Making It Yours.

Making It Yours.

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?

 

93 comments | Comment

93 comments

  1. Linda says:

    Cape May. We love Cape May and it’s our vacation destination. We love the beach and strolling in the salt marshes and browsing the shops on the promenade. We’re thinking of purchasing a seasonal home there in a few years.

    My chair. It’s where I have “tea with Jesus” each morning. I’ve snuggled my girls on my lap in that chair and worked on knitting and cross stitching projects there.

    Happy memories! Thank you for helping me take the time to dwell on such bliss 🙂 Oh, and no you’re not crazy! Or at the very least, we’re crazy together in the same way!

    • Anne says:

      Cape Cod sounds delightful. I’ve never been. Maybe one day? Or maybe not….I doubt it will ever be myplace.

      I love that you mentioned your chair. That’s a great one!

      • J says:

        Ummm. . . Cape May is in New Jersey and Cape Cod is in Massachusetts. We do hope you come to Cape Cod in MA sometime!

  2. I’ve always loved the IDEA of having a vacation destination the family returns to year after year. We’ve never really done it, though.

    The Florida panhandle is just perfect. Also, the Gulf Coast of Alabama (Orange Beach.)

    Thanks for inspiring me to think about this concept more seriously, Anne.

  3. Tina B says:

    Oh yes, I have a place and I love the place so much that I moved there. It’s a place 1100 miles away from my extended family, but over the years I kept going back more and more to spend time there. I’ve made friends there and now that I’ve moved there for good, it still feels like a vacation, nearly every single day. I love this place and believe that I always will. 🙂

    • Anne says:

      Tina, of course now I’m dying to know what this special place is! Love your story regardless of locale–thanks for sharing.

      • Tina B says:

        It’s a piano bar in Lake Buena Vista, FL (on WDW property). I love Disney, but more than anything, I love live music and the musicians who play there are so incredibly talented and amazing. I don’t drink alcohol, but I am a “regular” at this bar. Everybody there does know my name. And yes, I moved 1100 miles so I could be there any time, front row, drinking my diet coke. I’m single with no kids, so this is likely to not become “your place.” I’ve been living here for almost 2 years and as I said, it still feels like a vacation.

  4. We had this conversation at the park the other evening regarding summer. “What do we want our kids to remember about summers?”

    Beach, camping, picking berries, family time.

  5. Carrie says:

    I think it’s the ritual of it that makes it “ours”. My family of origin had several of these. Instead of going out for dinner, we went out to breakfast to celebrate anything – any excuse to celebrate. Same with vacation spots. Going to the same place year after year seems more pleasurable somehow.

  6. I definitely understand what you mean! My place is Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island, Michigan. I went there every summer as a kid, and a few times in recent years. It brings back so many childhood memories, and I can’t wait to make new ones there as an adult.

    • Anne says:

      I can see how one could fall in love with Mackinac! I’d love to visit one day. The pictures I’ve seen are so beautiful.

      • Emily, I’ve been to Mackinac Island twice and cannot wait to go back. We’ve always camped at Mill Creek Campground just outside Mackinaw City. The view from that campground is just phenomenal, all through the day, but especially at night.

  7. Connie says:

    I agree with you. I would say that New York City is our town. We love it there! We also have a campsite that we always stay at when we visit the Smoky Mountains. My husband would probably consider that our campsite. I would say that Ohio is our state. We moved here from Alabama in 2011 and absolutely love it here.

  8. Faith says:

    This is so true! We have been living in Lansing for almost a year and I have struggled to make it my place. As we prepare to move again I needed to hear this.

  9. Breanne says:

    My husband and I just started talking about this concept, more so in terms of lifestyle. There are so many things we could do that are good but nailing down what we love and what we want to make ours.
    I really love the extra focus you put on this today and realizing that we can’t all do everything but we can all do something.

    Montreal is our city, we’re headed there next month to celebrate our anniversary. New Zealand is our country (we live in Canada and are Canadian by birth), we spent four months there after we were married. I love the rituals that come by intention and default, some of these comments have me thinking about new traditions we can incorporate. Going for breakfast? Totally. =)

    • Anne says:

      Breanne, you’re so right about rituals coming by intention and default.

      I would love to visit Montreal one day (even though I doubt it will ever become our city. 🙂 )

  10. Tim says:

    San Francisco. There’s no place like the City (and please don’t write “the city” with a lower case c when you mean San Francisco). Am I biased because born there? Yeah, probably. But I’ve been to a bunch of world class cities, including Athens and Munich and Madrid and others. The only one that stands up to the City is London.

    Tim

    P.S. I don’t need to remind anyone that using the word “Frisco” when you mean San Francisco labels you as a complete dunderhead who knows nothing about the place, do I?

    P.P.S. I once flew into SFO sitting behind a guy who went on and on to his seatmate about how much he was looking forward to being able to visit Frisco again because Frisco was his town, Frisco was his favorite place, and He owned Frisco. He was a dunderhead.

  11. I’ve been thinking about this idea ever since we talked about it the other day. No great revelations to add to the conversation but I think you’re on to something here.

  12. I love this. I became a sports fan as an adult and it was a learning curve. I started saying things that sounded silly to people who knew the game I was talking about, starting comparing it to faith all of the time. It was crazy, but I fell in love. I think that I sometimes think that love is something that just happens to us, especially with interests, but it’s not true. I think that things grab your attention, just like a cute guy might, but then you need to buy in to the getting to know the person, the interest. It’s a delightful and difficult thing.
    I’m trying to be open to new things to love as well! Thanks for sharing this.

    • Anne says:

      I have never heard anyone put it like that: the “learning curve” of becoming a sports fan. But that sounds about right to me. Love the way you framed it.

  13. Rebekah says:

    I grew up in Pensacola. Even though we now live in Hawaii, the sugar white sand beaches will always be home. Plus, my family lives there. I guess that makes it really easy to call it ours…since it once was.

    • Anne says:

      I’ve never been to Pensacola, but we usually stay about an hour away, and we’re hoping to make it to your city for a Blue Wahoos game this year. 🙂

  14. You’re not crazy. It’s totally a thing. For us it’s Asheville, NC. We go once or twice a year. For my mom’s family it’s Cape Cod and we go there with them too. With my Dad it’s the Red Sox.

      • Heather says:

        Asheville is amazing. I went for the first time a couple of months ago, and I would love to love it (but that was only a short weekend and deep love can take a little time!).

  15. Jeannie says:

    This may be a bit different from what you mean, but this is what came to mind: every summer we travel from Ontario to Prince Edward Island, where I was born, to visit my family. It’s too far to travel in one day, so in the past we’d stay overnight in Fredericton, New Brunswick with my brother & his wife. But then they moved away. So we decided to contact a low-budget motel we knew about in Fredericton. We told them our son had autism and we needed a room where we could relax & not worry about him bothering anyone. They booked us a corner room and when we arrived late on the travel night, the desk clerk said, “Oh, we’ve been waiting for you! My sister’s son has autism, etc. etc. …” and she was so welcoming and kind. Although the motel is very plain and has no amenities really, my son LOVED staying there, so the next year we did exactly the same thing, asked for the same room even. He still talks about sitting on the big bed and watching Blue’s Clues on the portable dvd player, and about the orange juice & toast we had for breakfast. It’s very simple and not exactly special, but now it’s “home” for him so we plan to book The City Motel, Room 217, again this summer.

    • Tim says:

      All I ever heard about Fredericton was in Great Big Sea’s version of the song Donkey Riding:

      Was you ever in Fredricton seeing the king he does come down,
      SEE THE KING IN HIS GOLDEN CROWN riding on a donkey.

      And now I know they have wonderful innkeepers there too. Thanks for that story, Jeannie.

      Tim

    • Sandy B. says:

      HI Jeannie! I feel like I “know” you a tiny bit from your comments on Adriana’s blog, but I didn’t realize that you have a son with autism! So do I — mine is 20 (hard to believe). I love this story! Hope your son loves his stay there again this summer. : )
      Also, how cool that you were born on Prince Edward Island! I’m one of the countless Anne of Green Gables fans who would love to go there some day.

  16. 'Becca says:

    This is definitely a thing. 🙂 I think there’s even a name for it in psychology, but I can’t recall.

    When I was an architecture student, one of my assignments was to choose a space on campus and build a computer model of a “spatial solid” that represented the experience of being in that space as a 3D object. (Of all the pretentious, semi-comprehensible assignments I suffered through before being kicked out of architecture school, this was the only one I managed to get right!) I chose a sidewalk that provides a pedestrian shortcut from the corner of a huge parking lot to the sidewalk along the street, with the lot’s landscaped border along one side of it and a chain-link fence on the other side to prevent you from falling down a steep wooded hill to the train tracks; through the trees you can see across the valley into the next neighborhood, which includes a cathedral. Because I lived in the dorm at the far side of that parking lot, I often used that shortcut when going over to that neighborhood to the drugstore and such, and I appreciated it as a haven after the bleak experience of crossing the parking lot. Working on the assignment, I spent a lot of time standing on the sidewalk (rather than walking quickly through) and increased my appreciation of it. These days, I work a few blocks away from campus and pass by that sidewalk every day and occasionally use it. I still think of it as “mine” in a special way.

    • Anne says:

      I don’t know the name for it, but Dan Ariely has a great talk on motivation that hits a similar concept: that we love things we make. A good listen if you’re interested.

      I love your sidewalk story. 🙂

  17. Esther says:

    Louisvile is becoming our place. My husband is from there and prior to meeting him, I had never even been to Louisville. Over the past fifteen years we’ve been together, he’s shown me so many places that are special to him. My fabulous in-laws still live there, so it’s easy to drive down from Cincinnati for the weekend. Although I’m not sure if it’s still open, we used to frequent Lynn’s Paradise Cafe. I’m not sure the kids remember going, but the looks on their faces when they walked in will never be forgotten by us. Our kids are getting to experience similar things to their Dad and for that I’m grateful.

    • Anne says:

      Well, I must say I’m rather partial to Louisville. 🙂 (Ironically, we’re here and it’s my inlaws who are in Cincinnati. We’re passing each other on I-71. 🙂

      Lynn’s was open until a few months ago, when it mysteriously shuttered overnight. The rumor mill is abuzz with murmurs of reopening, but nothing yet….

  18. Lesley says:

    I love your thoughts on special places, Anne. And I think you’re definitely onto something. This runs along the same vein as establishing traditions in our families- whether it’s for holidays, birthdays, etc. As a child my family traveled to Mammoth Lakes every winter and summer. I think it’s a magical place but I’m sure there are thousands of other mountain/lake towns across the world that others would consider much better. But, it’s the memories we created in Mammoth that make the town special. Of course, I want to take my own family there as we grow but perhaps we’ll find a little town of our. I hope!

      • Anne says:

        Tim–I’ve driven through Yakima on my way to Ranier. Sounds like I’m always passing through your favorite places. 🙂

        Lesley–I love the way you put it: “magical places.” Yes. That’s what I would love to create for my kids.

  19. Joani says:

    My siblings, cousins & I came up with a family holiday we call Kroon Day, we do all things Kroon on May 3 (when it was created there were no birthdays in March but since my nephew has been born in March). We eat donuts, call or text each other to say Happy Kroon Day, try to go skiing or biking, exchange small gifts (which has replaced birthday gift giving!) and for those that live in Alaska they meet up for dinner at a family favorite greasy diner. Every year it changes a little but it is pretty fun. We celebrate being one big goofy family! So yes, I resonate with having ‘our’ stuff. For my little family our thing is biking, we aren’t really giving our girls much choice on that one. And we’re Beaver (Oregon State) fans, we’ve actually discussed how sad it will be if one of our daughters decides to go to University of Oregon (Ducks – UGH!).

    • Anne says:

      Joani, Kroon Day sounds wonderful (wonderfully weird 🙂 ). Talk about identity! Sounds like you guys nailed it. 🙂

  20. Jennifer H says:

    Husband and kid are the ones who love the “ours”, so it becomes mine by default. But truly, I love to try new things. It’s a struggle to try a new vacation (out of the 3 or 4 “acceptable” places), a new restaurant (although I do love “our” Mexican place); I don’t care much about the sports, so I’m happy to go along with them there. Is something wrong with me that I don’t really care about the places as much as the experiences?

    • Anne says:

      My mom’s the same way, and has expressed the same concern! She’s completely easygoing about the “where”, she just cares about who she’s with. (At least that’s what she used to say, but in the past ten years I’ve watched her and my dad claim a couple of places as “theirs.”)

      It sounds like you’re good company. 🙂

  21. Milica says:

    St. Louis is “Our City” because it is where my family is, where we met and married, but Oahu and Hawaii is “Our Place” because it is where we became a family. Even though my kids don’t always remember it very well. (we haven’t been back in 5 years and they are little) they still see Hawaii as “Our Place”. (We live in and love “Our City, St. Louis!!)

  22. Heather says:

    I think you’re on to something here, because I’ve definitely had the experience of falling out of love with a place.

    My husband and I met in college and had a lot of fond memories of town, from the dating and newlywed stages of life, before we moved far away. But a couple of years ago we had reason to pass through, and we thought it would be a lot of fun to go back and visit a little. I can only compare it to a long-distance relationship where you get off the airplane and look at the other person and realize that you feel a little let down, you were over-idealizing them, and they really belong in a stage of life that you’ve moved beyond. We had real responsibilities and a new baby, and saw that the college town was just an ivory tower filled with clueless kids, professors, and townspeople! The best my husband and I could do was try to have fun and reminisce, accept that our life together had moved forward and the college town hadn’t, and kindly say, “so long, and thanks for the memories. It was really awesome while it lasted, but that spark just isn’t there anymore, you know? I’ve changed a lot in these couple of years, but you’ll always be my college town. Maybe we’ll get together for coffee next year and chat about old times.”

    I was there again a month ago and it was easier, but there was still this sense of running into an ex and genuinely hoping they’re doing well, but all the same knowing that you’re totally over it and there’s no going back to the way things used to be.

    • Anne says:

      Oh, interesting spin! I love the analogy about running into an ex. And of course I’m dying to know what the town is…but some things are better left unsaid, I suppose.

      • Heather says:

        It’s Ann Arbor. I’m just a little scared of getting grief because a lot of people really love A2!

        What can I say? It was a personality issue. 😉

        • Anne says:

          I’ve never been to Ann Arbor, but I’ve heard it’s a wonderful college town. Which I suppose is great…if you’re in college. 🙂

        • Corby says:

          That is too funny. I grew up there and when reading your post I thought hmmm A2. I bet she’s talking about that town. Then boom it’s it. Just made me chuckle

  23. Jennifer says:

    Our place is Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. I’ve been there at least 10 times since meeting my husband in 1998. I’ll admit that at first I thought it was lame to go back to the same vacation spot every year, but now that I have a family I absolutely love it. We have our favorite restaurants and places to visit each year which we look forward to, but we also make it a point to at least try 2 or 3 new things during each vacation. I make a photo book of all of our pictures each year and it is such a joy looking at our girls enjoying the beach and how they grow from year to year.

    • Anne says:

      “I’ll admit that at first I thought it was lame to go back to the same vacation spot every year, but now that I have a family I absolutely love it.”

      This was me! I still love visiting new places occasionally, but I definitely love faithfully returning to the same spot every year. Ten years ago, I never thought I’d say that!

  24. The little English town where my grandparents live, for sure. It’s so beautiful and friendly and quaint, I love the food and the people, and since I can walk places by myself it is a perfect place to just be. I just got there yesterday and I am so ecstatic!!!

  25. Lori says:

    Every July my family and my extended family stay at Epworth by the Sea on St Simons Island Georgia. We love it there and stay in the same rooms year after year. It’s a beautiful area and I encourage everyone to visit at least once. You will fall in love!!

  26. Karmen says:

    Fripp Island, SC for my family. Only place in the whole wide world I can relax to my core. Savannah, GA for my husband and I. Something about all the Spanish moss hanging from the trees–just love it there.

  27. My husband I just started doing something that I think fits your definition. On Tuesdays, we go out to eat at the same little Mexican spot, and then we take our beach chairs to an Inlet park by the water and sit out for a spell. There are boats, pelicans, and old guys fishing off the pier. We love it there.

    • Kara says:

      We just got back from Lake Michigan! Our family loves it too. We stay in Union Pier but day trip to South Haven and St. Joseph. It’s hard to imagine a family vacation anywhere else!

  28. JenP says:

    I know I’m a little late to the party, but I just had to comment! My husband and I have talked about this a lot. We have a campsite that I’ve gone to several times a year since I was born (my patents started going a few years before that) its just 2 hours away and we love continuing that tradition with our kids. But we’ve also started something new that is just “ours” Every year we take our kids to at least one National Park. The first one we went to had us hooked- the National Parks are definitely “our place” even though it isn’t just one place!

  29. I love this. I think it’s great to build family identity. I want to travel with our kids all over, but I think after this summer we decided to make a beach “our beach.” We already booked to go back the same week next summer, same house we went to and everything. 🙂 I look forward to making lots of memories there.

    When I was young, we went to a campground in northern Ohio for a week with all my cousins (I have 13 first cousins on my mom’s side!). We camped, we had traditional meals that we made over the fire, we spent a day at Cedar Point, we visited the campground store and rode bikes around a big circle. It was the same every year, and my mom had been doing it since long before we came along. It stopped when I was in 6th grade, but I still have really happy memories of that and loved the normalcy of coming back each year. I think we thrive on rhythm and it makes everything more special and familiar. (In a world where, given the money, we could visit a different city across the globe each summer for the rest of our lives, right? Ease of travel, etc.)

    Oh, and when we went to Cedar Point, we all wore matching t-shirts too. Ours said “My grandpa sings barbershop.” Yep. Talk about solidarity.

  30. kimmie says:

    My family started coming here to a resort when I was 16. I met my husband here that first year. We (my parents and sister and various friends) put in 26 years of vacations here. My kids were able to enjoy growing up with that week of family time at the pool and amusement park. My dad passed away a couple years ago so last year we moved our vacation to a “log cabin” in Wisconsin. We’re adaptable. 🙂

  31. Oh this is wonderfully thought-provoking, (as are the comments)! The whole idea of “our city” is a frequent topic and source of frustration with my hubby and me, as we’re not really fond of where we live. But we also feel trapped. No money to move, no job prospects, etc. Waitin’ on a nudge from God, I guess. But! 🙂 We do have some wonderful things that make us “us”. Every Saturday night we bbq burgers (we live in Southern California, so it’s not hard for us to bbq all year round). It’s not unique, I’m sure, but it’s us. And we do have “our city”. My family attended the 2002 Olympics in Utah, and my hubby and I fell in love with Park City. We’ve gone back there 8 or 10 times or so in the past 12 years. We only spend a day, but we always eat at the same place, and we love the tradition.
    * Love this post! Thanks! *

  32. Steph says:

    We just moved back to West Michigan and used to live in Chicago. I consider both of them “ours.” Just like I consider Lake Michigan from either side, our lake. And there’s a lighthouse I consider mine as well. 🙂

  33. Natalie says:

    Yellowstone–33 years and 3 generations. We’ve invested and the dividends make is spiritually, emotionally, and relationally rich. Yellowstone illustrates the reality of Romans 1–it clearly makes God and his character known. I’m grateful my parents started taking my brother and I there when we were young.

  34. Deirdre says:

    Just happened on this old post, but the timing couldn’t have been better. We moved this year, and I love your thoughts on meeting a place half way in order to fall in love.
    My parents rented a cottage in Wisconsin with my aunts renting the ones on either side, and my memories are so find of that place. Our kids have traveled much more than we ever did as kids, but we only return to where our extended family lives.
    I know I’ll be thinking about this post a great deal. Thanks, Anne.

  35. Joy in Alabama says:

    I think this is so true! My husband is a pastor and we are sent to different parishes about every 3 years. In fact, we just moved to a different side of our state in June. In order to make it work for me, I have to make up my mind to get to know and explore and like the places we live. I put effort into learning the history of the area, using local merchants and getting to know the people who work there, and effort into exploring new streets, parks, local restaurants, etc. And it works! I might not be thrilled with where we’re moving (like this time), but once we get there, it’s all good. Then when we have to move again, I don’t want to leave!

  36. Kim says:

    I just found this older post when you linked to it, and I see Melody Warnick actually linked to it as well, but have you read her book? I picked up This is Where You Belong recently and loved it’s mix of research and story. It inspired me to do some super easy things to recommit to loving my neighborhood!

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