There’s a thin line between fun and crazy


Terry had a thought for our new house. An inspired moment.

A few years ago, we were moving. It was going to be a fairly slow and drawn out move, giving her time to really consider the details involved in where some things would go and how others would be placed. (Insert that inspired moment here. My phone rings.)

Is there still an old wooden ladder in the garage?

Yeah. I don’t think we ever took it down. In fact, I don’t even know if it comes off the wall.

Go get it and figure out how to bring it here.

Funny thing about that ladder. We didn’t know it existed when we first moved into that house. Really. It was on the wall of the garage, hung in a weird fashion off in a rarely visited corner as we made that move, and the aging of its wood blended with the framing of the garage. It was several months before I was organizing stuff and hanging some things up in that particular area that I suddenly realized there was a wooden ladder there.

Since that conversation, the ladder has been moved several hundred miles, lightly sanded and stained, then hung on the wall of our basement all-purpose sitting room to achieve Terry’s vision for it. It’s used as a display shelf for pictures. And, along the lower edge, a combination of artificial vines and clear Christmas lights are used as accents.

It looks amazing. (Especially when lit up. These aren’t Christmas lights in this particular use, and they work wonderfully.)

Over the past several years, I think all of us have seen the use of Christmas lights expand in incredible ways…

Christmas uses have exploded. Nostalgia feeling with retro designs. Colors and novelty lines. Indoor and outdoor, hanging icicles and cascading snowfall.

Holiday uses have grown. Orange lights for Halloween. Red, white and blue for Memorial Day and July 4th.

And, the use of those old-reliable clear classic Christmas lights has entered mainstream decorating ideas. Sure, wrapped around the side of a ladder in a basement. Also wrapped around the railing of a deck to create atmosphere during use on summer evenings. Used for glow, and to lightly heat some potpourri also inside a mason jar or other container.

Driving past a neighbor the other day. Some of those cascading icicle styles were lit on one corner of the house. A bit out of place almost four weeks into the New Year and five weeks beyond the holidays. Still… as we’ve seen… the lights aren’t just for Christmas anymore. But what point marks the difference between brilliant design innovations and put-it-away-already beyond appropriate displays?

A simple answer could be found in the area of intent. A summer barbecue with an illuminated deck does not scream winter holiday styling. Trees lit up around a still-making-evening-appearances inflatable Santa in a sled on January 20th has obviously overstayed a welcome. But things are rarely simple.

One friend of ours leaves his lights up throughout the year. He doesn’t light them all year. His reasoning for having them in place is more practical. After struggling with the strings of lights, often precariously balanced while leaning off of a ladder while trying to secure them along the roof and siding, only to do it all over again when one section fails to light up (even though he tested them before placing them)… yeah… he’s decided against pulling them all down to store only to repeat the exercise again the next time the holidays approach. Look closely, and you’ll see his shrubs and trees and fences wonderfully set up with lights waiting for their next performances.

Terry has a theory about holiday decorating. It involves putting things away, and basically captures the frustrations of the items you miss. There’s always at least one thing that gets overlooked. About a week ago, I wandered into the spare bedroom. In the corner, on a chair, a holiday moose wearing a very festive scarf. Picked it up, and our holiday cleanup was finally finished for this year.

I’m often stunned… pleasantly so, and equally inspired… to see some of the things people do with items that seem to have limited applications. You wouldn’t think an artificial tree and shivering snowman would work during the summer, and then you get an invitation for a Christmas in July party.

We have an Eeyore and other lawn decorations that have been stored since we moved. Just haven’t been inspired or motivated to attempt setting them up only to battle below-freezing temperatures and piles of snow to take them down. Someday we will. Someday. (Maybe this July.)


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at