Tag Archives: Raising Arizona Kids magazine

A “snow day” at RAK

When I got to work Thursday morning I could tell it was going to be one of “those” days.

Sadie Smeck, our editorial intern, couldn’t get onto the Internet. Then Calendar & Directories Editor Mala Blomquist couldn’t access any of our internal network drives. Then Marketing Director MaryAnn Ortiz-Lieb called in from a meeting to say she couldn’t access her email.

Deep breath.

I called Leon Hauck, who does our IT troubleshooting and he said he’d be over within the hour.

We all looked at each other, baffled. What could we do now? Our email was down, we couldn’t get on the Internet and we couldn’t access any of our network files. (Our website, which is hosted in “the cloud,” was fine.)

I did the only thing I could think to do. I declared a snow day.

Never mind that it was 97 degrees before we even got to work, or that it was expected to top out at 111. We were stuck. We couldn’t engage in our typical routines. We needed to think outside the box.

A momentous anniversary arrived this month with little fanfare. It’s now been a year since “The Great Office Flood of 2010,” when we were forced to evacuate our office for three months as we dried out from a burst pipe in the suite overhead. When we were finally able to move back in, we were so focused on getting back to the business of running the business that we let many non-essential tasks fall by the wayside.

That included the unpacking of dozens of boxes and the sorting through piles of flood-damaged items we just never seemed able to find the time (or mental energy) to examine.

It didn’t really bother me until Mala told me that someone  had come to our office one day and asked if we were moving. And that made me realize that we were still operating in kind of a triage mentality. We never really settled back into our space. It was almost like we didn’t trust the fact that we were staying.

Sadie finds nails and hooks for awards plaques.

Our “snow day” was a first step toward rectifying that situation. I ran around the office and announced that were were going to use this “found” time to tackle the boxes and piles, get rid of things we didn’t need, get ourselves organized. Mala, Solvay and Sadie quickly embraced my plan. Mala grabbed a big box and started filling it with papers for the recycle bin. I dumped a pile of awards, plaques and  framed photos on the floor and Sadie and Solvay started mounting them on the walls. Then I dragged 22 years worth of hastily packed RAK history — much of it brittle, stained and rippled by water damage — into the hallway so I could organize it by year.

Snow days are gifts. Moments when time stands still. Times when small moments matter, and memories are rediscovered.

Sadie offers support as Solvay prepares to pound a nail into the wall.

I heard Sadie, who will be a junior in college this fall, talking to 12-year-old Solvay in a nurturing and affirming manner born of their unexpected camaraderie.

“You have a good eye, Solvay!” she said as they decided where to pound nails and place plaques. I heard Solvay talking to Sadie about last year’s flood. “I really learned a lot about the magazine’s history when the flood happened,” she said, a positive memory of a time filled with frantic packing and unpacking, but also with staff members sharing stories about our past.

Snow days are gifts. Moments when overwhelming tasks, like tackling this pile in the corner of my office…

…yield unexpected, and joyful, surprises. Like this picture I found of my two sons, now grown, who were helping me staff a Raising Arizona Kids booth at a big community event so very long ago.

Father’s Day and finding my way

Where's Karen? I'm in there to the right of the tall guy in the blue shirt (my son David), in this picture I took reflecting off The Bean In Chicago earlier this month.

My husband was suffering from allergies (or a cold, we weren’t sure which) yesterday, so his Father’s Day was spent quietly. We opted out of our Sunday routine — which typically involves a hike or long bike ride — in favor of lazily lounging around. Dan’s only goal for the day was to make some progress toward finishing the third book in Edmund Morris’s Theodore Roosevelt trilogy.

Both of our sons called in — Andy from Washington, D.C. and David from his new home in Chicago — to enjoy catching up with their dad. All three of the men in my family are extremely knowledgeable about politics and government (which I am not), so I enjoy listening to Dan’s side of the conversation from my perch at the kitchen island, knowing that this is a special bond they share (along with a love of all things sports). My conversations with our sons typically take a different tack. I ask about household/daily life stuff and girlfriends. I share news about extended family members — their grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins.

Quiet Sundays give me a chance to make some small amount of progress toward catching up and getting organized for the week ahead. I spent several hours sifting through emails, writing to-do lists and tending to naggy, small tasks that always seem insurmountable when you’re in the midst of a busy work day. And with no small amount of initial hesitation, I dove back into my Ethiopia notes.

My motivation was an email I received from a mother in New Mexico. She has written a book, Finding Aster, about her own Ethiopia adoption journey. I found out about her because of all the Google alerts I have set up related to international adoption — part of my continued research for the story that began when I first met adoptive parents Brian and Keri deGuzman of Paradise Valley in the spring of 2009 and which, I hope, will find its own book form if I just keep taking small steps to make it happen.

When I found out about Dina McQueen’s book, I subscribed to her related blog. Anyone who writes a blog knows how exciting it is to find out that someone has subscribed to it. Every time I get a message that someone has subscribed to my blog, I click through to find out who that person is. Dina apparently does the same. She found me, found Raising Arizona Kids and wondered, no doubt, about my interest in her adoption story.

She called my office while I was in Chicago helping David settle into his new apartment earlier this month. So she followed up with an email:

When I called your magazine to inquire, I was told about your interest in Ethiopia, which led me to your feature article on your 2010 trip to Ethiopia. Which led me to the remarkable story you wrote about accompanying Brian and Keri to Addis Ababa as they met their two new children. What a beautiful and inspiring story. I was quite moved. Especially as I learned how much some adoptive parents are doing to support their children’s homeland. And how ‘stuck’ I sometimes feel without the resources to do more.

What I can do, however, is share my story and my platform with others who may be able to help me get out there and speak. My mission, basically, is to encourage adoption as a viable and vital way to grow a family. Concern about the environment and women’s health, as well, of course, as the massive issue of parentless children world-wide fuels my passion to keep on connecting with others.

I have ordered a copy of Dina’s book and I look forward to reading it. One of the reviews I read particularly intrigued me. The reviewer said that Finding Aster could truly be called Finding Dina, because of the magnitude of personal growth the author underwent during her journey to become a parent.

With Keri deGuzman as we checked in for our flight to Ethiopia last July. We were both wearing T-shirts promoting Acacia Village, an orphanage the deGuzmans support in Addis Ababa. Photo by Brian deGuzman.

Personal growth — and continued striving for it — is intrinsic to my ongoing connection to the deGuzman family and their continued commitment to the many children who remain orphaned in Ethiopia. It is time to stop hiding behind my fears of being inadequate to the task of telling their evolving story.

Finding Aster may well help me get back to the task of finding myself.

Superheroes who are headed to see “Thor”

I’ve been frustrated with my blog lately. No time, no energy and an aggravating problem with the RSS feed that is preventing it from even showing up on our website’s main blogs page. I’ve got IT people working on that.

But today I am back. Ever since my post about “My life with superheroes,” I’ve been eager to share some of the cute pictures I’ve been getting from readers.

We asked families to send us pictures of the superheroes in their family for a chance to win tickets to a Saturday sneak preview screening of “Thor.” In the epic adventure, “The God of Thunder” discovers what it really means to be a hero.

The contest ended Wednesday and the complete list of winners is here. These are my favorite pictures:

Abigail Bayless Feldman of Phoenix, who is 7 now, but was 4 when this picture was taken.

Josh Hall of Mesa, who is 4. This was at his (rock star?) superhero birthday party.

Five-year-old Keagan Lewis of Phoenix.

Trinidad Jimenez, 12, of Phoenix.

Jonathan Wenzel of Surprise, now 4, was 2 in this Halloween photograph.

Eight-year-old Lucas Lundstrom, aka Batman.

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 is calling

Ethiopian President Girma Wolde-Giorgi and his guests (from left): Haddush Halefom (who oversees the Acacia Village project for Christian World Adoption), me, Zerihun Beyene (who works for Christian World Adoption), Brian deGuzman, M.D. and Keri deGuzman. Photo courtesy of the president's office.

I had a dream that I was back at the palace in Addis Ababa, sitting in the office of Girma Wolde-Giorgi, the president of Ethiopia. I was waiting for the president to enter his spacious office so I could interview him for a story.

I saw the same high ceilings, the same heavy curtains, the same bronze cowboy statue on the massive desk — the very statue that intrigued me when I was in President Girma’s office last July, during my trip with adoptive parents Brian and Keri deGuzman.

At the time, I found it ironic. There I was in Africa, thousands of miles from home. And yet what drew my attention was a cowboy, that classic icon of the American Southwest.

I didn’t ask President Girma how a cowboy statue found its way to his desk. Our meeting that day was about the deGuzmans, who were in Ethiopia to welcome two babies into their family. They were invited to meet the president because of their involvement with Acacia Village, a home where 250 children can be nurtured, healed and transitioned into adoptive families. President Girma serves as honorary chairman of the board for Acacia Village, a project of Christian World Foundation.

In my dream, I was waiting in his office by myself, tending to unfinished business. I woke up before I found out what that business was.

A few days later, someone else told me about a dream she’d had. In her dream, I was staying at a beach house in California. The deGuzman family—Brian, Keri and their four beautiful children—had come to visit me. And so had my staff at Raising Arizona Kids magazine. I was fixing lunch for everyone. It was some sort of special occasion.

Ethiopia is calling to me in every way it can. In my own dreams and even in the dreams of someone who is close to me, I am reminded that there is work to be done, stories still to tell.

I have lost some ground in the last few months. The period between November and the end of February is always the busiest and most stressful for my small staff. It begins with research and fact checking for our 128-page Schools, etc. guide to education, which mostly happens in November. December brings double-issue production deadlines for the book and our January magazine.
The holidays throw us all off our game, as various staff members take vacation time to be with family and friends. And then, once we return to work in January, we’re back on deadlines for February, March and the last weeks of planning for our annual Camp Fair.

I knew that I would make little headway with my Ethiopia writing during this time, so I made a conscious, proactive decision to ride it out without punishing myself (too much).

But now it is time to get back on track. After this week, when the April magazine goes to press, I must recommit my time and attention to this story, which has gotten under my skin, dominating my conscious thoughts and seeping into subconscious ones, too.

Watching the clock for Camp Fair 2011

I went to bed Monday night feeling both relieved and guilty.

Relieved because it wouldn’t be me sleeping fitfully, waking up every hour to glance in panic at the alarm clock, fearful that I’d slept through the alarm.

Guilty because I foisted responsibility for an early morning obligation onto Calendar & Directories Editor Mala Blomquist. Not that the ever-gracious Mala would ever complain about that.

So while I’m still snug in my warm bed Monday morning, Mala will be be on the freeway, headed from her northwest Phoenix home to the Chandler/Gilbert YMCA, where she’ll do 6am and 7am interviews about our upcoming Camp Fair with a news crew from 3TV’s Good Morning Arizona. At 8am, she’ll be with the crew at Hubbard Family Sports Camp at the Phoenix Swim Club. And at 9am she’ll do one last interview at the Arizona Science Center.

At each stop, Mala will share information and pictures about some of the 60-plus camps that will be attending Camp Fair.

3TV and Your Life A- Z are co-sponsoring this year’s event, our 8th, which will be held at Tesseract School Shea Campus from 10am-3pm on Saturday, Feb. 26. (That’s also my birthday, but don’t tell anyone.) Other sponsors include Kids Consortium, CIGNA Healthcare and of course Tesseract. It would be impossible for us to put on this event together, which is free to the public, without their support.

So as I went to bed Monday night, I was feeling relieved, guilty — and grateful. For Mala’s willingness to do the 3TV interviews, for sponsors and vendors who are participating in this year’s Camp Fair despite a challenging economy and for the fact that I’ll be watching the clock from the comfort of my home, jumping out of bed only to make sure I don’t miss Mala on TV.

They always come back

I got an email from Stage Mom blogger and longtime magazine contributor Lynn Trimble today. She asked me a question about something she was working on and then added:

P.S. LIZABETH LEAVES FOR NYC ON THURSDAY!!!!!!!!! (I wonder if she’ll ever come back!!)

I knew she was kidding — kind of. I remember well the competing emotions she will be feeling as her youngest heads out into the big world on her own. Elation, pride and excitement of course. But always that twinge of sadness that comes with knowing that nothing will ever be the same as it was.

Lynn and Lizabeth at a "Say It with Flowers" fundraiser for the ALS Assocation that our staff attended in 2004.

I remember a song we moms used to sing with our kids at preschool: “My mommy comes back/She always comes back/She always comes back to get me…”

It was meant to allay the fears of little ones who often became anxious and clingy when it was time for Mommy to say goodbye.

Now some of these kids are saying goodbye and it’s the moms who are feeling anxious and clingy. As one who has been there, I can vouch for the fact that grown children “always come back,” too. Not for long, sometimes, and not always easily or comfortably. But enough to let you know that you still matter in their lives.