Tag Archives: familia

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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Filed under Florida, Vacation

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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Through My Lens

Picture1As I reflect upon my vacation this year, I center on the glitter to the glue of my family. The stuff that makes them glow through difficult circumstances, yet, not fall apart. It is the Strength in their sails,
the Laughter through the tears, the Lightanchornew in the darkness. The waves may beat on the boat called Life, but their faith in God is the anchor that
keeps them from drifting afar.

Through my lens, I observed how one remains playful and young at heart, can laugh at themselves and enjoy the simple things in life.
14923_10204703715180608_5675463751065842269_n 10600375_10204703715860625_6913583592732597383_nThrough my lens, I saw how one so small can love so big; remain warm and engaging, loveable without reservations.10556236_10204728125950862_5977327558787419493_n

Through my lens, I noticed that when the going gets tough, the tough gets going! They refuse to sit down, roll over or give up on life. They know tomorrow is on the horizon, another day for new beginnings.10374430_10204728701285245_6597456912167368273_n

10559740_10204703690339987_8489302758064957017_nThrough my lens, I observed that age is just a number; it doesn’t mean that one ceases to exist, to learn, or to do.10606108_10204704812728046_6739570265579190164_n

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Through my lens, I got to witness such amazing selfless love. The sacrifices and serving of others: putting themselves last, while thinking of others first.

10436271_10204678200342753_1091761609782845600_nI heard the cry of their heartbeat. Thump. Thump. Compassion. Thump. Thump. Forgiveness. Thump. Thump. Passion. Thump. Thump. Sincerity. Thump. Thump. Tenacity. Thump. Thump. Love. Thump. Thump. Puerto Rican heritage.

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What did I learn in my ten days of vacation? If I can be just one example of what it means to love and to be loved, I’ll overcome what life may throw at me. I’ll face each trial with a certainty that God is still God of the ages and He continues to work on our behalf. No matter what.

Plans don’t always work the way we think. Situations may take a different turn than what we planned. We aren’t always prepared for the what-ifs. We aren’t perfect. But we are family. And the greatest gift of all is family.

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© M.A. Pérez 2014, All Rights Reserved

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Filed under familia, family, Vacation

Love Spoken Here

Visiting Daddy in the early seventies, on weekends and during summertime, I remember how he loved to watch Lucha Libre. His favorite wrestler then was Rocky Johnson (the father of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). Also a die-hard Yankee fan, Daddy loved his baseball team.

“¿Vite? You see dat?” Daddy shouted and pointed to the TV, asking no one in particular. “Man, dat Mickey Mantle can hit dat ball sooo hard . . . !”

Daddy and my stepmother Gloria were raising my brother Ruben. Yes, I was a bit jealous. Although Daddy spoke both languages to me, I never became as fluent as my brother had become in Spanish. I understood the language more than I could speak it.

Daddy enjoyed many hobbies. He knew his fruits and vegetables having worked on his father’s land in his prime. He loved gardening and showing off his avocado and gandules (pigeon pea) plants that he himself planted as much as he loved chewing and sucking the juice from raw sugar canes.

Although Gloria hardly spoke English, we communicated well enough. She treated me like her own child, showering me with loud smooches and tight squeezes. When she spoke to me in Spanish, I’d answered her in English and in my broken Spanish. In the mornings, she’d asked if I wanted “Con Fley” because she knew I liked cereal, and then asked if I wanted her to fix me a huevo frito, too. She was such a great cook; we all loved her comida. To see her working in the kitchen preparing mouth-watering delicacies was a common sight. Meals were her priority. She often cooked wearing rollers under a hair net, sometimes in a floral house-dress and always chanclas on her feet.

Back then, feathered friends scurried about in the backyard, a number in cages were nestling on eggs. I liked feeding the ducks and watching them swim in the pond. Not so much with the chickens though, I knew they were for consumption. But I couldn’t keep from watching in agony whenever Gloria ran after one, caught it, and then wrung the poor creature’s neck. It gave me the creeps. Then I’d stay clear from the messy job of plucking feathers. Gloria also chose whatever Daddy planted in the yard to compliment with anyone of her flavorful traditional entrées, whether her arroz con pollo (rice and chicken), arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas), or pernil (roasted pork). Each dish was first sautéed in sofrito (a mixture of bell peppers, garlic, onions and capers blended into a paste) in a deep caldero. The aroma alone made your mouth water. Gloria served side dishes of fried sweet plantains, large Florida avocados, simmering red beans with new potatoes, and always with a big pot of yellow rice.

One Sunday after a tasty meal of chicken stew, we drank café con leche, a strong espresso made with hot milk and sugar.

“Mary, did you like Mami’s pollo guisado?” Daddy asked, sipping from his cup.

“¡Si!” I answered, practicing my Spanish. “Muy bueno.”

“Oh, yeah? You wanna know somteen’?” Daddy’s eyes twinkled.

“¿Que?” I asked, blowing on my cafesito, too hot to drink.

“Dat’s no chicken you ate . . . dat was un pato.”

A duck? I stared at Daddy, and then at Gloria, then at the leftovers in the pot. I didn’t feel so good. My stomach felt queasy. I raced to the bathroom without a moment to spare when my entire lunch came up.

Gloria helped wipe my face in the bathroom and pleaded, “Ay, Marí. Perdóname.

I knew she felt terrible about what happened. But when I looked out the window, I couldn’t quit thinking about how I fed those cute, adorable ducks. And I had eaten one!

With no hard feelings over anyone about the duck incident, I enjoyed being at Daddy’s house and forgetting my troubles back home with Mama. I noticed the way Gloria fussed and cleaned house; the same way she enjoyed cooking: fast, thoroughly, and con mucho gusto. She didn’t like dirt. She had every chair in the house, even the couch covered with plastic! When time to clean the bathroom, she threw a bucket filled with soapy water on the floor, walls and tub, scrubbing, mopping and drying until everything was squeaky-clean. She never relaxed until evening when one of her novellas came on TV. Daddy and Gloria were affectionate and called each other pet names. Because Daddy’s skin was brown, Gloria called him, “Negro.” While many knew my stepmother as “Pita,” Daddy called her his “Mamita.”

Seeing their love in action made me smile. Although Gloria didn’t speak English, her hugs and warmth said more than the words from my own mother.

And she could cook.

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Gloria making her famous pasteles.

(Excerpt from Running in Heels – A Memoir of Grit and Grace ) © M.A. Perez 2013, All Rights Reserved Note: Featured in La Respuesta online Magazine, Dec. 2013 Culture section

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November 14, 2013 · 9:15 PM

Mi Boricuan Familia

I just returned from an accelerating  week’s vacation, which was also a surprise visit to my family in Florida. Other than planning everything with my younger brother, I didn’t want any beans spilled, so I gave no clues and left no hints. My ten-year-old grandson accompanied me; his first time on a plane. He was so excited and never at a loss for words the entire flight.IMG_0624[1]

The trip and the family time together were awesome!

My first stop was at my older brother’s. The shock on his face and the familiar choice words that he uttered in seeing me were priceless. His entire household welcomed me warmly. My three tall nephews are strapping young lads. We all talked at once and managed to hear every word. Soon, my sister-in-law and I enjoyed some overdue and much-needed girl talk alone (after kicking out all the boys).

1092153_158266174363129_1689987005_oThen we drove to my dad’s home where I was greeted with more1157638_10201825671551316_948345146_n hugs, tears and kisses. (Click on the link to a video and listen to my daddy’s exclamation phrases over and over of: “¡Ay, mi madre!” as well as, “¡Ay, Dios mio!”)

Before too long, savory food waft from the kitchen calling my name. I couldn’t wait to sample my step-mother’s Puerto Rican cuisine. She did not disappoint and prepared a delicioso feast of pollo frito arroz_con_gandules(fried chicken), plátanos fritos (fried plantains), and arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas). Mmm hmm good! ¡Que rico la comida!

IMG_0694[1]My sister later drove into town (also surprising our daddy – yes, it’s in our blood) and soon we were catching up with the latest news over family, food and fashion. I got to exchanged stories with her fine son, amazed by his sharp wit, then observed he and my grandson enjoying one another’s company with the latest video game. Finally, my dad announced it was time to play dominoes, beating everyone in the game just the way I always remembered.

In the days that followed we shopped, ate to our heart’s content, spent the day at the beach, the pool, 1095099_10201755977529307_1400669289_nand shared pictures on FaceBook (a vast differencemai kai from having to pull out dusty album books like the old days). Lastly, we enjoyed taking Daddy to Mai Kai Polynesian Dinner and Show.

I wanted — needed — to be present to help celebrate my daddy’s 80th birthday that Sunday, and so grateful to be able to escape my hectic schedule to make the grand event. If not, I would have been filled with regrets. Now I have wonderful additional memories to hold onto for a lifetime.

With every visit, conversation and reminiscing, we simply picked up where we left off so long ago. It felt good to be “home” again and reunite with my boricuan familia.

And now you know where I have been this past week.PicMonkey Collage

© M.A. Perez, 2013, All Rights Reserved

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August 17, 2013 · 1:39 PM