Skiing the Lights off the Tree -or- Eating the Frog First

Don’t you just love taking down the Christmas tree? It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right?

Today is the day that I take on the task of putting away the tree and the decorations. Why am I doing this task in February you ask? Partly it’s because we love enjoying the tree well past the New Year. Partly it’s because we’ve been traveling for the last three weekends. Largely it’s been because I’ve been avoiding it!

unnamed-8I woke up this morning with a bounce in my step though. It was clear and sunny. I had just come off of eight hours sleep for the first time in a week. I had the whole day to enjoy being around the house and I decided to follow one of my simple rules, which is to do the thing I least want to do first, so that the rest of the day is left full of things more desirable. As Christiana reminded me, we like to call it “Eating the Frog First.” Since nobody short of Jabba the Hut would put eating a frog at the top of their preference list, it’s our little way of joking about getting the hardest thing done first.

In a Saturday line up of putting away the decorations, writing, cleaning, working out, cooking, relaxing, drinking wine and spending time together…the taking down the tree part was definitely Eating the Frog. So I made a cup of tea. I got the boxes out of the basement. I swiftly started taking ornaments off the tree. I grouped the ornaments into the piles needed:

  1. Fragile
  2. Not Fragile
  3. I Have no Idea

Things were actually going pretty well. Christiana was getting ready to go out and meet a friend for tea. She stuck her head in and helped me with the “I Have no Idea” pile like she always does. When I had all the ornaments off the tree and grouped with the boxes they needed to be with I was faced with the part that always tests my limits. The part where I  have to take the lights off the branches.

In the years past when we have had a Real-Live Christmas tree I would often throw the lights out with the tree instead of taking them off and then re-buy new lights the next year. Fortunately my desire to be less wasteful has improved with age. Last year I considered getting rid of the entire fake tree just to save myself the experience of unwinding the lights from each branch. I’m a bit of of Christmas tree lights perfectionist and I even use furry, green twist ties to hold the lights in the exact place I want them to be. It’s great for the set up process. It’s a bit of a nightmare for the take down process.

Things had been going so well this morning though, so I was pretty confident I could get through this process without medication. I started taking the lights off of the tree beginning at the top while using a ladder. I try to position the ladder behind the tree so I can step back and forth between the ladder and the back edge of the couch without ever having to get down. I sure hope my mother isn’t reading this…

After a few passes and one near fall, I could feel my blood pressure rising. I was getting more agitated with each branch and I began to wonder if there was any possible way I would be able to finish this task before my 11:00 a.m coaching session. The thought off having to pick this process up after a one-hour session and a break for lunch began to fill my mind and I started to see my day unfolding as a total waste of time. I looked out my big picture window and the beautiful sunshine that was bouncing off the new snow. I found myself wishing I was in Crested Butte skiing with my friends who called me yesterday on their way to the mountain. I couldn’t believe how hard this was becoming. I was feeling sorry for myself. Despair was approaching.

Then all of a sudden I thought back to a conversation I was having with a friend a week ago. Now this is a very positive minded friend who lives a great life, but I couldn’t help but notice how many times he muttered the phrase, “It’s hard…” He seemed to use as a segue, an introduction, a point of conclusion and everything in between. I politely pointed out to him that things might be a lot easier if he stopped telling himself how hard everything was. It was well received. He was grateful and thanked me for the advice.

Maybe it was time to listen to some of my own advice? I started telling myself how easy it was to take these lights off this Christmas tree. I visualized myself skiing through the branches with my hands. The twist ties were the moguls and each time I finished a string of lights I jumped off the lip of of a crest of snow and did a Daffy. I was actually having fun!

unnamed-9Sure enough in twenty minutes I had circled the tree dozens if not a hundred times. I had removed all 1100 lights. I had untwisted every twist tie from every branch and put them away in a ziplock baggie for next year. All because I shifted my thinking, I had twenty full minutes to spare before my coaching call and just enough time to make another cup of tea. Along the way I had another awakening I can use for next year. When you are in the groove and cutting through the moguls of life with well waxed skis and a joyful bounce in your heart, it’s probably also a good idea to take the time to put the twist ties in the ziplock bag one at a time instead of holding them between your teeth.

What can I say? I’m always having new awakenings. Now where’s that chap stick?




About Jim Herbert

I've been wanting to write my whole life. By age 45 it had amounted to nothing more than a storage locker of half full journals and a lot of unfulfilled dreams. Then Paris in the fall of 2011 happened. It was the catalyst I needed to consistently blog. At first I had a hard time hitting the publish button, but now two blog sites and over 300 posts later I'm hitting my stride. I'm also a budding speech writer. I've recently been heavily involved in the Chicago Storytelling scene and have also won the Chicago Toastmasters Area 66 International Speech Contest. Check out our website at for more details about the amazing things that are happening in my life. A book or two are nearing completion. With another Paris trip on tap for Easter of 2015 I can only imagine that there are Infinite Possibilities on the horizon!!!
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