Category Archives: grantwinners.net

what I learned in just over two days

In my last post, I described my feelings as I face more “free” time than I’ve had in over a decade.

Today, I’ll share with you what I’ve learned from this new-found freedom:

  • My business has a task list that—now that I have time to look at it closely—seems unending. Personal tasks still have to wait.
  • Advanced food prep will still help keep me sane.
  • Managing time well is now the most important part of my day.
  • Posting to this blog may be a part of my regular routine, even if it’s only interesting to me. :-)
  • How, how, how did I ever get everything done before? There’s still no time to get everything done! (Answer: I didn’t get it all done. I was making myself sick trying, though.)

I still have “too much to do,” but I now have the luxury of taking a bit of time to figure out how I’ll get it (mostly) all done.

I’m still basking in gratitude.

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our “no groceries” challenge

Last week, several bills came due at once and I wasn’t sure I had money enough to cover the checks I was sending out. It was scary, again.

Things are much better than they were at the worst point of these financially challenging times. However, despite my ex-husband’s continued generous support, grantwinners.net’s growth, and a gift my daughters got to help with summer camp, I’m still not financially stable. In fact, to cover the cost of preschool and childcare for the summer (still not all paid for), I had to withdraw the savings I had set aside from our tax refund. That savings needs to be there for when my 2002 Subaru decides it’s time to go. That savings isn’t there anymore. The checks cleared, but it was another eye opening experience. The possibility of having no money at all, again, was terrifying.

During those few days where I wasn’t sure how things would work out, I decided I’d better not go to the grocery store if I could avoid it—I have dried and canned goods in the pantry, and previously cooked frozen foods in the deep freezer. I could make do for… how long?

At that point, I started getting a little excited. I realized that if I see it as a freely-chosen challenge, rather than depravation borne of necessity, I feel enthusiastic about “winning” the not-spending battle. It’s an enormously useful reframing of a previously terrifying situation.

I decided to see how long I could go without going to the grocery store. I don’t mean that we’d starve or even really be uncomfortable. I’m a good cook, and, like I said, we have a lot on hand. I talked to my daughters about it and mentioned some items we didn’t have and how my one concern would be fresh vegetables, fruit, and milk. My older daughter suggested one more trip to the market to stock up on what we needed and then we’d start with our challenge.

Yesterday, I made a run to BJs, using up my foodstamps for the month, and made the last of our purchases for… how long? I don’t know.

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I will eventually buy milk and, when I do, I might sometimes go to the shelf where they sell the not-pretty but perfectly good fruits and vegetables if we are out. I will use foodstamps for that. I also expect when the time comes that I do need to go to the grocery store, I will have accrued some funds in my foodstamps account which will help me stay on the path to almost-stable financial ground.

I’m going to post updates about the experience here. I realize people all over the Internet are publicly tracking their experiences with private and personal goals. Usually, if “everyone is doing it,” I find it unappealing. But, this is something my daughters and I are doing together (my older daughter okay’d several of the school lunches she had X’d out previously) and it’s something I’d like to be mindful of as we go along. Writing about it here will help me.

Knowing me, there will be exceptions to the “no grocery shopping” rule beyond buying milk and bruised fruit. There will be issues I haven’t considered. However, the idea of spending almost no money on groceries because we are using what we have feels empowering. I’m feeling motivated and energized by all the creativity it’s going to require.

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gratitude update

It’s been just over a year since we moved into this apartment that now feels like Home.

Before that, we lived in “high density housing” (American for “poor people’s apartments”) where we were as happy as we could be. It wasn’t because my daughters walked in on a couple guys smoking not-tobacco and not-marijuana in the stairwell, or because of the dealer who camped out on the back stoop, or because of the unsupervised children so desperate for adult guidance their behavior was not always safe, or because the man who lived downstairs disturbed me so much that I told him if he spoke to my daughter again I would call the police—this is the same man who invites those same unsupervised and hungry children to his apartment for snacks after school. None of these are the reasons we moved. We moved because we could. My parents have money and they paid for our move. That move put our lives back on course and the course is good.

The last 4+ years have been difficult. Rocky. Challenging. Full of lessons. Any way I say it, it sounds white-washed. There were times I wasn’t sure I would make it. If you know me well, you’ll know that means it was really bad. Normally, no matter how bad things get, I’m like Pippi calling up to her mother in Heaven, “Don’t you worry about me. I’ll always come out on top!”

Just over four years ago, I was pregnant and our marriage was ending. Then, we had a second child, the very new baby, and our marriage ended. We declared bankruptcy. We moved (me to Brookfield/”high density housing” and him to Orono, a decision I supported). We began sharing custody of our children over the hurdles of physical distance. We readjusted from married-forever to being loving friends who co-parent. Add to all of this many other events, happenings, choices, and significant difficulties that all brought me to the content for my newspaper column, being “newly poor.” All of that also brings me to now.

I’m writing this because today I had a really good day. I’ve had a lot more of them lately. There are many reasons for that, but there’s a distinction for me between having a good day and having a day where the light at the end of the tunnel is so close I’m almost in it (and, I’m now sure it’s not a train).

This wonderful home, some outstanding help in my business (life-changing for me, though she won’t let me give her so much credit), high quality preschool for my nearly-four-year-old and an excellent public school for my nine and a half year old, a spiritual community we love, and heaven on earth (my parents’ summer place near Bethel) to visit in the summers. There are other outward expressions of how much better things are, but I want to keep this relatively brief.

So, I’m tired. I’m very, very tired. Despite my ex-husband’s incredible co-parenting and generous support, I’m still a single mother. Being a single mother is a job I could only understand after living it. I love it, but it’s not easy. At the same time, as I said, work is going well. The column is the job I’ve dreamed of since the 90s when I was writing, “It’s all about me! (the column)” on my website every week. I’ve made several new paintings (not shown on my website) and will be showing them at Bard in time for First Friday in April (they’ll still be there for First Friday in May, too!). My daughters are extraordinary. More and more often, my gratitude nearly overwhelms me. Life is good.

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asking for help, offering help (grantwinners.net)

It’s not that I think I don’t have useful or helpful qualities. What happens is I forget that my useful or helpful qualities are, in fact, not qualities that everyone else already has.

More specifically, as I have been working with my amazing new partner (administrative help, but oh-so-much more) for grantwinners.net, I’ve let a bit of light shine on some of my more self-defeating weaknesses.

As I am showing her how I prepare for grants (in particular, how I do research), I’m reminded that the things I’ve learned about winning grants over the last 10 years are not common knowledge.

It is my belief that the best people to tell the stories of an organization are the people who live those stories. The staff, that is, share their passion for their organization’s work better than I could—in some respects. It’s that “in some respects” part that I have both not recognized but have also felt uncomfortable sharing with potential new clients.

Truly, the people who are in the day-to-day of the programs know the stories best. But, with my experience, I know how to take those stories and find where they fit the funders’ missions. I make excellent matches between the missions of organizations and the missions of funders (74% success rate in 2012, it turns out, which I think isn’t too shabby). I can work with writing provided by clients to turn it into stories highlighting the most relevant (to the funder) information.

When I taught a grant writing workshop at the United Way of York County a year or so ago, I didn’t expect people to find it as helpful as they did. It was such an easy workshop to teach. I mostly just talked about things I had learned over the years and, again, I was surprised to realize what I knew wasn’t common knowledge.

With my administrative partner’s help, I’ve become a lot more aware of the real service I could be to organizations who need to find grant funding. In addition to my own excellent research and writing skills, I manage a team of researchers, writers, and editors who really know what they are doing. I only work with people who I can say, “here’s this, could you do it?” and I will know they will do the most excellent work possible.

During the toughest times in the last couple-few years, I’ve been forced to learn how to ask for help. Asking someone else to do what I believe I should do is still nearly impossible for me. But, asking my friend to work for me as a senior team member in charge of administrative aspects of grantwinners.net was one of the greatest moves I’ve ever made professionally. Not only am I getting more organized than I ever have been before, I am recognizing that it’s not entirely self-serving to say to an organization, “I can help you.”

Saying “I can help you” to an organization feels self-serving because I really need more work. So, of course, I am motivated to have organizations recognize what the grantwinners.net team might add to their grants program. Knowing how much I want the work makes me suspicious of my own motivations. That said, I would never suggest an organization hire grantwinners.net if I didn’t sincerely believe we could be of service. Now that I have this beautiful reflective surface (my administrative partner), I’m dusting off the “I can help” and recognizing my sincerity matters. In a lot of cases, when non-profit organizations need to improve their grants program, I can help.

Now, can you help? If you know of organizations that might benefit from professional assistance with grants, please consider sharing with them the link to grantwinners.net. I’m very good at what I do, and I’d like more work. I would also, just as much, like for groups who are working hard to improve our world to benefit from my experience.

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too personal for the Internet

In the 90s, I wrote (online) my most intimate thoughts for anyone who would read them. The concept of personal boundaries was new to me. Back then, I called what I did “web columns.” In 2001, a friend of my then-husband called my writing my “blog.” I thought it a quaint term used by a computer geek (as it was). When blogs went mainstream, I resented and resisted the term. I’ve since accepted the label, but am now challenged by the content.

As everyone and her sister (and brother and cousin and step-son and grandmother and co-worker and politician and business owner and…) share their offline lives via the Internet, I find myself wandering in a bit of a daze. Or, shocked like a pinball being whipped around, slamming against bright lights and loud sounds. What do I want to share online? What is the point of it for me?

With the addition of the significant consideration of my family’s privacy—especially my children—and my growing need for a more professional public presence, most content feels inappropriate.

Then, I listened to Montaigne’s essays. I am reminded of the value of sharing my introspective fascinations. The richness of my inner life deepens when I write regularly about my thoughts. I also miss experiencing a response from readers.

Next week I will begin as a (monthly) columnist for The Bangor Daily News. Based on the comments following my op-ed in October, I’ve found a forum to experience responses from readers.

Next week I will also publish an updated version of my business website. In the process of developing new content, I considered telling “the story” of how grantwinners.net came into being. That story relies heavily on my struggle to balance parenting and income production. It was too personal for my business site. I miss being “too personal.”

I’d like to return to “blogging” (writing!) here on serenebabe.net. The Montaigne essays inspired me. As I said in a tweet, “Comparing myself to Montaigne is so Montaigney of me.” I have no interest in publishing hyper-personal journal entries. I won’t take time to follow current events enough to dissect my opinions about many of them (and the BDN column provides some space for that type of content). It feels good, being attracted to using this space again to write about random thoughts and ideas as they occur to me. As I’ve said twice now, I’ve missed it. I’m not sure what will end up “published” here, but I know I want to find out.

“And taking upon me to write indifferently of whatever comes into my head, and therein making use of nothing but my own proper and natural means, if it befall me, as oft-times it does, accidentally to meet in any good author, the same heads and commonplaces upon which I have attempted to write (as I did but just now in Plutarch’s “Discourse of the Force of Imagination”), to see myself so weak and so forlorn, so heavy and so flat, in comparison of those better writers, I at once pity or despise myself. Yet do I please myself with this, that my opinions have often the honour and good fortune to jump with theirs, and that I go in the same path, though at a very great distance, and can say, “Ah, that is so.” I am farther satisfied to find that I have a quality, which every one is not blessed withal, which is, to discern the vast difference between them and me; and notwithstanding all that, suffer my own inventions, low and feeble as they are, to run on in their career, without mending or plastering up the defects that this comparison has laid open to my own view.”  – Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays

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