I saw a recipe for coconut macaroons the other day, and it reminded me of the time the kids and I cracked open a real, honest-to-goodness coconut. It was probably a decade ago, and Wal-Mart had the fuzzy fruits for $1.50 each. The kids looked at me with those big, pleading eyes, so I figured, why not? It’ll be fun.

Famous last words.

We got the coconut home, and the kids took turns shaking it, listening to the liquid inside. I didn’t have a clue how to crack the thing open, and now I imagined pictures of coconut milk spilled all over my freshly mopped floor. Then I noticed a little tag on the coconut.

There were instructions.

I never bought fruit with instructions before.

The tag said, “Drain milk through soft eye.” I knew potatoes had eyes, but not coconuts. I located three eyes; none of them felt soft. But, genius that I am, I got a screwdriver, and voila! Two of the holes punched right open.

But the milk doesn’t just pour out. You have to shake it. And while shaking, you have to try not to splash it on everything. I felt a little like a priest splashing holy water across my kitchen, and briefly considered converting to Catholicism. But I’d be a terrible Catholic for so many reasons, so I pushed the thought away and continued my endeavor.

I had a coconut milk bath and wondered if there’s anti-aging stuff in there; the clean-up might be worth it. Then, we each tried some of the clear liquid. Why did I think it would be white, like cow’s milk?

Next, the instructions said, “Pound open at groove.” Sure enough, there was a groove around the entire circumference of the coconut. Do they grow that way, or did somebody put that there?

I pounded it on the counter.

Nothing.

I pounded it with the screwdriver.

Nothing.

I pounded it with a hammer.

Still nothing.

Finally, my brilliant, eleven-year-old daughter suggested I pound it with the claw end of the hammer. I gave it a try. I pounded and pounded and before long, crrrrrraaaaaack! We were successful.

I thought my work was done, but I was wrong. Getting the milk out was easy, and pounding it open was a piece of cake compared to the next phase.

The meat of the coconut (did you know it is called meat?) is sealed inside, apparently with super glue. I looked at the tag. No more instructions. I was on my own.

I spent the better part of an hour getting that white meat loose from the shell, tiny piece by tiny piece. The kids were long gone, playing happily in the backyard, while their dear mother slaved away on the coconut that they had so desperately wanted. By the time I finished, I had little furry coconut hairs all over my clothes, my hands were sore, and I wondered what lunatic had taken over my body when I agreed to buy the darn thing.

But then, I tasted it. Now, if your only experience with coconut has been the little tiny shredded things that come in a bag, you are missing out! This stuff is sweet and delicious, and tastes very little like the furry white stuff that sits on top of a cake. After sampling a bite, I wanted some more, and then a little more. All that work was definitely worth it.

The best things in life rarely come without hard work. Whether it’s a great marriage, a successful career, or a long-lasting friendship, the good stuff never comes easy. There will be frustrating moments and sore spots. The progress will often come slow, tiny bit by tiny bit.

But if we hang in there and keep chipping away, we’ll eventually reap the benefits of our labor. And the success earned from endurance and hard work is always sweeter than the easy, store-bought variety. In spite of the rough spots and the mess, the end result is always worth the effort.

Renae Brumbaugh Green is a bestselling author and award-winning humor columnist. She lives in Stephenville with her handsome, country-boy husband, nearly-perfect children, and far too many animals. Connect with Renae at www.RenaeBrumbaugh.com.