Weekend with Vanny

Lately, I’ve been spending my weekends on the road: driving to DC for work, driving to visit family. I don’t mind the hours spent in the car when I’m with Bret. We talk a lot and listen to podcasts and stop for meals at Sheetz and Bojangles. It’s fun!

…But the solo trips can feel long and draining. I recently admitted that maybe I’m stretching myself too thin and pushing my own travel boundaries. If you look at the last two months, I’ve spent WAY MORE weekends on the road than not. And I’m not talking about two hour road trips. I mean, waking up before dawn and spending up to 75% of my waking hours in a car. Maybe I need to practice saying no. Maybe I’m trying to do too much. I’ll reassess that after my next trip to DC later this week, but for now, I wanted to share our craziest recent trip: An 18 hour round-trip drive completed in a giant cargo van in under 36 hours! Continue reading

The North Carolina Driver’s License Test

One of the mandatory “To Do’s” whenever you move out-of-state [with a vehicle] is to update your:

  • driver’s license,
  • car registration,
  • car insurance, and
  • license plate.

In Florida, this process was expensive, but easy as cake. I walked into the DMV one morning and out about an hour later with my new driver’s license and license plate in hand.

Three years later in North Carolina, the process was relatively fast, and less expensive, but …there was a test (!)

Bret called the office a couple days ago they confirmed that even though we both have valid Florida driver’s licenses, there would be a mandatory road sign test.

road sign 2

Oh, road signs. Simple. You may be thinking, but I knew better. I had taken the Virginia road sign test 12 years ago when I applied for my first driver’s license, and I knew those questions could be tricky.

Maybe, for example, you know that this is railroad crossing sign…


…but would you be able to identify a blank yellow circle as a railroad crossing sign? I wasn’t.

Or maybe you know this sign below means school crossing:

school crossing

It does. But. If you take those two lines away, it actually means “School Zone,” not “School Crossing”.

We took a free online practice test the night before to prepare. It was hard. There were questions like this:


  1. The road ahead curves to the right and the left?! Okay, okay I guess I see that.
  2. What is that, a yellow sunshine? A traffic circle? Maybe it is a traffic island? No. It is just a flashing yellow light that means caution. But it wasn’t “flashing” on the test, though.
  3. I got the last one right – that hand signal means the car is stopping, although, to be fair, a lot of people just drive around with their arm hanging out the window and it means nothing.

The practice test intimidated me a bit, but I thought, well, as long as the test is multiple choice, I’ll be okay.

Guess what! It wasn’t a multiple choice test.

The test consisted of me having to identify the signs verbally on the spot. And I panicked. I saw a truck on a hill and literally said “truck on a hill” instead of “hill approaching.” The blank signs were the hardest. I know a plain red octagon is a Stop Sign, but a plain yellow triangle? I said, “uh, caution?” And I was wrong. It means no passing. Of course I would be able to identify the sign in context on the road, but it’s different when you’re on the spot and the road signs are BLANK.

By some miracle, though, I passed, and now I’m the proud owner of a North Carolina driver’s license and license plate. I feel like I officially “belong” here, which is a nice feeling.

To celebrate, Bret and I drove our new North Carolina licenses and license plate an hour across the state! One of my favorite grad school friends lives in Charlotte, so last night we drove halfway and met for dinner, Christy2

…and, of course, Sheetz.


Bret LOVES Sheetz and the fact that we live an hour away from one after living in Florida for 3 years (where there are no Sheetz) is pretty much the best thing he could have asked for. I love Christy. She’s so genuine and funny and wonderful and we had the best time catching up on our move to North Carolina, our plans to visit JMU, her awesome job (she gets to play ping pong in her office?!?!), and Bret’s crazy job search. I’m just so grateful to be within driving distance of such a good friend. And I’m so grateful that I passed the road sign test so I can drive to her.



Things I LOVE about Boone [so far]

Moving is a very personal process. It involves physically touching and organizing all of your belongings. It’s disruptive. It’s scary. It’s expensive. But it can also be so very cleansing. I won’t go so far to say that I enjoy it, but I appreciate the process. Dare I say, I crave it, like I crave a big challenge every once in a while.

It’s a fresh start. When I look back over the past decade of my life, there’s been a lot of fresh starts, and most of those have centered around a move. These were the big ones:

  • In 2005, I moved away from my family to begin college.
  • In 2011, I completed my Master’s degree and moved to Washington, D.C. to begin my first full-time job.
  • In 2012, I moved to Florida to live with Bret.
  • And this year… in 2015… I moved to Boone, NC.

It’s no secret that Boone is not where I pictured myself living. I loved Florida, and I missed the DC city life, so when Bret hit the job market, I imagined we’d either stay in palm tree paradise or be back in a buzzing, bustling, big city. Well. You know that phrase, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans?”

This is where I live now…


It’s gorgeous, right? But there is neither a palm tree nor a bustling city in sight.

I have a bad habit of focusing on what isn’t. There is no Target here. There is no beach here. It’s pretty cold all the time. I’m making a point to have an open-mind, though, because I know moving out of my comfort zone has always led to positive change. I mean, LOOK at those mountains! If only I enjoyed camping or hiking or knew how to ski…

One of my dear friends asked me, “Tell me something you really like about your new house.” and, “What’s something you really like about Boone?” Even though it doesn’t feel like home yet, making a point to identify these things is a healthy exercise. I said that I like how our living room came with built-in bookshelves, and I love that Boone has a TON of incredibly delicious local restaurants with a plethora of vegetarian options. That’s a huge plus for me.

Reminding myself of those things and feeling grateful for what IS here obviously makes me feel a lot better. So today, I’m focusing on the good things. Here are some things I LOVE about Boone so far:

    1. It has an EarthFare. earthfareEarthFare is a grocery store full of healthy (and sometimes pretty expensive) foods. They also have a salad bar, a smoothie bar, a hot bar with mashed potatoes which Bret loves. We don’t shop there for all of our regular groceries, but somehow, this place became a staple in our Tallahassee life and I’m so glad it “made the move” with us to Boone. We love their freshly made cookies, their natural low sugar sodas, and the salad bar. They also have the best produce and seafood. Hooray for fresh seafood in the mountains!
    2. 20150327_124002 20150327_130119 Our Daily Bread. I’ve only been to this place twice so far, but I could tell after a quick glance at the menu that this restaurant was made for me. A whole section dedicated to local vegetarian sandwiches?! A whole display of homemade desserts?! Get in my belly. It’s located downtown which is within walking distance of a bunch of other delicious restaurants and adorable shops.
    3. Stick Boy Bread Company. It’s a bakery with the best croissants and cookies and coffee. I love it there.
    4. I’m going to learn how to ski! (Honestly, I just threw that in here because I realized this list is mainly about food, but I do plan to learn how to ski, or, at least, I plan to enjoy the ski lodge experience. They have hot cocoa and a fireplace right?)
    5. Those mountain views. I mean, they are pretty breath-taking and oh-so-different from our Florida flatness. I am going to miss the beach, but I can drive over to the North Carolina coast in about 4 hours. And I do love the mountains.
      Boone scereery
    6. Our new house. I didn’t love it at first, but it’s pretty cute and comes with pretty much everything we were looking for. I really do love our big gas fireplace and enormous windows. Truthfully, it’s more about where we DON’T live. When we came up here to look at houses, we drove up non state-maintained roads that were either single lane gravel roads through a mountain or steep climbs up a cliff without a guard rail. We looked at places without trash pick-up or running water or quality internet (which is absolutely essential when you work from home). Our house is close to campus which means we can get food delivery and our roads are state-maintained which will be wonderful in the winter. I’m grateful. And I’m grateful I never have to drive on these roads again:
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    7. 20150328_154924Candy. Yes, we’re back to the topic of food. Have I mentioned…The Candy Barrell?! The Mast General Store has hundreds of delicious candies and you can just fill up a bucket. It’s like trick-or-treating without the effort. I also just really like the feel of the rest of the store. Need hiking boots? Hiking socks? A hiking hat? A hiking back pack? I have no intentions of becoming an extreme mountain climber, but it reminds me that there is a lot of exploring to be done.
    8. I think this is my favorite thing, though: being closer (only a 5-hour drive) to my family and so many Virginia friends. We’re only 7 hours from DC (hello, co-workers!) and also only 9 hours from Bret’s family which is a day’s drive — certainly closer than Florida. I really missed being able to hop in the car and see my sister on a spontaneous weekend, and I feel like that option is back within my grasp. That means more than any palm tree or city could provide.

I know what it’s like to transition into living in a new place. This process is familiar to me. Everything feels off for a while. You feel like an imposter who is just visiting someone else’s house. You don’t know how to pronounce all the street names or where to find the light switches at first. But then, you do.

When Bret and I started dating, we both knew we didn’t want to live in one place forever. A career in academia grants us with opportunities to live and work in new places. This is just one of them. I don’t want to rush the adjustment phase or pretend I don’t miss Florida. I’d LOVE to cast away in a canoe right now, marvel at those cypress trees, brunch on down at Paisley Cafe, drive through some canopy roads, and then stretch my arms up toward the sun that always made such a friendly appearance after an afternoon shower…

…Do you think I’ll remember Boone this fondly one day? I bet yes. Well, I hope so.

I know Boone has some of these things and also it’s own charms. And, honestly, thinking about Tallahassee also makes my heart ache for other places I’ve lived and loved like Harrisonburg. Gosh, I miss that place. That’s another pro for Boone, though. We’re so much closer to that perfect town where we met. JMU Football weekends, here I come!


Settling in to Boone

It has been TWO AND A HALF MONTHS since my last blog post. Yikes. The move impacted my writing schedule and kind of made me wonder if I should have just wrapped things up with my “5 year blog-iversary” post. But not to worry, I’m back!

I have a lot to share about the past few weeks, but first, I thought I’d bring everyone up to speed with a quick post on what life has been like lately. First, in case you missed the memo, Bret finished his Ph.D. in Florida and got an awesome job offer in North Carolina. I have the option of teleworking full-time, so we left the Sunshine State and moved to Boone to become part of the Appalachian State Mountaineer community.


Since we got here, I feel like I’ve been “off the grid” for a few weeks which has been really nice. Here’s what June looked like:

Working from Home
Thanks to modern technology and my wonderfully understanding and flexible workplace, I’m able to keep my position in DC and work from my home office in North Carolina. I unpacked my office in record time and got to work within 48 hours of our move. Here’s what my home office looked like in Tallahassee…

…and here’s it is in Boone:   office  20150618_171932

I still need to hang my artwork, but this room has some major upgrades including a great paint color, more space, and another window.

Even though I really miss the friendly office interactions, the ability to work from home has been a huge blessing. It would be wonderful to be a wee bit closer to DC, but considering all of the other places we could have ended up, North Carolina is great because it’s within a day’s drive, so I can get there when I need to. Work is moving along as usual and I’ve already flown down to Miami to speak at a conference!

20150621_11024520150620_073241   20150619_154628


My Sister Visited!
There’s something about having family around that makes me feel so centered. Even though we were still living out of boxes and not really feeling any sort of normalcy, my amazing sister woke up before dawn and drove down to Boone to help us paint the downstairs. She brought a ton of painting supplies for us to borrow as well as this wonderful rug from my parents’ house that makes our living room SO MUCH MORE COZY. Just ask Velveeta.


She even brought me some early half birthday presents. I have the best sister ever.

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Exploring Boone
Bret and I have filled our free weekends by exploring Boone and the surrounding area. I’ve really enjoyed having Bret “back” now that he’s on the other side of the Ph.D. and dissertation. Pictured below you’ll find the gorgeous Greenway, a live Bluegrass band, and the Mast General Store.

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The views are pretty incredible, yeah?

Settling In
It takes time to settle into a new place and a new routine, but I think that process of settling is so important. I’m beginning to acclimate to this new town, but I’m still in the adjustment period. I don’t feel rushed to say that I love it here yet or that it feels like home yet, but I can say that there are specific things that I DO like about it. More on that in my next post!

Do you know who is all adjusted and settled in? Sadie Cat.

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