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May 20, 2013

Comments

Kurt Von Gonten

I have a Longines “Jamboree” stainless steel wrist watch. It is over sixty years old and somewhat scuffed, scratched, and time worn. The manual wind-up watch lacks a day and date function, has only hour, minute and second hands, and sports a plain white face. The original glow-in-the-dark strips placed over the chrome hash marks that stand in the place of numerals have long lost their luminescence. Despite the fact that I long ago replaced its Speidel Twist-O-Flex metal band with an upscale chocolate crocodile skin strap, the watch still doesn’t look all that special. But it means the world to me. It belonged to my father’s Uncle Clarence (my great uncle), who purchased it in 1951 when he went to visit my father in Washington, D.C., where my father was performing his military service during the Korean War.

Clarence was married to my father’s Aunt Pearl, his father (my grandfather) Harry’s only sibling. My father’s family hailed from a small rural town outside of Buffalo, New York. The family lived in a house built in the 1860’s by our forebears shortly after they arrived in this country from Switzerland. My great grandparents were not wealthy people, and only had enough money for one of their children to go to college. They decided that Pearl would be the one to go to school, and Harry would be given the house, barn, farm, and surrounding property. Pearl became the first person in my father’s family to get a college degree, got a job as a public high-school home economics teacher in Rochester, New York, and met and married Clarence, the school’s wood shop teacher, who also shared her Swiss ancestry. Harry tended the farm, got married to my grandmother, and went to work at the nearby Bethlehem Steel mill to make ends meet.

As fate would have it, my father was born a twin. On the way back from the hospital after giving birth, my grandmother carried my father’s brother on the car ride home, and Pearl held my father. Pearl never had children of her own, and this drive from the hospital to the farm forged a lifelong bond between Pearl and my father.

My father grew up during the Depression and World War Two, and his childhood was an unhappy, rough one. Although very hard working, my grandparents were quite poor, a predicament not ameliorated by their tumultuous, stormy marriage. My father and his brother were expected to tend the farm’s crops, cows and chickens in their spare time while my grandfather worked at the steel mill. Life was very difficult. In contrast, Pearl and Clarence lived in an upscale suburb of nearby Rochester, and their spacious home filled with books and interesting objects was a haven and paradise for my young father. Pearl and Clarence’s more affluent lifestyle seemed to epitomize the benefits that higher education could bestow upon those lucky enough to obtain it.

So my father made up his mind he would go to college. His parents, siblings, and hometown peers all thought that he was crazy; why go to college when you could go to work for Bethlehem Steel? But, influenced by Clarence and Pearl, he decided he was going to go anyway.

Somehow, without benefit of his parents’ help, in an era without high school guidance counselors or college placement specialists, he was improbably accepted into the University of Oklahoma, in a state where he had no family and where he had never been. He left home all by himself at the age of seventeen, with no money but the money he had made himself and saved working as a pin setter in a bowling alley. In Norman, Oklahoma he would attend university for a semester, and then take a semester off to work and save money for tuition. Unfortunately the Korean War broke out, and during one of his semesters off working, my father was drafted into the Army. Fortunately, because he had learned clerical and typing skills, and was a “college man” (albeit one who had not yet graduated), he was stationed at Fort Meyer, in Arlington Virginia, and was tasked with performing office work at the Pentagon.

It was during this time that Clarence decided to take a train trip to visit his favorite nephew. Being a taciturn Swiss-man, Clarence had to have a pretext for making such a visit; it couldn’t just be for mere love and affection. No, Clarence was not just going to visit Washington, D.C. solely to see my father, but also to purchase a watch from one of those swank Georgetown jewelry stores. And not just any watch, but a quality Swiss-made Longines. Clarence liked fine watches, and owned his share of Hamilton watches. Now that the war in Europe was over, Swiss-made watches were more widely available over here, and Clarence wanted a good watch made in the land of his ancestors. After a nice, expensive dinner in a classy Georgetown restaurant, Clarence and my Dad went shopping for a watch, the one which is strapped to my wrist as I type this very second.

Time marched on. That war ended and my father received his Honorable Discharge. He ended up at the University of Florida, and not only graduated but met my mom and got married. My parents moved to Miami and started careers and our family. Clarence passed away in 1964, but I was too young to ever remember him. However, I do remember my Aunt Pearl and fondly remember visiting her and being spellbound by Clarence’s study with all of its fantastic accoutrements. But even that fell victim to the passage of time, as Pearl had to sell the home that she and Clarence bought and lived in to move into a retirement community in the late 1970’s; she first lived by herself in a large apartment, but as she was battling age and cancer, she knew that one day she would have to move to the assisted-living facility in the community.

That day came on my father’s sixtieth birthday in late August 1992. I had just graduated from law school and was able to take care of my father’s business while he and my mother helped Pearl move. They purchased a one-way flight to Rochester and had reserved a rental truck to bring her furniture and possessions back to Miami with them. While sadly packing Pearl’s belongings on Sunday morning, August 23, my Dad and Mom received an alarmed telephone call from me. I told them that Miami was being threatened by a Hurricane that had developed abruptly, called Andrew. They finished up packing as soon as possible, and jumped in the rental truck to come back to Miami.

My parents' house was totally destroyed by the storm. They made it from Rochester to Miami in less than two days, arriving late Monday night. By that time, their devastated neighborhood was under a National Guard curfew. To get to their house, they had to pass by a checkpoint guarded by armed men in uniform, who intensely scrutinized the truck stuffed with fine furniture and boxes filled with jewelry, and who gave my parents a thorough interrogation--this appeared to be the truck of looters loaded to the brim with stolen property--but my parents were ultimately able to persuade the soldiers of their story’s veracity, finally got through, and made it to what remained of their roofless, battered house, where I awaited them. In one of those boxes in that truck was Clarence’s long neglected Longines watch. A few days later, during a break from the nasty, hot work of cleaning up the mess left by the Hurricane, my father asked me if I would like the old watch that he helped Clarence pick out those many years ago in Washington. It has been with me ever since.

My parents' house has long been rebuilt. Aunt Pearl and my father are no longer with us. Many more wars have come and gone, as have the infinitely more minor catastrophe of hurricanes. Bethlehem Steel is hardly a memory to anyone now alive but it does remain a constant reminder to me and my sister, who will never forget the good fortune that our parents were able to send us both to college. Now I’m approaching my father’s age when he gave me this watch faster than I ever thought possible, but even more unbelievable to me is the fact that I have so far owned and worn the timepiece for a span almost twice as long as Clarence was afforded. Yet after all of this, Clarence’s scruffy little Swiss watch still keeps perfect time, and on every occasion that I look at my wrist to check the hour, I’m reminded of so much more than the passage of the last few minutes.


Alan Shaffer

Residing resplendently on my desk is a 1954 Pelikan 400 fountain pen. The pen was given to me at my college graduation by my Grandfather, who received it from his Father upon returning home from a military leave in 1955. To me, the pen is as important as the twists, turns, and circumstances that brought the pen into my possession. Writing with the pen makes me feel safe and distinguished. The pen is a physical object, and in this very technologically-geared period, there is certainly something philosophical with respect to using the pen for its intended purpose. There is also something to be said about the notes and letters that I compose using the pen. The notes and letters are also physical objects, and that is very different from an electronic or digital file.

I recently visited my Grandfather at the skilled-care facility in which he now resides. When getting ready to leave, I always ask what he wants me to bring the next time I visit. He is going to turn 87 years old this year and he has been living at the skilled-care facility for less than a calendar year. He had gotten used to eating and drinking certain items before becoming ill, and I like to bring different items during each visit. His response to my question was “Nothing. Having you visit me here like this is enough.” At first, I found those words to be profoundly unsettling. I had a quick moment of self-reflection that reached out across the last few months and without consciously doing so thought of a few of the things that I had been focused on and thought were important to me. Some of those things are still important to me, perhaps because of the sequential way in which we live our lives. That might be the way it is supposed to be. Or not, I don’t know. Regardless, that brief period in time made me think about the things that truly matter.

When I see, touch, and use my vintage Pelikan fountain pen, I am, at least for a few moments, mentally transported to thoughts and memories of my Grandfather. The adversity that he overcame throughout his life and the great care that he had always provided inspires me to navigate gracefully throughout my own hectic and sometimes troubling days. To me, the pen represents a season of growth and all of the things that truly matter. Living and celebrating life matter, as does seeing the value in difficult times. Life prepares us for an ambiguous journey, and it is vital that we hold onto those items that anchor our thoughts and feelings. Those thoughts and feelings help us stand the test of time.

Deanna

“Let us dare to read, think, speak and write.” –John Adams. What thing inspires my productivity?
The year was 1993, a time when America was beginning to show signs of changes to its landscape, culturally and environmentally, and of what lurked beyond the horizon that would forever change the norm. Tattoos were taboo – top rock stars didn’t even have the body engravings, in contrast to today’s epidemic tattoo fad fever. It was in 1993 when I received a catalogue in the mailbox that advertised an item of quality that caught my eye, which I purchased and have treasured ever since. It’s a writing and office tool organizer with the Levenger company’s Tree logo engraved on one side and on the opposite side, the words “Writer’s Block” are engraved in script.

In 1993, the term “Writer’s Block” was foreign to me. For nearly twenty years now, this decorative writing and office tool organizer has served faithfully on my desk. It is crafted from a solid block of American cherry wood in the shape of a 3¼" cube, with five holes drilled at the top for storing frequently used writing and office tools, such as pen, mechanical pencil, letter opener, and scissors. I know where to find these tools in an instant when needed – which is almost daily.

At first impression, what I appreciated about this tangible item is its great quality made naturally from one of Mother Earth’s trees and crafted with pride in the United States of America. Other added benefits include that it helps to keep any work area organized to the extent possible, while adding a decorative flair, taking up little space. Little did I know in my youth when I came across this item by happenstance, that I would learn what Writer’s Block is and that these two simple words would inspire and challenge me from time to time over the years, to compose a variety of communique and in my spare time as a hobby, author a book.

For anyone who values and appreciates quality and organization, the Writer’s Block is perfect for keeping frequently utilized writing and desk tools organized and in their own place. It’s an object of natural beauty that is versatile, will complement any décor, and take up little space on surfaces such as a kitchen countertop, desk, bedside chest, or other furniture storage piece. It would be a treat if Levenger would repeat sales of this item, say for example, a 25th Anniversary edition.

How ironic those two simple words can bring humor to one on a challenging brain lock day, while conversely, inspiring productivity and creativity. Great Grand Mama Manners would be pleased at the efforts made by her descendants who strive to do their best in terms of practicing the art of writing creatively and properly.
Ever so grateful to have found the Writer’s Block -- a unique piece that travels with me over time through life’s journey. Here’s to Levenger for introducing this tangible treasured heirloom to inspire productivity!

Vikki

I have been writing since I was 12-years-old. My mom recognized I had a talent for writing, which I inherited from her. Somehow my mother guided me on the path to lifelong writing by schooling me about how to write the obituaries of family members and her friends who passed away. I would rewrite each life story many times until my mother deemed the obit, perfect. During this time, I fell in love with a good writing pen. Nothing felt better than a pen that could glide across paper, forming the physical manifestation of my thoughts. I began to "hold dear" the value and functionality of a great pen. Even in today's digital age, when one's thoughts do not flow through fingers onto the keyboard and the screen, I can pick up the great pen I own, put pen to paper...and write.

Amit Yariv

I tend to be a man of "stuff", and there are many articles I hold dear. Be it the Montblanc 149 Fountain pen I signed my Ketubah with on my wedding day, or the first painting my first born son made for me, with the writing "Dad, I love you all the way to the skies and stars, and can we ride the train once again?", and then there's the copy of the first book I translated, and the briefcase I got from my parents when I got my license to practice law, and the cuff links I got from my wife...

But if I have to chose one item, it would most defenitely be my Scrooge McDuck business card case, the one with my name engraved.
In 1999 I lived in the USA for 10 months, working in Walt Disney World Resort. I did not have a business card then, nor did I expect to have one in the foreseeable future, as this was even before I went to school, but I liked the case so much, and even more so - I liked the idea of having such a lovely item with my name engraved on it, that I went ahead and got it.
Later on, I used the case to house my Translating and Editing Services card, and when I joined one of Israel's leading law firms as an associate, Scrooge McDuck joined me here.
Granted, an Uncle Scrooge card case may not be what one expects to see when a serious lawyer takes out his business card case to give you a card, but I find this case to be a great expression of who I am in the great annonymous masses of lawyers: Uncle Scrooge keeps me real, he keeps me smiling, and I cannot count the number of times it helped during tense meetings: we can scream at each other all we want, but when Scrooge is on the table, even the most nasty rivals have to let a teeny tiny smile slip through.
Now, almost every trial lawyer has a Montblanc, most of them have a leather folio (though I suspect not as green as my Levenger one), and some even have a painting made by their kid (though, naturally, not as amazing as mine). What none of them have is that business card case bearing MY name, and the lovely figure of Scrooge McDuck.

Marcia Rude

 

This invitation sent me though the house on a wonderful quest, thoughtfully picking up so many objects that carry me into a reverie.  One item was a child’s book I cherished decades ago, lost, and then after having searched antique stores for it at every opportunity, one Christmas was  surprised by its return.  The Little Bitty Raindrop story tells of a baby raindrop who napped and awoke to find itself alone after its family rained from their cloud to earth. The little raindrop took the leap also, beginning a touching journey in the land below.  It tells of a baby hero’s journey and powerful life lesson on return.
I was also tempted by a perfect quartz sphere that looks so much like a palm-sized moon, found  in the basement of a little store in Casablanca. This small globe sits on the window sill and catches light as I track the 28-day waxing and waning sunrise and sunset through each month along the moon’s surface.  But I kept looking.
Then I  realized immediately when I saw  it,  just a simple little pottery cup, almost tulip shaped, fluted, and finished with burnished tones the color of amber woods and mossy earth on its glass-smooth exterior. Looking inside, it immediately imparts a refreshing feel of captured sky in luminous cerulean blue.  To me it is a cool bubble of air within earth, just the size of a calm, cool sigh. As a miniature world of potential emptiness, it beckons me to a place I aspire to inhabit, a moment of pause in a busy day. It becomes a chalice that calls to me to stop and just receive.
I take it outside to the edge of the woods where it awakens me from list-making, thinking mind, into simple receptive being. I become aware of the many different birds singing amidst the soft sounds of new leaves gently swaying in the slightest puffs of breeze. I watch the sunlight slant into the interior of the cup and slowly illuminate a sundial of light and shadow that sweeps across its inner bowl, and I feel a stilling of time.  
I keep this cup always in sight to remind me to awaken out of my constant forgetfulness of the joys of being versus doing, and of all that is there to notice and enjoy along the journey through each day. This little space in the cup is a sanctuary I long to enter, and calls me to a serene pause, and instructs me to just breathe, and be here in this beautiful moment.
I think each of these objects calls me in a fundamental way, to a sense of awe along my journey through life. I am instructed by each toward a kind of wonder of the natural rhythms of quest and return, expansion and contraction, cycles through time, and the natural order in all things.


Carla Bell

What I hold dear is my Circa notebook. Being in my 50's and going back to school, this has been my lifeline. I love the paper in my 5 subject notebook and its smooth, fluid surface as I furiously take notes. The hole punch for Circa that allows me to put power points from lectures directly into my notebook. I repeat the refilling of that notebook each semester. It's hard to understand my attachment to this Circa system and why it works for me. I get all kinds of oooohs and ahhhhs when I pull about my notes for a study session. It's been hard doing this, but my Circa notebook has helped land me on the dean's list for the last 4 semesters.

vicki sundholm

Grandma Viv was alive for 93 vibrant, giving years. As Grandmas are known to do, she was a giver. She gave love in fresh, homemade sweet carmel rolls. She gave love in creative, detailed, beautiful handmade doll clothes. She gave love in countless hours of a listening ear...time given often and without strings attached, time given simply and only to support and love her family. She also gave quarters.

As Grandma's life began to decline, her desire to give remained strong. She had no kitchen to bake in, she had no sewing machine to create with. She did have time. Grandma continued to give her time to me, and now as I watched her weaken, the time was so much more precious......so very much more heartwarming and meaningful. And Grandma continued to give quarters.

My children don't remember Grandma's carmel rolls, her doll clothes or the long, loving conversations. My children remember Grandma Viv's quarters. Just like me, as children, both generations were given quarters as we left Grandma's house (her original home or in later years "the big house," as my kids called Grandma's nursing home). During a recent long, loving conversation with my children, they shared that they want to carry on the tradition Grandma started of
giving quarters. Love in a quarter, what an idea. Who would have thought of it...and the object we all recall that connects with Grandma and her love in a quarter? It's a quarter sized, snap shut, sateen yellow, cloth pocket.

When Grandma Viv died, the symbol of her love that my sister, my children, my mom, my aunts and cousins, the symbol we all asked for, the symbol we all wanted to keep for ourselves as our memento
from Grandma.........we all, each one of us asked about the yellow snap bag that held Grandma's quarters.

I am the oldest granddaughter, I have been blessed with the treasured yellow snap bag. I miss you, Grandma Viv.

Catherine Gross-Colten

On a family vacation to Oberammergau, Germany with my parents in 1967 I was fascinated with the woodwork that the town is famous for. As my "souvenir" for my visit there I chose a delicately carved letter opener that I still use to this day. It reminds me of the wonderful family excursions I took with my family and also physically connects me to the sender's feelings as I open their lovely cards and letters in our digital age.

David B. Hicks, Sr.

My most treasured possession, besides my children, is my red 1990 GMC pickup. My father gave it to me as a gift 5 years before he passed away from Alzheimer's. I am restoring it and have made a promise to never sell it. It is the last thing he gave me.

Deanna H.

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” – Helen Keller.

What object inspires my productivity—that tangible thing that, when I touch it, touches me back? Allow me to recap a bit of history that will tie into the tangible item that motivates and inspires me.

When I was a little girl, there was never-ending strife between my parents and this was most distressing. It was a good thing that I was very spiritual, as my faith did indeed guide me, keep me confident, strong and hopeful, especially through such ordeals. To make matters worse, one year in elementary school, I didn’t do so well in Science class and that really bothered me. It was as if that was the darkest day of my life. So, reverent little eight-year old girl that I was, with great faith, I humbly prayed to God and Jesus with a special request. I prayed for a future husband that would love me unconditionally with all of his heart and never ever want to leave me. I specified that he had to be a great Scientist, decent and dignified, and that he unwaveringly treat me with utmost respect. I had completely forgotten about this special prayer, until recently when I was reflecting on life and my past.

Fast forward about a decade later. Little did I know, my prayer from childhood was being answered and I received more than I requested. My future husband, a quiet, unpretentious noble teenager with brilliant green eyes, walked into my life and treated me with the most respect anyone has ever given. He spoiled me with only the best dinner/lunch dates, Birthday and Christmas gifts, roses galore, and never-ending respect – no less. I had never before had such loving attention and I knew that there would never be another like him. He has unwaveringly bent over backwards for me. For decades, he would do the gentlemanly deed of opening my car door without neglect. These actions were his beautiful mating dance. He constantly told me “I love you”. Hearing these words was foreign. I was difficult in that I was not ready for commitment and I didn’t trust that he would stick around and told him so. Nevertheless, he stuck around through good and bad times and remained fiercely loyal. He had grown up an only child on a farm, having to work hard labor at a very young age (5), which gave him the essential work ethic. I grew up delivering newspapers (the Daily News and Washington Star), mowing lawns, and shoveling driveways, which also gave me a work ethic. Because of these childhood work experiences, we inherently by nature are prone to be productive. Having said that, what deserves the credit for the inspiration is the heart, kindness, and fierce loyalty. We reciprocate. We became a team with a vision and goals. We eventually married.

When the world is a hopeless jumble, it can test one’s faith. Yet, because my beloved is a prayer answered, I keep the faith. When life throws curve balls, the human race lets you down, and it seems as if there is no true friend in the world, I am humbly grateful to God for answering my childhood prayer and bringing to me His gift to this earth, my beloved husband.

Now for the answer to the question -- What thing inspires my productivity? My gold wedding band bought at Alpha Omega at Harvard Square (made in India). It is a symbol of everything I hold most dear. It represents the fiercely loyal friend who is my hero and confidant, a role model to men, and who I trust will stay true to our dying day, who brings me laughter, interesting stories, and whose true love and confidence in me inspires me to be productive and do my best.

“Faith, hope, love, but the greatest of these is love.” – Corinthians 13:13

Dan

The Things I Hold Dear
I have been a Commission Engineer Officer in the military for 6 years. I have deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. I am proud of my service and have developed bonds with my men that movies do no justice toward replicating. When considering the question “what do I hold dear?” it is a simple answer - Family. On my first deployment, I kept only a single picture in my wallet. It was a picture of my wife and I on our Honeymoon, which was only a year earlier. I had emptied all other mementos and pictures from my wallet prior to leaving, not wanting someone to have personal information about me if it was stolen or, worse, if something happened to me and it was recovered by someone with less integrity in a war zone. Prior to leading my platoon on route clearance missions, I would take out my wallet and look at the picture. I would remember every detail of that moment in time and for a brief moment consider how much I missed my wife and how much I held her dear to me. After that brief moment, I would return the beat-up, wallet-worn photo back to its usual place in my wallet and would become fully focused on the mission at hand. After a year of missions where we exited a secure perimeter to patrol and clear routes so others may pass safely, my platoon returned to home station. Upon returning, the concept of family and support was quickly renewed but no matter what I did, I could not bear to remove that Photo that I focused on prior to missions while deployed.
I heard early in my career that “the only constant in the military is change.” Years later, after having moved up in rank and position, I deployed again – this time to Afghanistan. However, this time I was leaving behind not just a wife but two young children. My daughter had just turned two and my son was only a couple of months old. As I packed for this deployment, similar to my previous deployment, I emptied my wallet of all personal effects that someone could use against me (credit cards, college ID, business cards, etc.). However, my wife now added a photo next to the bent, worn- out photo of us. It was a photo of our daughter holding her newborn baby brother, only days after he was born. With the photos in my wallet I again left my family for foreign soil, to serve my country. I repeated my tradition of reflecting on those photos of my family prior to entering harm’s way, and before every mission they reminded me of “what I Hold Dear.” I returned from that deployment safely and reentered my family, where everyone seemed much older than the pictures showed them. My son is almost walking, my daughter has full conversations with me and has conscious thoughts of her own, and my wife can juggle more things simultaneously than I can count. Still, I cannot remove those photos as I reintegrate into normal life. Now, as I prepare for my third deployment, another deployment to Afghanistan, I am considering which memory I will hold dear before I set out to accomplish the mission charged to my company.
I share this story with you because the beat-up, worn out, water stained wallet I carry around is a Levenger wallet - a gift given to me for graduation from the United States Military Academy. Through my experiences, I hold my family dear and the freedoms we enjoy. I hold dear the thought that my children will enjoy a childhood free of oppression. I hold dear the concept of family.

Steve Leveen

Dear customers and friends,

I can't tell you how moved I've been reading your comments. Profound in your thinking, eloquent in your writing, deep in your wisdom. How fortunate are we at Levenger to serve you, and to try our best to make products that may occasionally inspire your work and your life.

Yours,

Steve

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