Writing Through the Pandemic While Baking Bread and Canning Food

May 23, 2020

crop unrecognizable person with jar of pickled zucchini
Photo by Ksenia Chernaya on Pexels.com

The sun is out today and the high will reach 80*, which is great for the seedlings and plants in my garden. The AC is on because high heat always brings high humidity in this area. Too bad high temperatures don’t kill the coronavirus…wouldn’t that be awesome if it did?

I finally discovered a way to discourage birds from pulling up tender seedlings and sheering off the tops of the tomato plants in the garden–red Solo cups with the bottoms cut out! I placed a cup over each seedling and it seems to be working. I’m happy I started lots of seeds in large pots back in March because the culprits were relentless. I didn’t think my three small plots required a scarecrow, but I thought about it.

healthy vegetables hand gardening
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I’m still waiting on the delivery of the pricey All American 915 canner pressure cooker with high hopes of canning vegetables in the future. Yes, I’m taking this pandemic seriously. I did my research and ended up ordering one approved by the FDA so I don’t contract salmonella or blow up my house.

I’ve never canned in my life, so that should be interesting. One of the participants in my The Artist’s Way group, a West Virginia native and a hunter, is a canning pro and offered to teach me. She cans loaves of bread (how can that work?) in addition to chili, soups, stews, meats, vegetables, jams, eggs (?), and wait for it…pudding. Don’t ask. I have no clue how she does that, but she does. I’m excited to learn from her.

Hopefully, my late spring and summer harvests are plentiful and healthy enough to can. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, the lettuce, kale, and spinach taste great and I’m baking bread again. Merci, Jacques Pepin.

***

coronavirus
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The CDC needs to speak to the American people again! Are they hiding during this pandemic? Why are they silent?

“If authors have any responsibilities in the face of disaster, the greatest of them is to bear witness.” That’s an excerpt from the author Fang Fang’s (her pen name) controversial chronicle of life and death in Wuhan, China during the pandemic.

From the New York Times article, “She Kept a Diary of China’s Epidemic. Now She Faces a Political Storm”,

“Her online diary, though sometimes censored, became vital reading for tens of millions of Chinese readers — a plain-spoken, spontaneous view into Wuhan residents’ fears, frustrations and hopes during their 11 weeks under lockdown in their homes.

Her account has recently drawn bitter condemnation from zealous Chinese nationalists who have called plans to publish a translation in English an effort to malign the government and undermine the heroic image of Wuhan.

 

Fang Fang, who uses her pen name rather than her birth name, Wang Fang, said that she did not want to be cast as either a cheerleader for the government, or as a reflexively embittered critic. She called herself a witness, highlighting the bravery of doctors, street cleaners and neighbors helping neighbors, while vowing to hold to account officials who let the virus spread.”

I would love to read her pandemic chronicle one day in English.

 

Brazil. The news of the incredibly high number of deaths in Brazil is heartwrenching–24,048 deaths as of yesterday. Bolsinaro, the president of Brazil calls the pandemic in his country “a little flu”…he is South America’s version of Trump…Lord help the Brazilians.

What’s happening in the Navajo Nation is truly a national tragedy–4,434 confirmed cases and 147 deaths this morning. It’s just awful. Today, as US deaths approach 100,000 souls,  the world comes to grips with 240,879 deaths. At times, the numbers are difficult to process. A newscaster described the numbers we see today as war-time numbers.

According to www.worldometers.com, as of today, Puerto Rico, my birthplace, has 3, 100 total cases, 70 new cases, and 127 deaths. Their numbers are higher than Guam, the US Virgin Islands, and Hawaii. I don’t know why that is. I wonder if it’s because thousands of tourists landed on the island early on? It’s clear high temperatures don’t stop this virus. My adopted state of West Virginia is at 1,717 total cases, 12 new cases, and 72 deaths. I’m staying home.

Last week, I had a contentious discussion with one of my postal carriers, who took offense to me questioning why he wasn’t wearing a mask. His immediate response was, “Why should I?” Okay. I should have thanked him and closed the door right then, but I was honestly curious. So I asked why he, a person who comes into contact with hundreds of people on a daily basis, wouldn’t think to protect himself and others by wearing a mask. Long story short, he replied that more people die each year from the flu and pneumonia, it’s all a big hoax, and it’s too hot to wear a mask. He kept his distance and he sounded exactly like Trump, so I thanked him for delivering my mail and shut the door.

I found him callous, irresponsible, and rude. Even if people don’t care about themselves and their health, for God’s sake, how about caring about others? Apparently, it never occurred to him or maybe it did and he just doesn’t care.

As I continue to quarantine at home and venture out on Sundays to my local farmers market, I will wear a mask for the foreseeable future. For myself and for you.

Be well and stay safe this holiday weekend. Thank you to all military members, past and present. Thank you to my dad, a Vietnam vet, for his 30 years in the US Army. Love you, Dad.

Eleanor x

ABOUT ELEANOR:

me in ma july 2019

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning, debut novel, A DECENT WOMAN, set in 1900 Puerto Rico, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses. The author lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, THE LAMENTS, set in 1927 Puerto Rico. Eleanor’s adult children are out in the world doing amazing things, which fills her with enormous pride and affords her the peace of mind to write full-time. She is currently in quarantine with a cute Chihuahua named Sophie.

On Writers Helping Writers and Friendship

May 21, 2020

black and white photo of holding hands
Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

Note: Did you know the “doldrums” is a popular nautical term that refers to the belt around the Earth near the equator where sailing ships sometimes get stuck on windless waters? I didn’t, not at the time I wrote this blog post. Synchronicity.

A thousand thanks to my writer friends and brilliant authors, Jack and Jessica, who pushed me out of my writing doldrums yesterday during a fun Zoom chat and impromptu writing workshop. I am eternally grateful to Jack for recognizing I was in desperate need of a writing support system, a writing group–I’d written alone for far too many years.

From past negative experiences, I’d shied away from writing groups, especially critique groups, which I’d viewed as creativity killers. The writers in my previous writing groups were nice people, who said they wanted to write but in my humble opinion weren’t putting in the necessary hard work, blood, and sweat. They came to the group to complain about the publishing industry, horrible editors, and the zero likelihood of any of us getting published. I always left the groups with a bad taste in my mouth and never went back. Believe me, my inner critic is always ready to feed me with negativity, self-doubt, and criticism. I don’t need any help there.

The guidance and support I received yesterday from Jack and Jessica made all the difference in the world. Jack’s keen observation, fine-tuned intuition, and life-changing instruction (he is an incredibly talented and brilliant writer, a true mensch, and a generous teacher), helped me tremendously. I had one of the best writing days (and nights) since this pandemic began. Sure, I’d managed to write, rewrite, and edit my work-in-progress since late February when the coronavirus pandemic began, but I knew deep down I’d been traveling rudderless and without a compass.

beach ship cracks black white
Photo by Zukiman Mohamad on Pexels.com

After our session, I told my friends I felt like someone had finally changed my dead batteries. I’d been running on low since the end of February with my manuscript and in danger of sailing around in circles with the story. Thanks to Jack’s brilliant techniques and tips for taking apart a paragraph or a chapter that doesn’t work and reworking it, I rewrote Chapter One last night and reduced the chapter by two pages. I was thrilled and felt newly energized to tackle the edits with what I’d learned from him. I now have a clearer course and I’m learning how to navigate the waters to my destination. I’m also more than ready to help them in any way I can.

I’m eternally grateful for Jack and Jessica’s friendship, their kindness, and very happy to be part of a new writing group of brilliant, like-minded writers. That’s what the doctor ordered and exactly what I’ve needed for months. Years, actually. Bless them.

Stay safe and be well.

Happy writing to you.

Eleanor x

ABOUT ELEANOR:

me in ma july 2019

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning, debut novel, A DECENT WOMAN, set in 1900 Puerto Rico, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses. She currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, THE LAMENTS, set in 1927 Puerto Rico. Eleanor’s adult children are out in the world doing amazing things, which fills her with enormous pride and affords her the peace to write full-time. She is currently in lockdown with a Chihuahua named Sophie.

 

On Finding Our Bearings in a Changing World

May 17, 2020

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I took the weekend off from writing and watched the excellent Netflix series, WWII In Color, with rare, never-seen footage. I highly recommend it. I also worked in my garden and on Saturday, I found several dead tomato seedlings in the garden. I was sad and pissed off. I’d grown those babies from seeds, which wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination. It turned out the culprits were birds. I told my kids I needed to make a scarecrow. After a good laugh, I rummaged through the garden shed and discovered a small roll of screening (wire mesh) and solved the problem by covering the tender seedlings. I then filled the bird feeder.

This morning I realized I haven’t offered my thanks to our doctors, nurses, medical care workers, and mental health providers in the last few blog posts. To all essential workers on the front lines of this pandemic, who put themselves at tremendous risk for us every day, thank you. I realize a simple, heartfelt thank you will never be enough for the enormous sacrifices you’ve all made for us. And as I’ve said many times before, it’s time for hazard pay (and retroactive pay) for every front line worker. For those who’ve lost loved ones to COVID-19, my heart breaks for you and your family.

This month, I’ve experienced more highs than the low lows in late February, March, and at the beginning of April. I wouldn’t say I find it easier to live in quarantine, it’s more that I’m resigned to the fact that given my medical history, I must remain careful and that timeframe may be longer than I’d previously anticipated and desired. I don’t like it, but here we are.

“Vaccine or no vaccine, we’re back.” – Donald Trump, May 2020

“I believe by early June we’re going to see our nation largely past this epidemic.” – Mike Pence, May 2020

Gaslight much? What’s the tally of lies, so far? Anyone?

Jesus. Please God, let Biden win in November.

Register to vote, people, and vote blue all the way.

***

May 18, 2020

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Photo by Bruno Feitosa on Pexels.com

The days of fruitful writing and momentum I’d enjoyed last winter on my work-in-progress came to a halt when the CDC and WHO announced we were in a pandemic. Soon afterward, my adopted state of West Virginia went into lockdown and my publisher announced their publishing cues were frozen until further notice due to COVID-19. I completely understood and fully supported the decisions while my brain reeled from rapid-fire daily and hourly changes to life as I knew it that didn’t come with a helpful manual. We were all thrown in at the deep end. In the back of my mind, I knew the virus would throw a big wrench in my writing momentum. I felt bad for my fellow authors with book launches in April and May.

As we navigated the frightening world of the novel coronavirus and worried about our families and loved ones, the virus proved to be far deadlier and more contagious than we could have known, unless you were an epidemiologist, a scientist, or a medical lab technician. Day after day, we were gripped with mind-numbing fear and anxiety, and anger over the government’s inaction and slow responses. Around that time, I was finding it difficult to concentrate on anything for too long, which is why I’d chosen to write blog posts. I was still writing and that was a good thing.

Some days, given the unbearable suffering of people around the country, the world, and the constant fear for the safety of my children and loved ones, I binge-watched Netflix series for hours upon hours. I tried to keep a writing schedule and it was hard. I hope to never experience those levels of stress, anxiety, and fear again.

Initially, I’d naively hoped everyone in this country would self-quarantine for a few months, every person in this country would get tested and receive monthly paychecks to get by, and the medical world would come up with at least a drug cocktail that would kick the virus’ ass, enough to save COVID-19 patient’s lives. It didn’t take long, however, to realize that what I’d hoped for would not come to pass in a timely or consistent manner. People around the world continued to die in horrific numbers and violent divisions erupted in this country that continue to this day.

This morning, I wonder what I’ll do differently next time with what I’ve learned during this pandemic? Hopefully, I won’t have to find out, but that’s wishful thinking. Does the fact that I’m questioning how I’ll handle the virus next time and thinking back to the beginning of this nightmare show a glimmer of healing? Of strength and resolve? Maybe it does.

Today, our lives are again held in limbo by the Senate, who will decide if, when, and how much Americans will receive in the way of additional recovery checks. The president and the Republicans in the Senate continue to sit on their hands while people lose their jobs, their businesses, wait in food bank lines, and get evicted from their homes. God help us all.

Will the recovery money continue to flow until the end of this pandemic? Will businesses rehire their employees? Will undocumented folks receive checks? Will doctors, nurses, and medical workers finally receive desperately-needed PPE supplies? And scientists don’t sound hopeful that a safe, effective vaccine will be ready at the end of this year or the following year. How’s that for sobering news? How can I possibly finish the edits on this manuscript?

SO.

How do we deal with rude awakenings, doses of reality we don’t want to hear? How do we keep moving forward,  remain balanced, and thrive given the horrible news that we could be dealing with this monster virus for the next 18 months to two years or longer?

We regroup. We take into account all we’ve learned during the last three months (it’s more than you can imagine) and we realize we made it. We’re here. Tragically, not all of us made it out alive, and many families are still suffering, so we will continue to give to those less fortunate than ourselves. We donate to charities, food banks, shelters, and hospitals. We help out our neighbors and local small businesses, where we can. We practice kindness and forgiveness.

We recalibrate. We find our bearings, again. We adapt. We ground ourselves deep into the earth and brace ourselves for bad news that may or may not come. It’s going to be easier next time because we know we can self-quarantine. We know what we have to do to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe and we more or less know what we’re dealing with in regard to COVID-19.

It’s true, we know more today than we knew three months ago. We grew in more ways than we realize. Reflect on that. We must continue to help those who are struggling, by taking excellent care of ourselves and remaining hopeful. We start a garden and we keep writing day by day.

I’m reminded of what Anne Lamott said in her amazing book, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life:

“E.L. Doctorow said once said that ‘Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’ You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, I have ever heard.”
― Anne Lamott

Stay safe and remain informed. Resist.

Eleanor x

ABOUT ELEANOR:

me in ma july 2019

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning, debut novel, A DECENT WOMAN, set in 1900 Puerto Rico, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses. She currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is in quarantine with a Chihuahua named Sophie and working on her second novel, THE LAMENTS, set in 1927 Puerto Rico. Her children are out in the world doing amazing things and staying safe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Dr. Fauci and Living in the In-between

May 12, 2020

person in yellow protective suit and mask
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What a relief to hear Dr. Fauci debunk many of 45’s coronavirus claims and lies during yesterday’s Senate HELP Committee hearing on the Coronavirus Response. Il Fauci scored major points with me for being transparent. Any doubts I had about him possibly caving to Trump’s demands to downplay this pandemic, the numbers, and the dire consequences of reopening too soon, disappeared. Like with Governor Cuomo, when Fauci spoke, there was an adult in the room. I breathed a sigh of relief.

However…I was disappointed in that Fauci kept repeating the same warning: if states jump forward to reopen without following the Task Force guidance, there could be hell to pay (my words) with more outbreaks resulting in more confirmed cases and deaths, and going backward in regard to the economy. We already know that. Dr. Fauci knows that no state (that I’m aware of) has followed the phases or protocols set forth by the Coronavirus Task Force for reopening, yet states reopened or will reopen soon, including my adopted state of West Virginia. Jeez. I wish Fauci had addressed the issue that no state is truly ready to reopen. But this president is hellbent on continuing to muzzle Fauci and God knows, I don’t want the good scientist to be fired. Can you imagine what that would look like? I’ve got to hand it to Fauci–he was diplomatic, emphatic, truthful. He’s in a tough situation.

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice gave a virtual briefing last night about getting ready for the Memorial Day weekend. I was not prepared for that, at all. May 26 is a big day for West Virginia, it’s the grand reopening of retail stores, parks, outdoor and indoor restaurants with limited seating, and I forget what else. Hair salons, barbershops, and spas are already open. The number of confirmed cases and deaths in West Virginia are lower compared to other states (still horrible), but I’m convinced that’s because not nearly enough West Virginians are being tested. Are we ready for all that?

Obviously, I pray it all goes well. My fear is we’ll see large outbreaks in June and July as we’ve seen with other states after reopening. I hope not. Trying to think positively, but that’s difficult in light of Dr. Fauci’s warnings.

I’m definitely not ready and not going anywhere until June or July, maybe? Here we go.

***

May 13, 2020

grayscale photography of woman sitting on sofa
Photo by Ken Ozuna on Pexels.com

I’ve been thinking (and journaling) a lot about living in the in-between. I didn’t exactly know what that meant and didn’t have sufficient time to explore the idea with a writing deadline coming up, but the idea kept popping in when I least expected it. Living in the in-between (how I’ve felt since the first reports of the novel coronavirus reached our shores), seemed important, something I had to look into.

Last night, the idea of living in the in-between felt like an answer to a question I hadn’t yet formed. So, I slept on it, confident it would make sense to me in due time.

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. – Blaise Pascal, 17th-century French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer, and philosopher.

Today I logged onto Zoom for a free Monroe Institute webinar I’d signed up for called Tips for Flourishing in Uncertain Times. The instructor offered good tips that included mindfulness, meditation, prayer, and yoga, which make good sense at any time. She then spoke about the liminal state, which I’d never heard of. I realized why I’d stumbled upon this webinar and why I was smiling–the Universe had answered me–the liminal state is the in-between I’d been thinking about. When the student is ready, the teacher appears.

Liminal space experiences are often associated with dealing with death, illness, divorce, pregnancy, job loss–major life changes–and…world events like COVID-19. Each of us is living in a liminal space at this very moment. It’s a threshold, the space in between, where we look back to what was and look ahead to the possibilities of what may come to pass. Well, I love it.

A quick Google search on liminal spaces brought up podcasts, essays, books, album titles, and articles on the subject. Often the liminal space can feel disruptive and cause us to feel restless and confused. Artists and writers go into liminal states during the creative process. This is fascinating and getting better and better. Thank you, Universe, I’m excited to gain more understanding.

I wish you all a good morning. I’m off to check the garden babies and to see about putting together a new, three-tier garden doohicky (my third vegetable plot). It arrived disassembled with 78 screws…oh joy. It’s supposed to rain all next week, which is perfect writing weather, so I need to get this done today.

Be well and stay safe.

Eleanor x

ABOUT ELEANOR:

me in ma july 2019

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning, debut novel, A DECENT WOMAN, set in 1900 Puerto Rico, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses. She currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, THE LAMENTS, set in 1927 Puerto Rico. Her adult children are out in the world doing amazing things, which fills her with a lot of pride and allows her to write full time. Eleanor is in quarantine with a Chihuahua named Sophie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Crying in the Shower, Quarantine Questions, and Learning to Live in the In-between

May 11, 2020

young woman using laptop at home
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I believe we are entering the eighth week of quarantine. Or is it week 16? The number of coronavirus deaths in the US is nearing 81,000. What a tremendous tragedy. It’s a shock to see the numbers rise so steadily. I try to remember that each person is not just a number–they were loved and are dearly missed by their families and friends. May they rest in peace.

Some scientists suggest the only way to keep those numbers down is for us to stay home, practice safe distancing, wear a mask, and not infect anyone. Others urge us to get outside, stop living in fear, and that only after 60-70% of us are infected and recovered will this end. I really hate the term, “herd immunity”.

What does this quarantine time look like for you? Idleness, aimlessness, or an inability to focus on important things for too long? Perhaps it’s quarantine craziness or crazy good quarantine creativity and high productivity. Maybe for you it’s a time of relaxation laced with mind-numbing boredom or grief we can’t name mixed with confusing or unrealistic relief. Some of us are learning to schedule work meetings and chats with family and friends on sites like Zoom. It’s nuts.

One day I’m a baking tornado and transforming my kitchen into a professional chef’s domain with all the latest gadgets, on sale, of course. The next day, I’m so over nightly cooking, especially healthy eating. Some remember why they never liked or felt the slightest inclination to bake anything. It’s tough to find yeast, flour, or sourdough starter anyway. You may be precariously close to reaching or are already living in the “who cares?” part of the program. And you would be forgiven. But we can’t remain there. We know that. It’s imperative for us to get a grip over and over again and to remain in a good place for the sake of our children, our spouses, our loved ones and for ourselves.

It’s entirely possible and normal for us to feel many emotions in one day, depending on how our heads are screwed on that morning. Sometimes, changes in our moods will occur for no discernible reason. Upon waking and despite vowing to have an energetic, productive day, very often the positive energy diminishes and fizzles out in late afternoon. I don’t want to have a crappy day, not even a short period of crappiness, but sometimes it’s difficult to maintain my footing in my happy place and to keep my focus. Even after my best attempts to continue the day in proven positive ways, I sense those nasty gremlins peeking around the corner to check if I’m feeling grounded enough or losing steam. If I’m feeling drained, out of the corner of my eye, I see them plotting their move.

Then the guilt sets in. People are suffering and dying around the world and in my city. Am I doing enough? Did I give enough to Biden’s campaign, to the DACA recipients? Have I ordered enough greens and eggs from the local farmer? Do I need more cheese from the creamery? Should I order a pizza to be delivered from the Main Street pizzeria? Should I have cancelled last week’s appointment with the hair salon and will she go out of business because I didn’t go? Often when these questions can’t be controlled, I take a nap or cry in the shower like a toddler out of frustration and sadness. That often occurs when I’ve watched too much news or I’ve allowed myself to dwell on how long it will be until I can kiss and hug my precious children. Or when I think back to my travels and to family vacations. When will I travel freely again and have summer dinner parties with family and friends in my courtyard garden? I don’t know.

So what’s the answer then? What can we do? Change our thinking. I believe acceptance and living in the in-between is the way forward. It’s a path of resilience and one I choose to adopt. I’ll be thinking on that today as I work in the garden. It’s time for the bean seedlings to be transplanted near the bamboo teepee, and the pea seedlings are in a large pot with a tomato cage. They are so cute, smile.

More on living in the in-between tomorrow. I’m off to watch videos of baby animals until I feel more positive, and then I will sit down to work on my second book, The Laments. I’ve promised my new editor to have the clean manuscript to her by the end of May. Fingers crossed.

Tomorrow morning, Dr. Fauci and other medical experts will testify in the Senate on the coronavirus response. Fauci, tell the truth. Don’t sugarcoat anything and don’t blow smoke up our asses. We need to know what we’re dealing with and what the future holds for us going forward. I don’t think the answer is reopening our states too early, which is sadly happening across this country.

I hope you and yours are well. Stay safe.

Eleanor x

ABOUT ELEANOR:

me in ma july 2019

 

On motherhood, love, and hope in the time of Coronavirus

May 10, 2020

grayscale photography of woman beside children
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Mother’s Day blessings and best wishes for a beautiful day to all mothers. Whether you are a biological or an adoptive mom, a single mom or a Dad mom, a foster mom, great-grandmother, grandmother, mentor, stepmom, aunt, sister, cousin, niece, teacher, caregiver, or friend, you are beloved and special in someone’s life.

For the new mothers and pregnant women in this time of coronavirus, you are brave, resilient, strong, loved, and admired. Believe. All will be well.

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To my wonderful children, I love and miss you both more than words can express. Every day, your words and actions inspire me to continue to walk through life with humility, integrity, kindness, decency, transparency, patience, and love for mankind.

To my mother, grandmothers, aunts, and my stepmom, my angels, who taught me the meaning of family, love, friendship, compassion, strength, and the importance of humor and fun in good times and especially, in the not-so-good times, thank you.

I’ll love you all forever.

grayscale photography of mother and child
Photo by Jennifer Murray on Pexels.com

“To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power.” —Maya Angelou

“My Mother: She is beautiful, softened at the edges, and tempered with a spine of steel. I want to grow old and be like her. ” —Jodi Picoult

“Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children.” —William Makepeace Thackeray

“The influence of a mother in the lives of her children is beyond calculation.” —James E. Faust

“The art of mothering is to teach the art of living to children.” —Elaine Heffner

“When your mother asks, ‘Do you want a piece of advice?’ it’s a mere formality. It doesn’t matter if you answer yes or no. You’re going to get it anyway.” —Erma Bombeck

I wish each of you a blessed and wonderful Mother’s Day. May we all hug and kiss our loved ones very soon.

Be well and stay safe, everyone.

Eleanor x

 

ABOUT ELEANOR:

me in ma july 2019

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning, debut novel, A DECENT WOMAN, set in 1900 Puerto Rico, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, “Latina Authors and Their Muses. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is in quarantine with her dog and working on her second novel, THE LAMENTS, set in 1927 Puerto Rico. Her children are out in the world doing amazing things, which fills her with enormous pride, love, and comfort.

 

 

Stay-at-Home Snitches, Quarantine Shaming, and Puppet Masters

May 6-7, 2020

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I’m listening to the president as I write this blog post. Yesterday, they’d decided to wind down the Coronavirus Task Force meetings, and now he’s saying it turns out the task force is respected by some very respected people. “…it’s popular”…”so, let’s keep it going.” It’s incredible how much praise, attention, respect and admiration this man craves and demands. If he is not shown the proper reverance and respect he believes he is entitled to, he threatens to yank whatever it is until the intended targets bend, acquiesce, and kiss ass…or not. Then he threatens again.

He’s like a narcissistic, passive-aggressive partner who is nice as long as the other person does exactly what they want. If they don’t, the narcissist gaslights, lies, ignores, and threatens again. It’s a vicious cycle. Behave or else, comes to mind.

That’s the plan–to keep us afraid, unbalanced, tired, and angry. We don’t need any help with that, Americans are under tremendous pressure. If the population remains in a weakened state and go along with their program, whatever it is that day and however insane the program may seem to us, many more Americans will die. Hit ’em while they’re down.

So we are kept on our toes. We are left anxious, hopeful, angry, and filled with dread most days. It feels like a nightmare from which we cannot awake. Not everything that’s happened during this pandemic is directly caused by him, but most days, it sure feels like that’s the case. All the while, Americans suffer and die, and neighbors, police, and strangers fight and kill each other over social distancing and wearing masks in local businesses. Where will this end?

Now that several states have reopened for business and people go back to their favorite outdoor leisure activities, the number of confirmed cases and deaths will increase. That will continue as people begin interacting again, relaxing social distancing, and forego wearing masks. I fear the cases will never go down. Not one state has met the list of reopening guideline criteria, yet they’re reopening. Did the Coronavirus Task Force give up, claim a victory, or move on? Yes, all in one lousy news briefing.

white and blue come on in we ere open signage
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

Pandemic snitches, protestors, and quarantine shaming. That’s all happening in our communities. People are turning in neighbors, business owners, and strangers for not following guidelines set forth by the CDC and not heeding the advice and sober predictions from medical professionals in this country. In Alabama, the police refuse to enforce social distancing in their communities. While we pay attention to news reports, people struggle with lost jobs, shuttered businesses, and search for food to feed their families, the Trump adminstration continues to reverse environmental laws. Jesus, they are evil.

As of today, the New York Times reports 1.2 million people in the United States have been infected with the novel coronavirus and 73,500 deaths have been reported. That’s only deaths that are reported. The new unemployment numbers are coming out this morning. Thirty million Americans are filing for unemployments benefits and the US stock futures rose ahead of the jobless data. That’s nuts, but I’ve never understood the stock market. Along with the biggest health crisis this country has faced since 1918, we are facing the biggest unemployment crisis since the Great Depression. I believe we are in a depression, we just haven’t named it yet.

The puppet masters in Washington and big business continue to play a dangerous game, where they are the only winners. As staying home is the norm in many states in this country,  Americans are trapped, living in a maze until there is a successful, one-time-and-you’re-safe vaccine in this country. I heard the best case scenario is 2-3 years for that to happen. How will we cope that long?

I will hang in there and remain strong, though admittedly, some days are easier than others. I admit my anger at the administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic (and so much more) is often the fuel that keeps me going. Anger is as powerful an energy as is love. I intend to survive in spite of this administration because of my love for my family, friends, and for myself. And so will you.

Let’s take good care of ourselves, there are more beautiful days to come with our loved ones and friends. This too shall pass.

I wish every doctor, nurse, nursing assistant, and medical personnel a safe and blessed day. Much love and respect to them.

Off to the garden on a chilly morning, followed by baking a loaf of Irish Soda bread without yeast, and editing my novel, The Laments. The sun is shining and it’s Latino Book Month. #readlatinolit

Eleanor x

ABOUT ELEANOR:

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning, debut novel, A DECENT WOMAN, set in 1900 Puerto Rico, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, THE LAMENTS, set in 1927 Puerto Rico. Her adult children are out in the world doing amazing things, which fills her with pride and allows her to peacefully write full time. Eleanor is currently in quarantine with her Chihuahua named Sophie.

 

 

 

 

 

Pandemic Diary: On Worry, Time, and Garden Teepees

May 3, 2020

black twin bell alarm desk clock on table
Photo by JESHOOTS.com on Pexels.com

Hello, I hope you and yours are well.

I checked my calendar and it appears I’ve been in lockdown since March 9, going on two months now. Time doesn’t hold the same meaning for me as before. Sometimes, the fluidity of the day can feel liberating, challenging, and at times, puzzling. I have no appointments, nowhere to be, so I’m able to concentrate fully on one projects, or work on two or three projects during the day. One thing I know for sure: I’m getting a lot more done at home (inside and outside) and I’m more organized with my writing time than ever before. Not always creative…but certainly more organized. This is due to a need to control my world amidst this chaotic pandemic and to warmer days. When things go out of whack, it’s normal to hold on tight and control everything in our lives, and sunny days and warmer temperatures are just wonderful, period. I go outside and immediately feel better.

In March, most of us felt alone, worried, and frightened, followed by fear and confusion in April. For some, the month brought anger and frustration. At the beginning of this month (I realize it’s only the 4th), I finally felt a sense of control over my personal world–I know what I’m doing in regard to food, medications, and my time. And it really helps to know what my kids are doing about their necessities and work schedules, as well.

Then unfortunately, all that positivity and slightly anemic certainty went down the toilet after reading the new White House statistics of how many Americans will contract the disease and how many will die from the novel coronavirus. Damn, I hope they’re wrong. But with states reopening…I’m leaning towards those numbers and I hate it.

Tonight my heart sank after reading a lead scientist said he doesn’t think we’ll ever have a vaccine for COVID-19. That’s NOT what I want to hear, mister. Don’t quote that man again. Now I’m worried. I believe it may be time to take a break from the news…again.

Off to dig in the garden to take my mind off la bestia, La cabRona.

Be well and stay safe.

Eleanor x

***

herd of hen
Photo by Brett Jordan on Pexels.com

April 4, 2020

Good morning, I hope you are well and that you’re able to get out for a bit of fresh air today. That always helps to put my mind straight and to instill hope during this precarious time. I’m choosing to be positive today. Let’s see how long that lasts, smile.

I marvel at the synchronicity of writing about my interest in raising chickens (in the city, no less) and learning that American writer Alice Walker (The Color Purple) keeps a journal and raises chickens. Her chicken journal was published as a memoir called The Chicken Chronicles: a memoir. What a fun tidbit of information about one of my favorite writers. I ordered a copy of The Chicken Chronicles (shockingly out of print) and an old collection of Lewis Sinclair novels (Babbit, It Can’t Happen Here, and Main Street), highly recommended by my son and new titles for me. I’m glad for online booksellers such as AbeBooks and Biblio, who sell out-of-print or hard-to-find books. Amazon is making money hand over fist during this pandemic, so I avoid them as much as possible in order to support local bookstores, as well. As much as possible. That seems to sum up where we are today with social distancing and following stay-at-home orders–most of us are doing our part and as much as we can.

As our lives change in fundamental ways few of us foresaw, trying to access and purchase familiar food and other items is becoming more difficult, and for far too many people in this country and around the world, it’s nearly impossible. Children are going to sleep hungry, kitchen pantries are empty, and lines of cars at food pantries are longer than long. It is shocking and reprehensible this is happening in one of the world’s richest countries. We can no longer ignore the inequalities that wealth and privilege cause and exacerbate throughout the world. Things must change and I pray we get rid of 45 in November. We can do our part by supporting food pantries, soup kitchens, local farms, restaurants, and small businesses that are feeding our neighbors and people across America.

My son and his girlfriend suggested ways to support my hairdresser and local nail salon–by buying gift certificates and paying for my appointments ahead of time until I can make my way back. I love their ideas.

I miss my morning drive to buy coffee and newspapers, but I really miss my monthly trips to visit my daughter, my family, and friends in the DC area. I hope to visit them soon…wearing a mask and practicing safe distancing…which no one on my street is doing. Not a soul wears a mask and they continue to congregate on porches, back yards, and on sidewalks. If my neighbors thought I was a curious woman before this pandemic, a writer who loves to garden and lives with a Chihuahua, they must really think I’m a true eccentric now as I do wear a mask, even in the garden. Whatever, smile.

food hands woman beans
Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.comnt

Over the weekend, my daughter in Northern Virginia sent photographs of her first apple pie made from scratch and the hydrangeas and lavender plants she and her boyfriend bought for their yard. She’s a great cook and I love that she’s baking again. My son and his girlfriend are cooking up a storm in Bangkok and learning how to bake cookies without an oven. They have a great wok, however, and access to the most amazing fruits and vegetables. All that’s required for Mom to be happy is for her children and their loves to remain safe and happy.

On Saturday, I watched YouTube videos on how to build simple bamboo teepees and A-frame supports out of various materials for climbing beans and cucumbers. Vertical gardening makes perfect sense to me and I love the idea of building anything simple and utilitarian. My impatient nature had me rummaging through the garden shed for bamboo poles and wooden spikes to use in the garden instead of purchasing them online and waiting until next month or longer for them to arrive. Success. Yesterday, I built three A-frame supports out of seven, 6-foot bamboo poles. I’m thrilled with the results. Building the supports gave me the idea of digging a second garden plot next to the first. I have high hopes for the garden, less grass to mow, and I’m having fun researching canning equipment for a bountiful harvest. My sore muscles “tell” me how out of shape I am after a long winter and from living the writing life (sitting way too much), but digging in the garden always helps.

Later this afternoon, I’ll work on my novel-in-progress, The Laments. That’s when I travel back in time to 1927 Puerto Rico and get lost in the words and the world I created for my wonderful, beautifully-flawed characters.

Make some art, you’ll feel better.

Eleanor x

ABOUT ELEANOR:

me in ma july 2019

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning, debut novel, A DECENT WOMAN, set in 1900 Puerto Rico, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, THE LAMENTS, set in 1927 Puerto Rico. Eleanor’s adult children are out in the world doing amazing things, which fills her with enormous pride and affords her the peace to write full-time. She is currently in lockdown with a Chihuahua named Sophie.

 

 

 

 

 

On Local Farms, Beekeeping, and Honoring The Dead

May 1, 2020

brown hen on green grass
Photo by Juanjo Menta on Pexels.com

Happy May Day. I hope you are well.

A close friend gave me two wonderful gifts yesterday: the websites of a local butcher with a drive-thru window and a local cooperative farm that sells produce and eggs with a pickup location close to my home. I gave my friend the website of the local farm, where I buy my cheese. We’re both happy. I’m not giving up on my own vegetable and herb gardens, though the days of rain and few sunny days are not helpful. I have lettuce, kale, and spinach popping up and in the next day or so, I must space them out as they’re crowding each other. That’s a good sign. I remain hopeful for a good harvest.

For fresh fruit, I’m trying out an online fruit market that has pretty good prices and free shipping. I miss fruit smoothies and making green juice with greens, apples, and ginger. Last month, I bought a bag of fresh ginger and placed chunks of ginger in a container of water and put it in the fridge. I hope that method keeps the ginger fresh as I love steeped ginger tea with a teaspoon of acai or acerola powder for a healthy energy boost. I am determined not to go to the supermarket and so far, I’ve found ways around that.

Why not go all the way and become an urban beekeeper? I say that tongue in cheek because while I love honey, I’m afraid of bees. There are those who can sit still when bees land on their shoulders or arms. Not me, I run like hell. Maybe it’s best to search for fresh, local honey instead. In case my fears of bees are unwarranted, I ordered the debut memoir, “A Honeybee Heart Has Five Openings”  by Helen Jukes, who said beekeeping changed her life. So, there is a glimmer of hope and if beekeeping isn’t for me, at least I’ll have read a memoir described as wonderful by Publisher’s Weekly. A win-win.

Last month (before my friend recommended the local farm for fresh eggs), I considered turning my garden shed into a hen house. I know! What is this pandemic doing to my brain, where I think I can turn this city house with a garden into a homestead? Somehow, it has freed me to think more outside the box than I usually do…and my long-held belief that life is precious is as crystal clear to me than ever. It’s an interesting phenomenon. And I miss fresh eggs! Why not start with two hens and turn this city home into a homestead? Well for starters, there may be ordinances against raising chickens within the city limits. There’s that and I’d have to deal with several neighborhood cats, who’ve left two dead baby birds on my kitchen porch. Not a good situation for chickens. I’ll start by calling City Hall. I’m curious, smile.

***

May 2, 2020

monochrome photo of man sitting on grass
Photo by Darwis Alwan on Pexels.com

I’ve thought about death over the last two months. Most probably, we’ve all thought about it at some level. I’m worried about my 87-year-old father who suffers from Alzheimer’s and lives in a Florida nursing home. I keep in good contact with his caregiver, who reports he seems to be doing well physically. How I wish he could remember us. I’d love to speak with him about what we’re going through with this pandemic and living in quarantine. My dad was always a no-nonsense guy with a keen sense of humor. I’m sure he’d have a lot to say. For now, I rest easy knowing he is well-cared for and seems relatively happy.

I wish my sweet mom, who passed on in January 1992, was still with us in the physical sense. I miss my mom every single day. If she were still with us, it’s very possible my parents would be in quarantine with me or me with them. Like always, we would have enjoyed cooking and laughing together, and remembering the good old days. We would have taken care of each other. Those in quarantine with their aging parents are very fortunate indeed. Bless my parents.

It’s difficult to read the gruesome reports from across the country (mainly out of New York), of filled-to-capacity funeral homes and trailers-turned-morgues parked outside of hospitals. Those reports always bring up bad memories of the thousands of unnecessary deaths in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands, and that the true number of deaths may never be known.

From the beginning of this pandemic, I’ve felt such sadness for the patients who’ve died and are still dying. I cannot imagine the depth of immense grief and suffering of dying alone without a loved one to hold them, or experiencing the death of a loved one who has died alone. That would haunt me forever. My heart and prayers go out to those who’ve experienced that unimaginable reality.

I remember the dead in my own way by holding space for them. I do that because it feels right and necessary. But Holy God, I was not prepared for the report out of Brooklyn this morning shared by The Daily Beast. The title was bad enough, but the first accompanying photograph before the actual text was jaw-dropping and heartbreaking. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams told The Daily Beast, “We have an emergency going on right now.” Right now? He added, “There is so much more we could do to better move this situation forward.” No kidding. As of yesterday, 23,616 people have died in New York and you have an emergency going on right now? He added, “There is so much more we could do to better move this situation forward.”

So…Adams is establishing a Bereavement Task Force that will begin meeting next week. Good God, why wasn’t this done before? “We’re going to bring people in the room in every aspect of this industry and sit down and hear directly from them what we should be doing to coordinate this operation.” No one anticipated this would be a problem before today, Mr. Adams? And to the responsible funeral director who carelessly, callously piled unclothed human bodies in the back room with no respect and human decency, I say shame on you. Shame on you.

May I never grow numb to the daily death count in this country and never forget those who died from the novel coronavirus, who were beloved by their families, friends, and communities. We may never know what they achieved in life or how they individually contributed to their families and communities, but we can honor and remember them by speaking of them, showing respect for every and every person who died or is dying at this moment.

This morning, I learned it is not considered ‘essential’ for priests or pastors to administer the last rites to dying COVID-19 patients. Despite Pope Francis urging priests to minister to the flock in any way they can, including people with coronavirus diagnoses, priests are afraid. Funeral directors say they’re afraid because cemeteries aren’t taking bodies fast enough and preparing them for funerals. It’s unthinkable to die alone but not to have access to last rites, a proper funeral, and a cemetery plot because the government or states didn’t plan for it is negligent and cruel. How would we feel if our loved one died? I know I would be raising holy hell.

A man who later died from coronavirus was given last rites by his pastor over the telephone. A compassionate nurse at the hospital, where the man had been cared for, organized the ceremony for the family who listened in from quarantine. How sad and beautiful.

My eternal thanks to the doctors, nurses, and health workers who’ve shown true compassion and deep empathy by holding dying patient’s hands; for praying with and for their patients; for giving warm hugs and offering soothing words; and for making a patient smile during their last hours.

This morning, I find comfort and hope in their love, compassion, and humanity.

Until next week, be safe and stay healthy.

Eleanor x

ABOUT ELEANOR:

me in ma july 2019

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning, debut novel, A DECENT WOMAN, set in 1900 Puerto Rico, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, “Latina Authors and Their Muses. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is in quarantine and working on her second novel, THE LAMENTS, set in 1927 Puerto Rico. Her children are out in the world doing amazing things, which fills her with enormous pride and comfort.

What We Can Learn From 1918 Influenza Diaries and The Importance of Keeping a Journal Today

April 30, 2020

Good morning. I hope you and yours are safe and healthy.

grayscale photo of women sitting on a folding chair
Photo by Brett Jordan on Pexels.com

By 9 o’clock this morning, I’d had my coffee, fed Sophie, and checked in with my kids, family members, and a few friends. I checked on the seedlings in the garden that seem happy on this rainy day and it feels much warmer. I hope that trend continues, the warmer part, I mean. Sophie is taking her morning nap on a hygge kind of day.

I’ve always needed to connect with my loved ones to continue with my day on a positive note, now more than ever. You can interpret that any way you like, smile. I’ve always had strong connections with my loved ones. I live alone and remember, I’m living through this plague in solo quarantine. I know grown men who’ve admitted they couldn’t do it, smile.

As I put on my dad’s gray sweater and began working on my work-in-progress (WIP), I felt something was amiss, felt ‘off’. I had an idea of what it might be. Since the start of the current pandemic, it’s been my routine and new habit to write a daily blog post or two (I haven’t shared all I’ve written). In the beginning, I wrote my Morning Pages, three pages in longhand (I’m a devotee of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron), and I wrote a daily blog post, but that changed. Often my blog posts are my Morning Pages. If I begin my workday writing and editing my WIP, it feels as if I’ve left my home without brushing my teeth. So, here I am once again.

What convinced me to continue with this pandemic journal or quarantine diary, if you like, are several quotes from a saved article from Smithsonian Magazine, which I’ve read numerous times, “What We Can Learn From 1918 Influenza Diaries” by Meilan Solly. I’ve written about the article in previous blog posts.

(** I need someone to teach me how to insert a link to an old post in a new post. If you can help me, please leave me a comment, thanks!)

Here are a few quotes from the above article that spoke to me this morning:

“Lora Vogt of the National WWI Museum and Memorial, “Just write,” giving yourself permission to describe, “what you’re actually interested in, whether that’s your emotions, [the] social media or whatever it is that you’re watching on Netflix.”

man sitting on handrails
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

An important quote:

“Nancy Bristow, author of American Pandemic: The Last Worlds Of The 1918 Influenza Epidemic, advises writers to include specific details that demonstrate how “they fit into the world and…the pandemic itself,” from demographic information to assessment of the virus’ impact in both the public and personal spheres. Examples of relevant topics include the economy; political messaging; level of trust in the government and media; and discussion of “what’s happening in terms of relationships with family and friends, neighbors and colleagues.”

This quote spoke to me as I continue to share my thoughts, disappointment, frustration, and yes, anger, at the government’s early mess-ups, lies, and misinformation campaigns that many of my close friends share and are vocal about, as well. We should write about it all–the good, the bad, and the ugly. And about the hopeful, joyful, and simple pleasures we’ve discovered about living in quarantine. Now is not the time to be insanely positive each and every day; that’s asking too much in my humble opinion. Life just isn’t like that, shit happens. We’re living through a plague, for goodness sake. Not all days will be positive and uplifting, but we should share them, as well as the good days.

From the author of the article:

“Though much has changed since 1918, the sentiments shared in writings from this earlier pandemic are likely to resonate with modern readers–and, in doing so, perhaps offer a jumping-off point for those navigating similar situations today.”

“…quotidian topics still manage to hold our attention 100 years later, a testament to the value of writing organically.” This is the quote that convinced me to keep writing daily posts on my The Writing Life blog.

grayscale photo of woman having breakfast
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

We are living in a historic time. We are record keepers. We are historians.  We are still here. We must keep writing and sharing our thoughts, even if at times, we believe no one is reading. For those of us living in solo quarantine, I believe what we are experiencing is damn interesting and worth sharing. Big hugs for us for getting through each day.

Thank you for visiting and for your comments. I appreciate every single one and I always reply.

Now I’m ready to get back to my work-in-progress. I’m re-reading each chapter and editing as I go (again!). I think this might be the 30th of 50th time, but when you’re passionate about words and stories, and a little bit nuts, the number is of little importance.

Be well and stay safe.

Eleanor x

ABOUT ELEANOR

me in ma july 2019

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the multi-award-winning, debut novel, A DECENT WOMAN, set in 1900 Puerto Rico, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, THE LAMENTS, set in 1927 Puerto Rico. Her adult children are out in the world doing amazing things, which fills her with pride.