“If you survived a storm, you won’t be bothered by the rain.” -Chinese Proverb
Well, hey y’all! I know it’s been awhile, but while 2018 started out lovely and relaxed, it quickly turned into a year that this Cali Girl In A Southern World will certainly never forget. Forgive me for my absence! I am looking so forward to catching up with you and starting to blog again more often. Gosh, where did we leave off?! I believe I left y’all with the excitement of experiencing our first true snow fall in North Carolina. I had so many plans and I was filled with so much excitement for the year ahead. Is it me, or does the expectation for a new year rarely end up the way you envision it? I hope it’s not just me! Well, let me dive in and catch you up.
Initially, I spent early spring planning our garden and cleaning up the farm after a long winter. Later in spring, I had the joy of going to New York City with our daughter to visit colleges. Our little girl, turned young woman has her heart set on going to school in NYC. I suppose it only makes sense; she was born at the beach, raised in the country, and now she’s ready to spread her wings in the city. As a mama, it’s just still hard to believe we’re at this point! Anyway, I digress… Spring quickly turned into summer and we spent some time traveling as a family, working on projects around the farm, and enjoying the sunshine and the beach. I also had a successful summer in the garden. Spoiler alert: I turned into quite the Zinnia gardener! Summer ended too quickly, as it always does, and then school started for the kids. Three weeks into the new school year, this Cali Girl found herself faced with her first true hurricane experience in a Southern World. “OH MY!”
When news of the hurricane first broke, it was at least a week or more in advance. We had been through several major tropical storms at this point since our move, so we figured we had worked our way up to this moment and we could handle a hurricane. Evacuation wasn’t even a consideration. We diligently watched our local and national news and took all the precautions advised to ensure we were ready to ride out what was now named, Hurricane Florence. Now, after about a week of advisories, Florence was really beginning to make a name for herself. Storm watchers were using phrases like, “Storm of the century,” “Storm of a lifetime, and “A hurricane unlike we’ve ever seen in US history.” All this time, I was mildly concerned. In the past, I have always trusted my gut to make major decisions. I kept waiting for my gut to tell me what to do, but she had gone radio silent. “Hello!? Are you there? Cali Girl here, not sure what to do. Help me!!”Florence was set to make landfall on Friday morning in Wilmington, a direct hit. She was a category 4 hurricane. We were expected to get winds of 130-156 MPH and up to 36 inches of rain. 3 feet y’all!! On Thursday morning I woke up at 4:30 AM. Anyone who knows me well knows I NEVER wake up at 4:30 AM. This morning though, I woke up to the sound of thunder and lightning. Now, I love a good storm. Thunder and lightning don’t scare me, but this morning they sent me into a panic. I mean, I had a serious panic attack. I sat on the bathroom floor, bawling. “What were we doing!?” We didn’t know the first thing about surviving a hurricane and a category 4 hurricane was probably not the best way to learn if hurricane survival was one of our hidden talents. This was it! My gut, HALLELUJAH!! Better late than never, that’s what I say. I woke Mr. A and told him it was time to go. Thankfully, he agreed that the safety of our family was first and foremost and we had a responsibility to make sure we found higher ground, in simpler terms, it was time to evacuate.
Easy decision, right!? Wrong. This was by far and away the most difficult day of my life. Leaving your home knowing there is a chance you could come back to nothing is one of the most gut wrenching decisions a person can make. Not only were we leaving our home to keep our family safe, but we had to make the decision to leave our animals. Animals we have all raised, taken care of, and loved. On Thursday morning at 8 AM Mr. A and I told the kids they needed to packed up what means the most to them, clothes for a week, pile the dogs in the car, and we were going to have to leave the rest in God’s hands. Tears ensued. What about our horse, mini horse, pig, four goats, and chickens?! We couldn’t just leave them. Luckily, we have been blessed with friends who knew how difficult the decision to leave the animals would be for our family. While we were trying to get everything that was irreplaceable packed up into two cars, they were Googling and making phone calls. My girlfriend called an hour after I called her to tell her we were going to head their way for shelter to let me know they found a rescue to take ALL our animals. I cannot describe the feeling of relief that overtook our household after I shared this great news with the rest of the family. With the animals being rescued and taken to a safer place, leaving our home, and keeping our family safe felt so much easier. By 5 PM, the animals were picked up by a Fleet of Angels and taken to a rescue northwest of us where it was much safer.Once our home and the farm was as prepared for the storm, we jumped into our cars and headed north. We arrived to our destination at 1 AM exhausted, but so relieved to be safe and knowing the animals were safe too. Florence hit Wilmington the next morning and watching the devastation that ensued on the news for three days knowing that we had friends still there was excruciating. We were getting sporadic updates from people when they had service or power, but things just seemed like it kept getting worse. Finally, come Sunday, Florence had past Wilmington, but the path of devastation she left behind was heartbreaking
It was another week before we could make it back home to see what kind of damage Hidden Acres Farm had sustained due to all the closed roads into Wilmington. A typical five and a half hour drive from where we were staying took over ten hours. The devastation we saw on our drive home was overwhelming and incredibly sad. Once we arrived home, it was already dark, but even without being able to see our land completely, we were filled with a tremendous sense of gratitude. The damage we could see was minimal in comparison to what so many others in North Carolina had experienced as a result of Florence. We were very blessed and very lucky.
Once home, we had weeks of debris clean up and repairs to make around the farm. In the past this kind of work may have seemed frustrating, but throughout the time spent on the farm after the hurricane, you couldn’t help but feel grateful that we had a roof over our heads, a shower to use, a kitchen to cook in and a bed to sleep in. As a family we tried to help others in the community that were not as fortunate as we were. We helped with clean up and served meals to those who are now homeless. It will take Wilmington quite some time to recover fully from Florence, but while we help the community around us we are continually reminded how blessed and grateful we need to be that our home was spared. We hope those who were affected by Florence find relief soon.
We are slowly seeing things get better around town. Debris piles in front of homes are being collected, kids have gone back to school, and repairs are being made. It will be a long road to recovery, but it’s an honor to be part of a community where so many come together to help one another out. We are #wilmingtonstrong and I am grateful to be a part of this great city. Thank you for the many messages of love, concern and support. I look forward to sharing more during the holidays at Hidden Acres Farm.