Luz Perez, Tigress Woman of the Week
Luz Perez lost her mother to drug overdose, grew up in a broken home with a mentally ill father, was sent away from home at age 14 to live on her own with her sister, but has ultimately found a fulfilling life, finding happiness and success on her own terms.
Luz has beautiful, bright eyes that light up when she talks about her excitement for life.
Born in California, she was part of a wonderful family. She had highly educated parents. Her mother was an excellent teacher with a master's degree, however she had a dark secret: drug addiction.
Luz’s mother had a surgery that caused her a lot of pain. In a time when addiction was less understood, or maybe less accepted, her mother found herself addicted to painkillers. When her doctor recognized the addiction and would no longer prescribe her any pain medication she turned to street drugs, namely heroin.
Luz's mother had a great life but because of her addiction she was fired by her employer. She then died of a heroin overdose when Luz was 8 years old. Her father, who was not emotionally or mentally stable, remarried another, much younger, woman but that was an unhappy marriage. Luz was soon sent to live with her sister in Utah -- a better situation to live on her own with her sister hundreds of miles away than live with an unstable father.
She looks back and thinks how grateful she is that so many amazing men and women were available to positively influence her life, spending time with her as a teen. She was appreciative of those who gave her advice like "don't do drugs," “don't drink" and “see a therapist if you need help." These people were coaches, neighbors, friends and even the mothers and fathers of those friends.
"I love it when women mentor younger women and girls," she said, as her eyes beam. Mentoring a young woman just takes time ... just spend time with the young person, she said.
As she grew older, served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Chile and graduated Brigham Young University BYU with a degree in English. While attending BYU she met her husban, George (who is from Chile), in a group of friends who share a passion for the South American country.
Luz and George traveled the United States showing him all the sites and within a year they married and began to start their family. They have two wonderful children, Sage and Ivan.
She has always been a working mother, supporting George at first while he finished college.
During our interview while in her office, she rolled her desk chair over to a filing cabinet next and opened up the bottom drawer hoping to find a nostalgic remnant of days past.
“Yep it's empty. This is where I kept the coloring books and toys for the kids to play with when they were too young for school.” She has worked for the National Kidney Foundation of Utah since 1991 and has helped raised more than $27 million during her time there.
Luz credits the goodness of her children to the children themselves. As parents, she and George worked hard as equal parents to provide financial, emotional and spiritual stability for the family. She is very passionate about raising a family.
She is often asked why she only had two children. She believes that, for her and George, more than two children would have been selfish. She explains further “She loves her children and to think that she would stretch herself beyond her limits just so that she could maybe fit in more in the local culture would be selfish.” She has poured her heart and soul into raising these two children, giving them every opportunity to succeed in life. She supports them and makes sure she has enough time for her family.
As far as parenting goes, she seems to have no regrets. She feels like she has done a wonderful job with her children. She did emphasize that she thinks parents only have the greatest influence until children are about 12 years old and then they are on their own. “If you have not helped them develop the skills and desire to go and do something on their own, then that's just who they're going to be ” she says. Her philosophy could be summed up as “if the child wants to do it the child is going to do it.”
She leaned forward, her eyes sincere yet bright, and said, “you have the choice to do whatever it is in life that you want to do. Just because your parents make bad choices does not mean that they're bad people. It does not mean that you have to follow those bad choices, and it, most certainly, does not make you a bad person when you make a mistake.”
Doug Haskins is the Founder and Director of Tigress Women’s Self Defense, a nonprofit organization with volunteer qualified martial arts instructors, offering FREE weekly women’s self defense workshops, hosted by Provo ATA Family Martial Arts and Pinnacle Point Martial Arts in Sandy, for women 16-plus.
If you know of a woman in your life that is an ordinary woman with an extraordinary story to tell, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.