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

May 6-7, 2020

american oval signage
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eleanor x

ABOUT ELEANOR:

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

April 30, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An important quote:

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

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

From the author of the article:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be well and stay safe.

Eleanor x

ABOUT ELEANOR

me in ma july 2019

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

 

 

 

 

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

cascade creek environment fern
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.

Solo Quarantine: On Writing, Kindness, Dolce Far Niente, and Hygge

March 29, 2020

purple petal flowers focus photograph
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It’s another rainy, gray day in my adopted state of West Virginia. I’m wearing a thick white sweater over my typical uniform of black yoga pants and a long-sleeved black T-shirt. I plugged in a small space heater in the dining room where I’m writing today to break the chill and dampness in the early morning air. I hope you are well.

After I prepared a large café con leche, I placed a white blanket on the couch and Sophie (my Chihuahua), a Master in the art of hygge, fluffed, rearranged the blanket, and nuzzled right in after her breakfast. If you’ve ever lit candles and incense, wrapped yourself in an ultra-soft throw, and curled up with a good book on a rainy day, you’ve experienced hygge. This Danish and Norwegian concept means all things cozy and enjoying the simple things in life. As a homebody, I’ve been a practitioner of hygge for decades and didn’t even know it. The Italians have their own form of cozy and enjoying the simple things in life: dolce far niente, which means pleasant idleness, or the definition I love–the art (essence) of doing nothing. As we are encouraged to stay home and slow down our fast-paced lives and body rhythms, this might be a helpful practice.

As a daily practice to ground myself and remain present in the now, I focus on two things I see, hear, feel, and smell. Outside, I hear birds chirping and an ambulance in the distance. I hear the awful whine of ambulances more and more. I tell myself that’s a good thing as the person is seeking expert medical help and they are in excellent hands because thinking the worst doesn’t help one bit. I must remain positive. I see a white pitcher with yellow and cream daffodils from my garden and my “collection” of vitamins, minerals, and other supplements I take per the holistic advice from Anthony William, the Medical Medium, whose books I’ve devoured–Thyroid Healing, Liver Rescue, and Life-Changing Foods. I taste a bit of toothpaste, which is messing with the perfect café con leche I made a little while ago with Café Bustelo, of course. I feel warmer now than when I got out of bed and I feel kind of numb this morning, which is why I’m writing this morning and doing this exercise.

Two nights ago, I had a chat with my niece, a newly-married Kindergarten teacher in Maryland. Her school closed their doors two weeks ago and like most of us, she is trying to find her way in a new world. My niece misses her kids, as she calls the children she teaches, and from the drawings with little messages the children write to her throughout the school year, they miss her, as well. She and every teacher in this country are brainstorming to find ways to teach students remotely and to support the children academically and emotionally. My heart is heavy as I think of our children of all ages, at home and far away.

My daughter, a mental health therapist in Northern Virginia, feels the same way about the adults she worked with at her clinic and in the groups she led before she began teleworking. Before this virus gripped this country, my daughter saw between 30 to 37 clients a week, in person or on the telephone. In early March, she began preparing them to work with her over the telephone. I would imagine many of her clients confess are afraid and others can’t seem to grasp the seriousness of what’s going on around them, or they forget. I’m sure she is reminding them to stay home, quarantine themselves, and to wash their hands. She’ll remind them of available social services, shelters, food banks, and hospitals that are still open for them. As a former counselor, I can almost guarantee, most were unsure of their day to day living situations because of their mental illness or from the disease of drug or alcohol addiction before all this began. My heart is heavy for them, as well.

Many of my close friends are social workers and family support workers, who are working hard to continue to support their clients the best way they can at this horrific time, in some instances, entire families in their communities. Others work for Child Protective Services and with victims of domestic abuse, sexual abuse, or child abuse. As people lose their jobs and are forced inside, possibly with their abuser(s), the number of cases will, tragically, unfortunately, rise. That is one of my biggest fears at this time.

Please include these brave folks in your prayers as we continue to pray for our doctors, nurses, lab techs (my cousin in Ohio), truckers (my friend Danny), the Corps of Engineers, the National Guard, first responders, and those working to keep our personal pantries and local food pantries well-stocked. Thank you to all of them!

Before I sign off, I want to add (as if I could stop myself): while we are quarantined, self-isolating, keeping safe, and thinking of ways we can change, grow, and help others with our beautiful gifts, let’s also remember to practice self-care, kindness, and love. Share love and light with the world in whatever way feels natural and right for you.

And if like me, you’re thinking of ways to help your community, I remember what my Mom always said, “Charity begins at home.” The small, but incredible acts of kindness in keeping close tabs with our children, our families, friends, neighbors, and our elderly will help in more ways than we can possibly imagine. Pick up the phone and stay connected.

Be safe, be healthy, be kind. Hang in there and never lose hope.

I choose to remain thankful, grateful, and hopeful.

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.

 

Leary, But Hopeful New Year Musings

IMG_0591
The Capacon River, West Virginia

What a year.

2016 was a roller coaster of a year, chock full of ups and downs, perilous and hairpin turns, sad and surprising, exhilarating moments sprinkled about, all the way to the ball dropping in Times Square.

Earlier in the evening on December 31, I joined my sister and a good friend in filling our champagne flutes with 2016 water (our Puerto Rican family custom), which we would throw out at midnight (throwing out the “bad”), and refill with bubbly to ring in the New Year. We were so DONE with 2016. Emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically spent at the beginning of the evening, we nervously looked toward the new year with hope, lots of lovely and all-important hope–may we never lose hope–but, I certainly prayed all those celebrating the end of 2016, at home and abroad, would remain safe.

Minutes before midnight, we muted Kathy Griffin’s voice and Anderson Cooper’s giggling for the fourth time, rolled our eyes over Mariah Carey’s concert walkout, and through our own giggles and raised eyebrows, wondered if a certain CNN anchor would have a job in the morning after many televised tequila shots and other interesting shenanigans, which included an on-camera ear piercing. At midnight, I popped the champagne cork (which I hate doing, but sister and friend declined!), and held my breath that nothing else would happen as we toasted each other–a knee-jerk reaction to 2016, I’m afraid. I then spoke with my beloved children, who stayed home (thank God) to celebrate with good friends, enjoyed my sister’s fabulous New Year spread, and we learned of the massacre at a Turkish club in Istanbul. We prayed for the victims, for Betty White (whom we adore), for our children, for everyone, in the tumultuous days before and after Trump takes office as President of the United States. God help us all.

Just before falling asleep on January 1, 2017, I wondered if Prince William will take over when Queen Elizabeth passes on because I can’t imagine a Queen Camilla, and pondered what would happen to the business of the monarchy if Princess Diana resurfaced alive and well, with a daughter born of her marriage to Prince Charles before their marital separation. I still miss her. I know, I know. But I’m a writer, an historical fiction writer; I think of stuff like that late at night. A story needs twists and turns, and all the complications imaginable to work well, right?

Although I know it’s not good for me to fall asleep with worries, fears, and negative thoughts on my mind, but baby steps with feeling hopeful and all rah rah optimistic in 2017. I’ll get there. All I can muster at the moment is cautious optimism. And thank God for the Bed Time Fan app my daughter told me about. I slept like a baby and woke up very happy to be alive, craving a Mimosa.

On the creative front, here at The Writing Life blog, we will continue posting our Tuesday Author Interview series, starting next week. So stay tuned! I’m now back at the writing desk with my second book, The Laments of Sister Inmaculada. No personal blog posts until then. I’ll be on social media sparingly, and by spring, I hope to send the first draft manuscript to my editor. Fingers crossed and prayers said. I love this new story and my characters, who will keep me company this winter. I hope you will love them, too.

I wish you and yours a blessed, safe, happy, healthy, prosperous, and creatively uplifting 2017. May all your hopes and dreams be realized this year.

I am happy to share some words from Neil Gaiman, which I highly encourage you to follow in 2017.

Eleanor x

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something. So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life. Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”

About Eleanor:

ellie

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, and was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor is never without a pen and a notebook, and her passport and camera are always ready. Her awesome adult children are out in the world doing amazing things. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Sister Maria Inmaculada, set in 1920 Puerto Rico.

Eleanor’s book: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK

Rays of Hope and Understanding

footsteps in sand prIf I had a time machine, I would press a button and erase last week. It was one of those weeks you’re ready to block from your mind or forget completely. I can say with total certainty—I hope it never repeats itself. If I’d known my world would be in such turmoil, I would have holed up on a remote island or in an isolated mountain cabin and shut out the world. Everything seemed to go wrong and nothing worked—nothing I said was helpful, nothing I wrote was pleasing, and nothing I did helped me move forward. There was no movement in any positive or clear direction. For three days, I floated in some limbo-like place, where for every two steps forward, I was forced to take five steps back. My tub stopped draining, my washer pooped out again, and a necessary check was beyond late. I prayed for answers and relief.

Maybe the planets were lined up in a strange astrological configuration, precluding me from accomplishing good, necessary, and helpful work because nothing I did changed the way things were going down. So I put those situations on the back burner. Denial and being still can be beautiful states and very helpful when nothing else works, or when we can’t see our way forward. It was a bleak time with no relief or end in sight. I had to look away. By sitting quietly, I realized how low my energy was and how shaken my confidence levels were in a few areas of my life that I’d previously thought were fine and dandy. In some areas, I had some semblance of control, yet in a few others, I was helpless to change events, thoughts, or perceptions.

I realize I’ve written the word ‘nothing’ six times so far in this blog post. Enough already. Well, I’m happiest when writing, but to work on my novel at that time would have been wasted time as I was having trouble focusing and counting my many blessing, for which I’m very thankful.

It was time to fill my dry well with projects and activities that usually take my mind off troubles. As it turned out, it was too cold for working in the flower garden, I couldn’t focus enough to read, and who cleans to relax? Certainly not me. I decided to continue researching for my novel called, ‘The Lament of Sister Maria Immaculata’, set in 1900 on an islet off the coast of San Juan, Puerto Rico called Isla de Cabras, The Island of Goats. I find the process of researching both interesting and satisfying (nearly as much as writing), but I already had a bunch of research material. Wouldn’t that be wasting time? Oh, I don’t know, it seemed a better option than jumping into bed and pulling the covers over my head for the rest of the week. At least I’d be moving forward for a very good cause—my book, and in the process, hopefully I’d improve my mental state and lift my spirits.

I write historical fiction, Historical Caribbean, Hispanic, and Latin America fiction, to be exact. In my stories, I strive for accuracy in setting, the historical timeline, history of the era, and period details such as, customs, food, music, social and class structure, dress, religion, architecture, and so on. My job as a novelist is to help the reader become immersed in the world I create for them as they step through from real life to the past. My goal as a storyteller is to enable my readers to connect with the characters on page one by giving them enough juicy details so they can see, hear, feel, touch the world and characters I’ve created as they enter my fictional world. At the same time, however, bogging our readers down with large information dumps is never a good idea. Information and details must be carefully woven into a story so the reader’s eyes don’t glaze over, causing them to lose interest in the story with too many facts, figures, names, and dates so we can show off our awesome research skills. Not a good idea. We want our readers to learn new things about our chosen setting and characters in a seamless, organic way. Many fiction writers believe we are preachers, teachers, and historians, and that’s true in a way–we have ideas, beliefs, and messages we wish to convey to the world through our books, but first and foremost we are storytellers.

So, I fired up the laptop and began with the Library of Congress, which led to the Hispanic Department, which led to searching for information about the leprosarium on Isla de Cabras, where my current story takes place. I don’t know if I felt any better, but the search was gratifying and took my mind off my troubles. During the research, I discovered several doctoral dissertations, which I thought might be helpful, so I emailed the Hispanic Department for help because I couldn’t access one pertinent dissertation. The next day, someone from the Department emailed back with access information and included a link to another doctoral dissertation. Thank you, person at the Hispanic Department of the Library of Congress! Well, that was exciting news because the student, now a Doctor of Anthropology, had also written a paper that included difficult-to-access Governor Reports of the time period I needed, complete with lists and inventories from the leprosarium, maps of the islet I hadn’t seen before, charts, and details of buildings on the island at the time—priceless information.

la jungla beach

As I understood, I had two options: ask my local library to order the dissertation, or visit the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. Both options involved more energy than I had in reserve last week, so I went on Academia.com and emailed the Doctor of Anthropology, requesting a copy of her dissertation. A day later, she kindly replied, graciously offering to forward several documents. I was grateful for her generosity, and hope her dissertation will be one of the attachments. Pesky closed doors were finally opening. My hope, spirit, and mood were bolstered and uplifted.

I spent the next few days reading articles and papers that filled in missing pieces to my story. The information aided in adding more concrete images to my story and in fleshing out characters. So now when I say the boat approached the dock, I now know which side of the island the only dock actually stood and where the disinfection sheds stood for disembarking patients, called inmates at the time. The mother lode of information is priceless for creating rich description, a vivid setting, well-fleshed out characters, for creating mood, and for historical accuracy.

So, it’s Monday. Have things improved in my world? I’m hopeful things will sort themselves out this week, and I pray things improve around me, but for the moment I’m lying low. I’m buying a new washer, finally, and I’ve returned to my story, excited and armed with loads of delicious detail and interesting information, which I hope will please my readers. I’m happily writing again.

What did I learn last week? I was reminded that there are things in life we cannot control, no matter how hard we try to reign stuff in and how much we worry. Sometimes we have to let go because we might not get the answers or solutions we want, when we want or need them.

We share our world with lots of people and people can and do impact our lives in positive and negative ways. Our job is to weather the storms with dignity, honesty, and clarity, while remaining as humble, open-minded, and compassionate as we can with what we know. And when we find life is still difficult and doesn’t make sense, it might mean we don’t yet have the necessary tools or skills, or that we weren’t given the entire story with which to make a decision. So we forgive ourselves and others, and try to understand with an open heart, a newly-expanded heart, which is entirely possible and worth growing.

Writers, check out Academia; you just might find what you’re searching for. Happy writing to you!

https://www.academia.edu

About Eleanor

ellie

Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s careers as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language family support worker and a refugee case worker, continue to inspire her stories.

Eleanor’s debut novel, ‘A Decent Woman, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico, was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends National Latino Book Club. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, ‘Latina Authors and Their Muses’, edited by Mayra Calvani, and in the soon-to-be released anthology, Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society, edited by Allie Burke. Eleanor is a proud member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, The National Association of Professional Women, and the Historical Novel Society. She is a contributing writer at Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society. When not writing, she loves facilitating creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

Eleanor adores her two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is happily writing her second novel, ‘The Lament of Sister Maria Inmaculada’.

http://www.amazon.com/Decent-Woman-Eleanor-Parker-Sapia-ebook/dp/B00TUP47W