“It’s always warm in California,” everyone kept telling me. “It’s never cold!” And to my little brother: “No, Austin, it’s not the Specific Ocean, it’s the Puh-cific Ocean.”

When we finally made it to Santa Rosa Lane after several weeks of goodbyes in Iowa and a few unending days of tormenting my Aunt Kim in the backseat of our station wagon, I rolled down my window, stretched my pasty hand out into the breeze, and surmised that the climate was as promised: warm.

Once in the driveway—and faster than my dad’s new bosses could say oh by the way one of the ACTUAL Beach Boys lives down the street so you can stop singing California Girls now—I hightailed my twiggy green bean legs upstairs to claim the biggest bedroom I could find.

By the time Austin caught up and found a “Republic of The Older Sister” flag (that’s a thing) waving ever so triumphantly in my new and totally tubular walk-in
closet, he whined. Like, a lot. To muzzle him before my parents heard us arguing and I lost all bragging rights to my new digs, I rattled off some 5-year-old BS about how much better his smaller room was because…wait for it…there were two windows in there and my room only had one. Boom!

I pity the 2-year-old fool who didn’t know it was April 1, 1987.

Victorious, I cartwheeled off to a brand-new life in my superior California bedroom…where I would never be cold again.


Turns out, it did get cold in California. Like when the gales of divorce and depression and addiction whipped through the very rooms that, at first, only let sunlight in. And that walk-in closet I once gloated from?

Yeah, that became a bunker later.

And, yet, it was home.

Complex, fruitful, broken, and true.

I went back last month to start emptying its cupboards and drawers; to dislodge some of the shrapnel still visible in the walls; and to take deep,
Jesus-filled breaths of my favorite air in the whole wide world—the kind that smells of sand and sea and citrus trees.

california 2
“This is not easy for me,” my dad said for the third time that day, holding a picture of me sporting some seriously gnarly 80s bangs.

“I’ve spent half my life here.”

“I know, Dad, but it’s more than time to move on and let it all go. There are good memories here, absolutely, but there’s also a lot of pain lingering between these walls. I promise you’ll feel so much better once you are on your way to a fresh start. Now what else can I toss from this closet?”

“For 26 years, this has been one helluvah place to live.”

“Ya think? But I need you to focus. What about these college textbooks Aunt Kim left here in the 90s? They are going in the trash.”

“Now. Wait. Just. A. Minute. You know I don’t like to throw books away.”

“But you never read! And, hello! They don’t even teach classes like this anymore. People get this information for free from this thing called the In-ter-net. Ever heard of it?”

“Shut up.”

“Not a chance. I need another trash bag. Gah, what is this stuff? Doc called. He wants his time machine back.”

“Go ahead and make fun of me. But do you think this is easy for me?”

“Stop saying that! I know this is not easy for you—it’s not easy for me or for Austin either—but this ish is happening. Look on the bright side: At least you don’t have to go back to Iowa and be the worst of all things…”

“What’s that?”



Please pray for us as we spend next week saying so long to the house that built me. My dad is selling just about everything he owns at an
estate sale on June 21 and 22. He’ll 
be moving down the coast to San Diego at the end of July where his fiancé will hopefully—and finally—teach him
how to surf…

 …the web.