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Christmas American Traditions No More...

My son has been working for McDonalds for the past year, pretty much full-time. He is scheduled to work a long shift on Christmas Eve. I was a bit miffed to learn that McDonalds does not pay its employees any holiday pay or provide any sort of bonus for working holidays. The stores are privately held franchises and the owner of the one where Kev works has 11 of them. I checked online to find out if this non-payment of holiday (time and a half) is a corporate policy or if the owner is just a cheapass tightwad. I discovered that good old Mickey Dee doesn't pay as their corporate policy.

I've learned a great deal about how America's icon, McDonald's, does business, from how the food is made and where they cut corners. I suppose in these economic hard times, everyone has to pinch the pennies, but some things one would hope would be good for all of us, like those corporations who have been the core of American culture in all our lives doing right by employees. For the most part, I don't think McDonalds leads by example. They are a sweat shop of young people who don't receive much incentive other than the one that leaves a kid thinking, "I better get my degree and get the hell outta here fast and move on..." and I suppose there is value in that lesson. My son definitely aspires for greater things having been working there.

I was speaking with a school colleague the other day who grew up during the times I did (oh, the good old days when girls were girls and men were men.. May I pause and break out in song?)

"Boy, the way Glen Miller played. Songs that made the Hit Parade. Guys like us, we had it made. Those were the days! And you knew where you were then! Girls were girls and men were men. Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again. Didn't need no welfare states. Everybody pulled his weight. Gee, our old LaSalle ran great. Those were the days! People seemed to be content. Fifty dollars paid the rent. Freaks were in a circus tent. Those were the days! Take a little Sunday spin, go to watch the Dodgers win. Have yourself a dandy day that cost you under a fin (five dollar bill). Hair was short and skirts were long. Kate Smith really sold a song. I don't know just what went wrong! Those Were the Days!"

When I grew up, they showed us in high school the statistics.... a high school graduate earns on average, x. If you get a bachelor's degree, you will improve your chances in income by this much, and masters, etc. But in reality, today, our kids are seeing unemployment and struggling professionals try to earn a living on a salary (yours truly, a doctorate, hard worker). Even doctors have shit to deal with... excessive Malpractice insurance costs, even attorneys... ones I know.... do more probono work and don't get rich easily. I personally know several fine friends facing bankruptcy who did "everything right" so to speak by playing by the rules in the business world and not getting the payoff we all hoped for as we walked down the commencement line to receive our degrees with sugarplums in our head (what's a sugarplum?) Just a buncha school loans and a whole hell of a lot of book smarts (which tends to alienate one from the social intercourse with folks who like to just have fun and not be so friggen academic... believe you me, that's my problem).

I am not a materialistic girl. But ya still gotta live and have the basics.

My children are products of their generation, which is highly tech and demands much money for staying abreast of the latest thing. Here it is Christmas and an Apple I-Touch, a tiny present to fit in one's palm is $189 on sale, times two kids, and that's just ONE present, per kid, just to get into the current year's technology. Do you know how long a person works at McDonald's at $7.50 per hour to buy an I-Touch? Alot. You know this, yourself; you are trying to stretch your dollars to pull off a Christmas.

This friend I was speaking with this week pondered, "What if there were no credit? What if we bought houses and cars without loans? We'd all be living within our means." Uh, yea, in mud huts, even the best of us.

Christmas has always been commercialized. It's about family, too... and most importantly, it's about celebrating the meaning of love through Christ... often forgotten amid so many competing priorities. Pause. Stop the madness. Who cares if you are wearing a new red sweater at Christmas Dinner... just be there for your loved ones. Take time to bake REAL cookies and make a meal of love. Another friend of mine just went to a fancy shmancy rich persons house for a Christmas party whereby they served Publix platters of ham sandwich circles and chips and salsa... C'mon! Put on your apron and chop veggies and whip up a family casserole, instead of serving store bought shit exclusively.

What is going on?

Understood that values can change, life situations change, we need to revise traditions. For me, divorced a year now, the thought of that bigass Christmas tree with the family memento ornaments makes me sad for what once was, but is no more. So I have a single mom's tiny 3 ft. tree with mini color-coordinated ornaments and modern fiber optic lights, recreating... making new traditions. This Christmas Eve I am cooking dinner for my family, including my ex-husband and ex-inlaw, plus I have invited my children's friends and their parents, plus those who I know will be alone that night and might enjoy a social gathering. My house is tiny, my budget small, but I am excited to make this new Christmas a warm one.

My home is filled with love and good food.


aliasmoi said...

So, you got each of your kids an I-pod Touch? In my family, if any one member of the family got a gift costing that much it would have been the only thing they got that year and probably would have involved 3 or 4 family members going in together to buy it.

Spidey said...

you have found the spirit of christmas.

Roger D. Curry said...

This post is touching, Doreen.

Jilly said...

Hi doreen, my friend is a manager at a corporate McDonalds (her second job, her first job is a teacher at a private school. private schools are a real sweat shop!) and SHE said that she gets holiday pay for working holidays like the 4th of july, thanksgiving and christmas. christmas eve isn't tehnically a holiday. After working the last 5 christmases and thanksgivings, she got both off and gets to spend both at our home, as her family lives too far away to drive to on the one day off she gets.

my family was a lot like mels, if someone got an expensive gift, that was it besides underwear and socks.

this year i sat everyone down and i insisted on a $20 limit per person with a one gift rule, except for the kids. i've come to realize that christmas isn't for people old enough to drive, it's really for little people.

i don't eat at mcdonald's, but i recognize their poor nutrition and poor working conditions. however, i think that hating your job is a GREAT motivation to want more and strive to have more. some people need to go through the school of hard knocks before they figure what they want out. i worry about the people who see nothing wrong ith working at jobs like mcdonalds forever.

i also recognize that a lot of education or education in certain areas aren't promises at success and riches. as a nation, we've made a lot of silly financial decisions all in the name of "keeping up with the joneses." many people were told, and bought, the lie that ANYONE can go to college and you'll be fine. or that if you go to college, then you don't really have to work once you're done. it's rather silly and elitist isn't it? truth is, most americans wouldn't know a real day's work if it bit them in the ass, and they're terrified they'll have to find out.

we had a blizzard the passt to days, we got 25 inches of snow. my guy and his brother spent 8 hours clearing the driveay and street in front ofour house. no one else bothered. where i'm from, kids would be offering to do it for a decent amount of money. not the kids in my area, they feel they're entitled to money without the work. it makes me sad.

i hope your christmas is a nice one and that your kids realize what an awesome and generous person you are.


mavis sidebottom said...

I got my kids a wii between them thats it

doreenmary said...

How did I get so lucky to attract such really cool people as readers of my silly blog? God I love you guys! Come visit me. We'll have eggnog and talk long.

Jilly said...

my guy bought me a wii for my birthday. i've never been interested in any video or computer games, so after spending several hundred dollars, he realized his faux pas. it sits, unused by me, next to the TV. he plays it maybe once a week. every so often i point out what we could have done with that money. he insists on the fact that it's mine, even though i've never really used it, or wanted to. people actually get me games, but they mostly sit unopened. getting me a game system is a lot like getting my cat a motorcycle. i'm always threatening to send the wii and all of it's accessories to a charity, but people give me this horrified look.



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