One Year

 

sept 3 2011

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One Year

Today is September 3rd. This is what our street looked like exactly one year ago.

That is our mailbox on the right, and all the debris around it is the contents of our house covered in mud.

However, yesterday, we celebrated with a Victory Party in our newly renovated downstairs. We sang praises to God who sent just the right people at the just the right time to rebuild our house and our spirits.

Our whole family was together in the new house for the first time: Christopher and his wife Rashell with their three little boys Robert, Alex, and Benjamin; Jonathan and his wife Kate with Noah, who is now 10 months old; and Nathan with his fiancee Chelsea. Neighbors, church family, and volunteers gathered to celebrate with us. Anyone who went through this experience is still telling about it; I am hearing stories of my family member’s experiences for the first time. We know we will never be the same. I hope we will be better than before, just like our house is, and just like our town will be.

This is probably my last blog entry. My goal was to keep far-away volunteers updated about the progress on the house, and it is safe to say that the work is almost completed. I’m guessing that our to-do list is about the same length as many home-owners who have not been flooded but are just plain busy. So I am going to say “Thank you” again: to those who came to our house immediately, those who came on “Labor for Your Neighbor” weekend,  Brad and Duane who came every day for many months, the team from Michigan, and those who came on weekends when they could. Some individuals drove to Schoharie, drove around, saw us working, and joined in. Many came with work, school or church groups and were assigned to our house by the amazing people at Schoharie Recovery. Many sent monetary donations. All the volunteers and homeowners were fed daily by even more volunteers who formed the Loaves and Fishes Cafe. Prayers for strength, safety, and provision were answered in miraculous ways. I think of a line from a song by Kutless  called “What Faith Can Do”:

“It doesn’t matter what you’ve heard, impossible is not a word, it’s just a reason for someone not to try.”

So much help from so many people. And each of them had the faith that if we all worked together, our house and our town could recover. Please remember that many have not been as quick to rebuild. If you are able to help in any way, please consider doing so.

Ultimately, I thank God who walked with us and provided for us every step of the way.

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. Psalm 9:1

I leave you with photos of some of the decorative touches that are making our house a home for the Meredith family again. Thank you for sharing this journey with us.

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Friday the 13th

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ImageToday is Friday the 13th, and I am feeling very lucky–blessed, actually. A group of volunteers worked at our house this past week, and our stairwell and and upstairs hallway are completely transformed.

In the interest of full disclosure, I need to be very clear that although we did have lots of water in the house, it did not go to the second floor. However, with five feet of water inside, the stairway carpet had to be ripped up and the first floor wall of the stairwell was taken down. Therefore, the second floor wall and upstairs hall were affected. Also, many volunteers with muddy boots had walked on the carpeting in the upstairs hallway.

A group from Temple Baptist Church in Waterford, NY came to Schoharie for the week. They stayed at a hotel in Cobleskill and made our town their mission trip. The group is called TSM Engaged (Temple Student Ministry). All the students we met were really nice kids, and great workers. Their leaders were models of passion for God and compassion for others. And, they had great knowledge and skills for rehabbing homes. This group pulled up the carpeting, removed  the remaining wallpaper, skim-coated the old plaster with new, the primed and painted the walls of the stairwell and upstairs hall. Also, they painted two door to upstairs rooms and the front door. As it turns out, there was a nice finshed wooden floor under the carpeting upstairs!  Thank you, Lord, for TSM Engaged, and thank you to those at Schoharie Recovery and SALT Recovery for attracting and assigning volunteers.

I have had the priviledge of working twice at the Loaves and Fishes Cafe, the system of feeding the volunteers at noon each day. The women who work at this ministry have been serving meals every day since about a week after the flood, and will continue to do so for the rest of the summer. It is amazing tosee God work through those who cook at home and bring food, prepare and serve food, and then clean up and get ready for the next day. There are so many people helping from so many different sources.

A couple of weeks ago, we put a little bistro set on our back porch,and I have been enjoying morning devotions and coffee out there. A photo is included in this slide show.

We are planning on hosting an Open House during Labor Day weekend to re-dedicate the house to the Lord, to celebrate the rebuilding and recovery, and to thank all those who helped. I started this blog to keep our volunteers from far away informed. It would so great to see them again and let them see the fruit of their labor.

Commencement

This is graduation weekend in New York State.  Last night was Middleburgh’s ceremony and this morning was Schoharie’s. Much has been written in the local papers in recent days about the resiliency and strength of the Class of 2012. Many of these kids were among those whose homes were flooded, and almost all of them helped family, friends, and neighbors clean and rebuild.  In Middleburgh, students helped to shovel out mud and help rebuild ruined equipment in the tech rooms. The gym was flooded as were the athletic fields. The large key that is handed to each newly-elected senior class president from the graduating president was among the many casualties of the muddy waters.

This is a link to one of those articles:

http://www.dailygazette.com/news/2012/jun/23/0623_middleburgh/

This has been a very difficult year at school. Financial pressures, many employees flooded, concern for the students and their families, facilities rendered unusable all combined to create even more stress than we usually see at school. Sometimes, tempers were short, but more often, colleagues were very supportive and sympathetic.

Now that I am finished with school, I will begin the work of trying to organize the upstairs rooms and the garage,which have been housig rescued belongings. Many volunteers cleaned and boxed up households items that were not ruined or could be cleaned, and most of them have been untouched while we were busy with the rebuilidng of the downstairs. So now I will be spending much of each day with this next project.

The area has seen many volunteers this past week. Some finished painting our garage. Attracting volunteers to our area, and then matching them with the appropriate work site is a huge job, and we are so thankful for the people at Schoharie Recovery and Schoharie Area Long Term Recovery for all their efforts.  You might want to take the time to follow these links and read more about what is going on with the recovery effort, as well as some interesting media attention to our little village. Another example of the help and care we receive is the $10 gift card we received to purchase bedding plants. Since we will be doing some digging around the foundation later this summer, I am using lots of containers for my flowers this year.  

We cannot say “thank you” enough for volunteers and donors from near and far that have helped us rebuild and have encouraged us every step of the way. And, of course, we thank God for using so many people in so many different ways to provide that care and help for us.

Nine months

Yesterday was a very big day in the Meredith family story. It Noah’s first time staying at Grandma and Grandpa’s house! His Mommy and Daddy were with the summer theater group on a trip to New York City to see “Newsies”. So Noah hung out in our new digs.

The thought of having a home where our grandkids could come to stay and play has been a big factor in our decisions in the rebuilding process. When the entire downstairs was gutted down to the studs, it was hard to imagine that anyone would ever be able to play in it, but now that dream has become a reality. Thank you, Lord, for sending all those helpers and encouragers!

Another big day was May 28th, exactly nine months after the flood. That was the day that our new digital piano arrived at the house. It sounds great and has lots of amazing sounds and applications. I hope to be able to learn how to use it with my new laptop and music notation software to be able to create choral arrangements much quicker than I have in the past. I have made myself a rule to practice piano every day. I am re-acquainting myself with some of the literature I learned when I was taking lessons high school. And, I love playing hymns.

Early last week, as Sandy and I were returning home from a walk, I saw a planter on my front porch with beautiful flowers. I have no idea who put them there! It was a lovely surprise. Every time I see that planter I will remember that we are loved and cared for.

The downstairs half bath is finished. It is very small because before we owned the house, it was a closet under the stairs. Frank found a little pedestal sink that was intended for an RV, and that is now installed. A volunteer came to the house recently to offer help with removing old paint from the stairs. He said the way I was trying to do it was very inefficient, and showed me a much better way to do it. So I will be able to make progress on that project. We are hoping to get the stairs and the upstairs hallway completed this summer. (Flood water did not go upstairs, but the process of gutting and working in the house necessitates and makeover up there.)

These are links to two recent TV news reports. While our home and many others are well on the way to recovery, many others are not. Please pray for those that are still in need, and share this with anyone you know that may be looking for volunteer opportunities this summer.

http://www.cbs6albany.com/news/top-stories/stories/vid_1279.shtml

http://hudsonvalley.ynn.com/content/top_stories/586611/volunteers-still-needed-in-schoharie/

I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. Psalm 69:30

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It has been so long since I posted. Life is returning to “normal”. In our community we are calling it the “new normal”. There are so many changes that we have to learn to accept as the norm. With the beautiful spring weather, the robins have returned, and so have many village residents. The singing of the birds combines with the hum of power tools as homeowners and volunteers continue to rebuild. I’ve learned to appreciate walks through the neighborhood again so I can view the progress.

Our downstairs is almost finished now! Duane and Brad installed all the wood trim, and some wonderful personal touches such as the door for Sandy’s under-the-stairs den. The kitchen, breakfast nook, dining room, and music room all have Tiffany-style light fixtures. The kitchen has back-splash that is reminiscent of an old metal ceiling. Both the living room and the dining room have area rugs. The new dining room furniture has arrived, (although it is not in place yet), and the donated living room couches look elegant and are very comfortable.

I am recovering, too.  I have always been rather “scatter-brained”, but now it’s worse than ever. We call it “flood brain”. I realized the other day that my memory is improving because when I needed to put a new set of checks in my checkbook, I was able to remember that after the flood I ordered new ones and had stored them in my desk upstairs. When I went to fetch them, they were there! This may sound rather simple, but I have had so many moments of not remembering where I put something, or not remembering if I still have it, or remembering something that didn’t really happen, that this event was a real victory.

There is still much work to do. The downstairs little half bath still needs a sink. I am soon going to be making a decision about a new piano and finish up the music room. Then we will have to deal with foundation work, roof work, the stairs, and the upstairs hallway. But none of this is pressing, and we will have time to enjoy our new digs downstairs. This summer I will be going through the upstairs rooms where all the flood-surviving possessions were stashed in the days after the flood to clean and organize them. We want to make room for family members to visit this summer!

The following link is about one setback in an otherwise monumental amount of work, planning, creativity, and compassion on behalf of so, so many local organizers and volunteers from near and far.

http://www.fox23news.com/news/local/story/Theft-from-Schoharie-Recovery-effort/EeXgwLGUgEmsvyKlwXVjkQ.cspx?autoplay=1

Before I end, I want to share this link to a story in the Albany Times Union. The church in the article is the one where our son JJ and his wife Kate were married in November 2010. When they celebrated their one-year anniversary and looked through their wedding album, every place in it had been hit by Irene: the church, her Mom’s house, his parents’ house, and the cute little covered bridge where some of their outdoor shots were taken. The resiliency and faith of my friends, family, and neighbors,  still moves me to tears.

http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/At-tiny-church-a-time-of-renewal-3466567.php#photo-2791580

1 I will sing of the lovingkindness of the LORD forever ; To all generations I will make known Your faithfulness with my mouth. 2 For I have said, “Lovingkindness will be built up forever ; In the heavens You will establish Your faithfulness.” Psalm 89

Six months

This past Tuesday, February 28th, marked exactly 6 months since Hurricane Irene. There was lots of sharing and remembering in person and Face Book, and there was a gathering on Main Street with speakers and music. The main message was that our community has worked together to help each other, is indebted to all the volunteers, and that there is still much to be done. There was also talk of the emotional toll and the counseling and support available for all.

There were lots green ribbons around the trees and light poles, and people distributing them for us to wear. This link is to the website of SALT, the organizers of the Green Ribbon campaign. This website is full of photos, past TV news clips, and archives all of the printed press coverage.

http://www.saltrecovery.org/index.html

The link below is to a TV news report from that day. The home in this video clip is right across the street from our house. In it you will see Josh, one of the heroes who showed up with a work crew right after the flood. He has spent every day since the flood helping all of us recover and rebuild.We really can’t say “Thank you” enough to him and all the others who have helped in countless ways. Like pieces of a puzzle, many have contributed and God has fit them all together. We are trusting Him to provide the pieces that are still missing. Today, Josh checked in with us, and later brought a few of the crew that helped gut the house six months ago. They were back with some others who are electricians. They were very happy to see the progress and we were happy to be able to say “thank you”.

http://capitalregion.ynn.com/content/top_stories/575262/six-months-after-irene–hundreds-still-displaced-as-rebuilding-continues/

This past Thursday, March 1st, was the first snowstorm in our area for the winter, and we had no school. I was able to prime all the wood trim that has been installed so far, and the gas range was hooked up! I’m very excited to be able to cook on the stove and bake again. I have lots of Tupperware and Pampered Chef things that have been donated by colleagues at school and my mother-in-law, so I can cook dinner again! I hope to be using my new baking sheets very soon.

Frank installed the new light fixture in the living room. It is a combination overhead light and ceiling fan. It is the only one we’ve seen that has the fan contained so the blades are not exposed. You can see it in two of the photos I have included. One is a wide view of the living room with our two new-to-us couches, and the other is a closer view of the light fixture. I’ve also included a shot of the kitchen that is becoming more functional and used every day. Finally, I have included a view of one of the seven wall hangings that JJ and Kate made from the keys to the flooded piano, displayed in my parents’ home. (See post from January 11th.)

I would like to close with a quick story about my father, which really has nothing to do with the flood, but everything to do with the God we serve. After a routine colonoscopy in December, Dad was told that there were two small cancerous tumors that needed to be removed. The surgery was scheduled for Thursday, February 23rd, but there needed to be another colonoscopy the day before. As preparations were being made for surgery, the surgeon interrupted and and asked to see Dad. He was told that now he could not see anything that needed to be removed and he would not be undergoing surgery. We are so thankful! So many people were praying for him, and God answered in a powerful way. I am reminded of these Bible verses (Ephesians 3:20-21):

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Let Me Tell You!

We continue to see progress. Today I have no school because of President’s Day, but Duane and Brad are here working on the wood trim around the windows. They started coming back last week, so most of the windows are trimmed and I can begin painting. They have made the two windowsills that face the flower garden and bird feeder very wide so I can put plants there. There is a small shelf under each of the window sills, so it will be fun to put little knickknacks there. Our local superhero,  Josh, stopped by. It is always so good to see him. He spends all his time helping our town and surrounding area recover from the flood. He told me that union workers and their journeymen are now working on the house across the street from us, and his is the fifth house they have done. There are different teams whose expertise is sheet-rocking, or taping, or painting. He is amazed at how quickly each can get the work done. He also said that there will be 15 VISTA volunteers in the area for the summer. There is another group coming in who will be canvassing the area and checking with all homeowners to see how they are in the recovery process to make sure no one is overlooked and is getting the help they need. There are so many people who are working on behalf of all of the flood victims to help us in so many ways.

Two Saturday ago, on February 3rd, my two cousins who live in the Capital District came to the house. (Their grandmother and my grandmother were sisters, which means their mom and my mom were cousins. We’re not sure if that makes us third cousins, or twice-removed, so we just call each other cousins.) They have come several times to help clean after the flood. This time they brought a very generous check from donations from members of that side of my family. It will be used to get a new piano. They also brought a beautiful set of china dishes that their childhood friend and neighbor donated. It looks as though it has never been used. I am sharing a photo of one of the plates here so you can see how beautiful and cheery the pattern is.

Last Saturday, February 10th, our first pieces of new (to us) furniture were brought in to the house. A customer of Frank’s gave us a couch and we had been storing it in our garage. When two men from the volunteer center came to help bring it in the house, they realized that it was not only really heavy, but that it was too big to fit in the front door and then turn to get into the living room. By taking off the legs, it just barely got in. If the wood trim had been on the doorways, it would not have fit. So we need to keep this couch for a very long time 🙂 Its younger, smaller cousin was brought later that day by the customer and his son, and they had no problem getting that in. And, to give an idea of what it’s like to live in small town, one of the volunteers was the pharmacist who has filled our prescriptions since our boys were little. The other helper was his cousin who had come from Michigan to volunteer for a while. His wife, Sara, runs the volunteer center at the Reformed Church in Schoharie.  There are few photos of our new couches.

Frank installed the new Tiffany-style lamp (photo included) in the breakfast nook and there is a folding table there, so we had dinner together in our breakfast nook this past week. We can’t use the range yet–a cabinet has to be moved to make room for it, and part broke when Frank was working on it (not his fault–it just broke). The dishwasher has to be plumbed in, so those two appliance make a bit of an obstacle course in the middle of the kitchen. But we can use the beautiful counter tops, the fridge, the microwave, and our sink in the utility room to prepare food. The propane company came, and all the baseboard heaters that Frank installed now are giving us heat, so we are spending more time in the downstairs. I am so thankful for every step in the rebuilding and recovery process.

Our family is continuing to build in another way, too. This past Tuesday, the evening before Valentine’s Day, our youngest son Nathan proposed to very vivacious and talented Chelsea, presented her with a ring, and she accepted! She is an actress, so there will be some time and planning before a wedding date can be set. We are so happy to welcome her into the family and to get to know her parents and brothers as well.

I just have to keep thanking God for His provision and care for us and for so many people with tender hearts who want to help in so many ways.

Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me. Psalm 66:16

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Getting closer!

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This has been a big week! All the downstairs flooring is installed and so are the kitchen counter tops. You are seeing photos of the kitchen with granite counter tops, new refrigerator and new microwave oven. The microwave was donated to a group called Schoharie Home Warming which gave it to us along with some other kitchen items like a coffee maker. The rest of the photos are various rooms with new wood laminate flooring.

I had a wonderful time cleaning the cabinets and laying down shelf lining. I put our canned goods in the corner cupboards on lazy susans, and put other things away. Since there is still lots of drilling, plumbing, and connecting to do with the appliances, I am only using the upper cabinets for now. I have  been rummaging through the garage and spare room upstairs to locate kitchen items, cookware, dishes, etc. My memory, which has never been great, has become worse than ever since the flood. I am having trouble remembering what things had to be discarded and what items we still have. So I need to just poke around and move things to see what we have.  I found a Valentine’s Day door decoration which I thought had been thrown out!

Psalm 118:28 You are my God, and I will praise you;  you are my God, and I will exalt you. 29 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;  his love endures forever.

Floor

Another quick entry. Phil, another friend from church, is installing the floors. In the photo on the right, you can see our new kitchen floor. On the left, you are looking at the dining room floor sub-floor. The old house syndrome, in which nothing is even, is a big problem for the floors. Fortunately, there is goo that he can use to even out things out. When it dries it is very solid. The big gray patch in the photo is the dried goo. The rest of the downstairs flooring will be wood laminate–recommended to be kid-and-pet friendly. The counter tops are scheduled to arrive on Friday of this week, and Frank will be installing appliances. I’m really looking forward to cooking in my own kitchen! “I will give thanks to the Lord because of His righteousness; I will sing the praises o the Lord Most High.” Psalm 7:17.