Just Get it Done

Melinda Jo SanchezDon’t be fooled by the big smile, wavy blonde hair, and charming manner. Melinda Jo Sanchez is one tough lady.

She has to be as office manager of the Scripps College Maintenance Department, the person who sees that the inner workings of Scripps buildings are in top shape — from replacing curtains before they’re too worn to painting rooms on schedule to fixing broken fixtures before anyone notices the defect. “If I’m good at my job,” she says, “you don’t know what I do.”

Melinda Jo is a working mother of two who relishes her full-time job — and wouldn’t have it any other way. “I signed up for this,” she says. “I wanted to be a parent.”

Work has been a way of life for Melinda Jo, whose mantra is “just get it done.” From the age of 7 to 14, she lived with her parents on her grandparents’ ranch in the central California foothills above Fresno. While the grandparents had a trailer, her parents lived in a large tent, and she and her older brother each lived in a 6 x 6 foot Army tent, with just enough room for a bed and dresser. There was no electricity and no running water. Television was allowed for one hour each night on a small set hooked up to the car battery.

Her stepfather was a ranch hand and her mother cleaned houses; they bartered their services for food and supplies — real “hippies” according to Melinda Jo. Chores began at 4 a.m., rain or shine, sick or not. She left for school at 5:15 each morning, riding her horse part way before catching a bus.

At 14, she’d had enough of that life. She used her saved babysitting money to buy a one-way Greyhound ticket to Azusa to live with her mother’s sister. Shortly after she arrived, her aunt broke her neck in a car accident, and Melinda was asked to care for her, a huge task since the aunt required round-the-clock nursing. It took three hours just to bathe her. Melinda Jo lost many hours of normal teenage life in order to live there. But, she said, “You just shut up and get your stuff done.”

When she went to Claremont High School for her junior and senior years, Melinda Jo was mocked by one girl for not having designer jeans. She dealt with it in her trademark style: “I can wrestle cows, kill, gut, and butcher animals,” she said. “I learned not to sweat the small stuff.”

Melinda Jo came to Scripps in 1991, after working for a small dress shop in the Claremont Village. One day a customer mentioned an opening in the Scripps dining services office. Melinda Jo applied and was hired as an administrative aide. She moved to the Maintenance Department in 1998 as an employee of Sodexo, the food service and facilities management company.

She and her husband, Ralph, consider themselves both strict parents; they discussed how they wanted to raise their children before starting a family and bought a large house in Corona before either child was born. The couple has what Melinda Jo calls a “cooperative” marriage: “Things fall down if we’re not working together.” Theirs is also a traditional home, with nice furnishings, and on festive occasions Melinda Jo sets a table with china, silver, and linens. She conscientiously works to make a home of comfort and stability for her family, something she did not always have. “I don’t put things away to keep them from the children,” said Melinda Jo. “They need to learn to be careful of nice things.”

The hardest part of being a full-time working mother for Melinda Jo is finding time to play and interact with her kids, Sophia Jo (3) and Luke (6).

She used to come home and be unable to relax until all the housework was done. “I found myself saying, ‘Just a minute, honey,’ too many times.”

Then, she had an awakening: “Luke said, ‘I know you’re doing something, Mommy, but will you play with me for a minute?’”

Melinda Jo realized she’d have to loosen up.

“Now, I do one chore every night so that I can have quality time with them on the weekends.”

She adds wistfully: “I wish someone had told me earlier to do one thing a night. You’ll never get that time back again with your kids. When the kids are asleep, I get things done.”

 

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