Mariel Grey's Blog

January 2, 2017

Crying Over Spilled Milk and the New Year

There’s no sense crying over spilled milk, unless you’re a bone tired mother grocery shopping on New Year’s Eve for her equally tired children. Kristin Sherman was that mother. She had finally made it to her car parked at the far end of the parking lot when her milk carton fell out and spilled. Ms. Sherman reports her children were strapped in the car and one of them was crying at that point. I’m betting she wanted to do the same thing!

Much to Ms. Sherman’s surprise, a woman who had been watching the ordeal approached her, offering to go inside the store and buy milk. The woman said she was a grandmother and understood how difficult it was. Ms. Sherman tried to decline, but the woman insisted.

When the kind stranger returned with the milk, Ms. Sherman tried to pay her, but the lady refused. The grandmother gave Ms. Sherman not one, but two gallons of milk, along with a gift card to the grocery store. Ms. Sherman says in her Facebook post, “I was feeling exhausted and defeated for the most part this week and this strangers random act of kindness made me cry like a baby.” She goes on to say, “Less hate, more love is my hope for 2017.” I am so for that!!!

It’s the littlest things in life that make such a huge difference. If 2016 didn’t turn out the way you hoped, you can hit the reset button for 2017. I know that the tick of the clock doesn’t necessarily change things, but it can be a mental reset if you allow it.

This year, not only am I going to continue trying to be kinder to others, I’m also going to be kinder to myself as well (something we forget to do as often as we forget to be nice to others). None of us are perfect, but being better to others and ourselves will certainly bring each of us greater happiness in the New Year.

The happiest of New Years to you.

Link to Ms. Sherman's post
https://www.facebook.com/lovewhatreal...
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Published on January 02, 2017 18:16 Tags: kindness

November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving and a Side of Kindness With That Turkey

Those of you who follow my blog know one of my favorite subjects is kindness. I write romance because it speaks to our hopeful and positive side. The majority of us love and want to be loved in return. Romance novels are all about the wondrous journey of finding that special person who can share and enrich our lives.

In this hectic, crazy world, it seems with all of our “connectivity,” we are further apart than we have ever been. After this hateful election, tensions are running high, and our differences seem more prominent.

Today is Thanksgiving, the day we try to gather with our loved ones and appreciate one another and the good things in our lives. I would hope that today also reminds us to appreciate one another and give thanks for the diversity of ideas and cultures in every corner of the earth, including our own country. Wouldn’t it be a boring world if we were all alike? What would be the point of travelling to new places or meeting new people?

Many of us would discipline our children for the same behavior being carried out by adults this last political season. Can’t we be civil to one another again? Can’t we agree to disagree?

is one mother who has started a politically neutral campaign. Make American KIND Again. I’m in.

I am reminding myself this, as well as throwing it out there for others to consider. Try and do at least one random act of kindness every day. It can be small, like letting someone out in traffic, or reaching for on a shelf for someone who cannot reach it. Or it can be something extravagant. It makes no difference. Do something for someone else.

So many studies have shown that performing acts of kindness not only benefit the recipient, but also the giver. Even witnessing acts of kindness has a beneficial effect for the observer (healthier, happier, less prone to illness, reduce stress, etc. etc. etc.). Uh, let me think. Do I want to get onboard with that?
I’m in.

I ordered one of the signs this mother has designed. (Etsy has them). I really and truly believe that the secret to making America great (or greater), is making her kinder again to all of its citizens. Make her kinder and she cannot fail to be great.

So, from the bottom of my heart, I wish you all a happy and kind Thanksgiving.

Check out the links below for the MAKE AMERICA KIND AGAIN campaign, and links related to the effects of acts of kindness.

http://www.ajc.com/news/national/woma...
http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/5-side...
https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/...
http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives...
This entry was posted on November 24, 2016, in Blog and tagged kindness, Thanksgiving.
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Published on November 24, 2016 07:47 Tags: kindness, thanksgiving

October 2, 2016

Book Review: Knock Out by Catherine Coulter

For readers who enjoy the romance aspect of Catherine Coulter’s books, they may find themselves disappointed in this tale. That is not to say it is not a good story, but it is more of an action adventure thriller with a slight paranormal twist and a smidgeon of romance. How’s that for a little of everything?
Her regular characters, Special Agent Savich and Sherlock are back and are working two cases.

The book begins fast with a bank shootout, which is a great opening. This is the introduction of mystery/thriller story one, which revolves around identifying and capturing the people who have been robbing a series of banks and aren’t shy about fatalities.

Concurrent with this is story two, which involves Savich receiving a telepathic message from a seven-year old girl, Autumn, who is desperately seeking his aid. She and her mother, Joanna, are on the run from a cult who is after Autumn for their own twisted reasons. Hiding in a small town, Autumn and Joanna come to the attention of Sheriff Ethan Merriweather, who offers his protection and eventually works with Savich and Sherlock to try and thwart the cult from abducting Autumn.

While there is a budding romance between Joanna and Sheriff Merriweather, this potential relationship is not explored very deeply.

The story is entertaining, but I never felt deeply invested in the characters, maybe because Ms. Coulter had so many plot threads going on that the story jumped around a bit. While the storyline itself is engaging, for those who like deeper characterization and more romantic elements, they might find this particular book a little lacking.

4 of 5 stars
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Published on October 02, 2016 17:21 Tags: catherine-coulter

July 13, 2016

The big dipper meant sun and fun in the Regency

Long summer days make most people want to head to the coast to dig their toes in soft sand and luxuriate in calming breezes and refreshing seawater. Things were no different during the Regency. Then, just like now, people fled to seaside resorts to escape the heat.

One of the most popular coastal resorts during the Regency was the town of Brighton. Brighton’s transformation from a struggling fishing village to a fashionable seaside resort began in 1750 with the publication of .Dissertation in the Use of Seawater in the Diseases of the Gland by Dr Richard Russell. After the book was published, people began to flock to Brighton for the perceived health benefits of the seawater, which led to the development of the town. It was during this phase that George, Prince of Wales, visited and became taken with Brighton (more on this in my next post).

Going to the beach was a bit different during that time. The opposite sex did not swim together, but rather had separate swimming areas. They entered the water in bathing machines, which were essentially wooden wagons with wheels which were drawn into the water by horses or bathing attendants. Men and women could change into their bathing costumes inside the wagons, though some people chose to swim in the nude since their fellow swimmers were of the same sex.

Once in the water, people employed as bathing attendants would push swimmers through the waves, help them float, and later assist them in returning to the bathing machines. Many of the swimmers, particularly ladies, probably could not swim. It’s interesting to note that men “bathed” while women “dipped.” Accordingly, the male attendants were called “bathers” and the female attendants were referred to as “dippers."

Brighton’s most famous dipper (known as the Venerable Priestess of the Bath) was a woman by the name of Martha Gunn. She was a large, robust women who helped ladies dip from 1750 until 1814 when she retired due to heath issues. She was so well known and beloved, that the Prince of Wales allowed her free access to the kitchens at the Royal Pavilion, among other privileges.

Martha Gunn passed away in 1815 at the age of 88 years. She is buried with her husband in St. Nicholas’s Churchyard.
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Published on July 13, 2016 20:11 Tags: brighton, regency

July 2, 2016

Independence of Thought

Those of you who follow my blog know I write on a wide range of topics. July 4th, the day we celebrate our independence as a nation, is almost upon us (I’ve been writing on some weighty topics lately, so I promise my next post will be lighter). This year, with the many events swirling around us nationally, globally, and unfortunately for Orlando, even locally, I have given special thought to this day.

You would have to be hiding under a rock not to know about the tragedy which occurred here in Orlando with the recent mass shooting at a nightclub. Yes, there are many who may not agree with the victims’ lifestyle choices, but these people were sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, friends or lovers. Their lives were cut short in a brutal way. I spoke with an individual who knows one of the first responders on the scene. Her friend told her how awful it was to see all of the cell phones ringing on so many bodies.

Though we went to war for independence from England over issues related to taxation, our nation was also founded on the concepts of celebrating our individuality, our freedom of speech, and our religion. We as a country are supposed to be tolerant of others’ beliefs, even if they conflict with our own. To paraphrase some of what Father Dennis Edward O'Brien, USMC, said, a soldier embodies this very ideal in his or her willingness to sacrifice themselves for our flag in order to ensure that someone else has the right to burn that very same flag.

Any time I am told I should fear or hate a group of people, I find it disturbing. It’s easy to point fingers at faceless groups and blame them for something, or say we should fear or hate them for x,y,z reason, or because they are different from us. Hitler was very good at that.

I imagine that the leaders in countries like North Korea, or in radical groups, tell their citizens and followers the very same thing about us. That they should hate or fear us because we are different, or because we don’t believe as they do.

When you break a group down, it consists of individuals, each with his or her own hopes, dreams, and thoughts. Just like the group who lost their lives at the Impulse Nightclub here was only a collection of individuals, each with the capacity to be good or bad. An individual, or even a subset of individuals, does not define a group.

It seems to me that when we allow fear to cause us to lump people together as a homogenous group rather than looking at the individuals, we begin to put our feet on the proverbial slippery slope. Once before, we allowed that to happen and much to our shame, the United States rounded up Japanese people an interred them in camps during World War II. These were regular, legal citizens who were taken away from their homes, businesses and lives, and thrown into camps which were, to all intents and purposes, for nothing more than fear of their ethnicity. Note that our history books don’t like to dwell much on this little detail.

As we celebrate our independence, think about what true independence is.

I saw a good bumper sticker the other day. It said “Don’t believe everything you think.”
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Published on July 02, 2016 19:37 Tags: independence, orlandounited

June 1, 2016

Memorial Day or Veteran's Day? And why the red poppies?

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day? Since less than 1% of the population has served in our military at any given time, I imagine the majority of us don’t know these things, and I figured I would clarify it in honor of those who do so much for us, and have so little voice in things since they are such a small percentage of the voting and general populace.

In a nutshell, Memorial Day is the day we remember members of the military who died in battle or as a result of injuries they received in battle. Veteran’s Day honors anyone who has served in the military, whether living or dead.

Memorial Day began to be celebrated after the Civil War, and was originally known as Decoration Day. It was a day when people would decorate the graves of both Confederate and Union soldiers, a custom which is still practiced today. The idea of wearing poppies to honor America's war dead allegedly originated from the poem, In Flanders Field, written in 1915 by John McCrae. Later, May 30, 1968 was set aside to celebrate Decoration Day because it did not correlate to any particular war. The day was later officially recognized as Memorial Day in 1971, and set to be recognized on the last Monday in May.

Veterans Day began to be celebrated after the end of World War I. In 1918, President Woodrow Wilson designated November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day. Observance of the day included parades and public gatherings. On November 11, 1921, an unidentified American soldier who was killed in action during the war was buried at Arlington National and the U.S. Congress designated the day as a legal holiday to honor all veterans. That same day, unidentified soldiers were laid to rest at Westminster Abbey in London well as at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation which set aside the day as a time to honor American veterans of all wars.

So, thank a veteran if you know one.
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Published on June 01, 2016 18:01 Tags: veterans

May 2, 2016

Just naming it was a three ring circus!

During the Regency, Philip Astley and Astley’s Amphitheatre were household names. Philip Astley began his career as a regimental rough rider, but wanted to earn his living as a riding instructor and find a way to showcase his talent for trick riding. In 1781, he opened his first exhibition theatre, the Amphitheatre of Arts, to demonstrate his riding abilities. The name was later changed to The Royal Grove, and then again to the Amphitheatre of Arts. Regardless of what the actual name was at any given time, the public generally referred to his establishment as Astley’s Amphitheatre. Even the advertisements of the day referred to it as such, and that is the name by which it is best remembered today.

Philip Astley was by no means the only equestrian to have offered this type of entertainment during this era. What set him apart, however, aside from his extraordinary talent, was the fact that he began performing his acrobatic riding in a circular arena. Prior to that time, these types of shows had been performed by riding in a straight line. The circular stage not only allowed him to use centrifugal force to perform better, it also allowed the audience to see better.

As time went on, Astley added other acts, such as additional riders, dancing dogs, tightrope walkers, jugglers, tumblers, clowns, etc., combining them in one show. Prior to this time, these types of entertainment had typically been performed as separate shows. The changes made by Astley in utilizing the circular ring and combining these various performances laid the foundation for the modern day circus.

In addition to the ring, the theater boasted a large stage which Astley made full use of. He was known for his extravagant shows, especially reenactments of military battles. The large space allowed him to use hundreds of soldiers, horses and cannons with large explosions, creating a sense of realism. One of these shows, The Battle of the Alma, makes an appearance in the second book of my Surrender series, A Gentleman’s Surrender. His son continued the venue after Philip Astley’s death in 1814 and the shows were popular into the Victorian Age when a fire destroyed the theater.
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Published on May 02, 2016 17:30 Tags: astley-s-amphitheatre, regency

March 16, 2016

Does your garden grow with fire balloons and tightrope walkers all in a row?

Pleasure Garden. Has a nice ring doesn’t it? I’ve seen it stated that pleasure gardens were developed in England centuries ago. As is often the case, there are contradictions in historical accounts and other sources claim they have existed since the time of the Romans.

Whatever the case is for when they originated, these gardens were a huge attraction during the English Regency period, as they are even today. As the name implies, these types of gardens are generally open to the public and are created to serve both as a place to enjoy natural wonders and beauty, as well as to serve as a host for entertainment. These locales often feature promenades and bandstands, boat rides and concerts, zoological attractions and water parks, and pretty much whatever else you can think of.

With that in mind I suppose you could say that Busch Gardens here in Florida is essentially a pleasure garden. It incorporates entertainment into a garden/aquarium and zoological setting with emphasis on tropical foliage. Cypress Gardens could also be deemed another such place whose gentle, more old fashioned entertainment fell victim to changing times and became Legoland several years ago. While the entertainment area of the new Legoland park has been revamped, the botanical gardens have been preserved. So, it too remains a form of a pleasure garden in that respect.

During the Regency, England had a number of large pleasure gardens, the most famous being Vauxhall Gardens, followed by Ranelagh Gardens. I use Vauxhall as a setting in my book, A Gentleman’s Surrender, as do many authors in their historical works, because it was a prominent source of recreation for all classes of people during that time period and boasts such diverse settings. Musical concerts and fireworks demonstrations were staples, and thousands flocked to see these exhibitions, creating a wonderful backdrop for stories.

The venue was graced with beautiful paths, pavilions, statuary, and artworks by preeminent artists of the time. If the structures within Vauxhall Gardens were at all reminiscent of the many illustrations which depict them, the architecture alone was stunning. The events held there were major productions (think old studio movies with a “cast of thousands”), an example being when in 1827, the Battle of Waterloo was re-enacted with a cast of nearly one thousand soldiers. As the title of the post mentions, there were even acrobats and tightrope walkers and fire balloons, oh my!

By the way, what are fire balloons? I’m so glad you asked. They were essentially hot air balloons filled with fireworks designed to carry the display high off the ground. So, now you’ll know.

If you are interested in more information on these enchanting gardens, while there are many, many sources, I would suggest you start at the link below and go from there.

http://vauxhallgardens.com/
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Published on March 16, 2016 11:54 Tags: a-gentleman-s-surrender, england, regency, vauxhall, vauxhall-gardens

March 14, 2016

Blog Tour for A Gentleman's Surrender

Join me on a blog tour hosted by Reading Addiction Virtual Blog Tours- see the schedule between March 14, 2016 and March 25, 2016

http://www.readingaddictionvbt.com/
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Published on March 14, 2016 08:18 Tags: blog-tour

February 9, 2016

Book Review: Anything for You by Kristan Higgins

I have mixed feelings about this book. I’ve noted that several reviewers did not like the fact that the characters’ past history was so prominent and felt that it pulled them out of the story. For me, that was not an issue because I felt that this was central to understanding the driving force behind the hero and heroine’s actions and without it, their present behavior would not be credible.

***Spoilers***

Jessica Dunn and her brother, Davey, who has fetal alcohol syndrome, had a difficult upbringing with negligent alcoholic parents. Trying to care for her brother in high school, Jessica traded sex for protection of her brother, earning her a bad reputation. Over the years, Jessica managed to work her way of out of poverty and into modest middle class and respectability, all while continuing to care for her brother. Her brother, incidentally, happens to hate the hero, Connor.

Connor O’Rourke has been in love with Jessica since he was 12 years old. Their on again-off again relationship has been going on for a decade, with Jessica calling the shots and setting down the ground rules, all of which Connor has accepted. These rules all revolve around Jessica’s brother and, to his credit, Connor respects her and her relationship with her brother.

***End Spoilers***

I felt the story was well written and the characters complex, as were the situations and background. The dialogue, particularly that which occurs between Connor and his twin sister, Colleen, is enjoyable. All of the motivations and past experiences made the characters’ reactions and emotions believable and wonderfully complicated.

That being said, I did feel Jessica’s treatment of Connor was often unfair, and the fact that he allowed that to happen for a decade, strained my credibility to some degree. There was clear character growth on the part of Jessica, however, which allowed me to overlook that aspect of the book.

Overall, the book is a good read, enough to override my frustrations with the tale. I think it would have worked a little better for me had this not been drawn out over a decade and occurred within a shorter time span.
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Published on February 09, 2016 07:22