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 Freedom, Stay-at-home Orders, and Coronavirus Craziness

April 23, 2020

black hawk soaring
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

Good morning, I hope you and yours are well.

I feel the beginnings of a mini-rant coming on…so, if you need soothing words today, please exit left, I will understand. If you continue to read, I promise to end the blog post with positive and hopeful thoughts. I have to get things off my chest today.

Many describe this time in history as an apocalyptic horror. I’ve used the word apocalyptic before to describe the effects of this deadly virus and maybe we shouldn’t, as thoughts and words are fuel, an energy that can make things a reality. No one wants this to be the end of times. I certainly don’t. However, what’s happening in our jails, prisons, nursing homes, meat packing plants, and in hospitals across the country, can only be described as heartbreaking horror stories. In my view, one of the main priorities must be to protect those who live and work in close quarters, where the disease is running amok and spreading like a firestorm. What’s the solution? Is there a plan in motion yet? Is my dad still safe at his nursing home in Florida? Thank God for his caregiver. Thank you, Mariana.

You know, on the days I wonder about the people who share this country with me, I remember Bernie Sanders’ call to revolution, where everyone is protected and matters. That always resonated with me. I feel it is time for a revolution–an evolution of consciousness revolution. We, as global citizens, have a unique and historic opportunity to question, alter, if necessary, and to raise our consciousness when it comes to how we show up and walk through this, our one and only life. Will we accept the challenge?

As far as I can tell, most people hope to fight against the spread of the novel coronavirus because we are in this alone, but together. We need each other like never before. Some say the unfolding events of this week with the armed protestors from Kentucky storming the state capital constituted a revolution about many things: the Second Amendment, nationalism, ignoring the CDC and “the others” over opening up the country, and to hell with the virus. You see, this is why I often wonder about some people, it feels like we are from different planets. There are those who are hell-bent on opening up the country no matter the cost versus those who are hell-bent on staying home, protecting others, and surviving this pandemic. The former are people I don’t understand, but I do understand people are suffering, burning through their savings, and losing their businesses. There doesn’t seem to be an easy answer, but I know that if we don’t stay home, more of us will become infected and will die.

Then we have the governor of Georgia leading the “open the country” charge, who for whatever asinine reason believes massage parlors, nail and hair salons, barbershops, bowling alleys, and tattoo parlors should reopen Friday, tomorrow. Any sane and rational person knows it’s impossible to get a haircut, a massage or a tattoo from six feet away! Except for barbershops, I’ve use all those services and sorry, I don’t consider those businesses essential. Nice, but not essential. I was a massage therapist and I know for a fact my arms aren’t six feet long; it’s ludicrous to say it’s safe to get a massage tomorrow.

Two days ago, it looked to me like Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House, had lost the plot. My mother always said it doesn’t take long for people to show their true colors. Birx, who specializes in HIV-AIDS immunology, vaccine research, and global health, lost my respect (and her credibility?) when she said hair salons and barber shops could indeed remain open as long as they practice safe distancing. Seriously? She appeared sheepish during the briefing. What alternate reality do we live in where a doctor of medicine, a global health expert no less, lies to the American people, to our faces?

This week, it doesn’t appear we are the United States of America. After watching the daily briefings that feel like pretty packages wrapped in lies, sadly, we are as divided as ever, and the COVID-19 pandemic we are living through is again making our differences glaringly obvious.

Yesterday, an American died every 32 seconds. You read right. Last night, I heard an ER doctor describe the horror of how quickly coronavirus patient’s oxygen levels drop. Moreover, when many people reach the hospital to be tested, they are immediately placed into intensive care units. He likened the body’s reaction to COVID-19 to being at the top of the Himalayas with oxygen levels so low that most people pass out. At times, it’s difficult to fathom how virulent and highly contagious this virus is, but it’s a frightening and shocking truth we must accept. We must stay home, if at all possible. I don’t see any other way, or we’ll be dealing with this damn bug for years to come, in addition to seasonal influenza. Or at least until a vaccine is ready to test and administer, and we’ve heard the scientists–a vaccine could be 18 months to two years away.

Doctors, nurses, mental health therapists, and health workers are frightened. Nurses and health care workers are crying as they share personal, soul-crushing stories about how they’ve never seen anything like what this disease does to people’s bodies. Their stories of people dying alone break my heart every time. If those stories don’t touch you at your core and cause you tremendous fear, you’re either in full denial, or you’re an orphan with no known living family members or friends to worry and care about. If you don’t care about yourself, for God’s sake, care about others, the vulnerable, who might not survive an infection. And COVID-19 doesn’t only kill the elderly, it kills healthy, young people, as well.

This is dire. The lack of federal assistance for mass testing is a freaking mystery to me. The federal government needs to step in and step up! Jesus, why don’t they move their asses on mass testing when time is of the essence? Why are 45 and the White House resisting so vehemently? I don’t understand.

We all want this pandemic to end with as few lives lost as possible. One was too many. It’s horrific enough that early on, people died from the virus and coronavirus-related illnesses, while 45 and the US government sat on their hands the entire month of February. The angst over those tragic, unnecessary deaths often keeps me up at night. I just read that the first COVID-19 patients died at home in California on February 6 and February 17. February. Imagine how different this would all look if the government had acted swiftly. As I write this blog post, the rash on my thighs is making more and more sense.

And to those who yelled, harrassed, and threatened immigrants and migrants in this country, who now call them essential, frontline workers, I hope their memories are LONG. I hope their hearts remain open or at the very least soften because guess what? From what I’ve read, this monster of a virus will return this fall and winter with a vengeance.

As promised, I’ll end with positive thoughts and guarded hope. After I wrote yesterday’s blog post about my lifelong love affair with carbs and the sad fact I can no longer eat them, I discovered a company that sells gluten-free sourdough bread starter, and kefir, yoghurt, and kombucha starters. That’s my joy today, and the blessing of knowing my children, family members, and friends are well and safe. I am, too.

Thank you to the nurses, doctors, and health care workers across this country. Their sacrifices and loving care for the American people, strangers to them, are admirable, heroic. We can never thank them enough. If I ruled the world, I’d issue hazard pay (retroactive and into the future) for everyone on the front lines of this pandemic.

Most of us will emerge from this historic pandemic with two inches of hair growth (I went blonde in early February, big mistake), a few extra pounds, wiser, and with new skills. May we also emerge with a voracious appetite for life, love for our planet, and for living each day as if it’s our last day on earth. May we realize the importance of remembering these challenging days and of changing what didn’t work before.

I know it’s not easy (huge understatement), but try to stay home. Be well and stay healthy.

Eleanor x

ABOUT ELEANOR:

me in ma july 2019

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

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Still Writing and In Quarantine

March 26, 2020

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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.

 

 

The Priceless Value of Keeping a Journal

@eleanorparkerwv #latina #writer #amediting #amwriting #historicalfiction #novel #publisher #booktrope

That’s about the gist of it today. Eleanor Parker from West Virginia (not originally) is a Latina writer who is editing her first book-an historical fiction novel that will be published by Booktrope this summer. #adecentwoman Wouldn’t that be cool to use that hashtag!

I’ve used Twitter for a couple of years and until this week, I had never used a hashtag in my life. In my defense, I was writing a book. I see that #eyeroll. Although I was doing my part to create and maintain my author platform on many social media sites, I didn’t know how to use hashtags. I thought it was some fad that would wear off eventually. Wrong. I’ve found out how very useful these little hashtags are! They get me to where I want to be and allow me to communicate with people who are doing the same thing-editing and writing. It’s awesome.

Earlier in the week, I watched a very informative YouTube video from Writer.ly.com about using Twitter and it opened up a whole new world for me. I know it’s old news to you, but I’m genuinely excited. I forced myself to log off after the tutorial because I’ve been known to search for videos of angry cats, people’s reactions and behavior to being slung into the atmosphere on amusement park thrill rides, and of course, videos of twin babies discovering each other for the first time. I could spend hours on that site. So, I went back to Twitter to use what I’d learned and it was fun. I discovered lists and created one list, but it didn’t work. I’ll have to tend to that later. This morning I composed a tweet about something dumb I did this week and ended it with #brainfart. Perfect.

One of my favorite authors, Joyce Carol Oates is on Twitter. I had a lovely morning catching up with the author. She tweeted about keeping a journal and her comments prompted my decision to keep a journal again. My memory isn’t what it used to be…who am I kidding, my friends will tell you that I have a bad memory for people’s names, book titles, movie titles and dates. Forget dates. I know. I’m an historical fiction writer, how can that be, right? Well, I’m telling you the truth. If I don’t write it down, it’s lost. I will remember the story, the location, what the weather was like, who wore what and said what, but the day and time? Not going to happen. My good friends will tell you that I don’t remember their birthday. My brain cannot and refuses to retain that type of information. You’ll hear from me when your birthday pops up on my Facebook page.

Today I’m editing and tonight, I’m ordering a big, beautiful, hardback, non-lined journal. I kept a diary as a teenager. It was a small diary with a tye-dyed cover. I kept it until my mother found my sister’s journal (okay, I told my mom where it was hidden) and I promptly threw it away. I remember it was trash day. I stuffed my diary into an athletic sock and pushed it deep into the outdoor trash can.

A couple of years after my mother passed away (1992), I moved to Belgium with my then-husband and two young children. It was a perfect time to begin a journal. I’d lived in Europe as an Army brat, but this was a whole different ball of wax. I was an Army wife and member of a new community, a very active community of Americans, Brits and Belgians. We became family, as you do when thousands of miles separate you from your loved ones back home, and many of us still keep in contact today. On Facebook, of course. We remained in Brussels for 13 years. I kept a journal of our travels, adventures, my life as an ex-pat, a working artist, and as a mom. I have kept those lovely journals.

When my children and I returned to the United States in 2006, I stopped writing in my journal. I had a divorce to deal with, I worked full-time and went back to school. I don’t think I could bear reading about that difficult time in my life, but it so happens that I’m writing my second book, another historical fiction novel, Finding Gracia on El Camino. The story of a recently divorced woman who finds her grandmother’s journals that chronicle her walk on El Camino, the medieval pilgrimage walk from Roncesvalles, France to Santiago de Compostela. My kids and I walked El Camino one month after my marital separation. I kept a daily journal on our two-week walk. Thank God, I did.

Perhaps I will regret not keeping a journal during that time in my life as my new book unfolds and takes shape. My sister and good friends, however, have long and good memories. If I need to tap into that moment in time as a writer, they will help me and it won’t take me long to access the feelings and emotions that seem to reside just beneath the surface.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Urgency in Getting it All Down

I believe we all have many stories that should see the light of day. I believe that many of us will never write those stories down and that saddens me because I want to read those stories. At funerals, I’ve often wondered if the deceased accomplished what he or she set out to do in life. I think of all the wonderful untold life stories that go with that person.

We all wake up, most of us get ready for work or school, we spend our day doing our jobs and if we have families, we come home to make dinner, do homework with our children, talk to our significant others, perhaps eat it in front of the television and fall asleep. We wake up and do it all over again. That’s not all we do, of course, but you get the picture-we live our lives. We live the lives we’ve been taught to live or we do our own thing. Most of us follow routines that make our lives and the lives of our loved ones manageable and for some of us, that is enough and we are happy. Others, however, develop an urgency deep inside that whispers, “Time waits for no one, do that thing.”

Only you know what that “thing” is. That thing for me turned into two things–to write books and paint in between my books.

I believe that fear, excuses and our busy lives stop us from writing our stories. I am of the belief that you should fake it until you make it. Just write it all down. Write a daily journal, blog, keep a notebook with you at all times, or type out the stories of your life. Don’t worry about grammar or the right words, for now, just write.

As the granddaughter and daughter of oral storytellers, I had a wealth of information, details and storylines by the time I was in my 30’s. My memory and the repetition of these stories kept them alive for me as well as telling my kids the stories, but I didn’t write them down.

Soon after my mother’s death in 1992 at the young age of 57, I began to keep a journal. Her death shook my family and her friends to the core. Again, I wondered whether my beautiful mother had left things too late. Had she left unfinished business and did she live all her dreams? Or even one? She was the epitome of a great mother and grandmother, but I wasn’t sure.

My mother’s death was the kick in the pants and in the gut that I needed. I began a journal, written long-hand for over ten years in beautifully bound, unlined books. I took those bulky journals everywhere I went. I wrote during trips, vacations and even on walks because my entries also included photographs I’d taken along the way and small drawings done in interesting places. I wrote down pieces of conversations I heard on the Metro, in small cafes, and on ferry boat rides. I jotted down descriptions of people, of corner bodegas, and the tiniest flower. I began to see and write down what I saw and heard and how it made me feel. I also kept a notebook by my bed to record dreams.

During those years, the book, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron arrived as a Christmas gift from my father’s new wife, Rebecca. That was when I started my journey toward doing “that thing” and her book changed my life. I read the book alone, did the homework and went out on my Artist’s Dates and soon, I was sharing the book with girlfriends. We met once a month for a year and soon, another group was formed and I was facilitating. I began to write poetry and a year later, I wrote my book, A Decent Woman.

It is not surprising that through helping others with their creativity, I found my own.

Blogs have long replaced my journal. Julia might not agree and I understand that she may be right. I might go back to writing in my journal, just maybe…

Ellie