Hang in there, for the holidays

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The click of a staple gun marked the end of several long hours of work in the chilly air outside my house in Steamboat II Monday afternoon.

With the final strand of lights securely in place, the time to celebrate the holidays had officially begun in the Russell household.

In the past several years, I've learned that hanging lights on the house isn't as much of a job as it is an art.

Unfortunately, when it comes to painting a Picasso with lights, I'm all thumbs. It takes me days, not hours, to complete the job. And if you thought the Grinch had a bad opinion of Christmas, talk to me when I'm about halfway through working on my lights.

I must say that there are certain skills needed when it comes to running extension cords, attaching strings of lights and putting other decorations on your house that just can't be learned. Trust me, I've spent 10 years trying and things haven't gotten any easier. In that time, however, I have gained a commanding use of words that can be commonly heard at truck stops.

The fact is either you can hang lights, or as in my case, you end up blowing out every fuse in your house and breaking several local fire codes in the process.

This year, I started early in an effort to alleviate some of the stress that goes along with the holidays. By finishing early it also gives me a month to rediscover the Christmas spirit that vanished when I drop-kicked our plastic Santa across my yard.

Each year when I finish, I have a new appreciation for those people who can string thousands of lights in perfect order and bring the holidays to life on their own front yard. It's not an easy task.

It's funny, but as a child I don't remember my father having the type of problems I face today. Maybe that's because he would send me into the house to watch the Christmas specials on television when he was hanging the lights.

But back then, Christmas lights were pretty routine. In our neighborhood all the lights were the same blue, red, green and white and they were big. I guess the idea was the bigger they were, the fewer you actually had to put up. It's not such a bad idea.

These days it takes an electrician just to open the boxes of most lights. There are net lights, icicle lights and ones that flash on and off. Well, at least that's what I'm telling my wife they are supposed to do.

While I'm definitely no expert in lighting I have learned a few things to avoid in the last few years.

First, you may want to read those little warnings on the outside of the boxes before you get started. When they say you can only string three light sets together they usually mean it. Thank goodness for those little fuses or my house would be ashes.

Also, it is important to remember that when you are standing on a ladder, don't step back to see how the lights look. That first step is usually a killer.

Don't get too frustrated. If the lights were not working before you put them on the house, they probably won't work after you tear them off the house.

Another important tip to remember is that if two plugs don't fit together in most cases you shouldn't try to make them fit together. If you do there is a good chance you will be causing some sort of fire hazard. Once again, thank goodness for those little breaker fuses.

The most important thing to remember is that hanging lights is about bringing Christmas joy to others no matter how frustrating it is to you.

The last thing I would recommend is watching "Christmas Vacation" after you finish hanging your lights. No matter how bad it might have been Clark Griswald can sum it all up.

Happy holidays.

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