Might as well face it, I love Oktoberfest beer

In September 2020, Yuengling and Moulson Coors announced an agreement to begin distributing Yuengling beer in Wisconsin by the end of 2021. Nearly three years later, those of us who don’t travel to the East Coast without bringing back a few cases of Yuengling are still waiting.

I don’t know if Yuengling is one of my favorite beers because I can’t have it every day or if the appeal is mainly the mystique of having to drive hundreds of miles to get one.

No such doubts are connected to my love of Leinenkugel’s Oktoberfest. Every year during the last week in July, I start making side trips in the grocery store to see if they have Oktoberfest yet. It’s officially available August through October, but sometimes it arrives a few days early, like this year when I went into Kwik Trip on July 25 and danced out with a couple of six packs.

I have been in love with Leinie’s Märzen-style beer for more than a decade, and as my wallet allows I have been known to stockpile it so I don’t have to give it up when the rest of the world does. Last year I had my last Oktoberfest of the year just before Christmas.

I’m not a heavy beer drinker — I rarely have more than two bottles a night — but I do love the crisp taste of Oktoberfest. In fact, I had a third tonight in order to properly prepare to describe my admiration for this brew.

You have to wonder why the beverage with a German name that literally translates to “March beer” is not available in March or eight other months of the year. My search engine tells me that in 1553 Bavaria forbade brewers from making it except between Sept. 29 and April 23 because high summertime temperatures would make it go bad. But surely in the last 570 years we may have developed refrigeration techniques to preserve the beer’s flavor.

As I said, every so often I will have a Yuengling and wonder if the appeal is in its scarcity. Not so with Leinenkugel Oktoberfest. If I could have two (or three) every night year-round, I know I would be one happy camper. And it wouldn’t matter if Yuengling ever makes it to Wisconsin — although I hear they make a pretty good Märzen, too.

Love Him out loud

In December 2001 I had never heard of blogs or podcasts, but I did have a weekly column in the Green Bay News-Chronicle, as fine a newspaper as I’ve ever known, God rest its soul. This is what I submitted for Dec. 18, 2001, a week before Christmas.

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As dreams go, this one was pretty vivid, not for any of the imagery but the intensity of the emotion. I can’t remember the specific details, except for four words.

I dreamed a little traveling drama group had just finished performing a piece that was full of joy and finding meaning in life.

Someone asked the actors why they were so joyous, and they began to talk, quietly and almost apologetically, about Jesus Christ, looking furtively back and forth as if afraid to be discovered talking about the subject in public.

“Wait a minute,” I said, and this is when the emotion welled up. “Why are you acting like you’re ashamed that Jesus has made such an important difference in your life? There’s no need to hide the fact. If you love Jesus, love Him out loud.”

I awoke from the dream with those words literally echoing in my ears: Love Him out loud.

Now, I am not someone who wears his faith on his sleeve. Unless someone asks me, or if I let slip that I’m excited to hear about a Christian musician who is playing a concert somewhere nearby, the source of whatever joy, peace or optimism I convey usually remains unspoken.

It’s a shame that we have developed this societal attitude that it’s not polite to mention or celebrate God in civil conversation. Something of the richness and freedom of America is lost when we allow ourselves to be intimidated by people who claim to be offended or belittled by public displays of faith in God.

I enjoy learning about the different ways that we have to get us in touch with the Creator.

I love that the Oneida Nation built its public school in the shape of a turtle, illustrating its tradition that the Creator built the world on the back of a huge turtle. I wish we would celebrate the rich melting pot culture of America by inviting all religious traditions into our schools, not shutting them all out.

I have never been offended, and I do not feel belittled, when Catholics finish the Lord’s prayer before what I as a Protestant have always been taught was the last line: “For thine is the kingdom …”

I do not feel threatened to know that others believe Jesus was a great teacher but not the Messiah, or even that He did not or does not exist at all.

All I know is an overwhelming feeling of gratitude about the birth that we Christians have come to celebrate every Dec. 25, and the death and resurrection that we recall every spring. My journey of faith brought me to a personal relationship with a living Jesus.

The important thing, I think, is that we believe in something bigger than ourselves. That search defines who we are as individuals and as a people, and I pray that what you have found along your journey fills you with as much love and peace as the Christ has brought to me. If not, check Him out. If so, love Him out loud. 

A spirit of love does not have room for hatred of other faiths, other traditions. Such a simple concept, taught by almost all faiths, and yet so often tossed aside: Love one another.

Don’t be afraid, in a spirit of love and respect for others, to say what has made a difference in your life: Love Him out loud.

And away we go

I made a decision Friday and went to work making this new cover illustration for my “Warren Bluhm, writer” Facebook page that I hope is appropriately cryptic but not indecipherable.

After hemming and hawing to myself about setting goals for the rest of the year, I finally sat down and hammered out what I think are realistic and doable targets. The one that led me to devise the illustration is a fun one.

More details to come over the next few weeks as I suss out exactly what it is I decided.

There’s a catch

There’s a catch in the Lord’s Prayer.

It says “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”

The same kind of catch is in one of the two great laws.

It says “Love your neighbor as yourself.

We’re praying that God forgive our sins only to the extent that we forgive those who sin against us.

And if we have no self-respect, we’re going to have trouble loving our neighbors.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The first move’s on you; that is to say, it’s up to us.

End the stupid

I never heard the expression “I know you are, but what am I?” until (of all things) the movie Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.

It comes to mind as I watch the reaction to the new song “Try That in a Small Town,” which suggests that big-city violence would not have a long shelf life in a smaller community. 

“See how far ya make it down the road; Around here, we take care of our own,” sings Jason Aldean. “You cross that line, it won’t take long for you to find out.”

“It’s racist!” “I know you are, but what am I? Your songs advocate violence in the first place!” “I know you are, but what am I?”

It’s stupid to condone violence under any circumstances. It’s stupid to make judgments based on race or skin color under any circumstances. And what is “race” if not separation based on skin color? We’re all homo sapiens — all this talk about different human races is a silly (or evil) attempt to divide and perhaps (probably) conquer.

It all comes down to a single law — Love one another, one of two central laws — the other is Love God.

All this noise — all these screams of “You started it!” and “I’m just responding to what you said/did” — is a variation on “I know you are, but what am I?” Enough already. Can we just get back to Love God and Love one another? And if you can’t wrap your mind around God, can we at least try loving one another? Do you have a problem with love? Really?  

The cycle of violence/retaliation ends either when someone refuses to retaliate or when everyone’s dead. Myself, I prefer the idea of someone refusing to meet violence with violence. Peace has to start somewhere, with someone.

Welcome to Three Willows

Before we even built the house, we stuck three sticks in the ground. The other day, when I took this photo from atop our mound, and I saw the magnificent trees that our sticks have become, I thought of the name for our 3.33 little acres of paradise: Three Willows.

They say you shouldn’t name a stray puppy unless you want to keep it. Does that apply to 3.33 acres of paradise, too? If so, I guess I plan to stay here forever.

There are plenty of worse alternatives. Three Willows sits along the frontage road that used to be what is now the four-lane highway uphill from us. But downhill! There is the approximately one-acre field that I named Willow’s Field long ago because of the way our beloved golden retriever loved to run and retrieve her orange disc — I called it The Ting as in, “Get The Ting!” and she would do it over and over tirelessly.

About another acre, sloping downward, is a lovely little woods of about an acre, and down below is a wetland. The land is pie-shaped, and the point of the pie is 150 feet, more or less, from the waters of Green Bay. Because of the woods you can only see the bay in the winter, but you can certainly hear it on a windy night!

It took 11 years of living memories to come up with the name, but it feels like it fits. And so, welcome to Three Willows.

P.S. I posted this picture and this thought on Facebook on Monday and had four dozen “Likes” within four hours. I guess the name is a hit!

Word of advice to lovers

Still grieving over the fresh wound that is my wife’s death, I am comforted by the fact that I always tried to make “I love you” the last words I said when we parted.

“Drive carefully; I love you.” “Sweet dreams; I love you.” “Have a nice day; I love you.” It began to sound automatic, like an afterthought, but I made sure to say it, always conscious that someday there would be a last time. I didn’t want to have that regret. I always was nervous on those occasional times I neglected doing it or simply forgot.

Red would laugh at me when I hugged Willow The Best Dog There Is™ for no other reason than I knew my furry companion would be gone in a few years. But treasuring moments as they happen — remembering how fleeting it all can be — etches the memories that much deeper into the soul, to be called back when haunted by their absence.

I have regrets, but not saying “I love you” enough is not among them. My word of advice to those who love.