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.


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…


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.














The Birthday that Just Keeps on Giving

A few days after my “big” birthday, I received a card from my local councilman. Since this had never happened before, I wondered why the recognition. Was it my blog? Was it the Doods? Was it because I’m a model citizen?

20160209_171423-1_resizedTHE DOODS We hate to burst her bubble but it was probably because she’s old or because he’s running for reelection.

Then a day later, I received another birthday surprise. The youngest daughter and the husband sent a gift box.

THE DOODS We all thought the gifts were hysterical. We hate to say it but sometimes we seem to have a more finely tuned sense of humor than Pack Leader.

First, following my up close and personal encounter feeding a squirrel out of my hand (for which you know I got a ton of static) was this t-shirt. Since the squirrel didn’t bite me and give me rabies, I think I may have earned the title.

Squirrel Whisperer








ELBEE OMG I feel like one of those magazine comparisons of “who wore it best.” Is there any question with my fabulous hair and toned back?

The next gift was a water bottle that says, “KEEP CALM. HIKE ON.” Despite the fact that the daughters aren’t thrilled with some of my hiking adventures, I think this was a vote of confidence.


ELBEE Again with the sunglasses? PL needs to get some professional help for her obsession with putting these on us all of the time, although I do like the bottle. 

After the bottle, I unwrapped a blogging organizer. They were referring to me as a real blogger. Awhile back, Nicole, the middle daughter, gave me a t-shirt that said, “World’s Greatest Blogger.” Hey that’s two out of three. The oldest still refuses to read my posts, but shares the photos so her friends can crack up at how much the Doods and I look alike.

Charley and pushy Gus

THE DOODS Coincidentally, the almost 12 year old son of the blog non-reader said something amusing to PL recently. He told her that blogging was so last season (our words, not his) and that she should be vloging, like she knows what that is.




THE DOODS The last present is brilliant. Kudos to the youngest daughter. This is so awesome we forgive her for accusing us of peeing in the living room. As if!




The Squirrel Debate Rages On

After putting up my last post, I was amazed to find out how many people have such strong opinions about squirrels. By the way, I am not the only one who feeds them from her hands. I’m not naming names.

IMG950987-1-1THE DOODS AND OUR BUDDY RILEYAs you know we all have very strong opinions about those little pests. They’re like Jeckyl and Hyde. As soon as they see us, the evil side comes out and they harass us to within an inch of our lives. We don’t need Pack Leader encouraging them.

I  have a couple of squirrel confessions that have been keeping me up at night. Not really but it sounded more dramatic. When I was a kid, I rescued a baby squirrel that fell out of a tree. As I recall, my mother wasn’t that thrilled when I brought it home and wanted to give it a bottle. She was even less thrilled when I brought home an injured woodchuck. I didn’t even know what it was. To be honest, I was such a nerdy kid they were like my friends. It was around the same time that I wanted a deodorized skunk as a pet.

THE DOODS OMG that is pathetic!

Here’s the really bad confession. When the daughters were little I would take them with me to a local park where I played tennis with a few friends. We were definitely not Wimbleton material. I’d put the daughters in a playpen right next to the court. Problem was they were under an oak tree so squirrels would run down the tree, jump into the playpen, grab food and run away.

In the spirit of confession, I have one more thing to get off my chest. The oldest daughter feels the same way about large birds that the Doods feel about squirrels. One time when she was a teenager, the two of us were at the beach. She dozed off and I was bored so I threw some breadcrumbs around her towel. Within minutes she woke up surrounded by squawking seagulls. I tried to pretend I was sleeping but I was laughing too hard.

ELBEE This is the same woman who thought she should be in the running for mother of the year? I wonder if it’s too late to call child protective services.



A Special Goodbye

In the wake of the horrendous shootings in Florida, I have chosen to write about a man who represents the best of our country. Frank Callahan was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy in 1945 after receiving a Purple Heart. He was also awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action as a hospital corpsman attached to the Marines. He was a special agent for the FBI from 1951-1979.

Above all, he was a gentleman, a wonderful husband, father to four daughters and friend to many. He was also a buddy to the Doods. During his last hospital stay, shortly before he passed, I had the privilege of bringing the dogs in to visit and cheer him up. He was resting when we reached his room but as soon as I tapped on the door, he woke up, saw the dogs and got the sweetest smile on his face.

A final visit with the Doods
A final visit with the Doods

He wanted to pet the dogs so I lifted Charley and Elbee gently onto his bed. His smile grew even wider as they snuggled close to him while he rubbed their heads. We spent the next few minutes in peaceful conversation, totally forgetting his illness. I took photos for his daughter Tracy to share with the family.

Frank passed away at home days later. He was buried with honors in Arlington cemetery. My deep gratitude goes to him and to his family for those precious moments we spent in the hospital and for the sweet memory of him with the Doods. At difficult times we need to focus on the people who make our country great.



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.

My Top 6 Hiking “Oops”


Again with the flowers

ELBEE Before Pack Leader gets started I would like to say that I have been following this woman into the mountains  for years and had no idea it could be hazardous to my health. What was I thinking?


get-attachment.aspxCHARLEY Let me add that all of these disasters occurred pre-Doods which is why my brother was clueless. With us she has remained relatively unscathed. Thank you very much.

My turn to over share. Whenever my daughter/mothers hear on the news that a hiker has been lost, found, or injured they just wait for my name so they can say, “See!”  That’s not going to happen because the first thing they do on the news is give your age. I would crawl down first.

Here are my top  6 “oops” in the mountains:

  1. Poison oak. No one ever told me  “leaves of three, don’t touch me.” I touched it, walked in it and broke out in a horrible rash.
  2. The broken foot. The dogs were walking nicely by my side when a biker approached like he was at the Tour de France. Watching him, I stepped in a hole, broke a bone and tore a tendon in my foot.
  3. The blood clot. Shortly after the cast came off my foot, I headed back to the mountains, tripped over a rock, hit my leg on another rock and got a huge blood clot on the front of my leg. And yes, I am a little on the clumsy side.
  4. The bee sting. A devious ninja bee stung me on the lip and I swelled up until my face was unrecognizable.
  5. The dog bite. Two very large, very mean dogs attacked my very sweet Golden Retriever Cody. As I jumped in to defend Cody, one of the mean dogs bit me on the neck. When I got to the emergency room (where I was quite well known by then) they said the bite had just missed my jugular.
  6. The rattlesnake bite. On a warm spring day, my husband, the dogs and I were walking up on a ridge through sage and wild mustard. Suddenly I felt an awful pain in my ankle and pulled down my sock to find two perfectly placed puncture marks. My buddies in the emergency room said it was probably an older snake because my foot swelled up, turned purple and twitched but I didn’t get sick. Well I almost got sick at the thought of being bitten by a snake.

On the bright side, I haven’t been air lifted out, eaten by a mountain lion (I’ve seen two) or bitten by a coyote.

 ELBEE She forgot to mention that one time a hawk flew so low his talons brushed her hair. My guess is he thought it was nesting material. 

 get-attachment.aspxGUS That’s it! I’m never going hiking again. Snakes, bodies and now a hawk that could carry me away. 


The Doods Weigh in on the Daughters


I look more serious in my glasses

CHARLEY I just had to vent. Some of you know that I do yoga and meditate, but the daughters are ruining my zen outlook. I was eavesdropping again when I heard that Nicole and Danielle wanted to sue Pack Leader for libel or slander but weren’t even sure which one. That gave me a chuckle.

According to what they shared on Facebook, they don’t like being used as “fodder for her blog.” Personally, I love when she writes about me. I’m sorry but I still think it’s a jealousy issue with her kids.

And guess who they wanted to retain as legal counsel…their sister Jennifer the lawyer!  She hates FB and doesn’t even read the posts but said she felt “emotionally distressed,” and told them to start documenting their symptoms. OMG!


ANONYMOUS Charley is wearing his glasses to look smart. I’m wearing sunglasses to remain anonymous. I don’t want those daughters trying to sue me. I can’t afford legal counsel.

Guess who jumped on the bandwagon next…Nicole’s fiancé Christian. He posted this checklist. Instead of getting upset, P.L. thought it was awesome that she had her own category. Nicole was ready to throw in the towel.


GUS I was adopted into this family. I’m still confused. What’s Facebook? get-attachment.aspxWhat’s a blog? What’s wrong with these people?



The Daughters and the Doods

I wasn’t going to write about my daughters today. Oh who am I kidding. Of course I was. Some things are just too easy. When I told them that “meandthedoodsandthedaughters” had a nice ring to it, they said that so did a want ad for a new mother. Totally not fair since she wouldn’t have to deal with diapers, teenage rebellion or the cost of college. Plus she would get grandchildren as a bonus. Grandchildren who, by the way, love the dogs.

My daughters have also accused me of replacing each one of them with a dog. Although that was never my intention, it has worked out exceptionally well. It certainly made the whole empty nest syndrome a lot easier than I expected. This  from a woman who cried like a baby when I dropped them off at nursery school.

One morning Nicole was over and suddenly asked, “if one of the dogs was drowning and I was drowning, who would you save?” My first response was, “Can I have a few minutes to think about it?” When that didn’t cut it, I asked if I could save them both. Not surprisingly that didn’t go over very well either. Then I said, “Of course I would save you.”


CHARLEY I happened to be eavesdropping when that whole conversation was taking place. Yes, dogs do eavesdrop. I admit that I was quite upset when I heard that answer from Pack Leader, but then she turned to me and winked.