Perfect Love

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March 2, 2017 · 7:15 PM

The Day the Earth Stood Still

“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, you have a child with special needs, you guys don’t have enough money . . . !”

My mind swirled. I hung by a flimsy strand, all hope slipping. Okay! Tell me something I don’t know. Marisa’s right, whom am I kidding? I. Can’t. Go. On.

Then, she added, “Listen, I’ll help you. If you will get an abortion . . . I will help you pay for one.”

So, that’s it? The quick-fix solution to the problem . . . to end an innocent life?

“I . . . I’ll have to think about this,” I muttered. “Let me sleep on it and get back with you.”

Did that answer come out of me?

I placed the receiver down, heavy with conflicting emotions. My world came to a halt. My heart felt heavy. I cradled my belly, thinking: I can’t have another baby. But can I truly consider this the way out?

The girls slept in their room. Their father was—Lord only knows where. I sat alone in the dark, crossed-legged on the bed. My head ached. My stomach tied in knots. Overcome with waves of hopelessness, memories churned to the one security blanket I had ever known: the home of my grandparents. And I realized I was sinking. Fast.

What happened to my anchor of faith? My hope? Isn’t God big enough to handle the mess in my life? I have to admit, I’ve been too busy for Him. Now that I need Him, does He still care? Then it occurred to me: If I can’t trust God now, then what’s the point of going on?

That instant I prayed like never before, and pored over my Bible. The Book of Psalms always comforted me, and that night before sleep overtook me, my “Ah hah” moment came after reading Psalm 139:13: For You created my innermost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I wasn’t about to take the life of my unborn child, believing that God gave that life in me.

Come morning. A new day. A fresh start. Resolute in my decision, faith sparked. God had always taken care of me before. I determined to trust Him to carry me now. I believe, Lord. Help my unbelief. Give me the grace to endure…

I reached for the phone and dialed Marisa’s number.

“Thanks, but no thanks.”

“Mary, think about what—”

“No!” I shouted. “I’m going to walk on and trust God. You knew my convictions. I thought they were yours too.”

“Mary, I was only trying. . .”

“How?” I interrupted, pacing the floor. “By offering me an abortion? I came to you down and out for encouragement and prayer. I needed to hear ‘hope’ beyond my pain, but you didn’t—you wouldn’t—give me that!”

“Look Mary, you’re still so young. I’ve been around longer than you. . .”

“You never had children,” I protested.

“I married a jerk once too. They don’t change.” Marisa went on to give one reason after another how she was looking out for my best interest.

After long seconds of dead silence and nothing else to say, we hung up.

I thought of a lesson in Sunday school about Job who called his friends miserable comforters, even his wife told him to “curse God and die.” They were supposed to be his friends; yet, those comforters increased his trouble by condemning him.

Marisa and I parted ways. Our friendship ended that day.

Days, weeks and months overlapped one another; my past troubles behind me. With my heart overflowing and my eyes drowning in tears, I reached down to kiss my newborn. “Hello, Daniel Michael,” I whispered. “I’m your Mommy.”

**********

Before long, my little curly-lock hair boy is running around with deep brown eyes touching my heart each time he looks up at me.

Next thing I knew I blinked, and the little boy is now a strapping young man and I am gazing up at him.

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

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Note: Please understand I share this story not to condemn, criticize, judge or belittle anyone who for whatever reason may have made a different decision than I did. Everyone has their own story to tell; this is mine. I may have made a lot of mistakes in my life. This was one example when I was strong enough to make the right decision for me. I believe that strength came as I prayed to my Heavenly Father. While it’s true that I may have my share of regrets in life, not giving birth to my one and only son thirty-five years ago is not one of them.

Happy Birthday, son! I love you with all my heart!

© M.A. Perez 2017, All Rights Reserved

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No Strings Attached

It was just a harmless prank, that’s all it was.

And it wasn’t as if Old Lady Hayes didn’t deserve it. The way she used to scream at us for “borrowing” a few of her precious raspberries each summer, like we were stealing gold out of Fort Knox … well, she had it coming.

At least, that’s the way we saw it as George finished tying the string to the red, heart-shaped box. We giggled as Ron added the final touch: two plastic red roses, glued to the lid. “I wonder what will surprise her most,” I asked as George practiced jerking the box out of reach by yanking on the string. “Seeing a box of candy on her step, or watching it fly away when she tries to pick it up?”

We laughed as we watched George make Albert chase the box around the garage. For a chubby 10-year-old, Albert did a good imitation of Mrs. Hayes’s hunched hobble and her seemingly permanent scowl. And we howled when he picked up a broom and pretended to ride it through the midwinter air while shouting, “I’m Old Lady Hayes, the driedest-up old prune in the West!”

Ron was first to notice my dad in the doorway. Within seconds, Ron’s anxiety was shared by all but Albert, who continued to swoop around the garage until he came face-to-belt-buckle with our silent observer. For a moment the only movement in the room came from the little puffs of steam escaping our mouths. Dad broke the stillness by walking slowly to the empty candy box lying on the floor. He picked it up and dangled it by the string, watching it swing back and forth. Then he looked into the eyes of the frightened boys. And, as was his custom, he looked into their hearts as well.

“It doesn’t seem so long ago that I was pulling Valentine’s Day pranks,” he said as he laid the box on a workbench. “One year my cousins and I decided to pull one on our Grandma Walker even though we loved her — she was the sweetest grandma a boy could have. We were just feeling devilish and decided to have some fun at her expense.

“Early in the evening we snuck up to her doorstep with a can of red paint. Grandma was hard of hearing, so we didn’t have to worry about being very quiet. Which was a good thing, because every time we thought about how funny it was going to be to see Grandma try to pick up a valentine that was just painted on her doorstep, we couldn’t keep from laughing.

“It didn’t take long, and it wasn’t very artistic. But for an old woman with bad eyes, it would do. We kicked the door and hid behind bushes. When Grandma finally appeared she stood in the doorway, her gray hair pulled back tightly into her usual bun, wiping her hands on her usual apron. She must have heard the commotion in the bushes because she looked in our direction and spoke loudly enough for us to hear: ‘Who could be knocking at my door?’ Then she looked down. Even from 15 feet away we could see the joy in her eyes when she spotted a splash of red at her feet.

“‘A valentine for Grandma!’ she exclaimed. ‘And I thought I’d be forgotten again this year!’

“She tried to retrieve her prize. This was the moment we had been waiting for, but somehow it wasn’t as much fun as we expected. Grandma groped at the fresh paint for a moment. Slowly, she figured out our prank. She tried to smile. Then, with as much dignity as she could muster, she turned and walked back into her house, absently wiping red paint on her clean, white apron.”

Dad paused, and for the first time I noticed that his eyes were moist. He took a deep breath. “Grandma died later that year,” he said. “I never had another chance to give her a real valentine.”

He took the box from the bench and handed it to me. Then he turned and left the garage.

Later that night a red, heart-shaped box with two plastic roses on it was placed on Mrs. Hayes’s front doorstep by six giggling boys. We hid behind snow-covered bushes to see how she would react to receiving a full pound of candy and nuts.

With no strings attached.

Story by Joseph Walker

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Does Size Matter?

Hey y’all!

Here’s a continuation of my Toastmasters journey.

My first speech, The Ice Breaker was given  a few weeks ago. The following is Speech #2 of the Toastmasters speech series. Objectives: Supporting material, transitions, strong opening and closing statements withing 4-6 minutes. I’d like to share with you my speech which I titled, “Does Size Matter?” Once again, yes, I was nervous, although my husband in the audience said I hid it well. Yes, I even said a phrase backwards, but hey, you just press on through it.

My fellow Toastmasters:

How many of you have dreams? Visions? Goals? Most of you, right?

Some things don’t sit right with me & here is a Pet Peeve:

I have heard time & time again how one has to dream BIG in

Order to achieve something … or be something …

0r change something …

You’ve heard the saying:

IF YOUR DREAMS DON’T SCARE YOU THEY AREN’T BIG ENOUGH!

This is what I’d like to say about that:

I’ve got plenty of dreams, okay?

Your dream may not be mine and I can guarantee

that mine aren’t yours. But a dream is a dream is a dream.

I just don’t buy the line, hook & sinker that dictates:

Your dream doesn’t count; or isn’t as important if it isn’t

“BIG” enough!

No, sir!  No, ma’am!

Think what you will – but you can’t look down on my dreams

and say that yours is more important than mine.

My dreams mean everything to me! Who are you to downplay them?

Have you walked in my shoes?

When I wrote “Running in Heels: A Memoir of Grit & Grace,”

I not only mentioned some of the heartaches that I endured

both as a child & a young adult, but I had also mentioned

the good, happy and contented times. And you know what?

Some people actually frowned upon some of those events I wrote about,

because it seemed insignificant to them.

You see, apparently, my life wasn’t glamorous enough, or special enough.

For example:

1st puppy

1st home cooked meal that I made  as a child– chewy pasta/soupy spaghetti sauce

1st taste of French Toast

1st bubble bath

1st Barbie Doll

Going to park/playing on swing set with my real Dad

Living with my grandparents/eating 3-meals a day

Now I ask you: For them to suggest that was it fair?

I’d like to say to them: Hey! I’m tickled pink you had such a much happier life than mine!

Nonetheless, those were my special & cherished moments and they meant everything to this gal!

You understand – I held on to HOPE. Do you know that a little hope goes a long way?

I embraced faith {show photo} like this picture, having a “mustard seed” type of faith,

Just enough faith to believe that anything is possible!!!

Someone said: Little girls with dreams become women with vision.

And you know what? I AM A DREAM COME TRUE.

We ALL have goals – we ALL dream dreams.

Just don’t try to be like anyone else.

Be true to yourself and follow your heart.

Pursue your passion; pursue your dreams and

Don’t ever quit or stop trying.

Now timing is everything and sometimes it takes baby steps.

But don’t allow anyone to downplay or rob you of your

Dreams … Talents … or Strengths!

Ever.fullsizerender

No matter the size.

So I ask you:

Does Size Matter?

Whoever said the small things don’t matter

has never seen a match start a wildfire.

Thank you!

How did I do? There was a tied – me and the best speaker in this group. How awesome is that?

Remember: You’ll never know the outcome if you don’t put yourself out of your comfort zone and just try.
© M.A. Pérez, 2017, All Rights Reserved

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The Battle Within

Some of you know that I recently joined Toastmasters. Last Thursday, I was asked to introduce myself by giving my first speech called The Ice Breaker. The objectives are to begin speaking before an audience, and to discover speaking skills you already have and skills that need some attention. You only have four to six minutes to present it.

I’d like to share with you my Ice Breaker speech which I titled, “The Battle Within.” Was I nervous? You betcha! Did I stumble? Ah, yeah … but you move on and finish. By the way, I won best speech of the night. Go figure. You never know the outcome if you don’t put yourself out of your comfort zone and try.

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Thank you Mr. Toastmaster.

Hi, I’m Mary Ann.  I’m a published author, currently working as an Inside Sales rep for a customer service company in Sugar Land, Texas. I am happily married to my best friend for 22 years, and I have four amazing children and two adorable grandchildren.

I was born in New York and raised in Miami after my parents separated when I was 3, and divorced by the time I was 5.

I lived with my single mother and we were dirt poor. There was no money, no food and no love.  Now, when there’s no money, you don’t have any shoes, and you get a lot of eviction notices. When there’s no food, well, you’re hungry all the time. And when there’s no love, you feel isolate, insecure and invisible. Forced to grow up too fast, wearing shoes too big for my feet, and being my mother’s mother, crippled me emotionally.

At an early age, a battle was raging within me and that was the feeling of being “less than.”

Ashamed of my upbringing, heritage, and status, I felt only the ritzy kids went to summer camps, swimming lessons & Girl Scout gatherings, but not me; I was always on the outside looking in.

In my teens, I grew bitter and thinking that I could do better than my mother, I eventually ran into the arms of a ruthless man, twice my age. He was an alcoholic, a womanizer, a brow-beater, and he ruled with an iron fist. All the while, I struggled with that battle from within called insecurities. I wore a mask to try to cover feelings of low self-esteem and self-worth, which clouded my vision.

He and I did married. By the time I was 22, I had my 4th child. I was only a “baby-machine” to him, and he constantly fed my insecurities and never let me forget I was under his feet.  I felt I couldn’t do better, so I stayed in that relationship. I felt trapped but I made the best of my situation for my children’s sake. Long story short, that marriage lasted 15 years. I guess I grew up.

In retrospect, it wasn’t until I returned to the God of my grandparents that my mind, past and emotions were healed. I know now that what I endured yesterday as a child and as a young adult made me the stronger woman that I am today.

A few years ago, I decided to write my memoirs for my kids so that they can know some of the history, struggles and hardships their mother faced. I wanted them to know that no matter what, our past does not have to dictate our future. And it’s been my present husband who encouraged and supported me all along, telling me, “You know you need to write for other women so that they can be inspired.” He was right.

Although no longer ashamed of my pain, you know I still fight a battle from within? I struggle with low self-esteem. I DO! But I know that I have God on my side now. He not only had given me the grit to come this far, but He also gives me His grace to carry me through every obstacle that I ever faced! I learned that the battles are not mine but are His.

In my book, “Running in Heels: A Memoir of Grit and Grace,” I share the coming-of-age journey about a girl’s refusal to be defined by her environment while seeking inner-healing thru her brokenness. No matter your past, you can still be a person of worth! And it starts with a made-up mind!

I have joined Toastmasters to help my battle from within that I may gain confidence during book signings, attending book clubs & author’s events in helping me by overcoming the fear, the insecurities & the nerves when it’s time to open my mouth. You see, it’s one thing to write a book, it’s quite another to be able to speak to others. I know I have something to say and I am here to learn how to say it well.

Thank you.

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Face to Face

Happy New Year!

f4694e59b0e6749e2d892b2a6899e728Some of you have been wondering if I am still around. Oh yes, very much so. But due to personal reasons, after life threw us a curve-ball back in November, I had indeed taken a little sabbatical from blogging. I am happy to report that bit by bit I am getting back on tract with writing, etc. I’ve also joined a Toastmasters’ group and will give my Ice Breaker speech to them this week. I will share the outcome with you at a later date.

Meanwhile, let’s all do a little self-examining and reflection. Let’s get to know one another. Please add your thoughts and complete this sentence:

When I look in the mirror I tend to focus on my ______________.

 

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

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I Am The New Year

Life, I am the new year.
I am an unspoiled page in your book of time.
I am your next chance at the art of living.

I am your opportunity to practice
what you have learned about life
during the last twelve months.

All that you sought
and didn’t find is hidden in me,
waiting for you to search it out
with more determination.

All the good that you tried for
and didn’t achieve
is mine to grant
when you have fewer conflicting desires.

All that you dreamed but didn’t dare to do,
all that you hoped but did not will,
all the faith that you claimed but did not have –
these slumber lightly,
waiting to be awakened
by the touch of a strong purpose.

I am your opportunity
to renew your allegiance to Him who said,
‘Behold, I make all things new.’

I Am the New Year.

~ By Author Unknown

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The Tale of Three Trees

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December 22, 2016 · 10:44 PM

Part II ~ On a Wing and a Prayer

fullsizerender-3-copyIn counting my blessings this Thanksgiving holiday, I can’t help but to think about all of the challenges (See Part Onewe’ve experienced these past few months. It’s been refreshing for me to enjoy some quality time with my long-distance familia, especially being with Daddy again. Those of you who’ve read my memoir, you know how grateful I am that my maternal grandmother kept in contact with my dad after he and my mother divorced. I was only three when my parents separated and five when their divorce finalized. I am happy to report that in my adult years, I’ve come to know the love of my heavenly Father, and I am equally happy to report that I’ve come to know the love of my earthly father as well. I know many don’t have this luxury. Even though miles separate us, I am thankful that Daddy is still around and so full of life. I wouldn’t change anything about him; I love him just the way he is – young at heart!

fullsizerender-6-copyWithin a couple of days, we had the pleasure of visiting two of Daddy’s cariñosas sisters whom genuinely exude warm, big and loving hearts. Titi Blanca and Titi Viviana were gracious during our visits. Not to be out done by the other, both can sure cook up a storm. Their specialties were arroz con pollo, a delicious one-pot mealfullsizerender-9-copygl closely related to paella, and ropa vieja, which is shreds of meat, peppers, and onions resembling a mess of colorful rags. We helped ourselves to seconds … or thirds, and chased it down with a warm cup of cafe con leche. Unfortunately, we missed seeing another aunt on this trip, but promised Titi Edie that on our next visit to Florida, she would be the first stop.

My hubby’s busted ribs from his 20′ fall are still healing. He is such a trooper. Although needing to do a lot of sitting, even taking naps when allowed, he still wanted to take part in all the festivities of our mini-vacation. We spent half a day lounging under the sunny Florida skies at Bayside, the shopping, dining, and entertainment center of Downtown imagesMiami. We enjoyed the live music and watching couples dancing to the merengue. We skipped the booze and ordered shots of espresso Cuban coffee (but I like mine with plenty of warm milk,) and we ate pastelitos de guayaba, mmmmm.

Our oldest, Anna Marie, joined us on this trip, flying in before we did. The last time she visited la familia was on her 18th birthday — 22 years ago! We got to celebrate her birthday again in Miami, which was pretty special.collage-2016-12-15

On our last evening, the hardest part is always saying goodbye. You cannot keep the tears at bay as they start to fall. I still hate goodbyes, especially with long-distance loved ones. After Mark’s accident and in the preparation of this getaway, a lot of prayers had gone forth. There were numerous of times when I wasn’t sure we were going to make this trip for the holidays. But I am so thankful to the Lord that together we made it, and together we are stronger than before. When you’re in the midst of a crisis, things come into focus and the pettiness of the yesterdays take a back seat. We dare not take one another for granted. Look around you. Life is worth living when you begin to count your blessings.

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But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint. ~ Isaiah 40:31

 

© M.A. Pérez, 2016, All Rights Reserved

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On a Wing and a Prayer

Challenges, unexpected events, frustrations escalating … ever have them? It’s called life. I’ve titled this vacation “On a wing and a prayer.” And plenty of prayers had gone forth.

Reservations were made three months early. But after my husband sustained a 20-foot fall, which resulted in 13 fractured ribs, punctured lungs and a long hospital stay weeks prior to our scheduled flight, we weren’t certain we would even make this trip. And wouldn’t you know it, the day before we were to head out; I had a fender-bender right after leaving the office. I had just crossed over to the opposite lane, when BAM, there she was! After talking to the police and exchanging pertinent information, I proceeded home with the wind knocked out of my sails, not to mention, I threw out my back and barely slept that night.

My encouraging husband–although still in a lot of pain and discomfort from his fall–was determined to make the flight out to join my relatives in sunny Florida for the Thanksgiving holidays. 15416112_10211984949486915_1434960611_n

Southwest Airlines treated us like royalty. They were very accommodating in providing the necessary assistance for the entire trip. Funny thing though, one of the stewards for our flight out was running late. All passengers standing in line did not board the aircraft until he arrived. My husband and I had another plane to catch and we worried we would miss that flight. Finally, in the distance, we noticed someone running toward us. It was none other than our tardy steward. Not long after he ran inside the plane, did the rest of us begin boarding. An attendant helped Mark from his wheelchair on board the plane to our seats.

Once we landed in New Orleans, an airport assistant waited at the doorway with my husband’s chariot. He hurriedly wheeled him down the corridor with me in tow to our next flight. All passengers on that aircraft were already seated and ready for take-off. Two front row seats were reserved just for us. Talk about feeling like instant celebrities!

We sat by Patricia, a missionary from Thailand. 348sOnce we landed, it was she who became our guardian angel. While I went to retrieve our luggage, she stayed behind and waited patiently with Mark. When I returned, she volunteered to accompany me in fetching our rental car, even praying a blessing over the remainder of our vacation. She walked with me back to where Mark was waiting, and then helped me load everything in to the car, and politely waved us goodbye. I truly felt she was an angel sent by God.

At last, in the wee hours of the morning, our tired and aching bodies arrived at the hotel room. It was good to finally sleep in.

After breakfast, we drove straight to my daddy’s house. 15424520_10211984949766922_105603279_nIn no time; we were flooded with hugs, tears and joy with full bellies of my stepmother’s delicious Fricase de Pollo. Due to all the medication my husband was on, he hadn’t had much of an appetite, but I was certain it would return with all the anticipated Puerto Rican cuisine.

15424494_10211984950326936_2039532884_nThe next day after a warm breakfast, we drove into Ft. Lauderdale to visit Big Brother, his wife, and their three strapping sons. While the 15356116_10211984949966927_1995059090_nbig boys played a game of chess, we gals went grocery shopping. By the time we returned, Mark was ready to call it a day. The pain from his ribs was causing him misery.

Thanksgiving Day: We never had a late Thanksgiving dinner before, but I guess when you have a lot of Puerto Ricans around to cook for, this is the norm. Soon we were surrounded with love and laughter and picture-taking. 15424682_10211984951606968_1021959210_nThe anticipated meal did not disappoint. 15355900_10211984952206983_1020059264_nAlthough quite tasty, the star entree wasn’t the pavo, but it was the pernil,
which is the traditional Puerto Rican pork shoulder. Not to be outdone, there were a couple of large pans of my stepmother’s delicious arroz con gandules. This was a Thanksgiving feast at its best! I believe we ate until we couldn’t eat another bite; hardly any room for dessert.

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To be continued …

© M.A. Pérez, 2016, All Rights Reserved

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