Tuesday, November 30, 2004


Took the test this morning and it was negative. Darren was bustling around, getting ready to go to his 7 a.m. basketball game (which is why I am up at this ungodly hour). We weren't surprised by the results -- I'd pretty much figured it would be negative. But it was still a bummer.

Even though this is the first time we've had a close call, I've decided to pick up Taking Charge of Your Fertility and go the temperature-taking route. Since I have no idea what the hell my cycle is doing, let alone when I'm ovulating, I think it makes sense to get scientific a little sooner than we'd planned.

Darren keeps joking about how this whole experience is going to teach me patience. As if.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Driving myself crazy

I have now completely convinced myself that I'm pregnant, and every little twitch of my body further cements that feeling. Of course, I think it's quite possible that it's all in my head.

My stomach is still grumbly and gassy, though a bit less than it was on Thursday and Friday. And starting last night I feel completely wiped out. I crashed on the couch for about 45 minutes late yesterday afternoon -- not unusual for a Saturday. But when I woke up, I was groggy and still exhausted. Had to drag myself out to the movies with Darren (we saw Sideways, which I thought was much better than Alexander Payne's other stuff, but not capital-G Great). And this morning all I want to do is lay on the couch.

Of course, there are many explanations for my fatigue and my stress belly other than pregnancy. I've been pretty active this weekend, and surely need a day to lay low, read the paper and be mellow. And the holidays are certainly stressful; for some reason I am really antsy to get my Christmas shopping done, as if it all has to be done RIGHT NOW rather than in bits and pieces over the next few weeks. I'm feeling verrry impatient, which totally affects my guts. And on top of it all, I'm realizing that I really want to be pregnant, so who knows how I am manipulating myself to feel these symptoms.

By now you're probably asking yourself, why doesn't she just take a pregnancy test?

Well, I actually bought one yesterday and am waffling about when to take it. The directions say you can take it as soon as five days before your next period is expected. The problem is, since I'm so recently off the pill, I have no idea when that is. We are heading off to D.C. and Baltimore on Thursday to see Ginga and DP, plus D. and C. So I'm thinking I will take the test that morning, which I think should be late enough. Besides, Thursday is Darren's birthday, so if the test is positive, that's one hell of a thing to celebrate.

For now, we're heading off to take Rocky on another beach walk with friends, after which we'll all head to our favorite breakfast spot. And then it's several hours on the couch for me.

Friday, November 26, 2004


Ok, so Thanksgiving at the in-laws was not a gourmet feast, but you know what? It didn't matter. We had a very nice day -- watched the dog show for a while, then chowed down on turkey, stuffing, squash, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy. Had some interesting conversastions about development in Maine, then drove over to the movie theater to see Ray, which was pretty good. Could have lost about 15 minutes toward the end, but it's an engrossing tale that certainly doesn't set out to buff Ray Charles' life story (unlike too many other biopics). I'm impressed that Charles approved of the movie before he died, given how frank it is about his philandering and drug abuse. It certainly serves as a cautionary tale.

The pies went over well - the chocolate cream pie, with Scharffenberger chocolate that S. and F. brought back for us from San Francisco last year, was especially good and didn't taste low-fat at all.

The only odd thing was that my stomach was rumbly and upset all day. I had a few moments of nausea on the drive over, but mostly I've just felt sort of gassy and icky since Wednesday. When I get stressed out, I typically feel it in my stomach (and neck/shoulders)... but I can't say as I'm particularly stressed about anything at the moment. I'm wondering if it's possible that this could be a really early sign of pregnancy... it's hard to tell, since my body is still adjusting to being off the pill and I haven't figured out what a "normal" cycle is going to be.

Darren was actually the first one to suggest this possibility yesterday -- we were walking with Rocky down at the beach and I was grumbling about my belly and he said, well, what if you're pregnant? I was almost speechless.

So I did some googling this morning, and it seems possible but unlikely. Also, I think, too soon to take a test. So, we'll see if the stomach rumbles settle down and go from there.

As for today, Darren is working until 2. I've got a story to write for work, as well as a ridiculously involved awards package to put together. A very nice person nominated me for a business journalism award that is sponsored by a government agency, meaning that the package I have to submit includes *10* items, as well as several forms and a photo. I think I have a pretty decent chance at winning, as long as I can get the damn thing completed by next week.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Food snob

Thanksgiving is a tough day to go to someone else's house if you're a food snob. Ahh, the hell with the vagueness: I'm not so much looking forward to going to my in-laws' for dinner in a few hours. My MIL is great - though we have very little in common - and she makes one hell of a dessert, but other cooking isn't really her strong suit. She grew up in northern Maine in the 50s, and is very much in the Betty Crocker school of cooking - lots of casseroles and dishes with "fixins" in the title, lots of veggies cooked long past their prime and (bizarrely) pickles and cole slaw at just about every meal.

Last year, we did Thanksgiving for the whole clan at our house. Darren's brothers and their partners were here, as were his parents and my sister. I brined a natural turkey and made fancy schmancy appetizers, including an AMAZING fig and goat cheese dip. Side dishes were straightforward, but with a little twist - the green beans had rosemary on them, I think, and I did something to the carrots that I don't remember. Darren's mom brought the mashed potatoes and gravy. AND I started drinking bloody mary's fairly early in the day.

It all went pretty well, though the only people who liked the fig thing were Darren, my sister and me. D.'s brothers were ok with the side dishes, but they're not such big vegetable eaters themselves, particularly his middle brother. In the middle of the afternoon, I got out for a walk with Sparky, our wonderful dog who died last December (there's a maudlin post coming about him soon; I've been missing him something fierce lately).

I have to admit that part of what I liked about the day was that I was in charge. I like being in charge. A lot. And I like having a house full of people, sitting at a table set with my great-great-grandmother's china and eating my food.

So this year we have none of that. Darren and I are going to his parents' in a few hours. It'll be just the four of us - my sister is off with her boyfriend's family in Massachusetts and Darren's brothers, who live in Florida and North Carolina, are coming home at Christmas instead. (My parents, as always, are spending the holiday with my dad's parents. As long as they're alive, my dad won't budge from New Jersey on Thanksgiving and Christmas.)

We all agreed to do a low-key meal, more like a turkey dinner than a Thanksgiving feast, after the hoopla of last year. Darren's mom is in charge of everything but desserts. In a fit of inspiration, I bought a pumpkin pie from a local piemaker, so all I had to do this morning was make the somewhat low-fat chocolate cream pie for Darren's dad. It's chilling now. We've got a bottle of zinfandel to take with us, and plans to eat at 2, then go see Ray at 4:15.

I know that it's absolutely counter to the spirit of Thanksgiving to be sulky about dry turkey and overcooked green beans, but I can't help it. I'm also a little bummed out by the fact that we couldn't gather a decent-sized crew for dinner this year. My family isn't huge, but my dad has two brothers, one of whom has three kids, so it's a pretty good-sized group when we're all together. So it just feels a bit alien to have a four-person, one-shih tzu Thanksgiving.

That said, I'm happy to have time to take Rocky for a walk on the beach before we head out this afternoon. And I'm glad that Darren was able to get out of working today after all. AND I hope that all of you have a warm and wonderful day, free of the grumpiness and scorn that is affecting me at the moment!

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Fashionista evidence

This is my own outfit. Note cup full of champagne. Also, note bolo tie on the husband.

Pre-show, sans hat. That's me again on the left... not looking anything like myself.


Ok, Anita, you asked for it: the blow-by-blow account of the nutty fashion show Thursday night. This is wicked long --- sorry.

As I’d mentioned earlier, this thing was completely chaotic. I didn’t find out until Monday afternoon when the rehearsals were (one Monday night, another Wednesday night), and it wasn’t until Thursday morning that my outfit was finalized.

So, I show up Thursday night the warehouse where the benefit was held. It’s on the waterfront, above a ship repair facility --- very grungy and hip. I climb rickety wooden stairs in the dark and walk into the large room where we models are supposed to gather to get our hair and makeup done. We’ve been told to be there between 5 and 5:30. It’s 5:15, and I am the second model in the place. I get a quick splash of makeup painted across my face --- deep red lipstick, smeary blue eyeliner and some sort of foundation --- then I’m sent over to the hair stations.

One of the women in charge of the whole hair-and-makeup effort strides over to where I’m seated, gives me a fixed stare and says to the stylist, “Ok, I’m seeing some long curls here in the front and around the edges. Don’t worry about the back --- no one will see it.” And she strides off to her next victim.

This is all well and good for fashion purposes, but what this woman fails to recognize is that the fashion show isn’t until 9. The benefit starts at 6, and we’re all “allowed” to go mingle and schmooze until 8:30 or so. So I will be walking around the benefit in my own clothes, plus wild eye makeup and hair that is only styled in the front. Right.

So that’s what I do. The copious amounts of champagne in the dressing room certainly help. With the addition of more women, it has become a slightly scary place. Most of the models are women in their 40s, a combination of society types (such as exist in Maine) and business women. I only know one or two by sight. And the stylists are having lots of fun, twisting wacky hair extensions in with their hair, creating huge bouffants and purposely trashy makeup. J., who is one of two people there I actually feel comfortable talking to, ends up with purple extensions and red bows in her hair --- to go with the pink tutu, blazer and army boots one of the boutiques has dressed her in.

After a few bouts of the bubbly with J. and the one male model --- both of whom are entertainingly snarky --- I wander out and find Darren. I’d enticed him into wearing the suit he wore for our wedding with a bolo tie from our New Mexico days. I was in this sexy little halter top I bought at Marshall’s this summer for no apparent reason, fitted black pants and cute little heels. And the overbearing makeup.

[Insert aimless wandering, gulping of food at the hot trays, random schmoozing here.]

I’ve apparently had enough champagne to introduce myself to a couple people I recognize but have never met, including a neighbor from a few blocks away who’s apparently had enough to drink that she invites us over to her backyard anytime for a fire and some drinks. (I’m still unclear whether she has a fire pit or she’s some sort of amateur arsonist.)

The music is thumping, people are all dressed up --- a rare, rare occurrence for Portland --- and there’s a funky, bohemian, almost lawless feel to the night. The bellydancers probably don’t hurt; they are sensuous and very groovy. The drinks are flowing --- though non-models have to pay for theirs --- and by 8 p.m. several people are already unsteady on their feet. A few couples sequestered in dark corners --- and one couple right out in the open --- are making out.

Eventually, I head back to the dressing room, where the fashion show coordinator is yelling at everyone about taking your time down the runway. We make our final preparations; I put on the poncho and, finally, the hat, which has become incredibly back-heavy, since the artist added what she called “a shitload of hair” to it. It now has ribbons and texturey fibers and yarn draping down the back, all the way to the floor. It’s been decided that I will “interact” with it by sort of draping the longest pieces over my arms (to keep them from tripping me, a distinct possibility that’s exacerbated by the fact that I’m wearing lime-green boots that are a few sizes too big) and then, at the end of the runway, twirling them around dramatically as I lift my arms out fully.

Oh, and did I mention the midshipmen? Yep. As we get to the stage --- my partner, the artist’s daughter, and I are the first two to go in the second half of the show --- we each pick up a cadet from the maritime academy, who escorts us up the stairs. I sorta hear the emcees --- local TV personalities --- announce our names and start blathering about the clothing, but after that it’s a bit of a blur. I pull the hat down over my eyes and make my way down the runway, twirling the hair as I go. I see Darren off to the side, and I’m pretty sure I point ostentatiously at him, making model-y faces as I do so.

We execute a simple, but under the circumstances sort of miraculous, crossover and make our way back the opposite side of the stage, pick up our midshipmen and head down the stairs. I think there was some hooting and hollering --- I’d asked everyone I talked to that night to be sure to yell for me --- but again, it’s something of a blur.

I vaguely recall getting undressed and back into my own clothes. (I swear I didn’t drink that much champagne, but apparently I did.) The artist came back and told us how much we fucking rock, and how thrilled she was with our performance. I was surprised to realize that I actually cared what she thought. Her brusque, no-bullshit attitude ended up being totally endearing. I think it didn’t hurt that I spent part of the evening hanging out with her 21-year-old daughter, who clearly loves her mom but also felt free to roll her eyes every now and then.

I actually watch the end of the fashion show, then tool around with Darren a few more times. We drink another cup of champagne and munch a bunch of chips and salsa. Then he guides me, wobbly on these heels I’ve been standing in for hours, down the rickety stairs, across a few parking lots and into the car. We’re in bed by 11, and the next morning I feel as though I’ve been run over by a truck. All in all, not a bad way to spend an evening.

Weekend food fest

Phew, it’s been a 24-hour cooking whirlwind around here. Yesterday was a busy one, with four hours at work around mid-day, dealing with stories written by freelancers who chose to use the assignments I gave them as mere suggestions or inspiration, rather than specific instructions. Grrr. But we followed up that frustration with a good bout of leaf raking – I actually asked Darren to wait for me to rake so I could be guaranteed some time outside and a wee bit of exercise.

We grocery shopped and hit the video store yesterday afternoon, then I made squash and sausage soup, an Emeril recipe that I loooove. Also made a spinach salad with apples and red onion and an apple crisp. The crisp could’ve come out better – I didn’t get the topping moist enough, so there were some dry flour bits in the finished product, but that was solved by mushing them around and covering them with ice cream. It’s rare that I make dessert when it’s just the two of us, but it felt cozy and festive.

We ate while watching an impromptu animation double feature --- The Iron Giant and Ice Age. Ice Age was cute and the animation impressive (my sister’s boyfriend’s brother worked on the film), but it’s not the best story ever. And I can see how little kids would get totally addicted to the movie and then drive you insane quoting some of the sarcastic lines from it. The best part to my mind was the MPAA warning before the movie starts, which says it was rated PG for “mild peril.” How’s that for an evocative description?

Iron Giant was much better, not least because it’s set in Maine. I don’t have the stamina for a plot recounting, but let’s just say it’s particularly relevant in a time of war.

Weekend Food Fest continued this morning with French toast – again, something I don’t make all that often. But we’d picked up a semolina batard (which we, being the mature adults we are, insist on calling a bastard) for dinner last night, and so had perfect leftovers for breakfast. It was a decadent one – we also had some heavy cream left over from the soup, so I used that as the base for the toast rather than our usual skim milk.

Then I spent an hour or so making a lentil soup with cumin and red peppers for our friends D. and S. and their new baby (though I suspect the baby won’t be so impressed with my creation.) It was a pleasant way to spend the morning, listening to the end of Weekend Edition and then two hours of World Café, one of the best places to hear good music on the radio. It does have its drawbacks, though: I just spent $20 on CDs by two of the artists featured today, Jill Sobule and Ray Lamontagne.

On the books for the rest of today is several hours on the couch, reading the Sunday Times. Plus a trip upstairs to clean up the clothes that are strewn about the floor and bed, a quick trip over to D. and S.’ place to drop off the soup and, finally, the finale of the food orgy: beef, beer and barley stew, which should set us up well with leftovers for lunch this week. And I think we're going to watch Citizen Ruth, too.

As for that big food-related holiday coming up this week, I’ve got no idea what I’m making. We’re having a tiny little low-key celebration with Darren’s parents, so I’m just waiting to be told what to bring. No big blowouts for us this year, which sounds perfect right about now.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Instructions for the fashion show

1. Champagne cures whatever ails you.

2. Dressing up in ridiculous clothes makes it easy to make friends with anyone else who is dressed in ridiculous clothes.

3. Ignore the bitchy hair and makeup ladies.

4. Always be dressed by a cynical, jaded artist who will mutter under her breath about the conformist, boring, stupid fashions worn by everyone else, and tell you how much you fucking rock.

5. Going to a high-priced benefit isn't always boring and hateful.

6. Talk to people you've always wanted to meet but never had the nerve to. (See no. 1.)

7. Don't forget to charge the batteries in the digital camera. (Yep, we have no pictures. I would've posted them, too...)

8. Pushup bra + halter top = instant cleavage.

9. Working on Friday is a terrible idea. (See no. 1.)

10. Sleep.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The procedure

So a while back, Dooce wrote a very funny (and also terrifying) post about reconvening the procedure, something she and her husband were finally able to do several months after their baby was born. D. and I have been reconvening the procedure with some regularity these last few weeks, an area in which we'd been somewhat deficient of late. By "late" I mean... a really freakin' long time. And by "we" I mean me.

So it's all fun and happy to reconvene the procedure, and I realized it's kinda like getting exercise -- it feels wicked good, and the more you do it, the more you want to do it. Which for this particular moment in our lives works in our favor.

But then it hit me: The reason I am so much more into the idea of reconvening the procedure these days is that now it actually has a purpose -- it's not just for fun and games and getting all snuggly with the husband. So somehow, in my warped little worker-bee brain, that puts it higher on the priority list.

This is a perennial battle I fight with myself: Work gets done first. In fact, many times, I do more work than actually needs to get done. And then there's cleaning or projects around the house or brushing the knots out of the dog's tail (the perils of shih tzu ownership). Somewhere near the bottom of the list is "lay on couch doing nothing." Or "read a book just for fun." Or "reconvene the procedure."

This is somewhat appalling. Nonetheless, I mentioned it to D. last night. (For some reason, this topic has left me unable to type his full name.) He laughed knowingly and said that it's par for the course for me. I think he was actually somewhat flattered that reconvening the procedure is enjoyable enough that I put it at the bottom of the "delayed gratification" list.

So I am trying to figure out how to snap my stupid brain out of this ridiculous mindset where external stuff comes first and my own needs/wants/desires are a verrrry distant second. Cuz if reconvening the procedure has the desired effect, we will soon be faced with an atmosphere distinctly inhospitable to re-reconvening it again. And that would not be good.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

The family politic

We're just back from a quick trip to Boston, where we met my parents yesterday around noon. As it always is, politics was a major topic of conversation among my dad, my sister, her boyfriend, Darren and me. As we took the T to the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum - an all-time great museum, especially as an example of the power of one person's vision - several of us discussed the reasons people in the red states voted for Bush. As we rested our feet in the oh-so-noisy second level of Faneuil Hall (killing an hour before dinner), we talked about Ashcroft's resignation.

At Antico Forno - another all-time favorite; we've been going there since I lived in Boston for grad school, back in '97 - we growled about the many and banal ways in which people use the word "terrorized" as we ate calamari and mussels. And this morning, at a diner in Arlington, Darren filled everyone in on the status of his best friend, D., who is in a National Guard unit stationed in Mosul, which is emerging as the successor to Falluja in terms of insurgent activity.

And during it all, my mother said very little.

This is the way it often is: Surrounded by her liberal family, my conservative Catholic mother listens and remains silent. I'm almost certain she voted for Bush; she is a one-issue voter, and the issue is abortion. Back in the days when I interned at Planned Parenthood and NARAL, we fought about this stuff long and loud. More recently, we've agreed to disagree. But it still pains me to think that she isn't comfortable discussing her political views with us.

Part of my discomfort comes from the disconnect I see between her life and her politics. An administrator at a social service agency in one of New Jersey's most maligned towns, she works every day with junkies and the homeless. She excels at it - honestly, she is one of the kindest, least judgmental people I have ever met. She is endlessly forgiving, and extremely compassionate. She is, I think, anti-war, though as I write this I realize I've never heard her voice an opinion on the subject. (When she does say something, she tends to get drowned out by my overly verbal college-professor father, who, like his daughters, emjoys hearing himself talk.) She was sympathetic when I talked about how much the anti-gay marriage referenda affected several friends of ours, how they felt personally threatened and unwelcome.

But, as E., P., Darren and I discussed on the ride home, she probably still believes that they are going to hell. The only positive thing I see is that, unlike the frothing mouthpieces of the religious right, she does practice the Christian tenet of hating the sin but loving the sinner.

I just don't get how one issue could overrule what would seem to be the many areas in which she is aligned with liberal policies. And I wish I could talk about this with her. But a 24-hour visit wasn't the right time to start having that conversation.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

A pain in the brain

So, as promised I put in 30 minutes on the treadmill this morning. Only talked to one lawyer - a nice one at that, though he did ask if my sudden reappearance at the gym had anything to do with that fashion show he noticed I was modeling for. In any case, the run wasn't too horrific, especially since I was listening to Amy Correia's first CD, which I love. Darren hates it, though - says he finds her voice screechy, which I just don't understand - so I try not to play it in the house unless I am feeling particularly mean and hateful. Which we all know never, ever happens.

Anyway, the whole gym experience was pretty decent, at least until later in the day. I ended up with a horrible, horrible migraine that led me to bail out of work at 4 and spend an hour on the couch in the dark (among the joys of mid-November in northern New England is the fact that the sun was setting at 3:45 as I drove home...) before I could even get the nausea to subside enough to swallow some Advil. (NO, this does not mean anything about a baby --- I am quite certain.) This migraine thing has happened to me several times post-running, and I'm curious if any of you real runners (Anita, that means you!) have experienced this.

My guess is that I don't do an adequate job of rehydrating myself after the run. Today my schedule also required me to spend much of the day dashing around southern Maine for a few appointments - an interview for a story I'm writing, then a workshop for women who are starting their own businesses about how to deal with the media - so I never ate lunch, just scarfed a Luna bar and some seltzer in the car. That's not such a great recipe for healthy living, I'm thinking.

I did recover enough to watch a few hours of cable (Darren always knows that I'm not feeling well if he comes home and I'm up in the high-numbered cable channels, typically on TLC or the Food Network). And then we watched Before Sunset, a really lovely sequel to the Ethan Hawke/Julie Delpy film from 10 years ago. A month back, when we watched Before Sunrise, I was inspired to promise you more deep thoughts, less mundane recounting of my day. Oops.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Da doo run run run

Ok, I think that's a Beach Boys song, but in addition it's what I am going to do tomorrow, so help me Jebus.

That's right, you heard it here first: tomorrow morning, I AM GOING TO THE GYM. Where I will run on the hated treadmill. But I will try to be happy about the lovely iPod my fabulous husband bought me for Christmas last year, which will allow me to tune out the lousy music that they play too softly (I know, I know -- but if I'm forced to listen to Lionel Richie, can't I at least hear the words??). And I will try not to frown when I see myself, all red-faced and sweaty, in the millions of square feet of mirrors that line the place. AND I will even be nice and polite to the many lawyers who frequent my gym in the morning.

Ok, maybe that last one is pushing it a little too far.

I haven't run in several weeks. It's gotten too cold for a wimp like me to run outdoors in the morning, and I just haven't been able to make the transition to the gym. But I came home from work today like a ball of fury, all pent up and firy (firey?) when Darren put the baking dish containing the pork tenderloin w/ garlic and rosemary in the oven the WRONG WAY. It was horizontal, can you believe it? Who would put a pan in the oven horizontally, especially when they KNEW their insane stressball of a wife would ANY MINUTE want to put another baking pan full of lovely delicata squash in next to it? Who, I ask you????

So, yeah, I gotta get some of this angst out somewhere else than in the house.

Especially since - did I mention this? - I have been roped into participating in a benefit fashion show next week. I am wearing a probably very chic but somewhat wacky poncho/hat thing made by a local fiber artist. She thinks I am a total dweeb, and I think she is right. Our conversation at the fitting this afternoon, about what I will wear with the poncho/hat thing, went like this:

Artist: What do you have for shoes?
MC: Many, many pairs of black ones, and some sneakers.
Artist: [frown]
MC: Oh! And some conservative brown ones!!
Artist: Hmm, maybe you can go barefoot. Ok, what about wide-legged, loose pants? Something blue or green?
MC: Uh, no.
Artist: What kind of shirts do you have?
MC: Umm, buttondowns---
Artist: [firmly] NO BUTTONDOWNS.
MC: Some long-sleeved t-shirts, turtlenecks...
Artist: [Glares]
Artist: How about a long, flowy skirt?
MC: Umm, I don't really wear skirts much. [Which is a lie, sort of. But it's becoming clear that she won't like my skirts. Or anything else.]
Artist: Maybe you can fit into my clothes.
MC: [Of course, because I am a little tiny fashionable twig, just like you.] AAAAACK.
Artist: Can you bring some earrings? Some big, chunky, fashionable ones?
MC: Maybe they didn't explain to you - I edit a business magazine? So my clothes? Are pretty boring.
Artist: [wearily] Ok, I'll bring earrings, too. I'll just bring a whole shitload of stuff on Thursday morning and we'll find something that works.

Can you imagine how much I'm looking forward to this? (Let alone how much she's anticipating it.) Reportage to follow.

Monday, November 08, 2004

The reply

The following is the message I got in return from Working Assets:
Dear mc,
Thank you for your comments about the Working Assets Credit Card. We appreciate the opportunity to respond to your concerns regarding our new relationship with MBNA America.

Since Working Assets is not a financial institution, we require the assistance of a bank to issue our credit card. Due to the size of our customer base, only large banks are able to handle our credit card program. Thus when our prior issuer, Fleet Bank, put our credit card portfolio up for sale, and MBNA emerged as the only bidder, we accepted an arrangement with MBNA as a way to maintain our ability to offer the credit card product.

All of us at Working Assets are doing our best to make social change happen while remaining a viable business. We believe that the tens of millions of dollars channeled to progressive non-profits through our credit card and long distance programs more than offset the inevitable compromises required to operate our business.

Customer Relations Representative

Hmmph. Stupid complicated world that makes angry consumer gestures all complicated and messy and stuff.

Anyway, my latest thought is that (a) I was planning to cancel this card anyway; (b) I've been working on eliminating my credit card debt, too; and (c) fewer finance charges mean more money for me to give directly to happy liberal causes. At this point on a long Monday, that's the best I can do.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Voting with dollars

So, just a few minutes ago, I did something I’d been wanting to do for a while: I cancelled an MBNA credit card. MBNA, in case you don’t know, is a ginormous credit card company whose employees make tons of political donations to those jerks in the White House. Don’t believe me? Check Open Secrets, a fantastic independent website that tracks corporate political contributions, among other things.

The contradiction here is that this was actually a Working Assets card, which meant that a small portion of my interest fees went to happy liberal causes. I’d love to know what the folks at Working Assets thought when their cards were bought by MBNA --- something that happens more and more as the finance industry continues to consolidate.

In the end, though, I was unhappy with the fact that the majority of my interest was going to pad MBNA’s pockets. Since I’d recently found a good card deal elsewhere, and since I’ve been irritated and frustrated about how to deal with the fallout from the election, I decided to cancel.

Needless to say, this confounded the first customer service rep who answered the phone --- a bit ironic, since MBNA does a lot of its inbound customer service here in Maine. The woman was bewildered by my rationale for dropping the card: “But we don’t have a political affiliation that I’m aware of,” she said.

"Actually, you do," I say. "Hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican campaigns."

"Ohhh," she says in a voice full of wonder. She encourages me to be sure to tell her “associate” why I’m dropping the account. “They’ll be very interested to know that,” she says.

So she transfers me to the heavy-handed guys in the department where they try to salvage your business. This guy is no nonsense. When I tell him why I’m cancelling the account --- “I don’t agree with your support of the Bush administration” --- he says, “Well, I can’t respond to that. Are you sure there’s no other reason?”

“I was very happy with your service,” I say. “It’s just your politics I have a problem with.”

He doesn’t even try to salvage the account. Tells me to destroy the card, and that if I want, I can reopen it within the next six months and get the same account number. Not bloody likely.

I’m under no illusions that my other credit card providers are saints, let alone liberals. But I know a few things about MBNA, and I acted on them. And small though that action is, it feels good.

[I wrote this entry last night but stupid Blogger wouldn't allow me to post it.]

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

One more thing

I am LOVING the fact that, as I e-mailed Meg a little earlier, so many of us non-explicitly-political bloggers are writing and conversing about this election. Yes, we're pissed off and frustrated and sad -- but we're experiencing this together, which is powerful.

Forgive me if this is a little Pollyanna-ish, but if we can keep this kind of engagement and conversation going for the next four years, we're gonna be trouble for the close-minded, fearful, certainty-loving people who won this election for Bush.

[steps off of soap box, heads upstairs to bed.]

Notes to self

~Pants that are uncomfortable when you put them on do not, typically, get more comfortable as the day goes on.

~When the beach chairs are covered in dry leaves, it's a good indication that summer is over and the chairs should really get put in the garage.

~Just because your political candidate lost, it's not the end of the world. The fact that he will appoint one or more Supreme Court justices? That, in fact, might be the end of the world... at least for civil rights and equality.

~Pontificating on politics after a few pints of Atlantic Brewing's Coal Porter (and a very fabulous beet, green bean, goat cheese and balsamic vinegar pizza) is not necessarily the smartest idea in the world.

The morning after

I can't say I'm surprised by the results of yesterday's voting, but I am disappointed. Especially because, where I live, I voted in the majority on nearly every candidate and issue. Maine went solidly for Kerry; both incumbents (Dems) for the House of Representatives were re-elected; the scary California-esque tax cap referendum was defeated; and even my choices for state Senate and House (Dem incumbents) won. (I was wrong on city council, where I have to admit I was less informed than I ought to be, and on the bear-baiting question, which came down to a north-south split.) So clearly my views are not all that out of place in this blue corner of the country... the area where, as Jon Stewart said last night in the only election coverage that didn't increase my blood pressure, we'll all be huddling together and weeping for the next four years.

Perhaps that's why I feel so disappointed - we've got our nice, liberal bubble here in the Northeast, and though my boss and my mother are conservative Republicans (both Catholic one-issue voters) I just don't have tons of contact on a daily basis with super conservative "folks." I did witness a nasty little incident at the polls yesterday morning over gay rights, which ended with one of my fellow citizens calling a gay rights advocate a bitch and storming out. (Darren and I then noisily expressed our support for both civil rights and gay marriage, hoping to make the advocate feel better and to encourage others to sign her list.) Still, that sort of thing doesn't happen that much around here.

So I guess it's time to start watching Fox News and reading the Wall Street Journal editorial page in an attempt to discern what the hell my fellow Americans are thinking. Egads.