“Can I keep this?”

Yesterday morning we were at the attorney’s office reviewing and signing the documents that I mentioned in a recent post—healthcare proxy, Power of Attorney, Last Will & Testament, Revocable Trust, etc. It’s a head-spinning process where I understand the broad strokes but not necessarily the pages and pages of finer details. In any case, we’re making good progress and it’s satisfying to “get our affairs in order,” as they say. Throughout the course of the meeting, we signed and initialed a significant number of pages. In blue ink. With a pen provided by the attorney.

I’d brought my own pen, a Lamy Safari ballpoint, but that pen had a black ink refill so it was a non-starter. Signing in blue makes it obvious which document is the original and which is the copy. I’d overlooked that detail when choosing a pen. So attorney pen it was.

I was prepared to be unimpressed by the generic-looking pen I was given, but, hey, it was quite good! The Integra 39060 0.7 mm gel capped stick pen wrote smoothly, cleanly, and in a classic blue color. Nothing to criticize there. In fact, I grew kind of fond of it over the document-signing time.

When the meeting wrapped up, I found myself (irrationally) reluctant to turn it back in DESPITE HAVING A TON OF PENS AT HOME. “Can I keep this?” I sheepishly asked, all the while knowing that this was definitely a “carrying coals to Newcastle” scenario. “Absolutely. It’s your memento.” So despite the ridiculousness of bringing another pen into the house, I’m very much enjoying my Integra 39060.

Do you do that, too? Collect cheap pens that are good writers? Or am I weird?

I think I know the answer.


This is one of my favorite things about using fountain pens—considering all of the possible pen and ink and nib combinations. So many permutations. “What am I in the mood for?” I ask myself. What combinations buoy me up? This is the fun part…or ONE OF the fun parts.

Three classics: Sailor Jentle Epinard, Grenade, and Apricot.

This Week #22 ink bundle is a great trio to break me out of my blue ink habit—a deep green, a sheening red, and a cheerful orange. I do love my blues (ALL of the blues!), but have been craving a change of pace and these Sailor Jentle classics are perfect inks for the warm and sunny season we’re in now.

So let’s pick some pens.

I did not belabor this! How un-Marylike! My picks include a (discontinued) mossy green Edison Hudson for the Epinard, orange-ringed Diplomat Elox for the Apricot, and a crazy-colored Karas Kustoms Vertex for the Grenade. There’s a mix of nibs in there, too—extra fine on the Hudson, medium on the Elox, and broad on the Vertex.

Soon to be inked

This is a satisfying little exercise—putting together a combination of pen and ink that makes you want to fill up the pages of your journal or write a long letter to a friend. A little puzzle. A craving. A joy.

I so enjoy that zingy little thrill of anticipation before I’ve even written a word.

You Can’t Take It With You

For the past few weeks, we’ve been tackling the things that are very easy to keep putting off—updating our wills, health care proxies, and Power of Attorney forms. Ours were woefully out of date and a number of things have substantially changed since the original documents were drafted many years ago. Basically, we started over.

And since we’re getting to a certain age, we decided to plan and pay for our funerals. (“Pre-planning,” they call it. But really, isn’t it just “planning”? Planning for the final “cruise”?) We wrapped up THAT project last evening, and honestly, it feels kind of good to know that we’re making things easier for those left behind—clearing up questions, paying those bills, making our simple wishes known. That’s a big thing to check off of the perpetual to-do list.

But taking care of all of this made me think—what do I do with all of these pens?! My beloved collection. Ooof. That’s a tough one.

The tip of the iceberg

I feel like a good place to start is to put together some sort of catalog so that whoever is sorting through my stuff knows enough to not heave-ho the pens into the dumpster. That’s an admittedly big project that I’ve taken a crack at a couple of times and then run out of steam. Probably chipping away at it is the way to go, but like all of that legal and funeral stuff, the endurance needed to complete these tough projects is difficult to maintain.

I also think that selling them or giving them away before “zero hour” might be a good idea. But it’s hard to do. So many fond memories live in these pens—but maybe that’s exactly the kind of good energy that should be passed on to others. Spread the wealth and the joy while I’m still here to see the smiles. Yes, maybe this.

Or maybe I leave it all to chance. What will be will be. I won’t be here to know one way or another. I gotta say—I’m not really a fan of this one, but it is an option.

Fellow pen lovers, do you have thoughts about this? A strategy that I can borrow? A well-constructed plan?

The other day a friend said to me, “You have depressing appointments!” but I don’t really see it that way. I like getting this stuff taken care of. I like that it makes me think about that final adventure, but also very much about the present. A present that includes all of these special pens, my feelings scribbled into journals, my stream-of-consciousness letters to friends. A present that includes inky fingers and one more chance to make those first strokes on a blank journal page before the sun comes up. Maybe this is heaven.


The Wonder Cats

We had the pleasure of visiting Wonder Pens in Toronto back when we attended the Scriptus Pen Show (2018? 2019?), and instantly fell in love with the shop and its owners, Liz and Jon. There was a lovely open house the day we were there with snacks and pens and pen show attendees from all over. The shop was abuzz with that frenetic energy and warmth that pen-loving people so easily generate. My husband was drawn to the tray of special egg tarts that Jon and Liz offered as treats, and WOULD NOT STOP eating them despite my hissing admonishments. “They’re GOOD!” he kept saying as I suggested that perhaps other visitors might like to try them, too. In any case, the Chans did not toss us out on our ears and we had a great time in their homey and well-stocked shop.

Since then, with great fondness in my heart, I’ve followed Wonder Pens on Instagram, and via Liz’s blog posts and weekly newsletter. The newsletter typically arrives in my inbox on Tuesday and it’s truly my favorite thing about that blah day of the week with its catalog of new shop offerings and Liz’s special brand of humor. And often, news about their two cats, Chicken and Tuna. Chicken has been their cat since he was a kitten, but Tuna showed up as a stray during the pandemic and slowly worked his way into their home and hearts. Chicken is not a fan of Tuna but Tuna adores Chicken so theirs is a story full of drama and unrequited love. Adding a bit of pathos to the story is the fact that Tuna suffers from a terminal illness. BUT he’s living a happy and well-fed life much longer than expected, thanks to the the great care he’s receiving as part of the Chan family. As a cat lover, I’m oh so invested in the story of these two Wonder Cats.

SO—when Wonder Pens offered two exclusive inks made by Dominant Industries—Ginger Chicken and Tuna Grey—there was no way that I wasn’t buying them. (For the record, this was back in 2022 before my big box o’ ink arrived, and I’d made my “no buy” pledge.) I’ve had pens inked with both colors ever since. High praise.

I was journaling with both this morning—Ginger Chicken in a Diplomat Elox and Tuna Grey in a Diplomat Aero. Great writers that are perfect matches for the dark orange and grey inks. Even the packaging makes me smile—sturdy glass bottles in little drawstring bags. Truly charming.

Capturing a dream where I was writing a letter to a friend who’s passed away and then realized I had no way to mail it to her.

Another dream where I invented location trackers incorporated into eyeglass stems. (It was a very busy night in my dreams!)

There’s even Chicken and Tuna washi tape—also a must-have.

My simple pen/ink log in a pocket notebook with Tomoe River paper.

The inks are as delightful as the Chan family and their beloved cats—a sweet reminder of the family’s warm welcome during our brief visit, and the ever-evolving relationship of Chicken and Tuna. Thank you, Liz and Jon, for your warm and wonderful shop, for taking such good care of Tuna, AND for not yelling at us about the egg tarts. You’re truly the best.

(Go, Tuna!!)

I Blame Joe

There’s been another pen purchase despite the “no more pens” pledge. In my defense, I HAVE BEEN resisting SO MANY PENS—very cool offerings from Retro 51, Ian Schon, Kanilea Pen Co., Levenger, and so many more. My pen-resistance muscles are getting a heavy workout, but sometimes a moment of weakness hits. Such is the case with the Anterique Mach Ball Brass Edition Ballpoint Pen that Joe, The Gentleman Stationer, now carries.

This started out innocently enough with an order for a handful of the Anterique 0.5 mm ballpoint refills. When Joe noted that they fit Bic Clic pens and significantly upgrade the writing performance, I was all in. I’ve never really enjoyed the refill in the Bic Clic, but do enjoy the form-factor and vintagey appeal of that pen.

I replaced the refills in my two favorite Bic Clics—one from CW Pencil Enterprise (how I miss that store!) and the cool yellow one from Field Notes. Joe was right. Instead of a draggy blah writing experience, the pens now lay down crisp dark lines. The ink is touted as being “low viscosity” which reduces the dragginess that you experience with some ballpoint refills. I’m not always in the mood for a line this fine—sometimes the thick creaminess of the Schmidt EasyFlow 9000 is what I’m craving—but when I’m feeling the need for something dark and precise, this simple and inexpensive refill fits the bill.

I suppose this should have been the end of the story, but it was not.

The more I saw the photos of the Anterique Brass Ballpoint in Joe’s store, the more it looped in my pen-loving brain. Stick to the pledge or don’t stick to the pledge?? ACK! (Perhaps you see where this is going.)

Well, obviously I cracked. The sage green version was just too pretty too resist—a very Mary color. There’s a real vintage appeal to the pen shape and color. The brass portion of the pen adds a very pleasant heft, and the knock is solid and satisfying. This is a very nice ballpoint at a reasonable price ($29) given the excellent build quality and performance.

Writing sample: My 4-28-2023 to-do-list was written with this pen.

The universe tried to thwart my efforts to own this pen by sending it on a USPS shipping adventure (not Joe’s fault!) that made me think I’d never actually get it in my hands. But after inquiries and phone calls and checking with neighbors, the pen arrived and maybe that delayed gratification made me love it even more. It’s a gem.

The enjoyment to cost ratio is high with this pen, so I don’t regret this slight diversion from my “no pens” pledge. And really, despite the title of this post, I don’t blame Joe for enabling this purchase. I actually credit him for finding the Anterique Stationers line at the New York Stationery Show (no doubt a “needle in a haystack” situation) and for offering their refills and pens in his online shop.

Fine. Crisp. Smooth. How could I resist?

The Pen I Bought While I’m Not Buying Pens

An admission: I bought a pen despite my 2023 pledge to not buy any pens. But I can explain.

Was it a gorgeous acrylic that I couldn’t resist? A limited edition beauty? A new eye catching model?


The pen I bought <drumroll please> is a pen made primarily for children—the very elementary Lamy abc.

A recent letter from one of my pen pals mentioned her discovery of Lamy’s “A” nib, which, as a left-handed writer she’s found to be more to her liking than regular Lamy nibs. Oh, I was immediately intrigued by this! What is this nib that I’ve never heard of?! By digging a little bit online, I discovered that the “A” stands for “Anfänger,” which is German for “beginner.” I also learned that this nib is more rounded, and thus, more forgiving, and that it writes a line somewhere between Lamy’s fine and medium nibs.

Well, I wanted to try this new discovery out. The “A” nib is available on the Lamy Nexx and the abc models, neither of which break the bank. Because I already own a Nexx, I decided to go with the abc, and it’s been a really fun addition to my fountain pen collection.

A 5-year Hobonichi entry using my Lamy abc with Pelikan Turquoise ink

Not only does the nib perform as I hoped it would—definitely smoother/wetter than the regular Lamy fine nib—but I also enjoy the “bonus” features of the abc. The maple barrel reminds me of the my favorite childhood toys— Tinker Toys and the homemade wooden blocks that my great grandfather made. (Give me blocks over dolls any day!) Sadly, the pen doesn’t SMELL like Tinker Toys, but I’ll forgive that flaw. This morning I found that the barrel is finely coated so that if you happen to get ink on the barrel, it’s easily wiped clean. Phew.

Write on the top labels, then appy the clear “sealing” labels to keep the writing from smudging or wearing off.

But my favorite feature is the customization labels that come with the pen. (I neglected to take a photo of my un-customized pen because I was so anxious to use the stickers!) Rather than personalize the pen with my name, as you would probably do for a child, I decided to use a Sharpie to add a bit of inspiration to my pen and its blocky end cap. I added “All is well.” to the pen’s cap and a miniature smiley face to the end of the pen. Super simple reminders that brighten my day. They really do!

The subtly molded rubber grip is soft and more forgiving than the hard plastic grip on the Lamy Safari—very comfortable for children and adults alike. I love it.

I picked up my Lamy abc from Fontoplumo for just under $15 USD— a great price for this super fun pen. (The nib alone costs around $8.00 USD at Fontoplumo, so why not get a whole pen rather than a single nib?) There’s also a red version, if that color appeals to you more than the blue option. (More colors please, Lamy!)

I know, I know, I know—I said I wouldn’t buy any pens this year, but this slight slip in my plans has been an inexpensive delight. I think of it as more of an experiment than a purchase. Which is rationalization, I know.

Lamy fine vs Lamy A nib (Ink: J. Herbin Emerald de Chivor)

But, hey, ya gotta have SOME fun, right?!

What, me worry?

After writing last week’s “Using the Hoard” post, I created a few of the specialty pocket notebooks that I wrote about in that post—the Pen & Ink log, the Menu/Grocery log, and the Worry log. Of the three, the Worry log has been the most-used this week—a real game changer for someone who is prone to stewing about life’s complications, large and small. Perhaps you’re the same?

I chose a Field Notes pocket notebook from an open pack and labeled it up.

Then I simply added start and end dates to the first page.

Now let’s get to the good stuff—the worries!

On the left-hand page, I list my current concerns—the stuff that’s bugging me. Each worry gets its own sequential number and a little checkbox. (Hand-drawn checkboxes bring me joy.)

This simple action makes it pretty darned clear which bothersome issues I have control over and which I do not. This realization is key to breaking the cycle of all of the mental grinding that wears me down. Those things over which I have no control are released to play out as they will. (Not always easy, I know!) Those things that I CAN control are tackled by taking action. Just noticing this distinction helps to clear my head, and gives me an illuminated path out of the fog of fear and anxiety.

On the right-hand page of the spread, I record the resolution (or progress) associated with each particular worry.

Some problems take longer to solve than others (Captain Obvious here!), so there may be multiple entries on the Resolution/Progress pages before a particular situation is fully resolved. In-progress worries for which action is being taken, get a diagonal line drawn across the checkbox to indicate that work is underway. Once a problem is fully resolved, the associated checkbox is completely filled in. Bye, bye worry!

Worries that are not at all under my control—typically having to do with other people—will get an “X” in the checkbox. I have no control over my mom’s eye surgery scheduled for July, so I’ll “X” that one out and release that worry. Again, easier to say than to do, but learning to let these things go gets somewhat easier with practice.

One more thing—starting from the back of the notebook, I record quotes and sayings that help me in anxious times—a little reference for boosting my mood and spirits.

I come upon these gems in books, on Instagram (e.g., Ryan Holiday), from wise and wonderful friends, from Stephen Brown’s videos on Stoicism, and from curated newsletters. Rather than letting the quotes and passages simply pass through my mind, I make a point of recording them for future use as there will always be troubling times and situations for which I’ll need perspective, comfort, and wisdom.

I have to say, I really love how this came together and how much it’s been helping me in just one week.

Are you a worrier, too? How do you tame the worry beast?

Using the Hoard

Brainstorming with my Waterman Phileas and Diamine Meadow ink

On a recent episode of the Take Note podcast, Adam and Ted talked about using pocket notebooks for super specific purposes. Some of the ideas they discussed piqued my interest, like:

  • A food journal
  • A dream journal (as someone who has full-color, cinematic dreams, this one’s a no-brainer)
  • A journal that you only write in when it’s raining
  • A journal of ideas about writing
  • A weather journal
  • A shared journal — each person writes one page then passes it along for the second person to do the same — a compilation of notes/letters into a single notebook (kind of love this)
The tip of the Field Notes iceberg

Since I have what could be called a “healthy supply” of pocket notebooks and only so much time to use them (a sobering, but also motivating, thought), I found myself brainstorming my own ideas for filling up, and using up, my hoard. Off the top of my head, I quickly came up with a very Mary list:

  • A walking journal — where, when, weather, distance, mood, observations, thoughts
  • A Spyder riding journal (once the weather improves) — same parameters as for my walks
  • A book journal — I’m a slow reader so this one would take awhile to fill.
  • A letter writing journal — notes from letters received as well as thought/ideas/events to write about in the return letter
  • A worry journal — what’s bugging me right now, then, eventually, how the worry resolved with or without my intervention
  • A Sunday afternoon ride journal — My mom and I take a long car ride every Sunday afternoon, and we we’ve done so for a couple of years. I think we’ve been on almost every road in a 60-mile radius. Why haven’t I been documenting these rides — our route, her chattering, wildlife seen, funny signs (like —”DANGER! Dumb geese, ducks, and deer!” recently seen by the side of a country road), weather, ice cream details?! Time to start.
  • A pen and ink journal — No matter how sure I am that I’ll remember what ink is in which pen, I too often don’t. Here’s an obvious solution to that problem.
  • A photography journal — Print photos with my Sprocket printer and stick them into a pocket journal with some notes about the photo. Analog Instagram!
  • A bird journal — Who’s visiting our feeders and the woods behind our house; who’s singing on my early morning walks.
  • A wonder journal —capturing those tiny moments that light me up before they poof away
  • A grocery list/menu journal — I’ve been using index cards for this, but it might be cool to fill up an entire notebook with weekly menus, recipe notes, and grocery lists —a reference for when the “What’s for dinner?” well runs dry.
Some Write Notepads beauties

I also aspire to simply jot down funny moments, overheard conversations, and life’s absurdities, much like Adam and Ted do. Like my pen and ink pairings, this material needs to be captured in the moment or it’s gone. Carry a notebook. Or ten. Take notes. Make notes.

Use that hoard, Mary. Time’s a-wastin’.

Filled and filed pocket notebooksproof that I do make good use of my stash, just not fast, or creatively, enough.

UPDATE: Menu/groceries notebook now in play. One down, many to go.

What I’m Using This Week

For Journaling

My favorite pen and ink combination for journaling this week is the Diplomat Aero (Stripes Black) inked with J. Herbin Stormy Grey, a grey ink with heavy gold shimmer. The broad nib on the Aero lays down a juicy line that handles the ink’s fine gold flake without clogging. It’s a tough ink to photograph, but I think you can catch a glimpse of the brightness the shimmer adds to the dark grey ink. (This ink was in the Week #12 bundle and I’ve been enjoying it in this pen since I unwrapped it.) I’m finding this to be a particularly nice pen and ink combination to wake up to. (Yes, I do wake up with pens in my head!) The page twinkles with gold flecks for a subtle glow that brightens up even the darkest morning.

For List and Notes

Rotring 600 mechanical pencil, ACME Optikal, Hatch, and #2 ballpoint and rollerball pens

In an effort to lighten my daily carry, I’ve decided to pull one pen case at random from my collection of filled cases, then use the pens in that case for the week. A “luck of the draw” kind of thing. This strategy significantly reduces the number of pens I’m carrying at one time, while also re-introducing me to goods in my collection that I might have forgotten about. This week’s pull featured the now-discontinued Nock Co. Hightower loaded with four favorites from ACME Studio, and a Rotring pencil—a great selection for the week.

The Optikal and Hatch pens both hold Pilot G2 0.5 mm refills, while the #2 rollerball refill is an ACME-branded Schmidt P8126. I guess I was mostly in a gel pen mood as the ballpoint is the only one that didn’t get as much much play, even though I’m a big fan of its EasyFlow 9000 refill. I often switched pens throughout the day just to give them all some use. I have 2B leads loaded in the 0.7 mm Rotring for a dark and smooth pencil experience.

And look what I found tucked inside the limited edition Kickstarter Hightower! An unused Nock Co. top-staple notebook and some of their excellent index cards! A sweet find!!

For Inspiration

I saw the book Good Morning, Friends: Gentle Suggestions For the Start of Your Day (by Jessica Kantrowitz) mentioned in someone’s Twitter feed and after a bit of pondering (do I need another book?), bought the Kindle version (Yes I DO need another book). I love, love, love the daily “scavenger hunt” that’s right in the beginning of the book. Jessica suggests that you look for these things amidst the busyness of your days:

  • A moment of peace
  • A moment of joy
  • A moment of connection
  • A regrouping after a (small or large) crisis
  • A lovely, cool glass of water
  • Birdsong

There have been a few trials in the week (in the month, in the year), as there always will be, and this new daily exercise of opening up my radar to look for these six simple but special things has been a calming and inspiring practice—the perfect reset for my mood in the midst of life’s snarls. Maybe you need a mental reset, too?

On balance, this was a good week thanks to little discoveries, time with friends, and the simple joy of putting pen to paper.

It’s OK if it were a tie or joke,
try saying, “I had something good today, too.”
And then, close your eyes.
Something as good as a tiny stone,
is rolling here and there,
more often than you think.

(A bit of wisdom, from the packaging of my hardcover Hobonichi Techo)


I have a little routine for loading up my car before heading to work—travel mugs of iced coffee and HINT water go into the front and center cupholders (trip #1), then my USPS backpack goes behind the driver’s seat (trip #2). Once at work, since the parking lot I use is a bit of a hike from my office, I drop off my backpack and drinks at the back door to my building, then head off to park. Day after day after day.

My backpack is something of a clown car, packed to the gills with necessities (work keys, wallet, OTC meds, spare earrings, a mini-umbrella, and maybe a lunch) as well as a mini (mid-sized?) stationery store.

Required notebooks:
1) Levenger Junior Circa for master action, waiting, and someday/maybe lists for both work and home
2) Hobonichi Techo—my calendar “bible”
3) Pocket notebooks—one each for work and personal to-do lists

Weighing in at just over two pounds, this doesn’t seem too outrageous.

The pens, though, are kind of out of hand. No—not “kind of.” VERY out of hand.

What happens is that I spy a pen I haven’t used in awhile then toss the whole case into the depths of my backpack. Repeat that a few times and eventually I find myself lugging around a very hefty load. (Why ever could my shoulders be aching?!)

In my defense, I have a writing implement to suit every mood. A ballpoint mood! A gel pen mood! A vintage mechanical pencil mood! I’m ready for any pen whim, and honestly, find comfort in having so many of my favorite things with me, even if they do weigh as much as a small farm animal. Ah, pens—my personal security blanket.

So imagine my horror when I threw open my car’s back door yesterday morning and realized that I HAD NOT loaded my backpack into the car!! ACK!! Talk about feeling unmoored (and a little bit woozy and disoriented). No notebooks! No pens! No security blanket! However would I face the day?!

I briefly considered driving home (about 20 minutes each way), but then took a deep breath and decided to embrace the challenge. Could I get through the day without all of my stuff? Could I go all “stationery minimalist” for an entire work day? Do I really need to lug around 85 pounds of paper and pens to do my work?

Turns out, I do not.

Coincidentally enough, I’d tucked an unused Levenger Circa Jotlet into my jacket pocket before leaving for work. (Premonition, maybe?) Why not give the Jotlet a whirl, along with the Ti2 Techliner that’s always in my pants pocket.

One pen. One notebook. A mere four ounces.

Oh, plus a dual-ended red/graphite Caran d’Ache pencil. Maybe 5 grams?

This super-minimal stationery kit got me through the work day without a hiccup. A stationery triumph and lesson learned. Travel lightly. Or at least lighter.

I’m not losing the notebooks, but I can surely carry FAR fewer pens. I realize that now.

In the course of the morning, I went from unmoored to unburdened.

Did you hear that? That sound in the distance? That’s my shoulders sighing in relief.