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Church Leadership family

Two wins from yesterday

I don’t get to celebrate wins every day. So when wins happen I want to make sure I take time to acknowledge those victories.

Big rock life goal for Kristen and Adam: Lift up women in leadership.

So, two wins yesterday to celebrate towards that goal.

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family

Ornaments

My kids put my old sentimental ornaments front and center on our tree this year. Yes, my mom has handmade or purchased a special ornament for me every year since I was born.

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family

Why We Travel

On Tuesday, our family of five returned from a 10-day trip to Mexico City. We had a great time going places none of us had ever been before. We stayed in a beautiful apartment 8-stories above a busy Centro Historico street. We went to museums.  We got lost looking for an ATM. We toured pyramids. We went to the zoo. We ate expensive food in restaurants that was bad and cheap street food that was amazing. Our 6-year old won too many games of Uno. In a frenzy we put together a puzzle before we caught our flight.

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family San Diego Living

2016 Chicken Report

Yes, we are those people. In 2016, we got chickens. Spontaneously.

And you know what? It’s more fun than we thought it’d be.

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family

Pictures from Vacation

Late Monday, we came back from our annual summer 2-part vacation.

Part one was at the Wawona Campground in Yosemite. This was our first time at that particular campground… and we certainly liked aspects of it. (Good: It’s right on the river. Bad: No views of the valley, and it’s hot.) Due to some car trouble we actually never made it into the valley. So that’s a first. We went all the way to Yosemite but barely saw what most people would call Yosemite. Ah well, it was a blast.

Part two was at one of our little happy spots… a beach house in Cayucos. We take it from the mountains to the Central Coast. While camping is relaxing in it’s own way it’s still nice to just put your feet up and do nothing. Well, “do nothing” means we probably walked 15 miles a day on the beach! Murray liked the mountains but he LOVED the beach house.

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family

The Right Guy for the Job

“Daddy said I was the right guy for the job.” 

~ Jackson, 5

If we ever buy another house I’m going replace all of the fixtures on the first day. Light fixtures, faucets, shut off valves, and every piece of the sprinkler system not underground. Why? It’d save time versus the way I’ve been doing it— one by one as they break.

On Sunday I spent most of the day on some repairs to our irrigation system. In the morning I swapped out a number of sprinkler heads in the backyard, replacing older inefficient ones with adjustable ones to save water. In the afternoon I began rebuilding zone 5 in the front yard from the valve onward. It was poorly built to begin with and crumbling from years of exposure to the sun.

Nothing sexy but a little project which had to get done.

Want to help?

Late in the afternoon Jackson, our 5 year old, came back from the park with Kristen. Together we hung out in the garage while I put together the parts needed to replace everything. [Since we got baby chicks a week ago the garage has become a favorite place to hang out.]

Jackson bubbles with energy. He’s the most social McLane kid who constantly wants to play with his siblings, his parents, the dogs, the iPad, while watching Netflix on the TV. He’s game for everything… which is both really awesome and sometimes difficult to manage. He’s five. His world revolves around what he’s doing and thinking in that exact second. We adore our youngest but we have to admit he wears us out, too.

Gathering up all of the parts and tools I’d need to finish up my front yard project I looked at Jackson, who’d bored of the chicks and was busy telling mom the ten thousandth detail of Pokemon she’d soon hope to forget.

“Jackson, do you want to help me with my project?” 

“Yes”

“OK, I could use an assistant. Can you be in charge of holding onto the tools until I need them? It’ll be a big help.” 

“I can do that. I want to help. I like helping.”

“Good. You’re good at helping.”  

So off we went. A screwdriver in one hand, a PVC cutter in the other, both of our pockets full of parts.

We got about five feet.

He’d taken off his shoes and we have prickly things in the grass right now. So I picked up my helper and carried him the rest of the way.

For the next 10 minutes or so JT held onto the tools I wasn’t using, swapping out what I didn’t need for what I needed. He told me stories. I tried hard to listen. He wandered and had me watch him jump off of stuff. He was doing his best and I was doing my best.

When we got it all connected I ran over and turned the valve on to check for leaks. There were none. We shared a high five then started tidying up.

“Did I help you daddy?”

“Yep, you were the right guy for the job. You were a big help. Thank you.” 

“Will you carry me back to the garage?”

“No. But I’ll show you where to step so you don’t step on prickly things.”

“OK….”

Two minutes later, as I was putting all of the tools and parts away in the garage, Jackson was relaying the details of our little project we’d done together to mommy mixed with stories of the Pokemon he’d seen along the way.

“We cut the tube and then daddy put a part on the end and then I got to help squeeze it together and then we turned in on and it didn’t leak at all.”

“That’s great, Jackson.”

“Daddy said I was the right guy for the job.” 

The Right Guy for the Job

I don’t care if you’re five, fifteen, forty-five, or twenty-five. A son needs to hear from his dad, “I think you’re the right guy for the job.”

A few years back my dad pulled me aside, “I’m proud of you. I don’t understand everything that you do for work but I know it’s good. You’re a good father and that means a lot to me.”

I lived off of that affirmation for a long time.

I can’t even explain what that meant to me.

McLane men are critical. We don’t affirm cheaply, it’s earned.

I didn’t know I needed to hear that but I did.

I think every man needs to hear that from his dad.

The truth is sometimes I don’t know if I’m doing a good job. Sometimes I don’t have a clue if I’m doing the right things or if I’m royally screwing up. I often feel like I’m just making it up as I go along— pretending to be a dad when I don’t have a clue if anything I do matters.

I see what other dads do and feel inadequate. Most of the time I feel awkward in the role, like I’m wearing clothes that don’t fit. Who am I kidding? I’m wearing clothes that don’t fit both literally and figuratively.

Beyond parenting a man gets beat up by life. We put on a hard exterior that everything’s OK. We convince ourselves we’re doing the best we can. We fake it until we make it… so we tell ourselves so that we can keep going.

We provide. We protect. We nurture. We try. We fail. We try again. We are good at work. We suck at work. We coast at work. We hustle at work. We brag about work. We lie about work.

Everything is great. Everything is terrible. We know. We don’t know. We’re OK. We’re not OK.

We know who we are. We have no clue who we are. We try to be ourselves. We try to be someone else.

We get a thousand compliments from our friends or comments from “friends” we don’t really know. Our spouse tell us we’re doing a good job. We align and justify our actions (or inactions) to match up to what we think is expected of us.

We overthink it. Sometimes we dramatically under think it.

We hold our emotions in. We explode in emotions.

We’re confident. We’re guessing.

Sometimes being a man, being a dad, is hard.

Sometimes a son needs to hear from his dad, “You’re the right guy for the job.”

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family

Place, Restoration, Hope

Tools

By Sunday evening, things were calming down on our weekend home improvement projects, Kristen went to run errands, and I had a little time to reflect.

In the search of wire cutter I opened a giant Rubbermaid that had tools poking out of it. As I started pushing things around I realized that I put all of these tools away in their new place instead of searching through the bins each time I needed a tool.

Over the next hour I unearthed three more tool bins to put away, unpacking each into a giant set of drawers labeled: Hand tools, tool sets, power tools, and hardware.

Place, Restoration, and Hope

Unpacking my tools was oddly emotional.

I hadn’t seen most of these things for more than seven years so it was like Christmas. Each tool was something I didn’t have to buy! Most of them I’d thought we’d left in Michigan, lost to the final stages of packing for a cross-country move, or our frantic garage sales, or one of many Craigslist binges. I still regret leaving a bunch of tools in one of the garages simply because I couldn’t figure out what to do with them in time.

With each bin came a flood of memories about our house in Michigan. Using those tools on projects, learning to do things I never thought I’d do, and looking at the tools filled me with thankfulness for the many men from our church who’d helped me figure stuff out.

I realized as I was putting these tools in their new spot that I’d packed away a lot of emotions about owning a house… for the past seven years we’d been forced to trade place-making for temporary shelter.

As much as we loved our years across the street at the rental house– it was never ours and we’d never really unpacked. Kristen and I were sharing on Saturday night about how we’d coped with a house that wasn’t “ours” by spending as much time as we could not at home. We went to the beach, we went to the bay, we went hiking, biking, running, kayaking, spent endless hours at the zoo or Sea World or Balboa Park– so many of our weekends were spent trying to get away from home.

There was something good about that. But there was something deeply wrong about that too, which we’re only starting to realize.

Buying this house is more than merely finding a new place to live or the discomfort of moving.

In many ways it is an act of justice– standing up for ourselves to make things right. How things ended in 2008, how that was a place of hurt and anger, lacking any sense of closing, not knowing what to do with the shame of foreclosure that wasn’t really our fault, all of that is now being replaced by this new house [itself having been rented for the last 20 years] and starting a process of becoming the home we’ll finish raising our kids in.

So now, as we unpack, we’re also beginning to unpack those emotions of home and place. Putting things on the walls isn’t “I hope the landlord doesn’t get mad about these holes” but instead becomes “we want people to come here and feel connected to our family.”

We’re unpacking tools but we’re really unpacking the unknownness of our future. We’re no longer wondering how long we’ll stay in San Diego, we have made the decision that this is our place– our city– for the foreseeable future.

Another emotion ran over me as I put away the tools. Hope.

The physical act of spending the weekend adding gutters and painting exterior stuff brought out a hope-filled energy I’d not felt in a long, long time. Again, it’s one of those emotions that’d been packed away somewhere deep that was starting to come over me like a ducked wave.

And so, two weeks into home ownership, I’m remembering the crazy mix of physical labor… of the sink breaking and having to go to Home Depot to get parts… but also the emotional attachment of turning a commodity such as a house into a part of your family, that connection we call place.

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family

We bought a house

Ten years ago we bought a house in Romeo, Michigan.

That didn’t end well.

A few years later, in the height of the financial meltdown, we moved to San Diego, had to sell when the market was bad, a bank refused to process our short sale, another bank foreclosed on us, and before we understood what was going on our financial world kind of crumbled around us.

That was 2009.

It sucked.

We’d mostly forgotten about it. We’d simply recovered and moved on with our lives.

It only ever manifested itself in two ways.

  1. For 3 years, nearly every day, I received at least one phone call from a collection agency trying to collect on a debt I didn’t owe related to the house. A company would call for a few months, then they’d sell it to another creditor, who would call some more, on and on went the harassment. I never received anything in the mail… I didn’t actually owe anyone money. But I privately dealt with 36 months of this.
  2. In 2012, we received a letter informing us that we were among 148,000 people who had been maltreated by our bank. In 2014, we received a check for $840 in restitution for stealing our house. At least they finally admitted they did it, even if they weren’t admitting fault.

August 1st, 2015

On the first of each month, since March 2009, one of the kids would walk next door to give our landlord the rent check. And each month, since March 2009, they’d come back with candy.

But on August 1st, Megan came back with candy and a message. “Mrs. Z said she needs to talk to you about the house.

Our hearts sank.

We love our landlords. That’s a weird thing to say, but they are our elderly neighbors, they’ve been very kind to us, and we’d been steady tenants for a long time.

We speculated. Was she going to raise the rent? Was she going to ask us if we wanted to buy it? Was she going to ask us to leave? We were certain that it was the latter but we held out hope that it was either of the first two. It wasn’t.

She needed us to leave. It wasn’t a big rush, but they had a family situation and they needed to move in a family member by the end of the year.

Situationally, for us, this was a problem. Our neighborhood is really close to a major university. And while there are a lot of rental properties, most are leased by August 1st. So what was left to rent was either really nasty or really expensive.

Likewise, while summer is pretty relaxed in my life, fall is insane. We launch products, new initiatives, and host events. The last thing I needed was the distraction of moving.

Rent or Buy?

I don’t know where the thought came from but we started doing the math on moving and calculating the cost of renting versus buying.

As we searched we learned good rental house in our neighborhood that meets our needs goes for $2500-$3000/month. It wasn’t 2009 anymore.

Reluctantly, I reached out to a friend from church who does mortgages. We went back and forth via email for a while… the simple reality was settling in. We had enough money to buy. The cost of buying was really similar to renting. And the tax benefits of buying, especially in our situation where we work from home, made it make sense financially to explore buying if we could find the right house.

The Early Search

Kristen and I both work online. So we scoured all of the real estate sites, we put out feelers to our friends, and we went to a few open houses.

Pretty quickly we decided that we were mostly interested in buying, renting would only come into play as a last option.

Early on we decided we wanted to stay in our neighborhood. We’ve invested so much more than rent in Rolando… we’d come to love the place and the bulk of our time raising kids had morphed into this neighborhood.

That’s when Kristen suggested we talk to a local realtor, Doug Lister. We both knew of Doug because he’s super involved in the community, on the community council, and has a reputation for being who locals work with when they are buying or selling. We sat down with him and hit it off right away. Kristen and I are both a little timid and casual. We were impressed that Doug was casual with us but also not timid about getting us what we needed as a family when it came to a house.

The Looking Part

We spent the next couple of weeks looking at houses. San Diego’s real estate market is strong right now. There’s a lot of activity, things come on the market and get snatched up quickly, and prices are ridiculous.

Between open houses and legit viewings we went through about 25 houses rather quickly. There was lots in our price range but we really wanted to go on the low end of our price range. The last thing we want to do is be “house poor” with kids in high school.

A few weeks into it we’d basically given up. We were going to end up renting again. There just wasn’t anything on the market that we wanted that didn’t need a fortune in work. (We nearly bid on one that had huge yard but was largely untouched since the 1950s.)

Across the Street

While we were looking our neighbors across the street moved out. And one day when I came home from the grocery store I saw someone I thought I recognized in an Aztecs t-shirt over there and gave him “the wave.” He came over and introduced himself as the agent who was about to list the house across the street. He asked me if I knew anyone who might be interested in being our neighbor to which I told him… “I think we might be interested, we’re looking, if the price is right we’d definitely be interested.”

That began a process that culminated in us putting an offer on the house the day it went on the market. A few days later, we reached an agreement, and off we went for the next stage in the process.

Closing the Deal

We weren’t (and aren’t) particularly in love with the house. To us it’s always been a rental. So we went through all of the phases of buying carefully. We were probably annoying to everyone in the process because we wanted to make sure we knew what we were getting ourselves into, what the potential for this was for us financially, all of that.

We were (and still are) nervous buyers.

Blah. Blah. Blah. Tell us about the house

Even though I’m a blogger I’m actually pretty private about my private life. So I’ll hold back on sharing pictures. 

We’ve bought what we consider a blank slate. We see this as the beginning of a process.

We’ll be spending the next several years transforming this house from a rental house into a home. (With an eye of it eventually becoming a rental again later. But that’s another story for another day.)

Here’s what you get for a whole lotta money in Southern California. A small 3 bedroom, 1.5 bath 1950s ranch with a small yard. The midwesterner in me is offended. But this is reality in SoCal.

What’s Next?

Like I said, this is a blank slate. We’ve got some plans for the house… some of which start right away. First, we’re repurposing the garage as our temporary office and Cartel storage space. Then, we’ll be updating the kitchen. (Not a big remodel, but a solid update) And then we’ll probably be building a “tiny office” for my office in the backyard. Or a deck. We haven’t fully decided.

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family

Extended Parenting

Kristen and I have become aware of something recently.

MEGAN IS FOURTEEN! 

We aren’t freaking out about high school. We’re not even really freaking out about the potential of paying for college.

But we are both kind of freaking out about the not-so-far-off word: Adulthood.

The Parent Test

The true test of your ability to lead a group of people is “What happens when you’re gone?” If things carry on largely as if you were there, you’re doing a good job as a leader. If chaos reigns than you’re not doing a very good job as a leader.

But is the same true for parenthood?

Is the true test of your job as a parent determined by what your children do into adulthood? Yes and no. Your parenting certainly determines a trajectory for them, you can certainly foster things in your child, you have a lot of impact… but you aren’t truly responsible for them indefinitely.

Have I turned out the way my parents probably aspired for me? Not really. Am I in the vicinity of what they were hoping for? Yes.

Extended Parenting

I think one of the things I’m wrestling with as I consider what the next 4, 8, 12 years look like is what it will look like to shift roles in Megan’s life?

I’m well aware and versed in the discussions about extended adolescence / emerging adulthood. But, practically speaking, I’m not sure I really want to extend my parenting well into my children’s twenties. Specifically, I’m not sure I want to finance and house a perfectly capable adult while they figure stuff out indefinitely.

At some point, just like we see in nature, you’ve got to kick the bird out of the nest. I’m not going to feed you forever… the most caring thing for me to do is to prepare you for that moment, right?

But what I see, particularly in middle-class suburban white parents is an unwillingness to kick a birdie out of the nest and mean it. Instead, they tell their children in actions and words that they won’t let them suffer… so these young adults never flourish because they don’t have to. And the parent is satisfied that they still get to parent even if it’s not healthy for them, expressing a codependency, if you will. Is there something wrong with that? Not if all parties are happy about it. But understand it’s not not about cognitive emotional development or physical capabilities… it’s about values. 

One reason, it seems, why young adults can’t make decisions (codify) about what they want to do is that they might not feel the pressure to take responsibility for themselves. As I’ve seen over and over again in my work… it’s amazing how fast a person can mature and take financial responsibility for themselves when the alternative it’s about eating vs. not eating or having a place to live vs. not having a place to live.

The seemingly never-ending existential question of “What do I want to do with my life?” is a question of affluence. Rich kids get to ask that. Again, that’s a values expression that we’re wrestling with because, quite frankly, even if we can afford to finance the 20s for our children… we don’t really want to.

It’s not what we’re about.

We want t raise strong, independent, critical-thinking children– dumb enough to chase their dreams who become strong, independent, critical-thinking adults dumb-enough to chase their dreams.

In other words, we’re OK with this stage of parenting coming to an end. We’re kind of looking forward to it. 

 

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family

Stoney

Perhaps no 6 characters have been harder to type than the 6 characters of the title of this blog post.

Earlier today, Kristen and I took our much beloved dog, Stoney, to the vet to be put to sleep.

We were a mess.

I couldn’t even speak. It was completely the right thing to do, to end his suffering, but it hurt too much for words to come out of our mouths.

They quickly ushered the bawling couple with the barely-able-to-walk dog out of the waiting room and into an examination room. Prepared for our arrival they’d laid a nice blanket down on the floor. After a couple sniffs Stoney laid down one last time.

We were a mess.

An absolute proper mess. The lady asked me something about money and I just handed her my debit card.

Truth be told, it’s after 2 AM and I’m still a snotty mess. I keep expecting him to bump against my feet under my desk or let out a deep sigh or push open the living room door to remind me to go to bed.

Stoney has been constantly at our side for the past ten years. It’s hard to even know what to do without him, he’s such a part of our daily lives.

I grew up hearing the phrase, “Man’s best friend.” And you know what? I am feeling the loss of a best friend right now.

The past few weeks have been gut wrenching. At our last trip to the vet she let me know that Stoney was in very bad health. He had a heart murmur and at his age that likely meant he had heart disease. We could run some tests but at nearly 13 years old there wasn’t much we could do.

Leaving that day I had no concept of how fast the disease would take over. Over the past few weeks he went from being short of breath and a little bit slower to taking 20 minutes just to go one block.

By Sunday, he couldn’t get up the stairs into the house after going potty and he stopped eating. These were both our agreed upon indicators that it’d be time to let him go.

The older kids were already aware of what was going on… that the time was getting near. We didn’t want it to be a shock to them. When I made the appointment on Monday I let each of them know. We explained it to Jackson, but he’s 4 and it’s really hard to understand. I’m 39 and sometimes death doesn’t make sense to me either.

Then, after school, we all got on the floor with Stoney and spent some time giving him love and sharing stories about him… I’m so glad we did that.

Tonight, not really sure what else to do with myself, I made this video. It means a lot to me.

This dog has been so much more than a dog to our family.

We will, eventually, be fine.

But for today we are experiencing the loss.