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.


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.

Monday, September 27th Update

Instead of an entry on one topic, I am going to give a few shorter updates in this one.

This is a link to a performance from the Cabaret Concert this past Saturday night. It was a wonderful concert  given by very talented theater musicians, most of whom are friends with our family because we have all been involved with many shows, either as pit musicians, directors, or on-stage performers. There were many light, humorous songs and moments, but this one was very touching. JJ thought he was singing about the many people who have come to the aid of his family and other flood victims, but he doesn’t realize what a source of comfort and strength he has been to his dad and me since the flood. When I see the loving and sensitive man he has become despite the imperfections of his parents, I know God has answered our prayers for him. He also answered prayer by giving him Kate to be his wife. Any day now, we will be meeting their son–her due date is October 8th! He sang and played his own improvised version–I hope it blesses you, too.

Nathan played piano for most of the other performers. There was so much music to learn in such a short amount of time, and most of it was extremely difficult to play. I have mentioned before that I am both envious and humbled by his ability to play so well. He, too, has been such a blessing to us at this time, taking time from work to come help at the house, and meeting us for dinner in the city.

I am sharing some photos of the side of our house where my garden is/was. I took the first photo a day or two after the flood because it so clearly shows the high water mark. I took the second photo after the tan vinyl siding was removed, the chimney was taken down and shrubs pulled out of the front.  The third is a photo of the house at present, almost ready for the new blue siding.

I have to pull up some of the plants that are left in my flower garden to make way for the new gas tanks. This is like the outdoor version of the demolition of my house.

In the summer, I love to spend time “playing in the dirt”. It began many years ago with a few plants. I realized that growing flowers was very satisfying for me. Over the years, I have killed portions of the lawn to make room for more flower beds. I know my garden would never win any awards, and that I probably don’t do things “correctly” according to experts, but I love to putter around planting, weeding, transplanting, adding compost, pruning, and just hanging out with the flowers. I ponder the lessons we can learn about life by observing the flowers, and the realize that is why Jesus gave us so many parables about seeds and plants. Even though I have mostly perennials, each year is different depending on the weather. The soil around my house is not great, and due to the placement of the house in relation to the sun and a few large trees, most of the flower beds don’t get much sun. But I have learned to use containers and move them to where the plants are happiest. I also have a few houseplants that I put outside in the summer.

As you can imagine, after Irene, there is not much left of my garden. The force of the water and the mud it left behind have trampled the plants in my garden and almost all of the farmers’ crops in the Schoharie Valley. I know that some will grow back. The gladiolus that I planted in the spring are blooming, but they are all disheveled and look pitiful scattered among the mud-covered plants; the colorful blooms seem a feeble attempt to cheer the gloomy landscape. So much heavy muck and mud had to be shoveled out of the basement and garage, and it had to be dumped in the flower beds. Gravel, too. Most of the big planters that had flowers are entirely washed away, although the pot with my new blueberry plant landed closer to the house in the opposite direction of the flow of water, and my new strawberry planter was unmoved. A big empty half barrel landed in my yard where another planter had been, so it looks like it belongs there. The biggest loss was the palm tree that we have had since it was about eight inches high in a terrarium we received as a wedding gift from a college friend. In 32 years it had grown to be as tall as me.

I had some bird feeders in the garden right in front of the dining room window so I could see them in the morning. For years, I wished for cardinals to come to my yard. I thought it would be so wonderful to see the brilliant red against the white snow, like a warm fireplace against the cold. This past year, for the first time, I finally had the right feeder and seed to attract a pair of cardinals. It was ridiculous how happy I was to see them. This spring, a cute chipmunk figured out how to get up to that feeder, and he would fill his fat cheeks with the seed. He was so cute that I didn’t mind his pilfering, and our lab Sandy loved to track him and sometimes even found him.

In the middle of August, I took some photos of the flowers, figuring I would enjoy looking at them in January and February, when winter is really tough. The pictures would remind me that spring would come again. I will share a few of them here, in memory of my flower garden, and in hope that beauty will return to my yard and to the valley.

Something new!

I am able to report that something new is being built in my house! There has been so much destruction and demolition, first by Irene,and then by people who knew it had to be done in order to rebuild. Usually when the breaking down of walls and ceilings is being done, I go to the garage and try to keep busy. It is heart-breaking to see my house being destroyed, even when it is parts  like ceilings and lathe that I have never seen before. But for the past few days, when I come home from school, I have seen the beginning of the rebuilding process.

The first room being built is the new utility room. From now on, our furnace and hot water heater will be on the first floor instead of in the basement. And we are switching from oil heat to gas, so we don’t have to worry about the oil tank in the basement. Also, our washer and dryer will be in the utility room, so we can use the space that was our laundry room to add on to the kitchen.

Lots of prep work is going on, too. New appliances have been ordered so that we can take advantage of a rebate program in NY State for recent flood victims. Our friends Chris and Matt brought scaffolding over today to get ready for the big day when a group of Amish brothers will come and install new vinyl siding. The Lord is providing so much help in the form of gifts of food, funds, and building help and advice. We are so thankful.

New floor

My plan or Thy plan?

We had a plan. It sounded really great to us. This past spring, my prayers sounded something like this:
Dear God,
Please give Christopher a great job offer in June or July. He now has a job, but it is only for a year, and he started last September. So, if he gets a new job lined up, then he can give notice at his present job, and he, his wonderful wife Rashell, and their two little boys Robert and Alex can all come up to the Northeast and visit family at the end of August. Thanks and Amen.
Well, God did not make it happen. All summer, Christopher was job-hunting. Several companies were interested in him, but no offers were forthcoming. He even got to the point where he began making plans to start his own business. I worried about his finances, and his emotions, and whether we were going to have the family together this summer. I kept asking God to make this plan happen. Why wouldn’t He want our family to be together?! Why wouldn’t He want Christopher to get a job?! And yet, every time I asked God these things, I knew He was saying, “Betsy, I can see what’s ahead and you can’t. You will see why I am saying ‘no’.”
Finally, around the middle of August, Frank and I made plans to fly to see the Mississippi branch of the Meredith family. JJ and his wife Kate decided not fly as she was in her third trimester of pregnancy; Nathan could not take time away from work at their busiest time of year. But at least we would get to see our grandsons and their parents.
We traveled on Wednesday, August 24th. Christopher picked us up at the airport and told us that he had a job interview for the next day. During the next few days, it became apparent that Irene was going to cause quite a bit of trouble in the Northeast. My parents have a house at the Jersey shore, as well as one closer to Philadelphia. My brother and his family live on the other side of Philadelphia; my sister’s family lives in Maryland. All seemed to be in jeopardy based on the meteorologists’ predictions. Ironically, Frank and I were safe in Mississippi from the threat of hurricane.
We anxiously watched weather reports, consulted the internet, and touched base with loved ones. Sunday morning, as church service was ending, I began receiving text messages that flood warnings were being issued in the Schoharie Valley. As JJ and Kate were heading to higher ground, a friend texted me suggesting that JJ go to my house to put valuables upstairs. I told her that their safety was more important. Of course, she agreed. Kate asked me to have the people at church pray, and I asked several to do just that.
All afternoon, we used smart phones and computers to keep in touch with those in the Schoharie Valley. It was sounding very serious, like the historic flood of 1996. In that flood, we were evacuated, but our home was not damaged.
Sometime during that afternoon, I realized why God had not agreed to our plan. I know He was keeping Christopher’s family safe, as well as Frank and me. He was sheltering us from fear and danger.
In the days following the flood, when someone expresses surprise that we are not depressed, we can tell them that it was only things that we lost. We are so grateful that our kids and grandkids were unharmed, and we know that this flood did not take God by surprise. He is still on His throne, and He is also the Shepherd that will lead us through this time of loss and confusion.
Oh, and by the way, Christopher got TWO job offers in the two days following Irene, and has happily begun his new job.
Yes, He is still on the throne, and I hope I have learned to stop trying to push Him off of it to make room for me.

All because two people fell in love

To begin this blog, a bit of background information is in order. Frank Meredith and Betsy Hurd met in a Concert Band rehearsal at Ithaca College in September of 1977. The music school was buzzing about the new euphonium player of amazing talent and skill, but no one had told me how handsome he was! He noticed that I was staring at him, our eyes met, and the rest, as they say, is history. We were married on June 30, 1979, and Christopher was born in December of 1981. I longed for a house, so we did some shopping and one fit our budget: 124 Grand Street in Schoharie. (The number is now 146 but it’s the same house.) It was very close to Schoharie Central School, where Frank was a music teacher at the time. It needed lots of updating, but the plan was to do that room by room in the upstairs. In August of 1983, Jonathan was born, and in 1987, Nathan made our family complete. The house was not fancy, and I am not the best of housekeepers, but over the years, we have eaten dinners together, hosted gatherings of friends, played piano and various band instruments, sang, celebrated birthdays, loved our dog Honey and cat Hot Dog, did our homework, prayed, played whiffle ball in yard, and in general, raised our family in that house.
Sending each of them off to college was wrenching, and adjusting to the empty nest was tough, but Frank and I had settled into a pleasant routine. In October of 2008, we became grandparents, and a brand new chapter of our lives began. I once again longed for a house. This time, it was MY house, but neater, less cluttered, and better suited for grandkids and their parents to stay and play.
So, be careful what you wish for. On August 28, Hurricane Irene caused the flood waters to rise so high that the Schoharie Creek sent rushing muddy water through the basement, garage, and first floor of our home. In the days that followed, I experienced heartache, but also real joy and thankfulness to God for preparing me for this event, and providing for us in the aftermath.
Needless to say, we now have a major remodeling project on our hands. This blog will be good therapy for me, a way to tell others about His goodness to us, and a format for others to share in the rebuilding process with us.