This last weekend was supposed to be a relaxing. And if you’ve read my other posts about plans, you know thing aren’t going to go as I thought they were.
I was going to go up to Duluth with friends on Saturday. One of the other people in my poker group lives there and it was his turn to host. We would return on Sunday. I would have some time to relax before going over to my mother-in-law’s to play pinochle. Instead I found myself confronted with a life or death question.
When I returned from Duluth, I found that Andrew had left. Lucy, our dog, hadn’t eaten her food that morning and had been eating grass when he took her out in the morning. After reading the note I discovered that Lucy had been vomiting all over the house. So, first things first, I started cleaning up. Everyone of the seventeen messes. In addition to the ones that were obviously dinner from the night before and the ones with grass from the morning there were several that were just white and frothy. Hmm, I thought as I cleaned, I better look that up on the internet when I finish.
That plan vanished when I saw Lucy sitting in the family room next to a new mess. Argh, I can’t keep up with her. I went to clean it up and found that there were three messes. And these were pink and frothy. Oh no! That’s from blood, I thought.
The internet told me that pink and frothy vomit was a symptom of congestive heart failure, which is what caused the death of the dog we had before, Ginny.
Crying along the way, I immediately took Lucy into the emergency veterinary clinic at the University of Minnesota that is close to where I live.
Once they had examined Lucy, they told me it looked like it was her gastrointestinal tract that was causing the problem. Her heart sounded strong. My relief quickly vanished when they said there could be something blocking her intestines. If that was the case, surgery would be needed to fix it. Then they told me that surgery would cost three to four thousand dollars.
As they took Lucy to x-ray to see if there was a blockage, I was left alone in the empty exam room. Alone with my thoughts.
I love Lucy, but could I justify spending that much money on a dog. At ten years old she probably has only a few years to go. Could I even afford that much?
They brought Lucy back. The x-rays had been sent to the radiologist for analysis, so it would probably be about a half hour before they had any news. From the doctor’s demeanor it felt like she already knew they would show something blocking her intestines.
I was left alone with Lucy. She laid down on the bench next to me, listlessly watching me as I pondered. Luckily there was a box of tissues in the room. I made use of them as I watched Lucy through my tears. Half an hour came and went. An hour came and went. Two hours came and went. Somewhere along the way I made the decision to pay for the surgery if it came to that. I also got in some exercise walking laps of the small exam room. If I walked slowly, I could stretch out the lap to twelve seconds.
Finally, the results came from radiology. They didn’t think the x-ray showed a blockage, although it wasn’t clear enough to know for sure. They would keep Lucy in the hospital overnight and keep her hydrated and give her pain medication. In the morning they might be able to tell if there were any changes.
It was some good news, but she wasn’t out of the woods yet. That evening I watched the news at my mother-in-law’s and it was all about the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton. So much anguish and grief, so many families torn apart and all from two people who gave in to hatred and turned themselves over to evil.
That night as I laid in bed the thought struck me, how could I justify spending money on a dog when people were dying. If I could afford that money for Lucy, wouldn’t it be better to send it to an organization that is fighting to stop these senseless attacks?
That thought was still with me in morning. I was brushing my teeth and thinking about the stress-free weekend I was supposed to have. This stress has probably taken some time off my life, I thought.
Then I realized that for all the stress Lucy was causing at the moment, she’s been a faithful companion and has relieved a lot of stress just by being there. And aren’t there studies that show people with pets live longer than those without?
I suddenly felt relieved. It was ok to spend the money on Lucy. What person would not spend the money if there was a way to prolong their lives. We do it all the time, it didn’t make a difference if the money was being spent on a dog. It was the result that mattered.
I had my justification or rationalization for spending the money. I probably would have spent it in any case, but at least I could now do it without feeling guilty.
In the morning the clinic called and said there was no obstruction and that Lucy was doing better. Andrew and I went to visit Lucy in the evening.
They wanted to keep her another night to continue giving her fluids. But she was definitely better. The doctor we spoke to said that Lucy had gastroenteritis and they didn’t know the exact cause. So, an episode like this may happen again and maybe not.
I picked up Lucy the next day and she is now home taking it easy and reducing my stress just by being around. My life and death decision behind me.
In front of me lies a decision about what to do regarding the mass killings that are plaguing us. My brush with mortality over the weekend and my personal experience with losing someone has convinced me that it is time to stand up and do something.
It’s easy to lose hope in the midst of the carnage, but I am optimistic that things will get better. While some people give in to hatred and evil, most do not. There are millions of people who didn’t kill anyone this weekend. Millions of people who live lives of love and compassion. Unfortunately, some of them are no longer with us after this weekend. And for that we should all mourn.
I'm going to delay my post that was due for this week. You can blame the Twins and the Yankees as their game is in the eighth inning while they approach four hours in the game length.
As I had said in my Belgian Experiment #1 post, my next batch was going to be done with pilsner malt and without any of the other malts I had tried using in the other samples. That was an error. In the first experiment, the recipe also included some grain flakes. This gives the beer a better mouthfeel. For experiment #2, I used different ingredients to give the beer a better mouthfeel in conjunction with using the pilsner malt as the base.
My four variations were:
1. Oat flakes
2. Wheat flakes
3. Barley flakes
4. Carapils malt
And the results, after one tasting with three people, were similar to my first experiment. There was one that was clearly in last place with two that were favored. The barley flakes were everyone’s least favorite. Oat Flakes and Carapils were both picked as favorites.
Personally, I liked the oat flakes best. But I do agree there was some additional flavor with the carapils. I didn’t find a lot of difference between the oats and wheat, but there was enough that I picked the carapils as my second choice. The carapils was mentioned by one of us as having an additional peppery or spicy flavor.
Right now, I’m undecided on what to use for my next batch. I’ll probably have to do another tasting. (One of the benefits of experimenting.) Once I make a choice then it will be on to round #3.
My plan for the Belgian Experiment #3 is to try different hops. Hops are what adds the bitterness to beer. Belgian ales are not very bitter, and the hops are not a large component of the flavor. Typically, they have a spicy earthy flavor. I’m going to try to get some Triple Pearl hops as one of my choices. These are grown in Minnesota by Mighty Axe Hops, so I’d like to give them a try. For the others, I’ll probably pick Saaz, Styrian Goldings, and something else. Stay tuned for the results.
Last week I sat down to do a blog post and found that there was already a post in my drafts folder. Apparently, I had put the post before into drafts and then never posted it. So, I posted that as my post for the week. For some reason the date of the post is the date it was put in the draft folder and it looks like last week had no blog post.
I had decided that I would do a blog post on July second to make up for the post I had missed. My plan was to do a post about my second Belgian ale experiment. In order to research that post I went over to a friend’s who is also a homebrewer. In the midst of tasting my different experimental beers and several other and then going out to a taproom, I realized I would not be in a condition to post tonight. This has been a roundabout way of saying that I’m not going to write a post tonight and I’ll do it next week.
Have a great Fourth of July. And, if you really want to read something by me here’s a couple links to posts the reference the Fourth of July:
Back in March I wrote about my plans to experiment with Belgian Ales this year. I had brewed a test batch up using different malts. I brewed four different varieties. All four used Belgian Pilsner malt as the base malt. One of the four was just Pilsner. The other three had different malts added, Caravienne, Munich and Abbey Ale malts. I brewed a small amount of those three malts and added them to separate carboys.
Those ales were fermented, bottled and were ready to drink. I labeled each bottle according to the malt that was used. There was C for Caravienne, A for Abbey Ale, M for Munich and P for Pilsner only. Lining up the bottle I realized that I had brewed a CAMP beer.
Now it was time to taste. I have to admit that I’m no expert at tasting and being able to describe what I taste. My most frequent tasting comment is, “I like this beer.” I did a pour of all four beers and sampled each one. Using my criteria of how much I liked each beer I ranked them. My slight favorite was the beer brewed with the Abbey Ale malt. The beer brewed with the Munich malt was my bottom ranking. Not that it was bad, but in comparison it just didn’t compare. After a day and thinking back on the tastes the Pilsner alone seemed to stand out in my mind as the best.
I invited a couple of homebrew friends to taste the beer and give me their opinions. They both agreed with me that the Munich malt brew was the least favorite. Although, one of them said that if I had asked him to sample just that he would have said it was a good beer. He favored the Caravienne. My other friend favored the Pilsner alone.
We had an interesting conversation, sitting around tasting beer. But I didn’t have a clear idea of what I would brew next. After some reflection, I decided that I wanted to brew a Golden Belgian. The only one’s of the four types that would match the color profile needed for that would be either Pilsner alone or Munich malt. And it was clear the Munich malt had not been preferred. It was on to brewing a new batch with Pilsner malt alone.
That experimental batch has been bottled and is waiting to age before I taste that batch. I’ll write about it soon.
I spent the weekend in Decorah, Iowa to attend my son’s graduation from Luther College. Andrew is now a college graduate. Wow!
Andrew graduated with a major in Religion and a minor in Theater. He’ll be working at Camp Wapogasset in Wisconsin again this summer. Then when he finishes there, he’ll start his job at Christ Lutheran Church in Blaine working with children from birth to grade 8 and their households.
I shouldn’t be amazed, because he is a wonderful man. But I have such vivid memories of him being little that it feels like this has happened overnight.
Because when Andrew was young, he would often say, “tell me story about when you were little,” I thought I would tell you about when Andrew was little.
Andrew started out very little at 5 pounds when he was born a month early on his mother’s birthday, on the same day as a lunar eclipse during the time that Comet Hale-Bopp was visible in the night skies.
He enjoyed having stories read to him as part of the bedtime ritual. After the story we’d say prayers and good night. Then he’d roll over on his side. I’d tuck in his covers. Then put my hand on his back, rub a small circle and pat his back.
Many times, on weekend mornings when everybody else wanted to sleep some more, Andrew would get up and start playing in his room. When I’d hear him, I’d get up and go into his room so he would play quietly instead of calling for us. Usually, I could lay on his bed and sleep a little more. One time when I went in to do this in the winter I crawled into his bed and pulled his blanket around me. It was small and didn’t quite cover everything. As I laid there, I felt Andrew come up and pull on the blanket. I was cold and didn’t want to lose the blanket, so I held onto it. Andrew gave up pulling. Then I felt his small hand rubbing a circle on my back. Then he gave me a small pat before going back to quietly playing.
On Monday I decided that I needed some time off. After doing a bit of work that had to be done, I got in the car and drove north to my usual day trip destination – the North Shore. Something about being up by Lake Superior reinvigorates me. Even the air feels different. While it was a long trip in the car, I ended up feeling relaxed and refreshed.
I’ve been going up to the North Shore since sometime in the 1970’s. Yet, it wasn’t until a couple years ago that I realized I could drive up there, take a couple hikes and drive back all in the same day. I enjoy seeing waterfalls roaring with the spring runoff. Or walking through the woods in the fall after the leaves are off the trees.
I usually try to do something I haven’t done before on these trips. Monday was no exception. My new place was the public access boat launch at Taconite Harbor. It was interesting to see. They have a gigantic parking lot. There was a small exhibit with some artifacts from when the taconite mine was in operation. Having seen the taconite processing facility from the road for years it was interesting to see if from the water side. The facility if closed now, but it would have been cool to see ships coming into dock and fill up with taconite. The power plant they had is still in operation, so there are still occasional ships that come.
I also try to make sure I hike up at least one river and make it to the shore of Lake Superior. I did both of those Monday by hiking to the mouth of a couple of the rivers I hiked up.
Since there’s nobody around to take a picture of I end up taking selfies. It’s lot of work to take a good selfie. Try to hold your arm out to hold the phone in front of you. Try not to get that arm in the picture, so it’s not so obviously a selfie. Hold the camera up; if you’re looking down, you’ll get a double chin effect. Don’t squint in the sun. Get the camera to take the shot. Oh, and yes, don’t forget to smile. It’s lucky I was at the North Shore doing that, anywhere else and I probably would have been stressed out.
I hope you have a place where you can go. A place where you can relax and be at peace. A place where you can say “this is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” and truly mean it.
Easter should bring thoughts of resurrection and new life. This year it brought church fires and bombings.
I read about the bombings in Sri Lanka and all the deaths and I try to comprehend the pain I felt after Debbie died multiplied by hundreds.
I read about a landmark in Paris that I have visited nearly destroyed by fire and I remember landmarks in New York destroyed.
I read about a man arrested for burning black churches in Louisiana and I wonder how someone could be bitter enough to deliberately burn a church.
I think about those who worship money, power, fame and hate; and I despair.
I read about donations for rebuilding the black churches in Louisiana going up after the Notre Dame donations were publicized and I find encouragement.
I walk my dog and find that in spite of everything, beauty still exists in this world and I see the hand of the Creator.
I think about the people in my life and I feel grateful and blessed.
And maybe that’s enough to know.
I’ve been trying to post on every other Tuesday. However, yesterday I blew it. I put “Do Blog Post” in my calendar on a repeat, but sometimes even that doesn’t help. I was just about to go to bed last night when I realized I hadn’t posted anything. So, better late than never. As a result of not having thought about what to write about I’m just posting some miscellaneous notes about blogging.
From the stats I’m looking at it appears that my readership is growing. I’ve noticed a few symptoms that are probably related to that.
I had decided to set up an email account for the blog. I went into gmail to set up a new account and found that someone had already taken the email with my blog name. I suppose they think I’m going to pay them for stealing my brand. Fat chance. If you want to email me, you can use firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll put that on the contact page for the blog.
I’ve had a couple random comments show up to older blog postings. Both were clearly attempting to market products, so I deleted them both.
My last post was about the fact that it was coming up on five years since my wife had passed away. Part of what made that hard was that a couple years ago I had decided that at five years I would shut down her Caring Bridge site. When I looked at it, there were still people looking at the site. For now, I’m going to leave it up. I may transfer the posts to this site at some point.
Thanks for reading!
I stare at the title I just wrote and wonder how it can be. On Friday it will be five years ago that Debbie died.
Five years of changes. In the last five years my daughter Alicia married, my son graduated from high school and will graduate from college in May. I’ve taken up writing and have been blogging for almost three years. I’ve been to Tanzania. I’ve seen a total eclipse of the sun.
And yet, nothing’s changed. Debbie is still gone. I still miss her. When my contacts dry out I can still moisten them by remembering those final days.
Some people might feel that five years is too long to grieve and I should be “over it” by now. The truth is you’re never entirely “over it” any more than you could get over having a limb amputated. Your life goes on and you learn to live with loss.
Life goes on. While that dark cloud is always hanging around, it’s not always cloudy and raining. There are days with sun, days with joy, days with new experiences. Things change.
And some things don’t change. I will always have gratitude for everyone who has helped my along the way. Every expression of concern or support, every hug has helped. I am blessed by my family and my community. Thank you all.
Tim Kane's memories, musings and updates.