A chance to play Santa

Except for a brief moment of restful regrouping during the Thanksgiving weekend, my staff has been working around the clock for weeks. It’s “that time of year” for us, an annual marathon that tests our energy, our stamina, our resilience and our shared sense of humor.

Double-issue deadline time.

Our 132-page 2011 Schools, etc. book went to the printer last week. Last night, at about 8pm, I signed off on the January magazine and Art Director Michelle-Renee Adams sent the files off to the printer.

Every year we wonder why we pack this double whammy into the weeks leading up to an already hectic holiday season. We talk about scheduling the book at a different time of year but we keep coming back to the same conclusion: Parents need it in January.

January is when many of the Valley’s private schools hold open houses; for the most popular schools, registration may reach capacity soon into the new year. Even public school districts with rolling open-enrollment periods may fill to capacity well before the start of the new school year.

So we bite the bullet, resign ourselves to some late nights (for Calendar & Directories Editor Mala Blomquist a lot of late nights) and somehow we always manage to get it done.

After weeks of intense, single focus, I woke up this morning with an almost childlike sense of possibilities. No proofreading today! No frantic, last-minute fact-checking! The excited feeling actually lasted a few seconds before I realized how many other things I’ve let slide the last few weeks. Emails that need responses, articles to be assigned, planning to do.

Before I get mired in all of that, I plan to spend some time playing Santa. We have been running all sorts of promotions on our website lately. Tickets to live events and movie sneak previews, new-release CDs and DVDs. We recently closed five of those contests, whose winners must be notified today.

I like doing that myself. It’s fun to send someone a message that says, “Guess what? You won!” It does my heart good when I get an excited response (“No way — that’s awesome!” or “My kids will be so excited!”).

Every once in awhile there is a serendipitous moment of synergy, when all the stars align and the results of these promotions take on an almost magical quality.

One of the moms who won tickets to The Rockettes’ Radio City Christmas Spectacular also won the chance to have one of her children appear live on stage during a performance finale at Jobing.com Arena. In coordinating all the details with the troupe’s local publicity team, I inadvertantly gave Theresa Robinette the wrong date for the performance her family would attend.

When I called Theresa at her Glendale office to explain my mistake, I was apologetic. “The on-stage opportunity can only be accommodated during the 4pm performance Dec. 2,” I said. “They need you there at 2:30 to prepare.” The date was just two days away. My heart sank as I realized this full-time working mom might not be able to rearrange her schedule that quickly.

Theresa’s response was completely unexpected. She told me that Dec. 2 was her son Eric’s 15th birthday, “so that would be perfect!” Eric, who is autistic, attends Hi-Star Children’s Center in Glendale. The school is big on providing performing arts opportunities for students and Theresa’s son, it seems, loves the spotlight.

Her office (Larry Rougemont State Farm Agency in Glendale) approved the time off, Eric’s grandmother and sister went along and we sent staff writer/photographer Dan Friedman, who posted a wonderful, “feel good” story on our website and some additional photos on RAK’s Facebook.

Theresa wrote to me the next day.

Thanks so much for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! Eric had the time of his life and what a fantastic experience for him and for us to view! Eric thinks in pictures and this experience will be in his photo memory forever!

It was surreal to be in the company of so many amazing people who are involved with this show!  Lindsay McAllister [from the Rockettes] and Dan Friedman were so nice to us and took good care of us, and you have been wonderful to work with as well!  We cannot thank you enough for this experience and for the story and photo. Our friends and family across the state and country have checked out the story and photo and are sending their congrats to Eric. They made an announcement at his school and it is on the school bulletin! WOW! What more can I say?

You already said it, Theresa. Merry Christmas.

Eric Robinette (15) poses with one of the Rockettes at Jobing.com Arena earlier this month. Photo by Daniel Friedman.

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