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When I tell people that I collect pens and pencils, their response is usually, "Me too." Then, I elaborate, "No… really! I have been collecting pens and pencils as a hobby most of my life." Some people collect thimbles or spoons or snow globes – my mom even collected sand from different beaches – and, I collect writing instruments. My collection does not come from walking around business conventions pocketing the freebies companies give out to every passerby. I collect unique pens and pencils from all over the world to commemorate certain destinations or events.

To date, my collection totals over 500 pieces. Some of my favorites include a gavel-shaped pencil from the The Supreme Court of the United States of America, a red, fuzzy pen from Seussical the Musical, a pen containing Mt. St. Helen's volcanic ash, and a handmade Voodoo pencil from New Orleans. But, my absolute favorite is the one with the bling: a pen completely covered with pink and white Swarovksi crystals.

My kids especially love to sort through my collection with me. In fact, my son who will be entering kindergarten this Fall, wants to take my alligator-shaped pen from the Okefenokee Swamps to use at school.

Because I am a little overprotective of my collection, I have to appease him with a shopping excursion to buy his very own pencils – ones he can chew, lose, break, or completely destroy without consequence. I really enjoy shopping for school supplies. I find any excuse I can to peruse the aisles of pens, pencils, glue sticks, crayons, paper, and such. And, sometimes the products you buy can actually help raise funds for local schools.

This year, look for the products that have Box Tops for Education coupons that local schools can turn in for money. With the recent budget cuts in education, our local schools need all the help they can get. In the Mothers, Shakers, Community Makers (MSCM) article on page 10, I decided to write about how each one of us can become a community maker by investing in education. From Box Tops to eScrips to recycling to shopping online, anyone can help schools finance much needed computers, playground equipment, books, and programs.

If you want to turn to your craftier side, and make some homemade school supplies, check out our resident expert, Tracie Grimes, for her "Cool Back to School Crafts," on page 20. You can make a Rockin' Ladybug Paperweight, Ribbons & Baubles Pencil Holder, and a Scratch-Pad Book Cover.

Congratulations to Christine Frazier, who was recently sworn in as the 20th Kern County Superintendent of Schools. She has a long and distinguished career in education and truly wants to see our kids reach their full potential. I learned a lot about her passion for education when I interviewed her for KCFM's first-ever MSCM article in April 2008. We are lucky to have someone like her in such an influential position.

I am especially excited about this month's Joan H. Haskins's "Nanny Story Time: Just a Little Squirt," on page 11. She wrote about my very funny, energetic, playful son. She writes about his adventures at a Pre-K boot camp – it's definitely worth a read!

Another inevitable part of the back-to-school routine is the endless piles of dirty laundry: washing, drying, and then moving them into more piles of clean laundry. In her Humor At Home article, "Mold is a Four-Letter Word" on page 9, Tracie Grimes writes about her house's bottomless pit: the laundry room. You'll be amazed to learn about the miracle of Fabreze!

This month as you're getting ready for the well-ordered routine of school days, while fighting the chaos of shopping-cart-packed school supply aisles, look for products that can prove both useful in the classroom and helpful to the school. We can make a difference in our local educational community – one donation at a time!

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