Unlikely Shopping Again

Bill and I celebrated our 28th anniversary this weekend in Estes Park. It is one of our favorite spots, and the location of many celebrations. In honor of Estes Park, I am reposting one of my favorite stories about this mountain community. It originally posted in September 2017.

I always tell people I grew up in a small town in Nebraska. The truth is (and I actually checked the figures on the internet, so you know it’s right) that when I was born in 1953, there were probably close to 10,000 people living in the Midwestern town of Columbus. When I left for college in 1972, there were over 15,000 happy Columbus residents. Well, I don’t know if all 15,000 were happy. I’m overthinking….

Size is relative, my friends. I continue to maintain I lived in a small town. Still, that town had a J.C. Penney store, a Montgomery Wards, a couple of dime stores, a great drug store, and, of course, a fabulous bakery. My point is that if I needed to buy underwear, I knew exactly where to go.

Last weekend, I spent a few days in Estes Park, Colorado, with my two sisters. Estes Park, for those who might not know, is a small resort town of just over 6,000 located near Rocky Mountain National Park. There are lots of restaurants, two – count ‘em – two taffy stores, and shops selling all manner of chatzkies.  We have wonderful memories of Estes, and its proximity to the beautiful national park makes it one of our favorite places to visit.

Bec arrived first, driving in from Fort Collins, and I met her there. I had packed my bag quite hastily, and had included a picnic bag full of items for a cook-out that evening. At some point later in the afternoon, it occurred to me that, while I had remembered the steaks,  I had forgotten to pack pajamas.

No worries, Bec said. I have a spare pair.

Great news, except by that time I realized I had also forgotten to pack a toothbrush and, worse, underwear. (I did, however, have three corkscrews.)

Bec and I put our heads together to try to come up with a place that sold underwear. Had I been looking for a t-shirt that said My Mom and Dad Went to Estes Park and All I Got Was This Stupid T-Shirt, or a coffee cup with a cross-eyed bear saying I Can BEARly Think Before Coffee or a lifetime supply of petrified wood, I would have been set. But we simply couldn’t imagine where one would find ladies’ underwear in this tourist spot. No Walmart. No Target. Amazon can’t make one-hour deliveries.

So I set off to the motel office, hoping against hope that the proprietor – Fred – wouldn’t be attending the desk, and that instead a woman would be sitting there. No such luck. There was Fred, looking cheerful.

Can I help you? he asked happily.

In a voice that was truly sotto voce, I said Hello Fred. This is really embarrassing, but can you tell me where I can buy women’s underwear in this town?

Fred gives it a moment’s thought, turns towards the back room, and hollars – HOLLARS – Hey Joe! Where can this lady buy women’s underwear?

Help me Lord.

Joe comes out, and you can see he’s giving it a lot of thought. After a moment or two, Joe says, Try True Value Hardware. It’s in the Safeway Shopping Center.

True Value Hardware. Men are from Mars.  If only I had three pairs of underwear and no corkscrews. But I knew that there was a pharmacy in that same shopping center, and I had high hopes that perhaps they sold women’s underwear.

I walk into the pharmacy, and there is, of course, only a man working there. I take a deep breath and ask him if they by any chance sell ladies’ underwear.

No Ma’am, we sure don’t, he said. Try True Value. It’s just across the parking lot.

Again with the hardware store. I was successful, however, at finding a toothbrush at the pharmacy.

As I left the store, I saw the True Value Hardware Store. What do I have to lose, I thought.

I walk into the hardware store, and there is, of course, a man at the front counter. Big man. Three-day growth of beard. Chewing on a toothpick. Do you by any chance sell women’s underwear? I ask him.

You’ve probably guessed his answer by now.

Yes, Ma’am. They’re on Aisle 16, just across from the ammo.

Well, I made up the part about the ammo, but I’m not making up the part about True Value Hardware selling ladies’ underwear.  I also found a Size 2XL t-shirt that with a picture of an elk and ESTES PARK, COLORADO in big letters. AKA, a nightgown….

Ace might be the place with the helpful hardware man, but True Value has the best selection of women’s cotton briefs in Estes Park. Well, the only selection, it seems.

Saturday Smile: Goin’ to the Chapel

Twenty-eight years ago today, I walked down the aisle at St. Vincent Catholic Church where Bill was waiting for me. We said our vows, and the fun/chaos/drama/romance began. Happy anniversary to my husband, who has made me smile for 28 years and more…..

Have a great weekend.


Friday Book Whimsy: Mr. Nobody

What would you do if you woke up in an unfamiliar place and couldn’t remember who you are or why you are there? It’s a frightening notion, and one that author Catherine Steadman makes us think about in her new novel, Mr. Nobody.

A man awakens on an unfamiliar English beach, and hasn’t the slightest idea who he is and is carrying no identification. His past is a complete blank. He is found by a couple of police officers, and taken to the hospital where he is treated for dehydration and shock.

As officials reach out to the public to try to learn the man’s identity, the public’s interest is piqued. He is nicknamed Mr. Nobody, and held in the hospital until more can be learned.

In the meantime, Dr. Emma Lewis receives a telephone call from a renowned psychiatrist for whom she has the greatest respect. He asks her to become the chief doctor on this man’s case. It is the break for which Emma has been waiting, too good to turn down.

But then she finds out that she will need to return to the area in which she grew up, the area that she and her family had to flee and take on new identities because of something that happened. Nevertheless, she decides to risk it.

And then Mr. Nobody sees her, and says her name. Her real name. How could this be?

What follows are many twists and turns that made the novel very entertaining. I will admit that I felt as though the author made me wait waaaaay too long to find out about Emma’s past. In fact, the novel moved a bit slowly until the very end. Still, I finished the book in a couple of sittings, and I love when endings are unpredictable as this novel’s was.

I recommend Mr. Nobody to people who enjoy thrillers.

Here is a link to the book. 

Thursday Thoughts

Tick Tock
The summer is ticking away. (Now I sound like my mother.) Every year about this time, the columbine in the berm in the front yard look spectacular. This year, however, all of my columbine — both front and back yard — have been meh. Instead, the flowers that have really looked pretty are my lilies. Unfortunately, they don’t last that long. But I planted some Black-eyed Susans that I’m hoping will bloom this year into the fall…..

There’s No Place Like Home (Not) 
Dagny and Maggie Faith continue to stay with their Aunt Julie in Bozeman. They call it Camp Julie, and for good reason. She’s a lot of fun, but also keeps them on the straight narrow. Their mother told me they are in no hurry to come back to Denver. Well, Dagny admitted she missed her bees…..

She didn’t say anything, however, about missing her Nana.

Front Porch 
Last evening after we finished our dinner, we took a walk. We ended up at Dave and Jll’s house. Addie was off somewhere with her boyfriend. Alastair was cooking dinner for his new girlfriend (young love, first love) who seems very nice. Dave was playing poker with some buddies for the first time in months. So Bill, Jll, and I sat on the front porch with a glass of white wine, and solved the problems of the world. Soon we were joined by Jll’s mother, who lives across the street, and her dog Piper. We yakked, and Piper kept all the dogs walking by at bay. Well, at least until he started shaking so much from fear that he had to go home. It was a lovely evening and was nice and cool as we made our way home.

Get Off My Property 
Bec rented a VRBO last year in Fort Collins, and since then has been getting fed Larimer County news. She’s more aware of whose running for mayor than Jen, who has lived there for 30 or more years. Yesterday she sent me a copy of a news article she received that told of someone in Estes Park placing nasty notes on the windshields of cars with out-of-state license plates. GO HOME is basically what they said. In the meantime, the businesspeople are apologizing their butts off and assuring people they are welcome to come and spend their money in this town that depends on summer businesses. Since we will be going to Estes Park this weekend to celebrate our anniversary, I will have to check things out and let Bec know if she has to cover up her license plate when she enters Larimer County.


Swampland For Sale

I read recently in an AARP publication, and then again on Next Door, that there are bad people who are taking advantage of us in new and inventive ways. I think scammers are kind of like the people who sell umbrellas in metropolitan areas like New York City and Rome. A few drops of rain, and within minutes, the streets are full of people offering umbrellas at a ridiculously high price.

Scammers, like umbrella salespeople, react quickly to whatever tragedy is happening in the world. As soon as the word PANDEMIC hit the air waves, people were apparently getting phone calls or email messages about the coronavirus. We have a cure. We have masks for sale. We have an herbal vaccine. We have toilet paper. I’m happy that I never got such a call. Not because I would have fallen for it, but because it would have made me so angry.

The ink wasn’t even dry on the legislation that created the economic stimulus package, whereby many Americans received loot to use to stimulate the economy, before the scammers were making phone calls again. Give us your account number and we’ll invest your money and make you a millionaire. Someone got your check instead of you, but we can fix it if you give us all of your personal banking information. I’ve got some swamp land in Florida I will sell you.

I am very careful about texts and emails that I get. In fact, I don’t answer my telephone if it’s a number I don’t recognize. I always figure if it’s legit, they will leave a message and I can call them back. Also, my email provider does a cracker jack job at recognizing spam. Oh, they get it wrong once in a while. Poor Café Rio can’t get a break from Comcast. But mostly they get it right.

I checked my spam folder yesterday, and learned that someone named Daniel Sullivan was alerting me to the fact that the government discovered they owe me $4.7 million dollars. What a boo-boo. Unfortunately for me, a woman named Annette Stillman was masquerading as me and trying to get my money. The nerve. However, Mr. Sullivan smelled a rat and was going to foil Ms. Stillman’s efforts. He wanted me to give him my bank information so that they can deposit my riches into my account leaving poor old Annette penniless.

Here was the first paragraph of the email, verbatim:

Dear Beneficiary,

We apologies for the delay of your payment and all the inconveniences we might put you through, while we were having some minor problems with our payment system which in all case not meeting up with fund beneficiary payments, we apologize once again.

Obviously, I was totally unconcerned about the fact that the sentence made no sense, nor did it contain any punctuation at all. Bankers, after all, are left-brained and worry about dollars and cents and not commas and correctly spelled words. Ha!

Seriously, these people are evil. But they are also stupid. I know there are, sadly, people who fall for these scams. But I am puzzled by anyone who can read the above paragraph and not stop and wonder.

I’m letting my $4.7 million go unclaimed.

Kick the Bucket

I don’t have a bucket list. In fact, nobody had a bucket list before 2007 when the movie The Bucket List starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman was released. Suddenly everybody has a bucket list.

But not me, because most of the things I would put on a bucket list are things I will never do in a million years. I might offhandedly say, “Wait, what? You’re going to safari in Africa? That’s on my bucket list.” The truth, however, is that I will never go to Africa. I’m not saying that with any kind of sadness; however, the way my life has laid itself out almost certainly precludes a trip to Africa.

Late last year, I watched a series on PBS about the development of country music. One of the episodes featured in the series focused on bluegrass music. I love bluegrass music. In that episode, they showed a number of people — mostly women — playing the dulcimer. I believe I said out loud to myself, “Learning to play the mountain dulcimer is on my bucket list.”

Learning to play the dulcimer, my friends, is another thing that I can’t actually put on a bucket list. I will never learn to play the mountain dulcimer, for a number of reasons. When I looked up dulcimer on Wikipedia, it described it as a fretted string instrument of the zither family. Well, I had no idea what the zither family is, so I looked that up on Wikipedia. According to Wikipedia, the word zither has historically been applied to any instrument of the cittern family.

At that point, I stopped. I didn’t bother to investigate what in the hell the cittern family is. Especially when I read that the word guitar is derived from the word cittern. Huh?

Not knowing where to even find a mountain dulcimer, or someone who provides dulcimer lessons, sealed the deal. I will have to be satisfied with five years of piano lessons. I don’t think the piano is in either the cittern or the zither family.

Another activity that I believe I have thought might be on my bucket list is learning to water ski. Let’s analyze this bucket list item. I can’t swim. I can’t even tread water. My niece Jessie told me that her dog EDI can’t swim. Seriously, I thought all dogs could instinctively swim. Not EDI. Jessie says EDI isn’t buoyant and promptly sinks. EDI and I have that in common. I, too, promptly sink. It isn’t that people haven’t tried to convince me to learn to swim. Many have, and many have failed. I’m not buoyant.

Nevertheless, I think it would be fun to water ski. I tried once, when I was in high school. We had a cabin on a lake, and our neighbors had a speed boat. They spent weekends water skiing. One Sunday, they asked me if I wanted to learn to water ski. Inexplicably, I said yes. Even more inexplicably, my parents — both who knew I couldn’t swim — said, “Great idea! Have at it.”

The neighbors put a life jacket on me, dropped me in the water on a pair of water skis, and took off. It should come as no surprise that I fell within seconds. Unexpectedly, however, the life jacket slipped off of me immediately, and I began to sink, just like EDI. Thank you to God, who gave me the good sense to grab onto a ski which held me up until the neighbors swung around and picked me up.

“Want to try again?” they asked cheerfully. Oh. Hell. No. Mom and Dad didn’t even get up from their lawn chairs.

Perhaps if I ever decide to have a bucket list, it should contain activities at which I might actually succeed. Making the best whiskey sour. Baking the perfect loaf of bread. Making a lasagna without looking at a recipe.

It’s all a matter of perspective.

Party Central

We have a party in our back yard at least once a week, and have for about a month. A note to our friends: Don’t feel left out. Neither Bill nor I are invited either. It’s our two eldest grandkids — Adelaide and Alastair — who host the party for their friends.

Our back yard is large; large enough, in fact, to put up a volleyball net and have a regular volleyball game. And volleyball seems to be the name of the game. Each week, the group gets larger. Yesterday’s soiree included about 15 to 20 kids. All of them were wearing swim suits and hats. This one included a picnic lunch.

The thing is, were our grands and their friends not enjoying our yard, the grass would be empty. Bill and I often sit out on our patio, but it isn’t like Bill ever turns to me and says, “Hey Kris, are you interested in putting down that bloody mary and hitting a volleyball over the net for a bit?” It’s a good thing, too, because the last time I played volleyball was in high school PE class. I’m pretty sure I didn’t get my serve over the net a single time. And we didn’t wear swim suits.

I was talking to my sister Bec as the kids started to arrive.

“Will you be invited to play?” she asked me.

“Oh, golly,” I replied. “I certainly hope not. If I came out in my swim suit (were I to even have one), the kids would likely all go scampering.”

Here’s the thing, though. I know that all Baby Boomers understand what I’m about to say (and I’ve said it many times before). Despite the fact that I have arthritis in my hands and feet and neck, and despite the fact that the skin around my chin sags and my arms (well, let’s not talk about my arms), I sometimes forget that I’m not 18 years old. I seriously look in the mirror sometimes and think, when did THAT happen?

And I felt that way yesterday as I watched the kids play volleyball and slide on their homemade Slip-N-Slide. They were playing their radio (maybe too loud, I thought, in my best get off my lawn way). The music they were playing wasn’t rap or today’s Top 40 (as though I know what are today’s Top 40). Instead, they were playing the Doobie Brothers and Boston and the Elton John and Michael Jackson. I even heard Build Me Up Buttercup by the Foundations which takes me back all the way to the 1960s. I could sing along with the words (which I did quietly in my kitchen as I prepared dinner so that Addie and Alastair weren’t humiliated)…..

These are nice kids. They all thanked me as they left, despite the fact that I didn’t do a single thing for them (except find a plastic fork for one quiet young woman who asked me politely). They all looked alike to me, so introductions were useless. I could pick out Addie and Alastair, but the rest could have been clones.

I was delighted that I was playing my part in keeping these 15, 16, and 17-year-olds out of trouble. I was also thinking that maybe I should have learned to play volleyball in PE.

Bill told me later he heard them talking about the next time they would gather. They would start charging, and the dining choices would be much improved. Burgers and hot dogs, according to Bill’s eavesdropping. I’m waiting for them to start talking about digging a hole in our yard and roasting a kalua pig, or perhaps putting a goat on a spit.

We all cope in our own way. Just sayin’…..

Saturday Smile: Took the Plunge

Restaurants in Colorado have been opening for dine-in business bit by bit. Since they are only allowed 30 percent capacity, only those restaurants that have enough seating that it makes sense to open have started dine-in service. Readers know that Oregano’s Pizza is one of Bill’s favorite restaurants in which to dine when we’re in AZ. Well, they have opened a few here in Colorado. One is a half hour or so from our house, in Littleton. The other evening, we took the plunge and ate at the restaurant. It was the first time we dined in a restaurant since March 12, 2020. I can’t speak for all restaurants as far as safety, but we felt very comfortable at Oregano’s.

Eating and not having to do the dishes made me smile.

And so did Addie’s fancy beverage…..

Have a great weekend.


Friday Book Whimsy: Once is Not Enough

I recently read an article written by someone unknown to me who said that during the recent months of quarantine, people have been re-reading books at an unusual rate. Interesting observation, though I have no idea how she knows what books we are all reading. Perhaps since Apple and Amazon and Pinterest and Instagram all seem to be fully aware of what we are doing at all times, they spilled the beans to this particular writer (who they interrupted while she was re-reading Little Women for the 27th time). 

I don’t want to disappoint the writer, but I haven’t re-read a single book for quite some time. It’s not that I don’t re-read books; I have my favorite books that I have read on many occasions. But I continually put e-books on hold at two libraries, and they have been keeping me busy. I think people are reading more than they normally read because they have nothing else to do while they’re drinking their Bloody Marys at 10 o’clock in the morning. So the books are coming to me at a furious rate.

According to the writer of the article, the reason people are re-reading is that during this time of restlessness and insecurity, readers enjoy their familiar authors and the memorable story lines. That could well be true in my opinion. For me, there are certain novels that make me feel like I’m sitting with an old friend or a beloved family member.

One of my favorite novels, and a book that I re-read regularly, is the first novel by Colorado author Kent Haruf entitled Plainsong. The story is good, but I will tell you the truth: I don’t love the book because of the story. The plot isn’t remarkable. I love the book because of the dialogue. One hundred percent. As I read the words written by Haruf and spoken by the two bachelor brothers who raise cattle outside of the fictitious town of Holt, Colorado, it’s like sitting and listening to my uncles talk. The dialogue is the most accurate and comforting of any other book I’ve ever read.

Voice is really important to me. I discovered that when I used to listen to books on tape (and yes, they really were on tape) as I commuted to work. It never took me long to figure out whether the book’s author had a gift with dialogue when you hear someone reading the book out loud. There are books where every person’s voice is interchangeable. If the sentence wasn’t attributed to a character, you wouldn’t know who spoke.

The books in the Mitford series by Jan Karon are another wonderful example of books that I could (and do) read again and again. Perhaps the characters are too good to be true, but what’s wrong with that? I want each and every one of them to be my friend. I want Fr. Tim to JUST ONCE come and pray with me. Or pray for me. The author has given each character a unique voice.

So, though I have admitted to being too busy keeping up with my library holds, I can certainly see why people are re-reading their favorite books. It’s like hanging out with someone you love.

Here, by the way, are SOME of the books I have re-read…..

Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
At Home in Mitford, by Jan Karon
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith
Plainsong, by Kent Haruf
My Antonia, by Willa Cather
Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier
True Grit, by Charles Portis
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
Hercule Poirot books by Agatha Christie
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

What have you re-read?


Thursday Thoughts

A while back, I admitted that I was inadvertently a hoarder since I purchased two jars of spaghetti sauce without realizing that I already owned two. I would like to say that mistake was a flash in the pan; however, I picked up a 5-lb. bag of flour yesterday. When I went to put it away, here is what I found…..

I guess Nana Kris better get to baking!

Fun in the Sun
A week ago, Addie asked if she could set up the volleyball net in our back yard and invite a few friends over to play. I told her as long as she set it up and took it down, she was welcome to have a volleyball match. Tuesday night, she asked me if I minded if they did the same thing again. Since they had so much fun a week earlier, and since I really didn’t have to do a thing, I told her it was A-OK with us……

After they took down the volleyball net yesterday, they blew up an inflatable gymnastics thingamajig, sprayed it with water and dishwashing soap, and commenced to playing a version of Slip-N-Slide. Bill and I watched enviously, noting that while it looked so fun, we would undoubtedly have to visit the hospital directly after slipping and sliding.

My regular geocaching buddies (Maggie Faith and Dagny) are in Montana for the summer, so I decided it was time to teach Kaiya, Mylee, and Cole the tricks of the game. I took over McDonalds burgers and nuggets for lunch, and then we took off to their neighborhood park. They caught on very quickly, and we managed to find three out of four geocaches. I’m not sure Cole knew exactly what was going on, but he was in it to win it from the get-go…..

And while we were visiting the park, Kaiya showed us a secret hiding place that she and her friends had discovered one day when they rode their bikes to the park. It really is a very cool little spot that only kids (or very flexible adults) can get into. Cole squats in the entryway…..

Fiddlesticks (er, heads) 
As I mentioned above, Dagny and Maggie are in Montana for the summer spending time with their Aunt Julie. One of the activities Julie shared with them was foraging for edible goodies. They found fiddleheads, which are the fronds of a young fern that are edible, and quite a delicacy, in the spring. The two entrepreneurs not only picked a ton of them, but they then called up all of the appropriate restaurants in Bozeman to sell them to the chefs at something like twenty bucks a pound. I, for one, had never heard of a fiddlehead fern. I keep learning from my grands…..