Thursday, June 30, 2011


So I haven't been blogging much lately (obviously.)  I could tell you it's because our days and nights have been filled with all sorts of activities.  Or that we've been going non-stop since Father's Day weekend - shuffling kids to and from camp, heading to the lake for weekends from Fridays - Sundays, trying to keep up with basic household duties (read:  laundry) on the weeknights we are home. 

Or that we've started swimming lessons for the kids - adding in another evening activity every night this week (and next) in an effort to teach our two older children (who have a false sense of security in the pool) to swim while introducing our youngest to the fun of 'kicks' and 'scoops' as he learns the basics. 

Or that I've been extremely busy at the office - finishing up projects that expire today (end of the federal fiscal year) and preparing (gasp) to tackle my nemesis and start re-writing grants. 

Or that we've spent too many a late night watching the Gamecocks sweep the college world series and once again take home the national championship prize.  (Something that was so cool to watch - something we paid dearly for with lack of sleep compounded with sleepy/grouchy kids in the mornings.)

Or that we've been knee deep in one of the worst parts of parenting - potty training.  Mr. Jack will go potty all day long when you take him - but rarely recognizes that he has to go on his own - and has yet to do a Number Two (if you catch my drift) in the potty.  Yes, the little stinker is very much like his big sister in that respect - will sit on the potty - tinkle - announce 'I'm done' - get up, flush, wash hands, resume playing - and then immediately do the deed in his undies.  Lovely.

But in all honesty, that's only part of it.  Every free moment I've had (which isn't all that often) and most all of my thoughts no matter the ongoing task have been consumed, preoccupied really, with something else.  So I've been busy researching, reading, scouring the internet, planning, and yes, daydreaming just a bit.  With what?  I can't say.  I can't spill the beans.  And if you know me at all - you know that is driving me crazy. 

So.  What is there to write if I can't purge the thoughts of my heart and soul...

Well... let's see.

How about the sweetest sound ever?  Hearing James and Jack sing to me in the van en route to pick up Anna in the afternoons - following along to the words from the Pandamania VBS CD the older two received this year - or at least some version of the words from our little music-man Jack.  But when they sing loudly and whole-heartedly to one of the greatest hymns I've ever heard 'Then Sings My Soul' - it's precious.  PRECIOUS.

And how about my daughter, my darling girl, who is driving me t-total crazy with her behavior lately?  It's completely disheartening as a mother to look at your child and while you know that you love them to the depths of your being, you really don't like them.  Well, the behavior at least - which translates to the child when it's never ending.

Same old battle we've had with this child since she was old enough to exert her opinion - same old battle we'll have with her until she's grown and out of our care.  I have to believe that one day we'll find the trick to really get through to her.  Until then, I'll be the mother pulling her hair out and talking to herself like a crazy person in the corner.

In all seriousness, I think Deonne and I are coming to the realization that she is truly just an abnormally smart and advanced child, and as such has special needs.  She is SO bright. She is SO smart.  She reads and understands and memorizes SO many things - that I truly believe a lot of her lack of obedience and paying attention stems from the fact that her brain never shuts off.  Seriously. 

I don't want to be that mom - the one who thinks her kid walks on water and is perfect in every way.  Which is why I rarely talk about this topic with friends, lest they think I'm one of those moms.  And in all actuality - I think my daughter is the farthest thing from it.  Rather, I tend to reside on the other end of the spectrum and often times disregard her skills as they are overshadowed by the negative behavior problems.  But I wonder, how many kids go into kindergarten barely putting sentences together - and come out reading (and comprehending) books at the 4th grade level?  How many kids sit and teach themselves how to do multiplication - because they're bored?  How many kids will pick out a book about the solar system from the library, look at the diagram on the front inside cover, and come up with the statement 'it must be really cold on Uranus.'  And when I asked her why it must be cold on that particular planet - the response?  'Because' insert eye rolling 'Uranus is so far away from the sun.'  And how many kids can completely memorize the script to a movie (example: Tangled) after watching it twice?  TWICE??

We'll have to keep a close eye out on that one ...


So, I'll stop blathering on and on.  Clearly this post is all over the place...I realize that.  What I really want to write about I can't - or rather - shouldn't.  And if I do go ahead and 'draft' now - I'll probably accidentally hit 'publish' and then be in deep doo doo.  I'm so looking forward to writing all about our newest, well, adventure - let's call it that - in the very near future.  I hope.  I guess it all depends on how the cards fall in the next few weeks.

Say a prayer I get that far...

To be continued.....

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Let the rollercoaster ride resume...

I can't go into a lot of details about this.  I can't disclose a lot of what is happening.  And I can't elaborate.  So don't ask.

What I can tell you is that the emotional rollercoaster our family was on last summer has once again resumed.  And I seem to have lucked out once again - my ticket seems to hold a seat on the first car of the train.  You know - the one with the clear view of the incredible peaks and the jaw-dropping valleys.

So potentially some big ups and surely some downs are forthcoming - along with lots of decisions to be made.  But hopefully, this time, at the end of the ride, all five members of our family will be happy and settled and expanding our horizons.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Father's Day 2011

As noted in my last post, we spent Fathers Day weekend out at Deonne's parent's lake house.  The kids had a fabulous time - swimming, boating, playing with their cousins, paddle boating, watching movies, and staying up way to late.  We enjoyed the chance to relax, slow down, not look at the many unfinished projects laying around our house, and just spend time together.  Deonne took the kids fishing first thing Sunday morning.  James didn't even change out of his beloved Transformer pajamas before he grabbed his shoes and headed to the edge of the lake to dig worms with his dad.

What a fun morning - sitting on the dock, in the sunshine, fishing with Daddy.  With pink Barbie fishing rod... of course.

Even Jack got in on the action - and was very excited to get out his brand new Cars fishing pole that he received for his birthday.  Unfortunately, while Deonne was trying to set up his line and tie on the hook, Jack dropped his reel in the lake.  So much for fishing. 

No matter - he got to 'fish' and practice 'casting' by waving his rod around.  Note to anyone who happens to be around Jack when he's fishing - be prepared to duck.  Quickly.

James and Anna both liked the idea of fishing....but were discouraged they didn't obtain the catch of the day.  They grew bored of sitting and watching their little bobbers (is that what you call them - the plastic floaty things?) go up and down on the waves....and just couldn't understand the draw of sitting still for hours on a dock with nothing to do.  I tried to explain the merits of fishing from Deonne's perspective - hanging out with a friend, whiling away the hours, probably with a cooler of beverages nearby - but in all honesty, I agree with the kids.  I've never had much patience for fishing.

Jack thoroughly enjoyed his first fishing lesson.  I think out of the three - he would have gladly stayed the longest - swinging his rod around and trying to cast his hook  (we did let him use James' rod when James eventually gave up.)  But the tiny sharp hook flying around every time he cast became a hazard.  So we moved on to other things...but not before posing for a picture. 

The kids and I made this platter for Deonne - that little blue circle in the middle is supposed to be a plate...and if you look really closely, you'll see the kids' names next to their hands.  It was hard to figure out how to get three kids hand prints on one platter - especially now that they are getting bigger.  I think it turned out pretty cute - and can't wait to use it the next time D grills.

And a few other little gifts from the kids - including some books.  The kids love giving us books about moms and dads - and having us read them over and over.  I love that too.  :)

One of Jack's favorite songs these days is 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight.'  It's on a few different CDs the kids have in a few different versions.  No matter the style - Jack immediately starts bobbing his head, dancing around, clapping his hands, and moving to the beat.  So when we happened upon a father's day card with music - with 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight' no less - we knew Jack had to give it to his daddy.

And, as expected, upon giving the card to his daddy, he immediately took it back, and proceeded to dance all around the porch, bobbing and clapping and wiggling to the beat.  Precious.

It was a really nice Father's Day weekend.  And the best part - Deonne had a lovely time with the kids - doing the things he likes best - spending time with family, fishing, boating, playing games, fiddling with his charcoal smoker and cooking up a pile of ribs, and reading the hand made cards the kids made him. 

My children are truly blessed beyond their comprehension to have such a wonderful dad - someone who not only takes care of the big stuff like paying the mortgage and putting food on the table - but who gets down on the floor with them to play Matchbox cars and help untangle Barbie's hair.  He reads to them every night - and tucks them into bed with a hug and a kiss and a 'sweet dreams.'  I couldn't have asked for a better father for my children - and someday, years from now - they'll truly realize just how special their father is.

Of course I wish I'd been able to share this time with my own family - with my own Daddy - but I have to believe he was watching us and smiling down on us from Heaven.

Monday, June 20, 2011

My Watery Heritage

I come from a long line of seamen. My mother’s family were all fishermen - originally off the coast of Sicily and eventually out of the San Francisco bay after they immigrated to America. My maternal ancestors, all the way through much of my grandfather’s life, spent their days at sea. It’s actually a neat history – if you ever happen to be in San Francisco, and brave enough to muddle your way through what has become an overpriced and tacky tourist attraction along the waterfront, and actually make it down to the wharf (hence the name, Fisherman’s Wharf), you’ll find a path led by historical markers that tells the tale of the Italian fisherman and how they had an important place in the development of the city. There’s a teeny tiny wooden chapel there, right on the dock, dedicated to those fisherman and their families. I know it sounds cheesy, but it actually gave me chill bumps and brought a tear to my eye to think that my family – my grandfather – and his father before him – had a hand in that history.

There’s a lot of nautical history on my father’s side of the family as well. I’m not entirely sure where it started – as I’m not as clear on my father’s history as I am my mother’s – but I do know that my dad grew up around the water. His father was very much into boating – more of the recreational/party boating than commercial fishing – but boating nonetheless. A few years ago, after my dad passed away, I had the courage to dig through a huge box of family photos. Photos, that I might add in full disclosure, I didn’t ask to take after his passing – rather took out of the house he then shared with my stepmother – a decision I’ve never regretted.

Anyway, it was like sifting through an archaeological dig of my father’s history. There were faded and bleached photos of my brother and I from the late ’70’s and early ‘80’s (and by the way mom, WHAT were you thinking with my early childhood hair cut?), pictures of various vacations my dad had taken, photos of my mom and dad together from the early years of their marriage, and finally, in the bottom of the box, several old albums filled with images of my grandfather and grandmother. Those black construction paper filled pages were lovely to look through – I found loads of pictures of my grandparents in what must have been the pre-children era of their marriage. Photos of them having a picnic meal with friends on the shores of one of the Puget Sound islands – their cruiser boat pulled up on the beach in the distance. Then, pictures of my dad and his siblings, with their matching tow-head blond hair and scrawny legs, standing proudly in front of their dad’s cabin cruiser the ‘Kendonmar’ – named for my Uncle Ken, my dad (Don), and aunt (Margaret – although she’s gone through most of her life by her second name ‘Susan.’)

My dad’s early childhood was spent in the boating world. They lived in Bellingham, WA – and my grandfather (so I’m told) simply adored boating. In 1950, he was the commodore of the Bellingham Yacht Club – and the few photos that remain of him all involve either his commodore cap, his boat, or some combination of the two. I guess that’s where my own dad began his love of water – and boating – and the social aspect that can accompany it. Unfortunately, my grandfather passed away when my dad was 10 years old – after which my grandmother sold the Bellingham house, the boat, and moved to the Bay Area (California) where she could procure a higher paying teaching job (where my dad eventually met my mom in high school – and the rest they say – is history.)

But that love of boating and freedom that comes with navigating the open seas was never lost on my dad. When I was almost four – he and my mom moved back to his home state – except this time to the east side versus Puget Sound. The first thing he did upon arrival? Buy a boat. I don’t remember a whole lot about that boat – except that it was really small. I don’t think we had it very long before he traded it up for a Bayliner cruiser with a flying bridge - and officially named it the “Krisdav” – for my brother (David) and I – much like the boat of his childhood.

Oh the hours we spent on that boat. Every weekend during the summer we boated – if we weren’t taking weekend trips with the yacht club my parents had joined – then we were at least out all day on Saturday and Sunday – going up and down the Columbia and Snake rivers – just cruising around, water skiing, grilling out on the back deck, making merry with friends. At Christmas my parents were part of the annual lighted boat parade – and they’d festoon our boat with loads of Christmas lights and parade up and down the river to the oohs and aahs of the greater Tri-City community. My dad l-o-v-e-d that boat with every sense of the word. And he loved everything associated with it – the friends and festivities at the yacht club (where he followed his father’s footsteps and became commodore) – and I think that sense of freedom on open waters. Several ‘big’ family vacations entailed mom and dad hauling the Krisadav over the Cascade mountains to the Bellingham marina – where we’d take off on two week vacations around Puget Sound.

Sounds nice doesn’t it? The romantic notion of a family toodling around the islands, crabbing and fishing and visiting different ports of call…what fun, right? Right. Take a family of four and stick them in a tiny boat for two weeks – and it becomes very close quarters. But we were kids, my brother and I, and it was one huge adventure. We got to be ‘first’ and ‘second’ mate – taking turns leaping from the boat when we’d pull into a marina – racing eachother to see who could tie the knots the fastest and the tightest to the mooring cleats.

We loved our time pulling fresh crabs out of the sea and steaming them right on the docks. And the sounds of the waves lapping against the boat was a lovely way to be lulled to sleep, while the sound of the gulls searching for their breakfast was a wonderful way to start our days. Looking back, those were some good family times – some of the happiest I remember when we were a family of four.

After my parents divorced, my mom had no interest in boating. Truth be told, I think she thought the Krisdav and the accompanying yacht club membership had a lot to do with the dissolution of her marriage to my dad. Of course there were other contributing problems, but they couldn’t seem to work them out – and rather than face them together – dad always seemed to head to the yacht club where he’d hang out with his pals. So when the two split, and I ended up staying with my mom, the majority of my boating days came to an end. I missed that time with my dad – and through a long and troubled series of events – he ended up moving all around the country – with not a lot of stability in one place. But wherever he went, the Krisdav went with him, and he’d find some place to ride the ‘open seas’ – no matter his geographic location.

And over that time, I lost my sea legs. The kid who eagerly hopped from boat to boat, from boat to dock and back again, who couldn’t wait to jump in the water and swim until shriveled fingers and toes resulted became timid, distant, and not too interested in being on the water. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because I missed my dad so much – and the thought of being ‘nautical’ without him felt like some sort of betrayal. Perhaps it’s because I wanted to just distance myself so much from those blissfully ignorant times of my childhood when I thought life couldn’t get any better than sitting around a campfire with my mom, dad, and brother – bellies full of fresh steamed crab – belting out campfire songs at the top of our lungs.

I realized this weekend just how much I missed the water. We’ve been spending the better part of the weekend at Deonne’s parent’s lake house. They are so generous to let us stay here – to swim and fish and play in the water, and yes, go boating on their pontoon boat. We had the kids out yesterday morning – just driving around – looking at lake houses and fellow boaters and fishermen. I looked into the faces of each of my children and saw nothing but pure joy. Anna perched at the front of the boat – the wind blowing her hair – pretending to be Ariel or some other watery princess, no doubt. James – on his knees at the side of the boat – searching the patterns in the waves and watching the sprays – something I used to do as a kid. Jack, just grinning from ear to ear – happy as a clam to feel the breeze and the sun on his face and point out all boats he saw. (He spent most all of the time we weren’t on the boat pointing to it and saying ‘I wanna go on da big boat.’)

I started to remember the summer days of my childhood – and the hours upon hours that I spent doing just the same thing. Feeling the hot sun on my face and the wind in my hair – with the spray from the waves on my fingertips.

It felt like home. And after all this time, I came to the realization that boating and the water – well, it’s just a part of me. Not only do I come from a long line of seamen, but I grew up on the water. It’s in my blood. And I’m blessed beyond measure to be able to share this love, the sense of freedom that comes with a wide span of open water – with my children.

And to my dad – on this Father’s Day Sunday – I wish I could share this realization with you. I wish I could show you that your grandchildren have the same feeling of pure unadulterated joy – and have fully inherited your love of water. I hope your Heaven consists of calm seas – and smooth sailing. I miss you. And I love you. And I thank you – for showing me the wonderful world of the sea.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Few Favorites....

These are just a sampling of some of the pictures we received from Brooke Turner.  She rocks.  I don't know how I'll ever decide which ones to enlarge!

Something Happy This Way Comes...

So- how about some random happy pictures? I could look at these all day - and never tire of seeing my children and their lovely smiles... and be reminded of their silly antics.

So here is the Month of May - in synopsis version - because I'm too terribly behind in blogging to do individual posts - here are some highlights:

James graduates from preschool with a ceremony and party.

We ended the Team Buffalo soccer season with a pizza party at our house for all of James' fellow players and their families.  They had a wonderful time, ate loads of pizza and fresh strawberries, and drank lemonade and cake and sugar cookies I made shaped and iced like soccer balls. The highlight, though, was the award ceremony when Coaches Rich (above) and David handed out trophies.  While I still have misgivings about all players receiving a trophy - I have to admit that it was pretty cute - and James is so proud of that trophy that he's been carrying it around with him since.

Anna and Duncan (her first love from the Children's Center) have pledged themselves to each other - promising the other that they are each other's future spouse.  I'm okay with this - Duncan is a cute, sweet, little boy - and he already puts up with Anna's antics, so he's got several things going for him.
He's taken to sending her love letters - if you can't read it - it says:
"I love you more than ice cream and cake.  Guess what - I got the movie Alvin
and the Chipmunks and ummmmmmm oh yeah, I love you with all my heart.  I love you more
than ice cream and cake."

We had a Mother's Day celebration in James' class at the Children's Center.  I snagged Jack out of his room and took him along.  Clearly both were too interested in the cake, chips, and brownies and didn't want to stop snacking to take pictures - but I made them anyway.  It's my right - it was Mother's Day after all....

Krispy Kreme comes to our side of town!!!  This was big news - now we could get those hot pillows of sweet dough very close to our house instead of hauling out to West Columbia.  My bubble did burst recently, however, when Deonne informed me that they really don't make the 'hot doughnuts' on the premises - rather heat up cold ones and run them through the sugar glaze.  Who cares.  They're still ooey gooey delicious in my book!

Anna's third year of dancing at Palmetto Performing ended with her first tap performance (she switched from ballet to tap this year.)  Her recital number was "It's A Small World."  She's China - her best friend EG is Japan.  It was pretty cute ... they all did a great job - and look so grown up compared to when they started three years ago as teeny tiny ballerinas.

I didn't remember to take any pictures of my birthday celebration - it was lovely - with pizza and salad and a homemade cake that some lovely friends from church brought over.  Our six children had fun running around and playing - while we enjoyed lounging about and chatting.

And that, for the most part, is the month of May with the Party!


I can't even begin to think of an appropriate title for this post - how do you summarize what I'm about to write in a cute or catchy phrase?  The simple truth is you can't.  Because there's nothing cute or catchy about it.


For those of you that know me (I'm assuming all 3.5 readers) you know that I have a very unique job.  Unique is my way of saying 'wierd.'  That is, I can't give myself a simple title or sum up what I do in a short sentence.  I'm not a doctor or a lawyer, a teacher or a nurse, an engineer or a public worker.  (Which is why I always make Deonne go to the kids' schools for career day - his job as structural engineer is much more easily definable.)  I have my degrees in the natural sciences (undergraduate in geology and graduate in environmental science management.)  I worked for years for the state department of health and environmental control in a variety of regulatory positions - protecting groundwater, conducting environmental risk assessments, and finally (right before I left the agency) writing voluntary cleanup contracts for the state's brownfields program.

It was in that last position that I rediscovered my love of writing.  What a lot of people don't know is that once upon a time, I wanted to write for a living.  I wanted to go to journalism school, write for the NY Times, and have some glamorous life scooping my colleagues on important stories.  As time went on, that desire turned to wanting to go to law school, then specifically environmental law school, then through a really long turn of events, geology.

I've never thought of myself as particularly smart in science or math - or that those fields were my strong suit.  But somehow I ended up majoring in geology - and did really well at it - and it was then that I adopted that idealistic notion that most college students do that I would somehow go out into the world and 'make a difference.'  Not the Peace Corp-type difference (like my crunchy granola classmates from my overpriced and very liberal private college) but rather through a professional career.

So.  When I finally landed in the brownfields program years ago - it felt like all of my efforts through my academic and professional careers were coming together to do 'something good.'  I could utilize my love of writing with my knowledge of the natural sciences to help people purchase properties - clean them up - and put them back to productive reuse without assuming the liability of site contamination.  Pretty cool, right?

It was (in all truth) a dream job.  Except for that one nagging fact - it was a state job - and it paid next to nothing.  When we found out we were expecting James - I knew I needed to find something else to help foot the bill for two children in full-time daycare... at the time still thinking I could somehow continue and cultivate my career while being 'super'mom and doing all of the crafty/special/sometimes over-the-top things I wanted to do for the kids.

Somehow the stars aligned - and I found out that the company I am with now was hiring.  I was nervous about leaving my stable and appreciative of time-out-for-sick-kids state job - but this was an offer I couldn't pass up.  It was the chance to further 'do good' in the brownfields program - but this time from a consultant perspective.

So I left the agency - moved to the private sector - and slowly (over the last four years) found my 'niche.'  Our company is weird in and of itself - we're a non-profit environmental consulting firm.  Yeah, how many of those are there out there?  And we operate on a weird model - we work with communities and towns and counties across the southeast (primarily Region 4 of the EPA if you are familiar with that) to help them build their brownfields program.

We introduce the notion of brownfields to them (working to assess and clean up properties that would otherwise lie idle for the potential environmental liabilities that are causing blight and slowing down redevelopment), then offer to write EPA brownfield assessment (and cleanup) grants for them at no cost or obligation.  The only thing we asked in return is the opportunity to bid (through a competitive process) to manage the grant.  Manage meaning taking care of all of the grant paperwork and financial reporting forms, procure subcontractors as needed to conduct environmental work, develop public participation materials such as websites and brochures, conduct public meetings, and work with the community to find developers once the assessments are complete to actually move the properties we worked on back to reuse.

(See - how do I title that as a job in one sentence?)

And because we figured out what the EPA was looking for in strong grant applications, and could consistently produce them, the model worked.  We have consistently procured (and brought in as actual work to our company) several million dollars of funding per year.  We have marketed ourselves as the 'premier' brownfields contractor in the southeast - able to not just complete environmental assessments but to build brownfields programs.

So when I first started, I had a variety of jobs.  We were very small then - really only two others (my boss included) who managed projects.  Over time, as we brought in more and more funding, we grew.  More project managers, more support staff to conduct the assessments without us having to sub the work out ... a growing healthy company. 

A company that is entirely based on the first part of the cycle - procuring funding from the EPA in the form of assessment, cleanup, and job training grants.

Over the last few years, it became clear that my talent wasn't in project management or balancing budget tables - I've made loads of mistakes in accounting - and still don't feel that knowledge of the earth sciences is my strong suit.  Every time I need to make a decision about the environmental data - I question myself - still - and double check everything with my colleagues.

But one thing that I haven't second guessed, one thing that I've excelled at is grant writing.  And, in the last two years, have morphed into the person who writes all of the grants (with input from my colleagues who gather the information from which I tell the story).  Somehow I also discovered a talent for marketing materials - and have ended up being the web designer (even though I do NOT speak the language of html), the marketing material/brochure designer, and all purpose go-to person for all things Photoshop. 

And I love it.


There's always an 'until' isn't there?

Until this past grant cycle.  We knew that the communities we were working with weren't the strongest of applicants.  We knew their demographics were borderline 'too good' - and not as needy or disadvantaged as other communities that were applying across the region and country.  We knew that some of our follow-on applicants (clients we'd served through one grant who wanted to pursue a second or third) had some performance issues for a variety of reasons.

But we still went forward.  I went forward.  I wrote the grants - with everything that I had.  And here's where I made my fatal mistake - I became (as I always do) emotionally committed to the grants I write.  I believe in each and every story I tell.  I want/need those communities to get their funding just as badly as they do. 

And I spend an absurd amount of time writing them.  To the point that the weeks leading up to the due date I pretty much live at my office....taking a break in the evening to collect kids, cook dinner, dump dishes in the sink and return to the office until the wee hours of the morning.  That's the hard part - telling my kids for weeks on end that I can't read them bedtime stories or tuck them into bed at night because I have to work.  Or that I can't participate in the fun weekend activities because I have to work.  But I justified it to myself that it's only for a few weeks a year - it won't kill them - and besides... I'm working hard to make a difference

So last October, we pushed and pushed and wrote (what I thought were good and strong applications) - the product of a whole lot of hours and effort and thought and struggling to tell just the right story to catch the reviewers' eye.  We packaged them up, sent them off to EPA headquarters - said a silent prayer - and went back to our normal job duties.  Anticipating the spring when EPA would announce the grant recipients - and for myself - when I would bask in the glory of the success of my hard work. When I would call the clients with pride and tell them their project had been funded - and much needed federal funds were on their way.


And then...  and then it all fell apart.  The wheels came off the proverbial bus.

Monday (or was it Tuesday - the days have become a blur) the EPA made their announcement - telling all the world who the communities were who were selected to receive this precious funding.  The number of applicants increased from the previous year - and the amount of funding available for grant awards decreased as part of the ongoing economic federal budget struggles - and as a result, only one in 5 applications was funded.  Meaning that this already competitive grant process had become even more so.

We knew this part a few weeks ago - our pals in Region 4 EPA had given us a heads up on the dismal statistics.  But we were still confident in the applications we had submitted last fall.  After all, we were the 'premier' brownfields consultant - and we had a 66% success rate in getting applications funded when the national average was a mere 30%. 

This week is vacation bible school for Anna and James, meaning I have to leave work around 11:45 to pick them up, feed them lunch, then drop them at their respective summer programs.  I returned from my 'lunch' break to a worried face of our administrative assistant.  She asked me 'have you heard?' - to which I responded 'no' - not sure at first what she was referencing.  Then I realized she meant the EPA grant announcement - something we've been anticipating for a week - constantly refreshing our web browsers to see if the word had come through.  I asked 'oh, did the announce?  Good news?'  She shook her head - looked a bit frightened - and said 'I'll let him tell you' - gesturing to my boss' office door.

I walked in.  Asked 'good news?'


And not just bad news.  The worst news possible.

Not ONE of our assessment grants was funded.  Not one of the grants I was charged to write was funded.  Not one of the communities I invested hours in, taking time away from my family for, was funded.

It took a while for it to really seep in...  my boss and I briefly discussed the outcome - there was a lot of talk about how the communities themselves weren't the strongest applicants, that the EPA was looking for something different this year due to the changes in the administration, that the focus of funding was more for site cleanup than assessment (which are the primary focus of our grants), that we'll just work harder and do better this year when we re-apply for these communities along with the new ones we're currently cultivating.

I went back to my desk in shock. 

And then it slowly started seeping in... the implications of this.  And then the tears started to fall.  And fall.  And fall.  To the point that I was trembling.

No awarded grants means no work to propose on.  No proposals means no contracts.  No contracts means no work.  As I stated before, we typically bring in several million dollars of work per year.  This year, no new work.

No new work means we won't be able to meet any of the 'goals' that are set for us - the thresholds we are compared against for things like raises and bonuses.  More importantly, because we had consistently been growing, we've added new staff.  I'm not entirely sure we have work to support everyone now. 

And while everyone keeps telling me not to take it personally - how can I not?  This was my responsibility.  I was in charge of writing the grants.  Yes, I relied heavily on my colleagues to provide the information I needed to weave the tales into compelling stories of need, but that was my task.  Mine.

And I failed.

I failed the communities who desperately need the funding. 

I failed my colleagues who were relying on my 'stellar' writing skills to procure winning grants - the first step in our business model.  There is a very real possibility that not one person on my team will receive a raise or bonus this year...which young families depend on.

I failed my company - we can no longer say we have a 66% success rate of writing winning grants, or a 99% success rate of winning follow-on grants for clients who are continuing their programs - our reputation has been heavily damaged. 

I failed myself - I take pride and ownership in these stories - and become emotionally committed to the communities they represent.  I thought each and every grant was strong and 'A+' - apparently the only grants to get funded.  And it sucks, and makes me very disappointed in myself, and makes me question my abilities to write successfully when I give my best and it's not good enough.  My boss says 'we'll try harder this year.'  I don't know how to do that.  I gave 110% of myself - working myself until I was literally sick to make these applications as strong as possible.  I've gone back and read and re-read every application we submitted - because I'm a glutton for punishment.  I read each and every word.  I don't know what else I could have done - what else I could have written - or how I could have worked any harder than I did.  Which begs the question then, perhaps I'm just not fit for this.

I failed my family - night after night for about four weeks I fed the kids and then left.  I wasn't around at all for at least a month of weekends.  I missed out on a lot of fall activities with them - and denied them the presence of their mother.  And for what?  I didn't 'make a difference' to any of the communities I was trying to help.

I've let so many people down - and that's a heavy burden to bear.

And it makes me question everything - from my abilities - to my career path - to even working outside of the home when I should be there, with my children while they are young.

I'm only half-kidding myself when I start to wonder if Publix, the local grocery store, is hiring for a cake decorator.


Where to go from here?  Who knows.  I can tell you the last thing I want to do is face grant writing again - despite the assurances that it wasn't my fault.  I can't shake that deep down feeling that it is.  And I'm frightened now of every word that may come to mind.