Wednesday, November 28, 2012

First World Problems: Thanksgiving Edition

Every year, without fail, there it is in the news: whiny American workers who feel that being required to put in hours on Thanksgiving Day is a cruel and unusual punishment akin to slavery.

Since I wrote about the issue last year, I won't rehash the argument. I'm simply going to say this:


Thank you.

And to those who were "disgusted" with the retailers who opened their doors on Thanksgiving, let me give you a hint as to how business works:  If no one comes to buy anything on Thanksgiving, stores won't be open on Thanksgiving.  But, as it is, businesses like Wal-Mart and Target make a ton of money by opening for business on holidays.  The fact that they choose to take advantage of this doesn't make them evil, it makes them smart.

Another thing that doesn't make companies evil?  Paying low wages for unskilled work. (I can't count how many articles I've seen in the last few weeks lamenting the fact that "Not only does Ima Cashier have to work on Thanksgiving, Wal-Mart only pays her $8 an hour!!!!")  One should not expect to be paid a "living wage" for doing a job that requires no skills beyond basic literacy and breathing.  If you want to earn more, you must make yourself worth more by gaining the necessary skills, schooling, and experience to move up the ladder or into a different job.  Companies can't just hand out $20 an hour to whoever needs to pay their bills without taking into account the job being performed or the value of the work.  If they did this, the company would implode, and then no one would have a job.

No one working at Wal-Mart is chained to the cash register.  If you don't like how the company treats you or what the company pays you, it is your responsibility to do something to improve your situation; i.e., gain the necessary skills or schooling to earn more money, or get a different job.  And for anyone who thinks that refusing to show up for work is "doing something", you should be fired.

Are companies always squeaky clean in their treatment of employees?  No.  But, again, if you don't like your current situation, it is your responsibility to change it.  That means you might have to find a different job.  You might have to move or go back to school or work more hours, and you might have to turn off the cable TV and the cell phone service for awhile.  A company's responsibility is not to sit around figuring out how to ensure your happiness -- that's your job -- nor to pay you more than you are worth simply because times are tough.  Yes, it's nice if companies can show a little compassion for their employees, but compassion is not doling out salaries or benefits without regard to the value of the job being done; compassion is helping employees increase their value by making sure they have a job to do.

And sometimes, that means clocking in on Thanksgiving.

So let's quit whining and get to work.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Le Blog Post

Last Sunday we had dinner guests.  Sensing the need to adhere to the laws of childhood which demand that family secrets be revealed to the general public, Michael seized the moment of passing the garlic bread to announce, cheerfully:  "My dad's been caught by the police three times!"

Luckily, the "Kids say the darndest things" banter was enough to distract from an in-depth discussion of David's no-longer-secret meth habit.

Kidding, kidding!  It was actually marijuana.

But seriously, a few speeding tickets sound a lot more felonious when your five-year-old is telling stories that conjure up images of a police chase and attack dogs.

Or, in Michael-the-French-student's case, chiens d'attaque.  At least that's what Google tells me, and I took an oath to love, honor and obey Google until it gives me bad driving directions.  Besides, an apostrophe in the middle of a word looks way more French than what I would tell Michael, which would probably be something like "le dogs" or "le woofs" or "le *incoherent phlegm noise*."

As part of his language immersion program, we are required to read to him for at least 20 minutes in English every night.  For those of you who think this sounds like a simple task, let me introduce you to the seventh circle of hell bedtime at our house.  This is an activity where we get everyone in their pajamas, squirt toothpaste all over the counter, make sure someone pees on the floor, and then start fights over who gets to sit on Mom's lap to read Hop on Pop for the fifty-seventh time.

Even a foray into the infamous Curious George Learns the Alphabet by Reading Webster's Complete Dictionary last week felt like a welcome break from Dr. Seuss and his hop on popping.  But that was mostly because I got a laugh out of the fact that George learned "G is for goldfish.  The goldfish looks gay."

Really...?  How can you tell?  Was the goldfish wearing a pink shirt and skinny jeans? (Even taking it at face value, how exactly does a goldfish look "happy"?  It seems to me that a goldfish who won the lottery and a goldfish who recently lost his mother would look equally enthralled with the world, which is to say, not at all).

But Michael loves alphabet books so we read them.  And animals, so we read about them.  Last week he even asked me to add a few creatures to our family gratitude list:  "I'm thankful for the birds and the bees, Mom!" he said.


Just what are they teaching him in those French classes?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Shepherd's Pie: A History

Last night, figuring I should utilize the Sunday-roast-and-potatoes leftovers, I made shepherd's pie for dinner.  Curious about the origin of the dish, I turned to the internet -- Why is it called shepherd's pie?  Are there shepherds in it? -- Well, I learned that the term "shepherd's pie" first appeared in 1877 after a woman named Mary Shepherd (nee Lamb) got tired of her children complaining about what was for dinner, told the little darlings to "shove off" and dumped all the leftovers in the fridge into one casserole dish.  Then she stood over the table with a pitchfork until the ungrateful brats had finished every bite.

Okay, okay, I might have tweaked the history a bit.  But that's because I've had my own run-in with shepherd's pie.  You see, once upon a time when I was a wee lass, my mom served shepherd's pie for dinner.  Being the obedient, grateful child that I was, when she scooped it onto my plate, I said, "Why thank you, Mother, this looks delicious!" and I ate the whole thing.  Then I offered to do the dishes.

Hahaha!  Whew!  I couldn't even keep a straight face while writing that.

What I actually did was whine and complain and moan about having to eat it.  I whined and complained and moaned so much that my mother finally turned, scooped up a forkful of potatoes and gravy, and smeared it in my hair.

This escalated my whining to utter hysteria.  "Mom!!  N-n-n-nnnow my hair is messy!!"

She did the only reasonable thing:  She dumped an entire pitcher of water over my head.

I tell you this story not to embarrass her, but just to say, Mom, I now know EXACTLY how you felt.

And shepherd's pie?  I kind of like it.

Go figure.