I received an email earlier this week inviting me to attend a marketing meeting at Hilger Hammond, and it reminded me that I’m right on the brink of being completely done working at Ben’s firm. Just a few more finishing touches on a final project, and I will be shifting my attention away from creating marketing pieces and orchestrating client gift baskets to studying for the GMAT and prepping my classes for the fall.
It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed the last four years working as a “Special Projects Manager”. In fact, thinking back over my time there, I have so many wonderful memories…and a few embarrassing ones. I remember my first week on the job, I was a little rusty with my “workplace protocol”, and found myself yelling a question to Ben while he was in the bathroom. Yeah, that was awkward. But I quickly found my “seat on the bus” – jumping into projects no one else had the time to do, whether it was boxing up closed files or creating an ad for a charity event. I loved the variety, the opportunity to try new things, and the immediate impact of my actions. Track down an executive desk for an associate on Craig’s List and the next week, it’s in the office. Suggest revisions to the website and they are implemented the next day. It was intensely satisfying.
But one of the best things about working at Hilger Hammond was the lunch dates that Ben and I were able to squeeze in while I was working. They have become more scarce the last six months as Ben’s workload has picked up, but the times we were able to head over to XO for Chinese or take Jimmy John’s to the rooftop table in the summer? Priceless.
I’ll be honest. I think I got the better deal out of the gig. I am leaving with great relationships, more confidence in my ability to re-enter a more traditional workplace, and some solid hours logged hanging out with Ben. What more could I ask for, really? I’m just glad that they let me stick around for so long!
What started out as, “Hey, can you come up and help us get organized?” turned into four years of time that I am truly thankful for.
Today I took my carload of baskets…
…grabbed my 12 page MapQuest direction packet and a container of orange slices, and hit the road. I always have huge expectations about my multi-tasking abilities during this delivery escapade. I think to myself, “Wow – four hours in the car – I can strategize about next year, ponder my Christmas present list, and brainstorm about my long-term goals.” What I forget is that between jumping out of the car every 10 minutes or so at yet another business park and making sure I don’t miss any turns, it is just about all I can do to get the baskets delivered.
But, I did accomplish a few things:
1. I listened to an entire episode of Fresh Air. This requires a major celebration, because 1) I love listening to Fresh Air, and 2) I usually only catch about three minutes before the kids yelp for me to turn on “kid music”. Job well done, Rach.
2. I listened to my first batch of Christmas songs. In all the busyness lately, I didn’t realize they had started playing it! This is also a big deal, because 1) I also love listening to Christmas music, and 2) There seems to be some backlash against starting to celebrate Christmas too early, but I would probably listen to Christmas music all year round if I could. Plus, I just love belting out “White Christmas” with Bing.
3. I decided that I am pro-receptionist. This is kind of out of vogue, considering most of the businesses I visited had a bell to ring or an extension to call instead of a human being. However, I had some tough questions for the empty lobbies. Why doesn’t anyone want to work out there anymore? Why does everyone look so surprised when they come out to see why the bell is dinging? Ben’s office has a lobby without a receptionist (for now), and I think I might sit out there if I’m working to make those visitors feel at home.
4. I consumed half a container of orange slices. A perennial favorite of mine. Aren’t you proud?
5. I didn’t get lost – not once. That is a HUGE accomplishment for this kinda-sorta directions-challenged type of person. It’s true. But wow, does MapQuest do a good job of taking a huge list of stops and re-ordering them in the best possible way. I found myself on all sort of random roads and shortcuts to get me where I needed to go, but I got through it in enough time to hit the carpool lane at school.
6. I pondered why people kept telling me to “have fun” while I delivered the baskets, like the job is all tootsie pops and cotton candy. I suppose it was a bit better than a kick in the pants, but I won’t be applying for a delivery position anytime soon. They have a tough, tiring job those delivery folks, that is for sure. Plus they have to look at a lot of empty lobbies…
7. I wondered if I would have been treated differently if they knew that I wasn’t just the delivery girl, but worked at the firm and actually made the gift baskets. Maybe next year I will wear a Hilger Hammond jacket with a name tag that says “Rachel Hammond, Gift Basket Maker” and see what happens.
No Christmas lists, no amazing insights, no strategic planning…just a sigh of relief and a sore hip flexor. Baskets 2011 is in the books, baby.
I spent the afternoon today at the office, working on my 3rd annual November project…the Thanksgiving client baskets for my husband’s law firm. It is almost impossible to believe that I have bagged, ribboned, wrapped, taped, and delivered like a crazy person for three Novembers in a row, but here I am, once again.
I have learned a lot in the last three years, like the cheapest place to buy basket filler and cello bags and when to hit up Michael’s for 50% off fall baskets. I have also learned that no matter how early I start, there is always a mad rush to the finish.
But one thing that basket time always reminds me is how unexpected life is. When I was a teenager, helping my mom wrap up baskets for Christmas gifts, I never could have imagined that I would be wielding giant rolls of cellophane 20 years later. It makes me wonder what my current experiences are preparing me for in the next stage of my life…planning events, a television interview, writing regularly, creating marketing materials…who knows.
I used to think that I had to have everything figured out; that my career had to start and end in the same universe. But instead I have been forced to realize that you just never know what your path will look like, and you just need to soak up as much as possible in the meantime. Long term planning is obviously important, but sometimes the best laid plans end up crumpled up in the trash can replaced by other…usually better things.
I left the office at 4 p.m. today with the end in sight. Only 25 more baskets left to wrap and 38 more to deliver before Thanksgiving. Ben told me tonight that before I know it, I will have done the baskets for 10 years. Maybe he’s right…but I won’t buy a lifetime supply of wired ribbon yet…just in case.
Last fall, I wrote about my adventures making client gift baskets for Ben’s firm in Cherne Life Skills. This year, I agreed to reprise my role as the resident gift basket maker, and I quickly found myself elbow deep in wired ribbon and cellophane bags. There were moments where I questioned my sanity, as the corners of the laundry room filled up with stacks of wicker baskets and boxes of gummi pumpkins piled up around our dining room table, but thankfully, it went surprisingly well. This was, in large part, because of the lessons I learned last year, and having more uninterrupted sleep probably helped my decision-making skills. For example, last year, I toured every Target in town…multiple times…to track down enough truffles to fill the candy jars, but this year I was much more efficient.
So, if you ever need to make and deliver 35 gift baskets, here are a few tips…
- The website www.candyfavorites.com has the best deals on large amounts of candy, plus they have free shipping over $70. I used them to buy 15 pounds of gummi pumpkins…seriously good gummis.
- I never realized how good the deals would be at the end of a season. I found fall-themed baskets at Michael’s and Jo-Ann Fabrics for 60% off, which saved me a ton of money. At one point, I went to buy four baskets, and when the cashier told me the total was $12.49, I didn’t believe it until I saw the receipt. Plus, all the ribbon was 60% off as well.
- An eleven pound box of brown kraft paper shred will amazingly NOT fill up 35 baskets, even if it looks like it will fill up your entire home when you open the box and it starts spilling out all over the place. I found mine at www.papermart.com for $16.50…great deal!
- If you have to make 25 deliveries in one day, mapquest has an awesome multiple stop feature so you can map out the entire route. It does not, however, tell you if a road is completely shut down for construction without any detour signs. That was fun times…
- Shipping multiple packages? I was thoroughly impressed with Postal Annex. The worker helped me bring in my packages, found me the best shipping prices, and I didn’t even have to wait in line. Plus, when I tweeted about my positive experience, they sent me a $5 coupon.
When I married a lawyer, I never ever imagined that there would be a situation where we would work together. But now that Ben is a partner in a small law firm, there are plenty of tasks that nobody has time to do, but still need to get done. You know, things like tracking down a cleaning company, redesigning the letterhead, and boxing up closed files. So, after I wrapped up my semester in May, I started heading downtown one afternoon a week to work for my new boss…Ben.
After being out of an office environment for the past five years, the first few mornings were a little awkward…kind of like wobbling around in a pair of high heels after wearing flip flops for years. I had to chuckle at some of the habits that I had to break…
Like…even though I am constantly interrupted while going to the bathroom at home, it is probably not the best idea to ask someone a work related question while they are taking care of some business.
And…just because I normally have to talk loudly to be heard over the din of three kids doesn’t mean I have to shout when talking to one rational adult in a quiet office.
But, I quickly got into the groove, curtailing my “mommy quirks” (for the most part) and feel like I have been able to contribute in small ways here and there.
On top of that, there have been a few side benefits that I wasn’t planning on, like my absolute joy at being able to sit in an office for a couple of hours, working on a project, IN COMPLETE SILENCE. Awesome.
Ben and I have also been able to go on a few lunch dates, and we don’t even talk (much) about work. At first, I was grabbing a snack before I came in, but now I just take the hour off if I can, and we hit up one of the many downtown lunch joints. Super awesome.
There is one more benefit that I just realized this week after we talked about whether or not I was going to keep working in the fall. I was being a little wishy-washy about it, thinking about school schedules and my shaky level of sanity. But then, I thought about how cool it was to be connected to something that is really important to Ben…to understand what he is going through, to “see” the stressors that he faces on a daily basis, and be able to listen to him with a different perspective.
I will never be an attorney (which is a good thing), but the chance to have a (very small) part in the journey of Hilger Hammond is definitely worth it.
I just have to remember not to pull out my pack of baby wipes for everyone after lunch…
— Post From My iPad
I was watching Project Runway the other day, and the one of the final three designers, Carol Hannah, was talking about where she learned to sew. Her grandma was a seamstress, and while she worked, Carol would make little clothes for her dolls.
It was a cute story, especially because a lot of her work has a whimsical look that could hail back to her doll dressing days. It also made me think about what life skills that I took away from my childhood.
Everyone has them…an unique set of skills that you learned as a result of being part of your family. For example, one of Ben’s skills is being able to package items to withstand a trip through a hurricane. The guy is a whiz with packing peanuts and strapping tape, and he owes it to his Dad’s tutelage on packaging.
My Cherne life skills? They include being able to make a mean pan of lasagna, concocting the best punch ever, and assorted crafty skills. In a pinch, I could make you a fabric covered photo album, complete with lace trim, a puffy paint shirt, or even a clear hair bow filled with sequins and glitter. (Can you tell that all these projects were from around 1990?)
Another life skill that has come in handy recently is composing gift baskets. Christmas time in the Cherne household always included a monumental process of taking bags of holiday napkins, CDs, gourmet treats, cookie mixes, and other trinkets…and sorting, arranging, and wrapping them into baskets. The amount of paper scrunch, cellophane, and wired ribbon that went into the fleet of baskets that ended up on the dining room floor to be passed out to my Dad’s coworkers or to the pastoral staff at our church…pretty amazing.
At first, my only contribution was testing out the candy and cleaning up the debris afterwards, but as I got older, I learned the tricks of the trade. Little did I know that I would put them into action years later for Ben’s firm client gifts. I had to get a lot of telephone counseling along the way from my Mom, the basket master, but they turned out pretty decent. (I told my Mom that I gave myself a B+)
Here are a few pictures;
Thanks Mom! I couldn’t have done it without you, and I’m sure that this life skill will be passed down again. The kids already have the candy tasting down pat…
Post From My iPhone