One of the sweetest people I have yet to have had the pleasure of meeting, Angelica Perez, has experienced enough in her life to have left her bitter. She's a veteran of the Marines and is disabled. Due to her injury, she has had a number of surgeries and still battles chronic pain.
In spite of these trials, or maybe even because of them, she creates. She is the author of "Mentality Listens: In A World Where Art Screams," a blogger, artist, and photographer.
She is married, loves animals, and has a deep love for Christ. She was gracious enough to open up about her childhood, surviving boot camp and where she find inspiration.
AP: I grew up in Bensonhurst, New York. I went to High School in Medford, New York (Strong Island).
AD: Were you always into writing? What about reading? Drawing? Painting? Dancing?
AP: I think a journal came out of my mom before I did...Lol. I kept a lot of journals when I was young. I would write a lot of short stories, poems, songs. I also kept a journal about who I had a crush on at the time...I think my mom still has those somewhere in the garage...Lol. She's not giving them up.
I remember when I went to Christian school, which I attended from 3rd grade - 6th grades, our Pastor drove a van from Brooklyn to Staten Island each day, which was where the school was located. After school, I hung out with Pastor Dave's son, Tommy, and we would watch cartoons and draw war scenes, really small war scenes in our notebooks...Lol. They were pretty good, actually, and we would tell each other a story about what we were drawing while we were drawing.
I don't remember painting too much as a child. But I do remember my mom purchasing some of those paint by number boards.
AD: At what age did you enter the military? Which branch? What were your feelings enlisting as a young woman? How were you treated?
AP: I went to the United States Marine Corps boot camp in Parris Island, South Carolina, on September 21, 1998. Oorah! Yeah, it's something you never forget. I was eighteen and straight out of high school. I never really focused on the fact that I was a young woman joining the Military. I guess it was because of the people I hung out with at the time.
But, once I was in boot camp, my focused was forced to that of being a young woman in the military. Time and time again, we were reminded of it, reminded of the fact that we can go to war...just because we don't go to combat doesn't mean we don't go to war. And because we were women, they made us do twice the work the men did. If the men did a six mile hump (hike with all your gear on), the women had to do twelve. If the men did a 10 mile hump then the women had to do twenty. So, they were pretty hard on us and kept throwing that fact in our face. They said we had to prove ourselves. I guess we did because when we graduated, General Krulak (Commandant of the Marine Corps at the time) himself pinned on my eagle, globe and anchor and ate breakfast with us. It was definitely an unforgettable moment.
AD: Where were you stationed? Did you do much traveling? What were your primary duties?
AP: I was stationed at Marine Barracks 8th & I St., S.E., Washington, D.C. So, in other words, I was in the middle of the ghetto...LOL. No, it was a privilege being stationed there, being that it is the oldest post in the Marine Corps and it is where the Commandant lives. I was a Fiscal Budget Technician, or a Financial Analyst. I loved my job.
AD: Were you with your husband at this time? How did you two meet?
AP: We met in the Marine Corps. We were together for a year while I was still enlisted. We got married in 2002 and I was discharged in 2003.
AD: Your Christian faith has been vital to you as you've healed. Were you a Christian when you were first injured? If no, what was the source of your strength? If yes, how did you rely on your faith to get through the initial shock?
AP: I grew up in church so I knew who Jesus was. At the time I was injured, I owned a Bible, I prayed every now and then, but I didn't have a stable, personal relationship with Christ. I didn't know Him personally, just based on what was preached to me. I believed He existed, I believed in God, yes. But was I living for God? No. So, at that time, the source of my strength...was God because He never left me. He was always there for me. I was invited for about two years to attend a Bible study at the barracks. After two years, I finally said yes. During this time, when I actually started reading the Bible, not because I had to, but because I chose to, I saw how amazing, awesome, powerful, loving...how REAL God was. That's when my personal relationship with Christ began. James 1:2-4 says, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have [its] perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
I got through the initial shock of my physical pain by these two verses. The first one is self explanatory, but the second...the second was like a slap in the face. It told me that the very word "Religion" in my mind was all wrong. But I thought religion is a preference in belief! What else am I ignorant about? I got through my pain by diving, head first, into the Bible.
AD: Did you keep a journal during your initial recovery? If yes, so you still have it? Would you ever publish any of it?
AP: Yes. I filled up a few journals throughout the years, some of which is being published as we speak. It is a compilation of poems I wrote while in excruciating pain. The book is called Mentality Listens and [is] available in paperback... on CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com.
AD: When did you start blogging? Why did you start?
AP: I started blogging in September . I had to resign from my job as a church clerk early in the summer because of my disabilities. I was in a lot of pain. I was waiting for a certain procedure to be scheduled by my doctor, so in the meantime, while I was at home, I started painting again. But when my back hurt too much to paint, I would write on the computer. I started doing a lot of research on the procedure I was about to have and discovered wordpress.com. I started a blog just to mess around with it. At the time, I didn't even have a twitter account. I actually got a twitter account to up my chances for hosting a coffee party through houseparty.com, but anyway....Lol, I started to write about God. I was having so much fun changing the themes and backgrounds and posting...then I thought maybe if other people see this, they might be touched by God through His word. So, I started writing poems with verses at the end. And that's when I started to receive comments.
AD: How do you maintain multiple sites? Do you find it challenging?
AP: Oh, Lord. Girl, let me tell you something...LOL. I am so stubborn. So many people have given me so many different suggestions as to how I should separate my blogs, or put them all together, or get my own domain...I have had so many versions of what you see now, it is just too funny. I am truly a perfectionist when it comes to any type of art and to me, the way a blog or web page looks, is art. But, you know what? I have so much fun doing it. Well, most of the time, when nothing crashes. But it is not easy to update each website. I finally figured it out. Do not listen to anyone but God. And that's working out pretty good right about now! I can't believe I am about to hit 1,600 hits on my DC United site and I am at 1,400 on my main page at Just One voice . I have linked all my sites to that one. The most challenging site to keep up is definitely the photography site. It is challenging because it takes the longest to post something because you have to upload the pictures, place them in an order, add captions, and make sure every picture has a copyright.
AD: Have you done any guest posts on other blogs or websites?
AP: I... had an article posted to Veteran'sWatchdog, one of my short stories.
AD: When did you start painting? What paint do you use primarily? Oil? Watercolor?
AP: I started with oil painting. I started to get really serious with my drawing in order to paint. I took drawing classes and purchased a Bob Ross kit...Lol. My first painting with the pretty little trees came out...well...like a first painting. As I mentioned before, I am a perfectionist when it comes to art, and oil is so easy to just wipe off. So, I wiped off that painting about three times before my husband stopped me before I could wipe it off the fourth time. He made me sign it and I was so disappointed in it, I signed it with red paint...LOL. Picture included. Last year, I switched to Acrylics because they are a lot cheaper than oils and they dry faster, so I figured I would have no choice but to leave the painting alone after I painted. Boy, was I wrong! I just painted layer upon layer to try to get it perfect.
AD: Which artists inspire you? Which writers inspire you?
AP: There are two students who attend my church that are excellent artists. One is about to publish his very own first comic book. This would not be his first book, but first published book. The other designs houses for fun. They are both brothers, just a few years apart. I must say that their attitude, their lifestyle, their artistic gift from God, and their obedience inspire me in every way as a writer and a painter. I wish that parents would teach their kids how they can affect the people around them in a positive way, even adults.
Dead: Picasso, especially for the crucifixion painting he did. There are so many things in that painting, I can literally stare at it for hours.
Writers: God, of course. The bible is God-breathed, inspired by God, written by man.
Stephen King once inspired me when I wasn't so deep into my relationship with Christ. Since the beginning of 2011, I haven't purchased any of his new books. But I do own all of his other novels...all of them. I do think he is an extremely intelligent writer, but at the same time, if I feel like I am sinning while reading a book, then I can no longer read it. He still inspires me to write because he has never stopped writing. Even when he got hit by a car and got into that terrible accident which leaded to a very dark room within his life, he didn't let that stop him from writing.
John Macarthur (Johnny Mac) can break down the bible so that there's no way around the truth.
I love Picasso's paintings, especially his painting of the crucifixion.
AD: What is your dream?
AP: To one day be sponsored to go on a mission trip to China with my husband; and to adopt a child.
AD: Where do you see yourself in 4 years? How about 8?
AP: In four years, I see myself oooooooold...LOL. In eight years? Very Old! LOL. No, for real. In four years I hope and pray that my husband and I will have a house by then and a child, whether it be our own or an adopted child.
In eight years, I hope by then that my husband and I will have regular supporters that will fund our mission trips. Even though I am disabled, that doesn't stop me from spreading the Gospel. I was worse than now when I went on my very first mission trip and God did it all. I was just a tool he used to share His Word. There are so many people who know that we are missionaries, but unfortunately, we do not have any regular supporters. Mission trips are very expensive, so I pray that God will put people in our path that are willing to send us around the world to spread the Gospel.
AD: Tell me Brooklyn Baby: Nets or Knicks? Any memories of Coney Island? Been to Juniors? Jigga or Biggie?
AP: Coney Island. That was the chill spot. The boardwalk. The games. the arcade. The Cyclone. The Zeppoli's. The cotton candy. The funnel cake. The one inch of sandy rock...LOL. Ahhhhh, yes. Coney Island. I can smell it now. Smells like Nathans! And who can forget...the thirty second bumper car rides.
AD: If you put your MP3 player on "shuffle", what would we hear?
AP: Well, let's see. Shuffle...and here we go:
- "On in Here" by Cross Movement
- "My Everything" by Richard Smallwood
- "Heart Stops" by Flame
- "Things Change" by Shachah
- "Throne" by Lojique
- "What a friend we have in Jesus" by Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir
AD: Tell me something random about you.
AP: When I was a teenager living in Long Island (Strong Island), I came across this medallion one day on my bed. I have no clue how it got there. It was the Star of David. I have written the first Novel of a trilogy based on this Medallion. I don't want to reveal too much, but it is a story about an eighteen year old atheist girl being called by God to share the truth (the gospel) to the boss of the Italian Mafia. With God's help, it will be released this year.
Want to hear more from Angelica? Check out one of her many sites or follow her on Twitter.