Tag Archives: Brooke Mortensen

100 mompreneurs and counting

It was longtime Raising Arizona Kids contributor Brittney Walker who came up with the idea of running a weekly feature on our website about local mothers who are running businesses.

Hard to believe we’ve already profiled 100 of them in our Monday RAK Mompreneur feature.

Brittney wrote the section for awhile, until she took a break to focus on family, community and church responsibilities. (We’re happy to say she’s got the writing bug again and has several assignments in the works.)

We gave the assignment to Brooke Mortensen, who interned with us right after she graduated from college in the spring of 2010 and continues to write for us as a freelancer.

Between the two of them, Brittney and Brooke have covered a wide range of mom-owned businesses. They’ve profiled photographers, jewelry makers, cooks/caterers/bakers and candy makers. They’ve interviewed moms who make fitness fun, moms who help other moms stay organized, moms with a knack for fashion — or finding deals, or dispensing advice — and even a “multi-mompreneur” who runs several businesses concurrently.

Certainly these moms are not lacking in energy, creativity or drive. They are a diverse bunch from all kinds of backgrounds. Each has a unique and interesting story of the journey that brought her to this place in life. But there are two things  that unite them all: passion for what they do and the desire to live life on their own terms so they can keep family as their first and most important priority.

As one of the Valley’s veteran mompreneurs (we started Raising Arizona Kids 22 years ago in my then-2-year-old’s nursery), I have great respect for those priorities and a deep and empathetic appreciation for how terribly challenging it can be to live up to them.

There is nothing harder than being a mom. And there are few things harder than running a business. When you’re trying to do both, your highs are very high and  your lows are frighteningly low. On your worst days, you are ruled by questions and doubt. You wonder why you keep at it. On your best days, you feel enormous pride and a deep sense of fulfillment.

And when you’ve been at it as long as I have, you start to gain a sense of the bigger picture. It’s not just about building a business. It’s about building a community — a family of people who care about something just as deeply as you do and sometimes even more. People who have developed their own threads of friendship and meaning within a context of shared purpose that wouldn’t even exist if someone hadn’t thought, “I wonder if I could…?”

Small world stories – hoops, timing and URLs

Thanks to the office flood, it’s been awhile since we’ve had regular editorial meetings. But my team is tightly knit and, not surprisingly, pretty adept at communication.

So while we haven’t had storytime at RAK in weeks, I am still the delighted recipient of “small world” stories I love to share.

Ann Meyers Drysdale with her son D.J. and daughter Drew.

Hoops connection

Our production manager, Tina Gerami, is married to Essex Bennett, a Valley educator who is working with the Phoenix Suns basketball camps at Thunderbird High School this week. Yesterday, he got to hear a presentation from guest speaker Ann Meyers Drysdale, who is featured on our July cover and profiled in “A Conversation with…” multimedia journalist Vicki Louk Balint.

After her speech, Essex approached her to say his wife works at RAK and that he really enjoyed reading the article about her. “She said she was really pleased with the article,” Essex reported. He then made another connection: Ann’s son D.J. is working at the camp with him!

Timing is everything

I heard from Calendar & Directory Editor Mala Blomquist last Friday, after her appearance on Arizona Midday on 12 News.

“So I am in the green room talking to this really nice lady named Karen when she asks me what I do,” Mala said. “When I tell her, she says, ‘Wait a minute — two people from your magazine were at my house this week!’ Turns out she is the next RAK Mompreneur! Karen said that staff photographer Dan Friedman was a hoot and that editorial intern Brooke Mortensen [who wrote the story], could not have been more lovely!”

A URL by any other name…

Our July magazine has a story about a precautionary step prospective parents in the digital age may want to take before naming their baby. Some experts at a social media conference recommended that you Google the first and last name before wrapping your heart around it.

“Ha!” wrote staff multimedia journalist Vicki Louk Balint when she saw it. “I had to laugh at that story. Robert [her 19-year-old son] Googled his name before he wrote his first story for Raising Arizona Kids, when he was deciding whether to be Robert Balint or Robert T. Balint. Turns out there is a hungarian PORN STAR named Robert Balint!”

Obviously, Robert put in the T.

Working with interns: A chance to get back into my 22-year-old head

When we first started accepting interns more than 15 years ago, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them. I’m someone who is better at doing what I do than explaining how to do it. And I’m not very good at asking for help.

So I found myself apologizing for assignments I considered “grunt” work — even though I knew the tasks were vital. Or worse, I’d smile and say “thanks” for work that I knew I would (resentfully) spend hours redoing myself.

I had the wrong attitude. I was looking at interns as extensions of myself and expecting them to know what I wanted. I didn’t understand when they “didn’t get” something that I thought was perfectly obvious.

Older now, and wiser, I wish I could go back and redo the mistakes I made supervising some of our earliest interns. But I can’t. What I can do is learn, try again and move forward. And with each intern we bring in, I get a little better at it.

Part of the challenge for me has been learning to accept that I do have something to teach these young people. They are all extremely bright, capable, high-achievers. They are comfortable in this fast-paced, high-tech world and they seem more confident and self-assured than I was at their age. Sometimes I feel I have more to learn from them than they have to learn from me!

A December 1978 graduate of the University of Guam.

When I was a college student eager to launch a freelance career, I didn’t have a laptop, a flip cam, a digital camera or an iPhone. I couldn’t do my research on the Internet. I had a pen, a notepad and a tiny, portable typewriter I carried around in a small wicker suitcase.

Today’s tools make it easier to present a story but the basics of telling a story will never change. Some lessons resonate within any technological context.

I thought about that recently, while reviewing the first draft of a story editorial intern Brooke Mortensen submitted for our August magazine.

I’d sent her to a school in the Paradise Valley Unified School District to research a story about a unique partnership the school had formed with Arizona State University.

When she returned, she submitted a perfectly fine accounting of what she’d learned, in basic “he said, she said” journalism-school, news-reporting style.

As I read her piece I was transported back into my own 22-year-old head, remembering a similar experience submitting a story to an editor for the Pacific Daily News, a Gannett newspaper on Guam. I remembered his wise advice. And suddenly I knew what I had to do for Brooke.

Though it was a Saturday, and she was visiting family in central Washington state, I sat down to write her an email.

I told her about a time when I was her age, trying desperately to make some money as a freelance writer as I finished my college degree at the University of Guam.

I submitted a story to the newspaper’s Islander magazine — one of three interviews I’d conducted with former Guamanian governors. My editor, Floyd Takeuchi, read the piece and told me it was solid. But then he threw it back to me and said, “Where were you? I can’t even tell you were in the room!”

My “he said/she said” style was “by the book,” according to my journalism news reporting training. But I was writing for a magazine, he said, which is very different.

“What did you see?” Floyd demanded. “How did it feel to be in the room? How did he look while you were talking with him? What were his mannerisms? What was on his desk? Give me some ‘color’ — some details that will help me get a better feel for who this man is and what he’s all about.”

I searched my mind for details and added descriptions about the man’s brusque confidence, the guarded way he answered some of my questions, the “hop to it” deference I saw in members of his staff. Floyd published the story.

The experience taught me something I really needed to learn: There are reporters and there are writers. I wanted to be a writer.

I shared my story with Brooke because I think that’s what she wants, too.

A yellowing copy of the July 1978 article I wrote for Islander magazine about three of Guam's former governors.

The benefits of free labor

A sweet and incredibly bright young woman will be at my house for a couple of hours today, cheerfully doing anything I ask her to do. Yesterday, I had a talented college graduate and aspiring journalist here for five full hours, eagerly embracing any assignment I threw at her and then asking for more.

These women are unpaid interns. And I couldn’t manage without them.

Emma Zang-Schwartz took part in the "Locks of Love" program, allowing staff photographer Dan Friedman to document the before and after for one of his daily "DYK?" stories at raisingarizonakids.com.

Emma Zang-Schwartz is a senior at nearby Chaparral High School and will be the editor of the school’s glossy magazine during the upcoming school year. Since she started with us last spring, she has been my right hand with website tasks and something of an archiving wizard. I was delighted when she told me she plans to continue her internship throughout her senior year.

Brooke Mortensen is a graduate of Central Washington University, a recent transplant to Arizona who has taken over our RAK Community blog and helps me populate some of our other online features. She’s also written a story for our upcoming August issue.

Raising Arizona Kids has a long history of working with interns. Some have come to us through formal programs at ASU and various community colleges. Others have simply dropped into my lap through referrals from educators or friends. We got two great graphic arts interns through The Art Institute of Phoenix. (One of them, Michelle-Renee Adams, is now our Art Director.)

In some cases, our interns are the children of staff members. Vicki Louk Balint‘s son Robert has written for both the magazine and our Sports Roundtable blog. (This week he followed his mom’s footsteps and went multimedia. Watch his video essay on high school football’s “Big Man” competition.)

Calendar & Directories Editor Mala Blomquist enlisted her daughters’ help at a very young age. Solvay, now 11, has spent part of several summers shredding documents and stuffing envelopes with her big sister. As Mylan entered high school, she moved into writing and website administration.

In most cases, internships are mutually beneficial. I get free labor; interns get experience in the workings of a monthly publication and daily online “eZine.”

Brooke Mortensen proofreads pages at my kitchen island. (We are still working out of my home because of a June 2 flooding incident at our Scottsdale office.)

I’m a huge fan of unpaid internships. When someone is willing to come to a job and be held accountable to a schedule and job description — even when they’re not being paid — it shows a lot about their character and drive.

It also gives them great real-world experience they carry with them into future careers. One of our interns, a college graduate, parlayed her experience with us into a paid internship at O magazine. Another is now working as a multimedia journalist for a TV station in Las Vegas. And I recently got an email from yet another former intern who is working for a PR firm in Los Angeles.

My own son Andy did a full-semester unpaid internship at a newspaper in Washington, D.C. when he was a junior in college. Shortly after graduating, he landed a full-time position there. (He is now a writer for POLITICO.) My son David did volunteer work for the John Kerry presidential campaign in the summer of 2004. A few years later, he ended up with a paid summer job with the Arizona Democratic Party. He now works as a researcher for the Democratic National Committee in Washington, D.C., where he shares an apartment with Andy.

I couldn’t have predicted what any of my former interns (or my sons, for that matter) would be doing now. But I certainly could have predicted that they’d be doing something productive and meaningful. For young people, internships are a good investment in the future.

And for the people who supervise them, interns are often a source of unexpected gifts and surprisingly rewarding relationships.

TOMORROW: How an intern helped me remember a turning point in my own career.

Sydney Lakin, who recently graduated from Chaparral High School, served as editor of the school magazine. She interned with us for a year and before she left (to devote her afternoons to the high school track team) she had the foresight (and class!) to recruit Emma to take her place. Sydney will be attending New York University this fall.

When she first started her intership with us, I doubt that current Art Director Michelle-Renee Adams (far right) expected she'd meet both a governor and a professional basketball player. From left: then-Gov. Janet Napolitano, multimedia journalist Vicki Louk Balint, me, Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash and Michelle (Fall 2008).

Sara Stroupe (left) interned with us before heading off to O magazine. Monica Lang (right), was another Art Institute of Phoenix intern who ended up assuming the role of Art Director and recruited Michelle. In the middle is former employee Desiree Patterson and her daughter, Olivia (June 2005).

One of my favorite photos of Solvay (left) and Mylan Blomquist (in a May 2005 photo) with their mom, Calendar & Directories Editor Mala Blomquist.

An apology to editors and environmentalists everywhere

Yesterday I decided I was finally losing it. The commotion in my house was at an all-time high. My doorbell rang constantly and so did my cell phone. My brain circuits were so overloaded that when Editorial Intern Brooke Mortensen asked what she could do to help, my first response was, “I don’t know!”

For the most part, I’ve been proud of myself the last two weeks, since The Great Office Flood of 2010.

I approached this new challenge with a sense of adventure. I tried to remain flexible. I focused on what needed to be done instead of how I felt about it. And I kept pushing my limits (and the length of the business day) longer and farther and until finally, over the weekend, I collapsed into a cozy papsan chair in our guest room on Sunday afternoon and decided all I could do for the next two hours was stare at the ceiling.

My body had given out.

But it wasn’t until yesterday that I started to seriously worry about my mind. I went in to do our daily website updates and discovered that for more than a week I’d been promoting a May 28 Phoenix Mercury game. (Web visitors clearly excused my error because they entered the contest — which is actually for the June 18 game — anyway.) Though it was Tuesday, I thought it was Wednesday so I went onto our Facebook to announce that one of our contests — for Sesame Street Live tickets — was ending at 5pm. (It’s actually ending at 5pm today, so if you read this and want to enter, do so here.)

As en editor, I hate making sloppy mistakes like that. But something’s going to give when you’ve lost the security of your everyday routine and instead have nine people in and out of your house all day, nonstop UPS and Federal Express deliveries, cooking projects going on in the kitchen (for upcoming RAK Recipes features), photo shoots going on in your back yard (for upcoming “How-To’s Day” features) going on in your back yard, a blueline proof showing up from the printer, a realtor dropping by to pick up copies of Schools, etc. and a repairman fixing a running toilet in the back bedroom. (Hey, if I have to work at home, I’ certainly going to take advantage and schedule some of these nagging projects!)

So I guess I shouldn’t be so hard on myself.

I’m also trying to forgive my temporary lowered standards in regard to environmental issues. I’m running my home air conditioning at full tilt. I’m burning up gas making multiple trips to the office each day for things I need to pick up or people I need to meet as the reconstruction of our space continues. (Yesterday they replaced the linoleum!) And I’m going through flats of plastic water bottles like they were, well, water. As someone who typically carries a refillable stainless-steel water bottle and encourages the practice of “reuse, reduce, recycle” this troubles me greatly.

But as I keep saying to myself: something’s got to give. After a better night’s sleep I’m convinced it’s not going to be my sanity.

Day 7 after the flood: Traveling light

One of the things I love about taking a trip is the way it forces you to simplify your life. Especially with all the extra charges now for baggage, you plan very carefully before you leave. If you forget something, you adapt. You buy a replacement or you make do without. You let go. You’re far from home and you can’t do anything about it, so why let the lack of some thing ruin your fun?

When our office flooded exactly a week ago today, we had just a few hours to grab what we thought we’d need to remain functional for up to 30 days. It’s amazing how quickly you can prioritize when you have that kind of deadline. For the most part, we all did a great job of identifying essential files, folders and office supplies. We pulled out enough computer towers (those that hadn’t gotten wet) from which we could access data and software we need to reestablish our workflow.

And yet, as we get back to business this week in the make-shift office that my home has become, we keep stumbling on unanticipated roadblocks. So we adapt. Or make do without. Or let go.

Editorial Intern Brooke Mortensen, a recent college grad, proofreads the July issue page proofs in my kitchen.

For the most part, business is going on as usual. Our July magazine goes to print this week, so proofreading is high on the agenda. Assistant Editor and copyreader extraordinare Mary L. Holden has been out of town, so Writer Mary Ann Bashaw volunteered to read a set of page proofs. (She returned them yesterday with some very astute comments, so I suspect she’ll be drafted for this role more frequently). One of our two amazing interns, Brooke Mortensen, stepped in as well, reading pages under the bright skylight in my kitchen.

Production Manager Tina Gerami, who was working at my house, conferred frequently with Art Director Michelle-Renee Adams, who was working from her home and found herself hamstrung because some of the graphics she needed couldn’t be retrieved from a backup drive. IT consultant Leon Hauck of Fulcrum Enterprises in Phoenix spent a good part of his day troubleshooting that problem with Michelle and she now has everything she needs.

Calendar & Directories Editor Mala Blomquist and her daughter Solvay (11), stuff bags we'll be distributing at this Sunday's Arizona Diamondbacks game.

Calendar & Directories Editor Mala Blomquist showed up yesterday afternoon with her (wonderfully helpful!) 11-year-old daughter Solvay and their family’s chihuahua Bonnie, who often accompanies Mala to work. (As you’ll see below, Bonnie figured out who is in charge in this house and quickly cozied up to the boss.)

I have created an office for myself on the coffee table in my living room. I find it exhilarating to deal with only the five piles of “to do” tasks that can fit on that space instead of the dozens of piles I had amassed in the RAK office — endless and overwhelming minutia that the perfectionist in me would not allow the practical in me to dispense with. Hundreds of those decisions have now been removed, along with everything else in my office, to a warehouse for flood-damage assessment.

Bonnie, the Blomquists' chihuahua and our office mascot, cozies up to the boss.

I like traveling light. I like this simpler life. I like the sense of keen focus that has come to the surface after months and years of feeling anxious and chronically overwhelmed.

Keeping my priorities this sharply outlined in my mind will become more difficult, of course, once I can stop blaming the flood for everything I don’t get done. It’s up to me to learn to let go of what I can, even when I’m not being forced to.