Tuesday, March 29, 2022



If my husband were still alive, I’m sure he would have been one of the first people in line to buy one of those Ring doorbells that does everything from show you who’s at your door and allow you to talk to them (even if you’re away vacationing in Hawaii), to opening the door and handing them drinks.

I don’t know why, but my husband always was fascinated with doorbells. When I once asked him why, he said it was because it took a real ding-dong to appreciate another one.

One family we used to visit had the Westminster chimes for their doorbell, which he loved so much, he’d use any excuse to go over there and ring it. I, however, tried to avoid visiting this family during the winter months because by the time their doorbell played its entire tune, my lips were frozen to my teeth.

I remember when we bought our first home and the doorbell just went “ding dong,” how disappointed my husband was. He said he wanted something unique, something classy, something that would make the people who rang it say, “Wow, now that’s what I call a really cool doorbell!”

My father, big help that he was, happened to mention to my husband that he’d seen a gizmo that could be programmed to play up to 50 different tunes, such as Christmas carols, birthday songs, and even “Here Comes Peter Cottontail,” and then be hooked up the doorbell.

My husband’s eyes grew so wide upon hearing that bit of news, he ended up looking like an owl.

So, as a surprise, my parents bought him the doorbell song-programming gadget for Christmas. The only problem was, it was in the form of a kit where each note had to manually be programmed one by one into the mechanism by connecting wires in distinct patterns. 

In other words, to program all 50 songs probably would take about 20 years.

When my husband unwrapped the gift and saw what it was, he was so excited, I thought he’d received a box full of cash. But as soon as he opened it and looked at all of the wires and the 15-volume set of instructions, his expression transformed into one of total confusion…with more than a touch of panic.

 “Don’t worry,” my dad, who loved to work on projects, said. “Just let me know which song you want first and I’ll program it for you, then I’ll hook it up to your doorbell.”

After much deliberation, my husband chose (no big surprise) the Westminster chimes.

Three weeks later, my dad still was trying to program that one song. And every time he tested it to see how the Westminster chimes were progressing, the tune sounded so off-key, even my parents’ cat covered its ears.

Not long thereafter, the musical doorbell kit mysteriously disappeared from my dad’s workbench, never to be seen or mentioned again. Whenever we asked about it, Dad would change the subject. I still suspect, however, that the hole he was seen digging in his rock garden one night probably wasn’t to plant some really big tulip bulbs as he’d claimed it was.

I hate to admit it, but when we were building our current house, I was the one who bought the doorbell for it. 

My husband, connoisseur of doorbells that he was, had wanted to make that all-important decision, so when I announced I’d already bought it, he was understandably disappointed.

“I hope you got one that plays something like Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony,” he said.

But the truth was, I’d been penny pinching at the time and had grabbed a doorbell that was on a half-price clearance table at the hardware store. And for the decorative box that covered the mechanism on the wall, I selected another half-price item, a plain oak one.  


The contractor who was in charge of all the electrical work on our new house installed the doorbell, but my husband and I were too busy packing and moving stuff to pay much attention to it.

So it wasn’t until the house nearly was completed and someone came to visit that we heard the doorbell for the first time…“Bzzzzzzz! Dong! Clunk!…Bzzzzzzz! Dong! Clunk!”

My husband and I just stared at each other. It was the worst sound we’d ever heard – kind of like a giant bee getting clubbed to death.

“What the hell was that?” my husband asked.

“I think it was our doorbell,” I said.

“Why on earth would you buy something that sounds that bad?”

“Well, how was I supposed to know what it sounded like? I couldn’t very well test it when it was still in the package in the store, could I?”

 “Even your father’s out-of-tune Westminster chimes sounded better than that!” he said.

So for over a year, my husband gritted his teeth and rolled his eyes whenever someone rang our doorbell. Finally, my aunt and uncle came to visit one afternoon. When they rang the doorbell, my husband groaned and said, for about the 150th time, “I really hate that doorbell!”

My uncle heard his remark and, being a talented jack-of-all-trades, said, “Let me check it out for you. It doesn’t sound right!”

He grabbed a step-stool and removed the wooden box from the doorbell’s mechanism, then started to laugh. “Whoever installed this, installed it upside down! It’s probably donging when it should be dinging!”

“What about the annoying buzzing?” my husband asked him.

“Well, unfortunately, I think that’s in the transformer.” My uncle reinstalled the doorbell in the correct position and then went outside to push the button to test it. “Bzzzzzz! Ding Dong!”

“Hey! At least we have both a ding and a dong now!” I said.

My husband still looked less than pleased that it wasn’t playing something like Bohemian Rhapsody. It obviously was going to take much more than just a long-lost “ding” to ever make him truly happy about the doorbell.

To this day, I still have that same doorbell and it still sounds the same...but with slightly more buzzing.

And every time someone rings it, I think of my husband and I smile.

However, I’ve always had the urge to sneak into my dad’s old flower garden and start digging. I have the sneaking suspicion I just might find the skeletal remains of that doorbell gizmo with the programmable tunes.

#   #   #


Sally Breslin is an award-winning syndicated humor columnist who has written regularly for newspapers and magazines all of her adult life. She is the author of several novels in a variety of genres, from humor and romance to science fiction. Contact her at: sillysally@att.net





Tuesday, March 22, 2022



First of all, I’d like to mention that if you’ve been interested in reading my sci-fi book, Inside the Blue Cube, inspired by a true event, the e-book version is FREE on Amazon now through March 24th  only – no catch, and no strings attached!  The best part is that after you’ve read it, if you decided you didn’t like it – it was free, so you can’t groan and say, “I wish I hadn’t spent my hard-earned money on this #$%!!”  Anyway, just click on the link below – underneath the photo of the lady in the blue cube – and download your free copy!


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Well, I spent this past weekend being cold. That’s because my furnace decided to cough a few times and die. And stubborn (and financially challenged) person that I am, I refused to pay the inflated weekend prices for a repairman.

The only problem with waiting to call for repairs was I had no alternate source of heat – no fireplace, no woodstove, no space heater, not even a stove oven (that also died about two years ago) to help keep me warm.  I did, however, have two wrap-around electric heating-pads, so I spent the weekend wrapped in those while the temperature in the house remained at a balmy 58-59F degrees.

Actually, I do have a fireplace – sort of. It’s a simulated one that burns cans of gel fuel, similar to Sterno.  But I was out of the gel, which I used up the last time my furnace coughed and died, back in late October.

I’ve come to the conclusion that my furnace is like a cat because it has nine lives…and already has used up about seven of them.

Anyway, over the weekend, I did what every seasoned homeowner who doesn’t want to needlessly spend money does – I tried to fix the problem myself. This involved Googling the “how to get your furnace running again” lists and religiously following each step. I flipped the furnace’s switch off and on. I flipped the thermostat’s switch off and on. And while the furnace was shut off, I even dared to unscrew and remove the panel on the front of it...and then stood and stared blankly at the furnace’s innards. As a last resort, I also performed an exorcism dance in an attempt to remove the evil spirits from the metal monster.

One item on the list, however: “Carefully remove the furnace’s igniter and clean it," I decided to skip right over, not only for my own safety, but also for my entire neighborhood's.

The end result of all my efforts was I permanently shut off the furnace and cranked up my heating pads from “medium” to “high.”

When I called the repair service on Monday morning, no one really seemed to care too much that I was cold…and old (I mentioned "old" to them in an attempt to gain some sympathy). I was told they couldn't possibly squeeze me in, even though the forecast for Monday night included wind-chills of about 30 degrees.

They did check to see when my last propane delivery was, thinking I probably had an empty tank. It had been filled just last week.

I casually said, “Speaking of propane, I thought I could smell gas in my basement, which is why I gave up trying to start the furnace myself. I wasn't in the mood to go airborne.”

The woman on the phone gasped. “You smelled propane in your basement?”

“Yeah, but it was really faint, and that was only on Saturday.”

“It could be a dangerous leak! Someone will be right over! In the meantime, don’t light anything, don’t smoke, don’t turn on any electrical switches or appliances, and evacuate everyone in the house and stand outside!”

As she spoke to me, I glanced over at the teakettle heating up on the stove (I'd been drinking a lot of tea to keep my internal organs thawed) and then heard my clothes dryer crank onto its next cycle. I felt pretty certain that if a dangerous gas leak did exist somewhere, the house and I probably would have been orbiting Jupiter by then.

But I wasn’t about to argue with her…especially if it meant a repairman would be right over.

He arrived in 20 minutes.

The first thing he did was ask me what the propane smelled like. 

I had no clue what he meant. I mean, propane smells like propane.

"Like a fart?" I answered.

He rolled his eyes. "No - did it smell fresh or kind of burnt?"

I shrugged and repeated, "It smelled like an old fart."

He did a thorough check of the gas lines and regulators and deemed the house safe before he headed down to the basement to check the furnace.

Well, as my luck usually goes with everything from cars to appliances, the minute the repairman turned on the furnace, it kicked on and purred like a kitten. He repeated the process. Again, the furnace betrayed me and fired right up. I actually could see it sticking out its tongue and cackling at me.

The repairman, however, didn’t even crack a smile. In fact, his expression clearly told me he was thinking, “You made me rush all the way over here for nothing, you delusional old bat!”

Instead, he said, “Well, I guess everything is okay now.”

I, however, still had the strong feeling everything wasn’t okay. I knew that the minute he drove off to his next emergency job, my furnace would die again and this time, because my house had been checked for leaks, he would know the place was safe and would delay his return…until about June.

But I happened to notice something at that point. He had tested the furnace only after he’d removed the front panel.

“When you screw the panel back on, can you try the furnace again?” I asked him.

Again, he gave me the “crazy old bat” look. But he did as I asked.

And the furnace didn’t ignite.

I honestly felt like kissing it.

I also noticed a green light blinking out a pattern like Morse code.

“I have to count the blinks,” he said. “It will tell me what’s wrong.”

The final diagnosis was the outside air-intake vent was blocked. When he’d removed the front panel on the furnace, he explained, air from in the basement had been enough to allow the furnace to ignite, but with the panel back on, there wasn’t any more basement air.

I was familiar with the good old air-intake problem…very familiar.  The furnace’s outside vent, which is really low to the ground and has no protection over it (any “protection,” I have been told numerous times, would affect the air flow), attracts all sorts of insects and small animals. As a result, it has been the home of wasps and their nests, mice and their nests, and spiders and their sticky webs – all of which have obstructed the air flow. This time, however, it turned out to be a bunch of dead leaves that the vent had decided to suck up.

The repairman removed all of the leaves and said he was glad the blockage hadn't been caused by anything alive, like a family of pit vipers.

He did tell me that if it ever happens again, I don’t have to risk freezing. There actually is a rubber plug on the side of the furnace I can pop out that will allow the basement's air to be sucked into the furnace and allow it to keep running…until whatever vermin might be clogging up the outside vent can be extricated.

The furnace seems to be running just fine now, knock on wood.

But it’s only a matter of time before it dies again and uses up another one of its nine lives. I’m pretty sure I saw a tiny “vacancy” sign hanging above the outside vent.   

#   #   #

Sally Breslin is an award-winning syndicated humor columnist who has written regularly for newspapers and magazines all of her adult life. She is the author of several novels in a variety of genres, from humor and romance to science fiction. Contact her at: sillysally@att.net



Tuesday, March 15, 2022



There are some people who enjoy hosting dinner parties and entertaining guests so much, they do it as effortlessly as brushing their teeth. I honestly believe they were born with a special talent for it in their blood.

Unfortunately, I learned many years ago that I’m not one of them.

I had further proof of it last week when my friends Nancy and Paul invited me over for dinner. As I sat at their beautifully set table with a cloth tablecloth and napkins, china teacups with roses on them, and the silverware laid out in the proper order next to my plate, I envisioned what the table would have looked like if they had been dining at my house instead…vinyl placemats, paper plates and paper napkins, plastic cutlery and Solo cups, with my two huge dogs sitting next to them and begging for food throughout the entire meal.

At Paul and Nancy’s, I was served a thick, juicy steak that was so tender, even if I hadn’t had a single tooth in my mouth, I still would have been able to chew it with ease. It was accompanied by a potato that was perfectly shaped, perfectly baked, and was hot and fluffy on the inside.   

Had I served that same meal, the potato’s skin would have been shriveled and dark brown, with the inside still raw and as hard as a brick. And the only jaws able to handle any steak I ever cook would be the jaws of life.

Without exaggeration, in the past 30 years, I have cooked only one steak that actually was chewable. And I’ve tried everything – tenderizers, marinades, meat hammers, broiling, frying, grilling and baking – all of which have led me to come to one irrefutable conclusion…

Steak hates me.

No matter how much I pay for it or how much the meat-cutter or butcher tells me it’s the most tender cut ever created, the minute I touch it and try to cook it, it turns into a giant elastic-band. No, make that a slab of rawhide.

But Paul has never cooked a bad steak.  I have been waiting years for him to plunk a chunk of jaw-dislocating gristle on my plate, just so I won’t feel so inferior, but it hasn’t happened yet, not even close. His steaks always are cooked to perfection. And whenever I ask him what he did to make them so juicy and tender, hoping he might share some secret family technique handed down through the generations, he always just shrugs and says, “I don’t know, I don’t do anything special. I just cook it.”

Easy for him to say.

And then there is Nancy – who bakes everything from scratch – cakes, brownies, cookies, cobblers – and they all turn out looking as if they should be in a bakery display-case.  No Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines boxes ever would be seen in Nancy’s kitchen…mainly because Betty and Duncan actually could take lessons from her when it comes to baking.

During my visit last week, she made brownies and frosted lemon cookies – both of which she knew are my favorites. That’s another thing that makes Paul and Nancy such great hosts – they memorize everyone’s favorite foods and then prepare most of them in a single meal. As a result, I ate so much, I honestly thought I’d have to sleep overnight slumped over their dining table because I was too full to move away from it.

But their entertaining also goes far beyond the meal. They know I love to play word games, so after we ate, they suggested we play a couple of my favorites – Upwords and Scattergories…while having tea and more brownies and cookies.

When I finally got home that night, carrying lots of yummy leftovers Nancy packed up for me, I was one very happy and satisfied guest...who'd just spent hours being pampered and treated like royalty.

The only problem is I always end up feeling guilty after I eat at Paul and Nancy’s because I know I can’t reciprocate and invite them over for the same royal treatment. For one thing, they are such great cooks, anything I’d serve them would taste like military K-rations in comparison.

I mean, the last batch of cookies I baked is still stuck to the cookie sheet because the dough acted like quick-drying cement and I figure I’ll probably have to sand-blast it off. Also, my best dinner plates were purchased at the going-out-of-business sale at Building 19, a store that used to buy up surplus stock from other stores that had been damaged by tornadoes, floods or fires.

And as I previously mentioned, even my dogs have trouble chewing my steaks.

I did try baking brownies from scratch once when Paul and Nancy were coming over. 

After Paul ate one, his comment was, “The walnuts in them were good.” 

He was trying to be kind. That’s because the brownies were as dry as the Sahara and tasted like chocolate cardboard. I think I actually saw some of the walnuts leaping to their deaths, just so they could escape from those terrible brownies.

So no, I’m afraid I won’t be inviting my dear friends over for a reciprocal home-cooked meal any time soon, mainly because I’m trying to preserve what little dignity I have left…along with their stomachs.

I’m pretty sure they will thank me for it.

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Sally Breslin is an award-winning syndicated humor columnist who has written regularly for newspapers and magazines all of her adult life. She is the author of several novels in a variety of genres, from humor and romance to science fiction. Contact her at: sillysally@att.net.




Tuesday, March 8, 2022


Hibernating during the winter months never has bothered me much because I usually use the time to write books. Surprisingly, writing my latest creation turned out to be fun, not the torture I’d imagined it was going to be. 

You see, last year during my annual hibernation, I came up with an idea for a science-fiction story called Inside the Blue Cube, about a woman who goes to an alien-abduction-themed party, drinks something called “the elixir” and wakes up inside a room that’s basically a glowing blue cube.

I ended up writing it as a novella, which is shorter than a novel but longer than a short story. I gave it a HFN (happy for now) ending, as opposed to the more popular HEA (happily ever after), then published it and that was that.

Or so I thought.

Soon, messages of protest arrived. “How can you leave us hanging like that? You have to write a sequel!” and “You’d better write a sequel because I won’t be able to sleep until I find out what happens next!”

The problem was, I had no idea what would happen next, which was the main reason why I’d ended the book when I did. Another reason was I hadn’t wanted to get into any of the anticipated science-fictiony stuff. No spaceships, no weird planets, no three-eyed creatures, no futuristic societies and no weapons of mass destruction. 

Nope. I’d wanted no part of that. 

So in the novella, I purposely kept my main characters on Earth – a place I like to think I’m fairly familiar with.

But when mail continued to arrive, protesting the ending of my novella, I began to think, “If everyone is so darned interested in what happens to these characters, then I must have done something right to make them so endearing.”

So a couple months ago, after about 25 “deep thinking” walks in the woods that nearly resulted in frostbite, I finally came up with what I thought might be a decent plot for the sequel. Yes, it involved a spaceship, several new species, assorted futuristic gadgets, and even a couple miracle cures, but I had no choice. I mean, if you’re going to label a book as science fiction, then it has to contain …well, fictional science.

But I firmly vetoed including any weapons of mass destruction in my book. My newly created planet was going to be a peaceful one…except for a fearsome species that was in the habit of separating people’s heads from their bodies. But every decent story needs a villain or two…or in this case, a few hundred.

Actually, the fact the book was pure fiction gave me the creative freedom to write anything I pleased. If, for example, I wanted to write about someone on my newly created planet getting into a terrible accident and losing a gallon of blood, and then being saved by a successful transfusion of apple juice, then no one could dispute it, saying it was impossible…because it’s fictional science. So to me, that meant the sky was the limit.

Soon, I was writing over 2,000 words per day, my fingers fairly flying over the keyboard as the creative juices (no, not apple juice) flowed and new ideas popped into my head in rapid succession. And I didn’t come up for air until I’d written nearly 85,000 words. This book was no puny novella like its predecessor…no, this was a bona-fide novel (insert some grunts and chest pounding here).

I gave it a happily-ever-after ending, edited it for any major discrepancies, and then sent the first draft of Beyond the Blue Cube to my three reliable proofreaders…all of whom are brutally honest. For example, a few years ago I sent them the first draft of a thriller I’d written…and they told me it wasn’t thrilling.

So, to my surprise, they couldn’t rave enough about my latest achievement. One even said she’d become so engrossed in the plot while reading it, she completely forgot to do any proofreading.

There was, however, only one problem with the book, which all three of them pointed out to me.

“You can’t just leave it off where you did. It’s absolutely crying out for a sequel.”

Here we go again.  

On the plus side, I still have a year until next winter’s hibernation period to think about it.

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Sally Breslin is an award-winning syndicated humor columnist who has written regularly for newspapers and magazines all of her adult life. She is the author of several novels in a variety of genres, from humor and romance to science fiction. Contact her at: sillysally@att.net


Tuesday, March 1, 2022



My late husband’s birthday was a couple weeks ago and it made me think about all of the times I tried to get him a special gift that would make him so excited, he’d want to dance a jig.

Most of the time, however, I failed miserably, even though I always had the best of intentions.

But one of those attempts came to mind the other day as I was thinking about his birthday.

Back in 2005, Pam, my pen pal in Scotland, sent an e-mail telling me she’d thought of the perfect birthday gift for him. She said she wanted to adopt a bison in his name.

You see, my husband was a rabid collector of anything and everything that had to do with buffalo or bison. In fact, our formerly all-colonial house had so many statues, pictures, sculptures, wall hangings, artifacts, paintings, etc. of bison crammed into it, you’d think we were living on the Ponderosa.

As visions of a big buffalo bull grazing on our front lawn filled my mind, I asked Pam how and where she planned to adopt the animal. She explained that the adoption was more like a sponsorship, and the buffalo would stay where it was (thank goodness).

She added that she’d done an Internet search and had found a zoo not too far from New Hampshire that had nothing but buffalo in it. She said she thought it might be a good place to start.

I was certain that if such an all-buffalo zoo did indeed exist somewhere near here, my husband already would have pitched a tent there and been living among the beasts.

“What zoo is it?” I asked her.

“It’s called the Buffalo Zoo!” she said.

I couldn’t help but laugh. I really hated to burst her bubble, but I had to tell her that Buffalo was the city in which the zoo was located, not a zoo filled with buffalo.

She then asked me if maybe I could help her find a place in America that offered buffalo adoptions. She said it would be easier if I handled everything at my end and then she’d just send me the money for it.

“I’m willing to go as high as $80,” she said.

Well, there was no way I was going to let her spend that kind of money on a birthday gift, so I set out to search the Internet for a place that not only offered buffalo adoptions, but cheap buffalo adoptions. I immediately found the Adopt-A-Bison Program in Oklahoma, listed through an organization called the Nature Conservancy. I contacted them, only to be informed that they weren’t conducting the program any more. They did, however, ask me if I’d like to adopt a coral reef to help save the environment.

After what seemed like hours more of online searching, I came across a place called the Dickerson Zoo in Springfield, Missouri. It offered adoptions for only $30. The package included a personalized, official certificate of adoption, an actual photo of the adopted animal, an information sheet, periodic newsletters, a free pass to the zoo and more. Excited, I printed out the adoption form, filled in the information, wrote out a check and mailed everything to the zoo.

Three days later, I received a phone call. “Hello,” a woman’s voice, sounding just a bit uneasy, said. “I’m calling from the Dickerson Park Zoo in Missouri. You filled out an adoption form for a bison?”

“That’s right,” I said brightly.

“Well, um, we don’t have any bison here,” she said. “I mean, I’ve worked here for years and we’ve never had a bison!”

 “Are you sure?” I asked, as if the poor woman somehow had overlooked a 2,000-pound bison all those years.

“Positive. Can I interest you in another animal? Perhaps a nice black bear?”

“No, but thank you,” I said, my tone doing little to conceal my disappointment. “It has to be a buffalo. My husband loves buffalo…and it’s his birthday.”

 “Oh. I’m really sorry we can’t help you,” she said. “I’ll be sure to return your check.”

About a half-hour after I hung up, I turned on my computer and there was an e-mail message from the woman I’d just spoken with on the phone. She felt so bad for my poor bison-less birthday boy, she sent me a list of places where she thought I might be able to adopt a bison.

I eagerly checked out each one. The prices ranged from $100 all the way up to $500 for an adoption. I was just about to give up on the whole idea and tell my pen pal to just buy my husband a bison figurine and he’d be thrilled. But then I checked out the last place on the list; the Adopt a Species program at the National Zoo in Washington, DC.

The website said that for a donation, I could adopt any animal from the zoo’s list and get a personalized certificate of adoption, a photo, fact sheet and six issues of the zoo’s newsletter. And best of all, when I checked their list of the many creatures available for adoption…from a giant hissing cockroach to a white-cheeked gibbon…there was the American buffalo! I think I actually had a tear in my eye when I saw it.

Quickly, I filled out the adoption form, wrote a check and sent everything to the zoo. And then, because the list had said, “subject to change,” I held my breath. I figured that with my luck, the zoo probably had only one arthritic, toothless old buffalo and it would drop dead the day after I mailed the application.

A week later, a packet arrived from the zoo. The certificate of adoption had my husband’s name professionally printed in calligraphy on it, and there was a beautiful photo of “his” buffalo along with a fact sheet and a copy of “Zoogoer” magazine.

Pam was thrilled when I told her that her gift idea finally had been fulfilled, and just in time for my husband’s birthday.

And when my husband opened his gift, he was so excited to be part owner of a genuine bison, he was ready to hop the next flight to Washington, DC just so he could make sure his new “son” was being treated well.

I was pleased to see him so thrilled about a gift, but the fact remained that even though I'd done all of the footwork, it technically was a gift from Pam, not me, which was disappointing... especially when he didn’t seem even half as excited about the painting of a buffalo I’d paid $20 to a local artist to paint for him.

The fact that the buffalo looked as if it had been the victim of some horrible, disfiguring accident, or the artist had painted it while wearing a blindfold and holding the paintbrush in his teeth shouldn’t have mattered.

After all, it's the thought that counts.

#   #   # 

Sally Breslin is an award-winning syndicated humor columnist who has written regularly for newspapers and magazines all of her adult life. She is the author of several novels in a variety of genres, from humor and romance to science fiction. Contact her at: sillysally@att.net