The call to serve

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

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

Just in case.

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

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

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

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

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

BY OURSELVES!!!!

(Did I just shout?)

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

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

Oh the humanity!

I’m not entirely sure I’ll survive.

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

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

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

Zip. Nada, Zilch.

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

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

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

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

I love them more than words can say.

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

There are a number of reasons for this:

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

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

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

Even if we have a nasty case of bone spurs.

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

Off the interstate in the Windy City – Volume 1

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

AGMA’s always loved that song.

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

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

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

Yeah, they did!

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

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

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

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

My sister swears we did.

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

More visits ensued.

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

WTF?

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

Son #1 to the rescue…

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

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

Our visits to him were always pretty cut and dried.

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

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

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

Off the interstate.

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

And it’s been wonderful!

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

Socially distanced with masks of course.

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

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

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

Who knew?

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

Don’t you love happy accidents?

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

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

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

Yum!

Chicago is Frank AND AGMA’s kind of town!

Who am I? Really?

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

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

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

But that all changed.

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

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

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

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

Two dollars.

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

How self-deceiving.

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

Gulp.

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

Matthew 25:31-46.

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

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

But maybe not just the evangelical MAGA crowd.

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

$2

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

And then a most horrible thing happened.

AGMA morphed into a MAGA-ite.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deplorable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And try to figure out who I am.

Really.

 

 

Staring

We went on a vacation!

Sort of…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pre-COVID that is.

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

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

Damn virus.

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

Fools…

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

Sweet!

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

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

Damn virus.

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

Maybe only 93%…

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

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

“Did I know you years ago?”

AGMA does.

Again, not the sharpest needle…

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

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

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

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

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

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

The staring may get me into trouble…

 

 

 

 

 

Have curriculum, will coordinate

We’ve been apart for what feels like forever.

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

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

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

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

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

Who knew?

Evidently Boo knew….

We are closing on 4 weeks in Chicago.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just adorable. If you’re the coronavirus.

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

Huh??

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

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

Oh, the humanity!

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

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

OMG, there IS a God…

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

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

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

‘Cause it’s really all about me…

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

Okay – maybe some alcohol.

Maybe more than some.

Stay safe my friends!

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

OMG…I’m back!!

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

OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG

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

AGMA’s back.

“AGMA who?”

I deserve that.

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

More about that later…

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

So. Very. Painful.

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

Modesty is overrated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Totally.

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

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

Alert: drunk blog post coming soon!

Damn…it’s good to be back!

 

 

 

 

 

2020

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...there was an AGMA who used to blog once a week.

And then 2020 happened.

And then the pandemic happened.

And then we decided to sell our house.

And then we had to get it ready to show.

And then we had to buy a lot of masks.

And then we had to keep the house clean ALL THE TIME.

And then we had the stress of negotiating a contract.

And then we had to put a new roof on.

And then we had to find movers.

And then we had to find a place to store our furniture.

And then we had to find a furnished, 4 month rental in Chicago.

And then we had to find a furnished, short term rental in Atlanta until our furnished 4 month rental in Chicago was available.

And then we decided to do our own packing.

And then we had to sort through every box, closet, cabinet and drawer to decide what to put into storage, what to take to Chicago, what to throw out and what to donate.

And then we had to pack everything in boxes. 

And then I had to get crowns get put on two teeth (ugh!)

And then we had to buy a “new” used car as a NanaMobile in Chicago.

And then there was George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and more.  So many more.

And then there was still a pandemic.

(AGMA will return to regular posting soon!  I miss you all!!)

 

 

 

My weekend in Istanbul – Part 2

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The forbidden women’s section of Cagaloglu Hamami!

When we last left our heroines, they were stranded in Istanbul with no money and no way home.  They were falling on desperate times so had to start working in a Turkish brothel….

Just kidding.

AGMA always did have a flare for the dramatic!

Our first full day of touring Istanbul was wonderful!  We went to the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.  We ate incredible sweet treats at the Hafiz Mustafe 1864 close to the Sultanahmet tram stop.  I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E.

Then we were off to Cagaloglu Hamami Turkish bath.  I was a bit nervous about talking my 3 friends into going with me….

While AGMA thinks a Turkish bath is probably the closest to heaven I will get on this earth, I understand that it’s not everybody’s cup o’ tea (the sauna, being pretty much all naked, the scrubbing with a kese mitt and the BUBBLES – oh Lord… THE BUBBLES!)

They adored it!  Whew.

All squeaky clean, back at our hotel, we discovered a letter has been slipped under our door.

???

I read it.  C read it.  I reread it. C reread it.

“Does this say what I think it says?”  I asked.

Yup!  It was a letter from the Gate1 tour director in Turkey telling us that we were going to be picked up at 6:30 AM the next morning to be taken to a different hotel in Istanbul so we could join up with the tour group that left on their tour of Turkey the day before ours was supposed to leave.  We could just pop in with them and spend the next 11 days touring Turkey instead of going home.

Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me…

C & I aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed, but we had learned our lesson (the expensive way) about travel during a global pandemic.  We were going to get out butts home ASAP.

HOWEVER, K&D, our travel companions, thought staying was just a dandy idea.

WTF???

Our eyes rolled all the way around in their sockets!

So they were off the next day.  And we got regular texts throughout the day from them saying how wonderful their new tour friends were. And how nice the tour manager was and that they were soooooo glad they decided to stay.

More eye rolling.

But C & I did have a 2nd lovely day in Istanbul.  HOHO bus, the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Market, wandering the very crowded, not socially distant streets around the Bazaar and Market.  That evening we had an incredible dinner with a fabulous view of The Golden Horn sitting next to a table with two hot Frenchmen.

Did AGMA say that out loud?

But we were very happy to head Istanbul’s beautiful new airport the next day  (3/15) to make our way back home.

In the meantime, K kept posting pictures of their trip on Facebook – the massive hotel breakfast buffet, the Anzac cemetery at Gallipoli, the ancient city of Troy.

At this point, it was obvious that things were getting pretty serious at home, so worried looks replaced our eye rolling.  But they were adults right?  Maybe?

As we settled into our extra legroom exit row bulkhead seats on the plane (I rarely upgrade, but thought it might be a good idea), it was obvious that people were nervous.  I could see the masked guy sitting next to me sizing me up  as to whether I was “safe” or not.

I tried not to cough…

Then we got the “What a surprise.  NOT!” text from K&D.  They just found out their tour was suspended.  They were heading back to Istanbul.  To, once again, be stranded.

I didn’t, but AGMA sooooo wanted to say “We hate to tell you we told you so, but we told you so!”

They assured us that the tour company was going to make all of their arrangements to get back to the US even though they had booked their airfare (like we did) through an OTA and not the tour company.

Back to eye rolling.

The flight to Atlanta was uneventful.  We spent quite a bit of time reading the breaking news from the US as well as getting updates from K&D.  They and the rest of their tour group were very upset the tour was cancelled and BEGGED their Turkish guide to continue.

Again, WTF???

Turkish Airways served a nice dinner complete with a lovely French red wine from Bordeaux.  Seriously, it was the best wine I’ve ever had on an airplane.  I had several little bottles.

If ever there was a time to get lit, I was pretty sure this was it!

But, oddly, the dinner included a side of beans.

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Beans.

The flight was 12.5 hours.  There were about 450 people on board.  It could have gotten real ugly…

Note to self…send an email to Turkish Airways to suggest they may want to rethink that side dish.

When we got to Atlanta, we braced for being screened, scanned, probed, questioned, and possibly told we had to quarantine.

What happened was a joke.

We had to stay on the airplane while some masked Feds came on board and asked us to complete a form.  The form asked if we had been in China in the last 14 days; if we had been around anybody with the coronavirus; if we felt sick.

That was it.  At this time, Europe was being slammed by COVID – 19.  No questions about Italy.  Or France.  Or Spain.  Or the UK.

Then they gave us a paper with information about the coronavirus, and let us deplane.  We got our luggage, breezed through customs and were on the streets of Altanta in about 30 minutes.

That was it.  No thermal scans.  No infrared thermometers.  Of course, no tests.  And we weren’t told to quarantine.

AGMA still wonders how many people on that plane had the virus.

The next day, after a decent night’s sleep in my bed, we found out that K&D had been “deserted” by their tour guide and were told that they had to make their own arrangements to get back home.

Damn – I hate it when I’m right!

They ended up leaving Istanbul on March 17th (2 days after us) but, in total, their trip to get home, with 2 layovers was 26 hours.  So they actually got home on March 18th.

So the moral of this story, boys and girls, is NOT to travel when WHO declares a global pandemic.

And if you do, have enough sense to come home when the Universe tell you to.

My friends, stay home, stay safe and TRY to stay sane!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My weekend in Istanbul – Part 1

Yes…AGMA is alive and kicking!

Well, maybe just alive, but these days that’s pretty much a win.

Given the state of the world, and the fact that my muse of a coffee shop is closed, I just haven’t been in mood to write.

Lord knows time isn’t an issue.  Anymore.

Nor will it be an issue in the foreseeable future…

The world has changed drastically in the 3 weeks since AGMA wrote my last post.  Changed more that I think any of us could have imagined.  In our wildest dreams.

Or nightmares.

When the coronavirus was first reported on in China, Hubs said, “This is going to be like one of those monkey movies.”  Pish posh – I thought he was being an alarmist.

Silly girl.

We are currently living in one of those contagion monkey movies.

I think I want my money back.

So AGMA made, in hindsight of course, the not so wise decision to go forward with a tour of Turkey with friends in the midst of a global pandemic that was moving across the globe like wildfire.

Boy, was I stupid.

“Let’s go to Turkey!” I said.  “Let’s fly in a day early to get our bearings!” I said. “It will be an adventure!” I said

I hate it when I’m right.

AGMA started feeling uncomfortable about going the week before we were supposed to leave.  Cases of COVID-19 were multiplying fast around the world.  But the US didn’t have very many cases and Turkey had zero.  And my friends were all still really gung ho about going.

Since AGMA was the one who talked them all into booking this trip, I put my discomfort aside and told myself, “This is going to be fun and it’s all going to turn out great!”

Humans have a great capacity of self-deception.

The day we left, March 11, coronavirus was declared a global pandemic by WHO. (And no – I’m not going to break out into a Abbot and Costello routine…)

Gulp.

My good friend and travel companion, C, and I met up with D & K in Amsterdam who flew in from Detroit.  While waiting for our flight to Istanbul, the news came across that the Orange Madman had decided to suspend flights coming into the US from 26 European countries.

Ah oh…our return flight home on March 24th was going to connect through Paris.

Double gulp.

We all kind of looked at each other and said, “We’ll sort it out when the time comes,” and boarded our flight to Istanbul.

Looking back, it was sorta cute in a naive kinda way that we thought we’d actually be in Turkey until March 24th.

After a loooonnnnggg travel day, we finally got to our hotel in Istanbul around 7 PM on March 12th.

But there is no rest for a wicked AGMA.  I had a dinner date with a woman Hubs and I met through EatWith when we were in Istanbul in November 2018.

C and I sort of wiped ourselves down, brushed our teeth and changed our clothes, and hurried off through the darken streets of Istanbul toward the Hamdi Restaurant.

And it was on those back streets that we got the news…

(Please recall that I said to my friends, “Let’s fly in a day early to get our bearings!”)

An urgent text from our tour company said, “Your trip is suspended.  Do not board flight.  Travel restrictions related to COVID-19.  Check email for further updates.”

There we were, 6000 miles away from home and no tour to join.

AGMA started to laugh.

I mean, you either laugh or cry right?

We ended up have a fantastic dinner with my Turkish friend.  The food was delicious (nothing like having a native ordering for you!), the setting was magnificent (3rd floor view over the Golden Horn on one side and the Süleymaniye Mosque on the other), and the company was delightful.  It was almost enough to make us forget we were “stuck” in Istanbul.

Almost.

D & K were able to talk to the our tour company while C and I were at dinner.  They were hoping that the tour company could recommend a private guide so that we could do an abbreviated tour of Turkey.  After all, that was a heck of a long way to come to turn around and go home….  The tour company said, “Nah baby nah, ya’ll better hurry on home now.”

Before tuning in for the night, we all agreed to work on Plan B at breakfast

The breakfast buffet at the Yasmak Sultan Hotel was wonderful!  Even with only a few hours sleep, a good breakfast and some strong coffee perked all of us up.  We all decided that we needed to get out of Dodge by the most direct route possible as soon as possible.

And as luck would have it, Turkish Airlines flies a direct route from Istanbul to Atlanta.  Well now, that seemed like a no brainer…

Since we were in a bit of a bother to get home, we all paid for our return flights on the 15th out of pocket.  We figured we’d take up the matter of the flights we had booked home on the 3/24 with our OTA when we got home.

We checked out of the Yasmak Sultan and into the Legacy Ottoman Hotel for our final 2 nights in Istanbul.  The tour company had prepaid for the rooms at the Legacy for 2 nights as part of our tour and the hotel said we were welcomed to use them.

Sweet!

At this point, on March 13th, Turkey had just reported it’s first case of COVID-19, so we felt pretty comfortable staying there for 2 more days.

We played tourists on the 13th and had a great day!  The weather was incredible and we enjoyed the warm hospitality of the Turkish people.

And I got to go to a Turkish Bath again.  Heaven on earth!

And the food.  The yummy for the tummy food.  The “OMG, this is amazing” food.

Did I mention how much I like the food is in Istanbul?

Part 2 coming as soon as AGMA loosens my belt…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s not funny, but…

pennywise

…it’s kinda funny.

The response to COVID-19 that is.

Now if you are in the middle of it in Washington state or Italy or Iran or Wuhan, China or other locations with a high infection rate, I do understand that this is a very serious life and death global health crisis.  I’m in no way making light of the loss of life and plight of those who have contacted the coronavirus and/or are in high risk areas.

This is unlike anything AGMA’s seen in my lifetime and it’s frightening.  And it’s really just getting started in the US.

But I’ve always live by the personal credo, “You can either laugh about it or cry about it.  I choose to laugh.”

AGMA would’ve been a comic genius during the Black Death.

Lest you think I’m being insensitive, in AGMA’s world, funny doesn’t always translate to  “ha ha”…

The description of “funny” can be very situation.

As in, “That smells kinda funny.”  (Translation – “What crawled in here and died?”). Or, “He’s always been a bit ‘funny’.”  (Translation – “He cray cray!”).  Or, “You think that tRump is making America great?  That’s funny!” (Translation – “Are you f*cking crazy???”)

I think it’s funny (translation – “pathetic”) the way the CDC sycophant in charge totally screwed up the testing strategy and test kits leading to the US being 6 weeks behind other nations in our testing.  And I think it’s funny (translation – “ridiculous and dangerous”) that vice sycophant Mike “smoking doesn’t cause cancer” Pence is heading up the, as it turns out, non-response to the CV in the US that is resulting in no cohesive plan based on medical facts whatsoever for dealing with this serious health crisis in America.

And tRump’s comments during his visit to the CDC last Friday…hysterical!!  (Translation – “We’re all screwed!”)

But I REALLY do think it’s funny (Translation – Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!!) that two of 45’s most dedicated gestapo men in Congress – Doug Collins and Matt “gas mask” Gaetz – who were in “Heil Twitler” proximity to the Fat Orange Menace are in self quarantine because of encounters with a CV positive person at CPAC.

Karma can be a beautiful thing.

And AGMA is laughing at myself (Translation – “You can run but you can’t hide!”) as I wipe down the ATM drive through machine, the self check-out machine at Kroger, and the counters and my computer at my favorite coffee shop.

I’m sure I will be chuckling tomorrow (Translation – “Resistance is so futile…”) as I put my protective seat cover on my airplane seat while wearing my nitrile gloves.  After which AGMA’ll throughly wipe down my tray table, video screen, armrests, the wall around the window, and anything else that doesn’t move before settling in for my flight to Amsterdam.

All the while avoiding touching my face.  ALWAYS avoid touching the face.  Although right now my hand is on my face!  How funny!  (Translation – “What the hell is wrong with me??”)

And I’ll probably be guffawing (Translation – “I wonder if I’ll see my family again??”) as I repeat the ritual on my flight to Istanbul.

Allegedly Turkey has no reported cases of the coronavirus.  Knowing what an upright and honest guy their president, Recep Tayyip “let’s imprison journalists as terrorists who dare to tell the truth about my repressive regime” Erdogan, is, AGMA’s not entirely buying what he’s selling.

Turkey is surrounded by countries with CV-19.  They share are border with Iran that is one of the hotbeds of the coronavirus.  It’s estimated, despite their reported numbers only being around 60,000, that there could be possibly 1/2 million people in Iran have CV-19.

And AGMA’s read that there are rumors of suspected CV patients in isolation in hospitals around Turkey despite the “official” stance that they are free of the virus.

I get wishful thinking.  And clearly AGMA’s okay with Turkey’s wishful thinking.

I myself am a wishful thinker!

That’s so funny! (Translation – “WTF are you thinking AGMA??  It’s been nice knowing you…”)