Posted by: trevormeers | April 9, 2011

The Story Of You (As Told By Your Stuff)

Want a quick peek at what you’re all about? Take a look at the stuff accumulating around you.

Movies’ opening sequences often involve a slow pan of an office’s walls, the camera lingering on medals in glass cases, photos of men in uniforms standing by intimidating aircraft or pictures of someone shaking hands with a president. Another popular scene involves a character pointing to a sports team photo on the wall, nodding knowingly and saying, “That was some team you had there. I remember the night you won it all.”

On the big screen, it’s harder to find shots that linger on a desk full of free ballpoint pens and notepads or shots of characters reminiscing with things like, “I remember when they gave out these foam penguins at the trade show in ’98. Epic year. Epic.”

But even if most of our offices and homes don’t provide dramatic still-life images, they still tell stories. The items that gather around us, whether purposeful mementos or items that time’s tide simply carried up onto the shore of our desks and end tables, still have plenty to say. That’s why so many magazines have standing features about “What’s In Your Backpack/Garage/Office?” After reading one of these columns recently (I now happen to know that discredited sprinter Marion Jones always keeps a copy of her own book in her bag), I found myself surveying the artifacts that fill the small domain allocated to me as a daily workspace.

Below is a quick inventory that might be taken as something of a Rorschach portrait of me. If this gets you staring at your own collection of dust-gathering treasures, share what you discover in the comments section below. It’ll be a little like nosing around each other’s spare rooms without the awkwardness of getting caught and having to pretend we were looking for the bathroom.

Inventory of 3rd floor office, spring 2011:

Permit to travel in the Black Elk Wilderness – From my solo winter hike to the summit of Harney Peak in the Black Hills. The yellow card is nicely bent from riding to the top and back in a cargo pocket.

Camp Dogwood bandanna – A token of the last great adventure with my old black Lab Moose. Dog camp isn’t exactly my cup of kibble, and Moose appreciated neither the dress-up-your-dog games nor being tied up in the “Barking Lot” while I went inside for lunch, but it still was a road trip suitable for capping our lives together. (See the pix and read highlights of the story here.)

Picture of Katie, me and George Washington – No family photo album is complete without at least one shot of your family grinning like the Griswolds in front of Mt. Rushmore.

Picture of Alli dressed as a flower girl sitting beside me on a porch – She’s about 5, and the angle of her head shows she quite possibly realizes that she’s going to someday break her daddy’s heart when she goes and gets married and puts this photo up on the screen at the reception.

Picture of me and the family on a sand dune in Michigan – Teri hates this picture of herself, but she hasn’t given me a good option for the desk yet.

Stone from dry Utah streambed – Crazy Horse went into battle with a stone tied behind his ear for good luck. I take this one out and rub it from time to time to remind myself that no matter how important today’s irritating meeting seems, the canyons are still out there baking in the sun, completely uninterested in what Ken From Accounts Payable just said about me in front of everyone.

Insulated cup of pinon nut coffee from New Mexico – Far smoother than my usual high-octane Starbucks blend, this brand of java is as relaxing as a Santa Fe sunset, bro.

Press badge from Indy 500 – I almost felt guilty for getting pit passes to “the greatest spectacle in racing,” considering how many of my friends who actually love car racing never get that chance. Almost.

Alaska Barometer – Yes, every tacky gift shop on the planet has some variety of the “When Moose Tail Is Wet, Rain/When Moose Tail Swings, Windy” joke. But mine came from Alaska.

Photo of me with an Olympic gold medal – We hired wrestler Rulon Gardner to give a motivational speech at one of our sales conferences a few years back. He carries his gold medal in his pocket and lets desk jockeys like me pose with it. And as a matter of fact, Rulon was a Cornhusker, just like me, not that I kept bringing that up to everyone at the conference or anything.

Program from Lincoln, Nebraska, Marathon – Hanging on the tack board both because it was my first time going long and because you can’t beat the Gettysburg-esque slogan of “One score and 6.2 miles of perseverance.”

Postcard of Hemingway flyfishing – Still tacked to the wall because it came from a good friend who recognized that I’d appreciate the synthesis of the adventurous and the literate. And it made me feel smart when he sent it.

Free cap from “Tracks & Tails” pet-themed jewelry store – In my upbringing, a free cap was a thing to be treasured—to be stacked carefully in a tower on top of the other free caps in the closet. Because a man never knows when he’s going to be wishing he had a cap.

Painting of something I can’t identify – Loaned to me by the office’s interior designer who couldn’t stand the blank spot on my wall and thought her modern art would be more appropriate than my poster of Clint Eastwood as The Outlaw Josey Wales.

Photo calendar from 2008 – This “picture of the day” collection with a built-in plastic easel is too good to throw out, so I keep recycling it. The card for Dec. 5, 2008, has been showing for a couple of weeks now because I like the shot of a semi barreling across the plains under a bluebird sky.

Amish barn-building peg – I’ve left it laying around because it seems like it would someday come in handy for some kind of motivational speech about teamwork and community. Or killing vampires driving buggies.

Cornhusker football field cribbage board – I don’t even know how to play cribbage. But it’s a Cornhusker football field. And I can certainly appreciate that. Just like my good, gold-medal-winning friend Rulon.



  1. Because you asked, itemized below is a list of what’s tacked to the board above our home computer: school pix of our boys, our family picture from Christmas 2010, a school calendar, coupons for Kohls, Bath & Body, Nu Vibe, Colby Ridge and Jiffy Lube (Dave contribution), a wedding invitation, physical forms for midget football, gift cards for McDonald’s and Long John Silver’s, a field trip reminder letter, snack list for flag football, and a reminder letter about the 4th grade Growth and Development video. I know, not exactly what great blogs are made of, which is why you are the writer and we are the readers. Come to think of it, I’ll bet you could write a heck of a blog devoted solely to the Growth and Development video… Sorry, I digress… Anyway, I love the last line of your blog (mainly because I can so picture you wandering around all giddy about your connection with that guy 🙂

  2. Good list! You could create a whole short story out of nothing but those elements. And, yes, the Growth & Development talk. That came around our 4th grade classroom a couple of months ago. I only found out about it after the fact, which partially explains why it didn’t wind up as the subject of a commentary.

  3. Trevor, thought I would take a moment and provide a brief summary of items in my home office as you requested…..The office has a Cornhusker theme….red and white walls, framed issues of Sports Illustrated from their 1994, 1995 AND 1997 titles(those were good times weren’t they??), and other Husker framed items. 32 pictures that my boys have drawn for me over the years(priceless). A framed autographed photo from Tony Kornheiser of PTI. A framed letter written to me from PGA player Davis Love III. Some documents of commendation from my military days, a picture of Napoleon Dynamite and last but not least, a stress ball in the shape of Dwight Schrute’s head. That about sums it up.

  4. This was another excellent post! You have me looking at my “treasures” in a different way. Some of the things that are important to me have no value to anyone but myself. My “stuff” is scattered around the house…with stories that would take a long time to write and would be ponderous to read. But, one example is on the kitchen counter… a small clear glass jar filled with small rocks my little girls brought me because they found them to be pretty or interesting and they were presented to me as gifts. I’m betting you can relate to the “treasures” daughters can present their parents.

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