Buckets of Hope: Delivered to Your Heart’s Door

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Now more than ever, we need hope. Buckets of it. It starts with your heart. This is me, knocking on the door of your heart, arms outstretched with your very own overflowing bucket.

One of the first things you’ll see spill out of it, is the video below. I’ve been thinking about what makes us a better version of us. When I do certain things, like connect with nature, write, meditate and play, I feel better. I AM better. Because I’m connected to what nourishes me.

What makes you a better version of you? I’ve been thinking a lot about this. Here are some ideas from me and from friends and readers. You can view the video here.

I promised to share a mix of meditations so here they are:

From my heart to yours

  1. Ocean Meditation: It’s 10 minutes long and invites you to bring along a paper and pen. It’s a great way to put your to-do list on to paper and clear the mind for just a few minutes while listening to the Pacific Ocean.
  2. Made of Stars Meditation to Trust in the Divine Plan: This was a divine download for me. It’s been a great way to help me stay grounded when when I want to know what’s in store for the future and I just don’t have the answers. The only answer is to trust. It’s a little over 20 minutes and is great if you have insomnia or it’s a nice way to start your day.
  3. Play Meditation: This is only 5 minutes long and is helpful if you’re feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders and need to connect with those things that you liked to do as a child.

From Wonders Wellness

Kuan Yin Course: I took this course from Lynn Louise Wonders. It basically consists of an e-book which you can download onto your phone or print out. I read one short meditation every day for 108 days as soon as I woke and then just stayed in bed and let it sink in. It was a transformative experience in compassion. People actually noted my increased calm. Just writing this to you makes me realize that I think I may want to do it again. Lynn Louise has made it available on a donation basis. So you can decide what to pay if you’re interested.

From the book The Four Desires, by Rod Stryker

Most of these meditations are around 20-25 minutes.

  1. Meditation to help with Non-Attachment: What’s that? It’s the opposite of when you expect results to be a certain way–for others to follow your advice and do it your way. Sometimes, that attachment can cause your own suffering. I have direct experience with that. So here are two posts which chronicle ways to let go:
    Powerful or Powerless?  and You are asking me to swallow the sun…
  2.  Meditation to Increase Energy or Shakti: This is a good one if you’re feeling confused, stressed or fearful.
  3. Healing the Heart Meditation: This is helpful if you are struggling with hurts, old or new.
  4. Bliss Meditation: If you decide to use this meditation, it’s the one I referenced in this post which is instrumental in defining a specific intention for the next 12-18 months. I’d suggesting reading the post for context before you listen.
  5. Yoga Ndira: I use this Rod Stryker video when I wake up. You scroll to about the 29-minute mark for the 8-minute meditation to begin. I listen in bed when I’m barely awake. It’s an amazing way to start my day.

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The Creation Equation from Stryker

One final nugget of hope before I go. The Creation Equation: when your desire outweighs the resistance to your desire, it impacts the outcome. Simple, I know. But when you are trying to make those habits that nourish you, a part of your regular life, it’s great to ask, what’s the resistance here? Sometimes you’ll find out why or even create a name for it. Like I did in this post–mine is Matilda. I made a 4 1/2 minute video for you on my run about The Creation Equation or Formula:

Thanks for joining me in hoping. Our joy is the best way to carry compassion and love forward. You can find your happy even amidst the sad. You can pulse out light in the darkest of night. You are full of all that is beautiful. I can see it. Can you?

Aunt Peggy’s Sweet Potatoes & Busting through Fear, Italian-Style

My aunt Peggy used to say, “Are you a ghost?” every time one of us stood in front of the big wooden television at my Pop Pop’s house. And then she’d say, “because I can’t see through you.”

And now my nine-year-old says it to me.

It’s got me thinking about all the things we pass down, like Aunt Peggy’s sweet potato recipe.*

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For my readers who want the bottom line(s), I include great books throughout this post as well as the following:

  1. Steps to get clear on your life purpose – why are you here?
  2. Identifying the two kinds of fear  – the one that is imagined and the one that lets you know you’re on to something big…maybe even connected to your life purpose.
  3. Major plans for the Sequel to The Amazing Adventures of Selma Calderón: A Globetrotting Magical Mystery of Courage, Food & Friendship.
  4. The most inspiring cookbook called The Tiny Mess which is a great last minute gift for someone who loves photography, food and adventure. There’s only 4 days left to support the Kickstarter campaign.
  5. The Miracle Angle: How a tiny miracle named Jaxon turns three and the Alabama Prayer Warriors tipped the scales; how to turn your own tough experiences into skill sets.

I. LIFE PURPOSE

Whether you have children or not, do you think about what you want to pass on to others? Prized family recipes? Modeling kindness? How about living your best life possible? How about demonstrating how to dream and DO?

Recently, one of the people I love most in the world spent his birthday thanking me for all that I’ve been for him. He gave me a gift: it was a belief that in choosing my happiness, I was showing him how to do the same. This is in sharp contrast to the pangs of guilt I felt in the past over creating this happy life. And also, with the way I’ve worked hard at it (in the face of some internal and external demons), I embodied possibility. That’s helping him hold on to some of his dreams.

So in the video below, I’m showing up. I’m sharing a dream I have…related to staying in beautiful Italy! There’s a backstory to how I got there in my post on the book, The Four Desires. Author Rod Stryker provides an overview of the book here and which includes a short meditation at the end.

I’m reading Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create, and Lead by Tara Mohr which is a game-changer for me. And I also started Steven Cope’s The Great Work of Your Life which breaks down the Bhagavad Gita (a 2,000 year old spiritual text) while illuminating the stories of regular people and famous ones like Harriet Tubman, Mohandas Ghandi, Henry David Thoreau and Jane Goodall.  These authors offer different views of the same story: what do you want to do with this life? It doesn’t have to involve things that are so big that you have to risk it all. All three books help illuminate how to suss out the small and big steps to stay connected to what truly lights you up.

Truth-telling moment: It has taken me a month to share this video because I’ve been too scared of my own dream. I’ve hesitated and hemmed and hawed and discussed with friends. I’ve experienced self-doubt. I’ve quite simply been afraid. But I learned in Playing Big that there are two biblical Hebrew words for fear according to Rabbi Alan Lew: Pachad and Yirah. (I love sharing this on the first night of Hanukkah!)

II. TWO KINDS OF FEAR

Here’s an excerpt from an article by Mohr explaining the difference between the two types of fear titled, “What You Need to Know About Fear” explaining the difference:

Pachad is “projected or imagined fear,” the “fear whose objects are imagined.” In contemporary terms, that is what we might think of as overreactive, irrational, lizard-brain fear: the fear of horrible rejection that will destroy us or the fear that we will simply combust if we step out of our comfort zones.

There is a second Hebrew word for fear, yirah. Rabbi Lew describes yirah as “the fear that overcomes us when we suddenly find ourselves in possession of considerably more energy than we are used to, inhabiting a larger space than we are used to inhabiting.” It is also the feeling we feel when we are on sacred ground.

If you’ve felt a calling in your heart, or uncovered an authentic dream for your life, or felt a mysterious sense of inner inspiration around a project or idea, you recognize this description.

We often conflate or confuse the two types of fear and simply call what we are experiencing “fear.” But we can discern them more closely, and in doing so, more effectively manage fear so it doesn’t get in our way.

III. THE SEQUEL

How I’m Geeking Out over the Sequel to The Amazing Adventures of Selma Calderón

So guess what!?! I’m practicing my Italian with the Duo Lingo app for free. I’ve told everyone I know that we’re planning a trip to Italy. As a result, I’ve studied the fascinating Slow Food movement which began in Rome. You can read about how the movement started and “How Grandma’s Pasta Changed the World” here. Yesterday while buying some gorgeous bread (the sliced one) and these delicious oranges from our local Farm Cart Organics, Jason told me all about Italy’s amazing organic farming techniques. And I started researching agroturismo in Italy (tourism on farms where you learn, work and eat fresh food.) And this morning at 6:10am, I finally figured out why Selma is going to Italy. It’s connected to what I’ve been uncovering about Slow Food Presidium foods like the pearl white corn at Ca’ de Memi.

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IV. THE TINY MESS

Oh and from the Farm Cart’s Instagram Account, I also found out about this amazing cookbook called The Tiny Mess. I can’t wait to get mine! These local adventurers have traveled up and down the west coast of the U.S. cooking and visiting with people living in small spaces like campers with tiny kitchens making delicious fresh and gorgeous food. And the photography is breathtaking! There’s only four days left to support their Kickstarter account and get yours. Check out their Intsagram pics and this video — they will strum at your hungry heartstrings!

Please #TellTwo 

A big giant THANK YOU to everyone who has supported me through another year of sharing my novel with the world. As I mentioned in the video, if you feel so moved, please help spread the word about The Amazing Adventures of Selma Calderón: A Globetrotting Magical Mystery of Courage, Food & Friendship

Many of you have already done me the favor of telling two friends how you’ve enjoyed the book. Or maybe you’ll get a chance to read it over the holidays and share it on social media. Here’s a handy short link: http://bit.ly/BuySelma

And check out this cool graphic we used in the Chicago Latino Network’s newsletter:

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There are a bunch of 5-star reviews here. The Huffington Post article is here.If you want to share more about the book, here’s the link to my website and includes links to all the different ways folks can buy it. Also, 5% of net proceeds go to Teaching For Change. And if you’re looking for inspiration and with a nice dose of vulnerability, here’s the video interview I did with yogini Carrie Hensley last year.

My novel is also on page 11 of Lindsay Pera’s Mystic Gift Guide in case you’re looking for some cool gifts for some of the magical folks in your life. You can also email me at rebeccainspiresnow@gmail.com if you would like to order signed copies for $12 each plus shipping.

V. THE MIRACLE ANGLE

Well, I’ve taken you through life purpose, fear, food, magic and my own dreams of taking Selma and my family to Italy. What’s left on Christmas Eve and the first night of the Festival of Lights? I’d say: A Miracle! The Miracle Angle links back to The Four Desires.

In the article titled, “Let Go and Find Your Miracle Angle,” Stryker shares an overview of this concept which is highlighted in the book:

History is full of remarkable individuals who — although they endured extremely hurtful and potentially debilitating things like the loss of loved ones, war, prejudice, abuse, disease and severe poverty — did not allow circumstance to prevent them from living inspiring and even extraordinary lives. The lives of Anne Frank, Victor Frankel, and Nelson Mandela, for example, remind us that we are each capable of creating productive and even glorious lives despite having to live through dire events.

Everyone who has ever overcome hardship or adversity has done so in large part because he or she has chosen, consciously or unconsciously, to “let go” of their past hardship and pain by embracing, what I call, a Miracle Angle — a way of seeing their circumstances that allowed them to transform their circumstances into a spark for positive change.

How is this possible? How, for example, was Nelson Mandela able to transcend apartheid and three decades of imprisonment when some of us struggle to forgive someone who cut us off in traffic?

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If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I have shared personal challenges whether from childhood, or facing postpartum depression and post-traumatic stress syndrome or my most recent (as Brené Brown calls it) breakdown/breakthrough. What you know is that I believe that with faith (in yourself, in God, in any approach that fits you) + action, you can live an amazing life. What you may not know, is that when one of my loved ones had three consecutive operations, we had people all over praying for us. One group of prayer warriors based in Alabama have always had my back. And I, in turn, have always offered up my prayers for those in need–most of whom I do not know. Well, let me introduce you to Jaxon, who in January will be 3 years old. It was touch and go when Jaxon was born. I do know his grandmother. Just imagine a premature baby with all of the requisite tubes and the fear of the unknown. I’m sharing his picture as a big ray of hope to serve as a visual anchor. When you are swimming in doubt, depression, despair or a simple sadness, think of little Jaxon. We all had faith that he could make it.  And I’d dare say his parents and grandparents learned a lot about how to turn those terrible moments into gifts, that’s the Miracle Angle.

Because just like my obstacles have helped me to anticipate and scenario plan–like figuring out the logistics of how to move my family to California, how to project plan at my job and how to chunk out this enormously long blog post, your struggles can be the source of your greatest gifts including the compassion and joy of living in this very moment.

Thank you, my dear amazing open-hearted readers for reading and listening and believing in me!*

I believe in you.

Do you?

With peace, big-hearted love and Aunt Peggy’s sweet potatoes**,

Rebecca

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*This post is dedicated to my Selma readers and to Carrie Hensley and the members of my Sacred Sangha for believing in me every single day.

**Aunt Peggy’s Sweet Potatoes Recipe: Boil, then peel sweet potatoes. Use an electric mixer and add a stick of butter, orange juice, brown sugar and cinnamon, then bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until the top is browned. The top of course is covered in globs of butter and brown sugar.

 

 

Bound

by Rebecca Villarreal
You can listen to this poem here.


Orange is the new tweet

I sit giggling over Scotland’s raucous artistry

a Mariachi band

welcomes producer and pound-maker

soon I’ll be in the air again

grateful for the Artha:

prosperity, paperwork

yet puzzled by the muzzle

how did a poet of protest

inching down the corporate ladder

become bound by balance in a world

beaten by turbulence?

 

Afghanistan’s first female rapper

ten men draw blood

forced to flee, returns too late

to save her cousins, six and eleven

choosing escape by fire

over one more day

married to sex-to-generians

 

Snow mounts on the ghost of the Dakota pipeline

where victory is a creamsicle, sweet and temporary

for the knowing is in Terra Madre

our Mother marvels

at the billionaires scurrying to dig and dig

in the face of sun and wind

unceasingly:

shining

blowing

through the lobbies on that swampy hill

 

Our crops unrecognizable

bees buried in South Carolina sands

bottled water in Flint

Still

your Thanksgiving green beans may come with contaminants

how now?, said the oncologist

 

Or was it Joseph Campbell’s axis mundi?

the immovable spot where we sit small enough to make room for the whole world?

Thoreau ate homemade cookies on Walden Pond

with Civil Disobedience pouring from his pen

the eyes and hearts of Gandhi, Mandela,

Martin Luther King, Jr.

poured over those declarations

written a mile and a half from home

 

What shall we do now?

Stay silent in the face of spittle flying from the three-ring?

No.

Speak love into the stands.

Spill popcorn, get sticky with the pink of cotton candy.

This is the circus,

only we’re in it.

What’s the act?

Blindfolded and shot from a canon?

Or eyes wide open, these hands hold light

let us know the taste of victory

in peace

keep loving thy broken neighbors

choosing between medicine and mashed potatoes

phantom paychecks shrouded in hungry nightmares

that’s what made the rhetoric real

despite the tawdry truth buried in the green hills

buttressed by maples grade A and B

 

This time let’s skip the swipe

reach for a hand and see what’s underneath

a lost mother

a father broken by the bread not won

the child in every human

hoping for a moment to sit by the pond

one jewel in the web

reflecting all the others

for that will loosen the grip

of flapping lips

fanning fire

off with your shoes and socks

come sit beside me

dip your toes in the water

and find home in the palm of my hand.
***

Today is Terra Madre Day. Check out the origins through the Slow Food movement here. Sign the manifesto here.

Today is Human Rights day as well. Find out more here.

Healthy food and full bellies are a human right. Freedom to BE is a human right. If people are nourished and loved and treated as humans, we can attain peace.

Nourish Yourself – Granola alert and Book Two Sneak Peek!

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Friends, as I mentioned in the last post, I managed to nourish myself during the previous week even in the face of a high level of stress. I have received requests for my granola recipe, so I did a demonstration video here. First and foremost, this is not my recipe! It is from Mayi Carles magnificent and delightful Life is Messy Kitchen cookbook. It’s Gluten-free, vegan and the version you see in my video is 99.9% organic. I have adapted Mayi’s recipe to suit what’s in my pantry. I am also occasionally allergic to following instructions so you’ll see in the video that I went back and tweaked a few things. I hope it entertains and instructs! Regardless, I’m sharing this to remind you that if you work a Monday through Friday schedule, today is a great day to think about what you want to eat this week.

Click here for Mayi’s Heartmade Granola recipe. And dang it! I’m glad I just glanced at her recipe again because I realize that I forgot to add dates to my granola. Well, good thing it’s all still sitting on the counter. There’s a lot to be said about not cleaning up right away. And if you’re interested in Mayi’s Life is Messy cookbook, check out purchase info and her awesome 39-second video here.

See the instructional video below, remember to also add raisins, or dates or some kind of dried fruit like cherries!

I won’t use the term “meal planning” because that can feel overwhelming when today is a day of rest for many. My meal planning often consists of looking in the pantry and inside the fridge. Last week I said, “Oh I need to use that cauliflower,” so I happened to receive a nice email from Cookie and Kate in my inbox with 4 different easy recipes for roasting cauliflower. This meant that one day this week when I was on a 7-hour videoconference with a 30-minute lunch break during which I had 3 different phone calls, I could throw the cut and washed pieces in a bowl with some spices and coconut oil and then stick them in the toaster over to roast while I finished those calls and made my quesadilla with a side of avocado. This week, I’m thinking about tuna melts, chickpeas with indian spices and some quinoa. I don’t actually like quinoa but I’m trying to experiment with it so that I can gain the benefits of the protein and the fact that it keeps me full for a long time. There was one quinoa bowl I used to get in Chicago that included veggies and a ginger peanut sauce so I’m also thinking of making a ginger peanut sauce to have on hand for the leftover quinoa. The other thing I’m making is the Minimalist Baker’s Caramel Peanut Butter Truffles which are mind-blowlingly easy if you have a food processor. I’m experimenting with not eating white sugar so these satisfy my sweet tooth in a big way.

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In other news related to The Amazing Adventures of Selma Calderon – A Globetrotting Magical Mystery of Courage, Food & Friendship: I am participating in #NaNoWriMo which is National Novel Writing Month. It’s another way to encourage myself to continue working on Book 2! I spent this morning (after making and eating the granola), doing my own version of nature magic, researching, writing and singing. I’m very excited about the scene I created.  I share my process in the video below. If you want to get more inside scoop on Book 2 as well as some recipes and spells, sign up for my newsletter at http://rebeccavillarreal.com.  We will send out the first one by the end of the year. You’ll also get a preview of the documentary from my writer’s retreat on Orcas Island. In case you missed it, the trailer for the documentary is here and below my sneak peek.

Stay tuned for info on purchasing signed copies of The Amazing Adventures of Selma Calderon for the holidays! In the meantime, you can purchase it everywhere.

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What did she think she would find there?

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She woke earlier than she needed to. It was Saturday after the hardest week she’d had in years. She thought of someone she loves who is suffering. She wanted to grab her phone, to look at inspirational things. She wanted to see photos–to escape her feelings. Instead, she heard, “just feel it.” So she did, she let the sadness wash in and breathed through it.

Then she lifted her body and decided to go on her mat for yoga after the heavy sleep she had the night before. Instead she found her phone, came back to her mat and saw her friends around the world eating and playing. She read inspiring quotes. Then she put down the phone.

What answer did she think she would find inside the phone? The one telling her to go back to bed for more sleep? To go for a walk in nature? To do yoga? To tell her she was all right now?

She stretched and sat again with her feelings. How had she narrowly escaped despair? During the previous week,  all the old feelings of overwhelm and not wanting to get out of bed had returned. She hadn’t felt that way since post-partum depression and post-traumatic stress syndrome after her son was born. Only this time was different: she could be of two hearts and minds. She could see it happening as opposed to drowning in it. Not surprisingly, two days earlier, she had a dream of not being able to save her toddler from a Tsunami coming through their bedroom windows.

And yet, all week, she still got up and produced and produced and produced. But her heart was so, so, sad.

On the mat this Saturday morning, without the phone, the words came. “Go write. Go write now.”

And so, here is how she narrowly escaped despair:

  1. She took a mental health day, for her mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health.
  2. She spoke on the phone to two of her closest friends and not only asked for emotional support, but asked how they cope with too much work. One advised no matter what, make time for nature, walks in nature are walks with God. And to pray the old prayers like the Hail Mary–that they are meditations. The other advised her to tell her manager. To speak the truth because people just keep their heads down and keep doing it and then they go on medication like most of the people in her office. She asked her closest friends to keep her in their thoughts, to pray for her and she cried to them. And she also laughed at some of the ironies of functioning under these feelings and under her working conditions. The laughing-crying felt good.
  3. She let the tears flow and flow when they needed to.
  4. She called a colleague who had faced such extreme stress the previous year that it made her ill. The colleague advised talking to the boss and getting some things off of her plate. She assured her that she was taking all of the right steps so that she wouldn’t get ill.
  5. She told her husband: “I am not feeling well. This is like after our son was born, only I can see it happening and I can still produce. But I cannot sustain this way. I feel trapped.”
  6. She planned meals and nourished herself with real foods.
  7. She made a mimosa with pretty floating raspberries and watched her favorite spy show. She remembered how she used to pretend (as an adult) that she was that strong, fierce and still vulnerable woman.
  8. She acted as if she was happy during meetings when she needed to.
  9. She ran again in her new running shorts. She got the gear to be the magic athlete she wanted to be. She ran half a block, then walked. She ran some more, then walked. She played dodge ball.
  10. She went to the backyard in her bare feet and got grounded. She did what little yoga she could. She prayed and meditated like a beast, even if she fell asleep during the meditation. She showed up.

She arrived at Friday afternoon, having talked to her boss and unraveled her work into the pieces and places where they belonged. She was assured that her instincts were right–to reach out made sense. That she can narrow her focus to her job and not do all the other jobs people want her to do because of her other talents.

Friday night she became a new version of herself. The one who can take care of herself and her family. She found joy again in the sun and mountains and grass and the air.

She wrote to you to tell you, that she is me.

I made it through the Tsunami. I remembered how to swim again. You can too.

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A Brutiful Truth – a poem

with thanks to Glennon Doyle Melton for coining the conundrum.

You can listen to this poem here.

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This poem has been pulsing since 4:14am

Lucky numbers by all accounts of my heart and that of my sister’s

Turn toward the Brutiful

Brutal

Kids under rubble and the angry tides of Matthew

A Haiti not forgotten

though tramped upon

by a sasquatch of narcissistic personality disorder

riding the waves of misogyny

What’s that?

It’s a swimmer on dry land for a spell

twenty minutes of misbehavior captured

in the face of

little girl brides

left home from school

and boys who can’t walk home and wander

for their profiles

may elicit

shots fired

their strides, their skin

their love of Legos

who then can face this day?

Vote in a parade of misfits

your bread is treated with five rounds of Roundup

Wheat and the big C

amber waves of

wait

did you see a loophole

in the Dakota pipeline?

Muslims marching for

Sioux Cherokee Chumash

or was their a spark of hope

in a Syrian Santa

passing stuffed animals

to tiny hands in Aleppo?

I rise, swipe, pray, breathe

Lakshmi

Goddess of wealth, fortune and prosperity

it lies in our spirit

she whispers

four hands forward and back

edit out the brutal

for three pulses of your heart

 

one

reading tea leaves on the isle of Orcas

where Heron visit reeds

Crane signify Druid patience

longevity and secret knowledge

 

two

there’s my boy

puppets, drawing Illuminati and begging for

wrestlemania in oxidized waters

yes, I say and green light, statue

marco

 

three

hash browns and hail marys

a candle lit for

a cousin

 

trees digging dry soil

the taproot still finding sustenance

in the hope

if we face the Brutal

underneath we will find

the Beautiful

it is ours

each time we

say yes to

love

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Building a Better Block — for Bethel, Vermont

To view the video that illustrates the poem, click here.

To listen to the poem, click here.

a dog named Denise
and a deconstructed taco
this one Vermonted up
with pork and apple chutney
the vegetarian is not mailed in
uncrowded mushrooms dance with pepitas
until Crazy Gringo Taco Bar runs out
I spin into Gilead confections
before cash leaves hand
a salted caramel seduces the buds
More!
they cry, More! More!
so an apple cobbler with cream cheese filling
take five bar
and my childhood favorite: elephant ears

Alas I am abuzz with cane and confidence
fly to The Hive
with fair Lindsey
who learns to eat sunshine and poetry
while painted faces born of my namesake, Stone
speak of favorites: broccoli, cauliflower, carrots
construction paper verse spills under and above glitter glue, feathers and pom poms
Kelly’s earth music
Anika’s bunny pumpkin puppy family dog poem, inverted

Cut to Lindley’s scraps crafted with fine furniture fingers
her earrings dangle from my lobes
reminding me of Vermont trees laden with faeries and tucked in Lylee’s golden pouch alongside Lisa’s felt snail, Joy Full

Did you know the B.U.G.s on chairs painted between vines and pines stand for
Bethel Under Ground?
Community insurrection for places to sit, sip and savor
Kirk speaks of midnight runs for theater seats on sidewalks
bounce to blue lanes where e-bikes zoom me forward and back
into a beer garden framed by Ola
the wave, beloved eighty years plus
earth and truth via Tennessee
she speaks of equality in the face of all the hoopla
knowing elegance over the mess of sloppy slurs

The checkers, chess and tic tac toe of tree stumps
make me wish for more stories
Doug settled in town after Fort this and that
fixing roads, minding a granddaughter
I assure you, I tell her,
as we both spill, trip and drop,
your mind is too full to worry over table corners
that’s no clumsy
you’re just creating fire
it’s a gentle burning

There’s a better block in Bethel now
sprouted amidst Nell’s pizza and dominoes
all hail the hearts who uncover treasures
chalk love
paint streets
waddle with wattles
for this
is
home

From Outlet to Outlight

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Alternative title: Unconditional love and how to stop being an Emotional ATM

Yup. Just finished crying on the couch with my husband. It was a happy sad cry. It was an I can’t figure it out cry. It was an I’m lonely and I feel so loved cry.

And then came the a-ha:

I have everything I’ve ever wanted in my life.

And I’m not living in fear that I have to anticipate every scenario that could upend this happiness.

I have faith.

I am a vessel for unconditional love.

What on earth does this mean for me?

And what about you?

This means:

If you are feeling, lonely and sitting in a church full of people

If you are sitting alone in your apartment facing an open day in front of you with a to-do list chomping like the childhood monsters under your bed

If you can’t sleep

YOU ARE LOVED.

By whom?

You don’t have to believe in God for this one. I believe in God and lots of other fantastic and fantastical things.

There is a universal force out there and it is this: UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.

Now unconditional love is so dang different from TRANSACTIONAL LOVE.

I have had people very close to me offer transactional love.

If you answer my 911 calls, then I love you. If you listen to all of my problems and do not introduce your own into the conversation, then I love you. If you call me, then I love you. If you send me one of your signature care packages, then I love you.

I used to try to keep up with the people whom I love by “holding space” for all of them. A text to let you know I was thinking of you, a voicemail, a card. And then, I started to do that for myself.

I slowed down and sat in my own pain. That experience actually stinks. What I found however, even this morning, is that I was missing Father Jerry from my old church in Chicago. When he got reassigned, I tried the new priest a few times, but I basically left. Like a kid who didn’t get her way in the kickball game, I picked up my ball and went home. I didn’t leave God. I didn’t leave faith. But I left Regina and Greg. I left Mrs. Clayton. I left Liz. I left my friends and I left my community.

Then I left Chicago.

So I’m rebuilding again. I’ve sat in meditation. I’ve embraced yoga on an entirely different level than ever before in my life. I’ve prayed. I’ve tried two churches here. I’ve met God in the ocean, on the mountain and on the trail.

Yesterday, I went to the Catholic Church in my town and kneeled and prayed. And all I got was, “You don’t belong here.”

Last night I went swimming and I asked God, “What do you want me to know?”

And here’s what I heard: “Stop trying to figure it out.”

So this morning I sat with it. I just shared with my husband:

“I miss Father Jerry. I miss my church community. I’m lonely. And I feel more loved than I ever have in my life. I only have people in my life who love me unconditionally.”

I’m no longer an emotional ATM. Occasionally, people make deposits via the ATM. But usually, folks use the ATM to withdrawal funds.

What if I were to tell you that you are actually a vessel for UNCONDITIONAL LOVE?

Yes, the capitalized version of those words.

I have found my path to unconditional love to be painful and messy and beautiful and illuminating and magical and fantastic.

Here’s what worked for me:

  1. Receiving: the next time someone thanks you, pause and take it in. Or if it’s a compliment, receive it before you volley back a reciprocal compliment.
  2. Pause: I am the fastest emailer in the west. I cannot wait to finish typing this to send it to you right now right now right now. Yet, I’m going to re-read it. I’ll ask myself if it passes the vulnerability meter. Like have I written anything that I cannot live with? Does this story represent a wound or a scar? Then I’m going to ask my husband to read it. And he’ll ask me questions and point out areas that don’t make sense. And I’ll have to pause and fix. And wait to see. You can pause with any action or reaction. You may not have control over an event, but you do have control of your reaction to an event.
  3. Boundaries: Sometimes boundaries can be made in silence. It’s worth avoiding engaging in gossip or even the pretend kind in which you’re sharing someone else’s story without their permission because you’re concerned for them. My boundary-making was learned the hard way. Childhood trauma actually has helped me understand and make better boundaries as an adult. I have a major radar for what is not okay—even in the simplest interaction in the grocery store. I’m safe. And the way I keep my heart safe is to be particular about which people I allow into my life. If something or someone’s behavior makes you uncomfortable—watch how that shows up in your body. Maybe when you read an email from that person, you notice your jaw clench or your back stiffen. Your body will often signal you before your heart and mind catches up.
  4. Detachment: This is about allowing for what is, to be. You cannot save everyone. You cannot actually change people. It’s the ultimate act of taking action on your end and letting go of the result.

And finally, there’s big faith. I have big faith in “if not this, then something better.” And I know I’m a vessel for UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. And it feels so good.

I want you to feel that way too.

I love you. I love me.

Love thyself. Start there. You are exactly where you’re supposed to be.

Thank you for reading. This has been my Father Jerry moment. I feel in community with you. I needed that today. Thank you for loving me unconditionally.

Rebecca

P.S. I’m currently obsessed with the work of Glennon Doyle Melton. I’m listening to her book, Love Warrior. Tomorrow* I start The Wisdom of Story course with her and Brené Brown. The code LOVE20 gets you 20% off. I’m not an affiliate, just sending you big love to write your own story and your own ending. In case you’d like to get to know Glennon better, I enjoyed her interviews with Marie Forleo, Lewis Howes and of course, with Oprah Winfrey on Super Soul Sunday. For more on Brené, check out aisle 2 of this post. I have a selection of her resources there.

*A week later…

P.P.S.: Well, I let this baby marinate for an entire week. I actually wrote it the morning of Sunday, September 11th. It’s been a beautiful week of healing. The Wisdom of Story course has been phenomenal. I also created this downloadable Ocean Meditation in the middle of the week which addresses many of the themes above. It’s only 10 minutes and it invites you to keep a paper and pen handy in case you need to get some things out of your head and on to a list. I hope you enjoy it! Sending you big UNCONDITIONAL LOVE for a phenomenal week. Witness a miracle because you are the spark behind one (or more!) every single day.

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The Slowdown–a parenting poem


To listen to this poem, click here.

Blowing whistles
and the wonderings of a mother

who hasn’t signed up for

soccer

baseball

swimming

art class

Spanish immersion

instead she shifts her son’s head

to drop in a remedy for swimmer’s ear

from swimming

playing

dreaming

Saturday marked by ten, twelve hours sleep

a body in repair

and the luscious knowledge of the intangible

it’s called Rest

“You know the park is just down the street.”

“He can walk there on his own.”

“Everyone here does it.”

What choice does she have?

Sign on the dotted line

put a number on his back

swear fealty to the clock for fear of falling behind

Or what if stop-motion movies

puppets and pizza tag

riding bikes till twilight

made for enough of a childhood?

What if boredom became a challenge?

Live in the world

surf on worksheets

dig up Redstone

write the series about

Super Parnassus the Potato

and his Grape sidekick, The Greginator

this verse is homage to the slowdown

allowing for mothering and fathering

any which way

in the gray lies truth, freedom

and knowing the human who chose you