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A little gift

My husband is very clever, and handy with tools. He recently made a little pen holder for my desk and today it was ready to be put in place.

Isn’t it cute? It’s so little and simple, but it has this subtle slant on the front. He even said he’d be willing to make more! This one originally had five holes, but then Duncan got a hold of it so one end had to be removed. Maybe my next one should actually have five holes!

A new job!

I have no new knitting to share, but it’s for a good reason: I have a new job! I have moved from Administrative Assistant to Communications Specialist. I’m at the same company, which is delightful because I love what they do, and they have great benefits and awesome people. And I don’t have to completely leave all my buddies in the labs I supported–I can go visit them whenever I want. Bonus: now I get to do a job that’s perfectly suited for me! I’ve been waiting a long time for that.

When I graduated from college with my English degree many moons ago, I went straight to work at my mom’s used-book store. I was officially the manager, and I loved my time there, but if I’m completely honest, I did that because it was the easy route. Hunting for a “real” job was terrifying, especially since I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I had the job with my mom waiting for me, and I did love the store and the book business, so it was just simpler to make the safe, comfortable choice.

I was happy enough for three years, but then my parents moved out of state and by then we’d had the girl, so I became a stay-at-home mom, and that was my job for a few years. When I started going stir-crazy, I got a part-time retail job in a clothing store and mostly worked when the husband could be with the kids. And I loved it. I loved feeling smart and useful again. I loved overcoming challenges and learning new things and being around fun adults again. I was good enough, and liked it enough, to be promoted twice, until I was the store manager of the district’s newest store.

I had to be an effective communicator, especially when I was a trainer, but mostly it didn’t involve any of the things I love (especially any writing/editing). And by the end, as store manager, I didn’t like it so much. I didn’t get to do the parts of the job I’d loved, life had gotten hard at home, and I didn’t like being the head honcho. Or maybe I didn’t like being head honcho because life was hard at home, I’m not sure. In any case, for a lot of reasons, it made sense for me to quit and stay home with my two almost-teenagers.

I loved staying at home this time around. It was less stressful with school-age kids than with infants/toddlers, and I had a lot more time to explore my interests. That was when I learned to knit, finishing writing a book, started a blog, started my Etsy shop–all these awesome, fun, creative things. I loved having so much creative time. Alas, it didn’t make any money. And when the girl got her driver’s license, I had to admit it made sense for me to go back to work.

Okay. Well, I had an English degree, a four-year gap in my work history, experience in retail management, and no desire to go back to working in retail. I started the whole job-hunting thing and it was hard and scary and not fun at all. I wanted something relevant, something in communications or writing-related, but everything required more experience than I had. Yep, I applied anyway, and got nowhere. I used the connections I had, and got nowhere. And then I got the interview for the company I’m at now.¬†They seemed nice enough, I knew I could easily do the admin assistant job, and it was a paycheck we could really use.

It didn’t take long to feel comfortable. I like keeping things organized, and I got to proofread and edit things every so often, but it didn’t challenge me. As much I loved my teams and the company, I wasn’t sure it would be a long-term fit. But then this Communications Specialist position opened up, and I wanted it. A lot. Everyone says internal candidates have an edge but I wasn’t convinced this was a slam-dunk for me. I had multiple interviews, and worked hard to convince them that I had the skills they were looking for, but all along I was afraid they’d find some young person with a communications degree and tons of social media experience, someone they could pay less. So when they offered me the position, I truly felt like I had earned it.

It’s funny how life works out, you know? Here I am, 20 years out of college and only just now starting the first job that really feels like ME. I don’t regret the path I took, but I sure am glad I finally found my way here. And if I have a little bit less time for knitting and blogging for a while, well, that’s a trade-off I’m willing to make.

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All my ducks in a row

Pretty in Pink: LAMY Al-Star Special Edition

Through all my years as a pen enthusiast, I always said I didn’t like the look of the LAMY Al-Star or Safari pens. Something about the clip put me off, despite how much I loved all of their bright colors. Then I wrote with one, and I’ll be darned if I didn’t love it. I love the triangle grip, I love the smoothness of the nib (my fave is the Medium), I love that the ink flows generously. They’re lightweight but a generous length, making it easy for me to write with one for prolonged periods. The ink cartridges are proprietary, which isn’t the best, but they’re big and last a long time, and you can choose from a variety of super fun colors.

Once I realized how much I enjoyed writing with one, of course my opinion of their appearance changed, and now I like the utilitarian look of the clip. In a short time, I managed to add four LAMYs to my collection, and I thought that would be enough for quite a while. Then I saw their 2018 Vibrant Pink special edition, and I was weak (Sorry, honey. Couldn’t resist!). Mine arrived yesterday and it’s stunning!

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That’s a true representation of the color: it’s this gorgeous shiny metallic fuchsia, which might be close to overtaking purple as my favorite color.

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Of course I had to get some of the matching Vibrant Pink ink cartridges too. I think I’ll need to order more right away!

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The ink is just as pink and vibrant as the pen. Why would I put any other color in there?

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I ordered mine from Goulet Pens and was delighted that they added a Tootsie Pop to my package; that’s a neat touch. But I’m pretty sure this pen is available at most of your favorite fine-pen sites too. Just don’t wait too long; I bet this one will be a hot seller!

Purple Leather Pen Case

A while back, I read a blog post on the Well-Appointed Desk that featured a beautiful wooden letter box sold by Galen Leather. A few clicks later, I was drooling over all the gorgeous leather goods on their site. (You too can drool: find their site here!) Aside from the stellar letter box, they had leather pen cases in a wide variety of colors and sizes. When I saw the purple one, my admiration kicked into desperation, and since it was still before Christmas, I immediately sent the link to the husband as a gift demand suggestion. He soon replied that they’re based in Turkey, and there was a long lead-time for the case, so having it by Christmas wasn’t an option. Oh well, another occasion would present itself. I couldn’t be bereft, given all the lovely gifts that I received.

But then! HaHA! Husband confessed that he had fibbed slightly, and the case was available, and was supposed to have arrived before Christmas, but had been delayed. Yes, I had another present on the way, and after several long days of waiting, it finally arrived this week. And it was truly well worth the wait, friends. Just look.

fullsizeoutput_ed8First out of the bubble wrap was the sturdy cardboard box with the beautiful logo. I love that they included a ruler/bookmark.

fullsizeoutput_ed9I lifted the lid and immediately fell in love, the color was so gorgeous. Just look at that purple!! Again, I was impressed by the packaging: a heavy paper label circled the case.

fullsizeoutput_edaBefore sliding that off, though, I explored the other items in the box: an informational card with care and cleaning instructions, and my own little handmade Evil Eye charm! I haven’t decided if it’s going to become a stitch marker or a pendant. I love it.

fullsizeoutput_edbFinally I slid off the label, sniffed the yummy leather, and unzipped the smooth zipper. The interior is also a stunning purple, with purple elastic loops and a slot to slide in a notebook. My favorite purple pens immediately went inside.

Even though I had to wait a little while, I would definitely order from them again. Everything is extremely well-made, with incredible attention to detail. They created a wonderful experience from the very beginning, wowing me before I even got to the product. The case is gorgeous but also sturdy, and I know it will protect my pens well. I’m in love with this case, and it’ll be going everywhere with me.

Thoughts on Creativity

It’s only within the last few years that I’ve been able to think of myself as a creative person. I always thought creative people were the artists, the clothing designers, published authors, the people who can bring things to life just from their mind. Me? I wrote stories that didn’t go anywhere. I made jewelry for a few years, then I scrapbooked for a few years. I knit and crochet, but I use other people’s yarns and other people’s patterns and just replicate them.

But guys, you know what? I AM creative. I write stories that haven’t been written before, about characters I make up. I have three complete manuscripts. Three full-length book-type things. Sure, they haven’t been published. Doesn’t mean they’re not creative. And it doesn’t mean they’re not worthwhile. Maybe those were just the ones I needed to get out before writing The One.

I’m always struggling with self-worth as far as writing goes, swinging from “Yes! I’m a great writer!” to “Who do I think I am, thinking someone else will want to read this?” Because I’ve never published a book, I think I’m not a writer. Well. That’s dumb. And I just have to keep telling myself that. I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I’ve written short stories and novel-length stories and filled a dozen journals and I’ve kept this blog for three years now. I don’t write every day, but I keep coming back to writing. I am a writer.

Wow. It wasn’t until I wrote that, that I realized how true it is. I keep coming back to writing.

With my yarn, I put colors and textures and patterns together. I’m the one who chooses what will go with what. I don’t think I’ve ever used the recommended yarn for any pattern, and I don’t think I’ve ever even made a pattern in the same color(s) as the designer. I take their ideas and put my own spin on them. That IS creative.

And for a while now, I’ve been trying to figure out how to combine the yarn and the writing. I want to write a book where yarn/knitting is a focal point. I’ve tried, and it hasn’t worked yet. But I’m going to keep trying.

I don’t know why, but I am flush with creative energy right now, and it feels awesome. The focus has turned away from knitting and back toward writing, but that’s kind of typical for me. I tend to focus obsessively on one thing for a while, then move on. I’m not done with knitting, not at all! I spent three hours at a football game last night and was delighted to have the time to knit on the baby blanket. But in the evenings, or weekends like this, my brain is gravitating toward writing.

Not just writing, either. I’ve always wished I could draw well, and I always told myself I just couldn’t do it. Then a few days ago I was admiring a selection of drawing books and the husband said, “Why don’t you try it? You never know.” And for some reason, this time I agreed. Why not, indeed. I didn’t have to show anyone if I didn’t want to. I might not be great. But what if I could make pictures that pleased me? That would be pretty cool. So I might be heading to the library to check out some how-tos for beginners (if you have recommendations, please share!) and I’ve got a little sketch pad and a drawing pencil itching to be used. And because it’s uncomfortable and scary for me, I’m going to share my first attempt, a cube copied from a book.

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It’s not great. It’s a first attempt. I don’t think it’s going to come naturally to me the way it does for my kids, or the way writing does to me. I’m not going to be the next big artist, and that’s all right. For me, it’s okay that it’s recognizable, and it was fun.

I guess what I take from all of this is that I’m redefining what success means to me. Success is about the leap, the journey, the effort. And I don’t want to be afraid of success anymore.

Anniversary Mini-Break

Today, the husband and I celebrate 20 years of marriage. Yep, two whole decades. That’s half my life. And the majority of those years have been pretty darn good, so I think we’re ¬†lucky. To mark the occasion we both took the day off work, spent last night at our favorite B&B (Southmoreland on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City), and spent today antiquing. We were hoping to find more Mission-style furniture for our house, but didn’t find a thing. We hit a couple of small towns that were kind of sad and run-down, though we did find a bookstore. And look what I found at one of the antique stores:

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A yarn section!! It wasn’t a great selection but I still walked out with two lovely skeins of sock yarn:

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And at another antique store, I found these little goodies. I didn’t need either of them, but at $2 each, they still came home with me.

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We were a little discouraged at not finding any furniture treasures, but we ended the day in Parkville, MO, and found an awesome store called Cool Vintage Watches. They had watches, of course, but they also had several vintage pens too. I really liked the silver/gold Montblanc ballpoint, but that didn’t really fit my budget. Instead I brought home this beauty.

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It’s a Sheaffer Targa 1020 M in Imperial Brass with a 14k gold nib. It came with the converter but also takes cartridges, and since I don’t have any bottled ink, I put in one of those and it writes like a dream.

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The pen is in beautiful shape. I can’t find a flaw anywhere. Plus, I already had a stainless steel Targa, so it pleases the completist in me to have a brass one as well.

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It came with this nifty brass case, which has only a couple of tiny scratches on the bottom.

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So, yeah, happy anniversary to me, right? I’m really pleased with my finds, and it was a treat to spend a relaxing day with the husband. We don’t get those as often as we’d like!

The Power of Thanks

One of my favorite moments from our recent vacation was when my husband thanked me. I’m a pretty typical Type A person, one who has to make lists and plan everything down to the smallest detail. Sometimes I feel like that trait is more obnoxious than helpful, both to me and to others. But this time, it was good, because I was prepared for almost everything the trip threw at us. And at one point, when I answered one of my husband’s suggestions with “I already looked into that and here’s the answer”, he paused, seemingly surprised, then thanked me for the time and effort I put into planning the trip.

Friends, I probably don’t have to tell you this, but that little gesture felt huge to me. It’s not that my husband doesn’t appreciate me; I know he does, just as I appreciate him. But I do think that after 20 years of marriage, we might have gotten lax in telling each other something as little as “thank you”. We take each other for granted too often, and forget how important it is to express appreciation without wanting something in return.

Those small moments, like my husband thanking me, are part of my mental “You Don’t Suck” file. I saw this on Twitter recently and loved it, because I DO have a YDS file. I have one at home and at work. When I started my new job a year ago, there was much I didn’t know. I felt incompetent and inadequate too often, despite my faith in my intelligence. I started collecting emails where people encouraged me, where they said nice things to me, where they thanked me, and I look back at those when I have a day that kicks my butt.

That’s why I’m making a concerted effort to create those moments for others. There’s so much darkness in the world right now, so much hate and anger. I share in that sometimes, but I can’t sustain it. I need to balance it with the good and the love. So when I see a woman with gorgeous blue/purple hair, I tell her. When someone at work helps me fix a problem, I thank them for their patience with me. My husband manages our retirement accounts so I don’t have to worry about them, and when I realized I never told him how much I appreciated that, I thanked him, simply and sincerely. When my daughter does extra jobs for me without complaining, like running to the grocery store at the last minute, or starting dinner before I get home, I try to thank her every time. Sure, she’s part of this family and benefits from those things too, but her time is just as valuable as mine, and when she uses it to help me at the last minute, I do appreciate it, and what’s the point of keeping that quiet?

If someone makes me smile, makes me feel good, my goal is to tell them. It doesn’t matter if that person is a friend, a stranger, a superior, an employee. If they’re a person, and I’m guessing they all are, they all appreciate sincere thanks.

I think this is why I did well as a manager. I wasn’t the person in the office telling them what to do. I was in the thick of it, doing it myself, asking them to help me, and thanking them every day for their effort. Even if all they did was smile and help customers all day, I thanked them, because a positive attitude is infectious. We all have stuff going on in our lives that can bring us down, and sometimes it’s really hard to set that aside to focus on the task at hand, and I appreciated that effort. And if it was too hard one day, and someone asked to work in solitude in the back, I appreciated that too.

As a manager, I was charged with leading a team to success, and I knew every day that my people were working hard to HELP ME achieve that goal. I couldn’t do it alone, and I couldn’t do it if they were unhappy. So I did what I could to keep them happy. I worked alongside them, laughing as much as possible. I encouraged them, even when the task was too big. And I thanked them. All the time, as much as I could.

I recently ordered some earrings on Etsy, from a young girl just starting out, and in my package was the most wonderful thank-you note, complete with kitty sketch. It was delightful, made the experience so much more than just a purchase. It was a connection with a person, a kind, funny, talented person, and we need those connections desperately. It’s why I always sent a thank-you note with everything I sold; I wanted them to know that there was someone behind that knit hat they’d just bought, and that someone appreciated them.

The world can be mean and scary right now. So I’m going to laugh at cat videos, swoon over cute dogs, sing along to good music, share the great books I read, and I’m going to thank people. Starting with you, reader: Thank You, truly, for taking the time to read my words. It means a lot to me. It’s lovely to know that I’m not terrible at stringing words together, that I’m not alone in my thoughts.

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Now it’s your turn. Go find someone to thank today!