Essay: Waiting

Mar 3, 2021
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Lake Effect essayist Barbara Miner has been writing about her experiences throughout the pandemic. Miner, a local writer, photographer, and producer has been vaccinated and has a new outlook on the pandemic. She reflects on it in her essay, “Waiting.”

I have spent much of the last year waiting. But I didn’t realize how profoundly COVID had shaped my sense of time until, during the dark days of the fall, I picked up Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot.” Perhaps, I thought, the play might offer some perspective.

Ernest Heinemann / New York Public Library Archive

Thanksgiving is this week. The holiday celebrates a gathering early American settlers with a group of Native people in Plymouth. It’s also a time to reflect on the country’s difficult history with Native people, including forced removals and land seizures.

Essayist Barbara Miner recounts one such event that took place in Milwaukee in her essay “Milwaukee’s Trail of Tears.”

Essay: Care Package

Nov 10, 2020
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Interactions with strangers are few and far between in the time of COVID-19. Following social distancing guidelines and wearing a mask aren’t exactly conducive to positive interactions at the grocery store or the post office.

But essayist Mary Steinert-Ng had one of those interactions recently while trying to send mail to her daughter. She talks about it and her gratitude for those working through the pandemic in her essay “Care Package.”

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The gravity of the COVID-19 pandemic has many of us looking for respite, some kind of emotional or physical escape. Something to take our minds off of the rising death tolls and inability to gather with our friends and loved ones.

For Lake Effect essayist Barbara Miner, it comes in the form of one of her mother’s recipes. She talks about it in her essay “COVID-19 & Oatmeal-Raisin Bread.”

Vine Leaves Press

You may have heard or read Lake Effect contributor Joanne Nelson’s essays before. For her, writing has always been a way to not just escape but process.

Her new memoir, This Is How We Leave, is a collection of essays that span Nelson’s life — from her Milwaukee working-class Catholic school upbringing to building her own family while juggling her difficult past.

Essay: Black Women And Size Stigma

Sep 23, 2020
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Sizeism or size discrimination is the idea that people are prejudged or discriminated against because of their body type or size. Sizeism can cause problems in one’s workplace, social and love life, and can affect health outcomes.

Community activist and essayist Jessica Young touches on the negative consequences of sizeism, especially among women of color, in her essay “Black Women and Size Stigma."

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In the not-so-distant past, going to conferences was common. Whether for work or a hobby, conferences can give people meaningful experiences.

For Lake Effect contributor Joanne Nelson, writers conferences would energize her and help hone her craft. But she sometimes wonders if her desire to be out exploring instead of at home could lead to unforeseen consequences:

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Today marks 19 years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks killed almost three thousand people and injured many more at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.

Most of us look back on that day and remember where we were and what we were doing before news of these events would change the course of history.

Lake Effect contributor Bruce Campbell shares his experience of being in the operating room the morning of 9/11 and what has happened in the years that followed: /

If you’re a writer, describing places and people in your life can be important to the context of your stories. But writers also come across the predicament of whether or not to use a person’s real name.

For Lake Effect contributor Joanne Nelson, she hadn’t really thought about asking her family’s permission to use their real names for her memoir. But, she came to realize it wasn’t something she should’ve assumed was alright. Nelson shares this in her essay titled, “Who’s in a Name?”


The 2020 Democratic National Convention was historic in many ways. For the first time, the convention was held virtually due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19. On Wednesday night California Senator Kamala Harris was the first Black and Asian-American woman to accept the nomination for Vice President in a major party.

Lake Effect contributor Art Cyr takes a historical look at what the office of Vice President represents in his essay, “The Democrats and Party Conventions”.

Essay: Raising Monarch Butterflies

Aug 12, 2020
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The monarch butterfly is one of the most recognizable species of butterfly found in Wisconsin. Right now, the monarch population is peaking in the state and soon large groups of them will migrate back to Mexico. 

North American monarch butterflies are on the decline, facing threats like climate change, pesticide use and habitat loss. So, people are stepping up to help. Retired English professor and butterfly caretaker, Beth Lueck, shares her essay on the joys of helping raise monarch butterflies.


Essay: My Face, My Beautiful Face

Aug 4, 2020
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Our parents pass many things on to us. Our looks, our habits and sometimes our outlook on life. Lake Effect essayist Jan Wilberg learned some tough lessons from her mother on mental illness, aging and acceptance. 

Jan Wilberg is a writer and community activist living in Milwaukee. Her daily blog, Red’s Wrap, deals with politics, feminism, disability, and dogs. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Newsweek, and several anthologies.

Here’s her essay "My Face, My Beautiful Face":

Barbara Miner

Milwaukee’s empty storefronts and alleys have become a lot more colorful since the protests over police brutality began. Artists have been putting up murals all around the city. The work is a tangible expression of the energy behind these demonstrations.

But as essayist Barbara Miner found out, you might miss them if you’re not looking in the right places. She talks about her own discoveries in her essay Milwaukee’s Alleys: A Hidden Treasure.

Essay: The First Rehearsal

Jul 2, 2020
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Most theaters have been dark for months now due to the coronavirus pandemic. Some are offering their work online. But for people who love the theater, it’s been hard to replace that feeling of seeing a live performance. 

Essayist Marie Kohler recalls her first experience in a theater in her essay “The First Rehearsal.” And she looks hopefully to a time when we all might be able to return.

“Come along and watch a rehearsal tonight while I’m at my theater meeting.”

My mother pushed away from the dining room table and grabbed her purse.

Essay: Tribute To Fred And Jerry

Jun 22, 2020
Steve Burrows / Miramax

Two comedy legends passed away within the same week in May — Jerry Stiller and Fred Willard. Both of their contributions to comedy in all forms, from stage to television and film, are immeasurable and made them household names. 

Filmmaker and Wisconsin-native Steve Burrows had the pleasure of working with both Stiller and Willard on his film Chump Change — a Miramax showbusiness satire, most of which takes place in Wisconsin.

Essay: The Parish Hall

May 27, 2020
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Attending a funeral is never a comfortable experience. But it can be especially uncomfortable if you feel out of place.

Lake Effect contributor Jan Wilberg recently learned that attending a funeral is not about your own comfort but about bringing comfort to others. She recalls her experience attending a funeral on the Oneida reservation in her essay “The Parish Hall.”

Last fall, my friend's son passed away.

Essay: We Have Managed, So Far

May 14, 2020
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The coronavirus pandemic is in some ways an echo of our history. People have compared it to other health crises, like the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic. Others have compared concerns about an economic downturn to what happened during the Great Depression. 

For essayist Aleta Chossek, these parallels were born out in letters from her grandfather, a business owner who lived through the Depression:

“We have been having bad times here in America, but we have managed, so far."

“There are 12-13 million good laborers unemployed.”

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The coronavirus has transformed how hospitals are operating. Hospitals that once bustled with activity have been reduced to treating only the sickest among us, and many medical students who once roamed the hallways have been sent home out of concern for their health.

Lake Effect contributor Bruce Campbell is a head and neck surgeon who's been teaching medical students at the Medical College of Wisconsin for the past 30 years. He reflects on teaching his students outside of a hospital in this essay titled “Narrative Medicine in the time of COVID-19.” 

Essay: Mindfulness

Apr 23, 2020
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Many of us have a lot on our minds right now. We’re practicing social distancing, unable to see our family and friends. We’re navigating working and learning from home. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed during the coronavirus pandemic, but practicing mindfulness can help.

Lake Effect contributor, Barbara Miner found we can all learn something about being mindful from watching children. Here's her essay called "Mindfulness":

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Dining scenes across America and the world are shuttered due to the coronavirus. Bars and restaurants are closed for dine-in service and some are hanging on through carry-out and delivery sales. But for many of them, their fate on the other side of this is uncertain.

Meagan Schultz

John Prine passed away earlier this month due to COVID-19 complications. He was 73 years old. The music world lost a giant of a composer, recording artist and performer, who was known for his often humorous style of original music.

Lake Effect contributor Meagan Schultz takes a similarly amusing musical approach in reflecting on her current circumstances staying at home with her children during a pandemic. Here she is with her homage to John Prine’s song “In Spite of Ourselves." Her song is called “In Spite of Themselves":

Essay: Wordless

Apr 3, 2020
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Being in isolation can be extremely lonely. For those who are hearing impaired, that isolation is felt all the time. Simple communication or an ordinary interaction with another person can be a challenge. Lake Effect contributor Jan Wilberg shares an essay about her experience in a doctor’s office.

Essay: Tomboys

Apr 1, 2020
Barbara Miner

Lake Effect contributor and self-described tomboy Barbara Miner shares her thoughts about a New York Times opinion piece, Bring Back the Tomboys.

One of my most vivid memories of second grade was when I wrestled the class bully. In my version, I was the winner. He stopped only because he didn’t want to get pinned by a girl.

Yes, I was a classic tomboy.

Essay: Waiting For Coronavirus

Mar 25, 2020
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From prisons to schools, to hospitals — places that care for a lot of people have had to change a lot of their operations in order to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Lake Effect contributor Bruce Campbell is a head and cancer surgeon at Froedtert Hospital and the Medical College of Wisconsin, and he shares his essay “Waiting for Coronavirus:”

Essay: Coronakindness

Mar 17, 2020
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Scientists are still working to understand COVID-19, and there remains a lot of uncertainty about how it behaves. That uncertainty breeds fear, and that fear can bring out repugnant human behavior.

Lake Effect contributor Arno Michaelis is a former white supremacist who now makes his living traveling the world to speak out against hate and violence. His work has come to a grinding halt due to cancellations, travel bans and practicing social distancing.

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Lake Effect contributor Meagan Schultz's writing often focuses on experiences with motherhood, midlife and aging. Her essay, “Before It’s Too Late” asks us: When do we actually remember getting old?

I look in the mirror this morning and see my grandmother. Or at the very least, I see her jowls. Just below my own cheeks. Though if I smile you hardly notice.

Immediately I want to call her and ask her - before it’s too late - when she remembers getting old. I mean, one day, she must have looked in the mirror and said to herself, I am an old woman.

Essay: On Waking Up At 5 AM

Mar 10, 2020
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Daylight saving time means it stays darker longer in the early morning hours. But horse farmer Lia Sader found that can lead to some beautiful sights for early risers. Here’s her essay about an unusual encounter on her farm in Franksville, Wisc.

Essay: If We Can Forgive

Mar 7, 2020
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Essayist Arno Michaelis is a former white supremacist from Milwaukee and the co-author of The Gift of Our Wounds, along with Pardeep Sing Kaleka - the current executive director of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee. They've both worked together through the organization Serve 2 Unite to divert young people from violent extremist ideologies, gun violence, school shooting, bullying, and other forms of self harm.

Essay: At The Breakfast Bar

Feb 21, 2020
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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
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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!