Tag Archives: Seattle

Powered by interns

When you run a small media company like ours, maintaining a steady stream of capable interns is the difference between muddling through and really moving forward. When you can confidently offload some of the routine tasks involved in creating and editing content for publication (for print and web), you finally find time to tackle the big-picture tasks that hover too long on the “when I can get to it” list.

So it was with a sense of excited anticipation that I returned to Phoenix after a five-day trip to Seattle (where I spent some all-too-rare time with my two brothers) to welcome two summer interns to the RAK family.

Robert Balint. Photo by Daniel Friedman.

One is very familiar. Robert Balint, son of RAK multimedia journalist Vicki Louk Balint, is something of a returning veteran. His first stories appeared in Raising Arizona Kids in 2008, when he was still in high school at Brophy College Preparatory.

“Girls on the Mat” was about a female high school wrestler, “When Your Child Doesn’t Make the Cut” was about young athletes facing rejection and “Physicals Keep Athletes in the Game” explained what doctors look for during sports physicals.

That same year, Robert shared insights on his participation in the Phoenix Sister Cities program and many of us followed his blog posts during that trip. (We look forward to reading the next installments in his “Daily Occurences” travel blog when he leaves in July to spend six months studying in Argentina.)

Robert, who just completed his sophomore year at Boston College, will be with us for about six weeks before he heads to South America. During his internship, he will be writing for our collaborative Sports Roundtable blog, to which my husband Dan, who missed his calling as a sports reporter, periodically contributes. Dan and Robert teamed up in the multimedia department during Robert’s internship last summer, when they produced a great video piece about a high school football lineman competition.

I look forward to working with and getting to know our second summer intern, Sadie Smeck. Sadie is a graduate of Arcadia High School and currently is attending Washington University in St. Louis, where she will be a junior this fall, majoring in international studies and Spanish and minoring in writing. Although Washington University does not have a school of journalism, she is a reporter, writer and editor for the university’s independent newspaper, Student Life.

Sadie Smeck. Photo by Daniel Friedman. I have Vicki to thank for Sadie, too. Vicki introduced me by email  to Sadie, whom she described as “a family friend from our neighborhood, a good student and a hard worker.” While she’s with us this summer, Sadie will be covering community news, education and more.

In the “small world” department, it turns out that Account Executive Catherine Griffiths also knows Sadie. When Catherine showed up at work this morning (with her mom, who’s in town for Hunter Griffiths’ eighth-grade graduation), she immediately rushed over to greet Sadie warmly.

Turns out Catherine, whose older son Harlan has Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes, was once offered some very wise advice by Sadie’s mom, who was also navigating that journey because Sadie’s older sister lives with diabetes.

Read Catherine’s story, “What I Wish I’d Known about Managing My Son’s Diabetes.”

No such thing as a bad friend

I recently spent some time with a friend I hadn’t seen in quite awhile. She has two sons, close in age to my own. When all four boys were small, the six of us spent quite a bit of time together.

She was the consummate organizer — always quick to suggest a new hiking trail, a field trip, an adventure. I was the overwhelmed small business owner and full-time mom who gratefully followed her lead, knowing my sons would never have slept under the stars on the balcony of a mountain cabin or hiked with llamas or rafted down the Colorado River if it weren’t for her.

As the boys grew, they pursued different interests, found different friends, grew in different directions. Though their tight connections unraveled, my friend and I stayed close.

But when her family moved to Portland, the frequency of our visits dropped dramatically. Sometimes I’d only see her once a year, when she came back during the winter holidays.

In December 2009 , I was getting ready to start up Piestewa Peak with my husband and my brother, who was visiting from Seattle. I turned around, and there was my friend. We hugged and made enthusiastic exclamations about how we should get together. I promised to call.

I never did. And I felt so guilty about it that I let many more months pile up, until it felt like the tie had perhaps been severed for good.

But I mourned the loss of this special friend, to whom I’d often confided my deepest thoughts and feelings, knowing that she would always be straight with me in her response. So on her birthday last week, I sent her an email. I told her that I missed her and that every time I was hiking in the desert, I thought of her.

Much to my delight, she responded immediately. Better yet, she was here in town! We made plans to get together for a hike.

When I met her at the trailhead, it was as if no time at all had passed. My sense of comfort with her was intact, untainted by the lapse of time. For the next hour and a half, we caught up on each other’s lives as we made a wide loop through the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.

When it was time to go, I told her how glad I was to have had the time with her. I apologized for the fact that my self-absorbed distractions made me such a bad friend.

Her reassurance was immediate. “I stopped judging friendships a long time ago,” she said. “When we cross paths, we cross paths. When we don’t, we don’t.”

She knows that real friendships have no room for societal conventions, unrealistic expectations or guilt. Real friendships just are.

Stepping up to the “post a day” challenge

It’s Day 5 of the WordPress Post a Day Challenge. The enormity of what I’ve undertaken is starting to sink in.

On Jan. 1, when I first signed up for this, I was home. The holidays were effectively over. My sons, who live and work in Washington, D.C., had been and gone. My brother from Seattle and my mom and her husband (who live in Green Valley, Ariz.) also had returned home. The house was empty. The refrigerator was full of leftovers, meaning no need to cook or plan meals. My typically overloaded email inbox was eerily empty.

Conditions, in other words, were perfect. And remained so for the next two days.

I reveled in the down time, taking hours to reflect upon, write and rework my first four posts (“When life and work merge,” “No more excuses,” “Fighting doubt and personal demons” and “A part of me you’ve never known”).

These topics were deeply personal. Delving into them was therapeutic — initially distressing but ultimately calming. For three days I quietly rediscovered who I am without the stress, responsibility and distractions of running a small business.

And then I returned to work on Tuesday. The bubble of writing bliss burst with an audible pop.

No matter how much I lectured myself as I prepared for work yesterday morning — trying to compartmentalize and keep things in perspective — I couldn’t escape a stifling sense of gloom.

When you run a small, chronically under-resourced company, time is your enemy. The “to do” list grows exponentially with each conversation you have. The moments where you feel like you’ve “got a handle on it” are rare. Frustration and fear of failure are common companions. For small media companies like Raising Arizona Kids, creating content in the digital world is an endless task with fleeting successes. It’s like trying to appease “the beast who can’t be fed” (my husband’s phrase).

So there is already enough pressure. Why would I undertake the additional task of trying to write a blog post each day? Where, in the endless drain on my time and energy, will I find the resolve? Am I setting myself up for disappointment and failure?

I’ve thought of myself as a writer for as long as I can remember, pretty much since the first time I experienced the joy of reading. But with few deviations, my life and career choices have kept me on the fringes of a writer’s life. This year I’ve drawn a line in the sand. To be a writer you have to write. So I’m taking this challenge personally.