Reflections on Another Year as a Pen Clerk – 2015

It’s the end of 2015, and wud’ja believe it, we’re still here. And I’m still rambling.

Here are my top five craziest moments of this past year:

  1. When we’d moved all of our stuff from the old shop, and our contractor stood there trying to stick a piece of rebar between units, and told us that the units don’t connect. (They do, he was just sawing in the wrong spot. Thanks for that heart attack, Nick.)
  2. When Caleb totalled my Parker Lucky Curve nib. There were tears, and they were all mine as Caleb gleefully ran off to destroy something else. The pen is now back with patron saint of pens, Jeffry.
  3. My first day with the Hobonichi (December 16), and Caleb dropping a glob of butter on my leather cover.
  4. Caleb dropping & breaking a bottle of Noodler’s Shah’s Rose (pre-plastic bottle era), and flinging it across the packing area.
  5. That first night here in the new shop and apartment, with pizza and cracking open one of the last bottles of champagne from our wedding.

In actual fact, these are just five crazy moments that I pulled out from no where, because this has been an insane year of crazy moments, so many I can’t even believe everything that’s happened.

Holiday Gift Guide for Fountain Pen Lovers when you don't know anything about fountain pens wonder pens Toronto Canada

We survived another bustling and busy and blessed holiday season, with queue-ups of online orders and people at the cash and family holiday dinners, and now it’s dark outside and warm inside and we’re holiday-ed out. A time for reflection if there ever was one.

I can hardly believe what a difference a year makes. Just like for babies when the first days and months and years bring the most changes and growth, for new and small businesses like us, it seems like each month has brought new and exciting and massive events, and each bump in the road has been number crunching and shop talk over dinner. But we’re still here, and it’s been a big year for us.

We said good-bye to the shop where we first started, and to the landlord that took a risk on a brand-new business selling “old-fashioned trinkets” and pens and inks, and to the house we brought Caleb home to.

We renovated a few industrial units and piled our worldly goods into vans and trucks to move across the city. We opened up shop down a laneway, praying with fingers and toes crossed and a rabbit’s foot in some box some where (if Super hasn’t already found it and eaten it) that it was the right decision for the shop and the family to take this new place and call it home.

We held our first Letter Writing Club and Vintage Pen Market and Children’s Handwriting Classes and hired our first (paid) helping hands. We had our first exclusive ink colours – Noodler’s Plains of Abraham and Raven Black, and we watched nervously as they flew off the shelves. Blue Midoris and Emerald of Chivor and Lamy Copper Oranges and TWSBI ECOs and Hobonichis. I’ve written blog posts about this and that and nothing at all and sometimes a pen or two, and discovered washi tape and baked my first loaf of bread, after having bread books collect dust on my shelves for years (ironically, the recipe was found on the internet).

We’ve made friends with a new coffee shop and new neighbours and new local treats. New dog friends at the dog park. New baby friends at the playground. New pen friends. But still some old ones.

After two Christmases in business, we had our first Christmas tree for the shop, which we went out and hunted, killed and dragged home ourselves.

We made it through the first year of Caleb’s life (all four of us, if you’re including the dog), and Caleb has morphed into this bizarre little hoo-man, with his own ideas and inside jokes and opinions about everything, pattering around in circles and climbing over boxes and under tables. He’s started walking, and talking, and grabbing the dog’s tail, and doing hilarious things like imitating Jon on the phone or putting rolls of toilet paper into the toilet and – what! – riding a tricycle.

I blinked, and I’m in Oz.

So here are my dreams for the new year:

  1. Making soup. Bone broth in the winter and cool soups for the summer. Getting a soup pot.
  2. Swimming lessons for the little fish. Apparently it’s hard to get into city classes, so we might have to go old-school, with Jon in his trunks.
  3. Write more. Write more slowly.

It’s hard to believe how lucky I am, that these are it. No crazy new year’s resolutions or 12-step programs. Sure, we have some big and small and exciting projects planned for the shop over the next four seasons, but when it comes to the big picture, those are all small fry, just the icing of keeping this ship afloat.

Because the real cake is that I get to spend my days talking to people – to vendors, customers, people online – about pens and stationery and inks. I get to take pictures of pens for Instagram or ramble on this blog about pens, and say to Jon, “I’m working, so can you please take care of that diaper I think the baby smells and thank you so much you’re amazing love you.”

I get both – to work in the shop and be part of the business, but also to see Caleb grow up and learn everyday, that we don’t have to put him into daycare. And it’s not so bad either that when “we” need a nap, I get to just step through a door and snuggle into bed.

And I couldn’t be more thankful for all these crazy pen nuts we also get to meet and grow with. Pen nuts who drop off Christmas ornaments for our tree, or send Caleb letters, pick up vintage inkwells or old notebooks for us when they’re strolling through flea markets, or ship us a box of pears in the middle of winter, or bring tools to sharpen Jon’s Japanese knife in the shop while other customers look on (with fear? curiosity? admiration?), or share samples of exclusive inks they picked up on their travels, or mail us Christmas decorations and good luck cranes from the other end of the country.

Or really, just stop by for a chat. These pen nuts who give us the opportunity and honour of their time and trust every time they read a blog post, or let us help them pick out an ink, or stop by the shop and tell us what’s going on in their lives.

Another year, and it’s been unbelievable and amazing and a roller coaster and just fabulous. Thank you for keeping us here for another year, with our pens full of ink, and our baby in diapers. I can’t wait to do it again 🙂

And tonight! My Indian take-out and Netflix night. I will let you know how it goes. Probably something along the lines of eating Indian take-out and watching Netflix 🙂

16 thoughts on “Reflections on Another Year as a Pen Clerk – 2015

  1. ceewilson

    Glad to hear you’re all doing remarkably well! My wife and I would highly recommend Narcos on Netflix if you’re into those types of shoes. Though admittedly, it would be more enjoyable if I knew Spanish. If you’re down for subtitles and the thrilling tale of the cocaine tycoon Pablo Escobar, you’ll be hooked.

    Reply
    1. Liz Post author

      Jon has that one on our list! We actually get through Netflix shows very, very slowly, but we might have to bump that one up! Thanks so much for the tip 🙂

      Reply
  2. Elaine

    OMG to your list of crazy moments of the past year. Looks like Caleb likes dropping a lot of stuff…I’m not sure how I would react if/when Landry does the same. Anyhow, if he does I know who to turn to for replacements. Thank you for being around to supply us with all that pen, paper and inky goodness.

    Reply
    1. Liz Post author

      Caleb LOVES dropping things, and throwing things, and dragging things around with him, and waving long sticks, and basically being a menace until nap time 🙂 And yes, please come to us for replacements, or maybe just commiserating 😉

      Reply
    1. Liz Post author

      Por suerte para todos los que lo hablan, yo he tomado una clase de español y con eso me basta para saber que ¡nunca debo intentar decir algo por mí misma!
      He pedido un poco de ayuda a un amigo para decir: gracias por tomarse el tiempo de leer lo que escribo y por molestarse en aportar sus comentarios. ¡Mis mejores deseos también para un fantástico año nuevo!

      Reply
    1. Liz Post author

      Thanks so much, Philip! Of course it’s so nice to see you more often, too! Happy new year to you and your family 🙂

      Reply
  3. Sola

    Happy New Year and all the best for your family and shop, Liz! My Hobonichi for 2016 looks exactly like yours, thanks to the cover I got from you 🙂

    I commiserate with you about the glob of butter, but trust me, you’ll love the cover more for its butter stain later on. (I used to be a neat freak too till my son entered the picture.) I recommend engaging Caleb’s services as a guest artist if you have any pages in your diary left over!

    Reply
    1. Liz Post author

      Happy new year to you and your family as well! I hope you are liking the cover, as well as the Hobonichi, of course!

      Haha – I know I’ll cherish all of the ways Caleb has left marks on my life (and stationery!)…something I have to keep reminding myself of to prevent myself from crying 😉

      Reply
  4. thyna

    (a belated) happy new year! i it’s been a ride to watch how your shop has grown over the past year and i’m looking forward to how wonder pens grows in 2016 🙂 and to watching caleb grow – it’s so odd to think i still remember when i first saw the post about his first tooth!

    funny story: my uncle visited some relatives in australia over the holidays; he came back to report that his nephew has developed an interest in fine stationery and pens, and asked him to visit “a shop on carlaw ave” to buy his christmas gifts for next year! i offered to go with him, of course 😉

    Reply
    1. Liz Post author

      Happy new year to you, too! It’s so crazy for me to even think of how big Caleb is – he’s running around and getting into all sorts of wonderful trouble and I can hardly remember when he was so small.
      Your story about your uncle really is so funny!! And a bit heart-warming, actually, haha! It’s sometimes so surprising what a small world it is, that someone all the way in Australia has read about our tiny shop. And yes, of course you’ll have to come, too!! 🙂

      Reply

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