Thursday, December 28, 2017

Lemonade Stand

Sometimes stories and blogs just write themselves. All I have to do is give you the facts and take a nap while you do the rest. You hardly need me at all.
This is one of those stories.

I was wasting time on Facebook two days ago when some very familiar faces showed up suddenly in a video feed. I didn’t know you could make your own TV show on social media. Then again, I’m not five or even seven, so I’m not as techno savvy as my granddaughters are.

They’re cute and smart and enthusiastic. But the main thing I noticed during their infomercial was how optimistic they were about their product.

“You know,” the seven-year-old redhead began, “lemonade is really good on hot days.”

Well, I couldn’t argue with her there. Except that two days ago when her program taped, it was 26 degrees outside where she’d set up her lemonade stand on the lawn. She and her five-year-old business partner were zipped up in parkas and wearing gloves.

“It’s really healthy for you,” she continued. Her skeptical interviewer was heard to ask, “What’s in it?”

“We have ice and sugar and water, and we mix it up. That’s how we make lemonade.”

Um. Where’s the lemon, I wondered? Well, if truth in advertising laws apply here, she was just being brutally honest. Let’s face it, there’s not really any lemon in powdered lemonade mixes either. And at twenty-six degrees, they probably just stirred water and sugar until it made its own ice. Clever. That made me want to catch the first flight out to Kentucky and buy a cup of genuine, authentic, we-told-you-it’s-just-sugar-and-water lemonade. I like supporting the American dream.

“How much is your lemonade?” they were asked next.

The little redheaded tycoon paused a second to calculate the cost of her overhead, personnel, 401K contributions, local and federal taxes, advertising fees, and ingredients before she answered the question.

“Five dollars and twenty-four cents,” she said with confidence.

So, they knew their competition and decided to undercut Starbucks by a nickel or two. The interviewer had to do her job, though, and find out whether they were selling a tall, a grande, or a venti cup of lemonade so potential buyers could make an informed decision.
“How big is your cup?”

The clever redhead wasn’t prepared for the question, but didn’t want to wing it. She leaned over and inspected the dixie cup.

“Five inches,” she said.

At that point, the interviewer noticed the quiet five-year-old fidgeting in her chair. Obviously, she was the silent partner and had nothing to say. Right up until her older sister pointed out the barren money jar on their makeshift table, and suddenly she found her voice. 
“We want to raise money to buy Play Doh!” she exclaimed.
“But we’ve only had two people,” the redhead added plaintively. “No one’s coming.”
Yeah, well, the twenty-six degree temps may have thrown them a curve ball there.

I’m thinking they may need the advice of an experienced marketing consultant. Somebody who could explain the principle of supply and demand. But, of course, that would cost money and alter the bottom line and, the next thing you know, they’d have to raise their prices and Starbucks would edge them out. It’s just dog eat dog out there in the business world.
Ten minutes into the venture, they were ready to wrap up their advertising. They finished with a friendly, “Bye!” and waved their mittens at the camera phone and their four viewers.
In the end, they made $1.83 in loose change, donated by their dad, to pay for the two cups purchased by their mom. I guess that might be another problem with their pop-up stand. They only sold two cups of lemonade and are already short $8.65. Now they need to hire a bookkeeper.
I’m starting to worry a little about the solvency of this business, and whether or not I really want to fly to Kentucky in December to buy a five-dollar cup of lemonade. I may give this one a pass while I consider selling off all my stock in their company. I think they need a little more experience. Do some more homework. Find some more investors who are passionate about their business. Stuff like that—you know, Shark Tank advice.
In the meantime, I’ll keep watching for future episodes. And I’ll let you know if they decide to open a Hot Chocolate stand there in July.
I think that one could be the real money maker.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

YaYa's Gift

Laughter is the best medicine. The very BEST medicine. I heard about a man who found out he had terminal something or other, and decided that if his days were numbered, he’d go out laughing. He rented every funny movie ever made, watched them all day long for the rest of his life, and when the time came for him to stand at the pearly gates, he’d outlived his doctors.

True story. I read it on the internet.

My favorite kind of humor is the sarcastic kind. To prove it, I plaster seasonal sarcasms all over our refrigerator. Right now, at the end of the Christmas holidays, you can find a magnet there announcing that all my friends are flakes, another that lists my emergency contact number as Starbucks, and—my favorite of all—a Christmas card with a depiction of Jesus’ mom, babe in arms, astride a donkey while her husband walks beside her. On her left, each riding their own animals, are two moms who stare down at the holy virgin in disapproval. “Well! If it isn’t Joseph and Mary . . .” one woman’s word bubble reads. Across the rear ends of the two camels where the women are seated are these bumper stickers: 

Our Son Is An Honor Student


Our Son Is In Medical School    

Mary’s mount has a bumper sticker on his hindquarters, too.  

Our Son Is God

“YaYa,” my young granddaughter, Allie, asked me a few years ago when I first put the card on the fridge. “Is that sarcasm?”

Well, of course.

“Oh,” she said, her forehead wrinkled, and her head turned to the side as she looked at me. “I don’t get it.”

That Christmas, I gave Allie and her little sister, Juliet, each a mini snow globe with tiny Disney figurines inside. They loved shaking them up and down while wet, white snowflakes cascaded slowly over the famous mice. Suddenly, Allie’s little globe slipped out of her hand and crashed onto our tile floor, exploding into a hundred soggy pieces.

“Hey, look at that,” I announced, trying to curtail the inevitable tears. “You found a way to set Minnie free!”

It didn’t exactly work. Allie still didn’t understand sarcasm, and my attempt at humor did nothing for her broken heart. I hugged her tight and told her I’d replace the globe. Which I did—because I promised and because I am the YaYa. A few days later I took her the new one, a less favorite version of a Disney figurine. She thanked me politely, and an hour later her mother texted me that Allie accidently dropped that one, too. This time Daisy Duck was released into the wild.

“Pretty rough week for snow globes,” I said. Sarcastically.

“Yeah,” my daughter agreed. “Better stick to the plastic ones next time,” she said. Pragmatically.

So, the next Christmas, I bought everybody one of those half-oval shaped plastic globes which are practical but not nearly as adorable. They were politely shaken a few times and then disappeared somewhere in the girls’ room, never to be seen again.

“We like the little glass ones better, YaYa,” the two girls said.

“Well, if I buy you new glass globes,” I suggested with a twinkle in my eye, “why don’t we just throw them onto the tile floor right away and get the breaking over with? It could be our new Christmas tradition!”

Juliet, the family comedian, exploded with laughter while Allie smiled in confusion and stared at me the same way she’d looked at the card on my refrigerator. “Is that sarcasm?” she asked politely.

Two years went by and I forgot about the hapless snow globes. This Christmas, Allie and Juliet once again brought up how much they like the mini versions. “I wish we had one of those,” Allie said wistfully.

Well, what’s a YaYa to do? I bought them each another one—the tiny, glass kind. The girls held them carefully as they left my house, promising not to drop them.

“Oh, don’t worry about it if you do,” I said. “Remember our tradition? Throw them right on the floor and skip all the stress?”

“Very funny, YaYa,” Juliet said, while Allie grinned and gave me that “grandmothers are so weird” look.

Yesterday we celebrated Christmas with the girls and the rest of their family. In the kitchen, I caught the girls looking at the card on our refrigerator. “That’s sarcasm,” Allie told Juliet. I patted my heart as I watched. She takes after her YaYa, I thought.

We spent the next hour opening presents, until it came time for the last one. With a twinkle in her eyes, Allie gave it to me. “I made this for you, YaYa,” she said.

I’m a sucker for homemade gifts from grandbabies. In the off season when the Christmas magnets are hibernating, the fridge is decorated with crayon love notes made of construction paper. I figured I’d been given another masterpiece like those.  But tearing off the wrapping paper, I found myself holding three ziplock bags, one inside the other, the innermost containing something runny. It was going to be a challenge to stick this on the refrigerator, I thought.

I began to undo the outside ziplock, but Juliet and her dad stopped me. “I wouldn’t open that if I were you,” they both said. Now my forehead was wrinkled. A giggle escaped from Allie as she shared a conspiratorial look with her family. That’s when I realized what she’d done. Inside the triple-stacked ziplocks were glittery water, a floating angel, and the broken remnants of a clear glass ball.

“See?!” Allie laughed. “You don’t have to throw it on the floor—we already broke it for you!”

Pure genius. I wish I’d thought of it first. She’s got a bright future ahead of her, that one, either as a multi-level marketing tycoon or the first doctor to prescribe comedy instead of valium. But whatever she does, I hope she gives credit where credit is due.

After all, I’m the one who taught her sarcasm.

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Shiny and gold, adorned by a thin, metallic crown, a satin cord looped through the clasp at the top. It was just a little too big for her small hands, but if she stood on her tippy, tippy toes she knew she could hang it in just . . . exactly the right . . . place . . .

The sound of shattered glass echoed in the room as the ornament exploded into dozens of pieces at her feet. With tears in her eyes, she looked up into the face of the older woman, wishing someone else had dropped the ball. Her grandmother, a veteran of many Christmases and even more decorations fallen victim to gravity, gathered her granddaughter in her arms, gave laughter as consolation, and whispered in the little girl’s ear, “Don’t worry. It happens all the time. Let’s just pick up the pieces.”

The middle aged wife stood staring out the window a week before Christmas, and watched him drive away. He lied. He left. She was alone, the fragments of her heart lying on the floor at her feet. It happens all the time, she thought. But today there was no one to help pick up the pieces.

Seated bedside by the love of his life, he watched helplessly as she slipped out of his grasp, one breath at a time. It would be the first Christmas he’d ever spent without her. His pragmatic side reminded him that it happens all the time. But this time he was the one whose life lay in pieces.

She kept the secret for years, until courage overtook fear, and a little girl’s voice was finally heard. “You’re free now,” some said. It was true. And it wasn’t. Like a window into her past had exploded in her face, now she dealt with the wounds, one piece of glass at a time, usually when she was alone. Still, it was a common story, even at Christmas. It happens all the time.


The crooner sings that “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.” But for many, it is not. If only Santa really did visit every little boy and girl, instead of skipping over the houses where hunger rules. If only hospitals went bankrupt for lack of business, especially each December. If only suffering would leave us all alone at Christmas.

Perhaps if we chose not to love. To stay safe. Protect our hearts so they’re never broken like a fallen Christmas decoration. What was it C.S. Lewis said? “To love at all is to be vulnerable.” I hate being vulnerable. It means I can’t keep my back to the wall anymore. It means trusting someone else to watch it for me. And that can be terrifying, especially if you have scars because someone once abandoned their watch over you.

“Love anything,” Lewis wrote, “and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken.” Even if your heart is loved well, cherished like a fragile ornament, there is still great risk in loving—and being loved. The only way to keep your heart intact, he said, is to give it “to no one, not even to an animal . . . avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.” But in that coffin, he warns, while you will have guaranteed your heart will not be broken, it will still change. It will become “unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

Oh, my. Those are choices?

Was it always like this? Meant to be this way? The sovereign plan of a heartless Creator? I assure you, it was not. Suffering was not God’s idea. Neither was isolation. We were meant to reign with Him, our hearts one with His. We are the objects of His intense, extravagant love. If things had gone according to plan—hold onto your hats here—there would never have even been a Christmas.

See, we’re not the only ones who experience suffering. It’s not really fair, either, when you stop to think about it. It wasn’t God’s idea for his perfect creation to collapse right in front of him. He wasn’t the one to dream up arguments and hatred and wars and death. He’s the one who wept at the tomb of his best friend, Lazarus, remember?

The first Christmas was the first step toward the winning back of what was stolen from Him. It wasn’t the kind of plan I would have come up with, but then again, I’m not God. He’s the one who takes weak things—like newborn babes—to confound the mighty—like genocidal kings. But it was a strategy that cost Him everything. By coming down to our level, he entered into our suffering. He is the Man of Sorrows, despised and rejected by mankind, intimately familiar with grief. “In all of their afflictions,” Isaiah wrote, “He was afflicted. And He lifted them and carried them.”

He lifted us? Why would He do that? It was our problem. Our mistake. Our sin. He could have walked away from His failed experiment of humanity, satisfied by the consolation prize of an impersonal universe and the sound of perpetually obedient waterfalls. So why didn’t He just give up on us?

Maybe because Love is never contained.

God risked having His own heart shattered when he became human and identified with us. Did it break? Of course. Why else was Jesus called the Man of Sorrows, intimately familiar with grief? He held nothing back when He came to us in Bethlehem. That’s the real Christmas story—that God “would rather die than live without us.”

I am blown away by the realization that Jesus feels my every sorrow, knows my every heartache, fingers the outlines of my scars, and kisses away every tear that falls. But the only way He could ever do that was by coming down to my level and entering into my suffering with me.

Emmanuel. Every moment, He is God With Us—in joy, in grief, in celebration. He is with us. Picking up the pieces, holding us together, refusing to abandon us.

We’re not accustomed to that. But I assure you, that’s Who God is. That’s how He loves.

It happens all the time.

Isaiah 53:3
Isaiah 63:9
Isaiah 61:1
Hebrews 4:15

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Top Secret

I found the secret. 

It’s unbelievably simple. So primitive, my grandmother should have shared it with me. But she was a lousy cook and probably didn’t know about it, either. For sure she didn’t have access to Pinterest, The-Source-Of-All-Secrets-Worth-Knowing.

Which is where I found it, of course.

I want you to know I’ve spent at least the last fifty years of my life looking for this secret. I’ve spent countless hours experimenting with other guaranteed techniques which all had one thing in common—a failure rate of 100%. It was practically a waste of time.

But I’m no quitter.

Maybe nobody knew the secret. Or they did know it but kept it to themselves. Unbelievable. It’s like a government plot or something. “Don’t tell middle America the secret or they’ll stop depending on us,” they probably whispered to one another. That’s the most pathetic thing I think I’ve ever heard. Or read.

Or written.

Why on earth would the government be involved in a conspiracy theory about something so trivial? Don’t they have enough trouble on their hands, between keeping one eye on North Korea and the other one on Republicans furious over healthcare? Yes. But maybe this isn’t trivial. Maybe this is the answer to world hunger. The key to world peace. The correct question in Final Jeopardy.

You’re dying to know, aren’t you? What? You quit reading two minutes ago?

Fine. I’ll skip the rest of the buildup and just give it to you straight. Bummer. I had a sequel planned and everything.

I learned how to boil eggs.

Hey! Where are you going? This is going to be amazing!

Listen, I have an entire page on Pinterest dedicated to all the tricks people use to peel hardboiled eggs so that what you’re left with actually looks like a smooth, oval egg and not a handful of white, rubbery confetti. And none of those ideas work. I tried them all.

Vinegar in the boiling water? Smelly and pointless.

Salt in the water? Morton is rolling over in his grave.

Baking soda in the water? Please. That’s for amateurs.

I’m almost giddy now with the suspense I’ve created here. You’re never gonna guess in a million years the way to boil eggs so their crunchy jackets slip off like butter. Go ahead. Try. I’ll wait.

What? You went to my Pinterest page—without me? You already found out how to do it? I can’t believe it. That’s just so . . . smart.

So what do you think? Crazy, right? I’m telling you the truth—it's the only way to cook them. I’ve done it half a dozen times now, it’s worked like a charm, with only two self-conscious eggs who wouldn’t come out of their shells, and I am happy to tell you we’re eating deviled eggs at our house again. Just for the heck of it.

Because hard boiled eggs are so simple now, they should start calling them over easy.

Who knew that the secret for easy-to-peel eggs is to steam them. Right. I forgot. The government did. Well, the secret’s hatched now, big brother. Put those chickens in your basket and count them. Or something like that.

I’m voting Pinterest for President.

Easy To Peel Hard Boiled Eggs:  Put one to two inches of hot water in a soup pot. Place a vegetable steamer in the pot. Place one to two dozen eggs in the steamer basket. Eggs should not be submerged in water. Bring water to a rolling boil, cover the pot with the lid, and lower the heat to medium high. Steam the eggs for 12-15 minutes for hard yolks or 6-8 minutes for soft yolks. After steaming, immediately place the eggs in an ice bath to halt cooking. When the eggs are cool, either peel them or store them in the fridge to peel later. Either way, the eggs shells will slip right off after cracking. Use a little running water if you need to.

And if you want to know why this works, here’s the link to the article where I learned about it:

I feel like a regular Ambassador for Eggs after all this. And that's no yolk.

Thanks, Marcin, for your heroic photograph. Your secret footage is safe with me. Us. The original photo above, graciously on loan, can be viewed at

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Last Straw

What does the last straw look like?

It looks just like the first. Small, lightweight, no big deal. Blow it off with a puff of air and attitude. The second one looks identical. Then the third and thirty-third. Gradually it gets worse. Pretend you're surrounded by amber waves of grain. Aside from a lot of sneezing, everything seems fine. This is the only normal you’ve ever known so you don’t realize the danger you’re in. 

After all, you still have a brain. 

But let’s say you get stuck there, right in the center of Kansas inside your very own cyclone. It's so windy now it makes the rest of Tornado Alley seem like a summer breeze. If you’re resilient, you can handle it - that’s what all those child psychologists say, anyway. But maybe they didn’t grow up standing in the middle of hay field like you did. Maybe resilience isn’t the antidote to suffocation. Just look at you. You’re completely covered up by a mountain of chaff, barely breathing. If you’re very careful, you can still inhale a little oxygen through tightly pursed lips, though.

That’s when it happens. The last straw.

Though a tiny, little piece of you can still be seen through the beige decoupage silencing your voice, speaking up is out of the question. All you care about now is remembering how to breathe.

“If I stand very still,” you think to yourself, “the chaff will fall off on its own.”

That’s when you’re glad you can’t talk, since anyone hearing that comment would think you didn’t have a brain.

“Surely the wind tunnel I’ve always lived in will blow this stuff away . . . eventually . . .” 

But it doesn’t. It’s as though straw is magnetic and you’re the Tin Man. It’s heartless. Sorry. I couldn’t help myself.

You have become a living mound of straw. Not because you love the feel of it. Not because you deserve it. Not because you are afraid to escape it. But because it is bigger than you. Survival is your only option. Breathing your only luxury.

Until the last straw. The final nail in your grassy coffin. The piece that found your only connection to the outside world and covered it up, covered you up, threatened to smother you.

But you. Brave little you. You refused to be suffocated.

For a minute there, you thought you were a goner. Everybody did. Everyone thought the last straw would be the most powerful piece, the one to take you down, shut you up, bury you. Instead, the last piece was the one to empower you to speak up, push back, dig your way out, and refuse to stop breathing.

That's when the wind blew harder. But now you knew what to do. You turned around. You faced the other direction. You kept your back to the wind and watched the straw blow past you as you walked away from the hay field where you once were stuck. 

It took a million little pieces to glue you to the ground. It took one last piece to set you free.

Thank God for the last straw.

Thanks to Karmatosed for the photograph at the top of the page. Love it. You can view the original at