Lookout Mountain and Stress Relief

Every fall and spring, my work takes me around the state of Tennessee.  I teach parish volunteers on Saturdays and travel to them — which means 7 weeks of the fall (8 this fall) and 7 weeks of the spring, my Saturday is spent inside working.  Luckily I love teaching, I love what I teach, and it’s all worth it in the end.  I did have a moment of crisis last Saturday when I reflected on the fact that I haven’t had a free Saturday in October or November for the last four years and won’t have a free one for the foreseeable future.   But I try not to think about it.

This past weekend, in addition to teaching on Saturday, we also were sticking around to teach school teachers on Monday.  Luckily, we were teaching in a city where I have a friend who lives on a mountain nearby.  (My cousin also lives there, but I heard through the grapevine that she wasn’t in the city — so next time, T!)  So the weekend turned into a nice little getaway — Friday night was spent hanging out with Barbara and her husband Steve and a local priest, eating good food and drinking homemade brew.  Saturday was spent teaching, but the evening was filled with more eating good food, drinking wine, and sitting on their beautiful back porch around a fire pit, eating s’mores.  (That’s their front yard, above– so you can see I wasn’t suffering much)

On Sunday, after Mass, RCIA class, and brunch, Steve took me on a tour of Lookout Mountain.  We went on a little walk to their church (where we had left his car to go to brunch) then tooled around Lookout Mountain in his Lexus convertible with the top down.  It was a gorgeous day and Lookout Mountain is filled with stunning views and beautiful houses.  Not all the houses are huge (although there are those), but all of them are unique and well-loved.  Around every corner, there was yet another house with some great feature, whether it was big bay windows, an arch, or even a bell tower– that made me gasp and say, “I want to live THERE!”

Steve does some Civil War reenacting, so he took me to Point Park to show me around.  It was a great personal tour — and he didn’t even know how much of a Civil War buff I am!

They always take pictures of their friends by this cannon — so I had to pose for the obligatory photo.  When we got to the cannon, a young couple was taking turns taking pictures of each other, so Steve kindly asked if they wanted him to take a picture of both of them.  Now, Steve is a bit of a Renaissance man — he’s a photographer on the side, and a darn good one.  So I almost lost it laughing when the girl showed him how to take a picture with her iPhone.  But he was very kind and listened to her lesson.  And then proceeded to take the best photo that’s probably ever been taken with her phone.

Over the course of the weekend, he taught me lots of cool tricks — like how to use the HDR feature on my iPhone so that the city showed up in the picture above.  Pretty cool.

He also showed me the best photo editing apps to purchase.  In the picture below, there used to be a big white warehouse building in the valley below.  Not anymore!  Poof! 

The rocks up at Point Park were so cool.  We saw them in real life, and then we went to the museum and saw the photos of the Union soldiers posing on the rocks after the battle.  A photographer took their pictures up on the mountain, on this awesome rock outcropping, and then he developed the pictures right there!  Steve has been out on the outcropping while reenacting and said you can still see where he mounted his tripod.  Pretty awesome.

Sunday night we … guess what?  Ate good food and drank wine.  And another priest came for dinner!  We watched the sunset from the back porch.
I could get used to this life.  Did I mention that Barbara made me breakfast every morning?  Even when I had to leave at 6:30 am to go teach.

That’s love.

Speaking of love, this guy can’t get enough of it.  Meet Huck:

So all in all… a great weekend.  It was definitely what I needed during this stressful time at work.  In addition to the busyness of work, I’m also teaching twice a week in the evenings… which means a lot of lesson prep the evenings I’m not teaching.  And guess what?  Starting next week, I’m teaching a study on the Vatican II documents on Monday nights.  All of this translates into: Until Thanksgiving, I’m teaching every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.  Each day/night something different.

 After Thanksgiving, it will just be Tuesday and Thursdays.  And I’ll feel like I have tons of time on my hands.

I really wanted to teach more.  And God answered that prayer!

Last week, despite the stress — or maybe because of it? — I went to a Carbon Leaf concert with my friend Manda.  (Don’t tell my Mom. Maybe she won’t read this far down? Haha.)

Manda was a good sport, because it was a late night.  And we both had to work the next day.  We skipped the opening bands and went over there at 9:30 (after I taught.  Hey, you only live once!) and walked into a basically-empty concert venue.  We counted 30 people there!  Eeek!

More people came, but it was still pretty sparse.  It was a week night, after all, and they had scheduled the concert at the last minute.  But it ended up being a great concert — the guys didn’t hold back, despite the small crowd, and it was practically a private show.  We were in the “front row” since no one was standing in front of us, and at one point the lead singer (Barry) and Manda were having a conversation back and forth with eye contact and body language.  The whole thing was really hilarious.  In between songs, Barry would just talk to us.  And we would talk back.  It was great.

After they played their last song, Barry came down off the stage and motioned for the other guys to bring instruments and join him — and they stood right there and sang another song — no microphones, a foot away from us. And when they were done, they just started mingling and we hung out for awhile.  It was so laid back and awesome.

And guess what?  The next day I didn’t regret it for a minute.  Yeah, I was tired.  But I wasn’t stressed and I wasn’t moody.  Because good music, good friends, and an evening where you can let go of the fifty things that are usually occupying your mind is exactly what you need when you’re burning the candle at both ends.

The end.

Al Smith Dinner

Say what you what about the invite… you should watch this.  Because it’s darn funny.

(Did Dennis Miller write his speech?)

He was also serious and poignant at the end, thanking the Church for her work in service to the poor, the sick, and the unborn.  It was a great balance to the wit (and the slams on Obama).

Threads

The past few days, I’ve thought a lot about the whole threads vs tapestry image. You have probably heard the metaphor — that our lives are like threads in a big tapestry that God is weaving. We can only see a part of the picture, but He can see the whole thing. So whenever something happens that doesn’t make sense or seems unfair, we have to remember that we can’t know why everything happens. Every once and awhile, God may give us a glimpse of the bigger picture, so we can keep our thread in perspective.

Tuesday was the first anniversary of my good friends coming into the Church. That evening, they welcomed their first child into the world. God has a beautiful tapestry.

Today opens the Year of Faith, in which we’ll be spending the next year growing in faith, nourishing our faith, spreading our faith, and professing our faith. The Year begins today because it is the 50th Anniversary of the Opening of the Second Vatican Council (and thus also Blessed John XXIII’s feast day). One of the reasons that John XXIII chose today to open the Council was to place it under the intercession of our Blessed Mother, because today is the feast of the Maternity of Mary, to remind us that she was the Mother of God. Pius XI in 1931 instituted the feast to commemorate the 1,500 year anniversary of the Council of Ephesus, which gloriously proclaimed Mary as Mother of God.

For the next ten weeks, I’ll be teaching Church History to the men in formation for permanent diaconate. Among tonight’s topics? The Council of Nicaea, which gave us the Creed which forms the central focus of this Year of Faith, and the Council of Ephesus.

I love the way God works. I love that He always knew this is how it would work out.

I love His tapestry. Several years ago, I thought it was His Will that I return to school so I could eventually teach in a seminary, forming the men that lead our Church. That wasn’t His Will. And yet, here I am, two years later- instead of working on grad school applications, I’m teaching men who will be deacons in our Church.

May this Year be a fruitful one for all of us. May we have the strength to fight to good fight of faith. May we have the courage to spread the faith. And may it be slightly less eventful than the last Year of Faith. 1967-68. Think RFK, MLK, race riots, Vietnam…. Yes, let’s pray for a less eventful year.

But regardless of what happens, we’ll only see threads. He will know the whole picture.

Prayers for Paul

I’m really sad to miss tonight’s debate — and the Twitter activity from my family and friends.

I’ll definitely watch it On Demand later.  Because who are we kidding-  this guy could talk about Medicare all night and I’d listen.

Happy Year of Faith everyone — more about that later.  (It deserves its own post.)