Wednesday, December 30, 2020



Darkness never used to bother me. In fact, back where I used to live, there was a 10,000-acre state forest directly behind our place. And whenever there was a full moon, which illuminated the trails, I thought nothing of taking walks in the woods with my dog at 10:00 at night. I thought it was peaceful.

You’d never catch me doing that nowadays, even though the woods where I currently live aren’t even half as dense. But walking through them at 10:00 PM…peaceful? More like suicidal!

Now that I’m older, darkness makes me think of things like vampires, The Walking Dead, Bigfoot, escaped murderers and burglars.

Which is why I have two dogs…big dogs, even though people keep telling me that at my age, I probably should switch to a cat.

“You’re too old to take care of two huge dogs,” one of my friends said to me. “If you ever fell in the house and hit your head and lapsed into a coma, the dogs would end up eating you if they got hungry enough! There wouldn’t even be a skeleton left for anyone to find. Dogs love bones, y’know.”

I made a mental note to “unfriend” her on Facebook.

Thanks to her, every time my dogs stare at me now, I find myself wondering if they’re picturing me smothered in gravy.

I do blame my current fear of the dark partially on my habit of watching true-crime shows on the ID channel, which seems to have a penchant for shows that deal with the most gruesome crimes imaginable. No run-of-the-mill shoplifters or car thieves on this station. No sirree, they prefer guys who make Hannibal Lecter look like a choir boy.

So why do I watch those shows? It’s because the killer never is revealed until the last five minutes of each one, and I like to test my detective skills and try to guess who it is before then. The problem is, I usually have to sit through a whole of lot of strangulations, stabbings, shootings and enough blood to fill a bathtub before I reach that “Aha! Raoul, the pool boy, is the killer!” moment.

And as a result, I unconsciously have turned myself into a paranoid chicken when it comes to being in the dark.

I always try to plan on being home long before sunset, but this time of year, it’s difficult because it seems to get dark right after lunch. So the other afternoon I got home at 4:45 and it already was pitch-dark out. The automatic garage door opened and I drove into the garage. Then I hit the remote control tacked to my car’s visor and watched, in my rearview mirror, the door slowly close behind me. But instead of feeling safe, I suddenly felt terrified. What, I wondered, would have stopped someone or something really creepy from crawling under the door right before it closed? And who or what might be lurking in the garage, just waiting for me to get out of the car?

It didn’t even dawn on me that if something had tried to slither underneath the door, the door’s anti-crushing sensor would have automatically opened it again. No, I was too busy imagining some drooling, wild-eyed murderer hiding behind the folding stepladder or the trash bin. So I stayed in the car and frantically searched for a weapon. The only thing I found was a dog leash lying on the passenger’s seat. I thought maybe I could use it as a whip…or a noose.

And then it happened.

The garage light that automatically pops on whenever the garage door opens, popped off. I was sitting in total darkness. I knew the only way I’d be able to light my way into the house would be to open the garage door again, but I didn’t want to risk opening it to an awaiting axe murderer standing outside. I thought about turning on the car’s

headlights and walking over to the light switch on the garage wall and manually turning on the overhead light, then walking back and turning off the headlights. But all of that walking around sounded too risky.

“Oh, just be brave and make a dash for the door to the house!” I told myself. “Stop being such a big chicken!”

I finally eased open the car door, which made the interior light in the car pop on, so I was able to see a little of the garage. Every shadow in there seemed to be moving. Clutching my weapon (the leash), I eased out of the car and walked a few steps away from it to check for anything unusual that might be sticking out from underneath the rear bumper. Then I extended my leg and used my foot to shove the car door shut, which threw the garage back into darkness.

I felt my way up the two steps into the house, then fumbled with the key, unlocked the door and bolted inside. I slammed the door and leaned against it, breathing a sigh of relief. Almost immediately I realized I’d left my handbag out in the car. At that point, even if it had a roll of $100 bills and a winning lottery ticket stuffed into it, I wouldn’t have gone back out to the garage to get it. I was inside the house, safe and sound, and planned to stay there. But, I suddenly wondered, was I really safe?

I wasn’t imagining things…something just wasn’t right.

A TV program I’d watched not too long ago instantly sprang to mind. In it, a police officer had said if you own a dog that usually excitedly greets you at the door but you come home some night and the dog isn’t anywhere in sight, you should turn around and head right back outside because it could mean a burglar has silenced the dog and is hiding inside.

Well, I have two dogs and neither one greeted me, which I thought was strange...and a bit frightening. Usually, the minute I set foot in the door, I am attacked by two furry bodies that sniff me all over with their wet noses, just to be certain I’m me and not someone they should be ripping to shreds.

I’d left a light on in the living room, so I peeked around the corner of the kitchen doorway and saw both dogs lying on the rug. I stifled a gasp. They were so still! Had they, I wondered, been fed drug-laced meatballs by some crook who, at that very moment, was rifling through my underwear drawer? I carefully made my way through the kitchen and into the living room, flipping on every light switch I came to as I did. When I reached the living room, both dogs looked up at me as if to say, “It's about time you got home.” Then they both yawned and fell back to sleep.

I felt somewhat reassured that their ho-hum attitudes meant there was no burglar hiding underneath my bed and waiting to grab me by the ankles. So I headed down to the bedroom to change into my comfy sweatpants. All I can say is living in a house that has 15 doors can be pretty scary when you’re alone at night. Every time I passed by one, I had the eerie feeling someone or something was standing behind it and was going to jump out at me, like those guys in the Halloween haunted houses do. Unfortunately, I had to pass six doors just to get to the closet…and my sweatpants.

The good thing about having a walk-in closet is I can store tons of stuff in it. The bad thing about it is it easily could hide a small army of thugs. I grasped the closet door’s handle and hesitated. Was something other than my ratty old clothes and stacks of shoe boxes waiting for me on the other side?

As it turned out, the scariest thing in my closet was the full-length mirror.

But I slowly am learning how to cope with and eventually overcome my fear of the dark. All I have to do is turn on every light in the house, sit with a dog on each side of me, keep a Ginsu knife in my lap, and not go to bed until the sun comes up.


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Sally Breslin is an award-winning syndicated humor columnist who has written regularly for newspapers and magazines for over 45 years. She is the author of “There’s a Tick in my Underwear!” “Heed the Predictor,” “The Common-Sense Approach to Dream Interpretation" and “Christmas, a Cabin and a Stranger.” Contact her at:





Monday, December 21, 2020


 I was thinking the other day, as I watched the snow falling and the wind blowing it everywhere, how my attitude about snow has changed over the years.

When I was a kid, snow was thrilling to me. Those frosty little flakes meant going sliding, building snowmen and snow forts, and the best part of all, having a day off from school. 

Sliding was my favorite snow-time activity, especially on my state-of-the-art flying saucer. The original flying saucers were made of aluminum and became dented beyond recognition after you hit just one bump with them. So I upgraded to one made of red 
plastic with yellow trim. That thing zipped down hills so fast, all I saw was a blur whenever I used it – that is, when I actually had my eyes open. Most of the time when I was sailing down a hill, I’d clamp my eyes shut and pray that the saucer eventually would come to a stop before it slammed into a tree or ended up on top of the prone body of another human being.

It didn’t matter to me when I was young if it was 20 below zero outside with gale-force winds. I would bundle up in three layers of clothing, grab my flying saucer and head over to the steep hill in the field across from West High School. I didn’t consider my day a success unless I returned home hours later with my clothes soaked all the way through, my nose running like sap from a maple tree, and my cheeks the color of a slab of raw steak.

When I met my husband, I discovered that he enjoyed the snow, too – but from the warmth of his car.  His idea of fun during a snowstorm was to drive to an empty parking lot and do “donuts” with his VW Beetle.  And I, sitting next to him, was just as dumb as he was, squealing with delight every time the car spun around in circles. We were lucky we didn’t end up hanging upside down by our seatbelts.

As time passed, however, the daredevil in my husband began to wane. Fast forward to a snowstorm 30 years later, when I called him at work.

“Can you stop at the store on your way home and get some bread and milk?” I asked him. “We’re all out.”

“But it’s snowing out!” he protested. “I want to come straight home.”

“It’s only a light dusting. And it’s already stopping.”

“A light dusting can be very dangerous,” he said. “I’m taking my life in my hands by just driving home. I don’t want to have to stop anywhere, especially if I have to walk across a parking lot. I could slip and fall and break a hip!”

My daredevil had turned into a sissy.

I remember when my husband splurged and bought his first snow blower. It was the Hercules of snow blowers, huge and heavy, with big tank-like tracks underneath. You’d think he was preparing to clear the Kancamagus Highway instead of a driveway that was only two cars wide and a little over a car-length long.

Just dragging the snow blower out of the shed was enough to induce an instant hernia. As it turned out, neither my husband nor I had the energy to deal with the monstrosity, so I, because I had the stronger back, usually ended up shoveling.

One time, after I’d been shoveling for nearly an hour, thanks to a snow bank that rivaled Mount Everest behind my car, my neighbor, who’d just come home from work, called out to me, “Where’s your snow blower?”

“In the shed,” I answered. “It’s so big and bulky, it’s easier just to shovel.”

As if on cue, the front door of my house creaked open and my husband appeared.  He was dressed in so many layers of clothes, he looked as if he’d opened his closet and just put on everything in it.  A fuzzy woolen hat with earflaps that snapped under his chin completed his ensemble.  I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing.

Waddling back and forth with his legs stiff (because he couldn’t bend them under all of those clothes), he slowly moved toward me.  “Don’t do any more shoveling,” he said. “I’m going to use the snow blower and clear the rest of it.”

 “Fine with me,” I said, thinking it was about time someone actually was going to use that beast of a machine. “I’m cold and tired.”

My husband made his way out back to the shed, which took him about 10 minutes because he had to walk like a robot.  He poured some gas into the snow blower, then pushed it out to the walkway, which I’d already shoveled, and tried to start it.  He yanked on the starter cord a few times, but nothing happened, so he moved to position himself so he’d have better leverage.  When he tugged on the cord again, he lost his balance and began to fall over backwards…in slow motion.

I know it’s a terrible thing to say, but it was the funniest fall I have ever seen.  As he began to very slowly topple over, his arms made tiny circular motions, as if he were  a baby bird trying to fly.  He landed in a snow bank, flat on his back with his feet up in the air.

My neighbor and I, sympathetic souls that we were, burst out laughing.  When my poor husband made no move to get up, however, we became concerned. “Are you hurt?” we asked in unison.

“The only thing that hurts is my pride,” he muttered, still lying motionless in the snow. “I don’t think I can get up. My clothes are too tight.”  

With some help from the neighbor and me, my husband finally managed to get back on his feet. He started the snow blower and cleaned up the rest of the driveway.  Then he groaned about his sacroiliac for the next week.

It pains me to admit it, but I’ve completely lost that feeling of breathless excitement that always overcame me when I was a kid and saw snow falling. Now, I think, "Great...I have to shovel a place for the dogs to pee and a path to the front door. My arms probably will fall off."

Sadly, at some point over the years, snow ceased to be fun to me any more.  The thrill is gone, and I’d really love to get it back.

I’m thinking that maybe I should buy myself another flying saucer.

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Monday, December 14, 2020



I don’t know why, but I never seem to have very good luck when it comes to those Yankee gift swaps at Christmas time.

In a Yankee swap, everyone brings a wrapped gift and puts it on a table or under the tree. Then each person picks a number out of a hat. The person who picks the number one, selects the first gift and opens it. The person who picks the number two, selects and opens the next gift and if he doesn’t like it, he can swap it for number one’s gift. So, if there are 20 people at the party, the person who picks the number 20 can swap his gift for any of the 19 gifts that were opened before his. Number one, however, because he went first, when there were no other gifts for him to swap for, finally gets his chance to swap after number 20 is done. So what it basically all boils down to is that in order to really make out well at a Yankee swap, number one is the best number to pull. And number two is one of the worst.

I have pulled the number two at least 15 times at Yankee swaps. So every time I was fortunate enough to open a really nice gift, I knew I had a snowball’s chance in you-know-where of hanging onto it.

 I remember the time I opened a pretty ceramic tea set, complete with an assortment of imported teas. I am a big tea-lover, so I clutched the tea set against my chest and then cast my fiercest “swap for this and die” look at everyone at the party. By the time number 15 stood up to unwrap her gift, I was feeling pretty confident that the tea set was going home with me. I even allowed myself to relax and stop glaring for a while. That’s when the woman revealed her gift…a purple crocheted cover that fit over a roll of toilet paper. The person who  brought the gift, generous soul that she was, even included a roll of toilet paper. 

Today, considering how toilet paper has become such a valuable commodity, it might be considered a pretty good gift, but back then, believe me, it wasn’t.

The woman’s eyes scanned the room as she searched for a gift that was better than the toilet-paper cover...which was just about every other gift there. I leaned forward and crossed my arms over the tea set to conceal it.

 “I think I’ll swap this for the tea set,” she said, smiling sweetly. 

So thanks to her, I went home with the toilet paper. 

At another Yankee swap, I opened $20 worth of lottery scratch-tickets. I didn’t allow myself to get even remotely excited about them, however, because I knew they were going to be snatched away from me so fast, the breeze probably would mess my hair. I momentarily was tempted to whip out a coin from my purse and frantically scratch off the tickets before the next gift was opened, but I knew I’d probably be tossed out into the snow if I did.

Sure enough, those lottery tickets were swapped about 10 times before they at long last arrived in the paws of their final owner, the lucky person who’d drawn the number one. As soon as she knew the tickets were hers, she scratched them, and I’ll be darned if she didn’t win $100. 

The words I muttered under my breath when she did, could in no way have been associated with “Christmas cheer.”

Another thing about Yankee swaps that upsets me is when the gift I bring turns out to be the one that no one wants.

There was one gift I brought that I thought was really cute and would be perfect for an office party. It was a joke sculpture of an office worker seated at her desk, which had a computer on it. The computer was covered with cobwebs and the woman, wearing a skirt and blouse, had turned into a skeleton and was slumped over, face down on the desk. She also had cobwebs all over her. The caption on the sculpture said something like, “Spent too much time on the Internet.” 

I sat there, anxiously waiting for the woman who’d selected my gift to open it. I just knew she was going to laugh and get a big kick out of it. I mean, she was an office worker who spent endless hours at the computer, so I figured she certainly would be able to relate. Well, the expression on her face when she finally did open my gift was comparable to that of someone who’d just found a cockroach in her sandwich.

“This is really ugly,” she said, holding the sculpture an arm's length away, acting as if she'd just pulled it out of the septic tank. She immediately traded it for something that cost about half of what I’d paid for the sculpture. All I can say is if I hadn’t drawn that lousy number two again, I’d have traded the gift I received (a box of taco holders) for my own gift.

This year, due to the virus restrictions, I won’t be attending any Yankee swaps. But when I’m able to take part in one again, I already have my gift all wrapped and waiting.

It’s a stunning purple crocheted toilet-roll cover. I mean, it's such a versatile color, it will match just about any bathroom, right?

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Sally Breslin is an award-winning syndicated humor columnist who has written regularly for newspapers and magazines for over 45 years. She is the author of “There’s a Tick in my Underwear!” “Heed the Predictor,” “The Common-Sense Approach to Dream Interpretation" and “Christmas, a Cabin and a Stranger.” Contact her at:


Tuesday, December 8, 2020



All I can say is trying to get a book published nowadays isn’t half as exciting or as interesting as it was 25 years ago.

Back then, everything was done by regular mail. I had to bundle up one or two chapters of my manuscript and mail them off to an agent. I also had to enclose the required SASE – the self-addressed stamped envelope in which I would receive either the standard form-letter rejection (“Sorry, this doesn’t fit our current needs”) or the much-anticipated equivalent to the “golden ticket” (“Please send the entire manuscript").

Then the nail-biting daily wait for the mail to arrive would begin.

Now, however, barely any waiting is involved because everything is done by email. Instead of spending days or weeks anticipating a reply from an agent, I now can experience the pain of rejection within minutes. But on the plus side, I no longer have to spend tons of money on postage.

The most important thing I have learned from years of writing books and attempting to get them published is that one of the most valuable tools an author can possess is the ability to write an intriguing, captivating query – the one-page letter in which a writer must pitch his or her book to a literary agent or an editor.  In just a few short paragraphs, the work must be made to sound like the next Gone With the Wind or The Great Gatsby and entice the person who is reading the query to write back with lightning speed and say, “Yes!  Send me your book!  I’m dying to read it!  It sounds like a literary masterpiece!”

I remember how much I struggled when trying to write a query for my first book, There’s a Tick in My Underwear.  After about 150 hours of failed attempts, I came to the conclusion that humor, when forced to be summarized in only a few paragraphs, just doesn’t sound, well...funny. 

Each chapter in my book centered around the experiences I (back when I was a 12-year-old city slicker with severe arachnophobia) had during my summer vacation at a primitive cabin my parents purchased as their getaway from the noise and heat of the city.  The chapters included subjects such as battling the outhouse snake, discovering the local swimming hole, rafting down the river, and meeting some of the kids (especially the teen boys) in the area.  Without my humorous comments and descriptions, however, all of my chapters sounded pretty yawn-inducing.          

So I read a bunch of how-to articles about writing the perfect query letter.  “Don’t try to be cute or witty,” one article advised. “Make your query sound as professional as a job application.”

Well, that pretty much ruled out everything I had planned to write.

“Do you think it’s OK to write that I took one look at the outhouse and was immediately stricken with a bad case of constipation?” I’d asked my husband as I sat struggling with my query.

“I don’t think so,” he said.

“How about that Conrad had the same effect on me as drinking syrup of ipecac?”

He shook his head. “You wouldn’t write that on a job application, would you?”

I have to admit I still struggle with writing query letters, even after all these years. The only problem nowadays, however, is that writing a query letter on a computer eliminates the satisfaction of being able to crumple sheets of paper and toss them into the trash. But considering all of my failed attempts over the years, I’ve probably saved an entire forest already.

Not long ago, I found a website that has hundreds of forums about writing. I happened to check out one that dealt with query letters. Many of the rejected writers’ comments made me laugh out loud.

“I’m going to quit after I receive 200 rejections,” one author wrote.

“Me, too!” another replied. “That means I have only 189 more to go before I can shoot my book in the head!”

Another writer wrote, “It’s Sunday morning and I just received two rejections via e-mail.  Apparently, editors come to work on Sundays just to reject my novel!”

“I got my rejection at 5:00 in the morning,” a first-time author wrote. “You know that has to be before their morning coffee, when they’re so cranky, even War and Peace would sound like crap to them!”

“You think that’s bad,” came another comment, “I’m receiving rejections from agents I haven’t even sent queries to!”

Their discussion only further convinced me to stick with my current method of self-publishing. That way, no one can reject me…other than myself. But I must confess there still is a small part of me that longs to receive a positive response from an agent (“Yes!  I will be your agent and promote your book even though you're nobody who's famous!  I think there might even be a movie in the works for it in the future!”). 

So I just might try getting my next book published in the traditional way instead of self-publishing.

Considering my past history, however, it probably will take me 12 years just to write the query letter.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2020



When I first started wearing a face mask, I wasn’t at all happy about it. For one thing, I guess I have big nostrils, because every time I breathed, the cloth on the mask would suck right up my nose. I had to keep pulling down the mask to catch a breath, which totally defeated the purpose of wearing it.

So I was relieved when I found, in a box under the kitchen sink, some masks I’d bought years ago when I was staining some furniture. They were shaped like cups that went over the face and unlike the cloth mask, didn’t cling to the skin. The problem was, they were plain, boring white. I wanted something more interesting, so I searched around the house for some colorful cloth (or something made out of colorful cloth) that I could cut up and sew over the mask.

I finally found the perfect material – soft black cotton with dainty pink flowers all over it. Unfortunately, the cloth currently was in the form of a pair of my panties. I didn’t care at that point. I cut them apart and then sewed the material over the mask. The end result looked and felt great.

All I can say is never in my wildest dreams would I ever have imagined that someday I’d be walking around breathing through my panties (or wearing them on my face).

Another problem with masks is they make me sweat underneath them. They also make my nose run…so I have to remove the mask to blow it – once again defeating the whole purpose of wearing one.

Another way I’ve been defeating the purpose is when I go grocery shopping. I’m in the habit of sniffing things before I buy them – especially produce. I can’t count how many bags of mildewed potatoes I’ve brought home over the years because I failed to give them my sniff test. But now I have to lift the mask if I want to sniff anything.

And then there are my ears. Never before did I realize just how flat against my head they were…until I attempted to get the elastic bands on the mask to stay on them. There’s just not enough ear meat sticking out of my head to create something to hook the elastics around. And when, after struggling for 10 minutes, I finally do manage to get the elastics to say in place, the minute I yawn or turn my head too quickly, they turn into lethal weapons and come snapping off like slingshots.

But the longer I have worn the masks, the more things I have discovered to like about them.

For one thing, I am saving a lot of money on lipstick. No one sees my lips, so there is no point in wasting any cosmetics. And I don’t have to keep using the little mirror in my purse to discreetly check my nose to see if there is anything hanging out of it.

And then there is that stubborn strand of hair on my chin that magically arrived with menopause, the one I have to pluck out on a regular basis. Now, with the face mask, I don’t have to bother with plucking any more. I can let the hair grow to a foot long if I want, and then just curl it up and tuck it inside the mask.

Wearing a mask also hides a lot of wrinkles, especially those trenches around the mouth that are referred to as frown lines. Before the mask-wearing era began, men who struck up conversations with me at the bank or supermarket looked to be in their 80s. Now, the men are more like in their 50s…at least I think they are. The also could be hiding saggy "Shar-Pei cheeks" behind their masks.

And now I can add extra garlic to my recipes and not have to worry about breathing on people and causing their hair to wilt. On a negative note, however, breathing my own recycled garlic-breath can get pretty...well, unpleasant.

But something happened a couple weeks ago that made me actually feel relieved I had to wear a mask.  I had a dental appointment for my regular cleaning and checkup. When the dentist examined my teeth, he noticed that my partial denture on top was loose and said it would have to be refitted. He took impressions, then said, “I’ll have it back to you in a week.”

I stared wide-eyed at him. “You’re keeping it?”

“I have to send it out to the lab,” he said.

I had several errands to run after my appointment, so I immediately felt panicky. “You’re going to make me walk out of here looking like a jack-o-lantern? How embarrassing!”

He laughed. “So? Just wear your mask. No one will know the difference.”

You know, I think I actually might miss my mask when we no longer are required to wear one.

I emphasize the word “might.”

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