Tuesday, February 25, 2020


The other day, a friend of mine and I were discussing how much high-school courses have changed over the years.  Her son, she told me, was taking gardening and music appreciation to earn course credits.

Believe me, I would have killed to have had those options back when I was in high school.  In those days, the courses were divided into categories: college course, general course, commercial course and a few others I can’t recall offhand.  Students who wanted to attend college were forced to take the college course, which included such coma-inducing subjects as geometry, chemistry, trigonometry and algebra.  Once a student opted for the college course, there was no turning back after the school semester started.

Unfortunately, that is how I got stuck suffering through a class in college chemistry.

I didn’t want to take chemistry. I wanted to learn something useful like typing, woodworking or cooking.  Those subjects, however, were strictly taboo for students enrolled in the college course.  So I tried to convince myself that chemistry might be fun.  After all, I’d owned a junior chemistry set when I was about 10, and had created some pretty interesting concoctions with it, like disappearing ink and some green stuff that took the varnish off the coffee table. And I already knew a few chemical symbols: Au (gold) and H20 (water), thanks to Barry Goldwater’s campaign bumper stickers.

All of my hopes, however, dissolved the minute I met Mr. Ek, my college-chemistry teacher.  I had heard rumors about him long before I ever set foot in his classroom.  His nicknames included Ming the Merciless, Attila the Bun (-sen burner) and Brad (his first name) the Impaler. Still, as I took my seat in Mr. Ek’s classroom, I convinced myself that the rumors about him probably were totally unfounded.

Unfortunately, I was wrong.

Right away, Mr. Ek confessed that he was indeed tough, and that he expected his students to work hard…very hard.  “I promise you that none of you will receive a failing grade,” he said, “just as long as I know you are giving me your best effort.”

I am living proof that Mr. Ek was not a man of his word.

Within a week, I was wishing the chemistry lab would blow up and put a swift end to my misery. Had I been staring at a textbook of hieroglyphics, I probably would have understood it better than I did my chemistry book and all of its dumb equations.

Frustrated, I decided to have a chat with the school’s guidance counselor and beg him to change my course.

My pleas fell on deaf ears.  The counselor just shook his head and said, “If you want to attend college, you HAVE to take college chemistry.”

“But I want to be a teacher or a journalist,” I protested, “not a pharmacist!”

“No college will accept you unless you’ve taken the required college courses,” he said. “So I suggest you just buckle down and study harder.”

I studied, I honestly did; hour after grueling hour.  But for the life of me, I still couldn’t grasp college chemistry.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one. Everyone in my class did so poorly on Mr. Ek’s tests, he had to grade everything on a curve. It got to the point where a 70 was considered an “A.” Unfortunately, I usually pulled about a 45.

One afternoon, I was sitting at my desk, taking yet another one of Mr. Ek’s killer exams, when I suddenly got a nosebleed.  I figured something in my brain must have exploded because I’d strained it while trying to make sense of his stupid equations.

I was forced to leave the classroom and spend the remainder of the class in the restroom.  As I stood at the sink and held a rough, brown paper towel against my nose, it dawned on me that my nosebleed had just bought me an extra day to study for the exam! Even though 100 extra days probably wouldn’t have been enough to help me, I still felt like a condemned prisoner who had just been given a last-minute stay of execution.

When I returned to the classroom to pick up my books, Mr. Ek cornered me.  “I want to see you back here immediately after school today,” he said. “I’ll have a whole new exam waiting for you, and you can take it then.”

So much for my reprieve, I thought defeatedly.

The make-up test turned out to be even worse than the original.  Mr. Ek, however, due to a previous appointment, had to forfeit the pleasure of watching me sweat it out.  He arranged for another chemistry teacher (a young guy, fresh out of college) to baby-sit while I took the exam.

There I sat in the empty classroom, with the young teacher’s eyes fixed on me as I stared helplessly at the exam.  I continued to stare, not even bothering to lift my pencil, for a good 15 minutes.

“Is something wrong?” the teacher finally had the insight to ask.

I shrugged. “It’s no use.  I can’t answer any of these questions.  You may as well just put a big fat zero on it right now and save Mr. Ek the trouble.”

The teacher looked genuinely concerned. “Let me have a look at it,” he said.

I handed the exam to him. His eyes scanned it, then he let out a low whistle. “This is brutal!” he said. “Ek must think he’s teaching fourth-year Harvard students instead of a bunch of high-school kids!”

He continued to study the exam for a few minutes longer, then looked up and cast me a smile that could only be described as devious. “I’ll take this,” he said, stuffing my exam into his briefcase.

“Fine,” I said, frowning. “I’m done with it.”

The teacher shook his head and smiled again. “No, I’m going to TAKE it!” he said, repeating the words more slowly. When I just stared blankly at him, he explained, “I’m going to take the exam for you!  I’ll fill in all the answers tonight, then I’ll turn in the exam to Ek in the morning and say it’s yours.  That oughta get him!”

I was too stunned to speak, but I wasn’t about to argue with him. Sure, the little “conscience angel” immediately sat on my shoulder and said, “You sinner! This is cheating! How will you ever be able to look at yourself in the mirror again?” But at that point I honestly didn’t care.  I would have walked barefoot over hot coals to get just ONE passing grade in Mr. Ek’s chemistry class.

Two days later, the young chemistry teacher approached me in the school parking lot and asked in a hushed voice, “Did you get the test back yet?  How’d we do?”

I dug the paper out of my notebook and handed it to him.

“An 81!” he exploded. “I’m a chemistry teacher, for crying out loud! How could I get only an 81?!”

From that day on, it never was quite as painful for me when I flunked my chemistry tests.  I mean, if a chemistry teacher couldn’t ace them, how on earth was I supposed to? I still wound up with an “F” for the semester, because that single “81” couldn’t make up for all the 30s and 40s I continued to score on my other tests. But as it turned out, it didn’t really matter. You see, it has been nearly 50 years since I took that course, and I honestly can say that not once have I found it necessary to use anything I learned (or didn’t learn) in chemistry class.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to go fill a pot with some H2O and sprinkle in some NaCL and c17h19no3 and start dinner.

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Sally Breslin is an award-winning humor columnist and the author of “There’s a Tick in my Underwear!” “Heed the Predictor” and “The Common-Sense Approach to Dream Interpretation." Contact her at: sillysally@att.net.


CLICK HERE ==> https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/384106

Monday, February 17, 2020


Last week, I spent an afternoon looking through all of the artwork my mother had done while studying for her degree in commercial art back in the 1950s. Her drawings were so perfectly detailed, I truly was awed.                          
Mom's fashion sketch

There was a time when I desperately wanted to follow in my mother's footsteps and also become an artist. In fact, back when I was in the eighth grade, after a lot of pleading with my parents to part with their hard-earned money ($150 worth, which was a small fortune back then), I finally convinced them to let me enroll in a weekly class at a local art school. Sure, I knew my mother could have taught me all I needed to know about commercial art, but I wanted to learn how to create paintings of things like landscapes and wildlife. I also thought it would be pretty cool to be able to say I’d actually “studied" art.

There were about 10 kids in my art class, most of whom were older (high-school age) and more “artistic” looking than I was. Two of the most visually interesting were Mary, who had waist-length black hair and always dressed in long black skirts and black turtlenecks, even when the temperature was 95 degrees; and Paul, whose trademark was a tan beret and a white silk scarf – which I thought were pretty unusual fashion-accessories for a guy who was only 15.

Still, I was there to learn how to create masterpieces, not socialize. I wanted to emerge from the course with enough talent to churn out dozens of oil paintings that would sell for thousands of dollars each and enable me to buy property in Tahiti by the time I was 16.

During our first class, the instructor told us to draw self-portraits by closing our eyes and feeling our faces, then transferring what we felt onto the paper. My self-portrait came out looking as if my face had been run over by a cement truck. And when I brought my first effort home to show my parents, my father said, "Hey, that's a really good drawing of Alfred Hitchcock, sweetie!"

The next week, we were taken to a park and told to sketch anything that caught our eye. Most of the kids rushed over to a statue surrounded by flowers, but I chose some drunk guy who'd passed out on one of the benches. At least I didn't have to keep telling him to hold still while I sketched him.

The third class, the instructor announced that we were going to be working with oil paints. I was thrilled, not only because my sketching skills were so pathetic, but also because oil painting meant lots of bright, pretty colors to experiment with.

We each were supplied with a canvas, easel and paints, but curiously, no paintbrushes.

"We are going to do something called texture painting," the instructor explained. "I want you to put the paint onto your canvases using anything other than a brush, then create as many different textures and designs as possible. You should be able to close your eyes and run your fingers over your paintings and feel each distinct texture."

I wanted to ask him how he ever expected us to learn anything if he kept telling us to close our eyes and feel stuff, but I held my tongue. To be honest, I didn't know what the heck he was talking about anyway. I wanted a paintbrush and I wanted to learn how to paint pictures of lakes and mountains. I didn't want to do some weird painting that had to be touched to be appreciated.

Not certain where to start, I watched Mary, the girl wearing all black, as she dug a nail file out of her purse, then used it to smear red paint onto her canvas. She then used the bottom of a lipstick tube to press little circles into the paint.

I fished through my pockets and found a plastic comb with a few teeth missing, and decided to use that. I slapped some blue paint onto my canvas with it, then raked the comb through it to spread it around.

"That's wonderful!" the instructor praised me. "I love all the symmetrical ridges in your paint!  Such texture!  Such exquisite use of pattern!"

That convinced me. The man was in desperate need of a long vacation.

Paul, the kid with the beret, wanted his painting to be a true original, so he pressed his nose (sideways) into the paint, and then his knuckles. There were a few other body parts he also wanted to use (strictly for the sake of art, he said), but thankfully, the instructor stopped him.

Halfway through the "texture" class, Paul came over to check out my work. "Not bad," he said, as if he were an expert on the subject. "But it needs something."  He eyed the heart-shaped, rhinestone-bordered locket I was wearing on a thin chain around my neck. In a flash, he grabbed the chain and tore it off me, then pressed the locket right into my painting.

I was just about to call him every unflattering name I could think of, when the instructor walked over.

"What a perfect focal point for your painting!" he gushed when he saw the heart impression left by the locket. “Wonderful concept!”

Paul walked away, smirking, as I tried to figure out how I was going to get cerulean-blue oil paint out of the rhinestones.

We had to work on those terrible texture paintings for the rest of the course. Every time we thought we were finished, the instructor would tell us to add another layer of paint and do MORE texturing. By the time I finally brought my masterpiece home, it weighed about five pounds.

My parents, who never were very good at concealing their true feelings, just stared blankly at it.

"We paid $150 for THIS?" my father finally said. "What the heck is it?"

"An abstract texture painting," I answered.

"Does your instructor like to…drink?" my mother added.

I never saw that painting again, mainly because my mother said it caused too much pain in my father's wallet whenever he looked at it. I suspect, however, that it’s still concealed somewhere in a dark corner of the basement in the house where we used to live...and the cobwebs are adding a whole lot of new "texture" to it.

Sally Breslin is an award-winning humor columnist and the author of “There’s a Tick in my Underwear!” “Heed the Predictor” and “The Common-Sense Approach to Dream Interpretation." Contact her at: sillysally@att.net.

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CLICK HERE ==>https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/384106

Monday, February 10, 2020


Watching the Academy Awards Sunday night brought back an embarrassing memory (one of many) from my past – back when I once had a severe lack of common sense and agreed to be one of the presenters at the prestigious New Hampshire Internet Awards.

I was told I would be presenting the award for the weirdest website in NH, which I thought was a pretty appropriate choice for me (and probably more than just a coincidence).  I also was told to think of a few witty things to say onstage before making the presentation.

So for two weeks, I walked around talking to myself, trying to come up with amusing anecdotes.  Every time I pictured myself standing behind a microphone and actually saying them, however, my heart would start pounding and my palms would get all clammy.

The night of the awards ceremony, I left the house so late, I still was combing my hair as I rushed out to the car. I ended up arriving more than 15 minutes past the time I had been told to arrive at the event, which was held in a big banquet hall in a Manchester restaurant.

A woman greeted me and handed me a sheet of paper. “This is what you’ll be reading onstage tonight,” she informed me.

It was a list of finalists for the best municipal website in the state.  My heartbeat immediately quickened. Municipal? Not only wasn’t I presenting the award for the weirdest website (after all the time I’d spent working on a “witty” presentation that emphasized weirdness), in my rush, I had forgotten to bring my reading glasses! The print on the sheet was so small, all I could see (aside from the bold, larger titles) was what looked like a blob of tiny black dust-particles.

“I can’t read this!  It’s too small!” I complained out loud to no one in particular. “I’m going to make a fool of myself when I get up onstage!”

I stood there debating whether I should turn around and make a discreet escape, or call my husband and beg him to rush over with my glasses. The fact he was 18 miles away, however, and probably, with my luck, would get stuck driving behind a funeral procession, made me nix that idea. That was when I happened to notice a slightly ajar door that said “office” on it.  A light was coming from inside. 

In my desperation, I opened the door without even knocking first and walked right in.  A woman seated at a desk in the office stared wide-eyed at me before hesitantly asking if she could help me.  I asked her if she had a copy machine that could enlarge copies.  When she said yes, I breathed a sigh of relief, and asked her if she could do a huge favor for me and enlarge the print on the paper I was holding.

I left the office feeling pretty proud of myself for having used my ingenuity.  Thrilled that I finally could SEE what I had to say, I studied my speech until I began to feel less nervous about getting up in front of everyone ( a.k.a. over 100  people, the majority of whom were males in dark business-suits).  Still, I’d be lying if I said my palms weren’t damp or my stomach didn’t feel as if it had an army of hornets practicing aerial maneuvers in it.

I figured food might help calm my stomach, so I headed over to the buffet table. I had a mouthful of some type of ham-croissant when I suddenly heard the emcee announce my category. I swallowed so fast, I nearly needed the Heimlich maneuver.

It was dark up onstage, and there was a big spotlight shining directly into my eyes.  So even though the print on my sheet had been enlarged, I still ended up stumbling over most of the words (what kind of sadist would write words like “ubiquitous” for someone suffering from stage fright and vision problems to read anyway?). 

I finally came to the part that said, “And the third-place winner is the town of Somersworth!”  I announced it with what I hoped sounded more like breathless enthusiasm than quivering vocal cords.

The gentleman who came forward to accept the award smiled politely, then immediately corrected me. “Somersworth is a CITY,” he said, “not a town.”  

I felt like saying, “Hey! Don’t shoot the messenger!  I didn’t write this stuff!  I had a great, witty speech about weirdness all prepared!”

But I just smiled and nodded.

I then announced the second-place winner, the town of Hudson.  As I stood there, waiting for someone to accept the award, I silently prayed that Hudson hadn’t recently been named a city.

Finally, it was time to reveal the big winner. I read from my sheet, “And the first-place winner for New Hampshire’s best municipal website is…the envelope, please.” 

Envelope! There was an envelope?! Why hadn't I noticed that part earlier?

I immediately was handed the envelope, which I fumbled to open, then smiled brightly and said, “And the winner is…”

The room fell silent as everyone waited in eager anticipation to hear my next words. The army of hornets in my stomach began to play tackle football as I realized that my ingenuity hadn’t paid off after all. The print on the card inside the envelope was the same small print that had been used on the original paper.

The audience continued to wait silently as I cast pleading, helpless glances in the direction of the emcee.  He smiled and gestured for me to read the winner’s name.

“I can’t!” I silently mouthed the words to him. “I can’t see it!”

I overheard someone down front jokingly say, “Maybe she can write, but she sure can’t read!”

The emcee finally came to my rescue and read the card for me. The winner was the town of Peterborough.  I just stood there, quietly imagining all of the painful tortures I wanted to inflict upon the person who’d typed the card (probably with a typewriter from the “Barbie Plays Secretary” collection). 

To make matters even worse, a photographer was capturing every humiliating moment on film, shooting upward from where he was kneeling on the floor – at an angle that made me look as if someone had stuck my head on top of a pyramid…an angle that also provided a panoramic view of my nostrils.

I was relieved I’d at least had the good sense not to wear a short dress.

I think it’s pretty safe to assume I’ll never be asked to be a presenter at the Academy Awards.

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CLICK HERE ==> https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/384106

Monday, February 3, 2020


If there were an organization called “Dessert Lovers Anonymous,” I’d probably be the president.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve lived by the motto: “Life is unpredictable, eat your dessert first.”  I’d pass up prime rib and lobster for a chocolate-chip cookie any day.

Being a dessert lover, I used to spend a lot of time baking my favorites from scratch. I’ve never owned a single fish, meat, or vegetable cookbook, but I’ve collected enough dessert recipes to fill the Library of Congress.

So it is with deep regret that I recently had to hang up my electric mixer. A few months ago, the oven in my gas range decided to kick up its heels and drop dead. Seeing it previously had died a few years before and had cost me a small fortune to resuscitate it, I decided that this time, it was going to remain deceased. Nope, no CPR this time.

I also decided I was going to save up for a whole new stove.

And with the way I’m going, that probably won’t be until about 2028.

But on the bright side, not being able to bake actually might be a good thing, mainly because I have a severe problem when it comes to sugar-induced self-control.

Take, for example, the first time I baked whoopie pies. The recipe, an old family secret, had been handed down to me, and I was eager to try it. My husband, whose favorite dessert just happened to be whoopie pies, was even more eager.

So one day while he was at work, I tackled the recipe. By the time I was through, the kitchen looked as if a grocery store had exploded in it. But to my delight, 12 picture-perfect whoopie pies emerged from the mess.

Well, everyone knows that just because a food looks good, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will TASTE good, so I made the supreme sacrifice of sampling a whoopie pie, just to make certain it would live up to my husband’s high standards.

As it turned out, it tasted even better than it looked. In fact, it was so delicious, I ended up eating 10 more before my husband got home from work that night.

“What’s this?” he asked, staring at the one remaining whoopie pie, which looked lost sitting in the middle of the huge cake platter.

“I baked you a whoopie pie,” I answered. 

“Only one?”

“There’s no point in making you a whole dozen until I know whether or not you’ll like them,” I said, backing away from him so he wouldn’t smell the chocolate on my breath.

“Gee, it must have been really hard to divide the recipe exactly into twelfths to make just one whoopie pie,” he said, raising an eyebrow, his tone suddenly suspicious.

I smiled weakly. “I um, used a calculator.”

He opened his mouth to say something else, but I cut him off. “All right, all right, I confess!” I snapped. “I made a whole dozen and then gulped down 11 of them!  Now are you satisfied?”

He used the “whoopie pie incident” to blackmail me for years.

I lacked even more self-control when it came to baking birthday cakes. For one thing, I always ended up licking the frosting bowl…before I even frosted the cake.

So when I promised my husband I’d bake his favorite cake – a rich, chocolate devil’s-food sheet cake – for his birthday, I vowed that no matter how tempting it looked, I was NOT going to sample it. I was determined to present a completely intact cake to him, no matter what.

As the day wore on, however, I found my resolve weakening each time I walked past the cake. To this day, I still don’t know exactly what came over me, but suddenly I felt possessed by some sort of  “cake demon” (maybe that’s why it's called DEVIL’s food cake?), and the next thing I knew, I was holding a knife and hacking chunks out of the cake faster than a lumberjack at a wood-chopping competition.

Afterwards, I just stood there, wiping chocolate frosting off my face and staring at the gaping hole in my once-beautiful cake. Panic flooded through me as I thought back to the whoopie-pie incident. I knew I had to make the cake look as good as new, or my husband never would let me live it down. There wasn’t time to bake another cake, so I decided that because the cake was only one layer and a rectangular shape, I could cut it into pieces and push them back together to form a smaller rectangle.

Unfortunately, I continued to “even out” the cake, eating all the excess I cut off (so there wouldn’t be any incriminating evidence), until I’d reduced the cake from a  9” x 13” to about the size of a postcard.

“What a cute little cake!” my husband said when I served it to him with three candles on it (that’s all I could fit on it by then!) for his birthday that night.

“I baked it just for you!” I said.

“Want to share it with me?” he asked.

I’d already eaten so much cake, I felt as if I were about to give birth to a giant dough ball. “No thanks. I’m trying to cut down.”

I swore off baking after that and bought all of our desserts at the grocery store. One day, however, my mother gave me a recipe for what she said were the best blueberry muffins in the world. Of course, I just HAD to bake some.

It just happened to be blueberry season, so I spent an entire afternoon out in the woods behind our house, battling mosquitoes and dodging poison ivy just so I could pick some wild blueberries for the muffins.

The next morning, as I was making the muffin batter, I absently nibbled on the blueberries…and nibbled…and nibbled some more. By the time I was supposed to add the blueberries to the batter, there were only four left.  Not wanting to waste perfectly good batter, I poured it into the muffin tins and baked it anyway.

“What did you make?” my husband asked when he came to the breakfast table and saw the naked muffins cooling on the counter.

“Plain white cupcakes,” I said, smiling brightly.

And he just might have believed me…if he hadn’t spotted the blueberry stains all over my teeth.

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CLICK HERE ==>https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/384106