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Michiana Chronicles writers bring portraits of our life and times to the 88.1 WVPE airwaves every Friday at 7:45 am during Morning Edition and over the noon hour at 12:30 pm during Here and Now. Michiana Chronicles was first broadcast in October 2001. Contact the writers through their individual e-mails and thanks for listening!

Mug Stories

Heather Curlee-Novak

I have a question to ask you, friends…and all of you can answer this one, probably without too much embarrassment: How many coffee mugs are in your kitchen cabinet at this moment?  When this sentence formed in my mind I realized I would have to answer it myself: I have eighteen mugs in the cabinet and one on the counter, dirty.  I honestly do not know how my mug number reflects on me.  What is the average number of mugs in other people’s cabinets?  We have a tiny kitchen and there is truly not room for one more mug, but I am loathe to part with them.  Each mug tells a story.  Each mug carries memories of people and love and moments of coffee, tea, cocoa.  Can you relate?  I wonder what your mugs whisper about your lives even now?

I married into some of them, of course.  One has a Garfield cartoon where Odie the dog is dressed up with hearts and an arrow. The obese orange tabby says “I asked for Cupid, not Stupid!” (Poor Odie!) My young daughters like this one the best.  The creamy white one with the thick lip edge and floral motif is  also my husband John’s. It is his mom’s special mug she uses for tea when she is here.  The Shutterfly ‘Dad Mug’ we crafted for my hubby with our little family depicted in goofy little family pictures all around it. But there are others.  There are other mugs telling deeper stories.

There is the Black Krispy Kreme Donut mug my friend Jean bought me on a road trip to Ohio.  We stopped at the place so she could introduce me to what that HOT sign really meant.  I’m afraid we killed half a dozen donuts right then and there.  And she bought me the mug.  Another time when she went to New York she brought me the white mug, this one from Dean and Deluca’s.  I’ve never made it to New York and I don’t know Dean or Deluca but the mug is special to me.  The Chicago Diner mug that I got from my Dad one Christmas is in there.  I received it along with a (vegan) Chicago Diner cookbook that year.

My mug stories are not all so light hearted.  There are a few  mugs I hold tightly to.  The ones I would weep over if they were ever lost or broken.  The brown glazed one with painted bird shapes on it.  The blue and grey patterned one with a brown edge.  The cheesy red ‘LOVE’ mug with words for love in different languages is my least favorite.  These are mugs my mother drank from when I was a child.  She drank coffee, tea, spiked egg nog and weekend bloody marys from them.  She tipped the mugs to her lips with wine, with vodka in orange juice, with anything she thought she was hiding booze in. Eventually she got help and quit drinking alcohol. My mother drank from these three mugs until I was thirteen. She stopped drinking anything out of them because she died.  

I can close my eyes and see her sitting on a gaudy yellow couch with black stripes like a cartoonish bee.  I remember her wonderful laughter, our frank mother daughter talks about anything.  I remember feeling so many things as I processed her presence and then her absence in my life.  And I have these mugs. They remember my stories, my history, for me.

I usually drink coffee from them.  I have made a hot toddy at times to fight off a cold.  I offer them to my daughters, to my friends who visit, often holding my breath against accidental destruction.  I want to share them, I love to invite a friend to select their mug from the cabinet themselves.  I watch them ponder and sort and I notice their choices.  I risk a mug my mother drank from accidently crashing to the floor because I do not need the mug to remember.  I hand them out like any other mug because I need to let go of anything too precious to share with a friend.

What are your mug stories? My newest mug makes me laugh when I use it.  My friend Thais found a quote that encompasses my life perfectly.  She made me this special mug for Christmas with the quote on it.  I brandish it proudly: “Somewhere between Proverbs 31 and Tupac, there’s ME!”

Music: "Thug Life" (karaoke version) by Tupac Shakur

Heather Novak's professional history includes sales and customer service training and troubleshooting for businesses, but she loves motivational speaking best. Heather leads church events for youth, singles and women, has spoken for Chicago Apartment Association and many organizations throughout Indiana. Nowadays Heather is just another stay at home wild mama trying to loose some weight, keep some sanity and enjoy her life. She is being raised by two little girls named Portia and Libby and is indulged by a guy named John who was gracious enough to marry her. Heather blogs about F Words: Feisty Faith, Fumbling Family, Fairly Healthy Food, Failed Fashion and Fabulous Friendships. You can find her at
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