Pens In Real Life: The Jar of Awesome

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

Jar of Awesome supplies

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

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

Jar of Awesome

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

Jar of Awesome

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

Jar of Awesome

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

God, I love this.

On Not Buying Pens*

P1060224
Nothing today, and that’s okay.

If you’re like me, you’re familiar with the tingle. You know the one I mean, that tingle you get when you see a pen on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook or in a blog post, and it speaks to you. And because of that tingle and the pen whispering in your ear, “Buy me. I’m cool/colorful/limited/dazzling,” you buy it. Then there’s another tingle when the pen arrives in your mailbox, and yet another when you share it with your friends, either in person or though social media. That tingle—it can become very addictive.

And then the pens start to pile up. Well, they’re stored carefully in cases and holders and boxes, but, man, suddenly there a lot of them. You start thinking, “Where’s that Micarta or the orange Jetstream or that Kiwi Green Retro 51?” It all starts getting a little, shall we say, blurry— all of these pens and inks and papers—a little overwhelming. A little—maybe?—excessive. (After all, you only have two hands. And really, you can only write with one of those.)

That was me at the end of 2014— a year in which I bought a “healthy” number of pens. I don’t regret any (or very few) of those purchases, but as 2014 turned into 2015, it seemed like a good time to ratchet down the buying a bit. Not to swear off new pens altogether, but to really think long and hard about what I want and why I want it.

At first it was hard. There was that TWSBI Diamond 580AL Orange Fountain Pen, which, in the past, would’ve been an automatic purchase. But I have a couple of 580s and do I really need another one just because of the color? Right now, I’m saying no. (My Lamy Safari and AL-Star collections seem to indicate otherwise, but that’s another story.) Then there are the hard-to-come-by Kaweco ART Sport fountain pens, with cool looking acrylics and a very good price. SO TEMPTING. But I’m happy with the Kawecos I have, so I passed (after a lot of internal debate). And you know what, the more I let some pens slip by, the easier saying it became to say no. I even experienced a teeny tiny little tingle from THAT— from saying no.

I’m in the middle of yet another round of the Whole life Challenge, and I’m treating pen purchases much like I’m treating dessert and bread and salty snacks. Instead of automatically gobbling a handful of cookies or chips because they’re in front of me, I REALLY think about what I want to spend my precious points on. When I really want cake, I have cake. But I don’t eat cake just because everyone else is, or just because it’s sitting there. Knee-jerk actions have been replaced by thoughtful actions, and I’m far healthier because of this change. The same goes for my pen “consumption.”

It’s easy to get caught up in your friends’ purchases and recommendations—to get dazzled by what is new and shiny and gorgeous—but it’s also fun to shop in your own “store.” It’s been eye-opening inking up pens that have fallen by the wayside—not exactly forgotten, but definitely neglected. There are some real gems that I’d forgotten about—a pen that feels especially good in my hand, one that glistens with stunning colors and depth, and another with a nib that sings. Since I can’t buy ALL the pens (darn!), I can surely do a better job of using and honoring what I already own.

NOW, in the interest of full disclosure, we interrupt this post to say that I bought a pen. Yesterday. Like, while these thoughts and this post were in the works. But I let this pen purchase simmer for four or five days to sort out why I wanted it. Does it add something to my collection, or am I just looking for the quick thrill of coming home to a package in my mailbox? (Back to the WLC analogy, am I snacking on donuts for the sugar fix when what I really need is a good apple?)

I let the pros and cons percolate, had a little email exchange with the vendor, and ultimately decided to make the purchase. But lately, in many cases, I decide to pass. So…progress. (To be clear, we’re not talking big money. This is a $35 dollar pen, but even those $35 dollar purchases can add up.)

I hope this doesn’t sound preachy. I don’t want this to sound preachy. And— really— I’m just preaching to myself. For, you know, a moment of weakness.

In her song “Soak Up the Sun,” Sheryl Crow sings, “It’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got.”

Smart woman, that Sheryl.

IMG_0072

Messed up the lyric a little, but still.

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 * Also applies to notebooks, pencils, pencil sharpeners, ink, t-shirts, coffee mugs, kittens, and …. (Well, maybe not kittens.)

 

 

Team Ink Well: An Invitation To Join the Whole Life Challenge

Before WLC

BEFORE WLC

AFTER WLC

AFTER WLC (-20 pounds and a BUNCH of bad habits)

I wrote about my experience doing the Whole Life Challenge HERE. I was part way through the Summer Challenge when I wrote that post, which wrapped up at the end of June. By the end of that 8-week session, I’d dropped 20 lbs and 3-4 belt notches. Clothes that haven’t fit me in YEARS now fit, and I’m completely off of the Omeprazole I was taking daily for acid reflux. I kept saying (sometimes out loud), “Holy CRAP, this works!”

I’m enjoying a little time off from strictly following the Challenge rules, but can’t wait for the next session that starts on September 13th. In this interim time, I’ve maintained my weight, continued to exercise, am drinking only water (with an occasional iced coffee for “medicinal purposes”). In short, many of the changes I made as result of my first WLC session have stuck.

I never want to go back to my pre-WLC weight or bad habits.

If you’re looking for a fun way to make food, exercise, and lifestyle changes, I wholeheartedly recommend participation in the Fall session of the Whole Life Challenge. In fact, I’ve put together a team called “Ink Well” (get it??) that I’d love to have you join. Yes, you!

Information about the challenge can be found HERE.

Early-bird pricing ($39) ends on Sunday, so it’s a great time to sign up. But even if you’d like to take a little more time to decide, $49 is a small price to pay for the changes you’ll see in yourself throughout the eight weeks. I’m not kidding when I say it’s the best money I ever spent. (I sound like a shill here, but I’m just a happy, happy WLC alum!)

If you have questions, by all means send them my way! I’d love to do the fall challenge with my pen friends!

GO TEAM INK WELL!

GO YOU!!

And now for something completely different…

Sandy & Mary
My sister and I. Have you ever seen such happy-go-lucky kids?!

I was always a skinny kid— could eat anything and everything and barely gained an ounce. In college, I tried to donate blood but didn’t weigh enough. The lower limit was 110 pounds. I sort of figured I’d always be this way.

I sort of figured wrong.

As the decades passed, my weight crept upwards, mostly due to eating for comfort rather than for fuel. Stressed? Let’s eat. Tired? Let’s eat. Happy? Worried? Sad? Let’s eat. Ice cream filled me up, and ultimately, filled me out. Bad morning at work? Let’s spend the lunch hour reading in my car at McDonald’s. Afterwards, I felt both better and worse. Mostly worse.

In my head, I thought I exercised because I do a lot of running around at work and I walk the dogs every night. Truth is, our two oldest dogs meander more than they walk, so an evening stroll involves a lot of standing still with some bursts of strolling. Let’s just say that my heart isn’t exactly pounding when we get back to the house. But in my head, I thought I exercised.

Iced coffee

I knew this path was not a good one— that I didn’t like how I looked and felt— so I’d pledge to do something about it….tomorrow. Except tomorrow kept getting pushed off and the changes never happened. How could I resist the allure of an iced coffee (cream AND sugar) or a glazed donut? I felt powerless. I felt bad. But not bad ENOUGH, apparently, to change.

Why, you may ask, am I posting this on my pen blog? Well…it’s the only active blog I have, AND there is a pen & ink connection to this story.

Back in September 2013, I watched Brian Goulet’s “30 by 30 by 30” video on Ink Nouveau where he discussed the mental and physical transformation that resulted in him dropping 30 pounds well BEFORE his 30th birthday. Everything he said in that video hit home— how he hated how he looked and felt, how he got sick of his own excuses, how he vowed to make a change. His words hit home, but still, I stalled and let the same old excuses loop through my brain.

I didn’t act in September or October or November or December, but Brian’s words lit a tiny flame— a flame that smoldered through the first four months of 2014. (Wouldn’t want to do anything rash, now would we?!)

In April, a small panel of co-workers spoke about their experiences after participating in the Whole Life Challenge. Their honest stories of how the 8-week challenge helped them break bad habits, exercise more, and lose some weight ignited the spark that Brian’s words lit so many months before. I was, finally and officially, sick of myself and my tired excuses. During their talk, I decided to go ALL IN— from spark to inferno in the course of an hour.

Starting on May 3rd, I did just that. I joined a team of 40+ co-workers who are participating in the latest edition of the Whole Life Challenge, which runs until June 28th. We JUST passed the half-way mark and I can’t believe how dramatically things have changed in just four weeks.

  • I’m down about 10 pounds and couple of belt notches.
  • I’ve lost my desire for foods that were mainstay treats (ice cream! fries! soda!).
  • Our shopping cart is 180 degrees different than it used to be. Just veg and meat and fruit and fresh goodness. NO sugar!
  • Our dinners are tastier and more varied. We’ve climbed out of a heckuva food rut that relied heavily on pasta, white potatoes, and white rice. I made applesauce (with cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg) in my crockpot on Saturday and it’s the best treat ever.
  • I’m exercising at least 10 minutes a day (the minimum to earn my daily points)…usually much more…either in the fitness center at work or riding my previously moth-balled bike.
  • I HAVE WILLPOWER! (Who knew?)

After just a month, I feel physically (and mentally) lighter. I have more energy. My acid reflux is gone. My headaches are less frequent and less severe. It’s only been four weeks, but I’m 100% sure that that changes I’m making are forever. This feels like a little miracle. Or maybe a big miracle.

Life is funny— you never know where a particular interest will take you. My love of pens and paper and ink has brought so many cool and wonderful people into my life— people I consider friends whether we’ve met in real life or not. We write letters, share pictures and stories, and bits of our lives. We entertain and inspire. We comfort and kid. We offer sympathy and understanding and advice. We can also, I’m finding out, change each other’s lives.

I’m writing here to offer Brian Goulet my gratitude for putting his story of struggle, denial, and ultimately, success out there. Even though it took MONTHS for me to take action, his video planted a seed that showed me what’s possible when you commit yourself to making a change, when you flip off the switch of denial and flip ON the switch of accountability and action.

I also thank the other members of my team for sharing their triumphs and struggles as we move through these eight weeks together, as well as the founders of the Whole Life Challenge, Andy and Michael, for giving me the rules, tools, competitive fun, and team support to help me FINALLY help myself.

I feel repaired, restored, and very, very grateful.

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Edited to add: The next Whole Life Challenge starts September 13th. I’d be happy to form a team with anyone who’s interested. We COULD call ourselves “Ink Well.” (haha!)