3 Mountains in 3 Days!

 

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Sally Strawberry, Penny Pineapple, and me (Jules Strawberry).  Hook ‘Em Horns!

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“Mom’s stripping, it’s fine,” Sally said to Penny.

I had stopped to unzip the lower half of my hiking pants, to convert them to shorts.  Penny had asked why we were stopping.

“That’s my daughter!” I said of Sally to Penny, showing her what I was doing, and that I was not, in fact, removing all of my clothes.

***

“Hike!” Sally responded when I asked what she wanted to do while she was here.

And so we did.

Sally Strawberry and Penny Pineapple came to visit last weekend, the second time since I’ve moved to California.  We hiked last time, too, but Blacks Mountain wasn’t very memorable.  And since we’re not beach people, our December trip to La Jolla was enough to keep Sally satisfied for a year or so.

We hiked Cowles to get a view of San Diego, and Sally said, “I’d rather see mountains than city.”

So I answered, “We’re going to Iron Mountain tomorrow.  It’s about the same level of difficulty and has great views.”

The next day, as we were huffing and puffing up Iron Mountain, Sally informed me, “This is harder than Cowles.”

“Oh, I guess if I can hike it, I figure it’s about the same,” I responded.

The view from Iron pleased my little girl, and Penny didn’t scowl too much (she’s not as into hiking as we are), so I figured it was a good hike.  At the bottom of the mountain, I had extra energy, so sprinted a few feet and back again, passing a road runner.  Meemeep!

Penny was looking like she was at the end of her energy reserves.  You know, kinda like a zombie, who keeps forcing one foot in front of another, determined to go on.  She didn’t argue when I offered to get the car and pull it around, saving her from walking 40 feet.

In the car on the way home, Sally asked me, “Should we serve enchiladas at your funeral?”

The question wasn’t totally out of left field.  That is, we’ve discussed my funeral before, when I told her that I wanted her to play, “One less problem without you,” by Ariana Grande.  I’ve always wanted more of an Irish wake then a tear jerker.

“That’s more of Mom’s thing,” I replied, referring to my mother, who passed in 2008.  She ate enchiladas almost every day.  She’d cook a large casserole dish of them and then eat one for lunch with a pile of chips and queso.  “Maybe gluten free pizza?”

“I’ll have to practice,” Sally said, referring to the family recipe that Mom perfected when she wasn’t cooking TexMex.  Of course, Mom’s version was full of gluten, so the recipe needs to be modified.

I laughed.  While we had been discussing my funeral arrangements, AC/DC’s Highway to Hell came on the radio.  “Is this a sign?” I asked.

Sally laughed.  “A warning!” she said.

On the third day, I took them to Mount Woodson so that we could get pictures on the famous Potato Chip Rock.  By “we” I mean “them,” of course.  I’m an engineer; I know that cantilevered beams will break after cyclic loads are placed on them.  The only question is, “when.”  And after seeing families of 4 and 5 people pose on the rock, and others jump on it, I avoided stepping onto it myself.  As in, hell to the no, I’m not getting on that thing!

The climb up Woodson was a lot longer than I remembered.  Like I said, if I can climb it, I figure it’s a good hike, but moderate.  The number of hours to hike or miles don’t register with me as much.

Two and a half hours later, when we reached Potato Chip Rock, I wondered if Penny would ever go hiking with me again.  She was breathing hard, sweating, and moving rather slowly.

Thankfully, standing in line to take a picture on Potato Chip Rock gave us time to catch our breaths.  We waited while an 8-year-old boy and his 13-year-old sister climbed up and posed for their parents.  Then we waited while their mother joined them and more pictures were taken.  And we waited some more while the father showed a nice stranger how to work the drone that he had brought (a quad copter), so that he could jump in the picture.  And they posed in several different poses.  FINALLY they declared themselves done and scrambled off the rock.

Then we waited while the next family did the same.  Damn.  Thing.  Except, everyone in that family wanted a picture of themselves alone on the rock, jumping, before they gathered as a family.  All the while, their little dog yipped and yapped, not liking all the strangers standing around him.  I may have told it to be quiet or shut up once or twice.

Really, people, if there’s a line, then take one or two pics and get off.  #Impatient #WTF #BeConsiderate

FINALLY it was our turn.  Sally and Penny climbed up as quickly as they could and sat on the edge of the rock.  They did not jump, and held only that pose while I snapped close up and wide angle shots.  One kiss, another pic, and down they came.  #ThatsHowItShouldBe #ShortAndSweet

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The climb down the mountain went more quickly than the climb up.  After all, the hardest part was behind us, we were refreshed, and there was the promise of air conditioning and a shower at the end.

“I’m starving,” Penny confided.  “Should have brought some cashews or something.”  The dried apple chips just weren’t enough for this 7.5 mile trail.

As we stumbled to the car, at the very end of this 4.5 hour hike, I thought, “They’re never coming hiking with me again.”

But then Sally said, “WE DID IT!” and I smiled.

We actually did more than *just* hike.  We shopped for Sally’s first professional business suit.  When we found out that Banana Republic was having a 50% sale, the clothes piled up, and we ended up buying Sally an entire wardrobe.  Then we found out that she could get an extra 20% off by signing up for a store credit card.  DONE!

One night, we met my friends Heather and Scott for dinner.  Sally loved them!

Scott’s first reaction to finding out that she’s an astrophysicist was to tease her, “Are you going to go after the really hard stuff, like Dark Matter?”

Her answer was, “YES THAT’S WHAT I DO!”

Then they were off on a nerd tangent that even I couldn’t follow.

Heather was equally charming and I think Sally was ready to move in with them.  “Can I invite them to my wedding on the beach next year?” she asked.

Wow.  After one meeting.

Of course, I shouldn’t be surprised, my friends are pretty darn amazing.

On Monday night, we had dinner with another friend, who was also named Heather.  When I first introduced Heather to Heather, I laughed and said, “I feel the need to watch the movie Heathers again!”

Since they are both a tad younger than me, and the movie with Winona Ryder and Christian Slader came out in 1988, I had to explain my comment.  “It’s a dark comedy about the popular girls and one other girl—Winona’s character—and how hard high school can be.”

“Oh!  It’s like Mean Girls!” Heather said.

“Ummmm…kinda?” I responded.  “But darker.  Christian Slader’s character is a bit like Johnny from the Breakfast Club, but darker.”  How does one explain Heathers without giving away the plot?

I scheduled a movie night at my house to watch it.  We laughed at the wacky plot and the 80’s fashion.

“Colored tights?!  I thought that was for children!” Heather exclaimed.

“The shoulder pads!” I said.

We’ve been fast friends ever since.  Nothing like bonding over old movies with retro fashion and homicidal plots.

Her last initial happens to be “S,” so I told Sally, “To keep them straight, remember that Heather S is Single.  Heather P is married.”

I felt a little bad assigning that label to Heather, since she is a beautiful, intelligent woman who may find a nice guy any day now.  But then I remembered that my last initial is also S, and I’m single too!  Doh.

We got on the subject of health, and Sally said, “My doctor told me that I need to take Vitamin D, since I’m not getting any.”  Her smile and reference to her lesbian lifestyle made it clear that this was an innuendo and the “D” stood for… “Dude.”  Yes, Dude.  We’re going with that.

Heather blushed and said, “I don’t take pills, I take my Vitamin D straight!”

WELL THEN!  I’m glad that my children are adults, so that we can have conversations like this.

Cheers!

P.S. My next post will be about Country dancing in California.  Yes, there are honky tonks in Cali, and I’ll compare one to Billy Bob’s.

P.S.S. As always, follow me on Instagram (jules_rules_strawberry) or Facebook for more pics!  And I tweet occasionally, too (@JulesSBerry)!

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Sally Strawberry, Explorer, Conquerer of Mountains

 

Romantic Thoughts (and Second Thoughts)

 

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“Will you marry me?” Daniel asked his girlfriend.

“Might as well, we’re already living together,” she said, distracted by the people rushing past her.

They went back into the concert and he told his parents, “She said yes.”

“Well of course she did!  Now be quiet, the show is about to start,” his mom replied.

Ok, I’m exaggerating.  Maybe everyone was a little more excited than that.

But here it is, a year later, and they are no closer to getting married.  The would-be-bride hides behind her frugalness with conversations like this one.

“That’s too expensive.  Why should I pay someone $2,000 so that I can get married on the beach?  It’s the beach, for God’s sake!”

Daniel replies, “There’s a permit to reserve the gazebo and chair rental.  Someone sets up the chairs and takes them down after.”

“Let’s have the guests bring some blankets and we’ll have the ceremony real quick, so that there’s not time for anyone to call the cops on us for not having a permit.  Sheez, who needs chairs for that price!” she answers.

And yet, a year later, no wedding date has been set.

Do some people really dream of someday attaining this stunning level of (non)commitment to the mediocre?  I want more.  I want someone who is fired up about marrying me.  My preacher spoke on that in his last sermon.  We should be fired up for God.  “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!  Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!”  I’m not trying to compare myself to the Almighty, but I want some semblance of excitement in my intended, when the time comes.

I mean, just look at Sally Ann, my lovely daughter.  Just don’t look too close, ‘cause Penny will hurt you!

Joking!

But seriously, Penny is stronger than she looks.  Stand back.

Sally and Penny were engaged last July.  Sally has planned and re-planned the wedding.  She has Plan A and Plan B, and a smile on her face at the thought of getting hitched if it all falls through!

I added a Plan C, for California.  “Get married in Texas, however you please.  Then come renew your vows on the beach,” I told her.  Don’t tell the future Mrs. Daniel, but I’d happily pay $2k to see my daughter as a blushing bride on a La Jolla beach.

That’s how love should be – contagious!  Everyone should want to take part!  Originally they were going to wait until after she graduated with her undergraduate degree, but why wait?!  When it’s right, it’s right!

I don’t know whether things will work out with Daniel and his lovely lady.  After all, they may be perfectly happy fiancées  forever.  Or, they could decide to elope this weekend.

All I know is, I want what Sally and Penny have.  I want someone who shines for me.  And I want someone who lights a fire in me.

Really, it’s been too long since I’ve enjoyed a good, hot romance.  And that’s ok.  I’d rather have no romance, than a lukewarm one, any day!

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Or, as Nadia says, Happy VD!

Cheers!

Jules

P.S. Gary Mathews came to visit!  More on that in my next post.

 

Sassy Sally proposes to Pretty Penny

 

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Sally bent down on one knee, holding up the ring box.  Her blue eyes were glowing sapphires in the shade under the trees.

Penny’s mouth gaped for a moment, taking in the scene.  Hot and sweaty from the hike up the mountain, she had stopped to take a break and gaze out over the beautiful view; she had not anticipated this.

Wordlessly, she reached into her pocket, pulling out a similar ring box.  She fell to one knee and held it up, imitating Sally’s posture.

They looked into each other’s eyes, matching sapphires frozen for a moment in time.  Then they started laughing.

“I’m asking you to marry me!” Sally said.

“Well, I’m asking you, too!” Penny answered.

“I asked first, so you answer first!” Sally insisted.

Penny rolled her eyes and leaned over to kiss her girlfriend.

“No!  Answer me first!” Sally again insisted.

“Um, don’t ya think it’s pretty obvious?” Penny replied.

“Say it!” Sassy Sally said saucily.

“Yes!  Alright?  Yes, I want to marry you!” Penny said, exasperated.

Sally rewarded her fiancée with a kiss.  “That wasn’t so hard now, was it?  And I say, ‘yes’ to you, too!”

The Real Story

That’s not how it really happened, but that’s how I had envisioned it.  After all, Sally had teased Penny for months, letting her know that she (Sally) was ready for a ring.

For example, at the mall, Sally said, “Oh look!  There’s a jewelry store!  Let’s go look at rings.”

Penny would look the other way and pretend not to hear, or point at something in another store.  “Oh look, shirts!”

Penny always wore solid color, basic button ups or t-shirts.  It’s safe to say that she isn’t a big shopper.  Sally actually forced her to try on some shirts which had patterns on them, which was way outside Penny’s comfort zone, but she dutifully tried on the shirts, anyway.

Another time, when we were chilling at home, this convo happened.

“I have a Pinterest with all my wedding ideas,” Sally had told me.

“WTF?!  I don’t even have a Pinterest account,” I answered.  “Does Penny know about this?”

“Yes,” Sally said.  “I started it so that she’d pick out the right ring, when the time came.  It also has bridesmaid dresses, and my wedding colors, and…”

I stared at the alien sitting next to me, the alien who had almost certainly taken over my daughter’s body.  Unless it was a doppelganger, and my daughter’s real body was locked in a closet somewhere.  Although some myths state that the doppelganger uses the bones of the person, in which case there wouldn’t be a body to find.

Later, I casually questioned Penny about her feelings on the topic.  “Are you going to pop the question?  Are you even gonna ask her parents’ permission first?”  (For the record, I think asking the parents is old fashioned and I didn’t really expect to be asked.  I was just giving Penny shit.)

“I’ve told Sally,” she said, with what sounded like long-suffering patience, “that when the time is right, it will be a surprise.  But it has to be a surprise.

My daughter is a lot like her mother (and yes, that’s me), in that patience is not her strongest virtue.  So I wasn’t extremely surprised when we had this phone conversation.

“Mom, I spent a little money—not too much, I promise—and I bought Penny a ring.  I’m going to propose to her when we’re on our romantic vacation in Colorado in two weeks!” Sally said, bursting with excitement.  I could see her big grin and how she jumped up and down, even over the phone.

How it went down

Sally and Penny spent the morning hiking around Engineer Mountain, until they were tuckered out.  They drove to lunch, then back to the hotel to wash the mountain dust and sweat away.

“What do you want to do?” Sally asked.

“I dunno, I don’t want to move very much, I’m sore!” Penny said.

“Ok, I know what to do!” Sally said.  See, Sally (like her mother), is a planner.  Plus, she’d been on enough hiking trips with me to know that this moment would arrive, so she pulled a wrapped box out of a drawer in the dresser where she had hidden it.  “Open your present!”

“What’s this?” Penny said, opening it to find the Lego tie fighter kit.  “This is great!”

The ladies took turns putting the pieces together, following the instructions, until they were down to the last piece: the windshield.

“Where is it?” Sally asked innocently, hiding it in her pocket.  “Oh, here it is, under the bed!”  She pulled out a ring box, and told Penny, “You’re my missing piece!”

And she said yes!

Summary

Congratulations to the newly engaged couple, Sally Strawberry and Penny Pineapple!  They plan to be engaged for three years, allowing Sally time to graduate with her undergrad degree.  Since both ladies are so very patient and…

I can’t even finish that sentence.

Cheers!

We put the Fun in Dysfunctional Family

 

“Stop looking at my daughter’s ass!” I playfully admonished Penny Pineapple, Sally’s girlfriend (2 years and counting).

“I wasn’t…” she began, then amended her words to, “I can’t help it.  Look at the pants she’s wearing!”

Sally stuck out her derriere in her sassy way.  Though her pants were plain black, not the gaudy pattern that I expected.  However, they were tight spandex yoga pants.

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I was watching Doctor Who when the ladies arrived from Austin, and paused it.  Strangely enough, one of the characters on the screen looked exactly like Penny in her tank top and baseball cap.  We had to take a picture!  The really strange thing is, Penny rarely wears tank tops, so it was very strange that she happened to wear one that day.

Not able to argue with Penny, I changed the subject.  “Sally, look at this article,” I smiled as I handed her the magazine.

Excited, because Science is Cool!, she took the magazine.  Smiling at me, she put on a academic air and read, “Mitigating Structural Steel Corrosion Protects Decorative Façade of the Historic Elks Veteran Memorial.”  Only, upon reaching the word “Elk” she dropped the magazine.  The flat look that she gave me could not stop the laughter from rising within me and exploding out.

Mitigating Structural Steel Article

And THAT is what it’s like to hang out with me, Sally, and Penny on a Friday night.

Saturday mornings are pretty dysfunctional, too.  Last month, I made pancakes and invited Sally to sit down at the table.

“Do they have chocolate chips?” she asked.  When I said yes, she practically leaped across the room to the table.  Sitting down on the chair I offered, she gave a shocked look when a crinkle and a squeak came from the chair.

“Stand up!” I told her, grinning, and pulled out the furry pink pig dog toy that was hidden there.  She had given me the toy as a present, referencing a couple of private jokes (which I could try to explain, but might not make any sense at all, if you had not been there).

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I put my little hat on the pig and he looked very sharp.

Sally was shocked that I had gotten one over on her.  She crinkled the toy, squeaked its nose, and delightful told me, “Yo face!”

“Let’s get Penny!” I said.

And we did!  Unfortunately, Penny is somewhat deaf, so she didn’t realize what was happening.  So it was much more fun a few minutes later to play the same prank on Jack!

The pig traveled with us to Utah earlier in the summer, where he hid under Sally’s pillow.  Later, I found him under a rug in the living room.  I have a feeling that the little guy is going to bounce around a lot in the next year or more.  He’s a lot more fun than Elkton, who just hangs out looking cool.  Since Sally is off away at college now, I send her a picture now and then, to let her know that he misses her.

For anyone who is curious, I am not posting a pic of my daughter’s ass!

Cheers!

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Elkton John

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Penny & Sally ~ Aren’t they cute?!

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Health Magazine had this quote in it*, and I had to share it with my daughter.  ‘MERICA!

(2014.  I’m behind on my reading.)