Return to the Scene of the “Crime”

During a recent heat wave I decided to head to the beach with the dogs. Since I have no patience for sitting on the sand, I thought that Santa Monica would be perfect. The pier is a tourist attraction with lots of activity. Even better, there’s a pedestrian path that goes down to Venice.

ELBEE That sounded good to me. I like the beach although I’m not much of a surfer. I was, however, a little suspicious when I heard that Venice was on the agenda.

As soon as we walked up the steps to the pier, Gus and Elbee, with all of their hair blowing in the breeze, were surrounded by people. I lost count of how many wanted to take pictures. All that was missing were the “puparazzi.”

ELBEE I knew she couldn’t resist that lame joke. By the way, I’m pretty sure I saw Kendall Jenner and another model type on the pier. They had their own professional camera man with them. Why didn’t I?

Things stayed interesting on the ocean path. An adorable toddler in big sunglasses came over to pet the dogs. Two seemingly drunk men asked if I knew where there was a liquor store. Someone yelled out “Look at those diva dogs.”

ELBEE He was obviously very astute. 

 

 

 

That last remark was our welcome to Venice Beach which is a crazy, fascinating place that has become even messier since the last time I was there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still, I couldn’t resist posing the Doods for these touristy photos.

As if!!
Just embarrassing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ELBEE As for the one on the right, I don’t know which is worse, that she took the picture or that she’s sharing it here. And take a look at this one below. They’re opening a Muscle Beach History Museum! I think Pack Leader is hoping to secure a place. What is she? Arnold?

To be honest, I’m not sure if Venice Beach is the site of my former glory or of my former crime against “carpool momdom.” I had done a few bodybuilding shows before I competed there but they were sort of under the radar. The first was in Fresno. The other one or two were in places that no one in my daily life except my family would know about. Competing in Venice was like “Woo hoo, here I am.”

GUS “Woo hoo?” I don’t even say that.

To make it even better, Nicole, the middle daughter, was turning eleven and wanted to have her birthday party at the show. She probably wasn’t old enough to be embarrassed. To this day I wonder what the other parents thought about it. At least no one called child protective services.

Nicole had one special request. She asked if everyone could sing Happy Birthday to her if I won. I mentioned it to the emcee who loved the idea and brought Nicole up on stage as soon as I became Ms. Venice Beach.

ELBEE That was subtle.

 

Seeing the microphone in my face is probably disconcerting to anyone who knows about my singing. The good news is that with a thousand people in the crowd, no one could hear me.

 

 

THE DOODS Amen to that. Remember, we’ve heard her in the car.

 

 

Confessions of a Therapy Dogaholic

This week I decided to rework the post that started it all, Confessions of a Happy Dogaholic. Only a few people saw it because I was nervous about showing it to anyone. Now that I’ve overshared all over the place, I thought why not this too.

ELBEE Personally I think it was just a slow news day.

It’s no secret that I’m obsessed with the dogs. I talk about them incessantly which I’m sure is why so many people encouraged me to write about them in the first place. They were probably hoping I’d shut up and stop talking about them.

ELBEE Good luck with that. Wait, it’s about us. Keep talking.

There were even one or two people who hinted that I might want to join some sort of 12-step program. That was never going to happen. We all know that I enjoy my dog addiction. It’s not causing liver damage and I really can’t get with the whole anonymous concept. Hey, remember, in the 80’s and 90’s I was a competitive bodybuilder. Does that scream anonymous on any level?

ELBEE Where does she find these things?? I threatened to boycott this blog and even offered not to bark for a year if she’d stop. I give up.

GUS I shouldn’t admit it but I’m kind of starting to like them. I think all the therapy has really helped me cope.

 

Hey, old habits die hard. I often wondered what had triggered my love of dogs but didn’t have an “aha” moment until one day when I was looking at some of my baby pictures. Two things jumped out at me. First, I was a really unattractive baby. Second, there was some sort of adorable dog in almost every photo.

In retrospect, I think they were an attempt to distract from my looks. I also have a suspicion that they were rented or borrowed since they seemed to vary from month to month. My mother was so sweet and kind, I’m sure she was trying to help me out. At least with the cute dog/ugly baby thing going on, people had something to work with. They could say, “aw how darling” and still pass a lie detector test.

Today I am grateful to all of those anonymous dogs and to the ones who actually were our pets like Killer, the sweetest Cocker Spaniel in the world. From the time I was a little girl, they turned me into an animal lover. I am even more grateful to the late Charley and to Elbee and Gus.

ELBEE Excuse me. A great name like Killer and I get stuck with Elbee.

I’ve written that there are pivotal moments in life. Being a passenger in a near-fatal car accident was one of mine. Another was the very first time that I walked into UCLA Medical Center with Charley by my side. So thank you to the Doods, even you Elbee, for turning me into a therapy dogaholic.

 

 

 

 

 

Grandma with the Dogs Part Two

This post is a miracle just because it ever got written. The two youngest grandchildren were here to visit this weekend. Add two Doods to the mix. Throw in that almost four year old Bella is not a fan of big dogs and you have a recipe for chaos.

As I’ve shared in the past, she loves the dogs in photos. In person, not so much. I thought that with Charley gone it might be different but apparently Elbee now looks huge. Her fear of Charley has been replaced with a fear of Elbee.

She may have a point about his size. When I was walking the dogs this morning, someone driving by saw Elbee and called out, “Wow, big dog!”

ELBEE In case she forgets to mention it, someone else yelled out “hey, super cute.”

As you can imagine, Elbee does not take well to being avoided, or ignored and started following her everywhere. He was a dog on a mission.

ELBEE Hellooo. I’m a therapy dog. It’s my job not to be ignored.

Gus was a different story. By virtue of his size, it took her much less time to warm up to him. He practically won her over without even trying. He’s smaller, even with the poofy hair, so it kind of gave him favored dog status. I also think that being a Teddy Bear Doodle, he has the stuffed animal thing going for him. I should mention that Riley, our fourteen year old Golden, lay around like an area rug to stay out of the line of screaming.

I think Elbee might have remained “canine non grata” if my older granddaughter hadn’t come over. She’s an animal lover who immediately gave him a huge hug. Not sure how she did it, but she convinced Bella that it was okay to be in the same room with him. She even got her to pet him.

Before the truce, Bella wanted me to carry her all over the house in case Elbee decided to pop out and surprise her, or even worse, try to lick her. It’s not that she’s heavy but carrying her up and down stairs was a pretty good workout. Instead of “grandma with the dogs,” her nickname for me, I should be called “grandma with the biceps!”

ELBEE Oh no, a closet selfie. I should have seen that one coming. 

GUS What’s a bicep?

 

 

 

 

 

I’m a Dog Walker with a Stalker

Believe it or not, the Doods and I had a stalker. I was walking the three of them down Ventura Boulevard, a busy street in the San Fernando Valley, when someone pulled over in a large SUV. I wasn’t alarmed because people stop all the time to say a friendly hello, take a photo (not kidding), or just to inquire about the dogs. Well, there was one woman who wanted to buy them and asked me to name my price!

Elbee, Gus and Charley

THE DOODS We wish we could tell you that Pack Leader makes this stuff up, but she doesn’t. We find it a bit disturbing that it’s all true. We’re thinking of hiring a real dog walker.

Anyhow, this woman, who had a large, barking Briard sitting in the front seat, rolled down her window and asked if I was a dog walker. Assuming she was looking for a professional, I informed her that I was exercising my own pack. She said “okay,” waved and drove off, only to pull over again a half a block later.

This time she asked me a few random dog questions, including  why I didn’t  have a Briard, and drove off again. And you guessed it, she pulled over a few feet later but this time she parked and got out of the car.

THE DOODS At this point we were getting a little nervous, not to mention offended, especially with her huge dog still barking at us from the front seat. When we got a close look at her, though, we relaxed. She had a good ten years on Pack Leader (who, sorry, is no spring chicken). Not to mention that with her weightlifting, PL could definitely take her.

ELBEE Oh no, did we open the door for one of her bodybuilding pictures!

Sorry I couldn’t help myself. Old habits die hard.

THE DOODS Are we even sure that’s her?

As we chatted, the woman admitted that my reputation had preceded me. I wasn’t sure which reputation but thought it was a bit weird that she had known who I was all along. Then she handed me a business card which I assumed was hers. Wrong again. It was my husband’s! I later found out she had gone to his building and asked the security guard to get it for her.

THE DOODS Now you see why we were relieved that she was old and small?

Really disconcerted by the business card, I told her we had to get going and abruptly walked away. I was being a little rude but under the circumstances I’m sure the etiquette gurus would cut me some slack.

Fortunately I never saw her again but a few weeks later a strange thing happened at the local carwash. When I walked inside to pay, the cashier, who knew me and the Doods well, said “I have something really weird to tell you.” She then shared  that an older woman had stopped in a couple of times to ask her if she’d seen me and the dogs.

THE DOODS That’s it. We’re definitely hiring a professional walker and we’re keeping a lower profile on social media.

 

 

 

 

Grandma with the Dogs

When I was a little girl, my uncle, who was prone to giving everyone nicknames, asked my younger brother what was the worst thing he could think of to call me. Fortunately, the worst thing he could come up with was “Watermelon.” I say fortunately because the name stuck. Looking back I realize that this uncle may have had issues. His name was Ibsen.

20160525_091431_1472427293345_resizedELBEE Again with the issues. Last time she thought the rattlesnake had issues. I saw this t-shirt recently that I wanted to buy for Pack Leader. Unfortunately, I don’t have a credit card although I do enjoy window shopping.

Over the years I have had more than my share of nicknames. Elaine and Elliott, two of my closest friends in the world since we were kids in Syracuse, refer to me as  “Jones.” None of us has a clue where the name came from.

THE DOODS Hello?! Shouldn’t a nickname have some significance?

“Dingbat” is the name I was given by Ray, my former bodybuilding partner and his wife Tammy. I call him “Musclehead” so I guess we’re even. My husband refers to me as the “little hulk,” another leftover from the 80’s.

20160404_140354_resizedCHARLEY I hate to say it, but aren’t they perpetuating bodybuilding stereotypes?

 

 

get-attachment.aspxELBEE I’m just surprised that she didn’t pull out a photo from the archives. Oops I spoke too soon.

 

 

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20160910_132308GUS I am still so confused by these pictures. As for those tans, my fake one when I was running for mayor looked better.

 

Are the Doods planning to comment on every name I share? And remember they call me Pack Leader or P.L.

THE DOODS One of her friends picked that name. We’re a little disturbed by it. Do you think any self respecting dog would give that title away?

To continue, my friend who’s as tone deaf as I am (sorry Lillian) and I have given each other very special nicknames for obvious reasons. If we could sing we would have been on tour years ago. We also would have had Bob Mackie on speed dial. That is my alter ego on the left and Lillian’s on the right.

th-1

My three year old granddaughter always refers to me as “Grandma with the dogs.” Okay that’s not a stretch but whatever happened to nana or granny?

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ELBEE Wait! She left one out. The daughters call her “Crazy.” 

Excuse me, that is not a nickname.

 

 

 

 

 

Before and After

There are defining moments in everyone’s life. One of mine was the car accident that I alluded to in my last post. Seven months pregnant with Danielle, the youngest daughter, I was in the front passenger seat during a head on collision. As my head hit the dash board, I broke most of the bones in my face and developed a tangerine sized blood clot on my brain.

I had considered including a photo from the hospital with a shaved head and unrecognizable face but, to be totally honest, the daughter asked that I leave it out. Not to mention, I would have had to put up a warning like they do on TV: this piece contains graphic images.

I gave birth to my daughter a month later. Soon after began the long process of multiple surgeries followed by multiple recoveries. There were moments of depression and defeat but with three daughters, being a 90 pound weakling wasn’t an option. Then I discovered weight lifting, something that nice Jewish girls growing up in Syracuse didn’t do.

Despite the fact that I used to be very shy, after a lot of coaxing, weight lifting led to bodybuilding and my first competition!

20160525_091431_1472427293345_resizedELBEE She used to be shy and I took first place at Westminster.

Yes,  I was shy and almost had to be pushed on stage at that competition. What really got me through was the feeling that it was symbolic of my recovery. And I have to say that winning the first trophy of my non-athletic life was major!

ELBEE Apparently it was so major that she couldn’t stop competing for years.

Since the hospital before and after was off the table, I decided to share a before and after that is one of my favorites from my former life as a bodybuilding carpool mom. During that time I wrote a book called, The Desperate Woman’s Guide to Fitness (The Secret to Aging Like Fine Wine Instead of Going Flat Like Stale Beer). While putting the book together, I worked with Paul Chepikian, an amazingly talented Renaissance man who did the cover. As you can see, he is also one of the best sports I have ever met!

20160404_140354_resizedCHARLEY I try not to be judgmental but that is a little disturbing, I may have to go meditate.

ELBEE Sorry Charley, but I think it’s hilarious!

 

GUS And people wonder why I’m confused. I’m going to take my chew bone and hide in the closet.

 

Grandma’s Got “Guns”

The greatest thing happened at the gym. I hate to brag but I had just done 200 pounds on the leg press when a normal, working out kind of guy went over to use the machine.img_0590

20160209_171423-1_resizedDOODS We have to admit that we are a little impressed but saying she “hates” to brag. Really?

As I was saying, he saw how much weight I’d been using, walked over to me, punched his chest twice and said “respect.” That may be one of the coolest compliments I’ve ever received. It ranks up there with the gay friend who told me I was a “timeless woman.” I only mention he was gay because I feel that no one compliments a woman like a gay man.

The gym comment actually meant a lot because I have been on a mission to regain my strength after an injury. A few years ago I tore my rotator cuff in yoga.

20160404_140354_resizedCHARLEY In yoga? That is just embarrassing. I don’t advocate lying but in this case it wouldn’t hurt.

After laying off weight lifting for an extended time and then starting from scratch a year ago, it’s been exciting to find out that all my years of bodybuilding really did build muscle memory. Even though my only goal was to regain strength, people have been commenting on my arms getting bigger. I knew I was making progress when the oldest daughter said, “Oh no, you’re not thinking of competing again!”

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THE DOODS Okay, she looks good but why is she sitting in the closet flexing? Also, we’re more concerned with the other memory, the one that makes sure she feeds us on time.

On a serious note, I think that strength in a woman is crucial. As a passenger in a head on car accident when I was pregnant with the youngest daughter, now the mother of two, I had near fatal injuries, including a large blood clot on the brain. The long recovery process left me as a 90 pound weakling. Physically and mentally, weight lifting helped lead me back. More in my next post.

 

 

 

Aren’t You That Lady?

As a mother, especially as the mother of girls, I’ve always believed that you should have your own identity and not live vicariously through your children. Becoming a competitive bodybuilder may have been a little over the top but it certainly helped.

20160525_091431_1472427293345_resized ELBEE Oh no, I can just feel it. Another photo is about to  emerge from the archives. Wait for it. Wait for it…

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ELBEE I told you!

20160404_140354_resizedCHARLEY OMGPlease tell me she isn’t drying her hair and flexing!

 

 

Living vicariously through the Doods is a completely different story. After a recent identity crisis when I was hiking alone and several people said they almost didn’t recognize me without the dogs, I realized that it was okay. Just about every time I go out without one of them I either hear, “Where are they?” or “Aren’t you the lady with the dogs?” Looking back, I don’t remember strangers asking, “Aren’t you the lady with the kids?”

Unlike the daughters who can go either way (just kidding girls, no need to sue), therapy dogs can only make you look good. Instead of guilt by association, it’s reflected glory. All I do is hold their leashes while they do all the work.

Without the dogs, the only times I ever hear the words, “bless you” are if I sneeze. Working with the Doods, I’ve heard them more times than I can remember.

When I tap on a patient’s door to see if they’d like a visit, they often look confused or not that excited to see me. When they realize I have a dog with me it’s a complete 180. Usually there’s a big smile and “yes, I’d love a visit.”

I don’t take it personally. After all, a rabbi at Providence Hospital told me they were his competition. Shameless showoff that I am, I had Elbee say his prayers for him.20160828_202244_1472487044105_resized

And a spiritual leader looked very upset when she had to tell me that a patient wanted to see the dogs instead of her.

Doctor Doods help out
Doctor Doods

THE DOODS Can we help it if we have a gift?

We do have a bone to pick. (That expression always cracks us up). If one more person says that our hair looks just like Pack Leader’s, we may be the ones who have an identity crisis.

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The Daughters, the Doods and the Biceps

As some of you know, the daughters and the Doods have had a few jealousy issues. I hate to say it, but with what my kids went through in my really, really long bodybuilding phase, they should be thrilled at my obsession with the dogs instead of my biceps. Here are some of the top reasons:

1.  I no longer walk around flexing.   

 ELBEE Who is she kidding? She flexes for total strangers and almost anyone who walks in the house.

2. Instead of living in spandex, I have practical outfits for walking the dogs.

20160209_171423-1_resizedTHE DOODS We don’t like to be critical and may not be fashion plates but we know a schmata when we see one. Just because pants have pockets doesn’t make them cute.

3. Instead of a fake questionable shade of tan, I now wear ten layers of sunblock when I hike with the dogs.

THE DOODS We’ll take the credit for that. At her age, she should be using industrial strength sunblock.

4. I used to drag the daughters to countless bodybuilding competitions, even to the point when they were old enough to yell, “Mom, flex your abs” from the audience. Now I take my grandchildren to dog class with me.

5. Recently I was a little envious when I heard about a 68 year old woman who is the world’s oldest martial arts champion. For the record, they do have senior bodybuilding competitions. The daughters should be happy that I’m too busy with the Doods to train.

The DOODS Oh sure, blame it on us like that’s the only reason.

6. The daughters are no longer being bench pressed by future felons.

ELBEE I was eavesdropping again so I’ll explain. When the daughters were little she would bring them to a hard core muscle gym and sit them with their dolls and books while she trained. One of the bodybuilders who used to play games with them is now in jail for double murder. Really?

Ok, not my best parenting decision but he seemed very nice at the time.

7.  Do I have to say anything about this photo. Yes, it’s me and my partner Ray. No, it’s not photo shopped and yes, my husband and the daughters and Ray’s future wife Tammy were all in the audience using fake names.

Scan 17 get-attachment.aspxCHARLEY Although I am almost bark less, which is rare for me, I have a few questions.  Is that who I think it is? Why is she doing it? And can it happen again?

 

OMG I’m going back to being anonymous. What was she thinking? I’m on team daughter for this one.

 

20160526_153149_resizedGUS I give up. I’m more confused than ever. I’m afraid   to even look at the picture.