Carlos and I go waaaay back: one of my aunts was his kindergarten teacher! He had been a truly wild little boy, and my aunt was given credit for taming him; my aunt and his mom became best friends, and both families hung out often. I have photos of Carlos and his brother at my birthday parties when we were growing up. I was friends with his brother; Carlos was that annoying little boy that drives every little girl crazy.
|At the Parque de las Palomas (Pigeon Park) in Old San Juan. I was 8; Charles was 10!|
|During one of his many outdoors adventures off the beaten path, machete in one hand, rope in the other! His (sometimes reckless) sense of adventure is one of the things that always drew me to him.|
Carlos and his younger brother
|I was 19, he was 21. He still had hair!|
|Carlos on the left, Tumbark in the center, and Marcos on the right. Taken on the Coast Guard boat on the way to Mona Island.|
|Mona Island as seen from the ocean.|
|An aerial view of Playa Pajaros. This is the beach we stayed at. We had a lot of fun jumping from that dock into the sea.|
|Mona iguana. Note how much it looks like the Galapagos iguanas, yet it's a separate species. These guys would come right up to us! They weren't afraid of people.|
We had an agenda to do beach clean-up and cross to the other side of the island to the research station to watch the sea turtles laying eggs on the beach, but the island had other plans for us. Our second night there, we were hit by 7 storms in a row-8 of the 10 tents flooded, and we ended up having to move to a little broken-down shack by the dock. We called the Coast Guard to come pick us up early, but they couldn't come because they had to take care of other emergencies closer to shore. We were stranded for another night and day; we ran out of food, all of our belongings were wet. And you know what? We didn't care! Carlos, myself and the more adventurous of our group spent the next 2 days exploring the cavern system, climbing up and down sink holes, walking along the wild mesa, swimming in the choppy seas (there was a real half-sunken ship off shore that we tried to swim to!), exploring the old abandoned lighthouse. Our last night on the island was clear, and we all slept on the sand on the beach. It was a real, true Adventure. Of our entire group, Carlos and I were the only ones that didn't want to return home! We were bummed when the Coast Guard finally arrived to pick all of us up.
|The old abandoned lighthouse|
|Inside the caverns|
During this time, I discovered a passion for everything outdoors. Hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, rowing, surfing. Swinging from a rope on a tree into the sea. I did all sorts of crazy stuff that I probably would have never even considered had it not been for Carlos. The surfing especially-he was an avid bodyboarder, and it wasn't long before I joined him in the ocean riding the waves on my own little Manta board. My favorite wave was an 8-footer I cut through during a storm on Arroyo beach.
|Carlos about to catch a wave.|
|Bodyboarding became second only to horseback riding.|
|In his beat-up Dodge Shadow. He called it The Mosquito.|
I never stopped secretly loving him fiercely, if only from a distance. I preferred to have him as just a friend rather than not have him in my life at all.
In 2004, my grandfather died. My father had become estranged from us several years before, refusing to communicate with us (that is a subject for another time), and my grandfather had become a very strong father figure in my life. He lived to make our dreams come true, especially mine. The passion for horses was shared with, and fueled by, him. I would not be who I am today if it had not been for him. I was devastated. And with his death, I realized that I needed to start really doing what I wanted to do. I couldn't just sit around waiting forever for life to happen. Sometimes you have to make it happen.
Carlos came back to Puerto Rico to visit, and for the first time since he had left, he wanted to see me. And I saw him. And I made that first move. And by the end of that visit, he asked me to move in with him. And I said yes. 6 months later, after starting a long-distance relationship with him, I had moved to Tampa and our real adventure together started.
We lived in Tampa for an epic 2 years. Initially, Carlos had difficulty finding a job, any job, and was working as a caterer. I rode in the car with him on my days off from the tack shop, and we got to know Tampa together. I had never wanted to live in Florida because I felt it was too similar to Puerto Rico (hot and humid, no seasons), but discovered that Tampa was very different from what I knew of Florida at the time, which was Miami. It could go into the 40's during the day in the wintertime, and summers weren't quite as humid. The population was mainly mid-westerners, so people were a lot more laid-back and easygoing.
We started out living in a college dorm townhouse with 2 other roommates, both good friends of Carlos's. It was a fun, awkward, and interesting time. We're still friends with them. :)
Our second year in Tampa, we got engaged and moved out into our own little one-bedroom apartment. We were broke as shit, but we were super, super happy.
|Stunning sunset over the Gulf in Clearwater Beach|
Returning from a trip to Orlando
At the beach
In 2007, we moved to South FL, hoping for a better life. In most aspects, it was better: he graduated as an RN and started working as a pediatric nurse, and I went to school to become a vet tech (see separate page on that). I owned horses again.
At our welcome-home party when we first move to Fort Lauderdale
|In his scrubs for school. The hideous white shoes were mandatory.|
|Delray Beach, our favorite South FL beach|
Cloud and me
I can tell you this: life with Carlos is never boring!
|On a visit to Puerto Rico|
|Goofing around dancing at my brother's wedding|
|With Shakti, my kitty that passed away in 2012. Carlos was the only person she would allow to do this, and she'd be purring away while he rubbed her belly. He was the only person, other than myself, that she loved from day 1|
|Delray Beach. Hanging from a tree in front of a restaurant named, ironically, Carlos and Pepito (Carlos has a neon green plush iguana named Pepe. Hes' always wanted to name a pet Pepe.)|
Taking my previous gelding Rythm for a swim in the lake
At Tijuana Flats, our fave restaurant
|Life with a man-child. This was at the 24 hour Walmart at 11:00 pm...|
|At our first apartment in South FL|
|At a Three Kings party held at his brother's house. Obviously Carlos was dressed as one of the Kings. Here we were surrounded by his family.|
|I love his smile in this one. We turned the living room of a friend's house into a dance floor.|
We were the only ones that danced!
Finally, in October of 2012, the stars aligned: we had the money saved up, we had the work experience to go somewhere else, we had the raging desire to leave, and Charles got the job offer that would allow it all to happen.
When you want something, the Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.
That's how Carlos, Lily, Astarte and I found ourselves living in the Washington, D.C. metro area. It is Carlos's, Lily's and Astarte's first time living in a place with seasons. I had experienced them as a child living in Texas when my parents were still married and we lived on military bases, but the climate in Texas is quite different from the Northeast.
|Lily in the trailer on the way to Maryland|
|Astarte at Carlos's feet, in the car during the 1100 mile, 17 hour car ride north.|
The adventure continues.