“Just Internet Friends”

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I don’t know when Catie and I became friends, but it had to be back in the early 2000’s. And I don’t remember HOW we became friends, but somehow I found my way to her blog and then just stayed. I loved her voice and sense of humor. If you’re funny, I’ll probably love you.

In early 2007, I went through a surgery that knocked me down for weeks—a planned hysterectomy that also included a surprise bowel resection. Recovery was tough and included a second surgery to reverse the colostomy that I lived with for about four months while my colon healed. All this to say that, come fall, I was itching for a vacation to celebrate my recovery. Hey, I said, let’s go to California and see Catie! When I floated the idea, Catie gave me a thumbs up and was a big help in planning our trip, passing along recommendations for a place to stay, sights to see, and restaurants to try. I didn’t want to be a pest, but I sure as heck wanted to say hi to her while we were in the neighborhood, even though we were just internet friends.

Catie was excited to meet in person, too, and invited us over for dinner on a day that just so happened to be our 14th wedding anniversary. My sister thought that this was all very weird, flying across the country then having dinner with someone I’d met on the internet. She was worried that we’d be murdered, but clearly that didn’t happen as I’m sitting here writing this. What DID happen is that Fred and I shared a wonderful evening with Catie and Andy, and finally met Seamus the wonder cat. What a great night! Catie and Andy and Seamus were exactly like I knew they’d be—gracious and fun hosts who treated us to a delicious home-cooked roast chicken dinner in their charming San Jose home.

Throughout the trip, Catie would email me with suggestions of things we shouldn’t miss (which I clumsily retrieved via my clamshell iBook and dial up internet). We went on to visit the Winchester Mystery House, the Muir Woods, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, 17 Mile Drive at Pebble Beach, Stanford University, and several local missions that Catie had recommended.

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What a great trip, not only because we we’d spent the week in California (those sequoias!!) but also because I’d finally met Catie “in real life.” Catie’s blog slowly petered out in favor of Facebook and Instagram. She uses both of those social media platforms very much like a blog. I love her “Three Things” posts, where she details, in her very Catie way, three, usually unrelated, things. Like this:

1. Yesterday was my darling dog’s 10th birthday. He is the love of my life. When we got a dog, I knew I would love the dog, I just had no idea that I would love the dog this much. Every single night he jumps up on the bed and impatiently waits for me to get in bed. Then he slams his body into mine and growls at me because I didn’t leave enough room for his giant head on my pillow. I yell, “I AM ALLOWED TO USE MY PILLOW” he grumbles some more and then we fall asleep. It is super annoying and I really hate it in the summer, but I don’t ever turn him away because I know when he dies I’ll be crying about how much I miss his aggressive snuggling.

2. October 16th was our TWENTY-FIFTH wedding anniversary. We stood in a tiny catholic church in Mendocino, California and made a bunch of big promises to each other. The priest who officiated our wedding started the ceremony out by recounting all the marriages he had officiated that ended in divorce. I kept thinking he would somehow turn it around, but no, he just listed them out and then kept going. I was so overwhelmed by the enormity of the moment that I cried when I said my vows. I don’t mean just some sweet tears rolling down my young, supple skin. I mean CRYING. The priest even put his hand my shoulder at one point to steady me. Hahaha. You guys, I was EMOTIONAL in the olden days.
Anyway, we got married and then we went on to live our married life and we’ve never once killed each other or gotten divorced. Here’s what I think the secret to long content marriage is- let everything go as quickly as you can and accept that other person for who they are in the exact moment you marry them. (I’m not suggesting I did either of these things, I’m just saying these are good ideas.) No joking, I really like being married to Andy because he’s a really good man, he still thinks I’m funny and he’s 100% worth it. Also, he learned how to sharpen knives and our kitchen knives could skin a bear and then slice a tomato into paper thin slices and you cannot put a price on that.

3. Here are some things about us as a couple- We love a road trip. We are both messy, but we think the other one is messier. We have become great cooks, but in entirely different ways. We are horrible at doing most projects together. We are really good at making the other one laugh at themselves. We can make big decisions quickly and without regret. We are both super opinionated, picky, and have control issues, but oddly (and conveniently) not about the same things. Our super power is making deals with each other and keeping them. For instance, if we decide that we have to let something go and never speak of it again, we let it go and never speak of it again.

Tuesday night, while setting up a new iPad, I loaded the Instagram app and coincidentally stumbled upon the news that Catie—dear Catie—had suddenly passed away on January 21st. To say I was stunned would be an epic understatement. She was wise, authentic, kind-hearted, and FUNNY FUNNY FUNNY. She was only 50, and we’d only met that one time, but she was my friend and this is all impossible.

I’ve been walking around the past few days wanting to hug everyone. Suddenly it feels like nothing matters while at the same time everything matters.

We have these friends. Some we meet. Some we don’t. We love them in the many many ways that love exists. I loved Catie and now she’s gone and the world seems so quiet without her. Thank God for Facebook and Instagram where I can see her beautifully composed salads, her outfit for the day, her freshly manicured nails. I can hear her joking with Murray the dog and Seamus the cat on their daily walks. (Yes, the cat went, too…always trailing a little bit behind.)

In her last Instagram post, she showed off “before” and “after” photos of her pantry—a shambles before and tidy afterwards. The other night I purged and organized my own ransacked-looking pantry in memory of Catie. I’m sure she’s laughing about that.

I’m lucky to have a lot of internet friends—some, like Catie, I’ve met, and others I haven’t. But whether we’ve met or not, we share our stories through Facebook and Instagram, through blog posts and photos. We’re “just internet friends” but we share laughs and encouragement, virtual hugs and memories. We’re “just internet friends” but we share the details of our lives—all of those funny, stupid, frustrating, wonderful, and magical moments.

We’re just internet friends, but I love you.

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Who knew there was so much crap in my head?

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I started my Morning Pages practice in this Seven Seas Writer on June 25, 2016 with the words, “The first day of what I hope becomes a life-long habit*—to get up and write in this book—or any book—before doing anything else.” [*Well, life-long from here on out. I’m a notoriously late-bloomer.]

I’d already filled a few pages with infrequent entries that spanned about 13 months. That’s the story of my journaling life. Months between entries. Fit and starts. Abandoned journals. So many abandoned journals.

But something clicked on that June day, and I made a vow to write every morning and to FINALLY fill an entire journal. How many vows I’ve made in my life. A vow to keep the kitchen counter clear. Fail. A vow to put away my clothes rather than stacking them on the trunk at the foot of my bed. Fail. Vows and I have a checkered history.

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But this one—this vow to religiously write my morning pages—took root. On April 24, 2017, I wrote the final sentence in this particular journal—”The mad rush of the week begins soon. For now I’m just enjoying filling these pages, then meditating. A little more time for peace and quiet. A blessing.”

I’ll be honest, I don’t write every day. Weekend mornings can be tricky because our sleep schedule and responsibilities vary, but during the work week, I’m up at 5:30 am to put pen to paper. Without hesitation. This feels like a miracle to me, as I am distinctly NOT a morning person. Yet I always look forward to sitting at my desk, even though I’m bleary eyed and a little disoriented with sleep and the haze of frantic dreams. It’s a miracle that this practice has stuck. That there is always something to say. To be grateful for. To work through. To ponder. To explore. Feelings, thoughts, difficulties, and joys—all there to be examined and recorded. This makes me feel a little brave.

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480 pages filled one letter, word, sentence, page at a time. Colorful inks flow from cherished pens onto the luscious Tomoe River paper. It’s like eating dessert before the day begins—a treat, a privilege, a joy. This writing fills me up and calms me down. The effect is almost medicinal.

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With the Writer finished, I immediately started journaling in a Seven Seas Crossfield that I’ve had waiting in the wings. The cross grid is tighter in this book than the lines were in the Writer—5 mm vs. 7 mm—so the pages take me a little longer to write and look more dense when they’re filled. But this is not a race. This is a practice—a practice that is now as important to me as breathing.

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One letter. One line. One page.

Forever.

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.

 

 

 

 

A Vacation In a Pen: The Woodsmen by Bear Claw Woodcraft

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My cousins own this charming little camp in Long Lake, NY. Though tiny, it has everything you need to step away from the world without sacrificing comfort— a cute little kitchen, a strong hot shower, a wood stove. In order to get or make cellphone calls, I have to walk down their road, head to the bridge in town, and stand in just the right spot. That, honestly, is the best feature— being inaccessible. I’m never happier than when we’re vacationing at their camp.

There’s scenery…

The Wild Center

and trails…

Newcomb Trails

places to rest…

Charlie Scout, and Boo

and the world’s best pie from the Noonmark Diner

Raspberry Crumble pie

When we spend even just a few days at their camp, I feel my breath returning to a slower, deeper rhythm, my neck and shoulders unclenching, and a feeling of calm seep into almost every cell in my body. There’s no such thing as a stress headache in Long Lake. I’m pretty sure they’ve been outlawed by the town board.

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The Woodsmen ballpoint pen by Bear Claw Woodcraft has become a real favorite, not just because it takes my favorite ballpoint refill— the Schmidt EasyFlow 9000— but because its rustic carved body transports me to those lazy days in the Adirondacks. The look, the feel, and even the smell, remind me of the woods and of days without appointments and stress. This pen, I’m convinced, lowers my blood pressure every time I use it.

Bolt action

At 44 g, this is a weighty but well-balanced pen. The antiqued brass hardware looks right at home against the carved walnut barrel, and has proven to be sturdy and durable. The bolt action works easily with just my thumb, making it as convenient as a clicky pen, but certainly more fun. Need something to fiddle with in a meeting that just won’t end? This is your pen.

Carved body

Touted as being the only carved pen on the market, this is where the pen fits me perfectly. I love the rustic, but smooth, feel of the walnut body in my hand. There’s character and workmanship and the great smell of the natural oils used to finish the wood. This pen hits all of my Adirondack-loving buttons.

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The tiny wood-burned detail reminds me of a trail marker and our daily hikes on the Newcomb Visitors Center trails, where the smell of pine and the sound of loons means we’re far far away from our loaded inboxes. Bliss.

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The Woodsmen takes Parker-style refills, so if the Schmidt EasyFlow 9000 isn’t your thing, there are other options available (e.g., Fisher Space Pen refill, Moleskine gel refill, etc.). Priced at a very reasonable $46, Gabriel offers a pen that writes, feels, and even smells great. When I hunker down at my desk for a day of work, the Woodsmen reminds me of those warm summer days full of sun and relaxation, of pine trees and campfires and, of course, pie.

The Woodsmen is a vacation in a pen.

For another review of the same pen, check out this post by Matthew Morse. His post was the one that prompted me to buy this pen. Thanks for the nudge, Matthew!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.)

UPDATE: WINNERS of the Cabin Fever Giveaway

Regal Fountain Pen

Winner #1: For the Regal Fountain Pen AND a Jet-Do Hat is…

Winner #1

#32 = Miss Swytch who said: I love Lamy Safari from jetpens. I also like to browse through their collection and make a wishlist…so many goodies..and.so tough to pick just one!

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Winner #2: For a Jet-Do Hat is…

Winner #2

#57 = rebelmrd who said: I love the blog and pen tips …. and I LOVE trying new refills….

SO…Winner #1 and Winner #2, I will contact you via email and you’ll have one week to provide your address so that I can send out your prizes! If I don’t hear from you in a week’s time, we’ll pick a new name.

Congratulations to the winners, and thank you all for commenting and telling me about your favorite JetPens products!

Jet-Do Beanie Hat

Don’t Worry, Be Happy: The Pilot Kaküno

Thank you to my friends at JetPens for sponsoring this post. Because of their sponsorship, the Pilot Kaküno reviewed here was free to me.  This review reflects my experiences and observations with the pen.

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Pilot Kaküno

I’ll be honest— though the metal-bodied Pilot Metropolitan is undoubtedly a better value than the Pilot Kaküno, the whimsical appeal of the Kaküno is hard to ignore. Despite having an all plastic body and cap, and a slightly higher price tag than the Metropolitan, I can’t resist the charm of the Kaküno. Touted as the perfect pen for children and adult beginners, its superb nib makes the Kaküno worthy of a look by even experienced fountain pen users.

Kaküno with Rhodia dotPad No. 16

Each pen comes with a gray body, but the red, blue, green, orange, pink, or gray cap choices make this a fun-looking pen despite the subdued color of the body. (Unless you choose gray. But why would you?) I chose the orange version— though the green one tugged at me, too— because I almost always choose orange if it’s an option. AND it matches my new Rhodia dotPad. Which, of course, is critical.

Uncapped Kaküno

Pilot uses sturdy plastic for the body, and a hexagonal shape that keeps this clipless pen from rolling off of a desk. The snap cap is quick and easy to remove and replace, and posts solidly.  The triangular(ish), semi-transparent section is less severely molded than that on the Lamy Safari, but should help newbies settle into a proper and comfortable grip. The pen is LIGHT- just 13 grams (9g body, 4g cap)— which is why it’s such an appealing pen for children. If you require heft in your pens, move along. But if you like a bit of fun AND and an awesome nib, keep reading.

OH, NO face!

When I look at the end of the Kaküno’s cap, I see a little face. It reminds me of that kid’s expression in “Home Alone” when he finds out that he is, in fact, home alone. “OH NO!” I’m not sure if this is an intentional feature, but I think it’s kind of cute.

Smiley face

The most light-hearted feature is the smiley face on the pen’s steel nib. It’s hard to stay mired in a sour mood with a happy face looking up at you as you tackle your work. The smile performs an important function while also providing a little levity. It signals the correct orientation of the nib to kids—or even to uninitiated adults—who might not be quite sure how to correctly hold a fountain pen. If you see a grin, you’re doing it right!

Even the word Kaküno, which means “to write” in Japanese, contains a tiny smile! KAKÜNO. See the eyes over the grin the “u” makes? Cute.

Underside of nib

Where this pen stops kidding around is in the nib’s performance. My happy little nib is a fine—medium nibs are also available—and the line is super-precise, clean, and crisp. It is AWESOME. Even with such a fine nib (more like a western extra-fine, or finer), the flow is generous and the line consistent and smooth. It honestly knocked my socks off. (It’s true. I’m writing this in bare feet.)

Kaküno with Pilot/Namiki cartridges

I choose to keep things simple— as a beginner might— and installed a Blue/Black Pilot-Namiki cartridge that I happened to have in my ink stash. The Kaküno can be outfitted with a CON-20 or CON-50 converter, but I’m probably going to stick with the cartridges for now. One black cartridge is included with the pen but a converter is not, which is another reason why the Metropolitan wins the empirical “best value” contest.

Pilot Kaküno

I’ll be attending a conference in July and am already planning to take my Kaküno to Indy with me. I hate taking dear or pricey pens when I travel in case they get waylaid in the airport shuffle or I just stupidly leave them behind (unlikely, but possible). For that reason, my Lamy Safaris, Pilot Metropolitans, and now, this Pilot Kaküno—all with lightweight price tags— are the perfect candidates for travel.

Pilot Kaküno

The Kaküno is a low-stress, high amusement pen that makes writing fun and easy for kids, adult novices, and even veteran users. The nib’s happy face makes me smile, but it’s the nib’s performance that REALLY lights up my face.

It’s pure joy.  Ü

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The Pilot Kaküno is available from JetPens for $16.50. The CON-20 and CON-50 converters are also available, along with Pilot/Namiki cartridges. There are no affiliate links in this post. Thanks, again, to Elaine at JetPens for making this post possible.

For the official Pen Addict’s take on the same pen, check out Brad Dowdy’s review HERE.

Bob, of My Pen Needs Ink, reviews the Kaküno HERE.