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.


Extended Parenting

Kristen and I have become aware of something recently.


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. 




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.


Summer’s Last Stand

It’s hard to believe…

  • Paul starts 7th grade next week.
  • Megan has orientation in a couple weeks for high school.
  • Jackson starts pre-school at the same time.
  • And in a lot of the country people are already starting school, football practice, marching band, all of that.

Summer flew by leaving a contrail of good memories.

But I’m still holding onto summer… 

  • In San Diego our warmest months are still ahead. The ocean water will continue to get warmer until late October.
  • I’ve not been to a football game yet so it’s still summer.
  • My fall travel stuff doesn’t start until mid-September.
  • We have countless evening dog walks, morning surf fishing sessions, and afternoons at the bay left before the weather turns. (As if it every really turns here…)

And we’ve done summer right!

  • We had a great family vacation.
  • We’ve played in the bay.
  • We’ve played a ton of board games.
  • We’ve shared dinner nearly every night around the table.
  • Kristen and I have been good about sneaking away for an evening walk in the neighborhood or along the waterfront more nights than not.
  • We’ve hiked and biked and kayaked and swam and seen a lot of sunsets.

Summer’s Last Stand

All this to say that before fall stuff cranks up I’ve got a lot of summer left to take in. Here’s what my next few days entails:

  • Thursday morning – Kayak fishing in La Jolla for calico and maybe get lucky on a yellowtail, home by noon.
  • Saturday – Sunday – Overnight offshore fishing trip with Paul, celebrating his birthday by hopefully catching our first tuna! Leave Saturday night and return home Sunday night.
  • Monday – Inshore fishing trip with a bunch of guys from church, hoping to get a group of teenagers on their first big fish.

All of those fishing dates schmooshed together accidentally– but I’m not complaining. It’s as if this summer has dug in, putting up it’s defenses against the onslaught of Fall and all the busyness that comes with it.

Summer will be defeated. It’s inevitable. But the last stand will be epic. 




Returning from McLandia

In more than 10 years of blogging I’ve never taken 15 days off from writing. But that’s what I’ve just done, a little self-directed exile and forced break.

So where have I been? McLandia.

McLandia is the mythical creation of Paul (11). It’s a place where imagination, play, discovery, and creation meld together. It’s our own personal imaginary fiefdom existing within our hearts that expresses what it means to be a McLane.

Over the past few weeks or so we’ve seen mom and Megan go on a girls only trip to St Thomas, celebrating Megan’s graduation from 8th grade and continuing on a tradition of the McLane girls spending solo time together while exploring a new place. We’ve ended a 7 year run at Darnall Charter School as Paul finished 6th grade– including ceremonially burning Paul’s school jacket– I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him so giddy. We thought about doing something on the Fourth of July… but like every year we just went to bed early and didn’t see any fireworks. We’ve camped in Yosemite, eaten way too many s’mores and drank way too many cans of soda, we survived a torrential downpour where our tent floor turned into a waterbed, watched a bear steal someones food, watched sunrises and sunsets at Half Dome and the Minarets, talked mega-crap while competing at Bananagrams and Uno, hiked to waterfalls, camped and resorted, and a whole lot more.

And so, today, we return from our annual pilgrimage to Imaginary McLandia to our lives in Real McLandia.

We step away, to rest and play and rejuvenate and reconnect with who we are. And now we head back home to live out who we are over the next several months.

The kids have weeks and weeks of summer vacation left to go. But mom and dad got what they needed during their short time off– a trip to McLandia where we have space to dream again.