Category Archives: Memoir

Mary’s Reflection

When she looks back on her life, she sees a faded memory of a girl unsure about herself, frighten, lost, and insecure. She can’t help but to see sheer pain, disappointments, mistakes and heartaches.

She thinks about the roads she’s traveled: Roads filled with quick sand like the dry Sahara desert and potholes the size of Texas that tried to swallow her whole!

She thinks about the battles she’s fought for her marriage, her sanity, and her four small children:

She thinks about the struggles she’s endured from abandonment as a child and then again as an adult, along with the failures, and the low self-esteem:

She thinks about the sacrifices she’s made in walking away from an education, the letting go of a special-needs child for the child’s best interest, and in putting her dreams on hold,

She thinks about the love she’s lost in saying goodbye to her baby sister, her beloved grandparents, and her 15 years of marriage:

She thinks about the tears she’s shed in her loneliness, with emptied promises, shame and pain:

But as she looks back on her life, she also sees the lessons that she’s learned:

She sees a girl …

Not one who scratched and clawed her way to the top. But a girl who had just enough grit to float to prevent from sinking when life tried to weigh her down. Who walked on pebbles and used them as her stepping-stones to get to higher ground. Who’s childlike faith in the God above would blossom into something much greater than herself. While she may have had a father figure missing in action, she’d come to know her Heavenly Father who never left her side.

When she looks in the mirror and what does she see?

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A girl once dejected and rejected. She no longer is that sad, little girl. So don’t you feel sorry for her. Applaud her, because it was during the dry seasons that she discovered an oasis. Rejoice with her, because in the darkness is where she found a beacon of light. Admire her for rising above her crisis in spite of her circumstances.

She may have started out in the valley, pecking along like a chicken digging for worms. But then the Ancient of Days taught her to spread her wings like an eagle, and soar into the heavens over the mountaintop.

Don’t cry for her, feel sad for her, or grieve for her.

If you’re looking for a lost and lonely child, she is not here. Misunderstood, she may be; a wonder to many she may be. If you’re looking for perfection, she is not that girl; she still has flaws. If you expect to see sophistication or to hear profound eloquence, you may be disappointed.

Her past may even want to dictate her future, the voices in her head play a broken song, her name may even mean “bitter” — but she refuses to be that girl anymore.

What kind of girl is she?

A simple girl.

A grateful girl.

A blessed girl.

She believes in second chances & new beginnings.

She is stronger today for everything she endured. Her scars serve to remind her that she is a survivor. She appreciates the beauty of living life one day at a time. She surrounds herself by those who encourage and genuinely care for her. She clothes herself with a garment of praise, amazed by the wonders of God’s grace.

When she looks in the mirror, what does she see?

She sees a girl turned woman.

If wrinkles must be written upon her brows, she refuses to let them be written upon the heart.

She is more than a conqueror.

She sees strength, learned lessons, and pride in herself.

Sad? No. Alone? No. Afraid? No.

Not that girl anymore.

© M.A. Pérez 2018, All Rights Reserved

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Filed under Memoir, reflection, reminiscence

The Day the Earth Stood Still

https://bible.org/illustration/build-me-son-o-lord

Thoughts …

What is your Father’s or Mother’s Prayer for your children? You’ll probably never achieve the level of accomplishment of General Douglas MacArthur, but when all is said and done, what will make you whisper “I have not lived in vain”?

Reflections From the Heart

“No, not again! Not now!” I cried out in the bathroom. I’ll call Marisa. She’s always been strong. She has it together.

I reached for the phone and dialed her number. When she answered, I blurted, “The test is positive! I’m pregnant.” She’ll lift my spirits.

“Mary . . .” she began. “How in the world will you care for another baby?”

Then again, maybe not.

“What are you going to do?” Marisa squealed.

I thought, If I knew that, I wouldn’t have called you. Wasn’t I the one supposed to get some reassurances, some guidance, some support here?

“I . . . I don’t know, I thought–”

“Mary, what were you thinking?” she shot back. “You can’t possibly have another baby! You’re only twenty-one; you already have three children, and now number four on its way? Your husband drinks too much, he works only when he wants to…

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Once Upon a Time

In the mid-60s, as a girl with my grandparents, every Sunday we rode the Metro bus to attend services at First Faith Cathedral. Once church was over, we hopped on another bus to downtown that took us to the Painted Horse, a favorite all-you-can-eat restaurant on Biscayne Boulevard. Adults ate for 99 cents and kids for 49 cents. I preferred the hamburger steak with macaroni and cheese, and even though they displayed Jell-O in every color to choose from, my favorite: red.

After lunch, we would head for the Miami Public Library, near Bayfront Park. Grandpa would walked on ahead, while I strolled along with Grandma under her umbrella. We’d stop by a large pond filled with giant goldfish and feed them crackers. The park was next to a waterfront where fancy boats and exquisite yachts sailed by. As I waved to them, I imagined how the rich folk lived.

Once we arrived at the library, I’d take the elevator to the children’s section on the second floor while my grandparents remained reading in the downstairs lobby. I strolled the aisles running my hands across the binders of the books neatly stacked on shelves. I loved the smell of those books, the textures, the colors, even the different lettering.

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My imagination ran wild as I’d choose a fairy tale, sit on a nearby stool and read about magical and faraway places. In my mind, I turned beautiful and clever all in one.

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I pretended to be Cinderella, overjoyed that the glass slipper fit my foot perfectly and that my uncle, the tall Prince Charming, singled me out to dance. I imagined my brother as Hansel and I Gretel, hunting for food, and then eating chunks of candy broken off the cottage with no evil witch in sight. I pictured myself as Little Red Riding Hood who saved Grandma from the Big Bad Wolf. While reading, I became all those characters and more—until Grandpa called for me, saying, “Mary, time to go home.”

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My real so-called adventures didn’t take me to faraway lands like those in the books I read. My adventures were riding around town on those city buses. If the bus was crowded, we stood while swaying back and forth. Back and forth. Grandpa held onto straps. Unable to reach them, I held onto the bars instead.

“Mary, hold on tight now,” Grandma cautioned. Grandpa stood nearby, ready to steady Grandma or me if needed. I don’t think he enjoyed riding on the bus much.

Suburban-type_GM_New_Look_bus_-_Pittsburgh,_1984

When it was time, I liked to pull the cord to signal the driver to let us off.

“Now, Grandpa?” I asked, not wanting to miss our stop.

“Not yet. Be patient, young lady.”

“How about now?”

“I’ll let you know when it’s time.”

Eventually, the sunny, bright-colored Sable Palms apartment complex came into view.

“Okay, now, young lady,” Grandpa nodded.

I would kneel on the seat and reached for the cord, or sometimes Grandpa hoisted me up. I pulled on the cord fast, once, twice, and sometimes even three times for the bus driver to stop. Then swoosh the rear doors opened, we exited, and then the door swish closed.

Palm tree-lined winding roads landscaped and shaded the path to my grandparents’ home. Often coconuts fell from those towering trees and I’d run to pick one up for us.

I’ll never forget one day when we arrived home, I overheard Grandpa complaining to Grandma about standing too close to so many people.

“¿Tu ves, Ana?” he said, showing her something. “See? They stole my wallet.”

From the hall, I listened.

“Oh, no!” Grandma gasped, staring at his inside-out pocket in disbelief.

“We have to stand so close we are like sardines. Too easy for someone to put his hands in my back pocket; taking my wallet out without me knowing.”

It made me sad to think someone would do something bad to my grandpa, stealing from him as if we were rich. Then again, maybe we were.

(An excerpt from Running in Heels: A Memoir of Grit and Grace)

© M.A. Pérez 2018, All Rights Reserved

I loved books then. I love books now. I remember the simple things in life as a child, having a vivid imagination to take me to some wonderful faraway places.

We all have them. What are some of your fond memories as a child?

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French Toast

A neighbor, a hefty woman with floppy arms, lived alone, and liked children. Whenever I stopped in for a visit, she’d have a treat to offer me. She handed me a large chocolate Easter bunny once and then asked what I wanted for breakfast.

“French toast!” I sang, bouncing up and down. The neighbor put on an apron and shooed me out of her kitchen with her jiggling arms.

In the dining room, I sat on a chair with my legs swinging. I got up to stretch. I walked around and traced my hand over a flower arrangement, almost knocking the vase over. My eye caught a candy dish that sat in the center . . .

“Don’t you touch anything,” the neighbor called from the kitchen.

“I’m not,” I replied and returned the purple jellybean that I had licked.

A black cat-shaped clock hung on the wall. I followed the big, moving eyes and long, swinging tail—back and forth, back and forth, tick-tock, tick-tock. I gazed across dusty photo frames that filled the shelves and windowsills and wondered if any pictures were of her as a child. I wanted to thumb through her assortment of worn-out picture books and Life magazines stacked on bookshelves and floor. But I didn’t dare.

The aroma coming from the kitchen made my stomach rumble. I heard footsteps and raced to sit back down. The neighbor put a plate in front of me stacked with golden-brown French toast. She poured warm maple syrup over the fluffy slices of sweet bread. I knew I never smelled or tasted anything so delicious. My one regret: eating too fast and becoming full too quickly. Then I watched, horrified, as she collected my plate and tossed the rest into the trash, because I had eaten half a slice and tried to hide it in the bottom of the stack. I would have brought the rest home to share with Mama and eat later.

French Toast

picture credit to 12tomatoes.com

(An excerpt from “Running in Heels – A Memoir of Grit and Grace“)

© M.A. Pérez 2018, All Rights Reserved

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My Reasons for Writing

One of my cousins from across the miles posed a couple of great questions, giving me food for thought. He asked:

Why do you write? And why do you write about the family?

My answer to him:

First of all, I write because I know I have a story to tell. As a kid, eventually I discovered we were dirt poor. In my teens looking back, I realized that I was neglected and forced to grow up too fast. I was ashamed of my childhood and bitter for being my mama’s mother. As I “matured,” settled down, married and had children of my own, along the way I found I was a stronger person because of some of the things that I endured as a child.

Once I embraced the God of my grandparents, I became a much better person, too. NOT that I had it all together; I still had a few things to learn. But I learned that it was much better to let go of the bitterness and to forgive, than to hold onto the junk.

I also learned that I didn’t have to be a product of my environment! I could rise above the ashes like a phoenix and become so much better. That was my freedom — still is — and God has called us to liberty, not to be in prison. Sure I made some mistakes along the way, but I learned from them as well. It starts with a made-up mind! While I’ve managed to confront my past, I believe my past hasn’t spoiled me, but has prepared me for the future. I may not be perfect but whenever I stumble, I can wipe the crud off and walk on. I share my story that I might help one person – and if I have done that then I have done a good thing and God gets the glory. Photo Credit: LifeOverCancerBlog.typepad.com

I mention family because the little girl growing up — although she may have felt like she was all alone most times — was not an orphan and did not live on an island unto herself. There were others around who helped to nurture her in one fashion or another, even, the antagonists in her story. And yes, some were heroes. She cannot tell her story without mentioning those she looked up to. For it to be truthful, she had to address some real and raw emotions and mentioned the flaws — the good, the bad and the ugly.

The story is not fiction. It is written how she remembers the events that took shape in her life as a child, a teenager and into her adulthood. All the memories do not take her to a happy place. She has had to dig deep to find them. To some, those “happy” places may be simple and insignificant, but to her they were her life-line.

His response:  

I am keeping this to remind me what it takes to be selfless.

 Thanks 

CD

I did not expect THAT answer 

© M.A. Perez 2017, All Rights Reserved

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Down. Not Out.

FACES. HARSH. AND GRIM.

Countenances from every lifestyle.

Frozen in time. The daunted old. The impulsive young.

Uncertain of tomorrow. Unsure of today.

Did they come from broken homes? Torn marriages? Abusive relationships? Addictions?

How did I get here?

As I waited in the line that stretched out the door into the hot sun, I swallowed what dignity I had left. When my turn came, the woman behind the window shoved stacks of papers my way.

“Next,” she called out in a gruff voice.

“You know, I’ve never been here before. Just need some help.”

She rolled her eyes. “Next.”

I scuttled away to find a chair, and thought, Lord, give me the grace to endure, or get me outta here.

Reluctantly, with trembling hands, I filled out the food-stamp forms.

 

(excerpt from Running in Heels – A Memoir of Grit and Grace)
***   LIMITED TIME OFFER   ***   .99cents   ***   Kindle Edition   *** 

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The moment I started it, I had echoes of ‘The Glass Castle’. This is recommended for anyone who loved Walls’ memoirs, as they have some strong parallels.” – Kath Cross (blogger).

 

 

 

 

 

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No Guts, No Glory

When he drank, my husband became an overwhelming monstrosity. One drink was one too many, ten never enough. The more I tried to be supportive, the more he was in denial, declaring, “I can quit anytime I want.”

Emotions carved a hole in me like the machete Donny used to slice at the shrubs, vines and lurking snakes. I hated seeing my husband in a drunken stupor, losing touch with reality. But when he was sober and in his right frame of mind, I became goo-goo eyed, in love with him all over again.

The paradox of my heart.

One foot in front of the other—that’s how I kept my sanity intact. Much too encumbered to mull over my plight, I tended to my girls and even began thinking about babysitting other children for extra income.

By then, Donny threatened much, delivered less. I tried to ignore his childish ways whenever he became too tipsy to do anything but slur and stumble about.

Except for maybe once . . . or twice.

I opened the door and knew full well what to expect. Glassy-eyed, with his newly grown mustache over a silky smirk, Donny was swaying back and forth. My Prince Charming had turned into a frog. He mumbled and staggered in. His pores reeked of booze and a sour odor permeated the air.

“Where have you been all night?”

A snicker and a sneer, his only response.

“You’re drunk as a skunk,” I said in disgust. I watched him trip over his own feet and throw himself on the sofa. “Do you know what time it is?” I persisted.

“Shut up, woman!” he slurred, rolled over and sprawled on the couch, out cold.

Enough is enough. I’ll show him. I’ll teach him if it’s the last thing I do! 

I went into the bathroom. Donny’s shaving-kit beckoned.

Images of a masterpiece ran wild in my head. With purpose in mind and a razor in hand, I stood over my prince-turned-toad, still snoring. Most likely, he dreamt he was a young Nimrod, back in Antigua chasing skirts, for all I knew.

Ever so cautiously, I leaned forward and began to give him a wee bit of a trim . . .

Come morning, I sat across the kitchen table from Donny, my gaze fixed on his slouched frame, forehead glistening, eyes blood-shot, hands trembling with white knuckles as he gripped the coffee pot. Suffering from another painful hangover, I observed while he poured.

I glared, poker-faced, amazed by my own bravado. Suspense was killing me.

“How’s your mustache?” I asked.

Nonchalantly, he brushed his fingers over his lip and started to rise. “It’s fine,” he croaked, and downed his coffee. He refilled his cup and headed out, slamming the door behind him.

Oh well . . . I did try to clue him in. I went into the kitchen to make breakfast.

An hour later, I answered the phone to the anticipated call. “Hello?”

“I’ll give you this one,” my husband retorted. “You’re getting to be a gutsy broad. I’m getting picked on here by all the guys at work.”

I snickered to myself. “Kinda surprised you didn’t notice anything this morning, Donny.”

“Well, you got me. Have to admit, this is a good one.”

I placed the receiver down and sat back on the recliner. A smile twisted the corners of my mouth as I replayed the events of the night before . . .

I’d bent to my task but had frozen when he stirred and muttered something. I backed away and ditched the idea of finishing. I left him asleep in the living room and crawled into bed.

Over coffee this morning, I figured he’d take a hint. Instead, he went straight to work with half a mustache.

I confess: such rare acts of sweet revenge gave a natural high.

(excerpt from Running in Heels – A Memoir of Grit and Grace)
***   LIMITED TIME OFFER   ***   .99cents   ***   Kindle Edition   *** 

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“The moment I started it, I had echoes of ‘The Glass Castle’. This is recommended for anyone who loved Walls’ memoirs, as they have some strong parallels.” –  Kath Cross (blogger).

 

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Run the Race

Hadn’t my grandparents always said, “nothing worthwhile comes easy”?

At the track and field events, I earned each of my awards and ribbons. I’d raced along, my eyes on the mark. Momentum building as my arms pumped with energy and my long legs pounded the grassy field. The warmth from the sun’s rays kissed my face, and the breeze caressed my long, flowing hair. My mind, clear and free from worries, centered my concentration one goal: crossing the finish line.

We took our places and lined up in a row, waiting for Coach’s command.

“ON YOUR MARK . . .”

Nerves hit the pit of my stomach.

“GET SET . . .”

I willed my mind to focus, my eyes fixed straight ahead.

“GO!”

We were off. My foot slipped; two of us bumped. I regained momentum, pumping my arms, elbows high. I needed to pace myself or I’d run out of wind. I decided to hold steady at a comfortable third place. I knew that if I stretched myself, I’d pick up speed and pass them one by one. Needed to time it just right.

Breathe. Keep your eyes on the back of their heads.

Don’t get in too much of a hurry.

Steady . . . Steady . . .

Not yet. Not yet.

Almost . . .

Now!

I passed one girl. Then another. A burst of energy flooded me as I gained a second wind. I closed in on the leader. I heard her breathing. The sound of our feet pounded the ground in unison, inches apart. It was now or never.

We came onto the turn, I moved to the right. Willing my legs to move faster, I passed her up, taking the lead. In record time, I beat her to the finish line!

That was me a hundred years ago. Strong. Perky. Ageless.

If I did it then — perhaps, just maybe — I can do it again, in whatever I set out my mind to do.

(excerpt from Running in Heels – A Memoir of Grit and Grace)
***   LIMITED TIME OFFER   ***   .99cents   ***   Kindle Edition   *** 

* Amazon UK  **  £0.90  **  LIMITED TIME OFFER  **  £0.90  **  Amazon UK *

“The moment I started it, I had echoes of ‘The Glass Castle’. This is recommended for anyone who loved Walls’ memoirs, as they have some strong parallels.” – Kath Cross (blogger).

© M.A. Perez, 2017, All Rights Reserved

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My Guardian Angel

Torrential rain unnerved me as I drove along the highway. The downpour hammering on the roof of the car echoed in my eardrums. I turned up the radio. My car’s wipers were stuck on slow speed, hindering my vision and distracting me. Driving in the far right lane, I leaned forward, both hands clutching the steering wheel and wondered how late I—

Suddenly, the taillights in front glowed red. The driver slammed on his brakes. Automatically, I hit mine, but they locked up. The back-end of the car in front loomed closer.

I cannot hit them! So, doing what any sensible driver would have done (or not), I aimed for the concrete divider, swinging sharply to the right.

My car plowed into that barrier. The tires screeched and drowned out the screams in my head. I skidded out of control at 180-degrees before stalling in the middle lane—facing on-coming traffic.

My world slammed to a stop.

The wipers still swished lethargically back and forth across the freshly cracked windshield. Music blared over the radio. My mind in a daze, I glanced in the rear-view mirror.

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I was thankful that Anna Marie appeared unscathed, apart from the fear in her moist eyes.

“It’s okay, Anna, don’t cry. Mommy’s gonna get us out of here.”

I made a quick assessment of the wreckage: the hood had flown open; the front end was caved in, the right headlights busted.

I rolled down the window to stick my head out, and became drenched by pelting rain and the splash from a truck hurtling past.

Headlights from cars beamed as they swerved to miss us, terrifying me even more. Soaked and trembling with my nerves on edge, I thought, Lord, how am I going to get the car off the road without causing a bigger accident?

I wasn’t even sure my car would budge.

Vehicles roared by, but one slowed and stopped. With headlights practically blinding me, the driver left his emergency lights blinking; he exited his car and made his way toward me, hunkering down from the rainfall. He scanned the inside my car, his eyes alarmed, yet warm.

“Miss, are you all right? Is your little girl okay?”

“Yes . . . yes, I think so,” I scarcely heard my own voice say.

“Put your emergency lights on. Need to get you out of this traffic.”

I nodded and watched my angel head back to his car and pull over onto the shoulder. When the coast cleared, he ran across the freeway and opened my door. I scooted over. He climbed in behind the wheel and proceeded to veer my Plymouth across three lanes, out of on-coming traffic and onto the shoulder. Finally, in reverse, he maneuvered my car to the off-ramp.

After prying the hood back down to shut it, I thanked my rescuer and climbed behind the wheel. I plodded down the road, praying a cop wouldn’t pull me over.

Years later I still recall: When I needed help the most, a total stranger—or perhaps a guardian angel—came to my rescue and showed me compassion.

 

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Filed under Guardian Angel, In Times Like This, Memoir, Running in Heels

Bump in the Night

In our tiny efficiency, as I lay in pitch darkness, my eyes remained opened, growing accustomed to the dark. The yellow moon peeked through the window shade. Eerie shadows traveled across the walls and bounced off a tattered chair whenever headlights from cars passed by.

Mama and I shared a narrow bed then. Because my stepdad, Warren had “accidents” in bed at nights, he slept on the opposite one from us. Like the sound of a freight train, his incessant snoring rattled my eardrums. Asleep in her underwear, Mama’s gentle snoring came in spurts. Those sounds became my lullaby in the evenings, lulling me to sleep.

But not tonight.

I was never afraid during the night, but with a sense of foreboding I couldn’t shake off, I got up and propped a chair under the doorknob. Time passed. Thump! The chair toppled over and my heart hammered against my chest. Then I heard the knob turn and the door creaked. The hair on my scalp pricked me.

In the dark, I turned ever so slowly, peering through half-closed lids.

The silhouette of Warren’s weird friend crawled, cat-like, on all fours. He inched his way closer. And closer. Warren snorted and rolled over. El Creepo froze. Then he continued his way toward Mama. His hand reached her leg and started feeling upward . . .

With sheer determination, I hopped up, screaming at the top of my lungs. Like a wild animal caught in blinding light, El Creepo jumped and made a bee line toward the door. He crashed into a chair, tripped over the box fan, and then collided with the dresser before hightailing out. Crying and shaken out of my wits, I turned the light switch and called out to my parents in zombie-land, to no avail. It took a long time before I shut my eyes.

The next morning, I gave a full report. With stupefied faces and mouths agape, they attempted to process my words.

“What?” Mama shrieked. “I didn’t hear anything!”

“Mama, he touched you!”

“How did he . . . ?” Warren stammered.

Mama gave him a dirty look. “The door doesn’t have a lock, you dope, remember?”

“Well, you just wait ‘till I see that jerk again,” Warren hinted, getting up to check the knob.

One may think that this frightening episode caused a rude awakening in my party-animal parents. It changed nothing. Sometimes, I think Mama didn’t know what to do with me. Some days she wanted me close. Other days she didn’t.

Excerpt from Chapter 5 in “Running in Heels: A Memoir of Grit and Grace
© M.A. Pérez 2017, All Rights Reserved

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