We just entered my favorite month of the year and my favorite liturgical season, all in one day. My joy at the arrival of Advent doesn’t prevent me from wondering where this year went, though.
November seems to have flown by – like every other month this year. And my good intentions about blogging about each fun event in November has turned into this single “November in review” post. I suppose it’s for the best… a review is probably enough for all of you.
No, that’s not Kenny Chesney. I’ll give you a hint — that’s the periodic table of elements behind him. Yes, it’s Alton Brown, and if you have the chance to see him live, do not hesitate. Go. You might think, “What happens when a chef goes on tour?” That was my thought, too. But since Alton is awesome, I knew it would be worth every penny. And it was. He was better than any comedian, sang hilarious songs, and made chocolate ice cream in ten seconds. Oh, and baked pizza in a 54,000 watt “mega bake” oven he created with rock star stage lights. It was fun to see a lot of the Good Eats crew join him for the road show, too.
Go to the Inevitable Edible Tour if it comes near you. You won’t regret it. (Unless you have no idea who Alton Brown is. If that’s the case, I feel bad for you.)
We started teaching in Kentucky this fall, and the second weekend in November found me up in Lexington. They are blessed with a fantastic bishop, and it was a joy to have dinner with him the night before we taught. It was a great turnout — about 300 catechists — and I’m always humbled at the response we get when we teach.
That same weekend, I took advantage of the quickly-escaping nice weather and went on a hike with friends. The color was gone (it never lasts long enough!) but the hike was still beautiful. I almost thought I was back in Virginia.
Montgomery Bell blasted a tunnel into the ridge here, where the Harpeth River makes a horseshoe, and directed the river through it to power his iron mills. Only the tunnel still exists, and now the property (where Bell once lived) is a state park.
Earlier in the month, one of the cellists from the Symphony, Xiao-Fan Zhang, told me about a free event hosted at the symphony house bimonthly. It is sponsored by U.S. Trust and involves a small audience, free wine, and a concert on the stage of one of the most beautiful symphony houses in the country. (I’m a little biased.)
My friend Molly and I headed out for the night, not really sure what to expect. When we arrived, all the doors of the hall were locked– but we were pointed toward the side stage door, where a symphony volunteer found our names on the exclusive list and then waved us through the back hallways of the symphony house. The same chairs that the symphony members sit in to perform were arranged on the stage for us. There was wine, water, and soft drinks, and the musicians were mingling before settling down and welcoming us.
We were facing out into the symphony hall, which looked surprisingly smaller from that vantage point. The instrument of the evening was the cello. Xiao-Fan explained a little bit about the instrument before playing one of the most gorgeous pieces ever composed for the cello, Bach’s Suite No. 1 (just the Prelude). Molly and I were in heaven.
A second cellist, Bradley Mansell joined Xiao-Fan for the second piece – Sonata in C Major for two Cellos by Boccherini. Then he jumped on the piano and two more cellists joined the crew for Popper’s Requiem for Three Cellos and Piano (you can click that youtube video, but live it was ten times better. I think it’s better heard close up, if that makes any sense). Besides the Bach, this piece was my favorite. Before each piece, they took the time to explain about the piece, introduce the composer, etc. They finished with a collection of shorter pieces – Sarabande by Bach, Oblivion by Piazzola, and just for fun, Yesterday by the Beatles, and the Pizzicato Polka by Strauss.
We were able to take in the beauty of the music and the symphony hall — all for free!
The next weekend found me in Chattanooga, where I not only taught school teachers on Friday and parish catechists on Saturday, but also enjoyed the plush amenities of a beautiful new Embassy Suites hotel (hello, fantastic breakfast and comfortable bed) and was entertained by my cousin and her hilarious children.
As the month neared its end, my fun was far from over. The week after the Chattanooga trip was full of wedding fun — remember my dear friend Lori? She tied the knot on the feast of St Cecilia with her handsome beau Billy. That meant a bachelorette party, a wedding rehearsal and rehearsal dinner at a landmark of Southern-dining, Monell’s, before the actual event on Friday.
Selfies before dancing at the Wildhorse
The wedding was absolutely beautiful. When you witness the marriage of two people living the Gospel, already pursuing holiness together and now embracing the vocation in purity and true love, it makes the ceremony radiate in ways flowers and beautiful music can’t even touch. Marriage should reflect the love of Christ for His Church, and Lori and Billy’s wedding did exactly that.
I love the picture below so much. Billy was standing in the church a good fifteen minutes before the Mass, and you could tell he was ready to get married! I think the picture begins to capture that joy.
The reception so fun I don’t have many pictures from it. But trust me — it was so much fun I stayed out much later than I should have, considering I had to teach the next day…
The month ended with me taking a whole week off and heading out to see my sister and brother-in-law. It’s my tradition to head out to Jill’s for Thanksgiving — I think I’ve done it for at least the last five years. But this Thanksgiving was extra special, since my nephew John Paul came home after 20 days in the hospital. It was a gift from God to be present at his homecoming — I don’t know if I’ve witnessed as much joy as I did that night when his four brothers and dad welcomed him home.
All of the boys have fantastic little personalities, each quite distinct. I’ll let my sister’s blog document all of that, except for two stories. 1) Sammy occasionally wouldn’t let me leave his bedroom– to the point of standing in front of his closed door so I couldn’t open it and begging, “Stay here!” I think if he would have done that the day I left, I would have moved into his room for good. 2) One of my favorite moments of the week (other than John Paul’s homecoming!) was when all four boys and I were crammed inside the little tent in Sammy’s room (the tent is no bigger than 3′ in diameter). I don’t remember how we all ended up there — it was late in the evening and we were all a little loopy — and I suggested we sing a song. Sammy burst out into the theme song for his latest favorite Thomas the Tank Engine episode, “Day of the Diesels,” and the other boys joined in at the top of their lungs. We were all sitting on top of each other, crammed in that little tent, and enjoying each other’s craziness. And I was thoroughly enjoying being the greatest aunt of the moment.
November – another good month.