Wednesday, December 5, 2012

when company comes

i've [often] considered changing the title of my blog from even the sparrow to something along the lines of, you can't make this stuff up, folks!

though, as a child, and maybe even still as a story-telling adult, i am prone (just prone...only prone) to exaggeration...i, typically, do not embellish my anecdotes here in this blog.

but one might think i do.

last night's party-story, a perfect example.

i mentioned in my blog post sunday, that though 
i was away for the weekend, i should have been home readying the house for a party we were hosting tuesday night.  emily's high school volleyball teams (all 3) and their parents/families were coming to celebrate the end of the season.   if you haven't read about this team, check out amazing girls. anyway, approximately 85 people were on their way for dinner.  i wasn't cooking, only cleaning, and as i said above, "readying."

readying for me involves much more than mopping the floor and putting out extra hand towels in the bathroom.  readying for me yesterday, involved important things like hanging icicle lights from the front porch roof (thank you heidi larkin).  readying includes things like trimming more evergreen from the yard and placing bundles around the house.  it includes adding cranberries to candles and extra ornaments to the tree.  i'm not going to lie, i ADORE adding the special touches and little extras which i allow myself when company comes.  my husband calls it, "party mode."  when he sees me in my flurry of extra accent activity his comment is always, "oh boy, watch out kids, mom is in party mode." and yes, i am.  and yes, they should (watch out). 

good  fireplace...bad tree.

but here's the deal, though we've thrown a lot of parties, i am pretty sure we have never hosted anything in our house without some kind of story.  i almost expect it. remember the post, no place like home years ago about the christmas candlelight open house -- i'll link you to that little gem.  it was a doozy.  and last night i had a similar moment which might rival that embarrassing episode from 2010.

it began yesterday morning when i woke up to find that OF COURSE the christmas tree lights were ALL OUT.   my 6 am thought, "you've got to be kidding me!"  seriously! and if that wasn't enough, on my way upstairs to wake sleeping children for school, i noticed half -- yes, HALF -- the lights on the bannister garland were also out.   have you ever attempted to replace lights on a real live, already hung garland?  it's not pretty.

please appreciate the icicle lights!

okay, so after stopping at target and arming myself with multiple boxes of new lights i headed home to tackle my project.  i have to tell you though, while at target, i obviously over estimated myself, and picked up a box of icicle lights as well.  on the way to school that morning connor had been going on and on about how wonderful icicle lights would look hanging on the outside of our house.  keep in mind i have spent the last couple of weeks stringing lights and garland from post to post...corner to corner.  but i cannot help myself when an idea strikes.  and i cannot help myself when my 9 year old boy begins to talk about his christmas light vision. i had to agree with him -- they would look pretty good.  i probably should have thought about this earlier in the week, but on the off chance, on this day with close to 100 people coming to dinner, i found 10 extra minutes to drag out a ladder, hammer and some nails, i just might be able to swing it.  (that was my delusional thought process standing in the christmas aisle of target at 8:30 am yesterday morning - bella and i both in our pajamas -- clearly, i hadn't had enough coffee yet).

bella and i arrived home and proceeded to tackle the tree.  i was worried we'd have to undress the entire green monster -- all 12 feet of it.  garland, ribbon and precious ornaments -- that could, very well, take all day.  you know how these things go.  well, good news!  it turned out to be only an outlet issue.  you see, this behemoth tree is smack dab in the middle of our great room.  it looks cool there, and because there was this perfectly placed little outlet in the middle of the floor running an extension cord across the room wasn't necessary. well, it wasn't necessary when that outlet was working.  BUT, after it blew, i had to get all creative with several extension cords and the area rug.  ah, don't y'all just love the little intricacies and challenges of christmas lighting!

okay, well that was the start of my day.  let's fast forward to 15 minutes before the party began.  everything was ready.  everything in place. the house looked, i have to admit, pretty darn good.  smelled good.  felt good. i was in my element -- the queen [wanna] bee hostess with the mostess! (or something like that).

and then i decided to light the fires in the fireplaces.  (rick was on his way home from work, but had to pick up connor from basketball practice).  i want you to know, i am a friend to fire.  it doesn't scare me.  i light them all the time.  no big deal.  so i lit the first fire in the great room...lovely. picturesque. the perfect touch. i sighed in a moment of utter contentment.  i went on to light the second fire in the family room.  we had had that flue closed this week and i realized the fireplace hadn't been cleaned out in a while (we use our fireplaces every single day--minnesota living)....anyway, when i opened the flue a huge gust of cold air came rushing down and out.  i coughed and rubbed my eyes.  yuck.  but, the good news was, i was sure the flue was wide open.  remember, i am not a novice when it comes to starting fires. i know a thing or two about tricky fireplaces, we had them in our atlanta house as well.  i know the importance of getting the fire going fast while making sure to heat the chimney with newspaper held up high...i know the tricks.  but when i lit this fire and did what i know to do, it didn't work.  it just didn't work.  the gust of wind kept coming down except now i had a fire and hot ash and it all came billowing out at me and at the room.  i really cannot describe to you how crazy this was.  soot and old ash and new hot ash and tiny bits of burning newspaper swirling out of the chimney and all over this room -- this room filled with white couches and a mantle full of dry, crisp, real evergreen.  i began to panic as the firey ash settled and began to spark on the garland and fly all over the room.  it seems i always have at least 2 or 3 kids at my heels,  but of course, at this moment, there wasn't a soul to be found.  i began to scream for my older kids to come help.


at that very moment the door bell rang.
imagine soot and ashes - everywhere!

i ran to the front door,  frantically flung it open and found the johnson family standing on my front porch with bright smiles under the newly hung icicle lights, arms full of food (they were the family catering the evening) and screamed, (yes, screamed) "THE FIREPLACE IS ON FIRE, BUT COME ON IN!"  and then i continued to run down the front hall screaming, "TYYYY-LLEER! EM-AAAA-LEEEEE! HELP MEEEE!!!"

the somewhat startled johnsons came in and my older kids came down and we got things under control.  tyler and i worked on the fire and it finally calmed down and started to behave like a good fire should with smoke and heat going UP the chimney and not OUT in my family room.  nothing actually did catch fire, but there was ash everywhere.  at this point, the door bell began to ring again.  guests were arriving.  emily grabbed a broom and dustpan.  i grabbed the vacuum.  and we began to clean up the mess.  about 20 seconds into the vacuuming POOF -- THE POWER WENT OUT.  yes, i had blown a fuse. i suppose one strand too many christmas lights in this old house.  it must have been the icicle lights.  yes, i'm sure it was the blankety-blank icicle lights!  i looked up in my darkened room the tree lights out, the garland lights out, about half the house was light-less.  

ding-dong.  the door bell continued to ring.
the bad fireplace!

you can imagine.

i won't publish my exact words here in this blog.  but they weren't exactly pretty.

as guests began to filter into my ash covered, half-darkened home, i, also slightly sooty, headed for the basement (really a creepy old cellar).  back upstairs for a flash light i ran, the creepy cellar was pitch black too.  i literally prayed all the way to the fuse box. i hadn't had to deal with it before and i sure as heck wasn't looking forward to addressing it right at this moment as a party was descending on my house.  i wanted to be upstairs stirring punch and lighting christmas candles and warmly welcoming my guests.  instead i felt (and looked) like i was in the middle of a war zone -- a holiday-hoop-a-la war zone!

let's just stop here for a moment and ask, why does this happen? why do these things happen right at the moment of guests arriving?  why did the christmas tree lights not work on THIS morning...the fireplace explode on THIS evening... why?  i am not sure.  i've done my very best to let God know i've learned the lesson of learning it...always learning it... i am not sure why this kind of stuff happens to me.  except that it sure as heck makes life more interesting and as my friend, jackie johnson kept saying last night, "i can't wait to read about this in your blog tomorrow!"  jackie was the one standing at the front door with all the food.

so, how does this ridiculous story end?

the cellar fuse box -- creepy!

i opened the old electrical box with great amounts of fear and trembling --  keep in mind our house is almost 100 years old.  i was not prepared for this.  i was not prepared to tackle an old electrical box in an even older house -- not with my door bell ringing up above.  yes, i was praying as i stood shaking before this frightening box of too many switches.

with the beam of flashlight i stood looking and praying and deciphering.  it was a triumphant moment -- like an angels we have heard on high kind of moment -- when the basement lights came back on.  i knew we were headed in the right direction.  i ran back upstairs and found my house, though still a little sooty, glowing again in the spirit of christmas lighting.  i put away the vacuum.  we swept and mopped up the remaining ashes.

ding-dong...the guests continued to pour into our entryway.

it was a wonderful evening.  it was.  i can’t tell you how much i enjoyed the time celebrating these awesome girls.  we had fellowship and fun.  it was a night of festivity.  most people had no idea of the chaos just moments before their arrival last night.  and isn’t that usually how it is?

most of us don’t know what’s happened just before we open the door and walk into someone's life.  i guess that’s one of the lessons from last night’s entertaining armageddon.  it's good to remember, we really don't know what messes and mishaps people are in the middle of when we come calling.  i don't know if i needed quite that level of excitement last night to arrive at this conclusion, but i refuse to let the mayhem pass without extracting some kind of something good.  at least a decent blogpost! (to humor my sweet friend, jackie johnson)!

this morning, while in the family room, i noticed there was still plenty of ash scattered around.  we never got it all up last night.  someone probably took a look at the sooty bookcase and wondered why i hadn't cleaned.  and that's okay.  i did my best...even got those icicle lights up on the roof...maybe i'll think twice before judging someone else's sooty bookcase.  but the bottom line is this party wasn't about what i had accomplished in this pretty house, this party was about some pretty awesome girls and their accomplishments this season.

so there you have it.  a wild, wild tale.  maybe
 a tad embellished, but no exaggeration. something to write about.  something to think about.  something to (someday...SOMEday) laugh about.

i'll make sure y'all know about the next party we throw!


Paige said...

Oh Jody I am laughing as I can imagine you hopping around!!! I do know what you can do to help with the fire next time, we had one that always did this too. As crazy as it sounds, open a door near the fireplace when you light it and the air will pull up again instead of down, crazy I know but it works!
I'm so glad you had a great time and oh my you can tell a great story!!! Can't wait to hear the next one, I don't think I'm going to buy the icicle lights now:)

jennifer said...

LOL...I think I might need to fly up for your next party :) I know things didn't work out how you would have liked, but it sure makes a fun blog post :)

Love ya!!

DiJo said...

Well, you know I would have had the Caymus Cabernet waiting for you in the garage!!! Good grief girl.. I can just imagine you covered in soot, running around like your hair was on "fire"!!! Very thankful it was not, and that after that oh so humbling drama, the electricity came back on!!!! I am just sorry that Jennifer, Paige, and I were not there to jump in to assist in the mayhem!!!! (And of course to laugh about it with you after things settled down!) Don't forget to invite us to the next party!! Soot or no soot, I know it was a very special (and beautiful) party!!!!!


Aus said...

Jody - laugh about it someday? I'm rolling now!! You are extremely cool - and do well in a crises...and I'll bet you next weeks paycheck that not a soul notice soot or ash anywhere - you'd have seen the finger mark in it if they had!! ;)

hugs - great stuff - aus and co.

Melanie Hardacker said...

Great story. It wouldn't have been as fun a night without it. And all you would have had to say about the party is, "it was nice". I have taken to telling people, "I am not making this up" about similar stories in our life. In fac,t on that same Tuesday we tried to put up our pre-lit Christmas tree only to discover none of the lights worked this year. So off we went as a family to find a new one, felt like we scored when we found exactly what we wanted and they had a box that had been opened previously so we got it $30 cheaper than the already perfect price. But then we get home and plug it in and 2 sections of lights are out. What was supposed to be a 30-40 minute project after school (the rest of the house was already decorated) has now gone through dinner and we are staring at this tree realizing we are going to have to pack it back up and get back in the car on the coldest night of winter so far. I call around to other stores since we bought the last one where we were and find out I have to drive to Apple Valley to get another one. Upside, they still gave me the cheaper price on an unopened box and apparently sales tax is less in Apple Valley so I actually got 13 cents back! Finally at 8:30pm John got the tree up but had to leave to study, he has to get to the place he studies before 9pm or gets locked out, so Isabelle and I end up decorating it alone. You cannot make this stuff up. My fireplace on the other hand worked perfectly.