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Putting up lights: A bright idea

December 11, 2011
By KELLY VAN DE WALLE ( , Times-Republican

For the record, I like Christmas. Unfortunately, because I neglect to join my wife in singing Christmas songs in July and opine that this behavior is only normal of alcoholic bridge dwellers with imaginary squirrel friends named "Steve" I am relegated to Ebenezer Hitler, Hater of Goodness. I'm thinking about embracing the role by turning off the lights and thermostat and have her enter numbers by hand into an old timey ledger by candlelight.

Aside from the excuse to drink alcoholic beverages in front of children whose names you probably should know, the best part of Christmas is all the lights.

My love of Christmas lights began at an early age, as my father routinely would cover the house with enough lights that pilots used our house as a beacon during blizzards and more than once a ship crashed into our home, mistaking it for a lighthouse.

Everybody knows that having the most lights on your house is how you win at Christmas. Unfortunately, some of the places I've rented, putting up exterior Christmas lights would've been like trying to enter a decrepit junkyard raccoon in the Westminster dog show by putting a bow on his head. Or, put another way, it's like trying to cover up a zit by getting a face tattoo. It just wasn't worth it.

Now that I own my home (that is systematically trying to destroy itself), I have the first opportunity to start the roof on fire. However I've been given specific guidelines to follow. My wife has an irrational hatred for inflatable decorations, so these are banned not only from our yard but also from even thinking about them. I'm sure it's only a matter of time before she calls me from jail after being arrested in someone's front lawn after murdering a giant Frosty with a grapefruit knife.

This is fine because I prefer the smaller lights than the fat bulbs, which, to me, are the Abe Vigoda of exterior illumination.

"Come on in," they shout, "and have some butterscotch candies as we regale you with stories about our neighbors, how cold it is in here, that one really hot summer and complain about the price of gas. Are you getting enough to eat? Here, let me pinch your face. Have another Werther's Original."

While the smaller lights go out to clubs with smoke machines and wear buttoned-down stripped shirts with eagles on them and drink cocktails that take 45 minutes to mix.

The most painless way to adorn your house Christmasry is to wait until December 24 to make your lighting purchases, as at this time they are typically 60-80% off. Often, you'll see weary sales clerks trying to sneak them into people's bags just to get them off the shelves.

When you return home, don't even unpack them. Just take out enough so you expose the plug-in. Then duct tape the box to the window. Done.

If your wife is one of those unreasonable ones that finds this method unsatisfactory, I've provided a guide to help you with your project.

Step 1: Locate your Christmas lights. Often this can take awhile so it's recommended you start your search early ? say, in May.

Step 2: Once you locate and dust them off, throw them all away. Sure, you could try and sort through them all, but you'll find that only about 30% are functional. Like toilet paper manufacturers, Christmas light manufacturers specifically design their products to deteriorate after one use.

Step 3: If you insist on keeping them, you can try and find the malfunctioning bulbs, but if you want the same feeling with similar results it's much faster to simply repeatedly smack yourself in the head with a plastic manger donkey.

Step 4: Curse at ice cycle lights. One of the fundamental laws of physics is for ice cycle lights to huddle together like a pit of snakes and only dangle beautifully on other people's houses. Yours have all the dangling properties of a package of unopened spaghetti. The only other explanation is that Christmas light manufacturers live in a world where ice cycles grow horizontally. Cursing them doesn't do any good, but it'll make you feel better. It's easier to pry a marshmallow from my one-year-old's karate death grip than it is to extend these devil things.

Step 5: Purchase gutter clips. These clips are made of plastic and are designed to support all types of lights, all except yours. Feel the joy of turning them over and over in your hands as you grow dumber by the second, refusing to look at the label because IT SHOULDN'T BE THIS HARD.

Step 6: Climb up to the roof during the coldest day. It doesn't matter what day it is, because that day will be the coldest.

Step 7: Drop all your clips. Curse.

Step 8: Notice everyone in your neighborhood already has their lights up. Consider asking to exchange houses for the holidays because this is hopeless.


Kelly Van De Walle is the senior creative writer for Briscoe14 Communications ( He can be reached at or via talking woodchuck.



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