A special thank you to Beth Raps and Raising Clarity for the kind invitation to share my journey.

A Decent Woman Reinvents Herself and Her Situation: A Guest Post by Eleanor Parker Sapia

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OK, beloved readers, I have a treat for you: a true inspirational story that just happened to someone we know!

This interview was conducted with our soul-colleague Eleanor Parker Sapia about the life of her first book, A Decent Woman. Eleanor is an author and then some. She embodies “what goes around comes around”; she consistently highlights other writers’ work in her blog, The Writing Life. She is into her heritage and (as each of us is when we embrace who we are fully) universal. Her bio follows at the end of her interview for us on a recent challenge and her amazing turnaround. Blessings to you who read this and may they flow on Ellie for sharing hers with us!


Late last month, my family and friends joined me in celebrating a new publisher for my debut historical novel, A Decent Woman, after my first publisher unceremoniously announced they were closing their doors. My kids asked, “Mom, how did you find a new publisher so quickly?” Well, it didn’t happen quickly, and I had one month to turn an awful experience into a happy ending. I had no idea how in the world I would make that happen, but I couldn’t give up on my book.

I’m of the mindset that we attract people, places, and situations by what we think and believe. What we perceive as negative can often be for our highest good, with lessons usually not far behind, if we care to investigate and learn from the negative experiences. Those beliefs would soon be tested.

I won’t lie; mind-numbing, stunned disbelief overshadowed a fun weekend with my best friend when I received Booktrope’s fateful email on April 29, 2016. By Monday, I was spitting mad. Another dream come true had dissolved. Did I have the energy to gather my wits, listen to my gut, and act without fear while my stomach was in knots? Did I have a clue what to do next? “No” to both questions.

Months before learning about Booktrope’s closing, I revamped my query letter. I don’t know why, but I was thankful I had listened to my gut. By the following Wednesday, I’d sent out two query letters to small publishers, even before the full details of Booktrope’s pending demise became available, which as it turns out, didn’t reach us for a week. I’m sure you can appreciate the stress induced by an uncertain future of an already-published book, a bestseller. Add to that the stress of not only having my book yanked off Amazon on May 31, 2016, but the potential of losing 74 wonderful book reviews in a month’s time. If I did nothing, by June 1, 2016, it would look like my book had never existed.

Well, the weekend was brutal for all Booktrope authors, their families and friends, for creative team members, and for Booktrope staff members, who despite losing their jobs, tried to answer our many, many burning questions. It was a tough situation all around.

I did make a few early decisions which served me well. I decided the reasons Booktrope was folding weren’t helpful to know; it just hadn’t work out. The publishing model, while interesting, unique, and hopeful, had failed. I don’t enjoy or see the merit of going around and around in circles with the “why” something has happened…okay, except for dating the wrong man…in the past, which has caused me to go around and around, trying to figure out what went wrong. Right or wrong, these days, I prefer asking “why?” once and moving on.

The second decision was not to get involved in the myriad heated discussions on social media, and not joining in when the name-calling, bashing, and the legal threats started on Facebook. Now, don’t get me wrong, at times I felt unreasonable and childish, and wanted to give certain people a little piece of my mind, but I knew that wouldn’t have been helpful or useful for me. Instead, I followed only useful, positive Facebook threads started by Booktrope authors and creative team members, who offered helpful information about moving forward and finding new homes for our books.

It was very tempting to sit on my river porch with a wine bottle, tearfully watching the boats sail by. I thought of going on vacation, burying my head, doing anything, anything, but restarting the tedious query process. I knew if I sat passively on the sidelines, I would hurt myself, my book, and my writing career, but it was tough to move.

Some situations require action and others require gathering information, thinking, and sorting things out before moving forward. But I, we, 639 authors, didn’t have the luxury of time…correction, Booktrope hadn’t given us much time. We had one month to sort ourselves out, get over the pity party, and find new publishers for our books or self-publish. Sink or swim time. I had to preserve my sanity AND save my book that had taken me years to write and see published.

So, as much as it pained me to step away from the great momentum I’d reached with my current work in progress, I set it aside. Regaining my footing was crucial as the initial shock wore off, before my emotions careened out of control due to paralyzing fear, self-doubt, and a loss of self-confidence. Worrying was fruitless. Being proactive helped me regain my balance and composure, and believe me, Booktrope’s announced closing ranked right up there with the time I dropped my only laptop on a concrete sidewalk. The hard drive had shattered and I’d lost most of my documents and all of my photographs. I began querying publishers before something worse happened.

Interestingly enough, starting the odious query process gave me the time and breathing room I needed. Baby steps made me feel more in control of my life, and reading the weekly emails from Booktrope, turned out to be far more appetizing and easier to digest than one huge info dump. While waiting for replies from publishers, I learned what I could about self-publishing from generous fellow writers, editors, and cover designers, who’d either helped put together a self-published book or had self-published themselves. I contacted a few trusted author friends, who like me, had never self-published, and a few who’d self-published several successful books. My friends replied with gracious information and assistance, if I decided to go that route, and most importantly, they offered the emotional support and friendship I desperately needed. I also reached out to a few Booktrope authors who I knew were struggling, hoping to be helpful and supportive. I am very grateful to all of them.

To keep myself clear and balanced while I waited to hear back from publishers, I practiced self-care. I didn’t isolate, but I sure thought about how my foundation had crumbled under my feet…again. I’d survived a financially devastating divorce after 25 years of marriage; I’d left my dream home in the south of France to move back to the US with my kids; and I’d survived on very little money as a single, working Mom of two college-aged kids. I’d graduated from massage therapy school at age 50 (trust me, it’s a pre-med course), and had reentered the dating game at age 50, which wasn’t easy! I’d bought a house in West Virginia, where I didn’t know a soul, and I decided to write full-time, which meant many, many sacrifices. Yes, it all worked out, thank God; much better than I’d ever dreamed possible, but it was tough going for a few years. How was I back to reinventing myself? Why?

I’d turned struggles and challenges into goals met in the past. I could do it again. Life was good, I’d tell myself in the morning, only to feel overwhelmed again by the afternoon. I continued writing out my blessings until I felt better. It became a mental game—a combination of being my own cheerleader and “fake it until you make it.” But Ego kept a good grip by reminding me of all I’d given up for writing, and then whispering, “It’s not worth it, Ellie. Too hard, too hard.”  Yes, there were many sacrifices to living the writing life. I’d accepted the solitary life of a writer with its myriad publishing woes because I love to write. I didn’t have much of a social life and wasn’t traveling as much as I like, but I was happy. My kids were happily thriving; my health was much improved, and then BAM. I found myself on my knees, yet again, at 58 years of age. The negativity reentered. Whatever happened to enjoying my golden years in peace and tranquility? Wasn’t it my turn to breathe free and easy for a while, after years of strife and heartache?

Well, I spent the first week in April licking my wounds, enjoying daily naps and lots of movies. I gardened, read, and followed the Booktrope story on social media, which wasn’t looking pretty. We were now called the Booktrope survivors and had a hashtag, which felt like a label. I used it once and disregarded it, but it was true—we were publishing orphans in a tough publishing world. We were frightened, angry, and lost, but I knew we’d survive.

My fears were temporarily assuaged by joining a Facebook support group page started by Booktrope authors. The members offered answers, hope, support, and information. I kept my hopes up, but it seemed the more I knew about the publishing world, the worse I felt. I started to feel unbalanced and a bit out of sorts again. How in the world would I find a new publishing home for my bestselling novel by May 31, 2016, Booktrope’s final day? Enough already!

To keep my sanity and clarity, I continued my regimen of self-care in the forms of prayer, meditation, and practicing Usui Reiki on myself. I gathered the ancestral, spiritual arsenal available to me and went quiet. I protected myself and blocked out the confusing, outside world of too much information coming at me from too many directions. I was still. I listened. I prayed. I waited. I walked and listened. I protected myself.

I rewrote my list of blessings and meditated on them, remembering how blessed I truly was despite the new bump in the road. I practiced gratitude and reconnected with family and friends. I gardened to my heart’s content and reconnected with friends on social media. I lit candles and recited prayers of protection and for guidance. I prayed the right people would enter my life.

Two weeks after the publishing fiasco, I emerged stronger, more in balance, and open to receive. I was clear enough to sift through and recognize good, useful publishing information and advice. I was ready to receive the blessings I knew were coming, and when I felt fear nudge me, I physically swept it away from my mind, body, and soul with Reiki. And then new blessings came to my life. Synchronicity and serendipitous events happened left and right. I was ready to act. I’d managed to see my book, A Decent Woman in print once; and I would do it again.

Well it turned out, unbeknownst to me that the fabulous editor of my book, Ally Bishop, had started a small publishing press called Scarlet River Press, which is now an imprint under Sixth Street River Press. When I told Ally I planned to self-publish my book, she sent me an email and an open door. A week later, I signed a publishing contract with Sixth Street River Press.

Two weeks later, A Decent Woman was selected as a Finalist for Best Historical Fiction, English, in the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now.

In one month’s time, my book, which had been in danger of turning into a ghostly relic of the past, became an award-winning book. I can’t honestly tell you how that happened, but I can say I was open to receive and I didn’t give up on my dream. I also entered the competition in February 2016. We do have to act!

Each of us is on a personal journey, where some paths are straight and narrow, others are wide and curving. Up the mountain and low in the valley we go; it’s life. Sometimes we hike up, reach the goal, and sit on the plateau for a good long time. Other times, it seems there is no rest in sight, but the momentum is good, so we keep putting one tentative foot in front of the other.

I believe it is necessary and useful to reinvent ourselves several times in one lifetime. While I didn’t plan on reinvention, I’ve done just that several times since 2006. Last month, while awful, wasn’t life-threatening, although it sure felt like it. I have faith and hope that all will go well.

Blessings to you and yours.


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

Eleanor’s award winning novel, A Decent Woman, set in turn-of-the-nineteenth century Puerto Rico, is published by Scarlet River Press. The book is a finalist for Best Historical Fiction, English, in the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now! Eleanor is featured in the award winning anthology, Latina Authors and Their Musesedited by Mayra Calvani. Eleanor is a proud member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, The National Association of Professional Women, and the Historical Novel Society. She is a contributing writer at Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society. When not writing, Eleanor loves facilitating creativity groups, reading, gardening, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time. Eleanor adores her two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel, The Laments of Sister Maria Inmaculada, and the sequel to A Decent Woman. Find her on Twitter @eleanorparkerwv and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/eleanorparkersapia . More information about her, her work and the blogs she writes for are athttp://www.elliesbookz.wordpress.com.


PS: I asked Ellie about the image on the cover of the book. It’s of a wooden, hand-painted statue of Our Lady of Montserrat, which Eleanor purchased while volunteering at the Catholic shrine of Lourdes, in France. The statue is made by Artisanats des Monasteres de Bethleem de l’Assomption de la Vierge et de Saint Bruno and Heather Parker, Eleanor’s daughter, is the photographer.

Rays of Hope and Understanding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://www.academia.edu

About Eleanor

ellie

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

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

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

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

Why Do These Things Happen To Us?

In 2010 I left Northern Virginia where I’d worked as a Spanish language Family Support Worker with 27 clients and their beautiful children. It was a rewarding and busy job, but tough in that I was required to make home visits once and twice a month to each family. As you can imagine, driving around the DC area and getting caught in lunch time and rush hour at the end of the day made for a stressful job. I practically lived in my car. Not to mention the enormous binders I had to keep updated for each of the children of my 27 clients, which included their shot records, school and medical information, and a detailed, written account of each of our home visits. I felt I could never catch up.

Our manager Nancy was a wonderful, kind woman who understood when I told her I loved my job, but I’d decided it was time to return to my creative life as a painter and a writer. Nancy, a jewelry designer in her spare time, supported my decision wholeheartedly, and my co-workers also understood, despite their personal fears about what I’d be living on monetarily in the future. I didn’t care. I’d felt like a round peg in a square hole for years. I needed my creative life back.

Two months later, I bought an old house in Berkeley County, West Virginia and three months later, I moved to a state I’d only visited once in my life. It felt like I’d jumped off a cliff, but I trusted myself and the Universe, and never once have I felt I made a mistake. I finished writing my first novel, it was published in 2015, and here we are today. I’m still happy with my decision–the only decision for me–to paint and write full time.

Taking control of my life, adapting to new situations, and remaining flexible is nothing new to me as I grew up an Army brat, who moved and thrived every two to four years until college. I raised my kids abroad for 13 years, traveled extensively, and I took control and easily adapted to becoming a 50-year old single mom. I sacrificed until my children graduated from university and found good paying jobs, and then moved to West Virginia. It was an easy decision. I knew it was time to focus on ME for the first time in my life.

So, fast forward to 2016. When my step-mom Rebecca, a lovely woman who has cared for my 84-year old father, who suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s, called me in early January with an invitation to visit them, I jumped at the chance. Rebecca was concerned that my father wasn’t interested in eating and that his roommate’s death a few days earlier would negatively affect him; it was important to fly to Florida. I knew we’d be busy, so I decided to leave my laptop at home to concentrate on my family. Rebecca graciously paid for my airline ticket and my sister was able to get a week off from work, so off we went to offer moral and physical support, where we could. For five days, we visited with my dad, who now lives in a wonderful assisted living home, and enjoyed our time with Rebecca, who treated us to three days in Key West, Florida near the end of our visit. We had a great time, enjoying the warmer weather and each other.

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Then we heard the news: a blizzard in the Washington, DC area which would also affect my adopted town in West Virginia. We watched the Weather Channel every few hours and on late Wednesday, Jet Blue called us–our Saturday morning flight was cancelled. I’d survived the back to back blizzards in Northern Virginia alone with my dog in late December 2009, and knew this could be bad. Here I was thousands of miles from my house built in 1907, and my next door neighbor was pet sitting for me. I had visions of my old roof caving in, of frozen pipes, and a leaking roof, which I know didn’t help my nerves. Then I realized that my neighbor and her husband would be shoveling for me, as well. I felt just awful. Thinking we’d avoid the blizzard by flying a day earlier than our scheduled Saturday flight, we changed our tickets to Friday morning. I called my neighbor to let her know. She told me that my Friday flight would never leave the ground. She was right–late Thursday evening, Jet Blue called about the cancelled flight on Friday. And the representative informed us that the next available flight out of West Palm Beach Airport or Ft. Lauderdale would be Wednesday. Six extra days. Wow, we couldn’t believe it. What could we do?

Now, I’m a firm believer of not freaking out about such things, as I believe things happen for a reason, but…it was glaringly obvious my poor neighbor and pet sitter and her husband would be in deep kimchi with their own home and trying to shovel 35 inches of snow to get to my animals. I called my neighbor with the bad news, but she didn’t miss a beat. She was several steps ahead of me. If the power went out, she’d take my Chihuahua and cat to her home, where she lives with two large dogs and two cats, and two kerosene heaters. I felt badly, but there wasn’t a thing I could do. I thanked my neighbor profusely, and promised to give her my firstborn…who is now 30 years old! That’s what I call true friendship from a woman I’ve only known four years.

The weather reports were correct and for once, hadn’t exaggerated–my West Virginia town had 35 inches of snow by Sunday. And since I’d expected to be home by Friday, I now had an interview with The Center of Puerto Rican Studies to finish by Sunday evening, and I had no laptop. Rebecca graciously offered me her brand new Apple computer, which I wasn’t familiar with, and then I realized she didn’t have word processing capabilities. I didn’t want to fool with that, so I finished the interview in an email and did the best I could to find copies of my author photograph and a copy of my bookcover, which were on my cell phone. It all worked out, but not without the fear that I’d lose the interview because the server kept shutting off. Lord, what a headache. But I got it done and was never so happy to press, ‘Send’.

As a full time writer and blogger, I really missed working on my second book during my winter vacation. It was tough to put my new characters on hold, but it was a great time and opportunity to put pen to paper and write out scenes longhand. Sitting on the beach on our last day, I told my sister about my second book, ‘The Lament of Sister Maria Immaculata’, and received good feedback. She loved the story. It was the first time I’d spoken my story out loud and it really helped in discovering weak links and missing information. I was newly inspired and anxious to get back to writing, but I also knew this visit could possibly be the last time I’d see my father. I vowed to enjoy every minute. Every day, I tried to remain in the present and not sweat the snow or my lack of a laptop.

Wednesday morning, we headed to the airport and the flight took off during a thunderstorm, which is NEVER my idea of a good time. The captain informed us that the extreme turbulence would most probably last the duration of our flight–two hours. I can’t tell you how terrified we were with the plane dipping, shaking, and careening left and right. I laced my arms through my sister’s arms, we prayed and kissed our butts goodbye. At one point, my sister asked me to please stop repeating, “Ay Virgen, ay Virgen” because that frightened her more, which I understood! But I guess all that fear bottled up inside was more than I could handle and I began to cry. The young woman to my right rubbed my arm and asked me what I did for a living, probably to distract me. I laughed and replied, “When I’m not crying on flights from hell, I write books!”

We landed safely, the Metro was working, and miraculously enough, the spot where I’d parked my car before we left for the airport had received enough sun because my car was entirely clear of snow! I drove right out of the spot and decided to park closer to my sister’s townhouse. When I reached a cleat parking spot, I turned off the engine and made my way inside. When I returned with my luggage, my car wouldn’t start. I couldn’t believe it! I don’t know where the hell I keep my reserves of patience, but I found it. My poor, long suffering neighbors would have to add one more day of shoveling and caring for my home and animals, and my sister had to put up with me for one more night. Luckily, my area didn’t lose power, and I drove home Thursday morning. I was happy to see the mounds of snow around my house. I love snow and had hoped I’d see a bit of it. Well, I wasn’t disappointed–there was at least 30 inches in my front and side yards.

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I will never be able to repay my awesome neighbors for their tremendous kindnesses, and I am blessed to know them. My furry kids were happy to see me and my home was toasty and warm. I do wonder, however, why the Universe chose to preclude me from experiencing Blizzard 2016. I guess some experiences are meant to be, and it isn’t until much later that we see the Great Plan. It is often later when we realize the ‘why’ and are able to nod our heads and say, “Oh, now I get it.” I believe that to be true, but I’ll never leave the house without my laptop again.

Stay warm out there, my friends.

 

 

About Eleanor

ellie

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

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

Eleanor is a mother of two wonderful adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel, ‘The Lament of Sister Maria Immaculata’, and a collection of short stories.

http://amzn.to/1kzKdGq

 

Taking Risks and Knowing When To Move On

writing at the river 015 Our riverfront property on the West Virginia side of the Potomac River has been my favorite place to write for four years. Last night, my co-owner and I signed on the dotted line to sell this idyllic property. I hoped this day would never come, but it did. I had a hard time putting pen to paper. I’ve accepted that this place might not be available to me to write, relax and enjoy nature from, and I’m sad, but I’m moving on. I’m a firm believer that when we close a door, a  better one opens for us.

In my previous life, I worked for a Northern Virginia non-profit as one of five Spanish language Family Support Workers (FSW). I worked there for a couple of years and although I dearly loved the important work we did for our wonderful illegal clients, I was unhappy. Our caseloads were unmanageable (25-27 families per FSW), the workload was brutal, and the burn out rate among FSW was very high. We were required to make home visits every week, sometimes five a day. Our job was to educate young parents and single mothers from pregnancy to their child’s fifth birthday as their first born in this country entered kindergarten. I found it extremely frustrating because most families were hurting. Their most basic needs were not always met-shelter, food, diapers,  medical care and I found it difficult to teach and educate when they were hungry or had just been kicked out of their cockroach-infested apartment.  And if you’re familiar with the DC area traffic, you will understand that we were all behind in our documentation, visits quota, weekly and monthly reports and mandatory classes. And, of course, we were paid peanuts. Before I arrived, five FSWs quit in one week and our complaints and team suggestions fell on deaf ears.

Frustrated, stressed to the max with no time to write or paint to relax and be happy made Ellie one very unhappy woman! During this time, someone gave me a copy of Who Moved My Cheese? I devoured that little book and gave copies to my children, family and friends.

I realized that I had to change my life. I’d been a working and exhibiting artist for over 27 years and I wanted to finish the historical novel I began writing in 2005. What was I was doing working at a job that was not fulfilling and wreaking havoc on my nervous system! The work was important work to be sure and I knew that. But living in the DC area making peanuts was nuts. I had to live where I could afford to live AND paint and write again, but I didn’t want to leave my adult children who were just out of college and  now living and working in Northern Virginia.

So, the next best thing happened. After a year of searching for river properties in Virginia and West Virginia (I’d only visited once) that I could afford, I came across an online ad for the property we now own. I showed it to my friend and she was interesting in going on this crazy adventure with me. We drove out, took one look and made an offer. We got the property for a great price. She and I inherited a large camper on a large, level lot, a pontoon boat with no motor and a riverfront patio. We loved it. We drove out on the weekends with family and friends and I kept my FSW job thinking that I would now be happy. I could relax at the river, return energized and I was still living ten minutes from my kids who were soon out of my nest. Perfect!

No. Not perfect. The fresh air, river, the birds, and thoughts of our fun, relaxing weekends called to me every day as I sat in horrific traffic knowing that I would be late for yet another home visit  that I barely had time for. My hands were tied and I knew it. Nothing we said to the powers that be were listened to. Two months later, I called our realtor and asked her to find me a house in West Virginia, close to river. A month later, I gave my two week notice. Three other FSW left after I did. I signed the documents with jittery hands and inherited a quirky, drafty 109-year old red brick house with a great garden and good bones. I’d never bought a house alone. I felt like I’d fallen off a damn cliff, but knew that I had to push forward. The momentum had started. There was no going back, but my kids thought I’d lost my marbles.

I live 30 minutes away from our river property, so I have been fortunate to spend large portions of time there, gardening and writing. The photo is the exact spot where I finished my debut historical novel, A Decent Woman. It is a very special place to me.

So, life goes on. My co-owner is retiring and returning to her hometown in Massachusetts. My son is moving to Europe next week and my daughter is getting married next Fall with plans to move to North Carolina in the future. For me to visit friends, my children and family who live in many different states and in Europe, I decided not to pursue another co-owner to keep the river property. It didn’t feel right. The money from the sale will allow me to travel, pay off my student loan (hallelujah!) and maybe buy the 17 sets of wood shutters for my original sash windows. Or maybe I’ll just travel 🙂

The awesome little book, Who Moved My Cheese? helped me to learn how to recognize opportunities, continue to believe and trust in my gut instincts about people, places and things, and mostly importantly, I’ve learned to make moves toward a better life and future by making fierce and fearless moves.

I reread the book when Booktrope accepted my manuscript, A Decent Woman. I had queried literary agents and small publishing companies for two years and I am grateful that this Indie publishing company took a chance on me.

I just had a light bulb moment…maybe one of the conditions for the sale of the river property could be that I am allowed to write at the river during the week when everyone goes home. It’s strictly a weekend place and most owners live in Maryland Pennsylvania. I could keep their garden weeded and mow the grass (there is no lawn) during my breaks from writing…

sometimes I surprise myself 🙂

Ellie