Ciao Bella Italy Part Uno



AGMA’s baaaacccckkk!

Actually, I’ve been home for over a week.

Jet lag’s a bitch.

Italy was lovely. That’s what I’ve been telling everybody…. Italy was lovely. Not that I had a fabulous time, or that it was great or wonderful or fantastic.

It was just lovely.

I think AGMA needs to stay home a while. I think I’m starting to get blasé about traveling. I’ll have to ponder that…

It could be that I traveled with a friend I’ve never traveled with before. CB’s a lovely, delightful person who’s been a friend for 30 years.  She’s also much loved by scores and scores of people.


And for a very long time, AGMA wanted to be CB. I wanted to live her life. I envied her rock solid marriage, her family – 4 sons who cherish her and get along with each other, her career (one of those $150/hr consulting things) and her gracious hostessing skills.

But most of all, I envied her scores of friends and relatives who absolutely adore her. A-D-O-R-E. I mean, if she would meet an untimely end tomorrow, there would literally be 1000’s at her funeral, all wailing and weeping and gnashing their teeth.  Me included.

So I pretty much thought CB was everything that I wanted to be. I always wanted lots of adoring friends, but it’s just never happened. And probably never will. AGMA’s a bit too crusty to be adored.

CB IS a lovely person and a good friend, but….

You never truly, really know somebody until you travel with them.

We are very different people. That became pretty obvious on our trip. There weren’t any major issues or confrontations, thank God. That would’ve been miserable. But we definitely have different “styles” and ways of approaching things.

AGMA’s not going to get into specifics. But while the feeling that I wanted to be her, to live her life, has faded over the years, I came home from our trip convinced that I did not want to be her, to live her life.

As imperfect as it is, AGMA kinda likes her own skin.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

So Italy was lovely.

We were in Rome for the first 5 days. Some of CB’s adoring fans are former business associates who live near Rome, so we had dinner with them (O & V) several evenings. It was awesome to have their translation skills and culinary advice.

One evening, O advised me to order the lamb entrails for dinner. She said it was a very typical Roman dish and was served for breakfast on Easter morning in many Roman households. “Hey”, I thought, “When in Rome…eat like a local. I like lamb. Why not?”

AGMA’s face was quite expressive when the server put my order on the table.

Nothing. Like. Lamb chops.

A heaping plate of brownish gray cooked lamb guts. I mean heaping. And I swear they were staring at me.

Watching my every move…

Golly, I can’t think of anything better to serve on Easter morning!

I made a brave effort to eat some of it, but thankfully there was plenty of other more than palatable food on the table that wasn’t staring at me. I think O was disappointed I didn’t chow down on it. She took the leftovers home to her dog who I’m sure did chow down on it.

But AGMA was somewhat subdued during our time in Rome.

I was running the Rome Marathon on our last full day in Roma and was worried about passing the medical exam that I needed to actually be able to run.

It’s a long story, but Italy has some weird medical requirements for people who want to run marathons. Marathons in the US will pretty much let anybody run. They really don’t care if you keel over with a stroke or heart attack. As long as you pay your entry fee and check the little box that you won’t hold anybody liable for anything, you’re good to go.

Evidently Italy doesn’t want you stroking out.

There was one test they required that would have been very expensive to get in the US, so I opted to get my exam in Rome two days before the marathon.

On March 31, I was whisked away from the Rome Marathon expo to parts unknown in a Smartcar by an Italian gentleman who didn’t speak English. CB anxiously waited for me at the expo, ready to call the police if I didn’t return.

This was going to be an adventure.

After a twenty minute drive, I met Guido, the Sports Medicine Man.

Guido was quite good looking. And much younger than me. And he asked me to take of my shirt.

Things were getting interesting…

AGMA felt like she was in a Fellini movie….“The Cougar and the Sports Medicine Man”

But alas, it was to attach the wires for the EKG to my chest. I wished I’d worn a nicer bra.

He also took my blood pressure. When I told him it might be a little high (I was nervous about failing the exam and not running in the marathon), he said in a husky whisper, “Maybe it’s because I am so close to you.”

Seriously. Sort of. He actually used a normal voice. The husky whisper part was in the dream that AGMA had later that night.

I passed my tests (but my BP was indeed high – probably multiple reasons…) and was able to run in the marathon on April 2nd.

And I finished! And didn’t stroke out. That’s always a good thing.

Just an FYI, it was not mandatory to run naked as the picture of the medal suggests.  That’s also a good thing.

Total self acceptance, lamb guts, Guido and a clothed marathon finish in the shadow of the Coliseum….

Okay, so maybe AGMA’s trip to Italy really was fantastic.

Stay tuned for Ciao Bella Italy Part Due (pronounced doo-eh)!

To go or not to go; that is the question


With many apologies to my man, WillieS, the “go” refers to…you know…going.  As in going to the bathroom.

Yes – it’s the long awaited toilet post.

Last month, my husband and I hopped over to Rome for a week.  It was a “Black Friday” travel deal.  Yes, travel also is on sale on “Black Friday” along with the big screen TV’s and Dr. Dre Beats headphones.  And it was pretty darned inexpensive.  For Rome.

I just love those “it’s just too good of a deal not to go” deals!

Our tour company upgrade our hotel at the last minute.  This was a delightful surprise based on the reviews of the original hotel.  Seems as if they were being threatened with multiple lawsuits from people with bedbugitis from that hotel.  Good call.

The replacement hotel was lovely.  Good location – near the Termini train station and all kinds of public transit.  Helpful, friendly staff.  Small but clean room.  A large bed with no unwanted microscopic bedmates.  And most importantly, a spic-n-span bathroom.

I’m not really a very fussy person.  You’d know that if you saw my car.  Or my house.  Or read my blog.  But I do like a clean bathroom when I travel.  Just makes me feel better about spending time in there.  You know, it helps me “relax”.

The bonus was we had a lovely squeaky clean bidet as well!  I’ve played with bidets many times trying to figure out how they work and why they exist.  Hey – I’m American…  We’re really not interest in being THAT clean.

I decided several years ago to use them to store for my bathroom stuff.  I line it with a towel of course – squeaky clean looks can be deceiving.  Fussy.  I have a friend who does her laundry in them.

I love Europe.

But I noticed on this trip that 95% of the bathrooms I visited (not in our hotel), were missing their toilet seat covers.  What’s up with that?  I get that maybe (and that’s a doubtful maybe) it’s okay in the summer, but it was January.  That porcelain was freakin’ cold.

At first I thought that it was just that we frequented out of the way establishments. We do like to get off the beaten path.  Value travel, you know?

But then we went to St. Peter’s in the Vatican.  I’ve been there twice before, but it still takes my breath away.  So dramatic.  So majestic.  Bernini’s columned courtyard. Michelangelo’s dome.  The Pieta.  The Sistine Chapel.  And the Vatican Museums containing some of the finest art from the ancient world through the Renaissance.

In the middle of gaping and manic picture taking, I suddenly got the “urge”.  I smiled, feeling confident as I headed toward the facilities.  Certainly, amidst all of this splendor and priceless art and holy artifacts, the bathrooms have to be outstanding with deep, plush toilet seats that give you visions of the heavenly realm when you set your bottom on it.  It’s built on top of St. Peter’s tomb for goodness sake.  This is holy ground.

I snapped a picture (above) of what I found.  Huh?  I heard no angel songs.

My husband thinks they don’t put seats on the toilets because people steal them. Seriously?  How does somebody not notice that you are walking out with a toilet seat under your arm?  They would notice at the Vatican.

I think it’s just a “thing” in Rome not to have toilets seats.  Go figure…

But it’s okay.  Really it is.  Because it’s all relative.

In 2012 I traveled through Trieste, Italy on the way to Croatia.  The Trieste train station, built in 1857 and renovated in 2007 looked brand, sparkling new inside. Modern cafe, newish looking small grocery store and Euro-modern waiting room.

I was tired after flying all night from the US to Venice.  It seemed like a long train ride from Venice to Trieste.  I was cranky.  I had to go but I hate Italian train bathrooms. They’re definitely not spic-n-span clean.  Yuck.

Seeing the refurbished station got me hopeful.  I hurried through the waiting area following the restroom signs.  I swept into the ladies room and opened the stall door. Ta-da…


“You’ve to be kidding me.”  I actually said it out loud.

In my 20’s I used these toilets in Greece.  I’m not in my 20’s anymore.  I seriously doubt my knees would support me.  I decided I didn’t have to go that bad.  That mind-body connection is amazing.

So it’s all relative.  A little one-on-one with cold porcelain isn’t so bad from time to time.

When in Rome…

My outlaw in-law


I know that I promised that AGMA’s next blog post was going to be about Roman toilets.

While it’s an important subject that needs further investigation and elaboration, something’s come up that demands our immediate attention.  And it kind of has to do with Rome in a twisted, round-about way.

Do you have an outlaw in-law in the family?  We do.

Of course…

My MIL married her husband at age 15.  That boggles my mind. How is that even legal?  But this was back in the late 40’s in the hills of North Carolina where I think child brides were common. Probably all too common.  At least she didn’t marry a cousin.

My husband was born when she was the only 17.  And she had had all three of her children by the time she was 22.  I could barely take care of houseplants and keep them alive at 22.

As a result, she is “young” for having a 65 year old son.

When her husband, my father-in-law, passed away ten years ago, she went into a deep funk.  Now mind you, they really couldn’t stand each other.  There was nothing but nasty bickering when we were around them.  Quite a bit of venom was spat about.  Good times. But I guess when you’ve been together with somebody for 56 years, it’s not easy to say goodbye no matter how much you couldn’t stand the sight of them.


It took her about two years to get her bearings and realize that she could do whatever she wanted to do.  She didn’t have to ask permission anymore.  Spend all night at the casino if she wants.  Go to plays and musical shows.  Buy a double-wide in the mountains. And travel.  She just loves to travel.

And that’s when the trouble started…

At this point I have to reiterate that I am a “value” traveler.  I like bargains.  I’d rather take $3000 and go on two “value” trips than one upscale trip.  It’s just the way AGMA rolls.

She doesn’t like to travel alone so she invited us to go on several tours with her to Scotland and Ireland.  The tours were very nice, but pretty expensive; not in keeping with the AGMA travel mantra of “value”.   We kindly, politely turned her down.

Then she offered to pay our way.  For both trips.  My husband was wary.  Very wary.  He’s learned over the years.  “TANSTAAFL!” he said.  He said we’d “pay” if we went – one way or another.  I just felt sorry for her that she was so lonely, and encouraged him to accept her kind gift.  Think of the joy and pleasure it would give her.  Yeah right…


She’s difficult to travel with, especially in these later years now that the demon of dementia that has started to rear it’s ugly head.  She’s terribly picky about what she eats.  She took it as a personal insult when she was offered lamb and/or salmon on both the Scotland and Ireland trips.   She hates lamb and fish.  For Pete’s sake, it’s Scotland and Ireland – all they eat is lamb and fish!  But she gets irrationally angry.  Like a child.  Nasty.  Charming…   She also gets horrific jet lag and sleeps for nearly two days after flying across the Atlantic. And she gets confused very easily.  On one trip, she couldn’t remember how to get back to her room in the hotel from the dining room.  Ah oh.  On another trip, she brought English Pounds to a Euro country and got upset because they wouldn’t let her pay with GBP.  Get the picture?

Now comes the Rome link.  Wait for it…

Evidently, our recent trip to Rome was the straw that broke her camel’s back.  My husband’s sibling reports she became furious after we told her we were going to Rome.  Turns out she’s terribly angry that we haven’t invited her on any of the trips we’ve gone on over the past couple of years after “all she’s done for us.”  Yeah.


You pay now or you pay later.  My husband’s a wise man.

So she did the rational, sensible, practical thing.  She immediately booked a trip to Rome for a week.  By herself.  Leaving a week from the date she booked it.  Leaving yesterday.  We got a text today that “all is good”.  Oh my God, my head hurts…

My husband tried to talk her out of it, offering himself up as a sacrifice.  He said he would go on a tour of Italy with her in the Fall. Too little too late.  She is stubborn.  She is irrational.  She is losing her ability to keep herself safe.

My outlaw in-law.

Aging parents…

The *hit is getting ready to hit the proverbial fan.

It was a rough landing


AGMA’s back!

So I got home from Rome last Wednesday.  By the time I went to sleep that night, I had been up for more than 24 hours straight minus about a 15 minute nap on the Rome to London flight.


I tried really, really hard to sleep on the plane from London to Atlanta, but no dice.  I just can’t sleep on those trans-anyoceanic flights.  I hate that.

Back home, you’d think I’d have slept like a rock that first night back in my own little cozy beddy-bye, totally tuckered out from a busy, long day of travel, right?  Nah baby nah.  It took like two hours to fall asleep.

The cumulative effects of too many cappuccinos that past week perhaps?

I awakened rather urgently at 2:30 AM to (how can I put this delicately…) visit the bathroom not only for #1.  I mean, who does THAT in the middle of the night?  Normally, when I get home from one of these trips,  I need to down a couple of boxes of prunes…oh, excuse me…dried plums, to get myself back in action.

And you can’t just stumble into the bathroom in the dark for #2. The lights have to go on and clean-up is infinitely more involved.  OMG TMI.  I was wide awake when I went back to bed.  My husband was sleeping like a baby.

Sometimes I can’t stand that man.

I managed to get back into a fitful sleep at best.  Asleep, awake, asleep, awake…for the next four hours with some very strange dreams sprinkled in.  Something about a friend working in a balcony of St. Peters Basilica overlooking the huge alter canopy by Bernini running sausages and chunks of ham through a vacuum sealer machine to sell for a funder raiser for the Vatican.  I’m glad Freud is dead.

Thursday morning, I had a sore throat.  Great.  Can it get any better? Jet lagged, sleep deprived and now sick.

And less than 48 hours before a 23 mile training run.  Yeah – you heard me.  23 miles.  My very first 23 mile run.  Possibly the timing of my trip could have been a little bit better.

The only thing good about this whole situation was that I didn’t need to go out to buy some prunes…eh…dried plums at all.   Things just kept on moving.  Gotta look at the positives.  Lemonade outta lemons and all that.  Weird, totally inappropriate analogy…

Anyway, I threw everything I had in my homeopathic and herbal cold remedy medicine chest at this nasty little cold virus plus drank gallons of water.  I even neti potted three times a day.


Then I got up at 4:30 AM on Saturday morning, donned my running regalia and met my group (all 5 of us) for our run.  At mile three I was feeling puny and pretty sure I would only last for another six or seven miles.  Miraculously, with the help of my friends, I kept on going.  It’s totally amazing how much more you can accomplish with the encouragement of a group than if you tried to do it by yourself.

And I did it.  Very slowly, but I did it.  And lived to tell the tale.

Most distance runners are actually crazy people who, on the surface, seem like normal people.  See the picture above.  It’s so true.  As I told my friend Jodi over at Life In Between, there’s a diagnosis for me somewhere out there.

I promise my next post will be about my trip.  Rome was wonderful! The history, the art, the churches, the food, the wine, the people – all amazing and astounding.  A thousand plus topics to blog about.

I think I’ll write about Roman toilets and the unnatural lack of toilet seats.


I’m glad to be back!

As birthdays go, this one sucked


Aging is not for the faint of heart.

It takes guts to get up in the morning, mentally and emotionally feeling like you’re 35.  Then you walk into the bathroom and look in the mirror.  The horror strikes.

WTF?  When did that happen?

And it really is like that.  One day you’re young and the next day the cashier gives you the 5% discount on Senior Discount Wednesday at Kroger.  And you didn’t ask for it.  Or is Senior Discount Day on Tuesday?  I guess I should figure that out…

It all happened in the blink of an eye.  But I honestly don’t remember blinking.

Maybe it means that my life has been full and busy.  Time passed, but I didn’t notice.  Everything seemed pretty much the same day to day and year to year.  Yeah, and that’s exactly what the Grand Canyon said when it was little gully with a stream flowing through it…

I just had a birthday recently and turned 61.  Happy birthday to me!

But last year’s birthday was tough.  Not being one to really ever be age sensitive, the whole turning 60 thing last year kinda shook me. It took me nearly the whole of 2014 to get used to having a “6” in the first position of my age.  Now I’m very zen about it.

Not for the faint of heart.

And, not only do you age, those all around you are aging too. Friends, family, co-workers, TV and movie icons.  Except Meryl Streep.  My God, that woman must have a pact with the devil.  Did you see her at the Golden Globes?  So amazing…

As a Baby Boomer, I’m doing what all Baby Boomers are doing now. I’m “reinventing” myself in an attempt to defy the aging process. Becoming a massage therapist in my late 50’s, starting AGMA last year, going for my personal trainer certification in 2015, training to run a marathon next month, traveling overseas as often as I can. Didn’t you know, 60 is the new 40?  Yeah, right.

I’m running just as fast as I can.  But I can’t hide.

That was made brutally and tragically clear a few days ago on my birthday.

A woman in my running group turned around about a mile into an eight mile run saying she wasn’t feeling good and was a bit dizzy. Nothing she said gave anybody cause for alarm.  When we got back to the parking lot ninety minutes later, she was found non-responsive in her car.  One of our group immediately started CPR until the EMT’s came.  She was taken to the hospital and was pronounced dead.  Heart attack.  She was only a few years older than me.

Here one minute, gone the next.  Literally.

Two days later, the husband of another person in my running group died very suddenly, with no warning.  Seriously?  Has the world gone mad?  Maybe I should quit my running group.

Can’t hide.

But honestly, maybe I don’t want to hide.  If it’s my time, then it’s my time.  Frack the Grim Reaper…  Hell, I didn’t even eat the salmon mousse!

“Getting old is a privilege denied to many.”  It’s a corny saying going around social media, but it’s kinda true.  It was denied to my friend and my friend’s husband this week.  It was denied to too many generations of young people who dutifully marched off to war.  It was denied the victims of 9/11 and the Indian Ocean and Tohoko tsunamis.  It was denied to the staff of Charlie Hebdo.  You get the picture…

So I guess I’m actually feeling pretty good about this aging thing. Sure, some mornings the knees take a while to get moving and I’m getting cataracts and many times I don’t remember what I went upstairs to fetch.  But all in all, it ain’t bad.  Yet.

To celebrate, for the next week, I’m planning on eating some amazing food, drinking some outstanding wine and savoring some of the best coffee in the world in a city full of really old, ancient stuff. Way older than me.  Roma.  I expect I’ll feel like a tween at a Justin Bieber concert.  Oh Baby!