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A Simpler Place in 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) 

© M.A. Pérez 2014, 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. What are some of your fond memories as a child?

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June 27, 2014 · 11:09 PM

That Special Someone

From the beginning, I loved Mark’s adventurous spirit for the outdoors and watching him interact with my gang. He took us on weekend outings and summer vacations. They included dove hunting with my son, camp-outs on the beach, air shows, the circus, barbecues at the parks, and a vacation to Disney World. Even though raised in Miami, I had never been to Disney World and recall that I was as excited to go as the kids were.

Our all-time favorite excursion: A ten-day-road-trip to his hometown California. We stopped in San Diego where we spent the entire day at the zoo, the largest and grandest I had ever seen or strolled through. Our second day was in Los Angeles, where I knew we’d bump into Hollywood glitter to brag about back home.

I was right, too. Well, sort of.

To my shock, a few yards away I spotted a celebrity in the crowd at Universal Studios. I saw the back of his head, and then he turned just enough for me to see his profile. He wasn’t Tom Cruise. He wasn’t Mel Gibson. He wasn’t exactly your Prince Charming … Of course, my kids didn’t know of him. Yep, I called out his name and he looked right at me and wave. It was he all right. Tiny Tim! His song, Tiptoed Through the Tulips played in my head the rest of that day.

In Monterey, we cruised along the 17-mile drive, passing greenery, plush golf courses, Clint Eastwood’s home, and the infamous Lone Cypress tree we’ve seen only in photos before. In San Francisco, we hung out at Golden Gate Park and toured the Museum of National History. We stopped in Salinas and visited Mark’s aunt, and continued on to Modesto. We spent the night in his brother’s home and watched the children happily camped out in their backyard in a tent under a full moon.

Come morning, on to Yosemite National Park. As far as the eye could see, the view was breathtaking, beautiful and serene. We enjoyed a picnic and watched a waterfall close by, and then the little ones wanted to go exploring. Wherever Mark led, the children followed. The kids trailed him, fearlessly climbing one rock after another. I never cared much for heights, so I stayed on “lower” ground taking pictures.

Just as I started to worry, weren’t there bears around? My kiddos raced down the trail with Mark in tow.

“Mommy! Mommy!” they cried in unison.

“Where’d you guys go?” I asked. “I started to get—”

“You should have seen Mark,” they said, trying to talk at once.

As Mark drew closer, I noticed him soaking wet, a sheepish grin look on his face. Apparently, when he wanted to venture farther along where the river ran, he instructed the kids to wait for him while he climbed higher. But when time to descend, Mark found himself in a tight spot. From where he stood, the drop was much too far down to hop off. After some scheming, he threw his wallet and keys to where the children were and then jumped into the cold river and swam until he could gain better footing and get back on track.

Amidst the chatter, I teased Mark by saying he had fallen into the river (instead of voluntarily jumping in). But he and the kids swear to it that he purposely dove in when he felt he ran out of options. We would joke about this for years to come.

Unknowingly, those voyages were just the beginning to some wonderful memories my children shared with their step-dad, who lovingly, selflessly and so “bravely” (as my brother puts it) stepped up to the plate. That husband of mine became more than just a “step” dad.

It takes a strong man to accept somebody else’s children and step up to the plate another man left on the table…

~ Ray Johnson

I love my husband for striving to be the best Daddy that he can be for my children. And it seems to come naturally, ever since day one when we crossed paths, some twenty-three years ago.

By the way, that special someone makes a great “Papa” for our grand kids, too.

 

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© M.A. Perez 2014, All Rights Reserved

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June 11, 2014 · 9:34 PM

A Message from Maxwell – adding Value to Others

10171185_10203292874236939_8236175064140934860_nIf you’re truly going to be significant, you have to add value to other people.

Recently my husband and I attended a John Maxwell seminar, which we thoroughly enjoyed. A trajectory of wit coupled with wisdom ensued from this man’s lips.

Here are seven meaningful questions I jotted down and continue to reflect upon. What a great exercise!

  1. What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned in life?
  2. What are you learning now?
  3. How has failure shaped your life?
  4. Who do you know that I should know?
  5. What have you read that I should read?
  6. What have you experienced or done that I should do?
  7. How can I add value to you?

Your turn! As you think about the questions above, how would you answer them?

 

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June 5, 2014 · 11:01 AM

Heaven, Hell or Hoboken – Part II

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Out in Jersey’s bitter cold, the moon full, the trees rustled. Mama and I spent half the night shivering, huddled together on a bus bench—my head on her lap.

“M-Mama,” my teeth chattered. “I’m cold.”

“I am too. Now stay still.”

“But I’m hungry.”

“I know, Mary. Close your eyes. That bum. Where is he?”

We would have frozen if a kind woman hadn’t invited us up to her place to sleep on her sofa overnight.

Whenever Mama cornered Jimmy in a bar, drinking his pay away, after bickering over dinero, she’d remain with him. If I happened to be around, they sent me away, or Mama left me at home by myself. It saddened me how she preferred being with him than with me. Often they’d stagger home and pass out in a stupor. Only then did the arguments cease and the fights end.

More often than not, I’d gone to bed with the sound of my stomach rumbling. Mama and Jimmy routinely barged in from a night of carousing.

“Mama, I’m hungry,” I mumbled, rubbing the sleep from my eyes.

“Why are you awake?”

“Can you fix me something to eat?”

“Oh, for goodness sake. It’s late.” She turned on the hotplate to fry a hotdog. A few minutes later, she’d have one for me rolled inside a slice of bread. “Here. Sit up.”

“Fix me one, too,” Jimmy demanded.

“Hold your horses,” Mama snapped.

As soon as I finished, I laid back down, my eyelids heavy. Eventually, the bright lights in the room faded. My parents’ fussing drifted away as sleep overtook me, but not before hearing familiar sounds. A can popping open. Cursing. A slap. Sobs.

Unsure as to why, one evening Jimmy overturned the bed that Mama and I slept in. We tumbled onto the hard floor. As Mama struggled to rise, Jimmy pulled her by the arm and shoved her into a windowpane. Jimmy became aware of my presence and after he flipped the bed upright, he ordered me back into it. I faced the wall sniffling until I fell asleep.

The next morning, I awoke to the sight of a blood-spattered Mama hobbling on crutches. I ran to help her.

“Mama, what happened?”

“It’s nothing, Mary. Stop crying! I tripped, that’s all.”

I couldn’t help to wonder, Why did she think I didn’t know anything?

I knew some things. I hid loose change and planned to save enough money to take care of Mama one day. In my childish mind, I knew that one day we were going to live in a big house, have plenty to eat, and Mama wouldn’t ever have to worry again.

That afternoon I heard cursing and knew it wasn’t good. A rattling sound carried around the wall like something whirling in a container. Then to see Jimmy shaking my pink, plastic kitty-bank upside down in mid-air, my pennies, dimes and nickels clattering onto the floor, made me weak and sick inside.

I followed the coins that rolled under a chair and dove for them. I looked up, my eyes darting between Mama and Jimmy hoping she’d do something. Mama called him a “jackass,” but that didn’t stop him. He couldn’t care less that I knelt there sobbing. He expressed zero shame as he scooped the scattered change into his pocket. My coins.

Later, Mama told me that Jimmy was just thirsty and to stop sniffling. “He’ll return the money soon enough,” she said. I knew that wasn’t true.

On my knees, I gathered up the broken pieces of my kitty-bank. With no more tears left, I seethed, thinking, maybe Mama can take care of herself. And maybe I’ll never talk to her again. Or to Jimmy. And maybe I’ll run away . . . to my real daddy.

(Excerpt from  Running in Heels – a continuation of Part I)

© M.A. Perez 2014, All Rights Reserved

 

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May 28, 2014 · 7:20 PM

No Junk Here

So I came across a page in my devotional book prompted by the scripture found in Genesis 18:14: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”

Here were the ramblings of my heart written down on paper that day … my prayer is that you may be blessed and encouraged in reading this.

In my heart of hearts, I know there isn’t anything too hard for the Lord. Yet, whenever I look within myself, I can’t help but see my own flaws and limitations. I don’t always like what I see. But if I can just remember that whenever I focus on my troubles, then God seems to fade into the background of my life – that’s half the battle right there!

Lord, help me to see with Your eyes. Help me to remember I am complete in You. It’s not within myself, my abilities, my talents, or even my own faith. IT IS BECAUSE OF YOU! Everything I am is because of You. Apart from You I can do nothing. Help me Lord to remember You are for me. You don’t make junk. What may be impossible for me is POSSIBLE with You. What I can’t – You CAN. Nothing is impossible, unattainable, unreachable, unbearable, when my heart is fixed on my Lord and my Savior!

Keep me focus, Oh God.

Do not ask “what can I do?” but “what can He not do?” ~ Corrie ten Boom

 © M.A. Perez 2014, All Rights Reserved

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February 19, 2014 · 9:05 AM

Letting Go

To let go doesn’t mean to stop caring,
it means that I can’t do it for someone else.

To let go is not to cut myself off,
it’s the realization that I can’t control another.

To let go is not to unable,
but to allow learning from natural consequences.

To let go is to admit powerlessness,
which means the outcome is not in my hands.

To let go is not to try to change or blame another,
I can only change myself.

To let was not to care for,
but to care about.

To let go is not to fix,
but to be supportive.

To let go is not to judge,
but to allow another to be a human being.

To let go is not to be in the middle arranging all the outcomes,
but to allow others to affect their own outcomes.

To let go as not to be protective,
it is to permit another to face reality.

To let go is not to deny but to accept.

To let go is not to nag, scold or argue,
but to search out my own shortcomings and to correct them.

To let go is not to adjust everything to my desires,
but to take each day as it comes, and to cherish the moment.

To let go is not to criticize and regulate anyone,
but to try to become whatever dream I can be.

To let go is not to regret the past,
but to grow and live for the future.

To let go is to feel less and to love more.

~ Author Unknown

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February 14, 2014 · 5:00 AM

Looking Back – My Reasons for Writing

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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.

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 2014, All Rights Reserved

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January 22, 2014 · 4:56 PM

“Tout de Suite!”

Through half-drawn curtains, I watched the other children at play, chasing one another in a circle, chanting, “Duck. Duck. Goose!”

Humpty-Dumpty, the daycare where Daddy dropped us off that morning operated on a strict schedule. I knew I didn’t belong there. At lunch time, they made me sit in the dimly lit kitchen to finish the tough, chewy meat on my plate while the others went out for recess. Just when I cleaned my plate, they announced, “lights out.” I hated nap times too.

By age three, my parents were separated. My brother Ruben lived with Daddy while I stayed with Mama. Daddy had started coming for me, but on one visit he said I could stay and didn’t need to go back. I was perfectly happy. I didn’t know that Mama never agreed to him keeping me. Early one morning, determined to know where he took Ruben and me before he headed for work, Mama hunkered down inside a taxi and followed him to the daycare.

Later, parents came to collect their children. While my brother and I waited for Daddy, we played on the swings. That’s when the clunking sound of an engine caught our attention. We were not expecting them, but Mama and her boyfriend Jimmy—my new step-dad—drove up in a gray jalopy. Mama stuck her head out the window and waved us on.

“Tout de suite!” My mama shouted in the single French phrase that she knew, her arm pumping for us to hurry.

Trained to move fast whenever we heard the phrase, we bolted in their direction.

Jimmy yelled at Mama, “Stay in the car, Ruthie. I’ll get ‘em.”

Jimmy hoisted Ruben over the massive stonewall, and dropped him down the other side. Then he grabbed me by the arm and lifted me before sprinting toward that old heap. We clambered in and sped off. I glanced back to see the daycare worker running after us, screaming. Mama and Jimmy, cackling with glee, celebrated their successful kidnapping scheme. A strong odor of beer permeated the air inside the car.

I looked over at my brother pretending to be brave, but wide-eyed. I glanced down and noticed my scraped knees. A lump lodged in my throat; a tear escaped my eyes as I thought: What will Daddy think when he comes for us?

(Intro to Running in Heels – A Memoir of Grit and Grace)

© M.A. Perez 2014, All Rights Reserved

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January 9, 2014 · 10:22 PM

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.pic

In spite of her destitute and inner turmoil, she grew up and broke away in search 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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December 30, 2013 · 9:29 PM

She Was Me

Picture1Alone in my own world, I sometimes pretended to be Shirley Temple. Her dimpled smile and blonde curly-locks got her noticed. I imagined if I pouted like her and smiled like her that I’d be pretty like her. But in the bathroom mirror, a brown-eyed, freckled-face girl peered back. She had straight dark-hair and dingy clothes that hung loosely over scrawny legs. She looked plain, clumsy and insignificant. She was me.

I didn’t know we lived below the poverty line. I knew the hunger pangs that clawed at my belly. I remember eating cold pork and beans right from the can; it tasted really good with bread. I remember surviving for a timed on government surplus with tins of soft butter, brick cheese, powdered milk and creamy peanut butter. When we had it, smearing slabs of mayo over bread was a slice of heaven.

Food was scarce. Even after Daddy started sending money to Mama, I saw little food on the table. Liquor bottles and empty beer cans reeked and saturated the air. Constant bickering between Mama and my step-dad punctuated the tensions in our rodent-infested, cockroach matchbox. I’d see those creepy-crawlers on the walls, tables and dirty dishes on the counter. I’d hear them scratching behind the walls, or running across the linoleum floor. I could even smell them. Those pests were our relentless unwelcome guests.

(Excerpt from Running in Heels – A Memoir of Grit and Grace)

© M.A. Perez 2013, All Rights Reserved

Note: “What happened to your bangs?” I am asked this question countless of times. You will have to discover the answer to that question … but not until my book is published. 😉

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December 4, 2013 · 11:52 PM