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.

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??

Of pelotons, echelons and musettes

pont du gard

Stage 16 of the Tour today went over the Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct built in around 60AD.  AGMA was there in May as part of the Grand Tour of France!

It’s the time of year that all AGMA followers (with a few exceptions..) dread.

It’s TOUR DE FRANCE baby!!

Once again I’ve been transformed from a graying, dignified village elder to a giggling tweeter.  And I have 5, count ’em, 5 Tour de France fantasy teams.

AGMA loves her men in spandex!

It’s all Son#2’s fault.

My son really got into watching Le Tour in the mid 2000’s.  It actually inspired him to become a serious cyclist, health nut and nature enthusiast.  Waaaayyyy better than sitting in his bedroom playing video games…

He was a pretty good cyclist and considered going semi-pro until a “series of unfortunate events” occurred.   A shattered wrist here, a broken femur there…it all convinced him that maybe this was not a wise career choice.

He still cycles, but for fun now.

And he sort of dragged me along for the ride as far as watching the Tour de France goes.

(Get it??  Dragged me along for the “ride”?? OMG – I crack myself up!)

People always assume that because I love men’s professional cycling, I must love riding a bike.

Uh…no.

AGMA never learned how to ride as a child.   I honestly don’t know why, but it just wasn’t part of what I did.

“Learn to ride now!” people say too me all the time.  Easy for them to say.  They won’t break their collarbones when they fall.

Truth is that I’ve tried to learn.  AGMA’s okay on a straightaway, but add some hills or dips or curves, and my palms start sweating.  The reality is that it’s really hard to learn to ride a bike as an adult.  All that balance “stuff” gets hardwired in kid’s brains when they learn young, but it doesn’t work the same with adults.

I made sure both of my kids learned to ride a bike when they were young not realizing that it would indirectly lead me to a late in life odd passion.

The 2019 edition of the Tour de France is turning out to be the best AGMA’s seen in my 11 years of being a spandex groupie.

The pre-Tour favorite, Chris Froome, who has won 4 previous Tours, had a horrific crash during the 8 day Criterium du Dauphine which is a pre-Tour warm up race.  And just in case he reads AGMA (ha ha ha), heal fast Chris!  All of us miss watching you ride!

Or some of us.

Last year’s winner, Geraint Thomas, crashed out during the Tour de Suisse (another pre-Tour warm up race.) And with very few racing days in his legs, he’s still an unknown for the Tour de France in terms of his conditioning and form.  And the tumble he took from his bike today didn’t help.

Ouch.

That’s all to say that for the first time in a long time, there is no clear favorite to win this year’s Tour.

That makes it especially exciting to watch as a fan!

I can hear you now…ZZZZzzzz….

But really, it IS incredibly exciting.

For the first time in like a kazillion years, a Frenchman, Julian Alaphilippe, is leading the Tour after 16 stages and wearing the Yellow leader’s jersey.  The French press and public are going WILD!!   It’s been 34 years since a Frenchman won the Tour.  Will this be the year?

Who the hell knows??

Alaphilippe wasn’t supposed to be in the Yellow jersey after 16 stages.  He’s a Classics rider (1 day races) and a puncheur (a rider who is specializes in rolling, hilly terrain with short, steep climbs.)

He’s not a GC rider.

GC stands for general classification (as opposed to sprinters , puncheurs, climbers and time trialists). A GC rider is a rider who, at the end of a 7, 8, 9 or 21 day stage race has the fastest times, so he’s sort of a jack of all trades.  They are the riders groomed to win stage races.  ALL Tour de France winners are GC riders.

But maybe not this year??

Who the hell knows??

And that’s what makes it all so exciting!

It’s going to be a knockout, drag out fight the next 4 days.  Tomorrow’s stage moves into the foothills of the Alps.  Then all hell breaks loose on Thursday, Friday and Saturday with 3 brutal Alpine stages that will push the riders to their physical and mental limits.

Even if you’ve never watched the Tour before, I urge you to tune in later this week.  AGMA promises that you will not be bored.  It’s going to be a battle royal between some of the best male athletes in the world in some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.

Then on Sunday, what is left of the 176 riders that originally started the Tour on July 6th, will ride, battered and bruised, into Paris, and finish up with a sprint on the Champs-Elysees.

What’s not to love???

And the winner of the 2019 Tour de France will be…

Who the hell knows??

OMG – I can’t wait!!

(Peloton – The main field of cyclists in a race.  Sort of like a swam of cyclists. NOT the exercise bike/program called Peloton…  (but now you know where the name came from!)

Echelon – The staggered, diagonal line that cyclists form to deal with crosswinds.  Each rider is slightly downwind from the previous rider.  Kinda like one side of the V when geese to their thing.  

Musette – bags that carry food and drinks for cyclists on long races.  Basically it’s a cyclist lunch bag.  And like kids, they throw away the stuff they don’t want to eat.)