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The Final Adventures of an Administrative Assistant

I have been with the AAVSO for two and a half years as the Administrative Assistant.  And what an adventure it has been!  I've been to three fall meetings, including the Centennial.  I’ve experienced the introduction of CHOICE courses, the Adopt A Variable Star Program (AAVSP), and the move to the online forums.  I’ve worked with our publications, our store, our website, and our social media.  I’ve biked to HQ in pouring rain and slippery ice.  I've sent out countless mailings and emails, and met many of the great people with whom I correspond.  And I’ve gotten to work with some of the most dedicated, caring, and understanding coworkers I could have asked for.

At the same time, I have been attending graduate school to become a school psychologist.  This is my final year, which consists of a full-time internship.  I have been coming to the AAVSO after the school day ends, and the other staff have been extremely flexible in answering the phone and the door when I am not here.  Sadly, holding both positions has become too exhausting for me, and I have decided that I need to leave the AAVSO’s administrative work in the capable hands of someone new.

My last major project before I left was to create and order the seasonal card that we send to our members and observers each year.  This is my third time coordinating this mailing and it was obvious that we wanted to feature Nova Del 2013, so the process was easy this time around.  Arne Henden and Mike Simonsen gathered a few options for the image, and we decided to use one that John Chumack graciously offered.  Sara Beck created the light curve using VStar.  I put the images together with the text on the card using Adobe InDesign.  Elizabeth Waagen helped me make some visual edits, and Arne okayed the final print.  Will McMain wrote a script to find the addresses for everybody in our database who should receive the card.  Like much of what we do at HQ, this was quite the team effort!

Once the card was ordered and the address labels printed, it was supposed to be just a matter of waiting until everything arrived so we could send it out.  I always enjoy these big mailings, because although they involve a lot of monotonous envelope stuffing, I also get the chance to listen to longtime staff telling stories about the AAVSO’s past – what it was like to work with Janet Mattei, how past meetings have almost gone awry, the way the organization has adapted to rapid changes in technology over the years.

But of course, there is always some kind of excitement here at HQ.  A few days after the cards were supposed to arrive, the online tracking information mysteriously disappeared from the FedEx website, so I called them.  After some investigation, the woman on the other end of the line told me in a bewildered voice that our lovely cards were destroyed in a truck fire.  Oh no!

I called the printing company at the height of their own busiest season.  After a long hold, I was reassured that we would receive the cards within a week, but then that week stretched into two.  I called again and was told the cards wouldn't be ready until Christmas Eve!  But I know the power of an interesting story, and I told the person on the line about the truck fire that destroyed the first batch of cards.  They agreed to do what they could to speed up our order.  In the meantime, I regaled the staff with numerous emails about the progression of the new prints.  (The fourth email was sent when we’d finally gotten tracking for the new package, with the subject line “Holiday mailing part IV: A New Hope”.  Working with a bunch of nerds who understand my references has also been a perk of this job!)

When the cards finally arrived late last week, everybody at HQ – Arne, Elizabeth, Will, Mike Saladyga, Matt Templeton, Rebecca Turner, Doc Kinne, and I – took some time out to help stuff envelopes when we could.  I sat around the table with some of them, making conversation and enjoying the rare downtime.  I thought about how the story of “That year when the cards were destroyed in a fire” will be passed down to my successor, as both an entertaining story and a reassurance that things always seem to work out no matter what obstacles we face.

It will be hard to say goodbye to the AAVSO.  I have loved my time here.  I hope to stay involved somehow, once my workload has lightened a little.  You can't get rid of me that easily!  Until then, I wish everybody well in the new year and I thank you for accepting me within your niche.

AAVSO 49 Bay State Rd. Cambridge, MA 02138 617-354-0484