Chapter One Hundred Fifty-Seven: Ma’am is Best in Show…

On the cusp of becoming an empty nester, I am turning into one of those “dog people”. You know the crazy ones that sing and talk continuously to their pooches? I keep thinking about how soon, the dog will be the only baby left at home. Walking my fur-baby, I engage in animated conversation with the other dog parents. Bragging about his accomplishments like:” He sat and waited for his treat! He brought his toy over when I asked him to!”(as though he is Einstein!). I hear myself doing a baby voice when speaking to my pup. Yes, it is embarrassing, but like diarrhea, UNCONTROLLABLE.
I have flashbacks of my son in kindergarten and bragging to the other parents about the Michaelangelo-type sculpture he made out of Play-Doh instead of David it was a blob. But, in my eyes, it was a work of art. I am now bragging about my pup not allowing any other dogs to sniff his butt like he is a genius!

We take a weekend trip to my son’s future university. He is not thrilled that his fur brother is coming along. I pack snacks for him and bring his blanket. (For the dog NOT my son.) Who is sulking that the blanket is not for him, he questions why:” I didn’t pack snacks for him?” I offer him blueberry chewies and carrot sticks, but he declines. I explain: “You are headed off to college, you need to start thinking of these kinds of things for yourself.” I feel the evil eyes on my back, he mutters something along the lines of: “You care more about the dog than me!” I want to say: “He doesn’t talk back, nor leave his dirty socks around the house,(albeit he doesn’t wear socks, but you get my point) and he doesn’t leave the toilet seat up!” I turn around and see my fur-baby cuddled up on the blanket, passed out. I snap photos much to Confused Husband and son’s dismay. I send them to my dog walking friends with fun hashtags like#ROADTRIP #SLUMBERINGSWEETHEART. The responses make my phone blow up with compliments.

We stop at a rest area, and I proudly leash the pup up and take him to a patch of grass to do his business. Confused Husband asks: “What do I want?” I order an iced coffee and a kids meal with a plain cheeseburger, bun only. He looks at me. I point to the dog. He shakes his head and walks away. The other dog people are making conversation. I notice that they too speak in baby voices to their pups. But then I take a really hard look at them. I feel like I am in a scene from the movie: “Best in show”. They look crazy! Am I looking like that? They also kind of look like their dogs.

Back in the car, I feed my fur-baby his burger. I lament out loud that I should have gotten him chicken nuggets also. I suggest to my son, “Perhaps he shares some of his food with his brother.” He retorts that: “he doesn’t have a brother”. I look at the toy from the kid’s meal. It’s definitely dangerous with all of its small parts, a choking hazard! Not appropriate for my fur-baby. I offer it to my son like a Peace offering, and he glares at me.

We arrive at the university and walk around. I point out how dog-friendly the city is. Confused Husband suggests that: “The dog apply to go to university here.” I comment, “If they let dogs in, our pup would definitely get in! Head of the class! The Valedictorian of the class.” I proudly state. A look passes between Confused Husband and my son. I hope they don’t try to have me committed, and if they did, would I be able to bring the dog with me? I notice a student walking with his dog. I point out to them: “See! even the university is dog friendly!” Confused Husband bellows: “I am pretty sure that was a service dog and the guy was blind!”
Teenage son adds:” It’s not like he would have a service goat! Of course, it is going to be a dog!”
Whatever, I KNOW that our fur-baby would be the BEST service dog EVER! I think to myself but refrain from saying this out loud.
Hours later, we are sitting in a cafe, it has a “Pup menu,” and there are several other customers with their pups. I triumphantly whisper to the boys: “Our guy is the CUTEST!” They both shoot me looks of disgust.
There is a mangy-looking dog named Bruce who has gravitated toward our pup. I tell the boys not to worry, as our pup is all up to date on his vaccines. They look at each other like that was not even a consideration.
A couple sitting nearby with their poodle Mitzie begins a conversation with me. I admire the setup they have for Mitzie, a fluffy oversized cushion to go on one of the seats. She jumps up and sits like the Queen awaiting her subjects. Mitzie’s parents have a bag it’s like a diaper bag. I am enthralled by what they pull out of it. I feel like Monty Hall watching an audience member rummage through their purse on Let’s Make a Deal!
They produce a food bowl and what looks like a lobster bib from their magic-type Mary Poppins bag. (I want one of those bags!).
Confused Husband and son are mocking the ridiculousness of the couple, on the other hand, I admire the careful consideration they have put into their pup.
I look down at our pup, he is lying on the concrete ground munching on his carrot sticks, oblivious to the five-star treatment bestowed upon the pooch next to us. I question if I am a good fur-baby parent.
There is a dog park next to the cafe. I inform the boys that I am taking our pup over. They could care less as they are debating what to get for dessert.
The dog park is lovely. There are a few dogs milling about. Their humans are talking. I let my boy off the leash he runs around like the Tasmanian devil. The other dog people clearly know one another. I hear whispers of: “So rambunctious.” “He doesn’t lift his leg when he pees!” They are critiquing my baby, and I don’t like it. I find myself in Mama-bear mode.
I look at their pups all coiffed and polished. Okay, my boy is scruffy and marches to the beat of his own drum. But, he is sweet, kind, cuddly, and LOVES watching Scandanavian and British cop shows with me. I want to share this with the group but decide against it.
A woman pushing a stroller saunters over to the group, it is not a baby in the stroller but, a fat dog with a pin-sized head. She and the blobby dog are greeted like they are royalty. One of the dog guys helps her lift the dog who I find out is named Howard out of the stroller. Howard is plopped on the ground where he remains. His body is so obese that I can’t even see his legs. My pup makes a bee-line for Fat-Howard, as I now dub him. He begins gyrating on Fat-Howards head. Gasps of incredulity are heard. I nervous laugh and attempt to pull my pup off Fat-Howard’s pinhead.
I look over at the cafe hoping to catch Confused Husband’s eye, but he and our son are elbows deep in tiramisu. Before I know it, Mitzi and her people have joined the fray. They announce: “How uncouth is he! Imagine, being new to OUR dog park and behaving like a sexual deviant!” “Poor Howard!” I look over at my pup who is going to town on Fat-Howard. I feel like I am in a scene in Les Mis and the pitchforks and yelling are about to ensue. While the boys are consuming their tiramisu, I will be murdered in the dog park.
Finally, I am able to pull him off and scoop him up. Like Hester Prynne, a shamed woman, I skulk away with Fat-Howards’ alleged assailant.

Back in the car with the boys, I don’t share the dog park debacle. I silently wonder if next time we are here if my fur-baby needs to wear a disguise. Will there be posters up of him as WANTED? Will his photo be hanging throughout the city like he is some sexual deviant? Warning other fur-baby parents to steer clear?

I consider asking if it is too late for my son to change schools…

Chapter One Hundred Fifty-six: Is Ma’am a head-banger?…

I am taking this summer to reflect on many things. Our final child is off to college this fall. We will be empty nesters. I feel bittersweet about it all. I am concentrating on being present and relishing these moments. I want my son to go to college with happy memories, thinking his mom is cool, and not just nagging him about: “Getting his stuff done.”
I agree to go to a heavy metal concert when, at the last minute, Confused Husband cannot go. My speed is Michael Buble, Barbra Streisand. But I will be the hip mom that can hang with the bikers, tattooed peeps, etc… I can be a tough bad, bitch like I assume the audience of this concert will be. I don’t have any biker clothes, I contemplate buying some Cracker Jacks and hope the prize inside the box will be one of those rub-on tattoos, but the chances of me getting a whistle or plastic nail clipper is in my favor.
I decide to draw one on my inner wrist. A fleur de lis is my choice. I use a black marker. I wear a flowy skirt, and a simple t-shirt hoping my “Je ne sais quois” approach is acceptable to my future audience members. I am all about being non-confrontational. I don’t need some Large-Marg beating me to a pulp because I am channeling Martha Stewart at a crack house. Looking extremely out of place.
I feel confident. On the metro, I see other headbangers. They are like me in their fifties. But they are squeezed into denim ensembles that probably fit them well thirty years ago. I peruse my fellow metro riders and imagine this is what a Clam bake with the Hells Angels would be like.
Men with ZZ-Top-esque beards, leather vests, no shirts, guts spilling out onto oversized belt buckles with skulls. Tattoos that make Travis Barker look like a choir boy.
The women are wearing bandanas and braids like Swiss Miss. (I laugh to myself imagining a rocker-type Heidi beating someone up, perhaps between cussing and yodeling.) Everyone is happy. I smile, then frown, realizing I have forgotten my earplugs.
At the venue, loud music is playing. You can feel the excitement in the air. We find our seats. I order a margarita and suck it down, hoping the alcohol will soothe my ears. A man on the other side of me engages in conversation. I can’t hear a word he is saying. I nod and smile, hoping that is sufficient. He smiles broadly and shakes my hand aggressively. I wonder if I just agreed to join his cult or consent to us getting matching tattoos. Perhaps I have acquiesced to be his drug mule. I haven’t a clue.

The various rockers come out on stage. They are old. I am old as well. But they jump and gyrate like crazy. If I attempted some of their moves, I would break a hip. I am sweating. I wipe my upper lip with my wrist because I have forgotten my anti-bacterial sanitizer. I actually recognize many of the songs. I clap and sing along. I look over at my son who is enjoying himself. This makes me happy!

The cameras pan out on the crowd, scanning the audience and showing it on the enormous Jumbo screens. People wave or kiss when they see themselves on the screen. It pans to my seat mate who may be my future tattoo buddy. He flips the bird and sticks out his tongue(classy). It pans to me, I shyly wave then freeze. I see myself on the Jumbotron. Above my upper lip, there is black paint from my faux tattoo. I look like Hitler. It seems like the camera won’t come off of me. I turn my head. My son looks horrified. I have just lost the cool mom award. Hastily I attempt to wipe the smear off of my face. Now I have black lips. I look like I should be at a Goth concert instead.

The concert is in full mode. I sprint to the restroom and clean myself up. The women in there are die-hard heavy metal fans. They are kind, sweet, and funny. I would be friends with them. I tell them all about my Hitler mustache faux pas. They laugh and we are fast friends. We grab drinks and head back to our seats. My son is singing the songs, but I can’t understand any of the lyrics. My seatmate is drinking and standing up swaying to the music. The lead singer for Def Leppard has on the most beautiful peacock blue jacket. I snap a photo and send it to Confused Husband informing him that this is the couch color I want. He responds that I am at a great concert, and instead of listening to the songs, I am concentrating on the color of a jacket(this is how I roll.)

It begins to rain, but I don’t care. Perhaps the margaritas have kicked in. I am swaying to the music. I look over at my son and he actually is smiling at me! I will take that brief moment between us.

Later on in the metro, we reminisce about our concert. I confess that I actually enjoyed myself. I also share that the best part was sharing it with him. He smiles and informs me that I am now a GIF amongst his friends looking like Hitler at a rock concert. Like I said these moments are fleeting…

Chapter One Hundred Fifty-Five: Ma’am isn’t pretty in pink…

Lately, I feel like I have been living in a John Hughes film. My teenage son is experiencing those milestones that come with being a senior in high school. College acceptances, exams, prom, and graduation. He recently broke up with his girlfriend. It was like the end of the world of doom and gloom. Endless hours of tears, teen angst, and conversation.

It turned into: “Now I don’t have a date for prom!” No worries, your posse of boys are on it. Sam offered his elder spinster cousin, whom he informed us: “Was forty but could easily pass for 39.” Apparently, she enjoyed getting dressed up and had been on several prom dates throughout the years (I wonder if I should send Chris Hansen’s Dateline- to catch a predator an email?)

Max had the answer: Confidently proclaiming: “Why don’t you sign up on Tinder? ” Although he did share that his older brother had a less than stellar experience when he met a woman who was(Max’s words) “Ancient like fifty!” and had to leave the restaurant early because her kids were in the car.

I observe these boys, old enough(according to our government-NOT according to me!) to enroll in the military, drive a car, and drink(if they lived overseas). Yet, realistically they cannot find their way out of a paper bag! They are children.

I announce: “No one is getting their prom date off Tinder, from an old cousin, or any other nincompoop idea!” They look at me like I am one of those crazy cat ladies who doesn’t have a clue.

Julian suggests we put an ad on Craigslist. (How the HELL did these kids get into Ivy League schools?!) After I lecture them on the dangers of Craigslist and make them watch that Lifetime movie: “The Craigslist Killer,” to drive home my point, I decide to hold an impromptu John Hughes film fest in our home. I select, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Buellers day off, and The Breakfast Club. I put on my teacher hat and explain that teenage life and angst have been around forever! WAY before Google, cell phones, Instagram, Tik Tok, Tinder, Twitter, YouTube, etc… and we survived! Solved our own problems and just figured it out. They look at me on my soapbox and text each other, albeit sitting next to one another. I snatch my son’s phone and, in all caps, he has written in the group text MENOPAUSE!

I like Michele Obama says: “When they go low, we go high!” and ignore this judgment from the Peanut Gallery. I start with Ferris Bueller, which they actually enjoy and sit through. Once in a while, comments about: “What’s that?”(about the good old landline wall phone! the clothes and hairstyles,) I feel like I am a narrator from National Geographic, depicting the accounts and lifestyle of a long ago, forgotten tribe called “The 80’s”. (In a whisper like the commentators at one of those golf events:) “Ferris Bueller AKA, Matthew Broderick, whom FYI is now an almost sixty-year-old man, is speaking on a LANDLINE phone. It is attached to the wall or placed on a desk. The person on the phone can only go as far as the cord is long.” I whisper, watching their eyes become even larger; at this tidbit of info. I move on to Sixteen Candles, and they again laugh at the ridiculous phone scenarios and are shocked that we actually had Home-Ec and Shop as classes in school. Remarks are thrown out there about the “lame” situations. Laughter at “the absurd wardrobes, slang words, and phrases: “gnarly, Geek, Gag me with a spoon!, Eat my shorts!” is mentioned.

We move on to The Breakfast Club. I receive looks of horror as I sing along with Simple Minds: “Don’t you forget about me!” song. (Do NOT tell me when you hear that song, you don’t dance and sing along too!) Again, the Peanut Gallery chimes in with their opinions. My entire reason for this homage to John Hughes films is to show that it doesn’t matter what era, teen uncertainty and emotions are the same! That you will survive this.

The crescendo is Pretty In Pink and the timeless dilemma of “NO PROM DATE!” I try to infuse this wisdom by pointing out how all along, Duckie, the reliable friend, was there to help Andie in her time of need. That, sometimes you don’t have to look too far. (or on Tinder, Craigslist, etc.. to find what you are looking for!) It can be right next to you!” I smile triumphantly as I state my case.

I am met with stone-cold silence and looks of confusion. The boys give each other side-eye. Within minutes a verbal argument breaks out about “Who is Duckie in their group and has to go to prom with my son?!”

I observe the Peanut Gallery and their debate of nonsense and realize all of the things we went through as teens, and it was the same emotions. Yet, we didn’t have all of this technological interference.

We went to prom in groups, packed in the way, way, backs of station wagons or a friend’s father had a funeral parlor, so a limo with the funeral home sign stuck on the side, advertising the funeral parlor.

Prom dresses were found in thrift stores or on sale from Sears and JC Penny. Some made in Home-ec class. A borrowed tux from an uncle repurposed from a Bar mitzvah. We had the same worries, but because of the times, it wasn’t so blatant and public.

Maybe we were fortunate enough to have one of those Instamatic cameras, or someone’s mom or dad had a good camera and would develop the film for everyone. These moments are fleeting, and instead of the what if’s, they should just be savoring each occasion. Not worrying about all of this other stuff. Enjoying the moment at hand.

I leave the boys with these quotes of wisdom from the immortal and brilliant Ferris Bueller:

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Chapter One Hundred Fifty-Four: Ma’am and the “Crow”-cussion…

I have never been a fan of birds. Ever since I was little, my Hungarian babushka-wearing Grandmother would share horror stories of how dirty and lethal birds were. She claimed her sole purpose of wearing a babushka was merely in case a bird pooped on her head. The babushka would protect her hair, as well as her health, from all the diseases birds carry in their poop.

I have spent most of my life like Chicken-Little, looking up at the sky in fear of an atomic blast of poop raining down on top of me.
While all the other kids were being taken to the park and bought ice cream by their Grandmother, mine was plopping me down in front of the tv to watch The Birds whenever it was on. I was too young to watch it. That didn’t stop the Babushka-wearing bird poop czar from forcing me to view it to prove her point, just how dangerous birds were. The terror from that film till this day lives inside of me.

There also seemed to be an epidemic of serial killers back in those days. We had one in our city. It was my Grandmother. Several neighbors had pet birds; they were turning up dead or missing at an alarming rate. The pigeons in the local parks were being poisoned. I can’t prove it, but I guarantee the Poop Czar had something to do with it.

The other day, I was walking the dog. Of course, I was looking up at the sky, waiting for a storm of bird poop to come pouring down on me. It was inevitable. The Poop-Czar had promised the birds would eventually get me. I was about to cross the street when I saw what looked like a black tornado swirling and zooming towards me out of the corner of my eye. I panicked! A shit-tornado was my guess, and it was aiming for my head. I picked up my dog with lightning speed, and like George Costanza with the frogger game, I darted across the intersection against the light. I zig-zagged and decided that I would instead get hit by a car, then wind up in a funnel cloud of fecal.

Horns honked, and people yelled obscenities at me. I didn’t care! I was outrunning the fecal funnel. I was about to reach the other side of the intersection when the black horn approached. I couldn’t outrun it. It swooped down and, THWACK!
An enormous wing with a gigantic span smacked me like a ton of bricks across my forehead. I felt like a bobblehead the way my head was bobbing back and forth. I spun around and attempted to get my bearings. My ears were ringing, my head buzzing.

Dazed and confused I stumbled through the intersection. A man got out of his car bellowing: “If I didn’t see it with my own eyes! That was something!” he said enthusiastically with an enormous smile like he was a game show host that had just gifted me a new car. I stared at him attempting to understand what had just occurred. Unaware, he continued with his diatribe on the crow and their history. He chalked up their enormous size to climate change and the pandemic which has”allowed them to thrive.” His assertion of the “Crow-tastrophe” as he labeled it, was:” Two gangs of crows fighting for their turf,” and apparently I was in the crossfire. (Great I have Jim Fowler here in person giving me a Wild Kingdom tutorial!).

I feel my forehead and notice a relatively large neanderthal-like bump forming across my brow. The faux Jim Fowler continues.: “Let me put this in Layman’s terms. Did you ever see West Side Story?” I nod, the speed bump across my forehead now has its own zip code. A small crowd of witnesses has circled around us. I overhear teenagers laughing and lamenting that:” they wished they had recorded it for Tik Tok because it was epic!” (I am glad my trauma was Tik Tok worthy.)

Jim Fowler continues: “Think about The Sharks and The Jets, fighting over their turf. That’s what was occurring.” (If the crows had broken out in song singing:)

“When you’re a Jet, You’re a Jet all the way
From your first cigarette
To your last dyin’ day.” Then I would have been interested.

I just want to go home. I am dizzy and embarrassed. My swollen forehead has now become a built-in visor. (At least Tippi Hedren didn’t have an airstrip across her forehead). A woman leans in and says to me: “You better get your head checked out.” She is wearing scrubs, I assume she is a doctor. I ask her if: “It’s possible I could have a concussion?” She nods her head and says: “It’s plausible, but chances are you’re fine.” I query if: “she is a doctor or nurse?” and she informs me that she is a veterinarian. So her patients were the assailants. I lose faith in trusting her diagnosis.

Faux Jim Fowler wants to know if:” I am calling the cops?” I may be dazed but I am not brain-damaged. “For what?” I ask him. “You know to report this crime.” He scoffs like I am ridiculous for even questioning him. I say: “So when they ask for a description of my assailants, what do I say? They had wings, were black, and had beaks?” I feel like Tippi Hedren confronting Hitchcock.

I head home, leaving the stew of nonsense behind me. My Neanderthal brow ridge accompanies me. Entering the house, Confused Husband gapes at me, his eyes fixated on my new appendage, lackadaisically he asks:” And how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?”

Chapter One Hundred Fifty-Three: Ma’am and the crown…

When you are little, a crown has a whole different meaning. It conjures up Princesses, flowy, dresses, dragons, castles, and a Prince or two. Crowns and tiaras become a part of a wardrobe staple for some little girls and boys, that they may carry on into adulthood. Celebrations such as weddings, Summer Solstice, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, all visualize crowns made of flowers, jewels, ribbons, etc…

But the word crown takes on a whole new meaning when one enters middle age. Like most things that occur during middle age, it isn’t pleasant. The word crown does not leave one with a wistful, dreamy feeling. Instead, within, it generates angst, apprehension, and a visit to one of the most unnerving places, the dreaded dentist.

Visions of Dustin Hoffman being tortured by Sir Laurence Olivier as the Nazi dentist in the movie Marathon Man always seems to flash through my mind whenever I enter the dentist’s office. Of course, my dentist is out of town, and I have a dental emergency, a  loose crown. I call the answering service and assume they will direct me to my dentist’s backup person, of course, that would be way too easy.

Instead, I am basically told I must wait until my dentist returns. I pull on my big girl pants and decide that I can do this. One day later… I have had enough of eating soup and fearing that I will wake up and have swallowed my crown. I could never last on one of those shows like Survivor. I call the answering service back and ask them to please have my dentist call me. Several hours later she returns my call. I hear waves and seagulls. I picture my dentist frolicking on a beach while discussing my crown situation. I apologize profusely for disturbing her on vacation, but I don’t think I can wait until she gets back from holiday. She tells me that she will text me in a bit and let me know.

I wait…I am so hungry and debate whether to attempt to make a sandwich but only chew on the left side of my mouth opposite from the crown side. I am too fearful that my crown may come out and become a part of my sandwich. Cheese, tomato, and lettuce, plus a crown between a baguette. I chicken out from my sandwich aspirations and munch on a banana. I Google crown situations and am inundated with horrific pictures of Hill Billy’s with missing teeth.

I call Confused Husband in a state of panic. He informs me that I better not lose that crown because our insurance won’t cover another one an homage to the WONDERFUL (code for despicable, ridiculousness,) health care coverage in the United States.

I receive a text and am instructed to call this number. I call and the receptionist is a low talker. I can barely understand what she is saying to me. She is also muffled because I can tell she is wearing a mask. I hear something about ten am tomorrow, an email. I gratefully say thank you and hope I understood her. A few minutes later I get a text and it’s from this dental place. They send what seems to be a War and Peace number of forms for me to fill out. All I want is my crown to be recemented! I basically sign away my life and wait.

The next day I jump in an Uber and explain to Khalil the Uber driver, how stressed I am about going to the dentist, and what if it’s worse than I thought? I ask him if he ever saw Marathon Man and what if I become Dustin Hoffman’s character and that happens to me? I suggest that maybe Khalil waits for me and we have a safe word which if I call him and say, so he can rescue me. I propose that if I call him and say: “The pancake is fluffy.” That means help come get me. Khalil informs me that he doesn’t know about this film, and he doesn’t like pancakes, he finds them too sweet.

I explain that he is:” NOT eating a pancake, it’s just code for help!” He responds: “Why don’t you just call and say help?”  WHY IS EVERYTHING SO DIFFICULT?!  I give him a quick synopsis of the film. He asks: “Why would you go to a Nazi for your dentist? Do you think this dentist is a Nazi?”  “Did you Google to make sure that they are not Nazis?” Khalil is missing the point. he also notifies me that he cannot wait, because he has other riders to pick up. I also share with Khalil that it’s not like Nazis advertise on Google.

Khalil drops me off and says: “I hope the Nazi dentist doesn’t pull out your teeth.” (Thanks so much for those reassuring words!) I head into the building. I tell everyone on the elevator about my dental emergency and express my fear of a reenactment of Marathon Man. no one seems to know this film! Do people not watch movies anymore?!

I get off the elevator and enter what looks like a spa. It smells delicious, and new age music is playing. I am pretty sure I hear a drill that the new age Pan flutist is trying to drown out. The low talker who has a name tag on that says” Z” greets me. Even in person and standing 3 feet away, I can’t understand her. I hand her the pile of papers and wait.

A few minutes later a bubbly dental hygienist with the nametag “G” comes to collect me (I assume it’s part of their theme to use only the first letter of each name.) I attempt to guess what her name is and instead of telling me she just laughs when I start throwing in names like Geronimo, and Gomer.  She is vibrant and talkative but refuses to say her name. I find that extremely odd. She tells me the Doctor will be in to see me soon.

In breezes a child in a white medical coat. I don’t even think he can shave yet. His nametag says “Dr. V” (okay this is bananas!) I exclaim:” So I have Doogie Houser as my dentist!” he stares at me. He is SOOOOOO young, that he doesn’t get this reference! I explain it to him.

Doogie has me lay in the chair and gives me those senior wrap-around -sunglasses which I find insulting until I realize they are because he essentially has shined a lighthouse beacon in my face. WTF?!  Not only will I be toothless but blind as well.

The vibrant hygienist comes in and they are oohing and ahhing into my mouth. dental terms are tossed out there. The exclamations are hard to decipher. Doogie the dentist informs me that I need braces and he has never seen such a case as mine. (I want to say “WTF?!” but he is wrist-deep in my mouth.)  He then says:” No one has ever recommended braces to you?” I attempt to say: “No!” and bite his finger. He jumps back in shock (right like that has never happened before). He then asks Miss Bubbly to hold my tongue back so he can investigate because not only do I need braces but, I apparently have a rather abnormally large tongue. (I know I have a large ass but wasn’t aware my tongue was fat too.)

This is getting better by the minute. I am then informed they are taking X-rays. (I just want my crown recemented!) X-rays are taken and I feel like I was starring in a tooth photo shoot so many were snapped. There is a major discussion about my X-rays, and a crowd has descended to view them. Hushed whispers and conversations are occurring, and I have no idea what is going on.

FINALLY, I am given my results.  Doogie the dentist informs me that, he pauses dramatically and looks down at the ground (OMG! HE FOUND SOMETHING IN MY XRAY AND WHAT A TUMOR?!!!) he sighs and clasps my hands and says:” It looks like you need another root canal on that tooth.” So now I need a root canal AND braces?!!! And I have a fat tongue too! This day just keeps improving! I just want him to cement my crown back on. I have lived fifty-plus years with apparently Bugs Bunny teeth so why the hell would I get braces now?! He prods and pokes for another twenty minutes and now my mouth is beginning to hurt.

Miss Bubbly comes in and assists him in finally recementing my crown. They act like they are performing open-heart surgery with all of their seriousness. I have to bite down and wait. He then gently says:” He will meet me in the consultation room.”

OMG, I just want to leave. After Miss Bubbly AKA “G” checks me. I am then escorted into the “Consultation room.” It is down a long windowless corridor, there seem to be no exits. In the windowless, and I assume soundproof room, I am seated with two other men in white medical coats. Yes, I am in a dental cult. I still have my Senior Ray Charles shades on as well. All I need is Confused Husband here in a Hawaiian shirt, and we would look like tourists visiting a time-share place.

Dr. Mitch and Dr. Ian are introduced to me and shared that they reviewed my X-rays and have come up with my treatment program. Well, several and we can see which works better for you. They present three different options. I am so baffled! The first plan is a photo of some weird 1970 brace headgear akin to Hannibal Lecter that they are suggesting I wear for my buck teeth. They explain the process and the payment options which cost more than a weekend getaway including flight and lodging, plus food.

I attempt to say” I just wanted a loose crown recemented. I have a dentist.” But every time I attempt to speak I am thwarted.  This is turning into me in a car dealership about to pay for an overpriced lemon. Dr. Ian says: “I have to believe in their ability to fix this.” I feel like I am one of those people Leah Remini interviewed in that Scientology documentary. 

I casually look at the door and wonder if it is locked. They attempt to book me an appointment and ask for my credit card info. I loudly say: “Why would I pay when I have insurance?!” They inform me that their practice doesn’t accept insurance and after I pay them via credit card, they will submit it to my insurance company and then my insurance company can reimburse me. I really am immersed in a dental timeshare, Gaslight situation.

I stand to leave and tell them: “Thanks, but no thanks.” They smile like they know something, and I don’t. They change tactics and present a PowerPoint on “Buck teeth nightmares “The pictures are traumatic, and I want to gag. I run my tongue over my own buckteeth and wonder…

Miss Bubbly comes into the room and informs the two heads of the dental cult that there is a medical emergency (probably another victim held captive found a window and jumped to escape.) They leap up and act like they are George Clooney and Anthony Edwards in a scene from ER about to save a guy that’s been skewered by a flagpole.

Dr. Ian turns to me and says: “Always life and death situations for us doctors!” (Ahh, okay, good thing I have these shades on so they can’t see the eye roll.) They dramatically exit the room and I seize my chance to escape.

I run JUST like Dustin Hoffman did for my life!  I have just escaped from a cult. Running out of the building. I sprint to the metro and make sure I wasn’t followed. I breathe a sigh of relief! The metro is packed! A man offers me his seat, and he leads me to sit by my elbow. I realize I still have these ridiculous sunglasses on and he must think I am blind!

Sitting, I begin to unpack my almost cult brainwashing scenario. I imagine myself being interviewed by Leah Remini and retelling my harrowing escape! My phone rings and it’s Confused Husband bellowing into the phone “Why are we charged two hundred dollars for glasses from a dentist? Why is a dentist selling glasses?” “Why would you buy glasses from a dentist?” I turn into Helen Keller. I pretend that I also am deaf…

Chapter One Hundred Fifty-Two: Ma’am and the dinner party…

Nowadays one needs a playbook before attending a dinner party. There is a list of topics safe to discuss, and those that are not. There are the schematics of who is who and how they are six degrees of Kevin Bacon.

We are walking to a dinner party at a friend’s house several blocks from our home. I feel like the coach before the Super Bowl discussing the play-by-play with Confused Husband. He sighs dramatically and tells me to stop chastising him like he is a child. I mention the Christmas of 2000 and my former friend(yes, former) Kara and her Christmas Party. It went something like this: On the way to the party, I repeat myself EASILY fifty times telling Confused Husband that Kara and her hubby got their boys the Playstation2 that they have been wanting as their big Christmas present and they were hiding it at our house in the basement. Crestfallen, he says he saw it and thought that it was his gift from me, (are you smoking crack?!, you, my friend are getting socks, underwear, and whatever gifts the kids have made you!).
I go over and over NOT to bring the Playstation 2 up at all! We get to the party, ring the doorbell, and Kara’s eldest son Alex answers the door. Confused Husband says: “Hey man! are you psyched for your PlayStation 2?!” Alex goes tearing through the house yelling: “Mom did you get me a PlayStation 2?!” Needless to say, that was the last time I saw Kara. Her husband followed us home to collect the Playstation 2 from our home. We didn’t even make it out of the foyer into the actual party.

Fast forward to now. I inform him that I REALLY like these friends and would like to keep them! I brief him on Kyle and Craig a wonderful Gay couple who are living in the English basement of our friends Jen and Stu’s home. Kyle used to live next door to Jen and Stu with his wife Grace and their three children. But then Kyle fell in love with Craig, Grace’s hairdresser and he moved out. For the benefit of the children, Kyle rented Jen and Stu’s basement apartment so he could still co-parent the kids with Grace. Grace is now dating a man named Frank, but we aren’t sure if Frank is a Scientologist or Jehova’s Witness so don’t talk about any cult-like stuff or mention anything about Tom Cruise for heaven’s sake! Confused Husband stops walking and looks at me: “Why would I bring up Tom Cruise? How random is that! Plus, if he is a Jehova I could have him spread the word to his flock not to ring our doorbell because we are uninterested in joining. Maybe if he put in a good word, we would stop getting visitors!” I reiterate: “NO!”

Then, I share that Bev and her annoying nasal talking husband Greg are going to be there and I lower my voice and say: “I think he is a closeted Republican, so no political jokes period!” he looks like he has just swallowed something tart. I share that:” Greg has recently taken up whittling wood and that would be a safe subject to venture into.” I also point out: “Greg’s first work is that giant wood piece in their garden a replica of Nessie the Loch Ness monster. “
Confused Husband says: “That thing! I thought that was a giant wooden penis! He better not quit his day job!”(I don’t enlighten him by saying: “Well actually, he did quit his job to become a professional wood whittler and it obviously is affecting their marriage!”)

I tell him about Theo:” who makes Vegan candles which I don’t understand because I thought that wax was not from an animal, to begin with.” I instruct Confused Husband: “not to share with Theo his love for Yankee Candles and all of the marvelous scents. Because I am pretty sure they are not vegan candles, and I have smelt Theo’s candles and they smell like body odor. So don’t offer to sniff his candles either.” He glares at me and retorts: “Why would I go up to some strange man and ask to sniff his candles?!”

Confused Husband sighs dramatically and says: “This is harder than studying for medical school to become a doctor!” I wonder out loud, “and, you would know this how?… Are you a secret doctor and I have never known this?”
I move on to another couple that will be there as well, Chloe and Hannah. But they identify as “They’s” not she or her. He looks perplexed: “Well, what if they are only singular? The word “they” means more than one person! So can I say you?”(Oh he is going down a slippery slope on this one!) I tell him:” Just use their first names PERIOD!”
I also brief him not to stare too much at Grace’s awful hair color and cut. She stopped going to Craig because of him cheating on her with her husband. She now goes to Chloe from the “They” couple, but Chloe is partially blind and therefore has issues as a hairdresser. But she does have a handicapped parking pass and people are wondering if she should even be driving? So don’t bring that up! Nothing about handicapped or parking okay?!” Confused Husband looks annoyed and shakes his head.: “I mean I was going to mention that handicapped dog on wheels that I wanted to adopt for the handicapped parking pass! That was going to be my story for the night! Now I have to think of something else!”
I am GOBSMACKED!:” What are you auditioning for the Tonight Show?!, what do you mean by your story for the night?! Are we going to a dinner party? Or are you practicing your standup?!”
He looks as though I have just told him that there is no such thing as Santa Claus. He loud whispers to me: “Walk slower! I have to think of something!” (At this rate we won’t get there until morning!) I am also lugging this berry-baked cheesecake that I was assigned by Jen to make. It weighs a ton! Confused Husband is too deep in thought to even offer to help carry it! I should have wheeled it in the wheelbarrow!
He attempts to try out his schtick on me: “How about if I tell them about the time you were picked up in the Gap by a lesbian and had coffee with her before you realized you were on a date? That was HILARIOUS! I bet they would have a laugh at that!”
OMG! He is so ANNOYING! “Why don’t you pretend to be a Monk and practice a vow of silence?!”

We finally arrive at the dinner party. Jen answers the door and is thrilled with my berry-baked cheesecake! She whisks us in and announces to the group: “Our arrival and this FABULOUS gluten-free dessert are here!”
I am so perplexed (What gluten-free dessert?!). I just smile. I excuse myself and dash into the loo. I pull up the recipe on my phone. I scroll through it, at the very, very, bottom it has a gluten-free section! I look at Jen’s text. Again, at the bottom which I didn’t read, it says: “Please make the gluten-free one. FUCK!!!!! I Google: “What happens if you eat a non-gluten-free item?” Various scenarios come up. I mean nothing life-threatening other than some stomach and digestive issues. It’s not like I am giving a diabetic sugar right?
I begin to sweat. Knowing my Charlie Brown luck, if I don’t divulge I would probably wind up murdering people. I would be known as the Berry-Baked Cheesecake serial killer. My weapon of choice is a faux gluten-free berry-baked cheesecake. I can just see the Netflix series now trending with a picture of me with bad hair because the only other survivor was Chloe the blind hairdresser, who forgave me and visits me in prison, and styles my hair. Who am I a known serial killer to say no to such a kind offer? Plus I am in prison for life, so does it really matter what my hair looks like?

Ugh! Exiting the loo I pull Jen aside and explain my faux pas. She looks so disappointed in me. Like I have committed the ultimate sin. I offer to send Confused Husband up to Whole Foods bakery, to purchase gluten-free desserts, and for the rest of us, we can eat the berry-baked cheesecake. Jen is thinking. She scowls and says: “It isn’t fair that some of us can sit here eating this but for the gluten-free people they have to eat whatever from the bakery now is it?”So now I am being shamed for being able to eat gluten? Will I leave this dinner party with a Scarlet letter a giant G on me like a modern-day Hester Prynne?
There are whispers amongst the guests like I have just brought in a Tupperware filled with cocaine.
I long for the days of a simpler time. When there wasn’t all of this over-analyzing
I mean how much thought is going into this? Are we trying to figure out a world crisis?! Why is EVERYTHING a BIG deal?! Why is there so much discussion and thought and debate put into dessert?! What happened all those years of people eating Velveeta, Cool-Whip, sugar-coated cereal, pop-tarts, microwaved TV dinners? Okay, some are now obese or dead but for those of us still, here I mean as Marie Antoinette said” Let them eat (gluten-free)cake!

Chapter One Hundred Fifty-One: Ma’am, Buddy, and Rumspringa…

The journey in search of a new pup hasn’t been as easy as one may think, as, in my last post, there was a whole Puppy-gate scenario, involving Russians and money after that, I really tried to find a pup through the proper channels.

I joined these adopt a pet websites and like a food order from Uber Eats put it on my wish list. I got daily alerts of dogs that were a good match. At first, for some reason, I was matched with a lot of senior dogs on their last legs. I wondered if this is how the millennials running these websites pictured me. There was Sally who was blind and came with her own oxygen tank(I wondered out loud to Confused Husband if perhaps we could share Sally’s oxygen tank?)
Then there was Oscar, who had wheels for hind legs. I envisioned being allotted a Handicapped Parking pass, and how easy it would be for me to park in the city. Confused Husband was totally against getting Oscar who he pointed out(no pun intended was basically on his last leg.) It wasn’t until I suggested that we may be eligible for a Handicapped parking pass that I saw the wheels(again, no pun intended) turning in Confused Husband’s head. He became enthusiastic about Oscar and gave me the Used car salesman talk of how he could see us with Oscar taking him and his wheels out for a stroll, and he pointed out rather jubilantly having this pass, we could park closer to places because of it, so Oscar wouldn’t have to wheel too far. So he began his research(GOOGLE) into this possibility.

I was growing frustrated by the minute. Of course, these dogs deserved love and a good home, but we had just lost our senior dog and I didn’t wasn’t to go through this again like a week after we got one of these dogs from the look of their pictures and bio. I wanted a younger dog that I could have time with.

My quest for the pooch for our family began and let me tell you, the roller coaster of emotions that followed are exhausting. I filled out forms with essays as to why we would be a good fit for the dog we were interested in. It was more intricate than college or job applications!

I was really trying to sell our family as the PERFECT family for Fido. I had to leave out things like the time Confused Husband picked up the wrong dog from the groomers(I had the inkling they would not have seen the humor in this.) How we fed our last dog pizza, and copious amounts of cheese. Then I was instructed once my application had been sent it would be reviewed by “OUR TEAM”.
If they felt it was a good fit they would contact our references and then if that went well, and they were positive about our references, the next step was a phone interview with me, and if that were successful, then a virtual house tour. Hopefully, if that passed their muster, then we would have a meet and greet with Fido. Next, we would sign the papers, pay the fee, and then take Fido home. Now, this process could take up to a month or more depending on how fast the steps went. If we were fortunate enough to bring Fido home, we would have follow-ups with our adoption counselor. I pointed out to Confused Husband when we adopted one of our daughters we had half the paperwork and it was ten times easier!

I felt like our file was in the hands of a bunch of kids who were sitting in a cube-like hipster place resembling Google Headquarters judging us. It was unnerving. They were picking apart everything I said, and overanalyzing each word every day I waited, sweating like a nun in a cucumber patch for”The Call”. Crickets…

One night, scrolling through my phone without my glasses which were somewhere that I didn’t have the bandwidth to look for this blurry yet ADORABLE face popped up on my phone. I clicked it and when I did I heard a symphony in my head. I scrolled down being able to get the gist of what it said because, without my readers, it is like reading hieroglyphics! I made out the part where the sweet boy was in Pennsylvania. I pictured this little Amish dog with a little black hat and suspenders!
I searched for and finally found my glasses because I HAD to fill out the paperwork for this boy! Clueless next to me, Confused Husband attempting to sleep muttered: “You better not be Amazon shopping!” With verve and truth, I shouted: “Nope!” This was soooo much better! I filled out the application and sent it. I lay there thinking and hoping.

The next morning the owner made contact with me, explaining why they were having to rehome their pup. For the next week, we exchanged emails. Then we decide to meet. I made the choice not to share any of this with Confused Husband just in case it didn’t work out.

The night before I was going to meet the dog, over dinner I broached the subject of perhaps getting a young rehomed dog?

Fervently cutting into his chicken and using his utensils to point with dramatic flair, he began a tangent of: “People only rehome their dogs because the dog is like Cujo!” (OMG! what if my sweet Amish dog was being rehomed because he murdered an entire Amish family by eating them as they slept?! You wouldn’t read about it in the papers since the Amish keep to themselves!”) I begin to sweat. Confused Husband notices and says: “I thought your pills that we pay the equivalent of a mortgage for every month are supposed to help your hot flashes! ” He bellows using his fork like a Maestro conductor. I sheepishly say: “Oh maybe I need a higher dosage?”
He shakes his head, and rants on about: “How we are being ripped off in this country for proper health care, and if we didn’t have to pay for my monthly prescription then we could use that money for vacation instead!”

I am thinking about my secret rendevous tomorrow. What if I am meeting a sex slave trafficker!? I send an email out and tell the guy:” That I am a middle-aged, menopausal woman and I think the dog will help me lose weight by walking every day.” (Hopefully, if he was planning on kidnapping me and selling me to some billionaire who wants a harem I will be out of the running after this!) He responds “Okay…”
It is an extremely ambiguous response! As usual, I can never leave well enough alone so I throw in another email saying:” How we used to have an Amish market nearby and I LOVE the pies and other items! I then go on a diatribe of my love for all things Amish! I ask though how hard is it to live without electricity? I share that I could NEVER live without central air conditioning and ice cubes. I also say that I don’t think I have the face for one of their bonnets that the female Amish need to wear and I can’t use a porta-potty so I don’t think I could ever use an outhouse!”
He responds: “See you tomorrow at noon.”

That night, I cannot sleep. I turn and look at Confused Husband and wonder if this is my last night on earth? He is clueless as to what my plans are. I get up and head into our son’s room. He is up gaming and I give him a giant bear hug and say: “I love you!” (I didn’t want his last memory of me to be of me yelling at him to take out the trash!) He looks at me and says: “What are you being shipped off to war?”

The next morning I wait for everyone to leave. I take out my bag that has been packed (like a movie where the woman is escaping her home with her pre-packed bag, but mine consists of dog treats and a new leash.) I head out to the rendevous point I am SUPER early because I want to scout out all of my possible escape routes in case it is indeed a sex traffic ring and for some reason, they want flabby, sweaty, middle-aged, menopausal women. I wait…
A truck shows up and there is a dog in it. But the dog looks nothing like the picture! It is like a wolf! I am FREAKING out! Do I just drive away? After all, we haven’t exchanged any photos of ourselves, he has no clue what I look like. The guy and the wolf head into a shop. Phew! Can’t be him.
Moments later, another truck appears. Popping his head out the window is the MOST adorable, scruffy, scrumptious boy JUST like the picture! All my apprehensions are gone. I leap out of my car and run towards the truck. The man smiles and gets out of the truck. He takes out the dog and the dog literally jumps into my arms! he licks my face and the man says: “Yup, he likes you!” Perhaps he is Mennonite and not Amish? Maybe he is just a guy from Pennsylvania. Who cares? I found my dog!

I am OVER the moon! We pull out our phones; I electronically sign the adoption papers. The fee is sent to the ASPCA. I get a confirmation! I have legally adopted him!
We head home next to me; the dog sleeps the entire drive back, he is calm, sweet, and lovely; I name him Buddy like Buddy the Elf from the Will Ferrell movie; he is goofy and clumsy like that.

That night the boys get home; they are shocked and smiling all at once. Buddy is; loving, cuddly, and fits into our family; we go out to dinner with Buddy at a local outdoor restaurant to celebrate Buddy joining our family. I suggest maybe we could find Buddy a little black Amish hat? Confused Husband asks: “If I am drunk?” (Okay, maybe put that on the back burner for now.)

When I walk with Buddy, I tell people that Buddy is from Pennsylvania and is on his Rumspringa but staying here forever. I think that adds to Buddy’s back story. To some, I have to explain what Rumspringa is. I have gotten weird looks they scuttle away. I don’t care!
Buddy has helped heal my broken heart after Jack’s passing; I truly believe that Jack somehow orchestrated this.

Buddy and Jack have many similar personality traits, but most of all, they radiate unconditional love.
I promise Confused Husband no more surprises for a while and, well for, now, okay…

Chapter One Hundred-Fifty: Ma’am is Mata Hari & Bullwinkle…

Those of you who follow me know, we lost our sweet dog Jack recently. It has been difficult. I decided to dip my toe in the pond of looking for another pup. It could never be a replacement, but it could be a wonderful addition to our family. Of course, I seldom do anything subtly so I dive into the ‘Search for a dog” rabbit hole with such focus and verve.
Those precious faces staring back at me are calling my name. I inquire about Mo who has been flown in from Puerto Rico. A dog of the streets he is looking for his forever home. Then I see Hector the dachshund. I will rename him Frank and I send an inquiry. It is as though I have Tourettes of the fingers. I inquire about a dozen dogs just to see. I sit and stare at my computer and wait…

Mo has already been adopted. Hector/Frank costs more than a car payment. Where are the days of going to the shelter and picking out your furry baby for under one hundred dollars? Then like the Holy Grail Finn’s face appears on my screen. Yes! he is the one! I excitedly fill out the application(which is more intricate than the college applications my son is currently in the throes of filling out.) The information they now want is RIDICULOUS!!! I give three of my friends as references. I group text them”DO NOT tell the story of Confused Husband bringing the wrong dog home from the groomer! It is NOT funny! and they probably wouldn’t give a dog to a home where they don’t even know what their dog looks like!” I get thumbs up and laughing emojis back which knowing my group of friends is not reassuring.

The hours tick by. I envision the long walks Finn and I will have. I peruse doggy beds and big food bowls online, as Finn is MUCH larger than sweet Jack. I send pictures of Finn to friends and family. I wait. Nada, nothing.
I distract myself by again entering the “adopt a pup!” rabbit hole. So many faces looking back at me. The hours continue to pass by. Confused Husband suggests I broaden my search radius. I do this. I expand it to Philly, we are in DC it is not a terribly long ride if we found a dog there. Theo pops up on my screen. like Finn, I am in love and read Theo’s bio. He is 12 weeks old and has to be re-homed. I inquire about Theo. Ten minutes later Jennifer, Theo’s human is responding to me! She emails me her sad tale of having to relocate and can’t take Theo or his sister Zoey with them.

My heart aches for Jennifer. I respond with a War and Peace length email about Jack and how heartbroken we are. She answers back that maybe this is fate?
We exchange phone numbers. Jennifer texts me and states that she really wants to keep the dogs together. I suggest with no promise that perhaps I can find a home for Zoey here in DC so she and Theo can see each other. I am on the case! I email friends, text people. A friend wants Zoey! I text Jennifer with the great news! I call Confused Husband and tell him we have to go to Philly either tonight or tomorrow to pick up the two dogs. He begins to protest and I inform him he doesn’t have to get me another Valentine’s gift for the next couple of years. PLUS, it was HIS idea to expand my search! I wait as this marinates. he agrees. I call Jennifer no answer. I text her and she says she has emailed me.
Opening my email there are about fifty pictures of Theo and Zoey. I share the wonderful news and ask for her address. She texts me to say that I must have misunderstood. They were in Philly up until two days ago and have now relocated to Los Angeles. I am crestfallen. She suggests that I come to LA to pick up the dogs. She is not charging me for the pups because she knows they will be going to a good home. I Google pet transport companies and within minutes get bids from all over. I call Confused Husband and explain the situation. He is headed home and we will talk then.

Nothing about Finn, nothing about Theo. I have a short pity party for myself. Confused Husband comes home grinning like the Cheshire cat. He hops on the computer and announces:” Pack your bag, well don’t pack your bag, because you get no bag nor food, and you have the middle seat to save money.” “WTF?” I ask.
He informs me that he thought about it and then did some research(Google) and found a round trip ticket from National to LAX much cheaper than any pet transport and he was going to book my flight. I am GOBSMACKED! For a moment. I picture myself dressed all chic walking in Beverly Hills with Theo! Maybe I will visit some of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills while I am out there! My excitement grows. I then say:” But, between the hotel, Ubers, food, shopping, etc won’t it be a lot more than a pet transport?”
He looks at me like I have just said: “I am pregnant.” I watch his mouth open and close like a fish out of water. His eyes study me like I am an alien. “You aren’t vacationing! You will just fly in pick up Theo and fly back all on the same day!” Look I found you a ticket for 250 bucks! He bellows with a flourish and hand wave that would put Vanna White to shame, pointing toward the computer screen like he has just solved the puzzle (Okay Vanna White simmer down!).
I call Jennifer, she text’s that her English isn’t very good. I tell her to Facetime us so we can meet Theo and her. She sends me pictures of Theo and herself. This is getting weird.
Bobby- Jo from Bobby-Jo pet transport calls me. I put him on speakerphone. He offers to fly the two dogs to Dc for 800 bucks. He can have them to us by tomorrow. Confused Husband happily tells Bobby-Jo that he can send me for a quarter of the price! Bobby-Jo points out there are two dogs and the airlines only let you bring one per person. He also states that will not only fly the dogs into DC but he has a dog nanny on board to make sure the pups are taken care of during the flight. It does make sense. But the pissing contest has ensued. Confused Husband then brags to Bobby-Jo that although I don’t get baggage, food, snacks, or a window or aisle seat in the long run it’s still a better deal. For who? I wonder! I hiss to Confused Husband that I can’t go an entire day without eating and he loud whispers back: “Pack some sandwiches!”
During this stand-off of who has the better idea of how to transport the dogs here, Jennifer texts me and says that she found a transport place in Los Angeles and they are going to make the arrangements and the company will be calling us shortly. Five minutes later a Los Angeles number appears on my phone and we have to cut it short with Bobby-Jo who is bellowing: “Your wife won’t even get snacks on the plane! The dogs will be served a meal!” I wonder if Bobby-Jo would consider transporting me?
The transport guy has a thick accent and tells me his name is Sergei. I have an extremely hard time understanding him and he assumes it is the connection. I give him Confused Husband’s number and he calls back. Meanwhile, Jennifer is texting me things like”Promise me you will take pictures of my babies and send them frequently!” I retort: “I would like to see them on Facetime PLEASE!” My phone rings and it’s Jennifer. With an accent similar to Sergei’s she tells me that her video isn’t working on her phone. In the background, I hear what sounds like a person trying to bark like a dog, and she tells me: “That’s Theo all excited to meet you.” She then begins to blubber about:” How can she choose? Which one?” I quip: “Who are you Sophie in Sophie’s choice?”
She says:” I don’t understand? Who is Sophie?” then the sobbing continues.

Meanwhile, Confused Husband is raising his voice to Sergei saying:” What do you mean your credit card machines are all down? What do you mean I am to Zelle the money to someone named Kelly Chelsea? Who is that? The transport company’s accountant?! This is absurd Sergei!”
Sergei attempts to explain how once the money is wired then the contract will be emailed with the tracking number and flight info for the dogs. I have had ENOUGH of this Boris and Natasha swindle! We hang up on both of them and call our friends to inform them we were almost Hoodwinked!

The faux transport agency emails come flying at me with things like: ” Theo is waiting at the airport! Once you pay we can put him on the plane.” I am inundated with text messages as well. I Google the FBI contact number and fraud and file an online report. I am six pages in and the calls from Boris and Natasha keep coming. I am now receiving pitiful emails with photos of nonexistent Theo wearing a sombrero and now he is a black dog. In all the other pictures he was brown. I feel like a Detective Constable typing up her report. I use words like “scam, swindle, con-artists.”

Throughout the night, our phones are ringing off the hook with the LA numbers. I tell Confused Husband not to block them in case we need to talk to them for the FBI. I explain to Confused Husband that Boris and Natasha aren’t getting away with this! I tell him to call me Bullwinkle and he is Rocky. These are our code names. He has no clue what I am talking about and I have to Google them to show him. He is appalled as he insists he looks nothing like a squirrel. I point out Boris and Natasha as well. I dub our case: “Operation Bullwinkle.” He begs me to go to sleep.

The next morning I see that I have received a whopping 58 calls from Boris and Natasha. Confused Husband has only received about 20. He claims that they know better than to mess with him! “Whatever Rocky!” I reply.
I am contacted by a woman named Alice in regards to my report. I ask her what she thought? She said, “In all my years of reading these reports yours was definitely the most colorful and entertaining one I have ever read, and my colleagues agreed.” I am ELATED! I inform her that:” I am a writer and would LOVE to maybe get a job at the bureau zhuzhing up their mundane reports! I notify her of my love of espionage and perhaps I could assist the bureau in the sting to capture Boris and Natasha?”
There is a long silence and I wonder if we have been disconnected. Finally, she says that she is connecting me to Agent Davis who is handling the case. I hear a beep and another sound and realize they are recording me. I HATE my voice on tape! Now I am extremely self-conscience!

Agent Davis introduces himself. He asks me to go over the contact from beginning to end. I feel like I am auditioning for a leading lady role in a film. I explain how this all started, how I really wanted Finn, and how sweet Finn looked and he would really have benefited from being adopted by our family. I begin to go into detail about the things I wanted to do with Finn. Agent Davis is a man of few words. He interjects; “Please get to the part about when you first had contact with the alleged scammers.”(Well he is no fun!). I tell him as much as I can recollect but share that:” It was Valentine’s day and I was very upset because of Finn. I wanted to be exact and can’t remember all of the details but it was all in my report. Hadn’t he read my report? Alice said it was one of the most entertaining that she ever read what did he think?”

I hear the clicking and beeping and Agent Davis breathing into the phone like one of those weird phone calls you may get. He FINALLY says: “Yes. I read the report. Have they attempted any contact since?” I tell him they have called MANY times since yesterday, but I haven’t picked up. I told him I had attached all of the emails and screenshots of text messages as well in my report.” I also sent the faux dog pictures.”
Agent Davis says: “About the photos, the ones you sent weren’t the dogs they were of a melanoma.” I am so perplexed “What?” He clears his throat. “It seems to be a melanoma on someone’s back.” I open up my emails and look. OMG! I sent pictures that one of my single friends snapped of their back in the mirror to show me a mole they were worried about and wanted my input. I hadn’t opened them yet.

I am trying not to freak out! I ask Agent Davis if: ” He knows for certain that is melanoma?” He clears his throat and says: “I am not a dermatologist but I would get that checked out. Could you resend the puppy pictures please?” I CAN NOT believe he is worried about the puppy pictures when my friend has the continent of Africa on her back!
I attempt to get off the phone as soon as possible and deal with my friend’s situation. Again, I offer my services to zhuzhing up reports or pulling a Mata Hari in a sting operation. Agent Davis blandly replies:” No thank you, we’ve got this.” They wouldn’t have a case if it wasn’t for my METICULOUS report and undercover work! Okay, the melanoma pictures were a slight misstep but other than that! I feel like I was a huge contribution in this case. I daydream about what I will wear when Hoda and Savannah interview me on shutting down the PuppyGate scam! Is it possible to lose twenty pounds in a week?!
Agent Davis is clearing his throat. He informs me that they will be in touch if need be. The phone beeps and I hear him breathing like one of those creepers. It is so awkward that I say something like “We should have a code.” Silence: “For what?” he sighs.
“In case I am kidnapped by Boris and Natasha! They have my address! What if they realize that I am the snitch? I have seen MANY crime shows and the snitches or informants always wind up bloated in the river, tied down with cement blocks., it’s not a good look!” Again silence, heavy breathing. I really don’t like these awkward silences. So I throw in: “Perhaps I should come down to the bureau and we can discuss the next step of the plan.”
“Thank you for your assistance, we will be in touch.” The phone goes dead. Well, that’s a nice “Thank You for your help we wouldn’t have a case without you!”

I Google”How to get into the FBI”. Up comes all of the stuff I have to do to enter the academy. I don’t want that. I want to know how to get into the building to speak to Agent Davis’ superiors and tell them how rude he was. Also, I would like to meet Alice in person(I think we would be friends!).

Confused Husband bursts into the room with laptop in hand to show me how massive our Puppygate is! There are hundreds of people who were sucked into this abyss and they lost thousands! He smiles proudly and says that: “We were lucky, on the brink of the cliff but we didn’t jump!” (Says the man who had me booked on a plane without food and water!). He shows me there are support groups for victims of the puppy scam and looks to see if there are any near us that we could join. I explain that I am not going to sit in a circle with a bunch of strangers and talk about what idiots we all are! He replies that: “We wouldn’t join to talk about how dumb we were! We would talk about how smart we are that we didn’t lose any money!”
I cannot believe him, “You mean you want us to join a group of people that lost money so we can brag about how much smarter we are than them?”
“Pretty much,” he says.

It is then I realize, this is going to be Confused Husbands war story that all men need. His tale to tell over a drink with the guys, or while watching a soccer match. It will go something like this:” Did you ever hear of that massive puppy scam by that Russian gang.”(what Russian gang? Isn’t a gang a whole group of people? This was more like a Russian duet!)

“Well, they tried to pull that on my wife when she was looking for a puppy.” (Leaving out the part where he had me booked on a no food, no baggage, same day flight.)

“We had to help the FBI.”(Omitting the part where I filled out the forms and spoke with them.) “Yes, we were the ones that brought them down.” (There is no WE in me!)

“Yup they messed with the wrong guy when they met me.”(Okay, they never met you I just couldn’t understand the guy that is why I gave him your number!) I can just picture him mosying up to someone all dramatic and announcing: ”I am a survivor.”

Chapter One Hundred Forty-Nine: Ma’am and the Wordle virus…

I keep hearing whispers of Wordle. At first, I assumed it was the new strain of Coronavirus. I overhear a guy on the metro blathering on about how he has a bad case of the Wordle. I move away from him.
I hop off the metro afraid he has given me Wordle. I wonder if I now need to get a Wordle booster? I feel like everyone knows what Wordle is but me. I planned to go to Target. But now I am probably contaminated with Wordle so what good is purchasing lipstick and deodorant when I am on the cusp of a Wordle apocalypse?
I head towards the pharmacy. My anticipation grows. Two ladies in front of me are arguing. One says: ” He prefers Wordle over sex!” The other says:” Can you blame him? I mean, I got it in three tries and it was sooo stressful! But now I am addicted!” The other woman yells:” I will not become infected by Wordle!”

“I hear you sister!” I want to say! Omg! Everyone knows about Wordle but me! I am in a Syfy movie and people are being poisoned by a strain called Wordle! I will be the lone survivor hunted by Wordle Zombies! I am freaking out!!!

What if I have Wordle and don’t know it? Is there a blood test? Can I use my rapid Covid test? Do I need a different test? I need these questions answered!

I call my know -it- all friend who is a walking font of knowledge. She is a 24-hour news service and needs her own ticker tape. It goes to voicemail and says:” I cannot come to the phone as I have been bitten by the Wordle bug!” She sounds carefree and jolly at this declaration! I am about to faint from fear! She to has been INFECTED!

I bolt into the pharmacy, of course like a bad Lifetime movie albeit a major emergency I STILL have to wait in line. I look around at the other customers and ponder are they Wordle carriers? I wonder what the symptoms are? A guy near me looks a little rough and I speculate which stage of the Wordles’ he has. I feel my anxiety climb. Is Wordle painful? Will I be in a Wordle ward? I attempt to Google it but all that comes up is some stupid game.

I Google Wordle virus. Pictures of people dying from diarrhea, vomiting, and what looks like a heightened state of Zombie stare back at me. WTF?! I don’t want to turn into a Zombie! I could never be a cannibal! My mind begins to wander, do vegans and vegetarians that become Zombies not eat people? Do they only devour veggies? Is it too late for me to turn vegan so I won’t crave human flesh? I call, Confused Husband to ask if we have a Wordle emergency plan?

He bellows into the phone to ask if: “I am at Happy hour somewhere during lunch? Isn’t it a tad early to be drinking margaritas at this time of day?” I hiss back that: “He will be the first person I eat once I turn into a flesh-eating Wordle zombie!”
He mutters something about: “Do you know a five-letter word that starts with I and ends with E?” I holler back IMBECILE!” before hanging up, hear him say: “That’s eight letters.” Obviously, I am in this horror movie myself!

FINALLY, it is my turn at the pharmacy. Skippy who, is no more than a day over twelve and looks like Harry Potter in a lab coat is looking down at his phone and saying to no one in particular: “Yesterday the word was camps and, I just couldn’t figure it out! I tried every possible configuration and it just baffled me! Today the same thing is happening! I am in a Wordle conundrum!” (OMG! He is infected as well!) I clear my throat he looks up.’Oh! Sorry, he shrugs and whispers: “Wordle!”

“EXACTLY!” I say a little too forcefully, causing him to jump. “Do I need a jab for it? Is there a rapid test? What are the symptoms? Will I have a hankering, for human flesh? Can you tell me if I have to quarantine? ” I wait for Harry Potter’s response. He stares at me and blinks. ” Ickle”, he replies. Sighing in relief.
I am SOOOO bewildered! What the hell is an ickle? Is it the name of the Wordle ant-virus drug I need to take? I wait and he says: “I can’t believe it was so simple yet so difficult all in one! It really stumped me!”

It is obvious that Harry Potter was a much better wizard than pharmacist. I give up. Like an exhausted animal that has been chased, by hunters, I relent. I walk away from the pharmacy slowly in defeat. I will face the Wordle virus head-on and fight it on my own. I am the lone survivor like Kiefer Sutherland, but without any staff or access to a bunker. I will be more like Will Smith in I am Legend, but my title will be I am Wordle…

Chapter One Hundred Forty-Eight: Ma’am and the dog dating App…

Our dog recently died. I sent out a text to inform friends. I cried and slept for two days. I checked my phone and there were HUNDREDS of messages. I don’t have that many friends. The messages turned out to be from dog adoption sites. (Will figure out which genius friend thought this a good idea and end friendship!) Now I understood how my single friends felt when they complained about dating sites.

The barrage of nonsense and RIDICULOUS pictures would make anyone swipe left for the rest of their lives. Fritz dressed in a party hat beckoned me to adopt him. I scrolled down. He was 15.5 years old. A three-legged guy with some sort of growth on the top of his head that needed to be shaved down once a month by the vet. He looked like an old unicorn. I can barely get to the nail salon to have my hooves scraped never mind taking a geriatric- dog to get his horn shaved monthly.

Then sliding into my DM was a little guy named Javier. He was two years old and looked like a toad. But his little toad face was drawing me in. I went through his bio and found out he was located in Mexico. Saved from the mean streets of Mexico City in a gang with a pack of stray dogs. I looked at Javier’s picture again. I wondered was he the leader of the pack? Or merely one of the grunt men? Behind his docile face perhaps lurked Cujo that would murder us in our sleep by chewing off our faces. I also noticed that the adoption fee was $275.00. But. farther down the total was $2,456.00. Apparently, this included Javier and his chaperone’s airfare, and then a five-star hotel stay for his chaperone. There was even a spa fee tacked on there.

I then moved on to Felix. he was not house trained, was not good with other dogs, and seemed to not be a fan of people in general. His mug shot, I mean profile pic had him posing with a Hannibal Lecter-type muzzle attached to his face.

I found myself darting my tongue back and forth and exclaiming: “Fava-beans!”. My index finger was EXHAUSTED from swiping left!

Prince of the city was next to present himself. He was in a ludicrous outfit. I almost wrote an email to his adoption agency referring to them as Prince of the city’s pimps. The shots of Prince were like looking at what I imagine dog porn to be. Prince seemed to have a healthy libido and didn’t discriminate who or what objects he humped. His caption said: “Felix enjoys cuddling!” (if that’s what you want to call dry-humping.)” He also is happy to take walks on the beach and be fed by hand table scraps. He lives for belly rubs and overall body rubs.” (EW!) “Prince enjoys licking feet! A long day at work? Come home, rip off those socks and let Prince lick away!” (code for Prince has a foot fetish.) The final shot of Prince of the city was his face buried in someone’s crotch with the caption:”Raider of the lost crotch!”. Confused Husband mosied by and asked what I was looking at? I replied:”Dog-porn.”

Hours later I was exhausted, each photo melting into the other. The absurd captions and cheesy snapshots seared into my brain. I felt like I would have PTSD from this experience for years to come. I called one of my girlfriends who was registered on every possible dating site, to commiserate with her. I read aloud some of the captions and she swore she dated a few of these dogs in human form. I heralded her for being such a brave warrior on the dating app abyss. I applauded her diving into this stew of nonsense world. I asked her for exercise tips to strengthen my index finger. Hours later, under her tutelage (I now know how Daniel-San felt under the guidance of Sensai Miyagi.) I went back out there into the dog app-dating world. It was like a train wreck. I couldn’t turn away.

Brandy popped up on my screen. If Tammy Faye Baker were a dog, Brandy was her doppelgänger. I was fascinated by the amount of make-up slapped on this pooch. Mesmerized by her eyelashes, wanting to know what brand false eyelashes Brandy AKA Tammy Faye was using. This is what it came down to, me reading dog adoption websites like I was reading Cosmopolitan for makeup tips! Brandy according to her story liked to frolic with other dogs and cats as well(she didn’t discriminate.) this meant that Brandy was a Loosey-goosey a Ho if you will.

I didn’t want a hooker for a dog. There were photographs of Brandy in the middle of a pack of dogs like the drunk cheerleader at the party being gang banged by the football team. Brandy under some dog named Mo who looked like that elderly perverted Uncle back in the day. In a moment of weakness, I almost swiped right to be Brandy’s advocate. But, common sense prevailed. I didn’t have the bandwidth to deal with a promiscuous, moral-less furry chic who albeit had great eyelashes, was too much for me.
Left swipe it is.

Audrey Hepburn appeared. In place of a collar, she had on a smashing set of pearls. (I hope they came with her! I have an outfit they would be perfect with!) Audrey had a Holly Go-Lightly Je ne sais quois look on her face. She knew how to work the camera. Her bio read: “A city girl, who likes to explore. A real lady! House trained and leash trained.” (Audrey Hepburn was looking promising.)

“Gets along well with others, extremely friendly!” (Wow! the more I read about Audrey Hepburn the more I fell for her!). This was too good to be true!

I imagined myself sitting in a cafe with Audrey both in matching pearls. Walking through the city like two characters from Sex and the city. I was just about to swipe right when the fine print at the end of Audrey’s fairytale turned into a nightmare.

It read: “Please note Audrey Hepburn needs a home that will allow her to continue her weekly therapy sessions with her psychiatrist to help combat depression.” ( so her Je ne sais quois look was her being strung out on Lexapro!) I attempted to visualize me explaining to Confused Husband that we needed an extra four hundred dollars a week so Audrey Hepburn could visit her therapist because she was depressed. Like that would go over real well! How do they even know she is depressed?! Does she lay down on the couch and what talk to her shrink? “Well, today I am sad because I was fed kibble instead of filet. I don’t enjoy sleeping on a cushion. I feel naked when I go out and would prefer clothes.”I mean… ABSURD!

Right now I give up. There is no replacing our sweet Jack. He was the OG of dogs. He was loyal, sweet, lovable, cuddly, kind, and just didn’t ask for anything other than love. He was a valued member of our family and made all of the nonsense that exists in the world more bearable. He didn’t judge, was there through good times and bad.
Let’s put it this way, if Jack had been on this dog dating app I would have swiped right a million times over…