Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Three minutes to spare

There are times in life when you switch to survivor mode even though it isn’t a life-or-death situation. You switch to automatic pilot and go. Get up. Dressed. Wake minions. Feed Minions. Dress minions and head out the door. At work it’s working for survival -- trying to push a gigantic project out the door. We’re talking the size of project that some people spend a year and a half on. Since I’ve been at my current job for not even six months, I didn’t have that luxury for this most recent “project of doom” as I like to call it.

It had been a topic of discussion since I started, but it wasn’t until March that we actually got started figuring out what we were going to do over the five-year grant period. Deciding exactly we would spend a maximum of $2 million tax payer money to improve student learning at the college where I work didn’t begin in earnest until April 22. That’s the day the grant was announced in the Federal Register. The instructions were given in tiny type. 50 pages, 12 point font, 1-inch margins and the deadline was 3:30 p.m. May 22.

I’m not a number person but that’s 30 days. Thankfully, everything pulled together in the last two weeks. When I left work two days before the grant was due, the budget numbers that I had come up with, didn’t match the numbers that automatically added up on the forms I filled out. I left, on time, because I had to go and be a mother. But the nagging sense of dread never left. I was convinced that we’d never get the numbers to add up, the totals wouldn’t balance and I’d was doomed to fail as a grant writer. Did you know sometime’s I’ve got a fatalist attitude?

That night I went to bed and dreamed of work. Set in a lush tropical setting near a waterfall. I stood at the bottom of a cliff and way up top there were hordes of numbers. Like Muppet numbers – soft foam and had arms and googlie eyes. They milled around at the top of the cliff searching for some semblance of order – running into each other -- until the command came.

Suddenly they all ran to the edge of the cliff and jumped. It was a leap of faith – hoping I would catch them and put them in order. Instead I broke their fall and was crushed in the process.

The budget did balance – thanks to the help of a spreadsheet goddess who helped me write formulas and help me solve my problem. And to top it off we submitted the grant at 3:27 p.m. Ladies and Gentlemen that is exactly three minutes before the deadline.

I’m not a procrastinator. I do like to work on deadline. This, however, was a bit close for comfort. The only time I truly began panic was at 3:15 p.m. and the 50 page document was not ready to send electronically.
Consequently Memorial Day weekend I spent in recovery with family and am now just getting caught up with life, knitting, and my desire to raise my own food.

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