An Unexpected Gift


2015 handed me an unexpected gift, and it’s not what you’re thinking. It’s not a pen. It’s not even a thing.

It’s MS. Multiple Sclerosis.

Last Christmas, MS was somebody else’s disease. This Christmas, it’s mine.

I won’t lie. My diagnosis brought with it a giant serving of negative emotions- numbing fear, confusion, dismay, deep sadness. I cried at work. I never cry at work.

But when the sharpness of those first few days and weeks softened, my perspective shifted, and I began to see my MS in terms of what it has given me, rather than what it may be taking away.

MS has given me kindness. So many people- family, old friends, new friends, even strangers- have given me the gift of kindness that has helped beyond measure. I’ve been buoyed up and overwhelmed by the goodness of people who’ve reached out with letters, emails, texts, conversations, and hugs. This kindness carries me through the swift current of jagged emotions that sometimes feels like it could sweep me away.

I hope, too, that MS has made me kinder and more attuned to the needs of others. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our own “stuff” that it’s tricky to see when someone else might be faltering. I think my experience this year has tuned my radar a bit so that I respond with the same kindness that has been shown to me. This is a work in progress for me, for sure. It’s another “muscle” to exercise.

MS has also made me appreciate, and push, my body. About a year before my diagnosis, I started participating in the Whole Life Challenge (WLC) as a way to drop some pounds and a handful of bad habits. The WLC worked like a charm. I lost weight, kicked a bad sugar habit, gave up soda for good, and became more active. I was feeling the healthiest I’ve felt in years when I was blindsided by my sudden symptoms and eventual diagnosis.

At first I was incredibly angry. Like “Fuck you, universe!” angry. How dare I get this thing when I’m doing everything in my power to live a healthier life. Then a friend pointed out that maybe the universe nudged me towards the Whole Life Challenge so that I’d be in a better place to deal with this thing. I was coming at it from a position of strength rather than one of weakness. She was so right.

I skipped one of the 8-week challenges when my symptoms were at their peak and I wasn’t sure what I was dealing with, but even then, I kept walking for exercise, despite the fact that it felt like I was walking on electrified barbed wire.

Gradually the symptoms faded, and I’ve been able to participate in subsequent challenges and have recently ramped up my exercise even further to include a regular weight workout. A friend and I serve as each other’s fitness buddy which keeps both of us motivated and accountable. That’s been another gift- having someone to push me just a little harder, a little further.

I start another round of the Whole Life Challenge in a few weeks. Each time I play the challenge, I burn in my new and improved habits a little deeper. I’m so grateful that I work someplace where wellness is a huge priority, where our WLC team really bonds, shares, and encourages. I like stretching myself and my body. I like feeling healthy and whole, despite the MS, despite some ongoing low level symptoms.

This Christmas, I’m grateful for all that MS has given me- for showing me that even in our darkest days, there is gold.

Everywhere Carry: Nock Co. Sinclair and Karas Kustoms Bolts

Vespa Scooters

On a recent episode of The Pen Addict podcast, Ana Reinert (of The Well-Appointed Desk) mentioned how she picked up a Karas Kustoms Bolt in olive green, because it matches her vintage Vespa scooter. That kind of logic works for me! I have a brown Vespa so of course I must have a Bolt in the new brown color. (It’s like these people hypnotize me.) Fred got into the act and prodded me to order the olive green version as well. Well, twist my arm.

I did as commanded and placed my order for an olive green standard Bolt and a brown Pilot G2 Bolt.

In the meantime, the guys at Nock Co. finally released their long-anticipated zippered Sinclair pen case. I saw Brad’s multi-colored prototype at the DC Pen Show, and knew it’d be a no-brainer purchase. Despite owning one or more of every Nock Co. pen case, this one looked extra-special. On launch day, I ordered the Forest/Sunshine and Camo/Raven versions since the Barn Red/Midnight colorway wasn’t available. I’m no camo fan, but I wanted two different colors, so camo it was.

In a cool bit of shipping coincidence, both orders arrived on the same day, and THAT’S when the lightbulb switched on! (I’m kind of spent lately so my brain is not firing on all cylinders.) The lovely muted olive green and brown Bolts are a perfect match for the camo colored Sinclair. Duh.

Sinclair and Bolts

I quickly loaded the Sinclair with the Bolts and have been carrying the case everywhere. Everywhere. Except to bed. And the shower. But other than that, it all goes where I go. So much for being ambivalent to camouflage.

Sinclair contents

The Sinclair is handier than handy. I’ve loaded it up with the pens, a Rotring pencil, Nock Co. DotDash 3×5 cards, a Field Notes notebook, the Write Notepads & Co. Linear Measuring Device, and my folded up Christmas shopping spreadsheet. When I’m out shopping, I store the gift cards I’ve purchased in the Sinclair to keep them secure. I can carry all of this in the case with room for more.

Sinclair zipper

This is the first zippered case by Nock Co. which is what makes it so handy. No worries about anything accidentally slipping out in your travels. The zipper is sturdy and substantial. It’s as top-notch as the workmanship on the case.

Karas Kustoms Bolts

I obviously love the case, but what about the pens?

The standard Bolt takes any Parker-style refill while the Pilot G2 version takes the, you guessed it, Pilot G2 refill. I’ve been interested in the Pilot G2 Bolt since it was released, but held off until now as I was concerned that, at 6.125″, it might be a little too long. (The regular Bolt measures a very comfortable 5.625″.) There definitely is a different feel between the two pens, but I’m very happy with both. The longer G2 Bolt is a bit more top-heavy because of the added length, but is not at all unwieldy, probably because aluminum is pretty lightweight. In a heavier material, the added length might become an issue.

Karas Kustoms Bolt

I love the design of the bolt mechanism on these Karas Kustoms pens because it’s flush with the pen body, rather than protruding like on most bolt-action pens. The mechanism works very smoothly so I’m able to deploy and retract the refill with one hand. It’s both cool and easy to use.

Karas Kustoms now ships their pens with refills so you’re able to put pen to paper immediately. This wasn’t always the case. The lack of a refill wasn’t an issue for someone like me who has a shoebox stuffed with all kinds of refills, but for most people it may have been a bit of a stumbling block. My standard Bolt arrived with a black Schmidt EasyFlow 9000 refill installed, while the Pilot G2 Bolt came equipped with a 0.5 mm Pilot G2 gel refill, also in black. I’m a fan of both refills so I’ve had no reason to swap them for anything else. But if you’re so inclined, the standard Bolt takes any Parker-style refill, while there are other options and tip sizes available for the G2 Bolt (Pilot Juice refills, etc.).


I couldn’t be happier with this set-up. Both the Nock Co. Sinclair case and the  Karas Kustoms Bolts pens go with me everywhere. They’re not just my Everyday Carry, they’re my Everywhere Carry.

Use the code HAPPYHOLIDAYS to get 15% off of your Karas Kustoms order. (That’s what I did!)

I purchased everything shown and discussed in this review with my own funds. There are no affiliate links and I’ve received no compensation for this post. 

Where I’ve Been

Popping in to say “hi” after a longer than usual absence. My mom had surgery November 20th to repair an aortic aneurysm and to replace a leaky valve. It was a big surgery so recovery is taking some time.

Yesterday was a big step. She was moved from the hospital in Syracuse to a short-term rehab facility in Utica, thus making our daily visits so much easier. It’s great to have her back in town.

I’m so happy she is on the mend, and I look forward to the day when I can spend some quality time with my pens and get back to posting here.

It’s been a challenging year, for sure, but we’re gonna pull through!

Go, mom!!

(I think the “green roof” on the hospital, pictured above, is kind of cool.)