Holiday Newsletter: Eleanor Parker Sapia

 

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Before I share my Holiday news, I’d like to wish my wonderful family, friends, online friends, readers, and blog subscribers a blessed Holiday season and all the very best for 2016!

Thank you for your support and friendship during my writing journey that ended with the February 2015 publication of my first novel, ‘A Decent Woman’, which continues to be a dream come true. I’m excited to share that my second novel, ‘The Island of Goats’ or ‘The Lament of Sister Maria Inmaculada’ (can’t decide on a title) will be published in 2016! I love this new story and characters as much as I love the story and characters of ‘A Decent Woman’.

Holiday Newsletter

For the first time in four years since I moved into this old, quirky house in West Virginia, I am hosting my family for Christmas dinner. We will come together, minus my son who lives in Holland, which makes me sad. We will sure miss Matthew, and thank God for our plans to meet up in New York City in early 2016!

Since I am the only one who lives out of state, and to make it easier for my loved ones, I drove to Virginia and Maryland for Thanksgiving and Christmas. This year, however, I put my foot down and insisted my family come to me 🙂 Now, I’m the Christmas spirit! Most years I didn’t bother putting a tree up and decorations were at a minumum in my home, but this year my home looks and smells amazing. And the rush is on to finish wrapping gifts, send out Christmas cards, and get the house ready for my family. Get the house ready. OMG…I forgot how much work and preparation are necessary to host a family dinner!

Looking around the house on Monday, the to-do list from this year (and last year, and let’s face it…the year before that), stared at me in the face:

An empty fridge; the wooden steps I was delighted to discover under the horrid blue shag carpeting I removed immediately upon moving in, need white paint and wax; the twelve door frames (including two closets), 16 windows, and wide, wood floor boards in every room that I meant to paint white last year; the two paneled walls in the dining room still need painting; the laundry piled high on the washer and dryer in the laundry room; and the two guest bedrooms still need painting. Thank God I painted my bedroom, kitchen, laundry room and bathroom last year.

Whew! Well, there’s nothing like inviting the family to Christmas dinner and hosting a New Year’s party for friends and family to get a girl’s butt in gear. Yes, why do all this work and NOT host a NYE’s party? I’m going all out this year!

So on Tuesday, I decided on my holiday menu, went food shopping, bought cream-colored poinsettias, white candles of every size, and more Christmas decorations for my tree and wreaths. On Wednesday, I polished silver, found my baking dishes, and simmered my mother’s wonderful holiday concoction that makes your house smell like you’ve been baking for a week, and bought two gallons of white paint!

Holiday Simmering ‘Potpourri’

To a saucepan add:

2 cups water, 2 tablespoons vanilla, ten cloves, grated orange peel, a handful of fresh cranberries, 2-3 cinammon sticks, nutmeg, all spice, and pumpkin pie spice (or 2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice, which has it all!), and simmer. Make sure to keeping check the water level and add more water as it reduces. Enjoy!

Late last night, I decided to concentrate on the downstairs and finished painting the staircase, a window, and two doorframes. Today and tomorrow will find me painting, and on Saturday, I’ll pack up my piles of writing supplies, books, and notebooks until January 2, and…

I’m adding Christmas lights to my laundry piles 🙂 Why not add a festive touch to a chore I won’t realistically get to!

Happy Holidays from my old, quirky home to yours! I wish you all the very best for 2016: love, peace, good health, and prosperity.

Holiday love,

Eleanor

About Eleanor Parker Sapia

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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, inspire her stories. She is a member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, and the Historical Novel Society, and she is a contributing writer for Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

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 have enjoyed A Decent Woman. Eleanor is featured in the newly published anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani. She is the mother of two wonderful adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel and a short story collection.

http://www.amazon.com/Decent-Woman-Eleanor-Parker-Sapia-ebook/dp/B00TUP47WI/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

 

NOUS SOMMES UNIS – WE ARE UNITED – WE ARE ONE

We are all Parisians

 

 

 

My thoughts and prayers go out to all the innocent victims in France, Lebanon, Russia, Turkey, and their families and friends. We stand in solidarity and love.

IMAGINE

Imagine there’s no heaven

It’s easy if you try

  • No hell below us
    Above us only sky
  • Imagine all the people
    Living for today
  • Imagine there’s no countries
    It isn’t hard to do
    Nothing to kill or die for
    And no religion, too
  • Imagine all the people
    Living life in peace
  • You may say I’m a dreamer
    But I’m not the only one
    I hope someday you will join us
    And the world will be as oneImagine no possessions
    I wonder if you can
    No need for greed or hunger
    A brotherhood of manImagine all the people
    Sharing all the worldYou, you may say I’m a dreamer
    But I’m not the only one
    I hope someday you will join us
    And the world will live as one.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=John+Lennon+Imagine&oq=John+Lennon+Imagine&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l5.18290j0j4&sourceid=chrome&es_sm=0&ie=UTF-8

How I Got Rid of the Holiday Blues

Could I be any more behind this holiday season? Is my current situation any different than last year, the year before or the year before that?  The answer is no. No, it isn’t. If you compared me to when my kids still lived at home, you’d be shocked…or not. I bear little resemblance to the woman I was four years ago. I am a disgrace to the Virgo astrological sign–I’m supposed to be super organized. I used to be! What changed? What happened to me? Is this change a good thing? Read all the way to the end to find out!

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I was the woman who had two fresh family Christmas trees up on Thanksgiving Day with fresh garlands of greenery on the staircase banister, along the fireplace mantle, and holly and ivy everywhere you looked. The trees had different themes, of course, and they matched every pillow in the room, to include the drapes in that particular room. And I only used white lights, much to my children’s dismay, who loved the primary colors of our neighbor’s Christmas tree lights. Not in my house, thank you very much. Every year of my 25 years of marriage, I wrote a family newsletter, complete with photos (friends, please forgive me for those), which I stuffed in no less than 125 Christmas cards to family and friends. I bought gifts for my family and friends, wrapped way ahead of most of my friends, and prepared a sumptuous holiday meal for my family, friends and my favorite priest, Father Vincent, when he could join us. As a family, we visited Christmas markets from Germany to Holland, where I bought special ornaments for the trees…for the following year. Yes, I already knew what I wanted for next year’s tree as I decorated that year’s tree. I volunteered for holiday church events, participated in the Angel Network, and Toys for Tots. I still ran out of batteries for toys and gadgets on Christmas Eve, but doesn’t everyone?

After 25 years in a traditional marriage, I separated from my husband and moved from Belgium, back to the United States. We divorced, I went back to school and worked, but I still hung onto our (my?) holiday traditions like a woman clinging to her fading beauty. My kids were at were university in Washington, DC and Harrisonburg, VA, so we enjoyed four Christmases in our rented home in Northern Virginia with one fresh Christmas tree. I sent out less than 50 Christmas cards and we celebrated the holiday season with new friends and family. I hadn’t spent a Christmas with my single sister and her children in 13 years. My sister hosted us for Thanksgiving and I, newly single, hosted her family for Christmas dinner. We did this for four years and had a ball creating many happy, wonderful memories together. My son is the official turkey carver of the family for both holidays and my daughter is the most creative gift-giver. My job is to cook, take photographs, and enjoy my beautiful family, which I do! I’m good at that.

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In 2010, I decided to quit renting in Virginia and bought a great, old house in Berkeley County, West Virginia, two hours from my children, who’d graduated from college and were working in the Northern Virginia area. By the time Christmas rolled around, I still had boxes to unwrap and several rooms left to paint. The house wasn’t ready, but I longed to host my family in our new home. Was it really our home or my home? My kids were in their early 20’s now and very independent. I lived alone with a dog and a cat. We ended up spending Thanksgiving with my sister and her kids, which was great, and my daughter, who’d moved in with her boyfriend, offered to host Christmas dinner for our family and his mother. It was wonderful and let me tell you, my daughter was excited about this coming of age moment. I recognized it, too. She prepared our family favorites and decorated a beautiful tree. They had a huge kitchen versus my tiny kitchen, so it made sense, and we had a great time. No one had to drive two hours to my home and I didn’t have to wash sheets, towels, buy groceries, put up extra beds, and…decorate my home. For the first time in forever, I didn’t put up a tree. Why bother? It didn’t make sense as I was spending four days away from my home.

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Now, although I’d prepared myself and I understood I wasn’t ready for company just yet, it was tough for me. My mother’s heart grieved for the past. I tried hanging on with our changing family dynamics, and as much as I hated to admit it, I was afraid of my future as a single woman. I’d never lived alone. I’d left a good job in the city and now wrote full-time in a new city. There were many sacrifices to make, but I kept my focus on the prize–a published book. I moved where I could pursue my dream. I wrote every day, researched every day and soon, the house was ready for Christmas. I was ready! But…it didn’t happen. My kids were now working, my niece and nephew were in college, and our schedules just didn’t work out. I acquiesced and did the right thing–I drove to Virginia for the holidays. When would we ever spend Christmas at my house? I was bummed, but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy doing very little to prepare for the holidays. I didn’t have to stress, clean my house from top to bottom, cook from sunup to sundown. I prepared one side dish, bought a pie (hello?), and away went down the road with my dog, Ozzy, as my co-captain. Not bad, really. I didn’t go home with holiday left-overs, but I went home with the turkey carcass, which I used for turkey soup for future cold, wintery days.

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Fast-forward to 2014. My daughter is no longer with her boyfriend and is living with a good friend until she finds a one-room apartment in Northern Virginia. My son is back from Thailand, where he lived and worked for three months, and he’s leaving to live and work in Amsterdam in January.  We spent Thanksgiving with my sister, had a great time and she has graciously offered to host us for Christmas. Sigh, I know. I could do that, right? I could ‘make’ everyone come to me, but I won’t this year. It’s much easier for one person (me) to drive to the family instead of messing with their schedules. No one can take much time off work right now; I get it.

In February 2014, I received a book contract from Booktrope Books and I hope to see my historical novel, A Decent Woman, in print around that same time, next year! It’s been a wonderful, but challenging year, but I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

Will my kids and I ever enjoy the kind of Christmases we used to enjoy when they were little? I no longer have the big house, where everyone gathered for the Holidays, and I don’t have extra money to rent a large cabin for the Holidays, which I’d love to do one day. It’s just not in the cards. But this year, I purchased a five-foot tall Christmas tree from Big Lots. I decorated that sketchy little Charlie Brown tree and my home with garlands of greenery from Michael’s, and I put a wreath on the door. But I won’t send out Christmas cards. Facebook is awesome for that and no more nauseating holiday newsletters, either! I was feeling good last week, but then began thinking about my non-Currier and Ives Christmas. What a pain. I tried keeping busy to get my mind off the past and then I visited two neighbor down the street. I sat listening to my friend as she dealt with her first holiday without her precious son, who died last year. I sat and listened to my other friend, who described how she’d crammed 13 people for Thanksgiving in her home, which is the same size as mine. Family, good health, and love; that’s all that matters.

What I learned: Never again feel sorry for myself during the Holidays. Forget the Christmas pasts, not the people mind you, only the things that I thought made Christmas because they really don’t. Embrace, kiss and love my family again! Thank God we are happy, healthy and together. And…prepare everyone NOW for next Christmas because we’re cramming together at my house for dinner and an overnight!

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Merry Christmas! Happy holidays to you and your family! Much love from me to you. xo

Small, Precious Moments

Florida Hospital Update.

Friday – Dad had a calm day at the hospital, and I saw signs of him. That reads strange, I know, but if you have a parent or loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s, that’s the way it is. By signs of him, I mean, I saw his sense of humor return for a few moments, and caught a facial expression I recognized well. The experience warmed my heart, and I was happy I was in the room, and paying attention.

My father has suffered with Alzheimer’s for three years. The disease has progressed to the point where he asks the same questions every few minutes, and the past is further and further from his grasp. Some days are better than others. On Monday, my father underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from behind his ear, and lost his ear. There was nothing to be done; it’s done. Miraculously to me, he can still hear us, but you don’t know what he really hears and comprehends. Yesterday as we were waiting for his dinner to arrive, his right hand kept going up to his ear. I wondered if he knew his ear was gone, but with the heavy packing of gauze and the bandages, I didn’t think so. He kept asking us why he was in the hospital, when he was going home, and we’d answer his every question only to be met with the same question minutes later.

Yesterday I realized how frail my father is as I held him up while the nurse’s aide removed a soiled hospital gown and seat pad, and fitted him with clean ones. I kept a small sheet covering his now wide waist and my sister made sure the hospital room door was closed for privacy. My father was cooperative, quiet, and patient with us. The former Sergeant Major’s muscles have lost muscle tone in the arms, and he stood hunched over. We sat him down again, and he was comfortable again. I realized I’d never been in this situation with my father. Along with a favorite cousin, I’d taken care of my grandmother at home before she died, and I cared for my mother in the hospital before she died at age 57. Again, I wished my father and his new wife had moved closer to the DC area, and again I was thankful for my step-mother who is resting at a local hotel until Monday. But, such is life, and we will do the best we can.

My father’s sense of humor and devilish grin reappeared yesterday when the nurse’s aide asked my father not to touch the location of his IV, and the bandages around the right side of his head. He looked at her with no expression, lowered his hand, and minutes later, he was picking at the tape around the bandages. She kindly asked him to stop again, and he replied with a grin, “When lunch comes, you’ll forget, and I’ll mess with them again.” It took us all by surprise, myself, the kind nurse’s aide, and my sister had to laugh with him. I thought, ‘That’s my Dad. That’s who he was; a very funny man with a quick wit.’ Soon afterward, he asked me, ‘Why am I here, and when can we go home?” The disease was back or perhaps it never left. I find myself staring at my father – afraid he’ll look at me and not know who I am, and hopeful he will remember a bit more about the past. I realize both thoughts are selfish, but I can’t help myself.IMG_7086

I will be happy for small glimpses of my father during my time with him in Florida before I make my way home to West Virginia next week. They are precious moments, and I am I am looking for them. A familiar nod of the head, a recognition of a friendly face in the hospital or something on the television, and yes, even the grumpy man I knew and loved who isn’t happy the nurse’s aide has to accompany him to the bathroom, and watch him as he relieves himself so he won’t fall.

A Much-Needed Blog Detour

IMG_7086The book, THE ARTIST’S WAY by Julia Cameron, a birthday gift from my step-mom a year after she married my dad, sat on my book shelf for nearly a year before I opened it. I knew why it took me a year to read the book-I didn’t want to get to know my step-mom. I was still grieving my mother’s unexpected death in 1992. Although R was nice enough, and she and my dad were happy in their new home in South Florida, I wasn’t ready to form a relationship with the lifelong Floridian who I felt sure would keep my dad in Florida. That was my grief speaking. No one could replace my mother in my mind, and after a few years, I realized R wasn’t trying to take her place, and they weren’t moving back to Northern Virginia, either. Then, the Army sent my husband to Belgium, and we moved abroad.

I saw my dad and step-mom during our family home leaves to the US, and we grew closer. In 2006, I moved back to Northern Virginia with my children after 13 years abroad, and knew their decision to remain in Florida would mean fewer family visits, and hardships all around if one or both of them became ill. I was now a single, working mother on a limited budget, I couldn’t fly down at the drop of a hat, and neither could my sister, also a single mom. Despite the distance between us, we finally managed to become a family.

My step-mom has taken wonderful care of my father over the years as he battled colon cancer, and she dealt with her own cancer scare. She remains a courageous, loving, and committed caregiver as they both deal with my father’s advanced Alzheimer’s. Just this week, doctors discovered a cancerous tumor growing in my father’s skull, so my step-mom and 84-year old father are looking at a tough end of the year. His surgery will be extremely delicate because of his advanced age, and the location of the tumor. I’ve been told putting my dad under anesthesia could speed up his dementia or cause a stroke, so I’m headed to South Florida with my youngest sister in early October to care for our father, and give R a much-needed break.

I had all intentions of writing today’s blog post about THE ARTIST’S WAY, a book that changed my life and helped birth my writing career. I wanted to tell you how I read a chapter a month for a year, and discovered the world of  words and journaling. I wanted to share how passionate I am about this book (actually, all of Julia Cameron’s books), the impetus for inviting six friends to ‘do’ the workbook with me the following year, and many years after that. Julia Cameron is one of the reasons I wrote A DECENT WOMAN, and why I write full time today…

but after writing the seventh word in this blog post, I knew I was going a different route, taking a healing detour I needed. I realize what’s on my mind and heavy heart today are my dad and my step-mom, not The Artist’s Way, not Julia Cameron.

I’m thankful to have you in my life, R. I love you both. XO

Ellie XO