Tag Archives: Family

The Birthday Boy

Hello my fellow blog followers and fans!

Sometimes life throws you a curveball – sometimes you duck, sometimes it hits you right upside your head. How you react will determine what kind of player you are.

So what do you do when fear knocks on your door? Do you face your giant, or do you stick your head in the sand? Remember there are two sides of F.E.A.R.: Forget Everything and Run or Face Everything and Rise. Takes grit, doesn’t it? More importantly, it takes God’s grace, too.

Eight months prior, was such a trying time for us with all the emotional roller-coaster from one minute to the next. We weren’t sure what the next second would bring, let alone the next day. The days and nights were difficult ones. But I’m here to tell you that the support, prayers, and genuine love from family and friends made all the difference in the world! And I am happy to report that my husband is a walking miracle; (read about it here), and I am so thankful for the goodness and mercy of God.

I recently threw a surprised party for the Birthday Boy, also called the Miracle Man, with many of our close and precious friends. It was an incredible turn out and my hubby was indeed taken by surprised. He couldn’t believe how many people were able to keep the secret from him! Whew!

On July 21st, we celebrated Mark’s life. And I would like to share some of those moments with you through this slide.

 

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Filed under birthday celebration, Survivor

He was a Great Man

This upcoming Memorial Day as I remember Florentino Mendez, my mind goes back to when I was a little girl sitting at my grandpa’s feet.

I sat Indian-style and watched him scatter newspapers on the floor, laying out the shoes in a neat row and placing an old wooden box beside them. Inside the box, he kept brushes, old socks, rags, and cans of black polish.

“Do you know what I’m getting ready to do, young lady?” Grandpa asked.  great grandpa

“You gonna spit and shine shoes,” I squealed.

With one hand in a shoe and the other in an old sock, Grandpa rubbed the wax back and forth, polishing the leather. I never tired from following his hands, moving like flashes of lightning.

He always rose before dawn and believed in the saying, “The early bird catches the worm.” He prided himself on discipline, stemming from his years in the military. On a weekly basis, he cleaned our shoes, the way he said he had learned in the Army.

He walked me to school and back, logging in about a mile and a half each way. Rain or shine, I counted on his presence waiting for me after class.

I loved him dearly. Always clean-shaven, he smelled like Mennen Skin Bracer and Vitalis. He was average in stature, had fair skin, gray hair, and quick eyes with a broad smile and a jolly laugh that made his belly jiggle.

Years later as an adult, I would never forget how an unsettling aura of death struck me when I first walked into the hospital room. I shuddered and gingerly approached the form buried under layers of covers. The head of his bed was raised, the profile barely recognizable to me.

“Grandpa…?”

A pale, thin face moved; eyes hardly opened. Those eyes, once sharp, were feeble and dull. Yellow paper skin hung loosely from bones. Large purple veins ran up and down his hands like a roadmap. Those hands, once strong and beefy, quick and nimble, felt cold, boney and fragile. The same hands once steady in his military days, guided, and comforted me in my youth, were the same ones I tenderly held now.

I struggled to keep my composure. I knew he was weary. To see him lose his dignity pained me, lying there so helpless, a prisoner in his own body.

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My 19-year-old grandpa, Florentino Mendez – 1916

Lost in my thoughts, my eyes roamed and paused on Grandpa’s wristwatch on the bedside table.

Time. I picked up the watch and held it. Tick-tock. Precious time. Tick-tock. Running out. As Grandpa dozed off, I sat at his bedside, praying for God to hush the raging of my heart.

Two months after his eighty-fourth birthday, my beloved grandpa sadly passed away.

Today, I remember Florentino Mendez: veteran, brother, husband, father, grandpa, uncle, friend – he was a great man – I honor his life.

© M.A. Perez 2017, All Rights Reserved

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Filed under Legacy, Memoir, Memorial Day tribute, veteran

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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Filed under Florida, Vacation

It Is Well With My Soul …

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Dear friends:

These past couple of weeks,  I’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster, but my family and friends have literally lifted my spirits. Today, it being my birthday, I am thanking God for His neverending grace and His unfailing love. My journey continues and for that I am truly grateful.

Thank you for being my friend.

About "Running in Heels: A Memoir of Grit & Grace"

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Father’s Day Tribute to the Men in my Family

 

Picture2Dad: A son’s first hero. A daughter’s first love.

The fathers in my family are called Dad, Daddy, and Papi. Newsflash: None are perfect! But each one represents love, courage, provision, and strength. Their eyes glow with purpose. Their smiles melt hearts. Their chest swells with pride. Their callous hands protect. They stand tall with dignity. And their embraces offer comfort and assurance. Yes, they are the pillars in our households.

It’s said that every man is trying to either live up to his father’s expectations or make up for his father’s mistakes. I don’t know if that’s true. I only know that each man represented in my family strive to being the very best possible. Each hold a mantle and carry a torch for the next generation. Each dad represented in my family lays a solid foundation, even those who have crossed over to the other side. I can’t help but to think about my own grandfathers. They were strong, respected dedicated men with a constant presence. They left behind a legacy. When the tough got going, they didn’t cave under pressure. They persevere with Puerto Rican pride in every fiber of their being.

To the men in my family who are dads (and have yet to be): I love and admire each and every one of you. And to my dear husband who married me with four children, I share this quote: “It takes a strong man to accept somebody else’s children and step up to the plate another man left on the table.” I salute you.

I salute you all.

Remember: Any man can be a father. But it takes a special person to be a dad.

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

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June 17, 2016 · 6:19 AM

Mother’s Day Tribute to the Women in my Family

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Becoming a Mom is watching your heart walk outside your body.

As I reflect on Mother’s Day, I am thinking about the mothers in my own family. Some of us had nurturing in our DNA; some of us never got the memo. Some of us got it down pat; some of us continue to learn by trial and error. None of us are perfect or have it all together. But no matter what, our bloodline flows strong, our hearts beat true. Children are a blessing. I believe as we look upon our children, young and old, the beating of our hearts never ceases to flutter. Some of us ease into our rolls, some of us, not so much. No one ever gave me a manual on Motherhood, and even if they did, the writer most likely didn’t have children of their own. Why? Because we learn by experience, and we learn by trial and error.

As I gaze upon the eyes of each Mother represented here, I see sadness of some unanswered prayers, worries about tomorrow, regrets of yesteryear, and the fear of failure. But I also see love, joy, perseverance, and tenderness, belonging, pride, and hope for the future — a better tomorrow.

One thing my mother always said and it is worth repeating: You can have ten fathers but only one mother.

Mothers, stand in the gap for your children. No matter what, never give up on them. And in our twilight years, may our children never give up on us.

 © M.A. Pérez 2016, All Rights Reserved

 

 

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Filed under Mothers Day, Tribute to Mothers

If I Had Known …

If I had known then what I know now,

I would have stopped the clock and savor every precious moment.

Instead, I found myself encumbered with the daily task of trying to keep afloat in being a mother.

If I had known then what I know now,
I would have frozen time just to gaze upon your little chest, rising and falling with every heartbeat while you slept peacefully in your crib.

If I had known then what I know now,
I would have sung more lullabies while rocking you on my lap, nestled in my arms, given you more kisses, and chased away all nightmares.

I’d have tickled you harder, squeezed you tighter, laughed with you louder, and played silly games with you longer.

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I would have taken more walks in the park, built many sand castles, eaten more ice cream cones with sprinkles, dug for the best sea shells, rode on all the merry-go-rounds, climbed every rock, smelled every flower, played catch more, run through the rain puddles, taken more photos and captured every single moment with you!

I was needed when you were small; you relied upon me then. If I only could now, I would hold you closer still, wipe your every teardrop, chase your every fear, and never let you down.

But the tide has turned, I could only watch from a distance. The sun has set and hidden beyond the horizon. My silent tears serve as a constant reminder that the times are fleeting.
With every hour. Every minute. Every second.

My heart swells with pride to see that you, my children,
have blossomed and matured.

But if I had known then what I know now … I would have done things so much different. I would have hushed the madness with all the hustle and bustle sooner, and cherished those magic moments when you were small; to cradle you in my arms forever and never let you go.

© M.A. Perez, All Rights Reserved

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Filed under Featured, poetry

“I Always Loved You…”

“I always did love you, just had too many problems.”
Ten words on ink and paper.
Handwritten by her.
Pierces my heart.
Quiet pain.

Does she know I exist? Or care? Or want me?
I love her, look up to her; want to be her.
Unspoken. Forsaken.
Isn’t love also a verb?
Hidden shame.

Grandparents notice. Embrace me. Love me.
They say I am worthy and special.
I am not allowed to stay.
Said I might become spoil.
Wounded heart.

I leave home. Searching for Mr. Right.
Run to him at sixteen. Happily ever after.
Young. Naïve. Taken for granted.
Thinks to mold me into his image.
His way or the highway.
Internal screams.

Motherhood. Baby having babies.
Crawl before walk. Stumble. Fall.
Clinging unto a strand, unraveling.
Faded dreams.

Years overlap. Encumbering.
Emotions are numb.
Hubby seeks greener pastures.
Two-timer. Tosses me to the wolves.
Abandon.

Water not missed until the well is dry.
Alone. They’ve aged. Reaching out.
Across the miles, calling my name.
Vowing eternal devotion.
Hollow words.

Grown children look back.
Open arms. Nostalgic.
Rebuild the fences.
Dying to live.
Forgive.

In times of happiness, embrace your beloved.
In times of calamity, hold them closer.
Love isn’t love until you give it away.
God grants life.
And second chances.

~  Poem written by Mary A. Pérez  ~

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© M.A. Pérez 2016, All Rights Reserved

 

About "Running in Heels: A Memoir of Grit & Grace"

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Filed under Love, Valentine's Day

Circle of Life

Once upon a time there lived a lonely girl. Intimately acquainted with an empty stomach, she carried hunger in her heart, starving for love.

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In spite of her destitute and inner turmoil, she grew up and broke away, searching for love. Eventually she’d marry and have a family of her own, never dreaming how they’d fill the void in her heart.

 

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In the circle of life, her little ones grew to have little ones of their own.

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She felt young at heart again, and couldn’t imagine life without them.

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And the not-so-little-girl wasn’t lonely anymore.

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The end.

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Filed under Life, musing