By Jaime Helmer Greenberg

Marietta Daily Journal Staff Writer

Lou Souders' house in Marietta is a dainty, little girl's dream.

It's the perfect place for a real-life, proper, dressed-in-your-Sunday-best tea party. It's not so much the comfy furniture or the hostess' genteel manner, although both are inviting.

It's the teacups.

Dozens of them line the china cabinets in the dining room. Others are nestled decoratively throughout the sitting room. Still more—hundreds of them—are packed upstairs in banana boxes, waiting for just the right hands to unpack them and invite them for tea.

The myriad of cups may seem like an obsession on Mrs. Souder's part, but really, they're not. They're part of her business: Teacup Traditions, a company that sells one-of-a-kind vintage cups and saucers along with inspirational messages specifically written for one person to give to another.

Mrs. Souders wrote her first inspirational story when her daughter, Helen, now a mother with two children of her own, was a teen-ager. She gave the story to her daughter along with a dainty white porcelain, gold-rimmed cup and saucer. "The cup and saucer were something tangible to remind her what I saw in her. When she sees it, she remembers," Mrs. Souders said. "The handle has been broken several times and glued on again, but she's kept it on her dresser all these years."

A year and a half ago, when Mrs. Souders was looking for ideas to start her own home-based business, her daughter reminded her of the cup and the meaningful message. From there, Teacup Traditions was born.

Mrs. Souders rewrote her daughter's message to make it appropriate for any mother to give to any daughter. Then she wrote a story for a bride, and a mother, and a baby, and a friend—and 10 more.

She sells each message with one of the hundreds of vintage cups and saucers she and her network of friends/buyers find at flea markets and estate sales.

"The miracle of it all," said Mrs. Souders, "is that I really did something with the idea."

Although she does not attend ladies retreats and craft shoes to sell her wares—and she recently started a Web site—Mrs. Souders said her unique gifts are sold mostly by word of mouth. "When you receive one, you want to give one," she said. "I've gotten 'thank-yous' from people who gave them, for expressing what they felt and from people who received them, for writing something that blessed them so much to receive it."

Mrs Souders hand-selects each cup and saucer, inspecting them for cracks and imperfections, then tapping them lightly. Cracked cups clang. Perfect pieces of pottery or porcelain produce a more divine sound.

"I say they sing to me," she said.

The stories are likewise inspired by crystal-clear emotional moments. Mrs. Souders said she often writes her generic messages with special people in mind. "I wrote the daughter-in-law message on a napkin on the way back from a ball game," she said. "My son was dating a wonderful girl. It was a prayer for the relationship I hoped to have one day with my daughter-in-law."

Mrs. Souders said Teacup Traditions just doesn't seem like a business. "It's like a ministry in a sense," she said. "I meet so many people. Many think these things or feel this way, but never put it into words, so the person doesn't know." "It's so important to express what we feel to people."

Mrs. Souders' teacup collection is available in gift shops in 10 states, and in Cobb County at Memory Lane, The Veranda House and Bay Leaf Peddler. A handkerchief collection also is available.

For Additional information, contact Teacup Traditions at (770) 953-3862 or visit

© 2001 Teacup Traditions