in to look. Since airplanes can disintegrate and/or burn upon impact, there may be little left after decades of growth taking hold. The staff intensely studies equipment and uniforms from every era of our military which is why the smallest item or fragment can be used to help with identification. In a case like this, if no human remains are found, they still might be able to identify the aircraft. All sites are handled in a similar manner to an archeological dig and the teams often work in extreme environments such as jungles or mountainous areas.

Information about potential sites come from many sources.  Local stories are frequently passed down about military men who were quickly buried or a crash site that has been overgrown. At other times, an area is being cleared for building or a family member has done research and passes along what they know so the team can consult their database. Several months ago, my husband taught classes to some of the JTF members because they want to have internal capability of accessing underwater sites. He was of course thrilled with the opportunity and the team appreciated the fact he was familiar with their work.

Losing a loved one is never easy. Not knowing where the loved one is adds yet another dimension to the grief. And even though the service member/service members are not returned until sometimes decades later, in almost all cases it is appreciated by the family.