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Looking at a coffee mug, Lisa Dirnberger sees potential reaching way beyond its capacity as a vessel for a beverage.

Dirnberger — known as Lisa Ellen Knepper while growing up in Caledonia — sees coffee mugs as messengers, of sorts, to be used to bring people together. And she’s created her own line of mugs, under the business name Cup of Time, designed to do just that.

Cup of Time is more than a business, according to Dirnberger, who worked for 15-plus years as a behavioral health nurse in Racine, before moving to her current home in Florida, about seven years ago. It is a faith and family movement that encourages people to spend time talking with those they love.

Each Cup of Time mug is decorated with the words “because time is love ... please share time talking with me.” There are mugs designed specifically for spending time with mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, husbands, wives — even one that asks its holder to share a Cup of Time with Jesus.

The idea is to use the mugs to request time to talk with someone, or to remind ourselves to make that time available to others — and to spend at least as much time as it takes to consume a cup of coffee doing so.

Conversation starter

“Some people may need help saying ‘I’ve had something bad happen and I need to talk about it,’” Dirnberger said.

Rather than just hoping their loved one notices they are in a bad mood, they can put the Cup of Time mug out where they will see it when they get home, to help start the conversation, she said.

“We make time for doctor appointments, and other specific appointments, but we don’t schedule time for the people who mean the most to us.”

The importance of such face-to-face communication with family members is something Dirnberger said she first realized more than a decade ago when a dear friend of hers was facing tremendous difficulties with her teenage daughter.

“I had this revelation that if they would just put all differences aside and talk, they would remember how much they loved each other,” Dirnberger says on the Cup of Time website (www.cupoftime.com). She carried that thought with her as her nursing career progressed, and eventually came to realize that almost every problem she encountered could be boiled down to a lack of communication, Dirnberger said.

“No matter who I was in front of, regardless of age, sex, color or vocation, I could actually pinpoint the very moments where communication caused a stumble and sometimes a great fall.”

Taking a stand

Drawing on her nursing experiences and her passion for helping others, the 1987 Case High School graduate founded the Cup of Time movement a couple years ago, following some struggles of her own and a “time of finding God” again.

“I love families and our Lord God who created us,” said Dirnberger, who shares her Florida home with her husband, Jeremiah.

Cup of Time is all about helping families stay together in today’s world, which seems to be filled with busy-ness and lots of distractions, she said.

“It’s about taking a stand and saying ‘I’m not going to let the world rip us apart,’” Dirnberger said. “I’m not saying it solves everything, but by talking and listening to those we love things can get much better.”

Local connection

Cup of Time’s message is one that Lisa Olesen, of Racine’s O&H Danish Bakery, said she is glad to share with her customers at the bakery’s south side store, 4006 Durand Ave. Olesen discovered Cup of Time at a chance meeting with Dirnberger at the AmericasMart (a wholesale trade center) in Atlanta, Ga., last January and has been carrying the mugs in the store ever since, she said.

Olesen, who attends the AmericasMart annually with her daughter, Alyson Horton, said they are always looking for new merchandise to sell in their Racine stores. And, through her years in the retail business, Olesen said she’s learned that “people love merchandise that has meaning. It makes them feel good.”

Dirnberger’s Cup of Time mugs fit that bill, because they encourage us to spend time with those special people in our lives, she said.

“Time is the one thing we all have, and it’s free,” Olesen said. “And once it is gone, you can’t get it back.”

New Year’s resolution

One recent customer had a Cup of Time mug in her hand when Olesen asked her if she knew the story behind the mugs. Olesen shared what she knew about the movement, and the customer loved the story, she said.

“She told me she was getting the ‘sister’ mug, but was going to give it to her friend, who is like a sister to her,” Olesen said.

Time with family and friends is something we tend to put off until tomorrow, Olesen said. And, with the new year, Cup of Time mugs are a good way to remind us to take that time now.

“It’s just a great thing to do,” she said.

Dirnberger said she is thrilled to have made the connection with Olesen and O&H Bakery. While she had grown up with O&H Bakery cakes in her home, she hadn’t met Olesen until she and Horton made their way to the Cup of Time booth at the AmericasMart last year, and noticed that the phone number on Dirnberger’s banner had a 262 area code.

She is glad to be able to have her family-run business working with the Olesen family’s business, she said.

“It is like it was meant to be,” Dirnberger said.

Cup of Time mugs, which range in price from $12 to $16, are also available for sale online at www.cupoftime.com.

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Features Reporter

Lee Roberts is the features writer for The Journal Times, covering a wide range of subjects, from the local arts scene to profiles of interesting people and places in our community. She is also a part-time page editor.

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