A Very Fine Pen

Just a quick update tonight—and a review. Yesterday Jasper and I enjoyed our monthly outing to Jefferson. He is always on the lookout for an anvil! He didn’t find one, but he did find a couple other things he couldn’t live without.

Today my friend Robin came over for a visit so I had to postpone my grocery shopping until tomorrow.

The summer is slipping away much too fast!

Now to my review. When I was in Tennessee, I had to go into an office supply store in search of a calligraphy pen—which I did not find. However, I did find a type of pen that I had to try. Here is what it looks like:

7-24-20 Pentel Energel

It’s a Pentel Energel Needle Tip pen, and do you see the width? 0.3 mm! Most of the time, the finest pen I can find is a 0.5 mm. There are many times when I prefer the 0.25 or 0.3 width but they are very hard to find. And I love a needle tip, dating back to my college days when I used to write everything in India ink with a Rapidograph needle tip fountain pen.

So I now have this pen in blue and black, and it does also come in red, green, and purple. I have been using mine for a couple of weeks now, and couldn’t be happier with them, so I thought I’d pass the recommendation along for those of you who may also like a very fine pen.

My research into this pen did turn up one warning, however. Be SURE to get pens that are made in Japan. These pens are manufactured both in Japan and Mexico, and apparently the Mexican ones lose their structural integrity rather quickly. Both colors I have are Japanese made and seem to be of high quality—which is great because I’ve already used them a lot. They’re especially nice for writing in a calendar or planner.


My Review of the Sash Bag

I freely admit I have a thing for bags. I have a lot of them. I use them all at least occasionally. But I have been frustrated in my quest for the perfect everyday handbag (purse). I no longer need the massive “mom purse” I carried when my children were young, and which saved my sanity on many occasions. Now I mostly just need a way to carry my wallet, my keys, my phone, and some tissues and lip balm.

For the last several months, I’ve been using this little tote bag that looks like something a five-year-old would have:


Not because it is such a great bag, but because it was about the right size and most of my other handbags are too big (or too small) for my everyday needs. I dreamed about designing and making the perfect bag for myself—and I probably will at some point make a bag to take to conferences and meetings—but then again, I now have a backpack that is really nice . . .

So anyway, I started getting a lot of ads in my Facebook newsfeed for the “Sash” bag. It has 10 pockets and the ads made it look so enticing and easy to carry. When I received my class fees for this semester, most of the money had to go toward our taxes, but I did splurge on getting a Sash bag—by the far the most I have EVER spent on a handbag! (It’s made from leather and lined with RFID-blocking fabric.) There is a 30-day money-back guarantee, so I figured I had nothing to lose.

The cross-body bag is U-shaped, with two separate halves divided by a seam so you can NOT put anything in the middle. This is to keep the profile slim so it will conform to the curve of your hip.


The pockets are all small, but will hold credit cards, lip balm, and similar small items. No room for a checkbook or a notebook of any kind, but I do have a pen and a couple of folded 3×5 note cards in there for taking notes. The long strap comes unattached and is adjustable in length via a series of very strong snaps. This is a great feature if you are taller/larger or shorter/smaller than average.


—The biggest drawback for me is that you can’t set this bag down like you would any other handbag. It doesn’t “stand” at all. I fold it in half, and then fold the strap down over it, but it still takes up a lot of real estate and the contents are difficult to get at if you’re not wearing it.


I had my husband install a hook for me to hang it on at home so I have a place to put it without having to lay it down somewhere.

—It really does have ten pockets, but they are tiny. There are several card slots you can use to eliminate your wallet (on both sides of this divided bag). There are two “cash pockets” behind the card slots, but they are very hard to access. I held up the line in Walmart the other day trying to get money out of my cash pocket. Most of the time I keep a change purse in the “main’ compartment and put both bills and coins in it. On the back of each half, there is a zippered pocket that is billed as being perfect for your passport, which is one reason I got the bag (because I still dream that I’ll get to travel again someday). It took many, many tries, but I did eventually shoehorn my passport into there. Maybe if I do it a bunch more times, it will get easier. It’s a very tight fit. The two open pockets on the front for your phone and keys are better, although I still really struggle with getting my keys in and out of such a tight space.

—Because the pockets are intended to eliminate the need for a wallet, it’s a bit of a project to switch over to a different bag if you want something different for a specific occasion.


—My top drawback was that this bag is “unputdownable.”  But that is also one of its greatest assets. You don’t really need to put it down even while driving, if you don’t want to. It’s by far the most comfortable bag to carry I’ve ever had. I actually used to get a shopping cart even if I was only getting a couple of things, because I hated carrying my purse around and trying to wrangle purchases at the same time. With the Sash bag, my hands are free and I don’t feel burdened. I can skip getting a cart at least some of the time.

—If you have to use a public restroom, you don’t have to worry about setting your bag down somewhere disgusting or even hanging it on a hook where it might be accessible to a thief. You can just keep it on.

—Despite being made of leather, which is often heavy, this bag is so light that you can wear it for hours without stressing your shoulder or making you want to set it down. In fact, because the capacity is so small, I think it would be impossible to load this bag down enough to make it uncomfortably heavy. There just isn’t enough room, unless maybe you’re lugging gold or lead bars in there!

—Because it’s a cross-body bag, it won’t slip or slide off your shoulder. Yay. You don’t have to constantly adjust it.

—Both sides of the bag zip both up and down. I thought it would be really annoying to have to zip the bag open every time I needed something, but it actually hasn’t bothered me at all. You get to choose if you like to have the zipper pulls at the top or bottom of the bag—or even in the middle.

—It’s a great “diet” bag. It is too small to carry snacks in!

Takeaway: If you like to carry your checkbook/hair brush/makeup/library with you at all times, this is not the bag for you. If you like to have a book/knitting/project with you, you will have to bring a separate bag for that. I actually don’t mind that. When I’m out shopping or running errands, I don’t expect to have time to knit or read, so the Sash bag is fine by itself. If I’m going to an appointment when I might have to wait, I throw my Kindle in my knitting bag and take it along separately. After all, when I’m wearing the Sash, I have both hands free.

I know it sounds like it has a lot of drawbacks—and it does. My free trial month is just about up, but I won’t be sending it back. The comfort and ease of carrying it outweigh most of the negatives I’ve mentioned. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than anything else I’ve tried in the last several years. I have stopped my search for a new, practical, everyday handbag.


Whispers in the Pews: Voices on Mental Illness in the Church by Chris Morris and others

My Review

I was interested in this book because I have met some of the people whose stories are told within, and I was curious. I was curious because mental illness has cut quite a swathe through my family and friends, and I wanted to know what others have experienced. The book is a compilation of personal stories about mental illness—and the church’s response to it.

Pain. If you want to know what this book is about in one word, it’s pain. Some of the pain is so raw that it can be hard to read. But you should read it. There is the pain of childhood trauma, that bears fruit in mental illness of various types. The pain of the illness itself. And most dismaying of all, the pain of rejection from the very people who should be first in line to offer comfort and acceptance—Christians.

I read some things that didn’t surprise me, but made me very sad. I have learned in the last couple of decades that there are many Christians who don’t believe mental illness exists. In their minds, it is always one of two things: sin (especially unconfessed sin), or lack of faith. Now I do believe in sin, and I also believe that sin can result in devastating physical, mental, and emotional illnesses—but to claim that explanation for every mental illness makes no sense.

Our world is broken, and many of the people in it are too. Some of these people turned to the church for help, for understanding, and for healing—and were turned away. Worse yet, they were blamed for their illness or forced to keep secrets to protect predators who were valued church members.

What do you do if you’re mentally ill, but you’ve been taught all your life that mental illness doesn’t exist except as a symptom of secret sin? You add a huge burden of guilt to your spirit, and you lie to everyone because you don’t want them to know that you’re a bad person, because if you’re struggling with mental health issues, you must be bad, right? And then you have more guilt about the deception.

What if you’re told that your illness is due to a lack of faith? If you would just love Jesus more and pray more and read the Bible more, you’d be fine—so what’s wrong with you? Some of those I know who struggle with mental illness are among the most devout people I’ve ever met. If being spiritual could cure them, they’d have been cured years ago.

The stories in this book run the gamut in terms of the responses that the writers encountered. Some of them were met with kindness, compassion, and help. Others, not at all. I wonder how many people have given up on church—or Christianity—entirely because of the way they were treated when they tried to get help.
This book is a way of starting a conversation that needs to happen. In fact, it’s long overdue.