Month: July 2014

Books I didn’t finish

A list of books that I started & didn’t finish, along with reasons why.

Griftopia by Matt Taibbi — Too upsetting.

Wild Swans by Jung Chang– I was living in China at the time and the story hit too close to home, in that it described aspects of Chinese culture, behavior, and thinking that I was witnessing and experiencing, and which I found extremely challenging to tolerate & navigate in/around/through.  I was reading this around the same time that I had symptoms of cardiac arrest one day at work (in a Chinese elementary school) due to the climate of intense fear that I felt was created & deliberately perpetuated in our teacher’s office.  I left there after one semester, even though I adored the students, and the person in charge of hiring told me I was the best female teacher they had had in the 10 years of their English program.  It was very nice to get that feedback.  I tried hard to make it work, but clearly it was not the right environment for me.

Daughters of the Witching Hill by Mary Sharratt — Boring.  Though very well-written, and an authentic sense of time & place was quite impressively established, plot was tragically non-existent.  Unlike other books where I tried to push myself to plug along a bit more, I put this one down with relative speed, having the thought, “No, just no.  There are far too many good books out there waiting to be read to waste time reading something so boring!!!”

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy– Terrifying.  It disturbed me to the core.  Astonishingly gorgeous use of language at times, however.  Have never read such gorgeous sentences in my life as many of those in this book.  I might finish it someday.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy– Boring.  Might have had a bad translation, though.  I will go back to it at some point.

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman– Repetitive.  I will definitely finish it eventually, but needed to take a break.  This is the only one I feel a sense of guilt about not finishing.  Perhaps because it gave me so much.  I did not expect to be so swept away by it.  His courage, his nakedness, his troubadouric passion.  Many turns of phrases that made me gasp with surprise and awe.  When I was reading it, I remember thinking– “Why isn’t there someone standing in the town square every day reading these poems to the people??!!  These poems are as necessary nourishment as bread and water, oxygen and sunshine!!!!”

Moby Dick by Herman Melville– Ummmm… I probably don’t need to explain why I stopped reading this.  I recall hearing that it’s one of the most commonly unfinished books, due to how challenging it is to get through.



“Use your words” PART I

This is a phrase I have heard parents say to children. Presumably to encourage them, in times of frustration or anger, to release it/express themselves non-physically, non-violently. To engage the intellect.  Engage the faculties of language.  The ‘higher’ faculties of the mind, as opposed to the lower, brutish, chaotic energy of bodily urges.  It’s a way of pushing children to the next level of development.  It’s both simple and very hard to do, in my opinion, at any stage in life.

It wasn’t an approach utilized by those who raised me, so maybe that’s why I sometimes/often feel quite challenged when I have to process intense emotions.  If it’s a really intense emotion, an overall shutdown takes place, head to toe, inside and out.  I will lie down and cover myself with something, usually a blanket.  Other intense emotions make me shake and tremble, stop breathing, put my head in my hands, etc.  One gets the idea.  I once heard or read this phrase: Trauma impairs cognition.  It was I think in a newspaper article about veterans returning home, and the challenges they face returning to civilian life.  That sentence stuck with me for a pretty long time.  Enough for me to mull it over and come to actually disagree with it.  While I think it is extremely insightful & illuminating, I have come to the conclusion that it’s an understatement.  More accurate in my opinion: Stress impairs cognition; trauma obliterates it.

Relationship-wise it is very difficult for me to articulate the nature of what I am experiencing in such a moment, a moment of impaired cognition, a moment when a given negative emotion, such as anger, hits me with subsuming, instant, senseless power.  Like an inner tsunami.  Not “like” — it is an inner tsunami.  Need a new word for it so that I don’t have to rely on metaphor….

So I can see why, perhaps, a person might feel compelled– and beyond simply feeling compelled, but then actually make a decision to act on the compulsion– to refer to me as “crazy” due to how I present in a moment of unarticulated feeling.  Which is what the person who was most recently in the position of being my immediate supervisor did, on more than one occasion.

Being referred to, in public, in the workplace no less, in front of my colleagues and my students, as “crazy”, was upsetting.  Quite…upsetting.  I did not process it.  I froze.  I didn’t have a comeback at all.  These days, no longer being there, no longer having to see him day in and day out, not having to deal with his games, his greed, his sexism, his verbal cruelties, threats and brags, his solipsistic and profound pompousness– I am processing it.

And that’s why I’m awake at this hour writing.  Writing to myself.  Use your words, kistee.  Okay?  Use your words.  

Sang Hee Song

Browsing through last night, I found an entry about a modern art museum in Seoul.  Truth be told, it was the headline about there being a good Italian restaurant on site that made me click on it, LOL, but I’m so glad I did because it was the artwork he highlighted that ended up impressing me, and moving me deeply.

Apparently a work entitled “Gesture to be a good daughter” was (is? trying to determine this) on display at the Buk Seoul Museum of Art.  I just found out this is a branch of SeMA, which makes sense– all of the exhibitions I’ve seen there in the past have been…I’m at a loss for words actually.  It was a spiritual experience for me, nothing less.  Contemporary art in South Korea has consistently blown me away and enriched my life.  This country is doing an excellent job of supporting its artists, it seems to me.

So I googled the artist credited with the aforementioned “good daughter” piece.  Her name is Song Sang Hee.  Or Sang Hee Song, to be more U.S.-ish about it.  Found this website, which seems to be a catalog of her work:

I browsed through it with great interest.  And I will continue to do so.  There is a lot to experience there.  In particular I was impressed by this:


Everything I did for the rest of the evening was effected by it.  Fascinating.  What a visionary. Why can’t I embed it though? 😦   There must be a way….






Buk Seoul Museum of Art in Hagye – Modern Art and A Great Italian Restaurant

Another informative & inspiring blog entry by Derek. He doesn’t know this yet, but he’s one of my main inspirations for starting TIGERPENDANT. I will explain in my next post….

Derek Versus Lonely Planet

The cold month of January has forced us to look for more indoor activities to pass the time until the spring arrives. We decided to stay local and just head up a few stops to check out the Buk Seoul Museum of Art near Hagye station. This place has a particular sentimental value, as Jill and I both watched the museum being constructed from our apartment in See&Me beside Home Plus which is located just across the street.


How to get there: By subway you need to head to Hagye station (Line 7) and depart from Exit 1. You will walk straight for about 100 meters until you encounter an intersection. Cross the street and you will enter Junggye Park. The museum is located in the park. Keep an eye out for the rainbow bridge. It connects the two parks and the museum. By bus, the best one to choose…

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Check out this passive-aggressive email

I had deleted this, but kept thinking about it and realized it’s a pristine example of passive-aggressive communication.  So thought I’d blog about it and break it down here.

Can’t seem to do a simple copy & paste in WordPress at the moment, though.  Ugh, what’s up with that?  Anyway, I’ll retype it and do a line-by-line analysis.


Hi ******* (spelled my name wrong)

This is *****.  I just want to tell you that I will fly back to china tomorrow.  I am very glad that we met and became friends (hmmm…bit of a presumptuous assessment), thanks a lot for the shopping day (I will talk about this day in a moment).  I think there is something wrong with my ipad, I could not find any email from you before (there is nothing wrong with his iPad, I just never wrote back to him, after a previous email that I now realize was also passive aggressive, which I will also discuss later).  Anyways, I just hope things will become easy for you here, and I will pray for you!  Be safe be happy!

Big smile

***** Li


The above email was a close copy of the following email (that’s right– he sent me essentially the same email twice, from two different addresses), which was sent first, from his gmail address.  By the way, I hadn’t originally communicated with him through his gmail addy.  He had given me a “business card”-type thing, which listed various social media contact info, and a hotmail address.  I used the hotmail address to initially touch base with him and we had a few emails back and forth on that.

So anyway, check this one out too, angrier and more aggressive, in my estimation:


Hi ******* (again, my name is misspelled):(using a colon instead of a comma, a subtle but authoritarian way to start out an email; I would overlook this in another context, but here I think it’s significant)

This is ***** (he felt it necessary to reintroduce himself because he knew he was writing from a new email address, which is also of significance & I’ll muse about later), I will flight back to China tomorrow, I am glad we met and became friends (yeah, I wouldn’t go that far at this point, but this doesn’t bother me so much), thank you so much for your help that day.  I hope everything will work well for you and your family! I could not find the email from you before, I don’t know if you deleted me or blacked me, if you don’t want to contact me, let me know (wow– this is where his aggression is apparent to me. Prior to this I just read desperation/frustration– which are certainly unattractive and perhaps slightly alarming…?  But not as off-putting as this.  My take on it explained below) I sincerely hope everything goes well on you! Be safe and be happy!

Big smile

***** Li


So I get it.  He wanted me to write to him.  He wanted/wants to be friends.  He wanted to hang out one more time, have another shopping day or something.  This is nice, isn’t it?  Yes, it is.  But I didn’t give him this– for reasons I’ll get into later– which apparently displeased him.

Let me make clear that I empathize with him.  I have been in his position before, and not infrequently.  Also, we have something in common.  Both of us lost our mothers early on.  Different circumstances as to how exactly this played out for each of us, but I recognized in him something that I know exists in myself: a continuous, visible to everyone, perplexed, heavy, multilayered, deeply anguished grief– to the point of manifesting as a kind of emotional disability in daily life– at times quite severe and crippling– regarding the lack of a maternal figure during the formative years.

Not just a maternal figure, I realize as I write this, but specifically, lack of care from, and a non-existent relationship with, the woman who gave birth to us.

During our first conversation he revealed this aspect of his childhood experience to me.  A hallmark of someone afflicted with this particular type of disability.  Aren’t there other things to talk about?  Aren’t there more appropriate things to share in an initial conversation with a stranger, someone whom you hope to become friends with?  Yes. Of course. But.

I wasn’t bothered that he misspelled my name.  There are so many variations on my name, at this point in my life I like seeing how different people adapt it to their own personal preferences or particular linguistic bent.  It’s like a Rorschach test in a way.  Men of a certain generation tend to call me one particular nickname consistently– my father included; my sisters call me by another nickname; people from Europe or Latin America call me a whole different version of my name, one more suitable to romance language speakers; African-American women (and sometimes men) and both men and women from the Caribbean have tended to have a whole other take on it, and it’s so interesting the consistency I’ve noted with this.

So anyway, there’s that.  Not sure why I noted his misspelling.  I guess actually it did bother me.  Or at least made me laugh or something.

But let me get to the really aggressive part– there’s something wrong with my ipad/if you don’t want to communicate with me let me know.  ROTFL!!!!  Processing this.  For the sake of developing my emotional intelligence and strengthening my intuition, I feel I must unpack this.

1) There is nothing wrong with his iPad, and he knows this.  I suspect he really just wants to say– Hey, why didn’t you write to me again?  But this would be too open, too vulnerable of an expression of need.  One could come out and say this but it takes a lot of emotional equilibrium and self-respect to come out and say such a thing, in a way that is conducive to dialogue.

2) This request to let him know if I don’t want to communicate with him– wow.  This is mind-boggling.  It’s the single most aggressive thing he said, from my point of view.  It’s a boundary violation, isn’t it?  It’s also just outright pathetic.  It’s like if someone doesn’t invite you to a party and you say, “Oh, if you don’t want me to come, let me know.”  Or it’s like if someone closes the door on your face and you then try to open it, or just keeping knocking on it, saying, “If you don’t want me in here, let me know.”



I have to take a break now.  There is more I want to process about this but I’ve done enough already for today.  To be continued.






QUESTION:  What will this blog be about?  What audience am I aiming for?  What is its theme?  What is my purpose?  What kind of content will I include?


I have to make this clear– mostly to myself, this is all for myself at this point and hopefully beyond this point– because:

Started 2 blogs in the past.  One in 2010, another in 2012.  Had parameters in mind for each of them.  The first was to be a travel blog-type of thing.  The second was to be teaching-related, the kind of  work I was doing at the time.  Well, apparently I didn’t like sticking to these parameters.  Too much like work, and in the interest of just keeping myself writing, I won’t restrict myself this time.

Therefore topics I will be covering include, but are not limited to:

Food, travel, poetry, politics, freewriting, journaling, memoirism, essays, my hobbies and interests, both old and newly blossoming ones, psychology, teaching, fashion, love, sex, marriage, relationships, dream symbolism, astrology, recovery, languages, public speaking, personal development, dieting, music, mythology, coffee, tea, chocolate, dumplings, technology, rainbows, fear, time travel, books, yoga, sadness, plastic surgery, inspiration, The Multiverse, humor, struggle, The Simpsons.


Oh yes, I love The Simpsons!!! They make me laugh unfailingly.  When my nephew was little he used to look like a living Bart.  I think at this point The Simpsons are a new set of universal human archetypes.  I bet you could start a mode of therapy & psychological study called Simpsons therapy, an offshoot of Imago therapy, utilizing the characters of Maggie, Lisa, Marge, Bart, Homer, etc. in order to reflect on one’s inner world & life experience.  Probably already exists somewhere!

Okay, now that I’ve put that out there, time to get writing.



*yeah– same answer for all those questions


Welcome readers.

There is a white orchid plant in this room so strangely beauteous and phosphorescent that I would not be surprised if it began to cry or dance or speak.  My hair sticks to my head in a fragrant, jellyish, uncomfortably heavy mass– a home-brewed conditioning treatment to combat the torturous frizziness it suffers from in humid weather.  I’m drinking hot green tea, which may not be the best idea right now.  I would like to be asleep.

It is a balmy midsummer night.  It is also the middle of my life.  Next month will mark my 40th journey around the sun…a fun way of putting it, no?  Heard someone use that once.  I will be spending the summer in Seoul.  I’m married, although my spouse and I are living apart at the moment.  I am in a hotel, he is in our home.  I have my suitcases, he has our broken rice pot.  (All of this will be explained later.)

For now, allow me to baptize this blog: TIGERPENDANT.  Named for a necklace my father bought me many moons ago.  I think I was 9 years old.  (Maybe 8, maybe even 7…. not sure.  Pretty certain that I was no older than 9, though.)  He had taken us to see some kind of exhibit of live, exotic animals.  A small-town Steve Irwin of sorts, I suppose.  I only vaguely recall the exhibit itself, and the place where it was held does not come to me at all.  But I remember the necklace well.  He must have bought it in the gift shop before we went home.  A simple metal link chain with a flat, round, slightly concave pendant, bearing the image of a tiger’s face, head on, eyes mesmerizingly, unflinchingly staring into mine.  It seemed to hold a certain power.  Not surreal, fairy tale power.  It was more like a gift from another dimension, something I knew instinctively as a precious concrete embodiment of that which was painfully, blessedly, utterly not concrete: time. My childhood. Time with my father. The 80’s. That day, the animals I can’t remember, the exotic animal wrangler I can’t remember either, the places we went to and the feeling in the air.  Our old silver Datsun 510.  My green knit vest which I probably was wearing that day. Our mother’s absence. My sisters, and everything we were to each other.

It’s gone now, and I have never been able to find it.  Many surprising finds have touched me over the years, relics from the distant past.  But not the pendant.  It lives on in my mind.  I won’t forget it.