Rigging up the lights….

When I was a kid, I remember driving through Princeton, NJ, where I grew up, during the month of December, knowing where all the familiar outdoor Christmas lights could be found. I looked forward to the house a few blocks over that had a smattering of blue lights in a tree in their front yard, and the twinkle lights around the bushes right down the street. When they appeared, I knew it was really time for the holidays. One year the neighbors across the street had *gasp* – blinking lights on the front of their house.

I also grew up thinking that outdoor Christmas lighting was only for other people’s houses, as we didn’t do it. We had our Christmas tree in the big living room window, and that was really the extent of it. I believe that this was mostly due to my Dad not being, uh, the most “handy”,or even really interested in having outdoor Christmas lights. But one year, when I was around ten years old, I think perhaps in response to my mom declaring: Dear, wouldn’t it be nice if we had some lights on our bushes?… He rigged up some blobs of colored lights clumped together on our two round bushes by the front door, no doubt with a mountain of extension cords running all over the place. I didn’t honestly pay much attention to how all of that worked, but given the fact that they were actually lit only about half the time, and it was only one year of blobby bush lighting, I gather that the electrical challenges were probably insurmountable. I remember wondering why it would be so difficult. Well Dad, now I understand.

Fast forward a few (OK, 30) years, when suddenly outdoor lighting is way more elaborate than a few blue lights in a tree – or a small cute reindeer lit up by the garage. I’m talking about houses that put the Griswold’s light display to shame. There are blow up snow globes, multiple trees with blinking lights, the ever popular “icicle” lights, and a multitude of other yuletide arrangements.

When we were first married, my husband Joe and I had an apartment on the second floor of a barn way out in the country. It never occurred to me to think about any outdoor lighting – it just wasn’t possible. We put our little Christmas tree in the window, and since that’s how I grew up, I was completely happy.

When we bought our house fifteen years ago, we have continually faced the same challenges as my father had 30 years prior, as in we really don’t have the electrical power access outside to do anything easily. My husband, who, (thank the lord) is VERY handy, rigged up some lighting on our post lamp by the front walkway so we could make it look like a candy cane. Very subtle, understated, yet original. LOVE IT, and I thought: I finally have outside Christmas lights! (Pumps fist in air.) Then, I got a little greedy, and one year I asked for a little Christmas tree to be lit up on the front porch. He was very creative and figured out how to run extension cords around so that they weren’t dangerous or something we would trip on, and even rigged the tree so it wouldn’t blow away in a strong wind.

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But, getting these lights up each Christmas season is still a struggle. I feel as though I am gently reminding (yup, nagging him) to deal with it on a semi-warm day prior to December 24th, and knowing the pain-in-the-neck effort that it is, I really feel bad. And this is for about three strings of lights. No reindeer, no blow-up snow globe, nothing on our ROOF, nothing on the garage. This year in particular, the rope lights that we so carefully packed away had half the white string burned out, so the understated candy cane became completely pathetic. Our dark front yard now looked like a comedy of Christmas. It was so sad, yet we kept laughing every time we looked at it. So, Joe went out and hunted for new rope lights, only to discover that no one makes them anymore. Eventually we went with the traditional lights, which he valiantly wrapped around the post, all whilst humming The Twelve Pains of Christmas. 


I realize that our house is older, and therefore not equipped with “easy access” for outdoor lighting, (meaning – no outlets) –  but I still find myself in awe of people who have little lights in their windows, or window boxes with greens and twinkle lights. HOW DO THEY DO THIS? I can’t even get a battery run CANDLE to stay lit in the window. Each year, when we pull out the lights for the little trees for the kid’s rooms, they NEVER WORK.  This year, I puzzled over why the front porch tree lights kept going out sometimes, while the post lights stayed lit, and finally realized that they were actually plugged into the BACK PORCH outlet, so when I turned off the back porch light, they went out too. Two days (Two days!) it took me to figure this out. Forehead smack. Perhaps my Dad’s electrical challenged karma has rubbed off on me.

Alas, I have come to terms with the fact that I will never have a plethora of Christmas lights in my yard, and I’m really OK with that. I just want the little tree on the porch. But can I just bring it outside and PLUG IT IN?

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good light.



Dysfunctional family photos

Each November, I begin the process of pouring through the past year’s photos to choose our Christmas Card-worthy shots – you know, the ones that will make the “cut”.  I take a lot of photos. I mean, a lot.  Of photos. This year, I have come across an unusually large amount of really dysfunctional, kind of awkward, and yes, some really bad photos, ones that I probably should have deleted long ago. Since it usually takes  me several hours over a period of days to get the card put together and approved by my family, I am finding this a little cumbersome. Is 4 photos the right amount? Do I like the overlay? 6 is too many….oh my god, in that one, Joseph’s head awkwardly looks like it’s the same size as the soccer ball… and then I start to giggle, wondering WHY am I doing this? Or…What if I included these ridiculous photos in my card? In the era of Facebook and social media, so many photos are shared already, I mean, Does anyone really NEED this card from us anymore?

Wedding 2

But then I remember: No, people really enjoy these cards, they put them on their refrigerator.  They have told me this. I will myself onward. But somehow I keep coming back to the dysfunctional ones…..so what if Joseph is wearing his jacket as some kind of head gear? The selfie that Shannon was attempting at the beach with her beautiful hair all in her face, looking like Cousin IT from The Adams Family? The classic photo of me in mid-sentence, talking to whomever is taking the photo, while my husband Joe stands squinting stoically with a half smile on his face? This is us, after all.

Joseph headlock family NYCShannon beach

It’s natural to want to show our best selves in our annual Christmas Cards, and surely you notice that most everyone’s social media posts always reflect happy faces and kids, turned just the right way, trying to look as wonderful (and for most of us, as thin) as possible. No one tends to “let it all hang out.”

Beach towel Joseph goalie frustrationwedding wall

But what I will admit that I love about these well, not perfect photos, is that they show what really happens in life, which as we know is not always big happy smiles. We might not be showing our “best side”, our hair might be messed up, I might be yelling at someone, (what,, me? Yes, it’s true….) and instead of that perfect soccer shot going into the net, maybe it was a frustrating game captured in a perfect moment…and this is life. What if I had a normal Christmas Card instead of a super perfect one? What if we all decided to show our true everyday selves, not our Christmas Card worthy selves?  I imagine that some people might find it hilarious, some might be appalled, and others would think I had completely lost it.


Well, I’ll be completely honest, I might not have the courage to actually go through with it, so I’ve shared our fun photos here. Imagine these in a collage of mistletoe, with the nice holly border. Come on. It could be a new trend.