Writing Through the Pandemic While Baking Bread and Canning Food

May 23, 2020

crop unrecognizable person with jar of pickled zucchini
Photo by Ksenia Chernaya on Pexels.com

The sun is out today and the high will reach 80*, which is great for the seedlings and plants in my garden. The AC is on because high heat always brings high humidity in this area. Too bad high temperatures don’t kill the coronavirus…wouldn’t that be awesome if it did?

I finally discovered a way to discourage birds from pulling up tender seedlings and sheering off the tops of the tomato plants in the garden–red Solo cups with the bottoms cut out! I placed a cup over each seedling and it seems to be working. I’m happy I started lots of seeds in large pots back in March because the culprits were relentless. I didn’t think my three small plots required a scarecrow, but I thought about it.

healthy vegetables hand gardening
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I’m still waiting on the delivery of the pricey All American 915 canner pressure cooker with high hopes of canning vegetables in the future. Yes, I’m taking this pandemic seriously. I did my research and ended up ordering one approved by the FDA so I don’t contract salmonella or blow up my house.

I’ve never canned in my life, so that should be interesting. One of the participants in my The Artist’s Way group, a West Virginia native and a hunter, is a canning pro and offered to teach me. She cans loaves of bread (how can that work?) in addition to chili, soups, stews, meats, vegetables, jams, eggs (?), and wait for it…pudding. Don’t ask. I have no clue how she does that, but she does. I’m excited to learn from her.

Hopefully, my late spring and summer harvests are plentiful and healthy enough to can. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, the lettuce, kale, and spinach taste great and I’m baking bread again. Merci, Jacques Pepin.

***

coronavirus
Photo by CDC on Pexels.com

The CDC needs to speak to the American people again! Are they hiding during this pandemic? Why are they silent?

“If authors have any responsibilities in the face of disaster, the greatest of them is to bear witness.” That’s an excerpt from the author Fang Fang’s (her pen name) controversial chronicle of life and death in Wuhan, China during the pandemic.

From the New York Times article, “She Kept a Diary of China’s Epidemic. Now She Faces a Political Storm”,

“Her online diary, though sometimes censored, became vital reading for tens of millions of Chinese readers — a plain-spoken, spontaneous view into Wuhan residents’ fears, frustrations and hopes during their 11 weeks under lockdown in their homes.

Her account has recently drawn bitter condemnation from zealous Chinese nationalists who have called plans to publish a translation in English an effort to malign the government and undermine the heroic image of Wuhan.

 

Fang Fang, who uses her pen name rather than her birth name, Wang Fang, said that she did not want to be cast as either a cheerleader for the government, or as a reflexively embittered critic. She called herself a witness, highlighting the bravery of doctors, street cleaners and neighbors helping neighbors, while vowing to hold to account officials who let the virus spread.”

I would love to read her pandemic chronicle one day in English.

 

Brazil. The news of the incredibly high number of deaths in Brazil is heartwrenching–24,048 deaths as of yesterday. Bolsinaro, the president of Brazil calls the pandemic in his country “a little flu”…he is South America’s version of Trump…Lord help the Brazilians.

What’s happening in the Navajo Nation is truly a national tragedy–4,434 confirmed cases and 147 deaths this morning. It’s just awful. Today, as US deaths approach 100,000 souls,  the world comes to grips with 240,879 deaths. At times, the numbers are difficult to process. A newscaster described the numbers we see today as war-time numbers.

According to www.worldometers.com, as of today, Puerto Rico, my birthplace, has 3, 100 total cases, 70 new cases, and 127 deaths. Their numbers are higher than Guam, the US Virgin Islands, and Hawaii. I don’t know why that is. I wonder if it’s because thousands of tourists landed on the island early on? It’s clear high temperatures don’t stop this virus. My adopted state of West Virginia is at 1,717 total cases, 12 new cases, and 72 deaths. I’m staying home.

Last week, I had a contentious discussion with one of my postal carriers, who took offense to me questioning why he wasn’t wearing a mask. His immediate response was, “Why should I?” Okay. I should have thanked him and closed the door right then, but I was honestly curious. So I asked why he, a person who comes into contact with hundreds of people on a daily basis, wouldn’t think to protect himself and others by wearing a mask. Long story short, he replied that more people die each year from the flu and pneumonia, it’s all a big hoax, and it’s too hot to wear a mask. He kept his distance and he sounded exactly like Trump, so I thanked him for delivering my mail and shut the door.

I found him callous, irresponsible, and rude. Even if people don’t care about themselves and their health, for God’s sake, how about caring about others? Apparently, it never occurred to him or maybe it did and he just doesn’t care.

As I continue to quarantine at home and venture out on Sundays to my local farmers market, I will wear a mask for the foreseeable future. For myself and for you.

Be well and stay safe this holiday weekend. Thank you to all military members, past and present. Thank you to my dad, a Vietnam vet, for his 30 years in the US Army. Love you, Dad.

Eleanor x

ABOUT ELEANOR:

me in ma july 2019

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

On 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 Dr. Fauci and Living in the In-between

May 12, 2020

person in yellow protective suit and mask
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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 Current News, Editing, and Chihuahua Kisses

April 29, 2020

rewrite edit text on a typewriter
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

adult black and white darkness face
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 Ancestral Medicine, the Kegel App, and Making Bad Art

April 17, 2020

woman standing in front of flowing water
Photo by VisionPic .net on Pexels.com

Good morning and happy Friday. I hope you and yours are well.

Two weeks ago, an advertisement for ancestral medicine popped up on my Instagram feed and caught my attention. I liked what they shared about where we are today and what we, the global collective, can do to heal the planet and ourselves during the current pandemic. The gent teaches an online course on the art of ritual, mysticism, the religious traditions of world religions, the spirit world as helpers (much like praying for the intercession of God, the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit, and the Catholic saints and archangels). And about healing our ancestors to heal ourselves. Hmmm, I was intrigued by that last bit.

In the early days, as our current global pandemic began to unfold and show its lethal virulence, I’d been thinking (and writing) about ancestors, ancestor worship, and my ancestors. As a nature-loving, Reiki practitioner, and non-churchgoing, prayerful Catholic, who loves everything history, healing, mystical, and spiritual, the course appealed to me on many levels.

Since we’re in the middle of a global pandemic and I have a bit of time on my hands during writing breaks (which seem longer than they were pre-COVID), I thought it might be perfect timing to learn something new. I checked out the ancestral medicine website and course curriculum. In light of my interest in the ancestors (and because I believe in synchronicity), before I could talk myself out of it, I’d signed up for the online course on ancestral medicine and ritual.

During a family Zoom call, I told my kids I’d signed up for the course. My daughter immediately joked that I would learn how to heal with leeches and my son mentioned bloodletting. Smart ass kids! We laughed our heads off and I joked we’d probably learn about sin eating, too. I love that my kids keep me grounded in the here and now, and remind me not to take things so seriously, smile.

This week I completed Lessons One and Two, the introduction to ritual, which included videos, additional reading resources, and homework. Since I’m used to and enjoy the rituals and meditative prayer traditions of the Roman Catholic Church and the healing arts I learned from my maternal grandmother from Puerto Rico, I’m enjoying the course.  I was immediately reminded of my first novel, A Decent Woman, which is chockful of prayer, ritual, spiritual practices, African healing traditions, and the worship of Orisha deities. I thought how wonderful this course will be as a primary source research tool for my second novel and work-in-progress (WIP), The Laments, which is the story of a young novice nun and an aging Spanish friar.

After completing the first two lessons, which were essentially reviews for me, I did wonder if I should have signed up for the advanced course…but it’s always good to start at the beginning. I like a story well-told, from the first word to the last. I don’t want to miss a thing.

Without realizing it, I’d put my desire to learn something new and relevant to what we’re currently dealing with into the Universe and the teacher appeared. On my Instagram feed.

Here’s to hoping we all find new ways to cope in the new normal and nurture those new skills in the future.

Be well, stay safe. Don’t listen to Trump. Listen to Dr. Fauci and to your gut instincts.

Eleanor x

***

April 18, 2020

gray scale photo of a woman in side view
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Good morning, I hope you and yours are well on this beautiful Saturday.

Before I discovered my passion for writing, I was a full-time, exhibiting artist. I painted portraits and still lifes in watercolor and entered my pieces in art competitions all over Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. I won watercolor awards at the Torpedo Factory and The Athenaeum in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, and throughout Northern Virginia and Maryland. I’m a good artist and lately, I miss that part of my life.

Yesterday I drew a silver box that sits on my writing desk in my typical realistic style. Wow, it looked like a double-vision drunk person had drawn it. It was bad, very bad. From the grave, Picasso raised his eyebrows and said, “Oh, mija, bless your little ol’ heart. Just stop”. Admittedly, I was shocked by my drawing skills that lacked depth, dimension, accurate proportions, and any semblance of artistic elegance; exactly the opposite of what I’d intended. Instead of languishing in despair over losing my skills and my artistic muse, I laughed at how bad the rendering was and decided I hadn’t lost a thing–I just need more practice. The added bonus of that artistic hour of enjoyable focus was not stressing about this damn virus, our future, and how much I despise certain politicians. There’s that, too.

So. I’ve decided when I can’t find the words for my WIP or a blog post, I shall paint, draw, make a collage, or write a poem. If necessary, I’ll do all four. We are all creative spirits. We create, that’s what we do best. All forms of creation are necessary and helpful means of expression when words fail us, especially now.

My teleworking friends are also making art in the evenings and on the weekends. Others are baking bread and cakes; creating floral arrangements; hand sewing whimsical cloth toys; writing children’s books; posting funny videos of their quarantine experiences; reading books to their young children; and trying their hands at gardening, even if only in large pots on their balconies. Make something. You’ll feel better.

What I’ve learned about myself and life during quarantine:

I must keep drawing and painting to get my art mojo back, even if at the moment, it’s bad art. It’ll return.

Humor, music, my kids, friends, and good books are key to having a good day. God bless the goofy comedic actor Leslie Jordan (@thelesliejordan), whom I follow on Instagram. These days, he’s saying what most of us are thinking.

Thank you to my kids and my family members for their good humor, love, patience, and for their honesty on days when they are struggling. We’re not alone.

It’s perfectly okay to eat fried eggs, omelets, and tuna melts without bread directly from the frying pan.

Melted dark chocolate can heal most of my emotional low points.

As long as my bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen are kept in a semi-orderly state, I feel good.

Do I need a Kegel Exerciser with an app? Instagram thinks I do.

I have a high tolerance for watching Netflix series in my jammies for two or three days. All my clothes are stretchy and black.

I honor my intuition and early coronavirus freakouts about dwindling food supplies. I bought enough food for a few months and I’m glad I did. Last week, I couldn’t get an appointment for curbside delivery at my supermarket for all the money in the world.

Thank God for my dog Sophie, the current love of my life.

The annoying, annual Spring occurrence of a bird’s nest under the air conditioner unit in my bedroom with loud, hungry baby birds reminds me that life goes on. And that I’m hungry again.

NATIONWIDE TESTING IS CRITICAL BEFORE REOPENING OUR ECONOMY. Yes, I meant that all in caps. Listen to Dr. Fauci…except that yesterday he said that nationwide testing isn’t the only way to open up the economy. Good God, is Fauci drinking the White House Koolaid? I hope not. In my opinion, nationwide testing is the ONLY way to keep everyone 100% safe. Or at the very least, test each employee who physically returns to the workplace. Is that feasible? On second thought, nationwide testing is the way forward so we aren’t faced with a second wave of outbreaks far worse than the first.

Again, God bless our doctors, nurses, mental health therapists, and everyone on the front line at this time. As for the World Health Organization response in the early days of this pandemic…hmmm. I wonder if they may soon have to answer some deadly serious questions.

Be well, stay home, and be safe out there. Wash your hands.

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 in quarantine and working on her second novel, THE LAMENTS, set in 1927 Puerto Rico.

On Family Visits, Author Interviews, and New Babies

April 14, 2020

sliced meats on wooden chopping board
Photo by Nicolas Postiglioni on Pexels.com

A few days ago on Instagram, I joked how I would give a roll of toilet paper in exchange for a charcuterie board. I have plenty of food at home, but no cheese or salami left, but I did have a new cutting board. It’s like that during this pandemic–you might have three ingredients for a great recipe, but you lack the most important ingredient, so you keep searching. God love the chefs who teach us how to use substitutes, such as how to turn milk into buttermilk and heavy cream. Thank you, chefs.

On Saturday afternoon, my daughter sent me a text, “Look out the window.” She is always sweet about sending gorgeous floral arrangements for holidays, so I assumed I had an Easter delivery. I looked out the front window and there stood my beautiful daughter and her boyfriend! My jaw literally dropped and my eyes teared up. What a sight for sore eyes.

They’d driven two hours from Northern Virginia to my home in Berkeley County, West Virginia for a much-needed, mask on, six feet away visit in my courtyard garden. And to deliver a grocery bag with cheeses, salami, crackers, and roasted eggplant dip!

That’s love. 💗 We had a wonderful two-hour visit and again, I realize I’m the luckiest solo quarantine mom in the world. We didn’t hug, but love was in the air in my garden.

 

***

After two awesome ZOOM chats with my children, family members, and friends over the weekend, last night I finally figured out how to create a meeting and invite friends. That was a major coup for me as I’m as untech savvy as they come.

My invited guests were my “The Artist Way” participants and a new friend, which puts our group at five. Tonight, we do it “for real”. Fingers crossed it all works out as we tackle Week Three for 40 minutes.

On the writing front:

I’m nearly finished with my written interview with Five Directions Press, which might come out in May. Fellow author Joan Schweighardt sent interesting, thoughtful questions and asked that I include a photograph of one of my paintings, which I am very happy to share. Thank you, Joan.

Last night, I found out that the wonderful, talented editor I’d hoped to work with for my work-in-progress, “The Laments”, gave birth to a baby girl in NYC! My heartfelt congratulations to Marcela, her husband, and their healthy baby girl. What a birth story, wow. Marcela is, of course, on maternity leave and kindly recommended an editor friend. I’ll contact her friend today and hopefully, we’ll get this editing ball moving forward soon. Gracias, Marcela!

A baby. What a beautiful symbol of unbridled joy, pure love, and tremendous hope. I’m hanging onto those good feelings today as I move forward in this new and unknown reality we’re all living through.

I hope you and yours are well.

Be safe, stay healthy.

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.

 

 

Thoughts on the virus, wisdom, and our ancestors

April 10, 2020

red rose flowers bouquet on white surface beside spring book with click pen and cup of cofffee
Photo by Lum3n on Pexels.com

I’ve lost track of how many days I’ve been in quarantine at home. Maybe 28 days? Two months, three? Since I write full-time and work from home, it’s difficult to say. Even before West Virginia Governor Justice’s stay-at-home order, my winter outings were few and far between. I love skiing and sitting in front of a roaring fire with a Glüwein or a hot toddy and a good book; however, I’m not a big fan of long winters. Pre-COVID-19 (November or December 2019?) and when driving conditions weren’t treacherous, I traveled to the DC area to visit my daughter in Northern Virginia and my sister in Maryland. In March, I went to the supermarket twice and once to the smoke shop near my house for supplies only because they have a drive-thru. This quarantine has been one long blur.

In late February and all of March, I had a bad case of bronchitis that wouldn’t quit. My GP prescribed two antibiotics over the telephone that didn’t work to heal the cough, not a dry cough, and I still have a bit of a phlegm today. Sorry, TMI. My cousin, a nurse in Ohio, (God love her) said she was ill in December with COVID-like symptoms. She wonders if we already had the damn virus. I hope so. Only I read an article this morning about a recovered patient, who contracted the virus again. Damn. This is indeed a Super Bug. It’s frightening how resilient and virulent this novel coronavirus is, and how no one is immune.

I was saddened to learn the elderly, and members of the Hispanic and black communities are suffering in great numbers. Am I surprised? No. Poverty, lack of health insurance, and low-paying jobs that force many to work outside the home at this time are the culprits, but we always knew this, didn’t we? They don’t have the luxury of staying home. My heart breaks for those in homes across this country who’ve lost their lives to this virus. We’ve lost too many precious, wise, and learned teachers.

This morning, I taped a piece of paper to my front window that reads, “To all those who deliver my mail, packages, my monthly meds, and to those who pick up my garbage twice a week, THANK YOU. Thank you for keeping us going during this scary time. You are all my heroes.” I added hearts, moons, and stars, and a goofy drawing of me and Sophie waving.

I wish you a peaceful, beautiful day. Be well, stay safe, and remain hopeful. Think of this time as a marathon, not a sprint. This too shall end.

Eleanor x

***

April 11, 2020

We’ve always half-joked Daddy would outlive us all. Since 2010, my father has beaten colon cancer, several bouts of skin cancer, and a few years ago, his ear was surgically removed to save his life. He also suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s. My dad lives in a private nursing home in Florida with two other patients, all cared for by a good woman from the island of St. Lucia. This year alone, my dad made it through two bouts of pneumonia that landed him in the hospital for two weeks and two weeks in a rehabilitation center. He was tested for coronavirus and it turned out he had type A pneumonia. He’s been severely dehydrated several times this year (he forgets to drink water and refuses help, which is typical combative behavior in Alzheimer patients) and has been transported to the ER with barely a pulse. He’s still here. This tough, former Command Sergeant Major is hanging on and staying strong, even if he doesn’t recognize anyone but the kind woman who cares for him.

It’s clear to me, my dad inherited tough Polish/Russian genes from his parents. I can only hope and pray I have those strong survivor genes in my DNA from my ancestors, my children, as well. These days, I’m thinking of my loved ones who’ve gone ahead of me, my ancestors, who lived through hurricanes, earthquakes, poverty, the Great Depression, and the Spanish Flu. And who lived through it all to tell the tales.

Be well, stay strong.

Eleanor x

***

April 12, 2020

pink cherry blossoms in close up photography
Photo by Evija Daukste on Pexels.com

Happy Easter to you and yours.

Be safe and stay strong.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Bernie, Birthdays, and the New Normal

April 8, 2020

i voted sticker lot
Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

Added this morning:

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

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

***

April 9, 2020

light landscape nature sky
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eleanor x

ABOUT ELEANOR:

me in ma july 2019

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