One of the domestic jobs that makes me feel so very efficient and organized is lining the cabinets in my kitchen. Since it’s ridiculously hot and humid this week, I’m doing this little chore to make me feel like I’m accomplishing something in the heat. Stay in. Organize. Move everything out, lay down a measured sheet of white liner, move everything back in.

As I did this little maneuver, I realized coffee mugs mark interesting destinations in my life. Check your cupboard, and I’ll bet you’ll find your own life map.

Take this mug. It simply breathes optimism. Since I was a single parent, when each of my three children turned fifteen, we went out on harrowing expeditions to give them practice learning to drive. Usually, we went to the cemetery where we couldn’t kill anyone…again. Then, when my freshman sons had 6 a.m. basketball practice in high school, I trained them to flip on the coffee, fill this mug, and have it—and the car keys–ready at the back door as my alarm went off. I threw on sweatpants, shoes, shirt, and coat to ferry them, eyes half-opened, to the school. Do I miss those silent, 5:30 a.m. drives to the gym? Let me think about that one and get back to you.

One of my favorite mugs, used over decades, is this one reflecting how I feel about the 44-year job I did in high school and college: teaching. Though I’m now retired, I still miss doing what I always wanted to do with great passion:  teach. I have no idea how people get up in the morning, day after day, and go to a job they hate. Teaching didn’t make me rich in my bank account, but it sure filled my life with treasure, a sense of worth, and great memories.

These mugs represent a reminder to support independent bookstores. When I lived in Champaign, Illinois, over three summers, I supported an indie bookstore. A marvelous store, Pages for All Ages was in the small town of Savoy, and I spent many an hour reading on its premises and buying books, particularly when I was a graduate student at the age of fifty. Alas, it has gone out of business like so many other small bookstores. The winters I lived in Phoenix, Arizona, I supported The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, a mystery/thriller store I often visited to buy books and listen to various authors speak about writing. They inspired me to write mysteries as my retirement career. Now I support Wordsmith Bookshoppe in my home town of Galesburg, Illinois. Supporting independent stores is so important in any economy.

My three children grew up, married, and have children of their own now. But there’s always that thing about, “Mom liked me best.” It hangs around the edges of life and occasionally is whispered aloud when siblings talk. As I always remind them, I love them all. One of my adult children gave me this mug. I won’t say which one.

And when I visit them in Arizona, I sometimes drive to the Queen’s Creek Olive Mill. It is also a favorite destination for visiting friends. The only olive oil grower in Arizona, it has expanded more than once to accommodate traffic. The Mill also supports all kinds of local businesses that produce products such as wine and baked goods. The story of its founding and expansion is an entrepreneur’s dream. I may set a murder mystery there down the road. I could see some poor, unsuspecting victim dying in the olive press. But until then, it remains a pleasant place to visit.

Banned Books Week arrives every fall, and I would be remiss if I didn’t show this mug which reminds me every day we must be vigilant to ensure the freedom to read. This year is even more important as a small coterie of book-banning people expand across the country to demand they have the right to decide what other people’s children may be allowed to read. Reading is so powerful. It is one of the first freedoms taken away when dictatorial governments rise to power. I love this mug which lists only a small percentage of books that have been banned in various times and places. It is reassuring to know people from all levels of society join librarians and teachers in defending this precious right.

And finally, here are three whimsical mugs. They’re mugs made from the school art work of three of the grandchildren. I never would have guessed I’d have eleven grandchildren. My own mother didn’t live to see any of her grandchildren, so these mugs represent a celebration of life going on and my gratitude for the privilege. Many are the times I sat and read Dr. Seuss to my grandchildren. One of their favorites was The Lorox, and one of my favorites was The Cat in the Hat. Of course, now the twins read 700+ fantasy stories. This fall, I will once again make the trek to Arizona to spend time with the little munchkins who have turned into teenagers. These mugs remind me of them throughout the rest of the year.

There. Now go check your kitchen cabinet and see how much you can learn about the history of the people in your house! It’s a trip down memory lane.



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