Light and dark

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

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

At least it is to me.

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

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

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

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

Moderna for me with an espresso on the side please.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Third, I’ve started exercising again. Yeah!

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

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

I’m worth it….

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

An AGMA can dream can’t she?

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

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

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

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

Yippee!

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

Double Yippee!!

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

Triple Yippee!!!

OMG – now I REALLY need a cigarette.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This leaves a huge hole in our hearts.

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

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

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

Who the hell knows…

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

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

For everybody.

January & February…WTF??

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

Duh.

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

How naive I was…

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

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

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

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

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

WTF??

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

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

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

Now THAT’S what I’m talking about!

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

Sweet!

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

Oh…the humanity!

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

It’s the small things…

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

IMG_6621

Hmmm…I suspected they were missing.

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

So far, so good.

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

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

A damn good thing.

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

You’re welcome.

Where do I begin?

moving-chaos

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

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

COV-Idiots.

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

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

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

And that’s just the start.

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

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

Ewwww….

I hate it when that happens.

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

Maybe.

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

Except for the cat pee.

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

But that’s another post.

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

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

Awesome!

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

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

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

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!

OMG…I’m back!!

20191126_104925

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

OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG

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

AGMA’s back.

“AGMA who?”

I deserve that.

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

More about that later…

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

So. Very. Painful.

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

Modesty is overrated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Totally.

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

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

Alert: drunk blog post coming soon!

Damn…it’s good to be back!