A Tale of Two Corkscrews

I am well aware that wine is not the normal drink of choice at a poker game.  But that night, that’s what I wanted, so I brought some with me.  Unfortunately, the host did not own a corkscrew, so my desire was left unfulfilled.

The same thing could have happened on my first night in Quebec.  Just before our arrival, my friend and I stopped at a gas station where I was surprised to see a lovely selection of wine including my favorite: Montepulciano.  I bought a bottle for our host (well, for me, but you know what I mean).  That evening, we brought the bottle out to the patio to have with dinner.  He looked at it and confessed that he did not own a corkscrew, but then mumbled something and went back into the house.  He returned with a power drill, a screw and a hammer.  He drilled the screw into the cork, then, as if pulling a nail out of a wall, he used the hammer as leverage and popped the cork.  My friend and I stared in amazement.

Three days and plenty of sight-seeing later, this is still my favorite moment of the entire trip.  It sums up what life is about in a way: you can either say it can’t be done, or you can instead figure out how to accomplish it:)

On Planning – Or Letting Someone Else Plan

I knew he was planning to join me in Quebec City in August, so I felt bad that I had yet to find a place, or even settle on dates.  “Why don’t you ask him to plan the trip?” asked my mother.  I had my reasons, but at this point it was time to let them go.  So I picked some dates and left him a message: These are the dates I’m thinking.  Let me know if they work for you.  And I’m having trouble finding just the right place, so that’s why I haven’t called you about this in a while.

He IM’d me a few hours later.  The dates worked for him.  I then explained my trouble finding a place to stay that met my criteria.  I want a place where I can cook.  I want to be able to go to the local farm market, bring home my wares and cook up something for myself.

Now I must explain that this is the guy who has sent me a few links in the past couple months with things to do up there and places to stay.  So I write “This is the part where you look on Google for three seconds and come up with the perfect place.”  And a few seconds later, there’s a link.  “Try this,” he says.  It looks like a house you’d find in suburban America, so I tell him I forgot to mention my other criterion: I also want someplace right in the old part of the city – or very close to it.

In no time flat, he sends another link.  And it’s perfect.  Someone’s apartment, beautifully appointed, a short walk from the old part of town.  “All your requirements and affordable,” he writes.  “And you’ll contact the owners to find out if it’s free?” I ask.  “I’d be delighted,” he writes.  Delighted.  That’s right.  Not just “sure,” but “delighted.”

Then I get a little nervous and say, “Wait – how long are you planning on coming?”  Because I was thinking I wanted some alone time to explore, but I don’t tell him this.  He responds with, “Whatever you’d prefer.”  That he would love to come the whole time, “but if you’re looking for some alone time, that’s cool, too.”  This is the point where you’re going to wonder why I don’t marry this man.  You would not be the first person to ask me this question – by a long shot.  But that’s nothing I’m going to get into here.

Here’s the thing: because the life I choose to lead requires a bit of planning, people think I like to plan.  They would be wrong.  I plan because I’m all I’ve got – if I don’t do it, it doesn’t get done.  But there is nothing more I would love than for someone else to say, “I’m thinking of going here on these dates – are you free?”  And then they take the reins and plan the trip.  All I have to do is show up.

And that’s the very reason this trip is going to happen.  I admitted my frustration and put out there the idea of someone else taking over part of the planning.  And it worked!  So now let’s just hope this little apartment is free on the dates we want to do….though if it’s not, I’m sure he’ll have no trouble finding another:)

The Story of our Lives

“If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn’t cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers.  You wouldn’t tell your friends you saw  a beautiful movie or go home and put a record on to think about the story you’d seen.  The truth is, you wouldn’t remember that movie a week later, except you’d feel robbed and want your money back.  Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo.

But we spend years actually living those stories, and expect our lives to feel meaningful.  The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won’t make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either.  Here’s what I mean by that:”

So starts Donald Miller’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, the book that took up a good portion of my Monday, and another example of God sending me messages.  My story is getting a little predictable and I don’t like it.  No, it doesn’t have to be movie quality.  But I love stories – reading them, writing them, living them.  I have been known to respond to the question of, “What did you like about (insert name of an ex-boyfriend)” with “We had such a good story of how we met.”

My new chapter is taking shape.  Simple Abundance today talked about writing the outline before the chapter – about how we do that with our lives as well.  But the outline might just be in our heads for a while.  That’s where my outline lives right now.  Here’s what I’ve got so far: living someplace else for a month this summer.  Quebec City, actually.  In a very simple apartment.

My vision for this apartment comes from one I house sat in Washington, D.C.  The woman was my boss at the time – though I hate using that word – doesn’t ‘boss’ sound so mean?  Probably because I relate it to the word ‘bossy’.  This woman was nothing like that.  She was the kind that, when you walked into her office, you felt like the only other person on her planet.  And when you walked out, you felt like you’d just had the best therapy session ever – even if you’d only spent two minutes in there.  She could see right into my heart, it seemed.  She would ask a question that would stop me in my tracks – make me see something in a way I’d never thought.

It also turns out she was a former nun.  And her husband a former brother or priest or something.  This is the second couple like this that I’ve met in my lifetime.  And I hear there are lots of them out there.  Anyway, I could see it in her – the calmness, the simplicity.  In fact, this is one of the things that prompted me to look into becoming a sister at one point – this lifestyle in which you are quite busy, but still in such a calming space; you’re grounded in something or someone that gives you this peace.

A large part of this feeling comes from how these women live.  I have come a long way since Catholic elementary school, when the nuns lived in a building in the back that none of us ever saw.  It was a great mystery to me – what did the house of a nun look like?  Well, I’ve been in the homes of many sisters since then.  They live in apartments and houses like everyone else – from the outside.  But when I walk in, they all give me that same sense of peace and stillness.  There is usually a simplicity in their decor: not crowded, but filled with just enough.  And each piece on the walls has a story – of one of the sisters former assignments, or a place she’s visited.  Never would the response to, “Wow – that’s beautiful – where did you get it?” be “TJ Maxx” in these womens homes.

I can’t say it’s easy to find a place to rent in Quebec City for a month.  There are a few ads on craigslist, but in the pictures they all seem too stuffed with furniture.  I want to be in a place that has space – space for me to think, literally and figuratively.  So then I thought about living in a convent or monastery for a month.  This is very common in Europe.  The sisters (and brothers and priests) rent out rooms and provide some food as well.  Imagine waking up to monks chanting…now there’s a story!  And of course, the rooms are simple.  This is what I love about going on retreats.  You get a room with a bed and a desk – because that’s all you need.  A couple hooks to hang some clothes.  Perhaps a sink and mirror.  And I love those rooms.

So if anyone has suggestions, let me know.  And I’ll surely keep you posted.