Friday, January 25, 2013

Two of My Favorite Things

I love love love the Modern Love column in the New York Times. Eve Pell's essay "The Race Grows Sweeter Near Its Final Lap," posted online Thursday, January 24, 2013, and appearing in the Sunday print edition on January 27th, is an affecting portrait of late-in-life love...with fortune cookies! 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Perfectionist Tendencies

You may have noticed I've been scarce around these parts. It's been almost four months since my last post. Forgive me, readers. The combination of regularly eating Chinese food in restaurants that don't offer fortune cookies (what?), a time-consuming job that I love, and settling into my new home result in little blog material and even less time to post it.

But today my colleagues and I had lunch at one of the only places I've found in this town that does offer fortune cookies, and I must say my insert was right on target:

"You have a yearning for perfection."

The evidence? That misplaced hyphen bothers me so much that I left the not-a-fortune on the table. I don't ever want to see it again.

I hope you're all well and celebrating the new year. Give it all you've got. Make the most of it. Do all those things you've been meaning to do. 

If you miss me here, you can find me on TwitterFacebook, and Tumblr. Just because I'm not here doesn't mean I'm gone.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Fortune Cookie Poetics

I had the great fortune (ha!) to attend Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey's inaugural reading last night at the Library of Congress. I was there on behalf of my employer, but it was such fun that I'm having trouble defining it as "work." Poet Sandra Beasley was among the many literary luminaries I met, and she told me about a project she did in celebration of 2010's National Poetry Month. "The Ways of Poetry" is a video that "offers a fortune-cookie guide" to the art. It's clever. I think my favorite is "Your infinite capacity for patience will be rewarded sooner or later in poetry."

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Pleasant Surprises of Life

Hello, those of you who are still reading this mostly defunct blog. (So basically my mother. Hi, Mom.) I have a backlog of inserts from friends and readers, which I promise I will post soon. In the meantime, my friend V, whom I miss very much, sent this from Austin:

"May life throw you a pleasant curve."

An actual fortune -- and an optimistic one at that! V and I both welcome "pleasant" surprises. What about you?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Funky Hyphens and Not-a-Fortune Poetry

Remember the colleague I described in my last post, the one who edited his cookie insert as he read it aloud? His edits came in a different form last Friday when we returned to Taiwan Garden, as he read his awkwardly hyphenated not-a-fortune and then opined, "That's a funky hyphen. I don't think you can do that....Maybe if it's a poem. Moouuuth..." My colleagues are nothing if not entertaining.

"An angry man opens his mou(-)th and shuts up his eyes."
"You have an usually magnetic personality."

In other news, I have an unusually magnetic personality. I can't decide if this is a good thing. Those smiley faces look menacing to me.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Fortune Cookie Mad Libs

My colleagues and I have lunch together once or twice a week. Since these outings are not planned in advance, we tend to frequent the same three establishments that are within a couple of miles of the office, two of which specialize in sandwiches. Two weeks ago, someone had the idea that we should branch out and try a Chinese restaurant called Dragon Lady. It is also nearby, and when we pulled into the parking lot we noticed an absence of vehicles, a distinctly negative sign at lunchtime in our collective opinion. Luckily, just down the street there is another Chinese restaurant, Taiwan Garden, and we decided to try our luck with it. I can't say our choice was affirmed when we walked into an empty dining room.

Taiwan Garden has an extensive (and inexpensive) lunch menu, and the server brought three fortune cookies with the check. When my colleague began to read his insert aloud and said, "I think they meant to add 'the' here, so I'm just going to do it for them," I interjected, "You know you're having lunch with an editor when..."

Dissatisfied with our not-a-fortunes (and who could blame him?), my other colleague tore the inserts in half and attempted to rework them in more interesting ways.

Above, the original not-a-fortunes:
"He who hurries cannot walk with dignity."
"The best profit of future is the past."
"You like participating in competitive sports."

Below, fortune cookie mad libs:

Have you thought of anything creative to do with your fortune cookie inserts lately?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Belly Dancing through the Broken Pieces: Cristina's Third Guest Post

I promised to follow the last post with a third guest post from Cristina, whose first two posts can be read by clicking the links below:

I hope this installment will move you as much as the first two did. (Her posts receive more comments than most of mine.)


I’ve been called ‘passionate.’  This might be code for something else, but I’ll go with it.  I am fiercely blue-flamed passionate.  And yet, I somehow feel a need to subdue this passion in order to fit in the world around me.  It makes me feel restless.  Stifled.

My pregnancy was hard on my body.  Months of on-and-off bed rest, two months of constant labor, then finally a C-section that came early.  I almost died in the procedure and my baby girl spent time in NICU.  Recovery was slow for both of us, and when the dust settled we discovered my right hip was blown.  Too much weight and strain on too little of a body frame. 

I hobbled around like an old lady for months.  I felt crimped both physically and emotionally.  My passion dwindled in all areas except for my family.  My children didn’t mind if I stuttered around or took longer to stand up.  My son didn’t notice if my hip gave out.  My baby wouldn’t mind if I couldn’t run anymore.

But I noticed.  And I minded.  I didn’t feel whole anymore.  Physical therapy only helped my hip a little bit, but I still had a great deal of pain.  I still felt as if I couldn’t be the same person I was before I had the baby.  My body was different, obviously; how could it not be?  I had baby weight, I was nursing, I had an old lady hip… but I also felt different.  For so many months I had to avoid being emotionally engaged in order to protect the baby and myself, and now it was as if I couldn’t remember how to embrace myself again. 

I didn’t feel like physical therapy was helping me.  And so I continued to do my exercises at home but stopped going in to the therapist.  Writing was at a standstill, too.  I stopped playing around with photography.  I threw myself in as a mom, and enjoyed every second of it.  I went to bed at night feeling a phantom itch but with no amputations.  My passion wasn’t being used up and my body could feel it.

Without thought into it, I enrolled in belly dancing classes.  I felt tremendously insecure in the first set of classes.  My pregnancy had enabled my depression and agoraphobia, so throwing myself into a dance class with strangers was difficult.  And yet, I also felt at ease there.  My body felt at home in the movements.  With each isolation and curve of my hip, I began to feel better.  My hip loosened up.  The tightness in my chest began to unwind. 

With each set of classes, I began to let go of things from the past.  Belly dancing is a dance of radiating light.  The dance position is one to project light and positivity even from our fingertips.  I could feel it.  My fears from the past, the negativity and sorrows, began to drop from me.  My hip began to feel stronger.  My passionate self began to assert itself again.  Without realizing it, I started to feel whole once more.

I am now in an intermediate class.  My instructor asked me why I had chosen to continue with belly dancing and I told her about my hip and physical therapy not doing much for me.  I explained how my hip feels stronger after dance.  She looked into me (not at me) and said, “I understand, dancing fixed all my broken pieces, too.”  I thought about that as I drove home that night, turning her words over and over in my mind. All my broken pieces – there are many – have dance on my hips along with my coins.  I hadn’t noticed that there seemed to be more coins than broken pieces as each week passed.  I hear her words with every practice now.

It wasn’t even a week later that I received this fortune:  
"Stay close to your inner self. You will benefit in many ways."

How wise.  When I swayed from my true passionate self, I had been in my most pain, physically and emotionally.  I felt the most lost.  When I found my passionate self again, through dancing, I was able to let go of many things that were hurting me.  My broken pieces became whole again.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Lot of Small Pieces of Paper (& Eggplant)

This post hopes to achieve two goals: 1) clear the backlog of cookie inserts people have sent me; and 2) encourage you to check back this weekend, when my friend Cristina will guest blog for the third time - a Not-a-Fortune record. Here are Cristina's first two posts: Elephant Kissing & Defying the Stars (2010) and Revisiting Elephant Kissing (2011). They are both compelling, emotional reads.

Since my last post, I visited Peter Chang's China Grill. Calvin Trillin profiled the chef/owner in this 2010 New Yorker piece. I tried the dry-fried eggplant, one of the most popular appetizers:
It was spicy and flavorful, and, as the photo depicts, a meal all by itself. Peter Chang's food is meant to be shared.

I ate there on a Friday night, alone, after leaving work and driving around for over an hour. I couldn't decide where I wanted to eat dinner, had trouble finding parking downtown, and then got a little bit lost, at which point I texted a friend, "I got lost and ended up at the jail," (true story, though a more accurate text might have read "I'm driving past the jail"). My next text: "And now I'm at a graveyard. I wish I was kidding." It finally occurred to me that I should just go to Peter Chang's, even though it was in the opposite direction and near my office, which meant that I could have saved myself an hour of driving had I thought of it earlier. I was so hungry (and thirsty) when I got there and then so satisfied when I left that it didn't occur to me until later that they don't even have fortune cookies. #fortunecookiebloggerfail

I did leave with a small piece of paper that had letters and numbers on it and now I can't go back there unaccompanied, but that's a post for another kind of blog. Really this story is just a long-winded, fortune cookie-less way of saying I shouldn't be left alone on a Friday night. Or ever. It's also a reminder about the dangers of not having a food plan. ALWAYS HAVE A FOOD PLAN.

My co-worker and new friend Jane (a digital media rockstar- check out her site here) tried Ni Hao, where they do offer fortune cookies:
"April showers, brings May flowers."
"A healthy mind, is a healthy body."

As Jane noted when she shared the "extremely disappointing" not-a-fortunes with me, the comma usage is interesting. Did you know commas belong between the subjects and verbs?

At the end of the quarter, my good friend Amy's company catered lunch from P.F. Chang's (it was a big ruse to keep those worker bees at their desks for an extra hour). Given the context, isn't this fortune appropriate?
"Advancement will come with hard work. Many new friends will soon be attracted to your friendly and charming ways."

My childhood best friend sent this proverbial not-a-fortune:
"A wise lumberjack always has a sharp saw."

Wise words indeed.

Hippiechick's co-worker's joke that she gets the worst not-a-fortunes, this one included:
"You are not illiterate."

Don't you just love a cookie insert that insults your intelligence? #sensethesarcasm

My friend V sent me this not-a-fortune (thanks, V, as if I needed another reason to miss you and Austin!):
"Only love lets us see normal things in an extraordinary way."

Maybe by "extraordinary" they mean "inaccurate" or "ridiculous."

Finally, here are three cookie inserts from a childhood friend of mine (I last wrote about him here):
 "Show your true face to the people who really matter."

 "If you judge people, you have no time to love them."

"Failure is the Mother of Success."
(And apparently Mother and Success are people, judging by the capitalization. Oh, wait, did I just judge Mother and Success? Does that mean I have no time to love them?)

A big THANK YOU to everyone whose cookie inserts appear in this post. I love that you think to share your fortunes and not-a-fortunes with me.

Monday, June 18, 2012

On Moving, (Not) Camping, Courage, & Character

Not long after I wrote this post about how my efforts to procure a cookie insert ended with identical not-a-fortunes, my friend Val and her husband opened two fortune cookies to reveal these: 

"Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence."

Not only are those also identical not-a-fortunes, we've featured that insert here before. [See the post "Thoughts?" from 2010. It has a record number of comments (which is eight but that is neither here nor there).]

My last post included a brief mention of a cross-country move and it's true; I've left Austin for the East Coast. The weeks leading up to my departure were busy and while I managed to collect quite a few cookie inserts, I was not good about recording the details of their origins. Here they are, with what I remember about them when possible.

"A house without books is like a room without windows."

This is another repeat not-a-fortune. I received this last fall, ironically on the weekend of the Texas Book Festival when I was in a self-imposed lockdown in my office and the celebration of books and writing was happening at the Capitol mere minutes from me. This time, I opened a fortune cookie and found this insert as I was on my way to rid my storage unit of as many books (and files, etc.) as possible. Once again, the irony was not lost on me.

In May, my mother gave me a bag of fortune cookies. It wasn't in celebration of my birthday, which doesn't occur until the fall, but it did contain thirty-two cookies, specifically because I'm thirty-two years old. Thanks, Mom. This somewhat disturbing not-a-fortune is one of those:

"Adversity is the prosperity of the great."

Great. Awesome. Perfect.

I think this insert also came from that bag, though it could be from the last time I ate China Hill before I left:

"If you work hard, good things will inevitably happen."

What makes me suspicious of this insert is the word on the back: CAMPING. Everyone who knows me knows I love not camping. There is no good reason for me to learn that word in any language, unless it is preceded by not.

The Sunday before I left Texas, I had lunch with my parents at our favorite Chinese restaurant, San Antonio's Hung Fong, where I received this not-a-fortune:

"If you understand what you're doing, you're not learning anything."

I'm an academic and a teacher. Tell me something I don't know, fortune cookie.

Here are all three of our cookie inserts:

My parents' inserts read:
"Look! Good fortune is around you."
"In great attempts it is glorious even to fail."

Truthfully, I would have been happy with any of those as my Texas send-off. Instead, I got the following after a lovely dinner the next night with my friends V and Val at Pao's, the first Chinese restaurant in Austin I really liked:

"Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point."

Without being too philosophical or reflective, I'll just say that moving across the country alone (well, except for The Nickel and The Penny, two dogs who certainly deserve to be included) probably requires more courage than I've been giving myself credit for. But hey, that's what academics do. No biggie.

Less than a week later, I had my first Chinese meal in my new home, after which I received this:
"Good character is more to be praised than outstanding talent."

That's not the most promising beginning to this new phase, to say the least...

To new beginnings!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Photographic Evidence of Cookie Insert Hoarding

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you may have noticed I'm packing for a cross-country move. Here is a snapshot of the cookie inserts I found just today: