Monday, December 30, 2013

Day by Day

My head and heart hurt, and I had a few moments today when I felt like I couldn't catch my breath and tears welled up in my eyes while I was walking around the neighborhood.  I'm feeling incredibly frustrated by my inability to control or change the things that are happening in my personal life.  Writing or talking about it doesn't help.

The inside of the elevator at work.

To try to set the right tone for the day, I woke up early, worked out, did my hair and makeup and went out for a long walk and some window shopping.  Tokyo is very quiet the week of New Years.  Many restaurants and shops are closed all week, and people (or at least the people I know) leave town.

Oodles of poodles at the main crossing in my neighborhood
Some pretty fierce press on nails

The booty pads that I've heard so much about from the fellas in the office

I've started a new pro bono project, a new book and a new TV series, and am getting plenty of rest and exercise.

338 days to go.  I am not at all sure how I'm going to get through it.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Hardest Week

Living in Tokyo has been soul-crushingly lonely, but last week was the hardest by far.  My family didn't call or text (so I stayed up until 3am to call them during their morning and then head in to the office for a very early conference call).  Our office was open all week and I worked a lot of overtime (leaning on single, childless employees to stay late during the holiday season is not just an American tradition!).  As a result, I missed my dinner reservation on Christmas Eve and didn't get to sit down for a proper dinner until Friday night.

Friday had been a particularly tough day and, as I sat at dinner by myself, I scrolled through Facebook and Instagram and there were some tears looking at everyone's pictures from their family holiday celebrations.  There was some anger at the firm, for trading away so much of my PTO when negotiating the secondment that I only have enough PTO to attend my brother's wedding this spring and couldn't go home for the holidays (despite having months of PTO accrued!).  There was some fear that my personal life will always be this empty.

But I got through it.

Next week will be better.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

33rd Birthday

I turned 33 over the weekend. After a bonenkai held my new workplace, I met up with some friends from the firm for drinks at a couple of different bars.  The rest of the weekend was quiet.  I read a book, went to the grocery store, and stayed up late to call my family in the States who casually mentioned that some reproductive endocrinologists family friends of ours have started to suggest that I pick a donor and freeze some embryos.

Good times.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!

I'm seeing Christmas trees pop up in the office buildings in central Tokyo.  Here's what Izumi Gardens has on display:

On Christmas day in Tokyo, we'll go to work and some of us will get festive by eating KFC for dinner.  (Yup, KFC for Christmas dinner is a thing; read all about it on the Smithsonian blog here.)

Like last year, I will spend Christmas in Japan.  This is because the firm cut the amount of PTO that I'm allowed to take during my secondment year down to 10 days.  I have to save a few of those days in case I get sick and the rest will be spent on participating in my brother's wedding in the spring.  On the bright side, I expect the office to be slow.  No repeat of last year, when we were in the middle of an outrageously busy auction process for a M&A client that included a huge Christmas day deadline.

I have been in much better spirits lately.  I attribute this to my visit home, the excitement of the secondment, and getting to leave work before 9pm on a regular basis, which leaves time for workouts at the gym and a full nights rest--amazing stuff, that.  Still, I know it will be hard being alone on Christmas (and my birthday) so I need to plan something special for myself that week.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Japanese Mobile

By now, you've probably figured out that I make things harder than they need to be.  You know, like how I spent my first year in Tokyo stumbling around lost or holed up at home because I was afraid of getting lost.  All this getting lost business had a lot to do with the fact that I didn't have a smartphone with a functioning map app.

Trying to find a Tokyo location by address is pretty rough without GPS.  Don't believe me?
Tokyo has a very old and chaotic street-numbering system. Generations ago, the first building in a neighborhood was numbered 1. The second, now perhaps blocks away, was numbered 2. And so on.
And this, friends, is why even the cab drivers get lost from time to time.

But I still had so many excuses for not springing for a phone:
  • I'd probably need to bring along a translator to complete the transaction;
  • The upfront cost would be too much considering that I would only be in Japan for one year;
  • I wouldn't be able to read my bill; and
  • I'd get better at navigating Tokyo over time.
Roppongi Crossing
And that was okay for a year, but the day I found out I would be staying in Tokyo for a second year, I marched myself down to the SoftBank store at Roppongi Crossing in Minato-ku.

  • Good news --> they've got English speaking staff.  (Minato-ku is full of expats.)  
  • Great news --> you can sign up for automatic payments and don't have to deal with trying to read a Japanese bill.  
  • Better news --> my monthly bill (including unlimited data) is half what it was in the US.

(In fairness, I think my monthly bill is low because I paid for my iPhone up front.  If you want to pay for the cost of your iPhone in installments you will need a visa with at least 25 months left until its expiration.  My three-year visa had less than 25 months remaining so I couldn't take advantage of this option.)

Having a smartphone has really improved my quality of life in Tokyo.  I get lost far less often and I have a phone full of apps that help make navigating a foreign country and language a little bit easier.  Money well spent.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Looking Forward

Lately, I have been better about being hopeful about what the future holds, but I can't seem to help missing parts of my past.


This isn't intended as a review of the restaurant.  If that's what you are looking for, please consider a very informative and much more articulate post available here, which describes a largely different menu, but is consistent with my experience.

The last year in Tokyo has convinced me that the Japanese take the quality of their food and its presentation very seriously.  This just from visiting grocery stores and casual restaurants.  Can you imagine what the fine dining must be like?

So, when the opportunity to join some friends for a special dinner at Narisawa came up last week, it didn't take much time for me to decide to set my budget aside.  Looking at the seasonal tasting menu, we weren't entirely sure what to expect from many of the courses.  Essence of the forest with Satoyama scenery?  What does that mean?  Even after eating it, I'd have a hard time describing it to you.  (On the website, Narisawa explains that the menu lists just the idea and main ingredient of each course so that you can enjoy it with an open mind.)

The dinner was delicious.  I tried many things I've never tasted before (or might even refuse to taste under different circumstances, e.g., cod's milt) and enjoyed the thoughtful details.

A friend put together a collage of some of the courses and I've included it below.  Top center is the cod's milt.  Middle left is one of the desserts (the bowl was so pretty!).  Middle right is the duck.  Bottom are the other bite-sized dessert options.  From the dessert sampler, I had a macaron or two, a cream puff filled with whiskey cream and topped with toasted nuts, a pecan tart, and a strawberry with cream and a tiny shortcake round underneath it.

I wish I had a picture of each course to share with you (the mackerel, in particular, was beautiful) or the vocabulary to adequately describe the wine.

P.S.  I'll be the first to admit that my gut reaction to this sort of fine dining has typically been negative.  It seems pretentious.  How much better can the food be?  Why pay so much?  And so on.  After dinner at Narisawa, I would describe fine dining as an artistic performance that engages all of your senses.  In the same way that I appreciate a good ballet, I can appreciate this.  It's hard to imagine that I'll ever indulge in a meal like this again, but what an experience!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

What's a Secondment?

This post started out as a reply to CP's comment, but seemed long enough to be a post of its own.  So here it is!
In this case, secondment means that my firm is loaning me out to one of our clients for a year.  I will remain an employee of the firm (I still receive my salary and benefits from the firm), but I report every day to the client's office where I work alongside the in house team and am supervised by their manager.  I've been seconded before: I covered for one of our domestic clients while an Asst. GC was out on maternity leave for three months.  This secondment is different in that it's focused on relationship building.   
I have a lot to gain from this.  There's no faster way to learn what the client wants and needs than by putting yourself in the clients' shoes.  If I go back to the firm next year, this will make me a better associate.  If I want to apply for in house jobs instead, this experience will round out my M&A and Capital Markets experience significantly while differentiating me from other candidates.  (I think this will be particularly true if I apply to in house positions in the American divisions of Japanese companies.)
On another note, because the company I'm working at is a traditional Japanese company, I'm getting immersed in Japanese business culture in a way I never thought possible for someone who isn't a Japanese speaker. This is interesting to me because my favorite moments in b-school revolved around learning about management of cross-cultural teams.  In a dream world, I would love to be a professor in a MBA program teaching legal environment of business classes.  I am optimistic that the experiences I'll collect this year will bring me one step closer to making that dream job a possibility. 
The last year in Japan was tough, but I'm hopeful this year will be easier because (i) I'll be working more reasonable hours (more on this in a future post); and (ii) I feel like I'm doing something that will help me progress, if not accelerate, my career possibilities outside of the firm.

Fall color in Roppongi Hills, Tokyo

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Stick a Fork in It

November marked my last week in the office for about a year.  I'm apprehensive about the secondment, but very much looking forward to a change of pace (and scenery).

Cutlery cabinet at the firm: four forks and a lot of chopsticks.

Friday, November 29, 2013


The firm required me to be in Tokyo, so I spent another Thanksgiving in Japan.  It's a tough day to be away from home because, given that the holiday is very American by definition, it isn't acknowledged at all in Tokyo.  You go to work on Thursday and generally can't find turkey unless you have a way to get out to Costco to buy a whole bird or pre-order one from a specialty grocery.  (Thinking about this some more, there must be some restaurants in Minato-ku that put on special course menus for those that can get off work at a decent hour.)

Our office tries to help with the homesickness by having a turkey lunch catered.  I attended last year.  The food was great although it was strange picking up turkey in a conference room and eating it alone at your desk!  This year I had an offsite client meeting so I missed lunch.

Spending Thanksgiving alone helped me reflect on how lucky I've been to spend so many past Thanksgivings with my family.  I am thankful for those memories and, of course, for my good health.

Next year, I hope I'm living somewhere where I can find the ingredients for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner and I can spend some time with my family.

Friday, November 22, 2013


I am so happy to be home.

The highlights:
  • Visiting family, friends and pups.  There were some sad moments--wondering what can be done about a homeless uncle and hoping that I'll get to see my older relatives again--but it has been so wonderful to interact with people who know me as more than an attorney and play with my dogs. All of this has put the terrible loneliness of the last year in sharp relief, but I'm trying not to focus on that because... well, what does that accomplish?
  • Speaking English. It's such a luxury to be able to talk to strangers or ask store clerks questions.
  • Soaking up sunlight. My first day back I sat in the direct sun with my eyes closed for about 20 minutes being reminded what it feels like when sun warms your skin.
  • Shopping for food.  I've taken some leisurely strolls through the grocery store--lingering in the produce section to appreciate the sheer variety and reasonable prices--and cooked up a storm while I've been home.  I've missed my fully equipped kitchen something fierce so it was great fun to try the recipes I've been flagging for the last 12 months.
  • Enjoying wide open spaces.  So happy to have a break from the concrete jungle!
  • Catching up on doctor's appointments.  My FSA and insurance have gotten a workout.  I also picked up some Lutein supplements.  The Lutein helps with central vision.  There's a back story here: I have a grandparent suffering from macular degeneration.  Treatment, which has stymied but not improved the condition, has involved a drug injected into the eye ball.  (Yes, you read that right.)  Without knowing about this family history, my eye doctor mentioned that my blue eyes, fair skin, and Southern California upbringing put me at risk but that the condition is considered fully preventable by wearing sunglasses and consuming a diet rich in Lutein (spinach, kale or collard greens).  Since my work schedule sometimes makes it tough to access fresh greens, I picked up the Lutein supplements just in case.
  • Sleeping in a cozy bed.  My mattress is in storage, but the bed in the guest room I've been staying in is so comfortable.  It's a welcome change from the stiff-as-a-board mattress in the apartment in Tokyo.
  • Ignoring my blackberry.  The firm has mostly left me alone, but requested that I do some work on a non-billable project that has no deadline.  This irked me as I received (and fulfilled) a similar request during my last and only other vacation in the three years I've been at the firm.  This time I replied that I would be happy to do this work when I returned from my vacation.  We'll see if there are any consequences.
  • Ignoring an email from Ben asking to see me.  When I was considering whether to accept the secondment, Ben disengaged entirely.  It was an important moment for him to speak-up about his intentions for the future and he failed to communicate.  Did I want to move back to Austin and live with him?  Yes.  Did I want him to finally make good on all his talk about wanting to marry me?  Yes.  But he said nothing.  I'm not going to give up a good job opportunity (no matter how hard that opportunity promises to be or no matter how much I would rather just come home), if he's unwilling to act like a grown man and have a conversation about our future.  So this is why I was unwilling to cut family time short.  His request to see me said nothing about discussing our future.  Frankly, I think he just wanted to get together to hook up.
On a more positive note, it's amazing how much stress melts away when you're back in your home culture where you know what's expected and can speak the language.  I don't think I fully appreciated how much energy I've been spending observing people closely and trying to conform.  While Japan is a wonderful place and I realize I've been privileged to work abroad, it's not home and I'll never fit in there.  It's nice to have a break.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Time Off

Guess who is flying back to California tomorrow for a much needed two-week break and a flurry of doctors appointments?  I'm so excited to speak English to strangers, be in the sunshine, and see my family and my dogs in no particular order.  As you know, I am in serious need of a mental break from the firm.  I'm a bit sad because this will be my first visit home without seeing Ben, but there is not point in arranging to see him based on how he's acted recently.

I wanted to take more time given that I have six weeks of leave accrued and didn't earn vacation time last month because I have reached the firm's maximum accrual threshold.  Unfortunately, I had to cut my plans a week short to accommodate a coworker's paternity leave.  Here's hoping I'm accumulating good karma for my own maternity leave one day because the dude didn't even say thank you!

This is one of those moments when I'm so glad I went to New Zealand after the bar exam and before starting work.  At the time firms were calling up grads and rescinding offers, so I remember worrying that I shouldn't take a spendy international trip.  I'm so glad I took the time while I had it and often wish I had tacked on some time in Australia too.

While I hope I can make it to Australia (and Europe!) in the future, I can think of no better destination for this trip than California.  Further adventure is not in order at the moment.

P.S.  Please remind me to do a better job accumulating airline miles.  This plane ticket was USD 1,500!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Once Upon a Time

I only had a few friends with digital cameras when I was in college.  While a part of me is thankful for the limited record of the fun times that were had, I also wish I had a few more keepsakes than the limited prints in my storage unit back in LA.  This is why I was excited when someone pointed out that a bunch of photos taken during my college years had been digitalized and placed in an online library.  It was fun to look through them and reach back to what have become awfully fuzzy memories.

It's hard to believe there was ever I time I wore such a short skirt in public (or had such tan shoulders!). I had so much fun being part of the dance team in college, but I'll never forget overhearing a female MBA's biting remarks about what a waste of time it was to participate in something "like that" (to clarify, this was a MBA student at my undergrad institution, not one of my own MBA classmates).  Her implication was that we should be studying or exclusively involved in academically-driven extra-curriculars, but most certainly not wasting our time on something so silly (or so "demeaning").

It hurt my feelings then, but I wondered if I would come to agree with her in time.  I have not.  It's a wonderful thing to be part of something that's purely fun.  And all those hours spent bouncing around on the sidelines didn't keep us from collecting 1 PhD, 2 MDs, 2 JDs, 1 MA, 1 MS and 1 MBA between the five of us.

While I fully support access to gender-neutral play for young girls and think we should encourage women to lean-in and strive for higher education (especially in STEM), I know that an appreciation for pink, playing princess or (gasp) being a cheerleader will not keep your little girl from academic or career ambition.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Tokyo Sunset

Sadly I did not think to save a clean copy of this picture before adding the caption in SnapChat.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


Looking down from the balcony of my apartment.

We had a 7.3M earthquake last night.  It was enough to wake me up (at 2am), but mostly because it felt like it went on for longer than usual.  I do get concerned during earthquakes here, but it is possible to tell very quickly that the quakes are not near the magnitude of the 9.0M Tohoku earthquake I experienced on March 11, 2011.

(My apartment is just six stories high and underneath another 15 or 16 floors.  My thoughts during an earthquake usually include hoping I will not die sandwiched between all that concrete.)

Looking up from the core of my apartment building,
right outside my front door.

Otherwise, the weather is cooling down--right now it's 57F--but the apartment's heating system is not yet available.  They set a specific date each year when the cooling system is turned off and the heat is turned on.  Until then I'm wearing a couple of sweaters when I'm at home in my apartment (older Japanese construction is famous for being poorly insulated--but in my apartment I think it's mainly the big glass sliding doors out to the balcony that are letting all the warmth out).

We're getting close to the end of the project I've been working on and things are in good order, which means that I've now had a few nights of rest.  This has been such a relief from the three (or more?) straight weeks of leaving work between 2-4am and wrapping up work remotely at 4-5am only only to get started again at 9am.  As you can imagine, I got to a point where I was completely out of clean laundry and had no food in my refrigerator.

In any event, I survived.  I missed my college reunion, which was severely disappointing because all the other members of the five-person dance team I was on were able to make it.  We haven't all been in the same place since 2002.

Pretty typical, actually.  This is what it's like here when a deal is on.

(It's time for a vacation--I've accrued the firm maximum six weeks and am planning to take some of that time to go home in November.)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Holiday Plans

I'm still in Tokyo, having stuck around to finish up a large transaction while we try to figure out if I'll stay for the extension. Because I miss home most during American holidays, I decided to make the trip back to California at Thanksgiving no matter what else was going on. I let my family know and then today they sent me their flight itinerary--they're going to visit my brother in Dallas to see his new house over Thanksgiving.


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Another Week

This last week was brutal--I billed at least 13 hours per day and maxed out at 16 hours billed on my busiest day. It was the type of week where I don't sleep and, other than work, accomplish only basic survival. This means eating, mainly from the convenience store in the office building. (I almost never made use of Seamless back in the US, but it would really help to have it here.) And showering. That's it.

Happily, a major deliverable was sent off at about 4am Saturday and I spent the rest of my Saturday sleeping. Now I'm foraging for food and planning to find a movie on iTunes to watch... and I'm writing this post, which means I'm taking some time for reflection.

There is so much I want to say about work, but I just can't say it here other than I got to wear jeans on Friday because the partners were away at their retreat!  Jeans are standard on Fridays in our Southern California offices, but not out here.  (It's the little things.)

I've hit a few financial milestones recently:

  • I paid off my car.  The year before law school, I was in a car accident that claimed the Ford Focus I had been driving.  In my youthful exuberance, I splurged on a new car (a VW Beetle, my then-dream car!) and took out a loan to do it.  When I started law school, my parents offered to pay off my loan if I would, in turn, repay them once I finished law school.  That story had a happy ending: I finished paying my family back this week.  (Jury is still out on whether I should have just sold that car before coming to Tokyo.)

With those two items taken care of, I'll have a non-trivial amount of "extra" money available to me each month for the rest of the year to throw at my student loans and downpayment savings account.

Also this week, I logged on to Facebook feed to find an update from an ex's wife announcing the birth of their first child.  I'm Facebook friends with neither the wife nor the ex, but with a childhood's worth of mutual friends between us these updates make their way into my feed when our mutual friend's comment on their posts.  The moment reminded me of when a mutual friend forwarded me a link to my ex's wedding website.  In lighthearted news, I laughed out loud when I saw that the child was named after his favorite whiskey.  Wow.

ETA: Just finished grocery shopping. My heart broke a little when I discovered this package of raspberries costs USD12.25. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013


This week, I subbed in for another associate who has been stretched too thin for way too long. The result was a few all-nighters. We sent out our deliverable in the wee hours of Saturday morning, I (unintentionally) slept all day on Saturday and woke up just in time to catch this sunset.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Killing Time

Today was the Autumn Equinox, a holiday in Japan.  Because work is slow, I was able to enjoy the free day.  I woke up around 6am--the happy result of some effort I've put into adjusting my sleep schedule.  This gave me time to do a cardio kickboxing DVD, wash some dishes and straighten up before housekeeping arrived.  I took my Kindle down to the courtyard and read for a couple of hours and then took off for a walk around town.

I started by walking through Roppongi to Tokyo Midtown.  This is a walk I used to take every weekend so that I could visit a pet store that has poodle and chihuahua puppies that remind me of C&B.  A few months ago, the store closed down and I stopped making the walk.  Today, I wanted to see what had become of the space and found that the store hadn't closed down after all; it had been remodeled!

Tokyo Midtown
Next, I hopped on the train to Ginza, where the main road is roped off and pedestrians can walk through the middle of the streets.  I passed the Apple store, which wasn't as crowded as I would have thought given the recent iPhone 5c/5s release.  It turns out that this is because the crowd was at Softbank instead.  (Softbank is a Japanese telecommunications company that you may have heard of as a result of their recent acquisition of Sprint.)

Apple Store in Ginza
I walked all the way up and down the main street.  Some stores were running Silver Week promotions.  There were a fair number of tourists out and about--mostly Chinese.

There were also a lot of folks shopping with their dogs.  I saw a Shibu Inu and many Yorkies and Poodles.  The Shibu Inu's dignity remained intact, but the Yorkies and Poodles were wearing an array of outfits--t-shirts, dresses, hats and even a pair of pajamas.  I also noticed a litter of kittens wearing scarves and perched on top of a street sign.  It's not clear how they had gotten there, but they had attracted a huge crowd--everyone was jostling to take a picture of them.

Diorama-syle map of the Yamaha building
Even after a year in Tokyo, I find it a bit sad to be surrounded by people all day without having a single interaction with another human being.  Some of you may have noticed that I deleted a recent post that I wrote when I was feeling particularly low.  (In retrospect, that post was better suited to a personal journal than a blog, so I've removed it.)  Of the numerous concerns I had in mind when I wrote that entry, I think the post at this link provides a composed expression of the one that's actually worth noting in a public space.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Sin Den

Last weekend, after surviving the worst of Tokyo's muggy summer, I finally got a haircut.  I went to Sin Den in Shibuya on the recommendation of a coworker.

The salon was tough to find (take that with a grain of salt as I don't have access to GPS at the moment).  It's tucked back into a residential neighborhood, which is what made me feel I must be lost even when I was on the right path.  They speak English well and it's clear that they have a lot of experience with caucasian hair--the salon was full of expat clientele while I was there.  Pricing is consistent with what I would expect in LA.

I had about ten inches in length shorn off, making my hair is the shortest it has been since my senior year of high school!  I wish I had done this at the beginning of summer, not the end, but I'm glad to have found a place worth recommending.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Double Bind

Ben and I recently had a falling out, which has given me pause for reflection.

I would like, very much, to get married and start a family.  This is something I've wanted and been open to doing since I was 24.  I've been in a handful of serious relationships that have gone on for at least two years, but none of these men have asked me to marry them.

The reasons these relationships have not worked out have been varied.  However, one feeling that all of these guys seem to have shared is that they couldn't tolerate the idea of settling down with someone who wouldn't be able to be highly deferential.  They weren't open to relocation.  They weren't open to the idea of a girlfriend or wife who would work long hours.  They couldn't see why I wouldn't want to take a 50% paycut to relocate to their choice of town as soon as possible.  Even when I told them I didn't want to have the sort of job I currently have in the long-term, they couldn't (or didn't want to?) think creatively about a future family life.  [ETA: Maybe they just didn't believe me based on my behavior.]

I'm responsible for my decision to stay in long-term relationships with guys who were not open to being true partners.  I think this happened because I am open to and interested in the idea of being a full-time mom.  I wasn't prioritizing selection of guys who were going to be supportive of a wife with a demanding job, even though I was clearly headed down that path, because (if I'm being completely honest) I didn't want to have a demanding job outside the home in the long-term.

There are consequences.  I spent my most precious years dating these guys.  Now, I can see fine lines on my face and bags under my eyes, and feel like I don't have strong cards to play with.  I do believe that I have a nice personality and am interesting to talk to.  I know that I'm financially responsible and well-educated.  But it doesn't feel like those qualities matter (especially in Southern California).  I'm 32, but I already feel invisible to men my age.

One of the core problems is that I don't have the time: the time to spend on doing what it takes (and I don't really know what it takes or where to go) to cross paths with single guys who are about my age; or the time to look my best.  I cannot remember the last time I was asked on or went on a date.  I often seriously think that I need to quit my job in order to have any hope of finding a partner.

I recognize that I am failing in my personal life, but I'm not sure what to do and I'm running out of time to figure it out.

As you can probably tell, I am having an especially low moment.  I go back and forth between the thoughts I express in this post and focusing entirely on my job (because I have at least some control over that aspect of my life).

Saturday, September 14, 2013

When a Partner Steps into your Office and Closes the Door

Last week, on a particularly slow day, a partner walked into my office and shut the door.  Uh oh.  That always makes me nervous.  It makes me afraid that I'm about to get fired, but my past experience has taught me that what it really means is that the firm is about to throw me a curveball.

This time, the firm wants to know if I'll stay in Japan for an additional year to work in a client's office.  There are obvious personal challenges related to extending my stay in Japan for another year, but there's a lot to be gained by spending a year in-house.  In dramatic contrast to the very American environment in my firm's office in Tokyo, this secondment would immerse me in Japanese business culture in what is considered to be a very conservative company.  Plus, it's a year of in-house experience.

There are some practical perks.  My compensation wouldn't change, but my work hours would be very humane (as in 9-5:30p most days), and I wouldn't carry a blackberry (an arrangement that is the answer to many a biglaw associate's prayers).  The secondment would also get me through my entire fourth year at the firm.

I've been thinking about how this secondment could fit into my long-term professional plans.  In the long term, I would like to "be the client" as a GC at a large company with cross-border business.  In "retirement" I'd like to be a business law professor in a MBA program and sit on a board or two.  I don't see myself staying at the firm because of (i) the extremely unpredictable schedule, (ii) the absence of female M&A partners, and (iii) my interest in being closer to business strategy and the implementation of the legal advice.  I think the secondment would help me collect skills and experience that would make me a more compelling (or, if nothing else, a more unique) candidate for the types of positions I'll need to reach my long-term goals.

I am weary of the fact that firms sometimes use secondments as a way of showing associates the door.  However, the last three associates to complete this secondment seem to be considered "star associates" among their respective classes.  Of course, their great reputations were forged before the secondment and not as a result of it.  Having said that, the secondment doesn't seem to be an outplacement mechanism.

Financially, this would mean another year of free rent and COLA.  My entire student loan balance would be paid off before the end of the secondment.

Almost seems like a slam dunk.

Personally, I miss my country, my culture, my family and friends.  It's not easy to try to maintain those relationships from the other side of the world and certain of those relationships will probably be lost if I were to choose to stay.  I also want to say something about how this might cost me the opportunity to get married or have kids, but you guys have heard all that before and know that it's something I'm always worried about.

It's been a lot to think about.  There were a lot of sleepless nights this week.

I can practically hear Sheryl Sandburg screaming at me to Lean In.

Saturday, August 31, 2013


Over beer, chips and guacamole, some coworkers and I were talking about the cost of attending my college reunion.  The cost of admission to reunion events is just short of $400.  That seems like a lot.  Especially to those that followed their passion into low-paying fields.  Even on a big law salary, factoring in airfare, car rental, hotel and other costs, the total spend has me feeling wary.

My coworkers laughed at this.  "It's a drop in the bucket," they said.  Looking at it from a Tokyo associate's point of view, this is particularly true.  In addition to our big law base salary, we receive a $75 per day cost of living adjustment and a free place to live.  It's a generous compensation package and leaves us with enough money to pay down debt, save, and spend somewhat freely.  This is why my coworkers were shaking their heads at me.

Why are our perspectives on money so different?  First, my time on the generous expat compensation package is quickly coming to an end.  Second, I've seen too many other associates spend their money mindlessly and then deeply regret it when they are laid off or move to a much lower paying job to preserve their marriage or their sanity while still burdened with a substantial student loan balance.  I do not want to find myself in those circumstances.

When I started out as an associate, I decided I would try to live on an amount of money that equaled my pre-law school after-tax income and use the difference between my pre- and post-law school after-tax incomes to pay down debt or save.  I have stuck to that plan for almost three years and am just starting to really appreciate the results.

Has it involved a lot of sacrifice?  It hasn't felt like it.  That's not to say that I haven't felt jealous of my brother who makes roughly the same income and has bought a big house, sporty luxury car, spendy engagement ring, European vacation and numerous weekend getaways over the same period of time.  (It's the house and European vacation that I covet!)

Nonetheless, as I'm coming up on my 33rd birthday, I'm tiring of the discipline.  (Here I'd like to acknowledge that a frugal person would have curtailed spending more than I have.)  This is mainly manifesting itself in my apartment search.  It looks like a one-bedroom apartment in a safe location near my office is going to cost me $2,000/month including pet rent and parking.  I am incredibly frustrated by the idea of spending so much to live in 600-700 sq. ft. in a neighborhood I don't love.  As of today, I'm considering a 550 sq. ft. studio for $1,800/month including pet rent and parking to save some money.

I'd really like to buy a place of my own and build some equity, but even after being careful with my money in recent years it still feels like this is out of reach.  First, because most people say you shouldn't buy unless you plan to stay in the same place for at least five years and I hope to get out of LA sooner than that.  This obstacle could be overcome by buying a place that can become a rental when I'm ready to move on.  Second, as Ben harshly pointed out, I "have no job security."  This could be said of many people.  If I could find a small enough place that the mortgage payment equaled monthly apartment rent (and that's a big if in my future neighborhood assuming you want a place in good repair) and stuck to the idea of selecting a place that can become a rental unit, is this point really a deal breaker?

While playing it safe hasn't felt like a bummer before, it does now.  Years ago, when I decided to go to law school, one of the major motivating factors was the idea that it would put home ownership within reach.  (I had recently seen some small Charleston-style townhouses that I adored, but would never be able to buy on my paralegal salary.)  It's a disappointment that I still don't seem to be ready to have my own place.  At least this is something that I can work towards.  With each passing year, home ownership should become more plausible.

What do you think?  Am I being too conservative?  Doing a terrible job of finding a good deal on an apartment?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Lame Duck

It's been a super slow month.  I appreciate the chance to catch my breath, but I'm so well rested that it's disconcerting.  Even if things pick up soon, my pending departure to the States will probably keep me from getting staffed on any new projects.

As a result, I've had time to listen to CLEs, read, spend some time in the kitchen, exercise and do a little sight-seeing.  Earlier this week I popped over to Disney Sea for dinner, drinks and a few rides after work.  The weather, which has been wicked 蒸し暑い for most of August, has cooled off so I'm hoping to take some long walks this weekend.  If it weren't for my nightmares about getting laid off, I'd be having a great time!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


These technicolor orchids caught my eye when I was at a grocery store that caters to Westerners. ¥10,000, for those who are wondering, is about $100.  (I didn't buy any flowers, I was there trying (and failing) to find baking soda.)

Monday, August 12, 2013


I've lived in Minato-ku for just over ten months, but even the most mundane day is peppered with adventure.  My favorite thing to do on the weekends is to head off to nowhere in particular on a long, aimless walk.  I try to pick a different area of Tokyo each time that I head out, but you don't have to go far to discover little gems.  This restaurant (at least I'm pretty sure it's a restaurant) is tucked away in my neighborhood.

As much as I miss certain aspects of "home", I can appreciate the allure of the expat life.  There have been more than a few times that I've caught myself thinking about how great it would be if my next transfer was to the Hong Kong, London or Brussels office.  The constant discoveries, the sense of accomplishment that comes from managing even the smallest errand and the smug sense that your differences make you something special or interesting--one could become addicted to it all!  

(Having said that, I understand that there is a difference between hitting your stride at the end of your first year in Tokyo and getting acquainted with certain harsh realities in later years.)

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Move Along

There's nothing particularly exciting going on around these parts.  Slow work week, but busy Friday.  Getting called back from (ahhhmazing steak) dinner to the office at about 11pm. You know, the usual.

At the end of July, I followed through on my plan to increase my savings.  Still, I couldn't resist the urge to make an extra payment on my student loans because I had a relatively small payoff amount on one of my loans.  It was a great feeling to cross another loan off my list and contribute a large chunk of change to my savings in the same month.

I've got 10 weeks left here in Tokyo, so I'm trying to keep my eyes wide open and soak it all in.  This will be over in a flash!  I'm also trying to start planning for my return to the States.  So far, this has amounted to searching for apartments online with uninspiring results.  I feel a lot of pressure to get things right with my next move--I want to leave this nomadic chapter of my life for a more settled period, but I am having trouble translating that abstract idea into specific wants or action items.  To help with this, I'm going to take a few minutes to jot down some ideas here.

I want:

  • To stop moving every year.  To do this, I need to find a place in a practice area or office that has enough work to enable me to make the expected billable contributions and learn and grow as an attorney.
  • To give myself permission to establish traditions and celebrate holidays.  For a decade, I haven't bought a Christmas tree, baked Christmas cookies or carved pumpkins because it's seemed wasted on a household of one.  (Frankly, it also sometimes feels silly, as an adult, to want to participate in these kid-centric activities.)  I've been waiting for the day I have my own family to rekindle these traditions.  At this point, the sadness I feel when missing out on holiday traditions outweighs any perceived waste.  (This should probably be expanded to include planning an annual vacation.)
  • To work on/invest in my relationships.  I'm concerned about my relationship with Ben and having a lot of trouble getting him to discuss where things stand.  I'm not sure what the problem is here.  I still want to move back to Austin and live together and he talks like that's true for him too, but his actions aren't consistent with his words.  My relationship with my family is great and I'm so looking forward to my reunion with C & B (my pups), but this goal mainly has to do with working on friendships.  Some of the most valuable experiences I've had in Japan include a re-education in forging friendships and a reminder of how nice it is to have social time on the calendar.
  • To connect with my community.  I think that a feeling of connectedness with people or, more broadly, my community is something that helps me feel happy.  This connectedness--I think--is part of what made college a lot of fun.  It's why I enjoy the Tokyo office, where there is a community of young associates, more than my home office.  Some of this has to do with the previous bullet point (friendships), but I also think it's about feeling like a part of something bigger than yourself.  I would like to volunteer for a literacy program or volunteer as a board member for a non-profit (the latter would be difficult because the firm asks us to refrain from board membership in connection with the firm's risk management policy).  I also think that finding a local yoga studio and favorite park where I could walk the pups would help. 
  • To grow my own vegetables and herbs.  In the immediate future, this will probably materialize in the form of a few potted herbs on a balcony, but, one day, I'd love to have some raised flower beds with veggies too.  It would be a dream come true to have a couple citrus trees!
  • To take better care of my health.  This last year I've been terrible to my body.  I haven't gotten much exercise and have slept on my office floor (or not slept at all).  I've had many days when my only meal was a late-night trip to the 7-11 in the office building (before you get too grossed out, let me assure you that the food quality in Japanese 7-11s is better than what we see in the US).  I am so fortunate to be in good health despite all this.  Moving forward, I want to exercise and eat better.  This isn't so much about looking better, but about feeling better and treating my body with some respect.  Exercise, particularly dance, is fun for me so I'm not anticipating a problem there.  Eating well is more difficult, but I'm hoping to leverage how much I've missed cooking and American groceries to jumpstart some good habits.
  • To cook my own meals and bring lunch to work.  Lately, I've been collecting a bunch of online recipes that I want to try when I get home.  I want to be more deliberate about what I'm eating, doing some menu planning and preparing some staple items on Sundays.  It is difficult to cook for just one person, but I think buying some tupperware and returning to my Cooking for Two recipe books from America's Test Kitchen will help with this.
  • To have all my debt paid off by November 2015.  I am on track to meet this goal and have a detailed Excel workbook that proves it's possible!
That's it for now.  Time to get ready for work.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Small Steps

This week, I noticed a post of Facebook (or maybe a pinned quote on Pinterest?) about action as the enemy of anxiety.  That makes sense to me.  Collecting savings in an emergency account and paying down my student loans has eased my anxiety about job prospects somewhat.  So I spent a little time wondering if there was any other action I could take that would soften the blow if my job disappears in the next few months.

How about finishing my CLE requirements?  I'm part of the reporting group that has to submit proof of completion of CLE at the end of the year.  Thanks to my firm's requirement that first- through third-year associates attend all CLE lunches related to their practice area, I had easily fulfilled the requirement for general hours, but still needed to complete six hours of ethics, bias and substance abuse CLE.  On a particularly slow day this week, I made the most of the firm's ample, free online CLE materials and knocked out this requirement.

As Facebook (or Pinterest) promised, taking action provided some relief!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


There's getting to be a lot of talk about layoffs and a lot of talk about what a slow year it's been in M&A... and I'm worried.*  I'm worried because I think my class year, practice area and profile as an associate who is working away from her home office puts me at risk.

I'm not sure what else I can do at this point.  I've said yes to every assignment (including a trans-Pacific move), completed a secondment, brought in a client and am well-liked socially; but I don't think my work product would be considered exceptional, i.e., I'm not drafting on a regular basis, I don't have deep knowledge of any area except diligence and disclosure schedules, and my hours aren't stellar when measured against expectations (although they are in line with what my peers' have been billing).  Perhaps more troubling, nobody has my back.  (I attribute this mostly to the way the firm has moved me around, but (i) I work mostly for senior associates and rarely directly with partners and (ii) I have to admit that self-promotion is not my strong suit.)  Despite that I don't have negative feedback on my record, I know that that can change in an instant, or not matter at all, when it's time to let folks go.

It's best to be prepared.  If I were to be laid off, I project it would happen some time in October, when I'm slated to return to my home office and year-end reviews will take place.  Between now and then, I estimate I will accumulate a $18k cash surplus after ordinary bills, retirement contributions,  emergency savings, and minimum student loan payments.  It's been my practice while abroad to send all of my cash surplus to the Department of Education.  This has resulted in a $60k reduction of my student loan principle.  I think, between now and October, the cash surplus should be sent to my emergency fund instead.  I will also need to (i) think carefully about housing arrangements when I return to the US; (ii) complete my remaining CLE hours while I have access to the firm's free CLE training; (iii) update my resume and deal sheet; (iv) keep up to date with job openings, legal or otherwise; and (v) give some thought to developing a side gig.

Just in case.

Someone has suggested to me that being laid off would be a blessing in disguise.  The past few years have been mostly unhappy ones and, with my MBA and experience working in Asia, other possibilities are open to me.  There is truth in that.  But, at the moment, given my remaining loan balance and my interest in validating my JD, I think it would be best to put in some more time.  (By validating my JD, I mean getting enough practical experience and accruing enough skill to be perceived as an attorney and not someone who went to law school just for fun.)

Will the day ever come when I feel more stable in my job?  When will I get to worry about planning a wedding or buying a house, instead of obsessing over the firm?  I need to think about ways to move beyond this junior, very fungible stage of my career.

*To be clear, this isn't a revelation of how my firm is doing.  This is a reflection of what I'm reading about law firm layoffs generally and some E&Y analysis I just read about the M&A market.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


We'd been hearing Saturday would be a terribly hot day in Tokyo.  With this in my mind, when my alarm went off Saturday morning and my Blackberry had no new work-related messages, I pulled the black-out curtains and slept a little longer.  I woke up feeling refreshed and took care of some chores around the apartment.  When the weather cooled off in the early evening, I set off to Omotesando for a walk.

I like Omotesando for its wide sidewalks and tree-lined main street.  It was a warm, humid night, but you could hear the breeze blowing through the leaves all along the street.  There's a lot of people watching in Omotesando because of all the shopping--you can find the Louis Vuitton, Prada, Tod's and Dior flagships here.  I was admiring the Ralph Lauren building when I saw what looked like an interesting back alley with smaller shops.  I decided to do some exploring and found Kate Spade Saturday's flagship location.

Apparently, Japan is Kate Spade's largest market outside the US.  I definitely believe it based on the amount of Kate Spade I see walking the streets in central Tokyo, but also because my last eight months in Japan have shown me how local tastes align with the brand's aesthetics.  Kate Spade has a certain whimsy that leans towards kawaii and the brands clothes are a little conservative, minimalist and retro, with occasional, cutesy embellishments.  That's so Japan!

I didn't go inside because I arrived just as they were closing up shop.  While I took the above picture, a couple of Japanese women stood behind me trying to figure out how or if this store is different from the regular Kate Spade.  Saturday is meant to be a little more casual (both in terms of style and price point) and aimed at a younger consumer.

I wandered aimlessly for a while before heading back to the apartment and watching a movie I'd downloaded from iTunes.  It's great to have a work-free day like this every once and again.  14 weeks to go!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Lately, I've been thinking about what inspires, motivates and energizes me.  Here's a little something I think is awesome and exciting.

The Kickstarter campaign was a success and I hear that GoldieBlox is available online and at Toys r' Us.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Beach City

There are a lot of posts on this blog bemoaning the very slow start I had as a corporate associate of my firm's office in "Beach City".  It was a disappointment because I was truly interested in doing corporate work in the biotech and life sciences space, an area where our firm is strong in general, but where Beach City provided a small office opportunity to be involved in that practice.  And while the slow down in Beach City made perfect sense in light of the changes in the economy (at a macro and micro level), it was a significant shift that lots of big law management folks didn't seem to have anticipated.

To this day, I keep a close eye on the market in Beach City because it's a beautiful place to live with a really strong public high school located close to the office where I once worked.  I've harbored an interest in returning to Beach City (which would probably require a move to another firm), but have hesitated because, among other things, I've thought that Beach City, like Orange County, just isn't big enough to support the participation of a large number of big law players and the open junior corporate positions have been at firms that weren't strong competitors in the market.

Last week, some news broke that reinforced my assessment of the situation.  What really bummed me out is that the office in question had recruited pretty hard for a junior corporate associate as recently as nine months ago.  I (and every other junior corporate associate in the vicinity, I'm sure) received a lot of calls from recruiters for this position over the course of nearly a year.  For the sake of all involved, I hope they never hired for that position because it would be a nightmare to have just lateraled over before the office was shuttered.

Sunday, June 30, 2013


The dust is settling after a fast-paced week that pushed me to my limits.  It was all work, no play and almost no sleep.  Let's add to that no consumption of food of nutritional value.

It's weeks like this one that I absolutely cannot believe that it's possible to be a parent and a biglaw lawyer at the same time, unless you have a very understanding spouse with a flexible, less demanding job and your conscious is not bothered by checking out from parenting for a week (for the record, I'm not necessarily saying that is a terrible thing, my dad did that all the time and I don't begrudge him for it, which was possible because of my Mom).  Having said that, not every week is like last week.  Thank goodness.

So what did it take to have this sort of week?
  • Supporting a partner and two senior associates on the sign and close of an asset sale scheduled to occur over the weekend.  
  • Finishing a 50-state statutory research project, which I worked on alone (I did the case law research a few weeks in advance was focused on cleaning up the statutory research this week).
  • Starting and finishing a diligence project that required review of more than 3,000 documents and drafting of a report (48 hour window; team of four attorneys).
  • On a different matter, preparing a chart summarizing contractual restrictions on a specific issue that was identified during diligence review.
  • Getting a summer associate started on a drafting project for a pro bono client.

I'm not sure if that will sound like a lot of work to a non-lawyer.  Here's how it played out from a practical point of view.  I was at work:
  • Monday: 9am until 2:30am the next day
  • Tuesday: 8am until 3am the next day
  • Wednesday: 8am until 11:35pm (caught the last train home!)
  • Thursday: 7:30am through the night with a 2.5 hour dinner break with the summer associates
  • Friday: Ran home to shower and change clothes about 7:45am and got back to the office at 9:30am, worked until 2am
  • Saturday: 9:30am until 1am
  • Sunday: 9:30am until 2:45pm

When things wrapped up Sunday afternoon, I envisioned going out for a good meal (except for pizza with the summers on Thursday night, I subsisted on Coca-Cola and Starbucks/convenience store food last week... I know... I felt as crappy as that sounds), taking a long bath, and watching a movie downloaded from iTunes.  Instead, I fell asleep sitting on my couch and woke up at 6am Monday morning.

And, somehow, through all of this week I felt like I was never doing quite enough to meet everyone's expectations.  Cannot imagine the pressure I would feel if I had a family at home that I was disappointing as well.

I don't expect the firm's expectations to change.  No matter how much the firm gives lip service to work/life balance, there is no changing the fact that this is the level of service that must be provided when the firm is charging top of the market rates.  This is the job.  I take the view that the question isn't whether the firm should behave differently, the question is whether I should be at the firm.

(Having said all that, we can see that the move to a different office of the firm has delivered the opportunity to get experience.  In spades.  Feast or famine....)

Weeks like this I have to remember that the Sunday prior, I had time for a trip out to Yokohama for dinner with friends.  It's not always like this.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Last night, I hopped on the train for a 50 minute, ¥620, easy ride to Yokohama to meet some friends for dinner at Bill's in the Red Brick Warehouse.  It was nice to experience a change of scenery and great company.  You should have seen the ferris wheel after dark--it was lit up in multi-colored neon. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Goodbye HAB Pasadena!

Yesterday, I got word from Ben that the ballroom studio I'd been going to has closed its Pasadena location, in favor of a location further east--too far east for me to commute to if/when I make it back to LA at the end of my Tokyo assignment.

I was so lucky to find this place when I was trying to find my niche in LA.  I met some great people and had a lot of fun behind those doors.  On a difficult day, I could always look forward to heading to Pasadena to dance.  Here's hoping there's another studio in my future.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Earlier this week, I walked by a bank of vending machines in Tameike-sanno station and stopped dead in my tracks when I realized one of the machines was full of fresh bananas (and packages of dried mangos).

Dole, I have so many questions.  Is the machine refrigerated?  How do you keep the bananas from bruising terribly during the vending process?  How often does an attendant need to visit the machine to make sure none of the bananas are too brown?  How does the convenience store that sells bananas just steps from this machine feel about this?  You realize Japanese people don't snack as they walk around the subway station, right?  Who buys an entire bunch of bananas from a vending machine?

Then I got to thinking about whether I've seen Dole bananas in my local grocery store.  I have not.  Thankfully, I had not seen this commercial either:

Take a moment to soak that in.

But, seriously, while I thought it was strange to run into a banana machine in a subway station, I think this could be genius in schools and workplaces in the US.  Having a fresh fruit machine (maybe add in some whole apples?) option would be a step in the right direction.  I love junk food as much as the next American, but, given equal access, I would pick fresh fruit for a snack at least half the time.

The following video isn't mine and, sadly, the videographer doesn't buy a banana so we don't see the machine in action.  Still, it's interesting to hear his reactions.

Friday, June 14, 2013


It's Saturday and I was at the office all day. Since I am struggling to find something positive to say, I will say nothing and leave you with some pictures from the Ginza line.

This is what it looks like when you just miss the train...

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Home Leave (Part 3)

My two-week home leave was over in the blink of an eye.  I saw my family, Ben and some friends, watched my cousin get married, worked three days in our Southern California offices, worked remotely every day, and ate American food.  Sadly, I didn't make it to the beach, the pool or a yoga class.  The list of things I wanted to do was long and the firm and my family's expectations too great.

It felt nothing like a vacation.  It was exhausting and draining.  My heart was full of frustration, resentment and even some anger by the time I boarded my plane back to Japan. I didn't want to leave.

Air Force One was parked outside the terminal the morning I came home.

The most important thing I can do now to make sure I'll be able to make positive changes when I get back to the States is exercise financial discipline.  This means minimizing food expenses and continuing to pay off student loans and save as much as I can.  (Related: last month I reached a financial milestone: my combined 401(k) and IRA balance passed the $100k mark!)

In the meanwhile, I will try not to worry over things I cannot control or change while I'm here.

Four months to go.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Home Leave (Part 2)

One of the best parts of home leave so far has been reuniting with my dogs. I've missed them terribly. Can you believe this little one will be 10 years old in August?

This was right after ~15 hours of waiting to board, flying, clearing customs and locating lost luggage. Little C seemed a stunned to see me at first (as in no tail wagging or barking, just standing completely frozen and staring... it was a bit of a let down to be honest). Since then, she's been like a little shadow, following me everywhere I go and begging to play or be picked up at all times.

The worst part of home leave is that I've been working more than I thought I would be. I've logged time every day of vacation so far and was up until 3am last night. Because there is no T-Mobile reception round these parts, I've been tethered to my laptop, which has made what should have been a few minor inconveniences into a series of major disruptions.

This is the first vacation I've taken since starting at the firm, so there were bound to be some hiccups. My big mistake seems to have been agreeing to provide coverage on a specific day in the middle of my vacation. Unfortunately, this opened the door to lots of little questions or mini assignments from day-to-day. A lack of connectivity has slowed my responsiveness and I feel like I've dissapointed co-workers, as well as family in the process of trying to keep up with work and family obligations, not to mention a year's worth of doctors' appointments squeezed into a week and a half.

Right now I feel drained, discouraged and overwhelmed.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Home Leave (Part 1)

The last few weeks have been jam packed with incredibly mundane things in anticipation of my home leave for the year.  In true big law style, the night before I was to get on the plane back to the US, as I was putting my key in the apartment door after returning from work at about 9:45pm, I got an email telling me to come  back to the office.

I started to get nervous that I would be asked to change my flight around midnight, but it worked out.  I got home around 2am, packed for an hour before receiving comments and proofing a document around 3am and then killing time before leaving for the airport a few hours later.  On the bright side, this helped nip any potential jet lag in the bud.

My connection was at SFO, where I cleared customs, but my suitcase got hung up and didn't make my connecting flight.  Besides being overwhelmed by the ability to eavesdrop again (hello, English, I have missed you!) and how big everyone seemed to be, the thing I noticed the most was that people were looking at me.  I kept thinking that I must have spilled some food on my clothes or something, but that wasn't it.  There is just a lot more eye contact in the States and I'd forgotten about that at some point in the last seven months.

I made it home in time for brunch with a childhood friend and a family wedding that took place in the part of California where I grew up:

Spoiled to have grown up in this place!
The morning after the wedding there was another brunch and, after that wrapped up, I headed to a shopping area near the ocean to remote in and respond to some time-sensitive work emails.

When I first arrived in Tokyo, I worried that I would have a hard time getting back on the plane after my home leave.  I'm happy to report that while I've certainly enjoyed a reunion with my family and little C and B (my dogs who have stayed behind in California), I don't feel any anxiety or sadness over the idea of heading back to Japan just yet.  Instead, I am much more concerned about what will happen after my Tokyo assignment ends and it's time for me to come back to the States on a permanent basis.