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.

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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

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.

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.

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:

http://www.gleegiveanote.com/home.html

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.