Brought Me, Prepared me and Pacified Me

20170729_084012It has been a while since I posted in my blog, even though there has been so much that has run thru my mind that I have been wanting to share with others and to express.

My last blog, “Giant Tiny Dancer” published in June was about the childhood memory I had of my mom and her love for dancing and how she taught me to love and appreciate that part of life as well.

It was weird for me to write that post about my mom, the inspiration was strong but it came out of nowhere and in a moment that I should have been thinking about my dad, not my mom.  However, as I look back at all of the events that have transpired since then, I can see the reason why it happened the way it did.

I was dancing at a Father’s Day celebration last June when I had an extremely vivid vision of a treasured memory that involved my mom. About a month after seeing this vision/memory, I got a call from my siblings to tell me that my mom was sick and I needed to go to her bedside, when I got there I was told she had Neoplastic syndrome, which is the first or most prominent manifestation of a cancer.  My Mami, my Giant Tiny Dancer passed away in September.

20170728_225015The vision I had about my mom and her death shortly afterward, gave me a deeper understanding of the type of connection I have to the people that I love, and more likely, we all have. I believe that vivid vision was a message from something bigger than me to my spirit. Something was telling me….warning me…that my sweet Mami was dying, even though at the moment no one knew it, including my mom.

In retrospect, I understand now that the vision was a message. The message was in a way a warning that my mom would shortly be gone from this world, but mostly that I needed to express my love and admiration to her. The fact that I wrote down what I was feeling with those strong emotions at the time, and that I expressed all of those feelings to my mom, was a blessing. I’m so thankful that I did not hold back.

20170729_084328My mom was a very active woman, full of energy, full of life and wanting to do and try everything! I used to call her sporadically to talk and tell her about my life, my boys or just to hear her voice, and there were many times when I called to speak to her to find out that she was not available because she was out helping people. Throughout her life Mami wasn’t the most healthy woman, but she refused to let her weaknesses or sicknesses slow her down. She stayed strong willed and wouldn’t let anything get in her way.  So even when she was feeling sick or weak, she was serving people and working hard. I always thought that she was invincible. However, my Mom…my Tiny Giant…quickly deteriorated and dimmed… absorbed and consumed by cancer.

Cancer is a mean monster.

My vision brought admiration for my mom and a perspective of her that I had never had before, and which I had never expressed to her, either. If I had ignored the feeling I had with the vision, I would have lost the opportunity to tell her how much I loved her, how much I admired her, and how much she meant to me. I am so glad I didn’t pass that opportunity, or that I didn’t dismiss the prompt.

20170728_223336What came to me the night while I was dancing, I quickly transferred to words and I published it. Shortly after I found myself at her bedside and I read it to her out loud the night I arrived at her beside to say my goodbye. It was just the two of us snuggled up together in her bed, while my siblings were having dinner. It was a private moment between me and my Mami…one that I will always treasure. She listened to me read her the blog that I had written about her.  As I spoke the light came up in her eyes and her beautiful smile appeared as she and I were transported back to our kitchen some 40 years ago. As she listened, the story brought back those special memories. and many others as well. We talked about how much she loved to dance, the way she was always dressed so beautifully, her beautiful clothes and her wonderful hats. Her smile got brighter and brighter. After my siblings finished their dinner they all returned to her bedside and we all sat around her bed. We played songs dedicated to her and our memories, we all took turns to choose which songs to play. There were a lot of tears and there was a lot of love.

20170729_083626What I bring from this experience, the vision and the prompt that I had, is that there is something bigger than me, guiding me and directing me. It is important that I follow those little or big feelings. It’s important that I “listen” to that prompt and to do what comes to me as an “instruction”. I need to ignore my pride, my worries, my limitations and weaknesses. I need to take full advantage of the guidance that I’m receiving.  Listening to that vision and expressing what I felt with it to the world thru my blog and especially that I was able to share it with my Mami, gives me a gratitude and a peace that I can’t describe.

The purpose of that greater thing for me… brought me, prepared me and pacified me.

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The pictures of the flowers in this post, are the ones that I took at my sister’s garden and brought to my mom’s bedside to show her with the hopes to cheer her up.  She would look at the pictures and would say: “Beautiful Mija… you need to make a book”… and then will tell me which other flowers I should go to photograph.. I would go and come back with a new shot.

I love you Mami… and I miss you. ♥♥♥

 

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. 

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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.

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Photos of flowers… para Mami.

Content

It seems like I have traveled a whole universe of feelings and emotions since the last time I posted anything in my blog.  The main reason why I have been missing from here was that my laptop was compromised with a virus that destroyed the hard drive away and with that action, most of my beautiful pictures were gone.  Losing those photographs, for me, was like loosing part of my soul and in a way my inspiration.  Other reason was that my life, romance, physical home, my stability, my job, everything was changing.  Sorting all my feelings, thoughts and emotions and trying to put an order in my life was difficult.

For the last few days I have been feeling the need to express and share some of the lessons learned in this little metamorphosis.

I am starting to collect new photos… accepting the fact that I lost thousands of them was tough. I had to mourn them and let them go. Finding the inspiration to take more was not there for a while, but I realize now that it was just evolving and a new phase of inspiration starting.

For a while now, I have been practicing to live the moment where I am, to keep gratitude for everything and to love… unconditionally and without expectations. Love everything and everyone for what they are and whom they are.

I have a new job that I enjoy. I have a new place to live—An old house which I needed as sanctuary as the house needed me to give it tender, loving care. We are a perfect couple.

Moments like this one, where I am in solitude, listening to Oscar Peterson in the background and feeling all gratitude inside and around me have become almost my daily routine. My life is not perfect at all. I could sit here worrying about everything that is not there or that it could be.

But that would be not enjoying my present.

What I would like to say to you today is this: Let go of your worries, take a deep breath, be grateful for everything, and give. Give the best of you… always!

Smile big! Love big! If I can be here and feel this way, you can too!

The title of my blog today: “Content” is exactly what I am feeling.

Pictures by Sandi Gamblin

 

The Bull

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As I mentioned in my previous blog, The Egg, I served a mission with the K’ekchi in Guatemala. As a missionary, I was blessed to live many beautiful experiences that taught me in one way or another to live a better life and to appreciate everything that I have. Sometimes, the learning moment was so immediate and so visceral, that the wisdom I gained has come back to me later in my life. As I’ve been confronted by a problem or challenge, and life wants to remind me of the hard-won wisdom I’ve gained, it comes…naturally, magically…exactly when I need it.

My experience with The Bull has come to my mind many times since it originally happened, especially when I face a challenge that seems too big or too scary. When I recall this experience with the bull, the way he unexpectedly stormed into my life, charging me with such fierce determination to kill me, he has morphed into a metaphor for all of the biggest problems and challenges that I’ve faced in my life.

The hardest part of facing a challenge is that nobody can do it for me. I have to be the one dealing with it. Even though I am the one who has to “grab the bull by the horns”, it is a blessing to have someone who, like my missionary companion at the time, can help me with encouragement and support.

The following happened around the same time of my previous story “The Egg”, on the outskirts of Senahu. My companion and I met a K’ekchi family that lived in a tiny hut in the middle of a property that was used for pasture. We received a request to visit this family and check on them because the mom was sick and needed help.

The morning that we decided to go look for this family was a beautiful morning. The property,  which was within a short walk from our home, wasn’t hard to find and it seemed like it was taken out of a fairy tale story. The verdant vegetation of the area, plus the climate, the light of the day, everything was working together to make it look like an enchanted place.

A hut, a simple structure approximately 15’x15’ made of wood-stick walls, with a low roof made of straw and old rusted tin, sat squarely in the middle of about an acre of pasture with large trees surrounding it. A strong fence made of wood and barbed wire surrounded the property. Everything seemed so tidy, so perfect. I thought that this would be one of the easiest assignments on my mission. I was excited to go meet the family and help them with anything they needed. Piece of cake! How exciting!

Then we made the next move. We approached the gate and were about to open it, when I came face-to-face with one of my biggest fears, a bull. But not just any bull. He was The Bull.

I have always been scared of bulls. When my siblings and I were little, we all walked to school, along with all of the neighborhood kids. There was a dairy farm one block before our school. It was located on one of the back roads in our city, but was the road that we needed to walk every morning to get to school. Most of the time, we had no problem walking through that area, but once in awhile, the cows and bulls from the dairy farm would escape and wait for us in the road. Once they saw us coming, they would sense our fear and would chase us down the road. Of course, as any little kid would, we would scream, cry and run as fast as we could, all scared and traumatized by these animals.

So, as I stood looking at this angry stomping beast guarding the entrance to my mission for the day, it brought back all of the fear of those bulls of my childhood. I wanted to turn around and run as fast as I could.

This bull wasn’t by any means an ordinary bull.  Like the setting of the hut, the bull too, seemed conjured directly from a fairy tale. But whereas the hut and its surroundings was tranquil and idyllic, the Bull was the beast…the monster…the dragon of this fairy tale.

He looked huge when calmly eating pasture and standing next to the other cows. However you could tell that he was not Ferdinand the Bull of the fairy tale, who was the largest and strongest of the bulls, who would prefer to smell the flowers than to fight a matador. This bull was the complete opposite of Ferdinand. This bull loved to snort and stomp and to be seen as the fiercest of all. He would destroy not just the matador, but his entourage as well. It was the biggest bull that I have ever encountered in my life.

The Bull towered over his herd of cows. It was plain by his attitude that the surrounding20160708_120334 area was his kingdom. He diligently surveyed that kingdom with the intent that any intruder who would dare enter would meet swift retribution by his magnificent horns. He would completely destroy and crush the offender like a rag doll. His gigantic hooves pawing the ground created clouds of dust. He would whip his tail for the sole satisfaction of hearing it make the familiar sound of a sharp sword slicing through air, instilling fear. He would flare his large, round nostrils and blow gobs of snot to show his displeasure at our smell. Fixing his bloodshot devil eyes upon us, he would charge toward us seeming to spit fire and smoke, like a steaming locomotive or a big tornado. He was revolving darkness filled with lightning, thunder, and evil intent. This was The Bull from my nightmares.

We were not prepared for The Bull, as no one had told us about him. The moment we opened that gate though, we saw him coming. That giant came charging towards us at full speed, with no intention of slowing down. Of course he didn’t know that we were there to help his family, nor did he have any understanding that we were there for a good cause. He only saw us as invaders of his territory, only as “those who must be destroyed.”

The moment that the bull came charging and we were running back out of the gate, the man from the hut and his children came out running from the house to rescue us. The bull knew them and allowed them to live in his kingdom. Once they came out to rescue us, he glared, snorted, and turned haughtily away, looking sharply around for anything else upon whom he could vent his frustration and blood-lust.

When we walked into the hut to meet the whole family that day, we found the mother lying on a little mat. Smoke rose lazily from a smoldering fire pit in the center of the one room hut. Without proper ventilation, the room was nearly unbearable. The mom was coughing a lot and hardly able to move, talk or raise up. They all were happy and grateful that we were there to help them.

Within a week, we were able to get a doctor to see her. She was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Over the next few weeks, and together, with other members of the church and other missionaries, we worked to set up the fire pit with better ventilation. We also educated the family about how to live a healthier lifestyle with better hygiene and eating habits.

The doctor recommended that the mom receive a morning and evening injection of antibiotics over the course of several weeks, to control the TB. Since she was bedridden and unable to go to clinic, the task of administering the shots was given to me and my companion.

I’ve always wanted to help people. Ever since I was a little girl, I used to see the missionaries from all over the world coming into the communities around my country and doing such great service, with care and compassion. I admired them and wanted to be like them. I waited excitedly through all of my tender years to reach the age when I could sign up for a mission.

During that time of waiting, I never imagined that I would have to deal with a bull or with any of my other fears. And now, because this little K’ekchi lady was sick, and we needed to give her the shots, I would have to endure the torture of facing one of my worst childhood fears…twice a day. I wanted to help the lady, but I didn’t want to face this ugly, giant, monstrous bull.

20160707_184451Every morning and every night, we would walk to their home and face the Bull. Sometimes the father or the kids would be there to help us go through the gate. Other times they were gone and we would have to deal with the Bull alone. It took a lot of courage and a lot of pushing from my companion for me to open that gate and take the chance to be crushed by this bull, so that we could reach the lady and give her the shots.

We would wait for the bull to be distracted and away from the gate. The moment the bull realized we were on his turf, we could hear his hooves pounding towards us. For me, it was the drum of my destruction pounding in my ears. My courageous companion, bless her loving heart, would shoot through the gate at a dead run, her long wavy red hair flying all over that pasture, further enraging the Bull as he tried mightily to run down the object of his fury. Each time I had to face the Bull, she ran out ahead of me, slightly veering off course to distract and pull the beast away from the path that I took directly to the front door. Each time, she would come barreling through the door, her bright blue eyes shining with glee and adrenaline, her laughter bubbling uncontrollably from the excitement of besting the Bull and evading destruction once again.

She was so brave!  I was a big wimp compared to her!  Many times I wanted to quit. I didn’t want to face the Bull twice a day. It was so frightening to me. My companion refused to let me give up. She knew I would deeply regret not overcoming my fear to perform such a vital service for the sick woman in the hut. She would do everything possible to help me overcome my fear.

Once inside, we would administer the shots, make sure the lady had food and basic necessities that she needed for the day.  Then we would wait for the bull to forget we were inside. The leaving was as nerve-wracking for me as entering, except for the fact that I felt better knowing that I would be outside of the fence, and as far as possible from the Bull, as long as I made it that is. It never became easier with time. I dreaded returning. It was pure torture for me to know that as soon as I left, in only a few hours I would once again have to face the Bull.

After a few weeks of giving the shots to this lady, she was able to get up and do a few chores in the home. She was also able to attend church once in awhile. It was nice to see that our service was helping her heal, and helping her family. My companion and I visited this family for six months. After that, I was sent to open up a new area, further into the mountains. I went with a new companion, while my red-haired companion stayed there with another missionary.  A few months later, I received the sad news that the lady had passed away. I am glad she had a better quality of life for those months before she died. She was able to do some things with her family that she wouldn’t have had the chance to do if we hadn’t been there. We made a difference in their lives.

When I think back about this experience, the thing I remember the most is my fear of The Bull. I remember the many times I didn’t want to open that gate and do my job, not because I was lazy or incapable. Nor was it from a lack of love of service to others. It was because I was letting that fear take control of me. Sometimes I was able to talk myself into conquering that fear. Other times, it was the encouragement of my companion. It was her words. It was also the fact that she was running next to me. I didn’t feel alone in my fear. My beautiful companion helped me fight it and go through it with me.

Many times in my life I have been confronted by “bulls.” Not just the bulls from my childhood, or The Bull. Now I have fought tougher and even scarier bulls of life. I’ve dealt with my fears of failing in life. I’ve overcome tribulations that have confronted me that have threatened my survival.

Many times I have felt like quitting and just giving up. But I remember how I felt after seeing that K’ekchi woman getting up from her bed and walking with her family to church for the first time in years. My memories of her… the smile on her children’s faces, the love of her husband when they all were walking to church together, showering her with their love and affection, proudly showing everyone that their mom was there to join in the worship… this will always be a treasure in my heart. The gratitude that they felt and showed towards us and the satisfaction I had of being part of that miracle, will be a part of my soul forever.

There is an overwhelming joy that courses through me every time I realize that I have conquered a new challenge. It’s an amazing feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction of knowing that I did it! I didn’t give up! When I “Face the Bull” I feel stronger, wiser, better and then I think, “There is no bull big enough to stop me feeling that joy.” Especially if I know that friends and family are there on the sidelines to encourage me and even to “run with me”. They’re letting me know that though I may need to face The Bull by myself, I’m not alone. I have my companions.

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Photos by Sandi Gamblin

Editing by Randall Gamblin      (randallgamblin@gmail.com)

Gratitude.

 Gratitude:

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 do..like 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 (randallgamblin@gmail.com)