Where do I begin?

moving-chaos

It’s been a hellofa couple of months for AGMA…

No, I, nor any member of my immediate family, did not contract COVID (no thanks to the MAGA cult who continue to go maskless and still insist it’s a hoax.)

COV-Idiots.

Our lease ran out on our Hobbit Hole in Chicago on 11/1 so we had to skidaddle.

Closing on our new (to us) townhouse in Chicago wasn’t until 11/12. We needed to place to crash for a couple of weeks.

Soooo – we packed up all of our Hobbit Hole stuff, moved it all into our son’s house & garage, and piled the cats, their litter box, a couple of suitcases, hub’s mobility scooter and ourselves into Peaches (my SUV), and drove back down to Atlanta.

And that’s just the start.

It’s been a wild, crazy ride since then – 98% of it being good. But really, anytime you don’t become part of a pandemic statistic, it’s good. Really good.

Let AGMA just sum it up by saying it’s just a little bit crazy to move into a new home during a pandemic, right before the holidays, and host your ‘pod’ for Thanksgiving dinner that includes 3 children under 5. Then to try do find out which boxes the (to quote ‘be best’ Melania) “f*cking Christmas stuff” is in because all the boxes in the basement are piled all in one room because we need to get new carpet in the family room because the previous owner’s cat peed in one corner and I didn’t notice the aroma until after closing and our kitties are mighty interested in that area of the basement.

Ewwww….

I hate it when that happens.

And we have our new, made in China, PVC Christmas tree set up almost in the middle of our dining area of our small living /dining room, because we have 42 moving blankets piled up along the wall that won’t be removed until 12/13. I’m sure we’ll get the ornaments on it before Christmas.

Maybe.

Again, most of what’s been going on has been all good.

Except for the cat pee.

And we live in a ‘smart’ home now. Oh God, it is FULL of ‘smart’ things. Switches, plugs, cameras, doorbells, thermostats, vacuums, refrigerators, countertop ovens, little speakers everywhere that will do your bidding like Aladdin’s genie, and video screens who want to be your best friend and tell you jokes and show you YouTube videos… AGMA has things beeping and chiming and grunting at me all day.

But that’s another post.

I just wanted to let ya’ll know that I’m still here.

I know this is a little late since Thanksgiving was just soooo last week, but I’m very thankful that I AM still here. And that my family is healthy. And that the state of Georgia, my home for the last 8 years flipped blue! And come January 20th, the treasonous insanity will leave the White House, the People’s House, with the inauguration of the 46th President of the United States, Joe Biden. Who has an incredibly intelligent woman of Indian/African American heritage with a white Jewish husband as Vice-President.

Awesome!

And that AGMA is part of a blogging community that has supported me in more ways than you know!

Just SO much to be thankful for in the chaos of 2020.

Now where’s the freaking Christmas sh*t??

Ernest who?

Corey Stoll as Hemmway in Midnight in Paris on the left; the real Hemmingway on the right

AGMA made a hard decision last month.

My niece’s 20 year old au pair, H, wanted to visit Chicago.  My niece & fam live just outside of DC.  H is a delightful young woman from Germany and the whole family adores her.

But she has the misfortune of being the in the US during 2020.

‘Nuff said.

So instead of visiting the incredible Smithsonian Museums, imposing Federal Buildings, or just exploring one of the most beautiful cities in the US, she’s been quarantining at my nieces home.

She’s not been able to travel to see other parts of the US like most au pairs were able to do “before”.  Pre-COVID, she managed a visit to New York City (when she first arrived), Boston (her 1st host family) & Seattle (solo trip).

Another important part of the au pair experience is connecting with other au pairs.  Remember, these young ladies (not sure if guys do this…) have no friends in the US when they come over, so the local au pair community gives them a much needed social outlet and support.

Coronavirus put an end to that as well.

So when H mentioned she would love to see Chicago when we were visiting my niece & fam during the Great Train Adventure last month, I said, “Please come and visit us!”

We told her about our teeny extra bedroom and bathroom in our tiny apartment. But warned her that we lived in a basement Hobbit hole.

AGMA seriously didn’t expect her to take us up on our offer.

I mean, we’re in the latter half of our 60’s and old enough to be her Oma & Opa.  And she had known us for less than 48 hours when we had this conversation, so we were basically strangers. But I guess she didn’t think we were too weird.

It’s good to get that affirmation from time to time.

I’ve discovered in meeting my niece’s other au pairs over the years, that a young woman who has the moxie to take 12 months out of their young lives, away from their family & friends, to travel alone to the US to work for a family they’ve never met in person are pretty comfortable and good conversationalists with people of all ages.

Plus, she’s heading back home in February.

Yup – she wanted to come visit and soon.

But our son and DIL here in Chicago are very uncomfortable with the idea of anybody flying during the pandemic being around their kids.  And anybody spending any extended time in a Hobbit hole with anybody who has flown on a plane.

This is a scary virus and AGMA totally respects their concerns.

So, if we hosted H, we would have to quarantine from our grandchildren for 14 days to make sure we hadn’t gotten the virus from her.

Now that was a tough one,

We opted to be H’s tour guide to the Windy City.

Our 5 year old grandson, who is terrified of the virus, was cool with us staying away until we were deemed “safe”.  Our 3 year old granddaughter was just concerned we’d have toys for her on her birthday at the end of October.  I assured her we would.  And the 16 month old had no idea what was going on.

So we were good to go!

H arrived on a Friday evening and left Sunday evening.  And in-between it was a wild and wooly 48 hours!

Socially distanced, masked highlights included:

  • The Art Institute of Chicago (and their special Monet exhibit)
  • An architectural boat tour on the Chicago River
  • Strolling up the Magic Mile on Michgan Ave
  • Seeing the “bean” in Millennium Park (it was roped off due to the damn virus)
  • Drive by Wrigley Field and the University of Chicago
  • The Picasso on Daley Plaza
  • Greek food in Greek town
  • Chicago Pizza at Giordono’s (AGMA’s fave!)
  • A Chicago hot dog at Jr. Red Hots
  • Cinnamon buns at Ann Sathers
  • Gelato on Rush St.

Inspired by the Monet exhibit at the AIOC and the fact that H liked the movie Yesterday, AGMA suggested that we watch one of my favorite movies of all time, Midnight in Paris, on Saturday night.  It combines a loose theme of French impressionism with a fantasy story (like in Yesterday), so I thought she’d love it.

It tanked like tRump at a TikTok convention .

Without giving away the plot, Midnight in Paris features famous artistic types in the 1920’s in Paris. Ernest Hemingway, Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald, Cole Porter, T.S Elliot, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Josephine Baker, etc…

It didn’t dawn on AGMA that a 20 year old raised in Germany would have no idea who most of those people were.  But it kinda makes sense.  Many are American’s and, while famous in the US, I’m guessing that kids in German high schools never read The Great Gatsby or The Sun Also Rises or heard “Anything Goes” or “Too Darned Hot”.

But still, it felt a little strange to have to explain who they were to her.

AGMA recognized that look in her eyes. Boring…

She went to bed about halfway through the movie.

She didn’t get to see Salvador Dali, Henri Matisse, Luis Bunuel, Man Ray & Djuna Barnes, Paul Gaugin, Edgar Degas or Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

To be totally honest, I had to read about Bunuel, Ray, and Barnes after I first watched Midnight in Paris.  

Everyday’s a school day.

I just need to remember that those GenZ-ers haven’t had the benefit of a lifetime of education and experience like AGMA.

(That’s another way of saying I’m old!)

Overall, H had a wonderful visit to Chicago and gushed about how wonderful it was, how much fun she had, and the yummy food (don’t judge her!)  And Hubs and I both had a great time hosting her. 

And the really good news is that it looks like H didn’t get COVID from her plane ride.  Yippee!  And we, consequently, have not come down with the virus.  Double yippee!

And we were allowed to resume visiting the grands after only 11 days.

It’s De-Lovely!

On the hunt

It’s a wonderful day today in Chicago.

73 degrees, no humidity, slight breeze, clear blue skies and an abundance of sunshine.

AGMA’s at her French bistro with the charming outdoor patio sitting across the way from a big chunk of delicious eye candy.

Hey – there’s nothing wrong with appreciating a well constructed human…

Back in the olden days (pre-March 2020), I would have said the the day was perfect.

But there will be no perfect days until the Cornona Kid and his gang of Kool- Aid imbibing enablers are forcefully evicted from the WH (and Congress), tried for high crimes against humanity and treason, and imprisoned. And, of course, there is a safe, effective and affordable vaccine against COVID.

Until then, AGMA’ll have to settle for wonderful (as she stealthily sneaks a peak at Mr. EC cross from her.)

I’ve been kind of quiet since returning from our great train adventure. It’s been over 2 weeks since we’ve been back and we’re feeling good, so I’m guessing we didn’t acquire any unwanted virus freeloaders during our travels.

That’s a good thing.

We’ve actually been incredibly busy. Between spending a whole lot of time with the grands – which is why we came up here in the first place – and learning how to text-bank for progressive candidates for the upcoming “will our democracy survive or not” election, and watching cycling races (men in spandex!), we put an offer in on a condo here in Chicago.

Nothing like multi-tasking.

We’ve bought and sold 9 homes during our lives (trying to stay one step ahead of the law…), so we know the drill. But buying in Chicago is a bit different from anyplace we’ve ever purchased a home. More people to deal with during the process and way more expensive.

AGMA met our realtor here, in my French bistro. She sat at the table next to me and was meeting with some former clients who wanted to buy again. Always interested the in conversations of my fellow humans that sound interesting, I eavesdropped. And I liked what I heard.

As she was leaving, I asked her if she was a realtor (which I knew already) and confessed I had heard a bit of her conversation (all of it) with her friends. Then I asked for her card.

I think she was okay with me listening in.

Fast forward a month. Hubs and I had decided that we were just going to rent for 6 months or so (NOT the Hobbit hole – that lease is up 11/1) and take our time looking for a place to buy.

But then, as happens, AGMA saw an open house for a condo that looked like it checked all of our boxes. And we have a lot of boxes to check so this was pretty exciting.

We went to the open house on Saturday. I called the French bistro realtor, KR, on Sunday. We saw the property on Monday and put an offer in Monday night (because there was already an offer on the table.) KR and her financing lady pulled off a miracle in getting us a financing pre-approval letter in 90 minutes.

Our offer got accepted Tuesday morning. We got the inspection on Wednesday. We applied for our loan on Thursday and sent our inspection concerns to the attorney (a new step for us having an attorney involved in negotions.) He sent the letter to the sellers attorney with changes to the contract, our requests for additional information, and our inspection concerns on Monday. We received an answer Tuesday (yesterday) with most of the requested information.

And we backed out of the deal today.

Yes…after all of that, we backed out. Such an AGMA thing to do…

There were lots of red flags in the inspection, the HOA financials and the work that had been done on leaks in the mortar between the bricks that kept popping up.

Nah baby nah. We’re just too old for that.

But now we’re in the buying mood. Of course…

And we’ve upped our “max spend” on a place. Of course…

And we’re going out with KR to look at properties tomorrow. Of course…

In trying to de-stress from looking for an affordable home in a expensive new city during a pandemic, AGMA’s been watching my beloved professional cycling. The Giro d’Italia, the 2nd three week grand tour of the season – the Tour de France was last month- is in it’s first week and it’s been a great race so far.

Most major cycling races that normally happen in the spring and summer were either cancelled or postponed because of COVID-19. The season started up again on August 1st, and between then and Nov 8, there are 18 – count ’em – 18 races. Three 3 week grand tours, five multi-stage races (either 5 or 7 day races), and ten 1 day races (Monuments & Classics.)

That’s over 100 days of cycling in a little over 3 months.

OMG – AGMA needs a cigarette!

I have two subscriptions to services that live stream races (early in the AM because they are all in Europe – ugh.) And because the season is so compressed, some races overlap others. I’ve have had one race on the TV (cast from my phone) and another on my laptop several times.

OMG – AGMA needs another cigarette!

Too bad I don’t smoke.

(Don’t you love how I sneaked my cycling swooning into a normal post!?)

All aboard!

Thank you all so much for sending your good juju to us!  AGMA & Hubs did indeed survive the weekend alone with the 3 adorable Grands.

Their parents came home on Sunday afternoon, and all 3 kids were alive, hydrated, and fed, with only two band-aids used on microscopic “ouchies” the entire weekend.

I’d call that a screaming success.

Now we have moved on to another adventure.  

Ya’ll know I can’t sit still…

AGMA’s aways wanted to take a train trip to the Pacific Northwest part of the USA.  You know, a trip where you have a tiny room on the train and get to sleep in it.  And go to the dining car for meals.  And then go to the Panorama car for a 180 view of the spectacular vistas of Glacier National Park and environs.

Well, we’re not doing that exactly.  But it’s close.

Sort of.  Not really.

Taking advantage of an Amtrak sale on “roomettes”, I booked a train trip from Chicago to Washington DC. Then from DC to Pittsburgh, PA.  Then back to Chicago. 

No dining car.  No Panorama car with 180 views.  No Pacific Northwest.

But it’s probably as safe as travel can get these days (hopefully) and we get to see family we haven’t seen for over a year.

And, best of all, we get to sleep on the train.

However, AGMA thinks sleep may be an overly generous term.  

A roomette is a small, private room that’s about 4.5 feet wide and nearly 7 feet long.  It has a sliding door that closes to keep all the virus yuckies in the hall and out of the room.  There are two wide seats in the roomette that face each other with a tray table that pulls out to eat or work on. It has a closet in it that is literally 6 inches wide. The seats magically convert into a lower bunk, and there is an upper bunk stored above the seats that folds down at night.

We do have to venture out of our cocoon to visit the water closet, but we have been assured by everybody at Amtrak that the attendant de-viruses it multiple times every hour.  

I brought loads of hand sanitizer with me just in case.

The meals are delivered to the roomette by the attendant.  And everybody has to wear a mask other than when they are in their little room.

So it feels kinda, sorta safe.

Now I have to interject for any European readers (maybe Candians as well?) that train travel in the US is a far cry from train travel in your country.  The infrastructure and trains cars are older, the trains are slow, it’s expensive unless you catch a sale, and, other than the Northeast US, the service network is not very extensive.

This makes AGMA sad because I love taking trains in Europe. They are, for the most part, fast, reliable, affordable and cover most places you want to go.  (Although I was on an Italian train once that was chaos, but that’s another post…)

Way back in the day, Americans used to travel by train quite often, but they’ve had a love affair with their automobiles ever since Henry Ford puttered down main street in a Model-T.  They abandon rail travel for the “road trip”.   Gas was cheap and with the brand new interstate highway system in the 1950’s, they never looked back.

I’m on the train right now.  It’ll take us a hour longer to get to Pittsburgh from DC on the train than if we had driven.  

But it’s so much more fun than driving…

Except maybe the sleeping.

AGMA had to take the top bunk on the trip to DC because of Hub’s mobility issue.  I didn’t mind.  To me, it was all fun and games….

Until I actually got up there.  

Beside being incredibly narrow, the bunk was so close to the ceiling that I couldn’t sit up in bed.  And I’m a touch claustrophobic. It felt a little like I was in a closed MRI machine.

Uh oh…  A mild panic started to rise up, but I did some deep breathing zen stuff and it went away.

Sort of.

And rather than the gentle rocking that would lull me to sleep I had imagined, it felt more like AGMA was in the first Conestoga wagon to travel on the Oregon Trail in the mid-1800’s. I was jostled back and forth with only these small canvas straps attached to the bunk going up to the ceiling to keep me from being flung out of bed into the depths of the roomette floor 15 feet below.

Okay, it was only 5 feet.  But it seemed a whole lot farther when you looked down.

I won’t even start to go into the machinations AGMA had to go through to get up to go to the toilet in the middle of the night.  

The next day, Hubs complained about the rough train ride during the night, and how he rocked back and forth too much.  While he was in his comfy bottom bunk. Poor baby.  

I just glared at him.

Strangely, my enthusiasm for riding the rails is not dimmed.  With our trip nearly 75% complete, AGMA’s thinking that I need to watch for the next Amtrak sale to book another trip.  Maybe one this winter going through Texas, New Mexico and Arizona to California?

Not sure I can talk Hubs into it though because he really did not like of all of the “rocking back and forth”.  Poor baby.

So I might have to go solo and claim the bottom bunk as my own on the next trip.

“Distance makes the heart grow fonder”, as the old saying goes.

Hmmm…maybe yes.  Maybe no.

But I’m pretty sure I’ll sleep better.

(Note: I wrote this on the train a few days ago, but we are now safely back in Chicago. As predicted, AGMA’s eagerly planning my next Iron Horse adventure!)

The call to serve

AGMA isn’t sure I’ll be around to post after today.

I don’t mean to upset you, but I feel like I need to prepare you for the worst possible scenario.

Just in case.

No, I don’t have COVID or another illness that is about to take me out. Yet.

No, I haven’t decided to give up blogging. AGMA is one of my “touchpoints of sanity” in the totally insane world that is 2020.

No, I’m not going into exile to escape what is sure to be a very rough time in the US over the next 4 months. Although I’m sorely tempted.

Son#1 and DIL will be going away by themselves for a well deserved long weekend to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary.

Soooooo – AGMA and Hubs will be babysitting our 3 young grandchildren (ages 5, 3 and 14 months) for 3 days and nights by ourselves.

BY OURSELVES!!!!

(Did I just shout?)

Well, that’s not entirely true. My DIL has a lovely young lady come over during the day Monday through Friday to help her with the kiddos. The kids adore their nanny and she loves them so it’s really a great arrangement.

Super nanny will be around to help us on Thursday and Friday into the early evening. But we’re going to be solo at night and on Saturday and part of the day on Sunday.

Oh the humanity!

I’m not entirely sure I’ll survive.

Please don’t get me wrong… AGMA loves my 3 grandchildren dearly.

We sold our house, put most of our earthly possessions in storage, and moved over 700 miles away to be closer to them. During a global pandemic. And (of course) brought lots of toys with us.

And the 3 grandchildren I have now are it. There are no additions on the horizon nor will there be.

Zip. Nada, Zilch.

Son#2 is more than happy being a life long bachelor and having to only care for 2 cats.

Son#1, the kiddo’s father, saw to it, surgically, that there will be no additional rug rats added to the brood soon after #3 came along last year. If you catch my drift…

So these 3 precious children are it. They are the legacy that AGMA will be leaving to world when the sand runs out of my hour glass. My chance to achieve immortality of sorts. The future of my DNA.

Plus they are just a cute and adorable and personable as they can be.

I love them more than words can say.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m looking forward to spending a whole weekend with them. Alone. I mean, seriously?

There are a number of reasons for this:

  1. AGMA isn’t as spritely as I used to be (which wasn’t all that great to start with!) I get tired (translation = exhausted) trying to keep up with them.
  2. Hubs has a neurological condition that impairs his balance and mobility so this means that I will be doing all the “stair running” (they have 3 floors) and carrying of anybody or anything that may need carrying.
  3. We like to sleep at night. The kids don’t. The older ones often pile into their parent’s bed in the middle of the night. This is the very same bed that we will be sleeping in this weekend. It could be difficult to sleep with a foot in my stomach and an arm across my face or a squirmy 3 year old at my head.
  4. After 3 nights of interrupted sleep piled onto exhausting, stair running days, AGMA will not be somebody that anybody will want to be around for any length of time. Just sayin’…
  5. Most importantly, we like to be the “good guys” to the kids. We don’t want to have to discipline them or order them to pick up their toys or tell them they aren’t allowed to have that extra snack. You know – stuff parents normally do. But we might have to do all that this weekend. And that’s just no fun.

But we knew there would be assignments like this when we moved up to Chicago. We were aware of the risks.

We are the brave, the strong. We are grandparents. And we will serve despite the risks. That’s what grandparents do when called to action.

Even if we have a nasty case of bone spurs.

Please remember AGMA fondly just in case I don’t come out on the other side of the weekend…

Off the interstate in the Windy City – Volume 1

“My kind of town, Chicago is my kind of town…” crooned Frank Sinatra in 1964.

AGMA’s always loved that song.

Chicago has been a part of my life since 1965 even though I lived in Pittsburgh growing up, Ft. Worth & Tucson in college, and Cincinnati & Atlanta as an adult.

My sister went off to Valparaiso University as a freshman in 1965. Valparaiso University (called Valpo) is quiet, small (in 1965) town of Valparaiso in Indiana. Valpo is 46 miles from Chicago.

So where do you think my sister and her friends went on the weekends for hijinks and shenanigans?

Yeah, they did!

As a wide-eyed 14 year old, the tales of her ‘big city’ adventures in the Windy City made quite an impression on AGMA.

After living in London for nearly 2 years after she graduated from Valpo, she returned to the US and settled in Chicago.

By that time, I was in college myself. And I was definately up for some shenanigans. Unfortunately, AGMA was a plane ride away from the Windy City, but I managed to visit her frequently.

She took me to a comedy club on one of my visits. I enjoyed it immensely. Maybe because it was The Second City comedy club. Yeah, THAT Second City. This was around 1972 or 73. I didn’t save the program from that night, but I feel certain that I saw a few Saturday Night Live original cast members pre-SNL.

My sister swears we did.

AGMA & Hubs settled in Cincinnati in 1976. Cincinnati is only a 6 hour drive from Chicago.

More visits ensued.

Then, in the early 90’s, she and my BIL moved to Atlanta. Then to Jacksonville. Then back to Atlanta.

WTF?

So for nearly 10 years, Chicago was off our radar.

Son #1 to the rescue…

He started at the University of Chicago in the fall of 2000. And he’s called Chicago home every since.

For the past 20 years, we have been traveling to Chicago to visit him on a regular basis. During that time, he’s added a wife and 3 children to the mix. He’s been a busy guy!

Our visits to him were always pretty cut and dried.

We’d drive up (on the interstate from Cincinnati) or fly up and take a taxi from the airport (on the interstate) to go to his apartment, condo or home. Go out to dinner a few times and see a few sights, then leave.

Once the kids came along, we barely left the house when we’d fly up from Atlanta for our 3 day weekend visits.

The last few years, when we’d be taking a taxi or Lyft to or from the airport, I would look at the interstate exits along the way. And wonder what the rest of Chicago looked like.

Off the interstate.

Since we’ve lived in Chicago for the past 2 months, AGMA’s been finding out…

And it’s been wonderful!

Chicago if full of interesting, diverse neighborhoods with interesting, diverse people.

Socially distanced with masks of course.

We’re living in an area called Logan Square. And it’s gorgeous!

Logan Square is part of the original Boulevard System of Chicago. Originally constructed in 1870, it was a series of boulevards containing narrow parks that ran around the entire city for 26 miles. It was given the nickname “Emerald Necklace” because it surrounded the city with green space (like a necklace – get it?) Unfortunately, only 2 1/2 miles remain along Logan Boulevard, Kedzie Boulevard, Palmers Boulevard and Humboldt Boulevard. This 2 1/2 mile area is now the Logan Square Boulevards Historic District and, in 2018, was listed (as part of the Chicago Park Boulevard System Historic District) on the National Register of Historic Places.

Our Hobbit Hole is 1/2 block off of Logan Boulevard. Logan Boulevard is lined with massive homes that were built mostly in the late 1880’s to early 1900’s by new money German & Scandinavian immigrants. It’s a beautiful part of the city.

Who knew?

I sure didn’t when I rented our HH long distance from Atlanta.

Don’t you love happy accidents?

The pictures of the architecture along Logan Boulevard above were taken by your’s truly. But I think this article from 2017 in LoganSquarist has better photos of the diversity of architecture.

As we discover more about our newly adopted city (and old friend), AGMA will add more volumes to this series.

In the meantime, I’ll be having pancakes at the Golden Nugget, eating an Italian beef sammy from Al’s and devouring a Pequod’s pizza.

Yum!

Chicago is Frank AND AGMA’s kind of town!

Who am I? Really?

matthew25

AGMA’s at my new favorite place to write in Chicago.

It’s a lovely little French bistro that, having been to France quite often myself, is very authentic.  And they have a lovely shaded outdoor patio with wifi that is perfect for virus dodging and blogging.

I was all set to write my normal, slightly witty, Erma Bombeckesque post with a few pointed shots as the Traitor in Chief woven into the story.  And with the RNC wrapping up yesterday, the possibilities for pointed shots are kind of endless.

But that all changed.

Sitting at my bistro table, eating my huge Parsian sammy and drinking my mocha with an extra shot, a Latina woman approached me.  And she came a little too close.  I asked her to social distance herself.

Little did I know exactly how socially distanced we really were.

She asked me for some money.   She explained that she had 4 kids and her rent was going up.  Could I help her?

And kind hearted, generous AGMA reached into her purse and gave her $2.

Two dollars.

This from a woman who just spent $54 on 3 masks.  But they are really cool masks.  And part of the proceeds go to some charity that I can’t recall.   So I felt pretty good about that.

How self-deceiving.

$2 from a woman who professes to be a follower of Christ who taught that all that we have comes from God (Luke 12:22-26).  And about how to whom much has been given, much will be required (Luke 12:48).

Gulp.

And then there’s the story of the sheep and the goats.  This is a gut punch one.  Even Hubs, who is an agnostic, knows this one.  It’s the one AGMA is pretty sure the so called “Christians” who support The Great Orange Bonespur have never read.

Matthew 25:31-46.

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brother and sisters of mine, you did for me.'”

The above was just a snippet of the whole passage.  Read to the end to find out what’s in store for the evangelical MAGA crowd…

But maybe not just the evangelical MAGA crowd.

AGMA and Hubs are not wealthy in the way we generally think of wealth here in the US.  But compared to the rest of the world, we are loaded.

$2

After I gave her the $2, she again talked about her 4 children.  Then she asked if she could have part of my sandwich.

And then a most horrible thing happened.

AGMA morphed into a MAGA-ite.

“Maybe you shouldn’t have had 4 kids if you can’t feed them”

I didn’t say it out loud (I thank God for that!), but I thought it.  And that’s just as bad.

(FOR CRYING OUT LOUD AGMA, THERE’S A PANDEMIC HAPPENING AND MILLIONS HAVE LOST THEIR JOBS!  WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?? THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU??)

I told her no, she couldn’t have part of my huge sandwich.  The sandwich I was only 1/3 of the way done eating.  The sandwich I really didn’t need to eat the rest of because I have gained so much weight over the past 6 months.

I wouldn’t share my f*cking sandwich with her.

And she just stood there looking at me, then walked away.

After a few minutes of being defensive with myself and trying to justify what I did, AGMA felt ashamed.  Actually, ashamed doesn’t really begin to describe it.

Deplorable.

I have no reason for why I did what I did.  No excuse.

I’ve felt for a long time now that I’m an imposter.  I talk and write a good game, but I am really no better than those I criticize so brutally for their lack of compassion and generosity of material goods and spirit.

I’m all for giving to the poor.  As long as I don’t have to sacrifice too much.  As long as I am comfortable.  As long as I have $54 to spend on cute masks.  And I don’t have to share my sandwich.

I’m all in on BLM protests and protests against white supremacy.  Let’s take down those Confederate statues and other symbols of oppression.  Let’s protest against the anti-LGBT, anti-choice and anti-immigrant movements.  That is, as long as I don’t have to take any risks or the protests don’t come to my neighborhood.

There is a huge disconnect between who I think I am and who I really am.

There’s the AGMA of my imagination…  Magnamous, generous, empathetic, brave.

And then there’s the me I witnessed today and suspected was there for a while – judgmental, greedy, suspicious, afraid.

I know that a lot of you have no religious affiliation and I get that.  I also get if if you think what I am about to say is nonsense and magical thinking.

But reflecting back to the silent moments between us, after I told this woman she couldn’t have part of my sandwich, and the way she looked at me with sadness in her eyes, I felt as if God was looking at me.  And right through me.

It was the look I used to give my kids when they did something that was beneath who I knew they were.  It was the look that said, “You screwed up today, but I still love you more than anything else.  And I know you can do better because you are a good person and better than what you’ve just done.”

I can’t think of a more important time for us to be our best selves.  To live up to who we think we are.  To quote an overused, but a pertinent to our times phrase, to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.

I pray that this woman finds financial relief and food security for herself and her children.  That she comes in contact with people who have the resources and will to help her.  People who walk the walk.  People who show mercy.

In the meantime, AGMA is going to try to reboot.

And try to figure out who I am.

Really.

 

 

Staring

We went on a vacation!

Sort of…

Loyal readers will recall AGMA’s brilliant decision to go to Turkey in March, 2 days after the WHO declared the coronavirus a global pandemic. We ended up coming back to the US 72 hours after we landed in Istanbul.

Nobody has ever accused me of being the sharpest needle in the pincushion.

But this trip was safe. Or as safe as you can get these days that is.

Friends of 30+ years, K & S, own a vacation cabin in a small town in NW Michigan near Lake Michigan. And they let us use it for a long weekend this past weekend.

K’s parents used to rent a house for the summer there in the 70’s, 80’s & 90’s, and as young parents, K & S would bring their children, and K’s sister and BIL would bring their children, and it was a big ol’ family memory maker.

When her parents passed away, they left K with a nice monetary legacy. So to honor the memory of so many wonderful summers, she and her hubs bought a small vacation home on the very same street as her parent’s rental cabin. This was about 15 years ago.

K & S & sister & BIL and cousins have continued to gather there in the summers albeit the siblings & spouses aging (hopefully not gracefully!) and the cousins now being adults.

AGMA has a sneaking suspicion that the ultimate goal was for the grandchildren, who were only twinkles in K’s eyes at that point, to gather there each summer and create the kinds of memories her children did when they were little.

Now the grandmother of 7 (!), that is indeed what’s happened even though K’s children and nieces and nephews are now spread out over the US. At various times during the summer there can be a wide assortment of grandmas & grandpas & nieces & nephews & great nieces & nephews & cousins & second cousins making new memories.

Pre-COVID that is.

It’s been a quiet summer up there this year. K & S were up their with 2 kids and 4 grandchildren last month, but that’s pretty much it. Everybody is just too far away to drive and they don’t want to risk flying. Since all adult children and spouses work, and all have small children, it’s just too difficult to make it happen.

This makes me sad. The whole thing just makes me sad.

Damn virus.

That’s a very long and wordy way to say, because the place was open and we needed a place to escape our Hobbit Hole for a few days, K & S gave us their blessing to stay there for a long weekend. They weren’t there (on their way to CA to meet grand baby #7), but they figured we couldn’t do too much damage.

Fools…

So Hubs and I rattled around by ourselves in a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house that is ABOVE GROUND and has a beautiful view of the Traverse River across the street.

Sweet!

We spent 3 days of socially distanced sightseeing since this was our first trip this far north in MI. The weather was fantastic and it was a much needed break from our tiny, basement apartment in Chicago.

Because MI has pretty strict social distancing and mask regulations, and the county we were in only has 34 confirmed coronavirus cases and no deaths, we felt somewhat safe in going out to eat a few times.

Damn virus.

We lived in Cincinnati, OH for 30 years (where we met K & S) before we moved in 2006. During our time there, we realized that 95% of the population of Cincinnati goes up to Michigan for at least 1 week in the summer. Okay, maybe AGMA is exaggerating a bit.

Maybe only 93%…

Because of this and because 90% of the people we saw this past weekend were baby boomer types, AGMA kept wondering if maybe I knew any of them. After all, it is a small world (according to Walt Disney right?)

Do you ever do the same thing? Do you ever stare at somebody and think, “Did I work with you in 1978?” or “Were we freshmen together in college?”

“Did I know you years ago?”

AGMA does.

Again, not the sharpest needle…

I know a couple of women in knew in college and haven’t seen since then moved to Chicago in the 70’s. Maybe one is sitting across from me on this lovely French bistro shaded patio right now and I just don’t recognize her. Actually, everybody here (except AGMA) is a millennial, but you get the idea.

There was a couple behind us in one restaurant in MI who were wearing Cincinnati sports team shirts. Did Hubs or I know them way back when? When our hair was raven and we actually had waistlines? BC (before children?). When the Cadet Orange Cheeto Bonespurs was content in just bankrupting his businesses (rather than a whole nation.)

Some people change dramatically in the course of 40 years. Some don’t seem to change very much at all. I have some friends from high school and college who, other than the gray hair and lack of waistlines, look pretty much the same. Others, I couldn’t pick out of a line up even with the threat of something horrible happening to me like turning me into a MAGA Republican if I didn’t.

AGMA’s idea is heaven is that, at some point during the “orientation” (seriously, there has to be an orientation…), we are allowed to ask any questions we want. You know, like what REALLY happened to Jimmy Hoffa or did Putin blackmail the Covidiot with a “golden showers” video?

One of my questions will be, “Who did I bump in that I knew way back when that I didn’t recognize? Can I see before and after pictures? Did they think I looked familiar?”

Until then, AGMA will just have to keep wondering and staring.

The staring may get me into trouble…

 

 

 

 

 

Have curriculum, will coordinate

We’ve been apart for what feels like forever.

AGMA found out that WordPress has a new editor! I’m giving it a try so who knows what this post is going to look like. Where the heck is the word count?

And Andrew at Andrews View of the Week moved from California to Nevada.

What other big changes have gone on out there while I was in hibernation?

Despite crazies like AGMA and Andrew who decide to sell their homes and move in the midst of a pandemic, I think that most folks are like Marty over at Snakes in the Grass and have pretty much been staying home. He complained that there’s just not much to blog about when there’s a wild virus raging outside your door. He volunteered to move to Chicago to help us grandparent TMWGITW. I told him that the children (5, 3 and 1) would indeed provide the needed inspiration for amusing blogging.

The 5 year old, my Boo, keeps himself entertained by asking Echo (at his house) and Alexa (at our apartment) to do fart sounds. There are even fart songs.

Who knew?

Evidently Boo knew….

We are closing on 4 weeks in Chicago.

Other than a horrific pandemic that has basically gone unchecked in the US due to totally incompetent leadership leading to close to 5,000,000 total infections, and, tragically and totally unnecessary, nearly 160,000 deaths, things are going pretty well for AGMA.

After living in a different city and state from our son and DIL since they were a “thing” and had kids, wondering how all of this togetherness was going to play out was sort of natural.

Comedy, tragedy, melodrama, tragicomedy, theater of the absurd…??

Adding to the concern was that our relationship has had it rocky patches over the years. Some very rocky patches. Like Rocky Mountain rocky patches!

If I was a betting woman (which I am!) I have a sneakin’ suspicion that son and DIL had the same concerns.

But due to AGMA’s diplomatic skills, charm, and easy going (WTF???) personality, not to mention the fact that the kids think Nana is the bomb because she risks her life in their bounce house, things have been going swimmingly.

My Boo will be in kindergarten this year. Thankfully Chicago Public Schools just recently announced that, for the first quarter at least, all learning will be virtual. No instruction in the human Petri dish called a school classroom.

It’s cute how some school districts (and businesses, restaurants, airlines, theme parks, etc) act like everything is okey dokey, back to normal, and have rolled out the red carpet for all comers.

Just adorable. If you’re the coronavirus.

Because Boo will be doing online learning, my DIL asked if I would be one of his curriculum coordinators.

Huh??

AGMA said yes, but I have no idea what that entails. I guess I’ll find out. Should I be worried?

But it will actually give me something to do. In between visits to TMWGCITW, activities in the AGMA Hobbit hole are few and far between. TV, social media, some reading. And it’s small and dark in there. And I’m together with Hubs almost 24/7.

Oh, the humanity!

So yes – I’d be HAPPY to be Boo’s “curriculum coordinator” if it gets me out of the cave!

One bright spot in a year full of huge spiders and venomous snakes is that professional cycling is back!!

OMG, there IS a God…

Those of you who’ve been reading AGMA for a spell know how much I LOVE men’s professional road cycling.

About 10 years ago, I found that the Tour de France was the “gateway race” to a late in life, absolute obsession with young men in spandex climbing mountains on bicycles with skinny wheels. And since it’s 2020, COVID sucks and I live in a “garden apartment”, AGMA’s gone all in with watching races on TV and online. I have subscriptions to 2 different streaming services that will be streaming different races.

AGMA was supposed to go to France last month to follow the last week of the Tour. Clearly that didn’t happen for multiple reasons. The Tour ended up not being cancelled, but postponed until 8/20. But since Americans aren’t allowed to basically travel anywhere in the WORLD because of the Orange Covidiot throwing up his tiny hands and saying “It is what it is.”, I’ll be staying in my Hobbit hole during the Tour. So AGMA figures that paying for a couple of subscriptions for streaming services is the least that I can do for myself!

‘Cause it’s really all about me…

AGMA hopes all of you are treating yourselves to some special things during this surreal apocalyptic year of 2020. Hopefully that doesn’t involve any controlled narcotic substances. Or alcohol.

Okay – maybe some alcohol.

Maybe more than some.

Stay safe my friends!

P.S. Did I say it’s sooooo good to be back??

OMG…I’m back!!

20191126_104925

Picture of a Hobbit Hole taken by AGMA in New Zealand last November,

OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG

I can’t believe it!  I can’t believe it!  I can’t believe it!

AGMA’s back.

“AGMA who?”

I deserve that.

But we have reached the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel!  Hubs and I are now living in the Windy City.  Homeless.  Sort of.

More about that later…

We closed on our home in Atlanta at the end of June.  It’s been 8 years since we sold our last house and I forgot what a “treat” selling a house can be.  Like watching a WH coronavirus “task force” briefing.

So. Very. Painful.

For those of you who are regular AGMA-ites, you know I’ve complained over the past few years about how I just can’t seem to multi-task anymore.  Younger years were spent juggling the many balls of growing kids, aging parents, work and volunteerism.  And I was pretty darned good at it.

Modesty is overrated.

But once I hit 60, I seemed to lose the ability to manage multiple projects at once.

Well…I’m very glad to report that AGMA still has what it takes!  It wasn’t that I lost the ability; it’s just that I didn’t really HAVE to do things like when I was younger.  Once upon a time, kids had to get to ballgames on time and projects had to be done for work on time and volunteer commitments needed to be fulfilled on time.

It’s truly amazing what you can pull off when you have hard and fast deadlines.  When things HAVE to get done because you don’t have any other option.  When there can’t be any Plan B

I HAD to find temporary apartments in Atlanta and Chicago, HAD to sort and pack all of our belongings and find a place to store them, HAD to make arrangements to give away, get rid of the stuff we weren’t taking/storing, all before the movers came. And I HAD to buy a car that could fit 3 car seats before we left for Chicago.

Yup – I did it all.  And, mostly, it pretty much sucked.

I went to bed exhausted every night.  I quit using my blood pressure cuff because I had so many spinning plates to keep up in the air.  Similar logic to the Orange Covidiot’s logic on coronavirus testing…  If I didn’t take my BP, it couldn’t be high, right?

Basically, I was pretty much a bitch.  And with the pandemic on top of it all, AGMA found herself in some dark places mentally and emotionally at times.

So be glad Debbie Downer didn’t post for a while.

Another one of my “issues” with writing is that I didn’t have any place to write.  My muse of a coffee shop in Atlanta – Dancing Goats – was closed for all but carry out because of the pandemic.   And even after the Orange Arse Kissing Covidiot of a Governor in Georgia opened everything back up and invited COVID-19 to have field day infecting Georgians, Dancing Goats is continuing to only do carry out.

AGMA didn’t realize how important DG was to me as far as blogging inspiration goes.  I tried a few times writing from home, but…nah….

Then we moved out of our 3400 sq ft townhouse into our 700 sq ft temporary apartment in Atlanta for 3 weeks until we were able to move into our 700 sq ft temporary “garden” (meaning it’s in a basement and a bit like a cave) apartment in Chicago 2 weeks ago.

It’s cosy.  And dark. But it’s nicely appointed, has lots of high end touches, and is less than 2 miles from the MWGITW (most wonderful grandchildren in the world!)

That’s really why we did this.  All of it.

Seeing them, spending time with them, playing with them, hearing them laugh, having them hug and snuggle with us has made all of the tears and stress and anxiety and curse words (oh yeah – there were a lot of them!) of the past 4 months worth it.

Totally.

And yesterday, hopes of AGMA rising like a phoenix from the ashes of unwritten blog posts were rekindled!  I think I found my new “Dancing Goats” here in Chicago!  It’s a delightful French bakery/cafe with a nice big shaded patio and only an 8 minute walk from our Hobbit Hole of an apartment!

And OMG…they sell bottles of lovely French wine for patio consumption for a pretty reasonable price.

Alert: drunk blog post coming soon!

Damn…it’s good to be back!