Monthly Archives: July 2013

The Perfect Table

It is a bit early to be offering decorating tips for the holidays.  It’s summer, and really, who wants to think of just the right plates for serving up those picture perfect holiday meals?  But unfortunately, I really need a new set of dishes.  I just broke another one this morning in the set I bought nearly 20 years ago.  So naturally, I went to the interwebs.

I learned two valuable lessons in the process today.  And of course, I had to share:

  1. Scout out the dog’s location when carrying your breakfast plate to the table.
  2. Never shop for dishes just after you realize that your pants are too tight.

Because if you do, you, like me, will end up buying these:



I’m pretty sure these dishes are just the thing to lighten up those holiday grocery bills.  I wonder if they have matching wine glasses.


Filed under Conspicuous consumption, Diet tips, Dogs, Family, Humor

Birthday Board

There are some songs that just make you smile.  There are others that make you think of people.  There are some that get stuck in your head.

There are people like that too.  People who make you smile, who make you laugh, who make you hit yourself upside your own head and say to them in the most embarrassing moments,  “You’re Nuts!”

This song is like my son, Jacob.  He makes me smile, makes me feel good.  Sometimes he keeps me up all night swimming around in my head, thinking, “He’s Nuts!”  And you know what?  He IS!

Happy 22nd Birthday to my favorite longboarder (see Mom shudder.  Shudder Mom Shudder).

Holding up the Tower in 1999

Holding up the Leaning Tower in 1999


Filed under Childhood Traumas, Family, Holidays, Humor, Music

Olde Towne School For Dogs

We arrived in Old Town more or less on time, and I parallel parked the VW. I’d already learned not to let Goliath out on my side of the car, so I got out and walked around to the sidewalk side to get him. As always, I held tightly to Goliath’s collar while I attached his leash. The moment he heard the “click” of the clasp on his collar, he pushed past me. He was ready to go. And so naturally, he went.

As usual, he dragged me along. He’d stop suddenly whenever anything smelled particularly good (Dog pee! That smells great!) Then pull me to the other side of the sidewalk (Look, a French fry!) and back to the original side (Hey, a different dog’s pee – smells great too!)

After about 5 minutes, I managed to haul Goliath the way I wanted — to a storefront on the corner. We’d arrived for his first obedience training class at The Olde Towne School For Dogs.

A Truly Great Place (Google Image)

A Truly Great Place
(Google Image)

The Olde Towne School for Dogs was (and is) the best obedience school in the DC area. Several of the dogs I knew from Lincoln Park went there, as did Phoebe, my friend Jean’s Chow-chow. They offer private lesson with a trainer, and everybody I knew raved about the place.

I’d called earlier the previous week to see if they could help me with Goliath. Because after 4 months of trying to manage him, I finally admitted I needed help with my crazy dog. I had never trained a dog, and I was failing miserably at my attempts to get Goliath to obey me. To the extent any of our dogs growing up were trained, Dad did it. I played with them, taught them tricks, but really, I didn’t have a clue even where to start training. And I knew that I should have started training much earlier than I did with Goliath.

I simply couldn’t have a dog that dragged me around the way Goliath did.

Because, of course there was the other issue that I pretended wasn’t there. Sooner or later, somebody was gonna cut me open.

You see, in spite of my reluctance, Dr. C kept mentioning surgery for my colitis. It was progressing and not in a good way. I was getting sicker. My flare ups were getting more frequent and more severe. And while I was dead set against it, I had to face reality. There was a very real chance that sooner or later somebody would operate on me. And I was pretty sure that my recovery would not be enhanced by being jerked down the road by an over-eager crazy dog who didn’t know how to heel. Or listen. Or obey. In fact, I was pretty sure that being dragged down the street on my belly wouldn’t be part of any doctor’s post-surgical instructions.

And so I called Olde Towne School for Dogs and spoke with Carlos, the owner. I explained my situation, and he agreed to take Goliath on as a student. Equally important, he agreed to let me pay individually for each lesson. Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford the $200 their training classes cost back then, not all at once, anyway. Equally unfortunately, my crappy health didn’t let me not train my dog. Carlos was a lifesaver, even before we met.

Goliath and I arrived at the white storefront of Olde Towne School for Dogs that hot summer day, and I opened the door to the combination school and dog boutique. Goliath, delighted that he could go inside, dragged me inside full speed.

Google Image

Google Image

He yanked me to the left — (Look! Treat Bins!) To the right — (Look! Toys for Me!) To the big bags of rawhide and other chew toys — (Oh Yeaaahhhhh! Mommy this place is GREAT!). In his excitement, Goliath yanked me to just about every single display in the store. Then, blushing, I yanked him up to the counter and the cash register, where a tall, dark and handsome man frowned at us.

“This must be Goliath,” Carlos said.

“How did you guess?” I responded with a smile. Carlos didn’t smile back.

Carlos took Goliath’s leash, held him tightly, and led us to the back of the store and into a training room.

Sit,” he said. I sat. Goliath did too.

Carlos silently examined Goliath, scratched his ears, rolled him over, rubbed his belly. Got to know him a little bit.

The first thing this dog needs to learn is that you are not wrapped around his paw,” Carlos said.

I chuckled. “But I am.”

Carlos stared at me for several seconds before turning back to Goliath.

The first thing that you need to learn is that you are in charge.”

“OK.” I didn’t try to make any more jokes. Carlos didn’t seem to appreciate my sense of humor.

And never, ever again let me see this dog drag you into my store. Never.

“OK,” I said sheepishly.

Then we got to work.

Carlos pulled a choke chain collar and a six foot leather leash out of a wicker basket in the corner. He took off Goliath’s leather collar.

This won’t work,” he said, handing me Goliath’s old collar. “Fabric collars look great, but they don’t help in training or restraining a dog. And Goliath needs both.” Carlos kindly didn’t mention that Goliath needed both training and restraining desperately.

Carlos didn’t like my leash, either, a drug store special with 10 inches of cheap leather at the top and chain going down to the clasp. I knew then that it was going to be an expensive training course –10 minutes in and I already needed a new collar and a new leash — that’d cost me at least 25 bucks. And there was no way I’d get through all those dog toys and chew bones without getting my baby something.

Carlos demonstrated how to put on the choke chain in a “P” formation, so that when not being used to correct Goliath, gravity would let it fall into a loosened position. Putting the collar on backwards could be uncomfortable and even possibly dangerous for the dog.

Then Carlos stood to Goliath’s right, and our lesson really started.

While explaining to me that each command should be clear and one syllable, Carlos gently tugged Goliath up from where he was lying into a sit position, saying “Sit.”

“Goliath knows that one!” I said proudly.

Carlos just looked at me.

Up!” he said, getting Goliath to stand.

Goliath, however, didn’t realize that he was only supposed to stand up, and lunged for the door.

No!” said Carlos as he immediately corrected Goliath with the choke collar and leash. Carlos had been expecting it.

Goliath was shocked. (What do you mean I can’t do what I want!) Goliath sat attentively, looking up at Carlos with respect he’d never shown me.

That’s what you have to do every time he lunges like that. He may not do that.” Carlos said to me looking at me in the eye. He then showed me how to keep to Goliath’s right, how to hold the leash properly, in two hands with the right thumb through the loop, and how to position him right next to me, walking at my pace, not Goliath’s. I looked at Carlos with respect, too.

We went outside and started walking the streets of Old Town, Alexandria, Goliath falling into step with Carlos when Carlos held the leash, and less so with me, when I took my turns. That first lesson, we taught Goliath to stop and sit at street corners instead of charging ahead into the street — an important lesson for a city dog.

As Goliath began to learn, Carlos began to relax, although it was took several lessons before Carlos let me know it. Years later when I saw him, he remembered Goliath’s first venture into the store with a chuckle. “That dog was something else,” he said, “yes, I remember him dragging you into the store.”

Goliath mastered Heel in minutes when Carlos held the leash. Right from the start, Goliath idolized Carlos and did exactly what Carlos told him to do. Every time.

It took me much longer to get the hang of the commands. In fact, I’m not really sure I ever did. Especially the one that said I was in charge.

Goliath, the Goose

Goliath, the Goose

*     *     *

This is another chapter in the memoir I’m writing about my psychotic, alcoholic German Shepherd.  Other posts about Goliath can be found on FiftyFourAndAHalf :

For Medicinal Purposes Only

What’s in a Name?

Dogs and Other Nuts


Filed under Crohn's Disease, Dogs, Family, Goliath Stories, History, Humor, Pets

Of Mice and, ummm, something else with an “M”

Years ago, Miss Barbara on Romper Room taught me to “Turn That Frown Upside Down!” when I was sad or angry.  Of course I was sad and angry every time I watched Romper Room because not once did Miss Barbara see an “Elyse” in her magic mirror.

She should have seen me in that damn mirror.  I was a good kid.  (Google Image)

She should have seen me in that damn mirror. I was a good kid. (Google Image)


Oops.  Sorry.  That isn’t what this post is about.

I’ve actually found over the years that for the normal level of bummed-out-ness, turning my frown upside down (TMFUD) is quite an effective anti-depressant.  It is even more efficacious when combined with a walk and/or singing.  If I TMFUD while walking and singing, I am a happy camper.  (Of course the other folks around me might not be quite so smiley.)

As I got older though, I found that TMFUD was less effective against the bigger things that life threw at me.  I needed something approaching “schadenfreude,” which, as you know, is taking pleasure in others’ misfortune.

Now, I don’t think that I ever really – even to this day – actually take pleasure in someone else’s misfortune.  I’m somewhat nicer than that.

But I do like to look at someone else’s troubles and balance them against my own.  Then I am much more willing to keep my own.  And I feel immensely relieved.

In the early 1980s, neither my sister Judy nor I were, umm, living the high life.  Life was one crisis after another for both of us.  I was sick and poor.  She was a young mother –that wasn’t the bad part — with no education, no prospects, and a shaky relationship with her husband.   She was also poor.

Her problems always seemed worse than mine, and she felt the same way about my troubles.   It made us content with our own struggles.  So, being sisters, we made our respective miseries and misfortunes something of a contest.

I called Jude one day with bad news about the state of my health and she stopped me before I’d gotten the “woe” out in “woe is me.”  Bitch.

“This morning,” Judy announced, “I woke up and went downstairs to make coffee.”  I could picture her standing with one hand on her hip, taking a drag from her cigarette.  “And do you know what happened as I walked across the cold floor in my bare feet?”

I knew it wasn’t going to be good.

“I stepped in mouse intestines — in my bare feet!”  Judy’s cat, Izzy, a prolific hunter, had brought home some spoils for the family.  “Nobody’s should start the day with mouse intestines between their toes.”

Google Image

Google Image

Judy was right — no day should start that way.  And that was when I co-opted the motto for my life:

Life is Good*

* As long as you don’t have mouse intestines between your toes.

I’ve never seen that Tee-shirt in the series.  I think they need to expand.

Anyway, sadly Judy is gone, and I’d kind of forgotten about my motto.

In the last six months while I’ve been under the weather, not having Judy’s misfortunes to compare mine to made feeling crappy much crappier.

But today I stumbled across a story that inspired me, just the way my sister Judy used to.  It made me feel that somebody is worse off than me.  And it made me glad that I have my own troubles, and not this woman’s.

Today I read a story about a woman whose situation makes me squirm.

A story that made me realize that things for me really aren’t so bad.

A story that turned my frown upside down.

It was an article about an unfortunate woman who, while vacationing in Peru, had a bit of bad luck.  A horn of plenty, running over with misfortune.  A veritable ear full of it.

A British woman returned from a holiday in Peru hearing scratching noises inside her head was told she was being attacked by flesh-eating maggots living inside her ear.


They aren't all this cute. (Google image, natch)

They aren’t all this cute.
(Google image, natch)

Those Tee-shirt guys need to snap this motto up fast.  Because really:

Life is good*

*As long as you don’t have flesh-eating maggots inside your ear.

Well, maybe life isn’t so good if you were eating when you read this.  Then, I just bet, life could be better.


Filed under Climate Change, Conspicuous consumption, Family, Health and Medicine, Hey Doc?, Humor, Science


John and I agree on many, if not most, important things in life.

But we have very different feelings about squirrels.  He hates them and often tries to chase them off.  He runs out of the family room door, waving his arms to shoo them off.

I’m pretty sure our squirrels are baffled by John.  On the one hand, he puts out a delicious smorgasbord for them every single day.  On the other, he runs out, waving his arms in the air, as if warning them of an alien invasion.

“Humans!”  they twitter to each other.  “Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without em!”

Me, I find squirrels so entertaining and so clever, that, well, I just can’t begrudge them some bird seed.  Or most of the bird seed.  I realize that from time to time we have to replace the expensive squirrel-proof bird feeders that they cleverly open, empty and render completely useless.  Then there is the $4.2 billion we spend annually on birdseed instead of the $1.38 we would spend if we only had birds at our buffet.

Yes, a large number of squirrels enjoy E&J’s all-you-can-eat buffet.  If you’re a squirrel at our house, you’re “In with the ‘In-Crowd.'”

Anyway, about two months ago, John walked into the kitchen from the Dining Room where he has been throwing papers around since our dog Cooper got too old to go upstairs to John’s real office where he used to throw his paper.  And John saw a squirrel drinking out of our bird bath.

He started towards the door to do his arm-waving routine, when he stopped.  Because John saw that something else was going to chase the squirrel away!

Another animal came up onto our little deck, and headed towards the squirrel.  A fox!

Google Image

Google Image

The fox lunged at the unsuspecting squirrel, and they both disappeared into the hedge.  Only one of them was ever seen again.

Meet Lucky:

Photo Credit:  ME!

Photo Credit: ME!
(Yeah, it was an incredibly Lucky shot!)

Or maybe we should call him “Sorta Lucky.”


Filed under Conspicuous consumption, Criminal Activity, Family, Humor, Neighbors