Tag Archives: Catherine Griffiths

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.”


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 6 after the flood – in pictures and video

The adrenaline — and the words — are failing me today. So here’s my update in two great photos from staff photographer Daniel Friedman. And don’t miss staff multimedia journalist Vicki Louk Balint’s wonderful video.

Commencing the staff meeting at my house yesterday. From left, starting with me (the harried-looking one in the pony tail): Editorial Intern Emma Zang-Schwartz, Writer Mary Ann Bashaw, Multimedia journalist Vicki Louk Balint (with the video camera), Calendar & Directories Editor Mala Blomquist, Account Executive Susie Drake, Account Executive Catherine Griffiths, Production Manager Tina Gerami. Photo by Daniel Friedman.

Deja vu: We ran Raising Arizona Kids out of this very home office for three years (1992-1995), so it feels very strange to be right back where we started. From left: Art Director Michelle-Renee Adams, Operations Director Debbie Davis (with office mascot Bonnie), Production Manager Tina Gerami and Account Executive Susie Drake. Account Executive Catherine Griffiths is there too, behind Susie. Photo by Daniel Friedman.

Drip, drip and deja vu

In some ways it feels like the past 15 years never happened. I am sitting at a desk in my home office, with everything that’s absolutely essential to running my business set up haphazardly around the room. This morning I got up, made coffee, put some toast in the toaster and walked down the hall to go to work.

I am back to running a home-based business.

But the differences loom large. No slumbering boys in bed across the hall. No happy sounds of staff members who have become like family greeting each other with laughter, stories and hugs.

Just before 9 a.m. yesterday, I got a call from Operations Director Debbie Davis. She rarely calls me before the business day begins, so I knew something was up.

“I just wanted to give you a heads up,” she said. “We have a situation at the office.” Katie Charland, our community relations manager was already at work and had called Debbie in a panic.

The office was flooded.

I quickly threw on my jeans, put my hair in a ponytail and drove to work. I parked in the underground lot next to our entrance and stepped out of the car to a strong, musty odor. Our office.

Katie and Debbie were rushing around the hallways, already in triage. “What do you want me to do?” I asked helplessly.

“We’ve got to get the computers off the ground,” Debbie said. “I can’t get Michelle’s to shut down!”

I went into Art Director Michelle-Renee Adams’ office and confronted the worst of the mess. Swollen ceiling tiles had held on valiantly before they burst, spraying water over three computers, two scanners and an oversize printer. Bookshelves full of CDs, magazines and files were completely soaked. Water was still dripping from the ceiling. It sounded like rain.

I started to unplug one of our Macs and then had a frightening thought. We were all standing around in an inch of water in our bare feet, pulling electrical cords. “Debbie!” I shouted. “We have to turn off the electricity!”

I was closest to the circuit breaker but for some reason couldn’t make my body do what my mind was screaming needed to happen. Debbie charged into the room and quickly shut off all the circuits except for one stubborn one that wouldn’t budge. Now I was standing in a rainstorm in the dark, groping for plugs.

The next three hours went by in a blur. Several other staff members arrived and started hauling our equipment and essential files to drier areas. Boxes of sopping letterhead were piled against the wall outside our door with false hopes that we could salvage it. Our conference room had more angry, bloated storm clouds overhead, so we quickly moved the wooden furniture — including two expensive dining-room side tables I inherited from my mother-in-law when she moved to California — into the front hallway.

I grabbed the file for our liability insurance and called our agent. I wanted to know what I was supposed to do — and when they could send someone to assess the damage. The guy in the claims office explained that he first had to ask me some questions. He proceeded to ask for our location (“It’s on the policy!”), our phone number (“The phones are down!”) and , in a moment of pure absurdity, “Where can I send an email survey so you can give us some feedback on our services?”

The owner of the salon upstairs came down to take responsibility for the burst pipe and offer the services of a specialized clean-up crew already doing mop-up overhead.

I called staff photographer Daniel Friedman, who was working at home, and asked him to bring his camera so he could document the damage.

Marketing Director MaryAnn Ortiz-Lieb sat on a bench with Account Executives Susie Drake and Catherine Griffiths. As I walked by with my videocamera, she smiled at me and said, “We’re having our meeting!”

Bonnie (the office mascot, a sweet-natured chihuahua) was completely stressing out, so Calendar & Directories Editor Mala Blomquist ran her home and returned with a huge stack of beach towels. She and her daughter Solvay spent hours toting boxes and supplies, wiping furniture and taking pictures with their videocamera.

Production Manager Tina Gerami grabbed her July issue folders, which were completely soaked, and took them home to spread them out to dry, hoping they would be readable. Michelle took her computer tower home and continued to work from there. (Our production deadline for the July issue is tomorrow.)

Katie, whose job encompasses social media, grabbed her iPad and ventured out to find wi-fi access so she could post an update on our Facebook.

Debbie summoned our IT expert, Leon Hauck of Fulcrum Enterprises. The three of us sat in my office and held a disaster-recovery meeting as the crew from J&M, Inc. tromped in and out through my door, which was closest to their truck, with their big orange hoses.

Leon reminded us that we had to do something about the phones (we had Quest temporarily forward them to my cell phone; Leon is setting up Internet-based lines for us today) and helped us transport two critical computers to my home. By 2:30pm we were fully functional. I posted a photo of our hallway — and my cell phone number — at the top of our home page.

And today, as Dan Friedman so aptly described in his daily “DYK?,” we are going with the flow.

Walking to prevent child abuse

Is someone bringing coffee?

I have to admit. I kind of felt like this guy on the right when I dragged myself out of the house at 6:30am to walk in today’s Children’s March on Child Abuse. But the beautiful morning and the energy of the crowd that was gathered at the entrance to the Phoenix Zoo was invigorating — and so was the nippy temperature hovering well under the 60s.

The walk was organized by Phoenix Children’s Hospital to build awareness about child abuse, and raise funds to prevent it. Many of the 200 or so people in the crowd were there with children. Given the nature of the event, I found my eyes drawn to the many examples of loving connections between adults and children waiting to walk. Here are two of my favorites:

Love that transcends generations.

Time with daddy.

12News reporter/anchor Tram Mai showed up about 7:45 to give some opening remarks and thank the event’s sponsors, which included Raising Arizona Kids, Honest Tea and E&J’sDesigner Shoe Outlet. She read a moving essay by Sassha Motz of Surprise, whose daughter Lily was a victim of Shaken Baby Syndrome inflicted by a trusted family member. (Lily and her dad, James, are featured in our April cover story, “Casting Light on the Shadow of Abuse.”)

Tram Mai reads some opening remarks; watching is PCH pediatric nurse practitioner Amy Terreros.

Then it was time to walk. With a quick thumbs up…

Thumbs up!

…we headed through the gates to the Nina Mason Pulliam Children’s Trail. Several members of the Raising Arizona Kids family walked today, including Marketing Director MaryAnn Ortiz-Lieb (Happy Birthday!) and her daughter Juliann (a senior at Xavier College Preparatory), Assistant Editor Mary L. Holden, Art Director Michelle-Renee Adams, Account Executive Catherine Griffiths, my husband Dan (who writes our Sports Roundtable blog when he’s not too busy lawyering) and me.

Off we go!

The walk was a nice way to start the weekend and a reminder that we all need to spend more time at the beautiful Phoenix Zoo.

Enjoying the zoo.

And now? Breakfast!