Arleen Joan Morris Shabel was born June 24, 1940 in Denver, Colorado. She graduated from North High School in Denver, Colorado and attended Colorado University and Denver University. She received her BA from Rutgers University with a major in French and minors in history and education.
Her mother was born in Jassy, Rumania and her father was born in Denver, Colorado. She is married to Norman Shabel, from New York. Mr. Shabel is a class-action attorney who writes legal thrillers. He continues to write almost one novel every two years. The couple has been married for many decades and have two children and two grand-children.
Ms Shabel attended the Alliance Francais in her sophomore year, where she also attended hardly any classes at the Sorbonne. Her delight that school year in France was to travel by train, hitchhiking, bus, and ship from one end of Europe to the other. She covered all of the British Isles, parts of Africa, Scandinavia and as far as Moscow in Eastern Europe. She lovingly blames her mother for her “gypsy feet.” Traveling to her is like chocolate to a chocoholic. She shares Auntie Mame’s philosophy that the only way to live, live, live is to travel because traveling really does opens doors.
Her love for France has continued and although she is a Francophile, she quite readily admits to the shortcomings of the French…after some prodding. One of the great attractions to France has always been the cuisine. Arleen has attended numerous cooking classes in France as well as in Italy. She finds inventive cooking and baking the essence of implementing all of those cooking lessons. Ms. Shabel grew up watching Julia Child on television and considers her spontaneity in cooking a gift from Julia. Arleen’s collection of cookbooks and recipes is extensive and continues to grow.
Arleen has written poetry ever since she was a young girl. Her poetry enables her to share her emotion with loved ones and to have the confidence to write a song for her husbands’ musical “Are The Lights Still On In Paris?” This play version was produced in 2008 in Philadelphia. Arleen designed the set for the play and chose the background music. The musical version of the play will be produced on the London stage in the near future. Ms Shabel has played the piano since she was seven years old. Her father, an accomplished pianist, who still plays the piano at 93 years of age, began to give her piano lessons when teachers told her parents that she was too young to study piano. Because of her father’s piano lessons, she learned to play guitar chords and had a solid background in popular music before moving on to an “official” teacher who taught classical music. A few years ago she began to learn to play the saxophone. One mellow voice was what she was seeking.
Although Arleen learned to speak French well, her French was never as good as it became when she and Norman made the leap to Paris where they bought an apartment in the year 2000. The adventure of buying, renovating and eventually selling their apartment was a journey that both enjoyed often for the same reasons and frequently for different reasons. Their experiences are related in the upcoming book “Under Paris Rooftops” which narrates the different experiences of the husband and wife through a “he said, she said” format. Their diverse points of view create a humorous and interesting look at Americans living in Paris. This upcoming book takes a look at the adventure of finding and buying an apartment in Paris, in ten days. The renovation took close to eight months and although it was fraught with mishaps, the results were well worth the effort.
Arleen has been a designer for decades. She began designing Norman’s law offices and branched out into condominiums, coffee houses and restaurants. Her best review came from Zagot for a restaurant she created in New Jersey. It was a natural sequence of events for Norman to ask her to design the set for “Are The Lights Still On In Paris?” Although she said, at the time, “I’ve never done anything like this.” His response was “You can do it!” …and she did do it, converting an outside tenement structure on stage, for the next production, into an elegant Parisian apartment.
Dogs have always been an integral part of her life. From the time she was a small child and her father woke her and her brother up at two o’clock in the morning to witness the birthing of collie puppies in the basement. There was always a dog in the house when she was growing up. There has always been a dog in her life, even when she was in college. A series of dog breeds have shared their love. Both of their children also have formed strong attachments to their own dogs. Arleen and Norman have had a dog as big as an eighty-five pound Labrador retriever, Shana, to their present five pound Maltese, Bogie, officially known as Prince Maximillian Bogart Bear.
When Bogie was a puppy, it was always intended that he would travel to Paris. Teaching him “café manners" was a must if he was to be allowed to sit in a restaurant in Paris. Bogie was never a disappointment. However on one occasion he was returned from his unannounced visit to the kitchen of the restaurant. The good-natured maitre d’hotel exclaimed “Monsieur Bogie was doing a “kitchen inspection!”
Bogie’s portability enabled Ms. Shabel and her husband to take Bogie everywhere in Paris-with the exception of the museums and the opera. In Paris, a welcome mat was always thrown out for him in restaurants, shops and the neighborhood. Because so many photos were taken of Bogie in Paris, it became obvious that these photos had to be shared. Hence, the book, Bogie Sees Paris came about.
From the time Ms. Shabel was a small child, she always wanted to be a teacher. Teaching has taken many forms in her life. She has been a fourth grade elementary teacher in New Jersey. Arleen was a substitute teacher before her children were born.
Pottery at the Perkins Center for the Arts was a natural outgrowth of her love of pottery and ability to teach the techniques to others. When the Perkins Center for the Arts, in Moorestown, New Jersey first originated, it was necessary to create a pottery studio. Ms. Shabel designed and constructed the studio in the basement of the Perkins Center for the Arts. She taught children and adults for many years.
Ms Shabel also has been a painter since she was a teenager. Her paintings, pottery and other art work is available to be seen on the home site. Just click on the gallery tag of the Arleen Shabel web site..
When she was approached to teach literacy she accepted. However, her first students turned out to be Portuguese and were only literate in Portuguese. The goals were redefined and she began to teach them English. Eventually she taught a middle-aged man how to read. The pleasure of hearing how he could finally read a menu was a great reward for her efforts. Presently, Ms. Shabel is the librarian at her condominium in Florida, where she spends the winters. She shares her love of books at book clubs, where the pleasure of reading creates a camaraderie unlike anywhere else.
Ms. Shabel answered the call in the 1970’s to the resettlement of the many Jewish Russians who were coming to the United States. In Southern New Jersey she accepted the position as assistant to the Director of Russian Resettlement for one year. It was here that she really learned to love her country, as she saw it for the first time through the eyes of new immigrants. The duties that she performed were varied and it was always a joy to discover what new tasks she would be asked to perform each day. It helped that the people that she worked with were not only competent, but caring.
Ms. Shabel’s father, brother and other male members of her family were in housing and commercial construction while she was growing up. Blue prints and floor plans were always lying around the house. Whether by osmosis or any other means, Arleen somehow knew how to draw floor plans and almost always felt comfortable in the depths of construction. She was the collaborator with the architect and the general contractor in the substantial enlargement of an initial shopping center structure. She also became the rental agent and manager of the shopping center for many years after it had quadrupled in size.
A love of animals has been a vibrant part of Ms. Shabel’s life, from the time she was a child. There was always an animal at her side-even when she was a student in Paris. At that time she adopted a cat that she found in the Metro (subway) and even innocently paid two hundred francs to the Metro ticket taker. Arleen humorously named her cat Deux Cent ((Two Hundred) highlighting her foolish purchase. When a friend told her about the Docent (guide) program that was starting at the Philadelphia Zoo, Arleen jumped at the chance to not only teach others about the animals, but to have a first-rate educational experience. Her Docent class was the first and only class that was taught by all the curators and the director of the Philadelphia Zoo. Access to all of the animal houses was granted. She was even permitted to observe autopsies. The snake proved to be the most interesting because the organs are so systematically laid out. She continued her education and toured for five years. The last year was spent teaching elementary children about the animals in the zoo at the public schools. Several animals were brought to the school on each visit to illustrate the characteristics of the animal to the children.
Of course the animals in the zoo were in zoo environment. Africa is the real thing! It was always her dream to visit Africa and see the animals in their own environment. In the fall of 2009 Arleen and her husband had an opportunity to visit South Africa and Zimbabwe. Here at Kruger National Park and on the Zambezi River, animals in their natural state were observed from a relatively short distance. Many photos were taken. Look for some of these photos and an essay about South Africa on the blog site.
Presently, Ms. Shabel is planning to visit the Veterans Hospitals, where she will bring her dog, Bogie, a therapy dog, to visit the wounded warriors and gift them with her book, Bogie Sees Paris. Arleen has strong sentiments about the plight of our vets and believes that they do not receive their just due. In this small way, she would like to contribute to their well-being.
Works in Progress
Under Paris Rooftops, a humorous adventure about an American couple who blindly buy, renovate and eventually sell an apartment in Paris.
Horus, The Bird That Wouldn’t Fly, is a book for children written in the poetic form of iambic pentameter. It is the story of Horus, a robin, who was afraid to fly, even after the rest of his siblings had left the nest. Courage becomes a lesson for Horus. The story and water colors were created by Arleen Shabel.
Benches of Silence is a small book of photographs of empty, tranquil benches, all over the world, where one can imagine oneself in a very quiet space. It is intended to be utilized for meditation or just finding peace and quiet in ones inner soul.