A Month in Provence

A Prelude

Nothing could have truly prepared me for this magical experience of spending a month in Provence. After researching websites, securing villa rentals, flights and a car, and packing way too much, including my tennis racquets I haven’t used once, I was sure I knew what to expect. I’d traveled throughout many parts of France before and each time I walk away with a different, yet wonderful impression. But this time, it’s proved to be even more special.

Perhaps after our Covid years of non-travel my expectations were low and so this wonderful place has exceeded them. But when I think on it, I realize that Provence is just plain lovely. Everyone describes this part of France as special. The vineyards and the wine, the village markets, the olive groves, the lavender, sunflowers and purple artichokes, the little towns each with their own character and uniqueness. The beauty and inspiration given to artist’s simply from the light in Provence have been written about forever. Being here though, meandering through these very old walkways and narrow streets, lined with cobblestones and shutters painted blue, green, red, yellow… takes me to all the books read, movies watched and dreams I’ve had. It is real, though, what I’m seeing and tasting and smelling. It isn’t too good to be true. It’s that good.

If I only really lived here. But, then perhaps, this vacation wouldn’t be all that…. I’d find things to whine about…. and for staying for such a short time, because a month when you think about it, is short, I overlook what may bother me living here as an expat. I am so happy to be able to do that as a tourist. Overlook overlook overlook. Americans who’ve lived as expats, especially in Europe, know what I’m talking about. 

The people seem to have changed a bit too. The French get a bad rap for their attitude. Americans seem to think we should be able to waltz into another’s country and demand English: on menus, in stores and from all the French we meet, in France. It’s ludicrous really. It’s we, the outsiders, who need to adjust our expectations. Speaking French helps, even a little bit. Download the Google Translate and be courteous when greeting Frenchies. Bonjour, Bonsoir, Au Revoir, Merci, Merci Beacoup, S’il vous plait, etc. goes a long way with the French. And asking, in French, if one speaks English “Parlez vous Anglais?” is the polite way to converse instead of diving first into English. In other words, just use your manners.

I notice the French have been effected by all the non-travel too. Perhaps the Covid experience has made us all a little more understanding. A little more patient. More willing to tolerate difference. More human. I see more smiles. I hear more laughter. I am feeling the love. I gotta say, I like it. It’s easier on me as a tourist, and my expectations have been surpassed.

It’s June and it seems Europe and the US are experiencing a heat wave. Temps of over 100 degrees is unusual at this time of year, if perhaps, ever, and the French are nervous about it. The vignerons are concerned for their grapes and vines. The olive growers are concerned for the amount of water needed to keep the trees and olives healthy. The fields of flowers are blooming quicker and the farmers are adjusting to this rushed season. So the heat has crept in as a 5th wheel so to speak. My family of four, our little dog and the heat. We are all on this trip together.

My trip hasn’t finished yet, but I can’t wait to write. So a writer must write when inspiration hits. Hope it’s worth the read.

More to come, later.

What’s a transplant to do?

I’ve lived in the South for almost three years now and you’d think I’d be used to the barrage of scary wildlife that’s simply part of the everyday here. I get it. We are sharing our neighborhoods with dinosaurs. Giant alligators are the norm in SC. When you’re walking past ponds and marshes or even on the golf course you have to be on guard just in case it’s mating season or the little dog you’re walking with looks like a tasty treat. And I understand there are 38 species of snakes here, five of them being poisonous – that could, at any moment, sneak out from under a bush or pile of leaves and bite you. Forget the ones you see slithering out in the open! 

It’s not just the predators. There’s frogs, lizards and crazy looking fish that are dropped out of the mouths of birds in your backyard on some wildlife flight path (true story) that are part of your southern world. There’s also spiders the size of a human head and little ones that if bitten, can leave your skin turning black. And let’s not forget that million of cicadas hibernating or hiding or whatever- will be emerging soon to freak us all out.

Just when you think you’re fully apprised of all the creatures great and small you’ve got to be prepared for, you see a social media post of a fuzzy spiky thing and are warned “DO NOT PET OR TOUCH THIS!” The stinging caterpillar inching its way around that looks really cute and fuzzy will sting you like a bee. 

Last year when Covid forced us all inside, it took me weeks to come to grips with the reality of mountain lions and bears roaming around SC wondering where all the people were. In my head I was singing “lions and tigers and bears, oh my” and I’m still waiting to hear about the possibility of tigers in SC and I wouldn’t be surprised at this point to hear it. 

It’s finally warming up in Charleston and I am really looking forward to going to the beach. I already know to be on the lookout for sea nettles and the hundreds of thousands of stinging jellyfish that love these waters, but after hearing on the news that I also need to stay away from hook-jawed biting clam worms that are swarming the beaches at the moment, I’m left with my own mouth gaping open thinking “What next?” 

The true southerners I know smirk, giggle or just shake their heads “Yep” in response to my brining up the wildlife situation here. Last year when there was a shark attack on Folly Beach no one I talked to really batted an eye. “It is what it is” is a common response from my true southern friends. And “it” means – get used to it, it’s not going away. 

What’s a transplant here to do? As a northern transplant to the sunniest, warmest and friendliest places I’ve ever lived, I guess grappling with the real dangers of wildlife on a daily basis is the price you pay for gorgeous weather, delicious food, friendly people and beautiful surroundings. It is what it is.

I Should be in Paris Right Now

I should be in Paris right now sipping champagne, strolling the Rues and Avenues, enjoying croissants and crepes, cheese and baguette, gazing at Monet, Renoir and Degas, and exploring the most beautiful city in the world with my betrothed. Like so many others I know, another trip has been canceled. Instead of moaning and groaning (too much), I am taking to my refuge – writing. I’ve never blogged about Paris, so perhaps this is the perfect time.

There is no city on earth that has what Paris has: a mixture of elegance and art, of beauty and soul, sights to take your breath away, or melt your heart. Boulevards lining the Seine to walk and gaze and wonder how an architect named Hausmann could make all that beauty in buildings. Have you ever thought about how much you might love to look at buildings? There’s the Parisian café. It’s perfect. You sit, you savor, you drink, you ponder and watch the French and tourists go by. The food is undeniably delicious: the croissant, the crepe, the tarts, the champagne. I could devote a whole 5 pages to cheese alone. The frites, the potato of the French – they are magnifique. The shopping, it’s too much to bear, but I try every time. So many museums, so many sights, so many world-renowned places to see, and never enough time, that is Paris. I haven’t even mentioned the romance.

I was 28 when I first went to Paris. I was very late getting there, I know. My husband and I had just settled into our first expat life in The Hague and our first excursion, just four hours away on the fast train, was to the grandest city of lights. It was early spring and we were young, just starting our married life together. He was concerned I might not like Paris at that time of year and would throw out little statements like “The French can seem rude, but try not to pay too much attention to that,” and “It’s a little smelly and dirty in some of the tourist places, we can skip those.” My expectations were getting lower and lower as the train crept closer and closer to Gare du Nord.

It was 1996 and there were no iPhones so that trip was armed with ACCESS Paris, a handy hand-held map and the love and anticipation of exploration. We waited in lines for paper tickets for trains, the Metro and museums. We wandered and enjoyed getting lost on the most charming streets stopping every few feet to whip out the Nikon camera and capture it. I was usually left behind as my husband went ahead, lacking the patience to wait again and again for me to keep capturing my first glimpses into Parisian life, and who can blame him? He’d already explored Paris years ago on his study-abroad semester in London.

We stayed at an affordable, yet super charming bed and breakfast recommended by our new expat friends, Chris and Rachel, called L’Ermitage (which means hideaway) in the 18th arrondissement of Montmartre. After exiting the metro at Lamarck-Caulaincourt, we lugged our oversized suitcases, unseasoned over-packed American expat travelers that we were, all the way up Rue Lamarck to number 24, a 15-minute hike. Our room was adorable and had a little patio with a fountain full of fish. It was early morning when we arrived and our host, Marie, brought us my first introduction to food in Paris. The simple, yet positively delicious taste of authentic fresh warm croissants, café crème and orange juice left an indelible impression. I can still taste and smell them.

The village of Montmartre (mount of martyrs), situated way up high in Paris, is a diverse area full of art, beauty and atmosphere. It’s the home of AmelieMoulin Rouge and it’s famous windmill, and the imposing white basilica, Sacre Coeur. The hilly neighborhood has changed since our first trip there, but there’s no changing its heart steeped in history. The cobbled and winding streets are still there, along with the carousel and crowds. Once you make your way up to the top of the hill standing next to the white church, the view is nothing short of spectacular. Go inside the church, it’s worth the wait and price of the ticket to see the largest bell in France and the famous relic of what is said to be the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ. It has the usual “bells and whistles” of European churches and is full of the glitz, stained glass and expansive ceilings one would expect, and an even better view at the top of the dome.

Walking around the Place du Tertre, just around the corner from Sacre Coeur, you’ll find too many tourists and some starving artists displaying their art, or asking you to sit for a caricature, and quaint restaurants with seats outside. Slink around to the funky and interesting Salvador Dali Museum for a break into this Spanish artist’s surreal paintings and sculptures. I remember enjoying the quiet of this museum while admiring the strangeness of his art, so different from the Impressionists we’ve so often awed at in the mesmerizing Musee d’Orsay.

Montmartre was a perfect introduction to Paris almost 25 years ago, but it doesn’t matter where you begin to explore in this city. Every arrondissement offers its own flair and temptations. One of my favorite neighborhoods to explore is Le Marais. More trendy and funky, with outstanding shopping, Le Marais offers historic scenery, museums and restaurants fit for foodies. Walking through Paris’ oldest square, Place des Vosges, will give you a highlight into the Paris of old. Be sure to peek into the tucked away courtyards on your way to the best little cookie shop in Paris, Pierre Herme, to savor at least one marvelous macaroon. Le Marais is home to the Jewish Quarter, with a very famous and scrumptious falafel restaurant, perhaps the best in the world, L’As du Fallafel. It’s worth the wait in line to get in.

We were due to sleep smack dab in the middle of Paris in the Opera neighborhood on this canceled trip. We would have taken in an opera (whatever was playing) and walk the seemingly never-ending banks of the Seine for our anniversary. This too will have to wait till the great pause of my lifetime is over. C’est la vie! If memories are there to retain when needed, now is the time for me, and even in these, Paris never disappoints, and even exceeds expectations.

It was the best of times, it was the the worst of times

I have to be honest, our Covid-19 world isn’t all bad. There’ve been some truly meaningful takeaways from this experience. My husband hasn’t boarded a plane for work since March and my two young adult kids – one in college and one in high school- have been spending more time together since they were very little. All four of us have spent more continuous time together than – well, ever. Our new home in Charleston is what you would now call “lived in.” Spring and summer have passed and fall is upon us. And with that, the start of a new school year.

September has crept into our lives way too slowly, though, with one hand tied behind it’s back. I usually look forward to the beginning of the school year and at the same time dread the end of summer. This year, it all feels dulled, like the joy and anticipation of “back to school” has been sucked out into some great void we cannot see. As my kids Zoom into learning in their respective corners of the house, with the volume blared and their eyes glued to a screen, I can’t help but feel they’re being cheated, because they are.  

As a mom who is usually in the constant state of planning, I am finding my way in this new maze of uncertainty without the confidence gained through years of experience. I’m running through this time before learning how to walk, but really, it feels like a continuous stumble. The plans we all made in regard to school have been squashed beneath our expectations. 

As I struggle to push past the insidious feelings of anger, depression and the worst – feeling sorry for myself, it helps to know I am not alone. So many moms I know are in this same storm, perhaps in a different boat, trying to find passage through to a calmer sea. Yet, just when I think this year is comparable to a big waste of time, my daughter reads me her paper on altruism for her philosophy class. I admit, I didn’t actually understand the whole thing, but was impressed by her total devotion and excitement in learning that somehow rose above this shitstorm we are rowing through. 

One thing I’ve learned through twenty two years of parenting is that kids end up teaching us more about being a parent than all the parenting books we’ve read or advice dumped on us from our parents and well meaning friends, some of whom have no experience in parenting themselves. This is what is happening in my house. My kids are rising to the this unprecedented challenge as they navigate through this unwelcome school model. They are teaching me something about resilience.

There is a tinge of happiness brewing in my psyche now that is the beacon I’ve needed to guide me through what feels like a long dark tunnel without a certain end. It has been some of the worst of times for us. And yet, some of the best as well. Even though I can’t stop thinking how this pandemic will effect my senior in college and his prospects for next year or my daughter’s future in choosing a college to attend, there is a lightness that eases me from their perseverance amidst so much frustration. 

JK Rowling’s Dumbledore from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban said it best, “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” 

A Mother’s Day Like no Other

Every Sunday going about my day enjoying time with my family, I would remember it was the last day of the weekend and suddenly feel a little down. My husband who normally travels every week for work would be packing a suitcase later in the day and inform me at some point how long he’d be gone. He has been traveling for work for as long as I can remember, but still, that sad feeling would creep in every Sunday afternoon just knowing he’d be leaving.
Today, I remembered it was Sunday (cause all the days now seen the same) and for a brief moment I was sad, conditioned to feel this way. Then I realized there will be no packing of a suitcase. There will be no long weekdays missing my husband.
Suddenly I feel happy. This pandemic which has created a new normal for all of us, both restrictive and concerning, has also given our family units so much togetherness. Not all moments are enjoyable; wondering, worrying, missing all that we used to take for granted, but for now I’m going to hold on tight to this happy feeling and let it just sit there to enjoy. It’s just a feeling, but it’s worth more than gold.
This is one of the best Mother’s Day I’ve ever had.


Sent from my iPhone

Here’s Hoping

Quarantining makes one think. A lot. We think about how this happened. We ponder how long we will be separated like this. We think, perhaps too long, what would happen if we were to contract this awful virus taking lives, stealing our living and putting us on this great pause. I just want to press play, or rewind really far to where this hasn’t happened and then just fast forward to where it’s over, but that’s wishful thinking.

Too much thinking leads to too much drinking and eating and searching for things to do other than eating and drinking and thinking. After five weeks of too much thinking, I am taking to the page.


We all cope in different ways. My role in this quarantined life is of the nurturer. That’s not so different from my usual role in my family dynamic, except now its magnified. I shop, cook, clean, launder, provide well thought out meals all dressed up with the best cutlery and ceramics, linen and glassware. My grandmother has been whispering in my ear this last month. “Life is to be lived. Get out the expensive dinner plates. Eat off them!” If life must be lived in worry and uncertainty, let it at least look good. Cause if that old adage, “if you Iook good, you feel good” was ever needed, now is the time. So really, my role is one of presenter. My family is living in an unwanted reality. But, at least at meal times, it looks good.

Two weeks ago I asked my husband to get out the old projector we used to use when the kids were little in the summer to watch movies outside. We’ve made an effort to make some fun in the midst of this madness. My kids aren’t really kids any more – they are more like young adults, but they dove right in. They pulled up the chairs, made popcorn, fought over which movie to watch and watched them, outside with the stars and a little fire in the outdoor fireplace.


We’ve played countless games and completed some tough puzzles. We’ve all been on countless walks and bike rides. We’ve all stared inside the fridge hoping to find something we haven’t already seen and eaten.

Our little world has become a bit smaller. And bigger. While we are living day in and day out with the same walls, the same neighborhood, the same routines and worrying, and thinking, I’ve noticed a shift in the states of minds of my people here. My people are now planning. This is a sign of something we all need right now. That’s hope.

Hope is hopefully going to take the place of thinking. It’s important to pick up on these little cues. No one really knows for sure when this quarantine will be over, but I am happy to see they are planning for it.

Who was it who said if you want something, to put it out in the universe and it will happen? I’m hoping that that saying is true. All of us want this to be over. We want to start thinking of something else. Here’s hoping that very soon we will all be too distracted with plans and living to be thinking.

The grass really is greener on the other side


IMG_3215.JPGThe first real snowstorm has hit Boston, my home (a couple hometowns ago) for 17 years. As a northern transplant to the south, I have to say I’m happy I’m missing it. With the Christmas holiday nearing closer people all over are decorating their Christmas trees, hanging wreaths and tuning in to festive tunes on their car radios. This festive season (in my northern years) also meant heavier clothes, boots, coats, hats, gloves, scarves, 4-wheel drive, shoveling, plowing, de-icer and snow tires. When this reality is ingrained in your psyche for such a long time it’s hard to get it all out of your system. It’s hard, but, for me, enjoyable.

I used to get excited when a storm threatened to close schools and keep my kids home to enjoy hot cocoa and play in the snow. The build up of a storm consumes the weather reports (which happen every 10-15 minutes or so) and every mom loads up and hoards milk, bread and wine in their households. We bring in the firewood in case of power loss and text our friends to get the latest “When is school reopening?! reports.” My excitement, I realize now, was not because I loved snow or storms or the adrenaline rush of preparing. It was because there was no other alternative. This was all I knew.

I woke up this morning to 39 degrees. That’s freezing here in Charleston. I turned on the gas fireplace with a quick flick and wrapped a cozy sweater around me as I waited for my Nespresso to brew.  I turned on the local news channel and the weatherman informed me it would get up to the 60s today with full sun. Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about. It’s the best of both worlds here in the winter (and it’s not officially winter yet). You have your cozy sweaters and flowing fires in the mornings and warm and bright sunny afternoons. Did I mention full sun?


In the south, the ability to go outside for anything, even in winter for a simple walk, run (not that I’m a runner), swing on your porch, to wander the shopping streets, with green grass and flowers in bloom, is not impeded by ice, mounds of snow piles, slush or crater-sized puddles. No, I won’t be able to go skating on the frozen pond, watch the snow gently falling, hear the sound of my son’s hockey stick hitting pucks over and over again in our backyard rink or cross-country ski in the local woods. These are the only things I miss. And when I say miss, I mean these were the only things I enjoyed about living with snow and frigid cold. And truthfully, I don’t miss these things that much. I much prefer being outside without worrying I’ll fall and break my hip slipping on black ice.

For the next six months or so I’ll revel in the weather of my new hometown, because…it is awesome. When summer hits, though, I’ll plan trips back north to escape what summer in the south means – heat and humidity, really frizzy hair, living with the constant flow of air conditioning, dangerous wildlife invading my neighborhood and the threat of hurricanes.

I guess it’s true that when you trade in one thing, whether good or bad, you get another to replace it. There’s also another saying that’s actually come to mean something more literal in my new reality. The grass really is greener on the other side.

Friends in The Adaptation Phase


There are four phases one goes through when relocating. They include in order: preparation, honeymoon, culture shock and finally, adaptation. As a former expat and repat three times over, I’m very familiar with these. As a repatriated expat to Charleston,  for over a year now, I’m finally in the last one, the adaptation phase.

This phase is the feel good phase. You’re more settled, have made some friends, know your way around and developed favorites (restaurants, grocery stores, beaches, etc.). Experiencing this phase at this time of my life has been very different than 24 years ago, moving to The Hague, or even 19 years ago moving to Boston. I don’t think I’d have adapted as well relocating in middle age when my kids were growing up. Those years were full of hockey, baseball, basketball and football games, riding lessons, summers on the beach and making really good friends. Eventually, after 17 years in Massachusetts, the long grey days without sun imbedded an impermeable bleak funk in me.

There’s nothing like an impermeable bleak funk to give one the courage needed to move. After our kids were older with one off to college, we took a leap of faith and accepted an incredible job offer overseas and moved to Amsterdam for two years. It was an awesome two years filled with travel, the excitement of living in Europe and, to be honest, living with more grey days than I care to remember. Amsterdam has to be one of the greyest places I’ve ever lived – and one of the most beautiful. There was definitely a funk there too, but it wasn’t as bleak in Amsterdam.

After that assignment was over we decided to move to Charleston. It was a lifestyle choice. Relocating to the south has been surprisingly easy. Maybe we are becoming pros at this. Settling into this southern lifestyle in the adaptation phase, I find myself really introspecting a lot. I think I just made up that word. But, that is what’s happening. Perhaps it’s that dreaded past middle age thing, perhaps it’s me embracing this attractive new lifestyle of slowing my roll, rocking on my front porch and letting the dependable sunshine freckle me.

I’ve been reading a lot lately. Writers should always read a lot, as my Journalism professor used to say. Maybe that’s what is causing all this introspection. My reading choices have been mixed with book club suggestions, southern writers and Grown and Flown articles. Those Grown and Flown snippets are tearing at my heartstrings, as they’re designed to do, and they’re making me more grateful for my really good friends. Thank God for the iPhone! Whether FaceTiming, texting, chats in the car, or this new cool video chat on the Marco Polo app, my friends scattered across the globe are providing invaluable support to me in this transitional time of my life. Member those long distance phone ads highlighting calling plans before smartphones were invented? I could be in one of those, only for smartphones.

Still, relocating comes with a cost. That cost can definitely include loss of friendships and missing out on things. Luckily, for me, I haven’t felt that cost. I’m slowly making friends because at this time of my life, I’ve decided to take my time. I’ve been lucky so far making a few good ones down here. But, making really good friends takes time. I’ve been packing for this girl’s trip coming up for the last few weeks, a girl’s trip I’m taking with really good friends back north. We’re off to Iceland to celebrate another one of us turning 50. I’m pretty sure I‘m driving them nuts with frequent emails and texts with inane details and pictures as my excitement builds. It’s because I miss them. It’s because I can’t wait to see them. It’s because I moved. I left. And I still want in. Thank God they know this and haven’t sent me packing, figuratively speaking.

Where would we all be without our good friends? Rhetorical questions don’t need answers really, just thought – introspection. Us ladies need good friends. We need to be good friends. We need to cherish and treasure and give of ourselves to our friends. We also need to carve out time with them to laugh, cry, experience and share – and maybe come up with a fun prank or two. Most importantly, we need to keep good friends. They are priceless, invaluable and help us stay sane.

As my husband travels all week for work and my teenage daughter does what teens do and my son away at college does what college kids do, I should feel a lot lonelier down here rocking on my front porch, with just my dogs for company. Oddly enough though, with most of my closest friends living elsewhere, but actually here for me, figuratively speaking, I’m not lonely at all. I think, perhaps, I’ve adapted.

Lost in Assigned Seating

“Excuse me, pardon me. Pardon me, excuse me.” These were the phrases my husband and I heard Saturday night at the Regal Cinema in Mount Pleasant, SC as patrons climbed over seated movie-goers after realizing they were in the wrong seats. At the same time other patrons stood still mid-stairway studying their tickets as they tried to figure out how to find their seat. The comment, “I’ve never done this before,” was exclaimed more than once.

Eager to see the new Judy Garland movie, Judy, starring Renee Zellweger, we went online, checked theater times and chose our seats in the theater, all from the comfort of our home. New to Regal Cinemas here in Charleston, but not to us as recent expats living in Amsterdam just last year, is choosing assigned seats in a movie theater, whether online or in line.

In The Netherlands movie-goers have been choosing seats as far back as 24 years ago when we first lived there, maybe longer. I remember choosing seats on our first excursion to the movies in The Hague during our first expat assignment overseas. I was more than impressed and even a little excited with the European movie experience. Way back then, theaters had wine and beer and fancy coffee on offer to drink inside the theater, along with the usual popcorn, candy and soda. You wouldn’t find ginormous fountain sodas and endless popcorn refills though, cause Europeans just don’t eat like that. Even now, you can choose between salty and sweet popcorn, in very normal (small) sized bags in Amsterdam, and you don’t have to have your wine poured for you, like at Regal Cinemas. You’re given a small-sized bottle and a fancy plastic glass (which I prefer) to take in the theater and pour on your own.

Arriving a bit early, as I always like to do, we made our way past the very long ticket line outside where other eager movie-goers were searching on a screen through plexiglass choosing seats. You can tell this experience is new and time consuming to those who’ve never done this before. We happily made our way to the quicker line inside to have my husband’s phone scanned with our tickets. After purchasing our libations and treats, we found theater number 12 and our seats in row F, numbers 14 and 15. No scanning the theater for two seats together, no haggling for someone to shove over a seat, no anxious, nerve-wracking hopeful wandering up the stairs to find a place up high to watch the movie, this is great. Living in Europe has given us an edge in the new and improved, though seemingly difficult to some, US movie going experience.

As the trailers were ending and almost everyone was seated, I turned to my husband with libation in hand and giggled, “Can you imagine if we hadn’t lived in Europe and been through this assigned seating situation?” He said, “Yeah, you’d make us be here at least an hour early to examine the seating chart so you wouldn’t be lost in the theater.” He is so right.

An Unwelcome Visitor to Charleston

Watching Hurricane Dorian with horror this past week stall mercilessly as a Category 5 storm over the Bahamas was terrifying and heartbreaking. Waiting for him to make his way up to Charleston was like lying naked on a paper sheet in a paper gown for hours at the doctor’s office for a female exam – feeling vulnerable, exposed and immensely uncomfortable. The uncertainty of when, where and how strong he’d be when he hit us was painful. It seems absurd to hope for a Category 2 or less, but that’s what was bearable for us to deal with if we were going to stay.

This was my third hurricane experience. The first was 20 years ago in Copenhagen where we were living as expats. We didn’t even know a hurricane was coming (or that Denmark even had hurricanes) because we didn’t speak Danish and only watched TV here and there and what TV we did watch in English were reruns of Baywatch, The Bold and Beautiful and BBC’s Absolutely Fabulous. And, it wasn’t like we were getting alerts on our flip phones.

I remember that night (now) with giggles. We hired a babysitter for our one-year-old son who warned us of the storm when she arrived. I can’t remember her name, but I remember she was also an American living with her family a few blocks away and came highly recommended. She didn’t seem too worried about it. Clearly her family was as unaware as we were. So, we just went to dinner a short drive away not thinking too much of it. When I got out of the car the door flew open and nearly took my hand with it. I should have realized then it was more than just a “nor’easter” I was used to.  Once we were seated by the window, we looked around to see that there was hardly anyone in the very popular place. The waiter was immediately at our table (not something we were used to in Europe) and remarked that the restaurant may have to close early because of the weather. We quickly put our order in and heard something really loud outside. Looking out the window we saw an enormous steel sign that had just been ripped from the side of the building blowing by the restaurant. We didn’t wait to eat our dinner.

We drove home about five minutes away with the windshield wipers on full blast and wind pulling the car to the side. We asked the babysitter if she needed a ride home since she came by bike. She said her dad was coming to fetch her and she’d come get her bike in the morning. We went to bed, still not too bothered with the storm. In the middle of the night we awoke to loud banging and wind and rain blowing IN the house. The roof sky light in the hallway had come unattached and was bouncing up and down. My husband ran to get a ladder and climbed up to the top of it with me holding onto his legs on the bottom rung as he attempted to pull it shut. As crazy pelting rain and wind came pouring in on us and the rest of the hallway for what seemed like a very long time, and my husband trying not to be carried literally away, he was finally able to get the sky light brackets back in place. After that, we never bought or rented a house with skylights again.

Moving to Charleston just a year ago from Amsterdam brought the promise of endless sunshine, beautiful weather almost year round and so many outdoor activities to revel in. Three weeks into that move here in late August, we evacuated when a mandatory evacuation order was issued, a week before Hurricane Florence was due to hit. Being “newbies”, we found a hotel that would take our two dogs in Augusta and started to pack the car. In the driveway we saw our neighbors securing their outdoor furniture and they asked if we were leaving. They were not. In fact, none of our neighbors on Daniel Island were leaving, which, at the time, seemed crazy to me. We arrived in Augusta with an 11-year-old 150 pound Newfoundland and a little Coton du Tulear, luggage and our teenage daughter. We lasted one night. As soon as we heard that the hurricane was downgraded to a tropical storm, and the highway was back open to two lanes, we made our way back before Florence arrived. That storm was like a nor’easter. A short week later Hurricane Matthew came through – also as a tropical storm. That one was memorable. Matthew greeted us in the middle of the night and woke me in my shaking bed in my shaking house with his screeching wind and rain. I started wondering if the roof, sky light or no, was going to stay on.

This week Dorian arrived like a beast in the middle of the night upgraded to a Category 3 while we slept. He woke us with loud wind like a train as he shook the house like we were his snow globe. Checking my iPhone at 2:30 am to see him directly below Charleston, I cringed to learn he would be crawling slowly though at 7 mph towards us. The rest of the day was a nail biting, nerve racking haze of stress and anxiety. I feel guilty complaining thinking of the Bahamas. It was somewhat comforting checking in with my amazing neighbors, my nephew up in Myrtle Beach and my family and friends not in the South.

Yesterday morning I went out to inspect the damage finding a large bush down and lots of leaves and such scattered around. My neighbor helped me get my garage door open that had lost power and I checked in with my friends in the hood to see if everyone was ok. It could have been so much worse.

The likelihood that hurricanes will continue to threaten us is something we’ll have to accept living here. Weighing the pros and cons of evacuating and paying close attention to NOAA online for the path and strength of oncoming storms is a new normal from June through November. You take the good with the bad like living anywhere. We won’t have blizzards, have to shovel mountains of snow, scrape ice, or freeze getting in and out of the car. We won’t have days and days of grey and we will have an actual beautiful Spring. But, we will have more hurricanes.

If I’ve learned anything experiencing storms in general, it’s to have a plan. I’m thinking my plan from now on when a hurricane, no matter what number is assigned to it, is roaring up the coast heading towards me and my people, will be to round up my people (which includes my dogs) and get the hell out.

How to Help Victims of Dorian in the Bahamas: