Tag Archives: Arizona Republic

An older, wiser mom

My son Andy’s birthday is today. He’s 26 years old. The number makes me gasp.

My thoughts are pulled back to the weeks surrounding his birth. The mystery, the worry, the pain — and the utter joy. And the vague recollection of a newspaper article that appeared when he was just five weeks old.

Before I got married, went to graduate school and had my son, I was a bureau chief for the Arizona Republic. A lot of the reporters and photographers still knew me. So when they needed a photograph of a new mom with her baby for a story they were planning to run, they called me.

Photographer Michael Ging came out to the little condo my husband and I were renting in north Phoenix and took a bunch of pictures. When the story appeared in the paper on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 1985, it included this photo, which will always be a cherished favorite:

Photo by Michael Ging.

I must have read the article, but I was probably so excited about the picture — or so overwhelmed by my role as a new mom — that I didn’t remember what it was about. When memories of  the photo surfaced today, I decided to revisit the story.

So I went to my three-ring binder labeled “1985″ and pulled out the yellowed clipping.

“A Different Kind of Parental Guidance,” by then Republic staffer Linda Helser, was about a resource for older first-time moms. It described a fabricated character named Rosalie, who had her first baby at 35. This professional wonder had graduated magna cum laude, enjoyed yearly promotions at her job and had married a successful guy with whom she took European vacations.

The arrival of her baby completely threw her for a loop.

“In Phoenix, there are many more older women having babies today, and they probably know less about infant care than even the young ones,” Helser quoted a local parenting expert as saying. The story described how these older, better-resourced moms were seeking parenting education with the same kind of vigor with which they’d pursued education and career training.

I was 29. Raising Arizona Kids wasn’t even a twinkle in my eye. But something about that newspaper article must have stuck in the back recesses of my mind. Because four years and one more son later, I was planning the launch of the Valley’s first monthly magazine for families. By then, I’d realized what Helser’s story meant by “mothers who are wise enough to admit they don’t know it all.”

Inspiration from an author’s real-life fairy tale

My mom introduced me to Jean M. Auel‘s Earth’s Children series of historical fiction. She and I both have enjoyed reading the first five of Auel’s novels. So when I saw a story about Auel in Thurday’s Arizona Republic, and realized the sixth and final novel in the series is out, I couldn’t wait to call my mom.

I had other family news to share (my son David just accepted a new job!), so that of course came first. And she had to get to an appointment, so we didn’t have a whole lot of time to talk. But just before we said goodbye, I started jumping up and down, finally remembering that I’d wanted to tell her  The Land of Painted Caves is out.

I love Auel’s stories, which are based in the European continent during the Ice Age. Her heroine, Ayla, is independent, resilient and resourceful. The series begins when she is a young child who is separated from her family, and her tribe, during a terrible earthquake. Her journey to survival and self-discovery is filled with adventure and fascinating, detailed descriptions that illustrate the tasks Earth’s earliest human beings had to perform simply to exist.

Auel did a staggering amount of research to bring a sense of authenticity to her writing. Getting inside the heads of characters from more than 25,000 years ago couldn’t have been easy.

But it’s Auel herself who captivates my imagination. She was 44 when she published the first book in her series. She had never written a book before that. As she promotes her sixth book, traveling around the country to speak and autograph copies, she is 75.

When I read Randy Cordova’s interview, I was enchanted by the audacity of Auel’s creative effort. She writes for herself, doesn’t worry how her books will be received and doesn’t bother with blogging, email, social media or “building a platform” for selling her books, which is what all the industry experts say you need to do. As I struggle in my own writing to bring dimension to characters who are living, breathing and actually telling me their stories, I am awed by the leap of faith and courage her effort required.

Her story is itself a fairy tale — of the very best kind.

Day 4 after the flood – the mystical aspects

Our kitchen, as it looked yesterday.

I always hated that linoleum. It was an icky 1970s gold and no matter how many times it was cleaned it still looked dirty. Several times during the past three years I’ve kicked myself for not insisting the landlord replace it when we first moved in.

And now it’s gone.

J&M Restoration Inc. pulled it up to get to the water that had seeped below it during last Wednesday’s flood. Replacing the flooring is one of several construction projects that will have to be addressed in the coming weeks.

As devastating as this experience has been, it has brought a lot of good things to the surface. Least significant, perhaps, is the fact that I’m done with that old linoleum.

Metaphorically more powerful, I have new flooring under my feet.

The flood drew a line in the sand that I needed to confront. Am I still in this or not? Am I moving forward or not?

This would be a perfect time to quit. To throw in the towel. To admit that after 21 years of challenges I could never have imagined, it’s all just too hard. I’m exhausted. Spent.

The past year and a half has been particularly discouraging. When the recession hit, we lost every source of the retail advertising that had largely kept our company afloat. Even subscription revenue dropped off as parents tightened their belts and gave up discretionary spending.

We responded with what we called “Plan A.” Budget cuts were made. We started printing our magazine on lighter paper to save costs in production and mailing. We cut our freelance payments in half. We cut our mileage reimbursements in half. We took a lot of other small but significant steps, each time wondering about the larger implications: Will staff members quit? Will writers stop submitting? As I held my breath it suddenly dawned on me that nothing had changed. It was business as usual.

A few weeks ago, as we perused budgets for June, July and August, I had to face a harsh reality. Advertising revenues were still sliding. We had to move to “Plan B.” Staff would now be affected in a much more dramatic way.

My voice was shaking when I called my staff together to share the news that, like many media companies (including the Arizona Republic and 12 News), we were going to have to implement furlough time this summer to make up for anticipated losses. It sickened me to even say the words. I saw the faces of these people I’ve grown to love turn serious, stricken. I could barely breathe as I choked out explanations about how it would work.

I was afraid everyone would blame me — hate me. But that’s not what happened. They understood. They rallied.

The sense of renewed energy in our office was palpable as my team strengthened their bonds to each other and their commitment to our work. New creativity crept in, new sources of revenue appeared. June furloughs, it appeared, might not be necessary. July also was looking hopeful.

The ceiling of our conference room as it looked Wednesday morning.

And then the rainstorm from above hit our office. We were once again victims of something completely beyond our control. I started to feel like the very heavens were screaming at me to give up.

But the bleakest day in our company’s history turned out, in some mysterious way, to be the best day ever. As I watched my staff squish-squash past me on sopping carpet in their bare feet, as they frantically rescued computers and files, as they ate pizza in an area that looked like a hurricane had hit, as they triaged tasks and priorities to make sure the core business was protected,  I realized something.

They will do this. Not me. I don’t have to cross a line in the sand because they’ve already done it. They decided. We’re still in this — stronger and more committed than ever.

A Facebook friend posted a message on my wall yesterday: “…hoping there will be a rainbow at the end of your flood.”

I already see it.

Time for climbing trees

This morning, after I checked my email, looked at my personal Facebook page, looked at the Raising Arizona Kids Magazine Facebook page, perused the latest postings on the RAKmagazine Twitter account and logged some tweets in my personal Twitter account, I sat down on the couch to read the morning papers. My husband and I get both the Arizona Republic and the New York Times. (We used to get the East Valley Tribune before they stopped delivering to our area. Now, sadly, they’re not publishing at all.)

I don’t always make it through both papers but I try to at least scan the headlines. Today I was struck by the irony on the two front pages.

If your kids are awake, they’re probably online, warned a headline in the center of the Times. Thanks to remarkable multitasking abilities, children ages 8 to 18 are packing up to 11 hours a day of media activity into their daily routines, according to the story. “The average young American now spends practically every waking minute — except for the time in school — using a smart phone, computer, television or other electronic device, according to a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation.”

Then I turned to the Republic, where I saw that More K-12 classes [have been] approved for online instruction. So now, in addition to “every waking minute” outside of school, children can spend even more of their day staring at a screen?

I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit that I love the efficiencies of today’s electronic devices. I can get a lot more done in the same eight-hour work day than I used to be able to do. But every time I’ve upgraded my personal technology arsenal — from pager to cell phone, from cell phone to iPhone, from one email account to several, from no social media to Twitter and Facebook — I pay a price. These tools allow me to do more in a day, so I feel compelled to do more. And my internal expectations, instead of shrinking, are growing exponentially.

Online learning serves a great need in today’s society and Arizona has many fine schools that specialize in it. Many of these “virtual” schools (which we list in our 2010 Schools, etc. guide to education) are already free, public charter schools.

Increasing access to online learning within our regular public school districts has me feeling a bit uncomfortable. What is the effect to a child’s imagination and inherent need for contact with the natural world when even school time is spent online?

I am reminded of a recent conversation with a career educator. Piya Jacob is the founder and director of Desert View Learning Center in Paradise Valley, a small private school my own two sons attended during grades K-3.

Piya described a conversation she’d had with two parents who were debating whether they should enroll their child as a kindergarten or first-grade student. The mom was leaning toward a kindergarten start; the dad insisted the child was academically ready for first grade.

“What is the goal?” Piya gently prodded. “Is the goal to get this child to into the work world that much more quickly? Because we all have plenty of time to work. We have such precious little time to be children.”

In another story, she described a parent a who was watching students during independent reading time. One child (perhaps her own? I don’t remember) finished reading a book, then ran outside to climb a tree. “Why do you allow them to climb trees during reading time?” this parent asked Piya. “Why don’t you make them read more books?”

“Because,” Piya replied. “They need to climb trees.”