Young man

Pepper and I went to Rosa’s Pizza for lunch today. I love that place, and it’s only about 10 minutes away (so close!), and I was in the mood. Anyway, we were sitting there happily eating our pizza and I noticed a group of four older women sitting across the room playing a game of Mahjongg. I snapped a picture over Pepper’s shoulder:

They were saying things like “three bam” and “nine crack”, which I recognized as the names of tiles because I read the rules of the game a few months ago when Zaque requested a Mahjongg game. At the time, he wasn’t able to go out much, and as a missionary he couldn’t watch TV or surf the internet, so he was left with a lot of time on his hands. So he decided to learn Mahjongg.

Anyway, after a while the woman farthest away (facing the camera) called out “Young man? Young man?”

I was a little confused, because I wasn’t sure if she was talking to me. But there wasn’t anyone else in the restaurant, and she seemed to be looking right at me, so I said, “Yes?”

“Are you Cosmo’s son?”

“Umm, what?”

“Cosmo’s son. Are you his son?”

I paused, a little unsure how to answer. “Well, I’m Cosmo…”

It turned out she’s in our church congregation, although I didn’t remember her at all because (1) I probably met her once last October or something, and (2) we haven’t been to church in over five months. Apparently she thought I looked so young that I must’ve been the son of the guy she knew as Cosmo. (And yes, apparently I’m so memorable that despite meeting me only once, she remembered me nearly a year later.)

We all laughed and chatted a bit. She and her friends come to Rosa’s every Monday for their weekly Mahjongg game. As we were leaving, Pepper asked me quietly, “If she thought you were young enough to be your son, who did she think I was?” Maybe my mom, instead of my wife? I reassured her that she doesn’t really look that old, nor do I really look that young…

New desks

Since moving in almost a year ago, Pepper and I have thought it would be nice to replace our desks with something fancy and customized. My desk has been literally a solid-core wood door atop two filing cabinets for almost twenty years. It’s worked really well, but if I had to describe it in a word, that word would be “ghetto”. And she was using the desk the former owners left behind, which was fine but nothing special.

Enter Darell, a local cabinetmaker who was recommended by my friend Jim. Jim told me “Just so you know, Darell is pretty much a seventy-year-old hippie who happens to be really good at woodworking.” And it was absolutely true. He showed up the first day with long grey locks, a grizzly beard, and a happy demeanor. We spent some time telling him what we wanted, and he went to work.

A couple of days ago, he started the installation. One of the key elements was that both Pepper and I are now facing the corners of the office, which leaves the windows open for our spectacular views. Here’s my unfinished desktop:

Each cabinet was custom-built to our specifications– we each wanted a slightly different arrangement of drawers and cupboards to stash our office stuff.

After some tweaking and final adjustments, the desks were finished and ready to use. They’re made of real maple, with a butcher-block top surface that’s beautiful.

Here’s the finished product, with our computers set up in our respective corners:

I think my favorite feature of this whole enterprise is the motorized base under our desktops, making both of them standing desks:

After using an adjustable standing desk at Zing for so many years, I really missed it. Now I’m happily clacking away on my keyboard, writing this blog post, while I stand and stretch my legs a bit.


Pepper and I agree that Bill and Ted Face the Music was “dumb but fun”. The highlight of the movie for me was definitely Briget Lundy-Paine as Billie Logan, because she did such an amazing job as a female version of Ted.

Also, their oft-repeated line, “Dads!”

Dubble Bubble Challenge

At some point during the summer, one of our many guests left a bucket full of Dubble Bubble gum at our house. I’m pretty sure it was intentional.

But as everyone knows, you can’t just have a bucket of 380 pieces of gum without doing something about it. So Kyra and I decided to have a challenge. Who can eat the most pieces of gum at a time?

As we prepared for the challenge, everyone was in good spirits.

But then the chewing began. We learned why someone had left the bucket: the gum was horribly stale. It was like chewing on gravel.

Once we got past the broken teeth, we were able to work the gum into some semblance of mushiness. The contest continued.

It’s important to note the ingredient list for this gum starts with dextrose, sugar, corn syrup, gum base. So the first three ingredients are literally sugars, followed immediately by rubber. And let’s not forget the titanium dioxide! Several times, both Kyra and I gagged on our sugary pink slobber.

After a while, we both sort of gave up. We had huge wads of pink mush in our mouths, and our jaws were getting tired.

Oh, and of course I won. Kyra claims it’s because my mouth is bigger, but a victory is a victory.

Smoky Mountains

Large areas of the West are on fire, including swaths of California and Colorado. The smoke has drifted all the way up here, practically in Canada. As I drove home from Washington, I couldn’t even see the Mission Mountains along the highway! And our view over Flathead Lake was just kind of a grey mess. The far shore was barely visible, swallowed by the smoky sky.

As the sun was setting, it showed some orange and eventually faded to pink, but it’s kind of sad to have so much smoke and haze.

My thoughts are with the many people affected by this summer’s fires…

The Hill

Behind our house, there are thousands of acres of the Flathead National Forest. (It’s nice to know that no one will build a house or a subdivision next door!) Those acres of forest ascend a pretty steep hill, forming a ridge that separates the Flathead Valley where we live from the Swan Valley on the other side. Earlier this summer, Kyra and I agreed that one day we’d hike The Hill. Why? I believe George Mallory said it best: “Because it’s there.”

So this morning we set off. Since it’s just a bunch of trees and underbrush, there aren’t any trails and we had to bushwhack a bit. That led to some moments like this, where we kind of peered around for a route that wasn’t completely overgrown:

Near the top of The Hill, there are a lot of rocks, which made for a bit of a scramble.

As we approached the crest, Kyra forged ahead while I stopped to admire the view. Notice the can of bear spray in my hand. There are definitely bears in these woods, and stomping through the underbrush isn’t always enough to deter them. (No, we didn’t run into any on the hike.)

At last we reached the ridgeline and were rewarded with a view of the forest below us. It was a particularly hazy day, so Flathead Lake doesn’t look all that impressive. But what is impressive is that we can see our house from here!

It’s that tiny little thing right in the center of the photo:

Mission accomplished! We headed back down, taking a slightly different route.

Kyra paused to look… contemplative?

The lack of trails or even distinct landmarks made it impossible to take the same route back down, so once again we found ourselves stymied at points as we considered different paths.

In the end, we arrived back at the house and took a celebratory selfie.

Now we can look way up The Hill, point to some of the trees at the top, and say “Yep, we were up there!”

Summer fall trip

Every year for roughly the past fifteen years, Thom and I have gone on a backpacking trip in the fall. We’ve seen some pretty amazing places together, and it’s always a good opportunity to step away from the world for a few days and enjoy the majesty of nature.

Due to some scheduling issues, this year’s fall trip technically took place in the summer, but that doesn’t mean it was any less epic. (I mean, except the larch weren’t a fiery yellow.) I drove out to Wenatchee and then we headed up into the North Cascades. The weather was cloudy and rainy– not a great sign– but it made for some pretty cool photos. Thom always says clouds add “interest” to a picture.

After hiking a little over five miles on Day 1, we crested Cutthroat Pass and were stunned by a brilliant rainbow in the distance. Sadly, by the time we grabbed our cameras, it had already faded a bit…

We set up camp and enjoyed a dinner beneath the slowly dispersing clouds. This was our backyard for the evening (notice our tent in the lower right).

As the sun fell, we decided to climb a bit to see if we could get some good light. Here’s Thom surveying the mountains, waiting for an opportune moment:

We were soon rewarded with this:

Looking south, the larch were illuminated with the last rays of daylight.

Day 2 dawned crisp and cool, and the clouds had settled in the valley to the west. We watched as the moisture streamed across the mountain ridges.

This area is reminiscent of the Enchantments, with its white rock and tons of larch.

We continued hiking into the backcountry, and Granite Pass afforded some spectacular views of the valley.

Along the ridge to the right, you can see the trail we’re about to take up toward Methow Pass:

It seemed like every time we came around a corner or crested a ridge, there was another great view.

We’d decided to camp at Snowy Lakes, which supposedly lacked a well-defined trail. After a bit of bushwhacking we stumbled upon a trail that I would definitely call “well-defined”, and we continued up to the lakes. I relieved myself of my pack and took a short break when we arrived at Upper Snowy Lake; in the distance is Lower Snowy Lake. We went swimming there, and confirmed that the lake is well-named. The water temperature couldn’t have been above 50!

Again, our backyard was pretty stunning.

As evening fell, we hiked up a nearby ridge, again waiting for sunset.

Thom wanted to check out a different view, so he headed along the ridgeline a little ways.

Sunset didn’t disappoint. Here’s the view across Upper Snowy Lake:

And Thom at our campsite, looking far to the west:

I took a picture of him taking a picture.

As night fell, Mother Nature showed off her palette.

A crescent moon rose over nearby Mount Hardy:

Day 3 was the hike back out, around eleven miles. The weather was absolutely perfect, and it’s cool to compare this shot of Mount Black with the one two days before (at the top of this post):

In accordance with tradition, we enjoyed some pizza on the way home. Another great trip for the books.


Now that summer is waning, we can watch the sun setting more and more to the south along the far shore of Flathead Lake. Even though we still have 15 hours of daylight, we’re losing about 3 to 4 minutes of it each day. Yet that ol’ ball of gas still puts on quite a show. Here’s tonight’s view from our front yard:

Manual mode

For years, Thom has been encouraging me to use manual mode on my camera. I’ve resisted because I’ve felt like my photos end up terribly over- or under-exposed, grainy, or otherwise messed up in some way. But I’ve gritted my teeth and practiced it, and yesterday I think I finally hit a point where I feel good about fully-manual photography.

Yesterday’s canvas was, not surprisingly, Glacier National Park. We went up there for the day with Kyra and Hannah. When we arrived in the late morning, the sky was overcast and everything was colored in a muted grey. Like pretty much every other time I’ve been to Glacier in the last year! We started at St Mary Lake on the far east side of the park, and I caught some “moody” shots.

I was kind of complaining about the grey weather to Kyra, and she told me I needed to have a better attitude. As if on cue, the clouds started to clear and the sky turned blue. The picture below was taken precisely 11 minutes after the one above. Notice the incredible difference in the color of the water (and pretty much everything else):

So that made me happy. The rest of the day was a brilliant sunny one, which was great for photos but kind of warm for hiking. We spent a while enjoying the cool glacial water of St Mary Lake.

It’s a truly beautiful lake– one of the most-photographed spots in the world.

Ooh, here’s a slightly more artistic angle:

And here’s my beautiful bride:

Hannah had a fierce blister from the hike up Mt Aeneas last week, so we couldn’t do the five-mile jaunt up to Avalanche Lake as we’d hoped. Instead, we took a few shorter trails, including one to Baring Falls. With a tripod and a couple of neutral-density filters, I succeeded in taking a sweet waterfall shot.

Of course the girls had to pose around pretty much every bend in the trail.

As we cruised along Going-to-the-Sun Road, naturally I stopped the car frequently to grab some shots of the amazing views of the valley.

It’s hard to capture the immensity of this place with a camera.

But, with some nice pictures on full-manual mode, my confidence is up and I plan to continue working on technique. It’s a good thing I have such an impressive canvas!