Weekly Roundup

Friday, August 28, 2015

Zoe cat!
Hello from Salem/Roanoke again! My sister-in-law's wedding is tomorrow evening and I have been in wedding prep mode since I arrived from my hometown on Wednesday night. Things have been lining up smoothly but we've had a lot of tables, chairs, etc, to set up and there has been a lot of running around going on.

Dan and I headed to my parents' last Friday evening and arrived just in time for a big family cookout. We celebrated my parents' anniversary, our homecoming, and just having everyone together as we laughed and shared stories over wine and an amazing dinner on the back patio.

My cousin Sarah spent the night and we got up early Saturday morning to go zip-lining. Sarah, Dan, and I spent several hours at The Adventure Park at Sandy River Retreat in Rice, Virginia (10 miles east of Farmville) doing high-line obstacle courses through the trees and zip-lining down to the ground below. It was so much fun! We couldn't leave her sister Amy out all weekend, so I spent Sunday afternoon at their house and took them out for pizza afterward. I can't get over how much they've grown up these past two years and hanging out with them is absolutely one of my favorite things.

Mom and I spent Tuesday together and made a day of exploring Richmond and having a quick lunch with Claire. It was great visiting the city again after so many years and imagining what life might be like once Dan and I head back down this way one day. (We've discussed landing in Richmond in the future for a more permanent home.) We've also finished season one of Downton Abbey, which I've loved re-watching and she's really loving it too! Kristina from Thrifty Gypsy Travels excited me last week by telling that the Richmond Historical Society is sharing costumes from the show in an exhibit called "Dressing Downton" this fall/winter! Mom and I are already planning to make a weekend of it; it will be so easy to take the train from NY to Richmond!

I spent yesterday ziplining with my cousin Sarah and had SO much fun!

A photo posted by Emily (@embusyliving) on

My post from Monday was all about my second hometown of Roanoke, Virginia and specifically shared my favorite places downtown. Unfortunately, after Wednesday, I'm afraid that Roanoke is more of a household name across the country and around the world for the most horrible of reasons. Mom and I were watching the local ABC news Wednesday morning when the anchors broke in with the story of what had happened live earlier that morning on WDBJ7 (our local CBS affiliate). I quickly hopped on Facebook and was heartbroken to find a trail of posts discussing the shocking incident, ranging from posts of, "What just happened on WDBJ? Did anyone see that? Does anyone know what's going on?" to posts from various friends from the Roanoke and Salem area describing what a great guy Adam Ward was and recounting various memories from high school. "Shocking" and "horrifying" are not words that do the situation justice. I did not know either of the victims from Wednesday's shooting, but it has certainly been bizarre to watch such a devastating event take place in our little city; to receive a phone call from my brother (who works at Harrisonburg's ABC affiliate station) to tell us they're on lockdown but okay (as the shooter made his was north on I81); to see our favorite anchors and friends who work at the station discussing everything on CNN and plastered across the New York Times. Chelsea and I have texted and are fairly certain that Adam was the cameraman who interviewed us when our magazine launched in 2012. It's bizarre. It's so heartbreaking.

  • House Rules by Jodi Picoult. I've never picked up one of Picoult's books for whatever reason, but one night this past week when I couldn't sleep I found this book (along with two others) sitting in the floor next to my bookcase in my childhood bedroom. I have no idea where they came from, but I'm glad they were there because I was about to start re-reading the American Girl series to help me sleep, ha! I love Picoult's writing so far and the story is pretty interesting. I'll share more whenever I'm through.

On the Internets
I have a lot of blog reading catching up to do guys. You know you're behind when only five days away from the internet leaves your Bloglovin feed with 300+ unread posts!

Roanoke, Virginia: My Second Home

Monday, August 24, 2015

During my final years of college and the first few years of Dan and I's marriage we lived in his hometown of Salem, Virginia. Salem is located just a few miles west of the city of Roanoke, Virginia in the western half of Roanoke County, so downtown Roanoke and it's other many little neighborhoods feel just like home to me. (People from the area may argue that "Salem isn't Roanoke," and I agree that they're different, but I'm rather fond of the Star City in particular.)

I became most familiar with Roanoke during my time as the marketing manager at the now-closed Arts Council here. As we worked with the state's arts commission and Virginia Tourism Corporation, I was shocked to find out that Roanoke didn't really seem to receive the recognition it truly deserves. If you visit the VTC's website, you'll find that Roanoke and it's surrounding region isn't actually considered it's own place. Instead, it's sort of situated at the intersection of four different regions: Central Virginia, Southern Virginia (where my parents live), the Blue Ridge Highlands, and the Shenandoah Valley. Roanoke is almost forgotten in this layout, thrown in last minute as possibly part of all of them, but technically in a lost little corner of the extremely different Shenandoah Valley.

I really hate that Roanoke is represented in this way. As such a huge fan of the region, there is so much more to Roanoke that it's given credit for. There's a lively music scene, is extremely arts oriented, and offers a seemingly endless list of outdoor activities. It has also been frequently compared to Asheville, North Carolina, which is such a compliment! So when I've talked to people who are familiar with the western part of Virginia, such as Harrisonburg (100 miles north) or Blacksburg (40 miles west), I'm always shocked when they have never been to or know absolutely nothing about Roanoke. One Virginia Tech student I talked with once said she "drove past Roanoke on I81 a million times (on her way to and from VT) but never visited," because she "didn't know there was anything there." What?! Roanoke boasts twice the population of both Blacksburg and Harrisonburg, so this is just a crazy thing for me to comprehend.

I talk up my love for Roanoke everywhere I go. Downtown is absolutely booming, with renovations turning lovely old brick buildings into apartments and new businesses, a brand new amphitheater in Elmwood Park (Joan Jett and the Blackhearts played there just last Thursday night!), and the state's oldest continually-used farmer's market lining Market Street is open six days a week.

The Historic City Market Building in Roanoke, Virginia | Em Busy Living
The Historic Roanoke City Market, Roanoke, Virginia | Em Busy Living

The historic City Market Building was completely renovated in the last decade and serves as a food court full of locally-owned restaurants. The rest of downtown seems to radiate from this central point, with shops, restaurants, bars, and galleries along the streets all around it. Across the street from the Market Building is Center in the Square, a combined organization building which houses an aquarium, a butterfly habitat, The Science Museum of Western Virginia, The Harrison Museum of African American Culture, The History Museum of Western Virginia, and the Mill Mountain Theatre stage. (Whew!) The rooftop gardens and deck also offer a fantastic (and free) view of downtown and the surrounding valley! Just head inside and take the elevator to the top floor to take in the view. From there you can see across the tracks to the gorgeous Hotel Roanoke (far left in the photo below,) a place worth the short walk over the pedestrian bridge for a visit.

View of Downtown Roanoke, Virginia from the top of Center in the Square | Em Busy Living
Roanoke, Virginia | Em Busy Living

Not only home to the farmer's market, Market Street also boasts a varied collection of restaurants and shops. Eli's Provisions offers a large selection of local and imported wine, beer, and other goods, such as my favorite locally-roasted Red Rooster Coffee (from Floyd, Virginia). Chocolate Paper is a must, selling on-trend gifts and paper goods along with delicious locally-made chocolates. I could go on and on, but this little street is just so full of great places to visit.

Market Street looking South, Roanoke, Virginia | Em Busy Living
Roanoke, Virginia | Em Busy Living
Roanoke, Virginia | Em Busy Living

Last Thursday Dan and I headed downtown to meet our friend Jared for lunch at Wasabi's on Market Street. Wasabi's is Dan's favorite place to eat downtown, and he claims they have the best sushi in the Roanoke area.

Roanoke, Virginia | Em Busy Living
Roanoke, Virginia | Em Busy Living

I also highly recommend wandering east and west along Campbell Avenue and west along Kirk Avenue and Church Avenue. As downtown continues to grow, businesses and places of interest continue to spread out throughout the downtown area. You never know what you'll stumble upon if you simply wander around!

I also cannot talk about downtown without talking about the Taubman. The Taubman Museum of Art is one of the most interesting (and highly debated) downtown institutions. Many people argue that it's Frank Gehry-esque architecture simply doesn't fit in with the rest of historical downtown Roanoke, but I'm one who applauds it's modern architecture and appreciates that it sticks out (literally) amongst all of the brick and concrete, almost a symbol of Roanoke's attempt to keep up with the times despite simply being a little railroad town that isn't even regarded as significant by our own state's tourism department. One visit inside proves that the movers and shakers of Roanoke seem undeterred by any of this, bringing world-class exhibitions and art by household names, as well as local artists, to the public for the incredibly unbelievable admission price of: free. That's right, admission is free...there's no excuse not to go inside!

I could seriously go on and on about things to do, see, and more about Downtown Roanoke, but I'll save that for another day. (And different posts! There are other neighborhoods I'd like to feature before we leave VA.) Until then, here are a few recommendations for a visit to downtown Roanoke:
(Zip code 54011)

  • Hotel Roanoke, 110 Shenandoah Ave NW. This is currently the only hotel that is within walking distance of downtown, but another one is being built (purple and tan, as seen in photos above, under construction.)
  • The Inn on Campbell, 118 Campbell Ave SW. A charming bed and breakfast within walking distance of all of downtown's nightlife.

Dining & Coffee

Festivals & Things to Do

The Roanoke Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau's website, VisitRoanokeVA.com* does a wonderful job sharing the many events, festivals, and other happenings going on in Downtown Roanoke and the surrounding area. They also provide more info on nightlife and places of interest. Like I mentioned before, I could go on and on about things to do in the area, but if I've convinced you to visit they've already done the work!  *This is not a sponsored post

Weekly Roundup

Friday, August 21, 2015

Hello from Salem, Virginia! We're crashing at Dan's parents' house while we're in this part of the state, so we're sleeping in our old bed, watching lots of movies with them, and able to meet up with lots of our friends who are still nearby.

I made sure to get here from my hometown in time to go out with my sister-in-law for her bachelorette party last Saturday night! I was able to meet some of her friends and watch her sing some killer karaoke. Seriously, she needs to sign up to try out for American Idol or something! We got home really late and I crawled into bed around 4am, which hasn't happened for me in probably three years. Seriously, I'm the oldest 28-year-old there is. I just can't hang anymore. I was a zombie all day on Sunday.

I shared a post yesterday that discussed how most of the rest of my week has gone. I've been overwhelmed with job and apartment hunting, which makes me really just want to dig a hole to crawl into. We're heading back to my parents' tonight for a few days, so hopefully I can just enjoy spending time with family and not let myself get too anxious over these things. We have all of next week to figure out our next steps (which still doesn't seem like enough time, but I'm shelving these issues until then for my own sanity!)

Other than lots of freaking out, I have been able to spend lots of time with friends this week. I had lunch with my college roommate and matron of honor, Lyndsi, on Tuesday. We then had a throwback "Tuesday at Tom's" with a few of our buddies that night. I spent yesterday wandering around downtown Roanoke with our good friend Jared after the three of us had lunch together. Last night I met up with a college friend, Georgia, for appetizers and sangria. It was so great to meet up with all of these friends, and I'm just so happy that we can all pick right up where we left off and have so much love for each other. There's nothing better.

PS, I chopped all of my hair off about three days before we left California! I'm loving the change.


  • All of the Hunger Games movies! Dan's parents had seen the first one, but they hadn't yet seen Catching Fire or Mockingjay Part 1, so of course I had to get those out and have a binge fest. Dan's parents really love movies, and they were really into these. I can't wait until November for Mp2!

On the Internets

The Anxiety & Grief of Moving Cross-Country

Thursday, August 20, 2015

When we moved to California over two years ago, I had many different feelings and emotions. I was excited for the coming adventure! I was ready for the unknown! I stressed a little over packing and selling our things, but I don't think I would ever consider myself anxious during that time. Our five day journey across the country was fun and exciting and adventurous and we were happy! Over the course of those two years in California, my anxiety waned. I no longer had anxiety attacks centered around the things that most of my anxiety had previously come from. My job stressed me out beyond all reason, but I think anyone who deals with anxiety will tell you that those two things—stress and anxiety—are two totally different monsters.

Just over two weeks ago, my stress levels began to climb. I stressed over packing, Craigslisting, and dealing with our moving truck. I cried through goodbyes, both with my favorite people and my favorite places. I stressed over finding the perfect pull-through hotel parking lots, the idea of someone stealing our U-haul, and how much cash we were burning through on fuel. But that was just normal moving-induced stress; otherwise, I was excited! We were going home! Starting a new chapter! Spending a month with our friends and family!

And then, I couldn't breathe. The farther we drove away from California, the more difficult it became to take a full breath. I dug through a box of medicine and found my long-unused inhaler. I popped unnecessary Dayquil, just in case. Was I coming down with something? Was I allergic to something in the U-haul? Should we stop and visit a hospital? I found myself lying in hotel beds each night and forcing huge, deep—yet unsatisfying—breaths. My heart would race and so would my mind. My chest kind of hurts now...is that because of how hard I'm breathing? Is it just muscle related, or is it my heart?! Oh gosh, do I have an undiagnosed heart condition?! What is happening to me?! After months of not needing any anxiety medication of any kind, I found my bottle of pills and popped a small dose in half. Relief!

So, it was anxiety! I finally also found an answer...anxiety induced asthma. I was panicking over the fact that we were leaving behind our California lives and heading into the unknown, even though those thoughts had never crossed my mind in that exact way before we were on the road. I was ready to leave California. I was excited for what was coming! I honestly had no idea that a little part of me was silently freaking out inside over everything that was about to happen. I "put my blinders on," packing and organizing to make sure the transition was as easy as possible while also keeping myself too busy to mourn the loss of the lives we were leaving behind.

After arriving in Virginia, all of the symptoms of my apparent anxiety slipped away. My breathing has gone back to normal and I've packed away my inhaler and anxiety meds again. We've really been enjoying this time with our families, cooking and shopping and sharing stories around the dinner table; sipping wine and laughing with friends as we've caught up after months apart.

Then on Tuesday, as we left a friend's house after a wonderful night of pizza, wine, video games, and catching up, I found myself crying in the car on the way home. "I really miss our friends," I explained to Dan, but that wasn't all. I hate that we willingly left a group of some of the best friends in the world when we took off to California. I hate that we only see them twice a year. I hate that when we hang out with them now it reminds me of how great it used to be, and worse—that we've been seriously lacking in the friendship department over the past two years while we could have been here with them, watching stupid YouTube videos and laughing over Mystery Science Theatre 3000.

Yesterday, after reading Summer's post about dealing with her anxiety, I realized that the panic and sadness I was trying to suppress on our way across was actually still crushing me now that we're here. I Googled "grief from moving" and ran across this perfect Thought Catalog article, titled "The 5 Stages of Grief, As Applied to a Cross-Country Move." How appropriate. I read it and nodded along the entire time. Lines like, "My interactions and bonds with my family, my friends, and myself have all changed..." and "...our world is not the world of our family and friends, yet we still selfishly feel like their world still somehow belongs to us..." and "...I can see that their circle has closed off, and I’m no longer on the inside..." all resonate deeply with me, and it's really, really hard.

And now the anxiety soars over a new set of obstacles. In the next two weeks, I need to find a job in a city that we are not yet in (really difficult!) and I need to find us either a temporary or permanent place to live. While Dan has started working remotely, I've sat behind him on the bed and researched, emailed, and applied to jobs for the past several days. At one point I pulled the covers over my head and announced, "I give up!" I could write an entire post about how impossible it seems to find and claim, or "qualify for," an apartment in New York City (it's almost like buying a house,) but I'm determined to not let this high barrier of entry stop us from continuing on the path we've set ourselves on. I'll just keep researching and applying for jobs, hoping that everything will line up in some way that benefits us before we have to start our trek north.

I have just under two weeks left to worry about these things, but I'm also trying to make the most of our time here with everyone. I still have lots of people to meet up with and several more family events to enjoy before we go, and I'm working really hard to not let the anxiety of these situations get the best of me.

Please excuse how all over the place this post was. I think it's a good representation of how everything seems to feel at this moment in our lives.

A Visit to Downtown Farmville + Updates

Monday, August 17, 2015

Historic Downtown Farmville, Virginia | Em Busy Living

Time has been flying since we pulled out of California only two weeks ago. In a way it feels like we only just left yesterday, but it also feels like we've been home forever in other ways. A week of quiet, slow living while we visited my parents helped to make the days feel long and drawn out, but now that we're back in Salem (Roanoke) with Dan's family it feels like all of our remaining days here are filling up with plans and things we need to do before time runs out. We're now in the middle of our "in between" time at this point, with two weeks behind us and only two weeks ahead before we start our new lives in New York. Crazy, I tell you.

Now that we're here, in the land of many friends and things to do, I'm appreciating our few days of disconnect at my parents' even more. For three days my mom substituted at her old elementary school (can you even believe that school already started there?) and Dan and I filled our days with lots of couch time, walks around the property, and visiting with my dad and a cousin (and coincidentally our contractor) as they worked on a new building they are having built out back.

After one full day of absolute laziness we really needed to get out of the house. I suggested we take a drive and head to one of the little towns within an hour's driving distance of us and have lunch, so we hopped in the car and took off to the little college town of Farmville, Virginia.

Farmville is only about a 40-45 minute drive from my hometown and is one of the closest "centers of commerce" (there are places to shop, dine, etc) besides Lynchburg and South Boston (both of which are about the same distance from home.) It's the home of Longwood University and Hampden-Sydney College, so it's a very quiet town during the summers and fairly busy the rest of the year. Besides a Walmart, small movie theatre, and a few chain restaurants and fast food places, there wasn't much going on in Farmville while I was growing up, but everything there has really changed in the last decade. My favorite change is the resurgence of downtown, which has always been a destination due to the ever-popular Greenfront Furniture and a few long-standing shops, but the recent renovations of downtown buildings, streets, and sidewalks, along with new coffee shops and businesses, has really brightened things up.

"Everything is just so charming!" I don't know how many times I said this as we made our way through the few short blocks of downtown the day we visited. I pointed out every single thing that was different since our last visit to the town and constantly wondered how anyone could ever bash Farmville the way I used to as a teenager. (Granted, things were definitely not quite as charming back then.) We parked on Main Street, which was easy on a Tuesday morning pre-college season, and put a quarter in the meter for an hour of street parking (crazy!) before crossing the street and making our way to Charley's Waterfront Cafe.

Charley's is located in one of the many gorgeous brick warehouse buildings that make up Greenfront and has a large deck overlooking the Appomattox River where the old mill used to operate, making for such a great atmosphere inside or out. The interior is all original brick walls, wood floors, and massive wooden beams, which is just a dream in my opinion. It also helps that the food is just so delicious (and well priced.) I wish I had taken a million photos, but hindsight, you know.

Just outside of Charley's is the intersection of Main Street and the recently-developed High Bridge Trail State Park, a walking/biking/horseback trail that runs through multiple counties (and downtown Farmville) for a total of 31 miles. The entire trail used to be the rail bed for the Southside Railroad and includes the historic High Bridge, once nearly destroyed by Confederate soldiers during the Civil War and now the longest recreational bridge in the state. It's also 125 feet tall at it's highest point above the Appomattox River, so I don't know how I feel about making that 2,400 foot walk across. Yikes! Dan and I walked from the entrance to the short little bridge that crossed the river just yards away, which didn't require very much walking or disturb my extreme fear of heights.

I could spend hours looking through the many antique shops downtown, as well as in the various buildings owned by Greenfront full of furniture, lamps, interesting home decor, and piles and piles of rugs. We stopped in Caryn's Bridal for a moment to see a friend (who no longer works there?! Where did you go, Lelia?!) and looked around in a few of the new shops that lined main street before hopping back in the car to head home. On the way home I kept talking about how much I just love downtown Farmville now, and how I could maybe even see myself living there one day, if only they had a Target! Come on Farmville, how do you not have a Target? Or Kroger?

Want to visit Farmville, Virginia? (Zip Code 23901) Here are a few of my recommendations:

Dining & Coffee:

  • Longwood Bed & Breakfast, 608 High Street
  • Catalpa Inn, 373 Catalpa Lane, Prospect, VA 23960. My cousin Alecia and her husband recently renovated and opened this single-family bed and breakfast just outside of Farmville, conveniently located 10 miles from downtown and with the High Bridge Trail running directly through its front yard!

To See & Do:

Weekly Roundup

Friday, August 14, 2015

Weekly Roundup | Em Busy Living

Hello from rural Virginia! There's no cell phone signal, no high-speed internet, and the satellite TV even cut out one night this week during a thunderstorm. Welcome to the true middle of nowhere! Ok, so I might be exaggerating a little bit... at least they have satellite TV, and if you have this one particular cell phone carrier (US Cellular) then you can get 3G cell service and a nifty "hot spot modem" from them that will give you a bit of an internet connection, too.

My family lives in Southside Virginia, which is at the very bottom and center of the state...south, east, and west of everything else in VA that you've probably ever heard of. There are rolling hills dotted with old barns, tobacco and soybeans and hay as far as the eye can see, and some of the most loving, genuine, and warm people you'll ever meet on this earth. They have fresh well water and the most beautiful sunsets you'll ever see. Southern hospitality spills out of everyone you pass, who will inevitably wave or nod or ask you how your day's going. Everyone you run into will ask you about someone in your family, comment on the weather, or fill you in on what you've missed since you last saw them, whether it's the clerk at the gas station counter or your waitress at the one restaurant in town. I grew up and lived here my first eighteen years, and this used to be the only way of life I was ever accustomed to (prior to college.)

Dan and I headed out to my parents' house on Sunday morning and have been here ever since. It's been a long, slow, quiet week, but all in the best ways of course. We've had lunch "in town" and run into a bunch of people we haven't seen in quite a while (like we always do there,) met and caught up with one of my good friends from high school for dinner, and took a day trip to the small college town of Farmville (a real—and adorable—place just short of an hour shy from here.)

I swear, I'm even talking different and I bet you it's showing in my writing. I can't help it. I just slip right back into this drawling way of speaking the minute I arrive here. Somewhere near the county line I drop and loose my G's and pick up a few extra N's to replace them with. "House" sounds like "hose" and "life" sounds like "laaf." And you should hear my days of the week..."Mun-dee," "Wins-dee," "Fry-dee."


  • Downtown Abbey. Been there done that (one of my favs!) but my mom hasn't and I'm so excited to get her hooked on this!

On the Internets
  • Uhm... remember that part about me not having any internet connection this week? (Until now where I'm struggling to use the "hot spot" from the cell phone company enough to get this posted...) Yeah, I haven't felt so disconnected from the world for so long in quite a while. (At least since Christmas.) Back to that next week!

Deserts of the American Southwest

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Deserts of the American Southwest | Em Busy Living

During our move to California, and on our recent move back to the East Coast, we drove the same route cross-country. This consisted of only five highways in the US: Interstate 81 (Virginia, Tennessee,) Interstate 40 (Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona,) Routes 85 and 17 (connections in Arizona,) and Interstate 8 (Arizona, California.) The two ends of this road trip could not be any more opposite of one another, from the rolling green of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the dry California mountains covered in boulders and chaparral. Each environment is absolutely breathtaking and holds a very special place in my heart. This drive offers even more in the middle, from the plains of Oklahoma to the mesas of New Mexico. Beautiful, gorgeous, amazing.

One thing I don't think I ever realized before moving to Southern California though is just how many different types of desert exist in our country. It seems that each time you crest a hill in the Southwestern United States you could potentially be coming back down on the other side to a completely different kind of desert. And this isn't an exaggeration...I don't know how many times we'd climb a hill in chaparral country and begin going down a grade into boulder country, two very different landscapes divided only by raised land and forces of nature.

The of the most diverse stretches of the Southwest lies between California and western New Mexico. On our trip from west to east I was sure to capture as many different types of these landscapes as possible as we made our way across, from the Sahara-like sands of the Imperial Sand Dunes to the high hills covered in saguaro cactus. (And don't forget the incredible red rocks of Sedona, which we bypassed on our most recent trip through the area.)

I'll just let my photos do the talking for the rest of this post. I wish that everyone could have the opportunity to see this gorgeous part of the US and experience the various changes with their own eyes!

Deserts of the American Southwest | Em Busy Living
Deserts of the American Southwest | Em Busy Living
Deserts of the American Southwest | Em Busy Living
Deserts of the American Southwest | Em Busy Living
Deserts of the American Southwest | Em Busy Living
Deserts of the American Southwest | Em Busy Living
Deserts of the American Southwest | Em Busy Living
Deserts of the American Southwest | Em Busy Living
Deserts of the American Southwest | Em Busy Living
Deserts of the American Southwest | Em Busy Living
Deserts of the American Southwest | Em Busy Living

Hello from Virginia!

Monday, August 10, 2015

We're here! Well, we've been here for four days now, but we've been so busy and exhausted that I haven't had a chance to sit down and collect my thoughts at all. I imagined I'd spend a couple of nights during our cross-country road trip/move blogging and sharing our trip, like I did when we moved to California, but all I wanted to do by the time we'd arrived at hotels was shower and pass out.

Only four days before we left, we suddenly changed our minds about having a hitch installed and pulling a trailer, instead choosing to drive a U-haul truck and tow the car. The truck was far less comfy than the car, far harder to drive, and twice as expensive, but we were able to take much more of our things with us instead of selling it all and having to replace it later.

Moving day was the worst. It took much longer than anticipated, even though I'd been packing and planning for weeks. The truck didn't have a ramp, which made it pretty impossible to get a 550lb motorcycle into, then the ramp we rented from Home Depot was too narrow and steep to use. We're now the proud owners of our own metal utility ramp, which we drove all over town to find and buy and was still absolutely terrifying to watch Dan use. We strapped the bike in tight and packed in all of our belongings around it, to which I ask...how did we still have so much stuff?!

The truck drove like a water bed and every bump had us checking the mirrors to make sure the car was still back there. Every night included checks to make sure the bike hadn't fallen over and destroyed all of our belongings (and the bike.) Needless to say, it was a very slow and anxious trip.

We spent one last night in San Diego with family before heading out on the road, leaving shortly after lunch on Sunday and getting us to Phoenix, Arizona for our first night. At that point we still hadn't decided which way to go: head south to Tuscon and on through El Paso, Houston, New Orleans, and Atlanta, down and around the Appalachians? or head north to Flagstaff and hop on I40 east, taking the route we'd originally taken across on our way to California?

The next morning we chose the 40, deciding that we were more anxious about the truck, our belongings and getting home than exploring any uncharted territory. We both slept horribly the first night, with every sound waking us, just sure it was our truck being broken into or stolen. I really do understand how irrational that idea is, but we couldn't shake it.

Oh yeah, the light literally fell out of the tow dolly, so we taped it back in. If it works, right?

Thankfully we had really taken our time coming across on our trip to California, stopping to explore every roadside attraction we'd heard about and really enjoying the sights along Route 66 and in Sedona on the way there. Because of this, we'd already seen everything we wanted to see on the drive home. This allowed us to hit the road every day with the intention of getting as far as possible before stopping to sleep. We only stopped for gas or food (and once in Texas for the most legit barbeque!)

That being said, our trip from California to Virginia was pretty boring. Note I didn't say terrible...we entertained ourselves enough and had the most beautiful landscapes to drive through, which I photographed plenty from the passenger seat. We made it home in just four and a half days, which was surprisingly quick considering we were going so slow and made the same time on the way over.

We're currently spending our first week here in my rural hometown with my family and friends. There isn't much internet around here, so posting may continue to be sparse. We'll be back and forth between here and Dan's hometown of Salem (Roanoke) for the next month and I can't wait to share how gorgeous (and green!) our home state of Virginia is. We have plans to meet up with so many friends while we're here and I can't wait to catch up with everyone! Although I know it's temporary, being home feels so good.

Monthly Reads July

Monday, August 3, 2015

We're somewhere on the road today in the middle of our CA>VA road trip, but I didn't want to miss the opportunity to share my Monthly Reads from July!

July was such a hectic month that I really didn't read much at all. It took me way longer to read both of these books that it usually would, but I think I've had a pretty good excuse with all of this packing going on. That being said, I really enjoyed reading both of these books as a great way to settle down in the evenings over the past month.
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Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
I'd seen this title floating around online for a while, but once I really looked close and saw that it was by Cheryl Strayed I knew I had to read it. I absolutely loved the book and movie Wild, and if you've read it or seen it then you know why I rushed to order this book. (My friend Georgia commented to me on Goodreads that it was her favorite book ever, and when Georgia loves a book, I know I'll love a book!) Cheryl is an incredible writer; she speaks straight to your soul and makes you feel as though she's speaking directly to you. This is even more apparent (and even more the intention) in Tiny Beautiful Things.

Several years ago, Cheryl Strayed took a writing position as an anonymous advice columnist for the website The Rumpus. As "Dear Sugar," she honestly and passionately answered the desperate letters of those who wrote to her with stories of their heartbreak, grief, and fears. This collection of questions and answers is full of sadness, humor, and hope. I found myself repeatedly finishing one exchange (letter to and from Sugar) and immediately wanting to share it with someone. I wanted to Tweet, Facebook, and blog about almost all of these exchanges, anxious for everyone I could reach to join me in reading along and soaking up all of Sugar's advice and musings. In the end, I would have shared the entire book, so it was easier to just hold off and just tell you to head out to your favorite bookstore or get on Amazon and buy it for yourself, immediately. Everyone in the world can relate to at least one (and probably more) of these exchanges and definitely find love and peace in Cheryl's words. Please read this one ASAP!

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You Knew Me When by Emily Liebert
Sometimes you have a gift card to Barnes and Noble and figure you should stock up on a few new paperbacks. Sometimes you notice that you'll get free shipping if you spend $25, but your cart only has $22 in it. Sometimes you'll head over to B&N's discount page and see if you can find a $4 book that sounds interesting enough to buy that will also put you over $25 (because if you're going to spend $7 on shipping anyway, you might as well try to cross that free shipping line and get a book instead.) This is what happened to me last month and how I ended up with Liebert's book, You Knew Me When.

This book was not life-changing or insightful, extremely exciting or full of twists, but it was a simple, slow, and entertaining book. The characters were well developed and their story was interesting. The story follows two adult women who can no longer stand to be in the same room as each other, but flashes back to show a time when they used to be best friends, sisters even. As they're brought together again and forced to deal with a house they have jointly inherited, we begin to discover what drove them apart in the first place. Even though this book was not one of "my favorite books ever and the best things I've ever read," sometimes you need a light, entertaining read to help you slow down in the evenings. This was a great book to get that fix and I'm glad I found it.

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Life After Death: A Survivor's Story by Brad Fite
As I mentioned in a recent Weekly Roundup, I have known Brad's wife Aimee for almost a decade now. I watched from afar, through Facebook, as they dated, married, divorced, reunited, and had their first child, but between the lines I witnessed a struggle as Brad suffered through his various physical and emotional scars from war. This book is Brad's intimate, personal story of how he came to join the military and what happened next.

Brad was nearly torn to pieces when an IED exploded under his tank in Afghanistan, taking the life of one of his fellow soldiers and best friend. After various surgeries, rehabs, and regaining the ability to walk, Brad was lucky to be alive, but felt anything but. His PTSD was by far the most difficult part of his recovery, and continues to be so even to this day. Even after emotional struggles that lead him to extreme risk-taking, drug addiction, divorce, and suicide attempts, Brad has come out on the other side of this experience with a new look on life, love, and God.

This is an easy read length- and pace-wise, but the content is anything but easy to read. I personally would have enjoyed this story to have been written in chronological order, but Brad arranges everything in a way that approaches different facets of his experience at different points, driving home that the lessons he has learned and the giant leaps he has made in recovery outweigh the things that brought him to this point. I believe this is a wonderful and important book to read by anyone who has any family or friends in the military, as it may help them understand their soldiers better after their return home from war.

Dear California, Thank You

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Dear California, Thank You | EmBusyLiving.com | Photo by Samantha Polanco Photography

Dear California,

I have so many mixed emotions today. As you read this, we're putting the last few things into our U-Haul trailer, turning in the keys to our amazing apartment, and driving out of Orange County for the last time in a long while. We'll hang out in San Diego tonight, but sometime tomorrow we'll be crossing your border into Arizona and I'm sad to say that I don't know when we'll be back.

We will come back to visit...right? I sure hope so. We didn't make too many friends here but we do have some, and the ones we do have are some of the absolute best people. We have to come back to visit them. And of course we'll be back to hang out with G-Ma and Bill in SD. That's a given. So yes, we'll be back.

We've been here two years, two months, and six days. That's 797 days.

We've done some really fun things in our time here, and I thought I'd list a few of those things out. I love reliving my memories, and two years of them is pretty manageable. Our time here can be tied up in a neat little chapter, with a cross-country road trip at the beginning and end enclosing everything in between.

I've typed many words on this blog filled with nostalgia and wonder at how we've found ourselves here. I've talked openly about my homesickness and how being so far removed from the place I call home has taught me so much about myself. I've figured out how I define "home." The distance from our family and friends back home has been both really difficult and really good for us. I'm ready to be closer, though.

And now we're off to Virginia, then New York City. I have no idea what the next few months will hold for us, and definitely not the next few years, but I'm excited and ready to begin writing that chapter.

I'll miss you, California.
Thanks for the memories.
Love, Em

PS, keep up with our trip home on Instagram and Snapchat (embusyliving) & #CAtoVA