Tag Archives: postaday2011

A wonderful civics lesson for all

A huge video monitor was used to share a message of welcome from President Barack Obama.

Twenty people. Nineteen different countries of origin. Anywhere from four to 52 years of time spent living in this country. Working here. Contributing.

The flag of the United States of America. The flag of the Department of Homeland Security. Girl Scouts. Public officials, including former Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard.

The story of a man whose family escaped the wars in Nicaragua when he was just a first grader. A vivid description that captivated each person in the audience, including the very youngest.

The Pledge of Allegiance. The National Anthem. Trusting, innocent voices singing, “This land is my land, this land is your land….” Knowing it.

Smiles that wouldn’t stop. A baby that wouldn’t stop crying. A videotaped message from the President of the United States.

Hugs. Tears. Handshakes of congratulations. A sunsplashed patio. Fairytale Brownies and lemonade. Goodbyes. Good wishes.

Two of the citizenship candidates who were led to the ceremony by Desert View Learning Center students.

Desert View Learning Center in Paradise Valley hosted a naturalization ceremony Friday. Because several of our staff members have children who attended the school, its principal, Piya Jacob, invited us to attend. Multimedia journalist Vicki Louk Balint, staff photographer Daniel Friedman and I were honored to witness this sacred rite of passage that is something akin to a baptism, a wedding and a graduation all rolled into one.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services typically conducts these ceremonies within the confines of a courtroom. Just recently, the decision was made to offer some of the ceremonies within different venues in the community. Desert View was chosen because one of its parents is an immigration officer.

The students played an active role in the event. Their artwork adorned the programs. They made paper flags of each citizenship candidate’s country of origin. The candidates proudly carried their flags as they were escorted by the third grade class into the sanctuary of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix. (The school rents space from the church.) A Girl Scout troop presented the colors.

The entire student body was seated on the floor at the front of the sanctuary so that each student had a clear view of the ceremony. Many wore red, white and blue. The group sat quietly, respectfully, jumping up only when it was time to sing one of several songs they performed.

Piya, herself a native of India who became a naturalized citizen a number of years ago, was expecting “a wonderful civics lesson for all, and a most heartwarming ceremony.” The actual event surpassed all expectations.

Candidates take the oath of citizenship.

Going back to my father’s book

I hadn’t opened the binder for more than two months. I couldn’t even remember why I stopped reading its pages. And yet there it was, on my living room coffee table, waiting patiently for its turn among the piles of books, magazines and research notes demanding my attention.

My father’s book has waited 20 years for me to read it. I guess another two months wasn’t such a big deal.

On this particular night, my husband was going to be out late. My work was done (enough of it, anyway), my house was fairly tidy and I even had a big pot of my favorite Barley Minestrone Soup on the stove. I had at least two hours ahead with no interruptions.

It was time to go back to my father’s book.

My father always said that everything he wanted to say to me and my brothers, but couldn’t, was in the novel he wrote during the months before his death, just after Father’s Day, in June 0f 1991. You would think we’d be eager to read it. We each started to, but never managed to finish it — partly because it’s written in a style that is antiquated and cumbersome. (My dad placed his novel in Australia during the mid-1800s and tried to mimic the language of the day.)

But for me it was also because I was afraid I’d be disappointed. That there wouldn’t be any great insights. That his words would not solve the lingering mysteries of his life, or the frightening, painful death that he endured without letting any of us know that he was ill.

In January, I decided that the specter of that book was messing with my mind — with my own goals to write a book and my emerging sense of self as a middle-aged mother of two grown sons. So I mustered my courage and dove back in.

For several nights I slowly poured over each chapter, trying to read behind the lines and understand the process behind his choice of story line, characters and setting. I read with purpose, pausing after each chapter to jot down notes about my initial impressions. I looked for fictionalized interpretations of my real-life experience as his daughter. I read with kinder, more understanding eyes than I had offered as a self-centered, 35-year-old who still carried no small amount of resentment about her largely absent father.

The first time I tried to read my father’s book I didn’t get past the first 40 pages. This time I made it to page 58. There, to my great distress, I discovered that some pages of his manuscript were missing. So I start again, at page 64, hoping the answers I am seeking aren’t lost forever with those six missing pages.

Questions about copyediting

Maggie Pingolt, a junior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communications, called our office to ask if she could interview one of our copyeditors. Ours work on contract, so they aren’t typically in the office.

“I supervise the copyeditors,” I said. “Do you want to talk to me?” I was on my way out the door but we agreed to a time later that day to talk on the phone.

Being interviewed by someone isn’t a routine event for me. I’m used to being on the “asking questions” side of interviews and I was surprised to realize how hard it is to talk about the things you do and think about every day.

Maggie: What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Me: Okay, this is kind of a joke, but not really. Keeping up with my email! I get so many hundreds of emails each day it’s beyond manageable. The rest of my job as editor is joyful. I like what I do. But the effort to keep up with my email is a constant source of stress and really eats up my time.

Maggie: Describe your office environment in one word.

Me: The first word that comes to mind is “crazy.” We always have a lot going on at once because we’re a really small staff trying to do the work of a bigger magazine. Call it “crazy,” “chaotic”…any way you can think of to say it that doesn’t make me sound like a lunatic. By the way, this isn’t going to published anywhere, is it?

Just then, our staff writer/photographer, Daniel Friedman, walked by my office door and I heard Calendar & Directories Editor Mala Blomquist call out, “Hi, fried man!”

Maggie: If you could change one aspect of copyediting, what would it be?

Me: These are hard questions! I guess the only thing I really wish I could change is that I wouldn’t miss things. We have several layers of copyeditors who read the magazine before it goes to press and yet there is no way to ever get it perfect. You’re never going to be able to change one thing that solves all the problems. You’re dealing with human beings and a complex language with all sorts of exceptions to rules. I like rules, stylebooks…they give me a sense of certainty as opposed to having to make judgment calls.

I wish copyediting didn’t take so long, but it does — to get it right. I wish it weren’t so important but it is. In this day and age, where everyone is throwing stuff up on the web without a second thought, I worry that the value of copyediting, and factchecking in particular, has been lost.

Maggie: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to go into the field of copyediting?

Me: Really know the basics — grammar, spelling…and understand how important factchecking is. Study the AP Stylebook, get the app on your iPhone and use it…basics! I can’t tell you how many freelance submissions I get on a daily basis with typos, grammatical errors, informal language…it’s disrespectful to an editor to be so sloppy. People don’t take the time they should. All writers should think of themselves as students who are trying to impress the teacher.

Maggie: What’s your biggest pet peeve as an editor?

Me: That’s an easy one: People who are sloppy. Sloppiness indicates disrespect…they couldn’t take the time. I’m a firm believer that you do something until it’s as good as it can be, and only then do you let it go.

Maggie: Are there specific examples of grammar or word-use errors that bother you?

Me: Things that bother me? “It’s” and “its”…a lot of people don’t get that you only use “it’s” when you mean “it is.” Not the possessive.

I cringe when I see “all right” spelled as one word: “alright.” And then “there,” “their,” “they’re”…people misuse those all the time.  I can’t stand run-on sentences…all of that drives me crazy.

We all make mistakes; don’t get me wrong. But when I see a freelance submission that has more than one or two it makes me want to claw my eyes out.

Small world stories: the intern and the summer job

Interns Patrick O'Connor and Veronica Jones at our May 2011 cover shoot.

When we interviewed him for a graphic design internship, Patrick O’Connor told us that he is often “quiet, initially.” When he started working with us last month, he proved to be just that. Hardworking, talented, eager to learn the ropes — and quiet.

So when he spoke up during an impromptu meeting I called in the art department Monday morning, I paid attention.

“I made it into the magazine,” he said. Quietly.

I looked at him, puzzled. He showed me a page in the June 2009 issue of our magazine. A page that included an ad for Hubbard Sports Camp.

“That’s me,” he said, pointing to the tall guy in the back.

Patrick is a 2005 graduate of Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix. He’s a December 2010 graduate of the University of Arizona, with a BFA in studio art and visual communications design. And during the summer of 2008 he was a counselor at Hubbard Sports Camp, where he coached a variety of sports for kids ages 4½-13.

Patrick clearly has a love of sports. While he was at UofA, he worked as a freelance videographer for Tucson’s Fox 11. He shot footage of football, basketball and soccer at three Tucson high schools. He also shot video for the UofA’s football team for both practices and games.

Patrick is juggling two internships these days. He spends the mornings with us and the afternoons at Tempe-based Boon, which designs and markets innovative products and gear for babies.

This capable young man, who favors plaid, button-down shirts and clean, fresh graphic design, is quietly securing  his place in a successful future.

Photos at top and bottom by RAK staff photographer Daniel Friedman.

Special thanks to Art Director Michelle-Renee Adams for enhancing the photo (circle) so we could see Patrick’s face in the group photo from the ad.

“Can you help me start a magazine?”

Many times in the past 22 years I’ve received messages like this one:

“I am currently in the process of exploring an opportunity to publish a magazine and hoped you might be able to provide some insight, advice or guidance in taking such a big step….”

The most recent one came earlier this month from a working mom who was looking for a new direction following her recovery from surgery. She is thinking about starting a magazine. She asked if I could “find some time to either chat by phone, or meet with me (and my friend who may join me in this venture) to answer a few questions.”

Messages like these always make me squirm. I hate to squelch someone else’s enthusiasm or dreams but the truth is that it’s hard for me to recommend magazine publishing as an attractive option. Especially when the person who contacts me is looking at it as an opportunity to “provide a positive balance for my health, my kids and my livelihood.”

The mom who wrote to me sees publishing a magazine as “the possibility of being my own boss and doing something with more flexibility.” That is important to her, she wrote, because she’s a single mom.

I like to be a nice person. I like to be a helpful person. But I can’t think of a single reason to recommend that this woman pursue her plan. Not because I wish I hadn’t done it; but because I know I wouldn’t have done it if I’d had any idea how hard it would be.

Here is what I will tell this woman she should consider before deciding to start her magazine:

• You need to be realistic about the financial model of publishing, especially in this economy and this time in history, when technology keeps changing the game plan. If you don’t have a way to pay for at least a year of operating expenses before you get started, you probably shouldn’t get started.

• You need to thoroughly research the competition and figure out how what you want to do fills a need that’s not already being met. There are obvious competitors (i.e. other magazines targeting your audience) but don’t forget the impact of an increasingly  diverse and stratified range of media delivery systems all vying for pieces of the same pie when it comes to advertising dollars.

• You must have a reliable source of household income. It could be many years before you can put yourself on the payroll regularly. I could never have persevered past tough times if I didn’t know my family’s basic needs were going to be met by my husband’s steady income.

• You must have people on your team who can do the things you can’t do. My background is in journalism. Though I have an MBA in marketing, I have never worked in sales and I don’t have good instincts for it. I would have been lost but for the knowledge, experience and professionalism of my founding and current marketing director, MaryAnn Ortiz-Lieb. Then, a year ago, I turned over management of the business to Operations Director Debbie Davis. She has a much better head for business than I do and it has been a relief to know she’s got everything under control while I focus on the part I really love: content development.

• You must involve people who believe in your publication and see their role in its mission as “more than a job.” Never did I appreciate that more than in the last two years, when the heavy impact of the recession meant every person on my staff had to do more for less. Only people who know their work has a higher purpose than making money can put up with that without resentment.

• Forget the fantasy of flexibility. The only flexibility you will have as the owner of a magazine (and, I’m guessing, any business) is when you choose to work. I never missed a performance or game when my sons were growing up. I volunteered in the classroom, chaperoned field trips and served spaghetti and meatballs to the team at noon each Friday when my sons played high school football. But I worked a lot of late nights, rarely took a full weekend off and always had my laptop on vacations (even the rare ones on other continents). When there is too much to do and not enough people to do it, you have to carry the slack. And if you’re someone who truly cares about the quality and the integrity of your business, you are constantly working on ways to improve it.

If she listens to all that and still wants to move forward her plan, then I’m guessing she already has some of the personal qualities it takes to last in this business: resilience, tenacity and sheer stubbornness.

A chance to be girly

I grew up with two brothers. I raised two sons. So I never spent a lot of time doing girly stuff.

If my brothers (or sons) were doing something that didn’t interest me, I busied myself with a book or some sort of project. Pampering activities that most women enjoy (pedicures, facials) don’t appeal to me. Shopping has always felt stressful and goal-oriented. “Hanging out at the mall” has never been on my list of fun things to do.

On Saturday I had a rare opportunity to do just that with four female friends ranging in age from 10 to…well, old enough to have a 17-year-old daughter. I spent the afternoon with them at Arizona Mills in Tempe, ostensibly because the two youngest in our bunch — my honorary goddaughter, Ace Jenkins, and 12-year-old Solvay Blomquist, daughter of Calendar & Directories Editor Mala Blomquist — were practically salivating at the chance to visit what was billed as a “Pokémon Party for Arizona Families.”

You can read Mala’s blog to find out what that experience involved. I was more enchanted by the sideshow — the chance to people-watch (which I’ve always enjoyed), take pictures, enjoy my time with Ace and revel in the comfortable banter between a mother and two daughters who have a loving and extraordinarily close relationship built on honesty, trust and a wicked sense of humor.

I talked with Mala’s older daughter Mylan (the 17-year-old) about the dress she’s chosen for her prom. It was fun to listen to her describe it and then see a picture of it on her phone. We stopped to look at shops like Juicy Couture, Sanrio (a whole store devoted to Hello Kitty?) and Black Market Minerals, where I found my camera drawn to the vast array of colors, textures, bobbles, bangles and shiny, glittering objects.

My energy ran out about the same time as my camera’s battery. It was a good day, and a good time to call it a day.

When your eyes see something that’s not there

We generate two covers for our magazine each month: one that has a preprinted mailing label (for our subscribers) and one that is absent the mailing label (for our bulk distribution to hospitals, museums, etc.) Except for the label, the covers are pretty much the same.

Our proofreaders are given both covers to check. We have at least six proofreaders look at each issue, including me.

Apparently all six of us were stricken with some sort of bizarre, but temporary, blind spot. Because our April issue made it past each of us with nobody noticing a glaring error.

April is our summer day camps issue — an idea Raising Arizona Kids pioneered 22 years ago — so we’re pretty proud of it. We’ve watched lots of copycat efforts follow in its wake but I can say with great certainty that nobody take the time or care our staff puts into researching and fact-checking this annual directory, the Valley’s most comprehensive and unbiased (i.e. no one has to pay to be listed).

So you’d think we’d notice that something as important as our summer day camp directory wasn’t mentioned on the cover,  right?

But we missed it. Every one of us. Thankfully our printer didn’t miss it, and called the office to let us know so we could correct it before it was too late.

I wondered if there is a word for this phenomenon. How could six people all miss the same thing? I found the word “scotoma,” which is defined on WebMD as “an isolated area…within the visual field, in which vision is absent or depressed.”

But the only word I could find that defines “seeing something that’s not there” was “hallucination.” Needless to say, our collective embarrassment will likely prevent a recurrence.

Ethiopia – Yet another coincidence

Many times in the two years since I first met Brian and Keri deGuzman, I’ve been astonished by the connections and coincidences that have sprung from their journey to build a family through international adoption.

I wrote about one of those “Oh, my gosh!” moments yesterday, when I described the surprise that awaited the deGuzmans as they exited the courtroom where their new youngest children’s adoptions had just been finalized.

There has been a new development since I posted yesterday’s blog: I got an email from the deputy county attorney who handled the case, Janina Walters.

“I wanted to write to let you know of an additional interesting tidbit of information about yesterday’s adoptions,” she wrote. “When I came back to the office, I saw the [December] magazine and read the whole article. I had not seen it before. Weird, since it is what I usually pick up at the doctor’s office!

“I knew Dr. deGuzman was at St. Joe’s and something was niggling in the back of my mind. I read the article and the connection with Dr. [Lishan] Aklog and all of a sudden it hit me! My stepfather (who is more like a real dad) had valve-replacement surgery about three years ago. Dr. deGuzman stepped in at the last minute to perform the surgery on my dad and his aftercare was with Dr. Aklog, with whom  I discussed my dad’s recovery.

“At the time, my mom and dad were telling me about the deGuzman story and their adoptions as well as another surgeon’s in the same group. They asked me if I had handled their adoptions because they knew the family had gone through our office.

“My parents were tickled when I told them that I had met the family and handled the adoption hearing. I found your blog and my dad sat and read it with a huge smile on his face. He couldn’t tell me enough about how nice, patient and warm Dr. deGuzman was to him.”

Janina closed her email by asking if we had an extra copy of the December magazine story so her parents could see it.

It will be my great pleasure to send her one.

Ethiopia – The adoptions are final

With Judge Owens: Musse, Brian, Tesfanesh, Jesmina, Keri and Solomon deGuzman.

As The Honorable Bernard C. Owens took the bench in his courtroom at Maricopa County Juvenile Court in Mesa, Brian and Keri deGuzman were trying to settle two energetic toddlers. Keri looked up at the judge uncertainly.

“Can he have a cracker?” she asked, referring to her son Solomon, who was squirming on her lap.

There was a brief moment of complete silence — enough for me to start wondering if maybe crackers aren’t allowed in court. Then the judge smiled. “Why not?” he said. “Anything that works.”

Crackers were offered all around and the squirming stopped.

“The universal silencer,” Judge Owens said. Then he got down to the business of the day.

A full eight months after they first held two small babies in their arms, the deGuzmans were in court Wednesday to finalize the adoptions of Tesfanesh and Mintesnot-Solomon Brian deGuzman. Because I had been with them on that very first day, in a foster home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Keri invited me to join them for the court appearance. Brian’s parents, who live in Potomac, Md., also were there.

Owens is the same judge who granted adoption petitions for the deGuzmans’ older children, Jesmina (4) and Musse (2), who were also born in Ethiopia. Keri reminded him of that as the proceedings commenced, adding that “this is probably the last time we’ll be here to see you. But you never know!”

Deputy County Attorney Janina Walters posed a series of questions to verify the information that would go into the official records: the deGuzmans’ full names, the children’s full names, the correct spelling for each name and the dates of birth for both parents and children. The deGuzmans were asked to swear to the accuracy of the documentation in their petitions.

The judge then declared that it was “in the best interest of the children” to grant the petition. And just like that, it was done. The judge, the court clerk, the lawyer and all of the deGuzmans clapped their hands in celebration.

I pulled out my camera (allowed in the building only for adoption proceedings) and snapped pictures of the family, first with Judge Owens and then with Walters, who is expecting a baby this summer. She said that her next case, coincidentally, involved another adoption from Ethiopia.

As we exited the courtroom, we saw Steve Dershimer and Elizabeth Anthony of Ahwatukee and their adorable 17-month-old daughter. The two families greeted each other like old friends. I was momentarily confused. Did they already know each other? Or was this just the instantaneous bonding of people who have shared a  similar journey to build a family?

It was, in fact, a little of both. I heard Steve tell Brian, “We feel like we already know you because we have read all about you in the [Raising Arizona Kids] magazine.”

The daughter he and his wife are raising is also named Tesfanesh. In Amharic, the name means “I am hope.”

Big sister Jesmina (4) holds Tesfanesh as they wait for the judge to enter the courtroom.

Three generations of deGuzmans.

Brian and Keri with Tesfanesh and Solomon.

With Deputy County Attorney Janina Walters.

The deGuzmans with Elizabeth Anthony, Steve Dershimer and their 17-month-old daughter Tesfanesh.

Memories of Japan

I have a standing appointment each Tuesday morning at 9. Afterward, I typically stop by a nearby coffee shop to get a coffee and a bottle of water. Then I pull out my laptop and get to work. Though the location offers free wi-fi, I try to avoid using it. Internet connectivity breeds distractions. This is my editing time and I need to focus.

Like clockwork, four other people show up at the same coffee shop at the same time. First, an elderly couple shuffles slowly through the door with someone who appears to be their daughter. A bit later, a younger woman, probably a granddaughter, arrives. They order drinks. The man helps his wife remove her sweater. She starts coughing and he slowly, ever-so-lovingly rises from his chair to pat her gently on the back.

They sit at their table for about an hour, laughing and talking and sharing stories. They seem very happy to be together. I look up at them periodically and smile. It’s a nice thing to witness — three generations enjoying each other’s company.

The gentleman has started acknowledging me, typically starting a conversation about my laptop. As in, “I just can’t figure those things” or “How do you like that model?” Today, as I was packing my laptop and getting ready to leave, he said, “Was that made in Japan? Because I understand that there won’t be any more computers coming from Japan for awhile. Cars either.”

I nodded, solemnly acknowledging the momentous disaster in Japan. “It’s terrible, isn’t it? Hard to even imagine.”

“You know I lived there for awhile,” he said. “During the war. I’ve been to a lot of those cities. I still have friends there. I wonder if they are alive.”

He told me what it was like to be a young member of the U.S. armed forces in Japan at that time. How he was initially hesitant to communicate with the Japanese people. How he started out “hating them” because they were the enemy. “But, you know?” he said. “Once I lived there for a while and got to know them as human beings, I liked them very much.”

His companions started their own preparations to leave. The granddaughter gave me a look. You know, the one that says, “Thanks for indulging him. For being nice and listening to him.”

I was only too happy to do so, thinking as I did about the many times when I was younger and didn’t get it. When I’d listen impatiently, half-heartedly, to the stories of elders in my own family tree. Stories that will be lost to history because I couldn’t be bothered to give them my full attention or, better yet, to write them down.

—————————————–

Musse, Brian, Tesfanesh, Jesmina (standing), Keri and Solomon deGuzman with Judge Owens.

TOMORROW: “An Ethiopia Adoption Story,” the sequel

A full eight months after they first held two small babies in their arms, Brian and Keri deGuzman appeared at Maricopa County Juvenile Court in Mesa today to hear The Honorable Bernard C. Owens finalize the adoptions of Tesfanesh and Mintesnot-Solomon Brian deGuzman. Owens is the same judge who granted adoption petitions for older siblings Jesmina (4) and Musse (2).

I was in the courtroom to follow up on my December story about my journey to Ethiopia with the deGuzmans. Look for more photos and my update (including an amazing “small world” story) tomorrow.