Tag Archives: MaryAnn Ortiz-Lieb

Who is your parenting guru? (part 1)

Two weeks ago I posed that question to the 15,000 readers who subscribe to our e-newsletter. It was wonderful to watch my in-box as many thoughtful responses came back.

It all started when Marketing Director MaryAnn Ortiz-Lieb came to me with a unique opportunity. One of her clients has proposed partnering with us to bring a notable parenting expert to the Valley to speak. We wanted to find out who, in an ideal world, that person should be.

As I reviewed the responses, I realized that the list of suggestions is in itself a tremendous resource for parents. So as we take the next steps — contacting these people to determine their availability and fees — I wanted to share our readers’ “Top 10” list of parenting gurus, in alphabetical order. Five are listed today; five more will come tomorrow.

NAOMI ALDORT

Naomi Aldort is a self-described “parenting guide,” an internationally published writer and public speaker. Her book, Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves: Transforming parent-child relationships from reaction and struggle to freedom, power and joy, promotes the idea that children need love and validation, not control and behavior modification. Her perspective is considered “attachment parenting friendly,” according to her website, though she does not use the word directly because of “its multiple and contradictory meanings.”

I watched the following video, where Aldort offers some insightful perspectives when a parent believes “my child doesn’t listen to me.”

JAMES DOBSON

James Dobson, Ph.D. founded Focus on the Family as a non-profit organization, established to strengthen Christian family values. What began with a radio program on a few stations in 1977 has grown to a network of more than 3,000. He gives advice on Christian marriages, families and parenting through the ministry of Family Talk radio.

ADELE FABER AND ELAINE MAZLISH

Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, authors of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will TalkSiblings Without Rivalry and several other books. Their work, based on the philosophis of renowned child psychologist Haim Ginott, Ph.D., suggest ways of communicating that make a profound difference in relationships with children. (Both MaryAnn and I are huge fans of these books, which were widely referenced back when we were both taking parenting classes.)

JIM FAY AND FOSTER CLINE

Jim Fay and Foster W. Cline, M.D. developed the Parenting with Love and Logic approach from 75 years of combined experience working with and raising kids. Like their books, Love and Logic seminars provides simple, practical techniques to help parents have more fun and less stress while raising responsible kids of all ages.

One of our readers, who has children 8 and 10 years old, wrote to share the fact that she is reading the Parenting with Love and Logic book. “It has really changed the way we parent and everyone in the family is more respectful to one another,” she write. “Our children are taking more responsibility and learning from their behaviors. [Fay and Cline] also have a website with an email newsletter that I receive weekly, which reinforces the book and reminds us how to parent. I would definitely go to a seminar led by these authors and I would tell my friends about it.”

Here is a sample from one of Jim Fay’s presentations:

STEVEN HUGHES

Steven J. Hughes, PhD, LP, ABPdN, is an assistant professor of pediatrics and neurology at the University of Minnesota Medical School and maintains a private practice in St. Paul, where he specializes in the assessment of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and other learning and behavioral problems.

A parent himself, he chose Montessori education for his own family and is a frequent guest lecturer at the Montessori Training Center of Minnesota and a Montessori schools around Minnesota and Wisconsin. In his talks, Hughes describes how Maria Montessori’s brain-based approach to education “provides an unparalleled foundation for the development of academic, social, and executive functions critical for advanced problem solving and lifetime success,” according to his website goodatdoingthings.com. A book is coming out soon.

Tomorrow: Five more parenting experts our readers recommend.

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“Can you help me start a magazine?”

Many times in the past 22 years I’ve received messages like this one:

“I am currently in the process of exploring an opportunity to publish a magazine and hoped you might be able to provide some insight, advice or guidance in taking such a big step….”

The most recent one came earlier this month from a working mom who was looking for a new direction following her recovery from surgery. She is thinking about starting a magazine. She asked if I could “find some time to either chat by phone, or meet with me (and my friend who may join me in this venture) to answer a few questions.”

Messages like these always make me squirm. I hate to squelch someone else’s enthusiasm or dreams but the truth is that it’s hard for me to recommend magazine publishing as an attractive option. Especially when the person who contacts me is looking at it as an opportunity to “provide a positive balance for my health, my kids and my livelihood.”

The mom who wrote to me sees publishing a magazine as “the possibility of being my own boss and doing something with more flexibility.” That is important to her, she wrote, because she’s a single mom.

I like to be a nice person. I like to be a helpful person. But I can’t think of a single reason to recommend that this woman pursue her plan. Not because I wish I hadn’t done it; but because I know I wouldn’t have done it if I’d had any idea how hard it would be.

Here is what I will tell this woman she should consider before deciding to start her magazine:

• You need to be realistic about the financial model of publishing, especially in this economy and this time in history, when technology keeps changing the game plan. If you don’t have a way to pay for at least a year of operating expenses before you get started, you probably shouldn’t get started.

• You need to thoroughly research the competition and figure out how what you want to do fills a need that’s not already being met. There are obvious competitors (i.e. other magazines targeting your audience) but don’t forget the impact of an increasingly  diverse and stratified range of media delivery systems all vying for pieces of the same pie when it comes to advertising dollars.

• You must have a reliable source of household income. It could be many years before you can put yourself on the payroll regularly. I could never have persevered past tough times if I didn’t know my family’s basic needs were going to be met by my husband’s steady income.

• You must have people on your team who can do the things you can’t do. My background is in journalism. Though I have an MBA in marketing, I have never worked in sales and I don’t have good instincts for it. I would have been lost but for the knowledge, experience and professionalism of my founding and current marketing director, MaryAnn Ortiz-Lieb. Then, a year ago, I turned over management of the business to Operations Director Debbie Davis. She has a much better head for business than I do and it has been a relief to know she’s got everything under control while I focus on the part I really love: content development.

• You must involve people who believe in your publication and see their role in its mission as “more than a job.” Never did I appreciate that more than in the last two years, when the heavy impact of the recession meant every person on my staff had to do more for less. Only people who know their work has a higher purpose than making money can put up with that without resentment.

• Forget the fantasy of flexibility. The only flexibility you will have as the owner of a magazine (and, I’m guessing, any business) is when you choose to work. I never missed a performance or game when my sons were growing up. I volunteered in the classroom, chaperoned field trips and served spaghetti and meatballs to the team at noon each Friday when my sons played high school football. But I worked a lot of late nights, rarely took a full weekend off and always had my laptop on vacations (even the rare ones on other continents). When there is too much to do and not enough people to do it, you have to carry the slack. And if you’re someone who truly cares about the quality and the integrity of your business, you are constantly working on ways to improve it.

If she listens to all that and still wants to move forward her plan, then I’m guessing she already has some of the personal qualities it takes to last in this business: resilience, tenacity and sheer stubbornness.

Like grandfather, like grandchildren

The last time I sat in the kitchen at MaryAnn Ortiz Lieb‘s house was a joyous occasion. Her lovely and accomplished daughter, Juliann, had just graduated from Xavier College Preparatory. MaryAnn and her husband Bobby had gathered friends and family around them to celebrate.

Herb Lieb.

Also at the kitchen table that day was Bobby’s 90-year-old father, Herb Lieb. I hadn’t seen him in awhile. Though he moved more slowly and seemed a bit more frail than I remembered, his gift for conversation was very much intact. So was his sense of humor. He kept me in stitches as he shared his stories and made me feel like I was the most important person in the room.

I saw that same spirit Sunday, under very different circumstances, as I listened to Herb’s four grandchildren eulogize their “Papa,” who died last Thursday at age 91, following a long illness.

MaryAnn’s son Sean was just an infant when she and I decided to start Raising Arizona Kids magazine nearly 22 years ago. Now he’s a student athlete, a football player at the University of Arizona. Sean hadn’t slept in days, but you wouldn’t know it as he stood at the podium at Sinai Mortuary in Phoenix. He stood tall, strong and model handsome, with curly dark locks of hair tumbling over his forehead. He hesitated just a moment before diving confidently into his remarks.

“If my Papa were here,” he said, “he’d never let me into this place with my hair looking like this.”

From that moment, which gave us all some much-needed comic relief, Sean moved into much more difficult material, explaining how he and his cousin Jeffrey had spent an entire night with their grandfather while he was in hospice care in the hours before his death. Throughout the night, Sean said, he and Jeffrey tried to say or do something to get a reaction from their semi-conscious grandfather. They played a DVD of a roast that had been held in Herb’s honor. They read aloud a letter they’d found from an old girlfriend of Herb’s. It was one part desperation, one part mischief. They were two young men craving one last moment of connection with a man whose love, support and guidance — though sometimes unconventional — left indelible marks and cherished memories.

Juliann, who is now a freshman at Barrett, The Honors College at ASU, took a similar approach, starting out with a funny story describing her grandfather, a notorious ladies’ man, approaching her at her bat mitzvah to introduce her to “your future step-grandmother.”

Herb loved to kid around but his jokes never crossed the line into hurtful. He could be fiesty and difficult when his independence was threatened but he always came around and admitted when someone else was right. Herb inspired Julian to choose her own path, no matter what. So she concluded by reading the lyrics to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” which she felt perfectly summed up her grandfather’s life.

Jeffrey, a student at Paradise Valley Community College, and his sister Stephanie (the oldest of the grandchildren), who works in the office of the Phoenix City Council, also spoke eloquently, honestly and with tremendous poise as they shared funny stories and choked back tears. Stephanie recounted the day she took her Papa to lunch to take his mind off a recent (and unwelcome) move into an assisted living facility.

As they left the lobby, where a number of the residents were hanging out, pursing typical retirement home activities,  Stephanie could tell her grandfather was distraught. When they got into the elevator, she turned to him and asked, “What’s wrong, Papa?” To which then-90-year-old Herb exclaimed in dismay, “These people are so old!”

Herb was a World War II veteran who stormed the beaches at Normandy and willingly shared his story with many young people — including my own two sons, each of whom wrote reports after interviewing him for high school history classes. He was a successful and respected businessman in the Phoenix community. Most important, he was a devoted grandfather to these four remarkable young people — each of whom exhibits Herb’s natural gifts for social poise, telling a good story, looking at life through the lens of reality, fighting hard for what matters and building a network of true and loyal friends. And, perhaps his best legacy of all, they have his mischievous, but always well-intentioned, sense of humor and fun.

The cousins at a happier time (from left): Juliann, Jeffrey, Sean and Stephanie Lieb.

The end of a Mothering era

No more Mothering.

During intermission at the Sunday matinee performance of “Spamalot” I learned that Mothering magazine — the print edition, anyway — is dead.

The news came from East Valley mom Brittney Walker, a frequent contributor to Raising Arizona Kids and a catalytic force in our company’s growing online and social media presence. Brittney sent me a link to Mothering’s announcement, “How We Became a Web Company.”

“In the last few weeks it has become obvious that we must cease publication of the print magazine,” wrote editor Peggy O’Mara. “With the March-April edition, after 35 years, we will cease publishing Mothering magazine. We are now a Web-only company.”

This news is sobering to those of us in the publishing world. I think many of us who publish special interest magazines hoped we were somehow invulnerable to the changing face of media. Certainly we weren’t subject to the same pressures faced by daily newspapers and weekly news magazines struggling to compete with real-time access to breaking news. Sure, we were hit hard by the recession. But economic conditions are cyclical, not irreversible. Reading a magazine is “an experience,” some in our industry proclaimed. Niche publications with loyal audiences would surely survive the media fallout.

But then the big guys with family audiences started folding: Child, Cookie, Nickelodeon, Teen, Wondertime. And now Mothering.

Mothering filled a special niche in the national parenting magazine arena. Targeted to “pioneers” in the natural-living movement, the publication was founded in 1976 by Addie Vorys Eavenson (now Cranson) and a group of volunteers. A story not unlike our our own, which came 14 years later.

Mothering grew to a circulation of 100,000 but saw subscriptions and advertising revenues drop for three consecutive years. O’Mara blames the economy’s hit on Mothering’s key advertisers — toy manufacturers, sling/infant carrier makers. She also says today’s parents seek information online and “don’t have time” to read.  I find it hard to believe that’s the full story.

Every company has a natural balance point between growth and stability. Did the magazine get too ambitious? Did it take on too large a staff? Did it lose the flexibility it had as a smaller operation? Did its message fail to resonate with “natural living” parents who saw too much emphasis on product advertising? I don’t have answers to any of these questions but I know that nothing is ever as simple as it seems.

This news certainly gives me pause. But I’m far from ready to pull the plug on print. Thankfully (and Marketing Director MaryAnn Ortiz-Lieb would be furiously knocking on wood right now), Raising Arizona Kids is in a very stable place. Our revenues declined in 2009 but by 2010 were already (though slowly) moving back up. We are paying our bills on time. Thanks to fierce budgeting oversight by Operations Director Debbie Davis, we entered 2011 feeling we’d weathered the worst of it.

We, too, are adapting to meet the changing information needs of today’s parents. In the 10 months since we committed to an eZine concept — publishing fresh content daily at raising arizonakids.com — our web traffic has grown by 66 percent. We were the first local parenting resource to jump into social media and continue to have the strongest presence.

I worry for publications like Mothering that give up on print, especially when print remains the strongest potential revenue stream for magazines. No one yet has figured out how to pull in equivalent money from web-based enterprises alone.

And there’s something else I have found interesting. Despite all the attention focused on the new media tools, despite growing online audiences, despite gloomy predictions that print will not survive, nearly everyone who contacts me with a story idea wants to see it in print. Clearly there is something real and lasting about words that appear in print that is not replicated in its digital form.

There is a scene in Act I of “Spamalot” (a musical spoof on “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”) where a tattered peasant is pulling a wagon through the streets, calling to the neighborhood that he is there to collect their dead. Another character enters the stage pulling what he claims to be a dead body by the arm. But the “body” is talking, indignantly protesting that “I’m not dead yet!” By the end of the scene, he is singing and dancing along with others on the wagon who had been given up for dead.

I’d like to believe that print, too, is “not dead yet.”

A fitting tribute to women

I was in the neighborhood Hallmark store looking for a birthday card when I stumbled upon one of those refrigerator magnets designed to amuse and inspire. “Life is tough,” it said. “Women are tougher.”

Immediately I thought of the 11 honorees who were celebrated at the YWCA 2011 Tribute to Women, held today in the massive Frank Lloyd Wright Ballroom at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel & Spa.

All of the women honored have made remarkable and inspiring contributions to our community, some despite staggering challenges. But Marketing Director MaryAnn Ortiz-Lieb and I attended the event this year out of respect for two very specific women: Phoenix Mercury President and General Manager Ann Meyers Drysdale (who was named “Sports Leader”) and Frances Mill-Yerger, Ph.D. (who was named “Health & Science” leader).

Meyers Drysdale with DJ and Drew.

We have some history with these women. Meyers Drysdale and two of her children, DJ and Drew, appeared on our July 2009 cover and the corresponding “A Conversation with…” interview. Despite her demanding schedule, this formidable athlete and legend in the sport of women’s basketball spent an unhurried few hours with us in the Mercury locker room, graciously and warmly engaging each of us in conversation. I came away a fan for life, knowing I’d been “In the presence of a true champion.”

“Sports gives you the understanding that we all fail sometimes,” Meyers Drysdale said in a video interview that aired during the luncheon. “It teaches you how to be a good teammate. How to work well under your coach. These are all important lessons in life. If you never try, if you never attempt, you’ll never know where you could have gone.” In simply undertaking the effort, she said, “you are going to run across so many positive things.”

Frances Mills-Yerger, Ph.D. and MaryAnn Ortiz-Lieb.

Mills-Yerger is the founder of Workshops for Youth and Families, a program that fosters personal leadership and resilience in youth and families. Though my sons were never able to attend Workshops, both of MaryAnn’s two children did. And we’ve both heard countless testimonials from parents (and young people) who attest to its value and significance in their lives.

What I didn’t know about “Dr. Franny ” is that she fought non-Hodgkins lymphoma in the early 1990s, at the same time she faced the not-insubstantial challenge of completing her Ph.D. “I’m a warrior,” she said in her video interview. “I decided I was not letting go of this program. There’s an old Japanese proverb: ‘Fall down seven times, get up eight times.’ I never missed a Workshop while I was in treatment.”

Mills-Yerger also appeared in our magazine, in a story that apparently ran so long ago the article is not even archived on our website. So as MaryAnn and I approached her after the luncheon, this good-natured warrior accepted our congratulations and then announced, “It’s time you did another story!” I’d say she’s right.

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.

Rising to the surface

We’re all a bit wigged out by the “Twilight Zone” aspects of various water-related things that have been happening in our lives since June 2, when we discovered it was raining in our office.

Calendar & Directories Editor Mala Blomquist discovered that her family’s garbage disposal had died. When her husband Evan (an IT expert who runs our website) replaced it, he forgot to punch the hole out where the dishwasher drains, so their dishwasher filled with water. (At that point, Mala says, “We decided to go to Lake Pleasant to make peace with the water gods.”)

Operations Director Debbie Davis had a flooding issue in her downtown Phoenix condo. (She also had a dead battery while her car was parked at my house.) “When it rains, it pours,” said Marketing Director MaryAnn Ortiz-Lieb.

We’ve all been talking in water metaphors.

After hastily evacuating of our office with only what we could carry in our cars, we feel like we’re working without an anchor. We’re up you-know-what’s creek without a paddle. We’re drowning in the details related to damage assessment, construction repairs and insurance claims.

As a Pisces, I feel like a fish out of water.

Debbie came to work yesterday with a theory. Water symbolizes change, she suggested. Movement, renewal, cleansing.

I believe she’s right. In many ways, the Great Office Flood of 2010 has become a demarcation point in the history of Raising Arizona Kids — an event that forced us to realize how much we care about our work, our company and the community of people that has come together to form the RAK family.

We’ve had a couple of other “fish or cut bait” moments in our 21-year history.

The first, ironically, had to do with running the business out of my house (which we’re doing now, until we can get back into our office suite). A 1995 story in the business section of the Arizona Republic got some of my elderly neighbors in a snit. Misunderstanding the descriptions in the story, they mistakenly concluded that I was running an operation with 30-some employees out of my home. In fact, the only time I regularly had more than one other person in my home was on Fridays, when we held staff meetings complete with kids, babysitters and snacks. It could have been a play group.

My neighbors (who had my home phone number) didn’t bother to call me to investigate. Instead they called the zoning commission, which sent a guy to my front door threatening to shut down my business.

The fallout forced a premature move from a home-based business to an office-based one. It forced the borrowing of money for phones, computers and operating expenses and created a downward financial spiral from which it took us many years to recover.

The second incident came shortly after that and was, in many ways, even more frightening. MaryAnn, whose gifts as an ethical, well-connected and widely respected sales professional have consistently guaranteed our financial survival, became gravely ill. I’ll never forget the day the call came to our office. MaryAnn had collapsed to the ground while dropping her children at school one morning. She was in the hospital.

Over the course of several days and many tests, we learned that she had a rare and life-threatening case of Valley Fever. For weeks, she was unable to work. As I worried about her and her family, I couldn’t help envisioning this whole business we’d built together collapsing around my feet.

MaryAnn eventually recovered. We survived that scare and we adjusted to the demands of  overhead and a larger budget.

So the Great Office Flood of 2010 is our company’s third potentially catastrophic event. They say “third time’s a charm.” From the way my staff has responded, I can already tell we’ll float through this one just fine.