As 2006 began our plans were taking shape or more accurately, Darryl’s plans began to gel and I began to grasp the reality of the whole thing. At the end of January we were packing Darryl’s Ford Escape (how ironic) with all of her possessions that we could cram into it and on top of it in one of those cargo tubs. Her business, Spence and Vaughn Fine Kitchen & Bath, was now a reality after several trips between Rochester, NY and Orlando, FL by her and her partner, Jim Spence. It was time for her to get to Florida and start things up, initially working out of Jim’s house. We left Fairport, NY around the first of February for the long drive through a blizzard in Erie, PA (big surprise), slop in West Virginia and gradually improving weather as we reached the Deep South. I delivered Darryl and her SUV at her mother’s house in Inverness, FL and flew back to Rochester out of Orlando.
My list of duties were clear:
- Sell our beloved house in Fairport;
- Retire from Kodak – or be laid off, whichever came first;
- Get our younger daughter, Meredith, settled somewhere;
- Pack up whatever I couldn’t dispose of or store at our camp into a U-Haul truck;
- Drive to Astoria Queens to pack up our older daughter, Megan’s belongings; and
- Drive (again) to Orlando.
This process took until mid-September – the first of what has become a pattern of long separations in our now 35-year marriage.
Our house in Fairport, NY taken the winter after we moved.
The camp near Canandaigua Lake, NY
Megan with all our ‘stuff’ as we left NJ.
I will forgo the ordeal of cleaning out a house with 32 years of collected ‘stuff’, staging a house for sale in a down market and enduring weeks of torturous boredom as a lame duck employee. These are suitable topics all on their own, but let me say that except for a few weeks of blissful relaxation at camp this was a LONG nine months.
The next several months I spent enjoying severance pay and exploring Central Florida. Darryl had made a lot of friends in Orlando before I arrived, including Eugene and Catherine who became our ‘camping buddies’. Catherine a professional biologist and Eugene an avid birder are a wealth of knowledge helping us identify the Florida flora and fauna that seem quite foreign to us Yankees (actually we were Damn Yankees because we moved there).
Darryl and her first gopher tortoise encounter. January ’07
By early 2007 it was time to start getting my ‘post-Kodak’ career going. I had been planning on becoming an independent environmental management system (EMS) auditor for 5 years before leaving Kodak, so I set that plan in action. First, I had to take some training and become certified – by Spring – Done! Now, I needed to get a contracting gig with a big name registrar, i.e., a company that certifies other companies as conforming with the ISO 14001:2004 Standard. It took a while but I finally ‘signed on’ with SGS
. A Swiss company that is one of the big players in the business with US Headquarters in NJ.
Well, my ‘research’ into this new career that I was banking on should have included actually speaking with more people in the field. You see, this whole “ISO registration stuff” had become old news by now and there weren’t a lot of companies jumping on the band wagon. Therefore, those auditors in the business since the rush to registration in the 90s had enough repeat customers to keep them busy. So my life was getting to know these folks and encouraging them to include me when they needed help on a registration audit. Let me sum this all up – I loved the work, the travel wasn’t a deterrent, but there just wasn’t enough of it. When the 2008 recession hit it all but dried up. My days were spent at the computer and phone in Florida begging SGS for work.
During this time Darryl and Jim’s work was winning awards in the Orlando Parade of Homes and their customers were raving about them. As the housing market in Central Florida started to unravel they were surviving on remodeling jobs (their niche) while many of their competitors who depended on new construction went out of business. So they were doing better than many of their competitors, however when the collapse of the housing market occurred in 2008 everyone was struggling. It is one thing to be at the top of your game but if the game is not being attended how are you doing?
Why this sad story? This was the precursor to another job search and the move to Washington before our ends were not being met. This is the skeleton of our story in Florida and it sounds dismal but we met a lot of great people, experienced some really cool things, spent a summer at our camp and I even got back to the music that I love. Those things and the journey to the Pacific Northwest are coming soon.