After years of working in Brooklyn and Manhattan as a communications consultant, I’m struggling to adjust to an entrepreneur’s life in suburban Michigan. For one thing, since most of my clients are still in New York, it requires more traveling – every several weeks – than I faced as a New Yorker. While I love keeping close to clients and friends on the East Coast, it does impinge on travel to the West Coast and my late husband’s home territory of Alabama – all areas that nurture my personal life and career. And on one occasion, my trip East was cancelled by a blizzard, resulting in the loss of a day in rescheduling and waiting at my brother’s house for confirmation on when travel would resume.
In addition to travel uncertainties, even more adjustment is needed to the elements in suburbia. In Brooklyn, the weather only seriously slowed me down locally on one occasion –the blizzard of 2010 that happened right between Christmas and New Year’s and resulted in three days of chaos in my Brooklyn neighborhood – the first time I remember the subways shut down by a snow emergency and the streets uncleared for more than a few hours. Everyone in my neighborhood was in shock that Mother Nature could disrupt our citywide travel like that – and Mayor Bloomberg heard about it when he got back to town from his holiday vacation. Of course, Hurricane Sandy again disrupted the subways a year later and caused much heavier long-term damage than that earlier blizzard, suggesting that I might have lived in a golden age.
In suburbia, I am hostage to icy streets, since I rely on my car to get anywhere; even the local merchants are too far away to walk or bike to in frigid weather. In Brooklyn, I was never more than a few blocks from essential services or the subway. Rain or snow seemed minor annoyances. While the main streets in my suburban community of Warren get cleared rather quickly, my condo community and surrounding neighborhood streets are much slower to see snow crews and often slippery. I have formulated a rule now, based on some unnerving experiences: I try to avoid driving during early snow falls. I’ve had one too many skids for comfort. So even though the accumulations aren’t blizzard quality, I find my schedule often needs to change with the weather. Heavy rains carry the same problems of hazardous conditions.
Look, I’m not complaining. I’m just adjusting to reality. I guess I feel more human here, more affected by Mother Nature. I’m no longer in a high rise, and I’m just a stone’s throw from a wooded wetlands area with vibrant wildlife, including deer. Yes, maybe it is time to enjoy being forced to slow down – sometimes!
I first learned about the Grameen Bank and its extraordinary work in spreading the concept of microloans for women in impoverished countries when I was in San Francisco in the late 90s and worked on publicity for the international organization CARE. That work, in partnership with entrepreneur Babette McDougal of Sausalito Associates, gave me the opportunity to meet one of the women involved in microloan programs in South America and she was truly inspiring. I was already directly experiencing the surge in entrepreneurism among women in this country, which gained momentum in the heady days of the dotcom boom. Therefore, I was appalled this week to read that the Grameen Bank was under attack in its home country of Bangladesh.
According to an opinion article in The New York Times written by David Bornstein, founder of dowser.org, a media site that reports on social innovation, the cabinet of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Sazed is out to brazenly seize control of the institution that serves 8.4 million poor villagers across Bangladesh. Last year the government forcibly removed the bank’s founder, Muhammad Yunus. As Bornstein states, “It is a powerful blow against an institution”
Why does this news upset me? When I worked with him, the President of CARE personally talked about the importance of women entrepreneurs in lifting impoverished villages around the world out of poverty. And that’s why Yunus switched from banking primarily with men to women. A woman, he said, went to greater lengths to improve her children’s nutrition and health and educate her daughters.
I had learned early in my own career that I was the most passionate when working either for small, entrepreneurial, women-owned PR firms or on my own as a freelance writer and later as a partner with my late husband in our own communications consultancy, Robinson Andrew Media. Yet I remember how hard it was to get credit as a single woman in the 70s in the early days of feminism. I worry that regimes around the world would like to roll back the clock on women’s rights – and this is just the latest alarm. I recommend reading “An Attack on Grameen Bank, and the Cause of Women” at http://nyti.ms/Q2YKsX.