Dear Everyone

Dear Everyone,

As I was getting out of the car after work on Friday, Fred said, “There’s a package from Brad for you on the kitchen counter.” Really? Cool.

As I started cutting it open, I figured that maybe he’d sent along some of the new Nock Co. notebooks. The box seemed a little big for notebooks, but what else could it be? Then there was another box inside that box, and yet another inside that one. All the while I was unpacking the contents I was saying out loud, “What the…?!”

As I reached the inner box, my “What the…??” mantra got louder and faster. This was not computing.

As I caught my first glimpse of the inner wooden box, I stopped breathing. And things got a little buzzy around the edges.

WHAT?! A Nakaya?!

Surely there was some sort of shipping error. I even messaged Brad to say, “Is this mine?!”

Then I saw Brad’s handwritten note—in his perfect printing—that let me know this WAS for me. From all of you.

Brad's note

Tears. Smiles. Lack of breathing. I felt ALL THE FEELS. I’m STILL feeling all the feels.

Nakaya Blue Rose Raden

The pen is a work of art—gorgeously understated, with inlaid raden in the shape of a blue rose with gently falling petals. (I’ll do a better job of photographing and reviewing the pen another time. I swear.) The medium nib writes like a dream. I filled it with Pilot Iroshizuku tsuki-yo and write with it every day. Doodling, letters, journal entries, notes. This is a pen that will always be inked, always be used, always be cherished.

Nakaya medium nib

For everyone who made this happen, I thank you. I thank you ad infinitum. (How inadequate those words sound.) Thank you, too, to everyone who has thought good thoughts, posted thoughtful blog comments, sent cards and letters, texted encouraging texts, listened to me vent, walked with me, hugged me, sent their own precious gifts, offered up encouragement and commiseration. All of that is as precious to me as this pen.

Nakaya Naka-ai Blue Rose Raden

Though the strange sensations in my legs have been turned up a notch or two this week, my smile and my grateful heart are off the charts.

I’m stunned. I’m speechless. I’m completely blown away.

I love you.

Mary

Another Hole In My Head: The Lamy Scribble 0.7 mm Pencil

Lamy Scribble Pencil

Did I need another pencil? In a word, no. Ever since I started listening to the Erasable podcast, their brainwashing suggestions have led to more and more woodcased pencils finding their way to my house. I remain enamored with the Palomino Blackwing Pearl, the Musgrave Test Scoring 100, and the Jumbo pencil by Write Notepads & Co. and have plenty of those around the house. I also have a couple of subscriptions (CWPencil Pencil-of-the-Month and Blackwing Volumes) bringing periodic pencil surprises to my mailbox. So, no, there was no need.

Lamy Scribble

But being well-stocked in a particular stationery product has never stopped me before. (See my stash of the Levenger Vivacious paper as evidence.) So when Goldspot Pens offered up the Lamy Scribble Pencil as a special of the week, I caved. It should be noted that I didn’t pounce immediately, but read and watched reviews which did nothing to deter me, and everything to nudge me toward the purchase.

Lamy Scribble

The Lamy Scribble pencil is sold in two versions to accommodate two lead sizes— 0.7 mm for writing and 3.15 mm for drawing. Though the look of the big fat 3.15 mm lead was intriguing, I knew I couldn’t do that pencil justice, and so opted for the 0.7 mm version. The Lamy Scribble is short (12 cm/4.7″), with a stubby chubby shape that could put you off. But don’t let it do that. Weighing a solid 24 g, this is one of the most comfortable writing instruments I’ve ever held. It’s fat where it should be fat, and slimmer where it should be a little less thick. It simply belongs in your hand. 100% comfortable.

Lamy Scribble

Lamy Scribble

With a matte black plastic body and palladium trim, this is a good-looking pencil. There is the faintest hint of a seam in the body, one that I didn’t really notice until I looked at some of my photos. The look is classic Lamy— understated and classy while also being eye-catching.

Pushing the pencil’s knock one time deploys a tiny lead-protecting sleeve, while a second push extends the 0.7 mm lead. A common complaint with mechanical pencils is that the lead snaps off easily but I haven’t had that happen at all— maybe because of the protective sleeve or maybe because I chose to substitute my favorite non-Lamy lead.

Lamy Scribble and Pentel 2B lead

Because I’m a delicate flower, and need to have my pencil lead write JUST SO, I swapped out the perfectly fine Lamy lead for Pentel’s Ain Stein 0.7mm 2B lead. Talk about perfection. This lead is tough and smooth and dark— a killer trifecta of pencil lead qualities.

Lamy Scribble's clip

The aluminum clip is thin and shaped to slide in and out of a pen (or pencil) case without issue. The Lamy literature notes that the clip is removable so if you’re anti-clip, Lamy’s got you covered. I like the look of the metal clip against the black body, and am not bothered by it in hand, so the clip remains on my Scribble.

Lamy Scribble

Lamy Scribble eraser

There’s a small eraser and lead-clearing “probe” tucked under the pencil’s knock/end cap. I haven’t used the eraser more than a couple of times as I prefer to use a separate eraser rather than going to the bother of removing the cap to access the small thing. When I did use the Scribble’s built-in eraser, it worked perfectly fine for rubbing out tiny errors. This is not an eraser for an industrial size mistake.

Lamy Scribble Pencil

So though I needed another pencil like I needed another hole in my head, I have no regrets about picking up the Lamy Scribble Pencil. And now that I’ve picked it up, I never want to put it down.

——————

Medical update: Not much to report as I’m still waiting for my MRI and spinal tap appointments. I rattled the cage of my doctor’s office earlier this week and should hear something by the end of the week. My symptoms have ramped back up just a little bit…still mild, but slightly more annoying…so I’m very anxious to make some diagnostic progress.

Updated update: Cervical spine MRI has been scheduled for June 30th. At first I thought that was really far away, then realized that, um, no, it’s next week. Where did June go?? 

Edison Pearl…Rollerball? Heck, ya!

Edison Pearl in Antique Marble
My Edison Pearl in Antique Marble (Photo Credit: Edison Pen Co.)

One day, back in the winter, I was battling extreme cabin fever by browsing around on the Edison Pen Co. site, as you do. As I clicked around, I noticed a section I hadn’t paid attention to before—a section about rollerball pens. Hmmmmm. Here, Brian explained that you can get every Edison Pen model as a rollerball, if fountains pens don’t do it for you. OR, if you’re like me, and keep a foot in both the fountain pen and rollerball worlds, there’s the very cool option of getting one pen body with two sections—a fountain pen section AND a rollerball section for an additional $50. When I read about this option, bells of joy chimed in my head (they did!) because as much as I love and use fountain pens, I also heavily use, and appreciate, rollerballs.

Edison Pearl Rollerball

Brian Gray and I exchanged a few emails to discuss this “two-fer” option, then came the tough choice of picking a model and material for my new RB/FP pen. I have handful of Edison pens, but no Pearl as yet, so the model decision was settled quite quickly. To choose a material, I clicked through hundreds of photos on the Edison Pens gallery and took note (quite literally) of which materials gave me a little zing. From this subset, I did some focused browsing, and ultimately decided on the Antique Marble acrylic. It’s everything I love— autumnal colors, amazing depth, liquidy swirls, some translucency, and a good dose of chatoyancy. Pretty stunning to my eye.

Edison Pearl RB & FP in Antique Marble
Edison Pearl body with both a fountain pen and a rollerball section

Brian estimated an 11-12 week wait for my custom order, and he hit that timeline perfectly. The pen arrived last week and it’s absolutely everything I hoped for. The acrylic looks like it’s ON FIRE…so hot. With the added versatility of the two sections, this is a pen that will be very hard to take out of rotation.

Edison Pearl Rollerball in Antique Marble

Brian included both a black and blue Schmidt 5888 rollerball refill (medium), along with two springs. The spring is seated onto the back of the refill to hold it in place inside the pen body so that it fits snuggly and perfectly. The Schmidt 5888 is smooth and kind of luscious—like the rollerball equivalent of fountain pen ink. The Schmidt 888 and Schneider Topball 850 refills are also compatible.

Edison Pearl fountain pen

For the fountain pen, I chose a medium nib, as I’m finding that western mediums suit me best lately—fine enough for my small handwriting, yet wide enough to see some ink shading and/or sheen. I will admit that I haven’t inked up this pen as yet, so I can’t speak to the smoothness of the nib right now. (I cleaned a significant number of pens this weekend and feel SO MUCH better getting the number of inked pens back under control. I’m proceeding with extreme care.)

Medium nib

My photos just don’t do this material justice. Much like the Persimmon Swirl acrylic of my Edison Collier, it puts me in a pen-staring trance with its mesmerizing jumble of swirled colors, depth, and translucency.

Chatoyancy
Swirls and chatoyancy

Pen cap
I like that little clear section in the middle of the cap.

Translucent threads
Catching a glimpse of the threads

When you buy an Edison pen, you get guaranteed satisfaction. In the letter that came with my pen, Brian wrote, “Our services go beyond the sale. If you ever have any issues, let us know. If you ever get a scratch, we’ll be happy to buff the pen free of charge.” It’s great knowing that I won’t have to jump through hoops should an issue ever pop up.

Edison Pen Pearl rollerball

While the Edison Pen Co. is famous for their gorgeous fountain pens, they probably aren’t who you immediately think of when you’re shopping for a rollerball. Maybe that’s about to change.

I purchased this pen with my own funds. I was not compensated in any way, nor was I asked to provide a review. But, really, how could I not?!

Hand-Me-Ups: ACME’s HATCH and OPTIKAL Rollerballs

As a kid, there were two things that made me go “UGH.” Leftovers and hand-me-downs. If I didn’t like tuna noodle casserole the first time around, I certainly didn’t look forward to having it warmed up for round two. Almost as unsavory, was getting a pair of slacks, a winter coat, or shoes second-hand from a sibling, friend, or cousin. The casserole and the clothes had both seen better days so they were accepted begrudgingly, and were not appreciated as they should have been. Kids want new dinners and new clothes. Anything already eaten or worn was seen as second-rate by my grade-school self.

ACME HATCH & OPTIKAL Rollerballs

Luckily, I’ve changed my ways, and now cook double-sized dinners on purpose just so we CAN have leftovers— cook once, eat twice! And I no longer turn my nose up at hand-me-downs. Many times there’s plenty of good left in the item, especially in the case of pens. (You knew I’d get to pens eventually, didn’t you?)

ACME OPTIKAL and HATCH rollerballs

Knowing that I’m a big ACME fan, Mike Dudek recently reached out to let me know that he was paring down his collection and that a couple of ACME rollerballs were up for grabs. I mulled over which one to purchase, then did what any sane person awash in pens would do— I bought both. Mike’s prices were more than fair and both pens are in pristine condition. Unlike the ungrateful child I once was, grown-up Mary is a very happy second owner.

ACME OPTIKAL Rollerball

The ACME OPTIKAL rollerball arrived with the standard ACME 888 Safety Ceramic Rollerball refill (Fine point) installed. It lays down an even, very dark line and runs about 0.6 to 0.7 mm— soooo smooth on my Levenger Vivacious free leaf notepad paper. This brass pen features an undulating etched design that’s filled with black lacquer for a unique look. The designer behind this pattern is Karim Rashid, and his signature is etched into the cap band.

Etched signature

The HATCH Rollerball, designed by Karl Zahn, features a series of “hatch” etchings and is sometimes called “the doctor’s pen” because of the unique antimicrobial properties of the brass. The ACME literature states that brass has “a remarkable ability to self-sterilize,” so the pen “lends itself perfectly to situations where hygiene is a priority.” (Isn’t that always?!)

HATCH design

It should be noted that the HATCH rollerball is actually coated with a thin layer of lacquer (for shininess), which will eventually wear away to expose the raw brass and its wonder powers.

I just think it’s a cool pen. I’ll still rely on hand washing to avoid germs.

ACME HATCH rollerball

This pen arrived from Mike with a Pilot G2 0.38 mm refill installed, and I was like, WHAT??!! Until then, I hadn’t realized that the Pilot G2 refills fit the capped ACME pens. Lightbulb moment!

ACME HATCH rollerball

These are hefty (about 42 g), great-looking pens that I’ve lovingly ogled as I leaf through every single edition of the Fahrney’s catalog. Brand new, they’re a quite a bit more than I was willing to pay, but Mike made me an offer that I couldn’t refuse.

ACME OPTIKAL rollerball

That, I guess, is my takeaway message— keep an eye out for deals on second-hand pens. You just might pick up a gem from someone looking to down-size their collection. To be sure, ask questions and buy from folks you know and trust. If you do your homework and proceed with care, you can score some first-rate pens at reasonable prices.

ACME OPTIKAL and HATCH rollerballs

Keep your eyes open and you might just be able to purchase a pen you’ve worshiped from afar. That’s not a hand-me-down—it’s absolutely a hand-me-up.

Mike’s gorgeously photographed full reviews of the ACME HATCH and OPTIKAL rollerballs can be found HERE and HERErespectively.

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Quick medical update: I saw the out-of-town MS Specialist on Tuesday and was very happy with him and his practice. He’s not, at this point, convinced that the MS diagnosis I received is correct, and has mapped out a prudent plan for getting to the bottom of my symptoms. There are lesions present, but they don’t necessarily mean I have MS. He’s scheduling more testing in the coming weeks—another MRI and a spinal-tap— to try to confirm or deny the original diagnosis. I came away impressed and cautiously hopeful. 

I remain incredibly appreciative of the good thoughts, letters (a bundle of which arrived today), and heartfelt sentiments that you’re sending my way. This is a physical and emotional roller coaster ride, but you’ve been amazing in lifting me up. I will, of course, keep you posted.

Slick: Lamy Studio (Palladium, 14k Medium Nib)

Lamy Studio Palladium finish

I’ll pounce on some pens in a millisecond, while others I’ll mull over for months. It’s not really a price thing (within comfortable limits), it’s more of a “what does this pen bring to the table?” type of pondering. I’ve looked at the Lamy Studio many, many times, but never felt won over enough to make a purchase. I can’t quite put my finger on why I’ve hesitated for so long, but some of it has to do with the polished chrome grip section that you see on most models. It looks like a fingerprint magnet and potentially slippery, and this, I think, is what’s been holding me back.

Lamy Studio Palladium model

A Lamy Studio recently popped up on MassDrop and happened to hit all the right notes— a Palladium finish (so there’s no highly polished grip), a 14k gold nib, and a price that wasn’t much higher than what I’d pay for a steel nib. That trifecta of factors pushed me from pondering to purchasing.

14k nib on the Lamy Studio

The 14k gold nib is a sweet one. To be honest, I’m unclear if the whole nib is gold, or just that piece down the center. In any case, there’s a softness and a bit of spring that you don’t get from a steel Lamy nib. I have some super smooth steel Lamy nibs that I enjoy using, but this is a different feel— a noticeable upgrade. The medium line hits a sweet spot for me— quite juicy, and yet still perfectly suited for my small(ish) handwriting. I could also easily swap this nib onto one of my Lamy Safaris, AL-Stars, or Vista, should I ever want to. (Probably won’t, but I could.)

Lamy Studio clip

Lamy Studio clip

The clip on the Lamy Studio certainly stands out from the crowd. Lamy calls it a “propeller-shaped clip” for the way it resembles…ummm…a propeller, and states that that the way it “turns in on itself is more reminiscent of a modern piece of sculpture than a conventional pen clip.” I see what they’re saying, as it IS sort of sculptural, but I’m a little undecided about the look. I like that it’s unique, but the higher profile makes it seem a little “bulky.” Well…not really bulky…but not as sleek as most clips. It functions perfectly fine for my purposes (clipped into a pen case), so no complaints there. The perpendicular profile might not suit those looking to clip the Studio in a shirt pocket since it doesn’t lay flat. So, yeah, I’m still a little bit on the fence as far as the clip goes.

Lamy Studio Palladium model

The palladium finish on this model means that the grip isn’t a fingerprint magnet, but it turns out that it’s still a little slippery—both in shape and in smoothness. There’s nothing, structurally, to keep your fingers from sliding down towards the nib, so I do find that I’m having to grip the pen a little more tightly. I’d hoped that the “brushed” palladium finish would add a bit of grip but I don’t think that it does. As a result, I sometimes notice more hand fatigue with this pen than with others. Kind of depends on the day and the temperature and the state of my hands—not an issue one day, then more so another day.

Disassembled Lamy Studio

The Studio arrived with two Z26 converters, but I’m quite sure that MassDrop threw in a spare. Sweet little bonus.

The snap-cap posts well, with a very satisfying “click” when pressed onto the end of the barrel. The pen has a nice weight (34 g overall, 24 g body, 10 g cap) and is very well-balanced whether posted or unposted.

Polished end cap

The Lamy Studio is a sharp looking pen—particularly in this champagne-colored finish. The 14k nib is noticeably springier and more fun than its steel counterpart. It’s a slick pen—with highly polished trim, minimal branding, and a uniquely styled clip. But it’s also slick to handle with a sloping, somewhat slippery grip. Though I sound iffy, I’m glad that I finally added a Lamy Studio to my collection, and think that, for me, the pluses outweigh the minuses.

Lamy Studio Palladium

The Lamy Studio—it’s one slick pen. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing is up to you.

The pen was inked with Pilot Iroshizuku tsuki-yo. The rough draft of this review was written on Levenger’s Vivacious freeleaf note pad.

Knocking It Out Of the Park: Retro 51’s Homerun Tornado Rollerball

FIRST OF ALL (yes, I’m shouting), thank you for all of the love, support, prayers, good wishes, emails, and letters I received following last week’s post. They have buoyed me up and I’m in a much better place mentally. You’ve fired up my fighter attitude and I’m feeling much more like myself— maybe even a new and improved version, in spite of this medical challenge. I’m sure there will be ups and downs, but it’s great to feel “up” after a long(ish) spell of “down.” I have an appointment with a specialist on June 9th (navigating the medical world has been a lesson unto itself), and my symptoms seem to be diminishing a bit (shhhhh…don’t jinx it). I’m very, very grateful for all of the above.

Retro 51 Homerun Rollerball

This week I really WILL take a look at the Homerun Tornado by Retro 51 that I pictured at the beginning of last week’s post. As with all Retro 51 designs, it’s a cool pen, with fun details, and a reliably good rollerball writing experience. It’s almost summer. Let’s have fun, no matter what life throws at us.

Retro 51 Homerun Tornado Rollerball

Maybe my favorite feature is the baseball design at the end of the pen’s twist-mechanism. I’m no baseball fanatic, but I love this level of detail and whimsy. As always, the knurled mechanism twists smoothly to extend the rollerball refill’s writing tip. This is a solid beefy pen with a sense of fun.

Simulated stitching

The simulated stitching on the pen is raised ever so slightly, so that the pen barrel feels just a little bit like an actual baseball. Great choice to not just have the baseball-like graphic, but also the feel.

The Homerun Rollerball is limited to a run of 750 numbered pens. I happened to receive pen #009, by some stroke of luck. Cool number for a baseball pen!

Baseball folio

As I said, I’m really not a huge baseball fan but because we live less than an hour from Cooperstown, NY— which also happens to be my father’s hometown— we visit there often and are members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. On a recent visit to their gift shop, my eyes fell on a baseball-themed folio that pairs perfectly with my Homerun pen. With our member’s discount, it came to about $9.00. Quite the deal.

Baseball-themed paper

The paper inside is well-intentioned in its baseballness, but, frankly, bothers me. The lines are perfectly spaced, but are too dark. The stitching graphic looks neat, but gets in my way. No worries, though. My all-time favorite Levenger Vivacious freeleaf Cross dots note pad fits like a glove (baseball glove?!) so a swap will definitely be made.

Vivacious Cross dot pad

Ahhhh…all better.

The included refill writes on the broad side, but I’m okay with that—especially on the Vivacious paper—so I may resist the urge to make my usual swap to the finer Schmidt P8126 refill. Sometimes I like a super smooth thick black line.

Pen #009

Retro 51 knocked this design out of the park, and you have done the same for me.

Let me simply say, “Thank you.”

Curveball

Retro 51 Homerun

It’s been a weird week/month/year. Since the beginning of April, I’ve been experiencing strange and spreading numbness in my right leg and odd sensations (like walking on electrified sandpaper) in both feet. At first the sensations were faint and I blamed them on the fact that I’d lifted a number of 5-gallon cans of solvent at work. Heck, so did the doctor for awhile. But then the odd feelings intensified and really took root, and I pretty much knew something bigger was up.

I won’t go into all of the details, but let’s just say that the last five weeks have been filled with battles for appointments that weren’t two months away, fear and tears, more MRIs than seems safe, good news that turned out to be wrong (“It’s a pinched nerve in your back.”), and ultimately, a fairly sure diagnosis. Last Thursday I learned that it’s quite certain that I have MS.

I have to say that I sort of saw it coming as the days passed and symptoms stayed. But still, it’s a lot to take in.

I’m in the process of getting a referral to an out-of-town MS Clinic and I really can’t wait to get there so that I can finally feel like I’m taking action while, hopefully, beating back my symptoms a bit.

As I process this “new normal” (a hackneyed expression, but one that totally fits), I find myself thinking thoughts that are totally cliché and belong on bad bumper stickers. Stuff like:

  • The only moment we really have is RIGHT NOW. Don’t fret about the future. (God, I suck at this.)
  • Family and friends (and pets) are what’s most important. This becomes crystal clear very quickly.
  • All of that stuff you’re worrying about probably isn’t worth it. (I’m sure I’ll continue to do it, anyway.)
  • You have to take care of you.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff…or even the big stuff. Enjoy the sun, a walk, a movie, a letter, a book, lunch with a friend.

Like I said, trite stuff that I knew but didn’t really KNOW until now.

My biggest fear is that I’ll lose the ability to write. My pens and pen friends and letters and journaling (sporadic as it is) have become such a big part of my life—a place that I draw calmness and strength from—that I worry (see? I can’t stop) that MS will affect that.

BUT, my sister (who’s always been a positive-thinker), sent the following words to me, “Sometimes in life we are thrown a curve ball. Not realizing how strong we are, that “ball” can, and will, be knocked out of the f–ing park!”

Maybe it’s fitting that my Retro 51 “Homerun” Tornado arrived during all of this. Maybe it’s a sign.