Big news!

12 11 2009

For quite a while now, many of you have known that I’m good friends with James Partridge, owner of The Pear Tree Pen Company…but here’s something that’s probably new to you!  I’m delighted to announce that effective immediately, I’ve assumed day to day management of operations for The Pear Tree Pen Company!  Yep…you read that right.  The Pear Tree has been re-planted in the middle of Corn Country!

The Pear Tree Pen Company is pleased to announce that Ryan Roossinck has assumed management of the day-to-day operations of the successful online retailer. Roossinck is known among fountain pen and ink enthusiasts for his popular internet blog, Brassing Adds Character, where he reviews writing instruments and accessories such as pens, pads, and inks. He is also known for his role as a moderator on the Fountain Pen Network, the largest online community of fountain pen and ink lovers on the internet.

Pen collector James Partridge founded the Pear Tree Pen Company in 2006 as a part-time home-based business. Following the introduction of the Fountain Pen Ink Sampler later that year, business began to boom leading the fledgling operation to seek larger quarters. Pear Tree Pens moved, literally, from the kitchen table to the basement, and shortly thereafter opened a larger retail and order-processing facility just north of downtown Ann Arbor. Despite the tough economic times, the Pear Tree Pen Company continued to prosper, and even hired several staff members to help ship packages to thousands of customers around the world.

Unfortunately, splitting his time between his full-time career as a corporate attorney and managing the burgeoning online establishment began to take its toll on Partridge. “I realized that it’s impossible for me to do it all. I can’t excel in my legal career, grow the Pear Tree Pen Company, and spend as much time with my family as they deserve.” Partridge began to explore selling the business, and even considered simply shutting its doors.

Partridge soon had a few offers on the table, but ultimately found the best option lay closer at hand – in Roossinck, a friend and fellow pen collector. “One of his best attributes may well be his talent for ‘reading the minds’ of our customers.” Partridge said. “Several times already, Ryan has helped me choose new products that soon became extraordinarily popular. He possesses tremendous knowledge and expertise, and his enthusiasm for the pens, inks and papers we offer is second to none. Add to that his dedication to outstanding customer service and it became clear to me that Ryan would be an asset to the Pear Tree Pen Company – and the pen community.”

“James and I hit it off right away,” Ryan said. “One of the things I really enjoy most about James is his creativity, and his ability to trendspot. We’ve had a lot of great conversations over the past several years that will undoubtedly lead to some really cool new products that we think that our customers will love.”

The future for The Pear Tree Pen Company looks very bright, and includes a lot of great new products and ideas that customers are sure to love, and both Ryan and James are really excited for what comes next! “We’ve got some cool things up our sleeves,” says Ryan, “stuff you won’t be able to find anywhere else! The addition of Lum-Tec’s fantastic line of watches is just the start!”

In anticipation of the future, both James and Ryan have their shades ready. Get yours out.

So…what happens now?  Well, for me…lots of things.  I’m still intending to run Brassing Adds Character as a semi-separate entity, and I’ll still be covering lots of the same topics that you’ve seen from me before; features on vintage pens that you may not have seen before, hacks & how-to’s, and the occasional review of a pen that strikes my fancy.  You might see a few more product announcements here and there, but my intent is to keep Brassing operational as a non-commercial site.  If/when I do another roundup/best-in-class feature, etc., you’ll still find links out to eBay and other sites that sell the pens & products that I review.  If it’s something that we sell in our store, or it’s something that you can’t get anywhere else…you’ll find links for that stuff, too.

I would ask that in the interim, while I get used to “minding the store”, that you’d be patient with us.  Our dedication to a great customer experience remains the same, but let’s face it…there’s a bit of a learning curve that I’m going to deal with, and I’d appreciate your cooperation!  Along those same lines, I’d also ask that we keep Brassing conversations focused around Brassing topics, and go back-channel for Pear Tree stuff.  Thanks!

Now if you’ll excuse me…I’ve got ink samples to make! 🙂

Open topic: What do YOU want to see in the future on Brassing?

1 10 2009

Whoa…two posts in one day? Better pace myself or I’ll burn out early! 🙂

I’ve had this conversation with a couple of you offline and in person, but I haven’t done much with this as an “open forum” kind of question. The way I see it, I have a bunch of different directions that I could pursue with this blog, and I guess I’m looking for some input from those of you who read it fairly frequently.

What topics have your attention right now that I might be able to write about?

I’m not quite out of ideas yet, and I’ve got a few of my own, but in addition to some of the stuff you’ve seen from me since this blog got started a couple of years ago (reviews, a hack or two, bang for the buck lists, etc.), what types of things are you most interested in reading about?

Leave your suggestions in the comment queue below, and let’s see where this goes!


Getting re-aquainted with the blog…

16 09 2009

Ah…it feels good to be back. It’s been a long time in the making, but I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to start posting a little more regularly than what you’ve seen from me in the past few months. There’s lots of cool new pen topics and interesting stuff to talk about, too. Despite the troubled economy, pen companies are still doing cool things, and there are always a few more vintage pens that don’t get the love they deserve.

In the coming months, I’m hoping to be able to stick to about two posts per month. Here’s a few ideas I’m working on: tips on smoothing scratchy nibs, a few new-ish pen reviews, some notebook short-takes, perhaps a hack or two, some history lessons, and maybe some additions to the budget writers series, too.

So where have I been, and what’s the story on this hiatus, anyway???

8 01 2009

Hi folks!  Look who’s finally come up for air!!!  Yes, believe it or not, I’m still alive and kicking.  It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted, and there’s a pretty good reason why.  Initially, I wasn’t planning to tell it (because quite frankly, I wasn’t exactly sure when, or how, it would end), but after a fair bit of soul-searching, and a few well-placed comments from some really important people in my life, I’ve changed my mind.  So without further ado, here’s what’s been going on. 

(Warning: this is a bit of a lengthy post.)

For the past five years (give or take), I’ve been battling cancer – and I didn’t know it until mid-November. 

It started with a little lump on my arm that I didn’t worry about because a) it didn’t get in my way or cause me any pain, and b) I thought it was a fat deposit.  Over the years I thought it might have been getting a little bigger, but my family doc said that it was nothing to be worried about unless it started to get a) a fair bit bigger fairly quickly, or b) started to cause me pain and/or get firmer.  Actually, two doctors told me that – my family doc and the general surgeon that I was referred to about a year ago when it had gotten a bit bigger in size (and firmer). 

It kept getting bigger over the summer and finally it seemed like it was a rock, and it started to hurt if I bumped it (or leaned in a doorway or something where indirect pressure would be applied).  I went back to that surgeon this past October, and we agreed that it needed to come out (still thinking it was a fat deposit).  On November 6, they did an in-office procedure and while they didn’t tell me this at the time…they got more than they bargained for.  They removed a full-fledged tumor that was just about the same size as a baseball (maybe a bit bigger).  They didn’t lead me to believe that it was anything to be worried about, but said that they were sending it to the lab to have it analyzed – per routine procedure.  Two weeks later, and after the local pathology lab had analyzed it and then sent it to the Mayo Clinic to confirm, they informed me that it a) wasn’t a fat deposit, and b) it was cancer. 

The surgeon told me that it wasn’t a killer-type cancer; it wouldn’t spread, it wouldn’t kill me or decrease my life expectancy (and this is all true), but that there was a slim chance that it could re-grow in the same place.  He told me to do monthly arm exams, sort of like how women are supposed to be doing self exams for breast cancer (not to get personal, but if you’re of the fairer sex…you’d better be doing them!), and if I felt anything, to call him back and we’d start talking options.

This didn’t sit well.  At age 30, hearing a doc tell you that you have cancer…well, how would you react?

One of my cousins is a nurse here in town, and when she found out, she came to my rescue and pulled some strings (probably more like big ropes – I don’t know how kosher it is to slot relatives into the fast-track for consultation with a surgical oncologist, but she did it anyway, bless her heart) and got me in to see the best surgical oncologist in the city (perhaps the state) just before Thanksgiving. 

He respectfully disagreed with the “wait and see” attitude.  “Cancer like this is aggressive,” he said, “and with a 15-20% chance of re-occurrence (in my mind, this is not a “slim chance”), we need to fight back pretty aggressively to try and keep those odds stacked in your favor as much as we can.  We gotta do surgery again and clean up what might have been left behind.”  And thus…surgery was scheduled for his soonest opening (Dec. 15). 

When it was all said and done, the surgery went pretty well, but while I was in recovery, the doctor pulled my wife aside and said, “I hate to say this, but I don’t think we got it all; we’ll let the lab do the testing to make sure, but we pulled out a LOT of infected tissue before we got to clean stuff – and I don’t think that we got it all.  I think we’re looking at another surgery to go in and finish the job.  Not right away, but as soon as the incision has healed up, we’re probably going to have to go in again on the perpendicular axis to get into the corners that we think we left, and probably follow it with a pretty amped-up dose of radiation afterwards to make sure that everything is dead.”

Great…a bad situation gets worse.

The holidays, and my recovery, went okay (pretty well, actually, all things considered), but obviously I was pretty stressed about the whole thing (as was my loving wife and my extended family).  I have to confess that I spent most of December doped up on pain meds; suffice it to say that I would have sounded like a blithering idiot if I’d tried to post anything of value here on Brassing.  Pain meds aside, though, my mental outlook was a bit “pressured.”  No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t focus for more than about 39 seconds.  I was, and still am, very thankful that this isn’t one of those “big-time” life-threatening cancers, but I was pretty uneasy when I walked into the doc’s office for the followup on December 31.  I knew that one thing was certain; the stitches were being taken out (hallelujah for that!).  Aside from that, though, I wasn’t sure what to expect. 

But…the doc walked in with a big toothy grin (he’s a little guy from New York with a small frame and a pretty dry sense of humor – but a big smile…extra big at that moment) and says to me, “Well, whaddya know?  The margins tested clear!  I don’t know how we did it, but we got it all!  For now, my friend, you’re cancer-free!” 

I nearly fell off the exam table. 🙂

Furthermore, he told me that he didn’t think that radiation was necessary right now because he didn’t think that the benefits outweighed the risks if the tumor did come back.  He said that radiation would probably only cut the odds by (best-case) 50%, which would still leave me with double-digit odds, and it would make future surgeries tougher to do and would make healing not go as well as it has this time around.  Still, he wanted me to see a radiologist so I could hear their side of the story and make my own decision on the matter. 

I had a consult with the head of Mercy Medical’s radiology department here in Des Moines yesterday and got a different story.  He’s recommending the treatment and says that it’ll really be the best thing I can do to stack the odds in my favor.  With tumors the size of the one I had, and narrow margins of clear tissue, I’m apparently closer to the 20% end of the re-occurence scale (maybe even higher, given the size of the tumor), and he thinks that by nuking ground zero right now, we’ll be able to cut the odds by 60 – 70%.  He left the decision up to me, though.  So…while I’m free and clear of cancer (for now)…it sounds like the final chapters of this story have yet to be written.  I haven’t made up my mind yet, but I’m sort of leaning towards going through with it as I bang away on this keyboard.  Time will tell…stay tuned.  I can’t guarantee that my posts will be super-regular in the foreseeable future, but if I’m able (and I feel like I’ve got some value to share), I will.  In advance, I appreciate your patience as I get things sorted out. 

So…I guess I spent a couple of months beating cancer…sorta. 

(And if this story sounds a little re-hearsed…well, I’ve had to tell it quite a few times; I’m getting pretty good at it.) 🙂

Additionally, I’d like to add one more thing to this (already) very long post, and it’s truly from the heart.  There are a number of you readers out there that I know on a personal level, and many more who I frequently exchange emails and letters with.  There were a number of emails, notes, letters, and phone calls from those of you who just wanted to make sure I was okay during this little life-imposed sabbatical; whether I responded or not (and if I did respond and I appeared to have lost my mind – thank you Vicodin!)…none of you will ever understand how much that meant to me.  You (my beloved wife of almost 7 years, my friends, family, loved ones here and elsewhere, and acquaintances who I barely know, co-workers, and all of the medical staff who took such good care of me) were, and still are, the Earthly support staff that I’ve come to rely on to keep me pointed in the right direction (mostly mentally, but sometimes physically too!). 🙂

On the surface, this kind of cancer is a relative light-weight (dermato-fibro-sarcoma protuberans – DFSP for short).  It’s not life-threatening, and it absolutely pales in comparison to some of the cancers that you folks have experienced (either personally or through those around you); frankly, I feel really sheepish by putting myself in the same category as those who’ve beaten lung, breast, prostate, liver, and other cancers that are the really big-hitters.  I don’t say this to make light of what may/may not be in my life now and in the future…it’s more to say thank you for doing what you do.  Being strong and supportive of those who have suffered or continue to do so, or living your life to the fullest despite battling cancer yourself.  Whether you wear the yellow wristband or not…living strong is a demonstration of the utmost character. 

You’re making it count, and you’re teaching me while you’re doing it. 

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Ryan @ Brassing Adds Character

Quick updates…

20 10 2008

Believe it or not, I’m still alive and kicking.  Life has been pretty busy and rather stressful of late, hence the conspicuous lack of postings from me.  Just wanted to let everyone know that I haven’t forgotten about the blog, but I’ve had to re-focus my attentions to other areas of life.  I hope that this situation will be remedied soon, but for now, my posts may be a little more scattered for now. 

However, there’s one thing that I did want to mention.  I got an email from Adam Alalouf at Holt’s Cigar Co., and he told me that they’ve decided to extend their sale on pens for the time being.  So, if there’s something that you’re looking for (aside from Pelikans – they’re out of those) that originally appeared on the list that I posted a while back, you might still want to give them a phone call.  There’s a good chance that they have what you’re looking for in stock, and at a terrific price!

Happy hunting!

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