Tag Archives: Tucson Arizona

No deadline on thank you

All I had to do was stick a couple of magazines in some envelopes and affix mailing labels. I’m not sure why it took me a month to do it.

I could offer the typical excuses — deadlines, conflicting demands on my time. December, after all, is a busy month. But when I face it square on, I realize the only real thing in the way was me.

Sometimes I agonize over the simplest of tasks, convinced I won’t get it right. That propensity leads to a kind of mental paralysis. The more I worry, the more I procrastinate. And when things that matter don’t get done, I pile guilt on top of the worry. It’s such a needless cycle of wasted effort — one that many writers, I suspect, would find familiar. Fear of not writing the “perfect” thing blocks most of us from writing anything at all, even when it’s something as small as a thank-you note.

Paul Giblin (on the right) with Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Chad Brandau.

I wanted to send copies of our December 2011 magazine to Phoenix journalist Paul Giblin, who is currently working as a civilian employee with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Afghanistan. Paul, a longtime Valley news reporter and Pulitzer Prize winner, wrote our lead feature article for the issue, sharing insights into the challenges of “Parenting from Afghanistan” while painting a vivid picture of what life is like in a war zone. I also had an envelope ready for Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Chad Brandau of Tucson, who was quoted in the story.

I looked at the two manilla envelopes daily, feeling completely inadequate. How could I thank these guys for sharing their deepest thoughts? And besides, it was the Christmas season. I should be sending gifts! It would be really lame to simply send the magazines.

Three days before Christmas I still hadn’t sent the magazines — though I’d emailed Paul to tell him they were coming. My husband was home from work that day and had offered to run some errands for me. He had other items to take to the post office. So I finally scribbled quick notes of thanks and stuffed a couple of magazines into each labeled envelope.

I had no idea how long it would take to get mail through to Afghanistan, but it was only a few days later when I received this email from Paul:

We received hard copies of the magazine here in Kabul. Thank you very much. Your editor’s column was especially kind.

Brandau went on R&R back to Tucson just before Christmas, but before he did, he carried a copy with him to show everyone he bumped into. I also posted the entire spread in an encased bulletin board outside the dining facility. You would be amazed at how many people stand out there in sub-freezing weather to read it. Lots of people nod their heads as they read. Also, people stop me or drop by my office to talk about it, particularly newly arrived folks. I hope it was received well by your regular audience too.

Thanks for the tough assignment Karen. Have great new year. – Paul

Putting boundaries on “reader engagement”

When we started providing online content in a blog format that allowed reader comment, we had to decide how quickly we wanted that feedback to appear.

Most news media entities allow comments to post immediately. The advantages of instant gratification and a “real time” dialog are important when the conversation is evolving with a real-time crisis or controversy. The disadvantages, however, are significant.

When you allow readers free access to voice their opinions about what you write, you’re giving people a platform to spread everything from (much-appreciated) thoughtful perspectives and interpretations to outrageous, uninformed and mean-spirited opinions. And you’re giving them a sizeable audience they wouldn’t have on their own.

As a company devoted to providing resources and support to parents, we didn’t feel the need to compromise appropriateness for speed. Comments on our blogs must be approved by the writer, or me as the editor, before they appear live on our site.

Never was I more grateful for that decision than yesterday, when I posted a brief blog linking to two articles I thought exemplified extraordinary writing under the deadline pressure of continuously unfolding events in Tucson. I wasn’t making any kind of political comment; I was complimenting remarkable writing.

A comment I saw in response this morning was completely inappropriate. “Vitriolic,” as Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik  might call it. Certainly ill-informed.

Thankfully, no one saw it but me.

Child development experts will tell you that out-of-control children crave boundaries. Out-of-control adults need them, too.

A community immersed in grief

I spent my lunch hour yesterday corresponding with parents who have lost children.

A mother whose infant daughter was stillborn. A father who lost his son shortly following an emergency (and premature) Cesearean delivery that became necessary when his wife was involved in a horrible car accident. A mother whose 11-year-old son died of an “intercerebral hemorrhage” of unknown cause. And a mother who lost her 18-year-old son during a robbery, when he was shot and killed. He just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was senselessly murdered, just like bright, brown-eyed Christina Green of Tucson.

A lot of bereaved parents wrote to us after they saw Mary Ann Bashaw’s January article, “Finding Purpose in Grief:  The MISS Foundation Offers a Light at the End of Life’s Darkest Tunnel.” Many of their letters will be published in our February issue. I can’t think of a better tribute to the victims of Saturday’s tragedy in Tucson, when 20 people, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, were shot and six were killed, including 9-year-old Christina, who was there with a family friend who knew the young student council member would be inspired by the presence of a role model.

The parents who wrote thanked us for “breaking the silence” on what one parent termed “a tender subject.” For some of these families, their terrible losses occurred years ago. And yet their grief is always there, always part of them. So they know all too well what will soon befall the loved ones grieving small Christina.

For now, the community has rallied; the media is attentive. The family’s shock and the outpouring of support blunts the real blow that will occur in the years that loom ahead, when each day requires them to wake up and miss their daughter all over again.

Christina’s memorial service will be held at noon Thursday at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Tucson. Many, many people will be there, most of them dressed in white to show their support.

I hope that many of them will still be there in the weeks and months to come, providing support, talking about Christina, sharing their love and comforting this family for as long as it takes. Which really means forever.

Resources for grieving parents

MISS Foundation
A Phoenix-based organization that provides crisis support and long-term aid to families after the death of a child at any age, from any cause. Also active in legislative and advocacy issues, community engagement, volunteerism and education.

Parents Of Murdered Children Valley of the Sun Chapter
Offers support for persons who survive the violent death of someone close as they seek to recover.