Boricuas

We visited my paternal grandparents. My grandpa was Don Angel (pronounced “Annhel”), and my grandma, Doña María. Upon our arrival, we politely greeted them the way Daddy had taught us to, by asking for their blessing in Spanish:

¿Bedición?

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¡Dios te bendiga!” they answered, opening their arms, smothering us with bear hugs and wet kisses.

Abuelo was born in 1908 and Abuela in 1907. Both were born in Utuado Puerto Rico and married in their early twenties, ultimately having ten children. Abuela stayed home attending to her brood while Abuelo supported his family as a farmer. (Rumor has it he made a little Moon Shine too). On twenty-five acres, he tended to bananas, tobacco and coffee crops. He raised chickens and goats and even owned cows that he milked.

Daddy favored Abuelo; everyone said those two could be brothers.

 

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

© M.A. Pérez 2018, All Rights Reserved

 

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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.

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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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Fairy Tale or a Cinderella Complex?

Excerpt from Chapter 12 of
Running in Heels: A Memoir of Grit and Grace

He pranced round the corner.

His arresting, mystifying air captivated me: suave, debonair, and oh, quite a looker. I thought, I’ll stroll on by and check him out. Quickly making mental notes: tall, dark, high cheekbones, broad shoulders–

He turned with a mischievous grin, showing dimples! I averted my eyes and sauntered on by. He whistled. A warm sense of elation swept over me as I thought: He seems older; more mature than the other boys I’ve dated. Surely, this one has already sown his wild oats. I didn’t grasp how much older until later. But at the time I didn’t care.

He was a native of West Indies, thirty-two years old and born on June 6, 1943. If he had claimed that a year after he was born they had named a memorable day on his behalf, calling it D-Day—the “D” standing for Don—I would have believed him. Starry-eyed, I hung on to his every word. He could have said he hung the moon, and I wouldn’t have doubted him.

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photo credit: Brianna Garcia

That was me in another life.

Once upon a time, I envisioned men made decisions and had more power over women. So when he came along, I depended on him for my sanity, security and stability. He would make me whole. Do you know, this theory makes women choose to stay in dysfunctional relationships?

I’ve since read that some women fear independence. Say what? Yep. Oh, they may think they’ve got it all together and are brave and self-sufficient enough, but the bottom line is they have an unconscious desire to be taken care of by others. This was obviously me!

I thought I had found myself a knight in shining armor and allowed him to whisk me away, and soon became a teenage bride to a sweet-talking, hard-hitting man twice my age. He didn’t show much love, nurturing or tenderness, but was harsh and fed on my low self-esteem. His motto: “I’m the man, you’re the woman.” He had a twisted notion on submissiveness. Before I knew it, like a doormat, I was constantly being walked on while becoming subservient to his every whim. I did not respect him. I feared him. Yet, I remained in that relationship fifteen years.

My smile hid the pain in my heart, as well as makeup did the bruises on my face. It would be years of trials and four precious children later, before I found the courage to stand on my own two feet and the courage to walk away from an abusive marriage.

A few years ago, the best help book given to me on marriage was: “Love & Respect” by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. He refers back to Ephesians 5:33: “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” There are a lot of nuggets in this one book. Eggerichs suggested that love alone is not enough for marriage. In a nutshell: A wife has one driving need — to feel loved. When that need is met, she is happy. A husband has one driving need — to feel respected. When that need is met, he is happy.

I am happy to report that after being a single mom, I eventually re-married. For nearly 24 years, I’ve been married to a wonderful, caring and loving man. God does answer prayers! I am grateful that through all our struggles we are committed to one another, no matter what. I’m no expert, but I can say no marriage is so good that it can’t be made better. We constantly work on this love and respect thing, as well as forgiveness, because neither one of us is perfect.

So I ask you:

  • What practical ways make a healthy marriage?
  • What is your idea of how love is expressed in marriage?
  • How important is self-worth?
  • Define some unrealistic expectations.

And while we’re on the subject of fairy tales … maybe I’ll touch on my thoughts on the Peter Pan syndrome at a later date.

© M.A. Pérez 2018, All Rights Reserved

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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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Reflecting on 2017

Hello fans and followers! Happy New Year! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas… I thought we would do something a little different for this week’s blog post. Something more interactive… As we move into the New Year, let’s reflect what the year 2017 has been for us. Please post your reply in the comments below.


2017 was the year of   _____________.

  • creativity
  • relationships
  • growth / learning
  • financial development
  • other (please specify)

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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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Saying Good Bye

It doesn’t get any easier, folks. I had to say good bye to another precious saint of God. Mary Anne Copelin, my spiritual mother, mentor and friend, was 91 years old.

This woman of God was a true doer of the Word, believed in having a prayer life, always sitting on ready. She was a Bible teacher, a missionary, an author, a power house, a force of nature! She touched all who came across her path. She knew the Word of God and flowed under the anointing. She always said she’d rather miss God in trying to be obedient, than miss Him in not trying.

Mrs. C first came into my life some 35 years ago. At the time, I was an empty shell. Broken. And undone. Mrs. C picked me up, dusted me off and took me under her wing. Then she loved me, schooled me, and encouraged me. She allowed me to cry countless of times and bare my soul. I didn’t always like or agreed with everything she suggested, but I respected her knowledge and wisdom.

I learned much from her; some lessons took a while to sink in. I came to the realization that I am a spiritual being. I need to be who I am and not try to imitate someone else. I need to love myself first, in order to love others. The self I need to reject is the “flesh” which dominates my soul. The flesh will abuse or misuse my personality. In order for me to have a healthy self-respect, I must see myself as a person of dignity and worth. The one who has no self-worth or self-esteem tends to hide behind a mask. Been there, done that.

Over the years, I’ve met and have come to know many wonderful and dear sisters in the Lord; many are friends to this very day. It was through Mrs. C’s ministry where I met another saint of God, Elizabeth Bearden, whom we also grew to love and even cared for her in her later years until she crossed over to be with the Lord.

Yes, I am grateful that this one woman enriched my life and instilled in me hope for change. Throughout my own personal struggles and setbacks, she pushed me forward and taught me the importance of God’s grace.

So Mary Anne, I say so long for now. Thank you for your life and for treating me like a loving daughter, even when I didn’t feel so loving. I thank God for knowing you and for being a vital part in not only my life, but in the lives of my family as well. We will miss you until we see you again.

MA

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Precious Moments

This simple video here will mean a lifetime of precious memories …

You see, Daddy is in the beginning stages of forgetfulness (I don’t like the word dementia). While his short term memory may be failing, he still can recall things that took place several years ago. Those memories are forever embedded within the recesses of his memory bank. Daddy has always been a story teller, just visit here https://maryaperez.com/2013/06/07/i-no-spic-inglish/  

On my last visit, it dawned on me that I should record him recanting one of his many stories regarding his first job, and also touch on the quirkiness about that particular story. His mind was fully intact, and if he ventured off, I easily steered him back on track. After we were done, I replayed the recording back to him. As he watched it, he became animated with emotions as if the entire event became alive and he was actually reliving the story. He pointed with eyebrows raised, agreed with what was being said, laughed and even had tears in his eyes! He looked up at me and said, “When your daddy is gone, you’ll always have this to remember, eh?”

Back home in Texas, every time I play this video, it brings back tears to my eyes. I realize the possibility that in the days to come Daddy may struggle with his memory more and more. I think often about my mama and other elderly members in the family. I wonder if we would record them interacting and then play back those recordings to them, that maybe it can help our loved ones remember. Just like hearing a song we haven’t heard in a while and the way it will bring us back to a certain place in time. One thing that does not work, is to belittle them because they forgot or behaved in a way than they normally would. I watched how when one of us tried to correct Daddy when he said something he shouldn’t have said, how it would escalate into such a ruckus. I noticed if the behavior was ignored or directed into something else positive, the drama pretty much ended. Sort of like in dealing with children …

His eyes still twinkle with glee, the mirth in his thick Puerto Rican accent, combined with animated personality is my daddy – I will love and cherish him forever!

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December 6, 2017 · 7:50 PM

Running in Heels: A Memoir of Grit and Grace, Mary A. Perez — RED HEADED BOOK LOVER BLOG

 

Perez has written her story in a way which speaks to the reader. At the core of her story is the tone of refusing to be a victim and that there is hope, even after a traumatic period. Her inspiring words and lessons laced throughout…

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View original post via Running in Heels: A Memoir of Grit and Grace, Mary A. Perez — RED HEADED BOOK LOVER BLOG


Thank you Aimee Ann for the warm and wonderful review. I felt you grasped the true meaning of the message throughout the pages!

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Thanksgiving Poem

Thank God for everything!
Help spread thanks to others.
A time of thanks and a time for family and friends.
Never forgot what the Lord has provided unto us.
Knowing we are blessed by our Heavenly Father.
Serve each other with Thanksgiving.
Give to one another.
I thank you God for all that you hath done for me.
Visit others and share a time of being thankful.
In everything we do God the thanks.
Now is the time to thank God, do it everyday for all things.
God be given the glory forever and ever.  – Amen

By Steve Patterson

 

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