Tag Archives: Michelle-Renee Adams

Make my day: feedback

I was out of town most of the weekend, so I missed Saturday’s cover shoot with our 2011 Mother’s Day Cover Mom Contest winner. I’m eager to hear about it from Art Director Michelle-Renee Adams and Photographer Daniel Friedman when I get back to work on Monday.

Michelle notified our winner (whose name shall remain a secret until our May issue comes out). My job was to contact the two moms who were the runners up. They both wrote fabulous, heartfelt essays about their commitment to raising children who respect and protect our environment. So I felt very apologetic as I wrote to tell them they almost won.

“Your essay was a runner-up for our cover mom contest,” I wrote to each of the moms. “So while I’m sorry that you and your [son/daughter] won’t be on our cover, you will be receiving a gift certificate from Desert Ridge Marketplace/Tempe Marketplace.”

I wasn’t sure what kind of response to expect, but the messages that quickly came back were gracious and completely appreciative.

From Karen O’Regan of Clarkdale, adoptive mother of 12-year-old David:

Thanks so much!  I’m so pleased!!!  It is very exciting to be a runner-up! I have been a subscriber for years and appreciate your magazine. I especially appreciated the recent articles on adoption and handling grief.

From Molly Costa of Phoenix, mother of 1-year-old Keira:

How fun, that is so exciting we are a runner-up! I saw the [Facebook] post about the contest and figured, why not? It came at a perfect time because I’m just experiencing all of these “firsts” with my daughter and her enjoyment of nature and being outside. It is the best — amazing at what your kids teach you, right?

We give away a lot of great stuff each year — from cover opportunities to trips to tickets to new movies and live performances. We don’t always hear back from the people who win. So it’s very gratifying when we do. Shortly after I received those lovely messages from Karen and Molly, I heard from a mom whose family won tickets to the “Born To Be Wild 3D” movie sneak preview Saturday morning at the AMC Desert Ridge IMAX. (It opens to the public April 8.)

From Dana MacComb of Phoenix:

We had a great time! The movie was moving and lovely. We felt like we were right next to the animals.  I cried almost the entire time, very moving.  All of us agreed that it was a great family event.

And it was a great email weekend.

A movie about Mama Rose

It’s a safe bet that a few of the people in the audience at this weekend’s Community Cinema event will be from the staff of Raising Arizona Kids.

The free movie screening — presented by Civic Space Park Collaboration, New Global Citizens & KAET — features the film “Pushing the Elephant,” by Beth Davenport and Elizabeth Mandel.

The film tells the story of a woman who emerged from the violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a committed advocate for the rights of women and for forgiveness and reconciliation. It is the story of Rose Mapendo. It is a story we know very well.

Our staff multimedia journalist, Vicki Louk Balint, interviewed “Mama Rose” for our July 2007 magazine and a podcast of their conversation is available on our website.

Mapendo will be attending the screening, which will be held from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, March 12 at Civic Space Park, 424 N. Central Ave. in Phoenix.

Rose Mapendo and Vicki Balint on the day of the interview.

I heard about the event from our Art Director, Michelle-Renee Adams. She says seating is first come, first served. She plans to arrive early because she doesn’t want to miss it.

Learn more about the film.

View the trailer for the film.

Set-up? Check.

The signs are posted. The pipe-and-draping is up. The tables are covered in Cub Scout colors of navy, gold and white, with two chairs neatly placed behind each one. Some yummy-looking breakfast pastries are waiting for exhibitors and staff who will begin showing up as early as 7:30am.

We got the gymnasium at Tesseract School Shea Campus ready for Camp Fair 2011 in just about two hours. Not bad, considering we had 72 tables to set up and hundreds of items to get in their right places.

It started when the truck from Party People showed up, its muscled workmen casually offloading thousands of pounds worth of tables, chairs and metal pipes.

Sean Lieb helps his mom, MaryAnn Ortiz-Lieb, straighten a table. That's Catherine Griffiths in the back.

Several members of our staff were in the gymnasium to carry the tables and chairs to their correct positions — including Marketing Director MaryAnn Ortiz-Lieb and her son Sean, who were there despite exhaustion and grief from the most difficult of weeks for their family. MaryAnn’s father-in-law, Herb Lieb, died Thursday night at the age of 91. Services will be Sunday.

We all tried to tell MaryAnn she didn’t need to come, but I understand why she did. Work is relief, sometimes, when life is overwhelming. So we hugged her hard and hugged Sean, too, and we all got busy.

Taylor Thompson, a freshman at Tesseract, and Mala Blomquist.

Calendar & Directories Editor Mala Blomquist and Account Executive Catherine Griffiths also helped with set-up. Art Director Michelle-Renee Adams and Production Manager Tina Gerami fielded phone calls at the office so the rest of us could be away.

We had help from the staff (and even a student) at Tesseract. Taylor Thompson got a hug from Mala after she patiently helped arrange tablecloths.

Tesseract’s Scott Salk (who has a very important job Saturday morning, because he’s bringing the coffee!) pulled hundreds of water bottles off of flats from Costco and put them in the refrigerator to chill.

But the real hero of the day was Derek Scoble, who took a day off work to help his fiancee, Operations Director and Camp Fair coordinator Debbie Davis, with all the “day before” preparations. (Derek asked Debbie to marry him over the winter holidays,  much to our staff’s united support and delight.) He helped with the morning Costco run, then loaded dozens of boxes into his truck, unloaded them at Tesseract, hauled tables all over the gymnasium and then methodically worked the room, making sure everything was lined up perfectly because he knows that the woman he loves likes things to be just so.

When we realized we were done setting up, we paused and looked around. “It’s so quiet!” Debbie said, knowing that we’d be shouting to hear each other over the noise of the crowd tomorrow.

Just the reminder I needed

Tonight our March issue went to press. Art Director Michelle-Renee Adams and I left the office at 6:30pm, shaking our heads in wonder at how close these monthly deadlines seem to come, one after the other. Didn’t we just do this? The last one seems like yesterday.

By the time we get to the “to printer” day each month I feel like I’m on the edge of losing it. My brain has spent too much time trafficking details without a break. My eyes are stinging in rebellion against the many hours I’ve been staring at a computer screen. And my patience is waning.

As I drove to work today, I did a lot of talking to myself. “Okay, you’re tired. Get over it. You have to keep pushing for just a few more hours and then you can relax.”

I was waiting at the stoplight at 70th Street and Shea, about to turn left into our office complex, when I glanced at the license plate on the car in front of me.

DPBREATH, it said.

I took one. And it helped.

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!”).

Continue reading

Delayed gratification

We aren’t very good at waiting. We want what we want now. Not later.

We seek our news online because we can’t stand waiting even a day to know what’s going on. We “Google it” because our curiosity demands immediate satiation.

Even outside the realm of technology, we are impatient. We can’t stand it when there are three people ahead of us in line at the grocery store. We put too many purchases on credit cards because we’re incapable of waiting to save the money for something we want. We dismiss the efforts of leaders who can’t provide magical fixes to monumental problems.

We’re not satisfied with incremental progress. We want the whole ball of wax — and we want it almost the very moment we can conceptualize it.

My staff had to learn a lesson in patience this past summer, when our office flooded and we spent two months essentially homeless. Just sustaining the core business — publishing a monthly magazine and posting daily website content — became unbelievably challenging. Even now, two months since we moved back into our office, we are still sifting through boxes, rediscovering things that are missing, scrambling to document the financial cost of losses.

In the interest of sheer survival (and sanity), a lot of the “big picture” stuff got shoved by the wayside.

Which is why we are all so delighted about today’s launch of a newly redesigned website. Our brighter, better organized site has been in the back burner for months. It was supposed to happen soon after we adopted our magazine’s new cover design in May. It’s been hard to wait to see it happen.

Credit goes to Art Director Michelle-Renee Adams for the look and to website programmer Evan Blomquist (husband of Calendar & Directories Editor Mala Blomquist), who made time outside of his fulltime work for Tempe-based Mindspace to write the new code required to accommodate Michelle’s design. Our staff got together to rethink the way our site was organized and we implemented some changes we think will help visitors more easily navigate our content.

I looked up the phrase “Good things come to those who wait.” No one seems to know where it originated. If we’re not careful, it will disappear from our collective consciousness altogether. We need to relearn patience. Use it or lose it.

Or have it forced upon you.

— Karen

P.S. The first time I pulled up the new site today, the display was a bit garbled. If you visit our site frequently, you may notice the same problem. Clear your cache and try again. And thanks for sharing our journey!

My own Raggedy Ann story

In today’s DYK, Daniel Friedman writes about the 95th anniversary of the Raggedy Ann doll. When we first learned about the occasion, I told him that I still have a hand-sewn Raggedy Ann doll, a gift from my mother’s maternal grandmother.

I brought my doll to the office so he could photograph it. As soon as I walked into the art department, Art Director Michelle-Renee Adams pointed out something that never registered in all the years I’ve had my Raggedy Ann.

“She has blonde hair!” Michelle said, her artist’s eye immediately seeing the obvious. Before that moment, it had never dawned on me that “Nanny” had created a Raggedy Ann to look just like me.

She also created an exact replica of the dress. My mom still kicks herself for the fact that she didn’t save it. (My family moved a dozen times while I was growing up. Who could blame her?) But she did make sure that I was wearing it for a rare, professionally photographed portrait.

Mom, who lives in Green Valley, Ariz., was in Phoenix last weekend. I told her what I’d finally realized about my Raggedy Ann and she, too, was surprised and touched.

Why didn’t we notice the significance of that yellow yarn hair before? Maybe we were too distracted by a sense of awe at the careful thought and meticulous stitches that went into creating this special gift. Regardless, almost 50 years later, we both sensed Nanny wrapping us in her love once again.

Day 56 after the office flood – so much stuff!

The crew from ABSOLUT Restoration unloaded dozens of additional boxes yesterday, piling them high in the hallways as Leon Hauck from Fulcrum Enterprises darted around the office reestablishing our computer network.

The phones started ringing. Deliveries started arriving. Our postal carrier brought in the mail. Shortly after noon, our wi-fi was working.

Normalcy is a beautiful thing.

We worked all day unpacking what we could, wondering as we went along how we’ve managed to accumulate so much stuff. (Somehow we managed just fine during the 56 days we had to run our business without it.) It seemed like the pile of boxes was growing exponentially, despite our best efforts to keep up.

I started out being very meticulous about unpacking my own boxes — trying to weed out and throw away papers I no longer need. I found one full box of proofreading pages from 2004. That was embarrassing.

I’m urging everyone to take advantage of this enforced opportunity to sort and toss. Art Director Michelle-Renee Adams made a trip to the recycle bin with boxes of old magazines she had collected for design inspiration. I set up a box in one of our empty offices marked “Donate to Goodwill.” In that same room  is a veritable grave yard of unneeded office chairs, most of which have long outlived their usefulness and aesthetic value.

I know the window of opportunity is small. We have deadlines looming for our September magazine. At some point, we’ll have to stop the sorting, cram everything back into drawers and cabinets and move on with our real work.

The story of the Great Office Flood of 2010 — which left our staff “homeless” for 56 days — is coming to a close. It made for a difficult, stressful summer. But it also left us with a greater sense of appreciation for structure, routine and the ability to simply walk down the hall to consult with colleagues.

Day 55 after the office flood – moving back in

The truck from ABSOLUT Restoration arrived about 4pm yesterday.

After 55 days of disruption and dislocation, Raising Arizona Kids is back in its rightful home.

We’re not fully functional — computers and phones will be set up later today and we’ve got a mess of unpacking and sorting and organizing ahead of us — but our desks and chairs, computers and files are now back where they belong.

Well, most of them. Some items, too damaged by the June 2nd office flood (caused by a burst pipe in the suite above us) will not be coming back. We have a lot of work ahead figuring out what must be replaced and working with insurance companies to find out how to do that.

We also have dozens of boxes of company history and mementoes that have no financial value but will have to be assessed; much has been ruined or rendered unreadable by water and will have to be discarded.

This has been a trying time for all of us. I am really proud of the fact that my staff kept the core business on track despite the difficulties of working and communicating with each other during the past two months.

We’ve all experienced the invasion of work into our home lives. My living room has been our warehouse, with boxes of magazines piled around my front door. Marketing Director MaryAnn Ortiz-Lieb has been making phone calls and writing contracts from my kitchen counter — and her own. Production Manager Tina Gerami has been hauling her files back and forth in a huge satchel.

The really stressful part fell to Operations Director Debbie Davis. She’s the one who has been negotiating with our property manager and two insurance companies. She’s the one who had to coordinate the move back — and set it up in such a way that we were “down” for the least amount of time. A lot of this was orchestrated while I was away in Ethiopia.

Yesterday, with the help of Calendar & Directories Editor Mala Blomquist, her daughter Solvay, Art Director Michelle-Renee Adams and Intern Emma Zang-Schwartz, I got everything we’d hastily moved to my house on June 2nd back into our now dry, newly recarpeted office. At about 4pm, ABSOUT Restoration showed up with a truck full of items they’d moved off-site and began the process of moving it all back in. They didn’t leave until 8:30pm and will be back again today with the last load.

Maintaining a sense of humor has been important to all of us the past 55 days.

My husband didn’t skip a beat when he realized everyone would be working out of our home during the two weeks I was away. Though he typically left the house before everyone arrived, Calendar & Directories Editor Mala Blomquist was surprised when she showed up to work one morning and Dan answered the door.

“What are you doing here?” she joked.

When I posted something on our Facebook about ABSOLUT coming in to pack us out, Assistant Editor Mary Holden suggested that another kind of Absolut might be in order.

We never fell that far. But late yesterday afternoon, when the unpacking team arrived and we realized we still had several hours to go, Mala, Solvay and I decided we were done. Some sort of escape was needed.

So we piled in my car and headed for Yogurt Builderz on Scottsdale Road. There, with large cups of fat-free frozen yogurt piled high and a dazzling array of toppings awaiting us — candies and nuts, sprinkles, chunks of brownies, round dabs of cookie dough, cubes of cheesecake and all sorts of enticing, fresh fruit — we found solace.

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.