Day 4 after the flood – the mystical aspects

    Our kitchen, as it looked yesterday.

    I always hated that linoleum. It was an icky 1970s gold and no matter how many times it was cleaned it still looked dirty. Several times during the past three years I’ve kicked myself for not insisting the landlord replace it when we first moved in.

    And now it’s gone.

    J&M Restoration Inc. pulled it up to get to the water that had seeped below it during last Wednesday’s flood. Replacing the flooring is one of several construction projects that will have to be addressed in the coming weeks.

    As devastating as this experience has been, it has brought a lot of good things to the surface. Least significant, perhaps, is the fact that I’m done with that old linoleum.

    Metaphorically more powerful, I have new flooring under my feet.

    The flood drew a line in the sand that I needed to confront. Am I still in this or not? Am I moving forward or not?

    This would be a perfect time to quit. To throw in the towel. To admit that after 21 years of challenges I could never have imagined, it’s all just too hard. I’m exhausted. Spent.

    The past year and a half has been particularly discouraging. When the recession hit, we lost every source of the retail advertising that had largely kept our company afloat. Even subscription revenue dropped off as parents tightened their belts and gave up discretionary spending.

    We responded with what we called “Plan A.” Budget cuts were made. We started printing our magazine on lighter paper to save costs in production and mailing. We cut our freelance payments in half. We cut our mileage reimbursements in half. We took a lot of other small but significant steps, each time wondering about the larger implications: Will staff members quit? Will writers stop submitting? As I held my breath it suddenly dawned on me that nothing had changed. It was business as usual.

    A few weeks ago, as we perused budgets for June, July and August, I had to face a harsh reality. Advertising revenues were still sliding. We had to move to “Plan B.” Staff would now be affected in a much more dramatic way.

    My voice was shaking when I called my staff together to share the news that, like many media companies (including the Arizona Republic and 12 News), we were going to have to implement furlough time this summer to make up for anticipated losses. It sickened me to even say the words. I saw the faces of these people I’ve grown to love turn serious, stricken. I could barely breathe as I choked out explanations about how it would work.

    I was afraid everyone would blame me — hate me. But that’s not what happened. They understood. They rallied.

    The sense of renewed energy in our office was palpable as my team strengthened their bonds to each other and their commitment to our work. New creativity crept in, new sources of revenue appeared. June furloughs, it appeared, might not be necessary. July also was looking hopeful.

    The ceiling of our conference room as it looked Wednesday morning.

    And then the rainstorm from above hit our office. We were once again victims of something completely beyond our control. I started to feel like the very heavens were screaming at me to give up.

    But the bleakest day in our company’s history turned out, in some mysterious way, to be the best day ever. As I watched my staff squish-squash past me on sopping carpet in their bare feet, as they frantically rescued computers and files, as they ate pizza in an area that looked like a hurricane had hit, as they triaged tasks and priorities to make sure the core business was protected,  I realized something.

    They will do this. Not me. I don’t have to cross a line in the sand because they’ve already done it. They decided. We’re still in this — stronger and more committed than ever.

    A Facebook friend posted a message on my wall yesterday: “…hoping there will be a rainbow at the end of your flood.”

    I already see it.