Wednesday, October 31, 2007

the many days of mural, part II

So, despite some doggie help, I have finally finished work on the mural. I can't believe it's done!

The painted Chinese characters is a proverb written by the upcoming baby's grandfather. Roughly translated it says,“In the pureness and innocence of childhood, true joy and happiness.”

This is my favorite part of the mural. The tree will be used as a growth chart, which is why the banner says, "Oh, how you've grown!" Originally it was going to include the baby's name but since that keeps changing, we decided to leave it out.

All in all the mural took about ten days to do. It may have been ten, ten-hour days, mind you. I think I might have lost some weight in the process. I definitely lost sleep as you can tell from my haggard appearance. Haggard, but happy!

Monday, October 29, 2007

typical evening in the studio of Grace Lin

I have been trying to work (gasp!) and my cousin Austin (who is a musician as well as a Phd student trying to find the cure for Alzheimers) has just bought a guitar, so we are taking a hiatus from our video games. It's only temporary, probably only as long as it takes for Austin to figure out how to play. Okay, that might take while.

you only lose what you cling to

Nine months ago, before Robert's illness became obviously terminal, I had been researching Buddhist quotes for my new novel. Without really considering the meaning, I wrote down the quote "you only lose what you cling to" as an offhand possibility. But as these last few months have progressed that quote seems to repeat in my head, becoming an anchor in an onslaught of emotional storms.

Caring for and watching someone you love die is a revelation. Only in Robert's death did I ever feel the emotions of life so purely and passionately. In that single moment, life and death balanced each other, becoming the same thing wrapped in one.

But that moment passed. Imperceptibly, Robert's death has begun to fade; and as his death diminishes in my life, the urge to cling to it beckons. Because to live in that moment of pure emotion, the moment where black and white become the same color, is to deny death. It allows me to feel that Robert is alive.

But to be in that moment of denying death, one must also deny life. To feel that Robert is alive, my own life must pay the price. And to do that, to squander my life in his name, would be the one thing he would not forgive me for.

So I have been letting go. Letting go of the memories, of the pure emotions, of the desperate times and flashes of beauty. And in this release, the meaning of the quote I wrote down long ago becomes clear to me. Clinging to Robert's death makes me feel as if I could lose his life. Letting it go makes me feel as if I can gain my own.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

keene state

To my chagrin, the Keene State Children's Literature Festival was on Saturday, the same night as the much-anticipated Red Sox World Series game. I considered weaseling out of going, but my accompanying blue rose girls assured me that we'd get back in time. So I went and I was quite happy I did. It has been a while since I have been to a conference, especially as an attendee. In the recent past I have only gone when I was presenting or speaking; I'd forgotten how enjoyable it was to go just as an observer.

All the speakers were great, but the standout of the day to me was Richard Peck. His speech was so well written, sharp and witty it shamed me to think that we are of the same profession. Not everything he said I agreed with, but the way he phrased things were so extraordinary that I couldn't help but admire. I found myself writing down quotes, (like "The only way one can write is by the light of the bridges burning behind you.") which I rarely do.

Another highlight was seeing the Owl Gallery--the collection or original owl illustrations from children's book illustrators. Both Anna's and Alissa's were gorgeous, as I knew they would be. I was suppose to send one of my own in a long time ago...oops! But now I am inspired to do it.

The last excitement of the day was that I finally met illustrator Chris Soentpiet who made a snowflake for the first Robert's Snow project, though we didn't speak that much. I had to go catch the baseball game.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

hello, cupcake girl

While reading about the success of anxious authors, I've begun to wonder if perhaps I am no longer cut out for my profession. As I find it difficult to return to work I realize that it has been insecurity, financial concern and the neurotic need to prove that I was good enough that has driven the professional side of my career. The past years I have been in overdrive, constantly working and constantly worrying. And that is beginning to feel old.

Yet at the same time, I know I could never leave writing and illustrating. The artistic aspects of my livelihood has become so ingrained in me that without it I become undefined. It's just that I find myself at a strange crossroads--disillusioned with the needs of a creative career but unable to abandon the contentment of creation. I find myself wondering if perhaps I should search out other means of financial support so that I could (with a truly delusional,naive art school attitude)let the art be free. I mean, there is a help wanted sign at the cupcake bakery nearby.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

the many days of mural

My good friends Luke and Ranida are about to have a baby. So as a baby gift, I offered to paint a mural for their nursery. Of course, I have never painted a mural before but I thought, "Hey, I'm a professional illustrator, right? How hard can it be?" With my confidence in overabundance, I assured them that I could get the wall done in a few days, maybe a week.

So I drew up some sketches and got the okay for this one:

And calmly began painting in the background.

Then the snags began. My oh-so-smart idea of projecting the image onto the wall failed miserably. The room was too shallow for the image to project accurately and I spent the day wrestling with it.

Finally, I just gave up and drew everything freehand. Which was quite time-consuming.

And of course my pencil marks were so messy, I had to outline in paint just to see what I had drawn.

It was quite a relief to actually start painting color. But to get to this stage took about twice the amount of time anticipated.

And at this point, I just hope I get the mural done before the baby gets here!

to be continued...

Sunday, October 21, 2007


My friends have been really great in keeping my life full. Most recently, Jon and Loretta brought over some pumpkins to carve which was much fun.

Strangely, Jon decided to carve a Totoro pumpkin while I made mine into a Cylon. Totoro is a character from a sweet Japanese animation. A Cylon is an evil robot in Battlestar Galactica, a somewhat geeky sci-fi show. Somehow it seemed the pumpkins were carved by the wrong people. As Loretta put it, "It's as if we are in some kind of bizarro-land."

But that was until we lit them up. With the lights off and a the pumpkins glowing, we realized Jon's Totoro was quite menacing while my Cylon was rather cute.

Friday, October 19, 2007


I have been putting off getting back to work. My manager inbox that Robert used to handle is overflowing, I narrowly made the copy edits for novel #2, and I completely missed the deadline for novel #3.

The truth is I have been waiting for the silence to return as a friend. Right after Robert's death, the daily solitude that was once solace betrayed me. It became a deafening stillness, as if I too had become cold and frozen. But the days have passed and the silence has softened; slowly becoming a wary detente and now a quiet coexistence-- but not a restoration to the welcoming tranquility.

And maybe that is to be expected. All the relationships in my life have been altered and transformed by Robert's death; why would my relationship with silence be any different? Instead of a friend, it has become a disengaged roommate.

But I think I can live with that. And, maybe,even get back to work with it too.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Robert's Snow is happening again and the support has been tremendous. I have not said much about this because I truly have no words to express the gratitude I feel.

This is my snowflake this year:

My cloisonné-inspired snowflake is called "Flower." As I told Becky, I painted it when Robert was declining, while things like hope and happiness were not obviously in the landscape. Yet, even in those days, we were able to find bits of beauty and bittersweet joys. Those moments were like finding flowers in the snow.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

outside my door

I live in a fairly "artsy" part of town which, hermit that I am, I rarely take advantage of. However, once in a while the creative environment is so thick even I can't miss it. For example, right outside my door last weekend was this:

Hmm, chicken-suited-tuba men seemed a bit out of the ordinary even for my neighborhood. Until I remembered. It's was the Honk Festival, the half-hippie, brass band parade and festival to "take back the streets."

It was great fun, but I have to admit my favorite part was that while following this band:
the saxophone player turned to Libby and I and said, "Hello, Beautiful Ladies," and proceeded to serenade us.

There has been a dearth of male compliments at home, so this was quite enjoyable. Maybe a bit too enjoyable...I'm starting to realize I should probably get out of the house more.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

in bunny slippers

I have been spending a lot of time in bunny slippers. In the evenings, I make grandiose plans for a morning conquering of the world (or at least a trip to the grocery store) but somehow those schemes tend to fall flat. Instead, I laze around in my slippers waiting for friends or family to come over to goof off. One of my best goofing off partners is my cousin Austin, whom I bought the killer bunny slippers for in honor of his devotion to my lack of industry.

Which he justly deserves. For it is he that installed the play station 2 onto my TV and introduced me to the mindless world of video games. Yes, this is me turning into an adolescent boy:

In fact, I find this such unintelligent fun that I let him talk me into getting a Wii, which becomes a source of endless amusement as we can make ourselves into characters:

and beat each other in tennis, bowling and boxing.

Ah, I think I might be on my way to becoming every prepubescent boy's dream girl, though perhaps the bunny slippers would be a deterrent even to them...

Thursday, October 4, 2007

still here

All things considering, I am doing pretty well now.
The last five months have been, perhaps, the hardest and painful yet most beautiful time in my life. When faced with death, the purity of life becomes unflinching and blindingly clear. And now, as my eyes begin to refocus and the death’s daze has finally begun to leave me, I strangely find myself fairly intact. The worst moments are when the tranquil quiet becomes an overwhelming, lonely silence; the best moments are when present fears dissipate with a newfound strength.
So, as I reach for joy and begin to look forward to the future with hope, I realize that of all the desperate wishes we had thrust up to the sky the one that was answered was Robert’s wish for me.