"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Thursday, November 7, 2013

One Year

On October 28 it was a year since we moved to the Northeast.

On November 8 it will be a year at my current job working exclusively in the veterinary ER. I used to consider myself more of an ICU tech, but I gotta say: I'd rather work 12 hours straight running around on my feet than do the constant get up/sit down/kneel/crouch/roll-around-on-the-floor-with-the-patients-for-12-hours drill. It was a million times harder on your body.

The move to the Northeast was epic, and worth talking about again. In case you weren't following the blog at the time. :)

While living in Puerto Rico, I always said that if I ever left the island for the continental U.S., it would be to go to a place with seasons. Four well-defined seasons. Like these, taken throughout the course of this year:

Especially THIS season!!

And this one!! A very, very close second on the Favorite-O-Meter.

This one I'm used to having year-round. I actually LIKE it now because I know that it is finite.

And it's pretty awesome to finally have this one.
Though the New Englanders at work would argue that what we call winter in this area isn't a real winter...
This is real enough for us islanders, thanks! :)

Well. Charles was living in Tampa when I moved in with him, so so much for that.

Clearwater Beach sunset.
The Gulf Coast of Florida has THE BEST sunsets, bar none. The sunsets are so spectacular that the whole world stops to watch the sun dip behind the horizon. We saw this in action in the summer: crowds of people playing in the ocean and the beach, and everyone would pause to watch the sun go down. Every.single.person. It was beautiful to see that humanity is still able to appreciate moments like that in nature.
The sand at Clearwater is so white that shadows are blue. We liked going to the beach in the winter to freeze while walking on the sand and pretending it was snow.
Charles at Clearwater. He was staring at the sunset in the photo above. :)
We weren't immune to the spell, either!
However, my consolation with Tampa was that at least it got chilly in the wintertime. 50-degree days and 30-degree nights are pretty much a given from late December through the end of February. There weren't really any seasons, but you could count on it being cooler for at least 3 months of the year, and at least it wasn't gosh-awful humid 24/7 year-round. Just during August and September. And then there was the Spanish moss. And the Midwesterners. The general population of Tampa comes from the Midwest; people were just more laid back. Polite. It was a different pace. I loved Tampa.

Tampa was good for my soul.
But we moved to South Florida and pretty much from the moment we arrived, I wanted to leave. I'd NEVER wanted to live in South Florida. Actually, I always said that South Florida was the LAST place I'd ever want to live in, EVER. I still stand by that.

For the first 3 years there, I had to give up horses entirely. We struggled financially and I had a really hard time finding a job in my field: graphic design. So I switched careers to vet tech while Charles finished his nursing degree and we settled down. Ish. Every year when it was time to renew apartment leases, we would debate moving. Something would always happen to keep us from moving out of that part of the state, or we would choose to stay because we wanted to see how something in our lives at the moment would pan out. We slowly crept north in our apartment choices, until we were right at the border between Broward and Palm Beach counties.

6 years later, during the middle of one very hot summer after a non-existent winter, while dealing with Lily's anhydrosis, barn drama, mean people overall, THIS NEWS, surviving a minor hurricane with an inept barn manager, work drama at both of our jobs, the fact that our town house's AC had broken down yet again in 115 degree heat and the leasing office wasn't doing anything to really fix it, the fact that Charles's student loan payments and cost of living continued to go up but not our salaries, Charles and I looked at one another in the eye one afternoon while sweltering in the house, and at the same time we said, "THIS YEAR we get out of here."

Enough of you. Mkaythanksbye!
The choices fell in our lap with a surprising lack of effort. You know how it is: when it's meant to be, it's meant to be. I was offered a part-time job as a relief tech out of the blue and I jumped on that. I worked 60 hour weeks between two jobs pretty much for the next 3 months. At Charles's hospital, extra shifts became available on a weekly basis, which had been unheard of up until then. So he was picking up mad overtime too. All of it went into our savings account.

He applied directly with a couple of different hospitals in the areas that we were interested in. Orlando was the first attempt and it was a huge fail. And then Charles signed up as a travel nurse with FIVE different companies, and we sat back and waited. Our lease was up in November. By the end of September we were chewing our nails. We gave notice at the leasing office, telling them that we were definitely moving, we just didn't know where to. Not even what state. The girl at the leasing office hated South Florida as much as we did. She laughed with us and said to just let her know when we knew. We just needed to give them an address on our move-out day. It was the craziest thing we've done as a couple yet: we set a move-out date, but we didn't know where on earth (literally!) we were moving to!

So the way travel nursing works is that the nurse interviews first with the agency. Pretty much the only requirements are that you have a minimum of 2 years of experience in the field that you want to work in as a travel nurse. Charles had exactly that, plus brilliant recommendations from his peers. There were two agencies that were his main focus: American Mobile and Onward Healthcare, two very, very good, reputable agencies, both of which had hired Charles. Hospitals have contracts with specific agencies, so it's just a matter of the agency calling up their hospitals with available positions to see if they are interested in their candidate. Charles paid nothing for this; it's the hospitals that pay for this service. Once a hospital decides they want a specific travel nurse, the travel nurse interviews directly with the hospital. If the hospital likes the nurse, they seal the deal with the travel agency and the contract is written up. Contracts are for 12-16 weeks (3 to 4 months). If the hospital really likes the nurse, the nurse will be offered to renew the contract at the end of those 3 months. The agency offers 2 options in terms of housing: they have furnished apartments available for free, or you can take a living stipend (a good agency will give you a reasonable stipend based on the cost of living for the area) and live wherever you want. If you play your cards right with option #2, you can find a cheap apartment and keep whatever is left over from the stipend, tax-free. We initially chose to go with option #1, so we wouldn't have to worry about apartment deposits and where the hell we'd live in an area that we didn't know.

American Mobile was the first to find hospitals for Charles.

Charles interviewed with a hospital in Maryland (actually, the same hospital he's working in now!), but they took forever in getting back to him. By then Georgetown University Hospital had hired him through the agency. It only took one phone interview. I had wanted to be in the Virginia area, so this was placing us a lot closer to DC than I had personally anticipated, but Charles was SO.EXCITED. He had visited DC before and he promised I would love it.

That happened exactly 2.5 weeks before our set move-out date.

Over those 2.5 weeks, we had (most of) our entire house packed into a tiny U-Box, a date for the truck to be picked up by an auto transport company, and Lily shipped to a barn in Maryland about 40 minutes outside of DC. Charles had gotten his DC RN license, and I had gotten myself licensed as a tech in Virginia. When Charles was first hired, all we knew was that we'd be living somewhere within a 30-minute radius of DC. VA was the one state in this area that absolutely requires you to be licensed to work as a tech and there were a lot of veterinary hospitals there, so the chances of me ending up working in VA seemed pretty high at the time. I was certified in FL; I contacted the VA Veterinary Medical Association and did the paperwork to have my credentials transferred. It was a surprisingly easy process. Some states require that you take a state exam so you can take their credentials. Not Virginia; they just required that I have completed an Associate's in Vet Tech and passed my Veterinary Technician National Exam (you have to take that test when you graduate if you want ANY credentials, regardless of state.) So yeah: done and done.

Our entire lives went in this little box.
On October 28th, we got in the car (that was packed to the gills with more stuff!) and drove 1,200 miles north in 17 hours. With Hurricane Sandy on our heels all the way up the East coast!

We initially lived in Alexandria, VA, in one of the agency's apartments (a really nice apartment complex, btw). But I ended up working in MD, and of course Lily was living in MD. I was travelling to MD 6 days a week! A 70-mile round-trip each time. After giving Charles the tour of the area, we decided to take option #2 for living arrangements when Georgetown renewed his contract at the end of January, and moved to our little apartment in MD. Charles worked with Georgetown for 9 months - they renewed his contract twice, and eventually offered him a position working directly with the hospital. However, he had interviewed directly with a MD hospital where the pay was higher and he'd be able to work in the ER, his long-term dream. They hired him.

And that's how we ended up with our entire lives in Maryland.

If you want to read the details of the move, go here (about the move itself; I had posted NOTHING about our intentions to leave FL up until this post, AFTER we had moved! All the details of how I prepared Lily for her 30-hour trip are there...along with the obvious stress that went along with the preparations), here (that one's just about our Frankenstorm Road Trip! It really was a Frankenstorm Road Trip...like I said, we drove up here with Hurricane Sandy hot on our trail!) and here (our first time seeing Lily in her new barn. Go see it-I'm still astounded I found such a nice barn based EXCLUSIVELY on internet searches! I quite literally sent her to a place sight-unseen and then crossed my fingers and prayed to every god and goddess that everything would be ok. It was).

Charles was right: We love it here.


  1. But thats West Virginia. So you love WV? So you'll move here? And be my neighbor? And bitch about stupidity with me? And ride horses with me? And be my BFFE?

    K. I'm alright with that.

    Yup. Totez okay. ;-)

    Cheaper living...but not so much excitement for Mr. I-Will-Forever-Love-Parties. =)

    1. I KNEW you'd comment about that last photo! LOL!! I'm including WV in the entire area we love: VA, DC, MD, WV. In MY mind, it's part of the "DMV". Hahaha... The problem with us moving to WV is that then you would not be allowed to move to the West Coast! ;) Because if you moved, then who would be my neighbor, bitch about stupidity with me, ride horses with me, and be my BFFE?

      Maybe we can ALL move to the West Coast together when you're ready! That would be a TRULY EPIC ROAD TRIP: 4 cats, 1 dog, 3 horses, and us 3 crazy people...I would totally be up for that! :D

  2. You guys are quite the travelers, I'm always in awe of your stories. I'm glad you were able to leave FL, I actually don't like FL at all.. lol

    1. I'm glad I'm not the only one! Lol whenever I mention at work how much I hated South FL, people look at me like I sprouted a second head! Haha...

  3. I could NEVER live in South Florida. Glad you made it out of there!

    1. Me too! I'll take your dry heat in Texas over Florida's insanely humid heat any day! :)

  4. Love the history! Ours is much short: uh.. Augusta... and then here. :)

    I think physical places speak to your soul. I've lived in proximity to the Savannah River since I was five or six. Since moving to Savannah, I've always been near marsh. I love the land and it sustains. I think your mountains would be the same way. :)

    1. Totally agree! Our mountains are like your marsh. I grew up living on a mountaintop on the island. Hills and the lay of the land became ingrained in my sense of identity...and direction! 6 years living in Florida, and I could not orient myself because of the flatness. My constant fear of getting lost there almost reached phobic proportions. Charles didn't understand until we moved up here and all of a sudden my sense of direction was back. I can find my way using the slopes of the hills and mountains as guidance. They make me feel safe.

      Being a former islander, I'll never lose my love of the ocean. But the mountains will always be my home. :)

  5. I definitely agree that this area is better than Florida! My husband's family lives in Ft. Myers, and when we visited for Thanksgiving one year, it was 90 plus degrees, which is just wrong. Playing outdoor games in heat in November is a violation of the natural order!

    I'm glad you made it out here and I love seeing all your beautiful pictures! Also, your pictures totally make me want to come see where you board:) It looks so lovely!