Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

Welcome to my World---Woman, widow. senior citizen seeking to live out my days with a sense of whimsy as I search for inner peace and friendships. Jeez, that sounds like a profile on a dating app and I have zero interest in them, having lost my soul mate of 42 years. Life was good until it wasn't when my husband had a massive stroke and I spent the next 12 1/2 years as his caregiver. This blog has documented the pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties and finally, moving past it all. And now I’m ready for a new start, in a new location---a continuum care campus in West Michigan, U.S.A. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. (Just remember I'm looking through my prism which may or may not be the full story.) Stick around, read a while. I'm sure we'll have things in common. Your comments are welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Coffee Cups and Great Books

“Writing is a socially acceptable form of getting naked in public.” I love that quote because that’s often the way I feel when I reveal my willy-nilly thoughts in my blog and I’ve used that quote by Paulo Coelho several times before. But until today I had no idea who Paulo is other than I suspected he isn’t an American because no one here goes around calling themselves “Paulo.” Now that I’ve googled the guy I’m embarrassed to reveal my ignorance because I should have recognized him, if for no other reason than his first book, The Alchemist, is on a list of the '100 Books Everyone Should Read.' That list was compiled in the last century and I’d read 50+ of the titles but I just found out that I’ve only read 45 on the list compiled in this century. The Alchemist is on both lists but books like Gone With the Wind and The Tale of Two Cities have apparently lost their relevance and books like The Kite Runner and The Handmaids Tale have been added which just goes to prove I can never live long enough to read the 100 Best Books because they keep moving the target. 

Another reason I should have recognized Paulo Coelho is because some of his words have been immortalized on those great keepers of wisdom: coffee cups. Words like: “You are what you believe yourself to be” and “Life is short. Kiss slowly, laugh insanely, love truly and forgive quickly” mean ever so much more when they come with a nice cup of hot coffee. My husband was obsessed with both coffee and coffee cup philosophy. In the house he had before we got married three quarters of his kitchen cabinets were literally devoted to his coffee cups---over a hundred if my memory isn’t playing Pinocchio on me. His ritual of picking out a cup reflected his mood and was not just a grab-one-and-go affair. When he’d picked the one that proclaimed “Don’t let the Turkeys Get you Down” I knew he was in a gloomy mood. He was treated for depression for over a decade so that cup got a lot of use. 

When we moved in together I wasn’t willing to devote three quarters of the kitchen cabinets to his collection so I boxed most to them up with a promise to rotate them up from the basement from time to time, a promise I never kept nor intended to do. Wives are wicked that way. What would you have done if the man in your life refused to pare down a collection like that to a number that would fit into the  normal, allotted cabinet space? Ya, you’d lie, too. I know you would. Or maybe you’d have risked a war of words, hurt feelings and resentments by getting rid of them when he wasn’t looking? 
 
Don had cups he’d never let company drink from but if he served you coffee in cup with a Snoopy quote you knew you were more than just a friend-friend. Only good friends got the Snoopy cups. Snoopy was up beat and whimsical. “Keep looking up. That’s the secret of life” being one of his favorites. Even then his choice of cups were mini subliminal messages especially chosen for what ever was going on at the time. 

When I downsized to move here I didn’t keep a single one of Don’s message coffee cups but I bought a new one of my own and I kept one political cup---an Obama cup that shows his birth certificate. I had a hard time selling all the presidential campaign cups on eBay because I liked them---part my collection as well as Don's. We had them back as far as JFK. And sometimes I regret having sent the “turkeys” cup to Goodwill. It’s not like I need that object to conjure up the memory of Don sitting at his roll top desk with that coffee cup in his hand. But objects once special to deceased loved ones are like jigsaw puzzle pieces found on the floor long after we’ve boxed up the puzzles and passed them on. They give us brief memories, knowing where they came from, but we know those pictures can never be whole again. Not for us. Not for anyone.  

I’ve been trying to figure out when and in what context Paulo Coelho wrote the words about writing being a socially accepted way to get naked in public but all I found out is that a ton of bloggers like me love to use the quote and that good old Paulo has a Twitter account. I love books that contain snippets of authors' words on writing written with aspiring writers in mind. I thought the quote might have been in a book like that.  

Very few of those kind of books leave out Stephen King's quote about “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” While looking for Paulo I got hung up on a King quote about claiming your identity as a writer. He asks, “Do you need someone to make you a paper badge with the word WRITER on it before you can believe you are one? God, I hope not.” Ohmygod! This is SO me! I never say I’m a writer. Never. I will say I’m an aspiring writer or a wanna-be writer but there’s always an adjective firmly in place. I write every day and according to the Great Stephen King that’s all a person needs to do to own the title. So I'm asking: would someone like to make me a badge? I'm thinking of wearing one each time I sit in front of my computer because, ya, I'm going to try to kick the adjective habit. ©

100 Books Everyone Should Read 2022

1. 1984 (George Orwell)
2. The Alchemist
3. American Gods (Neil Gaiman)
4. And Then There Were None and Selected Plays (Agatha Christie)
5. Animal Farm
6. Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy)
7. Arabian Nights (One Thousand and One Nights) (Anonymous)
8. The Art of War
9. As I Lay Dying (William Faulkner)
10. Atlas Shrugged
11. Atonement (Ian McEwan)
12. Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath)
13. Beloved (Toni Morrison)
14. A Bend in the River (V.S. Naipaul)
15. The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)
16. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
17. The Canterbury Tales
18. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
19. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
20. A Clockwork Orange (Anthony Burgess)
21. Cloud Atlas (David Mitchell)
22. Crime and Punishment
23. Divine Comedy
24. Don Quixote
25. Dracula (Bram Stoker)
26. Dune
27. Emma
28. Ender's Game
29. Fahrenheit 451
30. Fairy Tales (Hans Christian Anderson)
31. Fanny Hill (John Cleland)
32. The Fault in Our Stars
33. Faust
34. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Nevada)
35. The Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom
36. The Godfather (Mario Puzo)
37. Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
38. Gravity's Rainbow
39. Great Expectations (Charles Dickens)
40. The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
41. Hamlet (William Shakespeare)
42. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
43. Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad)
44. House of Leaves (Mark Z. Danielewski)
45. The Illiad
46. Interview With the Vampire (Louisiana)
47. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
48. King Solomon's Mines
49. Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
50. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo
51. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
52. Lolita (Vladimir Nabokov)
53. Lord of the Flies (William Golding)
54. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
55. Madame Bovary
56. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
57. Metamorphosis
58. Middlesex
59. Murder on the Orient Express (Agatha Christie)
60. No Country for Old Men
61. The Odyssey
62. Of Mice and Men (John Steinbeck)
63. Old Man and the Sea
64. On the Road (Jack Kerouac)
65. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
66. One Hundred Years of Solitude
67. The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde)
68. The Postman Always Rings Twice (James M. Cain)
69. Pride and Prejudice
70. The Raven
71. The Remains of the Day (Kazuo Ishiguro)
72. The Road (Cormac McCarthy)
73. Robinson Crusoe (Daniel Defoe)
74. The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie
75. Schindlers List (Thomas Keneally)
76. Sense and Sensibility (Jane Austen)
77. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
78. Slaughterhouse-Five (Kurt Vonnegut)
79. Song of Solomon (Toni Morrison)
80. The Stranger (Albert Camus)
81. Stranger in a Strange Land (Robert a Heinlein)
82. A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens)
83. To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
84. To the Lighthouse
85. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
86. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (Jules Verne)
87. Ulysses
88. The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Milan Kundera)
89. Vanity Fair
90. War and Peace
91. Wasp Factory
92. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (Raymond Carver)
93. Where the Wild Things Are
94. White Teeth (Zadie Smith)
95. The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame)
96. Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne)
97. The Woman in White (Wilkie Collins)
98. Women in Love
99. A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L'engle)
100. Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë

60 comments:

  1. I'm surprised at how many of those books I have already read. Huh. Go me. I hope someone makes you a badge, Jean. You deserve it.

    Deb

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    1. Years ago, I actually tried to systematically read from the list but I don't anymore. Bragging rights would be fun if we could accomplish the list.

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  2. I've been posting essentially every day since August 2013, but I would never call myself a writer. I'm more interested in the verb, in the process, than in the noun, the title.

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    1. Ya, but you have lots of other, more important titles and accomplishments to your name. I don't. LoL

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  3. Thanks for the list! I don't know that I'll get through all of them, but I'll give it a go.

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  4. Thank God for writers! Although I have never hoped to be one, I have admired many. Just reading through your list of 100 Books reminded me of the countless hours spent reading. Growing up on the farm (where we only got one tv channel), books soon became my friends. Libraries were a treasure trove to me. For some unknown reason, it's harder for a book to grab my attention now--maybe that's part of aging. Not sure. But I still love getting lost in a good book!

    When I read about Don's large collection of coffee mugs, it made me smile. When I read that he had struggled with depression, it reminded me of some special people in my life who dealt with it, too. I remember being at family gatherings and people would whisper about those who were "so down" or some who just couldn't seem to get out of bed. I had a precious grandma who was like the sunshine most days, but there were days, she kept the shades down and could hardly take care of herself. She was so much fun, most of the time, (heck, she was a flapper in the 1920s--so glad I have some of her photos from then), she loved to sing, dance, and shop. We knew she loved all of us. But when she struggled, she was not herself, at all.

    Remembering how depression was treated decades ago, makes me so grateful for how far we have come, in medicine and society, to accept and treat those in need. We still have far to go. My daughter is a psych nurse, and although there are many new and effective treatments, there is a serious shortage of psych workers.

    One of my favorite Coelho quotes: "Being human means having doubts and yet still continuing on your path."

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    1. I like that quote. Don's brother knew he was treated for depression but I'm not sure anyone else in his life but me knew. I asked one of his best friends after he died and he'd never told him. Don's way of dealing with it was to be come a workaholic after giving up drinking, which was socially more acceptable. He gave up drinking 7 months after we meant and never had a relapse but it was something I feared for years would happen.

      Back in your grandmother's day I'd hate to guess how depression was treated. There are so many causes both organic and from life situations that there is no one size fits all treatment.

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  5. All right, I'll say it. If someone asked me to sum up Paulo Coelho in one word, I'd say, "Blather." On the other hand, I do love a good coffee cup. I never collected them for their quotations, but as souvenirs. Drinking from a cup from a certain hotel (no, I didn't steal -- I asked to purchase and was given one!) or a national or state park is always filled with memories as well as caffeine. Over the years, I've gotten rid of a good number, but I still have a few, and love them.

    As for the list, I'm batting 50% -- I've read exactly half on the list. I laughed when I got to "The Woman in White." Many friends have recommended it, and I bought it about a decade ago. I still haven't gotten any farther that the forward before putting it back on the shelf.

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    1. I've never read Coelho beyond quotes here and there. But from those I'd presume he wrote a lot of pop-psychology.

      My favorite coffee cup to drink from came from a dollar store. It's yellow and doesn't say or advertise anything. My favorite one to display says, "you are my sunshine..." because it reminds me of my oldest memory of my dad. My proudest cup to own is one from the library's winter reading club. Most of my cups are generic. I wanted a change when I moved.

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    2. Drinking from a pop of color is a great way to begin the morning!

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  6. I've been a reader all my life. My very first job at 15 was being a page in our local library. All I would add is that I have tried to read Paul Coelho a few times and just can't stick with him. I've never been able to figure out what all the hype was around The Alchemist.

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    1. I feel that way about a lot of books that are supposed to be so important to read for our cultural and/or intellectual growth.

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  7. I read 40 of them -- and a few I wonder why the heck they are on the list! Meh. But the coffee cups -- I can relate to him. I pick different cups for the mood and there are some that company get and some they don't! I have too many mugs, a bone of contention for Rick and me at the cottage. I have a hard time parting with the gifts. There's sentimental value there -- but some of those I don't particularly like -- they're just sentimental. I'm going to have a terrible problem downsizing!

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    1. Yes, you will. We're too much a like so I can say that with confidence. Sentimental value will trump actual value every time when you start downsizing.

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  8. I drink my tea or coffee out of an insulated thing—it stays hot longer that way. It also holds more, so I can have my first and second cup at the same time.

    King is quite the martinet about adjectives, but I find them evocative and useful. Only the amateurs stack them incessantly. And there will always only be one Hemingway.

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    1. You can get to 80 years old and think you'll never have to buy another coffee or drinking cup for the rest of your life then find yourself living in a place like this and wish you had an adult sippy cup to carry on around campus. I'll be on the lookout.

      I love reading King's non-fiction book about writing. I read it every few years. But the most useful writing advise that I have used over the years comes from the movie, A River Runs Through it. The father in that movie goes over young Brad Pitt's character's homework paper crossing out unnecessary words, 3-4 times before he says it's good enough to hand in. The character turns into a newspaper reporter when he grows up. To this day I still proof read at least 3 times and find verbiage to remove.

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  9. I figure you are a writer if someone else voluntarily reads what you write. Ergo, bloggers are writers. What most of us are not is authors though some I follow have made that jump.
    Bummer they keep changing the list on you:) I have only read about a tenth of those books. I often find the most hyped don't often hold my interest.

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    1. That's an interesting take on bloggers being writers because we have voluntary readers. Love it! Authors come in different stripes as well. To me you aren't an author unless you've got an actual publishing house where you have an editor. Self-published authors don't count. If they did, I'd be one 7-8 times over and I have the books to prove it.

      I'm seriously thinking about taking part in this year's NaNoWriMo again because you get to interact online famous authors. I've done it three times and only once made it to the 50,000 word count, once I came close to it at 47,000.

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  10. I got rid of a bunch of cups but still have too many. I've read only 29 on the list. Some I have a desire to read but others--no way.

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  11. My "go to" coffee cup is one of those oversized ones. It's white with impressionistic watermelon slices painted on the outside and the words "You're one in a melon" written in white script on the pink inside. I bought this a few years ago after my husband died. I was browsing my favorite department type store (closed now due to the pandemic *sigh*) and when I saw it I instantly remembered a card I'd given my husband a few weeks after we first started seeing each other. It had a large school of fish on the front and only one was in color. On the inside it said "You're one in a million." He'd kept that card for 42 years and I found it in his desk when I was going it through it after he died. So this cup kind of called out to me as him saying "Hey, remember this? I think you're special too."

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    1. Love your coffee cup story. After my husband's stroke I found a folder he kept that I didn't know about where he kept all the letters and cards I'd given to him in our 42 years. So I can identify with how your melon cup gives you a nice flash back.

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  12. You ARE a writer. You can make any topic blogworthy!

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    1. That comes from discipline, not necessarily from talent, but I'll take the compliment. LoL

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  13. One of the things that got me through the pandemic is your blog. It was sometimes my only spark of joy in stretches of feeling life was permanently reduced to existence only. That's how powerful interesting friendly words can be. So you're as bonafide as they come to use the title 'Writer'. We have a nasty habit of equating accomplishment with money or notoriety. It comes in far more forms than that and in ways that touch people's lives more deeply.

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    1. Wow, I'm so flattered and touched by your words. You are so right about how we all tend to measure success by dollars and fame and thus we don't give ourselves enough credit when we gain neither from our passion projects.

      By the way, I have your tea pot painting in my window right now for all my neighbors to walk by and see. My 1' x 9' windowsill is my rotating exhibition space of all things I treasure.

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  14. I've never been a big coffee drinker, but I have a mug that I use for pens that says, Rapala. My Dad was a fisherman and this is one of the only possessions that he left behind that I kept.

    I've always considered most blogs to be a lot like letters to friends and family. Full of happenings and ideas, memories and longings. Sometimes I think they're like a personal diary to recount something that needs to be written, read and reread, to work out all of the feelings involved.

    You've been a writer since I met you almost 20 years ago. I'm surprised that you debate that. You type out all of your thoughts and ideas in such a compelling and creative way, that tons of people purposely come to read what you've typed. I think that makes you a writer.

    If, when you wake up in the morning, you can think of nothing but writing ... then you are a writer.” ― Rainer Maria Rilke "Letters to a Young Poet"

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    1. I not only think about writing when I wake up in the morning I've been known to wake up during the night and have to jot down or I can't go back to sleep. So I like Rainer's definition.

      LS Nelson (above) hit the nail on the head when she said "we have a nasty habit of equating accomplishment with money or notoriety."

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    2. P.S. Cinder. I had to look up 'Rapala' to learn it was a line of fishing lore's. I love how the blogs continue to teaches me things every day. Just from the few comments here in this thread I can see how a person could comply an interesting book of 'favorite coffee cups.' A page telling the story of each cup with a photo.

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  15. Hi, just stumbled across your blog and have much enjoyed reading several months worth of posts. Wanted to share a few things that might give you a chuckle. My folks, born in the late 20s, were brought up in Michigan Dutch Calvinist circles. In one post, you mention the idea of identifying as a seeker. Dad made up a term for himself - possibilitarian. All things are possible. Mom was less optimistic. After a visit to some Christian Reformed college mates in Grand Rapids, she called me to say that if in her old age she became incapacitated and unable to express herself, do not under any circumstances leave her in Grand Rapids. Finally, another Mom. You mentioned your father responding to the doc asking who is our current president. During the Trump years, I took mom to her doc, who asked that question. Mom tightened her lips and glared. Question and glare were repeated. I had to tell the doc, she knows the answer perfectly well, but you’ll never get her to acknowledge it. Members of your tribe might be hard to find, but they’re out there!

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    1. Your comment was a fun way to start my Sunday morning. Thanks for taking the time to write it. I love your dad's term, Possibilitarian and your mom's glare at having to call Trump the president was priceless. I have found a few people in my tribe here but two of them will be spending their time a cottages on Lake Michigan. Living in West Michigan has its challenges. LoL

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    2. New coffee cup message: WRITER to remind yourself daily that you are the real deal!

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    3. Also, every morning I stand in front of my mug cabinet and choose the one from about 10 that "calls" to me that day. They don't have messages on them for the most part, but a color, a shape, a design appeals and I choose that one. I love that little ritual. I also loved your jigsaw puzzle analogy...very moving. You are a writer!

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    4. Great Idea! I will be on the look out for a "writer cup"! Perfect for my morning writing habit.

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  16. LOL at the previous comment. This area has its reputation, doesn't it?

    I love mugs and have a horrible time parting with them -- even after paring them down, I ended up with three shelves of them in the new house. I have seasonal mugs, Finnish Iitala mugs, some pottery mugs I bought in California that I rarely use (the potter has stopped working so they're collectible), and a little set of mugs that were a gift at my first wedding in the 70's. I keep that set because my parents always always drank from them every time they visited over the years. They're in perfect condition and I occasionally use one. But honestly, I drink from the same two mugs all the time, and my DH only uses his old "navy" mugs...he says they're the perfect size and shape. Everyone has their mug favorites, don't they?

    That list is intimidating. Haha. I have read quite a few of them, but I won't count them because on some level I will feel I must read more of them, and my book pile is too high already.

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    1. Our cup choices seem to be as personal as our purse and wallet choices.

      I'll never get through that list of 100, mostly because I no longer believe it's important for my personal growth and smut is so much more fun to read when I'm not reading for my book club.

      yes, I'm glad Audrey wrote that comment. It validated my feelings about West Michigan.

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    2. "Possibilitarian" made me think of this quote from comedian George Carlin that I used once in an artist trading card I created:

      "Frisbeetarian: the belief that when you die, your soul goes up on the roof where nobody can retrieve it."

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    3. That's a good one. George Carlin is a classic.

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  17. Thrift stores are full of old coffee cups. I found one at a thrift store that I love. It is a simple white cup wrapped with a photo of books in a formal library. Another favorite is one I picked up at the Evel Knievel museum and has an Evel Knievel logo on it. These make the morning coffee just a little bit better!

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    1. We've bought and donated cups to Goodwill. I try to stay away from Thrift shops now because I know I'll buy stuff I don't need.

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    2. https://www.etsy.com/market/mug_for_writer

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    3. One of those cups is going to make its way into my life. Thanks for the link.

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  18. Used to buy coffee cups as memento's of travels. But, they became too numerous and were different sizes which made it hard to store them in the cupboard, so out they went. Now I use cups that match my dishes. Life is easier. I fail on the list of 100. I didn't like to read when I was younger, and now I'm hooked on audiobooks, so read/listen to things that I find interesting vs a list of should reads.

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    1. Life is easy without message coffee cups but sometimes you have to break out of a rut and buy one. (See above post. LoL)

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  19. My SO complained that my coffee mugs are "too small". Since I strongly resist bringing new stuff into my house, I suggested that he bring a larger mug from his house. Neither of us buy cute message mugs. What he brought was a large white mug emblazoned with: "INTEGRATED WASTE INDUSTRIES". He especially likes this one because it was free. Oh well.

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  20. You are a good writer with a sense of humor and so your blog appeals to me! Have you read the book "West with giraffes" ? It isn't on your list but I thought it was terrific. So different from the mysteries I usually read. Thanks for posting!

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    1. Thank you. I absolutely loved that book. I loved it so much I bought the audible version and I like that even more. I don't know who decides what books go on listed like that. I'm guessing the choices are based on the impact the books make on society as well as their literary excellence. It's not enough to be well written and popular.

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  21. I have actually read most of these books. I have the short unread lost in my notebook. But then,I've also seen all of the AFIs best movies on both lists. Badges are fun

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    1. I'm not sure I've ever met anyone who has read most of that list. I'm impressed.

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  22. I've long been a fan of Sandra Boynton's humor, and when I was an academic department chair (a thankless job), that "Don't Let the Turkeys Get You Down" mug was my go-to mug at work. I have no idea what became of it -- maybe I passed it along to the next department chair.

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    1. What a fun connection we have there. You can find the Sandra Boynton's vintage 'turkey' cups on eBay for $25. For about a minute and a half I thought of replacing the one I gave away. Amazon has them new with a different graphic for $11 so people still must connect with the phrase all these years later.

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  23. I've read about 10 of these.. and even though they may be considered classics and must reads these are never the books I recommend to people.

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  24. I have an entire cupboard of Coffee Mugs so I'm as guilty as your Beloved. My Starbucks Mugs extends to the rolling Industrial Cart. The Daughter is loving using my Coffee Mug Collection and several Family members too, so I don't feel too guilty about how much space they take up. I did downsize the Collection, they Sell really well at the Antique Mall so I must not be the only one afflicted with loving a good Coffee Mug. I'm surprised my Coffee Mug for Sale that has Wonder Woman knocking 45 Out in a Cartoon Political Spoof has not Sold yet! I did Sell the one I had in 2016 that said "Elect a Clown, expect a Circus".

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    1. I love your 'clown' coffee cup and you reminded me that I have a Starbucks cup too, that I love for hot chocolate. The last time I was in Goodwill their cups were all $3 which seemed high for used but I bought one for the painting class on campus as I didn't want to use one I already owned.

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  25. I had that coffee cup. It was one of, if not the most favorite of all times. My friend gave it to me back in the 80s and just looking at it now gives me such warm fuzzies. I am guilty of collecting coffee cups only to downsize them again when I move. I still have a hard time passing up a really nice Christmas coffee cup.

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    1. Funny how we get attached to something like that, isn't it. The 'turkey' cup is being reproduced with a different picture which tells me it's still popular.

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