The Great Cross Country Move (Or: Our dog may be too fat for LA)

As you pack up your life to move, you seem to have time for nothing else but inventory management. Your house smells of nothing but cardboard and packing tape, and you wonder why you’ve been using a knife to cut cheese for the past couple of years when you apparently had a whole set of specialized utensils for that purpose that you never bothered to take out of their package.

We’ve moved to LA from Connecticut, and while that may sound pretty far and pretty radical, we should remember that Liz is from Southern California, so this is a homecoming for her. We’re terribly excited to be here.

We love Connecticut, we love the people, we love New York. But we had some interesting opportunities in LA that we wanted to explore, so we didn’t really hesitate. We found a place out there, rented out our house to a lovely family, and started packing.

Now, it’s not often you get to move across country, so Liz and I figured we should turn it into a bit of an adventure. Since I was excited about it, I asked if I could plan it.

“Go crazy,” Liz said, distracted. So I did. I went crazy.

“Okay, here’s the plan,” I told Liz that night, sitting her down. “When the guys pack up all our stuff, I’m going to grab the kids and drive to Boston.”

“Why are you going to drive the kids to Boston?”

“Because there were cheap flights to San Diego from there,” I said. “I’m going to bring my mom with me, and we’re going to fly the kids to your mom in San Diego.”

“I’m not coming for this?”

“No – you’re going to get in the car and start driving west.”

“Huh,” she said, paying closer attention now.

“I figure I can get the kids to San Diego, drop them off with your mom and my mom, then hurry back to the airport and get the next flight back to Cleveland.” I could see Liz’s eyebrows furrow, and she began to pose the natural question, so I kept going. “I’m thinking that if you start driving west, you’ll make it to Cleveland. We’ll get there around the same time, you pick me up, and we keep on driving west.”

“I see,” she said.

“Then we drive west, get to Yellowstone, see some buffalo and stuff, and then I’m going to drop you off at an airport in Montana to fly the rest of the way to San Diego.”

“Where are you going to be?”

“I’m giving a commencement speech at the University of Great Falls in Montana, and I figure I’ll do that and then drive south to meet you in San Diego just in time to get the kids and drive up to LA to meet the truck with our stuff.”

Liz was silent for a moment, then nodded.

“I like it,” she said.

And that’s what happened, all of that. It was one of the best trips we’ve ever had, sitting next to each other and talking for hours on end.

It got me thinking a lot about relationships and partnerships and marriage. (We listened to a few sermons by the great Tim Keller on the topic as well, which informed my thinking a lot here.) And I realized that it would be easy to just chalk up that great adventure across country to great compatibility between us – but that would be selling it short.

On the surface, after all, Liz and I weren’t terribly compatible. Not really, anyway.

We had radically different political views, we had radically different faiths (she had it, I didn’t), she was an attorney in a big city with a huge network, I was in Nepal living with orphans.

But what we saw in each other – and certainly I saw in her – was somebody with whom I could build an amazing partnership, friendship, and family. At her core she was compassionate and adventurous and cared deeply about how other people felt, what they were going through. I loved that.

Both of us had had relationships before, of course, and I think we were probably both looking for people with whom we were “compatible” – sharing interests and backgrounds and activities. But those continued to fail because we hadn’t found a person who we were willing to stay with even when they changed, even when we changed. Because that’s going to happen. We’re going to change. We’re going to end up as different people. The superficial stuff goes away.

What stays, if all that goes away?

You learn to love each other better, to appreciate what the other person appreciates. You learn where their hurts are and where their triumphs are. You learn them, and you change because it’s no longer enough to be the best you can be. You want to bring out the best in them, too. And they want to do that for you.

That’s compatibility, and that’s love, and that’s why I know that LA is right for us. Because it was right for my wife, and when I saw it through her, when I saw what she saw, because I knew her so well, then I wanted it as badly as she did.

We’re home now, and there are fewer boxes, and the kids have settled into the sunshine, and our yellow lab Emma – a bit fatter after a month of holiday with friends – has just arrived by cargo and she’s settled in too and already found a tennis ball in the backyard. Her weight reminds me that everybody talks about how image conscious LA is, how I have to dress better and look better and all that stuff.

And maybe that’s true, but I’m not going on a diet unless our dog does, and unlike our dog, I don’t look like a baby hippo when I lie down.

I have loads of time to worry about all that. Right now I’m grateful for my family, I’m grateful for my friends and hopefully the future friends who will want to hang out with me, which I plan to seek out using my Map of the Stars. But mostly I’m grateful that we arrived safe, that Liz and I had that time together, and whatever we end up doing here, knowing that we’ll be doing it together. What a gift that is.

By | 2018-01-19T21:03:17+00:00 June 1st, 2012|47 Comments


  1. Elle June 2, 2012 at 7:06 am - Reply

    Thank you for such an authentic post! It is so true that it isn’t the “checklist” that makes a good relationship. Plus- you can’t go wrong with Tim Keller’s podcasts. 🙂

    Love your blog and loved you book! Good luck to you both in LA!

    • Conor June 2, 2012 at 10:40 pm - Reply

      I know, Tim Keller. Smartest dude ever, right?

  2. Liz June 2, 2012 at 9:15 am - Reply

    I love this post. Beautiful stuff, love. And yes, Ems TOTALLY looks like a baby hippo. Family diet time.

    • Conor June 2, 2012 at 10:40 pm - Reply

      We can all chase tennis balls!

  3. Marie Guillas June 2, 2012 at 9:38 am - Reply

    Conor, This was most inspiring! Tho’ I’ve never met you or Liz…I love you both. God bless.

    • Conor June 2, 2012 at 10:40 pm - Reply

      Thanks Marie!

  4. Michael Rosenkrantz June 2, 2012 at 4:43 pm - Reply

    Welcome to Los Angeles!

    • Conor June 2, 2012 at 10:41 pm - Reply

      Thanks Michael! We’re loving it!

  5. Jenny June 2, 2012 at 6:16 pm - Reply

    Love this! So true!

    • Conor June 2, 2012 at 10:41 pm - Reply

      Jenny! Hope you and the fam are doing awesomely in NYC! We have to connect next time back!

  6. Marcy Prager June 3, 2012 at 6:24 am - Reply

    For a young man, you’ve learned what most older people do not realize. I have been married for thirty-five years, and both of us have “changed” in many ways over the years. Throughout the changes, we have remained a family. Our history with our children has given us the structure which keeps us close. Our times alone help us to hear each other and understand one another.
    I “shared” your post on my Facebook and wrote this:

    This is not really about Conor’s “move.” It’s about moving forward in a relationship with the person you plan to spend the rest of your life with. Reflective and beautifully written, as always Conor!

  7. Cathie June 6, 2012 at 9:08 pm - Reply

    Thank you for writing this. I really enjoyed reading it as well as your book Little Princes. Also listened to your speech while you were at the U of Calgary (my daughter also gave a speech). You are inspirational.
    Kelsey’s Mom

  8. Amy June 13, 2012 at 2:03 pm - Reply

    Fantastic post! I love how, despite what her furrowed brow implied, Liz listened as you detailed your crazy sounding plan for getting to LA and then agreed to it! You wrote some profound terrific things about compatibility and relationships that many people fail to learn in their lifetime.
    Glad your family is settled in CA and everyone sounds happy including the adorable, slightly chubbier Emma. I’m sure her new tennis ball will help her slim down!

    I reviewed your book, Little Princes, through TLC Book Tours several months ago and loved it and was touched and inspired by it and by so many of those amazing boys.
    Good luck to you in LA. Have fun!

  9. Pat O'Brien June 15, 2012 at 6:47 pm - Reply

    I am your mother-in-law’s first cousin and live in TN.
    I will be facilitating your book next week in our book club.
    Certainly enjoyed reading Little Princes. Good luck to you in CA. I remember when Susie and her family came to visit us in Westwood years ago. Pat

  10. Darbee June 16, 2012 at 7:14 pm - Reply

    I just finished reading your book. It was very interesting and inspiring and will be the subject of a local book club discussion. My son also works in a poverty-stricken 3rd world country. I will be visiting soon, not for the first time. I have to admit I get nervous about cleanliness issues around the kitchen. How did you learn to cope with others preparing/serving you food and not worry about getting sick? Thanks for all the work the 2 of you have done in helping children in our world. May your lives continue to be blessed so you may be a blessing. Soli deo gloria.

  11. Brett June 20, 2012 at 8:59 pm - Reply

    Just finished your book and LOVED it. To say it was inspirational is the understatement of 2012. The best part is despite the many layers involved, you manage to keep things very real. The feelings you freely describe in the pages are things we all experience, fear, excitement, frustration, possibilities and happiness. You have found your purpose, and I’m so glad for you and your family (ies). Thank you both.

  12. Esther June 25, 2012 at 5:00 pm - Reply

    Hi Connor – thank you for sharing your experiences in your book Little Princes… Such an open and authentic expression of the moving story story of so many lives, and your determination to care for these young ones is truly inspirational!! As an Aussie, living so far from the indignities these children have experienced, it is indeed humbling to know we can all make a difference in so many ways. Thank you and Liz for your ongoing efforts- may you all, including the gorgeous Emma, enjoy a fulfilling life in whatever you do, wherever you be. Continued success! ( have already asked my friends to support this organisation by buying your book!) Many Blessings to you both and your little family as you set out on this new path in LA! Esther

  13. Brian Kelly July 20, 2012 at 8:24 pm - Reply

    Thank you for sharing your story. “Little Princes” was an emotional roller coaster of a book, and your storytelling made me feel as if I were experiencing everything with you. One of my most memorable reads ever. Do you ever have any public events to share your story in the Los Angeles area?
    Many thanks,
    Brian Kelly

  14. Tammy Dahle August 16, 2012 at 4:44 pm - Reply

    Hi Conor!
    I was lucky enough to be in Great Falls, MT for that commencement speech. How cool to hear the “behind the scenes” story to go with it. After your inspiring speech I bought your book-it was a pleasure to read and as been loaned out many times over to friends. Thank you for sharing this amazing adventure.

  15. Joyce October 1, 2012 at 10:57 pm - Reply

    That was really beautiful!! And thought provoking – I hope I have that kind of relationship one day.

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    Hi Mr. Grennan you came to my school to be an guess speaker and I just wanted to say that when you spoke you really made me wanna ask you will you ever write another book like that (little princess orphanage).

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