Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Heat Wave

Thursday, December 19, 2013


Starting is hard. Restart is just as hard. After 6 months of absence I feel the need to pick up writing again. The semester flew by just as I thought it would. I'm not afraid of height but I've never quite managed to keep my eyes open on that big drop on the roller coaster. However, rather than waiting for the ride to finish, I'm going to keep my eyes wide open this time, observant and receptive of everything around me.

Civil procedure, criminal law, legal writing, tort. Although the course work was challenging, it was nothing I couldn't have handled. Everyone warned me of the horror of first year law school. I mentally prepared myself for the worst but the worst never came. Half way through the semester I started to freak out about why I wasn't freaking not. I was on pace with class reading, outlining as I went along and even managed to read a law review article or two published by my professors. The study of law turned out to be meditative. The amount of reading is relentless. It doesn't pay to think about it, strategize it, question it, schedule it, or delay it. All I needed to do was to just do it and keep doing it. It'll take however long it's going to take. There is a time for everything in life and this is my time to do the task at hand, read.

I finished my finals today. I've learned a lot and I've prepared well. The rest is not up to me. I'm thrilled to be given a fair opportunity to succeed. I know what it is like to let that opportunity to slip by. I also know too well what it is like to not been given a fair chance to shine. It's an amazing feeling when all the stars finally line up. This time I'm ready.

I'm might not have the highest grade but one thing I know for sure is that I've lived a very full semester. I went to amazing concerts, museums, four operas, great milongas, and first rate dining. I also went to ten kickboxing classes in the last two months and logged over 160 miles in Central Park since I moved here. I've visited friends and seen more friends here than I have in years. No panic, no anxiety, no depression, and sweat only when I worked out. If there's a competition on the quality of life for first semester law school students I'd win for sure.

And now the semester is over, I walked to a Peruvian restaurant in Hell's Kitchen to celebrate. The last time I walked to a Peruvian restaurant was when I lived in Buenos Aires. The beauty of living in a world class city. No one from school was available to come over. Although I could have called someone, I was happier to go alone. Walking back I thought to myself, being content on my own is probably one of the most important ingredients for happiness. I always knew that growing up but this kind of solitude becomes more apparent as we age, when our friends and peers have settled down and faded into their own lives. Being comfortable doing things alone is a necessity to live a full life. I wouldn't have done 80% of things I did had I waited to do them with other people. Life goes on whether we capture it or not. I'm not willing to let that ride go just because there's an empty seat next to me.

Coming back into my apartment building it hit me again. Thursday is my favorite day in the building. The cleaning person uses the same industrial detergent as the cleaning lady did when I lived in Buenos Aires. What would have smelled offensive to most people turns out to be a sweet sense of nostalgia to me. After all this time of wondering around and not feeling quite comfortable in places I have finally found home. I don't know how long I'll be here or what the future holds but none of that is important. I'm here, now, and it feels like home. I'm happy here.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Dream No More

The last two months has been a dream I could never have dreamed of and one that I never want to wake up from. In the matter of a weekend, I rented my dream apartment in the Upper West Side and got offered a full scholarship with internship opportunity to attend a reputable law school. The vision of me living here illuminated through the uncertainties I've been carrying around for the past year. This time around, instead trying to control life, I stood back and watched it flourish. So much of our lives is about control that even a minute gesture of letting go can usher in the most extraordinary sense of freedom, joy and gratitude. It's nice to dream. It's nice to live the dream. But when the reality is better than anything I could have dreamed of, it's time to open my eyes and dream no more.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Weekend

Weekends are precious for anyone with a 9-5 job. Every work week starts with the anticipation of Friday. When I was in TRF, Kim at the office used to say, "we are wish our lives away." I never thought it that way because I never was wishing my life away. I looked forward to Fridays as much as the next clock watcher but I filled the rest of the days to the brim as well. It took a year and half of time alone before I started to feel lonely. With the younger demographics in Champaign, Friday became know as date night. Since I never had dates, Friday was like a mini-valentine's day that came each week just to make a mockery of my loneliness. I became depressed. I called and complained to friends but got no sympathy because apparently young and good looking people like myself are not entitled to sympathy for being lonely. They always say, if you just dress up and get out of the door, you can have your pick! So I did, with the under five crowd at the nursery.
It was one of the best things I've done since I moved here (along with running). This past Friday I played with three siblings outside, riding bikes and playing on the slides. I rode with them, on a tiny scooter. It made me happy that they remembered me from last time. I always loved summer nights like that I was a kid. Now I feel fortunate to have these kids share their summer night with me.

There are many things to be done before I make the big move to the big city. Things like finding a place to live, downsizing, packing, deciding on a school, sorting my finances, etc. I feel stressed out just thinking about all the stuff. Instead of getting ahead of myself and feeling more stressed out, I went out and enjoyed myself.

I've never been one to chase after the latest gadgets. I feel great not having a TV, cable box or surround sound or whatever other home entertainment systems people have these days. All I needed was a phone and computer that works. With some traveling coming up, I finally caved in and purchased a tablet online. I had to go pick it up at a store in Danville yesterday and decided to make a day out of it. I found my first stop on Yelp, a popular local joint called Gross Burger owned by an ex marine.
I couldn't decide on a pizza burger or cheeseburger so I got both with fries and a strawberry shake. The food wasn't all the special but it felt good to be there.
I like family establishments. I sat next to Rob Wurtsbaugh, the first young man the area lost to Korean War. He looked hansom in the black and white portrait, so innocent. A man in military pants held the door for me as I was leaving the restaurant. I smiled and said, Thank you sir! I think it made him a little happy as well.

The town of Daville has 33,000 residents. I passed through downtown on my way to the shopping center and decided to take a look around. Many store fronts were empty in downtown, but it still looked quaint on a sunny summer afternoon. The lady at the store commented on how pretty my dress was. At the checkout, I stroke up a conversation with the gregarious store owner, a retired school teacher. I shared with him that I was visiting Danville for the day from Champaign, had lunch at Gross burger and am now making my way through downtown. "You're having yourself a day here in Vermilion County!" he exclaimed. Looking at his sports memorabilia, I told him that I was from Bill's country but now works in Decatur. "Wow, you've had quite a diverse background!" he responded. The interaction made me feel beautiful. I left the store with two lovely necklaces, a pair of earrings for $15 and a priceless sensation of lightheartedness.

Once back home, I caught up with Rose for a bit. She is one of the few people who have witnessed my transformation over the last twelve months. Rose has been supportive of me this entire time but being an ex-New Yorker herself, she is especially excited for me for the move. After all these years of meeting each other in foreign countries, it will be a whole new experience to see Rose on the mainland, where we can navigate and understand what people are saying.

As soon as I got off the phone with Rose, I met up with a coworker for tacos at the Wedge, a newer tequila bar in town, an improvement from the French "inspired" restaurant that used to occupy the same spot. We went to the Great Gatsby together. I've been wanting to see it for quite sometime now. I love all glitz the deco but more so than ever, I want to suck up all that's New York these days. Inspiration is always a good antidote to stress.

Dinner and movie was then followed up an hour long of makeover for the milonga that never happened. Instead, I went home to change into something more fitting and met up with everyone at the bars downtown. Frank was sitting with three hansom young men in matching black shirts, two of which were from Italy. The town is crawling with PhD students, especially in the summer when all the undergrads are gone. If only I could have found a good one all this time. I teased the boys, made jokes, laughed and had a great time. We went over to Cowboy Monkey to check in with the tango peeps. I met new people there, among them, two Bulgarians and an Argentine. We sat around two small tables outside surrounded by columns of fire lamps and eager young crowd. How pleasant, I thought to myself, so this is what I've been missing! We chatted over the pumping music, the group split up to different bars, met up and split up again. Less than an hour from closing time, I found myself at the infamous C-Street with the Italians and Bulgarians, dancing and watching young men making out everywhere in the dark club. I like people who don't take themselves too seriously. I haven't been to one of these places since my early twenties. Even then I didn't go to gay clubs. There's a first time for everything. I couldn't believe how beautiful the night was as we walked back to my car together. I drove the boys home. By the time I got back I was tired but I didn't go to sleep.

Instead, I slept all day today with an interlude to the co-op for lunch. A quiet evening at the nursery putted a finish touch on a satisfying weekend. Now I'm making my way to Monday again. There are still many many things to prepare for. What will be will be. Great things happen when we approach them with a positive spirit. For now, stay inspired, stay light. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013


Everyone comes with stories, some happened in the past, some created for the future. Fantasies are free, or so we think. Reading Karen Miller's Hand Wash Cold for the second time last week, the idea about stories caught my attention. Reunited with an ex from high school decades later after a divorce, the author made up in her mind on how the story should end when in fact reality was showing otherwise.

Every now and then I think about what life would have been like had I stayed with an ex or a place or a career path. Every time I meet someone new I imagine what future would be like if our lives were intertwined. I think of significant life events, things we would say to each other and stories we would tell our kids and grand kids. I never did it in a clingy obsessive way, just a little harmless daydreaming, or so I thought.

When I take a careful look deep down, I see no clear divide between what is made up and what is expected. And to be perfectly honest, I indulge in creating stories for my kids, stories about how their parents met, how they fell in love, how dad once acted foolishly to let mom go and how he maned up and got her back, how some significant event brought the family together and how love grew stronger over time.

When daydreams turn into expectations they inevitably lead to disappointments. I can't count the number of times I've stayed in or even started a relationship that obviously wasn't going to work because I was fixated on creating a storybook ending. If Oprah was sitting with me, we would be having an aha moment right now.

And as timing would have it, the movie I watched tonight, Ruby Sparks, resonated this point perfectly. When the writer finally frees the girl from his mind, she reappears in his life holding his latest book with no recollection of the past. She jokingly says, "don't tell me how the story ends." He responses, "I promise I won't."

After all the heartaches and false starts, this is the time to free myself from how the story should end and experience it for what it is. I am not looking to cast a character into my story and this is the only dialogue remaining:

"I don't know how the story will end."
"I don't either"
"But I want to find it out with you."

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Everyone has their opinion of what constitutes a good life, things I should be doing that are good for me. In a perfect world I would be fluent in reading and writing Chinese. I would devote a hour each day reading Chinese newspapers and magazines. I would practice the guitar and teach lessons on the weekend to retain the skills I worked so hard to acquire. I would exercise everyday, alternating strength and cardio training. I would run 20+ miles a week. I would drink eight glasses of water and get eight hours of sleep each day. I would spend ten hours each week volunteering for a cause I believe in. I would eat more vegetables and lesser meat. I would have the perfect figure and perfect skin. I would have the most gentle temperament and rarely raise my voice. I would call my relatives in China every month. I would be a perfect daughter. I would do everything in moderation. I would meditate everyday. I would let things slide and never sweat the small stuff.  I would easily let go of people who are not good for me.

But this is who I am. I never get eight hours of sleep even on the weekends. I exercise sometimes but never consistent enough. I have forgotten how to read and write Chinese. I never call my relatives in China even though I miss them dearly. I haven't played the guitar since my senior recital. I don't eat enough vegetables and when I'm hungry I just put a slab of meat on the stove. I get breakouts. I get mad. I get attached to the wrong people and sometimes I get caught up in the small stuff. I am far from being perfect. Somehow I've got to let go of all the should-s and just be. Life moves forward. Every now and then we have to let go of something old to acquire something new. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Drive Back

Driving back from ORD after a 14-hour flight from Shanghai. For the first time I saw dark circles around my eyes that were not leftover from unwashed makeup. A friend from Chicago who had offered to meet me at the airport a few days ago decided to visit with a friend at home instead. I left the airport without any delays and put on Coldplay as I raced home. Instead the feeling of calmness I once felt sitting in the car with my cousin, all I could feel now was sadness. The sudden jolt of being transported from 1.3 billion to just one was paralyzing. I had just left a place where I was loved to come back to a place that is cold and desolate. Other than my parents, no one missed me here. And looking inward, I missed no one here myself. The only things I did miss were western style toilets and hot showers with good water pressure. I don't know how but love must be sown and grown here. For now, my family is a half world away. Tears came. It felt good to miss something. 

Going away or going back?

Spa at Shanghai airport:
"Are you going away or going back?" the masseuse asked me as he worked through tiny knots in the arches of my feet I never knew existed. I was perplexed by what would otherwise be a perfunctory question over small talk. "Am I going back or am I going away?" I thought to myself a few times in quick successions. Unable to decide on one or the other I had to explain to him that my family is in China but I have taken residence in the US for the last 17 years. "I guess in away I'm going back in both cases." "Oh, that's a good thing!" Yes, indeed it is. Either way I am going back. I have never thought of it that way. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013


Sitting in my cousin's BMW with air conditioning on and Coldplay streaming out of the speakers, I felt a world away from the nauseating city. Navigating through traffic in this part of the world is a nerve-wracking experience, even more so for passengers with control issues. I may have control issues but nerve-wracking I wasn't. Instead, I was overcame with a sense of serenity that I haven't felt for a long time. I sat back as Lilei zoomed in and out of chaos masterfully and effortlessly. I wasn't worried and thinking back, I never really did worry.

If you have been to this part of the world you would know, this is life, a continuous series of near-misses. So much of our lives is out of our control, even though we are behind the wheels the entire time. We can plan our routes ahead of time meticulously and change it along the way when new traffic patterns emerge. We often second doubt the path we take yet we are never hesitant to make a split second decision to avoid a collision. Somewhere there is a balance between planning ahead and responding to situations in real time. Goals and aspirations propels us forward but it's the unexpected that makes the journey most enthralling. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Long Way Home

I have completely lost track of how long it took me to get here. 14-hour flight from ORD to Shanghai, a 5-hour layover that was delayed for another 2 hours. By the time I finally got to Changsha just before midnight local time we got into a car accident before even getting out of the parking lot. Needless to say traffic police and insurance here are completely worthless. It was almost 5am before I was finally able to lay down on a bed only to be startled out of bed 4 hours later by goddamn firecrackers from downstairs. Now I remember why I dreaded coming here. Despite all that I feel rested and in good spirit. It's a long way home but I know it will be worth every mile. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013


How fast can you go? I can't run yet but I can spin. There is nothing more exhilaration right now than going all in with heart-pumping music at the RMP class at work. In additional to having a break from my sedentary desk job, going to RMP makes me feel really great about my body.

It wasn't until recently that I started to become more aware of my body. By exercise regularly and deliberately, I began to see and feel how different parts of my body function and improve over time. I'm a few pounds heavier than I had been when I was in my early 20s but I have never felt more strong and confident physically. I know running has a lot to do with it. Even though I've always had strong legs and ran track when I was young, I never worked on endurance enough to even complete a 3k before. To know that I can go out there and put down ten miles is an amazing feeling. Second to that, is the feeling of sweat dropping down from my chin during a climbing track at RPM class. But instead more of a mental high I get from running, paddling over high resistance or spinning over 130 RPM makes me feel connected to my body in a visceral way. I feel high and sexy at the same time. Of course, the music helps too. How can you not feel hot when you're spinning to Party Bounce or Never Give It Up?

While I don't think I've ever had any body issues growing up I never really gave much thought about it either. Surely, we all think we can afford to loose a few pounds but I never felt the need to cover up at the beach or turn the lights off during sex. Pretty or not, I have long accepted that this is what I look like and this is how my body is shaped. Although I don't consider myself attractive, my appearance have served me well over the years. I was kind surprised reading about other women's struggle with their body images from Cyndi Lee's book, "May I be Happy." The opening passage was what made me take the book home from the library.

"Vinyasa has three parts: arising, abiding, and dissolving. And the dissolving of one thing is arising of the next. Every day turns into night turns into day. Winter becomes spring becomes summer becomes autumn becomes winter. Waves roll and slip back out; tides ebb and flow. Every breath is like this. Every life is like this.

Each flower buds, ripens, and blooms, wilts and fades away. The leaves fall to earth and create the ground for a new plant to grow.

The Sanskrit word vinyasa means "to place in a special way." It means that everything is connected and the sequence of things matters. It means that every action, thought, or word that arises now is planting the seed for future fruit. "In a special way" means the unfolding of life is logical. If you plant a tomato seed, you will get a tomato. If you plant an apple seed and you wait long enough, you will get an apple tree. And if you plant a hard thought, you will get a hard heart."

The author's "hard thought" was about her never ending criticism of her body. I don't know exactly what my own hard thoughts are. If I have them, they are not about my body, especially now. I am grateful for my health and I am grateful for my body. It has carried me through tough times, allowed me to go on my adventures and perhaps acted as the catalysts for friendships, relationships and other encounters over the years. This is the one and only body I will ever have and now is the time to be kind and take care of it.

What I really liked about the opening passage is the visual image of impermanence. As I begin my final countdown for moving out of Champaign, I can't help but to feel melancholic. Some days I contemplate on what life would be like if I stayed here. With the right person I could start a family here. It can be a lovely place for a family after all. But then, with the right person any place could be tolerable. Of course, when I show up at the office all the warm and fuzzy feelings dissolve instantly and all that's left is get me out of here, I can't stand this place for another minute! When that happens, I take a deeper breath and remind myself: there is impermanence in all things, this work, this place, this blog, this life. Live in the moment but don't attach to it.

In time, one way or another, life teaches all of us the lessons we need to learn. I learned to not to take things or myself so seriously. Whether or not things turn out the way we had planned doesn't change the fact that everything is transient. Yet at the same time life teaches us to live responsibly, for like the ripple effect, every action triggers a response, within you and around you.

Under my photo in my high school year book is a quote of my choice, "life is beautiful." I believed it even though they were just words to me. Now, more than ten years later, I am finally beginning to see and feel life. It's wondrous, light, and always more than what we could have imagined. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


By now I should have been to enough meditation sessions to know the basic etiquette of of zazen, bow before you enter, bow to your cushion, three bell rings to start zazen, two rings to mark the end, a clap starts the kinshin, another clap speeds up the walking, etc. There is deliberation and significance to every gesture, not so much as to worship but to show a pronounced mindfulness in one's actions. And as a beginner cultivating mindfulness I always forget to bow! And even when I do bow, I manage to bow at the exact wrong time! Good lord, how embarrassing!

Somehow I have the hardest time remembering to bow before entering into a space. I simply just wonder into the room, quietly, timidly but never mindfully enough to mark the occasion! Then I sit down and wonder why I always forget! Life is a continuous journey, why must we break it into tiny pieces and bow in between? Yes, I get it. It's the similar to the thing people do at beginning of a good yoga class, they take a moment to seal their intentions. We bow to honor the space and commence our practice. I understand it intellectually but nevertheless, absent emotionally.

Some people live for structure, sequence of events, one after another. Caught up in the starts and stops, it's easy for the mind to become preoccupied by the next event rather than the one at hand. At the same there, there is another dynamic taking place. One that is rich, organic, fluid and constantly evolving. I feel deeply in a visceral way that there is continuity in all things. Whether it's an interaction with another person, an inanimate object or a physical experience, they never quite stop effecting us. Each experience comes to us at different times, overlaps with each other, and fads in and out of our conscious minds at different intervals. The music I listen to may come back to me later in my mind long after the music had stopped playing. The experience never truly stops nor does it stay static. And in this way, the most insignificant interactions can have the most significant effect on us, if not immediately then perhaps some undefined time in the future.

I asked the teacher if this is a healthy sentiment, to which he responded that it's fine as long as we're not blinded by it or find ourselves attached to our thoughts. We, in fact, carry the entire universe with us at all times. This moment we have now carries all the moments before it and envelopes all the moments there are yet to come. There is an element in music called a pregnant pause. When taken out of context, it is just a silent pause in between sounds. But when there is tension and anticipation in the music, a deliberate gap is defined by all the notes that precede it and carries the intention for all the notes that follow it. The pause carries just as much meaning as all that is audible. In this way, the music never breaks. There is no start or stop. The present is like a continuous stream of pregnant pauses. Sometimes the most profound music can be heard even in silence.


We all want intimacy. We all feel it at times. Yet, I really had a hard time defining it. I have been going to zen meditation sessions on Sunday mornings at the Prairie Zen Center for the last few weeks. It just so happens that the teacher mentioned the word intimacy at this mornings Dharma talk. One of the central tenets in Buddhism teaching is to be awake or present. In fact, the word Buddha literally means the awaken one. And unsurprisingly, the teacher linked the act of being intimate to being present. Once the words were mentioned together, the linkage appeared so obvious to me, it was as if someone had just pointed out that the sky is blue and grass is green!

And now I can put it into words:

Intimacy is not something that comes to us by chance when we think we're in love or when our list of preconceived conditions are met. Whether it is with a person, an object or a place, we experience intimacy through the act of being present, or as some people call it, being in the moment. The possibilities are endless and choice is always ours. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013


"You feel good."
"You say that every time"
"That's because you feel good every time."
"What does that even mean?"

I couldn't come up with an answer other than that he felt comfortable. Without reference points, we perceive each experience in isolation. When we wreck up enough battle scars, we start looking at things collectively. We start realizing that true comfort between two people is in fact a rare occurrence. After all this time, I could count on one hand the people who I feel completely comfortable with. It's not that I'm trying to persuade him of anything, nor am I offended by the fact that he hasn't the remotest interest in me or at least that he is aware of. One person can have a unique take on things but it takes two people to create the kind of comfort space we have. I do wish he could for one second open his eyes to see just how precious these moments are. Instead, I just have to enjoy it for both of us.

Life can't be lived backward. Sometimes we have to go out for a very long way before we realize that what we are seeking was in fact right in front of us the entire time. Yet, we continue to make up excuses on why we can't simply reach out and grab hold of the things we want. At first I thought I'd find a place I want to settle down at. Maybe somewhere warmer and closer to the ocean. It didn't take me long to realize, all this moving around, advancing in career and higher education is just a very long and circuitous route to get back home. There are many things I don't like about Rochester but I miss it dearly. My heart is open but for now, Rochester is where home is. 

Friday, May 3, 2013


"This is fun! Wouldn't it have been fun if we were neighbors back when we were little kids?"
"Yes, it would have been fun."
"I was a real tomboy back then!"
"You still are."

I played with the kids outside this evening, chased them on a tiny scooter, pushed them on their bicycles with trainer wheels, picked them up and spun them around. Even after a soul killing day at work, I felt exhilarated and carefree like one of the kids.

When I first started to volunteer at the nursery at the beginning of the year, I was a nervous wreck. I had never changed a dipper or given a bath before. The only interaction I had with a toddler I can remember was pushing my then 3-year-old cousin into the wall because she wouldn't stop asking me questions. I regretted it the instant it happened but she still loved me after that. I can't name anything concrete that I've learned from the nursery except that I now feel much more at ease with little kids. I know I want to have kids some day and this is a start.

I am slowly coming to understand what people mean when they say it's the tiny and abrupt moments between long stretch of madness that make having kids worthwhile. I have experienced many of those moments in the short amount of time I have spent at the nursery. Just last week a two-year-old girl fell asleep in my arms as I read to her The Cat in the Hat. I felt a sense of peace and calmness as we laid on the big beanbag together. Contentment is knowing in your entire being that this is the place you're meant to be at this moment in time. I didn't know where she came from or where she will go when she leaves the nursery or whether I will ever see her again. All I knew was that for that moment I was there, with her, and that's all it mattered.

Tonight it was Efram's turn. He cried and cried as the other volunteer tried to rock him to sleep in a stroller. His arms stretched out of the covers as I was walking by. Without asking for permission, I picked him up from the stroller and walked around the backyard with him until he stopped crying. But Efram would start crying again as soon as I try to sit down so I held him for the rest of the night even though my arms were tired. Now I understand the purpose for such curvature between our neck and shoulder. Greater than a lover's kisses is the feeling of the warm head of a small child resting peacefully into the space that was designed for them.

Even until recently I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to handle boys if I was a single mother. Rob once said that he couldn't imagine anything coming out of me except a little girl. To some people I will always be a girly girl. But if I look for it, the tomboy that was inside of me never went away. I want to be a mom. Whether I have a boy or a girl I know I can cheer them on from the sidelines, discipline them when it's needed and love and care for them with all of my being.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Race

I went to the Second Wind Post Race celebration tonight. Even though I don't know anyone in particular at the club I still felt a sense of belonging. For someone who is unable to stay with a half day tour group, I sure have put down a lot of miles with the team. If it wasn't for them I wouldn't have been able to run through the toughest of winter days. Sometimes we need others to show us our strength. These are the runners who have inspired me to run. These are the teammates who showed me that I am capable of more than I think. I was disappointed to have decided to pull out of the half marathon a week before the race. My calves had been bothering me for a couple of months by then from overuse. I had to stopped running all together after a tough race at Effingham. Still, I knew I had to participate in the event. The organizer, Jan, was kind enough to make a last minute switch for me to run the 5K on Friday night. I also signed up to volunteer all day on Saturday as a course volunteer for the full marathon on John and Mattis.

The 5K was the most exhilarating event I have ever participated. In fact, I can't remember the last time I was that excited about anything. I even skipped lunch at work that day to get a rainbow tutu for the race! I met up with Mike and his wife at Body n Sole and carpooled to the Assembly Hall, where the race finished. My excitement grew as we walked closer to the starting line to join the rest of the 7,000 runners. I chatted with Jane from SWRC as I waited for the race to start. By the time we finally shuffled to the start my face was actually hurting from grinning so much! With thousands of people cheered us on along the way, my adrenaline was at an all time high. Having started at the back of the pack, I passed people left and right. My legs were hurting but I couldn't stop running. I took notice of everyone around me, the spectators, the runners, the streets, the buildings, the dimming evening light. The ordinary place suddenly looked surreal, almost magical. Along with the masses, we passed the law school, the building where I took my LSAT, the bar where I met with Cass and Blake for the first time after I moved here 18 months ago, Green Street, the ARC where Sam, Cass and I had gone to aerobic classes together, and then the final dash into Memorial Stadium for the first time. I came up behind a little boy as we made our way into the stadium. I could tell the boy was getting tired. I shout out, "keep it up, you're doing great! you're almost there!" Then his father said to him, "the finish is just in front of you. When you see it you go for it!" As soon as he said that, the finish banner appeared before us as we emerged from the tunnel. The boy took off as if he just hit the NO2 reserve. My eyes moistened instantly as I ran after the boy. I looked down at my watch and noted that we clocked under 7:30/mile pace as we crossed the finish line. I looked around the packed stadium and thought to myself, what a nice run this has been. The 18 months spent here were not wasted. Later on as we walked back to my car, I realized that I just did something I couldn't do back when I was eleven years old. As part of the track team I don't think I even finished a 3K race before. It's good to know what I'm getting older and stronger at the same time.

I woke up on Saturday with just as much excitement as Friday but with more pain. I hobbled to my intersection just before 8am to meet with the two police officers. Although they were cute like I had requested from Kim, the volunteer organizer, alas, they were not single. Just goes to prove that the cute ones are already taken! I had no idea what i was going to do other than to make sure that no runners get run over by cars and that I have the phone handy to call for help if needed. The first runner crossed my spot between mile 17 and 18 at exactly an hour and half after the start. He looked fresh and energetic as if he had just started the race. His strides were high and strong. His arm movements accentuated as if they were powerful pumps. It was amazing to watch. Other runners trickled through. About a dozen later I saw the first female runner in a gray shirt. She looked pretty and normal, not at all lanky like what we imagine good runners to be. I cheered her on and never stopped for the four hours that followed. I had never screamed and clapped so much and so loudly my whole life. Over and over again, I shouted, you've got it! go for it! keep going! looking good there! good job! good job! good job! I was so relentless I surprised myself. All my life I've wanted to be under the spotlight, if not for fame and attention, then certainly an opportunity to express myself. I never saw myself as someone who cheered on for others from the sideline. Now, not only have I found out that I can be an amazing cheerleader, I actually love it!

Unknowingly, I had saved the best for last. The youth run is a 1K race for kids of all ages. Once again I got all teared up watching little kids run. One five-year-old girl with disabilities crossed the finish line with her tiny walker. How could you not cry and be inspired at the sight of that? What about the mom finishing the race with a baby on her back and one toddler on each hand?? And all the other parents who ran with the kids while shooting videos and taking pictures? I love it! When I have kids I want to run with them. I want to be there when they cross the finish line.

So now the training is over I feel a little melancholic. I know all the miles I had put down with Second Wind did not go to waste. Whether I ran this race or not is not the point. We are rarely defined by a singular race. Instead, running is a lifestyle I hope to adapt to. I need to wait for my legs to heal up and slowly work up the mileage again. I will run a half marathon soon enough. I might even come back here one day to complete this race. No matter what, I will never forget the people who have inspired me to run. Thank you Second Wind. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Certain Uncertainty

"What are you anxious about?"
"The relationship. I really want it to workout but I don't know if it will."
"That's the best part! You don't know exactly what's going to happen and you're really excited to find out."
"That's where you and I differ."
"I know. You prefer certainty and I like possibilities."
"Exactly. I'd take boring and predictability over options any day."
"Well, it's not that I don't like certainty. It's just that's not how life is. Even if I want things to be certain, it's not my choice to make. You can prefer whichever you want but ultimately you don't get to decide."

He laid his head in my lap as we watched the Deadliest Catch, the unlikeliest of shows to be watched by both of us in its entirety separately due to unlikely circumstances. I was in TRF and he was sick. But this time there was no anxiety, depression or illness for neither of us. I felt at ease. Later on as we laid on the futon, I went into my little soliloquy on sex and intimacy. He stopped me before I could ramble on. Sometimes bodies are just meant to fit together and this was one of those times.

Spending time with the young neighbor reminds me of the place I once was. When we're young we perceive the world in black and white and we think in terms of absolutes. We are constantly launching ourselves in projectile motion from one point to the next but never quite land on target. With enough trail and error we realize that world isn't as structured as we thought and that very rarely are we the only driving force behind our own destinies. Somehow life has the ability to humble and empower us all at the same time. The very same uncertainties that humbles us eventually gave rise to self-efficacy. Life is unpredictable but we're never lost. I believe there is a plan for all of us. We just don't know it yet. After all, where would the fun be if we already know the course? 

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Neighbor

When people base their lives on blind faith, any encounter with a non-believer threatens the core of their existence. To persuade and convert others becomes a way to justify their own beliefs. I am not a religious person but I do have steadfast dogma on certain subjects such as love, sex and intimacy. When those values are being intrude upon, I feel a natural impulse to react. In fact thinking back, I've spent a good part of my young adult life in the defensive position. I never liked being there yet I was never able to extract myself either. I guess the thought of being understood was just all too alluring.

A brief encounter with the neighbor sent my mind into a tailspin. I've been down this road before but obviously I still don't know better. As it turns out, inexperienced twenty-some-year-old guys really can't distinguish the difference between urbanity and desperation. They always manage to flatter themselves and insult my intelligence at the same time with silly saying like, nothing is going to happen with us. Over a slightly heated discussion I told one young man that someday when he's old and bald sitting alone at a bar he's going to kick himself for not having spent more time with me when I invited him to. He asked to see me again six months after that exchange. I told him I was moving out of town. It felt good to know that he had to kick himself a lot sooner than I thought.

This time I didn't react verbally. Yet, my mind is nevertheless filled with judgment for all he stood for and defensiveness for all I believed in. That and he told me we should no longer interact with each other, at least not physically, because he is never going to marry me. WTF?! Who said I wanted to get married in the first place? And why in the world would I want to marry him???? And how arrogant of him to say never?!

When I went to meditation with Caroline this morning all I could feel was entanglement. Unable to calm my mind sitting quietly in front of the wall, I felt the need to write down my thoughts as if I was carving out the ten commandments. After all those years of oral persuasion that failed to serve me any good, I use this blog as my outlet instead. Writing is my way of reflecting my thoughts. When I understand my own thoughts I can feel understood. While I realize that this is the opportunity to practice non reaction, non judgment, including non judgment for people who judge people, I also want to be kind enough to myself to let my thoughts wonder just a little. We are only human and this is my practice.

If you ask ten people what is love and intimacy you'll get ten different answers. No one is right or wrong (except the neighbor is far out of left field). I always thought if I have kids I'd want them to understand that love and sex are two completely different things. You can have one or the other or both or neither. It's possible to experience the greatest love without sex. It's possible to experience the greatest sex without love. And it's possible to experience the greatest intimacy without either love or sex. I believe this wholeheartedly because I have experienced it time and time again. What makes the experience great is not what we do or how we categorize it but the fact we do it with compassion and openness.

Since when did qualifying every human interaction become such a popular pastime? People seem to be tirelessly searching for answers to questions such as what type of relationship are we in, what does this mean and where does this lead to? And worse than that, the twenty-some-year-olds are dishing out the phrase, "this is only sex and nothing else," as if they were handing out tic tacs. Then there are the really upside down, inside out and twisted people who subscribe to an ideal vision that only exist in their minds and use its non-existence an excuse to distance themselves from the reality.

When we label, we judge. When we condition our minds, we are incapable of feeling. When we are blinded by our visions we can not see what is right in front of us. Until we move beyond the relentless quest for answers and the imagined space that separates us we are no closer to the true experience than outsiders who are watching a sequence of events from afar. Be present, be awake, and be supple. Care not for where the road leads to but enjoy every step of the way. I hope to always give and receive with love and openness.

Take away the obvious rudeness of certain sayings, it is actually pleasant to spend time with the neighbor. We listen to music together. We talk about relationships, life, love, family. We do dishes together. We roll around and climb on top of each other like little kids. If we made a short documentary on intimacy it would show him telling me how many kids he wants to have, three, and what their names are, Garrett-after his favorite character from a fantasy book, Brynn for a girl and names of family members like Dan or Steve for the third one.

In Chinese we say you can't see the mountain if you're standing within it. As I smiled back at him I thought, someday many years from now, after you've tried on too many pairs of shoes that looks nice from the outside but never fit quite right, you're going to remember what we experienced here. You won't recall my name or what we've talked about but you will remember how I made you feel. You might even realize that it is possible to experience intimacy with a stranger and that even someone who doesn't fit your list of criteria can nevertheless make you feel understood.

Unlike the neighbor, Frank always knew the right thing to say at the right time. When I mentioned the interaction to him over dinner he cut me off before I could finish elaborating my thoughts and told me something I didn't realize I wanted and needed to hear. "You're having an affect on him," Frank said with absolute certainty, "no matter what happens from now on he'll never be the same again." And just like that, I felt understood, validated and relieved. For a street beggar, what's worse than not being given any money is not to be noticed. As confident and self-assuring as I am, at times a little acknowledgment can go a long way. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Making Connection

With a few more months left in town, I moved into a cheaper sublet to cut down on living expenses. The place is a bit smaller but the rent is half of what I paid before so I really have no reason to complain. Besides, it forced me to get rid of some of the things I didn't need. And as part of the cost cutting, I had no intention of installing a new internet connection, especially for such a short duration. Even though I now live in the same building as the girl I've been carpooling with for the last year, my request to "borrow" their wifi was denied due to concern on connection speed.

So now desperate for some connection, I waited until she left for the day to knock on my neighbor's door. Based on what I've heard from Dina, the neighbor sounded rather antisocial, private and with a low noise tolerance. Since I've never seen or met the guy before I really didn't know what to expect. When the door finally opened, I was in a state of bewilderment. Emerging out of the darkened living room was a sharply dressed and hansom young man. As I introduced myself he immediately shifted his attention onto the Eastman shirt I had just put on few seconds before. "Did you go to Eastman?" he asked. Now even more surprised, I exclaimed, "Yes, I did! How did you know Eastman? Most people don't recognize it." "Oh, I went to school for trumpet very briefly." And just like that, I was hooked.

A PhD student in neuroscience who once went to school for trumpet and is now standing before me in perfectly pressed white pants, light blue shirt and matching brown leather belt and shoes as if he just stepped out of a casino in Monte Carlos. If anything was every served on a silver platter this might just have to be it. Except, well, except, I was outrageously under dressed in my workout pants, flip flops with hair pulled into a ponytail and no make up!

I inquired if my music was too loud, to which he answered no but would be glad to take my number in case anything bothered him. I couldn't sense even the slightest trace of flirtation in his voice or demeanor but he added my number to his phone like a pro. As for wifi, he had none but who cares for wifi when I've just connected with such a cute neighbor upstairs? 

Red Light from an Attorney

Congratulations on the scholarship offers.
As I mentioned before, I have no doubt you would be an excellent international trade attorney. But I voted for you not to go in the poll, and found I was with the majority. Unless you feel like you can’t survive without being a lawyer, like it is your destiny to do so, your heart is not going to be in it. When your heart is not in it, you likely won’t be happy or satisfied with the result. Yes, you’d have a shiny new JD on the wall and likely a license to practice law from at least one jurisdiction to frame next to that JD, and given your intelligence, you’d probably have a “great” job at a large firm paying a good starting salary. But, you’d be working 80-100 hours per week, starting from the bottom, and trying to claw your way up. That would be your reality for years to come. Then you’d make partner and you’d be in the back-stabbing business of trying to wrangle in clients and keep your partners and colleagues from stealing them, still working 80-100 hours per week. You’ll be making a ton of money and have what most lawyers call “golden handcuffs.” But you’ll have very limited time outside of work for friends, family, children, etc.

 I know, I’m making this sound better and better all the time, right? If you want to challenge yourself, you don’t necessarily have to go to law school. Save up some money and start your own consulting firm or your own business; that’s challenging. Find something you love and do that. You’re obviously smart enough to be a lawyer, but if you can’t even convince yourself that you want to go, you certainly can’t convince me (or anyone else) that you should.

Ultimately, it is your decision. It’s your life. How do you want to spend it?


Thank you for sharing your thoughts on my conundrum. As you can imagine, I have done a lot of research on law school. You're correct in saying that I don't have a strong desire to be a lawyer. However, I also don't have a strong desire to keep my current job. I am interviewing at other places but I've been through enough companies by now to know that a job is really just a job. This is not the right thing for me to do and right place to be at this point in my life. I would like to get into consulting someday but I have a hard time seeing that happening without a JD. With law school, the opportunities for me to intern with USTR, BIS, DOJ, USTIC and other government agencies are endless. I can also clerk with CIT, just down the street from Cardozo. Maybe with a few more years of industry experience after law school I'll be more ready for my own consulting firm.

While it would be nice to have time, energy and resource to enjoy life outside of work, I find myself extremely lonely most of the time here. I have a difficult time meeting people and not to mention a potential mate to settle down with. I'm a very assertive person and I feel like I'm running out of options here on the social front. Just about everyone in my field is older so it's unlikely that I'd meet someone at another company or five other companies. I'm not sure if I'd make a lot friends in law school but at least I might have more opportunities to network in other places. I would like to have kids someday and I need to create a good story for them. I just have to decide on which one.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Green Light from My LSAT Instructor

I have a few questions before casting my vote:
1. What is your ultimate career goal?
2. How much research have you put into law school? Do you really understand what you will gain from the a law school program other than a J.D.?
3. Is this something that you can reasonably afford given the skyrocketing cost of the program?
4. What are your alternatives?


1. Don't have one. I'm open to anything but have a burning desire for nothing. It's not about the specifics of what I do but rather I want to feel that I've accomplished something and overcame challenges on a weekly, monthly, yearly basis. 
2. I have read everything there is about law school including: course work, OCI process, writing competition, law review, clinics, class ranking, post graduate employment statistics, earning potential, clerkship, student loan, IBR. I attended a few L1 classes, all boring. For a more personal experience, I dated a 2L from U of I last year. He was one of the few lucky ones who got a summer associate position at Baker & McKenzie and later offered the $160k/yr biglaw position after graduation. I met other law students through him and attended the formal ball at the law school. They are by far some of the most arrogant and classless bunch of people I've ever encountered. That's not to say they're not nice people or anything but just not my cup of tea. 
What am I going to gain from law school other than a JD?
*Ridiculous amount of debt
*A line on my resume
*I don't know what I don't know

3. No, I can't afford it and I don't know anyone who can unless they've got rich parents. The sex industry is just not that lucrative these days. Just kidding. I've done all the calculation and the numbers just don't add up.

For example, I'd have to take on at least $165,000 in student loan to attend Cardozo. That translate to over $2,000 per month in student loan payment over ten years (not participating in IBR). IF I get a biglaw job, $160k/year translate to roughly $8,000/mo. after taxes. Deduct $2,000 loan and $2500 for a 350 sq ft. studio apartment in Manhattan, I'd be left with $3,500 disposable income for all my other living expenses. 
The problem is that I have $3,500/mo disposable income right now in a large two-bedroom without a ten-year student loan payment. This means I'd actually have to make way more than $160,000 per year just to have the same qualify of life I have now! The reality is that less than 5% of current graduates land $160k biglaw positions. 

4. Alternative is just to get another job in my field but I've had lots of jobs at lots of different places before. I'm tired of jumping around. When the first week wears off it all get back to the same shit different day bs. There is really no more advancements for me in my field other than getting a JD. If I really want a change I'd have to do something completely different, like being a nurse. I have no interest in being a nurse or anything else.

So this takes us back to the JD conundrum. I can't look at the numbers because it just doesn't add up. There's a lot of opportunity cost for me but there's no good way to capture the upside other than the grim employment statistics. I'm not excited about going to civil procedure or property classes. The only path I can see given my professional background is:
  1. Go to law school 
  2. Intern at the Court of International Trade (CIT) or US Trade Representatives (USTR) or DOJ Fraud/White Collar Crime Investigation (specifically FCPA violation, bribery and money laundering).  
  3. Do everything I can go get on law review
  4. Clerk with CIT (would be nice to get on the US Court of Appeal for the Federal Circuit but I'll be going to Cardozo, not Columbia). 
  5. Work for a big firm such as Arent Fox or Akin Gump as a trade attorney or Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg as a trade consultant for 2 to 5 years. 
  6. Start my own trade consulting business ten years from now. Surprisingly enough, one of the reviews from the website hit the nail on the head with compliance consulting thing. I'm just not sure if it's possible to do it without a JD. I know legally I can do compliance work because I'm doing it right now. The problem is credential. Clients want to see JD (and so do the Big 4).  
I don't need to be making millions of $$$. My goal with law school is to be able to work on my own one day. I can have a handful of small/medium size companies as clients to help them to establish, maintain and audit their compliance programs. I need to get out of the whole corporate office thing. I want some flexibility and control over what I do and an avenue to use my more creative side. Not to sound arrogant but I'm great at what I do and it doesn't make to much sense to abandon what I've worked so hard to build so far. 


My vote is go for it. From reading your e-mail, I know that you are realistic about your situation and you aren't just some kid who doesn't know what to do with her future. I would NEVER change my decision to go to law school and everyone finds a way to pay the bills once they graduate - I know you will too and I think you will be able to have a lot more flexibility in your future endeavors if you obtain a JD. Go get em...

Friday, April 12, 2013

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


It all comes down to two divergent paths: three years of school with crushing debt and uncertain future or a fatalistic future of endless struggle to conform to the corporate world. Options are a luxury despite the fact they may be equally vile. Although going back to school in the City has its allures, the thought of carrying a mortgage payment for ten to twenty five years afterwards without a house to show for completely frightens me. Just how exactly would I be able to be financially sound enough to start a family after that? Yet the thought of living the rinse and repeat life in the suburbs turns my stomach even with the possibility of having kids of my own. The glass is both half full and half empty. I seem to have come to a standstill.

Saturday, March 30, 2013


To a Friend:

When we talked the other day I really didn't get a chance to say much. I guess it was hard for me to talk at the office. What I wanted to tell you was that I haven't felt anxious or depressed for a long time now. I'd like to change a couple of things in my life but overall I'm content. I'm excited about new possibilities and hopeful for all the unknown that is yet to come.

I've always valued your opinion. I wouldn't have the career I have right now if it wasn't for you. However, I think we have very different ideas on what we want in life. I often feel misunderstood when we talk but for me to explain any further would sound defensive at best.  Everyone walks their own crocked path. There is no right way or wrong way. Nothing is better or worse. A person with common sense sees a straight line from A to B. When you truly open your eyes you see endless possibilities. For me life is not about getting from point A to point B or to exceed some arbitrary income threshold. More often than not just as we are on our way to some planned destination, we get derailed, delayed, or decide to go a whole different direction halfway through. That's the beauty in life, the unexpected. Because the sooner we get to our imagined destination the sooner we are disappointed at the lack of contentment it brings. So slow down and enjoy the detours.  

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Empty Mind

An empty mind fills the heart with gratitude.

A weekend away to a zen retreat.  Even though it wasn't supposed to be life changing, a small part of me still secretively wishes that something had changed, that somehow through the process of sitting quietly in a room with perfect strangers I had become wiser, calmer, more clearer. Maybe it’s like everything else that’s already been woven into the tapestry. I don’t know what the future holds but I will find out in time as I am in the front seat of my own life.

The retreat came to an end just as I started to get into the rhythm of zazen. I woke up this morning in my small cabinet feeling strangely attached to my surrounding. I felt home even without any of my belonging here, cases of books, closets full of clothes, scented candles, ipods, perfumes, two cats. None of it mattered. I felt grounded. I felt real. I felt relieved. No time has ever been wasted now or before. In this big chaotic universe, this is exactly the spot I’m supposed to be at this moment. What had brought us here isn't the desire to change life but to be more present to the life we already have. To be awakened deep down in our core.

It didn't take long for me to get back into the swing of things. I’m just as annoyed by everything my mother says and does. When I walked into the house I saw a dozen things that need to be done with just one glance. Then I made tea, turned on the computer and wrote these words. Tears came. I can’t tell if they are of joy or sadness. Just tears. And love. Lots of love. And now I’m slowly starting to realize that to be able to sit quietly in a room with perfect strangers is to practice love, compassion and acceptance. 

Closing Ceremony

We each had to speak at the closing. It was like a meeting for overachieving anonymous. When it was my turn this is what I shared:

There is a time for everything. I have experienced that time and time again in my life, from traveling, working, meeting people. I'm grateful to have found my way here. Like the life that is already woven into the tapestry, this is where am supposed to be at this moment and you are the people who are I'm supposed to share this moment with. Thank you!

And then there were tears. An overwhelming sense of love and gratitude. I thought to myself, no matter where life leads me, I will always have this moment. Treasure it. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Why I Run

Sometimes people ask me what made me decide to train for a race. Beyond the obvious reason to attain better physical condition is the fact that I really get a kick out of identifying and overcoming personal challenges. Running a half marathon is merely an arbitrary goal, the tip of the iceberg. Underneath it all, it is not running that I am after but rather the feeling of making continuous progress and ultimately succeed in doing something I find difficult or something I wasn’t able to do before. I might not enjoy every run or every workout but there is satisfaction in proving to myself time and time again that I can put in my best work on the days I feel like it and on the days I dread it. It cultivates determination, persistence, accountability and discipline. Any improvement in physical conditioning resulted from reaching and meeting my goal is just a positive byproduct of pursuing something that is challenging and meaningful to me.

Looking back this is precisely how I have gone after many things in life, with vigor and focus. It is how I put together my applications for law school, attacked the LSAT, passed the brokers exam, became a Certified US Export Compliance Officer, tripled my salary in three years during an economic downturn, got started in international trade, traveled around the world, learned tango, completed two concurrent degrees, got accepted to the best music schools in the country, gained awareness of art, poetry and literature, exceled in AP classes and learned English after moving to this country at 13 years old. None of those things were easy and not all of them with great outcomes. I am a doer. When someone starts to tell me more of what they don’t do instead of what they do pursue I start losing respect for them

Slowly I am beginning to see that happiness for me is to be deeply immersed in the act of the pursuit. The object, secondary and the outcome, inconsequential. The older I get the more I realize that life is not about which path you choose but how you carry out the choices you’ve made. The days of vexing over where my passions lay are now becoming more distant in the rare view mirror. I take comfort in knowing that passion will follow when the pursuit is done with vigor.

I had a quarrel with someone recently on the difference between recreational running and race training and what personal significance it had on me. The older I get the more I see there are all kinds of people in the world. Although I have high standards for myself and everyone around me I also realize that not everyone has had the same privileges I have had. The study of economics further illustrated to me that nothing can be said with absolute certainty. This is not to say that I am a skeptical person. I will forever be stubborn in my own ways with strong opinions and beliefs. However, I try not to impose those on anyone else or rule out any alternative possibilities. A person with common sense sees one logical path between A and B. A person with rich imagination can justify many paths. Overtime I have become less judgemental. The next step is perhaps to stop judge people who judge people.

Monday, January 28, 2013


After some serious consideration I've decided that I do want to have kids. Whether it's going to happen with a lover in a committed relationship, a platonic friend or on my own as a single mother by choice is secondary. I live for experiences. To go through life without kids, especially as a woman, would only seem half fulfilled. I've always believed that if you want something then you are responsible to make it happen. I can't control every detail in my life but I can start preparing myself for my future role as a mother.

Life is always becoming increasingly mores stressful and demanding for those who constantly strives for more. There are no limit on what we can do to advance in our careers or how much we can expand our minds and push our bodies. We can't seem to give enough our loved ones, our community and ourselves. But to do all those things we must have a clear mind and strong body. Anything less than that would only slow us down.

What I need is not only to bring balance to my mind and body now but also to develop a powerful toolbox to face future challenges with confidence and efficacy. Sakyong Mipham mentioned in his book Running with the Mind of Meditation that "we need to exercise both our body and our mind. The nature of the body is form and substance. The nature of the mind is consciousness  Because the body and mind are different by nature, what benefits them is different in nature as well. The body benefits from movement, and the mind benefit from stillness. when we give our mind and body what benefits them. a natural harmony and balance takes place. With this unified approach, we are happy, healthy, and wise."

I'm not obsessed with attaining perfection, success or material wealth. However, I have noticed that I am completely addicted to the sensation of deciding on something and making it happen. It's not about setting goals or devising steps to achieve it. It's a simple matter of holding myself accountable. The events are either dos or don'ts like visiting Rose in Germany, applying to law school or running a half marathon. There might be steps in the middle but I never get caught up in some fancy 12-step program. There is a reason why people say always keep your eyes on the prize. To focus on the steps in between only distance you from where you are to where you want to be. All I know is that once I decide on doing something I do it. 

What I've decided now is to run a half marathon at end of April. Distance running has always been difficult for me. The only way to overcome it is through continuous repetition until my body adapts to it. I want to be one of those recreational runners you see in the park on Saturday mornings. I joined a running club and am working to increase my mileage each week. It's a struggle but I know the reward will make it all worthwhile. One day soon I'm going to add running to my toolbox as my physical therapy for a strong heart and body. I want to know that when my mind is overburdened my body will carry me through. 

As for my mind, I going to start practice meditation. I now have a small library of books on zen meditation. I signed up for a zen retreat in March with Karen Maezen Miller, the author of my new favorite book Momma Zen. Someday I will have the ability to bring my mind to stillness in the midst of chaos. I will make mindful decisions with self-assurance. I will accept life as it presents itself to me and I will accept and let go with grace.

And for the more practical side of being a mother, I will spend two evenings each week to work with kids from newborn to 6 years old at the Crisis Nursery. I've worked a few different jobs in my life but never have I felt more inadequate. The night when I turned in my paperwork I saw a little boy with the most beautiful big eyes. He was there for his first birthday. My heart melted. I wanted to stay there and hold him. I have a feeling this is going to be the most difficult job ever. Tonight I watched a video on the nursery's childcare philosophy: to promote confidence and competency through validation and support. Bingo! That's what I've been saying my whole life! The key is to acknowledge and respond appropriately to the child's action and emotion. For example, when a child cries because her parent is leaving instead of saying "don't cry, you're fine" we should respond with "I see you're sad. It's hard to say goodbye. I'm going to sit here and listen to you." God, can I have one of these volunteers to come mother me??? 

I wish my own mother could go take a volunteer class. Any communication with her tends to send me into deep depression. She has a negative response to everything I say. Tonight I told her I'm training for a half marathon, she said, don't run too hard, you should stop if you're tired. I told her I'm eating much less meat now to lower my cholesterol. She said, oh, no you must eat some meat. Every time I tell her I am miserable here she tells me I can't be sad! My cousin's grandmother recently passed away, she told her to stop crying! What's with people's difficulty to deal with real emotions? I say face it, experience it. This is why we are here. Cry when you're sad. Eat when you're hungry. Rest when you're tired. Sometimes It IS that easy. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Married people with kids never seem to have a difficult time recalling the happiest moments of their lives. Not having reached those milestones (without counting the false starts and early terminations), the two most memorable and joyous moments in my life thus far are the moment Dr. G walked into the greenroom after my senior recital and having cafe con leche with Rose at confiteria giratoria on top of Cerro Otto in Bariloche.

It's true that we have a tendency to glorify the past. The good old days, we like to call them. However much proclivity is magnified by the lens of time, those moments have always been my greatest treasures. They are that much more real because I have two witnesses who remain as two of my staunchest supporters until this day. I've always considered myself extraordinarily fortunate. To somehow cross paths with Nick and Rose in this big wide and chaotic universe is perhaps the most fortunate events of them all. Together they have inspired so much beauty in my life.

I've been thinking of those moments more now than ever before. It's not a matter of escaping the present or living in the past but rather a way to remind myself of the substances that makes this life worthy of living. My life is about to change. I don't know exactly where, when or how or whether it's for the better or worse. All I know is that like all things in this temporal world, my life is about to change. Quite moments like this, sitting in front of the fireplace with soft music and warm coffee, feels like the calm before the storm.

One by one, options slowly present themselves in front of me. All are viable but none seem to tickle my fancy. When I was younger, I longed to move to a big city like every other restless souls in search of excitement. Even after my worldly adventures, when all other American cities have fallen to the wayside of disenchantment, the Big Apple still held a special place in my heart. Rose and I have long agreed that everyone should live in the City once in their lives to truly live. For a while I thought perhaps this would be my year. Instead of feeling ecstatic at the prospect of finally moving to the City like I've always imagined, I felt nothing on my trip to NYC last weekend. I was disenthralled.

And now, bit by bit I'm starting to realize that it's not a matter of moving or choosing schools. After all this soul searching and reflection, no other desire even remotely compares to the feeling I had about guitar towards the end of my high school years. The determination and clarity to pursue music was a high like nothing else in life. You can amass wealth, power or fame but there is no better sensation than to be completely engrossed in the pursuit of something personal with absolute conviction. In religious terms they call it blind faith. I would have done it if someone told me I would live a life of poverty, misery, loneliness or whatever other adversarial consequences there may be. There was nothing anyone can say or do to stop me. When you have found the greatest love, nothing else mattered.

I have never felt anything so viscerally before or since those days at Eastman. One of the greatest lessons Petar taught me when I studied with him in high school was, regardless of right or wrong. to always perform with conviction. I believe the same principle applies to life. There is no joy or success in doing something half-assedly. What is not done with conviction is not worthy of doing at all. I'm in search of my next greatest love, if it is possible for such thing to exist.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


Disappointed by my trip to NYC I wondered what it would take for me to get excited about moving there. So I looked up the concert calender at Juilliard. Music still triggered a strong emotional response in me. I want to be near it. I want to be surrounded by it. At one point I wanted desperately to be part of it. The appearance of Jordi Savall on the calender nearly brought tears to my eyes. Still, Nick's text message was what breached the levee of my tears. I cried uncontrollably as if I have just lost the greatest love of my life. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


I went to see the movie A Late Quartet on New Year’s Day in my PJs. It was the closest thing to a musical experience I can get in this wasteland. The movie brought back sounds I used to hear when I was a young aspiring musician. Images of NYC stirred up the forgotten and at times forgone desire to live in a true urban environment. I fantasized about living at Sagamore and walking to Eastman in evenings for world class concerts. I’d introduce my kids to everyone in the studio and have him/her grow up around musicians with unparalleled virtuosity. After school program would consists of doing homework and sitting in on all kinds of rehearsals.

Chinese parents get together for lunch every day to discuss the future of their sons and daughters, the curve setters at the ivy leagues. The discussions typically evolve around education and marriage, the two most important life events for a young adult. One day one of the moms asked me what I thought was a good field of study for future employment. I loathe such question as such parental interference has a way of sucking the creativity and exuberance out of life. But to respond in good spirit without compromising my own principles I said, what is important is not which field he/she chooses to pursue but rather to be fully committed to perform at the highest stratum of whichever field that is chosen. There are successful and mediocre people in every specialization. To be successful is to be brilliant and to outperform everyone else regardless of the field.

Someday I want to install the concept in my kids that if they feel strongly about something then they have the obligation to themselves to pursue it to the fullest extent. If you want it then you’ve got to work to get it. I want to have the wisdom and ability to support them even if they decide on fields that are unfamiliar to me or counter to my own interests. After all, it’s never about what field they choose but rather how much they are willing to dedicate their lives to it. Until then, we will have lots of music in our lives. 

Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, was asked who his mentors were and this was his reply, “my dad has I think taught me the value of trusting your instinct, trusting your gut. Growing up, he reinforced in me this idea that you can do anything you set your mind to. When you’re a kid it is an easy thing to take for granted. It kind of sound like, ‘eat your vegetables.’ When you get older you realize how fortunate you are to have someone in your life that’s constantly reinforcing that.”

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Chamana List

A coworker is moving here for TX. I compiled a list of my favorite local spots for her. I always complain about the lack of dinning options around here. When thinking about I could actually come up with a dozen reputable eateries in town. Just goes to show that things are never as good or as bad as we think they are. Enjoy.

Restaurants (not in any particular order):
·         Escobar – Best food and service in town, also has a great brunch menu (best egg benedict!).
·         Milo – Same owner as Escobar. Quality food and service. Pretty quiet most of the time.
·         Black Dog – Best BBQ place in the region. Yelp Review
·         Seven Saints – Good food, bad desserts. Can be a bit noisy on nights/weekends. I like the goat cheese salad here.
·         Farrens – Best burger
·         Café Kopi – Nice café in downtown Champaign.
·         Pekara Bakery – Lovely bakery with café. Desserts are always tasty!
·         Le Peep – Good place for breakfast
·         Maize – Small place on Green & 1st with best tacos (I’m addicted to this place)!
·         Golden Port – 505 S Neil St. Best Chinese food in town. Great for takeout (closed on Tuesdays).
·         Xinh Xinh Café – 114 North Vine St. Quick fix for Vietnamese food.
·         Nitaya Thai – 134 West Church St. Acceptable Thai food for Champaign.  
·         Vinny’s – Best pizza in town (good thin crest). Menu

Natural Food Stores:
·         Common Ground Food Co-Op – Recently expanded. Great variety of natural/organic products. Definitely try the soups!
·         Strawberry Field – Smaller natural food store with bakery/dessert counter! All the desserts are delicious and most of them are vegan! They have some tables inside and outside for a quick snack. Live music on Sunday mornings.

Other Spots:
·         Art Theater – Only place around here (that I know of) to see independent and foreign films. Neat little place.
·         Krannert Art Museum – Neat place to visit. Sometimes they have good live performances.
·         We have a very lively farmers market on Saturdays from spring to fall.
·         I buy my meats from Triple S Farm. It’s a local farm that supplies free range beef, chicken and eggs. They also have great sausages and bacon! All members enjoy a 10% discount from retail price. Let me know if you’re interested. J

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

An Urban Experience

Rose had just returned to Dusseldorf after spending the holidays with her family in Utah. I needed to talk so we chatted for an hour. I have been feeling incredibly depressed and lonely but I feel guilty whining to her for the same reason one would feel bad complaining about running a 5K to someone who had just finished a marathon. In some ways we’re the same and in many ways we are different. Maybe I’m not as strong and independent as I thought.

I told Rose about my visit to Chicago for the fourteenth time this past weekend. There were tender moments but overall the trip left me feeling sad. I thought Brett might have been different this time with his friend visiting from Costa Rica. But not only was he once again trapped in a pot and alcohol induced world of apathy, his friend Chris made me realize that loneliness is an endemic problem. The only reason Chris was visiting Chicago in the middle of the winter for the second year around was because he has no friends of his own to hang out with on New Year’s in Costa Rica. From what I could tell he wasn’t having much fun with Brett. I don’t think Brett was having much fun with Brett.  

I let myself out of the door on Sunday. Brett never seems comfortable asking me to leave. I just get a very distinct feeling of being uninvited to stay. I feel disappointed every time I walk out of his door. Disappointed with the visit. Disappointed with him. Disappointed with myself. Disappointed at the disparity between the world that exists in my imagination and the one that I live in. And every time I try to cheer myself up by having a little indulgence, usually in the form of a nice meal or a shopping trip to the outlet. I have made quite a few Yelp check-ins this way. This time I decided on a nearby Cuban place.

I was in the mood for a little stroll in the city. I liked seeing my reflection the shop windows, tall boots, Lucky jeans, bright red wool coat with big black military buttons. I felt beautiful as the cold breeze pushed back the wavy hair I had ironed out in the morning. Surely anyone would have been lucky to walk with me but I had no one to walk with. The Cuban restaurant was more like a small café. I tried to order choripan but they were out of chorizo. Then I thought, I’m at a Cuban place, let go of Buenos Aires. I got a roasted pork sandwich, black bean soup and café con leche. I found a seat by the window overlooking Congress Ave. The hostel is next door. The sight of a group of young travelers with large backpacks brought a smile to my face. For a few minutes I felt as if I too was a traveler in the windy city. The food arrived as I warm up to the lively Cuban music. Everything was delicious but nothing was more satisfying than the novelty feeling of being on the road. It was the only way I could justify the visit. And that, as Rose had perfectly coined, was an urban experience. 

Rose had always said that everyone should live in New York City once at some point in their lives. I tend to agree with her.