On Writers Helping Writers and Friendship

May 21, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe and be well.

Happy writing to you.

Eleanor x

ABOUT ELEANOR:

me in ma july 2019

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

 

On Finding Our Bearings in a Changing World

May 17, 2020

silver colored heart lock bridge
Photo by Marcus Wöckel on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus. Please God, let Biden win in November.

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

***

May 18, 2020

woman with blindfold
Photo by Bruno Feitosa on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SO.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe and remain informed. Resist.

Eleanor x

ABOUT ELEANOR:

me in ma july 2019

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Dr. Fauci and Living in the In-between

May 12, 2020

person in yellow protective suit and mask
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

***

May 13, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be well and stay safe.

Eleanor x

ABOUT ELEANOR:

me in ma july 2019

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Local Farms, Beekeeping, and Honoring The Dead

May 1, 2020

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

Happy May Day. I hope you are well.

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

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

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

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

***

May 2, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week, be safe and stay healthy.

Eleanor x

ABOUT ELEANOR:

me in ma july 2019

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

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 Stolen Coronavirus Supplies, Testing, and Death Counts

April 28, 2020

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Photo by Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas on Pexels.com

Good morning. I hope you are well, wherever you are. I have lots of questions this morning.

FEMA. We’ve heard the reports and complaints from state governors of FEMA stealing PPE from state purchase orders, and last night, Rachel Maddow reported FEMA had stolen millions of face masks from VA hospital PPE orders. Good Lord, that turns my stomach. Why can’t we stop these shameless profiteers? Are they hoarding supplies for the national stockpile while people suffer and die?

After Hurricane Maria devastated my beautiful Puerto Rico and many Caribbean islands in 2017, I had nothing good to say about FEMA and the Army National Guard. Their early failures and weak performance in Puerto Rico were mind-bending and unacceptable. I’d hoped FEMA had changed, improved, something, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. They’re not only failing the American people, they’re thieves. What else would you call intercepting hospital orders and hijacking much-needed supplies? Thankfully, the Army National Guard stepped up in a major way during this pandemic by building field hospitals and refurbishing hotels and the like in record time for coronavirus patients and patients requiring other medical services. That’s what organization, skill, and moving your ass looks like. I’m grateful for their help.

Have you noticed the CDC commercials running at night on MSNBC, if you watch MSNBC? That’s interesting because the CDC no longer gives briefings. Now they recognize six (or is it now seven) new symptoms of coronavirus. How do we know? Because the CDC posted the list of additional symptoms on their website: chills, muscle ache, headache, sore throat, repeated shaking with chills, and loss of taste or smell. Did you know? I didn’t. Sneaky. I had half of those symptoms from late February to a few days ago. I still have a cough (not dry) and today, my doctor urged me to get tested. Madre mia.

I wonder if this is a cover-your-ass type of situation by the CDC. The new symptoms would have been nice to know early on as they could have potentially saved thousands of American from dying after they were turned away from testing sites because they weren’t symptomatic with the original three symptoms: a fever, a cough, and difficulty breathing, which was tragically too late for some. And where is the World Health Organization these days, anyway?

Where is the US on nationwide testing? I know, I have lots of questions this morning. The FDA recently approved various tests and from what I’ve read are proving to be ineffective or unreliable. I thank scientists, lab techs, and their staff for working so hard to find accurate tests and a vaccine. Hurry, please. The lack of a vaccine and reliable, quick testing for all, compounded by a failing economy and loss of jobs and small businesses is the stuff of nightmares, tremendous fear, and simmering rage in this country. WHY are we not testing nationwide?

It’s very likely we may never know the exact number of confirmed cases and the exact number of those who died of coronavirus or coronavirus-related illnesses. Again, I’m reminded of post-Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico in 2017. The government lied about death counts that remained in the double digits for months when everyone knew the number had to be in the thousands. People were dying in alarming numbers and the morgues were full. I joined many fellow Puerto Ricans in suspecting the number was much higher, the numbers never added up. Three years after the monster storm made landfall, the exact number remains unknown.

So, will we see the same lies, corruption and hidden figures about deaths attributed to coronavirus after this pandemic? I pray a group of analysists can tackle that question before the next pandemic strikes the world. Each and every person who died during this pandemic matters. Their deaths matter and the fact that most died alone tears at my soul. No one should die alone.

Last night, a top Manhattan ER doctor tragically took her own life, preceded by the suicide of a Bronx EMT, who shot himself. Lord have mercy. The suffering our doctors, nurses, and health care workers are experiencing and enduring is unfathomable. It angers me that people still insist we must reopen the country, and how heartless are those who say doctors and nurses knew what they’d signed up for. Those type of comments are shockingly callous. No, they didn’t sign up for a horrific, seemingly never ending pandemic! I don’t know how they do it day after day, hour after hour, minute by minute. The only way to lessen their unGodly burden and to give them time to heal emotionally is for us to stay home. I don’t see any other way.

God bless and protect our doctors, nurses, health care workers, lab techs, mental health therapists, and scientists, who seem to be screaming into the abyss while Trump and the White House still refuse to listen or accept responsibility for their incompetence and callous disregard way before and during the horror show that is the COVID-19 pandemic. I doubt they ever will. Trump and the White House administration seem to ignore every report and everyone, and except for Andrew Cuomo and many governors, too many people are afraid of him. Can anyone explain why we can’t remove 45 from office now? I seriously don’t understand.

I’d like to end on a positive and hopeful note. Human trials with a coronavirus vaccine are underway by an Oxford University team and it looks promising. Hallelulah. They say the vaccine could be available by September. Although the UK and the Netherlands are gearing up to manufacture the vaccine (if it proves effective), the team says no US manufacturers have approached them. Why in God’s green earth are American and Chinese companies not joining in? Because they are also in clinical trials; it’s a race for the cure and the worldwide rights to the drug. Greed at our expense…again. Sorry, that didn’t end as positive or hopeful as I’d hoped.

Off to check the seed babies in the garden in my mask and gloves. Later this morning, I’ll have my first chat with an editor I’m hoping to work with. I’m more than ready to see THE LAMENTS in reader’s hands later this year. Fingers crossed and candles lit for that.

Be well and if at all possible, stay home. For those parents homeschooling (God bless you), baking cupcakes counts as math, reading, home economics, current events (food shortages and history) and geography.

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 a lot of 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.