Twist and Shout: The Mask War Theme Song



It seems to me our manners and common courtesy during this stressful pandemic pause have devolved to the level of frat house party.

After multiple postponements of our visit back to our old hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, we finally decided spur of the moment to go and see family and friends. I fear things may be closing back down again, and we hadn’t seen my dear mom-in-law since Thanksgiving.

The trip was very smooth, with the little exception of a near-miss decapitation from a flying piece of drywall slamming into our car windshield. But I digress.

We enjoyed watching the many ways people wear, don’t wear, or slightly wear masks at the airport and on the plane. I would estimate the breakdown to be 50% wearing masks correctly, 30% wearing them down below their noses, 10% on their chins, and 10% not wearing one and seemingly itching to be confronted by authorities. I know this look because I saw it at least daily with Son 1’s infamous authority-challenging scowl.

It was interesting to observe that the mask wars are the same throughout the country. In my small mountain town of Estes Park, Colorado, I have seen senior citizens almost get into fisticuffs, grocery store customers confront and push each other, and many calls of, “Hey, wear a mask!” and, “You can’t make me, it’s my constitutional right!” stuff. Would you ever have dreamed that wearing a mask would become one of the biggest political divides in our country? Turns out people are people, and we saw the same exact behavior in St. Louis as we see in Estes Park.

Yes, I am pro-mask. I wear one when I work, go inside places, and outside when I can’t be at a distance from people. I am not quite in the vulnerable age group, but I am at the very edge of the precipice. But I don’t wear a mask for me, I wear it to protect others and the society as a whole. I don’t yell at others to mask up, but I do try to avoid them and the places they frequent. I hear from anti-maskers that masks don’t work, and make mask wearers sick. Hmm. So they keep the bad stuff in, making the wearer sick, but also let the bad stuff out to infect others. Listen, I am not a scientist, but I know I would be less upset walking by someone who covered their mouth and nose with a handkerchief when they sneezed or coughed rather than having a spittle shower rain upon me. It’s only a very slight inconvenience, which if there is even a teeny-tiny possibility of saving a life or helping curb the pandemic, I will gladly do.

I know I will never change anyone else’s mind.

So now I will tell the story about the dumbest mask battle I have ever seen. And guess what? The perpetrator was on my side … Just goes to prove my point that the worst on both sides are not representative of the majority.

I have tried to be careful during this pandemic. I know many have taken up new hobbies during the shut-down, but my hobby was always going out to eat, so it was very tough! When things opened back up, I would eat outside at restaurants, but was not comfortable inside. I quit going to one of my favorite places as they did not enforce the mask rules.

St. Louis is a different animal than Estes Park. Whereas in the mountains you might consider bringing a sweater and wearing long pants while eating outside at night, summer in St. Louis you might briefly consider dining naked while pouring ice water all over yourself. So friends convinced us to eat inside a restaurant, as this one was taking great precautions, and it was 146 degrees outside.

Masked up, we were led to our table, which resembled a horse stall, with a back divider, and plexiglass partitions on each side. All employees also wore masks. We were at least six feet away from all other customers. We gently peeled our masks and enjoyed. Appetizers arrived, and the games began. A man behind us leapt up, leaned over our back wall and screamed at two people walking to the restroom without wearing masks. He was angry! He was loud! He was shouting (and spitting?) all over our food, and he WASN’T WEARING A MASK. Let’s recap … An enraged man, unmasked, was yelling at people to wear a mask, all while contaminating our food because he wasn’t wearing a mask. The mask violators were at least 25 feet away from his table, our food was about 2 feet away from his shouting. It reminds me of my favorite quote from Animal House: “Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”

Listen, I don’t believe in the Deep State, and George Soros plots. I don’t think Bill Gates or Dr. Fauci or the pharmaceutical giants are inventing a vaccine for the purpose of tracking us. Similar to my feelings about Alexa possibly spying on me, I think the survelliance would stop from sheer boredom. If you want to believe all these conspiracy theories, knock your socks off. I just wish it wouldn’t have to involve the validity of masks.  For those on either side, courtesy and kindness go a long way towards easing societal discord. As for me, I’ll be the one masked up and crossing the street to avoid you, but I’ll give you a friendly wave.








Posted in Estes Park, Family, food, healthcare, Parenting, Politics, restaurants, St. Louis, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Bull, I almost Got Killed!




Manager                                                                                                                                                   Rocky Mountain National Park                                                                                                                 c.c . Secretary of the Interior

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing you regarding a recent visit to Rocky Mountain National Park. Overall, it was a great outing, but I did encounter some problems I think should be brought to your attention.

My hiking partners and I chose to walk down Old Fall River Road from the Alpine Visitors Center to the Alluvial Fan parking lot, a great opportunity to experience the nine miles of views before the road is open to cars. It was a beautiful day, wonderful hike, and we particularly enjoyed watching one in our group go from Arctic wear to summer playclothes, layer by layer, mile by mile, as we descended. But I do think the wind and weather problems need to be addressed. It was 37 degrees, extremely cold and windy at the beginning of our journey, and almost uncomfortably warm 11 miles later. I think the temperature needs to be moderated a bit to help with guests’ comfort.

We were also put out that the closest parking lot at the end of the trail was closed and gated, causing us to walk an extra mile or so at the end of our long, long, day, and we really don’t much like to walk. I wonder why your organization doesn’t do all the road construction and other maintenance jobs in the winter when there are fewer guests? This issue, and request for at least a partial refund on our pass, will be addressed more fully in another letter.

First, thanks for letting the wildlife out for the day. We saw two moose frolicking in a meadow, multiple marmots sunbathing, and a large group of well-behaved bachelor elk. You did a fine job with the birds, as well. A big thank you goes out to your head gardener, as the wildflowers were amazing. Whoever is in charge of the water pressure for the many streams and falls is doing a bang-up job, too.

Now, to the point of this first of many letters. Someone needs to talk with the elk manager as he or she is so obviously derelict in elk care and maintenance. First, we encountered many, many piles of excrement just left where it was plopped. I know some could be blamed on the deer, moose, bears and cats, but not to brag, I know my poop, and it was mostly elk.

It was a great inconvenience, but as I am such a positive person, I did not let any of these above problems ruin my day.

This biggest issue came at mile 7 3/4. This is where we came upon Chasm Falls, almost unrecognizable without the myriad of red-plated cars, blowing trash and gaggles of gawkers. My hiking mates decided we needed to go the extra fifty steps leading down off the road to get a better view. I gently declined, nicely pointing out that we had all done that a million times before, the road view was just fine, and my *!#** ing legs were killing me. They ventured down; I contemplated my good sense and intellectual superiority.

Whoomph! clop clop. Whoomph, clop clop. Whoomph, clop clop. Fellow guests can be so loud and annoying. I turned around to give the group one of my most effective death stares. It didn’t work.

Much to, I’m guessing, both of our surprise, the biggest bull elk I have ever seen was cantering down the path. His rack was just about the span of the road, and missed me by about a foot. I am lucky to be one of the few people who are not dead that can tell you what an elk smells like. Let’s say you have a dog that hates baths, so you don’t give her one as often as you should, and then it rains, and she goes out in the backyard and digs and digs until she gets something, which she promptly eats, and then rolls in the leftovers. Like that.

It is good to know, however, how I react in a life-or-death situation. I froze. Then I helpfully squeaked out to my fellow hikers, “Um, hey guys?” By these two brilliant decisions, I am alive today.

My main issue is that this bull elk was not at all concerned about social distancing. He was definitely within six feet of me, and this not in any way acceptable. If he refuses to follow social distancing protocol, he needs to wear a mask! I don’t care what side of the political spectrum he is on, mask up if you are going to be in my space. I place full responsibility of this blunder directly at the feet of your head elk wrangler.

I am sure you will be addressing this grave issue, and proper steps will be taken to better manage elk in the future. I would hate to have to go over your heads and bring these issues up in a sternly-worded letter to your superiors.


Karen Hagnauer








Posted in Animals, dogs, elk, Estes Park, Funny, Hiking, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’ll Take Pandemic for $1,000, Alex


Hoping that this global pandemic doesn’t become a regular occurrence, how will we explain this unique time to future generations?

One of my friends aptly declared, “At this point, if they announce the zombie apocalypse will begin at 2 p.m. tomorrow, I’d be like, ‘Okay, what do I need to do to prepare?’ ”

And as an aside, because we don’t have enough to worry about right now, a big shout-out to the geniuses at the Pentagon, who decided this would be the perfect time to confirm and release videos of UFOs flying around.

If nothing else, this pandemic has helped us learn the difference between needs and wants, and prioritize what’s really important. To me, and most people, I think the simple answer is family.

Son 1 often sees things sooner than most. By early March, he surmised that we would all  eventually be locked down for an extended period of time, and he would rather be in a small mountain town with his family than alone in his apartment in Washington, D.C.

Son 2, in a typical younger sibling, “Why does he get to stay up later?” way, decided to come “home,” as well.

Now usually, when your grown children return to the nest for an extended period, it’s not a good thing; it’s often a failure to launch, due to immaturity or bad choices. So when these relatively well-adjusted and duly-employed men chose to ride out the uncertainty as a family, I was a happy mom.

Son 2 brought his humor and an adorable ten-week-old English bulldog pup. During our weeks together, Son 2 would often burst into my bedroom and announce, “Time to roll you over, Mrs. Hagnauer,” as I do have a tendency to deal with stress in a horizontal position, reading a favorite book.

After about a month of intense family time and elder brother bossing, Son 2 decided to return back to Denver, taking our dear grandpup, Ronald, with him.

The human left behind only one t-shirt, one hat, one sock and one gadgety small speaker thingie.  The baby canine left puppy bites on the windowsills, dining room table legs and my mom’s wooden silverware box.

I called Son 2 a few days later to ask, “How’s my baby?” No, not you, the puppy!

Son 1 is still here, as here is much safer than there, at the moment. His main recommendation as a long-term guest is that you never have to google anything when he is near, as he is filled to the brim with weird and wonderful knowledge. When he was younger, his cousins, for fun, would spew out random questions to try and stump him. “Why is the 666 mark associated with the devil?” “What’s the capital of Ethiopia?”

We used this party trick just last night as we were discussing our transition from republican to independent/democrat. My first presidential vote was in 1980, for Ronald Reagan, who was running against … ? Insert our own personal Mr. Google, with no reading glasses or typing needed, with the answer. He subsequently supplied all presidential candidates going forward, and we usually were able to recall our votes, maybe.

And proof that God has a great sense of humor? This son’s apartment number is 411.

No stretch that one of Son 1’s favorite television shows is Jeopardy. I have always questioned why he won’t be a contestant. As long as there are no “pop music” or “t.v. shows that aren’t on PBS” categories, he would clean up. After watching endless episodes with him, I think I know. Son 1 is humble, and private, and would hate the often cringe-worthy “Tell us a bit about yourself” part.

I do believe everyone has interesting and unique things about them, but not everyone is a storyteller, i.e. “I’ve collected spoons from thirty-seven countries, Alex.”

I told Son 1 I would be happy to supply the “interesting tidbit” part for the show, as I firmly believe one man’s lie is another man’s storytelling. I haven’t completely formed the anecdote, but it should involve a traveling circus, manatees and the C.I.A.

Years down the road, God willing, I will be telling my grandchildren stories about the Great Pandemic of 2020. I hope to interpret it though the soft gauze of time, adding plenty of humor, and loosely basing some of it on the truth.



Posted in Crazy Relatives, Estes Park, Family, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

ESP and Pee


I have ESP.  I think we all do. Call it intuition, gut instincts, hunches, guardian angels. My psychic flashes are random. I can’t conjure up winning lottery numbers, clean out Las Vegas, or prepare for impending disasters (hello, corona virus).

It’s more like bolts of weirdness. A woman was talking about her bowling league. I asked  if the number on her jersey was 32. “Yes, why?” I don’t know, didn’t know she wore a jersey, didn’t know there was a number, don’t really feel like I thought it before I said it.

Something (someone?) told me to look left, immediately before I would have walked out in front of a car speeding through a parking lot.

I usually am thinking about the caller right before the phone rings.

I get “preparedness” messages before I know what I should prepare for. “It’s going to be bad, but not catastrophic, and will eventually be okay,” before a loved one subsequently went through a very tough time.

I’ve practiced a little psychic healing. Ask Hubs what happened to the multiple warts he had on his hands, and his reply will be, “Honestly, sometimes she (me!) scares me.”

This winter I kept getting a message that something fantastic was going to happen in March. I immediately interpreted this as I would win the HGTV Dream Home (didn’t happen) or the million dollars in Safeway’s Monopoly Game (looking highly unlikely).

Corona virus? Well, that certainly isn’t fantastic by any definition.

Yesterday, before the snow, Hubs and I took a beautiful walk through the National Forest adjoining our neighborhood, and took time to enjoy the solitude, silence and beauty of nature. I stopped in my tracks and started to laugh. Something fantastic did happen in March.

My husband and both of my sons are working from home, and the boys chose MY home, reasoning that a rural mountain setting might be safer than city life at this time. Plus we have way better views! The people I love the most are all riding out the uncertainty together. It is like a throwback to our young family days, with movies, games, dinners together every night, a rare occurrence when your “boys” are 29 and 25.

Yes, there are adjustments to be made, like the food bill. And I now find myself wearing supportive undergarments at home much more than usual. Heck, I’ll be honest, I find myself wearing any type of garment more than usual. There is “stuff” everywhere … coats, giant shoes, computers (about 27),  phones (17?), random wires, plates, glasses, and did I mention a 12-week-old English Bulldog pup? Cute as can be, but like a toddler that doesn’t wear diapers.

Now that my sons are finally friends, the bickering, fighting over toys and contentious mealtime antics are performed by my spoiled dog, Princess Lily, and grandpup, Ronald.

I don’t know what the future holds, but for right now, in the moment, I’m experiencing a fantastic thing, and I will appreciate it.






Posted in Animals, Crazy Relatives, dogs, Family, Funny, Uncategorized, worry | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Bald is Beautiful


I’ve always been a bit offbeat. My first celebrity crush was William Hurt. I thought Sean Connery was much more attractive without the toupee, same goes for John Travolta. My current celebrity crush is Lester Holt.

When I first met darling Hubs, he was the tender age of twenty-two, and sported an extremely precarious Florida peninsula on the top of his head. By the time we married, at twenty-five, it was more of an isthmus. He is now the proud owner of a completely unencumbered dome, with a bit of fringe around the edge. He has never been bothered by being follicularly challenged, and takes pleasure when announcing that he needs yet another “rim trim.” (He also has a very off-color joke about losing his hair, which I won’t share here as I am particularly PG in my writings.)

I have never understood men who don’t embrace their baldness. The wigs, rugs, comb-overs and intricate, stringy webs look ridiculous. Don’t these men have someone who loves them enough to make them stop? I once mentioned to a friend that I had never seen a good toupee or wig. “Sure you have, you just didn’t know it,” she replied. Hmmm, maybe.

A good friend and I share many beliefs, including the view that beauty mostly comes from the inside. But she is, through no fault of her own, now in the midst of the challenging world of dating in her fifties. She is open to many things, but just can’t bring herself to date anyone “short, chubby and balding.” Uh, oh. I fit my friend’s no-no list to a T. This is probably the reason we have always been platonic, and never a romantic couple … that and the fact we were both born blatantly heterosexual.

My problem is, I am attracted to balding men, but not balding women, and I am one.

My first experience with hair loss was a few years ago, at the vortex of aging parents and teenage boys. I rushed to my dermatologist, pulling back my hair to show him a quarter to a half-dollar sized bald patch on the top of my head. He advised a full physical and complete blood work with my regular physician. He then said, “They’ll find nothing, it’s stress, here’s some cream to rub on it. It may grow back, it may not.” Yep, stress.

I then visited the second most important person in this crisis, my hairdresser, to scheme up styles, swoops, swirls and curls to cover my disfigurement. “It’s not too bad,” she assured me. I confessed to putting brown powdered eyeshadow on the spot to hide it. “I’m not surprised you’re losing hair, but I’m shocked you actually own makeup!” She gets me.

That bald spot eventually retreated, and I enjoyed a full head of hair, until … A few years later, Colorado stole both my heart and my curls. I have always had very fine (a nice way to say “thin”) hair, but the waves and whirlies always hid this fact. Not anymore. High altitude and low humidity have left my hair mostly straw straight. I can’t hide a thing.

I am in the midst of embracing Christmas year-round by letting my natural tinsel grow in, and gave up the every six to seven week dye habit. You would think my hair would be grateful, but no. My beautiful, virgin-skinned pink scalp has decided to become an exhibitionist, and show herself to the world. In multiple places. Despite copious amounts of biotin, thickening shampoo, vitamins and fervent prayers.

Now in the scheme of humiliating things that happen to women’s bodies as we age, this is rather minor. Perhaps few notice, except very tall people, and there are not many of those in my family, except my elder son, Shorty. Genes are a wondrously capricious business. As an example, I am a throwback to my 4’11” grandmother, who was slightly rounded, and in later years sported tight, tight curls with lots of scalp showing between rows. Her husband was also named Karl, and I know just the tone to use and hand placement to make when my Karl is in trouble. It’s genetic! But she was also fiery, feisty, funny and extremely sharp. I hope I inherited a bit of that, as well.

There are, of course, truly beautiful bald women, the warriors battling cancer. I’m just an average woman dealing with the common challenges and privileges of an aging body. How lucky am I that this is even a “problem” for me right now. And you know what? I think I am handling this aging/hair loss thing pretty well. I do need to go and buy some silver-tinted eyeshadow to mix with the brown, though.


Posted in Elderly parents, Family, Funny, Marriage, Uncategorized, worry | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Don’t You Dare Eat That Fish Head!

Lake Estes

Living in a resort mountain town during high tourist season takes patience, a positive attitude and the constant ability to forgive. I have some of those … sometimes.

Estes Park, Colorado, is a small town, 6000 permanent residents (around 15,000 if you include the nearby areas).  Approximately 5 million people per year visit neighboring Rocky Mountain National Park, and almost all come through our town. And yes, most of those visits are in the summer and on fall weekends.

We have one major grocery store, one central downtown street, two ways to get into Rocky Mountain National Park, and two main ways to get into or out of town. This year, our town motto is “Road Construction Ahead.” We are designed for thousands of people, not millions.

Residents like to grumble about tourists, but Estes has always been a tourist town. It’s like vacationing in Disneyworld and then complaining about the kids.

Here is a story of a typical summer afternoon in Estes:

My job is over mid-afternoon every day. I rush home, grab my inappropriately active dog for my age, and try to dash out before the afternoon thunderstorms arrive. Having a whole year and four months of experience living in this mountain environment, I am now an expert at predicting weather. I can smell rain before it hits, and can discern which way storms are moving, and how much time before said threat reaches me. Unfortunately, Mother Nature frequently shows me who’s boss.

In off-season, I often walk HRH Princess Lily around our neighborhood and into the National Forest. During the height of summer I do not, as the National Forest, as far as I can tell, is like the old Wild West, with few rules, lots of gunshots, plus the twenty-first century bonuses of pot smoking and dumping unwanted things like old carpet onto federal land. Since Lily is afraid of things like plastic bags and our pantry, I don’t think she would protect me should the situation arise.

So in the summer, I like to find a street that is actually not closed due to construction and head downtown to Lake Estes. It’s a beautiful, four-mile walk that usually includes seeing our resident bald eagles patrol their lake and take a fish tax from every other bird who dares hunt on their waterway. Sometimes there are elk, or deer, but most of the time just an array of homo sapiens of all shapes and sizes.

This particular afternoon I was enjoying watching a storm in the distance while Lily reveled in sniffing, trying to jump on people, digging, and tinkling every few feet. A squall was located up the hill over my house, and I know from my many, many years of expertise that if a cell is up around where I live, it won’t come down into town.

The storm rolled into town. I watched as the cloud cover came closer and closer. I turned Lily around and was heading back to the car, when, mid-poop, a lightening bolt flashed and thunder immediately followed. Fun fact: if a dog is evacuating at the exact time of a lightening strike, said dog will jump five feet vertically, while excrement simultaneously flies seven feet horizontally.

As we are doing a mad dash back to the car, I see Lily grab at something along the shore. It is not the usual cigarette butts, or trash, or underwear (!?), but something slimy and silvery. “Drop it, drop it right now!” This usually works on lesser-value treats, but it was a fish head, evidently a delicious, irresistible fish head.

She munched and crunched, turning her head and chewing faster when I tried to shove my finger in her mouth and retrieve what remained of her fish dinner. At this point, girl, have at it. This also reminded me that I had not had my lunch, and was hungry, so, brilliant idea, let’s drive even further into town and get a sandwich.

I was excited to see a parking space right in front of Subway! This never happens in summer. I turn the correct way (note the giant arrows painted in the parking lot) and pull around for the space. Another car, with an out-of-state license plate (I won’t state which state, but I would love to entertain your guesses!)  pulls in the wrong way, driving over said arrow pointing the other way. I honk and do the flight attendant, two- fingered point to demonstrate that he is going the wrong direction.  He waves and slides into my spot.

I guess it’s time to return home before Lily revisits her afternoon treat all over my car, because I know and you know that is definitely going to happen.

I try to make a left turn across one of the two major arteries leading into Estes. No dice. I eventually turn right, but can’t get over into the lane I need. I decide to drive up and over the back way around town, behind a place that I won’t mention because, frankly, we don’t want the tourists to know about all the shortcuts or they will no longer be shortcuts.

I finally turn down the road that’s not really a road leading to my house. The storm has passed, and I’m looking forward to a quiet, late afternoon sit on the deck, savoring the astounding views and the wonderful solitude of living above Estes, but not actually in it.

How easily I forget the 18 person short-term vacation rental directly below our property. It’s not usually a problem, but there have been instances such as me telling a couple of teenage boys who had just tracked through our leach field that the unscrewing of our septic tank lid was probably not a good idea, and that they might want to think about removing their shoes before going back inside said rental.  And the late-evening drone flying, firecrackers, and people enjoying what obviously must have been their first beers, and the family arguments. And let’s not forget the little boy dangling precariously from the steep rock ledge of our neighbor’s driveway.

So I’m sitting outside, on regurgitation watch, and I notice a new group has moved into the rental. They obviously don’t realize we live in a valley, and a sneeze may be followed by a “Bless you!” from a mile across the way. They’re screaming, “John, get the bags out of the car.” “Kids, help your mother.” “Is there a barbecue pit?” “Do you have the keys?” “Yay! a trampoline!” (Oh, goodie.)  I can’t really be mad at them, because it’s so obvious it must be a whole group of people who are extremely hard of hearing … why else would they be shouting at the top of their lungs? In a residential neighborhood?

Did I mention I love off season in Estes?

Posted in Estes Park, Funny, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Never Look a Gift Horse in the Shaft


Pull up a chair, grab a snack, and get ready to enjoy a true story about our adventures while visiting our own heavenly haven, the Willard Hotel, in Washington, D.C. Our tale features six glasses of Malbec, extreme noise, ants, evening hallway prowls in our pajamas, missing luggage, imaginary gifts, a generous drunk guy in the hotel bar (which may be related to the six Malbecs), and a $40 invisible breakfast.

Before we begin, let me assure you that I know that you know that I know this is not a tale about real problems. I have had a few in my life, and these aren’t those.

We planned a beautiful Easter weekend visiting Son 1, with reservations at our favorite D.C. hotel. Last stay, we had some minor inconveniences, which resulted in a four star, rather than five star TripAdvisor review.

Well, when someone offers to make amends, I take them up on it. I contacted the Willard, and attached said review and the hotel’s response. We were offered an upgrade to a suite. Sweet! The regular rooms we stay in are large and luxurious, so this would be a real treat …

Upon check-in, the person at the front desk was hard-selling our suite, “best views” “wonderful room.” My Spidey senses were activated. We went to said suite, and, well, it was weird. It was a split-level configuration where you walk into the sitting room, then down a few steps to the sleeping area. It was large, and also dark and stark. Who cares, really. They gave us a bottle of wine (Washington State Cab, not some yellow-tailed, barefooty stuff) and a tray of delicious chocolates. Hubs walked down into the sleeping area and noticed a problem. We were not just “next to” the elevator, the bedroom actually wraps around the elevator shaft. It was noisy, but, that’s why God invented noise-cancelling phone apps.

Off to dinner with Son 1, then back “home” for a good night’s sleep after a long travel day. We turn on white noise, snuggle down, and … nope. You know that part in the movie Grease, when Cha Cha is getting ready to drop the flag for the drag race, and Danny and Craterface are revving their engines? Yeah, like that. Hubs calls down to front desk and talks to Mark. He tells us there are only two rooms left, no suites. Sure, we’ll take one. Please note: First time ever in Hags history we have requested a room change.

Sleepus interruptus is not my thing. It’s not as ugly as when I’m hangry, but it does invoke images of wet wasps. I rebelliously decide to stay in my jammies while transferring rooms. I did, however, don supportive undergear, I am not a savage!

Our second room was tiny, and weirdly arranged, with the television on one side of the bed, instead of by the foot, but this did allow Hubs to do his best representation of the old Burt Reynolds centerfold side pose, so there is that. We left the half-eaten chocolate treats in the first room, boo. We remembered to grab the wine, yay! A good night’s sleep was had by all.

The next morning we discussed moving back to a suite, as we were promised, but decided it was too much of a hassle, and we would stay. That is until I got out of the shower and finally put on my glasses. The ants go marching one by one, hurrah! The bathroom was teeming with the little guys. Now, I am a mountain girl, and critters don’t really bother me, but these weren’t  my ants, and I didn’t want them prancing around in my things.

So, we pack up everything again, leaving the luggage on the bed, and go back to the front desk to arrange for yet another room (3). We receive deep apologies from hotel personnel, with assurance that we will get another room, and the hotel will take care of moving our luggage.

A day of more sightseeing, then back to the good old Willard. We have a nice front desk chat with Mark, the guy we spoke to the previous evening, who switched us to the ant room (2). We tell him that the suite (1) we had would be fine if they put the sitting room next to the elevator, instead of the bedroom. He agreed, and said they had talked to engineering about this. So, they know the bedroom is a problem, and give us this suite anyway? I’m sure most suite guests, paying suite prices, would not be happy with this room, so they use it as a giveaway to placate the proletariats?

Anyway, he again apologizes, and wants to send up a bottle of wine to us. He asks our preference; red, white or bubbly. We choose white.

We are given our new room (3), and it is exactly the type of room we booked in the first place, the kind we always stay in; roomy, light, luxurious, wonderful. Except our promised luggage is nowhere to be found. We call down, and they have someone retrieve it from the ant room (2) and bring it up.

Out to dinner and … come back to room (3), no promised wine. No surprise. We did get a fruit bowl and a letter stating they were sorry for our issues, and would take $100 off our bill. Okay, that’s worth more than a bottle of wine. But it bothers me when someone promises something and then doesn’t follow through. I am crazily literal, so if someone says, “I will send you up a bottle of wine,” I think, “Hmm, they are sending up a bottle of wine.”

Or if they say we will be staying in a suite, and the first one wasn’t habitable, they would do everything in their power to give us another suite.

Easter! A full day of brunch, exploring, National Mall walking, people watching, then back to the hotel bar for a drink before dinner. It’s packed with Easter revelers who certainly fully embraced Sunday Funday, including a man who could barely stand, his shirt unbuttoned over his distended belly, tie askew, sweatily offering to buy drinks for everyone. No, thanks. Dinner is at Son 1’s favorite pizza place, then a final, peaceful sleep.

We leave our room Monday morning to check out. I forget to take the note offering the $100 credit with me. Hubs, the irritatingly eternal optimist, says, “We don’t need it, they’ll have it already on our bill.” I laughed and laughed. Well, of course they didn’t, but were quick to subtract the money when we mentioned it. Then we noticed a charge from the bar on Sunday night for six glasses of Malbec, while we were out eating pizza. Now I’m thinking perhaps Disheveled Man was generously buying drinks for all because we were actually buying the drinks. And everyone knows that Son 1 hates Malbec … They removed this charge.

A second scrutiny of the bill found a $40 breakfast charge, which we evidently enjoyed right before going out to brunch with Son 1. This was also removed. The rather flustered front desk agent mumbled something about, “It’s probably because you moved rooms so many times.” Oh, so sorry.

It was quite the escapade, and I frankly don’t really know how to process it all. I love the Willard, but was so shockingly disappointed. I might even give them a three star review on TripAdvisor, an extremely aggressive/negative rating for a Midwesterner like myself.

It also got me thinking. Every good story needs a moral. Perhaps the moral to this story is that upgrades, like fancy hotel suites, bigger houses, pricier sports cars or younger second wives, often turn out to be more trouble than they are worth. Perhaps the known, safe and comfy classic you know and love is really the best choice.


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Is That a Skunk?

“Good God, woman, you’re almost 80 years old.”

My mom was one of my favorite people, and I loved making her laugh … a lot. She was a bit vain, and did not wholly embrace the beauty of the aging process. Because of this, I always enjoyed rounding up and adding seven or eight or 12 years to her actual age. I reveled in catching her doing something somewhat age inappropriate, swooping in, taking a heavy wheelbarrow or the lawnmower away from her, and using the above sentence, when she was maybe 68.

It must be an inherited thing, as Son 1 always calls on my birthday, and taking advantage of my well-known math “skills,” usually is able to convince me, at least for a few minutes, that I am a year or two older than I actually am.

Last fall, I called him to wish him a “Happy 29th birthday” on his 28th. He didn’t get the joke, and logically assumed I just couldn’t do the math, even though he was nice enough to be born in 1990, making the calculation a bit easier for me.

So here I stand, on the cusp of 58, telling myself, “Good God, woman, you’re almost 65 years old.” This got me thinking … I have never been overly concerned about appearance, as I believe the most attractive parts of people are always on the inside, and they don’t diminish as we get wrinkly, stooped, grey, or perhaps a bit fluffy. I would not get any type of elective surgery to look “better,” I think Botox masks beauty, fat should be dealt with the old-fashioned diet and exercise way, and we should all embrace our life lines, wrinkles and scars. I also don’t care if you feel or act differently; you do you. Let’s all celebrate, in our own unique ways, where we are in our journeys.

So why I have been dying my hair so long I don’t even know what color it really is/was is a bit of an enigma. I guess, to me, and, let’s be honest, to society, grey equals “old,” and I didn’t want to go there. (Unless you are one of those millennials who dye their hair grey because you think it’s cool. Don’t worry, kids, someday you will have it naturally, if you are lucky enough to live that long.)

I know, I know, this follicular façade doesn’t support my stated life’s philosophy, so … I’m going “natural.”

My grey hair is a bit weird. It’s not fairy-sprinkled evenly throughout; it’s more like a yarmulke, which I guess makes sense now that I found out through a DNA test that I’m Jewish.  If I was really true to myself, I would just let things happen naturally, and struggle through the “skunk” phase until I get what I get.

Nope, I guess I really am a bit vain. I am going grey with help.  Being the rebel I am, I actually had more grey put into my hair, to accelerate the process and diminish the stripe of shame.

I also decided that, with only about one month left until beach vacation, I will just accept who I am, and maybe buy one of those skirted, “I’ve Just Given Up” swimsuits that Son 2 helpfully named and recommended.


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Can’t You Read the Sign?


My first dog in a string of furbabies was Sammie the Wonderlab. Unfortunately, she somehow didn’t get the “lab” memo. She hated other dogs, couldn’t swim, and frankly, wasn’t very bright. Oh, she did enjoy a few labbie things, like wading pools, playing in the sprinkler, and her personal favorite daily activity: running outside in the morning to retrieve our newspaper, and usually a few neighbors’ papers, as well.  Her second favorite activity was bounding through our electric fence to chase squirrels. She never learned the “come” command, so our neighbors would be continuously amused by me driving around in my soccer-mom van, door ajar, calling, “Sammie, CHEESE.” Don’t judge; it worked. I usually could round up Son 2 this way, as well.

As Sammie got older, her forays afield slowed as her arthritis progressed. Eventually we would let her out in the morning, help her down the stairs, walk her out to the newspaper, put it in her mouth and help her back inside, adaptivity at its finest.

Soon we realized, after carrying her 65 pound self down the deck stairs multiple times a day, that we needed a solution to help her still enjoy her own backyard. Hubs came up with the brilliant idea of building a ramp. Oh, it was a beauty! Edges so she wouldn’t slip off, artificial grass to prevent slippage, a gentle angle to ease the descent.

Hubs was justifiably proud … until we realized that no amount of cajoling or cheese curds would get that girl to use said ramp. Eventually she did partake of it, albeit while being snuggled safely in our arms. If we were not immediately accessible to her, she would choose the other set of stairs and tumble down them.

We now live in the Colorado mountains, Sammie is in heaven chasing squirrels and stealing newspapers, and HRH Lily is our constant canine companion. Lily is perhaps a smidge brighter than Sammie, but since she is afraid of plastic bags, the refrigerator and her reflection, I’m guessing she wouldn’t  use a ramp, either.

Recently I heard that the Colorado Department of Transportation is considering building an animal crossing over or under I-70. This is the main access to Colorado’s most popular ski areas, and along with rock slides, avalanches, blizzards and out-of-staters, wildlife/car collisions are an increasing problem. Some areas of Colorado have already built similar wildlife crossings. I tried to read the scientific data regarding their efficacy, but I got distracted thinking about the definition of ungulates vs. carnivores, and if there are any carnivorous ungulates … Basically my skimpy research seems to conclude that those who build them think they are peachy keen, and usage has a lot to do with how they are designed, the chances of human encounters, and accompanying fencing.

I do wonder how we get the animals to actually use these designated crossings. I can’t help thinking about poor Sammie and her rampway. Although she probably wasn’t in any way smarter than the average bear, I think her refusal to participate in the manmade easement is typical animal behavior.

Perhaps we could design snazzy signs to encourage animal participation and point them in the right direction? Employ a wave of friendly crossing guards? A social media blitz? T-shirts and other free stuff given to the first 500 ungulates to cross the road?

Call me crazy, but I think the money could be better spent by directing funds toward a light rail system to get folks safely off the roads and to the Summit County ski resorts. I’m sure the ungulates and carnivores would thank us.

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Home is Where the House Is

Funny American Black Bear_3

I’ve been off my blog for a few months. Usually this is a sign of stress, trauma, drama and a touch of seasonal depression. Yep. Two family deaths around the holidays, my darling father and wonderful father-in-law, just about wrecked me. (Father-in-law was actually a “step,” but since he served as a father figure to Hubs for as long as I have known him, the step is removed to honor the relationship and the man.) Weirdly, my dad’s death makes me miss my mom more deeply. Plus I am now officially an orphan, although at 57, it’s not quite as socially acceptable to feel sorry for oneself, and I don’t think anyone will likely adopt me.

So I slogged through, and, as usual, find myself peeking my head out on the other side. I have come to understand, in my maturity, that most years, viewed from the aggregate, are much the same. There are triumphs and tragedies, some years more eventful in good ways or bad, but time passes like the sea. It ebbs and flows, there are violent storms, and beautiful dawns, and treasures washed up at your feet, if you are smart enough to look for them.

Almost one year into our big move to Estes Park, Colorado, it does not yet feel completely like “home.” I miss some dear friends and family desperately, but I am content. I find myself having to become much more extroverted, joining groups and saying, “yes!” to many things I did not in my past. I think it’s probably a bit like the middle-aged dating some of my friends are suffering through. It can be a bit uncomfortable, but necessary if you don’t want to becoming a reclusive crazy cat lady. This week includes a group cooking class, a bit of work, and coffee with a new friend. I changed my email moniker to cherihagnauer2.0 for a reason!

Leaving your hometown of 56 years is a big change, and change is hard. But I wake up every day to the stunning views of the mountains, Hubs and Her Royal Highness Lily Dog by my side; one son lives only an hour and a handful away, and most people here (Estes Parkians? Estesites? Estesers? Estes Parkers?) are generally friendly and welcoming, if you make the effort. Rocky Mountain National Park is now my playground.

Other benefits to living in Estes Park:

Every day, in every way, going into the kitchen provides continual “snake in a can” moments of practical joke excitement. The altitude affects packaging of everything. Of course you expect the soda to spurt, and chip bags are so filled with extra air that we have learned to stab them before opening to avoid a confetti cannon of carbs. Meal preparation is always an adventure, as you open the cottage cheese container and get a dairy facial, or unleash Mt. Vesuvius as you release the cap on a bottle of salad dressing.

Estes has toughened me to the elements of nature. Chicagoans are babies. Windy City, my Aunt Fanny! Our winters consist of many nights of 40 m.p.h. winds, with gusts hurricaning in around 80 or so. Our deck grill is trussed up with bungee cords, and we keep our outdoor furniture mostly indoors. Lily often gives us her “You must be crazy!” look as we try to tempt her into the backyard for her last evening relief mission. Springtime has a different definition up here. Any day above 40 degrees, you will see the Estes kids cavorting on the playground in shorts and t-shirts. It’s also considered prime picnic weather. The reality that we are not always the highest on the food chain, and must be aware of mountain lions and bears (oh my!) is eye opening, as well.

I have observed that people are people, and small towns are small towns. Everything that happens in Estes Park happened in my old hometown of Kirkwood, Missouri. There are building and zoning issues, those pro and against the mayor and the council, the contrarians against everything faction, the change and grow because we can groups, and the don’t ever change anything brigade.  There are curmudgeons and crabs, the cool kids, and people so nice you can’t believe they are for real. There are the lifers who think the newcomers should have no say, and the newcomers who think the town they chose should now change to better fit their needs. There are the volunteers that keep the community running, and the sideliners who do nothing but complain.

I have come to realize that where one lives has its good and bad, funny and fractious, and it is really all about your view. My view from Estes is amazing, and my mission is to remember and appreciate it.


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