It’s been 2.5 years since I last wrote on this blog! Wow. Time flies. I am unexpectedly staying in Tucson for a few years. Here’s my story.
Moving with James from Vermont to Tucson
Since I last posted, many things have happened. James moved with me to Tucson in May of 2018. We brought his beautiful black cat Fiona with us. We rented a small one-bedroom apartment near University and 6th Ave. A perfect location for biking and walking! (I’ve been free of car ownership since 2005).
We both worked freelance. I worked in coffee shops with my laptop while James worked from home. We visited many interesting nature sites in and near Tucson, went to LOTS of movies (The Loft Cinema is our favorite local movie theater), and several street fairs, museums, festivals, and music events.
In November of 2018, our cat Fiona died of cancer. So sad. After our usual trip to Vermont for Christmas in 2018, we came back to Tucson and visited a shelter and found a new cat to adopt. His name is Max! We love him.
Getting a full-time job
Since 2018 was a low income year for my freelance business (several gigs fell through), and James was just starting a new freelance business, I decided to look for a full-time job at the end of 2018. I ended up getting the perfect job for me: e-learning developer at Univ. of Arizona Libraries! It was a temporary one-year position (January – December of 2019), but it got renewed for six months through July 31, 2020, and then another six months through Dec. 31, 2020. (I’m hoping it will get renewed again in 2021).
I love this job not only because I have a regular salary again, but I love the work and the people! I like collaborating with my librarian colleagues, and learning new tools for making online educational content. I use Vyond to make animated videos, and Articulate Rise 360 to make interactive websites. Here are some of our information literacy tutorials. This is one of my favorite ones: How Do I Evaluate Online Information?
My colleagues are very flexible about how much I work in the office and how much I work from home, so I started working from home (actually in coffee shops) about 2 or 3 days a week.
In addition, I continued to work part time for the library of Central European University in Budapest. I make updates to their website – the one I redesigned for them in 2015 while I was in Budapest. I also teach online courses for librarians from time to time. I haven’t written any new books recently because you can only do so much work on the side while also working full time!
We both work remotely
James has been building up his business of astronomy journalism and education. He writes on Medium, has a website called The Cosmic Companion, and offers a video podcast series where he interviews astronomers about their latest research. He even has a comic strip called Max on Mars! It’s the story of a cat who stows away in a spaceship to Mars, and it’s based on the personality of our adventurous cat Max. He also writes a newsletter on astronomy news with both free and paid subscription options.
Here’s an example of one of his interviews with astronomers.
In the fall of 2019, we started discussing the idea of moving to Europe in the summer of 2020. Most likely to either Vienna or Budapest because I had a potential full-time job offer from Central European University. I enjoyed my three months in Budapest in 2015 and my three weeks there in 2017. James has visited other parts of Europe several times and was excited about the idea of living there. He can do his journalism from anywhere, since it’s completely remote. My job at University of Arizona was always a temporary contract anyway and also has the possibility of working remotely.
On December 26, 2019, James and I got married! One of the reasons we decided to get legally married was to make our move to Europe easier — James could be on my work visa as a spouse (much harder to arrange as a live-in companion). Of course, the main reason was that we love each other and are extremely compatible!
Since we go to Vermont and Boston every year for the holidays, we figured it would be convenient to have our wedding in Vermont, while our group of friends (who are family to us) was gathered anyway. So we rented an art gallery space in Brattleboro, only a few blocks away from the apartment where we were staying with our friends. We ordered vegetarian pizzas and salad from a local place, and got a cake made at a local bakery (Amy’s in Brattleboro — one of our favorite places).
Our friends helped us decorate the place, and two of our favorite people (the grown children of my best friends) did the readings. Xavier read from Carl Sagan and Mr. Rogers, and Rosa read from Dr. Seuss. My friend Melissa got certified to be the officiant, and my friend Sandy did a wonderful toast. James’ best man Brian did another toast (super-funny), and Brian’s son Phoenix handed us the rings. Sandy’s son Isiah was our sound guy, controlling a Spotify playlist on the sound system. We had a slide show projected on the wall of some of our favorite photos of the two of us. Melissa bought us a night in the local hotel (so we could have privacy instead of staying in the big group apartment). And we extended the stay in the Latchis Hotel because it was so nice to stay there and have our own space for a few days.
All together we had about 30 people there and it was just perfect. Neither of us has parents who are living, and neither of us has children (by choice), but our group of Vermont friends really are long-term family to us (especially me, since I’ve known them for over 30 years).
A few days later, we flew back to Tucson, rented a car, and drove to an Airbnb in the foothills of Tucson (instead of going home right away). This was our “mini-moon” and we had a great time. The weather was perfect, and we went hiking in Catalina State Park on New Year’s Day.
Back at our apartment we had a “Trusted Housesitter” named Marci who stayed in our place and took care of Max the cat while we were away. That worked out so well! She played with Max and enjoyed being in Tucson for a week or so. And she sent us photos every day (since we missed Max). I recommend Trusted Housesitters if you ever need to find someone to stay in your place and take care of your pets.
We were so happy to see Max when we came home!
The Pandemic Era
Everything changed when the pandemic hit.
And at the same time, as a remote worker, many things felt completely normal. Read more in part 2 of this post.