Planning ahead for the holidays

Susan Manzke

I used to decorate more for Christmas when we had young children in the house. Now I’m a minimalist.

My fiber optic tree with ornaments, mostly handmade over the years, is a must. After that I don’t do too much, except for a Santa Clause wall hanging that resembles my dad, a stuffed penguin and a stuffed snowman — maybe a house or two on the bookcase, but that’s it. All that will come out after Thanksgiving.

Outside I like to have lights, again not too many, but at least some. Thirteen years ago, after Bob had emergency heart bypass surgery, it helped coming home from the hospital to a house decked out with lights.

Bob doesn’t care if we decorate or not; still, he helps out, especially with the outside lights.

For years, we worked hard stapling lights around our front porch. Holding strings of lights above our heads while balancing on a ladder wasn’t the most fun. Bob grumbled a lot whenever the stapler misfired or a staple cut into the wire, but he did this chore because I asked him to. He’s a sweetie.

I don’t ask Bob to staple lights any more. Neither of us should be standing on a ladder, so those strings of lights are not going up — at least not on the front porch.

Bob hangs lights.

To decorate the front of the house, I bought two of those laser light gizmos. We only had to run extension cords out to these lights, and their inner mechanism would turn them on at dusk and off at dawn. There was no stapling or ladder climbing involved, so Bob didn’t mind too much helping.

The leftover strings of lights didn’t go unused. Bob and I went to the deck above our back porch with those. The 3-foot-high rail was an easy height to work on, and no stapler was needed. Instead, I brought out a ball of string, and we cut length to tie the lighted icicles and stars in place. But we weren’t done yet.

I found two unopened boxes of colored icicles in with our Christmas ornament collection. I forgot I had bought them at an after-Christmas sale last year.

“What am I supposed to do with these?” Bob scowled at the boxes. He then turned around to look at the rain gutter on our house. “I guess we can hang them here.”

Again, no ladders were involved. Clips in the packages went on the gutter, and the cords then easily snapped in place. Presto! Our outside decorations were complete. No, we won’t win any decorating competition, but we were happy with the results just the same.

All our outside work was completed the last warm day this November. Jackets were only worn when the wind began to pick up, but we managed to do most of the work jacket-less — good thing we didn’t wait any longer. The seasonal cold might have kept Bob inside. He can’t take the freezing temperatures like he used to.

Christmas gifts have been purchased for grandchildren, so there’s no need to fight the crowds. All that is needed is to wrap them with the stash of paper leftover from last year.

Holiday planning is good, but I have another I have to remember to do: to keep change or dollar bills ready in my pocket. I want to be set for those bell ringers stationed at Salvation Army red kettles.

These days, with credit and debit cards, people don’t usually carry around pocket money.  I find it totally embarrassing to have to pass a kettle, especially a local one, without donating something. Local kettles are where friends and neighbors do the ringing.

Today, I’m ready to donate. Bob and I are also planning on ringing bells at Don’s Market in December. Hope to see you there — maybe you’ll have a coin or two to add to the kettle.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;