Let it go

Some of you are old enough to remember a TV show in the mid-60’s called That Was the Week that Was.  It was the forerunner of much of the political/news satire of today.

Being a clueless, dewey eyed, innocent of 10 when it premiered in the US, I didn’t understand that much of it.  But one thing I do remember is part of the theme song…

 “That was the week that was; it’s over, let it go.”

Holy sh*t, that WAS the December (and 2021) that was; thank God it’s over.  And AGMA is all about letting it go!

December saw the hopes of a return to some semblance of pre-COVID normalcy totally screwed.

Damn omicron.

I went from personally knowing about 10 people who’ve had COVID since March 2020 to knowing 40+ people who got COVID just in the LAST 10 days of December.  Son#1 and his family included.

And omicron’s timing couldn’t have been more precise. Wouldn’t you know it?  Grand#1’s 7th birthday was messed up, Christmas was messed up and New Year Eve was messed up.

Delightful.

Thankfully, due to being fully vaxed (other than Grand#3 who is too young), all recovered quickly and are back to their normal abnormalness.  Grand#3, after a few concerning days of really high fever, is back to his enchanting and delightful self.

But hearing how full pediatric hospitals were (and are now), AGMA has to admit it was scary. 

And, of course, there were the losses. 

Personally, it started with 12/10 passing of Mike Nesmith of the 1960’s group, The Monkees. The group was “created” by Hollywood television types for a TV show to capitalize on the success of The Beatles’ A Hard Days Night.

AGMA was the exact demographic The Monkees TV show was aiming to capture – the little sisters of Beatles fans.  And I totally fell for it!!  I read about The Monkees in teen magazines.  I constantly passed notes – the 60’s version of Tweeting – with another Monkee obsessed friend at school.

And, of course, I watched the television show religiously.  It was like a sacred 30 minutes every week for my soul!  Such a Monkee devotee was I that, at dinner one night, when I absolutely refused to eat the live and onions my step-mother fixed, I was punished by not being able to watch the show that week.

Oh the humanity! 

But it goes to show you exactly how much AGMA hated (and still hates) liver and onions….

The Monkees was the first concert I ever attended.  My neighbor and I screamed the entire time.  It was glorious!  

It was difficult in 2012 when Davy Jones passed away at 66.  But imagine my shock when I found out, reading some tributes to Mike Nesmith, that Peter Took, the favorite of a starry eyed 13 year old AGMA, had passed in February 2019.  How did I miss that??

Double damn.

Then there was the unexpected passing of John Madden.  I can’t say I was a huge football fan in my younger years, but being married to football crazy Hubs, I watched more than my share over the last 40+ years and have become a fan.  And John Madden was THE voice of football for many, many of those years.  

In 1991, the John Madden Football game came to Super Nintendo.  Also, in 1991, AGMA had 8 and 9 year old boys with a Super Nintendo.  Madden Football became a staple in Casa AGMA.  It was John Madden, all the time.

Finally, and this is one I am not sure AGMA will be able to get over, there was Betty.  Sweet, sassy, talented, inspirational, naughty Betty.

She was the personification of NOT aging gracefully, and will ALWAYS be my AGMA-spiration.

Since her passing, I’ve seen many memes created to honor her memory and amazing spirit, but this is my favorite…

As Forrest Gump said, “And that’s all I’m going to say about that.”

The losses weren’t only in the national news.  2021 brought the passing of a number of close friends, and family of close friends.  It sucked.

So now we are 4 days into 2022.

The new year is starting out kinda wild and crazy. Dire warnings about omicron crippling the country, continued US political turmoil (the Big Lie of Cheetolini continues to be propagated by the QOP), inflation, crazy weather caused by climate change, wildfires, global supply chain issues, Russian aggression, Chinese censorship, and ___________________ (you fill in your favorite Debbie Downer prediction.) 

But AGMA is very hopeful that 2022 will be like the month of March.  You know, it will come in like a lion, but go out like a lamb.

I’m claiming that.

HAPPY NEW YEAR my friends, please stay hopeful, and be safe out there!!

The night after Christmas

T'was the night after Christmas,
And all through our home,
Not a creature was stirring,
We felt so alone.
From a house full of family,
To two cats sleeping tight,
And Hubs watching football;
It's so quiet tonight.
Our Christmas was ruined,
By that Omicron creep;
It infected the grands,
Who just wanted to sleep.
Despite all being vaxed,
Except the baby who's two,
They still got the virus;
It's called a break-through.
Son#1 is still healthy,
But our DIL's sick;
Nobody wanted to visit them,
Not even St. Nick.
So her family stayed here,
And Son#2 as well;
Casa AGMA was packed,
With folks worried as hell.
Having guests was okay,
And we ate lots of yummies;
But six folks in a small townhouse,
Thank God we had gummies!
Positive Christmas Day tests,
Made all of us sad;
All of our guests fled Chicago,
That damn Omicron is bad.
So we wait until Tuesday,
To see if we have "it";
Pray the vax and booster,
Will scare off that sh*t.
So be careful out there,
Omicron is definitely here;
Stay masked, wash your hands,
Don't let others come near.
Three full Christmas stockings,
Are still hung up with care,
And lots of gifts under the tree
‘Til healthy kids can be there.
Let’s pray 2022,
Is free from COVID fear;
AGMA sends you my love,
Have a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Practice falling

AGMA has become very “sturdy” in the last two years.

I always tell people that I’m still working to lose the baby weight I gained while preggers with Son#2.

Son#2 will be 38 next month.

I’ve gained and lost the same 15 pounds for years now.  And every time I lose them, SWEAR that I will not gain them back.  And AGMA means it.  

At the time.

For about 6 years, until late 2019, when I ran on a regular basis, I managed to bar the door to the oh too familiar FPM (Fifteen Pound Monster.)  No matter how loud it screamed and screeched and pounded at the door, AGMA kept the deadbolt on tight.  

Then there was COVID.

AGMA was already on shaky ground in March 2020.

I had finished my last marathon in October 2019.  And I ended up injuring my knee. And I couldn’t run for about 3 months.

Ah oh….

Then of course there was the holiday season (which lasts from Halloween until January 1st!!) which definitely perks up the ever vigilant FPM.

It whispers through the door, “A few more of those cookies that you LOVE won’t hurt you.”  and “It’s only once a year, enjoy another glass of nog!” and “It would be rude not to sample everything your host made for his open house.” 

Demon.

AGMA cautiously takes the deadbolt off and opens the door a crack, but keeps the chain on.  I can always go on a diet after New Year. Right?

Of course, then there are January birthdays.  Of course.  I mean, you HAVE to celebrate birthdays with rich food and homemade German chocolate cake. Right?  

February saw the door’s chain straining to the max.  Hubs and I take off for a 2 week trip to Provence and the Cote de Azure.  Pretty much any thoughts of restraint as far as food goes is now limited to the volume of my stomach.  I mean, it’s France! Right?

AGMA can always go on a diet when we get back from the trip.  And as soon as my knee gets better, I can start running again and that will really help. Right?

By the time COVID19 shut the world down, the screws holding the chain on the door are almost completely out. 

Between the stress of COVID19’s deadly spread, the Orange Cheetolini telling us to drink bleach, selling our house in Atlanta and moving to Chicago, and a still wonky knee, the door bursts open.

The FPM is, once again, in the building.

Sh*t.

But it didn’t stop there…. Oh no…. Soon, it’s little sibling, Eight Pound Monster (EPM) joins big brother.

They pretty much took up residence until this past summer when AGMA started running again. And eating more sensibly.  Things were looking up, even after a week long trip to France in July.  I had almost gotten rid of little sib EPM.  

But….after a 24 day trip overseas in October, all bets were off. It was over.  FPM & EPM were in charge again.

Now, it’s cold in Chicago.  And AGMA is a major wimp when it comes to running outside in the cold.  And I like to eat warm comfort food when it’s cold.

Honestly, right now I look like a panda bear without the fur. And the cute look on my face.          .

Desperately trying to find some sort of indoor activity that might kickstart my purging of FPM and EPM, I….

wait for it….

wait for it…

Took an introduction to bouldering class this past week.

WTF?

At the beginning of class, we were asked to introduce ourselves and include our preferred pronoun.  I was glad I wasn’t first because AGMA was a bit confused by the pronoun thing.

Sometimes it’s best to just shut up and listen.  

Turns out it helps identify your gender orientation – her/she, him/he, them/they.  

Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore…

(But AGMA thinks it’s wonderful that people are allowed to be who they are and are given the dignity and respect to be addressed in the way they want to be addressed.  Something I think that the Rethuglicans hate…  I savor that!)

Everybody in the class was AT LEAST 40 years younger than me.  And 50% my bodyweight. And didn’t have bad knees or a bad back.  And looked like they worked out.  And probably didn’t have a fear of heights

OMG – what was AGMA thinking signing up for this class???

But I DO have a great sense of humor. So I got that going for me…

But I was kind of a party pooper. I didn’t participate in the “practice” how to fall drills.  And I didn’t participate in the climbing.  Other than on the kiddie wall.

I’m short… 

However, after class was over, realizing my reluctance to look like a beached whale in the practice falling drills, and to show my panic at going more than 5 feet off the ground on a climbing wall, the very kind instructor offered to work with me privately on falling and climbing. 

Julia rocks!

I did two practice falls (ouch – those knees!) And I climbed a purple circuit.  Purple is supposed to be the easiest.  Of course, my 5 year old granddaughter did the same circuit on Sunday…

Show off! 

The day after, my back hurt.  And my knees twinged.  And I realize how my immense mass of panda body must have looked trying to scale that wall to all of those young, fit, lithe GenZers who were there.

But in a masochistic kinda way, it was kinda fun.

AGMA can’t wait to go back! 

Gummy girl

AGMA believes that a person should spread their wings.  Get out of their comfort zone.  Try to new things.

Wait for it…

In all of my travels since starting AGMA almost (gulp) 8 years ago, I’ve refused to do a traditional “trip report” post.  I never felt I’d be any good at it, especially after reading some of your, dear reader, posts about your domestic and international travels.  They are wonderful.

But last week, I changed my mind.  I decided to try something new.  Spread my wings.

Like Icarus.  And you know what happened to him…

AGMA had such a delightful trip to Ireland in October.  And knowing that many of you are still not comfortable with traveling yet (or don’t want the hassle that travel is these days),  I thought I’d try my hand at a travel blog post to maybe get folks thinking about traveling in 2022.  I mean, how bad could it be?

Turns out, pretty bad. Kind of a snooze fest.

I’m sorry.

Too many words and not enough snark.

And ya’ll know AGMA’s all about the snark.

My heartfelt thanks though to those of you who said you liked it.  And bravo for staying up to read the whole thing.  

ZZZZzzzzz…

It did have pretty pictures.

Not that I’m using this as an excuse (translation: I am TOTALLY using this as an excuse), but I haven’t flexed my blogging muscles very much since March 2020.  I’m out of practice.  

It was foolhardy to try something new when I am so out of blogging shape.

Damn COVID.

Did I mention that recreational cannabis is legal in Illinois?

And no – that’s not the reason last week’s post was so long and rambling, and why I had to have a snack when I was done writing.  Actually several snacks.

Seriously.

AGMA was never a smoker.  I tried both tobacco and marijuana waaaaayyyyy back in my college days, but just couldn’t do the ‘sucking smoke into my lungs’ thing.

I was raised until I was 11 by a mother who smoked, then went to live with a father who also smoked.  There was a big enough risk from inhaling 2nd hand smoke in my formative years; I didn’t want to make things worse by taking up smoking myself.

And I remember eating some cannabis brownies my college roommate baked.  AGMA could never understand why you would ruin perfectly yummy brownies with something that made them taste like they’d been stored in Steve Bannon’s armpits for a couple of years.

But, for whatever reason, after I moved to Chicago last year, I REALLY wanted to go buy some weed (or a derivative thereof.)  Just because I could.  Legally. It’s an AGMA thing.

I’ve used CBD products in the past and was frankly amazed at the pain relief they give when you use a topical cream on a sore back or knee.  I tried the ingestible oil, but no thank you. It tasted like armpits. Again.

Based on recommendations from Son#2 and a couple of friends, and actually trying some THC/CBD gummies Son#1 gave me to help me sleep (with lovely results), I decided AGMA was a gummy gal! 

It took me a few months to get up the nerve to go to one of the dispensaries in Chicago.  Not sure what I thought would happen…. Sometimes AGMA gets overly dramatic.

Turns out, my first dispensary visit was quite the event.

Hmmmm – it had no sign out front and an armed guard outside the door.  Okay…

Thankfully, the security guy must have thought I looked like I wasn’t going to cause too much trouble (ha!) so he let me in. In Door #1 that is.

I came face to face with a thick sliding plexiglass window (think dental office) in the anteroom. However I suspect that, unlike your dentist’s office, it was probably bulletproof. The nice lady behind it asked me for my drivers license, then she had me smile at the camera

They definitely didn’t get my good side.

Now I was buzzed in through Door #2 to the waiting room. With another armed guard.

I was getting a Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid vibe.

Then they called my name. AGMA got buzzed through Door #3 into the sales room.

The promised land!

I pulled out an empty gummy container that Son#1 had given me.

“Do you have any of these?”  

Well…AGMA’s happy to report that not only did they have them, but the lovely young man who was helping me signed me up for the frequent buyer club AND a senior discount.

Why have I never seen this advertised on the AARP website?  

And I also found out if I go there on a Wednesday, I can spin the ‘discount wheel’ and win $$ off of my gummies.

Sort of like hitting a slot machine in Vegas, but with a much more mellow edge.

And aside from being filled with all sorts of pricey cannabis products, I figured out that the armed guards are there mostly because the dispensaries are all cash only.  And my gummies aren’t cheap, even with my senior discount.  I gotta hit up the ATM before each visit.

Ten 10mg gummies with 1:1 THC to CBD (the best for sleeping) cost me $38 this past week.  AGMA went on a Thursday so I didn’t get to spin the wheel….

I won’t make that mistake again.  “Mama needs a new set of gummies!!”

But I only take 1/2 a gummy at a time and only on nights that I really need to get a solid night’s sleep.  

For now…

Aging gracefully my ass!

My Dublin palace

Yes – it’s true!  I’m not waiting two months to write another post.  What???

I had so much fun last week posting, I thought, “What the heck!”

Plus, I have to report about the third leg of AGMA’s great travel adventure in October to Ireland.

WARNING: This is a loooonnnnggg arse post. But there are pictures at the end as a reward.

I LOVE Ireland.  This was my 9th visit to that beautiful country.

Did I mention that I love Ireland?

My good friend Lisa (from St. Louis) is very well traveled.  She used to travel extensively to Asia on buying trips for her jewelry business.  And she has been to Africa multiple times.  Plus lots and lots of other places. 

Let’s put it this way – she is a member of a travel club where the basic requirement for membership is to have visited 100 different countries or more.

!!!!!!

But….she had never been to Ireland. 

She said she was saving it for when she gets older.

Did I mention that Lisa is 81?

Knowing about AGMA’s many trips to the Emerald Isle, she asked me several years ago if I would be her tour guide.  And she offered to pay for basically the entire land portion the trip.

“Absolutely, I’ll be your tour guide!”

AGMA has been an unofficial tour guide in Ireland for 2 other friends, but they didn’t offer to pay my way.  And it was kind of a lot of work escorting them…

So hell yes, I’ll be her tour guide!

It only took us three attempts to get there.

Damn COVID.

They say that you never really know somebody until you travel with them.

AGMA’s happy to say that Lisa proved to be a much easier travel companion than my other two friends.  She’s a Buddhist so has this Zen attitude toward life and problematic situations.  She never got flustered about much of anything.   She was a ‘roll with the punches’ type travel companion.  I loved that.

But as we all know, we all have our quirks.  Even AGMA (although I am actually practically perfect…)

Lisa is hard of hearing so she brought her hearing aids.  But she rarely used them.  And when she did, it was only one in one ear, and only for about 20 minutes at a time.  She said her ear got itchy??

Even with her one hearing aid in place, she had a terrible time understanding the Irish accent. Which was pretty much everybody we talked to on the trip.

AGMA has honed both the skills of speaking very loudly as her 2 sons were growing up (VERY loudly at times!) and, on my previous 8 trips, understanding an Irish accent pretty well  so it all worked out.  Literally, I was her interpreter, often repeating in my loud voice and Midwestern non-accent, what was just said by the Irish person talking to us.

You do what you gotta do.

And she ate.  She ate a whole lot.  She ate throughout the day.  

She is pre-diabetic and felt that she needed to keep lots and lots of protein snacks handy, so our little car was full of bags of peanuts, almonds and cheese sticks.  

She would get up in the middle of the night and eat.  She would eat after she got up in the morning. She would eat an hour after breakfast.  She would snack right before lunch, in mid-afternoon and before dinner.

And she would eat a normal sized breakfast, a huge lunch, and a decent sized dinner.

AGMA certainly understood that she needed to do what she needed to do, but at the end of the trip, she told me that she thought she gained some weight.

No sh*t Sherlock.

While planning the trip, I tried to see what she might be interested in seeing.  Multiple times.  I figure a good tour guide needs to find out what her clients wants to see and do.

She just said she trusted me to decide what she should see and do.

Hmmm….no pressure there…

I booked some day tours before we left.  But after we got to Ireland, it turns out she did have some preferences (of course) and they were things that needed advanced reservations to see/do.  Plus most restaurants required reservations for dinner.

So I was on my phone and laptop everyday trying to make arrangements for the next day.  It was a bit stressful, but most of the time, AGMA prevailed.  After all, it was kind of my ‘job’, so it was all good.

After we had a joyful rendezvous at the Dublin Airport on day #1, we picked up our cute, little, automatic transmission rental car with zero deductible CDW insurance.  That’s the ONLY way to go in Ireland when renting a car and driving on the left.  A knocked off side mirror and flat tire on previous trips taught AGMA to get full coverage. Always.

Our first three nights were spent in Waterford city at the really beautiful Granville Hotel.  It was probably our favorite hotel on the trip because it’s an old school Irish upscale hotel.  On the other hand, we had gray clouds and drizzle the entire time we were in Waterford.

But, seriously, it’s Ireland.

Because Lisa had jet lag, we took it easy the first few days. We went to New Ross to see the Dunbroody Famine Ship, tooled around Wexford city, and drove to the Hook Head Lighthouse, all on day #2.  Day #3 was a walking tour of Waterford, a visit to Waterford Crystal and a nice dinner in an Italian (??) restaurant.

We left Waterford city on day #4 and stopped for a few hours for a private walking tour of Kinsale on our way to Killarney.  Miraculously, while we were in Kinsale, the clouds gave way to sunshine and blue skies.  And I had my first piece of banoffee pie of the trip.  It was a glorious day!

The sunshine followed us to Killarney and decided to hang around for a few days.  We stayed at The Ross Hotel.  It was interesting.  On the outside, it looked like an old school upscale Irish hotel.  On the inside, it was an ultra modern Irish upscale hotel.  Think Andy Warhol with lots of neon thrown in… Interesting.

Our bus tour (cuz AGMA won’t do that drive) around the Ring of Kerry was spectacular.  This was my 3rd time to do the Ring tour and this was by far the best weather ever.  Stunning.

The next day (day #6) we visited Muckross House, St. Mary’s Cathedral, Killarney House, and took a jaunty jaunting car ride.  AGMA was happy none of them required an advanced reservation.

Day #7, we were on the road again – to Galway.  The “must see” stops on this drive are the Cliffs of Mohr and The Burren.  The blue skies went bye bye, replaced by high clouds. But no rain.  That’s a very good thing.

While AGMA was planning the trip, Lisa mentioned that she’d like to stay in a B&B.  But I’m not really sure she meant it…  When we got to our wonderful B&B in Galway, The Stop, she got a bit out of sorts.  It wasn’t in the center of town (which she prefers), but was only a 7 minute walk to the start of Quay St.  And our room was up one flight of stairs and was pretty plain with a tiny shower.  She didn’t complain, but she said she was feeling grumpy.

Gotta respect a woman who is upfront with her grumpiness.  She was very gracious in her grumpiness.

However, between Russell, the charming owner of The Stop, and the absolutely phenomenal breakfasts (seriously delicious!), she ended up loving our B&B.  Whew!  And she loved the energy of Galway city.

Day #8 was a full day tour around the Connemara with a 3 hour stop at Kylemore Abbey.  The skies were still cloudy, but the sun would tease us now and again.

Our big thrill on day #9 was going to Ashford Castle in Cong.  Ashford Castle is one of the top hotels in the world (yes -the WORLD), and costs like a kazillion dollars a night.  I actually stayed there for 2 nights back in 2006 on my first trip to Ireland.  It was expensive then and dominated our lodging budget (1/3rd of it) for our 2 week trip, but it was nothing like it is now.  $$$$$$. AGMA’d have to win the lottery to stay there now.

So the only way to see the castle if you aren’t staying there (cuz they have two gate keepers on the way in, plus a doorman) is to have afternoon tea, which is what we did. AGMA felt like freakin’ royalty! Maybe illegitimate, but still royalty.

Day #9 was a travel day to Donegal town.  On the way we stopped in Knock.  It’s sort of Ireland’s version of Fatima or Lourdes if you’re a religious sort.  Google it.  Then a short stop at the Belleek fine china factory in N. Ireland.  Despite Brexit, there are still open borders between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

AGMA fell in love with Donegal a number of years ago when Hubs and I stayed there for 2 nights.  I’ve been trying to get back ever since.  It’s remote, wild and gorgeous!  It doesn’t get very many tourists because it’s tucked up in the northwest corner of the country.  Sadly, we could only spend 2 nights there on this trip, and the weather was getting ready to take a turn for the worse.  While Lisa was napping after we checked in (she generally napped everyday), I walked around town snapping pictures while sky was blue and the sun was shining.

We stayed at The Abbey Hotel on “The Diamond” (which is actually a triangle??) in the center of Donegal town.  It is a lovely hotel with a great, lively bar.  More old school Irish pampering? Yes please!

Day #10 was a private walking tour of Donegal town, then a drive to the majestic Slieve League Cliffs.  These cliffs are twice as high as the Cliffs of Mohr and are stunningly beautiful.  We got there just in time. About 10 minutes after we parked, the rain rolled in and low clouds totally covered the cliffs.

We still had to do Dublin, so on day #11 we headed east.  We stopped in Castleblayney in County Monaghan for lunch with an Irish friend I knew in Atlanta in the late 2000’s.  She and her American husband moved back to Ireland about 6 years ago.  The view from their home is spectacular!

Later in the day, we motored into Dublin Airport, did our pre-booked, 35 Euro each COVID tests for our return to the US (ouch), and dropped off our rental car.  AGMA does NOT drive in Dublin.  It’s a rule.

We stayed at The Arlington Hotel at O’Connell Bridge.  I’ve stayed there before – it’s just an okay hotel.  But it has the all important location, location, location!  Most sights are in easy peasy walking distance.

On day #12, we did a walking tour of Dublin, then went to Bewleys on Grafton Street for lunch. We had tickets to the Guinness Experience at the Guinness brewery in the afternoon, but Lisa wasn’t feeling it, so I ended up doing it myself.  LOVE that pint at the top of the brewery with the 360 view of Dublin! 

Day #13 meant it was time for the Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour which, in Dublin, is great.  The HOHO tours in most cities have pre-recorded audio during the tour that are sort of meh, but, in Dublin, each bus driver actually narrates the tour.  And they are normally very funny! 

There was soooo much in Dublin we didn’t see, but it was the end of the trip. And Lisa was getting pretty tried.  So we packed up our suitcases the morning of day #14 and headed to the airport to fly home with our negative COVID tests in our hot little hands.

Speaking of hot, did AGMA mention that temperatures were in the 60’s the whole time we were in Ireland?  What??? Yes! It was unseasonably warm. I didn’t wear my sweaters, but, honestly, that was okay by me.

Finally, AGMA has to give a shout out to The Palace Bar in Dublin’s Temple Bar area.  Temple Bar is normally the 20 somethings place to drink heavily and party into the night.  The Palace is at the very beginning of Temple Bar on eastern end of Fleet Street. The quiet end of the street.

It’s a bar.  They serve no food.  And the most interesting folks hang out there.  I stop there every time I’m in Dublin.

On this trip, we met friends Jim and Jerry, two Irish undertakers (seriously), who were meeting up for the first time since COVID started.  They had evidently been at The Palace for a while before we got there, because they were pretty pickled when Jerry came over to talk to us.  We all talked and laughed and made some pretty tasteless jokes about their profession.  It was probably our most fun evening in Ireland! 

AGMA’s already planning my next trip to Ireland. I want to spend most of my time in County Donegal.  With a day or two in Dublin so I can go back to The Palace.

Anybody want to join me?

My nose hurts

(The below was written nearly 2 weeks ago while flying across the Atlantic back to Chicago.)

Holy cow!

It’s been a month of Sundays.  Several months of Sundays.

AGMA has missed everybody!

But it’s been a crazy busy (with good stuff!) September and October.  

I started out September visiting family in Washington DC over Labor Day weekend.  Then a few days after we got back, Son#2 came to visit.  That’s ALWAYS fun!

Then the weekend after that, AGMA went to her 50th high school reunion.

OMG…my 50th high school reunion.  

5-0 (as in a half a century!)

It was weird, crazy, and otherworldly.  Who were all those old farts & blue hairs?

Some of us have aged well (but NOT gracefully…)  Others looked like they fully drained their batteries during the disco era and were out of juice.

AGMA, by the way, looked fabulous!

Then the weekend after, I left for 24 days in Europe (mostly…)

COVID?  What COVID?

I’m pretty sure I DON’T have COVID since I’ve been tested for it 4 times in the last 26 days.

My right nostril hurts.  TMI, right?

Hubs and I started the adventure in Reykjavik.  We’ve never been to Iceland.  AGMA’s not really sure Iceland is the right name for this stunning windswept country.  It was cold while we were there.  It snowed while we were there.  It rained while we were there.  The wind nearly blew me off my feet while we were there.  The sun came out and it was warm while we were there.  There was a 3.5 point earthquake while we were there.  A volcano was erupting while we were there.

And we were only there 3 days!

More like Disassocationdisorderland.

Oh – and we ate some of the famed Icelandic hot dogs. Yum!

Seriously, I would love to return and explore the entire country.  The little bit we saw was stunning.  But, clearly, one must respect Mother Nature before attempting any sort of sojourn there.  No selfies on the edge of any cliffs or volcanos!

Then we hightailed it out of the snow, wind, rain, sunshine and earthquakes for my favorite city in the world (this week at least.) – Paris.

Yes, yes, yes…. I know.  AGMA was just in Paris in July.  But Hubs was with me this time so it was different.  And there were no men in spandex to chase. Well – there were, but that’s a story for a different post.

Paris was a bit cool and rainy at times, but next to Reykjavick, it was like a walk in a park.  Literally.  We stayed at a lovely 4 star hotel next to Luxembourg Gardens, The Hotel Observatorie Luxembourg, courtesy of a TravelZoo deal I bought months before.  We tend to be “value” travelers (translation: cheap – but not tacky or dangerous), so 4 star hotels are definitely out of our price range.  But the TZ deal put it in our price range – sort of – and it was lovely! 

AGMA could get used to being treated like I’m a rich *itch.

We did the “normal” Paris stuff.  Eat, see art, eat, see art, eat, see a palace or two, eat, see art, eat.  Repeat.  We got to see the Arc de Triomphe wrapped up in a posthumous tribute to Christos, the new multi-sensory art exhibition (like the Van Gogh one that is going around the US) on Dali with a bit of Gaudi thrown in.

Anything with Dali as the main attraction is totally nuts!  AGMA loved it! 

We went to a practically empty Versailles.  We saw the Morozkov collection (sort of a once in a lifetime type thing) at striking The Louis Vitton Foundation.  We also went to the Picasso Museum, something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.

And we did what everybody does in Paris…we walked and walked and walked. Well, Hubs actually scooted on his mobility scooter. But AGMA walked my sweet tootsies off. It was wonderful!

After 6 nights in Paris, it was time for Hubs to head back to the Windy City.  Buh bye Hubs!

And AGMA continued on with Phase 3 of the adventure.

I flew to Dublin and met an 81 year old friend who flew in from St Lous.  My job was to be her unofficial tour guide around Ireland for 2 weeks.  

AGMA, reporting for duty.

But the story of that part of the trip is another post…

So what was it really like traveling internationally during COVID?  A bit stressful as one might imagine.  Not really because of fear of catching the virus, but more from all of the safety precautions put in place by the various countries.

Because AGMA’s trip covered 3 countries, I pretty much kept on top of the travel requirements for each country in the weeks leading up to the trip.  A COVID test was required to enter Iceland, but not France.  But France requires what’s called a Passe Sanitaire be presented to enter indoor spaces – museums, palaces, historic monuments, restaurants, music venuse, etc. 

AGMA & Hubs applied for our Passe Sanetaire 3 weeks before we left.  It was supposed to take 16 days to get approved.  Yeah – 16 days came and went.  21 days came and went.   

Nothing.

Soooooo…the evening we got to Paris, we decided to get COVID tests at 25 Euro a test.  That would give us 72 hour “temporary” passe sanataire.  The next day, we went to Versaille and discovered that, if you don’t have the regular passe, then your COVID test can’t be any older than 48 hours.

Got it?  Corn-fusing….

And so the trip proceeded.  We got new COVID tests 3 days later (at 25 Euros each again!) to give us another 72 hours (which would also give Hubs the test he needed to fly back to the US!)  The next day we went to the Pantheon, which was like Versailles in only allowing people with COVID tests less than 48 hours old in without the regular passe sanitaire.

Got it?  Continued corn-fusion…

And for most sights (other than outdoor venues), you need to have a timed reservation. Kinda discourages that last minute, impromptu, spur of the moment spirit of adventure.

Champagne problem.

To travel in Europe now, you definitely can do it, but you really need to WANT to travel in Europe now! 

Next post….  AGMA, the Irish tour guide.

P.S.  Oh, we each finally did receive our official French passe sanitaire.  The day we left France.  Of course….  So very French!

VIVA LA FRANCE!!

AGMA waited, but it wasn’t midnight yet!

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.