Monday, December 21, 2009

Christian Code in song Partridge in a Pear Tree

There is one Christmas Carol that has always baffled me. What in the world do leaping lords, French hens, swimming swans, and especially the partridge who won't come out of the pear tree have to do with Christmas?

This week, I found out.

From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics. It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.

-The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.

-Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.

-Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.-

-The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.

-The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.

-The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.

-Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit--Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.

-The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.

-Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit--Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.

-The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.

-The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.

-The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed.

So there is your history for today. This knowledge was shared with me and I found it interesting and enlightening and now I know how that strange song became a Christmas pass it on if you wish.'

Thursday, December 10, 2009


I started writing this story years and years ago. The book is complete but wrought with problems that I need to fix before submitting. Here is the beginning. Tell me if you think it's worth the trouble to rewrite. I cannot wait to hear your comments!


Though a cage may be made of solid gold, it is still a cage...Mexican Proverb

Her purse was bubble gum pink. It swung from Thalia Davila’s arm as she walked along the tree-lined streets on her way to meet her fiancĂ© Luis Arroyo. Today was ‘d-day’ in the Big D; detonation day, dumping day, and disposal day in Dallas. Even though she wasn’t all that convinced breaking up with Luis was what she wanted to do, Thalia wasn’t ready for marriage either. Now was the time to put her feelings right out in the open. “It's over,” she’d say. Simple -and with just two words she’d be free.
The pedestrian crossing light at the corner of Ross and Pacific Avenues turned red. She stopped here, and used this moment to help gather her nerve. Of course, Luis would ask why she was breaking their engagement. That was a given. With so many reasons to choose from, which one should she pick? Thalia tapped her foot in thought. Ah-ha, the best answer loomed directly in front of her; it was the loft apartment –Luis’s surprise-wedding gift. The problem was it overlooked the city at the same time the city would be overlooking her. Luis kept making solitary decisions on her behalf and now, she had enough of his controlling nature. Love wasn’t enough. There was no way she could stand in church, before God and man, and say the words …forever, till death do us part. The ring on her finger cinched tighter about her neck.
Now her only dilemma was deciding when to break the news to him… would it be before lunch or after dessert?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

THE MOVE from West of Lake Michigan

On The Lake—Part One

The summer I was to turn thirteen, my mother and her adult step son Dick, persuaded Dad to retire. No wonder. Mom was tired of his carousing and his drinking. She figured if we moved away from the temptations things might just iron themselves out all right. In the meantime the family business would rest on Dick’s shoulders.

The spot on earth Mom picked was a no brainer since it was our summer home in Delavan, Wisconsin. I loved it there; the lake, the boats, the scenery, and I had a feeling of being reborn. My younger brother felt the same. By that time my older sister Karen was a freshman at the University of Wisconsin, leaving me the oldest of the siblings still at home. I didn’t flaunt my power. I enjoyed the lack of restrictions imposed by someone who thought she was the boss of me.

However, seventh grade was a do-over for me. Back in Chicago I didn’t pass it the first time through the grade. No shame in that, especially since no one at my new school knew about it. (I wasn’t telling) The summer between seventh grade and seventh grade, I suddenly slimmed down even further and grew boobs. The later totally embarrassed me.

My first day back in seventh grade, for the second time, in a new school and location, I found the boys and the girls liked me. Popularity was something new to me but I quickly adapted. I liked all my teachers too. They were non-combative.

For some reason after seven years, my mother finally tired of making those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and allowed me to eat hot lunch. Not only that but I had a great group of friends who actually wanted me to sit with them at lunchtime. We exchanged phone numbers and my social calendar was filled in every weekend. Added to this change of lifestyle, I brought home my first report card that did not have a D or an F on it. My mother was thrilled! “Let the good times roll,” I thought to myself.

Of course I had to block out the fact that dad now had nothing standing in between him and his drinking since he was retired. Alcohol consumption became his fulltime job. That and taking care of his lawn. We had a 24/7 drinking marathon situation on our hands. Mom frantically hid his bottles in my underwear drawer. Each morning I moved aside a bottle of vodka and two bottles of whiskey in order to locate all my undergarments.

By this time I was pretty good at blocking out what wasn’t pleasant and concentrated on the good things, such as popularity and going to school. What a difference a year made. And then I got my first boyfriend who enticed me to walk in the woods with him. I have never been so scared…. And I am not talking wild animals.

Continued next week…..

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Family Stories--West of Lake Michigan

The Ivanhoe Restaurant, Chicago, Illinois. The 1950s

I grew up in Chicago on Wellington Ave., just west of Lake Michigan. When I walked out my front door and looked down the street, I'd see two important places. 1. My best friend's home 2. My dad's nightclub, The Ivanhoe Restaurant-which was a speak easy back during prohibition....way-yy before I was born.

I lived in a lovely English Tutor. My bedroom was on the second floor located at the front of the house where I watched the neighborhood. My bedroom walls were pink* and so was everything else in there. On the oppiste side of the house was the backyard. It was large with a sidewalk threading through it, starting at the back door leading to the alleyway. Thank goodness for that because if there wasnt a sidewalk, I never would have been allowed out there. Not ever. Let me explain. Dad loved his lawn. I mean, LOVED his lawn. We kids were not allowed to lay a single toe, much less a foot, on it. I can still hear him yell, "Stay off the grass!" Therefore we played on the sidewalk. If a ball rolled over the lawn, we stood in horror praying it hadn't flattened down the blades of grass too much.

I will never forget when Mom bought us a swing set. It was set up in our recreation room in the basement. An entire playground swing set, with three swings and a slide and monkey bars was down there. I thought nothing about the strange location. It made sesne. It was just how things were done.

For dinner, we'd either go to the nightclub and eat, which required wearing a fancy dress with crinolin slips, or we'd eat at home in pajamas and order from The Ivanhoe. Mom would go around the house and ask everyone what they wanted for dinner that night. She'd write it on her paper and then call it in. Within a half an hour it was delivered on a silver tray to our front doorstep. Princess or not, this was really cool. Only I didnt know it was cool because this is the way our family worked.

Satruday nights were always special. We didn't eat at The Ivanhoe, neither did we order from there. Mom ordered pizza from a real neighborhodd pizzeria! What a treat! We ate the pizza kneeling at the living room coffee table while watching TV. We were allowed one small bottled Coke, only first we had to drink a glass of milk. I think that was to balance out the bad effects of drinking the Coke.

I'd love to hear about your family quirkinesses.

Friday, October 02, 2009

West of Lake Michigan—Part VI

The hands of the clock keep right on moving across the face of time. Honesty has at last arrived to our house on Wellington Ave.—West of Lake Michigan. The whole concept of truthfulness was a kicker since every word that ever fell from my dad’s lips I considered golden. The thought of a lie was unfathomable. Dads don’t lie. Moms don’t lie either, and yet, I heard her lie when she talked to Monica’s mom, saying I made the story up about Dad paying a ransom. But I heard him say it. I didn’t lie. Why did she? This was most confusing in my eight-year-old brain.

And now for the big reveal. The kidnapping, the ransom, the escape to Arizona to get away from The Chicago Tribune headlines and the police—least they learn the real truth resulting in fines and a family embarrassment that the entire city of Chicago would be privy. Mom sat me down. “Dad has a drinking a problem,” she said.

Okay, I knew this already. Just last summer I had to get behind him and push him up a hill he couldn’t navigate by himself on his unsteady, drunken feet. Most of the time when he drank he would disappear from us for weeks. It was a part of life. My life. I thought all Dads’ did this. In between the drunk spree and coming home, he’d enter into a detox program. It’s just how our family worked.

During those times, Mom distracted us by signing us up for ballet lessons, horseback riding lessons, and visiting museums and The Art Institute. Then when Dad was BETTER and back home, life was on an even keel for a bit, until the next time, which meant another flurry of increased activity for us kids. And long nights for Mom as she gazed out the window, finger pressed down on the Venetian shades, checking the street for Dad. Wondering if this was the night he’d come home.
But that was just a part of the bigger, ugly truth. Dad also had womanizing problems. That was news to me. I didn’t understand womanizing but I did know what it meant when Mom said, “Dad has several girlfriends. He was on a date, in a bar, the night he got hurt.”

Whoa! Reel that thought in and take a good look at the horror dangling at the end of my imaginary fishing pole. He can’t date, he is married, right? I felt shame. I felt dirty. I wanted to go knock on those dating women’s doors to tell them he was my daddy and to back off.
“Why didn’t Dad drink at The Ivanhoe?” Was there no end to his cheating and betrayal? The only restaurant I had ever been to up to that time had been at The Ivanhoe—except for the time we had lunch near the giant Christmas tree at Marshal Fields. Not only was Dad unfaithful to Mom, Karen, my brother and me, but he was also unfaithful to his establishment.

Mom repeated; Dad was on a date with his girlfriend, they got drunk and into a brawl. The result was a bashed in head and multiple broken ribs. He was robbed of two thousand dollars that he had in his wallet for our family vacation, along with a diamond pinkie finger ring. On his way home in a cab, alone, he came up with a super duper lie to explain where the money went as well as why he was so badly injured.
At two a.m. one morning, he told this lie to his wife, never suspecting his eight-year-old daughter sat in the dark at the top of the stairs listening to the whole thing. That same daughter spread the news far and wide from show-and-tell, to the daughter of a police captain. From that moment it took on a life of its own.
Rather than to fess up to the police and the Tribune and suffer public humiliation, it was easier for my parents to leave Chicago, hoping during the month away, the attention would blow over. It had but it left its toll on me and the most precious friendship I had. Mom saw me. My tears. She had a broken-hearted daughter on her hands, who had lost her best friend in all the world. Mom called Monica’s mom and they made a lunch date where she finally told the truth. Once that situation was cleared up, Monica and I went returned to the Catacomb craziness and our Barbie doll playing. My world slowly healed.

Only there was a new problem, I looked at Dad differently. My hero, along with my princesshood, was gone.

To this day, fifty years later, my show-and-tell is still logged as an unsolved Chicago crime. See? I knew I had the best story in the third grade classroom.

*** be sure to come back next week for another slice of life.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

West of Lake Michigan—Part V

Wedding Day. My older brother Dick with his bride Joan.

My sister Karen, who once thanked me for shining the media spotlight on her, the one who had a handsome police escort to and from school every day, now turned against me because Mom and Dad had to leave Chicago and seek privacy in Arizona. For meals, in place of the usual juicy meat, clouds of mashed potatoes, and pea mounds, followed by some kindof a yummy dessert that involved chocolate, we now sat over mystery food drenched in a layer of wheat germ. Our sister-in-law, Joan, was a health nut way before it was fasionable. Added to this horror, the candy basket Mom kept in a cupboard near the fridge was suddenly empty. We had our suspicions no matter many times Joan shrugged her shoulders saying she had no idea what we were talking about.

The first rule breaking took place 'day one' after the initial wheat germ incident. Karen wanted to exact revenge on me and my big mouth. She ordered me to do something forbidden by both Mom and Joan. Karen was five years older than me and towered above my head. What choice did I have? In the basement laundry room, right above the wash machine, there was a small door that opened up to the crawl space under the porch. It was filled with dirt; a really cool hiding place. But we didn’t hide. Karen had me sit in the door opening and said, "Don’t move, I will be right back." In a moment Joan was there. Karen beamed during my spanking.

At night I was sent up the steps to do my own bathing, dressing for bed and praying. All clean and jammied up, I started my run from the hall and then took a leap into bed, hoping to dodge the boogie man's spindly fingers from under my bed. Having safely made it, my heart still raced. I pulled the sheet and blankets up over my head. However, sleep only brought nightmares about witches coming in through the backdoor of the house. They all looked exactly like the Wicked Witch of the West. Of course, it didn’t help Mom made me watch Wizard of Oz right the night she packed to leave.

Finally the month was over, and it was time for Mom and Dad's return. They came home all sun-tanned and smiling, with suitcases filled with presents for us. Just putting my arms around Mom and smelling her sweetness was present enough for me. And again she heard my nighttime prayers, chased away the boogie man from under the bed, and made meals free of wheat germ. Even the basket in the cupboard next to the fridge was once again filled with candy bars. My world was back to being normal. Well, almost, there was still the matter across the street that needed to be cleared up. That one about Monica, my very best friend in all the world. She still wasn’t talking to me. Rightly so because the family thought I made this whole story up about what happened that night when Dad paid a kidnapping ransom.

I cried mournful tears, wanting to hear Monica's voice on the other side of my phone line. I couldn't wait to hide in the nightclub's Catacombs and listen to people scream when Monica and I touched their arms in the darkness. Mom was moved. She said she would set things right with Monica's mom but first she had a confession to make to me. After hearing what she had to say, I wasn’t so sure that the story Dad told Mom the night I overheard them wasn’t the preferable one to the real truth. That one was so terrible that I never would have told anyone. And if The Chicago Tribune or the police found this truth out, there would be real trouble for us all.

PART VI next week. In the meantime please check out my newest release, PASSAGES, now a Kindle book on Amazon (see the link). Or, if you don't have one but don't mind reading the eBook on a computer, follow the other link in the left hand column on this page to purchase it from me. Just be patient if it takes a few hours until I send it. Thank you so much. You are the reason I keep writing. Well, that and because I love to do it.

Friday, September 25, 2009

who are you, little i

While waiting for Part V to be written and posted, enjoy this poem by E.E. Cummings. A big time fave of mine.

who are you, little i

(five or six years old)
peering from some high

window; at the gold

of november sunset

(and feeling: that if day
has to become night

this is a beautiful way)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

West of Lake Michigan—Part IV

The following morning, right in the middle of watching Captain Kangaroo and eating cold cereal, the Chicago Police showed up at our house. I should have expected it after telling Janice—the daughter of a police captain—about the near-miss-kidnapping episode, but I never saw it coming.

Mother reluctantly let the police into the house while explaining Dad couldn't be reached because he was in the hospital. They didn’t care. The Chicago PD wanted details about the ransom on a son who wasn’t kidnapped, and about Dad's injuries. "What did the men look like?" "How many men were involved?" They said they could do a line-up if Dad came down to the station. Mother was evasive and cast an angry look in my direction.

I shrugged, giving her the "oops' expression. Mother wasn’t minding her hospitality manners so I offered them coffee. They accepted and sat down. Since I was too short to reach the coffee mugs, Mother had to leave the room to do it. Alone with the Chicago PD, I waited for commercial, and then asked how I could help them.

By the next day, my show-and-tell story ended up as headlines in The Chicago Tribune. I knew I my story was very good! Authors, even budding ones, have a second sense about these things. It was probably how I learned about the power of words both written and spoken.

My older sister, Karen, was thankful for the mention I gave her during my conversation with the police, and also, with the show-and-tell, because now her name was in the newspaper, too. She bought copies to pass around to all her friends. Since she was five years older than me, she had access to her own money and the ability of getting to the drug store by crossing the street alone.

After speaking to my Dad at the hospital, the Chicago PD gave not only Karen police protection, but also Russell—the un-kidnapped victim. I was the only one without protection which I found totally prejudicial. My mother explained it was because I took the school bus, so they felt I was safe. Well, my brother Russell took the very same bus as I, but since he had been the target, extra security was provided for him. I still wasn’t sure what my sister's security was all about, but she now walked to the CTA bus stop with a very handsome plainclothes policeman. And as for me, well, I was—as they say—out in the cold, fending for myself and keeping a sharp eye out for anyone who might want to do me harm—in addition to the regular popular girls at my school.

The worst part of all was when my mother sent Dad off to Arizona to escape the hoopla and told family members and friends that I made up the entire kidnapping story. Her words made me lose credibility. I understood they were trying to save their reputations—but I was trying to gain recognition. Being branded a liar had a domino effect. Not wanting her daughter to play with a liar, and not just any liar but a headline making liar, Monica’s mother forbade her to ever play with me again. This was a huge blow. Monica was my best friend. I couldn't even talk to her on the phone, I know because I asked. My best friend and I were over. There was no one to spook the customers with in The Ivanhoe Catacombs. It almost wasn’t worth my time. It was a sad, sad day. I even had given Monica her, her first bra, years before either one of us needed it. Didn’t that mean anything? And now between school and home, there was no one to talk to except the police and reporters. I adjusted and kept right on talking.

The worst was yet to come. The same night Peter Pan jumped out of the fish bowl and died when he was chopped to pieces in the disposal, Mother told us she was going to join Dad in Arizona. They would be gone for a month. My older half brother, Dick and his wife, Joan, along with their son, Rick, would be moving in with us to take care of things.

That first night in bed, I trembled in the darkness beneath my pink blanket and said my goodnight prayers to myself. I was certain there'd be no sleep until Mother was back home. If I thought I was alone before, now I was really alone. My princesshood was way over; I had no best friend, no school friends, no parents, and a dead fish, and right in the middle of media frenzy, too. But that was just the beginning.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

West of Lake Michigan—Part III

I had my story for show-and–tell. It was a blockbuster, too, so I rose early to make sure my appearance was good, since all eyes would be upon me. Hair combed, teeth brushed, but not much I could do about my itchy, navy wool skirt and button down white blouse. The uniform was hard to work with when I wanted to wear pink chiffon every day, but no, it wasn’t allowed.

At school, in the my third grade class room, sitting in my back of the room, last-person- in- the-aisle desk, I waited patiently, listening to all the pathetic stories about teddy bears and how a cop ticketed someone’s dad for running a red light. All the normal, run of the mill type yawners I heard last week. Finally, it was my turn. I rose from my desk, squared my skinny shoulders and walked to the front of the room where I looked face-to-face. Eye contact is most important for holding and maintaining attention. I took a breath of stale classroom air and quickly spilled the story.

Looks of horror crossed the faces of not only the very popular but the quite smart and my stoic-faced teacher, too. It was so hard not to smile. I wanted to smile, but thought my dad being hurt and going to the hospital wasn’t an appropriate time to show happiness. I wasn’t happy about my dad, I was sad. Very, very sad. What did make me happy was that I had delivered an amazing story, making me the buzz word in the cafeteria at lunch. Maybe Jessica* (not her real name) would even allow me sit across the table from her when I eat my usual peanut butter and jelly sandwich, without potato chips (Mother thinks potato chips aren’t healthy—she keeps forgetting that taste matters).

I think my social standing at the private school raised me up one notch to the third most unpopular girl in my class. I had expectations for so much more, but Jessica sitting at the table behind me, instead of with me, might have had something to do with it. Just like real-estate, location is essential.

When I got home, a friend from down the street Janice* (it is her real name), came over to play Barbies. I was actually holding out for Monica to get home so we could play Barbie's, but I let Janice talk to me on the front porch until then. I couldn’t help but say the words, “I was so worried about my mother and my dad all day.”

“Don’t get me started.”
“Tell me.”

And the same show-and-tell story fell from my lips. Janice couldn’t help if she went to public instead of private and I do believe in equal opportunity for all. And total disclosure. But there is where I went totally wrong. Janice’s dad was a Chicago policeman.

By the time I went to bed that night, I had this uneasy feeling I might have told the story one time too many.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

West of Lake Michigan—Part II

Just a refresher from last week, I was a Princess whose dad owned a castle. Now and then I took a bit of time off to be Annie Oakley. At those times, I put on my red cowgirl outfit with the white fringe, and then rode through the west on my fantasy horse, which was actually a broom. Whenever I saw a bandit, I'd pull out my Bible, read a few scriptures. The perp repented—recanting their evil ways. Naturally, they always tried to thank me afterwards, but it was too late, just like ‘the masked man’ I was already on my way to another adventure. Once they turned themselves into the law, I turned back into a Princess, job well done.

Even though I was a Princess at home, I certainly wasn’t one at school. I attended a wonderful private school but no one there liked me much. In fact, I was the second to the last most unpopular third grader. It was nearly impossible to move up that social ladder at this place, so, I got a plan. The next day was show-and-tell and I needed something with pizzazz enough to dazzle everyone.

My dad loved to give me nearly anything I wanted—except for the dollhouse I asked for each and every Christmas, but never got. (That is another story—later) So I played on his affection in order to get a particular doll that was for sale in a glass cabinet at the nightclub. Dad told me he would bring it home with him that very night. My show-off-time, I mean my show-and-tell was going to be a hit this week.

I was in the Princess mode, fighting off sleep, trying to still be awake when Dad got in from work. Once The Ivanhoe was closed, I imagined Dad sliding the small, gold key, into the lock of the glass cabinet and opening it up. He’d reach in and take out my doll. Then he'd put it into his overcoat’s pocket and walk home with it. Although I knew how the doll looked, all dressed in the same shade of pink that matched my bedroom walls, the shag carpet, and the rose bud print on my bedspread, I didn’t know how she’d feel when I held her. Texture is important.

By midnight, I lost the battle and fell asleep. Hours later, I awoke with an eerie sense that something was very wrong at the castle. My parents were on the first floor and their voices were uncharacteristically strained. I crawled to the head of the stairs, keeping back in the shadows, and listened to every word, wishing the conversation would move along so I could get my doll.

This is what I heard my dad say. "I got this phone call saying I had to pay them two thousand dollars or they'd kidnap Russell (my brother). The deal was to hand them the money and then I'd be on my way home. As I walked down the street, a car pulled to the curb and a man grabbed me, pushing me inside. One man counted the money, one man drove, and two men beat me up. When someone said, "The money is all here," I was tossed out on the street." Dad cried. I had never heard him cry before that night and wondered if my doll fell into the gutter because I sure couldn't see it from my vantage point, no matter how much I craned my neck.

Mother told him the cab had arrived to take him to the hospital. She kissed him goodbye through tears of her own. And just like that, he was gone.

I ran down the steps and into my mother's arms. She was horrified to see me. Neither one of my parents wanted their eight-year-old Princess, who wasn’t feeling Princessly anymore, to hear this kind of news. And I no longer wanted the doll. I just wanted my dad.

Mother made me Princess Promise NOT to tell anyone what happened. I Princess Promised but my reign was somehow ended by that event. Mother hadn't yet been informed. The news was too fresh. Since by now, I was a commoner, and I knew that by tomorrow at noon all the students my third grade class would hear about my brother's near miss at being kidnapped, that my dad was robbed and beaten. Yep. My story was going to be the best one ever. The only thing was, I didn’t know the true story of what happened that night.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

West of Lake Michigan - Part I

I once was a princess who lived in a castle. Okay, maybe I didn’t really live there—as in ‘sleeping over’—but my dad owned it and I put in plenty of daytime hours to call it mine. This castle had a name, The Ivanhoe Restaurant--but it was actually more along the lines of a nightclub.

Not only did the outside look like a stone fortress but the inside had a cool draw bridge right next to the coat check, where I spent a lot of time rifling through top coats and women's furs. I never took anything, I was just very curious about what they had on them.

Patrons ate in Sherwood Forest and stirred their drinks with skeleton swizzle sticks. Near the woman’s bathroom were funny carnival-like mirrors that made you look oddly shaped, or at the very least—horrifically deformed. There was an indoor waterfall and three bars for your drinking pleasure in the cellar. Everywhere ghosts in full amour stood watch.

There also was an actual Catacombs designed to scare the vitamin C out of anyone who was brave enough to even try making it from one end of the dungeon to the other. Chains rattled on the walls and puffs of air mysteriously shot up from the floor. Once the patron exited from this chamber there were three bars with liquor awaiting them to help quiet their frayed nerves. Dad thought of everything. Sometimes I even got myself a shot glass filled with 7Up to quiet my nerves or sage my thirst.

I also liked to work my way through the maze of hallways on the second color until I found the stairs that took me up to the roof. I’d stand up there, next to the flag, and wave at cars and yelling at passerby’s that my dad owned this place. I knew I was special. I was lucky. Therefore I let everyone know. My favorite spot of all was the outside garden which had another waterfall and stream where gorgeous painted fish swam. I fed them raw shrimp. I fed myself raw shrimp too.

During the reign of my princesshood, I went to pre-school and one day, for no particular reason, colored on a girl's sweater. She was wearing it at the time so I got into big trouble. The teacher grabbed the crayon from my small, artistic hand and then screamed into my face after which she tossed the crayon across the room to show she was not only mad but really, really mad. I went home at the end of the day and told Mother I no longer cared to attend Blue Bird Nursery School and to take me out. She did.

The next fall I attended kindergarten at The Harris School of Chicago. Mother kissed me on the cheek before she left me on that first day of school and made me princess promise not to color on anyone's clothes because quitting school from here on out was strictly forbidden. I princess promised to be good. Princesses always keep their word. It’s the mark of a true princess.

Our teacher had a perfectly delightful name. Mrs. Rounds sat in a rocking chair to read us stories. Good ones. She always was in a good mood and had a very soft voice which I found most soothing. In the room, long tables were placed along the tall windows where the other students and myself would sit to do our workbooks, identifying the different objects from the rest. A row of ducks and a kitten. I circled the kitten. And then colored him.

Then we all sang Uncle Remus songs before going back home on the yellow school bus.

First grade was another year of extreme happiness. I had a school best friend named Becky and then a neighborhood best friend named Monica. She wore the most beautiful miniature bridal dress the day of her first communion. It turned me green with envy; not the communion but the dress. I remember standing on the sidewalk in front of my house on the day she returned from church. I watched her run up the steps to her place wearing that perfectly lovely dress and a glorious veil.

Second grade was my happiest of years. The sun still streamed in through those big tall second grade classroom windows even on rainy days. One day we were to write a story about our family pet. I didn’t know how to spell Chihuahua and my teacher said she didn’t know how to spell it either. She took me up to the huge dictionary kept on a podium at the front of the room because it was a very important book. We looked through the dictionary and learned how to spell it together, Teacher and me. Every afternoon we took turns at the backboard learning how to write cursive letters. My days were quite pleasant. After all I was a princess and this is how princesses spent their days.

On weekends I returned to my castle to eat caviar in Sherwood Forest, use all the bathrooms in the place just because I could, look at myself in the silly carnival mirrors and made sure I stayed away from The Catacombs.

Let’s not forget those wonderful Steiff stuffed animals and dolls from around the world on sale at the castle too. The Ivanhoe perfume was sold there as well, and it smelled like old lady’s perfume. Ahhhh! One evening I picked out a doll I wanted. Dad promised he’d bring it home to me after the nightclub closed. I will never forget that night. Hours later my Dad came home beaten and bloodied. Soon the police became involved and the situation became headlines for the Chicago papers.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Heroines Stumbling over Obstacles

I loved the lively discussion from last week about flawed heroines. There were so many different points of view offered and everyone backed up their opinion with great reasons. It gave me a lot to think about and I am sure it did the same for you. Thank you for all the comments left here and also on FB.

This week I want to talk a bit about obstacles that face our heroine. I think back to the Jill Lewis trilogy I co-authored with Susan Wales. Jill had a nice inheritance at her fingertips so money was never an issue. She also had a great job as a political reporter for a Washington newspaper and a stunning apartment that looked out over Capitol Hill. Jill was beautiful, smart, and had great contacts. So what problem could she possibly have? Plenty. She struggled with love, she didn’t get along with her sister, her contacts dried up at the worst possible moment, her boss pressured her to uncover political corruption and her mother expected her home for holidays.

In my latest thriller, Wildcard, Ivy Dillon didn’t have the luxury of coming from a rich family so she constantly scrambled for money. Also unlike Jill Lewis, political intrigue found Ivy when the person she interned for, the private secretary of the United States, turned up dead in the Potomac River. Blamed for this crime, Ivy hid from the FBI while trying to solve the murder of her dear mentor. With her face plastered all over the TV and newspaper, the naive young woman had to figure out how to keep safe and figure out whom to trust while she heals from a broken engagement. Added to the problems, Ivy's mother becomes critically ill and Ivy risks her life to come home and say goodbye before she dies.

With my romance series, The Turtle Creek Edition (The Christmas Edition and The Valentine Edition; The Easter Edition will be a 2010 release) we see problems of the love kind. What can get in the way of love? Another woman, I tell you. Lies for another thing, people running inference, low self-esteem, misunderstanding and perhaps a bad past experience tossed in the mix. Although there is nothing better than a good mystery, I will never be a Jill Lewis or an Ivy Dillon. Chances are you won't be either. But you just might be a Lucy Collins who is trying to recover from a bad break up when Mister Right finally walks into your life—unaware he's the one. As far as you know, he could be another heartbreak just waiting to happen. You could also be a Jodi Williams who didn’t get the job she wanted and settled for a rinky dink job in a town so small that none of your friends can find it on a map. But then you not only fall in love with a rescue dog but also with his veterinarian only to find out he is involved with his receptionist—or is he? Or are you could be a Carol Horn who has a call of God on her life that it takes her in the opposite direction of the love of her life. Which does she choose the call or her soul mate?

Man versus man. Man versus himself. Man versus nature. Man versus himself.

Okay, your turn. What obstacles do you like in the way of your heroine achieving her goal? I want to hear from both readers and authors. After all, I write for my readers.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


"She speaks poniards, and every word stabs."
Benedick from Shakespeare Much Ado About Nothing

I am demanding of my heroines. They must be flawed.
I overheard a conversation once that went like this, "The female lead in my novel is beautiful. Flawless. Long blonde hair, twinkling blue eyes, a button nose, gorgeous figure. She is sweet and kind, too. The moment the hero sets his dashing eyes on her, he falls in love even before the first word is spoken." I hated the heroine already. Was this for real? Cinderella is just a fairy tale, so I knew it wasn’t that story, not again.
So, how do we become flawed? Reality. Give me a heroine who snorts when she laughs, stutters self consciously when she is nervous, who doesn’t take herself seriously so therefore no one else does. As a result she is overlooked once more for a promotion. One who always answers the phone on only the fourth ring and if she cannot reach the phone in time, allows the answering machine to pick it up.
Just as in real life, our heroines should be portrayed with flaws. Think about Kate on the TV show Lost. We all thought she was an innocent gal until we had a glimpse of her shocking past, which explains a lot about why she chose Sawyer over Jack. Brie Hodges from Desperate Housewives is the very picture of being perfect but her perfectness causes her to live by rigid, narrow guidelines, deeply flawing her in that process.
In Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, we find beautiful Beatrice who is given to fits of fierce opposition. So, tell me, why do we love her? Because she is a witty heroine known for her verbal dueling. She has it all in her life, everything to bless her and to vex her.
On the flip side, should men be perfect? Let’s look at the TV character Monk, played by Tony Shaluba. He is an obsessive-compulsive detective who can hardly function in life so he hires an assistant. He also lacks social graces. So why do we love him? Because he is a genius at solving crime. How about a villain with redeeming qualities? Think about The Phantom of the Opera. In the movie version, one side of his face is horribly disfigured, while the other side is normal and quite handsome. Both sides reflect the two halves of his personality; a cold blooded killer and a lonely man who woos Christine through music.
Back to the conversation about the twinkling blue eyes and button nose. The gal listening to her friend replied, "Well, my heroine hates anyone who is not a workaholic. I have her kicking street people in the first chapter but she changes by the last chapter." Oh boy. Can a heroine be too flawed to be loved by readers? Yep. Readers may not get to the last chapter if they find the heroine is too unappealing. The reader needs to connect with the heroine and like her enough to read the whole book and cheer for her.
Flaws are important. They reveal the need for change and make us vulnerable in our humanity. I put my heroines in uncomfortable situations, forcing them to change. They grow. Improve. Just like we do in real life. We can use that grist in our writing. As a card-carrying member of flawed heroines, I see stories everywhere.
Writers, who’s your favorite flawed heroine? (Hero?) Would you want her as your friend? What flaws do you write into your heroine's character? What risks did she have to take? And was it fun?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Birthday Gift That Kept on Haunting

Since we are a few days past my birthday, sorry if you missed it, I must admit it's not so much fun getting old anymore. It's not the being older in years that's the worst, but the aches and pains that accompany it—which is another matter.
We lived in Chicago while I was growing up, but summered at our lake cottage on Delavan in Wisconsin. My birthdays were a real treat. Each year I could count on a chocolate cake with chocolate fudge frosting decorated with yellow roses from Boutelle's Bakery and presents that were wrapped in pink tissue paper, tied-up in ribbons. I'd sit on the sunny porch, perched on a chair, crown on top of my head with braided hair while sailboats glided passed in the background. Very picturesque.
Then one birthday I got the most horrid gift. I was in sixth grade and my mother felt the kitchen table was no longer the proper study place for me, so she bought me a desk and placed it in my bedroom, upon my pink rug, right in front of the Pricilla laced curtains that framed the windows.
The desk wasn’t one of those charming pieces of furniture with small cubbies at the top for stamps and stationeries; one of those I might have liked. The desk I was given was practical, utilitarian, and served the purpose for which my mother bought it—for studying. The surface was large. Three drawers down each side and the thinner middle drawer. The whole thing was beige. I had to leave the area when I needed to daydream.
Years later, while in high school, Mother thought the desk needed a face lift so she striped it and got one of those new paint kits that were fresh on the market at the time. You chose your fake antique color and then painted on with a special treatment which was to make it look like a genuine antique when completed. Well, it didn’t. The desk was now very dark green with black lines through it. Mother thought replacing the drawer pulls might jazz it up a bit so she bought brass knobs that had a chariot emboldened on it. I didn’t think it was possible for that desk get any uglier until she gave it the treatment.
Of all the things I have owned in my lifetime that is the only belonging that followed me everywhere I went for years and years. It dogged me. Seriously. When I went to college, it came along, when I got my own apartment it was there, and when I moved back home while I filled out job applications, it came back too. Why couldn't I have been followed by my first baby doll, or the pretty chenille bedspread, or the antique floral dishes my great grandmother gave to my mother and then my older sister got? Sigh.
The desk even came along when I got married and we moved to Virginia, back to Illinois and down to Texas. Finally I pawned it off on my daughter Kim when she turned ten, kind of like a rite of passage. I got it when I was ten now it's her turn to be shadowed by it. I felt like writing at the bottom of her birthday card, 'good luck honey' but resisted the urge.
Why do we hold onto things like this? Is it because we have had it for so long that we feel obligated to bring it along with us like ol' Uncle Harry to a family reunion?
One summer, Kimberly and I decided to have a garage sale. That ugly green desk, now chipped with time, was the first thing we sold. That was eighteen years ago and ya know, I still don't miss it.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mother's Last Gift

by Robin Shope

Consumed by my loss, I didn't notice the hardness of the pew where I sat. I was at the funeral of my dearest friend—my mother. She finally had lost her long battle with cancer. The hurt was so intense, I found it hard to breathe at times.

Always supportive, Mother clapped loudest at my school plays, held a box of tissues while listening to my first heartbreak, comforted me at my father's death, encouraged me in college, and prayed for me my entire life.

When Mother's illness was diagnosed, my sister had a new baby and my brother had recently married his childhood sweetheart, so it fell to me, the 27-year-old middle child without entanglements, to take care of her. I counted it an honor.

"What now, Lord?" I asked sitting in church. My life stretched out before me as an empty abyss.

My brother sat stoically with his face toward the cross while clutching his wife's hand. My sister sat slumped against her husband's shoulder, his arms around her as she cradled their child. All so deeply grieving, no one noticed I sat alone.

My place had been with our mother, preparing her meals, helping her walk, taking her to the doctor, seeing to her medication, reading the Bible together. Now she was with the Lord.

My work was finished, and I was alone.

Providential mistake

I heard a door open and slam shut at the back of the church. Quick footsteps hurried along the carpeted floor. An exasperated young man looked around briefly and then sat next to me. He folded his hands and placed them on his lap. His eyes were brimming with tears. He began to sniffle.

"I'm late," he explained, though no explanation was necessary.

After several eulogies, he leaned over and commented, "Why do they keep calling Mary by the name of 'Margaret'?"

"Because that was her name, Margaret. Never Mary. No one called her 'Mary,'" I whispered. I wondered why this person couldn't have sat on the other side of the church. He interrupted my grieving with his tears and fidgeting. Who was this stranger anyway?

"No, that isn't correct," he insisted, as several people glanced over at us whispering, "Her name is Mary, Mary Peters."

"That isn't who this is."

"Isn't this the Lutheran church?"

"No, the Lutheran church is across the street."


"I believe you're at the wrong funeral, sir."

The solemnness of the occasion mixed with the realization of the man's mistake bubbled up inside me and came out as laughter. I cupped my hands over my face, hoping it would be interpreted as sobs.

The creaking pew gave me away. Sharp looks from other mourners only made the situation seem more hilarious. I peeked at the bewildered, misguided man seated beside me. He was laughing, too, as he glanced around, deciding it was too late for an uneventful exit. I imagined Mother laughing.

At the final "Amen," we darted out a door and into the parking lot.

"I do believe we'll be the talk of the town," he smiled. He said his name was Rick and since he had missed his aunt's funeral, asked me out for a cup of coffee.

That afternoon began a lifelong journey for me with this man who attended the wrong funeral, but was in the right place. A year after our meeting, we were married at a country church where he was the assistant pastor. This time we both arrived at the same church, right on time.

In my time of sorrow, God gave me laughter. In place of loneliness, God gave me love. This past June we celebrated our twenty-second wedding anniversary.

Whenever anyone asks us how we met, Rick tells them, "Her mother and my Aunt Mary introduced us, and it's truly a match made in heaven."

Sunday, August 09, 2009

I Totally LOVE This Poem

how about you?

My Inside Self, by Rachel Field

My Inside-Self and my Outside-Self
Are different as can be.
My Outside-self wears gingham smocks,
And very round is she,
With freckles sprinkled on her nose,
And smoothly parted hair,
And clumsy feet that cannot dance
In heavy shoes and square.

But, oh, my little Inside-Self -
In gown of misty rose
She dances lighter than a leaf
On blithe and twinkling toes;
Her hair is blowing gold, and if
You chanced her face to see,
You would not think she could belong
To staid and sober me!

Friday, August 07, 2009

WildCard chapter one

He stared at her with superb green eyes the color of a calm sea, but it was his slow smile that pierced her heart. Eyes and smile. Together they pulled her into the deep waters of wild imagination. The six-footer awkwardly tugged on his collar and no wonder, he seemed totally out of place at the theater’s cast party. Ivy Dillon was ripe for romance. She had to meet Whatzhisname.
“Here’s your fruit punch.” Jordan nudged. “I snagged you a cup before the alcohol went in.”
“Thanks.” Ivy turned toward her roommate. “By the way, who’s that?”
“The great looking guy near the window.” Ivy tipped her head in that direction.
“You can’t mean Martin?” Jordan snorted.
“Martin?” Ivy whipped around and squinted. Sure enough, the man she set her sighs on meeting had disappeared and in his place was Martin, still wearing his stage makeup. He waved at her. Ivy waved back, disappointedly. “No not him.”
Ivy cruised through the stage director’s apartment, trying to catch sigh of the man with the interesting angular features, the hair that curled up along his neckline, and, oh yes, those eyes—those amazing eyes.
On the way by the dessert table, the chocolate covered strawberries distracted her. She bit into one, enjoying the meeting of two rivers of flavors, and just like that Whatzhisname appeared in front of her. A miracle!
“You have a bit of chocolate right there,” he told her pointing at the corner of her mouth.
“Thanks,” Ivy croaked.
“May I?” he asked permission to touch her skin and wipe the chocolate away.
Ivy moved closer and felt the gentle stroke of his touch. Just like strawberries and chocolate, Ivy knew they were meant to be.
“There, you’re perfect again.” He licked his chocolate finger and then glanced around the room scanning faces. “Great opening night for the play. Do you know the cast?”
Ivy nodded. “Yes, in fact, the leading actress is my friend.”
“Jordan Belle is your roommate? Interesting.”
“How did you know she was my roommate?”
Just as Whatzhisname opened his mouth to answer, Martin swayed up and held out a platter of canapĂ©s. “Would you help pass these for me, d

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Garage Sale Blues

Robin Lee Shope, a self-confessed "garage sale junkie," shares how she was consumed by disappointment over a lost bargain—until God changed her tune:

I parked in front of the house [that was holding the inside moving sale]. The front door was open as if urging, Come in and buy my treasures. As I wandered through the house, searching for hidden gems, I found a case under a pile of old bedspreads in the back bedroom. Inside was a shiny saxophone, beautifully engraved with the figure of a woman. It was vintage, in pristine condition, and mine for only $20.
Unfamiliar with the going rate for instruments, I called my husband to do a quick eBay search. No way could I afford to end up with another white elephant to store in my shed. It was crowded enough!
I heard Rick's fingers tapping, then silence. "There aren't any listed."
Odd. It seemed to me that someone should have at least one saxophone for sale. "You're sure?"
"Not one."
I ended the call, worried. I was $20 poorer and the proud owner of a shiny saxophone that might not sell. What did I know about musical instruments? All I could play was the radio. As I was leaving, an elderly man stopped me. "Can I buy that saxophone from you?" he asked hopefully. "I'll give you $20 more than what you paid."
I was thrilled. I'd not only recoup my 20 dollars, I'd make 20 more—and within minutes of my purchase. I viewed it as God's unexpected provision, a blessing. …
[Later that day] I sat at the computer, pulled up the eBay homepage, and entered the type of saxophone I'd owned for less than five minutes. To my horror, three exact matches popped up, all selling for over $500. "Rick!" I wailed, pointing at the screen. "Look!"
He wrinkled his nose. "Oh."
"You said there weren't any saxophones listed!" I felt weak. I was losing consciousness.
"That's weird. When I looked there weren't any listed."
Suddenly, I realized the problem: Rick hadn't gone to the eBay homepage; he'd gone to my seller's page. Of course I didn't have a sax listed. I had an enamel coffee pot with no bids, a sunbonnet girl quilt with no bids, and a primitive cabinet, also without a bid. I'd sold the sax cheap. God wanted to bless me abundantly, but I'd blown it! It was as if someone had snatched money right out of my pocket, and I'd let it happen. …
It was done. Finished. No chance for a do-over. Yet I couldn't let it go. Late at night I sat sleepless, angry with myself for harboring ill feelings. My brain kept replaying the moment I sold the sax, while a bitter little voice whispered that the old man had probably pawned it. I felt envious, consumed by greed—and guilty. God was revealing a side of me that I hadn't known existed.
I opened the Bible to Galatians 6: "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Next I turned in my concordance to the verses on praising God and made note cards of ten verses. Each time I thought about the sax, I lifted my arms and praised God, thanking him and quoting Scripture. "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you" (1 Thess. 5:18). I was amazed by how my turmoil fled, leaving behind pure happiness. It set me free, and once more my life became enjoyable. I even let Rick off the hook, so his life became enjoyable as well!
A few months later as I was perusing a garage sale, I spied my sax buyer hunched over a box, sifting through old sheet music. Feeling the old twinge of regret, I pretended not to see him. But he recognized me and cheerfully called out, "Hello there! Have you found any treasures today?"
"No." …
[And] as I turned to walk away, he caught hold of my arm. "I want you to know that because of your spontaneous generosity, I rekindled my old passion for the saxophone. Being retired, I now volunteer my time to teach kids how to play." He wiggled his fingers over the keys of an invisible sax. It was then I noticed his frailty, his worn clothes, and his scuffed shoes.
And suddenly I understood. I thought he'd stolen my blessing, when in fact he was my blessing. God's provision is for us all. And I was blessed to have received it twice, and in the most unusual place.
I'd call that a double blessing.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Tammy & The Diamond Dress

A true story, written by me, Robin Shope

Many people will walk in and out of your life. But only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.
~Eleanor Roosevelt

Sitting on the flowered print couch, I paged through the Kissees' family album: there was nine-year-old Tammy, ten-year-old Tammy, eleven-year-old Tammy. Then I looked across the room at twelve-year-old Tammy playing checkers with her father. Her long blond hair was gone; the radiation had left only a wisp of fuzz on her head. Her fair complexion was now a chalky gray. The skeleton-like limbs made her appear weak and breakable.

Tammy caught a side glimpse of me staring, and she figured out pretty quickly that I had to be comparing her to the robust girl sitting astride the black horse in the picture. She smiled at me as if to say, "It's okay. I'll be that girl again someday."

My four-year-old daughter Kimberly leaned over Tammy's shoulder to watch her next move on the game board. "I think you should jump the black checker with the red one, Tammy." Tammy laughed, touching her dark curls with envy. "I am the black checker."

We met the Kissee family a year earlier when they began attending our small country church, soon after Tammy had been diagnosed with liver cancer. They joined the congregation, and we all began to pray daily for a healing miracle.

There was something so ethereal about Tammy. Kimberly couldn't resist her and became her shadow. Often Tammy felt weary from treatment, but she somehow managed to add strength to her patience in dealing with this admiring fan. Tammy had two older brothers, so she treated Kimberly as a welcomed younger sister. With their heads together, one nearly bald and the other thick with lustrous curls, they paged through the children's Bible.

One day, as I sewed, Kimberly said, "I need a diamond dress to wear for special occasions, like to parties and weddings and funerals." I flinched at her last word. Tammy laughed and seemed to understand something I could not grasp.

"Why funerals?" I could not meet Tammy's eyes.

"Because when people die they go home to heaven. I really need a dress for that celebration!"

Monday morning, Kimberly and I sorted through stacks and rows of fabric in the basement of an old Ben Franklin store.

"Here it is!" she exclaimed, holding up some purple cloth with a colorful jelly bean print on it. "Diamonds!"

"Honey, those are jelly beans."

"No, they are diamonds, beautiful colored diamonds."

I looked at the material for a long time, trying to see what Kimberly saw, but finally gave up. I asked for two yards to be cut, picked out matching thread and paid my money. All week I struggled with making my daughter's diamond dress. To make it fancier, I sewed on a lace collar and dotted it with rhinestones. Kimberly was happy with the result; she saw diamonds, I saw jelly beans.

Christmas was festive at church with a wonderful program and platters of carefully prepared food. Tammy admitted she felt awkward around girls her own age, as they didn't quite know how to act toward the girl who looked so different from them. So she remained by her little four-year-old friend and was a wonderful help in serving the food.

I thought I detected a little color crawling back into Tammy's wan cheeks. Surely she would recover and be just fine. I said another silent prayer for the hundredth, the thousandth, the millionth time.

I watched Tammy out of the corner of my eye all evening. She checked plates and cups, making sure everyone had enough to eat and drink, and served more when needed. She seated the elderly in the most comfortable chairs. I saw her push back the constant fatigue she experienced in order to help turn the pages for the pianist's music. At last, she sat with the children gathered about her feet, leading them in Christmas songs, listening intently to their stories. She was a young girl who was not self-absorbed in makeup and boyfriends. She was a young girl absorbed in helping others.

Two days after Christmas, we received a call from Tammy's parents. She had been rushed to the hospital. Walking into her room, I noticed how small she looked among the bed sheets. Her mother rubbed her forehead and smiled into the blue eyes that were heavy with sleep. My husband and I stood by her bed, along with her parents and brothers. Although we had prayed for healing, God performed His own miracle and just before midnight took Tammy home to live with Him in heaven.

The members of the church dreaded the funeral of one so young. We seem to understand and accept better the death of someone elderly who has lived a long and full life. This young life slipping away from us, however, made our own mortality seem more brittle. And there were the nagging questions: Had we failed Tammy in not believing hard enough, in not praying long enough?

I held my four-year-old daughter's hand as we walked up to the old oak casket. Tammy appeared as if she had gotten ready for church and then simply laid down for a quick rest among her favorite toys. I squeezed Kimberly's hand tighter. If she got too close to the casket, would death snatch her too? Sensing my fears, Mr. Kissee picked Kimberly up into his arms so she could clearly see Tammy's face.

"She is at peace now. See, no more pain on her face," he told her.

Kimberly looked into the pain-filled father's eyes and then nodded seriously, turning her attention back to her friend.

"Thanks for helping me be quiet in church," my daughter whispered to her. "See, I wore my diamond dress for you today. You knew how important it was. I am so happy that you can see heaven. Save me a seat next to you."

During the service, Tammy's parents sat close together holding hands, their grieving sons on either side. The pastor spoke, "This is not the end but the beginning for Tammy. Let her beginning be a new beginning for us as well. Let's finish what she has started, and may it be a work in progress."

It was true. Tammy left us with so much. She set her own needs aside to help others. She cheerfully illustrated to my impressionable daughter, to children yet to be shaped, and to adults set in their ways, how to be of service to others when pain and tiredness are your greatest enemies.

That night I tucked my own little daughter into her bed, thinking that Tammy would never be tucked into hers again. Kim looked at me with concern. Her tiny finger brushed away one of my tears.

"Mommy, when I close my eyes I can see Tammy. She has her long blond hair back and wears a beautiful dress with stones all over it. I think her diamond dress is even prettier than mine," Kimberly whispered while pointing to her jelly-bean dress hanging in the closet.

I closed my eyes too. Yes, I can imagine Tammy with her long hair and pink, glowing complexion. I think she is probably wearing her own diamond dress as she gallops through the streets of heaven.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Creature Comforts

When I was a young woman, I thought I had to have the nice car, a great wardrobe, the best haircut, and a drop dead gorgeous boyfriend. Nowadays, these items have no pull on my heart any longer. A car is simply a tool that takes me from point A to point B. My wardrobe consists of what I can get away with wearing for one more year. I cut my own hair (it probably shows) and I am married to my drop dead gorgeous honey. I am older so my priorities have changed/shifted/matured. I am into creature comforts these days, like clean sheets on my bed when I lay down at night. Relaxed shoes so I can easily walk around during the day. A bite of a rich dessert daily would send me over the moon (especially if its Fannie Mays creams) but most of all I crave finding a comfortable bra. It's become my goal. What are your creature comforts?

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Christmas Edition soon a MOVIE

For immediate release:

April 8, 2009

Salty Earth Pictures to Produce Robin Shope’s Novel

Salty Earth Pictures and Robin Shope are pleased to announce that plans to produce a Feature motion picture based on Shope’s novel “The Christmas Edition” is underway.
Ms. Shope, an author now living in Dallas, Texas, has written a series of novels that are set in Wisconsin, known as The Turtle Creek Edition series. Salty Earth Pictures, located in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin is a non-profit organization dedicated to encouraging, producing, and distributing entertainment that challenges minds, lightens hearts, and strengthens souls.

“Ms. Shope’s faith based novels take place right out our front door, making them a perfect fit for Salty Earth Pictures,” said studio President Steven F. Zambo. He added, “It is our goal to produce a feature based on Robin’s “Christmas Edition” in a manner much like the successful “Facing the Giants” film was produced.” The film will be shot for a relatively low budget, by Hollywood standards, but will rely on volunteers and passionate individuals and supporters to bring the film to the screen. When asked about the movie of her book Shope commented, “Being born and raised in Delavan, Wisconsin, I couldn’t think of a more perfect setting for a book and now the movie.” Wisconsites may remember Robin Shope as Robin Jansen. She is a 1968 graduate of D-DHS and also graduated from UWWhitewater.

Without revealing too much of the story, the movie will be based on a struggling family owned business in a small Wisconsin town. It focuses on relationships, secrets, trust, faith, and the hope Christmas and it’s message provides.

Much work needs to be done before the camera will roll. “Scripting, casting, financing, music and locations are all issues we will be facing in the next several months. But, it is our prayer that we will be in production late this year with a planned distribution for Christmas 2010,” said Zambo. Salty Earth Pictures’ studio is located in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin and will be the primary location for production. The studio has over 30,000 square feet of production space.

Marketing an independent film is no small task. Zambo says, “We are going to use the electronic tools out there to build and keep interest.” Periodic video update will be available on Salty Earth Pictures’ Youtube Channel. Also, both Shope and Salty Earth

Pictures will be using their group pages on Facebook to build audience interest

“The finished movie is only a part of the product,” says, Zambo. “We feel the journey getting there will also be exciting and entertaining. We want to share the entire experience!”

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

For Immediate Press Release!

Coming soon to a bookstore near you is Wildcard. Turn on the news any night and you will hear frightening news reports about what Washington is doing. Where does it start? With law makers. However, it begins before then, at the ballot box. This book is about fiddling with voter ballots. Its been done before but not on such a grand scale. Blurb: What would happen if someone secured a microchip that could be manipulated to give his or her candidate the edge to win the next presidential election? Not enough votes for a landslide, but just enough to put their candidate over the top in a decisive win. The Wildcards are a group of maverick agents who want to take over the outcome of the next election for President of the United States. During Ivy Dillon's last week as a Washington Intern, she and Ms. Geneen Waters, the secretary to the President of the United States, overhear a conversation about voting machines and missing software. Months later Ms. Waters body is found floating in the Potomac River. FBI Special Agent Ian Serby, who swears he will give his life to protect her, takes Ivy into protective custody. Ian is smart, sexy and seems to have a hidden agenda all his own. Will Ivy follow her heart and believe what Ian tells her about trying to stop the Wildcards or is he actually a member of the Wildcards?
Ivy Dillon's last week as a Washington Intern. All she wants to do now is return home to Twin Lakes, Wisconsin and fill out applications as a political speech writer. On her last day at the White House, Ivy and the secretary to the United States, Geneen Waters, overhears a conversation. That night Ivy returns to a ransacked apartment. Frantically, she runs from door to door for help and the man who opens his door to assist her is the same stranger she met the night before at a theater party. The man calls for the police and waits with her, calming her nerves until they arrive. Later the same evening, they share Chinese take-out. All night, the kind stranger remains on Ivy's mind. In the morning, she goes to his apartment to thank him again for his help. When she knocks, no one answers. The door is unlocked. She turns the knob slowly and walks inside to an empty apartment. Only a fortune cookie remains. She breaks it open and reads what it says....'Bad luck never walks alone.'

Friday, March 13, 2009

Watch for April Eighth*Musings of a PaperBack Writer*

My newest book, Wildcard, is about to release just about the same time my first grandchild makes his way into the world.

April 8th (fourth month, eighth day) carries importance this year. I have never been into numbers, however, just this week, I began to notice a number pattern emerging in my life. April 8th is not only the date of the possible birth of Kingston, but also the date (chosen arbitrarily by another person) to announce my new endeavor. The number '48' came in an email the other day. Okay, so what does this mean?

I looked up the meaning of numbers in the Bible. Four stands for the beginning of creativity. My fourth book came out in December of the year 08. Eight stands for abounding blessings. And my BIG news concerns this fourth book, The Christmas Edition.

I am ready and looking forward to all God has in store for me. I hope you will stay tuned.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Thank you Texas Legislature! I received a commendation from the Texas State Legislature with an official state seal, recognizing my recent book publications. Included is recognition of my work with troubled teens in the juvenile justice system. It is a really neat long, formal document. Impressive. Gee, for me? No, its not framed and on the wall. It's still inside the folder it arrived in, and slipped between books on my shelf. But how cool is that?