Author Linda Sue Park visited and spoke to our school yesterday. Her appealing sense of humor and story-telling engaged her mostly young audience and me.

I like the story Park tells of the Korean fortune telling ritual. It takes place during a baby’s first birthday. I’ll do my best to paraphrase:

The baby sits on a table and placed before the baby are several objects: a pen, a book, a bowl of rice, a spool of thread, money, a plate of cakes. 

If the baby chooses the pen, he or she will be a writer; the book, a teacher. The bowl of rice, and he or she will never want for food; the spool of thread, a long life. Money, and he or she will be rich.

The plate of cakes?  Park pauses.

The baby will grow up to be lazy and never prosper!  (I gasp.)

Who knows whether or not these fortunes are true? 

I can tell you that my brother chose the money. He is a plastic surgeon in New York. Plastic surgeons make a lot of money! Here is the picture to prove it. A picture of Park and her brother as children appears on the screen. He’s holding the money in a chubby raised fist. Aren’t I adorable?! Park jests. Laughter erupts from the audience.

What do you think I chose? The PEN! we cheer.

The pen! That is what my mother says. She says, Linda, I always knew you’d be a writer. But! the author shrieks, there is no picture to prove it!  She shakes her head solemnly and sighs, we will never know for sure.  

You are probably wondering if a baby ever chooses the plate of cakes? Park has wooed her audience. We are all wondering.

As if revealing a secret, she comes closer and leans in. It’s out of reach. It’s out of sight. The parents always hide the plate of cakes! 








Life Changing Decisions

I make a big decision this week. After months of agonizing about it and going back and forth about it, somewhere in the stillness and quiet of the bedroom, my answer is there for me to take. I close my eyes. I breathe and listen to my mind whisper: It doesn’t have to mean less time with your family, less time with your son. The thought lingers, but stubborn as she can be, sleep finally rewards me.

I write the email in the morning.

Made up my mind. Better to tell you in person.

Click. Send.

And just like that, as quickly as google tells me message sent, I’m in his office. My boss smiles at me from behind the desk, anticipating my response. When my mind, breath, and voice reach for the answer it gets stuck. I feel it wedged in the back of my throat. An army of thoughts invade, sent to remove the blockage: I’ll manage my time better. I won’t hold myself to such a high-standard. I can achieve work/life balance.

The blockage splits apart. Piece by piece the fragments slip off my tongue. “I’ll take the lead teaching position. I’ll teach full-time again.”





Stopping Traffic

It feels like a typical weekday morning. I’m running the usual 10 minutes behind schedule. In a minute I’ll rush out the door with wet hair, and inevitably forget something. I’ll hope that it’s not my phone or keys or, worse, coffee.

Driving the snowy, congested city streets to school, there’ll be little concern for what’s about to happen. There’ll be a Starbucks across the street when my car stalls in the busy and impatient lefthand turning lane.

Inside the Starbucks, Archer, who is the same age as my son, will be sitting with his mom at the community table. Sipping my americano, I’ll marvel at his ability to say words like “garbage truck” and “school bus”. My son can’t say those words yet. Anxiety will wrestle my heart, and I’ll remind myself that they all develop at different rates. Still my shallow breaths will leave me spinning in my head for awhile.

“Someone’s car is blocking traffic!” a lady will interrupt as if every costumer and worker has not witnessed the commotion happening outside of the vast storefront windows. The barista will run outside with the yellow cone that reads Caution! Wet Floor and place it behind my car.

“That’s my car,” I’ll admit to Archer’s mom. She’ll be sympathetic as I explain to her that I’m waiting for a tow truck. She’ll turn to Archer and say, “You’re going to love seeing the tow truck pull the car away!”

Sylvester will be here soon. He’s the tow truck driver. He’ll be friendly. He’ll save the day.

As I grip and turn the steering wheel, three pedestrians will appear in my rearview mirror to help Sylvester push it out of the intersection. Their kindness will spark an overwhelming feeling of community that’s been missing inside me. I’ll hold the feeling tightly, and I’ll fight with it when it tries to leave. I’ll turn to look back at the Starbucks and hope to see Archer and his mom watching from the window.

Sylvester will insist that I wait inside the truck while he chains up my car. My fingers and toes will warm up, but my americano will be cold.

Saul, the mechanic, will be out buying parts when we arrive at the garage. He’ll say that it’s fine to leave the car in the lot.

It’ll be time for Sylvester to leave. He’ll give me a concerned look, and I’ll tell him about the diner that I like around the corner.

For a long minute, I’ll stand alone in the small cluttered car lot that feels suddenly and painfully empty. I’ll make a decision to walk past the diner and hop on the blue line train. The train will take me home to my husband and son.


I Heard it on NPR

It was a story about Frank Warren. Maybe you know of him or maybe you heard the story, too? People from all over the world write their secrets on postcards and address and send them to Warren. He posts them here every Sunday. He told Guy Raz the story of the beginning of this idea. How he randomly passed out several self-addressed postcards one day in Washington D.C. and boldly asked people to write their secrets. The response was staggering. Not only did he receive many of those postcards, as people got wind of it,  they made or bought their own postcards and sent them.

But this really isn’t a post about Frank Warren. It’s a post about how Warren’s story and actions have me thinking about writing my secrets. It’s to my relief that people desperately want to write and share their secrets. I’m no longer alone in that feeling.

I wonder if revealing a secret is a part of why I write, or we write? Is there a wish to share pieces of our secret selves through this controlled, thoughtful, and expressive medium?  I don’t think secrets are simple or simply dark, evil, or dirty. I believe there are all kinds of secrets. A secret can be a wish for love. A secret, when told, can heal. A secret said out loud can be a voice for millions who are silenced.

Here is a secret: I’m terrified to write.

Here is another secret: I have a profound desire to write.








On Waking Up Early to Write

I have a twenty month old son. He’s the only reason in 20 months that I wake up early.

Twenty-three months ago, I wake up early nearly every day starving. Craving a honey crisp apple, I quickly quarter it and dip generously into the peanut butter jar propped on my enormous and growing belly.

On June 22nd, 2014, I wake up early bewildered by my first contractions. It’s five days past my due date. I wake my husband. “I think it’s happening.”

In the early morning, after giving birth, I lie exhausted in the hospital bed. The full moon outside the window hovers in the brilliant cityscape. Next to me, swaddled in a blanket, my son’s eyes are open.

It’s early, nearly two years later, and the first day of March. The sky is a wintry black. My son has not stirred yet. I have just a few moments to do what I woke up to do. I start writing.