Tag Archives: Tina Gerami

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.

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.

Small world stories – hoops, timing and URLs

Thanks to the office flood, it’s been awhile since we’ve had regular editorial meetings. But my team is tightly knit and, not surprisingly, pretty adept at communication.

So while we haven’t had storytime at RAK in weeks, I am still the delighted recipient of “small world” stories I love to share.

Ann Meyers Drysdale with her son D.J. and daughter Drew.

Hoops connection

Our production manager, Tina Gerami, is married to Essex Bennett, a Valley educator who is working with the Phoenix Suns basketball camps at Thunderbird High School this week. Yesterday, he got to hear a presentation from guest speaker Ann Meyers Drysdale, who is featured on our July cover and profiled in “A Conversation with…” multimedia journalist Vicki Louk Balint.

After her speech, Essex approached her to say his wife works at RAK and that he really enjoyed reading the article about her. “She said she was really pleased with the article,” Essex reported. He then made another connection: Ann’s son D.J. is working at the camp with him!

Timing is everything

I heard from Calendar & Directory Editor Mala Blomquist last Friday, after her appearance on Arizona Midday on 12 News.

“So I am in the green room talking to this really nice lady named Karen when she asks me what I do,” Mala said. “When I tell her, she says, ‘Wait a minute — two people from your magazine were at my house this week!’ Turns out she is the next RAK Mompreneur! Karen said that staff photographer Dan Friedman was a hoot and that editorial intern Brooke Mortensen [who wrote the story], could not have been more lovely!”

A URL by any other name…

Our July magazine has a story about a precautionary step prospective parents in the digital age may want to take before naming their baby. Some experts at a social media conference recommended that you Google the first and last name before wrapping your heart around it.

“Ha!” wrote staff multimedia journalist Vicki Louk Balint when she saw it. “I had to laugh at that story. Robert [her 19-year-old son] Googled his name before he wrote his first story for Raising Arizona Kids, when he was deciding whether to be Robert Balint or Robert T. Balint. Turns out there is a hungarian PORN STAR named Robert Balint!”

Obviously, Robert put in the T.

Day 23 after the flood: Who let the cat out?

The Alpha Male of RAK's temporary home office.

When we had to evacuate our office June 2 and move everything we could to my house, I knew there would be additional challenges to getting each day’s tasks accomplished.

But this is one I didn’t count on.

This morning, I was sitting on my living room couch trying to process our last three movie sneak preview giveaways so I could get the winners’ tickets in the mail. One of our two cats (who has the unfortunately neglectful name of “Katt” because we couldn’t think of anything else that really fits him) plopped himself right smack dab in the middle of my collection of tickets, envelopes and stamps. He wouldn’t budge.

When Production Manager Tina Gerami was in the (home) office with me yesterday, this increasingly emboldened feline was jumping all over her stuff, too.

The first two weeks after the flood, as my house filled with extra bodies, extra stuff and the related chaos, our cats stayed pretty much out of sight.

But Katt, a portly orange tabby, has decided it’s time to reassert his authority as the Alpha Male around here. He does that by throwing his considerable girth onto any work space you need and any pile of papers you are trying to sort or read.

I wonder if the insurance company would reimburse us for “unanticipated costs of doing business” due to inefficiencies caused by Katt?

All over my pile of tickets to a movie sneak preview for "Despicable Me."

Aw, c'mon. The stamps too?

Ethiopia: a tentative timetable for travel

In May 2012, RAISING ARIZONA KIDS magazine launched a new website. You can now find this post here.

Day 9 after the flood: I think I can

In some ways, it feels like I’m running a bed-and-breakfast. I get up each morning and walk through the house to tidy up. I wipe splashes on the mirrors and sinks in the bathrooms and make sure there are fresh towels and enough toilet paper. I do my breakfast dishes and wipe the kitchen counter. I check the refrigerator to make sure there are enough cold water bottles.

Production Manager Tina Gerami proofs ads on my kitchen counter.

Sometimes I pull out turkey and cheese so my harried guests can make sandwiches for lunch. None of us wants to take the time to go out  — there’s too much to do. Yesterday afternoon, when I sensed patience and energy waning, I pulled out the big guns: a bag of Reese’s Pieces I grabbed while running errands that morning. Chocolate, especially with peanut butter, always works miracles.

After eight days of 40 machines running 24/7 to suck the water out of our office walls, ceilings and floors, the place has been declared dry. Today I will meet the contractor to find out what has to be rebuilt, and how long that will take.

One of my favorite books from childhood is The Little Engine that Could. Many times in the last 21 years, I have forced its message — “I think I can, I think I can” — into my head during challenging times.  I have often (never more than this week) looked at a small wooden train I keep in my home office to remind me to just keep moving forward: “Puff, puff, chug, chug….”

When Calendar & Directories Editor appeared on Arizona Midday recently, she talked about how we were coping with the devastation at our office following the June 2 flood.

“We’re managing,” Mala said. “We’ve always been the little magazine that could.”

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.

Day 3 after the flood – grasping the enormity

The whirring of giant fans and the drone of robot-like dehumidifiers continues at our office today. I will be over there at 9am to let in the crews from ABSOLUT Restoration and J&M Restoration, Inc. so they can continue their work. One team comes daily, spending almost two hours repositioning fans, emptying tubs of collected water from the dehumidifiers, taking humidity readings at various points around the suite. The other team, the “pack-out” specialists, started their work yesterday. When I pulled up to the building shortly after 5pm to lock up, it looked like we were moving. Two big trucks. Dozens of boxes. A knowledgeable, efficient staff in bright blue T-shirts.

My office.

Everything in my office was shrink-wrapped, tagged, ready to go on the trucks. Framed photos of my sons, all my binders filled with company history, all the knick-knacks and comfort items I keep near me at work — even a box of Kleenex — have been neatly catalogued and packed away. For the next several weeks, kind strangers will pick up each item, assess its status (water damaged or not?), dry out what can be saved and keep careful records for the insurance company about what cannot. Today the crew will finish the pack-out in my room and move on to the items in four other offices that must be completely removed. Then we’ll start scheduling repairs to the ceiling, walls and floors.

My brain is racing with details. The insurance company needs a copy of our lease. Don’t dial “1” for long distance on the new phone system. Always go to “server files” to gain access to company records our IT specialist has transferred to one of the PCs we brought to my house from the office. Will we be able to process credit card charges from my home? Call the bank. How will we distribute mail to staff members? How will this all work?

Everyone keeps telling me how well I’m “handling it.” Emails I’ve gotten from friends, family members and business colleagues repeat the word “devastating.” Other words — disruption, displacement, evacuation, triage — have crept into my daily vocabulary.

It feels like we are moving.

I have tremendous support, of course, from staff members as obsessed with detail as I am. (We often joke about the fact that I only hire people as compulsive as I am.) Operations Director Debbie Davis and Production Manager Tina Gerami were with me at my house most of yesterday and we spent half the time finishing each others’ sentences. “Where did I put…” Debbie would begin. “It’s in that folder in the wire basket,” I’d finish. Tina had all her important files in a large green canvas bag. She sat down at the computer to my left and efficiently processed bills, never flinching when the printer jammed just minutes before she had to race home to pick up kids.

Calendar & Directories Editor Mala Blomquist appeared on Arizona Midday as usual, sharing her picks for family events this weekend. She had the presence of mind to call me earlier in the day to ask for one of Dan Friedman’s photos of our flood. Destry Jetton, the Arizona Midday host, showed the photo during the segment and talked to Mala on air about how we were handling our emergency.

We are calling each other, emailing each other, texting each other. Even Marketing Director MaryAnn Ortiz-Lieb, who is in Chicago for a family member’s bar mitzvah, called in several times yesterday: “Do we have room for another half page [ad]?” The show must go on, and we have a deadline on Wednesday.

As Mala told me yesterday, “the worst thing is that I miss seeing everyone!”

I am looking forward to slowing down a bit this weekend and trying to catch up on the deep sleep I so desperately need but can’t quite embrace. My mind won’t shut down. Last night, I fell into bed at 8pm, only to jolt wide awake at 2 with a sense of panic. I forgot to set up the voicemail!

The scope of our emergency pales, of course, in comparison to the epic disasters we’ve all witnessed in the news this year. Yet it gives me a small glimpse into the challenges of finding a path through daily life when you’ve lost the reassuring anchor of a familiar environment and routine. As I grasp the enormity of what has happened to us, I am more keenly aware than ever that the only safety net we ever really have is each other.

The trucks from J&M Restoration, Inc., outside our building yesterday.

Day 2 after the flood

It’s astonishing to realize how little you really need to run a business. Yesterday we found out.

At 11am, I went back to the scene of what I now refer to as “The Great Flood of 2010.” I had to let the clean-up crew from Chandler-based J & M, Inc. back in and meet with their “pack out” rep, Misti Van Emst, assistant manager of ABSOLUT Restoration in Phoenix. Our insurance claims adjuster, Mike Kenney, from The Hartford, also was there.

Misti and Mike spent more than an hour roaming through our much drier, but still very damp office, scribbling notes, conferring with each other, asking me questions. The roar of nearly 40 fans and dehumidifiers made it almost impossible to hear. Each room has a big bin into which water sucked up by the dehumidifiers is dripping.

With the lights on (yesterday we had to throw the breaker to avoid being electrocuted), it was easier to tell exactly how much damage had been caused by the burst pipe in a tiny, wall-mounted drinking fountain in the Signature Salon studio overhead.

We have sustained significant damage to the wall between our office and the parking garage. It will have to be completely torn out. That means my office and those of Operations Director Debbie Davis and Art Director Michelle-Renee Adams will have to be “packed out.” J&M will box up each item, take it to their facility, dry it out, assess damage and then — once the walls and ceiling are repaired — move it back in. Because the path of the creeping river overhead split into several tributaries traversing our office, two additional rooms that were severely damaged — the offices of Marketing Director MaryAnn Ortiz-Lieb and Production Manager Tina Gerami — also must be packed out.

I tried to listen as Misti explained the procedures but my head was fuzzy from lack of sleep and the drone of all that equipment. Finally I figured out the question I needed to ask. “So how long does all this take?” I asked.

“I think it’s going to take at least 30 days,” she said. “You need to get all your people in here to remove anything they may need — anything that’s critical to keeping your business running for the next month. We’d like to start tomorrow.”

She hugged me before she left, reassuring me that her team would get us through this.

Stunned, I moved on to Mike. He, too, was reassuring. Our coverage is solid and includes provisions for “extra business expenses” incurred in the aftermath of an event like this. All the extra electricity to run these giant fans and dehumidifiers? Covered. Extra mileage reimbursement my employees might need as we work from a “virtual” office? Covered. Furniture and technological equipment? Covered. Office supplies? Covered. Even “valuable papers” are covered.

Unfortunately, most of the paper I truly value — Arizona Press Club award notifications, thank you notes from readers, lots of photographs from our company history — is ruined and irreplacable. That’s not covered.

By 3:30 yesterday afternoon, Debbie and I had moved everything we needed over to my home office. Tina and Michelle will go through their offices this morning before the pack-out crew arrives. MaryAnn is out of town for a family member’s bar mitzvah in Chicago, so we will do the best we can to figure out what to salvage from her area.

Today, our IT guy, Leon Hauck, will set up a digital phone and voicemail system in my home and transport all of our our network files to a hard drive in my home. Tina is coming over to prepare invoices that must go out today. Debbie will be here, too. Michelle-Renee is working from her house on design for the July magazine, which goes to the printer on Wednesday. Mala will be at Channel 12 as usual, for her Arizona Midday segment (today it’s at 2pm).

Debbie and I laughed as we trudged through my hallway with our boxes and piles yesterday. “We have a nap room across the hall!” I joked. We’re thinking this might be kind of fun.

On Monday I will assemble my staff for a meeting at my home and we’ll figure out where we go from here. — Karen

The perpetrator in the office above us.

P.S. Staff multimedia journalist Vicki Balint drove to my house yesterday to grab a mini disk of video footage I recorded as we experienced the first 10 hours of the “flood.” I wanted to get it out, to show people, but was too overwhelmed to figure out what to do with it. She has edited it into six segments that now appear on our YouTube channel:

Office Flood: Part I

Office Flood: Part II

Office Flood: Part III

Office Flood: Part IV

Office Flood: Part V

Office Flood: Part VI

Puzzle pieces

It starts with a large sheet of paper — a template Art Director Michelle-Renee Adams generates for me from her iMac.

It starts with a second sheet of paper — a spreadsheet Production Manager Tina Gerami gives me after she processes a pile of paperwork generated by our advertising sales staff.

It starts with a list of stories, a ruler, a mechanical pencil and a pair of reading glasses.

These are the tools I need to start building the next magazine. My methods are pretty old school — I’m sure there are software programs I could buy that are much more efficient or high-tech — but I enjoy doing it this way.

Paginating the magazine in our conference room.

Somehow the process of putting pencil to paper helps the next issue come alive in my mind. As I draw my lines and squiggles and fill the spaces in the squares before me (each of which represents a two-page “spread” in the printed magazine) the weeks of planning that have come before this day start to make sense.

It’s like working a puzzle. I start with pieces scattered across the table. I look for logical connections and conflicts. I write, erase, start again. Eventually, everything finds its place.

It ends with a peaceful sense of relief as my roadmap for the next issue finds expression. I send my pagination sheet to Tina for review. I make her adjustments and then toss it off to Michelle. And await the blossoming of an artist’s vision.