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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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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   *** 

* 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).

 

 

 

 

 

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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   *** 

* 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).

 

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Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

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).

If you like Kindle, you can now save 80% on my memoir –
it’s just .99c at the moment, was $4.99.

Running in Heels: A Memoir of Grit and Grace” .99c !
for a limited time on Kindle ebook.


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We bleed. We laugh. We cry.

Thinking about how far this writing journey has taken me since publishing my memoir two years ago, still brings a thrill to my heart! And I am humbled. I am forever grateful and cherish the entire process.

I am not unique. Everyone has a story. God can take your life of peril and turn it into a life of promise. If you have a pulse, then you have a purpose. You don’t have to be ashamed of your pain or remain alone. If others don’t know your pain, they can’t possibly understand your praise.

Do you have a voice? Use it. Do you have a platform? Own it. You are uniquely and beautifully you! God don’t make no junk! Be a light to someone. Bring hope to the hopeless and encouragement to the destitute. Even if someone’s life is perfect, it doesn’t mean they have it all together. We are humans. We all bleed. We all laugh. We all cry, and we long for compassion.

We. Need. One. Another.

 

Some lovely women from Hope Lutheran Church, recently invited me to speak and share my story at their ladies guild group. They welcomed me with opened arms and I felt right at home! They were warm, friendly and attentive. They blessed me!

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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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Best Daddy Ever: My Hero

As a young girl, I knew I had the best Daddy in the world. Although my parents were divorced, throughout the years, he’d come for me.

I loved it when he took me to the parks. My daddy may have been short, but he was a big kid at heart and loads of fun. He had a knack for mimicking different sounds. Children laughed whenever he cried out like Tarzan on the jungle gym. He wouldn’t hesitate to push me high on the swing. I squealed with delight when he ran in front and scrambled away right in time before I could kick him. He’d twirl me on the merry-go-round until we couldn’t go anymore and tumbled on the ground from exhaustion. Me from laughing hard; him from running in circles.

Daddy worked as the produce manager in a huge grocery chain store. He was a hard worker, a model employee. A friendly, robust, people-person, he never grew tired of chatting with his customers and telling them jokes. His dark eyes twinkled with glee. The mirth in his thick Puerto Rican accent, combined with his animated personality, charmed all.

Sometimes Daddy caused havoc, but always in fun. He often mimicked the sound of a kitten near the produce stand at work to see the children’s reactions. Once an elderly woman hunted everywhere for the pobrecito. Then another time while whistling like a bird, he had customers looking up for one. He even imitated a newborn’s cry.

“Excuse me, sir, but don’t you hear a baby crying somewhere?” a worried customer asked.

“A baby? No, no,” he answered. “No baby over here.” Daddy chuckled as he related to me how he watched the mystified customer walk away, shaking her head.

Daddy told me the story when a little boy in a shopping cart kept staring at him the whole time, while his mother across the aisle weighed her vegetables.

“I smiled at da boy and asked his name, but he dun say noteen,” Daddy explained. “He just keep lookin’ and lookin’ at me, like I’m ugly or somethin’.”

“Then what did you do?” I asked and chuckled.

“I dun do noteen . . .” Daddy’s eyes twinkled.

“Go on,” I persisted, knowing of his pranks.

“I just smiled big and stuck out my bottom dentures at da boy.”

“No, Daddy, you didn’t!” I laughed, remembering him doing that very thing before, enough to startle anyone.

“Yeah, but then da boy started cryin’, so I got outta there fast,” Daddy said guiltily. “I dunno where I get these jokes. You got a funny papi, eh?”

“Yeah.” I giggled. “Muy loco, all right. Tell me the story about the goat sucker in Puerto Rico,” I said, wiping my eyes.

“¡Oh, si!” Daddy exclaimed, slapping his thigh. “¡El Chupacabra! Dis thin’ dat went round to all the animales suckin’ their blood dry.”

“Yep, that’s the one,” I said.

“Man, da people get so scared and say it’s some kind of diablo. They say, ‘sierra la puerta’, close your door, El Chupacabra is goin’ to suck your blood!”

“Ya ever see one, Daddy?”

“No, no, I never see dat thin’ in my life.” He chuckled and added, “I dunno if I believe it.”

“Well, it’s sure an awful scary story.” I shuddered at the possibilities.

Yes, my daddy has always been a natural born storyteller. I could sit and listen to him for hours. “Tell me again about the first time you left Puerto Rico on the plane.”

“When I left my home town Utuado in 1952?” His eyes flickered miles away, as he mused. “Flyin’ in dat two-engine airplane made me so scared. I needed to go to el baño so bad. The stewardess want to tell me somteen. Pues, I dunno what she say; I dunno any English then. She talk louder but I dun understand; I just wanna go. I try to make her understand me, so I jell to her, ‘I no spic inglish! I no spic inglish!’” 

As I listened to his broken English, I laughed until my sides ached and my eyes watered.

“Daddy, you didn’t know how to speak English when you were nineteen?”

“No hija, I didn’. Later, my cousin in New York explained to me that da stewardess just wanted me to put my seatbelt on. Ay bendito nene,” Daddy laughed. “I didn’ understand noteen.”

“Hey Papi,” I said, wiping my eyes. “Ya know what?”

“¿Que mi vida?”

“Ya still have an accent.”10493030_10204788142091228_5602024329688824434_o

“Ju tellin’ me, man.” He laughed.

Thirty years later:

My world shattered into a thousand fragments.

Along with my heart.

My hopes.

Dreams.

How so? When my former husband blurted, “I’m just not happy.”

After much heated words and screaming fits, I was relieved when he stormed out of the house. I felt ashamed knowing Daddy and my stepmother were visiting and within earshot in the guestroom had heard everything. By the time I went downstairs, Daddy was on his knees praying in Spanish by the bed. I stood by the doorway listening to his prayer, forgetting to move. Daddy, crying, glanced up and reached out his hand toward me. I went to him and collapsed, sobbing.

That day was Father’s Day, 1991.

The following day at the airport heartbroken and devastated, as we kissed and hugged to say our goodbyes, words stuck in my throat. He didn’t know what to say. He wasn’t sure what to do. But my daddy’s silence comforted me and it was enough. He wrapped strong, loving arms around me. I was a few inches taller, but felt smaller. At that moment, I wished I could stay in his arms and be a little girl again.

Today, with Father’s Day soon approaching, I remember how special my daddy has always made me feel. I still feel his love across the miles when we speak on the phone. At any given time when we’re together, I can still feel secure and safe in his arms as we embrace. His eyes still carry that familiar twinkle during his story telling.

Before long, my hero and I are reminiscing, laughing and enjoying the magical moment of father and daughter.

Note: My daddy will turn 83-years old this summer. He is still young-at-heart, full of lively, warm stories and jokes to share at a moment’s notice, and still very much a caring, loving, praying man. 

Te quiero mucho, Papi.

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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.

Great Grandpa20

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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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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Thanksgiving ’76

Forty Years Ago:

I stared at the TV, hearing the drone but not paying attention to the program. Earlier I had eaten to my heart’s content, wishing I hadn’t stuffed myself the way we did our turkey.

Before too long, I felt a strong urge. Alone and frightened, my heart raced.

I pressed the button.

And pressed again.…

I shouted.

No one came.

In desperation I banged on the wall, yelling, “Hello, anyone out there? I have to push! I have to push!” Doesn’t anyone hear me? I . . . have . . . to . . . push! 

I pounded on the walls, about to put a hole through it. At last, a nurse ran in. Much to her surprise—and my anguish—she found me fully dilated and ready to pop.

A lot of activity happened at once. Oddly enough at the same instant, I felt like an ice cube. The nurse noticed me trembling and threw three blankets over me. She fetched Mr. Wonderful in the lounge, already stretched out half-asleep. After waking him, they gave him a hospital gown, a cap, and a mask. After he followed them to the delivery room, they instructed him where to stand.

With my knees bent and feet in stirrups, an assistant leaned me forward.

“Now push,” my doctor instructed. “Push, hard.”

I took a deep breath and held it, managing a couple of pushes, one or two deep grunts and a long groan, feeling the blood rush to my brain. “I . . . can’t!” I gasped. “No more. I’m tired.”

“Come on. Keep pushing. Bear down. A little more.”

“Arrrrgh!”

“Shush. It’s okay, honey,” Mr. Macho-turned-coach drilled. “Stay calm.”

YOU stay calm! IT HURTS!

“Humph,” Donny snorted.

“All right, now give me one big, long push.”

“It . . . b-burns!” God, I feel like I’m tearing! 

“Okay, now stop. Stop pushing a moment.”

PushBreatheBear downDon’t pushBreathe! My mind zoomed from ninety to zero. Oh, what am I supposed to do? Why hadn’t Donny and I completed those Lamaze classes? Finally, the answer came to me: In order to refrain from pushing, I had to do a series of shallow breathing. Pant. Like a dog.

Pant. Pant. Pant. Pant. 

Donny watched the whole process bug-eyed and ashen-faced.

Some macho-man he turned out to be.

2:56 a.m.

Gorgeous. Chestnut hair. Almond-shaped eyes. Rosy cheeks. Ten fingers and ten toes. I was in my teens and just delivered a beautiful, healthy 7 lb. 6 oz. baby girl. My baby girl! Thank you, God. With the ideal name for her—in memory of my beloved grandma and my deceased sister—I named her Anna, with Marie being her middle name.

Once home, I savored the miracle before me: An innocent life at peace in her crib. A life I had only known as bittersweet; a life filled with much adversity from being alone, cold, hungry, and frightened. My mind twirled with unanswered questions. Could I protect this child and keep her safe? As her mommy, I wondered if I’d always be there for her, and not fail or disappoint her. Would we have a close relationship? Would she always feel my love?

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

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

About

 

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We celebrate my firstborn’s birthday on the 26th. About every four years, her birthday lands on Thanksgiving Day. From day one, she is a reminder of all I am thankful for. She is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. I thought I knew something about parenting and Motherhood, but when she came into my life, she taught me.

As I watched her grow, she taught me the rhythm of a mother’s heart beat for her child.

heartbeat

To my beautiful daughter:

Anna Marie, as you have already read in my book about some of the joys and sorrows of life that transpired before and after you came into the world, I pray you will always know that you are no accident. You were a blessing to my heart’s content then and continue to be so now. Thank you for all that you do for me and Pops, both abroad and beyond, as well as behind the scenes. We love and appreciate you.

Happy Birthday, Anna!

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