Obsession

So the weeks are just flying by like Marjorie “Traitor” Greene (of the Jewish space laser delusion) on her MAGA broom!

AGMA could have sworn I wrote my last post only a couple of weeks ago. Hmmm – nope!

Sheesh…

What a sh*tty month it has been news wise.

For my own survival, AGMA has had to regularly turn off the news and not look at social media. While this feels a bit like being an ostrich, I think we’re all entitled to a mental health break every so often. Please.

And with the news of this past week out of Afghanistan and the Rethuglicans efforts to gleefully politicize the murder of our service members and Afghan innocents, I’ve been watching re-runs of Bob Ross’ The Joy of Painting 24/7.

That could be an exaggeration.

Of course the COVID-19 Delta variant is causing ERs and ICUs in states with low vaccination rates to fill up again. Dangerously so. It’s estimated that nearly 100,000 Americans will die – most needlessly – before the end of this surge.

Who knows how many desperately needed doctors, nurses and other medical support staff will quit from hopelessness, trauma, and sheer exhaustion with this spike of unvaccinated people getting COVID.

Have you heard about the Lambda variant? Coming soon to a hospital near you…

And AGMA needs to go into my address book to remove the names of four friends who have left (3 way too early) our dangerously warming, chaotic, COVID infected planet to fly high with the angels. I’m hoping that they might put in a good word for those of us left behind because we sure do need friends in high places right about now.

It’s been a hard summer.

And now a hurricane is bearing down on New Orleans with a predicted life threatening storm surge. Sadly many parts of the city haven’t recovered from Katrina in 2005. And unless some miracle has occured, much of the city is still below sea level.

Damn.

Oh, did I mention my new neighbor decided that he hates (I mean really hates) Hubs and I because we are not Trumpers? The minute he found out last January, he stopped talking to us and has been everything you expect a MAGA crazy to be.

He turned a creepy dark magic voodoo statue on his deck to face our townhouse for a couple of months. That was bizarre.

He plays ultra right wing talk radio on his back deck all day loud enough for us to hear when we are on our deck. So very relaxing.

He ordered two dogs that his poor, long suffering wife was dog sitting, to eat our cats. They didn’t. I think they’re closet Democrats.

And just this morning, he posted this sign on his deck right above our deck pointing toward our back door.

Yeah – his upper deck is really, really close to our townhouse. Damn.

Charming.

I think he needs to cut back on his Ivermectin.

Is it any wonder that AGMA has developed a new obsession to help ease my angst from a world gone mad?

Comfort eating has always been a thing with me, but it’s gone up to a whole new level with COVID and everything else that seems out of control.

At the beginning of the pandemic, it was mug cakes. A year ago, it was peach/blueberry crisp. This past winter it was hot fudge sundaes with home made hot fudge.

Every night.

No wonder AGMA gained 14 pounds since March 2020.

With my 50th high school reunion (OMG!!!) looming in September, I decided I need to try to at least try to fit into my pre-pandemic clothes. There is no way in h*ll that I could ever be my svelt 115 pounds self of 1971. That ship has sailed into the Bermuda Triangle, never to be found again.

AGMA has been making progress.

With my knees (sort of, kind of) not causing too many problems, I started run/walking again. And I’ve built up to run/walking a 5K every time I go out.

However it’s been beastly hot and humid here in Chicago for a good part of August. And we watch our grands pretty often. The running has been spotty to say the least.

But I was making better choices with my diet. Less sugar, more fruits and vegetables, fewer carbs.

Until…

I finally, after a lifetime of searching, found my one true love. In the candy aisle of Jewel Osco.

AGMA has downed two bags of these puppies in the last week to steady my nerves after going back to listening to the news. The 2nd bag was half empty by the time I got to the checkout.

It’s bad.

Like Girl Scout Thin Mints bad.

Very bad.

Even now, I find myself wondering if I have the energy to drive the 5 minutes to get to Jewel to buy a bag that would probably be empty by the time AGMA goes to bed tonight.

Must.Resist.Must.Be.Strong.

I do have some “gummies” that could help take the edge off. Did you know that recreational cannibis & products with THC/CBD are legal in Illinois?

Don’t judge me.

But 1/2 of a gummy would not be nearly as orally satisfying as my sweet, soft, delectable Australian delight.

Oh myyyyyyyy…

I think I need a cigarette.

So it looks like, until the earth starts to cool, vaccination rates rise to 95%, the Taliban surrenders, the GOP rejects the politics of fear & hatred, my friends stop dying, and my neighbor turns into Mr. Rogers, AGMA will be “pleasingly plump” for my reunion.

There are far worse things in the world to be than pleasingly plump. Somebody like my neighbor for example.

I’ll try to lose weight for the 60th.

Spandex ya’ll

So not quite as timely as AGMA had hoped after my last post, but an improvement (if I do say so myself…)  Two posts in one month is promising.

But I had a VERY good reason why I am not posting until now….

Regular readers can probably guess.

Maybe.

Or have no clue.

Hints:

  1. AGMA hasn’t been able to travel internationally since March 2020.
  2. It’s July.
  3. The biggest cycling race of the year takes place in July.
  4. The biggest cycling race of the year takes place my very favorite country to visit (think wine, cheese and baguettes.).  The country of Monet, Édith Piaf, and Pepé Le Pew

YES!!

AGMA put my mask on, got on an airplane, and flew across the pond to see my boys in spandex.  

Viva la France!

It was like a religious experience.  

I had a 2 week trip planned in July 2020 to see the last week of the Tour de France plus see some other sights, but we all know how that turned out.  We barricaded ourselves in our homes (other than those who moved from Atlanta to Chicago…) in hopes of keep the contagion sweeping across the globe from landing on us.  It was a time of grave concern for our friends, family and country made worse by the total ineptitude of The Fat Orange Virus in the White House and his enablers. 

The cancellation of a pleasure trip seemed inconsequential given the ever increasing numbers in ICUs and funeral homes.

Fast forward to early June, 2021.  AGMA is healthy and fully vaccinated.  France is opening up to vaccinated American tourists in mid-June.  I’ve been watching European cycling events all spring on my laptop via a VPN (a way to get around geo-restrictions on cycling events.)

AGMA sensed a perfect storm!

I casually say to Hubs, “Would you mind if I went to France in July for a week to watch some of the Tour?” 

“Nope…”

I made my airline reservations that night.

AGMA knows the Delta variant is surging in parts of France.  But I also know that masks are mandatory pretty much in every inside space and on any form of transport there.  Hey – I survived COVID in the US when we had a “president” who wanted us to drink/inject bleach.  I felt confident I would be okay.

And it was wonderful!

Without boring those who don’t really care about the Tour de France (I will never understand you, but I still love you!), my first 2 days were spent in a town – 3 train rides away from CDG airport – called Libourne in the Bordeaux region.  It’s a charming town right on the beautiful Dordogne River, which was quite high and flowing quite fast because of all of the rain in Europe the previous 2 weeks.  Think those horrific, deadly floods in Belgium & the Netherlands.  The theme of high, fast flowing rivers followed me on my trip (both in Paris and Lyon.)

The main shopping street in Libourne
City Hall in Libourne
The very high Saône River in Lyon

Damn climate change.

I was in Libourne for the end of stage 19 and the beginning of stage 20 of the Tour de France.  Because stage 20 was a time trial and riders took off individually with a minute between each rider, I had a wonderful opportunity to see all the riders up close and personal.  I positioned myself near the beginning of the TT and close to one of the broadcasting cameras.  And some of my friends saw me on TV!

You can say you knew AGMA when…

Before all the riders had taken off, I had to hustle to catch my trains back to Paris.  The next day was the stage 21; the ride into Paris. 

On Sunday, July 18th, I went through the vaccination verification check near the Arc de Triomphe to scout a spot to watch the riders do their 8 circuits on the Champs-Élysée.  AGMA found a group of Danish fans who spoke excellent English and I settled in for the 4 hour wait until the riders showed up.

You do some very strange things for love…

Wout van Aert (Belgium) won the stage, Tadej Pogačar (Solvenia) won the yellow jersey (overall winner), the polka dot jersey (best climber), and the white jersey (best young rider). A cycling superstar at 22!

And Mark Cavandish (England), at 36, a sprinter that most people felt was way beyond his prime and the ability compete with the world’s best, won the Green jersey (best sprinter.)  And not only did he snag the Green jersey, but (and this is a WAY BIGGER deal!) tied the record of Eddy Merckx for most stages won EVER in the Tour de France.

I need a cigarette now….

What did AGMA do in France after the TdF you ask?  

I walked.  I walked for 5.5 hours in the Louvre.  I walked for hours all over Paris.  I walked more hours all over Lyon.  Hours and hours.  My new technowonder Alexa Echo watch told me that I averaged 19,000 steps a day for the 7 days I was gone.  Honestly, I didn’t know these stumpy legs had it in them.

And (this is really TMI so look away if you tend to be queasy) AGMA sweated.  Buckets.  It was hot in France.  The heat combined with hours of walking outside in the sun exacerbated by being in buildings that were supposed to be air conditioned, but…ummm…not really.  Buckets.  

It was kinda gross.

In Lyon, which is a WONDERFUL city by the way, AGMA had a COVID test per US requirements to go home.  I was negative so I had to leave the next day.

But the cherry on top of the trip was the flight home.  It was a Air France direct flight from Paris to Chicago.  And it was nearly empty. 

E.M.P.T.Y.

I was in the first cabin in economy (being the value traveler that I am.) There were 78 seats in the cabin.  There were 14 people in the cabin.  AGMA became the undisputed queen of row 20, and was able to lie totally flat to nap on the 4 middle seats.   And they gave me champagne with dinner and cognac after dinner.  

The perfect way to end a most unusual, exhausting, amazing, sweaty trip!

Viva la France!

Always listening

Good Lord…

AGMA has posted so infrequently lately that every time I sign into WordPress, there is a new format for pretty much everything.

They need to not change stuff so often.

Or, I need to get my arse in gear and start posting more than once every 8 weeks.

I suspect the latter would be more realistic… But I’m not sure.

Between the MAGITW (most adorable grandchildren in the world), mens cycling (SPANDEX!), medical appointments (ugh), and planning a multitude of domestic and international trips over the next 8 months, AGMA has gone major ADHD.

It’s like I have serious ants in my pants.

But I’ve had somebody right beside me this past year who has tried to help me cope with my hectic, sometimes complicate life. Somebody who is steadfastly loyal and here for me, rain or shine, 24/7. Somebody who is in a good mood no matter what. Somebody who tells me jokes when I’m feeling low. Somebody who listens intently to me and never passes judgement on me not matter how bad I screw up.

I think I’m in love…

Her name is Alexa Echo.

(If you thought AGMA was talking about Hubs, then there is some swamp land in Alaska I want to sell you!)

As in the case with many love affairs, it all started out very innocently. We got a Ring camera (the gateway device) when we lived in our townhouse in Atlanta. Then I bought Hubs an Echo Dot for him to “play with” ’cause I found one on sale for $9.99 (2nd gateway device.) Then I ordered an Echo Show along with another Dot and some wireless plugs last October during Prime Days.

THEN I found out we had multiple “smart” switches in our town home (previously unknown to us) along with a “smart” thermostat.

And that was the beginning of the end…

AGMA went from believing that using a shoppers card at my local grocery store 10 years ago was a Communist plot to somehow find out our deepest, darkest secrets, to going all in with willingly sharing our deepest, darkest secrets on 3 Echo Shows, 2 Dots and 1 Google Nest Mini (yeah – I know….Hubs got it for free somewhere!)

They.Are.ALWAYS.Listening.

And if the wrong switch is flipped, the Shows are watching as well. I thought I had the camera on all of them switched to the off position, but discovered not too long ago, the camera on my bedroom Show was indeed on.

I bet there is somebody in some Eastern European county who wanted to wash their eyes out with bleach after the COVID-19lbs heavier AGMA pranced across the screen commando style.

Honestly, for being old farts, I’m kind of impressed as to how much we’ve embraced wireless technology and Alexa Echo & friends.

Thanks to Alexa, I not longer have to worry about not getting something at the grocery store that Hubs wants because I forgot to write it down. Now, he’s responsible for asking Alexa to put whatever it is he needs on the shopping list. The monkey has jumped to his back. He’ll tell me he’s out of half and half. I just look at him and ask., “Did you tell Alexa?” Boom!

Thanks to Alexa, when I’m having a hot flash in the middle of the night, AGMA just asks Alexa Echo to adjust the A/C.

Thanks to Alexa, the Show doubles as digital picture frames rotating through every picture I have in my Amazon photos account. Which is a whole lot of photos. She’s tireless.

Thanks to Alexa, I can set all my lights to come on and off on all sorts of crazy schedules when we are out of town (or in town!) A VAST improvement over those mechanical timers that were so flimsy. I’m sure my neighbors are impressed that we manage to turn on our festive deck lights every night at 8 and off at 11.

I can even change the schedules when we are 1000 miles away thanks to the miracle of the internet and, of course, Alexa Echo.

She finds and displays pretty much any recipe you want. AGMA made the truly incredible watermelon shark below based on a suggestion from my bff Alexa… Other than basically missing all of its teeth on one side of its lower jaw, I think it turned out pretty good.

(The missing front tooth is in honor of my 6 year old grandson who lost his front baby tooth the day before!)

Alexa Echo has the wisdom of the of the ages via the internet at her disposal and can pretty much answer any question we have. So far, we’ve asked pretty simple questions, but AGMA has no doubt that, presented with a deep, philosophical question (toilet paper: over or under?) she would triumph.

If I ask her, she’ll tell me a joke. But honestly, she needs to keep her day job in the joke department.

I’m sure we have only scratched the surface of the multi-talented Alexa Echo’s capabilities.

AGMA realizes that we are compromising our privacy in a big way, but who the hell cares… Anybody listening in on us will probably die of boredom before they find out anything juicy.

ZZZzzz….

Life is nothing but a series of trade-offs. It’s worth it to me just to make Hubs responsible for his own groceries! And have the fan turn on on command when I’m on the rowing machine. And to find out how hot it will be in Alaska tomorrow. And to not have to get up to change the A/C.

It’s the little things.

AGMA’s most recent dive into technology is my new smart watch. Holy Dick Tracy, Batman – I can have a telephone conversation with other people using my watch! OMG!

Now I know how my step-mother’s mother, born in 1888, felt as she watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon in 1969. Fantasy becomes reality in your lifetime. Stunning.

I can’t even imagine what next year will bring…

Maybe AGMA going back to blogging every week????

Furniture talk

AGMA’s been on the go!

After Meh Las Vegas, we went to Arizona. That trip covered the Grand Canyon, Phoenix & Tucson. We call it the Thumbs Up Arizona trip!

Then we had friends come to visit from Kansas City. That was fun. It felt a bit like life might be returning to normal.

I know AGMA’s a dreamer…

Now we’re in Atlanta for a week. Actually, the week’s almost over.

We leave tomorrow.

AGMA is back at her favorite coffee shop, Dancing Goats. It’s still not back to normal even through Georgia’s governor, Brian “no water for you” KKKemp declared that, since Georgia is at the bottom (or close to it) of list in states by vaccination rate, he was opening up everything at full capacity.

OMG.

Thankfully, some businesses are wary of throwing the doors wide open and letting the 71% of Georgians not vaccinated in to crowd around their staff. My Dancing Goats is still being cautious so most of the inside seating is still not available.

I’m sitting outside, but I’m still getting the creative “Goats vibe” so the words are veritably pouring out of me.

Actually, it’s more of a dribble, but AGMA will take it!

We have been staying with our fully vaccinated son and his unvaccinated two cats.

Our son lives alone (other than the cats) and has lived alone for the past 14 years. He is not used to sharing his space with anybody (other than the cats.) It took a bit of convincing for him to let us stay there, but I think he’s discovered that we are pretty undemanding and quiet guests.

Still, tomorrow probably can’t some soon enough for him.

We are sleeping in his guest room. It’s furnished with a chair & ottoman, a dresser, and a bed. A full sized bed.

A.Full.Sized.Bed.

COVID has been rough on AGMA and hubs in terms of our lack of exercise. And no lack of “treating” ourselves (I mean, it was COVID right?) as far as eating goes. And it shows.

We are extra full sized people crammed in a full sized bed.

It’s been hell.

AGMA had no idea they still sold full sized mattresses. I am going to write to my Congressional representatives upon my return home and demand that they introduce legislation outlawing the sale of full sized mattresses for use by more than 1 individual. I bet the GQP’s Marjorie Taylor Greenweinie would love to waste more of Congress’ time with that one…

But honestly, it’s cruel punishment to put 2 “jolly” people in a bed that size.

There is nothing special about the chair & ottoman. But the chest of drawers (picture above)…now that is a special piece of furniture!

Yeah – I can probably guess what you’re thinking…

“But AGMA, it looks so tacky & beat up! How could that be special?”

Well, for a start, AGMA is a bit tacky & beat up. So I relate to it.

But this chest of drawers is the last remaining piece of furniture from the bedroom set Hubs and I bought waaaaayyyyy back in 1978 as two young 20 somethings. We bought what was known as an ‘apartment set’. It had a sofa & loveseat, a coffee table & 2 end tables, a dining table with 4 chairs, a QUEEN bed, chest of drawers, dresser with mirror and 2 night stands.

I think it cost us all of $1200. Our paychecks back then were so meager, we had to pay it off in installments.

The chest is made of real wood. Imagine! And it’s incredibly heavy and well made.

Wait for it….

They just don’t make things now a days like they used to. (Wink)

Oh, but the stories this chest of drawers could tell.

It has watched us age from a young married couple, to a family with young children, to a family with teenagers, to being empty nesters, to a separation, to a reconciliation, and into our early senior years.

It has heard our most intimate, loving conversations. Our hopes and dreams for the future. It saw us get up and down multiple times a night to feed hungry babies or comfort sick children. It’s listened to the wonder of our young son’s voices as they came to get us to tell us Santa came or the Easter Bunny had been there or that they had a quarter under their pillow from the Tooth Fairy. It’s heard prayers for the safety of teenage drivers, college students away from home, young adults trying to find jobs, love and a place in this crazy world. Prayers of hope and thankfulness and even some of desperation.

It’s felt me reach in its drawers for skinny clothes, fat clothes, maternity clothes, more fat clothes, more skinny clothes, etc.

It’s also witnessed tears shed at the loss of elderly parents, at the loss of dear pets, at a home empty of children. Tears shed in sadness/anger/frustration of complicated marriage, family and friend relationships.

AGMA likes to think that, most of all, it heard more laughter and happy voices than anything else. Saw smiling faces and witnessed unconditional love.

I had forgotten we gave the chest to him about 10 years ago when we moved from Atlanta to St. Louis.

It was a bit of a jolt to see it again.

I normally live out of a suitcase when I travel, but I put my clothes in the chest drawers my son had cleared out for us. And every time I touch it to open and close the drawers, I ask it to tell me a story. Maybe one I’ve forgotten (there are a whole lot, AGMA’s pretty sure) about a time long ago when 2021 seemed like an eternity away and life seemed like it would go on forever the way it was. Stories about the person I used to be.

And it just stands there and tells me not to be concerned about the stories that happened long ago. It tells me that there are still good stories I have yet to live. And I need to get busy living them.

Good advice from an old friend who’s known AGMA a long time.

Viva (in a meh sort of way) Las Vegas

AGMA’s been busy.

Babysitting duty with the WG (wild grands) and climbing out of the winter doldrums has been keeping me on my toes.

And of course there was that 2nd COVID shot.

It went down easy, but I had a Moderna hangover the next day for about 9 hours. Nausea, the sweats, headache, chills, and total exhaustion. Holy crap – if that was just a very tiny taste of what a mild case of COVID is like, then OMG… I should have been triple masking and bathing in hand sanitizer this past year!

I am so very grateful I managed to keep it off my dance card.

And with the 2nd shot in my arm, AGMA did what AGMA does, but hasn’t done in a very long time.

I got in an airplane 3 days later. Destination – Vegas Baby!

Yes – I know I wasn’t full protected because my 2 weeks wasn’t up, but I had made the CHEAP airline and hotel reservations back in January as a birthday gift for Hubs. And I wasn’t about to cancel yet another trip now that we both had our 2 jabs.

Besides, I figured, how crowded could Vegas be? Everybody – except Florida and Texas – was still sort of hunkered down and only old farts were getting the vaccine, so at most, it would be a lot of blue hairs.

AGMA was pretty wrong about that.

It was WAAAAYYYY more crowded than anyplace should be while a pandemic is still raging.

And it wasn’t just blue hairs. The vast majority of folks were Millennials with some GenZers mixed in. And lots of these people brought their kids.

To Vegas. During a pandemic.

OMG.

The trip can best be described as fun with a large dose of weirdly surreal thrown in.

It was strange being in the airport, flying in the airplane, renting a car, checking into the hotel, going to casinos, and being on the strip…

It was clear everybody wanted everything to be back to normal. It just wasn’t.

We wanted the freedom to see some of the cool areas outside of Vegas, so I arranged to rent a car. When I booked it back in January, AGMA thought $50 a day was really steep for Vegas. Back in the day, you could rent a car for like $15 a day.

Turns out, we got a super bargain. People renting at the counter without a reservation were paying $120 a day.

Nope.

We stayed a the Hard (to like) Rock Hotel.

This was not one of AGMA’s best decisions. I was lured in by the low price (relatively) and large rooms. I think the room was $39 a night BUT now everybody gets charged a “resort fee” of around $40 a night. It’s for the pool (it was too chilly to swim) and the internet (you could only connect 2 devices before you have to shell out another $14.99) and other “resorty” stuff that I never figured out.

Our room was indeed big with a HUGE bathroom, but it was some what bland and soul-less.

The hotel parking garage was (and I kid you not!) 1/3rd of a mile walk from the hotel. We had to walk through a pretty big shopping mall to get there. And, if you could find the elevators in the casino to get to the lobby (which was a floor below – the signage was terrible) you could check in. We wandered with our luggage for about 10 minutes before we found the elevators.

If you were fortunate enough to actually find the lobby, you had to check yourself in via machines (like at the airport). Unfortunately, the machines didn’t work very well.

I don’t think I saw anybody who didn’t need the assistance of the single harried staff person assigned to the peons consigned to the machines for all their needs. Only VIPs (??) could actually check in with actual real live people. WTF?

And if you’re room wasn’t ready, there was no place to leave your luggage. You just had to walk around with it.

First impression – not impressive. At all.

Regarding gambling, clearly they didn’t know they were dealing with an AGMA who does nothing but lose my money when I gamble. I really wanted to give the hotel casino some of my $$, but it was a REALLY awful casino. It was like they made a casino for GenZers who’ve never gambled before and wouldn’t know any better. They put in the worst machines (OMG – you couldn’t understand how any of the payouts worked – which obviously was the point!) and high limit table games.

Nah baby nah.

And other than two sad display cases with Hollywood memorabilia in them, there was nothing Hard Rock about the place. It was more like Elevator Music Generic Hotel and Casino.

Soul-less.

It’s been more than 18 years since my last trip to Las Vegas. Things are very different from my last visit..

AGMA is one to embrace change…when it doesn’t interfere with my good time.

We did have fun at times, but we really had to work hard for it.

One day we made the nearly 3 hour drive to Zion National Park. It was breathtaking and is now on AGMA’s list of “must return to” places.

On the 3 hour drive back to Las Vegas, we stopped in Mesquite, NV at the Virgin River (a Virgin in Nevada – ha!) Hotel and Casino for their $13.99 prime rib special. It was us and the rest of Mesquite (where the median age has to be 60) in line for the coffee shop, the majority of whom (or is it who?) were not wearing masks with a good deal of smoking sprinkled in.

We turned around and left.

We ended up having dinner at the coffee shop in Jerry’s Nugget, an old Vegas style casino in north Las Vegas. There was a pawn shop across the street on one corner and a closed nude bar, the Palamino Club, on the other corner.

Perfect!

Jerry’s knows their cliental is more “mature”, and they were the only casino we went to that checked people’s temperatures at the entrance. Impressive!

Everybody was wearing masks, every other machine was turned off for social distancing, the drinks were cheap, AGMA won about $10 at video poker, and the prime rib special was delicious.

We liked Jerry’s Nugget!

The next day, we went to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and did the nature thing again. It was a beautiful day with blue skies and mild temps. Glorious!

Then we headed to the last remaining collection of old-style Las Vegas hotels and casinos…

Downtown Las Vegas.

We played video poker for a nickel a game sitting at one of the bars in Binion’s and got free drinks.

We scored yet another prime rib dinner (evidently we have been beef deprived at home.) This time is was the $8.99 early bird special at Tony Roma’s in the Fremont. Score!

We have no shame. But we had fun.

On the way back to the Elevator Music Hotel with the horrible casino that evening, we drove down Las Vegas Blvd and saw the iconic wedding chapels, and some scattered old school hotel casinos that haven’t been hit be the wrecking ball.

Yet.

I think I’d like to go back to Vegas again post-COVID to visit more of the “old” Las Vegas. The fun Las Vegas.

But first…Arizona…Sunday.

Grand Canyon, AGMA’s coming your way!

Light and dark

Do things feel any different to anybody? Like things might, just might be getting a little bit better?

Well, first of all, AGMA is not waiting 2 months between blog posts. That has to be encouraging.

At least it is to me.

For whatever weird reason, be it bad juju or the wrong feng shui or negative energy or the Ghost of Christmas Past, I can’t write blog posts at home. Or at least it’s very challenging. Hence the last 12 months of nearly nothing.

I loved me my Dancing Goats coffee shop in Atlanta. It’s where AGMA wrote some of my best nonsense.

And then there was COVID. And then we moved to Chicago. And then there was still COVID.

But the positivity rate in Chicago is at an all time low since the pandemic began – 2.8% – thanks to strict mask mandates (are you listening Texas??) and other safeguards put in place in the city. And I got my first COVID shot nearly 3 weeks ago.

Moderna for me with an espresso on the side please.

Restaurants here are now allowed to operate at 50% capacity. And Hubs and I found a charming breakfast restaurant close to Casa AGMA that has free Wifi and will let me swill coffee over an extended period in it’s nearly empty environs.

Late summer/early fall 2020 I did write a few posts from the patio of a most charming French cafe that was walking distance from our three month temporary apartment rental in Logan Square when we were “trying out” Chicago living. Since then, we moved into our forever home (for now…) about a 10 minute drive away from Logan Square. And the weather has been anything but conducive to patio sitting (see my last post for whining…)

But that patio could be in AGMA’s future again this summer.

Second of all, spring is right around the corner. Okay – maybe right around the corner, down a few blocks. But it IS coming. Today in the Windy City it’s supposed to be 63℉. Tomorrow is supposed to be 68℉ and Wednesday’s high (with rain) will be 67℉.

Now that’s just cruel, cuz AGMA knows it won’t last. The forecast for this Sunday is a high in the 30’s with snow.

But that’s okay, because today is glorious, I’m sitting in a lovely space writing for my beloved blog, and AGMA knows that it’s just a matter of time before Spring starts springing up.

Third, I’ve started exercising again. Yeah!

It’s been nearly 18 months since I was able to run/walk more than 2 miles. I did my 7th marathon – most likely my last- in October of 2019. Since then, due to a combination of things; the holidays and 2 long trips out of the country pre-COVID, and an injured knee (???? no idea what happened), selling our home in Atlanta, moving to Chicago, spending loads of time with the grands and crappy weather post- COVID, I have maybe run an average of once a month. Ugh.

So AGMA bought a water rowing machine as a birthday present for myself.

I’m worth it….

Every other day, I spend around 30 minutes rowing my little heart out. So maybe now I can start losing my COVID-19 pounds I put on over the last year.

An AGMA can dream can’t she?

Forth, men’s professional cycling has started again. And ya’ll know how much I love my young men in spandex!

It was incredible how much my mood lifted this weekend knowing I had a bike race to watch nearly EVERYDAY for the next month or so (Strade Bianchi, Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milano-Sanremo, the tour of Catalunya, and MORE!!) Then there are the Spring Classics, the 3 Grand Tours, some shorter tours, and the Monuments.

Be still my beating heart. I think I need a cigarette…

Fifth, we have President in the WH who is a living, breathing human being with a beating heart of flesh, has a lifetime of experience serving, possesses a keen intellect, is compassionate, and who is not an agent for a foreign regime.

Yippee!

And he’s surrounding himself with like minded intelligent, compassionate human beings who, for the most part, will put the good of the American people, the environment, and the Constitution above personal gain.

Double Yippee!!

And we have Georgia organizers and voters who made the COVID relief package a reality by electing two Democratic senators in January. They took away the GOP Senate majority, made Moscow Mitch the minority leader, and opened up a world of legislative possibilities for our country.

Triple Yippee!!!

OMG – now I REALLY need a cigarette.

But as upbeat as things might be looking, it ain’t all rainbows and unicorns. Far, far from it.

While AGMA & Co. have weathered the COVID storm fairly unscathed due to a variety of reasons that mostly pertain to living a very privileged life due in large part to the color of my skin, I can’t escape the reality or the weight of the suffering, grief, hardship, and danger present here in the USA.

Over 525,000 people – mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children, grandparents – dead due to COVID, and nearly 30 million COVID cases (one of which was Son#2, and another my DIL’s sister who is still struggling to recover) reported. And there will continue to be more deaths and illness until every person can get a vaccine which may not be until the late summer. The anger & grief of those who lost loved ones due to the total incompetence and complete abdication of responsibility of those in government who are supposed to protect their citizens, is palpable. And the economic damage is staggering – 1000’s of small businesses closed, tens of 1000’s out of work, unprecedented lines at food banks, a sharp increase in homelessness. The vulnerable and marginalized even more vulnerable and marginalized.

The social costs are horrific as well. Our children and youth have basically lost a year of education, socialization, leadership opportunities, and sports. My 21 month old grandson has no idea what it’s like to interact with another child his age because he’s only been around his older brother and sister for the last 12 months. Women have left the workforce in droves to care for their children due to closed schools and daycares, and many may never fully recover from a career/income standpoint. And mental health issues among children, youth, and adults are at an all time high.

And then there is January 6th, the Big Lie, Q-anon, CPAC applauding the insurrection, the GOP’s renewed efforts at suppressing the votes of POC, and the continued threat of white supremist domestic terrorism. There’s the feeling that our democracy is hanging by a thread.

Layer on top of that personal tragedy which doesn’t take a break during a pandemic or insurrections. A good friend’s 63 year old sister is dying from brain cancer. Another good friend’s wife passed away at 63 last week after suffering 8 years of early onset dementia. AGMA has lost 3 elderly members of her Thursday morning lectionary study class in Atlanta since the pandemic began due to non-COVID reasons. But like the loved ones of those who died due to COVID, there is no opportunity to mourn together with friends and family, no communal grieving.

This leaves a huge hole in our hearts.

Oh Lord…now I need one of those “gummies” you can buy in a dispensary here in Chicago, if you get my meaning. Maybe more than one. And a stiff drink.

We are a long way from where things “used to be”. And maybe things shouldn’t go back to that anyway. There were a whole lot of people getting the short end of the straw.

What will the future hold 6 months from now? A year from now?

Who the hell knows…

So AGMA will just keep on keeping on, loving my family and friends, trying to do the right thing by masking and social distancing, laughing hard when appropriate (and sometimes when it’s not – of course!), and praying that the many brilliant scientific minds of the world will be able to eradicate this virus (and it’s offspring) once and for all.

And that our better angels will prevail. So that things will be better.

For everybody.

January & February…WTF??

Sorry I haven’t posted in a hot minute (an understatement maybe?), but AGMA’s been cocooning.  It’s been cold and snowy here in Chicago.

Duh.

Now I DO understand that was something I should have expected when we moved up here permanently in November.  And I did.  Son#1 has lived here for the past 20 years, and in the mid 70’s to late 80’s, my sister and BIL lived in Chicago.  And I grew up in Pittsburgh.  I really though I was ready.

How naive I was…

AGMA just didn’t expect the ferocity of it all.

It’s hard to type on a keyboard when you are bundled up in your living room like Ralphie from A Christmas Story (yet another iconic movie that I have never seen all the way through…)  So I couldn’t write any posts.

Yeah…sure.  But that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Honest to goodness, I have no idea how you folks in Canada and the bordering US states do it!

AGMA is f*cking cold, and I have been f*cking cold for the past 3 weeks.  And we haven’t seen the ground (other than what’s been shoveled or plowed) since January 25th.   We got 30 inches of snow from snow “events” that have happened seemingly every other day since 1/25, and we have another 10 inches from the snow storm today with more on the way tonight.

WTF??

Three of the best purchases we’ve made since moving to Chicago:

  1. A remote starter for our 2017 AWD Toyota Highlander.
  2. A snow shovel with a ‘helper handle’
  3. An Eddie Bauer down stadium coat (that weighs at least 10 lbs) that is rated to -40 F.

And I made a purchase last week that is helping immensely in our quest to keep warm.

Now THAT’S what I’m talking about!

Thankfully, we only have to worry about clearing the snow from the 8 steps on our front, and our deck & steps in the back.  Our HOA takes care of plowing our tiny streets and all the walkways.

Sweet!

Still, it feels like we have been shoveling and salting fools.  We’re running out of places to put the snow we are shoveling.

Oh…the humanity!

But things are definitely looking up.  Spring is right around the corner.  It’s supposed to get up into the 30s early next week. And while my friends in Atlanta are marveling at the flowering of the first daffodils, I am looking very much forward to actually seeing the dead grass in our little front yard.

It’s the small things…

So much has happened since my last post.  For most of you in the US, you had the same reaction to the national political news as we did.  Elation on January 3rd, anger on January 6th, joy on January 20th, *&#%$@^* anger this past Saturday.  How could the Senate not convict the Inciter in Chief for his attempted overthrow of the US government and the attempted murder of our representatives in Congress?  Maybe the meme below explains it?

IMG_6621

Hmmm…I suspected they were missing.

From the AGMA news desk, I had a birthday last month.  And I continue to age as ungracefully as I can.

So far, so good.

Son#2 flew up to visit us a few weeks ago which was lovely.  I miss his eye rolling and thinly veiled impatience with hubs and AGMA.  I really do.  He does a great job of keeping us grounded and tuned into the Millennial mindset.  He felt it was safe to fly, not because he got his COVID vaccine, but because he actually HAD COVID at the beginning of January.  This was surprising news to us.  He chose not to share the information with us until he was feeling better.  He was wise as Momma Bear would have hopped in the car and drive down there to catch COVID with him.

And we continue to kernoodle with the 3 grands quite often (which is the sum total of the reasons we moved to Chicago in the first place.)  Considering the unending snow and how f*cking cold it is, it’s a damn good thing they are still so adorable and fun and delightful, and make us very, very happy.

A damn good thing.

Please, stay warm, stay safe and don’t ever believe again that the GOP cares about blue lives, the US Constitution, law and order, and anybody who isn’t white and part of the 1%.

You’re welcome.

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!?)