We Still Need Heroes by Rachelle Ayala #mgtab @mimisgang1

Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

Heroes are the men and women who step up in times of crisis. They charge into burning buildings and rush toward disaster zones. They defend us against bullies and bad guys, and they stay on their jobs when others retreat. We appreciate our heroes because they inspire us and give us hope. They help us in times of need, and they do their duty while others are fleeing and hiding. We appreciate our heroes on special days like Veteran’s Day and anniversaries of their heroic acts. But do we understand the toll it takes on them and their families?

Being a hero entails sacrifice and putting others in front of self. Our military men and women not only fight bad guys but give aid and support to vulnerable populations. Our first responders put their safety at risk when responding to disasters or calls for help. Our health care workers stood at the front line to treat patients when an unknown disease sickened their communities. Every day, mothers and fathers put their children’s welfare in front of their own by working long hours to put food on the table or sacrificing for their education.

The qualities that heroes have: bravery, courage, resourcefulness, duty, honor, and sacrifice are still needed today. We need men to stand up for what’s right and women to nurture the weak and helpless. People to hold the line for freedom and individual liberty against the dark side of totalitarianism and mind control.

I’m grateful for all heroes: the police who catch criminals, the firefighters who save lives and homes, the military who secure our freedoms, the pastors who preach the Bible, the parents who protect the children, the essential workers who did their jobs, the patriots who stand against tyranny, and most of all, God who gave us his only begotten Son.

Forgive me for being sentimental. The 20th anniversary of September 11 just passed by, and while the ending of the war was not what we expected, it does not in any way diminish the heroism of the policemen, firefighters, and rescuers who charged into the buildings or all of the many military men and women who held the line against terrorists and warlords. They battled at tremendous personal cost and we owe them continued gratitude. Who knows how many attacks were prevented by their sacrifice?

Many years ago, I wrote about an Afghanistan War veteran, Tyler Manning, who returned home disillusioned and suffering from PTSD. He was homeless, subjected to flashbacks, and had lost his faith. It took a tiny four-year-old girl, Bree Kennedy, to see something special about him as he sat underneath a Christmas tree scavenging thrown-away food from a mall food court. I wish the war had ended better, but I know his effort was not wasted. Tyler’s story became a three-part Christmas series called: A Veteran’s Christmas.

In book 1, A Father for Christmas, Bree finds Tyler under a Christmas tree and brings him back to society and a romance with Bree’s mom, Kelly.

In book 2, A Pet for Christmas, Tyler returns to Afghanistan to work at a charity he founded, only to have it blown to bits. He and his translator then embark on a daring escape from Afghanistan with the help of a stray Kuchi dog.

In Book 3, A Wedding for Christmas, Tyler gets involved with a former Afghan female soldier and helps her get off the streets–all while trying to juggle his wedding to Bree’s mom, Kelly

Check out the first book, A Father for Christmas FREE.

A Father for Christmas by Rachelle Ayala

So let us remember to honor our heroes every day and to let them inspire us to give a helping hand and nurture those in need. All of us can be an every day hero by standing up for the values and ideals that made our country great and by giving our time, labor, and care to others. Like the children’s song says, JOY is Jesus, Others, You with yourself last.

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A Cruise to the British Isles

An affable cruise representative met us at Heathrow Airport, London, and accompanied us to the bus that drove a whole group of passengers to the ship terminal in Southampton, where we boarded the ship, our home away-from-home for the next twelve days. We didn’t visit London where we have previously spent time.

The next morning we docked in Guernsey Island (St. Peter Port), 30 miles west of Normandy,  where the French author Victor Hugo lived in exile for 25 years at Hautevile House and wrote both Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. We were welcomed with a gorgeous sunny weather and 70 oF temperature for our visit of the island, an idyllic paradise with cobbled streets and picturesque seafront marina.

Guernsey is not part of the United Kingdom but it is part of the British Islands. Residents speak English and French, and their money is similar to the English pound. Many of the houses in Guernsey’s west have an unusual strange piece of granite sticking out of them – these are “witches’ seats”. Back when they supposedly ran wild in the western parishes, residents built them onto their houses so that the witches could stop and rest, rather than causing havoc. The world-renowned Guernsey cow produces some of the most rich and delicious dairy products in the world.

St. Peter Port is the main town on the island of Guernsey. It’s full of hills, colors, and super cute shops! The top speed limit in Guernsey is 35 miles/hour. If you drive along the coastline of Guernsey you will hit military fortifications almost every 2 minutes or so. These were built during the Napoleonic wars to protect Guernsey from France.

The Little Chapel is actually the smallest chapel in the world! But the astonishing thing is that the entire chapel, interior and exterior, is covered with broken bits of pottery, glass, and china. 

We sailed to Ireland and stopped in Cork where we visited the romantic ruins of Blarney Castle. In the Blarney garden, the trees were dressed in knitted wool. Many visitors climbed the one-person narrow stairs to the Stone of Eloquence, all the way to the top of the castle (NOT me) and admired the amazing view.

In the Blarney village, we shopped for wool and Waterford crystal, and didn’t buy any, but we enjoyed watching young girls performing an Irish dance for us.

Dublin, capital of the Republic of Ireland is an old city boasting imposing castles and estates. The Druids believe the shamrock could ward off evil and the Christians believe it represent the Holy Trinity. In Dublin, we visited Trinity College and St. Patrick Cathedral.

Trinity College is huge, with several buildings. We were impressed by the crowd of young people and students. A Ford ancestor was autistic, and bullied by his friends. He was shot and fell from the window and died. They say that his ghost roams the University ground. His sibling left and went to the US. His grandson is Henry Ford.

TRINITY COLLEGE founded in 1592

At St. Patrick Cathedral we saw  the tile of Dean Jonathan Swift, who had been the dean of the Cathedral. When someone dozed during his homily, he had a chaplain drag his sermon chair to the culprit and hit him with his cane. My son-in-law’s grandmother had the same name and claimed him as an ancestor.

Our next stop was Liverpool, England, where we visited a very modern and circular church, the Catholic Metropolitan church of Christ the King and the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral that is humongous, of Gothic style in red brick, with gorgeous painted glass.

We strolled along Penny Lane and took pictures of the street where the Beatles lived.

In Belfast, capital of Northern Ireland, we visited the yard of City Hall with Queen Victoria statue and a moratorium for the people who died in the Titanic. The “unsinkable” Titanic was built in Belfast over two years and sailed from Liverpool. After it was built, the engineer said: “Not even God can sink the Titanic.”

In Scotland, we docked in Greenock and drove through Glasgow. Our guide wore a lovely yellow kilt. We passed by George Place, in front of the spectacular City Hall, big square with several statues, among which that of Walter Scott.

After a day at sea, we were still in Scotland. Our next stop was in Inverness and Loch Ness. We woke up at 5:30 am for the long ride by bus. It was rainy and cold but worth it. I stoically waited under the rain with my umbrella while my husband climbed up the old castle.

During my visit to Guernsey, I was greatly impressed by the peaceful island that boasted a tumultuous history. As our guide described the special autonomy and numerous privileges the residents enjoy under the leadership of a Lieutenant Governor, I decided that this Channel Island would become the Principality of Rensy Island, the setting of a new series of romance novels. So far, I have five books relating the stories of the princes/princesses from Rensy Island. I hope you will enjoy reading this series.

A Bride For Prince Paul: She can’t abandon her patients for his crown! A Bodyguard For The Princess: A murder at Harvard in Princess Chloe’s student building. Jingle With My Princess: The doc and the princess… He saves lives but Princess Charlene may save his heart. Prince Philip’s Cinderella: A charming jogger saves her from danger. But he’s a prince… and she comes from nothing. Should she run or risk her heart? A Dance for Prince Eric: A ballerina with a promising career on the run for her brother’s sake. A charismatic prince who saved them both. Do fairytales exist?

The best ice cream

At a time when everyone is going on a diet, I am almost embarrassed to admit I love ice-cream. I don’t particularly like cakes or dessert, but give me an ice cream and you’ll see a happy person.

The best ice cream I ever tasted left an indelible memory in my mind. We were in Rome, in front of the Fountain of Trevis—you know the famous fountain where you throw a coin to come back one day. I was hot and thirsty. When I saw the window of a Gelateria displaying scrumptious ice creams, I bought a gelato, as they call the ice cream in Italy. Oh my God, delicious, incredibly delicious. It had strawberries, chocolate, vanilla and whipped cream, stuffed with dried fruit. I asked for the name of that heavenly ice cream. They called it cassata Siciliana or cassata Napolitana, depending on whether the vendor was from Southern Italy or from Northern Italy.

Two days later, our cruise ship stopped in Sorrento. One of the waiters recommended a gelateria on the main piazza. “If you like ice cream, you can taste their cassata Siciliana,”  he said, bringing his bunched fingers to his lips and sending a kiss. “The best ice cream in the world.”

I didn’t need more convincing and led my husband straight to the gelato store.We each ordered a cone of cassata. My husband chocked at the price, $15 per cone.

But the store owner explained in broken English that his store was the Pope’s favorite gelateria. Apparently the Pope stopped here once to have a cone of cassata. Later, the owner built a St. Peter Basilica, made of cassata and presented it to the Pope. Of course, the picture was all over Italy’s newspapers and the owner showed us a copy on the wall with the pope receiving his pious ice cream. “So you capito perque cassata expensive?” the man added.

Si, capito, I understand why this cassata is so expensive.” Not that it reconciled my husband with the offensive price.

On the ship, the maître d’ gave me a recipe. The problem is that ice cream is loaded with calories and I am doing a terrible effort to watch what I eat and stay away from ‘dangerous’ food. I modified the recipe and used non-fat ice cream, or even better, frozen yogurt.

Cassata Recipe:

1-A pint of chocolate frozen yogurt containing dark chocolate chips.

2-A pint of strawberry frozen yogurt with frozen bits of strawberries.

3- A pint of mango ice cream with frozen bits of mangoes.

4- A box of non-fat whipped cream.

5- A pack of cut dried fruits, pineapple, papaya, raisin, coconut.

***The boxes of ice cream or frozen yogurt should be allowed to soften out of the refrigerator for half an hour before using.***

1-In an easy-to-open mold, spread the softened chocolate frozen yogurt evenly. Put in the freezer for two hours to harden.

2-Now spread the softened strawberry frozen yogurt evenly on top of the chocolate layer. Put in the freezer for two hours to let it harden.

3-Empty the bag of dry fruits in the box of whipped cream and mix well, then spread on the hardened ice cream in the mold. Leave in the freezer overnight.

4-Spread the softened mango ice cream evenly on top of the frozen whipped cream in the mold. Put in the freezer for two hours to let it harden.

**You can use mint chocolate instead of chocolate frozen yogurt, and pistachio ice cream instead of mango.

Take the mold out of the freezer half an hour before serving. Hold over a warm stove to loosen your ice cream from the bottom and be able to overturn the mold on a plate. Enjoy. Delicious and low calorie.

Shh…it’s a SECRET BABY…
Some parents would do anything for the sake of the kids they love.

Here’s your SPECIAL DELIVERY of SEVEN BRAND-NEW, NEVER BEFORE PUBLISHED STEAMY STORIES from New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Authors.

SWEET and SASSY NEW BEGINNING

Whether best friends, co-workers, or strangers, these men and women struggle with roadblocks that pop up all around them.

Join us as these romances enlighten your reading time with miracles, poker games, hiding from the past, disabilities, political shenanigans, military tactics, and starting life over for a new lease on life.

From starting over to second chances, all these heroes and heroines are looking for one thing: A New Beginning.

DOCTORS IN LOVE DOCTORS IN LOVE 2

A Business Trip to Belarus

In a different life, when I was still working as a Director of the Analytical Division for an environmental hazardous waste company, I spent many hours in the lab supervising chemists who performed analytical tests on water, soil, and air samples. Everything changed when I received a request for proposal from the Department of Defense (DOD) for the refurbishment of a military laboratory in Minsk, Belarus. Excited by the new challenge, I wrote a winning proposal, but I never expected to travel to Belarus as Project Manager of our new DOD contract.

I went to Belarus for the first time at the end of October 1994, with my lab manager and our computer specialist. The long and tiring, twenty-four hour flight to Minsk started from Cincinnati, OH, on Delta, to New York, where we met the other members of our delegation: the program manager and the quality assurance manager from the DOD and their interpreter. We spent three hours before boarding the big jet to Germany, and arrived in Munich the next morning around seven. We hardly had two hours to change terminal. Carrying and dragging a lot of luggage, a couple of suitcases, carryons, and big bags, we rushed from one terminal to another to catch the Lufthansa flight connection to Minsk that flew only three times a week. Missing our connection meant being stuck for two days in Munich or rerouted to Moscow.

In Minsk, we were greeted by army officers who helped us through passport control and other formalities. Outside the airport, a brisk cold seeped through my bones and freezing rain left us drenched until we reached the military cars waiting to take us to the big Hotel Belarus. Colonel Eugene who became our delegation escort–and guardian angel–informed us that the government stops the heating between May 1st and October 31st. I spent several days shivering outdoors and indoors. On my first night at the hotel, I literally froze in my drafty room and stuffed a rolled blanket along the windowsill. During the day, I continuously requested a hot cup of tea (shaye), but was often offered vodka instead.

Our first official meeting attended by officers, chemists and doctors, took place in a government building called the Hall of Officers. After a series of speeches, our Belarusian hosts invited us to celebrate the new contract with toasts of vodka that we were supposed to drink bottoms up while saying Na Dzhrovia.  No orange juice or ice was added to dilute the 40% alcoholic drink. My throat burned and my stomach caught fire. After several trips to Minsk, drinking vodka became part of my job description. I found it a practical way to stay warm. When I got sick, my Belarusian friends insisted on treating me with vodka, their universal remedy against cold, cough, stomach pain, and headaches!

Receiving the American analytical equipment at the Minsk airport with two colonels present to facilitate the customs’ complicated formalities, transporting it to the Ecomir lab in trucks that we had to rent, and moving it to the actual lab by lifting the humongous boxes through the windows because they wouldn’t fit through the facility’s doors was a monstrous performance I never thought we could accomplish.[I will be eternally grateful to the staff of ECC and Ecomir]

The Belarusians are very hospitable people. The colonels invited us often for dinner in their homes. After the inevitable toasts of vodka, we ate the delicious stuffed cabbage, potato pancakes, black bread and sausage. The children impressed me with their impeccable manners and fluent English. They often acted as interpreters for their parents.

In Minsk, I used a car with an excellent heating system and a chauffeur who spoke English. My rental car became a haven during the freezing months of winter and the only place where I felt warm and comfortable. Out of curiosity I took the underground train once. It was old and not very clean, a far cry from the magnificent trains of Moscow.

Many of my personal adventures are related in my book, TO LOVE A HERO.

The first chapter of TO LOVE A HERO relates my first impressions: cold weather, gray skies and cigarette smell everywhere. The curious looks of the local people made me feel weird as if I was wearing the wrong clothes. I was one of the only women without a hat. I remedied the situation on my first visit to the bazaar where I bought myself the cutesy mink chapka. I still have it.

I even included my own fall on the broken escalator of the old airport on my very first trip when my pointy heel was caught between the irregular mechanical steps. I was rescued by my lab manager while my heroine fell in the arms of a hero to die for, the handsome Major General Sergei who made her pulse race and stole her heart.

TO LOVE A HERO, highlights the hospitality and warmth of the gorgeous and gallant Belarusian officers who sing and toast and make a woman feel like a goddess. I had a lot of fun writing this book and I hope you will discover a new country and interesting civilization while reading TO LOVE A HERO.

The Russian hero is a perfect example of an alpha hero: a patriotic officer, authoritative and chauvinistic but protective and gallant, honest and loyal.

HEAL MY HEART is another book set in Belarus, depicting the life of a middle-class family, a doctor and widower who lives with his small children and his strong-minded mother, a woman determined to find him a second wife.

HEAL MY HEART: Running away from Christmas celebrations and the demons of her past, Dr. Jillian has dedicated her life to saving third-world children. In a faraway country, a handsome doctor may teach her the true meaning of Christmas, with the help of a baby girl and four little boys. As Jillian and Fyodor work together for six months in his hospital, their fascination with one another surprises them both.

Can attraction and love overcome guilt, duty, and a clash of cultures?