Coffee cups. The good, the bad & the real.

I’m not sure why I’ve not just thrown it away yet, that offensive holiday coffee mug. Each morning, it mocks me from the back row of the cupboard. All fat and stupid and in poor taste. It offends me.


I’m going to toss it today.

I’m not a coffee cup snob, just particular. I loved the mug my ex-husband gave me one Valentine’s Day and mourned when it broke. A thick, white mug that proclaimed, ‘I like everything hot,’ punctuated with a sexy little red heart and lipsticked kissy lips.

When Tinder was still permitting Moments (the little photographic peeks into your life you could share with your matches), I posted that picture. A colorfully composed, ‘I’m not trying too hard but look how cool and possibly easy I am’ shot of that mug artfully placed off-center, in front of an equally cool potted plant or two against the backdrop of the graphic black-and-off white, indoor-outdoor Greek key rug on my sunroom floor.

I tried to piece the mug back together with some Gorilla Glue. I did but it was all jacked up. And the mug was correct. I especially like my coffee hot, but it never seems to stay that way for long. I figured reheating the mug in the microwave and then drinking from it likely wasn’t a healthy choice.

Jesus, it’s just hitting me. Is it the sign of a consummate over thinker, the one, who, upon opening the kitchen cupboard each morning to reach for a clean mug (tablestakes, y’all) is met with baggage, mug baggage? Yeah, I’m going to need to get this out. Bear with me:

Mind the gap mug. I love this mug. It’s printed with a map of the London underground. I bought this mug to celebrate my divorce, freedom and new beginnings. All those cliched yet real things I celebrated and marked when I quit dicking around and started to dig into life.  It was a month before my divorce was final. I had met a hot, smart, young and fun Lebanese man online ( I kid you not). A silly geographic misspelling brought us together. We developed quite the friendship, speaking, texting multiple times a day, over weeks, months. He thought I was the smartest, sexiest woman. I needed that; I devoured it. Taking a trip to London made sense. Despite my best friend’s fears I would be walking into a life spent in a London basement, I went.


Non-descript turquoise mug. This is a bittersweet, hunk of a chunky mug my youngest daughter gave me for Mother’s Day a couple years ago. She was around 9, maybe 10 years old. Per her request, I took her to Walmart to buy my presents. I turned my back, didn’t IMG_0583peek (not sure how we handled that at checkout) while she picked out some things. A big fan of DIY projects and YouTube videos, she had learned if she wrote on the mug with a Sharpie and heated it,  the writing would become permanent. ‘I love you, Mom. You are the best.’ She’s grown so much since then and doesn’t tell me she loves me as often. The writing has all but vanished. She told me she would rewrite it for me.

Lennox mug. Rich cream color, ringed in platinum. Thin china, aesthetically pleasing. There’s a matching saucer, but I don’t use it. A piece of my wedding china that I also don’t use.


Swiss cross mug. A souvenir from a trip with my ex to Switzerland. We were so unhappy but both trying to keep us together. The countryside was beautiful and I am glad we shared the landscape. It’s possible to be as miserable and mortally sad and hopeful in the Swiss Alps, on the streets of Winterthur, on a boat on a sunny day sliding across Lake Zurich as it is in the number-one small town in America in your upstairs bedroom as you try with all your might to not alarm or upset the children.


NYC mug. This mug is oversized, cheerful and three dimensional. It came from a Starbucks in Midtown, near where my parents live in their eighth-floor, pre-war apartment that had an excellent view of the giant Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloons  before the parade route was altered. This is a new mug, probably the newest in the cabinet. It’s been in my possession exactly five months, one week and four days. I know because this is the day I met my father for the first time; the first time he set eyes on me. His wife, the one who broke our silence, proclaiming ‘You have great genes!’ the first time we each heard the other’s voice, both speechless after identifying ourself to the other. She – who has since asked would I please call her mom – bought me the mug. It was among the unnecessary gifts they gave to me at our first meeting 10 days after he received my letter telling him he had a 47-year old daughter and two granddaughter’s. I fucking love this mug.


Phantom mug. The heaviest, most troublesome mug is the one that isn’t there. The mug that has followed me for years, always climbing into packing boxes, claiming a home in cupboards yet taking up zero physical space. This mug, when it existed, was brown with a bubbly surface; crock ware. The mug version of the proper bowl to serve French onion soup from. This mug, this mug is my father. My first father, the one who adopted me at three months. This mug greeted me many years ago the night we came home from the hospital to get my pjs. It was sitting there on the kitchen table, right where he had left it that morning. My 14-year-old head could not wrap itself around the indisputable fact that here was his mug – with coffee still in it mind you – sitting here, right in front of me. I could pick it up, touch it; I could even drink his leftover coffee that sat there in the mug if I wanted. But he was not. He was not there anymore and he would not return.

I think I am ready to do a little cupboard cleanup, tossing what does me no good; taping up boxes; acquiring more new mugs.

What happens when you open a cupboard? Do ghosts jump out, memories rise – good and bad – bitch slapping you into awareness or does nothing happen, just a bunch of benign vessels lined up in a row?



Author: Stephanie G Hlavin

Join me as I put my crazy on the table. I encourage you to do the same.

19 thoughts on “Coffee cups. The good, the bad & the real.”

  1. I’m so happy you started a blog- you have so much to say, and I love the way you say it! I’ve never read something of yours that didn’t make me tear up AND laugh. Proud of you and looking so forward to future posts!


  2. I absolutely love this piece! Made me smile and even cry. (I have a hodgepodge of mugs with stories behind them and I have always liked that.) You are a brilliant writer. Can’t wait to devour future blogs! Way to go Steph!


  3. Thank you for reposting S, I can’t believe I missed it the first time. I love how you write, always have and always will (and I’m certainly glad you didn’t end up in a London basement😘) Looking forward to the coming posts!


  4. This is awesome! I KNEW you were a talented writer since the first time I read your mobile app development webcast ad copy!

    Have to hear the FULL story behind that mind the gap mug :)!


  5. Amazing! Funny that my two favorite mugs are homemade 😊! I always go for my mugs in a specific order and there are plenty in my cupboard that never get used. I really enjoyed reading this. Thanks for sharing


  6. I still love your writing. I have the same Christmas mug. The real question is, “So what happened in London??”


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