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.*


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.


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!)


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.


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.


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:

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


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 if you would like to order signed copies for $12 each plus shipping.


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?


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**,




*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.




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




through the lobbies on that swampy hill


Our crops unrecognizable

bees buried in South Carolina sands

bottled water in Flint


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?


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.