Walking with Tina– Do You Believe Life is Good?


Sunflowers for Tina

Sunflowers for Tina

For the coming week, Daily (w)rite ‘s header would remain a field of sunflowers, in honor of Tina Downey, my friend, fellow blogger, and Sister in Spirit.

Today, on the 8th of September, the blogging world is coming together to celebrate Tina’s life, and all that she stood for– beauty, brightness, good cheer in the face of all kinds of odds. This is the Sunflower Blogfest, folks, for a woman who adored sunflowers. Sign up if you haven’t already.

If you knew Tina, send her a tribute. If you didn’t know her, celebrate anyway– because joy needs to be celebrated now, today, every moment. Tina embodied that spirit of Taking joy in small things, and smiling through suffering.

For as long as I’ve known her, she’s struggled with her health– and she has never let that stand in the way of life, family, church, friendships, blogging, creative writing, or gardening– she did it all with a snark and a ready smile.

Tina and I spoke often, and every once in a while we spoke of visiting each other. I’ve never been to the USA and she’d never been to Singapore– so between Colorado and Singapore, we exchanged snapshots and dreams.

Tina Downey's Sunflower in SIngapore

In Singapore, with Tina Downey

I know that I still want to visit the United States, and if I do, I would like to spend an hour beside a field of sunflowers, soaking in the sun, remembering Tina’s voice, the one that always sounded so happy to hear mine– even on the days she had a hard time breathing.

I wrote about Tina and my swimming pool in my other blog, and on this one, I have this to say: Never ever postpone a plan to meet friends or family. I had planned a trip to surprise Tina this year.

But instead, I have this photo above, of my sunflower.

This is the view from my balcony, the view we would have shared, had Tina visited me, like she’d talked about doing, so many times.

I could have had other photos, different ones, had I made it to Colorado last year.

But I shall not shed tears.

“When you part from your friend, you grieve not;
For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.
And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.
For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery is not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught.” ~Khalil Gibran

Until we meet again, dear Tina. Life is always Good, and I believe it, in part, because of you.

(Tina’s family has set up the Downey Education Fund for Tina’s sons, if you’d like to donate, the way I and some others have done, the Donate link is given below. If you want the code for a badge on your own blog, drop me a line at atozstories at gmail dot com)

Donate to the Downey Education Fund

Donate to the Downey Education Fund

Would you all celebrate Tina with us?

Do you believe, the way I do, that no matter what, Life is Good?

Are You Searching for Beauty in the NOW?


Beauty in the NOW

Beauty in the NOW

I’ve had a sad few days.

After this post, you know some of the reasons why. There are others, but they don’t matter.

We all get a little blue from time to time, so we all know what it is about, don’t we?

But over the past years of occasional bouts of feeling blue, I’ve realized one thing. It is never a loss or a problem that causes my sadness.

It is my attitude towards it.

If I look at my sadness, accept it, watch it, it reduces. I see that I can either do something about the problem, or accept that I can only do something about my attitude towards the problem.

As I watch the sad part of me, I also see that the happy part of me, the calm blue lake within, hasn’t gone anywhere.

It is up to me, to choose to be in the NOW, be mindful of what blessings I have at present, and focus on those.

I took the photographs of these orchids two weeks ago, and saw them on my phone just now– and they made me smile.

In this moment, now, watching the orchids as I type, the sad part of me has receded.

It is in this spirit that I also write about the Sunflowers for Tina Blogfest , which we at the A to Z Challenge have organized.

Sunflowers for Tina

Sunflowers for TinaSunflowers for Tina Blogfest we at the A to Z Challenge have organized.

This 8th of September we hope to cover as big a part of the internet as possible with Sunflowers, the favorite flower of our dear Tina who we lost all too soon.

As we mourn her loss, we also celebrate who she was: a bright, compassionate, large-hearted personality.

If you knew Tina through her blog, I encourage you to take part, by signing up here.

If you didn’t know Tina– celebrate this Blogfest as a day of choosing to be joyful– a choice Tina Downey made, despite all her suffering, every day of her life.

——

Would you join us in celebrating Tina with the Sunflowers Blogfest? In your life, are you searching for beauty in the NOW?

 

 

To Tina, with LOVE.


For Tina, with Love

For Tina, with Love

As I type this, my fingers shake on the keyboard. Once in while, my stupid tears reach my lips and I taste the salt of them.

I’d never expected such heartbreak at the loss of someone I’d never met, but here it is.

I have also wondered about sharing personal stuff on my blog, but  this time, I can’t help it, so again, here it is.

The blogging community lost Tina Downey yesterday, but I lost my sister in spirit. SIS, we called each other, half-joking. On Skype calls, we giggled over small things, over random stuff of her American life, and trivia from Singapore.

And she could make you laugh, even when connected to machines and tubes. She made light of all her suffering, medical procedures without proper anesthesia (prolonged treatment had made her body very resistant to some drugs) and not being able to breathe well after a few minutes on the phone.

She joked through our April madness, and she organized and herded the A to Z Challenge team. She loved her blog, and blogging, and blog friends. She could be fierce in protecting those she considered her own. She adored her husband, doted on her sons, stood by her relatives and community.

She loved sunflowers. Always sent me a sunflower icon on whatsapp.

She stood by me when I suffered a bereavement, and we cried together when she suffered a loss. Wish we had talked more when she was healthier, wish I’d pushed on the US trip that’s been on the cards for a few years now. And now she’s gone, leaving me determined to hold my friends, both online and off, closer. To tell them they mean so much to me.

Having lost many friends and family to the grim reaper, I know that the first hours are gut-wrenching. But this year, while discussing death and dying, Tina and I had discussed this quote that comforted us as we cried, and I want to share it with you all today:

“Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by the old familiar name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before. How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!”

Rest well, my friend. You’ll continue to inspire me, and one day we shall meet as we did not in this life, share a joke, and burst out laughing.

——-

Dear readers, has any of you interacted with Tina Downey?

I’ve always counted on and appreciated your advice, so: Have you suffered loss of friends or family? What is the best, most positive way to respond to such a difficult time?

 

Been to a Writers’ #Conference ? #Writing


All APW conference photos published with permission from Tim and Deedle Tomlinson.

All AP writers conference photos published with permission from Tim and Deedle Tomlinson.

One of the things I love about writing is the ability to do my job all scruffy, hiding behind my desk, or some nondescript cafe table. A conference? No, thank you very much.

But last week I did attend a conference (the Asia Pacific Writers and Translators Conference), my very first. I admit I’d gone there just for the workshops– they sounded great. One of my first ever ‘writing’ books was Tim Tomlinson’s Portable MFA in Creative Writing, and he would teach a workshop. Dr Sally Breen from Griffith University would lead an editing workshop, and Francesca Rendle-Short would do a session on voice.

I attended all three, and let me tell you– if you ever hear of a workshop from any of them, queue up. My only wish for those sessions?  They should have gone on longer. (I’m sure the others were equally good, but they either didn’t relate to my fields of interest, or clashed with these three.)

A few things I learned from the workshops:

1. Fragments strung together can make a story/ novel, you just need the right connectors.

2. It is perfectly acceptable to write with your left hand, eyes closed, when working around a writer’s block. Or otherwise.

3. Look at each word you use while writing. Take away as many as you can when revising, leaving a spare, beautiful structure.

AWP Writers' conference

All AP Writers conference photos published with permission from Tim and Deedle Tomlinson

I had a short editorial consult with Literary agent Kelly Falconer, and her insights were helpful. Her comments would help me polish my work further.

I also went to book launches. I watched authors read, talk in panels, and chat with each other during breaks. Authors are some of the most interesting people you can meet– they talk about everything from speculative poetry to sunflower seeds and everything else in between. They are also kind, generous, and courageous souls with a sense of humor, who stand up against injustice. (There could have been bitchiness and negativity somewhere, the stuff writers’ events get a rap for, but I didn’t see any that I can report. Quite the opposite!) It all ended in a great open mic session with singing and poetry. Couldn’t have ended on a better note.

So if there’s another writer’s conference I can go to, I’ve decided I will.

Especially if it is organized by Jane Camens, because if not for her help, I wouldn’t have been able to register for the conference or the workshops during weeks of traveling madness. Besides, throughout the conference I saw her add that touch of compassion and good cheer to each event I saw her at– it brought home to me why at the heart of writers’ events we need writers. Not just a great organizer, or fundraiser, but someone who understands writing and writers. (For more details on the conference, read this excellent article.)

What writing conferences have you taken part in? What was your experience like? What advice would you give me and the Daily (w)rite audience on writer’s conferences?

 

#AtoZChallenge Reflections Post: Have I Thanked You Yet?


Reflections on Blogging A to Z Challenge

A to Z Reflections 2014

If you’ve been to this blog in the last month, you know I’ve been part of the A to Z Challenge. We usually do a Reflections post to wind up, to give us cohosts feedback, to thank those who made this challenge worthwhile for us. If you haven’t participated in the challenge, please scroll down to the bottom, and help answer some of the questions there :)

My A to Z Challenge on this blog was a disaster for me personally.

I scheduled none of the posts, thought I could write fiction based on random pictures and prompts at the drop of a hat. I was traveling through half of April, not in the best of conditions, and most days I almost didn’t write the story. But some of my blog friends made this all worthwhile, so I’ll simply devote this post to them.

 Joseph W Richardson, who gave me his pictures to do whatever I wanted with them. Huge risk, and I really hope I haven’t let him down in any major way.

And to all the folks, whose comments kept me going: I wrote most of the stories half asleep due to exhaustion, or in a lot of pain, or majorly depressed– I got a fair bit of death-related news this month, arranged for funeral anniversaries in the family, battled exhaustion and sickness. All these stories would have been impossible if not for the comments I received from you.

I’ll mention and link to a few of the kind bloggers below, the ones who gave me courage during the tough times– if you haven’t visited them, you’re missing out.

Dan Antion and Paul Ruddock: They’ve read and tweeted all my AZ posts, and left me some beautiful comments. Gave me prompts, besides. I cherish these friends, and you should visit them to see why.

Peter Nena, Keith Channing and Patricia Lynne: I met Patricia during the first challenge, and will never forget her post, all about her getting married! Peter has been a blog buddy for a while, an excellent horror writer,  but Keith is a new friend– I loved his travel posts, and his comments.

Rosie AmberSammy D., Jacqui Murray, Davey Northcott, Susan Scott,Rajlakshmi,Lisa Buie Collard, Vishalbheeroo, Beloo Mehra, HarliQueen, Sonia Lal, uniqusatya : Their comments spurred me on, especially when I found what good writers they themselves are!

 Michelle Wallace : This lady went back and read, commented on all the older stories through April– I can’t imagine the sort of time and effort that must have taken.

David Prosser, S D Neeve: David shared almost all of my posts on twitter, and both these bloggers left cool comments.

I have to thank my fantastic #TeamDamyanti for the A to Z Challenge, Guilie, Anna, Samantha, Csenge, Vidya, Jemima and Mary– they did all kinds of bloggy things to keep me afloat during the challenge, and gave me some beautiful prompts!

And lastly, I have to thank my cohosts: Lee, Alex, Tina, Jeremy, Nicole, Stephen, Heather, AJ, MJ, Pam.

Lee, Alex, Tina, Jeremy, Nicole, Stephen, Heather, AJ, MJ and Pam – See more at: http://amloki.blogspot.sg/#sthash.flv7NsI6.dpufThey made this whole shebang possible.

Through the month of May and then the months after until I cover each of these bloggers I’ve mentioned above, I’ll be reblogging their posts or linking to them, as a small token of thanks for the support they’ve given me. I’m sure I’ve missed a few names, and to them I sincerely apologize…I’ll be sure to link to everyone though, sooner or later, through this blog, or my other one, Amlokiblogs.

I’m also thinking of linking to more of my visitors — this would be for all those bloggers who’ve visited me during the challenge, or before and after. I’ll try and include 3 links with each of my future posts, under a new regular section: Bloggers I Recommend Visiting.

I’m happy my posts receive their fair share of comments and visits– but I think growth is enjoyed best when the entire community grows together, and everyone else receives lots of comments and visitors, too!

——

Did you participate in the A to Z Challenge? Have you met any of the bloggers linked above– how many of them do you know? Have you participated in any other blog challenges? Did you read any of my A to Z stories this year?

Lee, Alex, Tina, Jeremy, Nicole, Stephen, Heather, AJ, MJ and Pam, without – See more at: http://amloki.blogspot.sg/#sthash.iyNrIz9Z.dpuf
co-hosts Lee, Alex, Tina, Jeremy, Nicole, Stephen, Heather, AJ, MJ and Pam, – See more at: http://amloki.blogspot.sg/#sthash.iyNrIz9Z.dpuf

Do You Reply to Each Comment on Your Blog?


Donatella Versace Sunday Morning thoughts

Do You respond to all comments?

The A to Z Challenge wrapped up two days ago, and I now feel a little lost.

I made a load of friends despite not doing such a great job of the challenge myself, I may have commented on about 60 blogs a day, if that. That’s lower than what a lot of bloggers do on a regular basis. So it is the kindness of other bloggers that helped me sail through.

But I have a confession to make: Though I LOVED receiving each comment, I didn’t spend time responding to each. Instead, I commented on a few that I spotted via my phone while running about, and then said a general word of thanks at the bottom of all the comments. The choice, for me, with my limited online time, was between responding to comments and visiting them back, and I chose to just go leave a comment.

I figured I personally would like a comment on my post better than a response to a comment I left.

I’m still majorly GUILTY that I didn’t respond to all comments, not on this blog, and not many at all on Amlokiblogs.

What do You do on your blog? Do you individually respond to all the comments you receive? Do you feel offended if a blogger does not respond to your comments? Do you have comment response tips for me?

 

#AtoZchallenge #flashfiction: Z for Zebra crossings must’ve been designed by a psychopath


The A to Z Challenge is now coming to an end. Through the month of April I posted a story a day based on photographs by Joseph W. Richardson and prompts given to me by blog-friends.
Today I bring you the last of the 26 stories, and I thank each and every one of you who’s commented on the 25 stories so far. I came to know some of you during the challenge, and some of my much loved readers are from before. I hope to visit your blogs often in the coming months. I’m not a demonstrative person, be it online life or offline, but I do hope to return the support you’ve given me in what has been a difficult month!
Writing prompt: Zebra crossings must’ve been designed by a psychopath

Provided by: Guilie Castillo Oriard friend, fellow writer,  and one of the magnificent Seven of #TeamDamyanti

———————-

#atozchallenge : Z is for Zebra crossings must've been designed by a psycopath

#atozchallenge : Z is for Zebra crossings must’ve been designed by a psychopath

          I dream in black and white, and that’s how I see life. What’s the point of color, anyway?

           Color’s like laughter, completely useless. Both make you look silly, is all. When you’re stabbing someone, all that red is a bit overly done, if you know what I mean. Black, now, black is soothing. It’s a color too, the only one I like, and wear, really.

           Black is the color of shadows, and I like shadows, love living in them, even on this hundred-year-old boat lit up like a Christmas tree on all days of the year. She’s a relic, she is, the Belle of Louisville. Long ways she’s come, from carrying braying mules and bleating lambs to ferrying touristy types from all over the world, who get sneetered with all this history and fork out a good sum to breathe the dank evening air from its decks.

            I arsle about on its decks in the evenings, wiping the glass windows here and there, looking for a likely one. Most evenings I draw empty. They mostly come in groups, the ones I like, the sweet-smiling curly blondes. Uncles, aunties, parents, friends— polecats all of them, setting off such a stink if their darling is missing for more than a few minutes.

            So I’ve got to wait for weeks, months, before I get the right one. Lonely, smiles right back when I smile at her. Traveling alone, finding herself. A divorcee, usually, or someone in her family just died, and she’s on a break, to get away from it all. I tell her I know how she feels, and her eyes widen. I don’t know, not really, not how any of this ‘feeling’ shit works, but I can fake it with the best of them. I’m not as much of a fool as the captain makes me out to be.

              In the end she gets to go away from it all, very far away indeed on the Missisipi, and I get to scratch my itch, know what I’m sayin’?

              I read up on folks like me, folks who don’t feel much, who don’t get stuff like ‘irony’, us folks who dream in black and white. I don’t see what’s wrong with me or black and white. I like zebra crossings, they call them crosswalks around these parts. Zebra crossings must’ve been designed by a psychopath, too. They say folks like me can’t be cured, but it’s good for us to talk it out, once they have us in the hospitals. I’m not going to no hospital, so here I am getting a crick in my neck, writing in this here, my notebook.

             Time for me to wrap up though, because I spot a blonde one boarding, right across. I just might get lucky tonight.

~~~~~

Are you taking part in the A to Z challenge? Do you read or write fiction? Ever write based on a prompt? Been aboard the Belle of Louisville?

(An added Disclaimer: This is absolutely a figment of my imagination, and any resemblances of my character with anyone you know is purely coincidental!)