Thursday, December 18, 2008


Hello, Everyone,

We'll be traveling for the next two weeks, so I will probably be off-line until the week of January 5, 2009. I hope you'll come back and visit then.

In the meantime, warm and happy holiday wishes to all of you!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Evening of Panic

Everything felt perfectly fine yesterday morning when I dropped Jeff off at the airport at 10:30 am. He found out last week that he had to go on a last minute business trip to Israel, and we hastily booked his flight for Saturday and made plans for me to join him on Thursday when he would be done with his work and I, with my doctor's appointments for additional tests. From the airport, I rushed back to the city to pick up my dear (and as it turned out, hungover) friend Paul who was waiting for me at a Bart station. We attended an information session on USF's MFA program and then spent the rest of the afternoon having lunch and loitering at a Border's.

Around 4pm, I headed back home, looking forward to reading Francine Prose's Reading Like a Writer, a book recommended by a friend and one I was sure would launch me into writer stardom. I pictured myself, curled up on our chaise lounge, under the lamp, complacently absorbing words of wisdom and the key to my future.

Thirty minutes later, I found myself feeling strangely panicked. The house was too quiet and everything too still. The house felt too narrow, the walls too close. I looked at the clock, and it was only 5pm. The thought of facing the whole evening alone felt suffocating and daunting. I dreaded another minute alone in the house.

I wrapped myself in layers, put the leash on Sherlock, and headed toward the doggie park less than two blocks away. When we neared the park, after many No!s, Sit!s, and Sherlock, No Pulling!s, I scanned the park to survey the visitors of the hour. When I saw the lone owner and the lone doggie packing up to leave, my chest fell, and I pitied the two of us about to enter a soon to be empty park. We walked in, and much to our relief, other moms and dads with their little pooches entered the park within minutes. We did the usual greetings. What's the name of your little one? How old is she? Oh, mine's a little nutty. He doesn't really care to play with other dogs. Oh, really? Well, at least yours isn't OCD like mine. All he cares about is that ball even around a cute poodle like yours. We stayed for at least forty minutes in the unusually cold evening, mainly because I was reluctant to return to the quiet of our house.

When we returned, the quiet was still there, as palpable as the wall. I felt gripped by some strange pressure, making it difficult for me to breathe, making me feel too alone and slightly panicked. I turned on the lights in the kitchen, the dining area, the living room, the hallway, and even the bathroom and the bedrooms that were completely separated from where I was sitting. I popped in a CD, first Puccini's La Boheme, then irritated by what now sounded too distant, Eurythmics' Greatest Hits, the music of my college years. I sat on the couch, checked my gmail, read the latest stories on the NYTimes, the Huffington Post, SFGate. Then I went onto iTunes, looking for some movie I could click on and impatiently scrolled through a couple of categories. I made Sherlock sit on the couch with me. Within a few more minutes of clicking, I found myself darting off of the couch, pacing the room, feeling suffocated, wondering if I should just step outside and walk around the streets in the dark aimlessly.

What was wrong with me? I am a woman used to solitude. I spent big chunks of my 20s and early 30s living alone, coming home to an empty house. There had also been many nights when I had worked late in the office, at ease with the fact that I was alone on the entire floor. Even during the past two years, Jeff had been away for days at a time for his business trips, and I had felt perfectly fine. But today, I felt panicked. I had felt this kind of panic only twice before, once after a bad break-up and another when I was visiting relatives in Korea and realized that no one there, possibly no one in the entire country, really understood me, not the way I needed to be understood.

I found myself typing out a panicked email to a few girlfriends and clicked the send button, knowing how busy they usually kept themselves, wondering what they had already planned for the evening, and regretting that I hadn't planned my weekend in advance.

I put on my jogging gear, got in the car, and drove to the gym. It was 6:30 on a Saturday night. I never went to the gym at this hour on a weekend, even when I had no plans. I found the gym surprisingly filled with people and felt relieved. I jumped on the elliptical with an enthusiasm I rarely saved for this machine and focused on following the plight of the gorillas in Rwanda and Congo on Planet in Peril.

About an hour later, I returned home and found that six of my girlfriends had already responded to my panic email. On a Saturday night. They left email and voicemail messages inviting me out, suggesting get togethers for the following day. And I felt a wave of relief come over me. My friends were out there, making time for me even on a busy night. I felt the panic subside, the loneliness dissipate. I made plans for the following day and had a glass of wine. I spent the rest of the evening talking to my sweet friend Sarah who was taking a break from consecutive late nights of flirting (and depriving many bar hopping men of her wit and charm). And by the time I went to sleep, I felt once again at ease in my world.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Jeff's Glass

Jeff blows glass as a hobby. I thought I'd post a photo of one of his pieces. Here's how he described it when it was auctioned earlier this year at the Bay Area Glass Institute Great Glass Auction:

"Inspired by Davide Salvadore, Lee Militier, and The Smurfs. A tubby thing, with a white core, coated in two-tone blue transparent veil cane, with a chubby split neck."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I think I'm buckling under the pressure I'm putting on myself to figure out my career while trying to have a baby. I keep thinking that it has already been over seven months since I was let go by Paul Hastings and that should be more than enough time to have figured out my career direction, studied the ins and outs of this new career, and written the great American novel. Since I failed my two attempts at having a kid, I should at least have succeeded in that, right?

Instead, I've barely gotten started. I am only now starting to become comfortable with the idea of giving up my career as a lawyer. Maybe it sounds shocking that I'm not long past this. It's not the job but the security that comes with it that I find hard to let go. But it dawns on me (belatedly) that this security is no longer a given, not just because of the state of the economy, but because I've been booted out. To survive as a lawyer at my level, I have to be willing to fight like a shark, and I can muster neither the motivation nor the energy. Frankly, the idea of working again as a full time litigator fills me with dread. When I see listings on or for litigator positions, I find myself articulating reasons why the position would not work for me.

There are times when I regret having spent the past ten years working as a lawyer. The Obama's and the Michelle Rhee's of this world make me feel like I've spent my time so poorly. I keep thinking of where I would be had I invested the past 10 years working on my writing instead. Yeah, maybe no Pulitzer Prize to my name, but at least I could be writing professionally and have some by-lines to point to. And who's to say that I would not have succeeded? I'm not sure how some people nurture the confidence to forge ahead in the face of unlikely odds, but I would surely like to have some of that rub off on me.

I spent an inordinate amount of time in college fretting about my career. Too earnestly, I believed in the importance of one's life work, the product that sums up your human effort, ideals, values. At the same time, I struggled with the need to create a sense of security in our family. Our immigrant way of living in the US - with no relatives and few friends - felt so vulnerable, and I obsessed over the fear that my parents - who worked in a dry cleaner and had no health insurance - would be stricken with cancer. And for some reason, I thought the solution to finding our family's security and redeeming my parents' decision to live such difficult lives in the US rested entirely on my shoulders. Talk about being self-absorbed.

So I talked myself into law school. I told myself a lot of things. Knowing the law empowers you. It will give me a sense of authority. I'll make good money.

And all those things happened. And lots of other good things, like meeting some incredible people along the way, learning how to write and think precisely, learning some discipline, working on some fun, high-profile cases.

But it still does not feel like enough. I keep thinking about how I am using up the limited days of my life. I have some skepticism toward people who blindly tout following one's passions because it does not take into account any practical considerations. And I don't take lightly the need to feed oneself, pay rent, have health coverage. But I am at a different place in my life now than when I graduated from college. My parents are happily retired with a good enough nest egg. Jeff and I are financially secure, and he has been incredibly encouraging about my writing, urging me repeatedly to take the risk of going for it. And I have all the time in the world - at least for now.

So a part of me feels like I should be grateful for having had my miscarriages. It buys me time - at least for the next several months - to work on my writing, take more courses, try to get some pieces published. And I have to remind myself that seven months really isn't enough to draft up a Pulitzer Prize worthy tome, especially since I had to set aside some of that time to simmer down after the Paul Hastings dismissal, to deal with the fallouts of two miscarriages, to flail aimlessly, to do some mindless contract work, and to build up an obviously prize-worthy blog.

So here's my new mantra. Even babies get a nine month gestation period. Shouldn't I give myself at least that same amount of time to find my way into this new world?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Limits of Blogging

I guess the past few posts have been kind of depressing, huh?

I hope I'm not coming across as one of these self-pitying bores. The fact is that generally, I'm a pretty cheerful person, and I laugh very easily. When I'm with Jeff or my friends, we're often laughing, even if we are talking about the most unhappy events of our lives, not because we don't know how to talk about unhappy events but because we make each other happy. I am surrounded by amazing friends, the kind you know to cling onto your whole life, even though I don't blog about them very often, since I'm assuming they haven't abandoned their sense of privacy as casually as I have.

There are a lot of facets of my life that I haven't yet blogged about. Probably because as Tolstoy said (to paraphrase), happiness really isn't much to write about. The past month of my life has been difficult with my second miscarriage, for sure, but it hasn't been spent in the depth of despair, as it might seem from my blog alone. The rear of our house, wall to wall glass, looks out onto the garden, and my life is usually lived surrounded by California poppies, fuchsias, snapdragons, abutilons, and roses of all colors. But that is a view I haven't shared with most of you.

Here's how my life usually unfolds outside of the blog. A few weeks ago, through facebook, I found my fourth grade best friend from PS 20 in Queens, NY, and it turns out that she lives in the East Bay. The last time I saw her was when she was in college. Now, more than fifteen years later, we have reconnected, and we've spent several jolly hours catching up. Yesterday, she came over with her family along with a few other friends, and we passed the whole afternoon laughing, playing with our dog and their kids, eating, and then eating some more. I find nothing more satisfying than stuffing my friends with my cooking and then sending them home with leftovers.

And today, I am off to my book club, which we've had going for about 5 years now. The members of the club are the warmest bunch, and we love seeing each other. I'm sure we'll hang out for hours, as we usually do, gossiping, talking about the book (Christopher Buckley's Supreme Courtship), giggling, empathizing. Together, we have read over fifty books. And tonight, Jeff and I will be off to have dungeness crab (yum) with a high school friend of mine who's visiting from Michigan.

But would I have thought to blog about any of these events? Probably not. Because... well, because I don't assume that they are interesting to any one other than me. Also, I don't want my blog to be just a record of my daily activities, but a place where I can store some emotional truths (as pretentious as that sounds). In that process, this blog may seem a little weepy at times, perhaps a little intense, possibly somewhat imbalanced, hopefully not too neurotic. But I hope you will have the patience to bear with me.

If I ever have the occasion to meet any of you anonymous readers in person, I hope you will do me the favor of saying, "Wow, you're so different than what I expected!"

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Biding Time

I tell myself that I don't want to become one of these women who do nothing but obssess about having a child, but I feel like I'm turning into one of them. It doesn't help that I'm not working right now. My contract job ended several weeks ago, which seemed perfectly fine when I was pregnant and felt both a sense of purpose and the value of my limited free time. Now, my free time stretches out indefinitely. Having too much time to think feels a little suffocating at the moment. So, I've been desperately scouring the web for a part time job to keep me somewhat busy while I continue working on my writing. And the economy flicks me a finger and says, bad timing, lady. Frankly, I wouldn't mind working at a Starbucks right now (if they're even hiring), but working as a barrista probably isn't the most constructive use of my time in the long run. Not to say that I look down on it because I would do it in a heartbeat if we needed the money.

So I'm trying to recall those days when I worked 6am to midnight and whined about wanting more free time. And dreamed of taking classes, throwing pottery, gardening, volunteering, reading, writing. I'm trying to get to a point emotionally where I can focus on my writing projects, get interested in reading about subjects other than miscarriage, where I can stave off the sense of depression that weighs me down, keeps me in bed in the morning, and questions what is the point of all this. And when a friend calls for lunch, I drag myself off to meet up with her, somewhat reluctant to go but grateful for the fishline.

I'm trying to keep it all in perspective. I know how lucky I am in so many respects compared to so many others. And I know that having this time is a tremendous privilege - and can be extremely fruitful if I can force myself to focus. And that two miscarriages is not the end of the road. Compared to what some of my friends are going through, these are just small bleeps. So I plug in my ipod, get into my jogging gear, and drag myself to the gym. I prepare my to do list for the day. I research my writing subject. I send out emails to people to propose ideas and solicit advice. I try to put my thoughts to paper. I take the dog for a walk. And before I know it, it is already evening.

And then, only then, do I look at my google calendar, count how many days it has been since my miscarriage, project how much longer until we can try again, and start to hope for another beginning.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Praise for Chutzpah

Reading about DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee makes me rethink the career choices I've made. Like me, she is a Korean American woman. Like me, she graduated from college in the early 90s. Unlike me, she didn't opt for the safe choice of going to a law school to work at a law firm making a high salary. Instead, she joined Teach for America, taught at a Baltimore elementary school for three years, and then founded The New Teacher Project, a non-profit organization that recruits new teachers to work in under-performing urban schools. In 2007, DC's Mayor Adrian Fenty plucked her from relative obscurity and threw her into the fray to fix the failing DC school system.

Now she's out to overhaul the public education system. We've all stood by on the sidelines and impatiently wondered why the public education system is in the state it is in, why no one can fix it. We've pointed our fingers at the usual villains: the union, the parents who don't spend enough time with their children, tv, the politicians, society. We've sighed a quiet sigh of relief that we have the option of sending our children to private schools, even as we bemoan the ridiculously high tuition and the waste of our tax dollars, believing there's no stopping the sinking ship. Instead of standing safely ashore, Michelle Rhee has jumped onto this Titanic, enrolling her own daughters into a DC public school, and started throwing over the deadweight, greasing the engines, and adding coal to the furnace. She's taken on the politicians, the unions, the parents - with an urgency and chutzpah we don't often see in public administrators.

Whether she will actually accomplish all that she has set out to do and how many bruises she'll suffer in the process are yet to be determined. And I don't know enough about the DC public schools system to assess whether her strategy is the most effective. What I do know is that she has come out swinging, taking on the most established of establishments and refusing to take no for an answer. She is out to change the power structure, to upset what many often assume will always be. And that is pretty damn inspiring.

We need more like her. And the surprising thing is that it is not out of our reach to be another Michelle Rhee. Especially those of us with privileged education, some amount of smarts, chutzpah, any of the above. Just think of the mess we can clean up if more of us followed in her footsteps?

Maybe it sounds silly to say that a woman my own age is my role model. But she is. And I can certainly use one.

Reading about her makes me think that safe choices in life aren't always the prudent ones. Maybe rarely.

Good thing I'm only 37 with more than enough time for additional careers.

Monday, December 1, 2008


There are some things that have the power to heal.

Like watching Sherlock romp through the doggie playground, chasing the green soft plastic ball with the dedication of a professional athlete, before he crashes into the wire mesh fence like a right fielder flying for the ball;

Fighting with the shells of a dungeness crab with all of my fingers dripping with garlic butter and then slurping up a forkful of garlic noodles as we banter about the election, Thanksgiving, the health risks of eating chicken skin;

Standing above the butternut squash and sweet potato soup, stirring, tasting, and stirring some more, as I strive for perfect spoonfuls that will feed our family;

Feeling the fleshy softness of Jeff's fingers each time he reaches across to hold my hand;

Reading my book under the warmth of Sherlock's body draped across my lap;

Seeing a new bloom on my fuchsia.

I gather these moments and place them side by side. As surely as there are broken days, there are moments like these, filled with life, shaped by happiness. With these moments, I build a giant band-aid to wrap around me, to give me space to heal.