Tuesday, November 24, 2020



There has been so much on the news lately about how Christmas will be different this year and perhaps very difficult for many, I can’t help but be reminded of our Christmas back in 2008, when everything also went terribly wrong and was difficult to cope with.

At the time, my husband and I were in the process of having a house built, which the contractor had assured us would be move-in ready by September. The problem was, he started out great – very gung-ho and enthusiastic about our project – then, too soon began to show up less and less often. Unbeknownst to us, he’d spent our down-payment (over $100,000) on something else, and had no money left to use for purchasing any materials for our house. Therefore, he intended to drag out the construction process for as long as possible…until he could earn some more money elsewhere. My dream of having a picture-perfect Christmas in our new house that year began to fade as each day passed.  Even worse, we already had a sale pending on the house we currently were living in.

Still, as I so often am accustomed to doing, I tried to find the humor in the situation. This is a column I wrote in 2008, after I finally admitted to myself that our house-building project was in very deep trouble. I thought I’d share it with you.




I hate to admit it, but I’m beginning to think that Christmas this year isn't going to be anything like I've been imagining it would be. 

First of all, I was certain we would be spending it in our new house (currently still under construction), which was the only Christmas gift I really wanted. And it might sound crazy, but I also was looking forward to finally having windowsills to decorate.

That's because we have none where we currently live, so putting Christmas candles in the windows always has been a real challenge. I can't count the number of times I've slid open the inside window so I could set a candle on the wooden frame between it and the outside window, only to have the inside window come slamming down on me. Good thing I'm fast at yanking my hands out of the way or I'd no longer have any reason to buy fingernail polish. Unfortunately, my neighbor, who has the same type of windows, doesn’t have very quick reflexes and has suffered so many cuts needing stitches, her arms are beginning to resemble a needlepoint project.

But the main reason why I've been looking forward to celebrating Christmas in the new house this year is because I'll finally be able to invite all of my relatives over for a Christmas gathering. Every year, my Uncle Tim and Aunt Dianne host the annual family get-together. It's a lot of hard work for them, what with all of the planning, preparation and cooking. So I figured this year, I could give them a much-needed break and offer to host the party. 

I've never been able to host it previously because our current place is only a little over 800 square feet with a short, two-car driveway and no parking allowed on the road out front. Our new house, however, is 1800 square feet with over 400 feet of driveway to park in. So even if my family were as big as the Osmond Family, there still would be plenty of room for everyone.

Visions of friends and relatives holding cups of eggnog while milling about and chatting in our new living room and kitchen gave me a warm feeling inside. I also imagined a tall, live Christmas tree (which we'd cut down right out back on our own land) standing beautifully decorated in a corner of the living room. I even frequently browsed through Martha Stewart's Christmas projects online to get some festive decorating ideas.

Yep, the dream was a nice one…that is, until reality hit me. In fact, it hit hard when I went over to check on the progress on our house last week, only to discover that the word "progress" didn't apply to anything there.

First of all, there still were no steps to get into the front door. I pictured my relatives, several of whom are in their 80s and have back, knee and/or hip problems, trying to hoist themselves up onto the front porch.

"Over here, Auntie!" I could just hear myself shouting while bending over and lacing my fingers together. "Let me give you a 'leg up' into the house!"

The fact there's no heating system installed yet also might be a problem. Instead of my guests holding eggnog and milling about, my vision switched to one of them wrapped in blankets and scarves and clasping cups of hot coffee to prevent their fingers from turning black and falling off. The total absence of windows in the house also might speed up the turning-black and falling-off process.

On the plus side, because there aren't any interior walls up yet, it might make it a lot easier for everyone to mingle…or hold a square dance. 


No toilets or septic tank also are a concern, especially at a Christmas party – although there's the workers' chemical toilet out near the woods. I can just picture myself using a crowbar to pry my guests' frozen butts from the cold metal seat. That is, if they don't knock themselves unconscious first, leaping off the front porch that has no steps, in their rush to get to the chemical toilet.

So no new house means having to spend another Christmas in our present home, which currently resembles a factory-outlet warehouse. Boxes, both empty and already packed for the move, are stacked everywhere. There's not an inch of space where there isn’t a tower of boxes. The only guests who might be able to find their way through the rooms are rodents, because they're used to living in dark, winding tunnels.

And then there are the piles of old newspapers everywhere, which I'm going to use for wrapping breakables before I pack them. They add a nice recycling-plant touch to the decor.

It's also likely that my husband and I will be wearing shorts, T-shirts and sandals this holiday season. Why?  Because back in early August, I packed away all of our winter clothing in anticipation of the move, and I haven't a clue in which of the 950 boxes our jackets, coats and boots are hiding.

As far as a Christmas tree, I might be able to squeeze a really small one into the one open space left on the coffee table, which currently is piled with items waiting to be packed. But all of my lights and decorations also are buried somewhere in the aforementioned 950 boxes. I suppose I could do something like string popcorn and decorate the tree with that, but my dogs too easily can reach the coffee table…where they inevitably would suck the popcorn off the tree faster than a couple of Hoovers.

So with Christmas rapidly approaching, which house, I'm wondering, might be the best place to entertain guests this year?

That's easy.  My Uncle Tim and Aunt Dianne's house.

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 (Note: Our house wasn’t completed until over a year later, on Thanksgiving of 2009).


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





Tuesday, November 17, 2020




People’s personal rituals and habits can be funny things. For example, I was watching a rerun of the TV show, “Everybody Loves Raymond,” the other night and the people on the show were making fun of Robert, Raymond’s brother, because of the strange way he ate potato chips. For some reason, Robert had to touch each chip to his chin before he popped it into his mouth.

I thought it was pretty funny, too…until I started thinking about some of my own crazy rituals over the years.

Even when I was a little kid, I had them.  The one that nearly drove my parents to their early graves, however, was what my mother always referred to as “the incredibly annoying door ritual.”  You see, when I went to bed at night, my bedroom door had to be left open at a precise angle. If it was even a millimeter off, I would whine.

I can remember my poor mother, standing there for ages, moving my door a fraction of an inch at a time as I cried, “No!  Too wide!” or “No! Not wide enough!” till the poor woman’s arms began to go numb.  To this day, I still think my door ritual may have been the reason why she eventually needed carpal-tunnel surgery.

But for some reason, whenever my father tried his hand at the door ritual, it was always perfect.   To my mother’s frustration, he wouldn’t even have to touch the door and I would tell him it was fine; probably because I knew he wasn’t patient enough to stand there half the night, creaking it back and forth the way my mother did. 

To be honest, if I had been my parents, I would have taken my door off its hinges and stored it in the basement, just to teach me a lesson.

Another childhood ritual of mine that ended up getting out of hand was my bedtime prayer.  Every night, I would kneel beside my bed and recite it before climbing under the covers. It didn’t take me long to realize, however, that the longer I prayed, the longer I could stall having to go to sleep.  So pretty soon, my prayers graduated from “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep” to “Our Father” (because it was longer), and I then would top it off with enough “God bless” requests to keep me up till midnight.

When I started asking God to bless each of Snow White’s seven dwarfs (by name), and each of the Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeers, my mother  finally put her foot down.  From then on, I had to use the Cliff’s Notes (abbreviated) version of my prayers.

As I got older, however, I noticed that other people had strange rituals, too. My friend Diane always made pyramids out of her mashed potatoes. And then she'd eat only one item on her plate at time.  First, she would eat all of the chicken, then all of the potatoes, and finally, because she liked them the least, the vegetables.  She never mixed any foods together.

Strangely, my late husband’s eating rituals were similar to Diane’s, except he carefully sculpted his potatoes into the shape of a watering trough, so they could hold plenty of gravy.  And the potatoes always had to be placed on the left side of his plate, with none of the food items touching each other.  If I, heaven forbid, handed his plate to him with the potatoes on the right, he’d give me such a look, you’d think I’d opened a can of Alpo and plopped it onto his plate for dinner.

“Well, just turn the plate around until the potatoes are on the left!” I’d say to him, “No big deal!”

“I know,” he’d answer, “but it’s just the principle of the thing,”

One of my rituals that my mother and husband always loved to tease me about probably will rear its head soon, seeing that the holiday season rapidly is approaching. You see, for some reason (which even I can’t explain, and I’m the one who invented it), I won’t wrap any Christmas gifts unless it is snowing outside.  I’m serious.  No snowstorm, no wrapping. 

There have been a couple holiday seasons when not a flake of snow fell, so all of the Christmas gifts I bought just sat there, naked.  One year, on the day before Christmas, my husband, fearing that his family would be handed their gifts in the wrinkled Walmart bags I kept under the kitchen sink, finally took it upon himself to do the wrapping.  It didn’t matter that the gifts ended up looking as if they had been wrapped at a supermarket deli; at least they were wrapped.

Every December, whenever snow was predicted, my mother would call and say, “You’d better go finish all of your Christmas shopping tonight, because it’s going to snow tomorrow!  This might be your only chance to wrap your gifts!”

My husband was less kind, however, when he teased me about my wrapping-only-when-it-snows ritual.  I’ll never forget the day he said, “I might not be able to buy you any Christmas gifts this year. You see, the wind has to be blowing in a northwesterly direction and Saturn has to be aligned with Mars before I can go shopping.”

The next night, when I served him his mashed potatoes, I plunked them dead-center on his plate with the rest of the food surrounding them.


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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: sillysally@att.net.




Saturday, November 7, 2020



Only three weeks ago, I decided I wanted to write a Christmas novella and have it finished and published by the first week of November. I felt certain it would have to be a warm, touching, family-oriented story if I wanted it to appeal to readers, but just to be sure, I checked several sites online to see what types of Christmas stories currently were all the rage.

The answer surprised me…Science-fiction Christmas stories.

The first thing that came to mind was that corny 1960s movie, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, where Santa is kidnapped by Martians because the kids on Mars also want to reap the benefits of his generosity, just like the kids on Earth do.

So I figured okay, I’ll write a science-fiction Christmas story, but I’ll make it a romance. The only problem was, I had no ideas whatsoever for a plot…and I’d never written anything science-fictional before (although some of my regular readers of this blog might dispute that claim!).

When I told one of my friends that I was thinking about writing a Christmas novella, she said, "Does that mean people will have to read it for nine consecutive days?"

I had no idea what she was talking about. But before I could ask, she said, “Oh, sorry - that's a novena, not a novella."

“A novella is longer than a short story but shorter than a novel,” I told her.

“And you intend to write it in two weeks? What’s it about?”

“I have no idea yet.”

“Well, good luck with that!”

For the next two days, I did nothing but think about possible plots. They ranged from an alien Christmas invasion to zombie elves. Finally, while taking my daily 45-minute walk one morning, I decided I was going to write about a woman who becomes disenchanted with Christmas, especially after her boyfriend (a.k.a. her boss) ends their relationship. So she rents a log cabin in the wilderness where she intends to work, undisturbed, on writing her first novel. Once there, however, she begins to discover that the cabin and the surrounding area are not what they appear to be…and neither is the charismatic, handsome stranger who shows up on her doorstep one morning.

After that, I had no idea where to take the plot, so I called my friend Bobby, who’s in his 80s and has the wildest imagination of anyone I know, and picked his brain. I tossed several different possibilities at him. Some he liked, some he didn’t – and then he offered a few ideas of his own. A couple were so absurd, we both laughed at them, but then I thought at least one of his suggestions did have some merit. So I ended up with a pretty good idea where to take the story.

I might add here that I’m a fan of filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan because he’s become known for his surprise endings that no one saw coming – with the exception of my husband, that is. I remember sitting down to watch The Sixth Sense with him, and the minute the kid in the movie said, “I see dead people," to Bruce Willis, my husband shrugged and said, "Oh, then Bruce Willis must be dead." 

I never forgave him for ruining the movie for me.

Anyway, my Christmas story, I decided, was going to lead the readers into thinking they had the plot all figured out, but then in the last chapter I was going to throw in a twist that would make them realize they were entirely wrong. I set to work feverishly writing to meet my self-imposed deadline.

“How’s it going?” my friend Bobby called to ask me.

“More slowly than I intended.”

“That’s because you don’t write the sensible way. You should write the way I keep telling you to write.”

He was referring to my habit of writing a few pages, then going back and editing them before continuing. Ever since I’ve known him, he's nagged me to get everything written down first –to just "go with the flow" – and then do the editing all at once, after I’ve finished.

So I finally tried his method and even though it felt like torture not to go back over everything as I wrote it, I was able to get a lot more accomplished by not pausing. Finally, I managed to get the entire novella written - nearly 18,000 words. I stored it in my computer and also on a flash drive. 

The next night, I spent five hours editing. And at the very end of the fifth hour, when I went to save my work, my laptop’s screen suddenly went black. I tried everything – rebooting, pulling out the battery and power source and reconnecting them, pressing various combinations of keys that were supposed to help the problem – yet the screen still remained black.  I dug out my old laptop, the one that my rottweiler once attacked and tore off the lid, which ended up hanging on by only a few wires (yet that screen still works) and researched the problem. It didn’t make me feel very optimistic when I discovered the trouble with my screen was referred to as the “black death.” Still, I followed every suggestion that was offered...and nothing worked.

So, using my relic of a laptop, I shoved my flash drive into it and pulled up the rough draft of my Christmas story…and then I worked another five hours editing it all over again. After I finished, I emailed the manuscript to my friend, Nancy, who proofreads all of my books for me and not only picks up on typos or inconsistencies, she lets me know exactly what she thinks about the plot.

She wrote back later that night and said she’d found only one typo, which surprised me, considering I’d been less than wide awake when I’d edited it for the second time. Then she said exactly what I’d wanted her to say: “I thought I had the plot all figured out and who the stranger was, but then the last chapter came as a total shock!  In fact, when I first started reading it, I wondered if there was a mix-up and it had come from a different book or you’d skipped a chapter. But as I kept reading, everything came together and fell into place. I loved it!" 

So all I had to do after that was design a cover and think of a title that wouldn’t divulge much about the plot. I know writers who have spent hundreds, even thousands, for professional cover-designers, but considering my budget, which was about a dollar, I figured I’d have to do it myself. I searched online and found a site called Canva that offered free stock-photos, templates and designs for creating book covers, and set to work.

The first problem I encountered was Canva’s lack of rustic-looking log cabins to choose from in the “free” category.  I also needed one in the snow, not one surrounded by wild daisies or colorful fall foliage. And I wanted wilderness, the wilder the better.  I found a great winter wilderness scene, then I also found a small, rustic cabin, which I inserted into the middle of it. But curiously, the cabin had no doors or windows, which made me wonder how people got into it – down the chimney like Santa? So I then searched for photos of old doors and windows, and inserted them into the cabin. After I finished that, I also did an alternative cover with a different scene and a more modern-looking cabin.

I posted both covers on Facebook and asked my friends to let me know which one they liked better – or if they thought neither one was eye-catching. I didn’t tell them I’d designed them myself, however, because I wanted honest opinions. The majority chose the cover on the right.

My first plan was to publish the novella only as an e-book, for 99 cents, but then the aforementioned Facebook friends said they might like to buy the paperback version for stocking stuffers.  That meant I had to design a back cover with a blurb on it.

I worked another few hours on that, along with a blurb, and finally went to Amazon to publish everything. Amazon allowed me to use the front cover I’d designed, but not the back one. No, for the back cover I was informed I had to use one of their templates. The selections they offered not only were very limited, they also were pretty drab and boring. So the paperback version of my novella ended up with a back cover in plain gray with white lettering and a photo of me on it instead of the frosty image of snow-covered trees I’d wanted. 

But I’m pleased to say the novella, Christmas, a Cabin and a Stranger, officially was published on November 2.

And now I’m waiting for the reviews…and for my friends to tell me they’re convinced I’ve finally gone off the deep end.

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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.


Monday, November 2, 2020




I hate to admit it, but I’m beginning to miss the hundreds of mail-order catalogs I always received every November, when companies were eager to entice me to start my Christmas shopping. I used to enjoy browsing through the stacks of them while relaxing with a cup of tea, and searching for unique gifts for my friends and relatives – things I never (and I DO mean never) would have thought of on my own if I hadn’t seen them in catalogs.

The other night I was looking through my hall closet for something and found, in the back corner, a stack of mail-order catalogs from 20 years ago (which tells you how often I clean my closets). I looked through them and found myself laughing at many of the products and wondering if people actually bought any of them back then. I also wondered how many of the companies that sent those catalogs are still in business.

 Anyway, below are a few of the catalog items that made me chuckle, while others just had me scratching my head and thinking, “Huh?”

 1.   From Pacific Spirit :  Chang Sheng soap - $23.  The description reads:

      “Chinese Dr. Ou has isolated a tiny unseen mite called the demodex human parasite that lives in hair follicles of every adult’s skin and if left untreated, can result in severe facial disfiguration.  This soap is formulated to kill these mites.”

       A photo accompanying the ad shows a “before” photo of a man with a huge, bulbous red nose, and an “after” photo of him with a petite, turned-up nose.  I guess anyone who might be contemplating getting plastic surgery could save a bundle of money on a nose job, thanks to Dr. Ou!  (I wonder if that’s pronounced “Ow?”).

Now pardon me while I go scratch my hair follicles. 

2.   From the Healthy Living catalog:  Magnetic bra straps - $4.99.   The ad reads:  “Take away shoulder pain!  Put the power of magnets to work on shoulder aches with two 400-gauss magnets.”

       I must have a weird sense of humor because the first thing I pictured when I thought of a magnetic bra, was a woman leaning over her desk at work and ending with paper clips stuck all over her blouse (she also might be wise to avoid getting too close to refrigerator doors).

3.    Also from Healthy Living:  Bigger Bust vitamin pills - $19.99 for 60 tablets. The ad boasts:  “Increase your bust naturally!  Before you resort to painful, expensive surgery, let these tablets nourish your breasts and repair damage brought on by aging and childbirth.”

       The only thing I can’t figure out is how these pills are smart enough to know exactly which part of the body to nourish and increase.  With my luck, they’d go straight to my butt.

4.    And for the man of the family, from The Sportsman’s Guide:

       Leaf Suit - $89.97.  The description: “This suit is covered from head to toe with 3-dimensional leaves that look so real, they even flap in the breeze.  The perfect camouflage for hunters!  You’ll have to shoo away critters that come by to mark their territory!”

       The man wearing this suit in the photo looks exactly like the monster from  “The Swamp Thing.”  I suppose it also might make a great gift for the Peeping Tom or escaped convict in the family.

5.    From American Science and Surplus:  Bag of Eyeballs - $5.  Described as  “A clear plastic bag filled with a dozen olive-size eyeballs in slimy pink goo.  Roll the bag in your hands for the full effect.  The best product since our Gurgling Guts!” (I don’t even want to THINK about what those are!).

6.    Also from American Science and Surplus (a company that obviously was trying to recycle excess hospital supplies in the guise of unique gifts at the time):  Gravy jar with screw cap - $2 for 6.   “These hospital specimen containers can be used to hold many things!”  (hopefully no leftover samples of what they originally were designed to hold).

      Also, a pink “Tub for Toys” - $1.  The ad reads: “This plastic hospital basin is perfect for holding small toys” (and the entire contents of an upset stomach).

7.   From Taylor Gifts:  Toilet Monster - $19.98.  The catalog states: “Your guests will shriek with glee when they lift the toilet lid and up pops a red demon with fangs in a toothy grin!”

      Sounds like a great cure for irregularity (but I’d be really careful of those fangs).

8.   From Funny Side Up:  T-shirts with sayings (various prices).  They


     “Sometimes I Open My Mouth and My Mother Comes Out.”

      “Dear Lord, if You Can’t Make Me Skinny, Please Make My Friends Fat.”

      “Revenge is the Reason Why I Get up Every Day.”

      “I Can Fix Anything.  Where’s the Duct Tape?”

       “My Grandson is a Labrador Retriever.”

       “I took Nude Photos of Myself With All of the Lights Off. You’re Welcome!”

9.    And I’ve saved the best gift for last, for the man who REALLY loves his woman.  From Victoria’s Secret: Bra and Panty Set - $15 million. The description:  “This one-of-a-kind bra and bikini-panty set glitters with over 1,300 precious gemstones, including 300 carats of Thai rubies set among dazzling diamonds.”

      The photo shows a pencil-thin model wearing a bra and panties that are completely covered with jewels. They don’t show the back of the panties, but I hope they’re not the thong style, or all of those jewels could get mighty painful.

       Heck, I'd need them to add a few hundred extra carats of gemstones just to get those panties to fit around my hips. So my price probably would be somewhere around $20 million. And I'm not sure how I'd explain to my insurance agent that I need to take out a policy for my underwear.

Yep, like I said, I sure do miss getting all of those catalogs.


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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.