Vegetables, Weddings, and Executive Secretaries.

I had a super fantastic weekend full of vacation and no rest. It was wonderful.

Thursday night was a potluck dinner for our CSA (community supported agriculture group) to which Michelle and I brought dee-vine roasted potatoes. (We used dill, rosemary, thyme, garlic, and parsley. They were so freaking good. But I was surprised at how long they took to cook!)

A word about CSAs: I think they’re incredible. You join early in the year, and pay up front for a vegetable share. The farmer gets all (or nearly all) of the money at the beginning of the growing season; theoretically, the debt-cycle that the typical small farmer in America is in can be broken. (The debt cycle is where the farmer takes out a loan at the beginning of the season for equipment, seeds, and operating costs, and hopes that the harvest will be successful enough to cover the debt. This is one of the big reasons so many farmers went broke during the dust bowl and had to leave their homes to become migrant workers.) Around June you start getting organic and seasonal vegetables. This is another good thing: you get organic stuff, which is good for so many reasons I won’t get into it, and you get seasonal vegetables, from a local producer. This saves transportation and storage energy, and more abstractly, it keeps you in touch with the seasons and earth-cycles around your neighborhood. It sounds really crunchy-granola, but I appreciate this so much while living in NYC. This spring I didn’t notice it was nearly summer until I saw that the trees around me had full loads of leaves in them – and when we stopped getting so much lettuce and started getting other summer vegetables. Our CSA farmer lives about 1½ hours up the Hudson Valley from New York City. She has a family farm which she works with her husband and her children. She’s a cool lady with a great attitude towards life. She pays her kids to work for her, instead of making them. She is entirely supported by her 5 NYC CSAs. And she came to our potluck!

It’s funny when the two of the few things that make me want to stay in NYC are our great CSA and our snazzo Spanish Harlem apartment.

Then, my friend Julie from school got married this weekend, and I was in her bridal party. So it was a fantastic excuse to take Friday off – especially as I have been working so hard and late that I wasn’t able to run any of my pre-wedding errands last week or the week before. I had my lashes dyed and my eyebrows waxed. I went to the Museum of Natural History to buy jewelry for the wedding. I got a manicure, and immediately messed it up. I got a pedicure and didn’t hurt it too much. And then I headed out for the parties on Long Island. And boy, were there parties. There was the rehearsal dinner, which took like 4 hours, and was punctuated by a speech made by the grooms father that was so long and happy and poignant that it wore me out. There was the hair appointment that lasted for 3 hours (for 7 girls, so not bad, really). There was trying to make Julie eat something before she got her makeup done, so she wouldn’t pass out. And there was the wedding – it was beautiful, and I didn’t trip down the aisle or anything. Me not taking communion wasn’t awkward at all. I fit into my bridesmaid dress despite the month of food and bad eating I’d done after the fitting. The reception was magnificent and they took us in when it was cold and rainy, even though we were 1½ hours early. And the hors d’ovres? Yum. The families all know how to have a great time, with the dancing and kissing and hugging and clapping and smiling. It was a really good weekend. I felt like I was on vacation!

Then, today, I got back to work and dove back into Lake Nasty and the impending document publication. There are “tiger team” (rowr!) meetings coming up which include the primary authors and commenting agencies, and I’m not going to have to go to them. I have very mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, they’re mostly “these are how we implemented your comments, is it OK, and by the way, this other agency said this, just so you know” meetings. I don’t imagine I’d need to be there, because our editor will be there, and El Bosso, and the client project manager. I don’t need to be there to take notes, or edit documents, and truth be told I haven’t actually read every single word in these reports. But at the same time, I feel like I’m doing all of the work with none of the glory. It’s pretty sad when a tiger team meeting = glory.

Here’s a few of the silly (and irrational) things I thought when I realized I wasn’t going:

  1. So, well, what’s my job again?
  2. No glory. (See above statement regarding glory.) That’s ok. I’ll just stay here and format tables. I excel at excel!
  3. Oh, he just doesn’t want me to go because I’m no fun to travel to Albany with, always running off to stay with my family! It’s a conspiracy to keep me from my familial seat!

The thing is, and this is where I get whiny about my job again, I don’t really know what my job here is. I didn’t know what it was before, and then the Big Company bought us, and now I really don’t know what my job is.

This is my work timeline:

I started just out of college. I was regular junior level staff – El B.’s private engineer. I went to project management meetings with the client every week, and wrote big book reports about potential hazardous waste sites around Lake Nasty.

After working here for a year I started to feel kind of dissatisfied and bored. I spoke to El B. and told him that I needed more responsibility, and also to feel a little bit of attachment to the project. So he told me that he’d felt I was his deputy project manager, and that he would give me more responsibility. He did, a little. I told my mom I was deputy, and she said I was Deputy Dawg.

After working here for two years, I started to feel a little dissatisfied again. I felt like this deputy stuff was platitudes, and really meant “someone to drive to Albany with for monthly project meetings.” I got a little upset, and a little stressed out, and spoke to El B. seriously this time. He told me there was a big hazardous waste site that was super nasty and was a continuing source of contamination for Lake Nasty. He told me I could manage that site. I was so excited! That was a big deal. He also said he’d need a lot of help from me to work on the Lake Nasty documents. And then we zipped into that process, and it’s been a whirlwind year.

Except they cancelled the monthly project meetings. And I didn’t know what was going on in any other aspects of the project. And I spoke to El B. about it at about year three, asking what I should do when people asked me about other aspects of the project that were going on. He said he didn’t have the time to fill me in, and I should call this other person if I wanted to know. And that’s when I started to distance myself a little from work here. I am not the deputy. I never have been, really, except for maybe a nine month period when the progress meetings were really useful and comprehensive. I’m no less micromanaged than the other people here. So, now, with no glory and only hard work, I am not sure what I should do about this job.

As I was compiling the hardcopy of the report and getting it ready for other people to take to the glamorous meeting this week, I realized that an executive secretary might do what it is that I’m doing now. If I were an executive secretary, I might take notes at meetings. I might edit excel tables. I might edit text. I might write stuff for my boss to check and elaborate on. The only difference would be the salary, and the wardrobe. If I were an executive secretary I might make twice what I make now, and I’d be able to afford the wardrobe. Rowr!