Operation Deck Clear – otherwise known as the Christmas Tree Disaster

If a picture is worth a thousand words – then I probably should have heeded the small voice in the back of my head…. the one that was fervently telling me that this was a VERY BAD idea. But more often than not, I ignore those voices and keep doing what I’m doing. How foolish.

Let’s start with this picture:

Even the House Monster knows this spells d-i-s-a-s-t-e-r

Is it just me – or does this scream imminent disaster? Hell – even Shitty Kitty gave me a bewildered look, and we all know that she’s not the sharpest tool in the shed.

What are you doing and why are you doing it? I am alarmed.


It started when we received a letter from our Home Owner’s Association. These are – in my experience – rarely, if ever, touting good news. Long story short, the letter stated that we had improperly stored our jeep hard top, and were in violation of the “…CC&Rs Article II, Residence Use and Restriction, Section 2.8, Trash…..”


Never mind Mrs 210’s dead plants – clearly a fire hazard….. Or Mr. 126s massive grill, propane tank, and wind chimes. What about those?

Seriously – stuff like this makes me want to move to Montana, in spite of the Grizzly Bears. The Yank as well…. Would it be awful if I said that our particular HOA is filled with people who have never ever had any sort of authority all of their lives – and now, when given the teensiest bit, they take it to a major extreme…? Yes, it’s founded.

This story actually begins last November, when our HOA decided to update our pitifully small storage space. I also received another lovely notice in the mail, warning me that I had 7 business days to clear out or entire storage area for Upcoming Exciting Renovations! – and that if I failed to clear out said area, we would be fined $500 and charged with paying the wages of individuals hired to specifically clear out untended storage spaces.

It would certainly have been easier if the Yankee were here, but as it was. he was flying in Afghanistan – sympathetic to my plight, but completely unavailable to help.

So – I did what any good USMC spouse would do….cursed the fucking deployment-unit-and corps, fired off a nasty email to the HOA, rolled up my sleeves….cursed the deployment (again) and our HOA, and cleared our storage area. Best core workout ever. It took a few hours, but everything was transferred to our back deck – squeezed between the sliding bedroom doors and small, stuccoed wall space. All 48 inches. I was pretty proud of myself.

Our current "storage" space on deck - the slim cubby between our bedrrom and the wall - hidden from the HOA's sight. This is post-clear-out.... Hard top is on the lower left side. And in the back - is my Erg, otherwise known as my torture device.

Months passed, the Yank returned….and there our shit remained…. the HOA took 4X longer to renovate our storage area than promised (of course) – and after the Yank’s return, we just used the small – and hidden – space on our deck for our personal storage. Screw the woefully small storage area. We even stashed the Christmas Tree back there, sandwiched between my bike box (anyone in the market for a bike box?) and golf clubs (anyone in the market for golf clubs?

Things changed when we removed the jeep’s hard top. Our woefully small – but now Newly Renovated! – storage area could not accommodate the jeep top,  so my Yank – in a remarkable feat of strength – carried the hard top all the way from our parking area in the underground garage to our back deck. I was very impressed and slightly turned on. There you go.

Last week I noticed one of the HOA members peering into our back deck. I honestly thought he was going to complain about the racket being produced by my violin practice. Instead, he took offense to our hard top….and yesterday I received the HOA’s letter.

So…. I did what any good USMC spouse would do….. cursed, sent another nasty email to the HOA, rolled up my sleeves, cursed some more…and began the tedious task of transferring everything from the secret space on our deck, to our woefully small (but Newly Renovated!) storage area. I figured that the hard top might fit between the sliding glass and stuccoed wall. It would be close, regardless… but I needed the space.

The easy bits were the bike box, the winter clothes bin, and two other square-shaped boxes. They fit relatively well on the dolly, and I wasn’t overly concerned with snakes or spiders. Transporting the Christmas Tree, well that proved to be more of a challenge, though.

First – the tree itself. I was convinced that the snake I saw slithering across the deck a few weeks ago, had taken up residence in said tree….along with several of his slippery friends. And then there were the spiders. It’s California…and I know they exist. Heck – I had just swept up the webs of several, peppered around the deck. I thought briefly about chucking the tree all together – it’s a fake, you know. But, as I reflected, the ornaments were still on and I had just schlepped all the Christmas ornament boxes into the Newly Renovated! storage area.

So, instead I decided to carry the entire tree – intact, upright, and adorned with ornaments and lights – down to the storage area. The Yank will be gone this Christmas and I’ll spend the holidays back in Minnesota with my family. We won’t be needing the tree for 18 months, at least, I reasoned. Perhaps more.

What’s the worst that could happen?

My first clue, should have been when the tree decided to fall apart, exactly 12 feet into our condo. It would have been “easier” had the lights not been wrapped carefully around it, but they were. So – when the top decided to remove itself from the middle, it careened over, taking the middle down with it – all while wrapping itself part way around the base. In my head, I had visions of baby rattle snakes slipping unseen into corners, and giant tarantulas heading towards Shitty Kitty. Tricky….very tricky.

Clearly, my tree had required some assembly…a fact which I had blissfully forgotten.

But I managed to catch most of the bits in time, before they crashed onto our wood floor – no harm done.

The second time, I wasn’t as lucky. CRASH!

Well fuck!

I removed several of the ornaments that the Yank and I liked, left the other, cheap ones in place, and decided that I needed something to place the tree in for “easier” transfer. I looked around – the plastic tub would have to do.

A very special ornament....

Unfortunately, the tree had decided that it didn’t like being moved, and my effort to confine it to the plastic bin, ended when the tree decided to fall over for the third time. This just wouldn’t do…. I decided the tree could not be transported upright….and decided to “stuff” (read: cram) as much of it into the too-small plastic bin as possible. I prayed that any critters – especially those with venomous sacks on the sides of their heads, or really really really big teeth – had all been scared away, as bits of tree were contorted into odd positions.

Dignity set aside, the tree was unceremoniously stuffed into the bin, pulled onto the dolly, and prepared for transfer to the storage area. It was everything I could do to keep from getting fake pine needles stuffed up my nose, but I managed to work my way past the front door, down the hall, and into the sometimes unreliable elevator without major incident. It was a Festivus Miracle, I tell you.

It’s tricky business, moving an intact Christmas Tree.

The tree, dolly, and I were deposited into the garage, and I didn’t foresee much difficulty in our future. Save for the six steps that were between us and the storage locker. Yep – you read that correctly. Six. Measly. Steps. True – I had nearly wrenched my back dragging my oversized bike traveling box up the steps, and the boxes that were so neatly pulled by the dolly needed to be individually hauled up the stairs. Yet, I still held hope that the tree, plasic bin, dolly and I would all make it intact – and mostly upright – on the stairs.

The first five stairs were great. I was optimistic.

However, my joy was shortlived.

With a tremendous JERK! the plastic bin decided to seprate itself from the dolly – and everything came crashing to the ground in the process.

We were so close. TREE DOWN!

We were so close.

In times like this – there is very little I can do. I laughed, noted the ridiculousness of the situation – transporting a Christmas Tree in June, ornaments and lights (mostly) intact  – and grabbed my camera.

Something in this picture doesn't belong....

Between fits of laughter, and a quick explanation when one of the building maintenance workers saw what I had done – I managed to (safely) transport the rest of the tree into our storage locker. The aftermath wasn’t pretty – especially because I’m pretty sure that the bear had two eyes, not one. The good news, I figure, is that the ornaments that survived four or five major tree toppings – will probably survive anything.

I'm not sad about the broken snowman - that thing was hideous.

At the end of the day – our deck space is exactly 2 inches too small to properly fit our jeep hardtop. Now that’s irony.  In the meantime, it’s mostly hidden from view and we’ve been given an extension by the HOA to remove it completely. I’ve found a device that will enable us to store it more compactly – and we shouldn’t have a problem sliding it between our bedroom sliding glass and wall.

In the meantime, we’ve got a clean deck – and a totally cat-proof Christmas Tree, ready for use when we need it. And a storage locker, filled to the brim – pretty much as it should be. Anyone need a bike box or golf clubs?

I'm still working on my splicing - my bike wheel is obviously round. My wide-angle lense doesn't cover the small space the way I like - so this is it. I can put my right hand on the Christmas Tree, and my left hand on the medium-sized dog (but meant for our cat) carrier. Excellent! I swear - our Newly Renovated! storage unit is actually smaller than it was, pre-renovation. Naturally!


3 thoughts on “Operation Deck Clear – otherwise known as the Christmas Tree Disaster

  1. Hi,p
    What a gripping story,what alot of work for you.
    I am glad it all worked out.
    your HOA sounds very small minded hope they find better things to occupy their time.
    Have a good weekend.

  2. I hate HOAs. Ugh! I haven’t experienced half of what you have gone through, but know they can often be some power hungry people who feel like they are the rule of the roost.
    I may be interested in your bike box. Though I’m not local. If you find a local person (ie. Less hassle to ship) feel free to sell to them. Email me your asking price and details. 🙂

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