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House & Garden        < Previous


Skyline Elegance


Pride goeth before destruction,

and an haughty spirit before a fall.


-- Proverbs 16:18



If I'd known they were going to name the Christmas house tour "Skyline Elegance," I never would have agreed to let our house be on it. False advertising! "Skyline Huts," or "Skyline Wackiness," would've been a better match for what our home looks like.


But we live in "Skyline Ranches," and they're trying to induce ladies to fork over $20 ($15 in advance at Hy-Vee, hint, hint) this coming Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. They will see four homes in this neighborhood all dolled up for Christmas by professional florists and designers. Woot!


It's for a great cause: providing winter coats and clothing to disadvantaged children who might otherwise skip school for lack of winter gear. So, to attract the 2,000 expected holiday decor rubber-neckers, they went with the "elegance" motif.


But what they didn't know is that I don't "DO" elegance. To wit:


Our two big, dumb dogs got sprayed by a skunk. Hydrogen peroxide got most of it out. The definitive term, however, is "most." A few nights later, skunk aroma came wafting inside from the bushes out front, where I think the critter has a condo. It was so rank, the neighbor down the street could smell it, too. That was about a week ago, but Murphy's Law probably will strike Thursday. Can't wait for the 2,000 ladies to waltz into our home and get a snoot full of skunk stink!


Skyline Elegance!


Then there are the 42 million box elder bugs which have descended upon the north side of our house, inconveniently right near the front door. The siding is warmed by the autumn sun and the creepy crawlers swarm all over windows, vents and countless cracks and hidey holes. It looks like someone keeps throwing a barrel full of crawling raisins on the front of our house.


I couldn't take the fear and trepidation of one or more of those box elder bugs getting inside the house and bungee-ing onto the coiffure of some kindly Christmas hour tour enthusiast, to the screams of her companions. So for the last week, I have been going out there several times a day to commit mass murder. I started out with a spray bottle with a gentle mix of water and Dawn dishwashing liquid, a "green" response. But then we had the windows washed. I didn't want to mess up the glass by spraying any more.


So for the past few days, I have been going out there and squashing dozens of them, up close and personal, with my index finger - occasionally peering at the targeted bug so closely that its innards squirt into my EYEBALL by mistake.


Skyline Elegance!


Yep, I've been working hard and getting exhausted out of foolish pride to get our house ready for this tour, to the point of blinding myself with bug innards. I've been on a tear, at the mercy of all the negative emotions - pride, fear, shame, perfectionism, and most of all, the knowledge that my MOTHER and her friends are all coming through. As we said in dramatic moments throughout my childhood: ORGAN MUSIC!!!


So we had painters in, and got new carpet, and finally fixed the water damage in the basement, and got two new wonderful, overstuffed chairs. I've been boldly cleaning what has rarely, if ever, been cleaned before. Actually, it has been great therapy, and we will enjoy cleanliness and beauty this holiday season as never before.



The florist assigned to our house, Andrea's Designs of Elkhorn,

created this masterpiece on our mantel today - wow!



Meanwhile, I imagined the other three homeowners sitting back in their recliners, wearing silk ascots and fluffy slippers, hardly having to lift a finger to get ready for the tour.


As if! One of them is working with a florist whose helper sustained a head injury. So her head is wrapped like Mrs. Frankenstein and she can't lift anything. Therefore, this neighbor is having to carry in the 4 million boxes of decorations, and stand on ladders and cut lengths of wire to assist the florist in all the preparations. We started giggling over the fact that it is close enough to Halloween that maybe the Frankenstein lookalike should stand out front with a plastic pumpkin, and people might put extra donations in it. Trick or treat!


Another neighbor shared that over the years, she has taped dozens of darling pictures of her grandchildren all around her bathroom mirror, to the point where she can barely see her own face in the morning. She wondered whether she should take them all down for the house tour. People said of course not, since it is so sweet to see a grandmother's devotion. But then she saw a crime show on TV, where the MURDERER taped pictures of his intended VICTIMS on his bathroom mirror when he was STALKING them!!!! What would people THINK?!? AAAIIIEEE!!!


I'll tell you what they'll think:


At our house, they'll see the gashes etched in the doors by the toenails of our boisterous hounds over the years, and they'll know that we are animal lovers. Those aren't unsightly scratches, they are love marks from beings who would literally move heaven and earth just to be in the same room with their humans.


They'll see the grease spots from countless peanut butter smears and cookie handprints on the walls, and the little boy's name etched in the glass of the front storm door one day when our girls weren't home and he wanted to let them know he had stopped by.


The visitors will see those flaws, and they'll know that we have reared four children within these walls, and they have meant more than any House Beautiful magazine cover or remodeling bill could ever begin to cover. Those aren't scribble marks and chipped paint - those are badges of courage for two parents who promised that neither sickness nor poverty nor water stains on the wooden floorboards from when the fish tank exploded will ever make this anything but a happy home, warts and all.


Will the visitors guess that behind a picture in Maddy's room, there's her first written words: "FROG POOPT ON DAD," written in green crayon when he sent her to her room for some forgotten infraction, and we were too sentimental to have it painted over?


Will they hear the echoes of countless times one of us called: "I love you!" or "I'm home, safe!" or "For the 17th time, get your buns down here for dinner!" . . . or faint refrains of "Happy Birthday" or the laughter and bubbling conversation of dozens of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners . . . or those middle-of-the-night sick kid episodes . . . or giggles at slumber parties. . . .


I think they will know that these are homes, not houses, that they are touring. And for that, I feel pride . . . in a good way.


It'll be the same with the other homeowners who are opening their homes for this good cause. We are opening our hearts, more than anything.


No, our homes won't be perfect, and yes, there may be box elder bugs and the slight scent of skunk stink. But what will be on display this Thursday, more than anything else, will be love - the love of a family shared in a home that reflects their unique personality and history.


And if that isn't elegance, I don't know what is.


By Susan Darst Williams www.RadiantBeams.org House & Garden 2012


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