Monday, March 31, 2014

From Left to Write: The Idea of Him

I love New York.
I absolutely love New York.
New York is the best.
How did I get here from there?

As I was pumping gas at Costco this morning, these thoughts ran through my head as I was trying to think of something to post for our From Left to Write book club selection, The Idea of Him. Then it hit me. I was drawn to the book because it is set in New York City, the dream city of my childhood. There was also a Him that was part of my New York life, but that's a story best left untouched. Living in New York was the idea of glamour, intrigue, and success that was my singular goal growing up in the suburbs of Chicago. For a time I achieved it. Then I let it go because I felt myself getting hard like the Sunscreen Song predicted. But I loved my life there. So this is my post on why I love New York. Because there are too many reasons for just one blog post, I'm going to limit myself to five. The first five that fill my head--go.

1. People. Everyone from everywhere. You can be rich, poor, college graduate, high school dropout, old, young, white, black, yellow, brown, Jews for Jesus, Lost Tribe of Israel, anyone and everyone is there. Sometimes when I look around here in the Bay Area it strikes me how different the diversity here looks. Yes, there are people of every background here but it seems like there are pockets of this or that ethnic group or socio-economic echelon rather than the glorious patchwork of God's creation that you get in one subway car down Broadway. I miss that. It saddens me that Princess E stares at certain people in Trader Joe's because she rarely sees them around town. It saddens me that my children don't get why Martin Luther King Jr. was so important. It saddens me that everyone, including R's preschool teacher, first speaks Chinese to me because they assume I'd rather speak that than English. (I'm Korean, BTW.)

2. Food. Anything you want to eat any time of day or night. Oxtail soup on 32nd Street to stave off a hangover at 4 AM. Seitan burritos and all the homemade chips and salsa you can eat at Burrito Box. Bread from Amy's. The impeccable service at Union Square Cafe. Overindulgence at Daniel, Bouley, Le Bernardin. Steaks at a restaurant where a member of La Cosa Nostra was gunned down outside. Macarons from Fauchon. Breakfast at Tea & Sympathy. Part of me can't believe how much money I spent on food in Manhattan, but another part of me doesn't regret a single cent. It's not as if I could have those delectable morsels now even if I had internet startup IPO millions. I will say that the one area where the Bay Area does beat Manhattan is in boba tea. Gong Cha, you almost make up for not being able to get a Kati Roll. Yes, I even miss the Indian food in Manhattan. There are no food carts where I live, so the tastes can't be replicated, sadly.

3. Easily accessible culture. There is a show of every kind going on at all times of the year in New York. Ballet, opera, Broadway, art exhibitions, foreign film festivals, S&M exhibits, whatever tickles your fancy. Here you have to plan and drive. I used to go get the nosebleed tickets at Lincoln Center because I knew I could go by myself and catch one act or the first half of something before I had to go back to work. I used to go to the Guggenheim solo because I hate being rushed. Sometimes I just want to go stare at Kandinsky for an hour. And not have it be a big deal or a super trek. So in this post NYC life, I end up doing next to nothing.

View from Rockefeller Center (my former office-this photo from Wikipedia)
4. Youth. As I look back on my life in New York, I know that I'm wearing rose-colored glasses. As much as I miss anything else, what I'm really missing is my youth. My 20s and early 30s. My life after college. My first fitting at a designer dress shop. My first robin egg blue gift box. Going to the exact same bars as featured on SATC and ordering cosmos. Everything is exhilarating the first time around. It loses its appeal subsequent times down the line. The City keeps you feeling young because of its frenetic energy, the constant influx of new blood, and its belief that it is the center of the Universe. If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.

5. Proximity to my college and Stewart's alma mater. I loved my college. The actual campus and the football stadium. I loved being able to get on the Metro-North and go back whenever I wanted for games or even just to walk around. I have photos of H as a toddler sitting on the canons at West Point. As much as I am proud of my sister, it isn't the same feeling when I walk with her through Cardinal territory. It's probably stemming from the same place as number four, but on this coast I have nothing to connect me to my youth, no sense of continuity with my past and the loss is palpable at times.

Having gone through this litany of memories, I realize that what I'm missing is not the Idea of New York. It's really the Idea of Me. Who I was for such a long time and how I felt connected to the world and my environment. How I defined myself. And the message is clear. Like Allie in The Idea of Him, I need to move on. I can't keep looking to the past to limit my present. I can't long for a past that can't be replicated or relived or regained even I moved to New York this minute. I need to stay focused on the future and invent a new narrative. I know I can do it. After all, not only is the steaming, angry concrete animal a part of me, I'm a woman. And I'm a blogger. Hear me roar!

This post was inspired by the novel The Idea of Him by Holly Peterson. Allie thought she had the perfect husband, until she finds him and another woman in a compromising position in their own apartment. Join From Left to Write on April we discuss The Idea of Him. Join us for a live chat with Holly on April 3.  As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Monday, March 17, 2014

From Left to Write: The Divorce Papers

This post was inspired by the novel The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger. Young lawyer Sophie unwillingly takes her first divorce case with an entertaining and volatile client in this novel thold mostly through letters and legal missives. Join From Left to Write on March 18 as we discuss The Divorce Papers. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

When I went to law school, it was with the full intention of becoming a litigator. I would champion the rights of the downtrodden, fight for liberty and justice for all. If you've seen Erin Brockovich and A Civil Action, you have some picture of how lawyers can work for the good of people who have no voice. As for my specialty, apparently I told the associate in my investment banking group that I was going to do environmental law after one too many visits to toxic sludge-filled steel companies.

The reality proved to be different. Because of that banking background, it became nearly impossible to get a firm job in litigation. My experience was in Mergers and Acquisitions and corporate transactions, so naturally interviewers pegged me to follow that path as an attorney. Also, because of my nature as an introvert (which is nothing to be ashamed of as I discussed in a prior FLTW post), the mock trial sessions we had as part of our legal research and writing class filled me with terror. When I got in front of the judge (a mere 2L) to make my opening statement, I also passed out. It was bad. So I thought it was destiny that I would become a corporate attorney.

Fast forward ten years. Reading The Divorce Papers made me think about my current position as a contract attorney at an intellectual property litigation boutique. In my five years on the corporate side, it never crossed my mind that I would be working in litigation. Like the main character Sophie who specialized in criminal law but took a detour to work on a divorce case for the firm, I was presented the opportunity to dive back into law firm work last summer, albeit in litigation. I took it, since positions for lawyer moms who've taken time off are few and far between.

available at
Having worked for the past eight months on a variety of matters, I'm still undecided as to whether I will continue with litigation or focus my energy on getting back to corporate. So I wanted to share a couple insights I've gained through the experience to sort through my thought process. You can stop reading here if the mere thought of delving into different types of law practice fills you with dread. Totally understandable, after all, I wrote my college senior thesis on the sentiment from Shakespeare, "Kill all the lawyers."

First, if a hostile takeover is like a lightning raid, then litigation as it exists today in the U.S. is akin to the long drawn-out trench warfare of the first world war. As an M&A attorney, I worked on many antagonistic transactions. One of my strengths was my innate paranoia; that there was always something the other side was not telling us that I needed to ferret out and expose. There were many nights of sleeping at the office, wading through the documents and working out merger agreements. But it was rare that the entire process would last more than 6-9 months. Some of the smaller private deals went even quicker and were done in 3-5 months. IP litigation, on the other hand, is an exercise of patience. It can be years before a case even gets to a Markman hearing, the pretrial hearing that determines claim construction. Then if the trial is considered to be on the fast track, the actual trial will begin a year later.

Second, litigation is a game. The primary focus isn't getting justice under the law but winning. There are some situations where clearly the other side is making up lies that boggle the mind, but they persist in twisting the facts and the law to make their points. Even if the two sides of an M&A deal are at odds, once the merger agreement is signed, most of the adversarial posturing disappears. Merger agreements have Material Adverse Change clauses that will sink the deal if a extraordinarily liability comes out of the woodwork prior to and some time subsequent to closing. In litigation, if there is a smoking gun that one side manages to bury in the tens and hundreds of thousands of documents produced during discovery, then it is completely up to the receiving side to find it before it is too late. And even if two sides have gone back and forth on the case for over a lengthy period, there is nothing to prevent one side from slapping the other with a Rule 11 Professional Misconduct motion for bringing a case with no merit. Hey other side, if there were no merit, then why argue over the issues for more than a year before bringing your motion?!?

Last, "justice" is largely dependent on the judge assigned to the case and what that judge had for breakfast. It's amazing to see how the outcomes in many cases even in a single federal district in CA can differ from judge to judge. Basically, you can find cases to support whatever you want to argue. In the corporate context, if you are before the FTC or the SEC, even if it is one attorney writing the response to your issue, the sense is that it really is a collaborative office effort, rather than the determination of one person. No action letters and relief letters are relied upon (even if they state they shouldn't be relied upon) and subsequent actions come out in the same way for the most part. In litigation, the judge usually has the reputation of being plaintiff or defendant biased, but there is nothing anyone can do about it anymore since he is federally appointed and can only be dismissed for gross misconduct.

All of that said, I have relished the opportunity to go back to the office setting to learn IP law and the ins and outs of litigation. Learning how to use Westlaw efficiently all over again and drafting documents has given much satisfaction to my inner nerd. I'm a person that fights hard against change. It took me years to change my driver's license, my phone number, and my permanent mailing address. Some of my accounts are still listed under my maiden name. But what I've learned over and over again, that once you embrace change and step out of your comfort zone, you will be stretched and enriched in the process. The version of YOU that emerges is one that is wiser and more connected to the world. The banner across the blackboard of my seventh grade English class read, "Nothing is as constant as change." Every year of my life I find that to be true. How will you step out of your comfort zone?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Memories of Carmen

Last month I lost a dear friend to cancer. This is a letter I wrote to her girls to give them a piece of their mother. I'm posting it here so it will last forever in cyberspace and one day I can find it again and send it to her girls.


Dear O, E and A,

Strawberries. That is the lesson I learned from your mother Carmen that I want to share with you. But first let me give you the background of our friendship. I first met your mother in the baby room one Sunday at New Hope South Bay in Torrance. I was there with my son R and she was there with O because O did not want to go in the service with the other kids. Your mother was pregnant with E at the time. She was one of those pregnant ladies that glowed, her cheeks plump and healthy. I remember that first Sunday very well because that's also when I met Jenny, M's mom. I don't know what happened but M hit my oldest son H (this is what made it memorable), which marked the start of that friendship. Over the next few months your mom and I became better friends and I was one of E's first visitors at the hospital. E cried when I held her. Pretty much E cried whenever anyone other than Carmen held her. I remember Carmen being very tired that first year because E didn't like to sleep.

Carmen, Jenny and I became good friends while we attended New Hope South Bay. O, H and M were all the same age. O and H were also in the same preschool class at La Primera. Your mom and Auntie Jenny seemed to know how to be great stay-at-home moms. Your houses were so nicely decorated and clean and you always had great snacks. My house was always a mess and I was very stressed out from this new world of mothering. Carmen and Jenny helped me a lot by encouraging me and supporting me when I felt so lacking in so many ways.

One day when we were at your house, your mom gave me strawberries to eat. It was winter so not the right season for them. Carmen told me that she ate strawberries year-round because she liked them. And she didn't just buy any old strawberries, they had to be sweet. So sometimes she would send your papi Jack to Whole Foods to get them, along with the premium whipped cream they only sell there. It wasn't the first time or the last time she would tell me in her own way that I should think more of myself. That while being a mom was a wonderful calling, it didn't mean that I had to deny my own desires and become completely selfless. I didn't really think about this too much at the time, but later when I was pregnant with my third child, I had a craving for strawberries. It was winter and ordinarily I would never buy strawberries during that time because of the cost, but it was encouragement from what Carmen had told me and her own example that gave me the push to listen to my own desires and buy the strawberries. I didn't even look at the price anymore, I just bought them. The lesson is not just about buying strawberries. I feel like that choice was a turning point for me in how I viewed myself. I'm not telling you that you should give in to every whim and fancy, but that if you want something, value yourself enough that you don't just ignore it. You are important. Later when you are moms and you might be getting lost in that role, I hope that you can remember that. You are always yourself first, then a mom and wife second.

Even now, whenever I buy strawberries I think of Carmen and how her words made a difference to my life. She was a wonderful friend. I know no one will ever say my name quite like she did, "you-niece." I will miss her. She gave me O's crib set because she knew I would never buy a girl one, but just use the boy one from H and R. I still have it and will save it for you, O. I know that all three of you will be fantastic moms, just like Carmen. I know you all have great and giving hearts, just like Carmen. Even if you also get from her the habit of being an hour late to everything, that is just fine.

Love always,
Auntie Eunice (H's mom)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Long Story Short

My blog has been dormant. At one point this year I was working two jobs and solo parenting so you can imagine how blogging would not be at the top of my list. I'm still trying to decide whether to go full time lawyering so the blog is on hold for now.

BUT I feel in way that I've passed on the baton. I had my sister Joyce go to BlogHer in my stead and she has been blogging phenomenally since then. She even got a direct response from JOSH GROBAN!!!!! If you are interested in great food content, check out her food blog, Chicago Agashi. She also blogs over at Joyce The Rock Star with fun posts about the single life. The glory days, right? She used to ask me questions about blogging but now she's surpassed me. My sister is a Rock Star, always, forever!!!

Happy December!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

DC Escape: International Spy Museum

Last weekend I went to a wedding in Washington, D.C. without Stewart or the kids. It was a very exciting weekend. Wait, that sentence looks too calm. IT WAS A VERY EXCITING WEEKEND! No one climbing on me, no one stealing my food, no one smearing their snot on my clothes. IT WAS ABSOLUTELY FAB-U-LOUS! A group of us law school buddies gathered to celebrate the nuptials of one of our own. Since we graduated 10 years ago, it was a mini-reunion as well. After the wedding we met up with friends who weren't at the wedding and it was fun reliving old times. Sadly our tolerances for alcohol had diminished considerably, but we were all in such good spirits we willingly listened to one friend's anecdotes about the Battle of Gettysburg into the early morning hours of Sunday. Later that morning, I had a more "Washingtonian" moment when I met one of my best friends from college for breakfast, where we discussed the inevitable reality that our resident adviser Cory Booker would become President. So many great reunions with friends and geeky conversations that could only have been possible with a group of nerds such as ourselves. I loved it all! Thank you Siny for providing the happy ocassion for us to converge!

That Sunday a couple members of our group went off on their pilgrimage to visit Gettysburg, but after breakfast, I was intent on fulfilling my wish to visit the International Spy Museum. I've harbored a desire to become a spy for a long time. I don't know when it started. Maybe it was when I realized my dream of becoming an English princess would never come into fruition (too young for Charles, too old for William)? When one dream dies, another has to take its place, right? The longing for a secret identity may have been planted in my mind during college when I came across at the bookstore a book about the long history of alums going into the CIA. Whatever the reason, I tried twice to get into the FBI and both times I was rejected. But the dream lives on, I think fueled in part by my love of the Emily Pollifax series by Dorothy Gilman (RIP). In the series, Mrs. Pollifax becomes an agent when she's a senior citizen so that gives me some hope.

The International Spy Museum did not disappoint. From the picking of the secret identity, to learning about the long history of espionage in the US, to the new 007 exhibit "Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of Bond Villains"--it was all thrilling and welcome fuel for my imagined double life. I didn't have enough time to go through everything in as much detail as I would have liked, but I like to think that I was giving myself a reason to return. Next time I'm running into some store with my disheveled appearance and trio of troublemakers, I'll pretend it is all a secret mission and the children are merely window dressing for my cover. If you are visiting D.C., definitely make a trip to the International Spy Museum. I hope you enjoy these few fun photos from my visit!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Back to School: Ross $25 Gift Card GIVEAWAY

Today was R's first day of Kindergarten (2 out of 3 kids now in school, woo hoo!). It wasn't an actual school day but orientation day. I guess it still counts because the teacher had him take a photo with a First Day of Kindergarten frame around his body. I would have loved to take a photo of it to share but he wouldn't let go of me, so I had to hide behind his tiny body and that is how he took the photo. Thankfully he had finally stopped crying at this point to take the photo. It must be that middle children are just more sensitive because I thought the crying was over last year with the first week of preschool, but I was wrong. To make him feel better about his first day of school, R&I had special Mommy and Me time. We went to the orientation and then headed to Ross Dress for Less to get him some brand new pants to wear on his first day of school. Unlike H, R is particular about his clothes. He likes what he likes and insists upon getting it. Thankfully, Ross is a store where pretty much we can afford to buy whatever he picks.

Today our mission was to replace his favorite pants that now have two holes in them. Perfectly functional but not worthy of the First Day of Kindergarten! R quickly picked out some blue athletic pants with the signature double stripe down the sides that had a snazzy zipper feature for the pockets. He thought it would be funny to take a picture with them on his head. It's supposed to be 84 degrees tomorrow but he wanted long pants so he got long pants!

Ross had a great array of back to school items from backpacks to room decor. H had purchased his new backpack there a few weeks ago. Unfortunately I can't reveal the brand as Ross has an agreement with vendors not to mention or show brands. But I will tell you that the backpack at Ross cost 1/3 less than the same one at TRU. It's not a place to buy last season's remainders, but for the exact same items that you will find in style today. The back to school deals aren't just for kids. I wish that a Ross had been accessible to me when I had gone to college because I would have furnished my entire dorm room with the great deals that can be found there. Ross is currently running a Back-to-School Fashion Face Off promotion that will run through September 6th on its Facebook page. Each week you will be able to choose your favorite back-to-school Ross outfit for a chance to win one of three $125 Ross gift cards! And that's not all, Ross is giving one Random Mommy reader a $25 gift card to discover the great deals for herself!

HOW TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY:  Contest period runs from Wednesday, August 28th at 12:01 AM (Pacific) until Wednesday, September 4th at 11:59 PM (Pacific). Enter by leaving the name of your favorite coloring or craft supplies, and leave your e-mail address OR sign in to comments using your Blogger ID, making sure your Blogger profile is public and includes your e-mail address.

Bonus Entries
(leave a separate comment for each entry, it counts if you've done any of these so leave a comment for each one)
1) Follow me on Twitter
2) Tweet this contest and leave the tweet url (once per day)

3) Like Ross Dress for Less on Facebook
4) Enter the Back-to-School Fashion Face Off Contest on Facebook

If you don't leave a qualifying comment and your e-mail address or public Blogger profile, your entry will be disqualified. I reserve the right to extend the contest period. At the end of the contest period, I will utilize to randomly choose the winner. The winner will be contacted by e-mail and will have 72 hours to respond to my e-mail. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, the prize will go to the next place winner as decided by This contest is open for US Residents only. A huge thank you and much appreciation to my friends at Ross Dress for Less for their generosity! Good luck!
I did not receive compensation for this post. I received a gift card to facilitate my review. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Guest Post: Joyce The Rock Star at BlogHer 2013

I've been to the annual BlogHer conference for the past three years. This year I had to miss it due to personal issues so I had my sister go in my place. Joyce has recently started blogging and I'm thrilled with her dedication. She finds the inspiration to blog almost everyday, it's pretty awesome! Check out her blog Joyce The Rock Star. Joyce had a blast at BlogHer and I wanted to share her insight from the Opening Keynote with my readers:


The 9th Annual BlogHer Conference took place in Chicago’s Sheraton Hotel and McCormick Center this past July 25-27.  Bloggers from all over the world came to network with other bloggers and product/service companies, sample products and services, learn about blogging techniques and protocol, participate in workshops and roundtables, and listen to great, motivational speakers. 

The Kick-off Keynote address was by Ree Drummond; I had no idea who she was, but then I learned she was the Pioneer Woman.  Although I am a major bachelorette who cooks rarely, I have heard about the Pioneer Woman and her “awesome” cookbooks from married and single girlfriends who like to cook.  I learned so much about Ree and was very inspired by her story.  She started off her “speech” to us by apologizing that she truly is not a public speaker and she lamented that she had no podium to stand behind as a crutch.  She even went so far as to tell us that she was wearing SPANX, which perhaps made the audience feel that they could relate to her. 

Ree was an urban girl, but ended up falling in love with a cowboy and settled down in rural Oklahoma.  Since she was the last person her girlfriends expected to live in the country, she was called the Pioneer Woman, and the name stuck.  She started blogging in 2006 and shared amateur photos and recipes.  It was through her blogging that catapulted her successful career writing cookbooks, childrens’ books, and even having her own show on the Food Network.  It was truly inspirational that her success happened as a result of her blogging.  Throughout her speech, she did say many “ums,” to support her insistence she was not a public speaker.  I am also not the most eloquent or articulate public speaker, but knowing that her words through different media inspired so many people around the world was quite edifying.  She wrapped up the speech by singing (pretty badly) to pictures of her basset hound.  “Don’t ever be afraid of embarrassing yourself.”  I will carry that advice with me always.


Thanks Joyce! I embarrass myself everyday so this is very good to hear!