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.

***

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Photo by CDC on Pexels.com

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 Victory Gardens and Finding Love in the Time of Coronavirus

April 27, 2020

I hope this post finds you well.

home gardening young rucola
Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

I’m not sure if I’m suffering from ‘quarantine fatigue’ or if I’m sick of the constant rain, chilly temperatures, and blustery wind, it’s awful. This week’s weather forecast calls for rain, followed by partly sunny skies this weekend, and more rain next week, ugh. Fortunately, we’re mostly in the high 60s and I saw a few days next week in the 70s. I’ll take it.

The lettuce, kale, and spinach plants in my Victory garden are still small but happy; they love cooler weather. I check them each morning and offer encouraging words and good energy like I did my children because I love these little guys. After a freeze warning last week, I’m vigilant with the vegetable, herb, and flower seedlings now living in larger pots on the kitchen porch. In the past, I bought established plants to get a headstart in the garden and since that wasn’t possible this year, I really need these seed babies to grow! It was fun to start from scratch with heirloom varieties, but for every seed that germinated and wilted, my heart sank. I suppose it’s survival of the fittest when it comes to starting with seeds. I’m doing my best to help them along.

The other day, a new age guru, or was he a scientist? I don’t remember, but he described the novel coronavirus pandemic as a ‘thinning the herd’ event. He didn’t explain, which would have been interesting, but his comment rubbed me the wrong way. He went on to say if we’re still here, there’s a reason for it. Again no explanation. Buddy, the reason I’m still here is that I don’t leave my house and I live alone. How long that remains feasible and healthy for me and others is anyone’s guess.

Today I paid my real estate taxes, and the water and electric bills online. I buy groceries online. I bank online. Tomorrow, I’ll be video chatting with my endocrinologist. When I’m down, I say the rosary with the priests at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes in France. I’m taking an online course on ancestral medicine and signed up for five free courses with The Monroe Institute and set up Zoom chats with my family, friends, and my The Artist Group participants. It all works…for now, but I don’t know how I feel about that being our new, not-normal future. I miss hugs and hello kisses. I miss hugging my tribe.

The rest of this post is kind of tongue in cheek. I need a bit of humor today.

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Photo by Jasmine Wallace Carter on Pexels.com

Love in the Time of Coronavirus. I’m claiming that as the perfect title for my memoir.

After a long hiatus of dating, and in light of this quarantine lasting until the end of summer, (maybe winter?) will I return to dating? Online dating? What will dating look like in the time of Coronavirus? Will we return to finding love like in Jane Austen’s novels, when women and men wooed and seduced each other with romantic notes and love letters written on crisp stationery and envelopes sealed with burnt crimson wax seals? I actually have one of those thingies and several sticks of crimson wax, I would love that.

In the past, I was never okay with online dating messages that read, “Hey”, or “wassup”. I always thought those lazy men were alone for good reason. Write me a sonnet, Mister! Or a poem about my limpid, grey-green eyes and the way the moonlight hits my pale, dewy skin on a soft summer eve. Pale because I don’t get out much, but write it anyway. Send me nosegays of fragrant Spring flowers. Mark my words, gentlemen, you’ll go far.

Single women on social media are joking that couples who were more than iffy in the relationship department and other couples who were legally separated before COVID-19 and now forced to stay together during this pandemic for financial reasons. Some may have secretly given a divorce lawyer a retainer or found a good moving company. What they were getting at is there will more available women and men in the dating pool than before the pandemic. As a single woman, that got my attention as the dating pool of eligible good men always looked more like a puddle to me. But it also made me sad. I say if a couple (especially with kids at home) can survive this pandemic and remain stronger than before, more power to them. Be good to each other.

So, if you’re an available man, anywhere in the world, and you’re thinking of writing me a sonnet, I’ll contemplate reserving a post office box. Of course, we must show multiple, negative COVID-19 tests and proof of antibodies.

We can’t lose our sense of humor, people. Some days, it’s all we have and it’s good for us.

Still no stimulus check…

Be safe, 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 working on her second novel, THE LAMENTS, set in 1927 Puerto Rico. Her adult children are out in the world doing amazing things, which gives her a lot of pride and allows her to write full time.

On Anxiety, Rashes, and Visualizing

April 22, 2020

woman wearing grey long sleeved top photography
Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

I’ve been awake since 5:30 this morning. I’m certain grinding my teeth woke me up and now I understand why my puppy takes long morning naps after I get up, I toss and turn all night. My restless sleep could be caused by watching the MSNBC nightly news before turning in; not a smart move. It’s time to take the Melatonin I bought in February and listen to soft music before bedtime. I look forward to a restful nap later today.

During my quarantine days, I stay as busy as possible by working on my work-in-progress (WIP), gardening, watching shows and old movies, cooking, and sitting on my kitchen porch, surveying my pretty flower and vegetable gardens. I go over my mental list of home chores and maintenance requirements because a homeowner’s work is never done; there’s always something that needs my attention. When that becomes stressful because most chores require a tall ladder and extra hands, which can’t happen yet, I call or text my kids, my sister and my stepmom, and bring up good family memories.

I brainstorm, daydream, and visualize where I’d live if nothing were stopping me. In my daydream, I own a home by a mountain stream in Puerto Rico and a village home in Isle Sûr la Sorgue in the south of France. And if I’m especially relaxed, I add a thatched-roof cottage in Ireland that overlooks the wild Irish Sea. I’ve owned a home in the south of France and lived in Puerto Rico many times in my life, so visualizing comes easy. It’s a welcome distraction from watching the news and thinking about the future. No one knows what the future will look like and that causes anxiety. So round and round we go.

Pre-COVID, when anxious feelings oozed around me, threatening to upend my peace, I’d sit quietly with my thoughts and journal about what I was feeling and the reasons for the feelings. I’d write to get to the heart of the matter and think of ways to turn negative thoughts into positive ones. These days, thinking too much seems like a dangerous proposition–the reasons I feel isolated and lonely are one and the same–I’m in solo quarantine. Perhaps the reasons run deeper, but they don’t matter to me at this time, I need to focus on the present–surviving this quarantine without losing too many marbles in the process.

I imagine we’re all playing mind games to calm ourselves and we’re self-soothing any way we can. Hopefully, our coping methods are healthy choices. It’s getting harder to shut out negativity these days and when I manage to feel happy and hopeful, my body tells me otherwise. Our bodies speak to us in whispers and then louder when we ignore what’s going on internally for too long. I have small, itchy bumps on the front of my thighs. Last week, while pulling weeds along the front fence, my hands and wrists came into contact with poison ivy, but this looks different. Can stress cause hives? I wouldn’t doubt it. Apparently, I’m not as calm as I’d like to think, and my body is showing me that I’m struggling. I’m paying attention.

So, what to do? More of the same and going deeper than ever to reach my happy place(s). I’ll remember I’m not alone. I’m richly blessed with food, shelter, a loving family, and good health. Some of us are not as fortunate. We’re all struggling in one way or another. I’ll continue to count my blessings and remain grateful to those on the frontline, who risk their lives every day for me and for you. Thank you.

Be safe, 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.

 

 

 

On Cooking, Baking, and Bathing Suits

April 21, 2020

baguette bakery blur bread
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Around the time I went into solo quarantine, I discovered Ina Garten and Nigella Lawson were sharing easy recipes on Instagram. I would drool over the artsy photographs of plates of rich, creamy pasta, fudgy brownies, and loaves of crusty bread and platters of cheese…but that’s as far as I could go. It’s not that I’m dieting or don’t have flour, rice, and pasta in the pantry, I do; it’s just that my body doesn’t do well with lovely carbohydrates, especially bread.

What a pain to be quarantined with most of the necessary ingredients to make amazing dishes and end up eating tuna fish salad and lentil soup, which are good, but not what my taste buds are craving. And I love to cook and bake!

The constant search for recipes did me in–I gave in. Over the weekend, I made Sour Cream and Mixed Berry Muffins, courtesy of Jessica Sheehan, a chef and cookbook author on Instagram. Her recipe was super easy, and my God, they were amazing right out of the oven with a pat of butter. I was in heaven. But jeez, did I pay for it this morning with a slight headache, swollen neck glands, and stomach cramps. Not worth the pain.

Over the years, I’ve been forced to give up Doritos, salt, ice cream, Cheez-Its, whole milk, pasta, cakes, raw peppers and tomatoes, and recently, bread. Ugh, what’s next? And I bought a crepe pan last month, which I may try out just for the hell of it followed by a bunch of Tums.

So, while most people in quarantine are discovering or rediscovering a passion for cooking and baking (I’m happy for you, honest!), I’m doing a week of detox. I’ll return to basics with green juice, frozen fruit smoothies, celery juice, and jars of bone broth. And lots of coffee and tea for me with Cremora.

Those of you complaining you’re gaining weight in quarantine won’t get any much sympathy from me, smile. Enjoy that batch of gooey brownies with a large glass of ice-cold milk. I’ll toast you with my celery stick. The good part of eating right, whether you want to or not, is that I will fit into my new bathing suit soon. God willing, our trip to Puerto Rico (originally scheduled for 1-15 April) happens this summer or in the fall, or for Christmas or the new year. It’s nuts to think we can’t plan a summer vacation at this time. Strange times.

What got me through a mentally challenging weekend was looking at real estate properties in Puerto Rico. What better way to live through the coronavirus plague than with an ocean view or a walk along the beach. Pure heaven.

Be well, stay healthy. Thank you to all our doctors, nurses, lab techs, and front line workers, I love you all.

Don’t lose hope and be calm. This too shall pass. We will hug our loved ones again and we will be joyful, hopeful again. I only pray Americans come out of this challenging time in history with more wisdom and compassion, and that we all vote blue in November. Ache and amen.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Bernie, Birthdays, and the New Normal

April 8, 2020

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Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

In the last few minutes, Bernie Sanders announced his withdrawal from the battle for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. I can’t believe it. So soon? The pit in my stomach feels awful and I’m close to tears. His campaign has ended, “The fight for justice is what our movements remains about.”

So. We are left with Joe Biden as the Democratic nominee. He was never my first choice, but I said I would vote blue all the way and that’s what I intend to do.

Initially, I had high hopes for Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. I shook my head at the ridiculousness of timing in life…Bernie can’t seem to catch a break.

We fought the good fight for you, Bernie. You fought your heart out for every American.

Added this morning:

Last night as I perused Facebook before bed, I read several posts that well, shocked me. It appears more than a few Latinx will not vote for “creepy Joe Biden” as they put it, no matter what. A few said they were not voting, at all. Wow. One said he is considering switching parties and voting for 45. Seriously? What the hell has 45 done for Latinos in this country and in Puerto Rico? As if he’d read my mind, he replied to a comment, saying 45 had built hospitals in NYC and had done a lot for the good of our country during this pandemic.

Well. I’ll leave it right there. I respect everyone’s right to vote as they see fit.  I wish I could understand, though. It makes no sense to me, at all. And not voting? I cannot get behind that decision. Your vote is so important.

***

April 9, 2020

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Happy birthday to my beautiful Aries daughter! I wish you every blessing and a world of love and peace. I love you more than words could ever express. The world is absolutely a better place with you in it.

The poppy, my daughter’s favorite flower, is the symbol of enduring remembrance of the First World War; how eerily appropriate for today as the world fights a war against the novel coronavirus.

My daughter is sheltering in place with her boyfriend and my son is with his lovely girlfriend, which makes me very happy. We agreed how strange it is to celebrate a birthday today, and because of who my daughter is, she added that we have so much to be grateful for today. She’s right. We do. We’ll never forget her 2020 birthday.

I keep hearing people say they’ll be glad to get back to ‘normal’. I don’t know what they mean. The definition of normal, like an art piece, is subjective. My normal as a full-time writer may feel downright boring, too intense, difficult, or lonely to you. Your normal may work for you like a charm and irritate the hell out of your neighbor. What’s normal?

The collective, global normal of last year (or as far back as 2016 for me) wasn’t all that great: people around the world were already suffering greatly, the planet was suffering, and corporate American was getting away with murder. Hatred, greed, and the callous treatment of and disregard for others were rampant in this country. I hope radical changes begin to take place in our world; it’s time. Where this will end is anyone’s guess. We need a change, a seismic change/shift in this country, in the world. Perhaps this virus is the catalyst for change.

This morning, I pray for the world and everyone on the frontline of this pandemic, and for those who’ve tested positive, fought hard and survived, or tragically succumbed to this deadly virus. I pray my children, family members, and friends remain safe, healthy, and happy. I pray we all do.

This too shall end. Stay strong. I can’t wait to hug my children and loved ones again in the near future. This daily journal is key to keeping my balance and perspective, and to staying sane.

“In the rush to return back to normal, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.” – Dave Hollis

Back to editing and finishing up a written interview with Five Directions Press, which should come out in May. I’m grateful for their kind invitation.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Donate. Help Others.

April 7, 2020

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Today, the US death toll from the novel coronavirus surpassed 10,000 in the last 24 hours. From what I understand, the real numbers will never be known because hospitals and medical examiners didn’t have access to COVID-19 tests in late February. Doctors suspect they saw patients who died of the virus, but they couldn’t confirm at the time and death certificates did not contain COVID as the cause. Many are dying before they get tested or while they wait on test results in hospitals, and postmortem specimen collections of suspected COVID-19 in deceased patients are only happening when there is no shortage of tests, which is the case across the nation as I write this blog post. This is horrific.

Sorry for the grim beginning to this post, but this is the reality we are living through in this country. All the online dance parties, music videos, cooking shows, and NETFLIX binges (I’m guilty of the last two) are great to keep our minds off what’s going on outside our door, but they can’t erase the fact that people around the world are suffering and dying alone, and in some Latin American countries, people are hungry. The mortality rate of black and brown people dying of this disease is higher than that of white people. These are facts we can’t ignore.

Staying home works to survive this virus. Sheltering at home will eventually flatten the curve and protect those who are most vulnerable from contracting the disease unless you don’t have a home to shelter in place. What if you’re homeless, jobless, alone, or suffer from mental health issues. What then? What do you do?

While we should continue to check in with our loved ones, neighbors, and friends, let’s help others, if we can. But what can we do to help? We can’t leave our homes and the CDC urged us to stay home for the next two crucial and brutal weeks and to not even dream of venturing out to the grocery store or the pharmacy. What can we do? We can donate.

Here are some suggestions I found online. Please be sure to check them out before donating.

Feeding America’s Coronavirus Response Fund

Meals on Wheels

COVID-19 Response Fund – World Health Organization

American Red Cross: Give Blood

The United Way

The Salvation Army

Your local food banks, churches, women’s shelters, and homeless shelters

Your neighbors

Small businesses in your town

And from Charity Navigator:

Convoy of Hope

Project C.U.R.E

Water Mission

Good360

Matthew 25: Ministries

Vitamin Angels

World Resources Institute

Samaritan’s Purse

Direct Relief

Catholic Medical Mission Board

Action Against Hunger USA

Alight (formerly American Refugee Committee)

On the writing front:

My publisher informed us their manuscript cue is frozen at the moment as we all care for our families, which I absolutely understand. So, more time to edit for me. THE LAMENTS will see the light of day when it’s time.

By helping others, we help ourselves.

Stay home, be well, and stay safe.

Eleanor x

me in ma july 2019

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 currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, THE LAMENTS, set in 1927 Puerto Rico. She is the mother of two awesome adult children, who are doing amazing things in the world.

 

 

In Solo Quarantine: Hanging In There

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Photo by Flora Westbrook on Pexels.com

April 3, 2020

I realize my blog posts are all over the place, but my thoughts and emotions are all over the place. I’m amazed I can write at all. So, good morning. I hope you are well.

This global pandemic is highlighting (and forcing) the need for change in the world. That’s a heavy statement, I know. The list is long: global warming; protecting the environment, our oceans, rivers, animals, and our precious resources, which include protecting the most vulnerable people in our societies. In light of covid-19, however, the most pressing and vital change needs to be our nation’s lack of preparedness for future pandemics and other global catastrophes. The United States failed Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in 2017 after Hurricane Maria and it is failing now. I could talk your ear off, rant, and complain about why the US is in the pathetic state of preparedness, readiness, we’re in, but I won’t go there on Palm Sunday. I will say that I would feel a whole helluva lot better if New Orleans native General Russell L. Honore and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo were running this country today.

Making changes in society and in the world, often requires personal changes in attitudes and behavior first, attitude adjustments, if you will. Today, however, most of us are having to reach deep to hang onto any semblance of normalcy and balance in our personal lives and in the lives of those whose care we are responsible for like our elderly family members and children still living at home. I’m surviving this pandemic as a single person, which is tough. I chose to live alone ten years ago, but a mandatory stay-at-home order is another beast altogether. There is no one to run to the grocery store for me and should I fall ill, I’m on my own. My neighbors have already agreed to take Sophie (my dog) if anything happens to me. It’s the first thing I thought of when things started to get ugly.

Anyone experiencing this horror alone has my respect. All healthcare workers, doctors, nurses, and anyone on the frontline of keeping this country running have my heart and eternal gratitude.

The most important thing I’m doing is trying new methods of coping with and working through negative thoughts and uncertainty and incorporating new ways to balance my life under tremendous pressure and strain. A few years ago, I would have told you that going organizing a household move with two teenagers from Europe to the United States after a marital separation was the most difficult thing I’d ever faced. That was a cakewalk compared to living through this virus. You know, I bet I could write a comedy skit about the comparisons, but that’s for later…much later. God knows it’s okay to laugh, cry, and laugh some more, though. Humor keeps me sane along with my garden and staying in good touch with my kids, family members, and good friends.

I don’t know about you, but my brain has worked overtime these past weeks, in good ways and in some not-so-good ways. At times, my fight or flight reflex has also worked overtime, which I know can’t be sustained without causing damage to my healthy body and mind. It feels like we’re living in a Ground Hog Day/science fiction film–a never-ending epic of iffy, should we, shouldn’t we? outings to forage for food and supplies; quarantining at home with others or alone; and being mindful to wipe down each item our hands come into contact with, including disinfecting our shoes in a tray of bleach before entering our homes and doing the same for our car keys and credit cards. Nothing seems familiar. For most of us, daily routines have changed, unless you live in the eight states with no stay-at-home order, which is insane…I can’t imagine. The incredible part to me is that each person on this planet is dealing with varying degrees of anxiety and fear, and we’re all doing the best we can with what we have or don’t have. Yet, people still go out and congregate, even in states with stay-at-home orders. It boggles the mind.

A few days ago, my daughter emailed a useful and informative link to the website of Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, which I was grateful to receive and happy to pass along to you. Bessel van der Kolk is a Dutch psychiatrist, author, and educator, who specializes in trauma and stress. He offers webcasts, resources, and tips on how to cope and manage stress in traumatic situations. I highly encourage you to check him out and give him a listen.

https://www.besselvanderkolk.com

His videos did me a world of good. I felt more in control of my life, my body, and my mental health, which I know how to do in theory, but I needed to hear it again. I needed the reminder. I took the good doctor’s advice about moving my body, and after being too sedentary this past winter, I worked in the garden today. I mowed the lawn for the first time this year, aired out the damp gardening shed, and pulled weeds from the vegetable and herb garden and the flower beds. The sun’s warmth on my body felt amazing and my mood improved. I certainly felt more positive than earlier in the week. Weather permitting, I’ll be out in the yard tomorrow.

My most heartfelt prayers are with those who’ve lost precious loved ones to this horrific virus. My heart is with everyone fighting for their lives. Please hang on and fight, we need you.

Be safe. Be strong. Stay home, if not for yourself, then for others who are at high risk.

Eleanor x

***

April 4, 2020

As I sit on my kitchen porch admiring the beauty around me, I realize you’d never guess anything is wrong in the world, nothing seems amiss. It’s a beautiful Spring morning and like every year, the plants, bushes, and trees are doing what they do this time of year–they blossom, thrive, and begin to crowd each other for precious sunlight. The only thing that’s different on my street and in my city is there is very little traffic, no foot traffic, and the constant whine of ambulances often drowns out the birdsong. I’ve learned to focus harder and to practice patience–the birdsong always returns.

Last night, my son and his girlfriend set up a family video chat. We logged in from four US states and from Thailand. It was nice to see their smiling faces as we sipped our drink of choice and checked in for the first, two-family hangout since covid-19 reared its ugly head.

This morning, I joined a conference call with my sister, my stepmom, and the woman who cares for my 89-year-old father in a VA-sponsored home in South Florida. We are understandably worried about my father, who suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s. We, his family, needed to hear him and we wanted to let his caregiver know we are here for them. It’s more important than ever to connect with our friends and loved ones. We are planning on a video call soon.

A funny aside—my dad was enjoying his breakfast when we called, which we were hoping to avoid because he seems able to only focus on one thing at a time. So after telling us he was fine and at his caregiver’s gentle nudging, he told us he loved us, he added, “Bye! Now get the hell outta here!” We cracked up and kept repeating, “Bye, Daddy!”. He laughed with us until the little game got old for him (not for us, we love and miss that surly, comical side of his), he sent us all to hell one last time. We showered my Dad with a chorus of how much we love him and hung up. I immediately cried because although I’ve known it’s possible for me to miss being by my father’s side when he passes because he lives in Florida, it’s now a reality that I may never see him again or hear his voice if he dies before a vaccine is found.

My heart goes out to those who’ve lost loved ones during this time. No one should die alone. Yet, here we are, it’s horrific.

We need the man occupying the White House to order a nationwide stay-at-home order, immediately make nationwide testing happen for all Americans, and we desperately need a vaccine soon. Why the hell Trump isn’t supplying federal help to all state Governors is beyond comprehension, it’s reprehensible. I don’t understand.

I’ll end this blog post with something from Maria Popova’s amazing newsletter called Brain Pickings, which I’ve followed for years. The essay is called Stillness as a Form of Action: Tocqueville on Cataclysm as an Antidote to Cultural Complacency and a Catalyst for Growth.

“Even when nothing is happening, something is happening. This is a difficult fact for the human animal to fathom – especially for us modern sapiens, who so ardently worship at the altar of productivity and so readily mistake busyness for effectiveness, for propulsion toward progress. Silence is a form of speech, Susan Sontag wrote: “and an element in a dialogue.” Stillness is a form of action and an element in advancement, in evolution, in all forward movement.”

Beautiful.

As we head toward what the Surgeon General calls, “…the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives”, I wish you and yours a safe and healthy Sunday. Please wear your masks and gloves when you venture outside, and if you’re not in desperate need of food or supplies, stay home.

And for the Governors of the eight states who have yet to enact stay-home-orders, you will have blood on your hands. My prayers for the residents of those states.

Eleanor x

ABOUT ELEANOR:

Me in March 2020

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 currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, THE LAMENTS, set in 1927 Puerto Rico. She is the mother of two adult children, who are in the world doing wonderful things.