Ink and Paper



Ink and Paper

One of the most delightful discoveries I have made in recent years is journaling. I am not talking about electronic writing, but actually sitting down with a notebook and a special pen and writing. For some reason, the task is so much more pleasant when you have a writing instrument that you just love to hold. For me that has been a fountain pen.

I never had a fountain pen before. I never had an interest in one either. Why would I want to be bothered with a pen that would dry up or leak ink on my fingers and paper? Nope, not for me.

A couple of years ago we decided to take a European river cruise. And I decided I wanted to journal along the trip And I wanted to write in a leisurely manner in keeping with the idea sailing down a river. I bought a very nice leather bound, gilded edge notebook. And then I decided I wanted a special pen. For some reason, I decided to look at fountain pens.

I did some research and found that nowadays you can get cartridges for those pens. No more messy ink bottles and trying to suck that ink up into the pen. I was encouraged and ordered a fairly inexpensive one from Amazon that was highly rated.

What a different experience from writing with a ballpoint or gel pen! There is something so unique about actually seeing the ink flow from the pen onto the paper. And the slightly scratchy sound that the pen makes as you write is just so satisfying.

Ever since that trip, I have been journaling. Sometimes I will go for a few weeks without writing, other times I write every day. I’ve recently been writing quite a bit and find it is a good way to sort out thoughts and think about some of the bigger questions in life.

My everyday notebook is a Moleskine and my pen is made by Lamy. I wonder how many others still find satisfaction in writing in this manner.

I would love to know what your notebook and pen of choice are.

Happy journaling!

Life Transitions

My blog! My blog! I had forgotten about my blog! That is until this morning when a kind soul stumbled upon it and decided to follow me. Getting a notice that I have a new follower has spurred me into action. My blog! How could I have forgotten you?


Life transitions. I haven’t written a blog post since last May. And, oh my, how my life has changed since then. Here are some highlights. Perhaps some of them are worthy of a blog post or two on their own.

* Sold the house, retired, and drove across the country from Pennsylvania to California.
* Lived temporarily with a relative and her family for 7 weeks.
* Moved into the new home, which is basically half of the size of the prior home (if you count the basement).
* Traveled to Eastern Europe.
* Traded in the Ford Focus (only 2 years old) on a new Honda CR-V.
* Reverting back to Protestantism from Catholicism.
* And finally, adjusting to the new life.

Life transitions. They are as natural as the changing seasons. Some transitions are more easily managed than others. And some transitions are an opportunity for a fresh start in life.

I guess I realize I am at a juncture now. I have decisions to make about how I am going to move forward in life. I want to try new things, meet new people, travel, and experience things I have only up to now dreamed about. I wonder where my journey is going to take me next.

Life transitions. They can shake you and bring you to rediscover your core identity. I think that is happening to me. Moving back to California has put me back in touch with my roots…back in touch with my family and the familiar area where I grew up. Distant memories from childhood come flooding back. I question if who I became when I lived elsewhere is the same person I would have been if I had never moved. And who is the person I want to be? Now is the time to explore, brainstorm, consider the make-over before my life begins to naturally solidify into new patterns.

Writing this blog is a step towards becoming who I want to be in this stage of my life. I welcome you to come along for the ride.

Seiged by Seacret

It’s been a long time since I’ve written here. But I had an interesting experience the other day and I wanted to share it. I have a feeling there are a lot of others who have stories like mine they might want to share.

I live near a very large mall…one of the largest in the United States. I rarely go there because of the amount of local traffic. And usually, I figure I don’t need to purchase anything bad enough to suffer through what it takes to get there, find a place to park, and then walk through the acres of stores to find what I don’t need. My alternative is a small mall near where I work and normally that suits me just fine.

At my local mall, there used to be a particular kiosk where the salesman was particulary obnoxious. He used guerilla tactics to track down his prey. Anyone who came within shouting distance of that kiosk was sure to get accosted by this guy. He would offer a sample and then ask to look at your hands. Well, no way! I would take long detours and go through department stores to avoid this guy. I would do anything it took to avoid that section of the mall corridor.

So how is it then that I found myself in this large mall being sweet talked by a saleswoman using the same tactics? I really can’t explain how it happened. I was innocently walking by, saw her and tried to pretend I didn’t. I tried to keep walking…really I did. But there was something about her that was compelling…so I took the sample and yes, I let her look at my hands. “Oh,” she says, “you wash your hands a lot! Look at those ridges. That’s why you have splitting nails. Let me show you how I can help you!”  I rolled my eyes…and let her carry on.

She was demonstrating one of those little buffing blocks that clear away your ridges and make your nails smooth and shiny. I love those buffing blocks and quite honestly was in the market for a new one. But I was planning on buying a cheap one at the drug store. By time she finished demonstrating all the nail care products, my hand was looking pretty good and I was just about convinced…except for the price. I knew she could see I was thinking of relenting, and so she pulled out all the stops. Looking at me very closely, like I was a close friend and confident and telling me she was going to make me an offer because she really liked me. I laughed and told her she was an excellent sales person. She smiled and carried on. She said, “Ok, I am going to offer”….and I interrupted and said…”Oh, I know, two for the price of one, right?”  and I laughed. She looked taken aback and DID offer that. And yes, I did buy. Not only that, but I also bought some eye serum she demonstrated too.

Guess what? These seem to be quality products and yes, I think they work. That’s why I bought them. They were pricey, but when I look at the website, I see that I paid less than the published prices…even the sale prices for the nail products.

Why did I succumb and buy these products?  The first reason is that I did like the results I was seeing from the demonstrations. But in addition, I liked the sale person. She was really very good, convincing, personable, and out to make a sale, no matter what. I liked her determination and her attitude. Just like all of us, she’s trying to make a living and she is good at it. Her winning manner really is what made the sale.

She didn’t exactly reel me in…I went willingly.


The Kindness of Strangers

There is so much negativity in the world these days. We are surrounded by it and it is constantly reported in the media.

I prefer to focus on more positive things. I was thinking about this today at lunch. I was eating a salad in the mall food court near where I work. A young mother was holding her toddler son in her arms, while trying to position the stroller and place something inside it. The stroller lost balance and began to fall. A man sitting at a nearby table jumped up to catch the stroller. The mother expressed her thanks while her young son stared at the stranger with wide eyes. The man returned to his seat and the mother resumed what she was doing.

It was all over in a matter of seconds and I’m sure no one thought twice about it. It was just one of those every day courtesies that people do all the time.

But as I thought about it I realized how much we need other people to help us get through every day. And isn’t it true that it is the little things in life that really matter? Had the man not jumped up to help, the stroller would have crashed down, perhaps hitting the child on the way. All eyes would have turned to the mother and I can imagine she would have been somewhat embarassed. It was just a little incident that was avoided because of a man’s quick thinking, concern, and kindness. Not really a big deal, I guess.

But, in this season of gift giving, maybe the best gift isn’t a large expensive present, but instead the present of being present…and there to extend a kindness and a smile.

A Random Act of Culture

I was in the mall near where I live and walked past the entrance to Macy’s. I thought I heard a couple of voices singing and peered into the store. I saw a group of people standing around, apparently listening to the singing. Intrigued, I entered the store, only to soon discover that many of those I thought were watching had started singing too. It was a flash mob I had wandered into!

It was absolutely unexpected and totally delightful. I wish I would have had the presence of mind to pull out my phone and take some pictures or capture the sounds. But I was so enthralled and captivated that all I could do was stand there and enjoy the experience.

At the end of the ‘performance’, someone raised a sign that said ‘You’ve just experienced a Random Act of Culture.”  How wonderful!!!

Here’s a link to a flash mob that happened last year. It’s pretty awesome!!


Classical music for the masses

Andre Rieu

A few days ago, I attended a concert in the large city near where I live. It was held in the large venue where you will find major league sports and rock concerts. But this particular event was neither. It was a concert by Andre Rieu and the Johann Strauss Orchestra.

The tickets were acquired by making a donation to our local PBS station while they were airing an Andre Rieu concert. The music was enjoyable, but truthfully, I wasn’t overly excited about attending the concert in person. I was expecting it to be rather dull and hokey.

Our seats were on the floor level, I guess about mid-way back and off to the right side. I was comfortable on the padded seats until an extremely large husband and wife took the seats next to me. He was so large that he was partially on her seat and she was so large that she was partially on mine. Our hips and thighs touched during the whole concert. Makes me shiver to recall that part.

Once the concert began, it took me a couple of minutes to acclimate and just relax into it. But once I did, I found the whole concert to be exhilarating and lots of fun. Andre Rieu is a showman. He is an expert at engaging the audience and making the time you are there one of complete enjoyment and happiness. In fact, he calls his music ‘happy music’. Besides the wonderful music being played, my eyes were taking in the beautiful setting and the vibrant colors of the ballgowns worn by the orchestra. There was fun interplay between the orchestra members and everyone in the venue was having a good time.

I have always been partial to Johann Strauss waltzes. As a child, I remember playing them on our old record player over and over again. I would dance and twirl and pretend I was a princess dancing to the beautiful music. Several of those same waltzes were played at this concert and as I closed my eyes and listened, I thought back to my childhood happiness at this same music.  I hated for the evening to end and apparently so did everyone else.

Afterwards, I was reflecting on the evening and thinking about classical music as a whole. I am not one who typically attends classical concert events. I am mostly uneducated about this genre of music and find some of it to be complicated to listen to, unless there is a rondo refrain that returns the music to a theme and helps make it more cohesive to my untrained ear.

I have a suspicion that classical music critics do not like Andre Rieu. The fact that he makes this music enjoyable and fun and employs a few silly antics to engage the audience is not what one typically expects to experience at a classical music concert. This was no dour concert where you must sit quietly and listen and then applaud politely at the end. This was bold and boisterous and exuberant. Andre Rieu is making classical music accessible and enjoyable to people like me, who enjoy good music but who might otherwise feel out-of-place and intimidated.

Bottom line? If you have an opportunity to attend an Andre Rieu concert….GO!!!

Focusing on My New Car

This blog has been too long neglected!

When I was here last, I was trying to decide what kind of car was in my future. I was considering three different cars. I did research on them and after much consideration, a choice has been made!

The car I finally chose and now own is….tada (drumroll here, please!!)….a 2012 Ford Focus Hatchback! I have owned it for two weeks now and I am thoroughly enjoying my new wheels.

In order to get exactly what I wanted, the car was special ordered. It took about 5 weeks from the date it was ordered until I took delivery. Since I was traveling for two of those weeks, the time really went by quickly. The car I chose is dark gray with a light stone leather interior. It has a moon roof and the new Ford ‘myTouch’ computerized touch screen. That is where I can access the radio (including Sirius!), my iPhone through the car speakers, the climate control, and some navigation and other features. This car is just amazing!  I had no idea you can get so much technology in a car. It’s like driving a computer….the engine and tires are almost secondary. Ok, well, not quite, but you know what I mean. Oh…here’s one more thing on my car…a back-up sensor. So if there is something out of my line of vision when I’m backing up, I hear a warning beep.

The car should be getting between 27 and 37 miles per gallon. I guess there must be a breaking in period, because right now the car is telling me that I am averaging 25.9 gallons per mile. That is short of what I expect to be getting and I’m hopeful that will improve. The car has just under 500 miles on it now (yes, I’ve been doing some fun driving).

This picture of the steering wheel and cockpit looks like an alien's face!

Overall, I am thrilled with my new car. I have absolutely no regrets about chosing American over Japanese. The car handles well, looks good, and is so fun to drive. What more could I ask for?

Time for a new car

My Honda Accord is 10 years old now. Its been a great car, but its time to pass it along to someone else and so I’m in the market for something new.

This is a big decision, especially since we tend to keep cars for a long time. I want something reliable, fun to drive and that gets decent gas mileage. I prefer a 2 door coupe (or hatchback), leather seats and sunroof! And this time around, I think I want a neutral color. My Accord is red, and although I loved it at the time, I’m beginning to think a red car is tacky. Maybe I’m just tired of it.

A friend of mine used to have a white car. She is elegant and sophisticated and for several years I have thought that a white car would be the way to go. I guess I figured a white car would make me more like her. I mentioned a white car to one of my friends and she thought I was crazy. She said a white car shows all the dirt. Another friend suggested gun-metal gray. Now I’m thinking maybe gray would be a good way to go.

My short list of cars (at the moment, anyway) includes a Honda Civic, MiniCooper and Ford Focus Hatchback. I haven’t test driven any of these cars yet, but that will be the next step.

I welcome any suggestions or recommendations. Anyone have any advice for me?

Here I come, ready or not!

Another thing to keep up…a blog!

I wonder about my sanity, if I really think I am ready for a blog. But I have discovered recently that I enjoy writing out my thoughts. It helps me sort through them and gives them order. So I will write here when I feel the need, or if something interesting happens that I would like to share. I’m not really sure if I even need an audience. But time will tell and I hope that my musings will be of interest eventually to someone besides just me.

What will I write about? Whatever is on my mind. It might be about the latest book I am reading. It might be about family, about where I live, my co-workers, my hobbies and interests. My blog will have no rules, so I can do whatever I want.

Are you sure you want to come along for the ride?