Tuesday, September 26, 2017

An Amazonian Problem for Retailers

I have learned so many things about the world this year. A lot about politics, business and how I feel about certain issues. One of the most eye opening things I have become privy to is the fact Amazon isn't the great friend I thought it was. Sorry if you were expecting it to be something more profound. (Insert wink here - haha!) Believe it or not, in my world, it is quite a big deal! In any case, I have never used Amazon all that much. Mostly, I buy books from them, because I am old-fashioned that way and I like an actual book. Occasionally I will go to them for items I can't find in a store. Still, I used to think they were great - who doesn't love free shipping, afterall?! But then I started hearing what they are doing to our retail friends, and I realized they really don't care about me or anyone else. They don't care about anything except making more and more money.

I first heard about this problem from a local store that was talking about their cowboy boots with Brady. I guess I was a bit naive, and I didn't know what people have been doing. The younger generation, the ones who have been raised on Amazon, will come into his store, try his boots on, take a picture of HIS BOOTS, and promptly go to their computer or phone to order the same exact boots on Amazon to save ten or so bucks. How sad is that? Amazon is undercutting everyone - the dealer, the vendor, the sales rep and everyone in between. And they do it all without most people even realizing it.

So many stores have closed their doors recently. Talk about sad! There are too many regulations, for sure. But more than anything, people just aren't coming in and spending their money in stores. Centerville in Milwaukie? Gone. HAV Western Boots closed one of their locations in Spokane. Lake Creek General Store down in Eagle Point, done. Flat Iron Tack in Myrtle Point, closed. These are just a handful of little country stores that have recently gone under. I am sure there are many mainstream stores struggling to compete with Amazon, as well. It is a very sad situation, to say the least, and deserves some thought.

Lucky for Brady, his company is doing something to help their retailers out. They have listened to their stores and a couple of months ago, Justin Brands stopped selling to Amazon. This is great news for stores who are trying to sell boots! Birkenstock also did this, before Justin Brands, actually. Both companies are, of course, taking a huge financial hit, but hopefully it will serve them well in the long run. At least they actually care about their stores.

Seriously, have you been in an actual store, lately? Most that I have been in are stuffed to the brim with product! Personally, I love shopping in a store. It is one of my favorite things to do. I like to see how things look in person and to feel the quality or lack of quality, whatever it may be. I also love searching for a deal - that is almost an addiction for me. Now that I am going into more stores as a sales rep, it has become a bit of a problem for me to control my shopping impulses. I have to force myself not to shop! The fact that I understand and see first hand what Amazon is doing to retailers has changed my perspective - I will only buy something online if it is an item I can't find anywhere else. I have changed my ways - no more undercutting the local guy for this family. Brady and I want our kids to learn how to spend their money wisely, yes, that is true. But we also want them to learn about loyalty and appreciation for small businesses and even big businesses. And besides that, shopping is fun! I also love shopping online boutiques, which is pretty close to an actual store. If it is a small business, then we are all about supporting them.

So as we all gear up for Christmas, and if you like your brick and mortar stores? You should shop there. Because if you don't, they may no longer be there. Seriously! I don't like to preach, but I wanted to share this because many people just don't know - Amazon is truly ruining the retail world. If more people don't start shopping at their local stores, there will ONLY be Amazon to shop from in the future. And then the prices will be whatever they want them to be. And all those "good deals" will be gone.

We are lucky to have some AMAZING stores right here in the Pacific Northwest. The buyer from The Grange Co-Op has incredible taste! We stopped at the Yuba City store in California a few weeks ago, and Brailey and I were drooling over her product. We felt like we were in Texas! They also have locations in Medford, White City, Coos Bay, Klamath Falls and Grants Pass. Gypsy Crossing is another one of my favorites! Talk about FUN - it is a boutique inside Ace Hardware - a store in a store! Painted Zebra is a boutique that I love so much, I actually became friends with the buyer just from stopping there - she is in North Bend and also has a mobile boutique she takes to different events. Country Farms and Ranch Supplies in Saginaw/Creswell is a hidden gem in the feed store world - they have the most darling treasures you will ever find! Double H Western Wear up in Salem is the largest western store in the northwest - super cool store! Coastal and Wilco are both great places to shop. Union Mills up in Mulino is a jewel of a store - they have an amazing selection of items. I've heard Rachelle M. Rustic House of Fashion, a new store in Eugene, is absolutely to die for - I can't wait to go check them out. Yes, these are mostly on the western side of things, but that's the industry that is closest to my heart. If it is a brick and mortar store, then I say take the time to check them out. A store is a store, no matter how small or big they may be.

Much like saving the whales, let's save small businesses - shop from them as much as you can. You will get much better customer service and you will feel happier knowing you are helping a real family with bills just like you. Likewise, save the big stores like Coastal and Wilco. They are feeding people's families. Go to the mall - it's fun! Malls are closing across the nation. Let's try to change that trend. We have so many wonderful stores who have to pay rent on top of all their expenses. As you do your shopping, keep the brick and mortar stores in mind, and save the future of our retail world. If you can, leave Amazon as a last resort.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

So Far, So Good

The first two weeks of school are under our belts, we are well into the third already and so far, so good! Honestly, I wasn't sure what to expect, but it has been a smooth and lovely transition from one school to another and both kids have adjusted remarkably well, which makes Brady and I feel at peace in our parenting, at least for the moment. I think after last year, we deserve that small sense of tranquility.
When I think of the craziness of our previous schedules, it makes me wonder how we did it all. And not living in town on top of it, which adds lots of time and driving. How on earth did we manage? Although this summer was shorter due to the winter storms, it felt longer than the summer before, which was completely monopolized by Brailey's dance schedule - practice three days a week all summer long from 7:AM to 9:AM. There was not much sleeping in, that's for sure. And then the dance schedule continued to dominate our lives, with practices almost every day of the school year, usually from 8:PM to 10:PM. How did we even do that?! Throw basketball practice in there and games and dance performances and normal life and the fact that I am usually the only one home during the week just WOW! It is amazing the things you do for your kids that in retrospect seem a bit crazy, but at the time just seem like part of the package. What wasn't part of the package, however, was the level of sadness we saw in Brailey, and even though it was actually hard to give up dance and Spanish Immersion and our friends and the comfort of knowing what to do, it has been worth every single doubt to see her smile again. Thankfully, all those doubts have been erased, because both kids are doing great and frankly, thriving.
Britt is so happy to have all his classes in English for the first time ever, and he has been more inspired than ever to continue developing his athleticism. Not only did he find the basketball boys right away, he has also been able to play football at recess. He wasn't allowed to play at his previous school, because he wasn't deemed "good enough" by the boys that play "real" football. At Harrisburg, even the boys who play football are happy to play with Britt. The fact that Britt is tall is helpful, and he has his natural ability to make friends with everyone. Brailey has even heard about him from kids at the high school. "My sister said there's this really tall kid in eighth grade."And, "Have you heard about the new boy in eighth grade? He's really tall!" He is enjoying being the tallest kid in the school, that's for sure. Being tall is fun! And he has been practicing his football moves with Brady at home, soaking up every last ray of sunshine we can find before the rainy season hits. When I think back to the days of Britt as a Kindergartner and how he could barely run because of his legs, I can hardly believe how well he is doing today. He hasn't let his leg disability slow him down at all. Brady and I are so proud of him for how far he's come and excited to see where he goes.
I took the picture below before they got haircuts on Friday. We are loving not having school on Fridays! Our barber went on vacation right before school started, so for the first time ever, Britt started school with shaggy hair. He is handsome enough to pull it off, lucky for him.
We were thrilled to get to go to Brailey's cross country meet on Saturday. Talk about fun! These races are fast (meaning they don't last all day long), supportive and inspirational. As we got there, the last runner from the younger kids was coming down the stretch, and his team was running next to him, cheering him on while the crowd clapped him in. It was so touching to me, I started crying! Britt couldn't believe it, but I met another mom who also cried at that moment, so I'm not the only one. Below, Brailey and one of her new friends and teammates, Delilah.
One of the girls from her team is missing, because she fell off a ladder while washing her dad's semi-truck the day before. But every girl seemed sweet and happy and fun! Brailey has so much fun on these trips, she asked us if she could please ride the bus back home. We couldn't say no. We are absolutely thrilled she wants to spend more time with her team! In our book, that's a good sign.
The boys race first, and so the girls cheer them on at the start. The guy in the green is her coach. He is the most amazing coach we've ever seen! Harrisburg is very lucky to have someone like him leading this team. 
Everyone else on the team started training at the beginning of August. We didn't know who to get in touch with until school registration, so Brailey has only had two and a half weeks of training. But she is doing great! She's already learned a lot and she will get in better shape and be able to run faster and harder as time goes on. Unfortunately, she has developed some horrific shin splints, but we are doing our best to get them healed up. The good thing is that she absolutely loves it! I still miss seeing her dance, but she is much happier in this environment, and I feel grateful to my toes for that gift. It is amazing the difference NICE and KIND can make in an atmosphere, no matter what the sport or situation. 
Here she comes, and there's her dad, taking a picture and encouraging her to keep going. They had a humongous hill to climb. It reminded me of Steve Austin's Broken Skull Challenge. Brady cheered her on the entire way up, and she could hear him. "Come on, Brailey!"
We had a blast finding her on all the checkpoints. We had to hustle so we didn't miss her! Below, Britt is with the coach's son. He is a sixth grader Britt met at school, and super sweet. He and Britt hung out all morning. His older sister is on the team.

The home stretch! She did it! I don't know how, after climbing that hill, but she totally did! We are excited to see how she ends up at the end of the season. She shaved over a minute off her third race from her second race, and she's running varsity, which is exciting. It will be fun to see the improvement she shows by the end.
The team table. Their coach ran in the open, the last race of the day, because the boys wanted him to. He beat all of their times, except for one boy. Not bad! He told them he is going to beat them all next year.
Britt had so much fun, he decided he is going to join the team next year! Unless he can talk his mother into letting him play football, that is. We shall see. I'm just glad he saw how great it was and that he and Brailey are doing so well in their new schools. It isn't easy to be the "new kids on the block," but they are fitting in just fine. So far, so good. We are looking forward to a fun-filled, less-chaotic, peace-filled, happy school year!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

New Kids on the Block

And so begins a fresh chapter of education for my B's, and they are officially the "new kids on the block" at Harrisburg High and Middle Schools. It hasn't been an easy transition, of course, because change is always hard and being new is never easy. Labor Day Monday was spent in a state of sadness that summer is over and fear of the unknown. Lots of hugs and reassurances were given. But yesterday, the first day of school, was survived and now they are onto the second day.  
Britt seemed to fair better than Brailey, and he is the one we have been worried about all summer, as he did NOT want to change schools. But he rallied himself and after the Open House last week, he said, "You know, I'm actually looking forward to learning in English for once. Because I like History, but it is hard to really understand it when you learn about it in Spanish." After school yesterday, he came to the car with another boy that he met, and although he told us his day was "okay," he then went on to tell us a number of positives that had happened. First of all, he has already found the basketballers. He is in! Secondly, he is the tallest kid in the school and the basketball team is happy to have him, even though they haven't seen him play. Third and perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was the fact that he now gets a recess. He hasn't had a recess since fifth grade! He is also very happy to have a Study Hall class at the end of his day so he can get all his homework done. As we dropped him off this morning, he had a spring in his step and was excited. That will make a mother cry, let me tell you. Tears of joy!
As you can see, he still has some goofy and fun to him, even when he is nervous. (He will kill me when he discovers I posted the picture above, but I couldn't resist!)
Brailey came to the car after school a little sadder than Britt and with a few tears - it was much harder than she had anticipated. After the horrendous year she suffered last year, I think she thought this would be a lot easier. But being new is never easy, and when you are painfully shy, as she is, it is even harder. She started Cross Country last week, which was a big help to her, because she met some people. She came to the car after her first practice and said, "They were all so nice! I can't believe how nice they all were!" That was encouraging, to say the least. She likes most of her classes, and she has a couple really fun ones - horticulture and woodshop! Sadly, she ate lunch by herself, but then at the end she forced herself to reach out to some other girls, and at the very end of the day, she met a girl that she really liked. Hopefully today will go better. This is a great time for her to learn how to overcome her shyness and to really jump out of that comfort zone. On another note, she is in an Advanced Spanish class, which hopefully will be easy for her. However, she was a bit annoyed that the other kids don't have the proper accents. Good to know I'm not the only one who struggles with this problem! 
She was NOT happy that I made her let me take this picture, but tradition is tradition, and there's no way I'm missing out on the school sign picture. She only has to suffer through it two more times.
Britt was happy to pose for me, and I was sure he would be the one to balk at it. He also had hugs for me, as he always does. This warmed my heart - he will forever be my Mama's Boy.
It will be interesting to see where this new journey takes us. So far, Brady and I are thrilled with what we see. They are much stricter than the 4J school district when it comes to cell phones and student attire. All of the course descriptions stressed the importance of respect. The parking is a breeze! They have a few of our conservative values, and that makes us more than happy! One day at a time, and a year from now, they will be veterans instead of the newbies. Life's about to get good! 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Day at the Beach

Last week I took my B's to the beach. I had a store to visit in Newport, and so we combined work with pleasure and had a great day together. Our first stop was Feed Corral, where they helped me out with my samples. They were the best assistants a mother could ever ask for, let alone a sales rep! They carried my samples and briefcase up and down the stairs and set out the samples and put them away while I entered the order. And lucky for us, there was a coffee stand right next door, so we were able to grab a treat before the buyer got to her store. I was seriously grateful for their help! 
Shawna, the owner of Feed Corral, told us about a great place to eat on the beach, and so we went there for a fun lunch. We had the sweetest waitress - I couldn't decide between clam chowder or fish and chips, and so I finally settled on fish and chips, and she brought me a sample of the clam chowder out of the blue. It was delicious! Little gestures like that are so kind and can really make a person's day.

After our lunch, we walked to beach. It was a bit rainy and foggy when we first arrived, but within minutes, the sun came out and it turned warm. There was no wind, which was amazing! It was the absolute perfect temperature.
Nobody loves the beach like Britt. This is his first sand castle. He quickly moved on from this one to two others. He was in heaven! There is nothing better than a happy Britt - his happiness is one that is contagious.
Sand castle number two.
We moved from our original spot to a different place down by the rocks where Brailey was studying the tide pools. Britt marked our territory for us. "Property of the Murrays."
Then, some selfies. I had my phone and my real camera, so I was able to catch them in action. In the spirit of selfies, I decided to do one of my own. (Insert smiley face here.)

And the third time is the charm - sand castle number three. 
The tide was making its way in, and so we couldn't leave until Britt saw if his "wall" worked to protect his castle. He was happy - his engineering skills were a success! 
Initials and corresponding feet. Writing in the sand is always fun. 
The trail to the beach had all these cute benches. There must have been at least twenty or so of them. Of course they each had to sit on their own for my picture.
And then the lovely sand still stuck to us. Britt had a ton of it on him. But it all vacuumed out of the car. And he was so happy and grateful we made the time to hit the beach. He thanked me and said he had such a fun time. That's all I needed to hear. It was a perfect day with my darling B's, and I am so happy we were able to squeeze it into the last bit of our summer.

April - Here and Gone in the Blink of an Eye

It seems crazy to think Easter Sunday was on April Fool's Day this year, but it totally was. We started our Easter at mass with our fa...