Walking in circles.

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We were lucky to have houseguests this week—family members who live much too far away, whom we don’t see nearly often enough. On Tuesday, we all piled the kids in the minivan and went exploring.

There’s a labyrinth nearby that I’ve been wanting to explore for ages, and one of our guests is a contemplative type (takes one to know one). He spent a few years living in a cabin he built in the woods; he even contemplated pursuing the monastic life. I thought the labyrinth would be up his alley, but if I was wrong, at least it was near a beautiful park we wanted to visit anyway.

Life in the maze | Modern Mrs Darcy

The labyrinth is on the grounds of a local school. Even though we were staring at the map, it took us a while to actually find it. I was looking for something stately, something striking. I was disappointed at first when I realized it was just a circle of bricks in the grass. I might have missed it entirely were it not for the simple park benches bordering it.

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A labyrinth is an old tool for meditation and spiritual growth. The visitor begins outside the circle and simply follows the path as it slowly twists and turns its way to the center. There is no right or wrong way to do it.

The grown-ups gave the kids directions before we got started: Think about something that makes you happy. (Parties! Legos! Babies!) Think about something that makes you feel peaceful. And should you pass someone else as you walk, give them a big high five.

I’d never walked a labyrinth before, not here or anywhere else. But since I’d thought about coming to this place for a long time, I had expectations: it would be contemplative. It would be sacred. It would be quiet.

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I got two out of three, because I’d never imagined coming with four kids.

The lush green grass felt good on our feet, prompting some of us to kick our shoes off into the center. And then we marched into the labyrinth single-file.

As we began to wind our way through the labyrinth’s eleven concentric circles, we started to spread out. And as we spread out, our paths started crossing. Well, not crossing, exactly, because everyone walks the same path. But sometimes, when we’d be pass each other on two neighboring circles, we’d high five. Or we’d find ourselves walking in the same direction on neighboring circles, and we’d hold hands for twenty feet. Or we’d be two circles apart—not quite close enough to touch—so we’d blow kisses.

We giggled—a lot. I don’t know if that labyrinth has ever seen so much giggling.

Labyrinths have a way of spurring reflection, even if you do have four crazy kids in tow. My mind filled up with metaphors as I walked, made more poignant because I was walking with family—with my dear family members who now live so terribly far away, with my dear children I share a home with, for now, but who change and evolve and grow more every year.

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As we walked—and giggled—those concentric circles carried us far away from each other and then pulled us back together. Sometimes our paths crossed just long enough to high five; sometimes our paths ran together for a stretch; sometimes we literally couldn’t be farther apart.

If you stumbled upon us, not knowing about the form of the labyrinth, you might not have realized that we were all on the same path, headed to the same destination. In our own way, in our own time.

But oh, how we high-fived and fist-bumped and giggled when those paths crossed.

Do you ever feel like you’re walking in circles, maybe in more ways than one?

Making It Yours.

Making it Yours | Modern Mrs Darcy

This post originally ran in June 2013. This week, my family has been at the beach—at OUR beach. Same town, same place we always come to, the one that features prominently in my kids’ memories now, and will for years to come. This post has been on my mind all week, so I’m sharing it again here today. Thanks for reading. 

I’ve been thinking about falling in love. Or maybe I should say, choosing to love.

When we spent time in South Haven recently, my friend reminded me that it’s the same town Shauna Niequist gushes about in Bread and Wine, the one she loves for its charm and the memories it holds for her.

South Haven is a beautiful town, but there are lots of beautiful towns all up and down the Michigan shore, and even on other beaches, other lakes. Why South Haven?

From South Haven my family moved on to Chicago, where we stayed in a friend’s second home. Chicago is their city, they said when they handed over the keys, and they wanted to make it easier to get up there more often. So they bought a place, and now they do.

Chicago is a great city, but there are other great cities. Why Chicago?

I’m starting to suspect that to really love a place, you’ve got to meet it halfway: you have to choose to make it yours.

Making It Yours

Let’s say you like a place. Because you like it, you choose to spend a little more time there. And the more time you put in, the more you like it. It’s a virtuous cycle. It’s how you fall in love.

This happens with all kinds of things: towns, restaurants, books, baseball.

I have friends who piled in the car before dawn last Saturday to drive 700 miles to Omaha to watch U of L play in the College World Series. They cheered on their team, went to bed, and left for home the next morning.

That’s love.

Ownership—and we’re not just talking money—is a powerful construct. When you make something yours—a town or a book or a baseball team—it becomes part of your identity.

My husband and I have been thinking about what we want to make ours as a family. What will our thing be? What makes us us?

We have a few starting points: my own little family returns to the Florida panhandle each year, same town, same place. To my kids, this beach is the beach, and their childhood memories will be tangled up with these trips.

This place has become ours.

(Fun fact: I snapped the photo for last year’s summer reading guide on our beach.)

But we’ve got room for more. We’re paying attention to what we’re drawn toward: what places, what things, what causes will we claim as our own?

What will we choose to love?

I don’t expect the answers to come easy, but I think our lives will be richer if we find them. If we choose them.

Do you think I’m crazy, or do you think this is really a thing? What have you made your own?

making it yours: on making and molding your family identity

My kid doesn’t have an iPhone—yet.

Silas-on-the-phone

Kickin’ it old school. 

In a few weeks I’ll be ready to trade in my old phone for an iPhone 5. When I do, my kids will get possession of my old 4s.

And by “my kids,” I mostly mean my 9-year-old daughter. Out of all my kids, she’s the one who already uses my iPhone the most. She loves to take pictures, make videos, and text her grandma. She looks up recipes, gardening tips, and random science factoids. (With lots of supervision, because that last part—the part about googling stuff on the internet—makes me nervous.)

My 11-year-old son uses my iPhone too, but only occasionally, mostly to check baseball scores, the weather, and playing word games.

I know lots of kids have their own iPhones these days, but I’m still getting used to it—and am still surprised at how many of our personal friends have given them to their 9- and 10-year-old kids for birthdays or Christmas.

My kids won’t get “ownership” of my old phone, exactly, but starting in a few weeks, it will be available to them more often than it is now. (With WiFi only—no data plan.)

Knowing this transition is coming, I’m trying to think a few steps ahead. I can already foresee two huge issues: adult content (I hate that phrase, but you know what I mean, right?) and total screen time.

I’m planning on following Kristen’s instructions to kid-proof the phone, ensuring they won’t be able to accidentally access adult content on it.

And I suspect we’re about to outgrow our screen time “system.” Right now it’s is dead simple: during daily rest time, they can watch a show or movie (usually 25-45 minutes in length) if they choose. If they want to use my iPhone for two minutes to take a picture, check baseball scores, or ask Siri a question, I usually say “yes” and hand it over.

So we need to kid-proof the phone and upgrade our screen time system, but I suspect that’s not all there is to it.

What’s your experience with kids and digital devices? I’d love to hear your tips, tricks, rules, precautions, and all the other things I don’t even know I don’t know. 

P.S. Why we got a tv for our kids after 8 years without one, and cell phone etiquette basics.

My adolescent marriage {on my anniversary}

13 things I've learned in 13 years of marriage
Today is my 14th anniversary.

Since I started blogging in 2011, we’ve celebrated our 11th, then our 12th, and our lucky 13th anniversary.

I’ve had more conversations than usual this spring—just coincidentally—with friends who’ve gotten divorced, or are in the middle of one. Those talks are sobering: I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what makes our marriage work, and what makes us go off the rails sometime.

Will and I married at 21 and 22. There’s so much I loved about marrying young (I wonder if that’s because of our personality types—I’m an INFP—but that’s another post for another day) but with the perspective of years it’s easier to see how that could have gone either way.

Fourteen years. Some people would say our marriage is in its own sort of adolescence right now. That never made sense to me, although, ironically, I do see a parallel between our fourteen-year marriage and the twenty-something years.

Meg Jay, who wrote a wonderful book on making the most of your twenties, says that one of the biggest challenges of the twenty-something years is to “slide, not decide.” It’s too easy, in your twenties, to walk blindly down the path of least resistance instead of living with intention during this decade.

I’m not a twenty-something anymore, but I recognize those same challenges in my fourteen-year marriage. We have four kids and two jobs and interesting side gigs and a fair amount of craziness in our day-to-day. I hate to say this, but we are busy. Life is packed.

It would be so easy, when it comes to our relationship, to walk down that path of least resistance, which—in my mind—looks a whole lot like long-term survival mode instead of consciously, deliberately, intentionally nurturing this relationship that means so much to me.

I understand how that could happen to a marriage, and how it does happen, everyday.

But on our anniversary, I’m reminded of why we went all in and how glad I am, (almost) every day, to put my lot in with this guy.

Reflections welcome in comments, whether you’re not-yet-married, hope-to-be-married, swear-you’ll-never-marry, or sixty-years-married. 

P.S. More thoughts on marriage.