1. The location. I am the church secretary, and my office is in the same building where the kids go to school. I like being nearby in case they need me, and picking them up at school is as easy as walking down the hall. Plus, it’s only a couple of miles from our house, so I can run out the door with a Zone bar in my mouth and get to work before I’m even done chewing!
2. My hours. I work 8am-4pm every weekday, roughly the same hours that Katie and Caleb are in school, with about a 30 minute buffer on each end. The extra time is perfect for them to get homework done before we leave, and then we can all enjoy family time in the evening.
3. My boss. Michael is fun to work with. We have interesting discussions about spiritual things, and he tries out all his sermon jokes on me ahead of time to see if I laugh. (I laugh at everything, though, so I’m not an especially reliable funny barometer.) He invites me to collaborate with him on projects, and trusts me to do what I say I’m going to do. He understands that my kids are a priority and is very flexible when I have to work around their dentist appointments and sicknesses. He has even given me the day off a couple of times when he knew Paul and the kids were going to be off, too. Oh, and he sometimes buys me sodas. I probably should have put that at the top of the list.
4. Helping people. Often, people from the community call or come in to the office on a quest: for answers, for food, for money, for shelter, for a sense of purpose, for toilet paper. Sometimes I can offer them what they need–bags of groceries from our food pantry, time to talk with Michael, information about the vision and direction of this congregation. Sometimes I don’t have the resources to address their request, but I can help them find out who does. It’s extremely gratifying when someone comes in empty and goes away full. I wish I could do that for everybody.
5. Windows. No, not the operating system. I have giant picture windows covering three of the five walls of my office. They let in the light and gorgeous panoramic views of the beautiful Idaho scenery. Right now, that includes fall colors in about a hundred shades of amazing. Canfield Mountain is framed perfectly in one of the windows, and I love looking out at different times of the year to see it shrouded with fog or capped with snow or, like it is now, covered in a flaming sea of red, gold, and orange. When it rains, I can watch the water beating against the glass and running in rivers across the ground; when it snows, I’m the cozy center of a Norman Rockwell painting, an island of warmth and light adrift in the frozen expanse outside.
6. Summers off. One of the compromises we worked out when Michael and I were negotiating my moving into the secretarial job was matching my work year to the school year. In the summer, a temporary replacement comes in and takes over my work in the office. This past summer it was Ronnie, a college student, and he did a wonderful job. It is important to me to be at home when the kids are off for the summer. They’re young for such a short time, and I wouldn’t trade those long, wonderful summer days together for anything.
7. Connecting with friends. Since I work at the church where I worship, my work life and my private life probably overlap more than most people’s. Many of my good friends come in and out of the office through the course of the day as they work on ministries or plan activities. Jeff, the youth minister, adds to the spirit of fun and camaraderie in our working environment. The teachers at the Christian school downstairs are friends, too, and our paths cross frequently. (Sometimes the consequences of so much togetherness are disturbing, but that’s a risk you take when you get into a prank war with Kathy.)
8. Proofreading. I’m a closet grammarian. Over the years, I have overcome my compulsive need to correct other people’s spelling and grammar… out loud. But I still do it in my head. I can’t seem to stop. Now, I can indulge that annoying know-it-all chirping away inside my brain, because proofreading is part of my job. Oh, the joys of forcing pronouns to agree with their antecedents! The bliss of adding an Oxford comma before a coordinating conjunction! The unutterable delight of banishing inappropriate apostrophes to the seventh circle of Strunk & White!
9. Free lunch. What’s that? You say there’s no such thing as a free lunch? Well, you must not know my friend Patty. She makes the school lunches downstairs, and for the past two years, as an act of pure kindness, she has been offering teachers and church staff members (me!) free lunches. Yep, free. I know; I can’t believe it, either. Taco salad, lasagna, hamburgers, soup, hot ham and cheese–it’s always delicious, and it’s always abundant. This shout out is for you, Patty! You’re awesome!
10. My desk. It’s big. Very big. I could climb up on top of it and do a two-step without falling off. I could put a card table and four chairs on it and still have room for a cooler full of iced sodas. I could stage a production of Phantom of the Opera on it and have room for the Phantom’s Secret Lair underneath it. I don’t do any of those things, though. Mostly I just cover it with papers and decorate it with Happy Meal toys.