Sunday, June 29, 2014

Occupational Hazard-Perfect Lies by Elizabeth Parker


“I’ve invited you here because you’ve indicated that at one point or another you wanted to change. Am I correct? Do you crave change in your life? Change your outlook? Your perception? Change your goals? How about this?” He watched as the crowd listened intently. “How about changing your future?”
The crowd applauded. Excitement evident in the air.
The speaker's voice got lower and his diction more carefully pronounced. His British accent enhancing his already charismatic appeal.
“With change, anything and everything is possible. Do you want to change the way you go about your day? Change those feelings of hopelessness and despair to those of hope and happiness? Change the opportunity for blinding success?”
“Let me ask you this…and this, my friends, is the question of the hour. Is it possible for you to embrace change?”
He glanced around the room, his eyes all knowing, predicting their reaction. His confidence evident, his posture erect. He got their attention. His penetrating stare suggested a hint of arrogance, and as he gazed around, his eyes seemingly locked with everyone. His voice lowered. He was empowered, and he knew it. He portrayed himself as a visionary, and everyone wanted to share that vision.
“If you want to change, then this workshop is for you. If not, please take a moment to gather your things, collect your refund at the door, and leave. I assure you; I won’t be the least bit insulted.”
Ellie Dawson had been watching his show for years. Though it was only televised once in a while, she never missed an episode. His words had motivated many. They had indeed changed lives. He not only had his own venue, but also spoke for schools, businesses, and even, at one point, religious groups. He was the guru of motivational speaking, the icon of inspiration. He grasped people’s attention from the moment they started watching, from the minute they began listening. Oddly enough, no one had ever taken his offer to leave—possibly because they believed in his words, possibly because they were too afraid.
Jeff was an intelligent man. He knew what he wanted and how to get it. He was financially set for life. His wife, Rose, and his children never wanted for anything. Rose was a staple to his image. She stood by his side in photographs with a wide smile etched on her face. He was a family man, a supportive listener. He made people laugh and always offered a smile. He provided a shoulder to cry on. People leaned on him.
He was also the type of person who listened carefully when people spoke, retained only the useful tidbits, processed it, and then recited it as his own. His sense of humor might’ve just been an image he wanted to reflect, a personality he had stolen and emulated as if it were his. He regurgitated stories told by people he’d met as if they had truly happened to him.
He seemed to be the most transparent person, but realistically, he was the least.
People trusted him and admired him. It is safe to say that some worshipped him.
He gave people a purpose for living. For some he took it away.
In the end Ellie didn’t know what made him call her. At least that was what she told people. Deep down, in a part of her that she feared, she knew exactly why he called her. For reasons unknown to her, he liked her. What scared her, though—what kept her up at night and tortured her—was that she liked him, too. Undeniably, there was a connection.
And at one point, she respected him. Greatly.
So when she agreed to answer his call, she appeared confused, though for whatever strange and chilling reason, she wasn’t. Her gut told her to pretend to be for one reason and one reason only.
After all, what would be said of her had she admitted that she expected that phone call and wasn’t surprised in the least upon receiving it?
She wished it hadn’t come to this. In her heart she believed she could’ve stopped it, prevented at least some of it. She wished she would’ve spoken up sooner.
Because deep down, she knew. When the news broadcasted and it hit every cover story, she knew. She felt it in the pit of her stomach. The realization caused her insides to wretch. She felt the blood rush to her face, like heat of blazing fire. Dozens of memories flooded back. A tidal wave crested with lies—meetings that were missed, inconsistencies that alone meant nothing but collectively were driving clues. Puzzle piece upon puzzle piece flowing together in a fluid-like motion, snapping into place with the force of a magnet. A thud only she could hear.
She couldn’t believe it to be true. Although it all made perfect sense. Now.

Chapter 1

Ed and Ellie Dawson had been married for five years. Joined by family and friends, they celebrated their love in the typical Vegas fashion, including an Elvis impersonator singing “Love Me Tender” before and after they said the magical words I do.
Ed had captured her attention immediately when they first met at the library.  He just happened to be returning the very book she had been looking for and his rugged and well-toned physique caused her to do a double-take. His baby blue eyes dazzled her immediately and the small scar on his chin made him even more attractive.  After only speaking for a few minutes, they found they had a lot in common, including the same birthday month—four years apart with Ed being older— and they begun their courtship that weekend.
Though they were both level-headed and determined individuals, Ellie was more of the dreamer with a twist of creative flair. Both were intelligent go-getters and chased their dreams without hesitation.
While Ed worked in the financial industry, Ellie delved into a few different outlets, including computer science, artistry, and writing. Her most current—and most lucrative—love was advertising and marketing. While her passion was painting and writing, opportunity hadn’t yet come her way in those fields, so she had to seek a living elsewhere, knowing that one day, she would land the job of her dreams—an occupation that would twist all of her passions together.
At one time she had considered becoming a model. She had the looks of one with her deep brown eyes, long eye-lashes and porcelain skin.  Her silky dark brown hair reached the center of her back and whichever way it was styled, it always accentuated her soft features. She rarely wore makeup and when she did, it was only a dab of mascara and a light lip gloss to moisten her full lips.  She had one dimple high up in the center of her cheek, rather than on either side of her mouth— a unique but endearing quality.  Regardless of her good looks, becoming a model was not her true passion so she never pursued it further.
Ellie was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada, spending some time living in the quaint town of Boulder City before settling in Bullhorn County with her husband, Ed.
Although many Nevada natives dream of pursuing a life in other states, Ellie had always loved Vegas and its neighboring towns, with Bullhorn County being her favorite. She had no desire to leave. She loved that the skies were almost always a bright, cerulean blue—and when the sun retired for the evening and the skies darkened, a full constellation appeared, illuminating the city with dozens of stars for children to wish upon—hoping their dreams came true.
She grew accustomed to the neatly manicured sidewalks, parkways decorated with murals and statues, and the colorful array of desert flowers that were the staple to every community. Only in Vegas could tropical palm trees and pines be planted near each other to create the perfect aesthetically pleasing landscape. Eye candy for the soul, as she liked to call it.
Although many complained about the transient dwellers, she had become used to it and made a handful of relationships that stayed for the long haul, including her husband Ed.
Since growing up in Vegas, she had seen her share of celebrities—including the Elvis impersonators—on the Las Vegas strip as well as in normal commoner locations, such as grocery stores, banks, and gyms. Without all of their flashy costumes and makeup, they were just like everyone else. She had met and maintained normal conversations with many of them, which resulted in Ellie becoming immune to the term star struck. To her, celebrities were ordinary, only famously so.
Suffice it to say, the first time Ellie met Jeff Rourke, she wasn’t nervous, although others might not have shared the same sentiment. He was the most talked-about man in Las Vegas and perhaps the most prestigious. No doubt he was one of the most successful. His sector in the world of motivational speaking was well known, and his seminars were always sought after by those who lived locally and tourists alike. One would go as far to say that he was indeed a celebrity.
With his light-brown hair and eyes to match, he had the dashing looks of a movie star, and his dress code was impeccable—a fashionable suit always neatly pressed, his hair meticulously groomed, and his eye glasses the latest designer label. He was in his mid-forties when she met him. Ellie was a few years shy of thirty. To say she was in awe of him was an understatement. He’d become a millionaire by thirty-five and a multimillionaire by forty. How could one not be impressed?
He shared his life and his good fortune with his beautiful wife, Rose, and their two children in a luxurious home overlooking the city, complete with a well-tended garden and palm trees on the west side of Bullhorn County.
By financial standards Rose never had to work a day in her life, but she chose to do so three days a week at an elegant boutique less than a mile away. On the other two days, she catered to her children, Eric and Paul. Some tried to classify her as a pretentious type mother, as most were who resided in her neighborhood, but the truth was that she loved her children more than anything—including her husband—and didn’t follow the rules of high-class society. She was a woman who respected the law and obeyed within its boundaries.
When Ellie first met Jeff, he also came off as a down-to-earth, normal, but established man. An average guy who just happened to have an abundance of money.
Jeff's office clearly represented his exquisite taste. His executive U-shaped desk was of made of real cherry wood with a shiny black base. A matching hutch and file cabinets stood in the corner, directly under the expanded window. A subtle but rich-looking lamp hovered above, and his chair was top-grain leather with all of the ergonomics in place. There were two guest chairs in his spacious office as well, both sizable, leather, contemporary, comfortable looking, and inviting to any guest.
When she took a seat on one of the plush chairs in his office, he encouraged her to get comfortable, making the interview more of a conversation between friends rather than a formal inquisition.
He looked her straight in the eyes, treated her kindly, and poured her a cup of gourmet coffee from his single-serve maker.
As they spoke her cheeks hurt from smiling. The interview was a monumentally huge moment in Ellie’s life. The more he described the position, the more she realized that it was the perfect fit. This was a job she had only dreamed about. Working for Jeff Rourke would be the opportunity of a lifetime. While she remained on guard during the interview, his polished charm wasn’t lost on her. He was easy to talk to. He had to have known he was more established than Ellie and much more knowledgeable, yet he spoke to her without an ounce of condescension.
The interview lasted for over two hours. They not only discussed the job, but also talked in length about his family, her family, his previous dreams, how he got to where he was today, his goals and accomplishments, and Ellie’s future.
It seemed as though the sky was the limit. The doors of communication were wide open, and he had cordially invited her inside.
As a motivational speaker, he was accustomed to making it easy for people to talk to him.
Much to her own chagrin, she found herself divulging information about her family and previous relationships as well as her current relationship with her husband and how they met. She didn’t even know how they arrived at that point, but somehow, over two cups of coffee, he knew more about her personal life than some of her closest friends.
“It’s so nice, Ellie, to hear successful stories about a marriage like the one you and your husband have. At my age all you hear about is divorce...or about spouses dying, believe it or not.” He chuckled. “But in all seriousness, it's clear to see you’re a woman with a good head on your shoulders. You’re on the right track to achieving your goals.”
During their conversation he kept within his boundaries and not once did he step over the line. Not that she expected him to, but when she told friends and relatives where she was interviewing, rumor had it that someone as good-looking as Jeff Rourke simply had to be a womanizer. After meeting with him, Ellie felt nothing could be further from the truth. He more or less acted as a father figure would. Or at least a close uncle. He showed interest. And when the interview was over, he scribbled a few notes, shook her hand, thanked her for her time, and promised he’d be in touch.
When she left, she wanted the job more than anything. She had butterflies in her stomach, but not the kind that accompany a crush. Like a plant thirsty for water, she wanted to soak up the knowledge that made him who he was today. She wanted to be a part of something big. Something that would make a difference in this world.
And that something was Jeff Rourke and Associates—the associate being herself.

Chapter 2

Traffic had prevented Ellie from arriving home as quickly as she would’ve liked. A three-car pileup on Interstate 215 caused a jam for at least two miles. Too excited to wait any longer, she called her husband from her hands-free phone, admiring the colorful murals that had been painted on the dividing walls on the belt. It was the one thing that kept her mind off of the congestion.
Though the job hadn’t yet been offered, in her mind it was all hers. The rapport had been wonderful, the location was convenient, and the description could’ve been written specifically for Ellie. There couldn’t have been a more perfect fit.
“He was amazing, honey. We really hit it off from the moment we met. And just in case you were worried, he’s not a womanizer like everyone thought he was. He’s pragmatic, very sociable. He showed the utmost respect for me. Would you believe he even made me a cup of coffee?”
“OK, well, calm down for a minute. Don’t worry so much about making the coffee. Wait until he at least makes you an offer. And I wasn’t worried about him being a womanizer, but now perhaps I should be,” he joked.
Choosing to ignore his last comment, she rambled on. Jealousy wasn’t something that consumed their relationship. “He will call. Seriously, I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life. And the job description could have been tailor-made for me. He’s been in the business of motivational speaking for over ten years, but he wants to expand. He needs some creative talent to do the marketing, take photographs, create business cards and manuals, and help during the seminars. Who better to do all of that than yours truly?”
“Well, I have to admit, it sounds fitting. Come home, and we’ll go have lunch, but not to celebrate…yet. Let’s not get your hopes up until it’s final.”
Reluctantly, Ellie took his advice. It was a Thursday afternoon, and her husband was off from work.
They enjoyed lunch on the patio of a popular café that specialized in a unique variety of delectable crepes. It was located in the heart of town and surrounded by expensive boutiques; they expected to have to wait to get a seat, but since it was the middle of the day on a weekday, there were some empty tables available.
Ed was always Ellie’s most reliable support system. He was happy to celebrate the good times, be there for her in the bad times, and rein her in before she got too excited about something that hadn’t yet happened. A few years older, he had more experience in the job-hunting world, so he rarely got his hopes up until he had an offer letter in his hands, and even then, he still reserved his excitement until he was sitting at his new desk.
He conveyed that same thought process to his overzealous wife during lunch and tried to bring her back down to earth. Though his attempts were futile, she had understood his point.
Eventually, it had sunken in, and so had reality.
Jeff Rourke promised he’d call by Friday, but Friday came and went, leaving the weekend without promise and a diminishing glimmer of hope. Perhaps the interview didn’t go as well as she had thought. It was possible she had misinterpreted their rapport for nothing more than amiability. It hadn’t been the first time she was wrong about someone she first met. As a matter of fact, she rarely erred on the side of caution. It wasn’t part of her naturally optimistic personality.
But perhaps he already had someone else in mind—a better candidate to suit his needs. It wasn’t the outcome she had planned for, but it was conceivable and something she had to consider.

Chapter 3

On the east side of the vacant street, the couple pulled up to the gas station early Friday morning, and the man stepped out of the car, stretched his long legs, and walked over to remove the gas cap.
They had gotten an early start and wanted to get to the cabin as soon as possible. The sun hadn’t yet risen, and it seemed as though their neighborhood had turned into a deserted ghost town. Only one other car pulled up behind them—a shiny black sedan that looked like it had just left the showroom.
Frankie watched as the man exited the car. He was tall and built, possessing an air of arrogance as he strolled right past Frankie. He turned toward Frankie's direction, but seemed to look right through him, as if Frankie didn’t even exist.
As Frankie got a closer look, he noted a simple decal on the front of the man’s shirt and his muscular calves, black socks, and white sneakers. He looked at the man's face but didn't look him in the eyes.
He couldn’t.
He wondered if it was fear that prevented him from locking eyes with him. But fear of what?
Frankie watched him walk into the mini mart. His stride was slow, seemingly calculated. Frankie removed the gas nozzle and let it hang from the tether while keeping his eyes fixated on the strangely interesting man.
Frankie pumped his gas, replaced his gas cap, and tilted his head. He looked inside the store and then swung his head to take notice of his beautiful wife sitting in the passenger seat, her head resting comfortably on the headrest with her blond hair cascading over the edge. Without a logical reason, he rushed to get inside the car before slamming the door behind him.
From where he sat, he had a perfect view. Within seconds, it all made sense. Inside the mini mart, he could see the man’s shoulders rise and his elbows lock. He rested an object on the palm of his left hand. Frankie squinted to get a better look as his wife also caught a glimpse.
Reality hit just as the bullet did. Ribbons of red splattered the glass door of the mini mart.
Just as Frankie’s foot pushed on the gas pedal, the man strolled out, smiling. The decal on his shirt now speckled with blood. He was crazy enough to wave to the couple as they sped past. Frankie watched in his rearview mirror as the man strolled to his car slowly, as if he were on a sightseeing tour. As if he hadn’t just killed a man.
Frankie stopped long enough to see a figure. After his eyes focused, he realized it was a woman. She rose up from the backseat, What he couldn't possibly hear, were her desperate screams blaring and no longer muffled from the gag she tore loose.
Frankie Spencer and his wife, Kayla, sped off and called the police station, hoping to God that the killer didn’t take notice of their license plate number or catch a good glimpse of them.
Once they reported the killer and the woman in the backseat, they sat in silence as Frankie concentrated on the road, his knuckles white as they clutched the steering wheel. The only noise was the sound of their tires running over the grooved pavement. The silence more deafening than the gun blast.
He wanted nothing more than to turn around and help the woman in the backseat, providing she wasn't there voluntarily, but the killer was clearly armed and dangerous. By going back, he’d be putting his and his wife’s lives in jeopardy. It was best that the police handle it. After all, they were better equipped and more adequately prepared. Even though logic prevailed, he still felt like a coward and a helpless one at that. A lump had taken residence in his throat, the horrid scene playing repetitively in his mind.
Only six months prior, Frankie had read about a situation that went bad when a domestic dispute got out of control and a neighbor tried to break up the fight. He got in the middle of the husband and wife’s argument and consequently was killed. So was the wife. Frankie thought if he was ever in that situation, he would’ve done the same thing, but now he thought differently. In this situation he knew he’d wind up dead.
Once he and his wife felt they were out of any immediate danger, Frankie parked on the side of the road in a feeble attempt to calm their nerves while keeping an eye out for any signs of the police.
Within seconds a parade of cop cars flew by, their sirens on full blast, heading toward the very gas station, on the lookout for the killer.
There was nothing more that Frankie and Kayla could do. They had given the police all of the information that they could offer and, against Kayla’s wishes, their contact information. For now it was time they moved on. They pulled out onto the open road and continued with their original plan.
It might’ve been an hour before either of them spoke. Streams of images clouded their minds, the sounds of gunshots replaying over and over on a painful, continuous loop.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Hearts of Gold Preview


Profound innocence.  Can it be accurately defined?
It is the soft look on a baby's face as they really notice you for the first time.  The second their beautiful eyes open and gaze lovingly into your own while their tiny fingers grip your hand.  The feel of your heart as it leaps happily in your chest, overcome with a clarity, a joy unmatched by any other.  You could swear you see clearly into the depths of their precious soul.  The moments you fall in love with them over and over again.
It is the need for a puppy to curl up at your feet only to bounce up and follow you wherever you may go.  The writhing of their body as you bend down to cradle them in your arms.  The smell of their breath as they nestle their furry face next to yours.
It is the look of complete and utter trust as your toddler puts their faith in you to love them, teach them and keep them out of harm's way.  Or the feel of their tiny arms wrapped around you as they lay their heads down to sleep at night. The gentle sound of their voice as they whisper they love you.
It is the exhilarated tail wag as your senior dog awaits your arrival.  The unbridled enthusiasm as you greet them at the door.
Innocence and purity.  These are the makings of real and tender love, most often found in children and dogs, and often recognized by each other.
These are the very terms that describe Hearts of Gold.

Chapter 1-The Sanctity of Marriage

The inside of a home should be cozy and warm, blanketed by the love between husband and wife, not chilled by a hatred that a blazing fire couldn't kindle.
From the moment of inception, and quite conceivably some time before, an insurmountable grief had been bestowed upon Peyton's young life—a period when innocence and youth should have gone hand in hand, a time when the only darkness should have always been accompanied by a comforting bedtime story and a favorite teddy bear.
Instead, her darkness began in the wee hours of almost every morning and continued until her tiny body lay to rest at night.
Her horrors were measured by how well her mother could keep her father's temper at bay. With his short fuse, the method of measurement was almost always cut in half.
No one could blame the frigid weather for the constant chill in the air. It would have been more accurate to blame the bitterness on the likes of Wayne Henry Bishop, Peyton's father.
While often it was Peyton's mother, Morgan, who suffered the brunt of the beatings, Wayne was not shy about raising his fist to his daughter on occasion or assaulting her with words, mostly those meant to diminish her self-esteem. He had all the ammunition he needed, like the neighborhood bully, and fired away at his daughter every chance he saw fit.
In no way could he even be classified as a caregiver to Peyton.
Peyton's mother on the other hand did what she could to give Peyton a normal life, though it wasn't much. With her petite build, porcelain skin, beautiful light brown hair, and cerulean blue eyes, most men would've agreed that Morgan was a catch. If they were smart, they would consider themselves lucky just to be in her presence. Her husband's awareness of her beauty only made him more determined to maintain control. He dangled her very life in front of her like a carrot before a starving bunny.
She could remember when it first started—the beatings. Back then it was more of a slap here or a push there.
At first, it amounted to nothing more than a shock, a burst of confusion, a blow to her ego.
Morgan was always confident, never submissive. She was also capable of a hot temper when warranted, but she was no match for his brawny build of six foot four or the fiery beast that grew within.
When the slaps turned into punches, her foolish pride was what initially kept her in a marriage that her parents hadn't approved of from the very beginning.
It wasn't long before she had a change of heart. She would trade her pride for her life any day. But she wondered now if it was too late.
During Morgan's pregnancy, Wayne flaunted his masculinity by using her stomach as a punching bag when things didn't go his way, which was quite frequently according to him.
From the bruises she sustained, it was a miracle that she survived his abuse, no less managed to carry her pregnancy to full term.
He felt that by "punishing" her, he would teach her a very valuable lesson. And what a teacher he was.
He boasted to her in private, claiming that he was making her tough and the baby even tougher. He held their lives by a string; they were mere puppets to do what he wanted when he commanded it be done. 
On the rare occasions where she chose to fight back, he put her in her place with frequent threats.  "I can kill you in a heartbeat.  You're just lucky that I choose not to, Morgan."
His seemingly charming personality was his saving grace around all of Morgan's friends. No one in their right minds would ever suspect he was capable of hurting so much as a hair on her head.
In addition, he kept his arrogant comments to himself, especially when she came imminently close to death in the hospital after a severe beating. The doctors were pleasantly surprised when she recovered, though they weren't naive. When the physician on call questioned him about Morgan's dire condition, Wayne adamantly denied any allegations of abuse to his young wife. He rattled off one lame excuse after the other, an act he'd improved upon subsequent to each beating. If lying was a muscle, his was definitely toned.
"Oh, Morgan's always hurting herself. She's been like that since the day I met her.  Thankfully I was around otherwise who knows what would've happened!" 
The nurses predicted that Morgan would deny any abuse, and they were right. As soon as Morgan recovered enough that she could speak, she stuck up for her husband, an act she'd perfected and one she thought she performed flawlessly.
Sadly, it was common for the hospital staff to see women admitted into emergency rooms with a bloody nose or a broken leg. It was also common that these same women suffered with battered woman syndrome.
Morgan was no different, fitting the cookie-cutter image to a genuine fault.
Taught to be a loyal wife, or at least threatened if she didn't behave as such, she never admitted anything was wrong with her marriage. Until she took those difficult first steps, no one would be able to help her.
Her excuses always seemed viable for the many bruises she wore. Friends had witnessed firsthand how clumsy Morgan appeared.
Her friend Tracy had even seen Morgan take a spill down the front steps outside of her apartment in a snowstorm. She surmised that Morgan fell because the steps were icy. It seemed like a logical explanation at the time.
What Tracy didn't know—and couldn't know—was that Morgan fell due to a beating Wayne had given her moments earlier.
His irrational gripe? Morgan had made plans to go out without asking his permission first. He accused her of having an affair, even though he was quite aware that she was going shopping with Tracy, her lifelong best friend.
So when Morgan stepped out onto the steps, she was still shaking from the pain her husband had inflicted, causing her legs to give out beneath her and take a tumble. Like the coward that he was, he made sure not to bruise her in any obvious areas. Her stomach was the first place he usually aimed.
When Tracy asked if she was okay, Morgan responded with, "Oh, yea. I'm so clumsy.  I should've known better than to wear these shoes."  She dismissed the fall as if it were completely normal, even though she was in agonizing pain.
Unfortunately, Morgan never did share her misery with Tracy. To the outside world, Morgan and Wayne had the ideal marriage, aside from their financial issues. But hey, who didn't have problems with the economy in despair? And Wayne wouldn't have it any other way. He threatened that if she told a soul, he would kill her and their unborn baby.
"Promise me you'll do as I say or they'll be hell to pay, Morgan.  Do I make myself clear?"
She typically answered with a nod.  She was backed into a corner, given no choice.
She believed he'd make good on his promise. He'd brought her close to death many times before but then nursed her back to health after his rampage was over. His beatings came simultaneously when he had a strong buzz on. His alcohol of choice was good old Jack Daniels. Once he was able to see straight again, he'd "fix up" his wife, as he called it, apologize, and expect to start anew without any repercussions, as if it were perfectly acceptable to beat someone weaker than him.  There was always a reason as well.
"If you only hadn't said this, Morgan."  Or, "If you only hadn't said that."
It was never his wrongdoing.  In his mind, Morgan was the only one at fault.
She had planned to leave him once Peyton was born, but her plan went awry when he discovered her hidden stash of money. That was when the big beating came down on her, teaching her a lesson she'd never forget: don't ever cross Wayne Bishop.
And she didn't forget. Now, she learned to be more careful.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Paw Prints in the Sand

Introducing my latest book, Paw Prints in the Sand-Available on Kindle, Nook and in paperback on

Prologue: Precious Innocence

A dog is not a thing. A thing is replaceable. A dog is not. A thing is disposable. A dog is not. A thing doesn’t have a heart. A dog’s heart is bigger than any “thing” you can ever own.

The buildings are always the same; old rusty cages, the unmistakable smell of fear; desperate dogs begging for loving homes, their raspy cries echoing throughout the lonely and frigid hallways.

As you trudge up and down the aisles of a kill shelter, you see that each crate houses an abandoned animal whose yearning eyes plead while your heart melts into a roaring sea of helplessness. How did they get here? Why them? No one deserves this.

You want so badly to rescue them. You’d love to take all of them home, but of course, it isn’t feasible.

As you look into the innocent eyes of each dog, you know it’ll be less than a week before the older ones lose their life, and the young “vicious” dogs, as they have been stereotypically labeled, only have a few more days at most.

While you’re there, you can’t help but wonder, do they know? Is there any possible way the dogs realize what cruelty fate has in store for them? Admitting that painful truth to yourself is harder than you ever imagined.

The thought races out of your mind as quickly as it had entered. Not because you don’t care—God knows you care more than anything—but because it is too difficult to accept the harsh reality.

But, alas, there’s still that somewhat gratifying feeling of knowing that you are there to make a difference in at least one of their lives.

You have a spot, or maybe even two, in your home and more than enough love in your heart to accommodate these precious creatures and hopefully free up some room for another unfortunate stray at the facility in the process.

At least that’s how it happened for Chelsea and Anthony Shelton.

Chapter 1: Love Unguarded

There will always be detours in the fascinating game called life. Find the path to your heart’s desires, and stay on course.

 Chelsea and Anthony had been teenage sweethearts, who, like most at that young age, broke up for a short while to sow their oats before realizing they were true soul mates.

Before they got back together, they each dabbled in the party scene and enjoyed a few drinking binges, complete with the dreaded hangovers the next day, but realized that wasn't the permanent lifestyle they sought after.  Eventually, they found their way back into each other’s hearts in their early twenties and had been together ever since.

Both became successful, conscientious individuals and though they occasionally had arguments like every married couple, they respected and genuinely cared for one another.

They weren't considered glamorous by any means, but were definitely average in looks.  Chelsea had long, brown hair and light green eyes and Anthony was blessed with a muscular physique and full head of thick, sandy brown hair.

Married only four years, they’d already experienced their share of hardships with trying to start their family. They wanted nothing more than to have a child of their own, but after they both underwent a series of medical tests, the doctors revealed that it just wasn’t in the cards for them.  A major disappointment as since the day they were married, they’d always imagined sharing their lives with at least two children, and a family dog to complete the picture.  

With the support of their beloved family and friends, they got over the initial shock of their misfortune, and moved forward with plans to adopt a child. The downside was that according to the adoption agency, it might take years. And there were no guarantees.

Although they were understandably disappointed, they decided that in the interim they would still consummate the second portion of their plan. After giving it some thought, there was no valid reason to put their lives on hold.

They'd been prepared to rescue a shelter dog and each time they sat through the tear-jerking commercials on the television, they realized in their heart that now was as good a time as any.

It was an early Saturday morning when they drove down to the town shelter. The building itself rested at the end of a cul-de-sac, surrounded by nothing but trees and a broken-up parking lot to match the brokenhearted pups inside.

When they ambled in through the double-glass doors, the middle-age volunteer greeted them with a personality as lively as a crumbled piece of that parking lot. Barely acknowledging their arrival, she merely pointed the way toward the gray, metal door that housed the dogs. Then she buried her face in her fitness magazine.

This establishment was known as a kill-shelter, and Chelsea speculated that to volunteer in the facility, it was probably better off that one didn’t show any emotion, as demonstrated by the detached woman occupying the front desk.

With so many dogs being neglected, abandoned, dumped, abused, and everything in between, there are never enough facilities to provide shelter for all of them. What adds to the devastation is that often shelter dogs fail to get adopted due to their seemingly aggressive behavior, even if they were once friendly on the outside.

Nine times out of ten, something changes their disposition once they get locked up. Their personalities shift, whether it be from the fear, the isolation, the confusion, the cold cement floors, or the lack of toys. Or it may be from being bereft of exercise, deprived of love, or simply because they can smell the death of their canine peers from the euthanasia rooms. The necessity to survive causes them to lose their trust and more importantly, their confidence.

The unfamiliar noises and lonely environment do nothing to mollify their fears. Since they appear aggressive, the likeliness of them finding a good home diminishes. It’s the same doleful story in every facility, yet their population continues to increase daily.

As the door slammed behind Chelsea and Anthony, it resonated, setting off a chorus of frenzied barks from the distressed occupants. The couple walked gingerly past the countless rows of crates, trying their best not to frighten any of the dogs, each one looking more desperate than the last.

Had it not been for one dog’s demanding howl, Chelsea might have run out of the building empty handed. The absolute realization and heartache was too much for her to bear.

But that howl.

It was the single thing that caused her to laugh when she was on the verge of tears. That demanding howl, combined with the act of the dog maneuvering his scrawny paw through the cage in a sincere effort to grab her leg, as if to say, “Hey, get over here. Come be my new mom.”

Aside from his disheveled exterior, he was indubitably striking. Like most shelter dogs, he was in dire need of a thorough grooming, as his knotted hair was course and his skin flaky. The hardened goop under his eyes appeared as if it hadn’t ever been cleaned.

Underneath that tangle of golden fur was a bright-eyed, energetic sweetheart of a dog. His fox-like ears bent forward toward his light brown eyes, which revealed an expression that couldn’t be mistaken for anything but hope.

His sparkling personality shined through like an illuminating star, and those same hopeful eyes translated a heartfelt story that words would never be able to accurately describe.

In the cage directly across from him sat a more demure canine that appeared to be his twin. She wasn’t nearly as vocal, but just as stunning, if not more so. Her golden fur was also knotted right behind the ears, and her paws were caked with mud, presumably from yesterday’s rainfall. She sat erect, the previously white tuft on her chest now gray and soiled. Both of the dogs had clearly been neglected even before they had arrived at the shelter.

Chelsea had already made up her mind when she turned back to catch Anthony’s eyes, who was grinning from ear to ear. He didn’t have to say a word.

“Both?” she whispered, knowing her husband well enough to read his mind.

He nodded. “Absolutely.” Though he was a man broad in stature, he was normally not flagrant with his emotions. This time, however, tears pooled in the corners of his hazel eyes. Apparently, the dismal environment was heart wrenching for him as well.

While they discussed it, another volunteer turned the corner and greeted them. This one seemed to have notably more compassion than the woman occupying the front desk. She smiled warmly at them before realizing that they were interested.

“Have you decided on which dog you’d like to take home today?” she asked Chelsea. After helping out at the shelter for so many years, it was easy for the volunteer to recognize the vibrant sparkle in Chelsea’s eyes that could signify only love at first sight—the special kind that often transpires between human and dog.

Chelsea couldn’t wait for Anthony to speak, so she took the lead. “Yes, please. We’re interested in these two.” She pointed to the female and male. The male was ignoring the conversation, focusing on reaching through the bars, trying to grasp the shoelaces on Chelsea’s sneaker.

They asked the volunteer a number of questions, including whether or not the dogs were related, wondering if perhaps they were brother and sister. The volunteer said that, to the best of her knowledge, they were not.

She informed them that they had been surrendered within two days of each other. The male’s age was estimated to be approximately a year and a half, while the female was about a year old.

Both were unmistakably purebred Nova Scotia duck tolling retrievers. They had all the markings, the white tuft, the fox-like ears, the pink nose and lips, and the light eyes that matched their golden coat.

While some families have no other choice but to surrender their dogs because of hardships, financial difficulty or medical issues, these dogs were given up needlessly.

Apparently, the male was given up because he barked incessantly, and his owners couldn’t handle the atrocious noise level. They admitted that they didn't have the time or the patience to train him.

The female was turned in because she wasn’t housebroken yet, even though that was due to no fault of her own. Rather than train her, the previous owners argued that dogs should instinctively know how to take care of business. They voiced their frustration and said they wanted her out of the house as soon as possible.  The shelter took her in that same day.

Hearing their heartbreaking stories further confirmed their decision, and it took only moments for Chelsea and Anthony to fill out the necessary paperwork.

Within an hour, the dogs were on their way to their new home, finally given a second chance at enjoying their lives as they should, which was an opportunity many other dogs are never granted.

Sadly, the pair was hesitant to meander out of the facility. Both dogs tucked their tails between their legs, both were frightened and shy—most likely stemming from their stay at the shelter.

But once they walked outside with their new owners, the warm breeze wafted a plethora of new scents to their keen noses, allowing them to do what came naturally to them—just be dogs. To a dog, smelling the scents of other dogs, humans, or creatures that had visited a path before them is a luxury in itself.

Hearing the natural songs of the wildlife, even smelling something simple such as flowers that are in bloom, is a wondrous joy. To them, each unique scent tells a captivating story and is a vibrant indication that they are still alive, and more importantly, it signifies that there is hope.

Before long, the two dogs slowly began to wag their tails with unbridled enthusiasm. Moments later, they even danced around each other, demonstrating the customary canine greeting that initiates a friendship and builds the foundation for an everlasting relationship. It was a sight to remember.

Before leaving the shelter, Chelsea and Anthony had been advised that the female had been spayed, but the male had not yet been altered. So the first thing they did once the adoption was finalized was make an appointment at the vet to have Spice neutered. The appointment was set for the first of March, three weeks after his adoption date. Sugar wouldn’t have to go to the vet for shots until a month later.
Copyright © 2012 Elizabeth Parker
Designer of LVJewels Buddy Bracelets -Click Here to order your bracelet today!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

MS Word I Help- Final Week -Tutor Thursday

As promised, here's the final instructions for Step I of Word. Congratulations-you finished!!

Small disclaimer here. I'm in no way employed or affiliated with Microsoft. I am not selling this information-it is completely free. While I've made a genuine effort to ensure the quality of this manual, there is no warranty provided and I disclaim any accountability and liability for any damages resulting from the utilization of the data provided in this manual or products described in it. All sample exercises and files are fictional and any similarity to real people is strictly coincidental.

Change Case

Inserting a Table
Converting Text to Table
Converting Table to Text
Hiding Gridlines
Word Count

Change Case
SUPPOSE THAT YOU HAVE JUST TYPED AN ENTIRE SENTENCE AND REALIZE ONLY NOW THAT YOUR CAPS LOCK WAS ON. You can easily change this by selecting ‘Format’ from the toolbar. Then change ‘Change case.’

The following screen will appear. From here, you can then choose ‘Sentence case’ to make the above sentence appear normal again.

There is an option to create a more exciting background to your layout if you plan to use your document on a web layout or browser. To add a background to your documents, click on Format>> Background to view the following screen.

You are brought to your basic color dialog box for which you may or may not be familiar. To choose a background color, just click on the color of your choice. For even more choices, (can you stand the excitement?), click on the “more colors” or “fill effects” options to enhance your choice.


To choose a theme for your document, click on Format>>Theme. On the left will be a list of the titles of the themes and on the right you will see a preview. Just click on the theme you would like and Click Ok.

Inserting a Table

This is a great tool for many reasons. Primarily, many worksheets or surveys that you see every day are either created in Excel or believe it or not, Word. The advantage to using a Word’s table is that if you already in a Word document, you can add the table, survey or worksheet right there. No need to create a whole new document. Secondly, the table in word can be a stand-alone table or an actual excel table!

To insert a table, simply click on Insert Table to add a stand-alone table. In this next screen, choose the number of columns and the number of rows you wish to appear in your column. (If you change your mind later, you can always add or delete rows and columns).
It should look a little something like this:

If you need to delete any cells, highlight the cells you wish to delete. Then go to Table>> Delete >> Cells. The following screen will appear.
You can then choose the layout of where you want the remaining cells to be positioned.
To insert additional rows or columns simply highlight your existing table, then go to Table>>Insert>>Columns to the left or right, or rows above or below or cells.

To Merge cells (combine two cells together), highlight the cells you wish to merge and then click on Table>>Merge Cells.

To Split cells (Put a “table like” cell inside of another cell). Highlight the cells you wish to split and click on Table>>Split Cells.

Converting Text to Table

Word has included a neat little feature to save you some time….and a lot of aggravation. Suppose that you have just typed a full paragraph, but realize that you want this in a table. All you need to do is highlight the text and go to Table>Convert>Text to Table.

The following screen will appear:

Choose the number of columns and/or rows you wish, along with the column width and where you want to separate text. I.e. separate text at ‘Paragraphs’.

Your paragraph will now look like this example:
Choose the number of columns and/or rows you wish, along with the column width and where you want to separate text. I.e. separate text at ‘Paragraphs’.
To make matters even easier, you can take the above table and convert it to text as I will explain in…….

Converting Table to Text

Amazingly, just as you can convert text to a table, you can also convert a table to text. Suppose you create this big, beautiful table that you are proud of (the spreadsheet kind, not the wooden kind) and your boss begins to tell you that he/she wants it to be in letter format, not a table. Well, now you can just change that back to text. No problem. All you do is highlight the forbidden table and follow these instructions.

Hiding Gridlines

Easy enough, but just in case you are wondering. If you have a table, but do not want the actual lines in the table to show…Highlight the table, go to Table>Hide Gridlines. The Gridlines will now be hidden and this option will now be dimmed. To show the gridlines, go back to Table>Hide Gridlines (it should now NOT be dimmed) and the table will have gridlines.


Sounds like a song…but its not, as far as I know. This option, you may already know if you are familiar with Microsoft products. In case you do not…

Let’s say that you have just inserted a symbol, but have decided you did not want it there. You can just go to Edit>Undo (or the counterclockwise arrow on the toolbar). But, if you now decide you want it there after all, you can click Edit>Redo (or the clockwise arrow on the toolbar, if it is there).

Word Count

Whether you are writing a report for school, or a column for your businesses’ newspaper, this feature will save you a lot of time! All you have to do to count how many words are in your document is:

1. Highlight the paragraph(s) you wish to count, or you can highlight the whole document by selecting Edit> Select All.
2. Go to Tools
3. Word Count
4. A dialog box will appear showing you the following information in a matter of seconds!

This section is designed to familiarize you with the available Help menu that is included with Word. It is a very concise tool for helping you do many of the functions available. At the very least, it will explain how the functions are utilized.

Once you click on ‘Help’ located on the toolbar, you will be brought to the following screen where you can ‘Search for’ help in the search line.

Once you enter your item in the search line, a new dialog box will appear with some choices to choose from that most closely resembles the issue or question you are having. Make your selection and then follow the instructions on the screen.

One other feature that is available in the Help menu is the word ‘About.’ All this does is let you know the version of Word that you are currently using. This is helpful if you are ever trying to ask for assistance, but do not know which version you are using. The person that is assisting you may need to know this information, as each version differs from the next, so it will help narrow down the issue at hand.

Copyright © 2010 Elizabeth Parker

Author of Finally Home, Final Journey, Bark Out Loud!, My Dog Does That! Unwanted Dreams, Phobia, Evil's Door and Faces of Deception