Cycles, Wars & Wines

Frites all over Belgium.  All. Over. This was a shop in Antwerp that we enjoyed.  They have frites shops/stands like we have hamburger joints in the US.  Word has it that fries were invented in Belgium, but were given that name “French fries” because WWI soldiers got confused because the people in the Flanders part of Belgium speak French.

AGMA loves to travel.

But then you knew that.

Surprisingly, I’m getting a bit burned out on travel. Actually more than a bit.

WTF? Yes…

AGMA’s sure it’s just a temporary condition. AGMA HOPES it’s just a temporary condition.

But seriously….six weeks after I got back from a 2 week trip to Spain/Portugal with a friend, Hubs and I left for a two week trip to Belgium & France. Two days after we got back from Belgium/France last week, we left for a wedding in Nashville.

It was a beautiful wedding by the way…

We got back on Sunday and leave next week for 5 days in Chicago to visit the grands. And their parents. Of course.

Too much travel – definitely a 1st World problem and a really good one at that. But as Hubs can attest to, when AGMA gets pooped, she gets pooped.

And I’m pooped.

Today Hubs suggested a short getaway to NOLA in June because airfares were on sale. I told him to take Son #2, who will be soon unemployed (his choice – he took ‘the package’) and available for junkets. I hope they go.

I’d actually love to have the house to myself for a few days.

So before AGMA turns into a total travel troll, for your entrainment and delight (I’m sure…), I’m sharing a few of the best pictures (not the ones of the ground, my lap, my fingers, etc…) of what I like to call our Cycles, Wars and Wines trip.

I promise it won’t be the 240 pictures that Hubs shared on Facebook. OMG….

First for the Cycles. And you know AGMA loves those young men in spandex!

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So the famous Cobbled Classic bike race, the Tour of Flanders (Ronde Van Vlaanderan) is a one day race that takes place in Belgium.  And it starts in Antwerp.  And at the frite shop that we went to in Antwep (pictured at the top of my post), this was ALL the sauces that you could put on your frites!.  Ketchup is so yesterday…

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Night falling on the Grote Markt (main square) in Antwerp.  AGMA loved Antwerp (over Gent, Brussels and even Bruges!)  The construction in the foreground became the main stage of the start of the Tour of Flanders where the riders signed in.

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A day of spring sunshine brought Antwerpians (??) out to the Groenplaats in Antwerp.  The sunshine didn’t last….

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We’re now in the tiny village of Kwaremont, Belgium where there is a very narrow , steep hill full of cobblestones (called The Kwaremont) that is one of the famous climbs in the Tour of Flanders.   Riders have to ride up not one, not two, but three times! AGMA could barely walk up it….  Oh – and the sunshine and mild temps of Antwerp did not show up in Kwaremont,

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Though a wonderful Belgian organization called Inter that promotes accessibility to sporting events and festivals, we had a GREAT view of the goings on at the top of The Kwaremont.  You know the riders are close when their team cars pass though.  AGMA’s excitement was building….

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My fav rider, World Champion Peter Sagan from Slovakia.  You can tell it was a cold day because the riders are somewhat (for professional cyclists) bundled up.  And so is the crowd.  And so was AGMA.  And Sagan didn’t win – he finished 6th.

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The main square of the town of Oudenaarde, Belgium.  The finish line is just outside of town.  We visited Oudenaarde the day before the race to explore the town, go to the Tour of Flanders Museum (yes there is!) and see the riders in the Tour of Flanders Sportive.  This event takes place a day before the ‘real’ race and allows any cyclist who thinks they have the right stuff to ride part of the course (some ride the whole course – 273km!) There were 3000 riders who rode the Sportive this year.  And I think they all stopped in Oudenaarde for a beer afterwards.

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The official finish line with Sportive riders coming in.  Son#2, the cyclist, rode the Sportive a few years ago and says the vast majority of the Sportive riders are MAMILs (Middle Aged Men In Latex.)

Sunshine, mild temps, riders not bundled up…  Dorothy, I don’t think we’re at the Tour of Flanders anymore.  And you would be right!  We are in a tiny town in France called Maing.  This is another very famous one day Cobbled Classic race called Paris Roubaix.  We drove 100 minutes from Epernay, France and 100 minutes back to watch 5 minutes of bike racing in Maing.  Hubs is a total saint for indulging AGMA’s weird cycling compulsion!  Here’s Peter Sagan again.  And yeah – we were that close to the riders.  And he won!

The guy in the pink helmet is Taylor Phinney, the only rider from the US who was in Paris Roubaix this year.  One thing I adore about cyclists is how incredibly tough they are.  In 2014, at the age of 23, at the US Nationals Road Race, Phinney totally shattered one of his legs in a horrific crash.  He’s worked incredibly hard to come back from that near career ending accident to ride in the Tour de France last year and finish 8th at this Paris Roubaix.  And he is a total character.  When he’s interviewed, he sounds like a laid back California surfer dude, and has a never ending supply of wise sayings and smiles.

Sooo…yikes…this post has gotten way longer than I had intended so I’m going to give you a breather.

And let you heave a sigh of relief that that cycling “stuff” is done. Heathens…

Just kidding.  Not really.

Wars and Wine shortly…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pass the cava

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Even though I’m in Barcelona now, AGMA’d love to tell you that I’m enjoying a cafe con leche and writing this post in a small cafe in the Gothic Quarter.

But I’m not.

As much as I want to dash off a post after our first few days in Spain to let everybody know how it’s going, AGMA is a realist. I’ve been through this too many times before. It ain’t happening.

So I’m in my favorite coffee shop in Atlanta. And I’m going to use that future post date function in WP.  I love that.

This trip is going to be really interesting.

Hubs is staying home taking care of the Princes of Casa AGMA, otherwise known as our cats, Max and Gus.

So I’m traveling with a dear friend who is getting ready to turn 77 in March. She’s young in mind and spirit, and is in great shape physically.  Plus she’s a voracious international traveler.

However, she’s hard of hearing (and won’t get a hearing aid) and I think she’s starting to have some memory issues.

And she has really fuzzy personal space boundaries.  This kinda makes me more crazy than I already am.

You know the type…physically, she moves really close to you whenever you interact. We spent 9 days in Paris 5 years ago and by the time AGMA got home, I wanted to move into a monastic hermitage and live alone the rest of my life. We would look at something in a store window and she was practically right on top of me. I may have gently thrown an elbow at her once or twice.

Don’t judge me.

It was a relief to be in a restaurant and have my own side of the table.

I think it might be related to her hearing loss?

So I’m looking for some suggestions as to how I might let her know in a sweet, kind, but firm way that she tends to get a bit to up close and personal. Anything?

Since I’m getting over the flu, I can use that for a few days.

“Don’t get to close to me Mary, I still have an active virus inside of me and could soon be a biter on the Walking Dead.”

Our trip is in 3 parts.

Part 1 – Barcelona. Cava, tapas/pintxo, paella, cava, crema catalana, bombas, cava, jamon ibericao, cava.

Can you see the pattern? AGMA loves me my sparking!

Since my last visit in Barcelona was so brief, I’m anxious to see what I missed the first time around.

Added bonus…AGMA has a former co-worker working on her masters in Barcelona so she’s going to hang with us on some of our adventures. Nothing beats having an insider show you the local scene!

Part 2 – ‘The Cruise’  THIS is going to be the true adventure. We are going on a 7 night Mediterranean cruise on a cruse line that gets terrible ratings on the all of the cruise bulletin boards. The ship itself is new and supposedly amazing, but everything else pretty much sucks according to the reviews. But it’s cheap – really cheap – and we’ll be seeing places we’ve never been (except Rome and you really can’t visit Rome too much…)

AGMA’s a firm believer of going into something like this with the lowest possible expectations. That way, if something is actually decent, it’s thrilling!

I’m planning on bringing lots of hand sanitizer and antiseptic wipes.

Part 3 – Porto, Portugal. Portugal is hot right now. Not with heat (although temps aren’t too bad) but as a tourist destination. In 2017, it was voted by the Word Travel Awards as the Best European Destination. Portugal actually took home 37 of the 123 awards.

Smokin’ hot.

Who knew?

AGMA visited Lisbon and the Algarve about 5 years ago. Since Mary abdicated all of the trip planning responsibilities to me, I decided that we’d go to Porto, home of Port wine. It’s supposed to be incredibly charming and a throw back to “old” Portugal (whatever that means…), and prices for food ‘n stuff are less than in Lisbon.

And after sharing a tiny interior cabin on the cruise for 7 nights with a person who has personal space boundary issues, I booked a 2 bedroom AirB&B in Porto.

Of course.

I’m hoping to be able to post while we’re on the cruise (or at a port with wifi) so you may actually get some real time AGMA updates from the road. Or water.

‘May’ being the operative word…

AGMA has to admit that I’m so looking forward to 2 1/2 weeks without hearing about the Massively Yuge Sh*thole Cheeto every minute of every day. Ignorance is definitely not bliss when it comes to the attempted destruction of our democracy, but a little respite now and then is good for the soul.

The only problem is that, when people find out we’re Americans, EVERYBODY (I know this from experience) will be asking us, “What the hell is going on with the US??”

I think my answer will be, courtesy of Molly Shannon’s horrible alter ego comedienne, Jeannie Darcy….

“Don’t get me started. Don’t even get me started.”

Pass the cava.

Parlez-vous bucket list?

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AGMA’s getting ready for a bucket list experience.

Okay – it wasn’t really on my bucket list, but then again, I don’t really have a bucket list.

Well, I do, but it’s a dynamic list. Most things get added after I’ve done them.

It’s also a mental list. God forbid I writing/type anything down. That would be a bit too ‘restrictive’. And concrete.

AGMA likes flexiblity.

It’s just soooooo satisfying to add things to my mental bucket list after I’ve done them, then mentally check them off the list.

I think there might be a diagnosis for that.

Hubs and I leave on Sunday for 23 days in France.

What?? 23 days?? Are you crazy?? Are you rich??

23 days in France. Yes. Maybe. No.

We made the airline reservations way back in January right before the inauguration. Getting out of the country for an extended period seemed like a really good idea at the time.

Still does.

And we caught an amazing sale. $394 RT per person from ATL to CDG.

Yeah we did!

And we were heady at the prospects of Hubs impending retirement and no restrictions on vacation length anymore. We really didn’t think through the budget restrictions we would have after retirement…

But AGMA’s a ‘value’ travel planner so I think we’ll be okay.

Lots of Airbnb’s and budget hotels. But they all have good reviews, so no bed bugs. Hopefully.

And lots of ‘value’ meals. We need to cut back on calories anyway.

AGMA’s going to try to post while we are gone. ‘Try’ being the operative word. I might just post a “Hello, we are in ______. Having a wonderful time. Wish you were here.”

We’ll see how things go.

Getting back to the bucket list experience that I didn’t know was on my bucket list until February…

Since I was planning on running the Rome marathon in April, I figured AGMA would make 2017 the year of the international marathon. I started looking for a marathon to run in Europe during this trip.

And boy, did I find one!

It’s called the Marathon du Medoc and is unlike any other marathon in the world.

Turns out, it’s on many runner’s bucket lists. Who knew?

It’s in the Bordeaux region of France where some of the best wines in the the universe are produced.

So it would be natural that instead of water stops for runners, there are wine stops right?

Twenty (20) to be exact, from some of the top wine Chateau’s in the world. Actually, you can get water at the wine stops too, but seriously?

Wimps.

Aside from the wine, there are ‘nutrition’ stops. But instead of the orange slices and bananas and energy gels you get at a normal marathon, they will have breads and sweets and meats and cheeses.

BONUS – at mile 20…oysters!

Finally, all the runners dress up. Well – the fun ones dress up. Which is about 90% of the 8500 runners.

Hey, AGMA’s fun.

But AGMA has to schlep my costume across the Atlantic in my little suitcase. So I opted for compact, easy to run in and cheap so I can pitch it all afterwards.

And nothing says compact, easy to run in and cheap like HULA GIRL!!

Yes – AGMA is going to be a hula girl. But don’t expect any pictures. Nah baby nah.

I don’t mind exposing my chubby arms and midriff to a bunch of crazy, drunk French strangers, but to post a picture of Hula AGMA for the rest of the world to see…

Oh, the humanity!

The marathon time limit is 6 hours and 30 minutes. My fastest marathon was 6 hours and 10 minutes. And I thought I was going to die afterwards.

This does not bode well. Especially since there’s wine involved.

But then again, maybe the wine will help.

So AGMA’s decided not to stress about it and just enjoy what is sure to be a once in a lifetime experience. If I end up swimming in the pond at Chateau Lafite Rothschild for the afternoon, so be it.

Two things I know for sure. It’s going to be unlike anything I’ve ever done. And I’m gonna come back with some pretty good stories.

Aging Gracefully My Ass!

Catch you on the other side of the Pond.

P.S. If you are in the US and haven’t yet donated towards the relief efforts of the historic, devastating Texas floods, please consider donating today to the charity of your choice. Just make sure it’s legit… Love you all for your generous hearts and spirits!

Mr. Feder…Part Deux

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So I wrote a post last week while I was in the waiting room of a local gastroenterology practice.  Hubs was in the process of getting a colonoscopy.  I thought it would be a good idea to write about his prep.

Lucky for you, I came to my senses.

So…no post last week.

AGMA is out of control again.

I just got home on Monday from the first of  what will be three long weekends away.  Between February 24th and March 13th, I will be home for a grand total of 3 days.  Three days.

Out. Of. Control.

Last weekend, I did a half marathon in Florida.  I drove down with a friend and stayed at her 80 year old mother’s home.  Her mom was a wild woman cut out of the same AGMA cloth as yours truly.   It was a great time.

And I loved watching my friend’s mother “mothering” her.  It’s been about 25 years since I have been “mothered”…I forgot how (mostly) wonderful it was.  It made AGMA really miss her step-mother.  And feel a bit guilty that I didn’t appreciate her as much as I should have before first Alzheimer’s then the Grim Reaper stole her away from all of us.

Tomorrow, I go to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

ZZZzzzz…

I know I’m nuts, but this is a trip AGMA really doesn’t want to take.  I committed to it last fall before life took a turn for the cray cray.  It’s an el cheapo trip – a friend is renting the condo and invited me to come along gratis.  And I’m using airline miles to get there.  And I don’t think it will be terribly expensive once I get there.

But it’s six days I’d rather be doing something else other than sitting in the sun and walking along the ocean.

Huh?   I know that 98% of you think I’m nuts.  And you would be right…

I get back on Tuesday next week, then leave on Thursday for Chicago to hang out with B & V (my very hip, awesome grandchildren.)  This trip, I very much want to take.  Always.

But I will be missing a long run that Saturday.   So AGMA has to make it up because I’m signed up for another full marathon on 4/2.   Yeah – I’m nuts.

I’m planning on running 20 miles by myself the Monday after I get back.

That sucks.

Right now, it feels like I’m running through grape jelly when I run.  I’ve never been fast, but my half marathon time last weekend was abysmal considering it was a relatively cool day and the course was pancake flat.

I blame the prednisone and the shingles.  And the grand Cheeto-head.  Of course.

Prednisone update…  My GI guy wants me to take the low dose I’m on for another 17 days.  I’ve been on prednisone since early December.   Don’t tell him, but AGMA’s planning on only taking it for another 10 days.  Shhhhh…

I’m so over it.

Shingles update…  The rash is gone with nothing but discolored areas remaining.  Again, TMI.  But now I’m experiencing what they call Postherpetic Neuralgia.  Yuck.

Postherpetic Neuralgia is when the nerves in the area of the rash fire on their own.  And often.  According to Dr. Diagnoseanythingontheinternet, this condition can last anywhere from a few weeks to forever.

AGAM’s rooting for the ‘few weeks’ option.

The weird thing is that I’m not experiencing pain.  I’m getting an intense tingling, itchy, ticklish sensation.  Like really intense.  Like so intense that I feel compelled to scratch and rub the area.

This has been somewhat embarrassing since the rash was on my left buttocks, left hip and left pubic bone area.  You get the idea…

Oh la la.

I read that a topical lotion with capsaisin in it can help relieve the sensations.  Capsaisin is what makes hot peppers hot.  It somehow blocks the nerve signals to the brain.

So basically AGMA would be rubbing a red habanero on her crotch.

Let’s do this.  Sounds like fun.

I had a corporate chair massage gig yesterday.  Since didn’t want to be constantly itching and rubbing my nether regions during the job, I decided to try a topical capsaisin product.

I used the applicator to rub it on.  I wasn’t sure the lotion was flowing so I made sure I put extra on.  Alllllll the way from my spine to just above my pubic bone in front.  I covered it good.  Real good.

Turns out, this was not a wise thing to do.

Round about 30 minutes into the job, the itching and ticklish feelings were intensified and joined by a burning sensation.  Like a 13 year old middle school male,  I couldn’t keep my hands off of myself.

At one point, I managed to take a peek at my waist.  It was bright red.  I mean, fire engine red.

Yesterday is now in the top 10 list of AGMA’s most uncomfortable moments.  Ever.

Too much capsaisin can actually cause burns on the skin.  AGMA thought she was SOL.

But then an amazing thing happened.  After nearly 3 hours of extreme discomfort, it suddenly went away.  Poof, goodbye.

No more itching.  No more tickling.  No more pain.

When I got home, I checked out “the area” and all the redness was gone.  Poof, goodbye.

AGMA felt like she did in the good old days before shingles.  Like four weeks ago.

The itching and tickley feeling came back around 9 PM last night.  Damn.  But not as intensely as it had been.

AGMA looked at the little bottle of the topical capsaisin by the sink.  With fresh memories of intense itching, extreme discomfort and semi-burning flesh, I decided to take extra ibuprofen instead.

As the old saying goes, sometimes the “cure is worse than the disease”.

I’m wondering if the Russians might like my almost full bottle of capsaisin lotion to use in their political prisoner interrogation program.

They’ll talk.  Oh yes – they’ll talk.

AGMA guarantees it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Come fly with me

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As a teenager in the late 1960‘s, AGMA loved to go to the airport.

Oh, I wasn’t flying anywhere.  I just liked to walk around and hang out.  And dream of all of the exciting places those airplanes could take me when I was older.

India, Egypt, Paris, Hong Kong – I wanted to travel to all of them.

Airports back then were infinitely different than airports today.  Friendly, laid back, sexy and exotic all at once.  With just a smidge of mystery to the teenage psyche.

Most people flying back then dressed up for the occasion.  Think Mad Men.  The men wore suits or sports jackets, and women wore dresses with stockings and heels.  And sometimes gloves.  And fur.  I thought it was all very sophisticated.

Full disclosure: The adult AGAM doesn’t really miss the part with the dress, stockings, heels and gloves. And fur.  Ugh.

Stewardesses (hey, it’s what they used to be called!) were young, pretty, always dressed in a crisp uniform and very attentive to their passengers.

Just like today right?

Those were the days when friends and family walked the passenger to the gate and kissed them goodbye as they boarded.  And they’d be waiting at the gate with flowers to greet them as soon as they got off the plane when they came home.

Now we have to say our goodbyes at the security checkpoint an hour and a half before their flight takes off.  Or we just slow down at the curb and have them jump out so we don’t have to try to jockey for “drop-off positioning”.

And our hello’s an hour after they land.  If we’re lucky.  It takes them at least that long to get from the gate to baggage claim to walking out of the extra top-secret security area.  By the time you see them, they’re cranky from all the delays and the welcome flowers are wilted.

Or you text them that you’re in the cell phone lot taking a nap.

To clarify, my friends and I didn’t wander around just any old airport when we were teenagers.  No…  We wandered around the fabulous Greater Pittsburgh Airport!

(silence)

No, really – it was totally cool!  Inaugurated in 1952, it was the second largest airport in the U.S. at the time and a great source of pride to the people of PIttsburgh.  It had one of the very first indoor shopping malls in the U.S. in it, numerous restaurants and a small hotel.  It had beautiful mosaics in the hallways and on the floors, and a huge Alexander Caulder mobile hanging in the three story lobby.

And huge observation decks to watch planes take-off and land. That was my favorite part.

It was such an iconic landmark in the city that people were absolutely heartbroken when the building was torn down in 1999.  A new airport complex had been in use since the early 90’s and by 1999, the old building wasn’t needed.

Heck, I hadn’t lived in Pittsburgh since 1971 and I was heartbroken.

Actually, the architects of the new terminal realized how important the old airport building was to PIttsburgers, so they designed the interior of the new one to mimic certain style elements from the old one.  And it worked.  To an old timer (like AGMA), walking through the new terminal feels eerily familiar with exposed concrete, steel, glass tiles/blocks, and curved lines.  And the Caulder mobile hangs in the atrium of the new building.  Kinda cool.

Now a days, nobody in their right mind would go out to the airport to hang out.

For a non-passenger, there’s really not much to do or many places to go.  And no observation decks.  And if they did just hang out, they’d probably get arrested.

AGMA realizes that it’s a different time with different rules.  And air travel isn’t the novelty it used to be.  It’s not just for business people or the wealthy anymore.

Clearly, considering the cattle car nature of the flying experience these days.  Now seating Zone 1.  Moo….

And a teenager can get onto the Internet and travel virtually anywhere their heart desires so no need to dream of places unknown.  A few keystrokes brings instant gratification.

But I wouldn’t trade those day dreaming trips to the airport for anything.  There was something magical about them and the adventure they promised a 16 year old AGMA.

And some 45 years later, that teenager is still inside of me seducing me with whispers of possibilities for the future.

She’s such a trollop.

As birthdays go, this one sucked

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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!

Ciao!

In Search of a 15 Hour Energy Drink…

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Life has been crazy these past few months.  Good crazy.  Mostly.

One casualty of the busy has been that I haven’t been posting on AGMA very much.  The other is that I haven’t had time to read all of your wonderful blogs.  I hate that.

I went on two wonderful trips to Europe.  Did I mention I love to travel?   My question now is, why did I come home from the first one?

Looking back, it made no sense to fly over and back twice, endure jet lag twice, do all that packing and unpacking twice.  The trips were five weeks apart.   It would have been so much more practical for me to have hung out in Europe for those extra five weeks.  Duh.  So common sense, right?  My husband, who is the founder of my travel feasts, might not agree.  He’s such a buzzkill…

So at the same time I’m packing and unpacking, getting over jet lag and trying to find somebody to feed the cats, I was also in the middle of learning a complicated new clinical soft tissue manual therapy technique.

What the hell?

Oh, haven’t I ever mentioned that I’m a clinical soft tissue manual therapist (CSTMT)?  Let me use another term that you might be more familiar with as long as you promise to respect me in the morning…

Massage therapist.

That first word carries soooo much baggage – I cringe when I have to use it to describe what I do.  Now honestly, didn’t your eyebrows go up just a little bit?  See…

My journey of becoming a massage therapist at 55 is a long story. It’s all part of the plan NOT to age gracefully.  But that’s another blog post.

So to be clear, I’m not the type of massage therapist who advertises in the classified section in the back of The Riverfront Times or Creative Loafing, or on Craigslist.  And whatever you do, never, EVER call me a masseuse.  My eyes glaze over, roll up into their sockets, and I lose all bladder and bowel control.  It’s not a pretty sight.

Anyway, I took a five day class to learn this fabulous new technique. It’ll help me help my clients resolve issues like frozen shoulder, carpel tunnel syndrome, runners knee, planter fasciitis, IT band issues and more, all without expensive unnecessary surgical intervention.  This is the stuff dreams are made of for this AGMA CSTMT!

The class is just the beginning.  To become proficient, I’m spending hours and hours studying the technique, complementary techniques and working on “guinea pig” clients.  Hey – I give them a big price break…

Plus, now I’m studying to become a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT).  Good Lord…  I’m doing it because I need to be able to “legally” give corrective exercises to my clients as part of this new technique.  In most states, giving exercises to clients is out of the scope of practice for a massage therapist.  Translation – I can lose my license and/or get my ass sued off if a client hurts themselves doing one of the exercises.  I can’t even guesstimate how many hours getting my CPT certification will take.

The icing on the “Is AGMA going crazy and why hasn’t she been posting much or been reading my blog?” cake is that I threw a big, elaborate baby shower for my daughter-in-law last weekend in Ohio. I live in Georgia.  I literally couldn’t move on Monday and Tuesday. I was one tuckered puppy.

Oh yeah – the holidays are coming, the grandson is due to arrive in December and I’m training to run my first marathon in February.

I figure I can sleep in my 70’s…

They’re Always After Me Lucky Charms…

craictheone

Top o the marnin’ to ya!  Or afternoon.  Or whenever your reading this.

So I just got back from Ireland last week and still have the residual mist of the Emerald Isle charm hanging onto me.  I also have the extra pounds from scones, butter and beer hanging onto me as well. The mist will have long dissipated before the pounds will.  It was worth it.

Did I mention I love to travel?

This was my sixth trip to Ireland since my first in 2006 so I guess I officially qualify as a Hiberniophile.  I keep trying to convince the Tourism Ireland folks that I should be one of their US reps, but so far, no go.  I’m thinking of starting a Twitter campaign.

I’m pretty sure that one of the reasons I keep going back is the phenominal pub culture.  Great craic in Irish pubs.  According to Wikipedia, craic “is a term for news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation, particularly prominent in Ireland.”  I’ve had some of the funniest, most interesting conversations of my life in Irish pubs.   Yes – I’m a craic addict.

Plus, I love Irish beer.  L-O-V-E.  Especially the stouts.  Particularly Guinness.  And I don’t care what anybody tells you, it does taste better in Ireland.  I can barely choke one down here in the US, but I hear angels sing at that first sip of my first Guinness on that first pub I visit after I land in Dublin.  Yeah – that’s right – angels.  Or maybe it’s my tinnitus acting up after that long flight.

Fun, disturbing Irish beer facts….  On my first trip in 2006, I discovered that the best selling beer in Ireland is Budweiser.  Huh?Then, when visiting the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin in 2009, I found out that the country that drinks the most Guinness is Nigeria. That one left me speechless.

I’ve also learned that the amount of Guinness, Murphy’s, O’Hara’s, Smithwick’s, Kilkenny, etc. I drink on a trip to Ireland is directly proportional to the amount of “crazy” displayed by my traveling companion.  Minimal crazy, minimal daily beer consumption.  Of course there is ALWAYS consumption because the beer is just so damn good.  Angels sing remember?  It just tends to be lower because I’m drinking it for the great taste and not to help me stay sane.

The more the traveling companion crazy meter ramps up, the more desperate I become for a pint of the liquid prozac to calm my frazzled spirit.  On this trip, there were a number of three pint nights.

I respect a persons right to drink or not drink.  Most of the time, I chose to not drink for a variety of reasons.  Except when I travel. Especially when I’m in a pub in Ireland. And my traveling companion is an 8 out of 10 on the cray cray scale.

It’s for this reason I give the following advice…

AGMA Rule #1 for Ireland travel: Never, ever, under any circumstances, take a trip to Ireland with somebody who doesn’t drink if you do and/or isn’t able to engage with people in conversation if you are.  You will have to work way too hard at not being miserable.  Way.  Too.  Hard.

They will try to fool you.  A socially awkward nondrinker will be more than understanding and even jovial during your first pint. To them, it’s an academic exercise to experience the Irish pub culture firsthand.  But when you order that second pint (after having first asked “permission”, I might add), the fidgeting, sighing and eye rolling starts.  And it continues all they way through that second pint.  It has the potential to turn into open warfare if there is even a hint of a third.  So the cruel irony is that the more talkative and mellow you get with each pint, the more hostile, sullen and passive aggressive your companion becomes.

What’s up with that?

Toward the end of the trip, I wised up.  I started depositing my traveling companion in our hotel room prior to the “cross over” to hostile, sullen and passive aggressive.  She had a wonderful time watching TV, keeping track of the weather at home and playing with her smart phone.  You know, all those things you come to Ireland to experience…

I had a wonderful time having that third pint, being part of great craic at a nearby pub and not having to endure the “eye roll”.

Win-win.

When we came home last week, we were definitely ready to put a little space between us.  Maybe a lot of space.  By mutual consent, it’ll probably be a long time before we travel together again.  If ever. But, miracle of miracles, we remain good friends.  Best of all, we have the memories of a shared adventure to a beautiful, magical country rich in history, myth, wonderful food, great beer, welcoming people and stunning scenery.

Every time I leave, I can’t wait to come back.

Slainte!

I’m Still Jet Lagged So I Can’t Think of a Catchy Title

5dollarsaday

We just got back on Sunday from a 12 day trip to Belgium and France.  I missed y’all and AGMA!

But it was fun.  Lots of fun.  Beautiful cities, great Belgian beer, WWI and WWII history, great Belgian beer, wonderful food, great Belgian beer, the amazing Mont St. Michel, great Belgian beer.   Brilliant!

I may have mentioned this before – I love to travel.

The travel bug bit me back in the day when, if you were a student, travel was cheap.  Like ridiculously cheap.  When you could fly “student stand-by” for practically nothing.  Remember the classic book Europe on $5 a Day?  As Archie and Edith sang, “Those were the days…”  Sigh.

I took my first international trip in 1972 when I was 18.  We flew from Dallas, Texas to Athens, Greece with a stop in Bangor, Maine and Shannon, Ireland to refuel.  Yeah – the plane had to refuel twice.  At least it didn’t have propellers…or did it?

I was hooked.

In 1976, I did the semi-obligatory post-college trip to Europe.   An organization called “The International Student Exchange” advertised a fabulous eight week tour of Europe by posting flyers seemingly all over every college campus in the US.  A lot of us took the bait.  It was run by a man called “Uncle Roland”.  Kinda creepy.

This operation was intense.  Every week for probably a month – mid May to mid June – a charter took off from New York to London. Everybody on every plane was between the ages of 18 and 22.  Yes – the inmates were in charge of the asylum…

Each planeload was divided into five groups.  After the first night in London, group #1 left on the “official tour”.  Then the next day group #2 would leave.  Yada, yada, yada until all five groups had left London.

My group was J-10 because we left London on June 10th.  Clever… So we did and saw everything that group J-9 did, but a day later.     J-11 was a day behind us.  J-12 was two days behind us.  If it’s Tuesday, where the hell are we?

Each group had it’s own bus that met them in Calais after the Channel crossing.  Our bus driver was Robert.  He couldn’t speak English and may have been a dirty old man – he was probably all of 35 – but this man had the patience of a saint.  Our guide for the eight weeks was a 24 year old man from Austria named Eric.  He was only two years older than me.  Again, an inmate was in charge…

So there we were – 36 hormone super-charged, ADHD, mixed gender late teen/early 20-somethings craving excitement and adventure, all crammed on a bus for eight weeks driving through 11 countries in Europe where attitudes about alcohol, drugs and sex are way different than the US.  Whatever you imagination can conjure up, it probably happened.  Yeah – that too.

Naturally, by the end of the eight weeks, we basically couldn’t stand the sight of each other.  Some people hated each other.  And nobody liked the girl who decided not to use the toilet and used the back of the bus instead.  Especially Robert.  Plus everybody stunk a little…

A few years ago, I found the flyer for the trip that my pack rat alter ego saved for all these years.  It advertised “Come join us for eight happy weeks in Europe!”  Okay – I’ll give them six happy weeks and two pretty crappy ones.  But 38 years later, I remember it like it was yesterday.  Good times.

Total cost in 1976 for 11 countries, 17 cities, hotels, breakfast, most dinners, tours in each city plus lots and lots of special extra events – $1195.00.  Sigh.

“Those were the days….”