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.

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One response to “Rising to the surface

  1. What a shame your neighbors chose to do an end-around and cut you out of the zoning conversation completely. I think that one major thing lacking in this society is the willingness to directly with people, especially when it comes to difficult conversations.

    On a similar note, as I was sititng in the waiting room for my son’s doctor’s appointment this morning, I had the pleasure of reading the RAK article on Larry Winget. Talk about a guy who’s not afraid to say what needs to be said! Kudos to you for running an article that doesn’t just tickle the ears of your readers, but that requires some real self-examination. As a public school teacher and a parent, I enjoyed his insight.

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