Essay: At The Breakfast Bar

Feb 21, 2020
K.Pornsatid /

Does a person with a disability always want help? Who decides what another person needs or wants? This is an essay about a brief encounter in a hotel breakfast bar that raised some tough questions about who is really helped when help is offered.

As free hotel breakfasts go, this one was exceptional. There was juice, coffee, bagels, eggs, sausage, fruit, yogurt, and, the crown jewel of the long, two-lane breakfast bar, a waffle maker. It was, as cheap travelers like us would say, deluxe in every way.

Essay: The Coupon

Feb 14, 2020
Евгения Юшина /

Coming up with the perfect gift is no easy task. But essayist Mel Miskimen thought she'd found just the thing for her husband on their first wedding anniversary. Turns out, it didn't exactly get the reaction she expected.

It was our first anniversary. Paper according to Hallmark. We were in our late 20s, had just bought a fixer upper that had sucked our meagre savings account dry. So, no money. I had come with what I had thought was the perfect gift for my husband. Oh. My. God. He was going to love it!

Essay: Still Life

Jan 29, 2020
Eric /

The relationships we share with our siblings are unique — whether some consider it a bond, or at times, a burden. For Lake Effect essayist Joanne Nelson, thinking about her brother brings up many mixed emotions. She remembers the man once filled with buzzing energy while contending with the image of who he turned into:

Essay: Pete Loses His Wingman

Jan 16, 2020
eyepark /

Losing a pet is always difficult for the people who love them. But it can be even more difficult for the pets who are left behind, as writer J.F. Riordan learned when her dog Reggie passed away. She tells us about it in her essay, “Pete Loses His Wingman:”

Essay: Maybe Icarus Was A Turkey

Jan 7, 2020
MikeFusaro /

Although Milwaukee’s central city is a bustling urban center - you can still see a fair share of wild animals. One of the most common culprits is the wild turkey.

For author J.F. Riordan, turkeys aren’t just curious anomalies on city streets - they’re a regular part of her routine. One turkey, in particular, made a real impression:

Essay: Leftovers

Nov 27, 2019
Rudenko /

A big meal like Thanksgiving can leave us with a refrigerator full of leftovers. And for some folks, the leftovers are the best part - as long as you don’t let them sit too long. Lake Effect essayist Joanne Nelson has been thinking about what the contents of our refrigerators say about us - to others:

Essay: In My Office

Oct 24, 2019
Joanne Nelson

Joanne Nelson has a framed photograph on her desk that makes her think about time, loss, and family. She explores these feelings in this essay, "In My Office."

Essay: Dear Nice Old Black Lady At McDonald's

Oct 17, 2019
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images News

For writer and former white supremacist Arno Michaelis, a series of events and people helped change his life for the better. Michaelis recalls his encounter with a worker at McDonald's who was one of the first to show him compassion, even when she represented everything he was supposed to hate:

Dear nice old black lady at McDonald’s,

I think of you fondly and often, and I talk about you all the time.

Essay: In The Prayers Of A Stranger

Sep 16, 2019
diproduction /

The Internet can often be a source of stress for those going through hard times. While it can connect us to the world, it can also bring the pain of others into sharper focus. Writer J.F. Riordan contemplates her own place in this struggle, in her essay “Prayers for a Stranger.”

I recently realized that my life had become rather narrow, and that music, once the central focus of my existence, had been reduced to passive listening. So, most days, now, I spend some time playing the piano badly.

Essay: Fast Food Salaries

Aug 26, 2019
powerplantop / Flickr

The wealth gap in the U.S. is large and it's only getting larger. In May, Forbes reported that in 2018, the richest 10% held 70% of total household wealth, up from 60% in 1989. And in June, the Brookings Institute reported that the top 1% alone holds more wealth than the entire middle class. 

Lake Effect essayist Tom Matthews thinks that needs to change.  

Igor /

There are a number of jokes about intelligence work, but the punchline is always some variation of “but if I told you, I’d have to kill you.”

Lake Effect foreign policy contributor Art Cyr says all joking aside, secrecy and discretion are crucial components of this work:

Essay: Lithium: Too Hot to Handle or Ship

Aug 7, 2019
Henri Koskinen /

You know the drill. Shoes and belts off, laptops out of your bag, 4 ounces or less of liquids. Flying has lost whatever romance it once had.

But what’s the deal with batteries? Why can’t you put them in your checked baggage? Lake Effect essayist Judy Steininger explains:

Gecko Studio / Adobe Stock

As we grow older, so do our parents. And we find ourselves trying to convince elderly parents to move out of their too big, too dangerous homes and into safer quarters. Most are met with resistance. Lake Effect essayist Mel Miksimen wasn't - at least not in the way she expected.

My 89-year-old father had come to his own conclusion to put the house up for sale that had been home for 63 years, the one he and my mother bought after they got married, and she said she'd never leave unless it was feet first, and well, that happened.

Essay: Shots Shrug

Jul 12, 2019
aijohn784 /

We get used to things. It could be a squeaky hinge on a door we don’t hear anymore, or the way we automatically dodge the edge of a counter that sticks out just a little too far. As Lake Effect essayist Mel Miskimen works on her house, she wonders if she’s become too laid back:

I was in the upstairs front bedroom stripping the 1880s walls of 1980s wallpaper. It was a Saturday morning. The neighborhood was in the process of waking itself up, figuring out the plan for the rest of the day, and then ...

Pop! popopopopoppopop.

Essay: The Perils Of Public Music

Jul 1, 2019
wittayabudda /

Lake Effect essayist JF Riordan travels a lot for work. And as she explains in her essay, The Perils of Public Music, she’d just like a little peace and quiet on the road: