Ask 100 people the question, "When do you decorate for Christmas?" and I'll bet you get 100 different answers. When I was a kid, we almost always had the tree up no later than about a week after Thanksgiving. Granted, they had a kid nagging them about it, but my mom was all ready for the decorations to go up as soon as the last of the turkey was devoured.

I carried that tradition on with me over the years, and I discovered something: the joy of decorating for Christmas has to be tempered with just how damn much hard work it is. I remember when I had my very first house. I bought lights and decorations like mad. I went all out. There were wreaths and garlands, and a million little lights that all had to be mounted to the house. I'm telling you, my house was going to be a showplace!

Finally, one Saturday morning right after Thanksgiving, I decided to tackle the job of decorating the house, and it was then I discovered what saints my folks were. Somewhere between untangling the lights and getting them all nailed to the front of the house, I seemed to have lost my ability to speak without a string of profanities. I call it "Christmas Decorating Tourettes." I rarely swear, but put me on a ladder with a string of lights, and I could make a sailor blush.

This tradition went on for years. The neighbors got used to it, and they knew not to let their kids outside when I was putting up Christmas decorations. For my part, I tried to keep the profanities at a PG-13 level and, unless I hit my thumb or something, I tried to vent my frustration as quietly as one can when they've just smashed a digit with a hammer.

I recall one June when I had to clean the gutters around the house. I hauled out my ladder and climbed up, only to find that cleaning the gutters is a nasty, messy job. A few minutes into the all-day chore, I cut my hand on a sharp edge and I let out with a string of words that sounded like dialogue from a Quentin Tarantino movie. I didn't see my next door neighbor, but from over the fence, I heard him ask me, "Is it Christmas already?"

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