I’m the person who, when she sees a coin on the sidewalk, picks it up. It’s a habit from my grandfather, who always collected loose change and put them into jars labeled by the year. Like him, I don’t believe in the heads-up or heads-down having any bearing on your luck; I know that when I find a coin, it’s a little gift from the universe—a pleasant surprise. 

When I was a kid, I could easily picture myself as a mom. I didn’t always know what I wanted to do. Although I was certain that books would be part of it, I always knew I wanted to be a mom. Maybe because my mom just seemed so…good at it. She had four kids with a husband who was often away for long periods, yet she somehow managed to make it look effortless. As an adult and a mom, I actually find that sentence insulting. Today, most women want others to recognize and celebrate all the effort that goes into raising a family. 

But as a kid, when I conjured up that picture of me as a mom, I did not expect to see two little red-haired boys. My husband likes to say that he was born with red hair, but it only lasted a couple of months. So when my first son came out with red hair, I was shocked. When the second came out the same way, I genuinely thought my husband was joking. That announcement–It’s a boy, and he has red hair!–was my first lesson in the pleasant surprises that make up motherhood. It may not have been what I had imagined, but goodness, that’s some gorgeous hair.

Photo credit: Arielle Joffe

I always saw myself as a mother–I imagined four (or more!) kids, and now my heart is perfectly full with two. I envisioned my life would revolve around books–I chose “writer” as my profession in my fifth grade yearbook, and now I share my love of language with my students as a high school English teacher. I’ve taken up writing again and have written two manuscripts for young readers that I hope to publish someday. There are so many images from my life –graduating from the University of Michigan, holding two master’s degrees, meeting my husband on Match.com, living walking distance from my job–that I never could have seen when I pictured my life as a child. Still, I am grateful for all of life’s pleasant surprises because, eventually, they all add up.

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Juliana is an English teacher, aspiring novelist, and mother to redheaded sons. (No, her husband doesn't have red hair. Yes, it was a surprise!) She grew up in Scarsdale and now teaches at her rival high school - Mamaroneck - where she also lives with her (brown-haired) husband, Mike, and their two (orange-haired, according to Noah) sons, Noah (2016) and Simon (2019). When she has a free moment (haha) she is reading something: YA Romance, humorous essays, poetry, thrillers, student work, and, sometimes, her own works-in-progress.


  1. From my grandfather I have the habit of perking up when I hear a favorite song . A habit passed down to his son , my father, passed down to my children. Life’s pleasant moments add up to our best selves

  2. Very nice piece. It opened a window to who you are and made readers eager to know where you’re going.

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