Bargains

primary-Aerial-Silks-Intro-Class-1487959398

Everybody loves a bargain, right?

I know AGMA does!  I’ll always be the first in line for a “value” deal.

So, I was an early fan of Groupon way back in 2009.  Groupon started in Chicago in 2008, and rapidly expanded to reach a global audience.

For the 3 of you who might not be familiar with Groupon, it’s a service that offers group discounts to save money on goods/services through virtual coupons.  You pay $$ for a goods/services specific Groupon but then get a substantial discount on the item/service you are purchasing.  So, for example, I can get $30 worth of food at a local restaurant by using a Groupon I bought for $12.

Back in the early days, there was one – count it – one (1) Groupon offered per day in the Atlanta market.  And they were very popular.  Very.

I remember deals selling out an hour after the they were announced, because the vendors limit on how many could be sold.  Now I think there are literally thousands of deals on any one given day in cities all over the world.

Obviously, competitors popped up over the years – LivingSocial, Yipit, Woot, Scountmob, to name a few.  And there are local, city specific businesses offering a similar service.  In Atlanta we have Atlantaonthecheap, LoafDeals and HandPickedAltanta.  I’m pretty sure that some of these are not stand alone companies – they are owned by the larger, national companies.

You know how that works…

Because the vendors that offer these discount deals through these virtual coupon companies have to split the income received for the sale of the coupons with said virtual coupon company, they end up getting very little money for the goods/services purchased by the consumer.  So in my example above, the restaurant might only get $6 of the $12  paid for the Groupon.  But the vendors obviously consider it a good way to promote their goods/services.

I guess…

Most deals have expiration dates on them, but have wording saying that the value the consumer paid for the coupon never expires and can be used at the vendor’s business.  So if I let my $12 deal for $30 worth of food at the local restuarant expire, I can still dine at that restaurant and use my virtual coupon for $12 off my meal.

AGMA is convinced that a huge part of these Groupon-type companies’ income streams is from those of us who buy these discount coupons and never use them.

Ever.

But seriously, who hasn’t been tempted to try an ionic foot detox offered at a business across town because it was just SUCH a good deal?  And of course everybody’s feet could use a good detoxing.  But then it’s just so hard to carve out the time to do something that is pretty far out of the norm for you in a part of town you’re not all that familiar with.  And your good friend didn’t buy one when you suggested it and now you have to go alone.   And you’re really not sure what they’re going to do to you.  So you end up not going and the deal expires and now you for sure won’t drive across town to use the $15 credit you have for a $55 iconic foot bath.

Sadly, this was AGMA when this whole virtual coupon craze started.  But with age comes wisdom. I’m very selective of what I buy now.

However I need to share one of the recent deals I purchased. And used.

It’s just sooooo quintensenntial AGMA.

I run, but doesn’t do much else in the way of exercise.  A few years ago I bought a deal for 1 month at a gym that was about 5 miles away.   The gym had a water rowing machine and I fell in love.

Hard.

I went twice a week to use that sweet rower.  I lost weight and my tummy was starting not to look like I was 3 months along with twins.  But the month expired and I had to break off the relationship.

Fast forward to 2 months ago when a deal popped up for rowing classes at a place only 3 miles away.   I jumped on it.  AGMA was gonna fall in love again.

In addition to rowing classes, they also offer silk aerial classes and those pole exercise classes that is all the rage with the young’uns these days.

I went for the first 3 classes during the day and the studio was pretty quiet.  The rowing machines were in the aerial space.  But I did get to see the pole studio which looked…

Interesting.

Anyway, I got back into my rowing groove.  And I decided that I like sort of doing my own thing rather than a “class”.  But I had one more class left on my “deal”, so I booked it for last Monday evening.

The studio really buzzes in the evening!  A bunch of young, very fit young ladies were milling about waiting for their class to start (NOT rowing…).  Then a woman, who obviously worked there, walked out from the pole studio with 6 inch chunky heeled red shoes, red hair piled on her head, a red baby doll nighty that came down to mid hip, and a thong.

And both cheeks were just a shinin’ like the moon!  And the moon was definitely full…

She was complaining because the air conditioner was dripping into the studio.  Nothing like a bit of reality to interfere with your exotic dance lessons.

And there was AGMA, looking like the frumpy plump sorority house mother to all of these supple and fit young things who were getting ready to swing their stuff around a pole and on aerial silks.

Ah….if only I was 40 years younger.  And my moon wasn’t ready the size of Jupiter.

And speaking of that general “area”, if anybody’s interested, there was another deal – through Living Social – that caught my eye last week.  It was for Vaginal Steaming Sessions.

Yup.

I’ll just leave it up to you to use the Google.

$29 for 1 session; $55 for 2.

Get ’em while they’re hot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comfort rules

 

overpackingAGMA hasn’t been on a long trip in a while.

May, to be precise.  And I’m getting twitchy.

Very twitchy.

I mean, May was what…like 5 months ago!  Seems longer. Much, much longer.

It doesn’t help that I subscribe to multiple tour companies’ email blasts, along with SCF (Scotts Cheap Flights for the uninitiated) super low airfare alerts, along with following multiple pages having to do with travel on Facebook.

It just seems to feed the Travel Beast within.

At the recommendation of a running friend, I recently started following a Facebook group called “Travel Fashion Girls”.

Yup – that would be AGMA!  I’m just a regular travel fashion girl.

Not.

Evidently, it’s the social media community for people – mostly women would be my educated guess – who visit the Travelfashiongirl.com website.

Here are some of the topics on this website:

What To Wear in Berlin: Autumn, Summer, Winter and Spring   (I pretty much think that I would wear the same thing in Berlin as I would at home.  What am I missing?  And why did they get the seasons out of order?)

Best Chelsea Boots for Women On The Go: Comfort, Ease and Style  (I have no idea what a Chelsea boot is and how it’s different from a regular boot.  Can I get some help here?)

Take Flight In These Fashionable Outfits For Fall  (AGMA has a standard travel wardrobe that is not restricted by the confines of seasonal fashion dictates.  I would probably pack my long underwear though…)

Based on my responses to their topics, AGMA clearly needs to follow the Travel Fashion Girls FB page.

The FB page is full of first-world dilemmas like whether to wear white or black sneakers to Europe, what brand of carry-on is the best, and how to cram tons of make up and hair products in a 1 quart plastic bag because they are only taking a carry-on.

AGMA’s answer to the above would be…

  1.  Anything but white.  Be sensible for heavens sake.  Who wants to clean white shoes every evening?
  2. Go to TJ Maxx and buy what’s cheap ’cause the airlines are gonna beat it up anyway and you’ll have to buy a new one next year.
  3. Go “au natural” for your trip.  You’re beautiful without all that gunk!  Besides, nobody really cares if you have tons of make-up on or not.  Seriously. Nobody. Cares.

…which is why I don’t comment on these posts.

But I get it.  I was young once and thought that I had to look “cute” all the time.  Especially when traveling.

Hubs and I went on a 3 week junket to England, Scotland and Germany back in 1981.  I remember taking two big suitcases plus a garment bag.  How young and foolish we were!

And I wore really cute cowboy boots on the flight over to London.  Urban Cowboy had come in 1980 and everybody had cowboy boots!

Sooooooo stupid.  My feet were so swollen when we landed that I thought I was going to have to go through customs in my stocking feet.

Age, many, many trips, and lifting too many heavy suitcases has made AGMA into a more pragmatic traveler.  Maybe a bit too pragmatic?

I have a standard travel wardrobe that I’ve been using for a number of years.  Because I really only want to take a carry-on when I travel, I really don’t take all that many clothes.  So the clothes that make the cut need to be able to be washed out in a sink and be quick drying overnight.

I gotta say,  there aren’t many high fashion items that fit that bill.

And AGMA has reached that point in her life where comfort rules.  Over anything else.

Especially where my shoe selection is concerned.   Travel shoes have to be ultra comfy.  And those cowboy boots, while really cute and trendy, we NOT comfortable.  Even when my feet weren’t as puffed up as the Mad King’s ego.

I have a pair of beat up black walking shoes that look like the ultimate “fashion don’t”, but are sooooo comfy that I am compelled to pack them on every trip.

And I like to wear PJ-like clothes on long flights. Looser yoga-style pants and a floppy, soft long sleeve top. I definitely don’t look stylish, but I feel very comfy cosy.

And honestly, it’s all about me.

AGMA’s “problem” is that I kinda don’t give a rat’s ass what other people might think of my wardrobe choices when I travel.  And I don’t care that a lot of my travel pictures have me in virtually the same clothes from year to year.  I’m on a trip to experience the culture and see the sights, not to impress folks with how chic I look.

Which I am in danger of NEVER doing.

Now understand that I do keep my clothes clean (of course!), and don’t wear anything that is ripped or is in need of repair. OMG – if I did that, my sweet step-mother would come back from the dead and give me a lecture!  That would definatley be a “fashion don’t” for AGMA.

And I will  add new items to my wardrobe if I find something that fits my “comfy and washable/quick dry” criteria with the right price point.

Which brings me back to Travel Fashion Girls.

Maybe AGMA should rethink my idea of travel fashion.  The pictures some of these women post are so attractive.  They’re at the airport with their stylish skirts and cute flats, their sweaters layered on top of fashionable tops with a matching scarves and designer purses.

I could look like they do, right?

Nah…

As Lena, Ella, Frank, Tony and Gaga sang, “That’s why the lady is a tramp!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stronger

What-doesnt-kill-you-makes-you-strong

 

Disclaimer:  Always checks with your health care provider before starting any exercise program.  And then take their advice with a grain of salt.

AGMA has issues.

I think some of you know that by now.

For the most part, they are charming foibles that only endear me more to my good and extremely patient readers.

Some, not so much.

The quote by Friedrich Nietzsche, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”  has always been a favorite of AGMA.

Honestly, I didn’t know that it was from Nietzsche.  The first time I heard a version of it was on WLW radio in Cincinnati in the 1980s.

There was a DJ named Gary Burbank who created around 17 incredibly funny radio personas during his nearly 27 years with WLW.

One of Burbank’s most interesting characters was Smilin’ Blind Muddy Slim, the 60- Minute Jelly Belly Toejam Man.

Seriously.

Smilin’ Blind was a Blues man who had had a rough life but stayed optimistic.  His favorite saying was, “What does not kill you, will only make you stronger.”

Be it Nietzsche or Smilin’ Blind, there’s a lot of wisdom in that phrase.

Some of AGMA’s issues are not strictly “Oh my God, is she crazy?” type issues.  Yes, I like young men in spandex on bicycles, fantasizing about my next tattoo and sharing stories about my latest colonoscopy.   To name a few.

But I also have been having more physical issues.

This does not make AGMA happy.

But I’ve decided that I am just going to ignore them.  And it’s kind of working in a weird sort of way.

I have a disintegrating L3 vertebra with a compression fracture, significant multi-faceted spinal stenosis between my L4 & L5, a variety of bulging discs and scoliosis.

AND a partridge in a pear tree!

But I love to run and I’m training for a marathon (my 7th) in 2 weeks.

How is this possible?  I’m really not sure.

AGMA is a very slow runner which helps.  Actually, I’m a run/walker.  I use the Galloway Method of interval training and do 15 second intervals.

I started having pain in my right leg/hip last year.  Went to an ortho-pod for a diagnosis and a PT who helped me do as much as I could to mitigate the issues through dry needling and making some changes in how I sit, sleep, travel, etc.  It worked!  I was able to do the Chicago Marathon last fall – very slowly – relatively pain free.

Fast forward to AGMA’s starting to run this spring again after several months of being ill  and lots of traveling.  And very little running.  The occasional pain I felt in my right leg/hip now became a steady pain and started making it difficult to sleep.

Ouch.

A trip back to the ortho-pod and an MRI revealed the source of the pain as the previously undiagnosed significant multi-faceted stenosis between L4 & L5.  Basically I have stuff poking out from my vertebral body in the back and the facet joints in the front that is compressing the L4 nerve root that runs down the middle of those vertebra and goes into my legs.

Double ouch.

The doc said as long as I can stand the discomfort, running isn’t going to make the condition any worse, so have at it.  So I took her at her word and amped up my running.

But here’s the weird thing…

And as I increased my mileage, AGMA’s leg pain decreased.  Now, about 80% of the time, I have little or no pain in my leg.  But the pain consistently comes back when I don’t run for a few days.

It doesn’t make any sense.  But I’m going with it.

Last week, I tweeted my back on the left side.  But I kept up with my running and it started to improve a bit.  It really got better over the weekend when we were out of town and I didn’t run for 3 days.

But damn – it came back the day after we got back.

AGMA thinks it’s our pricey ($$) Sleep Number bed.  I tried adjusting my “number” last night to hopefully make things better.  I got up this AM feeling worse. It kinda hurt to even walk.

Oops!  Wrong number I guess.

But, it was a running morning and I was going to run come hell or high water.  Even if I had to limp my way through it.

Foolhardy, you say?  Stupid, you say? I don’t disagree.  I was second guessing myself for the entire 2+ miles of my run/walk thing this morning.

BUT…

My pain level before my run was a 7.  It was a 2 after I got back home. I realize it sounds crazy and counterintuitive but something happened during those 2+ miles that “corrected” whatever was ailing my poor back.

I don’t understand it.  I can’t explain it.  It doesn’t make sense.

But I’m going with it.

Is AGMA advising everybody to “play” through pain?  Not really.  As we age, we really do have to be more prudent.

And understand that I would never encourage anybody with any serious medical issues to go against their doctors orders.  That would be irresponsible and cruel.  And dangerous.

BUT…

I think what AGMA has learned is that, sometimes, we – people of a certain age that is – can be too careful.  Because we’re told that getting older is supposed to bring on more aches and pains, we passively accept that we can’t do X or Y anymore.  We let those aches and pains dictate our level of activity.   When sometimes, X and Y activity is just what our body needs to strengthen it and make it more resilient.

Inactivity can actually make things worse at times.

And to those of you who are still aghast that I ran with a sore back, AGMA did ice it for 20 minutes later on in the morning.  My nod to being prudent.  Feel better?

What does not kill us, will only make us stronger.

Aging gracefully my ass!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AGMA goes to the movies

da

Gene Siskel  – step aside…

There’s a new movie reviewer in town.

While AGMA is not a movie fanatic with one of those Regal Unlimited or AMC Stub A-List movie passes, she sees her fair share of movies.

Not really.

Honestly, I watch most of the movies I see on international flights on a screen that measures (if I’m lucky) 6″ X 5″.  Not exactly the ideal situation for a sweeping cinematic blockbuster.   But hey – it’s free and if I’m stuck in my little, teeny, itty bitty seat for 8 hours, it’ll pass the time.

Plus, if a movie sucks, I can change my selection and am not out ticket money.

I save going to the “real” movies for ones I REALLY want to see.  For the last few years, it’s been the Marvel Universe Avengers movies.

(But not the Deadpool movies.  Ick.)

The only comic books I read when I was younger was Archie and Friends.  I know – that’s just sad and pathetic.  I think they tried to make an Archie movie once, but it turned out sad and pathetic as well.    I mean, Betty or Veronia?  Pick one and move on with life for God’s sake.

So AGMA is unable to explain my fascination with the Marvel movies.

It could be as simple as Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan or Chris Pratt.

Wildlifepedia says of the cougar,  “A capable stalk-and-ambush predator, the cougar pursues a wide variety of prey.”

Why yes she is and does.

But it was more than just the handsome faces and buff bodies.  Extremely buff bodies.

Imaginative stories, amazing special effects, great humor and some fine acting made these movies ultra enjoyable for AGMA.

And extremely buff bodies…

But last week, AGMA was part of a nationwide Fan Event and got to be one of the first to see the Downton Abbey movie.

Hot diggity dog!!

For some odd, unknown reason, there were 7 PM DA showings on 9/12 at movie theaters around Atlanta (and other cities around the US.)  AGMA follows Downton Abbey on Facebook (I know – I’m a geek) and they were advertising this Fan Event on the 12th in their posts.  Evidently there were supposed to be snow globes given out as well, but our theater must have missed that memo.

I would have ended up selling it on Ebay anyway.

I was nervous as we walked into the theater.  AGMA loved the PBS series so much, I thought it might be a let down.  And I was distressed when I read a few days before that two of my very favorite characters – Denker and Spratt – were not in the movie.

VERY 1st world problem.

I know that the movie won’t be released for general consumption until the 20th, so no spoilers…

The movie picks up 18 months after the series finished.  I think the ads have been extensive enough so that everybody knows that major plot is a visit from the King and Queen.  And of course, it wouldn’t be Downton Abbey if there weren’t a plethora of sub-plots.

It was absolutely delightful seeing everybody again (minus Spratt and Denker – boo hiss!) And Julian Fellows had the costume department working overtime – the dresses the “upstairs” ladies wore were breathtaking!  And of course, the sets were fit for a King and Queen, and Highclere Castle was as beautiful as ever.

But (I’m so sorry to have a but…) AGMA found some of the subplots predictable.  Hubs and I guessed the outcome of several of them correctly.

And everything seemed a bit rushed.  But I guess that’s the nature of a 2 hour and 3 minute movie.   There is just no time to really develop a story.  I mean, it took 5 seasons of the DA series for Carson and Mrs. Hughes to hold hands for Pete’s sake!

Because the movie was so short (compared to the 56+ hours in the series), some of the major characters had relatively minor roles.  Or none at all (Denker and Spratt…)  Mr. Bates is there but has a minor role.  I guess he was exhausted after all the dramas he was involved in in the series.  Understandable.  And we never get to meet Anna’s son or Mary’s daughter.

However, Maggie Smith was given loads of wonderful zingers and delivered them beautifully.  Of course.

Who else wants to be just like the Dowager Countess when they grow up?

Also, some of the story lines that were left dangling at the end of the series get somewhat resolved.  And the scene with Mr. Molesley serving the King and Queen has to be one of THE funniest in the annals of DA.

Overall, fans of the Downton Abbey series will enjoy the movie.  It was a delightful romp with characters we’ve (I’ve) grown very, very fond of over the years.  AGMA has to say that it was a wonderful treat to see them again!

I was actually a bit sad after the movie was over thinking that may be the last time we would encounter the Crawley family and servants ala 1927.  Just like AGMA was sad after the Avengers:End Game  movie.

Time moves on.  Dang it.

Oh…I need to say that while some of the plot twists were pretty obvious as to how they would end up, we didn’t guess the plot twist at the end.

No spoilers, but bring a tissue.

AGMA movie rating of Downton Abbey: 11 champagne bottles out of 10!!

Hic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old-Fartitis

old fart

There’s a serious malady out there affecting our older citizens.

It’s actually been around for years and years with little or no recognition by the medical community.  Sadly, my father had it and now my brother has it.

The CDC evidently hasn’t seen fit to do any research or alert the general population to its existence and the dangers of contracting it.  This is puzzling and alarming.

AGMA is shocked that, until now, it has even gone unnamed.

“Old-Fartitis” is a serious condition has always existed, but is now reaching epidemic levels since November 8, 2016.  And it’s spread rampantly among some family members and many peers.

Oh, the humanity…

Old-Fartitis can be recognized by two unmistakable symptoms:

  1. The longing for the past. (Defined as “the good old days” to many, these days gone by were only truly good for a small segment of the population based on skin color, national heritage, gender identity and religious affiliation.)
  2. Resisting any change that is a perceived threat to one’s narrow view of how the world should “work”.

Old-Fartitis is a state of mind that will eventually, if untreated, destroy the soul.  It’s mental, emotional and spiritual imprisonment influenced by the 4 F’s of Old-Fartitis:

  • Faulty memory
  • Fading influence
  • Fake news
  • Fear.

AGMA is really just scratching the surface of the nature of Old-Fartitis.  Much more research is needed into this serious condition with emphasis on a cure.

Having my BS (yes, I said BS), I am familiar with scientific principals, and would suggest the following as mitigation steps until a cure can be found for Old-Fartitis:

  • Travel. As far as one is able to go and meet as many different people as one can.
  • Volunteer in some capacity with disenfranchised individuals (homeless veterans, immigrants, the disabled, at risk youth, abused women, etc.)
  • Reference multiple sources (NOT just one and you know the one I mean…) in print, digitally and on TV for local, national and world news.
  • Read books/poetry by diverse authors with diverse viewpoints.
  • Walk in nature.  Like, a lot. I mean, a lot.
  • Visit an art museum.
  • Listen to a musical artist who is younger than Keith Richards.
  • Nurture friendships with people who are younger and/or of a different race, religion, nationality or sexual orientation.
  • Develop a spiritual practice.
  • Extra credit item: get a tattoo (ya’ll know I had to throw that in!)

This is just a preliminary list I’m still fine tuning for submission to the CDC.

IMPORTANT!!!  Do not confuse being an old fart with Old-Fartitis.  While the two can coexist in one individual, they are separate conditions.

While an individual with Old-Fartitis will be always be an old fart, AGMA is here to declare that one can be an old fart without succumbing to Old-Fartitis.

Your relief is palpable.

An old fart is defined purely by the objective measurement of number of times a person has sucessfully circled the sun.  However, the specific number that defines an old fart is subjective to individual interpretation.  Some say you are an old fart at 60, some say 65, some say 70.

By my own definition, AGMA is an old fart.  I’m on my 66th journey around the sun.  My body is showing some of the wear, both internally and externally, that is bound to happen to a piece of finely engineered machinery after extensive use.  And massive quantities of Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies over the years.

But I still look fabulous!

Until a vaccine is discovered for Old-Fartitis, I hope and pray that none of you become afflicted with this serious condition.

However, between AGMA and your tattoo artist, I think you’ll be just fine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wanted: more joy

 

highclere

AGMA has noted of late that my posts aren’t the light-hearted romps into absurdity that they once were when I started blogging nearly 6 years ago.

I’m pretty sure the change started on November 8, 2016.

And with each

  • mass shooting (#MassacreMitch’s once again sending his NRA inspired thoughts and prayers to Midland/Odessa…)
  • report of innocent children being ripped from their parents, caged and denied basic health care
  • hurricane/drought/deadly heat wave/flood event/tornado outbreak
  • environmental protection dismantled
  • edict meant to take protections/rights away from GLBTQ people/racial minorities/women/immigrants/the military/labor
  • ally alienated
  • enemy of America, democracy, and human rights embraced
  • conviction of criminals placed in high government positions
  • innocent person killed because of the color of their skin, their place of origin, their sexual orientation, their religion,

AGMA strays farther from the “very light-hearted” state of mind.

Add to that the normal “stuff” of living and I’ve been downright morose.

Plus, I gained 8 lbs since the beginning of the year and my normal “mammoth petite” clothes are too tight.

Sh*t.

“Mr. Fader, you sound like a real delightful guy!” to quote Roseanne Roseannadanna.

Two things this past weekend slapped me in the face like a cold sockeye salmon and screamed, “You REALLY need to figure out how to put some joy back in your life AGMA!!”

First was dinner with Son#2.

Now I need to say that Son#2 has always been a bit like Eeyore.  He has a touch of SADD, and likes living in Atlanta with all the sunshine in the winter months.  He’s not one who would be called a raging optimist.  Much like his mom.

Hubs and my discussion at dinner centered around:

  • our sadness at the banishment from seeing our grandchildren in the foreseeable future for reasons beyond our understanding (which we have been told is temporary, but we’ll see…)
  • the devastating effects of climate change and how more catastrophic storms like Dorian will be happening with more frequency (Hubs is a bit of a climate change expert.)
  • the book Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson that I had just finished to listening to on Audible.  It chronicled the migration of African Americans from the Jim Crowe South to northern and western cities between 1915 and 1970.  A long book and a very intense examination of the violence and systemic racism in both the South and North against African Americans.
  • the anniversary of Emmett Till’s murder in 1955.  He was a 14-year-old African American from Chicago visiting family in Mississippi.  His parents were part of the Great Migration.  He was lynched and his body desecrated in Mississippi on August 28, 1955, after being accused of offending a white woman in her family’s grocery store.

OMG…weren’t we just a barrel of fun?!?!

And Son#2 called us out on it.  He said, “Can we talk about something that’s happy?  You know, there has to be something happy we can talk about.”

For a moment, AGMA bristled.

“Sure,” I thought, “Let’s just pretend that none of this injustice and corruption and sadness is in the world and we’ll act just like everything is just peachy dandy, and ignore the assault on humanity that is going on all around us.”

AGMA has been known to be a bit dramatic…

We changed the subject and started talking about fluff.

But it made me think.  Is there a way to hold both the righteous anger that comes from injustice assaulting us on so many different fronts, and the simple joy and delight in living?

Clearly AGMA has not been doing a very good job at that.

Second, I heard a piece on NPR about research study that concluded that optimistic people lived longer.  And that optimism can be taught to a certain extent.

Cha-ching!

I need a course in Optimism 101!

Maybe I need to sign up for Optimist International?

This weekend, after realizing that I DID need to do a better job of finding my joy, I took definitive steps.

I started watching….

Wait for it….

The Downton Abbey marathon that was on PBS this weekend!

Nothing says cheer up like the Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess telling her American DIL, Cora, played by Elizabeth McGovern, “I’m so looking forward to seeing your mother again.  When I’m with her, I’m reminded of the virtues of the English.”

I tuned in and out of it the entire weekend.  I managed to see the very first episode on Saturday and the last episode in Monday with a number of episodes in between.

I was in my happy place!

Keep in mind we have all of the seasons on DVD.  But I would never think of watching them sequentially.  That would just be crazy.  Watching them as I had time during the weekend seemed less like I was wasting my day staring at the TV, and more like I was becoming reacquainted with old friends in bits and pieces.

Only in the mind of AGMA…

And to make things even better, the DA movie comes out in the US this month on September 20th!

Son#2, who normally would poo poo the idea of something like Downton Abbey, said that a number of his friends, to his amazement and surprise, couldn’t wait for the movie to come out.   He was actually considering seeing it.

I told him I would be happy to loan him our DVD’s of all 6 seasons so he could get caught up with the 52 episodes he missed.

At which point his eyes rolled back in his head…

Then we laughed.

While we shouldn’t, we absolutely can’t, ignore the big things that are assaults on our fellow human beings and our Mother Earth, we also need to recognize and embrace the little joys that come into our life in unexpected ways.

AGMA promises to try to find more joy and happiness in the little things that move my heart and spirit, and turn those moments into a deep reservoir of hope.

And more light- hearted posts.

I promise!

 

 

 

You looking at me?

binoculars

“I always feel like somebody’s watching me
And I have no privacy
I always feel like somebody’s watching me
Tell me is it just a dream?”

Thus went the chorus of the 1984 song released by Rockwell on Motown Records titled “Somebody’s Watching Me”

Now – some 35 years later, AGMA can say to Rockwell, “No – it’s not a dream.  Somebody is indeed watching you!”

And all of us.

Hubs and I have resisted the urge to get one of those little eavesdropping devices.  What are they called…Alexa or Siri or Google (so original…) or Gladys (remember her from Bewitched?)   Despite the eyes-rolling-back-in-his-head assurances from tech savvy Son#2 that it would make life sooooo much easier for us and that NOBODY was actually listening, we have no plans to get one.

They creep me out too much.

Just this week Apple issued an apology to Siri users when it came out that they let contractors listen to Siri recordings of users asking questions.  Amazon does the same thing with Alexa unless you opt out (of course the default is to allow it) and Google’s suspended a similar practice in Europe this summer.  You can read about it here.

They all claim that it’s to “enhance” the digital assistant experience.

Sure – and the big Orange Cheeto is a great President….

Even our phones are tracking our every move unless we turn off GPS.  Even then, I’m not so sure they still aren’t tracking us.

And I can’t even imagine the data that is being collected on somebody wearing one of those innocent looking watches that are supposedly your best friend and will save you if you get into an accident.   Yeah – that’s what they want you to believe…

Or the data being collected and passed on from new, technology laden automobiles.  Or social media sites that seem to be so addictive.

Or, or, or…

They really ARE watching and listening and tracking us!

Or is AGMA just being paranoid?

An article on Comparitec by Paul Bischoff titled, “The worlds most surveilled cities” reveals that Atlanta – my current city of residence – is #10 on the list.   #10 for crying out loud!  Right up there with Beijing and Wuhan in China.  Actually 8 out of the top 10 were in China.

And we all know what a champion of human rights China is….

London was the other non-Chinese city on the top 10 list.

What the hell is going on??

I was recently in a home that has a Nest Hub.  Along with the cameras they installed, this allowed them to view and listen to what was going on the the basement and outside at the back of their house.  And they have Nest doorbells that have cameras in them at their front and back door.  They can listen to conversations on the front porch if the Nest doorbell is triggered and you have no idea.  They have little Nests (like Alexas) upstairs and downstairs that can tell you the current temp and play Baby Shark, but are always listening.

ALWAYS.LISTENING

They installed locks on the front and back door that are push button operated.  But the locks are connected with an app that tells them when a lock was locked and unlocked.

There was no sneaking out for a quick toke…

Quite honestly, I felt like I was being eavesdropped on and watched no matter where I was in the house.  Maybe the bathrooms were safe spots, but AGMA wasn’t going to take any chances.  I just did my thing and kept my mouth shut.  Any other “extraneous” noises weren’t under my control…

What George Orwell wrote about in his book 1984  has become a reality.  Big Brother (or Big Sister) is watching and listening and tracking.

Fu*k that AGMA says!

I plan on resisting what appears to be a total invasion of personal privacy for as long as possible.

While we don’t have any stand alone “digital assistants”, our phones and tablets and laptops have those horrendous people like Alexa and Siri on them, ready to pounce if the right button is pressed.  But again, what’s to guarantee they aren’t ALWAYS listening like those nasty Nests?  AGMA’s planning on contacting Apple, Google and Amazon to see if there is a way to fire those noisy people and delete their functions.

I’m going to go back to taping over my laptop camera.  I used to do that, then Son#2 gave me “the look” when I told him why I did it.  It did sound a bit crazy even for AGMA, so I untaped it.

The tape goes back tonight.

I plan on driving my technology bereft 2008 Prius as long as it has life in its engine.

And AGMA will not part with her fingerprints to a cell phone or a padlock.  Or allow my eye to be scanned by anything that isn’t going to buy me dinner or bring me flowers.

Although I use Maps a whole lot to navigate Atlanta traffic, I’m going to go back to turning off GPS when I don’t have to drive.

I’ve pared down my use of social media to pretty much follow cycling, my grandkids and sending nasty tweets to my GOP senator who honestly does think tRump is the Chosen One.

Small gestures that probably won’t protect AGMA from the inevitable, but it’ll make me feel better.

Make me feel as if I am not part of The Matrix quite yet.

Ship me off to Zion, Morpheus!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bill, James and the Tot

grace

Last week was crazy.

AGMA had to work all week (the horror!!) and then we went to visit the Grands on Friday.

Between those two things, and the fact that tRump is indeed President and that it was NOT a bad dream, I was exhausted.

But visiting the Grands is always fun even if visiting with their parents is less than fun.  Long story that you don’t want to hear…

AGMA’s hoping time will bring them around.  Again.

Things weren’t too good before and after B, the oldest, was born.  We didn’t feel very welcomed when we would visit and got served a lot of cold shoulder.  With no sauce.

But after V was born nearly 3 years ago, things got much, much better.  The reason why is a mystery, but we were encouraged to visit often.  And when we were there, we felt very loved and welcomed.

After years of being emotionally distanced by them, it felt like a fairy tale ending where everybody lives happily ever after.

But, how does that old saying go…nothing lasts forever?

Dammit.

I noticed the change starting when DIL was 6 months along with their 3rd.  The distance started creeping back in.

Then we were told that we could not be there for the birth or even afterwards for the foreseeable future to meet our new grandchild.

WTF??

“Ah oh,” AGMA thought,  “they be going crazy again just like they did after B was born.”

And yes indeed.  They have.

They did invite us up to meet TT two weeks after he was born, but the notice was so last minute that airfares were quite high.  So Hubs decided to stay home.  I was NOT going to miss meeting my new grandson so I pulled out the credit card, swallowed my pride and bought the $400 ticket.

Thought a miscommunication, we also booked a trip for both Hubs and I to come up this past weekend.  I don’t think our son or DIL wanted us there, but the tickets were bought…

And Hubs finally got to meet TT (8 weeks old now.)  He was TOTALLY smitten.  I mean, he’s even crustier than AGMA, and he was complete jelly around the little guy.  He must have taken 200 pictures of him.

I now believe in love at first sight.

Who knows how long he would have had to have waited before we got “approval” for a visit?

Our welcome was cool, but at this point, AGMA didn’t care.  I was over their cray cray.  I just wanted to see my grandkids.  And to make sure they know they are loved by their Nana and Bumpa.

During our visit, as I was lying on a couch with TT sleeping peacefully on my chest (OMG – does it get any better than that???),  I started praying for him.  I prayed that he would grow up to be a man like my recently departed friends, Bill and James.

Bill was a Deacon at my church.  I got to know him through volunteering for 2 years with our morning sandwich ministry.  AGMA’s church is in downtown Atlanta which has a massive homeless population.  Every Monday through Friday, we hand out bag lunches, bottles of water and cups of coffee to homeless men and women until 9:30 or until we run out.  I volunteered on Mondays.

Bill was in charge of this ministry and also the food pantry that gave out groceries to people in need.

Bill retired about 5 years ago.  What I didn’t know at the time was that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimers.  He continued to attend church and try to sing in the choir until about 2 years ago.

He was a gentle man of great faith, and devotion to both God and his family.  He also had great compassion for “the least of these.”

He saw God in the needy and destitute rejected by society.

He passed away on August 9th at 70 due to complications from Alzheimers.

James really wasn’t a friend, but I felt like he was.  He was a monk at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, just outside of Atlanta.  He’d been a priest for 20 years before he decided to enter the Monastery in 1994.

AGMA started going to retreats at the Monastery in the mid-2000’s.  It’s in a beautiful setting and I loved interacting with the monks.  They are witty, intelligent, engaging individuals who have lots of outside interests.  I spoke with Fr. James a few times and loved his humor and down to earth attitude.

James was a photographer and a writer.  He published 6 books, two of which contain his photographs of scenes around the Monastery along with inspirational writings.  He also wrote for various publications like the Georgia Bulletin, the Living Faith devotional and the local newspaper to name a few.

AGMA knew that he was a man of great gentleness, humility, and faith though his photographs and his words.  He had the ability to turn something very ordinary into something sacred and extraordinary.

He saw God in the simple, commonplace things around him.

He passed away on August 15 at 71 due to complications from a lung biopsy.

And so I prayed for that tiny precious little boy sleeping peacefully on me, lulled by my heartbeat.  I prayed that Bill and James would intervene somehow to help him grow into a man who, like them, would be compassionate, loving, faithful and able to see the sacred and holy in the ordinary.  That he could see the divine in those marginalized by society.  That he would have a heart capable of great love, great kindness and great forgiveness.

And my resentment of the cray cray of his parents dissolved into prayers for their marriage, and their physical, mental and emotional health as they try to navigate life in these uncertain times with 3 little children.

Thanks Bill and James, for not only watching over my sweet TaterTot but for giving AGMA a much needed attitude adjustment.

I’m sure I’ll be talking to ya’ll again soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A benediction

As I told my friend Marty today over at Snakesinthegrass2014, after more senseless mass killings, this time in El Paso and Dayton, I’m tired.

Very tired.

And upset and frustrated and angry and incredibly concerned about the soul of our country.  And the inaction of our elected officials.

I don’t normally post memes from the internet, but I found this to be encouraging and uplifting during this time of deep discouragement and sadness.

I hope it speaks to you like it spoke to me.

benedition

May God bless you…

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

pittsburghese-ron-magnes

Poster art by Rom Magnes

Hubs and I have been on the road again.

AGMA think’s you’re not surprised.

Last weekend I went back to where it all began.  Actually to where I began.  My hometown of Pittsburgh, PA.

It’s changed immensely since I left for college in 1971.

The beautiful three rivers of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio are still there as are the skyscrapers downtown, Allegheny General Hospital, the Cathedral of Learning and the inclines up Mt. Washington.

But so much is different.

The demise of the steel industry over the past 40 years has been devastating for the steelworkers in the small neighborhoods around the mills and the small businesses they supported.  But out of those ashes, something new has emerged.  Pittsburgh’s become hotbed of tech.  There are new mixed use developments and beautiful parks where the old steel mills used to be.  And the air and rivers are much cleaner minus said steel mills.

Much cleaner.

The North Side that was home to Heinz (the ketchup you know?), Three Rivers Stadium and Allegheny General and little else, is booming.  Two new sports stadiums, Heinz Field and PNC Park, replaced Three Rivers, and the old Heinz plant is now loft apartments.  The original Allegheny General Hospital (where AGMA came into the world smoking a cigarette and drinking champagne) is still there, but is dwarfed by a huge addition.  Add the Andy Warhol Museum, The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, the Carnegie Science Center, the Mattress Factory Museum and the National Avairy plus new hotels and restaurants, and the area is sizzling with life!

The Strip District was full of grimy warehouses, and blue collar workers from Italy and Eastern Europe worked in its streets and alleys.  It’s now turned into one of the hot, hip spots of the cities where Millennials and GenZ-ers go to eat, drink and play.

And AGMA of course.

We went to the Steel City to visit my niece and her family.  But we spent our first night downtown (dahntahn) because it had been years since I wandered the streets I used to haunt as a child and teen.

There was much that was new, but, comfortingly, much of what has been there for years and years was still there.   Even if it has been repurposed.

Back in the day, three department stores anchored the downtown area – Gimbels, Hornes and Kaufmanns.  All three closed a long time ago and their massive buildings still stand partially empty.  We were a Hornes/Kaufmanns family with many a meet-up under the Kaufmann’s clock.  To see people walking past these once great retail powerhouses that teamed with shoppers without a glance sideways made AGMA a bit sad.

One change thrilled me.

I went past the Lutheran church I was baptized in and attended as a child.  It’s in an area of town called East Liberty which is coming back from being blighted for years.  Once great homes that fell into disrepair are again being restored to greatness.  My church was very formal and conservative back in the late 50’s/early 60’s.  Imagine AGMA’s delight when I saw the rainbow flag flying from the front door, a banner over the other door saying “Immigrants and refugees welcome!” and the electric church sign saying “Love everyone, exclude no one” with a rainbow background.

You go St. Andrews!!

One thing that, thankfully, hasn’t changed is the dialect, called Pittsburghese.

AGMA used to be quite proficient in Pittsburghese. As a freshman in college in Texas, learning the rest of the world did not call a rubber band a “gum band” was truly a revelation.  Or that everybody else called a Coke a soda and not a “pop”.  I had to quit using “yinz” and start using “you all”.  The first time my roommate heard me say, “We need to redd up the room and do the worsh,” she wasn’t sure what the hell I was talking about.  Still, to this day, I call people “nebby noses” if they’re being just a bit too inquisitive.

But I think “jag off” is a rude term.

Except as it applies to one particular individual with orange skin and hair, and tiny hands wearing a red MAGA hat over his KKK hood.  Jag off.

Sometimes I miss my hometown.  I miss my family and friends still there, the beautiful hills, the food, the scenic rivers and being grounded in the generations that came before.

But according to Heraclitus, change is the only constant in life.

This is true for Pittsburgh and AGMA.

Neither one of us wants to get mired down by the past. And we don’t want to accept the status quo. We seem to always have to be growing, changing, reinventing.

Aging gracefully my ass n’at!

Yinz alls rock on!