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.