Unsolicited Advice: What I Would Put in a Fortune Cookie

As you can probably guess, I like to write. I didn’t learn this about myself until I was maybe 22, when I moved to Romania. A former teacher of mine–whose husband runs my hometown newspaper–asked if I’d write a monthly column about life overseas that would run in the paper. I relished composing that column for the George County Times during my entire year living in eastern Europe as a missionary.

A few years ago, I discovered that there are people who actually work as writers creating fortunes for fortune cookies. What a job, I thought. I could write those! So if I were to write fortune-cookie fortunes, here are some I might pen.

“You can’t swing the bat with your butt on your shoulders.” When I lived in Starkville, Mississippi, I became friends with a family at church. Turns out the husband and wife had formerly lived in my hometown; the husband had gone to school with my mama. Once they asked me to join them at their son’s baseball game. During the game, one of the players apparently approached home plate with a bad attitude and then struck out. As that boy walked toward the dugout, I heard my friend murmur beside me, You can’t swing the bat with your butt on your shoulders. Attitude matters, as we all know. I think this statement kind of sums that up.

“Food that is given to you tastes better than food you have to steal.” This quote comes from a book I read this past summer. It’s the biography of a girl who’s kidnapped and later ends up surviving in the jungles of South America. The statement about stealing vs. receiving literally deals with food. But I think it applies to much more:  love, relationship, affirmation. If you’ve ever felt you had to grasp and grab for attention and tenderness, I think you know what I mean.


“Sometimes you get what you get.” During one of my last few days living in Romania, a friend took me out to eat lunch. Another woman joined us, and the 3 of us headed to a Chinese restaurant in the center of the city where we lived.

During this trip to the Chinese restaurant with friends, I asked for what I typically ordered there:  fried rice with shrimp. Sarah and Vickie ordered their food, and we drank hot tea while we waited. When our server Monica (I knew her from my previous visits to this restaurant) placed my order on the table, I noticed bits of slightly curled something–something meat-like, with little suckers on it–cuddled up to the carrots and egg in my fried rice. Squid, I thought.

This dish didn’t contain squid, at least not according to the menu or to my past experience eating this at least half a dozen times. But I also noticed the shrimp seemed to be missing from my fried rice plate. I concluded that the kitchen must have been out of shrimp, and so the chef had replaced it with squid–without asking the customer, of course. I never considered pointing out this “mistake” to Monica, or asking her why I had bits of squid instead of shrimp nestled in my rice. By this time, I knew–in eastern Europe (at least back then), you get what you get. And sometimes in life, you get what you get. There were no fortune cookies offered at this restaurant, but that would have been an apt phrase to find on a piece of paper hidden inside one.

There it is, y’all:  some unasked-for advice from a would-be fortune cookie writer.calvin-and-allison-bike-parade-2011


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