by Rebecca Villarreal
You can listen to this poem here: https://bit.ly/EthelandErica
by Rebecca Villarreal
You can listen to this poem here: https://bit.ly/EthelandErica
Are you looking to lift some hearts this holiday season? Today is small business Saturday–and hey, every day is a great day to support small businesses! As an independent author, I have the pleasure of sharing my heart with you on my terms. And drumroll please, to that end, I am sharing the moment when I first saw Selma in book form:
Any tears? Well, I had some when I watched it! YOU have been with me on this journey and it’s been filled with joy and hurdles and delights. THANK YOU!
Click here to order one or more signed copies.
FEEL GOOD! 5% of my net profits go to Teaching for Change
Since publication, I’ve donated more than 5% of my net profits annually to Teaching for Change. You can read the article here.
WHAT READERS SAY
As soon as I started reading about Selma, I was hooked! — KC
I have fallen in love with Selma, her friends, family and adventures. Each page of this wonderful story takes you on a magical journey filled with love. This is a story you will want to share with the entire family. I can’t wait to find out where Selma takes us next. — Margaret S. Edwards
You will be swept away in a magical tale…Selma will inspire you to dream and believe in magic. Rebecca Villarreal creates a world where anything is possible-both good and bad-and how patience, understanding, love, and belief in oneself can truly be transformative…she teaches us to approach life with an open mind and with gusto. – John C. Kazmierczak
Thoughtful, engaging and delightful–your entire family will enjoy this page-turner! – Jaqueline M. Crocetta
I set aside an evening to dive into this delectable book and fell in love immediately with the cast of characters. Selma’s got a big heart and a mischievous streak that lands her in a spot of bother more often than not. I loved being on this journey with Selma, Guadey, and Hurley & Uli. And I honestly can’t wait for more. I think kids of ALL ages will enjoy this magical journey! –Linda Stockton
I was transported near and far, and imagined myself taking all of these adventures with Selma and her family & friends. It made me laugh a lot, it made me cry a little and it definitely left me wanting for a sequel. –J. Sullivan
Selma and her companions will be in several Christmas stockings this year. Hopefully, we will not have to wait long for a sequel! –Juliann Uritus
PURCHASE AT YOUR FAVORITE RETAILER
You can also purchase The Amazing Adventures of Selma Calderon: A Globetrotting Magical Mystery of Courage, Food & Friendship at your local independent bookstore, BookShop (it’s on sale!), Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and more.
Visit my author site at rebeccavillarreal.com where you can read a Huffington Post article about the inspiration behind the book, listed to a radio interview and you can click here to listen (or on your favorite platform) to me on The Listen Podcast!
WITH BIG HUGS AND GRATITUDE!!
I am so happy to sit and visit with you in this moment. I’m currently working on my “inside outline” for my next book. As you may recall, it turns out that book two is actually an expanded version of The Amazing Adventures of Selma Calderon: A Globetrotting Magical Mystery of Courage, Food & Friendship.
We’re talking epic quest, travel to Italy, an origin myth based in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco and more. For readers of my first novel, I think you’ll love the evolution of Selma, Hurley, Guadey and X. And good news, you had a glimpse of some secondary and tertiary characters including Clare and Pemba who now have enhanced roles and some wicked cool powers.
As usual, there is food, lots of food, including my intense research at Johnson’s Popcorn.
There is a new character whom you’ll adore. She is Hurley’s great grandmother—her name is GG. And there’s some A-Mazing TREE magic in this book. Some might say it’s a reason for me to shamelessly research trees, but I think you’ll especially love the chapter that I just turned into Barbara Boyd, my book coach based in Italy. I actually stayed with Barbara in 2017 when I was researching book 2. She lives in Belevedere Marittimo in Calabria. She is certified by Jennie Nash’s Author Accelerator book coach program. In fact, Jennie just released her Blueprint for a Book and I can attest to the fact that the tools make a world of difference when writing a book! You can learn more about Barbara on her site (she focuses on non-fiction authors) and in this fabulous interview on The Listen Podcast.
I was actually interviewed on the same podcast by Kate Jetmore about my experiences in East Africa. You can listen here. It was such a joy to talk with Kate and to go back to my time 20+ years ago in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Much of my time there informed The Amazing Adventures of Selma Calderon. I hope you enjoy our conversation. Kate is true to the title of her podcast. She deeply listens and asks informative questions.
And you’ll hear a “vintage” recording in my 20s with some fabulous Kenyan Women researchers, Soila and Katito Sayaliel and Norah Njaraini with elephants very close to our research vehicle. And you’ll hear this Philly girl who is a little scared!
I have a ton of resources which have been gamechangers for me in my #MysticAthlete quest. You can learn more about that in my What’s a Mystic Athlete section of my blog.
Before I share a few of my favorite resources, I want to pause to write to you about self-doubt.
I’ve been talking about it with my writing partner, Michelle Reynoso as she works on the 3rd installment of her trilogy. I’ve watched us both as we navigate working full-time, writing, momming, being a wife, a friend, daughter, sister, paying bills and cleaning our houses. And I will tell you that I get a C+ in the latter.
Anyhoo, self-doubt is a like any other foe—as my mother would say, it’s FULL OF SOUP. Here’s a sampling of what my self-doubt character has said to me:
“Why are you even toiling with this story? You already wrote one book. Why make it bigger? Is it really worth it to spend this time and energy on a book that…really HOW MANY people will actually read it? What’s the point?”
Have you ever had a voice like that come into your head? About work? Relationships? Your health? Guess what! I have a solution for you! If you’re a long-time reader of my blog, you’ll be familiar with my approach of giving that inner critic a whole persona so that you can converse with him or her. You can read about that process here. From SARK, I learned how to give those individuals a new job. Back in 2015 when my novel, The Amazing Adventures of Selma Calderon: A Globetrotting Magical Mystery of Courage, Food & Friendship was published, I was only a few months into my lifelong dream of living at the beach in California (where I’m writing to you now!!) and within a few months had been reassigned (gratefully) to a newly formed department in my day job.
So you want to talk CHANGE. New job, new home on the other side of the country realized after 20 years and a book published that took 10 years to finish while writing, momming, healing and more.
In 2015, fear came up for me. And she and I had full conversations in which basically, I assured her that I was following my life’s calling and that she didn’t have to keep me safe with her caution and concerns (and freaked-out paranoia). Instead, I sent her out to screen test scary movies.
Now when self-doubt comes for a visit and wants to challenge the future of my novel on the big screen or on Netflix, I know that Selma’s story is bigger than I am. I know that any piece of doubt or discontent is so far apart from my right livelihood as an author that I am able to say hello to my self-doubt, have a conversation with it and even dance it away, or simply say thank you for the challenge and your efforts to keep me safe. I am here. I am writing and I am still showing up.
Do you have a similar inner critic that doubts your efforts at home or work? At your health? At your dreams? If you do, I encourage you to check out my resources section, especially the first one: Create Your Own Matilda, because WE NEED for you to pursue your dreams. They are a gift. Listen to the whispers. You want to run a 5K? A marathon? Write a poem? Cook a new dish? Create space for the love of your life…unknown until now or perhaps the person who sleeps next to you at night? How can you shift your perceived reality into that pulsing wish of your heart?
First, WRITE IT DOWN.
If you read my Secrets from the Olive Grove post, you’ll see a photo of a piece of construction paper which was on my fridge for 8+ years. And honestly, that dream was a much longer one in which I had simply planted the seeds of the idea of a happy family on the beach…in a journal with a photo of my family of origin in Ocean City, NJ and a post card from Santa Monica, CA. It was a broad wish that got more specific over the years.
At times, when I’ve felt afraid of wishing for what I’ve truly wanted, being able to eek out a tiny wish like “happy family at the beach” has been a giant leap of faith. Then, I have been able to get more specific and find a kind of joyous solace in at least knowing what I desire.
Moving to California to live by the beach – took close to fifteen years.
Writing a book – took ten years.
But what is time? Do we judge the amount of time as good or bad?
In truth, I had a journey of healing that needed to happen before calling forth the concrete reality of my life now.
I wished for a faith community here in my area that makes me feel at home. I joined an Episcopalian Church about 5 years ago in an affluent area near me. I didn’t think I would feel at home, but that pastor kept coming up in my “field”*, so I tried it. And low and behold, this community ended up supporting me through the fires and mudslides we had in 2017 and 2018 and also created a space where spirituality and communion can exist just minutes from my home. And check this out, I wasn’t raised Episcopalian.
Some other tools which have helped me thrive during a year of challenges, grief and joy are:
Building New Habits: Based on the work of BJ Fogg – the father of behaviorial design from Stanford University.
Optimal Health through Small Daily Actions: Dr. Rangan Chatterjee‘s Feel Better in Five is so simple and straightforward. If you take his advice, it’s likely that you’ll feel significant changes. His podcast, Feel Better, Live More has made the biggest impact on me. You might enjoy his interview with BJ Fogg on The Secrets to Creating Habits that Stick and episode 119 with Esther Perel on Relationships and How They Shape Us.
Living in My Zone of Genius and Creating Deathbed Markers: The Joy of Genius by Gay Hendricks is a slim little book that is the follow up to The Big Leap (which is available everywhere including on the free Hoopla library app). This book has helped me to reframe some of the most mundane and frustrating aspects of my life to uncover my best skills AND to spend more time doing what I love! One of the culminating exercises includes creating a list of deathbed markers–as in when I die, this will be. I have that list posted on my studio door and see it every day. It reminds me to focus on what matters most to me. It’s different than the bucket lists we hear about. It lights me up.
*I want to address the term “field” because it may seem a little ethereal. Here’s how I look at it: there are clues all around us. Synchronicities and magic. Today, I texted my friend from a resort (where I spontaneously spent the day) and then found a book in the lounge with his very unique name on the cover. And now, as I write to you, the people behind me just said his name. I can’t make this up—as great as my imagination works—this just happened.
That reminds me, I wrote a book blurb for a book called Leap to Wholeness. Many of you may not know this, but I NERD OUT on science…especially science that proves magic is real. Wait, what? The author, Sky Nelson-Isaacs, a physicist, does an amazing job of explaining the physics behind synchronicity — which you might call coincidence, in your daily life.
I encourage you to read it.
And speaking of reading, I adore the book When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller and I fell in love with Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez. I am currently reading the sequel, Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe.
Thank YOU for reading this post. I know that life is full for so many of you. And wanting to help yourselves and loved ones as well as those suffering in places like Afghanistan and Haiti can be overwhelming. I learned about organizations making a significant impact in Afghanistan through Valarie Kaur of The Revolutionary Love Project. She consulted a close friend who worked in Afghanistan for 15 years and suggeted three non-profits. I chose the Church World Service to help families get re-settled. She also recommended The International Refugee Assistance Project which is providing legal resources to refugees and No One Left Behind which is working to secure chartered flights and is the key organization helping to evacuate and resettle Afghans in the Special Immigration Visa (SIV) process. I am looking for credible non-profits helping the people of Haiti and welcome any suggestions.
Thank you for reading and loving and showing up. The world needs you! Look for everyday magic—it’s all around you. #cucalacas
Dear Amazing Readers,
THANK YOU for your support over the last 8 (!!!) years–or whenever you have discovered my blog. This post is one to bookmark because I list and link the resources that have helped me to heal physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually over the last year. When you are struggling, I hope you will come back to this page and pick one tool that speaks to you–a video, a book, a class–and remember that you are LOVED and that we need you here, every single day.
I’ve loosely divided the resources into physical and then emotional/mental and spiritual–but they tend to cross over in categories too. For a little extra context, during the last year, I lost the ability to walk any kind of distance without pain and I experienced a lot of grief from the unexpected passing of my uncle (and godfather) and my brother. And of course, like you, I’ve experienced other life changes caused by our current collective circumstances. Today I wake up with JOY and am back to hiking, biking and boogie-boarding. My Mystic Athlete approach also helped a lot! Here’s a bit more context in a 2 1/2 minute video:
And of course, I have resourcses related to writing and general inspiration and leadership! And you’ll also see a few lovely items from makers I like.
NOTE: None of the links are affiliate links–in other words I don’t make any money if you support them. So when you see me celebrating the individuals below, you know it’s because I have benefited from the talents which they have so generously shared!
Also, if you don’t already have a library card, check out your county library system if you are in the U.S. You can usually get an online card which will allow you to use Hoopla, Libby and/or Overdrive which are all free apps and sites which offer free access to check out books and/or films listed below. I also encourage you to support the creators by purchasing their offerings too.
EXPLORING THE HEALTH OF YOUR BODY
I have had an amazing experience with Petra Fisher Movement’s Build Better Feet course. She has a waiting list for the feet course but she also provides a free 5-day Fix Your Feet Bootcamp. She is offering and upcoming course called Joints for Life. Her classes are very well-organized. You can go at your own pace. And she is super responsive to her students. It’s worth subscribing to her newsletter and following her on Instagram. She offers great guidance on helpful everyday activities like how to walk with good alignment. I am still learning that as I seem to lean forward when walking as if I have somewhere important to go!
I first learned about this approach to movement from Katy Bowman of Nutritious Movement. I’m a big fan of her book Whole Body Barefoot, which contains some great and easy daily life exercises. With approximately 25% of your body’s bones located in your feet, there’s a lot to learn and apply. Your alignment impacts your hips, back, neck, knees…everything! I love her 2-minute dynamic work spaces video. Katy has also hosted an annual advent movement experience for seven years if you want a free chance to explore natural movement. You might also be interested in Erwan Le Corre, the inventor of Natural Movement. He offers a free 150-page PDF for signing up for his newsletter.
Pilates + QiGong in One
Next I’m LOVING my Core Qigong course with Steven Washington. It’s 20 minutes of pilates followed by 20 minutes of Qigong. I encourage you to check him out. I feel amazing after every class. And don’t worry about the time of class. I rarely do them live. The recorded classes feel the same. And you have access to a whole library of options. He’s offering a free experience on January 10.
I was fortunate to work with the Purety Clinic and received these excellent exercises. After watching the intro video, I have made the second video part of my regular routine and occassionally do the moves in the third video. I’m sharing all four of his “Movement Prep” routine steps here.
1. This one provides context.
2. These are prepare to move exercises that activate your lymphatic system.
3. These are the movements to challenge you when you’re ready.
4. This is the final in the series.
The Earth as Your Body’s Ally
Have you seen The Earthing Movie? Here’s the trailer and here’s the full movie for free. The science behind the health benefits of actually going barefoot (and more) on the ground will blow your mind.
Find a Trail
If you haven’t tried the All Trails app yet, I highly recommend it in the U.S. if you are able to go outside where you live. The free version is great and I have enjoyed the paid version for the last year.
Mushrooms and that Underground Network of Mycelium: Who knew?!
Another documentary which lit up all my nerd DNA was the film Fantastic Fungi. It’s fascinating. And again, the health benefits are illuminating. You might also be interested in Merlin Sheldrake’s Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds Change Our Minds and Shape Our Futures. It was recommended by a friend and I’m interested in reading it!
EXPANDING YOUR MIND, HEART AND SOUL
Harnessing Emotions for Your Health
I found the documentary E-Motion 2.0 illuminating — especially as I value emotions as an asset in life. I listened to it during a long drive. While the film does not feature an inclusive range of experts, it offers some important insights about how emotions impact our health and our lives.
How Your Energy is Measured Scientifically and How You Can Use it to Thrive
I enjoyed this lecture by Dr. Sue Morter on The Energy Codes. It’s free but you’ll have to sign up to see it for a limited time. It really taps into ways to speed up physical healing among many other topics.
A Unique Way to See Yourself through Someone Else’s Eyes – and find a job too!
Talk to Tindi – Have you ever had someone reflect positive things about you that are so on point and fill your heart–but you never would have found those words on your own? Well, my dear friend of 25+ years, Tindi Selma Amadi does just that as a certified NLP coach. She is also a highly skilled professional who has helped people find new jobs by crafting unique resumes, cover letters and Linkedin profiles as a personal branding expert. She also has some great testimonials on her site so you don’t just have to take my word for it!
I hope you’ll also check out Brené Brown’s podcast interviews of Dr. Sarah Lewis on The Rise, the Creative Process and the Difference between Mastery and Success. I also enjoyed Brené’s study of leadership in her interview with President Barack Obama.
There are a number of books which have been influential in my healing from grief and life’s challenges. They are:
No Mud, No Lotus and No Death, No Fear by Thich Nhat Hanh – The first slim volume is chock full of incredibly gentle and helpful ways to transform suffering and the second book truly reminded me of how to re-think the conditions that exist to support the living.
Spirit Hacking by Shaman Durek – He offered some great Healing Temple sessions last year for only $10 and he now is offering a Be Your Own Damn Guru Session for 2021 for $20 here. This book is for the open-minded as it really puts the power and responsibility in your hands to clean up your stuff and do the work of bringing your light to this planet.
Ask Your Guides by Sonia Choquette – This book has seriously helped me reconnect to my daily joy. You’ll need to take a leap of faith if you only believe in what you can see.
What’s in the Way is the Way by Mary O’Malley – This is a very simple approach to the world. I resisted it wholeheartedly. When I surrendered, boy did things shift for me. I still have to refresh myself on the basic tenets of the book.
The Big Leap and The Joy of Genius by Gay Hendricks – The concepts in these books address the idea of an “upper limit” problems with relationships, health, money—you name it. Total 100% game changer for me and a beautiful invitation to live in my zone of genius.
The Motivation Code by Todd Henry and several people with PhDs–you can take the free test here. There’s also a paid test. It’s based on more than 50 years of research. In it, you not only find out your motivators, as in the free test, but you also learn about the shadow side of your motivators and what de-motivates you.
The Mystics Path by Lindsay Pera – I am grateful to have participated in two intimate masterminds over the course of twelve months under Lindsay’s leadership. All of her frameworks are included in this lovely book. I use so much of what I learned from her as a foundational part of how I operate daily.
E-2 by Pam Grout – I’ve done three of these energy experiments and they are so much fun and eye-opening!
The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker – I had the privilege of interviewing Priya last year and have been a fan of her podcast and book for some time. Rethinking how we gather is a pivotal part of our collective healing. Though this book was written when we could still meet in person, the principles of innovative thinking and intentionality can be applied in any scenario. I also deeply enjoyed Brené Brown’s interview with her here.
FICTION TO FEED YOU
The Night Watchman by Lousie Erdrich was excellent. She is THE REASON that I became a writer. Her novel, The Beet Queen and the related Love Medicine books offer characters who visit with you when you’re not reading the book. If you’ve never read her, please check her out. She even has her own book store where you can get signed copies.
Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram really filled my heart. I wrote him an 8-point email with the reasons I loved his book. (What author wouldn’t want to receive that?!)
The Wrath and the Dawn and The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh are retellings of One Thousand and One Nights and I could not put them down.
Lit Podcasts are one of my favorite ways to spend my time.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I adore 88 Cups of Tea hosted by Yin Chang. A recent interview with Tochi Onyebuchi was so inspiring. He is very smart and very joyful and a huge John le Carré fan! I have been blessed to meet a bunch of committed writers through the 88 Cups of Tea community including my writing partner, Michelle Reynoso. Michelle and I check in almost daily on our writing and share inspiring information with each other. She is working on her 3rd book in her The Girl, The Pendant and The Portal series. I started the first book, titled EN and it was a little too scary for me so I have not finished it! She is a lovely person and I truly enjoyed her delightful interview on The Listen Podcast.
If you write, the author Heather Demetrios has some amazingly helpful resources on her site and if you sign up for her newsletter. Nina LaCour also has some lovely, short and quietly comforting podcast episodes in her series Keeping a Notebook. And this interview by Brene Brown with author Gabby Rivera on Superheroes, Storytelling and Joy as Resistance, lifted my heart so much!
Art for your heart — My mastermind sister, Jackie M. Wood has some amazing art available in the form of masks and pillows and actual prints and original art. I wear her masks and have her pillows on my couch and her art in my house! Simple Wealth Art is also one of my favorite local creators. She offers an immediate 10% discount when you sign up for her newsletter. Her copper jewelry is often inspired by nature. I also just saw that she is having a 20% off sale in the New Year.
Now that you’ve hopefully started stamping your PASSPORT TO JOY, here’s an update on my novel: I have been in hermit mode working on the sequel to The Amazing Adventures of Selma Calderón: A Globetrotting Magica Mystery of Courage, Food and Friendship! Spoiler alert: We get to travel to Italy (where I did research in person in 2017) and to Morocco, Zanzibar (where I traveled many years ago), North Carolina and of course, Selma, Hurley and the gang are based in Chicago. And there’s a new villian in town that’s much bigger than in the first book. And as always, I will make you very, very hungry with lots of food! If you’re new to my work, you can read the reviews of my first novel here and check out my author site which includes links to a Huffington Post article, radio interview (skip the two-minute intro) and a [very homemade] documentary about my residency at the magical Drop Out on Orcas writer’s retreat.
I am inviting you to spread the joy from this post and to provide support in any of the following ways:
These resources, my faith, writing my novel, a deep belief in humanity and everyday magic and my closest friends and family have carried me through. I hope this post helps in whatever way you need it. I wish you JOY always. We can hold it all, together, along with everything else that comes our way!
The World’s Embrace
You can listen to this poem here and download it for on-the-go listening here.
by Rebecca Villarreal
All I want to do is stick my face in a blueberry
or a toothpick with a sail
and shrink to meet the fae
as they navigate the frothy waters
or perhaps I’ll slice a garden tomato
marking the circumference
like a kitchen timer
reclining and licking
the Maldon salt
in all its pyramid popping
defying the laws of the courts of saline
perhaps I’ll drift onto land
bouyed by sourdough
and begging for Irish butter
for now, I send you a poem of produce and dough
to save you from despair
you see just when the world seems masked by indifference
or perhaps so much difference
you’ll ask for a poem when
you didn’t know your heart yearned for one
The clay of our ancestors knows
your feet once had roots
your navel was the hollow of a tree
where wrens nested
and eggs hatched
for the cosmic mother
ancient and complete
to send you a blueberry sailboat
a tomato raft
and an island of sourdough
to assure you that you are loved
the soil is your succor
the earthworms your symphony
and the ink of my pen
a love letter to remind you
that your heart is full
your soul is waiting
and you deserve
the world’s embrace
I hope you felt lifted by the poem and took the time to listen to the audio version so that you could feel the world’s embrace.
I WON A PRIZE!
I’ve posted links to 88 Cups of Tea, founded by Yin Chang before. Yin has built the most amazing, supportive, loving, boundaried and NON-COMPETITIVE writing community I have ever witnessed. Consider supporting her Patreon account.
You can hear my name announced at the 1:08 mark in this podcast. I am so honored to be one of three people out of 151 submissions selected for our community’s 5-Year Anniversary Celebration. I had to fill out an application including the first pages of my first chapter of the sequel to The Amazing Adventures of Selma Calderón: A Globetrotting Magical Mystery of Courage, Food & Friendship as well as a synopsis and the goals of the book among other questions. I won a conversation with Holly Root, of Root Literary Agency. You want to see tears of joy on that one? I came running over to my husband and he was all, “What happened?” And I kept saying, “I won! I won! I won!” and then I played him that moment when my name was announced.
Being a part of the 88 Cups of Tea community has been transformative for my writing. We gather several times a month and write together. And one of my fellow writers told me about Heather Demetrios’ Flow Lab. After completing it, I now write an average of one hour a day, 5 days per week! I just printed my manuscript yesterday and I have forty chapters either started, midway or completed! And the podcasts and articles are like having an M.F.A. for free!
I am sending a HUGE thank you to everyone who has read my first novel, and reviewed it, purchased it and requested it at your local book store or library. I was thrilled to learn that Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon had 20 copies in stock! Recently, I received the most beautiful request from a family based on Oregon. They donated their copy to the fire relief fund in their community, and asked for the best place to purchase a copy so that I would get most of the profit because they needed to have one handy for rainy days! These kinds of stories really keep me going. I can’t wait for you all to read book 2! Hurley has a much larger role and the magic is amazing! And of course we get to travel to Italy and Morocco among other adventures in Chicago.
Goodies for Your Heart
And in other news, this morning I passed the time celebrating life, drinking mint and yarrow tea from my garden, and thinking of Mama Chelo, my grandmother who passed away several years ago at age 105. If you’re a long-time reader, you may remember this poem I wrote after her passing, her 5 Life Lessons post and her Guacamole recipe. This past week I did a cooking demo of that recipe here. A downloadable PDF of the recipe is here.
As I was pouring the tea in the glasses below, I remembered when Mama Chelo was visiting me in Washington, D.C. and we went to Dean and Deluca. She bought me a small basket and two glass tea cups. The cups have been broken for years now. When I got the glasses in the photo below as a free gift for purchasing tea, I jumped at the chance to recreate that special experience with my grandmother again. This morning, I kept pouring the tea as I thought of her. I spilled it all over the table and didn’t care as it was all part of visiting with her in my heart and mind.
The vision I had as I began cleaning up the tea was “The Affliction of Joy.” It’s this feeling that there is so much delight inside of me and it is inextricably tied to the fact that I’ve also experienced great sorrow. It’s almost as if my appreciation for joy, ecstasy and little moments of happiness has been enhanced by the dark times in my life.
As I’ve navigated the drowning grief from the loss of my brother in August and prior to that, my uncle and Godfather in May, I’ve learned some valuable lessons, not only in resilience, but in navigating joy and sorrow and embracing impermanence.
First, take good care of your adrenals, folks. I’m including a photo of some adrenal support snacks from my doctor. (Yes, it’s been on my fridge for months so it’s worn!) What that means for me is concentrating on good sleep and enjoying my caffeine in the morning. What happens if I overdo the afternoon caffeine is that I experience an enormous high that inevitably attracts a big low or dramatic drop in energy. That crash becomes fertile ground for a STUG. What’s a STUG? It’s a Sudden Temporary Upsurge of Grief. You can read about it here. And frankly, it sucks. I had four days of STUGs in September and I literally felt like I was drowning in tears. I called a helpline and spoke to a counselor and, as per my usual, listed the twelve thousands things I do for self-care and my experience navigating trauma and resilience. And though she didn’t tell me anything new, it was helpful to speak to a compassionate professional and focus on myself–not empathy for another person’s experience.
All this is to say that I have also been focusing on the idea of impermanence. My teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh has helped me to understand the idea of no being. In his book, No Death, No Fear, he focuses on the ideal conditions for something or someone to manifest. When I think about the people I’ve lost, whether my grandmother at 105 years old or my brother at 39 years old, I’m getting to a point where I understand that the conditions of their lives existed to support them in their human form for their lifespans on earth. I believe and feel them inside of me now. And I feel them everywhere. In the mint tea I spilled on the table, and in the good fortune I had to win a literary prize. Thich Nhat Hanh compares this to a cloud, which can manifest as rain or as snow. When the rain comes, if you’re looking for the cloud and mourning its passing, you miss the beauty of the rain and the nourishment of the plants and food all around you. Speaking of food, I have learned so much from gardening these last years (Gardener was my word of the year in 2019) and the Cherokee Purple tomato and Jacob’s Cattle Beans in the photos above are grown from the seeds I purchased from Slow Food.
Another very valuable coping strategy from Thich Nhat Hanh can be found on page 101 of his book No Mud, No Lotus. I am including a photo of it below. Of course, I love the very clear connection to trees!
Finally, I recorded the video below for you because I decided that I was going to launch my personal #4monthsoffun where I focused on the inner and outer health of my body (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual), my book and my money! I recorded it on September 8, and you can join at any time and make it your own. I linked it to my Mystic Athlete approach. October 8 would make it three months of fun for you, so we can celebrate together on January 8, 2021–that’s the day I officially return to social media.
And for no reason
I write to you on old index cards
except for the reason that you did the same as soon as you could form the letters
‘I Love Beccu’
Master of Phoenetics
with the humor only the King of Pudding or Tuna could muster
You took me to a Midsummer Night’s Dream in roller disco in New York
where all my 1970s flashing-light-fantasies came true
and the sea
before I was ready for your ephemeral exit
now you’re everywhere in everything
the library book arriving just in time
to save me from the insomnia of sorrow
the quick reflex catching my glasses before they fall
into a watery grave
the mega giant hummingbird visiting the lavender
I say, “Thanks Joey”
Thanks for my broken heart
for loving you as a brother and a son
for rollerskating in the living room
for pointing to the radio and telling me it’s time
for dancing after dishes
our last hug one year ago
Me telling you
I need you to stay
I know what it is not to want to show up
We need you
I love you
And so you gave us one more year
A year of embraces
and another birthday
laughter through the magic of machines
I hold you now
My good luck charm
even as the possibility of a Hafiz verse undoes my grieving heart
and for no reason
I choose to be again
waiting for you to help me find my keys
What’s up with me? What’s up with you?
WRITING WRITING WRITING
I left social media for six months to work on the sequel to The Amazing Adventures of Selma Calderon: A Globetrotting Magical Mystery of Courage, Food & Friendship. It is going great! Selma’s 5th birthday is August 8, 2020. Mark the date and do something magical for yourself that day! Or read my book or gift it to someone!
I’m a lucky duck as I have joined the Patreon account of 88 Cups of Tea. The creative director, Yin Chang, hosts write-in sessions called “Tea Time with Yin” and I’m in one right now! In case you’re a new reader, Yin Chang is the host of the podcast 88 Cups of Tea. She brings a level of enthusiasm and curiosity to interviews with writers of diverse backgrounds and genres and always leaves me with so much inspiration! It’s like having a portable M.F.A. in my phone 24-7. And the writers in the community are so inspiring, welcoming and full of resources too. I recently learned about Heather Demetrios FREE 30-day Flow Lab and I start that tomorrow. She has a bunch of wonderful free resources available on her site. I also had a geek attack when I stumbled upon this conversation with David Abram in Dr. Sharon Blackie’s This Mythic Life.
Another book to book conversation I’ve listened to twice is between Alicia Keys and Sue Monk Kidd. If you’re a writer, you might want to join the Author Accelerator Inside Outline webinar on August 14. My new editor and I are delving into this and other resources as we excitedly collaborate to finish my second novel!
I have also been reading, reading, reading. Right now I’m enthralled with Louise Erdrich’s The Night Watchman. She is the author that made me decide to pursue writing for the rest of my life. It was her book, The Beet Queen, that was the deciding factor for me. She has an ability to create characters who live outside the books. When I read her work, I think about them and I wonder what they’re doing in that moment or what they will do next. That is the absolute magic of her work. I aspire to create that kind of relationship for you with my characters as well. Another book I’m enjoying now is Darius the Great is not Okay by Adib Khorram. There’s an immediate empathy for Darius and his inner journey as well as an actual family journey to Iran that has kept me gripped. I have also completed the Aru Shah series by Roshani Chokshi and the Storm Runner Series by J.C. Cervantes and finished Rebecca Roanhorse’s Race to the Sun —- all wonderful adventures that have taken me through action and Hindu, Mayan and Navajo mythology, respectively.
And please remember the new section of my blog called, “Will You Take My Hand?” It’s chock full of Black Lives Matter-related resources for BIPOC and more.
Lots of folks have been making sourdough (did it), cooking more at home and finding their way through our new normal. I have lots of cooks and bakers that I follow and will save that for another blog post down the road. I have a deep affection for waffles but have never owned a [working] waffle iron until now. My favorite waffle mix is Simple Mills. I add vanilla extract and lemon zest to the batter. The one above got a little crispy and was delicious!
Here’s the lesson in the waffles…they were always this treat that I got outside of the home. (Yes, I know about frozen waffles and they have their own nostalgia for me but they just don’t do the trick.) I borrowed a neighbor’s waffle iron one weekend to see what it felt like to make waffles at home. It was easy and brought me so much joy. AND I watched Scooby-Doo cartoons while eating them on Saturday morning. My husband sat there right with me in his own waffle heaven and said, “Let’s get the same waffle iron right now!” It was a little over $20 and it has brought this “diner brunch” experience into our home. And I can’t wait to try some savory waffle recipes!
When I think about wishes and dreams and embodiment–a.k.a. borrow the waffle maker, see how you feel making them at home–it reminds me of how I have, in small incremental steps, done this sort of thing my whole life. I love the water, the ocean and nature. While living in Chicago–I looked for that sweet weedy flower pushing its way through the concrete. I found time to walk by the Lake and I went to the recreation center to swim. None of these experiences were the full deep immersive hiking and boogie boarding life that I have now. But I wanted this life so badly. And so I created pieces of it with my imagination and with the ingredients available to me. Then I saved, planned, wished and LET GO. There’s a surrender experience to wishing that involves releasing “grasping energy.” The grasping energy keeps you in a tailspin of why you don’t have the job/home/partner/money/peace that you want.
To that end, bringing it back to the waffles, find something small and free that offers you the seed of experiencing what you want. My mentor, Lindsey Pera, calls this the prism process. I had been doing this my whole life, thanks to my imagination and doggedness. It has led to my greatest travel adventures to Spain, France and Italy–mostly for free. My husband really wants to go back to Italy and you can catch him practicing his Italian with free YouTube videos every single day. If you want to learn more about my journey to manifesting magic, you might enjoy my Secrets from the Olive Grove post.
This is me in front of La Torre Rossa in Itri, Italy. The tower dates back to the 13th century and the giant wheel below is part of the olive pressing process–and you can see my book just hanging out there. I’ve been deep in the writing sections in Italy and as a result have been cooking Italian dishes, drying my gorgeous oregano from the garden and drinking a glass or two of Italian wine!
All this manifesting hasn’t been as easy as it may look. Upon reflection, it could have been easier, if I rested in a level of trust and ease. And another element is focus. To that end, you might want to check out this video by Dandapani. He offers free mental health tools on his site as well. I have been using his app for a tiny short daily journal in the evening and at night. I also have enjoyed this loving kindness meditation on Insight Timer by Manoj Dias. This meditation is powerful as it helps you to direct loving kindness to yourself and then to others. If you are hard on yourself, it’s especially helpful in exercising your kindness muscle toward your own precious heart. I also have listened to lots of meditations by Andrew Johnson as well. Oh and I just did the loving kindness meditation today (on the same site) by Heather Demetrios (of the Flow Lab mentioned above) where you send loving kindness to yourself and to other writers! Very cool.
Your Sacred Wild Soul: Monica Garcia and M. Ruth McCants are two PhDs who will give you a level of love, compassion, clarity and straight talk about what’s moving through our universe at the moment through the lens of Tarot and Astrology. Monica is one of my best friends and has a superpower for empathy and intuitive insight. And Ruth knows astrology like she was born with it in her DNA.
Walk Inn Beauty: Ho’omalamalama Brown and I co-facilitate a monthly mastermind together. She is an amazing and inspiring human who touches upon Hawaiian culture (you get to learn a new word each episode), and generational wisdom about health, wealth and relationships, creativity, planning and so much more. Her episodes are short and sweet and joyful.
She Will Not Be Silenced Women’s Leadership Podcast: Keisha Shields and I spent one full year together in an intimate mastermind experience led by Lindsay Pera. Keisha has given me some of the most profound and insightful advice for my life and business as it relates to my personal story and the legacy I want to leave in this world. Her gentle and direct approach comes through in the episodes I have enjoyed.
Hey Girl, Thrive: Samaria Williams partnered with Akiva Harris, both therapists in this recently launched podcast. In full transparency, I haven’t listened yet! There are only two episodes so far–but I will say this: Samaria was a featured speaker in the conference I just co-hosted for the Intergenerational Grief panel and she is a lovely, compassionate and knowledgeable human being. She has held my hand through some painful moments and done it with grace, faith and again, a deep knowing of my suffering and how to help me out of it.
The Giant Pause: Catherine Solomons is co-owner of 28 Well Hung in London and is doing such important work in the world for our food systems and the earth. She’s brilliant. Her podcast focuses on: “Creativity in a time of corona. Inspiring responses during lockdown of local business and communities – mainly in South London – pivoting and thriving in the strangest of times.”
One day, Catherine said this to me,
You are the cosmic mother that you need. You are ancient and complete.
I was all, “whaaaaaa???” And honestly, I wrote it down on a piece of paper and kept it front and center for weeks. Just yesterday when I was navigating some disappointment in a loved one and the hurt was a familiar old hurt, I paused, noticed and observed my feelings rather than cause my own deep suffering (all over again because let’s face it, I’m an expert at that). I remembered what she said. Through all of our wounds and grief, we can heal ourselves with compassion and ascend into a new level of consciousness so that we don’t have to live in the past and be limited by it. And also, WAFFLES!
Sending you love with butter and syrup! Go forth and build that life. YOU DESERVE IT!
Nourish Your Heart. Expand Your Mind. June 30 – Register here.
Friends, this is a first. I have never ever shared an event from my job on this site. And here’s why I am sharing it–this upcoming day represents the intersection of all that you read on my blog and how I earn my living. It’s what my mentor Lindsay Pera (and Buddhist tradition) calls Right Livelihood.
I will be speaking at the beginning of the conference about my personal experience in Resilience Mapping: Transforming Trauma into Joy. This is what we call a #viewsmyown kind of talk offering approaches that you can use to thrive, especially during these times.
You can register for this free event here.
Coming Together While Living Apart is a free virtual conference focused on creating hope and connection and providing practical tools and knowledge you can use right away. And you’ve read about Priya Parker, author of The Art of Gathering, How We Meet and Why It Matters in a previous post of mine. She is one of our speakers! I’ll be hosting her in a fireside chat at the culmination of the day.
When you visit the registration page, you can view the schedule for this live event (as well as the bios of the panelists, moderators and speakers) which runs from 12:00pm ET-3:45pm ET with a break in the middle. Find your local time zone here.
Here’s the journey
12:00 PM Welcome
Audrey Grove, Director of Community Services & Social Accountability, Masonicare
Resilience Mapping: Transforming Trauma into Joy
Rebecca Villarreal, AARP Advisor, Office of Community Engagement
Connecting Mind, Heart, Body & Soul through the Expressive Arts
Moderator: Gary Ware, Breakthrough Play
Jennifer Fijal-Brevik, Instructor for the Adult Chamber Choir at the University of Hartford’s Community Division
Juan Brito, Artist, Composer, Musician, Editor and Social Worker
Susan Holmes, Expressive Arts Facilitator for Masonicare Home Health & Hospice
Marissa McInerney Expressive Arts Therapist Center for Discovery
Creating a Path for Zero Isolation
Nicholas R. Nicholson Jr., PhD, MPH, RN, PHCNS-BC, Associate Professor, Quinnipiac University School of Nursing
1:45 PM 10 minute BREAK
1:55 PM Gather
Thriving in Troubled Times: How We Can Normalize Acute Stress
Dr. Richard Kamin MD, FACEP University of CT Health Center
Unlocking Creativity: Your Path to Joy & Mastery
Gary Ware, Breakthrough Play
The Presence of Absence: An Intergenerational Response to Grief
Moderator: Claudia E. Oakes, PhD, Department of Health Sciences, University of Hartford
Mala Matacin, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Hartford
Samaria Williams, Licensed Psychotherapist/Adjunct Professor, Co-Founder, Hey Girl, Thrive podcast
Beverly Bryda, MSW, ACSW – Director of Social Work, Masonicare Healthcare Center
How to Be Together Apart Virtual Fireside Chat
Priya Parker, Author, The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters
Rebecca Villarreal, Community Organizer, AARP
Wrap Up and Gratitude
Rebecca Villarreal, AARP
I hope that you will make time to join all or part of the conference!
Personally, I’ve been on a journey to health after illness, grief after the passing of a family member and rage and anguish over the collective suffering of people due to the pandemic and the ongoing injustice and suffering of our black community. Check out my resources of support on my new page Will You Take My Hand?
I think this conference will be healing for me and for so many. Let’s come to the table, learn and celebrate a future where we can be together, together.
—for the Mothers
You can listen to this poem here.
By Rebecca Villarreal
How many shares would blond blue-eyed darlings get
if wearing hoodies got them killed?
Would we see documentaries flashing back to soccer teams
and lemonade stands?
Would the lineup of captured offenders parade your feed?
How many vigils?
How much b-roll of crying family members?
Now we get hashtags
for black and brown
searching for systemic change
If there were superheroes to re-plant our origins
where might the story shift?
Our First Nations families might have fed our love of the land
rather than moved, contained, separated and boarded
now man camps and pipelines
snake their way into cracks in the earth
where women and girls turn to shadows
And what of the lettuce, strawberries, melons
now in a world six feet over?
The hands without documents can stay because we need food
and we need hands to pick the food
but their children go in cages
where there are documents of dying, abused and touched
The braid of being
Black in America
First here Wisdom Keepers
and Brown and borderless
Let us remember the all of Asia
and the fear of blame for the crown worn across the globe
If Gaia could speak
and in truth she has
there might be her own sort of lineup
A red thread connecting us
the nations are none
soil and seed
sun and rain
our one heart
She decided to make us see
You are not immune
You shall thrive
You shall not
the lines are divided by us
by the funds for personal protection
What if the world spun on service?
What if money was not the currency of power?
What if kindness took the helm?
What if love rose up from Mauna Kea?
What if the mothers took over?
In a dystopian film there might be grief camps for offenders
so they could feel the heartache of losing the babies we raised for freedom
The mothers would pivot away from assault rifles in protest
Read you The Book of Loss and Learning
So we may
clean the wound
speak the unspoken
whisper truth in song
until it becomes
Our One pulse
hand on your heart
mirror the earth
© Rebecca Villarreal 2020
*Sculpture Artist Unknown – please let me know if you know.*
Onward to this week’s resources featuring real talk for navigating these times by Brené, vulnerable and valuable insights from my friend Samaria and fabulous fashion for family dogs from my friend Mona:
Here’s how you can help this week:
That’s all for this week!
Look for the magic in the everyday. There are clues everywhere!