I'm in my third year of working at Second Helpings.
Working somewhere for three years is not a big milestone for me. I worked at the same nursing home every summer and school breaks for six years. I worked for Houlihan's for eight years and the coffeehouse for over seven. I've worked part time at the Red Key for five and off and on at Marigold for sixteen. If anything, I have a problem letting go.
The job of director of operations at Second Helpings feels like it was made for me. Usually it doesn't feel like work. And some days it feels overwhelming, but mostly it feels just right. I'd never pictured myself working for a not-for-profit agency, or having any kind of office-y job.
This is the first job where I've had my own office. Or desk, chair or telephone extension -- or telephone for that matter. In the restaurant world I always shared an office. When I was a general manager we had a whole desk, but often my work space was crafted from milk crates and broken bar stools.
This is also my first job with any kind of an office culture. Of course the restaurant business has its share of work place drama, but it usually involved a hostess thinking a bus boy was mean or hot -- either way, tears were usually involved.
After years at the coffeehouse I was used to hitting the day running. When I started at Second Helpings I learned about office pleasantries and politics. Co-workers would be standing outside my office discussing manicures and Survivor and my head would be ready to explode thinking -- LIVES TO SAVE! PEOPLE TO FEED! CHOP CHOP CHOP!
I soon learned that we were feeding people and saving lives, but you can take time to stop and smell the nail polish.
I also learned what you can and cannot talk about at work.
Last night's American Idol - okay
The punk band you saw at midnight - not so much
The bottle of wine you and your husband shared at dinner - okay
The front porch beers you shared with a neighbor - umm, no.
The anniversary of Princess Diana's death - okay
The anniversary of Joey Ramone's - maybe, but you'll spend a lot of time explaining who Joey is.
Today was a typical day for me and as they all do, it flew by.
I started the morning by coming to work early to make sure everything was okay. Dad and Mr. Ternet were among the 25 volunteers today and I waved at them on the way out the door.
I attended a committee meeting downtown. From there I went straight to BigMediaCo and gave a talk about Second Helpings. I was pretty nervous (the audience included the publisher of BigSlickCityMagazine and his staff and the director of BigRadioCo and his staff). The talk went well and they laughed and threw money (okay, maybe not the money part, hopefully that will come later).
I drove back to Second Helpings, resisting the grey day temptation to duck in to the coffeehouse on the Circle. Second Helpings was bursting at the seams with big group of high school students volunteering.
I checked email, returned phone messages, rebooted the server and signed checks. I gave a tour to a potential funder and had lunch with Dad --and fifty other people. The students prepare lunch for the volunteers, staff and students each day. That is a great perk -- and why I've gained twenty pounds in the time I've been here.
The afternoon consisted of updating employee files, plunging a toilet, plowing through the stacks of stuff on my desk and taking a phone call from a staff member that may or may not be returning to jail tomorrow (don't ask) and talking to outside council about another employee issue (don't ask again).
Even days like today when I feel like I'm spinning by wheels, I have to look back and realize that we fed 2900 people, educated eleven unemployed adults, rescued 4000 pounds of food and provided a volunteer experience for twenty-five teenagers.
And that was just today.
I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings.