Welcome, Noah!

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13
My entry today is about a different kind of construction. Yesterday morning, our son JJ and his beautiful and strong wife Kate welcomed their first born child, Noah Roger, into the world. Whenever a child is born, there are so many thoughts and emotions, but the contrast of this happy occasion with the recent flood  gives me much to ponder.
  • A year ago at this time, plans were being made for a beautiful candlelight ceremony in the Reformed Church in Middleburgh. Kate is from a large extended family whose farm and loving ways are very well know in our area. The reception would be in the church hall, and her mother, sisters, cousins, and aunts decorated it so beautifully we all thought we were in a very stylish banquet hall. On August 28, Irene brought rushing muddy water into that stately old building and scattered the pews like so many toothpicks before leaving mud everywhere. Here is a photo of JJ and Kate exchanging vows at the altar, and then the same spot on August 29th.
  • Both JJ and Kate’s childhood homes were invaded by floodwaters, and are now being repaired and rebuilt by God’s grace and lots of people He has sent to help. In the months nearing the birth, the joy of the anticipated birth was overshadowed by concerns for their parents’ homes and welfare. Kate and helpers cleaned and saved countless precious photographs and other keepsakes, and JJ helped demolish the walls of his own home and donned mask and other apparel for fighting mold in the basement.
  • They have known for a long time that Kate was carrying a boy, and they had decided on the name Noah. They know that their son will be raised in a generation that scoffs at God, and so wanted to give him a namesake who followed God despite what those around him thought or said. They did not share the name with anyone. Then came the flood. Kate wondered if it would seem like a sick joke to name him Noah now, after the flood, but JJ was more convinced than ever that it was appropriate. On Labor Day weekend, some of the many volunteers who traveled to come to our aid were Abe and three of his children. One was named Noah, and he was such a delightful person it just confirmed for them that this was the right name for their son. None of us knew before yesterday he would be named Noah, and JJ pointed me to this verse:Genesis 5:29:  He named him Noah and said “He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed.”This little boy is another way that God is restoring our community. Homes and businesses are being rebuilt, and this child will learn to love this valley as his parents and many relatives do.
  • Noah was born at the hospital where Christopher and JJ were born, and those events are so vivid in my memory that I can’t believe my babies are now daddies. How can it be that I am a grandmother? The changes were gradual, day by day, but looking back it seems to have happened so quickly. Yet, one of the many lessons I have learned from the flood is that life can be forever altered in a moment. I need to be walking close to God so He can guide me through those changes.
  • As I write this, our first born grandchild, Robert Joseph Meredith, is celebrating his third birthday. He needed heart surgery when he was born, and again this past January. Every day we thank God for His perfect timing and provision for giving the right doctors, hospitals, and resources so that today he is truly having a happy birthday.
  • First and foremost in my mind as we rebuild and remodel our home is to provide a place that is grandchild-friendly. I am envisioning spaces for play and storage of playthings as well as lots of room for family gatherings and sleepovers.  And we will tell our grandchildren of the many wonderful times their daddies had in this house, and have many more wonderful times in the new-and -improved house.

Jeremiah 29:11–For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.


Tuesday, October 18

Every day when I come home, there is something new to see.  Stewart’s,  the convenience store and gas station that is on the corner only two doors away, is set to open tomorrow at 4:30 AM. I am so excited about it, I might just go there at that time to be their first customer and personally thank them for caring enough about our little community to rebuild so quickly after the flood. It has been like a huge vote of confidence to see and hear the workers there every day during the very uncertain and difficult time following Irene.

Yesterday when I got home, the washer I have been using was on the back porch and is no longer needed because the new top-loading High Efficiency washer is now hooked up and ready to use. I did the first trial load a little while ago, and now the first official load is washing as I write this. Today, there are two big developments: there is now a wall and door at the bottom of the back stairs. This is the area where the laundry room used to be, so we needed a little wall. In the photo below, you will see a dryer. It is an old electric one that we are using until the new gas one is hooked up. When it is gone, the former laundry room area will become a “breakfast nook”. Second, in addition to most of the downstairs being insulated, there is now new ceiling in the living room! We are so thankful for the faithful volunteers who have adopted our house and come to work on it every day even though they are “retired”. We owe a debt we can never repay.

We are still waiting, some more patiently than others, for JJ and Kate’s little boy to arrive. Please pray for a safe delivery and healthy baby and momma. We know he will arrive at just the right time. I am reminded of the joke about someone praying: “Dear God, Please grant me patience, and please grant it NOW!” Instead, I am praying, “Dear Lord, please help me trust you, even though I should know by now that You always know what is best.”

Thursday, October 13

First topic of discussion: Middleburgh Central School. I have been teaching music there since the fall of 1998. When Frank and I were married in 1979, our first apartment was in Middleburgh. Until recently, we worshiped at the Lutheran Church in Middleburgh. Kate grew up in Middleburgh and went to school there; last Thanksgiving she and JJ exchanged their vows at a church in Middleburgh, and now they live there. So, that town, the people that live and work there, and the many students who lived there are as dear to me as in Schoharie, where our house is and where we raised our boys. Hurricane Irene wreaked havoc on Main Street in Middleburgh, and every business suffered crippling damage. The school where I teach lost so much on the ground floor and basement: the cafeteria, kitchen, tech and shop area, gymnasium, and new Distance Learning Room. Many homes were flooded as well, but not nearly as many as in Schoharie. Look at some of the windows in the front of the building:

It really does my heart good to see those words “HOPE” and “LOVE” displayed for all to see on the front of the school. It helps me remember that the whole community is working together recover and rebuild, and that everyone is concerned about what we are going through.

For the past few years, the financial situation at our school has been very tight, and each year we worry that a music position will be cut. So far, our administrators, who don’t want to cut any arts positions, have been able to avoid making personnel cuts to our department. However, now that we have the added expenses of flood clean-u[ and recovery, there is no telling what next year will bring. My friend and colleague Liz, who opened her home to us after the flood, suggested we enter a video contest for as-risk music programs. With her help and technology expertise, the work of my students, and the beautiful guitar playing of another colleague, the video has been submitted. All the entries are in the online voting phase. Please vote for ours! This is the link to the website to view the videos and vote:


Now, the house update: Yesterday when I got home from school, I was greeted by insulation on the walls of the living room! It was an extra blessing because the insulation was donated by a church that had some leftover. It is only R-13, so our volunteers put up a double layer, so we will be toasty and warm in our new rooms downstairs. Also keeping us warm will be the newly installed baseboard heaters upstairs.

We have had trouble deciding where to put Sandy’s crate in our new downstairs. I want to keep our new dining room clutter-free and somewhat ornate so I don’t want her crate to be in there as it was before the flood. It was decided that we would have a room for her under the stairs like in “Harry Potter”. Today it was created! Here are pictures of the insulation and Sandy’s new abode.

Tuesday, October 11

Last Monday, October 3, we had 15 Amish men at our house to install new vinyl siding.. It was interesting to watch them work and hear them speak to each other in their own language. They worked long and hard and their only pay was a lunch we purchased from the newly reopened pizza place on Main Street. Additionally, some very faithful and skilled volunteers have been coming every day to rebuild and provide advice and lots of help of all kinds. These pictures are what I saw when I arrived home from school last Friday. They show the new siding, some lovely mums that someone left for me, new propane gas tanks, the utility room, and newly opened spaces to expand the kitchen.

October 2

Rain, rain, go away! We have had rain every day for about a week. My outlook is also gloomy. When going through muddy possessions after the flood, I found a little wall hanging saying, “Count Your Blessings” and decided to hang it where volunteers could see it. Well, even that is growing mold. And I have a cold.

Our lab Sandy came home on Friday. She has been staying with friends, and we have been visiting her to play almost every day, but we missed her. It was heart-breaking to put her back in her outdoor pen at at Bob and Debbie’s house and hear her cry as we walked back to the car to leave her. She couldn’t be at the house because of the multitude of health hazards including  flood mud, debris, nails, staples, etc. But we decided to figure out how to make it work to have her back home. So her crate is upstairs and she has to be on a leash all the time, and it’s been too rainy to play outside. Of course, she can’t play in our yard, but Lasell Park did not sustain very much damage, so we will be taking here there frequently.

However, walking her is proving to be very sad for me, because everywhere we go we see destruction, debris, mud, and empty shells that used to be homes for my neighbors. I have loved walking around my neighborhood ever since we got our first family dog, Honey, in 1990.  I would enjoy seeing beautiful homes, corn fields, autumn hillsides, sunrises, starry dawns, and thank God that I lived in such a beautiful place where I could enjoy His creation. My walks with Sandy these past few days have involved dodging muddy puddles and steering her away from building debris and hoses draining water from basements, and seeing the businesses on Main Street vacant and filthy.  The laundromat still displays the hastily-scrawled sign: “Closed due to Hurricane Irene” that was posted on the 27th of August.

OK, moving on to good news: We have a room with walls! The utility room has Sheetrock and will soon be ready for the furnace, hot water heater, water softener, and new washer and dryer. We continue to have wonderful volunteer help for building and cleaning. After-school or Saturday cleaning is enjoyable for me because it is chance to visit with the people who come to help. This past week I reconnected with a young lady who was in a few TMP shows and now about to enter her life as a nun and one of my cousins who has been coming to help. I also got to know some new friends of Nathan’s who came to help even though they barely knew us. Seeing how many generous and caring people there are in the world has been one the many blessings of this time in our lives.

I am posting some photos that I took on walks at various times have the past few years ( since I have had an iPhone). I hope and pray that beauty will one day return to our neighborhood.