Pandemic Diary: Where Are We?

July 10, 2020

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

To you, this lioness may be yawning — to me, she is roaring and royally pissed off. She is ready to claw, bite, and tear something apart limb by limb.

On June 10, 2020, a month ago today, I posted my last blog post before I took a much-needed break from blogging. On that day, with all the chaos in this country, like millions of others, I felt like I was screaming into the abyss and no sound came out.

Since the coronavirus pandemic hit in late February, I’d felt raw, exposed, frightened, frustrated, and angry that 45 wasn’t doing a damn thing to contain the virus or prevent more infections and deaths. The Governors were on their own. Soon, states were reopening left and right. My neighbors weren’t wearing masks or practicing social distancing. People in some states were defying stay-at-home orders and congregating in churches, parks, bars, restaurants, and on beaches. Who are these people? As the number of infections and deaths grew, my anger and frustration grew. I felt we would never get out of this virus mess, but important changes were taking places in other ways.

Some days, my anger reached unhealthy places, where my sleep patterns, appetite, and concentration were affected. My mood was negative, I could feel my blood pressure rise, and my attitude was shitty at best. The anger felt like the day 45 was elected. Worse than his mistreatment of Puerto Rico and its citizens after Hurricane Maria. Much worse than when the US government put immigrant children in cages and then lost thousands of those innocent and unprotected children. That still causes me to lose sleep.

I needed a break. I needed to write. I needed quiet, balance, and peace. I needed my garden. I needed my children. I wanted to escape. I didn’t know how long I’d be away from blogging. I’d set no date. I wasn’t depressed–it was anger fueled by fear, the unknown, and my extreme disgust of this government, our laws, and the greed and callous disregard for human lives. Too much toxicity, I heard over and over from friends and family members. I agreed with them. I’m a retired 62-year-old woman dealing with solo quarantine–it can get difficult when you don’t have many people to bounce things off of and discuss–you can lose perspective.

During my month-long break, I didn’t write in my daily journal. I didn’t read and I stopped watching the news as I’d been doing each night from 6-11 since 2016. I donated to good causes and enjoyed my coffee on the kitchen patio that overlooks my thriving vegetable gardens. I listened to the birds, watched the clouds. I gardened, baked bread, caught up with family and friends on Zoom, cooked good meals, and each evening I watched one or two classic films. And thank God, I was able to work on my novel. I wrote and worked with my critique group each week. Thanks to them, I learned a great deal in a short amount of time that enhanced my story in many beautiful ways.

A week in, I’d felt better. My shoulders lowered, I stopped grinding my teeth at night (it wakes me up), and I started eating better again. Lord knows I slept better.

Tonight, alas, the lawless crap continues. Trump commuted Roger Stone’s sentence. AG Barr, Trump’s bagman, as he is called, is still out of control…there is no rule of law in this country, it’s abuse after abuse after abuse. Where the hell are we headed as a country? November can’t come soon enough.

I wish I could end this blog post on a positive note but that would seem like a lie. From what I’ve read, many states are right smack back to where they were in March with this virus. Close the states. Yes, again! There’s no other way. If my kids were younger, no one could force me to send them back to school. It’s not safe.

We are no better off now than we were in March.  Actually, it’s worse. We are in trouble, deep trouble. God help us all.

Be well, wear your mask, and stay safe. Resist. Take care of yourselves.

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 turn of the century Puerto Rico, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses. The author currently lives in West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, THE LAMENTS, set in 1926 Puerto Rico. Eleanor’s adult children are in the world doing amazing things, which fills her with enormous pride. She is still in quarantine with her buddy, a Chihuahua named Sophie.

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.”

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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.

 

 

 

 

On Current News, Editing, and Chihuahua Kisses

April 29, 2020

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Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Good morning, I hope you and yours are well. It’s a beautiful, sunny day in my neighborhood.

For parents who are wondering if it’s safe to send their kids back to school, consider this, the House of Representatives canceled plans to return to Washington next week, citing coronavirus safety concerns. Always watch what people do, not always what they say.

This morning, the US exceeded 1M confirmed cases of coronavirus. It’s unbelievable news and shocking. Yesterday Trump said: “Now that the experts believe that the worst days are behind us, Americans are looking forward to the safe and rapid reopening of our country.” These days it’s difficult to know who to believe. I believe science, doctors, nurses, and health care workers currently in the trenches. You should, too. God bless them all.

A few days ago, I discussed the President and the Pandemic (sounds like a movie title) with my friend. Right from the start, we disagreed. Since the start of his presidency, my friend supported most of Trump’s decisions. I didn’t. She said it all depends on who you watch, referring to what news network you choose for information. True enough. We ended the conversation in agreement that the US was unprepared for this pandemic and dragged its feet early on when time and action were critical. I added that Trump ignored intel briefings about the novel coronavirus in January and February. She repeated that it depends on who you watch for news. Yes, we are still on speaking terms, and the fact that we agreed on anything 45-related is a big step forward.

Yesterday, Pence refused to adhere to a mandatory mask order during a visit to the Mayo Clinic. He visited with staff and patients…in their rooms…in close contact…not wearing a mask. He spoke with vulnerable sick people without a mask. Explain to me how that’s not the ultimate, blatant disregard for human life. It’s difficult not to add multiple expletives here. What a jerk.

During my video chat with my endocrinologist, she reminded me I had a severe case of bronchitis in Feb-April and ordered me to get tested for coronavirus. I now have a number to call to set up an appointment for a drive-thru test, but I haven’t called. I don’t know which test it would be, but if it’s the test I call the “into the brain” test, I won’t like that one bit. I haven’t decided if a two-month-long cough is worth going out for, but I know how fortunate I am to be offered a test. I’m leaning toward waiting for the antibody test unless my symptoms become worse. I just can’t imagine going out right now.

My new concern is that an adorable Pug tested positive for COVID-19, the poor little guy. I worry I might have had COVID-19 because a week ago, my Chihuahua had a croupy kind of cough for a few days. She was still eating, drinking, and running around like a little heathen, and this week, she’s doing great. I’m always bugging Sophie with hugs and kisses. She would not be a happy pup if I didn’t allow her to sleep with me.

The best part of yesterday was speaking with my new editor. I love how that sounds! We hit it off and I feel she is the right editor for me. She answered all my questions and offered lots of editing and price options. I chose a developmental edit. I’m giving myself a week to ten days to send her a clean manuscript, and after a cursory first read, she will inform me of the price of the edit. I’m very excited! It’s a step forward to getting my novel THE LAMENTS into reader’s hands.

Understandably, I won’t be sharing blog posts until the manuscript has left the building. I will, however, share my coronavirus test results if I decide to go in. I like the thought of knowing I contracted COVID-19 and survived.

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 children are out in the world doing amazing things, which fills her a lot of pride and allows her to write full time.

 

 

 

On Messy Emotions, Hope, Coping Techniques, and Survival Tools

April 24, 2020

Good morning. I hope you and yours are well on this partly sunny morning.

grayscale photo of woman covering her face by her hand
Photo by Alexander Krivitskiy on Pexels.com

My emotions were all over the place this week. I felt hopeful and energetic, in a lovely, spiritual state of mind the that ended in a wonderful Zoom chat with my children and family members. I miss them so much. The following morning, watching the news left me drained. Writing helped tremendously and produced a mini-rant that caused the side effect of Catholic guilt for being too angry and wondering if I was missing some bigger picture. I took deep inhalations, exhaled, and found my happy Zen place by sitting in the garden to find my center again because I used to be a glassful kind of woman…more like a 3/4 glassful, actually. But it was hard.

Other days, I accepted the challenges of living alone in quarantine and forgave myself for messy emotions. This morning, I don’t believe I was missing the bigger picture, at all: we should stay home to stop the spread of this deadly virus and not open the country too soon, or risk going back to square one.

I watched the Coronavirus Taskforce Briefing two days ago and heard the president ask Dr. Birx about the possible benefits of shooting disinfectants into our veins for…I don’t know the reason. To disinfect our veins, our lungs? I’m positive that’s what I heard him ask her. Why can’t we get rid of this guy? She lowered her head as he spoke. I realize she is in an impossible situation and working for him…but she shouldn’t lie to the public about the okayness of reopening hair salons and massage centers. Those briefings often produce anxiety and frustration, followed by bouts of fear and despair. I turn off the news and remind myself (again) I’m a strong woman and dammit, I’ve lived through some shitty situations. I tell myself I will survive this nasty ass virus, for as many times as it chooses to resurface, until we have a vaccine.

It’s strangely comforting to read articles and blog posts about people experiencing similar emotional highs and lows. One writer shared how she’d cried in the shower after a relatively good day. Another wrote about finally dealing with the loss of a loved one after years of mindnumbing, nonstop work at a job they now hate. Some extroverts are struggling with isolation and being alone with their thoughts for the first time in a long time. Introverts like myself, who in the past didn’t mind living alone and are still working alone, desperately miss their people, their tribe.

Everything feels upended, strange, and unfamiliar. At the same time, since we’re stuck at home for the unforeseeable future and creating new patterns of living, our days feel strangely liberating and familiar at a deep emotional level. It’s as if we know, our inner selves know, we needed this lockdown break from what we viewed as ‘normal’ to regain our perspective and balance. We are now better able to see the challenges and toxicity in certain situations, relationships, and in the workplace. We recognize important and life-changing changes we can make in ourselves, in our lives, and in our relationships.

We’re all dealing with some level of grief, loss, and minor and major changes. There was no gradual, warm invitation to change, stress, and adversity–we were thrown headfirst into a pandemic with little to go on but our instincts, as misguided and brilliant as they may have been at first.

I’m a huge fan of the series, “Naked and Afraid”, where complete strangers shed their clothing and are plopped in impossible environments around the world with two items to test and challenge their survival skills. Some make it, some don’t, and it’s always the ones you worry about initially who make it. The show reminds of this pandemic, where each of us was thrown into an impossible situation with only a few tools and skills, but with a fierce determination to survive.

An insane amount of adversity, change, shocking events, and trauma, all in the blink of an eye, confronted us in late February. Yes, most definitely, there were those who knew this dreaded virus was coming and what it would cause and cost individuals, communities, our contry, and the world. The bad karma is on them. But for the most part, the average man, woman, and child had no advanced warning of what was to come.

We weren’t handed an instruction manual. There were no words of wisdom, concrete help, or places to turn to for help early on because we were all dealing with the same things. It is still chaotic, frightening, and unnerving. We had no answers. There are still few known medical facts (known to us, anyway), and most importantly, we still aren’t offered a lot of hope for a future without COVID-19. The only thing I know is that in the future we will be wearing masks and gloves, and will be encouraged to continue to practice safe distancing. Some will survive, some won’t.

So, let’s give ourselves a freaking break and a pat on the back for getting this far.

Stay healthy and be safe.

Eleanor x

***

April 25, 2020

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

If your emotions are on a careening rollercoaster some days, my only advice is to stop and retreat to a quiet corner of your house or balcony, and breathe. Find your center by sitting still and closing your eyes. Breathe. If you can get to a park, to the ocean (where I’d given anything to be right now), or to a body of water, go there. Breathe. Look at nature photographs and fall in love with our planet again. Wrap yourself in protective, white light. Forgive others, forgive yourself. Reach deep for more patience, compassion, and kindness, it’s there. Don’t lash out against those who are in quarantine with or around you, who are most likely dealing with messy emotions fueled by frustration and fear similar to your own. Cry, release. Hug yourself and know all will be well. The future might look different, but it will okay.

This pandemic will end. We will laugh, share meals, love, visit each other, and travel to new or familiar places. We will be happy and grateful we came through the novel coronavirus. We will share stories that will make us cry with a knowing, and we will smile with understanding, compassion, and joy, all about how we survived. We will emerge more informed, armed with vital, new skills, and knowledge. We’ll emerge with an arsenal of tried and true coping techniques and new survival skills. That’s how I see the future without La cabRona, which means the bitch in Spanish. Thank you to the graphic artist, @pinche_raf_art, for his wonderful Pandemic Loteria series he shares on Instagram that includes La cabRona.

Today, let’s be kinder and more patient with ourselves and as patient as we can with others. We’re doing our best in these incredibly challenging times.

I wrote this blog post as a reminder for you and for me to never lose hope.

Be well, 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. She 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 immense pride. Eleanor is surviving the novel coronavirus with a puppy named Sophie and by writing full-time.

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.

 

 

 

In Quarantine: On Humor, Gratitude, and Safe Distancing

April 1, 2020

This is no joke. There are so many confirmed cases and deaths in the US and around the world. I feel sad and at a loss for words today.

Stay safe, continue to make art, and hang in there. This too shall pass. It’s anybody’s guess when that will happen.

That’s all I’ve got today.

***

close up photograph of flowers
Photo by Secret Garden on Pexels.com

April 2, 2020

Good morning, I hope you and yours are safe and well.

This morning the sun is shining, the lilac bushes are full of buds, and the peony bushes are two feet high. The vegetable and herb seedlings in trays and egg cartons are growing like weeds, and the lettuce, kale and spinach seeds I sowed in the garden a week ago are beginning to push through the soil. The Lily-of-the-Valley plants are popping up near the grapevines. Muguet du Bois. French is such a gorgeous language. I’m hopeful for a beautiful garden and a bountiful vegetable harvest this year to share with my neighbors.

I truly hope the sun is shining where you are and that you can get out for a bit of fresh air today…wearing your mask, of course. Jeez, where did that come from? That mask reference came from our new normal, but of course, nothing is normal today or ever will be normal like we knew normal back in December 2019. How’s that for a badly written, run-on sentence?

Yesterday, as I was working on an elevator pitch for my work-in-progress, THE LAMENTS, (they are a bitch to write), I was startled by a knock at the front door. These days, except for the post person or the UPS and Fed-Ex people, all heroes to me, no one knocks on my door. So I went back to writing. I no longer rush to the door like before to bring in the packages—that involves serious preparation. There are gloves to put on, a mask to secure, and at least a 20-or 30-minute wait before opening the door because minute coronavirus droplets could be lingering in the air. Or is it three hours on surfaces, 14 hours in the air? Jesus. That sounds nuts, doesn’t it? Welcome to the world.

The person knocked again. I peeked through the curtains and it was a masked man. What fresh hell was this? I was immediately filled with dread. My heart raced. All the films I’d ever watched about viruses, pandemics, and zombies came to mind, and since we’d been evacuated from our homes two months ago for a city gas leak, I nearly panicked. I wasn’t leaving my home again, that was crystal clear to me.

Since I knew I couldn’t open the door and wasn’t sure if he could hear me through the window, I motioned for him to wait. I suited up and cracked the door a bit. Instead of remaining where he stood on my front stoop, he approached the door. Way too close. “Woah, mister! Back it up, please! I can hear you from here.”

“Sorry!” he replied, a bit embarrassed. Then I recognized him. It was the nice delivery man from my local pharmacy with my delivery of meds, wipes, and Vitamin D pills.

“Oh, it’s you! Just put the bag down, and I’ll collect it after you leave. Thank you!” I said, still fearful of the nice man because who the hell knows who he’s been around in the hours leading to my delivery.

“I’ll do that, no problem, but you have to sign for your stuff.” Shit. I’d forgotten about that part. He handed me a little piece of paper for me to sign and offered his pen.

“No, no, no”, I said, waving my hand. “I have a pen. Hold on.” I closed the door and as I went to retrieve my sterile pen off the writing desk, I turned to my dog and said, “Can you believe this shit?”

Now. Don’t get it twisted. Please don’t. I’ve been writing this pandemic blog series for over two weeks now. I’m VERY appreciative and grateful as hell for every single hero and heroine who is keeping our world going during this horrible pandemic. I just wasn’t prepared for that bit of drama today, not at all. I signed the paper, cracked the door again, and returned the signed slip of paper. “Thank you! Be safe out there,” I said before shutting my door again.

My two-week self-quarantine was interrupted. I wondered if I had to start from day one again to see if I’d been infected. Lord Jesus. After he left, I stood on my stoop, emptying out the contents of the bag. I threw the plastic bag into the trashcan and wiped down each item before bringing them inside. There’s got to be a better way, but it is what it is, right?

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to the folks, who are still at work to keep us, you and me, safe, healthy, fed, and sane.  And to those of us who are sharing funny memes and stories; raw and real videos of living through this pandemic with children and teens; and to those who are sharing drawings, poems, music videos, and frolicking baby goats, thank you. A special thank you to Netflix and the Tiger King–that was awesome.

Be safe out there and for God’s sake, say home, if you can. I miss my kids.

Oh, and don’t forget Winter Goose Publishing, my publisher, opened their entire eBook catalog on Amazon for FREE. You’ve got until Saturday, so fire up that Kindle and download some books, including mine. Happy reading!

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 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still Writing and In Quarantine

March 26, 2020

pexels-photo-3952231.jpeg
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

This morning, I awoke ahead of the alarm to be ready for a delivery of seven bags of soil from Lowe’s; it’s that time again. I timed the delivery right as it’s supposed to be sunny later today. What I need at this time is a day in my garden for my mental health and for a bit of vitamin D.

I lay in bed, grateful for the doctors, nurses, mental health workers, and health care aides across the country, and worried for all of us in light of the government’s inaction in enacting the Defense Production Act. I’m trying to remain positive, but it’s getting more difficult to muster up any positive thoughts about this president and this administration. Honestly, I’m furious. Sorry, not sorry.  And I’m not alone.

This morning, I didn’t check my phone or turn on the news, probably because last night, I watched nonstop. I literally clicked between CNN and MSNBC. Anyway, within ten minutes of waking up, I was teary-eyed. I didn’t even feel it coming. After a good cry, I felt a little better and not as hopeless about the lethal spread of this deadly virus, knowing full well the news of the day would probably erase all the positive thoughts. Instead of allowing myself to “go there” again, I concentrated on remaining positive and grounded. I prayed for protection and good health for my kids and for my family and friends, and I offered up prayers for the world and for the end of this horrible outbreak. I prayed for negative results for anyone awaiting test results at this time, especially a wonderful nurse in Virginia I am fortunate to call a friend, who, along with some family members, is showing all the reported symptoms.

Then, I had a talk with myself. I’m fine. My children and my family are fine. In light of those who are at high risk for exposure and who are working nonstop for us–our doctors, nurses, health care workers, mental health therapists, and counselors–we are fine. I thought of other heroes on the front line, who are supporting us all during this frightening time–the people working in our grocery stores, pharmacies, hospitals, clinics, and testing sites. God bless them and keep them all safe and healthy.

Unfortunately, those good thoughts turned into anger. That’s how it is these days, my emotions are up and down, positive and negative, spiritual and open to closed and angry. I felt anger (rage) toward anyone who chooses the economy and the almighty dollar over the health and well-being of the American population. Trump needs to sign the coronavirus stimulus bill already and evoke the Defense Production Bill now. No one seems to know or is willing to tell the American public why he is dragging his feet?? Doctors and nurses need all the supplies they keep asking for (and more!) like yesterday, two months ago, for their fight to save American lives and keep themselves safe from this virus. What is the damn hold up?

Praying. Trying to remain calm and praying some more. And not freaking out when I feel a tiny ache in my shoulder, a cough out of nowhere, and do I feel a bit feverish? Shit.

***

March 27, 2020

Ever since my mother put a pencil, bond paper (as it was called in the olden days), and crayons in my hand, I was hooked on art. I’ve kept drawings that go back to my early teen years. After my beautiful mother passed away in 1992, I found several Mother’s Day cards I’d made for her over the years. They are precious to me.

As a young mother, I loved drawing and doing crafts with my kids, which kept up my drawing skills and fed my creative spirit. I imagine like most parents, I keep a few Rubbermaid containers in the attic with my kid’s early drawings, school papers, and art projects. Actually, I have way too much of their school stuff that includes their middle school, high school, and university sports gear, trophies, clothing, and diplomas. They really do need to collect this stuff one day. Who am I kidding, they’re both in their 30s; it’s not going anywhere unless I hold a major yard sale. When this is all over….nope, not going there with anything negative today. Hell, no.

When my children were in elementary school, I began to study with a local watercolor artist, who encouraged me to exhibit for the first time in my life and to sell my watercolor pieces. I did quite well. Two years later, my then-husband was offered a posting at NATO. We shipped everything, including our mud-brown Toyota minivan and arrived in Brussels, Belgium at the end of summer 1994. I’d lived in Europe twice before as a child and as a kid in middle school. That tour was my first time living abroad as a young mother of a young child and an infant.

A few years later, In 1995 or 1996, I joined a group of international and local artists and writers. Together, we formed the first English-speaking art guilds in Brussels, that’s still going strong today. In addition to holding different positions within the guild, I continued to paint and exhibit. I sold my work and began accepting commissions, which didn’t last long. I didn’t enjoy painting people’s homes or their pets; not because I don’t love architectural renderings or pet portraiture, I didn’t enjoy how picky and demanding people can be when they’re paying, smile.

I continued to sell my paintings and around the end of 1999, I added collage and pastel to my repertoire. In 2000, I read Julia Cameron’s book, “The Artist’s Way”. In 2001, I organized my first creative cluster with six friends. By 2004, I’d facilitated three or four groups in Brussels (I can’t remember now for some reason), and in 2005, I finished the draft manuscript of my first novel called  “A Decent Woman”. I’ve written many blog posts about my writing journey, so I won’t repeat myself too much, but what happened is that writing overtook painting and it became my passion.

I don’t know why I wrote all that. I suppose it’s a reminder that I am a creative being and that’s what I do best. Creativity has always fed, inspired, led, and grounded me. That’s no different now, but cable TV is encroaching on my creative life. I want to know what’s going on, but I don’t need it all in my face 24/7.

Be well, be safe, stay home, be kind.

Eleanor x

***

March 28, 2020

I’ve been a writer for ten years and have lived in a hermit bubble without cable TV for the same amount of time, which is perfect for a writer. A month ago, I had but a few outside distractions (excluding family, they are not distractions; they are lovely), other than those I allowed into my life. I focused on writing, editing, and rewriting my work-in-progress called “The Laments”. Even when coronavirus reared its’ ugly head in Asia and I was worried as hell, I was able to gather up whatever writers need to keep themselves at the writing desk. It wasn’t easy. I did my best to keep writing through my fears and anxiety.

Two weeks ago, I realized if I want to keep in touch with the outside world and global news, and not risk my life going out for the daily newspaper, I had to act. It occurred to me that Comcast support might stop going to people’s homes to install cable, so I called. Two days later, I had cable.

Now I have mixed emotions about the wisdom of that decision. I spent nearly a week glued to the TV and what that did my anxiety was to shoot it up to unhealthy levels. Yes, I was caught up with minute by minute news alerts and breaking news, I watched good films on Amazon Prime and new series on Netflix, but dear God, it was too much for my hermit psyche. My body, my nervous system to be exact, was overloaded.

On Friday, I limited myself to only watching MSNBC in the evenings, starting at six in the evening until 11. That’s still a lot of television, but it also kept me at the writing desk and I began to plant seedlings for my vegetable and flower garden in trays and empty egg cartons and berry containers. By Saturday, I’d limited my television viewing to watching Andrew Cuomo’s daily briefing and I stopped watching the White House briefing for my sanity and to keep anger levels down…it worked.

Early this morning, a thunderstorm woke me up and it’s raining hard. No gardening today. When I turned up the volume on my cell phone, at least a dozen notifications popped up from the news channels–the 2$ Trillion Bill, the largest relief package in modern history passed and Trump signed it. Thank God. There is anger simmering, though. I try my best to squash it and to remain positive and hopeful.

Yesterday, I learned something new: stress can bring about low-grade fevers. I know stress can mess with our immune systems and cause disease, but the fever information was interesting.

There are reports of severe weather from northern Illinois to the Ohio Valley and in the south that brought (or is still bringing) tornadoes, damaging winds, and giant balls of hail. What the hell is going on with the planet? Pacha Mama is royally pissed off.

Many countries are reporting wildlife critters roaming in the cities: dolphins in Venice canals and on the island of Sardinia; pumas in Chile; wild boars in Italy and Spain, and a lone wolf was recently spotted in the mountains France. Animals are reclaiming our cities. You just can’t make this shit up. We are truly living in a new world.

Be safe, be calm, be kind, and big hugs. Prayers for the world.

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 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.

 

 

Working From Home: Quarantine and Gardening

March 24, 2020

Morning thoughts.

variety of vegetables
Photo by Ella Olsson

How can the president possibly consider relaxing safety precautions that could save hundreds of thousands of lives in this country? Lunacy. Greed.

An uncontrolled pandemic will help no one and certainly, not our economy. We must pass an economic stimulus package that works for everyone, not just big business. But Trump needs to enact the Defense Production Act now. The Federal government must act now to protect our doctors, nurses, and health care workers.

As of last night, the number of confirmed cases and deaths in China, South Korea, and Italy appeared to be going down. God willing, the reports are true, and the numbers continue to drop. The numbers in the US, however, are increasing dramatically in many states, 25,000 confirmed virus cases in New York and 210 deaths.

Hang tight, please stay home. We might have a long wait ahead (some health experts say five or six weeks could dramatically reduce the spread), we will worry, and we will continue to grieve for those who’ve died around the world.

One day, this will end. Never lose hope and do your part–stay home, it will save lives. I pray you can stay home and that you practice social distancing (and wear a mask) if you must go out. Prayers for the world.

And to bat-shit crazy Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who suggested he and all grandparents would be willing to die for our economy—speak for yourself, loony tunes. What are these Republicans on? Our vulnerable and senior Americans are not expendable in the context of the economy!

I’m hanging in there. A little jittery this morning after watching Governor Andrew Cuomo’s press conference (he’s doing an amazing job!), and definitely stressed after the Coronavirus task force briefing. Ugh. He wants to open our country by Easter on April 12? Insanity. It’s no surprise I’m grinding my teeth at night; it actually woke me up. I must find my mouthguard…

I felt immensely better when the truck from Lowe’s pulled up to deliver seven large bags of soil and my new three-tier, wood planter that joins the 8×8 garden plot. Later in the day, I received my 30 seed packets in the mail. Yes, I received my shipment and mail wearing a mask and gloves. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow, so I’ll be writing and will begin getting my hands dirty, I mean my gloves dirty Thursday morning. Can’t wait to begin.

Take good care of yourself, your family, and those you come into contact with during this pandemic. Be safe. Be kind. Be grateful. Be merciful.

 

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 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.

 

Still Working From Home: Thoughts and Tips

March 22, 2020

I hope this blog post finds you and yours healthy and safe. Without a doubt, we all feel a certain degree of anxiety about Covid-19; if not for ourselves, certainly for our children and loved ones. This morning, as is my daily habit, I enjoyed my first cup of coffee in my wicker chair on the kitchen patio. I listened to the birds, checked out the growth of the peonies, and minutes later, as I watched my puppy happily run around the yard like a little heathen, the surrealism of that moment struck me to the core. While everyone on the planet is living through a deadly pandemic and economic disaster, my flower garden and soon, my vegetable and herb garden, (and Sophie for that matter) will do what they do–grow and thrive. Life will go on and we will get through this horrible time, but no one knows when this will end and what the world will look like after this virus is either eradicated or disappears back into nature.

As I type this blog post, Republicans and Democrats are still debating a $1.8 trillion Senate-led stimulus deal for our economy. In the US, there are still not enough masks, ventilators,  or personal protective equipment for our doctors, nurses, health care workers, and mental health workers, who are heroes in my eyes. I would also add cleaning crews and those who work in grocery stores, restaurants, and banks. All heroes. The fact that the United States still doesn’t have enough Covid-19 tests for those who need to be tested is criminal. What the actual hell is going on? We are at war, for God’s sake. We’re in a global war against a deadly virus. I just heard that Trump decided to activate the National Guard and to enact the Defense Production Act. I’ll listen to that news conference a bit later to confirm. A step in the right direction, if he makes good on those decisions. Who the hell knows if it’s true or not.

On Friday, a psychiatrist who works at my daughter’s site in Northern Virginia (she’s a mental health therapist) resigned after citing concerns about inadequate safety in the face of Covid-19 in his county. Finally, the County approved teleworking for more sites, and it’s about damn time. My daughter’s workplace has been a major source of concern and unbelievable stress for her, her coworkers, me, and her brother, who lives and works in Bangkok with his girlfriend. This morning I learned their Bangkok work sites approved teleworking for their employees, thank God. My stress levels, which were creeping up last week, have lowered quite a bit. Everyone should stay home, if possible.

My weekend entailed making sure I have enough food and non-perishable goods, water, and dog food. I cleared the pine armoire in the kitchen of decorative items and cookbooks and turned it into a food pantry. I held each item in my hands and thought how wonderful, but useless they were, which is strange because I love antiques. Those things don’t seem to matter at this time.

This week, I’ll continue to listen to online meditations and keep in touch with my kids, my family, and friends. I’m researching which food items freeze well. So far, lemons, limes, and bananas are on the ‘yes’ list and dairy products and legumes are next. Of course, I’ll keep writing, which isn’t easy, but necessary for my sanity these days.

My tips for staying grounded during your quarantine:

Breathe. Read. Connect. Chronicle this time in history. Practice stillness. Share information. Read aloud to your kids or grandkids via Skype. Meditate. Pray. Write poetry or short stories. Learn a new language or a new skill. Paint your kitchen. Order seeds and potting soil. Start a vegetable and herb garden in your yard or in containers. Take up knitting or sewing. Draw and paint. Wash your hands. Organize your closet(s). Order a thermometer. Find a meditation video on YouTube. Consider ordering an inhaler, if you have respiratory issues. I ordered mine from Amazon. Write your Congressional representatives and your Governors with your current concerns, opinions, and needs. Stay informed of current guidelines and news from the CDC and WHO. Don’t wait for Trump to do what he should have done months ago to reduce the spread of this pandemic–protect yourself and your family, stay home and stay safe.

It’s important to remain positive, informed, hopeful, and safe. We must remember that during this challenging, scary time, our emotions will be up and down. I might be okay today and you need to express yourself, so I will listen. I might need that from you tomorrow. None of our emotions will match on any given day. Some of us deal by posting funny virus memes, others will feel the need to share what they hope is useful information, and others will post quotes and stories of hope and faith. Let’s be patient and kind to each other. We are doing the best we can with what we have, and we must not forget the most vulnerable in our society.

Oh, and happy book anniversary to my first novel! A Decent Woman is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle, smile. Take good care of yourself.

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 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.