Crazy Christmas light lady pro tips

So yes I’m that person in the neighborhood that tends to go a little overboard. Not completely but my light display gets aggressive. Last December in New England we had some unseasonably warm weather and many people got on the aggressive Christmas light train. As someone who has been building displays since I was 10 I really enjoyed how many people had lights up through February. As once Christmas was over a cold snap moved in. Amateur move kids. So I want to share my tips on how to do lights and not lose your darn mind.

  1. If your going big, do it for kids you don’t know and don’t forget yourself. My Dad and I always did big light displays, ya know a million plastic characters, Santa on the roof, hanging off the roof of our RV to get those roof lights perfect, the works! Then one year we went to Florida. Downscaled the lights and set timers. The next year a knock at my door brings a total stranger who told me she was so thankful we were still there, they thought we moved and it was her tradition to bring her sons by every year. I went back and decorated my dads house into my early 20’s just because of that.
    1. Summary a. Never be afraid to knock on someone’s door and say I love your lights even if they aren’t ABC holiday contest worthy nuts.
  2. Untangling lights. Shake Shake shake. Thats my pro tip. These aren’t light bulbs they won’t break by shacking them but its the easiest way. Find an end unstick it a little shake the string then untangle the few sticky ones and shake some more. Do this inside ahead of time if you can. Would you do a jigsaw puzzle freezing to death in the snow? Probably not. Don’t torture yourself be warm have some wine and good luck!
  3. Decorate your backyard. Most houses are positioned to look out on your backyard not your front. I always put lights at the least on my back deck and maybe a light up tree. I work hard, I love lights I want to make sure I can enjoy my hard work as much as people driving by. Great things about decks they are super easy to light.
    1. Summary b. Don’t forget to place lights where you can view them from inside your home, take time for you.
  4. Timing is everything! That being said Its usually warmer in November than in January. Its going to be better weather when you put your display up then when you take it down and take that into account. I’ve learned to fret less about organizing my lights putting them away because guess what no matter what you do they will get tangled, you will have to sort them. You might be saying oh no Anne I have a special wheel, box ect. Yup been there and then you realize you wrapped em up with the wrong plug, the string in the middle broke etc. And you will be very very cold during clean up. Do the best you can toss em in a bin and wait for next year. And watch the weather after Christmas. My display stays up until January first. But if I see a warm day January 28th I run outside and work as fast as possible. Don’t hesitate you will generally just get one.
    1. Summary c. Don’t hesitate if you see an unseasonably warm day even it its outside your timeline to get to work.
  5. Have kids? this is a great learning experience for them. Kids love Christmas and lights! I always helped my dad pull the lights out in November we’d start slowly here and there checking the bulbs, repairing the wires in our basement. It meant the weekend after Thanksgiving we are ready to go and I learned ways to removed broken glass bulbs, change fuses and repair wires safely.
    1. Summary d. Christmas lights makes great STEM activities.
  6. Securing your lights .Those plastic clips drive me nuts. Don’t get me wrong gutters, shingles go to town  but for the rest try a few of these.
    1. Zip ties! They are cheap, they work everywhere and they come in all different colors. When you feel the urge to wrap your lights around that deck railing just add a second string and zip tie. You’ll thank me when it feels like -20 and you are snipping your lights down in two seconds with a mini razor knife.
    2. Staple gun! Better if you have an older home, wood trim and a forgiving spouse. Just make sure to line your wires up with the staples and your good. Best part is the end of the season you can just give a good tug and your light are free.
    3. Lawn stakes. Get yourself a giant bag of camping tent stakes, a mallet and a nice big roll of rope. Your decor will come with these awful little metal ones and then your 3 year old is crying as frosty is hung up in the neighbors tree. Tie things down more than you think you should.
    4. I hate ladders do you? My house is talllllll. And my ladder days are over. Solution to house lights when you can’t get that tree line you two. One is outline your windows with lights this is a pro move work up to this one and pre lit wreaths. Battery powered wreaths over each window and bam you have that glowing cool house all the kids want.
    5. 3M hooks. These are my JAMMMMMMM. They aren’t generally my primary way of securing rights but more for clean up. Making sure they stay uniformly around where every I’m stringing them, support an area where there aren’t any other secure options etc.
  7. Snow snow snow every where, is really water and water and electronics typically very very bad. There are million products for this one, but amazon sells mini rubber gaskets pop one on each plug and bam water sealed. There are also these big plastic waterproof tubes you can buy but they can get pricey. I would avoid taping connections it rarely works and if a string dies you will have serious regrets.

Thats what I’ve got for now! Good look and let me know how you simplify your holiday light display.

p.s. I know we didn’t cover blow ups if you are down with the blow ups this post probably not your jam but if you need tips comment below.

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Back yard lights
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You got this

Have you ever been driving home from work checked in with your other half and started listing everything you had to do for the night? Were you annoyed, maybe frustrated? Just kept thinking of one more thing to add to the list? Of course you’ve been there we all have. Unfortunately when you are overwhelmed seeing the forest from the trees can feel darn near impossible but at last there is hope!

I’d love to tell you I have magic to make everyday easier then the last, but I do not. What I have is hope, Tonight I was mad. I had online course work due by Sunday for an opportunity I worked really really hard for, I needed to get to the grocery store, the pharmacy, I wanted to get a workout in, I needed to compile information for the PTA, send some emails, make dinner, tend to the pets…well you get the idea. Feeling completely overwhelmed.

Then I got home the trash can was tossed around, the mail needed to be retrieved and then I had this great moment I parked my car and got the trash can. Yup that was my epiphany. Standing outside in the cool fall breeze, admiring my grass I went ya know what I’m going to order a pizza and then I’m going to take the hour until it arrives to take care of the dog and do my course work. And I took a really deep breath and said you got this and opened my laptop. Thirty minutes later I’m through class one, pizza is on the way and I’m writing this post before I do some yoga. Sometimes when there are so many things in the way you forget what you can accomplish in 30 minutes. I like to play little games with myself, such as how many dishes can you do in two minutes. This replaces my thought of oh man look at all the dishes I’ll be late for work if I do them. But in two minutes I can get through a bunch, if not all, not be late and feel accomplished.

While in my lowest of moments I would love for someone to rescue me from my feelings of despair, I instead get the annoyance of my partner. His response to why he didn’t help when seeing me feeling overwhelmed is a simple, ‘Well babe you always figure it out’. Mind you if I ask him for help he’s there in a heart beat, but I had to ask myself why does he have so much faith where I do not? And it occurred to me it’s because he’s right. It is incredibly rare that I can’t figure out a problem when I calm down and try to solve it. So many times we don’t see the competencies in ourselves that others see. I for one can ruin my whole day or even just 15 minutes of it worrying about a problem that perhaps can’t be solved just yet. Worrying about letting people down, worrying about failing, but I’ve found so much of that is simple self pity. And when I take a breath and say listen you got this don’t be afraid to start finding solutions things do tend to work themselves out or I find a compromise, an alternative there is always a way if its important enough.

So I hope you find a reserve you didn’t know you had and look at your next challenge the way those closest to you see you by saying, ‘You got this’ and diving in with both feet.

Being an unofficial tour guide and other weird stuff I do in public..

So I have this belief that the human connection is just so hugely important and in that relationships can exist in even 15 second encounters. I love chatting with people in elevators sharing that 15 second laugh with strangers, giving a compliment, sympathizing with someones day etc. If I have an umbrella I will walk up to a stranger and say hi and hold it over both of us and say while your walking my way might as well. When I don’t have an umbrella I’ve been known to stand next to someone who has an umbrella while waiting at crosswalks saying Hi mind if I join ya for a sec. To this day no one has said no.

When I am walking to or from my office and people look lost I offer directions. I have at least a 10 minute walk from my office to the subway and that walk connects many areas of the city. So if they are headed my way I will walk you as close to the destination as possible and give directions from there. So far I’ve met husbands and wives just on vacation, a young woman lost desperately trying to find her volunteer job for the day, and many conference attendees, doctors and salesman and one very interesting women working in movement therapy to combat PTSD. Each has taught me something or just shared great conversation.

I smile at all the strangers and politely decline the homeless without shying away (they have alway offered me a nice day and say thank you). I let people on the subway know its OK to invade my personal space packed trains are miserable but why should I make you more uncomfortable. To the larger person sitting next to me hey I got room over here don’t worry about me. If I’m sitting making sure those standing don’t ever feel bad for accidentally bumping me, having their bag on my knee etc. we are all human and lets give each other that. But there is a flip side to all of this….

That I can do it. This person right here:

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What makes me special…well my professional dress, my light skin, that I’m generally considered pretty, that I’m walking out of a corporate office, any others you can think of that make me safe, nice, not a threat, approachable?

So while answering tourists questions, guiding business travelers, sharing umbrellas with strangers can seem like a chore in reality for me its truly a privilege that maybe would not be received as kindly if someone else was offering it. Interacting with others always holds a risk being rejected, being too attached, knowing there are bad people in the world but those things will never stop me. I already have the easiest path to make a difference even if that is just being a little flashlight in a very dark room.

Have you helped a stranger today? Has anything stopped you?

 

How to eat like an Adult

I know you may think you got this food thing on lock down, but in case you are like me and never quite grew out of your picky eater stage let me share with you the story of Turmeric.

So I am a notoriously picky eater intense flavors, lots of rich sauces totally overwhelm me and my tolerance for spices is basically non-existent and then I went to India. And as I am ashamed to say by day 4 I was in my hotel having breakfast when the manager walked up and said, Good Morning Miss Anne, would you like your usual lunch delivered to the reg desk today? I smiled and said thank you that would be great. What was my usual lunch? Spaghetti, sauce and french fries. Now if you are familiar with Indian food through experience or science it contains some of the best flavor combinations in the world and you are probably cringing reading this. So I decided upon my return it was time for a change.

So I started eating things, eating things without ever asking what was in them. I would literally order whatever the person in front of me ordered especially if I had never had it before. This is a little something called food training and my word does it work. Many cultures raise their children this way exposing them to as many food types and textures as possible. Having them at least taste items multiple times to help establish their palate. The best example I have of this it Turmeric.

My colleague was very excited for Turmeric smoothies and I eagerly got one too. As I drank it I was slightly horrified and as my boss looked at my face I just said soooo Turmeric smoothie is a bit aggressive.. He scoffed and went on to explain how turmeric is one of his favorite things, soooo good for you and to basically learn to love it. So every day I went down and got a turmeric smoothie. And after a week I started craving Turmeric. Seeking out my morning smoothies like a zealot and even buying some to incorporate into meals at home. Other success I have had is a new found ability to eat spicier foods, I like pepperoni pizza now (I know, I know insane right?) and basically my whole cooking world. The more I engage with new foods I find cooking has gotten more enjoyable, more varied and easier.

Have you ever tried applying this child food principle in your adult life? If you haven’t yet is there a food category you want to conquer? Let us know!

Less than

So the best analogy I have ever heard to explain inequality was referencing black lives matter and went something like this:

A family sits down to dinner everyone has a bowl in front of them and everyone gets their bowl filled with soup except you. Your bowl sits empty. You speak up to say hey I didn’t get any soup. And you father looks at you calmly and says now now everyone wishes they had more soup.

That is what inequality looks like. And its also why its incredibly hard to fight on the side of right. If you can’t see the other persons bowl is empty and they are complaining they didn’t get enough its hard to stand up for that. I can’t speak to the personal experiences of sooo many groups so I am going to speak to mine as a wealthier, white feminist.

Recently I had to battle and battle hard, my partner is an IT worker, I used to have a construction company. So if you are a builder or contractor who would you rather work with? Obviously the person that knows less. So my husband and I own two separate houses my name is on one his is on the other.  I have had men all over my property telling me I don’t own it, what I say doesn’t matter, that I do not matter. I was told to be nice. My husband said he didn’t see the big deal I don’t own that house. And you might be sitting there saying well he’s right stop complaining.

Well around the time I had already worked with the local police to back me up that I still can remove people from my property regardless of who signed the papers (yes it got that bad). I was still being portrayed as the problem. Finally the 7th time it happened when I called me husband irate since the company I contracted to come quote some work for me said I needed a permission slip from my husband and informed him that I will not live like this and he said sorry babe that really stinks and I went you don’t get it….

THIS IS SEXISM. THIS IS WHY THOSE FEMINIST PAGES SAY ALLLLLLL MEN ARE TRASH.

Because most of these men who were harassing me didn’t consider it sexism. Neither did my husband. Until I put the phone in between us and said OK if I’m wrong pick up that phone and ask any company, any contractor to come out to my house and work with you on something to prove me wrong.

Annnnndd crickets. Because he knew in the 5 years I’ve owned that home no one has ever questioned his authority or decision making ability. And I said so do you get how it feels now. And he did. He finally got it. When you don’t live it you seriously can not understand it.

I drove my step-fathers pick up truck to the store and parked it responsibly its only an F150 for gods sake and guess what I man who wanted to pull through a parking space was mad he couldn’t. So he followed me through the parking lot suggesting I get a smaller truck. Pretty sure if I was my step-father he wouldn’t have said a word.

So far in this post in case your keeping track….I can’t own property, pay for large scale construction projects, manage large scale construction projects, feel safe in my own home or drive a pick up truck.

So if you ever wonder why the overly eager optimist supports feminsm and is a feminist above are just a few reasons why.

*PS I’m also an advocate of the father’s rights movement, LGBQT+, BLM, and pretty much any equality movement you can think of.

How have you been effected by conscious or unconscious bias? Have you advocated for someone who has?

The thing with your 30’s that keeps getting better…

Today I’m wearing headphones, over my faux hawk, working standing up rocking out to my favorite jams…in my corporate office in the financial district. This weekend I’m going to dye my hair punk rock red and its going to be awesome. My HR manager told me I am rocking the most perfect hair for a Friday. So what does this have to do with my 30’s? Well in my 20’s I probably would have been too concerned with what people thought of me to do any of it.

You learn sooo much between 26 and 31. Its amazing. By your mid 20’s you have a job or a few, maybe a degree or a few and you know enough to be all…these college kids need to learn about the real world. Then you step up further in your career and think you know it all but you really have no idea. Now I know some darn high achieving 30 year olds who probably figured out what most of us learn in our late 20’s probably around birth, but for the rest of us this is what I know…

You will make mistakes, you will think you know how to succeed and you will do some awesome things, but there is a lot you don’t know. That boss that keeps taking credit for all your work? Ya know the one you can’t stop complaining about because damn it! You worked hard and they didn’t. Well guess what they don’t really matter. I know, I know but they are your boss they loom over your career! Its insane. Here’s the thing though people like that may get further than you think but they won’t be in your way forever and probably as long as you think. I was actually upset about a boss once, while another executive offered to fly me to India because she loved my work product. So I probably should have been a whole lot less worried.

You will think you are doing an awesome job and find out you were wrong. I see a lot of helper issues. You are still carving your career path and your goals so you jump in and help everyone who needs it. You are so busy and exhausted you can’t see straight and everyone says wow this is awesome you are the best! And then you find out that those that matter get it you like to help but it won’t matter. You help on your area of expertise but you have to prioritize you job first and help second. Its hard, especially if your background is in the service industry. Its funny I see my 27 year old colleagues end up in this trap and 31 year olds see it instantly shake their heads and say mmm hmm you’ll learn.

So what did you learn between 26 and 31 you wish others could know right now?

Overly Eagerly Waking up (Enough of the nice)

I DO NOT HAVE TO BE NICE.

Say it with me now.

I DO NOT HAVE TO BE NICE.

I can be things, I am smart, funny, sassy, successful, kind, sweet, nice, angry, stubborn, etc. BUT I don’t have to be them and most specifically I do not have to be nice.

Recently I keep getting told to be nice. I don’t know how you tell a grown 30+ woman how to be nice and not sound patronizing but for some reason people seem to think this its OK. When we disagree and you insult me, I do not have to be nice, when you refuse to do your job, I do not have to be nice.

I can be empathetic, I can be understanding and at times this may allow me to decide that you deserve nice, that you should be subject to kindness. But I don’t have to be.

So to the contractors that work for me, for the realtors that work for me, for the employees that actually work for me, to my peers who disagree with me, to the CEO who is being not their best, to my local elected officials…I do not have to be nice to you. So when you don’t listen to your constituents, when you don’t show up to do a job, when you say to a 13 year old girl a child marriage law is cool because the 1800’s said so…no I do not have to be nice.

So please consider this the overly eager optimist and all those like her who have been too nice for too long putting you on notice.

NICE, is no longer happening over here. I’m coming for you.