One Woman’s Trash

…is another woman’s treasure. Actually, it’s both my trash and my treasure. This week’s Whole Life Challenge Well-Being Practice is to clear a space that’s normally cluttered and then keep it that way. For me, the easy pick was our kitchen counter. Stuff just piles up. Mail, receipts, catalogs, flyers, pens, pencils, notebooks, pen boxes, a squishy baseball (???), coupons, appointment reminders—all piled there to be dealt with later. This is just one of many such areas in the house, but it’s the one that bugs me the most because, as things accumulate, I find myself trying to prep dinner in a space the size of an index card.


Not ideal

As I cleared the counter, I made a decision to toss an old spice rack that’s been sitting empty for months, thanks to a pantry purge and reorganization during the last Whole Life Challenge. (BTW: Alphabetized spices are THE WAY TO GO! But then you already knew that.)

Then it hit me…


“Could you please pass me the Robert Oster Motor Oil?”

If only I didn’t have to keep food in the pantry. Or do I?





It’s the Little Things


Did I need another Lamy Safari? I did not. And yet I now have another Lamy Safari.

Despite what this sounds like—that I have no willpower when it comes to stationery purchases—I’ve actually been flexing my muscles of resistance quite regularly. Just lately I’ve taken a pass on Blackwing Volumes No. 10 (still available), Write Notepads extremely limited run of their “Fourth of July” pocket notebooks (sold out in a flash), a handful of small batch offerings from Karas Kustoms (some sold out, some still available), and the Graduate Hotels edition from Field Notes (which was a particularly tough one since I work at a college and love the academic vibe).

Rest assured, I’m no saint. I’ll soon be placing an order for Lemur Ink’s new Blackstone Lemur Lime and J. Herbin’s Kyanite du Népal. I do not need more ink and yet I’ll soon have two more bottles.

But back to that Lamy Safari. The red clip and red finial got me. Those seemingly small details are what, for me, flipped the switch from “I’ll (begrudgingly) pass” to instabuy.


Like the Lamy Safaris, I certainly don’t need any more pencils but who can resist that Swiss cross on the red dipped Caran d’Ache Swiss Wood pencils? If you were here with me, you’d notice that I’m not raising my hand. I absolutely LOVE that detail.

So while I’m trying to be much more discerning in what I buy—by sitting on purchase decisions for a few days or longer, by trying to figure out exactly WHY I want the object of my desire, by looking at the stationery stash that already occupies a chunk of my dining room—there will be those items that speak to me. There will be a tiny detail that lights a little fire of happiness and makes me smile, even on a tough day. Who can say no to that?

Man’s best friend?


There once was a dog named Flapjack, who never really grew into his ears.


The better to hear you with!

Despite the ears, listening and behaving are not exactly Flapjack’s strong suit. He’s a stealthy little dog with his own agenda. The rules do not apply.

IMG_3037Because of this, Flapjack and his “brother” Charlie, are barricaded from the dining room where a lot of my pen/pencil/notebook collection lives. Things are mostly stored in boxes, but there’s an embarrassing level of disarray. I have great plans. And I try. Then I lose steam and go read a book instead. I really hesitate to share, but what the hell…


There is clearly work to be done. [Massive understatement]

Last evening we couldn’t find Flapjack, and quickly realized that he was barricaded INSIDE the dining room. The room was dark, but Fred yelled, “HE’S GOT A PEN!” Well, *&$#!! Flapjack initially evaded me by scampering around under the dining room table and staying just out of reach. I headed him off on one of his passes and found that he DIDN’T have a pen in his mouth, but this was not cause for celebration. Nope, not a pen, but he DID HAVE a BOTTLE OF INK!!! Brad Dowdy’s “Fire On Fire” Robert Oster ink—a plastic bottle of BRIGHT ORANGE INK clamped between those surprisingly strong Silky Terrier jaws!!

Cardiac arrest.

He was not in the mood to give up his “chew toy.” Despite those big ears, our yelling had zero effect, except to convince him that this was a real prize—something he should definitely hang onto. He clamped down harder and let out a low growl.

Dog for sale. Cheap.

Plan B: A bribe of plain old dog food convinced him to release his find.


As you can see, the cap was chewed and damaged but remained intact, as did the plastic bottle.


And…thank YOU, Robert Oster for chew-proof ink bottles and caps! This could have been a very different–and very orange–story.

My Momento: The Leonardo Momento Zero Blue Hawaii

Twelve days into a 2019—a year in which I pledged to rein in pen purchases—I fell in love with a pen. Twelve days. That might be a new record for caving on a pledge. To be fair, I did ponder the purchase for a few more days, but I just couldn’t get this pen out of my head.


Can you see why?

I worked up the best rationalizations I could, which is one of my superpowers. This pen—the Leonardo Momento Zero//Blue Hawaii—is from a company that’s new to me.

A paragraph on the Armando Simoni Club site summarizes the lineage of the company this way: Leonardo Officina Italiana holds a special place in the heart of Armando Simoni Club pens, because the owners of both companies share a history and a passion for pens. In 1978, the father of ASC founder Emmanuel Caltagirone started his own pen company. His first customer in 1982 was Ciro Matrone, one of the founders of the Delta pen company.  Almost 40 years later, Ciro’s son Salvatore makes the Armando Simoni Club pens in Naples, Italy – and now, he has launched his own brand: Leonardo Officina Italiana. This brand represents everything we love: handmade Italian pens, beautiful materials, great nibs, and a true passion for pens. 

So not only is this company new to me, it’s also relatively new to the pen world. Ah, a blessed loophole in my pen moratorium! If it’s a pen from a manufacturer that I don’t currently own, then maybe I could suspend my own (pretty darn loose) rule!

I held a meeting of the “Can we buy a pen NOW?” committee—a committee of one, I’ll admit—and the vote was unanimous in favor of said purchase.

The pen shipped from the Netherlands on my birthday and arrived about a week later. Once I had the pen in hand, I knew I’d made the right decision. It’s beautiful.


The material is resin but instead of being a solid color, there’s a pearly range of blues and browns and creams and shimmer that very much lives up to the “Blue Hawaii” name.


What’s also interesting is that the cap and body appear to be faceted, and yet they’re not. The effect apparently comes from the way the different resins are mated together. It’s one of those pens that’s always gives you something new to look at and discover. Handmade in Italy, no two Blue Hawaii pens will look alike because of the uniqueness of the material.


The steel nib is very simply adorned with the Leonardo logo and the nib size—a medium, in my case. It’s understated in the best way possible, and writes like a dream. A perfectly medium medium, it’s wide enough to show off ink characteristics and fine enough for my small(ish) handwriting. It’s a perfect fit for me, both pen-wise and nib-wise.


The build quality is flawless and even the included converter is substantial and well-made. There’s a blind cap at the end of the body for easy access to the converter, or you can just unscrew the body like you’d do for a regular cartridge/converter pen.


The pens are engraved with Leonardo Officina Italiana, and the pen’s number—the pens are numbered, but not limited—and tastefully accented with rhodium trim. For all of its good looks and obvious quality, the price tag on the Blue Hawaii pen is quite reasonable as upper end pens go. Purchased from Fontoplumo in the Netherlands, I paid about $167 for this beauty, which feels like a bargain given the exceptional fit and finish.


When I first made my health and wellness a priority, I found that eating an occasional high-quality snack tasted SO MUCH better than eating a bunch of mediocre snacks all the time, and I think this same idea applies to pen buying. Indulging in a pen “treat” that’s thoughtfully considered and high-quality seems like striking the right balance between “no new pens” and buying “all the pens.” I’m still looking to take it easy with pen purchases this year, but I’m glad I made an exception for this Blue Hawaii beauty. (My photos really don’t do it justice.)

As I said above, this pen shipped on my birthday—my 60th birthday—so I’m considering it a “momento” for this new decade. Guaranteed for life against any manufacturing defects (I wish I was!), I’m certain that I’ll enjoy my Leonardo Momento Zero Blue Hawaii pen for decades to come.

“Just Internet Friends”


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.


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.

My Life In Notebooks


I started my third Field Notes Storage box this week. That’s a picture of a portion of the first two boxes, crammed with as many completed pocket notebooks as I could jam in there. I keep a “personal” and “work” notebook running all the time, and enjoy using not just Field Notes, but also Nock Co., Story Supply, Write Notepad & Co., and Log & Jotter notebooks. It takes me about a month to fill a work notebook, and a little longer, on average, to fill my personal notebook, depending on what’s going on. I’m dealing with some complicated stuff lately and nothing makes me feel better than to sit down and carefully write out my notes as a way to clear my head and organize my thoughts. Once I do that, I can exhale and let go.


This is where the value in pocket notebooks lies. In capturing the daily tasks and appointments, joys and frustrations, accomplishments and works-in-progress, one tiny check box at a time.

Here are my notebooks. They are both nothing and everything.

Here is my life.


Keeping Them Honest. (And by “them” I mean “me.”)

I love Anderson Cooper’s “Keeping Them Honest” segments on where he takes the day’s political stories and reviews the facts versus the spin. I thought I’d do the same for myself, as a way to look back at 2018. Where did I fail? Where did I succeed?

Let’s hit some areas where I fell short.


I believe I declared that I was going to clear out my backlog of notes and stationery by mailing a card or note to someone every day of 2018. That habit stuck for awhile—into March, I think. And I DID send a good number of cards, but lesson learned: you’re not going to do ANYTHING every day of the year*. This basket, I must admit, looks pretty much the same as when I made that declaration. Not only that, but I bought even more cards and notes (at 75% off at Barnes & Noble, but still) so the stationery situation is actually a little worse than when I started. Something to work on in 2019.


I also started scoring my days, drawing the weather, and charting my mood in my Hobonichi Techo. That venture petered out after a month or so. I do like looking back at those pages, but I don’t think I was gaining much insight from the practice, so I just stopped. I’d like to use the monthly calendar pages to track something, but I haven’t given that much thought yet. It’s only January 6th. There’s still time. (A friend suggested, just today, that we get back into running so this might be the perfect place to log those workouts. And my mood. And the weather.)

There are certainly other areas where I fell far short of my goals, declared or not. I acquired more pens than seems healthy, and didn’t dip into my own collection of under-used pens when I had the hankering for something new. Definitely working on this in 2019. Six days in. No new pens. High five!!

So…where did I succeed in 2018?

I started dream journaling.


This isn’t something that I do very often, but I do do it every now and then. Especially vivid or meaningful dreams get recorded and drawn, and I do my best to tease out the significance of the what I experienced or felt. Sometimes what seems like a stressful dream actually delivers a positive message when I sit down and dissect the images and emotions. This is a “sometime” kind of journaling, but it’s sticking. Success.

I finally made it to CW Pencil Enterprise. Twice. LOVED IT.


I’ll do a separate blog post about my experience in the store, but let me just say that this little shop feels like home. It’s warm and wonderful, full of delightful people and pencils. There’s a little bit of magic there. I’ll be returning in 2019. For sure.

I’m still writing my morning pages. Every single morning.


I started this practice in the summer of 2016 and once that switch flipped on, it’s never been turned off. I can’t imagine my morning without coffee (french-pressed cold brew) and my journal.


A few days before Christmas I started my fourth 480-page Nanami Paper journal. That’s a lot of ink and words—a lot of whatever spills out of my groggy head and onto the page. A lot of struggles, doubts, anxieties, pep talks, and precious memories.

2018 was a weird year. Lots of drama and changes (ongoing) with my elderly parents. Very little blogging. 2019 will probably be weird, too, but I hope to do significantly more blogging. And if I don’t, feel free to keep me honest.

*Edited to add: Tina correctly pointed out, in a comment, that I have maintained a daily journaling habit, so clearly I can do something every single day if I really want to. She’s right. Because I’ve scheduled this, and made it an ingrained habit, I’ve been successful at maintaining this streak. Something to think about as I work to make improvements and tweak my priorities in 2019.