Giant Tiny Dancer

20170526_105946I have always been a dancer. I don’t remember a moment in my life when I haven’t danced, even as a baby.  That may sound crazy, but I remember being held by my Mom or my Dad, not sure which one, while he/she danced. I’m not sure if was to calm me down for sleep, or just for the fun of dancing but I have a vivid memory of the room, the light, and “feeling” the sound of the music all around me.

I was recently invited to a party to celebrate Father’s Day. It was a great party, lots of friends, food and music. We all danced and had a great time. The DJ played all types of music, mostly Latin Salsa and Merengue, but he also played Rock in Spanish, Disco, Rock and Roll, the Twist, Jitterbug, and of course the party favorite YMCA. I was having a blast changing my dancing style to the type of music playing.

When the twist, swing and rock and roll of the 50’s and 60’s came along, something magical happened to me. While I was dancing and doing the steps to Jailhouse Rock… l was magically transported to the old kitchen from my childhood home. I saw the unique electric light on the ceiling. I could see the light from the fire peeking thru the discs on the metal top of the wood stove, and could feel its warmth. All of my siblings and I were gathered around a small old radio while my mom, in a dark green pencil skirt, a light green soft sweater, hair to her shoulders, and sharp pointy green leather heels, was washing dishes at the sink. 

20170526_105955The electricity at that time was provided by an old diesel power engine located at the center of the city.  This big, loud engine had difficulty providing strong electric current for everyone in my hometown of San Marcos, Guatemala. It gave us just enough power to give out a soft flickering light as bright as a candle and to power some of the appliances, including our small radio.

All of the same elements that were there on the dance floor had suddenly set my memory alight to recreate that scene, complete with the cozy ambiance  that I remembered when I was a child.  

I looked forward to this time in the afternoon. Always between 5 and 6, it was a time I treasured, not just for the music and dancing we did, but it was Story Time for children on the radio too. I believe it was the same for my brothers and sisters. We all sat together to listen to classic fairy tales, narrated by a girl our age, that later on, in our college years at the capital of my country, she became our roommate.

Before the stories and after there was always music.

As I danced on the floor a few nights ago, in this beautifully vivid memory, I saw a 4’10” woman, in her early 30’s…a fit, beautiful, fun, dancing woman…my mother.  

20170529_111105However, most of my memories of my mom when I was a child were of her sadness, anxiety, and depression. My father and mother had their issues, as do most married couples. Mami often worked 12 to 14 hour days, if not more to help my dad support all six of us, on top of raising us. Sometimes, she would be washing dishes with tears in her eyes, which saddened me.

But when the music came on the radio, the magic happened every time. It didn’t matter how sad she was, if Elvis came on the radio my mom’s tears were replaced by a beautiful smile. She set aside the dishes and dropped everything. She transformed before my eyes into the most amazing dancer there ever was. She grabbed our hands and we all would dance. She did the twist, the bop, the Charleston, the jive… everything. She would even do the Elvis salute at the end of the song when she would slide on her knees. She taught us every dance move she knew. She’d make a circle with all of us, and instruct us on how, when, and where to jump. She taught us the steps to every song. She turned all of us into her own little dance troupe there in her kitchen. My mom gave me a gift that I’ve treasured my whole life. My love of dance. 


At the party, while dancing and doing the jitterbug, I saw my mother reflected in me.  My Mom, a tiny woman but a giant to me. Her courage, her determination to provide, to create, to make sure her kids had everything they needed, made her look like a Wonder woman… especially in my memory, but a tiny dancer, now that I am older and look back to those times.

I thought about her, and about the many times I have danced away my sadness and my troubles.

I thought about how many times I have grabbed my three boys, and made them dance with me! I hope they will remember me dancing with them as I remember dancing with my mom.

I’ve not always known the best way to express my love to my Jovi, my wonderful Mami. It was easier for me to express love to my dad, I don’t know why. However on this Father’s Day, even though I did think of my dad and I was grateful for the years that he was alive and in my life, at the end of the day, I was thinking of my Mom. I have always admired my mother’s strength, her energy, and her creativity.

Her passion for dancing has blessed my life in so many ways. I use music to meditate, to relax, to work out, to unwind, to express… and while I was jitterbugging on Father’s Day, I realized that I am my mother’s daughter… I am glad and proud that I am.


Photos of flowers… para Mami.


2015-07-20 06.08.54In 2005, Justin, the youngest of my three sons, was 5 years old. Their dad and I had divorced in 2002 and we both were remarried. We had joint custody, so the boys would split their stays between their dad’s home and mine.

One of the hardest parts when going through the divorce was realizing that the boys were not going to be with me 24/7. As any parent would, I had a difficult time adapting to the constant goodbyes and separations. My boys were having the same difficulty since they were the ones that had to go back and forth between homes and adapt quickly to the change of dynamics between families.

I always wondered how much the boys missed me and how much they understood about parents having to compromise and to give-in, even if they wished they didn’t have to when a divorce happens.

One Friday as I picked them up from their dad’s place, Justin said that he had a song for me.  He told me that the day before, he and his brothers were riding in the van with their dad and their new family, when a song came on the radio and made him think of me. He was very excited to show me the song and could hardly wait to get home. As soon as we arrived, Justin got on the computer and searched for the song. He wanted to play it for me. He sat on my lap, held my face and sang along with the song. He knew the words by heart.

The song he was singing to me was the song “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt. 2015-07-20 06.10.01It was brand new on the radio at that time.

The song lyrics tell the story of a man who sees a woman in a crowd from a distance. They made eye contact, smiled, but nothing else. He mentions that his love for her is pure, that she looks like an angel to him. In the song, he repeats that she is beautiful.

The song meant a lot to Justin, and from that point on, to me, as well. In many ways, it reflected a part of the life that Justin and I were living. The fact that a five year old could identify with the meaning was impressive and touching to me.

As Justin was singing this song, every time he sang the refrain of “You are beautiful”, he would hold my face and look directly into my eyes. He made sure that I was looking into his eyes as well. Listening to little Justin sing those words while looking at me with so much love in his eyes…I was overwhelmed with his demonstration of his love… I started crying. My tears were pouring down my face like a broken faucet!

Justin was shocked to see my reaction. He thought that his song had made me sad. I reassured him that his song and singing hadn’t made me sad. I explained to him that his actions had moved me deeply, that he made me so happy, and that what I was feeling was his intense love and gratitude. I gave him a storm of kisses and hugged him so tightly. As soon as I released him from my embrace, he assumed a proud satisfied attitude and was radiating a feeling of accomplishment… all so cute to me!

20160428_160729Justin realized, that his actions had created a beautiful emotion in me and it made him feel good. He liked it! In the weeks that followed, Justin would try to recreate that moment we had shared.

I would be vacuuming or sweeping the floors, while he and his brothers were playing. If the song started playing on the radio, within seconds of hearing the opening bars of “You’re Beautiful”, Justin would recognize the song, stop whatever he was doing, jump up and run to find me.

He would come to place himself right below my nose intently staring up at me with his big brown eyes looking straight into my eyes. Those two gorgeous and innocent brown eyes, as big as they could get, would dart back and forth between my right and my left eye…back and forth…back and forth. He was completely fixated and analyzing mine, waiting, looking, searching for my tears, hoping for my emotions to show again. It was so innocent and cute to see him looking for that moment in my eyes that gave my emotions away. I adored it.

For sure, every time that Justin did this, he gave me an emotion, although each time it was different: the first time there were abundant tears from experiencing his overwhelming love, the second time it was amazement and joy looking at his anxious face, the third time I would laugh and giggle to see him trying again. Regardless of how many times he tried and how different I reacted, the feeling of love was always present.

Because of this experience with Justin, I am more careful now with my actions and my words . I consciously do my best to use them to lift up friends and family. Just like Justin made me feel with “his” song, I want to make people feel valued, loved and beautiful.



Photos by Sandi Gamblin

Editing by Randall Gamblin.  For editing info and work please email

The Moment

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“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift…that’s why they call it:  Present” ―  Master Oogway

At one point in my life it helped me to understand what living in the moment means and to enjoy my present instead of thinking of the past or the future.  It helped me to be in the “Now”.

I had heard that quote before, but on this particular day it actually spoke to me and made sense.

My boys were excited to go see the movie Kung Fu Panda which had premiered that week.   I was enjoying my boys company and their beautiful spirits as much as I could.  The moment the lights went down and the movie started, my boys had their attention on the screen.  Me, my body was there, but my mind was not. My second marriage was failing and all I was doing was thinking about possible solutions, causes, consequences and all the thoughts that come with marriage problems and potential divorce.

My boys were loving the movie.  Sometimes their giggles would bring me back to the theater, but mostly it would wander back to my problems.  Then the scene came when Master Oogway (Chinese for Tortoise) is talking to Po, the Panda, and he says:  “Yesterday is history,tomorrow’s a mystery, and today is a gift…that’s why they call it:  Present”.

2015-11-20 12.48.18My mind, which had been completely absent to the moment, was captured by what Master Oogway said,, and came back to listen and analyze that specific saying.  I call it my Aha Moment, because something clicked inside of me, something magical that changed me.   If I could describe the change that happened, I would say that there was an inner light that started as a flicker and became brighter and brighter as the quote played over and over inside my head.

The whole meaning of it became clear to me.  I was not taking full advantage of the present by worrying so much about things that had already happened, had not happened or may never happen.  Things that I had no control over were the owners of my “Now”.

I looked away from the screen and into my boys beautiful faces.  Their smiles were so big and their eyes were shining so bright, their minds completely submerged in the movie, the plot and the characters.  Not a worry in their world…and I wanted to be and feel like them.  Their secret? Like Master Oogway said, they were living in the present moment. They were taking advantage of their gift…the Now.

I did my best to free my mind of any other thoughts and to stop thinking, to be there, at the movie theater, body and soul, and love that moment with my boys, to appreciate my present, my gift.

The rest of that day was amazing. I felt free. I felt joy. 2015-11-20 12.35.39I felt peace and love that was so fulfilling because it came from inside me and from the realization of the gift I had.  Since that day, I do my best to stay in the moment.  It is not easy and sometimes it seems impossible.

Over the last few years, I have been challenged in many aspects of my life.  I have been laid off from work a few times. My health turned into a slow roller coaster when my thyroid decided to take on a life of its own and play tricks on me.  Losing my good health created a domino effect on my work, my finances, my home, my social and family life.  I can honestly say that I have so many reasons to worry, to despair, to go crazy.

My natural tendency when faced with challenges, is to go into my past and look for all the reasons why bad things are happening to me.  If I allow myself to do that, then I start thinking about what I could have done differently and I fill myself with regrets and self pity.  I also tend to think about all the consequences and possible outcomes to the future, bringing anxiety, worries and uncertainty to my life, feelings that are unnecessary and a complete waste of my present.  Instead I do my best to stay in the present moment and use that gift to be pro-active and work towards the solutions.

Since I started practicing living in the moment, I have noticed that my life has become rich with peace, calm and acceptance.  I appreciate the little things.  I see beauty in nature and in people in a way that I didn’t see before.  Simple things make me happy.  I feel a deeper love and an absolute gratitude.  I do my best to LIVE every moment fully and completely.  Especially when I am with my boys. Those moments become treasures to my soul.  Those are the little moments that really matter to me and the memories that those moments create are the true inheritance I leave behind.

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Photos by Sandi Gamblin

Edited by Randall Gamblin (



The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. (Wikipedia)

Looking bac2015-08-08 12.16.02k on my life experiences to pinpoint the exact moment when having gratitude as my first thought of the day has been difficult.  My siblings and I were taught politeness and culture by expressing gratitude to everyone.  Many times,  if I wasn’t showing my gratitude or saying “Thank You’, I received a strong pinch from my mother.  There is a big difference between learning to express gratitude because you have to, and expressing gratitude because you feel it.

At one particular point in my life, I learned the true meaning of gratitude through a personal and powerful experience of my own. It happened when I was 17 years old, the day my beautiful Dad died.

My father was my best friend.  He taught me to box, the basics of fixing a car, to dance, and to be calm in the midst of conflict.  I loved him so much.  He became sick and passed away when he was 52.  I remember walking into the hospital with my best friend, her sister and my two younger siblings.  Before we got to his room, the nurse came out and without any warning, love, or concern, she announced, “Oh, your father just died.”  I remember running to him and hugging his dead body so, so tight, crying and hurting so much!

I turned around and saw my little brother and  sister with pain and devastation on their faces that was equal to mine.  I realized that my dad’s body was dead, but his spirit and memories would continue forever.  At that exact moment an overwhelming feeling of gratitude washed over me.  I felt so grateful for the few years that I had him as my dad.  I felt like a miracle happened to me when an extremely painful moment was transformed into a loving, peaceful one.  I turned to my siblings and shared my feelings with them.  I asked them to kneel, we held hands and said a loving prayer of thanks for the blessing that he had been to us.  Tears of loss were exchanged for tears of love and gratitude. Gratitude filled us and helped get us through those sad days.  I could actually feel the love of my dad surrounding us.   His big smile came to my mind and took over my heart and I felt his comfort.

The memory of this moment is the one that I use as a powerful tool to transform my life.  I use it to turn bad and difficult moments into positive experiences.  I do my best to make gratitude my first thought of everyday.  That alone, helps me to have a great day, regardless of any  situation or any problem.

Sometimes, I succeed.  Other days, I forget and it doesn’t come to me until later in the morning, but my gratitude is always with me.  It’s not always easy to make it my first thought of the day.

It is not easy to train ourselves to wake up giving thanks or having thoughts of gratitude.  It has taken me time, patience and practice to get to the point where I am now.  More likely, our first thoughts are along the lines of, “I need more sleep!”, or “I don’t want to get up to do all the things I have to do today!”  Sometimes, there is excitement about a new day, other times fear of what the day may bring, or complete indifference to the upcoming day, with no more interest in it than to get through it..mechanically…because it is something to a job.  Regardless of the expectations of the day, if gratitude is at the start of it, life becomes more meaningful and rich in a spiritual way.

If gratitude is not your first thought, it could always be the second, or the third, or the fourth.  What is important is to have that thought at some point in the morning routine.  As times goes by, it becomes easier to remember and eventually becomes a habit.  Then it becomes part of the soul.  One day, I hope to realize that waking up with gratitude is as natural as the sunrise…..every morning.

I don’t look for a big list of amazing things happening, to be able to give thanks. The little things are the ones that matter the most.  Each morning I feel gratitude for waking up; for seeing a new sunrise, or maybe a rainy day; for calling a place my home;  for my family, pets, friends.  I’m simply grateful for being alive!

Feel the gratitude and see the transformation.

If time is taken every morning to feel grateful… for pretty much anything in life, the day will be brighter, smiles will be bigger, and by the end of the day, there will be even more reason to close the day with a feeling of complete gratitude for just being.

Now, let’s close our eyes, breathe deep and exhale with a smile…  Time to start the gratitude journey!2015-07-19 15.26.32

  • Photos by Sandi Gamblin
  • Editing by Randall Gamblin (