Breaking Through the Fog

    We sat with our coffee near the big front window as the morning’s fog began to dissipate. The farmlands below came into view. Then the thick bank hiding Port Susan retreated over Camano Island. Soon the snowy Olympic peaks rose startlingly white out of the thinning mist. In a few minutes, the entire island with its backdrop of shining mountains had emerged out of seeming nothingness.

     Of course, the peaks had been there all the time. But if we hadn’t known that, we might have reacted with the same surprised delight as did my 95-year-old mother when she sat at the elder-care-center window, watching the mountains appear and disappear among the clouds. “They rise and then they set,” she’d puzzle. Knowing she wouldn’t remember, we tried to explain what was happening. But every time the clouds lifted to reveal the mountains, she was surprised and delighted all over again.

    Isn’t a lot of life like that? Certain basic truths never change, like God’s love for us. Like his desire for us to be all that we’re created to be.

    The fog that obscures our vision is made up of half-truths we’ve been taught:

        ~You are the master of your fate, the captain of your soul.
        ~You’re # 1.
        ~You deserve the best.

            Or, conversely:

        ~What makes you think you’re important?
        ~If you don’t fight for your rights, no one else will.
        ~You’re a bad person.

    What helps us cut through the fog and see the truth? Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” Jesus knew how much the heavenly Father loves us. Because of that love, Jesus was sent to die for us on the cross. His sacrifice opened the way for us to come to the Father.

    No longer must we pretend we’re in charge. The Creator of the universe fights for us. When we see our place in God’s scheme of things, we know we are important. He has gifted us to fill a place that no one else can fill. We’re not good in ourselves, but Jesus died to make us good in God’s sight. The Bible, God’s word, teaches us all truth and clears away the fog of the world’s lies.

    There’s no better way to live.

Amtrak, a Favorite Mode of Locomotion

Dining on the Amtrak Starlight

   Dad’s sister, Alma, and Mom’s sister, Ella, were good friends all their lives. After each had been widowed, they made train trips together out west to visit us in Washington. As the train screeched to a stop and conductors helped passengers alight from the coaches, we eagerly watched for our beloved aunts.

    Now Hank and I are the ones traveling by rail. One daughter lives in San Diego, another in Tucson, so we travel up and down the Pacific coast on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight. 
We used to drive our own car. That had its advantages, but as traffic became heavier and heavier in the Puget Sound corridor, that part of the drive became less and less appealing.

    Once aboard the train, you don’t have to be concerned about traffic jams or what other drivers may do…you can sit back and enjoy scenery you completely miss from the freeway. And you don’t have to keep your eyes on the road! If scenery is not your thing, you can read, play electronic games, work, e-mail, even surf the Internet if the train’s WIFI is working. You can meet people from all over the world, traveling for many different reasons. You’ll be pampered by friendly, hard-working staff who will do all they can to insure that your trip is pleasant.

    Since it’s a two-days-and-a-night trip to southern California, we always go by sleeper car. That way we have our own private compartment, although we are welcome to ride in the comfortable lounge car as well. At night, the conductor makes up the beds and we travel while we snooze. Meals are included with the cost of our sleeper tickets; a choice of menu items served in a nicely appointed dining car. It’s community seating, so you’re sure to meet new people at each meal.

    At most stops, people get on and off. Many of them are traveling short distances so they pay the cheaper coach fares. The main disadvantage for those of us taking a longer trip is the lack of exercise. Although we do walk to the lounge and dining cars and move about just to stretch, we always welcome the longer stops where we can get off and walk up and down the platform until the conductors call “All aboard!”

    One of the mixed blessings of train travel are the frequent loudspeaker announcements: announcements of upcoming stops, repeat listings of procedures after each new group boards the train, announcements of menus and times for upcoming meals, announcements about special events such as wine tasting parties or movies, announcements of regulations concerning drinking and smoking…disembodied voices making sure that everyone knows everything. The up side is that confusion is avoided and unpleasant situations are forestalled.

    This spring’s trip was our third on the Coast Starlight, but it was the first time we’d seen out-of-control behavior dealt with. When we stopped in one town, we noticed two fire engines and an ambulance waiting at the platform. Emergency technicians pushed a gurney past our window. An employee from the depot retrieved someone’s luggage from the train, then a couple of policemen arrived. Soon they returned with a handcuffed woman between them. The EMTs followed with the empty gurney and we proceeded down the track. One of our dinner companions later told us the woman had been drunk and causing a disturbance. The next day a person was taken off the train for refusing to move away from the open door while smoking on the platform and then being abusive to the conductor.

   But mostly our train travel has been comfortable, relaxed, and enjoyable. And the views have to be some of the best in the whole United States.

    Aunts Alma and Ella would be surprised to see how pleasant today’s train travel can be. They’d be pleased to know that despite the changing culture, there is zero tolerance for misbehavior on the train.

Tacoma Narrows Bridge
Nearing Oregon: I-5 and the Columbia River


An exercise break while passengers load
Crossing California’s coast range to the Pacific
Playing in the Pacific Ocean

California vineyard
California Coastline

Tulip Festival Garage Sale

  What can you do when it’s Tulip Festival time in Mt. Vernon, but it’s too wet to get up close and personal with the tulips or daffodils?

    Well, you can visit the indoor displays at Tulip Town or RoozenGarde. You can go to one of the numerous art shows or the downtown street fair. You can feast at the Kiwanis Salmon Barbecue, daily at Hillside Park. Or if it’s the right weekend, you can attend the World’s Largest Garage Sale at the Mt. Vernon Fairgrounds. The fairground buildings are filled with vendors selling everything from antiques to zoology textbooks.

    Son Rob started a sideline business this spring, with the help of his teenage daughter Annie and her brother Kevin. Have you ever wondered what happens to the contents of those ubiquitous storage units when renters default on their rent? What they’ve stored is forfeited to auction. Rob and other bidders are allowed to look through the door at what they can see. Then the entire contents of a unit goes to the highest bidder.

    Next comes the treasure hunt. It’s amazing what people store, and what they will buy! Rob and Kevin haul the truckloads of items home, where they sort them. Annie photographs saleable items and advertises them on Craigslist. Once a week they have a home garage sale for those responding to Craigslist ads. And during the yearly Tulip Festival they rent a space at the World’s Biggest Garage Sale for the rest.

    Here are some links to help you enjoy the Tulip Festival (and the Garage Sale):


Waiting for customers

Donuts and coffee

Love the get-me-out-of-here expression
Bargains galore

Rob and Kevin

Annie and Lydia ready to go to work

Another vendor’s offerings


Happy Birthday, Popcorn and Peanut!

We’d been married almost three years when we spent a weekend with our Central Oregon niece and her husband. On their front porch Mama Cat had a family of seven lively kittens, some white, some with orange stripes, and a couple with black faces and stockings. All of them needed homes.

I’ve never been able to resist kittens, and I probably played with them too much, because while we were inside eating dinner, their mother carried them one by one off to a hiding place. However, she overlooked a little gray female with a black velvet face. That evening, the tiny cat followed me around the house and cuddled against my neck.

Next morning, I happened to look out the window in time to see Mama Cat slipping up the hillside behind the house. She disappeared beneath a brushpile. Ah ha! When she left to go hunting again, Tami reached underneath the brush and drew out five kittens. She returned them to the front porch nest. But where was kitten number six?

I worried about the missing baby all day. At dusk, we saw a fuzzy white mite balanced on a branch atop the brush pile, wailing at the top of his lungs. I’d already lost my heart to his playful gray sister. Both Hank and I fell in love with the independent little male as well. 

We went home, the two kittens riding in my lap. We hadn’t gone far before we christened the bouncy white kitten with the orange ears and nose Popcorn. He soon outgrew his sister, making her name Peanut even more appropriate.

That was ten years ago this May. They were five weeks old when we brought them home, so we celebrate their birthday the second week in April. It’s been ten years of entertainment and companionship. Thank you, Popcorn and Peanut! 

Peanut and Popcorn in their new home
Redecorating the house
Mischief in the bathroom (Popcorn behind door)
Evening ritual…listening to Hank read aloud