Cabinets!

This is a very quick post to share photos of our new kitchen cabinets. They were made out of hickory by an Amish gentleman named Wayne. In some photos you can see the new and old colors for the walls. In one you can see one piece of the back-splash we will have.  Granite counter tops have been templated (not sure when that word became a verb….) and Frank needs to go to the place where the stone will be cut to pick out a slab.

Happy New Year

After a wonderful Christmas celebration, visiting with family in Mississippi, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, it is time to get back to teaching and working on the house. This year, more than any other, I was thankful for all of my blessings, especially family. What a joy to have two precious new little grandsons as well as Robert and Alex. On December 26th, although they were not all in the same place at the same time, I saw all three of my sons and all four of my grandsons in the same day.

I have to share this gift and its story. JJ and Kate cleaned and saved all the keys from my piano after the flood, and created a beautiful memento to display on one of our new walls. In addition to the one they made for us, there is one for each of my sons, my sister, my brother, and my parents. On the back is an envelope with a print-out of my blog entry “Good-bye, Old Friend”. Thank you, JJ and Kate, for finding a way to save something from that instrument that has been a part of me for almost my entire life. This will help continue the story of our family’s love of music and God.

Sing to Him a new song ; Play skillfully and shout for joy. Psalm 33:3

While we were away, John, a longtime friend and expert on walls and taping, finished installing the drywall, taping, and sanding it. I should have been excited about the progress, but, I have to admit, I was discouraged because the sanding makes such a mess. After spending a few weeks in homes that are intact and beautiful, it was tough to come back to our house and neighborhood. I was walking Sandy one recent morning, and saw for the first time that another house had been razed. It was just two doors away from us–now just a big hole in the ground. I actually burst into tears right there. Even though many are working on rebuilding, it will be  a long time before our village is restored to its pre-flood calm and beauty.

On the other hand, some very big steps forward have been taken. This past Saturday, in response to an announcement on Face Book, several helpers showed up for a painting party! All the walls are now primed, and most have a first coat of paint.

Yesterday, the kitchen cabinets arrived, thanks to Duane and Brad. An Amish man named Wayne made them by hand from hickory. The craftsmanship is outstanding, and I love the look of the natural wood. After Duane, Brad, and Frank installed the base cabinets today, we realize that we need to change the color of the walls. Thankfully, this is not too big a problem, because we will just use a new color for the second coat. I brought home little samples of paint from Middleburgh Hardware and actually put several different color samples on the wall so we could be sure to get the right color this time. We have decided on flooring, and that has to be taken into consideration as well.

Pretty soon I will be posting photos of our new kitchen and walls, and then shortly after that, the floors! Oh, yes, and new light fixtures. Stay tuned.

I leave you with a link to an article on the New York Times website about the wonderful ministry at the Reformed Church in Schoharie. I have mentioned this in a previous post–they feed homeowners and volunteers every day despite the fact that their own building needs repair. The love and support shared among neighbors here is inspirational. It is because of this spirit that I know our town will one day be even better than it was before.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/11/dining/makeshift-cafe-sustains-storm-ravaged-schoharie-ny.html?_r=2&pagewanted=2&partner=rss&emc=rss

Movie Day

I am in Mississippi to take care of Robert (3) and Alex (2 in February) because their mommy–my sweet, strong, beautiful daughter-in-law Rashell–has just given birth to Benjamin William. There is so much I want to say at this time of year about how much I’ve learned about life and faith through these past few months, but I’ve said lots previously, and one never knows how long a little one’s naptime will last, so I will let this video do the talking for me today.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2nrgLOTkYKc&context=C3f77c05ADOEgsToPDskIfUEshR9CngtGKNOOcAfPB

This next link is the video that won a first prize in the Glee Give A note contest.

http://www.gleegiveanote.com/video_details.php?id=48&option=first_prize

And finally, a video clip from an Albany news report about our big win.

http://www.cbs6albany.com/video/c/1143371293/local-news/1332063573001/wrgb-localnews

In thanksgiving for the birth of God Incarnate, and His gracious provision, protection, and providence, I wish all a blessed Christmas season.

Very exciting news!

This is a quick entry. I will share a link to a website that gives more of the story.

Shortly after the flood, my friend and fellow music teacher Liz suggested that our school’s music program enter a video contest. I had received the same publicity email that she had received, but had dismissed it as something I would not be able to do since I was dealing with a flooded home.

When she read about the contest, she thought of how great it would be for our school’s music program to win one of the very generous cash prizes. She encouraged me to consider it, found some music that would be good to use, and told me she would do all the tech work, which is something I am not good at.

Others helped produce the video, and my students practiced a lot, and yesterday it was announced that we had won $25,000.  This is a great lesson in how we should be looking for opportunities to help turn a bad situation into a good one.  Thank you so much, Liz!

Here is a link to the announcement on our school’s website. There will be TV news coverage as well, and I will try to post links to those, too, if /when they become available.

http://www.middleburgh.k12.ny.us/News/2011_12/mcsgleewin1211.cfm

The school’s website also has older articles about the flood and recovery and lots of pictures.

Their Boss is a Jewish Carpenter

This is a tribute to Duane and Brad. Before August 28, we did not know either of them, nor they us. But a few days after the flood, Duane came to our house and introduced himself. He’s a retired contractor and wanted to help us rebuild. He heard about us through people at Calvary Orthodox Presbyterian Church,  where we have been worshiping since January. He attends a church in the same denomination in Amsterdam, NY, and he lives in Schoharie (on a big hill!). At first, he offered to store the wood floors and trim for us that needed to dry out and be reinstalled. After the clean-up  and gutting was finished, he and his friend Brad came every day to build. They adopted our house and showed up every day as though it was their job. But of course it wasn’t. Every morning Duane, Brad and Frank worked on the house then went to the Reformed Church in town for a hot meal. (Yes, people are still serving a hot meal for volunteers and homeowners every day.) Duane has rheumatoid arthritis, so they would then go home and rest. Brad traveled a great distance every day.

This is why I was able to see progress every day when I came home from school. On the few days when I did not have school and stayed home, I loved to work with Duane and Brad around. There lots of jokes and kidding–all good-natured– and the work was actually fun. I kept thinking about the bumper sticker, “My boss is a Jewish carpenter”. I didn’t hear Duane or Brad say much about their faith, but they were living it every day by giving freely and sacrificially of their time and talent to help us in our need.

They enlisted the help of others from their church. Bill was there almost every day, and his wife Marilyn, in her first year of retirement from teaching,was there from time to time. Alice loves demolition and is very good at cleaning up after the construction work. Marilyn and Alice would do nice things for the house for me, like leave a bouquet of flowers, or clean the windows, or clean the mud from a few stools and bring them inside so we could sit in the downstairs.

The team decided a few weeks ago to move on. There are so many people in need, and they have brought our house to the point where we have walls. There is just taping, painting, trim, and floors to go. And, well, a few other things. But every day I see places that have just been gutted, and some that look the same as they did after the flood. So the need in this area is still very great. They are now working on a house that was very near the water outside Middleburgh. The family had no one to help them at all.

When we tell our grandchildren about the flood, their names and selfless service will be part of the story. We will tell of the love and help from so many people in so many ways. God has used these people to give us hope and strength that was even more powerful than the raging waters that turned the things in our home upside down.

Happy Birthday, Frank!

Today is my husband’s birthday. I never know what to give him because he is usually interested in books, games, gadgets or recordings that I’ve never heard of. It’s impossible to surprise him with that perfect gift that he didn’t even know existed.  Many times he will buy himself things that he wants and then give them to me to wrap. And the whole problem is magnified when Christmas rolls around a few weeks later.

But this year I am keeping a blog! So I would like to take a moment and share a little about him, to honor him on his birthday.

Frank loves to laugh and loves to make other people laugh. His dad and brothers love puns and plays on words, and they have a stock of the old standards that get trotted out whenever there are family gatherings. For the first decade or so of our marriage, I would laugh at a joke even though I’d heard it several times, because I had not remembered the punch line.  I admire the creativity and wit  needed to think up such jokes, and I laugh every time. His ability to be lighthearted in these past three months has been a reminder that we only lost things, and what is most important in our lives is still with us.

He is a wonderful father. When the boys were babies, he was tender and caring, involved in every aspect of their care. He thought up fun songs to sing and games to play, and as they grew, there more games and songs. Family trips were full of improvised stories, listening to music, or making our own. And there were so many trips. Every year, in the days between Christmas and New Year’s Day, we would make the “Annual Christmas Tour”, visiting my family in South Jersey and his in Hanover, PA. He loves to plan trips, and he took us to places near and far, including England. Our first trip overseas was in 1994. We landed in Glasgow, got off the plane, rented a car, and then he drove it in a country where vehicles are supposed to keep to the left. He learned quickly, and I was once again reminded of what an intelligent adventurer I had married.

Now that he is a grandpa, it such a blessing to relive the days when our boys were little and to see our grandsons loving the same qualities in him that our kids did. He is always ready to play and he knows just the right combination of rough-housing and gentleness for each little boy.

Early in our marriage, he began calling me “Angel-Face”. At Christmas, he gives me angel ornaments, including some very exquisite ones made from Swarovski crystal. They were not broken in the flood, and have been cleaned and packed safely for when we decorate our new downstairs for Christmas next year. He has also given me many beautiful handmade things from his travels, most of which survived the flood intact. He is very good at buying me clothes. He loves to shop, and I hate it, so he does almost all of the Christmas shopping each year.  And the wrapping. He not only remembers every anniversary and birthday, but he looks forward to them, planning how we will celebrate.

During these past months, he has been such a loving husband, taking care of all the details of recovery while I have been overwhelmed with emotion and confusion. I cry and I yell and he takes it all in stride. He is usually in pain from the physical labor, but he never complains.

When I look back at what a silly and naive girl I was when we got married, I realize I did not know Frank very well. I was definitely in love with him, and still am, but I have spent the past 32 years trying to get to know him and love him for who he is, and not for what he can do for me. My prayer has been, and continues to be, that I can become the wife and friend that he needs me to be.

Happy Birthday, Hon!

Blessed Be Your Name

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=du0il6d-DAk

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s ‘all as it should be’
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

The lyrics above are from a praise song written by Matt Redman, with a link to a video with the music and lyrics. I first heard it when two friends sang it together in church a few years ago;  later, I added to my iPod. The words are based in Scripture, with the idea that we are to praise God in all things. I am reminded of this passage from Ephesians:

4 Rejoice in the Lord always ; again I will say, rejoice ! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Most mornings when I walk with Sandy, I listen to Christian praise songs. Whenever I would hear this song, I would think, “Well Lord, I am not in a desert place, and I am not walking through the wilderness. Thank you that my world is all as it should be.”  And I see now that God was preparing me for this time, when life is not so easy. He is teaching me to praise Him in all circumstances. This is a list of some of the things for which I thank Him.

1. Although it is difficult to thank God for the flood, I do thank Him for what I am learning and especially that I know He is close and that He is providing for us. And I know that I am most ready to learn from Him and walk closely with Him when I am in need.

2. I thank Him for my parents. We will be spending Thanksgiving with them for the first time in many years. I can’t say enough about what wonderful parents they have always been and continue to be. All the years of love, sacrifice, and hard work are beginning to take their toll; I hope to get the house back in order soon so I can spare more time away from home to visit with and help them.

3. I thank Him for my siblings and siblings-in-law. My sister and her husband came up from Maryland the weekend after the flood to help, and Frank’s brother Dan, his wife and one of their sons traveled from southern Pennsylvania that weekend as well. It was such a comfort to be with family at such a time, especially since we share the same faith and I know our family members are praying for us.

4. We have been embraced by a new church family that has been ministering to us in so many ways. God has used this denomination to send us financial help and volunteer workers from near and far.

5. All three of our sons are walking with the Lord and “all is as it should be” with their lives. When one of them is going through something difficult, I find myself wishing that I could take on that burden or trial instead of him. Well, now I am the one with the burden, and knowing that my kids are in a good place is one of the many things that helps to lighten the load. They have all been a tremendous comfort during this time to recovery, and have all helped with many aspects of clean-up and rebuilding.

6. We have new family members! It is almost the one-year anniversary of JJ and Kate’s wedding, and now they have added Noah to the Meredith clan. Christopher and Rashell have moved into a beautiful new home, Robert and Alex have a back yard to play in, and, Lord willing, Benjamin William will make an appearance around Christmas. Four grandsons in three years!

7. I am so grateful for my husband. He holds me when I cry, and he has taken on every task regarding finances and rebuilding. He is doing everything possible to take away stress and worry from me. He is usually exhausted and in pain, but keeps a sense of humor and a cheerful attitude.

8. The community I live in has been an incredible example of strength of character. I have written in past posts about the way people are working together and helping others. People are helping in so many ways: cleaning, demolishing, building, organizing, networking, cooking, serving, donating expertise, driving, loaning equipment, giving money, donating goods and services, and the list goes on. Needs are being matched with those who can help meet that need, and the result is beautiful.

9. I am thankful for my job and my students. These days I really need the paycheck, but I really love going to school everyday. My colleagues are very supportive, and I love spending time and making music with my students. Many of our students have suffered loss and are displaced; many helped to clean up the school after the flood. The school community is facing many challenges together.

10. I am thankful for the technology available to communicate and keep in touch with far away loved ones and to learn more about so many things. The internet and Face Book have been very valuable resources during the flood and recovery. I plan to write more about it in another post.

He said, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The LORD gave me what I had, and the LORD has taken it away. Praise the name of the LORD!” Job 1:21

It is true that God provided everything I owned and lost in the flood. As my pastor pointed out, I was going to lose those things at some point in time anyway. So, at Thanksgiving and every day, I will praise Him for who He is and that I belong to Him.

Eleven Eleven Eleven

 

Today is Veteran’s Day, so there was no school. A crew of ten from North Carolina has been in the area all week, and some of the members worked at our house Wednesday and today. You can see photos of them and the beautiful walls they have built. It is very exciting to not only have walls, but to see how the new floor plan is looking. There is an opening in the dining room and the kitchen that were not there before, and the doorway opening between the kitchen and the dining room is much bigger.  We are hoping the openness will seem more welcoming.

I had the opportunity to see what happens at my house most days when I am at school. Duane comes to the house every day and works all morning. Usually Brad is there as well. Some days Marilyn and Bill are there, too, or sometimes Bill comes while Marilyn is substitute teaching. Duane is a “retired” contractor, but he is at our house every day as though it is his job. We did not know him at all until a few days after the flood. He heard about us from friends at church, and offered to help us rebuild. He is literally a god-send. The others I mentioned, as well as Alice who has come to help many times, are all Christians who want to be used by the Lord in our time of need.

Another God-send is Joshua. He has a real heart for the poor, and left a very prestigious job and hefty salary to work with various groups who were administering micro-loans in desperately poor parts of the world. He grew up in Middleburgh, and was one of those kids who was good at everything, graduating first in his class, and giving one of the most memorable commencement speeches ever. In college, he went on trips with other students to New Orleans to help clean up after Hurricane Katrina. His brother got married on August 27th, so Josh was in town for the wedding. The next day, Irene hit. Josh has not left yet. Every day since the flood, Josh has been working to help gut houses that can be saved, and tearing down houses where needed. He coordinated and guided the teams of volunteers that came to help in the days after the flood. He has recruited people to help, and now is the go-to guy for those who need help, and those who want to help. He was one of the first to show up at our house after the flood, and we knew he had the expertise we desperately needed. He has checked in with us often, bringing information, application forms, coupons for food, and helpers. He even had a crew here last weekend to rake our leaves and plant grass seed. He has made it his business to find the people who had no family or resources and desperately needed help. He has brought help and hope to all of us who were devastated.

Every day there is a hot lunch for all volunteers and home owners in Schoharie served at the Reformed Church. This started as an outdoor operation in the days following the flood, and the meals continue each day indoors. I was moved to tears when I realized that the church building and parish house next door were flooded and are in need of repair. The husband and wife team who pastor the church live in the village, and their home was flooded. And yet, they are serving others every day. The same can be said of the Presbyterian Church in town. That congregation is housing an emergency food pantry in their gutted sanctuary.

The beauty of  this love being shown is so overwhelming. I cry frequently in these weeks after the flood, but more often than not, it is when I realize that God has moved so many people to help us in so many ways. It might seem odd for someone whose home and neighborhood has been flooded to say this, but I am so blessed.

A Few Words from Frank

I am sharing something that my husband Frank posted on his Face Book page. You can see how different we are; I write about my thoughts and feelings, and he posts statistics! But we are going through this season together, and we are each joyful and thankful in our own ways.

75 days after the flood, rebuilding progress report:

Thanks primarily to 1,400+ hours of volunteer labor:

Siding 98% done
Insulation 95% done
Electrical 98% done
Water 98% done
Heat in two bedrooms & bathroom, (two zones still to be installed)
Drywall 40% done
Spackling 5% done
Floor done in new utility room
New dog den created under the front stairs
Outside lighting done
Side yard raked & reseeded

Next week the Amish cabinet maker we hired begins work on our new cabinets and newly created breakfast nook’s table, bench, & chairs.

And I survived doing most of the rewiring: I only made sparks fly four times and got zapped just once (trusted someone else’s wiring on a switch and got lit up pretty good.)

We continue to be blessed with the most wonderful volunteers! Four of them are “retired” (and 3 of them drive 30 minutes to get here every weekday.) They have come from as far as NC, NH, MI, CT, NJ, PA, MD, KS, and MS. They have been family & friends, members of churches (including the Amish community), schools, organizations, and even a stranger just driving past who stopped to lend a hand. They have been as young as 3 (thanks, Jake!) and “as old as the hills.” (No names mentioned here.) They have come for an hour, for a day, for a week, or — in the case of Duane and Brad — been here nearly every weekday since this all began.

Everywhere I look I remember specific people doing specific jobs to get us to this point. (Including the mucked out basement!) I remember how things looked at their worst and marvel at each day’s progress accomplished literally behind my back as I concentrated on wiring and plumbing. The house will look better than EVER.

May God bless you all even more richly than you have blessed us!

Walls!

We have walls! The wooden frame is dry enough, the wiring is in, and the insulation is installed. So now, it’s time for sheet-rock! I have included some photos of the walls in the living room and dining room. We have purchases two lamps that are similar, but not identical. The larger one will be in the dining room and the smaller one in the music room, which is adjacent. Then we saw an area rug online that looked like it would go well. So, we have moved to the decorating stage of this project.

This past Monday, Halloween, was my birthday. Our youngest son Nathan had been in Mexico, and returned that day. So we picked him up at the airport and brought him to JJ and Kate’s apartment to meet Noah for the first time. We ordered take out food from a recently re-opened restaurant in Middleburgh, and had a wonderful meal together. Through the miracle of modern technology, we were able to see Christopher, Rashell, and their two sweet boys, Robert and Alex using Skype. Nathan gave me a beautiful hand-made ceramic platter from Mexico, and JJ and Kate gave me a new bird feeder, seed, and a pole to hang it on in my garden. I have included a photo of that, too.

My cardinal has been coming to eat, even though the shrubs have been pulled up. I am delighted when he visits. Sandy and I have begun walking around the neighborhood again. Most of the debris is gone now, although we have to avoid the occasional broken shards of glass. We walk early in the morning when it’s still dark, so I don’t see all of the remaining flood destruction. So some more normalcy is returning to our lives.