First, I wanted to give a brief update on how things are going in my busy, busy life.
Winter Break has just begun, not just for the schools, but also for the school districts. I left Laird after 7 1/2 years to join the information technology team at our school district. I miss the kids and the staff, but I also have to say I love my new job. So many "why" questions I've had over the years about the software are finally getting answered. So much more of the training I've been wanting is also happening.
The reason I left Laird? This new position pays better, which in turn will make me better able to help my Mom. She is now priority number one in my life right now, which is why my life has gone from somewhat busy to almost non-stop at this point. But, all in all, I have to say I'm in a much better place financially, emotionally spiritually and physically now than I was this time last year.
I'm also someone who takes notice of the dreams I have at night. I record them. Some feel like they are plots from movies or books (which some have turned out to be), others are premonitions of something about to happen (they still freak me out when I see the event happen and realize it was the dream I had a while ago) and some I have no idea what they are. What foods I've eaten usually isn't an issue, my dreams are separate from my stomach, some are based on work.
This past week, though, I had a dream that I just didn't see coming.
I had a dream about Barry Manilow.
I haven't listened to his music, watched a video of him or really given much thought about him in quite a while (sorry, Barry). I have no idea what prompted the dream.
I won't go into details, but it was a good dream (no bad events happened in the dream) and Barry looked good. It just brought back so many fond memories of him.
It also made me think of this song:
Happy Hanukkah, Barry,
and Merry Christmas to all of my dear friends out there.
Today, during the Sacrament, I was inspired to pen an additional verse to the hymn "Reverently And Meekly Now", which is number 185 in the book of Hymns for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
As thou has sought companionship with Me,
Go and seek others who now need thee.
Seek the poor of spirit and purse,
Seek the ill as well as the nurse.
Find the child whose hunger is sore,
Find the widow who this season grieves more.
Find your Ward family who secretly needs love,
Fulfill the mission I have for you, one from above.
I doubt this matches the meter for the music, but there you have it.
I love how the interview ended on the scare tactic of raising prices at Walmart.
Why am I not buying it?
1. Did you know that low-wage workers make up a portion of the people living on Food Stamps? And who pays for that? Not Walmart.
2. I have a friend who used to work at the local Walmart.
The pay was not that great, and there was no room for this college graduated individual to move as far as a better paying position was concerned.
3. Have you ever wondered, on days like Saturdays, why all of the check out lanes are not running?
When I worked retail in college, part of planning the shifts involved making sure there would be enough coverage for days you know are peak days. I have a hard time believing Walmart doesn't understand it's peak times. It's been in business for too long.
Lately I've been doing my own little social experiment.
The grocery store where I shop is part of a chain of stores located in various parts of the Phoenix metropolitan area.
There is, however, a number of differences between these grocery stores, dependent upon which neighborhood it resides in.
When I go to my local grocery store, I take the plastic bags from previous trips and try to locate the recycle bins for these bags. The larger bins that used to be there for this purpose has since been replaced by a single large trash bin instead, with no markings on it to indicate why it's there. You have to ask about the recycle bin in order to find it.
The person I am asking? The store's security detail. As I walk into the store, I am greeted by a sign indicating I will need to show proof of my purchase with the receipt upon leaving the store.
While going through the store, I notice that the cranapple juice is always out, unless you want to get the generic brand. They also never have the 16 pack of unfrosted strawberry Pop Tarts. They used to carry the filled french toast breakfast pastries from iHop but those have since been long gone.
The candy aisle is located in the front of the store.
Some weeks, though, I will be in Gilbert or East Mesa running errands and will do my grocery shopping at a different store in a different neighborhood. Same grocery chain, but in a different area.
When I walk into the store, there is no sign regarding showing my receipt, nor is there a store security person at the entrance. Those nice, large bins for recycling the bags are there.
They have a large number of bottles of cranapple juice, the 16 pack of Pop Tarts in my favorite flavor are also found there, as well as the iHop breakfast pastries.
The candy aisle is located in the back of the store.
Why the difference?
If you look at the five mile radius of my neighborhood store, you will find areas of low income housing.
The other store has a radius of middle to upper class neighborhoods. No low income housing within five miles.
This is actually more typical than most people may realize, unless they've watched the scene in Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts' character is trying to buy a cocktail dress on Rodeo Drive.
Apparently another casualty of Obamacare is how it brings to light which employers are willing to provide health care plans for employees. Among those employers are school districts.
There are some in the United States who believe everyone in public education makes $50,000 per year with benefits. That isn't the case. The support staff, also known as Classified staff, at the schools make substantially less.
This is all my personal opinion, however I have shopped at JC Penney for years, and it's where I get my hair done.
There is some good news on the horizon for the company - if they play their cards right.
A little background: JC Penney has been around since I can remember, and a lot of my furniture and clothing as a child came from JC Penney.
This evening I went to the local store (I didn't buy anything and I'll later tell you why) and then checked out their web site.
One of the big problems - and it's a key problem they have - is defining who their customer is.
The store closest to me is at Tempe Marketplace, which is an outdoor mall located not too far from the ASU campus. For this reason, you do find some areas of the store that are obviously geared towards this demographic. One downside to this, though, is the only ASU items I could find were in the Men's sportswear department, I guess women aren't allowed to be fans.
The rest of the store is geared towards the upper middle income family - Mom, Dad and the kids. Question #1: Do they exist in this location?
They have done a good job with the renovations, I like the direction they are going with the different labels under one roof. They have also brightened up the look to make it pop visually with light and color. I liked the mannequins in the center of the aisle, however I'm wondering if people with wheelchairs have issues with those.
There is some inconsistency, however, with the layout of the store. There is an entire front section - with really nice designer areas - for women, men have a few designer areas including a shop for suits (they may want to re-think the grunge looking sales clerk in a cotton undershirt who was there helping customers when I was there). Wonderful areas for children (they could do more with the infant area), but the Women's Full Figure area is still an issue.
I'm full figured, so this is a sticky point for me. They used to have some cute clothes in full figure, but they got rid of the few designers who made clothes I like. They have the cute JCP label and Worthington for business. Here's the problem with both: All of their pants have low waists on them, which is not only immodest apparel, it can be an embarrassment for the customer who buys these items only to find their stomach or backside sticking out. It's not flattering for a full figure body. At least not in my eyes. They have another label, however those high-waisted pants only come in 100% polyester - bad news if you are in 100 + degree heat.
Forget about buying a full figured dress that doesn't make you look like you're wearing a sheet, or might actually have sleeves on them, unless you are planning to wear a business suit to the next family picnic.
Obviously they haven't looked at the numbers in their target demographics, or they might realize there are a number of customers who have full figures. Who knows, perhaps they might win some customers over from Catherines or Lane Bryant by putting a little more effort into what is offered there, instead of making it look like an afterthought?
The other issue stems from the old JC Penney vs. the new. They got rid of the home furnishings (unless you count the vacuum cleaner and nick nacks), but they kept the drapery section. Why? I know back in the day, you used to get a designer to come to your home to help you pick out the drapes, but I don't know that they do that anymore.
I will also add that most people want to pick out window coverings when they pick out the paint for a room, unless the window covering is supposed to match the duvet. I could see having a few duvet sets with accompanying window treatments, but unless they plan on bringing in the updated furniture selection JC Penney has online, there is no point in keeping an entire drapery department there. It's wasted space on the showroom floor that can be used for items that are more profitable.
Along these lines, how is JC Penney planning on showcasing the furniture they have online? Most people want to see it before they buy it.
One other thing that I think would generate some buzz and get some people in the door is to have a Spring and Fall Fashion show there, as well as some weekend demonstrations of products by celebrity guests. They are introducing a line called Martha Stewart Celebrations - party decorating type of stuff - would Martha or someone from her Magazine come out to give a presentation? They have some other name brand items - kitchen items, clothing lines - would people from these companies come out to demonstrate their products or give some fashion tips? This is how they can get people into the store, and turn the store into a destination location.
Again, just a few thoughts, but as there has been local news coverage, I thought these were fair points and questions to bring up.
Today was the final day for the ANWA Conference for this year. If you don't know, ANWA is for the American Night Writers Association - for LDS (mostly women) writers. There is an annual conference and while finances prevented me from attending last year, I was able to afford a Saturday only admission. It didn't disappoint, at all.
For starters, their web site posted not only the schedule of classes, but also posted many of the handouts for the conference in advance. This allowed me to look at the information provided for the sessions I couldn't attend, and I'm glad I did.
One of the sessions talked about the archetypes used in fiction, and the patterns they use. This was from author Jennifer Griffith, which she referred her handout to Heroes and Heroines: The Complete Guide to Archetypes:
I found this book as a Kindle, but found and purchased it through iBooks for my iPad. I've been reading it through part of the week prior to today, and it is a fantastic resource if you are looking to write fiction and need some character development.
Other great speakers were other authors, agents and publishers on a variety of topics, including some very helpful classes to get your readers hooked starting with the first chapter and information about what publishers are looking for. It gave me great insight!
Update: The link didn't work (I was trying to post this from my iPad), so here it is again:
Heroes and Heroines
This is definitely a must have book if you are writing fiction. It has been great reading!