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Joel’s Mug

This is my brother’s mug. He used it every day at work.

Until a year ago.

Now it sits on my nightstand.

The drops of coffee that have dried on the rim seem recent. It makes him seem close.

What will those drops look like in another year? Will they still be the same? Will I?

Joel is frozen in time. He left the earth at 25, so 25 he’ll remain.

I’ll be 25 this year.

This is where we meet, briefly. Then I’ll pass by. Older than my big brother ever was.

In pictures his youth will be preserved, but in my mind he will age with me. I’ll look to him for advice, for his experience, for his responsibility, for his humor… like always. But he’ll have to teach me through cloudy memories, tainted by the knowledge that he wasn’t telling us something, and that it could have been different if I saw him through the lens I have now.

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I’ll see you again, Joel. Until then, meet me where the drops of coffee have dried. Remind me that your absence here means your presence with Jesus. Save me a spot.

-Darb

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Direct Trade – Costa Rica, Dota

The term “Direct trade” is thrown around quite a bit in the coffee world but doesn’t speak very specifically about the relationship between roaster and source. We’d like to share the story of how we connected with Dota so you can continue on this journey with us.

This photo was taken on my brother's trip to Costa Rica. Our friend Jose is the furthest Left.
This photo was taken on my brother’s trip to Costa Rica. Our friend Jose is the furthest Left.

This is our friend Jose Hidalgo.

Jose is from Costa Rica, but attended John Brown University in Arkansas with my brother Joel. They became very close and my brother visited Jose in Costa Rica after graduating. But the first time I had true contact with Jose was after my brother’s funeral last year. This deep loss connected us. When tragedy strikes, it can leave you grasping for any remnant of your lost loved one. Jose was one of those remnants.

I’ve shared quite a bit about my brother’s death in previous blog posts. Jose connected with each of these, as Joel was his close friend. And as he followed our journey of healing he noticed that we source and roast coffee. Since then he’s been working with us to form a relationship with one of the coffee farms near his home in Costa Rica.

Jose now acts as translator and helps us navigate the overwhelming nationalization process involved with importing coffee. It’s been an amazing learning experience and we look forward to visiting Coopedota (the processing co-op used by the farm that grows our coffee) and the farm in the near future! We hope to experience everything from harvesting the fruit to touring the processing facility.

We want to assure you that this will be a long-lasting relationship

…and our goal is to provide you with as much information and involvement as possible. It has always amazed us how many hands are involved in making each cup of coffee, so bringing awareness to the consumer is something we’re excited about. And the more we are exposed to the people and processes from which our coffee originates, the more we are challenged to uphold a standard of quality when this incredible product finally arrives in Brooksville.

Not only is this an incredible opportunity for us as a coffee roaster, but I love the connection we now have with one of Joel’s closest friends. I still have so much to learn about the loss of my brother and it weighs heavily on me everyday, but I can’t help but think he would be happy to know this is all happening because of him. We want to honor his life, his sense of adventure, his role as a devoted friend, and the support he showed as a brother.

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The Last Phone Call

I had received several missed calls and voicemails from Joel, unusual but not unheard of. He was good about calling to check up on our life here in Florida. I wish I had been just as good about checking up on him. I remember preparing myself to call him back. He mumbled something about apologizing to me. I didn’t know what he meant but assumed he was having some sort of guilt for our relationship as kids. We fought quite a bit and I often felt guilty about that as well. But he sounded frantic. I wasn’t sure what that was about. I prepared myself to assure him that I was equally guilty for any childhood bickering and assumed it would end well, maybe some small talk about all the running and biking he had done lately – I was very impressed by how dedicated he was to managing his emotions and stress through physical activity and hobbies. But that’s not how the conversation went. It was the first time I thought to myself “this might be serious”. …That moment shouldn’t have come so late.

I stepped outside, knowing our conversations were never quite “casual” anyway, and worrying I might give in to some pent-up emotions from our lifelong struggle as brother and sister. Breathing deeply as I dialed his number, I listened for his voice on the other end, hoping to hear a casual “hey Darb”. Then he picked up.

“…Joel?’

(delayed) “yeah, hey”

“How are y-“

“-Stop. I.. “ (Breathing) “I need to say this”

“Ok.” (I could tell he was trying not to let me know, but it was obvious he was crying)

(silence)……………”I’m sorry”

“I’m sorry too -“ (I tried to prattle on about how it’s normal to fight with siblings and how I’m a brat but he cut me off)

“No. I needed…. I need to…” (struggling to get any words out. The silence was huge and painful but we both needed that pause)

“I’m just……….I’m sorry”

……………………..

“You should come see us soon”

…………………….

“k” (his breathing was getting worse, I could tell he wasn’t up for small talk)

“I love you, Joel”

……………..

……”love you”…..

click.

I stood outside for a few minutes longer, collecting myself. I don’t know at what point I started crying but I didn’t notice the tears until I hung up. Such a short conversation but so emotionally exhausting and confusing. But I also felt relief. I needed to know he loved me. Not that I didn’t know, but with Joel it was always hard.

I thought this was a step toward healing. Some sort of check on a list he formed to work through a problem. And maybe it was. Or maybe it was a peace-making because he knew he would be leaving soon. I won’t ever know. So I’ll always fight through this conversation in my head, wondering if I could have known or if I should have pushed harder to find out why he was so upset.

That was in May. I received a text from him on June 22 saying he got the shirt we sent him. 6 days later he died by suicide.

I’m so thankful he called me. I needed to share that moment with him. In 23 years of being his sister I never felt so close to his heart. Yes, it’s a burden I’ll carry probably the rest of my life. But some burdens are worth carrying.

Sharing our story helps me have perspective, helps me learn. And I’m confident I still have much to learn from Joel.

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Mountaineer Coffee Is Getting A New Home

This journey has been a whirlwind. When I think back on the last 4 years it doesn’t seem possible. Daniel and I were engaged and planning for the future, then BAM. We started working for a friend, got married, he handed the business over to us, we got pregnant, had a baby, started roasting, got pregnant again, got a bigger roaster, had another baby, and strive daily to pursue our dreams. Now, our dream is to relocate the business to downtown Brooksville!

There are many reasons for this move and we’ve spent countless hours, days, months, YEARS, considering where and how to make this happen. It’s finally time and we’re so excited to bring you on board for this awesome opportunity.

Our passion is to source high quality coffees from around the world and craft roast them in small batches right here in Brooksville. We also LOVE to eat, so offering fresh, homemade edibles is something we really enjoy. Moving downtown will allow us to focus our energy on doing those two things as well as we possibly can. The new space will be laid out in a way that is most efficient for roasting and brewing the coffee that fuels our passion, and also allows us to bake fresh bagels and pastries and offer a few other signature dishes like our southwest chicken salad.

cold brew coffee homemade bagel mountaineer

We began Roasting about a year after The Coffee Barn officially opened and from the beginning we knew it needed a brand of its own. Mountaineer Coffee comes from Daniel’s grandpa, Richard Lantz, who owned an antique shop in Downtown Brooksville called Mountaineer Antiques. Pop (Lantz) is from West Virginia and graduated from West Virginia University whose mascot is the Mountaineer! We also share a love of the mountains, so the name instantly clicked and the brand feels natural for us. Mountaineer Coffee is in it’s early years but it already has a rich history, and we love that.

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“Mountaineers are always free”

We share a vision of potential for downtown Brooksville with Pop, who pursued his dreams in the Verona House on Main Street in the 80’s. Now, we’re excited to add our story to the heritage of downtown.

Sears house verona mountaineer antiques
A postcard from Mountaineer Antiques!

We’re hoping the new location will provide new opportunities for you to actively join us on our journey. This includes tons of educational material, displaying our roaster, interacting with the roasting process, and partnering with other local businesses because we think Brooksville is awesome!

For updates on the move and a sneak peak every Saturday, follow @mountaineercoffee on Instagram!

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Shame, Sympathy, and the “S” Word

Suicide awareness

Suicide.

Suicide, suicide, suicide.

Maybe if I say it enough it will start to sound ridiculous instead of scary. Like when you say any word over and over. Most words start to sound funny.

But not this word.

The truth is I don’t even know if I’ve said it out loud since my brother took his life in June. I have managed to avoid it by using more polite terms. And, usually, I try to avoid the subject altogether.

…Until today. I said it out loud to an empty room. It felt heavy as I spoke and it echoed in my head. I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel about this word. It’s just a word. It describes what happened.

But I don’t like what happened. However, I have conflict about that too. I know he was sick, suffering. So I know he was escaping to a place of peace. A place of understanding. But the act itself… I can’t begin to unpack the baggage of deciding what it is.

I know it’s not for me to decide, but I feel like I should have an answer.

Some say it’s a selfish act.

Ok, sure. But which of our daily, human decisions isn’t selfish? Isn’t there a “Friends” episode about when Phoebe tries to do an act of kindness without selfish motivation? It’s hard. And when I think about the reasons that I’m upset Joel is gone I realize that I’m being selfish too.

I wanted him to stay.

I was angry when I saw the pictures of my baby saved on his computer. Why didn’t he wait long enough to meet her? And I think about everything that will happen in MY life and how he won’t be there. Selfish.

They took the easy way out?

I have a hard time with that because I know my brother. He dealt with his anxiety discreetly, not wanting to burden others. Instead of taking medication he exercised and took up new hobbies. He started biking and running, entering races and training constantly. That doesn’t seem easy to me. He was trying to treat his symptoms naturally. Yes, he probably needed medication or counseling. And I wish I had known the extent of his illness, maybe he could have received professional help. But now we’re wandering down the “what if” road and that’s a dangerous place.

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I know that I want him to be alive. I know that ending a life is never the answer. And I want so badly to go back in time and prevent what happened. But I have a weird sense of relief now that I know the pain he was experiencing. It explains so much. And thinking about the torment he felt hurts me in a way that is so much worse than missing him. I know I’ll see him again one day. And he’ll be happy.

So I want to do my part to remove some of the shame associated with the word suicide. It’s a tragedy. It’s far too often the end result of mental illness. It’s devastating. It needs to be prevented. But it should stir compassion and sympathy. It should spur us to show kindness and love to everyone, knowing that some are suffering in ways we don’t understand. It’s a word I want to be able to say, because it’s the result of an illness that took my brother’s life.

Healing After Suicide

So I won’t be ashamed.

It doesn’t mean he was weak, it doesn’t make him more selfish than the rest of us. It means he lost a hard-fought battle. It means he didn’t get the help he needed. So let’s make sure that doesn’t happen. Let’s do our part to be aware of the warning signs and to encourage treatment. Let’s say the word with empathy, not shame.

…Suicide.

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Tis The (Wrestling) Season

Mountaineer Coffee is knee-deep in wrestling season.

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Daniel is a wrestling coach for the local High School. Every year their team hosts one of the biggest tournaments in the state. It would be a big deal for anyone involved, but his family goes all out. His dad started this tournament 34 years ago. His brother, David, is the head coach. Daniel is the assistant coach. His parents run the tournament. They take their 13 year old son out of school so he can help. It’s a BIG DEAL.

wrestling

So, naturally, he wanted to involve the business. We usually provide the coaches breakfast on Saturday morning, but this year we also decided to sell coffee outside the gym. That’s where I come in (with both babies). Luckily one of our baristas was free that morning and offered to help, otherwise I would have been hate-texting Daniel all day.

I hauled in my pack-n-play, set up the booth, plopped Mable down with some toys, and set Freeman loose in the gym. The kids did awesome. Mable took a nap and Freeman checked in with me periodically, usually to request some cold brew. (No, kid. You’re two. Have some juice)

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It was an intense weekend full of late nights, early mornings, and cleanup efforts lasting well into the next week. I’m proud of those coaches for everything they do, because they certainly don’t do it for the paycheck. They’re investing in the lives of these High School kids, and they see value in what they do. That’s amazing. I’m over here trying to block out the High School phase of my life. But they love wrestling. And I love that.

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Mom Guilt

Babies are crazy.

Why can I love someone so much and be so completely frustrated by them?
Why can I wish to be alone and then the moment they leave want them back immediately?
Why are bowel movements at the top of my priority list?

These are the things I scream at myself when I’m trying to pee alone.

Being a mom is the greatest. But it’s so easy to complain. Because, let’s be honest, getting pooped on after you’ve had your first shower in 3 days is ridiculous by any standard. It’s so easy to talk about the horrific things that happen. And things get horrific, daily.

This is the only way he would take a nap a few days ago. Mini panic attack. I pulled it off once he was asleep.
This is the only way he would take a nap a few days ago. Mini panic attack. I pulled it off once he was asleep.

But sometimes I remember why this motherhood thing is so amazing.
Like when your toddler is the only one who thinks your jokes are funny. Or when he says “I love mommy” for the first time. Or that feeling of holding a newborn and knowing they’re completely dependent on you. It feels so big. So weighty. And so terrifying amazing.

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But also, there’s so much pressure.

I don’t know about you, but my mom is awesome. I have so many great childhood memories and sometimes I feel like I can’t give my kids what I had as a child. My mom didn’t put this pressure on me. I put it on myself when I’m having a bad day. You know the kind of day I’m talking about. Everyone is cranky, my toddler somehow forgot that he’s expected to do things like walk or eat (unless he sees a piece of chocolate), and I have to make up things to do so I can justify loading up the car and getting out of this pit of a house that I don’t want to clean.

Then there are the social media moms that have it all together and plan activities like “sensory tables” while their children eat carrot sticks and sing hymns. Don’t get me wrong, I think all those things are wonderful and my goal is to have well-behaved, Jesus-loving, vegetable-eating children. But when we’re having one of those difficult days, that feels like pressure.

Again, the pressure comes from an idea in my own mind of how things should be. Those moms have bad days too. Why do I feel bad about myself when they share their happy moments? It should be encouraging. Should.

He saw his cousin use the potty and wanted to try. 15 minutes of making this face then checking for pee.
He saw his cousin use the potty and wanted to try. 20 minutes of making this face then checking for nonexistent pee.

My mom gave me some advice when I was venting my frustration to her. She told me to accomplish one thing a day. Whether it’s taking the kids to the park or simply folding the laundry I’ve been neglecting (or covering Daniel’s shift at the Coffee Barn so he can have alone time with the babies, because it feels SO nice to get out of the house). One thing. It sounds easy but some days it feels like a huge accomplishment. And it is big! Because as a mom, I didn’t just do one thing. I did one thing on top of all the necessary daily tasks that are involved in keeping little humans fed, clothed, clean(ish), and alive.

If you can relate, I hope this is an encouragement to you. And If you have a particularly horrifying mom story PLEASE share. Is it wrong that I love those kinds of stories? It makes me feel normal. And if that’s twisted I really don’t care. Excuse me while I go snuggle my babies.

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Why I Want To Thank You On My Anniversary

3 years ago I married my best friend, business partner, baby daddy, dream sharer, hunk of hotness, Daniel Pritz. Gross, right? Sorry.

But I’ll tell you a secret.

Marriage is hard. Running a business is hard. Having kids is hard. (For anyone who does any of these things, this isn’t a secret. It’s a painfully obvious fact of life). But I’m not here to give you marriage, business, or parenting advice. In fact, if you’d like to give ME a little advice on any of these topics please share it in the comments because Lord knows I need it.

Our "Ecclesiastical Dignitary" Uncle Dave. Apparently you just need a made-up title to marry people in Oklahoma.
Our “Ecclesiastical Dignitary” Uncle Dave. Apparently you just need a made-up title to marry people in Oklahoma.

I’m here to say that this journey has been beautiful. It’s beautiful because it’s hard. When things are hard it becomes obvious that I love what we do. I love that we do it together, and I love that we’re sharing it with our kids. Because if we didn’t love it we would have quit so many times. I can think of about seven times just today.

So I want to thank you.

I know, that’s weird. Why am I thanking random people on my anniversary? Because YOU ARE NOT RANDOM. You’ve made this amazing journey possible. Daniel and I get to live our dream together because you see value in what we do. And that’s incredible.

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So yes, today is about Daniel and I celebrating our marriage. But it’s so much bigger than that. We’re also celebrating a very full, very crazy life. And Mountaineer Coffee is a huge part of the awesomeness.

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A Lesson on Living

If you’ve been keeping up with our journey, you know that I’m healing from a major loss.

But it’s not just me who is grieving. My entire family, friends, church family, and even people I don’t know that were friends of my brother. So I’m going to warn you all, because I love you. I’m proceeding with honesty. And that’s hard. I don’t want to upset you. I’m baring my soul in hopes that others with be open with me in return. There’s so much to gain when we share a burden. So here’s my heart:

Suicide is complicated.

Not only am I mourning the loss of someone I love, but I have to battle the “why”. The thing is, I’m not ready to go down that road. Not yet. I can’t imagine ever being ready for that, but this journey will continue whether I’m feeling ready or not.

So I’ve made a decision.

I’m going to learn from Joel. I’m going to allow him to teach me. And I’m going to actively seek new lessons from him.

I know he took his life. But for now, in the carefully protected areas of my mind where I go to think about him, that’s not what happened.

I’m doing this so I can reflect on all the wonderful things that made him the brother I looked up to. Because that hasn’t changed. Circumstances will never change who he was.

Last week I visited the place where his ashes are buried. I spent that time with him reflecting  on his life. And this is what he taught me:

Adventures are about relationships.

Joel traveled in a way that was available. He was available to unplanned adventures, but even more importantly, he was available to the people around him.

Going through some of his pictures has inspired and convicted me. In daily life and when I travel, I have a plan. I go where I want to go. But what if I didn’t? What if I enjoyed each moment instead of planning the next? What if I talked to strangers? Maybe something exciting would happen. Maybe I would connect with someone. Maybe this would happen..

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“Shirley and Brenda,

Thank you so much for adding to our stay in New England. Because of your hospitality the following events occurred last night, in this order:

  1. Ate crab cakes at Fryes Island, there we met Kent and Tina.
  2. Kent and Tina suggest we camp on an island across the shore from their house. 
  3. We attempted to build a fire but failed.
  4. Kent and Tina woke us up this morning and invited us over for waffles and coffee

If you’re ever in OK call, Cordell and Joel”

Shirley, Brenda, Kent and Tina, this verse comes to mind: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2 ESV). Thank you for showing hospitality to my brother. You entertained an angel.

I just know that when I look at these photos I see bonds being strengthened and relationships being formed. And to me that’s more beautiful than photos of the scenery.

These were taken in Costa Rica with his friend Jose. If you’re reading this, Jose, I’d love to hear about your adventures together.

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Thank you, Joel, for reminding me to be available.

I wish I could have one last adventure with you. But maybe now I can have better adventures, because of the perspective you’ve given me.

I’ll always be looking for ways to learn from his life, or reminisce on his outrageous sense of humor. If you want to share I’d love to hear from you.

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Flying With Babies

I went to Oklahoma last week. It was amazing. I wore a JACKET. There were colorful trees. We played outside everyday and even went to an art festival. It was dreamy.

Freeman mowing with my dad.
Freeman mowing with my dad.

And then I had to fly home by myself with a two year old and an infant.

I like to pretend that these things don’t stress me out. “No big deal. Worse things have happened. Maybe if I remain calm the babies won’t be able to smell my fear.” But let’s be honest, it was a huge gamble. From the moment I left my parents behind at security I was at the mercy of some pretty fickle little humans. 

My miniature people.
My miniature people.

Before I set off on my lonely little hike through security (which was NOT easy and the only help they offered was pointing out a box of Kleenex because obviously I was sobbing), my dad told me to find an old man to help me. Mom and I in unison: “That’s creepy”. But God heard our little conversation, and He has a sense of humor.

We made it to our gate only to find that the flight would be delayed until they were able to fix some seats that were damaged on the previous flight. WHAT? How does that even happen? Were people stabbing their seats with blunt utensils? So we did laps around the terminal with our monster mom-mobile – a double stroller that was struggling under the weight of Mable’s carseat and an overstuffed Cliff Keen bag that I managed to cram with all the necessary items for a week with two babies.

I have no pictures from the airport adventure for obvious reasons... But look how pretty Tulsa was! And my awesome mom pushing the babies in the stroller.
I have no pictures from the airport adventure for obvious reasons… But look how pretty Tulsa was! And my awesome mom pushing the babies in the stroller.

Freeman is obsessed with pushing the stroller so I was guiding it as we marched up and down the hall when an old man approached us. He made a joke about me having my hands full and then asked if I would like some help when it came time to board the plane. *Thanks, Dad.* Our kind old-man-angel helped me wrestle my bag and babies all the way to the back of the plane where we had a whole row all to ourselves (thank you JESUS).

Now for all you super moms who plan out the whole trip and pack little treat baggies with earplugs and cute apology notes for the other people on the plane, YOU ARE INCREDIBLE, MYSTICAL CREATURES and I don’t understand you. I sincerely think you are amazing. But that ain’t how I run my baby-rodeo. I can’t plan a trip like this in advance because if I gave it even a little bit of thought I WOULDN’T GO THROUGH WITH IT. I wouldn’t. I couldn’t. Just thinking about how this trip could have turned out is making me panic. This is one of those things I have to hand over to God and trust that we will survive while praying like crazy that I don’t ruin everyone else’s flight.

We befriended the awesome flight attendant and managed to keep the mayhem to a minimum. It was a circus act trying to nurse Mable and keep Freeman entertained but we stayed relatively quiet and, miraculously, both babies spent the last 30 minutes of the flight peacefully sleeping. It was 10 p.m. when we landed and I was exhausted.

But now I had a problem. How do I carry both babies and my huge bag off the plane and get my stroller put back together so I can also haul the carseat? Well, remember the kind old man? He waited for everyone to get off the plane then walked back and grabbed my bag for me. And my new friend the flight attendant? He picked up Mable so I could carry my sleeping toddler. This is probably a really ridiculous visual, me with my squad of babies and strangers climbing out of the plane. We survived. And then, from the top of the escalator… we saw Daniel. And he brought me gluten free pretzels. It was a magical moment.

So, no. This is not a lesson on “How to survive a plane trip with two babies”. This is “How we managed to survive a plane trip by the grace of God and the kindness of people.” I hope this gives you some hope. Or at the very least, you could have a little laugh at my expense.

Thanks for the good times, Oklahoma. But I missed having a personal barista and an endless supply of coffee.11133960_10155450398570078_3142632714907605583_n