Yep! My birthday is on Sunday, so according to the laws of the universe that means the entire weekend is focused exclusively on ME! Ha! As if that were true! Sounds nice though, doesn’t it?
In reality my plans for this weekend aren’t all that wildly exciting. On Saturday I will make the trek to Louisville for the monthly meeting of my Romance Writers of America chapter. That is always fun. While in the city maybe I’ll gorge myself on Indian cuisine at our favorite restaurant, Shalimar. Namaste! Then, perhaps I can talk my husband into visiting a couple antique stores I love! On Sunday I am sure my husband will spoil me with a nice dinner out, and with luck the weather will be nice so we can take the boat onto the lake. My baby boy Kyle works all weekend, but is off today (Friday) so there is a good chance that as y’all are reading this we are catching fish and jetting around the lake. *fingers crossed the weather is fine!
Might they surprise me with something else? Might I be treated to a visit from my baby girl Emily, who now lives just 2 hours away in Nashville? Who knows! Whatever happens, even if it is languishing around the house, I will be happy.
Look at this picture of me a bit over two years of age! Wasn’t I simply the CUTEST? LOL!
I was born on October 26, 1962 to Edward and Marjorie Hudson in Pascagoula, Mississippi at Singing River Hospital. My sister Janis was six years old at the time, my only sibling until my brother Gary came along four years later. Sadly, my parents divorced when I was two.
My mom later married Robert “Bob” Shelly (my brother’s father) and we settled in Frazier Park, California in the Las Padres National Forest area. That tiny community of (then) about 3000 people is where I grew up. Lots of fond memories! I was a total mountain girl, a tomboy who lived outside climbing trees and catching all manner of wildlife. As a youth I loved the snow, rode a dirt bike, hardly ever wore shoes, fished, gathered pine nuts, built forts, waded in cold water creeks, and so on. Yet I was also a girlie-girl who loved dolls and dresses. Kinda strange, really!
My father, Ed Hudson, returned to the South when I was about four. We remained close, and I was fortunate to see him a few times during my growing up years. Now he lives about 8 hours from me, along with other Hudson relatives, which is wonderful!
When I was nine a dear elderly lady named Rozella, who served as a nanny/grandma/babysitter to many children in our community, fell and broke her arm and hip. I asked my mom and dad if I could move in with Rozella for a while to help her out. They said yes, and for roughly six months I served as companion and nurse. It was during that period when two life altering events occurred: One, I decided I wanted to be a nurse, and unlike many young girls who later change their minds a dozen times, I never did. Two, with Rozella I began attending church on a regular basis (my family wasn’t overly religious) and when I was ten I gave my life to Christ. As with my decision to become a nurse, I have never altered from my devotion to Jesus.
Frazier Park – fondly referred to as “The Hill” – had a very small grammar school, only to the 3rd grade. For 4th grade and beyond every student rode the bus to Lebec (just 20 or so miles away) to El Tejon Elementary, named after the Civil War Era military Fort Tejon that still has regular enactments and is a museum of local history. More studious than athletic in a formalized way, I graduated 8th grade at the top of my class.
The slideshow below consists of pictures taken in 2011 when my sister Janis and I spent a few days together in our childhood town. A wonderful walk down memory lane, as it were.
There wasn’t a high school in the area in those days, so all students had a choice of riding the bus to Bakersfield or Maricopa. Both schools were roughly 60 miles away. Maricopa was the prominent choice, probably because it was a smaller school over all, and as folks from a very small community, attending a modest sized campus was more comfortable. For four years, from 1976 to 1980, I boarded a bus at 6:30am and got back home around 4:30pm. Even then I HATED getting up early in the morning — Do you know how difficult it is to manage a Farrah Fawcett hairdo when half asleep?! — but the long bus ride was excellent for studying, doing homework, and reading.
Indeed, I was a major nerd. I admit it with pride! I played the flute in the band (started that in 5th grade), was on the Student Council, was a four-year member of the California Scholarship Federation, in the school newspaper and yearbook clubs, completed a course to be certified as a Nurse’s Aide, and was an official scorekeeper for the girl’s basketball team. I did try to be a tennis player one year, and had a few shining moments, but sports was never my forte. LOL! No, I was the scholar. Math was my speciality, and in fact I secured the Math Excellence Award when I graduated.
By the time I entered my senior year my step-father was battling his third year of cancer. The truth is that I wanted to “go away to college”, my initial dream to attend university in San Francisco. I had the grades for it (a 3.9 GPA when I graduated) and won several scholarships. But, with all that was happening at home I could not bear to be far away. So, I opted to attend the community college in Bakersfield. At the time the nursing program at BC was one of the best in the state, even better than the program at Cal. State Bakersfield. For me it was a no-brainer all the way around, and I have NEVER regretted taking that pathway!
Bob Shelly passed away two years later. I was in my first semester of the RN program by then, and very, VERY glad I was able to spend every weekend at home during his last years, and afterward with my mom and brother. We had other family in the area — my sister and her two kids, my grandparents — and many friends. One marvelous thing about a small town is almost literally knowing everyone, and the support that comes from such close relationships. The flip side of that is the constant memories. A year after his death my mom felt the need to start fresh, so she sold our family home and along with the other family members moved to New Mexico where we also had/have family. To be clear, I was sad to see them leave, but completely understood why and supported the decision. It was a smart move for them, and served them well in the long run on many levels.
I, however, was left all alone for the last year of college. That was rough, but not too bad since I had loads of friends and was wholly immersed into my education anyway. Still, by the time I graduated with my Associates Degree in 1984 I too was ready for a fresh start.
So, I relocated to New Mexico too! My initial RN exam was taken in Albuquerque (I passed!) and my first job as an RN was on a surgical/pediatric floor. Six months later I was begged by my supervisor to “temporarily” fill a gap in the small nursery/NICU. As those who know me can figure out, that “temporary” reassignment became my passion! So much so that after another six months I was more than ready to move on to a bigger hospital where I could improve my skills. Given a choice of going it alone to Albuquerque or another bigger city in that part of the world, or returning to California where I had lots and lots of friends and connections, I chose the latter.
So, in 1985, at 22 years of age and just over a year since moving to NM, I loaded up my new Mustang, and with my best friend Gay-Yvette as my road-trip partner, I made my way back to CA. This time I settled in Santa Cruz where Gay-Yvette lived, got a job at a hospital in Salinas in the NICU, and literally on my first day in town met my future husband. It’s true!! Of course, at the time I was too tired, overwhelmed, and freezing cold (big climate change from NM desert to CA coastal) to notice it as an “enchanted moment.” LOL! He did, however, down to recalling vividly the clothes I was wearing! Have I not said on many occasions that he is the real romantic in this relationship? Yes, indeed.
We married one year and two days later, on July 19, 1986. From this point onward my focus was primarily on motherhood and being a wife. In March of 1988 we welcomed our daughter Emily. In 1990 we relocated to the Central Valley in California where we could afford to buy a house, and in 1992 welcomed our son Kyle. Any plans to continue my formal education took a backseat. My passion for neonates never waned, however, and I changed hospitals three times so as to challenge myself with higher levels of intensive care. Eventually my experience and certifications overcame any benefits in having a bachelor’s degree.
Life was, for the most part, fairly ordinary for the Lathans. Until, as you all know, I saw the 2005 Pride and Prejudice and then began writing in 2006. I never saw that coming! Fast forwarding to 2014 I am a retired nurse, a published author of nine books, and writing full-time. We moved to Kentucky last year when my husband retired. Kyle is now 21 years old and Emily is 25, married to a fabulous man named Neil, and living just two hours away in Nashville. Whew! What a wild ride!
The ironic conclusion to this spontaneous biography is that I am once again living in the South, not too terribly far from where I was born and where my ancestral roots go deep. Also, Bardstown in Kentucky is, in some respects, very similar to my childhood hometown Frazier Park. Rolling hills covered with deciduous trees rather than high mountains with tall pines, yet with a country-fresh, small town, neighborly atmosphere that appeals to something deep inside of me.
So here I am on the cusp of my 52nd birthday, and hopefully I am on a lake in our power boat with a fishing pole in my hand. Not exactly the same as wading the shallow waters of a pond hunting tadpoles and frogs, but I sure appreciate the parallels.