Monthly Archives: January 2012

Meaning in a Mug

I have to say this blogging thing has made an impact on my pencil and pen collection. It’s brought a new dimension to what’s been popping out of my grass colored pottery mug…And I like the change!

First off, admitting you enjoy writing to your friends and family, so much so that you are blogging about it, is a pretty direct hint to folks looking for gift ideas.  And in 2011 I scored. Ha. Seriously, though, people were too kind.

The rage kicked off on my birthday when my friend Dana sent me a sweet Retro 1951 Tornado Classic Lacquer in brown…but of course. When I want to feel like a true professional writer or the CEO of Brown Ink, this is what I grab (thanks again, Ding!).


Christmas morning I found these Keep Calm and Carry On pencils from Paper Source in my stocking. Perfectly sharpened and calmingly red, I feel like British royalty with these 12 red charmers gazing at me from my mug. Thanks Santa.



My friend Jane provided our family with even more goofiness with this Predict a Pen which my boys are obsessed with using. When asking “Can we eat chocolate donuts for dinner?” and the reply comes back “Dude, No Way” they stomp their feet and ask to spin the pen once more. Pure entertainment.


Carrie’s always one for pizazz so it was no surprise to receive this Xonex Tri-Tone Pen in a happy blue/aqua shade from her for a holiday gift. You can pick one up in all sorts of snazzy colors at Epitome Papers for those of you who live in the Twin Cities.




I did treat myself to a piece of art from Gallery 360 which actually serves as a pencil. Sculpted by Agelio Battle, the pencil is part of a graphite series where the artist’s reverence for organic forms was inspired by his countless hours in nature. He believes “we discover things about ourselves and our thoughts by engaging the hand in a mark-making process.” Right on.  Instead of the Olive Branch above I selected the Quill which is believed to write words imbued with a spiritual and ancient guidance.


For our anniversary not only did I surprise Nick with a Sterling Silver Tornado rollerball pen (I’m hoping this soon ends up in my mug and not his mail slot), but he and I received a pair of Anna Pens by Alessi from my in-laws. These two-headed pals look they are about to head down the aisle. Cheers Sal & Jim.



Aside from these sweet additions to the mug I have also found some gems along the way that remind me of certain events in 2011. The silver Mickey Mouse Ears pencil brings back memories from November when I found out the in vitro had worked as I waited in the Disney Express Bus line headed to Wilderness Lodge. The pink & green striped Beverly Hills Hotel ballpoint pen is a memento from my LA trip to visit Jenny Fritz who continuously shows me a marvelous time in her home town, as well as the Marc Jacob lipstick pen which we picked up at Bookmarc on Melrose (a great find for little gifts). There’s always a few hotel pens from Nick’s travels on the road which tug at my heart since they represent a past absence but, like passport stamps from prior trips, they’re fun to have around.

So the question you might be asking yourself is ‘do they all write well?’  Yes, they all do. My mood often determines which one I grab. But when it comes down to my all time favorite pen, the one I always need to have a few of in case of an emergency, is the ever faithful Ultra Fine Point Sharpie. Tada…

It is permanent with a capital P (lots of evidence of this on our office desk thanks to the nonstop writer, Emmett) and it can bleed through thin paper, but the quality, control and smoothness which comes out in every word is unmatchable. I am completely hooked. So tell me, what’s in your office mug today?

PS. It was a good thing I checked up on Missive Maven last night. I had not a clue the cost of stamps went up 1 penny this past Sunday, January 22nd. I’m all about supporting the financial crisis with the Postal Service but where was our warning??? I checked in with The Queen Bee of letter writing, my old neighbor and friend Sandy, and this is what she shared with me.

The new rates are as follows: 45 cents for 1st class, 32 cents for a post card, $1.05 for international and 85 cents for Canada & Mexico. The good news is if you have old 44 cent stamps they are considered Forever stamps and you do not have to add more postage. But this does not apply for the postcard and out of USA stamps. Thanks Sandy!

I Got Rhymes Like Abe Vigoda

Today is January 23 which means this is the day we celebrate the birthdays of Django Reinhardt, Edouard Manet and Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, among others. It is also the day that both “Barney Miller” (1975) and “Seinfeld” (1991) debuted on the network television. I don’t mean this as a slight to the inimitable Hal Linden but I think of January 23rd more for being National Handwriting Day than for the introduction of the character Fish.

You might ask what in the name of Abe Vigoda is National Handwriting Day? Good question. Started in 1977 by the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association, an industry trade group, the purpose of National Handwriting Day “is to alert the public of the importance of handwriting”.  And hopefully sell more pens along the way. On the surface I suppose National Handwriting Day sounds kind of like a made up Hallmark holiday designed to boost sales while cloaked in the noble pursuit of individual expression and creation. Perhaps. But as a person who has a blog about the importance of handwriting, you might imagine I don’t share that view. Rather, I prefer to think of NHD on the terms promoted by the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association, that is, to highlight the importance of handwriting.

And why January 23 you ask? Because today is John Hancock’s birthday and he was the first – and had the heaviest hand – signer of the Declaration of Independence. That, and the Writing Instruments Manufacturers Association must have wanted this week, which for me already includes an anniversary and two birthdays, to be even busier.

I recognize this entry probably should have been posted prior to today or at a minimum earlier in the day. But like the individualism inherent in handwriting, we all have a unique combination of personal characteristics and traits which make us who we are, and for me procrastination figures heavily into that list of personal ingredients. Better late than never I guess. And for you, it’s still not too late to pick up a pen or pencil and put something in writing. You’ll feel better for it and it’s a lot cheaper than Sweetest Day.

Finding the Spark

Confession time. I’ve been in a complete journal writing slump for two months now. Nada, literally nothing has been documented since Thanksgiving weekend. Due to the interesting combination of an exceptionally busy holiday, sick kids, and mainly my first trimester of pregnancy which has kicked my butt (in the big picture this is a good thing!), I’ve had little to no energy to find the time to write. I crawl into bed at night with my eyes halfway closed, Saltines on the nightstand and drag my body out of bed in the morning at the absolute last minute possible. All the while guilt builds and builds. Oh, and our recent weather does not help.

Thursday the temperature in my car never rose above zero, ranging somewhere in between -7 and -2 (I can hear my CA & FL friends laughing out loud). You literally race to and from your car if you need to travel. Unfortunately this only makes me want to stay in bed longer…but not to write. To just be. And herein lies the problem. Where can I find the enthusiasm, the incentive to write when I’ve become a cave woman in my own home?

This whole journal funk reminds me of the beloved locations which bring inspiration to me whatever state of mind I’m in.

The Oregon Coast has become my home away from home. Every August we head west to find peace and calm. And we’re never disappointed. As I take a seat on the sand dune, my toes sunk down into soft sand, kite surfers flying down the coast, my world becomes clear again as the elements that surround me take control of my senses. The sound of waves crashing into shore linger in the background almost like the white noise of a bustling coffee shop. The sun and fierce wind blast my face as I can smell the salt in the breeze.  It brings an overwhelming peace to my mind and I find myself wanting to write every afternoon I can.

Another favorite is our garden. I stick myself in the middle of rosemary, peppermint, dahlias, succulents, cucumbers, swiss chard and more and allow the abundant growth to take over. It reminds me of the richness of the earth and all that can grow within us. I journal about Oliver eating chives, Emmett picking tomatoes and life at that moment in time.

And when I think of the ultimate journal writing location I quickly picture myself at my Uncle & Aunt’s cabin on Ojibway Lake just past Ely.  Luckily few motor boats exist on the lake and the sounds I take in are either the slight waves coming from the paddling of a canoe or a loon call in the distance. With some homebrew, peanuts and lake water to drink by my side, I take in the beauty created around me. The words flow freely from my mind to the paper, often not about my singular life, rather, feelings of blessedness and thankfulness for the abundance we have been given in our lives.

But back to my winter funk. I finally decided to drag myself to a bakery I frequent with the hope a latte and homemade butternut soup would spark the pen and break the spell. And lo and behold, it worked. The snow fell beautifully as the sun shone through the window and I felt my body lift as my breath turned into an easy rhythm. There are moments in life when “hunkering down,” as my best friend often says, is exactly what one needs at that time. My journal is always waiting for me. It might be challenging to find a point in the day when writing takes priority or downloading my emotions to paper is something I’d like to do. Letting go of regrets is first and moving on comes next. The spark inevitably finds its way back and allows my handwriting to fill me again.

The Slowing Postal Era

Say it ain’t so.

The Postal Service has been in the media quite a bit over the past year by closing around 600 post offices in 2011 with as many as 3,700 proposed to close in 2012. With each story the pit in my stomach grows. Hearing situations of small towns losing their sole landmark and identity with the removal of their post office or the idea of ending Saturday delivery throughout the country makes me want to either move to a deserted island (I hate change!) or stand on a speaker’s corner screaming out “PEOPLE, WRITE MORE LETTERS.”  Since I most likely won’t be acting out on either options I’m appreciating other individuals or groups who continue to create awareness of the situation.

Going Postal began in August 2008, when Evan Kalesh made it his mission to visit as many post offices as possible. As of now he’s visited 2,950 in 43 states and he is not stopping. Evan has not only created a photo journal of the towns he has visited but he’s also very passionate about what the loss of a community’s post office means. For many this is not just where they pick up their mail but it represents the hub of their lives, where they connect with neighbors and hear the “goings on” with others. It’s the constant heartbeat for a township with the one post office employee standing in as almost a caregiver to many.

Also, Save the Post Office is an excellent resource which provides information on anything you would want to know about the current state of the Postal Service, closings, and also how one can preserve their own post office. They believe the future appears as so: “The speed with which the mail is delivered will slow down as plants and post offices close, people will need to drive further to a post office and the lines will be longer, postal workers will be further demoralized, more historic post office buildings will be sold off, the downward spiral will accelerate, and the country’s anger at the Postal Service will increase to the point that people will look forward to privatization or at least further steps in that direction.” It’s not a pretty picture.

Take a listen or read a recent story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune regarding the town of Hope, MN, which is hoping their hub will not be closing.

So let’s get writing people! I’m not saying go out and get yourself a postmark tattoo, but support your local post office, buy stamps and write a bit of mail. It’s good for your soul and it’s good for our country.

In the Bag

One of the excitements around the holidays for Emmett and Oliver is checking the mailbox (I wonder where they get that from?). Every day their anticipation grows with the hope another holiday card will arrive.  Now it’s switched from holiday greetings to Thank You notes but soon this will come to an end as well.  Other than the occasional birthday invitation or a postcard from a traveling friend or relative the “Mail Season” is over for the boys. But before we stop stalking our Postman….


Let’s check out these opportunities available for kids to receive weekly or monthly mail.


A winner of the Parent’s Choice Awards, Little Passports allows children to live through the adventures of Sam and Sophia as they travel the world reporting back from a new country each month. Not only will they receive a package in the mail with a personal letter addressed to the child but also a passport stamp, a photo from the country, souvenirs, and more.


Abe’s Peanut combines original art and stories with good, old-fashioned stamps. Every month a different story will be shared through four postcards, each addressed to the young and cheery recipient. Abe’s Peanut is all about making “mail magic” for kids and moving away from the digital world.


However, you don’t need to sign up for any programs if you have a willing correspondent such as a grandparent or friend who lives on another coast. Ask them to become pen pals with your kids or send postcards while they’re traveling. Help your kids start a postcard collection – Hang the postcards from a mobile, create a wall for displaying. My mother-in-law finds all kinds of reasons to send her grandsons mail, be it an invitation for a lemonade & cookie picnic or a handwritten poem during the month of April (National Poetry Month).


On your end, teaching children to write letters is handing them the power of the pen. While a preschooler might find joy “drawing” a letter or dictating to you a note to a loved one, your grade schooler can first begin with including their own name and the receiver’s name and eventually move on to sentences about the weather and their mood. If the child is writing back and forth to a pen pal it can become even more exciting. I have kept all the letters from a childhood friend, Jeffrey George, who would write me detailed letters while living in Brussels as a boy. I would read these over and over again imagining the castles he visited and trains he rode. Who knows if he enjoyed reading about my piano lessons and Brownie Troop but it’s hard to imagine how the sight of a letter with one’s name scribbled on the envelope wouldn’t put a grin on any kid’s face!