Don Quixote and my holiday lights.

Christmas lights are my nemesis. They are the windmills to my Don Quixote. They are the Frazier to my Muhammad Ali. They are the Doofenshmirtz to my Perry the Platypus (You have to watch Phineas & Ferb, my favorite kids show). Hanging holiday lights should be a joyous time filled with the Christmas spirit, and yet for me, it somehow turns out to be more akin to the furnace fighting scene from A Christmas Story.

It wasn’t always this way. We used to be tight, holiday lights and me. I used to look forward to hanging them up every year. I would blare holiday music while joyfully hanging my illuminated decorations from every conceivable nook and cranny. Think Christmas Vacation on steroids, and yes, I would be Chevy Chase. Yep, I loved me some holiday lights… well, that was until our falling out four years ago.  "What happened?” you ask.  
I switched to some new fangled computer controlled LED bulbs.

I could tell you I did it for the environment. I could tell you I did it because it was getting harder to find replacement bulbs. Yes, I could tell you this and more, but it would be a lie.
I did it because I love holiday lights and these were SUPER cool! They did all sorts of nifty stuff and were pre-programmed by what I must assume were the people who developed the space shuttle, TIVO, and Tickle Me Elmo. I was drawn to them like a raccoon to a shiny object. And for the last four years I have been paying for it in spades.

This annual struggle has become an annual source of mockery from the neighbors as I do battle with all things LED, but it does not deter me. I stand resolute. I stand strong. I will emerge victorious and light the way for other to follow… literally.

This year after nearly three days and several hissy fits, my neighbor, John, the same one I once called a thief, came over and vowed not to leave my side until they were working CORRECTLY.  His first question, “Did you read the directions?”   

"Of course I did!” I replied indignantly.

“Where are they?”   

"On the back of the box,” I said.

"No, Scott, those are not directions, those are features. I want the directions."

“The directions are inside the box… Why would you need those? It’s like twelve pages of gobbledy gook in six different languages. They are just lights. You just plug them in and hang them up. It's not rocket science,”  I said resentfully.

While he read the instructions, I continued my battle and stewed about the different ways I could repay Home Depot for my multi-year torture when Jim looked at me and said, “It says right here that if you use more than four connector strings with these lights they won’t function correctly. How many connector strings did you use?”

I paused and counted in my head...

“Seventeen!” I replied triumphantly. "After all, more is better, right?”

John laughed and said, “You know you’re an idiot, right?”

“I think we all know that, John.” I said with a sense of pride.

John and I spent the next three hours removing, restringing, and rehanging every single light in the correct manner and I must say, they look pretty darn snazzy. The neighbors even came out and celebrated the achievement with some some bubbly. After all, it has been FOUR years.

You should know that I am not a “direction” type of guy.  Oh, I am fine giving them, not too bad at taking them, but reading them… not so much. This is probably why I became a teacher.

Lighting up a houses and lighting up teenage minds are two very different things. Unlike lights, when dealing with teenagers there are few rules and even fewer absolutes. There are no step by step directions and no 1-800 help line to call to help trouble shoot the problem. Light bulbs can be dealt with through logical and sequential thinking, that's not always the case with young people.

While pundits and politicians try and convince our country that our education system and the students in it are a step by step, fill in the blank, over-simplified easy to solve problem, you and I both know that nothing could be farther from the truth. Even if it was, we all know that teenagers don’t come with directions.

As a teacher you know that lighting up a house is far different than lighting up the young people who live in it. Thank goodness you're used to not following directions.
Have a great week!