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

Carlos and Me

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!
As teenagers, the two families stopped hanging out so much because all of us kids were doing our own thing, though my aunt and Carlos's mom remained good friends and did their Master's degrees in Education together. I actually even forgot Carlos existed, as he went off to one of the colleges on the other side of the island, but his brother and I would hang out occasionally as friends. One day my aunt and I stopped by his mom's house to pick up some paperwork for my aunt's Master's classes, and it so happened that Carlos was home from school. I looked into his eyes, and the world stopped. I was never the same again. Neither was he.
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
Carlos was in a group of Sea Scouts, something very much like the Boy Scouts, but co-ed, and it was run through the San Juan Coast Guard, so they got to go camping in some really awesome and remote places on the island that they would not have had access to otherwise without the Coast Guard's influence. My brother and I joined, for the adventure, and in my case there was also the motivating factor that I could get to know Carlos better.

I was 19, he was 21. He still had hair!
This was among the best times of my late teens-early twenties. We took a sailing course, learned Coast Guard protocols, and went to several of the little islands off the coast of PR, including Mona Island. Mona Island is considered the Galapagos of the Caribbean-it is a wild, uninhabited island composed of a giant mesa with an internal cavern system. The only people on the island are the scientists and rangers at the research station, the frequent illegal Dominican/Haitian immigrants on their way to Puerto Rico, and the occasional pirate. Yes, pirates. And we stayed on that island. For 4 days. (Yes, there were adults-a couple of parents, and 3 Coast Guard officers were with us.)

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.
My dad had always been into the outdoors too, and when he heard about all the stuff my brother and I were doing, arranged for separate trips to Wyoming and Lake Tahoe. I have gone up in a hot air balloon, ridden horseback through a hail storm (NOT fun!), hiked up Mount Washburn and Mount Sheridan in Yellowstone, and Mount Tallac and part of the Pacific Crest Trail while in Lake Tahoe. We did many others, but these are the ones I remember best. I still have my hiking boots!

In the Sea Scouts, EVERYONE knew Carlos and I liked each other. We got teased about it constantly, and Carlos didn't exactly hide it. However, neither one of us would make a move. During my first year in university, he transferred over to the same school (forced to by his parents-he'd been partying a little too hard at his previous school on the other side of the island, and they had him come back home). I confronted him one day and gave him a long letter basically telling him exactly how I felt about him and asking wtf? I was tired of waiting for him-I had been waiting for 2 years at this point!

In his beat-up Dodge Shadow. He called it The Mosquito.
He admitted that he liked me a lot, but he was doing a lot of really crazy stuff at the time (this was during his time in the Puertorrican rave scene) and knew that being exposed to that world would destroy me. Plus he wasn't ready for the kind of serious, committed relationship he knew I was expecting. I appreciated his honesty, and I can tell you this-by doing that, he was the one guy that ever truly watched out for me. We chose to stay as friends. We each dated other people. My guy choices were based mainly on how much they reminded me of Carlos. If they didn't have something in common with him, I wasn't interested. Carlos eventually moved to FL, but we stayed in touch for the next 5 years, first via e-mail and eventually by phone calls every weekend.

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

Carlos dancing at an outdoor music festival

In *our* apartment during our second year together.
After bouncing around from one job to another and still unable to put either his biology or film degrees to good use, Carlos decided to go back to school to become a registered nurse. He started out at USF in Tampa, then transferred to Nova Southeastern in Fort Lauderdale when he realized he might be waiting a year to get into USF.

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
Carlos and I got married in 2008, after 4 years living together, at, of all places, the Miami Beach Coast Guard base (do you see the trend? The place became available by pure coincidence, thanks to a friend of a friend. I call it fate), facing the Miami bay at sunset on October 31st. Halloween had always been our anniversary, and we just loved having this be "our" holiday, so we decided to keep it that way.

I can tell you this: life with Carlos is never boring!
Wedding day
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

Riding Beau at Wolf Lake in Davie
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!
From the time we moved to Fort Lauderdale, we had known we wouldn't be staying there. For a while we did entertain the idea of staying, and for awhile, it seemed like we'd never get out. We talked about moving for at least 5 of the 6 years we lived there, but something always happened and we'd either choose to stay, or stay because we had to.

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.
We absolutely LOVE it here, and the blog has changed a bit to include some of our non-horsey excursions into this beautiful land that often feels more like you're existing in a living painting!
The adventure continues.

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