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.

The “Anti-Stealth” Edison Nouveau Premiere 2014 Spring Edition (Cherry Blossom)

A couple of weeks ago, I was blabbing about my love for all things stealth, like pens with black matte bodies and all-black nibs. I DO love those. I really do.

Edison Nouveau Premiere Cherry Blossom

But then I saw THIS pen on the Goulet Pens site and it’s obviously as “anti-stealth” as a pen can get. It’s pink and swirly and alive with depth and sheen. And it spoke to me. LOUDLY. Quite frankly, it would not shut up.

Pink & swirly!

Let’s set the groundwork— I’m not a pink person (she says, as she sits here wearing a pink shirt). Well, I did request a pink room when I was eight, but I chalk that up to falling for the “girl’s room = pink” stereotype of my youth. I’m much more drawn to earthy colors, and taupe. Lots of taupe. So me wanting this pink pen sort of came out of left field.

Sheen and depth and swirls!

It’s like how I LOVE the movie “The September Issue” despite being one of the least fashionable, comfort-trumps-all people I know. That movie, about the making of the September issue of Vogue magazine, is packed with moments of beauty, creative genius, and hard work. This pen, it seems to me, is packed with those as well.

Stabby ends

The Edison Nouveau Premiere model features a pointed body and cap, which makes it look a little “stabby.” That slightly tactical look, coupled with the luscious pink swirls, makes the pen that much more appealing to me. It’s like it’s tough and soft at the same time, which is a cool mix.

Translucent cap

One of my favorite things about the look of this pen is the translucency— how you can catch a glimpse of the nib and converter inside the pen. Coupled with the sheen and the swirls, this is, to me, the perfect look— full of interest and surprises.

Uncapped Cherry Blossom

The pen is a light one— 17g overall (10g body, 7g cap). This coupled with the nicely tapered grip makes it a great candidate for long writing sessions. The cap doesn’t post, but the uncapped body measures 5-1/8″ making it perfectly usable for just about everybody.

Edison nib

I ordered the pen with a medium steel nib, and after a bit of debate, filled the included converter with my beloved Levenger Shiraz ink. This is a “we were meant to be together” pairing, and writing letters and notes with this pen/ink is a true pleasure. The nib writes wonderfully. It’s juicy, with just a touch of feedback. No hard starts, no skipping. The ink always flows even if I’ve left the pen sitting for a couple of days.

Cherry Blossom

What’s really nice is that the #6 nibs are easily swappable. Just screw out one nib unit and screw in another. Because of this, I ordered a couple of spare nibs with my pen— a fine as well as a 1.1mm stub. It’s like having three pens in one for just a little more money.

Edison branding

As noted on the Goulet Pens website, “Edison Nouveau is a joint collaboration between Brian Gray of the Edison Pen Company, and Brian Goulet of the Goulet Pen Company. This is an exclusive line of Edison fountain pens available only through the Goulet Pen Company.” Branding is super subtle, and notes that this is the 2014 Spring Edition of the Edison Nouveau Premiere, meaning this version will only be available until mid/late June. It’s not a limited edition pen (i.e., there aren’t a limited number available), rather it’s available during a limited timeframe. I’m already anxious to see the 2014 Summer and Fall versions.

Oh, those swirls!

But for now, I love my pink Edison Nouveau Premiere, despite my professed love of black stealthy pens. (It’s our inconsistencies that make us interesting, right?) This pen positively POPS and sparkles and shines. It’s bright, it’s fun, it’s fresh and swirly.

Edison Nouveau Premiere Cherry Blossom

It is the Cherry Blossom.

Business Class: Pilot FriXion Biz Erasable Gel Pen

This Pilot FriXion Ball Knock Biz Gel Pen was provided by JetPens for review purposes. I was not compensated in any way other than being able to keep the pen. This review reflects my experience with the FriXion Biz.
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Pilot FriXion pens
A FriXion sampler

I’ve been purchasing Pilot FriXion erasable gel pens since the their introduction in 2008. The first model I purchased had ink that was a bit washed out and a barrel design that looked an awful lot like Mike Tyson’s face tattoo. It’s fair to say that I wasn’t exactly blown away by that pen. But despite this iffy first impression, I’ve stuck with the line, and have sampled many iterations of FriXion pens. It’s a product that keeps me coming back for more.

Pilot FriXion Biz

Over the years, the barrels have become more refined and the ink a bit richer in color. I always have a few FriXion pens stashed around my home and office. It’s one product that I’ve consistently used for the last six years, so Pilot must be doing something right.

Refill comparison: 0.5 mm vs. 0.7 mm
Refill comparison: 0.5 mm vs. 0.7 mm

When this Pilot Frixion Biz Gel Pen arrived from JetPens, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. I was perfectly happy with my plastic barrel FriXion pens, but this newest version IS really good looking. The pen, as received, was loaded with a 0.5 mm black refill and I have to say that the line wasn’t as dark as I like, and even seemed a bit lighter other 0.5 mm FriXion refills I’ve used. To remedy this, I went to my treasure chest of refills and popped in a 0.7 mm black refill. What a difference. Since that swap, I’m having a hard time putting this pen down.

The 0.7 mm refill lays down a visibly wet (yet quick drying) line that’s a solid black— much better than that wimpy 2008 ink. The writing experience is super smooth. I’d even go so far as to call it “fun.”

Disassembled Pilt FriXion Biz

The metallic pen body is a gorgeous blue, and has a well-balanced heft. Weighing about 24 g (vs. 11.5 g for the plastic retractable model), the pen feels substantial— a definite upgrade from that lightweight “tattoed” first pen. I’ve been throwing the Biz in my purse for the past few weeks, and have it out on my desk all day, but the body has yet to show a nick or a scratch. It looks brand new despite the fact that I’ve been using the heck out of it AND haven’t babied it at all.

FriXion clip

To deploy the writing tip, just slide the clip down until it clicks into place. Repeat the action to retract the tip. The mechanism works without a hitch.

FriXion spring

When you unscrew the “nosecone” to replace the refill, the little spring STAYS PUT instead of popping out and falling on the floor causing that familiar “did my dog eat a spring?!?!” panic. My dogs and I appreciate that little detail.

Hidden eraser

The “eraser” on the Biz model is hidden under a small screw-on cap that gives the pen its clean look, but also means that you have to unscrew this cap to erase your mistakes, rather than quickly using an already exposed eraser.

Uncapped eraser

In my previous review of the FriXion retractable plastic body pens, I went into considerable detail about how the eraser works. You can review that post HERE. In that review I also note that you’ll want to let the ink dry completely before attempting to erase to avoid smudging. The good news is that the ink dries very fast, so this isn’t much of an issue. Erasures with any FriXion pen are quite clean— a huge leap forward from those awful Papermate “erasable” pens that rubbed away the paper rather than the ink. I use FriXion pens all the time in my planner and daily work and home logs because things are always changing and occasionally I make a mistake (ahem). It’s so satisfying to easily erase ink.

Erasing FriXion ink

That said, because the ink is temperature sensitive [see my “hot car” experiment at the end of that old post]— meaning that it will disappear in hot conditions— this is not a pen to use for official or critical documents. So feel free to use this Biz pen throughout your business day, but be mindful of where you’re using it. Like, don’t sign an important contract or a birth certificate.

You may be wondering, do I want to pay a premium price for the FriXion Biz when I can get a plastic retractable FriXion for $2.50? Well, I look at it this way. You can fly coach or you can fly business class. Both get you to your destination, but for the additonal money you get an upgraded experience. The Biz gives you that FriXion upgrade with its cool metallic colors, matte finish, concealed eraser, and nice heft.

Pilot FriXion Biz

Some days, it’s nice to travel in style.

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The Pilot FriXion Biz is available at JetPens for $33.00, where you get FREE shipping on all orders over $25.00. Thank you to my friends at JetPens for providing this pen for review.