Tag Archives: Mary L. Holden

Affirmation — and a challenge — from colleagues in the press

Last night, the Arizona Press Club honored journalists from statewide publications large and small with awards for exceptional work in reporting, writing, photography and design. Raising Arizona Kids was among the publications honored.

Mary L. Holden. Photo by Daniel Friedman.

Writer Mary L.Holden was recognized in the Non-Metro Writing/Social Issues Reporting category for her April 2010 story, “Casting a Light on the Shadow of Abuse.”

Mary put a lot of heart and soul into this project, which involved interviews with researchers and medical professionals who work the front lines in child abuse prevention and treatment. She listened to horrific stories about the unimaginable ways some children are mistreated by adults who typically lack the tools or knowledge to deal productively with the stresses and emotional damage in their own lives. She put a personal face on the issue by sharing the story of a Surprise family whose daughter was abused by a caregiver. She provided insights into the longterm damage of abuse and how it can manifest in adulthood.

James Motz of Surprise and his daughter Lilian, who was brutally shaken by a caregiver. Photo by Daniel Friedman.

The judge, Suki Dardarian, managing editor at The Seattle Times, described her entry as “a well-crafted story about the medical and emotional toll of child abuse. While it is a well-covered story, this reporter used strong cases and compelling writing to draw the reader through her story.”

Taylor Batten, editorial page editor of The Charlotte Observer, judged entries in the Best of Arizona/Features Blog category, to which I had submitted several of the blog posts I wrote about my experience in Ethiopia last summer, when I accompanied Paradise Valley couple Brian and Keri deGuzman on their journey to welcome two orphaned babies into their family.

Observing a distribution of food to starving families in Soddo, Ethiopia. Photo by Brian deGuzman.

“Barr produces memorable storytelling from an emotional and at times dangerous trip,” Batten wrote. “She is a powerful writer who captures the emotion of her subject while also revealing a bit about herself in an authentic way. Fantastic photos.”

It’s weird to be typing those words about yourself. As an editor it is my job to make other writers look good. I have attended many Arizona Press Club Awards events in the past 21 years to joyfully support my writers as they accepted awards. But in 35 years of writing and editing (give or take a few lost to graduate school or raising small children), I never once received an award.

What I’ve decided is this: It’s great to have a piece of paper that gives you membership in a small cadre of professional journalists whose work is deemed by peers to go above and beyond. It’s even better to hear the specific feedback, which envelopes your fragile writer’s ego like a soothing, restorative  balm.

But the very best part is the spark it ignites that grabs your imagination, rekindles your hope and challenges you to go out and do something even better.

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.

Walking to prevent child abuse

Is someone bringing coffee?

I have to admit. I kind of felt like this guy on the right when I dragged myself out of the house at 6:30am to walk in today’s Children’s March on Child Abuse. But the beautiful morning and the energy of the crowd that was gathered at the entrance to the Phoenix Zoo was invigorating — and so was the nippy temperature hovering well under the 60s.

The walk was organized by Phoenix Children’s Hospital to build awareness about child abuse, and raise funds to prevent it. Many of the 200 or so people in the crowd were there with children. Given the nature of the event, I found my eyes drawn to the many examples of loving connections between adults and children waiting to walk. Here are two of my favorites:

Love that transcends generations.

Time with daddy.

12News reporter/anchor Tram Mai showed up about 7:45 to give some opening remarks and thank the event’s sponsors, which included Raising Arizona Kids, Honest Tea and E&J’sDesigner Shoe Outlet. She read a moving essay by Sassha Motz of Surprise, whose daughter Lily was a victim of Shaken Baby Syndrome inflicted by a trusted family member. (Lily and her dad, James, are featured in our April cover story, “Casting Light on the Shadow of Abuse.”)

Tram Mai reads some opening remarks; watching is PCH pediatric nurse practitioner Amy Terreros.

Then it was time to walk. With a quick thumbs up…

Thumbs up!

…we headed through the gates to the Nina Mason Pulliam Children’s Trail. Several members of the Raising Arizona Kids family walked today, including Marketing Director MaryAnn Ortiz-Lieb (Happy Birthday!) and her daughter Juliann (a senior at Xavier College Preparatory), Assistant Editor Mary L. Holden, Art Director Michelle-Renee Adams, Account Executive Catherine Griffiths, my husband Dan (who writes our Sports Roundtable blog when he’s not too busy lawyering) and me.

Off we go!

The walk was a nice way to start the weekend and a reminder that we all need to spend more time at the beautiful Phoenix Zoo.

Enjoying the zoo.

And now? Breakfast!

What are the odds?

Calendar & Directories Editor Mala Blomquist calls it the “Six Degrees of Mary Holden.” Almost any time one of us mentions the name of someone we’ve talked to, Mary’s got some sort of connection.

Assistant Editor Mary L. Holden.

Mary is Six Degrees of Separation personified — packed into a tiny frame with a fierce intellect, a compassionate heart and the networking skills of a politician.

It doesn’t hurt that she was born and raised in Phoenix, so her institutional memory goes deep.

Last weekend, Mary took her daughter Annie, a freshman at the University of Washington (who was home for spring break) to San Diego to visit her godmother, Margaret McLaughlin, and some friends from UW who also live there.

In the middle of one visit, Mary happened to mention the story she wrote for this month’s magazine: “Casting a Light on the Shadow of Abuse.” She mentioned the name of the physician/researcher who had done groundbreaking work that is helping medical professionals understand and respond to the long-term implications of child abuse.

At that moment, Mary felt Annie’s godmother’s hand on her shoulder.

“Dr. Felitti? Dr. Vincent Felitti?” McLaughlin asked.

It turns out that Felitti had diagnosed McLaughlin with hemochromatosis (a disorder that interferes with the body’s ability to break down iron) in the early 1990s. He treated her condition and she even participated in one of the studies Felitti did on genetic indicators for the disease.

“She spoke very highly of Dr. Felliti and in fact credited him for saving her life,” Mary said. “Some might say that it’s a small world. Some might say that this is just an interesting coincidence. But I think this connection is truly fascinating, and I love it when things like this happen.”

Mary sent a copy of our April issue to Dr. Felliti with a personal letter recounting the coincidence. “I am very honored to have helped spread the news of the ACE study,” she wrote, ” and I deeply thank you for saving the life of my daughter’s godmother.” — Karen