Deck the halls, now make it disappear

MAYBE IT’S JUST ME, but lately, I get as excited to undecorate after Christmas as I am to decorate right after Thanksgiving. Oh, there have been years where I could barely stand the thought of dragging the “big Santas” up from the storage room, but once I unbox them, I’m always happy I did. And this year, in my new place, they hold a place of prominence I didn’t have in my last house:

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My Santas, displayed atop the peninsula that holds the gas fireplace.

A few years ago, I was feeling grouchy in December, and came *thisclose* to just not digging out the Big Santas. Why get them out, I thought, when in three weeks I will have to spend another half-hour putting them away? So I told my kids, and they said, WHAT?? YOU HAVE TO GET THEM OUT!! So I did.

When I was a kid, my mom mandated that the Christmas tree come down on New Year’s Day. Ornaments repacked, gifts put away, all traces of the holiday gone. I remember dreading the chore. It meant the Christmas fun was over, and January’s bleakness had arrived.

Mom? I get it now.

This year’s tree is my first-ever artificial tree. It holds many of our favorite ornaments, collected over the years. It also features two new Christopher Radko ornaments that Seth got for me, since I made sure Curt got the three we had before, to hang on his own tree. I was moved to tears that Seth remembered the name and shopped to find a good deal, and selected two he thought I’d like – a Santa, and a church.

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See that red thing on the left? It’s a fancy Christmas tree storage bag. With wheels.

As much as I loved this tree, and as much as I’m dreading going down to the garage to get the storage boxes and lugging them up all 30 steps, then back down again, I’m ready for Christmas to be over. It was a really nice holiday this year, but it punctuated the end of a challenging year – not personally, but for the country. The “WTF IS HAPPENING” vibe persists, at least where I live, and the feeling of watching a slow-motion train wreck and being powerless to stop it wears on even the hardiest soul. I am looking forward to a new year, even if the fresh start is symbolic.

I have always differentiated between Christmas decorations and winter ones. As such, I think I’ll leave this display up for a while:

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Silver and red: They aren’t just for Christmas.

And yes, that *is* an as-yet-unpacked moving box that has has there since March, thanks for noticing! But after the tree is stowed away, I’m unpacking that box and placing its contents on that cart to the right. For now, anyway. Until I think of a better idea.

As I write this, there are guys outside with leaf blowers, removing the dusting of snow that fell overnight from the sidewalks out front. I am grateful to be inside, next to my warm gas fireplace, which now works (thanks, Steve!), instead of blowing snow off of my driveway and front walk, which is what I’d have been doing a year ago. The joys of homeownership were many, but so were the annoyances, and snow removal was one of them. In this season of my life, I am grateful for what I had before and even more grateful for what I have today. I have a sense that I am exactly where I need to be at this moment.

Come at me, 2018. I’m ready for you.

I didn’t know I needed this

THE INTERNET GODS sent me this ad:

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It’s not just an ironing board, it’s an ironing system. A whole *system*! For pressing clothes! And it’s on sale for just $1,999! And it ships free!

They’re practically paying you to take it.

The product description begins:

Whether you’re ironing table linens or removing wrinkles from a cocktail dress…

OK, hold up. If you are the owner of a $2,000 ironing system, you probably aren’t ironing your own table linens. You’re sending them out, or you’re having the housekeeper do it. I can see maybe touching up one’s own cocktail dress, say if you forgot to ask your housekeeper to do that for you before she left for the evening. Or maybe if you can’t decide what to wear to that charity gala tonight and have searched the dark recesses of your second walk-in closet (the one with all your fancy clothes in it) and dig out something you haven’t worn a couple of years. It might have wrinkles that need removing. And in that case, you would be really happy this system is still set up in the laundry room. From when the housekeeper was ironing the cloth napkins. That is, if you can figure out how to use it:

This easy-to-use ironing system features an LCD display with user-friendly navigation.

In my experience, “easy-to-use” and “user-friendly” are code words for “plan on 20 minutes to view YouTube tutorials.” I can barely program my coffee maker to brew at some future time. If my ironing system has “navigation” it’s probably too complicated for me.

I know what you’re thinking: Will the B3312 model will deliver everything I want and need in an ironing system? Fear not: The manufacturer also offers the B3847 system for just $500 more. Because spending $2,499 on a glorified ironing board seems normal.

If ironing is your jam – or you are, say, a professional seamstress – an investment in a device such as this might make sense for you. But for the rest of us – those of us who even still *do* iron – isn’t a regular old ironing board and mid-level iron enough to successfully do most household jobs? For money like that, you could buy a whole lot of professional dry cleaning. Or, a couple of really nice new cocktail dresses. Even ones that aren’t on sale. And have cash leftover to bid on the silent auction items at that charity gala.

For more things you never knew you needed, here’s a link to that time I went to Williams-Sonoma and analyzed their Thanksgiving table display.

 

Questionable Math

MOM, CAN YOU HELP ME WITH MY HOMEWORK? Eli has been pretty self-sufficient since starting middle school a few weeks ago, but he needed a little assist with his math last night. He started reading aloud:

"Ryan earns a paycheck of $52 per day at Bob's Burger World. Complete the table to show how much he earns depending on how many hours he works." When you do the math, it comes out to $6.50 per hour. 

Then my HR head exploded because of everything that's wrong with this scenario.

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First of all: $6.50 is below the federal minimum wage (not to mention many localities, which mandate a minimum wage higher than the federal rate). Granted, if Ryan is below a certain age, he may be paid something less than minimum for a brief initial period on the job, but otherwise, NO. It doesn't say if he's waiting tables and earning tips, so we have to assume he's in the back doing food prep or dishes or something. 

But the worksheet says Curriculum 2.0, which ought to mean this question is not one from 20 years ago, when $6.50 would have been a damn fine wage for our boy to be flipping burgers.

Second of all, his paycheck isn't $52. He does not bring home $52. Even if he earns less than would require him to pay federal and state taxes this year, he still owes social security and medicare.  On $52, his share is $3.98, so his best-case, net actual paycheck is actually $48.02. 

Unless Bob is paying him cash under the table. (Bad, bad Bob.)

Third of all, this table goes from 1-8 hours then jumps to 12. TWELVE HOURS? How old is Ryan? Do child labor laws apply here? If so, is this during the school year, or a summer job? Does he need a work permit? Furthermore, is this 12-hour day on top of 32 hours already worked in the week? If so, Ryan needs to be paid time-and-a-half for the last 4 hours on that 12 hour day. 

I'm also wondering if Bob charges Ryan for meals, or the logo tee-shirt he's required to wear. I start to get annoyed with Bob. I wonder if Bob could use an HR consultant to help him stay in compliance with employment laws. After all, it's complicated running a business.

This is where my HR mind goes, and even more so since I sat through three days of payroll training last week. But I forced myself to set all of those questions aside, since that really wasn't in the spirit of the homework problem.

Until the next question:

"If Ryan needs to earn $390 to buy an iPad, how many hours would he need to work?"

Well, you know they want you to divide his sub-minimum hourly rate into the total of $390. But that's not really the case, is it? First of all, if Ryan buys the iPad in Maryland, he's going to pay 6% sales tax, so he actually pays $413.40. More, if he agrees to purchase the extended warranty they'll try to sell him. You know he's also going to want a cover for it, and maybe a screen saver. And, he doesn't NET $6.50 in his paycheck. Let's say his hourly rate after required taxes is actually $6.00. So instead of 60 hours, it's actually going to to take closer to 70 hours. Unless Bob has him working 12 hour days, and is paying him time-and-a-half for hours in excess of 40 per week. Or he's earning tips. Or….

MOM! STOP! Eli was becoming exasperated. So we went to the next question, wherein Ryan got a raise of $2.50 per hour, and now how much does he earn in an 8-hour workday? 

Well, at least now Bob is complying with minimum wage law! He'll gross $72, but net only $66.49. Because taxes.

I'm starting to feel bad for Ryan. I bet Bob never even had him fill out tax withholding forms, or checked his work authorization. I wish Ryan would look for another job, with a reputable employer, who pays above minimum wage and appreciates Ryan for his work ethic and attention to detail. After all, he's been slaving away in that hot kitchen for months, and yes, he got a raise, but that's probably only because someone called out Bob on that minimum wage thing and he wanted to avoid a wage and hour audit.

Eli rolls his eyes at me and finishes his homework. He doesn't understand all these questions I've been asking, and thank goodness for that. He's still in middle school. He has a few years before these problems jump off the worksheet and into his actual life.