Sunday, January 24, 2016

A month


It's been four weeks and two days since my husband died.

I know this year will be full of milestones that I won't be able to help but notice. One day. One week. One month. Tomorrow would have been Greg's 41st birthday.

I'm doing okay. I'm okay. A month feels both so long and so short. It passed in a daze. The pain isn't as raw now, but I still feel a little a bit in a fog, on autopilot, like I'm living someone else's life. Beauty helps a lot--the beauty of nature, the city, flowers, children, music, snow. In the past few years, while dealing with Greg's illness, because I didn't know what kind of future to plan for, I tried to focus on being present, on noticing the beauty of the world, and that habit has helped enormously these past few weeks.

For the most part, I'm doing okay. (Did I say that already?) I'm living a normal(ish) life. I see friends, I'm cleaning and organizing the apartment, I'm cuddling with Venus. I'm able to enjoy food and drink and company, TV and movies and music, I can laugh and sing and dance, and I can sleep. For the most part I can think of Greg without feeling sad. Remember moments and stories, talk about him without crying. And then other times I just feel irritated constantly that this is our my life, that he is gone, and everything makes me feel like crying.

We had a lovely memorial with our friends in our apartment in Brooklyn on New Year's Day. I spent a healing two weeks in southern CA, seeing friends and family and spending lots of time with children. In the middle was Greg's burial with his mother, sister, and extended family in beautiful Iowa. I feel good about his final resting place.

I'm planning to start working again tomorrow--I've completely checked out of work, and I'm thankful that my wonderful colleagues understand. I'll work at home for a few days, and then plan to go into the office for the first time on Wednesday. I can't say I'm ready to go back, but I'm not not ready either. I needed to just set the date, do it, and see how it goes. I think the routine will be good for me.

I wanted to say thank you--thank you to family, my friends, Greg's friends, our friends. Thank you to loved ones, acquaintances, to the publishing and kidlit community, to strangers. Thank you for your comments, your messages, emails, cards, letters, phone calls, donations for cancer research, stories, flowers, gifts, thoughts, prayers, help, and kindness.

Here are a few photos from the last month.

From Greg's copy of The Plague.
me and Grace Lin on New Year's Eve
mom and niece
niece Jessie. Lots of "kid therapy" in CA.
Greg's favorite tractor. In Harlan, Iowa.
me with Greg's mother and sister.


hiking with my dad
Lot of time and love with my niece Shoshana
A snowy night in Brooklyn
This is one of the songs Greg put on my mix that has been especially comforting. "You'll Never Walk Alone" by Gerry & The Pacemakers (and yes, he knew this from football/soccer, but it's still such a beautiful song):



Monday, December 28, 2015

Love story, part infinity

Greg Taylor (1975-2015)
My beloved husband, Greg Taylor, passed away on December 25, 2015, Christmas afternoon, around 2:30 pm.

I would like to share our love story.


We met on Craigslist (yes, Craigslist--they have a dating site). On a Sunday afternoon, September 23, 2007, I answered his personal ad and we exchanged our first emails. His personals posting had the heading as simply "hi" and the post was a list of funny and random things about him, including "I'm taller than you, even if you're tall."

I responded with "hi back" and a corresponding list, including "I'm shorter than you, even if you're short. But most people say I don't 'look' short."


We met for the first time on a Friday night, September 28, after work in front of the (now gone) Virgin Megastore in Union Square. I arrived first, and was listening to my iPod. As he approached, I removed my headphones, got flustered because he was so handsome, and my earbuds got tangled. I handed them to him to hold for a second, a gesture he for some reason found endearing and would mention for years later. We decided to walk and find a place to eat, and ended up at Yaffa Cafe on St. Mark's Street (also now gone). For many years later, on September 28 we would go back and meet in front of the Virgin Megastore, which eventually was turned into a Duane Reade drugstore (of course).


We sat in the back courtyard and talked and talked and talked. He was a fifth-grade teacher, I was a children's book editor, he was studying history in grad school, I was always thirsty to learn more about everything. I liked sushi, he didn't eat raw meat. I had gone skydiving, he preferred his feet on the ground. But we couldn't stop looking into each other's eyes. His eyes were the most beautiful blue-gray. He told me they changed colors in the light, and I later discovered that they were sometimes flecked with green.


I had a birthday party to attend later that night in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn, and asked him if he wanted to come with me. When he agreed, I knew he liked me. (He had told me earlier that he hated Williamsburg.) He told me later that when I asked him to come with me, he knew I liked him, too.


Now here's the "falling in love" montage. Kissing like there was no tomorrow. Going for walks--he showed me his neighborhood in Brooklyn and we walked to the Brooklyn museum and watched a dog frolic in the jumping fountain. It was there that we took our first picture together:



This is also the hat he wore when we first met.
Meeting each other's friends. House and dog sitting out in New Jersey (he LOVED dogs). Teaching me to play golf (he LOVED golf). Drinking a lot of wine (he LOVED wine). Introducing me to opera. Going to parties and weddings together, going to lots and lots of diners. (Later, when we briefly were looking to buy an apartment, it was important to us that the neighborhood have a diner.) Emails, texts, phone calls. Making each other laugh. Holidays. Supporting each other's careers.
Dog sitting Maggie, Roxie, and Caesar
He would share the books I edited with his students, especially Grace Lin's Year of the Dog, and he would proudly tell his students that he was friends with the real-life Melody who was a character in the book. When I attended his school's holiday concert, he introduced me as Melody and I was a celebrity. I later spoke to his school about being a children's book editor.

We took a trip out to Iowa together, where he spent his summers as a kid. Showing off, he took us down a backroad where we promptly got stuck in the mud and he had to call his uncle for help--they laughed and said he was a city boy now. 



Not a smart thing to do in a rental PT Cruiser
He started flying out to my parents' home in Southern California with me and ended up falling in love with California, and especially my parents' backyard. (He wanted to live there. In my parents' basement.) We played a lot of tennis and golf.


His mother was diagnosed with cancer, and he flew out to stay with her for six weeks to care for her. I went to visit him while he was there and spent Thanksgiving with his family and stayed in his childhood home.

We moved in together into his tiny 5th-floor walk-up apartment in Park Slope. The two of us and his two cats, Venus and Serena, made a nice family. And then in October 2011 he proposed, on the same rock in Central Park where my parents got engaged.

We were married less than a year later on July 21, 2012, in my parents backyard.




It was a glorious day, and we were excited to start a life together as husband and wife. 


And then he was diagnosed with cancer, synovial sarcoma, about six months after our wedding. You can read about that initial journey here. Major surgery, long recovery, chemo, and then another long recovery.


Just as Greg was starting to regain his strength, we found out that his cancer had recurred in January 2014. We knew that with Greg's type of cancer, once it came back, there was no cure. At first, Greg didn't want any treatment--he didn't want to go through chemo again. We decided to travel--to Rome, and then Paris. Greg left the US for the first time (aside from Mexico) in February 2014 and we went to Rome and had a glorious week. Before he died, Greg wanted to walk where Augustus walked.








On the night before we were to leave for Paris, he was struck by excruciating tumor pain. We stayed in Rome for another week while we stabilized the pain, and then flew back to NY where he agreed to try a pill form of chemo. We were told that if the chemo worked, it would probably only work for 3-4 months. That pill ended up working for 18 months, and although he wasn't feeling great all the time, we were able to still have a relatively stable life. The chemo turned his facial pigmentation and hair snow white. He hated how his face looked and so he covered it with facial hair. Kids especially would stare at him--either thinking he was a pirate, or Santa, or, as we joked, a pirate Santa. Twice, once in our apartment lobby, and once at the Brooklyn Museum, he had a kid point to him and say, "Look! It's a pirate!"

Right before pirate Santa decided to shave his beard off.
We went to the US Open, a few hockey games and baseball games, and took a trip down to Atlantic City to see Bob Dylan perform.

Through it all, Greg handled his illness with courage and grace. It wasn't easy by any means, but I was eternally grateful to him for how he accepted and dealt with his situation. He knew this cancer would probably kill him, and although he was terrified of dying, his goal was to get as many good days out of life as possible. He had always been loving and attentive and romantic, but these past three years, he became even more so. 


For my 40th birthday last year, because he knew he didn't have the energy to take me out or throw me a party, he threw me a cyber party instead. He got over 100 T-shirts made in our wedding colors (fuchsia and purple) with the Chinese character for "love" on the back, and my last name in Chinese "Ling" on the front, to match the tattoo on my shoulder. He sent them to friends and families all around the US, and asked them to take pictures of themselves in the shirts and email, Tweet, and Facebook the pictures to me on my birthday. Here are just a few:





He told me he needed to make sure to tell me how much he loved me as much as he could in the time he had left. He told me that I should feel comforted in knowing how much I made his life better. He told me how in awe he was that he had met me, that I had responded to that one Craigslist ad so many years ago. He left me love notes around the apartment, on my computer, in my wallet. We had so many silly inside jokes, and I'm mourning the passing of what was known only between us. And of the children we never had (he was SO GREAT with kids, and would have made an amazing father), of our future that has been cut short.

But, I'm also so so so grateful for the time we had together. I loved him unconditionally. I loved his all-enveloping hugs, his sweet kisses in the middle of the night. I think we probably laughed even more together in these past three years--it became almost a competition to make the other laugh. We made up funny dances and funny voices. He got more and more into music, especially Bob Dylan, the Beatles, and John Lennon (he admired the great love between John and Yoko), and also discovered a love for Elvis Presley, Kris Kristofferson, Motown. But, Bob Dylan above all.  


Gradually, the chemo stopped working, and Greg started having more and more pain. We tried one last chemo, which worked for two months, and we knew that we were running out of options. A few months ago, we found out that Greg had a spot in an immunotherapy trial at Sloan Kettering, and we jumped at the chance. It was a Phase 1 trial, never tested on humans, but we knew if there was someday going to be a cure, it was probably going to be through immunotherapy. But on the day he was due to start, they discovered that his liver levels were high, which disqualified him from the trial, and the doctor sent him over to the hospital to see if they could solve the problem so that he could start the trial.



He had a procedure done to help drain the bile from the liver (which they thought was causing the high levels). Unfortunately, his liver levels didn't improve, and other liver levels were starting to get high as well. We knew that he had at least one tumor in the liver, and that once the liver starts to go, it can end quickly.

Every night after I left the hospital to go home, he sent me a text. "I love you sweetheart. More than anything. You are such a superhero." His last text to me was, "You are the best thing to ever happen to me." He was the best thing to ever happen to me, too. 

Eventually, they started Greg on chemo while in the hospital, and he was released on December 23rd--we were thrilled to have him home for the holidays! This is the last picture we took together, in his hospital room while waiting for our ride home:
As my mother told Greg the last time she saw him, "You're still very handsome!"
After one night at home (Venus was ecstatic to have us both home again!), we ended up calling 911 and going to the ER in an ambulance on Christmas Eve. Greg had been struggling with nausea and ended up vomiting blood and fainting a few times. He was admitted into the ICU for observation, as they suspected internal bleeding. But, he appeared stable after getting fluids, with no symptoms aside from some weakness and dizziness.

But on Friday morning he suddenly started having seizures, and then started bleeding profusely internally. The doctors were able to stabilize him with a breathing tube and blood transfusions, but we knew there wasn't hope for a full recovery, and I knew Greg didn't want any drastic measures taken just to keep him alive. They removed the breathing tube and Greg rested peacefully for a few hours before passing on while I held his hand.

Over the two-week hospital stay, we knew that the end was coming--Greg said he didn't know if he had days, or weeks, or months, so he was going to focus on enjoying each minute with me. I'm going to focus on each minute at a time. And breathing. This last year especially, Greg was struggling, and his bad days were outnumbering his good days. Recently, he said that the pain and complications he was having were making it easier to let go. I know he is at peace now.

Greg did not want to have a funeral, but he will be buried in Iowa where he spent his summers. He wanted his body to rest under open skies.

If you want to offer some support, please donate money towards sarcoma research--if I may suggest, the Sarcoma Foundation of America: http://www.curesarcoma.org
or Mt. Sinai for Sarcoma research: https://philanthropy.mountsinai.org/waystogive

Greg started his care at Mt. Sinai with Dr. Robert Maki and Nurse Practitioner Linda Ahn (who is now at Sloan Kettering). They made the whole process more comforting for both of us, and even though I wish we had never had to meet them, I'm thankful they were in our lives. 

I'm grateful to his many doctors and nurses--at Mt. Sinai, at Memorial Sloan Kettering, and at New York Methodist. They have such a tough, important job, and see suffering and death every day.

I'm also so blessed to have such loving friends and family and colleagues, including the authors and illustrators I work with, who have supported us over the years and are mourning the loss of Greg, too. This isn't a unique journey that we traveled on--what's devastating is that so many people are touched by tragedy.

I know Greg didn't want a big deal made of his death. But, for my own healing, I wanted to acknowledge publicly what an extraordinary man he was. He was full of passions--whether it was golf, wine, watches, jewelry, opera, American history, Chinese history, Andy Kaufman, dogs, cats, lacrosse, soccer...or me!--when he loved something, he loved it with all of himself, and learned everything he could. He was supremely moral, had a kind heart, and was sometimes loyal to a fault. He was sardonic, sarcastic, self-deprecating, and silly. He could put kids at ease in seconds. He had a deep voice that got higher and lighter when he was in pain--I knew he was feeling strong when his voice was deep. He was ticklish, and especially hated when I touched his feet. He watched the same movies over and over again, memorized the best lines, and would constantly call me to watch funny scenes. He also loved pointing out continuity errors. When he was in pain, he told me it helped him when I held his hand. 

His favorite books were The Plague by Albert Camus, and Sophie's Choice by William Styron. His favorite song was "Love Minus Zero" by Bob Dylan. His favorite movie was "Deer Hunter." 

People loved to tease him--he had the kind of personality that made people feel like he could take it. But he was sometimes sensitive about it. Sometimes he just wanted people to be nice to him. He was ferocious (but nice!) when dealing with customer service, and usually got what he wanted. He hated being told what to do, but I knew he took everything in, even when he was arguing (and when he was arguing, he always sounded angrier than he really was), and was able to keep an open mind. He was always so proud of me and my career, and embarrassed me by boasting about me to everyone he knew. And he was an astonishingly good teacher--so many of his students stayed in touch with him, and I feel lucky to have met so many of them. He made a difference in their lives. He made a difference in the world. 

Although he was an introvert at heart, he was the mayor of his old block. He knew everyone and they knew him. He was buddies with all of the shop keepers--one of them helped him get up the stairs of his apartment when he came home after his surgery. They always asked me how he was doing after his surgery. He made Brooklyn into a small town. Although his time was cut short, he had a rich, fulfilling life, and so many people who loved him.

The day after his death, I remembered that he had wanted to make me a music mix before he died, and I was feeling bereft that he hadn't been able to do it. But I checked my computer just in case, and there it was, a playlist called "For Alvina" and it was like he was giving me a hug and a message from the great beyond. The last two songs on the mix are "Shelter from the Storm" and "Across the Universe."

For those of you who have read this far, thank you for bearing with me. My mother is with me now, and I've been surrounded by friends, both virtually and in person. Greg and my dear friends Donna and Daniel were with me at the hospital when he died, and took care of me that night and the next day.

And just to leave this on a note of levity, albeit one that I'm finding profound right now, this is a silly email Greg sent me while I was at work and then out to dinner about a month ago. Venus is our one remaining cat (Serena also passed away from cancer about a year ago). Warning, there is cursing ahead!:
I'm very lonely.  Venus is also lonely.  The two of us are acting like our worlds have been destroyed.  

While we cuddled - more like held on to one another as the universe battered us - she said, "Dad?"

I said, "What is it, sweetie?"

"I miss Alvina."

I said, "I do too, Venus.  I miss her too."

She asked, "Is it always going to be like this?  Is it always going to hurt this much?"

I explained to her that it will always hurt but that we will get better at dealing with it.  Eventually the wound will heal and a scar will grow in its place, making us stronger.

She said, "What?"

"Ugh," I said.  "Right now we hurt because the wound is so new.  As time passes the wound will close and a scar will form." 

She replied, "What are you talking about?  I don't have any open wounds.  I said I miss Alvina."

"It's a metaphor," I said.  "We are wounded EMOTIONALLY.  We will develop EMOTIONAL scars."

She said, "I have no idea what a metaphor is.  A metaphor?  What the fuck is a metaphor!  I'm a fucking cat.  Stop treating me like a human being, because I'm not a human being.  Also, STOP TOUCHING ME!"  

Then she swatted at me and jumped off the bed and ran into the other room.

Venus and I both miss Greg. I wait for the wound to close and the scars to form.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

So long, 2013. Welcome, 2014!

The view from my parents' backyard deck.
This is also where our wedding ceremony was held.
My two-week+ vacation is coming to an end. I spent it mainly in Southern California at my parents' house. The last time I was there was for Greg and my wedding a year and a half ago. That was also the last time I had seen my family, before the craziness that was 2013 happened. I think the CA sunshine did Greg a lot of good, and he's getting stronger each day. We're settling into our "new normal"--trying to get back to living life, yet with the shadow of the possibility of recurrence hanging over us.

It was wonderfully relaxing to be in CA for so long, and save for the first rainy, cold day, the rest of our time there was greeted with sunshine and 70 and 80-degree days.

My vacation in numbers:

Days I played tennis with my Dad: 11
Sets won: 1 (while playing doubles and partnered with my HS friend who was the star of our championship tennis team)
Children played with: 12
Dogs played with: 2
Me and my brother Ben and future sister-in-law Iris's dog Oreo on Christmas Eve.
Books read: 3.001 (read an ARC of Noggin by John Corey Whaley, re-read Baby Island by Carol Ryrie Brink, re-read final draft of Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor, read the first two chapters of IQ84 by Haruki Murakami)
Good Wife episodes watched: 14 (finished up Season 4, caught up on Season 5 so far)
Movies watched: 1 (Saving Mr. Banks with my mom)
Work emails filed/deleted: 600+ (more to go through today before going back to work tomorrow)
Walks taken: 10
Times jogged: 2
All-you-can-eat sushi meals: 2
Ramen meals: 2
In-n-Out Burger meals: 3
Massages: 3
Karaoke nights: 1
Friends' homes visited: 2
High school friends met up with: 6
Books given as gifts: 27 (mostly children's books)
My brother Felix reading MR. TIGER GOES WILD to my nephew
Different types of fruit eaten: 12 (pomelos, oranges, apples, cherimoya, papaya, guava, kumquat, grapes, strawberries, kiwi, pineapple, watermelon)
Cherimoya. Also known as custard apple, sugar apple, and soursop.
New Year's resolutions made: 12

2013 was a tough year--but here's hoping to a better 2014. Happy New Year, all!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

What I'm thankful for

Happy Thanksgiving!

As we've recently moved apartments, while packing and unpacking, I've found myself discovering forgotten things and re-reading old journals, which led me to reread old blog posts, too. I'm thankful for these journals and blogs, because I love remembering who I was and what I've done--and seeing how far I've come (and yet, how I'm still the same person). In one old journal entry, I commented on how my boyfriend at the time called me a "one trick pony" because all I ever did was work, and all I could talk about was work. And in that entry I said that the busy work time was only temporary. Ha! Little did I know...

But I'm thankful that I have a job that I still love, no matter how busy and stressful it gets.

Other things I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving:

-That G is alive and relatively well, that we have this lovely life together
-For my health
-For health insurance and great doctors
-For our new, spacious apartment with a working elevator
-For friends and family, there for us in so many different ways
-For our cats, even though they've been waking me up in the middle of the night
-For good food and drink (especially brunch!)
-For leisurely walks
-For Zumba
-For escapist books, blogs, television shows (I've been especially addicted to The Good Wife this year), and social networking
-For my monthly Karaoke club, and music in general
-For my brilliant authors, illustrators, and coworkers

-For the little pleasures of life
-For the great pleasures of life!

Now I'm off to make an apple pie. Enjoy your day, all!

Monday, October 28, 2013

***Re-posted from the Blue Rose Girls ***

I've been a very bad blogger this year, mainly because of this, of course. But G's treatments are now done, and we're working toward getting our life back to our "new normal." But first, we're moving apartments this week and packing is exhausting!

As always happens, while packing I've been finding forgotten things, like this letter Grace had sent me back when we were both seniors in high school. I had brought this with me from my parents' house in California a while back because I wanted to quote some of the letter in a talk I was giving, I think.

In it, we talked about boys, of course. I had asked her to send me a boyfriend, so she sent me this guy:


Cute, huh? She named him Roger.

And here are a few snippets from the letter:

"I'm going to illustrate children's books, y'know. That would be so cool. One day when we're all grown up, you'll see in a book store: Illustrated by Grace P. Lin. That would be excellent."

and:

"I wish I could show you my portfolio. Then you could tell me if you think I'm talented. Or then you could lie to me and tell me you think I'm the bestest artist in the world and of course I will make it into RISD."

I wonder if Grace has the letter I wrote back to her. But I'm sure I said something like:

I think you're talented, Grace! You are the bestest artist in the world, you will make it into RISD, and you will become a famous children's book author and illustrator.

See, I can predict the future!

**edited to add**
For those of you who don't know the story of how Grace and I met, you can read more about it here.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

In memory of James Sing

parasailing in Bali
I was shocked to hear the news that my friend James Sing passed away a few weeks ago on September 12. 

His "Celebration of Life" was held in San Francisco today, and although I was not able to attend, I wanted to honor him in my way.

James was my best friend for many years, many years ago, in the late 1990s. We met in 1996 while both studying at the Mandarin Training Center in Taipei, Taiwan. We lived nearby, and soon were hanging out all the time. We had an intense, intimate friendship, and although it was never romantic, sometimes we fought like a couple might. But he was the type of friend I could call at any hour of the night, and knew that he wouldn't mind--and vice versa. When I was sad, he'd bend over backwards to make me laugh. I can still hear his laugh echo in my head today. I have so many wonderful memories of our time together in Taiwan--late nights eating xi fan near his apartment, his singing "Yi Qian Ge Xiang Xin de Li You" at Karaoke, dancing at various night clubs, eating guo tie after class, studying at Jamaica Cafe or the student lounge, riding around on his motorcycle or my scooter. During our time there, we traveled together to Bali, Indonesia, and to Hong Kong and Canton. We stayed close after we both returned to the States, and we overlapped living in NYC for a little while, but he moved back to CA a year or so after I arrived there from Boston.

He was probably the smartest person I knew, and because of that, I still remember my delight at schooling him in the difference between nauseous and nauseated. (Of course, correcting him while he was feeling nauseated was probably not the ideal time.) 

Most of all, James valued loyalty--he was the truest, most loyal friend.

We'd drifted in recent years, as friends often do, and in the last few years our interactions were limited to random g-chats about skateboarding, and mice for his lizard Opus; and some random Facebook comments about Lin-sanity. His last comment was just a few days before his death.


This is selfish of me, but I take some small comfort knowing that, in the days before his death, I at least crossed his mind in a small way, even if it was for killing a fly. And I hope that he knew that, no matter how we drifted, he was often in my thoughts.

My heart goes out to his family and friends. His loss leaves a huge hole, but I hope they can take some small comfort with how loved James was, and how influential he was to so many people. 

Please do take a look at this fund that has been created in James's honor, and if you're able, please make a contribution:

http://www.crowdrise.com/JamesSingMemorialFund/fundraiser/allensing


Monday, June 03, 2013

Why I've been (relatively) quiet this year

I've been meaning for a while to write this post to let everyone know what's been going on with me (with us)--perhaps some of you have seen on Facebook or Twitter some updates or have heard bits and pieces from me or others, but I thought it would easiest to give an update all at once.

So, here's the deal:

Basically, soon after our wedding, Greg hurt his back and ribs (or so he thought) fairly severely while playing golf. After about two months, when he wasn't getting better, he went to the doctor who took an X-Ray and said that he was fine, that it was a muscle injury, and that he could try physical therapy, which he did for a few more months. Nothing was quite working, and at the end of January a large bruise showed up under his ribs on the left side. He went back to the doctor who ordered a CT scan, and they discovered what they thought at the time was a large kidney mass.

He went through surgery on February 12 to have the mass and a kidney removed. The surgery was successful, although he ended up losing his spleen as well (silver lining--you can live a relatively normal life without a spleen and just one kidney). The mass was extremely large--it was described by the surgeon as being the size of a football. (!!) Another said it was the size of Greg's head, another said it was the size of a small watermelon! No doubt it had been growing without him knowing for many years.

The pathology report came back a few weeks later, and we were told it was a rare form of cancer, a type of sarcoma. His type is diagnosed for just 1-3 people per million each year. Nobody knows what causes it. (I always knew Greg was one in a million!)

Again, the surgery was successful in that as far as we can all tell, they got it all out (thank you Dr. Birns)--so far, there is no sign of remaining cancer cells, nor that it's spread. But sarcomas tend to come back, so he's going through 4-5 months of chemo to try to lower the chances of recurrence. He started his third round today--in fact, I'm posting this from his treatment room.

We've definitely had some complications and set-backs along the way--a long recovery from the initial surgery, plus an ER visit and multiple hospital stays in-between. But we've been staying in overall good spirits, all things considered. Greg has been amazingly strong through this, and we've had wonderful support from friends and family and colleagues.

I don't plan to blog about this much if at all beyond this post, but because everything that's happened has caused such changes and upheaval in our lives, I wanted to post this update. Life has slowly been settling into what we're calling our "new normal"--I'm getting back to a somewhat regular work schedule again after a very erratic few months, although of course I still have a lot of catching up to do and am working from home as needed. Is it really June already?!

I want to thank everyone (both belatedly and in advance) for being understanding about my late or unreturned emails, phone calls, missed deadlines, canceled plans, etc. And I want to give a huge shout-out to my assistant Bethany who has kept all of my projects (and her own) moving forward, at the expense of her work-life balance and emotional well-being! And thanks to everyone who has pitched in to help in any way they could, to friends and family and even acquaintances who have sent gifts, spent time, for good wishes, prayers, and positive thoughts.

We're hanging in there. It's been a rocky road and certainly not how we expected to spend our first year of marriage, but we'll get through this together (in sickness and in health, right?). Right now, I'm looking forward to August when Greg's last round of chemo (we hope) will be behind us. And may I add, thank goodness we have health insurance?

People have asked how they can help: please make a donation towards sarcoma research at the National Cancer Institute, or make a gift to Mt. Sinai where Greg is being treated.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas, to those who celebrate!

Well, it's been a long time since I've posted, but here I am.

It's been a busy year, both personally (we got married! We're looking to buy a place!) and professionally (lots of travel, lost of books to edit, lots of managing), and thus we stayed in NYC this holiday season--couldn't bear the thought of getting on a plane and going cross-country again. I need time to unwind and decompress (see my post over at the Blue Rose Girls on Battling Burnout).

I was reading this post on Gawker: "The Day we Became Cynical: How did you find out Santa Isn't Real?" and thought I'd post my own experiences.

I don't remember how old I was, but there were two main incidents that led me to the knowledge that Santa wasn't real.

1) my older brother and I decided to write a letter to Santa with all of our questions. One question involved Rudolph. I can't remember our question, but when a letter from Santa came back (his handwriting suspiciously similar to our father's handwriting), his answer was something to the effect of "Rudolph lived so long ago, I can't remember." Of course, my brother and I were indignant--I assume my brother probably did not believe at that point. For me, it gave me some nagging doubt.

2) one of Santa's gifts to me (a teddy bear) came wrapped in an old shoebox that had been sitting in our basement for a while. I pointed this out to my parents, who replied that Santa probably saw it and decided to use it. I wasn't convinced.

Of course, my brothers and I pretended to believe in Santa long after we learned he wasn't year. We wanted more presents, of course!

Happy holidays, all!


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Singapore and BEA

Cross-posted from Blue Rose Girls.

***

I've been MIA again lately--and I apologize, but my posting will be sporadic until August, most likely.

Two weeks ago I was in Singapore for the Asian Festival for Children's Content. I had never been to Singapore, and was excited to go, mainly because I had heard so many incredible things about the food there! I was, of course, also looking forward to the conference, and meeting friends I only knew through blogs and Twitter, like Tarie Sabido, who blogs at Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind, and is a huge fan of Grace Lin's work. Tarie and I arranged to have dinner my first night in Singapore. I had a bit of a hellish trip over--a delayed flight to London resulted in a mixed connection, and I ended up having to hang out at Heathrow for over nine hours. All was not lost, though, as I got a much-needed mani/pedi while I waited, and still made it to Singapore in time to check in, unpack, and meet Tarie for dinner.

I had been told that I HAD to have a dish called "chicken rice" while there, and so Tarie and I walked over to the nearest food centre, Makansutra Glutton's Bay. There are these food centres all over Singapore, and they're basically outdoor food courts with all kinds of food. We found chicken rice, which is basically rice cooked in a special chicken broth with chicken. It's a very simple, tasty dish. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.
chicken rice!

Tarie and me

The next morning Tarie and I met to head over to the festival together. Leonard Marcus gave the morning's keynote, and then there were several breakout sessions. I attended one on translation, and one on the Filipino Book Market--I found both to be fascinating.

In the afternoon, Sarah Odedina, Managing Director of Hot Key Books in the UK, and I spoke together about "Making a Bestseller." (But really, don't ask us how to "make" a bestseller. There's no magic formula.) Author Candy Gourlay has a nice wrap-up at her blog, "Notes from the Slushpile."
She also has a nice summary of the 1st-page critique I participated in on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Sarah and I once again collaborated, this time on an all-day Master Class. I think the official title was "Editing a Bestseller" but we basically focused on craft in the morning--we talked about character, plot, setting, and dialogue, and in the afternoon we talked about point of view and then did a writing exercise and critiqued each of the 30-something participants' writing, and then ended on a discussion about the business of publishing. I thought it was a rewarding, stimulating day (and hope the attendees agree), but I must say, it was also exhausting and by the end of the day my brain was mush.

But I was still itching to see some of Singapore, and so that night an author and I went to the Night Safari at the zoo. We saw lions, tigers, elephants, giraffes, and more, but I must say, our favorites were the flying foxes and fruit bats (who flew so close to our heads we had to keep ducking) and these scaly anteaters called pangolins.
It was too dark to take pics of the real animals, but here I am with a pangolin statue!
We then managed to make it to the Long Bar in the Raffles Hotel around midnight for a quick Singapore Sling--the drink had been invented there.

The next day I had lunch at Epigram Books with an editor, Sheri Tan, and the CEO and Publisher, Edmund Wee. Sheri Tan had been an editor at Simon Spotlight for 15 years, and although we had never met in the States, she introduced herself to me at the conference and we had some mutual friends. She was originally from Singapore, and had recently moved her family back there.
the open-plan Epigram offices--gorgeous.

In the afternoon, illustrator Isabel Roxas and I met up with a friend of a friend of a friend named Eliza who had attended my masterclass. Isabel lives in Queens, but we had never met before Singapore, although she had visited our offices and met with some other editors. A friend of Eliza's joined us as well, and they took us to see the famous symbol of Singapore, the merlion! Yes, part fish, part lion, and quite cute.

We then went to the famous Orchard Road--an upscale shopping area that reminded me of a cross between Times Square and Fifth Avenue.
Orchard Road is so called because it used to be an orchard. Hence the metal "trees" on the outside of this mall.
We ended the night in the most delicious way possible--famous, Singaporean chilli crab!!! So, so, so, good.
Isabel about to chow down!
This picture makes me salivate.

The next day, another Master Class attendee, Katherine, offered to take me around. We got Thai food for lunch, and then wandered around Little India. Then, she dropped me off at the beautiful Botanic Gardens, where I wandered until dinnertime. After a quick and final last chicken rice, it was off to the airport and home for me. What a whirlwind trip it was!
The street where we had lunch--a nice mix of traditional and modern.
in the orchid garden

I absolutely loved Singapore, and the AFCC was so well organized and invigorating. Thank you to the organizers and the sponsors, and thank you especially to the attendees and my new friends who showed me around! Thank you so much for your warmth and hospitality.


Two days later (after editing Laini Taylor's Days of Blood and Starlight in between), I was back in the thick of work with Book Expo America (BEA). Here are a few pics:
the view from the hotel suite where we hosted meet-and-greets for Chris Colfer in honor of his debut MG, THE LAND OF STORIES

The speakeasy scene for THE DIVINERS party
Erica Perl and Alison Morris
Libba Bray sang a few songs to entertain the crowd. She rocked!
the BEA Children's Breakfast
Chris Colfer, the charming and funny emcee, and author of THE LAND OF STORIES
author Libba Bray with the huge banner for THE DIVINERS
speed dating with Libba Bray
The amazing dessert table at the Lemony Snicket party
Megan Tingley introducing Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket)
I also participated in the Middle Grade buzz panel where I talked about Grace's new book, Starry River of the Sky, coming this Fall. You can view that panel and others at the BEA livestream channel here.

It was an amazing, whirlwind conference, and I'm still catching my breath. Now back to regular life! Next up is the ALA conference in Anaheim in two weeks! And away we go again...