Thursday, January 27, 2011

Return to Reality

2011 started out really, really great - I was happy and full of positive energy and all sorts of plans for sewing and knitting and writing and work and life in general. And then - well. Life got back to normal.

1) You may have heard, but it's snowed a lot this month. Today was my third work-from-home snow day in as many weeks. And this week's super cold weather has meant that the commuter trains have been a disaster; on Monday it was 11 am before I got to work, and it wasn't much better yesterday. I enjoy working from home occasionally during slow times, but this is not a slow time. And as an introvert, I need the occasional visit from a coworker or a run to Starbucks every once and awhile to get me out of my own head. It's also difficult to write with the cat around -- at this very moment, she is standing on my stomach as I type, purring away and nuzzling my neck. Cute, but after the seventy-eleventh time I've plopped her on the floor it gets a little old.

2) One morning I got up and my car made horrible noises when I tried to move it. $550 down the drain to fix it. Now, honestly - in the grand scheme of things it's not a ton of money, but my car is a 2002 Saturn so I basically tripled the value of the thing. And it happened just a few days before...

3) I had to drop $300 on another vet visit for the cat. It turned out to be money well spent, because we learned that her heart murmur is benign and I can stop worrying about it. And I loved the cardiologist's report the vet sent me, labeled Calypso Allen, as if she were my child. But it was another painful check to write.

4) I have totally and completely lost my appetite. In the normal course of things, this should elate me. But I have had the same Cadbury chocolate bars in my cupboard for three weeks now, and this just isn't normal for me. To amuse myself, I've been all over the internet looking at health websites and, hypochondriac that I am, have self-diagnosed myself with all sorts of terrible diseases. Fun times. What did people do before the internet? (I suspect it's stress related, but if it continues I'll have to march myself off to the doctor.)

5) The elderly woman who lived downstairs from me moved out. Noisy people moved in. Enough said.

6) The governor (see previous post) continues to annoy the bejeezus out of me. One day he's rolling back Maine's environmental laws, the next he's nominating someone who admits to having no community development experience to lead the state's Department of Economic and Community Development, and now according to this thinks he can use state workers as election fodder. (Dude, there are LAWS about that, y'know.) I have to tell you, I own exactly one thing from Marden's (a desk) and I'm seriously contemplating having a big ol' bonfire with it.

Despite all this, there has been a fair amount of knitting - in part necessitated by the fact that I lost my handknit mittens. I went to 3 different stores to buy some gloves, but there were none to be had. Plenty of bathing suits, but no gloves. I really don't understand retail. More on that soon.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tangent: Where She Rants About The Governor

I was born and raised in Maine, though I left for college and, with the exception of the years 2003-2007, have lived outside the state ever since. However, despite my "Mainer-in-Exile" status, I have found that while you can take the woman out of Maine, you can't take the Maine out of the woman. I still read the Maine newspapers every day (online), and pay much more attention to what is going on up there than I do in my own locale. I still dream of Vaughn Woods in Hallowell, and still jabber with anyone who will listen about the state's downtowns. If one's home is where one's heart is, then Maine will always be my home. Or my home-away-from-home, if I must be realistic.

During those 4 years I was back in Maine, I spent some time as a board member of RealizeMaine, an initiative designed to retain and recruit people under age 40 to the state. (Just to be clear, I am no longer on the board, and the comments to follow represent my own personal viewpoint.) Maine is not only the whitest state in the nation, but it also has an aging population, and for a number of reasons young adults tend to leave (the lack of jobs being pretty high up on the list). This is not good for the state's economy for a whole host of reasons. Research demonstrated that one of the most critical factors in attracting young workers, particularly young professional workers, to the state was diversity; ie, we were more likely to attract them if we increased the state's diversity. And we're talking about diversity on a broad scale: race, gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status, etc. The state's lack of diversity makes many people LEAVE, and many who wish to start new businesses look elsewhere because they know their business will best thrive in a truly diverse community, something most places in Maine cannot offer them.

So you can imagine my dismay this week when I learned that (at least as of Monday) the new Governor of Maine had not appointed one single woman to his cabinet (see the Maine Women's Policy Center's press release here.) And today, he told the NAACP to "kiss his butt", calling them a "special interest".

I'll put aside the ridiculous notion of human and civil rights being "special interests", because frankly it's so absurd I can't even wrap my head around it (not to mention the fact that the Governor's adopted (black) child is equal in front of the law as a result of Martin Luther King and the NAACP's work). And I'll put aside the fact that a governor telling any group to "kiss his butt" is simply unprofessional and unbecoming of such an elected official, because it is. I'll also put aside the ridiculous notion that in a state that produced Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins that he can't find any smart and qualified Republican women to hire (maybe women are just too smart to work for him?).

But that a Republican so focused on making Maine a "business friendly" place could not see how his actions and comments will affect the business climate in Maine is horrifying to me. Because, statistically speaking, if you are going to increase small business creation, you'd best be talking to the women and the minorities:
  • 10.1 million firms are owned by women (50% or more), employing more than 13 million people, and generating $1.9 trillion in sales as of 2008.
  • Three quarters of all women-owned businesses are majority owned by women (51% or more), for a total of 7.2 million firms, employing 7.3 million people, and generating $1.1 trillion in sales.
  • Women-owned firms (50% or more) account for 40% of all privately held firms.
  • 1.9 million firms are majority-owned (51% or more) by women of color in the U.S.
    These firms employ 1.2 million people and generate $165 billion in revenues annually.

(taken from the Center for Women's Business Research)

Small businesses are the back-bone of the United States (and Maine's) economy, and generate over 60% of all new jobs in the United States (see the SBA website here). Women and minorities, those "special interests", represent the fastest growing segments of entrepreneurs. And yet the Governor of Maine is both literally and figuratively telling them to kiss off, while simutaneously telling everyone he's going to make the state a great place to do business. Realistically he can cut all the red tape he wants, but generally speaking people don't go where they aren't welcome. If you want to improve your state's economy, why on earth would you insult the people most likely to start new busineses and create new jobs in your state? At best his words and actions are irrational, and at worst they are patently offensive and childish and wrong. Mostly, though, it's just backwards, and I think we'd all agree that backwards is the one direction in which Maine can least afford to move.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Few of My (Current) Favorite Things

1. Ingrid Michaelson's album Boys and Girls.
2. Brene Brown and her books.
3. Goat cheese.
4. Castle. (No one but Nathan Fillion could make this show work.)
5. It's no longer completely pitch dark at 4:30 in the afternoon! (ok, so it's pitch dark at 4:35...still, we're moving in the right direction!)
6. Counting the days until we leave for Ireland.
7. Scrambled eggs and toast with strawberry jam and butter. For dinner.
8. Not having to do Christmas shopping during lunch break, hurrah!
9. Finding quarters that my niece needs to complete her state quarter collection, which she is really excited about (today I found both American Samoa and Yellowstone in my purse).
10. Spirituality and Health magazine. I don't know why, but reading it always makes me happy.

What's making YOU happy these days?