What Not To Do

You know those blog posts that make you want to burn down your house—and your life—because everything the writer owns/carries/does is excruciatingly perfect, with not even a molecule out of place? Yeah, this isn’t one of those posts.

It is yet another cautionary tale. [The first cautionary tale is here.]

One of the pens I purchased at the 2016 DC Pen Show was a Franklin-Christoph Model 45 XLV made from a Jonathon Brooks material. (Whoa! Who knew this was a thing?!). The pen’s body is a wonderful mix of purple and green and white with a subtle shimmer that suddenly wows you when the light is just right. In that vast, vast sea of pens that is the DC Pen Show, this is one of the two pens that called my name.

Add a little sunlight, and this…

Franklin-Christoph Model 45

becomes this. (Photos really don’t do this pen justice. But trust me, it’s a pocket-sized beauty.)

Franklin-Christoph Model 45

Jim Rouse, of Franklin-Christoph, outfitted it with a 1.1 mm steel nib, and filled the pen with Franklin-Christoph’s Midnight Emerald ink, at my request. After the tiniest of adjustments by Jim, the nib performed wonderfully—smooth, with just the right amount of wetness—and quickly became one of my favorite pens for doing my morning pages. I love the 1.1 mm stub because of the interest it adds to my handwriting, and it’s not a nib that I own many of. (Good choice, Mary!)

Writing sample

Here’s the scene. Last Sunday night, 10:45 pm. Husband and dogs are fast asleep, and have been for some time. I’ve ironed my clothes, made my lunch, and printed the week’s to-do lists. The weekend’s been a good one. I’m rested(ish) and ready to face Monday. But first, I need to lay out my morning pages journal and pick out a pen. That’s my nightly ritual.

Journal is taken from the desk drawer and I think, hmmmmmmm, which pen? After mentally cycling through all of the ones I have inked (too many), I decide to use the F-C Model 45. Lovely material, excellent nib, pretty ink. Perfect.

I should have gone to bed RIGHT THEN. But I didn’t. Nope.

Instead, I had a thought. A thought that quietly whispered, “There might not be enough ink left in that pen. You’d better check.”

So I checked. By opening the pen. At my desk. Over the carpet.

AS I WAS DOING IT, my brain clicked on, and screamed, “THIS PEN WAS EYEDROPPERED!!!” A hemorrhage of ink flowed from the body of the pen, onto my desk chair and the carpet. Midnight Emerald ink onto a light rose/taupe carpet. My, god!!

I stood frozen and horrified. This was not something you want to do five minutes before going to bed. Or ever, really.

I yelled for Fred—both for the need to confess my awful mistake and to have some help cleaning up the mess. He continued to sleep, blissfully unaware. I briefly considered running away.

(I wish I’d had the presence of mind to take pictures of the ink pooled on my desk chair and splattered from here to kingdom come, but all I could think of was, I’ve got to clean this up. Like, right now! So there’s no photographic evidence, but trust me, it was bad.)

Using paper towels, I made short work of the puddle on my desk chair. The chair is cherry wood so the ink cleaned right off. Phew.

In my rush to sop up the spatters on the carpet, I unknowingly leaned into some of the stains with my knee and wound up adding still more ink to the carpet every time I knelt down to blot at the spillage. GAH!

After I blotted up all that I could, I remembered that I had a small bottle of Amodex in the hall closet. Amodex- an ink and stain remover! Yay!

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I applied the magic solution, waited, blotted, and scrubbed. The stains lightened. But there were, it turns out, more stains than there was Amodex. I needed an industrial size bottle, not 30 mLs.

By now Fred was up. My yelling had finally penetrated his dreams and he bolted into the living room thinking I’d hurt myself badly enough to require an ambulance. When he saw the real problem, he was relieved that there was just a damaged carpet and not a damaged Mary. “Who cares?” he said, as I pointed to the drips and drabs and splotches.

Truth be told, the carpet has seen better days. Changing it out is on the to-do list. The dogs have not been kind to this decades old carpeting, so some ink spatters are probably the least of its worries. But still I dabbed and scrubbed, now using carpet cleaner and a toothbrush. The spots faded a little more but it quickly became clear that they would always remain to some degree. They would tell visitors that I’m into fountain pens. And that I’m an idiot.

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“Go to bed,” Fred said, and so I did, the adrenalin still coursing though my body.

In the morning I decided that I sort of like them—the Jackson Pollackesque drops and dribbles. It’s only ink. The carpeting’s old. There are bigger problems. (New rule, though: ALL pens are opened over a sink.)

I decided, after a good night’s rest, that I’d share this cautionary tale. This tale of what not to do.

My stain. Your gain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s Nothing Like a Pen Show For…

Sea of Pens

seeing more pens in one place than you’ve ever seen before.

Franklin-Christoph

For visiting favorite vendors.

[Scott Franklin, of Franklin-Christoph]

Ink and notebooks

For adding to your already healthy stash of ink and pocket notebooks.

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For meeting the very nice guys who make those notebooks.

[Story Supply Co.’s Vito Grippi and Gabriel Dunmire]

Fisher of Pens pen

For finding the pen that calls your name…

Carl Fisher, Fisher of Pens

and meeting the man who made that pen…

[Carl Fisher, of Fisher of Pens]

Jonathon Brooks

AND the man who made the material for that pen.

[Jonathon Brooks, Carolina Pen Co., and his wonderful wife, Elizabeth]

The Nibsmith

For having a little nib work done.

[Dan Smith, The Nibsmith]

Starter set for a friend

For helping a friend at home get started with this fountain pen obsession hobby.

A patient husband

For testing the patience of your “not really into pens” husband.

(In all honesty, he did very well. Better than I do at car shows, where I’m “over it” after an hour or two. When we got home Sunday night, he did say, “Well…I think I’ve seen enough pens to last me a few years.” Fair enough.)

Ana and Brad

For saying a few words of thanks to the people who inspire you.

[Ana Reinert, The Well-Appointed Desk and Brad Dowdy, The Pen Addict]

But mostly…

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it’s about spending time with friends.

[Michelle, me (looking goofy), Karen, Phil, Tracy, Ashley, and Ira. So many more not pictured.]

Paul Joynes

[Paul Joynes, Gorgeous.Ink]

Joe Lebo

 [My pen show buddy, Joe Lebo]

Pen show swag

The pens, paper, notebooks, and ink are all great, but there’s so much more.

There’s sharing and hugs and laughter. There’s friendship. There’s love.

There really is nothing like a pen show.

Cleansing the Palate For the Pen Buffet

Muji pens

I usually carry a ton of pens to and from work. This is not much of an exaggeration. I never know what kind of pen mood I’ll be in, what mode (ballpoint, gel, fountain) I’ll want to use at any given moment. I like to have options. Many many options.

Muji gel pens

But this week, as I get ready to head to the biggest pen buffet in the land—the DC Pen Show—I’m keeping things simple. Like a small scoop of lemon sorbet before a heavy main course, these basic Muji gel pens are serving as palate cleansers before the rich offering of pens I’ll encounter at the show. Tossed inside this Blue Q pencil case, they’re  inexpensive, lightweight, maintenance-free, and crisp/smooth writers. Kind of liberating, actually.

Muji pens

The DC Pen Show offers a seemingly endless feast of pens. Table after table, vendor after vendor, there’s something for every appetite. But like at a Las Vegas buffet, it’s easy to get carried away, to overindulge. So eat slowly. Take little bites. Savor each morsel.

Muji gel pens

I can’t wait to get there—to hunt down a pen or two that speaks to me. I don’t, though, have any kind of a wishlist. My plan is no plan.

Wait, I take that back.

My plan is to spend as much time with my friends as possible. Old friends and hopefully some new ones, too. It truly is the people that make the DC Pen Show so rich. Friendship, the most delicious meal of all.

Bon appétit.

Non-Negotiable: Eleven Days of Morning Pages

Documenting a dream

A couple of friends and I were talking at lunch the other day, how making something non-negotiable—whether it be getting to the gym, changing the dog’s water, or sitting down to write—takes all of the mental chatter out of the equation. A thing needs to be done and you do it. Simple. No need to burn energy mulling over the pros and cons or deciding if you have enough energy. You just do the thing. Every. Single. Day.

In just eleven days, Morning Pages have become my non-negotiable. I wake up at 5:55 am. Get up. And write.

The other day I had to leave the house by 6:30 am for an out-of-town doctor’s appointment. The old me would’ve said, “Morning Pages can wait. I’ll just write Evening Pages instead.” Or I would’ve skipped them altogether. But, nope, I got up at 5 am and wrote out those three pages—admittedly bleary eyed, but I wrote them.

Morning Pages pens

Just like I make my lunch and iron my clothes the night before, I pick out a pen and set it on top of my journal right before bed so that I can get up and immediately put nib to paper. I know me. If I didn’t do this, I’d be futzing around with all of the options, burning precious morning time. With that decision made, I find myself looking forward to using that day’s pen and ink combo which makes it just a little easier to sit down at my desk while the rest of the house is asleep.

Morning Pages

I worried about having something to write about, but that hasn’t been an issue. I tend to dream movie-length, technicolor dreams, with involved plots and a large cast of characters. In the past, these dreams would be hard to shake, causing me to walk around exhausted all day, suffering from a kind of dream hangover. But last week, after a dream that had me stranded in a foreign city with someone else’s cellphone (no stress there!), I sat down and wrote out the entire dream. Doing so, caused it to retreat in my head, so that, yeah, I remembered it, but I wasn’t living it all day long.

In addition to dreams, I write about petty chores, big and small worries, the high highs* and the shitty stuff a day can throw at you; the feelings that are rooted deep inside my heart and all the teeny tiny stuff floating on the surface. This is what has surprised me the most. That I’m never at a loss for words. And how good it feels to put those words—those inconsequential thoughts and heartfelt emotions—into a journal, all in a jumble as they flow from my pen. Line after line. Day after day.

Morning Pages

Another bonus—my pens are getting used in a big way, and I am plowing through ink. The pens you see above are the four that I’ve been rotating through lately—a Kaweco Liliput Fireblue [Kaweco blue cartridge], a Franklin-Christoph Model 45 XLV in Coco Pearl [Kaweco sepia cartridge], a Jonathon Brooks Charleston in Combustion acrylic [SBRE Brown ink], and a TWSBI ECO [J. Herbin Emerald of Chivor]. As I empty these, I’ll ink others, slowly making my way through my collection. I’ll identify true favorites, and maybe set aside some that need new homes. I’m writing. I’m really writing. Man, this feels good.

Namami Paper Writer journal

This Nanami Paper Seven Seas “Writer” A5 journal is a dream. Its Tomoe River paper is well-suited for any nib and ink combination I might use. There’s no feathering, no bleed-through, and very little show-through. There are plenty of pages—enough to keep me going for 160 days at 3 pages per day. Admittedly, I have a long way to go (149 more days!) before I need another “Writer,” but that didn’t stop me from ordering a backup today. You know, so it’s waiting in the wings.

I’m hooked. Eleven days in and I’m hooked. What’s ridiculous is that it took me 57 years to give Morning Pages a try.

Now there’s no going back.


*I had an appointment with my neurologist last Friday to go over the first set of MRIs I’ve had done since my MS diagnosis last year. While there are two small lesions present (one brain and one thoracic), and I still have strange electrical sensations in my feet, there aren’t any new lesions. And one that was “iffy” last year is now GONE. He feels that we caught this very early and kept saying that I will do “really well,” as long as I keep doing what I’m doing—eating well, exercising, stretching, and taking my medication. Talk about a high high.

Thank you to the folks who contacted me after I wrote this post, to join my fledgling Morning Pages group. Knowing that you’re writing right along with me gives me the shove I need when I have the urge to linger in bed a little too long.

 

 

 

 

Accountability: Morning Pages

A friend and I meet at the gym twice a week. Week in and week out. I’m there for her. She’s there for me. Sometimes our schedules don’t quite mesh, but we do the best we can to keep each other on track. It’s been a game-changer for this “always picked last in gym” person, who used to avoid the fitness center like the proverbial plague.

Our current workout program ends with either extended lunges or  prolonged squats. Twenty seconds doesn’t sound like much, but when your thigh muscles are screaming, it feels like an eternity. Twenty seconds times four rounds. We push each other through this part. Honestly, she’s better at that than I am. She’ll remind me to breathe, while I’m thinking “How can you talk??!!” Point is, left to my own devices, the odds are significantly higher that I’d make an excuse to give up.

It’s all about accountability. I show up because she does. She shows up because I do.

Over the weekend, I dug out some books from the “to be read” pile, and settled down on the patio during a steamy Sunday afternoon with Julia Cameron’s Finding Water- The Art of Perseverance. In it, she lays out what she calls her “basic tools”—Morning Pages, Artist Dates, and Walking. I skimmed one of her other books, The Artist’s Way, years ago, where the same tools were described. The idea of Morning Pages has intrigued me ever since, but do I ever get up and write? Nope. Never.

Morning Pages

I have this terrific Seven Seas “Writer” journal with 480 pages of exquisite Tomoe River paper, well-loved and inked fountain pens at the ready, and yet, when I wake up, I screw around on my phone. Then it’s time to shower, cook breakfast, make my tea, and zip off to work. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

So I’m putting this out there. I need an accountability partner (or partners) for my morning pages, just as much as I need one at the gym. Anybody game?

Pens In Real Life: The Jar of Awesome

I’m doing the Whole Life Challenge for the sixth time, and, as promised, it continues to change my whole life. While diet and exercise (and sleep and water consumption) are a big part of the challenge, each week we’re also given a lifestyle challenge—things like meditation, leaving our digital devices behind, or de-cluttering. This week’s challenge, the Jar of Awesome, is brand new and has me really fired up. Why? Because it combines, pens, paper, and gratitude in a very simple and meaningful way.

Jar of Awesome supplies

To assemble a Jar of Awesome, all you need is some sort of jar. I happened to have this “Limited Edition” (???) Ball jar on hand, but you could easily use a washed out mayonnaise or peanut butter jar. Any jar will work. The jar itself need not be awesome.

To put the “awesome” in the jar, cut up some paper and grab a pen or pencil. Any paper. Any pen. Any pencil. I’m using Tomoe River paper and a couple of fountain pens today, but I plan to mix things up as time goes on. The tools don’t matter.

Jar of Awesome

Every day, write down at least one thing that’s made your day awesome. Simple, funny, heartfelt…whatever it is…write it down. I plan to use the Nock Co. 3×5 DotDash cards I always have with me to jot down things on the fly as carrying a mason jar seems like it could be a little…ummm…cumbersome. Then, later, I’ll transfer the awesomeness to my little pieces of paper.

Jar of Awesome

Toss the slips of paper into the jar. I’ve chosen to fold my paper so that I can catch glimpses of what I’ve written, rather than folding the paper so that the words are hidden. How cool and uplifting and inspiring it’s going to be to watch the paper slips, and awesome things, pile up inside the jar. It’s like a time capsule of all the good things that come into our lives—many of which we barely notice. The Jar of Awesome aims to correct that by showing us how much awesomeness surrounds us every single day.

Jar of Awesome

This simple project has also made me ask myself, “What can I do to be included in someone else’s Jar of Awesome?”

God, I love this.

Pens In Real Life: Taking the Gross Out Of Grocery Shopping

Grocery shopping is a necessary evil. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it, either. We go once a week, usually on Friday evening, to avoid the dawdling hordes that descend on Saturday. We like to get in and out as efficiently and quickly as possible. But then, who doesn’t?

DotDash grocery list

Oops…I wrote cherries twice. I must really want them.

I use a program called MacGourmet to digitally organize recipes on my desktop iMac. What’s really great is that I can export the recipes from MacGourmet to DropBox as .txt files so that they’re easily accessible via my phone. So even if we’re eating out, as we often are on a Friday evening, I can quickly pull together a grocery list for the coming week. As we brainstorm our needs and wants, I record the list on a Nock Co. DotDash 3×5 card, while also sketching out a tentative menu plan on the back of the same card. We do this every single week. And if we can’t, because of a Friday night event, we feel off-kilter. Creatures of habit, is what we are.

A packed Nock Co. Sinclair

The pen I use to write out the list, and to make my OCD checkboxes, varies from week to week, but it’s often selected from the stash of pens I have stored in my goes-everywhere-with-me Nock Co. Sinclair. I have a lot of stuff packed in there because I like to cover a lot of pen bases for whatever pen need or mood comes my way. Gel ink, liquid ink, fountain pen, and ballpoint options are all represented. It’s a clown car of a pen case. The Nock Co. DotDash card easily handles whatever type of ink I throw at it. Plus the grid is the perfect guide for drawing the checkboxes. I find them comforting. (Is that weird?)

Grocery list and Karas Kustom's INK rollerball

The pen I chose to write out my list this Friday was the INK rollerball by Karas Kustoms. (Huh. I’m not seeing the rollerball version on their site at the moment.) The Schmidt P8126 liquid ink refill is bold and smooth. The INK rollerball is a great writer that’s as fun to look at as it is to hold and use. All of this pen goodness distracts you from the fact that you’re preparing for a chore. The INK glides. Your mind goes to a happy place. I’m pretty sure endorphins are released. This is a good thing.

Uni-Style Fit Multipen

The list is made. We head to the store. Time to get down to business.

As we pick up each item on the list, I color in the little checkbox with red or orange ink. Yes, I could just check the box. I suppose. But the completely filled in boxes appeal to me, AND I get to use yet another pen. This week it was my Uni Style Fit 3 Color Multi Pen outfitted with brown, green, and red 0.38mm gel refills…a super sweet and customizable pen that I’ll write about in more detail before too long. (Thomas Hall got me hooked on these. Thomas, Master Enabler.) The Uni Style Fit refill colors are strong, and the ultra-fine point is wickedly smooth. The colored boxes make it abundantly clear what we’ve loaded into our cart and what we’re still trying to track down. Plus it’s fun to color, even if it is just a little box.

If we have to hit more than one store, as we almost always have to do, I jot the alternative store name next to the item. You know, for fun.

Grocery shopping gear

Despite this post’s name, I don’t really find grocery shopping all that gross. Unless it’s on the Saturday of a holiday weekend. Then, ick. But it is a chore that will always be there, week after week. The trick is to make it as palatable and efficient as possible. Using my pens and favorite 3×5 cards, I’ve nailed down a system that works for me, while injecting some fun into the process.

Grocery shopping tools

Now to find those elusive cherries.