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Notes of a Pen Addict

A few years ago, I fell down the fountain pen well and can’t get out. I’ve always collected pens. I couldn’t wait to buy my first Pilot Precise when I was in high school. The Pilot Precise is a fan-favorite of educators everywhere, thus, I’m not surprised it was the first pen I bought. In college, I fell in love with the Pilot G2. I love blue ink and the Pilot G2 has the most vibrant blue ink in the pen game. The salmon pink G2 is today’s favorite gel pen. My Staedtler and Sarasa pens were last week’s favorite pens. I also like ballpoint pens. In fact, my rose gold XL Parker Jotter and Sensa are this week’s ballpoint favorites. Collecting pens is a silly hobby, but it’s a relatively inexpensive hobby for sure. Well, it was until I discovered fountain pens.

I found my first fountain pen at Tuesday Morning retail store in Olive Branch. It cost $3.99 and wrote as if it cost $3.99. But it didn’t matter because it was love at first write. Since my first pen was scratchy, I purchased a second jane davenport fountain pen on Amazon. Same cost. Same result. But, the third purchase was a winner. I still own it because writes smoothly for a cheap pen.

I decided to do a little pen research for my next fountain pen. By that, I mean I simply Googled, “What are the best fountain pens for beginners?” That’s where I discovered Kaweco, Pilot Metropolitan, and Lamy Safari pens. Yep, down the well, I fell. The Pilot Metropolitan is my favorite of the three, but I’ll blog on that beauty another day. Today, I want to talk about a compact pen made in Germany.

The Kaweco Perkeo is adorable, so I purchased one in peony blossom and jungle green. I don’t remember the exact price, but I think each pen cost a little under $20.00. The green pen writes beautifully. It’s so smooth and is currently inked with Pelikan brilliant black. The pink pen writes poorly, and it’s very scratchy. It also skips. I often have to go back to connect letters when I write cursive. Fine nibs in both, and both pens are attractive. I typically post the caps for weight and length.

The verdict. I’m not sure I will purchase another Kaweco Perkeo. Honestly, my $3.99 pen writes better than the pink Kaweco Perkeo. Go figure. I might buy a replacement nib soon, and I do have my eye on the Kaweco Sport. The jungle green pen is an excellent writer, and I use it all the time. As I said, it’s compact, and a great carry pen. It’s not very expensive, so I do not mind tossing it in my work tote. The body of the pen is a hard plastic that handles travel well. I purchased these pens nearly two years ago, and both still look new. I recently had to wrestle Waffles for the green Kaweco, I won. The pen didn’t suffer any damage, but I did ground my fur baby. Bad dog.

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Decisions and Pancakes

It is interesting to know that humans make about 35,000 decisions a day. I learned that little fact in a psychology class more than 30 years ago. Wow! I cannot believe I decided to go to college more than three decades ago. Good grief, I am getting old! Some days I feel my age. Today is one of those days. Everything aches today.

Fortunately, I decided at age 18 to always exercise for a strong mind and body. When I turned the big 5-0, I have continued to exercise to remain mentally and physically young. Many women reach mid-life and say, “game over.” I decided the game had just started, even when I am achy.

Today, I am achier than usual. OA and fibromyalgia make my joints achy and stiff, and this wet and chilly weather does not help. Honestly, it was hard to get my mind in the game this morning. It was harder to get my body out of bed. Having a dog certainly helps. Waffles started barking loudly at 6 a.m. She is a jerk, but adopting her was another great decision. You cannot stay in bed with a fur-baby barking for food and attention.

Tomorrow at 6 a.m., I hope that decision #1 is to get up and take Waffles for a long walk. Decision #2 will probably involve IHOP pancakes. Do not judge me. I never said that all of my decisions were good for me.

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This New Normal

This morning had me in a three-hour basic training for online learning. It was about improving online teaching and learning. It was boring and indeed basic, but I truly enjoyed the Zoom discussion. Why? It allowed me to interact and chit-chat with my MVSU co-workers. I’m surprised that I feel this way because I’m usually “A-Okay” with alone time. After a full school year, I’m that professor who can barely contain excitement during graduation. My excitement is two-fold. First, I’m over-the-moon to see many of my formal freshmen walk across the stage to receive their diplomas. Second, I’m giddy about heading home after nine months of lecturing, meeting, tutoring, advising, and feeling the emotions of nearly 100 moody students. But 2020 interrupted my normalcy. Covid-19 kicked my normal life in the leg, and I’m still limping. Usually, that first Saturday in May has me sitting with fellow professors wearing academic regalia (we look like a scene from Harry Potter). My hat won’t stay on my head, and the black garb makes it Mississippi hot (trust me, Mississippi heat is worse than hell). Honestly, I barely listen to the “take-on-the world” speech from the guest speakers because I’m too busy searching for the quickest way out of the auditorium. I sprint out of the building as soon as I hear the rising notes of “Pomp and Circumstance,” signaling the end of the ceremony. I’m sure I look like Harry Potter on his Nimbus 2000 broom as I race out of the auditorium with my regalia flying behind me. I miss my normalcy, I miss my job, and I miss my co-workers. Sigh.

I don’t need a psychologist or psychiatrist to help me understand my issues. I’m American smart, and a quick Google search explained everything (if it works for my students, it works for me). My old life had structure. My average workday had me up at 7 a.m, at work by 8 a.m., at lunch by noon, and in the gym by 4 p.m. Life after Covid-19 is lackadaisical at best. My new normal does not have a scheduled wake-up time. Hell, my new normal doesn’t have a scheduled bedtime either. A great binge-watch will keep me up until 3 a.m. And while I still workout at 4 p.m., I don’t eat on schedule; instead, I eat when I’m bored. Good Morning America just reported that the average American had gained 16 pounds since mid-March. I tried scheduling life since the coronavirus, but it only works for a day or two. I don’t know, but perhaps I do need a psychologist to help me accept this new normal. Can anyone recommend a great virtual psychologist? Sigh.

As I mentioned, I also miss my co-workers. Well, let me amend that I miss my work friends. It’s always been my experience that work friends are important to work success. Not only does having work friends enrich your life, the right one can keep you from jumping off a bridge (not joking). Having just one person who supports you, listens to you, or grieve with you is invaluable (thank you again, Rebecca). I miss my work friends for that reason. I’ve been at MVSU for five years now, and I’ve learned so much from work friends. I have a sense of belonging from my work friends. I’ve gained a renewed enjoyment of learning for the sake of learning from my work friends. What’s more, I worked harder and faster because of my work friends (looking at you, Dr. Dente). Yes, I miss that camaraderie. I miss having someone listen to me complain. I miss having someone explain new concepts in pedagogy to me. More importantly, I miss interacting with people who aren’t just American smart. My work friends are learned individuals who relish in learning, knowing, and growing. Damn, I miss that. Sigh.

In a word, I’m so over my new normal, which looks like it will extend until January 2021. Mississippi is seeing a rapid increase in new Covid-19 cases. Like many of you, I’ve lost a beloved relative to this virus. So, instead of moaning about needing a haircut, a pedicure, or about missing normalcy, I’m trying to discover pockets of happiness in this new normal. Yes, I miss my job, and I miss my work friends, but a virtual meeting here and there helps. Right now, I want to be safe. I want you to be safe. Finally, I’m asking MVSU students to please wear a mask or stay at home if possible. A hot-girl summer is not worth contracting this virus. In case you haven’t heard, the coronavirus is infecting young people the hardest right now. Sigh.

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Creating a better Mississippi

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” Honestly, after 50, it’s about recreating yourself, too. I also believe this quote by playwright George Bernard Shaw offers the key to finding and achieving greatness. Somewhere in our 30s, we women accept that our current home, job, or situation is as good as it’s going get (even if we’re in a bad situation). Imagine my surprise to discover that life got better at 40. And yes, I’m excited about my 50s and what it brings. Ladies, trust me when I say that we are not meant to live quietly and die loudly. No! We’re meant to create excitement, happiness, and joy every day of our lives. Hell, even the state of Mississippi has jumped on the “creating a new me” bandwagon.

Yesterday, the state of Mississippi held a quiet ceremony to retire the state flag and to recreate itself as a welcoming home for all citizens. Of course, Mississippi was the last flag in the U.S. to feature the confederate emblem, and for 126 years, it was a source of heritage and pride for white Mississippians. For black Mississippians, the flag represented racism, segregation, and revisionism. Historians and vexillologists viewed the embattled flag as a commemoration of a fight to keep slavery (please stop lying about this truth). Mississippi has long faced increasing pressures to remove the flag and reinvent itself. Understandably, the state wanted to distance itself from the flag, especially in today’s hostile environment when the KKK and other hate groups use the confederate flag to promote racism and spread fear in America. As I watched history unfold this week, I was still surprised when Mississippi voted to shed one of its layers of racism. I’m proud that my state took a step to recreate itself.

At the end of the day, I know that removing the flag is a tiny step toward racial reconciliation. And yes, I know that many white Mississippians will continue to use the confederate flag to express hate and spread fear (sadly, this, too, is part of their heritage). This November, Mississippians will run to the polls to vote on a new flag, one that will represent all races. Today is a celebration of creating or rather, recreating a better Mississippi, and I am excited and happy. Let’s celebrate by voting this fall.

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Lisztomaniac

I’m trapped in my house. I’ve binged eaten foods I can’t remember tasting. I’ve also binged watched TV series I can’t recall seeing. In between food and television, I’ve been reading magazines, books, and the side of cereal boxes. I’ve also been listening to a shit-load of music. I still own CDs, and every day finds me listening to Michael Jackson, Elton John, Tina Turner, Queen, and others. Yes, I’ve become a “lisztomaniac.” I’m not sure that’s a word, but lisztomania is. It’s defined as the “need to listen to music all the time” (thanks Wikipedia). I’m labeling myself as a maniac because of my intense desire to listen to Queen every day. Not joking. I’ve been banging my head to “Another One Bites the Bust,” “Killer Queen,” “White Queen” and “Seven Seas of Rhye” for more than two months. Again, not joking.

͎f̳͉̼͉̙͔͈͎̂̉r̼̯̤͎̈ͭ̃ͨ̆e̮̟͈̣̖̰̩̹͈͎̾ͨ̑͑d̥̝̮͙͈͎͂̐̇ͮ̏̔̀̚ͅd̥̝̮͙͈͎͂̐̇ͮ̏̔̀̚ͅi̞̟̫̺͎ͭ̒ͭͣe̮̟͈̣̖̰̩̹͈͎̾ͨ̑͑ m̘͈̺̪͓͎ͩ͂̾ͪ̀̋e̮̟͈̣̖̰̩̹͈͎̾ͨ̑͑r̼̯̤͎̈ͭ̃ͨ̆c͔͎ͣͦ́́͂ͅu̟͎̲͕̼̳͉̲͎ͮͫͭ̋ͭ͛ͣ̈r̼̯̤͎̈ͭ̃ͨ̆y͉̝͖̻̯͎ͮ̒̂ͮ͋ͫͨ

What’s not to love about Queen? They incorporated kick-ass bass (thanks John Deacon) to everything they recorded. And, Freddie Mercury had the vocals of a god. Yes, their music rocks. Yet, I’ve come to realize it’s not just about their music. It’s about the legacy they left behind, particularly Freddie Mercury. Mercury, who died of AIDS-related bronchial pneumonia in 1991, often told people that he would be a legend. He was a legend. He is a legend. While his death saddened me then and still today, I often remind myself that Mercury lived his life to the fullest. He was a guy who continued to make outstanding music until the year he died. He did not allow AIDS to define him. NO! He decided that he wanted to be known for his music. And while AIDS is a defining moment in Mercury’s life, his fans do know and love his music. I’m sure many in his circle thought him pompous to announce that he was going to be a legend. Perhaps he was, but I love his bravado.

I honestly love people who ignore the naysayers and announce that they will be great. I think there’s something powerful in claiming greatness. This spring, many of my first-year students graduated from Mississippi Valley State University. I’m proud of their accomplishments. I’m proud of the fact that many have already claimed their destinies. One announced that she would one day replace me as a professor. I believe her. Another told me that she was going to law school and guess what, she has been accepted to law school and several other graduate programs. I find their instant ownership and acceptance of who they are and what they are meant to do refreshing in these hellish times. Honestly, I wish that I had had their verve at that age.

Since I can’t turn back time (yes, I just sang that last line like Cher), I can move forward in my life with ownership and acceptance of who I am. I want to be like Freddie F*ing Mercury! No, I don’t want to be a rockstar. Seriously, I can’t sing or rock my way out of a jailhouse. What I mean is that I’m boldly claiming my future self. She’s amazing. Today, I’m going to stop bingeing my life away. The Lord gave me today, and I pray that He gives me many tomorrows to do, be, and grow into me while listening to the sounds of the 80s. Who’s claiming greatness with me?

Today is a Good Day

Life with fibromyalgia and OA is not easy. Yesterday’s pain was wicked. I meandered around the house and the neighborhood at a slow pace. My poor dog spent most of the day in the yard by herself. Today’s pain is reasonable. I woke up feeling rested and did 20 minutes on my stationary bike, plus a few squats. My goal is to start each day moving to get in 10K+ steps. As I said, some days are better than others. Today is a good day.

After my quick workout, Waffles and I trotted around our yard in search of holes. Waffles is a digger, and she’s a brat, literally. She’s part Boston and Rat terrier, which makes her a Brat terrier. She loves to dig and howl. The bratty pup actually howled a fit as I filled four holes. It seems that yesterday was a good day for her for sure. I know that she’ll dig up those holes later. It’s a vicious cycle, just like chronic pain, but at least I get in extra steps while filling Waffles’ creative work.

To exercise or not to exercise is the question I ask daily. Not to exercise means stiffer joints, but it also means snuggling on the sofa watching TV. To exercise means sores muscles but less joint pain. In my 20’s and 30’s, I could exercise for two hours straight. In my 50’s, I try to get in a solid 45 minutes per day in two sessions. I can’t overexercise the way I used to do when I was younger and thought I was overweight (topic for another day). I definitely can’t “exercise away” bad eating the way I used to do in the past. That’s too bad cause I love crap food.

All things considered, I’ve learned a lot from living with chronic pain. I know that overexercising is just as bad as not exercising. I know that I have to eat lots of green food (blah) and healthy fruit. Today is a good day, and I hope tomorrow will be good, too. BTW, I also know that Waffles will dig a hole or two as soon as I turn my back. Today will be a good day for her, too.

Crazy Little Thing Called Anxiety

Anxiety is a beast. Often I don’t realize that I’m anxious, but today, I felt that beast creeping up my spine and shoulders. The fear was so real. I felt like I was in one of Stephen King’s novels. I admit that I’m shook (did I use that right?). What brought on such fear? Writing. Crazy, right?

It’s funny that it’s taken me so long to realize that fear of writing keeps me from writing. Wow, I can’t believe I just wrote that. I will also admit that it’s sad that it’s taken me so long to realize that fear keeps me from doing something so innate. As I pound away at my old Mac, I can feel the beast recoil. She’s not gone. She’s waiting to strike again. I guess there’s nothing wrong with a bit of anxiety when approaching something new. No, writing is not new for me, but I am embarking on a new story, one that’s important right now. I told you yesterday that I’ve been binge reading and watching, not binge writing. I’m excited to have something to entertain me during the coronavirus outbreak. I’m also scared that I will make many mistakes as I write. I tell my students at MVSU that writing from the soul means making mistakes; a lot of ’em. Hell, everyone knows that the first draft of everything is shitty. So, why does my mind think it should be perfect?

The need for perfection is what feeds the beast. Yesteryear, I would feed my anxiety a cup or pint of ice cream in place of perfection. Hot, gooey peanut butter cookies are also a must-eat for anxiety. Any food works, but I prefer sweet snacks. While the first few bites of peanut butter gooeyness are orgasmic (I seriously need to get a lover), the other six to ten cookies are gluttonous and sickening. After a good cookie and ice cream binge, I would sit, sleep, and start the process over and over and over, again.

Today, I didn’t binge-eat. I did, however, binge-watch Law & Order: SVU. But, I’m also writing and outlining. I’ve found a new mantra to chant away fear and anxiousness. “Writing is not a trick of grammar; it is an act of faith.” A great quote by E.B. White and true words that I will repeat to myself over and over and over.

My next blog will address personal greatness. Happy reading.

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