Growing up in a Baltimore row house, Elaine Northrop had a happy, if somewhat unconventional, childhood.
Her father was a dreamer and a gambler, recalls Northrop, who grew up to build one of the most successful real estate companies in Howard County from the ground up. Her mother was the family’s breadwinner and dealt with their money woes, but her father was an eternal optimist who taught her to believe in herself.
At age 23, such life lessons would be called into play when she agreed to marry her first husband on their second date. A decade later, he ran off with her best friend and left her with no money, no way to earn an income and two young children -- Creig, 6, and Nicole, 4.
Despite those significant roadblocks, Northrop, now 71, said there was “nothing unusual” about what she accomplished because she turned “believing into being.”
“I let go of him, and I let go of my victim’s story,” said Northrop, who remarried 28 years ago and recently wrote a book titled “Create Your Own Fate: Connect With Your Creativity and Change Your Life.”
That’s not to imply that reinventing herself was easy, since many people get mired in victimization, she said.
“I knew where the bottom was because I was there,” she recalled. “After my ex pulled the rug out from under me and I had no economic security, BG&E threatened to shut off my electricity. But I still had the house and the kids, along with my self-respect.”
Building on her confidence that she could excel at people-oriented work, Northrop decided to try her hand at real estate but was nearly fired because she didn’t sell anything during her first six months of employment.
Her 1962 degree in English from the University of Maryland came in handy when she began writing clever advertising copy blocks that imbued the houses she was selling with pleasing personalities. That gimmick catapulted her into mega-success.
In 2000, her son, Creig, founded The Creig Northrop Team and she joined his company three years later.
“Creig’s dreams were even grander than mine,” she said, noting he was “raised on a diet of ‘if you dream it, you can achieve it.’ ”
‘Wishcraft’ and ‘pusheverance’
Today, the Ellicott City resident works with repeat customers and sets her own schedule. She’s also now interested in touring as a motivational speaker.
In her 192-page inspirational book -- which has little to do with the real estate industry and everything to do with relationships and living -- the author offers guidance on such topics as self-image and facing fears. She’s quick at churning out original catchphrases.
Northrop promotes the practice of creative visualization or “wishcraft,” describing it as the key to turning wishes into reality. She counsels readers to be warriors, not worriers; to develop “pusheverance,” a quality that won’t let a person give up; and to set goals, which are simply “dreams with a deadline.”
She also offers up someDr. Phil-like advice, such as an excerpt on religion that sounds a lot like the popular TV psychologist: “Just going to church won’t make you a Christian any more than sleeping in the garage will make you a Cadillac.”
Northrop and her husband, Rick Menz, also take cruise vacations where they meet with psychic Sylvia Browne. That’s how Northrop learned four years ago that she would be writing a book.
“I felt that Sylvia was reading my heart,” and that’s when Northrop decided to take Browne’s prediction and run with it, she said.
Two-thirds of the way into the book, the newly minted author reveals she was raped by a potential buyer at knifepoint while showing him a house one Sunday afternoon.
“When the man left and I realized I was still alive, I was overcome with relief. Tears of joy streamed down my face even though I was horrified by the thought of what I had just been through and what the outcome could have been,” she wrote.
“I realized that after living through such a crisis I could overcome almost anything in life,” she wrote in her book. She returned to work in less than a week, determined not to allow fear to change who she was, she said. The police never caught the rapist.
“Elaine is a survivor in every sense of the word,” said Mary Jane Rudnicki, a preschool teacher who’s known Northrop for eight years. “She takes negative things and turns them into positive things, not only in her own life but in everyone else’s.”
Bill Iampieri, broker at Weichert Realtors-Caton Properties in Ellicott City, has known Northrop as a competitor for many of his 47 years in real estate.
“Elaine has been very, very successful at what she does, and there was a time when she was the No. 1 Realtor in Howard County by volume,” he said. “She was able to maintain that level of production for quite a few years; there aren’t many who achieve that.”
Northrop said she’s “tougher on the outside, with a soft and tender underbelly.”
“I have always been about the caring, not the commission,” she said. “When you leave a legacy of caring, it comes back to you.”